Books

Sneak Peek Into a Glittery New Title

Illustrator Katherine Roy and I can’t yet share the cover for our February 2023 book together, THE FIRE OF STARS, but look at these jacket proofs with glittery gold foil. This parallel story of star formation told alongside the formation of astrophysicist Cecilia Payne is really going to SHINE. Chronicle Kids Books is going all out. 🤩💫
–Coming 2/28/23
#STEMforKids #nonfiction #picturebooks
Books, Holidays, Reading, Toys

Picture Books Make Magical Gifts!

Give a picture book this holiday season!

Share the joy of reading this holiday season. Whether it’s a package of picture books or a toy/book pairing, books make magical gifts. Find a slew of books and related gifts in this Soaring ’20s Holiday Gift Guide, which features the A TRUE WONDER gifts below.

Order your gifts now for best selection and availability.

Books, News

Sneak Peek: FIRE OF STARS Talk for Harvard’s Project Phaedra

This is an picture of the Fall Author Series line up.

Want a sneak peek at my Fall 2022 title, THE FIRE OF STARS with illustrator Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books)? We’ll be chatting about our inspiration, research, and more with Harvard/The Smithsonian as part of Project Phaedra’s Fall Author Series Sept. 14.

What’s Project Phaedra? According to their website: “Project PHaEDRA is an initiative by the Wolbach Library, in collaboration with many partners, to catalog, digitize, transcribe, and enrich the metadata of over 2500 logbooks and notebooks produced by the Harvard computers and early Harvard astronomers. Our goal is to ensure that this remarkable set of items, created by a remarkable group of people, is as accessible and useful as possible.”

These notebooks include those of astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, the subject of THE FIRE OF STARS.

This event is free and open to the public. And it’s ONLINE. Sign up to join us here.

Books

You’re Invited to the A TRUE WONDER Book Launch 10/5

It’s party time!

A TRUE WONDER will be out in the world in just six weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited. Illustrator Katy Wu and I will be doing a virtual event through Once Upon A Time Bookstore on Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. Pacific/ 8 Eastern. This event is completely free, and I hope you’ll join in the fun.

Please preregister through Once Upon a Time, and they’ll send you the Zoom link. 

BONUS: If you preorder a copy of the book anywhere books are sold, let me know, and I’ll enter you to win the A TRUE WONDER tee shirt. (Drawing will take place 9/29/21. US entries only with apologies to my international friends.)

Once Upon A Time EXCLUSIVE: Order here, and get a free 6×9 art postcard designed by illustrator Katy Wu. And I’ll autograph your copy.

Writing

New Writing Barn class: Rethinking Your Nonfiction Picture Book: A Revision Workshop

Rethinking Your Nonfiction Picture Book: A Revision Workshop at the Writing Barn

I had such a blast teaching nonfiction picture book structures at The Writing Barn. Now I’ve created an entire six-week course focused on rethinking your nonfiction picture book from voice and hook to structure, illustration potential, and page turns. Learn more and register here. I hope you’ll join me.

#MentorTextMoment

#MentorTextMoment: Look I Wrote A Book!

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

9780399558184

Book: Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too!)

Author: Sally Lloyd-Jones

Illustrator: Neal Layton

Publication Info.: Schwartz& Wade, July 23,2019

Ages/Grades: ages 4 to 8 (or aspiring authors of all ages)

Categories: second-person POV, expository nonfiction, how-to structure

First lines: “When you want to write a book, first you need a Good Idea.”

Overview (from the publisher): “Want to write a book? Well, the spunky, know-it-all narrator of this side-splitting story can tell you just how to do it. She walks readers through the whole process, from deciding what to write about (like dump trucks or The Olden Days) to writing a story that doesn’t put everyone to sleep and getting people to buy your book (tips: be nice, give them cookies, and if all else fails, tie them to a chair).”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

After reading this book, I’m left wondering why I have shelves and shelves of “how-to-write” books with hundreds of pages. All I need is Look! I Wrote a Book! Lloyd-Jones and Layton have crafted a concise, hilarious, yet so-helpful how-to book for beginning students and aspiring grown-up writers alike. Lloyd-Jones helps readers assess their ideas, figure out their audience, plot, draft, revise, and even create titles (my weakness for sure).

For aspiring nonfiction authors, this book is a wonderful example of the less-used “how-to” expository text structure. Paired with a second-person POV, the reader is left thinking “sure I can write a book.”

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:

  • Write a book following Lloyd-Jones’s instructions. Is there any better activity? LLoyd-Jones even tells you what materials you need to get started (table, pencil, paper, stapler, etc.)
  • Artists Helping Children has instructions for making many types of books, including scrolls, heart-shaped books, and a fold-in square book.
  • Many creators like to have a special journal for their ideas and doodles. Buy a composition notebook or inexpensive sketchbook and decorate with torn paper and spray adhesive. Or make your own recycled journal like this one.
#MentorTextMoment

#MentorTextMoment: Two Brothers, Four Hands

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

w204

The Book:

Two Brothers: Four Hands: The Artists Alberto and Diego Giacometti

Authors: Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan; illustrator: Hadley Hooper

Publication Info.: Neal Porter Books (April 2019)

Ages/Grades: 7 to 10 years old

Categories: third-person POV, narrative nonfiction, present tense, dual biography

First lines:

“In the Swiss village of Stampa, surrounded by mountains so high that in winter their shadows fill the valley live two brothers.”

Overview (from the publisher): “The inspiring true story of the Giacometti brothers, one an artist, the other a daredevil, both devoted to their craft . . . but even more devoted to each other.

Everyone who knew them agreed. Alberto was the genius of the family. His younger brother Diego was his opposite–he didn’t care much for books or schoolwork, and he had no idea what he would be when he grew up. But despite their differences, the two brothers shared an intense bond.

Alberto Giacometti became one of the iconic artists of the twentieth century, whose tall, spindly sculptures grace the collections of museums around the world. Diego was always at his side, helping and encouraging, and in his spare time creating remarkable pieces of furniture, works of sculpture in their own right.

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

The trick with writing a dual biography, in my mind, is finding the focus of the book. What theme connects the two lives together? In this book, the connection is apparent from the title: two brothers, four hands. Alberto Giacometti simply couldn’t have achieved his enormous success without his brother, Diego, who served as a model; built pedestals and molds and picked patinas; and in many ways sacrificed his own creative work to support Alberto. As Greenberg and Jordan write, Diego’s hands touched each and every one of Alberto’s sculptures. Children certainly will connect to the fierce bonds of family.

For teachers, this book serves as an excellent example of a “growth mindset.” Alberto Giacometti was far from an overnight success, instead, he honed his craft for more than two decades. He was a perfectionist who never felt his work was finished. And when he moved away from Surrealism, he was rejected by fellow artists, as well as art dealers, and friends. Through all of this, Alberto experimented, trying new things and striving to perfectly capture the human form.

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:

  • The backmatter for this book contains a basic explanation of art concepts and discussion questions for evaluating Alberto Giacometti’s Walking Man II sculpture.
  • The Nurture Store has the perfect Giacometti craft activity: making foil sculptures.
  • Why not incorporate this book into a growth-mindset lesson? Khan Academy has a growth mindset lesson here.
  • This Tate video not only shows Giacometti’s sculptures but also explains why his work resonated after World War II.
#MentorTextMoment

#MentorTextMoment: Moth

As part of my writing process, I read dozens of books by other nonfiction authors. When I read, I make notes about the craft choices authors make in terms of voice, structure, POV, and other unique elements that add up to amazing books. I recently decided to share my notes (in a searchable format), so teachers and fellow writers can see what I find new and noteworthy. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

612hahp2fal._sy493_bo1204203200_

The Book:

Moth: An Evolution Story

Author: Isabel Thomas; illustrator: Daniel Egnéus

Publication Info.: Bloomsbury (June 2019)

Ages/Grades: 6 to 10 years old

Categories: third-person POV, lyrical language, narrative nonfiction, nature, #STEM

First lines:

“This is a story of light and dark. Of change and adaptation, or survival and hope.”

Overview (from the publisher): “Powerful and visually spectacular, Moth is the remarkable evolution story that captures the struggle of animal survival against the background of an evolving human world in a unique and atmospheric introduction to Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection.

Against a lush backdrop of lichen-covered trees, the peppered moth lies hidden. Until the world begins to change…

Along come people with their magnificent machines which stain the land with soot. In a beautiful landscape changed by humans how will one little moth survive?

A clever picture book text about the extraordinary way in which animals have evolved, intertwined with the complication of human intervention. This remarkable retelling of the story of the peppered moth is the perfect introduction to natural selection and evolution for children.”

What’s noteworthy for authors and educators:

There have been a few evolution picture books in recent years like I USED TO BE A FISH (Sullivan) and GRANDMOTHER FISH (Tweet and Lewis). But as far as I know, no one’s attempted to explain natural selection, the mechanism of evolution, at the elementary school level…until now.

Through stunning illustrations and simple, lyrical language, Thomas and Egnéus show students how natural selection happens over time in response to changes in an animal’s habitat. As a mentor text, the great power in this book is the balance of words and pictures. It forces authors to consider how much they can rely upon illustrations to carry the story. And how much they need to explain.

Additional resources for authors, educators, and parents:

Books, Nature, Uncategorized

Review: Can You Find These Butterflies?

Author: Carmen Bredeson
Illustrator: Lindsey Cousins
Publication Info: Enslow Elementary, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-7660-3980-3
Source: publisher-provided complimentary copy
Intended audience: PreK through first grade
Genre: nonfiction, picture book (24 pages)
Themes/topics: butterflies, nature
Opening and synopsis: “A butterfly starts out as an egg. A tiny caterpillar hatches from the egg. It eats and grows.” Using simple language, Bredeson describes how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly. Then she challenges young readers to learn about nine different types of butterflies and spot them in nature.
Why I like this book: This book invites children to become butterfly experts. Rather than just feeding them facts about butterflies, it encourages them to explore their own backyards, parks and open spaces and see if they can tell a Monarch from a Viceroy. Stunning time-lapse photography shows a caterpillar forming a chrysalis and emerging as a butterfly. Additional, close up photographs show primary features of each butterfly. Simple language geared towards first-grade readers make this a wonderful book for progressing readers.
Resources/activities: Raising butterflies is always a favorite for small children. You can order caterpillars through Insect Lore. Also, if you are on the migration path for monarch butterflies, you can record your sightings online.