Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Shopping - Illustrator Stacy Innerst Brings History Alive!

I fell in love with Stacy Innerst's beautiful illustrations at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles this month. Stacy is the recipient of the 2017 Golden Kite Award for Picture Book Art for The Music In George's Head, a wonderful book about George Gershwin by Suzanne Slade.


Seeing Stacy's books collected together made me appreciate their amazing illustrations all the more. Stacy has a wonderful way of bringing these historical biographies to life. I was amazed to learn that the Levi Strauss illustrations were actually created on denim!  Take a look at them for yourself!








 Find out more about Stacy's work and August picture book release about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Reading on the Glorious Fourth

So many great patriotic titles to read this holiday. I'm thinking the popularity of Hamilton on Broadway has a little something to do with some of these new releases. Don't you?



I can't wait to read Melissa De La Cruz's latest YA novel inspired by this famous couple.

For younger readers, Don Brown has taken a stab at the famous duel.  Brown wrote and illustrated Aaron and Alexander, described as a tale of passion, patriotism, and pride.


Here are a few others that shed light on our founding fathers. 







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Friday, June 23, 2017

Reading on Russia

While Russia seems to be in the news every day, I'd thought I'd put together a reading list of books set in and about Russia.  Perhaps you might want to add these to your summer reading list.

I'm starting off with my book that, surprisingly, has much to do about Russia.

I went to St. Petersburg, Russia to research and photograph THE STORY OF SEEDS: FROM MENDEL'S GARDEN TO YOUR PLATE, AND HOW THERE'S MORE OF LESS TO EAT AROUND THE WORLD. Having grown up during the Cold War, I never imagined I would be visiting there, let alone on a research trip to a government facility. I had the unique opportunity to visit the Vavilov Research Institute, the world's first global seed bank. You can read about how this important facility survived during the WWII's Leningrad Siege and how Nikolai Vavilov created something so valuable that countries, including the US, are still benefiting from it today. It is a story of bravery, science, and vision!




M.T. Anderson's SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD: DMITRI SHOSTAKOVICH AND THE SIEGE OF LENINGRAD's focuses on a different voice of the Leningrad Siege -- that of a Russian composer. Like my story, it highlights the courage and bravery of Leningrad's citizens during this terrifying period of history. The story is brilliantly told and well-researched.





This year marks the centennial of the Russian Revolution. There is one marvelous book that is a must-read -- THE FAMILY ROMANOV: MURDER, REBELLION, AND THE FALL OF IMPERIAL RUSSIA by Candace Fleming. This YA book offers readers a riveting story of the Russian royal family and the circumstances that led to their demise. Wonderfully written and impeccably researched, this book is a treat in both its written form and in audio. (I personally loved the audio version!)





I reviewed THE LOST CROWN for the Historical Novel Society in 2011 -- Sarah Miller’s well-researched novel, The Lost Crown, gives beautiful, honest voices to the teen daughters of Tsar Nicholas II in the years of their imprisonment following his abdication.   Faithful Tatiana, thoughtful Olga, comforting Maria and spunky Anastasia are brought to life within the pages of this moving young adult novel.  Knowing the fate of these girls does not make this an easy read, but certainly worthwhile.  I began reading the book in the evening and it did not leave my head until I finished it the next morning. Each chapter is told in alternating voices with a small photo of each narrator on the chapter’s first page. 
Readers may find themselves comparing these historic events to recent headlines.  As exile options dwindle for deposed leaders, many of them struggle to hold on to their sovereignty.  Tsar Nicholas’ daughters, once privileged and protected, lived under house arrest for years before meeting their brutal fate.  Bewildered by the growing hatred towards them, Sarah Miller portrays the life the girls lived behind painted windows and unlocked doors. 






Here are a few more to add to your reading list:







Please feel free to add additional titles in the comments! Spasibo!  (That is one of the few words I learned for my trip! The rest is already forgotten.)

Happy reading!

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Using Biographical Letters to Draw on the Nature of Science

I came across a useful article pouring over some old NSTA magazines -- Using Biographical Letters to Draw on the Nature of Science by William Medina-Jerez, Wayne Melville, and Dale Walker.

"Science is a human activity with a rich, colorful, and controversial history. Teaching science from a historical perspective can influence the way students perceive, understand, and apply scientific concepts and processes."

How true! The article brought to mind the story of Nikolai Vavilov in my latest book, THE STORY OF SEEDS. Vavilov's story, crucial to the history of seed science, farming, and food, shaped my ongoing research for the book and my writing. I found his story compelling and worth sharing with my readers. By the time I finished visiting Russia and writing the book  I felt as if Vavilov was a personal friend.

Readers of THE STORY OF SEEDS might take the suggestion of the article's authors and write a biographical letter about Vavilov, Burbank, or Mendel.

Other books that might inspire this activity for your classroom include Deborah Heiligman's Charles and Emma, Susan Campbell Bartoletti's Terrible Typhoid Mary, and Anita Silver's Untamed


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ten Years since Katrina

Many books have been written in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall - both fiction and factual.

These deserve a read:

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans by Don Brown

In this recent release, Don Brown describes the events that took place through gritty, somber watercolor illustrations and bits of dialogue. This is Brown's third successful nonfiction graphic novel. In the short time since its release it has already garnered much acclaim.



Beneath a Meth Moon by Jacqueline Woodson
Fifteen-year-old Laurel is living a post-Katrina nightmare. Her mother and grandmother both perished in the storm and she has since moved to Galilee, Mississippi. Woodson weaves a poetic tale of grief, addiction, and survival as Laurel struggles to start a new life.


Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson & Mary Nether
This nonfiction picture book tells the tale of Bobbi, a dog who was left chained on the porch with bowls of food and water and Bob Cat, who stayed with Bobbi even after Bobbi broke free of his chain. The two became an unlikely pair of Katrina survivors. Shelter volunteers rescued the pair four months later to find that Bob Cat was blind and Bobbi was his seeing-eye dog. They lived together after Katrina on a ranch in Oregon.

Thankfully, after Katrina important laws were passed to allow for the care of pets during disasters.


Friday, August 7, 2015

The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming

I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to award winning author Candace Fleming speak out writing her latest - The Family Romanov - last week at the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference in Los Angeles.

If you haven't read this one yet, by all means READ IT! I have been fascinated by Russian history and the Romanovs for years, but this book brought me to places I hadn't explored. In her acceptance speech for her Golden Kite, Candace discussed how this was originally a book about Anastasia, but her research led her away from the young, naive girl to Anastasia's parents and their leadership. Research can pull you in different directions, as we writers of veritable books (nonfiction) know.  Candace mentioned in her workshop that her research on Faberge eggs never even entered the book.

What readers will find in The Family Romanov is a rich story of intrigue, notorious characters, drama, and tragedy. Teens will gobble up the dramatic narrative. History teachers will want it for their classrooms.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering

Thirteen years ago today an immeasurable tragedy occurred in our country. We all came away changed and scarred. Amidst all the horror of that day were the heroics of the first responders and the SAR workers.

I heard their stories while I worked on Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World. It was an honor to speak to Shirley Hammond about her time at Ground Zero with her dog, Sunny. A volunteer, Shirley went without question. I heard about Sunny's discovery of a fallen firefighter and his confusion of how to alert to a deceased person after being trained as a live-find dog.



I also heard about brave little Sage, a border collie, who took part in her very first deployment at the Pentagon that day. She was the one who located the body of the terrorist who flew the plane into the Pentagon.


On this day of remembering I encourage you all to set aside a few dollars to contribute to the National Search Dog Foundation and the Sage Foundation for Dogs Who Serve.  These dogs and their handlers are always there for us and they need our support. 

And you won't even have to dump a bucket of cold water on your head!