Category Archives: Uncategorized

A beautiful book for the last day of African American History Month.

libraryinspirations

youngest-marcher

I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely Cynthia Levinson, author of  the 2012 award winning “We’ve Got a Job,” that highlights four youngsters who took active roles in the Civil Rights Movement. One of those children was Audrey Faye Hendricks, the subject of Cynthia’s newest book, “The Youngest Marcher,” illustrated by the fantastic Vanessa Brantley Newton.

LI:1. How did you decide to focus on Audrey Faye Hendricks after writing We’ve Got a Job?

Cynthia Levinson: The idea actually came from Atheneum. When my agent, Erin Murphy, called in 2009 or 2010 to tell me there was interest in the book proposal I’d written about the Birmingham Children’s March, she said there were two offers—one for a picture book and the other for a middle grade. What did I want to do? My instincts told me the story needed multiple perspectives, and I opted for a book for ten-…

View original post 364 more words

youngest-marcher

I had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely Cynthia Levinson, author of  the 2012 award winning “We’ve Got a Job,” that highlights four youngsters who took active roles in the Civil Rights Movement. One of those children was Audrey Faye Hendricks, the subject of Cynthia’s newest book, “The Youngest Marcher,” illustrated by the fantastic Vanessa Brantley Newton.

LI:1. How did you decide to focus on Audrey Faye Hendricks after writing We’ve Got a Job?

Cynthia Levinson: The idea actually came from Atheneum. When my agent, Erin Murphy, called in 2009 or 2010 to tell me there was interest in the book proposal I’d written about the Birmingham Children’s March, she said there were two offers—one for a picture book and the other for a middle grade. What did I want to do? My instincts told me the story needed multiple perspectives, and I opted for a book for ten- to fourteen-year-olds. After We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March (Peachtree Publishers) came out in 2012, I asked Erin to find out if Atheneum would still be interested in a picture book. And they were!

We’ve Got a Job focuses on four young marchers.  One of those four children was only nine years old. With a protagonist the same age as my readership, Audrey Faye Hendricks instantly became the main character.  

LI:2. Was it more difficult to write the picture book or the YA book about the Civil Rights Movement and kids’ involvement  in it?

Cynthia Levinson :Both! We’ve Got a Job was my first book. So, I had to learn to conduct interviews, find photographs, keep track of all of the research, write a book, get edited… It was a real learning experience in so many ways.

But, so was writing a picture book. Honing in on younger readers, cutting and shaping text, and considering page turns are very challenging. And, for the first time, I experienced working with an illustrator—the fabulous Vanessa Brantley Newton.

  LI:3. Did you meet any of Audrey’s family in real life?

Cynthia Levinson: Indeed. I interviewed Audrey at her home and saw where her mother made Hot Rolls Baptized in Butter, where Dr. King sat at her dinner table, and where her church choir director practiced protest songs on her upright piano. Then, Audrey’s sister, Jan, filled me in on details about how feisty Audrey was! And, she gave me the recipe. That was like gold.

LI:4. Do you have a favorite illustration or scene from the book?

Cynthia Levinson: I have two favorites. One is the spread at the dinner table where Audrey and her mother both have one eye open and the other closed during Dr. King’s prayer. Audrey looks saucy and her mother disapproving—it’s perfect! The other is the spread where Audrey is lying on her side on her cot in jail, with her back to the reader, staring at the wall. It’s both brilliant and heartbreaking.

content

  • Age Range: 5 – 10 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 5
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 17, 2017)

Author Interview: Celebrating Reading with Lisa Papp

 

51n80sucywl__ac_us160_

 

I had the pleasure of chatting with author/illustrator Lisa Papp, whose newest book is titled, “Madeline Finn and the Library Dog,” published by Peachtree Publishers. Lisa has illustrated numerous picture books, but I was captivated by this one that celebrates the idea of using therapy dogs in libraries to help struggling readers. Lisa and I are both pet owners of rescue cats and my lovely rescue cat, Lucy, is by my side as I am writing this blog post!

 LI: What inspired your idea for Madeline Finn and the Library Dog?

Lisa Papp: This story comes straight from the heart. When you meet these beautiful therapy dogs and their owners, you can’t help but fall in love. They are such a tremendous gift to our communities. I discovered the Reading-to-Dogs program at my local library. My husband, Rob, and I were returning books when we saw a long line of dogs waltzing in the side door. We couldn’t help but follow them in. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I remember these gorgeous dogs sitting in a large, bright room with lots of windows. There were about twelve dogs that day along with their owners. A couple of minutes later, the kids came in. That’s when the smiles started. For an hour and a half, we watched kids read to the dogs. The children chose a book, then chose a dog. Some of the parents told us they couldn’t get their child to pick up a book at home, but they would come to the library for this.

It was so inspiring to watch. Many of the children were self-conscious at first, but that all changed when they got next to a dog. Dogs have that wonderful gift of unconditional love. That wonderful gift of accepting you just as you are. The children responded to that immediately. They read them story after story, petting the dogs and stroking their ears while they worked out the tough words. And they stayed at it – the entire hour and a half! The bond between the children and the dogs was pure magic. These wonderful therapy dogs and their owners let me tag along for the better part of a year. I count them as dear friends now. They, and the children they help, are the inspiration for the book.

LI: Do you have any pets/rescue pets?

Lisa Papp:As a matter of fact, we have three rescued cats. All siblings. My husband and I had gone to a flea market in search of a sprinkler. We came home with three kitties instead. Who could resist? We told ourselves things like…oh, so and so loves cats, maybe she’ll want one.….and this one looks like our real estate agent’s cat, she’ll probably want another one just like him, etc. That was eight years ago and we couldn’t be happier to have kept all three. They are wonderful little beings, even if a bit naughty at times. Can’t imagine life without them. I guess you could call them therapy cats because they definitely keep me and my husband sane. There’s nothing better than a kitty snuggle after a hard day. And when we take life too seriously, they are the first to remind us to lighten up – a “who can catch the ball in the air” game does wonders for the soul.

LI: What future projects are you working on?

Lisa Papp: I have the unfortunate habit of working on multiple projects at once. With that in mind, I can tell you I do have a few Madeline Finn adventures up my sleeve, as well as a couple of novels midstream. All illustrated. It seems, no matter if I’m dreaming up picture books or novels, they always center around animals.

LI: What advice would you give to today’s kids who love to draw?

Lisa Papp:I would say, “Keep doing it!” All the time. Anywhere you can. All those characters, all those stories you’re dreaming up will stay with you somewhere. It’s like an invisible basket you’re filling up. All that imagination, the practice of making something from nothing, the pure joy of creating – all of that will serve you well. Because that’s what will sustain you – even if you don’t become an artist. You will know how to reach inside yourself, into that basket of freedom where your imagination has no limits. When you learn to tap into that creativity, it’s something you’ll enjoy the rest of your life.

  • Age Range: 4 – 8 years
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
  • Lexile Measure: 370
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (October 1, 2016)

The Vintage Vantage

il_fullxfull_260358382                                                                                                Are you curling up with a good book on these cold wintry days? As a children’s librarian I try to make individualized recommendations to my students based on their interests. I was an avid reader as a child, curling up with a good book before I went to bed at night  that was often part of a series like the Little House on the Prairie books or a good author for girls like Judy Blume. Who knew I would become a writer and librarian later on in life?  (Actually my parents were very encouraging as they nurtured that interest,; my first paying job was actually working for one of  the NYPL branches in Queens, NY.)

My younger students love nonfiction titles about animals and dinosaurs, pets, even cookbooks!   By third grade, students only want to read graphic novels with illustrations such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Dork Diaries series.  I encourage the reading of graphic books as a starting point,  but kids are not really reading full novels anymore. There is a big gap between those grades and the middle school world of dystopia found in bestsellers Divergent and The Hunger Games. We need to prepare students for college by them being able to read lengthier texts.

As I often find myself in a quandary of what to recommend for readers from 8 to 12, I have turned to some of the vintage books of my youth.  Kids still love reading mysteries, whether male or female.  The modern A to Z Mysteries series are good for this age, but why not recommend some good old Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys too?  Kids today still love reading Classic authors with a sense of humor such as Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Shel Silverstein.  Read the introduction to a vintage classic, Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren out loud and see if the kids don’t want to find out more about the main character who lives by herself with a pet monkey  and a pirate for a father.

 

 

 

Champagne Wishes and Publishing Dreams

10675520_10152977368632028_1786284487381610554_nHappy 2015!    The year has changed but some things stay the same. The waiting game in the publishing industry can literally make you insane.  After my editor said I would get my third rewrite back for my pb bio on Lewis Latimer  before Christmas, I should not have had any expectations of getting any work sent to me before the holidays.  Last year I got my first revisions and initial  interest in that manuscript sent to me by my editor on December 23! So a full year has gone by and I’m still  working on what I hope will be my final revisions before it is acquired and an illustrator is found.  I am grateful and excited though, that my debut book would be published by the wonderful Lee and Low, no matter how long it takes.  I know of many writers whose work has taken years to come to fruition. Patience is certainly a virtue. I have worked for almost 3 years now to get “Lighting the Way,” published without an agent’s help.

Just finishing sending out my multicultural fiction title, “Mooncakes and Matzahballs for Anna Goldstein Wong” to a few houses around the country.  I have high  hopes for this book, my newest baby, as I think it is unique and fits the bill for more books about multiracial/multicultural kids.   I will play the waiting game again.

I will try to get an agent this year, as having helpful editors can only go so far.  For all the months and years I invest in writing and revising a manuscript, I think having my ideas approved before the work would help my sanity.  All this while working full time as an elementary school librarian!

Here’s to anyone with hopes and dreams getting published in 2015! Keep believing in your work!

 

 

 

Bless the Beasts

woodpecker

 

One of the  recurring themes I write about here on the blog, is nature as inspiration. This morning I saw, for the first time a Pileated Woodpecker in my backyard.  My husband thought he had seen one a few days ago and knowing that I am an avid birdwatcher had tried to get some pictures of it. I had kept my eye out for it the next few days and there it was this morning, attacking a knot on a tree with abandon.  I grabbed two cameras and ran out my back door trying to get a shot of this elusive creature I had only heard about from books.

It’s a huge bird, almost two feet long, with a fantastic head, red crown and sharp beak.  It was hammering away for a good half hour with persistence at that tree. And for me it was a sign. I have been waiting years to see one of these birds in NJ and had not yet given up, a metaphor for my writing. I have been waiting for more than two years now for my first children’s picture book manuscript to come to fruition, while feeling like giving up many times. Hopefully it will not take as long as the bird sighting. I was also inspired this month by seeing some beautiful hummingbirds and butterflies in the Desert Botanical Garden on a trip to Phoenix, AZ.

And while I usually like to write historical fiction or biographical books, I think that this time I will turn to nature as an inspiration for a book for kids.  There are many ideas I have brewing for a new book about exotic animals for children.  As the weather gets colder here in the Northeast I will begin a new manuscript or two and hope that my writing takes wings and inspires others.