Book Review and Author Interview

Today’s picture book review post is an inspirational one. During a time when women’s choices were limited, Emily Roebling had the courage and determination to do something unthinkable. She led the engineering process in building the beautiful Brooklyn Bridge.

Illustrations by Rachel Dougherty

Title: SECRET ENGINEER: HOW EMILY ROEBLING BUILT THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 5-8

Author and Illustrator: Rachel Dougherty

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Synopsis:

On a warm spring day in 1883, a woman rode across the Brooklyn Bridge with a rooster on her lap.

It was the first trip across an engineering marvel that had taken nearly fourteen years to construct. The woman’s husband was the chief engineer, and he knew all about the dangerous new technique involved. The woman insisted she learn as well.

When he fell ill mid-construction, her knowledge came in handy. She supervised every aspect of the project while he was bedridden, and she continued to learn about things only men were supposed to know:

math,
science,
engineering.

Women weren’t supposed to be engineers.

But this woman insisted she could do it all, and her hard work helped to create one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.

Now, let’s meet the author and talented artist behind this inspirational STEM story!

Rachel Dougherty

First and foremost, thank you for writing such a wonderful story that highlights the achievements of yet another strong, courageous woman in the engineering field. This is truly a must read for all children and a great addition to any library.

Where did you come up with the idea for Secret Engineer? Did something inspire you?

I watched a documentary on the Brooklyn Bridge, not thinking I was doing any kind of official research. I was initially just curious about how the bridge was designed and built, but when the narrator briefly mentioned Emily’s role in the construction my ears perked up. I was so surprised I’d never heard her story!


How long did it take you to write this story?

It took a few months of research and several tries to get an initial draft together, and then my agent and I worked on polishing up the draft and the first dummy for a few more months and sent it out to pitch. We received some interest from Roaring Brook Press, but contingent on some revisions to the story and art, and wanted to see a revised dummy before accepting the project, so I worked with my editor for a few additional months to change the pacing of the story and revise some of the sketches before we were even under contract. I guess I would say all told it took about a year before we were actually ready to go to final art.


What kind of research did you do to help write this story?

Oh, so much research! I started by reading everything I could get my hands on that covered the bridge, the construction, the Roeblings, and especially Emily. David McCullough’s The Great Bridge and Marilyn E. Weigold’s Silent Builder were immensely helpful. I also visited the Brooklyn Bridge and contacted the Cold Spring Historical Society (they’re now called The Putnam History Museum), which is the town in New York where Emily was born, learned a lot from the Roebling Museum in Trenton, read tons of information on civil engineering and pulled the equations that appear throughout the book from a text I found dated to 1916 called The Civil Engineer’s Pocket Book.  Once I started sketches, I pulled tons of reference photos from the Library of Congress – I needed so many construction photos of the bridge, photos of 1870s Brooklyn, photos of period-appropriate clothing and interiors, elevations and construction drawings,  you name it. My reference collection for this project is absolutely enormous, but every photo was essential to making the art as accurate as possible.

There is a lot of new vocabulary throughout specific to the engineering process. Were you familiar with these terms or was it something new for you?

Most of it was new to me! I really learned so much throughout the process of working on this project, and I had a great time doing it.


How many revisions did you go through?

I’m not exactly sure what counts as a revision, so it’s tough to answer that. Some changes were really quick and could be turned around in an afternoon, and some were absolute overhauls. I guess it’s easiest to say a whole lot. I do think that every revision we made help to make the book stronger, I wouldn’t take any of them back.

At the end of the story, there are historical photographs of the Brooklyn Bridge and a drawing of the bridge. How did you go about acquiring these?

My editor and book designer sourced the photos from the Library of Congress and I found some additional ones myself to throw into the mix. Ultimately, we agreed on the set that appear in the endpapers, and I think they really help readers get a sense of the construction-era bridge versus the modern bridge.

What’s coming up next for you?

I’m working on a manuscript about colors in historical and cultural context at the moment, but it’s in pretty early stages. I’m hoping it will grow into something as wonderful as Secret Engineer.

If any readers want to learn more about you or follow you on social media, where can they find you?

Readers can find me on:

Twitter @r_dougherty

Instagram @racheldoughertybooks

Or drop by my website at www.racheldougherty.com

Thank you again for sharing this remarkable story with us!

You can purchase SECRET ENGINEER: HOW EMILY ROEBLING BUILT THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE here

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


Book Review and Interview: Yevgenia Nayberg

Today’s picture book review post is about creativity, passion and the power of being true to yourself.

Yevgenia Nayberg is the author and illustrator of this unique and heartwarming story based on her own experiences as a left-handed artist growing up in Russia.

Title: ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 4-8

Author and Illustrator: Yevgenia Nayberg

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Synopsis:

In Russia, right-handedness is demanded–it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya’s creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret.

Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.

Now, let’s meet the author and talented artist behind this gorgeous story!

Yevgenia Nayberg

It’s great to have you, Yevegenia!

Thanks for having me, Katie.

I’d like to jump right in with a quote that I absolutely love from your story.

“The right hand took care of the world around Anya. The left hand took care of the world inside Anya. Anything she imagined, the left hand could draw.” These are such beautiful words within your story. Where did your inspiration for this story stem from? Are you left-handed?

Yes, I am left-handed! Anya’s Secret Society is based on my childhood memories. I grew up in Russia where, at the time, lefties were quite rare. It is a story about being different, but also about creativity and secret imaginary worlds.

You include a very informative author’s note at the end of the story that shares some more about you growing up in the Soviet Union and unusualness of seeing someone left-handed. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to include this integral backmatter?

I did not plan on including the backmatter. It is still a concept that I struggle with. I prefer to explain less and leave more space for mystery.

Is this story about you?

Simply speaking, yes, because I am a left-handed immigrant artist who enjoys her imaginary worlds. Unlike my character, Anya, I moved to the US as an adult, and my immigration experience if quite different from Anya’s. Anya is an improved, more exuberant version of me.

Did you have your own ‘Secret Lefty Society’?

I still have a secret society of my own, but, of course, it must remain secret!

Not only did you write the story, but you illustrated it as well. You use a lot of textures. Can you tell us more about your process?

I used a mixed media/digital collage. A story usually dictates a technique. If I write about the old masters from the past, I want my style to reflect that. It is a technical trick, if you will, achieved through texture and lighting.  In the book, when Anya moves from Russia to New York City, I make a subtle stylistic change as well, but that change is made through color and composition.

If you could share a piece of advice with writers, what would it be?

Find a story that you love- you are going to be stuck with it for a long time!

What is coming up next for you?

My next author/illustrator book, Typewriter, is coming out in 2020 from Creative Editions. It is a story told by a Russian typewriter, that (who?) immigrates to America. My latest picture book is called Mona Lisa in New York. Mona Lisa is currently looking for a publisher.

Do you have any social media channels or a website you’d like to share?

I am on Instagram and Twitter as @znayberg

My Facebook page is  https://www.facebook.com/nayberg  

My website is https://www.nayberg.org/

Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and for letting me interview you!

You can purchase ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY here.

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!

Book Review and Author Interview with Lindsay Leslie!

I’m super excited to share with you a new picture book that is ready for little hands and creative minds everywhere on February 19th. Along with a sneak peek of the story, author Lindsay Leslie was so nice to answer my questions about her engaging new book. So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and join me. I’m glad you’re here.

Title: THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 4-8

Author: Lindsay Leslie

Illustrator: Alice Brereton

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Synopsis: Using the five-senses this wary and ‘spineless’ book tries to figure out what kind of story it might have on its pages.

Does it hear spooky wails from a ghost story?
Can it see a mysterious something peeking around a corner?
Is that the dizzy feeling of zero gravity it senses?
Might that be the stinky smell of animals in nature it detects?
Could it be tasting the saltiness of a story on the high seas?

Playful and humorous, Linsday Leslie invites the reader on an adventurous journey as the book grows braver and braver with each page until finally, it grows a spine!

The illustrations are quirky, textured, shape-oriented and colorful. They have an optical illusion effect begging the reader to take a closer look.

Now, it’s time to meet the awesome author, Lindsay Leslie.

Welcome, Lindsay! First and foremost, what was your inspiration behind this engaging title?

My inspiration was two-fold. One, I really had no control over. I remember walking into my youngest son’s room and stepping on one of his picture books because naturally, they were littering the floor. My subconscious took over. I thought things like: Did I break the book? Did I mess up its spine? What if this book were spineless? And, then, I said out loud, “This Book Is Spineless!” I immediately put the title in my notes section on my phone. I knew I had something with that title.

The second inspiration for this book is my personal experience with anxiety. I was an anxious kid and tried to hide it always. I was the kid who didn’t want to go on the roller coaster even though my mom bribed me with a puppy. I was the kid who didn’t want to learn how to swim. I was the kid who feared and feared a fair amount of things. The anxiety shifted over time and became different and not very fun as an adult, but I have developed better coping mechanisms. I was interested in looking at fears, fear of what’s inside all of us, and putting that on the page in a quirky, fun, relatable way. I also wanted the narrative to mimic the anticipation and heightening of anxious emotions and then the calming down.

You also use many sensory elements (hear, see, feel, taste, etc.). How did you come up with this unique twist to the story?

Oh, wow. How did I come up with that? Great question! I haven’t really thought about how that came to be until now. The sensory elements were not in my first awful draft, so it didn’t flow out of me in a flurry of words. They showed up in the second draft. I think with the first draft I was getting to know my character, which is the physical book, and with the second draft, I was exploring more of what the book was experiencing. I think I was trying my best to bring the book to life and to dig into its experiences. Because the book is afraid of the story on its pages, pulling on the senses became more apparent to me as I wrapped in various genres of stories that might be there.

There is a lot of fun play on words using alliteration in your story. Is the Thesaurus your go to?

The Thesaurus is my friend. Oh, yes it is. While some of these words popped into my head, I did spend a lot of time looking and searching for just the right words, like how to describe a particularly odoriferous animal or an alleyway that looks less than inviting. I love nothing more to go on a word hunt because I find some real treasures.


The illustrations are out of this world. There is very much an optical illusion element to it. Is this how you imagined them to be when writing your story?

No, not at all, which is FANTASTIC! I hold these illustrations close to my heart. Alice Brereton is a magician with her powerful, quirky, and thought-provoking art. If you can’t tell, I’m elated that what Alice created looks NOTHING like what was in my head.

How long did you work on this particular story?

I began writing this story in August of 2016. Page Street Kids offered me a contract late June of 2017. Together, my editor and I worked on it well into 2018. Word changes here and there.

If you had one piece of advice for writers, what would it be?

I’ve got so much advice that I could really annoy everyone with it. How about one piece of advice that would resonate no matter where someone is in their writing journey? That piece of advice is to enjoy. Find the work you enjoy, the topic you enjoy, whatever inspires you to start typing or scribbling on paper. Don’t chase the trends. Don’t watch what everyone else is doing. That all changes and you aren’t everyone else. When you write with joy, the reader will read with joy.

What is coming up next for you?

I’ve got some cool stuff going on that I’m excited about. I’ll be at TLA this year, so if you are attending or anywhere Austin, swing on by and do let me know! My second picture book, NOVA THE STAR EATER (illustrated by John Taesoo Kim, Page Street Kids), comes out May 21. I have a third book called DUSK RAIDERS WANTED slated for Spring 2020 with Page Street Kids, illustrated by Ellen Rooney. And, I’m on submission with other work, so fingers crossed!

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your amazing story with us!

Thank you for having me!

And there you have it.

To check out and purchase THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS visit here.

Want to read more of Lindsay’s picture books? Check out NOVA: THE STAR EATER here.

If you’d like to learn more about Lindsay and see what she’s up to visit her website: https://lindsayleslie.com/

Or visit her social media feeds:

Twitter: @LLeslie

Instagram: @lindsaylesliewrites

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


New Year, New Ideas

The new year is upon us, and there’s another writing challenge about to begin.

If you’ve ever visited my site before, you know how much I love writing contests and seeking out ways to help me generate new ideas. If you’ve never been here, well, I love writing contests and seeking out ways to help me generate new ideas. 🙂

Why? They push me to create. While some of the ideas remain locked inside my GoogleDocs without seeing the light of day, others take on a different form and are like a jumping off point a.k.a. somewhere to get started.

It’s about creating. Getting words on paper that can, and often do, spark a new idea. The best writing feeling in the world? When that idea pops in your mind and BAM! You write, and write, and can’t stop until every last word is down. Obviously, the story is nowhere close to being finished. But, it’s not about that. It’s the feeling of motivation and inspiration all in one. That, you’ve-just-got-to-get-it-down-on-paper feeling.

Where am I going with this?

Each January another awesome and free (yes, free!) writing challenge begins. It’s called Storystorm. Chances are you’ve heard of it. If not, you’re in for a treat! Hosted by Tara Lazar, a fabulous children’s book author, Storystorm is for all writers. “Any genre, style, student, amateur, hobbyist, aspiring author, or professional,” can join Tara says.

Intrigued? Here’s how to start:

Begin by signing up on her website. Then, every day in January you will receive a daily post with a writing challenge. The objective is to garner 30 new writing ideas by the end of the month. Some might see the light of day, others may remain locked in your GoogleDocs. 🙂 Again, it’s about creating.

But wait! There are prizes! If you create 30 ideas by the end of the month, you sign a pledge on her website, and you’re eligible to win some awesome prizes like professional consults, book signings, original art, and more.

So, if you’re looking for some extra motivation in the new year and want to have more ideas in your back pocket, come join us. If you’re looking to take part in something fun just because, come join us.

If you have another idea that keeps you writing and creating, please share in the comments below. Like I said, I’m always open to new ideas. 🙂

Cheers to the new year and happy writing!

Holiday Contest

It’s that time of year for jolly, holly fun! After a recent revision on one of my manuscripts, I needed to take a break, try something new, and recharge. So why not enter a holiday writing contest? Perfect! This one is put on by the fabulous picture book writer Susanna Leonard Hill

The guidelines?

  1. It must be kid-friendly
  2. 250-words or less
  3. About a holiday hero or act of heroism

Thanks, Susanna for putting on another fun writing contest

Inspired by my family’s recent trip to the Christmas tree farm, here is my submission. Happy reading and happy holidays to you!

LITTLE SPRUCE 

236-WORDS

Out in the country and high on the hill sprawled a Christmas tree farm. Hidden among the tall, perfectly shaped Evergreens, grew the short, and crooked trees that no one wanted.

“It’s not fair.” Little Spruce shook. “I’ll never find a good home. I’m too small.”

“But you have strong branches,” said a Fir tree.

“Perfect for hanging ornaments.” swayed another.

No one would ever want a tree like me. Little Spruce thought.

Just then, he heard a voice. “Over here, Grandpa!”

A young girl in a knitted hat popped out from behind Little Spruce. Not far behind an exhausted old man followed. “I think we’ve tested every tree,” Grandpa laughed. “How about we take this one?” 

Molly waved the branch up and down. “No. Too wobbly.”

She tried another.

Suddenly, Little Spruce felt a tug. 

“It’s perfect!” said Molly. “Grandma will love it!” 

Little Spruce shook with excitement. Was he finally getting a home? He wondered.

After arriving at the hospital, Molly carefully hung each ornament on Little Spruce’s branches.  

“I knew you were strong enough,” Molly whispered to Little Spruce.

Little Spruce didn’t care about being small anymore. Instead, he was mighty.

“Are you ready?” the nurse peeked in.

Molly nodded.

The nurse slowly pushed Grandma in her wheelchair.

Grandma’s eyes lit up. She waved for the nurse to push her closer. “So strong.” Grandma marveled at Little Spruce. “And beautiful.”

“Just like you,” said Molly.


A Story for the Season

I love this time of year. We get to be with our friends and family to celebrate the season and give thanks. 

Recently I discovered another heartwarming story that provides a wonderful opportunity for discussions about giving, helping others in need, and empathy. 

What a perfect story to share with my children and kindergarten students this time of year!

Picture Book Title: SHELTER

Written by: Celine Claire

Illustrated by: Qin Leng. 

Publisher: Kids Can Press (2017) Age Range: 4-8

 Synopsis: A storm is coming and the forest animals rush to prepare when two strangers emerge from the fog. The animals wonder: Who are these strangers? What are they doing here? What do they want?

When the strangers kindly ask to exchange tea for a chance to sit by a warm fire, or have some cookies for dipping, even just a spot to take comfort in the light of one’s hearth, the strangers are turned away. Except for one generous critter named Little Fox. Because of his kindness, the others discover the meaning of compassion and generosity.

So there you have it! If you’re on the lookout for a picture book to read this time of year, check out Celine Claire’s heartwarming story.

Also, if you have a picture book about kindness, generosity, empathy, etc. that you enjoy reading with your family (or just love reading!), please feel free to leave it in the comments below.

Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween Contest

 

Author Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting her 8th annual Halloween writing contest. Here’s the catch from Susanna’s blog:

TH8TH ANNUAL HALLOWEENSIE CONTEST
~ FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS ~
AAHHHRRROOOOOOOOO!!!!!

The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words shivercauldron, and howl.  Your story can be scary, funny, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over).

I love being challenged to write something in so little words. It gets those creative juices flowing! Check out her sight to read other fabulous and frightening entries. Thanks, Susanna for the festive activity!

Here are my entries:

Halloween Surprise (99-words)

“Last stop,” Dad says pausing by an old house.

I squeeze his hand.

“This isn’t Grandma and Grandpa’s?”

“Come on.” He winks.

The wind howls around me.

I shiver. Even my fairy wings tremble.

Dad knocks.

Creeaakk…

Inside, a cauldron bubbles.

An old lady wearing a pointed hat stirs the pot.

“Come in,” she cackles.

I hide behind Dad.

“Her stew’s full of eyeballs and spiders!” I whisper.

I yank Dad to escape.

“Happy Halloween!”

“Grandma!” I giggle at her witch costume.

“Welcome to our BOO-tiful new house!” Grandpa howls, carrying candy.

“Now, that’s a trick, but such a treat!”

 

Halloween Mishap (90-words)

Time has come

What to be?

On this frightful Halloween.

 

Find a spell

add some goo

In the cauldron, stir the brew.

 

Gulp! I sip

down it goes

Pop! Out sticks a pointy nose?

 

What is this?

The wrong spell?

I’m not feeling very well.

 

Long black hair

to my knees,

In flies Broomstick on a breeze.

 

Help! I cry,

and I howl

now I’m feeling very foul.

 

Pop! A wart

more green skin,

shiver like a skeleton.

 

It’s too late

I guess I’ll be,

just a witch for Halloween.

 

 

Finding Time

Have you ever wished that time would slow down? Even just a little?

I know I do.

I think back to my pregnancy and being in awe of the amazing process a woman’s body goes through. I remember staring at my stomach watching this little alien creature take over, kicking me at all hours of the night.

Now, they’re 5 and nearly 7, still young, but not babies anymore.

I’m reminded of this everytime Google Photos sends me an email that says, “Rediscover this day. Look back at…”

More like, “Life is moving fast, don’t blink or you’ll miss it.”

Last week, the tears welled in my eyes as I stared at my son’s first birthday party. I remember his ruffled blond hair and the way he used to snuggle up close under my chin when I held him. Thankfully, he’s still a snuggler, but how could that time have passed so fast?

Now when the little reminder pops up in the corner of my email, bugging me to click on it and “rediscover” these moments, I can’t even open them.

Is it because it makes me sad?

Am I worried that I’ll realize these moments won’t last forever?

Or because I just don’t want to revisit the very “homemade” looking cakes I baked for each birthday (I’m no Betty Crocker. It’s okay, I’ve accepted it.).

Or maybe it’s another gentle reminder to live each moment to the fullest. To enjoy the small things in life.

The hugs.

The stories.

The muddy mess kids make when discovering a giant puddle in the backyard (I thank the lucky stars for hoses and cheap bar soap).

I also wonder if these images and thoughts are trying to tell me to be present…

That I need to remember yesterday’s memories, but recognize today’s.

And continue living life to the fullest.

Moreover, we can’t control time, but we can make time.

Especially for those that matter most.

 

 

 

 

Inspired by Nature: PB Review

My family loves spending time in the outdoors. After busy days at work, school, and moving through the daily hustle and bustle of life, there’s an urge to escape and get back to nature. A call to the wild, you could say.

Trekking through the forest, discovering a new trail, or watching the kids run wild and free, there is no doubt that nature is healing.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve set a family goal to visit as many national parks as we can. Our kids take part in the junior ranger programs and have the privilege of meeting the park rangers that work tirelessly to protect our landscapes and wildlife.

The kids have learned about animals, plants, trees, and how to preserve our natural treasures. So far they’ve each earned five badges, one for each park we’ve visited.

The reason I share this is that recently, I came across this picture book titled: OLIVER THE SECOND-LARGEST LIVING THING ON EARTH by Josh Crute and illustrated by John Taesoo Kim.  Not only is it beautifully illustrated, but it’s a story inspired by nature.

img_2151-1

Age Range: 4-8

Publisher: Page Street Kids

Synopsis: A tree named Oliver is tired of being the second-largest tree.  He stretches his limbs in winter, lifts logs in spring, soaks up the sun in summer, and munches on mulch in autumn, trying to grow big enough to be noticed. Until he discovers that he’s been a part of something much larger, the Sequoia National Forest.

img_2153-1

It’s a humorous story with a lot of heart, and there’s an excellent note at the end about the Sequoia National Forest and other second largest things in the world.

It’s a great reminder for children that you don’t always have to come in first. In fact, being second is important, too.

Words

Words are powerful.

Whether displayed on a billboard, expressed through feelings, or read in a book, they are everywhere. Depending on how they are presented, they can be perceived in various ways.

Naturally, I think of picture books and the effect they have on children, even adults.

Recently, my daughter and I were browsing the local bookstore when she bounded over giddy about a book she discovered.

I glanced at the cover. A young girl was staring at a man wrapped in a blanket crouched down on the sidewalk. At first, I was surprised she picked this. Generally, she’s attracted to bright colors and big illustrations. This story was more muted.

“Will you read this to me, Mommy?” she asked.

We found a bench and admired the modestly sized book.

“OLD MAN by Sarah V. and Claude Dubois.” I  began.

the old man book

The story starts by comparing the life of a young girl and a homeless man. With its sparse text and beautiful illustrations, my daughter and I were captivated.

“Mom? Why is he living on the street?”

“Where is the old man’s family?”

“Why can’t he remember his name?”

Questions poured out of my daughter’s mouth.

Sarah V’s. carefully chosen words kept us reading not two, but three times. We talked about homelessness, empathy, acts of kindness, and showing compassion for others.

When it was time to leave, the book’s message stayed with us. As a family, we talked about it during dinner and brainstormed ways we can help others.

This was another gentle reminder, that words, whether spoken or read in a children’s book, are powerful and have a lasting ripple effect on our lives.

If you haven’t read THE OLD MAN by Sarah V. and Claude K. Dubois, check it out. I highly recommend it!