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!