Book Review and Author Interview: Lydia Lukidis

Bees tend to have a bad rap. Mention the word and everyone goes scrambling.

Today, I’m very excited to share with you a fabulous children’s story written by a very talented author, Lydia Lukidis, that explores the topic of bees, beekeeping, and how important these insects are for our world.

This story is part of the ‘Makers Make it Work’ series from Kane press, that shares easy-to-read stories focusing on problem-solving and hands-on action.

Title: THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST

Ages: 5-8

Series: Makers Make It Work

Author: Lydia Lukidis

Illustrator: Andre Ceolin

Publisher: Kane Press

Book Features: Activities, Original artwork, and Educational Sidebars

Synopsis: Arun and Keya find the perfect tree for a tree house, but it’s full of bees—and their nest is falling apart! Can Arun and Keya help the bees find a new home?

Let’s meet the talented author, Lydia Lukidis!

This is such a great story exposing children to bees and their importance in our world. How did you get involved with Kane Press’s ‘Makers Make it Work’ series and where did you come up with the idea for THE BROKEN BEE’S NEST?

I started doing work-for-hire projects for educational publishers several years ago. They typically assign writers a topic. I had previously worked with Juliana Lauletta who was an editor at Kane Press (and is now the publisher), and she invited me to write a few books for the Science Solves It series. This resulted in two educational picture books, A REAL LIVE PET! and THE SPACE ROCK MYSTERY. I became passionate about writing nonfiction, especially creative nonfiction. From there, I met Jennifer Arena, an editor at Kane Press, and she invited me to write a book for the Makers Make it Work series. I picked the topic of beekeeping and ended up falling in love with these furry little creatures after writing the book THE BROKEN BEE’S NEST.

How long did it take you to write this story?

The timeline is usually fairly tight for work-for-hire projects, so you need to have your best thinking cap on. I write and edited the story (with the help of the Kane Pres editors) in under two months. That said, there was a slew of edits and feedback going back and forth. It’s actually nice to work within this deadline, because it forces you to keep moving forward.  

Is this your first book with Kane Press?

It’s my third book with Kane Press (see above). I really love working with them. Once upon a time, I studied Pure and Applied Science. While I had an aptitude for science, I soon came to the realization that I didn’t want career in it. So I chose to get my University degree in English literature and poetry instead. Years later, I discovered I loved writing about STEM topics, and all the knowledge I had gathered during the years I studied science was coming into use. You never know what incredible path life will bring you on!

I love how you’ve intertwined bee facts within the story. What kind of research did you do for this story? Did you visit an apiary? If not, would you like to?

Thank-you. I do write straight nonfiction as well, but I especially love creative nonfiction. In this case, you weave the facts and educational matter into a story. It’s fun, engaging, and accessible for children. For research, it’s usually three tiered: I always start with books from my local library. Then I check out reputable websites, and then lastly, I speak to an expert when possible. In this case, I reached out to Kelsey Ducsharm from The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association. She was kind enough to answer my questions, and fact check the book and illustrations. It was very helpful, because as I learned, there are many misconceptions about beehives.

How many revisions did you go through?

On my end, there were dozens of revisions, and then I bounced the story back and forth to the Kane Press editors about 5 or 6 times. I always get flabbergasted by how many edits are necessary, even when the story has less than 1,000 words.

What’s coming up next for you?

I usually work on several manuscripts at a time, which is fun but can feel overwhelming. So I make a to-do list for the week and choose where I’ll place my focus. Right now, I’m finishing the first draft to my new middle grade novel (very exciting, and challenging!). I’m also working on several new picture books and a chapter book. Stay tuned for details!

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

Website: http://www.lydialukidis.com/

Blog: https://lydialukidis.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LydiaLukidis/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LydiaLukidis

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lydialukidis/?trk=hp-identity-name

Thank you for sharing this engaging children’s story exposing children to the importance of bees, problem-solving, and the process of collecting honey.

Thank-you! It’s a pleasure to stop by your blog. Through writing this book, I learned what a critical role bees play in our ecosystem and gained a new respect for them!

You can purchase THE BROKEN BEES’ NEST: BEEKEEPING here.

Did You Know?

Lydia Lukidis is a children’s author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books. Her latest STEM books, A Real Live Pet! and The Space Rock Mystery were published by Kane Press.

Lydia also does school visits and gives writing workshops for children aged 5-12. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence while improving their literacy. She is currently part of the Culture in the Schools Program organized by the Ministre de Culture et Communications Québec. For more information, please visit: http://www.lydialukidis.com

Thanks for stopping by. Happy Reading!

Book Review: H IS FOR HAIKU: A TREASURY OF HAIKU FROM A TO Z

When I taught fourth grade, my students studied all forms of poetry, but their favorite? Writing Haikus. They loved the challenge of discovering words to fit this precise form. Originating in Japan, Haiku poems have three lines with the first and last lines having five syllables and the middle line having seven.

Now that I teach kindergarten I still love the joys of poetry, especially Haiku’s. I’m so excited to share with you H IS FOR HAIKU: A TREASURY OF HAIKU FROM A TO Z by Sydell Rosenberg and illustrated by Sawsan Chalabi. It’s a perfect opportunity to expose young children to the wonderful world of poetry and it’s fun play on words.

With vivid illustrations and unique imagery, children are encouraged to slow down and enjoy the fun on each page.

H IS FOR HAIKU was selected as a  “2019 Notable Poetry Book” by the National Council for Teachers of English as well as a finalist for Cybils Poetry Award.

But that’s not all. There is a beautiful backstory to this poetry book. Amy Losak, is the daughter of the late author, Sydell Rosenberg. Her mother’s dream was to publish a haiku book, and Amy continues to help that dream come true.

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Penny Candy Books

Author: Sydell Rosenberg

Illustrator: Sawsan Chalbai

Ages: 5-11

Synopsis: In H Is For Haiku: A Treasury of Haiku from A to Z, the late poet Sydell Rosenberg, a charter member of the Haiku Society of America and a New York City public school teacher, and illustrator Sawsan Chalabi offer an A-Z compendium of haiku that brings out the fun and poetry in everyday moments.

Image result for h is for haiku

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Happy Reading!

Book Review: Little Lena and the Big Table

Today I bring to you a story that so many children can relate to. Author PJ McIlvaine brilliantly uncovered a topic felt by so many little ones, including my own.

Presenting LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE

Genre: Picture Book

Publisher: Big Belly Books

Author: Pj McIlvaine

Illustrator: Leila Nabih

Ages: 3-8

Synopsis: Little Lena has her heart set to sit at the big table. But every year her family tells her she’s just not big enough. Little Lena is determined to show everyone how big she is.

This book is full of heartfelt charm and it’s simple text along with the illustrations, paint the perfect picture of the lovely, but often chaotic atmosphere at family gatherings.

LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE is a great story to have on hand, especially before family events!

My children’s favorite part is when Lena discovers how boring the adult table really is. Ganny takes out her teeth, mom shows embarrassing photos, Uncle Ron spits when he speaks—lots of humor sure to make your child laugh.

You can purchase this picture book at your local bookstore or www.bigbellybookco.com

Happy Reading!

I received a free copy from the publisher to give my honest review. 

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!