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 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: Evelyn Bookless

Did you know that every year over 8-million metric tons of plastics enter our seas? That is equivalent to five plastic bags filled with trash for every foot of coastline in the world. That’s madness!

Author Evelyn Bookless felt the urge to write a story that engages and educates the children of our future in this fight against ocean pollution. She has found a way to take this crucial topic and make it kid-friendly!

The result? An awesome pollution-fighting superhero!

CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE couldn’t be more timely and needed! Let’s dive in and learn some more!

Title: CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE

Don’t you love the cover? I do!

Genre: Picture Book

Ages: 5-8

Author: Evelyn Bookless

Illustrator: Danny Deeptown

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International

Synopsis:

Fresh out of Superhero School, Captain Green gets a call. Dolphin is tangled up in plastic, and there’s trouble for Seagull and Turtle too. When our brave superhero rushes off to help, he finds himself on a major mission: saving sea creatures from plastic. Using his incredible powers, Captain Green promises to save the day. But can he clean up this mess for good?

Now let’s meet the real superhero behind this entertaining, yet educational story about protecting our environment, author Evelyn Bookless!

Evelyn Bookless
Evelyn Bookless

It’s so great to have you!

Thanks for having me!

Can you share your inspiration behind CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE?

I was inspired to write Captain Green and the Plastic Scene while on holiday in Indonesia several years ago. I was saddened by the huge amount of plastic that had washed up on the beach not too far from our hotel. Such an incredibly beautiful place was destroyed by our actions. I thought, this pesky problem needs a superhero, and Captain Green was born! I immediately began researching and writing the story with the goal of engaging children, in a fun way, in the fight against ocean pollution.

You’ve taken a very serious subject and found a way to make it easier for children to understand. What was that process like?

Thank you! I adore animals and nature and when I began to learn more and more about the way plastic is polluting our oceans and hurting sea creatures, I wanted to shine a light on the problem while, most importantly, telling a story that children would enjoy and connect with. I watched documentaries, read widely and talked to a marine biologist to learn as much as I could. Then I chose three animals to include and studied their habits and habitats.

It was important for me to not overwhelm children but show them some ways that they can make a difference. The story ends positively with Captain Green reminding us that “you don’t need superpowers to save our seas, it just takes a superhuman.”

What is something you would like your readers to take away from this story?

That if we all make some small changes in our daily lives, we can make a big difference to ocean pollution and the well-being of our sea creatures. It’s not too late!

When writing CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE, did you get to work directly with illustrator Danny Deeptown? How did you determine the superhero look for Captain Green?

I did get to work closely with Danny Deeptown and it was a fantastic experience. I was thrilled when he came on board to illustrate the book. He has brought so much emotion, life and action to the pictures.

Danny felt that it was important to get Captain Green’s innocence across so that all children can relate to him, or even better, want to be like him. Captain Green loves nature and does his best to protect the planet. He shows everyone ways that they can help save our seas and empowers us all to do our bit.

I loved all of Danny’s initial character sketches for Captain Green and, in the end, he amalgamated ideas from two different drawings to come up with the final look. Children have responded so well to the character and I adore seeing pictures of little ones pretending to be Captain Green.

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

I would advise writers to read as many current picture books relating to their WIP as they can. I read countless books about adventures, superheroes, the environment, and animals to order to find suitable mentor texts that I could use.

What is coming up next for you?

I have some more school visits coming up soon. I love to visit schools to share the book and hear children’s bright ideas for saving our seas.

I am working on another Captain Green story about a different environmental topic and I hope it will be finished some time later in the year. I am playing around with different ways to tell the story.

I am working on a whole host of other stories that are much more silly so fingers crossed that I find a good home from them too.

Thank you for writing a kid-friendly, fun story with such a vital theme for children. Also, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Katie!

Keep It Green!

I also wanted to include this informative short three-minute video from National Geographic that shares the detrimental effects plastic has on our oceans.

Check out these classroom activities regarding the impact of plastics for various age levels here and more resources here.

Children everywhere are already taking a stand against plastics entering our oceans. Check out the 4-minute video below.

You can preorder CAPTAIN GREEN AND THE PLASTIC SCENE on Amazon or purchase it now by visiting here or here.

To learn more about author Evelyn Bookless and see what she’s up to check out her website: https://www.evelynbookless.com/

Or visit her social media feeds:

Twitter: @evelynbookless

Instagram: @evelynbookless

Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!


Susanna Hill’s Valentine Contest

In the midst of revising a story and writing a couple of articles, why not add a fun little contest to the list! Ha! Children’s author, Susannah Hill, is hosting her fourth annual Valentine contest.

While I wasn’t able to put as much time into it as I’d like, I still enjoyed participating and giving it a whirl!

The story has to be kid appropriate, maximum 214-words, in which someone feels guilty. What fun!

Here we go!

Lovey-Dovey Ollie

214-words

Ollie Octopus swirled and twirled on a wave of love. After all, Octopuses have three hearts.

Ollie blew a kiss to a swimming Seahorse.
“Bleck. Enough of the smooshy-wooshy love,” cried Seahorse.

Ollie wrapped her arms around a grumpy Hermit Crab.
“Please, no hugs.” He snapped.

She batted her eyes at the Banded Butterflyfish.
“Is something the matter?” wondered the Butterflyfish.

When Ollie swam near, the snails squirmed, the fish flittered, and the seahorses raced away.

They were tired of her lovey-dovey ways.

With broken hearts, Ollie hopped on a current and surfed out to sea.

Whoosh! The water crashed and thrashed around her.

“Help!” cried a voice.

“Oh no!” gasped Ollie.

Grumpy Hermit Crab swirled and whirled past on a current.

Ollie flexed her arms and STRETCHED as far as she could reach.

Sloop!

She suctioned Hermit Crab and pulled with all of her might.

Plunk!

Ollie wrapped Hermit Crab in a hug.

Whoa! Ollie thought. I have superstrength!

“You saved me!” thanked Hermit Crab.

Ollie blushed.

“I’m sorry for being a little too lovey-dovey,” said Ollie. “ From now on, I will focus on using my super strength.”

Back at the reef, Hermit Crab shared Ollie’s heroic story and Ollie flipped and flexed her arms.

“Three cheers for Ollie!” The sea creatures chanted.

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!