Nonfiction Monday

El día de los niños/El día de los libros

Today’s the 16th anniversary of El día de los niños/El día de los libros, Children’s Day/Book Day

Lola Reads to Leo
by Anna McQuinn (Author) and Rosalind Beardshaw (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Lola becomes a big sister in her latest story celebrating books and reading. From potty time to bath time to nap time, Lola knows just the right book to read to baby Leo.

Lola and her mommy read together a lot.
Lola chooses stories the baby will like.

BONUS! See the Día Celebrations video!

Picture Book of the Day

Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat
by Susanna Reich (Author) and Amy Bates (Illustrator)

Booktalk:This biography introduces the iconic American chef Julia Child to a new audience of young readers through the story of her spirited cat, Minette, whom Julia adopted when living in Paris. While Julia is in the kitchen learning to master delicious French dishes, the only feast Minette is truly interested in is that of fresh mouse! This lively story is complete with an author’s note, a bibliography, and actual quotations from Julia Child and comes just in time for the 100th anniversary of her birth. (It’s the first-ever children’s book about the beloved chef.)

Snippet: Minette Mimosa McWilliams Child was a very lucky cat, perhaps the luckiest cat in all of Paris.

And now a interview with author Susanna Reich. Her awards include the NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor, Tomás Rivera Award, International Latino Book Award, ALA Notable, ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and Best Books of the Year honors from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Scripps-Howard, and the Association of Booksellers for Children.

Q. When did you start writing?

A. I started writing children’s books in the early 1990’s, but I’d done other kinds of writing before that. My first published article was actually about Polynesian dance. I have a B.F.A. in Dance from N.Y.U.’s Tisch School of the Arts and had done some graduate work in Dance Ethnology at the University of Hawaii, so the subject came naturally.

After dancing in New York for a few years, I switched careers and worked as a florist. Before long I was writing about floral design. I published an article about wedding bouquets in Bride’s magazine, and another about the flower arrangements I created for Julia Child’s 80’th birthday party.

By the early 90’s, I was married and had a young child. My husband, Gary Golio, and I  were reading a lot of picture books. We were also studying T’ai Chi with the children’s book illustrator Ed Young, who often talked about his work and about the world of children’s books. I became more and more intrigued and began to experiment with picture book texts. I joined SCBWI , went to conferences, submitted manuscripts – and got lots of rejections.

It seemed like everyone was trying to write picture books (this was before the current YA craze), so I figured it would be easier to break in with something different, like nonfiction. My local children’s librarian told me there was a need for biographies of women, and my mother, a music historian, suggested Clara Schumann. At first I said, “Oh, Mom, that’s your thing!” Then I thought about it and realized it was a good idea. I worked on a biography of Clara for about three years before selling it. That became my first book, Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso.

Q.  Describe your writing process.

A. Most of my books are biographies, so my process begins with figuring out who to write about. Since Gary also writes biography, this is something we talk about a lot!

A subject has to meet several criteria. First, it has to be someone with whom I want to spend a lot of time, someone whose work interests me and has had a significant cultural impact. Second, there has to be sufficient source material. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I have to be able to find an angle that will interest young readers.

Once I’ve chosen a subject, the research begins. I read the adult biographies on the subject and study the subject’s work by visiting museums, listening to CDs, watching videos, going to performances. I pay special attention to primary sources – like personal letters, memoirs, photographs, archival newspapers – to ensure accuracy and to find good quotes. I also read background material to get a feel for the historical context – for example, Mexican history and dance history for José! Born to Dance, and Native American tribes and languages for Painting the Wild Frontier. Researching Julia Child was especially fun because I got to read cookbooks and try recipes. I even researched the history of cat food!

As I research, I take extensive notes and begin to formulate the book’s structure. I’m looking for that child-friendly angle and developing a narrative thread for my story. If it’s a book for which I’ll be providing images, I’m doing illustration research at the same time.

Only once I’ve completely immersed myself in the person’s life and times, and feel like I know the person really well, do I begin to write. At that point, the words flow pretty easily, though I do a lot of revising as I go. I’m very attentive to details of structure and style, and tend to write and rewrite until I’m satisfied. Of course, after the manuscript is sold I get editorial feedback, and then there’s more writing and revising.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A. I come from a family that loves to cook and eat, and I’d wanted to write a picture book about Julia Child for a long time. The challenge was to find the right approach. I didn’t want to just write about how Julia Child learned to cook boeuf bourguignon.

Then I read that Julia was a cat lover who got her first cat, Minette, when she and her husband, Paul, lived in Paris. Minette ate Julia’s leftovers, but there were also mice in the apartment. Now, I’ve lived with cats my whole life, and I know that no matter what you give them to eat, you can’t compete with fresh mouse—even if you’re Julia Child! So that became the premise for Minette’s Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat. I didn’t have to invent any of the anecdotes about Minette or any of the dialogue. All of the quotes in the book are things Julia actually wrote in her memoirs and letters.

I’ve never had so much fun writing a book. Julia was a joyful, enthusiastic, energetic person with a great sense of humor. I tried to channel that into Minette’s Feast. And Amy Bates’ illustrations are perfect. They’re both historically accurate (we worked on that a lot!) and full of feeling, and they really capture the look of Paris in the late 1940’s, as well as Julia’s warmth and personality.

BONUS! We’re celebrating the launch of the book with a giveaway, courtesy of Abrams. Readers can enter to win a free, signed book by sending an email with the subject line “Minette’s Feast giveaway” to Winners will be selected on May 31.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, April 30 – Booktalking – interview with Susanna

Tuesday, May 1 – Books Together – interview with Amy

Wednesday, May 2 – Tales from the Rushmore Kid – interview with Susanna’s cat

Thursday, May 3 – The Fourth Musketeer – interview with Susanna

Friday, May 4 – Original Content – review and discussion of creative nonfiction

Sunday, May 6 – Great Kid Books – guest post by Susanna about reading as a child

Monday, May 7 – Shelf-Employed – interview with Abrams art director Chad Beckerman

Tuesday, May 8 – Readerkidz – “Dear Reader” guest post by Susanna

Nonfiction Monday

Nonfiction Monday

This week’s Nonfiction Monday Round-up host is GatheringBooks


Nonfiction Book Blast 2012

Seymour Simon booktalks Butterflies

on the Nonfiction Book Blast blog today…

Save the date! June 23, 2012 Nonfiction Book Blast 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.


Literary Link

Need a great Mother’s Day gift?
May 2-June 20 (online) children’s book writing workshops begin this Wednesday!


STEM Haiku

Share your own haiku about a STEM topic on this last day National Poetry Month.

(STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

30 in 30: a body of work
thirty poems in
thirty days: one poem a
day–isn’t math grand!
© 2012 Anastasia Suen

Site Meter Read and Write Sports: Readers Theatre and Writing Activities for Grades 3-8

Copyright © 2012 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.


5 thoughts on “Nonfiction Monday

  1. Great interview, Anastasia and Susanna. I look forward to visiting all of the Minette’s Feast blog tour stops. Susanna, I love your use of refrains and the fact that you didn’t rely on invented dialogue. The pronunciation guide is appreciated as well, so that I can read it aloud properly – French is not my forte!


  2. Thanks for the interview, Anastasia. Susanna, the book looks like a treasure to have. At my school, students study personal individual topics & there are often those who study cooking so this would be lovely to have for those who find being in the kitchen a fun thing to do. The illustrations look so inviting, too.


  3. Wonderful interview and subjec, Anastasia and Susanna. I can’t wait to read the book. I’m sure I’ll be hearing Julia Child’s iconic voice in my head as I read. We ate in an upscale restaurant in New Haven once, years ago, with Julia and her party at the next table. A member of the waitstaff was stationed behind every chair. Congratulations on the book!


  4. Merci beaucoup, everyone! It’s truly a joy to share Julia and Minette’s story with young readers. And Amy Bates’ illustrations are magnifique!


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