A Cool Summer Tail

A Cool Summer Tail
by Carrie A. Pearson (Author) and Christina Wald (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Do you ever wonder how animals stay cool in the summer? Well they wonder how humans do too!

(Baby fox)
How do humans stay cool in the summer, Mama?
Do they hang out their tongues,
like a spring that’s been sprung,
breathing fast in and out like this?

(Mama fox)
No panting! No puffing!
No huh, huh, huh huffing!
They sweat through their skin when it’s hot.

Two years ago, I hosted this author on the blog tour for her first children’s book. Today Carrie A. Pearson is back for the sequel as she answers just 3 questions….

Q. When did you start writing?
A. I started writing very early in life and continued because I realized my words provoked a response. Some of it was good—like when I wrote an affectionate note to my grandma and received a warm hug—and some was not so good—like when I wrote a fictionalized biography that conveyed my teen angst (rather than the truth) and hurt people I loved. My teaching degree in early childhood education further reinforced the impact of words on people, especially little people. I love choosing just the right words to tell the story I want to share. To me, the power of words will never grow old!

Carrie headshot

Author Carrie A. Pearson

Q. Describe your writing process.
A. Since June 2013 when I took on the volunteer role of co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI-MI, my writing days often begin with email correspondence about various projects and activities for our region or the larger organization. At first, I worried my writing time would be eaten up, but the opposite is true; my brain is more engaged for creative writing after it has been called into service to solve problems or work out details. I am careful to chart out how my time will be spent early in the week and check my progress daily to stay on track. I write at my computer in my office that has a lovely view to the outside world. This view reminds me that as much as I’d like to be writing 24/7, my product will be more interesting if writing time is interspersed with doggy adventures, running, hiking, mountain biking, family and friends.

Sierra in rocking chair 001

Sierra in rocking chair

While I dabble in pure fiction, I’m most at home at the intersection of fiction and nonfiction. Science is the underpinning of a lot of my work so accurate research is crucial. I use the internet to begin my research, but find that personal interviews with experts often lead in directions I might not have dreamed. So, after I’ve pulled together intelligent questions, I pick up the phone—or visit locations whenever possible. In fact, when this interview posts, I will have just returned from Redwood National Park to interview and tour with a well-known park ranger for an exciting new project funded by a grant from SCBWI.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A. A Cool Summer Tail (Arbordale Publishing, March 2014) is a nonfiction picture book for readers ages 4-8 that explores how woodland animals adapt to summer heat. While the content is true to life, the story is told in a fictional style with lyricism, rhyming, alliteration, and imagery. The book is unique because it is told from animals’ perspectives, and because it compares and contrasts how animals and humans adapt. A Cool Summer Tail is a companion to my earlier book called A Warm Winter Tail which won a Gelett Burgess Award in the Nature for All Ages category. Christina Wald, the illustrator for both books, created visuals that are authentic but still child-friendly and ask to be explored over and over. We hope each book individually and both books together will provide insights into the amazing world of animal adaptation.

WarmWinter cover art high res with Burgess Award

A Gelett Burgess Award Winner in the Nature for All Ages category.

Readers who visit each stop on the blog tour and comment are eligible to be chosen for a free copy of A Cool Summer Tail and a plush animal featured in the book. One winner will be chosen randomly. Here are the tour stops and hosts:

August 11: You are here!
August 14: Brittney Breakey: Author Turf
August 15: Deborah Diesen: Jumping the Candlestick
August 18: Jennifer Chamblis Bertman

Nonfiction Monday

It’s Nonfiction Monday!

Copyright © 2014 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.
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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 susanna@susannareich.com. 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

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Copyright © 2012 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Young Readers

Picture Book of the Day

Fiesta Babies
by Carmen Tafolla (Author) and Amy Cordova (Illustrator)

Booktalk: Use this lively book for Cinco de Mayo next week and march to the music!

Fiesta Babies march on parade
wearing coronas Mama has made.

Comic of the Week

Super Diaper Baby 2: The Invasion of the Potty Snatchers
by Dav Pilkey (Author, Illustrator)
192 pages

Booktalk: Dr. Dilbert Dinkle started his career as an ordinary, everyday evil genius/inventor/bank robber. But when he awakens one day transformed into a walking, talking puddle of pee, he vows to destroy every toilet in town. Will the devious Dr. Dinkle and his conniving cat, Petey, ruin restrooms for the rest of us? Or could this be a job for the death-defying duo of Super Diaper Baby and Diaper Dog?

It took 24 hours
from when he’d begun,
‘Till the Robo-Kitty
Three Thousand was done.

“All I need is a driver.
I need someone mean.
I need someone evil
to run my machine.”

BONUS! See the video!


STEM Haiku

old word, new place
cc means carbon
copy, but email doesn’t
use carbon paper
© 2012 Anastasia Suen

STEM Friday is coming!

STEM Friday is coming! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

If you blog about science or math books tomorrow,

come share your link or a STEM haiku of your own!


Literary Link

My interview, A Little Bit of Everything is at Sandi’s blog, The Write Stuff.


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Copyright © 2012 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.

Puzzled by Pink Author/Illustrator Interview

Picture Book of the Day

Puzzled by Pink
By Sarah Frances Hardy (Author, Illustrator)

Booktalk: Izzie hates pink as much as her sister, Rose, loves it. So when Rose plans an all-pink birthday party with the guests dressed in fairy costumes, Izzie decides to give her own alternative party in the attic, where the guests will be monsters, spiders, ghosts, and the pet cat. But some powerful magic triggers the appearance of yet another guest – an unexpected one. This will be a party nobody forgets!

Snippet: Today is my sister Rose’s birthday party.
She’s really, really into fairies and princesses and everything pink.

And now for a BONUS! An interview with Author/Illustrator Sarah Frances Hardy

Q. When did you start writing?

A. I’ve always written and had in the back of my mind a dream of writing and illustrating for children (and someday being published). For years, however, I focused more on my career as a fine artist, and kind of halfway sent out manuscripts every so often. It wasn’t until about eight years ago that I realized in order to make my dreams of becoming a children’s writer come true . . . I actually had to buckle down and start writing with a sense of seriousness. I also vowed to myself that I would still be sending out query letters from the nursing home if that’s what it took!

With my newfound sense of purpose, I began going to SCBWI Conferences so that I could learn about the craft of writing and illustrating for children. I wrote several books that I’m thankful will never see the light of day as I continued to learn and improve–AND rewrite and revise.

A few years ago, at my first national SCBWI conference in LA, I was lucky enough to land a critique session with our lovely blog hostess, Anastasia. I had written a book about a creepy little “Wednesday Addams” character, and Anastasia said, “This is a great character, but you have no conflict. Tell me, what is the worst thing that can happen to this little girl?” I answered “Something pink!” And voila! I had the beginnings of a story. I took that seed of a story and ran with it!

Q. Describe your writing process.

A. I always begin with a character, and since I’m an illustrator, I often draw sketches as a jumping off point. Once I’ve got an idea of the look of my character, I spend a great deal of time brainstorming with words. I ask myself dozens of questions, starting with more general things like “What’s your main character’s favorite color? Favorite toy? Who’s her best friend?” Then I get more specific (and I try to get a little weird with my answers–the weirder the better!) “What kind of lunch book does he take to school? Has he ever had stitches? Why? What does she keep in her favorite hiding place? What would she do if someone found it?”

After I’ve filled up several pages of a notebook with detailed character traits, I look for ones that are unusual and I ask myself “What would a character with these traits want or love more than anything . . . and what would really mess it up for him or her?” This gives me the skeleton for my story which I flesh out with words and details.

Then, when I feel like my narrative is in pretty good shape, I storyboard my manuscript using 32 blank rectangles on a piece of paper to represent a standard 32 page picture book format. I draw in stick figures on the storyboard and use it for lots of planning before I start doing any sort of detailed sketching.

After I have a complete storyboard, I do more refined sketches that I use to put together a book dummy that can be printed out on standard paper and gives a pretty good representation of what the book will look like.

But the main thing that I do during each of these steps in my process is REVISE. Constantly. Until my book is sent off and out of my hands, I consider it a living document that I should morph, mold and change until it feels exactly right.

Q. Tell us about your latest book.

A. My latest book, which is actually my debut, is called PUZZLED BY PINK, and it’s the one that Anastasia critiqued for me at a conference (by the way, if you go to a writing conference, ALWAYS sign up to have your work critiqued!). It’s about a little girl named Izzy who prefers spiders and skeletons to tutus and tiaras, and her little sister Rose won’t let Izzy come to her birthday party because she refuses to wear a pink tutu. Izzy huffs off and has her own party in the attic with her own friends–monsters, skeletons, spiders, her invisible friend– until her sparkly sister ballet leaps into the room and wrecks everything.

It’s kind of a “Wednesday Addams meets Fancy Nancy” kind of story!

Thank you for having me!

I’m so pleased you could visit, Sarah!

Readers, you can follow Sarah’s blog here and for a fun birthday party inspired by PUZZLED BY PINK, go to the party page!

STEM Friday is coming!

STEM Friday is coming! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

If you blog about science or math books tomorrow,

come share your link or a STEM haiku of your own!


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

Copyright © 2012 Anastasia Suen All Rights Reserved.