Booktalk: In 1957 in Liverpool, England, a young lad named John Lennon and his band played music at a local church fair. In the audience was Paul McCartney, who liked what he heard and soon joined the group. Paul’s friend George Harrison kept showing up at rehearsals until the older boys finally let him in. Eventually they found the perfect drummer, Ringo Starr, and the perfect name: The Beatles. Four ordinary boys growing up amid the rubble of postwar England found music to be a powerful, even life-saving, force and became the bestselling band in history.
Snippet: John attacked the guitar, strumming as fast as he could. He didn’t give a fig about wrong notes. With some of his mates, he organized a skiffle group called the Quarrymen, pounding out souped-up folk songs and some rock and ‘n’ roll. They had no idea how to play, but they loved making noise–lots of noise! Rehearsing in Mum’s bathroom, the sound bounced off the tiles. Bam, BOOM, bam, BOOM!
Bark Scorpion (Desert Animals Searchin’ for Shade)
by Meish Goldish (Author)
Booktalk: The sun shines on the hot desert sand. Meanwhile, a small animal with lobster-like pincers and a long tail hides under some tree bark. After the sun sets and the air cools, the creature—an Arizona bark scorpion—leaves its hideout and starts to hunt for prey.
It is a hot, dry afternoon in the desert.
A bark scorpion rests in a tree.
It hides under the tree bark to keep out of the burning sun.
During the day, the temperature can climb to 120°F (49°C).
Yet the scorpion stays cool in the shade of the bark.
Booktalk: In 1528, the real-life conquistador Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked in the New World where he lived for eight years as a slave, trader, and shaman. In this lyrical weaving of history and myth, the adventurer takes his young daughter Teresa from her home in Texas to walk westward into the setting sun, their travels accompanied by miracles–visions and prophecies. But when Teresa reaches the outposts of New Spain, life is not what her father had promised. When a new epidemic of measles devastates the area, the sixteen-year-old sets off on her own journey. Now Teresa moves through a land stalked by Plague: smallpox as well as measles, typhus, and scarlet fever.
She could still hear the wise woman’s voice. She hadn’t understood then, when she was a child. She hadn’t realized that the wise woman had been talking to her, and not to her father. What you have lost will be restored to you. Now Teresa had to return back to that village, back to that hill and crumbling adobe house. Now she had someplace to go.
Booktalk: What do you get when you combine one energetic, enthusiastic little boy with his sleepy but tolerant dog? Unconditional love.
Using simple words and spare illustrations, My Dog Is the Best celebrates the special bond that exists between a young child and a beloved family pet. It’s the heartwarming story of two best friends. . . told by a boy with a very active imagination.
He reads books.
I’ve known Laurie for ten years. (We started working together in 2005 when she signed up for her first online writing workshop.) Needless to say I was quite pleased when she emailed me last month to let me know she had another new book coming out! After I asked her if could share it on my blog, Laurie invited me to be a part of this blog tour and graciously agreed to answer my three blog tour questions…
Q. When did you start writing?
A. Well, I guess in some ways I’ve always been a writer. My mom says that before I could even read my favorite thing to do was tell her stories, on and on, hour after hour. Later, in school, I loved every assignment related to writing. As a teen, I kept a journal, including lots of really terrible, angsty poetry. And, just for fun, I pursued a technical writing minor in college. Still, I never considered writing as a career until I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t know much about having babies or raising them, so that became my big research project. I read everything I could get my hands on, and—of course—passed all of that useful knowledge on to my friends who already had children. One day my best friend said, “You know, you should really write all of this stuff down for people. It seems like such a waste to just tell me.” I realize now that it was probably just to shut me up (tactful, isn’t she?), but her comment set me on a new course, and I started querying parenting magazines. After my child was born, however, I fell in love with the children’s books I was reading at bedtime every night. I knew I’d found my calling.
Q. Describe your writing process.
A. It really varies, since I write so many different kinds of things. If I’m setting out to write long-form nonfiction, such as Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something that Matters, I start with research, then I outline, then I draft the proposal. Finally, when I’ve worked on that for a long time and given it a lot of time to stew in my brain, then I start drafting sample chapters. Inevitably, that changes the proposal and the outline, but I just can’t start with the actual writing until I have a vision of how all of the pieces are going to come together in the end.
A. For picture books, even nonfiction like Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, it’s more about trial and error, jumping in and playing with the story. I’ll usually just do just enough research or idea generation to have a basic idea of where I’m headed, then I’ll just start drafting. When I find a general structure that I like, then I’ll go back and research to find the facts and details that I need to flesh it out (for nonfiction) or I’ll work on developing the story arc and characters (for fiction).
A. In either case, my favorite part is revision. I was a software engineer before switching to writing, and revision feels just like debugging. I love taking something that is “broken” and fixing it so it’s just right, removing all of the errors getting all the parts to work perfectly alone and together as a whole.
Q. Tell us about your latest book.
A. I initially wrote the manuscript for my latest book, My Dog Is the Best, as an assignment for your Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books workshop! It’s very different from what I usually write. Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream are both serious nonfiction, while My Dog Is the Best is sweet, humorous fiction. I wanted to play with simple language for very young readers, while using emotions and scenes to which many young children could relate. I tweaked a bit for rhythm, pattern, and word choice, but the draft came out almost the same as you can see it in its final form in the book today. I was pleasantly surprised to have something I liked result from an assignment in a genre I wasn’t used to writing in, and even more pleasantly surprised when others liked it, too!
Thanks so much for visiting the blog, Laurie! The book is adorable!
STEM + the Arts = STEAM
STEAM DIY Activity
The main character in My Dog Is the Best is a “maker” too. After he read a dinosaur book, he made a dinosaur costume he made for his dog. For your STEAM DIY Activity, you can make a costume for your dog, or make a small dog out of clay. If you have an adult to help you, try making a polymer clay puppy with this YouTube tutorial. (Click on the SEE MORE link under the video on YouTube to see the materials list.)
Visit all of the stops on the My Dog Is the Best book tour!
Booktalk: What smaller scientific discoveries led up to major breakthroughs such as the assembly line, computers, or the Internet? Who first proposed ideas to solve problems? And how did the solutions change over time? Trace the history of key discoveries in engineering and design with timelines and find out the facts.
Snippet: Many thousands of years ago, people tasked with raising stone structures faced a problem. How could they make openings, such as windows and doorways, in their structures without weakening them? How could they create roofs and ceilings that would support their own weight and any weight above them? Openings were important for light, ventilation, movement, and defense. Roofs and ceilings, of course, provided shelter for people and objects housed in the space below. But roofs or windows with open space beneath them ran the risk of caving in.
It’s STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
#kidlit Link of the Day:
See how the Pre-K to grade 3 students at Usher Collier-Heights Elementary School in Atlanta, GA solved their STEM Friday engineering and design problem in “the final STEM Friday challenge for the fall season.”
Booktalk: It’s frustrating when you accidentally throw your ball out the window, especially if you are just too small to see where it has gone. But ingenuity saves the day in this cleverly constructed (almost wordless) board book, and flipping the book over reveals a wonderful surprise–an amazing and inventive parade!