I LOVE this book trailer for My Dog Is the Best! Not just because it’s adorable (it is), or because it’s my first book trailer (yep), but because so many special people helped make it a reality.
First, check it out:
Isn’t that CUTE? Of course, huge thanks to Paul Schmid for providing the art. My sweet husband recorded the audio (with my awesome sister-in-law’s help) of my darling niece “reading” the book: She’s too young to read just yet, so she memorized the whole thing! And my talented friend Lelynn did the animations and editing. Thanks so much, everyone!
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! 🙂
I’m thrilled to announce that Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah has been selected to receive a 2015 Eureka! Honor Book Award from the California Reading Association.
The California Reading Association has established this award to celebrate and honor nonfiction children’s books. The Eureka! Nonfiction Children’s Book Award will assist teachers, librarians, and parents in identifying outstanding nonfiction books for their students and children.
And, it means a shiny new sticker for the cover! 🙂 Emmanuel’s Dream is in some excellent company, too! Click here for the full list of winners. I guarantee you find some great nonfiction for kids (which means it’s great for adults, too!).
It’s almost release day for MY DOG IS THE BEST, available Tuesday, June 9th!
Here’s what the critics have had to say so far:
“… the simplicity of both the words and the pictures creates a charming, toddler-sized ode to man’s best friend.” —Booklist “This simple, quiet story conveys the enduring bond between child and dog, with the added appeal of a joke that younger children just beginning to understand humor can enjoy.” —Kirkus Reviews “Though ‘a boy and his dog’ may not be a groundbreaking theme, it’s often a popular one—and this gentle tale of friendship is no exception.… While this is a familiar story, it’s a well-executed and charming one.” —School Library Journal “… simple wording helps young children who are learning to read.… I really enjoyed this cute children’s book and enjoyed its depiction of man’s best friend.…or should we say ‘boy’s’ best friend!” —Curling Up With A Good Book blog “#Bookaday My Dog is the Best by @LaurieThompson & @PaulSchmidBooks. Made me think of http://t.co/mlzJYBYVm1″ … “In my opinion, it is a perfect candidate for The Baker’s Dozen.” — John Schu (@MrSchuReads) February 26, 2015
The launch party is Friday, June 12th, at University Book Store in the University District. More info here.
There’s a giveaway happening on Goodreads:
Our adorable pup and boy pair are going out on a blog tour beginning Saturday, June 6th. Here’s where to find them (and me) in the next few weeks (note, many of these will have giveaways, too–more chances to win!):
LT: Welcome, Susan! I’m so excited to learn more of the story behind the story of NEW SHOES.
SLM: Hi Laurie! Thanks so much for your interest in NEW SHOES. LT: How did you first become interested in writing about the Jim Crow time period, and what in particular led to thinking about framing it in the context of trying on shoes?
SLM: I was reading about segregation from the 1940s onward both just because I was interested and as research for a novel I just finished writing. (It is called SKATING WITH THE STATUE OF LIBERTY and it’s about Gustave, a twelve-year-old French Jewish refugee who comes to New York in 1942 because his family is fleeing the Nazis.) I was startled to come across a piece of information I hadn’t known about—that in many stores, African-Americans were not permitted to try on clothes, hats, or shoes. I thought a lot about what that must have felt like, especially for a child encountering it for the first time. As I mulled that over, it began to shape itself into a story. LT: I love that, how one book project sparks and informs another, and in a different genre and on fairly different subject, too. How much research did you do for this book? Can you tell us about that process? During your research, did anything surprise you, catch you off guard, or make you change your planned course for the book?
SLM: I’m lucky because I have access to a terrific academic library since I’m also an English professor at Wellesley College. I went to the stacks, checked out a lot of books about Jim Crow, and started reading! Among the most intriguing things I came across were accounts of the ways, large and small, that African-Americans coped with Jim Crow, the psychological and practical strategies they used. Parents would make sure to bring along water so that their kids didn’t have to face segregated drinking fountains. People would refuse to patronize restaurants where proprietors refused to seat them and would only sell them food by handing it out the back door. I loved the story of one black teenager who had a job at a grocery store and who was infuriated by the stupidity of the fact that brown eggs and white eggs had different prices—and that white eggs were cheaper because they were “better.” So he’d secretly switch the eggs around, mixing them up in the cartons! (I put that incident in the novel I just finished, but I ended up taking it out. I love it so much that I may use it again someday!)
SLM: The hardest thing about writing NEW SHOES (it went through 23 drafts over several years) was figuring out what Ella Mae and Charlotte could do to resist the unfair situation they found themselves in. The solution they come up with isn’t perfect, in the sense that the shoes are still second-hand, but people can buy them with dignity. Sales at Mr. Johnson’s shoe store, where Ella Mae hasn’t been allowed to try on shoes, are likely to suffer as a result, which is a nice additional benefit. LT: In EMMANUEL’S DREAM, I wrote about a disabled man from Ghana, despite being none of those things myself. I know people have questioned if I should’ve been the one to write that story, despite the fact that I did extensive research and had the manuscript vetted many times along the way, including by Emmanuel himself. IT was a story I felt I had to tell, in part because no one else had, but also because I could so identify with the emotions involved, even if not the specific experiences. Clearly you also believe that it is okay to write outside of our own culture, as long as we do so with care and respect. What do you say to people who question your authority to write this book?
SLM: All I can really say is that I write the stories that come to me. When I found out about this aspect of Jim Crow, it really hit home for me, and I mused a lot about what that would have felt like, especially for a child encountering it for the first time. Imagining and wondering led me to this story. I’m not demographically similar to any of the protagonists in the books I’ve had published so far, actually—I’m not a black American girl living in the 1950s and I’m not a French Jewish boy living in the 1940s either (as in my novel BLACK RADISHES or the sequel to it that I just completed, SKATING WITH THE STATUE OF LIBERTY). Writing fiction is about imagining your way into a character who is not you—and trying to do it so effectively that your reader is drawn in as well. Writing for children especially involves this kind of leap—because all the writers are adults trying to imagine their ways into the minds of children. Writing across gender or time or nationality also requires this kind of leap.
SLM: But in order to be persuasive to the reader, that imaginative leap has to be an informed one, and it was also important for me to get the reaction of black friends to NEW SHOES when it was in draft. One early reader told me something that really resonated with me. I had initially had Ella Mae’s mother directly express anger after the shoe store incident. But this friend said that her older relatives would not have talked that way about racism to their children, that to protect the child, they would have encouraged the child to think positively. When I thought about my own older relatives and also about the way I am as a parent, that felt so intuitively right to me. So I changed Ella Mae’s mother’s answer. Now she tells Ella Mae that she should think about how nice her feet will look for school. And that feels so much more like what a parent in those circumstances would do. I’m really grateful for that reader’s early response. LT: Oh, I love that answer! So, how exactly were you able to “imagine your way into a character who is not you” in this case? How did you put yourself in someone else’s shoes (no pun intended), and tell a story that—on the surface, at least—you have no direct experience with? What was the personal connection for you?
SLM: In some ways, my own experiences inevitably find their way into anything that I write. I was one of six children, money was limited, and we wore a lot of hand-me-downs. I now enjoy telling students at the schools I visit about an absolutely humiliating experience I once had with hand-me-down boy’s long underwear. (Don’t ask!) My parents also had me and my brothers and sisters polish our school shoes every weekend and we washed the shoelaces when we did it. I’ve never asked to find out if anybody else did that! I wasn’t great as a kid about doing chores—who is?—but I actually didn’t mind polishing my shoes and I found washing the dirt out of the shoelaces, the way Ella Mae does, very satisfying. On a deeper level, there’s the issue of injustice of all kinds, which I was very attuned to as a child. I often said furiously, “It isn’t fair!”—and I hope kids will have an intense reaction of this kind to the situation in NEW SHOES. LT: Well, I’ve never polished shoes or washed shoelaces, but I’m sure almost every kid—including me—has roared, “It isn’t fair!” It’s kind of sad that we become more desensitized to injustice as we get older. LT: I think every book teaches us something new, about the world, about ourselves, or about the craft of writing. What have you learned as a result of writing this book? What surprised you the most during the process?
SLM: I loved hearing from Eric Velasquez about his method of illustration, and it really made me realize how much a picture book is a truly collaborative process. Eric has models pose, takes photographs, and then paints from those photographs. He chose two girls who were friends to pose for Ella Mae and Charlotte, because he wanted their closeness to show in their body language. It is wonderful to me to look at his paintings and to think about all the people besides me—Eric Velasquez, the models, as well as all the people working at Holiday House—who came together to create this book. I also especially love the end papers Eric designed for the book, which are tracings of one of his girl model’s feet. They encapsulate what the story is about so wonderfully in a simple and powerful visual image. LT: Yes, I loved the end papers, too! And the illustrations are so beautifully realistic. Kudos to Eric! LT: I always said that I would know I’d made it when I received one letter from one child saying that something I wrote made a positive difference in his or her life. How do you define success? Do you feel like you’ve achieved it? If not, what’s left on your to-do list?
SLM: I think I’m always going to want to write another book and get it published, so I don’t know if I’ll ever really feel as if I’m at the point of success! But the other day, I checked out a book from the public library, and it been read so many times that the pages were soft they were about to tear. What I want more than huge sales is to have my books find a home in libraries and stay there for many years waiting for a child to come along and pick them up. I think when I come upon a copy of one of my books in a library and the pages are as worn and soft as the pages of that book—that’s when I will have achieved success. LT: That’s a wonderful image and a perfect definition of success. LT: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Susan! It’s been lovely to learn more about your process.
SLM: Thank you so much for having me on your blog!
It’s not easy to write a picture book for young kids that tackles a tough subject in an age-appropriate way. And it’s even harder to do so while still being entertaining. NEW SHOES by Susan Lynn Meyer does all of that and more, and it does it so very beautifully.
Set in the South during the time of segregation, this lushly illustrated picture book brings the civil rights era to life for contemporary readers as two young girls find an inventive way to foil Jim Crow laws.
When her cousin’s hand-me-down shoes don’t fit, it is time for Ella Mae to get new ones. She is ecstatic, but when she and her mother arrive at Mr. Johnson’s shoe store, her happiness quickly turns to dejection. Ella Mae is unable to try on the shoes because of her skin color. Determined to fight back, Ella Mae and her cousin Charlotte work tirelessly to collect and restore old shoes, wiping, washing, and polishing them to perfection. The girls then have their very own shoe sale, giving the other African American members of their community a place to buy shoes where they can be treated fairly and “try on all the shoes they want.”
It’s hard for me to imagine not being allowed to try on shoes, and I must admit I never even realized that particular injustice was part of the Jim Crow laws. I’m glad to have been enlightened. Wanting to try on a pair of shoes is something that can be easily understood by young children, and they will be able to appreciate the unfairness of the situation in the shoe store.
What I really love about this book, though, is how the girls solve the problem themselves. They work hard to earn startup funds, they take great care and pride in launching their shoe store, and they solve a problem not just for themselves, but for their whole community! That is changemaking at its finest.
This moving and inspirational picture book belongs in every classroom in America. To make it even easier, the publisher’s web page for the book has classroom discussion questions and an educator’s guide, both with Common Core State Standards (CCSS) connections.
I hope you’ll check out NEW SHOES… and share it with others!
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah’s inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel’s Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable.
Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
Thompson’s lyrical prose and Qualls’s bold collage illustrations offer a powerful celebration of triumphing over adversity.
To order your copy from an independent bookseller, visit Secret Garden Bookshop (if you add your personalization request in the comments section, I’ll sign it for you!) or check out IndieBound for a local bookstore near you. Of course, you can also find it on Amazon.com or BN.com.
And, of course, you can always add it to your Goodreads shelf:
An ironic yet informative alphabet that defines the most important gaming terms that everyone needs to know, Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet is the ultimate crossover gift for our age, a book that can actually bring together video game-obsessed kids and their often perplexed parents.
If you can decipher the following sentence, you don’t need this book: “This open beta game is in third-person but first-person is unlockable if you know the cheat code or install your own mod, but either way, for the best attack on the boss on this level, try to grab that power-up!”
— See more at: http://powkidsbooks.com/attack-boss-cheat-code-a-gamers-alphabet/#sthash.sLnYcu9z.dpuf
Okay, I know I’m showing my geeky gamer girl side, but I love, love, love this book, and I think today’s young (and not-so-young) readers will, too!
It’s an alphabet book, of course, which means the information is organized by letter. Within that constraint, Barton somehow manages to work in a whole bunch of key concepts necessary to understanding video games. Some are expected, such as “boss.” Others are more surprising, like “instance.” In either case, readers will love seeing the terms they’re more familiar with from the games they love playing, as well as the terms they’re less familiar with but may have run across in conversations with friends. I’ve played a fair amount of video games in my lifetime, and I was still very pleasantly surprised to learn a few new terms myself!
The artwork is bright and fun and helps illustrate the concepts well. The illustrator tips a nostalgic hat to older games that more grownup readers will appreciate, while at the same time referencing enough current faves to delight younger gamers.
Check this one out, and then come back on Wednesday for my interview with the author, Chris Barton!
(Disclaimer: The review copy was won by the blogger as part of a promotional giveaway.)
THE SCRAPS BOOK: NOTES FROM A COLORFUL LIFE
written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert
published by Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, March 2014
There have been several picture-book autobiographies of children’s book authors and illustrators over the past few years. Sadly, most have left me feeling just a little underwhelmed. While I personally enjoyed them, I felt like they were aimed more at their long-time adult fans than at contemporary child readers. While I, as an adult, was able to appreciate the rich context and interesting personal histories, I wondered if children would be able to relate to the stories and find directly relevant meaning within the pages. So, although I myself am a fan of Lois Ehlert, I’ll admit I was a bit skeptical when I picked up THE SCRAPS BOOK. Boy was I in for a delightful surprise!
Despite the high page count, there is nothing in this book that feels the least bit self-indulgent. Every page seems lovingly designed to encourage and instruct young artists. (And aren’t we all artists when we’re young? Perhaps with this book, more of us will remain so.) Throughout, Ehlert generously shares her inspirations, her processes, her notes and journals, even her messes and mistakes, giving readers insights into her books as well as her life as an artist.
I think this is truly a book people of all ages can enjoy, and the world is definitely a better place for having THE SCRAPS BOOK in it.
(Disclaimer: Review copy was checked out from my local library.)
Darcy Pattison and Kitty Harvill have teamed up again, and I couldn’t be happier with the result. You might remember when I reviewed their previous collaboration, WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS, here.
Unlike Wisdom, the main character in ABAYOMI, THE BRAZILIAN PUMA, is a mammal, a feline, not a bird. Unlike Wisdom, Abayomi lives in South America, in Brazil, not on an island in the North Pacific Ocean. Unlike Wisdom, Abayomi is a baby, an orphan, not a wise, old mother. Yet their stories have much in common.
and this went up on the Erin Murphy Literary Agency’s news page this morning:
Yes, she’s a busy and multi-talented lady, that Laurie Thompson! Her first book was acquired last summer by Schwartz & Wade, a picture book biography of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which is being illustrated by Sean Qualls. Then just a few months ago saw a second deal for a teen handbook of social entrepreneurship, which is due out from Beyond Words/Simon Pulse in Fall 2014, and which Laurie is busily writing and researching as we speak.
But that’s not at all! This week I am thrilled to announce a brand new deal, for Laurie Thompson’s adorable picture book MY DOG IS THE BEST: a little boy’s effusive praise of his best friend and all the amazing feats that dog can do (while sleeping on the couch). It’s sweet and warm and guaranteed to make you smile. Even better, an illustrator has already been attached to the project, the talented Paul Schmid!
MY DOG IS THE BEST was acquired by Janine O’Malley at FSG, and it’s going to make a giant picture book splash for sure. Huge congratulations, Laurie!