Candice Ransom

The author of more than 135 children’s books, Candice Ransom picked up a pencil when she was five and drew a lady wearing a ball gown and a diamond tiara in her older sister’s spelling book.  It was an inauspicious beginning for an award-winning writer who would publish in every form in the field of children’s literature: board books to biographies, picture books to historical fiction, mysteries to nonfiction.

Candice learned to tell stories by listening to her mother recall the “days long ago” and by taking note of her sister’s outrageous excuses for cutting school.  The combination of reminiscence and creative fibbing became the basis for her popular chapter books and middle grade novels, often set in her native Virginia.  Her latest novel, Rebel McKenzie, earned a star from Booklist, and was a CBC Children’s Choice and Texas Bluebonnet nominee.

A veteran speaker and writing teacher, Candice has given hundreds of presentations to schools, libraries, conferences, and literary festivals.  In addition to writing and speaking, she currently teaches writing and literature at Hollins University in the graduate children’s literature program.  Her education includes an MFA in writing for children from Vermont College, and an MA in children’s literature from Hollins University, but those degrees came much later in her career.  She taught herself to write at the School of Hard Knocks.

Candice lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her husband and two high-maintenance cats.

Selected Reviews of Candice Ransom’s Books

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten
Candice Ransom
Illustrated by Christine Grove
Amanda wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, but first she wants to go to kindergarten. There, she wants to do all of the things her brother Lewis did. She plans to write her name in big letters on the chalkboard, so everyone will know who she is. She will build the tallest block tower, and she will run faster than everyone else (provided they are only running downhill). On the first day of school, an excited Amanda gets to the bus stop, where she finds a girl her age dressed in brilliantly-bright pink. Although Amanda tries to ignore her, the pink girl follows her onto the bus and sits down next to her. She introduces herself as Bitsy, but Amanda does not feel like being polite, so she does not answer. At school, Bitsy writes her name in big letters on the chalkboard, taking up most of the room and leaving Amanda only a very small area for her name. No matter what Amanda tries to be best at, Bitsy gets in her way. After recess, Amanda sneaks into the line for Lewis’ grade and sits next to him at his class. Amanda’s feet do not reach the floor, and she cannot read the words on the board. Just when she’s feeling especially low, she sees Bitsy at the classroom door, looking quite lost and sad. Turns out she went looking for Amanda and got lost. Amanda realizes her mistake in quitting kindergarten, so she takes Bitsy’s hand and leads her back to their classroom. Amanda discovers it does not hurt to be kind. This is a sweet story with adorable illustrations that combine panda traits with human traits. Teachers have many discussion points to use in class. Reviewer: Sarah Maury Swan (Children’s Literature).

Rebel McKenzie
Candice Ransom
Ransom (Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World) again creates a heroine with an unusal passion: 12-year-old Rebel McKenzie wants to be a paleontologist, and her goal this summer is to attend the Ice Age Kid’s Dig and Safari. Instead, she is stuck babysitting her seven-year-old nephew, Rudy, in a mobile home while her 26-year-old sister, Lynette, attends beauty school. An outgoing smart aleck with a talent for “burp-talking,” Rebel decides–along with new friend Lacey Jane–to enter a local beauty pageant to win the money she needs for the Dig. Peopled by offbeat characters–including an annoyingly perfect pageant winner named Bambi, elderly Odenia Matthews, a former hand model who trains the girls for the pageant, and an enormous cat named Doublewide–the book is especially strong in the development of Rebel’s relationship with Rudy, who talks to God at lunchtime and is obsessed with fashion–for corpses. Surprises in both plot and character development create a quick pace, extra material like Rudy’s cartoons and pages from Rebel’s “field notebook” provide welcome and often amusing insight. 2012, Hyperion/Disney, Ages 9 to 12, $16.99. Reviewer: Publishers Weekly.

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World
Candice Ransom
Illustrated by Heather Ross
Iva Honeycutt is looking forward to the summer after third grade. She has found what she believes to be a treasure map in some old magazines of her great-grandfather’s and is determined to locate the buried gold she thinks it shows. Her great-grandfather is often described as somewhat different, a description that fits Iva as well. Fiercely proud and self-sufficient, she is content to not have friends, other than a few adults. She particularly wants separation from her family, most particularly her “double” first cousin, Heaven (their mothers are sisters who married two brothers). It is easy to understand why–Heaven is a pain in the neck who often lies, bullies, and tattletales yet manages to get away with her obnoxious behavior with no apparent consequences. When Heaven horns in on Iva’s friendship with Miz Compton, it’s nearly more than Iva can bear; but she soldiers on in her efforts to find the treasure, with the help of her dog Sweetlips. However, it becomes clear she needs help digging in her chosen spot and so begrudgingly invites Heaven along as a helper and silent partner. Set in a small Virginia town populated with adults with unusual names and characteristics, the often-humorous story reads quickly. More a story of friendship and loneliness than an adventure, it realistically sets up the relationship between the two girls. Readers looking for a story about some independent girls trying to figure out what friendship means will enjoy this light read. 2012, Hyperion/Disney, $14.99. Ages 7 to 9. Reviewer: Peg Glisson (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Candice offers a variety of programs.  Most are supplemented by PowerPoint, all are peppered with enthusiastic discussions, and stories about the writing life from someone who started writing when she was seven, decided to be a writer when she was ten, and began writing children’s books for publication when she was 15.  Programs for each grade level fall into two categories: book talks and writing workshops.

Book Talks:

The Big Green Pocketbook, Tractor Day, Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Three autobiographical picture books—one based on a fun day when Candice was five, one based on the family gardening tradition, and one based loosely on her first day of school—help young children realize it’s okay to write “what you know.”  Grades K-1. PowerPoint, 45 minutes.

Pumpkin Day, Apple Picking Day, Snow Day

Candice’s series of rhyming readers features a brother and sister having fun on special family outings.  In this program, students will learn how to create stories based on their own fun family days.  Teams will also participate in a Rhyme Challenge.  Grades 2-3. PowerPoint, 50 minutes.

Emus, Monster Trucks, Possums, and The Worst Cat in the World

This program focuses on Candice’s experiences in writing true stories (over 40 nonfiction titles) and the importance of writing you don’t know.  Candice knew nothing about monster trucks or endangered amphibians when she wrote books on those topics.  Students will learn how to ferret out true stories on the Internet, then dig deeper with books, articles, local travel, and interviews.  Grades 3-5. PowerPoint, 50 minutes.

Rebel McKenzie’s Great Adventure

In this program, students will be introduced to Rebel McKenzie, a character drawn from Candice’s life.  Rebel, who longs to be a paleontologist, digs a big hole for herself when she befriends a bully, alienates the trailer park beauty queen, teachers her nephew to belch-talk, and enters a beauty pageant to earn money for Ice Age camp.  Partly told through comic strips, field notebooks, beauty newsletters, the book surprised Candice by requiring non-narrative forms to advance plot and develop character.  Students will learn how to combine different media in a story, and be encouraged to create their own traditional stories augmented with newspapers, cartoons, journal entries, text messges, etc.  PowerPoint. Grades 4-6. 50 minutes.

Workshops:

“Write Where You Are: Large-group Student Writing Workshops”

In response to teachers asking how to motivate their students to write more, Candice created large-group workshops based on her own image vs. idea writing process.  Each workshop is geared to meet the curriculum needs of K-1, 2-3, 4-5.

  • Candice uses her own childhood writings to show how her stories fizzled out (lack of planning!). She also uses her published texts to demonstrate how picture books and novels grew from personal stories.
  • Students will bring notebooks and pencils, prepared to write. They’ll leave with at least one focused topic, opening sentence, lists of strong verbs and nouns, questions to propel narrative, and the energy to write completed pieces from their own personal place.
  • Candice uses her own books to demonstrate the process. To get the most out of these programs, students should be familiar with her work.  For K-1: The Big Green Pocketbook; Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten.  For 2-3: Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World; Terrier Trouble! And More True Stories of Animals Behaving Badly.  For 4-5: Rebel McKenzie.

In-Service for Teachers:

“You Are Here: Personal Geography and Maps as Story Starters”

This workshop reinforces Candice’s own writing process of image vs. idea, and is based on her highly successful classes at Hollins and weekend writing retreats.  Students learn to create personal maps that serve as the foundation for memoirs, stories, and nonfiction.  Through “deep-mapping,” students access images that strengthen their writing and learn to sharpen their observation skills.  Writing is seeing!  Exercises, handouts, bibliography.  PowerPoint, 1 hour.

Fees

Candice will give up to three presentations per day and is comfortable with large group combining two grade levels.  For schools within a 50-mile radius of Fredericksburg, her honorarium is $300 per session ($800 for a full day of three sessions—a little price break!).  Schools within two hours of Fredericksburg are $350 per session, with a minimum of two sessions ($700—$950 for a full day).  School visits requiring three or more hours of travel will be $400 per session, with a minimum of two sessions ($800—$1000 for a full day).  Full-day school visits also include an autographing session and a small-group lunch with students at no extra charge.  The Teacher’s In-Service is an extra $100.

Additional Information

To learn more about Candice Ransom and her publications please visit www.candiceransom.com.

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Kelly Bennett

kelly-bennettKelly Bennett loves sharing stories—both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of writing can be traced back to when she was two-ish, and used her mother’s black mascara and lipstick to write on the neighbor’s car! (And maybe blamed it on her brother…although she says he blamed it on her.) After learning how to write words (and that writing with paper, pens, pencils, and computers was safer than using her mother’s makeup), Kelly took to writing her feelings rather than speaking them aloud — a practice she believes led her to the writing life she enjoys today.

Kelly writes picture books for children to share; stories celebrating families, dancing, friends, pets, and all that goes into being a kid! These include Jumpstart’s 2015 Read for the Record book, Not Norman: A Goldfish Story (Candlewick Press); Vampire Baby (Candlewick Press, 2013); Character Counts Silver Medalist One Day I Went Rambling (Bright Sky Press); Your Mommy Was Just Like You and Your Daddy Was Just Like You (Penguin); Dad and Pop (Candlewick Press), winner of 2010 NAPPA Honors and Library Media Connection’s Editor’s Choice Award; and Dance, Y’all, Dance (Bright Sky Press), a rhyming, two-stepping romp.

 Selected Reviews of Claudia’s Books

 

Not NormanNot Norman: A Goldfish Story
Kelley Bennett
Illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Our young narrator is not pleased with his birthday gift. Norman the goldfish is not the kind of pet he wanted. He cannot run, catch, chase strings, or sleep in his bed with him. All Norman does is swim around, and around. So our hero hopes to trade him away, perhaps at Show and Tell, or take him back to the pet store. But somehow a bond begins to grow between him and Norman. By the time they get to the pet store, there is not one other pet that he would trade for Norman. Jones brings a contemporary feeling to this old-fashioned story by creating the visuals digitally. There is a stencil-like but still light-hearted quality of passivity in the appealingly-designed spreads. Large flat color areas still supply contextual details of some middle-class suburb and adequately convey Norman’s owner’s changing emotions. 2005, Candlewick Press, Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

Your Daddy Was Just Like YouYour Daddy Was Just Like You
Kelly Bennett
Illustrated by David Walker

Children love to hear stories about themselves as babies, and they also enjoy following in their parents’ footsteps. The little boy in this book is no exception, as he revels in hearing tales of his father’s childhood and the ways he was “just like you.” This refrain by his paternal grandmother lends itself to the child’s participation when the book is read aloud. Grandma describes various activities that speak to the father’s mastery of tasks, such as crawling, walking, talking, going to school, learning math, playing ball and overcoming his fear of the dark. These comparisons serve to empower the boy in the story as he hears about his father’s growth, which represents his own bright future. Some of the father’s antics, such as sitting in time out or losing a ballgame, show the boy that his father had some tough times of growth, exactly like he does. There are also comical parts, such as when the father is singing in the bathtub or raising “a ruckus.” Perhaps as homage to Maurice Sendak’s naughty little Max in Where the Wild Things Are, the father, too, is punished for his wild misdeeds, pictured with a Max-like hat made from a cooking pan. This sweet book champions enduring love from generation to generation. Layered acrylic paint illustrations with soft, visible brush strokes make this book a soothing and suitable story for bedtime. It is surprising how much emotion is masterfully conveyed in the characters’ faces, despite their dots for eyes and simple features. Reviewer: Michele C. Hughes (Children’s Literature).

9780763646912_p0_v1_s192x300Vampire Baby
Kelly Bennett
Illustrated by Paul Meisel

Tootie is an adorable, cuddly baby sister, a “cuddly ga-ga-goo-goo” charmer until the night that her first teeth—or rather, fangs?—come in, and she turns into a relentlessly biting “vampire baby!” The big brother narrator of the story might have been able to accept her constant chomping at his toys, catcher’s mitt, bike tires, and superhero action figures, but when Tootsie turns to toes, fingers, and tummies, it is “YOUCH, TOOTIE! NO BITE!” Tootie’s parents insist that biting is just a normal baby phase, but if Tootie is not really a vampire, why are all her favorite foods blood red? And why is she awake so much at nighttime? Finally, Tootie’s brother has a chance to get rid of her when he sees a vampire couple, complete with vampire child, walking through the costume section of the local store on shopping day; surely, they will want a vampire baby to round out their family. But in the end, he decides that he cannot really part with his vampire baby, after all. Bennett and Meisel’s whimsical collaboration works on two levels: both text and art are carefully ambiguous between the possibility that Tootie might be an actual vampire baby, or might just be a normal teething baby who drives her big brother crazy. Young readers will enjoy the full range of imaginative possibilities here as they share in the message the younger siblings may be irritating, annoying, and downright impossible—but we can still love them, anyway. Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Kelly Bennett is passionate about reading, writing, and creating, and she shares this passion in her lively, interactive presentations. Equally comfortable with large groups or small, she is happy to speak to as many students as can fit comfortably into the available space. She often gives presentations in the library or cafetorium.

During a full-day visit (at one school) Kelly makes up to four 40-55 minute presentations; up to two in a half-day. (One 30-minute presentation for Pre-K/K students can be added to each of these.) The fee for a full-day is $900. Half-day visits of up to 2 presentations (at one school) are $600 per day.

Travel rates are based on airfare from Houston, TX or New York, depending on which is closer to you! If 3 or more schools in one district schedule visits in the same week, they can share the travel rate. Additionally, Kelly offers a multi-school discount of  $100.00 per school.

Kelly tailors each presentation to suit the ages and interests of the students, in this way providing them the best experience possible. Therefore, it is best to group students according to grade levels.

From Pet to Picture Book

Grades 2-8

In the beginning, there was a goldfish…. Students will discover how a favorite pet inspired a story, and how that story became the picture book Not Norman: A Goldfish Story. This presentation can be designed as a workshop for writing students of most ages.

Vampire Baby: The Truth about Biting Babies

Grades PreK-1

The true story of how a biting baby sister’s own story–and big brother’s misfortune–became a picture book entitled Vampire Baby. The program is interactive with songs and movements.

Picture Books are Like Icebergs–It’s What You Don’t See that Counts

Writing Workshop

What is it about some picture books that make a child ask “read it again” and “again” and “again?” In the first part of this hands-on workshop Kelly will dive below the surface of popular picture books to see what makes them stand out. Participants will develop a deeper understanding of how picture books work, components of successful picture books, and the surprise that makes a picture book special–knowledge they can use to strengthen and develop their own picture book manuscripts. Best as a half or full-day session.

Additional Information

To visit Kelly’s website please visit kellybennett.com.

 

Marsha Skrypuch

skrypuch-marshaMarsha Forchuk Skrypuch is a Ukrainian Canadian author acclaimed for her historical fiction and nonfiction. Her award-winning books for young people include Last Airlift: A Vietnamese Orphan’s Rescue from War, a Red Cedar Information Book Award winner and OLA Red Maple Honor Book. Its sequel, One Step at a Time: A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way, won the OLA Silver Birch Nonfiction Award. Her young adult novel Dance of the Banished is a Junior Library Guild Selection for 2015. In 2008, in recognition of her outstanding achievement in the development Ukraine’s culture, Marsha was awarded the Order of Princess Olha.

In November 2016, her true story picture book, Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival will be published. On February 28, 2016, her highly acclaimed novel, Making Bombs for Hitler will be published in the U.S.

Marsha did not learn to read until she was nine years old and in the fourth grade for the second time. One of her favorite discussion topics with students is how she transformed herself from a book-hater and nonreader to a book-writer and read-a-holic. She lives in Brantford, Ontario.

Selected Reviews of Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch’s Books

Making Bombs for Hitler
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
Books about World War II generally center on the plight of the Jewish victims of the Nazis. However, this novel uncovers another group of victims—the child slave laborers taken from Ukraine. Their fate at the hands of Stalin was not much better than captivity with the Nazis. Lida and Larissa, young sisters, have lost their parents when they are captured by the Nazis, who separated the girls. Larissa, the younger of the two, is separated from her older sister and “adopted” by a German family. Lida is transported by train to a slave labor camp. She guesses correctly that she will be perceived to be of more use if she is older, so she adds two years to her age and spends part of her internment using her skills as a seamstress to serve her captors. She and a small group of friends use their wits and skills to keep each other alive. The descriptions of their living conditions are disturbing;” Eastern” (Russian and Ukrainian) prisoners were at the bottom of the camp hierarchy, receiving worse food and assignments than Polish or German prisoners. In fact, the girls are given the particularly dangerous assignment of assembling Nazi bombs. Lida is an intriguing character, clever and with a well-developed sense of survival that repeatedly saves her life and that of her friends. Throughout her ordeal, she prays for her sister’s survival. Some of the tortures endured by the prisoners are horrible, but the descriptions of them are not graphic. It is beyond comprehension that children were able to survive their captivity. A view of often-visited period offers new perspective. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
In 1981 refugees were fleeing from Vietnam in the wake of the American withdrawal. Tuan Ho tells his first-hand account of escape, beginning with his mother’s whisper that they are leaving their home that night. Transported to the ocean by an anonymous truck driver, Tuan must dodge bullets as he races to a small skiff—some of his family seem to be lost. When they board a larger boat, though, his sister and aunt are there. That is just the beginning of the fear and suffering they endure: the boat is crowded with sixty passengers and little water. The sun blisters their skin. After that, the boat springs a leak—then the motor dies. On the fifth day, adrift, they spot another boat that suddenly bursts into flames. Could that be their fate? Luckily, the parched and weakened refugees are rescued by an American aircraft carrier; at last Tuan has all the milk he can drink. Deines’s oil paintings are wide two-page spreads from many different perspectives. Applying paint thinly with canvas peeking through, the artist achieves a misty texture that suggests a feverish dream. Deep purple-blues define night and ocean scenes, while sunlight burns from orangey-yellow backgrounds. Skrypuch tells the remainder of Tuan’s story in a section that includes family snapshots, so older readers can understand why his father arranged the escape and what happened afterwards. Young readers will no doubt be relieved to learn that the whole family eventually reached Canada and are thriving there. Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Marsha speaks to students of all ages (PreK – 12th grade). Fees: $400 for 1 session, $700 for 2, $850 for 3, $1,000 for 4. Plus travel expenses. Schools may share a day. Her hour long sessions can hold up to 200 students.

  • The Hidden History of World War II: Grades 4 to 8. Referencing her WWII novel, Making Bombs for Hitler, Marsha discusses how she did her research and shares the survival stories of kids, including slave laborers, underground soldiers, and stolen children, of the time period.
  • Adrift at Sea: A Vietnamese Boy’s Story of Survival: Grades K to 4. This book is the true account of a six year old boy’s escape from Saigon with his mother and sisters after the Vietnam War.
  • The Hidden History of World War I: Grades 5 to 12. Marsha’s three Ukrainian Internment books and her four Armenian Genocide novels are all set during World War I. Marsha’s grandfather, who immigrated to Canada from Austria-Hungary in 1913 was interned as an enemy alien in Canada. This presentation is filled with anecdotes of real young people and their challenges during WWI.

Additional Information

To learn more about Marsha and her publications please visit www.calla.com.

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Thomas F. Yezerski

Born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1969, from a young age Thomas Yezerski loved the art of illustration. He took his first art lessons in the third grade, became an Eagle Scout at 14 and played xylophone in the school band–these passions reflect in Tom’s work and his school visits, where he teaches kids that their current interests can translate into a wonderful career, life and intellect. In fact, Tom says, if you’re a kid who loves drawing or writing, you are already an artist. He stuck with his passion for drawing, earning his B.F.A. in illustration from Syracuse University in 1991.

His author and illustrator work focuses largely on family, as well as meticulously researched stories from out of the past, with beautifully “soft and inviting” illustrations that introduce a unique world to readers. In addition to gripping the reader, his author/illustrator work always challenges kids with new perspectives of the world. His first book, Together in Pinecone Patch, combined his beautiful illustration with a unique perspective on human understanding, telling of two immigrant children who eventually unite in a world of struggle.

In his work, Tom assumes the intelligence of his readers with elegant wording that still remains clear and easily understood. He carries this philosophy over into his school visits, where he makes sure never to talk to the kids, but with them. He engages their interest and delivers, as one teacher put it, “the most inspiring, comprehensive, and understandable presentation that I have ever witnessed.”

Selected Reviews of Thomas’s Books

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story
Thomas F. Yezerski
Located in New Jersey, the Meadowlands is an estuary created by the Hackensack River. For centuries the 20,000 acres of marshland has provided a home to many different plants and animals as well as humans. Native Americans used the land to hunt, fish, and gather; but when Europeans settled the area in the 1800’s it began an era of degradation and pollution. By 1960 the Meadowlands was a garbage dump overflowing with trash and toxic waste. Today, through the efforts of conservationists and the state government, the Meadowlands is slowly rebuilding and repairing itself, once again providing a home and food for many different plants and animals. Yezerski’s passion for the Meadowlands comes through in his writing as he describes the shameful abuse and pollution of the area as well as its rejuvenation. Through Yezerski’s striking watercolor sketches readers can see for themselves the unfortunate side effects of industrialization and the hopeful perseverance of Mother Nature. The story of the Meadowlands will inspire any budding conservationist and make children aware that our actions sometimes have unintended consequences. Reviewer: Kirsten Shaw (Children’s Literature).

Pinch and Dash Make Soup
Michael J. Daley
Illustrated by Thomas F. Yezerski
Pinch is hungry and wants to eat some soup, but he is too lazy to make his own or to go walk to the restaurant to buy some. Fortunately Pinch lives next to his friend Dash who is a great cook. Pinch goes over to visit Dash and together they make soup. However, Pinch and Dash do not agree on what should be in the soup and conflict arises. Together they must work out what makes a perfect pot of soup, and work out their friendship. This is an early reader chapter book that will engage beginning readers. Daley uses short sentences and short chapters to keep the early reader engaged with the story and allow the reader to read it with ease. Yezerski’s illustrations add wonders to the text. The words of the text say that Pinch had to “walk all the way home” and in the illustrations the reader will see that Pinch lives right next door to Dash. The illustrations create humor for the reader as well as give support to the words and plot. In the beginning of the story, Pinch looks in his refrigerator for what he has and throughout the story Pinch and Dash use those ingredients one by one. Readers are sure to enjoy this fun book about friendship through the text and illustrations. Reviewer: Beth-Anne White (Children’s Literature).

Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays
Laura F. Nelson, Illustrations by Thomas F. Yezerski
Katie is sure that her neighbors on Maple Street celebrate all of the yearly holidays in the usual ways. Then Mrs. Muddle moves into the neighborhood, and she soon has the children observing many unusual holidays. With the arrival of the first robin in March, Katie helps Mrs. Muddle bake peanut-butter-and-birdseed cookies. In April, on the day of that month’s first rain shower, Katie and Alicia join Mrs. Muddle in umbrella dances. Katie and her friends become part of Mrs. Muddle’s observance of “Earthworm Appreciation Day” in May. And so it goes throughout the remainder of the year with “Garlic Jubilee” in August, “First Fire of Fall” in October and “Ice Spectacle” in January. The children want to thank Mrs. Muddle for all the fun she has provided, so they come up with a plan to surprise her. One day in late June, everyone begins preparing for a party. Confused Mrs. Muddle is sure there is no holiday on this particular day. How pleased she is when the boys and girls announce that the celebration is “Mrs. Muddle Day” to honor her! Beautifully executed watercolor with pen-and-ink illustrations perfectly compliment the story and add to the fun. Whether used in a group setting or individually, this is sure to be a big hit and belongs on the first purchase list. 2008, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.98. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Sylvia Firth (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Tom visits schools to engage children and to help them realize and become the sort of person they want to be. By discussing his passion for writing and illustrating, he builds in the children an understanding of what it is to be passionate about a life goal, and to be succesful at reaching it.

Tom can work with all different sizes of group, ages and expected attention spans of the children. The ranges of his program are 10 to 300 students, grades K to 6, from 40-60 minutes.

  • Tom tells his story, and asks the children about their own reading, writing and drawing interests.
  • He discusses the path to success in art or in any passion, and teaches them that they are already on their way there.
  • Goes into more detail about the process of writing and illustrating, and showcases his draft work.
  • If time allows, a Question and Answer session will follow.

When you request a visit, Tom will send a media kit including a photo of himself, bios for younger and older kids, information about his books, guides for teachers to use his books in the classroom, worksheets, author visit guidelines, book ordering information, and a contract. Please try to book his visit 3 months in advance. For a more detailed look at his presentation and what the school should provide for his program, visit this link.

Fees: $1,000 for a full-day visit, including 4 presentations. $1,250 for a full-day visit over 80 miles from Rutherford, NJ. All expenses included, except airfare (if necessary).

Additional Information

To learn more about Thomas Yezerski and his publications please visit www.thomasfyezerski.com.

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Elissa Brent Weissman

Elissa Brent Weissman has wanted to write children’s books since she started reading them. She wrote her first novel when she was 10, and when no one wanted to publish it, she was sad for a little while but then just became more driven. She accomplished her goal in 2009, when her first two novels for 8-12 year-olds, Standing for Socks, and The Trouble with Mark Hopper, hit shelves. These “frothy and fun” school stories are often compared to those of Andrew Clements. They have been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and the Horn Book, and Scholastic’s Instructor magazine selected The Trouble with Mark Hopper as a best pick for new middle schoolers.

Originally from Long Island, New York, Elissa graduated from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars program, where she wrote Standing for Socks as a senior in a novel-writing class called The Long Work. After graduating in 2005, she spent a year in London, England, reading, traveling, and earning her MA in Children’s Literature from Roehampton University. She currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she teaches creative writing to adults, college students, and gifted-and-talented children.

Selected Reviews of Elissa Brent Weissman’s Books

Nerd Camp
Elissa Brent Weissman
   Gabe has wanted a younger brother or sister since he can remember, but his parents have also been divorced for a long time, so that seems not likely to happen–until his dad decides to marry a woman who already has a son who is Gabe’s age, ten years old. His step-brother-to-be, Zack, is everything cool; he is from L.A., has a spikey hairdo, surfs, and plays guitar. Gabe really wants them to be friends but learns in their initial meeting that Zack considers stupid all the things Gabe really enjoys like reading and math club. So when Gabe gets the news that he has been accepted to a summer camp for gifted students–or “nerd camp” as his classmates call it. He needs to make it sound adventurous and fun to Zack. And for Gabe it really is fun. On the very first day, he discovers his bunkmates get excited about memorizing multiple decimal places for pi, so he knows they will be friends. Gabe’s enthusiasm for learning new things is truly infectious and, of course, his knowledge wins Zack over when Gabe is not afraid of a snake they run across in the woods–Gabe learned it was a harmless milk snake in a camp wide “jeopardy” competition. The concerns about wanting to be accepted seem as genuine as his own bit of geeky snobbery that Zack does not know who Beethoven was. The author clearly intends to celebrate kids who do not always fit in and it serves this purpose well. 2011, Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, $15.99. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).

The Trouble with Mark Hopper
Elissa Brent Weissman
   One problem is, there is more than one Mark Hopper: two boys entering grade seven in a Maryland town share exactly the same name. They even look somewhat alike, though their personalities are very different. One is a stuck-up A student, eager for everyone to know how smart he is. The other is a friendly, down-to-earth guy, new to town, who is just an average student but a terrific artist. Right from the start, confusion between the two makes for entertaining troubles, and when they are assigned to be study partners they are both convinced it will be a disaster. They end up helping each other out, but their tentative friendship is tested when nasty Mark enters the Mastermind tournament. He convinces nice Mark to participate in the team-building part of the competition in his place, since nasty Mark does not get along with anyone–but what he does not tell nice Mark is that he has stolen nice Mark’s accomplished portrait of his grandfather to submit to the judges. In the end, nice Mark learns nasty Mark’s reasons for wanting so badly to win, and nasty Mark starts to understand what it means to be a real friend. The fun of this well-plotted tale lies in the telling as well, as Weissman uses the same names throughout (no “nice Mark” and “nasty Mark”), distinguishing the characters only by their actions and dialog. Careful readers should have no problem understanding which Mark is which, and the lesson about friendship should go down smoothly. 2009, Dutton/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 8 to 12.

Program Details

Elissa’s books have been described as both hilarious and thought-provoking, and her presentations strike the same balance between kid-appeal and substance. Her youth, energy, and dynamism get students pumped about reading and writing. In addition to the presentations below, Elissa is happy to tailor or develop a workshop based on your group’s needs.

For Kids:

  • From Idea to Finished Book. Elissa reads from her work and discusses the journey from first draft to finished book. She shares physical versions of her book at every step of the writing and publication process, and she gives eagle-eye students a chance to spot mistakes that even editors missed–including a big one in Mark Hopper! The session ends with plenty of time for questions and answers.
  • Your Characters’ Socks. When you’re writing a story, it’s not enough to put yourself in your characters’ shoes–you’ve got to get into their (mismatched?) socks! This workshop gets kids developing believable, interesting, memorable they know inside and out.
  • Starting Stories. This fun workshop gets students writing first sentences that, as one student put it, “suck you in like a vacuum cleaner.” With examples from Elissa’s work and other excellent children’s books, students experiment with and share their own smart, effective, and crazy story openers.
  • The Climax Challenge. This exciting workshop focuses on the most exciting part of a story: the climax! After learning about the shape of the plot and how the suspense builds to a climax, students will learn how to stretch out the climax of a story to keep readers glued to their seats. Then they’ll practice writing their own climax in the Great Climax Challenge.

For Adults:

  • Writing for the Current Children’s Book Market. This session provides an overview of the thriving children’s book market and the types of books by age group and genre. Elissa provides key points for honing children’s writing as a craft, and she offers insider tips and invaluable guidelines for the submission process.
  • Focus on Middle Grade Fiction. Eight to twelve is a golden age of reading for many children, and this session brings the literature for this age group into the spotlight. From plot to characters to description and dialogue, Elissa reveals what makes middle grade work–and what makes it such a joy to read and write.

Additional Information

To learn more about Elissa Brent Weissman and her publications please visit www.ebweissman.com.

Ginger Wadsworth

Ginger Wadsworth writes books that reflect her interest in the natural world. She has written biographies about several people whose lives have helped improve environmental awareness, including John Muir and Rachel Carson. She considers herself a “science detective” and loves writing about animals, where they live, and why. Growing up near the Pacific ocean, Ginger would explore the tidepools and swim in the ocean. Her family would often camps in the deserts of southwest California and spent their summers on a working ranch in Idaho. These experiences would later inform Ginger’s writing. A California native, Ginger often writes about her home state and western American history, especially young pioneers who traveled west by covered wagon. When not writing, Ginger often takes to the hills with her “writing buddies”, Willa and Scott (her golden retrievers), and a pair of binoculars. While hiking, Ginger thinks about ideas and inspiration for her books.

Ginger lives in Northern California with her husband Bill and their two dogs. She has two grown sons and three grandchildren.

Selected Reviews of Ginger Wadsworth’s Books

Survival in the Snow
Ginger Wadsworth
   Moses Schallenberger was 17 years old when he set off for California with his sister and her husband. Their wagon train was the first to cross the Sierra Nevada range, and like the fated Donner party who made the attempt two years later, the party got caught in early winter storms. In an attempt to reach Sutter’s Fort before heavy snow trapped them in the mountains, the party abandoned their possessions and advanced on horseback. Moses and two young men stayed behind to guard their things, with the understanding that help would return for them as soon as possible. According to an author’s note, Moses’s story is based on his own recollections of the event as related to his daughter many years afterward. Orback’s illustrations capture the rugged landscape; although the human figures at times appear static or posed. Moses’s struggle to survive on his own in the harsh environment of one of the “snowiest places in the world” will engage new readers, in spite of the sometimes uneven writing. The story complements a unit on the Western Migration, giving students a glimpse of the personal side of this important historical event. 2009, Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing Group, $25.26. Ages 6 to 8. Reviewer: Heather Christensen (Children’s Literature).

Cesar Chavez
Ginger Wadsworth
   Students reading or hearing this book from the “On My Own Biography” series will get a glimpse of the history associated with farm laborers toiling in the fields to harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen, are picked and make their way to market. This biography depicts the tireless efforts of a young Mexican-American boy, Cesar Chavez, who grew up in a hardworking loving family environment, was forced to move to California because of the depression, and labored in the agricultural fields–the same fields that were to become the battleground for protesting and negotiating for social justice through the United Farm Workers organization. The text tells of Chavez’s quest to ensure that those migrant farmworkers had satisfactory wages and improved working conditions including health benefits, appropriate tools, available drinking water, field bathroom facilities, satisfactory housing, and were free from exposure to dangerous pesticides. Written in story format, the simple text features type printed on white or sky-blue backgrounds. Soft and peaceful full- and half-page, earth-tone illustrations expressively portray the action and nonviolent emotions of Chavez and his family. An afterword and a timeline highlight important events and dates. This is a great title for introducing Chavez’s life, providing research resources, or just reading for pleasure. 2005, Carolrhoda Books, $23.93 and $5.95. Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Barbara Troisi (Children’s Literature).

Words West: Voices of Young Pioneers
Ginger Wadsworth
   The journey west was a different experience for each pioneer that had the courage to blaze new trails. Families, friends, and people who wanted to start a new life were willing to head to the unknown. Full of hope at the beginning, they soon realized that the trip was going to be more difficult than they had ever thought. It was filled with terrible illnesses, attacks by Indians, and other hardships; however, it was also filled with beauty, excitement, experiences, and bonds of friendships that would last a lifetime. This book is written through the voices of many pioneers, through their letters, diaries, and memoirs. The author uses a unique way of approaching that part of history and the reader can actually feel the emotions that came directly from the hearts of the pioneers. Reading some of the letters moved me to tears. This book is well organized, well written, and includes maps, and well selected archival photos and prints that added so much more interests and understanding for the reader. I can’t think of a better resource book for students writing about the West, and it should be included in all school libraries. What a wonderful book to own. 2003, Clarion Books, $18.00. Ages 10 up. Reviewer: Kathie M. Josephs (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Ginger enjoys speaking to school groups of about 60 students in grades K-8. She shares materials related to her writing and book subjects (rejection letters, edited manuscripts, book dummies, press sheets, tree cones, puppets, and so forth). Her talks are customized to each school and group and generally are a half hour with a 15 minute question and answer session. Ginger also brings a limited number of autographed bookmarks for teachers to distribute, and more can be supplied.

Fees

For a single day the price is $800. Fees for a single talk are negotiable.

Additional Information

To learn more about Ginger Wadsworth and her publications please visit www.gingerwadsworth.com.

Jackie Urbanovic

Jackie Urbanovic is a bestselling illustrator, author, and speaker. She loves to laugh and to make other people laugh. She delights in hearing the tales of others as well as weaving the twists and turns of her own stories. No wonder, she comes from a family of practical jokers and oral storytellers. Following in their footsteps, she has spent her life creating funny stories for children.

She graduated with a BFA from the Maryland Institute of Art and has been working as a professional illustrator for over 30 years. She studied writing with the fabulous author Jane Resh Thomas and five years ago added author to her credits when Duck at the Door was published, the first in her Max the duck series.

Her New York Times Bestselling Max books have been chosen and nominated to state reading lists in Nebraska, Arizona, Nevada, Arkansas, Tennesee, Missouri, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, and Illinois. Duck at the Door was chosen as an IndieBound Top Ten Pick, Duck Soup was chosen as a Bank Street Best Children’s Book as well as added to Oprah’s Kid’s Reading List. In 2010 Kohl’s chose Duck at the Door and Duck Soup for their Kohl’s Cares for Kids Campaign, printing special editions of both books and creating plush toys of both Max and his Saint Bernard buddy, Brody.

No Sleep for the Sheep, which she illustrated for Karen Beaumont has been chosen for the Texas 2×2 Reading list and has been named a Bank Street Best Children’s Book. Grandma Lena’s Big ‘Ol Turnip, which she illustrated for Denia Lewis Hester was awarded an Aesop Accolade.

She has spent most of her life in the Midwest, growing up in Michigan and then moving to Minnesota. While she longs to be back in the snow, sleet, minus zero temps, high winds and skidding tires, she is now enjoying the much warmer weather in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Selected Reviews of Jackie Urbanovic’s Books

I’ve Lost My Hippopotamus
Jack Prelutsky
Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
   Anything is possible in Prelutsky’s universe of more than 100 silly, rhyming poems that poke holes in the serious facade of the adult world. A snake performs arithmetic, a boy is puzzled by the rainstorm in his bedroom (“So I’m getting soaking wet./ This is an odd phenomenon/ I will not soon forget”), and a thirsty centipede drinks too much water (“And so the centipede”). Urbanovic’s blithe pen-and-ink illustrations offer playfully literal interpretations of clever hybrids like a “Spellican” (“a most talented bird/ That’s able to spell/ Any difficult word,” pictured with a craw full of letters) and an “Elephantom,” rising from a gravestone. Another effortlessly fun collection from a master of absurdist verse. 2012, Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Ages 5 to 10, $18.99. Reviewer: Publishers Weeky, February 22, 2012.

No Sleep for the Sheep!
Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
   This humorous tale begs to be read aloud, full of rhythmic repetitions and animal noises. The story begins with a sheep asleep “…in the big red barn, in the big red barn on the farm.” First he is awakened by the quack of a duck. Then it is the baaa of a goat, the oink of a pig, the moo of a cow, and the neigh of a horse. Each time, the sheep asks the new arrival to go to sleep, quietly; and each time another creature is then added to the jumbled heap in the barn, including the sheep’s teddy bear. When the horse settles in, it is the “Cock-a-doodle-doo” of the rooster that wakes them all; all but the sheep, who sleeps right through, finally at peace. Urbanovic deals with the challenge of creating variation for the repetitive text with animation and some hand lettering along with her illustrations in watercolors and brown pencil outline. Each animal “talks” in upper-case letters in a different color: blue for “MOO,” purple for “OINK,” etc. And each time the group assumes different positions in their efforts to sleep while the sheep goes through histrionics. The anthropomorphic actions of the creatures with real personalities add to the fun of this comedy. 2011, Harcourt Children’s Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewers: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).

Duck and Cover
Jackie Urbanovic
   When a desperate alligator named Harold, on the lam from the zoo, turns up at Irene’s door, she and her pets are reluctant at first to provide him with amnesty given his crime (he claims to have accidentally eaten someone’s pet). A sympathetic Max the duck, star of Duck Soup, convinces the group to try to help, and they consider various options (“‘How about the bread box?’ said Tawny. THUNK! OW! THUNK! ‘Nope, too small,’ said Irene”) before finally coming up with a brilliant plan. The plan–they all dress up as alligators–succeeds in baffling the zoo detective, but everyone is relieved when the detective reveals that what Harold ate was in fact a hot dog, not a pet dog. Max and his crew continue to be a personable bunch, and Urbanovic still knows how to up the melodramatic ante with both her witty narrative (“. . . they decided to sleep on it. In Irene’s room. With the door locked tight”) and her comically slapstick illustrations (there’s lots of rushing around and waving paws or wings about). She capably depicts the pets’ understandable nervousness around their pointy-toothed houseguest while also portraying Harold as a lovable, if large, reptile with fears of his own (the basement, for example). This is rife with riotous readaloud potential, so grab the previous title and make it a Max Marathon, or just enjoy it solo. 2009, HarperCollins, Ages 5 to 8, $18.89 and $17.99. Reviewer: Jeannette Hulick (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, March 2009 (Vol. 62, No. 7)).

Program Details

A day’s appearance includes 3 presentations, lunch with teachers or students, plus book signing. Jackie can give her presentations to small classes or to large, auditorium sized groups. Her presentations are 45 minutes to an hour. For pre-school or kindergarten she tries to keep it to 45 minutes or less. Her workshops are 2-3 hours.

Fees: For local appearances (within 1 hour of her home) her fees are $1500/per day. Out of state appearances are $2500/per day, plus travel and lodging.

Duck Books: The behind the scenes story of the Max the duck books and Jackie’s life. This includes pictures and stories about her childhood and becoming an artist, the people and animals who inspired her books and a bit about her studio and how she work. This talk is designed in two levels to be for kindergarten-1st grades and 2nd-4th grades.

Creating Story and Drawing Workshop: This is a hands-on workshop for students 3rd grade or older. Jackie present a traditional story based on a folk or fairy tale. Then each student writes their own version of the story and learns about creating their own character to go with it. This is a 2-3 hour workshop.

Being a Professional Illustrator/Author: Jackie shows the audience art from her books. She talks to them about what art is, what careers are in the arts, how the arts impact our lives. She talks about what experiences influenced her becoming an artist as well as influenced the kinds of stories she tells. Jackie shows more detailed information about the process of creating a character and a book. This talk is meant for 5th grade and older.

The Art of Time and Story: A talk for high school or adult audiences about the impact of books and story on Jackie’s life and on all of our lives. It covers topics such the influence of family on an artist, creating books on a deadline, anxiety and creativity, recycling ideas, the books, stories and artists that preceded us, how story connects us all and the importance of story throughout time.

Additional Information

To learn more about Jackie Urbanovic and her publications please visit www.jackieurbanovic.com.

Janet Morgan Stoeke

   Janet Morgan Stoeke is the award-winning author of the delightfully entertaining Minerva Louise books: Minerva Louise, A Hat for Minerva Louise, Minerva Louise at School, A Friend for Minerva Louise, Minerva Louise and the Red Truck, Minerva Louise on Christmas Eve, and Minerva Louise on Halloween. Born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, Janet grew up in Connecticut as part of an artistic family. In fact, when she and her siblings get together, they paint. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University and a Master’s from George Washington University. She and her husband, Barrett Brooks, have four children: Harrison, Colin, Elliott and Hailey. Janet wrote and illustrated Waiting for May because of her family’s experiences surrounding the adoption of her daughter from China. She and her family live in Virginia near Washington, DC.

Selected Reviews of Janet’s Books

Pip’s Trip
Janet Morgan Stoeke
   The three clueless chicken wonders from The Loopy Coop Hens (BCCB 1/11) have returned, and they’re ready for adventure. Or, at least, they think they are, when jumping into the farmer’s pickup for a trip is merely a plan, but when it comes to carrying it out, only Pip actually climbs aboard (“‘First we have to, um . . . ask Rooster Sam,’ says Midge”); a nervous Pip then crouches in the truck bed with eyes squeezed shut when the truck’s engine roars into life—only to find, when the sound stops, that her dramatic journey was actually a brief sojourn in a truck that never moved. There’s a touch of Stoeke’s popular poultry heroine Minerva Louise (A Friend for Minerva Louise, BCCB 1/98) in the goofy hens, but the warm and absurd barnyard friendship also recalls Cazet’s legendary cow buddies Minnie and Moo (Minnie and Moo Go to Paris, BCCB 10/99). The chapter-like divisions, big, clear print, and spare, streamlined text with subtle repetitions invite a beginning-reader audience, and youngsters will appreciate the book’s open-handed sharing of important information (such as the truck’s remaining stationary because it’s being worked on by the farmer) through art as well as text. The art emphasizes toylike red and green, with smooth black line and big digital planes of color seemingly resisting nuance and complexity, but Stoeke’s a master at eliciting humor from simple visuals. Dot dons a hunting cap for the adventure she never has but retains the headgear nonetheless, and Pip in a panic is, well, a panic, ducking beneath an old blanket and peering fearfully out over the truckbed wall to view her fate. Both readaloud audiences and new readers will be happy to join Pip, Midge, and Dot’s friendly flock. 2012, Dial/Penguin, Grades K-1, $16.99. Reviewer: Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, February 2012 (Vol. 65, No. 6)).

The Loopy Coop Hens
Janet Morgan Stoeke

   The Loopy Coop is home to hens Midge, Pip, and Dot, who adore their wonderful Rooster Sam: not only is his tail “snowy white” and his toes “golden yellow,” he manages to actually fly up to the top of the barn in order to greet the day with his rooster crow. Yearning to take to the air themselves, the hens are disappointed to fail miserably at flight, so they decide to observe Rooster Sam’s technique. When they discover that he hasn’t been flying up to the top of the barn, simply clambering up to the roof via conveniently placed objects, they struggle momentarily with their idol’s weakness but eventually return to their love for their beloved–if flightless–rooster. The comedy is more poker-faced than broad here, but it’s still easily accessible to young readers, who will appreciate the chapter-like divisions and easy-reading font; touches of comic repetition (“Oh. Oh. Oh,” the narration greets the failed flying hens; “Ow. Ow. Ow”) add both entertainment value and reading ease. Stoeke’s digital illustrations provide a generous helping of humor: simple, springy black linework and vivid barnyard colors converge in a group of hens whose goofy optimism is all the funnier for being subtly portrayed on their largely vacant faces. With its picture-book-styled trim size and layout, this will also be effective as a readaloud, and repeat listeners will certainly seize the opportunity to read along even before they can read alone; fans of Stoeke’s poultry heroine Minerva Louise will flock to this one. Review Code: R — Recommended. (c) Copyright 2006, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2011, Dutton, 32p.; Reviewed from galleys, $16.99. Grades 1-2. Reviewer: Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, March 2011 (Vol. 64, No. 7)).

Minerva Louise on Halloween
Janet Morgan Stoeke
   It is Halloween, and the people are getting ready for this fun fall festivity at the farmhouse. Enter Minerva Louise, a chicken who lives on the farm. She has her own innocent perspective of what is going on around the yard. She sees the farmers busy at work planting a rock garden when the children are actually placing decorative headstones in the lawn for the Halloween party. Minerva Louise thinks that the farmers are bringing feed buckets to the door, but, actually, they are children out for trick-or-treats. The text itself only reveals Minerva’s thoughts, and the simple, color illustrations provide a view of what is going on in the plot. It is the combination of text and illustration that blend to bring out the humor and laughter. This Halloween story is one that is hilarious rather than scary. Those children who previously have enjoyed other Minerva Louise stories will probably enjoy this one as well. 2009, Dutton Children’s Books/Penguin, $16.99. Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Make A Story:

    Minerva Louise stars in the original program, aimed at K through 2nd graders. Janet reads from some of the books, pointing out the events in her life that prompted her to think them up. Then, asking open-ended questions, the author elicits a character, a plot (beginning, middle and end) and plenty of hilarious twists and turns from the students. Sketching quick and lively images on the board, the author pulls together their ideas, having them vote on the best ones, and tugging them toward a satisfying conclusion. In the end, they have made a story. The students see first hand that they can do it! Creating a book is not only possible, but great fun. Questions about authoring round out the session. 45 minutes.

Personal Narrative:

    The new program, aimed at fifth and sixth graders, focuses on writing from personal experience. It features the author’s latest book, Waiting for May, her son’s story about anticipating the adoption of his sister. Using the book as an example, Janet helps the students search for which events from their lives might be story-worthy. The focus is on the emotion the event elicits. Students are reminded to write the whole piece with that feeling in mind. Life happens in a random sort of way, but stories need some structure. I will show the students how to rethink the event and find the inherent structure, building on their central feeling throughout. Teachers can refer to this streamlined writing tactic again and again throughout the year. 45 minutes.

Janet will conduct up to 3 presentations in one day. Each presentation is 45 minutes. Her ideal group is up to 50 students at a time of similar grade level: Pre-K to grade 2, or Grades 3 to 6. The maximum number of students is 80.

Costs: Basic fee for one presentation is $550; for two presentations it is $715; and for three presentations it is $990. Discounts are provided for a second day. For four presentations the cost is $1265; for five presentations it is $1595; for six presentations it is $1925. Janet is currently making presentations only in the DC area.

Additional Information

To learn more about Janet and her publications please visit http://www.minervalouise.com.

Susan Stockdale

Susan Stockdale writes and illustrates picture books for young children that celebrate nature.

With rhythmic, rhyming text and bright, bold illustrations, Susan playfully explores scientific themes ranging from how animals benefit from their stripes and spots to how the unique shapes of flowers resemble other objects, animals and even people. A former textile designer, she uses pattern in both her text and illustrations to energize her books.

Susan’s book awards include the ALA Notable, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children, Parents’ Choice Silver Honor, Bank Street Best Book for Children (starred) and the Charlotte Zolotow Award. Her expressive prose and artwork elicit praise. The Washington Post wrote, “If the paintings are the feast, Stockdale’s words are the dessert.”

A dynamic speaker, Susan has presented at hundreds of schools, libraries and conferences. She was selected as a National Book Festival speaker and as the ambassador for Pennsylvania’s “One Book, Every Young Child” statewide literacy program. She lives with her husband in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Learn more at www.susanstockdale.com.

Selected Reviews of Susan’s Books

Fantastic Flowers
Susan Stockdale
Enjoy seventeen flowers that resemble animals, people, and objects. For example, this book shows flowers in the shapes of wild baboons, ballerinas, trumpets, and spoons. The large color illustrations that fill the pages will delight readers as they read or listen to the rhyming passages. Not only are the flowers diverse, but the people are diverse as well, including a boy and girl of different skin tones watering flowers on the last pages. Readers will be delighted with this book, as it shows ways that flowers can be exciting and wonderful. Fantastic Flowers includes both photographs and illustrations of the flowers for readers to compare. The author does a fine job accurately illustrating the flowers. The photographs include each flower’s common name, scientific name, native range, and pollinators. The book also includes a page about plants and pollination. With the help of an adult to read the informational sections, readers will enjoy the assortment of flowers and will want to learn more about them. 2017, Peachtree Publishers, Ages 3 to 6, $16.95. Reviewer: Tina Chan (Children’s Literature).

Spectacular Spots
Susan Stockdale
Young children will enjoy this nonfiction look at creatures around them that are covered with spots. Some of the creatures are familiar like cows and Dalmatians. Some are exotic, like an anaconda and sea slugs named nudibranchs. The vivid color paintings of each spotted creature are accurate and place each creature in its natural environment, though they do not indicate the actual size of the creature. The text is brief and written in a graceful rhyme. Both the limited text and rhythm make hearing the book or reading it appealing. The book concludes with a collection of short paragraphs that extends the information about each creature and a visual quiz that asks the readers to match the patterns of spots with the animals. Answers to the quiz are upside-down below each pattern swatch. The front and back end pages introduce the pattern of spots on the jaguar’s coat. The back of the dust jacket and the hard cover show the jaguar ready to jump from the tree limb where’s been sleeping or perhaps just sunning himself. The jaguar is ready to pounce on a small, unidentified creature with spots across its back that is running on the edge of the jungle pond. On the final page, the author acknowledges scientists who assisted her with research for the book. The book’s design can serve as example to young students for sharing their own information gathered about animal characteristics. 2015, Peachtree Publishers, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. Reviewer: Carol Wolfenbarger (Children’s Literature).

Stripes Of All Types
Susan Stockdale
Here is a book seemingly tailored to Common Core curriculum lesson plans. The examples of camouflage as a means of natural protection fits neatly into science lessons, while the verse and alliteration crosses into literature lessons. Additionally, the book’s pictures are stunningly done in bright acrylics. Both the creatures and their habitats pop from the page. The text is brief, but there is real movement in the words. Snakes go “sliding through the weeds.” A tiger and her cub “sprawl in a lair.” Nothing is described without the extra panache of just the right descriptive sound. Animals spring, prowl, and perch instead of jump or walk. Most pages are matted in pastels that complement the colors on the page. While the largest part of the book deals with creatures in the wild, the final two page spread is of children cuddling their striped house cat, bringing the lesson to the children’s own level. Backmatter includes descriptions of the animals shown in the book, where they live, and how camouflage helps them. The final pages take thumbnails of animal stripes and ask children to identify the close-up of stripes without the context of the animal. What a versatile, informative book that has the additional value of being graphically beautiful. Highly recommended. 2013, Peachtree, Ages 4 to 8, $15.95. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Susan demonstrates to K-5 students how she researches, writes and illustrates her nonfiction picture books via props and a PowerPoint format. Students learn every step of her bookmaking process, including the importance of meticulous research; how to add sparkle to their writing with strong verbs, vivid adjectives and synonyms, and rich alliteration; and amazing facts about flora and fauna, the theme of Susan’s books. Her programs fully support the Common Core and STEAM curricula, seamlessly integrating language arts, visual arts, science and geography.

Susan’s school programs win praise:

“Her presentation was thoughtfully crafted, engaging, and hit on so many of the points we try to raise with our readers and writers!”
Deborah Hensley, Horace Mann Elementary School, Washington, DC

“Susan’s freshness of approach, honesty and enthusiasm enchanted the children.”
Ann Edmonds, The Galloway School, Atlanta, GA

“Her program was as inspirational as it was informative.”
Donna Jonte, University Park Elementary School, Hyattsville, MD

Fees: Please visit www.susanstockdale.com for fee information.

Additional Information

To learn more about Susan’s books and to read testimonials from teachers and students who have experienced her program, please visit www.susanstockdale.com.

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Alexandra Siy

Alexandra Siy is a science writer for kids who thinks that science is fun, artsy, and cool. She has written many books that combine science and art through imagery that reveals both microscopic and far away worlds. She has written about insects, spiders, sneezing, and outer space. Her books have earned many honors and awards, including an Orbis Pictus Honor, NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book awards, and the American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award.

Her newest title, “Voyager’s Greatest Hits,” is a STEM inspired “soundtrack” that takes readers on the epic journey into interstellar space. She is also a photographer, and incorporates her work into some of her titles. Her “instaSTEM” program is a STEM inspired photography workshop she offers to schools through interactive videoconferencing. Please visit www.instastem.com for more information.

Alexandra visits schools and libraries nationwide, speaking with students, teachers, and parents in order to share her passion for science, books, and photography. Although most of her titles are nonfiction, she also writes fiction for children and young adults—including a picture book for preschoolers and short stories for teens. A young adult novel is in the works! She has lived in New York City; New Haven, CT; Anchorage, AK; Boulder, Colorado, and Lake Placid, NY. She currently live on a 73-acre sustainable family forest in New York State’s Hudson Valley.

Selected Reviews of Alexandra Siy’s Books

Cars on Mars: Roving the Red Planet
Alexandra Siy

In 2003, two rovers were sent to the planet Mars, which was the closest to Earth that it had been in 60,000 years. In this readable and fascinating account, anyone with an interest in science and space will learn about the actual development of the rovers, their launch, the experiments they have performed, and what we have learned to date about this nearby planet. Full color pictures, artists’ drawings, and black and white imagery from the rovers bring this amazing story to life. A day on Mars is called a sol, and it is just thirty nine minutes longer than a day on Earth. Was there ever running water on Mars, and is there still water hidden on this planet? Scientists have learned so much about the rocks and what has created their various layers; all of which suggest that there were cycles of wet and dry conditions on the planet. Scientists have concluded that between 3.5 and 4 billion years ago, there was underground water at Meridiani Planum on Mars, and no one has ruled out the possibility that life once existed. Originally designed to last three months and to determine if any life existed or exists on Mars, these little engines that could are still working. That means they have been at their job for nine years. They have new software, but the mechanical parts are suffering from wear and tear–no one knows how long they will keep exploring, but each sol that they are there, new information increases our knowledge about this amazing planet. Kids who want to see what the rovers are currently doing can visit http://marsrovers.nasa.gov/home/index.html where they will find even more information. In addition, the back of the book contains references to other websites, a glossary, and selected bibliography. This is a book that will fascinate the arm chair space traveler and pique the interest of budding space scientists. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot (Children’s Literature).

One Tractor: A Counting Book
Alexandra Siy

This counting book by Jacqueline Siy doubles as a fun-filled tribute to imaginative play. While contemplating his one toy tractor, a little boy notices two mouse-piloted planes and three small pirate ships. Soon the boy and his tiny new companions are hard at work building a town in the sandbox and adding six city buses and seven fire trucks to it. The book ends with a surprise, though, when the boy sends his small buddies on their way. The last double-page spread reveals the boy asleep on the grass and surrounded by the toys he dreamed of. Little ones will love lingering over the details–busy machines, scooter-riding buccaneers–in the watercolors by Jacqueline Rogers. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum (Children’s Literature).

Spidermania: Friends on the We
Alexandra Siy

This science book excels at describing spiders in informative, accessible, and surprising ways. Whether a young reader is already interested in spiders or is newly exploring the topic, the book will surely excite and dispel myths. The rich and colorful photographs will draw readers in, impressing all with the variety and detail of the arachnids. With vibrant colors and intense close-ups, the photographs are a huge draws for readers. The accompanying written text provides explanations that are simple, without being condescending, and successfully addresses a range of readers (in terms of age and familiarity with the subject). The book serves as an excellent resource for young students, providing a glossary, index, list of additional resources, and brief summaries of key points; and, with clear headings and table of contents, the book is easy to navigate. Siy and Kunkel have shown science to be exciting in unexpected ways, potentially easing fears or anxieties about these arachnids. Reviewer: Kellie Deys (Children’s Literature).

Program Details

Alexandra works with Pre-K through Grade 12, and customizes her programs for your needs. Assembly style presentations as well as smaller group workshops incorporate images and multi-media that draw from the nonfiction themes of her books. As STEM picks up STEAM, she helps children explore the connections between science, technology, engineering, art, and math.

  • Going Interstellar:
    • In 2017, the world celebrates the 40-year anniversary of the Voyager Mission. On August 25, 2012, Voyager 1, entered interstellar space; Voyager 2 is close behind. Hurtling through space at 35,000 mph, the twin Voyagers are rewriting the astronomy books. They are also carrying the Golden Record, a time capsule of images and sounds created by Carl Sagan and a team of writers and artists. Students will look back at where we’ve been, and into the future to where we’re going while getting an intimate look of the writer’s path. Perfect for grades 5-12.
  • Name That Bug:
    • Featuring images and text from several of her books, the program introduces students to many kinds of insects and spiders using electron micrographs and other scientific imagery. Students will learn how to identify insects and spiders while interacting with me about the research and writing process.
  • Road Trip Mars:
    • This interactive program inspires students to learn about Mars through images, short videos, hands-on demonstrations, and stories. Cars on Mars is also an ideal mentor text for grades 4 and up as an online program.
  • Postcards from the Moon:
    • While experiencing the history, science, and art of human lunar exploration students will lean to look closely at the amazing photography created by the astronauts on their trips to the Moon and discover the scientific information contained in each picture. The 50 year anniversary of this extraordinary achievement is in 2019! Optional postcard design and writing workshop available—ideal for library programs.
  • Let’s Read and Shout:
    • This interactive program for preK through first grade uses her book One Tractor to introduce numbers and word opposites. It’s a favorite live and online!
  • I Spy Magnify:
    • Featuring images and text from several of her books, the program challenges students to look closely and think like a scientist by forming analogies that relate to images made by a scanning electron microscope. Discussion of scale, magnification, form, and function encourages students to think across the curriculum as they use STEM skills to analyze the art. With smaller groups and IVC programs Alexandra also offer a science writing workshop during which students create analogies that are the foundations for poetry.

Fee: $1,500 per day plus travel expenses. Inquire about fee reductions for multiple days or more than one visit in a district over 2 or more days

Additional Information

To learn more about Alexandra Siy and her publications please visit www.alexandrasiy.com.

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