Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Mentor Text Talk with Lydia Ludikis


I'm excited to welcome Lydia to ReFoReMo! Her newest release, NO BEARS ALLOWED, is powerful story of fear growing into friendship. 

Hi Lydia! Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  

When I started writing for children years ago, I didn’t study the art of writing at all. I just wrote. I was always an avid reader and have been writing since I was 6 years old, but I still didn’t know much about my own craft. In retrospect, I don’t recommend this strategy! It wasn’t until years later that I read Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul and my mind was blown. I started to become more conscious of the writing process and of the many literary devices.

Then I started following the ReFoReMo blog. My mind was blown again! The blog helped me understand the importance of reading and studying mentor texts. To become a strong writer, you need to not only write, but you need to research. The object is to understand key concepts like characters, development, story arcs, and tension. It’s one thing to read about these concepts, but it’s much more helpful to read a book that uses these writing devices effectively in the story. I buy a ton of books, borrow them from my library, and read them in classrooms on my breaks when I give writing workshops. This has shaped my practice.


Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of NO BEARS ALLOWED?

Yes! In particular, I was moved by the book Fox and Squirrel by Ruth Ohi. This was followed up by Fox and Squirrel Help Out and Fox and Squirrel Make a Friend. Fox and Squirrel have many differences (Squirrel is small and Fox is big; Squirrel lives in a nest and Fox in a burrow etc…) but as their friendship grows, they realize their differences are a good thing, and that they also have other things in common. I love this series because I wanted to write a sweet story about friendship, and they provided so much inspiration. I’m a big fan of Ruth Ohi. What I admire most about her is her ability to pare down language and still create an emotional resonance. I’m trying to learn this art myself, because I’m often too wordy. One of the keys is to always keep the young audience in mind.


How has reading Picture Books helped you discover who you are as a writer?

Reading mentor picture books has helped me understand all the key concepts a writer must know. The more you read, the better writer you become, it’s that simple. I think it’s important to study and be familiar with the classics, but it’s also important to keep a pulse on what’s happening with more contemporary books.

I admire my colleagues and look up to many of them. Here’s a short list of my favorite mentor picture books:
Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Love by Matt de la Peña
The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds & The Life of H. Tracy Hall by Hannah Holt
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson
Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs by Melissa Stewart
Chester (the whole series) by Melanie Watt

What do you feel is the BEST way to for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?
READ as many books as you can. Buy them, borrow them, read them at schools, visit libraries- whatever it takes. I try to keep organized and create folders on my computer with different kinds of pictures books (from fractured fairy tales to straight nonfiction) to keep track of them. Not everyone will respond to things in the same way, so when something moves me, I keep notes of that. I’ve compiled a lot of notes throughout the years! They provide sparks that light up my inspiration.
I also recommend following blogs like ReFoReMo, Kidlit 411, Sub it, and for the nonfiction fans, Celebrate Science by Melissa Stewart and The Nonfiction Detectives are excellent. Find some critique partners, discuss kidlit, and get involved in online forums. Writing can be a solitary endeavour but there’s a really generous writing community that surrounds it. I’m still reading, studying, and learning, and will be for the rest of my days!

Thank you, Lydia!  I'm excited to read more of your work in the future!

Lydia Lukidis is a children's author with a multi-disciplinary background that spans the fields of literature, science and theater. So far, she has over 40 books and eBooks published, as well as a dozen educational books including her STEM books The Broken Bees’ Nest and The Space Rock Mystery. Her latest picture book, No Bears Allowed, was released by Blue Whale Press in July.

Lydia is also passionate about spreading the love of literacy. She regularly gives writing workshops in elementary schools across Quebec through the Culture in the Schools Program. Her aim is to help children cultivate their imagination, sharpen their writing skills and develop self-confidence. 

Social Media links
For more information on the publisher, please visit www.bluewhalepress.com

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Mentor Text Author Study: Susan Verde



Before Susan Verde became a New York Times award-winning author, she was an elementary school teacher and yoga instructor. Her books show how kids navigate the world and how to write from a child’s point of view.

POINT OF VIEW


     

Verde’s first picture book The Museum, Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator), is written in a series of rhyming couplets from the point of view of a girl visiting a museum. Verde’s text shows how the girl reacts to each piece of art. Reynolds’ choice of masterpieces is a tribute to some of the greatest artists of our time. The ending is a tribute to creativity and artistic self-expression.





When I see a work of art,
something happens in my heart.

I cannot stifle my reaction.
My body just goes into action.

This one makes me
want to pose
and stand up on
                                           my tippy-toes.                                            
             








In Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community, John Parra (Illustrator), a boy speaks to and about a wall as though it is a living part of his community. Elders recall when it was beautiful and had stories to tell. But over time the wall became “lonely concrete” and one day the boy decides it doesn’t have to be this way. “You are stone but you don’t have to be hard.” Verde’s character takes action and through street art the wall once again reflects the wonderful things happening in the neighborhood. This is an inspiring story of community activism.



Maybe once you were full of style,
but no one has taken care of you.
You are nothing to look at.
You are cold,
old,
empty.




WRITING ABOUT ABSTRACT CONCEPTS

Aware of the need for children to slow down and reset, she helps children examine their own bodies, reflect, and manage the noise they hear from the outside world.

How would a child fully grasp concepts like empathy, compassion, and mindfulness? Susan Verde and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds, explores these concepts in her series on wellness.

 
       


The opening from I AM YOGA, the first book in the series sets the tone:

When I feel
small
in a world
so big,
When I wonder how I fit in,
When the world is spinning so fast…
I tell my wiggling body:
be still.
I tell my thinking mind:
be quiet.
I tell my racing breath:
be slow.


INTRODUCING CHILDREN TO A TOUGH TOPIC







In The Water Princess, Peter H. Reynolds, (Illustrator), Verde collaborated with Burkina Faso supermodel Georgie Badiel to tell the story of a young girl faced who doesn’t have easy access to water. Using a first-person point of view and lyrical prose Verde gives and emotional account of a day in the life of the girl who has to walk miles for water.


The thirst comes quick – dry lips, dry throat.
I squeeze my eyes shut.
I see it.
Clear.
I dip my toes in it.
Cool.
I scoop it up and bring it to my lips.
Slowly, I open my eyes.
Nothing.



Susan Verde’s stories are wonderful examples of how books can be quiet or active as long as the focus is on the child and their experiences.

Don’t miss other books by Susan Verde:

     







Tuesday, July 30, 2019

THINK QUICK with Author Lori Degman


Hi Lori! I am so excited for the upcoming August 13 release of Like a Girl! The themes of empowerment, kindness, and inspiration are so important, as well as the subtle introduction to history and biographies. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book.  Let’s see which way you lean.  Remember, THINK QUICK!

I want to preface my answers by first saying thanks so much for having me and, second, it’s hard for a Libra to answer an “or” question – sorry!






On Helping Others:
Lead the Way or Join the Crowd?
I really do a combination of both.  I like to lead the way and encourage people to help others, but there are lots of times I’ll learn of an organization or a group of people who need help, then I follow the crowd to help there – but then I’ll let other people know about it, which is like leading the way...

On Standing Up:
One Best Way or Many?
I think there are many ways to stand up for what is right, and for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

On Prevailing:
Seek Support or Go it Alone?
I think it’s important to seek support when you’re up against something difficult, but then, at some point, you need to go it alone.

On Creativity:
Born with it or Develop it?
I think some people are just born with more creativity – but there are ways to help develop it.  

On Training:
Push through Pain or Slow and Steady?
I’m not the most athletic person, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.  I’m guessing that the best athletes push through the pain.

On Change:
Embrace it or Create it?
I try to follow the Gandhi quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” so I definitely say – create it!  That said, sometimes life throws you curve balls and the changes are outside your control, so in those cases I’d say embrace it.

On Asking:
Any Question or Only Some?
I’m a big questioner, so I’d say any question – but accept it if a person declines to answer.

On Fear:
Overcome it or Accept it?
I think you have to first accept and acknowledge the fears you have then work hard to overcome them.  I just wrote a picture book story about a character who overcomes his fears.  I faced my fears and submitted it for the first time, and it was just rejected.  Because I pushed through my fears and subbed it, submitting it again won’t be as scary!    

On Breakfast with Amazing Girls:
Maya Angelou or Irena Sendler?
That’s a tough one!  I could listen to Maya Angelou talk all day long – but I really admire how Irena Sendler risked her life to save the lives of Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto.

On Books:
Think Like a Girl or Think Like a Girl?
Think Like a Girl, I think J

 

Lori Degman writes in rhyme, most of the time – but not always!  She is the author of 1 Zany Zoo – the winner of the Cheerios new Author Contest and featured title on the Illinois Reads Annual Reading List; Cock-a-Doodle Oops! – International Literacy Association Honor Book; Norbert’s Big Dream and Just Read.  Her picture book, Like a Girl comes out this fall and Travel Guide For Monsters comes out in spring 2020.  Lori was a teacher of the deaf and now divides her time between writing children’s books, doing kidlit-related stuff, and babysitting her grandkids!  She lives in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and two dogs.  Visit her at Loridegman.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.