Tuesday, May 25, 2021

THINK QUICK with Sita Singh

Hello Sita! Congratulations on your recent release of Birds of a Feather! I love that it's bibliotherapy meets STEM, and explores the peafowl family. Every person will relate to Mo's journey to find his unique identity and place in the world. All of the THINK QUICK themes below appear in your book. Let's see which way you lean. Remember... THINK QUICK!

On Differences:

Stand out or blend in?

Definitely be your true self even if it means standing out!


On Encouragement:

Independent affirmations or group support?


Group support is important but it’ll only help once you’ve built a strong foundation of self-confidence.


On Worry:

Shake it off or trust your gut?


Always go with your instincts!


On Loneliness:

Retreat or Regroup?


Regroup, always! Give things another chance.


On Discovering Abilities:

Try new things or practice old habits?


I’m always up for trying new things.


On Self-Confidence:

Be the best you or fake it ‘til you make it?


Be the best you! It’s all about being comfortable with who you are.


On Color Palates:

Bright ‘n bold or fresh ‘n white?


Depends on my mood. I like both palates.


On Rescue or Heroes:

Be your own hero or rely on your friends?


This is a tricky one. But self-belief and support of friends, both can be equally important.


On Dancing:

Start a movement or follow?


Start a movement.


On Books: (wink, wink)

Birds of a Feather or Birds of a Feather?


Ha! Good one! Let me see.

Ummm… Birds of a Feather, any day!

Of course! 

Thank you for stopping by, Sita! We enjoyed learning more about you and the themes of your book. 

Carrie's review of Birds of a Feather by Sita Singh:

Who knew that a delightful bibliotherapy story could teach so much about peacocks? Main character Mo's journey to find his individuality and strengths took me back to my love for stories like The Ugly Duckling and Tacky the Penguin. This story will also inspire research efforts in my students, especially peacocks, but other animals, too. The author's note offers an amazing cultural pull and the back matter offers interesting peafowl family facts, as well. 


Sita Singh was born and raised in India, and moved to the United States in 1999. She currently lives in South Florida with her husband, three children, and an immensely cute and curious dog. An architect in the past, Sita now enjoys writing heartwarming picture books with a South Asian backdrop. When Sita isn’t reading or writing, she can be found trying new recipes in the kitchen, experimenting with food photography, walking with her dog, or movie marathoning with the family. Birds Of A Feather is Sita’s debut picture book. Find out more about Sita on www.singhsita.com and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram @sitawrites

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

ReFoReMo Mini-Monthly Writing Challenge: Stories with Adults Protagonist

Main characters in picture books are supposed to be the same age as the reader. Right! Or is that rule made to be broken? Your challenge is to write a children's story with an adult main character or child and adult main characters. 

It's been fifty-eight years since Peggy Parish debuted the first kid relatable Amelia Bedelia book. In this article by Gina Rullo,  we can look at Peggy's inspiration for Amelia's character. "Peggy drew inspiration from the class of third graders she taught. She would ask them to do something and a student would ask “Do you mean for us to do what you said?” 

When Peggy thought back on her exact words, she realized that if they were taken literally, there could be a problem. That got her to thinking that there might be a story there." After her passing in 1988, her nephew, Herman Parish took over the series. 

Other favorites stories with adult protagonist include A Sick Day For Amos Mcgee by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead, A Hound from the Pound by Jessica Swaim and Jill McElmurry and Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri.

The next three books from the library came in at the same time and got me thinking about child and adult protagonists:  A Different Pond by Bao Phi and Thi Bui (see trailer.)  

In the story, I Am A Bird by Hope Lim and illustrated by Hyewon Yum, bird-loving little girl takes a daily bike ride with her dad, everyday they pass a woman who frightens her—until she discovers what they have in common.

"I am a bird. Every morning, I fly like a bird on Daddy's bike. Ca-Caw! Ca-Caw! 
 I sing like a bird on the way to school. Ca-Caw! Ca-Caw! 
 People wave and smile, and the birds sing back. Ca-Caw! "

We Became Jaguars by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Woodrow White creates a whole new world when Grandma comes to visit. Grandson and grandmother transform into jaguars!

"My grandmother came to visit. 
I had met her once before. 
She lived far away. 
Her hair was very white
and very, very long.
My parents went out and left us alone.
My grandmother got on the carpet and growled.
'Let's be jaguars,' she said."

Drawn Together by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat is one of my favorites! When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words. 

"So... what's new Grandpa?"

"Bạn đang làm gì."

Tell us about some of your favorite books with adult and child main characters. Enjoy the challenge.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Mentor Text Talk with Amanda Davis

30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag by Amanda Davis, and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport is a poetic, powerful, moving book. We're excited to learn from Amanda's process.  

Do you utilize picture books as mentor texts?  If so, how?

Yes, I definitely utilize mentor texts, especially in my research phase of project planning.  Here are some of the ways I use them:

  • To figure out what else is in the market that might be similar to my book and then ask myself, how will my book add to what’s already out there or what gaps will it fill?

  • To analyze structure, format, back matter (when applicable). I also love analyzing the first lines of stories and have a document where I’ve kept track of first lines in picture books. It’s fascinating to see the many ways readers can get hooked by a captivating first line.

Were there any particular mentor texts that inspired you in the creation of 30,000 STITCHES?

The text of 30,000 Stitches is lyrical, and I love finding ways to merge my love of poetry into my children’s book manuscripts. Because of this, I’m often drawn to other lyrical picture books as well. For lyrical language I utilized books such as Nicola Davies’s The Day War Came and King of the Sky along with classics such as Come On, Rain by Karen Hesse and John J. Muth. This isn’t a text, but I did watch episodes of Renée LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab on YouTube, which gave me other ideas for mentor texts and helpful hints on how to strengthen lyrical prose. I also remember reading through other narrative nonfiction picture books such as, She Made a Monster: How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lynn Fulton and Felicita Sala and Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann.

Another way I utilized mentor texts for 30,000 Stitches was for the back matter. I find back matter to be challenging because you want to relay and expand upon facts but also keep it fun and engaging for readers. When researching for the back matter of 30,000 Stitches, I wanted to see what types of back matter were out there and think of creative ways to visually layout the text and images. Some books I utilized for examples of back matter were Shark Lady by Jess Keating and Marta Álvarez Miguéns, Ada’s Violin by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport, Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, Let the Children March by Monia Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison, and Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence by Karla Valenti and Annalisa Beghelli.  

How has reading picture books helped you discover who you are as a writer? 

Reading picture books has helped me better understand the different styles and structures of contemporary picture book texts and what is being acquired. Additionally, and I think most importantly, the more picture books I read, the more I’m reminded that there is indeed a place in the market for my voice and my stories. Sometimes these stories are difficult in nature but I know there are editors out there that see the importance of these types of stories and are willing to take a chance knowing that kids need them. 

What do you feel is the BEST way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts?

I’m not sure if there is any best way for picture book writers to utilize mentor texts, but as I said earlier, you can use them to inform your own writing in terms of structure, form, language, and knowing what’s out there in the market. With that said, you also don’t want to be overly influenced by another writer’s work OR get so caught up in you’re the research phase of your process that it stops you from putting pen to paper.

Amanda Davis is a teacher, artist, writer, and innovator who uses her words and pictures to light up the world with kindness. Amanda is 
the author of 30,000 STITCHES: THE INSPIRING STORY OF THE NATIONAL 9/11 FLAG and has poetry and illustrations featured in The Writers’ Loft Anthology, FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN. When she’s not busy creating, you can find her sipping tea, petting dogs, and exploring the natural wonders of The Bay State with her partner and her rescue pup, Cora. You can learn more about Amanda at www.amandadavisart.com and on Twitter @amandadavisart and Instagram @amandadavis_art.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mentor Text Author Study: Emma Bland Smith

 By Kathy Halsey


Eerdmans editor Kathleen Merz defines through-lines by saying, “Remember that the most essential goal of any story, including narrative nonfiction, is simply to take the reader on an emotional journey.”


This month I share four of Emma Bland Smith’s nonfiction books that use through-lines to create compelling animal biographies. Emma creates strong emotional connections in her books with a focus on 1.) engaging, unique animals, 2.) escalating tension, and 3.) creating “kid-centric” plots.


Journey: Based on the True Story of OR7, the Most Famous Wolf in the West,


  1. In her debut, Emma’s title hooks the reader who wonders, Why is Journey famous? Wolves are familiar in children’s literature; many kids are fascinated by them. He’s the first known wolf to venture into Western Oregon in 60 years. 


  1. Journey leaves home to explore the unknown. We learn wolves are uncommon in California. Stakes rise when he’s seen on a motion-sensor camera. Farmers don’t like him— he’s a threat to livestock. 

He seeks out other wolves and a mate for three years. Every time he hopes to find a wolf companion and doesn’t, tension mounts. He howls in sadness. Finally, he hears an answering howl. Now readers feel relief and, as Emma told me, “hopefully joy.” 


  1. In alternating spreads, we see OR7’s actions juxtaposed with that of a curious girl and her dad who follow OR7 via newspaper, TV, and computer as they trace his movements. Abby enters a contest to name OR7 and wins. Seeing Journey’s story via Abby’s pulls kids close.



Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator


  1. Claude is unique because he’s an albino. Although quite cute, his differences put him in danger even with hatchlings. His coloration leads to conflict and escalation. Being “him” is the problem.


  1. In nature Claude can’t camouflage himself; he could be prey. His skin might burn. Alone in a zoo pen, he lives for twelve-plus years. The emotional journey continues when he travels almost 2,800 miles to a science museum only to find Bonnie, his new swamp-mate, doesn’t like him either. The internal conflict builds.

  1. In Claude, Emma indicates she “wanted the reader to feel not just empathy but also and sympathy, to feel like, ‘Hey, I know what it's like to feel alone, too!’" Too many kids know how it feels to be ostracized, especially for traits they can’t change. 


The Pig War: How a Porcine Tragedy Taught England and America to Share


  1. The inciting incident is over a British pig in an American farmer’s potato patch. Wars are fought over many issues, but a fight like this is odd. Readers will wonder how a pig can teach anyone to share. 


  1. Two nations fighting over a pig seems silly until the pig is sacrificed, and the British threaten to evict Americans from San Juan Island. Both sides bring in ships and cannons. The island people are anxious. A “Pig Incident” becomes a “Pig Argument” and finally a “Pig Situation.”

  1. Emma worked to build an emotional, relatable core to touch readers. She created a scenario that children understand –fighting with a friend (or country) over a small matter that blows out of proportion. (Parents know these skirmishes, too.) 



Odin: Dog Hero of the Fires


  1. Like Journey, the title and the cover hook us before we open the book. Readers guess the sweet Great Pyrenees will risk much to become a hero dog. The conflict is “dog versus forest fires.” 


  1.  Odin tells the tale; we see the story through his eyes— a working dog protecting his goats, refusing to leave with his family as a wildfire erupts. The barn collapses, a propane tank explodes, it’s so hot, the air shimmers. Odin is tired, hot, hungry, and lonely.

  1. Natural disasters like floods and wildfires are commonplace in our turbulent climate. Children ache like Odin does for what is lost in natural catastrophes. By seeing how Odin calms himself and designs a plan to save the goats, children see what can be controlled in dangerous circumstances. 

By studying the through-lines of engaging nonfiction like Emma Bland Smith’s work, we learn how to make the reader care, turn the page, and see how plot is resolved.