In The Classroom with THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK (plus a Giveaway!)

It may not be normal but THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a hilarious read-aloud that can also be used in fun lessons about language arts, science, and social-emotional discussions about collaboration and compromise.

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK begins as a stroll through the common, every day, normal animals – mammal, bird, amphibian, insect, reptile, and fish. The story quickly evolves, however, into a meta-fiction disagreement between the author and illustrator over how to draw the animals. The author wants simple, normal animal drawings. The illustrator, however, is confused and makes a bit of a mess. The conflict reaches its peak when the illustrator refuses to draw the author’s choice of fish. Granted, the blobfish is an unusual choice of fish.

With the below activities, kids will laugh while learning! Here are a few fun ways to use the book in your classrooms:

The Magic of Voice

THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is a book in two voices – the author and the illustrator. Before reading the book aloud, ask the kids to create the book characters so they can act out the story. They can draw pictures of an author and an illustrator and glue them onto craft sticks, or make puppets out of socks or paper lunch bags, or bring in stuffed animals to represent the two different characters. Anything works! Have fun as the kids join in on the storytelling with their “characters!” For older readers, you can take the dramatic read-aloud to the next level by discussing the personality traits of each character as reflected in their dialog.

What Kind of Animal is That?

Different animal classes have different characteristics. Use the back matter in THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK to brainstorm animals in each category and then play animal charades! The kids can play individually or in teams and act out different animals while others guess the animal and its classification!

Collaboration and Compromise

In THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK, the author and illustrator don’t agree on how the animals should be presented. In the classroom, you can reenact this author-illustrator dynamic by having the kids write a short story with the plan that it will be illustrated. Then, ask them to illustrate someone else’s story! Discuss the challenges and benefits of relinquishing control over the art. Reflect on any conflicts or compromises that were encountered along the way, and how they were resolved. Some qualities that make for good collaboration include: Listen to the other person; when you disagree with someone’s opinion, disagree with the idea, not the person (respect one another); and, allow for compromise if there is a disagreement.

For complete standards-aligned lesson plans for grades PreK-6, visit http://juliesegalwalters.com/index.php/2017/10/31/teachers-guides-are-available/!

 Julie Segal-Walters is the author of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK. She lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before becoming a writer, Julie was the president and founder of Civic Action Strategies, a grassroots organizing and democracy development consulting firm. She worked in Kosovo, where she directed citizen engagement programs for U.S. and European organizations.

You can find more information about Julie on her website or on Twitter.

GIVEAWAY TIME! Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway of a FREE classroom Skype visit (+book swag for the students)!

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Dedicated to Dedications III

Have you ever wondered about the stories behind the dedications in your favorite books?

In this latest addition to our posts about dedications, a few more Picture the Books authors share stories about their dedications. In this rare glimpse behind the scenes, the authors give us insight about who they honored and why.

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Julie Segal-Water’s debut book, THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK, illustrated by Brian Biggs, will be released on October 31, 2017 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books.

Julie dedicated her book to two very, very supportive people in her life.

normal dedication

I dedicated the book to my husband and son because they are my everything. They both also made considerable contributions to the book — from the inspiration arising from reading to my son, to my husband’s push to attend the conference where I met my editor, to cheering for me ceaselessly, and even to suggesting lines that appear in the book. Further, the word “uncompromising,” has double meaning. It refers to my unyielding love for my family, and signals the book’s central meta-fiction conflict — an author who does not want to compromise with the illustrator on how to draw the animals in the book.

Balloon cover

 

I HAVE A BALLOON is Ariel Bernstein’s debut picture book. Illustrated by Scott Magoon, and published by Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster. It’s in stores now!

Ariel’s dedication is about the two people who inspired the book. Hint: They happen to be very close to her.

balloon dedication

I dedicated my book to my two children because they inspired the story of two characters, an owl and a monkey, who both want a shiny red balloon. My daughter thinks she’s more like Owl and her brother is more like Monkey, which is probably true.

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Marcie Colleen’s debut, LOVE, TRIANGLE, illustrated by Bob Shea, was just released on October 3rd from Balzer + Bray.

Marcie’s dedication is to a few of her besties who offered support though the crazy world of children’s publishing.

love triangle dedication

My three bestest girlfriends are fellow writers Kat Yeh, Joyce Wan, and Amber Alvarez. To say that they complete me would be an understatement. We all met through writing conferences and quickly became a foursome, supporting each other with giggles and tears every step of the way. 

When LOVE, TRIANGLE went to auction, Kat and Joyce, with Amber on speaker phone, held vigil with mimosas and much needed “auction watching.” We started to call our group the Love Quadrangle shortly after. 

It was a no-brainer, come dedication time that this book would be for these very special women in my life. The best part was that I kept it a secret until Kat saw the book at Book Expo America and read the dedication. Sometimes making your BFFs cry is a good thing. 🙂

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Emma Otheguy’s first picture book, MARTI’S SONG FOR FREEDOM, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal is available now.

Her dedication story is both inspiring and in Spanish! 

marti dedicationI dedicated this book to my parents, in Spanish, because they were the people who first shared José Martí and Cuban culture with me. In the dedication, I reference our trips down I-95 to visit family in Miami, and how my parents would always point out the royal palms (palmas reales) that reminded them of Cuba. A hundred years earlier, palmas reales had also been a symbol of longing and love for Cuba to José Martí. 

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Patricia Toht’s latest picture book, PICK A PINE TREE, is illustrated by Jarvis and published by Candlewick.

This book is appropriately dedicated to her favorite holiday helpers.

 

pine tree dedication

This book is dedicated to my four children. Our family is crazy about Christmas celebrations and decorating the tree is always a fun, noisy event. Every year I buy the kids new ornaments, usually signifying a special moment from that year. I put little white tags on the ornaments to specify whose is whose (and avoid arguments), and now our tree looks like it is a salesman’s sampler of ornaments!

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Andrea J. Loney had two picture books published this year. BUNNY BEAR, illustrated by Carmen Saldana (Albert Whitman and Company, January 2017), and TAKE A PICTURE OF ME, JAMES VANDERZEE, (Lee & Low Books, July 2017), illustrated by Keith Mallett.

 

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Both are dedicated to special people in her family.

This was my first book dedication and I wasn’t sure who to include — my initial list filled up a whole sheet of paper! But even though my friends and family are scattered across the country, across the world, and even on the other side of the veil, I carry them all in my heart. This dedication was my way of including everyone.

bunnybear dedication

 

vanderzee dedication

 

My maternal grandpa was a classical pianist who toured the music halls of Europe during World War 2, and I grew up in awe of his life-long devotion to elegance and artistry. My paternal granddaddy was a joyful Panamanian party guy with an infectious laugh. He connected with the world through his passion for amateur photography, and everywhere he went in the world people were delighted to befriend him. I am so thrilled that this book blends the sensibilities of both of my beloved grandfathers.

bear and chicken

Jannie Ho wrote and illustrated the upcoming picture book, BEAR AND CHICKEN. It will be published by Running press on November 14, 2017.

Her dedication may not be fully appreciated right now, but it certainly will be later!

bear and chicken dedication

It is for my daughter, who is a picky eater but always loved soup. She is at a picture book reading age and I thought she would appreciate having her name in a printed book. 

found

Erica Sirotich’s debut as author/illustrator is FOUND DOGS, published by Dial Books this past summer.

Erica proves that no one says you’re required to dedicate your books to a human. Erica’s dedication is to the inspiration behind the book!

 

found dogs dedication

 

russell redfurFOUND DOGS is dedicated to my best friend Russell. He’s my thirteen year old terrier. Found Dogs is a counting book about adopting dogs 

from the city shelter and was inspired by his story. Russ was one of those dogs who ended up at an overcrowded animal services facility and had very little time to make it out. On his last day there, he w

as given a second chance by a rescue group. I found Russell a couple weeks later and knew he was the one. Ten years later, he is still the best buddy and studio-mate a girl could ask for. In Found 

Dogs, all the dogs are as lucky as Russ; each one meets his perfect person and goes home. 

 

Two Debut Interview – Heather Preusser

It’s time for another Picture the Books Two Debut Interview!

Today, Julie Segal Walters interviews Heather Preusser about her debut picture book, A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS.

In this book, Petra and her family lead their prize dairy cows into the pastures to graze, and each cow wears her own jingling, jangling, clanging bell. What a symphony! But when Petra’s favorite cow, Elfi, loses her bell the whole herd is out of harmony and refuses to move. Will Petra be able to find Elfi’s bell before it’s too late? With charming illustrations by Eileen Ryan Ewen, this whimsical story is sure to delight children and adults alike.

 

JSW: Welcome, Heather! Let’s start our interview with some warm-up questions. First, if you could live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be and why?

HP: I would love to live in A CHILD OF BOOKS by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. I’ve always been a Jeffers fan and I have a soft spot for postmodern meta-fiction (like your upcoming book!), but, as both an English teacher and a writer, this book melted my heart. Here’s the summary from the dust jacket: “A little girl, a child of books, sails her raft across a sea of words and arrives at the house of a young boy. She invites him to go away with her on an adventure into the world of stories…where, with only a little imagination, anything at all can happen.” Winston shapes his topographical landscapes using the text from forty children’s classics, which are listed in the end papers. As I child, I too got lost in “forests of fairy tales.” Because of my mother’s mental illness, I escaped into books, seeking solace and solutions within the prose. The younger version of me would have loved to “travel over mountains of make-believe.” The older version of me is still traveling.

JSW: The poetry of your language of seeking solace and solutions speaks so beautifully to the power of books to transport readers, which is why so many of us write for children. Is there a published picture book that you wish you could have written?

HP: I love everything by Julie Fogliano, but I especially love IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE (illustrated by Erin E. Stead). Fogliano’s stories are poems; they’re spectacularly spare, and every image, every phrase, every word is perfect: “if you want to see a whale / be careful not to notice / something inching, small and green / across the leaf, just nibble scoot / because things that are smaller than most small things / can’t be as giant as a whale.” “Nibble scoot”? Holy, I-just-saw-a-whale! How picture-perfect is that? As a former Maine-iac, I fell in love with this story even more when I read that Fogliano wrote it while vacationing in Maine one summer. After rereading it for this blog post, it was also a timely reminder that, as a writer, I need to be persistent but patient, very patient (and I should ignore pelicans).

JSW: “Persistent but patient” may be my new favorite line that summarizes children’s publishing. Speaking of favorite lines, what’s your favorite first line of a book?

HP: I’m going to have to go with HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER’S STONE by J.K. Rowling on this one (and that’s not because I’m a Potterhead who’s been sorted into Hufflepuff and has an eagle for a patronus, I promise). The first line introduces us to Harry’s extremely unmagical aunt and uncle as well as the setting, incorporates clever word play that Rowling weaves throughout the series, piques our interest, and establishes narrative voice – that’s a tall order for one line: “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” I also adore this series because it made reading cool again. When the last book in the series was released in 2007, I was attending a creative writing program at the Scottish Universities’ International Summer School in Edinburgh, Scotland. Everywhere I went, on every plane, train, and bus, people – both kids and adults – had their head buried in the book, yet paradoxically no one was allowed to talk about it for fear of ruining the ending.

JSW: Speaking of books, let’s talk about yours! What inspired you to write A SYMPHONY OF COWBELLS?

HP: I was inspired when my sister-in-law told me a story about an ornery, old cow she encountered while working on a Swiss dairy farm. Every spring these cows are paraded to the high meadows where their milk is turned into scrumptious cheese. Worried this old cow wouldn’t make the trek with such a heavy bell, the farmer traded her big booming bell for a tiny tinkling one. The cow refused to move. Ultimately, the farmer realized the error of his ways, reunited bell and bovine, and all was well. Thanks to my PiBoIdMo training, I knew this could make a good picture book manuscript, but I needed to increase the tension and create a satisfying ending. Twenty drafts later, and after recruiting two large Alpine crows, I felt ready to submit the manuscript.

JSW: Did it require much research? I bet you spent some time listening to the sounds of bells to get your onomatopoeia just right!

HP: My husband and I have done a lot of hiking in the Swiss Alps; however, most of that hiking and cheese tasting happened before I even had the story idea (does that count as “research”?). I did watch a lot of Rick Steves’ travel videos and have posted two short clips, one about Gimmelwald and one about the cheese making process, on my website. As you mentioned, getting the bell sounds just right was also tricky. In earlier drafts, one of my insightful critique partners (shout out to Carmela LaVigna Coyle) pointed out that a few bells sounded more like drums.

JSW: Will you also talk about your characters’ names. They’re so unique! Is there a story behind them?

HP: My husband is German, so I asked him for suggestions regarding Swiss-sounding cow names. At first we came up with Elfriede but predicted pronunciation would be problematic. It also sounded old-lady-ish, so he nicknamed her Elfi. Petra is named after one of my former roommates, who is not only one of the most determined and compassionate woman I know, but was also instrumental in setting me up with my husband. The real-life Petra now lives in Switzerland with her husband, so I made sure to send her a copy of the book.

JSW: How sweet! Okay, last question. What’s next for you and your writing?

HP: I have a handful of picture books on submission right now. This summer I’m also hoping to pin down a few new picture book ideas that have been bouncing around my head as well as finish the draft of a middle grade novel I began last summer. As a full-time high school English teacher, I find it hard to take advantage of the “crevices of life” that Amy Krouse Rosenthal talks about in one of her Ted talks; I’ll definitely be capitalizing on my summer break and my (almost) two months of uninterrupted writing time!

Thanks so much, Heather, and congratulations on your lovely debut picture book!

Heather Preusser graduated from Williams College and earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast program. In her debut picture book, A Symphony of Cowbells (Sleeping Bear Press, March 2017), a Swiss dairy cow loses her bell and disrupts the harmony of the herd. When not writing, Heather teaches high school English, bikes the European countryside, and attempts to learn ridiculously long German words. She and her husband reside in Colorado. She can also be found online at www.heatherpreusser.com and on Twitter @HeatherPreusser.

You can buy Heather’s book here!

Julie Segal-Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. In those days, she was a frequent writer, public speaker, and commentator on NPR, Court TV, and C-Span on civic engagement and religious liberty. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. This Is Not A Normal Animal Book is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Fall 2017). Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

You can buy Julie’s book here!

Stay up-to-date with all the Picture the Books debuts, news, and interviews on Twitter @picturethebooks, on Instagram @picturethebooks and by becoming a follower of our website/blog using the Follow button on this page!

Two Debut Interview – Michelle Schaub

In today’s Picture the Books Two Debut Interview, debut author Julie Segal Walters discusses FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET with debut author Michelle Schaub.

FRESH-PICKED POETRY: A DAY AT THE FARMERS’ MARKET hit the shelves just in time to join all the spring flowers, fruits, and veggies that will soon start popping up at local farmers’ markets! Michelle’s book follows the adventures of two new friends and their canine companions as they discover how much there is to love at the market. Through eighteen lively poems in a variety of formats, and gorgeous illustrations from Amy Huntington, the farmers’ market experience comes alive! The only thing missing is the crunch of a fresh, juicy apple!

 

JSW: Hi Michelle! Since today is the first day of spring, let’s start our conversation with some ice breaker questions. (Ha! See what I did there?!) If you could choose to live in the world of any picture book, which world would it be and why?

MS: I’d definitely move into Toad’s cottage in Frog and Toad are Friends.  Arnold Lobel is my all-time favorite author-illustrator. His drawings are so cozy and nostalgic. I’d cuddle up by Toad’s fireplace with a cup of tea, a plate of cookies, and a good book.

JSW: I’d happily join you there for tea! Speaking of cuddling, in your book, there are a lot of pets. Can you tell us about any pets you had growing up.

MS: I was thrilled that Amy Huntington included dogs in her drawings because I’ve always had dogs as pets. My first dog ever was a big ol’ mutt named Sam. Sam was one bad dog. He loved jailbreaking whenever possible and helping himself to T-bone steaks defrosting on the counter.  Sam drove my mom crazy, but we loved that naughty pup.

JSW: Ah! They’re the illustrator’s creative vision! Cool! The first line of your book places us immediately in your story’s market. What’s your favorite first line of a book? (Any genre.)

MS: “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin.”  Can’t you just picture poor Winnie-the-Pooh contentedly taking his licks, happy to be in the hands of his boy? The quintessential example of loyalty and love. 

JSW: Beautiful. For our last ice breaker question, if you could have written any other published picture book, which one would you choose?

MS: The Lorax.  Not just because Dr. Seuss was brilliant. The Lorax was one of the first picture books to bring eco-consciousness to children and empower them to “speak for the trees.”  It strikes the perfect balance between entertainment and environmental awareness, something I strive to do in my own books.

JSW: Thanks for letting us get to know you a little better, Michelle! Now I’d like to ask you some questions about your book. Can you tell us a bit about how you began writing poetry?

MS: Growing up, my brother and I would play for hours on the swings in our yard. As we swung back and forth, back and forth, we’d make up silly songs to the rhythm of our motion. I think this is where I developed my sense of cadence.  In high school and college, my poetry turned serious and angst-filled, as I thought “legitimate” poetry should.  When I had my own children, I returned to the world of nursery rhymes and lullabies and rediscovered the playful heart of poetry. I’ve been having fun playing ever since!

JSW: Your book reminds me a lot of one of our family’s favorites, FIRST FOOD FIGHT THIS FALL by Marilyn Singer. In both books, your poetry tells the story and includes a full story arc — both in the individual poems, as well as the compilation of poems that forms the book. That seems so hard to me! Can you talk about how you tackled that challenge?

MS: I’m beaming because you included me and Marilyn Singer in the same sentence. She is one of my poetry heroes! Her word acrobatics leave me breathless.  Let me catch my breath and try to answer your question.

I tend to approach every poem I write as a micro-story, each with its own introduction, exposition, and (hopefully) surprise twist at the end. Even something as simple as haiku naturally falls into these three beats in my mind.  So, to me, finding the arc within a poem is easy.

Finding the story arc across a poetry collection?  Now that’s more of a challenge.  When I started writing Fresh-Picked Poetry, I envisioned a collection that celebrated an entire year at a farmers’ market.  I wrote haiku about spring asparagus, list poems about early summer strawberries, free verse about colorful Autumn flowers, dialogue poems about winter squash. Besides moving through the year seasonally, the collection didn’t have much of an arc. My brilliant editor at Charlesbridge, Karen Boss, suggested I narrow the focus to one summer day at the market. She challenged me to tell the story of a child visiting a summer market and discovering its wonders.  This meant cutting almost half of the poems I’d written and coming up with new ones. I’ll admit it was hard parting with my asparagus and strawberries, but in the end, the collection tells a much better story.

JSW: Wow! That’s incredible. Now I need to catch MY breath!

For our last question, will you share what you hope kids experience, feel, or learn from reading your book?

MS: I hope Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Market envelops kids in a full sensory experience, engaging them in the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and especially tastes of a farmers’ market.  Along with a taste for fresh, local produce, I hope the collection whets readers’ appetites for poetry.  After all, words are delicious!

JSW: As you have just shown, indeed they are!

Thank you and congratulations again on your debut picture book, Michelle! It’s a delight!

Michelle Schaub is a children’s author, poet, and teacher.  Her work appears in the anthologies And The Crowd Grows Wild:  A Global Gathering of Sports Poetry and The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations.  Her first picture book, Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market (Charlesbridge) debuts in March 2017. Michelle teaches middle school language arts at The Avery Coonley School in Downers Grove, Illinois, where she shares her love of poetry with her students.  When she’s not teaching and writing, Michelle loves hiking, biking, and exploring farmers’ markets. Learn more about Michelle at www.michelleschaub.com or on Facebook.

You can buy Fresh-Picked Poetry:  A Day at the Farmers’ Market on Amazon here!

Julie Segal Walters is a children’s book author who lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband, son, and pesky cat. Before writing for children, Julie was a lawyer and advocate for civil rights and civil liberties, and an international democracy and civil society development specialist. These days, Julie can be found advocating for her many favorite children’s books to anyone who will listen. Julie is fluent in Spanish, and loves to cook, but not bake. She thinks baking has too many rules. THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK is her first picture book (illustrated by Brian Biggs) (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, Oct. 17, 2017). Visit Julie online at www.juliesegalwalters.com or on Facebook, Twitter @j_s_dub, or Instagram @juliesegalwalters.

You can buy signed copies of THIS IS NOT A NORMAL ANIMAL BOOK here, or on Amazon here!

 

Stay up-to-date with all the Picture the Books debuts, news, and interviews on Twitter at @picturethebooks, on Instagram @picturethebooks and by becoming a follower of our website/blog using the Follow button on this page!