Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Debbi Michiko Florence

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Tell me a little about yourself: I am the author of the chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi, about a spunky 8-year-old Japanese American girl. The first two books are Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth. Book 3, Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl will publish on April 3 and book 4, Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper will publish on July 3. I am a third generation Japanese American, born in San Francisco and raised in Los Angeles. As an adult, I have lived in Michigan, Mexico, Massachusetts, New York, and China. I now live in Connecticut with my husband, a rescue dog named Kiku, a bunny named Aki, and two ducks named Darcy and Lizzy. I love to travel with my husband and daughter. I have my degree in zoology with a minor in English. Before I became an author, I was an education curator at a zoo, raptor rehabilitator, and a teacher.

  1. When you were my age, did you like to read?

When I was your age, I absolutely loved to read! In fact, while I was away in college, my mother ran into my former third grade teacher and she said, “Whenever I think of Debbi, I remember her sitting in the reading chair with a book.” I still love to read and read about 100 books a year.

  1. What was your favorite story?

Back then, my two favorite books were Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. They remain favorites. You might notice that Charlotte’s Web is Jasmine Toguchi’s favorite book. J

  1. How do you get your ideas? Like how was Jasmine inspired? Is she based on you?

My ideas come from everywhere. Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen was inspired by a newspaper article I read about a multi-generational Japanese American family that got together every New Year to make mochi in the traditional way. I wondered what would happen if a little girl wanted to do the man’s job of pounding mochi. Would her family support her? How would she convince them?

Jasmine is the little girl I wished I had been. Jasmine is a lot like my daughter, Caitlin, was at that age. I’m embarrassed to say that I was more like bossy big sister Sophie (I am the older sister).

  1. Is it hard to write a book?

Hmmmm. It is hard work to write a book for sure, but it’s also the best job ever!

  1. What author do you really like right now?

Some chapter book and middle grade authors I’m really loving now are Kelly Starling Lyons, Susan Tan, Kat Yeh, Kara LeReau, Karina Yan Glaser, Elly Swartz, Celia Perez, and Jodi Kendall. One of my dear friends and critique partner, Jo Knowles, has a new middle grade coming out spring 2019 called Where The Heart Is that I read in draft form and I absolutely love it. I could go on and on about more authors!

  1. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?

There are some amazing debut authors, a few I mentioned above. Andrea Wang (The Nian Monster) and Katie Slivensky (The Countdown Conspiracy) had their fabulous debuts with strong girl characters last year and both have new books coming out soon. Also, a chapter book I read in review copy that I really enjoyed is Owen and Eleanor Move In by H.M. Bouwman (4/3/18). And a couple of middle grade novels coming out later this year that I’m dying to read: Front Desk by Kelly Yang and Babysitting Nightmares by Kat Shepherd.

  1. I found out about your books via Multicultural Children’s Book day. Why do you think Multicultural books are important for kids?

Great question! When I was your age, I wanted to read stories like Charlotte’s Web and A Wrinkle in Time with characters that looked like me and had similar cultural experiences. I think it’s important that readers see themselves in books and movies/TV – to feel seen and heard and understood. And I think it’s important that all kids learn from differences and see commonalities that unite, too.

  1. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

Read a lot of books, of all genres. And write, write, write. Most importantly, have fun.

  1. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

Yes! The very first real fan letter I received from a girl in WI made me cry tears of joy. And I’m getting other fan letters, too. I’m making a special scrapbook to save all of these lovely treasures. The best things are hearing that readers love Jasmine, that they relate to her, and that they have learned something new. I get so much joy knowing these things.

Thank you SO much for these fabulous questions, for featuring me and Jasmine on your wonderful blog, and for the truly lovely review of Super Sleuth. It is such a special and meaningful review because you are the reader I write for. (I printed it up to put in my scrapbook!)

Posted in Book Review

The Serpent’s Secret

By Sayantani Dasgupta

I received this review copy from Scholastics and then Supriya Kelkar mentioned it during her talk. I brought this on vacation and I am so glad I did.

This book is a pretty awesome book. I really like that it is a Multicultural story. It is not all American.

Kiran is an Indian princess. In the beginning, she doesn’t know this and thinks her parents are just calling her princess. Then her parents go missing and then on Halloween, which is her birthday, two trick and treaters show up at her house. Their names are Lal and Neel. They say she is a princess. This kicks off a wild adventure that involves two monsters, a new world and finding her parents.

This is the first book in a series. It features a very strong girl character mixed with magical monsters. It is the type of book a lot of kids would like. It is a thick book and younger readers might need to take their time. Older readers probably won’t want to put it down.

Posted in Book Review

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

By Vashti Harrison

We saw this book floating around Instagram and decided to buy it. Little Leaders is a great book for learning about black women who were part of history. Each page is a different woman. It has enough information to introduce you to the women but not enough to complete a book report. You could use the book to find out who you want to learn more about.

Some of the women featured were Bessie Coleman, Mae Jamison, Sojourner Truth and Dominique Dawes. There was also Angela Davis, an activist and scholar.

I liked that this book shows a lot of Black women who influence history. It is great for kids to see so many in one place. I plan to give this book to one of my teachers so they can share it with kids in my school.

My only problem is there is enough information on each person but maybe I should start reading biographies on these women. Two I would like to learn more on are Alice Ball and Charlotte E. Ray.

Posted in Author Meet Up, Places I visit

A vacation recap

This past week I went on vacation with my family. We went to Orlando, Florida. We flew which is unusual for us. My parents usually drive us to our vacations. It was fun in the airport. Ours has a train, colorful tunnel and cool fountain.

Once in Orlando, we took a bus to Fort Wilderness to meet my grandparents. They joined us on vacation. The next four days I was at Disney World Parks.

It was very fun. My favorite ride was Haunted Mansion. At Animal Kingdom, it was Primeval Whirl. Also in Animal Kingdom, I liked the raft ride a lot! You can also do a fun activity called Wilderness Explorer throughout Animal Kingdom and learn about nature and conservation. I did a few activities but Little Brother did the entire book. He earned his Senior Explorer Badge.

In Disney Springs, we found a bakery that was ok for my brother and I to enjoy. We go cupcakes and donuts. They were so yummy. So look for Erin McKenna’s Bakery if you have allergies.

We also spent one day at Kennedy Space Center. It was very fun and neat to see real space ships. We went to the launch sites too.

The best part of my vacation was drumroll please…. meeting Mike Maihack! He held a talk at a library just so we could finally meet. He does a really good job explaining story telling and his process. He did reveal I have to wait longer for Cleopatra 5 (😭) but promises it is worth the wait.

Now I am back home. Tomorrow I go back to school – boo. I want vacation to be longer!

Posted in Ask the Librarian

Ask the Librarian: Christina Jane Stuck

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My name is Christina Jane Stuck.

I work at the Charlotte Community Library in Charlotte, MI. Our website is charlottelibrary.org.

I’m a Youth Services Librarian, so I work for and with kids, teens, and families.

I’ve been a librarian for 10 years.

My undergrad degree is in something called Sociology. It’s the study of society with the aim to help improve it. I worked part-time at a public library while getting my undergrad and it dawned on me that a librarian’s goal is to help people improve their lives. So I decided to pursue being a full-time public librarian.

There are a number of ways I pick books for my library! The first is based on recommendations from kids and families. I also follow a huge amount of book lovers on social media, so they help keep me up-to-date with more (potentially) popular titles. But I also use book review magazines.

My favorite chapter book author is Shannon Hale. There is nothing she has written that I haven’t loved. She’s so funny! I also love Dav Pilkey. Captain Underpants is 100 % awesome.

A few lesser known authors: I love April Pulley Sayre! She does picture books of nature and her photographs are amazing. I also like Natalie Llyod and Shelia Turnage who both write chapter books.

It’s hard to recommend books without knowing what books a kid has read in the past. My first question is always: “What book did you remember last reading?” Then I ask what he remembers liking (or not liking, which is equally important!) from the book. Those answers help to clue me in to some other books he may like.

Posted in Book Review

Brazen

By Penelope Bagieu

I received a copy of Brazen from the publisher in exchange for a review. It is a graphic novel about women who followed their hearts and did amazing things. They weren’t always popular and some died as a result but they paved the way for other women.

I learned about women I didn’t even know existed. Each section is only a copy pages about the woman but you learn a lot . It might even inspire you to go learn more about a particular woman. The women span all centuries and some are even still alive.

I would recommend this book to girls who want to be cool and follow their hearts and follow in the footsteps of other women who changed the worlds. Some of the stories are little big kid so this book would be best for maybe fifth grade and up.

Posted in Meet the authors

Meet the author: Jerry Mahoney

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Author website/social media:
http://www.jerrymahoneybooks.com
– Twitter: @WhyJerryWhy
– Instagram: @jerrymahoney
– Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jerrymahoneybooks/
Tell me a little about yourself:
I live in Los Angeles, where I’m a stay-home dad to my two kids. They’re boy-girl twins, and just like you, they’re 8 years old and in 3rd grade. I love musicals, baking ridiculously chocolatey cookies and playing Mario Kart — although my son usually beats me at it. 🙂

When you were my age, did you like to read?
I loved to read. My favorite was Judy Blume. I appreciated how she would tackle social issues without being preachy, and how she was so honest with her readers and never talked down to them. She understood that books are what kids help understand the world, and just as importantly, they teach them to respect and empathize with people who are different from them. Plus, I don’t think she gets nearly enough credit as one of the best ever comedy writers.
Now that I’m older and have kids of my own, I’ve loved sharing some of my favorite childhood books with them. Recently, I was reading them Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and I could barely get through some of the passages because I was laughing so hard. I want to be able to write books that are still funny in 20 or 30 years like that!

What was your favorite story?
This might sound strange, but my favorite book as a kid was the novelization of the movie The Goonies, which was written by James Kahn. I loved that it was about a bunch of misfits, because I think, like so many kids, I felt like a misfit myself. And I loved that it was told in the first person. It was so fun reading a book where it just felt like the main character was telling me a story about something cool that happened to him. I also read a ton of Choose Your Own Adventure books, because I loved feeling like I was in control of the story.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that kids should only be reading stuffy literary classics. No offense to the classics — I love some of them, too. But read what you enjoy — graphic novels, fan fiction, movie spin-offs. Who cares? If you’re enjoying it, it’s time well spent.

How do you get your ideas?
It’s impossible to name just one place, because ideas really do come from everywhere. A lot of times, they come from other stories I enjoy, like how classic fairy tales inspired the MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER series. Or I might read a book in a certain genre, like THE LAST KIDS ON EARTH by Max Brallier and think about how fun it was, then go, “If I were going to write a zombie story, how would I do it?”
Very few of the ideas I come up with make it as far as a finished book, but that’s the great thing about ideas. You can never have too many. You just have to be willing to accept that most of them won’t lead anywhere, but every once in a long, long while, you’ll find a gem.

Is it hard to write a book?
It’s hard, but it’s the good kind of hard, because every bit of progress you make feels awesome. And of course, there’s no better feeling than when your book is done, and if you’re fortunate enough to get it published, that’s a big bonus.

 

What author do you really like right now?
I’m a big fan of Tom Angleberger. He has such a gift for being hilariously funny one second and incredibly sweet the next. He writes about misfits, too, but in such a relatable way that anyone who reads his books will wish they could just hang out with his characters. I also love Chris Grabenstein, who wrote the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library books and dozens of others. His writing is so clear and so fun, I never get bored. I was really thrilled when he agreed to write a blurb for the cover of my new book, BUTTHEADS FROM OUTER SPACE. Kidlit authors are the best — so kind and supportive of each other. It’s a wonderful community.

Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
I really like David Walliams. He’s a British author who’s very popular in the UK. He kind of set out to follow in the footsteps of Roald Dahl, writing dark modern fairy tales with a wicked sense of humor. He even had Dahl’s illustrator work on many of his books. He has a similar style to Dahl but with an extra dose of humanity and heart. And he’s very, very funny.

What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
My advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing. Basically, read a lot and write a lot. Think critically about books — what you like about the books you read, as well as what you don’t like. Sometimes, you can learn even more from books you dislike than ones you like. Ask yourself what you would’ve done differently if you’d written that story. How could you have made it more interesting, or made the ending more satisfying? What parts would you cut out? What characters would you spend more or less time with?
Writing is great practice because it helps you develop your voice, which is what will make you stand out from every other writer. Don’t worry if you’re writing a story and it doesn’t turn out as good as you wanted it to be. Even the best writers have many megabytes of stories they would be too embarrassed to show anyone else — comedic stories that didn’t turn out all that funny, adventure stories that didn’t turn out very exciting, scary stories that no one would lose any sleep over. I’m sure even J.K. Rowling has a few.

As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
I love hearing from readers! Writing books can be such a lonely process. Most of it is just you and your computer, and you have no idea whether anyone’s going to like what you’re working on. So when somebody takes the time to tell me that they enjoyed one of my books, it makes my day! It makes me feel like all the time I spent working on it was worthwhile. That was definitely how I felt when I read your review of MY ROTTEN STEPBROTHER RUINED CINDERELLA, so thanks again!