This week I am serving up books all about identity! Being a kid is hard when you're still learning what it means to be yourself. These books talk about everything from gender in a way kids can understand, to embracing diverse families, overcoming personal anxieties, and discovering what makes us special. Sometimes being "special" means others may not understand us!
1. Who Are You? The Kid's Guide To Gender Identity By Brook Pessin-Whedbee
This is an amazing resource for parents and children so they can talk about the difference between gender and sexual assignments that we are born with. Pessin-Whedbee explains that gender is part of our identity which is unique to each of us. This is a important book to discuss when talking to kids about understanding their bodies better. To buy a copy of this "Who Are You", shop here.
2. Love Family By Norah Barrett Cooper
One of my favorite stories to date! Cooper has a book with illustrations as vibrant of the message. To this family, their time spent together represents how much they love each other. Love Family is a story about a family who invites their relatives over and they spend the day coloring, playing, and dancing while their food cooks. The wait is well worth it to enjoy delicious food and the company of loved ones. To buy a copy of "Love Family", shop here.
3. The Tail of Max The Mindless Dog: A Children's Book on Mindfulness by Florenza Lee
This is a story about a dog named Max who thought up crazy ways for him to keep his tail safe from hurting it again and again. It bothered him so much, he wasn't able to play at recess with the other kids and dogs. One friend shows him that he can calm down by breathing to relieve his anxiety and his urge to tail chase. Max learns to enjoy playing again. He even gets picked to play baseball and hits a homer for his team. To buy a copy of "The Tail of Max The Mindless Dog", click here.
4. Sugar Foote and The Magic Crown by Anitra Ferguson
Sugar Foote and her family prepare for a garage sale when suddenly it starts to pour down rain! Their garage sale couldn't happen so her Papa called it off. Sugar Foote and her Nana go through old boxes in the attic to pass the time. In the attic, Sugar Foote finds a crown that helps her learn stories of queens from the past. Through the dialogue with past queens, Sugar Foote discovers that she herself if a queen too! To buy a copy of "Sugar Foote and the Magic Crown", click here.
5. Jazzy and The Bullies by Latriece M. Spires
Jazzy and the Bullies is about a girl who moved to Arkansas and starts a new school there. Although she's made some friends and has a favorite teacher, she has trouble adjusting to her new school because of a group of girls who laugh and mock her. On a trip to visit her grandmother, Jazzy seeks advice about how to deal with her "bully" problem. Grandma teaches her that Jazzy can have a better experience in school just by changing her attitude! To buy a copy of "Jazzy and the Bullies", click here.
Some of us dream about writing award winning books that are acknowledged by other literary professionals. Can having an award-winning book open more doors for us authors? I'm picking the brain of award winning children's book author Nancy Churnin to talk about how her awards propelled her literary career forward!
At the end, I'm sharing a resource of national children's book awards that could help your career too.
A. Cole: Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your journey as a children’s book writer. Your books are lovely! How did you discover your love of writing literature?
Nancy Churnin: I have loved going to the library for as long as I can remember and I grew up in a house with books in every room, with one room – my favorite- that had books from floor to ceiling. Reading is like listening and writing is like talking – both are part of the larger literary dialogue. I always had a little notebook where I was writing poems, stories and ideas as a way of keeping up my part of the conversation.
A. Cole: I find a lot of authors try to rush the process of creating a well thought out story. How long does it typically take you to finish each of your books from the beginning of drafting ideas to receiving sample copies?
Nancy Churnin: The writing process varies greatly depending on how ambitious or complicated the idea. The shortest writing time has been months and the longest has been years and it always involves lots of revision. Then, on top of the writing time, you have to add on the year or years it takes for the editing and illustrations on the way to publication. With Manjhi, it took many months of writing, and then months of revising with my editor and publisher Marissa Moss.
A. Cole: My least favorite part of writing is editing. How many people do you let edit and critique your manuscripts?
Nancy Churnin: The editing is key for me. Sometimes I can have a wonderful idea and see the book so clearly in my head, I don’t realize that it isn’t coming across the way I think it does. I am very grateful to my critique groups for being honest with me about what works and what doesn’t. I have multiple critique groups. I enjoy using Rate Your Story as a way of assessing my work. I also occasionally pay for a critique from editors. You don't have to agree with every critique or adopt every suggestion. But the critiques get you thinking what is and isn’t working for the reader and sometimes they can push you to a better place as you discover a solution to a problem you didn’t know you had. It’s also a good warmup for the revisions you will need to make with the editor who acquires your work.
A. Cole: They say the work begins when you publish your book. What is your biggest challenge in marketing your books?
Nancy Churnin: I may be a bit of an anomaly in that I enjoy marketing my books. I write picture book biographies and I consider myself an advocate for my heroes and heroines. I come up with a plan based on reaching out to my support groups and support groups for my subjects that are based on our hometowns, educational backgrounds and groups to which my subjects and I belong. The biggest challenge is coming up with the money and time to travel to all the places I want to go. I have to be creative in finding ways to connect with faraway groups. Once I sent an audio Q and A to a class in Singapore! I am so appreciative of your help in helping me get out the word about Manjhi to everyone who cares about diverse books.
A. Cole: We’re in 2017, yet we’re still talking about how we need diverse books for kids. How old were you when you started seeing diverse children’s books?
Nancy Churnin: I don’t remember too many diverse children’s books growing up, which is really sad because diverse stories enlarge your world and your heart. John Steptoe’s books, particularly Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, was a beautiful revelation when it came out and is still a favorite. I love Pat Mora’s Tomas and the Library Lady. We have so many more wonderful diverse books for this generation and I hope to do my part to provide more.
A. Cole: We are both passionate about promoting diversity in our books. What made you take interest in diversifying children’s books?
Nancy Churnin: I wrote my first book, The William Hoy Story, How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game, because a deaf man, Steve Sandy, who is a friend and spokesman for the Hoy family, told me how sad he was that deaf and hearing children didn’t know the story of this great deaf hero. When I took on the mission of writing this book with Steve’s help, he didn’t just tell me about Hoy, he educated me about the prejudice deaf people faced and continue to face. Writing William Hoy was a life-changing experience. It left me wondering about the many other untold stories about diverse groups. There are so many! I began to search actively for stories that inspire me and I hope will inspire kids about people they don’t yet know, but will benefit from knowing because these people persisted and prevailed in making a positive difference in the world. I feel like a better person for knowing about Manjhi and I hope kids will feel that way, too.
A. Cole: Coming up with creative stories and characters can sometimes be challenging. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nancy Churnin: Inspiration comes from so many places. Sometimes someone will bring me a story, as Steve Sandy did with William Hoy. I found Manjhi searching for heroes from India. I discovered Charlie Sifford when I wondered who was the first African American player in the PGA. The key for me always is that I have to fall in love with the subject. If I love the person I’m writing about, as I did with Manjhi, I know I can help the kids fall in love with the person, too.
A. Cole: You’ve achieved some notable awards as an author. How many medals have you won for your books? What is your most memorable accolade?
Nancy Churnin: I was thrilled to have Manjhi selected for the 2017 Junior Library Guild list. With William Hoy, librarians have made all the difference by putting the book on the 2016 New York Public Library Best Book for Kids List, the 2017 Texas Library Association’s 2017 2X2 and Topaz lists and the 2018 Illinois School Library Media Awards Monarch Awards Master List. I’m also happy to share William Hoy is also a 2017 Storytelling World Resource Award Honor Book and a finalist in the 2017 North Texas Book Festival Best Children’s Book.
A. Cole: Not everyone appreciates diversity and ethnic characters in the literary world. Where do you look for opportunities to submit your books for awards?
Nancy Churnin: I leave that up to my publisher and to the kindness of librarians. For many awards, particularly for the state librarian associations, the librarians make the nominations. I enjoy meeting as many librarians I can at the American Library Association and Texas Library Association conventions.
A. Cole: Does having book awards open more doors for you or help increase your sales? Where are your books available for sale?
Nancy Churnin: I am grateful for each and every recognition because each one has helped me get my books in the hands of more kids!
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National Children's Book Awards
This week's podcast for #diversebooks4diversekids is a collection of curated stories from authors from across the country.
1. The Remembering Wall by Laura Sterling. "The Remembering Wall" and Laura Sterling's second book following her debut book, "Under My Bed". This book is about a diverse community of people who come together to make their city prettier by covering the grungy graffiti walls with beautiful mural that they create together. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
2. When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner. "When God Made You" is about how each of us was born exactly the way God designed us to be. Not only were we a part of God's plan the whole time, he delights in seeing us thrive and spread love to other people. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
3. White Bear's Big Adventure by Marie Cheine. "Big White Bear's Big Adventure" is about a white teddy bear that was given to a patient named Angel who was born with illnesses that cause her to need lots of treatments. On one trip to the hospital Angel is going to receive an organ replacement that will give her a chance at a better life. Bear gets separated from Angel and has to find his way back before Angel realizes he's missing! To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
4. Popcorn Behind the Bush by Grace LaJoy Henderson. "Popcorn Behind the Bush" is about a curious and independent little girl named Gracie who uses her problem solving abilities to figure out where the mailman has left a gift that her grandma had sent her. This is the first of 6 books out of "The Gracie Series". To pre-order a copy of this book, shop here.
5. Love is by Diane Adams. "Love Is" is about a little girl who raises a duckling into a duck. She realizes that love is the patience it takes her to feed, bathe, and take care of a baby and love is letting it go when he needs to fly with other birds like him. This book is for any pet-owner or parent who have to learn that loving and raising a baby-especially when you have to let go-isn't easy. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
This week, we are talking about love! Loving our bodies, loving our families, loving our special talents, loving our communities, and most importantly loving to work hard for a cause that affects millions of people.
1. My Spots By Marina V. This beautifully illustrated book is about how all animals were born with spots and birthmarks and we are just like giraffes, fish, and other organisms with marks. My Spots teaches children that each of us have marks or "spots" that are natural and beautiful because they are unique to them. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
2. The Holiday Boys by Onicka J. Daniel. The Holiday Boys is a book about a little boy who finally gets the best news from his mom and dad that he will be getting a baby brother who he can love and protect! The best part is, they both were born on holidays. Proceeds of this book go to providing resources to people suffering from domestic abuse. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
3. Izzie The Inchworm's First Day of School by Viki Heagy. Izzie is nervous about her first day of school because she's living in a new area with new people around her. This book teaches kids that they can adjust to a new school and believe in themselves. Every one has special talents. This book is a great resource to talk about bullying. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
4. Pencil Ninja Presents: Only Love Can Heal Us Now (Pencil Ninja Adventures Volume 3) by William Holland. This book is about Pencil Ninja and his encounter with police brutality and the media that portrays African Americans and police officers in an often negative way. Pencil Ninja is determined to stop the violence that affects the people around him that he loves. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
5. She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton. Chelsea Clinton introduces tiny feminists, mini activists and little kids who are ready to take on the world to thirteen inspirational women who never took no for an answer, and who always, inevitably and without fail, persisted. Throughout American history, there have always been women who have spoken out for what's right, even when they have to fight to be heard. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
Hey everyone! I'm serving up 5 new books today! Each of these books are special because each of these authors talk about characters who are unique because of the situations they go through.
Even though children are immature, they are still faced with tough decisions like: how to deal with strangers and bullies, like in "Afro-Man and The Protectors: Stranger Danger Adventure Book" and "Tyronne Carter Kid Scientist" or how to find food for oneself in "Annie Aardvark, Mathematician". Some kids have to learn to love a step-parent like in "Having Two Dads is Rad!" Finally, the book "Trees" helps us understand that people (like trees) come in all different shapes and sizes.
1. Afro-Man and The Protectors: Stranger Danger Adventure Book by Jacquie Allen and Kofi Johnson
Afro-Man and The Protectors: Stranger Danger Adventure Book is about a group of super-hero friends who have to use good judgement to avoid bad strangers! This book was written by children & youth advocate Jacquie Allen. It teaches kids to be aware around of your surroundings and the people you meet. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
2. Tyronne Carter Kid Scientist by Dr. Tyronne E. Carter
Tyronne is an intelligent kid who loves science and reading. A neighborhood bully tries to pick on Tyronne because he's a brainiac. Tyronne proves to him that you can learn a lot through picking up a book or two! To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
3. Annie Aardvark, Mathematician by Suzie Olsen
Annie is an adorable little aardvark who goes out by herself to look for some food! She comes across some tasty berries and bugs and loves using her math skills to count how many she finds on her exploration. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
4. Having 2 Dads is Rad! (Why Stepdads Are Awesome) by C. Perdue
This book is great for blended families! This little girl talks about her very sweet relationship with her biological dad who she loves very much. She sees her stepdad as a great addition to her life because they have fun together too! Why only love one dad when you can love them both? To buy a copy of this book, shop here.
5. Trees by Shondra M. Quarles
Trees is a book that makes an analogy of humans being like trees. Both people and trees have many things in common the ability to grow and get older with time. We have to learn that we are all more alike than we look like on the outside. To buy a copy of this book, shop here.