Archive for the ‘Children’s literature’ Category

Margaret Nevinski – An Interview about the Writing Life

I recently had the good fortune of interviewing middle grade author Margaret Nevinski about her recent publication of a short story, “The Eve of St. Agnes,” in the online literary journal, Hunger Mountain. Read her story here:

Margaret is an amazing teacher and presenter whom I have the great fortune of knowing as a Margaret Neviski The Eve of St. Agnesfellow Bainbridge Island author.  Her classes are highly sought by both young and not so young writers and creatives in the Pacific Northwest. Check out what she had to say about her writing life:

How did you get started as a writer?

MN: I started writing short stories for adults, which were published in small literary magazines. One day while I was jogging, I had a burst of adrenaline and an insight: my writing voice was most suited to young readers. That started my dream of writing for kids and teens.
I got lots of rejections, then personal notes from editors, then finally—a yes! I’ve written several children’s books for the school market, and now I’m working toward getting my
first middle-grade novel published.

I know that you often work with young authors. How young is too young to begin
learning about the craft of writing?

MN: I love teaching writing workshops for kids through the Bainbridge Island Metro Park & Rec
District. I always learn something from young writers! Though I think creativity has no age
limit, I start working with young writers when they’re eight. By eight they’ve learned the
basics about writing and they’re ready to unleash their imaginations—a great combination.

Do you mostly write YA lit or do you ever branch out into other genres?

MN: My real love is middle-grade fiction for ages 9 to 12. I’m fascinated by the years when
you’re still firmly in childhood but on the cusp of becoming a teen.

What is your writing life like? Do you spend hours every day writing?

MN: I’m a morning person. I drink my coffee and read before breakfast, then settle down to my
quiet, morning writing time. I strive to have creative time each day. My motto is from The
War of Art by Steven Pressfield: “The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing
else matters except sitting down each day and trying.”

What is your inspiration for your short story in Hunger Mountain Literary Magazine?

MN: I grew up Catholic and have always been fascinated by saints—their lives are filled with
quirky, odd details just waiting for fiction writers! When I discovered Keats’ poem, “The
Eve of St. Agnes,” I was intrigued. According to the myth about St. Agnes, a young woman
will dream of her future husband on the night of January 20th. I thought, how fun would it
be to give this story a contemporary, high school setting?

What is your favorite book you read as a young girl? Why?

MN: In grade school, a friend and I read a book called The Key House Mystery. The story details in my mind are vague, but the great thing about the book is that it inspired us to follow an elderly man in our neighborhood, spy notebooks in hand. One day his wife ordered us to
stop following him. For the first time, I realized that reading could have an impact on real
life. I’ve been searching for The Key House Mystery for years with no luck—if anyone finds
it, please let me know!

How do you deal with “passes” from publishers? Do you save the letters or do you toss

MN: Luckily my agent gets the rejections first, which she charmingly calls “passes,” so that
softens them a bit. Over the years, however, I’ve acquired a file full of “passes.” I’ve kept
every letter except one from an editor who said my writing was “competent.” Ouch! That

What book(s) are you currently reading or at least have on your nightstand waiting for

MN: I’m halfway through The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, which takes
place in Wisconsin where I grew up. I just finished Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other
Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail, a hilarious account of third grade. On my nightstand is a
wonderful collection of biographical essays that I dip into to get inspired: Joan Acocella’s
Twenty-Eight Artists and Two Saints. So you see, I never quite get away from saints!


Nurse Vaccine By Justin Noble

Title: Nurse Vaccinejustin noble flu shot children's book

Author: Justin Noble

Illustrator: Ann Cannom

With the advent of flu season and the rush to get my flu shot I stumbled on this charming children’s book. Any parent who has struggled with a frighten pre-preschooler or kindergartner trying to get them to stand still long enough and stop their wailing and kicking long enough to get their flu shot will want this book.

The illustrations are simple and colorful and the dialogue between characters moves along swiftly making the story line easy to follow and engaging for even a reluctant listener. Even though the shot will still hurt for a little while, the story will make the event go much smoother.

I had the recent opportunity to interview the author of Nurse Vaccine, Justin Noble and I learned this is but one in a series of books planned on health related issues for little ones:

What made you want to write a children’s book?

Author: I’ve always had an interest in health and fitness.  One day I was in a store and I walked by a row of vitamins, and as I read the word vitamin I thought to myself, “it sounds like Vita-Men.” I thought “What if the Vita-Men were these little guys that lived in your body and protected you and kept your body energized?”  As the story built in my head, I realized — Hey, these would make great cartoon characters for kids.  From there, the idea for The Body Village was born and I wrote my first book, “Artie’s Party: Featuring the Vita-Men”.
You use body parts to present your story, where did that idea come from and how did you narrow them down for kids?

Author: I think personifying internal organs as the main characters in the story makes it easier for kids to relate to what’s going on inside of them.  Kids are able to form a relationship and identify with the characters on a personal level.  In turn, they form a healthy relationship with their bodies.  The stomach, to a kid, is just a stomach; a foreign object.  But if you make it “Steven Stomach”, he’s a friend.  If you are friends with your body, you are more likely to treat it well.In the first few books of the series, the characters are all main organs.  As the series continues to grow, many more characters from The Body will be introduced.
Who is your primary audience for your books? Who do you see finding your books most useful?

Author: The books in The Body Village series are written for young children (ages 2 to 7 years old) so they can understand how their bodies work on a fundamental level and also learn how to treat their bodies right from an early age.The book series is meant to be used by parents, teachers, doctors — anyone who has an interest in the future of our children and their health.
I see educators and scout leaders and health care professionals finding this ok and   incredibly useful, are there any additional support materials that go with these books? How would educators implement the content in conjunction with health units in the classroom?

Author: There are some activities on the web site, but I hope to have more posted soon.  As more books come out, I will continue to add more activities and fun learning tools to the web site.The books are meant to be a fun way to learn.  Not only do the books teach the basics of the body but they have fun stories as well.  Just by reading the books during story time children are entertained and, whether they realize it or not, they’ve learned something too.
What do you plan to write about next?

Author: The next book coming out is Steven The Upset Stomach.  It deals with eating too much junk food and getting sick.  I’m currently working on Betty The Overanxious Bladder.  That one’s about wetting the bed. There are many issues that face The Body Village and I’m tackling them one at a time.

A Heart Apart – A Customizable Book by Melissa Seligman and Christina Piper

Title: A Heart ApartA Heart Apart - The Perfect book for a child whose parent is deployed.

Author/Illustrator: Melissa Seligman and Christina Piper

Date: 2010

Military children have so little literature out there that illustrates the difficulties and sadness that goes with repeated deployments and TDY’s. Seligman and Piper have created an amazing picture book with A Heart Apart that is perfect for the military child whose parent must be away in service to the country. Told from the perspective of a service star, this darling book tells the story so familiar to our military families: painful goodbyes, the wonder of what a parent is doing while they are gone, whether they think about their family as often as those left behind think of them, and the all important always exciting reunion.

Told through personal photos provided by family members of both the child(ren) and the service member in and out of uniform as well as customized to the service branch, this book is an excellent tool for the military family.  Use this book over and over on those really long and especially taxing days of deployment for any small military child. They really are the smallest heroes of our military. If you have a ‘brat’ in your heart…they need A Heart Apart.

Attu’s Adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by Mingo Marvin

Mingo Morvin Bears UnlimitedTitle: Attu’s Adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Author: Mingo Morvin

Publisher: Bears Unlimited

Date: 2010

Attu’s Adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is the fun, colorful, and highly educational presentation of the landscape and the wildlife of these two magnificent American treasures. Told from the darling little polar bear Attu’s viewpoint,  the land and the animals come alive in photo and in the charming presentation from the touring bear.

Mingo Morvin, a noted wildlife photographer and expeditionary mountaineer, has created a tremendous resource for introducing the western mountains with its rugged mountains, high alpine meadows, and geothermic structures to children in a way that is informative as well as highly engaging for an emergent reader. The gorgeous photography of wildlife in their habitat makes this book a terrific instructional resource for any units on animals, American National Parks, or eco-systems. Attu’s Adventures in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks is a must have for your classroom or library resource shelf. It will grab the heart of all the young animal lovers and outdoor adventurers in your home as well. I give this book 4 paws up!

Dingle The Helpful Ice Cream Cone Delivery Dog – Audrey Kinsella

Title: Dingle The Helpful Ice Cream Cone Delivery Dog

Author: Audrey Kinsella

Illustrator: Susan Anderson-Shorter

Publisher: Author House

Date: 2010

Dingle is a cute colorful book about Dingle a dog who wants to be an adaptive little helper.  His lovable face and clever idea make him the type of character that small children will love. The charming pictures and helper-related storyline makes this a good book for showing pre-schoolers that assistance to others in need takes many forms.

While the illustrations are darling, the mixture of bubble conversations with the repeated dialog lower on the page is a bit redundant and difficult to follow. Much of the story is bogged down in the over simplification of the story. This is further complicated by names that show relationships between people who are not introduced to the reader. For the emergent reader this might prove difficult to follow; however, a good story leader should be able to carry it off as a read-aloud to a younger audience.

Kinsella has a cute idea and a great illustrator that should help children see that ingenuity and a helping spirit can go a long way…even for a cute little dog!

Chicken Scratches – Poultry Poetry and Rooster Rhymes

Latest Read-Aloud from George Shannon and Lynn Brunelle

T itle: Chicken Scratches-Poultry Poetry and Rooster Rhymes

Authors: George Shannon and Lynn Brunelle

Illustrations: Scott Menchin

Date: 2010

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Bainbridge Island authors have done it again! George Shannon and Lynn Brunelle have created a hilarious look at some fowl fellas and hinky hens who have some good clean fun in around the pages of this book. From Helga the Hen to Hula Zelda, these chica chickens will have you cracking up poem after poem.

Scott Menchin’s artwork is devilishly irreverent and will have the most stoic of child and adult alike turning the page to find out what ridiculous outfit the little cluckers will be wearing next! Cute, cheeky, and chortling fun this book is guaranteed to bring out the pre-school giggles in anyone!

George Shannon has authored many children’s books and knows the genre well. He plays to his strengths with the lilting tweaks of the language he is famous for in books like Dance Away, April Showers, and Tippy Toe, Chick Go! Lynn Brunelle, award winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy, brings her vast experience with teaching and working with eager young scientists and eye for art to the book. Two great writers who obviously work great together!

This book will work great in any poetry unit, farm lessons, or just because you want a great read-aloud at circle time book. Soon to be a favorite with children and those who read to them…Chicken Scratches is high on my list of gifts to give little ones this year! This book will make you cackle with your clutch. I guarantee it!

Dancing Feet – Delightful New Children’s Book from Bainbridge Island Author Lindsey Craig

Happy Feet

itle: Dancing Feet

Author: Lindsey Craig

Illustrations: Marc Brown

Publisher: Knopf

Date: 2010

Price: 16.99

Lyrical language that make you tap your toes and textured prints that leap off the pages of Dancing Feet greet you from the first page to the last! This fun, vibrant children’s read-aloud book is perfect for reading to any little one on your list. This is sure to be a classroom favorite as the words and pictures are filled with fun silly rhymes and nonsensical words that just have a terrific beat to them.

Full disclosure is a must so I should note that Lindsey Craig is my neighbor and friend; however, I must add that as an educator, parent, and grandparent I still find this book charming! The musical qualities of the text will delight any child. I really can’t wait to run over, get the book signed, box it up and send it off to a little one learning to love books.

Marc Brown, author and illustrator of Born to Read and Arthur fame, has been teamed with Lindsey to create this colorfully presented book. Knopf paired them in a winning combo on this book.

A good read, perfectly paced, and wonderfully illustrated, Dancing Feet is the perfect addition to any little one’s bookshelf. Preschool educators will want to grab this book and start making it an integral part of circle time and language center lessons. What a darling treasure to start summer reading with your community library! Dancing Feet will get your little ones moving and your hands snapping to the be-bop beat of a good book.