The Marvelous Thing That Came From A Spring

The Accidental Invention
of the Toy That 
Swept the Nation

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
(Simon & Schuster)
(pub. 9.1.2016)
40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

uthor: Gilbert Ford
      and photographer: Greg Endries

C haracter: Richard and Betty James

 verview from the jacket flap: 

"One day a spring fell from the desk of Richard James, an engineer and a dreamer. Its coils took a walk ... and so did Richard's imagination. He knew right away that he had stumbled onto something marvelous.

Richard and his wife, Betty, took this ordinary spring and turned it into a plaything. But it wasn't just any old trinket - it was a Slinky, and it would become on of the most popular toys in American history.

With magnificent dioramic illustrations, Gilbert Ford captures the joy, creativity, and determination behind the invention of an iconic, one-of-a-kind toy."    

T antalizing taste: 
    "Betty thumbed through a dictionary for two days, underlining words. 
     Nothing sounded quite right ... until she found 'slinky' meaning 'graceful' and 'curvy in movement.' 'Slinky' also sounded like the swish and clink of the spring's coils in motion.
     It was only a name, but it was just right. With one word, Betty thought she could transform this spring into a one-of-a-kind thing!"

and something more: The Note at the back of the book provides interesting stories of other uses of the Slinky over time: "The Slinky was used as an antenna for radios during the Vietnam War, as a device for understanding wave mechanics, and as a therapy tool for patients who had suffered from strokes or other disorders. It was launched into space on the shuttle Discovery to help astronauts demonstrate how gravity worked. And the clinking coils of the Slinky even inspired a musician, John Cage, to create experimental music based on the sound!"


Stand Up and Sing!

Pete Seeger,
Folk Music,
and the 
Path to Justice

Bloomsbury Children's Books 
(pub. 3.14.2017)
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

uthor: Susanna Reich
      and Illustrator: 
           Adam Gustavson

C haracter: Pete Seeger

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Pete Seeger was born with music in his bones. Coming of age during the Great Depression, Pete saw poverty and adversity that would forever shape his worldview, but it wasn't until he received his first banjo that he found his way to change the world. It was plucking banjo strings and singing folk songs that showed Pete how music had the incredible power to bring people together.
      Using this gift throughout his life, Pete encouraged others to rally behind causes that mattered - fighting for Civil Rights, ending the Vietnam War, or cleaning up the Hudson River. For Pete, no challenge was too great, and what started out as a love for music turned into a lifetime of activism.
     Inspired by the rhythms of American folk music, this moving account of Pete Seeger's life celebrates his legacy, showing kids of every generation that no cause is too small and no obstacle too large if, together, you stand up and sing!"    
T antalizing taste: 
    "Pete was thrilled when Woody [Guthrie] let him 'tag along' on a trip to Texas, playing at union meetings along the way.
     In Oklahoma City the crowd included oil workers and their wives and children - as well as some men lined up in the back of the room, fixing for a fight. Fearing violence, the organizer called on Pete and Woody to play. Soon the families were singing, and the men in the back slunk off.
     That night Pete saw that music could fill a room with peace and harmony - even if he still couldn't figure out how to sing and play banjo at the same time!"

and something more: The Author's Note notes that Susanna Reich, like Pete Seeger, "grew up in a family with a tradition of political activism." Susanna explains that Pete's "ancestors included Revolutionary War patriots and nineteenth century abolitionists, and his father and stepmother had a profound influence on his thinking about music, culture, and politics.  As I researched this book, I came to understand why Pete saw himself as a link in a chain. It's a chain in which music and social responsibility are intertwined, one that began long before he was born and will continue now that he's gone. This book is meant to be a link in that chain."  And this compelling and inspiring story is indeed that.
       As the text of the story states, "Pete passed away in 2014, but his work isn't done. For in times of war, the world needs peace. In times of hatred, the world needs love. In times of injustice, the world needs truth. And wherever people gather in the name of freedom, they find strength and courage in song."  And in political times such as now, children (and adult readers of children's books) need role models, such as Pete Seeger, who stand up for their beliefs. Thank you to Susanna Reich for writing this wonderful book, and giving me the honor of sharing it.


Honey Girl The Hawaiian Monk Seal

Arbordale Publishing
(published 2.10.2017)
32 pages 

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

uthor: Jeanne Walker Harvey
      and Illustrator: 
           Shennen Bersani

C haracter: Honey Girl the Hawaiian Monk Seal

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "Hawaiian locals and visitors always enjoy spotting endangered Hawaiian monk seals, but Honey Girl is an extra special case. She has raised seven pups, and scientists call her 'Super Mom.' After Honey Girl is injured by a fishhook, she gets very sick. Scientists and veterinarians work to save Honey Girl until she can be released back to her beach. This true story will have readers captivated to learn more about his endangered species." 
T antalizing taste: 
    "Honey Girl hadn't been able to catch or swallow food for several weeks. Unable to eat, she would soon starve. Could she be saved?
     The scientists surrounded her. Honey Girl raised her head as if to bark, but she couldn't make a sound. The people gently lifted her into a crate in the back of a truck. They drove her across the island to Waikiki Aquarium."

and something more: I'm thrilled to share Honey Girl's story so beautifully illustrated by Shennen Bersani (the illustrator of our other marine mammal rescue story, ASTRO THE STELLER SEA LION).
    I dedicated the book "to my amazing sons, Will and Scott, who were with me when I first saw a Hawaiian monk seal (possible Honey Girl) at the Turtle Bay beach."  
    And, as every book is a collaboration and a network of support, I've shared my gratitude at the end of  HONEY GIRL THE HAWAIIAN MONK SEAL
       "Thank you to Dr. Michelle Barbieri, Hawaiian Monk Seal Health Program Coordinator for the Marine Mammal Center/ Ke Kai Ola and NOAA Fisheries, who was with Honey Girl in her rescue, rehabilitation and release, and who generously shared her experiences and expertise with me. 
        And I appreciate all the volunteers, veterinarians, scientists and staff at NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program (HMSRP), Pacific Islands Regional Office, Waikiki Aquarium, Honolulu Zoo, Hawaiian Monk Seal Response Team Oahu (HMSRTO), and The Marine Mammal Center who worked together to rescue and care for Honey Girl.
        My heartfelt thanks to those who helped me with this story: The Marine Mammal Center’s Executive Director Dr. Jeff Boehm and Story and Communications Curator Sarah van Schagen, Lanikai General Store owner Donna Festa, the committed volunteers in Hawaii featured in the MonkSealMania blog, and my dear family and friends who always encourage me in my writing endeavors.
        And special thanks to my friend and talented illustrator, Shennen Bersani, and expert editor Katie Hall of Arbordale Publishing."



A Voyage in the Clouds

The (Mostly) True Story
of the First International
Flight by Balloon
in 1785

Margaret Ferguson Books
Farrar Straus Giroux

(published 10.11.2016)
40 pages 

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

uthor: Matthew Olshan
      and Illustrator:  Sophie Blackall

C haracters: Dr. John Jeffries and Jean-Pierre Blanchard

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "In the year and a half since the flight of the first manned balloon in 1783, it seems that everyone has taken to the skies. An Italian, a Scot, a woman - even a sheep - have all had their moment of airborne fame. But no one has yet managed to fly from one country to another. Dr. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, want to be the first. There's only one problem: they can't stand each other! They lift off from England on January 7, 1785, as enemies, but when disaster strikes, they have to work together to come up with a clever (and surprising) solution to save the day." 
T antalizing taste: 
    "Jeffries wanted to make a speech, but before he could say one word Blanchard cut the tethers, and the balloon leaped into the air.
     The balloon rose into the sky. By working the oars and the rudder, Blanchard could turn the aerial car this way or that. Soon they were out over the water heading toward France. The views were spectacular, but Jeffries was still upset about his speech.
     The winds aloft were brisk. The balloon overtook a warship, which fired its cannon in salute.
     Have a safe trip across the Channel!
     Have a safe trip across La Manche!
     The English Channel!
     Which is to say, La Manche!"

and something more: The Author's Note explains that "... the two men did not get along. Blanchard didn't think Jeffries was man enough to make the flight. Jeffries thought Blanchard was a show-off and a trickster.
     A Voyage in the Clouds is based on their perilous and successful cross-Channel flight, which took two hours and forty-seven minutes. Most of the story is factual, as recounted in Jeffries's monograph... which was present to the Royal Society in 1785. Blanchard did try to fool Jeffries with a lead-lined vest in the days leading up to the flight, and the two men did, in fact, pee over the side to lighten the balloon when it looked as though they were headed for a crash landing [after they'd thrown everything else overboard]." Hah! Creative and humorous problem solving!


The Water Princess

Based on the childhood
experience of Georgie Badiel

G.P. Putnam's Sons

(published 9.13.2016)
40 pages 

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Susan Verde
      and Illustrator:  Peter H. Reynolds

C haracter: Georgie Badiel

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie's kingdom is filled with beauty. But clear drinking water is scarce in her small African village, and despite her commands, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run learer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to take the long journey to the well, and every evening, after the voyage home, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have coo, crystal-clear water of its own.
     Inspired by the childhood of Burkina Faso-born [fashion] model Georgia Badiel..."
T antalizing taste: 
    "I am Princess Gie Gie.
     My kingdom ... the African sky, so wide and so close.
     I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars.
     I can tame the wild dogs with my song.
     I can make the tall grass sway when I dance.
     I can make the wind play hide-and-seek. 
     But I cannot make the water come closer.
     I cannot make the water run clearer.
     No matter what I command...

     'Sleep,' [Maman] says.
     'Dream,' she says.
     'Someday you will find a way, my princess.

and something more: The note at the back of the book explains the  the inspiration for The Water Princess:  "The [access to water] crisis is what motivated African model Georgie Badiel to work to make a difference and get clean water to those in need. As a young girl in Burkina Faso, Georgie spent her summers living with her grandmother. Every morning, Georgie and the other girls and women of the village walked for miles each day to fill pots with water and return it home to be used for the basics - drinking, bathing, cooking - only to wake up the next morning and make the journey again...
     In Burkina Faso alone, nearly a quarter of the population has no access to clean water. Both illnesses from contaminated water and the time it takes to collect water every day prevent many children from going to school...Together with Ryan's Well, Georgie is working to make a change and bring this basic right, this source of life, to the people of Burkina Faso and beyond." 
     The touching photographs of the girls and women collecting water and the celebration of the first well built by Georgie's foundation give me hope that more wells will financed and constructed.


Antsy Ansel

Ansel Adams:
A Life In Nature

Christy Ottaviano Books
(Henry Holt and Company/Macmillan)
(published 9.6.2016)
32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor:
Cindy Jenson-Elliott
      and Illustrator:  Christy Hale

C haracter: Ansel Adams

 verview from the jacket flap

    "As a child, Ansel Adams just couldn't sit still. He felt trapped indoors and never walked anywhere - he ran. Even when he sat, his feet danced. But in nature, Ansel felt right at home. He fell in love with the gusting gales of the Golden Gate, the quiet whisper of Lobos Creek, the icy white of Yosemite Valley, and countless other remarkable natural sights.
     From his early days in San Francisco to the height of his glory nationwide, this book chronicles a restless boy's path to becoming an iconic nature photographer."
T antalizing taste
    "When Ansel was fourteen, his aunt gave him a book about Yosemite Valley. Ansel begged for a visit. The trip took two days by steam engine train and open-air bus.
     At Valley View, Ansel got his first glimpse of Yosemite Valley - the ripple-rush-ROAR! of water and light! Light! Light!
     It was love at first sight.
     One morning during the trip, Ansel's parents gave him a camera.
     He was off -
     Run-leap-scramble - SNAP!
     Rapid-rumble-tumble - RACE!
     Swoosh- flutter-flit - FLEE!
     Ansel's photos became a journal of everything he saw.
     From then on, Ansel went to Yosemite, camera in hand, to hike the High Sierra
     in summer light,
      icy white,
        glowing dawn,
          breathless height,
            danger by day,
              sparkling night,
                worlds of wonder - snap! -
                  in black and white."

and something more: I was excited to learn that ANTSY ANSEL was published by Christy Ottaviano Books, the incredible editor/publisher of my upcoming picture book biography MAYA LIN : ARTIST-ARCHITECT OF LIGHT AND LINES. I reached out to the author and illustrator of ANTSY ANSEL and asked if they would share some thoughts about their wonderful book. Thank you very much, Cindy and Christy! So much fascinating information!

Cindy Jenson-Elliott
"Here's my Antsy Ansel story. I am a teacher, environmental educator and garden teacher. Many of my books have to do with nature, or are designed to inspire families and teachers to head outside with children.  A few years ago, I went to an inspiring lecture by Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. The lecture focused on his second book, The Nature Principle, in which he talks about how people of all ages have been saved by their contact with nature. He mentioned Ansel Adams, how he had been, by his own reckoning, hyperactive, and how his father had taken him out of school and let him run around outside as part of his education. Immediately the words "Antsy Ansel" popped into my head. I was so inspired by his story that when the lecture was over, I went home and began to research his life.

As I read Ansel Adams's autobiography --  full of  gorgeous language -- I felt an overwhelming urge to let his life inspire others. As I wrote, I tried to create Ansel's experience of the world -- how his attention flitted from one thing to the next, and how sensory stimuli bombarded him wherever he went. I tried to capture how trapped he felt indoors and how free he felt outside. I wanted readers to be with Ansel as  he felt the pounding roar of the waves at the beach, and the calming flicker of nature in his own backyard at Lobos Creek. I wanted them to feel what he felt. I had two mentors who helped me shape and reshape the story with this in mind -- Joy Chu, a book designer who had a good sense of how a story can support visual elements, and Andrea Zimmerman, a children's book author who worked endless hours with me to help me get it right.

Another connection I have with Ansel Adams is a mutual love for Yosemite. We both went to Yosemite for the first time when we were 14 years old. I spent an unforgettable week with my junior high school class at the Yosemite Institute. It was really life changing for me to hike in the spring thaw, see wildflowers begin to unfold under the melting snow, feel the spray of waterfalls and smell the bay laurel growing by streams.  As an adult, I return to Yosemite yearly. Every summer --  since my children were very small,  my family has spent a week camping in the High Sierra in Tuolumne Meadows. As I researched Ansel, I realized that many of the places my family goes are featured in his photos. So that has been a  wonderful connection, too. I love Yosemite's high country, and I feel so lucky that I am able to share that love with others through this book."

Christy Hale:
" Here are a few of my many research discoveries as I worked on the illustrations:
·     Young Ansel had a calico cat named Tommy. Tommy is featured in the second scene. 
·     A friend and I took a walk through Ansel’s boyhood neighborhood in San Francisco. We saw the outside of his childhood home (unfortunately being renovated). We also walked by Lobos Creek and down to Baker Beach. In Ansel’s day he did not see this, but the view now includes the Golden Gate Bridge. Of course the neighborhood is very much changed from when Ansel was a boy, but it was fun to try to imagine his world.
·    I was able to peek inside Ansel’s boyhood home via the Ken Burns documentary on Ansel Adams. I tried to be true to the style of fireplace and furniture, as well as the positioning of the window in the living room.
·   I attended an exhibit marking the 100-year anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco, 1915. I photographed a scaled model of all the buildings and grounds, so once again I tried to imagine being Ansel and walking through the World’s Fair.
 ·    I found actual footage of Ansel climbing Half Dome as a teenager."


The First Step

How One Girl Put Segregation
on Trial

Bloomsbury Children's Books

(published 1.5.2016) 32 pages 

A True Tale
with A Cherry On Top 

A uthor: Susan E. Goodman
      and Illustrator:  E. B Lewis

C haracter: Sarah Roberts

 verview from the jacket flap: 

    "In 1847, a young African American girl named Sarah Roberts was attending a school in Boston. Then one day she was told she could never come back. She didn't belong. The Otis School was for white children only.
     Sarah deserved an equal education, and the Roberts family fought for change. They made history.
     Roberts v. City of Boston was the first case challenging our legal system to outlaw segregated schools. It was the first time an African American lawyer argued in a supreme court.
     These first steps set in motion changes that ultimately led to equality under the law in the United States. Sarah's cause was won when people - black and white - stood together and said, No more. Now, right now, it is time for change! ... 
     Every big change starts with a first step.
T antalizing taste: 
    "On December 4, 1849, a heavy snow blanketed the city. Even a ferocious blizzard wouldn't have stopped people from flooding into the courthouse. So many of them were African American - dockworkers and washerwomen, barbers and blacksmiths - giving up a day's pay to be there. Some were lucky enough to get a seat. Others were willing to stand, for hours if need be.
     Sarah's story was their story too."

and something more: I was impressed by the detailed background research and careful thinking Susan E. Goodman shared in the Author's Note. As she explained, "Nonfiction authors feel a special responsibility when writing about other people... telling the truth means finding the facts and  the emotional truths. Sarah's story was hard because we know a lot about her trial but very little about her as a person...
     What is this story about? And why did I want to write it? Was it to show injustice of a child walking past five schools she couldn't enter...Or to show that fighting for a cause can be a victory even if you lose? Or that the push to integrate schools started long before the 1950s? For me, it includes all these ideas, and especially... If you feel something is wrong, speak up. And keep trying. Change happens when people of all kinds find a way to come together."