Monday, August 30, 2021

Author Interview: Nadia Salomon

I'm so excited to welcome Nadia Salomon, author of Goodnight Ganesha (Philomel, Aug. 2021), to my blog! I was fortunate to get a sneak peek at this beautiful book, and I can't wait for you all to read it as well. Nadia is a genuinely lovely person and talented author, and I'm thrilled to introduce her to all of you. 

As always, I'll be in green.

Hello Nadia! Welcome to my blog! I'd love to learn more about you. Can you tell us a little about yourself, and what led you to begin writing picture books?

 Thank you for having me on your blog Janet! I'm a former television journalist turned kidlit author. And I always dreamt of writing picture pictures, but wasn't sure at what point in my life it would happen, until I became a mom.

Oh wow! It's always so fun to know what other jobs authors have had. I bet you have a lot of stories you could tell. But today I'd love to hear about your upcoming book. Could you tell us about it?

GOODNIGHT GANESHA is a gentle bedtime story featuring two children sleeping over at their grandparents' home in India and the various ways their culture plays a role in their nighttime routine.

I really loved seeing the relationship between the grandparents and children and the bond they have. So beautiful. What inspirations led you to write Goodnight Ganesha?

My child. 

What better inspiration could you have? Okay, I'm trying not to give too much of a spoiler here, but I laughed when Tata fell asleep. What is your favorite bedtime memory?

Bedtime tenting in our back yard. It was loads of fun.  

Me, too! We used to sleep outside on the trampoline. There's something special about being outside at night. 

Of course I have to talk about the art. It's breathtaking and pairs so perfectly with the text. What was your reaction after seeing it for the first time? Also, did you have the opportunity to give input?

The art is incredible. Breathtaking for sure. And Poonam elevated my text to something - amazing. I don't think there are enough words in my vocabulary to express how I felt seeing the art for the first time. Poonam knocked it out of the universe to infinity. Still in awe. And yes, our editor and art director gave me the opportunity to provide input after sharing the initial sketches. It was a very collaborative and respectful process.

Knocked it out of the universe, for sure! Goodnight Ganesha is your first book, so congratulations! What has been your favorite part about the publishing process and being an author?

Thank you! Yes. GOODNIGHT GANESHA is my debut. I'd say the best part of the publishing process is getting to collaborate with a 'team' of people who genuinely support you, your book, your vision, and do everything possible to produce the best end product and experience for your audience: kids and their adults! They help you create magic! 

Magic is a great word for it. And your book certainly does that! 

Okay, one last question. Here on my blog, I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think your main character would put on her license plate (even though she's definitely too young to drive!)?

Peek-a-boo!

Haha! Love it! Such a fun one.

Nadia, thank you so much for coming on my blog and sharing about your beautiful story. To my readers, please see below for information on how to purchase you own copy of Goodnight Ganesha!

~~~

Nadia Salomon lives in northern California with her family. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism and Public Policy from Emerson College and has worked in television and print news. She writes picture book, middle-grade, and graphic novel manuscripts with themes of South Asian and Caribbean culture, STEM, non-fiction, and humor. Nadia is the winner of the 2020 SCBWI Service Award and the 2019 SCBWI WOOP Honor Award for work of outstanding progress on her non-fiction, picture book manuscript, MYRLIE: A VOICE OF HOPE.

You can learn more about Nadia and her wonderful book on her website, and she's also on Twitter and Instagram.

You can use Nadia's linktree to purchase signed copies of Goodnight Ganesha from her favorite indie bookstore, Flashlight Books. Her book is also available as an audiobook and E-book.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Book Review: Kindness is a Kite String

Recently, I got the chance to read and review a newly released picture book titled Kindness is a Kite String: The Uplifting Power of Empathy by Michelle Schaub and illustrated by Claire LaForte.

This is a subject I've thought a lot about. Kindness is so important, yet it feels as though it's more and more rare. What a difference kindness could make in the world! So of course, I jumped at the opportunity to read this book. Kids need to be taught about kindness now, and what better way than through picture books?

This book did not disappoint!

Kindness is a Kite String Book image
Kindness is a Kite String
 is a poem that suggests different ways to spread kindness. From hugs, to sharing a book, to visiting sick neighbors, this story gives a lot of great ideas for ways to spread kindness. But more than that, it teaches kids that Kindness is something that grows and spreads whenever you share it.


Kindness is a kite string. 
 Let it out.
See Spirits lift.

Kindness is powerful, and small acts of kindness can make a big difference in the world.

I especially enjoyed the pictures. They built on the ideas in the words, and then showed the interconnectedness of kindness and how it spreads. You'll want to go through the book more than once to see how the lives of the characters intersect, and how a good deed passed on to one person might just eventually come back to you. Also of note is the inclusiveness and diversity shown in the pictures.

Kindness is a topic that we need to talk more about, and this book is a wonderful start for both kids and adults alike. If we all took this message to heart, we just might find ourselves in a better world.

You can learn more about the author, Michelle Schaub, at her website.

You can learn more about the illustrator, Claire LaForte, at her website.

Kindness is a Kite String is available through Bookshop.org, your local indie, B&N, and Amazon.

Monday, March 8, 2021

We Have a Winner!

Thank you to everyone who celebrated the first birthday of Help Wanted: Must Love Books!!  

Congratulations to 

Laura!!

You were selected by the random number generator!! I have sent you an email with instructions.

Thank you again, and may you all have a wonderful week!




Monday, March 1, 2021

Happy 1st Birthday to HELP WANTED (Giveaway)

 Today is the official 1st birthday of Help Wanted: Must Love Books!!  I can't believe it's already been a year. 

πŸŽ‰πŸŽ‚Happy Birthday!!πŸŽ‚πŸŽ‰

Help Wanted book and birthday cupcake

I want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed and shared and supported me. You are all amazing! I'm grateful to Courtney Dawson for the amazing illustrations, and I'm grateful to Capstone and my editor, Christianne, for believing in my story. Thank you!!

Just for fun, let's look at the year in numbers:

- In-person book signings: 1 (my launch right before everything shut down)

- Events cancelled: Too many to count!

- Reviews on Goodreads: 277

- Ratings on Goodreads: 563

- Times I Googled the title: 2,763 (okay, I admit, this is just a rough estimate)

- Posts HW was tagged in: More than I could have hoped!

- Books sold: Haha! No idea . . . an author rarely knows this. (BUT, enough to earn out!)

- Languages translated into: 1 (so far!)

- Times read for virtual visits: A LOT (thank you teachers, for inviting me!)

- Awards won: 1 (Clel Bell Award for Read)


Okay, okay, I'm clearly not very good at this numbers thing. I'm an author, not a math professor. But this year was wonky, and I'm just happy my book is out, and people are reading it. 😊

To celebrate, I am giving away three signed copies of HELP WANTED: MUST LOVE BOOKS. I'll give away one copy here. One copy on my Instagram account, and one copy on my Twitter account. Feel free to enter all three if you wish, but an individual can only win one copy.

To enter to win here, please leave a comment on this post with a way to contact you (email address - and I promise to only use it to notify you if you win). Entries will close on March 7th at midnight MST. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Art of Making Macarons

Today is not a Monday. I'm not usually blogging on Wednesday. 

But last night we did a thing that simply must be documented. A quick pic and done on social media will simply not do.

Summer Bucket List 2020 has been different than past years. With the Pandemic, we knew we'd be staying close to home, so we challenged ourselves with homey things. Middle child, who loves to bake, added "Learn to make Macarons." 

Confession: I don't actually love macarons. And having heard from many, many, many sources that macaron-making is finicky and extremely difficult, and would likely take many tries to get it right, I really had no desire to make macarons. None.

But confession aside, I also believe in letting my kids try things that interest them. So here we go.

First of all, if you want to learn HOW to make macarons, with all the tricks, I highly recommend The Preppy Kitchen. John Kanell is entertaining, humble, honest about how hard they are to make and his own failures, and super detailed. We read the entire post, and watched the video several times as we worked on our macarons. 

For the record, our (spoiler alert) failure is in no way due to his instructions. πŸ˜‚

We started out in good spirits. We knew prepping the almond flour would be work, but it seemed a fairly easy first step to get right. Basically you sift the almond flour and powdered sugar to get rid of the biggest bits. So we sifted . . .


And sifted . . .


And sifted . . .


And holy cow! Are we not done yet???!


And mom, it's been a miserable THREE hours of sifting, and DO NOT take my picture!

So I think our sifter was a bit TOO fine, and if we ever try to make these again, a new sifter will be something we would DEFINITELY purchase. It is also possible that the Great Value brand of Almond Flour (labeled as "Superfine") was not a good purchase. (For the record, my husband did the shopping, not me. πŸ˜‰)

By the time we almost had the flour done, both middle child and I were exhausted and ready to call it good for the day. But lollipops and gumdrops! We had come this far, our eggwhites were AGED (yes, you have to age your eggwhites!) and at room temperature, WE WERE GOING TO FINISH!

So I had my son start on the meringue while I finished the sifting. Seriously. That was not a good deal on my part. But parenting and sacrifices and grumble mumble.

I did not remember to take pictures of the early meringue making. Suffice it to say, it also took A LONG TIME. Just not as long as the stinking sifting! 

Happily, the mixer does most of the heavy lifting at the beginning, so we only had to finishing whipping that meringue into a thick, marshmallowy mass. 

John Kannel (of the Preppy Kitchen) emphasized that the biggest mistake most macaron-makers make is not whipping their meringue long enough. Middle Child wanted to be thorough, so about the time I thought it was done he said: "Thirty more minutes by hand!"

Hahaha, yeah, not happening. Instead, we tried the upside down bowl test that John suggested, and we were gold. Middle child really liked that test. 



Next came the folding in of the flour (wretched flour!). This may have been where we failed. Something about getting out the big air, but keeping in some air . . . yeah, it was all a bit opaque to me, but I did my best. 

And no pictures of the actual piping because we were busy piping. Yeah, piping isn't really a skill we have either. So.

After having watched the video, we splurged and got a macaron mat. It was supposed to help them form the wall and kind of fix our bad piping. But . . .



And turns out, we didn't cook them long enough. That is a big bad mistake, my friends. Big BAD. 😳 I mean, ruinous, really. 😩 (I'm not crying, you are!)

Ahem. So while the parchment paper ones were even more irregular, at least they were cooked long enough.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. I KNOW they look awful! But turns out, awful-looking does not equal awful-tasting. So there is that.

Next up, we went for the French buttercream filling, because as long as we're trying hard things . . . So middle child started whisking the egg-yolks . . . 


While I worked on the soft ball sugar . . .


What? That doesn't look like soft-ball sugar to you? 

This is actually failed attempt number two. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜†πŸ˜­ (I can laugh now, but let me just tell you that it was not pretty last night. Not pretty at all. Middle Child kept trying to chat with me and I may have exploded. Then hard-working husband called right at the crucial moment (why yes, he was still at work at 8:30 last night, why do you ask?), and I didn't take his call! 😬 Oh, the stress!!

Turns out I don't actually know how to use a candy thermometer. (Yes, really, Mom. And yes, I am actually your daughter.) 

Once I figured that out (on attempt 3), it all went swimmingly, and voila! Beautiful, yummy buttercream.


But even beautiful buttercream can't fix undercooked macarons. Which means that after about six hours of arduous labor in the kitchen (SIX HOURS), this is all we have to show for it. Seven, crumbly, crackly, over-airy . . . but DELICIOUS macarons.


Oldest child very willingly test-tasted them for us and gave us his unbiased opinion of their tastiness. (I mean, he eats moldy bread, but whatever, we'll take it!)


As we were finishing up, middle child asked, "Should I start aging some egg-whites so we can make chocolate ones tomorrow?"

πŸ˜‚πŸ˜†πŸ˜‚ So you see? Even after six grueling hours, he still had his sense of humor. (We did not start those egg-whites)

Monday, July 13, 2020

Girlie Reviews Books: Just South of Home


Just South of Home: Strong, Karen: 9781534419384: Amazon.com: BooksHello my fine readers! Today, I convinced my youngest, Girlie, to film a review of a book she devoured and loved. When I asked if she would be willing to review it, she ran upstairs and immediately wrote one out. 😲That never happens! I have to pull teeth to get her to do book reviews during the school year. So clearly she loved this one (despite how nervous she was to video it).

The book that led to her first ever summer report? JUST SOUTH OF HOME by Karen Strong.

Hope you enjoy Girlie's first ever video book review!



JUST SOUTH OF HOME is available for purchase at Brain Lair Books, Bookshop.org, and wherever books are sold.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Author Interview: Lisa Katzenberger

 Hello my friends! I'm so excited to have another wonderful picture book author here on my blog. I knew I would like Lisa Katzenberger as soon as I heard the title of her book: NATIONAL REGULAR AVERAGE ORDINARY DAY. We happily connected on Twitter, and I'm so thrilled she agreed to an interview. So let's get to it! As always, I'm the one in bold green letters.
~~~
 
Hi Lisa, welcome to my blog!

Hi Janet! Thanks for asking me!

Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you came to write children's books?

I have been writing since I was a kid. I’ve always loved books and have taken creative writing classes any chance I could. It’s always been my dream to be an author, and I first started writing fiction for adults. But when I had my kids, I was introduced to the picture book format and discovered what I was truly mean to write – stories for children.

I love that! There's just no going back once you discover the joy of writing picture books. 😊 Can you please tell us about your book?

Peter does not like being boredso he comes up with a way to have some festive fun—he'll celebrate a different holiday each day! But when he wakes up one morning to discover there isn't any holiday, he realizes he'll have to take matters into his own hands and make up his own!

Why did I never think of this when I was a kid??! But seriously, your book had me cracking up! I had no idea there were so many National Celebrations. What inspired you to write this story?

A few years ago, I worked as a social media manager and wrote content for client’s social media platforms. These offbeat holidays were just starting to gain popularity, and I would center content around them. I wrote “National Weird Holidays” as a Storystorm idea in 2016 and finally got down to writing it in 2017.

Ahh, Storystorm. Tara Lazar is brilliant. To my readers, if you don't know about it, I've added a link, so feel free to learn more. If you write picture books, definitely check it out!

Okay, okay, back to the interview. The ratings were just so clever. I always love to learn a little about process. Were the ratings always part of the story? Or at what point did you add them?

Thank you! I looked back at my drafts (there were about 15) . . .

Oh man. I feel you on that. So. Many. Drafts.

Yep! I added the ratings at draft 4, which was about a month into my revision process. I can’t remember what gave me the idea to add the ratings, but I’m glad I did – I think it’s a fun touch.

Brilliant touch, really. So my very favorite national celebration in the book is the National Ice Cream Sandwich Day. Yum! What is your favorite national celebration day in the book?

My favorite is the mash-up of National Bubble Bath Day and National Squirrel Appreciation Day. I tried to combine some (real!) holidays that would make for a silly scenario. But when I saw Barbara Bakos’ great illustration for this holiday, I was in awe! She really took it to another level with all her clever details.

Haha! Anything involving squirrels is AWESOME! And I loved all the detail in all the art! So much to take in with each page. Do you have a favorite image from your book by the illustrator, Barbara Bakos?

My favorite is National Underwear Day, where Peter is celebrating with underwear all over his body including, of course, his head. What child hasn’t thought they were the funniest kid in the world running around with underwear on their head? I laughed out loud when I first saw that illustration.

I mean, underwear on your head is always funny. πŸ˜‚

Okay, on to the speed round!

Ice Cream Sandwich Day vs. Eat-what-you-want Day? 

Eat What You Want Day!

Homecooked meal (that you don't have to cook!) vs. Take-out? 

Take-out!

Winnie-the-pooh character? 

Rabbit

Chocolate vs. Cheese? 

Chocolate!

Thank you! So fun!! Okay, one last question. I have a fascination for personalized license plates. What do you think Peter might choose for his personalized license plate? You have 8 characters. Go!

RGLR DAY

Haha! Yep. That sounds perfect. Thanks so much again for being on my blog!

Thank you for having me Janet!

My pleasure! And for my readers,  see below to find out where to get your own copy of National, Regular, Average, Ordinary Day and where you can connect with Lisa on social media.

~~~
Lisa Katzenberger lives near Chicago with her husband and two children. She is the author of NATIONAL REGULAR AVERAGE ORDINARY DAY (Penguin Workshop 2020) and IT WILL BE OK (Sourcebooks 2021). She is a long-time member of SCBWI and the 12x12 picture book writing challenge.


You can find her website HERE, and follow her on TwitterGoodreads, Facebook, and Instagram

Copies of NATIONAL REGULAR AVERAGE ORDINARY DAY can be purchased from Lisa's favorite Indy bookstore, Anderson's Bookshop, as well as Bookshop.orgAmazonB&N, and wherever books are sold.