Author Archives: Jennifer Swanson

Interview with Author Mike Lowery — and a Giveway of a set of Doodle Adventure Books!

I’m so excited to welcome the awesome Mike Lowery to the MUF blog today!

He is celebrating the release of his new book:

The Rise of the Rusty Robo-Cat! by Workman Publishing.

A little bit about the book: Carl the Duck is back and needs help on the very important mission of discovering why the cats around town are acting like jerks. Can you track them down and break the spell they are under? (And maybe draw a space vampire along the way?)    Each page combines hand-lettered text, delightful illustrations, plus prompts and plenty of space for the reader’s own contributions. The book is sturdy paper over board with high-quality cream paper that’s a pleasure to draw on. Kids will love using their imaginations to complete the story, then reading it over and over again.

“Perfect for a summer birthday gift, a travel distraction, or for gathering out on the porch and enjoying a warm evening together.” — Geek Dad

Thanks for joining us today, Mike! Here are a few questions for you

Why do you write graphic novels/illustrated stories for middle grade readers?

I really got into comics and reading when I was around 9.  Later, when I was given the chance to pitch my own ideas for books, I tried to make something that 9-14 year old me would’ve loved.  Also, I like making jokes about pizza and pirates and slugs and silly stuff.

What comes first—the art idea or the book idea? 

All of my projects are usually based on something that I came up with in my sketchbook, so I guess I’d say art idea comes first.

You seem to love random facts—why is that? Why do you think these appeal to kids? 

We used to take a LOT of road trips when I was a kid.  My dad would get audio books on tape, and we’d listen to lots of stand up comedy…and sometimes we would listen to non-fiction interesting facts books.    You could say I started collecting weird facts at a very young age, and never really stopped.  So, it made sense years later to start drawing some of the stuff that I found particularly interesting.

How long does it take you to do the illustrations for a book?

It really depends on the book.  For some stuff it might be just a few months, but the random facts book that I’m working on has taken almost two years!

Where do you come up with your wacky and fun characters? 

Every morning,  before I start drawing for projects that I’m working on, I spend some time just making doodles and sketches in my sketchbook.  Sometimes these doodles turn into funny looking characters and I develop them to have personalities that might be funny in a book.

Why did you decide to invite kids to write in your book?

Again, I wanted something that I would’ve liked as a kid.  I loved drawing, but I didn’t always know what to draw.  I wanted a book for kids that needed a little push to help with drawing, and I’ve gotten to see some really crazy and awesome ideas from the folks who have been filling out the books.

Do you have a  favorite of all of your books?

That’s tough.  I’ll say I’ve had a lot of fun drawing the Doodle Adventures series because I get to draw a grumpy duck named Carl.

Can you give us a hint about the next book you are working on?

Yes!  But just a little hint.  One book is a collection of drawings of random facts, one is about an evil character (who turns out to be not-so-evil).

That sounds really cool! Thanks for being with us today, Mike.

If you want to learn more, please check out this information :

Mike Lowery is the creator of the Doodle Adventures series and The Kid’s Awesome Activity Calendar. He lives with his wife and daughter in Atlanta, GA. Mike shares daily sketches on Instagram @mikelowerystudio. Find out more about him and his work at www.mikelowery.com.

Workman Publishing is offering a FREE SET of Doodle Adventure Series books!

Just leave a comment below to be entered.

New Releases for April

Spring has Sprung!  Are you anxious to sit out in the sun and catch some rays? Why not take a book. Take a look at this awesome new releases for some good relaxing time.

Good news! We have 4 MUF members with new releases this month. Congratulations to Amber J. Keyser, Tricia Springstubb, Patricia Bailey, and Jennifer Swanson.

 

Cody and the Rules of Life by Tricia Springstubb (Candlewick Press)


In Cody’s life, many things are hard to predict. Like why her older brother, Wyatt, is obsessed with his new bicycle called the Cobra, or why her best friend Pearl suddenly wants to trade favorite toys. Pearl says she will trust Cody with Arctic Fox because Cody is a trusty person. But Cody doesn’t want to give up her beloved Gremlin, and she regrets it as soon as she hands him over. When the Cobra goes missing, Cody has to decide for herself who is trusty and who is not. If only she had Gremlin to talk to! Surely Pearl wouldn’t mind if she secretly traded back . . . it’s not stealing if it belonged to you in the first place, right?

The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan by Patricia Bailey (Albert Whitman and Co.)

Life in a 1905 Nevada mining town is not easy for any thirteen-year-old. For Kit Donovan, it seems downright impossible. When her mother dies of a fever, Kit is certain she is to blame. Guilt-ridden, she is determined to honor her promises to her mother―namely to be a “proper lady.” Only being a lady is tougher than it looks. When Kit discovers that Papa’s boss at the gold mine (the menacing and self-serving Mr. Granger) is profiting from unsafe working conditions in the mine, she convinces her dad to speak out. But sometimes doing the right thing leads to trouble. Now Kit must find a way to expose Granger’s misdeeds before it’s too late. Aided by an eccentric woman, a Shoshone boy, and a drunken newspaperman, Kit puts her big mouth and all the life skills she’s learned from reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to work. With a man’s hat and a printing press, Kit defies threats of violence and discovers that justice doesn’t always look like she imagined it would.

 

Pointe, Claw by Amber J. Keyser  (Carolrhoda Lab/Lerner Publishing)

Jessie Vale dances in an elite ballet program. She has to be perfect to land a spot with the professional company. When Jessie is cast in an animalistic avant-garde production, her careful composure cracks wide open. Nothing has felt more dangerous. Meanwhile, her friend Dawn McCormick’s world is full of holes. She wakes in strange places, bruised, battered, and unable to speak. The doctors are out of ideas.These childhood friends are both running out of time. Jessie has one shot at her ballet dream. Dawn’s blackouts are getting worse. At every turn, they crash into the many ways girls are watched, judged, used, and discarded. Should they play it safe or go feral?

 
Zoology: Cool Women who Work in Science by Jennifer Swanson (Nomad Press)


Love to work with animals? Zoology is the study of everything having to do with animals, including how and why they look, act, and behave in their environments and with other animals. As a zoologist, you might study how elephants solve problems or take care of tigers at a zoo.

 

Snowflake Freezes Up (Grimmtastic Girls) by Joan Holub (Scholastic)


Snowflake isn’t sure which fairy tale character she is. But with her magical powers causing lots of trouble, she’s definitely on thin ice! So just in case she might be a villain, Snowflake is chilly to her classmates. Can she keep her cool until she knows her whole story, or will her social life at Grimm Academy be permanently frozen?

 

The Bad Guys in The Furball Strike Back by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic)

Mr. Wolf and his bad buddies have messed with the wrong guinea pig–one who is secretly an evil mad scientist. And the nasty little furball wants revenge! Will they survive? Will they be heroes? And will they ever stop trying to eat each other?!? It’s time for the Bad Guys to spring into action!

Panda- Monium by Stuart Gibbs (Scholastic BFYR)

Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident sleuth when the zoo’s newest addition goes missing–before she even arrives –in Panda-monium, the latest novel in Stuart Gibbs’s FunJungle series.
FunJungle is frenzied, awaiting the arrival of its most thrilling animal yet–Li Ping–a rare and very expensive giant panda that the zoo went to enormous lengths to secure. But when the truck transporting Li Ping shows up, its precious cargo has vanished into thin air. The FBI steps in to investigate, and Teddy is happy to leave the job in their (supposedly) capable hands. After all, FunJungle has never encountered a crime this serious. But when someone threatens to blackmail Teddy’s girlfriend, Summer, if he doesn’t solve the crime, his involvement in this mystery is no longer black and white.

 

The Unbreakable Code (The Book Scavenger series) by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (Henry Holt & Co. BFYR)


Mr. Quisling is definitely up to something mysterious, and Emily and James are on high alert. First, there’s the coded note he drops at a book event. Then, they uncover a trail of encrypted messages in Mark Twain-penned books hidden through Book Scavenger. What’s most suspicious is that each hidden book triggers an arson fire.

The clock is ticking as the arson fires multiply, and Emily and James race to crack the code of a lifetime.

 
Titanic Treasure by Eric Luper (Scholastic)

Cleo and Evan have a secret. A collection of books so dangerous they are lockedup tight. And only they can find the keys to release the magic inside!
A FORTUNE LOST AT SEA!
When Cleo and Evan set sail on the Titanic, time is not on their side! The famous ocean liner is destined to hit an iceberg. If they can stop a thief from stealing a priceless jeweled book–and find their next key–they might avoid sinking with the ship in this historic disaster!

Interview and Giveaway with Science Author Patricia Newman

I’m so excited to welcome Author Patricia Newman to the MUF blog today. She writes SCIENCE books!  YAY!

Patricia (middle) is shown here with Lilian Carswell (L) and Brent Hughes (R).  Photo credit:  Elise Newman Montanino

 

Author Patricia Newman has written several titles that connect young readers to scientific concepts, including Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem, a Junior Library Guild Selection and recipient of a starred Kirkus review; Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a Green Earth Book Award winner; Ebola: Fears and Facts, a Booklist Editors’ Choice selection; and the upcoming fall 2017 release, Zoo Scientists to the Rescue. In her free time, she enjoys nature walks, the feel of dirt between her fingers in the garden, and traveling. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Patricia is here to share her newest book,

Sea Otters: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem (Millbrook Press, 2017)

 

Why do you write science books? 

I like the way science connects to nearly all aspects of our world. For instance, in Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem I show kids how saving endangered predators can benefit our air, our water, and our food supply. In my opinion, for kids to be successful in the 21st century, they will need to become global citizens who look at the bigger picture. Science can help us do that.

 

How do you choose your subjects for your books?

In the case of Sea Otter Heroes, the subject chose me. I was invited to the David Smith Conservation Research Fellows Retreat in April 2015 by Chelsea Rochman, one of the scientists that I featured in Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She thought her colleagues might be interested in learning more about communicating their research to children.

 

I conducted a day-long writing workshop, and somewhere in the middle, marine biologist Brent Hughes and his mentor Lilian Carswell (the Southern Sea Otter Recovery Coordinator with US Fish and Wildlife) approached me to see if I would be interested in writing about Brent’s sea otter discovery. He explained to me that he’d discovered a trophic cascade in which sea otters, the apex predator in an estuary off Monterey Bay, restored the natural food chain and healed the ecosystem so it could perform functions that benefit us. The more I spoke with Brent and Lilian, the more I liked the idea. Everyone thinks sea otters are adorable, and every kid knows about food chains, but Brent had found an amazing twist that most kids wouldn’t know about.

 

You seem drawn to eco-friendly topics. Is that something that you are passionate about? 

Yes, without a doubt. We have only one planet. It sustains us in so many ways. The ocean produces nearly 75% of our oxygen, it feeds us, and it entertains us. In a world where concrete is king, I think kids (and adults) benefit from getting closer to nature. In the current political climate, I want to persuade kids to love nature before they are corrupted by “alternative facts.” Caring is key because we protect what we love.

 

Tell us a little about how you do your research. How much time do you spend? What type of sources do you look for?

Nonfiction requires digging, and like my colleagues I dig through scientific journals, online sources, books, magazines, and newspapers. I also interview scientists conducting amazing research, and if I’m lucky I take a field trip to visit their labs. For Sea Otter Heroes, I spent a day on Brent’s research boat enjoying the sun on my face and the crisp ocean breeze, watching pelicans dive and sea otters crack open crabs with a rock. There are definitely worse jobs!

 

Why is back matter useful for readers?

As a researcher, I love back matter because it contains all sorts of gems. But for kids, I hope it extends the reading experience. When a novel or a fictional series ends, we have to say good-bye to beloved characters, but nonfiction science back matter lays more research, more videos, and more books within a child’s reach and encourages continued inquiry—the basis of all science.

 

Anything that you are working on that you would care to share? Other books that we can look for from you soon?

Photographer Annie Crawley (from Plastic, Ahoy!) and I team up again for Zoo Scientists to the Rescue (Millbrook Press, Fall 2017). We had a great time with this book, traveling to three different zoos, getting up close and personal with the animals, and fighting a fierce Colorado blizzard. The book features three endangered species—orangutans, black-footed ferrets, and black rhinos—and shows how zoos protect them and their wild habitats. Annie and I are excited to introduce our readers to the three scientists that we interviewed. The two women and one man are amazing role models for kids.

For fall 2018, think elephants.

 

Do you do school and/or Skype visits? Why do you think these are helpful to students?

I visit schools in person or virtually every year. Author visits motivate kids to apply themselves to reading and writing. We introduce them to a variety of literature—some of which is bound to pique their interest. Authors also show kids what real revision looks like and that writing takes perseverance. I tell students that writing is the hardest job I’ve ever had, but even in the face of rejection I refuse to give up on myself. What child who shares a piece of writing with me or asks about writer’s block or struggles to put ideas on paper wouldn’t benefit from believing in him/herself?

If you want to learn more about Patricia’s books or just drop her a line, you can find her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman  or visit her website at http://www.patriciamnewman.com/  to check out some of her other amazing science books:  

 

 

 

 

It’s Time for a Giveaway!!    Patricia’s publisher, Millbrook Press/Lerner, has generously donated a copy of her Sea Otter Heroes book. For a chance to win, leave a comment below about your favorite animal!


Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of over 25+ science books for kids. Visit her at her favorite place to explore the world around her www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com