Category Archives: Publishing & Promotion

SPY ON HISTORY Book – Interview with Workman Publishing’s Editor Daniel Nayeri and a Giveaway!

Looking for an innovative way to experience history? Give this new series a try. It is AWESOME! I read the first book and loved it! Not only do you learn, but you get to solve mysteries as you read. Very interactive reading and totally fun. I’m thrilled to be able to introduce this book to you today and also give you a behind-the-scenes interview with the editor  behind this new series!


Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring introduces an exciting interactive series for middle grade readers Spy on History, where the reader gets to experience history in a whole new way.

Meet Mary Bowser, an African American spy who was able to infiltrate the Confederate leadership at the highest level. Enigma Alberti dramatizes Mary Bowser’s suspenseful story how she pretended to be illiterate, how she masterfully evaded detection, how she used her photographic memory to copy critical documents.

Using spycraft materials included in a sealed envelope inside the book, a canny reader will be able to discover and unravel clues embedded in the text and illustrations, and solve the book’s ultimate mystery: Where did Mary hide her secret diary?



What people are saying about this book:

“A gripping story that offers a window into a pivotal time in U.S. history and puts a face to a little-known figure.” — Publishers Weekly

“Alongside it being a great story, this will rise to the challenge to any curious-minded wannabe spies.” — Black Girl Nerds

“Sometimes, a very special book comes along that allows your mind, and the kids’ minds, to actively exercise and expand while tromping through a story and learning some history. Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring…is one such book.” — Geek Dad

The cool thing, or maybe I should say, the mysterious thing about this book, is that the author is unknown. This is done on purpose, to add to the intrigue of the book and also well, it’s just cool! So instead of interviewing the author, the editor of this amazing series has agreed to speak with us.

 

Meet Daniel Nayeri, Director of Children’s Books at Workman Publishing, editor, and author.

 

Daniel Nayeri was born in Iran and spent a couple of years as a refugee before immigrating to Oklahoma at age eight with his family. He is the author of How to Tell a Story, and Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow, a collection of four novellas. Daniel is the director of children’s books at Workman Publishing. Before entering children’s publishing, he was a pastry chef.

 

Daniel, thanks for joining us today. We are so excited to learn about this book. Let’s jump right in!

1. How did you come up with this unique format?

Books like THE ELEVENTH HOUR by Graeme Base have always been enthralling to me. Escape Rooms, of course, are extremely popular. We wondered, what if there was a book series where a kid could read about little-known figures in history while also engaging with a larger puzzle? The puzzle could be contextually relevant to the story, using primary texts, and methods contemporary to the narrative. The only thing cooler than reading about Mary Bowser and her incredible spy craft would be employing some of your own to complete your own mission. It just seemed like the kind of book we would have all devoured as kids.

2. Why use an actual nonfiction fact as the focus point for the book?

There are so many unexplored nooks and crannies of history that are full of drama. We couldn’t imagine anything else. The series was always about these moments that read like thriller novels, but have the added import of being true.

3. How do the clues work to solve the mystery (without giving anything away of course)

Once we had the manuscript, our Art Director—Colleen AF Venable—and the illustrator, Tony Cliff, began an incredible process of layering clues and encrypting messages throughout the illustrations. There are several “threads” of clues that can lead a reader to the final solution, which is the codeword you need to decrypt Mary Bowser’s letter at the end of the book. Some of these threads are easy…they’re just a few steps…solve some Morse code here, compare it to a map there, and voila. Some are incredibly hard. My favorite—spoiler alert—is the thread that uses the language of flowers. Early in the book, Mary is told that some flowers means different things, and there is an illustration that gives the reader some examples. One flower, the snapdragon, means deceit. So on all the pages that have snapdragons on them (as border illustrations), all the clues are lies.

4. Was editing this book the same as editing any other book or were there more challenges?

Outside of the usual challenges in editing a nonfiction narrative story, we had lots of added issues with the hidden codes. I had to become fluent in Vigenere ciphers, but Colleen had to become a downright cryptologist by the end. You could say the puzzles were like a third layer of discourse (alongside the text and imagery). We had several vetters going through to make sure the puzzles worked and weren’t too deeply embedded.

5. Why is there a secret cadre of authors writing these books? Is that part of the mystery, too?

Mysteries upon mysteries!
The nature of a secret cadre of authors is that they are like any other cadre of authors: murderous if you give up their secrets. I wish I could tell you everything.

6. Can you tell us about the next book in the series?

This, I can do. The next book is called VICTOR DOWD AND THE WORLD WAR II GHOST ARMY. It follows an amazing unit of soldiers made up of painters, composers, and other artists whose job was to create decoys to fool the Nazis. They painted inflatable tanks to look life-like and trick the German spy planes. There are moments in the story where a tiny group of sound engineers hide in a forest and project the sounds of an entire battalion marching through. If the Nazis only knew, they could have walked right into the forest and captured them.

7. Workman creates such neat and interesting books. Many of them are interactive. Can you tell us why you feel this is a great thing for your readers?

The editorial mandate I have for the group is to make “Art Objects for Great and Terrible Children.” To us, this means a great number of things. First and foremost, it means we take our work seriously enough to call it art. Of course, we’re not too precious about it. We know a good fart joke is an art form to kids. And we call them objects because we care about the “thingness” of books, the format, the interactive possibility of a book that wants to speak, but also wants to listen. In other words, a book that asks for input, a book that wants kids to learn, certainly, but also make and do. Those are all perfectly synchronous behaviors as far as we’re concerned. A book as an act of play is no less a literary endeavor than a book as a lecture. To us, the interaction is even more compelling when trying to inform a child on a nonfiction topic.

8. What future Workman titles should our middle grade readers be aware of?

We have so many exciting titles in the works. Of course, we just launched WHO WINS, which is an interactive book with 100 biographies of historical figures. We’ve also got the third book in our DOODLE ADVENTURES series, which is like a visual Mad Libs where kids draw in parts of the story. One title on the same list as SPY ON HISTORY 2 is a history of archery called THE MOST DANGEROUS BOOK: ARCHERY. It tells the history of archery in war, in battles like Agincourt, and in folklore. It shows bow designs from all over the world, and explains the physics of arrow in flight. The book also turns into an actual bow. It shoots paper ammunition (included in the book) at papercraft hay bales, and a William Tell apple (papercraft targets also included). I can’t wait to see the grown-ups’ faces when that one launches.

Sounds fantastic, Daniel! Thanks so much for joining us today and giving us a behind-the-scenes look at this awesome book.

Since we already offered a giveaway of this amazing book last week, we are offering a different book as a giveaway. Daniel mentioned it above, it is called, Who Wins and is a fantastic book for spurring discussion in the classroom.

Simply enter a comment below for a chance to win.


Jennifer Swanson is a huge nonfiction nerd and loves all things science and history. Throw in a mystery and she is hooked! You can read more about Jennifer at her website  www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com 

 

Tips for Successful Out-of-Town School Visits

Because one of my books is nominated for the 2017 Sunshine State Youth Reading Award, I traveled to Florida for a week in November to do author visits at schools throughout the state. While I’d done many school visits in my area in the past, I’d never arranged a solid week of back-to-back visits in another state. I was part visiting author, part travel agent. It was a terrific (and exhausting) experience and I wanted to share some tips for successful out-of-town school visits.

1. Plan, plan, plan. Okay, yes, I’m a planner kind of person anyway but this skill was essential when putting together a week of visits that took me from one end of the state to another. I wasn’t super familiar with Florida so I researched everything from hotels close to the schools I was visiting to the best driving routes to tourist attractions I could check out in my downtime.

2. Prepare. I put together a detailed itinerary that included notes on each school I was visiting — a large or small group, the venue, which grade(s), and whether I was having lunch or autographing in addition to my presentation. I noted hotel check-in/checkout times, driving distances, and the name, cell phone, and email of each school contact, as well as the amount that was due for my visit fee. I emailed myself a copy of the itinerary and kept a paper version with me as well. I must’ve checked it a hundred times during the week! Having all the info in one place was key.

3. Confirm. The week before I left, I emailed confirmations to each contact, making sure I had the correct school address and none of the details or timing had changed. I went over everything so we were on the same page and I hopefully wouldn’t have any surprises.

4. Tech check. I carried two flash drives with my Power Point, just in case, and had emailed it to myself as well. Tech fails are always my biggest fear! I asked each school to have a laptop set up and connected to the projector but brought my own laptop as a backup.

5. Engage, share, connect. This goes for any school visit, of course, not just out-of-town ones. I engage the students with lots of questions instead of talking straight for an hour. Sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen authors talk and talk, losing the kids’ attention. I like to share tidbits of my childhood and personal life (kids love seeing pics of your own kids or pet). And, I try to connect with kids on their level, for example by talking about how editing a book is actually sort of similar to revising an essay for Language Arts. I also wove in some observations and questions about Florida.

fl-gainesville-wms-106. Be flexible. Lots can happen! Thankfully, this didn’t happen to me, but I’ve heard of schools forgetting an author was coming, Power Points not working, and microphones failing. I did speak in one auditorium that was set up for the holiday play and I kept having to step around props and parts of the set. And one of the schools I visited flipped around the order of events. Plus, I was prepared for any kind of weather since I was traveling from north to south Florida.

7. Post-its for book signing. I love Post-its for numerous reasons, but they’re lifesavers when it comes to signing books. There must be ten different ways to spell a name like Allie (Ally, Alli, Ali, etc.) so having each kid write their name on a Post-it on top of their book is so helpful when signing lots of copies. I always make sure to bring along my favorite pen and Sharpie, too.

fl-gainesville-wms-78. Have extra books on hand. At schools where I was signing pre-ordered books, I made sure to pack a few extra copies in my tote bag for the one or two kids who’d forgotten to order and were invariably sad to miss out. And it happened!

9. Take pics on your phone. I made sure to have teachers snap a few pics of my presentation on my phone so I could post them on social media that day instead of waiting for them to email me photos they’d taken. I took lots of selfies with the kids too. They loved it and I felt like a celebrity 🙂

10. Follow up. After I returned home, I spent some time emailing the teachers and librarians I’d met, thanking them and following up on any requests I’d received.

I was honored to meet so many enthusiastic readers in Florida and I’d visit again in a heartbeat!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold (both from Penguin Random House). Her new middle grade novel, Ethan Marcus Stands Up, is coming in August 2017 from Aladdin Books. Find her online at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

 

Recipe for a Successful Book Festival

ksfest1This past Saturday I participated in the first annual Kansas Children’s Literacy Festival, and it was such an amazing experience I thought I’d share my thoughts on why it worked so well. It was a new event in Wichita, Kansas, but the turnout was huge and scores of kids walked away with new books to explore, and a whole lot more!

kslitfest3Here’s what made the event so successful: COMMUNITY. Area schools, local book stores, and community organizations partnered together with city leadership and a radio station to encourage kids to read and write. I loved the scope of fun events offered to celebrate literacy. The event kicked off with a full-blown parade, including a float featuring a gigantic book! Then a celebrated local children’s choir gave their first concert of the year. An illustrator presented a riveting and humorous demonstration. A local kite and toy store helped kids make kites and we had a balloon launch to help “Reading Take Flight.” Wichita Griots African storytellers played drums and told enchanting stories. There were balloon creations, face painting, food trucks, and everything that makes a festival a festival!

ksfest4And of course there were books! SCBWI authors and illustrators from around the state talked with young readers in an author tent and read from their works in the storytime tent. There were so many smiles!

I think another big factor in the success of the event had to do with the level of PROMOTION it received beforehand. Local news stations and newspapers came out to cover the festival as well, interviewing families and participants to ensure the word is out for next year’s celebration.

ksfest5As you see, I roped my lovely daughter into helping me. She played the Tickle Me Pink Crayon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar and had so much fun!

If you are an educator or librarian hoping to launch a book festival of any size or add some zest to an already existing one, may I suggest adding some activities that may not seem necessarily reading related to draw interest? I think that was the other factor that caused the Kansas Children’s Literacy Festival to be such a success: VARIETY.

What things have you seen work to draw kids to book fairs and festivals? We’d love to hear your ideas!

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and IN TODD WE TRUST (Penguin/Razorbill.)