Tag Archives: Author Interview

Coming Soon– STEM Tuesday!!!

in NOVEMBER


Announcing  a brand new addition to  the Mixed Up Files Blog:

STEM Tuesday!!

 

 

What is STEM ?

STEM covers the topics of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

STEM Tuesday is a brand new addition to the Mixed Up Files blog here to shine the light on books about this amazing and critical topic. With all that is going on in the news lately, it is more important than ever to introduce young readers to the FUN and exciting STEM books that are out there.

STEM books ENGAGE. EXCITE. and INSPIRE young and old readers alike.

<a href="http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/school">School vector created by Freepik</a>

Image by Freepik.com

 

They encourage students to ask questions, have discussions, engage in problem-solving, and interact across boundaries of knowledge. They invite readers to notice the science all around them!

If you’ve always wondered where to find out about the great new middle grade  titles in STEM , look no further.  You have FOUND your spot!

JOIN US ON NOVEMBER 7TH AS WE KICK OFF

OUR FIRST EVER

STEM Tuesday! 

 

What is STEM Tuesday? 

EVERY MONTH  we will be highlighting middle grade books with a particular topic in STEM

EACH WEEK we will be delving into the ways these books can be used in the classroom, offering resources for how to make connections between these STEM books and other topics,  making real-life connections to these STEM books that will encourage discussions and provide valuable resources, and finally we will be offering an interview with a real-life STEM author plus a giveaway of their book!

We have an amazing team of middle grade STEM authors and enthusiasts to bring the excitement of this topic alive.

Let me introduce you to the weekly topics and the fabulous STEM Tuesday Team:

Week 1:  STEM Book List of the Month

This week will highlight a list of 8-10 titles of STEM middle grade books that fit our theme of the month. They will all have links and a bit of information to intrigue you into learning more about them.

This week’s team is:

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of the Green Earth Book Award and a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Films Award, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

 

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the 2017 Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She loves sharing her excitement about nonfiction with readers and fellow writers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

 

Week 2: STEM Tuesday In the Classroom

This week’s post will highlight a few of the books on week 1’s list and give teachers/librarians specific activities for using these books in the classroom. Designed for hands -on activities, discussions, engaging inquiry and MORE!

This week’s team is:

When Michelle Houts was eight years old, all she wanted was a chemistry set. She got it, and, sadly, she doesn’t remember doing a whole lot with it. What happened to her enthusiasm and confidence? Years later, writing fiction and nonfiction for young readers, she realized that girls identify as “science-y” (or not) at an early age. Her most recent books feature ground-breaking women and curious young scientists. Find out more about author and speaker Michelle Houts at www.michellehouts.com

 

 

Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano has been paid to stay overnight at a science center and has enjoyed her share of after-hours staff parties at museums, where she and her husband once won a prize for a costume modelled after the Boston Museum of Science’s Van der Graaf generator exhibit. Carolyn’s work is all about creating vivid science and engineering learning experiences—interactive exhibits, innovative teacher professional development programs, national curricula, and fresh, accessible, and sometimes quirky science and STEM books for kids. She splits her career between STEM educational consulting and writing kids’ STEM and science books. Find her at http://carolyndecristofano.com and on her Facebook author page, AuthorCarolynD.

 

WEEK 3:  STEM Tuesday Crafts & Resources

An out-of-the-box way to use these STEM books in the classroom, library, or at home. Could be an ELA-Science type connection AND/OR a Real-World connection, or even genres of STEM books, how to write, them… whatever. Like the scientists many of us are, this week may be unexpected, but will always be EXCITING!  

This week’s team:

Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded, equal opportunity sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports/training related topics at www.coachhays.com and writer stuff at www.mikehaysbooks.wordpress.com. He can be found roaming around the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.

 

Heather L. Montgomery writes for kids who are wild about animals. The weirder, the wackier, the better. An award-winning educator, Heather uses yuck appeal to engage young minds. She has a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in environmental education and has written a dozen nonfiction books including How Rude! Real Bugs Who Won’t Mind Their Manners (Scholastic) and her upcoming Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill(Bloomsbury). Inquiry is her life. www.HeatherLMontgomery.com

 

WEEK 4: STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways

This week will highlight one middle-grade STEM book author. You will get a peek inside the mind of an actual STEM author and learn how and why they wrote their book. Be sure to comment this week because you will be entered to win an autographed copy of the book!

 

This week’s team:

Mary Kay Carson is the author of more than fifty books for kids and teachers about space, weather, nature, and other science and history topics. She has six titles in Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s esteemed Scientists in the Field series, including Park Scientists: Gila Monsters, Geysers, and Grizzly Bears in America’s Own Backyard and Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt. Learn more at: www.marykaycarson.com.

Evolutionary biologist-turned-author Amber J. Keyser has an MS in zoology and a PhD in genetics. She writes both fiction and non-fiction for tweens and teens. She loves to explore the intersection of art and science in her work. More information at www.amberjkeyser.com. Connect with Amber on Twitter @amberjkeyser.

 

And then there’s me, Jennifer Swanson, the creator & administrator of STEM Tuesdays:

Science Rocks! And so do Jennifer Swanson’s books. She is the award winning author of over 25 nonfiction books for children. A self-professed science geek, Jennifer started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, Jennifer’s passion for science resonates in in all her books but especially, BRAIN GAMES (NGKids) and SUPER GEAR: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up (Charlesbridge) which was named an NSTA Best STEM book of 2017 and an NSTA Outstanding Trade Book 2017Top reviews include a starred review in Booklist, and recommended reviews from School Librarians Workshop, Library Media Connection, and a Nerdy Book Club award. Her book, Geoengineering Earth’s Climate: Resetting the Thermostat, from 21st Century Books/ Lerner received a Junior Library Guild Selection. You can visit Jennifer at her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com.

So join us back here on November 7th for the FIRST STEM TUESDAY ever!

Stop by and “Get your STEM on”!!

#STEMROCKS!

Interview and Giveaway with Janet Sumner Johnson

I’m so excited that I got the opportunity to talk with Janet Sumner Johnson about her Contemporary Middle Grade novel, THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY – now in paperback!

Please tell us a little bit about The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society.

The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is about two best friends, Annie and Jason, trying to find a way to save Jason’s house from foreclosure. Because foreclosure means Jason will have to move, and that is just not okay with either of them. Their plans range from the pretty decent (like finding Jason’s dad a new job), to the pretty crazy (like selling an appendix on ebay). But even more, this story is about friendship, and what that really means. 

What inspired you to write this story and/or these characters?

Much of this story was inspired by my own childhood. I had a best friend named Jason who had to move away when we were five. It was horribly tragic! But the foreclosure aspect came from the big housing crash that happened around 2009. I had a friend who faced losing her house, and I can still remember the haunted looks on her kids’ faces. I wondered what it must be like to go through foreclosure as a kid, and that question was the driving force of this story. I wanted to help kids see that even if we can’t control everything in our lives, we are never powerless. THEY are never powerless. 

What do you hope readers will take away from Annie and Jason’s adventure?

Haha! Oops, guess I got ahead of myself with the last question, but in addition to the whole not being powerless thing from above, I hope that readers will think of their own best friends. That they will remember all the good times, and also remember that sometimes, if we are being a true friend, we won’t get what we want. And that’s okay. Because helping a friend feels so much better than getting what we want. 

We know no writer is created in a vacuum. Could you tell the readers about a teacher or a librarian who had an effect on your writing life?

I have known so many great teachers and librarians in my life, but one in particular gave me the encouragement I needed to think that maybe, just maybe I could succeed with writing. English was always my weakest subject. I had to work hard in it, but I always loved my English classes best. My 10th and 12th grade English teacher was Mrs. Johnston. She made me look at literature in a new way, and learn to appreciate even the things I didn’t love (A Tale of Two Cities, I’m looking at you!).

When I got to college, one class required me to interview someone who worked in a field that interested me, and I chose her.  Honestly, I don’t remember much of what I asked her, but I do remember that at one point, she told me how she’d always been so impressed with my writing, and knew I would do well if I decided to go that direction. Such a simple thing, but her words were what I needed to hear. Because of that interview I majored in English, and allowed myself to believe I could write a book. Thank you, Mrs. Johnston!

What makes your book a good pick for use in a classroom? Is there any particular way you’d like to see teachers use it with young readers/teens?

The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society is a great pick for use in the classroom because it’s a quick, humorous read that deals with some serious topics. It is a gateway to discussion of important issues that affect so many students (poverty, friendship, bullying, dealing with stress, keeping secrets). In addition, there is a discussion guide that is geared for use in a classroom. Not only are there some great discussion questions that encourage social skills, self-confidence, and empathy for others, but there are a lot of fun extension activities across all subjects (math, economics, science, etc.). I would love to see classes using these questions and activities to enrich their learning.

What was your favorite book growing up? How did it influence you as a person and/or as a writer?

 I went through phases. Ramona by Beverly Cleary and Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume really spoke to me when I was in 4th grade. The whole Narnia series by C.S. Lewis was my go to in 6th. L.M. Montgomery was my author in Junior High (Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon, Pat of Silver Bush (my favorite!), and everything else she wrote). Robin McKinley’s Beauty, Outlaws of Sherwood, and more filled what little free reading time I had in High School.

I don’t know that any one book influenced me more than another, but all of these stories taught me that reading was more than just something I enjoyed. These stories helped me cope with my own stresses. They made me feel like I wasn’t alone. Like I was good enough just the way I was . . . even if I got into trouble a lot (Ramona), or if I didn’t like a certain aspect of how I looked (Anne), or if life didn’t go the way I wanted (Robin of the hood, Beauty). I still love escaping into books, and it really means so much to me when I hear from kids who have had a similar experience with my book.

 

Janet Sumner Johnson lives in Oregon with her husband and three kids. She bakes a mean cinnamon twist and eats way more cookies than are good for her, which explains her running habit. Though her full-time occupation as evil tyrant/benevolent dictator (aka mom) takes most of her time, she sneaks in writing at night when her inner funny bone is fully unleashed. You can learn more about her on her website, on Facebook, on Instagram, and Twitter.

 

 

To celebrate the paperback release, I have 4 signed paperbacks of
The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society to give away!
Enter to win a signed copy by commenting below! Winners will be chosen randomly and announced on this post on Tuesday, Oct. 24th.

Congratulations to our winners!!
Brenda
Danielle
Dianna
Katie

Janet will contact you via email soon!
And thanks to everyone who entered.

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Author Jodi Kendall – Interview & Book Giveaway

I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Jodi Kendall about her debut middle-grade novel, The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, which releases on October 3rd. Read on for a glimpse into the inspiration for Jodi’s story . . . and for a chance to win a signed copy!

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the CityT. P.: Thanks, Jodi, for stopping by MUF to chat about The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City. Our interview is quite fitting for two reasons. First, I live in the city. And second, my daughter is convinced she wants a pet pig. I let her scoop the cat’s litter box instead.

Anyway, since I haven’t seen many pigs in the city, I’ve got to know—where did you get the inspiration for your city-dwelling porcine pal?

JODI: I grew up in a big city in the Midwest. When I was thirteen years old, my college-aged brother showed up one holiday season with a surprise piglet in his arms! He had saved a runt from certain death at a nearby farm. Her name was Ellie, and she was a typical farm breed that grew big and fast. Ellie lived inside our house for six months. As you might imagine, we had quite our share of pig adventures! While the main plot of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City is loosely inspired by this childhood experience, the book is a work of fiction.

T. P.: Wow! That brings to mind two different questions. First of all, exactly how big did Ellie the pig get during her 6 months in your house?

JODI: I had to call my dad to answer this one! He thinks Ellie was about 180 pounds when she finally moved out. Here are a few pictures.

Author Jodi Kendall with Ellie

This is thirteen-year-old me bathing her, and another one when she had grown really big… From the snow out front, I’m guessing it was maybe a month or two before she left our family in April. (I remember because it was my Mom’s 50th birthday and, while us kids all loved Ellie, Mom said that her leaving our house was the best present she ever got!) We had this small room attached to our kitchen – we called it the dinette – where Ellie stayed when we were at school. But when we were home, we let her out, and she roamed our house and explored around the yard, too.

Ellie the Pig

T. P.: As for the second question your real-life-pig-in-the-city experience brings to mind, what’s one event in your novel that was inspired by something that actually happened with Ellie?

JODI: There’s a scene when Hamlet the pig bullies her way into the kitchen, figures out how to open the fridge with her snout, makes a huge mess on the floor, and the main character’s little sister, Amelia, is standing on the kitchen countertop swatting at the hefty pig’s rump with a fly swatter trying to get her to back away. That’s a true story! Pigs are highly intelligent animals and motivated by food. Our pet pig, Ellie, also bit into aluminum cans with her teeth to make it spray soda everywhere (she liked the taste). Ellie learned how to open lower cabinet doors, and she knew there was food inside cans. While she couldn’t open soup cans with her teeth, she did peel off the labels. At one point we had 2-3 dozen cans of unknown content because she tore off all the labeling!

T. P.: It looks like 180 pounds worth of pet pig provided plenty of inspiration! Now let’s go to the flipside of real-life inspiration. What’s a favorite pig-focused scene or event in your story that sprang completely from your imagination?

JODI: There’s a scene in which Hamlet the pig escapes the family’s tiny city townhouse backyard by jumping over the fence into the neighbor’s adjacent property – and this is a very ornery neighbor who is NOT a fan of chaos, noise, or the Shilling family. It was a fun action scene to write (that leads to some consequences and character growth, too).

[SMOOTH SEGUE ALERT #1!]

T. P.: Speaking of characters. . . . As the author, I’m sure you love Josie (the story’s protagonist) and Hamlet the pig; otherwise, you’d never have told their story! Aside from them, who’s your favorite character in the story? What makes that character stand out to you?

JODI: Hands-down, Josie’s college-aged brother – the oldest of the five Shilling kids – Tom. He’s hilarious, confident, and always breaks the tension in the family with a good one-liner. His character was a blast to write!

[SMOOTH SEGUE ALERT #2!]

T. P.: Speaking of writing. . . . What’s next for you? Do you have another project in the works?

JODI: I just finished up the sequel to The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, which is very exciting. It will publish in Fall 2018. We’ve been secretive about the content, title, and cover art, so interested readers will just have to wait and hear the news. 🙂 But I’m currently working on a new book proposal, a third book that’s unrelated to my first two middle grade novels. And you can bet that there’s an animal adventure involved!

T. P.: A hush-hush sequel??? I can’t believe you’re going to keep us in suspense like this, Jodi! Regardless, I sure do appreciate you taking the time to come visit us here at the Mixed-Up Files. Now, as we anxiously await details about your next novel, I suppose we could offer our readers a chance to win a copy of your current one. . . .

*  *  *  *  *

Want a chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall plus some bonus swag? Entry is easy. Just comment below by answering one simple question:

If YOU could live in a city with any farm animal, what animal would it be?

You can also earn BONUS entries by sharing this post on Facebook, Tweeting about the giveaway, visiting Jodi’s website, signing up for Jodi’s author e-newsletter, and/or following her on Instagram. Entries will be accepted through the day of the novel’s official release—Tuesday, October 3rd.

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Children's author Jodi KendallTo learn more about Jodi Kendall and her writing, visit www.jodikendall.com. You can even download free bonus resources for The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, including an in-depth Classroom Curriculum Guide.