Tag Archives: Giveaway

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center

When you read an article like this about diversity in children’s literature, you are likely to see statistics cited. Those statistics often come from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, or CCBC, which has been tracking trends in children’s literature, with a special emphasis on diversity, for decades.

Multicultural Stats Graphic 2002-2014 (1)

The CCBC is a research library on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus devoted to books for children and young adults. For over fifty years, the CCBC has been serving the University community as well as teachers, librarians, and book lovers statewide.

If you are in Madison, you can visit the CCBC and wander aimlessly through the stacks or you can have one of the very helpful librarians help you find what you are looking for.  You can attend book discussions and presentations by the very helpful librarians, and lectures by famous writers and illustrators. For example, the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture  is held every fall. Past lecturers included Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, and Rita Williams-Garcia. Some of the lectures have been archived on video. This year’s lecture will be presented by Yuyi Morales.

The CCBC has recently moved to a larger space. They took their old friend Paul Bunyan with them.

Paul Bunyan closeup

He’s been in the CCBC, wherever it’s been located, since 1963.

There’s a new feature in the new space, a mural based on Lois Ehlert’s Planting a Rainbow. (Since it’s on window instead of a wall, should it be called a fenestral?)

CCBC flower wall

If you find yourself in Madison, check out the CCBC, but there’s one thing you can’t do at this library—check out books.

Even if you can’t get there in person, you can still use many of the resources at the CCBC. One of the most unique is the online exhibit of drafts of Ellen Raskin’s Newbery-award-winning book The Westing Game, along with notes, galleys, and an audio recording of Raskin talking about the manuscript.  It provides a wonderful insight into the writing and book design process.

One of the most popular resources is CHOICES, the annual best-of-the-year book published by the CCBC. Each issue of CHOICES includes an essay on that year’s publishing trends, a description of each book (there are 259 in this year’s issue), and author/title/illustrator and subject indexes. You can get the list of this year’s books here.  If you want to get your hands on the book itself, go here (or enter the giveaway at the end of this post).

choices 2015

 

The Charlotte Zolotow Award is presented by the CCBC every year and recognizes outstanding writing in picture books for children.

On the website, you will find pages full of information about Harry Potter and graphic novels. There are videos highlighting great new bookspodcastswebcasts, and interviews. The carefully curated bibliographies and booklists cover a wide range of topics from poetry to bullying to food. And don’t miss the CCBlogC for the latest news and books.

The CCBC provides services to Wisconsin librarians and teachers who are facing book challenges.  There are also resources for anyone dealing with intellectual freedom issues.

Many of the activities of the CCBC are supported by the Friends of the CCBC. The Friends help out with the publication of CHOICES, the events and awards, and with outreach by the librarians.  And the book sale. Oh, the book sale! The CCBC receives thousands of books each year. Even in the new, bigger space, they can’t keep them all.  Twice a year, the Friends sell the extra books to raise funds for their activities.  A couple of weeks ago, I scored a grocery bag full of some great books at the spring sale. I also picked up five issues of CHOICES (2011-2015) to send to one lucky winner. Enter here:

A RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY

Jacqueline Houtman has used the collection at the CCBC to study books with autistic characters while she was working on The Reinvention of Edison Thomas, and to study biographies for young people while she was working on Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist.  She served on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the CCBC  for three years. 

Kerry O’Malley Cerra Interview and Giveaway

Kerry Offiicial Author Photo copyI’m thrilled to welcome Kerry O’Malley Cerra to the Mixed-Up Files blog. Kerry is a former high school history teacher who often enhanced textbooks with historical fiction to bring time periods to life. Just a Drop of Water, her first middle grade novel, was inspired by a deeply personal experience following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. In this gripping and intensely touching novel, Kerry brings the events of September 11 into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event. You can visit Kerry on her website and on Twitter and check out the amazing  Just a Drop of Water trailer below.

I’m so glad you’re visiting the Mixed-Up Files today, Kerry! I’d love for you to share with our readers what inspired you to write Just a Drop of Water and why it’s set in Florida.

My very short answer, in regards to inspiration, is simply to promote peace. I have no doubt that it begins with children. If you’d like a longer answer, jump over to this blog post I did with Darlene Beck-Jacobson. There are a couple of reasons why I chose Florida as the setting. First, one of the terrorists lived in our small-ish town, so our city quickly became an FBI hot-spot and, as you can imagine, it was pretty freaky. We also lost six residents in the attacks that day. While many people associate 9/11 with New York and sometimes Pennsylvania and D.C., I want kids to know that the events of that day extended far and wide. It was a national tragedy, not just a New York tragedy. I don’t know anyone who was old enough to remember that day that wasn’t affected deeply. I want readers to know that.

How did you come up with the title, Just a Drop of Water?

My book, from the time I began dabbling with the idea for it in 2008 until the very last draft before submission in 2013, was titled September 13. I really loved that title and I still do. But, a good editor friend of mine brought up a great point when we were discussing it. While she understood my reasoning (even though most Americans’ lives changed on September 11, 2001, Jake is just a kid and doesn’t get to see the world for what it really is until September 13, 2001 when his whole world is turned upside down; the day he is forced to grow up and will never be a kid again) she felt the title took away from those who lost loved ones in the attack on September 11. When she put it like that, I knew I’d have to change the title. I didn’t want to disrespect anyone, and that day is just too difficult for people already. I wasn’t married to the title enough to potentially add to that grief unnecessarily. The new title came about in my very last draft. I wasn’t planning to add that thread in. It sort of came out of nowhere. I was consciously looking for a line from the book that I could possibly use to name the book while I worked through my final revision but, for some reason, the words of that song (sorry, I’m being vague to avoid spoilers!) kept popping up in my head every time I came across a scene that included the grandmother. So, not only did it happen just before I got an agent and sold the book, it pretty much came from my subconscious. But, I do love it. It just works.

I love it, too! And I love how much the tension builds as your story moves closer to September 11. How did you decide to start your novel on September 7th?

I really, REALLY love this question, Mindy. Thanks for asking it. This novel had so many different beginnings that I really can’t even keep track. As a writer, we always hear that we should start with a bang. Jump right in so kids will be hooked. But, my super-talented writer friend Gaby Triana made a great point at a workshop we did one day. I already knew that starting on Sept. 10 wasn’t working. She pointed out that readers wouldn’t have enough time to see the strength of Jake and Sam’s friendship prior to September 11—so when their friendship went south, the readers wouldn’t really care. She was dead on. From there, I knew I needed to back it up some, but it took a few more drafts to really find the right spot. Readers now experience the normalcy of the days before 9/11 and the friendship of two everyday kids. I hope that when their friendship turns rocky, that readers are invested in the boys enough to ache for both characters and hope that the boys find their way back to each other. One of my favorite, yet potentially viewed as unimportant, scenes is when the Madina family comes over to Jake’s house to have dinner with the Greens for Jake’s birthday. This not only happens prior to 9/11, it happens in the very first chapter of the book. To me, inviting someone to your dinner table is an almost sacred act. It shows trust and friendship. My editor initially wanted me to cut this because it doesn’t necessarily move the story forward. She might be right about that, but it’s a scene I couldn’t part with. When Jake’s mom goes into her tailspin and refuses to let Jake hang out with Sam and his family, it shows readers just how much and how quickly sentiments and lives in general changed after that heartrending day.

Do you have any activities that tie Just a Drop of Water into school curriculum?

Oh, I love this question, too! Yes, I worked over the summer to come up with discussion questions that lend themselves to Common Core. There are currently 23 on my website under the Teacher Resources tab. Likewise, after attending the awesome SCBWI Florida workshop on Common Core this past June, my brain clicked to autopilot and I came up with some cool extension activities that teachers can use in the classroom for Just a Drop of Water. Finally, in working with some pretty awesome 5th grade teachers at Maplewood Elementary School, we created lesson plans that they have implemented as their entire 5th grade classes are reading the book. I’ll be posting them on my website soon.

I absolutely love your cover! What can you tell us about it?

I know most authors never get to speak to their illustrators, but I’m so fortunate that Katy Betz—an incredibly talented and dear friend from my SCBWI Florida chapter—was hired to do my cover. I actually thought this would mean that I could just tell Katy what I wanted and…poof, my wish would be granted. I knew she had read the manuscript and I told her exactly the scene from the book that I thought should be brought to life on the front of the book. It’s the scene when Jake is walking to school on September 13 and is seeing all the flags up and down his street for the very fist time. I was determined that that would be my cover. But, Katy worked closely with the art director at Sky Pony and I think at some point she gave them three concept sketches based on their discussions. From there, the publisher narrowed it down to one. That’s when I first got a peek at what would soon be my real cover. Because Katy is my friend, I was so nervous when the email came in. What if I hated it? What if I had to get my agent involved to try to get another cover? And, when I opened it and saw the boy’s leg and him stepping in a puddle, I was shocked that it wasn’t my street scene. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I liked it—though I knew I didn’t hate it, for sure. My boys had a bunch of friends over that day so I showed it to them. Not only did they love it, they told me all their reasons for loving it. And the more they talked, the more I let go of my boring old street scene. Within minutes, I was hooked except for one thing. I really, really wanted a flag somewhere on the front, so I sent Katy a most delicate email telling her how excited I was, but asked if she could add a flag. Within seconds she replied, telling me to look in the puddle where I’d find stars. The sketch I got was in black and white, so it was impossible to know at that point that Jake was actually stepping in a puddle that was reflecting a flag from a house. And oh my gosh, it was so brilliant. When I saw it in color several weeks later, it seriously blew me away. I love the crème colored background—it gives a timeless feel. I love that it’s Jake on the cover alone, because even though Sam is a huge part of the story, this is Jake’s coming-of-age tale. The leaves in the puddle perfectly illustrate that this takes place in the fall, and that groovy font for the title…perfection! Ironically, I always preach to my kids about not having expectations, but that’s exactly what I did. I’m so glad that Sky Pony and Katy went in a totally different direction, because my idea was so dull compared to the gorgeous artwork that is now my official cover. Love!

Mindy, thank you so much for having me on the Mixed-Up-Files blog and for your thoughtful questions. Big hugs to you!

Kerry Just a Drop of Water CoverYou’re welcome, Kerry. Thank you so much for visiting the Mixed-Up Files today—big hugs to you, too. I loved learning how Just a Drop of Water was born. And thank you for offering our readers a chance to win a signed copy of your book!

Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and one lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Just a Drop of Water. The winner will be announced on Thursday, September 11th. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the giveaway.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

Book Giveaway! And an Interview with Jennifer Duddy Gill

Congratulations on your debut novel, Jennifer, and thanks for celebrating your launch with us. We’re so honored!

Ferrellcover

What would you like to tell us about your book?

‘The Secret of Ferrell Savage’ begins with Ferrell entering a sled race to impress a girl he likes and, for reasons that are beyond his control, he gets her attention and becomes a celebrity in his town. A jealous racing competitor threatens to reveal a secret about Ferrell that even he, Ferrell, didn’t know: he’s a descendent of the infamous Colorado cannibal, Alfred Packer.

So it’s a cannibalism story! Excellent! That’s rare in MG fiction. :-)

Ha ha! Actually, it’s a not-too-gruesome story about an awkward first crush. Thank goodness, none of the main characters get eaten. The main thing that Ferrell has in common with his great, great, great uncle is that they both became unexpected legends.

What inspired you to write ‘The Secret of Ferrell Savage’?

It was the character himself that came to me before the actual story. He didn’t have a name at first, but I knew his personality. He’s lovable and easy-going. He isn’t a good student because he’s too daydreamy and he’s not good at sports because he doesn’t like to compete. He hates it when other people feel bad for losing. I would be driving in my car or taking my dog for a walk and this 12-year-old boy’s voice would come into my head and say funny things that would express his own quirky interpretation of the world and I couldn’t wait to find out what his story was.

Ferrell Savage is the most awesome character name I’ve read in years. How did you come up with it?

Most of the names in the story give clues to the characters. Just like real-life Alferd Packer himself – he was a meat packer. J Ferrell and his friend Mary Vittles have a discussion about their names in the book. She finds it humorous and somehow suiting that his name is pronounced “feral” like a wild, brutal animal. Then she points out that her own name sounds like it could be a title for a cookbook because “Merry Vittles” sounds like happy food.

happyDSC_5984Have you always written?

When I was ten years old my sister, Mary, bought me a journal and I loved having a place to write my thoughts. Soon, I was so hooked on writing that I would put off doing my homework because I needed to write about my day first. I have a huge trunk filled with my writing in colorful notebooks of different sizes.

Wow! Sounds like you had a really awesome sister? Does she still encourage you to write? Have there been any other key encouragers of your writing?

Both my immediate family and my in-laws have been very supportive and excited about my publication and that means so much to me. My agent, Wendy Schmalz, has been my greatest supporter of all. I’ve heard of agents parting ways with clients when the first book didn’t sell, but Wendy never lost faith in those earlier manuscripts, nor in me as a writer. Ariel Colletti bought Ferrell Savage for Atheneum and she was wonderful to work with. She is easy going and very approachable. She’s also got a great sense of humor. Sadly for everyone in publishing, Ariel decided to choose a different career path. My new editor is Ruta Rimas and while the editing part of the process was finished when she took over, she has been a champion of the book and I’ve been grateful to have her on my side. I hope to have the opportunity to produce a book together with her, from start to finish.

Speaking of gratitude, I also want to bring attention to the book’s adorable art work. Sonia Chaghatzbanian’s interior illustrations are the perfect highlight to each chapter heading. There are several that made me laugh so hard!

And how did you choose middle grade as a focus for your writing?

When we lived in Costa Rica I bought a composition book with Tweety Bird on the cover. In this book I wrote about our experiences as I imagined them from my eight- year-old daughter’s perspective. I had a lot of fun with it and both my daughters loved the stories. I thought, hmm, maybe I should try writing other stories for kids. So, I wrote a book with hopes of selling it. I was lucky enough to get the interest of a fabulous agent, but unfortunately the book didn’t sell. I wrote two more books, both a little bit dark and serious, and they came close to selling, but unfortunately the time wasn’t quite right. Ferrell Savage is actually the fourth book I wrote.

The view from Jennifer's writing desk in Costa Rica.

The view from Jennifer’s writing desk in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica! Wow! Have you ever lived any where else?

After college I joined the Peace Corps and taught organic agriculture on a West Indian island called Dominica. Later, I taught English as a second language in Barcelona. For a brief time I worked in a printing press on a kibbutz in Israel. By the time my husband and I met, we’d both seen a lot of the world. We adopted our second child in South Korea and as soon as she and our older daughter were grown up enough, we wanted to give them a view of the world outside of the U.S. We hope they’ll always be aware of the whole wonderful globe we all share.

 

And now the lightning round

Your favorite beverage and soundtrack while writing?

Ha! I’m going to sound painfully boring, but I like water best and complete silence when I’m writing.

Your favorite place to write?

At my desk or on the couch with one foot resting on our dog, Susi. She likes to always be within my reach.

Your favorite quote or writing mantra?

I can really relate to Gertrude Stein’s quote: “It takes a heap of loafing to write a book,” because when I’m working my hardest, I’m usually staring out a window.

And now in honor of the day A Cannibal Valentine! Yes, that’s Alfred Packer! Thanks to Meghan Gates for the artwork.

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Thanks for sharing your book launch, Jennifer!

If you can’t wait to get your hands on this book, leave a comment and you are automatically in the drawing for a free signed copy!

The giveaway winner will be announced on Thursday, February 20! Stay tuned!