Monday, March 30, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.30.2020

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

At first I didn't know if I was going to continue blogging during this pandemic.  The uncertainty is real.  What people are looking for is not necessarily in this blog.  But as fellow blogger Aaron Cleaveley mentioned, there are a lot of great books that are being released during this time and the typical author visits and bookstore releases and parties aren't happening.  So if I can give a little shout out for them, then I'm all for it.  Even if you can't get ahold of these books right away, please make sure they are on your TBR lists for someday.  Don't forget many indie bookstores are offering lower shipping costs right now!

Last Week's Adventures
Last week was our Spring Break.  I had not planned to post because I was supposed to be in sunny AZ with my family.  Even though I would have been staying with my parents, it still didn't make sense to travel during this time.  We made the difficult decision to stay home and I know it was the right one.  I only posted my last Women's History Month post.  It was going to be posted this Wednesday, which is technically April 1st, but since I was home I figured I would get it out in the month of March!  Here are posts from the past two weeks in case you missed any!

Celebrating Women's History Month - women who have made a difference in the arts!

Celebrating Women's History Month - women who made an impact on our country - then and now!

Chapter books that feature characters from a wide representation of cultures and traditions!

Picture Books

Snail Crossing
Snail Crossing
by Corey R. Tabor
Just a fun book to read.  A snail tries to cross a road to get some cabbage - I know sounds like the start of a good joke but really that's what happens.  Along the way he turns some attitudes around, gets turned around, and makes friends.  

Story Boat
Story Boat
written by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh
I read this book during the Covid19 outbreak, and while it was a book about traveling during the refugee crisis, there were also some parallels to our current status of life.  While refugees are on the move, never feeling safe in one spot, we're all staying in one spot, but perhaps never really feeling safe, and mostly anxious.  A calming, quiet book to read about finding hope.

What a Cold Needs
What a Cold Needs
written by Barbara Bottner
illustrated by Chris Sheban
I saw this on a fellow blogger's post and thought it would be appropriate to read during cold and flu season.  I picked this book up from the library on Feb. 15th.  Now I'm reading it under a stay-at-home order and I can't help but read it with the Covid19 warnings... on the page where the Grandpa gives the sick boy a kiss on the cheek - no, no!!  Elderly need to stay away from the sick!!   On the page where the boy's tissues are all over the floor - no, no!!  Make sure used tissues go right into the garbage can!  I wonder when we'll be able to read books without thinking about these things??

The Bold, Brave Bunny
The Bold, Brave Bunny
written by Beth Ferry
illustrated by Chow Hon Lam
This book made me giggle at certain parts and ooohhh and aaahhh over some of the illustrations.  Teetu the Bunny decides he lives with too many bunnies and decides to go out into the world and see what else is out there.

Cool Cuts
Cool Cuts
by Mechal Renee Roe
A follow up to Happy Hair, this one is for the Black boys and the many ways they may choose to wear their hair.  Positive self identity that kids need to see in books!  I think I like this one even more than the girl book!

One Mean Ant
One Mean Ant
written by Arthur Yorinks
illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
This is a book that begs to be read aloud.  A grouchy ant, who is a pretty humorous grouchy ant, who kind of gets what is coming to him.  The nice, sweet, innocent fly, maybe not as much. 

Middle Grade

What Lane?
What Lane?
by Torrey Maldonado
This book publishes in just a few weeks!  This isn't a book to get at the library, it's a book you want in your own library.  Preorder for sure.
I know most people are familiar with the Newbery winning title New Kid.  That book helped readers understand how microaggressions hurt kids.  It named what they are and brought new conversations to young readers.  This book does the same thing in a written form.  And if you know books that are edited by Nancy Paulsen, you know she doesn't let her authors waste words... every single word counts.  This is a book I've already written down on my potential Mock Newbery list for 2021.
I didn't know how the title was going to come into play in this story.  Lane refers to the way a person or group of people may approach life.  In this story, Stephen is in one lane, but his best friend Dan is in another lane.  Mostly because Stephen is Black - well mixed, according to his white mom - and Dan is white.  Stephen wonders - can he swerve into other lanes?  Why are the rules different for the lanes?  It's a lot for a middle grader to navigate, but important discussions for kids to be having!

Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows
Arlo Finch in the Kingdom of Shadows
by John August
I am so sad this trilogy has come to an end.  I feel like Arlo has more stories to tell!
If you have readers that like action and adventure and suspense and just a touch of the fantasy world, then you have readers for this trilogy.  The first book took me about 100 pages to get into.  After that, there is not a moment to take a breath - in that book and then all the way to the last page of the third book.
This book closes out Arlo's initial story.  Answers are given and some stories are finally put to rest.  Although I really feel there is more that can be explored with Arlo and friends... hint, hint Mr. August and Roaring Brook Press.....

Young Adult

To All the Boys I've Loved Before (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #1)     P.S. I Still Love You (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #2)
To All the Boys I've Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You
by Jenny Han
I've owned the trilogy for about three years now.  Finally pulling it out because as we are at home in the middle of this pandemic, I need something for my high schooler to read.  Of course, I needed to make sure it was ok for her to read, so I'm reading it first :)  Although I will say, this was just the read I needed during this time.   Light, funny, and it took me away from these crazy times we're in.

Currently Reading

Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I've Loved Before, #3)
Always and Forever, Lara Jean
by Jenny Han
Finishing off the trilogy!  

Have your reading habits/what you're reading changed with this Pandemic?  I've pulled out a bunch of my YA books to read.  My daughter would spend all of her time on Insta and TikTok if I didn't give her other things to do.  She starts e-learning this week so I'm guessing she'll get a little more busy, but we'll see!
Wishing health and happy reading to everyone!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Women's History Month - Celebrating Women Who Have Changed Our History - 3.25.20

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Last post for National Women's Month!  Today I'm celebrating women who have changed our history - or are currently making history!

Fight of the Century by Barb Rosenstock
Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote
written by Barb Rosenstock
illustrated by Sarah Green
I really enjoyed the voice of this story - told in fighting format words "round one", introduces "the champion" and "the challenger".  This story tells us the years long fight between Alice Paul and the Women's Suffrage Movement and their fight to get President Woodrow Wilson to change the voting laws for the United States.

Lizzie Demands a Seat! by Beth  Anderson
Lizzie Demands a Seat! Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights
written by Beth Anderson
illustrated by E.B. Lewis
I wonder if Rosa Parks knew she was standing on the shoulders of women who had come long before her.  Lizzie Jennings was late for church and playing the organ when she tried to get on a streetcar.  But the conductor wouldn't let her on based upon the color of her skin.  A fight ensued but a bigger fight had only just began.  This was the moment that got Lizzie Jennings involved in the fight for the right for all people, regardless of color, to be able to ride in streetcars.
I do think it is interesting to note that this book reads like a story, has dialogue, and comments about the characters actions, "She brushed herself off, raised her chin, and straightened her bonnet."  The author does note in the backmatter that the dialogue included follows Lizzie's account as given in newspapers from that time period. There are extensive sources credited in the backmatter.

From a Small Seed―The Story of Eliza Hamilton by Camille Andros
From a Small Seed: the Story of Eliza Hamilton
written by Camille Andros
illustrated by Tessa Blackham
In the author's note is the real story of Eliza Hamilton.  You learn more about this incredible women there than in the story.  The author also admits she takes a few liberties when writing the story, which takes away much of the nonfiction part of the story for me...
I hope we have more stories about Eliza in our future and all that she did in the later part of her years!

The Only Woman in the Photo by Kathleen Krull
The Only Woman in the Photo: Frances Perkins and Her New Deal for America
written by Kathleen Krull
illustrated by Alexandra Bye
It's time to check our history books.  Flip to the section of the New Deal?  Does it mention FDR's cabinet, particularly his Secretary of Labor, Frances Perkins?  You know, the person who started Social Security, changed the safety in workplaces?  She was usually the only female in photos at that time, encircled by all the males who held positions in those days.
This was a fascinating look at an amazing woman who impacted so many things that are a part of our country today.  A picture book to read to not only young readers, but this book should have its place in middle school classrooms as they learn about our nation's history.

And let's celebrate the women who are currently making history!

Muslim Girls Rise by Saira   Mir
Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time
written by Saira Mir
illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel
A compilation of Muslim women from around the world who are making a difference.  I like that each 2-page layout focused on a woman and it was a quick read.  Featuring women from all backgrounds, each one a mighty girl for their determination and strength!

Ruth Objects by Doreen Rappaport
Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
written by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Eric Valasquez
If you are a female growing up in today's society, you need to be thankful for the many cases RBG has head or spoken for women.  A true crusader for gender equity, she is someone you want to make sure young readers know about.
A solid biography about RBG, great backmatter, great illustrations - I just wish some of the illustrations had more explanation to them.

Thank you for following along with my Women's History Month posts.  Hope you found some new books to read!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

#road2reading Challenge - new chapter books - 3.19.2020

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools
that you may use with readers 
at the start of their independent reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

I am excited that publishers are continuing to publish more and more chapter books, especially those that are being written and illustrated by authors and illustrators that are from a diverse number of cultures and languages and backgrounds.  Here are some new ones from my stacks!

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee      Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade by Lyla Lee
Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business
Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade
written by Lyla Lee
illustrated by Dung Ho
I'm really excited to meet this new character!  Mindy is a determined and feisty character who is going to be so relatable to young readers.  Mindy has just moved across the United States - from California to Florida -with her father to start in a new location.  Both Mindy and her father are learning to live as a family of two, with the loss of Mindy's mother.  The story does not go into details but we know she was sick for awhile and passed away.  Mindy's biggest struggle in her new home, besides trying to convince her dad to get a puppy, is making new friends at her school.  While eating some traditional Korean food, Mindy ends up turning her peers' curiosity about her food into a way to meet people and make some money.  Although the latest scheme may end up costing her a new friendship.
In the second book, Mindy and her new friend, Sally, celebrate the Lunar New Year with Mindy's father.  They attend Orlando's Lunar New Year Parade and join in the festivities, including a parade, Asian food, and later some Korean food and games.  But when Mindy and Sally get too excited to see a balloon, they lose Mindy's father in the crowd.  Mindy was so excited to join in the festivities but will she find her dad in time to still enjoy the day?
I like that this series is sharing Korean traditions and cultures with readers.  With the series coming in at under 100 pages, this will be a perfect series for readers who are still working on their reading stamina but are ready to try chapter books.  Hand this to readers of the Frankie Sparks series or Ellie May series.

Stella Diaz Never Gives Up by Angela  Dominguez
Stella Díaz Never Gives Up
by Angela Dominguez
I fell in love with Stella a couple of years ago, and I'm so glad to see her return!  Stella is a character we can all fall in love with - and in fact, many students did as part of the Global Read Aloud!  Now all of those readers have a new book to add to their TBR lists!
Stella's new project involves doing something around her passion - which she has discovered is saving marine animals!  When she's older she wants to be a marine biologist, but in the meantime, she's figuring out what she can do now.  After a visit to the Pacific Ocean when visiting her family in Mexico, and then going to a week long camp at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Stella is determined to figure out how she can help save the oceans.  With help from new and old friends, and even from her brother - who seems to have no time for Stella now that he's a teenager - Stella learns about ways we can help reduce our plastic use that will make a big impact on ocean life.

The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane by Nikki Shannon Smith
The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane
written by Nikki Shannon Smith
illustrated by Mari Lobo
This is a new series from Capstone Publishing.  This first book in the series introduces us to Azaleah and her family.  She lives with her mom, who owns a restaurant, and her dad, who is a lawyer.  Azaleah is the middle sibling.  Her big sister, Nia, is getting ready for her school play and her little sister, Tiana, tends to aggravate Azaleah!  Right now Azaleah wants nothing more than to use her weekend to work on her extra-credit diorama of tigers, like the ones she saw on her class field trip to the National Zoo.  But Tiana needs Azaleah's help to solve a big mystery - her stuffie is missing and she neeeeeeds it!  Readers will understand what it's like to just want to do your own thing but at the same time want to help out.
The problem in this story is written as a mystery so I'm interested in knowing if that's how the rest of the series will be or if it will mix things up.
Full color illustrations and it comes in at just over 100 pages.  Ideas at the end of the book that go along with the story.  This is a nice stepping stone up from Capstone's Yasmin and Saadiq series.

Planet Omar by Zanib Mian
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet
written by Zanib Mian
illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik
If you haven't noticed already, there is a lack of boy characters in transitional chapter books.  Especially boys of color.  There are some out there, but many more feature girl characters.  While I'm not saying we need books for boys, I am saying boys should see themselves as characters within the pages of books.  Thrilled to have this series come our way.
Omar has just moved with his family (mom, dad, older sister, younger brother) to a new home which means a new school.  He's nervous, but lucky for him he finds a great friend in Charlie.  But his accidental trouble magnet also draws him to class troublemaker, Daniel.  Omar does his best to stay away but of course he's in the same group as him for a school trip.
This book takes place around Ramadan and celebrates the traditions and food and names the days that are traditionally celebrated.  Love that this is being celebrated in more and more books!
I'm excited that this will be a series.  It's already a series in the author's native London and has earned some accolades there.  Excited to hand it to readers here!

Hope some of these books will be perfect for your readers!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Women's History Month - Women Who Made a Contribution to the Arts - 3.18.20

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

It's Women's History Month so today I'm celebrating women who have made a contribution to the arts!

Mary Blair's Unique Flair by Amy Novesky
Mary Blair's Unique Flair: The Girl Who Became One of the Disney Legends
written by Amy Novesky
illustrated by Brittney Lee
I have long admired Mary Blair's work at Disney.  I also remember the books she illustrated in the Little Golden Books series.  Mary Blair had such a unique style, it's often easy to recognize her work.  The book delves just a bit deeper into her background, letting the reader know where some of her inspiration came from.  I particularly enjoyed Lee's illustrations.  They are definitely reminiscent of Blair's work which made it equally fun to view.

Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle
Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln
written by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Rafael López
Beautifully illustrated story about a young piano virtuoso.  I loved seeing the brilliantly colored illustrations of Teresa's home and the way she felt when playing the piano that starkly contrasted the muted tones when depicting the scenes of the Civil War.  
This story gives us background on Teresa, but also details the point in her life when she played piano for President Lincoln. 
I was surprised to only see a historical note at the end of the book and no mention of sources.  In this age of information and fact verifying, I think it is very important to have backmatter.

A is for Audra by John Robert Allman
A is for Audra: Broadway's Leading Ladies from A to Z
written by John Robert Allman
illustrated by Peter Emmerich
I'm not sure the mass appeal of this book for young readers but for anyone who loves musicals, this is the book to read!  I really enjoyed seeing how many performers I was familiar with.

Yay for the arts!

Monday, March 16, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3.16.2020

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

What a difference a week makes.... a day makes.  I can't not start today's post without recognizing our current world's state.  I'm in IL, so our schools all close tomorrow, mine closed starting today.  We can't dine-in at any restaurants and many stores around us are starting to close for a couple of weeks.  As a Catholic, I cannot attend mass right now.  But, I have books at home so I'll carry on!  I say that in full recognition not everyone, everywhere can say that.  There are people who still have to go to work.  And while I've seen some companies do some great things and keep their employees home while still paying them (go Bulls and Blackhawks for paying the United Center workers for times they would have been working at the now suspended games), I also know some people don't have that luxury and must continue to work.  And I also see people on social media shaming and pointing fingers at those who may have to work.  These are tough times.  I'm hoping compassion for all.  Understanding for what may be taken out of our hands.  We'll get through this.  As my new favorite t-shirt says, "it'll be fine". :)

Last Week's Adventures

I shared a beautiful new nonfiction picture book written in all haikus - Whoo-Ku Haiku.  And now there is a giveaway!  Make sure you visit the post and enter.  Perfect for right now when so many libraries are closed - win a free book!

Picture Books

An Ordinary Day
An Ordinary Day
written by Elana K. Arnold
illustrated by Elizabet Vuković
This book took my breath away.  It's stunning simplicity speaks volumes.  It's amazing all that comes in a day.  Even more poignet today.
If you didn't get a chance to read the Nerdy Book Club post about it, check it out here.

Do I Have to Wear a Coat?
Do I Have to Wear a Coat? A Journey Through the Seasons

by Rachel Isadora
A book about the seasons and the different clothing choices and things to do during that season.  I feel like this book was written with the seasons that a little bit farther south than ours here in Chicago.  It doesn't have the characters wear a coat in the spring time.  We have to wear ours into May usually!

I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference
I Voted: Making a Choice Makes a Difference
written by Mark Shulman
illustrated by Serge Bloch
I really liked this one.  Basic explanations, kid friendly, simple to follow.

Middle Grade

The Truth According to Blue
The Truth According to Blue
by Eve Yohalem
Blue is on a mission this summer.  She's determined to find the long lost treasure that belongs to her family.  Her grandfather was always searching for it, and he made sure Blue knew the details before he passed away.  It's the start of summer and Blue is ready to begin.  But first she has to make sure her blood sugar is stable enough to be out on the water.  That's because Blue has diabetes.  And she has her trusty dog, Otis, to help her constantly monitor it.  She's even the poster child for the local diabetes fundraiser.  And speaking of that, a supporter is a big wig director who has a daughter, Jules, that is just about Blue's age.  Before Blue can say "diabetes stinks", she's stuck with stuck-up Jules for the summer.  But maybe, just maybe, they can be friends and find the treasure.
Thank you to Edelweiss for the e-galley.  Look for this book in May!

Scritch Scratch
Scritch Scratch
by Lindsay Currie
Another e-galley I read courtesy of Edelweiss.  I usually read these books while I am working out, which means lots of people nearby and it's in the daytime.  Which was a very good thing with this book!  I read Lindsay's debut middle grade, The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street while on an airplane, again in broad daylight.  That book creeped me out.  She has absolutely upped the creepy factor in this sophomore book.  While at first it felt like a typical ghost story, as I continued to read I became fascinated with the way she combined the scary ghost story with actual facts.  Of course the familiar Chicago setting was fun to read, too!  As the story goes on, I found myself drawn into the story more and more until I just had to know how it ended.  The completed book is going to include a map which will be a fantastic addition.  Middle grade readers will need to wait until September to get their hands on it, but it will be worth the wait!

Tornado Brain
Tornado Brain
by Cat Patrick
One more book to wait for, one more you'll need on your TBR!  This book debuts in May and it's one you'll want for middle grade readers.  The story is told by Frankie, who is neurodiverse and is the first to tell you that things are complicated.  She has typical friendship issues that are made more complicated by how she views life.  In fact, her friendships are so complicated, she's not speaking to her best friend.  Who seems to have been taken over by another two girls... one of them being Frankie's twin sister.  But then her best friend disappears.  And the reason she disappears may have something to do with Frankie.
This is absolutely a complex story with some deeper issues.  Kids who enjoy heartprint books and mysteries will love Frankie's story.

The Night Diary
The Night Diary
by Veera Hiranandani
I have two books on my #mustreadin2020 list in this post!
I know, ridiculous I had not read it, but so glad I finally got to it.
Explaining a piece of history that I should know more about and uniquely told as the entire book enfolds through letters written in a diary.  Nisha is writing to her deceased mother (who passed while giving birth to Nisha and her twin brother, Amil.  The story takes place in 1947 when the British gives up control of India, but India splits into two countries (India and Pakistan) because of religious differences.  Muslims ultimately take control of Pakistan and Hindus take India.  Nisha, who has been raised Hindu, and her family must make a very difficult journey from their home that is now considered Pakistan and travel to a new home in Jodhpur, India.
Well told and I can see why it won a Newbery Honor.  I am interested in how this book has connected with younger readers.  What ages are picking it up the most?  Who is sticking with it?  What are readers saying about it?  Leave a response in the comments!


by Michelle Obama
Yay I finished!  Even though it took me two months to read this book, I enjoyed every time I had reading this book.  I just forget how long it takes to read adult books that have more font on the page and longer pages, lol!
While I loved reading this book and it made me fall in love with Michelle Obama and her family all over again, it made me very sad for the state of our country the past few years.  Whether you are Democratic, Republican, or something different or in-between, I don't think anyone can say our current president is a good person.  When you compare that person to Michelle Obama.... you can't help but feel sad.

Currently Reading

What Lane?
What Lane?
by Torey Maldonaldo

Regardless of where you are or what you do, I hope you are hunkered down, safe, and have some great books to read!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Whoo-Ku Haiku - 3.11.2020

Wednesdays I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
#kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I'm excited to share with you the new book by Maria Gianferrari Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story.  You may be familiar with Maria's other animal books - Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising.  We use both titles every year for read alouds as part of our PBL Woodland Days.  Kids love the narrative stories and they hold their breath in anticipation to see what will happen with the animals.  I am so excited because we are celebrating another animal book - returning to the great raptors - Maria brings us a story of the great Horned Owl!

Whoo-Ku Haiku: A Great Horned Owl Story
written by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Jonathan Voss
published by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Goodreads Summary
Stunning illustrations and gorgeous haikus lead young readers through the dramatic life cycle of one of America's most beloved wild animals.

Pip. Pip. Pip. Poking
A hole. Cracking. Cracking. Out
Pecks the white owlet.

Watch as a pair of great horned owlets peep and squeak in their feathered nest. Mama and Papa hunt for food and fend off predators while the chicks grow strong enough to hop and flap between the branches of their tree, then leap and fly away, ready to explore the wild world around them.

In this thrilling nonfiction picture book, a combination of haiku and dazzling illustration shows readers the fierce majesty of one of North America's most ubiquitous wild animals.


One of my favorite things about Maria's stories is the way she brings the life cycle alive for young readers.  Weaving in information about predators and prey, the way the animals eats, sleeps, and lives, and the dangers that surround it, readers truly get a view of the animal's life.  
Maria brings this book to life with lively verbs and descriptions.  With verbs like "sneaking-slinking", "bobs and springs", and "huddles-cuddles" and descriptions like "umbrella of wings", "talons nick", and "twilight retreats", readers will leave this book with vivid images in their heads!
I have read through this book several times and am just amazed by the use of haikus to tell the story.  What a wonderful choice since this book is absolutely embedded in nature!

Maria generously agreed to answer some questions about her writing for this book:

1.  How do you move from your research notes to the writing of your story?

I usually take notes by hand, and then type them out with assorted information and links. Then I print out my notes and highlight them, looking for interesting information and patterns. After that, I do some focused freewriting to explore ideas about things like voice and text structure. The fun part is that some of the stuff which I love, but don’t really have room for in the main text based on the focus, can end up as “cool facts” in the backmatter. I love reading (and writing) backmatter.

2.  How do you decide what writing style to use?  And how did this one become a haiku?

It depends on the topic. If it’s more of a concept book and a work of expository nonfiction, then I tend to choose a more lively humorous voice like I did in my books, Terrific Tongues and Play Like an Animal. The voice in my narrative nonfiction tends to be more lyrical, like in Whoo-Ku Haiku, Coyote Moon and Hawk Rising.

Back when my daughter was in elementary school, we would “write” haikus on drives to her Nonna’s house. She actually came up with this clever title, and even wrote her own Whoo-Ku book back in third grade as a present for me. It’s one I’ll always treasure. Many years later I decided to try and write my own story about a Great horned owl family in haiku, and Whoo-Ku Haiku was born.

3.  How did this story come to you?

First, I did research on Great horned owls and made a list of interesting things unique to them. Part of my research involves watching videos. I love the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds website and their webcams and watched a nesting pair of Great horned owls in Savannah, Georgia. They’re so fun to watch! You can see the owls in their archived files. The nest has since been taken over ospreys, another kind of raptor.

Then I tried to think of a compelling storyline, one different from my other predator books, so this became more of a story about the owlets rather than their parents. It’s a bit of a homage to one of my favorite books, Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, and Owl Babies, by Martin Waddell, which my daughter loved as a toddler.

4.  I loved seeing Jonathan Voss' illustrations brought your words to life!  I'm assuming an author creates images in their head during the creating process.  How did Jonathan Voss' illustrations compare to your mental images?

I definitely had realistic images of the owls in mind as I wrote, but Jonathan’s art just blew me away—it’s so gorgeous, full of intricate detail and dramatic storytelling. I just love it! I also like that he used insets add layers to the visual storytelling. It also heightened the dramatic tension. It’s so fun to be a picture book author and to see what magic the illustrator makes with our words! I feel so grateful and lucky to be able to do what I love.

5.  Tell us more about how you became a birder!

I was (and still am) a shy girl who has always loved animals of all kinds. I loved playing outside in nature, just quietly observing birds—it’s so meditative! It wasn’t until 7th grade science class that I really became more fascinated with birds all because of my teacher, Mr. LeFebvre. He introduced us Audubon and the bird count. We began recording our sightings at the beginning of each class—it was so much fun. I remember how thrilling it was when I spotted my first ring-necked pheasant in our snowy NH backyard! I’ve been a bird nerd ever since!

Thank you to Maria for stopping by and chatting with us!  I hope you find a copy of Whoo-Ku Haiku for your library!

More about Maria Gianferrari:

WHOO’s Maria Gianferrari? She’s a self-proclaimed bird nerd with a special fondness for raptors. Her love affair with birds began in 7th grade science class when her teacher, Mr. Lefebvre, initiated a bird count. While walking in her neighborhood, Maria’s always on the look-out for all kinds of birds, and she loves searching winter tree tops for nests in her northern Virginia neighborhood where she lives with her German-scientist husband and German speaking daughter. This is her first book with GP Putnam’s Sons. She’s also the author of another bird book, Hawk Rising. To learn more about Maria, please visit her website:

Edited on March 15th:

Maria has generously donated a copy of Whoo-Ku Haiku for a giveaway!  And with so many schools closed right now, this is perfect timing!  Please fill out the form and I will choose a winner on Friday, March 20th.  US residents only.  Good luck!