Around the Web with OAV Authors: August 2015

Another month, another fun sampling of clickable insights into our authors’ goings-on!

Deb talks creativity during a school visit.

Here’s a terrific piece by Deb Lund on helping students (and everyone) claim their creativity.

In “Two Are Better Than One,” Dori Hillestad Butler interviews Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub about their successful writing partnership. (That’s three OAVers in one click!)

Lisa L. Owens discusses what makes her feel alive in “Hark! How the Bells” at Dia Calhoun’s blog.

The Irish Times praises Martha Brockenbrough’s masterful storytelling in her YA novel The Game of Love and Death.

TTPM reviews Dana Sullivan’s adorable Kay Kay’s Alphabet Safari on their YouTube channel. (Spoiler alert: They loved it.)

Lucky teachers and librarians will want to snag this handy downloadable curriculum guide at Patrick Jennings’s website.

Clare Hodgson Meeker blogs about her rewarding experience leading an in-school field trip on teamwork.

Kids participating in Clare’s in-school teamwork field trip make soccer balls out of newspaper and plastic bags.

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Here’s a peek at what our members have been up to lately …

Dori Hillestad Butlers Haunted Library #5: The Secret Room (Grosset & Dunlap) was released last week. Now that Kaz can finally pass through walls without feeling all “skizzy,” he can explore Beckett’s secret room at the back of the library. What he finds there is a mystery he never expected.

Dori also turned in a manuscript for Haunted Library #8: The Hide and Seek Ghost this week. This will be the final book in the series.

                                          ♥ ♥ ♥

Joan Holub‘s What Were the Salem Witch Trials? released last week. This is a chapter book about an incredibly tragic, fascinating event about which many questions remain. A memorial was dedicated to the Salem Twenty, 300 years after their unjust deaths in Massachusetts, and all were finally and officially declared innocent. Joan has written other books in the Who Was/What Was series with Grosset & Dunlap, including Who Was Baby Ruth?

                                                                                 ♥ ♥ ♥

Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams celebrated the release of Goddess Girls 17: Amphitrite the Bubbly and Heroes in Training 10: Hephaestus and the Island of Terror this week. 

A fan letter (below) may not have been the deciding factor in convincing Scholastic to continue with their Grimmtastic Girls series (which Scholastic had brought to an end in April 2015 with Book #6: Goldilocks Breaks In), but the letter couldn’t have hurt! Just two months after Joan & Suzanne forwarded a copy of it to our editor, Scholastic asked them for Books 7 & 8. They’ll be out in Summer & Fall of 2016. (Titles are yet to be determined.) 

                                                                          ♥ ♥ ♥

Lisa L. Owens has just signed on to write two titles in a 2016 upper-elementary-age series about world explorers. She’ll share more details as the books approach publication!

                                                                        ♥ ♥ ♥

Dana Sullivan reports that his illustrator copies of Digger and Daisy Star in a Play arrived on his doorstep last week. This is the fifth book in the early reader series published by Sleeping Bear Press. Judy Young writes the text and Dana draws the pictures. Books are scheduled to be in stores September 1.

Dana also turned in initial sketches for the sixth book, Digger and Daisy Plant a Garden earlier this week. He’s waiting for publisher feedback before making edits and proceeding to final art.

                                                                          ♥ ♥ ♥

Laurie Thompson‘s Be a Changemaker won the Coalition of Visionary Resources Book of the Year Award. For more information, check out her blog post. She’s also recently had the opportunity to do two radio interviews. You can listen to those here and here. And she participated in a group panel and signing event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL, signed books at ILA in St. Louis, MO, did several in-person summer camp visits, donates books to both her childhood school library and her hometown public library, and went on a very successful research trip for a nonfiction picture book she’s working on.

                                   ♥ ♥ ♥

Simon & Schuster is offering the ebook of Trudi Trueit’s middle grade novel, Stealing Popular, for just $1.99! This Back-to-School special is available in all e-book formats but only lasts until the first week of September so don’t wait! Also, pre-order Trudi’s upcoming tween title, The Sister Solution (releases Sept. 29th), and get a bonus gift (while supplies last)! Head to her website for details:


                                                                          ♥ ♥ ♥

Dana Sullivan, Author of the Month: The Diversity Hot Button

Last week I was in St. Louis for the annual International Literary Association conference to give a presentation on diversity in children’s literature. I assume I was invited because of my book, Kay Kay’s Alphabet Safari, which is based on a real school and orphanage in rural Kenya (and, ahem, made the ILA Children’s Choice list). This book is very personal and dear to me because of my involvement with this school, the Star of Hope Centre for Children. My family has visited and have hugged these kids, so they are more than a story to us.
I was pretty nervous about my talk (Vicki tells me my stress was permeating the house and part of the yard as well) because I’m not what you would call the poster boy for diversity. I am a white, upper-middle class, middle aged male from the U.S. I was brought up in the 60s by progressive college professor parents who taught me respect for other colors and religions at a very early age. Stereotypes and cultural insensitivity were not to be tolerated in our house.
I found this out at the age of four when a local Black Panther leader was at our house for dinner. He had been at a sit-in of a local real estate agency who were not allowing people of color to buy homes in a new development. He needed a shower, dinner and respite from the front lines. I introduced him to my coal-black cat, saying, “My kitty is the same color as you.” My parents were apoplectic, but our guest simply asked me my kitty’s name. My parents lectured me about cultural sensitivity very shortly thereafter.
As a teenager, my illustration heroes were the Mad Magazine guys and Robert Crumb. The Mad men were amazing artists who pushed the boundaries of good taste, stereotypes, culture, you name it. I copied their art over and over. R.Crumb broke completely through the boundaries of good taste and offended just about everyone. I wanted to copy his work, but didn’t want to risk being labeled sexist or racist or just plain filthy. Of course I loved his stuff, but it made me uncomfortable. Now I realize that was the whole point.
Diversity is a hot button topic. What do we white males know about diversity? I learned early that I couldn’t be accused of stereotyping if I drew myself and people like me. So I drew a lot of white males. I could make them look stupid or funny and no one had a problem.
But there is a problem: we have plenty of books about white males and there are a lot more colors and cultures in this world whose stories need telling. The kids of Star of Hope, for instance.
I knew, as a picture book author and illustrator, I had to make a book about these kids. And to do that I had to get over my discomfort of drawing the “other” and risk being called out for drawing what I was not. The story was more important than my comfort level.
Drawing diversity without venturing into stereotype can be hard. And uncomfortable. But nobody said this job was going to be easy. I got into this gig to help kids with growing up, and it’s not easy for them either. So I owe them more that just checking off diversity boxes.
I realized that the secret to avoiding stereotyping is the same as writing a good story: you have to get the details right. In Kay Kay, the mud brick classrooms must look like the photos we took; in Digger and Daisy, the folds on a little girl’s hijab must look natural and the Spanish translation for “Wash your paws” must be correct.
I’m living my dream of being a children’s book author. Paying more attention to my audiences at schools lately, I have vowed to be better about getting them ALL into my future books. If I can draw blue dogs, I sure as hell can draw kids of color.
Ozzie from Ozzie and the Art Contest
The kids of Star of Hope Centre, Bungoma, Kenya
I want my books to tell EVERY kid’s story so they can dream THEIR dreams. And maybe live happily ever after, in living color.