Dori Jones Yang, Author of the Month: The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball

September is a great time for me to be “Author of the Month” because I have a new book out and I’m planning lots of classroom visits – both in-person and online via skype. I love talking to kids about my books.

My new book, The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball, is about a boy who arrives in the United States and has to learn to speak English and make friends with American kids. At first he doesn’t understand very much and everything feels strange to him. Most immigrant kids can relate to that! Many American-born kids have at least one classmate who was born in another country and struggles to learn English. A book like this can help them to empathize with what these classmates might be going through.

The boy in this book is Woo Ka-Leong. He didn’t pick an English name, but people started calling him Leon, and that was okay with him.

Leon keeps getting into trouble. When he is told to stay put, he runs off because he is curious to see a train engine. When a kid teases him, he swings his fists. Once he gets mad and pushes a boy so he falls through the ice. How is Leon supposed to know about ice? Where he grew up, in southern China, it never snows.

Baseball saves him. He never played it before, but once he starts fooling around with a baseball and bat, he really likes the game. Some boys in town practice in a field, and one invites him to join in. At first, baseball is really hard, too, but Leon learns quickly. He wishes he could play it all the time, but he has to study for hours every day.

Maybe you guessed from the pictures, but Leon lived a long time ago—in the 1870s. In those days, all Chinese boys and men had to wear their hair in one long braid. Some Americans teased him about that and pulled his braid. But he didn’t have a choice. If he cut it off, he would be considered a traitor to China and would be sent home in shame. Not a good option.

Maybe you noticed from my author picture, but I am not a Chinese boy. I’m not even Chinese! And I wasn’t even alive in the 1870s. So why did I decide to write about a Chinese boy in the 1870s?

Actually, I’ve written a lot of books about people from China. My husband was born there, and our daughter grew up Chinese-American in Washington State. I spend many years learning to speak Mandarin and speak it with friends and relatives. But I also spent many years living abroad—two years in Singapore and eight years in Hong Kong.

Above is a picture of me with my daughter when she was little. Below is one of me in my twenties, speaking Mandarin at a contest shortly after I started studying it in Singapore.

I know what it feels like to struggle to express myself in a foreign language. When I first studied Chinese, in my early twenties, I often had a complicated thought in my head, but the only sentences that came out of my mouth were simple. One day it hit me: back home in America, I used to think that if people spoke poor English, they weren’t smart. Now I knew better. They were just as smart as I was, but it was hard for them to find the right English words to express the complicated thoughts in their heads.

At that moment, I made a decision. Once I returned home to the United States, I would do everything I could to help people who were trying to adapt to my country and language. Now, years later, I do that a lot. Recently, I helped an 11-year-old boy and his mom sign up for sixth grade at an American middle school, a month after they arrived from China.

But more important, I write books about kids trying to adapt to America. My first children’s book, The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang, tells of a girl from China who starts fifth grade in Seattle and discovers she can’t speak in class. The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball tells of Leon, the boy who arrives in the U.S. in 1875 and makes friends playing baseball. Both are middle grade novels for readers age ten and up.

I’m planning a book tour of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York October 14-31 and am arranging many school visits there. I’m also scheduling school visits in the Seattle area before and afterwards. I welcome teachers and librarians to contact me about skype visits.

If you live in the Seattle area, please come to my book launch at Island Books in Mercer Island on Sunday, September 10th, at 4 p.m. I plan to show some pictures of the real Chinese boy scholars who came in the 1870s.

In the meantime, enjoy this one-minute book trailer video. It was created and produced by a talented college student I know, David Graham. To see the video, click on this link.

Happy viewing – and happy reading!

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Joan Holub, Author of the Month: How a Night Owl Gets Day Things Done

Do you get up early, feeling immediately creative?

If so, I’ve always wanted to be like you. Alas, I’m a night owl. To me, the evening hours feel all cozy and less interruptible by outside forces. My energy peaks and my brain sparks with creativity. I get a lot done…


Coming in 2017:
Tool School  Scholastic picture book
Vampoodle  Random House early reader

But I can’t live out of step with most of the world. I have to get started earlier than comes naturally. So I begin my day working on something that doesn’t require me to be at peak creativity. Research. Emails. Designing a book postcard.

Then I ease into writing–the kind that doesn’t require me to dig deep. Morning is not the time to start a new story or make critical creative decisions on one I’ve begun. Instead, I might do revisions on a first draft Goddess Girls series manuscript—not the final-stage fine-tuning kind. No, the easy kind, like perusing Google images to get a consensus on a new mythology character’s hair color, or moving hunks of story around for better logic. Organizing facts is easy and fun for me in the mornings–probably one reason I write nonfiction in addition to fiction.

I’ve been thinking about what it is to be a night owl a lot lately because Nyx is a night owl. She’s the star of Nyx the Mysterious, the newest book (#22) in the Goddess Girls middle grade series I co-author with the amazing Suzanne Williams. Nyx is the bringer of night in Greek mythology. An important job. Yet no one at Mount Olympus Academy seems to get that. (I do, Nyx! Honestly, would they really want it to be day all the time?) Evening and night have beneficial qualities. Darkness serves us as a time to dream, both creatively and in a rejuvenative sense.

For us naturally-night-owl authors, the point is to find things we can do in the early part of our day that will act as bridges to what we hope to accomplish every afternoon or evening—create something new and surprising on the page.

Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl like Nyx and me, it’s really all about getting started. About finding a way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be!

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *
Nyx the Mysterious
Book birthday: April 4, 2017
Goddess Girls series
Middle grade, ages 8-12
Simon & Schuster / Aladdin
Giving away two copies signed by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams.
Please post a comment to enter (with contact so winners can be notified win).

Joan Holub is the New York Times bestselling author of Mighty Dads, illustrated by James Dean. She is the author and/or illustrator of about 150 books for children. To read more about Joan and her books, visit:
http://www.joanholub.com
http://www.facebook.com/goddessgirlsbooks
http://pinterest.com/joanholub/
https://www.goodreads.com/Joan_Holub

 

Trudi Trueit, Author of the Month: For All the Champions

My mom was my champion. She believed in me long before I believed in myself. For a chubby, near-sighted, shy kid, her faith became my heartbeat. My mom gave me the precious gems of wisdom every child should possess: find your passion, follow your gut, never away give your power, persevere through hard times, pick yourself up when the world kicks you down. Plus, she was my best friend. I could tell her my secrets and know they would be safe.

Three years ago, when my mom died, my spirit turned gray. I tried telling myself all the things we say when a loved one dies: she wouldn’t want me to wallow, take comfort in the memories, grieve at my own pace. Still, I had trouble tapping into my creative core. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write, but I couldn’t figure out what to say. I was a jumble of emotions. Which ones should I pick? And how should I express them? Was there a right way? A way that would help me heal? One day, while looking at a picture of Mom and me I kept on my desk, I thought, ‘I feel like you took a piece of me when you left.’ And the answer came back, ‘Maybe so, but I also left a piece of myself behind.’

Me. I was, of course, that piece.

I knew I needed to write. Anything. Everything. Just write. So I did. I let my feelings of anger, sadness, frustration, and loss pour out onto the page, even if the things that came out made no sense, especially if they made no sense. I wrote short poems or jotted down memories of us; sometimes, the best I could do was scribble a sentence or two about how I was feeling that day. It took time but ever-so-slowly, the color came back into my soul. I am a firm believer that writing is cathartic. If you are willing to be honest and write about the messiness, it can save you.

Some of my work during that difficult time later became the seeds for a middle grade novel. I found myself writing a story about a 12-year-old girl named Kestrel (my mom loved birds) whose family travels to Canada after the death of her grandfather to help her grandmother save the family business. For many children, like Kestrel, the loss of a granddaresdontsssparent will be the first time they come face to face with death. Kestrel wants to be there for Grandma Lark (another bird) but isn’t sure how. Is there a right way? A way to help her grandmother heal? Or will she only make things worse? (Sound familiar?) The two begin a journey to find the answers together and, in the process, forge a powerful and lasting bond. MY TOP SECRET DARES AND DONT’S will be released next month from Aladdin MIX.

A few years before my mother passed, she told me she had her first inkling I would be a professional writer when I was seven years old. This surprised me, because we’d had many conversations about my career over the years. “You never said anything to me about it,” I said. “No,” she said. “It was your path to choose, your path to walk.” True enough. She had always supported me, but never steered me. She’d taught me to make my own choices then stepped back and let me do just that – another one of her gems.

Each day, as I sit down to write, I think how blessed I was to have a champion like her. We all need them in our lives. If I can be that for even one young writer than I will have fulfilled my artistic purpose. I think Mom would agree.

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *

The giveaway of an Advanced Reviewer Copy (ARC) of MY TOP SECRET DARES & DON’Ts is now over!  Congrats to our winner: LYNN A.

truditrueit2016Trudi Trueit is an award-winning author of more than 100 fiction and nonfiction books for children. She enjoys giving online presentations and leading writing workshops for elementary through middle school students. Click HERE to find out how you can bring her into your classroom via Skype or Google Hangouts. To read more about Trudi and her books, visit her website at www.truditrueit.com.

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The truth is out there… maybe?

How do we know what to believe, whom to trust? How do we fight against the internet’s echo chamber effects and our brains’ confirmation-seeking biases? It takes discipline, but I believe we can train ourselves (and our students) to question what they see and hear and to seek out the truth, or at least the best image of the truth they can find, even if it’s complicated.

We’re just days away from an historic presidential election, and there’s nothing like an important election to get people fired up about civics, right? Well… fired up about something, anyway. Civics seems to be getting largely overlooked in many cases, as does basic research and fact checking. Most of us, no matter what our political views, have seen and heard misinformation that we believe to be true. Many of us have even passed it on to others without checking its veracity. How did we get to this point?

I have some theories, of course, but they’re not what this post is about. I want to talk about how we can all do better… and how we can help kids do better, too. How do we know what to believe, whom to trust? How do we fight against the internet’s echo chamber effects and our brains’ confirmation-seeking biases? It takes discipline, but I believe we can train ourselves (and our students) to question what they see and hear and to seek out the truth, or at least the best image of the truth they can find, even if it’s complicated.

twotruthsandalie-hc-convertedThis is a central theme of my upcoming book, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE: IT’S ALIVE!, co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette. The book started out as simply a fun collection of hard-to-believe—but true—facts… mixed up with some wacky but almost-believable stories such as internet hoaxes and urban legends. But as we worked, it slowly grew into something more.

First, we were a bit surprised by how easy it was to curate a massive list of possible stories to include: they were bombarding us daily on our social media feeds, newspapers and magazines, and television broadcasts. Stories like these abound! And most people don’t care whether or not they’re true. We’ll read them—and share them—as  long as they’re entertaining.

Second, we were disconcerted by how hard it could be even for us—well-educated professional authors—to sort out the facts from fiction! Sometimes we were forced to abandon great story ideas because we couldn’t prove whether they were true or not. Other times we had discussions where one of us was convinced, but the other one wasn’t. Some stories we thought were true were found to be false, or vice versa, as we researched them further. And occasionally, a story was partially true but not completely, and we decided it was just too complicated to deal with in the format we were pursuing.

These factors pushed us to expand our goals for the book. Beyond being “just” entertaining, we felt we had to address the idea of information literacy head on. In addition to a detailed bibliography of the sources we used for every story, the book now contains an explanation of our process, habits that readers can cultivate to become more information literate (question everything, especially motive!), tips and activities to encourage critical thinking and analysis skills (how does this fit with my existing knowledge?), and advice on conducting high-quality research (hint: it’s not Google or Wikipedia, although those can be great places to start!).

Writing this book was such an interesting—and, at times, shocking—experience, and it taught us a lot about ourselves as authors and as human beings. We hope readers will have a similar experience, and we can’t wait to share it with them next year!

Until then, we hope you—and your students—will be careful out there. You can’t trust everything you read, see, or hear!

(For a sneak peek at some of what’s in the book, check out this reveal hosted by Pragmatic Mom.)