Celebrate Black History Month with Albert Whitman

To honor Black History Month, learn all about the first black golfer to win a PGA tournament in Charlie Takes His ShotCharlie Sifford’s determination in a sport where he faced discrimination, both on and off the green, helped break down the color barrier in golf. “A poignant and inspiring tale of a groundbreaking sports figure whose name and story should be well-known,” says Kirkus Reviews.

9780807511282_IPG_Final

And don’t miss these forthcoming books from Albert Whitman, available for preorder now.

After being taunted by her classmates, Mackenzie seeks guidance and support from her neighbor Miss Tillie, learning how to tend and care for her hair and realizing that natural black hair is beautiful in My Hair is a Garden.

9780807509234_IPG_Final

It’s exhausting being famous, but someone has to do it! Kiely knows she is a star in I Am Famous. The paparazzi (her parents) follow her every move, documenting with cameras. She even gets to perform a big song at her grandfather’s birthday. But when she messes up, will her fans still love her?

9780807534403_IPG_Final_BD.jpg

Looking to add more titles to your bookshelf during Black History Month? Check out our catalog for a variety of options that share rich and diverse stories from African American history.

Advertisements
Celebrate Black History Month with Albert Whitman

Q&A with Nancy Churnin

Nancy Churnin is the author of several picture book biographies including The William Hoy Story and, most recently, Charlie Takes His Shot, the story of professional golf player Charlie Sifford. In the 1930s, only white people were allowed to play in the Professional Golf Association. Sifford had won plenty of black tournaments, but he was determined to break the color barrier in the PGA. In 1960 he did, only to face discrimination from hotels that wouldn’t rent him rooms and clubs that wouldn’t let him use the same locker as the white players. But Sifford kept playing, becoming the first black golfer to win a PGA tournament and eventually ranking among the greats in golf.

9780807511282_IPG_Final

We were lucky enough to sit down with Nancy Churnin to chat about her writing process, the importance of biographies, and Charlie Takes His Shot.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: Charlie Sifford wanted two things more than anything else – to take his shots as a golfer and to take his shots as a person, without someone telling him what he couldn’t do just because of his race. Titles can be tricky, but this title, which expresses what Charlie did on the golf course and in life, stuck with me from the first draft.

Q: Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: I don’t have a regular routine in terms of what I do at specific hours in the day. But, I do have a routine in terms of process. I find a subject I love, who inspires me. I learn everything I can about that person, looking always for what is at the heart of their journey – the path that changed them most profoundly and changes us as we follow their journey. Then I write and rewrite and rewrite and try to clear away anything extraneous. My critique groups and my editor help a great deal with this stage.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

A: I like to write in silence so I can hear the voices of my characters and their world in my head. And I like to write with a mug of hot cocoa, prepared with boiling water instead of milk. Sometimes, if things get challenging, fresh-popped popcorn in a pot can make all the difference.

Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A: The easiest part is falling in love with my subject. The love period is such bliss! I want to read everything I can about my subject. I want to daydream about my subject. I want to live in my subject’s world! Then comes the hard part: building a world of words in which my subject can live and breathe and can enchant children the way my subject enchants me. It takes a lot of revising to get to that magical place.

Q: What research did you have to do?

A: I read Charlie Sifford’s 1992 autobiography, Just Let Me Play: The Story of Charlie Sifford, the First Black PGA Golfer. I read every article I could find about Charlie Sifford. I watched the YouTube clip where President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. I am very grateful that the great Dan Jenkins, a best-selling author, Sports Illustrated columnist, and member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, shared his personal knowledge of Charlie Sifford with me. And I am deeply appreciative of all the time that Dr. Tony Parker, historian at the World Golf Hall of Fame; Laury Livsey, senior director of the PGA Tour History; and Bob Denney, PGA of America History gave me in fact-checking the story.

Q: Do you play golf?

A: No, I don’t play golf. But I enjoy watching it and I have tremendous respect for the attention and dedication it takes to play it well.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: When I write children’s books, I go back to a happy place in my childhood when I was discovering the world through books. I remember a wonderful librarian in the Bronx at the Kingsbridge Heights Public Library introducing me to a book which had what sounded like a bizarre title: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I remember trusting her smile as she handed it to me. That book transported me to another world as surely as the wardrobe took the Pevensie children to Narnia. I also remember how in another book in the series, The Magician’s Nephew, the world is described as so new that anything dropped into the soil grows into something marvelous. I love digging back to the wonder of my own childhood to plant what I hope are good and inspiring stories into the childhoods of others. There has never been a picture book about Charlie Sifford before. This world still has too many children who feel or are told that they don’t have the same rights or opportunities as others. I hope Charlie Takes His Shot will find its way into the imagination of children in a way that will encourage them to take their shots and help others do the same.

9780807511282_IN02.jpg

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: My first favorite book was The Wizard of Oz. My mother read a chapter every night and two chapters on Saturday so she could take the day off on Sunday. I soon fell in love with The Chronicles of Narnia and everything I could find by Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pretty early on I was mixing up children’s books with books by Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, and everything I could find about Greek and Roman mythology, including Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Later I developed a passion for poets like Emily Dickinson, William Butler Yeats, and Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I’m an omnivorous reader and will go from picture books to The Color Purple to Harry Potter to Charlie Bone, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Bernard Malamud, Isaac Asimov, and back again.

Now, you may wonder why someone who reads so much fiction, fantasy, and drama is writing non-fiction picture book biographies. Sometimes I wonder that, too! I have spent years as a journalist and I’ve seen a hole in the education system. Kids don’t learn about the diverse people who blazed the way toward opening up possibilities for us all. It feels like a need crying to be filled. When it comes to shining a light on these people, I feel a little like Charlie when Jackie tells him in the book, “Nobody can do it but you.” Now, I know there are others doing great and important work in bringing diverse stories to life. I celebrate and appreciate their work. But I also feel that we’re collectively way behind in telling these stories and it’s my job, my mission, my passion to tell the ones I find in the unique way I tell them. Who knows, maybe someday I’ll be writing fiction and fantasies, too. But it feels right to be doing exactly what I’m doing right now.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: This book brings attention to someone who deserves recognition, but whom many children don’t yet know – Charlie Sifford, who fought a long, courageous battle to break the color barrier in the Professional Golfers’ Association. It also shows how Charlie’s friend, Jackie Robinson, was not only an amazing baseball player who broke the color line in baseball, but a civil rights warrior who spoke up for Charlie’s right to play. In addition, it pays homage to Stanley Mosk, the Jewish attorney who also helped Charlie, and reminds kids about the discrimination that Jewish people suffered in America. I hope these intertwining stories will plant the idea that we all need to do our part to help if we want to open up opportunities for everyone.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: I am very excited about my next two books: Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing, from Creston Books in June 2018 and The Princess and the First Christmas Tree, from Albert Whitman & Company in Fall 2018. These are both true and, I hope, inspirational stories for children.

Q: What was the process of working with your editor like?

A: Working with Wendy McClure has been an absolute joy. She’s been visionary in selecting just the right illustrator for each book. She has also gently pushed me towards making each book the best it can possibly be. In The William Hoy Story, we went over each word to make sure we had chosen the best one. In Charlie Takes His Shot, my first draft reflected my concern to keep the focus exclusively on Charlie. I am thrilled that she encouraged me to loosen the narrative to include more details about Jackie Robinson and Stanley Mosk. I think they add so much depth to the story. We are just getting started on her notes for The Princess and the First Tree and I am looking forward to that.

9780807511282_IN03

Q: How did the experience writing Charlie Takes His Shot compare to the experience writing The William Hoy Story?

A: The William Hoy Story was my debut picture book and the result of years of revisions as I studied the craft of writing children’s books. I knew I had a great story to tell, but it took a long time before I knew how to tell it! By the time I wrote Charlie Takes His Shot, I had learned a lot. I knew how the book should start and end. I knew the shape of the journey. It took a lot of revisions, but they went comparatively quickly. It’s the difference between wandering in a forest, eventually finding your way after many missteps, and setting off with confidence and arriving ahead of schedule.

Q: How should educators/program coordinators contact you?

A: I hope they will contact me on my website at nancychurnin.com. I am also easy to reach through The Dallas Morning News, where I am the theater critic, at nchurnin@dallasnews.com, on Twitter @nchurnin, and on Facebook at Nancy Churnin Children’s Books.

 

Thanks so much, Nancy! To find out more about Charlie Takes His Shot check out our website.

Q&A with Nancy Churnin

‘Tis the Season…

…the season to curl up with a good book, that is! From silly reads to heartfelt classics, these picture books are handpicked to make this Christmas memorable. Start your holidays right by sharing the joy of books with your young readers and giving the gift of kindness.

Finding Christmas

By Lezlie Evans

9780807524336_FindingChristmas

Squirrel, Hare, and Mouse are in the midst of their final Christmas preparations in the forest. When Mouse goes out to find the perfect gift for Hare, he ends up finding Swallow, sick and alone in the woods! All the woodland creatures use their Christmas gifts to help Swallow feel better and find that, in the end, giving their gifts and helping their friend was the best Christmas gift they could have asked for.

To take the book’s message to heart, download a “gifts of kindness” craft project.

Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder

By Rebecca Colby

9780807510636_Captain Bling

Captain Bling and his whole crew are off on an adventure when their ship gets blown off course all the way to the North Pole! They quickly discover that fate was in their favor. Elves are carrying all sorts of gifts and treasure! By the time Santa gets on board, it seems the gifts may be lost forever, but Santa has a surprise in store for Captain Bling and his crew.

Rudy’s Windy Christmas

By Helen Baugh

9780807571736_RudysWindyChristmas

Santa doesn’t want to eat his sprouts at dinner, so he feeds them to Rudy instead. It turns out that sprouts make Rudy a little…er…smelly. The other reindeer downwind of Rudy are so distracted by their own laughter that the sleigh gets off course! It’s up to Rudy and his new found tooting power to get everyone back home safely. Watch the trailer here to get a whiff of all the excitement.

The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas

By Ellis Paul

9780807545430_LightsWentOutXmas

The holidays are always illuminated by rows and rows of Christmas lights. When one suburban street becomes locked in a bright competition, the decorations become out of control until finally they accidentally shut off the power. In the darkness that remains, they can see the night time stars, the best Christmas display. Based on Ellis Paul’s renowned Christmas song, this goofy tale is paired with beautiful illustrations, giving the reader a light show of their own.

A Homemade Together Christmas

By Maryann Cocca-Leffler

9780807533666_HomemadeTogetherChristmas

Luca and his family decide that this year they’ll exchange homemade gifts for Christmas. Everyone’s very excited: Momma makes breakfast, Dad makes a blanket, and his sister Rosie sings a song. But Luca can’t think of anything to give to his family! He brainstorms idea after idea, but nothing seems possible. Will Luca find the right gift for his family?

 

Merry Christmas from Albert Whitman!

Celebrate with Kindness.

‘Tis the Season…

Q&A with Rebecca Colby

In Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder by Rebecca Colby and illustrated by Rob McClurkan, the captain and his merry crew set off to find treasure, but they get blown off course and end up at the North Pole. When they spy the elves carefully wrapping presents, the pirates think they have found the ultimate booty! They quickly steal the presents and make their way back to the ship. By the time Santa Claus catches up to them, the pirates are well on their way to escaping. But Santa has a surprise for Captain Bling and his crew!

Captain Bling_CVR

We were lucky enough to sit down with Rebecca to discuss the creative process, holiday traditions, and Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder.

Q. What was the inspiration for your title?

A. I love playing around with juxtaposition and putting two things together that don’t normally go together. In this case, pirates and Christmas. I thought it would be fun to feature a gang of pirates that steal Santa’s treasure of toys, and I envisioned the captain of this gang being draped in jewels—hence the name, Captain Bling.

Q. Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A. I do, and it involves a lot of day dreaming. When first thinking up ideas, I tend to go for long walks. This helps to clear my mind and bring out those harder to reach ideas that don’t always surface when I’m sitting in one place.

Once I have the idea, I will flesh out the story line in prose and then slowly piece it together in rhyme. And I do mean slowly! I often spend a full day working on just one or two stanzas, while going cross-eyed rifling through my rhyming dictionary.

9780807510636_INT1

Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A. For me, the easiest part is coming up with ideas. The hardest part is writing the book, as so many ideas sound good on the page but just fizzle out as I try to write them. Thank goodness, I find it easy to come up with lots and lots of ideas.

Q. Why write children’s books?

A. Because I’m still seven years old in my head, and I don’t want to grow up. Also, children’s books introduced me to new worlds as a child and they instilled in me a life-long love of poetry. Not to mention that I love humor and I find children’s books appeal more to my funny bone than books for adults.

Q. What makes your book stand out?

A. Probably the juxtaposition mentioned above—mixing pirates and Christmas. But also, the message behind the book. What we expect out of others and/or ourselves is usually what we get. Expect positive outcomes and you’ll get them. Expect negative outcomes and the Universe will provide them also. Thankfully, Santa believed in the pirates when they didn’t believe in themselves, and that changed the outcome of their story.

9780807510636_INT2

Q. What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books to you like to read now?

A. I was a big fan of children’s poetry and Dr. Seuss, books on the paranormal, and humorous books. That hasn’t changed a bit. As an adult, I’m still into the very same things: children’s poems, life beyond the scope of accepted scientific understanding, and books that make me laugh.

Q. What you are your favorite holiday traditions?

A. Do you mean besides trying to run off with all the “treasure” under the Christmas tree? My biggies are making (and drinking) homemade eggnog and working on jigsaw puzzles with my daughters. The eggnog is gone in seconds but the puzzles give us days’ worth of quality time together.

Thanks so much, Rebecca! To find out more about Captain Bling’s Christmas Plunder check out our website.

 

Q&A with Rebecca Colby

Illuminating Picture Books for Hanukkah

It’s time to celebrate the miracle of the Maccabees during Hanukkah. Here are four of our favorites to last all eight nights. To continue celebrations, make sure to check out additional holiday titles here.

Little Red Ruthie

By Gloria Koster

9780807546468_LittleRedRuthie_BD

This book melds Hanukkah traditions with the folklore of Little Red Riding Hood creating a holiday classic that will entertain all young readers. Ruthie must cross the woods to bring her grandmother applesauce and sour cream for the latkes, but the wolf who finds her has other ideas. Can Ruthie convince him that latkes are much more delicious than her?

Find out more about author Gloria Koster here.

Is it Hanukkah Yet?

By Chris Barash

9780807533840_IsItHanukkahYet

The worst part about the holidays is waiting for them to come! This lyrical picture book illustrates the anticipation and excitement building towards the holiday. As the snow covers the ground and the latkes and menorah are gathered, the reader is taken through the telltale signs that Hanukkah is on its way after all.

Celebrate more holidays with other titles in this charming series.

The Eigth Menorah

By Lauren L. Wohl

9780807518922_EighthMenorah

Everyone at school is making menorahs for Hanukkah, but Sam’s family already has seven. What could they possibly do with one more? Sam is determined to find the perfect home for his menorah before Hanukkah starts.

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes

By Linda Glaser

9780807508428

Everyone’s coming to Rachel’s house to celebrate the last day of Hanukkah and eat her Mama’s famous latkes. When eight more relatives are added to the guest list her Mama is afraid there won’t be enough food. Rachel goes down to Mrs. Greenberg’s house to borrow a few more potatoes and invite her to the celebration, but Mrs. Greenberg is stubborn as an ox and doesn’t want to be a bother to Rachel’s family. It’s up to Rachel to convince her that during Hanukkah, the more the merrier!

 

Happy Hanukkah from Albert Whitman!

Celebrate with Kindness.

 

Illuminating Picture Books for Hanukkah

Q&A with Leslie Evans

In Finding Christmas by Lezlie Evans and illustrated by Yee Von Chan, Squirrel, Mouse, and Hare are getting ready for Christmas. While Mouse is out looking for the perfect gift for Hare, she finds Swallow sick in the snow. The three friends bring Swallow home and try to nurse the bird back to health. Squirrel and Mouse realize their Christmas gifts will help Swallow get well. As they give up their presents to help Swallow, they find the Christmas spirit.

9780807524336_FindingChristmas

We were lucky enough to chat with author Lezlie Evans about writing children’s books, celebrating kindness, and Finding Christmas.

Q. Why write children’s books?

A. I didn’t grow up thinking I would write for children. There were many career paths I considered: an actor, a doctor, and a detective. Being a children’s book author never crossed my mind. In college, I majored in broadcast journalism and took several creative writing courses along the way. After many trips to the public library and reading hundreds of books with my six children, I discovered my true passion: writing for children. Many special bonding moments have come from reading with my children over the years. It’s my hope that my books might do the same for others.

Q. What books did you like to read as a kid?

A. Make Way for Ducklings was one of my favorite picture books as a child. I read it over and over again. My favorite novels included Where the Red Fern Grows, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Incredible Journey. These books made me cry. Books that tugged at my heartstrings and made me feel something deeply; those are the ones that have stayed with me.

9780807524336_INT1

Q. What was your inspiration for your title?

A. One Christmas when my six children were still at home, we ran into a snafu that changed the way we gave gifts. It was Christmas Eve and the pile of toys and trinkets we’d bought for the children lay on our bedroom floor waiting to be wrapped. My husband offered to help and I gratefully took him up on it. He quickly set about wrapping all of the gifts and finished the job in record time. But it was soon discovered that in his determination to get the task done, he had forgotten to put names on the gifts. When he realized his mistake, in an effort to save the day, he suggested we put the presents under the tree as is, let the children choose one at a time, open it, and then give it to the family member they thought needed it/would love it the most. This turned out to be one of our most cherished family memories. The children loved giving the gifts away to their delighted siblings, and my husband and I loved watching the sweet exchanges that took place. It was so much fun that our children asked if we could leave the names off the Christmas gifts the next year…and so we did. I didn’t see it at the time, but after writing Finding Christmas, I realized that Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse were a lot like my children: they found great joy as they gave their gifts away!

Q. Do you have any writing rituals?

A. For many, writing is a solitary endeavor, but not for me. My two cats see to that! I wouldn’t know how to write without Maxine and Callie by my side. As soon as I sit down at the computer, Max is at my feet and Callie jumps up and sits in between the keyboard and my computer screen. They are the purrrrrfect companions! Besides having my cats nearby, I also like to keep snacks close at hand. In my left-hand desk drawer, you’re sure to find salt and vinegar almonds and buffalo pretzel pieces. These treats keep me going. If I’m struggling with a particular passage or a part of the story, I’ll reach for the right-hand drawer. That’s where I keep the good stuff: chocolate!

9780807524336_INT2

Q. How do you share the message of kindness and friendship during the holidays?

A. The holidays are often hectic and many times I get overbooked and overloaded and don’t get around to doing everything I’d like to for my friends. I think that’s true for a lot of people. So when I found out Albert Whitman had created a Finding Christmas advent calendar (a simple, fun way to think of others during the holidays), I was thrilled! This free downloadable craft kit is something that families can create together. Then, on a daily basis, children can track the little ways they show kindness and think of others during the holidays. I can’t wait to make one with my grandkids when I see them at Thanksgiving! Feel free to share caring calendar with your friends.

Q. Hare loves to sing Christmas songs. In Finding Christmas, he declares it’s his favorite part of Christmas. Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?

A. I’m a lot like Hare! I love Christmas music and can be found “singing at the top of my lungs” all throughout the season. Sometimes I put on Christmas music at other times of the year just because it makes me feel happy! As for choosing a favorite, I don’t think I can pick just one. From Jingle Bells to Joy to the World, I love them all.

 

Thanks so much, Lezlie. To find out more about Finding Christmas and download the advent calendar craft visit our website.

Q&A with Leslie Evans

Q&A with Gloria Koster

At Albert Whitman & Company, we’re getting ready for Hanukkah with our latest book celebrating the holiday: Little Red Ruthie by Gloria Koster and illustrated by Sue Eastland.

It was a chilly winter in the northern woods, but Ruthie did not mind. Dressed in her favorite puffy red coat, she was going to spend Hanukkah with her grandmother, who lived on the other side of the forest. Ruthie was bringing sour cream and applesauce to go along with the yummy latkes. She carefully packed her basket and kissed her mother good-bye. Snow began to fall. Soon Ruthie was lost in a thicket, and she was not alone. Someone was hiding behind the tree, and when he jumped out, Ruthie found herself face to face with a wolf. Ruthie will have to convince the wolf that eating latkes will be tastier than eating her!

9780807546468_LittleRedRuthie_BD

We were lucky enough to sit down with author Gloria Koster to chat about folktales, Hanukkah, and Little Red Ruthie.

Q. Why did you decide to write a folktale with a Hanukkah twist?

A. As an elementary school librarian, I’ve been reading stories aloud to children for a long time. Over the years I’ve witnessed the special power of folktales. When they are told well, they have an organic quality and the power to completely enchant young listeners. I knew I wanted to write one. And holiday books are always a draw, especially in the fall and winter months when there are so many different celebrations.

Q. What makes your version of Little Red Riding Hood stand out?

A. Most Red Riding Hood characters show independence as they set out on their journeys, but few are as sharp as Ruthie. She is the epitome of someone who thinks her way through a tough situation, and she appears even more clever in contrast with my clueless wolf. Children of all faiths and backgrounds can see themselves in Ruthie’s predicament and take courage from her confidence and bravery. The inclusion of Jewish traditions also makes this telling unique. I use the Yiddish term Bubbe, for the grandmother character, and Ruthie is named in honor of Ruth from the Old Testament. In the context of a humorous Red Riding Hood story, readers will learn about the Hanukkah miracle and the significance of the menorah, latkes, and jelly donuts.

9780807546468_INT1

Q. What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?

A. The easiest part is the idea. It’s so exciting to seize upon a topic that resonates with me. Then the work begins! So far, all my stories have been picture books. I write at the sentence level, so for me, the choice of words and the sound of those words is extremely important. Writing a picture book is a lot like writing a poem. Sometimes it seems as though I’m making very little progress because I spend so much time with small sections of text.

Q. What is your favorite fairytale?

A. I dedicated Little Red Ruthie to the memory of my mother. I was fortunate to have her share many fairy tales with me. One of our favorites was The Snow Queen. I was transfixed by the idea that a shard of glass could transform the little boy from good to evil and always reassured when his true nature re-emerges. I love the magical, winter setting of The Snow Queen. It was an inspiration for the northern forest in Little Red Ruthie.

Q. What was the process of working with your editor like?

A. I actually had the pleasure of working with two different editors at Albert Whitman, with Andrea Hall guiding me through the bulk of revisions. Thanks, Andrea! Your suggestions were always on target and I so appreciated your clear communication and extremely prompt responses.

9780807546468_INT2

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. I love writing folktales, but I’ve also developed an interest in narrative nonfiction. I’m currently putting the finishing touches on two picture book biographies. It’s wonderful to write a story without having to invent the plot. But the challenge is remembering to stick with the facts. I enjoy working in different genres.

Q. What are your writing routines and quirks?

A. I try to write every day, even if it’s just for an hour or so after work. Weekends and vacations feel like gifts. Just like a lot of other writers, I take walks to clear my head and to “re-boot” when I am stuck for too long on one part of a story. I split my time between my small town and New York City, so there are always places to go for long walks. Hot showers are another great way to clear my head!

Thanks so much, Gloria! Celebrate Hanukkah this year with Little Red Ruthie.

 

Q&A with Gloria Koster