Q&A with Elizabeth Briggs

Future Threat by Elizabeth Briggs is an action-packed adventure for teen readers about time travel gone awry. In it, Elena Martinez and a group of friends are required again by the Aether corporation to travel into the future and save another teen who has gone missing. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events. But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost—or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything—including their relationship—to save their friends.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Elizabeth to chat about Future Threat, finding inspiration, and writing routines.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: Future Threat is the second book in the Future Shock trilogy. The first book, Future Shock, was inspired by this question: what if you discovered something terrible was going to happen to you in the future? Would you be able to change your fate? In Future Threat I decided to take the opposite approach by giving the characters a glimpse of an optimistic future…and then took it away from them and made them fight hard to get it back.

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

A: I start with an idea and then I try to flesh it out by creating the characters, setting, and plot. I brainstorm for a while before making a scene by scene outline. Once that’s done, I start writing a really messy first draft, and my book usually changes a lot from the outline as I get new ideas. After that, I spend a lot of time revising the book to take it from a very rough draft to a polished manuscript.

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

A: The easiest part is coming up with the idea, because I get ideas for new books all the time and each one sounds like it would be a ton of fun to write. The hardest part is writing the first draft and turning that idea into an actual book.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: There are lots of other time travel books out there, but very few of them go to the future, especially multiple times. The book also has a diverse cast and a Mexican-American heroine, which we unfortunately don’t see enough of in YA sci-fi.

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Right now I’m working on Future Lost, the final book in the Future Shock trilogy. It will be out in 2018 and asks the question: what if you discovered the world was going to end? Would you be able to change it, even if doing so required a huge sacrifice? It’s going to be a big, epic end to the trilogy and I hope readers will enjoy it!

 

Thanks, Elizabeth. Find out more about Future Threat and the whole trilogy on our website. And, make sure to check out Elizabeth’s events calendar for a chance to hear her talk about her books in person this spring!

 

 

Q&A with Elizabeth Briggs

Four President’s Day Books to Read

President’s Day is just around the corner! Our current political climate has kids (and adults) asking questions, so why not spend the day off school curled up with a book (or two) about the leaders of our country. From how a campaign works to important moments in history, our collection of presidential books has a fun and educational selection!

1. If I Ran for President

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With one of the most talked-about election seasons in recent history just wrapped up, If I Ran for President explains the process of presidential campaigns to little ones. Through the imagination of a multicultural cast of children, this picture book shares the fun parts of running for an election, but also the hard work that is a part of the process.

2. How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln

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Told with colorful collage-style illustrations, this historical book shares the story of the first female detective, Kate Warne, as she thwarts a plan to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln on his Inauguration Day. A great choice for girls in particular, this fun picture book surely educate your little one!

3. If I Were President

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Children from all over America imagine what it would be like if they became President of the United States. From having a personal chef make desserts to being sworn in at the Inauguration, the cast of If I Were President depicts both the fun and the serious parts of this important job. Interspersed with facts about the White House and American history, this picture book is as informative as it is imaginative.

4.  Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

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Introduce your child to one of the most famous speeches in American history with this picture book. The actual text of the Gettysburg Address is accompanied by beautiful illustrations depicting historical moments from the early years of America. In our tense political climate, Lincoln’s unforgettable words are relevant in today’s world and current political climate. Complete with an introduction by scholar Gabor S. Boritt, this book is a perfect choice for a child’s first history book.

 

Four President’s Day Books to Read

Q&A With Gary Urey

Pursued is the first book in a gripping futuristic series, Secrets of the X-Point, by Gary Urey. In it, Axel Jack and Daisha Tandala are two thirteen-year-old friends running from a billionaire madman who killed their scientist parents and now wants what the kids have—GeoPorts (Geographical Transportation Systems.) The GeoPort, invented by their parents, has the ability to transport a person to any place on Earth within seconds. Soon, the chase becomes more than just a high-tech game of hide-and-seek, but a war for control of everything—money, culture, politics, and power.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Gary and talk about basing fantasy in reality, changing directions, and Pursued.

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

A. There is no easy part of creating a book. However, there are plenty of hard parts, like filtering through a hundred bad ideas to get a good one and slogging through until the end. I have a few books that have sputtered out at the 20,000-word mark because the idea wasn’t strong enough. You need a lot of self-discipline to sit in a chair for hours and write when every fiber of your being wants to walk the dog, play on the Internet, or go jogging. Other than that, it’s the greatest job in the world!

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: Honestly, Pursued was just a working title that survived the editor’s (the awesome Kristin Zelazko!) red pen. The series title, Secrets of the X-Point, made sense because the X-Point, a real phenomenon also known as an Electron Diffusion Region where the earth’s magnetic field connects with the sun, is the final piece of the puzzle that makes teleportation possible in the book.

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

A. Ha! It’s exciting and humbling at the same time. Exciting because you are working together to make the book better, humbling because a particular character, chapter, or paragraph you may love gets hacked by the editor and never makes it into the book. Writers need editors because the author is often too close to the material. Stuff that you thought was better than Shakespeare in reality may just be confusing to a reader. Also, grammar mistakes and poorly-worded sentences need a second pair of eyes to clarify.

Q. What makes your book stand out?

A. The science! The GeoPort device the kids use to teleport is only possible because of advanced GPS technology. The book is a traditional action/adventure thriller—kids on the run, bad guys want what they have, etc—but the kid’s ability to teleport isn’t through magic. Everything is possible because of advancements in science. Also, Pursued is just a gripping read with fun protagonists who must survive against almost overwhelming odds.

Q. Do you have any writing quirks?

A. Only if you call writing in a customized shed in my back yard quirky. I live in Maine where the winters are extremely cold. My shed is insulated and wired for electricity so I can plug in a space heater. Rarely do I need an air-conditioner in the summer. It takes about thirty minutes for the 6×6 shed to heat up so I can write. Also, I live near a busy intersection so I always wear Bose noise-reduction headphones. They completely block out all sound.

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. Yes, I’m working on books two and three of Secrets of the X-Point. I can’t wait to continue Axel and Daisha’s adventure! I’m also working on another humor book in the vein of Super Schnoz and am currently developing a pen pal-style book about two boys in outer space with the very funny Bart King of Bart’s Big Book of Girls Stuff, Boy Stuff, Gross Stuff, Spy Stuff, and many others.

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

A. Comic books! I was obsessed with them. My favorites were Spiderman, Green Lantern, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Night Crawler from the X-Men, and many others! My favorite books as a kid were How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell and Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez, a non-fiction book about the primal connection between wild wolves and humans. I still have my original copy!

Q. Why write children’s books?

A. My goal was never to be a writer. As a young man, I wanted to be an actor. I graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC and hit the audition trail. I had a roommate during those days who was an artist. His name is Steve Casino, a well-known pop artist today, who back then wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. He landed a job illustrating a book about the life of Wild Bill Hickock. I remember picking up the manuscript the publisher had sent him and hearing a very powerful bell ringing in my soul. From that moment on, I wanted to write children’s books.

 

Thanks so much, Gary! Find out more about Pursued here or check out a cool book trailer about the series here.

 

Q&A With Gary Urey

8 Valentine’s Day Books for Kids (and Teens too!)

Inspire a love for reading this Valentine’s Day with Albert Whitman books about love, kisses, hearts, and everything in between. From sweet picture books to somewhat steamy romance novels, we have something for readers for all ages. Take a look at our list below to check out some of our favorites for February 14th!

1. It’s Valentine’s Day, Chloe Zoe!

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Follow Chloe Zoe on an adventure as she makes valentines for all her classmates, including her extra-special friend George. This familiar character and cute story are bound to have young readers excited for a class party of their own. Crafty kids will also enjoy the activity kit on our website! Scroll to the bottom and click on the link to make valentines of your own!

2. Next to You

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Full of adorable illustrations of piglets in sweaters, baby monkeys in trees, a basket full of chicks and all sorts of other baby animals, this easy-to-read book is a delight for kids and adults. Available at Target and at other retailers, this book makes a great gift for your own little valentine or a mom-to-be. What’s cuter than that?

3. A Kiss Means I Love You

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This fun book teaches little ones how say “hello” with a wave, “I love you” with a kiss and “let’s go!” with a tug. Photographs of real children show the ways we communicate without using words, and the rhyming text makes it a great pick for read-aloud story time. Available as a picture book and as a board book, A Kiss Means I Love You is a great choice for preschool and early elementary readers.


If you’re looking for something for older readers with crushes of their own, check out some of our AW Teen romance novels. Follow a variety of characters, including edgy former rock star Adam and sweet yet shy Kaycee, as they encounter first kisses, heart-pounding crushes, and tough decisions.

1. All the Forever Things

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Gabriella has grown up helping with the family business—running a funeral home. She knows that not everything lasts forever, but she’s surprised when her best friend, Bree, begins acting distant because of her new boyfriend. Then, a love interest of her own comes into the picture. After a strange prom night, Gabe thinks her friendship with Bree might truly be over. Teen of all ages will be captivated by this story of changing friendships and new romances.

2. Resurrecting Sunshine

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For teens who aren’t going gaga over Valentine’s Day, Resurrecting Sunshine is a perfect pick! This edgy love-story-meets-sci-fi plot follows Adam Rhodes as he deals with the loss of the first girl he loved. Just when all hope is lost, Dr. Elloran comes to him with an interesting proposal—one that might be able to bring his lost love back to life. The plot thickens as Adam learns more about this new technology and the family who runs the mysterious lab.

3. Has to Be Love

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Clara has a tough decision to make. Does she accept her admission to a writing program at Columbia University? Or, does she commit to her boyfriend, the only person in her town who doesn’t look at her differently because of the bear attack scars on her face? Set in a small town in Alaska, Clara’s choice becomes even more difficult when a new student teacher comes into her English class. Confusion, new feelings, and fears build as Clara keeps her secret and tries to make a choice.

4. South of Sunshine

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Kaycee Jean McCoy has grown up in conservative Sunshine, Tennessee. She would rather kiss a boy than let anyone know about her true feelings. Then a new girl, Bren Dawson, moves into town and Kaycee can’t help but fall for her. But will she risk the approval of her friends and family for a new love? This book celebrates finding a balance between loving your roots and loving yourself.

5. Hurricane Kiss

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When natural disaster strikes her hometown, Jillian McKay evacuates and ends up with unexpected company. River Daughtry, the former star of her high school football team, hasn’t been seen since he was admitted to the West Texas juvenile detention center. Once arrogant and flirtatious, River is now quiet and moody. The unlikely pair confront the storm and their pasts while learning what it really means to survive. This dramatic romance will have teens hooked from the start.

For more teen romance novels from Albert Whitman, click here.

Happy Valentine’s Day to readers young and old!

8 Valentine’s Day Books for Kids (and Teens too!)

Q&A with Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Still a Family, a picture book by Brenda Reeves Sturgis with pictures by Jo-Shin Lee, is a sweet look at a family who remains together, despite living at different homeless shelters.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Brenda Reeves Sturgis to chat about Still a Family, writing routines, and the importance of having a great team.

Q: Why write children’s books? 

A: I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I love children, adore them, and am a nanny for Portland Nannies in my other life. I am the mother of four children, and seven grandchildren. I love writing, and so writing for children combines two of the things I love most in this world. I believe children believe what we tell them and they become what they believe and if my books help a child to believe that there is hope to get out of a homeless shelter, that there is hope for their family to find and live a better life, that there is hope that things will get easier then it is nothing short of a gift for me to be able to write about it. This story has been a magical experience, I am so humbled and honored to be part of Still a Family.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: My inspiration in creating Still a Family ensued after a social media discussion about the plight of the homeless, and why there wasn’t a book to educate children about this very serious subject. I thought it was a meaningful subject, and one that I wanted to write thoughtfully and carefully, with a lot of heart. There are over six million children displaced into shelters annually, that’s a lot of people who are touched by poverty, or dire circumstances. It was my hope in writing this book that this story touches hearts and hearts change lives.

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: This book is not merely about a child living in a homeless shelter, but a story about how a family remains a family while living in a homeless shelter. This gives it a sense of realism because everybody wants to connect with their own children or spouses. This book is a perfect marriage between art and text. The art makes this book stand out. Jo-Shin Lee did phenomenal work on this story, Albert Whitman couldn’t have chosen a more perfect illustrator to illustrate this very serious subject matter. It was illustrated in a non-threatening way to a child, in kid-friendly colors, and childlike illustrations. This makes this book visually appealing and I hope the text tells an important story to parents and for their children, and most of all, I hope it raises awareness to the journey of homelessness and gives everyone a desire to help, instead of roll up their windows, lock their doors, and avert their eyes.

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

A: I tend to be a fast reviser, spending hours and days at my computer until I get the subject matter, the text, and the story just right. I am in incessant researcher; I am always dabbling into my thesaurus or on Rhyme Zone to find new ways to say something. It is always my deepest desire that the text I write will sing to the reader. I hate to keep editors waiting for me, and so I often write in the middle of the night. My usual writing time is 3:00 a.m.

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

A: I think the easiest part is my relationship with my agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary; she is an amazing agent and allows me the liberty of bouncing ideas off her, and she is always willing to look at my work and gets back to me quickly. The hardest part for me is always finding the problem in the story. I enjoy the process and I enjoy finding inventive language. It’s difficult to remain optimistic hoping that an editor will love what I have written and want to take a chance to see what I can bring to the table.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

A: I am a solitary writer, obsessive compulsive about getting everything exactly right. As I said above, I hate to keep editors waiting and so I tend to write quickly but carefully, always cognizant of an editor’s other commitments and time.

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

A: Working with Andrea Hall was a dream for me. She was very attentive, and thoughtful in her revision notes. We worked closely for a year on a rewrite and many revisions. She had a very clear vision for Still a Family and I trusted her implicitly from our first hello. She made every page better, every word count, and she was a delight. I am hoping that we can work together again because it was an amazing and surreal experience for me, and one for which I am eternally grateful. 9780807577073_int2

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: I am working on several projects presently. I’ve recently paired with a wonderful writer that I’ve known for years, and we have partnered and are creating stories together. She is a perfect Yin to my Yang, and she was my very first friend at Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. We are in the process of writing fractured fairy tales both in rhyme and in prose.

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

A: I loved all books that I could get my hands on, and would spend all weekend every weekend holed up in my room, reading and writing. When my friends were at parties, I was home reading. It was a normal occurrence in my house for me to read two or three books in a weekend. It is still my favorite way to spend a lazy weekend. Tea and books, books and tea, and occasional coffee. I love autobiographies, I love history books, I love a good YA, and of every picture book is a great book to read.

 

Thanks, Brenda! Learn more about Still a Family on our website.

Q&A with Brenda Reeves Sturgis

Q&A with Andrea Wang

In The Nian Monster author Andrea Wang and illustrator Alina Chau reimagined a Chinese folktale about the horrible legendary monster that returns at the New Year and is intent on devouring Shanghai, starting with little Xingling!

 

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Andrea to chat about The Nian Monster, food, and celebrating the holiday.

Q. What was your inspiration for your title?

A. Chinese New Year is one of my favorite holidays. Several years ago, I was looking for interesting information about the holiday to tell my children and I came across the folktale of the Nian Monster. I had never heard it before and I loved that it was a trickster tale. My husband’s family lives in Shanghai and I had been thinking about setting a book there to showcase this wonderful city. I was inspired to re-tell the folktale in a contemporary setting using some of my favorite foods.

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

A. I always start out by writing my story ideas in a fresh notebook – in my case, I use composition notebooks. I brainstorm, free-write, and take notes on any research. When I feel like I finally have a good grip on the kernel or heart of the story, I start writing on the computer. Then I revise, send out the manuscript to my critique group, revise again, get more critiques, and keep revising until I think it’s ready to send to my agent.

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

A. For me, the easiest part is coming up with a story idea. If you’re curious about the world, there’s an endless number of things to write about. The hardest part for me is making that idea into a compelling story with heart and underlying themes.

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Q. What makes your book stand out?

A. I like to think that it’s the contemporary Chinese setting that makes The Nian Monster stand out. Many of the picture books that are set in China show small villages with thatched huts and people wearing old-fashioned clothing. While rural places in China may still look like that, modern China is full of skyscrapers and people in current clothing styles. I think [illustrator] Alina Chau did an amazing job illustrating how vibrant and cosmopolitan Shanghai is, alongside the ancient parts of the city.

Q. Do you have any writing quirks?

A. I get obsessed with finding the perfect names for my characters. The name has to have a special significance or meaning that relates to the story. In The Nian Monster, Xingling’s name means something like “born with a clever nature.” Don’t you think that describes her well?

Q. Are you working on any other projects?

A. I’m working on two other projects right now – a nonfiction picture book biography and a coming-of-age middle grade novel about a young Chinese girl. True to my obsession, it’s about names and whether they define her identity.

 

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

A. Working with Kristin Zelazko was a wonderful experience. As a debut author, I had no idea what to expect, but it turned out to be a lot like working with a great critique partner. I felt like we had a conversation going on through emails and comments in the manuscript. Kristin also asked me how I envisioned the illustrations for the book, and was very gracious when I deluged her with notes and photos of Shanghai. I’m so grateful for how receptive Kristin, Jordan (the art director), and Alina were to my suggestions!

Q. What is your favorite Chinese New Year tradition?

A. As you can tell from the book, I love food! We always try to have noodles, fish, and sticky rice cake for Chinese New Year. We often make Lion’s Head Casserole, too, and not just for the holiday. The whole book is really a tribute to all my favorite New Year foods. I love the symbolism behind the different dishes and trying different versions of the recipes. There’s a savory version of sticky rice cake, made with pork and pickled snow cabbage, that is popular in Shanghai and is also one of my favorite dishes.

Q. What would you do if you saw the Nian Monster?

A. It’s a toss-up between running away and petting him. Nian is so adorably ferocious – I kind of just want to cuddle him!

 

Thanks so much, Andrea! Find out more about the Nian Monster with this adorable trailer and more about the book on our website. Plus, get insight from the illustrator, Alina Chau, on how she created the illustrations here and here.

Q&A with Andrea Wang

Q&A with Andrea J. Loney

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney and illustrated by Carmen Saldaña tells a story of a bear who feels more like a bunny. Bunnybear prefers bouncing in the thicket to tramping in the forest, and in his heart he’s fluffy and tiny, like a rabbit, instead of burly and loud, like a bear. The other bears don’t understand him, and neither do the bunnies. Will Bunnybear ever find a friend who likes him just the way he is?

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Andrea and discuss Bunnybear, celebrating diverse stories, and being true to yourself.

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Over the years I’ve been a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a television writer, yet becoming a children’s book author was always my dream. Why? It was through picture books that I fell in love with words, reading, and the whole world around me.

Also when I was in the second grade, my family moved from a big city with many folks of all ethnicities to a small town with few people of color. I had a hard time fitting in. So I escaped my fear and sadness by reading. Books were always there for me. Books delighted me. Books saved me. By the third grade, I vowed that when I became an adult, I would never forget how it felt to be a little kid and that I would write the kind of stories that I’d wished were available when I was a child – stories that embrace the humanity of all children.

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

A: Usually, I start by getting to know the main character. I wonder how my character would see the world, speak, or handle different situations. Once I have a good sense of the character, I see the story in my head with as many of the words and pictures that I can imagine. I play it in my head over and over like a movie. I tell the story to myself out loud until I have much of it memorized. And only then do I scribble the first draft into a notebook. After revising it on paper a few times, I type the manuscript up and send it to my online critique group. After they give me notes, I make changes and share it with a different critique group. I do this over and over until I have a draft that feels like a real book manuscript. Sometimes it takes a long time.

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

A: Working with editors is always a fascinating process for me because they see the story with new eyes. As a picture book writer who is NOT an illustrator, I never know how my story will be interpreted visually – what if the artist doesn’t understand what I was trying to say? But with Bunnybear the editors and the artist visualized the story almost exactly as I did, and I was so thrilled!

Also at one point I was fussing over a clunky line in the story, and my editor Wendy McClure made a tiny change to the text and suddenly the words just sang! It was like magic!

Q: What makes your book stand out?

A: Aside from Carmen Saldaña’s adorably dreamy illustrations? Well, there are bear books, there are bunny books, and there are even bear and bunny books. But to my knowledge, this is the only story of a Bunnybear.

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Q: How do you stay true to yourself?

A: I stay true to myself by listening to that still small voice within me that says, “This is right for me,” or “This is not right for me.” Of course, the voices of people all around me are much louder than my still small voice. I love collaborating with others, so sometimes it can be challenging to stay true to myself – what if I end up all alone? But I find that when I follow what is true for me – no matter what people think – folks with similar truths show up everywhere.

I believe that we all have a story to tell, and no one can tell our story as richly and authentically as we can. But we can only tell those stories when we have the courage to be true to ourselves.

 

Thanks so much, Andrea! Explore Bunnybear’s journey to understanding his true self on our website.

Q&A with Andrea J. Loney