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To celebrate the holiday season this year, we’re keeping festive with our very first #AWadventcalendar giveaway. We’ll be counting down the 25 day until Christmas across our social media accounts, spreading good tidings and cheer celebrating all holidays while giving away some of our favorite seasonal titles alongside new releases from 2018.

Lucky readers can follow Albert Whitman & Company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for a chance to win a brand new prize pack every day between December 1st and the 25th.

We hope you’re having a wonderful winter and Happy Holidays from Albert Whitman & Company!




We love digging our toes into the sand, the sun bright in the sky as we enjoy reading a new book at the beach during a long summer day. This year for our AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge, we’re soaking up summer by giving away a crop of new YA releases and a summer grand prize that one reader can enjoy all year long. Check out the full details below, cya at the beach!

The 2018 Soak Up The Summer AW Teen Reading Challenge 

What: Read any AW Teen title (click here for a full list) and review it anywhere (your blog, Goodreads, Instagram, YouTube—wherever!) between September 1, 2017 to September 14, 2018. Yep, even older reviews count!

When: July 9th—September 14th, 2018

How: Submit your information and the link to your review here.

You will receive one entry for every AW YA book you submit a review for. You can receive extra entries for sharing your review on sites like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, NetGalley, Goodreads, and Edelweiss.

At the end of the summer, one randomly selected grand prize winner will win a collection of AW Teen titles along with some sweet summer goodies! Three other participants will also win a set of AW Teen titles. Winners will be randomly selected on September 17, 2018.

Happy summer reading, don’t forget to submit your reviews here!



Celebrate Pride with Albert Whitman

Happy Pride month from Albert Whitman! Pride is celebrated every June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots. After an early morning raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, several days of demonstrations and protests created a turning point in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement, both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Each year millions of people across America celebrate Pride at festivals, events and parades, waving rainbow flags, dancing and celebrating equality for all. It’s also a time to reflect and discuss the current and future issues the LGBTQIA+ community faces in daily life, bringing awareness to a variety of important causes.

We hope you had a great time celebrating this year, here are some of our favorite LGBTQIA+ titles from Albert Whitman to help cap off the end of Pride month!


A Church for All by Gayle E. Pitman

Welcome to the church for all! A church where all are welcome regardless of race, income level, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Inspired by Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco and written by Stonewall Book Award-winner Gayle E. Pitman, this simple, lyrical story celebrates Sunday mornings at an inclusive place of worship.


The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

In the second book in The Balloon Makers Series, siblings Isle and Wolf are hiding a secret from the world. No one knows they possess magic, magic that courses through their veins. When the U.S. government finds out, they are made to serve their country during WWII. Isle, a gifted scientist, lends her knowledge and magic to help fight the war, while Wolf goes behind enemy lines on a dangerous and secretive mission. Isle must prove her loyalty to the U.S., but when Wolf runs into trouble, can Isle find a way to help her brother and save herself before time runs out? In The Spy with the Red Balloon, Isle also identifies as bisexual, while Wolf is demi sexual and struggles with coming to terms with his own feelings for his best friend, who is away fighting in the war.


The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke

While in Germany on a school trip, modern-day teen Ellie reaches for a red balloon she sees floating in a park and is suddenly in East Berlin, 1988. Swept up in a conspiracy of history and magic, she meets an underground group that uses balloons and magic to help people escape over the wall. Ellie becomes close to mysterious Kai, and forms a friendship with whipsmart Mitzi, a lesbian openly defying the attitudes of the oppressive East German regime. Someone is using dark magic to change history, and Ellie has to make a choice to sacrifice her only way home or leave her new friends behind.


Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney

The story of a bear who feels more like a bunny. He’d rather bounce in the thicket than tramp in the forest. In his heart he’s tiny, and not burly like a bear. The bears think he’s strange, and so do most of the bunnies. Will Bunnybear find a friend who understands him? Author Andrea J. Loney weaves a light-hearted tale with an important message about identity and acceptance.

South of Sunshine_CVR 

South of Sunshine by Dana Elmendorf

Kaycee Jean McCoy would rather fit in than make waves in her hometown of Sunshine, Tennessee. In Sunshine, going to church is mandatory and gay is a mood, not a sexual orientation. That is, until Bren Dawson moves to town. Kaycee can’t deny the pull she feels towards Bren, with her beautiful, sexy, and impossibly cool attitude. When Kaycee is caught kissing Bren her world turns upside down. She must choose what to do next: keep pretending she’s straight or stand up for who she really is?


Jacob’s New Dress by Sarah Hoffman and Ian Hoffman

Jacob loves playing dress-up where he can be whatever he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear girls clothing, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This sweet and affirming story shows the unique challenges faced by children who don’t always identify with traditional gender roles.


Promise Me Something by Sara Kocek

Reyna Fey moves to a new town her freshman year and just wants to keep her head down. But when Olive Barton, a strong-willed girl who is bullied for being gay, comes into her life, Reyna must make a choice. Will she stay friends with Olive or be fake friends with the popular crowd? Promise Me Something addresses such complex issues as homophobia, depression, suicide, harassment, and family dysfunction.


When Love Comes to Town by Tom Lennon

By all appearances Neil is a regular guy. He plays rugby and is friends with the popular kids. But no one knows that Neil is gay. Struggling to figure out who he truly is, Neil explores the night scene in Dublin. Will he work up the courage to reveal his true self to his world? First published in 1993 in Ireland, When Love Comes to Town is an honest and sometimes funny coming-of-age story.


All Kinds of Families (40th Anniversary Edition) by Norma Simon

First published in 1976, All Kinds of Families celebrates the broad diversity of American families. Not all families look the same, and that’s ok! Some are nuclear, traditional, divorced, interracial, include same-sex parents. But at their core, all families represent the same thing: love, caring, and supporting one another.

Celebrate Pride with Albert Whitman

Correction: A Church For All


Albert Whitman & Company would like to issue the following correction and apology regarding an error in A Church for All. Please note the following comment will be placed inside all remaining stock at our warehouse as well. 

In the first paragraph of the author’s note on page 32, the word “transgendered” erroneously appears instead of transgender. This grammatical error was overlooked during the editorial process. It has always been our intention for this story about an open and affirming spiritual community to use inclusive language, and we regret this error.

We offer our deepest apologies. The page will be edited to include the correct wording in all future printings of A Church for All.

Correction: A Church For All


Just Right Family: An Adoption Story by Silvia Lopez, illustrated by Ziyue Chen, tells the story of Meili, a six-year-old girl who was adopted from China, and her growing family. Meili is shocked to learn that her parents plan to adopt a baby from Haiti. She’s always liked her family just the way it is, why would they need another baby? Slowly, Meili learns the importance of being a big sister, and how truly expansive a family’s love can be.


We were lucky enough to sit down with Silvia Lopez to chat about superheroes, acceptance, and Just Right Family.

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

A: Being an only child, I spent hours reading fairy tales and—yes, I admit it—superhero comics. I loved how Superman lectured the bad guys about changing their evil ways (in Spanish, since I didn’t learn to speak English until I was ten years old).

When I came to the U.S., I discovered public libraries. Joy, joy, joy! After reading an entire collection of fairy tales, I went on to Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries. I think I liked them because they were so American. How the characters lived was so different from my own experience. It wasn’t until I became a librarian that I discovered the Newbery and Caldecott winners, and other great books I had missed out on. So, I made myself lists and plowed nonstop through them. I still do that. I like to read books on state lists, and I always browse through the ‘Just Arrived’ carts at the children’s section of the library. Picture books, mystery, historical fiction, and fantasy are my favorites!

Q: Why write children’s books?

A: Good children’s literature is like a good Kindergarten teacher: both can introduce us to wonderful things. Some people refer to children’s books as “kiddie lit” but I don’t like that term. I call a good children’s book a “microcosm of the human experience.” Those are big words! They only mean that everything we feel as human beings—grief, joy, jealousy, courage, the list is endless!—can be found in the simplest stories. Fairy tales and folk tales, for instance: the hard-working little pig, the greedy fisherman’s wife, the silly boy who raises a false alarm. I love that good children’s nonfiction presents facts simply and clearly. Just enough to make children (or grown-ups who read them, like me!) say “Wow! I didn’t know that!” I always say that all I ever needed to know, I learned in children’s books.


Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A: In 2010, an earthquake shook the tiny country of Haiti. It destroyed thousands of buildings, including orphanages. Some of the orphans were brought to Florida, while the buildings were being repaired. I knew a Hispanic family that had adopted two little girls from China. I thought: “How would it be if a family like that was to adopt one of the Haitian children?” That would be a truly multiracial and multicultural family!

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

A: I try to write a little every day. Sometimes I just jot down a few sentences from an idea buzzing around in my head (which probably popped in there at two in the morning!) Later, I sit down to expand on the idea and just write, write, write. I write more than I need, and eventually cut it back. Sometimes those “cuttings” even lead to another story.

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

A: The easiest part is coming up with ideas. The world is so full of people, animals, places, and events worth writing about! Almost anything can be made interesting if it’s well-written. The hardest part of creating a book is writing a good middle. Details set up in the beginning have to remain interesting and lead to a good ending. Coming up with a great middle is like making a sandwich. The stuff in the center is the most important and takes the most thought.

Q: Do you have any writing quirks?

A: Well, my right eye is twitching right now just thinking about an answer (just kidding…!) Actually, I need silence. I can only focus when I’m not distracted by noise. Some may say that it comes from being a librarian for so many years, but my school libraries were like Grand Central Station: busy and bustling. When I write, I talk to myself in my head. So, I need to have quiet in order to listen to me!

Q: Are you working on any other projects?

A: Tons! I have several picture books written, ready to revisit and revise. I also have two middle grade books already begun, plus a picture book that I’m converting into a middle grade historical fiction novel. Yikes! There goes the eye…

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

A: Andrea Hall was a joy to work with. She had awesome ideas that made Just Right Family so much better! And she always listened to my point of view. If she disagreed, she did so gently and sweetly, which made for great communication. Working with Andrea was a terrific experience.


Q: What makes your book stand out? 

A: I think Just Right Family goes beyond the typical adoption story. Its message is one of acceptance. The family members accept each other without regard to looks. The grown-ups in Meili’s life accept her natural feelings of sibling rivalry and nudge her in the right direction. When Meili accepts her role of big sister, she grows as a person. I think boys and girls will enjoy a gentle story about loving and being loved no matter who they are.

Thanks so much, Silvia! To find out more about Just Right Family, check out our website here.



Already heralded as a “hilarious” picture book that is “rife with bold plot twists and cheeky dialogue” by Kirkus Reviews, Once Upon a Zzzz playfully blurs the line between the author and illustrator roles. Author Maddie Frost graciously wrote a post for our blog that gives readers insight into the creative process of playing both parts for Once Upon a Zzzz.


When I dreamt of what my first author-illustrated book would be, I never thought, “I know, I’ll make a book about the author falling asleep and the illustrator taking over the story! BRILLIANT!”

This idea came from an inner struggle I was having while trying to think of something to write about. It’s true, what they say (whoever “they” are): sometimes the struggle can be the story. I also didn’t know what my voice or style was as both a writer and illustrator. At the time, they felt like two separate things. I had a “writer brain” and an “artist brain.” They had never worked together before, and so, of course, there was a bit of friction in the studio. Writer Brain was overthinking things while Artist Brain just wanted to have fun (classic Artist Brain).

Here is how the dialogue went while trying to come up with my first story:

WRITER BRAIN: Right, I know a lot about dogs because I have a dog so we are going to do a story about a dog.


WRITER BRAIN: What’s the problem?

ARTIST BRAIN: I love dogs too, but I was hoping it would be about something a little quirkier. Like penguins or llamas or—

WRITER BRAIN: Yeeeeaaaaah. Hmmm. No. I’m not so sure about that. I don’t have a story idea for a penguin or a llama and even if I did it wouldn’t be that good. OK, so moving on to the dog story…

Then, one morning while Writer Brain wasn’t fully awake yet, Artist Brain got a very sneaky idea…And she called it Once Upon a Zzzz.

My heart took over and I listened to what I was experiencing. That is how I got the idea.

Over a little bit of time, both brains have learned to work together. On other books I have worked on, I let the art influence the writing and the writing influence the art. What once felt like two different things now feels like one (most of the time, anyway).

This is how the dialogue sounds now:

ARTIST BRAIN: I love drawing bugs.

WRITER BRAIN: Great. I’ll think of a story about a bug.

ARTIST BRAIN: Great! I’ll do some fun doodles to help.

WRITER BRAIN: Great! Also, maybe do a little research on bugs to make sure you—

ARTIST BRAIN: Hey. Just relax. Let’s see where it goes, OK? 🙂


I’ve learned that collaboration is always the best way to work. Whether it’s two brains or three or six (I mean people now). Being able to make something good (or not so good) into something great with the help of others is a very special thing.


For more books by Maddie Frost, visit her online at She invites you to say hello on twitter @_maddiefrost.



Kiely has always been famous. The paparazzi (her family) snapped pictures of her before she could even talk! She’s used to the pressures of fame. Still, when a performance at her grandfather’s birthday party goes wrong, she’s sure she’s lost her audience for good. But, of course, her loyal fans will always love her.


We were lucky enough to chat with the authors behind this book, sisters Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie about their collaboration process, humor, and I Am Famous.

Q: Why write children’s books?

Tara: I really got into children’s books when I had my own kids. I have three voracious readers, and I was constantly seeking out new picture books to keep them satisfied. When I opened my toy and book store, I specialized in ages 0–6, so picture books were the only type of books I sold. So, that is the format I know and love best. I used to get ideas for books while running the store, but there was never enough time to learn how to write children’s books. When my family relocated to the Charlotte area, I finally had time to try my hand at it. Picture books are what came naturally to me.

Becky: If you would’ve told me a few years ago that I would be a published children’s book author, I never would have believed you. Children’s books were the farthest thing from my mind. Honestly, I didn’t know much about them until Tara asked me to start reading her work. I found myself changing things and offering suggestions, so I became the co-author. I majored in drama in college and worked in TV production and entertainment. Writing for children fits with all those interests. Still, I am not sure that I would have found this industry without my sister.

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

Tara: I usually begin by writing a draft and getting it into decent shape. Then, I send it to Becky to see what she thinks, and she adds her two cents. Then, we each take it to our respective critique groups until it is good enough to send to our agent. I don’t have a day job, so I work as much as I can while my kids are at school. I try not to bother Becky too much while she is at work.

Becky: If we’re in the same place, then we’ll sit down and work on something together, but that doesn’t happen too often. Usually, we just email back and forth, but we do jump on the phone sometimes.

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

Tara: The easiest thing for us is usually the initial idea and title. The hardest part is coming up with a plot that works and hasn’t been done before, along with infusing enough humor to sustain an entire picture book.

Becky: We love humor, so trying to find the appropriate amount of kid-friendly humor that will also appeal to the adults reading the books is hard.

Q: What makes your book stand out? 

Tara: The illustrations in this book are amazing. I don’t know how Joanne Lew-Vriethoff did it, but she perfectly captured Kiely’s, unflappable personality, while also making her absolutely adorable.

Becky: Our goal for every book we write is to include humor for both children and parents. We think we pulled it off in I Am Famous.


Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

Tara: The inspiration for I AM FAMOUS came from the Weird Al Yankovic song, TMZ —a parody of Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me. His song is about how the paparazzi stalk celebrities and begins with:

You’re sort of famous

A minor celebrity

And so it only makes sense

The world would be

Obsessed with every

Single thing you do

I was listening to it and laughing about how it reminded me of today’s parents and social media. I told Becky, and she loved the idea.

Becky: As someone who used to work in Hollywood, this was a perfect book for me to write. A lot of the main character’s traits are very similar to mine as a child—I was a little performer.

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

Tara: As soon as I became an independent reader, I would go to the library and check out at least 12 books, which would last about two weeks. I am a speed reader and would go through the whole stack quickly! I vividly remember loving the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, the Lois Duncan books, Roald Dahl, everything from V.C. Andrews, the Sweet Valley High series, and all the Hardy Boys books. For some reason I didn’t like Nancy Drew, but I did like the Hardy Boys. My absolute favorite book from childhood was The Lost Queen of Egypt by Lucille Morrison, which was the catalyst for my interest in all things ancient Egypt. It was written in 1937 and is out of print now. Someday, I am going to splurge and buy a copy.

Now I read at least a dozen new-release picture books every week for work. For pleasure I read a lot of historical fiction, some thrillers like Gone Girl and The Woman in the Window, chick lit, and a bit of YA. Some authors I particularly like are Maeve Binchy, Tana French, Megan Miranda, Liane Moriarity, Kate Morton and Tracy Garvis-Graves. And when I am having a hard time with my writing, I re-read Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert—it always helps.

Becky: As a kid my favorite picture books were Morris’s Disappearing Bag by Rosemary Wells, The Very Bad Bunny by Marilyn Sadler and Pickle Chiffon Pie by Jolly Roger Bradford. Then I went through all the Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High books.

Some recent books I’ve read for pleasure and loved are I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson, The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton, The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer, and The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton.

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

Tara and Becky: Working with Eliza Swift was great! This was a rare book, in that it didn’t have a lot of edits. Eliza and the art director kept us in the loop with all the sketches and artwork and the book came out so much better than we could have imagined. Everybody at Albert Whitman understood our vision for this book from day one.


Q: Are you working on any other projects?

Tara and Becky: We’re always working on new books and have many in various stages of development. We have two books due out in 2019 and at least one more for 2020 at this point.

Thanks so much, Tara and Becky! To find out more about I Am Famous, check out our website here.



In 1950, young girls like Kathryn Johnston weren’t allowed to try out for Little League. So, Kathryn chose the pseudonym ‘Tubby,’ cut off her hair, and tried out as a boy. Heather Lang’s Anybody’s Game chronicles this inspirational tale of Johnston’s fight for equality from the dugout.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Heather and chat about her writing process, Anybody’s Game and women in history, a perfect topic to discuss since March is Women’s History Month!


Q: Why do you like to write picture book biographies?

A: I love how these books are windows into other worlds—real worlds. They are true stories about how ordinary people accomplish extraordinary things. It’s so powerful to discover how trailblazers from the past made things better for us today. I love writing books that can inspire kids to dream, take on their own causes, use their voices, persevere through challenges, and make a difference in their world.

Q: How do the women you write about inspire you?

A: Mostly, I look up to the women I write about and aspire to be more like them. As a kid, I wasn’t always brave, and I even avoided things that were difficult. I was afraid of failure. I have learned over the years, especially through my writing journey, that failure is so important. I think learning to accept and even embrace failure has allowed me to push myself and take on bigger challenges. Ten years ago, if you’d asked me if I would ever go paragliding or swimming with sharks to research a book, I would have said, “NO WAY.”

Q: How do you choose the women you write about?

A: First and most importantly, I must feel a deep connection. The person I’m writing about must inspire me. That inspiration often comes from how they reacted to adversity.

Knowing that I may spend years on a book, the topic also must fascinate me in some way. In the case of Swimming with Sharks, my curiosity stemmed from a childhood fear of sharks. I wanted to explore that fear. During the research process, my fear actually turned into a passion for sharks. Working on Anybody’s Game, I felt deeply connected to Kathryn Johnston through my own childhood passion for baseball. I couldn’t wait to learn more about the history of women in this sport.

Finally, there has to be enough research available to write the story. In the case of Anybody’s Game, there was a lot of information about Little League as well as the struggles girls and women faced in baseball. I was also fortunate to have Kathryn Johnston, her brother, and two Little League historians as resources!


Q: Can you tell us more about your personal connection to the story in Anybody’s Game?

A: Like Kathryn Johnston, I pretty much had my mitt with me everywhere I went as a child and would play catch in the yard with my dad and brother almost every night. I have such fond memories of going to Yankees games with them and cheering for our favorite players, ready with our mitts in case a stray foul ball came our way. I began playing on a travel softball team in fifth grade, and I continued to play in middle and high school. All four of my kids played Little League, and I relished those afternoons and evenings playing catch with them.

I thought about what it would have been like to be Kathryn Johnston, a girl who loved baseball more than anything but couldn’t play on a real team because of her gender. I couldn’t imagine my early years without baseball and softball. I was drawn to Kathryn’s plight immediately.

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

A: I have been so lucky to work with the wonderful and talented Wendy McClure on three books! Not only is she supportive and encouraging, she also has excellent editorial insights and brings out the best in my writing. Whenever I have doubts or questions, she patiently works through them with me.

The art can be challenging in nonfiction books, but Wendy has been diligent about sharing sketches and including me in the process. I love the illustrators she has chosen for all my books. Cecilia Puglesi’s retro comic book style was a perfect choice for Anybody’s Game and a fun nod to Kathryn’s favorite comic books, Little Lulu and Tubby!

 Q: What do you hope kids will take away from Anybody’s Game?

A: I hope kids will be inspired to follow their passions and persevere when they come across obstacles. I think kids might think that bravery and making change must be something big. I hope they will see that smaller gestures or actions are just as important. Whether it’s writing a letter, raising money for a cause, or standing up for a friend, sometimes it takes many small steps forward (and some backward) to cause change. I hope Kathryn’s story will inspire kids to stand up for what matters to them.

Q: How should students and educators contact you?

I love connecting with kids and teachers! I can always be reached through my website: I’m also on Twitter and Facebook.


Thanks so much, Heather! To find out more about Anybody’s Game, check out our website here.



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.


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.


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?


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.

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.


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.


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.


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 I am also easy to reach through The Dallas Morning News, where I am the theater critic, at, 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