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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Albert Whitman & Company!

This Thanksgiving, take time to remember all the things that really matter: family, friends, good food, and great books. Here are some of our favorite Thanksgiving books from the Albert Whitman collection. Stuffed with fun, these heartwarming tales are sure to leave you hungry for more.

It’s Thanksgiving, Chloe Zoe! (New Release!)

Jane Smith

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Chloe Zoe is on another adventure and this time Grammy Ella is here to help! Together, they are making Thanksgiving pie. Chloe Zoe gets all the spices for the filling, but when she accidentally uses the wrong ones the pie doesn’t taste the way it should. Grammy Ella reminds Chloe Zoe that Thanksgiving is about more than just food, it’s about being together as a family. Catch Chloe Zoe and her friends in their other books as well!

 

Sarah Gives Thanks: How Thanksgiving Became a National Holiday

Mike Allegra

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Ever wonder how Thanksgiving got its start? Even devoted Thanksgiving celebrants might not know this chapter of its interesting history: in the nineteenth century, Sarah Josepha Hale campaigned for this important day to become a national holiday. A writer and women’s magazine editor, Hale was groundbreaking in more ways than one. Paired with David Gardner’s beautiful watercolor illustrations, Hale’s memorable story is sure to inspire readers of all ages.

 

Duck for Turkey Day (New in Paperback!)

Jacqueline Jules

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Come back to the modern age and see just how far our favorite holiday has come! Tuyet can’t believe that her family is having duck instead of turkey for Thanksgiving. She’s even more surprised when she finds out that she enjoys it! Back at school on Monday, everyone is talking about their Thanksgiving meals. From roast beef to enchiladas, everyone celebrated Thanksgiving in their own unique way. A celebration of diversity in America, this book is a perfect fit both at home and in school.

 

This is the Turkey

Abby Levine

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In the festive sequel to This is the Pumpkin, Max is back to celebrate Thanksgiving. As he and his sisters begin preparing all the Thanksgiving treats, more friends and relatives come to join the party. Soon, all sorts of new dishes and traditions are being passed around. Readers will want to return to this fun, rhyming book every Thanksgiving season.

 

Not This Turkey!

Jessica Steinberg

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After Mel’s father wins a live turkey from work, he decides that this year they will celebrate Thanksgiving for the very first time. Mel has lived in America for years, but his family has only ever celebrated the Jewish holidays. Mel can’t wait for the new holiday. There’s only one problem: Mel really likes this turkey! Steinberg’s hilarious story is a must-have for this holiday season.

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Plus, get a jump on the winter holidays by checking out more of our holiday books here.

Celebrate Thanksgiving with Albert Whitman & Company!

Author Insight with Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Maple syrup season is here! In Maple Syrup from the Sugarhouse by Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton and illustrated by Kathryn Mitter, Kelsey and her father begin harvesting sap from sugar maple trees. Family and friends join them to help in the process of turning the sap into maple syrup.

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Author Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton walks us through her experience making maple syrup:

I was in second grade the first time I made maple syrup. We were living in a suburb of Detroit. We decided we were going to make maple syrup from the maple trees in our yard.

My father drilled a hole and then tapped a copper pipe into the side of a huge maple tree. We placed my mother’s pasta pan below to gather the sap. When the pan filled we took it into the house and began boiling. We kept gathering more sap, and boiling.

We didn’t know that it took 40-50 gallons of sap to make syrup. We also didn’t think about all that steam filling our home.  Hours later our windows were dripping with sweat, and we weren’t any closer to having syrup. What we did have was sweetened water. My mom decided to use the water to make corn beef.

I was 35 when we bought our farm in Medina, Ohio. The first fall we delighted in the beauty of the maple trees dropping their red, yellow, orange, leaves.  My husband decided we were going to tap the trees in the spring. In the meantime he located a hobbyist 55 gallon drum/evaporator, some spiles, and buckets. He built a rustic sugar-house-lean-to smack dab in the middle of the woods. Then we started stockpiling wood during the fall and winter.

We waited all winter for the right spring weather, above freezing days and freezing nights. Finally, the weather provided us with our first run. We were excited and very busy! My husband, our two daughters, and I worked all day and into the night for three days straight. Soon, our family and friends found out what we were up to and came to see and help. When we finished the season, we were overjoyed and tired. We had three runs that year and bottled 18 gallons of syrup.

Every year after that we grew: more buckets, more syrup, more friends and family. Then we decided to build a larger sugar house at the edge of the sugar bush. The great part of that was we finally had bathrooms! (Trudging through the woods to get to our home’s bathroom was hard for older people and children—and even me too sometimes!)

We purchased a larger evaporator. Now maple syrup season is a regular event for all our friends and family. Every summer and fall we cut wood and stack it next to the sugar house. We buy bottles and jugs to fill. We make sure our spiles and buckets are clean and the paths are clear through the sugar bush. When the winter winds blow, we sit inside enjoying our syrup from last season. We pour it over our pancakes, waffles, cornbread, ice cream. We put it in our coffee, add it to our pork chops, and sometimes just slurp a spoonful. When our jugs are just about empty, it’s spring time again! We don our jackets, boots, gloves and set out to the sugar bush to make some more sweet maple syrup.

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Thanks so much, Laurie! To find out more about Maple Syrup from the Sugarhouse, check out our website.

Author Insight with Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton

Halloween Reads for Your Trick-or-Treaters

You don’t have to be tricky to get these treats! Celebrate Halloween with Albert Whitman books featuring our favorite spooky holiday. From lessons in bravery to costume inspiration, these playful stories are a must-have for young readers preparing for Halloween! Check out some of our other seasonal reads on our website here.

 

It’s Halloween, Chloe Zoe! (New Release!)

Jane Smith

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Follow Chloe Zoe, Mary Margaret, and George as they venture into their transformed neighborhood on Halloween! When Chloe Zoe notices a particularly spooky house down the street, she feels a little scared. But, with her Dad, all her friends, and a bag full of Halloween treats, of course, Chloe Zoe learns to be brave. For even more Halloween fun, download printable activity sheets and check out more of Chloe Zoe’s holiday adventures on our site!

 

Trick Arrr Treat (New in Paperback!)

Leslie Kimmelman

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The best part of Halloween is dressing up, and these pirates are taking their costumes very seriously. Join Charlotte Blue-Tongue, Peg-Leg Pete, Glass-Eyed Gabby, and their pirate friends on their quest for Halloween loot! As the children trick or treat, their imaginations carry them from their neighborhood to their very own pirate’s lagoon. Can the pirates protect their treasure through the night?

 

The Ghosts Go Haunting

Helen Ketteman

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A parade of Halloween creatures marches through the school in this festive story. The teachers are frightened, but the students play along with the Halloween gang and their hijinks. Set to the counting tune of The Ants Go Marching, this playful book will keep readers glued to the page from cover to cover.

 

Skeleton for Dinner

Margery Cuyler

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Big Witch and Little Witch are having a dinner party and everyone in the haunted forest is invited! When Skeleton mistakes the guest list for a menu, he thinks that he’s cooked for sure. Spooked, Ghost and Ghoul join him and all three creatures take off running. Will anyone be able to sort out the misunderstanding?

 

What Am I? Halloween

Anne Margaret Lewis

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This interactive book has all the features of classic Halloween fun. Hints and pictures under flaps guide young readers through a guessing game of seasonal symbols. Perfect for story time, this look-and-see book will have everyone excited for Halloween.

 

Pumpkin Jack

Will Hubbel

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Halloween is over, but Tim isn’t ready to say goodbye to Jack, his carefully carved pumpkin. Instead, he puts it in the garden and waits. This beautifully illustrated book follows the life cycle of the pumpkin plant, bringing new hope and growth to Halloween traditions.

 

To fill your cauldrons with more books about Halloween, visit our website.

Halloween Reads for Your Trick-or-Treaters