Archive for ‘Author interview’

August 27, 2013

Will there be a sea monster in my kindergarten class?


The countdown has begun in our house! We have new lunch boxes, new socks, and a whole whopping stack of new forms to fill out. The school year is upon us and for us, The Wizard of Why will be headed to the big leagues. You know, the Majors.


And right now, we are not TOO sure how we feel about that. Which is why it was so awesome to come home from the last vacation of the summer and find these books waiting for us as part of Chronicle Books Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish blog tour.

sea monster-Kate MessnerI was also lucky enough to interview the awesome author, Kate Messner. Here are some things she had to say:

1. Hi Kate! One thing I try to talk about in my blog is what we can do with books after the reading. Or in addition to the reading. In other words, when a parent reads your books to their child, do you have ideas for follow-up activities? Or conversation-starters so that they can keep carrying your message?

Every book can be a conversation starter when it’s shared as a family, but I think SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH especially lends itself to those conversations because its subject matter is something to which every kid (and every adult!) can relate. Everyone knows a bossy fish, and learning to deal with that person can be the difference between smooth sailing and a really rough day at school or the office.

We often ask kids how they can relate to characters in a shared read-aloud, but I think sometimes, as parents, we forget that it’s powerful for us to share our own stories, too. SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH can be a great springboard for talking about how to get along with people whose leadership styles might be different from yours.  Kids will enjoy hearing your own stories – both failures and successes – when it comes to negotiating those kinds of relationships.

2. Your fish pledge mentions speaking out when a child see bullying. We often tell kids this, but it is SO HARD. In fact, I would argue that most adults don’t even do it. How do we really teach kids to speak up? Can you think of a way to use your book as a starting point for that?

It is hard – harder than we think when we give that advice to kids – and that’s why I think conversations about these situations can be so valuable. When we discuss bullying before it happens, we provide a really safe environment for kids to imagine “what if.” What would I do if someone treated me this way? What if someone treated my friend like that?  Role-playing can be a wonderful, natural follow-up to reading a book like SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH. Giving kids the opportunity to practice standing up for friends and modeling inclusive behavior in a fun, non-threatening setting makes it more likely that they’ll be able to be a positive force on the playground when a real situation arises.

3. I like the idea of parents reading books like these because they can share an important concept without lecturing their kids. Do you have advice for parents who want to talk further with their kids about this but don’t want to lecture?

Questions are  more powerful than lectures, I think. The very first time I read this book aloud to kids, I was visiting a classroom full of kindergarten students near Albany, NY, and I was blown away by their reactions. I think I asked a question or two as we read – things like “Hmm…how do you think that made the Ernest feel?”  But soon, all I had to do was pause after reading a page and let the kids reflect. Without me even asking questions, they wanted to talk about the impact of the bossy fish’s behavior. They were able to empathize with the fish being pushed around, and Andy Rash’s great illustration style makes it clear that school settings are full of emotions.  The kids used the facial expressions as evidence in their arguments: “Look, he didn’t say anything, but he’s upset. You can tell by the way his eyes look…”  These kinds of quiet discussions promote empathy and build memories that are likely to be recalled when there’s a need for kindness on the real-life playground.

4. What’s the most important thing you want kids to take away from your books?

That sometimes a “bossy fish” just needs help to be a better friend. As an adult, I love the Robert Frost poem “Outwitted.”

He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.

I’d like to think BOSSY FISH is the preschool version of that sentiment.

Isn’t that all very cool? And in addition, I can offer you a discount:

Just enter this promotion code: SEAMONSTER on this website: Offer ends September 6, 2013.

seamonstersfirstdayseamonsterbossyfishTitle: Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish (and the earlier release Sea Monster’s First Day)
Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator: Andy Rash
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 4 – 7

Download your own Friend Fish pledge here. Use it in the classroom or your own home to promise friend-making over bullying. And good luck!

Have any other books you like to read before school starts? Share them here!

October 10, 2012


Racing across the finish line is 1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom!, a brightly colored book about three kids whose imaginations take them from their toy cars to laps around a race track. Kids can count to ten with each lap, with the numbers featured both in the story and prominently in the illustrations.

The author has some tips for parents who want to go the extra mile 🙂 with this book. “Parents can encourage their children to repeat the “Va-va-vroom” aloud. The children can also repeat the lap number,” Sarah says. I love this, because it uses the repetitive aspects of the book to fully engage the child. The child can hear the rhythm of the words and, if they are a little older, start to associate the pattern of letters on the page with the pattern of the words they are repeating. Repeating the lap number, or pointing to it in the picture starts to familiarize them with the number symbols and also counting from 1 to 10.

Sarah also has a great way to teach writing to young kids. “They can do this by holding matchbox cars and “writing” the number in the air, or on the ground. They can use shaving cream and “drive” the shape of the letter with their fingers. They can decorate cupcakes with different numbers in frosting. These activities can be done at home or in a classroom setting.” Driving cars around in number shapes is a great hands-on exercise to familiarize kids with our number symbols!

Or, Sarah says, “for those kids just learning to count (and not yet ready for writing numbers), they can line up cars and count them together. They can drive the cars around a makeshift track and count the number of times they go around.
“It’s also just fun to use imaginations with cars. My kids brought their cars everywhere. In the tub. In the shower. In their beds. On the towels. On the blankets. On the sidewalk. In the dift. In the mud. In the sand. I used to carry several cars around in my purse for immediate entertainment.” If your family is a little like Sarah’s, you will no doubt find ways to use your toy cars as a form of education.
I hope you like the book and our ideas about what to do with it–other than read it, of course!
Title: 1-2-3 Va-Va-Vroom!
AuthorSarah Lynn
Illustrator: Daniel Griffo
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 0 – 5

You can also watch the book trailer:

September 13, 2012

Is your child’s sippy cup half full or half empty?

I have a great interview today with Jeff Mack, the author/illustrator of Good News Bad News. He has some awesome advice for parents about how to use his book to help kids learn how to find the positive in a negative situation and how to see that the pros and cons are all interconnected. Plus, a fun story about a creative way in which a mother and daughter bonded through the love of a book.

It’s not just about the reading! Find out ways you can connect with your kids through these great books, and let me know in the comments if anything has worked well for you lately!

From “Good news, Rabbit and Mouse are going on a picnic. Bad news, it is starting to rain. Good news, Rabbit has an umbrella. Bad news, the stormy winds blow the umbrella (and Mouse!) into a tree.

Title: Good News Bad News
Author: Jeff Mack
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: Infant, Toddler, Preschooler

Q and A with the author:

Were you more of a good news kid or a bad news kid or both?

I was a lot of both. I was an intense kid who would work for hours on a project without a break. My mom used to bring home cardboard boxes from the grocery store, and I would try to turn them into pinball machines with working flippers and rubber band bumpers.  I wouldn’t quit until I got them to work. When I did, everything seemed like good news to me. But if I got stuck and couldn’t figure out a certain mechanism, it felt like really bad news. My frustration spurred me to turn that bad news into good news. I suppose I’m still a little like this when I’m writing and illustrating books today.

Any advice for parents of a bad news kid?

I think kids often copy what they see and hear from their parents. If you want them to recognize the positive side of things, consciously model positive attitudes and notice if they start adapting that point of view. Also, take the time to learn more about their pessimistic perspectives rather than discouraging them from showing negative emotions. There are many valid ways to view the world, and some negative feelings have the power to inspire positive changes. That’s what happens at the end of Good News Bad News when Rabbit and Mouse swap attitudes and become better friends as a result of their newly-found empathy.

In your school trips or other interactions with kids, have you met children who relate to some of your main characters or have otherwise gained insight from your books (even if they don’t see it quite like that)?

At school visits, I often find I gain as many insights about being a kid as the kids gain about being an author. However, I just received an email from a mom who enjoyed reading my Hippo and Rabbit books with her daughter. They both connected with the comical way the characters deal with slightly scary situations like spiders and swings. (Rabbit tends to be overly bold for his modest size while Hippo is a bit timid for his extra-largeness. She told me they invented voices for the characters and got into the habit of seeing things from their quirky perspectives. Since then, they’ve been talking like Hippo and Rabbit in all kinds of random places like the grocery store or the swimming pool. As the author, it feels great to hear that my ideas have caught on as a game that these two readers can share and use to become closer as a family. I think Good News Bad news has the potential to produce even more positive effects like this!

Any conversation ideas that parents can have with their kids after reading the books to help them see how to make good news out of bad news without lecturing them?

Kids learn better when they’re having fun. So turn the conversation into a game. When something positive happens, trace its cause back to something that seemed like bad news at the time. For example “Good news! You discovered a new favorite ice cream flavor! But that’s only because of some earlier bad news: they were sold out of your formerly favorite flavor.” Then trace that bad news to the good news that preceded it: “We’re going to get ice cream!” Seeing good news and bad news as part of an on-going chain of events is surprisingly catchy. Plus, it may offer a little distance from the emotional impact of the bad news. Later, when something disappointing happens, kids may have an easier time seeing that the bad news may literally be setting the stage for something positive in the future.