Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Love

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara ChowJoan CharlesSharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.

By Matt de la Peña • Illustrated by Loren Long
Picture Book (ages 4-8) • 40 pages
Published 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Reader  • 2018
ISBN 978-1-524-74091-8

This beautifully crafted picture book celebrates love as a constant, beginning with the moment we come into the world, through times both good and bad, until we’re ready to set out on our own.

Matt de la Peña’s quietly lyrical prose poem shows that love helps us find hope, even in the darkest of times, as in the moment when a young girl is comforted by an old lady after a fire. “Stars shine long after they’ve flamed out,” she tells you, “and the shine they shine with is love.”

Love helps us find joy, in simple things like the rustling of leaves or in the family stories told by relatives.

Love brings us comfort, through something as simple as a hug and words of reassurance that everything will be okay.

Loren Long’s lovingly crafted illustrations of children and families are rendered in warm hues that subtly support the message of love in it’s many forms.

We need a book like this at a time like this, when love seems in short supply. Older children will find themselves drawn to the book again and again, sometimes for joy, sometimes for comfort, sometimes for reassurance, but always for love.

Buy this book:

Reviewed by: Joan Charles

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Lynn Brunelle & Anna-Maria Jung

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

This month I’m buzzing with excitement to be chatting it up with the fabulous Writer, Lynn Brunelle, and Illustrator, Anna-Maria Jung, who are the team behind the super fun NEW non-fiction activity book, Turn This Book Into A Beehive! (which is a total hit in my house! The super kiddo is all about bees and our book cover beehive is hanging in the backyard! And we discovered some carpenter bees nesting in our deck while hanging it! So awesome!) Lynn is a four-time Emmy Award–winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy and author of over 45 books, including the bestselling Pop Bottle Science and Camp Out! She is a regular contributor to KING-TV’s New Day Northwest as a family science guru and NPR’s Science Friday. And Anna-Maria is the author/illustrator of three stand-alone graphic novels. She illustrates for the editorial market, children’s books, graphic novels, and apparel. 

How cool is this cover?! You totally know you want to build this book cover beehive!!

Q: Your NEW non-fiction activity book Turn This Book Into A Beehive! has released! Congratulations!!! (You can buy it here!) Give us the full scoop on this title from each of your individual perspectives—how you came to the project, how it developed, you know, ALL the good stuff!

(Lynn): I had read an article about the demise of the honeybee and the hive collapse disorder. It was eye opening! So much of our food comes to us thanks to the pollination of bees. If the bees go, so does our food supply. The article was a real downer and didn’t offer any solutions so I went digging for a way for people, especially kids, to make a difference with things they have around the house. This is the book that came from all that research and amazement I discovered about bees. When I learned that mason bees liked hollow tubes, I looked into rolling up paper. Then I thought maybe there could be a book that includes paper to make a hive. I was so pleased to be able to come up with a book that delivered information in a fun way and also offered an actual project that helps solve the problem! It’s like a transformer—a book that transforms into a way to save the world!

(Anna-Maria): I had previously worked on a book with Workman Publishing, and thankfully, they asked me to illustrate another one—Yay! They sent me the manuscript and I was very excited. I thought it was an amazing idea that the book could be turned into a bee-hotel. 

This was the biggest project I had ever worked on, and sometimes it was pretty stressful. But after nailing the style and character design for the bees, things became easier. My favorite part was how much I learned about bees—I actually annoy all my friends with bee facts now. Oh, and my publisher and I started developing many silly bee-puns when communicating during the job.

Be a bee superhero! 

Q: Writing quality non-fiction requires extensive research, organization and editing. Dish with us a bit about your approach to writing non-fiction—from initial concepts to research to writing to revisions.

(Lynn): I always read everything I can find on whatever subject I am thinking about. Then I track down experts. I look at museums, universities, and zoos, and find out who is doing the cutting edge work—who knows the answers. Then I talk to them.

While researching this project, I learned that honeybees and social bees only made up 2% of the bees in the world. 98% of the bees are solitary wild bees that do amazing work as pollinators. Then I went online and did some more digging. All honeybees are domesticated and were brought here by colonists. In fact, honeybees have been domesticated for a loooooooong time! There are images of beekeepers carved into caves, chiseled into Egyptian art, painted on Greek pottery, and minted into Roman coins.

I went to garden stores to watch for bees and to ask plant experts what they knew about bees. It turns out that the solitary bees like mason bees are native bees and they’re amazing pollinators. I saw some of the houses these garden centers were selling to attract these bees. I contacted experts at the Museum of Natural History and I called zoos. I found the USDA mason bee lab in Utah and spoke with bee people from around the country.

Then I made a prototype of my paper hive and stuck it out in my garden. Mason bees came! It worked! And my garden has never been so productive.

My favorite thing is to make big concepts accessible to people of all ages. Especially kids. And I think using laughter and hands-on fun is a great way for kids to learn. So when I was writing, I kept thinking about what kind of activities I could include to help kids really absorb the content. The fact that bees are positively charged and flowers are negatively charged, which makes pollen leap to a bee, is FANTASTIC! And you can show that with a balloon and confetti. The fact that bees are amazing smellers is a perfect lead in for getting kids to tune into their own sense of smell. I test the experiments and activities myself and then I make my kids do them. Then I go into classrooms and have a bunch of kids test them so I know they really work.

I made an outline, sample pages, proposal, and prototype and pitched that to Workman. When they said yes, I created my first draft and bounced it off the experts to make sure I was using correct information. I polished it up and passed it to my editor.

Then I got edits, some of which I took and love—because they made the book stronger—and some of which pointed to what I didn’t explain well enough in the first draft. It’s a wonderful collaborative process. Combine that with great illustrations and a great book design, and the end product is so fun! There’s a lot of revision between idea and concept and finished product. It’s a long and hard but rewarding journey!

Aren't these cutie bees totally adorbs?!

Q: I love your fun, sassy & detailed illustrations! Illustrating for non-fiction has the challenge of not only requiring this level of fabulousness, but it also requires an extensive number of illustrations, including ones that accurately display non-fiction details. Chat with us a bit about you approach illustrating non-fiction books—from research to sketches to organization to color.

(Anna-Maria): Well, when I first read the manuscript I usually feel extremely overwhelmed (which should get better with each job) and try to avoid a panic attack. Then I put descriptions for required illustrations into a color-coded excel-table along with a time-line. I need a high level of organization in order to function, so this is the super-boring part of the job. I sent Workman my list and asked them to mark the illustrations they want to be done in a more scientifically accurate way.

Sometimes the publisher provides me with images, but I usually do additional research and collect images, read articles, and watch documentaries on the topic on YouTube.

After the research is done, I do first sketches—if the art doesn’t need to be realistic, I try to think about how I can make it funny, put in little references and jokes, tell an additional story—that’s coming from my background as a cartoonist and my humor was very much influenced by the Monty Python. I love adding some secret nerdy humor as well. The feedback process is very important, so I send those sketches to the publisher and wait for approval. After that: Inking and coloring—all digital.

Q: Dish with us about your typical workday as creative professionals—routines, rituals, inspiration & practical practices. Set the scene for us, too—what does your creative workspace look & feel like?

(Lynn): I wear a lot of hats. During the school year I wear the mama hat in the morning—I get the animals walked, fed and settled, then the boys up, fed, and on the bus.

Then I put on the writer hat. I make a pot of tea and settle in to write. My home office is upstairs and I have a big wraparound desk in the corner where I can gaze outside at the yard, the street corner, and the woods beyond. Books and art line the shelves. There’s a dog bed under the desk and a cat bed on the desk so I can be surrounded by happy satellite furballs. There’s a lot of action out the window, from deer and coyote crossings to people walking their dogs, kids on bikes, and the occasional eagle soaring by. I live on an island in the Pacific Northwest and it is dreamy.

First, I make my list of what I need to get done, check e-mails, and organize the desk. Then I jump in. I always make sure I have plenty of water so that forces me back to reality to take bathroom breaks. Otherwise, I would get lost in thought and find that I had been sitting all day! For breaks, I walk the dogs and ride the stationary bike for five minutes and do a little circuit of exercise and then plunk down for another stint.

My husband shares the office with me and when he’s home we make lunch dates and break the day up that way. We work well together and it’s fun to have the company. Plus he’s a great sounding board if I come up with an idea or write something I need feedback on.

(Anna-Maria): My workday is quite organized considering I’m a cartoonist. Typically, I work from 9am – 5pm (depending on the workload). I work from an office, which has become super important to me after working from home for over 10 years (I highly recommend an office to all freelancers). As I mentioned before, I REALLY need organization. I use Google calendar with color-coded tasks for the day depending on what needs to be done.

My workspace is a standing/sitting desk (I can switch working positions) with a Cintiq and a second computer screen. Next to that is my drawing desk and behind me are bookshelves with plenty of art books to check out should I need to. 

I like to switch from digital to analog and back all the time, but in the end I finish everything digitally. My important weekend ritual is going hiking to get my head clear. 

Just one of the fabulously fun activities in Turn This Book Into A Beehive!

Q: What is your MOST favorite activity from Turn This Book Into A Beehive!?

(Lynn): It’s the actual making of the mason bee home that I love—turning the book into a hive, then watching as things unfold in the garden.

With Mason Bees, every girl’s a queen. She finds the house—usually a hollow reed or stem or a tube, even paper tubes in an inside-out book cover! She gathers and piles food, lays an egg on top of the food pile, and then gathers mud to spackle a wall. In a good hollow tube, she can make 6-10 little rooms with an egg and a food supply in each one.

Aside from the actual turning the book into a beehive, I am a fan of the Cheetos pollination experiment. It’s funny and it shows the point very well.

(Anna-Maria): I think it’s actually building the beehive with the parts of book—I just think it’s such a cool idea to provide a home for solitary bees.

Q: If you were a bee, what kind of bee would you be? And why?

(Lynn): Hmm. The temptation is to say Queen bee, of course. But honestly having babies all day for your whole life sounds like a lot of work even if people are feeding you honey and fanning the air to keep you cool all day. So I would have to say a mason bee. Probably the Blue Orchard bee. They have such a beautiful color—a jewel-tone blue and green, which flashes in the sun. They live near each other but they have their own space. They’re friendly. They don’t sting. They’re crafty—they make mud walls!—and they’re good moms, making sure their babies have a room of their own and a supply of food. Plus they spend their days flopping on flowers. That sounds fun. On top of that, they do a lot of good for the world.

(Anna-Maria): I would definitely be some sort of solitary bee – I would enjoy my time alone, but visit the honey bees from time to time to get my “social fix”. I’d get some honey from them, chat a bit, maybe party with them, but then I’d return into my comfy little hole somewhere.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

(Lynn): I like being the first one up. The dogs usually wake me around 6:00. I get up and walk them and feed them (and the cat). I do a little yoga routine. Then I make tea and snuggle in on the couch with my book. (If it’s warm enough, I will snuggle up with my favorite blanket outside on my favorite chair. The animals always come, too.) I have a couple of hours to read and think and dream and meditate before the happy chaos of family erupts. We’ll make pancakes and coffee and have a good breakfast and a lazy start to the day. Then we putter—outside in the garden, or in the garage making stuff. My husband and sons like to work with wood and I make fused glass. Lately my older son and I have been experimenting with silk-screening. My younger son and husband are building a ukulele. If it’s warm and sunny we may all go out for a kayak paddle, a bike ride, or a hike. (We live across the street from The Grand Forest—an old growth forest in the temperate rainforest zone with fir and spruce and maple trees in delicious, velvet coverings of moss.) In the evening we’ll have friends over to cook outside and sit around the fire pit under the stars.

(Anna-Maria): Get enough sleep, get a good breakfast, and go on a nice little hike in the mountains with some friends. Exhaust myself during that hike, see a lot of interesting animals on the way, and then have Schnitzel in some restaurant. After that, have a nap and maybe later see some friends again for a nerdy activity like gaming or a movie, or just a drink in my favorite bar in Graz.

Thank you so much, Lynn & Anna-Maria, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love bees and your NEW book Turn This Book Into A Beehive!