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    adult books, interviews, men of bookstagram

    The Men of Bookstagram: Up Close and Personal With Reggie Bailey (@ReggieReads)

    Have you ever noticed Instagram is flooded with female bookstagrammers?  I wanted to find out who some of the men are who also share and read books on Instagram.  This ongoing series will feature some of the most well read men on Instagram who also share a passion for all things BOOKS.  Today we’re getting up close and personal with: Reggie Bailey.

    What is your name and Instagram handle?
    My name is Reggie Bailey and my Instagram handle is @reggiereads.

    When did you start your Instagram account and what was your motivation for starting it?
    I started my Instagram account in 2011 when I was a big sneakerhead. One who was on top of all the Nike and Jordan Brand releases specifically. Originally my account was used for communicating with other sneakerheads, while showing off my latest and greatest in footwear.

    Eventually I fell off of sneakers as a hobby and fell into book reading as a hobby. I didn’t officially join Bookstagram until 2017. Before 2017 I would show books on my page because they were making an impact on me, but 2017 is when I realized there was an entire “underworld” on Instagram, called Bookstagram, and my reading life hasn’t been the same since my encounter with said “underworld.”

    Have you always enjoyed reading?
    I’ve always enjoyed reading, although I haven’t always been a recreational reader. That’s largely because when I was younger I wasn’t reading enough books that interested me, especially in grade school. Whether it was The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Beowulf, the Odyssey… I was just bored. I’d probably be able to get into those now, but it’d be dishonest of me to call books those books top priority as far as my reading list is concerned.

    Why do you think we don’t see more men, (specifically Black men), reading or sharing about books they read?  Do you think reading is perceived to be “uncool” in the Black community?
    I’ll answer the latter question first. In the Black community reading is considered cool for sure. I’ve never had anyone Black criticize me for being an active reader, and I don’t foresee that happening. In fact, according to a 2014 study, which I found on the Atlantic, College educated Black women are the demographic that is most likely to read a book. Based off of that information I would estimate that not reading would be considered “uncool” in the Black community, although myself, nor anyone else, should pass any judgment on anyone who cannot, will not or does not read books.

    I can’t think of any specific reason why we don’t see more Black men reading and/or sharing thoughts on the books they’ve read. I have seen more Black men reading and sharing thoughts on Goodreads than I have on Instagram, but I’m not sure why the numbers are so skewed in favor of women reading books, and sharing their thoughts on the web.

    Maybe that’s the part that certain Black men think is uncool. Making a page on Instagram dedicated to the books they read, or maybe it’s something they aren’t confident in doing, don’t want to do or simply just don’t care to do. Who knows?

    Hopefully we’ll get those numbers up over time though!

    Name 1-2 recent books you’ve really enjoyed reading this year.
    I read The Bluest Eye for the first time and reread Sula and Song of Solomon earlier in the year. All of those spectacular novels were authored by the late and perpetually great Toni Morrison.

    Song of Solomon and Sula were even better the second time around, which is expected when someone as magnificent as Toni Morrison authors a book, and Song of Solomon is the best novel I’ve ever read. A fact I don’t being altered anytime soon.

    Are you currently in a relationship?  It’s okay to plead the 5thif you prefer not to answer!
    If I pled the 5th, my girlfriend wouldn’t be happy. Lol.

    Do you have children?  If so, do they love to read as well?
    I do not have any children, but I would hope they would love to read if I had any.

    What advice would you give to parents of children, (specifically parents with boys), who may have reluctant readers or kids who don’t enjoy reading?
    Although I am hesitant to propose any advice to a parent, considering I am a) Not a parent & b) Not even in a profession that deals with children, the best advice I would give, if I felt inclined, is to try and show children themselves through literature. Obviously this answer is geared more towards Black and Brown children, but it is important for these children to see themselves inside of books and on book covers, so they know that their stories are important and are worth being told.

    What books are on your nightstand right now?
    Too many! But some current standouts on my nightstand are Survival Math by Mitchell Jackson, American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson, and Red Now and Laters by Marcus Guillory.

    Do you think male bookstagrammers are perceived differently than female bookstagrammers?  If so, in what way(s)?
    Yes and no. Yes because there aren’t as many of us so we are somewhat of a novelty (I suppose), but no because we’re readers just like all of the women of Bookstagram and we are all ultimately reading to enlighten and better ourselves while being entertained, amongst other motivations.

    Hard cover, paperback, or e-book when reading a book on your own?
    Hardcover is my preference without question. I’ll do paperback as well, but I do not e-read.

    Name 1-2 of your favorite authors.
    Toni Morrison is my absolute favorite. Long Live the Queen! I will not count her as my 1-2 though, because that is too easy.  1-2 of my favorite contemporary authors are Tayari Jones and Jamel Brinkley. Both authors made a lot of noise in 2018 with their classic works An American Marriage, and A Lucky Man, respectively.

    How do you choose which books to feature on your Instagram account?
    I’d be lying to you if I said I had a method, especially when it comes to my stories. In my stories I will showcase any book that comes to my mind. Whether those are books that I bought, books that I am highly anticipating, or literally a book that ran across my mind for a few minutes.

    For posts I choose books that motivate me to write reviews that I feel reach a substantial length. I wouldn’t want to post a review on a book I read where I only said “This book was great… 5 stars!” or something short like that. I always do my best to add a unique & informed, if not passionate, perspective to the conversation around a book I read.

    Anything else you’d like to share?
    Thank you so much for having me on your platform. I am humbled and privileged to have this opportunity.

    Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this interview. I am grateful for your time, because we live in a world that has more information and content than we can imagine, and you could literally be consuming ANYTHING, but you are here, and I do not take that for granted.

    Participate in #2BooksUnder50Reviews Challenge if you get the chance. This is a challenge I created in the beginning of 2019 to influence readers to search for, read and review more obscure works.  The rules are simple: Find a book published in 2017 or earlier that has less than 50 reviews (not ratings) on Goodreads, read it, and review it on Goodreads, but also on Instagram and make sure to use the hashtag #2BooksUnder50Reviews. We are going to build a library full of obscure works and finally give some authors some well-deserved roses!

    Read books! Books are amazing; they are mind-altering, life-changing pieces of art that also entertain.  Read and think critically about the content in these books. Think critically about the plot, the structure, the wordplay, how the events in the book correlate to things happening in the world, etc.

    Read with a buddy or a book club so you can discuss these books and learn from one another. During these discussions share popular opinions, unpopular opinions, and controversial opinions, but be genuine and respectful while doing such.

    Last but not least, follow me on Instagram @reggiereads. Send me a friend request on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/reggieread), and let’s discuss books. Send me a message, comment on a post, or whatever you feel inclined to do. I’m always up for discussions centering books and literature, and it’s something I’m more passionate about than I’d ever thought I’d be.

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this feature?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments.  Also, please let me know what other men of Bookstagram I should feature in this series.

    If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read: 10 Male Bookstagrammers to Follow on Instagram If You Love Books.

    Also, be sure to check out our first interview with Rod Kelly.

    Find all of the men we feature in this series by searching the hashtag #themenofbookstagram on Instagram!

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    adult books, interviews, men of bookstagram

    The Men of Bookstagram: Up Close and Personal with @Read_by_RodKelly


    Have you ever noticed Instagram is flooded with female bookstagrammers?  I wanted to find out who some of the men are who also share and read books on Instagram.  This ongoing series will feature some of the most well read men on Instagram who also share a passion for all things BOOKS.  Let’s get up close and personal with: Rod Kelly.

    What is your name and Instagram handle?
    Hello! My name is Rod Kelly, aka @read_by_rodkelly on Insta-, excuse me, Bookstagram.

    When did you start your Instagram account and what was your motivation for starting it?
    I had a standard-issue Instagram account for years, but I properly entered the Bookstagram sphere in January of 2018.

    Have you always enjoyed reading?
    I would say yes, absolutely! However, I can’t say I was a reader, a serious one, until around five years ago. I had no discernible taste in books, it was a total dart-throwing activity until I finally hit bull’s eye with Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. That was my true literary baptism and I haven’t looked back since!

    Why do you think we don’t see more men, (specifically Black men), reading or sharing about books they read?  Do you think reading is perceived to be “uncool” in the Black community?
    I can’t say for sure why that is. Black men, in my generation especially, are most certainly reading. Living in New York, being on the subways, I’ve shared many a cramped space with other chocolate men, head buried in the pages of our myriad lit. I think, perhaps, that hybridizing the activity into a social media platform could be seen as pointless and/or tiresome to many black men, and men in general, perhaps. I cannot speak for a whole community of men. It is, after all, a hobby, and quite the time-consuming one, when you think about the quintessential features of booksta accounts: reviews, lists, tags, hauls, giveaways, etc. What about the pleasure of simply reading?

    Perhaps instead of posting daily, hourly, and by-the-minute, they’re actually holding a book rather than a phone. (The same could probably be said for many women as well, but because women dominate bookstagram, the question isn’t very relevant.) And sure, it was probably once considered to be “uncool”, but I don’t think that’s at all true today. I think black men and women of my generation and younger now want to be educated, want to be well-read and well-rounded. And anyway, I cannot imagine a grown ass man (bleep me if there are no curses allowed haha), in this day and age, in the times we’re living in, to criticize another for reading. This isn’t a time to sit around being stupid, or, I’ll be nicer, mentally lazy. Pick up a book!

    Name 1-2 recent books you’ve really enjoyed reading this year.
    This is hard, because it’s been an incredible reading year so far. Off the top of my head I’m going to shout out The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and Lot by Bryan Washington. Both are five-star, top-tier literary works from formidably talented, and imaginatively soulful writers.

    Are you currently in a relationship?  It’s okay to plead the 5th if you prefer not to answer!
    Okay, that went left, haha! But, no… I am happily single.

    Do you have children?  If so, do they love to read as well?
    N/A

    What advice would you give to parents of children, (specifically parents with boys), who may have reluctant readers or kids who don’t enjoy reading?
    I’m not a parent, but my mother, grandmother, and other elders placed books in front of me from a very early age. It’s important for kids to know that there is power in language, in the written word. Children will understand and receive that if it’s taught very early on in their development.

    What books are on your nightstand right now?
    The books on my figurative nightstand: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, Ta-Nehisi Coates’s forthcoming novel, The Water Dancerand The Source of Self-Regard by our dearly departed God of literature, Toni Morrison.

    Do you think male bookstagrammers are perceived differently than female bookstagrammers?  If so, in what way(s)?
    I don’t think there’s any conspicuous difference in perception. Bookstagram is obviously a more woman-centered space, but within my own community of followers and followed, though women dominate, it is a variegated, prismatic mix of people of all colors, gay, straight, cis, trans, non-binary, old, young, trash readers, high-brow snobs, etc. I accept that most people’s flocks may be mostly white, mostly female, which, fine for them, but I like a multiplicity of voices and views in my own space. I think I answered a question you didn’t ask, but my point is that I don’t believe male/female perception is really a thing at all.

    Hard cover, paperback, or e-book when reading a book on your own?
    Paperback preferably, but I’ve become less snobby about these things the more I read; whatever I have on hand when I’m ready to read a certain book is what I go with. For big, long books, sometimes it’s convenient to have both the digital and hard copy.

    Name 1-2 of your favorite authors.
    Easy: Toni Morrison & James Baldwin. No one better. And for a younger pair: Zadie Smith & Marlon James.

    How do you choose which books to feature on your Instagram account?

    I don’t make a huge to-do out of it, I simply share the things that give me pleasure. I review when I’m moved to review, I post when I feel I have something to say. Otherwise, I like to keep things very random and organic, mostly located within the stories feature, which is my favorite thing about IG.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I just want to thank you for thinking of me for this series! I can’t wait to read about all of the other lovely booksta-men that you feature! Much love!

    Connect with Rod Kelly!

    Instagram

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this feature?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments.  Also, please let me know what other men of Bookstagram I should feature in this series.

    If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read: 10 Male Bookstagrammers to Follow on Instagram If You Love Books.

     

    Find all of the men we feature in this series by searching the hashtag #themenofbookstagram on Instagram!

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    children's books, diverse books, interviews, middle grade

    Exclusive Book Cover Reveal: For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington + An Interview!

    For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington COVER REVEAL!

    In partnership with Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group, I am thrilled to be revealing the cover for the forthcoming July 2019 book For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama J. Lockington.  The cover is illustrated by Jamea Richmond-Edwards.  I also had the opportunity to ask the author a few questions which you can read below.

    • Total Pages: 336 pages
    • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
    • Publication Date: July 30, 2019
    • Recommended Ages: 8-12 and up
    • Pre-Orders: Available for Pre-Order Now!

    Synopsis

    I am a girl but most days I feel like a question mark.

    Makeda June Kirkland is eleven-years-old, adopted, and black. Her parents and big sister are white, and even though she loves her family very much, Makeda often feels left out. When Makeda’s family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, she leaves behind her best friend, Lena— the only other adopted black girl she knows— for a new life. In New Mexico, everything is different. At home, Makeda’s sister is too cool to hang out with her anymore and at school, she can’t seem to find one real friend.

    Through it all, Makeda can’t help but wonder: What would it feel like to grow up with a family that looks like me?

    Through singing, dreaming, and writing secret messages back and forth with Lena, Makeda might just carve a small place for herself in the world.

    In this lyrical coming-of-age story about family, sisterhood, music, race, and identity, Mariama J. Lockington draws on some of the emotional truths from her own experiences growing up with an adoptive white family. For Black Girls Like Me is for anyone who has ever asked themselves: How do you figure out where you are going if you don’t know where you came from?

    Author Interview

    WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME?
    When I was a kid I was always looking for books that mirrored my experience growing up as a transracial adoptee. I searched library shelves for stories about curious black girls with white parents—black girls with mothers who gave them away, but I never really found them. Instead, I’d find and devour books about spunky orphans like Heidi or Anne (with an E!) of Green Gables because I was able to relate to the resilience and questioning personalities of these characters. I wrote For Black Girls Like Me because it is the book I needed to read as a kid, a book that reflects the kind of family that looks like mine.

    WHAT DO YOU HOPE READERS WILL TAKE AWAY FROM READING YOUR BOOK?
    This is a book about adoption, yes, but more than anything it’s a book about a young black girl searching for her voice. It’s a book about a multiracial American family trying to love one another, despite difference and human flaws. My hope is that adoptees will read this book and see some small part of their experience validated. I also hope that this book will spark conversation about identity, race, and belonging between siblings, parents and their children, teachers and students, and anyone else who has ever asked themselves: Where do I belong? I hope that this book will be a friend to someone who needs it.

    HOW DID THE EXPERIENCE OF WRITING THIS BOOK DIFFER FROM WRITING YOUR PREVIOUS BOOK, THE LUCKY DAUGHTER, OR OTHER THINGS YOU HAVE WRITTEN?
    Well, The Lucky Daughter was a book of individual poems, about varying topics written for an adult audience. In earlier drafts, For Black Girls Like Me was also written for an adult audience. In 2013, I graduated from my MFA program at San Francisco State University with a collection of about sixty prose poems about a nameless adopted pre-teen black girl. The manuscript was much more abstract, and I was having a hard time taking it to the next level. When I published my article “What a Black Woman Wishes Her Adoptive White Parents Knew” on Buzzfeed in 2016, my now editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, reached out. She asked if I’d ever considered writing a fictional book based on my own experiences as an adoptee, but for a middle grade audience. I was SO excited by this prospect, since my other passion in life is teaching and working with youth. I have a Masters in Education and I have worked with education nonprofits for more than ten years. When I thought about this girl I kept writing poems about, about writing her story more concretely for a younger audience, giving her a name, something just clicked. I was able to dive back into the manuscript and I began to write Makeda’s store in short poem-scenes, with a stronger narrative thread.

    WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BEGIN WRITING AS AN AUTHOR?
    Since I was little, I’ve known I wanted to write books. I used to make my own books out of cardboard, glue, and string. When I was about 12 I saw the movie Harriet the Spy, and I’ve been keeping a journal ever since. At first writing down my daily observations and telling stories was about survival, about creating worlds bigger than the one I sometimes felt confined to. But ultimately it was music that helped me find my path as an author. Both of my parents are classical musicians, and while I did not grow up in a particularly religious household, music is a kind of religion in our family. I played the flute and piano growing up and the practice of music led me to explore the possibilities of other kinds of creative arts. Eventually, music led me to formally studying writing in High School and beyond. Like my main character, Makeda, music helped me find my voice and my discipline. It has always been an anchor for me.

    HOW MUCH OF YOURSELF, OTHER PEOPLE OR YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCES DO YOU PUT INTO YOUR BOOKS?
    While For Black Girls Like Me is fiction, it’s based on some of the emotional truths of my experience growing up as a transracial adoptee. There are some ways in which I drew from my own memories to write Makeda’s character. For example, I made both of her parents musicians. But then I let my imagination run wild and allowed myself to move past the autobiographical. As I was writing, I found that my characters took on new complex identities and histories that are different from the identities and histories of my actual family.

    WHICH BOOKS HAVE INFLUENCED YOUR LIFE THE MOST?
    This question is so hard for a bookworm like me! As I mentioned, as a kid, it was any story about an orphan— Annie, Anne of Green Gables, Heidi, or any story about a young kid who has to survive on their own in the wild— My Side of the Mountain, Hatchet, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I felt a kinship with these characters, as they struggled to make a way for themselves, without always knowing where they came from or if they belonged.

    As an adult, my all-time favorite book is Sula by Toni Morrison. I re-read it almost every year. To me, it is an epic love story between two best friends who are full of contradictions. I love that it is a story about black girlhood, black womanhood, friendship, and how sometimes we fail to speak the same language as the ones who raise us or come up with us. But we love them fiercely anyway.

    IF YOU COULD GIVE ADULTS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE ABOUT READING WITH CHILDREN, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
    Don’t gloss over or skip subjects in books you think your child can’t understand, especially when it comes to race and identity. Be OK with being uncomfortable, with not having all the answers. Books help all of us learn about different perspectives and experiences— even adults. You don’t have to be the expert, you just have to be willing to grow alongside your child, ask questions, and listen.

    HARDCOVER, PAPERBACK OR E-BOOK (WHEN READING A BOOK ON YOUR OWN)?
    Team Hardcover all the way! There is nothing more luxurious than the weight of a hardcover book in my lap and a hot cup of tea in hand.

    FICTION, NON-FICTION OR SOME OTHER GENRE (WHEN READING A BOOK ON YOUR OWN)?
    I read anything and everything I can get my hands on. I am a poet at heart, so I read a ton of poetry, but I am also an avid reader of fiction. Lately, I’ve really been enjoying reading short story collections. I can read at least one story before I fall asleep!

    WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR NIGHTSTAND OR E-READER RIGHT NOW?
    If you follow me on Instagram, I periodically post #nightstandselfies which feature an overzealous stack of books I hope to get to. Right now, at the top of my pile, you’ll find: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Other Words for Grief by fellow adoptee, Lisa Marie Rollins, and Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

    ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY SPECIAL PROJECTS THAT YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH OTHERS?
    I work full-time for a youth nonprofit, so this fall I am busy writing curriculum and delivering programs. I’m also excited to be working on a YA project— a queer, black girl love story. It’s very fresh, so that’s all I’ll share for now, but stay tuned! And of course, I’m getting ready to launch For Black Girls Like Me and hopefully go on book tour.

    HOW CAN PEOPLE GET IN TOUCH WITH YOU ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR ON YOUR WEBSITE?
    You can find me on Twitter @marilock, or on Instagram @forblackgirlslikeme (Which frequently features pictures of my sausage dog, Henry!)

    Check out For Black Girls Like Me when it publishes in July 2019!

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    children's books, diverse books, interviews, technology

    Teaching Young Girls to Love Coding: Sasha Savvy Loves to Code + An Author Interview!

    Sasha Savvy Loves to Code by Sasha Ariel Alston, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

    Publisher: Gold Fern Press
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 44
    Age Range: 7 – 10
    Grade Level: 2- 5

    Synopsis
    Are you looking for a book to help teach young girls about coding?  Look no further than Sasha Savvy Loves to Code!

    Sasha Savvy Loves to Code is an early reader chapter book (ages 7-10). The main character, Sasha Savvy, is a super smart 10-year old African-American girl, who lives in Washington, DC. Sasha must choose which class to take for summer camp. Her mom discovers that the camp is offering a new class for girls on how to code. Sasha thinks this will be boring and doesn’t believe that she is good at computer stuff. Despite this, she decides to give it a chance and convinces her best friends Gabby Reyes and Ashley Webster, to attend the coding camp with her. Sasha’s mom, a Software Developer, gives her a unique formula to help her remember how to code but will it be enough to get her through a challenging first day of camp with bugs everywhere, computing errors, that is.

    Author Interview with Sasha Ariel Alston!

    Tell me a little about yourself and how you came up with the idea to write the book.
    My name is Sasha Ariel Alston and I am from Washington, DC.  I’m currently a 19 year-old student attending Pace University in New York City.  My major is Information Systems with a minor in Marketing.  In Washington, DC I attended a STEM focused high school and my track was Technology.  That’s how I initially became interested in STEM in general.  I had my first internship when I was in the 11th grade at Microsoft which provided me with a real world experience.  At Microsoft, I was a Marketing Manager for my team which consisted of two game developers and a project manager.  That’s where I saw there was a correlation between business and technology.

    About a year after my internship, my mom (who is also an author) and I came up with the idea for me to write my book. My mother’s name is Tracy Chiles McGhee.  This came a result of people constantly asking me what coding and STEM was all about.  About a month before I was getting ready to graduate from high school I started writing the book Sasha Savvy Loves to Code.  Shortly after the book was finished we launched a Kickstarter page with an initial goal to raise $5,000.  We reached (and surpassed) the goal in just 4 days.  That showed me just how much this book was needed and how there is a lack of diversity in STEM.

    When will you graduate and what kind of career would you like to have?
    I will graduate in 2019.  Depending on how far my book goes, I really would like to focus on building this brand.  I would love for my book to turn into a series and have products to go along with it.  I also envision a Sasha Savvy animated show similar to Doc McStuffins.  If that doesn’t go as planned then I would like to have a career in Education Technology.

    What motivates you?  Do you have any particular role models you look up to?
    My mom is my ultimate role model.  She raised me as a single mother.  I am also attracted to very positive role models for African-American girls.

    What is your hope for little girls who read your book?
    My book is geared towards girls ages 7 – 10.  I hope to raise awareness of what coding and STEM is for girls.  I want them to be able to see themselves in this profession if that’s what they’re going to be interested in.  As I’m sure you know, there is a huge lack of diversity in both gender and race in the Information Technology field.  I’m hoping kids and teens who read my book will be able to relate to it and to me since I’m also a teenager.  Lastly, I want to dispel the stigma that coding is nerdy and it isn’t cool.  My book gives a different perspective of it.

    What advice would you give to kids who may be interested in getting involved in coding?
    Coding requires a lot of hard work.  You have to be very disciplined, focused and determined.  My advice would be to learn as much as you can and study hard.

    Connect with Sasha Ariel Alston!

    Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

    Your turn: Have you and your little readers read this book yet?  Feel free to share your comments.

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    children's books, interviews

    Author Interview with Anna McQuinn

    Last month I had the pleasure of reviewing Anna McQuinn’s latest book entitled Lola Gets a Cat.  You can read my review here.  Lola Gets a Cat will be released on February 14, 2017 (Valentine’s Day & International Book Giving Day), but it’s available for pre-order now.

    I also had the opportunity to interview Anna McQuinn and ask her a few questions.  Check it out!

    How did you come up with the characters Lola and Leo?

    The characters kind of developed organically. With Lola I sent out to write about a little girl having some new experiences and the first story I wrote had her go to the library. Well, in the course of writing (and also based on readers’ reactions to her) I realized she’d developed into a little book-loving girl.

    This shouldn’t have come as a surprise and I devoured books as a little girl myself – but I don’t think you are always conscious of this kind of thing as you write. To be honest, it wasn’t until Charlesbridge Publishing began writing back cover copy, that it dawned on me!

    Leo was a little bit more considered. Of course I wanted him to be a book lover too, but I wanted him to have his own personality. So I thought about his characteristics quite a bit more at the outset. I see him as a little adventurer, having new experiences and being quite fearless.

    Do you plan to start a new series of books with new characters in the future?

    I’m not sure about a series, but I have just begun work on a nursery rhyme book. I must admit that with all the changes in both the US and UK recently, I have found it quite hard to concentrate on writing – though I have been inspired to pull out a story I’d been working on and given up on about a little ferret who is bullied… watch this space!

    Besides your own, what were some of your favorite children’s board, picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across within the past year?

    I was about to say, this is easy – but then you said within the past year. I don’t feel I’m that up to date… I’m a huge fan of Suzanne Bloom and excited about anything new from her; I think the Baby Loves books from Charlesbridge are super cute; and I read Rat Runners by Oisin McGann recently – fabulous story! Did you know that I have a Goodreads page where I review books I read?  You can check it out here. The character Lola also has her own Goodreads page too which can be found here.

    What are some of your must-have children¹s books for a home library?

    Ok, this is easy. Here are my favorites:

    Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse – Kevin Henkes
    Please, Baby, Please – Spike Lee & Kadir Nelson
    Crispin, the Pig Who Had it All–  Ted Dewan
    Whistle for Willie (and anything else by) Ezra Jack Keats
    What About Bear? – Suzanne Bloom
    Feeding Friendsies – Suzanne Bloom
    You Are Not Small – Anna Kang
    It’s a George Thing by David Bedford
    Global Babies (the whole series of books)
    Always and Forever by Alan Durant
    I had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn
    One Word From Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family or practiced in the past?

    My Dad was a great bed-time storyteller (there’s a nod to that at the end of Lola Loves Stories).  I especially loved his stories about when he was a small boy. However, when he’d told me a few and then I begged for ‘just one more’ he would begin a story “there was once a little girl called Anna” and for some reason I never wanted these – perhaps because it signaled the last story of the night.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?

    Talk! And sing! With very young children, I advise parents to just describe what the child is doing. It feels funny until you get used to it, but it really helps children to learn words to describe what they are doing. You can extend it to emotions too. Sometimes when a child is upset, saying “Oh that really upset you now, didn’t it, you thought it was unfair (or whatever)…” is better than trying to fix something and gives children a vocabulary of words to describe their emotions. Finally I would say READ! Children really notice if a parent encourages them to read, but is never seen reading themselves.

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?

    Never give up and never EVER decide ‘this child just isn’t into books’.  By never give up I mean trying – be ready to abandon any book that’s not working or just let go mid-way through if your child is getting wriggly.
    Your child may have enough in 2 pages and that’s OK – there’s no obligation to finish every story in one sitting.
    The Irish Children’s Laureate has a lovely piece of advice here.

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?

    Paperback

    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?

    Oh, I often have one of each on the go. I’m currently reading Silk Roads a non-fiction book by Peter Frankopan, and I’ve just finished The Storyteller by Jodi Piccoult. I often have one ‘deep and meaningful’ book on the go alongside a more pacey thriller so I can read depending on my mood.

    Name an adult book that:

    a) Inspired you Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (Walter Mosley)
    b) Made you laugh out loud We Are all Made of Glue or The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I am
    c) You recommend to others often
    Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned (Walter Mosley)
    Room by Emma Donoghue
    Orange Mint and Honey by Carlene Brice
    The Binding Vine by Shashi Deshpande
    A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
    Just Like Tomorrow by Faiza Guene
    The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe

    What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now?

    Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun , Silk Roads and Swing Time

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?

    I’m writing a new Leo book – he goes for a check-up. The illustrator, Ruth Hearson has just sent me the first few rough drafts which is SO exciting!

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?

    On my Facebook page or here on my website.

    Your turn: Did you enjoy this interview?  What other authors would you be interested in learning more about?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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