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    Author Interview with Nicholas Solis: The Color Collector

    Today, we’re chatting with author Nicholas Solis to discuss his new picture book, The Color Collector illustrated by Renia Metallinou.

    Book Synopsis
    The Color Collector is a poignant story about newness, friendship, and common ground. When a boy notices the new girl picking up all manner of debris and litter on their walks home from school he wants to know why. So she shows him the huge mural she’s created in her room that reminds her of the home she left behind. He learns all about where she’s come from and they both find how wonderful it is to make a new friend.

    The Color Collector by Nicholas Solis

    The Interview

    Q: Please tell us a little about yourself. Your background, where you were born, your current family life and anything else you would like to share.

    A: Hello everyone and thank you for having me, Charnaie! I’m a huge fan and my wife absolutely loves you on instagram. My name is Nicholas Solis and I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. First and foremost, I’m a husband and a father. My wife and I have a baby boy, Leo, who is about to be one year old. I’ve been an elementary teacher for 21 years and I think it’s the best job in the world, even with this extremely crazy year.

    About 7 years ago I started taking writing seriously. I took as many writing classes as I could find, and I slowly built up an amazing writing community around me. They are some of the most supportive people you can find.

    Q: How did you become interested in being a writer? Did you always aspire to write books and tell stories?

    A: I’ve always been interested in writing. When I was a kid I would write
    knock-off Encyclopedia Brown detective stories and really deep poetry for a 10 year-old. I also remember just loving creative writing time in school. While other kids looked like they were being tortured to write a whole page, I was already on my fourth one.

    I’m not sure if I always wanted to be a published writer though, but I knew
    that I loved writing. I would write funny blogs when traveling and crazy stories for the students in my classroom. I loved entertaining people with my words. Throughout my teaching career a lot of my students have been the guinea pigs for a lot of these stories. In fact, when I shared the mock up of my first book, The Staring Contest, one of my students found a grammatical error. I emailed my editor right away and was like, “My 10 year old student found a mistake I missed!”

    Q: How did you come up with the storyline for The Color Collector?

    A: There was this piece of art hanging at this gallery in Austin, TX. The girl
    had the saddest eyes I had ever seen and she was catching colorful leaves as they fell. I kept wondering why she was so sad, and the story started forming in my head. But it never flowed right. It was too long and too disconnected. I worked on it for weeks, but couldn’t get it. Then one night I woke up at 2am and the story was fully formed. I scribbled it all down, terrified that I would forget it. The text was sparse and read more like a poem than a story and I loved it. So the short answer is weeks or 30 minutes depending on when you feel it really came to life.

    Q: What messages are you hoping readers will take away from The Color Collector?

    A: My parents divorced when I was younger, so I moved around a lot. That
    meant starting new schools as well. 7th grade was especially tough for me because I moved in the middle of the school year. I was miserable. But then one day, this kid named Dylan said hello to me. That’s it. He saw a quiet kid sitting alone and he said hi. But that one little action completely changed my world. We became friends and then I became friends with his friends. That led to me coming out of my shell and making more even friends. It was this ripple effect that completely changed the trajectory of my life. This book is about empathy and kindness and finding beauty in the things people toss aside. My greatest joy would be to know that this book
    inspired someone to simply say hi to a new kid in class.

    Q: Are there any authors you can recommend that you enjoy? Either for children or adults.

    A: My go to recommendation is Shel Silverstein. When I was a kid, I remember climbing on top of my roof to avoid the world and just devouring his poetry. It was fun and quirky and it made me feel not so alone. Lately, I’ve been on the hunt for Own Voices authors. Celia Perez is awesome and really nails what it’s like for kids that might not fit one particular mold. Cristina Soontornvat is a personal friend of mine and she is on fire right
    now, killing it in both fiction and nonfiction! I also really enjoyed Ernesto Cisneros book Efran Divided. David Bowles is also so prolific, I’m having trouble keeping up with everything he is producing.

    Q: What is a book (or books if you have more than one) that you recommend often to others?

    A: Following the Shel Silverstein recommendation, you can never go wrong with Where the Sidewalk Ends. On a picture book kick, I would say Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is so beautiful and Eyes That Kiss in the Corners is the perfect book to spread love and acceptance right now. For something a little more obscure, I would recommend Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump. I love Hatchet and this book has that same sort of wilderness, survival appeal.

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

    A: What a great question! I think the best thing that any parent can do is model, model, model. Surround yourself and your child with books and then just read in front of them. I do a great job of this when I’m teaching, but I need to do more of this at home now that I have a 1 year-old running around. I didn’t mind it before, but now that I know there are littles eyes watching me all the time I would like to move away from screens and move towards a book.

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

    A: I’ve tried e-books before but there really isn’t anything better than a book with actual pages you can turn with your fingers. Most of the children’s books I’ve been reading are hardcovers, but a good paperback you can shove into your backpack and pull out anywhere is hard to beat.

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

    A: Fiction all day, every day. I know I should be more well rounded, but I love fantasy and world building. I’m working on a middle grade novel, so any book I read I analyze how their story and their world came to be. I am currently reading a biography, but fiction still captures my heart and imagination!

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

    A: I’m currently reading The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas. I’m looking for a new fantasy novel to bring into my classroom and her book is terrific! I’m also reading A Boy Named Shel by Lisa Rogak. Maybe that is why I am on such a Shel kick again.

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

    A: I’m extremely excited about my next book, My Town, Mi Pueblo. It is with Nancy Paulsen Books and will be coming out late summer, early fall. Two kids, from opposite sides of the border, decide to visit the town on the other side of the bridge. As they spend time in the other’s town, they marvel at the different sights and sounds. But they soon discover that they have more in common than they do differences. It is in both English and Spanish, and I’m excited to see it in kids’ hands!

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

    A: Feel free to check out my website, http://nicholassolis.com, and my instagram and twitter handles are @teachsolis! Thank you for having me on today!

    Nicholas Solis

    Nicholas is an award-winning elementary teacher with a Master of Arts degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas and a Master of Arts degree in Educational Administration from Concordia University. He has traveled the world and taught students in Tanzania, India, and Morocco. From all of his travels he has learned one important lesson: No matter the circumstances, kids are kids. When he’s not traveling, he enjoys spending time with his wife, their dog, and his brand new baby boy in Austin, Texas. 

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    Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Zetta Elliott

    Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Zetta Elliott

    I recently had the pleasure of asking the legendary and ever inspiring, Zetta Elliott a series of bookish questions in an interview. Her latest book for kids, A Place Inside of Me is my favorite picture book of 2020 (so far).

    Check out the highlights below including a snapshot of what’s currently on her nightstand and her upcoming projects.

    How did you come up with the story line for A Place Inside of Me?
    APIOM wasn’t really a story; when I wrote it back in 2001, it was a poem. I wanted to express the range of emotions that Black children feel in this country. At the time I was living in Ohio and I would often take a break from writing my dissertation (on lynching) to write stories for kids. It was therapeutic, in a way, to take such heavy material and turn it into something a child could comprehend. My editor, Grace Kendall, had the idea to use the illustrations to reflect a protest narrative. We rearranged some of the stanzas and that helped with flow.

    What messages are you hoping readers will take away from A Place Inside of Me?

    The subtitle really says it all—“a poem to heal the heart.” I hope that young readers will honor their emotions—all of them—and know that it’s okay to feel afraid or upset. When we’re honest about how we feel, we have the chance to forge connections with others; shame only leads to silence and isolation. I hope kids understand that connecting with others and working together is how we create change. 

    What are some of your must-have children¹s books for a home library?
    I don’t read a lot of kid lit and I don’t have kids, but I’d encourage parents to do an audit of their home library to make sure it’s inclusive.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
    Understand how the publishing industry works (or doesn’t work). Then demystify the process—make sure your children understand what “gatekeepers” are–and encourage your kids to write! As a child I just accepted that books magically appeared in my classroom and at the library. I didn’t understand that a handful of people were deciding which stories would become books and which books would wind up in my hands. Kids have a keen sense of what’s fair and what’s not; they might become more engaged as readers when they realize the power of bypassing gatekeepers and becoming storytellers themselves.

    Do you have a favorite book that you have written?  If so, what is it and why?
    That’s like asking a parent if they have a favorite child! I don’t have a favorite, but some characters stay with me longer than others.

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
    Let your child be an active participant—let them choose the books you read together and help them make books of their own. Children can be creators and not just consumers of books.

    Any advice for aspiring writers and authors?
    Develop a writing practice and set aside time every day to do nothing but write—even fifteen minutes a day is enough time to journal or write a haiku. For me, writing is 70% dreaming so you might also need to set time aside for that. Most importantly, have your own definition of success so that you aren’t pointlessly comparing yourself to others.

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
    I don’t read e-books but would like to give audio books a try. Mostly I like the feel of a book in my hands. No preference for hard or soft cover, though the latter is more affordable.

    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
    I only read non-fiction for research; I’m trying to read more poetry but mostly I read speculative or historical fiction.

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

    The books currently on Zetta Elliott’s nightstand

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
    Too many! I have a MG novel-in-verse that’s due to my editor at the end of August, but I just finished my second collection of poetry, American Phoenix, and I’m also working on an experimental novel about four teen girls working on an Amish farm here in Central PA.

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
    There’s a contact form on my website (www.zettaelliott.com) and I’m on IG and Twitter: @zettaelliott.

    About Zetta Elliott

    Zetta Elliott is a Black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children. She was born and raised in Canada, but has lived in the US for over 25 years. She earned her PhD in American Studies from NYU in 2003; she has taught at Ohio University, Louisiana State University, Mount Holyoke College, Hunter College, Bard High School Early College, and Borough of Manhattan Community College. Her poetry has been published in New Daughters of Africa, We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices, the Cave Canem anthology The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Check the Rhyme: an Anthology of Female Poets and Emcees, and Coloring Book: an Eclectic Anthology of Fiction and Poetry by Multicultural Writers.

    Her essays have appeared in School Library Journal, The Huffington Post, and Publishers Weekly. Her picture book, Bird, won the Honor Award in Lee & Low Books’ New Voices Contest and the Paterson Prize for Books for Young Readers. She currently lives in Lancaster, PA.

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    Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Brandy Colbert

    Have you read any of Brandy Colbert’s books yet?

    In March 2020, Brandy Colbert will release her middle-grade debut, THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN – a powerful story (on Apple Books’ Most Anticipated Middle Grade Reads of 2020 list) about the only two black girls in town who discover a collection of hidden journals revealing shocking secrets of the past. A master at writing literary, contemporary novels with a commercial appeal, Colbert has quickly become a go-to author for stories with strong elements of diversity and intersectionality.

    I recently had the pleasure of asking Brandy a series of bookish questions in an interview. Check out the highlights below including all of her book recommendations and upcoming tour dates.

    What was the inspiration for your forthcoming book, The Only Black Girls in Town?  What messages/lessons do you hope people come away with after reading it?

    As a person who grew up as one of very few black kids in their school in a predominantly white town in the Midwest, I think a lot about kids who are going through the same thing now. One day I thought about what would happen if you were pretty much the only black girl in a tiny town, and then suddenly another black girl moved in across the street. I really wrote it for me and people who’ve been in or are going through that experience, because it’s such a specific situation to be in. I was so relieved when I got a bit older and realized I wasn’t the only one who’d grown up like that. I never write books with a message or lesson in mind, but I do hope that people who don’t have that experience will think about what it would be like to feel so isolated, and yet on display at the same time. Family also plays a big part in the story. I hope people will open their minds to all the different types of families that are out there.

    Have you always been interested in reading and writing?

    Yes, they’ve both been a big part of my life since I can remember. We always had a lot of books around the house when I was growing up, and we took regular trips to the library and bookstore, so I was always surrounded by literature. And I’ve loved storytelling from a young age, too; I’ve been writing since the age of 7.

    What were some of your favorite subjects growing up in school?

    I loved English and spelling, and I guess I’ve always had the same interests, because I grew up to be a writer, and a copy editor for magazines and books. I also really loved my journalism classes in high school; I worked on the yearbook staff and then went on to earn a journalism degree in college. 

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

    Anything and everything by Colson Whitehead, Zadie Smith, and Curtis Sittenfeld; Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward; Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi; The Mothers by Brit Bennett; Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff; The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander; An American Marriage by Tayari Jones; A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

    Besides writing, what are some of your other hobbies or interests?

    Like writing, I’ve been tap dancing since I was young, and I still love it. I also enjoy cooking, baking, television and movies, trying to keep my indoor and outdoor plants alive, and spending time with friends.

    Do you have a favorite book that you have written?  If so, what is it and why?

    It’s always hard for me to answer this question, because I truly love all of my books for different reasons. I would say maybe The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, because it was a real joy to work on from beginning to end. Readers seem to really connect with Birdie, and I love that a specific coming-of-age story about a black girl living in Chicago can mean something to so many people.

    Any advice for aspiring writers and authors?

    Shut out the noise, keep your head down, and do the work. Don’t compare yourself to other writers. Remember that publishing is a long game. These are things I still have to remind myself of regularly; publishing is not an easy or predictable business.

    Name an adult book that:

    a) Inspired you 

    Drinking Coffee Elsewhere by ZZ Packer

    b) Made you laugh out loud 

    Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

    c) You recommend to others often

    Dominicana by Angie Cruz

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

    Too many! I never used to read multiple books at once, and now I can’t seem to stop. I’m currently reading The Yellow House by Sarah Broom, and the ones on my nightstand right now are Florida by Lauren Groff, Heavy by Kiese Laymon, Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau, Damsel by Elana K. Arnold, and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

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

    My next book, The Voting Booth, will be out July 7, from Disney-Hyperion. It’s a YA novel set over the course of 12 hours, on Election Day, from the dual points of view of two black first-time teen voters, Duke and Marva. It covers a lot of topics, from grief to voter suppression to activism, and I’m excited for people to read it! I’m also currently working on a few projects that I hope to be able to talk about soon. 

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

    My website, brandycolbert.com, lists all of the different people to contact if someone needs to reach me, or they can fill out a submission form that goes directly to me. I am also on Twitter and Instagram, both at the handle @brandycolbert. 

    Brandy Colbert’s 2020 Tour Dates

    March 7: BAM! Book Festival (West Palm Beach, FL)

    March 13-14: Tucson Festival of Books (Tucson, AZ)

    March 15-17: Children’s Literature Festival (Warrensburg, MO)

    March 21: Skylight Books (1818 N. Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA) at 3:00 pm

    In conversation with Nina LaCour (author of We Are Okay and Hold Still)

    March 26: Brazos Bookstore (2421 Bissonnet Street, Houston, TX 77005) at 6:30 pm

    In conversation with Liara Tamani (author of Calling My Name)

    March 29: East City Bookshop (645 Pennsylvania Ave SE #100, Washington, D.C.) at 5:00 pm. Brandy will also be in conversation with Leah Henderson (author of One Shadow on the Wall).

    March 30: Loyalty Bookstore (823 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, MD) at 5:00 pm. Brandy will also be in conversation with bookstagrammer @SpinesVines.

    March 31: Books of Wonder (217 W 84th St, New York, NY) at 6:00 pm

    In conversation with Karyn Parsons (author of How High the Moon)

    April 16: Vroman’s Bookstore (695 E. Colorado Blvd, Pasadena, CA) at 7:00 pm

    In conversation with Mary Cecilia Jackson (author of Sparrow)

    April 18-19: The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books (Los Angeles, CA)

    June 6: Bronx Book Festival (The Bronx, NY)

    June 7 | 10:30 AM The Center for Fiction 15 Lafayette Ave. Brooklyn, NY

    In conversation with Renée Watson (author of Ways to Make Sunshine)

    June 7 3:00 PM Bank Street Bookstore 2780 Broadway New York, NY

    In conversation with Renée Watson (author of Ways to Make Sunshine)

    About Brandy Colbert

    Brandy Colbert
    Photo Credit: Little Brown Books for Young Readers


    Brandy Colbert is the critically acclaimed author of the novels PointeFinding YvonneThe Revolution of Birdie Randolph, and Stonewall Award winner Little & Lion. Born and raised in Springfield, Missouri, she now lives and writes in Los Angeles.

    Author Interview with Brandy Colbert
    Author interview with Brandy Colbert
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    adult books, interviews, young adult books

    Author Interview: Up Close and Personal with Tonya Bolden + Saving Savannah

     

    Tonya Bolden is one of my favorite writers for historical fiction for both children and adults.  It was such a treat to have the opportunity to interview her to chat books.  Her forthcoming novel, Saving Savannah will be published January 14, 2020 and I’m so excited to read it since I thoroughly enjoyed Inventing Victoria

    Check out the publisher’s synopsis for Saving Savannah:

    Savannah Riddle is lucky. As a daughter of an upper class African American family in Washington D.C., she attends one of the most rigorous public schools in the nation–black or white–and has her pick among the young men in her set. But lately the structure of her society–the fancy parties, the Sunday teas, the pretentious men, and shallow young women–has started to suffocate her.  Then Savannah meets Lloyd, a young West Indian man from the working class who opens Savannah’s eyes to how the other half lives. Inspired to fight for change, Savannah starts attending suffragist lectures and socialist meetings, finding herself drawn more and more to Lloyd’s world.  Set against the backdrop of the press for women’s rights, the Red Summer, and anarchist bombings, Saving Savannah is the story of a girl and the risks she must take to be the change in a world on the brink of dramatic transformation.

    Author Interview

    How did you come up with the characters for Inventing Victoria and Saving Savannah?
    Characters come to me in shadow, in outline. Then I ask questions. What does she want? What are her fears? And so forth. With Crossing Ebenezer Creek and Saving Savannah I was very much driven/led by an antique photograph of a young black woman that said to me, “This is Mariah!” and another one that said to me, “This is Savannah!”

    Do you enjoy writing children’s books or adult books more?
    Don’t make a choose, please! (smile). Given that the majority of the forty-something books I’ve authored/co-authored/edited are for young people . . . Yes, my first love is writing for children. History is my passion and I believe that if we hook our young people on history—if we make history come alive for them—we really put them on the path of lifelong learning, critical thinking, curiosity, and making some sense of the world.  Without history you have no context for your life, for your present era.

    Besides your own, what were some of your favorite children’s picture, or chapter books you’ve read or come across within the past year?
    Yuyi Morales’s Dreamers. My “to-read” list includes Jennifer Swanson’s Spies, Lies, and Disguise: The Daring Tricks and Deeds that Won World War II and Nikki Grimes’s memoir Ordinary Hazards.

    What are some of your must-have children’s books for a home library?
    That’s a tough one!  I really believe that each home library should be tailor-made for a particular family’s interests and needs. The only must-have I can think of is range: books about the present and the  past, books about people familiar and not familiar. In this global village of a world of ours, to borrow from the eminent Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, all our young people need mirrors, windows, and sliding doors.

    Do you have any literacy rituals that you practice in your family or practiced in the past?
    Not really. Growing up I was crazy about books. Couldn’t get enough of books! And I have my parents to thank for that. My mother, who only had a sixth grade education and my father who only had a ninth grade education, were avid readers. There is a lost picture of me, maybe I was about two or three. And there I was propped up in my parents’ bed. I had my mother’s glasses sprawled on my face. I had a book in my hands. Upside down. I was imitating my parents. There is also a photograph of the living room of our apartment in East Harlem. We had recently moved in. The furniture was the old furniture we had in Brooklyn. There was no carpeting on the floor (at a time when carpeting was pretty much de rigueur). Front and center in this photograph is our family’s bookcase.

    Besides reading, what are some other things parents can do to set their children up for literacy success?
    Engage them in critical thinking, early and often.  Encourage them to create stories of their own. And while you’re at it, tell your children family stories. 

    Do you have a favorite book that you have written?  If so, what is it and why?
    My favorite book of mine is always the one that is just about to come out or the one that has just come out. So right now Saving Savannah is dearest to my heart. But really it’s like a family with many children. Each is unique and you love them all equally (we hope) though each child has something in particular that endears you to her or him.  With Saving Savannah I think Savannah Riddle is the character most like me. I didn’t realize this at first. My sister pointed this out after she read part of an early draft. As  she gave me feedback, I shared with her that compared to Mariah in Crossing Ebenezer  Creek and Victoria in Inventing Victoria, I found Savannah the easier character to write. My sister snickered, then said something like, “That’s because Savannah is you!” 

    If you could give parents one piece of advice about reading with children, what would it be?
    Discussions of books is vital. What did the young reader learn? What puzzled her or him? Is there anything the reader misunderstood? And don’t stop reading aloud!  Whether your child is five or fifteen—or fifty—always make some time for gathering around a book and reading aloud. I don’t think we ever lose our love for being read to. I know it may be difficult to do read-alouds with teens, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

    Any advice for aspiring writers and authors?
    Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t be precious. Consider trying to get into the business as a writer for hire. That’s how I began. If you have a big hit out of the gate, save your money.  You never know. Some careers do nothing but skyrocket. Others have peaks and valleys.  Once you get your foot in the door consider diversifying. Being able to write for different ages, different genres can come in handy when there are shifts in the industry. On year picture books are hot! Two years later not so much. Have many arrows in your quiver—especially if you don’t have a day job.

    Hardcover, Paperback or e-book (when reading a book on your own)?
    I like e-books for research because when traveling I can take so much research with me and still travel light. 

    Fiction, non-fiction or some other genre (when reading a book on your own)?
    Nonfiction tops the list. But really as my fiction and nonfiction require so much research, books I pick up just for pure pleasure are few and far between.

    Name an adult book that:

    1. a) Inspired you Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Paula Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones, Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place, Charles’s Johnson’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Oxherding Tale, Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, probably every Anton Chekhov short story I read, Eugene O’Neill’s plays, Carson McCullers’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Majorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling, W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage, Toni Cade Bambara’s  Gorilla, My Love, Toni Morrison’s Sula.
    2. b) Made you laugh out loud  Several stories in Bambara’s Gorilla, My Love and in Naylor’s Brewster Place. 
    3. c) You recommend to others often
      To be honest, I don’t often have the occasion to recommend books to others.

    What books are on your nightstand or e-reader right now? Charles Johnson’s The Way of the Writer: Reflections on the Art and Craft of Storytelling.  

    Are you working on any special projects that you want to share with others?
    I’m brainstorming on the fourth linked novel that began with Crossing Ebenezer Creek. So next up after Saving Savannah is an as yet unnamed novel about the daughter of a character in Saving Savannah. I have the main character’s name (I think) and I have a photograph that says to me, “This is her!”

    How can people get in touch with you on social media or on your website?
    Please visit tonyaboldenbooks.com!

    Tonya Bolden is a critically acclaimed award-winning author/co-author/editor of more than two dozen books for young people. They include Inventing VictoriaCrossing Ebenezer Creek, which received five starred reviews; Finding Family, which received two starred reviews and was a Kirkus Reviews and Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year; Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl, a Coretta Scott King honor book and James Madison Book Award winner; MLK: Journey of a King, winner of a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children; Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book, CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, and winner of the NCSS Carter G. Woodson Middle Level Book Award.

    Tonya also received the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, DC’s Nonfiction Award. A Princeton University magna cum laude baccalaureate with a master’s degree from Columbia University, Tonya lives in New York City.

    Your turn: Have you ever read any of Tonya Bolden’s books?  Feel free to share some of your favorite Tonya Bolden books in the comments below.

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    The Men of Bookstagram: Up Close and Personal with Ryan from @DadSuggests



    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: Ryan from Dad Suggests.

    What is your name and Instagram handle?

    My name is Ryan Billingsley and I’m the dad behind @dadsuggests on Instagram.

    When did you start your Instagram account and what was your motivation for starting it?

    We actually started DadSuggests and our Instagram page in the summer of 2018, so we just celebrated our 1 year anniversary. Basically, I really just wanted a way to share with other parents and teachers the things that our family loves. I wanted to help people find really high-quality content for some meaningful family time.

    After writing about a few of our favorite books and games and putting up pictures of them on Instagram, I realized how much I love advocating for things like empathy and imagination – and how important it is to read and play with your kids. My articles and my posts often drift into reflections on parenting and our role in providing a magical childhood for our kids. I might be writing about books and board games – but in my head I’m often contemplating how to make happy kids and other bits of the meaning of life.

    Have you always enjoyed reading?

    Yes! I was lucky enough to have parents who sat by the side of my bed at night and read me stories that I’ll never forget – like classic tales from the Brothers Grimm. And I had a very cool bunk bed growing up with a built-in bookshelf. It was the perfect size to store all of my Goosebumps books – which I very often stayed up late reading.

    And, of course, I was tremendously lucky to grow up during the era of Harry Potter – basically being the same age as Harry through the whole series. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a kid during that craze – attending the midnight releases and trying to read the whole book before the sun came up.

    Where do you currently live?

    I have lived in beautiful Fayetteville, AR for my entire life.

    Name 1-2 recent books you’ve really enjoyed reading this year.

    For picture books, I’ve already shortlisted Imagine That by Jonathan D. Voss and All the Ways to Be Smart by Davina Bell as favorites for 2019. I can’t recommend them highly enough. Both books do a tremendous job celebrating the child’s imagination – and that is of course a real soft spot for me.

    Imagine That leaves me with the same happy feelings I get when I read Winnie the Pooh, and I’m actually tempted to label All the Ways to Be Smart the most important, if not the very best, picture book ever made. (Sidenote: Wow, I need to check this one out ASAP since we haven’t read it yet!)

     

    Are you currently in a relationship? It’s okay to plead the 5th if you prefer not to answer!

    Haha! No need for mysteries here! My wife and I just celebrated our 8th anniversary!

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

    We have a 6-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. They’ve been read to literally every single day of their lives – particularly at bedtime. Reading has always been cherished family time and a part of our soothing going-to-sleep process. Books have simply always been a part of the routine since day one.

    After all that exposure to stories – our son has caught on with independent reading really nicely, and he really loves reading fantasy books. Some of his favorites early chapter books are The Kingdom of Wrenly and Moongobble and Me. And we really love doing interactive books and Choose Your Own Adventure together.

    What advice would you give to parents of children who may have reluctant readers or kids who don’t enjoy reading?

    The best case scenario is that you’re able to start early and make reading a part of the family routine from day one. There’s no better predictor for growing up to love reading than spending your childhood on Mom and Dad’s lap reading picture books together every night.

    But assuming it’s too late for that and we’re talking about older kids now – it’s still important to note that it’s never too late to discover a love for stories. Step one as a parent is to ensure that you’re being a reading role model. If all children see is their parents watching TV or looking at their phone, odds are pretty good that’s what they’ll choose to do too.

    And, speaking as a teacher, don’t forget that turning reading into a chore is the absolute kiss of death. Avoid that at all costs. Instead, expose them to a wide variety of materials they might like – graphic novels, magazines about video games, Choose Your Own Adventure, scary stories, audio books, etc.

    In my experience, reluctant reading often has strong correlations with reading struggles. And their struggles feed their reluctance, and their lack of practice makes it harder to grow. So you have to start somewhere to start building vocabulary, prosody, and a positive relationship with stories – and even the most reluctant readers still really love relaxing and being read to.

    What books are on your nightstand right now?

    Right now I have an awesome stack of picture books that I’m writing about for our next article on DadSuggests.com – The Best Picture Books About Imagination. The stack includes This is Sadie by Sara O’Leary and Ocean Meets Sky by The Fan Brothers. I have twelve of our favorite picture books here for this list, and they all do a great job celebrating creativity and promoting a magical childhood. I also have the new novelization of Pan’s Labyrinth from Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke sitting on my nightstand. It’s amazing!

    Why do you think it’s important to read either on your own or with children?

    Quite frankly, reading to your kids is the second-best gift you can give them – finishing in a close second place to your unconditional love. Reading to your kids will obviously prepare them for a better life academically, but it’s so much more than that. Reading grows imagination and empathy as well – along with a plethora of other social skills. Books open up a window into the world, and they have the ability to impart invaluable wisdom. On the deepest level, exposing your kids to that art and that wisdom will help them find meaning in life.

    And you can never be too old to benefit from stretching your imagination and widening your understanding of the world. Whether you’re reading to educate yourself or just to escape for a little while – the benefits to the brain are numerous. Personally, I find that reading a good novel clears my mind the same way that meditating or playing chess does – and my brain always appreciates those calm moments.

    Hard cover, paperback, or e-book when reading a book on your own?

    I’ve always preferred hardcover editions. With picture books that’s always important because it ensures that they will include the often beautiful end papers. And hardcovers may not always be the most convenient choice for reading or traveling with novels – but they’re certainly my favorite.

    Name 1-2 of your favorite authors.

    One or two is too hard! But I can give you a very condensed version of just some of our favorites: Bruce Coville, Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen, Sara O’Leary, Trudy Ludwig, Philip C. Stead, Shel Silverstein, Chris Van Allsburg, and Ben Hatke.

    Does your family have any story time or reading rituals to share?

    After dinner time and shower time comes book time – every single night. And we never miss a night. We take books on vacations with us, and nothing about the ritual changes. Typically the reading consists of a stack of picture books, but sometimes that’s replaced with a longer reading from a chapter book. It’s a beloved ritual, and I plan on reading aloud with the family indefinitely.

    How do you choose which books to share on your Instagram page?

    We only write about books that we love on DadSuggests.com, and we put a lot of thought into books that we put onto any of our lists. Typically, those are the books that we take pictures of and share on Instagram as well, and occasionally we’ll throw in some new purchases or library finds that we’re really excited about too. And I try to get into the spirit of Throwback Thursday and pull out books from my childhood. Basically, if we love it, we’ll recommend it to others.

    It’s important to me that our social media accounts and our website always remain a source for our personal recommendations. That’s why we make it a point to inform publishers and authors that we only recommend the things we love, and we simply have no interest in doing negative reviews.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    I just want to say thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. It was a lot of fun, and I appreciate you and what you do on Here Wee Read.

    I also wanted to say thank you to every single person who took the time to read this interview. I hope that you found a few new interesting picture books to look up – and I hope that I’ve been able to inspire you to help me spread this message to others: it’s so incredibly important to read and play with your kids! It’s our noble duty and it’s our privilege as parents to build a magical childhood for our kids – full of imagination and creativity and wonder.

    You can follow me at @DadSuggests on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest – and you can catch all of my new fatherly thoughts on picture books, board games, and more on DadSuggests.com.

    Connect with Ryan!

    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.
    Also, be sure to check out our other interviews with Rod Kelly and Reggie Reads.

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

    Share:
    adult books, interviews

    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

    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!

    Share:

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