A Speedy read from Brian Rock!

Which Animal is Fastest?

Finally, we wrap up our book launch week with Brian Rock and his new book Which Animal is Fastest? This is a fun read; you may think you know the answer, but this book just may surprise you! So, let’s hear what surprised the author with a short interview.

AP: What was your inspiration for writing this book?

BR: I just wanted to challenge my own assumptions. I had always heard that the cheetah was the fastest animal, but I wanted to check and see if that was really true. As I did my research, I realized that was only part of the story.

AP: How did you approach the research?

BR: We authors are so lucky in the internet age. Everything is right at your fingertips. But we must resist the urge to believe everything we find. So, as I searched online for fast animals, I would take whatever information I found and cross-check it against verified scientific journals and websites.

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AP: Was there a fact that you found fascinating?

BR: I was completely blown away by the peacock mantis shrimp. The fact that its claws release faster than the speed of sound just amaze me. I was able to watch videos of the animal in action and it was still difficult to believe!

AP: What do you hope kids gain from reading this book?

BR: I hope kids learn an appreciation and respect for all God’s creatures. Nature is so diverse and beautiful, and everything shines in its own way. Also, I wanted kids to learn to challenge assumptions and realize that there is more than one way to look at things, even things that everybody says is true.

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AP: When did you become interested in writing?

BR: I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a no.2 pencil. I used to write jokes, poems, and stories on long car trips and rainy days. I guess I’ve never grown out of that.

Learn more about the book and check out the great teaching resources too at arbordalepublishing.com. But don’t take our word that this is a great book, check out Book Worms for Kids review!!

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Crafty Fun with Cheetah Dreams!

Today we celebrate Cheetah Dreams!!

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Linda Stanek is a cat lover (follow her on twitter @LindaStanek to see her adorable kittens). So, when she began working on an academic book about cheetahs, her next children’s book was forming in the back of her mind. That book just came out last week and is a poetic love story to the majestic cats, but also has valuable facts. Readers are sure to show empathy with the cats as their habitat and numbers continue to decline. With equal passion, illustrator Shennen Bersani traveled to zoos and learned from keepers and the animals themselves. Her realistic illustrations show the fast cats in motion and at rest with adorable furry cubs.

In the spirit of October, we have a fun craft to help you celebrate the release of Cheetah Dreams! You can illustrate this simple cheetah mask of your own. We used a paper plate, a combination of markers and paint, along with a folded pipe cleaner. You can be creative with the decoration and if you have a string or elastic to secure the mask that can simply be attached to the sides for a more secure fit.

 

Download the pattern and print it out.

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Cut around the lines and then trace it onto a paper plate.

Cut the mask out of the paper plate along with the two ears.

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Attach the ears either with staples or glue. And then color your cheetah face! Shennen’s beautiful illustrations are a great guide having been vetted for accuracy by some of the top Cheetah experts.

After painting your cheetah’s spots, attach the holding stick or elastic and be a cheetah for a day!

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**This crafter is not as skilled as Shennen, so this cheetah mask has not been vetted by experts

Get you copy of Cheetah Dreams in English or Spanish from Arbordale or just learn more about the book on the book page!

On Writing: Jennifer Keats Curtis Talks about her new release Baby Bear’s Adoption!

Hopefully, you are happily reading all the Arbordale new releases!! This week we will feature each book on the blog. Today we talk with Baby Bear’s Adoption creator Jennifer Keats Curtis, on how she took what she learned from wildlife biologist Mark Boersen and turned it into this fun little picture book!

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AP: How did this book come to be?

JKC: I don’t think I can express how much I love learning about different animals! I had heard about raptors and other birds taking care of non-biological babies in their nests; but, this was the first time I’d heard about a mammal. The first time I talked to Mark Boersen, the wildlife biologist who runs the program for Michigan, I knew there was a story here!

AP: What inspires you in this story?

JKC: So many aspects! For one, knowing that bear adoption is based on a real program for orphaned/abandoned baby bears, I am amazed that scientists could figure out how to unite a baby with a mother bear who is not his or hers biologically. While bears can be placed in human-run facilities, this is obviously the best outcome for a young bear. It tickles me that the mother bear will take that baby and raise him as her own. I also love the way that the illustrator Veronica Jones shows such amazement and wonder on the kids’ faces!

AP: What attracts you to write about scientists?

JKC: Well, for one thing, when I was a kid, I didn’t think I was “good” at science, so I avoided that (and math). I ended up with an undergraduate degree in English Literature because I love to read and analyze text and a graduate degree in Journalism because I’m so nosy! When you’re a reporter, you can ask people questions, and they willingly answer! I love to know about everything and scientists are such incredible sources of information. I get to learn details that may not be otherwise accessible, and I really have to work hard before we ever meet to discuss the topic because they often talk at such a high level of expertise that I must have a good basic understanding of the topic before I can begin asking good questions…and then comprehend their answers.

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AP: What do you hope kids get from reading this book?

JKC: For one, my intent was to allow the kids with whom I see during frequent school visits and author residencies to see themselves in my books. During those visits, when I look out, I see many races besides white. I read with and work with African-American, Asian, Indian, and Hispanic children. Rarely, if ever, do I see children of color represented in children’s nature books. (This is one of the reasons I was so delighted to work with Dr. Neeti Bathala on Moonlight Crab Count and see the illustrations represent an Indian girl and her mom.) I wanted my young readers to see themselves in my stories. The adoption angle was supposed to be subtle with the illustrations hinting at adoption in human families; so again, kids could perhaps see a similarity between the bear’s family and their own family. Incidentally, I wrote the story from the point of view of my nephew Braden (who was eight at the time) and decided to include his sister, my niece, Finley. The kids in the story don’t look like them, nor does the dad in the story look like my little brother, because, that is the beauty of realistic fiction. After reading this book, I hope kids will think as I do—science is awesome! I might be able to work with experts even though I’m a kid! Maybe I should be a scientist when I grow up! I could work outside and help animals at the same time.

AP: Do you think kids will think about adoption differently?

JKC: I am not sure if kids will think about adoption differently. Like many adults, I have friends who have happily, well ecstatically, adopted children. I would like to hope that there is a happy family for every child who needs one.

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Learn more, or get your own copy of Baby Bear’s Adoption on our website. You can also check out the many other books by Jennifer Keats Curtis there too!

To go along with your reading…

We are still celebrating our book launch and next week we will profile each book on the blog individually. For today, we give you a visual blog with printable bookmarks! Enjoy!

 

Download Baby Bear’s Adoption Bookmark

Download Cheetah Dreams Bookmark

Download A Day in a Forested Wetland Bookmark

Download Which Animal is Fastest? Bookmark

You can also order or learn more about each of our new books at arbordalepublishing.com!

 

It’s a Birthday Party!

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Happy Book Birthday to Jennifer Keats Curtis, Veronica Jones, Linda Stanek, Shennen Bersani, Kevin Kurtz, Sherry Neidigh, Brian Rock, and Carolyn Le their books are on sale at your favorite bookseller!

Get to know our new titles!

 

BabyBearWhen two young kids learn about their father’s job, they get a surprise experience not many of us could imagine. Braden and Finley quickly learn to snowshoe so that they can head out with their Dad and his team of wildlife biologists. Dad and his team are part of a program in Michigan that tag, track and eventually hope to unite orphaned baby bears with new mama bears. The kids keep the cubs warm as the team does their work and then places the cubs back with mom in the den for their long winter hibernation. The kids wait until spring when Dad gets a call that they have an orphaned baby bear that needs a new family and the kids once again tag along to watch the team strategically join the baby with a new mom.

 

CheetahDreamsMany know that cheetahs are fast, but many don’t know how challenging it is to be a big cat on the African savanna. A poetic text introduces the many trials and tribulations of hunting, raising young cheetahs, and other dangers. This book urges readers to feel empathy toward the cats while learning more about their life. The lyrical text is paired with more informative tidbits about habitat and adaptations. The realistic artwork gives readers an up-close look at these majestic cats.

 

DayForestWetSpend a day and a night with the animals that call a forested wetland home. Some of these neighbors bask in the sunlight through the trees; others prefer to lurk in the waters. But when the sun goes down, a whole new group of animals thrives under the cover of darkness. Throughout the book, we learn fascinating facts about these animals and the unique habitat they call home in short rhyming stanzas. The text paired with the amazing detail in the illustrations, readers are sure to ask to visit a wetland after reading this book!

 

King Lion draws a line in the sand of his dusty empire, and the racers wait for the start. WhichAnimalThe race is quick, and the cheetah is crowned the winner of the world’s fastest animal! But wait, the other animals cry that the race is unfair and make their case for a new competition. Birds are much quicker through the air, and over a long distance the husky would surely beat the cheetah, and the marlin is the speediest in the sea. Others show off their own special skills until King Lion had heard enough and then ponders the problem. The solution is simple King Lion will hold an Olympics with categories for all types of animals.

Download teaching activities, take quizzes or print the “For Creative Minds” section from the Arbordale website. You can also order your own copy in hardcover, paperback, or dual-language ebook in our store!

Catching the Reader’s Eye – Creating a Cool Book Cover

At a trade show a librarian once said to us “Definitely judge a book by its cover, there is a lot of time and energy put into that cover.” Today, The Lizard Lady illustrator Veronica V. Jones shares her process of creating the cover for this true story.

VVJprofileOne of the more exciting (and sometimes nerve-wracking) parts of my job as a children’s book illustrator can be coming up with the book cover. That’s because there’s a lot that a book cover has to do if it’s doing a good job.  In a world where there’s so much competing for a customer’s attention, book covers not only have to be pretty, but they have to grab someone’s attention, just long enough that they pick up the book. Book covers have to hint at the story inside, communicating that it’s worth a reader’s time and attention.  Practically, they also have to convey information about the book like the title and author, even when shrunk down to the size of a thumbnail.  That’s a lot of pressure!

By the time I begin to work on a book cover, I’ve already worked on the character designs and the rough sketches for the story, so I’m pretty familiar with how the characters look. The story in The Lizard Lady is based on real life researcher Nicole Angeli and her work with the critically endangered St. Croix ground lizard, so I wanted to make sure the cover focused on the relationship between Nicole and a lizard. Luckily, I had a lot of good photo references Nicole had sent in!

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A lot of the pictures showed Nicole holding a little lizard in her hand so that seemed like a great start for the cover.  I started sketching using the photos as a guide and soon came up with an idea. I would use foreshortening, a drawing technique that allows you to create the illusion of an object receding strongly into the distance, so as to focus on the lizard in detail in the Lizard Lady’s hands.  In the cover of the Lizard Lady, the hands with the lizard appear to be very much closer because they are so much larger, and the arms are shortened.

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Once I had a good sketch, I had to plan out where the title and author credit text would go on the cover. The title text needs to be legible even when the cover is small like in an online store. I also had to come up with background elements that would help frame the title.  Luckily, St. Croix has a wonderful variety of foliage to draw from!

Painting the cover was the next step.  I wanted the colors to suggest the bright sunlight on the verdant island of St. Croix, so I focused on bright greens for the plants and shading the Lizard lady with reds and oranges.  Yellow seemed like a great choice for the title text as it’s both sunny and matched Lizard Lady’s hair.  After turning in the artwork for feedback, editor Donna German suggested we flip the composition, keeping the reader’s eye movement going from left to right and encouraging people to open the book.  This turned out to be the perfect finishing touch!

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Thanks Veronica for sharing your process! Check out The Lizard Lady at Arbordalepublishing.com!

Behind the Book: Dear Komodo Dragon

dragonsDid you know…A Komodo Dragon can be a playful lizard…they have poor hearing and ok eyesight, so they rely on their keen sense of smell to capture their meals…or that they can swallow a goat in one gulp!

These are fun little tidbits that author Nancy Kelly Allen didn’t quite fit into her newest DearKomodorelease Dear Komodo Dragon! Readers will find many more fun facts as they read the letters between Leslie, a wanna-be dragon hunter, and Komo, a wild Komodo dragon. But how did Nancy come up with this idea? It happened after a trip to the Louisville zoo where she marveled at their Komodo dragon “Big Man,” Then she talked with students, and one girl said how she loved receiving letters, but they hardly ever came in the mail. A book idea was born — letters from an unlikely friend.

With the story set, now it’s time for illustrations. Artist Laurie Allen Klein was selected to put images with the words, and here is her story:

Ordinarily, I have a couple months between receiving a manuscript and submitting rough sketches, but this was something of a rushed story. Because the original book I was scheduled to work on got pushed back to the Fall, I suddenly had some open time. And then Hurricane Matthew hit! That’s when I got the news about the new manuscript but had to go down to my local shipping store to access their computer to print out the story.

You also have to bear in mind this was early October, and because this was something of a rushed schedule, the rough sketches were due at the beginning of November, not the usual time frame I’m used to. Not to mention, I didn’t have access to all my usual technology. However, prior to the storm, I had become interested in an illustration style that was a bit different from my usual look. Still “realistic”-ish, this new look was more graphic and simple. Not as semi-realistic as my usual style AND it fit the nature of the story perfectly.  A girl being pen pals with a Komodo dragon allowed for a certain amount of illustrative whimsy. I wound up whipping out fully realized, book-sized pencil roughs in the fraction of the time it usually takes me. The look and images just fell right into place.

Komodo - Leslie - Outfit Ideas

It probably didn’t hurt that I also had an immediate source of inspiration literally across the street at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm who have 2 Komodo dragons. Not to mention a great source of reference book materials. The minute I printed out the manuscript (at the shipping store) I went right over to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and checked out their exhibit, AND their books.

Then it was just a matter – as always – of letting the images come to me.  Aided in large part by a huge soft spot I have for dragons (not to mention a pretty extensive book collection of my own on the subject). I loved the opportunity to introduce images of dragons from mythology and other cultures with the real dragons across the street!

As for the character of Leslie, I made a determined decision NOT to base her on my own daughter (who is usually my Go-to Character Muse) but Jess still found her way into the illustrations by way of Leslie’s “Dragon Hunter” outfit, which I based on a long-ago Joan of Arc/Medieval Knight costume Jess wore for Halloween. I substituted the sword for a safer plunger-tipped “spear” but the medieval outfit is all Jesse.

Jesse - St Joan:Knight Inspiration

For the rest of the illustrations – I just had fun playing with textures and patterns.  And for the first time did not struggle with how to do the backgrounds – they just fell right into place. Not to mention, I have found a whole new style I can’t wait to explore some more.

Check out Dear Komodo Dragon and explore all of the educational extras that we have to offer!