Fall has officially landed. In Texas that means one thing: pecan pie! And in honor of the harvest, here is one award-winning book you should definitely crack open.
Nell Plants a Tree by Anne Wynter and Daniel Miyares was recently chosen as the 2023 Youth Selection “Texas Great Read,” representing The Friendly State at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. And it’s easy to see why.
Anne Wynter’s lyrical language tells the story of one little girl’s careful tending of a small seed resulting in a stately tree that’s enjoyed by generations. Daniel Miyares’ pen and ink color palette creates a sense of family warmth, and his visual cues help little readers connect the past and present effortlessly. Together they create a story about connection, comfort, and care. But here are some things this book made me ponder.
NELL PLANTS A TREE MAKES ME THINK ABOUT:
Antoine: The 19th century enslaved gardener in Louisiana noted for becoming the first person to successfully propagate individual pecan trees, maintaining enough uniformity to turn them into a cash crop.
My Grandfather: Most of the time my grandfather’s Christmas gift to the family was a bucket full of pecans that he spent hours selecting and shelling from the tree in my grandparents’ front yard.
My Pecan Tree: A few years ago, I purchased a house with a colossal pecan tree in the front yard. Most of the time when I looked at it, I found myself asking: “Who is going to rake all those leaves? Who is going to wash all that sap? Who is going to eat all those nuts?” But after reading Anne and Daniel’s book I ask different questions: “I wonder who planted this tree? How many families enjoyed its shade? How do I preserve it for the families to come?”
A Quote by Alice Walker: “If I could live as a tree, as a river, as the moon, as the sun, as a star, as the earth, as a rock, I would. … Writing permits me to experience life as any number of strange creations.”
Go pick up this book today and see what it makes you and your little readers think about!
By Kourtney LaFavre
As we all know, writing for children is a powerful opportunity in helping young minds grow and evolve. And incorporating STEM concepts into your stories is one of the ways to do that.
Why Integrate STEM into Children's Books?
STEM subjects play a crucial role in our modern world, and fostering an early interest in these fields can open doors to countless opportunities for young readers. By incorporating STEM into your children's books, you can:
1. Relatable Characters and Settings
Create characters who mirror the interests and backgrounds of your young readers. If your story is set in a futuristic world, make it relatable by incorporating advanced technology that's grounded in reality. Characters can be aspiring scientists, young engineers, or curious explorers, making STEM careers seem attainable and exciting.
2. Weave STEM into the Plot
Integrate STEM concepts organically into the story line. For example, if your characters are on a quest, have them encounter scientific challenges or engineering puzzles that require creative problem-solving. Make the STEM elements an essential part of advancing the plot, so they don't feel forced.
3. Visual Storytelling
If possible, collaborate closely with illustrators to visually represent STEM concepts (or offer helpful illustration notes). Infographics, diagrams, or visually engaging depictions can help clarify complex ideas. The visuals should be age-appropriate and enhance the narrative rather than overwhelming young readers.
4. Relatable Everyday Situations
Show how STEM is relevant in everyday life. Whether it's explaining the science behind a rainbow, the engineering behind a playground, or the technology in a smartphone, relate STEM to experiences children can connect with.
5. Encourage Exploration
Include interactive elements like experiments or activities at the end of your book that align with the STEM concepts in your story. This hands-on approach encourages readers to explore and experiment on their own, reinforcing the learning experience.
*See my post about backmatter here: https://www.childrensbookacademy.com/blogfish/back-matter-at-its-best
Here's some inspiring examples of STEM integration in children's books:
Kourtney is a mom, author, and educator with a BS degree in Childhood Studies and 20+ years experience working with children and families in classrooms and other community programs. As a life-long learner she’s always questioning and watching the world with glittering eyes, on the lookout for beautiful and amazing things. Being a SCBWI member and graduate of Children's Book Academy, helps fuel her passion for quality children's literature. She writes to inform and inspire.
Find Kourtney Here:
Or find her book here:
by Melissa Stoller
September is a perfect month to listen to and appreciate the sounds all around you, and to incorporate those sounds in your story ideas. Adding the senses to manuscripts adds depth, emotion, and richness to the work.
Here are a few prompts to help you notice and gather sounds to use in stories this month:
1) BUZZ and TWEET - insects and birds are all around in September. Listen carefully to the sounds in your garden, in a neighborhood park, or in a Botanical garden. Then research some of the insects and birds you hear. Perhaps look at photos on your computer or on an APP too. Jot down some story ideas revolving around those sounds.
2) BEEP BEEP - think about transportation sounds. Notice cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, and more. Incorporate the sounds you hear into an existing manuscript or think of a new idea that uses these sounds.
3) SIZZLE, POP, CRACK - listen to sounds in your kitchen or in a restaurant. Notice the sounds in relation to the food. Create an idea based on the foods and the sounds. Write a title, first line, or story arc.
I hope these prompts help you discover some ideas this September that incorporate the sights and sounds in your life. Let me know in the comments!
Melissa Stoller writes to bring connection, joy, and a bit of magic to her readers. She is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Return to Coney Island, and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush; Ready, Set, GOrilla!; Sadie’s Shabbat Stories; Planting Friendship: Peace, Salaam, Shalom; and Building Bridges: Peace, Salaam, Shalom (co-written with Callie Lovvorn and Shirin Rahman). Melissa is a Blogger and Course Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Rate Your Story Judge, a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY, a Book Meshuggenahs member, a Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center Advisory Council member, and a past school and synagogue Trustee. She also interviews authors and offers resources on her blog. In other chapters of her life, Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer/editor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her family, and enjoys theatre, museums, and Central Park walks. Melissa is represented by Jonathan Rosen at The Seymour Agency.
CONNECT WITH MELISSA:
Here in Australia, we have just celebrated Book Week. For a week in schools, we appreciate books even more than usual. We dress up as our favourite character from our favourite book and parade around the school. There are so many incredible stories and characters to choose from. The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) organises Book Week and announces the long-awaited winning books of the year. These books have been selected by a panel of judges to create the long list, then the short list. It’s every authors, illustrators and publishers dream to have their books nominated and then picked as a winner. Surrounded by the excitement of Book Week. I would love to share for my very first blog post one of my favourite books that I discovered this year, The Garden at the End of the World.
At the end of the world is an island covered in ice.
On the island is a mountain.
Inside the mountain is a vault.
And inside the vault are millions of seeds.
When Isla and her botanist mother are out exploring in their garden, hunting for herbs, foraging for fungi, Isla finds a seed pod, beautiful and strange. Isla wants to keep it, but her mother tells her of a special place at the end of the world, a seed vault between Norway and the North Pole. They set off on an adventure to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard to add their seed to this vault for future generations to come.
This is a beautiful story of hope, curiosity, adventure and protecting nature’s treasures for the future. Filled with facts about this incredible vault which stores seeds from across the globe. We follow Isla and her mother through the illustrations which add a magical element to story.
Briony’s clever use of cyanotype paper to add a whimsical feel. Her end pages are stunning with prints of cyanotype images. A super fun activity to do with or without children! I went straight out and bought myself and my son some of this remarkable paper. Here are some wonderful examples from the book.
I really appreciated the information at the end of the book about the Global Seed Vault for the curious minds of little ones who wish find out more about this remarkable place.
•GARDEN AT THE END OF THE WORLD
•Written by Cassy Polimeni
•Illustrated by Briony Stewart
•Designed and layout by Hannah Janzen
•Published by UQP, 2023
Amanda’s career as a worldly actress has been her favourite so far, she hopes writing for children will be her next new favourite! In between, she’s taught English, Drama and early childcare and now works with children with special needs, where she bring her imaginative flair into the classroom, always dreaming of the being back on the stage.
Amanda’s writes a variety of stories from those that are sensitive, humorous and sometimes quirky with fairytale-esque elements. She hopes her books will influence children to read and write their own wonderful stories.
Being active in SCBWI, CBCA NSW and a graduate of the Children's Book Academy keeps Amanda focused and honing her craft.
Her debut picture book My Giant Sea Shell is now available https://amandalieber.com/books/
Find Amanda here:
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with awesome Aussie debut author and former student Amanda Lieber who will be focusing on Aussie kidlit.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature STEM, STEAM & SEL obsessed author Kourtney LaFavre sharing delightfully dorky, quirky, and fun info.
4th Mondays will be a mystery for right now.
And 5th Mondays we'll be taking a break