#Bookexcursion, Author Interview, Early Chapter Books, Giveaway

Interview with Hillary Homzie, Author of Ellie May on Presidents’ Day & Ellie May on April Fools’ Day & Giveaway!

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Beagles and Books wishes Hillary Homzie’s Ellie May a very Happy Book Birthday! The first two books, Ellie May on Presidents’ Day and Ellie May on April Fools’ Day  publish today.  Hillary was kind enough to join me to answer questions about her new chapter book series about an enthusiastic and curious second grader.  To read my full reviews on both books, please visit my blog post here.

BB:  Congratulations on your new chapter book series!  I am so excited for readers to meet Ellie May!  Can you share with how you came to create her as a character? Any influences or inspirations?

HH: Ellie May announced herself to me. I didn’t pre-plan her. In fact, I had to keep typing to figure out what she would do or say next. She constantly surprised me with her enthusiasm and well-intentioned but misguided attempts at securing attention. She’s absolutely nothing like me. Okay, I’m sure there’s something of me in her somewhere. But she’s certainly nothing like the second grade me. I was much more lost in my own world, nose in a book or drawing. If anything, I’m closer to Lizzy, Ellie May’s best friend who’s artistic and not particularly athletic. However, Lizzy also like rules, and I can’t say I’m particularly bound by them.

So now, you really have me wondering, Laura. Where did Ellie May come from? I think I drew some inspiration from my middle son, who’s impulsive,  energetic and who tries his best to get into the center of things, which means sometimes he steps on a few toes. Hmm, it seems like it’s no coincidence that Ellie May is a middle child. In terms of influences, I’d have to cite the crisp characterization and humor in Beverly Clearly’s Ramona books and in Judy Blume’s Fudge Books.

BB: I love that Ellie’s lists, notes, and letters are included in the chapters. Was this an idea from your first drafts or did this come later?

It came about organically. Ellie May just seemed to want to me to dictate her notes. My editor Julie Bliven really liked them, so she asked me to do more, which means they are now consistently interspersed through the books. I have to admit that I got a little carried away with Ellie May’s creative spelling, and Julie had to pull me back, but she let me keep in quite a bit of it. Ellie May’s still working on her spelling. Hey, I just realized something. I’m not so hot at spelling myself. I’m constantly having to look things up, and I’m a firm believer that spellcheck is one of the world’s greatest inventions.

BB: Tell us your impressions when you saw the first sketches of Ellie May by Jeffrey Ebbeler.

HH: I was just thrilled! Jeffrey is extremely talented, and I feel so lucky that he’s working on the Ellie May books. He’s particularly adept at creating all kinds of humorous details that match the tone of the story. Plus, he truly individualizes the kids and perfectly showcases their personalities and expressions.

BB: The first two in the series are based on Presidents’ Day and April Fool’s Day. Why did you choose those holidays to begin the series?

HH: With my kids, it was a really big deal who got to be flag leader during the Pledge of Allegiance, so I decided to use that as a scenario. I thought it would up the stakes if Ellie May wanted to be flag leader right before Presidents’ Day. Plus, studying and learning about Presidents’ Day can be a big part of the primary school curriculum during the month of February. It was an opportunity to have Ellie May consider what it meant to be a good leader, and the importance of honesty in leadership emerged as a theme. This is an issue that kids are especially hearing about right now in the news, and it will be a timeless issue.

Tackling April Fools’ Day next just seemed the thing to do. After all,  it comes only a couple of months after Presidents’ Day, and, well, it’s all about being funny. While Ellie May isn’t a joker, she’s a humorous character because of her mishaps, and so I thought having Ellie May decide to be the funniest kid in her classroom during April Fools’ Day would provide lots of opportunities for mayhem and mirth. In particular, I enjoyed weaving in a bit of the history of April Fools’ Day and other international holidays celebrating merriment. Plus, when I was in my twenties, I performed and wrote sketch comedy in New York, so I’m always up for a holiday that’s about making people laugh.

BB: Any plans for additional Ellie May books in the series?

HH: Well, I have written the first half of a Halloween book, which was so much fun because it involves Ellie May’s attempts at scaring people! Of course, there are so many other holidays I’d love to tackle—like Ground Hog’s Day. I mean, think about Ellie May in search of a ground hog. It just makes me smile thinking about it.

I know that sometimes I take myself way too seriously and Ellie May reminds me to get back to my inner child, risk-taking and fun–someone who is not being afraid to fail and seeks new experiences with enthusiasm and an open heart.

BB:  I couldn’t agree more!  Ellie May is a good role model for young readers and can teach us all a lesson about the power of curiosity, taking chances, and admitting and growing from your mistakes. I look forward to reading more Ellie May adventures and learning facts about holidays!  Thanks so much Hillary for taking the time to stop by Beagles and Books.

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Meet Hillary: 
To learn more about Hillary,  visit her at www.hillaryhomzie.com or follow her on Twitter @hillaryhomzie

Giveaway Details: 
To celebrate Ellie May’s book birthday, Beagles and Books is giving away paperback copies of Presidents’ Day and April Fools’ Day.  Contest begins today and will end on December 26, 2018 at 12:00 a.m.  Click the link below to enter.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/46a61dc011/?

Author Interview, Debut Author, Picture Books

An Interview with Laura Renauld: Author of Porcupine’s Pie

Beagles and Books is honored to host an interview with author Laura Renauld.  Her debut picture book, Porcupine’s Pie will be released next week.  Stay tuned for my review of this heartwarming story of sharing and friendship on the blog later this week.

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Porcupine’s Pie
Written by Laura Renauld
Illustrated by Jennie Poh
Beaming Books (October 9, 2018)

Publisher’s Summary:
Porcupine can’t wait to share Fall Feast with her woodland friends, so when everyone she greets is unable to bake their specialty due to a missing ingredient, Porcupine generously offers staples from her pantry. When Porcupine discovers that she, too, is missing a key ingredient, the friends all work together to create a new Fall Feast tradition. Porcupine’s Pie will inspire children ages 4-8 to act generously. A recipe for “friendship pie” can be found at the end of the book.

Congratulations on your debut picture book, Porcupine’s Pie LauraTell me a little about your writing journey. Have you always enjoyed writing?

Thank you, Laura! I’m so happy to share my book with your readers.  Ever since I can remember, books and reading have been an important part of my life. I could sit on my bed and travel to another planet, share a cake with a panda, or hideout in an art museum. I found friends and adventures between the pages. I don’t remember writing being part of my childhood in quite the same way. I kept a lot of journals and I created a town newspaper with a friend that we distributed to the neighborhood, but I didn’t start writing stories until I was an adult.

Where did you get the inspiration to write Porcupine’s Pie?
Have you heard of Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (now Storystorm)? I’ve participated every year since 2011. Published authors share idea-gathering strategies in daily posts. It encourages me to fill a notebook that I can draw on all year long. During PiBoIdMo 2014, Tammi Sauer’s guest post challenged writers to frame a story as a How-To Book. So I jotted in my notebook: “How to make porcupine pie (or a pie for a porcupine)”. (Even at this early stage I thought that Porcupine Pie sounded a bit morbid!) My story never evolved into a How-To Book, but the alliterative title stuck with me and I ran with it!

Porcupine Pie is a beautifully illustrated by Jennie Poh. As an author, share your experience seeing your story come to life with her artwork.
The first time I experienced Porcupine outside of my own imagination was when the book cover was revealed. Porcupine looked different than what I had visualized, but after seeing her strutting through the woods in her little blue boots and carrying a pie, I couldn’t imagine her any other way. Creating a picture book is truly a collaboration. I love the color palette Jennie chose and Porcupine’s cozy den feels so inviting. The characters were friends in my text, but Jennie’s illustrations make those relationships warm and believable. I am very grateful to Jennie for bringing my characters to life.

From your bio, I read that you are a former third grade teacher.  How did you make the transition from third grade teacher to published picture book writer?
When I taught third grade, my favorite part of the day was the read-aloud. I chose a variety of picture books as mentor texts for Reading and Writing Workshops, as supplements for Science, Social Studies, and Math units, and as a springboard for discussions on social topics, such as inclusion, bullying, and empathy. I witnessed the power of story to captivate, amuse, and encourage. Stories are powerful and I felt drawn to the creative process.

After I left teaching and had my children, I started to take my writing seriously. I joined SCBWI, attended conferences, sought out a critique group, and found online resources that supported my journey. But most importantly, I made writing a priority and started treating it as a part-time job. My advice to aspiring writers? The laundry can wait!

Besides writing, what are your other passions?
I’ve always loved to sing. I’ve been in a choir nearly every year since middle school. In fact, that’s how I met my husband: on the choir tour bus in college. I currently sing with my church choir. I belong to a book club and I enjoy hosting tea parties for that group. I also love to bake, which ties in nicely with Porcupine’s Pie since I created a pie recipe to include at the end of the book. My book club even got roped into a taste test!

Do you have any other writing projects planned in the future?
My next book is a picture book biography called Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers. It is scheduled to release in Fall 2019, with Brigette Barrager illustrating.

Thank you so much Laura for stopping by Beagles and Books!  There is still time to pre-order Porcupine’s Pie to receive a signed bookplate and be entered to win a pie kit.  Preorder available at AmazonBarnes & NobleIndiebound, and Beaming Books.

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About Laura:
Laura Renauld grew up in Vermont with a forest as her playground. While she never met a pie-baking porcupine, walks in the woods were always an adventure. When she is not enjoying nature with her husband and their two boys, Laura can be found reading, singing, and baking in Northern Virginia. This is her debut picture book.

Connect with me online at: laurarenauld.com and on social media:

Twitter – @laura_renauld
Facebook – @kidlitlaura
Instagram – @laurarenauld

Author Interview, Blog Tour, Rockstar Book Tours

An Interview with Author Stacy McAnulty and Giveaway: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl Blog Tour

Beagles and Books is honored to kick off The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl Blog Tour organized by Jaime of Rockstar Book Tours.  I had the great pleasure to read an ARC of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl as part of my #bookexcursion group.  To read my full review, please click here. 

The tour begins with an interview with author Stacy McAnulty.  Thank you so much Stacy for taking the time to visit Beagles and Books!

1. Tell us a little bit about your new middle grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. On 1 level, it’s a story about fitting in and making friends in middle school. It also has a 12-year-old girl with amazing math skills, quirky friends, a doomed dog, lots of junk food, OCD, musical references, a tells-it-like-it-is grandma, and an epic birthday party.

2. What inspired you to write The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl? I definitely love math, and that’s not common among authors. Or at least, there’s a stereotype that writers should dislike (or be bad at) math. I’m more comfortable with a Sudoku than a crossword. And when my kids need homework help, I’d rather assist with math than help with vocabulary (I’m talking to you, Wordly Wise books!) But I didn’t set out to write a “math story.” I was intrigued by savants.  I believe everyone’s brain works differently. We all see the world and compute in our own way.

3. The main character, Lucy has acquired savant syndrome and also lives with OCD. Tell us about your research before and during the writing of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl to make Lucy authentic. To begin, I watched a documentary about OCD treatment and did the usual Google searching. I also spoke with two experts—a mom of an OCD child and a psychologist. I’m so thankful to these women for sharing their experiences and knowledge. For the savant syndrome, I read a few memoirs and a book by a leading savant researcher. Because it’s so rare, I’ve never encountered someone with savant syndrome.

4. On your website, you share that like Lucy, you counted words instead of reading them. Are you and the main character Lucy similar in other ways?  This is something I did in 4th grade. I’d just moved to a new school, and I was assigned the book How to Eat Fried Worms. We had to sit quietly after recess and read for a set period of time. I struggled with the reading. So instead, I counted the words. I did it because I couldn’t read well. Lucy also counts the words, but for her, it’s an obsession. Her genius-math brain insists she calculate everything, including the number of words on each page. Lucy and I have a few other similarities. We’re both better at math than language arts. We both love Oreos. And we’d both rather hang with our close friends than go to a big bash.

5. I think we can all agree that navigating middle school is tough. Did you draw on any of your own experiences to include in the novel? Not specifically, but I recall being worried all the time in middle school. Am I wearing the right jeans? Will I embarrass myself in gym class? Where will I sit at lunch when my friend is absent? Nothing too terrible happened. I just felt like it could at any moment. It was not an easy time.

6. You have written 8 picture books and 2 chapter book series, The Dino Files and Goldie Blox. The Miscalculation of Lightning Girl is your first middle grade novel. Tell us a little about this transition to writing a novel. While MLG is my first published novel, I have attempted to write several others. So I’ve been juggling picture books, chapter books, and novels for years. I love being able to jump around. If I’m stuck on 1 project, I can focus on something else. And I truly believe my subconscious is toiling away on the problem project while I look somewhere else.

7. We both share a mutual love for dogs. Tell us a little bit about your dogs. Did any of your dogs inspire Cutie Pi? Yay for dogs! We have 3—Jack, Munchkin, and Reykja (“Ray-Ka”).  Cutie Pi is not based on any specific dog, but the love and affection is inspired by every pet I’ve ever had. Sadly, we lost our dog Pepper in January. I was devastated. Immediately, I emailed my editor, Caroline, and asked her to change the acknowledgments. (The book was ready to go to print.) I begged her to put “In memory of Pepper…” and she did without hesitation.

8. One of my favorite parts of the novel was when Lucy meets Cutie Pi. Did you plan to include dogs as part of the plot? Out of all the relationships Lucy has in the novel, why is her relationship with Pi important? Cutie Pi has been in the story since the first draft.  I think Lucy’s relationship with Pi is vital because she assumed she didn’t like dogs.  At the beginning of the book, she’s pretty certain she knows who she is and what she needs. Meeting and falling in love with Pi is part of her self-discovery.

9. As a reader, I would love to check in with Lucy and her friends as they navigate middle school. Is The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl a standalone novel or is there the possibility of a series? For now, it’s a standalone. Though, I’ve had a few kid readers, who got their hands on advance copies, ask for more Lightning Girl. And they had some great suggestions for another book. I’m currently working on another middle-grade novel about a 7th grader who learns the world is ending in a few months, and no one believes her. But maybe we’ll get to go back to East Hamlin with Lucy, Windy, Levi, and Pi too.

I certainly hope readers will be able to visit East Hamlin again and catch up with Lucy and her friends (and Cutie Pi too)!  Thanks so much Stacy for chatting with Beagles and Books.

Enter the Giveaway

3 winners will receive a finished copy of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, US Only.  Enter the giveaway by clicking the link below.
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/e2389ba2734/?

Be sure to join us at all the stops on the Miscalculations of Lightning Girl blog tour:

The Tour Hosts

Week One

4/23/2018- Beagles and Books– Interview

4/24/2018- Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook– Review

4/25/2018- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

4/26/2018- Here’s to Happy Endings– Review

4/27/2018- She Dreams in Fiction– Excerpt

Week Two

4/30/2018- 100 Pages A Day- Review

5/1/2018- Wonder Struck– Review

5/2/2018- Nerdophiles– Review

5/3/2018- The Underground– Guest Post

5/4/2018- Feed Your Fiction Addiction– Review

About the Book:

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Title: THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL

Author: Stacy McAnulty

Pub. Date: May 1, 2018

Publisher: Random House

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Pages: 304

Find it: AmazonB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Book Summary: Middle school is the one problem Lucy Callahan can’t solve in this middle-grade novel perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by 7s.

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!

Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

“An engaging story, full of heart and hope. Readers of all ages will root for Lucy, aka Lightning Girl. No miscalculations here!” –Kate Beasley, author of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

About Stacy:

Stacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a paleontologist (NOT REALLY), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). She is the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor Recipient for Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert, illustrated by Deborah Hocking, Brave and Beautiful, both illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, illustrated by Edward Hemingway; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. She’s also authored the chapter book series Goldie Blox, based on the award-winning toys, and The Dino Files. Her debut middle grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, will publish in May 2018. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband.

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