Articles

Going Backstage on How GUITARS Was Made

Hi Mixed-Up Filers! Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Patricia Lakin, an award-winning author who writes both fiction and nonfiction for toddlers to middle-graders. We discussed Guitars, the latest book in her Made By Hand series from Simon & Schuster. It’s a fun book filled with great facts about how guitars are made and two activities that show kids how to make their own instruments.

Tell us a little bit about Guitars and the Made By Hand series? How did 4 Covers from the Made By Hand Series: Skateboards, Bicycles, Steel Drums, and Guitars, or more broadly, the Made By Hand series, come about? Did you select the subjects? If so, why?

The story of how Made By Hand came about is a true tale of admiration. An editor I have worked with in the past has a great love of hand-made objects. She knew that I shared that same love. It was this editor, Karen Nagel at Simon & Schuster, who created the Made By Hand series and asked me to be the writer.

The editorial team decided they wanted to focus on two objects used for transportation—one of wood and one of metal and use the same materials for two musical instruments. And that is how the book on Bicycles, Skateboards, Steel Drums and Guitars was born.

Did you actually visit Coloma Guitars? Or do you have any fun stories from researching the book?

The story of how I learned about the oh-so-talented Meredith Coloma is, I think, a New York story.  I happened to pass by Chelsea Guitars, a famous guitar store that is located at the equally famous Chelsea Hotel. I entered the long narrow shop and marveled at the guitars hanging on all the walls, from the ceiling etc. and asked the fellow behind the counter if he knew of a female luthier. [The three other books all had male makers and I wanted to highlight a woman for this book.]

The man behind the counter confirmed with another gentleman that I should contact luthier, Meredith Coloma—which is exactly what I did. She lives in Vancouver, BC. She was delighted to be a part of this project and so I put her in touch with the editorial department at Simon and Schuster.

Meredith and I spent a fair amount of time doing telephone interviews during which she shared her story—how she became a musician and decided to become a luthier—the latter all occurred because of a violin maker she happened to come to know. He only spoke Yiddish. His wife translated but he and Meredith spoke the language of music. It was that elderly gentleman who showed her the brochure of a luthier school not far from her home in British Columbia. I thought her story of becoming a luthier was magical and had to be included in the book.

We had extensive conversations and Meredith shared pictures of how step-by-step she creates an acoustic guitar as well as an electric guitar. I had no idea how complicated and how delicate the process is to create an acoustic guitar.

 

Guitars book cover

How did you approach the research and writing of Guitars?

I feel fortunate to live very close to New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.  There, I found so many books in circulation that dealt with the history of guitars, guitar greats and the science behind guitars.

I was able to bring those books home to do extensive research. Between those books and the wealth of information I found on the internet from a variety of guitar periodicals, I had tons of material to read and educate myself on the history of guitars.

Most nonfiction writers tell us that they learn so much about a subject that not all of it can fit into one book. Are there any fun facts that you learned that didn’t make it into Guitars?

That is so true. Each evening I’d recount to my husband all of the fascinating facts I’d learned about the guitar. Although I will admit that, since I’ve never studied an instrument and can’t read music, some of the facts on the number of strings on an acoustic guitar and the sound differential was too confusing to understand…plus, I knew that would make the book too technical to include. What I did find I had to cut was the longer history on how electric guitars were really influenced by Hawaiian ukuleles but I was able to include a few fun facts.

Do you play an instrument? If so, what do you play?

Patricia Lakin Publicity Photo 2021

As a child, I studied ballet and in college continued with dance classes, jazz and then tap and never studied a musical instrument.

If you could have a custom guitar made for you, what would it look like? Would it be acoustic or electric?

If I did own a guitar it would most likely be the guitar that Meredith made with a gorgeous tree inlaid on the acoustic guitar’s back. It’s on page 15 of the Guitar book.

I read on your bio that you’re inspired by movies. What is your favorite movie, and why?

Wow! I am such a movie fan that I don’t think I could pick a favorite. Going to the movies as a child, and now, even as an adult, is a special treat for me. Sitting in a darkened theatre, having those images up on the screen, larger than life—speaks to me in ways that I find totally magical.

 

Thank you for a fun interview! For more information about Patricia Lakin and her books, please check out her website. And don’t forget to check out Guitars and The Made By Hand series. For more information about, please visit Simon & Schuster’s Made By Hand page.

 

WNDMG Wednesday – Banning Books Creates Selective History

We Need Diverse MG Logo
We Need Diverse MG Logo

Illustration by: Aixa Perez-Prado

 

Thinking about Banned Books

I want to think out loud about a subject close to the hearts of most readers and writers: the recent uptick in banned books. and how banning books creates a selective history of our world. Those of you who read our blog often know that just a few months ago, contributor Patricia Bailey collected a wonderful list of  Mixed-Up Files contributors’ favorite banned books.  This post is also an excellent resource for websites to plug into when you want to take action–so you should go check it out!

I wanted to revisit the subject here on the We Need Diverse MG series because of the unfortunate truth that the majority of the books being challenged or banned in recent years are by and about underrepresented communities. It’s a clear attempt to remove diversity from our children’s bookshelves.

a stack of books chained together banning books creates selective history

Gatekeeping Diversity

The reason I hear most often in my own community from parents who want to remove books is variations of this reasoning: “My child isn’t ready for that kind of story.” Or, “This is inappropriate or traumatizing, and I don’t want to scare my child.”

As a mother, I do understand the gatekeeping instinct that leads us to stand between our children and content that could frighten or traumatize them. Learning can’t happen when children feel threatened.

But children can’t learn empathy or understanding if they never have to be challenged to see beyond their own lives. Why shouldn’t a child who is raised in a safe white space be exposed to a book detailing the risks–and the joys–faced by BIPOC, AAPI,  Native, Latinx, and LGBTQ+ communities? Why shouldn’t a Christian child learn what it’s like to be a Jew or a Muslim in America?

Banning Books Creates Selective History

Equally as important, and we all know this, children from underrepresented communities need to see themselves and their experience validated and normalized in books. When we scrub the shelves of diversity, we devalue the experience of a majority of the world’s population, and this is a tragedy for all. Moreover, banning books creates a selective history of who we are, and no one is served by an incomplete narrative.

Yes, adults do sometimes need to help children process what they read. But is that so bad? Don’t we want to support a more inclusive generation of children who are supposed to be the stewards of a smarter tomorrow?

((Want to see which books are currently in the hot spot? Check out this list from Banned Books Week of 2021))

The First Banned Book

I was curious about the history of banned books and how long the practice of controlling the narrative has been going on. I  learned that while the practice goes back as far as ancient China, when Confucian scholars were buried alive, the first non-murderous American banning happened in 1637. Immigrant Thomas Morton wrote an anti-Puritan treatise called NEW ENGLISH CANAAN. It was such a scandalous and insulting book (this terrific article by Matthew Taub talks about how Morton compared his former community to crustaceans), the angry Puritans immediately scrubbed it, as though they could put the genie back in the bottle.

Thumbnail photo of Thomas Morton's New English Canaan book banned books create selective history

What intrigued me though, was that in addition to his comparatively hedonistic approach to life (can someone say maypole dancing?), he was also the closest thing that passed as an ally in those days. He broke off from the Puritans to establish his own community, forming economic partnerships with the Native population and getting rid of his business partner who owned enslaved people. Morton’s more diverse, inclusive, and equitable approach to community didn’t conform with the lockstep attitudes of the time, therefore his book was of suspect political nature.

Sound familiar?

Imagine a world like the one Morton envisioned, where we can embrace and honor our differences and thrive in each other’s company. I hope we will continue to write and read the books that give us space for this to happen, and to fight the crustaceans who try to ban them.

 

 

New MG Releases: January 2022

WE MADE IT!! This past year was a tough one for many, but 2022 is wide open for hopeful days ahead and, of course, more books to keep us laughing and feeling, take us into the minds of different characters, and transport us to fascinating places and times. And there are plenty of new books launching just in January. Here are a few to check out in the first month of this new year.

 

The Unforgettable Logan Foster, #1, by Shawn Peters

Packed with superheroes, supervillains, and epic showdowns between good and evil, The Unforgettable Logan Foster from debut author Shawn Peter shows that sometimes being a hero is just about being yourself. Logan Foster has pretty much given up on the idea of ever being adopted. It could have something to with his awkward manner, his photographic memory, or his affection for reciting curious facts, but whatever the cause, Logan and his “PP’s” (prospective parents) have never clicked. Then everything changes when Gil and Margie arrive. Although they aren’t exactly perfect themselves–Gil has the punniestsense of humor and Margie’s cooking would have anyone running for the hills–they genuinely seem to care.

But it doesn’t take Logan long to notice some very odd things about them. They are out at all hours, they never seem to eat, and there’s a part of the house that is protected by some pretty elaborate security. No matter what Logan could have imagined, nothing prepared him for the truth: His PP’s are actually superheroes, and they’re being hunted down by dastardly forces. Logan’s found himself caught in the middle in a massive battle and the very fate of the world may hang in the balance. Will Logan be able to find a way to save the day and his new family?

 

Tiger Honor, by Yoon Ha Lee

Sebin, a young tiger spirit from the Juhwang Clan, wants nothing more than to join the Thousand World Space Forces and, like their Uncle Hwan, captain a battle cruiser someday. But when Sebin’s acceptance letter finally arrives, it’s accompanied by the shocking news that Hwan has been declared a traitor. Apparently, the captain abandoned his duty to steal a magical artifact, the Dragon Pearl, and his whereabouts are still unknown. Sebin hopes to help clear their hero’s name and restore honour to the clan.

Nothing goes according to plan, however. As soon as Sebin arrives for orientation, they are met by a special investigator named Yi and his assistant, a girl named Min. Yi informs Sebin that they must immediately report to the ship Haetae and await further instructions. Sebin finds this highly unusual, but soon all protocol is forgotten when there’s an explosion on the ship, the crew is knocked out, and the communication system goes down. It’s up to Sebin, three other cadets, and Yi and Min to determine who is sabotaging the battlecruiser. When Sebin is suddenly accused of collaborating with the enemy, the cadet realizes that Min is the most dangerous foe of all…

 

Northwind, by Gary Paulsen

This stunning novel from the survival story master, set along a rugged coastline centuries ago, does for the ocean what Hatchet does for the woods, as it relates the story of a young person’s battle to stay alive against the odds, where the high seas meet a coastal wilderness.

When a deadly plague reaches the small fish camp where he lives, an orphan named Leif is forced to take to the water in a cedar canoe. He flees northward, following a wild, fjord-riven shore, navigating from one danger to the next, unsure of his destination. But the deeper into his journey he paddles, the closer he comes to his truest self as he connects to “the heartbeat of the ocean . . . the pulse of the sea.”

With hints of Nordic mythology and an irresistible narrative pull, Northwind is Gary Paulsen at his captivating, adventuresome best.

 

 

Snow Leopards and Other Wild Cats, by Mary Pope Osbourne and Jenny Laird

Track the facts about snow leopards and other amazing wild cats in this nonfiction companion to the bestselling Magic Tree House series!

When Jack and Annie came back from their adventure in Magic Tree House #36: Sunlight on the Snow Leopard, they had lots of questions. Where do snow leopards live? Why are they endangered? Which wild cat has the longest fangs? How do lions hunt? Find out the answers to these questions and more as Jack and Annie track the facts about snow leopards and wild cats from all over the world.

Filled with up-to-date information, photographs, illustrations, and fun tidbits from Jack and Annie, the Fact Trackers are the perfect way for kids to find out more about the topics they discover in their favorite Magic Tree House adventures.

 

 

Physics for Curious Kids: An Illustrated Introduction to Energy, Matter, Forces, and Our Universe!, by Laura Baker

Young readers can discover the wonders of physics with this inspirational and accessible book, brought to life by full-color illustrations.

This vibrant jacketed hardback is packed with clear, colorful, and engaging explanations of the world of physics, including matter and motion, space and time, energy and forces. Supporting STEM learning, this book is an ideal supplement to school education as it covers many core topics in an entertaining and easy-to-understand way.

Big new concepts pop off the page thanks to colorful diagrams and an engaging, energetic text. Kids will relish sharing them with friends and family!

 

Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler, by Ibi Zoboi

From the New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist, a biography in verse and prose of science fiction visionary Octavia Butler, author of Parable of the Sower and Kindred.

Acclaimed novelist Ibi Zoboi illuminates the young life of the visionary storyteller Octavia E. Butler in poems and prose. Born into the Space Race, the Red Scare, and the dawning Civil Rights Movement, Butler experienced an American childhood that shaped her into the groundbreaking science-fiction storyteller whose novels continue to challenge and delight readers fifteen years after her death.

 

 

 

Overground Railroad (The Young Adult Adaptation): The Green Book and the Roots of Black Travel in America, by Candacy Taylor

A young reader’s edition of Candacy Taylor’s acclaimed book about the history of the Green Book, the guide for Black travelers

Overground Railroad chronicles the history of the Green Book, which was published from 1936 to 1966 and was the “Black travel guide to America.” For years, it was dangerous for African Americans to travel in the United States. Because of segregation, Black travelers couldn’t eat, sleep, or even get gas at most white-owned businesses.

The Green Book listed hotels, restaurants, department stores, gas stations, recreational destinations, and other businesses that were safe for Black travelers. It was a resourceful and innovative solution to a horrific problem. It took courage to be listed in the Green Book, and the stories from those who took a stand against racial segregation are recorded and celebrated.

This young reader’s edition of Candacy Taylor’s critically acclaimed adult book Overground Railroad includes her own photographs of Green Book sites, as well as archival photographs and interviews with people who owned and used these facilities. The book also includes an author’s note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, and index.

On the Move: Home Is Where You Find It, by Michael Rosen

In a masterful new collaboration, personal poems and poignant art illuminate the experience of refugees and immigrants everywhere.

That’s why
it can happen again.
It does happen again.
It has happened again.

Some of Michael Rosen’s relatives were lost before he was born, in the Holocaust. First, he wondered about them. And he wrote poems. Next, he searched for their stories. And he wrote poems. Then he found their stories. And he wrote poems. Now, in a companion book to The Missing: The True Story of My Family in World War II, Michael Rosen has brought together forty-nine of his most powerful poems, exploring the themes of migration and displacement through the lens of his childhood in the shadow of World War II, the lives of his relatives during that war, and migration, refugees, and displacement today and tomorrow, here, there, and everywhere. Throughout, atmospheric watercolors from master illustrator Quentin Blake evoke the hardship, exhaustion, isolation, and companionship of being on the move. At once intimate and universal, On the Move probes the power of art to adapt, bear witness, and heal.

 

Martin Luther King: The Peaceful Warrior, by Ed Clayton

Follow the inspiring life of Martin Luther King Jr. in a moving, vital, and informative book by an author and an illustrator with close ties to Dr. King’s family.

Martin Luther King Jr. devoted his life to helping people, first as a Baptist minister and scholar and later as the foremost leader in the African-American civil rights movement. An organizer of the Montgomery bus boycott and cofounder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. As a result of his actions, the United States Congress passed the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964. This book’s powerful story and important message, originally published in 1964, remain as relevant today as they were more than fifty years ago. With a new foreword by the author’s widow, Xernona Clayton, the text has been reviewed and updated for a new generation and features striking new illustrations by Donald Bermudez.

 

Ain’t Burned All the Bright, by Jason Reynolds

Prepare yourself for something unlike anything: A smash-up of art and text for teens that viscerally captures what it is to be Black. In America. Right Now. Written by #1 New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Jason Reynolds.

Jason Reynolds and his best bud, Jason Griffin had a mind-meld. And they decided to tackle it, in one fell swoop, in about ten sentences, and 300 pages of art, this piece, this contemplation-manifesto-fierce-vulnerable-gorgeous-terrifying-WhatIsWrongWithHumans-hope-filled-hopeful-searing-Eye-Poppingly-Illustrated-tender-heartbreaking-how-The-HECK-did-They-Come-UP-with-This project about oxygen. And all of the symbolism attached to that word, especially NOW.

And so for anyone who didn’t really know what it means to not be able to breathe, REALLY breathe, for generations, now you know. And those who already do, you’ll be nodding yep yep, that is exactly how it is.

 

Happy New Year to all our MUF blog readers–wishing you a reading-filled 2022!