For Librarians

Author Spotlight: Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel Makonnen + a book GIVEAWAY & exclusive TRAILER REVEAL!

Kwame Mbalia (left), the New York Times bestselling author of the Tristan Strong books (Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky; Tristan Strong Destroys the World; and the upcoming Tristan Strong Keeps Punching), has teamed up with Prince Joel Makonnen (right), the great-grandson of Haile Selassie I, the last Ethiopian emperor, to write Last Gate of the Emperor.

The novel, an Afrofuturist adventure novel inspired by the legends and culture of real-life Ethiopia, was lauded by Kirkus as an “enthralling tale of resilience, family, and bravery that will entertain young sci-fi lovers.” It is available now from Scholastic.

Summary of Last Gate of the Emperor

Yared Heywat lives an isolated life in Addis Prime—a hardscrabble space colony with rundown tech, lots of rules, and not much to do. His worrywart Uncle Moti and bionic lioness Besa are his only family… and his only friends.

Often in trouble for his thrill-seeking antics and smart mouth, those same qualities make Yared a star player of the underground augmented reality game The Hunt for Kaleb’s Obelisk. But when a change in the game rules prompts Yared to log in with his real name, it triggers an attack that rocks the city. In the chaos, Uncle Moti disappears.

Suddenly, all the stories Yared’s uncle told him as a young boy are coming to life, of kingdoms in the sky and city-razing monsters. And somehow Yared is at the center of them.

Together with Besa and the Ibis—a game rival turned reluctant ally—Yared must search for his uncle… and answers to his place in a forgotten, galaxy-spanning war.

Now, CLICK HERE for an exclusive SNEAK PEEK at the book trailer!

Interview with Kwame Mbalia & Prince Joel

MR: Thank you for joining us on the Mixed-Up Files blog, Kwame and Prince Joel. Before we dive in, I’d love to know the origin story behind your collaboration. How did a best-selling children’s author/self-described lover of Dad jokes and Cheezits team up with the great-grandson of Haile Selassie I, the 225th emperor of Ethiopia? 

KM: Through a mutual friend! And with both of us sharing a passion for telling stories about the African diaspora, it was easy to forge a connection through the power of those stories.

The Secret of Worldbuilding

MR: Last Gate of the Emperor is a fantastical tale that incorporates real-life Ethiopian places, culture, history, and food. For instance, the Gebeya (marketplace) is airborne with drones that buzz overhead and food vendors sell traditional Ethiopian fare, such as shiro (ground-chickpea stew) and sambusas (a savory pastry filled with ground beef or lentils). What’s the secret to building a world like the one described in your book? 

KM: Worldbuilding is like building a car. All cars have a frame to put the body of the car on. But the type of frame can be changed, adapted, painted, dressed up all snazzy, etc. Start from your frame, which for me is the community in my world. Where are my characters eating? Where are they attending school? Where are they hanging out…?

In answering these questions like how do characters get around (the engine/wheels) or what goods/industries are there (can’t have leather seats without cows) you’ll find more questions that will help to build out that world.

Creating a Rich and Textured World

MR: A question for Kwame: Like Last Gate of the Emperor, your Tristan Strong novels (Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky and Tristan Strong Destroys the World) weave (West) African—and African-American—folklore into the narrative, creating a rich and textured world. What is it about African and African-American folklore that inspires you as a writer? Also, what kind of research did you do for Last Gate of the Emperor?

KM: In answer to the first question, it’s my culture. For research, there are always books and videos, but I find that nothing is better than actually talking with the people. And having someone like Joel on my team is like having the ultimate video game cheat code (not that Yared would cheat, he’s already the best).

Your Story Is Your Power!

MR: Prince Joel, you spent your childhood in exile, in Europe, and knew little about your royal past. You only learned later that you were a descendant of the Solomonic Dynasty, the oldest monarchy in the world, which ruled Ethiopia for over 3,000 years and traces its lineage back to the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon. How did this discovery affect you personally? Did it give you a greater desire to delve into Ethiopian culture, history, and folklore, as demonstrated in Last Gate of the Emperor?

PJM: It absolutely fascinated me and motivated me to seek out even more information about my home country and my family’s history. A main theme in Last Gate of the Emperor is understanding the true meaning of family bond, and showing that it is everlasting, even if you are physically separated from your family and home because of unforeseen circumstances.

In Last Gate, similar to my experience, our main protagonist Yared is on an adventure, unbeknownst to him, which will take him on a journey of self-discovery. My hope is that young readers will be inspired by Yared and motivated to go on their own journey, seek their true core, and embrace it. Your story is your power! It will always be with you and you can use it to fulfill your dreams and do good in the world.

Bookish Inspiration

MR: Now, a question for both of you: What sorts of books did you enjoy as kids? How did these books influence you—as readers, and as novelists?

KM: I read anything and everything. Slowly I began to gravitate to science fiction and fantasy when I looked for other worlds to explore and escape to, while contemporary books by African American authors gave me an anchor to which I could return. Books like the Lord of the Rings and Slam! coalesced in my mind to give me the worldbuilding and the vernacular to create my own worlds.

PJM: As a kid, I enjoyed novels and fables such as The Little Prince, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and the Fables of LaFontaine. As a reader, these books gave me a lot of inspiration, exposed me different truths about life at an early age and allowed me to expand my understanding of the world. I learned that there is so much more to life than what is right in front of you, and you can dream up your own world.

Kwame Mbalia’s Writing Process

MR: Kwame, can you tell our Mixed-Up readers a bit about your writing routine? 

KM: Personally, I write when I’m allowed to. Quarantining during a pandemic with kids means writing sometimes falls to seventh on the list of priorities. So a paragraph here, a few sentences there, a panicked writing sprint sprinkled in for good measure, and boom, instant book. Okay, maybe not instantly, but you know what I mean.

A Surprise for Prince Joel

MR: Prince Joel, what surprised you most during the writing, research, and worldbuilding of this novel? 

PJM: Besa!!! She is Yared’s bionic lioness, and she is everything! There are many other things about Addis Prime that are so cool, including “nefasis,” a special backpack outfitted with thrusters, skysails and, of course, the augmented reality game HKO!

Sequel? A movie…? Enquiring MUF Readers Want to Know

MR: Will there be a sequel to Last Gate of the Emperor? I’m dying to know what happens to Yared in the future.  Also, is there a movie deal in the works? This book screams to be made into a film.

KM: We’re working on the sequel! And maybe if everyone screams loud enough at the same time a movie producer will perk up.

And finally, a lightning round!

Preferred writing snack?

KM: Cheezits

PJM: Kinder Bueno, or Reese’s cups

Coffee or tea?

KM: Coffee with Cheezits

PJM: Buna! (Coffee)

 Cat, dog or bionic lioness? (Okay, that’s a trick question…)

 KM: How dare you! (Don’t listen, Besa.)

PJM: Bionic lioness! (Did I mention Besa?)

Favorite song?

KM: Star Wars Rogue One YouTube playlist

PJM: Right now, it’s “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay?

KM: Robot apocalypse is more likely

PJM: Yea – I’m ready, zombies, let’s go!

Superpower?

KM: Perfect single swipe peanut butter spread

PJM: Ability to sleep while appearing awake and remaining functional

Favorite place on earth?

KM: Next to my wife

PJM: Paris, France. Specifically, the Le George restaurant at the Four Seasons George V hotel on the Champs-Elysées, eating moules marinieres et frites with some Orangina

You’re stranded on a desert island, with only three items in your possession. What are they?

KM: A pen, a notebook, and a smartphone with suspiciously strong signal strength

PJM: A music player with an infinity battery, a machete, and my gold Ethiopian cross necklace

MR: Thank you for chatting with me, Kwame and Prince Joel—and congratulations on the publication of Last Gate of the Emperor. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I know Mixed-Up Files readers will too!

About the Authors

Kwame Mbalia is a husband, father, writer, a New York Times bestselling author, and a former pharmaceutical metrologist in that order. His debut middle-grade novel, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky was awarded a Coretta Scott King Author Honor, and it—along with the sequels Tristan Strong Destroys the World and Tristan Strong Keeps Punching (out October 5)—is published by Rick Riordan Presents/Disney-Hyperion. A Howard University graduate and a Midwesterner now in North Carolina, he survives on Dad jokes and Cheezits. Learn more about Kwame on his website and follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Prince Joel Makonnen is the great-grandson of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, the last emperor of Ethiopia. He is an attorney and the co-founder of Old World/New World, a media and entertainment company focused on telling powerful African stories that inspire global audiences through film, TV and books. He lives with his wife, Ariana, in Los Angeles.

A GIVEAWAY!

For a chance to win a copy of LAST GATE OF THE EMPEROR, comment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account, for an extra chance to win! 

STEM Tuesday — The Living Seas– Interview with Patricia Newman

STEM Tuesday

Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the last Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Patricia Newman, award winning author of the newly released Planet Ocean.  Combined with Annie Crawley’s stunning photography, Patricia’s research provides an immersive experience for readers of all ages. You’ll also meet some of the people fighting to maintain the ocean’s vital role in sustaining life on our planet.

Before you start, check out this fascinating trailer featuring video shot on location and fascinating facts about the ocean ecosystems:  “Why your library needs Planet Ocean”

Planet Ocean is a beautiful book. It explains the subject material in a beautiful way and the photographs are incredible.  A must read with your children. 

Jeff Bridges, Academy Award winning actor and environmentalist

* * *

Patricia NewmanChristine Taylor-Butler: Patricia, in a past life you have been a teacher, a computer programmer, and an Assistant Director for Cornell University’s regional office. In those capacities, you’ve traveled all over the world, including Kenya with a geneticist as a volunteer for the San Diego Zoo. Do you ever slow down?

Patricia Newman: My husband asks the same question, Christine. I confess I have a hard time sitting still and I enjoy working on multiple projects simultaneously. That said, I relish quiet time, too, to read, soak up nature, and allow my brain to make the connections that ultimately inspire book ideas.

 

CTB: You received the Sibert Honor award for your book Sea Otter Heroes. You mention that a teacher once described fiction as “heart” and nonfiction as “facts.” You said it hurt your feelings. Could you elaborate?

Sea OttersPatricia: The conference speaker was asked to define fiction and nonfiction. She said, “Fiction is the heart and nonfiction is the facts.” And you’re right, Christine. That bland, watered down definition hurt my feelings because she implied nonfiction authors don’t add heart to their work. What about children’s biographies profiling people that empower children to reach for the stars? What about the scientists in books such as Sea Otter Heroes who inspire the next generation of scientists? What about books on focused topics, such as sharks, bugs, or space, that feed the curiosity of young readers? Nonfiction authors write from personal experience and passion. Our topics come from who we are as people and light fires within us. And we want to share that passion with young readers – both as they read our work and as they write. I’d advise teachers out there to pick up a copy of Nonfiction Writers Dig Deep edited by Melissa Stewart. Share with students the essays from 50 nonfiction authors and try to mimic our pre-writing process to add heart to student work.

 

CTB: Your body of work is such a joyful exploration of both science and the human spirit that seeks to explore and improve the environment. Where did that passion come from?

Patricia: When I was young, I watched bugs. I grew vegetables. I scoured tidepools. I compared the shapes of leaves. Like all children, I was a natural scientist, and my questions led my “investigations.” I guess I’m one of the lucky ones because I never lost that desire to question. I still spend as much time outdoors as I can. Because of my love of science, I understand our connection to our natural world – how it feeds our souls, how it supports life on our planet. Whenever I hear about an amazing scientist working to help others understand this connection, I look for the story.

I often hear librarians say that history is people. What I’d like to hear more of is history AND science is people. The scientific skills of observation, investigation, and analysis form the bedrock of the discovery process in any discipline, whether history, language, culture, or mathematics.

 

CTB: Let’s talk about Planet Ocean. It’s an amazing work. You collaborated with Annie Crawley, a professional diver and photographer who explores oceans all over the world with a dive team. How did you first meet?

Planet ocean coverPatricia: Planet Ocean is my third book with the amazing Annie Crawley. We first met while I was working on Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. After the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX) returned to dry land, I contacted the scientists I wanted to interview for the book. I also contacted Annie because she was the expedition photographer, and I knew no one would have the kind of images she had. At the time, not too many people were willing to talk trash, and Annie was thrilled to showcase the expedition’s disturbing findings in a book for kids. Plastic, Ahoy! was one of the first children’s books about marine debris and it has inspired more children than I can count. One middle school reader later wrote her college essay about how Plastic, Ahoy! inspired her to study ocean plastic.

 

CTB: When Annie traveled to take location shots, she uploaded audio and video so you could stay connected with the source material. Was it hard to live the adventures vicariously?

Crawley with Whale

Crawley

Dive/Photographer Annie Crawley

Patricia: I was fortunate to travel to Seattle where Annie and I began our research for the Salish Sea chapter of Planet Ocean. We interviewed several scientists and experts by phone and in person. I also spoke to Annie’s Dive Team about communicating science through writing.

Annie already had science expeditions planned for Indonesia and the Arctic, so I knew early on that I would have to live vicariously. (One interesting note: Publishers rarely fund nonfiction research expenses.) Annie recorded and, in many cases, videoed the interviews, she traveled with my questions in hand and frequently added her own, and often included messages to me from our experts. When Annie and composer Stella Sung met for a performance of Oceana, they called me from the car to celebrate!
Note: Find out more about Annie Crawley at: www.anniecrawley.com and www.ouroceanandyou.com

 

CTB: The book is a wonderful marriage of science and profiles in courage. I was taken with the enormous diversity of people featured who are active in their local communities combating activities that threaten the health of our oceans. Who stands out the most to you? Is there one particular story that stayed with you after the book was finished?

Patricia: I feel like you’re asking me to pick my favorite child, Christine! I love all the stories – Aji Piper who’s not fighting for climate change, but human change; Eben Hopson who makes films to give his Iñupiat people a voice; Helen Pananggung and her indomitable group of children who clean their Indonesian beach every week; Nicole Helgason who replants coral; Dana Wlson who mourns the lack of salmon in his native waters; the kids and teens from Annie’s Dive Team who lobby the state legislature and made two inspiring films for Planet Ocean.

Divers

photo credit: anniecrawley.com ouroceanandyou.com.

These people and their stories are connected by their love of and their dependence on the ocean And they are working as hard as they can to make sure we all understand that connection.

The stories also demonstrate how readers can take action in their own lives and become a voice for the sea. Annie and I ultimately want readers to love the ocean because we protect what we love.

 

CTB: Planet Ocean features QR codes that link to videos of Annie and the dive team on location. It really brings the book alive and puts the reader in the middle of the action. I found myself stopping to explore beyond the text. How did that idea come about?

Patricia: I’m so happy you watched them! When I wrote Eavesdropping on Elephants, my editor loved the idea of including QR codes to hear the elephants talking just as the scientists did in the forest. The QR codes are a popular feature of that book.

QR exampleWhen Annie and I partnered again for Planet Ocean, her filmmaking skills seemed like a natural fit for QR codes. We wrote and designed Planet Ocean with an underwater perspective. The QR codes give readers the opportunity to dive below the surface to witness what happens for themselves.

 

CTB: To help you get up close and personal with the material, Annie and her team taught you how to scuba dive. What was that like?

Patricia: Annie began with a classroom lesson that included how to breathe through a regulator, how to read my portable computer to keep track of my air supply, how to clear my mask, and the science of diving.

Newman and CrawleyThen I dressed in my wet suit, flippers, mask, snorkel, buoyancy vest, and air tank. The air tank is astonishingly heavy on land! We dove in an indoor pool – the water in the Salish Sea hovers around 45 degrees and requires a dry suit and more diving skills than I currently possess. I learned how to breathe slowly, remain neutrally buoyant, and maneuver in the water with all the equipment. We also practiced safety techniques, such as communicating with our buddy. Of course, the Dive Team swam circles around me.

The real challenge was the underwater photo – holding my end of Annie’s camera housing steady while maintaining neutral buoyancy – not sinking too deep or floating to the surface.

 

CTB: You’ve written a wide range of nonfiction topics. Many people don’t know that books often start with an idea and a pitch to an editor. It’s a lot of research to conduct for a project that may not find a home. How do you find the right balance?

Patricia: Longer form nonfiction usually begins with a proposal or sales document that provides an overview of the concept, a chapter outline, and a list of the experts I plan to interview. And you’re right, Christine, balance is key.

Before beginning the proposal, I contact the scientists I’d like to feature to get their buy-in. I explain the time commitment involved after the book sells. If they are interested in working with me, I read to acquaint myself with the topic and develop a list of questions. I then set up a 20- to 30-minute interview with the scientist(s) to get at the highlights and dig deep enough to discover a possible narrative thread but not take advantage of the scientists’ time. I must be extremely efficient. If you’re interested in proposal writing, explore this article I wrote for Melissa Stewart’s Celebrate Science blog.

books

 

CTB: You’ve done a number of articles and interviews about your passion for writing. But the one that stuck out was your call to action in Publisher’s Weekly about conventions where publishers and vendors give away thousands of plastic items and tote bags in the quest to sell books. You make some sensible suggestions for sustainable options. Could you give a few here?

Patricia: All my environmental titles include a call to action because we must be grateful for nature and begin giving back. Page 53 of Planet Ocean includes several concrete suggestions. In addition, please consider the following:

  • Eat sustainably. Buy organic when possible and purchase seafood caught using sustainable fishing methods (Seafood Watch publishes handy guides to help you). Consider eating one plant-based meal per week.
  • Use your purchasing power to change corporate practices. Refuse goods packaged with too much plastic or produced by companies that pollute the planet. Some of my favorite alternatives, include:
  1. Bamboo utensils for to-go meals instead of single-use plastic. Use a refillable coffee mug for your designer coffee and skip the plastic cup/lid/stirrer.
  2. Bites Toothpaste Bits to refuse the plastic toothpaste tube, plastic dental floss box, and plastic toothbrush. Ask you dentist to stop giving out plastic toothbrushes.
  3. Etee reusable beeswax food wraps instead of plastic wrap.
  4. Who Gives a Crap sustainable toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues. They also donate 50% of their profits “to build toilets because we believe access to a safe, dignified loo is a basic human right.”
  5. Ten Tree for clothing made with sustainable materials. And for every item you purchase, Ten Tree plants ten trees.
  • Email corporations who continue to flaunt environmental guidelines. I have emails ready for Amazon and Target for unsustainable shipping practices that include loads of single-use plastic.
  • Research electric or hybrid vehicles as a family. What are the pluses and minuses of switching?
  • Take your political leaders to task at the local, state, and federal levels. Our health, clean air, clean water, and adequate food supplies start with a healthy ocean and sustainable habits.

 

CTB: You describe writing these books as “meeting the emotional need in me.” So now I’m intrigued. Is there a project you are dying to write about?

Patricia: One idea in particular tickles me, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the time is not yet right. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future…

 

CTB: You’ve been amazing asset to children’s publishing. Do you have any books on the horizon we should keep an eye out for?

Patricia: I have a nonfiction picture book releasing in the fall of 2022 illustrated by Natasha Donovan. All I can say right now is that it’s a conservation story with a happy ending.

CTB: Thanks, Patricia, for taking time out to talk to us!

Win a FREE copy of “Planet Ocean.”

Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.

Good luck!

Newman headshotPatricia Newman studied child development at Cornell University. While there, she also studied French, Italian and Childen’s Literature. Patricia’s books encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real‑world problems and act on behalf of their communities. A Robert F. Sibert Honor recipient for Sea Otter Heroes, Her books have received starred reviews, Green Earth Book Awards, a Parents’ Choice Award, and Bank Street College’s Best Books honors. Patricia speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change.

To learn more about Patricia and her books, please visit www.patriciamnewman.com. You can follow her on Twitter @PatriciaNewman. Or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patricia.newman.9275

 

author christine Taylor-butlerYour host is Christine Taylor-Butler, MIT engineering nerd and author of Bathroom Science, Sacred Mountain: Everest, Genetics, and more than 70 other nonfiction books for kids. She is also the author of the middle grade sci-fi series The Lost Tribes. Follow @ChristineTB on Twitter and/or @ChristineTaylorButler on Instagram

What Makes It Tick?

The creative mind is a wonderful and mysterious thing.

Serendipity. Déjà vu. That sweet feeling when one thing enters the equation and the answer snaps into place like pieces of a puzzle. The workings of the human brain are sublime. Humans have worked for centuries to define the nuts and bolts of how our brains work.  The neurotransmitters, the ion gradients, the neurons, the processing centers, and the communication patterns are biologically understood. Understanding creativity, however, is a whole other thing. We can record Peter Brown’s brain activity but we fall short trying to understand exactly how his brain can take a shipwrecked cargo of robots, a remote island, and wild animals and then create the world of The Wild Robot.

A wonderful and mysterious thing, right?

What makes the creative mind tick? That’s a question I’m constantly investigating.  From voice to style to structure to wild, unadulterated imagination, the facets of a creative mind are the gears that drive the bus to its destination. I find this creative engine that floats inside our skulls amazing and worthy of study. What makes 1000 writers come up with 1000 unique stories even after being given a fairly strict and narrow writing prompt?

I want to know! 

Several months ago, while driving home from work, a memory of author/illustrator Bill Peet’s autobiography popped into my head. I remember reading it in the early 1990s after checking it out from the public library. I always liked Bill Peet’s illustration work so I enjoyed his illustrated autobiography immensely. That said, I hadn’t thought of the book in well over 20 years. The memory just popped out of nowhere and I made a mental note to see if the library still had a copy in circulation. 

I made no mention of this to anyone and soon forgot to investigate further.

The weird, wild, and serendipitous part of the story is that last week, my wife came home with a certain author/illustrator’s autobiography she pulled out of the culled pile of books from the library at the elementary school she teaches at. As if it appeared from thin air, I stood, open-jawed, holding a copy of, Bill Peet: An Autobiography.

It is as good as I remembered. However, I’m still perplexed at the pure, blind fortune that resulted in the book resting on my shelf. Was my mind sending electromagnetic energy into the universe about Bill Peet’s autobiography? Was this simple luck and the coming together of unrelated events? The answer may never be known; at least not to my feeble brain.

The creative mind yearns to understand. 

I’ve always had this blessing (or curse) to understand how things work. I’ve dissected everything from lampreys to cow eyes to dogfish sharks to learn anatomy and how it relates to function. I’ve set up elaborate experiments in attempts to figure out how infectious diseases work and how the host fights them. I’ve taken apart old furniture, radios, televisions, and computers in an attempt to understand their workings. The problem in my case is I’m not so good at putting these things back together properly. 🙂

Perhaps this is why I became a scientist and why I enjoy writing and studying the processes of how stories are built. Yes, part of being a writer is to understand how to build a story and then how to best build your stories. It’s akin to studying how Seurat, Van Gogh, or Kadir Nelson create their art masterpieces.

In short, in order to build a house, you first have to know what a house is and understand what the important bits are. 

The creative mind is curious.

Confession time…

I like writing craft books. I own too many. I probably spend too much time reading and re-reading them instead of actually writing. I know many of you can relate. Writers also learn to read with a purpose. Reading a book with an eye on the author’s craft involved in creating the work. Reading to find out what made that story, that book, that graphic image effective. Kidlit-ology!

There’s also an often untapped resource out there to help understand what makes authors tick.

The kidlit creator autobiography. 

As I hinted at above with my love of the Bill Peet book, I enjoy autobiographies. I really enjoy author autobiographies. They are often different from true biographies because they’re told through the lens of the person and not from a third party. The autobiography is told through a completely different filter. Author autobiographies are like taking mom’s sewing machine apart to see its workings; they are a peek into what made them the writer they grew up to be.

After an “extensive” internet search, which, in my case, is typing “children’s authors’ autobiographies in the search box, I unearthed an interesting list of kidlit author autobiographies. Some I own, some I’ve read, and many are new to me but are now on the TBR list.

On My Shelf List

  • Bill Peet: An Autobiography by Bill Peet
  • Boy: Tales of Childhood & Going Solo by Roald Dahl
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
  • Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories by Jack Gantos

Ones I’ve Read List

  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Not exactly 100% reality but as the description says, “Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional…”)

 

 

The TBR List

  • Knots In My Yo-Yo String by Jerry Spinelli
  • 26 Fairmount Avenue by Tommie DePaola
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Gone To The Woods: Surviving A Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen
  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing Up by Jon Scieszka
  • The Abracadabra Kid: A Writer’s Life by Sid Fleischman
  • It Came From Ohio!: My Life As A Writer by R.L. Stine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you read any of the books on the list?

Do you have other kidlit author autobiographies to share? I’m particularly interested in reading and studying more autobiographies from diverse creators, especially Native and Indigenous creators. If anyone knows of any, please share these books in the comments. I’d be very interested in adding them to the TBR list! 

Learning and growing. That’s what a writer does. Writing is a constant, ever-shifting process. Each piece is different in its own, unique way while carrying a core consistency that’s coined as “voice”. 

The mind is indeed a weird and wonderful thing. A writer’s mind is doubly so. A middle-grade writer may triple or quadruple that!

Have a creative spring and then carry it over into summer. Take inspiration and knowledge from those who came before us. Be a source of inspiration and knowledge to those who will come behind us.

Learn and grow. Every day.

You got this, friends.

Read. Write. Repeat.