Posts Tagged history

Exploring THE PLACES WE SLEEP with Author Caroline DuBois

I have a new guest for you, today! She’s written a tender, moving tale in verse that journeys a young girl through everyday details while living during a time of national crisis. The first words of this story made me pause and take notice. And the rest, poked me right in the heart to the end. The writing is beautiful and real, the story is important, and the growth of the main character is hopeful. I’m very excited to share The Places We Sleep with you and welcome Author Caroline DuBois to share her thoughts about the book.

Hi Caroline! It’s wonderful to have you visit our Mixed-Up Files family. Let’s share your beautiful cover and story with readers first.

THE PLACES WE SLEEP

by Caroline DuBois

A family divided, a country going to war, and a girl desperate to feel at home converge in this stunning novel in verse.

It’s early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again.

I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don’t.

Tennessee is her family’s latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad’s work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille.

And then it’s September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey’s “home” looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight.

How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us?

Abbey’s body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country’s collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own.

Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey’s coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it’s a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.

If you would, share with our readers one book from your childhood that has stayed with you, and how can children’s authors in today’s unsettled world achieve this same unforgettable feel?

Mary Norton’s The Borrowers sparked my imagination as a child. My librarian mom introduced it to me. Norton’s world-building of tiny people living in the walls and borrowing from the people with whom they lived was pure escape for me from the big complicated world.

Children’s authors in today’s uncertain world can achieve this same unforgettable feel by either delivering children to a rich land of imagination, or by providing children a story in which they can see themselves. Then they can envision and dream of ways they can be and all the things they can achieve.

What made you decide to write “The Places We Sleep” in verse?

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. It began as more of a character sketch through poems and eventually turned into a story. I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and familial relationships in unexpected ways. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium.

Your description of poems being scenes is fascinating and also beautiful. It definitely worked. How much of the novel is inspired by your own experience growing up in the South in a military family?

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about many other things—identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, tolerance and acceptance, and friendship. It’s about how world events can touch individuals in large and small ways.

That they do. ♥ This couldn’t have been an easy story to write. What was the most difficult part?

I faced two specific challenges in writing this story. One was creating full, round characters through poems. And the other was making decisions about how to approach a national tragedy age-appropriately and sensitively. Having a great editor at Holiday House and a sensitivity reader helped with both.

Why do you think this story is important for the middle-grade audience?

Middle grade students I’ve taught often have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11, and the nonfiction texts they’ve typically enjoyed the most in my classroom were almost always couched in a narrative story. I hope Abbey’s story will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy. I hope the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. Furthermore, I hope student readers are gently nudged to learn the names of others with whom they share classes and hallways and to act with kindness and dignity to those they may not know or understand. Maybe it will even inspire some young reader to choose to deal with life’s challenges through art or poetry or other forms of creativity.

Inspiring young readers to engage in conversation about the events of 9/11 is a wonderful.

How much research did you do for the story?

I lived through 9/11 and began writing and reading about it immediately thereafter. Additionally, I’ve had various family members in the military as well as taught students who experienced and still experience islamophobia. I conducted research as I was writing the story, as well as mined the living resources around me to create as authentic a portrayal of the historical backdrop to the story as I could.

What can young readers expect from your main character Abbey?

I hope that young readers can see themselves in Abbey as she navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events. I hope readers see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

All extremely important traits, especially in today’s world. Do you have any advice for librarians and teachers on how to encourage middle schoolers to give in verse books a try?

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Another way to inspire and hook a child on the joy of reading is by giving a book talk. Where an educator may not have time to read an entire chapter, there’s always time for a poem or two. And once one student starts reading it, the likelihood is that his or her friends will pick it up too. Books in verse create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate adolescent readers.

Circling back to my first question, what do you hope stays with your readers after they read this story?

Perhaps The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy. I hope student readers are gently nudged to learn the names of others with whom they share classes and hallways and to act with kindness and dignity to those they may not know or understand. Maybe it will inspire some young reader to choose to deal with life’s challenges through art or poetry or other forms of creativity.

Here’s a little bit more about Caroline:

Caroline Brooks DuBois found her poetic voice in the halls of the English Department at Converse College and the University of Bucknell’s Seminar for Young Poets. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, under the scholarship of Pulitzer Prize winning poet James Tate, among other greats in the poetry world.
DuBois’s writing infuses poetry and prose and has been published by outlets as varied as Highlights High Five, Southern Poetry Review, and The Journal of the American Medical Association and has been twice honored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her debut middle-grade novel-in-verse, The Places We Sleep, is published by Holiday House and to be released August 2020.
DuBois has taught poetry workshops, writing classes, and English at the middle school, high school, and college levels. In May 2016, she was recognized as a Nashville Blue Ribbon Teacher for her dedication to her students and excellence in teaching adolescents.
DuBois currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where she works as an English instructional coach and sometimes co-writes songs for fun with her singer-songwriter husband. She has two teenage children and a dog, Lilli, and she enjoys coaching soccer and generally being outside.
WEBSITE | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

Thank you for sharing some of your writing journey with us, Caroline! All the best with The Places We Sleep.

Editor Spotlight: Georgia McBride, Georgia McBride Media Group

Georgia McBride is founder and editor of Georgia McBride Media Group, which is home to Month9Books, Swoon Romance, and Tantrum Books. She has used her experience launching brands in the music business, licensing music to film and TV, launching new technology products, and marketing and product development to build the Georgia McBride Media Group brand. Georgia is one of Publishers Marketplace’s most prolific editors. She’s completed over 225 publishing, audiobook, and film/TV deals on behalf of three imprints since 2012. Georgia founded the #YAlitchat hashtag and weekly chat on Twitter in 2009.

Hi Georgia, thanks for chatting with us!
You’re publishing two of my 2019 middle grade debut-mates: Malayna Evans and Kristin Thorsness. Can you talk about what originally sparked your interest and made you want to acquire their debut novels?

Thanks for having me, and congratulations on your debut! Malayna’s Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh has everything a kids’ action adventure fantasy should have but most of all, it has heart. Sure it’s a time travel adventure that takes Jagger and his little sister back to the Ancient Egyptian court, but it’s also funny and full of historical references and gags. So, while readers go on this harrowing adventure, they learn about Ancient Egypt and laugh the entire time. Additionally, the characters in this series are biracial, like my own kids, so I definitely was intrigued when it crossed my inbox. Representation is so important, especially at this age.

On the other hand, Kristin’s The Wicked Tree, which went through a title change after acquisition is spooky, atmospheric, and creepy. When I read it for the first time, it reminded me of a spooky tree outside my bedroom window when I was about the same age as the main character, Tav. I remember seeing a figure in the tree one night and screaming at the top of my lungs. None of the adults believed me, of course. The Wicked Tree captured all those creepy feelings I had back then, and I knew it would have a similar effect on readers. It’s also got a pretty cool mystery. So readers can put on their detective caps while getting spooked out.

With both of these stories, and especially for middle grade, I’m looking for something that makes the story and its characters unique. In both examples, I made a personal connection to the characters in both stories, so that helped.

Both these novels, The Wicked Tree, and Jagger Jones & The Mummy’s Ankh are in some sense quest/mystery novels. And Jagger is set in a very remote historical period. Are there any particular challenges in editing these genres?

I’m a lucky editor in that the author of Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, Malayna Evans, has Ph. D. in Ancient Egyptology. That said, we did try our best to fact-check. We still asked questions, challenged assertions, and focused a lot on consistency during the edits.

For Kristin’s The Wicked Tree, we looked at the logic and reasoning behind the mystery and why characters did and said what they did – or why not. Mysteries can always be solved, and therefore, they have to follow basic and consistent logic, even with twists and even if it isn’t something a reader would personally do, think, or say.

Can you talk about your experience in the music business? What aspects do the music and book industry share?

As you can imagine, working in the music business is a lot of fun. It is also a lot of hard work. The music business and publishing business are very much alike in that my roles have remained basically the same. When I worked in music I did so mostly in marketing, talent acquisition, and packaging. Whether it is discovering, marketing, packaging, producing, editing, etc., the process and prospects are almost identical.

I miss the music business though. I no longer get free music now that I’m out. And, as of this year, I have had to pay to attend concerts. That is definitely new for me. I love what I do as a publisher, though. The similarities in my roles prepared me to hit the ground running in 2011. And now, I get free books and invites to all manner of spectacular bookish things.

What’s the number one thing authors can do, pre- or post-publication, to help boost sales of their books?

Be available. Be personable. Engage your audience in an authentic way. That may include in-person events, online, on social media, etc. I encourage those who write children’s literature to go where the kids are.

On average, middle schoolers spend 6-8 hours of their days in school. They receive book recommendations from teachers, librarians or media specialists, book fairs, etc. Engage that audience frequently, and you will soon start to build your own. Don’t give up or be discouraged if you don’t hit it out of the park on book 1. Stay focused, determined, and undeterred.

What’s an under-represented middle-grade genre or topic that you’d like to see more of?

This fall we published BERTIE’S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS about a little girl who has difficulty making good choices. Her mother’s impending wedding to a widower with two kids compounds her difficulties. Of course, being TantrumBooks/Month9Books there’s magic and some spooky goings on in this story also, thus the wolves and raven on the cover!

As parents, we tend to focus on perfect behavior and good decision making for our kids, and sometimes fail to realize that our kids may struggle with impulse control and or feelings of anxiety. We expect our kids to manage their emotions and feelings well most of the time. Some kids are going through so much at home, and it can sometimes manifest as acting out. I love that BERTIE’S BOOK OF SPOOKY WONDERS tackles these issues. In her new blended family, Bertie’s parents are very much around, and are trying to help her cope. I would like to see more stories about coping with life in general and all the pressure twelve-year-olds are under to adapt in these modern times.

Do you have other forthcoming middle-grade novels you’d like to introduce us to?

Of course we have the sequels to Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh and The Wicked Tree releasing in 2020. We also have The Prince and the Goblin, a heavily illustrated adventure fantasy told from the point of view of a goblin who wants more from his life. Then there’s Kids from G.H.O.S.T, a graphic novel about kid ghost detectives, and The Fate of Freddy Mitchell, which is the new one from Andrew Buckley, author of Hair in all the Wrong Places.

Thanks so much for your time, Georgia!

Thank you!

Follow Georgia on Twitter: @georgia_mcbride
On Instagram @iamgeorgiamcbride, @month9books
Or visit her website at https://www.georgiamcbride.com/

STEM Tuesday — Digging Up History/Archeology– In The Classroom

I love both science and history, so I was really excited to read books on this month’s list. I confess to being a bit grossed out by some of the mummies, but these books didn’t disappoint. I saw many different aspects of the field of archaeology and learned a lot about the societies and people the archaeologists studied.

Mummies Exposed! by Kerrie Logan Hollihan

This book covers many different types of mummies. While many were purposeful, some were accidental. Through the examples, we learn about the science behind the creation of mummies. Analysis of the Items buried with the mummies gave clues to the type of people they had been and how they spent their time when they were alive.

 

 

 

The Whydah by Martin W. Sandler

The search for the pirate ship Whydah required the study of historical maps and records. These records, along with the artifacts discovered on the shipwreck paint a very different picture of pirates than we’ve come to expect.

 

 

 

Forgotten Bones by Lois Miner Huey

This book looks at what archaeologists have learned about a segment of society whose history has gone largely unwritten. I was fascinated by how much information they were able to glean from the bodies. Customs that left permanent marks on the body helped identify those who grew up in Africa versus those that grew up in America. Scars from injuries helped indicate what types of jobs the people performed. Most amazing was the ability of an artist to create a possible representation of each of the skeletons found using DNA analysis and the structure of the skulls.

 

Suggested Activities

In true “me” fashion, my brain went into overdrive thinking of activities that would fit well with these books. Here are a few…

Become an Artifact Detective

Archaeologists have to be detectives. They need to use the clues they’ve unearthed to figure out who these people were, how they lived, and what caused them to die. Challenge your class to be detectives, too.

First, have each person represent themselves with things. Have them pick 5 to 10 items that are often found with them. They could be things they carry around with them or wear every day. They could be favorite items or games we might find in their room at home.

To include science in this exercise, have the students describe the items as a scientist would. What is the item made of? What color is it? What are its measurements? Include a sketch or photo of the item. You could even pretend that these things have been buried for centuries. What would degrade and what would stay whole? If it broke into pieces, what would a defining feature be that might give a clue to what the item is?

For the next part, make sure each list doesn’t identify who the items belong to. Instead, use a student number or a nickname like the archaeologists did in the books.

Provide the set of lists to the class. This could be done by posting them around the room or through a virtual message board. Challenge the students to identify which of their classmates belongs with each of the artifact lists.

Once everyone has attempted to identify their classmates based on their artifacts, have each person present their artifacts and explain why they picked the items they did. The students will not only practice deductive reasoning, they’ll also get to know each other better.

Do Some Research

The discoveries described in The Whydah and Forgotten Bones relied upon historical research to help identify what was discovered. In the case of The Whydah, historical records like maps and diaries helped provide the location where excavators should look for the lost ship.

Use these examples to look into where historical records can be found and what kinds of information different documents can provide. This could even include a field trip to a local historical library or National Archives location and a lesson on how to use microfiche.

So many people use these resources – authors, archaeologists, genealogists, historians, lawyers, and more. To make this exercise more relatable, perhaps tie it to research into a local historical figure or genealogical research.

Debate the Issue

In Mummies Exposed! and Forgotten Bones, archaeologists faced cultures that believed burial grounds should remain untouched. After reading one or more of these books, have your students join the debate. Does the knowledge gained from archaeological research outweigh the beliefs that burial grounds should not be disturbed? Is it enough to rebury the bodies once they’ve been studied?

Other Ideas

Time Capsule

It occurred to me that each archaeological dig described in these books is like a time capsule. They capture what life was like for that person or people at the moment in time when they became buried or lost at sea. There are some good ideas here: http://www.timecapsule.com/time-capsule/how-to-make-a-school-time-capsule

Decoding the Past

The Smithsonian Learning Lab has a lesson about how archaeologists interpret artifacts called “Decoding the Past.” If you download the PDF, you will find an article on the subject and worksheets for some related activities. https://learninglab.si.edu/collections/decoding-the-past-the-work-of-archaeologists/AUq5scPw1RXKYyNy

Archaeology Activities

The Society for American Archaeology has a ton of activities for students, including a few about the Iceman (featured in Mummies Exposed!). https://www.saa.org/education-outreach/teaching-archaeology/k-12-activities-resources

 

I hope you and your students enjoy exploring these books and activities. If you have any suggestions for how you make archaeology and history come alive, please share in the comments below!

 


Janet pointing to Slingerland drum head of Chicago drummer Danny SeraphineJanet Slingerland loves learning about science, history, nature, and – well, everything – which she then turns into a book. She especially loves visiting living history museums, where the past really comes alive. To find out more about Janet and her books, check out her website: janetsbooks.com

You never know what you’ll find in a museum. Here’s a pic of Janet at the Musician’s Hall of Fame in Nashville, where she found a Slingerland drum head.