Wednesday, April 24, 2013

BELLA SAVES THE BEACH Review and Book Giveaway!

BELLA SAVES THE BEACH is the third book in the Bella and Britt Beach Series by Nancy Stewart. This lovely picture book is aimed at readers ages 6-9.

Though Bella loves the beach, she is concerned with all the trash she finds there. She enlists her younger sisters to help clean up, but they're too little and would rather play in the sand. Next Bella makes posters asking the public to help, but a storm ruins them. Only when Bella, and her best friend Britt, call on their classmates to pick up trash do they see results. 

Illustrator Samantha Bell uses a clever device of writing environmental messages in the sand like, "Trash is terrible," and "Keep our sand clean." 

After the story concludes, Stewart adds lots of interesting facts about pelicans, sea gulls, crabs, sandpipers, and plovers. For instance, did you know that sea turtles sometimes eat plastic bags because they look like jellyfish? Or that a plover, (bird), acts like a crocodile dentist and picks decaying meat from a croc's teeth?  This book would make a nice addition to classrooms studying the environment and how to keep it clean. 

Nancy will  give away a copy of BELLA SAVES THE BEACH to a lucky reader. To enter the drawing, leave a question for Nancy in the comments section.  I'll get us started: Nancy, did you always conceive of Bella and Britt as a series, or did you write the first book and your publisher suggest it?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting Students Involved in Authenticating Historical Fiction

The Reading Teacher article, "Getting Students Involved in Authenticating Historical Fiction," details the advantages and potential problems with using historical fiction in the classroom. Historical fiction makes history come alive for students, but sometimes authors make mistakes and can convey inaccurate information. By involving students in checking the author's research, that can alleviate the problem and teach valuable research skills in the process.

If a classroom were using my novel, THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL, one of the first things to authenticate would be whether I did my homework about tuberculosis. An excellent resource to do that is Jim Murphy's, INVINCIBLE MICROBE TUBERCULOSIS AND THE NEVER-ENDING SEARCH FOR A CURE.

The hardest chapter to write in THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL was Chapter 26, "The Model T and Me." Students could visit The Henry Ford Museum website and also watch numerous YouTube videos about how to drive a Model T.

Lots of details in THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL required research. A good source for clothing of the 1920's is EVERYDAY FASHIONS 1909-1920.

The most fun part of my research involved interviewing older family members. It was fascinating to hear firsthand about outhouses, bathing weekly in a tin tub, winding water from the well, and life before electronic gadgets.

THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL could be used during Women's History Month to discuss the role of women in society. Jessie's choices were very limited in 1922. Was she portrayed accurately for the book's setting? I'll let my readers be the judge.

Monday, April 8, 2013

My Pinterest Experiment (Part II)

As part of a recent Highlights Foundation Workshop I attended, Alison Myers offered to do a "social media critique" for each participant. Because I was already blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking, Alison suggested I try Pinterest.

Initially I set up Pinterest boards that focused solely on my book. Most of the material I put on the  boards came from either my website or my blog. Alison writes, "That is a time savvy move." But then she says, "Remember Pinterest is a SOCIAL networking site so you need to reach your tentacles out into other boards that will draw folks to your boards. Meaning you visit similar author's boards and 'repin' their work." Aha! It works much like Twitter and Facebook. I need to make friends.

I was surprised by all of the historical pictures on Pinterest. It's an excellent resource for visual research. Because my book deals with tuberculosis, I typed that word into the search function. Lots and lots of pictures popped up of sanatoriums, advertisements, medicines, x-rays. In the future, I will be adding Pinterest to my research arsenal.

Alison says you can use an aggregator to automatically notify your Twitter and Facebook accounts when you pin something new. I haven't looked into that function yet, but I plan to.

As a teacher, Alison says she uses Pinterest for "inspirational ideas and visual content" to share with her students. She recommends that I focus my Pinterest strategy on becoming a resource for teachers. Alison writes, "Imagine that you are a teacher getting ready to teach a unit on the spread of tuberculosis in the 1920's. You visit Pinterest and find a board with photos and facts. The board is found on Shannon Hitchcock's page, which also happens to have a book...that you can purchase...and an author who will give a Skype visit about her research! Now that is something to sink your teeth into." Indeed it is. I have my work cut out for me.

You can visit my Pinterest boards here:

If you have experience using Pinterest, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment and let's discuss.