Sunday, February 28, 2016

Guest Post by Normal Norman author, Tara Lazar

Today kicks of the blog tour for Normal Norman (Sterling Children's Books), written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. Britt.  I'm delighted that Tara Lazar agreed to write a guest post for Kids Talk Kid Lit.   



“Where do you get your ideas?”

It’s the most common question asked of authors. Sometimes we can name the exact moment lightning struck and why, how—all the myriad things surrounding that creative epiphany. And sometimes we have NO IDEA where that IDEA came from! Zero. Zilch. Nada.

I get hit with titles. BONK! They land on my head. One day I got smacked with “Normal Norman”. I have no idea where I was and what I was doing, but this character asked me to take note. And then, he kept bugging me.

Although I didn’t know from where Norman came, I did know that he was most definitely NOT NORMAL. I didn’t set out to write some grand statement about being different and accepting it, but Norman just didn’t want to behave. His repeated avoidance of all things considered normal, besides being hilarious, also gave the story a lovely message that I think everyone needs to hear: there’s no such thing as normal. We’re all different, so how could there possibly be just ONE WAY TO BE?

I wasn’t a normal kid. I was loud and creative and studious and wildly inappropriate and quirky and into theatre, impersonations and accents. I loved writing and reading. I was a teacher’s pet. I was a different religion than most of my classmates. My hair was super-duper short. Other kids could spot my differences from a mile away. And therefore, they often stayed away.

I hope kids who read about Norman not only fall in love with his adorable nonconformity, but also realize that what makes us all different isn’t so scary. Once Norman’s junior scientist friend gets to know him better, she discovers that despite his quirks, he has one abnormally large heart. We should all learn the same lesson.

Norman and Tara
Normal Norman will be available on March 1, 2016.  Click here to order.

Be sure to follow this blog tour (#NormalNormanBlogTour) for interviews, reviews, giveaways, art reveals and much more!

You can follow:

Tara Lazar on Twitter @taralazar and on her blog

S. Britt on Twitter @StephanBritt and on his website

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My (Our) Interview with Victoria Coe

I am delighted to talk with Victoria Coe today.  Victoria's debut middle grade novel Fenway and Hattie (GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Young Readers)  is released today.  I had the good fortune of reading it last fall and I must say that I loved it.  It's humor, sensitivity and heart held me from the first to the last page.


Kurt: Hi, Victoria!  Welcome to Kids Talk Kid Lit.  I am so glad that you were willing to stop by and talk with me today – the day that Fenway and Hattie is released to the world! I hope it's ok, but my dogs Zoey and Nellie would love to be part of this interview.

Zoey and Nellie

Victoria: Awesome! I’m excited that Zoey and Nellie are available to join us. It can be Kids and Dogs Talk Kid Lit! How about we start off with some treats?

Kurt: Who could say no to treats? While Zoey and Nellie munch away, would you like to give us a short synopsis of Fenway and Hattie?

Victoria: Sure! Fenway and Hattie is about a dog and a girl who move from the city to the suburbs where everything is different. And as you can probably guess, they have a lot of obstacles to deal with!

Kurt: I read the book last fall, and I must say that it was absolutely delightful. We were camping, and the minute I finished it, I handed it to my wife who immediately read (and loved) it!

Victoria: Thanks, Kurt! Please pass along my thanks to your wife, too!

Kurt: Looks like Zoey and Nellie are finished munching and ready to join in!

Nellie: You have an amazing way of seeing inside a dog’s mind – and not just the treats. Do you have a special dog friend?

Victoria: Why thanks, Nellie! My real dog, Kipper, inspired the idea of Fenway when we were moving. As soon as we began packing, he leaped inside the car and wouldn’t get out! It wasn’t hard to realize (especially from how much he was shaking) that he was afraid we’d leave without him!

Victoria and Kipper
That moment really struck me. I paid very close attention to him as he sniffed around our new neighborhood checking everything out. After that, my imagination took over.

Nellie: We had fun seeing Fenway’s picture – even though it’s on a book and not on something fun like a ball or a squeaky toy. What’s been the reaction from other dogs?

Victoria: So far Fenway and Hattie is a big hit with dogs! Ever since the advance reader copies started floating around, people have been snapping photos of their dogs with Fenway. For example, here’s your friend Goose, obviously trying to get the book away from her human, Colby Sharp. 

Goose (and Colby)

Zoey: I like Goose. And I really like Fenway. He looks like a guy who can have some fun! Could you tell us a little about him?

Victoria: Aw, thanks, Zoey! You and Fenway would definitely have fun together.  Fenway’s a Jack Russell terrier – a little dog with a lot of energy. Which is a good thing because he has a very big job – To protect his special girl Hattie from evil!

Zoey:  I have a special girl like Hattie.  Can you share some things about Hattie?

Victoria: As Fenway would say, Hattie is The Best Short Human Ever! She loves to chase him around the Dog Park, share yummy treats, and snuggle with him at night. Oh, and she also loves to brush his fur and sing, “Best buddies, best buddies” before they fall asleep.
I guess you can see why Fenway is determined to keep their relationship exactly the same. And nothing will get in his way, not even evil squirrels!

(Zoey and Nellie rush to the window to check for squirrels.)

Kurt:  I LOVE that this book is written from Fenway's point of view. Was that your idea from the start or did this happen as the story evolved?

Victoria: Thanks, Kurt! Right from the start, Fenway and Hattie was written from Fenway’s point of view – in his voice, telling his dramatic story. But it wasn’t always Hattie’s story, too.  My wonderful agent, Marietta Zacker, suggested I dig out Hattie’s story arc – from Fenway’s perspective, of course! He doesn’t always understand or get things right, especially when it comes to Hattie…

Kurt:  I love the book trailer for Fenway and Hattie.  Were you part of that process?

Victoria: Oh, I’m so glad you liked it! Once we came up with the concept, I wrote the script, but the rest was left to the professionals.

I’m a big fan of the music – Fenway’s Theme. I think it captures how playful he is as well as his self-imposed responsibility to be the hero. 

Watch the trailer for Fenway and Hattie!

Kurt:  I can't wait to share this book with students.  Will we see more of Fenway (and Hattie) in the future?

Victoria: Thanks, Kurt. I sure hope your students enjoy it! And yes, there will be a second Fenway and Hattie book coming next year. Stay tuned!

Kurt: Thank you so much for stopping by to talk with us today. Thank you for Fenway and certainly is a gift to readers!

Victoria: It’s been a pleasure, Kurt. Thanks for hosting me. And maybe once Zoey and Nellie are through scaring those squirrels away, we can all enjoy some more treats!

Nellie thinks you should read Fenway and Hattie!

Check out Fenway and Hattie (GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Young Readers)... available everywhere books are sold, as of TODAY!  

You can follow Victoria on Twitter @victoriajcoe and get more info at her website

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Picture Book Speed Dating

I am always trying to find ways to make sure that my staff is aware of new books in our library. Whether it's sending out "Book Notes" on Sunday nights or setting up displays in the lounge, I want to make sure that they know about all the incredible books that are being added into our library.

Yesterday I had an event at lunchtime.  Picture Book Speed Dating!  This was an opportunity for staff to sign up to come get a quick glimpse of many newer titles.  I figured that Valentine season was a fun time to spread the "book love"...(well, anytime is a great time to spread book love!)

The lights were dimmed...the romantic music was playing...the table was set (complete with cookies and chocolates!).

Each place setting included a list of the books that they would be "meeting", so that teachers could jot a couple quick notes (if they wanted) about each book.

Staff members grabbed their lunches and came to the library.  After taking their seats, I explained that they would have about two minutes with each book.  At the end of two minutes, a bell would ring, they could jot a note or two and they would pass their book to the left....grab a couple quick bites and get ready for the next round!

Over the course of the lunch period, staff shared comments, laughs, treats and 14 new (to them) picture books!

After every four rounds I had a drawing to win a free book!  Everyone loves winning books!

Friends, Food and Books...the perfect lunch!