9.18.2017

Grace Hopper

Queen of Computer Code

Sterling Children's Books

(pub. 5.16.2017)
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Laurie Wallmark
      and illustrator: Katy Wu

C haracter: Grace Hopper

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Meet Grace Hopper: the woman who revolutionized computer coding.
     An ace inventor, groundbreaker, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she coined the term 'computer bug" and developed the program that taught computers to recognize words and not just endless O's and 1's. GRACE HOPPER tells the inspirational story of this brilliant woman who had a passion for science and math and the firm belief that new solutions to problems were not found by those who said 'We've always done it this way.'
     RULE BREAKER.
     CHANCE TAKER.
     TROUBLEMAKER.
     AMAZING GRACE."

T antalizing taste:  "Maybe the problem wasn't in her program. Maybe it was in the computer....Grace and her team searched everywhere for the problem... The engineers were stumped. They had checked everything. What could be causing the problem?
     Then someone saw it - a moth was trapped inside, blocking a switch from working properly.
     One of the engineers borrowed Grace's eyebrow tweezers and removed the dead moth. The computer started up again with no problem....
     Ever since then, because of Grace's sense of humor, computer glitches have been called 'bugs'."  
 
and something more: I enjoyed learning about Grace Hopper's contribution to computer programing, including the wonderful anecdote about the origin of the term 'computer bug.' The back matter of the book states that "Grace would be especially delighted to know that the Google Doodle created in honor of what would have been her 107th birthday includes the infamous 'computer bug.'" 
 

9.10.2017

Margaret and the Moon

How Margaret Hamilton
Saved the First
Lunar Landing

 Knopf Books for Young Readers
(Random House Kids)

(pub. 5.16.2017)
40 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top   

A uthor: Dean Robbins
      and illustrator: Lucy Knisley

C haracter: Margaret Hamilton

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Margaret Hamilton always had questions,. About bugs. About baseball. About the stars in the sky. She wanted answers, so she sought them out herself.  
     Margaret's curiosity extended from the intricate logic of mathematics to the farthest reaches of the galaxy and eventually led her to NASA. And there, she wrote the code for the computer commands on the Apollo missions.
     A pioneer in her field, Margaret proves that nothing can stop you from finding the answers you seek."

T antalizing taste: 
      
     "For four days, the spacecraft drew nearer to the moon. The lunar module, named the Eagle, split off to make the landing.
     But within minutes left to go, an astronaut entered a command and the master alarm buzzed.
     The Eagle's computer started preforming too many tasks.  OVERLOAD! OVERLOAD!
     The control room panicked. The moon landing was in danger!
     Everyone looked at Margaret. Had she prepared for this problem?
     Of course!
     Margaret's code made the computer ignore the extra tasks and focus on the landing.
     It brought the Eagle closer to the moon's surface.
     Closer ... Closer ... TOUCH DOWN!"
 
and something more: I so clearly remember sitting on the floor of my living room watching the landing of the Eagle and the subsequent events. I was fascinated to learn from the Author's Note that "due to an error on the astronauts' checklist, a switch ended up in the wrong position and and a computer overloaded. It looked like the lunar module might have to turn back - and it might even crash! But Margaret's brilliant programming allowed the computer to zero in on its most important tasks: landing the spacecraft safely on the moon."
      I was pleased to learn that in 2003 Margaret "won NASA's Exceptional Space Act Award for her groundbreaking contributions to the United States Space program."  A true inspiration!

7.09.2017

When Jackie Saved Grand Central

The True Story
of Jacqueline Kennedy's
Fight for an American Icon

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

(pub. 3.7.2017)
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Natasha Wing
      and illustrator: Alexandra Boiger

C haracter: Jacqueline Kennedy

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Jacqueline Kennedy loved everything about her home city, from the beauty of the parks to the grandeur of the buildings. Grand Central Terminal was one of the grandest buildings of all - but in 1968, it was in danger of destruction. Jackie couldn't imagine changing New York City's famous train station! So the former First Lady of the United States and other passionate Americans came together to save the iconic landmark, embarking on a journey that went all the way to the Supreme Court. And as they fought to preserve the past, those who loved Grand Central made history."

T antalizing taste: 
      
     "When Jackie had renovated the White House, she realized how much Americans cared about their history. New Yorkers didn't want to lose this link to their city's past either. So Jackie wasn't going to let that happen.
      Like a powerful locomotive, Jackie led the charge to preserve the landmark she and New York city loved. She joined city leaders and founded the Committee to Save Grand Central. She spoke at press conferences and made headlines." 
 
and something more: I enjoyed reading about the author's and illustrator's connections to Grand Central:
"Natasha Wing and Alexandra Boiger both say that a visit to Grand Central is not complete without walking into the Main Concourse and looking up - where the stars shine fro the cerulean ceiling.
     Natasha grew up in Connecticut, not far from New York City. Traveling by train, she was awed by Grand Central as it welcomed her to the bustling city... Alexandra spent her childhood in Germany, but after she grew up, she moved to New York City for several years and came to love Grand Central."

6.30.2017

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

Atheneum Books
for Young Readers
(Simon & Schuster)

(pub. 1.24.2017)
48 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Carole Boston
                Weatherford
      and illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon

C haracter: Maya Lin

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Lena Horne was born into the freedom struggle, to a family of teachers and activists. Her mother dreamed of being an actress, so Lena followed along as she chased small parts in vaudeville, living out of a suitcase. Then MGM came, offering Lena something more - the first ever studio contract for a black actress.
     But the roles she was considered for were maids and mammies, stereotypes that Lena refused to play. Still, she never gave up. 'Stormy Weather' became her theme song, and when she sang 'This Little Light of Mine' at a civil rights rally, she found not only her voice but her calling, her light.
     Inspiring and powerful, this is a celebration of the life of Lena Horne, the pioneering American actress and civil rights activist who refused to be treated as second class."

T antalizing taste: 
      
"At one venue, Lena was denied a cup of coffee
but was asked for autographs on her way out.
At another, German prisoners of war
were seated in front of black soldiers.
That indignity was too much for Lena to swallow.
She was fed up with white-only clubs and theaters.

So she paid her own way to perform for black troops.
She paid many visits to the base in Alabama
where the famed Tuskegee Airmen
were training to become the fist black military aviators."
 
and something more: I was thrilled to see the amazing illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon (she's the illustrator of the picture book I wrote, MY HANDS SING THE BLUES- The Childhood Journey of Romare Bearden). She kindly shared with me a few thoughts about illustrating The Legendary Miss Lena Horne

"I didn't know much about Lena Horne before working on this book, but the more I learned, read and watched, the more I liked her. I like to listen to music when I'm making art, and this was the first book I illustrated that I was able to actually listen to the person I was drawing and painting! I feel like I get to know the characters in my books through pictures and research, and I feel I really got to know Lena Horne especially well through hearing her voice and watching her movement on screen.

To create the illustrations, I used a combination of oil paint and collage. To honor her (and my) love of fashion, I put a lot of care into creating Lena's fabulous dresses; using layers of tulle and tiny paper sequins for her "Stormy Weather" dress, pleating pieces of embossed paper to replicate the pleats in her Charlie Barnet Orchestra dress, and cutting layers of silver paper petals to replicate the dress she wore at President Truman's inaugural ball. A fashionista after my own heart! She wore such beautiful things, but dealt with such ugly treatment in the entertainment business for much of her life, and held a lot of sadness inside from personal tragedy. I hope this book helps to re-illuminate all the hard work that Lena Horne did, all the firsts she accomplished to pave the way for singers and actresses of color today."


Thank you Liz! I loved hearing your thoughts. And I believe this beautiful and powerful book will indeed "re-illuminate all the hard work that Lena Horne did."

6.18.2017

Out of School and Into Nature

The Anna Comstock Story

Sleeping Bear Press
(pub. 3.15.2017)
32 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Suzanne Slade
      and illustrator:
       Jessica Lanan

C haracter: Anna Comstock

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "This picture book biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930), who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science. From the time she was a young girl, Anna was fascinated by the natural world. She loved exploring outdoors, examining wildlife and learning nature's secrets. From watching the teamwork of marching ants to following the constellations in the sky, Anna observed it all. And her interest only increased as she grew older and attended Cornell University
       ... Eventually, Anna became known as a nature expert, pioneering a movement to encourage schools to conduct science and nature classes for children outdoors, thereby increasing students' interest in nature."

T antalizing taste: 
      
"So she decided to start by teaching the teachers. Anna grabbed her pen and wrote lessons about nature's marvelous mysteries.
     Caterpillars changing into graceful butterflies.
     Water freezing into six-sided snowflakes.
     Trees turning rain and sunlight into sweet sap.
Her lessons captivated curious teachers. Soon, nature classes sprouted up in schools everywhere."
  
and something more: The "More About Anna" section at the back of Out of School and into Nature explains that "Anna is one of only four women inducted into the National Wildlife Federation's Conservation Hall of Fame... Her beloved nature-study handbook has been translated into eight languages and reprinted dozens of times. Today children around the world still enjoy her book. Many of her readers have become nature teachers, keeping her passion for the environment alive."

6.05.2017

Dorothea Lange

The Photographer Who Found the Faces of the Depression

Albert Whitman & Company
(pub. 2.28.2017)
32 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Carole Boston Weatherford
      and illustrator: Sarah Green

C haracter: Dorothea Lange

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "Dorothea Lange always wanted to be a photographer.
      She knew she could see what others missed. She understood being overlooked after polio left her with a limp and her classmates avoided her. But polio also gave Dorothea a sense of empathy, which she would never lose. 
      When the Great Depression struck, that empathy led Dorothea to take her camera to the streets. She took photos of men waiting in breadlines and sleeping on sidewalks...
      But Dorothea didn't stop there. People began to notice her photographs and soon she was working for the government. Into the dust bowl, into migrant camps, she went looking for the poor, the hungry, those who had been forgotten. She was in search of faces to depict the Great Depression. 
      In lyrical prose, Dorothea Lange tells the story of how the photographer found what she was looking for and got America to take note."

T antalizing taste: 
      
"Now the family was stranded and starving.
Dorothea shot a half-dozen or so pictures
of the mother and her children -
the last a close-up of the woman's deeply lined face.
She looks much older than her thirty-two years.

After two of the photos ran in the newspaper,
the government rushed ten tons of food to the camp.

Because Dorothea turned her lens on hunger and poverty,
Florence Owens Thompson, a full-blooded Cherokee,
became the face of the Great Depression.
And the nation could not look the other way."
 
and something more: I was fascinated to learn that the publication of Dorothea Lange's amazing photo, "Migrant Mother", in the San Francisco newspaper elicited aid from the government. When I read more about this photo, I found out that Dorothea almost didn't take the photo. She actually had finished her photo-taking and was headed home when she passed a "Pea-Pickers" sign and turned back twenty miles later. Serendipity!

5.29.2017

Maya Lin

Artist-Architect of Light and Lines

Christy Ottaviano Books
(Henry Holt and Company)
(pub. 5.2.2017)
32 pages

A True Tale with
A Cherry On Top  

A uthor: Jeanne Walker Harvey
      and illustrator: Dow Phumiruk

C haracter: Maya Lin

O
 verview from the jacket flap: 

     "You may be familiar with the iconic Vietnam Veterans Memorial, but do you know about the artist-architect who created this landmark?
     As a child, Maya Lin loved to study the spaces around her. She explored the forest in her backyard, observing woodland creatures, and used her house as a model to build tiny towns out of paper and scraps. The daughter of a clay artist and a poet, Maya grew up with art and learned to think with her hands as well as her mind. From her first experiments with light and lines to the height of her success nationwide, this is a the story of an inspiring American artist."    

T antalizing taste: 
      
"The first time Maya visited
the finished wall, she searched
for the name of the father of a friend.
When she touched the name, she cried,
just as she knew others would.

Thousands came that Veterans Day
to see and touch and remember.
Salutes, hands on hearts, honoring.
And every day since then,
visitors have done the same."
 
and something more: I cannnot begin to express my deep appreciation and admiration for everyone who has been involved in the creation of this book --  Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency (my incredible agent who found a home, a perfect home, for my manuscript), Dow Phumiruk (the amazing illustrator who absolutely astounded me with her talent and perception), Christy Ottaviano (the publisher/editor who edited with the perfect gentle touch and allowed the book to blossom with her attention to detail and incredible talent and experience), and everyone else at Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt who contributed to the book. A picture book is truly a collaborative process, and so many people had a part in it. I truly feel as if I've won the literary lottery with the publication of this book -- it's more than I ever envisioned. 
    Thank you also to my dear family and friends who always support me and encourage me in my writing. I am honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to write this book about Maya Lin and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
    And today, Memorial Day, I learned from the National Mall NPS, that three new names are being dedicated today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, bringing the total number of names to 58,318. My heartfelt thanks and appreciation and admiration to all who served.