Congratulations to Charly Palmer for winning the Coretta Scott King John Steptoe Award for Illustrator for MAMA AFRICA! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with her Song! And thanks to our wonderful editor on this project, too, Grace Kendall of Farrar Straus & Giroux!
About Kathryn Erskine
I grew up in Europe, Africa, Canada, and the United States, and was a lawyer before I figured out what I really wanted to be when I grew up—a writer! I take my inspiration from the world around me and from my personal experiences, including my childhood attending 8 different schools.
I travel a fair amount, give speeches, visit schools, etc. and try keep up my website in between. Writing time is precious -- I'm currently working on several novels: middle grade, young adult, and even adult, and some picture books. My latest novel is THE BADGER KNIGHT, an adventure. My newest (and first) picture book, MAMA AFRICA, the story of Miriam Makeba, South African civil rights activist and singer, is due to publish in 2017.Find out more
Initiative for 2018 -- Golden Shovel Book Reviews, based on the poetic form created by Terrance Hayes. Here's how it works...
Take a line from the book and write a poem where each consecutive word in the sentence ends the line, e.g., "I am a coward," the first sentence of Elizabeth Wein's CODE NAME VERITY would be a 4-line poem, the first line ending in "I," the second line ending in "am," etc.
First up: LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds
Line from the first page (last stanzas of the first verse): This story is true / It happened to me / Really / It did / It so did
The heart of this, the reality, feels achingly true
What might we be faced with, you and me?
Depends on our circumstances, and choices, really
A lurching, gut-wrenching elevator ride about what one person, many people, did
Now, what will this kid (or you or me) do, and how will he (or we) look back on what he did?
Thanks to Kristen Flowers of KOIT for interviewing me on her podcast!
If you haven't received one in the mail, here's a link to the Discussion Guide for The Incredible Magic of Being!
Today I had twins! It's the book birthday of The Incredible Magic of Being and my first picture book, Mama Africa! How Miriam Makeba Spread Hope with her Song. I hope you enjoy them both as much as I enjoyed researching and writing them!
I love this review of The Incredible Magic of Being which I'm sharing with you the day before it publishes (with just one edit to allay any fears). :-) Thanks to author Deborah M. Prum ... by the way, if you're studying Russian history, you don't want to miss her hilarious Czars and Czarinas!
This is how much I enjoyed Kathryn Erskine’s The Incredible Magic of Being: the day after I finished reading the delightful book, I picked it up and read it again. I never do that.
Julian is a 9.63 year-old boy (his calculation) who loves physics and astronomy. He empathizes so fully with the people around him that he actually senses their thoughts and feelings. Oh, and one more thing…from the sound of things, it seems as if Julian’s death might be imminent.
Julian and his family move from D.C. to Maine to a house by a lake where they plan to operate a bed and breakfast. Pookie, Julian’s teenage sister, is miserable about the move and about life in general. One could say she is a toxic waste dump of misery. Shortly after the family arrives, a lawyer comes to their door. He tells them that they have violated an easement agreement and that their neighbor is insisting they tear down the addition which Julian’s parents intended to use as a bed and breakfast.
At the end of each chapter, the reader finds a section called “Facts and Random Thoughts.” The sections contain fascinating information about physics, astronomy and Julian’s insightful reactions to the world around him.
Erskine nails Julian’s voice. He is all at once engaging, entertaining, and informative in a non-pretentious way. Although Julian is focused on end-of-life issues, the story is not maudlin in any way. The author manages to tell a poignant and moving tale without once being saccharine.
Science teachers take notice: this novel would provide an excellent complement to any section you teach on astronomy or elementary physics. For everyone else: this is a charming book, which will be much beloved by its audience.
My favorite review line for THE INCREDIBLE MAGIC OF BEING (from School Library Journal): "Julian's distinctive narration, awash in supernatural perceptions as well as a nine-year-old's natural misconceptions, is a tour de force....Touching contemporary magical realism, with a final twist that truly surprises."
STARRED REVIEW for MAMA AFRICA! From Kirkus: "An excellent perspective from which American readers can learn about apartheid and one of the pioneers who fought it through her art."
Also, illustrator Charly Palmer's artwork for MAMA AFRICA has been accepted by the Society of Illustrators for their "The Original Art" exhibit, highlighting the best artwork for children's books, 2017. Congratulations, Charly!
So thrilled to announce my new novel, THE INCREDIBLE MAGIC OF BEING!
Publishing Fall 2017 (Scholastic)
It's what happens when you take a boy named Julian, his anxiety, a telescope, a treehouse, a life jacket, a Styrofoam boat, s'mores, even a statue of the BVM (as Julian would say, "Look it up"), and shake them up with a lot of personalities ... they turn into what I hope is great ride.
Short version: Like MOCKINGBIRD, only funny.
In an effort to expand my world view beyond American and European literature (what I grew up with) I'm up to 56 countries now -- see "2016 Reading Project" -- and still reading. I'm enjoying the experience and also struggling with finding books from some countries, given my (embarrassing) English-only limitation. Currently at around a quarter of the world's nations, I fear I may only get to about half. If anyone has suggestions, please let me know!
Schools looking for class sets or multiple copies, paperbacks of SEEING RED are available through Scholastic here: http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/save-books-order-your-visiting-authors-work!
Here's a recent blog interview, with thanks to David Binder. Also, PLEASE NOTE the new tab for my "2016 READING PROJECT." I'll be updating the list of books from around the world periodically!
My 2016 Reading Project – A Children’s Book from Every Country of the World
Although I grew up in six countries, I realize that my reading has been disproportionately American and European authors. Inspired by Ann Morgan’s TED Talk and blog, A Year of Reading the World, my 2016 project is to read a children’s book from every country of the world (using the UN list of member states although I’m happy to include the observer and other states). I found links to international children’s book sources on Ann Morgan's blog, and my local librarians have been fabulous, but if anyone has advice for finding more children’s books written by non-U.S. authors or has a favorite book that meets these criteria, please contact me:
1) the author at least grew up in that country, even if living elsewhere now
2) the book is available in English
Ideally, I’d love the book to be reflective of the culture (which I interpret very broadly) or important events that happened there or be about current issues. For example, my U.S. book is All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
I’d also like a mix of picture books and novels. Frankly, I’m not a fast reader and 200 children’s novels would take a long time to read on top of other reading, writing, teaching, traveling, and life in general.
As I gather books, I’ll list them here by country, author and title, and eventually, what I’ve learned -- the fascinating differences and the common denominator, humanity. Thanks for your help! Peace, Salam, Shalom.
Mockingbird -- or Passarinha in Brazilian Portuguese -- is being made into a play in Brazil! I'll actually be there in a couple of months but will miss the production, scheduled for September 2016. I'm thrilled and honored, though. Thank you, Sao Paulo!
Thanks, Scholastic for featuring me in the "Author Spotlight" for Seeing Red and The Badger Knight!
More exciting book news coming soon ....!
Mama Africa, my first picture book, is a go! Here's the blurb from Publishers Weekly:
Grace Kendall at Farrar, Straus and Giroux has bought Mockingbird author Kathryn Erskine's debut picture book, Mama Africa, to be illustrated by Charly Palmer, also a debut. The book tells the story of Grammy Award-winning South African singer and civil-rights activist Miriam Makeba, who brought global attention to the injustice of apartheid through her music while in exile. Publication is tentatively set for 2017; Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt Agency represented the author; the illustrator represented himself.
I can't wait to share her story -- and to see the stunning illustrations from Charly Palmer!
Thanks to the Fairfax Network, here's my appearance on the Meet the Author show! There are clips about my research for Mockingbird and how I overcome writer's block, as well as info about the Mockingbird play and links to study guides for Mockingbird and Seeing Red.