Last week I had the privilege of getting to visit the students and faculty of C.S. Driver Middle School in Marcellus. I had the most wonderful time talking to all of their nearly 700 students, in a variety of settings from presentations in their auditorium to meeting with small groups in the library to visiting some 5th grade classrooms. The kids were so well prepared for my visit and had tons of enthusiasm and curiosity about writing, travel, etc. It was a fantastic day from start to finish. I hope to return some time in the future!
It’s always exciting when you see a book you’ve written arrive on your doorstep. And when that book is a picture book, it’s also thrilling to page through and discover the illustrator’s depiction of your story. I was delighted at how Gary Undercuffler brought my character Francisco to life.
On Friday I found out that the Texas Library Association selected my book Francisco’s Kites to be on this year’s Tejas Star Reading List. According to the TXLA website, “The Tejas Star Reading List Task Force annually selects a recommended reading list of bilingual English/Spanish books or books written in Spanish from books published in the three years prior to the list being published. The list is prepared for use by children ages 5-12.”
Want to learn more?
Whether you’re a city person or a country dweller, birds keep us all company around the globe. During the two years when I lived in Australia, I was completely captivated by the birds — both in my backyard and in the botanical gardens I loved to visit. It never ceased to surprise me how sulfur-crested cockatoos or colorful galahs just flitted by all the time. So I wrote an article in The Old Schoolhouse magazine titled “Birds of the World: A Unit Study.” Whether you homeschool or not, there are lots of fun activities to try with kids of all ages. I’d love to hear from any of you who try some of them!
From the goblins of medieval France to those of the Harry Potter books, people have been captivated by these mythical creatures for many centuries. Why are goblins associated with Halloween in some places but at Christmas in others? Some goblins, like the ones in J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, are truly evil. But others seem to be more friendly, or at the very least helpful, to humans .
My new book Goblins came out this past week. It’s part of the Creatures of Fantasy series published by Cavendish Square. With colorful illustrations and creepy tales throughout, the book is geared toward readers in Grades 5-8. Want to learn more and see some sample pages? Check out this link:https://cavendishsq.com/title/Goblins
And in case you’d like to see a sneak peek of the cover, here it is:
It’s no surprise that I often blog about the exciting, disgusting or quirky topics that I get to research and write about from month to month. I am almost wrapped up with a project I’ve been working on about South Dakota. I chose South Dakota from a number of places because I wanted to learn more about a place I didn’t know that much about. I was in South Dakota briefly as a 12-year-old, back in 1984. I visited Mount Rushmore and Badlands National Park. Now, if only I could find the stellar pictures of a much younger me in striped knee socks and a bad 1980s hairdo. That would be fantastic and embarrassing! Anyway, I had no idea that South Dakota produced a lot of the nation’s sunflower seeds and would never have tried baking sunflower seed cookies if I hadn’t been working on this book. I also would not have known to add viewing the night sky in Badlands NP to my long bucket list. Look at the views in this picture by Wally Pacholka:
The rest of November and some of December will have me working on a middle school book about trolls and troll mythology and also a book for young readers about the differences between coniferous and deciduous trees. Both topics have more complexity than you might think at first glance. I’ll keep you posted on whatever I find out…Happy researching!
It’s always great to get a positive review of our books. This one just came out on The Latino Author website:
Francisco’s Kites – Las cometas de Francisco
By Alicia Z. Klepeis, Illustrations by Gary Undercuffler, Translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura
Publisher: Piñata Books – Arte Público Press, Houston, Texas
This children’s book excellently captures the mood of a young boy who is missing his friends left behind in El Salvador. He is wishing he had a kite, but his mom can’t afford to buy him one. He decides to make one.
This decision takes him on a journey that is fun, exciting, and intriguing not to mention inventive and filled with ingenuity. You have to read the story to see what happens next, but I guarantee that your child will enjoy Francisco’s story.
This tale is a testament to what a child can do when they have that creative gene working. The book is written for children between the ages of 4 to 8, and it’s almost a guarantee that your child will want to build a kite once he or she reads this book. The story is cleverly done to provide entertainment and knowledge at the same time. Your child will learn how to be creative, how to be resourceful, how to be inventive, and get exposure to another language.
The illustrations are created with much thought in mind and it shows. In addition to the main plot, the author has interjected things from the Salvadoran culture so that it enhances the story and makes it more interesting. What a good way for a child to learn about a new culture!
Because the book is bilingual is an added plus. This is another great teaching tool for a parent or teacher.
Source: Book was provided by author for review. It was reviewed by Corina Martinez Chaudhry.
One of the best things about being a kids’ writer is that you are always learning new things. In the past year alone, I have researched and written nonfiction books about ogre-faced spiders, assassin bugs, goblin mythology, bizarre medical practices through history and many other topics. I’ve also written about Moses and Pythagoras. Artwork throughout the ages related to these topics was fantastic!
One of the great things about researching for my World Adventures fiction books was the armchair travel travel I did to Italy, India, and Egypt. It was tough not to stuff my face with pasta as I researched cooking schools in Tuscany. And I’ve definitely added many new destinations to my bucket list!
I’ve just turned in two manuscripts related to zombies in the natural world. The research was disgusting at times…but I definitely learned a lot. Next up, a project on South Dakota. More wanderlust is bound to be filling my head!
Here’s what reviewer Marianne Snow had to say about Francisco’s Kites on the excellent blog Latin@s in Kid Lit:
MY TWO CENTS: I love how Alicia Klepeis so deftly and unassumingly weaves together a variety of topics in this dual language book. With themes like homesickness, immigration, recycling, ingenuity, and family, Francisco’s Kites might easily become cluttered or scattered, but it’s not. Instead, it’s a simple story about a boy who creatively channels his past experiences – flying kites in his former home in El Salvador – to establish himself in windy Chicago, spend quality time with his mom, meet new people, and work on saving the earth. Readers will enjoy following the inventive Francisco, learning about kites, and maybe even picking up some information about Salvadoran food (pupusas – yum!). Meanwhile, Gary Undercuffler’s charmingly retro – but still fresh, clean, and colorful – illustrations add to the airy, buoyant tone of the book.
Another perk of this book is its message about recycling, which is delivered clearly without being heavy-handed. As they observe Francisco resourcefully collecting trash and other used objects to make kites, readers will learn about repurposing, a recycling strategy that anyone can try. These days, we know about the benefits of recycling, and no doubt children constantly hear about it at school. But many neighborhoods, towns, and even larger cities don’t have accessible, user-friendly services and resources like curbside pickup or community recycling bins. If kids don’t have access to these services at home, it’s important for them to learn about other options – like repurposing, which can provide them with fun, easy ways to help the earth and feel like they’re making a difference. When young readers pick up a book like Francisco’s Kites, who knows how they’ll be inspired?
There are tips for teachers as well. Want to see more?
I just received a lovely review of my book Francisco’s Kites on the Spark & Pook blog. Here are a few tidbits from the review:
“This book is recommended for children ages 4-8, but I think you could easily extend it up to age 10 or so. This would be a great book to add to a collection of high quality bilingual children’s books, but I think it would be great for all children. I would also recommend it to teachers and parents teaching about Hispanic culture or recycling.”
Want to see the other things the reviewer liked about the book?
Sometimes it can seem funny how a kids’ book gets put together. An editor gives you an assignment with word count, style guidelines, and so on. Then you’re off to the races…frantically gathering information from as many sources as you can find. Being a child of the 1970s, I love inter-library loaning a huge stack of books as a way to get information and inspiration. The internet can be super-helpful too, of course, but there is something magical about leafing through the pages of a real book. Earlier this spring I was thrilled when a research librarian was able to get in a first edition book about British Goblins — even signed by the author.
Months, or sometimes even years later, an email arrives saying that it’s time to look at the proofs for your work. It can seem like a foreign entity to you if the wait is long enough. But I am always grateful to see how the editors, layout and design team take a Word file and turn it into a thing of beauty. Photos that match the text I wrote? Cool. Illustrations an artist created especially for my story? Awesome. And while it may be embarrassing to admit, I also get excited to see my name on whatever design of cover has been chosen for my work.
Recently, I have seen my name in close proximity to a coffin for my vampires book, below a man having his head drilled for a book on bizarre medicine, and nearby a group of freaky-looking goblins for a mythology book.
Some authors may dread the proofs but not me. Bring them on!