Author Guest Post: “An Extreme Measure for Extreme Research” by JoAnna Lapati, author and illustrator of Guts for Glory: The Story of Civil War Soldier Rosetta Wakeman

Share

An Extreme Measure for Extreme Research

I blame my new picture book biography of Rosetta “Lyons” Wakeman for sparking my imagination and setting me off into a near quarter-century whirlwind of books, paper, and miniature toy soldiers—all in the name of research. But sometimes you have to go to extremes, especially when you’re inspired to write a book about someone as extraordinary as Wakeman, a heroic woman who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Union Army in the Civil War.

Inspired research can take you to unimaginable places physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Research–specifically travel–helped create an emotional core for my writing.

Early in my Guts for Glory research, I planned four separate trips, based on specific dates of Rosetta’s real-life letters, all with the goal of better understanding the local and regional histories of the places she traveled and fought.

A trip to Binghamton, New York, allowed me to explore the Chenango Canal area where Rosetta worked after first leaving home. I collected tourist pamphlets from visitor centers and visited the Erie Canal Village in Rome, New York, where I experienced a canal ride on a packet boat pulled by a pair of mules. I observed the steersman operating the tiller and photographed the tacking of mules, which served helpful when developing sketches. On my second trip to upstate New York, I visited the Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse, where I boarded a life-size replica of a canal boat and explored the interior live-in quarters of a cabin. Then, I went to Delaware, where my measurements were taken for a custom-tailored Union frock coat and forage cap at Grand Illusions Costume Co., a reproduction clothing manufacturer that’s no longer in business. It offered an authentic portrayal of the 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers uniform.

Next, I made a brief visit to Alexandria, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., where I photographed the United States Capitol from the Supreme Court, where the Old Capitol Prison once stood. This particular image was helpful for developing the center spread showing where Lyons and her regiment guarded Washington, D.C. Lyons was on duty at the Old Capitol Prison from August to October 1863 (Note: Rosetta Wakeman appears on the Carroll Prison Guard Reports during August, September, and October of 1863).

My last trip was to Louisiana, where I took a luncheon cruise on the steamboat Natchez. Then I followed the Red River Campaign, traveling by car from Algiers, outside of New Orleans, (where Lyons Wakeman is buried) to Shreveport, visiting places of interest along the way like Lafayette, Natchitoches, Alexandria, and important landmarks such as the Mansfield State Historic Site and the Pleasant Hill Battle Field Park. All of this travel helped me to better interpret Rosetta’s experience.

Inspired research can stretch your imagination further than expected.

One could spend a lifetime in study, as many Civil War scholars and buffs do. During my research, I devoured book after book, finding bibliographies treasure troves of information, leading to the discovery of works by nineteenth-century as well as modern-day authors and artists. I read books by writers such as Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Jacobs and Richard Taylor and artists such as Winslow Homer, William Michael Harnett, Fanny Palmer, and Lily Martin Spencer. Each work contributed to my understanding of a bygone era, fueling my imagination. and eagerness.

But what better way to understand a character than to walk in their ill-fitting brogans, which I did as a Civil War re-enactor. I could use my five senses in experiences much like Rosetta’s. I’ve had plenty of black gunpowder grit between my teeth when tearing open blank (ammunition) paper cartridges during living history and mock battle events.

I’ve suffered from blisters on both Achilles heels after light marching, later relegating to wearing plastic bread bags on both my feet to reduce the friction, only to have them gathering at my toes.

I wore my blood-stained wool socks as my Red Badge of Courage until discovering sometime later with much horror, my rescue dog had snacked on them. Gross! I recall stepping and sliding into a manure patch when pitching my army pup tent. Thankfully, I never lost my balance. And during rainy events, my uniform smelled like a barn animal, but during dry events, I favored the lingering trace of campfire smoke left on my uniform.

Whatever you absorb, even if it’s by incredible means, you might end up only including about 10% of it. Leaving out 90% of hard-fought, time-invested research is one of the toughest parts of the writing and/or illustrating process. After all, your character’s emotional core, built through that research, is the true heart of the story.

Inspired research can ultimately carry your interest beyond life’s obstacles (A.K.A. The Struggle) and into something beyond your biggest dreams.

So, what inspired me about Rosetta Wakeman to devote over two decades of study? In hindsight, I was inspired by a young, strong-willed woman, struggling for the privilege to live independently, an unobtainable goal for most women in that time, especially a poor, rural farm girl, who put herself at great risk with her choices.

Writing and illustrating Guts for Glory involved a lot of choices, too, along with sacrifice and continued research of the actual publishing process. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) organization to learn more about the industry. Each year, I remained committed to attending the New England Regional Conferences. I learned how to write a manuscript, create a dummy book, assemble and update an illustrator’s portfolio, create eye catching promotional cards. I received constructive criticism year after year for five years. I even put Guts For Glory aside and began working on a second book until Eerdmans contacted me in 2013. I had forgotten I sent them an unsolicited manuscript! And now the book is here.

I loved living inside a book, filled with creative bliss for 20 years. It was truly inspiring. Reality is much harder. So, what research is your writing inspiring you to do?

Published February 27th, 2024 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

About the Book: A dramatically illustrated biography of Private Rosetta “Lyons” Wakeman, the only soldier whose letters capture the Civil War from a woman’s perspective. In 1862, the war between North and South showed no signs of stopping. In rural New York, nineteen-year-old Rosetta Wakeman longed for a life beyond the family farm. One day she made a brave, bold she cut her braid and disguised herself as a man. No one suspected that “Lyons” was a woman—not even when she signed up to fight for the Union. As Rosetta’s new regiment traveled to Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Louisiana, she sent letter after letter home to New York. Army life wasn’t easy, but Rosetta knew it was where she belonged—keeping her family safe and her country free. Through intricately detailed scratchboard art and excerpts from Rosetta’s letters, this fascinating biography introduces young readers to an unconventional woman who was determined to claim her own place in history. Memorable and inspiring, Guts for Glory is a stirring portrait of the Civil War and the courage of those who fought on its front lines.

Book Trailer:

Discussion Guide:

About the Author: JoAnna Lapati is a writer and artist based in Warwick, Rhode Island. While researching this book, she retraced Rosetta’s footsteps by traveling to sites like the Chenango Canal, the US Capitol, and the Mansfield Historic Site Museum and Pleasant Hill Battle Park. JoAnna also spent six years as a Civil War reenactor with the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteers- disguised as a man, just like Rosetta. Guts for Glory is JoAnna’s debut picture book. Visit her website at joannalapati.com.

Thank you, JoAnna, for this look into your research and how research inspires!

There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables by Kyle Lukoff, Illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Share

There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables
Author: Kyle Lukoff
Illustrator: Andrea Tsurumi
Published February 27th, 2024 by Henry Holt and Co.

Summary: A hilarious new picture book that exposes vegetables for what they truly are—leaves, roots, flowers, and stalks—by National Book Award Finalist and Newbery Honor winner Kyle Lukoff, perfect for fans of the Our Universe series.

Chester plans to have a salad for lunch, but in order to do that, he’ll need vegetables. So, off he goes to the community garden, except he quickly learns that he won’t be dressing a salad anytime soon. Instead, the vegetables start dressing him down. According to them, “vegetables” don’t exist!

I know what you are thinking: What the bell pepper? Vegetables are totally real! But here’s the thing: Kale is just a leaf, broccoli is a flower, potatoes are roots, and celery…well, stalks. Thanks to a lively, sassy cast of talking “veggies,” Chester learns a valuable lesson about categories and how they shape our understanding of the world.

With a slyly informative text and illustrations that will crack readers up, the schooling in There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables will be easy to digest and is a total treat.

About the Creators: 

Kyle Lukoff is the author of the Newbery Honor-winning, National Book Award finalist, Too Bright to See, the Stonewall Award winner When Aidan Became a Brother, among other titles for young readers. While becoming a writer, he worked as a bookseller and school librarian. He lives in Philadelphia, and hopes you’re having a nice day. (kylelukoff.com)

Andrea Tsurumi(they/them) is an author, illustrator and cartoonist originally from New York who now lives with their spouse and dog in Philadelphia. A gigantic text and image nerd, they studied sequential storytelling for an English BA at Harvard and an illustration MFA at the School of Visual Arts. While working in publishing for several years, they dove into their two big loves: indie comics and children’s books. Their first book, Accident! was an NPR Great Read and their second book, Crab Cake, won the Vermont Red Clover Book Award. When they’re not inventing croissant-based animals, they like reading about ordinary and ridiculous history. (andreatsurumi.com)

Review: This book IS slyly informative, and I love it! What seems at the surface like a silly book about vegetables setting a young child straight about their really identities is actually a look into scientific classification. The book definitely will bring the giggles while also getting kids thinking about what makes something what it is called. This book is a must have for classrooms and libraries as it is a great read aloud and will move perfectly into an educational discussion, especially when the author’s note is added to the read aloud.

Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect for talking about classifications–both scientific and social. I can imagine it being used in a life science class mostly because they could start with the vegetable extended example and expand from there. Though within the book, the vegetables also share money, countries, and words as examples of social constructed categories, so these would be fascinating to extend into math/economics, history/geography, and language arts.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Are there vegetables?
  • Who decides what something is classified as?
  • Why are fruits real but not vegetables?
  • How would you define a vegetable? Do you think Chester’s definition is correct?
  • What other things are classified certain ways but you aren’t sure why?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Humorous picture books that also educate

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Signature

**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR for providing a copy for review!**

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 3/11/24

Share

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
For readers of all ages

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop we host which focuses on sharing what we’re reading. This Kid Lit version of IMWAYR focuses primarily on books marketed for kids and teens, but books for readers of all ages are shared. We love this community and how it offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. The Kid Lit IMWAYR was co-created by Kellee & Jen at Teach Mentor Texts.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

Bold_line

Tuesday: Educators’ Guide for The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Play is Good Trouble” by Brittney Morris, Author of The Jump

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

Bold_line

Kellee

This week is my Future Problem Solvers State Competition which keeps me quite busy, so I won’t be able to post today; however, you can always see what books I’ve been reading by checking out my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

Ricki

It is my week off–see you next week!

Bold_line

Tuesday: There’s No Such Thing As Vegetables by Kyle Lukoff, Illustrated by Andrea Tsurumi

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “An Extreme Measure for Extreme Research” by JoAnna Lapati, Author of Guts for Glory: The Story of Civil War Soldier Rosetta Wakeman

Bold_line

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

 Signature andRickiSig

Author Guest Post: “Play is Good Trouble” by Brittney Morris, Author of The Jump

Share

“Play is Good Trouble”

“Speak up, speak out, get in the way. Get in good trouble. Necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.” — Representative John Lewis.

I’m the mother of a [not so little anymore] toddler, and a video game developer. Play is a core part of my daily life, and I fully believe it has the power to change the world. How? A few ways. Let me elaborate.

Play fosters empathy.

If I asked you to empathize with a hypothetical border agent in 1940’s Eastern Europe, you might look at me sideways and maybe conceptualize the scenario from the perspective of an onlooker in the 21st century. Now, imagine if I handed you a controller, and you stepped into a checkpoint booth in loyal service to [fictional] Arstotzka. Now imagine that a woman steps up to your booth and hands you an expired passport and a necklace as a bribe, begging to be let through with her husband who asked you to let her in only moments prior. Imagine she tells you she’s sick and may never see him again. She may even be carrying a baby. You get the idea.

Play invites people in.

Remember the last time you sat down to listen to a speech or a presentation or a lecture on a new subject, and maybe you zoned out for a bit, looked up, and realized the speaker is now so far into the material that you’re totally lost? That might have been me on day 1 of macroeconomics my junior year of college. In fact it definitely was. Now, maybe if we’d all sat in groups and played a game of Settlers of Catan, basic macroeconomic concepts might have jumped out at us in a tangible way: resource management, supply and demand, scarcity, monopoly, the benefits of trade, and even opportunity cost. Even folks who are brand new to economics who might be intimidated by an hour-long 37-slide presentation, might feel a little more welcomed into playing a game about it.

Play makes big problems feel tackle-able.

For this last point, I’d like to cite my own source. Enter, The Jump.

I was inspired to write The Jump after seeing a mini docu-series about the Cicada 3301 cryptology puzzle, which was a real-life worldwide scavenger hunt posted by an elusive group under mysterious circumstances. While the Cicada 3301 puzzle hosted individual adults, I realized how impactful it would be to see teams of diverse teens taking on such a puzzle. And so was born The Jump, featuring Jax, Yas, Han, and Spider, taking on an oil refinery threatening to take over their neighborhood.

I wanted to show why an unethical multinational conglomerate should be VERY afraid of our youth, and even moreso if they’re getting into good trouble. Even by playing a game.

Published March 7, 2023 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
(Paperback Release: February 27th, 2024)

About the Book: Influence is power. Power creates change. And change is exactly what Team Jericho needs.

Jax, Yas, Spider, and Han are the four cornerstones of Team Jericho, the best scavenger hunting team in all of Seattle. Each has their own specialty: Jax, the puzzler; Yas, the parkourist; Spider, the hacker; and Han, the cartographer. But now with an oil refinery being built right in their backyard, each also has their own problems. Their families are at risk of losing their jobs, their communities, and their homes.

So when The Order, a mysterious vigilante organization, hijacks the scavenger hunting forum and concocts a puzzle of its own, promising a reward of influence, Team Jericho sees it as the chance of a lifetime. If they win this game, they could change their families’ fates and save the city they love so much. But with an opposing team hot on their heels, it’s going to take more than street smarts to outwit their rivals.

About the Author: Brittney Morris is the bestselling author of SLAY, The Cost of Knowing, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Wings of Fury, and The Jump. She also writes video games and has contributed to projects such as The Lost Legends of Redwall, Subnautica: Below ZeroSpider-Man 2 for PS5, and Wolverine for PS5. Brittney is an NAACP Image Award nominee, an ALA Black Caucus Youth Literary Award winner, and an Ignite Award Finalist. She has an economics degree from Boston University and spends her spare time reading, playing video games, and not doing enough yoga. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband Steven and their son Atlas.

Thank you, Brittney!
Adults often need to be reminded of the importance of play.

Educators’ Guide for The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi

Share

The Partition Project
Author: Saadia Faruqi
Published: February 27th, 2024 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: When her grandmother comes off the airplane in Houston from Pakistan, Mahnoor knows that having Dadi move in is going to disrupt everything about her life. She doesn’t have time to be Dadi’s unofficial babysitter—her journalism teacher has announced that their big assignment will be to film a documentary, which feels more like storytelling than what Maha would call “journalism”.

As Dadi starts to settle into life in Houston and Maha scrambles for a subject for her documentary, the two of them start talking. About Dadi’s childhood in northern India—and about the Partition that forced her to leave her home and relocate to the newly created Pakistan. As details of Dadi’s life are revealed, Dadi’s personal story feels a lot more like the breaking news that Maha loves so much. And before she knows it, she has the subject of her documentary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for the author:

You can also access the educators’ guide here.

You can learn more about The Partition Project on Saadia Faruqi’s website.

Flagged Passage: View an excerpt HERE.

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall

Kellee Signature

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 3/4/24

Share

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
For readers of all ages

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop we host which focuses on sharing what we’re reading. This Kid Lit version of IMWAYR focuses primarily on books marketed for kids and teens, but books for readers of all ages are shared. We love this community and how it offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. The Kid Lit IMWAYR was co-created by Kellee & Jen at Teach Mentor Texts.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!

Bold_line

Tuesday: Trent’s Favorite Books He Read When He Was 9

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Be Kind to the Language” by Chris Lynch, Author of Walkin’ the Dog

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

Bold_line

Kellee

It’s my week off! I will see you next week! To learn more about any of these books, click on any title/image to go to the book’s Goodreads page or check out my read bookshelf on Goodreads.

Ricki

If you haven’t read Solito by Javier Zamora, I can’t recommend it enough. I saw that this memoir received a lot of awards last year, and I hadn’t read it, so I suggested it for my book club. It is incredibly well-written. I cried a lot.

Bold_line

Ricki

Reading for class SSR: Gone Wolf by Amber McBride

Reading for book club: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Reading with my 7yo: Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Stuart Gibbs

Reading with my 10yo: Holes by Louis Sachar

Bold_line

Tuesday: Educators’ Guide for The Partition Project by Saadia Faruqi

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Play is Good Trouble” by Brittney Morris, Author of The Jump

Bold_line

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

 Signature andRickiSig

Author Guest Post: “Be Kind to the Language” by Chris Lynch, Author of Walkin’ The Dog

Share

“Be Kind to the Language”

“Wee cliche.”

I have written those words in the margin of my students’ work so many times it is bordering on becoming a wee cliche itself (bordering on? I hear my students cough). To avoid that, I occasionally drop the “wee” part for variety. But the wee is in there for good reason; to call something cliche is among the most stinging critiques one can make of a writer. We are, after all, striving for originality at all times in our work, so to call cliche at somebody is tough stuff. That is one reason I added the wee in the first place—to soften the blow.

But there is another important reason, and that is the fact that I’m usually not flagging one of the big, whopping clichés like “It was a dark and stormy night,” known to writing students the world over. My vigilance is overwhelmingly applied to the small, apparently harmless, turns of phrase that pop up all over our writing without our even noticing. Yes, I include myself in this (boy, do I love editors and editing).

But they are not harmless, are they? As I am known to point out to my students as I attempt to talk them out of hating me: those very small over-common terms and phrases that infect our sentences are the equivalent of termites eating away at the foundations of our prose. They are insidious, and lethal. How many times do we read a piece and get to the end merely shrugging, thinking “That was okay, but it left no pleasant aftertaste”? Going back, you may well find that the language, the syntax, the rhythms (yes, there are cliches of pace and rhythm and theme) are so samey compared to what I have read before. If that is your own writing you are going over, look for all the easy choices, the phrases like broad daylight or a twinkle in his eye, that you almost certainly would not have fallen back on if you hadn’t already heard them a billion times in your life. As a dedicated mentor, I like to emphasize that having heard something a billion times is precisely why you do NOT want to repeat it. Even if it is not a literal repetition of something common, if you even feel like you have heard something before, then treat it as if you have. The joyful endgame here is that in almost every instance where I call out a wee cliche to my students, they come back at me with a fillip, a flipflop, a fandango that instantly stamps that sentence as theirs and nobody else’s.

Now, I am not a linguistic brute. I know these minor weakness of phrase are acceptable in everyday life. Social discourse is scarcely imaginable without them. But. Your creative writing is supposed to be your singularity. You get to lovingly labor over it and polish it until it fully represents you and your artful spirit. So, while you can say in conversation, it is what it is (if you MUST), once you have put it in writing you have expended five words to say exactly nothing. That is a fair description of what we aim to eliminate in a creative writing program.

And while we are at it, please stop using the word Dad as a pejorative? That hurts my feelings.

Publishing March 12th, 2024 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

About the Book: “Lynch is back and better, smarter, and funnier than ever.” —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award Winner

A boy learns how to be a friend from man’s best friend in this funny and moving middle grade novel about humans being able to change and dogs changing us from acclaimed author Chris Lynch.

In a family of strong personalities with very strong points of view, Louis is what his mother lovingly calls “the inactivist,” someone who’d rather kick back than stand out. He only hopes he can stay under the radar when he starts high school in the fall, his first experience with public school after years of homeschooling.

But when a favor for a neighbor and his stinky canine companion unexpectedly turns into a bustling dog-walking business, Louis finds himself meeting an unprecedented number of new friends—both human and canine. Agatha, a quippy and cagey girl his age always seems to be telling two truths and a lie. Cyrus, a few years his senior, promises he’s going to show Louis how to be a better person, whether Louis wants him to or not. And then there are the dogs: misbehaving border terriers, the four (possible stolen) sausage dogs, the rest of Louis’s charges, and a mysterious white beast who appears at a certain spot at the edge of the woods.

Dogs and human alike all seem to have something they want to teach Louis, including his menacing older brother who keeps turning up everywhere. But is Louis ready to learn the lesson he needs most: how to stop being a lone wolf and be part of a pack?

About the Author: Chris Lynch is the award–winning author of several highly acclaimed young adult novels, including Printz Honor Book FreewillIcemanGypsy Davey, and Shadow Boxer—all ALA Best Books for Young Adults—as well as Killing Time in Crystal CityLittle Blue LiesPiecesKill SwitchAngry Young Man, and Inexcusable, which was a National Book Award finalist and the recipient of six starred reviews. Chris is the author of middle grade novel Walkin’ the Dog. He holds an MA from the writing program at Emerson College. He teaches in the creative writing MFA program at Lesley University. He lives in Boston and in Scotland.

Thank you, Chris, for these pointers to focus students’, and our, writing!