Saturday, August 20, 2011

Not the Cool Kids.

Welcome to Nonfiction Monday!

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My name is Ana María Rodríguez and I am your host today. I invite you to explore the timely post I have prepared for you. It is right on time because children are back to school and parents, teachers, and librarians are getting organized for a new year filled with fun learning experiences.
Reading is one of such experiences and one of my interests as a writer is to get kids excited about reading in a way that will motivate them to develop a life-long habit that will enrich their lives. Reading opens our eyes to the world, helps us make better decisions, entertains us, and offers sources of inspiration and motivation to overcome what keeps us from planning and tirelessly pursuing life-changing goals.
I am quite interested in reluctant readers who have low expectations for themselves. Regardless of the causes of their feelings, books for this audience can play a powerful role changing their perspective of themselves, and instilling the courage to try harder and never give up. So, when I read Sandra McLeod Humphrey’s Dare to Dream!:25 Extraordinary Lives, I knew I had found a valuable tool to place in front of the eyes of a child or teen in need of inspiration.

I believe a child with little natural inclination toward reading will find the short and to the point chapters appealing. The 25 Extraordinary Lives presented in Mrs. McLeod’s book include past and present real women and men who accepted the challenge of dire circumstances and succeeded at living meaningful lives. I was lucky the day I contacted Mrs. McLeod for an interview. She was getting ready for a book fair, but kindly answered my questions:

ANB: What motivated you to become a children's author?
SMH: After 31 years as a clinical psychologist, I retired and began my second career as a children's author. This is what I fondly refer to as "the dessert" of my life! I love kids and I love to write, so it makes for a perfect second career!

ANB: You have several books published on topics that affect kids directly, such as bullying. But, why did you write Dare to Dream?

SMH: I did a lot of school visits and I found so many kids who felt like "outsiders," who felt they "didn't fit in." They were discouraged, they didn't believe in themselves, and they had no dreams. Just as I wrote Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs to share the students' personal bullying experiences with my readers, I wrote Dare to Dream!: 25 Extraordinary Lives to give kids hope and a reason to dream. The book is for all kids everywhere, but it is especially for those kids who are not the "cool kids." It's especially for those kids who need a dream and hope for the future. All the biographies in Dare to Dream! are about people who were not accepted by their peers or who were considered "social misfits" or who just did not believe in themselves in the beginning. They all had great obstacles to overcome: some were physical, some were psychological, some were financial, and some were social. Through hard work and perseverance, each of these individuals overcame their particular obstacle and attained his or her dream. What I want to show kids is that even with a rough start, you can still find yourself and get back on track to a great life. So often it's the "loners" or the kids who are "different" who end up making the greatest societal contributions in the end.

ANB: Can you give us a sneak preview of your next book coming in November, They Stood Alone? What will readers find in this book that is different from Dare to Dream?

SMH: Whereas the subjects of the biographies in Dare to Dream! had problems "fitting in" and being accepted by their peers as youth, the biographies in They Stood Alone!: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference are all about people who refused to conform to the current societal beliefs, restrictions, and expectations of their time and by stepping out and away from the crowd, they changed their world (and ours).

ANB: Any last words for children, teachers, librarians, and parents?

SMH: I write books to help kids believe in themselves and to make good choices, and I also write books to inspire our kids to follow their hearts and never give up their dreams. My advice for all adults would be to encourage their kids/students to believe in themselves and to provide a variety of good role models who can show kids that "success" can be defined as doing what you love and loving what you do and that there are innumerable routes to that success. And, for kids, as I've already said, I want them to discover their passions, follow their hearts, never give up their dreams, and not forget to give back to society when they can.

Thank you, Sandra!

Dare to Dream! is based on many autobiographical works and includes a long list of references for young readers who would like to know more about these real-life heroes and heroines. Dare to Dream! is a starting point. It could lure reluctant readers into reading and help building a life-long love for books that will change their lives.

Sandra McLeod Humphrey, (2005) Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY ISBN: 1-59102-280-0
Available on paperback and for Kindle (As of August 20, 2011, it is on the top 100 Kindle books, children’s books, biographies category)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"SECRET OF THE BLOODY HIPPO...AND MORE!" receives an outstanding review!

I begin my first post with a celebration. SIMPLY SCIENCE blog has given "SECRET OF THE BLOODY HIPPO...AND MORE!" high praise. Thank you, SIMPLY SCIENCE! This book is one of six in the Animal Secrets Revealed Series! each book presents five "secrets" or amazing animal adaptations, such as why the hippo's skin looks pink-red, what's the lion's mane for, how horses cool their brains, or what makes the chameleon's tongue so powerful. To discover each of the secrets, readers tag along with scentists as they plan and execute the experiments and delight us with anecdotes. For example, the chameleon's scientist had a good laugh when a chameleon shot its sticky tongue at his nose. It took a while until the chameleon released him! The books are illustrated with color photos, most of them courtesy of the scientists I interviewed. I added short sidebars, activities, a bibliography, and a list of websites with more information. I invite you to listen to my interview in BlogTalk Radio, check The Animal Secrets Revealed Series! in my publisher's page and my page in Cheers! and I'll see you August 22nd when I'll host Nonfiction Monday. I hope to see you then!