Author Carolyn Leiloglou Shares Her Library Love + A Giveaway!

Please welcome author Carolyn Leiloglou to Frog on a Blog! Carolyn’s debut picture book Library’s Most Wanted was just released in May by Pelican Publishing. As a public library employee for nearly thirteen years now, I’m a huge library supporter. During this uncertain time, with many libraries still closed, including my workplace, props go out to my coworkers for all the hard work they’ve done to bring library services to the community via digital means. Just because the building is closed, doesn’t mean the library’s commitment to the people it serves has been shut down.

But I’m not the only one who loves libraries. It’s clear that Carolyn loves them too! Let’s hear from her about how her library love has grown over the years.

I have a surprising admission. Even though I’m an author and my debut picture book, Library’s Most Wanted, is about libraries… I didn’t grow up a library patron.

I know, I know. You thought it was mandatory for all authors to spend their childhoods roaming the stacks at their local public library. It sounds very idyllic, but, alas, that was not my childhood.

I remember my mom taking me to the library once in fifth grade for a report on Vincent van Gogh. I’m sure we must have gone other times, but it was rare. More often, my mom would take us to a bookstore, allowing us to choose a book. I suppose that was easier than having to remember due dates or deal with library fines. As a mom of four book-misplacing kids, I can attest that it was likely cheaper.

But my relationship to the library changed in fourth grade. My classroom was right next to the school library, which we visited frequently. This was where I first found The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which led to a lifelong love of fantasy. This was also the year I began writing my first novel, inspired by Redwall, one of my bookstore-trip selections.

It wasn’t until I had my own children that I became a regular library user. I’m fortunate to live in a large city that has a wonderful public library system. They are always trying to innovate and put together great programs, especially ones geared toward getting kids interested in reading and learning.

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So when I started taking my own young kids to the library, I discovered this wealth of wonderful picture books I never knew existed. I had always wanted to write, and I assumed I’d write fantasy novels. But now that I was reading one picture book after another to my children, something magical happened. I started to think I could write them too.

Of course. What parent hasn’t thought that? And like most parents who have tried to write their own picture books, my first attempts were clumsy at best.

But I kept having kids (four total), and I kept reading picture books. And my wonderful library, with its consistently updated collection, allowed me to absorb the essence of what a picture book should be.

In fact, while books on writing craft are helpful, there’s nothing that can compare to the education that reading and rereading hundreds of picture books can give.

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For years, we have had a library day—a day of the week where going to the library is part of our routine. We return books we’ve finished, pick up new books—I almost always have something on hold—and my kids roam the aisles, pulling random books off the shelves, looking for that next book that will capture their imagination.

And just like the library inspired me to write, I’ve seen that tendency sprout in my children. One of them writes daily. Another draws his own comics. The younger ones write stories and picture books. And because they’re constantly reading, they too, are getting an education in writing.

Right now—March 2020 when I’m writing this—we are living in an uncertain time. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, many libraries have temporarily closed their doors. But despite that, libraries continue to innovate as resources for their communities. Some libraries are offering no-contact, walk-up hold pick-ups. Others have abolished due dates and fines during this crisis. My own library has made it easier than ever to get a digital library card to check out audio and ebooks.

Having a public library is a gift that I don’t want to take for granted. Now more than ever.

Carolyn Leiloglou writes poems and stories for children which have been published in Clubhouse Jr., Ladybug, and Wildflowers. She is the author of the Noah Green Junior Zookeeper series, and her debut picture book, Library’s Most Wanted, released May 2020. You can find her on her blog, housefullofbookworms.com, where she reviews her favorite children’s books each month.

Hooray, it’s Giveaway time!

Carolyn Leiloglou and Pelican Publishing are giving away a copy of Library’s Most Wanted to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment on this post by July 19, 2020 and you’ll be entered to win this beautiful picture book! A winner will be chosen randomly and notified on July 20, 2020. Contest open to U.S. residents only.


Summer Reading

Hey, everyone! Are you looking for something for your kids to do for the summer? Check your local library’s website. Summer Reading Programs are going on now, all around the United States, even if your library is closed, because a lot of it can be accessed online. Your kids can enjoy entertaining and educational programming, crafts, and storytimes, as well as earn prizes for all the books they read. Take a look!

Inspiring Young Readers with Facts and Fiction by Henry Herz

Please welcome picture book author Henry Herz back to Frog on a Blog. You may remember the interview I did with Henry last year. Or you may be familiar with one of his wonderful books. Just this year, three new picture books were published, and I recently discovered another is set to be published in February. Henry is on a roll! Henry’s stopped in today to talk a little about how Rudyard Kipling and the amazing diversity of the animal kingdom helped influence one of his latest books, How the Squid Got Two Long Arms, and how they can inspire your writing too, so that you can entertain and educate kids.

Rudyard Kipling is perhaps best known for his JUST SO STORIES, a compilation of delightful fictional explanations for why many animals are the way they are. Some of its short stories include: How the Whale Got His Throat, How the Camel Got His Hump, How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin, How the Leopard Got His Spots, and How the Elephant Got His Trunk.

Kipling

Kipling deserves credit not only for his impressive creativity, but also his mastery of language and humor. Here’s the glorious opening passage of How the Whale Got His Throat. “On the sea, once upon a time, O my Best Beloved, there was a Whale, and he ate fishes. He ate the starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel. All the fishes he could find in all the sea he ate with his mouth—so! Till at last there was only one small fish left in all the sea, and he was a small ‘Stute Fish, and he swam a little behind the Whale’s right ear, so as to be out of harm’s way. Then the Whale stood up on his tail and said, ‘I’m hungry.’ And the small ‘Stute Fish said in a small ‘stute voice, ‘Noble and generous Cetacean, have you ever tasted Man?’”

I’ve been a fan of the JUST SO STORIES since my mom read them to me when I was a young child. I’m frequently amazed at the diversity of life on Earth. So, when I learned that two of a squid’s arms were longer than the others (don’t ask me why), I decided to write a picture book offering a “creative” explanation for that development. And I wanted to employ alliteration and lyrical language to evoke (and honor) Kipling.

The second influence in the writing of my book was one of my all-time favorites – the immensely talented Jon Klassen’s Caldecott-winning picture book, THIS IS NOT MY HAT, in which a little fish steals a big fish’s hat, and gets his comeuppance in the end. I liked the theme of “do unto others”, and I especially loved the irony of the unreliable narrator. To me, few things ring so true and are as funny as people’s ability to deceive themselves. Thus, with an admiring mashup of Kipling and Klassen, HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS was, er, spawned.

Squid

Now, Kipling’s comic premise, the idea that an animal’s features that are modified after is birth (e.g., clipping a bird’s feathers) could somehow be genetically passed to its offspring has been discredited by Mendelian genetics. Although it did gain its own label: Larmarkism, after Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Your immediate response should be: “Who cares? These are FICTIONAL tales.” And you’d be right. But I’d add that fact can be stranger than fiction. Here are a few crazy animal traits that evolved over time. These critters clearly all deserve their own Just So Story too. Go home Darwin, you’re drunk! 🙂

Mole

The Star-Nosed Mole (Condylura cristata)

With impressive digging claws and a face only a mother could love, the star-nosed mole’s claim to fame is the 22 appendages surrounding its nose. They are not olfactory, but rather touch organs that help the functionally blind mole find food. The journal Nature rates it the fastest-eating mammal, taking as little as 120 milliseconds to detect something, decide if it’s edible, and eat it. That is even faster than I can eat Boston crème pie.

Seadragon

The Leafy Seadragon (Phycodurus eques)

This master of disguise looks like something right out of a high fantasy novel. When not simply drifting, movement is achieved by the small, nearly transparent pectoral and dorsal fins. Its leafy protrusions do not aid in propulsion. Their only purpose is camouflage. It’s built for stealth, not speed. As if that’s not enough, they can change color to further blend in with seaweed. Now you see me, now you don’t.

Anteater

The Giant Anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla)

This seven-foot long, 90-lb. pin-striped mammal is a walking vacuum cleaner. While its huge bushy tail is impressive, its foot-long snout is what makes it a fuzzy terror to ants and termites alike. Technically, it’s the tongue that shoots 18 inches out of the snout that gives insects nightmares. The anteater has poor eyesight, but a sense of smell 40 times more powerful than humans. That, combined with huge digging claws make mincemeat out of anthills or termite mounds. Adding insult to injury, the anteater doesn’t even produce its own stomach acid. Its digestion is aided by the formic acid provided by its prey. Now, that’s just lazy.

Mother Nature gives us authors so much material with which to work. I hope these wonders of the natural world with exaggerated features increase your appetite for how fiction and non-fiction are both terrific ways to entertain kids and inspire them to learn.

Henry Herz Henry Herz has an engineering Bachelors from Cornell, an engineering Masters from George Washington U., and a national security studies Masters from Georgetown, none of which helps him write fantasy and science fiction for children. He is represented by Deborah Warren of East/West Literary Agency. Henry is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). He participates in literature panels at a variety of conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon. Henry reviews children’s books for the San Francisco Book Review and the San Diego Book Review.

For more about Henry and his books, please visit his Website.