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True Story Blog

PBbio Picks for Singers, Gardeners, and Curious Kids

Give children biographies to match their interests 

This year my blog will focus on matching picture-book biographies to children's specific interests. Each month, I will highlight a few inspiring and informative biographies that connect readers with a beloved activity—one that they share with the main character. Do you know kids who are passionate about singing, gardening, or asking questions? Then these January releases are the perfect #pbbiopicks for them:


For Kids Who Are Singers

A Voice Named Aretha

Katheryn Russell-Brown and Laura Freeman

"Aretha's voice had magic tucked inside. And that magic could work a spell."

If you know a girl or boy—especially a shy one—who loves to sing, this biography of the Queen of Soul is for them. Illustrated in gorgeous royal purples, reds, and golds, the book shows young readers how Aretha Franklin evolved from being a shy girl afraid to step on stage into a superstar who used her powerful voice to advocate for civil rights as well as entertain the world (including President Obama!) Bonus: if kids read the backmatter, they'll be delighted to know that the illustrator hid images of crowns throughout the book.


For Kids Who Are Gardeners

The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

Gene Barretta and Frank Morrison

 "George decided to create his own classroom in the woods

and studied the subject he loved most—nature."

Born into slavery, George Washington Carver grew up to be a celebrated botanist, scientist and inventor. But did you know that, as a child, he had a secret garden? It was there that he taught himself about plants, especially flowers. Soon he became known as the "Plant Doctor" in his community, taking his neighbors' sick plants and healing them in his garden. The book covers the many challenges and successes of Carver's life but comes full circle with a celebration of his greatest childhood love—caring for his secret garden. If you have young gardeners in your home, let them dig in to this beautiful book.


For Kids Who Are Curious

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.

Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael Lopez 

 "Instead of fearing our differences or ignoring them,

we can shed light on them and explore them together."

It would be easy to say that this book is a lovely gift for kids with special needs. Beginning with little Sonia Sotomayor's story of how she manages her diabetes, the book then weaves through the experiences of other kids who each describe the challenges—and powers—that come with living with asthma, blindness, deafness, dyslexia, autism, speech impediments, Tourette's syndrome, ADHD, food allergies, Down syndrome, and using a wheelchair. But really, this book is for every kid who meets someone who seems "different" and wants to know more. And because children are curious by nature, that makes this book a must-have for every kid.



What are your favorite PBbios for singers, gardeners, and curious kids?


As always, if you have read any of these books, please take a minute to review them using the links above. 


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Dorothia Rohner combined her love of science and art and earned a degree in Biological and Pre-Medical Illustration from Iowa State University. After working in scientific illustration, animation, and graphic design, she illustrated two children's books, Numbers in a Row, An Iowa Number Book, (Sleeping Bear Press) and Effie's Image (Prairieland Press). But next month marks her author debut with her #firstpicturebook I AM GOOSE!—"[A] honking good tale"—Kirkus Reviews.


Q. Was I AM GOOSE the first picture book manuscript you ever wrote? If not, what was the first picture book you wrote and what happened to it?

A. Hi Karlin, First of all, thank you for inviting me to talk about my upcoming book! I Am Goose!. (Feb, 18, 2020, Clarion Books—HMH Kids, Illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva) To answer your question, no, this was not the first book, or second or third. I have a drawer full of dummy books. Some will stay in that drawer forever and some are under revision. The first dummy book I ever made was called "Monsters for Ari". It will stay in the drawer.


Q. What inspired I AM GOOSE?

A. I volunteer at Head Start here in my town. My official job is to play and talk with the
children. Whenever we head out to the playground, they almost always ask, "Do you want to play Duck, Duck, Goose?" The story idea came from watching, playing and interacting with the kids. They are hilarious and the animals in the book are based on the different children's personalities. 


Q. How did you pick the title of your book?

A. The title had many iterations— Cluck, Cluck Goose, Never Play Duck, Duck Goose with the Moon. I love to draw the moon, but I had to change this because it just didn't work. Because Goose is so self involved, I Am Goose! fit the best. My editor didn't change it, so the title stuck. 


Q. Do you write by hand or on the computer?

A. I start with notes in my idea book. I started doing this when I participated in Picture Book Idea Month, now called Storystorm. I have pages of various ideas and sketches. When I decide which one I want to work on, I develop the sketches and start writing notes. When the story begins to take on clearer focus, I translate all my scribbles onto the computer and begin to revise.The last step is making the dummy book. 


Q. What is your favorite part of the book? And was that part in the first draft? 

A. The squirrels commenting on the game, as if Duck, Duck Goose was a spectator sport, cracks me up. At one point I took the squirrels out because it was slowing down the pacing. But in the end I put them back in by shortening their comments. I also like Rabbit. She tries so hard to be nice but slowly looses her cool because Goose won't follow the rules. And of course, the ending, where Goose learns what goes around, comes around.


Q. What made you decide to tell the story in first, second, or third person?  

A. This whole book is told with dialogue. It seemed the most immediate way to present the characters and the situation. 


Q. How much of the story did you know when you began writing I AM GOOSE? 

A. When I started, I only knew that I wanted to have a Goose playing Duck, Duck, Goose and cause a ruckus. Initially the rabbit was a boy with overalls and an accent.  With each revising, the animal personalities emerged. It went through many iterations before the final manuscript was submitted. 


Q. Did I AM GOOSE  receive any rejection letters? If so, how many (ballpark)?

A. My agent at the time, Laura Biagi, sent the manuscript out to about ten or twelve publishers. We got a few rejections before we got two offers. 


Q. Describe your reaction when you received an offer on I AM GOOSE .

A. I was super excited, but when the offers came in, they both wanted to choose a different illustrator. That was a little hard, because I had spent quite a bit of time coming up with illustrations for the manuscript.  But in the end, I was really happy to have my first manuscript accepted. I wrote a post about my experience here at the kidlitartistsblog: http://kidlitartists.blogspot.com/2018/04/im-illustrator-but.html.


Q. What kind of input did you have in choosing an illustrator for the book? 

A. They chose a few illustrators, and I was able to chime in on my preferences. 


Q. What jumped out at you when you saw the first sketches and jacket cover?

A. I never saw any sketches during the process. The first time I saw the book was when the uncorrected proof was sent to me. It was wonderful seeing it in my hands. The illustrations worked perfectly for the age group. 


Q. How long did I AM GOOSE  take to be published—from the time you received an offer until it was printed? 

A. I Am Goose! was acquired in 2016. It will be released on Feb. 18, 2020—4 YEARS! 


Q. Was there a part that you really loved but had to edit out? Or did you think of something later that you wanted to add?

A. It was a little tricky having so many animals and the squirrels talking. As I mentioned earler, I took the squirrels out to make sure the story wasn't being slowed down. But it wasn't as funny,  so I added them back in. 


Q. When you read I AM GOOSE to kids, which part of the book gets the best reaction?

A. They giggle when Goose has a tantrum and tries to convince everyone that he should be 'it". They liked the ending too. 


Q. Did you create any book swag for I AM GOOSE? If so, what kind?

A. I've ordered bookmarks and will be giving away t-shirts as door prizes for my first book signing at Beaverdale Books in Des Moines. I have a few paper coasters that I've been leaving with bookstores, libraries and teachers.

Q. What is your #1 tip for picture-book writers?

A. Write and illustrate what makes you happy. Stay connected with other picture book makers online or in person. Keep learning and honing your craft. Join SCBWI. Be patient.

Q. Do you have a favorite writing exercise or marketing tip that you can share?

A. One thing I do when I'm pacing out a picture book is to use index cards for a quick dummy book. It helps to have the words written on the card to flip through to see the page turns. We illustrators do this, but I think it is also really beneficial for writers. 

Q. What are you working on now?

A. I have two manuscripts that are out on submission. I'm finishing up another dummy book and it is almost ready to send to my agent. I've been working on a new technique for this next story that I'm really excited about. 

Q. Is there a public launch for the book?

A. My first event will be at Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, Iowa, on Feb 18th, 6:30 PM.

I'm planning on contacting book stores in the Midwest, Boulder, Colorado and Austin, Texas where I have friends and family. I'm researching some book festivals too. All of the event details will be posted at my website: www.dorothiarohner.com


Q. Where can people find you? (Website, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)


Website: www.dorothiarohner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dorothiar

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dorothiar/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dorothiarohner.illustration

Book trailer: https://www.dorothiarohner.com/i-am-goose


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