Reflections

  • September 23, 2013
    Lola Schaefer is a children's book author

    Tomorrow is the day! Many more children besides Ben will be holding LIFETIME, reading it, and hopefully . . . thinking about the amazing numbers in animal lives. It's great to receive positive reviews. It's lovely to hear colleagues say it's a wonderful book. But the best reward of all is when children carefully read the information, study the illustrations, count the number of eggs or flowers, and marvel. That's the reason I write!

  • September 21, 2013
    Lola Schaefer is a children's book author

    I just read HOW BIG WERE DINOSAURS? last night and was instantly charmed. This is a perfect nonfiction book for all those children who love dinosaurs, and those who want to know more. Each spread is devoted to a different kind of dinosaur and its size. The author/illustrator does a great job with kid-friendly comparisons that truly paint a clear picture in the reader's mind, from "no bigger than a baby rhinoceros" to claws "longer than a man's arm" to
    "9-inch long teeth." The melding of text and illustration leaves no guess work. The reader can see and almost feel the presence of these ancient creatures. The backmatter adds more information about how scientists have been able to learn all of this information, plus a great pull-out chart that shows the size of each dinosaur mentioned against that of the others.

    Right away I imagined how teachers would expand on this text by encouraging students to create their own comparisons and art for the size of present-day animals and plants. What a wonderful blend of measurement, math, and content!

  • September 2, 2013
    Lola Schaefer is a children's book author

    Since I write nonfiction and informational text and I offer coaching in schools on how to construct these, as well, I’m always reading the latest in children’s books. The quality (and variety) is the best it’s ever been. Here is a list of current titles that will engage your young readers.
    Children of all ages will enjoy these, but I have grouped them by appropriate grade levels for teachers. However, some books appear on both lists. What can I say? Some books entertain and inform all of us, no matter our ages. Other than that, there is no reason for the order in which they appear.

    Grades K -2
    Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? Susan A. Shea
    Eggs 1- 2- 3- Who Will the Babies Be? Janet Halfman
    My First Day Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
    What is Part This, Part That? Harriet Ziefert
    Whose Egg? Lynette Evans
    How Things Work in the House Lisa Campbell Ernst
    Seeing Symmetry Loreen Leedy
    Little Kids First Big Book of Why Amy Shields
    What Can a Crane Pick Up? Rebecca Kai Dotlich
    A Butterfly is Patient Dianna Hutts Aston
    What Do You Do When Something Wants To Eat You? Steve Jenkins & R. Page
    Step Gently Out Helen Frost
    Tree Lady J. Joseph Hopkins
    Move Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
    See What a Seal Can Do Chris Butterworth
    How Big Were Dinosaurs? Lita Judge
    The Story of Snow Mark Cassino
    Just One Bite Lola M. Schaefer
    Balloons Oveer Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade Melissa Sweet
    Swirl by Swirl Joyce Sidman
    The Watcher Jeanette Winter
    Henri's Scissors Jeanette Winter
    Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade Melissa Sweet

    Grades 3-8
    Island: A Story of the Galapagos Jason Chin
    Rosa’s Bus Jo Kittinger
    Animals Nobody Loves Seymour Simon
    The Story of Snow Mark Cassino
    Josephine Patricia Hruby Powell (grades 5-8)
    Predator (Eyewitness Books) David Burnie
    Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade Melissa Sweet
    The Shocking Truth About Energy Loreen Leedy
    See What a Seal Can Do Chris Butterworth
    A Butterfly is Patient Dianna Hutts Aston
    Barnum's Bones Tracey Fern
    Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives Lola M. Schaefer
    Seeing Symmetry Loreen Leedy
    Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade Melissa Sweet
    Ubiquitous Joyce Sidman
    Living Sunlight Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
    The Secret World of Walter Anderson Hester Bass
    Bomb: The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Gr. 6-8) Steve Sheinkin
    Invincible Microbes: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure (Gr. 6-8) Jim Murphy and Alison Blank

  • August 17, 2013
    Lola Schaefer is a children's book author

    As you all know, LIFETIME (Chronicle Books) will debut in just a month. It's a great book and I'm proud of it for many reasons. Conceptually, it's unique -more my editor's doing, than mine. Actually the initial idea was all hers and I'm thrilled that she shared it with me. But to be honest, never in our wildest dreams did we think the realization of that idea would take so many emails, phone calls, hours of debate, and days, weeks, and months of thought on our parts. Sometimes it's best not to know just how much time a book is going to take.

    Hopefully, the reader will never imagine the sweat and (okay, let's be honest) frustration that went into the final information for this book. That's the way it's supposed to be. The writing should look effortless. The reading needs to be easy and breezy. But to tell you the truth, the research was some of the most comprehensive I've ever done for one picture book.

    This photo shows a smidgen of the notes, emails, found information, and other communication that was needed before the final text came together. The actual file of every piece of paper for this book measures six inches high. Really! Why so much?

    First of all, as I mentioned in a post after writing JUST ONE BITE, I can't simply reference other published books for my research. One reason is that not everything that is published is correct. That might be because the fact-checkers weren't overly conscientious when the book was published, or it could simply mean that published information has become outdated with new findings.

    In this case, the reason I couldn't just open a book and find what I was looking for is because . . . no one had ever put this information in a children's book before. New concepts are like that. If you come up with an original idea - really original - it probably means you aren't going to find the information you need on the first, second, or third try. (That's where frustration can sometimes take over.)

    As with past works of nonfiction/information writing, I needed to consult experts. But when you email or call someone and say, "How many eggs does a female American alligator lay in her lifetime," there's a LONG pause on the other end. The wonderful thing about contacting experts is that they are all anxious to sit down and figure that out with you. Unfortunately, not all experts agree on lifespans and every day habits of these wild creatures. Not only did I need to contact multiple experts just to verify information, but often I needed to contact several people until I found a consensus.

    I need to add here that these men and women are more than kind and helpful. Each really wants children to receive accurate and informed facts, so they generously contribute much time and effort during this gathering process. In fact, one gentleman at the New England Aquarium was so enthusiastic about this project that he emailed questions to several of his colleagues, compiled the results and would often email me with an excited message - "Call me right away. You won't believe what I found!"

    So, as an author of many nonfiction books, I now realize and appreciate the art of "keeping it all straight." Organizing the emails, the notes, the contradictions - it's an important part of the process. Even though I took a bunch of notes and spread them out on the floor for this photo, they were all paperclipped or bound in notebooks in such a way that I could find the information when I needed it. It's amazing how attached an author can get to his/her notes. Not only are they essential to the immediate project, but they also hold many seeds for future books.

    As with all writing, writing nonfiction is a process. It takes dedication, concentration, and . . . determination. I love every minute of it!

  • June 24, 2013
    Lola Schaefer is a children's book author

    Ted and I always look forward to Camp Schaefer. We realize that in just 5-6 days we will be exhausted from all of the FUN, but it's one of our best summer treats. Our niece Leah (10) and our nephew Spencer (8) arrived this year on Friday evening after our traditional stop for ice cream. Saturday was a whirlwind. In the early morning we packed up and accompanied Ted to the Big Canoe Festival to set up his woodworking booth. Both kids decided they were his junior sales team. When an interested party entered the booth, they both slowly made their way toward him/her with smiles, business cards, and warm greetings. We had fun touring the other booths and buying a few of the artisans/farmers' goods.

    In the afternoon we caught up on our ping-pong rivalry of men vs. women. The women took the gold and humbled the men. Uh-oh, revenge will be theirs.

    That night we all dressed in western wear and headed up to the mountains north of Dahlonega to the R Ranch. We surprised the kids with a real, professional rodeo and they were thrilled. The evening was perfect. The ranch is nestled in tree-covered rolling hills. As the sun set and the arena lights blinked on, we jumped in the back of a tractor-pulled wagon and were taken down to the main arena where eventually 3,000 people gathered in the stands.

    I used to watch rodeos on TV years ago when I was a girl. In that era, the clown was a distraction - a way of luring the bull away from the rider should danger arise. At this rodeo, there were two skillful riders who cornered the bucking bronco, or isolated the bull from a fallen rider. The clown was entertainment and appeared quite often with 5-12 minute skits in between the different events. The cowboys and cowgirls were the real thing and amazed the crowd with their riding, roping, and lassoing. As you can see from Spencer's expression, both kids were intent on everything that took place that night. Since they both love horses and horseback riding, they were especially taken with the beautiful animals. Of course, no rodeo would be complete without a funnel cake dusted in powdered sugar.

    I know that the four of us will not forget that night for a long time. In fact, the kids have already asked if they can go again next year and bring their parents. YEHAW! Let's plan on it!

    The past two days have been spent cooking, playing games, reading our mystery novel of choice, writing poetry, and working on their furniture projects. That's right. This year, they will each take home a piece of furniture that they make from scratch. So far they have cut the wood, glued up some panels,
    cut legs, sanded, and are ready to drill. Oh, power tools! Such fun.

    Looking at the world through younger eyes. It's a gift. So glad that Leah and Spencer are willing to share that with us again this year.