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Monday, July 25, 2016

Lift Your Light Tells Untold Story of Slave Cavern Guide

Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop Slave Explorer
Written by Heather Henson and Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, September 6, 2016
Ages 4 to 8

“The past is like a cave sometimes, dim and dusty, and full of twisting ways,” begins “Lift Your Light a Little Higher,” which tells the story of Stephen Bishop, a slave who served as a tour guide in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave from 1838 to 1857.

"I know a few things ‘bout leading folks around inside the dark, showing off sights that have never been seen,” the story continues in the voice of its main character.

As a cave guide, Bishop gained notoriety in his day, writes author Heather Henson in an author’s note. Writers who visited the cave said he was eloquent and intelligent in his deep knowledge of the cave, the longest cave system in the world with more than four hundred miles of mapped underground passageways.

Henson wanted to tell Bishop’s story because despite his being known when he was living, his story had been largely forgotten. She had to imagine what he might say because so little had been written about him.

Though it was against the law to teach slaves to read and write, Henson taught himself to write when he showed tourists how to make marks with candle flames on the cavern walls. They wrote their names and he learned his letters.

He was the first person to draw an extensive map of Mammoth Cave and the first to cross a previously impassable chasm called the “Bottomless Pit.” He also discovered a new species of eyeless fish and albino crawfish in the underground rivers of Mammoth Cave.

“Down here, I am Guide – a man able to walk before other men, not behind,” says the narrator, “a man able to school even the brightest scholar: a man able to bring a crowd of folks deep into the belly of the earth and back again, safe and sound. A man – down here, that’s what I am – a man, not just a slave.”

Bishop married and had a son. His master promised him that one day he would free him and his family. It turned out that Bishop wasn’t freed until one year before his death at 37 of unknown cause. He was buried near the entrance to Mammoth Cave.

The story is dramatically and lyrically told. The illustrations are even more beautiful and dramatic. All of the well-constructed images are two-page spreads. They boldly speak to the reader drawing him/her into the story of the slave cave explorer and guide. 
About the Author and Illustrator:

Heather Henson lives on a farm in Kentucky with her husband and three children, and is the author of several picture books and novels, including “That Book Woman” and “Dream of Night.”

Bryan Collier is a two-time Caldecott Honor winner for “Dave the Potter” and “Trombone Shorty.” He is also the author and illustrator of the Coretta Scott King Award–winning book “Uptown,” illustrator of “Martin’s Big Words,” which was also a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book; Rosa, which received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award; and the #1 New York Times bestselling “Barack Obama.” Mr. Collier lives in New York.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Inspirational, Funny Book Helps Kids Choose Happiness

Ishi: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend 
By Akiko Yabuki
POW! A division of powerhouse Packaging & Supply, Inc., Brooklyn, NY, 2016

“Ishi: Simple Tips from a Solid Friend” is a self-help book for children. A white rock with two black dots for eyes and a black line for a mouth introduces himself as Ishi, which means rock in Japanese.

The optimistic, good-natured rock offers advice for how to feel better when you’re not having a good day and tells readers they can choose to be happy.

Ishi tells readers “When something feels impossible, I sleep and rest. And try again the next day!” and “When I feel bottled up, I move my body. Run, swim, climb, a tree!” Sometimes the pictures tell a joke with word play. For instance, Ishi is pictured in a bottle when he says, “When I feel bottled up.”

The best thing about the book is the beautiful, colorful, well-constructed photographs that show Ishi lying among puzzle pieces, resting on puffy white sheets, stuck in a bottle, or smiling in a tree. They are expressive as well as beautiful and help the reader make friends with the encouraging rock.

At the beginning of the book, Akiko Yabuki writes, “How to use this book,” and she lists, 1., Enjoy the book. 2. Choose happiness. 3. Share your happiness. 4. Pass Ishi to a friend. 5. Enjoy their happiness. And she writes, “About this book: Stinky days. We all have them. After having one too many, I found Ishi. Ishi bcame my rock. Ishi gave me tips. Simple tips. Tips that made me happy. I hope they make you happy too!”

“Ishi,” first found success as a self-published book. In March 2014, Yabuki did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to self-publish the book. On her website for the book, she says the campaign raised $9,976 from 153 backers, she calls happiness ambassadors. She lists them by name on the last page of the book.

The author wrote a blog on the book’s website where she kept her Kickstarter backers updated about her progress in publishing the book and its success in being distributed to stores in Europe and the United States. The book also has a Facebook page and Yabuki frequently posts new photographs of Ishi in new environments.  

Last year, the self-published book won several awards including a Gold Award from National Parenting Publications and a Silver Award in the gift book category from the Independent Book Publishers Association Benjamin Franklin Awards.

It is currently being published by POW! a children’s book imprint of powerhouse Packaging & Supply, Inc., a book producer and co-edition publisher whose publishing partners include Chronicle Books, Random House, Sterling, Running Press, St. Martin’s Press and many others.

Akiko Yabuki is a producer of edutainment, entertaining content that educates the audience. Akiko learned the ABCs of edutainment as a global producer for Sesame Workshop, the producer of the Sesame Street programs worldwide. Akiko lives in Brooklyn NY with her husband, a black lab named Pono, and a rock solid friend named ISHI.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Congrats to "On Bird Hill" winner

And the winner is ... Kristie Miner.
Kristie is the winner of a free copy of Jane Yolen's "On Bird Hill" and a window bird feeder.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Light-hearted Story Tells Kids It’s OK to Be Different

A Tiger Tail (Or What Happened to Anya on Her First Day of School)  
By Mike Boldt
Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2016
Ages: 4-8

Anya wakes up on the first day of school and discovers she has grown a tiger tail. She is horrified. What will she do?

Her parents aren’t any help. They tell her not to worry it looks nice with her hair. She’s the same wonderful Anya she’s always been.

She tries to pull it off but it’s firmly attached. She tries to cover it up with clothes, but it pokes through. She’ll pretend to be sick, but mom makes her go to school. She misses the bus on purpose, but dad drives her to school.

At school, she crashes into a boy. They introduce themselves. His name is Ben and he has rabbit ears. In the class picture, she fits right in. Other children are unique too. Another boy has big furry ears. A girl is in a wheelchair. Another boy wears large glasses.

“Maybe a tiger tail wasn’t so bad,” she thinks. “After all, it did go well with her hair.”

The colorful expressive pictures complement the humorous story. They actively move the story along.

Without being heavy-handed, the story tells children that it’s OK to be different.

About the Author/Illustrator:

Mike Boldt is the author and illustrator of “123 versus ABC” and the illustrator of “I Don’t Want to Be a Frog,” among others. He lives in Stony Plain, Alberta, with his wife and three children. The first day of school tended to make him a little nervous too. Learn more at


Friday, July 1, 2016

Charming Story Draws Us in to Chick’s Birth

Welcome to Day #10 of the On Bird Hill Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Bird Hill by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (5/10/16), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane, Bob, and Brian Sockin (CEO and Publisher of Cornell Lab Publishing Group), plus 10 chances to win a copy of On Bird Hill and a window bird feeder!

On Bird Hill
Written by Jane Yolen and Illustrated by Bob Marstall
Cornell Lab Publishing Group, 2016

“On Bird Hill” by Jane Yolen is a lovely story told in verse that begins with a panoramic picture of Bird Hill and page by page draws in closer as a boy narrator takes notice of a chick hatching from its egg.

“As I was walking on Bird Hill, though it was day, the moon shone still,” the story begins early in the morning. We see a two-page spread of a hilly lime-green landscape. In the bottom right hand corner, a boy walks with his dog. In the top left hand corner, a tiny sliver of moon shines over the scene.

Then page by page, we pull in closer noticing more details as the words draw us closer to the boy’s discovery.

“And on Bird Hill, I saw a tree, as light and bright as it could be.” In the distance, we see a tree glowing.

“And on that tree, so shining bright, I saw a trunk, both dark and light.” The reader also notices other details such as birds flying overhead, seals sunning themselves, and a rabbit poking its head out of a river.

Yolen loosely based her story’s structure on the old cumulative children’s song, “The Green Grass Grew All Around.” Like the old song, her story has a satisfying rhythm. Its shape is useful in emphasizing the magic of noticing small everyday miracles in nature, such as the birth of a bird.

“The chick was tiny, shell was thick, but crick, crick, crack he was so quick.
“He hatched himself and left the egg, he fluffed his wings, he stretched each leg.”

At the end of the story, Yolen shifts to the chick’s perspective and brings her story full circle.

“He saw the twig, limb, trunk, and tree, and then he saw the moon ...
... and me, as I walked down Bird Hill.”

The full-spread, spring-colored illustrations by Bob Marstall perfectly complement Yolen’s story. Echoing her words, he begins with a broad perspective and page by page draws in closer to the hatching of the chick. The illustrations of the chick’s birth express the newborn bird’s wonder and joy, and his mother’s quiet love. The observant reader can find many delightful details on every page.

 About the Author and Illustrator:

Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world. Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Easthampton, MA. Visit her online at

Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at

About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.

A Note from Jane Yolen

My family has a long history with the Cornell Lab. It began with my husband David Stemple's passion for birding.

At first, he was a Lister, that is he went out with his bird book(s) and made lists of the birds he'd seen, annotating various behaviors and where he saw them. Like many listers he had notebooks of how many birds he saw in a day, or in a week, or in a month, or in a year.

But as he was a scientist himself, with degrees in math, physics and a doctorate in Computer Science, just making lists and observing behavior wasn't enough for him. He took a couple of courses in the science of birds at the University of Massachusetts/Amherst where he taught computer science. He met Don Kroodsma and learned from him how to record birds. And that led him quite naturally (and nature-ly) to Cornell.

Once he saw how they were processing their mammoth amounts of data--on 3x5 cards I believe--he created their first ever computer database system pro bono for them. And began giving them his recordings. And then he got involved with studying ring ouzels, giving scientific papers on their dialects from Scottish glen to glen, from Norwegian fjords, etc.

Somewhere along the way, he mentioned to his friends at the Lab that he was married to me, and that I was the author of Owl Moon (which you may not know is big in birding circles!) and that he was the original of Pa in the book and our daughter Heidi--a great owler by the way--was the prototype for the child. . And the fact that of my over 350 books (mostly for children) a great number are on nature topics and over a dozen--counting upcoming books as well--are specifically about birds.

When David was dying of cancer, Greg Budney and other folks at the Lab came out and wired our deck so that David's last three months in a hospital bed in our TV room were filled with bird song. (And the occasional hough of a bear going by.) After he died, I started a scholarship in his name for the Lab that had to do with recording birds.

I think that short history is why, when Cornell decided to put out a dedicated line of children's books, they thought of me early on. And I jumped at the chance to be involved. My first book for them is On Bird Hill and the two that will follow are On Duck Pond and On Gull Beach. We are also talking about a kind of companion book to Owl Moon called Bird Boy and possibly a couple of other books as well. I will keep writing them if they will keep publishing them.


Today is the the last stop of the tour! Check out the other blogs below for more chances to win!

Blog Tour Schedule:

June 20th – The O.W.L.
June 21st — The Book Monsters
June 23rd  — MamaPapaBarn
June 24th — Rockin' Book Reviews June 27th — Kristi's Book Nook
June 28th — Books My Kids Read
June 29th — Word Spelunking
June 30th — Cracking the Cover
July 1st — Can You Read Me a Story?

Loosely based on the old cumulative nursery rhyme/song “The Green Grass Grew All Around,” a nursery rhyme first published as a song in 1912. But in this version, it’s a boy and his dog who find the bird in a nest on a hill in a strange valley. Following in the footsteps of Jane’s highly acclaimed Owl Moon, winner of the prestigious Caldecott Award, On Bird Hill is a beautiful picture book with an enchanting story, fancifully illustrated by renowned artist Bob Marstall. On Bird Hill is sure to attract interest from millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.


  • One (1) winner will receive a copy of On Bird Hill and a Window Bird Feeder ($28.99) to get up close and personal with the birds in your backyard! Great for blends, peanuts and safflower, this durable feeder attaches right to your window pane with suction cups, allowing you to see every bird detail. It's easy to fill and easy to clean.
  • US only
  • Ends July 10th at midnight ET
  • Enter via the rafflecopter below
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