Otis Dooda Blog Tour Part I - Guest Post by Illustrator David Heatley

Recently, I had an opportunity to ask the talented David Heatly about his work on OTIS DOODA: STRANGE BUT TRUE by Ellen Potter.

David, I have heard of authors and illustrators who listen to music while they work (write or draw). Lots of authors create playlists for their books. In your case you took it one step further and developed your own soundtrack for Otis Dooda. In listening to the soundtrack, it matches the book perfectly. Is this the first time you have created an actual soundtrack for a book? What was the process like? 

Thanks for the compliment about the book and soundtrack matching perfectly. I've spent over a year now with Otis and his family and friends, drawing them all a hundred times each. I think the music comes from that same inspirational well that helped me decide what everything looks like in Dooda-land. When I was done illustrating Strange But True, it felt hard to just let the whole thing go. Ellen and I were brainstorming some ideas for marketing the book, including doing an animated book trailer. It hit me that it would be fun to write a theme song for the book to be used in the trailer. I've written songs since I was a teenager, but in the last few years, I've had new songs coming out of my ears. They come to me when I wake up from a dream or in the middle of the day. I have to have my phone nearby so I can hum the melodies I'm hearing into my "voice memo" app. It's usually a piece of the chorus or verse that's the starting point. Then I write out in my lyric book what I have and I start trying to piece the rest of it together—like doing a crossword puzzle. With Otis it was similar. Once I had the idea of a theme song, a few different versions of it started arriving in my head and haunting me. The second idea I had is ultimately the one that became the real song (attaching two of the original voice memos). Once I had all the lyrics written, I "demoed" the song in my own art studio with a minimal set up: 1 semi-professional mic and two pieces of semi-professional recording software. It came out great and Ellen loved it! Her agent (now my agent too) Alice Tasman also loved it. Even better, their KIDS loved it! And my own two kids who were following every step of the illustration process wanted to hear it over and over again. I was onto something here.

I wanted to write more songs. Years ago, I had thought about doing a soundtrack to a book I did for adults, but only got as far as making a 6-song EP. This time I looked at the table of contents of the book and could see immediately there were 15 other songs I could write. Just while jotting down the titles, I started hearing some melodies and chorus ideas for several of them. I have to say, I've never had a musical project come through me so quickly and I think it's a testament to how strong the story and characters are and what a fantastic writer Ellen is. Within a couple months, I had written and recorded all 16 songs of the soundtrack. (For comparison sake, another album I finished recently with 13 songs on it took about 2 years!) I really had a blast doing it—staying up late in my studio til 3 in the morning, shouting like a crazy person about Potted Plant Guy or Peaches the farting pony. I really stretched myself musically and tried to do as many different styles as I could. I also wanted the right emotional balance on the album: some joyful songs, some irreverent and silly, some creepy and some sad. The song "Up In Cat's Room" has a special place in my heart. It really captures the longing I was feeling as the illustration job on book 1 was wrapping up and before I was contracted for Otis 2. I've actually gotten teary listening back to it a few times. I sing "I wanna stay a while up in Cat's Room. Don't make me go home just yet.... please let me stay!" The kid in me just loves living in this world that Ellen has created and I don't want it to end. I hope we continue the series and I get to write even more songs for these characters. Now it's up to the kids and their parents... In other words, "Buy the book or the subway zombies will get you!!!" :)

To purchase a copy of the Otis Dooda Soundtrack, click here.

Check out this great video of David and Ellen talking about Otis Dooda.

Thanks David for stopping by.  Check out Part II of the Otis Dooda Blog Tour, and find out about some of Ellen Potter and her son, Ian's favorite  books.

Thanks to Ellen, I am giving away a signed copy of Otis Dooda: Strange But True.  Open to those with a US mailing address.

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Frog Song

Author: Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrator:  Gennady Spirin
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (February 5, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 4 to 8
Nonfiction * Frogs * Habitats/Behavior

Description from GoodReads:
Since the time of the dinosaurs, frogs have added their birrups and bellows to the music of the earth. Frogs are astonishing in their variety and crucial to ecosystems. Onomatopoeic text and stunning illustrations introduce young readers to these fascinating and important creatures, from Chile to Nepal to Australia.

My thoughts on the book
The team of Guiberson and Spirin have partnered to create a beautiful book about various frog species.  
"Frogs have a song for trees, bogs, burrows, and logs.  When frogs have enough moisture to keep gooey eggs, squirmy tadpoles, and hoppity adults from drying out, they can sign almost anywhere. CROAK! RIBBIT! BZZZT! PLONK! BRACK! THRUM-RUM!"

Guiberson goes on to talk about 11 different frogs in various countries.  Sometimes the focus is on child-bearing behaviors and other times about how they co-exist in a delicate balance with other creatures.  Regardless of the particular focus on the page, each frog species has a unique song which has meaning and purpose.  Frog Song, in a way, is Guiberson's ballad to the health and survival of frog in a world where the existence of humans has in many places thrown off the delicate balance of the ecosystem.  

Spirin's paintings are stunning and give the impression of almost being so real that if you are still enough you may just see a frog jump off the page.  The end of the book contains additional information on each of the 11 frog species, additional resources, and an author's note about the survival of frogs.  Definitely a book to add to any classroom or school library collection. 

Check out the Macmillan Publisher's page for a preview of the pages. 

Don't forget to connect up your Nonfiction Book Reviews.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Island: A Story of the Galápagos

Author/Illustrator: Jason Chin
Publisher: Roaring Book Press/Macmillan (September 18, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Grades 2nd to 5th
Habitats * Evolution * Ecology * Nonfiction

Description from Publisher's Website:
Charles Darwin first visited the Galápagos Islands almost 200 years ago, only to discover a land filled with plants and animals that could not be found anywhere else on earth. How did they come to inhabit the island? How long will they remain?

Thoroughly researched and filled with intricate and beautiful paintings, this extraordinary book by Award-winning author and artist Jason Chin is an epic saga of the life of an island—born of fire, rising to greatness, its decline, and finally the emergence of life on new islands.

My thoughts on this book:  

In my "It's Monday!" post, I mentioned to stop by and check out this post to see what book was a "WOW" for me.  Here it is: Island: A Story of the Galápagos by Jason Chin.   This  is Chin's third book that he has written and illustrated.  His first book Redwoods shared the story of the California Redwood Forest.  Next came Coral Reefs, and now Island.  With each book, Chin puts his own twist into the story.  With Island, Chin starts with the Birth - Six Million Years Ago.     

With the "eruption of a volcano, an island is born".  - I love the colors and texture in this illustration.

Through a number of eruptions, and then the arrival of a seed, and the arrival of living creatures the evolution of this island moves forward. 

I love how Chin moves from full page illustrations to smaller size ones and to even mid-size or half-page pictures.  Each picture works to tell the story of this island over millions of years.

The combination of text and illustrations made this book just come alive for me.  I just wanted to share it with others as I read it.  Actually, I did share it with my bookseller friends while I was reading it in the store.  I told them that this was one book that was coming home with me.

Part of what amazed me with this story was how the shrinking or growth of the island influenced the presence of wildlife or the changes in types of living creatures. Until eventually, there is no island. 

Currently, there are 15 islands which will again grow and evolve over time. 

If you pick up Island (and I hope you do), I encourage you to find his other titles as well.  Look for all of Chin's books at your local library or pick up a copy for your favorite classroom or school library.  Don't forget to shop Indie if you are able.  

For more information about Jason Chin:  website | facebook | twitter

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction picture book reviews:

Necromancing the Stone Blog Tour & Giveaway

One of my absolute favorite YA books in 2010 was Hold Me Closer Necromancer by Lish McBride.  I wasn't surprised that it was a William C. Morris Debut Award nominee.  McBride's sense of humor and great ensemble cast of characters developed a special spot in my heart.  Since reading the first book, I have had to wait patiently for the second one.  I begged Macmillan for an ARC while I was out at ALA Annual in June 2012 and I was so excited when I actually held it in my hands.  Of course, a little nervous too.  All I will say is that book 2 does not disappoint.

On Tuesday,  Necromancing the Stone hit bookstores and Macmillan is celebrating with a fabulous blog tour.

Today, I am excited to have Sam LaCroix stop by to answer a few questions.

(Note: The interview takes place between Book 1 and Book 2. There are no spoilers for Necromancing the Stone.)

So Sam, now that you have discovered that you are a Necromancer and you defeated Douglas – what are you looking forward to in your new life? Any particular changes for the better? 

I’m looking forward to a time when strangers don’t try to kill me for unknown reasons and of course, naps. There are some bruises on my body that won’t heal for weeks. I feel like some really solid naptime has been earned. As for changes for the better—well, I get to leave my crappy apartment. Of course, I have to live in the Scary Death House, but hey, I think they have cable. So, there’s that. And I have a date with Brid this week. We’re going to the Drive-in. That makes up for all the bruises as far as I’m concerned.

As a Necromancer, how do you see your role on the council changing from how Douglas ran things? 

Mostly, I’m going to try to not screw up. I think if I can manage that, I’m cool. Nobody likes necromancers. So I can’t see the council welcoming me with punch and pie and those little party blowers. Maybe if I keep a low enough profile, they’ll realize that I’m not as bad as the last guy… After a few weeks pass and I haven’t killed anyone or tried to take anything over, I think they might notice that I’m different. At least, that’s the hope.

How are your mother and sister accepting your new role as Necromancer? 

My mom is still freaked out. I mean, it’s not exactly news to her, but I kinda think she was hoping I’d grow out of it somehow. Yeah, like that’s a possibility. She’s like most moms, I guess. She just wants what’s best for me and for me to be happy, and she’s afraid my powers will get in the way of that. Let’s face it, she’s probably right, but it’s not like I can do anything about it. I don’t think Haley cares. That’s not really Haley’s style. Things don’t faze her. I think she’s more interested in my inheritance from Douglas. She’s going to need her own car soon, and I now have several that I won’t be using. Of course, I’m going to give her one, but I’m not going to tell her that yet.

Do you think Brooke and Ashley will be hanging around you in the future or have they moved onto other things? 

I think that it doesn’t really matter what I want. Brooke and Ashley are going to do what they want to do, period. I have very little say in things. That being said, Brooke likes bossing me around, so I can’t see her going anywhere, and I owe Ashley a lot of waffles, so I believe they’ll both be around for a little while.

Have you had much of a chance to talk with Ramon since he was changed into a were-bear? 

I wonder how he is coping.  I’ve tried—and by “tried”, I mean I stare at my phone and will myself to hit the “call” button. I always end up putting the phone away. I mean, what do you say to someone who risked his life for you? Someone who almost died for you? I can’t imagine texting, “How are you ☺? Things been hairy? Lol!” can you? So it’s been radio silence on my end. But the pack assures me that he’s healing okay. A long way from healthy, but they’ve taken him off critical.

Ok, I have to ask – are you and Brid still together and how is her father and brothers accepting things between you two? 

Have you ever dated a girl with four brothers? Four. And all of them can snap me like a twig. And then eat the twig. It’s nerve-wracking as hell. And her dad? You’d think the alpha of a werewolf pack would be all macho and bluster, but he just…stares at you. It’s like he can read your mind. They all terrify the hell out of me. Of course, that’s not stopping me either. Brid is…well, she’s worth it. That’s all I can say. Totally and absolutely worth every fear-drenched moment.

Thanks Sam (and Lish) for stopping by the blog today and answering some questions.

Lish McBride can be found on: Twitter | Facebook

Don't miss out on these great links:

—Lish McBride is part of our Fall 2012 Fierce Reads campaign and she will be going on a multi-city and multi-author tour this month, 9/18 thru 9/23.
Details can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/FierceReads/events

—We’ve also got a new Fall Fierce Reads trailer which Necromancing the Stone is included in:

—A chapter excerpt of Necromancing the Stone can be read on our Fierce Reads Fan Page: https://apps.facebook.com/fiercereads/Exclusives

—A free Fall 2012 Fierce Reads chapter sampler for e-readers is available for download, which includes Necromancing the Stone: http://us.macmillan.com/fiercereadsfall2012chaptersampler/GenniferAlbin

—Last year, Lish McBride wrote a free e-short story, entitled Necromancer: http://us.macmillan.com/necromancer-1/LishMcBride

Necromancing the Stone Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday 9/17            www.laurasreviewbookshelf.com
Tuesday 9/18            www.janasbooklist.blogspot.com
Wednesday 9/19       www.sithereandread.com
Thursday 9/20          www.kidlitfrenzy.com
Friday 9/21               www.gonewiththewords.com

Monday 9/24            www.themidnightgarden.net 
Tuesday 9/25            www.goodbooksandgoodwine.com
Wednesday 9/26       www.katiesbookblog.com 
Thursday 9/27          www.almostgrownup.net

Thanks to Macmillan we also have a special giveaway - a paperback copy of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and a hardcover of Necromancing the Stone.  The giveaway will run from September 20, 2012 to September 27, 2012.  To enter, you must be 13 years or older and live in the U.S. or Canada.

Non-fiction Picture Book Wednesday - Bird Talk

Author/Illustrator: Lita Judge
Publisher: Flash Point/Macmillan (March 13, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Read Aloud: Grades 1st to 4th
Independent Reading: Grades 2nd to 5th
Nonfiction * Communication * Birds

Description from GoodReads:
A gorgeously illustrated tribute to birds of all kinds and the fantastic, funny, fascinating things that they do.

Birds have lots of ways of communicating: They sing and talk, dance and drum, cuddle and fight. But what does all of the bird talk mean?
Filled with gorgeous illustrations, this fascinating picture book takes a look at the secret life of birds in a child-friendly format that is sure to appeal to readers of all ages - whether they're die-hard bird-watchers or just curious about the creatures in their own backyards.

My thoughts on this book:
Since I have been keeping an eye out for nonfiction picture books, I have been looking for this book for several months.  I was so excited when it finally showed up in my local bookstore this past week.  From the title and the cover, I was curious to discover what the book would entail.  Would it be funny? Easy to read? Dry and boring? I am happy to report that the illustrations are gorgeous watercolors.  You must check out the link below where Lita Judge has posted examples of the pages.

This is one of my favorites in the book (apologies for the bad photography).  Don't you just love that illustration of the Blue Bird hanging upside down and showing off? 

The pairing of various colored birds on a page or the featuring of one bird on a stark white background catches the eye and draws the reader in.  Isn't this picture of a Palm Cockatoo gorgeous? 

As for the text, I enjoyed how Judge set up each section before going into further explanation.  The book looks at various forms of communication that birds use.  For example, "Parents and chicks learn the sound of each others voices." is then followed by several examples of how this occurs with various birds.  

What I also enjoyed about Bird Talk is that it didn't fall into the heavily technical end of nonfiction.  It reads well, provides just the right amount of information about bird communication to help younger readers develop a basic understanding which will hopefully propel them into further reading on the topic.  I liked the pages at the end where the list of birds is provided.  However, I would have loved to see a suggestion for further reading for children included at the end.  

Judge's Bird Talk would make a beautiful addition to a school's or classroom's library.  Look for this book at your local school or public library, or consider purchasing it at your local independent bookstore.

Click here to read a blog post where Lita Judge discusses Bird Talk.  Check out the examples of the artwork, click here

For more information about Lita Judge: website | blog | YouTube | twitter  

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction picture book reviews below: