November 9 – It’s National Aviation History Month

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About the Holiday

National Aviation History Month and is dedicated to exploring, recognizing and celebrating America’s great contributions and achievements in the development of aviation. Human-powered flight has come a long way from its earliest roots in kites and gliders. Hot-air balloons and biplanes gave way long ago to more and more sophisticated airplanes, jets, and rockets that blast into space. To celebrate the month, visit a local museum or read up on some of the pioneers of early flight—like the courageous woman in today’s book.

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Raúl Colón

 

Entertained crowds knew Ruth Law for the loops, the spiral dives, and even the dip of death that she performed in her airshow. But for Ruth these stunts were like standing still. She “longed to fly to get somewhere…somewhere far away.” She decided to make a trip from Chicago to New York City. There weren’t too many aviators brave enough to attempt such a long flight in the type of biplane Ruth flew. They feared that if something went wrong with the engine, they’d never realize it in time to land. But Ruth knew her plane inside and out and figured she “could anticipate what would happen to the motor by the sound of it.”

A trip like the one Ruth envisioned posed another problem, though. Her small biplane held only 16 gallons of gasoline—not enough to make the journey. She asked Glenn Curtis, who built her plane, if she could buy his latest model. This much bigger plane held 205 gallons of gas and had already proven itself for long-distance flight. But Curtis refused. He didn’t believe Ruth could handle the “powerful machine on such a long flight.”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Ruth was not to be deterred. She added three more gas tanks to her plane so that it could hold 53 gallons, installed a cover to protect her legs, and created a scrolling map of the route. Aviation experts said she would fail, but Ruth disagreed. “‘What those men can do a woman can do. I can do,’” she said. On a windy November 19, 1916, Ruth took to the cockpit to begin her nonstop flight. Although she was a little afraid of what lay ahead, she took off, believing that “the scare is part of the thrill” of any experience.

Ruth had counted on the strong wind to help push her farther faster, but just as quickly as it had blown up, the wind stopped. Ruth wondered if she would have enough gasoline after all. Flying over one landmark after another, Ruth felt exhilarated. As she passed over Cleveland, Ohio, though, “the oil gauge registered zero pressure. Something was wrong!” The sounds of her plane’s motors told Ruth a different story. She kept flying.

Soon she was passing over Erie, Pennsylvania—the site of the record-breaking flight by Victor Carlstrom. Even the icy stings of the frigid air couldn’t diminish her excitement. In a moment she was east of Erie and had broken Carlstrom’s record. The thrill of her achievement was tempered, however, by the sputtering of her engine. While there was still a little gas in the plane, it was “too low to feed into the engine.” Ruth tipped the plane forward to give it more gas. Two miles from Hornell, New York, the nearest landing spot, “the engine grumbled its last roar, leaving her with nothing but the silence of the wind.”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Ruth steered the plane as it glided into Hornell—512 miles from Chicago. She was the new American nonstop flight record holder. Ruth’s original plan had been to fly to New York City, so after refueling and grabbing a bite to eat, she took off once again. Weighed down by the full gas tank, the plane barely made it over a hill and tall trees in her path. This was as close to crashing as Ruth ever came—or ever wanted to be.

People along the route had already heard about Ruth Law, and they came out to watch and wave. With darkness closing in, Ruth decided that she would have to land short of New York City. She touched down in Binghamton, New York and took up the rest of the flight the next morning. As a thick blanket of fog obscured her view, Ruth flew lower and lower to get her bearings. When she finally spied the tip of Manhattan, she glided in and “circled around the Statue of Liberty toward Governor’s Island.” Of Lady Liberty, Ruth said, “‘She smiled at me when I went past. She did!…I think we both feel alike about things.’”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Cheered by a celebratory crowd and brass band, Ruth landed on the welcoming earth. Despite the icicles that hung from her hair and the numbing cold, Ruth smiled and waved. She realized then that not only had she broken an aviation record, she had made a point for all women. She later put her thoughts into words: “The sky was my limit and the horizon my sphere. It’s any woman’s sphere if she has nerve and courage and faith in herself.”

An Author’s Note about Ruth Law and her life, complete with photographs, follows the text.

Heather Lang’s thrilling account of Ruth Law’s record-breaking flight from Chicago to New York will have young aviators on the edge of their seat. Law’s flight was filled with suspense from its inception as an idea in a young woman’s mind to its final touchdown, and Lang deftly incorporates the facts as well as Law’s feelings into her well-rounded story. Along the way, readers learn about Ruth and also about early aviation. Ruth Law’s own words, included throughout the story, will inspire children as they see that even though she lived long ago, her thoughts and ideas still ring true today.

Young readers will be fascinated by Raúl Colón’s glowing illustrations of Ruth Law and her flying machine. His detailed drawings of Law’s biplane give children an excellent view of the open-air craft, fostering a true understanding of the courage it took for her to undertake such a flight. Images from Law’s viewpoint in the cockpit allow readers to vicariously travel her path to self-realization and a record-breaking flight.

Ages 5 – 8

Calkins Creek, 2016 | ISBN 978-1620916506

Check out Heather Lang’s website for more about her and her books. You’ll also find links to a video and photos about Ruth Law, a map of her route, and information about her plane as well as a Teacher’s Guide.

Fly along with Ruth in this Fearless Flyer book trailer!

National Aviation History Month Activity

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Head in the Clouds Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

Picture Book Review

September 4 – National Wildlife Day

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About the Holiday

National Wildlife Day, founded in 2005, serves to bring awareness to the number of endangered animals that need to be preserved and rescued each year. The holiday also acknowledges the zoos, outstanding animal sanctuaries, and other global organizations for everything they do to help preserve this planet’s animals and educate the public about conservation – especially the children, who are our future conservationists and animal’s caretakers.

 

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

When young Eugenie Clark pressed her face against the aquarium window at the sharks swimming by, she did not see “piercing eyes…rows of sharp teeth…vicious, bloodthirsty killers.” Instead she saw “sleek, graceful fish” and dreamed of being inside the tank to swim among them. She loved to spend Saturdays at the New York Aquarium sharing her knowledge of fish with visitors. She wished there was more information available about sharks and hoped for a day when she could learn more about them.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

At home her mother bought Genie her own little fish tank, and soon the whole apartment was full of fish and reptiles. Genie kept careful notes on her pets as she tried to answer her many questions. William Beebe, a famous scientist who studied fish, was Genie’s hero. She too wished to explore the ocean like he did. But this was the 1930s and not many people “dared to study the depths of the sea, and none were women.” Eugenie’s mother suggested she study typing and try to become Beebe’s secretary. The life of a secretary was not what Genie had in mind.

Eugenie received a Master’s Degree in zoology, and when a well-known ichthyologist offered her a job as his research assistant and an opportunity to take oceanography classes, she moved to California. There she collected fish and water samples. The beauty of the underwater world astonished her. In the lab she was able to dissect a swell shark to learn “how and why it puffs up.” But Genie wanted to dive deeper—to swim with sharks.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

One day, Genie’s professor allowed her to try helmet diving. Wearing the heavy metal helmet, Genie was able to descend into the cold, murky deep where kelp forests waved with the current. “In 1949 the US Navy hired Genie to study poisonous fish in the South Seas. As she collected fish, she came face to face with a shark. The shark swam closer and closer then suddenly dove and disappeared out of sight. Genie was thrilled by the encounter.

In 1955 Eugenie moved to Florida and opened the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, becoming the first to study sharks in their natural environment. The more she studied sharks, the more she realized that they were intelligent creatures, not stupid “eating machines” as most people thought. She wondered if sharks could be trained.

Eugenie set up an experiment in which a shark needed to press a white board to receive a reward a short swim away. Soon, the female shark of the pair realized that if the male shark pressed the board, she could swim to retrieve the reward. The pair remembered the exercise even after a ten-week break. Soon, scientists from around the world wanted to work with Genie. 

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Word reached her about “‘sleeping sharks,’” off the coast of Mexico. Instead of swimming around, these sharks stayed on the ocean floor. Eugenie was determined to learn how they breathed without moving. She dived deep into their territory, finding a requiem shark in an ocean cave. Here, she was face-to-face with one of the most feared fish in the sea. Genie swallowed any worry and watched as the fish opened and closed its mouth, providing itself with oxygen as a remora fish cleaned its gills.

Genie took water samples and completed other tests that revealed astonishing facts about the ocean caves and the habits of sharks. But while Genie was learning the facts about these mysterious sea creatures, most people still feared them and considered them with suspicion and superstition. As time went by, Genie began seeing fewer and fewer sharks on her dives. They were being killed out of fear, for their fins, and because people thought it would make beaches safer.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Genie began talking about her research, and people listened. “Dr. Eugenie Clark had become one of the most respected fish scientists in the world.” She taught people that there is always more to learn and “always more surprises.”

An extensive Author’s Note about the life and work of Eugenie Clark as well as more information on sharks follows the text.

Heather Lang delves into the life’s work of a woman who fearlessly challenged herself and the prevailing science to increase our knowledge of sharks and change people’s perspective on these beautiful creatures. Readers will love Lang’s comprehensive storytelling—beginning with young Genie’s fascination with fish and the sea—that reveals the pivotal events which led to her discoveries. Fascinating anecdotes from Eugenie’s research and personal encounters with sharks will enthrall children, and the idea that there is much more to discover will resonated with young scientists in the making.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, 2016, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Jordi Solano takes readers to the depths of the ocean in his sea-green, atmospheric illustrations that beautifully mirror the world of sharks. Textured and layered images of marine plants and a variety of creatures give children an up-close view of Eugenie Clark’s work and the fish she encountered on her dives. Each type of shark is magnificently and realistically drawn, giving kids an idea of coloring, size, movement, and more. Children will also see Eugenie’s research facilities and the equipment she used in her studies.

For anyone interested in marine science, history, biographies, or the environment in general, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark is a can’t-miss book.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807521878

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Jordi Solano on Plum Pudding Illustration!

National Wildlife Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fascinating-sharks-word-scramble

Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble

 

Read the clues and unscramble the names of 14 types of sharks in this printable Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble! Here’s the Solution!

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You can find Swimming with Sharks at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 23 – Olympic Day and Q & A with Author Heather Lang

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About the Holiday

Olympic Day is celebrated by millions of people in more than 160 countries to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games in 1894. The mission of Olympic Day is to promote fitness, well-being, culture and education, while promoting the Olympic values of excellence, friendship and respect.  The Olympic Day pillars – move, learn and discover – are promoted in every corner of the globe. To have Olympic-size fun today, why not get together with friends or family and host your own mini-Olympic games? For more ideas and to learn more about today’s observance visit teamusa.org!

Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman, Olympic High-Jump Champion

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

 

Alice Coachman was a born runner and jumper—skipping, hopping, and vaulting over every obstacle that came her way. As Alice grew older, however, the joy of running and jumping had to come a distant second to chores like cooking, laundry, picking cotton and peaches, and taking care of her younger siblings. Besides, her papa told her, “running and jumping weren’t considered ladylike.” Still, that was all Alice could think about, so after her chores were finished, she went out to play sports with the boys.

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Image copyright Floyd Cooper, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press, 2012.

Living in the segregated South, Alice didn’t have the same rights as white people. She had nowhere to practice, but that didn’t stop her. Alice “ran barefoot on dirt roads. She collected sticks and tied rags together to make her own high jumps. Alice jumped so high, she soared like a bird above the cotton fields.” In seventh grade, Alice caught the attention of the high-school track coach. He arranged for her to join the track team at the Tuskegee Relays in Alabama, where the best black athletes from around the country competed. Alice had never worn track shoes or jumped over a real high-jump bar, she “won first place anyway, beating high-school and college girls.

Alice’s speed did more than win races. Once when a tornado ripped through Albany, she volunteered to deliver food to those in need. She ran so fast that the food stayed hot! Her talent won her a scholarship to finish high school at the Tuskegee Institute. Alice missed her family, and they didn’t have the money to really stay in touch. “One time she went home for a surprise visit, and her family had moved to a different house.”

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Image copyright Floyd Cooper, courtesy of Boyds Mills Press, 2012

Alice competed on both the track-and-field and basketball teams. She won every event— the high jump, the 50-meter, the 100-meter, and the 400-meter relay—and led the basketball team to three straight championships. Alice was ready to compete in the Olympics. It was 1944, however, and the Olympic Games were canceled as the world was at war.

After graduating college from the Tuskegee Institute, Alice went home to continue practicing. Here, she trained alone on dirt roads. In 1948 with the war at an end, Alice qualified to compete in the London Olympics high jump. Even though years of hard training had weakened her back and made jumping painful, Alice pursued her dream. In London, the ravages of war were still visible, and “England faced serious food shortages. Alice and the other athletes were often hungry and thirsty.” The cold weather “pricked her like pins,” but here Alice and the other athletes—black and white—lived together, and Alice could sit anywhere she wanted on the buses as she toured the city.

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Image copyright Floyd Cooper, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Boyds Mills Press, 2012.

As the Olympic Games opened with spectacular ceremonies, Alice marched into “Wembley Stadium to the applause of eighty-five thousand spectators.” Alice watched for eight days as her teammates lost event after event. Finally, it was Alice’s turn to compete. Her toughest opponent was Dorothy Tyler of Great Britain. “Inch by inch they battled it out—5 feet 3 2/5 inches, 5 feet 4 ½ inches. The sand in the landing pit was thinning out and the landings were tough on Alice’s back. 5 feet 5 1/3 inches.” The day was waning, and even though all of the other events were over, “the king and queen of England and thousands of spectators stayed to watch.”

The bar was placed at 5 feet 6 1/8 inches—as tall as Alice herself. She had never jumped so high before. “She sprinted, pumping her arms. She pushed off and flew…up…soaring…over the bar. Her leap set a new Olympic record!” But it was short lived. Dorothy also cleared the bar on her second attempt. The bar was placed at 5 feet 7 inches. Alice and Dorothy both jumped and missed. What would the judges decide? There are no ties allowed in the high jump.

Suddenly, Alice saw her name appear on the board! The judges awarded the medal to her because she “had made the record-breaking jump on her first try.” On that day—August 7, 1948—Alice Coachman stepped to the top of the podium and “became the first African American woman to win an Olympic gold medal.”

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Image copyright Floyd Cooper, courtesy of Boyds Mills Press, 2012

Author’s Notes containing more information about Alice Coachman and the 1948 Olympics as well as lists of resources follow the text.

Heather Lang brings an athlete’s appreciation for the in-born talent and hard practicing that creates a world-class Olympian. Her story reveals not only the details of Alice’s physical training but also the social and economic hurdles she overcame in her quest to compete in the Olympics. Lang’s graceful and evocative prose carries readers down dirt roads and over obstacles, to the halls of the Tuskegee Institute, and into Wembley Stadium as they learn about the singular focus Alice Coachman dedicated to her sport. Children will feel as if they are sitting in the stands watching with suspense as the bar is raised again and again, pushing Coachman to a world record.

Floyd Cooper sets readers in the hot, dusty, sun-burned South, where Alice Coachman—as a little girl and then a teenager—runs barefoot on dirt roads, jumps over homemade bars, leaps to tip the basketball from her brothers’ hands, and delivers food to tornado victims. The golden-brown-hued illustrations catch Dorothy Taylor and Alice Coachman as they soar over the high bar in their fierce competition and capture Coachman’s hopes, dreams, and anticipation as she waits—hands clasped—to hear the judges’ final decision in the 1948 Olympic Games. Readers will cheer to see Coachman standing on the first-place podium, ready to receive her well-deserved gold medal.

Ages 5 and up

Boyds Mills Press, 2012 | ISBN 978-1590788509

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books plus videos, pictures, and fun activities that accompany each book on her website!

Learn more about Floyd Cooper, his books, and his artwork on his website!

Enjoy this Queen of the Track book trailer!

Olympic Day Activity

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Go for the Gold! Word Search

 

Have fun as you look for the names of twenty summer Olympics events in this printable Go for the Gold! Word Search Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Q & A with Author Heather Lang

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Today, I’m excited to talk with Heather Lang about her inspirations, her books, brave women, and writing and research lets her be a little like childhood heroine Nancy Drew!

How did you become a children’s writer?

As a child, I loved books and stories and creating things, but I struggled with writing. I was much better at math. I never thought I could become an author, because I wasn’t naturally good at writing. As an adult, with kids of my own, I rediscovered my love for picture books, and I kept thinking how fun it would be to create a picture book! By then I’d realized that the seemingly impossible could be possible with hard work and dedication. So I began writing. It took many years and many rejections, but with support from other writers and my critique group I’ve learned to embrace the process.

Why do you like to write books about brave women?

The women I write about inspire me every day to be brave and step outside of my comfort zone. It’s amazing the things you discover about life and yourself when you dream big, keep an open mind, and push yourself. My hope is that my books will do the same for kids.

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Heather meets Alice Coachman, the first African-American woman to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

What inspired you to write Queen of the Track?

After seven years of rejections on my fiction, I needed a little spark in my writing life to keep me going, so I decided to research and write a true story about an inspiring woman. Since I love sports, I looked for an athlete, and who better than the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal? If Alice Coachman could overcome poverty and segregation and discrimination, surely I could overcome a few rejections. I kept one of Alice’s quotes on my desk: “When the going gets tough and you feel like throwing your hands in the air, listen to that voice that tells you, ‘Keep going. Hang in there.’ Guts and determination will pull you through.”

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You seem to dig very deep when researching a book. What would you say is the biggest surprise you’ve discovered during your research? 

Every book is a treasure hunt, full of surprises and discoveries! My biggest surprise probably came with my most recent book Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark. When I began my research journey, I was afraid of sharks and swimming in the ocean—terrified actually. As a child, I watched the movie Jaws and believed that sharks were swimming around looking for people to eat. That fear is what drew me to Eugenie Clark, an open-minded young scientist who never judged sharks based on rumors or appearance. I discovered that sharks are intelligent and important and that humans are NOT on the shark menu! I learned to scuba and snorkel, so I could experience Genie’s underwater world and swim with sharks myself. Writing that book transformed my fear of sharks into a passion for them!

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Heather learned to scuba dive while writing Swimming With Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark.

With the titles “Diving into Nonfiction and the World of Sharks,” “Got Grit?” and “Girls with Grit: Researching and Writing about Brave Girls,” your interactive presentations sound fascinating. Do you have any anecdotes from your speaking engagements you’d like to share?

I have so much fun visiting with kids and am always amazed at some of their questions. “How big are great white sharks?” “How big are their teeth?” “How big are their pups?” “How do they have pups?” I LOVE their raw curiosity! It inspires me and helps me develop my school visit programs. In reaction to the endless questions kids were asking me about sharks, I designed a program that includes hands-on activities that teach kids about shark anatomy and behavior, as well as the food chain and why sharks are important for a healthy ocean. And in the process, I’ve learned even more cool facts about sharks!

You’ve mentioned that you were inspired by Nancy Drew and once wanted to become a spy, which you compare to researching and writing children’s books. What was your favorite Nancy Drew book and why?

I remember two favorites that I owned: The Mystery at Lilac Inn and The Hidden Staircase. For several summers it was my mission to read every Nancy Drew book in the library. If I couldn’t get there, I’d reread the two that I owned. I never tired of them. I worshipped Nancy’s courage, resourcefulness, and willingness to push boundaries. More than anything I wanted to be a spy, just like her. And in a way, that dream has come true. I do lots of spy work for my books. Ideas and stories are all around us if we look, listen, and investigate. I think solid sleuthing is the backbone of an authentic story.

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Heather researches Ruth Law’s Scrapbook while writing Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

If you have a particular place that you write, would you mind describing it a little?

I enjoy mixing it up, depending on what I am working on. When I was writing The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall, I enjoyed writing on a picnic table at a local barn, surrounded by fields and horses. Sometimes I write in my office, but if the weather’s nice I head out to the screened porch. In the winter, my favorite place to write is by a roaring fire with my dog curled up next to me. And often ideas come to me when I’m in the car or on a walk or out to dinner—not the most convenient places to write. But when an idea strikes, I write it down and do a quick free write if possible, or poof the idea can vanish!

What’s the best thing about being a children’s writer?

My favorite part of being a writer is opening kids’ minds and hearts! I grow tremendously with every book I write, and nothing makes me happier than when my books do the same for kids. Whether a book inspires a child to dream big and be brave or it sparks a new interest in sharks or aviation, those moments are powerful.

What’s up next for you?

My next picture book biography, Anybody’s Game: The Story of the First Girl to Play Little League Baseball, comes out in March 2018. I am also working on a new book about sharks. And I’m so excited for an upcoming research trip to the Amazon for a book I’m writing about the rain forest! 

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas in our house is a creative holiday. My daughters and I try to make most of our gifts—anything from soap and candles to knitted hats, woven coasters, and jewelry. And we love to make handmade notecards and ornaments, especially when they involve GLITTER!

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday that you’d like to share?

Every year on Mother’s Day I get to choose exactly what I want to do! No—It’s not going to a spa or a fancy lunch. I choose to get my hands dirty with my husband and kids. It’s the day when we plan our garden, make a trip to the garden center, and plant our seeds and seedlings. 

Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Heather! I wish you the best with all of your books!

You can find Queen of the Track and Heather’s other Books at these booksellers:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million IndieBound

You can connect with Heather Lang on:

heatherlangbooks.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

May 31 – It’s Get Caught Reading Month

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About the Holiday

As we say goodbye to Get Caught Reading Month, let’s remember all of the great stories we’ve read and eagerly anticipate those that still await us in the days and months ahead! The long, relaxing hours of summer vacation are nearing, giving readers even more time to enjoy their favorite pursuit. So why not make a list of titles you’d like to explore this summer, and lead it off with today’s book that tells the true story of a very original teenager!

The Original Cowgirl: The Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Suzanne Beaky

 

Unlike most girls in the 1890s, Lucille didn’t skip rope “with her mama’s clothesline, she twirled it like a lasso. Whoosh…whoosh…snap!” While Lucille’s papa thought his daughter would be a great help around the ranch, her mother considered riding horses and roping steers unladylike. Lucille wasn’t interested in the regular pursuits of becoming a lady, however. Sewing and cooking were boring, and “riding sidesaddle was slower than a snail climbing a greased log.”

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

By the age of ten, Lucille was well versed in “mending fences, training racehorses, and herding cattle.” When she asked her father for her own herd of cattle, he told her that she could have one when she was old enough to rope and brand her own—something she could already do. Lucille’s mother worried about her when she patrolled the pastures where her cows grazed. They were threatened by “longhorns, wolves, and coyotes so mean they could turn the strongest cowboy into buzzard food,” but Lucille could snatch those varmints with her lasso in no time flat. The only thing Lucille was afraid of was not being allowed to work on the ranch, so she hid her bumps and bruises.

When Lucille was thirteen, her papa took her along on some rough-riding and roping competitions he had organized. When people saw how talented she was, word got around. Newspapers called her a “daring young girl who ‘held the audience in a breathless spell’” and said she was “‘the envy of half the men.’” But now that she was a teenager, Lucille’s mama sent her to a boarding school where she was to learn how to be a lady.

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Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of albertwhitman.com

When she returned home at the end of the year, her papa presented her with a gift—a “beautiful sixteen-hand chestnut horse named Governor. Right off, Lucille could see that he would make a perfect trick horse. That summer Lucille, her papa, and the other cowboys were invited to perform for Vice Presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt. At first Lucille’s mother said no, but she later relented, with the stipulation that “it would be Lucille’s last appearance.”

Lucille was a star, demonstrating her riding and roping skills for 25,000 people. Teddy Roosevelt was so impressed, he suggested Lucille have her own show. Soon, Lucille was traveling around the country, thrilling audiences by breaking broncos, lassoing and branding steers, and performing tricks like roping “five galloping cowboys all at once.”

Lucille entered her first professional steer-roping competition when she was just fifteen. She was the first women ever to compete in this kind of event. Some cowboys laughed at her, but she didn’t care. When the steer was released from the pen, Lucille took off after him. Her first throw of the lasso landed but broke. Quickly she tossed another and “flipped him up like a flapjack.” She jumped off her horse and in 29 ½ seconds tied the steer’s feet. Her time was “faster than all the men!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-roping-five-cowboys

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

Lucille went on to break the world record for steer roping. Plenty of people still thought Lucille belonged in the home instead of on horseback. “But her home was always on a horse with the sun on her cheeks a lariat coiled in her hand, and the boundless Oklahoma prairie rolling out in front of her.”

More information on and a timeline of Lucille Mulhall’s life follow the text.

With her folksy storytelling, Heather Lang transports readers to the prairies of the Wild West, where a girl with phenomenal riding skills captured the attention and hearts of Americans. Young readers will be fascinated by Lucille Mulhall’s development from a 10-year-old prodigy to the star of her own stage show in only a few short years. Lang’s expressive period-perfect vocabulary allows all kids to ride the range while they learn about this young woman who broke stereotypes, championed the cause of women, and still serves as a role model for all who wish to live life on their own terms.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-the-original-cowgirl-roping-five-cowboys

Image copyright Suzanne Beaky, courtesy of suzannebeaky.com

With her downhome, action-packed illustrations, Suzanne Beaky lets kids watch as Lucille lassos a wolf, ropes a steer, preforms tricks, and celebrates her record-breaking performance. Lucille is a wide-eyed force of nature in her split skirt and braids as she twirls her rope for serious ranch business and for entertaining the crowds, whose stunned expressions reveal just how original Lucille was. Clothing, hair, and mustache styles, as well as depictions of horses, steers, and the vast green prairie make The Original Cowgirl as fun as it is informative.

For kids interested in the Wild West, early American history, biographies, or a story about true individuality, The Original Cowgirl: the Wild Adventures of Lucille Mulhall is a great addition to home bookshelves and public and school libraries.

Ages 4 – 8

Albert Whitman, 2015 | ISBN 978-0807529317

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

To find out more about Lucille Mulhall through videos, photographs, and fun activities, click here!

Learn more about Suzanne Beaky and view a gallery of her artwork on her website!

Get Caught Reading Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-Yee-haw-word-search

Yee-haw! Word Search

 

Can you lasso the eighteen Wild West-inspired words in this printable Yee-haw! Word Search? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review

March 28 – It’s Women’s History Month

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About the Holiday

Women have been inventing, discovering, questioning, challenging, and changing the world in the same ways and for just as long as men have—but often without recognition, the ability to take jobs in their fields of expertise, or equal (or even any) pay. This month’s observance serves to educate people on the amazing women who have blazed trails in the past and those who are continuing that tradition today.

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Raúl Colón

 

Entertained crowds knew Ruth Law for the loops, the spiral dives, and even the dip of death that she performed in her airshow. But for Ruth these stunts were like standing still. She “longed to fly to get somewhere…somewhere far away.” She decided to fly from Chicago to New York City. There weren’t too many aviators brave enough to attempt such a long flight in the type of biplane Ruth flew. They feared that if something went wrong with the engine, they’d never realize it in time to land. But Ruth knew her plane inside and out and figured she “could anticipate what would happen to the motor by the sound of it.”

A trip like the one Ruth envisioned posed another problem, though. Her small biplane held only 16 gallons of gasoline—not enough to make the journey. She asked Glenn Curtis, who built her plane, if she could buy his latest model. This much bigger plane held 205 gallons of gas and had already proven itself. But Curtis refused. He didn’t believe Ruth could handle the “powerful machine on such a long flight.”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Ruth was not to be deterred. She added three more gas tanks so the plane could hold 53 gallons of gas, installed a cover to protect her legs, and created a scrolling map of the route. Aviation experts said she would fail, but Ruth disagreed. “‘What those men can do a woman can do. I can do,’” she said. On a windy November 19, 1916, Ruth took to the cockpit to begin her nonstop flight. Although she was a little scared of what lay ahead, she took off, believing that “the scare is part of the thrill” of any experience.

Ruth had counted on the strong wind to help push her farther faster, but just as quickly as it had blown up, it stopped. She wondered if she would have enough gasoline after all. As she flew over one landmark after another, Ruth felt exhilarated. As she passed over Cleveland, Ohio, though, “the oil gauge registered zero pressure. Something was wrong!” The sounds of her plane’s motors told Ruth a different story. She kept flying.

Soon she was passing over Erie, Pennsylvania—the site of the record-breaking flight by Victor Carlstrom. Even the icy stings of the frigid air couldn’t dispel her excitement. In a moment she was east of Erie and had broken Carlstrom’s record. The thrill of her achievement was tempered, however, by the sputtering of her engine. While there was still a little gas in the plane, it was “too low to feed into the engine.” Ruth tipped the plane forward to give it more gas. Two miles from Hornell, New York, the nearest landing spot, “the engine grumbled its last roar, leaving her with nothing but the silence of the wind.”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Ruth steered the plane as it glided into Hornell—512 miles from Chicago. She was the new American nonstop flight record holder. Ruth’s original plan had been to fly to New York City, so after refueling and grabbing a bite to eat, she took off once again. Weighed down by the full gas tank, the plane barely made it over the hill and tall trees in her path. This was as close to crashing as Ruth ever was—or ever wanted to be.

People had already heard about Ruth Law, and they came out to watch and wave. With darkness closing in, Ruth decided that she would have to land short of New York City. She touched down in Binghamton, NY and took up the rest of the flight the next morning. A thick blanket of fog obscured her view. She flew lower and lower to get her bearings and finally spied the tip of Manhattan. As she glided in, “Ruth circled around the Statue of Liberty toward Governor’s Island.” Of Lady Liberty, Ruth said, “‘She smiled at me when I went past. She did!…I think we both feel alike about things.’”

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Image copyright Raúl Colón, text copyright Heather Lang. Courtesy of Calkins Creek.

Cheered by a crowd and a brass band, Ruth landed on the welcoming earth. Despite being numb with cold and the icicles that hung from her hair, Ruth smiled and waved. She realized then that not only had she broken an aviation record, she had made a point for all women. She later put her thoughts into words: “The sky was my limit and the horizon my sphere. It’s any woman’s sphere if she has nerve and courage and faith in herself.”

An Author’s Note about Ruth Law and her life, complete with photographs, follows the text.

Heather Lang’s thrilling account of Ruth Law’s record-breaking flight from Chicago to New York will have young aviators on the edge of their seat. Law’s flight was filled with suspense from its inception as an idea in a young woman’s mind to its final touchdown, and Lang deftly incorporates the facts as well as Law’s feelings into her well-rounded story. Along the way, readers learn about Ruth and also about early aviation. Ruth Law’s own words, included throughout the story, will inspire children as they see that even though she lived long ago, her thoughts and ideas still ring true today.

Young readers will be fascinated by Raúl Colón’s glowing illustrations of Ruth Law and her flying machine. His detailed drawings of Law’s biplane give children an excellent view of the open-air craft, fostering a true understanding of the courage it took for her to undertake such a flight. Images from Law’s viewpoint in the cockpit allow readers to vicariously travel her path to a record-breaking flight and also to self-realization.

Ages 5 – 8

Calkins Creek, 2016 | ISBN 978-1620916506

Check out Heather Lang’s website for more about her and her books. You’ll also find links to a video and photos about Ruth Law, a map of her route, and information about her plane as well as a Teacher’s Guide.

Fly along with Ruth in this Fearless Flyer book trailer!

Women’s History Month Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-biplane-craft

Head in the Clouds Biplane

 

If you love airplanes and flying, you’ll have fun making your own plane from recycled materials! Use your creativity to decorate your plane while you imagine yourself flying through the clouds on a beautiful day. Younger children will have fun sharing this activity with an adult or older sibling too!

Supplies

  • Travel-size toothpaste box
  • 3 6-inch x 1/2-inch craft sticks
  • 2  2 1/2-inch x 7/8-inch mini craft sticks
  • 5 Round toothpicks, with points cut off
  • Paint in whatever colors you like for your design
  • 4 small buttons
  • 2 mini buttons
  • Paint brushes
  • Strong glue or glue gun

Directions

  1. Empty toothpaste box
  2. Paint toothpaste box and decorate it
  3. Paint the craft sticks and 5 toothpicks
  4. Paint one small craft stick to be the propeller
  5. Let all objects dry

To assemble the biplane

  1. For the Bottom Wing – Glue one 6-inch-long craft stick to the bottom of the plane about 1 inch from the end of the box that is the front of the plane
  2. For the Top Wing – Glue the other 6-inch-long craft stick to the top of the plane about 1 inch from the front of the plane
  3. For the Tail – Glue one mini craft stick to the bottom of the box about ¾ inches from the end that is the back of the plane
  4. For the Vertical Rudder – Cut the end from one of the painted 6-inch-long craft sticks, glue this to the back of the box, placing it perpendicular against the edge and half-way between each side

To assemble the front wheels

  1. Cut 4 painted toothpicks to a length of ¾-inches long
  2. Cut one painted toothpick to a length of 1-inch long
  3. Glue 2 of the 3/4-inch toothpicks to the back of 1 button, the ends of the toothpicks on the button should be touching and the other end apart so the toothpicks form a V
  4. Repeat the above step for the other wheel
  5. Let the glue dry
  6. Glue the 1-inch long toothpick between the wheels at the center of each wheel to keep them together and give them stability. Let dry

To make the back wheel

  1. Cut two ¼-inch lengths of painted toothpick and glue them together. Let dry
  2. Glue two mini buttons together to form the back wheel. Let dry
  3. Glue the ¼-inch toothpicks to the mini buttons. Let dry
  4. Glue these to the bottom of the plane in the center of the box directly in front of and touching the tail

Display your biplane!

Picture Book Review

March 8 – International Women’s Day

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About the Holiday

The first International Women’s Day was celebrated in 1909 during a time of great change and increasing industrialization that saw more and more women demanding equality in working hours, pay, safety, voting rights and more with their male counterparts. Women across the globe are still fighting for these rights. This year’s theme is Be Bold For Change (#BeBoldForChange), and reminds us that we must always be vigilant in securing and keeping equal rights for all.

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

Written by Heather Lang | Illustrated by Jordi Solano

 

When young Eugenie Clark pressed her face against the aquarium window at the sharks swimming by, she did not see “piercing eyes…rows of sharp teeth…vicious, bloodthirsty killers.” Instead she saw “sleek, graceful fish” and dreamed of being inside the tank to swim among them. She loved to spend Saturdays at the New York Aquarium sharing her knowledge of fish with visitors. She wished there was more information available about sharks and hoped for a day when she could learn more about them.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

At home her mother bought Genie her own little fish tank, and soon the whole apartment was full of fish and reptiles. Genie kept careful notes on her pets as she tried to answer her many questions. William Beebe, a famous scientist who studied fish, was Genie’s hero. She too wished to explore the ocean like he did. But this was the 1930s and not many people “dared to study the depths of the sea, and none were women.” Eugenie’s mother suggested she study typing and try to become Beebe’s secretary. The life of a secretary was not what Genie had in mind.

Eugenie received a Master’s Degree in zoology, and when a well-known ichthyologist offered her a job as his research assistant and an opportunity to take oceanography classes, she moved to California. There she collected fish and water samples. The beauty of the underwater world astonished her. In the lab she was able to dissect a swell shark to learn “how and why it puffs up.” But Genie wanted to dive deeper—to swim with sharks.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

One day, Genie’s professor allowed her to try helmet diving. Wearing the heavy metal helmet, Genie was able to descend into the cold, murky deep where kelp forests waved with the current. “In 1949 the US Navy hired Genie to study poisonous fish in the South Seas. As she collected fish, she came face to face with a shark. The shark swam closer and closer then suddenly dove and disappeared out of sight. Genie was thrilled by the encounter.

In 1955 Eugenie moved to Florida and opened the Cape Haze Marine Laboratory, becoming the first to study sharks in their natural environment. The more she studied sharks, the more she realized that they were intelligent creatures, not stupid “eating machines” as most people thought. She wondered if sharks could be trained.

Eugenie set up an experiment in which a shark needed to press a white board to receive a reward a short swim away. Soon, the female shark of the pair realized that if the male shark pressed the board, she could swim to retrieve the reward. The pair remembered the exercise even after a ten-week break. Soon, scientists from around the world wanted to work with Genie. 

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Word reached her about “‘sleeping sharks,’” off the coast of Mexico. Instead of swimming around, these sharks stayed on the ocean floor. Eugenie was determined to learn how they breathed without moving. She dived deep into their territory, finding a requiem shark in an ocean cave. Here, she was face-to-face with one of the most feared fish in the sea. Genie swallowed any worry and watched as the fish opened and closed its mouth, providing itself with oxygen as a remora fish cleaned its gills.

Genie took water samples and completed other tests that revealed astonishing facts about the ocean caves and the habits of sharks. But while Genie was learning the facts about these mysterious sea creatures, most people still feared them and considered them with suspicion and superstition. As time went by, Genie began seeing fewer and fewer sharks on her dives. They were being killed out of fear, for their fins, and because people thought it would make beaches safer.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Genie began talking about her research, and people listened. “Dr. Eugenie Clark had become one of the most respected fish scientists in the world.” She taught people that there is always more to learn and “always more surprises.”

An extensive Author’s Note about the life and work of Eugenie Clark as well as more information on sharks follows the text.

Heather Lang delves into the life’s work of a woman who fearlessly challenged herself and the prevailing science to increase our knowledge of sharks and change people’s perspective on these beautiful creatures. Readers will love Lang’s comprehensive storytelling—beginning with young Genie’s fascination with fish and the sea—that reveals the pivotal events which led to her discoveries. Fascinating anecdotes from Eugenie’s research and personal encounters with sharks will enthrall children, and the idea that there is much more to discover will resonated with young scientists in the making.

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Image copyright Jordi Solano, courtesy of plumpuddingillustration.com

Jordi Solano takes readers to the depths of the ocean in his sea-green, atmospheric illustrations that beautifully mirror the world of sharks. Textured and layered images of marine plants and a variety of creatures give children an up-close view of Eugenie Clark’s work and the fish she encountered on her dives. Each type of shark is magnificently and realistically drawn, giving kids an idea of coloring, size, movement, and more. Children will also see Eugenie’s research facilities and the equipment she used in her studies.

For anyone interested in marine science, history, biographies, or the environment in general, Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark is a can’t-miss book.

Ages 5 – 9

Albert Whitman & Company, 2016 | ISBN 978-0807521878

Discover more about Heather Lang and her books on her website!

View a gallery of artwork by Jordi Solano on Plum Pudding Illustration!

International Women’s Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-fascinating-sharks-word-scramble

Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble

 

Read the clues and unscramble the names of 14 types of sharks in this printable Fascinating Sharks Word Scramble! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review