Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Giveaway! Lisa Kahn Schnell's HIGH TIDE FOR HORSESHOE CRABS -- and Conversation with the Author, by Christy Mihaly

I’m excited to share an interview with picture book author Lisa Kahn Schnell, and to announce a great give-away.

Lisa’s debut book, High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs, is a lyrical look at a fascinating subject not often considered: horseshoe crabs. And she’s giving away a signed copy to a lucky GROG reader—just comment below for your chance to win!

In this nonfiction picture book, Lisa takes a close look at horseshoe crabs and their life cycle. She makes her topic appealing to kids and adults alike, in a beautifully written and beautifully illustrated 40-page book, published this spring by Charlesbridge. Don't just take my word for it: Kirkus and SLJ both gave it starred reviews. After reading this book, you’ll be looking out for horseshoe crabs on your next walk on the beach! (And be sure to check out the illustrations in this post -- you'll love them.)

Lisa Kahn Schnell
Lisa and I have known one another “virtually”—as members of an online critique group—for almost two years. That made it especially fun for me to meet lovely Lisa in real life, last fall at Falling Leaves – the fabulous SCBWI master class retreat in upstate New York.

Lisa was kind enough to answer a few questions for GROG.

Q: First, Lisa--CONGRATULATIONS on the publication of High Tide for Horseshoe CrabsPlease tell us about this poetic picture book.

A: Thank you for your kind words!

High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs introduces readers to the amazing horseshoe crab. Each spring, horseshoe crabs spawn up and down the east coast of the United States. They come together in especially large numbers on the beaches of Delaware Bay. During this spawning season, many species of migrating shorebirds—and a myriad of other animals—feed on the crabs’ tiny nutritious eggs. Scientists, volunteers, and other curious people arrive to observe the birds and horseshoe crabs, too.

Horseshoe crabs were on the planet millions of years before the dinosaurs. They’re critical ecologically and for human health, too. I am fascinated by the importance of an animal I’ve taken for granted for most of my life, and I hope my book conveys that enthusiasm, along with lots of information.

Double-page spread from High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs
 Q: Your book demonstrates your love of nature. How can parents and teachers use books like yours to get kids outdoors, and to get involved with nature?

A: I love spending time outside, and I find nature endlessly fascinating and inspiring. I have had some great teachers over the years who have shared knowledge, encouraged my questions, and helped me feel comfortable outdoors.

I love the way certain books can be as inviting as a good teacher. For example, the books in the Scientists in the Field series feel like personal guides to places and subjects I might never get to know about otherwise. I wanted my book to do the same sort of thing, but for younger children--to introduce the child and their adult reader to the subject in a way that makes it feel approachable and welcoming.

Part of what amazed me about horseshoe crabs is that I’d been going to the beach all my life and had never realized this incredible natural phenomenon was happening right there where I was standing. I know not everyone will visit the horseshoe crabs in person, but I will be very happy if my book encourages people to look around—wherever they are—and ask simple questions. “What is happening in the natural world near me?” “What can I observe and learn about directly, right here where I am?” That sort of investigation doesn’t require any special equipment—it can happen in a city schoolyard or while mucking around in a stream.

Q: What made you choose this subject for your first book?

A. A well-timed walk on the beach! I saw a horseshoe crab and wanted to know more about it. When I started looking for information, I couldn’t find much, and was surprised how little was available, especially for young readers. Once I started researching more thoroughly, I found lots of intriguing material. The project developed from there.    

Q: I love the way you’ve layered the text. The basic story, from “It’s starting,” to “They’re arriving,” then “They’re laying,” etc., is outlined in big, bold, brief headlines. On each page of text, a fuller explanation follows of what’s happening on the beach and in the crab’s cycle of life. How did you arrive at this approach?

A. The structure of the book is the result of a lot of writing and re-writing and winnowing of information. There was so much I wanted to include! 

I got to see the crab spawning action first-hand, and that affected me enormously. In the end, I decided that I most wanted to capture the energy and excitement of everything coming together—the horseshoe crabs, of course, but also the arrival of the migrating birds, and the humans, too. I particularly loved the fact that that humans were easy to include in this natural history story. This draft started as just the two-word phrases—the minimum required to capture the major moments. I thought that was a bit too spare, so I added the longer text on each page. The back matter developed during the editing process.


Q: Alan Marks created the gorgeous (and scientifically accurate) illustrations for the book. I particularly love the detailed horseshoe crab diagrams on the ends. How involved were you in the design and illustration? 

A: I was quite involved with the illustration process, and I feel very lucky that I had that opportunity. It was fun for me to learn how the illustration process works—how images develop and change, and the extent to which they are fact checked…and checked again. And again! (Especially those endpapers. Oh my!) It was also fascinating to me to see how a professional illustrator works. Alan was so FAST! And he responded to suggestions and necessary changes graciously.

Because my book is nonfiction, I had quite a bit of input. Also, my editor at Charlesbridge was wonderful about including me in the process and allowing my input right from the start. I really appreciated that!

Q: I understand you have recently taken art classes and are honing your artistic talents – painting and drawing. How has that affected your writing?

A: I earned a Fine Arts minor in college, but I never thought I could draw. A few years ago, at a time when I was down and needed to do something just for me, I decided to take art classes again. I’m learning to draw, paint, and make art with all sorts of media, and I love it!
Lisa Kahn Schnell, acrylic
Sometimes art feels like a complete sidetrack to writing. Like I’m…not wasting my time, exactly, but ridiculously unfocused. Then there are those moments when I realize that art is art. Practicing careful observation, learning how to capture a mood or emotion, portraying whatever it is that transfixes me about a subject—these all apply to both visual art and writing. It all works together. Whatever the medium, I see my job as conveying both knowledge and emotion in a way that someone else can feel it, too, even if they can’t interact with the subject directly.

Lisa Kahn Schnell, Ink
Lisa Kahn Schnell, Pencil
  












Before my horseshoe crab manuscript was accepted, I used it as the basis for my first attempt at illustration. I worked with a friend who is an illustration professor at the local university. The results were not publishable—I didn’t even send them to the publisher for consideration. However, I had fun and learned a lot by trying! And even though I couldn’t execute the art to my liking, I passed some of the ideas on to my editor, who shared them with the illustrator. He did a great job with them, and I was happy to have had some small part in the illustration process.

Q: As a dancer as well as a painter, you’re pretty busy . . . . How do these other activities interact with your writing?

A: Dancing and visual arts are more immediately tactile and sensual than writing usually is for me (though I’ve been known to cut a manuscript into bits to play with different configurations!), so with those activities, it’s easier for me to escape my noisy brain and reset. Art and dancing keep me sane—and dancing keeps me in reasonably good physical shape—which is a good thing for my writing, and everything else, too!
Lisa Kahn Schnell, water color

Q: What’s your writing process? Do you outline?

A: I’m still figuring out my writing process. So far, it seems to be managed chaos, just like the rest of my life. I do not outline, though I wouldn’t rule anything out. For me the most difficult part of writing is finding a structure for the mess of information and ideas I’ve collected on a given topic. That part of the process always feels sooo slow.

Q: Do you write exclusively nonfiction? What do you like about nonfiction? How do you select a topic?

A: I definitely gravitate toward nonfiction, though I have a couple of fiction pieces that I’m working on, too. I’m not willing to limit myself at this point—I’m still figuring out what I like and am able to do.

Part of what I like about writing nonfiction is that it gives me the excuse to get out in the field and learn from scientists who are passionate about whatever it is they study.

So far I have selected topics (in the broader sense) that appeal to me in some way I can’t always define—a gut reaction to something, a subject that I keep hearing about for some reason, simple curiosity. I have a Master’s degree in botany (plant ecology, really). I am especially interested in topics that let me learn more about biology of any sort, since that often means I get to go outside to do some of the research!

Q:  Books and curiosity seem to go together . . . Do you have thoughts about how can we encourage kids to range freely through the library, and the world, with books?

A: I wish children could spend less time doing things like standardized testing, and more time following their own curiosity and asking questions—in the library, outside, wherever they are. One big thing I learned when I was studying for my Master’s degree is that there are still so many questions that haven’t been answered. Part of what I love is learning how much we don't know, and the creative ways people are trying to answer basic questions. I hope that by helping children see science as something alive—not just lists of facts—they’ll understand that there is a place for them to actively participate in the process. 

Q: For readers inspired to pick up a copy of High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs, where is it available?

A: Wherever books are sold! I always encourage people to shop at their local indie bookstore though, if they’re lucky enough to have one.

Lisa, thanks so much for these thoughtful answers . . .  and for offering a signed copy of your book to a lucky GROG reader.

Cheddar awaits your comments!
Readers: Please leave a comment below. If you’d like to be included in the drawing for a signed copy of Lisa’s book, mention that in your comment.

You have until June 26 to enter. My mascot, Cheddar, will assist in selecting the random winning entry. We’ll contact the lucky winner on July 1.

79 comments:

  1. Lisa, Congratulations on your new book. It looks wonderful. I live near a bay and never knew about horseshoe crabs until about 10 years ago when I had the opportunity to spend time on on the water. I became fascinated with their prehistoric look. I don't know much about them though so I look forward to reading your book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. HI Cheryl, Thanks for your comment! Shall we enter you in the book drawing?

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Cheryl. It's surprisingly easy to miss them. I hope you enjoy the book!

      Delete
  2. What a fascinating interview, Chris. I enjoyed hearing about the process Lisa went through to structure the book. I would love to win HIGH TIEDE FOR HORSESHOE CRABS but i bet I can't because i'm a GROGer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kathy. Hope your local library or bookstore has a copy that you can read.

      Delete
  3. Thanks Kathy! You're right, GROGgers usually aren't eligible for prizes . . . but you can still buy a copy . . . Sorry!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm so excited to learn about this book! When my kids found horseshoe crabs at the beach, we went looking for books at the library. There was just one book completely dedicated to the crabs, an old but beautiful title called The Crab from Yesterday: The Life-Cycle of a Horseshoe Crab by John Waters. I know my kids will love to read Lisa's book as well. Great interview!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cathy, it's so great to hear this -- it's just as Lisa said! We'll enter you in the drawing!

      Delete
    2. Oh my--I have to admit, I don't know that one! Hope I can find it at our library. Thanks for your comments.

      Delete
  5. Great post, Chris. And you asked way different questions than I did when I reviewed High Tide ... I already have a copy so don't put my name in the hat. (Or put my name in, but put Kathy's under it....)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Sue, I tried to be different (and Lisa had some ideas she wanted to share). I'm sure Kathy will love having you as her proxy.

      Delete
    2. Aww, hugs and thanks, Sue.

      Delete
    3. Very resourceful, Sue. : )

      Delete
  6. As Marylanders, our family enjoys rooting on these plucky underdogs -thanks for shining a light on them! I'd love to win a copy of your book, Lisa.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terrific! Your name is in Cheddar's bowl.

      Delete
    2. Plucky underdogs indeed! Hope you enjoy the book whenever/however you see it.

      Delete
  7. Growing up near Myrtle Beach was a wonderful experience, but I never thought much about horseshoe crabs. This book sounds wonderful---a true melding of art and text. I feel the need for another new book order. Thanks, Chris.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a fabulous giveaway and a really wonderful synopsis and interview. I have loved horseshoe crabs for decades and now share that love with my grandsons. Anyone who wins this book will be lucky indeed!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kim! We'll enter your name in Cheddar's bowl.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Kim. So happy to hear you're sharing your decades (!) of horseshoe crab experience and love with your grandsons. What lucky boys. I hope you enjoy the book.

      Delete
  9. I grew up on the Raritan Bay in NJ and spent many summers watching these amazing creatures make their migrations. Sadly, their numbers are much lower than when I was a child. I am so pleased to see a book that not only tells their story, but educates readers about these pre-historic wonders. Congratulations!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Forgot to mention...I'd be thrilled to have a copy of this book! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll include you! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  11. Congratulations, Lisa on a stunning picture book - there's nothing quite like learning alongside great art. Would love a copy!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks, Heather, we'll include you in the drawing.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This looks WONDERFUL - and inspirational for us PB writers! would love to win this, of course. Great interview - thanks!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Joanne, you'll be in the drawing!

      Delete
    2. That's really great to hear. Thank you, Joanne.

      Delete
  14. Love Cheddar! And your book looks amazing! I'll put it on my summer NF reading list. I also think your illustrations are lovely. I'm thinking there will be many author-illustrator books in your future! Fingers crossed to win a copy for my very own! I think my son will love it, too. He loves playing in the ocean, wandering through tide pools and exploring nature wherever we go. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really appreciate your kind words. Happy exploring!

      Delete
  15. Congratulations on your book. It looks amazing! Interesting topic as well. Great post.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Congrats on your book, Lisa! It sounds marvelous. Although I've never interacted with a horseshoe crab, many years ago my 3rd grade students studied hermit crab and were fascinated. I have a 12 year old friend who is CRAZY about everything science, so add me to the contest for a copy (which I would give to her!).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment and we'll put you in the drawing!

      Delete
    2. Thanks, Gail. I hope you get to meet the horseshoe crabs someday!

      Delete
  17. This looks like an incredible. Yes, I'd like a chance to win a copy. I love non-fiction picture books and this one sounds especially good. Thanks for the interview and the chance to win.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rosi! Your name will be in the bowl of names!

      Delete
  18. Lisa...what a beautiful book! And your art is incredible. I'm so happy that success is here for you...you've obviously worked extremely hard. And it's encouraging that a lyrical nonfiction got a nod...I've got one about endangered species...we'll see what happens. ;)
    Please enter me in the drawing for a copy of your beautiful book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment and we'll put your name in the drawing!

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much, Vivian. Hope your art endeavors are going well, and good luck with your ms.

      Delete
  19. Congratulations. I can't wait to read it, This is so exciting for you! And for me, it's exciting that you're giving away one of your beautiful books.I'm in. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Congratulations, Lisa :) I will get a copy of your book to add to my library. Alan's illustrations are magic and bring the horseshoe crabs' to life. Thank you for writing this inspiring PB. You are quite the artist yourself!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Thank you so much for your comments, Charlotte. I feel very lucky to have had Alan as my illustrator!

      Delete
  21. An outstanding interview and blog post, Christy. Thank you Lisa Kahn Schnell for sharing your book High Tide for Horseshoe Crabs. You already hooked me as you stated some interesting facts that I did not know about horseshoe crabs. I want to read more.
    ~Suzy Leopold

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. P. S. Extra treats for you Cute Cheddar!

      Delete
    2. So happy to hear that you are hooked!

      Delete
  22. What an interesting topic for a nonfiction picture book. I'm surprised that there aren't tons of books out there on the subject already. Congratulations! And I would love to be entered into the drawing for a signed copy of the book. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thank you for introducing us to Lisa, Christy!
    Lisa, what a fascinating subject for a book. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy to see how you layered your text. Congratulations on your starred reviews!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Lisa, what a subject, intriguing and under-understood. Love how your book reveals the fascinating secrets of this astounding creature's life. Discovery seems to be one of the passions satisfied by good non-fiction for kids. Thanks for sharing your journey. Would love to get this book for my beach-loving granddaughter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Damon. We'll put your name in the hat!

      Delete
    2. They are really amazing! Thanks so much for your comments.

      Delete
  25. Congrats on your new book! I don't much about crabs so this book would be wonderful to read and own. The illustrations are beautiful and capture the spirit of discovery and learning. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We'll enter your name -- thanks for the comment.

      Delete
    2. Thank you! I love what you said about the illustrations, too.

      Delete
  26. I haven't seen anything about horseshoe crabs. I will be looking to read this book and the art is exceptional too!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Christy & Lisa,
    Appreciations for this exciting amble on the beach.
    BEST wishes to Lisa for her HIGH TIDE picture book.
    It will be enjoyed a lot here in Florida where I read to deserving kids thru BookPALS. And also, where we have horseshoe crabs!

    Eager to know your next picture book project Lisa if you care to share!

    Happy shoreline time,

    Jan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to hear you'll be sharing my book with kids in Florida, Jan. I've been told you can see horseshoe crabs during most of the year down there.

      As far as my next pb project, I have several things in the works, but nothing definite yet. Hopefully I'll have some good news soon.

      Delete
  28. PS I'm sending a link to this article to two coastal bookstore's I frequent. This should be on many many shelves, but especially up & down the coast at bookstores that feature
    the abundant dolphin picture books. (Not that dolphins aren't important, I luv 'em. But so pleased to see a shore book on a topic that is undercovered.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jan! Yes, horseshoe crabs are among the many topics on which we need more books . . .

      Delete
    2. Thank you! I really appreciate that!

      Delete
  29. Sounds like a wonderful book. I'd love to win a copy. I enjoyed the blog post - very informative.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thanks so much for your interview. Would love to win a copy of your book. Thanks so much.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hi Writing Friends!
    Thanks for all your comments. We'll do the drawing very soon . . .

    ReplyDelete
  32. CONGRATULATIONS go to Joanne Sher, who won the drawing for a signed copy of Lisa's beautiful book. Cheddar has certified the results and we'll be in contact with Joanne soon. Thanks again for the thoughtful comments.

    ReplyDelete