Thursday, February 14, 2008

Virtual Book Tour: Day 14

Today’s stop on the tour is once again dedicated to the awesome students at Glenwood Avenue Elementary School, located on an island in Wildwood, New Jersey! I’m so glad you’re a part of my Virtual Book Tour. I also want to extend a personal thanks for these amazing teachers who have helped make this all happen: Mrs. Sharpe, Mrs. Cardaci, Mrs. K. Melchioree, Mrs. T. Melchiorre, and Ms. Sholtis.

Last week students sent in questions to interview E. B. Lewis, the award-winning illustrator of D is for Drinking Gourd. This week, I’ll be answering questions they asked me as the author. What great questions they wanted to know!

Q: Did you write this book to educate others? Because I did learn things about African-American history.
A: Yes, one of the main reasons I wrote this book was to educate people about the amazing contributions and wonderful accomplishments African Americans have done. I wanted kids just like you to learn all the exciting things I had learned about African-American history. I wanted you to learn these things so you could tell your friends. I wanted you to know about these things so you could tell your parents or your grandparents. I wanted you to read about these things so you could talk about them with your teacher and in class.

Q: What kind of adventures did you have when doing the research for this book?
A: During the three months I was actually writing the book, I spent most of my time writing. But during the years leading up to this book, I have done lots of research which took me on many fun adventures! I attended a Juneteenth celebration in my hometown with my family and friends. At the elementary school where my husband teaches, I heard a woman act as Sojourner Truth and tell her amazing story. I saw a man act as Frederick Douglass and deliver one of his most famous speeches about the Fourth of July. I love to visit the California African American Museum in Los Angeles where, among other things, the beautiful art of quilt artist Faith Ringgold is on display. I continue to experience amazing adventures as I do more research about African American history wherever and whenever I can.

Q: How much research do you have to do for this kind of informational book?
A: A lot. I had been researching African American history for over five years when I wrote this book. I have more than 100 books about African American history on my bookshelves in my office and in the room where I read to do my research. My husband and friends help me by clipping out newspaper articles about African American history or printing out stories from the Internet to help me know about current topics in the news. Yet I want to keep doing more research because there is so much I don’t know! And since I write for children, I want to tell kids everywhere all about the amazing things I discover during research.

Q: What made you choose the letter D for the title instead of the rest of the alphabet?
A: I tried to think of a title for the book that would talk about hope and courage and triumph. I felt that the Drinking Gourd and the people who followed the North Star north to freedom expressed this spirit of hope and courage and triumph in a very special way. That’s why I chose this title. I also knew that many people had heard of the Drinking Gourd, so I felt using it as part of the title would catch people’s interest, too.

Q: What kind of inventions did you see when you researched for this book?
A: I saw so many! If you would like to see some of the same ones I saw, click on the link to visit the website Inventors A-Z There are links to the biographies of many famous inventors and some of the pages even have pictures of their inventions! Another great website to visit is the Black Inventor Online Museum. Visit both sites and have fun learning more about these amazing men and women inventors.

Q: When you are writing and get stuck…what do you do to get ‘unstuck’?
A: I got stuck lots of times when I was writing D is for Drinking Gourd. If I got stuck while I was writing one of the poems, I took a walk or worked in my garden or did chores such as ironing or washing dishes. The active movement helped clear my foggy brain so I could think creative thoughts again. If I got stuck while I was working on the facts along the sides of each page, I got a book out about that person and read it for awhile. Or I looked that topic up on the Internet. Reading what other people wrote about that person or topic helped give me ideas to get back to writing again.

Q: Did you always want to be a writer?
A: No. When I was in high school, I wanted to be a biochemist and work in a laboratory doing experiments. By the time I started college, I wanted to be an English teacher. After that I changed my mind and wanted to be a nurse. Finally, I decided to be a writer. I’ve been writing for 22 years now and have written over 75 books. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else!

Thanks again, students at Glenwood Avenue! It’s been great having you be part of the Virtual Book Tour.

Just for Kids!
Now that you’ve learned a little bit more about how to make an alphabet book, would you like to make your own alphabet book, too? First pick a topic to write about such as Inventors or Sports or Favorite Books. You can even make your own alphabet book about African American history! Make a list of the letters of the alphabet on a piece of paper from top to bottom. Think of one word to write down for each letter. Hard letters like X can be in the middle of a word like explorers. When your list is complete, make a separate page for each letter of the alphabet book. Write the word or a sentence about that word—or even a whole paragraph about it—on your paper. Then draw a picture for each letter. When you’re done, put all the pages together in a book. You can put them in a 3-ring notebook or a book report folder. Or you can make your own cover from sturdy poster board and use brads or paper fasteners to hold it together. And if you get your book done quickly, you can even enter it in an alphabet book contest at Winterthur’s Alphabet Book Contest. Click on the link to find out more information about the contest rules.

Yesterday’s Trivia Q and A:
Yesterday’s question was:
Which U.S. Marshal was famous for keeping law in the wild Wild West in the territory that eventually became the state of Oklahoma?
a. Bass Reeves
b. Nat Love
c. David Ruggles
The answer is: a. Bass Reeves. Known as the “invincible marshal,” Bass Reeves brought law and order to the territory which eventually became the state of Oklahoma. It was wild and rugged, and home to many feared outlaws. For 32 years, Reeves had amazing adventures capturing over 3000 outlaws and bringing them into justice.

Today’s Trivia Question:
Why was Martin Delany famous?
a. As an explorer
b. As a major in the Union Army
c. As a leading abolitionist
d. All of the above
Submit your answer by posting it as a comment to today’s blog. It won’t be published on the blog, but your name will be put in a hat to be drawn for 5 prizes to give away at the end of the tour. Check back in tomorrow for the answer!

Coming tomorrow:
On Day 15 of my Virtual Book Tour, I’ll be answering questions for first grade students at a school near where I live—Oak Ridge Elementary School in Chino Hills, California. Be sure to hop on board tomorrow and join in the fun!

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