The Kite That Bridged Two Nations



Today I’m posting my interview with Alexis O’Neil, one of my favorite picture book people! Writers, readers, librarians, and teachers all love her. She’s our Southern California school visit expert and an SCBWI Emeritus Regional Advisor! Her blog, School Visit Experts, guides writers and illustrators in developing meaningful, memorable, and fun school visits, helping them to develop their own fan base. She’s loud, she’s fun, and she’s fabulous! Here we go…

1. Hi Alexis, at my house we love your book, Loud Emily, but shhh — this blog is just for nonfiction. So, very quietly, can you tell us one FACT you uncovered while writing Loud Emily?

I had to uncover LOTS of facts for this tall tale adventure. For example, I looked at a map of where wealthy merchants and sea captains might have lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts to determine if Emily could have walked down to Front Street fairly easily. I also studied whale migration. There’s a line in the book that reads, “They [the whales] hastened from Baja, they raced down from Iceland, they speeded their way from the tip of Cape Horn.” These are all real migration routes. I found books with authentic sailing language and used phrases liberally. (This, by the way, is one of the reasons that Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut loves my book!) Also, the end papers have bit of actual sea chanties sung by sailors in the 19th century (and even today).  At the end of the book, the illustrator Nancy Carpenter and I both included historical notes. So, as you can see, there’s a need for research even in fictional stories!

2. The Kite that Bridged Two Nations is about a boy who gets to be a part of building a great bridge, which I think is such a powerful fact to share with kids. What do kids ask you when you tell them the story? I kind of wonder, do they tell you about their own accomplishments?

I think that this would be wonderful to do – thanks for the suggestion! What I do want kids to know is that an ordinary boy, Homan Walsh, earned an extraordinary place in American and Canadian history by doing what he loved to do.  For him it happened to be flying kites. But I hope this book inspires kids to think about what they know how to do well – or want to learn how to do well – and persist at that skill until they feel confident.

3. So I know you are a school visit expert. I feel like you must have quite a roadshow. Have you done many visits for the new book? What’s your act like?

Roadshow? Love that image! All I need is a bus, roadies and a country song!

Since the Kite book came out in September, I’ve been doing all different kinds of presentations: school visits, family fest events, social club talks, bookstore appearances, library programs, conference sessions, TV interviews and more. Each presentation is tailored to a particular audience’s needs, but I use many of the same set of props and images to help me tell the story. That presentation “story” might be about Homan Walsh himself (the kite flier), or about how the book came to be written, or how to use research skills to find and shape a story’s “voice.” And I always try to bring someone up out of the audience to become my main character which I do by dressing him in a cap and scarf and then handing him his kite, Union. This 3-D treatment helps make the presentation memorable.

Alexis, thanks for playing along!

To see more of Terry Widener’s lovely art, full of truth and heart, click here!


12 thoughts on “The Kite That Bridged Two Nations

  1. I work at a public library, and we currently have a “Creation Station” showcasing a variety of Lego constructions. If I am selected to win, this book will go on our library shelves.

  2. I just finished reading The Kite that Bridged Two Nations–what an intriguing slice of history. Students enjoying learning about kids like themselves, especially those who do amazing things–it empowers them.

  3. Hi there! The kids at Mountain Island Charter School in Mount Holly, NC like to build lots of things using their imagination. Our sophomores will be building our school’s first outdoor classroom as this year’s service project. Our second graders have built their schoolyard gardens, as well.

    1. Hi Mary! Congratulations — I pulled your name out of the fishbowl! Just send me an email with the address where you would like the book delivered!

      robin (at) blueeggbooks (dot) com

    2. Hi Mary! Congratulations — I pulled your name out of the fishbowl! Just send me an email with the address where you would like the book delivered!

      robin (at) blueeggbooks (dot) com

  4. This comment is from Marquez Charter via my Facebook page:

    “Marquez Charter School, in Pacific Palisades, is delighted to have visiting California Poets in School’s Michelle Bitting work with students annually on a Poetry Anthology, a dedicated Science teacher, Edible Gardens, Art Enrichment and students access a creation station at lunch to also get their juices going. We strongly believe that these enrichments add value to the students education.”

    If you ever have any trouble adding comments to the site just let me know! I’m off to the fishbowl, guys! I’ll announce the winner soon…

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