Interview sponsored* by Raven Howell
The Children’s Book Review | February 14, 2018
The Children’s Book Review: A Star Full of Sky is a delightful book of 25 short poems that will light up the imaginations of young readers and their adults. Can you tell us who the intended audience for this book is?
Raven Howell: First- a big, warm hello!
The idea for writing a book with the theme of astronomy sprang from teachers in elementary and middle schools lamenting the lack of fun books to get kids interested in the cosmos and, in turn, the science curriculum related to it.
My intention was to write engagingly about the sun, moon, stars, planets, galaxies – all things “space” with a balance of some fun facts/information and entertainment. Plus, expressing it through poetry is an additional learning device!
The poems mainly focus on topics related to the sky or things in space. Was there a particular moment, or a general connection that you have with the cosmos, that inspired you to write this book?
I grew up in a household where reading children’s fairytales, folklore and poetry was front and center. I’m so grateful for that! A lot of my baby books and children’s elementary literature was based on the old Eastern European folk tales where the sun and moon play prominent roles – so, yes – I’ve always had a strong connection with the sky and personification of that part of nature and our natural world.
In my youth, I spent countless evenings camping out, building bonfires with family and friends and celebrating the night! I have no doubt those experiences influenced every poem in A Star Full of Sky. In fact, my trivia on this book is that I literally wrote each one of the poems at night, outdoors, under the starry skies!
The cosmic theme ties the poems together and keeps readers engaged and enthusiastically bouncing through the pages. What went into developing the text and deciding on specific ideas you wanted included on the pages?
Quite intentionally, I wanted to put together a compilation that was for both the astronomy fan and poetry fan. I’m thankful that for some readers it was the astronomy angle that drew them to the book, and others picked up A Star Full of Sky for the joy of reading fun, light kid lit poetry.
I wanted to encompass a wide range of ideas under this one “astronomy umbrella” for all audiences, appealing to both kids and parents, or adults.
Just yesterday in a classroom, a child told me she loved the “poem about the bird that looks like a star in the sky because I think I’ve seen that bird!” (she was referring to the poem, Starling Sky). The student next to her said he was a sci-fi fan and likes the poem Welcome which gently suggests UFO’s, and now he himself has decided to write a whole book of poetry about UFO’s! How great is that? Feeling like you’re a part of the universal domino effect of one creative project inspiring another and then the next is phenomenal!
Each poem is penned with a playful rhyme and a clever twist. Which poem do you find readers are most captivated by?
Kids love “Comet” because they think it is hilarious that the comet likes to show off, thinking it’s hot stuff, when we all know in actuality it’s just a bunch of “gas, ice and dirt”! The older kids enjoy the poem, Universe, and a couple of the schools I work in are posting it in their 2018 Yearbooks.
Is all of space,
Each and every
Star and place,
It’s all of time,
Dislikes and love,
All you fathom
What has been the best response from a reader, so far?
A mother messaged, informing me that her son has had A Star Full of Sky checked out from their local library since it was released several months ago – and her child has no intention of bringing it back until his birthday, when he’s anticipating my book to be one of his birthday gifts! It gladdens me that it’s A Star Full of Sky that he enjoys so much. But I’m ecstatic that he’s so dedicated to kidlit and books!
On a professional level, I am humbled and so very honored that A Star Full of Sky has been rewarded the Royal Dragonfly Award and The Pinnacle from NABE for Best Children’s Poetry Book Release. It’s rewarding and allows me some celebration since I’m working and writing full time – and that’s seven days a week. My husband looks forward to his free weekends. Me? I plow right through – makes no difference! In many ways I live, eat and breathe poetry.
Rhymes can introduce children to poetry in a way that fosters interest and demonstrates the ease with which a writer can craft a meaningful message through the use of just a few well-placed words. Do you have any advice for aspiring poetry writers?
Notice how you see the world in your own unique way – you, each and every one, have your own style – search it out and let your thoughts, your dreams, your words, your musings surprise you! Then it won’t matter whether a poem you write rhymes or not.
You also present children’s writing workshops. Can you tell us a little bit about what goes on in the workshops?
My workshops are upbeat, and always have a surprise or two. We may meet the librarian’s “cat” or end up having a new planet naming afternoon. I’m passionate about connecting with kids, and so I find it easy and pleasurable to work with children of all ages! Shakespeare cause a yawn? Not during my time -poetry is fun!
You also host “Raven’s Rhyme Time” in schools and libraries. That sounds fun! Please tell us more about this, too.
Rhyming is so fundamental educationally with really young children. At times I host special workshops for learning disabled, and though for instance, dyslexic students can have a harder time deciphering rhymes, they still love trying and doing it! When you’re just a few years old and hear the “song” of words – their rhymes, their rhythms and raps, you’re hooked! I had a workshop of about twelve pre-schoolers last autumn who would not let me leave until we found “three more rhymes” for our word “bat”! They didn’t want to stop! Ha! Hilarious!
How can parents or teachers go about signing up for your workshops?
I work fairly steadily throughout the year including summertime when workshops take on a different, looser feel. My classes, availability and Rhyme-times are listed in the Events section of my newly updated website, www.ravenhowell.com from where I can be reached.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about yourself, A Star Full of Sky, or any future books?
I’m very excited about my upcoming rhyming picture book titled My Community (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing), celebrating neighborhood diversity! Stay tuned – it will be released later in the year. Now we’re really going to have fun!
Written by Raven Howell
Illustrated by Caryn Schafer
Publisher’s Synopsis: A Star Full of Sky (Kelsay Books) is a 25-poem middle grade poetry collection exploring both science and flights of fancy. Howell investigates the sun, galaxy, the stars, planets, comets and the universe while also incorporating more whimsical, fantastical themes appealing to young aspiring astronomers.
“The words jump out to ignite wonder among young readers and to amuse adult readers.” — The Children’s Book Review
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Kelsay Books | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1947465114
About The Author
Raven Howell is an award-winning poet whose books for children include Dozy Poems, Cozy Days, Spinning Circles: Action Poems, Gibber/Animal Acrostics, and Shimmer, Songs of Night –Amazon’s charting #1 Best Children’s Poetry Book release. She’s a member of the SCBWI and ILA, and her poems and artwork appear in numerous children’s magazines. Raven enjoys her poetry workshops with kids, and catching sight of shooting stars! Visit her website: www.ravenhowell.com.
About The Illustrator
Caryn Schafer is a wife, mom, book addict, blogger, Instagram over-loader, and an illustrator. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters. She is the illustrator of Not So Scary Jerry and another book set to arrive in Spring 2018. Her art, book reviews, photos, and sketches can be found at: smellingoranges.com.
The Author Showcase is a place for authors and illustrators to gain visibility for their works. This interview was sponsored* by Raven Howell, the author of ‘A Star Full of Sky.’ Discover more great writing and illustrating artists in our Showcase.