Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 19, 2022

Book Giveaway: SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! by Meeg Pincus

Meeg Pincus has a new picture book, SO MUCH MORE TO HELEN! , illustrated by Caroline Bonne-Muller and published by Sleeping Bear Press. They have agreed to send a copy to the one lucky winner in the US.

Just leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Let me know other things you did to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping Meeg and Caroline.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. If you want to make sure you don’t miss seeing that you won, please click “Notify Me of Follow-Up Comments By Email” box. I will leave a comment in reply if you win the book. Thanks!

BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Most folks know the same famous story of Helen Keller—a DeafBlind girl who learned to understand sign language at the family water pump.  Most stories about Helen Keller focus on the story of her deaf-blindness and scholarship, but there is more to Helen than her disability. But what do you really know about her? Did you know she was an activist, a rebel, a writer, a performer, a romantic?

There is so much more to Helen than we usually learn in school. Here, the story of Helen Keller’s passionate, boundless life unfolds—reminding us that she was, as we all are, so many things.

This bouncy, rhyming story is an excellent tool for teaching children to see beyond the surface with everyone they encounter.

BOOK JOURNEY:

Phase One: Going Way Back

The roots of this book go back to my own roots—well, to my teen years, when I developed a deep interest in Helen Keller. At my performing arts magnet high school, I begged our drama teacher each year to choose The Miracle Worker as our stage play (he never did!). So, I chose to do my senior passion project on Helen instead—I read all of her books and wrote my own stage play about her (complete with set design).

Why was I so intrigued by Helen? For one thing, I had attended an integrated hearing/Deaf middle school and was interested in Deaf culture and history. For another, I loved Helen’s feisty personality and drive. Also, I think I was subconsciously seeking out role models who didn’t let their physical limitations hold them back from pursuing their dreams.

Though I didn’t understand myself as having invisible disabilities at the time, I was born with chronic health issues (some of which my doctors now call fibromyalgia). I was often “not feeling well,” and feeling like I couldn’t keep up or be “normal.” Helen’s passionate writings—and her accomplishments in the face of much more serious physical challenges than mine—offered me perspective and motivation to find my own way when my body didn’t always make it easy.

Phase Two: Finding A Fresh Helen Story

So, several decades later, as a working nonfiction picture book author, I kept thinking about writing about my younger self’s role model. I knew Helen Keller is taught in most elementary schools. And I knew other picture books existed on her. But it was usually a similar main story told—the one enshrined in sculpture in the U.S. Capitol—of Helen learning her first ASL word at the family water pump.

I knew there was so much more to Helen than that single story. She had been a prolific writer, a political activist, a humanitarian, a vaudeville performer, a world traveler, a rebellious and adventurous spirit. I wanted to share with today’s kids what I’d learned as a teen—how incredibly multifaceted she was, and how she broke barriers for any woman of her time, let alone one with disabilities (and cultural misunderstandings of them).

So, how could I write that story?

Phase Three: Putting it Together

I’d briefly considered writing a narrative PB on the little-known childhood experience of Helen’s that I’d written my high school stage play about. But I knew that wouldn’t help me get across what I really wanted to today—the so much more to Helen that I kept thinking about with my own feisty passion! So, I decided to just dig into that.

I wrote down all the facets of Helen that I wanted kids to know about. Then I started figuring out how to share them in a compelling way. What I ended up with was a dual structure: each spread with a main rhyming couplet about one facet of Helen, then a box below with an anecdote or further explanation (and more in the back matter). So, kids could engage in the book at their level, and it had both lyricism and rich facts.

Lastly, I knew I wanted to end by bringing readers into the present, as we’d done in the final spread of Miep and the Most Famous Diary. So, I showcased a diverse group of multifaceted, modern-day people who’ve accomplished great things while living with disabilities—scientists, athletes, activists, artists, lawmakers. I wanted that spread to make a connection with kids, that we can embrace our disabilities while also knowing that we are all “so much more” than any single part of us.

Phase Four: Becoming a Book

When my manuscript was ready, I asked my agent to submit it exclusively to editor Sarah Rockett, with whom I’ve worked on three other books and thought would be the perfect-fit editor for this story. Luckily, Sarah and the Sleeping Bear Press team thought so, too, and they acquired it.

In truth, I’d originally imagined finding a Deaf illustrator, since my own disabilities are so different than Helen’s and I wanted the book to be authentic and sensitive, but we didn’t find one whose style fit our vision for the story. So, we chose a wonderful hearing illustrator whose style was the perfect fit, Caroline Bonne-Müller. Then we also hired a Deaf professional authenticity reader, to help us catch any inauthentic or ableist words or images. It turned out to be a perfect-fit team all around, with many hours of collaboration and individual work to get every word and image as right as we could.

When Booklist said in their recent starred review that So Much More to Helen! is “an inviting read-aloud about one of the most influential women of the twentieth century [and] also serves as powerful advocacy for individuals with disabilities,” I was touched and relieved to see we’d gotten our message across to at least one reader! And, hopefully, many more to come.

MEEG’S BIO:

Meeg Pincus writes nonfiction picture books about “solutionaries” helping people, animals, and the planet—including Winged Wonders (Golden Kite Nonfiction Honor), Cougar Crossing (Cook Prize), Ocean Soup (Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award), Miep and the Most Famous Diary (Kirkus & SLJ starred reviews), and her two latest titles So Much More to Helen! (Booklist starred review) and Make Way for Animals! (SLJ starred review).

A longtime nonfiction writer/editor and educator, Meeg loves teaching nonfiction writing workshops, mentoring nonfiction writers, and sharing great (yep, nonfiction) books.

Sign up for her e-newsletter at www.MeegPincus.com.

CAROLINE’S BIO:

Caroline Bonne Muller is a Dutch artist living in Switzerland. She has an intrepid background; she was born in France, bred in the Netherlands, and has previously lived in Malaysia. Caroline has been fascinated by children’s books ever since she was a child herself. On the birth of her own family, she couldn’t stop buying beautifully illustrated picture books. This planted the seed of wishing to illustrate her own books. Her dream became reality when Quarto published her first picture book in 2020 (Portrait of an artist – Claude Monet).

Caroline studied Fashion Design in Amsterdam and worked 14 years as a fashion designer before persuing her career illustrating children’s books. Here is the link to Caroline’s website: https://www.carolinebonnemuller.com/

Meeg thank you for sharing your book and journey with us. I really learned so many things I didn’t know about Helen Keller. I love that children will close the book realizing that individuals with visable and invisable disabilities are so much more than their challenges. Your book reminds us all to look beyond the surface of everyone they encounter. I love Caroline’s illustrations they are a perfect addition to help tell the story. I know every teacher and parent will love the back matter provided. Good luck with the book.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. what a great take on Helen –

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a fascinating book–the dual narrative is an intriguing way to shine the spotlight on Helen’s many facets! Kathy, I receive your daily blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Meeg, your book sounds fascinating! I would love to learn more about Helen Keller! Congratulations to you and Caroline for your beautiful book!

    I follow by email and tweeted this post. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love reading about your process and perseverance! I can’t wait to read this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great post! I can’t wait to read this book, Meeg! Helen Keller was one of my “heroes” when I was a kid – I wish I had known more about her. [Kathy – I follow by email]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Love how you’ve expanded our knowledge about such a well-known figure. Can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the backstory. No need to enter my name–I happen to be blogging about it today too. Going to link to yours for the author’s backstory!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you for sharing the path you took to finding your book’s heart. I’m an email subscriber and shared: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/570620215297382917

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Helen Keller is such an inspirational figure. Thanks for giving kids a chance to learn more about her.
    I’ve shared: https://www.pinterest.com.mx/pin/336573772163157614/, and tweeted: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1527320592508018689. I also follow daily by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    Thanks again, have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful story. As a special education Teacher I always read book to my students in September for Disability Awareness Month. I will post on FB and Twitter for an extra chance to win a copy to share.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This book is on my TBR list. Can’t wait to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I absolutely cannot wait to read this book!! Sounds so interesting and looks incredible. Love that you approached writing about Helen from a different angle and part of her life instead of her disabilities. Adding your book to my TBR list!

    Shared on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kathytemean/status/1527138126505857025?s=20&t=xEOLbepH014tNLJimoSK6Q

    And I am signed up with my email address to receive your blog posts every day, Kathy!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Love the illustrations, and I’ve been interested in Helen Keller since I read the Miracle Worker.
    I tweeted:

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This sounds amazing. I look forward to seeing the whole book!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Can’t wait to read and share! Congrats on this lovely book about such an important figure!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Can’t wait to read this!

    Liked by 1 person


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