George Ferris, What a Wheel


I had the pleasure of reading another great book by an Oklahoma author recently. Barbara Lowell’s nonfiction picture book, George Ferris, What a Wheel!, tells the story of a man who made an “impossible” dream come true.

George Ferris CoverFrom the book’s description on Amazon: Have you ever ridden a Ferris wheel? You go up, up, up and can see for miles! But when the inventor of the Ferris wheel, George Ferris, first pitched the idea, everyone thought he was crazy. A 250-foot bicycle wheel that goes around and around and carries people in train cars? Can’t be done, they said. But George proved them wrong. Read about how George’s hard work, courage, and imagination created one of the most famous fair rides today.

I went into this book knowing nothing about George Ferris. I didn’t even know the Ferris wheel was named for anyone! I did know, however, that I love Ferris wheels – even though I’ve never ridden in one with train sized cars, made to hold more than two thousand people!

George Ferris, What a Wheel! includes actual pictures of the construction and operational wheel, along with art by Jerry Hoare that makes you feel like you’re almost in the story.

It’s published by Grosset & Dunlap as part of their Penguin Core Concepts line, and covers the concepts Imagination and Problem Solving.

I’m always fascinated at nonfiction picture books – the way the authors cover the true stories completely, while still keeping things relevant and fresh for kids – really impresses me. George Ferris, What a Wheel! is no exception.

Author Barbara Lowell lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with her husband Jim and their fabulous collie, Phil. She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a runner-up for SCBWI’s Barbara Karlin Grant and a winner of the Katharine Patterson Prize at Hunger Mountain in the picture book category.

Valerie Lawson did a great interview with Barbara when the book came out this summer, but I asked a few questions too!

Me: How did you come up with the idea for George Ferris, What a Wheel?
Barbara: My husband was reading Devil in the White City by Erik Larson the story of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. He told me that George Ferris had designed and built an amusement wheel that could hold 2,160 passengers at the same time. I had never heard about this and couldn’t wait to read Larson’s book. When I read that Mrs. Ferris cheered a successful second test run by standing on her chair 264 feet in the air, when no glass had been installed in the car’s window, I knew I wanted to write the story.
Me: What was something interesting you discovered while researching for this book? Was there anything fascinating about his life or the World Fair that you didn’t include in the book?
Barbara: The organizers of the World’s Fair wanted something original at the fair. In large part because they wanted to outdo the Eiffel Tower, star of the 1889 Paris Exposition. They held a contest and most of the entries turned out to be bigger or more elaborate tower designs. George Ferris had not entered the contest, but responded with his amusement wheel design when he and other engineers were challenged to create something new and novel for the fair and were specifically told “not a tower.”
Me: If you could meet George Ferris, what would you say to him?
Barbara: If I could meet George Ferris, I would ask him what it was like to ride his Ferris wheel for the first time. What was he thinking and feeling?At the end of the book, there is a section called Ferris Wheel Facts. One of the facts is: “The Ferris wheel collapsed in 1906 – not in a storm, but in a controlled dynamite explosion. Its parts were sold as salvage. Sadly, George Ferris had no say in the wheel’s final outcome. He died ten years earlier at age thirty-seven of either typhoid fever or Bright’s disease, a kidney condition.” I would ask him what he would have done with the Ferris wheel. I would love to be able to see it.

Order George Ferris, What a Wheel! on Amazon!


Tumbleweed Baby launch party

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a friend’s book launch party. I’ve only been in SCBWI Oklahoma for a little more than a year, so this was my first. I’ve been to some signings and a party-after-a-book-sale though. It’s so great to get to see these things beforehand, and support my friends. I love it!

tumbleweed babyThis launch party and book signing was for Anna Myers, in celebration of her picture book, Tumbleweed Baby. Anna’s got nineteen books already for young adults and middle grade readers, but Tumbleweed Baby is her first picture book. I’ve already posted some about this book. It’s such a fun read, with a surprising end and beautiful, dreamy artwork.

The party was held at Best of Books in Edmond (which is under new ownership!) and included a readers’ theater, plus Anna read the book. SCBWI Oklahoma members Gwendolyn Hooks, Darleen Bailey-Beard and Gayleen Langthorn did a lot toward the organization of the event, including packets of tumbleweed seeds! Of course, the party was a super success and the store completely sold out of Anna’s book.

Of course, I got a lot of this second hand because my husband’s car broke down and I had to go and pick him up at work, right when the party started. And I was supposed to help. I did some – a little publicity, including getting a mention in the Oklahoman, whoot – but I didn’t feel like I did enough. It’s always a bummer when you know you could do better.

But I did get there before it was over, husband and kids in tow, even though I was too late to buy a book. We hung out and I shared some exciting news about one of my manuscripts, so that was fun. I love my SCBWI group.

And Anna’s signing again at our SCBWI Oklahoma City Schmooze on Monday night at Full Circle Books in north OKC, so I’ll get another chance to get my book there. I just need to get there earlier this time! Anna’s son, Ben Myers, will be reading some of his poetry Monday, and Anna will be main speaker. If you missed out on the launch party, come Monday night and get your copy of Tumbleweed Baby signed along with mine!

OKC SCBWI Schmooze

Monday, October 20, 2014

Full Circle Books

50 Penn Place (on the NW Expressway)

Oklahoma City

Pre-schmooze at Belle Isle Restaurant (also in 50 Penn Place) starts at 5:30 p.m. Schmooze starts at the bookstore at 7 p.m.

Tumbleweed Baby

Tumbleweed Baby is now available on Amazon!

Tumbleweed Baby is the first picture book by veteran children’s author Anna Myers, with illustrations by Charles Vess.

I got to read through a early version of this book earlier this year, and it’s pretty dang great.

tumbleweed babyFrom the book’s description on Amazon: “A large, loving family in the 1930s Dust Bowl finds a “tumbleweed baby”—a wild baby—in the plains near their cozy farm home. The baby’s new siblings discover the ways she fits and doesn’t fit into the family, ultimately deciding that her wildness makes her one of them. The rhythm and voice of the text make this feel like a classic tall tale, and it pairs perfectly with the dreamy, warm art from master illustrator Charles Vess.”

If you’re in the Oklahoma City area, you can get your book signed at the Tumbleweed Baby launch party on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 5:30-7 p.m. at Best of Books in Edmond. There’s going to be a readers’ theatre and refreshments, and Anna will be reading the book aloud. It’s going to be a lot of fun, and a great way to celebrate a fantastic new book.

Hope to see you there!

Because I’d like to buy this shirt

So my cool friend Jerry Bennett has a chance for one of his designs to become a licensed Marvel t-shirt!

Jerry’s the Regional Illustrator Coordinator for the Oklahoma SCBWI, and he’s pretty awesome besides.

This is the art that’s up for consideration:

hang on

Nice, right?

For those of you not in the know about comics, this shirt brings together two Marvel superheroes, Rocket Raccoon and Groot. You might, like me, look at this design and see only one character at first. But, aha, Rocket is actually clinging to Groot’s manly wooden chest, which is cleverly disguised within the shirt itself! So…when you wear this design, you’re not only showing your love for Groot, you’re also cosplaying him. Double prizes.

This is Jerry. He really wants you to vote for his design. Why would you say no to Jerry? Don’t say no to Jerry.

This contest is being hosted by We Love Fine, and you have to sign up to vote, but it’s not a big thing. Super-easy. Plus, I signed up a long time ago, and I don’t remember getting spammed by them or anything since then.

Jerry’s art tumblr has a few more details and the link, or you can just go directly to the contest here. Make sure the artwork I posted above, with Rocket on Groot’s chest, is the one displayed at the top when you get to the contest. If it’s not, you can just scroll down and find it. After you click on Jerry’s artwork preview, it should bring it up on the top of the page. Scroll back up and click on FIVE so we can make this thing happen!

Contest is open until October 21, so get over there and help make this cool shirt a reality!

Novel Starting Day

I started the rough draft of my new novel today and I’M IN LOVE WITH IT! I’m using Fall Out Boy as my playlist for now.

I’m updating the blog now, whoot. And I’ve got a couple of posts coming up for the blog about what my friends in SCBWI Oklahoma are up to.

Dinner’s in the slow cooker. Kids have done their schoolwork. House is reasonably clean.



2014 Oklahoma Book Award

Do you know Tammi Sauer?

I do.

Since I’m a cool member of the Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I got to meet Tammi about a year ago. She’s incredible, and published, and comes to Schmoozes, and is possibly the most currently-in-demand famous person I know.

I mean, I’ve met/know some other people I consider well-known, but Tammi is the one who might actually comment on something I’ve posted on Facebook, or if I called her up and said, “Hey, this is Regina Garvie,” she would know who I was. (Yes, I would definitely still say my last name. We are friendly but not besties or anything.) (And yes, I wanted to put we are “friends” but then I got scared that she would read that and say that we’re totally acquaintances but no, not friends so I changed it.)

Anyway, Tammi is awesome, and this month, she received the Oklahoma Book Award for her new picture book, Nugget & Fang, which I love and have already talked about on here. Here’s a picture of all the award winners for this year.

She’s the cute one with dark hair in the front row. I like how she’s holding her medal with both hands.

I don’t have much else to say about that, except for to mention that I hope that one day I’ll be in a picture holding a medal like that (except I will totally get into the back row if I can help it, because I’m a back row kinda gal.)

Oh, and Nugget & Fang is also a finalist for the SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, which is also a huge deal, so good luck vibes for Tammi, please!

In related news, I did read Tammi’s book, Chicken Dance, this week, after seeing it mentioned on a Sequoyah Award poster at the library. Somehow I’d never read this one, even though I read the sequel, Bawk & Roll, more than a year ago.

I read this one to my six-year-old today, and she immediately demanded that I “read it again!” so that’s obviously a positive review.

From the book’s description on Amazon: Meet Marge and Lola, chickens on a mission: to win tickets for the Elvis Poultry Show! But their toughest competition—a pack of menacing ducks—sneers that “all a chicken can do is bawk, flap, and shake.” Can our two feisty chicks show those quackers how to rock ’n’ roll the barnyard? Tammi Sauer and Dan Santat have whipped up a giddy, goofy romp where cows fly over the moon, ducks surf in a water trough, and one very familiar-looking rooster gets all shook up!

This was a really cute book. Having been a chicken and duck owner for many years, I enjoyed all the little jokes…especially when the chickens starting doing “what chickens do.” Good thing, too, since I’m sure I’ll have to read it several more times for my youngest. This is the kind of book that I don’t have a problem repeating. And repeating.

My Girlfriend Bites

Doing good. Got a new car (after the old van died in our driveway after critique group). End of the school year is pressing into us from every direction. My to-do list has thirty-some things on it, not including writing. So of course writing comes first. At least I’m successfully ignoring the siren song of tumblr.

I’ve been reading a little lately. I started A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin and began reading the manuscript of my friend Jeannie. (And that reminded me that I’ve been meaning to order Jeannie’s published book from Amazon, so I just now did that.)

I also read My Girlfriend Bites, by Doug Solter, which has been chilling on my kindle FOREVER.

My Girlfriend Bites puts a new twist on the paranormal young adult theme. Instead of the male character being the vamprire/werewolf/zombie/whatever, it’s the girl who is the werewolf. The story starts out being told from the guy’s point of view, which is a refreshing change from the books I normally read. Later, it transitions to the girl’s viewpoint. It was fun to get in her head, both in her human form and as a wolf.

Book description, from Amazon: After his “dream” girl rejects him, 16-year-old Aiden tries to commit suicide, yet mysteriously survives. Now the teen feels like a loser with zero possibility of finding a girl. Then during a rainstorm, the creepy teen girl at school with too much hair offers him a ride home. Bree Mayflower’s act of kindness surprises Aiden as the two teens feel an attraction to each other that sparks a romance. Bree soon reveals her deep, dark secret to Aiden. Her family are werewolves hiding from the Demon Skins, a mysterious new enemy killing all the werewolf packs on earth. Aiden struggles with his girlfriend being a shifter while Bree struggles with helping her boyfriend whose lack of self-worth and cowardice puzzles a girl werewolf. Can she rely on him if the Demon Skins ever discovered her family? Will Aiden be there when she needs him? It would be so easy to just turn him into a fearless werewolf. But that bite thing is only a myth. All Bree can do is hope that the boy she loves will be strong enough to believe in himself when the time comes.

This was a fun read and passed by quickly. It was quite a bit different from Doug’s other YA novel, Skid, but I enjoyed both of them. I don’t read a lot of indie authors – since you generally have to order them sight unseen, it’s a gamble to spend money on these books. I’ve gotten a few that didn’t have a real grip on grammar, or that didn’t have fully developed characters. But Doug’s books are worth reading.

Doug’s from the Tulsa area, so we’ve seen each other at a couple of statewide conferences and we’re online friends. Because of that, I know that he’s currently working on a sequel for Skid, which I’m looking forward to. I also notice that on Amazon, My Girlfriend Bites has Volume 1 after the title. I don’t remember that being there before, but it’s good news to me. It’s always a pleasure to spend more time with characters you’ve enjoyed.



Blogging and things

I’m sort of disappointed with my blogging lately. I’ve been busy, really, doing stuff for our local SCBWI chapter in anticipation of this weekend’s spring conference, and revising manuscripts and working on my newest novel.

But I really did want to read and review books by Oklahoma authors, and that has fallen more and more by the wayside.

And the hundred journal entries project? As if.

However, I seem to have lots of spare time to spend on tumblr. Research. Learning how teens interact. Riiiiiight.

So. First things first, I’m going to go back and see what Oklahoma authored books I’ve read and not got around to reviewing. Then I’m going to tackle them, one by one.

  1. TOGETHER ALONE by Caitlyn Hensley
  2. HEREAFTER by Tara Hudson
  3. EXTRAORDINARY JANE by Hannah Harrison
  5. AFTER OBSESSION by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel
  6. DRAGON WISHES by Stacy Nyikos
  8. SNOT STEW by Bill Wallace

I think I’m forgetting some.

Also…literally sitting right next to me, ready to be read:

  1. COWBOY CAMP by Tammi Sauer
  2. PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer
  3. THE FLYING FLEA, CALLIE, AND ME by Carol Wallace and Bill Wallace
  4. THE BUFFALO TRAIN RIDE by Desiree Morrison Webber

And on my Kindle:

  1. MY GIRLFRIEND BITES by Doug Solter
  2. LOVE IN THE BALANCE by Regina Jennings
  3. SHINE 1: CHILDHOOD’S END by William Bernhardt
  4. ARISE by Tara Hudson
  5. ELEGY by Tara Hudson
  6. DOUBLE CROSSED by Ally Carter

So that’s…18 books already? And I know there’s more that I want to read. Several are by authors already listed above, but there’s others that I haven’t even gotten to yet. So…I’m thinking if I grow up and commit to doing one each week, I’ve got almost five months of blog posts on here. Of course, the ones that still have to be read are a little more work, but it’s not like it’s going to be hard work.

I used to have the newspaper done each week on Wednesdays, and that seemed to work well enough. So. Every Wednesday. I will have a Oklahoma book review on this blog each and every Wednesday. At least until I get done with the ones I’ve already read.

So now I need to figure out how to schedule blog posts. Good thing I have six days to do this.

Busy times in Oklahoma

I’ve been so busy lately. Good busy. Well, and some time-wasting busy, but we won’t dwell on that right now.

I’ve read a ton of books by Oklahoma authors – so many, in fact, that it’s become intimidating to write all of them. I suppose I need to be a grown-up and write one every day or something, then set them up to post automatically. That’d be cool. It’s funny how I used to write very regularly for the newspaper, but it’s a little different for a blog. I was the editor and reporter at the paper, so I would put everything in and then think, Okay, I’ve got a 40-inch news hole left to fill. So…my city council story needs to be 40 inches. Let’s do this thing! And I would make magic happen.

But this blog is a little more…infinite, isn’t it?

scbwi okI’m also working as publicity chair for the Oklahoma Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ spring conference. It’s kind of fun to reconnect with people in the media. Hopefully we can get the word out about the conference and help open doors for others who want to write for children! Lots more information about that at the Oklahoma SCBWI website. Made a flyer to hang at libraries and bookstores too. I was a little nervous, because it looks suspiciously like it was made by a writer using Open Office, but our gracious regional advisor said it was just fine. So that was happiness.

Finally, I made a press release for a friend, for her to send out before school visits. That was fun too.

Two more things on my to-do list for today. One of those was write a blog post, ha ha. Check.

Now I need to get my pages ready for critique group tomorrow night.

I’ve still got almost an hour until midnight.

Let’s do this.