Monday, November 12, 2012

Close Encounters of the Angry Bird Kind

A few years ago, I fell into one of those "right time, right place" opportunities – a picture book manuscript my agent submitted to National Geographic Kids miraculously brought an offer to author a series of softcover nonfiction books for 4-6 year olds. I had great fun writing five Picture the Seasons books before the series was discontinued.

Luckily, my editor thought of me again this past April, asking if I'd be interested in a project that required a steep learning curve and called for somebody who a) was comfortable writing both fiction and nonfiction, b) could devote a month or two to this project (during which there'd likely be no time for a personal life), and c) could write quickly.

I replied, "Sure, I can do that!"

(Note:  "Sure, I can do that!" is my standard answer to most any editorial request. Whether or not I'm actually confident that I'm able to do what they're asking is irrelevant. A willing attitude and an internet connection make it possible to teach yourself just about anything, right?)

A week later I learned project details. The book would be a *takes a deep breath* 128-page hardcover fiction/nonfiction mashup featuring the Angry Birds on an around-the-world adventure, during which they'd meet and learn about dozens of real animals as they searched five distinct habitats for their eggs, which their pig enemies had stolen, with back matter the likes of which I'd never tackled before. I'd be choosing the habitat locations and about 40 animals, writing nonfiction info about each, funny dialogue for the Angry Birds - each with their own personalities, chapter intros, and the general storyline launching the birds on their adventure, recapping their trip at the end, then wrapping up their story.

I was in over my head, and I knew it. Sheesh, just reading the above paragraph again now makes my heart rate rise. This was a massive project, and I had no idea where on earth (literally) to begin.

But then I remembered the anecdote Anne Lamott tells of her childhood, the one in which her father gave writing advice to her brother, who was struggling to write a school report:  "Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird." Couldn't be much more appropriate in this case!

By one week into the six it took to research and write the book, I was having the time of my life. This book stretched me as a writer, taught me how much work (from so many people!) goes into a project like this, and pushed me into places I hadn't imagined I could go. And what writer wouldn't love knowing the project she's working on in May and June is scheduled for release six months later?! (I waited five years for my last picture book, Tom's Tweet. Totally worth it, but still.)

Which brings me to today. I'm happy to announce that my newest publication, Angry Birds Playground:  Animals (National Geographic) has hit bookstore shelves. I hope you'll take a look. It's targeted to kids 4-6 years old, but fun for older readers, too. The book follows the Angry Birds through the Amazon rainforest, the Mojave desert, across the Pacific Ocean, to the grasslands of Tasmania and Tanzania (thanks to a confused sea turtle, the Birds have to visit both), and both the Arctic and Antarctic (thanks to a confused Angry Bird, who is certain that penguins live in the Arctic). They meet caimans and sloths, lizards and bats, otters and whales, black swans and Tasmanian devils, lions and elephants, seals and penguins. Pandas? Um, no. I'll tell you about that Wednesday.

To win an autographed copy, all you have to do is enter our drawing.

Entry Rules

You may enter the contest one of two ways:  1) by posting a comment below OR 2) by sending an email to teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com with "Book Giveaway" in the subject line.

Whichever way you enter, you MUST give us your first and last name AND tell us how you follow us. If you enter via a comment, you MUST include a valid email address (formatted this way:  youremail [at] gmail [dot] com) in your comment.

Contest open only to residents of the United States. Incomplete entries will be discarded. Entry deadline is 11 pm (CST) Thursday, November 15, 2012 (yes, this is a short one!). Winners will be announced Friday, November 16, 2012. Good luck!

Jill Esbaum


Angela Verges said...

This looks like a fun book. Congratulations!

Patricia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia said...

Yes, of course I would love to win your book, Jill! patriciamillerbooks [at] yahoo [dot] com

I follow the blog when Jill Esbaum sends the link to the iascbwi Yahoo group. But, I think I'll subscribe to the blog!

Patricia Miller

Esther Hershenhorn said...

Congratulations, Jill, on your newest book!
Your Back Story to this project is both eye-opening and inspiring.
Your Fan Esther

Carmela Martino said...

Wow, Jill, reading your project details left my head spinning. Hooray for you! I can't wait to see this book.

kt giorgio said...

I love that you literally went "bird by bird"! And what a fun book you have to show for it! Thanks for sharing Jill!

linda vanderheyden said...

This book will be SO much fun to share with our grandkids! Sounds like it was just as much fun to write! Way to go, Jill!

This is the first time I visited the blog, following the link sent, but I'll look forward to future visits!

Sue said...

Hi Jill,
My sister Ann Lassen forwarded this to me because she knew this would be right up my kids' alley. I am actually steamed because I just bought the National Geographic Angry Birds book from my son's book fair last week that is for a little older kid (the one about what actual birds do when they're angry), but my son is only five and he would love this MUCH more. So now I need to win this one! suestolzer (at) gmail (dot) com

Carl Scott said...

That is indeed a massive project. Congratulations on its completion. One question - does the phrase "Sure, I can do that!" still fall so trippingly from your tongue?

I follow this blog primarily by email : carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

and I'd love to win a signed copy of this fun book.

Carl Scott

Jill said...

Thanks, all, and a special thanks to those of you entering our contest.

Carl, yes, it does. I like a challenge! :)

LSkeers said...

Fun and interesting post! I bookmark the blog and read posts when it's mentioned on the listerv. Winning a book would make me the opposite of angry!
Linda Skeers
lskeers [at] juno ]dot] com

Sandy Brehl said...

Jill, I love National Geo books for Kids, your books, this post, and your have-a-go attitude about the original request. The story line sounds fantastic and I'd love to win it, but will be on the lookout for it for sale if I don't!
I've been an email subscriber to this blog for several years, and posts like this one are a big reason why.

Linda at teacherdance said...

I follow with Google Friend Connect, Jill. Congratulations on your book, & tackling and completing such an awesome project. Wow-I admire the work to get this done! The book sounds clever & creative. Thanks for the giveaway!

creatingcuriouskids said...

Fortunately, my kids don't know much about Angry Birds. But they are learning about geography and would love this book. I can't believe you wrote activities as well, Jill. This is an amazing feat. I follow via email. If I win the giveaway, please contact me at klarson13 [at] roadrunner [dot] com.