Happy Happy #BookBirthday(s) to A STONE IS A STORY by Leslie Barnard Booth (Illus. Marc Martin / Margaret K. McElderry Books) and IN A CAVE by Heather Kinser (Illus. Bonnie Kelso / Gnome Road Publishing), two gorgeous, lyrical GreenPB23 books about geological wonders.
And we have questions!
Q 1. What were the inspirations for your stories?
LBB: A Stone Is a Story was inspired by a question posed by my daughter. She asked, “Where do rocks come from?” I loved this question because it seems simple but is actually quite complex. Our whole family got excited talking about this topic at dinner. Then I started researching the rock cycle, and the more I learned, the more fascinated I was!
HK: I’ve had the good fortune to tour a few caves in my adult life. Prior to writing this book, I’d been through Mercer Caverns and Moaning Caverns in Calaveras County, California, and through Mammoth Cave in Kentucky—twice. The second trip through Mammoth was in 2019, after a family reunion with my husband’s folks. There were a lot of cave-stewardship and cave-safety rules to keep in mind, and I emerged from the tour with the line, “How to behave in a cave” running through my mind. I jotted down “Cave Rules” on my Storystorm list the following January, and began working on a manuscript during the pandemic lockdown of 2020 when I really wished I could get out of my armchair and my house and see a real cave again.
Using Mentor Texts
Q 2. Do you use any mentor texts as you write such lyrical stories?
LBB: I definitely had some mentor texts in mind when I wrote A STONE IS A STORY. I’m a big fan of Marion Dane Bauer’s The Stuff of Stars, beautifully illustrated by Ekua Holmes. I also love Miranda Paul and Jason Chin’s Water Is Water. Both of these books hovered in the back of my mind as I wrote A Stone Is a Story. I wanted to evoke the sense of wonder found in these mentor texts–and to convey a scientific concept in simple, vivid, sensory terms, as these books do. I also wanted A Stone Is a Story to flow like music. These mentor texts showed me that all of this was, indeed, possible.
HK: Yes! My mentor text for IN A CAVE was Liz Garton Scanlon’s In the Canyon, a rhyming journey down into the Grand Canyon and back out again. It’s a book I used to read with my kids and enjoy immensely. I modeled my piece after it, rather heavily.
Authors who ROCK
Q 3. Were you the kid(s) who collected rocks or made “caves” out of blankets?
LBB: Ha ha ha! Yes! I still have many of the rocks I collected as a child. I continue to add to my rock collection today. I love having a collection that stretches back to childhood—because not only do the rocks in my collection tell geological stories, but they also remind me of my own story. They connect me to my past–to places I’ve been and moments I’ve spent in nature and with family.
HK: Yes…most definitely. I collected rocks, and even gave them toothbrush scrubbings and baths in the sink. I made many a blanket cave. Once, on a camping trip, I became very attached to a crooked tree, which I called my “giraffe tree.” Lots of collections, anthropomorphism, and attachments to objects.
Bonus Question For Heather: We love that your illustrator, Bonnie Kelso, was a museum exhibit designer. Were there any surprises she brought to IN A CAVE?
HK: For sure! As an artist, a cave afficionado, and a former museum exhibit designer, Bonnie Kelso brought so much expertise to this project. I adore the way she depicted the various cave formations—especially the cave bacon!—and wrapped and flowed the lettering around them on one particularly stunning page spread. It was Bonnie who added the detail of the cave glowworms on the “lights out” page spread—adding a sparkle of light to what I’d envisioned as a black page. And it was Bonnie who thought to surprise us by (spoiler alert) making the cave guide the children’s awesomely adventurous mom—a sweet reveal at the end of the book.
Bonus Question For Leslie: We hear there are more books on the way after A STONE IS A STORY. Anything you can share?
LBB: My next book, One Day This Tree Will Fall, releases in March 2024 with S&S/McElderry. Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, this informational picture book shows how an old-growth tree’s wounds and decay bring life to the forest ecosystem. In 2025, I have a picture book releasing with Chronicle–I Am We: A Story of Survival, illustrated by Alexandra Finkeldey. This book is about how and why crows roost by the thousands in winter–and was inspired by the giant crow roost that assembles each winter here in Portland, Oregon
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Up next on the blog: Sandra Nickel’s Nacho’s Nachos , Spanish edition!