by Peggy Thomas
Many of my fellow Ninjas have had new books released, but due to the coronavirus quarantine they haven’t been properly “launched.” Today, we’re celebrating Susan Holt Kralovansky’s newest title, How Fire Ants Got their Fire, which came out in March.
It was a treat for me to see this book in print because I got to see the story grow, or should I say take shape, during critique sessions. The key parts were there from the beginning: the main character appropriately named Ky-Anne; good ‘ole Texas expressions kids are likely to adopt; and a secondary story line. Susan’s story became leaner as she moved the secondary story line to the illustrations, which gave the story even more depth.
Unlike the rest of the Ninjas, Susan illustrates her stories with mixed-media collage. Take it from me, this won’t be a quick one and done read. Your kids will want to stop and examine all the little details, from the hundreds of ants to Granny’s army boots. Check out Susie’s process in this blog post – Even Illustrators Have to Do Research.
And like a true nonfiction writer, Susie couldn’t resist sharing a few facts with her readers. Each jalapeno on the end pages is literally peppered with a spicy tidbit. In the back matter she also shares Ky-Anne’s Prizewinnin’ Chili recipe, and where the idea for this story came from.
If any of you are thinking of writing an origin story, also known as a pourquoi tale, study Susie’s How Fire Ants Got Their Fire for a succinct lead, superb pacing, and a fun blending of facts and fable.
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