Episode 47: Picture Books for Teachable Moments with Lori Orlinsky

Today's guest on The Library Laura Podcast is Lori Orlinsky, a three-time author of picture books for children that teach important lessons. She has written these books to fill gaps she found in kids books after her own children experienced things and she went looking for a book to help her as a parent address those topics. For example, her first book, Being Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) was inspired by her daughter’s experience of being the shortest kid in her class and getting called named and bullied because of it. She’s got on to write books about telling the truth and coping with pet loss as well. We swapped recommendations for read-aloud books for kids, as well as some grown-up books Lori might enjoy for her own pleasure reading. 

Follow Lori on Facebook and Instagram or visit her website.

Books from today’s episode on Bookshop.org 

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Author Lori Orlinsky with her newest book for children, Balloons For Tiger. Lori is today's guest on The Library Laura Podcast. 

Lori and I are both big believers in the power of books and the importance of reading with children. I credit my love of reading with helping me be a more empathetic and informed person, as well as experiencing academic success. Lori says there is just something special about picking up a picture book and reading it. She really wants to be able to write one of those books that kids resonate with and that they remember and talk about years later. 

Lori wrote her first book, Being Small (Isn't So Bad After All) is inspired by her daughter's own story of feeling less-than as a three-year-old because of her height. It's turned into an opportunity for bullying prevention teaching many times since then. 

Lori's second book, The Tooth Fairy's Tummy Ache, is about being honest and telling the truth. She wrote it in response to her own parenting adventures with teaching kids to tell the truth, and it was also partially inspired by her experience as a kid where her first tooth got misplaced. 

 Lori's newest picture book, Balloons for Tiger, is about processing pet loss. She wrote this story after their cat died and her kids were having a hard time with the loss. It's available to order now! 

Lori shared about working with illustrator Vanessa Alexandre on all three of these books, which was so fun to learn about. 

Before the pandemic, Lori enjoyed doing in-person author visits. She loves seeing the lightbulbs go off in kids' minds as they listen to stories, and answering their silly and insightful questions. She looks forward to being able to do that again soon in classrooms and bookstores. In the meantime, she's been able to do virtual author visits, which took some innovating and adapting. But she loves the fact that she's not been limited to her home city of Chicago anymore, but rather can visit classrooms, bookstores, libraries and groups of children all over the world. 

Lori said there are several apps that her books are available through or that have helped facilitate storytime interactions throughout the pandemic. Here are the ones she mentioned: 

  • Caribu - the "FaceTime meets Kindle" app where you can have a video call and all see the book & turn pages in real time. This one does require a subscription (try discount code 2021CARIBU) 
  • Novel Effect - an app that lets you have sound effects, music and character voices at just the right moment for read-aloud books in their database. Lori likes to use this one during author visits or during reading aloud. 
  • Epic - Lori mentioned that many schools are paying for this platform to give their kids access to books. Free trials are available for families too. 
  • Local libraries - digital collections or contactless curbside pickup are options through many libraries to keep kids stocked up on books. 

Lori also has free coloring pages on her website that go with each of her books. She would love for you to tag her with colored pages at @loriorlinskyauthor

Books Lori mentioned on today's episode 

We talked about what books Lori enjoys reading. Her late grandparents are Holocaust survivors, and so she really appreciates reading historical fiction set during that time period. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of her all-time favorites. She looks forward to reading her new book, The Four Winds

She also read The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer - a powerful WWII novel, which  follows a woman's urgent search for answers to a family mystery that uncovers truths about herself that she never expected.

She also enjoys reading thrillers and mysteries and books that frequently land on bestsellers lists. With one of her kids home for remote learning, she's turned to many more audiobooks lately to allow her to multi-task. 

She recently read and enjoyed American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. 

She enjoys books by Emily Giffin and Sophie Kinsella

As far as books she enjoys reading to her children, she mentioned Dr. Seuss (which she enjoyed growing up), specifically One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and Green Eggs and Ham. She remembers her dad skipping pages while reading....now she understands :) And her kids call her out on it now. 

Her eight-year-old is reading early chapter books like The Owl Diaries and Junie B. Jones, and Lori is so happy to see her developing a love of reading like her mom. 

One of Lori's best friends and her business partner, Alysson Bourque, writes the Alycat series. Lori's kids adore these books, "sometimes they say they like Alysson's books better than mine," she said with a chuckle. 

Alysson and Lori have sort of a built-in test audience for their publicity firm, Foreword Publicity, as they want to choose books to represent that their kids enjoy. So their kids get to hear lots of new books from new authors.  For example, one of their clients is Cheryl Daveiga, who wrote a bullying prevention book about ice cream called War At The Ice Cream Store. This is Lori's kids' current favorite book. 

Books Laura recommended for Lori and her kids 

For the kids: 

Pirate Stew by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell - Mom and dad go on a date, leaving their kids with the babysitter, who just happens to be a pirate. This rhyming picture book is jolly good fun. 

Martha B. Rabbit: The Fairies' Cook, by Shirley Barber - one of my childhood favorites. I used to act this book out in the living room with my friends. A rabbit must start over after her home is robbed by three bad rats. She ends up as a cook in Mr. Gnome's guest house for fairies. It's beautifully illustrated and Martha is such a good soul. 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise - When we got to talking about Efrén Divided, I ended up recommending this picture book biography about the woman for whom the ALA Pura Belpre award is named. It's a beautiful picture book about an amazing amazing woman. 

Some book recommendations for Lori to enjoy: 

We Were The Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter - Lori had actually already read this one over the summer, but if she hadn't she needed to! It's excellent historical fiction based on the author's own family story of enduring WWII. 

Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon - a based-on-a-true-story novel of a WWII spy. Amazing. 

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner - another story set during WWII. I learned about the detention camps in Crystal City, TX from this book. I had no idea! 

Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros -  I recommended this because Lori enjoyed American Dirt. This own-voices middle grade novel just won a Pura Belpre award and it's a beautiful and difficult story of a son of undocumented immigrants, with strong themes of hope and resilience like Lori looks for in stories. 

We also talked about Little Free Libraries, the Neighbor To Neighbor Literacy Project in Chicago (@n2nliteracyproject on Instagram) and Book Fairies

With lots of literary love from my library to yours! 

~Library Laura 


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Library Laura
Laura is an avid reader who is happiest when surrounded by books, tea, blankets and/or friends. Host of the Library Laura Podcast.


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