Joint #PB Interview with Rajani LaRocca and Carrie Finison about their newest books

Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,

We have a doubly special math treat today! We get to chat with two amazing authors about their fun books that incorporate some wonderful math: Rajani LaRocca and Carrie Finison.

Kaitlyn: Welcome Rajani and Carrie, thanks for joining us today!

Rajani: Thanks so much for having us, Kaitlyn!

Carrie: Thank you, I’m happy to be here!

Kaitlyn: First I have to know, did you have the math component in mind from the start or did that come later?

Carrie: DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS always had a math element, but it started out a little differently than it is now. In the early drafts, a bear was making doughnuts and leaving them out to cool, and different numbers of animals kept showing up to steal them — 1 fox, 2 owls, 3 squirrels, etc. Eventually that story evolved into the bear sharing each batch of 12 doughnuts among an ever-growing number of woodland friends – first 2 friends, then 3, 4, and finally 6.

Rajani: I always knew there was a math puzzle at the heart of SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS. In my family, both when I was a kid and later when I had my own kids, we loved to give each other informal quizzes/puzzles and have fun solving them together. Once I figured out what the math element would be, I started thinking about my main character, and then the story emerged from there.

Kaitlyn: I adore that you both set out to share math with kids😍 Seven Golden Rings feels like an old folk tale and Dozens of Doughnuts feels like an old fairy tale, are these stories re-imaginings of past tales or new ones written in that style?

Rajani: This is a brand-new story written in a folktale style!

Carrie: DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS isn’t based on a fairytale, but I did try to capture that deep-in-the-woods magical feel. The book I looked to most, in terms of trying to capture the same feeling, was BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson. I loved the coziness and the feeling of friends gathering together in that book and wanted to do something similar in mine.

Kaitlyn: You ladies definitely achieved your goals because I could feel the sense of folktale and deep-in-the-woods magical feel when reading these. Now, I can say from personal experience, it is SUPER hard to create a picture with math and have it still be fun, how did you do this so successfully with these books and do you have any advice for writers wanting to incorporate math into their manuscripts?

Carrie: I think that the story has to come first. Anything else will feel forced, and kids will smell that coming from a mile away. You never want the math to take the reader out of the story, but instead to feel like a natural part of it. Ask: could this story exist without the math element, and would it still be a good story? Would the characters and plot still be compelling? The answer should be YES!

Rajani: This was one of the first picture book manuscripts I ever wrote. I always knew this would be a math-forward story. The trick for me was to make the math puzzle and its solution relatable and understandable. I started thinking about my main character, a boy named Bhagat, and how and why he had to solve this particular puzzle—how would he know what to do, and what were the stakes? Over time, I created a music-loving character who literally held his family’s prosperity in his hands, and risked losing everything he had if he couldn’t solve the puzzle. 

My biggest advice for writers wanting to incorporate math would be to make sure the story has interesting characters and make sure the math is an organic part of the plot—Carrie’s book is a wonderful example of this!

Kaitlyn: Yes! It’s about the story and characters, and the math just makes them cooler 😉 Rajani, the solution to the ring-splitting problem is genius–so much so, I had to go back and make sure it worked–where did you come up with this idea?

Rajani: The puzzle at the heart of this story is based on an old logic puzzle I heard from my uncle as a kid. Then I added in more math elements: Bhagat having to figure out how to divide the chain of seven rings, and his inspiration for doing so. Once I’d written many, many, many drafts of this book, I realized that the reason the solution works has to do with binary numbers—so I wrote an author’s note introducing this concept to kids

Kaitlyn: That is so cool! You’re uncle sounds awesome! Carrie, I love how the division of the donuts is shown in the illustrations–it makes it such a cool piece for parents and educators to find or discuss with kids–was that planned or a happy result?

Carrie: As I mentioned above, math was always a part of the story. However, one early draft had only three batches of 12 doughnuts being divided — first by 2, then 3, and then 4 friends. At a peer critique round table at a conference, a fellow writer (who was also a teacher) suggested that I expand the story to show 12 divided by 6 as well. It took a little finagling — some new characters, an added scene, and extra pages in the book (it’s 40 pages instead of 32) but that extra scene means that teachers can use the book to teach all the factors of 12.

Kaitlyn: I’m so glad you met this writer/teacher and that you were able to incorporate this wonderful advice even though it took more pages! For both ladies, who was your editor for the book and what did you enjoy about working with him/her/them?

Carrie: My editor is Stephanie Pitts at Putnam and she is amazing. Before she even bought the book, she suggested some edits to cut down the length, and I could see already that she was a precise, careful, and thoughtful editor. I love that she makes detailed suggestions (and describes why she’s making those suggestions) but trusts me to figure out whether and how to implement them. In fact, we’re working on two more books together!

Rajani: I had the incredibly good fortune to work on SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS with brilliant and legendary Cheryl Klein! The first thing we did was to get the spreads/pages set, and we realized this story would benefit from being 40 pages rather than the typical 32. Once we felt the main text was in good shape, we worked hard on honing the author’s note to explain a complex math topic (binary numbers) in a clear way so young (and not-so-young) readers could understand it and connect it with today’s world. And Cheryl found the perfect illustrator for this book—Archana Sreenivasan, who had knowledge of the setting, clothing, and customs of ancient India, and whose fun, vibrant illustrations brought this story to life in the most beautiful way.

Kaitlyn: They both sound amazing, and like you found the perfect part ere for each of these beautiful stories! What was your favorite part about creating this book?

Rajani: Getting an offer, signing a contract, and working with an incredible editor are all wonderful. But my favorite part about creating this book was seeing Archana’s glorious art! She gave so much life to the characters and the world I’d written about.

Carrie: The doughnuts, OF COURSE! I had to conduct a lot of in-depth research to get this written.

But seriously, I agree with Rajani. There were so many good parts, but seeing Brianne Farley’s gorgeous illustrations was the best. From the moment I learned she was the illustrator, I knew that the cast of animal characters would be adorable based on her portfolio and her work on other books like CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED. I love what she came up with for LouAnn, Woodrow, Clyde, and the rest of the crew, and I especially love how she illustrated the doughnuts – truly making them another star of the book.

Kaitlyn: I adore that so much, ladies! The art is so vital to picture books and you and your team definitely found the perfect artists to illustrate both of these books! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?

Carrie: I was a huge Anne of Green Gables fan growing up, so I’d love to go on a ramble around PEI with Lucy Maud Montgomery and then end with a fireside chat, perhaps with some raspberry cordial to warm us up.

Rajani: I’d love to have a meal (or coffee) with Madeleine L’Engle. I adored her books when I was a kid, and would love to talk to her about how she came up with her incredible stories, and how she managed to blur the line between the real and the unreal is such a marvelous way.

Kaitlyn: Oh my goodness, can I please come to both of these parties!?!? You ladies are so intelligent, fun, and wonderful! Thank you both so much for joining us today and sharing about your amazing books!

Rajani: Thank you, Kaitlyn! This was so much fun!

Carrie: Thanks, Kaitlyn! I enjoyed it. 🙂 

Book info for SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS: A TALE OF MUSIC AND MATH

By Rajani LaRocca

Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan

Releasing October 27, 2020 from Lee & Low Books

In this clever, convivial picture book, an Indian boy untangles a mathematical conundrum to win a place at the Rajah’s court.In ancient India, a boy named Bhagat travels to the Rajah’s city, hoping to ensure his family’s prosperity by winning a place at court as a singer. Bhagat carries his family’s entire fortune–a single coin and a chain of seven golden rings–to pay for his lodging. But when the innkeeper demands one ring per night, and every link snipped costs one coin, how can Bhagat both break the chain and avoid overpaying? His inventive solution points the way to an unexpected triumph, and offers readers a friendly lesson in binary numbers–the root of all computing.

IndieBound Bookshop Barnes & Noble Amazon Book Depository Books A Million Goodreads

Silver Unicorn Bookstore (Preorder and receive a signed copy!)

Register here to attend Rajani’s virtual Book Launch with Silver Unicorn on October 27 at 7 pm ET!

Bio Rajani LaRocca

Rajani LaRocca was born in India, raised in Kentucky, and now lives in the Boston area with her wonderful family and impossibly cute dog. A graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School, she spends her time writing novels and picture books when she’s not practicing medicine. Her middle grade debut, Midsummer’s Mayhem (Yellow Jacket/Little Bee Books, 2019), an Indian-American mashup of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and competitive baking, was an Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Kirkus Best Middle Grade Book of 2019, and a 2020 Massachusetts Book Award Honor title. Her debut picture book, Seven Golden Rings: A Tale of Music and Math (Lee & Low Books, October 2020) is set in ancient India and involves a math puzzle and an explanation of binary numbers. You can learn about her other forthcoming books at www.RajaniLaRocca.com and find her on Twitter and Instagram @rajanilarocca.

Book info for DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS

By Carrie Finison

Illustrated by Brianne Farley

G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, July 21, 2020

A generous but increasingly put-upon bear makes batch after batch of doughnuts for her woodland friends without saving any for herself in this delightful debut picture book about counting, sharing, and being a good friend.

LouAnn (a bear) is making a doughnut feast in preparation for her long winter’s nap. But just before she takes the first bite, DING DONG! Her friend Woodrow (a woodchuck) drops by. LouAnn is happy to share her doughnuts, but as soon as she and Woodrow sit down to eat, DING DONG! Clyde (a raccoon) is at the door. One by one, LouAnn’s friends come over–Topsy (an opossum) and then Moufette (a skunk) and then Chip and Chomp (chipmunks)–until it’s one big party. Louann welcomes her surprise guests and makes batch after batch of doughnuts, always dividing them equally among her friends. But she makes one BIG miscalculation. Soon LouAnn’s kitchen is bare, winter is near, and she’s had nothing to eat at all!

Indiebound Bookshop Barnes & Noble Amazon Book Depository Books-a-Million Goodreads

Belmont Books (to order a signed copy – indicate personalization in the Order Comments field) 

Sign up for Carrie’s newsletter to hear about events and giveaways!

Bio Carrie Finison

Carrie Finison began her literary career at the age of seven with an idea, a box of markers, and her father’s typewriter. She has been writing off and on ever since, though she has (somewhat regretfully) traded in the typewriter for a laptop. Her debut picture book is DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS (July, 2020), and a second picture book, DON’T HUG DOUG, will follow in January, 2021. She also writes for children’s magazines including Babybug, Ladybug, High Five, and Highlights. When she’s not writing, Carrie enjoys reading mystery novels, trying new recipes, and curling up on the couch for family movie nights. She lives outside Boston with her husband, son, daughter, and two cats who permit her to write in their cozy attic office. Find her online at www.carriefinison.com or on Twitter & Instagram @CarrieFinison.

Kaitlyn’s Review of Seven Golden Rings

This modern day folktale is a charming story filled with beautiful artwork, both of which transport the reader and listener back to ancient India. Readers learn lessons of hard work, persistence, and how to problem solve. As a math teacher, I found the math in this story is brilliant and the powerful messages something I want to share with my students and daughter alike.

Kaitlyn Review of Dozens of Doughnuts

Dozens of Doughnuts is a delightful tale with the most endearing artwork! Kids and adults alike will giggle at the funny antics, feel for the main character, and be overjoyed by the ending. Bonus, kids won’t even realize they’re learning about division and multiples while parents and teachers can use the images to help kids further understand these topics!

Book Giveaways

One winner will be selected to receive a copy of SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS! (contiguous US only, please)

Another winner will receive a personalized copy of DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS to one winner. (contiguous US only please)

You can enter in the follow ways (each earns you another entry into the random drawing)

  1. Comment on this post
  2. Share in the comments below that you added both books to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist 
  3. Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of either of these books or both!
  4. Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for both books at your library
  5. Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.

Thank you all for reading and supporting these wonderful authors!

Sincerely,

Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez

PS. I hope you’re having fun writing your #FallWritingFrenzy entries. Please support the amazingly genorous donors in any way you can. One way to start is watch @LydiaLukidis and @KaitlynLeann17 ‘s tweets (or search the hashtags #DonorTime #FallWritingFrenzy). Each tweet will have some cool info about our donors. Please share! Here are the first two:

34 thoughts on “Joint #PB Interview with Rajani LaRocca and Carrie Finison about their newest books

  1. Congrats, Rajani and Carrie! I’ve read DOZENS OF DOUGHNUTS and I look forward to reading SEVEN GOLDEN RINGS. Thank you for sharing your journeys with your amazing stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Math was not easy for me. Carrie’s book helps explore math in a fun and caring way. Loved the sharing, heart, and kindness, too. And those illustrations! I wanted a doughnut so bad! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Terrific interview! I adore Dozens of Doughnuts and look forward to reading Seven Golden Rings. I plan to contact my local library for a purchase request on both of these delightful books. I love how the math component doesn’t feel like a math lesson at all. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Both these books look amazing. I have added both to my Goodreads Want To Read. I love that characters sound great, but “the math just makes them cooler.” Thanks for sharing about process in creating your stories. Best of luck with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I added both titles to my Goodreads and will purchase Seven Golden Rings as a gift for one of my friends of Indian decent. I’m sure she will love to share it with her kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. EEEK!!!! Kaitlyn, what a great post! Great questions, so much insight offered by the authors and of course both books look lovely and magical. I love, love, love dozens of doughnuts. More importantly, I loved sharing it with my children. I have a library copy that I just got a week or so ago and we have read it 5 times all ready. Working on a post at http://www.mathbookmagic.com now. Seven rings has been on my TBR list. I can’t wait to read it. I love folktale math PB. Can’t wait to read a brand-new one. Congrats to the authors and thanks Kaitlyn for sharing this #mathbookmagic on your blog!

    Liked by 1 person

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