Hi Math is Everywhere Readers,
Believe it or not, today is the anniversary of the first U.S. space walk! And we are lucky enough to have Candy Wellins here with us to chat about her picture book biography featuring this famous astronaut, Edward White, that released earlier this year: The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space, illustrated by Courtney Dawson.
Kaitlyn: Hi, Candy, thanks so much for joining us again on the Math is Everywhere Blog! (For anyone who would like to read Candy’s first interview, check it out here: https://kaitlynleannsanchez.com/2020/08/11/book-birthday-interview-and-giveaway-with-debut-author-candy-wellins/)
Candy: Thanks for having me again. It’s always a delight to be here.
Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful to hear; thank you, Candy! Last time you were here we were talking about your beautiful fiction book Saturdays Are for Stella. Is this new story purely nonfiction? If so, can you share what was different about your process for writing these two stories?
Candy: The Stars Beckoned is a mostly nonfiction story. I don’t want to say it’s 100 percent true because there is a refrain which cannot be verified as being the actual words spoken in history. However, I did a lot of research including talking to both of Edward’s children and they agreed that the sentiment is 100 percent true even if the actual words are lost to history.
This was a very different writing experience from Saturdays Are for Stella. This time around I had to do a ton of research (I knew virtually nothing about Edward going into this book). On top of that, I chose to write in rhyme so not only did I have to worry about historical accuracy, I also had to aim for an accurate rhyme scheme.
Kaitlyn: You definitely gave yourself some tough challenges but 100% succeeded in both aspects! What inspired you to write this wonderful story?
Candy: I was teaching a middle school science class and we were discussing the US/Soviet Space Race of the 1960s. They were disappointed to learn that the Soviets were the first to send both a man and a woman into space and wanted to know if the US beat them in the first spacewalk at least (spoiler alert: we didn’t!). I didn’t know the answer and I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t even know who the first American to space walk was. So I turned to Google which immediately produced Edward’s name along with a brief blurb about his spacewalk. It ended by stating that Edward was very reluctant to reenter the space capsule after his walk and that when he finally did he said, “This is the saddest moment of my life.” Immediately, my picture book brain started sounding alarms. Edward had such big emotions that any kid can relate to–who among us wants to quit something that’s fun? I knew then and there that Edward’s story had to be told.
Kaitlyn: This just shows you’re meant for writing, and what a wonderful teacher you are. It’s so important to show kids that we don’t have all the answers, and what wonderful results besides teaching your students about Edward, you’re teaching so many others as well. Why did you decide to write this story in rhyme?
Candy: I didn’t initially! One of my critique partners had written a picture book biography manuscript in verse and I was so taken with it that I wanted to try writing one myself. I had done some research on Edward so I thought of him right away. It helped that his last name, White, has so many rhymes that fit with the theme of the story (flight, height, night). I was playing with rhymes for a few days. My brain kept wanting to sing “Deep In the Heart of Texas” because of that line, “The stars at night/ Are big and bright…” Then I remembered that Edward was a native Texan and the first line of the book became “Edward White/ Loved the night/ Lived where stars/ Are big and bright.” The rest was a labor of love. I’d write down what I wanted to say then tweak the words to get the rhyme just right. It took some time!
Kaitlyn: That’s amazing! I’m so happy there were so many things that came together perfectly to help you produce this wonderful book. One of my favorite parts about this story is the beautiful refrain, what inspired you to tell this story with this framing?
Candy: I loved the idea of an adult out in space resisting going back in the spacecraft when the mission was over. As a writer, I wanted to create a story where this love of space and resistance to leave the night sky was always a part of Edward’s life. I also needed to answer the question of what motivated him to finally get back inside. I think the refrain helped me accomplish both.
Kaitlyn: Yes! They definitely did! What do you hope children will get out of this book?
Candy: First, I hope they’ll learn a bit about a true American hero. Many kids know a lot of the space pioneers–Alan Shepard, Sally Ride, Neil Armstrong (Edward’s next door neighbor, by the way), but Edward’s accomplishments have been a bit lost to history.
I also hope Edward’s passion and persistence inspires them to work hard and follow their dreams.
Finally, I hope they’ll see that achieving great things is wonderful, but not as wonderful as having special people in your life to celebrate your achievements with.
Kaitlyn: I think you’ve definitely achieved these goals, and I love how your last hope can be seen so beautifully in Courtney Dawson’s wonderful illustrations on the last spread. Can you share some advice you like to give to aspiring authors?
Candy: Take risks. I never thought I would write a biography of an astronaut and, in fact, I resisted writing Edward’s story at first because I’m not a “space person.” Eventually, I realized space was just one aspect of Edward’s story. I really wanted to focus on the universal human emotions of his story. In the end, I think the story might be stronger because I’m not a space person. Ultimately this is a story about love and everyone can relate to that.
Kaitlyn: That is so beautiful! Is there anything in particular you’d like to share about on this splendid anniversary of Edward White’s first space walk?
Candy: I really hope readers will read the back matter on this book because Edward led such an amazing life. One thing I think is incredible is that he was less than one second away from being an Olympian. Edward was a hurdler who competed in the Olympic trials for the 1952 games in Helsinki. His time barely missed qualification so he joined the Air Force instead. The rest is history.
Kaitlyn: I got the chills–wow! One of my best friends growing up, her dad was supposed to play water polo in the Olympics that we protested, but I’m sure he has found his silver lining in his wonderful family and their awesome rafting company. Can you share with us what you’re working on now?
Candy: I have two new books under contract and can’t wait to share details soon.
Kaitlyn: CONGRATS! And ah! That waiting is the hardest; I can’t wait to hear all about them! Finally, if you could meet your favorite author, illustrator, historical figure, or mathematician would you chat by a fireside or go on an adventure?
Candy: Adventure all the way as long as it doesn’t involve me going up into space. That’s one thing I never want to do!
Kaitlyn: Haha! My husband had me to a simulation on his VR where a weather balloon takes you super high in the atmosphere; that’s as close as I’ll ever get to space, too! Thank you so much for sharing and for joining us again today.
Candy: Thank you again for having me.
Kaitlyn: My absolute pleasure, and I’m excited to have you back again with your next two books!
Author Bio and links
Candy Wellins is a lifelong writer and book lover. A former elementary school teacher, Candy has a BA in journalism and an M.Ed. in literacy education. She’s now a full-time mom to three wonderful children who keep her up-to-date and immersed in kid’s literature. When she’s not reading, writing or mothering, Candy loves running, traveling and naps! Her debut picture book Saturdays Are For Stella (Illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan, PAGE STREET KIDS) was named a Kirkus Best Picture Book of 2020. Her debut picture book biography, The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space (Illustrated by Courtney Dawson, PHILOMEL) was called “an introduction to a space pioneer that’s ideal for the youngest nonfiction readers” by Publishers Weekly. Candy and her family make their home in Central Texas. You can follow her at www.candywellins.com, on Instagram @candywellins, on Twitter @candy_wellins or on Facebook @candywellins.
Book info and links
The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space by Candy Wellins and Courtney Dawson
For personalized copies:
With stunning art that pops off the page and beautiful rhyming text, The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space will grab any reader, especially those who love space. But beyond a story about space, this story has a beautiful refrain that carries throughout the book and reminds us all what passion looks like. Share with the little ones in your life about this wonderful and little know historical figure and give them hope and excitement while you’re at it!
Do you want to win a copy of this wonderful book The Stars Beckoned: Edward White’s Amazing Walk in Space? (US only please)
You can enter in the follow ways (each earns you another entry into the random drawing)
- Comment on this post
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Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez