For Spacious Skies by Nancy Churnin INTERVIEW + GIVEAWAY

FOR SPACIOUS SKIES: Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for "American the Beautiful"

by Nancy Churnin, Illustrated by Olga Baumert

Picture Book Biography / Women's Suffrage / Woman Poet

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Date of Publication: April 1, 2020

Number of Pages: 32

As a little girl growing up during the Civil War, Katharine Lee Bates grew up to become a poet, professor, and social activist. She not only wrote “America the Beautiful" but gave this anthem to America as a gift. A member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and a suffragist who stood up for a woman’s right to vote and lived to cast her ballot in presidential elections, Katharine believed in the power of words to make a difference. In "America the Beautiful," her vision of the nation as a great family, united from sea to shining sea, continues to uplift and inspire us all.

Scroll down for the giveaway!

PRAISE for For Spacious Skies:

“Churnin tells that story in a spare and lively text beautifully complemented by double-page spreads highlighting Baumert’s gorgeous panoramic illustrations . . . A handsome volume befitting its subject.”—Kirkus Reviews

"The story ends on a high note in 1920, with Bates casting her ballot after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted voting rights to women . . . The richly colored, nicely composed artwork will help children visualize the period setting while enjoying the portrayals of Bates and beautiful landscapes. A picture-book biography of a notable American.”—Booklist

“Nancy Churnin has written a delightful book that helps children understand the many dimensions of my great-aunt Katharine Lee Bates. This book does an excellent job conveying her ardent passion for equal rights and for her country. She was a poet, a professor, and a world traveler, but she was first and foremost a citizen who loved America, in all its beauty and diversity.”—Katharine Lee Holland

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Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies with a ninth due in 2021.

Beautiful Shades of Brown, The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring is A Mighty Girl pick that will be featured at the 2020 Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee in May. The William Hoy Story, a Texas 2X2 pick, has been on multiple state reading lists. Manjhi Moves a Mountain is the winner of the 2018 South Asia Book Award and a Junior Library Guild selection. Martin & Anne, the Kindred Spirits of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Anne Frank is on the 2020 Notable Book for a Global Society list from the International Literacy Association. Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing is a 2019 Sydney Taylor and National Council for the Social Studies Notable.

Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard, has a master's from Columbia, and lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband, Dallas Morning News arts writer Michael Granberry, their dog named Dog, and two cantankerous cats.

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Author Interview with Nancy Churnin, Part 2

(Part 1 can be found at StoreyBook Reviews)

How does your book relate to your faith or philosophy?

I write about people who inspire me and that I believe will inspire kids to be the heroes and heroines of their own lives. Every one of my books comes not only with a free teacher guide, but with a project. The project for For Spacious Skies is “For Spacious Lines.” I would like kids to share not just what they love about their country, but what we could do to make it a better country—more beautiful, fair, inclusive. I will post their words on my For Spacious Lines page on my website,

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

Heart. I look for the place where the heart of my character and my own heart are one, with the hope that young readers will find their own heart in the book, too.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Katharine Lee Bates accomplished so many things! She wrote so many poems, so many books. She loved animals. She had loving relationships. She took care of her mother and sister, who were both immensely proud of her. There were a million anecdotes I would have loved to shoehorn in that will have to wait for my author visits.

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Writing about Katharine Lee Bates gave me a chance to walk in her shoes, and that made me feel brave, to trust my mind and heart, and to remember that a better world is indeed possible—but we have to articulate our vision for it.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

I am a full-time writer and I am grateful for the opportunity to be that. For many years, I wrote my books while holding down a full-time job as a journalist—another form of writing. It is a blessing to have all this time to write books and visit with kids.

What are some day jobs that you have held? Have any of them impacted your writing?

I was a journalist and a theater critic for many years, first with the Los Angeles Times and later with the Dallas Morning News. Being a journalist gave me experience with researching and learning about the people I profiled. It also taught me to write succinctly and vividly. What I had to “unlearn” was writing from a distance. For a powerful picture book, you have to feel what your character is feeling, see through that person’s perspective.

What projects are you working on at the present?

I am doing final edits on a new book, A Queen to the Rescue, the Story of Henrietta Szold, coming out next year from Creston Books/Lerner Books. Henrietta Szold is another woman I admire greatly. I am excited for kids to know her!

What’s something interesting, fun, or funny that most people don’t know about you?

I love to sing! I have an ongoing fantasy about doing a cabaret act one day. Of course it would have to be for a VERY forgiving audience.



ONE WINNER receives signed copies of both

For Spacious Skies and Beautiful Shades of Brown

TWO WINNERS each receive a signed copy of For Spacious Skies

April 16-26, 2020

(US only for signed copies; international winners via Book Depository)

Click Image to Enter



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