Category Archives: Uncategorized

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International Day of Peace with Unity for Orphans

imageLast week, I visited an orphanage in Mexico with Unity 4 Orphans as my contribution to the United Nation’s International Day of Peace. I was a little reluctant to jump in on a high-energy Soccer Day event, as I tend to gravitate to quieter activities. Fortunately, the needs of the soccer field were more than covered, and I was able to hide out with the kids who had more of a literary and artistic bent.

It was then that I discovered the immense amount of creativity these kids had with very few materials for creative outlet. As always, I go into my work with children with the intention of celebrating neurodiversity to help kids access their own superpowers. It was amazing to me how visible the superpowers of these children were.

Many of the girls were very excited to braid my hair. They were young, so of course I expected some sloppy braids and maybe a few knots. Imagine my surprise when one of the girls took a picture of her work for me, and I saw this:

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Additionally, we had brought some Play Dough down with us, and I was amazed at the sophistication of the artistic expression.

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I have a firm belief that we are all born with superpowers to make the world a better place, and that we discover them by following what we love. These kids can make beauty out of almost nothing. As a creative myself, I am so excited to get back down there and do what I can to support these kids in pursuing their natural-born passions.

If you are interested in sending art, books, or writing supplies, please email me at emma@emmalesko.com and I will stuff them into my backpack or suitcase on future trips. Or, if you would like to get involved yourself, reach out to Unity 4 Orphans here!

Click image to download the printable checklist directly from Kids for Peace.

Peace Day Challenge!

Click image to download the printable checklist directly from Kids for Peace.

Click image to download the printable checklist directly from Kids for Peace.

In cooperation with the United Nation’s International Day of Peace on September 21st, one my favorite nonprofits, Kids for Peace, is challenging all kids to do as many peaceful acts as possible! Kids for Peace has created a free list of peaceful suggestions that makes it very easy and fun for your kids or students to get involved. The acts are accessible for kids of all ages and make enjoyable family and classroom activities.

I’ll be joining forces with the kids in my community to spread peace over the next couple of weeks, beginning with a visit to an orphanage in Mexico tomorrow to help out with a fun soccer day.

If you’re interested in creating your own fun day of peace, download the checklist here! Be sure to use #PeaceDayChallenge if you share photos of your peace efforts on social media!

HuffPo

My Work Is Featured in the Huffington Post!

HuffPo

I am so excited to be featured in the Huffington Post! I poured my heart into this interview, in the hopes of spreading the message I want all kids to hear: “You are unique for a reason. If society is not valuing your authentic self, that’s society’s dysfunction, not yours. Find your voice, find your power, and fulfill your purpose.”

Click here to read the full interview!

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A New Form of Storytelling in Kenya!

Magzi quickly discovered that selfies are hilarious.

Magzi quickly discovered that selfies are hilarious.

I have so many exciting things to share, but perhaps the most exciting for me is my recent trip to Kenya. I had the pleasure of going there with Kids for Peace, who is donating a pre-primary school to the village of Mikei with the help of the kids who will participate in the 2016 Great Kindness Challenge.*

Though she's goofing off in this picture, it's common in Magzi's village to for kids to carry large buckets of water on their heads.

Though she’s goofing off in this picture, it’s common in Magzi’s village for kids to carry large buckets of water on their heads.

As a storyteller, I was particularly thrilled with my assignment: to film a day-in-the-life of a wonderful, funny and joyful 10-year-old girl, Magzi. The purpose of the video will be to share her story with kids across the world so they can donate coins for her school during The Great Kindness Challenge in January. Last year, over 2,000,000 students participated, and that number is growing. Magzi’s current school moves from vacant building-to-building, and has few desks and text books. I am confident that Magzi and her 160 classmates will have a beautiful new school with books and furniture and many of the other things on her wish list by next summer.

The best part of this project is giving Magzi a platform to use her voice and to be heard. I am a passionate believer in the necessity of exposing kids to diverse stories so they may expand their worldview and cultivate empathy. I would never write Magzi’s story; it is hers and hers alone. All she needs is the audience, and I am doing my best to remain a silent facilitator.

This is my first video of this kind, and I am truly hoping that I can create it in a way that captures the beauty of Mikei, and the radiance of the children who live there. They made it as easy a possible. The footage is gorgeous, and I cannot wait to share it!

Magzi and her friends in their current school yard.

Magzi and her friends in their current school yard.

 

 

 

 

 

*The Kindness Challenge is a movement that encourages schools to devote one week each school year to performing as many acts of kindness as possible using a checklist of 50 suggestions. It’s free, fun, and transformational. Sign up your school here!

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Breaking the Guinness World Record!

988536_370160893170949_6905993202682843652_nLast week I went to LA with the Kids for Peace Great Kindness Challenge team to help break the Guinness World Record for the largest handprint collage. During last year’s Great Kindness Challenge, over 140,000 kids submitted handprints beautifully decorated with messages of peace and kindness.

Before I found these wonderful people, I spent so much time agonizing over how unkind and unfair our society was, but I didn’t DO much about it. Writing kids’ books to address injustices was my first step, but I wanted to do something more. These people put kindness in motion. They are such an inspiration. They have helped me convert my frustration into action.

So many people pulled together to break this record, and it was truly heartwarming to see. Tons of kids from nearby schools came to help. Starbucks sent coffee and team members. Kind Snacks sent team members and kind bars. Dignity Health was kind enough to open up their Heart Center for the collage, and many of their team members helped hang up hands. Kids for Peace volunteers worked tirelessly. It was such a beautiful display of everything the Great Kindness Challenge stands for.

With such a huge mass of hands, every now and then I forgot that this whole thing started on an individual level. That each handprint was on a child’s desk at some point. And with their own little hands, individual kids colored and glittered and composed poetry or words of wisdom.  As I was glue-sticking hundreds of hands to the walls, I would pause every now and then, and read their creations. The beauty overwhelmed me.

In the end, over 104,000 handprints made it up on those walls. This definitely surpasses the previous record, and if all goes well, it will be official sometime in the next few weeks. But regardless of how the judging goes, I think this community has made a powerful point: Kindness is an action, and if we all put kindness in motion together, we can accomplish anything.

SMALLVoiceWorkshop

School Visits: Empowering Kids through Voice

ReadingOne of my biggest goals as a kids’ author is empower kids to speak their truth. I try to do this thematically in my books. School visits give me the unique opportunity to put these themes into action.

All kids use their voices differently. I believe it’s their job to find the way that works for them, and it’s up to the adults in their lives to expose them to as many ways as possible. I admire teachers who are looking for innovative ways to do just that, and I always appreciate invitations to come speak.

During my school visits, I teach voice in writing and illustration specifically. Because this topic can truly take semesters to cover, I hone in on what I think is the most important ingredient: emotion. We do a lot of movement, a reading, and a writing/drawing assignment.

Because I mainly speak with kindergarteners through third graders, society hasn’t silenced them yet. I am passionate about getting into this sweet spot and telling them their emotions are worthy of expression, their truth matters.SMALLVoiceWorkshop

Writing kids’s books can feel a lot like shouting into the void. From behind a laptop, it’s very difficult for an author to know if they are truly reaching anyone. For me, school visits help me access my readers and understand what they’re experiencing, what they want the world to hear. They give me an opportunity to enliven the experience of writing.

I just wrapped up my last school visit of the year (with an awesome K/1 class, by the way). I’m now booking a school visit tour in Michigan for October. Please email me if you want more info!

Facing my fear of "staring eyeballs" the empower kids.

Interview with Geek Club Books

Facing my fear of "staring eyeballs" the empower kids.

Facing my fear of “staring eyeballs” the empower kids.

I’m thrilled to have had an opportunity to interview with Geek Club Books, whose goal is to profoundly change how the world views autism…one story at a time. As many of you know, I am an advocate for celebrating the strengths of our children, and reducing our focus on their weaknesses. In my opinion, Geek Club Books does this very thing, and is sensitive to the humanity of autistic children. See the interview below:

So nice to meet you! Tell us about your children’s book.

SUPER LEXI is a funny chapter book series about a second-grade girl on the autism spectrum, who is just trying to navigate kid life. She gets stuck dealing with stuff like “hoopla” and “staring eyeballs,” even though they give her the “feeling of barf.” Her achievements are humble, realistic and accessible.

What inspired you to write it?

There’s a seed of my own life journey in Lexi’s stories. Her transformation is gradual across the series. Like my own path, her story crescendos from self-acceptance to self-advocacy, and finally to advocacy for others. Though fictional, my own experiences on the autism spectrum informed the plots of the SUPER LEXI books.

Click here to continue

FrenchToast

Super Lexi’s Top Secret Egg Nog French Toast Recipe

FrenchToastThis is an actual thing that happened: I got to eat eggnog French toast at a TV table and watch cartoons once. You can read all about it in Super Lexi Is Not a Fan of Christmas. The thing about eggnog French toast is that it’s actually delicious. I wrote an official Top Secret recipe for you so you can eat it, too.

 

 

Stuff You Need

  • 8 pieces of bread (Udi’s if you’re not a fan of wheat)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup thick egg nog (So Delicious Coconut Nog if dairy gives you the feeling of barf)
  • ¼ cup flour (something like Authentic Foods Superfine Brown Rice Flour if you think wheat is blech)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Greasy stuff like butter, coconut oil or shortening for the griddle
  • MOST IMPORTANT INGREDIENT: Powdered sugar for snow

Top Secret Important Directions

  1. Dump eggs, egg nog, flour and vanilla into a blender. Make sure you put the lid on or else you’ll have a big, fat mess. Don’t ask me how I know that.
  2. Cover your ears. Have a grown-up press a button on your blender since your hands are busy. That thing is blaring loud.
  3. Now you have goop in your blender. Pour that goop into a bowl that’s big enough to fit bread.
  4. Ask your grown-up put a griddle on medium high heat. That way, you don’t have to get terrified of the burner. Get to work on step 5 while your grown-up puts the greasy stuff on a griddle.
  5. Dip bread in the goop. Your fingers will feel gross. Tell yourself that’s part of the fun.
  6. Have your grown-up cook that goopy bread on the griddle while you wipe your fingers off.
  7. MOST IMPORTANT STEP: When the French toast is all cooked, sprinkle powdered sugar snow on top. Make it beautiful. That makes it more delicious.
  8. Gobble up that delicious food.
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SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS Now Available!

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Woo Hoo! My chapter book SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS is now available! Click here to look inside!

About the Book

Lexi is not a fan of Christmas hoopla. It’s loud like an explosion, and it makes her insides hard like an ice cube. Too bad a big, fat holiday party at school is breathing down her neck. Now, to get out of it, Lexi has to get on the naughty list. Only one problem: Breaking rules gives her the feeling of barf.

Click here to buy

Click here to read chapter 1

Goodreads

Win Chapter Book SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS on Goodreads!

Goodreads

Lexi is not a fan of Christmas hoopla. It’s loud like an explosion, and it makes her insides hard like an ice cube. Too bad a big, fat holiday party at school is breathing down her neck. Now, to get out of it, Lexi has to get on the naughty list. Only one problem: Breaking rules gives her the feeling of barf.

Chapter book SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS comes out on November 4! Click here to win a free copy on Goodreads!

 

GoodreadsQ&A

Author Q&A on Goodreads!

GoodreadsQ&A

I will be answering questions regarding my chapter book SUPER LEXI and the upcoming sequel, SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS (Nov 4, 2014), on Goodreads for the next week!

Please submit your questions or those of your kids here!

 

Some of the Q & A’s so far:

Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?

As a little kid, I never got into “kid-friendly” activities. Overnight camping trips, field trips, school performances, carnivals, class parties, you name it, they overwhelmed me. I did not like them. But in the 80s, kids’ perspectives were not validated as well as they are today, so I frequently faced grown-ups who told me all kids liked that stuff. No one really believed me.

I decided to write SUPER LEXI about a second-grade girl who hates musical performances & staring eyeballs because I think kids need to be told there’s more than one way to experience the world. There is power in the written word. I thought if a grown-up wrote a book that says it’s OK to see the world this way, then it would be official for whatever kid needs to hear that.

What’s the best thing about being a writer?

As a kids’ author, the best thing about being a writer is by and large the audience. I love children and I have so much hope and belief in them. The very nature of evolution promises that they are capable of doing greater things than I am. I simply love being a doorway that they can walk through on their own journeys to greatness.

Will there be anymore books in this series after the Christmas book? (Cade, age 8)

It’s so nice to hear from you, Cade!

I do have a few more ideas for SUPER LEXI books and hope to complete them, but there are no official releases scheduled after the Christmas book comes out in November. When I do have release dates on future books, I’ll announce them on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/EmmaLeskoAuthor

Thank you for your question!

More questions

Sneak Peek: SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS

ChristmasIllustrationI’m really trying to let you get through Pumpkin Spice Latte season before filling your feeds with SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS news. It’s just so hard because Adam Winsor: Illustrator, Animator, Etc. Etc. has done such wonderful illustrations!

I’m particularly fond of this one, which perfectly captures everything I was going for.

SUPER LEXI IS NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS is coming soon!

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Super Lexi Featured in Kirkus Reviews Magazine!

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I’m excited to announce that my chapter book Super Lexi was selected to be featured in Kirkus Reviews magazine! Less than 1 out of 10 indie books books receive this honor.

Check out the full review here!

If you’ve not read Super Lexi, you can get a sneak peek at the first chapter here!

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Kirkus Gives Chapter Book Super Lexi a Rave Review!

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Big victory for chapter book Super Lexi today – Kirkus gives it a rave review! Highlights below:

“An excellent chapter book that’s perfect for middle-grade fans of Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody series and other books featuring spirited female narrators.”

“Lexi has a remarkable narrative voice, and Lesko captures her anxieties and phobias beautifully.”

“She’s a fascinating protagonist…”

“A grade school girl battles her fear of “staring eyeballs” in this fantastic series starter by debut author Lesko.”

Read the full review here!

TeacherAppreciation

Free Book for Teachers for Teacher Appreciation Week!

TeacherAppreciation

I’m giving away free copies of warmly funny chapter book Super Lexi to teachers on my Facebook page. Open to teachers and parents looking to give thanks.

Check it out here! – http://on.fb.me/1id6426

Read Chapter One of Super Lexi here! – http://bit.ly/1dXPEFa

Some local Little Free Libraries - Super Lexi's inside!

National Library Appreciation Week

ShippedLibraryBooksHappy National Library Appreciation Week! As a lover of libraries and all things books, I am proud to support this wonderful week. I was happy to see my Facebook community jump at the chance to get free copies of my chapter book Super Lexi for their local libraries. I sent out 15 signed copies to libraries on three different continents this week!

Also, because I simply could not help myself, I took Super Lexi on a Little Free Library book tour. If you are not familiar with the Little Free Library “take a book, leave a book” program, I highly recommend you check it out, because it’s a very cool and neighborly way to promote literacy.

Some local Little Free Libraries - Super Lexi's inside!

Some local Little Free Libraries – Super Lexi’s inside!

Next up: Teacher Appreciation Week, beginning May 5! As a grateful kids’ author, I intend to give thanks 😉

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Vote for Lexi on A Mighty Girl!

My chapter book Super Lexi has been nominated to appear on A Mighty Girl, but she needs votes! A Mighty Girl is a wonderful site dedicated to raising smart, confident, and courageous girls. If you think Lexi is A Mighty Girl, please vote for her here!MightyGirlClick to Vote!