What do you get if you add a beaker full of STEAM + a sprinkle of sibling rivalry + a heaping dose of humor? You get the wildly imaginative new chapter book series, Kinzie’s Kinventions.
Today, I’m hanging out with the author, Donna Boock, and we’re talking about the inspiration behind Kinzie and her zany “kinventions” (like puppy toothpaste). She also reveals what Kinzie might “Kinvent” for my racing pigeon Rocket, who gets dizzy when he flies through clouds. Read on to learn more about Kinzie’s Kinventions and help bring her latest kinvention to life!
Erika Liodice: Hi, Donna. Thanks for joining us today! I know readers are curious to learn about your new book series Kinzie’s Kinventions. Can you tell us about it?
Donna Boock: Hi, Erika. Thanks for having me! Kinzie’s Kinventions is a new chapter book series for readers ages 6-9. Readers of the Junie B. Jones series should give Kinzie’s Kinventions a try. Kinzie is an imaginative, science-loving girl who designs ‘Kinventions’ to solve her biggest problems. Then, she creates videos demonstrating how to make the Kinventions to post on her ‘ViewTube’ channel so all of her fans can see. It’s a mix of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math), humor, and some sibling & classroom rivalry too.
EL: Sounds really cool. What inspired this idea?
DB: I wrote the second book, Earth to Kinzie, before I wrote the other two books, and it was inspired by my own relationship with my sisters. Growing up with three sisters, there was always some comical drama unfolding. The drama that inspired this particular story was when I told my younger sister she was from Jupiter, and that her space parents were coming back to take her there. Good times!
When I originally wrote Earth to Kinzie, she wasn’t yet a young inventor, she was just a character who believed she was from Jupiter. Then, while I was at a writing workshop, I began to think about what could make her different from all the other chapter book characters already out there. I thought giving her a YouTube channel would be a great way to have some fun with her. And, being a big proponent of girls in science, I decided to make her channel all about inventing!
EL: Kinzie certainly has a lot of character. She’s curious, creative, and funny too. Is she based on anyone you know?
DB: Kinzie is all her own creation but may be inspired by a little piece of many people I’ve met or observed along the way. As a writer, I try to be tuned in to people around me, listening to and looking for ideas to incorporate. Plus, so many of my own experiences and relationships are reflected through her. So, while she isn’t based on any one person in particular, there’s a little bit of a lot of us in her.
EL: How on earth do you come up with her zany ‘kinventions,’ like puppy toothpaste and underwear invisible-izers?
DB: That part is so much fun for me! I did some ‘idea-mining,’ thinking back to when I was a kid. I searched for ideas based on things I considered problems at her age and then filtered them through the lens of Kinzie. For example, I loved to climb and play on the monkey bars, but my mom always wanted me to wear dresses (not the ideal outfit for swinging from monkey bars, if you catch my drift). And while I didn’t solve that problem at age 8, I’m excited Kinzie has a solution to it now with her underwear invisible-izers! As for puppy-paste, my two canine co-writers (who sit very close to me when I’m writing) may have inspired that one.
EL: Were you an inventive kid? If so, what kinds of ‘Don-ventions’ did you dream up?
DB: I was certainly an imaginative kid, and I was always dreaming up new things to play and do. In fact, book three, Kinzie and the P. U. Zoo, is loosely based on the time I tried collecting ‘pets’ from the woods near my house. My neighbors had a pond in their backyard, and they stocked fish in it during the spring. Well, some of those fish made it out to a natural pool in the woods across from my house, and I caught one using my sand bucket. So, I did what any kid might do. I carried that sloshing bucket of fish home and dug a ‘pond’ of my own in the backyard. Needless to say, if that was a Kinvention, it would have been considered a flop!
EL: When did you know when you wanted to be a writer?
DB: I was so fortunate to have a fabulous English teacher in 8th grade. Susan Campbell Bartoletti is now a Newberry Honor award-winning children’s author. Her passion for writing and teaching was so encouraging, I knew then I wanted to be a writer of some kind. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I found my voice in children’s writing.
EL: What other books have you written?
DB: In addition to Kinzie’s Kinventions, I had the honor of writing the second book in the My Special Word series, called Why in the Word? It’s about Xander, whose parents open an animal clinic in Columbus, Ohio, and now he must start 5th grade miles from home. With the help of his dog Bennie, his new friend Rachel, and some boomerang practice, Xander begins to feel like the move to Ohio might be okay. That is, until he gets his first school assignment—finding a word to describe himself and his goals. Xander blurts out “boomerang.” He worries that he’s fumbled the assignment and wonders if Ohio will ever feel like home.
My Special Word is a not-for-profit program with the aspiration of inspiring our youth to think about the wonderful people they are and that they hope to become through the use of positive words.
EL: If your main character, Kinzie the inventor, were to meet my main character, Rocket the racing pigeon, what “kinvention” do you think she’d create to help Rocket fly through clouds so he doesn’t get dizzy and lose his way?
DB: Kinzie would pull out her Kinventor’s journal and use the Design Process to try to help Rocket. First, she would identify the problem. In this case, why can’t Rocket fly through the clouds without getting dizzy and losing his way? The answer is he doesn’t want to stay in Ground School to learn the basic principles he needs. He just wants to SOAR!
With that in mind, I think her journal entry would look something like this:
Ask: How can I keep Rocket from flying the coop before he’s ready?
Imagine: Keep him in class by weighing his feet so he can’t fly!
Plan: Kinvent very heavy shoes that will keep Rocket’s body at rest at his desk, and keep his head out of the clouds long enough to learn the basics. Using her affinity for science combined with Rocket’s concept of using acronyms to help him remember, she might call these her “Kinertia B.O.O.T.S.” where B is for Bird, O is for oversized, O is for over-weighted, and T is for Toe-covers!
Materials needed: bird-sized boots, glue, and a few small weights. They don’t have to be too heavy; birds have hollow bones so a little weight goes a long way.
Then of course, she’d create them, test them and make any necessary improvements, and hopefully help Rocket ace ground school and be ready to fly high!
EL: What an inventive idea! I wonder what Rocket’s Kinertia B.O.O.T.S. would look like.
DB: Maybe readers can help us out by bringing Rocket’s Kinertia B.O.O.T.S. to life?
EL: Great idea! Hey all you readers out there, please check out our…
If you’re a creative inventor like Kinzie, click on the link below to design a pair of Kinertia B.O.O.T.S. to help Rocket stay grounded. When you’re done, share your kinvention with both Kinzie and Rocket on Facebook and they’ll tell you what they think.