What would it be like to befriend a Komodo dragon? Or invent a totally new food? Today’s books are inspired by true stories about extraordinary people. Plus, soul food scholar Adrian Miller on what happens when you combine Kool-Aid and… pickles!

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Julie's Library: Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor
“Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles” written by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala. Copyright © 2018. Used with permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. All rights reserved.

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Julie's Library: Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament
"Mr. Crum's Potato Predicament” written by Anne Renaud, illustrated by Felicita Sala. Copyright © 2017. Used with permission of Kids Can Press. All rights reserved.


Felicita Sala illustration
Felicita Sala

Felicita Sala, the illustrator of both Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor and Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament is self-taught. After falling in love with illustration in 2005, she committed herself to mastering the craft -- and her career took off! We asked her about the process for illustrating these two books, and here’s what she had to say: 

“These are both biographical works, so I had to do a lot of research to find the right way to stylize the characters and make them my own. This work was followed by a series of storyboards which received comments and changes from the editor along the way, until I arrived at the final illustrations. Each book took about 4-5 months to make, from initial sketches to final art.”

Here’s some of the gorgeous artwork she did as she developed imagery for both stories. 

Felicita Sala illustration
Felicita Sala


We interviewed soul-food scholar and food historian Adrian Miller for this week’s episode, and he told us about the history of the Koolickle -- a.k.a. the Kool-Aid pickle! Find the recipe below. Make some koolickles of your own, and submit pictures and videos of your creations here! We want to see your sweetest and sourest koolickle face.


1 jar dill pickle spears

1 packet kool aid -- any flavor!

¾ cup sugar


Pour pickle juice into bowl (keep pickles in jar)

Add Kool Aid and sugar to pickle juice

Stir until it's dissolved

Pour Kool Aid pickle juice back into jar

Put top on and shake jar

Refrigerate for 5 to 7 days (shake once a day)



We asked today’s authors about their inspiration for writing Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor and Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament, and here’s what they had to say:

"A single sentence in an article about Komodo dragons led me on a journey to learn all I could about Joan Procter, the scientist who first described Komodo dragons in captivity about 100 years ago. Fierce yet kind (much like her dragon friend named Sumbawa), Joan Procter shows us that our differences can be our strengths." -- Patricia Valdez, author of Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor

“I love potato chips and always wondered how they were invented. I did some research and came upon the story of George Crum who, according to folklore, invented the potato chip quite by accident in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1853. That is what inspired me to write Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament.  George was known to be an exceptionally fine cook and he owned a restaurant which was referred to as Crum’s Place. In fact, according to the New York Tribune of December 27, 1891, George’s restaurant was so popular that his customers came to him in “swarms, herds, droves and flocks.” -- Anne Renaud, author of Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament


Julie's Library: Me... Jane

Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell

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Julie's Library: A Poem For Peter

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney

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Julie's Library: Radient Child

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe 

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Julie's Library: The Right Word

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet 

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Julie's Library: The Iridescence of Birds

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse by Patricia MacLachlan 

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Julie's Library: A Green Place To Be

A Green Place to Be: The Creation of Central Park by Ashley Benham Yazdani

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Julie's Library: Freedom in Congo Square

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

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Persnickety (adjective): To be fussy or very picky. Filbert Punctilious Horsefeathers is persnickety about the way his potatoes are prepared! 

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