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Energy Enthusiasm Excitement

2 Dec

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Energy. Enthusiasm. Excitement. These three words perfectly describe Sherri Duskey Rinker, author of the Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site series and several other books for young people.

Sherri must have been exhausted, she had already had two school visits that day. Yet here she came, eager to meet more fans.

Hosted by The Blue Manatee Bookstore she was here to talk to her audience… a loud rambunctious crowd to say the least. And talk she did. To them. On their level. Matching their energy, enthusiasm, and excitement note for note.

 

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Sherri asked them questions, responded to their questions (and sometimes off-topic comments), and told them stories about herself. And of course she read her newest book, Construction Site on Christmas Night.

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Every eye was focused on the book. Every ear was tuned into the story.  She totally had these kids… mind, body, and spirit. I was in awe of her.

On the way to dinner, I asked my granddaughters what they liked the best. The six year old liked Sherri’s story about her sons. She even compared them to herself and her sister, saying that she goes right to sleep after her stories but that her sister does not. And she liked that the author wrote all their names in the book. The three year old said she wanted chicken nuggets and fries, but not the orange fries her mommy gave her the other day… those were yucky. Yep, even my own prodigy can be off-topic at times!

Thanks for coming to Cincinnati, Sherri! So glad I got to meet you in real life! me and sherry

 

Off topic post script: Orange fries are NOT yucky. Mommy is right, they’re better for you than regular french fries.

 

 

A Moment in Time

12 Apr

35631584Today’s moment was when David Wiesner, three time Caldecott Award winner, spoke to a group of fans. He shared his perspective on writing and illustrating. And, he took us through the process of writing his newest picture book, I GOT IT!  Like many stories, I GOT IT! focuses on one moment in time which is stretched out across 32 pages. Pulled from his boyhood memories of playing baseball in the neighbor’s back yard, David illustrated the actual and imagined circumstances surrounding the moment when the smallest outfielder is confronted with a fly ball.

138069Of course I picked up my own copy of I GOT IT! as well as a new copy of THE THREE PIGS. Along with most of my picture books, this one was left to a new teacher when I retired. But how many times do I have the opportunity to own a signed Caldecott Award winning picture book? Answer: Four to date.

 

(Another thing I learned is that a Caldecott Award winning autograph does not have to be legible, It’s a good thing the artwork is so fierce.)

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Among the many fans in attendance were three legendary Cincinnati illustrators, who agreed to stand for a photo. From left to right: Loren Long, David Wiesner, Will Hillenbrand, and C.F. Payne.

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Thanks to Joseph-Beth Booksellers for bringing another amazing author and illustrator to Cincinnati.  Look up some of David’s other picture books in your local bookstore.

 

 

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Imperfect Gifts for Thanksgiving

21 Nov

Last July, my mother took a bad fall from the top of the staircase. She spent her birthday in the hospital. Luckily no bones were broken, but she had severe cuts and bruises and her dementia worsened significantly. Mom had to give up her license and her home. This has been an emotional ride for the whole family. Thankfully, mom doesn’t need to be alone through this, she has children and grandchildren and great grandchildren who love her dearly. Mom is living with my sister and brother-in-law who have made her feel welcome and needed. She spends many hours a week watching a digital picture frame of photos from her past and retelling those memories to everyone who stops in for a visit. In cleaning out her house, I passed heirlooms on to the family. One thing I kept for myself was her set of knitting needles. There are many things mom can’t do anymore, but knitting is something she can do. And teaching me to knit is one of her new tasks.

22291344_2014584645484208_4380399781917116534_oIn September, I was thrilled to meet funny man and Caledecott Award winner, Dan Santat. I was moved to tears hearing the back story behind his newest picture book, which he authorstrated.  In addition to getting my copy signed by the legendary surly asian guy, I also got a beautiful tote bag. That bag has become my knitting bag. I’m proud and happy to have a reminder that mom can still teach me something new literally ‘after the fall’. Like Humpty Dumpty, mom was able to pick herself back up (with lots of help and support) and move forward in her life. She is an inspiration to me and I know I’ll never read this story without thinking about her. IMG_7800

AFTER THE FALL written and illustrated by Dan Santat (Roaring Brook Press, 2017) That famous egg Humpty Dumpty takes the famous fall. But what happens when all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put him back together again? He’s patched up but not quite the same. Not only can’t he climb back up the wall to sit and do his favorite thing, bird watching, he can’t even climb up to the top bunk and ends up sleeping on the floor. The wall haunts him. Now even bird watching mocks him. He faces the wall every day. And little by little he works up the courage to climb back up. What happens when he does? Humpty Dumpty cracks again… and he flies away. Humpty Dumpty is the most beautiful bird in the sky.

So fast forward to today, two days before Thanksgiving and I count my blessings, always counting my family first. With mom’s help I have knit four scarves and one baby blanket to give my grandchildren for Thanksgiving. Today was such a gorgeous sunny day, I took pictures of everything outside to show off the rich colors.

 

 

 

If you look closely, you’ll see all the imperfections. But I hope you also see the love. The first two scarves have the most mistakes. Each one was ‘ripped’ and restarted more than once. There were a lot of dropped stitches and uneven edges. But I eventually mastered the simple garter stitch, casting on, binding off, and adding a new skein of yarn to a working project.  I finished them both off with pom-poms using up the leftover yarn and adding a bit of both colors mixed with white so each granddaughter would have a piece of her cousin’s scarf in her own. The next two multicolored pastel scarves are for the two older granddaughters’ younger sisters. The yarn was dyed like this and I bought a giant skein so I didn’t even have to add another ball to finish each one. By now, I was able to whip these up in a couple of days. Then the big challenge came. I learned to combine the knit stitch with the purl stitch and a slip stitch and followed a simple herring bone pattern using two different balls of yarn at the same time to make a car seat/stroller blanket for my youngest grandchild and first grandson… the little prince. Wow, after the scarves I thought I was up for something different. This was a little more than I had bargained for. Not only was I losing track of the pattern, I had trouble keeping my tension even, so one end of the blanket is much wider than the other end.

The scarves and blanket are ready to give my precious grandchildren. They’re not perfect, but then neither am I . So when my little ones are wrapped up in soft colorful yarn, they’re also wrapped up in my love. And because I am who I am, no gift is complete without a book. No, no one got my signed copy of AFTER THE FALL. But I did find three books featuring knitting to give each family.  Sadly, I mailed off the baby blanket this morning without a book picture, but you get the idea.

 

 

 

 

EXTRA YARN written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer and Bray, 2012) In a black and white world Annabelle finds a box of colorful yarn. After knitting a sweater for herself, she uses   some of the extra yarn to knit a sweater for her dog, then her neighbor, and his dog, and her classmates, and her teacher but she still had extra yarn. It seems that tiny box had an endless supply of colorful yarn, so Annabelle knits sweaters for her mom and dad, and all the people (except Mr. Crabtree), and all the animals in her neighborhood. Then she goes around the world knitting and spreading bright colors over the otherwise drab scenery. An evil archduke offers Annabelle a million dollars for her box of yarn but she refuses to sell it, so he sends robbers into her room to steal the box. Unfortunately, when he gets the box it is empty. He curses her and throws the box out the window. The box finds its way back to Annabelle who still had enough extra yarn to knit a sweater for her tree.

LOST. FOUND written by Marsha Diane Arnold and illustrated by Matthew Cordell (Roaring Brook Press, 2015) Bear loses his long red scarf in the woods. It is alternately found and then repeatedly lost again by each animal who finds it. Eventually they all find it again in a clearing and in a struggle to claim the scarf for themselves they destroy it. But Bear has an idea, taking up all the loose yarn he teaches the forest animals to knit one extra long scarf that they all share around a campfire.

PENGUIN AND PINECONE written and illustrated by Salina Yoon (Bloomsbury, 2012) Penguin loves his new friend Pinecone and thinking he might be cold, Penguin knits him a scarf to match his own. Pinecone is still cold, so Penguin does the hardest thing… he helps him return home to the pine tree forest and leaves him in a pine nest to keep him warm. When Penguin returns he finds his friend has grown into something even greater.

Another great picture book is KNIT TOGETHER written and illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Dial Books, 2015). I wrote a post about it a few years ago. Follow this link for a quick review and some fun yarn activities you can do with your little ones too.

There’s more fun with LOST. FOUND and PENGUIN AND PINECONE on these pages.

*** If you got this far, please like, comment, or share. Thank you! ***

 

 

Books By The Banks, 2017

12 Nov

Every year along the banks of the Ohio River, Cincinnati hosts a huge book festival. Well actually, it’s downtown in the convention center, so it’s literally closer to banking institutions than to the river banks, nevertheless it’s an event you can bank on every year! And every year, I meet more new and wonderful people – authors, illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents, kids, friends, volunteers.

This year I attended a panel of ‘authorstrators’, author/illustrators. These talented people both write and illustrate. I was inspired by Loren Long, Rafel Lopez, Ben Clanton, and Amanda Driscoll. Look at this small sample of their work. Amazing!

Each artist has his/her distinct style. Without looking at the names or even knowing the artists, I’m sure you could group these books into four piles based solely on the art. These books present readers both windows and mirrors to see themselves and others in literature. Of the many things discussed, I think the key message is to be fresh, different, unique, and true to yourself.

I was particularly in awe meeting Rafel Lopez. He spent several minutes talking with me even though there were other people in line waiting to meet him. We discussed his work, and the importance of bringing diverse books into the world. He chuckled with me at the trouble I sometimes have convincing people I am spanish because I don’t fit their stereotype. And he encouraged me to continue writing and submitting. “There is a place for all our work,” he told me. I will treasure my copy of Maybe Something Beautiful which he autographed for me.

 

And then, I had the pleasure of listening to the award winning author and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate di Camillo speak. I just wanted to curl up and never leave her funny, warm, human spirit. She spoke directly to my writer’s heart and my reader’s soul. She talked about connections, about making connections with the world around you and writing toward the connections with others. She also talked about keeping everything open so you don’t miss a thing. Keep your eyes and ears open. Keep your heart and mind open. Keep your brain open. Allow creativity to find you and inspire you to write, or draw, or dance, or sing, or do whatever it is that connects you to the world outside yourself.

 

Even though the line was looooooooong, she took a moment to look up and smile for each and every fan wanting a picture taken with her. What a genuine kind person she is!

 

And last, but not least, I took a few minutes to stop by the bookmobile parked outside the front doors of the convention center. Actually, the bookmobile is part of my former school district and I wanted to pop in and say ‘HI’ to the wonderful folks who work tirelessly to put books into kids’ hands. There is no checkout system. Kids are free to browse the shelves, sit and read, and take home any book that speaks to them. They don’t even have to live in our district. Our librarian was calling out to families passing by, “Come on in. Pick a book to take home.” And they did. They climbed up the steps to the brightly painted, remodeled school bus, designed by nationally renown author/illustrator Loren Long, into the inviting reading space filled with books, stuffed animals, cushioned benches, and friendly faces of Princeton City School employees. My heart was bursting to see the happiness a few pages could bring to those kids and their parents.

If you have any gently loved children’s books laying about the house, please consider a donation to this or many other organizations in your neighborhood.

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Author, Author!

20 Oct

This has been an exceptional month in author visits for me. In the past four weeks I have met and learned from three of the best in the industry. Conventional wisdom dictates that that aspiring authors read, study, and write in the genre they want to learn. For me, one of the best ways to learn has always been to go directly to the source, in this case the authors.

Lisa Yee visited the Joseph Beth Bookstore on September 21st. Lisa writes primarily in the Middle Grade/Young Adult genres. She is funny, witty, and full of life lessons. And her books mirror that. Although MG/YA is on the older end of the kidlit spectrum, there are many crossover skills for the picture book writer as well. Know your audience. Immerse yourself in their language, struggles, and joys. Identify what makes them tick. Give them what they need. Lisa’s new DC Super Hero series does all of that and more. Personally, my favorite things about her are her past Disney life and her huge Winnie-the-Pooh collection.

 

 

Pat Zietlow Miller was in Cincinnati for school visits on October 4th sponsored by The Blue Manatee BookstoreI was lucky enough to meet up with her and bookseller, Alia Jonesfor dinner downtown on Fountain Square the night before her school events. We had a great time together. We introduced her to Graeter’s Ice Cream and I got my squash signed, so win-win! Pat is the author of five picture books. I met Pat last spring at an SCBWI conference in Chicago. She is a wonderful speaker and an amazing person. Her first book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, has a sequel which just came out this fall SOPHIE’S SQUASH GOES TO SCHOOL. Pat knows what it takes to be a friend and her children’s books resound with the message of friendship and dreams. Another one of my favorite Pat Z. Miller books is WHEREVER YOU GO. The positive message is so Pat!

 

Jacqueline Woodson is an author, poet, and winner of a the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and an ALA Notable Award  in addition to many others. I was lucky enough to meet Jacqueline at Joseph-Beth this week on the 18th where she was talking about last year’s award winning BROWN GIRL DREAMING and her newest book ANOTHER BROOKLYN. Jacqueline is also the author of several picture books which I adore, one of my favorite being THE OTHER SIDE. Listening to her read and speak is such a joy. If you haven’t had the chance to hear her, you really need to treat yourself to a copy of her audiobook. The biggest piece of advice I took away from Jacqueline’s presentation is to empower yourself. 

 

So, off I go. With Lisa’s Supergirl, Pat’s Squash, and Jacqueline’s Brown Girl Dreaming I am fortified to take on my challenges and write, write, write. See you soon!

 

Persistence with Miranda Paul

13 Aug

 

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I met children’s author Miranda Paul at the Northern Ohio SCBWI conference last year when she sprang unannounced into my hotel room with her famously infectious laugh and we became fast friends.  We already knew each other through Facebook and we had promised to meet up and get to know each other better at the conference. You can learn more about Miranda too at her website, MirandaPaul.com.

Miranda is the author of several picture books available on Kindle, but she didn’t become well-known until her first traditionally published picture book, One Plastic Bag (2015) made international news. Since then, Miranda has published four other picture books and has another two scheduled for publication next year.

Coming Soon:

Blobfish Throws a Party – illus. Maggie Caton
Are We Pears Yet? – illus. Carin Berger

And now on the cusp of the publication of her newest picture book, 10 Little Ninjas, I have the pleasure of interviewing Miranda about writing and persistence. Miranda answered all my questions thoughtfully and completely. I’m excited to share her insights with you too!

ME: As a former educator, I’m always interested in author’s previous professional lives. What can you tell us about yourself before you became a world famous author? How did this help your writing career? What non-writing experience was the most influential in your writing success?

MIRANDA: To answer your first question, I’ll tell you what I tell kids in many school visits—and in the back matter of my book Whose Hands Are These?—that I’ve had many different jobs, and that’s OK. I’ve been a teacher, a store cashier, a volunteer zookeeper, and more. I think every experience helps my writing career, because there’s no replacement for tapping into a personal memory. Exposure to something new or learning a skill outside the writing subset expands your bubble.
To answer the last question, it’s hard to say what non-writing experience has been the most influential. Participating in drama and theatre taught me how to take criticism and direction. I learned the importance of working collaboratively with others toward a final, polished production. I often hear from writers how much they fear “not having control” of their book (or illustrations) when traditionally publishing. I’ve never met Nate Wragg, illustrator for 10 Little Ninjas, and it’s Karen Greenberg’s first acquisition for Knopf Books for Young Readers. Yet through trusting them (and so many others at Penguin Random House), the book has become an Amazon Best Book of the Month for August and was reviewed in School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly. Learning to trust and honor the expertise of other creatives was something I didn’t have to overcome. I have professionals such as April Deming and Michael Tolaydo to thank, because they taught me these lessons and more.

ME: Have you found a difference in being accepted inside or outside of your own community? (Do people see you differently based on how long or in what capacity they knew you before you became a writer?)

MIRANDA: I’m not really sure how to answer this. People are always longing for acceptance in some capacity, especially young people. But gaining acceptance from peers or the community isn’t why I write. I’ve always loved writing, and have always done it. In fact, being a kid who liked to write poems or stories until 2 a.m. often made me feel quite different, the opposite of someone who’s accepted, you know?

ME: What specific obstacles did you face while working on becoming a published author?

MIRANDA: Oh, there are many. And I know other authors who have overcome much greater odds. There’s balancing family life (not unlike dad and the sensei in 10 Little Ninjas!), and there’s rejections of course. My newest book, 10 Little Ninjas, was rejected multiple times—even by my own agent at first—and once turned down after being rewritten three times for the same house. But there’s one obstacle bigger than rejections—the obstacle of yourself. We doubt our abilities, we keep our work to ourselves in fear that it’s not good enough. Once I learned to take myself seriously, I found momentum. Momentum is huge.

ME: How do you manage your professional time, especially in terms of speaking engagements?

MIRANDA: I have really large calendars, and a couple of people who help me keep things straight. Recently, I’ve had to turn down a few requests, which breaks my heart, because if there’s a teacher or group of kids or festival that invites me, the person inside is saying “YES! YES! YES!” But the calendar is saying, “Think again, Sister.” So, I let the calendar rule my life to keep some sense of order.

ME: Have you ever had an idea that just didn’t gel? What do you do with these gems?

MIRANDA: All the time. One of my first picture book manuscripts, for example, which I tried pitching at a conference once, was an inanimate-talking-object story with a holiday and religious twist. With a moral! Sometimes, stories need to be tucked away, or saved for family. Other times, an idea isn’t quite ready to be developed. I keep an idea notebook where I write them all down. I will never, ever run out of things to write about. The best ideas find me, and keep nagging until I can’t not write them. Like my new one about inanimate talking objects written in all dialogue, coming out in 2017 called Are We Pears Yet? (Ha! Never say never when it comes to breaking the writing rules!). It’s illustrated by Carin Berger and published by Neal Porter Books.

ME: What would you say is the major hurdle to traditional publication?

MIRANDA: For me, it was first realizing this career was even a possibility, and then deciding to go for it. I’d written my whole life, but never knew much about getting a book published or really made it a goal. Another hurdle was then getting my work out there, on submission, because I never considered it “ready.” I’m a natural editor; I tinker with manuscripts for years and still might not consider it done. The work could always be better, I think. I can’t say what the major hurdle is for other people. I often hear from people who have an idea but haven’t actually started writing, let alone revising. Finishing something is a lot of work, especially when the perception is that writing for kids is easy or fun or a hobby. I’m grateful for my B.A. in English every single day, but even more grateful for not allowing myself to get too distracted by building a platform, marketing, etc. before I’d even built a large body of work.

ME: What other writing experiences have you undertaken?

MIRANDA: I’ve written a YA novel, a screenplay, hundreds of poems, and have freelanced for newspapers, magazines, and even app/game companies. I’ve taught writing, and continue to teach workshops when I can. There’s very little I haven’t done, and I think that helps me improve and grow as a writer.

ME: What plans do you have for your future self?

MIRANDA: Keep on keeping on, mostly. I am collaborating with my husband, Baptiste Paul, on a few manuscripts that we’re very excited about.

ME: What advice would you give aspiring authors?

MIRANDA: In the words of Roxette, “Listen to your heart.”

I love the quote! Thanks for interview Miranda. Let’s wrap this up with one last bonus question.

ME: What one worthwhile question have you NEVER been asked? (And what’s the answer to that question?)

MIRANDA: I don’t often get asked about my favorite desserts. They are (in order): tiramisu, chocolate-covered strawberries, and Special K bars.

And for those of you who want to follow Miranda on social media, you can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.  

 

 

 

Paying It Forward, Starting In My Own Community

12 Feb

Author, Lauri Fortino is paying it forward with proceeds from her debut picture book. Check out her blog and support her mission or your own community in your own way.

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Little Man Asleep_Peddlers Bed Scene from The Peddler’s Bed illustrated by Bong Redila (Ripple Grove Press, 2015)

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Even before my first children’s picture book, The Peddler’s Bed, was published, I knew I wanted to help people. But how? After the book was released, I began to research non-profit organizations that might be a good match. And although there are many extremely worthy causes out there, it didn’t take long to realize that the best match was right here in my own community: The Syracuse Rescue Mission.

Since 1887, the Syracuse Rescue Mission has been helping people in need by providing food, clothing, and shelter. Though they have evolved over the years, adding more services, programs, and locations, the values of faith, hope and love continue to form the foundation of their mission.

This is what the SRM is all about: Putting an end to hunger and homelessness for men, women, and children in…

View original post 264 more words

Five Minute Mentor

9 Dec

28530025-Vector-illustration-of-five-minutes-stopwatch-on-white-background-Stock-VectorFive minutes. Not a lot of time. But when someone shares their expertise with you, five minutes is invaluable. And when you’re lucky enough to get more than five minutes of someone’s time… well, that’s just phenomenal.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Will Hillenbrand, author and illustrator, for taking time to talk with me personally about writing, children, books, education, schools, publishing, and so much more! I watched while he set up for a presentation at The Blue Manatee, a local bookstore and he invited me to sit on the step with him and chat. What an wonderful gift of his time and know-how. He is the consummate gentleman and educator. I learned so much from him before he even began his formal presentation.

Just a reminder for myself, and anyone out there who has even five minutes of time to spend with someone who is just starting out… spend it thoughtfully and completely with that person… it will mean the world to them. Thank you, Will Hillenbrand!

Quote of the Day

Things are not untrue just because they never happened. -Will Hillenbrand

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This beautiful framed artwork is the cover from Bear and Bunny written by Daniel Pinkwater and illustrated by Will Hillenbrand. You can read more about the story HERE.IMG_2249

Will signed his new book for my granddaughter and posed for a picture with me. IMG_2250

Sometimes a writer just needs to act like a kid! IMG_2253

Read more about Snowman’s Story by Will Hillenbrand HERE.

Eric Carle finds his Friend

21 Apr

Last November, I wrote a post about Eric Carle’s book Friends. Today, I read an article saying that after 82 years Eric Carle found the little girl in his photo, which was the inspiration of the book. It is such an amazing story of reconnection, I just had to share it with you. I hope you like it as much as I did.

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http://www.syracuse.com/kirst/index.ssf/2014/04/for_renowned_author_eric_carle_an_easter_miracle_after_more_than_80_years_in_tou.html#incart_river_default

My original post from November 19, 2013

https://julianaleewriter.com/2013/11/19/friends/ 

Miss Rumphius

12 Mar

Today is National Plant a Flower Day.  Of course the first picture book that comes to mind is the timeless Miss Rumphius.

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This book tells the story of Alice Rumphius who had only three goals in life: to travel the world, to live in a house by the sea, and to do something to make the world more beautiful.  Barbara Cooney writes and illustrates this masterpiece.  Through words and pictures she tells the story of the real Miss Rumphius, Alice Rumphius the Lupine Lady, who travels and spreads lupine seeds everywhere she goes.  Because of her, the coast of Maine is now fragrant with lupines.  Miss Rumphius  won the American Book Award in 1985, and the artwork for this book is currently at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art in Maine.  Barbara Cooney has also won the Caldecott Award twice for her work Chanticleer and the Fox (1959) and The Ox Cart Man (1980).

Barbara Cooney was quoted in 1959,  from her acceptance speech for the Caldecott Medal, “I believe that children in this country need a more robust literary diet than they are getting. It does not hurt them to read about good and evil, love and hate, life and death.  Nor do I think they should read only about things that they understand. ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.’  So should a child’s.  For myself, I will never talk down to – or draw down to- children.”

Of Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney said, “Miss Rumphius has been, perhaps, the closest to my heart.  There are, of course, many dissimilarities between me and Alice Rumphius, but, as I worked, she gradually seemed to become my alter ego.  Perhaps she had been that right from the start.”

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You can read more about Barbara Cooney here,

http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Author/AuthorPage/0,,1000002642,00.html

http://www.childrensliteraturenetwork.org/birthbios/brthpage/08aug/8-6coony.html

http://www.mainecoastbookshop.com/barbaraCooney.php

Kate di Camillo

23 Jan

Kate di Camillo has been named the National Ambassador for Young Peoples Literature for 2014.

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The Library of Congress names a new ambassador every two years.  From their website, “The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.”

As ambassador Kate de Camillo travels around the country promoting literacy.  She says, “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see each other.”

Kate di Camillo is the author of the 2004 Newbery Award winning book, The Tale of Despereaux, which was made into an animated film in 2008.

The_Tale_of_DespereauxHer first book, Because of Winn-Dixie, was given the  Newbery Honor distinction in 2001, and also made into a movie starring Anna Sophia Robb as India Opal in 2005.WinnDixie1

Kate di Camillo is also the author of the early reader book series, Mercy Watson.  DSC08555

Kate was interviewed on PBS News Hour on January 10, 2014.  Int this interview she talks about how telling stories helped her connect with the world.  She reminds us that kids’ books can be for adults too.  Kate sees her role as Ambassador as needing to remind people of all ages of the power of story.  ‘Story is what makes us human.  Story can be a powerful thing.’  Another message she wants to tell young people is be persistent, don’t give up on your dream.

You can hear the whole interview on PBS News Hour here… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dV-_mrUkh5Q

You can see the movie trailers for The Tale of Despereaux here …  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJpT7dC5FsY    

and Because of Winn-Dixie here…                                 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=avWH7T4F2RU

Visit her website at http://www.katedicamillo.com

Natasha Wing

13 Jan

Today I have the honor of interviewing Natasha Wing.  Natasha has been writing for children since 1991, and is the author of over 20 books including Jalapeño BagelsGo to Bed, Monster! and An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers.  But she is probably most well known for her popular ‘Night Before’ series.  The first book in that series, The Night Before Easter, was published in 1999.   Since then she has written several books in the series addressing a multitude of holidays, celebrations, and other major events in a child’s life, including The Night Before Kindergarten, The Night Before The Tooth Fairy, and the Night Before the 100th Day of School.  

The newest book to her collection, The Night Before My Birthday, will be available on January 16, 2014.  For this interview I am going to let the Birthday Kid from her upcoming book ask her a few questions about writing and her birthday.

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The Birthday Kid:  I love my birthday!  Thank you so much for writing a story about my special day.  I’d love to talk to you a little bit about your birthday if you don’t mind.

Natasha Wing:  Sure!

The Birthday Kid:  First of all, I always have a hard time going to bed on the night before my birthday.  I’m just too excited.  Do you have any tricks for falling asleep quickly?

Natasha Wing: I like to read.  It relaxes me.

The Birthday Kid:  That’s a great idea! I might have some warm milk too.  Second question – I have lots of friends and my birthday parties are huge!  Who do you like to invite to your birthday celebrations?

Natasha Wing:  When I was young, I invited kids I was friends with at school and kids from my neighborhood.  Now I like to invite my girlfriends for a special night.

The Birthday Kid:  I’ve noticed from all the parties I’ve gone to that people like different types of cakes.  So I was wondering what’s your favorite cake?

Natasha Wing:  My favorite cake is carrot cake.  But I’m very picky.  It has to be moist with lots of carrots and walnuts, and have a thick-thick layer of cream cheese frosting – on top and on the inside.  No skimping on frosting!

The Birthday Kid:  Yum!  Some parties have themes.  If you could have any theme for your next birthday, what would it be?

Natasha Wing:  I love champagne and my birthday is a week before Valentine’s Day so maybe I  love Bubbly Birthdays!  I hope to spend one of my upcoming birthdays in Paris and then my theme will be Oo-la-la!

The Birthday Kid:  What is the best birthday present you’ve ever gotten?

Natasha Wing:  On my sixteenth birthday I got a wide sterling silver bracelet engraved with my initials which back then were NLL for Natasha Leigh Lazutin.  I still have the bracelet.  

The Birthday Kid:  I know you have written a lot of Night Before stories, do you have a favorite, and do you plan on writing any more?

Natasha Wing:  My favorite is The Night Before Easter since it was the first one and I also happen to love the Easter Bunny.  I do plan on writing more because my fans keep sending me great ideas!

The Birthday Kid:  Natasha, thank you so much for talking to me about your writing and your birthday.  Congratulations on the publication of this book! And Happy Birthday to you in February!  I hope you get your Oo-la-la birthday in Paris very soon!

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You can win a free copy of The Night Before My Birthday until January 15th on Goodreads.

If you would like to learn more about Natasha Wing and her writing, please check out her website.

http://natashawing.wordpress.com/about/

Versatile Blogger Award

11 Jan

Image I’ve just received the Versatile Blogger Award!

Wow!  Pretty Cool!  Look it up, it’s a real thing!  Actually, it’s a very nice way for people to recognize each other’s efforts in blogging.  Once you are ‘nominated’ by another blogger you are automatically a recipient of the award with all it’s fame and prestige.  It reminds me of the ‘Red Rose Awards’ we used to give each other when I was teaching.  During one of the last staff meetings of the year, our principal used to present us with several dozen roses.  Each of us, as the spirit moved us, would go to the front of room, pick up a rose, and present it to another staff member for some small favor or great help they had been to us during the year. Each rose was presented with a hug and a word or two about why it was being presented. It was always an emotional meeting and hopefully (but sadly, not always) everyone would return to work that morning with a rose or two and a wonderful feeling to start the day.  So receiving this award tonight is like getting a virtual hug and a bit of praise from another blogger on your work.

UnknownThank you to Orthodoxmom3, Carol, who is a wonderful mother and faithful servant, for nominating me for this award.  This award really is special just by being a confirmation of the time and effort put into my craft, and I do appreciate the recognition very much.

You can read more about Carol at her blog.

http://orthodoxmom3.wordpress.com/about/

AND…

In the spirit of paying it forward, I would like to nominate the following 15 folks to receive this award.  I chose them based on my own interaction with them on my blog and through the various online workshops we have taken together.  I have gotten to know each one and value their input.  Take a moment and look them up.  These really are some amazing people!

versatile-blogger-award-trophyThe Versatile Blogger Awards go to:

Alayne Kay Christan at http://alaynekaychristian.wordpress.com

Suzanne Morris at http://kid-lit-reviews.com

Anonymous Author at http://perfectingmotherhood.wordpress.com

Jackie Wellington at http://iwritepicturebooks.wordpress.com

Patricia Tilton at http://childrensbooksheal.com

Meg Miller at http://megmillerwrites.wordpress.com

Angie at http://megmillerwrites.wordpress.com

Donna Martin at donnalmartin.com

Jane Heitman Healy at http://readlearnandbehappy.blogspot.com

Milka Pejovic at http://milkapejovic.com

Kristi Call at kirsticall.com

Natasha Wing at natashawing.wordpress.com

Jadi Campbell at jadicampbell.wordpress.com

Joanne Sher at http://www.joannesher.com

Penny Parker Klostermann http://www.pennyklostermann.com

AND FINALLY…

As part of the deal in accepting this award, I need to let you know seven things about me that you may not already know:

1. I have a love/hate relationship with chocolate. I lied.  I have a love/love relationship with chocolate.

2. I do not get cabin fever, in fact I much prefer my own home to any other place.

3. I am non-confrontational, and you will never catch me engaging in a political argument.  That’s not the same as saying I don’t have opinions, I do, I just keep them to myself.

4. I find sports very soothing, in that I can completely ignore them and read quietly while my husband watches the TV.

5. My favorite movies make me laugh loudly or cry quietly.

6. I love/envy/covet large old home-libraries.

7. Making lists is not my thing, so this took an unnecessarily long time to complete.

The Journey That Saved Curious George

16 Dec

This weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Louise Borden, Cincinnati author of several children’s books.  We had a wonderful chat about her research and writing.  I am so lucky to have met her.  She is an amazing author and I am sure you will love this book as much as I do.

The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey

Children’s Biography

Written by Louise Borden

Illustrated by Allan Drummond

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2005

Louise Borden writes this biography with passion for the Reys, German born Jews, who are caught in the mass exodus of Paris in 1940.  Her words allow even the youngest readers (appropriate for ages 8+) to feel the sense of urgency as the German army marches closer and closer to Paris, how many neighbors thought that Hans and Margaret might have been German spies, and how they had to gather all the necessary papers, visas, passports, tickets, and money for their exodus.  Through it all, she keeps the link to Curious George visible to the reader.  She describes how the Reys carried their manuscript and illustrations with them, even though they could carry very little with them as they biked and took trains through France, Spain, and Portugal.  She demonstrates how the Reys often escaped capture by simply showing officials the story and illustrations that would eventually become the first Curious George book.

Allan Drummond illustrates this story precisely.  Every detail is captured in his illustrations.  He too, stays true to the story of Curious George being sure to include  images of the yellow hat, the pipe, and of course George.  Scattered among the detailed illustrations are photos take by Hans and Margaret Rey, copies of letters to and from editors, and Hans Reys personal diary/expense log.

This is definitely a must-read for anyone who knows and loves Curious George, but especially for children (and adults) learning about World War II, the German occupation of France, and the exodus of thousands of Jewish citizens.

http://vimeo.com/35388050

For more information about Louise Borden and Allan Drummond visit their websites.

http://www.louiseborden.com

http://www.allandrummond.com

Louise Borden

14 Dec

Have you ever been so preoccupied that you walked out of a store without paying?  I have.  I did.  Today!  I was in my favorite children’s book store, The Blue Manatee, in Cincinnati laughing and talking with old and new friends.  One of the employees is a teacher I used to work with, and who works there part time.  Every time I visit on a Saturday we hug and catch up with each other’s news.  And today was extra special because I got a chance to meet a children’s author.  Louise Borden, is a native Cincinnatian who has written several books for children and young adults.  She read from some of her books and talked to the kids and parents in attendance.

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I picked up a picture book, Big Brothers Don’t Take Naps and her new non-fiction The Journey That Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey.  She graciously signed both copies and we talked for a long time.  I was fascinated with her story as an author.  I also learned that we have a lot in common, having been and lived in many of the same cities around the world.

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We chatted for so long, that when I walked out of the store, autographed books in hand, I was in a happy fog and simply left without paying!  I didn’t realize my mistake until I got home and started showing my husband my new purchases… uh, are they called purchases if you don’t purchase them?  Yikes!  I called the store right away, explained what had happened and gave them my credit card number over the phone.  Whew!  Yes, these are my new purchases!

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