I desired dragons

I desired dragons above all things. JRR Tolkien

“I desired dragons above all things. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in my neighborhood, intruding in my relatively safe world, in which it was, for instance, possible to read stories in peace of mind, free of fear.“

J.R.R. Tolkien, On Fairy-Stories, 1947

Writer Friends

Emidio_AngeloMutual admiration, mutual criticism, mutual support —  I’m my writer friends’ biggest fan.

emidio angelo-kid stuffThese framed cartoons in Penn Wynne Library, my home away from home which was recently renovated, were created by Emidio Angelo for Penn Wynne’s last renovation in 1989. Angelo (1903-1990) was a cartoonist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the two Victorian women pictured here are Emily and Mabel, the stars of his 1950s syndicated strip.

 

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Favorite Children’s Books of 2016

Today I’m posted as part of a blog party hosted by the wonderful Eileen Manes, a picture book writer who blogs at Pickle Corn Jam. Ten of us are writing about one of our favorite books of the year — here’s mine! At the bottom the post, you’ll find links to the other blogs.

One of my favorite books when my children were small was City Animals by Simms Taback. I had always wondered about early childhood’s obsession with farms. Why is it necessary for babies to know that cows moo and pigs oink? Most of them won’t encounter these animals in everyday life. Why is this somewhat anachronistic knowledge is among the very first things we impart?

That’s why I loved Taback’s lift-the-flap book. After three clues, these animals revealed itself. I’m a PIGEON! I’m a SQUIRREL! I’m a MOUSE!  These were the animals that my inner-ring-suburban children were likely to encounter (they encountered the mice with far more delight than I did).

This year’s City Shapes, written by Diana Murray and illustrated by Bryan Collier (Little, Brown. June 2016) does the same reimagining to the classic shape book that Taback did for animals, and it elevates it. Shapes can be well, two-dimensional, but this book is anything but.

The young girl in City Shapes encounters CIRCLES, SQUARES, and TRIANGLES in her own city neighborhood in Murray’s flawless rhyme and Collier’s gorgeous realistic watercolor and collage illustrations. These shapes move and live, and these words are vivid and playful.

I love the specificity and sense of place here,  I’d like to see similar journeys in more diverse, real places with other children.

But in the meantime, there’s even a pigeon!

“the pigeon flies back through the night cityscape/as city lights sparkle, SHAPE after SHAPE./But her heart starts to ache for the SHAPE/she loves best./The SHAPE that is home—/her warm CIRCLE nest….”

And now for the other writers and their picks for favorite children’s books in 2016:

Ready for the rest of our 2016 recommendations? Just follow the links! 

 

 

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New Review Roundup, Featuring Mira, Em, and Ada Twist, Scientist

Mira Forecasts the Future has had a flurry of new reviews, especially from the UK, including a great review from BookTrust, which promotes literacy and reading among children and awards the Bailey Women’s Prize for fiction, and a three-book review featuring the wonderful Ada Twist, Scientist and The Way to Outer Space.

Here’s a roundup.

“This deceptively simple picture book not only gives youngsters a basic introduction to understanding how weather works, but also celebrates individual difference and talents – and shows how failure can be something positive if it is used as a learning experience.” – BookTrust (UK)

“…a heartwarming story. A lovely book to sit and read to your children and a great stepping stone into the world of science. ” – Chantelle Hazelden, Mama Mummy Mum

“One of our absolutely favourite reads from over the summer was Mira Forecasts the Future … Little Miss loved it so much I didn’t complain when she asked for it two or three times … a great structured story” – Amy Marie, Cocktails in Teacups

“Meet Ada Twist, Scientist, Mira, and Em”: Three new picture books featuring diverse science girls – Jill R. Bennett, Red Reading Hub, on Ada Twist, Scientist, and The Way to Outer Space

Science Girls, The Way to Outer Space, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Mira Forecasts the Future

Hooray for science girls, including The Way to Outer Space, Ada Twist, Scientist, and Mira Forecasts the Future

 

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Summer Is What You Make: Resources and a Review

Summer is what you make. Mira Forecasts the FutureSummertime can be a time for academic slide or for exploration of all kinds of new and favorite interests. Summer is what you make it — and it’s also what you make.

Download Mira’s activity kit for your kids with games and activities — include make-your
-own-pinwheel.

Watch a video review from the Awesome Annie Show to see how she (and her mom) are inspired by Mira Forecasts the Future.

MIRA Will Be B&N National Story Time

I wish I could visit Barnes & Nobles across the country, but Mira actually can! I’m excited to reveal that MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE will be a Barnes & Noble National Story Time on August 20. Mira Forecasts the Future National Story Time

Every Saturday at 11 am, Barnes & Noble hosts a story time for kids with the picture book or book of the week. MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE (illustrated by Lissy Marlin) and THE BOT THAT SCOTT BUILT (by Kim Norman, illustrated by Agnese Beruzzi) will be read to kids at B&N stores nationwide on August 20.

Find an event near you at Barnes & Noble, or select your store and the date to find a story time with Mira and Scott.

 

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Q&A: Author Spotlight on Kidlit 411

Don't Write Boring StoriesI was featured as the Author Spotlight on Kidlit411 on July 1. Here’s the Q&A. You can read the full post at Kidlit411.

Tell us about your background and how you came to write for children.
I was one of those kids who always wanted to be a writer, and I started out as a writing seminars major when I was in college at Johns Hopkins. The emphasis there was adult literary fiction, and it didn’t draw me as much as my history and sociology classes did. I switched to a humanities major, but I always thought that I would go back to writing adult literary fiction someday when I was adult enough.
It turned out that when I was truly adult, the books that entranced me were written for kids — the Harry Potter series, which inspired a lot of writers. I wrote a middle grade novel when I had an infant daughter and full-time job, and the second novel I wrote was published by Spencer Hill Press in 2014. Writing for children fired me up in a way that writing for grownups never did.
You write a range of categories from adult nonfiction to picture books.  How do you decide what age group to write for, for any particular project? Do you have a favorite age group?
My day job is still writing for adults (and young adults) — I’m a writer and editor at a collegiate business school. It can be fun and creative, but it’s a different kind of creative than writing stories for children. Sometimes I need the kind of magic that’s only found in the pages of children’s books.
I usually have at least two projects in the works — a novel at various stages, and a picture book. Switching between them makes my work stronger. Writing picture books keeps me honest — you have to pare down the story to essentials. Writing for age 4 to 8 has to be my favorite — it’s so satisfying to compress conflicts, reversals, and character growth into a few hundred words.
Congrats on the release of MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
When I was a kid my friends and I made paper fortune tellers for fun, and so do my children. Who doesn’t want to be able to predict the future? But clairvoyance — if it is real — is not something you can learn. Science is.
I was looking for a fun way to encourage learning in the sciences, and I came up with predicting the weather as something children can learn about and try with very little equipment. I love the Jersey Shore and the boardwalk, and I had to set the story there, where the weather changes minute by minute.
What projects are you working on now?
I have a few picture book manuscripts in the hopper, as well as a young adult fantasy. The fantasy is just the kind of book I love to read — no one wrote this one, so my only chance to read it was to write first.
What advice would you give to your younger self? Is it the same advice you would give to aspiring authors?
Don’t write boring stories. Write the stories you love to read. And while you’re at it, read the stories you love to read, and don’t worry about what others will think of it. I’d tell that to any aspiring author, including myself.
What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
When I was 8 years old, I made the decision not to have my ears pierced, and I never have. That didn’t stop me from piercing my sister’s ear with a thumbtack when we were teens. She asked, and I thought a thumbtack would give the best leverage. I do not recommend trying this at home.

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