Secret #2: Picture book coming!

It’s August. How did that happen?! It’s not only August, it’s the very end of August. As in almost September. I can hardly believe how quickly the summer has flown by, in a way that only summers can. Life here has been full of travel, visits with family, adventures by the sea, weekly trips to our CSA farm, digging around in our own small garden, work, deadlines, my son’s second birthday (holy cow, I have a two-year-old), reading (of course), and…writing.

This summer I haven’t just been writing in my journal. In fact, my journal has been about as neglected as this blog. I have been writing a story that you all can read next year when it comes out as a picture book!

I am very excited to announce that I am the author of a forthcoming children’s book from Getty Publications, due out November 2015. Excited is an understatement. This is a long-held dream come true, and I feel just plain lucky. Does luck ever feel plain actually? I feel extraordinary and giddy in my luck!

The picture book, with the working title Therese Makes a Tapestry, tells the story of a young girl whose family works at the Gobelins Manufactory during the era of Louis XIV. It is being published on the occasion of a major exhibition of French royal tapestries at the Getty.

Through the wonders of Skype, I have been able to meet the team of incredible individuals that I’m collaborating with, including my amazing editor and the fabulous illustrator. I truly couldn’t be happier with the process so far. Again, I thank my lucky stars.

So that’s the secret I meant to share much earlier this summer. Thanks for sticking with me as I come and go! Stay tuned for more book updates in the future.

Photo of books about French tapestry and textiles piled on a table

A sampling of the books that have adorned my coffee table and desk of late.

 

Secrets and playing catch-up

I can’t believe it is already May and nearly two months since my last post. In addition to keeping busy with part-time jobs, toddlers, travel, etc., I have been working on a couple of secret projects. One of these two projects I am now at liberty to share. I am cooking up baby #2, due in October! Ha, that counts as a project, right?

Photo of son on play structure smiling at mother who smiles back

Pregnancy takes up a whole lot of energy. Naps have reentered my life (although they seem to be slowly drifting out again). Thinking about our life a few months from now, I’ve decided to let myself enjoy the occasional nap at present. I mean, all that well intended advice to sleep when the baby sleeps is really only applicable the first time around. Once there are two or more kiddos in the household, will anybody be sleeping, ever? A fierce internal voice says, YES! The mama in me chuckles and sighs, Sometime, someday.

I will leave you in suspense about the second project. I promise it is more of a traditional project, though.

We have been reading a lot, as always. I even had put an Off the Shelf series together back in March but for some reason never posted it. Better late than never?

off_the_shelf_3-6-14

Here was the March roundup of books:

  • Ten Terrible Dinosaurs by Paul Stickland — counting and dinosaurs. Two of my little guy’s favorite things right now.
  • I Love to Sleep by Amélie Graux — this one I catch the boy reading on his own a lot lately. I like to think he is studying up.
  • Feast for 10 by Cathryn Falwell — oldie but goodie. This one makes me hungry.
  • The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson and Beth Krommes — just lovely. I was so happy when my son got hooked on this!
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss — I am still surprised that my son has the attention span for this or Go, Dog. Go!
  • Noisy Way to Bed by Ian Whybrow and Tiphanie Beeke — this was a major hit. My son loves to make the animal sounds that interrupt the boy on his way to bed.
  • Snow by Manya Stojic — yes we were still reading snow books all through March. I stubbornly returned them before April even though the snow had not ended.

Books and babies

When I began to think about the phrase “books and babies,” it immediately reconfigured in my head to the tune of “love and marriage.” “Books and babies, books and babies…” It got stuck in my head, which was unfortunate, because the next line to come to mind was “go together like a bat and rabies.” I’m not sure Frank Sinatra would approve. At any rate, when the lovely and witty mama writer Katey of Kateywrites asked me to do a guest post for her series Raising Readers Monday, I knew exactly what I wanted to explore as my topic: books and babies.

Image of mother and her infant son sitting in a chair reading

Reading with my son when he was 2.5 months old

Below is a snippet from my post:

It is never too early to begin reading to babies. Even newborns. They benefit from the visual stimulation of the pictures before them, the rhythms of the words and narrative, the act of being held and cuddled, the sound of a parent or caretaker’s voice. As far as literacy goes, babies begin to learn about the orientation of a book, the way the pages turn, and that books have particular sound patterns that go along with them, long before they can even fully absorb a story.

Enjoy the cuddles, and don’t worry if your baby wants you to turn the pages quickly. Just because they are speeding through doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying it, as well. It might mean exactly the opposite, in fact! My son loved the collages and rhythms of Dancing Feet! by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown long before he had the patience to listen to every word. But that didn’t matter. Eventually he wanted to hear all the words, too, but in the meantime we skipped around or did a speed reading version, which made me laugh. It remains one of his favorite stories. Above all, have fun when you’re reading together with your baby. Have fun watching them read with others, too. Have fun watching them decide story time isn’t for them on a particular day and crawl or scoot or squawk at the library instead. Parenting a baby…it’s a precious time, an anxiety-ridden time, a time that I wanted to speed read on some days, and on other days to linger on each page, each word, each image.

Read the full article, which includes suggestions for making book selections for the youngest readers, interpreting your baby’s opinions on books, and ways to incorporate story into your child’s life. Take some time to explore Katey’s blog! I have already learned so much from her, and am honored to share a small corner of her online thought space.
Image of a toddler sitting on his mother on a couch while they read together

The second I lay down on the couch, my 18-month-old toddler, rocking some stylish bed head, runs over with one of his favorite books and climbs up.

Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie

Cover image of Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory ChristieWheeler, Lisa. Jazz Baby. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 2007.

Plot:  “Bitty-boppin’ Baby” claps, dances, and eventually snoozes to the jazzy music-making of his family and neighbors.

Setting: Urban

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: jazz, music, singing, dancing, family, neighbors, community

Literary Quality: With boisterous rhymes and toe-tap worthy rhythms, Lisa Wheeler’s text bounces off the page and begs to be read aloud: “Mama sings high. Daddy sings low. Snazzy-jazzy Baby says, “GO, MAN, GO!” So they TOOT-TOOT-TOOT and they  SNAP-SNAP-SNAP and the bouncin’ baby bebops with a CLAP-CLAP-CLAP!” R. Gregory Christie’s gouache illustrations bring further music to the page with their depictions of a multi-generational family passing around a happy, spunky baby. Warm colors outlined in broad-stroked lines that contrast against plentiful whitespace, these paintings carry forth the playfulness and energy of the narrative. As the story winds down and the “Drowsy-dozy Baby” drifts off to sleep to the soothing arms, smiles, and voices of his family, readers will be reluctant to return from this imaginative celebration of music and love that transports and inspires.

Audience: I would recommend this book to readers ages 1-8. A perfect read-aloud for a classroom or story time, but with family at the center of it, a great book for the home, as well.

Personal reaction: Picture books that take on music and sound are my favorites, and Jazz Baby ranks among the top of that list. It is fun to read, to actually say the words which tickle your mouth and in tempos that get your body itching to move.  This story is one of my son’s favorites, as well. At 18 months, he dances (bounces) when we read it, and claps and chimes in with an enthusiastic “OH YEAH!” at the end. In other words, he has been converted to a jazz baby, himself.

Off the Shelf: 2/17/14

My son loves books. Now, at almost 18 months, he will sit on the floor for 15 minutes or so reading to himself (and longer if someone reads to him!), flipping through page after page and reciting words and lines he knows. It can be a challenge sometimes to get a new book through the pile of tried and true. However, when a book is in, it’s in.

Over the past few months, I have been thinking about starting a feature of what the boy’s favorite books are each week or two weeks, however time allows, since they do change. These are the books that I can hardly get put away during the week, let alone during the day because he wants to read them over and over and over, often three times per sitting, and usually two to three sittings a day. And so they stay off the shelf until he has quenched his thirst and is ready to move on to the next love, visiting these established loves between times.

Without further ado, here is the first installment of Off the Shelf.

Image of ten picture books laid out on a coffee table

Over the last two weeks my son’s favorite books have been:

  • Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie
  • Goodnight Wisconsin by Adam Gamble and Mark Jasper
  • Hello Baby by Mem Fox and Steve Jenkins
  • Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry
  • Lulu’s Busy Day by Caroline Uff
  • Oscar Otter and the Goldfish by Maurice Pledger
  • Balancing Act by Ellen Stoll Walsh
  • Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
  • Goodnight Kisses by Barney Saltzberg
  • My First ABC Book Board Book by DK Publishing, Inc.

Jazz Baby is still at the top of his list, and I will write a review later this week.

My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Hall, Michael. My Heart Is Like a ZooNew York: Greenwillow Books, 2010. Cover of My Heart Is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall

Plot:  A heart can hold so many feelings, so many animals.

Setting: a child’s bedroom

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: hearts, emotions, feelings, animals, imagination, bedtime, shapes, counting

Literary Quality: “My heart is like a zoo– eager as a beaver, steady as a yak, hopeful as a hungry heron fishing for a snack.” Thus begins a fun and silly exploration of the heart and all its feelings, and the animals it resembles in each state. A mix of the expected and unexpected (my heart is…”crafty as a fox, quiet as a caterpillar wearing knitted socks”), the text will delight readers and listeners. If Hall’s writing were not enough to draw children in, the bright, bold and colors of his illustrations would do so in a jiffy. Each animal is composed of a collage of hearts, perfectly complementing and paralleling the text (and offering inspiration for a post-reading craft!). When the story ends, “tired as a zookeeper who’s had a busy day,” the illustration reveals that the animals are actually in a child’s bedroom, a child who sleeps. A lovely reflection on emotions and art, this book will help children express themselves in myriad ways. Plus, children will enjoy counting all of the hearts they can find!

Audience: I would recommend this book to readers ages 0-5. A wonderful way to help young readers think about their feelings. 

Personal reaction: I gave My Heart Is Like a Zoo to my son as a little Valentine’s Day gift this year. I love the use of the heart as the central theme of the story and as the mode of composition for the illustrations! This is the kind of book my boy would have loved from day one, when he only liked books with big blocks of color. I immediately picked up a copy to send along to a friend’s new baby, as well.

Matched by Ally Condie

Cover Image of Matched by Ally CondieCondie, Ally. Matched. New York: Dutton Books, 2010.

Plot: Cassia is thrilled that the Society has Matched her with Xander, her best friend. But when she puts the government-issued microcard into her port to review Xander’s information, his face disappears after a moment and another face pops on the portscreen. Ky. An Official explains that there has been a mistake, Xander is still her Match. Ky is an Aberration and can never have a Match. The Society does not make mistakes, though. Cassia’s entire world — her family, her health, her work — has been formed around Society’s decisions and her own confidence in the system. Now the questions, and the doubt, come slowly, but steadily. Cassia could accept the explanations handed to her and be happy, or she could have choice. She could create.

Setting: A futuristic society descended from Western cultures.

Point of View: First person (Cassia)

Theme: future civilization, government, autonomy, independence, love, self identity, coming of age, family, risk, technology, self expression

Literary Quality: Fast-paced and laced with poetry, especially that of Dylan Thomas, Matched is a thought provoking page turner. As Cassia catches a glimmer beneath the surface of the Society, questions bubble up about love, autonomy, order, health, family, technology, and happiness in the future that will resonate with readers today, as well. Writing and reading are dangerous in this imagined society, and while it is suggested that the role and increase of technology has expedited and eased the elimination and outlawing of learning to write and create one’s own words, readers are reminded of words’ power and hopefully will recognize that the tradition of illegal words is based solidly in history. The division of knowledge to prevent anyone from knowing too much in this civilization is likewise an old theme into which Condie breathes new life. While the questions asked and the answers gradually arrived at in Matched are complex, their delivery lacks the same nuance. The explicit morals and lessons border on being forced and preachy, and can feel at times like a lack trust in the reader. Nevertheless, this absorbing book is well worth reading, and will keep readers pondering Cassia’s dilemmas long after it has been shelved.

Audience: I would recommend Matched to readers ages 12 and up.

Personal reaction: Matched was totally addicting. I am glad I waited a couple of years to read it, because I could (and did) immediately check out the next installment, Crossed. I appreciated the gray area in Condie’s portrayal of the Officials and the Society–that Cassia’s own father, grandfather, and neighbors are Officials and partake in actions she dislikes even though they are people she respects and loves; that Cassia can see how a problematic system can still be successful and produce happiness and meaningful relationships. I couldn’t help comparing Matched to The Hunger Games trilogy, as I read, especially given the love triangle, but with no conclusive thoughts worth sharing for now. I loved the weaving in of and framing by poetry, the subversiveness of reading poems and learning history. I found myself wishing for more discussion surrounding ethnicity and race.  There is a comment at some point about how many ethnicities the Society includes or has Matched over the years, but nothing more than a passing mention. Overall, though, a very pleasant reading experience.