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.



1 2 3: A Child’s First Counting Book by Alison Jay

Jay, Alison. 1 2 3: A Child’s First Counting Book. New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2007.

Plot:  Count to ten and back again through the magic of fairytales. Cover of 1 2 3: A Counting Story by Alison Jay

Setting: Imaginary

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: fairytales, counting, numbers, storytelling, reading, dreams

Literary Quality: “[O]ne little girl sleeping[,] two soaring wings[,] three little pigs…” Thus begins a counting story that takes readers through the fairytale dreamscape of a sleeping girl. The movement of the story peaks at ten in what what might be described as a fleeting nightmare with the “ten sharp teeth” of the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. The next spread shows Beauty fleeing the Beast, who holds “nine perfect roses,” and from there eases into more calm and delightful moments of the fairytales. Whimsical oil paintings add to the enchantment of the journey, and a crackle varnish lends an antiqued appearance to the illustrations, perfect for these age-old stories. The little girl can be found in every illustration, as well as an element from the previous fairytale and the one to come. For example, while we count “seven marching dwarfs” we see the pumpkin carriage from Cinderella and the gingerbread house that Hansel and Gretel find on the horizon. The paintings also all contain other things to count in sets of the relevant number — the three little pigs are surrounded by three hats, three teacups, three umbrellas, three apples, and so forth. While counting stories and adaptations of fairytales abound, this is truly a gem, delivering all the allure, alarm, and adventure of a fairytale in a form even the youngest readers can appreciate. A final page acts as a form of index, matching each illustration to its respective fairytale. Alison Jay’s artful weaving of conceptual and traditional story frames creates something altogether new and lovely.

Audience: All ages. A book that can easily be used one-on-one, as a read-aloud, or in a classroom setting. 

Personal reaction: As soon as I opened this book and looked at just the first couple of pages, I knew it was something special. I (and my one-year-old) have been completely captivated by 1 2 3‘s charm. This is a story to read and read again. We always find something new.

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Cover of "In the Night Kitchen" by Maurice SendakSendak, Maurice. In the Night Kitchen. New York: HarperCollins, 1970.

Plot:  When Mickey hears a racket in the night he shouts for quiet then falls down down down into the night kitchen. The night bakers try to bake him into the morning cake and Mickey realizes they need milk, not Mickey! Off he goes to find the missing ingredient…

Point of View: 3rd person

Theme: Night, adventure, baking, bakers, sleep, dreams, dreamscapes, imagination, cake, milk, cities

Literary Quality: Among boisterous bakers, a city constructed of pantry items, a starry sky and a whole lot of batter and dough, Mickey’s adventure is an unforgettable story that will have readers laughing and chanting along. The rhythms in this book are set by both the illustrations, which are built into large comic-book-like blocks and panels that create a sense of movement, and text. Indeed, this book is nearly impossible to read quietly to oneself and not boom the rhymes, songs, and chants out loud. The musicality is wonderful. For example, take a look at this spread:

two-page spread from "In the Night Kitchen"

“But right in the middle of the steaming and the making and the smelling and the baking Mickey poked through and said: “I’m not milk and the milk’s not me! I’m Mickey!”

The words and sounds of this story rise as much as Mickey’s dough-built airplane that follows. And while the illustrations are integral to the story, there’s something of the oral storytelling tradition here. The very first line: “Did you ever hear of Mickey,” suggests a story that has been told and retold. The rhymes, rhythms, and repetions are anchors for both storytellers and audiences. The final line, “And that’s why, thanks to Mickey, we have cake every morning,” also plays with the format of a folktale or explanation myth.  A perfect balance of energetic and soothing rhythms, the familiar and the whimsical, In the Night Kitchen is not your average bedtime story. But we would neither expect nor desire anything less from Sendak.

History: The publication of In the Night Kitchen in the early 1970s sparked controversy because Mickey sheds his clothing in his dream-state, and a nude little boy (with whose anatomy most people are familiar) can be seen in the cake batter, in the milk, and cock-a-doodle-dooing atop the milk bottle. Why there was such an uproar about the naked young boy is a bit of a puzzle: for one thing, the male anatomy, including that of children, is often the subject of fine art. Nevertheless, upon publication some librarians and teachers pulled the book from the shelves or added their own little diaper to the illustrations of Mickey!

Audience: Ages 3-8. The imaginatinative story and images will continue to thrill both boys and girls at any time of day (or night!).

Personal reaction: In the Night Kitchen was a personal favorite of mine growing up. I have fond memories of reading the book with parents and to myself. Like most children, I’m sure, it never struck me as odd that Mickey fell out of his clothes or skinny-dipped in the milk. His nudity seemed unremarkable and natural in the context of his dream adventure. I was therefore surprised to learn, as an adult, of the past controversy. The images, words, and sounds of the story have all been imprinted in my mind. The bakers’ song, “Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake! And nothing’s the matter!” is one that I still find myself singing aloud in my own day kitchen. A book to read, re-read, and read again.

When My Baby Dreams by Adele Enersen

Cover Image of When My Baby Dreams by Adele EnersenEnersen, Adele. When My Baby Dreams. New York: Balzer + Bray, 2012.

Plot:  We all know that babies are expert sleepers. But what do they dream about? A new mother gives readers a glimpse into her baby’s imaginative dreams through playful photographs.

Point of View: 1st person (mother)

Theme: Babies, mothers, sleep, dreams, dreamscapes, photography, imagination

Literary Quality: Originating in Enersen’s popular photo blog, this picture book uses the author’s photographs to illustrate the dreams of her baby, Mila. Whether dreaming of playing in a forest, of being a bee or a butterfly, or of traveling around the world, Mila’s dreamscapes are composed of soft materials such as blankets, clothes, and carpet with accents like books, stuffed animals, and balloons. The spare text narrating these whimsical scenes is brief enough to hold the attention of babies and young tots, who will most likely enjoy the variety of familiar and unfamiliar words, concepts, and animals, as well as pointing out the baby in each image. The changing pastel page colors also help maintain the soft and subtle tone of this book. Sweet and visually interesting, When My Baby Dreams shows readers yet another creative way to tell a story. Read more about Enersen’s process of making the photographs and book here.

Audience: Ages 0-8. A picture book whose content appeals to the youngest readers and their parents, but that also might inspire some older siblings to imagine (and draw pictures of!) their newest family members’ dreams during all that sleepy time.

Personal reaction: I found When My Baby Dreams to be full of charm and adorable without being overly sweet. I appreciate the way that the short text, use of color, and a simple, repeating layout keep the emphasis on the photographs, allowing the story in each scene to truly shine through. I also couldn’t help thinking that Mila seems like an especially cooperative baby!