Marcia Strykowski

My New Book News!

I’m very excited to announce I’ll have a new middle-grade novel (ages 9-14) coming out within a year or two (release date still to be determined). Roller Boy is about Mateo Garcia, a young city boy who wants desperately to be good at something —something that will take him from that skinny little kid with the big hair to someone who matters. Stacked against him are an inhibiting disease (celiac), a dwindling lifelong friendship (no way can Jason find out Mateo is whirling around in girly skates—anybody halfway to cool would be hanging at a skate park, on boards or blades), and the strong reservations of his mother who feels he should be spending his time studying, not skating. Despite these conflicts, Mateo keeps his sense of humor and channels his innermost strength into an incredible ride on roller skates that just might take him all the way to regionals.

After his baseball dreams fall through, 13-year-old MATEO finds his true purpose at the roller-skating rink while dodging bullies, avoiding gluten, and falling for Roller City’s star skater.

For those of you who aren’t up on publishing techniques or want to know about a rather new publisher, this is how it sometimes works. The company who published my first two books for the same audience is scaling back (hey, all busy publishers deserve some rest), so just to mention, even though they did a great job with my other books, they have never read any of Roller Boy. After I finished writing and rewriting and polishing my manuscript (with the help of critique groups and workshops–thanks all!) I scoured through publisher profiles, studied their past books, and if they seemed a good match, I carefully followed their submission guidelines. Using this method, I sent sample chapters to several new publishers. Fitzroy Books (part of Regal House) quickly responded (which means in a week or two, which is very fast in the publishing world) and asked to see the full manuscript. I had just almost sold it to another company, so after that initial disappointment it was a great relief to have someone else interested in the same book so soon. Within two months they told me of their desire to issue a contract. We emailed back and forth over the next week or so as I very cautiously looked over the contract, comparing it to others and making sure all was good. It was! Regal House is completely traditional (no hidden fees) and offers generous royalties all the while continuously updating and improving their goals in publishing quality books. I like their covers and the editorial/marketing team looks promising, too. For you writers out there, they are closed to submissions right now (due to an overwhelming amount of them) but they will open again on October 1st.

My announcement bio and picture is already up on the Regal House website. You can check it out here. Thanks for listening to my story. Writing and submitting a manuscript often takes years and it can feel akin to winning the lottery when an offer finally does arrive. 🙂

More 2017 Picture Books

After a couple of posts in summery locations, it’s time to get back to books. Scanning my list of new library purchases I realize I’ll have to save at least half for another post, not only because I haven’t had a chance to read many of them, but because they are checked out. At my library we used to have high shelving throughout the children’s area. But then, once upon a time, we realized that not only could young readers not reach the high shelves but those tall bookcases gave the library a darker, more cluttered look. So our trusty handyman proceeded to remove the top layer of shelving. Wow, what a difference. From the main circulation desk we can see straight through to the far colorful walls of the children’s areas. And we get to place all our new book purchases upright on the new shelf tops. Their bright shiny covers are hard to resist, hence the lack of picture books for me to check out—they’re all in the hands of happy readers! The following are new titles with quick reviews on each of them.

May I Have a Word? written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Andy Rash is a very clever book from title to concept. I mean who among us is not familiar with refrigerator magnets? The story begins with an argument between the letters C and K about which one of them should be the star, leading to a fun way to learn the difference between these two letter sounds. Although the type size of the actual story seemed a little small (maybe to keep it from getting mixed up in all the magnetic letters?), this book still has enough humor and cheerful color to keep kids interested.

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex is strange, bizarre, crazy, and a LOT of fun. Follow the stories of these three warriors to find out how they went from being on their own to teaming up to be a popular playground game.

Monkey Brother, written and illustrated by Adam Auerbach is a cute book. The story has a good message as well as fun illustrations and a surprise at the end.

Everyone Loves Cupcake is written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Eric Wight. What a sweetheart—everyone knows someone like Cupcake, someone who tries so hard to be perfect and then sometimes goes overboard until those same friends she wants so desperately to gain begin drifting away. This book came out in 2016, but is new to me.

Pandora, written and illustrated by Victoria Turnbull, is about a sweet-faced fox who always makes the best of things. She is patient and kind and a good friend, as well as a lover of nature. A small bird enters her dark, dreary realm and rewards her with a tiny twig of life that rebuilds the world around them. Beautiful soft illustrations of colored pencil and watercolor add much to this important tale.

Home in the Rain, written and illustrated by Bob Graham, is one of those books that takes a small episode and makes it into a special memory. Journeying home through a major rainstorm brings inspiration of the grandest kind. Rather than getting all stressed out about the stormy weather, this super mom and daughter, Francie, stay calm and centered. They even have a picnic and decide on a new name for the upcoming birth of Francie’s baby sister!

The Sheep Who Hatched an Egg, written and illustrated by Gemma Merino, is a fun tale about Lola who learns she can feel proud and happy even when she isn’t perfect or beautiful because kindness and friendship is much more important than having the best hairdo. The animal characters have well-done expressive faces.

I Wrote You a Note is written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd and provides an interesting glimpse at the many places a written note might wander to before arriving at its destination. I love the soft, lively, earth-tone illustrations.

Jabari Jumps, written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall, is such a sweet tale and one that everyone can relate to. Jabari is ready to dive into the pool, but can he do it? With the help of his caring dad and cheering baby sister, Jabari’s road to success is told with warmth and humor.

LIFE,  written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is an absolutely beautiful book. Wenzel’s unique layered illustrations can be appreciated over and over again. They are a perfect partner for Rylant’s lyrical prose about the whole essence of what it means to live. I would quickly gift this stunning book to anyone of any age who is feeling overwhelmed.

If I Weren’t with You, written by Rosie J. Pova and illustrated by Philip Martineau, is a reassuring story, perfect for bedtime or story time. It’s hard for young ones to picture their parents as anyone BUT their parents which leads Willie to question his mother’s love as they stroll through the forest. Her reaffirming answers bring comfort, while cute illustrations add to the story.

Deep in the Woods is written and illustrated by Christopher Corr. From the gorgeous colorful endpapers to the bright and dazzling illustrations, this is a beautifully designed book. A gentle tale about a variety of animals who despite being very unlike each other, discover they can not only live together but can overcome a disaster by once again working together in order to not leave anyone out (especially a large bear who caused the house to fall down when he couldn’t fit inside.) Colors are like a brand new box of pastels of many shades.

She Persisted, written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger, offers wonderful encouragement for young girls with big dreams. I love reading inspirational biographies and found this to be a jackpot with thirteen nuggets in one. The brief stories of these amazing women flow nicely together and show how each woman persisted with her ideas despite running into roadblocks or being told her goal was impossible.

The Secret of Black Rock, written and illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton, was another fun find. As soon as I saw the cover for this book, I knew I had to get a copy—seals, puffins, and a girl in a boat could only mean great adventures lie ahead. Very enjoyable tale and illustrations!

The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City, written by Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Pierr Morgan, is thoroughly enjoyable. The busy happy children in this lyrical story will inspire everyone to want a garden, whether it be a single flower pot or something larger. The cheerful sun-filled illustrations have a beautiful earthy quality, vivid yet at the same time soft and airy. I especially like seeing all the children doing their own work from planting and tending to harvesting. Love the seed packets on the endpapers, too! This delightful book is based on a real community garden in Seattle, WA.

Little Ree (a child version of the author), written by Ree Drummond and illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers, is told in first-person monologue style. It can be interesting to see how celebrities are allowed to break traditional rules when dabbling in picture book writing. The colorful pictures fill in some of the spaces in this slice of life episode. For example, I enjoyed how with nary a word, the illustrator adds a whole scene of Ree receiving cowgirl clothes from her grandparents. The many cousins who come to visit Ree are fun to match up from page to page, as well.

So now you know, if you enter the children’s area of your local library and see worn copies of old books on display, it might only be because those were the last books taken out and then the library pages tossed them back on top again. Newer picture book purchases could be sitting tidily on the bottom shelf (in alphabetical order by author) never to see the light of day. Despite what some library patrons might think, all fortunate libraries DO buy new books, you might just have to hunt for them OR better yet, ask your friendly librarian to find you a copy!

For more reviews of 2017 picture books, please click here to see my post from several months ago.

As always, happy reading!

Welcome to my Porch

We all have our favorite activities and places and one of mine is spending time on my back porch. Porches seem to be an extension to a home where the dreariness of day-to-day tasks can be left behind. Our porch was built on ten or so years ago, first only screened, and then later the windows were added into the same slots for a maximum outdoorsy feel in all kinds of weather. I designed it to be a round porch which is tricky to get into one picture so I merged two (hence the warped beam which in real life is straight).I liked how the ceiling looked with wood between the beams except as they are wont to do these days, it was stamped with bold lot numbers. We put up with this look for a few years but my longing for a sky ceiling became stronger. Trouble is I didn’t want to lose the beams, didn’t want to do it the easy way. There weren’t many options for covering the rough wood in between each beam, but eventually we decided on ceiling panels. They were easy enough for me to paint the pieces after we measured and sawed them. But the real chore was for my husband who put them all into place. Many hot hours were spent on a ladder with a cramped neck, as he painstakingly screwed each panel into its homemade system.One of the last additions was a grass green rug which brings an added coziness to the porch.“Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the liquid song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.” Tasha TudorNow we’ll go out the back door and visit the little patio garden.Here’s a recent picture of my sister and I helping our mom celebrate her June birthday. It was a chilly day and just right for enjoying the porch.

Back Yard
by Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)

Shine on, O moon of summer.
Shine to the leaves of grass, catalpa and oak,
All silver under your rain to-night. 

An Italian boy is sending songs to you to-night from an accordion.
A Polish boy is out with his best girl; they marry next month;
to-night they are throwing you kisses.

An old man next door is dreaming over a sheen that sits in a
cherry tree in his back yard. 

The clocks say I must go—I stay here sitting on the back porch drinking
white thoughts you rain down. 

   Shine on, O moon,
Shake out more and more silver changes.

Scenic New England

As most of you know, I was born, bred, and buttered (as they say around these parts) right here in New England and no matter where I travel, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. As is typical here in June, one day was warm and the next cool, however there were plenty of perfect weather days for sightseeing. I’ve been using my little point & shoot camera for years, nothing fancy, but still I can’t resist pulling it out wherever I go and where I’m drawn is usually to water. Here are a few quick shots from last month. First we’ll pop in on Ogunquit, Maine where the tulips were still going strong past Memorial Day.Then we’ll swing by Prescott Park in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.Can’t leave out Newburyport, MA. Boats of all sizes stop by this pretty little harbor.And last, but not least, it was quite a treat to see the Tall Ships in Boston. We even got to go onboard one of them.

So, that was June and I’m thankful for a bright start to the season. If only summer would slow way down, I’d be happy as a clam at high tide. 🙂

The Tiniest Books

After enjoying your comments on my Tiny Books post, I decided to do a post on even tinier books. These first pictures show books I’ve had since childhood. All are hardcover with book jackets. First up is the Christmas Nutshell Library by Hilary Knight. This cute little boxed set includes 4 tiny books, each 2 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. They were published in 1963 by Harper & Row and are unpaged (meaning no page numbers). Titles are A Firefly in a Fir Tree, Angels and Berries and Candy Canes, A Christmas Stocking Story, and The Night Before Christmas.There are also wonderful collections of Maurice Sendak books in the Nutshell Library series. My next book is A Pocketful of Proverbs by Joan Walsh Anglund (also unpaged). This 1964 tiny book with case was published by Harcourt, Brace, & World, Inc. It is 3″ x 4″ tall. Next up is a completely wordless, hilarious set of books created by Mercer Mayer. Four Frogs in a Box was published by The Dial Press in the early 1970’s. Each book is 3″ x 3 1/2″. Titles are A Boy, A Dog and A Frog (1967), Frog Where are You? (1969) A Boy, A Dog, A Frog and A Friend (1971 by Mercer and Marianna Mayer), and Frog on his Own (1973). The Little Book of Hand Shadows stands 2 1/2″ x 3″ tall and is reprinted and adapted from the original 1927 edition. This beautiful little book put out by Running Press in 1990 was created and drawn by Phila H. Webb and the verses are by Jane Corby. There are 77 pages. Also above is another pretty book from Running Press, 1992. The Nutcracker by Daniel Walden and illustrated by Harold Berson was adapted from the ballet which was based on E. T. A. Hoffman’s 1815 story: The Nutcracker and The Mouse King. There are 155 pages in this tiny 2 1/2″ x 3″ volume.

The below photograph shows a group of my daughter’s tiny books, all of them less than 4 inches wide. Here are two public domain pictures that show just how tiny books can be. I did a little research on Charlotte Bronte and her brother Branwell’s tiny books which they made when they were only 13 and 12 years old. There are 20 of them and I was happy to discover that 9 of them are nearby in the Houghton Library at Harvard University. They measure less than 1″ by 2″ and have amazing detail. You can see one of several at this link.

The smallest book in the world is 2.4mm x 2.9mm and is housed at the San Diego Central Library. It’s an ABC book, leather-bound and printed in 4-color. A strong magnifying glass is needed to see, never mind read, this tiny tome.

Speaking of wee books, my thoughtful son and daughter-in-law gave me this beautiful little leather book necklace. It actually opens up and contains blank pages with pretty end papers. Those of you who are really into collecting tiny books might like to join the Miniature Book Society. Their well-done website has a wealth of information.

Tiny Books

In an age of tiny houses (all the rage in USA and Canada) and tiny food (very popular in Japan), I’ve been thinking about how we also have tiny books. The librarian who orders nonfiction at my library is rather petite and seems to like small things, so at first I thought she might feel a connection when ordering such tiny books. But won’t they get lost on the shelf? I wondered. However now I’m realizing she was just ahead of her time. Nowadays these hidden gems seem to be popping up more and more. Below are a few tiny nonfiction books that caught my eye when we recently added them to our library collection.

Nature’s Remedies is a beautiful little book with delicate watercolor illustrations throughout. This user-friendly guide introduces beginner herbalists to a wide variety of medicinal herbs.

I haven’t read The Minimalist Mom but the subtitle alone: How to Simply Parent Your Baby seems to bring a breath of fresh air to all the old texts on the rules of parenting.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up certainly got me motivated to get rid of a few bags of stuff. The narrative sometimes seems a little bit over-the-top but overall the reasoning for how life can be simpler and less stressful when one owns less clutter is definitely one I agree with.

Possibly because I’m part Danish, but I absolutely loved The Little Book of Hygge. I listened to the audio version read by the author himself. This isn’t always the best choice for readers, but Meik did an excellent job and his Danish accent brought much to the performance. I for one quickly got in the mood to gather friends, sip warm drinks, and play board games, all the while a storm rages outside.

At only 5 inches square, Genetics in Minutes is unbelievably packed with information as well as with many photographs and diagrams. There are over 400 pages containing user friendly concepts of genes, DNA, biology basics and much more. As the back cover states: Genetics in Minutes is the “fastest way to grasp genetics, from Darwin’s finches to Dolly the sheep.”

Herbs + Flowers is another little book about herbs but this one explains in detail how, when, and where to plant them  (and even describes what each one tastes like). There are lovely illustrations and a good index at the back. Thirty-two of the most popular herbs and edible flowers are included.

I haven’t dipped into these last three books yet, but their covers prove they hold important information. When flipping through 21 Ways to a Happier Depression I found it to be very visually pleasing–a nice design with splashes of watercolor paintings and quotations sprinkled here and there.

Don’t let these diminutive delights fool you; not only do they easily fit in a pocket or purse for on-the-go reading, but on closer inspection they all seem to reveal great thoughts worth pondering.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer and as always, thanks so much for reading!

Edited to add… many of your wonderful and very appreciated comments refer to miniature books, those extra tiny 2 or 3 inch versions of real books. This gave me the fun idea to do a post on those as well: HERE, so thanks for that. For this post, books are mostly 5 x 6 or 5 x 7 inches. Not super tiny, but still tiny in the same way that ‘tiny houses’ are not the size of Little Free Libraries or bird houses, yet still very small when compared to regular houses. 🙂

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