I’ve got a new post up on the wonderful Writers’ Rumpus blog!
You can check it out here: Creative Walking Hope you like it.
Like many others, my life has changed during the COVID-19 virus. One thing I’ve found a wee bit of time for is gardening. All thanks to a friendly woman who gave me a box of 80 seed pods on my way out of Stop & Shop. It was my first time going to this particular food store and I was leery of whether it was safe to do so during the height of the pandemic. It can take longer when you don’t know your way around a new store, especially when following floor arrows and peeking out from behind a mask. After grabbing a few necessities, I was anxious to get out of the store and on my way. I paused in the lobby entrance in search of an antiseptic wipes station. There didn’t seem to be any, but as I glanced over to the other side of the exit door, a big box of seeds was thrust into my hands. I carefully put them in my trunk, washed up, and then grinned. The adventure had been successful after all. I gave bunches of seed pods away to friends and family, but still had many more for myself, so it was time to start planting. I planted turnips, carrots, cherry tomatoes, kale, basil, thyme, and parsley. I’ve since moved a few tomatoes and cucumbers outside. My broccoli and eggplant never came up. Not exactly book news, but here’s a little photo display featuring my cucumber plant in particular.
The brown disc is actually soil. You add water and it immediately expands into enough soil to fill the little pot!
The start of my cucumber! Later I transferred it to a sunny yellow pot.
Above is a closeup of my basil and parsley.
All together, three cucumber plants came up, but two are now outside.
To end with a book, this one seems to be doing quite well. It explores the ups and downs of gardening.
That’s all for now. Hope everyone is doing okay and keeping safe.
Early September Update:
Although many of my sprouts didn’t do too well outside in the heat, I did get some nice basil.Also decided to check my cucumber plant a few days ago.I figured there might be some miniature pickle-sized cukes under the leaves. But what should appear but four giant cucumbers. What a surprise!
First off—Happy National Library Week—April 19-25, 2020
Libraries have so much to offer, even from the comfort of your own home. Have you checked your local library’s online offerings? From story-times to downloadable books, movies, magazines, audiobooks, and music, there’s something for everyone.
As mentioned in my last post, I’ve had trouble concentrating on my work during these unsettling times, but fortunately my previous pieces are still making their way through the world. It’s always a nice surprise to receive author copies (and a check!) for long ago work that’s been reprinted, such as this article and illustration for “Fun for Kidz.”
I was even more thrilled to have an article in the current March/April issue of the American Association of School Librarians journal: “Knowledge Quest.” These author/illustrator columns are in collaboration with the Children’s Book Council and it was a real honor to be chosen for this opportunity. Thanks to the Fitzroy Books team who, because of their membership in the CBC, suggested I send in a sample of writing to the journal for consideration.
For a sneak peek at what I’m currently working on, here’s a virtual background I made, with hopes I could use it during a writing group meeting where we’d be discussing my work-in-progress—a historical fiction novel. Unfortunately, the background didn’t work out for our Zoom meeting, but now I get to share it here instead, so all is well. You’ll just have to imagine my head sitting next to the goat’s head. 🙂 A picture of our meeting is in my last post. Two other members were more successful with using virtual backgrounds.
In other news, I recently came in fourth place (1st, 2nd, 3rd, plus an Honorable Mention) in an Institute of Children’s Literature contest—a wonderful surprise—as well as extra inspiration that my latest project is headed in the right direction.
Other than these bright spots, for which I’m grateful, I’m still slugging away on my current picture book and middle grade manuscripts. Hope you, too, are finding times when your brain is quiet enough to create.
Thanks for catching up with me and leaving comments on my last post. I’ve missed being as visible in the blogging community, but even though I’m not always actively posting, I’m still keeping tabs on you all. Best wishes for continued good health.
It’s been way too long that I’ve let my little blog go unattended and I figured it was time to check in. I also plan to click on all my favorite blogs and make sure everyone is safe. I’m curious to find out how you’ve been keeping sane and what you’ve been doing to pass the time.
Life is certainly different these days. For most of us, our main concern is how to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy. Even though, in some ways, there might be more time, if you’re like me, I find myself with much less ability to focus. Instead of working, I’m scrolling through COVID-19 updates, hoping against hope that this pandemic will soon be over.
Meanwhile, I’m also making a few masks, helping my mom donate a large collection of fabric to the cause, and trying not to focus entirely on the news.
A bright spot during my weeks is virtually chatting with friends and colleagues. Here, for example, is my critique group. We did quite well, considering we are such a large group. Everyone was polite and observant of speaking one at a time, and as always, the feedback from this talented group is amazing!During this strange time, I also enjoy walking, as I’m sure many of you are doing, either alone, or six feet apart from friends.
I guess all we can do is keep our distance and help those who need us. Keep walking toward those brighter days ahead and many many thanks to all those working on the frontlines!
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
I truly hope all my blog readers are safe and healthy. Hang in there, we’ll get through this.
Next up, some writing news!
I haven’t blogged about new children’s books in a while and when I received these first two in the mail to review I knew it was time for a special post. For reasons stated below, this post will be dedicated to Candlewick Press. Here’s a bit of history from their website:
In 1992, Candlewick Press opened its doors as an independent children’s publisher, and we remain an independent publisher today. As part of Walker Books Group, Candlewick Press enjoys a unique ownership structure which includes more than 75 of the employees in our US office, staff in our UK and AUS offices, plus more than 150 authors and illustrators.
Candlewick Press arrived on the scene with some of the highest-quality picture books anywhere. And in the years since then, our offerings have grown to encompass all ages, from board books to e-books, high-end novelty to cutting-edge fiction. What hasn’t changed is our goal of excellence, our model of independence, and our commitment to the authors and illustrators who create our books and the readers who love them.
Two decades and more than 2,000 awards and accolades later, we are as committed as ever to independent thinking and primed for a future that looks brighter than ever.
First up we have two super duper board books from Nosy Crow, an imprint of Candlewick Press.
100 First Words illustrated by Edward Underwood is a huge 9 ½” by 11 ½” fourteen-page book loaded with flaps to lift. Under each flap is an unexpected surprise along with a new word. For example, a hidden owl peeks through a window behind a pair of curtains. This brightly illustrated book is perfect for infants up through toddlers and is a step up from smaller books of a similar theme. SPOILER ALERT! A group of pedestrians (and a dog) smiling up at the bus passing by is hidden under the bus flap in the below picture.
Alphabet Street written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Ingela P. Arrhenius is also a large board book—8” x 12”—and when this fold-out book is fully opened it spreads to an amazing eight feet wide! Each page features a new shop with two big flaps for little fingers to open, revealing more delightful illustrations and words underneath. This fun book would make a clever backdrop for imaginative play with small dolls and/or cars. A pretty ribbon keeps the book shut for travel or storage.
In my usual big stack of new picture books that arrived at my library I noticed a pattern. Not only did there happen to be four books about a grandfather and his grandchild, but three with that particular theme were by Candlewick. With each monthly order, this publisher continuously stands out. What else could I do but decide this would be a Candlewick post. So here’s to beautiful books and grandfathers everywhere!
Our Favorite Day was written and illustrated by Joowon Oh. A debut author/illustrator, Joowon has created the sweetest book ever! The simple story of the strong bond between grandparent and child is gorgeously illustrated with a combination of cut paper, water color, and gouache. The expressions of love between the characters plus their surprise activity makes for a beautiful well thought out story you’ll want to read over and over again.
Looking for Yesterday was written and illustrated by Alison Jay. A young boy tries a variety of impossible methods to repeat the day he experienced the day before. Lovely story of a grandfather who teaches his grandson about the importance of enjoying each new day while still maintaining fond memories of past adventures. Illustrations were created using alkyd oil paints.
Grandpa’s Top Threes was written by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Daniel Egnéus. Main character Henry misses the closeness he shared with his grandfather, but then helps him through the grieving process in a way only children can do. Illustrations were done in watercolor and assembled digitally. Also, the style of the type caught my eye in this book; the font is called Mountains of Christmas. 🙂
That’s a wrap. Wrap yourself up cozy and enjoy these delightful books!
Strawbery Banke is a 10 acre outdoor living history museum located at 14 Hancock Street in Portsmouth, NH. This restored colonial village is worth checking out. The historic houses are staffed and open for touring May 1 through October 31, from 10 am to 5 pm. They are also open for special events throughout the year. From their website:
Strawbery Banke is unique among outdoor history museums in presenting a complete neighborhood’s evolution over 300+ years, with most of the 37 historic buildings on their original foundations. These structures link visitors to the people who lived on the Portsmouth waterfront from 1695 to 1954. Costumed role players and traditional craftspeople recreate the lives, concerns and challenges of families in the community, basing their interpretations on diaries, letters, historical records, archaeology and collected artifacts.
Strawbery Banke’s Annual Fall Festival showcases dozens of traditional New England handmade crafts, heritage breed and farm animal demonstrations, and the museum’s heirloom gardens and seed-saving program. The Fall Festival also now incorporates the Children’s Book Festival. The book festival has been happening for five years and this year included celebrating the 40th Anniversary of The Ox-Cart Man. This gorgeous picture book, written by Donald Hall (September 20, 1928 – June 23, 2018) and illustrated by Barbara Cooney (August 6, 1917 – March 10, 2000), has always been a favorite of mine and was awarded the 1980 Caldecott Award. It was a highlight of my career to meet both Donald and Barbara years ago. Barbara was at a Boston Book Builders event in 1991 (where she signed Miss Rumphius for me!). I remember the moderator called her Hattie, mistaking her for the main character in Hattie and the Wild Waves when the book was actually based on her mother’s life. Years later I ran into former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall at the Andover Bookstore. One of his comments has always stayed with me. He said that even for a short poem it took him many many revisions. He often spent hours putting a comma in and then taking it out again, over and over.
I had a great time at this year’s Children’s Book Festival, visiting with new and old author friends as well as talking with those who stopped by to buy books.
You never know who might pass through the festival.
Below is the view out the window from where I was selling books. I’d seen sheep herding before, but duck herding!?
Maybe I’ll see you next year at this fun fall event!
It’s been a wonderful spring for conferences and literary festivals. Below are a few pictures of events I was able to participate in. First up, I was thrilled to attend KidLitCon which in previous years has been held all over the country, but this year was nearby in Providence, RI. What a wonderful group of librarians, teachers, authors, and illustrators.