Marcia Strykowski

Thanksgiving Thoughts & Traditions

While I stir cranberries, bake pies, and grate cabbage for coleslaw, I’m thinking of Thanksgivings gone by and Thanksgivings to come, and how thankful I am for this special holiday. On that note, I figured I’d revisit this post from a few years back and spruce it up with some new additions since I don’t have time to carve out an entirely new article.

I just looked up what foods are considered traditional for the holiday. They include turkey, stuffing, gravy, sweet potatoes, cornbread, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pie for dessert. This all seems right in line with our menus, although we always include something green, too, like broccoli or asparagus, or good ol’ green bean casserole, and usually squash, too. For pies, we’ll be serving pumpkin and apple. I also got in the habit of making Chex™ Party Mix each year.

This year I skipped the party mix because my son won’t be able to join us, sniff 😦 . I should have made it anyway and sent him a tin full which I did the one other time he couldn’t be home for Thanksgiving. He was studying at Oxford and wasn’t due to visit until Christmas break. We did Skype that year though, propped a close screen view of him right up on the tabletop. 🙂 However, he and his lovely wife have a very good reason to be far away this holiday, so all is well and we’ll see them soon.

It’s definitely a season to count blessings, but it can sometimes be challenging to feel cheerful and deserving of so much when others are going through such unbelievably difficult hardships. Not only personal acquaintances, but those shown daily in the news. We all have problems but some people seem to have more than their share at times.

Although there are many discrepancies about what went on, who attended, and what they ate, most people agree the first Thanksgiving was held in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. I find it interesting that this famous Currier & Ives Lithograph along with the popular tune of “Over the River and Through the Wood,” both created in the mid 1800s, also both had roots in Massachusetts.

c&i american homestead winter

Over the River and Through the Wood

By Lydia Maria Child

Over the river and through the wood,
To Grandfather’s house we go;
The horse knows the way
To carry the sleigh
Through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river and through the wood,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Over the river and through the wood,
Trot fast, my dapple gray!
Spring over the ground,
Like a hunting hound,
For this is Thanksgiving-Day.

Over the river and through the wood,
And straight through the barnyard gate!
We seem to go
Extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river and through the wood;
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun!
Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Lydia_Maria_ChildLydia Maria Francis Child, born in Medford, Massachusetts (February 11, 1802 – October 20, 1880), was an American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, opponent of American expansionism, Indian rights activist, novelist, and journalist. Here she is reading a book in 1870.

Currier and Ives was a successful American printmaking firm headed by Nathaniel Currier (1813–1888) born in Roxbury, Massachusetts and James Merritt Ives (1824–1895) of New York. Currier & Ives produced at least 7,500 lithographs during its seven decades. Artists created two to three new images every week on lithographic stones. The images were printed in black and white and then colored by hand in assembly-line fashion, with each worker applying one color.  Currier & Ives sold more than a million prints, through peddlers, pushcart vendors and bookstores, through the mail and through an international office in London.

In Amy’s Choice, Amy teaches her friends how to make turkey apples to start off their traditional Thanksgiving celebration. Shown below are a few turkeys the kids in my family made to decorate our Thanksgiving table one year. Any holiday traditions going on in your house?

turkey apples

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” —Cicero

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Picture Book Picks!

Because so many great picture books were released over the past year or so, I feel I have to get in one more book review post. Here’s another sixteen books for your holiday gift giving and reading pleasure, in no particular order:

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year was illustrated by Frann Preston-Gannon, poems were selected by Fiona Waters; published by Nosy Crow. This lavishly illustrated big sturdy book is filled with some of my favorite poems as well as many new ones. It’s fun to look up the birthdays of your family and friends to see what poem has been chosen for their special day. There’s a handy index of poets, titles, and first lines at the back and an attached ribbon bookmark. A coffee-table sized book that’s great for all ages with delightful illustrations of wildlife throughout.

Paul and His Ukulele was written by Rob Broder and illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky; published by Ripple Grove Press. I adore this tender celebration of a life well lived. The beautifully written story follows Paul, a gentle spirit and lover of music, from childhood to adulthood. His relationship with his parents is warm and loving. The watercolor and ink illustrations are gorgeous and worth looking at again and again. Possible spoiler alert: it was fun to see Paul’s future love interest appear early in the coffee shop scene. But what they accomplish together is the best surprise of all!

Potato Pants was written and illustrated by Laurie Keller; published by Henry Holt & Co. The illustrations were created with markers, colored pencils, pen & ink, acrylic paint, potato stamps, collage, and digital drawing. What a refreshing sense of humor Laurie Keller has. It shows on every page, even on the title and copyright pages. In the back matter, we get to meet Tuberto, creator of potato pants and see his “full line of potato fashions for both the active and the couch potato.” Underneath all the laughs is a good reminder that assumptions about others aren’t always accurate.

Too much, not enough! was written and illustrated by Gina Perry; published by Tundra Books. This bright, cheerful book introduces us to Moe and Peanut. When one friend always wants more, taller, bigger, messier, etc. and the other friend always wants less, smaller, softer, tidier, can they ever find a way to get along? A good story of accepting differences. The cute artwork was surprisingly created with Photoshop and the endpapers are fun, too!

A World of Cities was written and illustrated by James Brown; published by Candlewick Studio. This is a beautiful big book, and I’m talking really big as in an 11″ x 15″ format. Seeing all that takes place in the bold, graphic prints, plus the fascinating facts and huge populations of so many different parts of the world made this reader feel an enormous sense of just how huge the world really is. Wonderful for classrooms and armchair travelers of all ages.

Bears Don’t Eat Egg Sandwiches was written by Julie Fulton and illustrated by Rachel Suzanne; published by Maverick Arts Publishing. This fun book is a great choice for story time. The lyrical repetition throughout will have kids squealing in anticipation of the title line, which is the bear’s response each time Jack politely and patiently offers egg sandwiches. The big ol’ gruff bear is certainly hungry, but what DOES he eat? I have to admit I kept worrying about Jack’s safety as the bear received his large eating supplies. The suspense builds throughout, but all turns out well after Jack’s clever solution, followed by a cute punchline. Bright and cheerful illustrations are a great match for this fun story.

Fire Truck Dreams was written by Sharon Chriscoe and illustrated by Dave Mottram; published by Running Press Kids. A fun rhyming story. Beautiful pictures have the appearance of a lot of soft textures on each page. This is such a cute series, Fire Truck Dreams being a follow-up to Race Car Dreams and Bulldozer Dreams.  And the busy little fire engine even stops at a Rescue Readers Library on his way back to the station.

Lost in the Library was written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis; published by Henry Holt & co. The rhyming is spot on and I love the personable lions with their big expressive faces. Beautiful digitally rendered illustrations and endpapers along with an interesting page of back matter containing fascinating facts about the New York Public Library. The muted color palette works perfectly for the luxurious rooms of the NYPL.

The Book Tree was written by Paul Czajak and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh; published by Barefoot Books. A lovely work of art from the embossed title on the cover to the beautiful book-filled endpapers. The mixed media illustrations are stunning and the words are gentle and flowing–all resulting in a comfortable folktale-for-the-ages style. And the message is of course perfect, because really, where would we be without books?

Small was written and illustrated by Gina Perry; published by Little Bee Books. I love how it appears this feisty little character is all on her own on her adventures, but upon closer inspection you will discover her mother and baby sibling are always close by in almost every picture. The illustrations are clean, bright, and imaginative. Very cute story with a BIG message.

Drawn Together was written by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat; published by Disney-Hyperion. This gorgeous book reaches across generations and language barriers to set a young boy and his grandfather on a magnificent adventure that, through their mutual love of drawing, brings them a lasting and close companionship. The amazing artwork was created with markers, oil-based inks, brush pens, watercolors, and colored pens and pencils.

How Rude! was written by Clare Helen Welsh and illustrated by Olivier Tallec; published by Quarto Publishing PLC. This cute story is about Dot and her friend Duck. Duck is being very rude during the nice tea party Dot has kindly spread out for him. The words are filled with humor and the expressive illustrations are adorable. This is a wonderful book that shows why it’s important to be polite and how people feel sad when others are rude to them.

Ten Horse Farm was written and illustrated by Robert Sabuda; published by Candlewick. The paper cutting and folding genius has done it again. Horse lovers in particular will love the detailed pop-up illustrations. Each beautifully constructed horse leaps right off the page. There aren’t many words, mostly just one per page, but it is definitely a treasure for gentle story-times and pop-up book fans of all ages.

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah was written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky; published by Schwartz & Wade. For the many fans of Sydney Taylor’s classic series, this new picture book is a great find. Based on her own childhood, Taylor, in 1951, was the first to write about Jewish children and culture. This new book is aimed at a slightly younger audience and features little Gertie who wants desperately to help prepare for Hanukkah. After being told she is too small, she finally gets to do the biggest job of all. I’ve always enjoyed Zelinsky’s illustrations and the interesting back matter includes his thoughts on technique.

Christmas ABC was written and illustrated by Jannie Ho; published by Nosy Crow. This is a very cute alphabet board book. The alphabet is clearly displayed, one letter per page, in uppercase as well as lowercase on bright checked backgrounds. Simple bold pictures match the one word text throughout. One of my favorites is Qq which stands for ‘quiet’ and shows a little gray mouse tiptoeing along with a special present. Pages are sturdy with rounded corners, perfect for little hands.

Little Christmas Tree was written and illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle; published by Big Picture Press. This is another beautiful board book for a slightly older group–ages 2-5. The lyrical verse tells of a little tree waking up in the forest surrounded by woodland animals. Surprises unfold throughout Christmas day until night and snowflakes fall. This is a lift-the-flap book with at least three tabs blending into the scene on each double page spread. Descriptive words and colors are hidden on the underside of the flaps. Illustrations are filled with sparkles and other details. The lovely rhythm of the poem put me in mind of Emily Dickinson. 


More Roller Boy Launch Events

To round off the Roller Boy book release, there were three signing events back to back. The first was the previously mentioned big launch party, shown here. Plus I belatedly got this picture to add in (not every day you get to see your name in lights! 🙂 ). mateo scarecrow and HPL sign smallerThe following Saturday, I participated in the 4th Annual Children’s Book Festival which was combined with Strawbery Banke’s annual Fall Festival held in historic Portsmouth, NH. I had a great time at this interesting location.Strawbery Banke - smaller lighter

DSC02822 - CopyNext up was at a Barnes & Noble this past weekend:

DSC02829 - Copy - smaller
BN double
BN kid groupTo see more pictures of kids with books, click on the Kids With Books page from my menu. 

I have another event coming up in a few weeks, a four-town school district is hosting authors for a family literacy night. If you ever want to find out what’s going on, just click on my Events page.

If you’d like to add Roller Boy to your Goodreads book lists, here’s the link (and thank you!).

OK, now that Roller Boy is out in the world and doing well, maybe I can get caught up reading other blogs and working on future books. Speaking of books, here are a few quotes for those of you between projects or perhaps thinking of dipping into writing.

“It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the master work. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.” –Paulo Coelho

“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” –Karen Lamb

“My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.”  –Charles Dickens

Roller Boy Book Launch

Thanks to all who were involved, the Roller Boy launch party was a great success! It was so nonstop busy, I never even got a chance to see all that was going on in the rest of the library. But I know there were scavenger hunts, story times, door prizes, and lots of information-sharing during their 130th Anniversary Open House celebration, and apparently close to 300 people were in attendance.
mateo scarecrow and HPL sign smaller
I’m still catching my breath, but here are a bunch of pictures. Most of these shots (I’m sharing them at a low resolution) were taken by Art Norton Photography. Check out Art on Facebook, too. He has some gorgeous scenery and wildlife.

That’s all for now. I may be adding more pictures later, but I wanted to get as many posted as possible so attendees can find themselves. Sorry to those who came during camera breaks. Thanks again, blogworld!

Almost forgot to mention my next two events:

Oct. 6th from 11 to 3 at the Children’s Author Festival in conjunction with Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, NH

Oct. 13th from 12 to 3 at Barnes & Noble in Salem, NH

Hope to see you there!



It’s Roller Boy’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday Roller Boy !

Since I’m working all day today and partying all day tomorrow, there will hardly be time to let you all know what’s been going on. But I’ve got back-to-back plans to celebrate the release of my third middle grade novel: Roller Boy (see last post) and I’m sure I’ll have a lot of pictures to share when the events wrap up in a few weeks.

For now, there’s a couple of online parties going on. 🙂

First, check out an interview with me on the Writers’ Rumpus blog, hosted by Laura Fineberg Cooper. I’m so grateful to be part of this awesome group. Click here for the link.

Next, check out Laurie J. Edwards, author extraordinaire. Her blog is also celebrating Roller Boy’s release! Thanks, Laurie! Click here for the link.

Roller Boy, published by Fitzroy Books, is now available through all venues. But if you can’t find it on the shelf of your local bookstore or library, please ask! They’ll be happy to get it for you.

In my last post, I mentioned how one of our library’s scarecrows would be based on Mateo, the main character of Roller Boy, well here he is relaxing a bit while waiting to get stuffed and strung!roller boy scarecrow

I’ll check in again later, and if I haven’t said it before, I so love keeping up with all of you thanks to amazing internet capabilities. Who knew thirty years ago where we’d be today, chatting with worldwide friends? I’ll be back!

Meanwhile, here’s a shopping link that brings you right to Roller Boy:

independent bookstore logo

As always, thanks for your support and friendship!


Roller Boy Excitement

I’ve been away for a bit, but I’ve certainly been keeping busy during these hot humid days. Seems it’s a summer filled with weddings, showers, concerts and other fun get-togethers. But, aside from these pleasant distractions, there’s only a month or so to go until the release of my new middle grade novel: Roller Boy, published by Fitzroy Books. To kick off the launch, I’ve got three events lined up back to back, all in NH (details below).

I’m having such fun spreading the word and getting everything ready. If you see someone wearing a roller skates necklace around town, it’s probably me. Roller skate novelty items are not easy to find. These little skates were in the bead section (on sale!) at Hobby Lobby. And then to my surprise, my friend Rosemary found a pretty roller skate pin in the thrift shop that resides in the basement of our library.

At the first and main launch party, we’re going to have all sorts of food, fun, prizes, and good times in conjunction with the library’s 130th anniversary as an established public library.  There’ll be a scavenger hunt throughout the building with staff stationed here and there to answer any questions. September is also Library Card Sign-up month, so be sure to stop in at your own local library if you’ve been missing out on all it has to offer.

Upstairs in the meeting room, I’ll have freshly made chocolate lollipops for the first 50 people who stop by my book table. I found a plastic candy mold online and decided to make a small batch ahead to test out the idea. First, I painted in the blue and white chocolate and then I melted Hershey bars for the skate boot. I might mix and match a bit, for example, white or blue skates, we’ll see. Naturally, they’ll be GF since Mateo eats strictly gluten-free.It was fun to come up with a craft, too (below). When I added juice caps to the back as well as to the front of a cardboard skate, I was happy to discover it could now stand up on its own.

I’m especially excited to tell you about the scarecrows. Like several other towns in New England, Hampstead has a town-wide scarecrow exhibition for the month of October. Participation goes to a good cause, so thanks to Marilyn, who came up with this bright idea, we decided to give it a try this year. The library is buying two scarecrows to dress and decorate and, here’s the extra fun part, one of them is going to look like Mateo, the main character in Roller Boy! The scarecrow isn’t assembled yet, but this is how I’m hoping he might look, although I’m sure he’ll be a little slouchier, plus I’m having trouble finding old skates to give up to the weather. There’ll be a contest to name the other scarecrow. Stay tuned for pictures.

Here are the details for my upcoming launch events:

Sept. 29, 2018 Roller Boy Release Party at the Hampstead, NH Public Library in conjunction with their 130th Anniversary Open House celebration. Drop in anytime between 10 and 2.

Oct. 6, 2018 Children’s Author Festival from 11-3 in conjunction with Strawberry Banke’s Fall Fest, a popular annual event in scenic Portsmouth, NH.

Oct. 13, 2018 Barnes & Noble Book Signing from 12-3 in Salem, NH.

When tossing around promotional ideas, I was encouraged (dared!?) to put on a pair of roller skates. Did you know skates are much wobblier nowadays? It couldn’t just be my weak ankles. And the ground is definitely more slippery than when I was a teen. So to be blunt, it was terrifying! At least I lasted for the amount of time it takes to snap a picture, and then survived the ordeal.

If you’re anywhere near NH, stop in and say hello. Maybe you’ll visit your own home libraries, too. Librarians love to hear what patrons want to read, so if you can’t find Roller Boy on the shelf, you could easily put in a request. As always, thanks for reading and have a wonderful rest of the summer!


2018 Picture Books

Below are some new favorite picture books I’ve recently added to our library. These are all 2018 releases and several have it’s-about-time sensitive subjects included, but they are all uplifting and well worth the read. There were a few others I would have liked to include, however not all were checked-in when I read and reviewed, which I suppose is a good thing. Books as special as these tend to fly off the shelf!

Duck Gets a Job written and illustrated by Sonny Ross, published by Templar Books (an imprint of Candlewick Press) First U. S. edition 2018. This wise and thoughtful book about being who you were truly meant to be rather than stressfully following the crowd is long overdue. The pictures are delightful and the message spot on. This might make a nice graduation gift!

Fruit Bowl written and illustrated by Mark Hoffmann, published by Alfred A. Knopf 2018. A fun book about the connections between fruits and vegetables which includes a sympathetic tomato who smartly pleads his case as he tries desperately to get into the fruit bowl. Witty puns throughout!

Perfectly Norman written and illustrated by Tom Percival, published by Bloomsbury Publishing First U. S. edition 2018. Another great message about being brave enough to be yourself no matter how unusual you might feel and in the process you just might find your tribe. I tend to prefer large format books and this is a nice big 10″ x 12″.

Hello Lighthouse written and illustrated by Sophie Blackall, published by Little, Brown and Company (a division of Hachette Book Group) 2018. Simply a gorgeous book. I’ve researched lighthouse history before and this has it all, telling the sweet story of a lighthouse keeper and his family during the time when lighthouses became automated. A beautifully illustrated peek at coastal history with informative back matter on the endpaper.

I Got a Chicken for My Birthday written by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Sarah Horne, published by CarolRhoda Books (division of Lerner Publishing) 2018. Another fun book, very unique with bright colorful illustrations and a surprise ending.

In-Between Things written and illustrated by Priscilla Tey, published by Candlewick Press 2018. This could have been a basic concept book, but the details and surprising examples of what it means to be in-between bring a whole lot more to this clever book. Wonderful mixed media illustrations!

Iver & Ellsworth written by Casey W. Robinson and illustrated by Melissa Larson, published by Ripple Grove Press 2018. The poignant illustrations and gentle words tell a rare rendition of the true meaning of everlasting friendship. A well-done debut book for both author and illustrator!

Julian is a Mermaid written and illustrated by Jessica Love, published by Candlewick Press 2018. A little boy and his grandmother demonstrate a loving story of acceptance in a sometimes cookie-cutter world. With its empowering message, this is an outstanding debut book.

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins, published by Disney Hyperion 2018. You’ll love meeting Penelope, an adorable little T. rex who, on her first day of school, is surprised to discover all her classmates are children. Can she learn to stop eating them?

Whale in a Fishbowl written by Troy Howell and illustrated by Richard Jones, published by Schwartz & Wade 2018. A beautifully poetic book about a captive whale who longs for the ocean. Lovely illustrations which include a nice fold-out page.

Sylvia Rose and the Cherry Tree written by Sandy Shapiro-Hurt and illustrated by Xindi Yan, published by Tilbury House Publishers 2018. A lovely rhyming story filled with deep themes of caring and nature. The soft vibrant illustrations are stunning!

The Other Ducks written by Ellen Yeomans and illustrated by Chris Sheban, published by Roaring Brook Press 2018. A goofy fun story about two easily confused and clueless ducks. The humorous illustrations are watercolor, graphite, and colored pencils.

The Funeral written and illustrated by Matt James, published by Groundwood Books (House of Anansi Press) 2018. This is a light, gentle take on a sad event we all eventually encounter. Despite its underlying gloomy subject, the thoughts and actions of the children are buoyant, believable, and life-affirming.

Mommy’s Khimar written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Ebony Glenn, published by Salaam Reads (Simon & Schuster) 2018. Love and acceptance are the main themes in this very sweet combination of words and pictures. A debut book for both author and illustrator.

Alma and How She Got Her Name written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, published by Candlewick Press 2018. A charming book about a little girl with a very big name who learns about her many namesakes. The graphite and colored-pencil drawings are delightful!

Books of Childhood

When I run out of time, as I often do nowadays, but know I’m long overdue for a post, I think fondly of the books that got my mind and heart into this writing business in the first place. Anybody else remember The Five Little Peppers? Other favorite series from childhood were Donna Parker and The Tuckers. Some of the below books may be repeats from long ago posts, in fact I know they are, but it’s okay with me if it’s okay with you. 🙂
Although the 7-volume Donna Parker series was discontinued in the mid-1970s, it had its share of popularity during the two decades beforehand. Annette, (Funicello), a 5-volume series, was also popular during that time. Both classic mystery series were published by Whitman.

The Tuckers was another favorite series, written by Jo Mendel, and once again, published by Whitman. There must have been a dozen books in this series. For today’s readers, it could possibly be compared to The Penderwicks.

One of my favorite series when I was a young tween was Trixie Belden.

Trixie is the main character in a series of mystery books written between 1948 and 1986. There were 39 volumes and about 16 of them were already available in 1973 (which is when my character, Amy, was reading them). The first six were written by Julie Campbell. After she moved on to other projects, a variety of writers took over the Trixie Belden books under the pseudonym Kathryn Kenny. Over the past ten years, or so, Random House has reissued most of the series. The books star a girl detective and her best friend Honey. Trixie lives on Crabapple Farm and Honey lives next door in the Manor House estate. The girls form a club called the Bob-Whites with other friends and have many exciting adventures.
The Mary Jane series was written by Clara Ingram Judson (1879-1960). My copy was published in 1921 by Grosset & Dunlap in NY. There’s an inscription inside the book which reads: Betty Lou from Ginnie, Eddie, and David—Christmas 1937. Anybody know Betty Lou?

Jack & Jill by Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888)—no copyright (perhaps it’s on the missing dust jacket?)—was published by the now defunct Goldsmith Publishing Company in Chicago.

The Secret Stair by Pemberton Ginther, was published in 1932 by Cupples & Leon Company in NY which was founded in 1902 and then acquired by Platt & Munk in 1956. The author Mary Pemberton Ginther (1869-1959) was also a successful artist. My copy was once owned by someone named Rudie Lindgren. I wonder what became of Rudie…
The three green books were published by The Mershon Company, an active publishing house between 1897 and 1906. These books were all written by Laura Lee Hope, a pseudonym used by at least ten authors who wrote many series for children under the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

The Bobbsey Twins has a 1904 copyright and the following inscription: Miss Beth Austin, Elm Street, Salisbury.

One of my Bunny Brown books was owned by a Dorothy Walmsley, who lived on Fairmont Street in Malden, MA in 1935. Many years later I bought her book for fifty cents.

Below are two inside views of Trending Into Maine by Kenneth Roberts. This book was beautifully illustrated by N. C. Wyeth.
The Story of Snips by Angusine Macgregor is my oldest ‘picture book’, copyright circa 1909. I always felt it had a rather homemade look and was therefore very surprised to discover a different version, once owned by Barbara of March House Books. (Barbara’s on a blogging break, but has a boatload of fascinating posts in her archives.) The below 48 page book is 9 1/2″ wide by 7″ high with 23 full page illustrations. Hard back binding is the publisher’s original illustrated grey paper covered boards with a red cloth spine.
Snips was a very naughty mouse, so his parents packed him off to boarding school. When he did not know his lessons, he was made dunce by the strict schoolmasters. 😦 BUT, to give away the happy ending, he escapes and eventually becomes a model mouse!

And there you have some of my favorite old books, still keeping their place on my shelves after all these years.

For more vintage posts, check these two out by clicking on the pictures:




Write What You Know

Writers are often told to write what we know rather than pretending to be in someone else’s shoes. I’m not sure how I feel about this. For the most part I get what it means, but I also think one can completely immerse themselves into a different lifestyle, time, place, or even person, especially if a lot of research is involved. As for myself, my characters and their situations are completely made-up, but I do tend to add in things that connect to my real life. For example, take my upcoming book, Roller Boy. I was trying to figure out where the whole idea came from, since I don’t have very much in common with Mateo. One small aspect, I realized, was we both enjoy eating Mexican food, and like Mateo, I take it gluten-free. Sorry if you’re reading this before lunch.As for roller-skating, I’m not good at all and I can’t remember the last time I skated, but I did enjoy whirling to the music as a teen and even attempted it again briefly as an adult when my children were involved. Watching them learn to skate well and do tricks was way better than risking my own life. At left, a picture of me, ha in my dreams! And here’s the necklace I’ll be wearing for my book release.As for Call Me Amy, there are several connections, the biggest being location. My grandparents lived on the Maine coast in a fishing village very similar to where Amy lives.Miss Cogshell, a character in Call Me Amy has a big ol’ lilac bush next to her back door and so do I.

Also, in Call Me Amy, Amy watches a seal take off for the ocean. After the book came out, I made sure I witnessed a seal release, too.Miss Cogshell collects miniature animals, which brought back memories of my mother’s own long-ago collection of them (and I think she still has them!).Amy’s Choice, a sequel to Call Me Amy, features a landscape painter and not only have I done some painting, but my great grandmother was a painter, too. Here’s one of her works:There is much talk about a lighthouse in Amy’s Choice, along with a tour to the top. Like Amy, I love lighthouses, too.In Amy’s Choice, Amy helps out in the town library, kind of like me! OK, maybe not this particular library, but isn’t it adorable?I’m sure if I thought about it long enough I could come up with more connections between my life and my characters’ lives, as I’m sure any author could. But, I think, what it comes down to is ‘writing what you know’ means more about the truths and emotions of life. We’ve all experienced loss, love, excitement, disappointment and a host of other emotions. To write about these feelings truthfully, whether your story is about a frog or about a leader of a foreign country is the heart of writing what you know. You don’t have to be a knight to know what it might feel like to wear that suit of armor and face a fire-breathing dragon, even if your only experience is with a scratchy sweater and a campfire.So, if you like animal stories with a coming-of-age character, set in a scenic coastal village, try Call Me Amy. To see that same character go through more adventures, such as climbing to the top of a lighthouse and setting up an exhibit of paintings, while making new friends, follow up with Amy’s Choice. And if you’re ready for a city boy who’s out to make the most of himself while practicing the fun sport of roller-skating, try Roller Boy, too! All are appropriate for ages 9 and up!


Every year, the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators hosts many events including a big annual conference. This spring it was, once again, held in Springfield, Massachusetts.  One of 700 attendees last weekend, I was fortunate to be able to stay overnight in the same hotel where the conference was held. Although I was hardly ever in my room, I did notice there was a lovely view out the window.
The first thing I did after arriving (besides checking in and registering) was to meet up with former Picture Book Boot Camp attendees in the MVP pub. Take note of the man in the far right back corner. I have yet to figure out if he’s merely trying to pay his bill, or if he’s a photo-bomber hoping to get into a picture with Jane Yolen.
After lunch I attended a workshop called Plotting Your Picture Book with Ann Marie Stephens. She gave some great tips, activities, and handouts. Please excuse how badly all my speaker pictures turned out. I have an old-fashioned camera and didn’t want to use the flash.
Patricia MacLachlan was scheduled to be the speaker for Fireside Chat, but unfortunately she was sick and had to cancel. I’ve heard Patricia speak before and she’s wonderful—truly inspiring. So, that was the bad news, but for good news, Jane Yolen stepped in and took over last minute. Her daughter Heidi Stemple, as moderator, asked questions that brought out all kinds of interesting thoughts on writing and creating and not giving up. Below is a blurry picture of them.
Another highlight of Friday night was a First Look Panel featuring agent Linda Camacho, keynote Matt Phelan, author/illustrator Dan Santat, and author Nancy Werlin. John Bell moderated the panel. First pages and illustrations were turned in ahead of time and then, on the spot, the panel gave their thoughts on what worked and what didn’t work in each submission. Again, an extremely lousy picture, but, hey, this time I was sitting in the back and lucky to have remembered to pull out my camera at all.
After that, I mostly hung around the Meet & Greet Portfolio Showcase. So many wonderful displays of talent and fun to run into people I hadn’t seen in years. There was also an open mic event going on, but I never did get there. I did check out the conference bookstore, though, where stacks of many gorgeous titles were available.

Saturday morning dawned bright and early, starting with a continental breakfast. Then we moved on to Welcome and Announcements in the ballroom. Below is a wide picture of committee members and volunteers. They did an amazing job on this conference. What I liked most (aside from the gluten-free chocolate cake for ALL 700) was there was hardly any downtime (unless you chose it), every minute was jam-packed with interesting things to do, see, or learn about. I’ve been to conferences of a different sort where there are huge lulls between events in hopes attendees will take advantage of the many vendors—not my cup of tea. Our keynote speaker that morning was the fabulous Rita Williams-Garcia who shared humorous details of her long ride to success.
During lunch, as well as other times, a giant slide show displayed book covers for attendees with book releases during 2017 and 2018. Here are two views of Roller Boy.
I attended several great workshops on Saturday. By then, I’d given up trying to take pictures. I went to Twisted Plotting with Nancy Werlin, Rigorous Research with Michelle Cusolito and Karen Boss, part of Matt Phelan’s excellent workshop on graphic novels, and an informative Point of View class with Karen Boss.

All the while, there were many other workshops to pick from, as well. Therefore, I’m missing many presenters who I’m sure gave fantastic presentations on topics across the board. If only I could be in more than one place at a time!

Another great keynote speech to wrap up Saturday’s events featured Amy Reed who spoke with warmth and sincerity about her struggles to find her place.
Throughout the conference there were many door prizes raffled off along with award announcements. Unfortunately I was only able to stay at the conference until Saturday evening. I posed for a picture with many of my critique group members (being a last minute idea, we missed a few) and then, home I went, inspired and ready to write.

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