Marcia Strykowski

Roller Boy Cover Reveal

I am so excited to share the cover illustration for my upcoming novel geared toward readers aged 9 to 14. Roller Boy will be released by Fitzroy Books in late September. After working on the inside text for so many months (years!) I have to admit I was nervous about how the cover would turn out. Months ago I’d discussed possible ideas with my publisher—things I liked and things I didn’t like about covers. One idea in particular had caught my fancy, a wraparound city scene. But then I didn’t hear anything more, and didn’t see sketches. What would they come up with for Roller Boy? I wondered.

Covers are so important and there are some that just don’t work, either because they are poorly executed and designed, goofy cartoons aimed at the wrong age group, or the main character looks totally unlike how he is described in the book, or…, well, you get my point, the possible problems are endless. Would this be my new cover?Or how about this one? At least it shows a roller skate…As you can see, there are all sorts of ghastly possibilities when it comes to covers. BUT, I’m happy to say…I LOVE the completed Roller Boy cover!

First, here’s the back cover blurb:

Mateo always assumed he’d make the baseball team with his buddy Jason, but when only Jason makes the team, his mood sinks low. So low, he knows he has to do something about it. But what? What can he be good at?
When Mateo wins free lessons, he discovers he’s pretty good at roller-skating. And it doesn’t hurt that the most beautiful girl he’s ever laid eyes on happens to be Roller City’s star skater. But still, roller-skating? 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.
Other issues stacked against him are the strong reservations of his mother, who feels Mateo should be spending his time studying, not skating, and his inability to eat gluten—no more grabbing a pizza with the guys.
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.

Drumroll please…


Here it is!

And the beautiful full cover spread:
What do you think? I can’t stop looking at it and all I can say is thanks to Fitzroy Books for producing such a gorgeous cover!

The next step in this exciting process will be my publisher sending out Advance Reader’s Copies to various major review sites. Please cross your fingers that they’ll enjoy reading about Mateo and his wild ride on roller skates, and as always, thanks for your interest and support!

Edited to add in a clickable button for anyone who would like to purchase Roller Boy:

Thank you! 🙂

Walking for Writers

We’ve all heard we have to “get into the chair” to accomplish our work. We’ve also all heard we have to “walk 10,000 steps” to stay healthy. ‘They’ say that sitting is the new smoking—yikes. Since there are only so many hours in a day, how can we possibly achieve this on a daily basis?

I’ll be the first to admit there’s no way I can squeeze in 10,000 steps, on vacation, easy, but every day, no way. BUT, I can do less, 7,000 if I push it. And I think getting up out of the chair frequently is just as important. This is not as easy as it sounds. Especially if there’s a deadline looming, whether real or self-imposed. 

I’m finding if I plan on taking a long walk, it looms over me. I’ll tell myself just one more paragraph, just one social media comment. But, if I break it up into several short walks (which in the long run is healthier than all at once anyway), it seems much easier to accomplish. And I often come back with new insight on whatever writing problem I may have been trying to tackle.

Few people know how to take a walk. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence and nothing too much. Ralph Waldo Emerson

If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. Hippocrates

It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. Socrates

We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising. Kenneth Cooper

Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity. John F. Kennedy

Some of us have tried setting a timer to get ourselves writing, maybe we need to do it all day long—thirty minutes in the chair, thirty minutes out, etc.

What do you think? Do you have any tips on getting your work done AND keeping fit at the same time?

American Library Association Awards 2018

Congratulations to all the winners for this year’s ALA awards! There are so many wonderful new books released each year and it’s certainly not easy to stand out in the crowd. Here are a few winners from the children’s books categories who did stand out.

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature: Hello, Universe written by Erin Entrada Kelly, is the 2018 Newbery Medal winner. A funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships. The book is published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children: Wolf in the Snow, illustrated and written by Matthew Cordell is the 2018 Caldecott Medal winner. A heartwarming adventure about helping others. The book was published by Feiwel and Friends, an Imprint of Macmillan.

Coretta Scott King Book Awards recognizing African American authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young adults: Piecing Me Together, written by Renée Watson, is the King Author Award winner. A timely, important, and deeply moving novel. The book is published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books.

Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award to affirm new talent: The Stars Beneath Our Feet, written by David Barclay Moore, is the Steptoe Author Award winner. A debut novel that celebrates community and creativity–soon to be a movie. The book is published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults: We Are Okay, written by Nina LaCour, is the 2018 Printz Award winner. A beautiful story about grief and the power of friendship. The book is published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.

Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience:

Silent Days, Silent Dreams, written and illustrated by Allen Say and published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Inc., wins the award for young children (ages 0 to 8).

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, written by Shari Green and published by Pajama Press Inc., is the winner for middle grades (ages 9-13).

You’re Welcome, Universe, written and illustrated by Whitney Gardner and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC is the winner for teens (ages 14-18).

Each of the above mentioned prestigious prizes has honorable mentions, as well. There were also lifetime achievement awards and other honors announced today. For the complete listing, click here.

Congratulations again to everyone involved in the business of making beautiful books for children.


Hans Christian Andersen’s Paper Art

I’ve been busy writing and editing, hence the gap between posts this month, but I’ve also been thinking about the art of paper-cutting. I’ve always found this craft fun to do and fascinating to see displayed. I went to a wonderful exhibit of paper cutting at the Currier Museum in Manchester, NH, last May. As usual, I’m kicking myself for not taking notes, but I was allowed to take pictures which I hope to share at some point. Since way back around the fourth century in China, people have been cutting paper into patterns. Not only to be useful but for decorations, too. This folk art spread through the trade routes of the Middle East and eventually trickled into Europe. By the seventeenth century, paper cutters in Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Holland were developing individual cutting styles depending on their region. All this leads us to the extremely talented Hans Christian Andersen (1805 – 1875). Although better known for screen and stage adaptations of The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, The Emperor’s New Clothes, The Princess and the Pea, The Ugly Duckling, and many other beloved stories, the Danish storyteller’s paper cutting abilities were just as imaginative and clever as his wonderful fairy tales. About 1,000 of these beautifully detailed illustrations still exist in museums around the world.

Hans carried a huge pair of long heavy scissors with him everywhere he went. Often a crowd would gather and he would snip whole whimsical scenes while reciting his tales to attentive audiences. At the end of the story he’d carefully unfold his intricate work for all to see.I’ve done a lot of paper cutting with very tiny pointy scissors and I can’t imagine accomplishing anything as detailed and brilliant as the above full fairy tale from circa 1864.

The below painting is by Karl Hartmann (1818-1857).One of many sculptures of HCA, this one in New York City. Do you have a favorite Hans Christian Andersen story?

Five Favorite Children’s Books

I’ve been tagged to nominate my top five children’s books. Thank you, Jennie!

1. Thank whoever’s nominated you and share their blog link.
2. Let us know your top five children’s books.
3. Nominate 5 people to do the same.
4. Let your nominees know you nominated them.

It’s near impossible to choose only five, so I’ll purposely limit myself by skipping all the brilliant middle grade and YA books, as well as all the newest picture books. Instead I’ll choose from the same picture books I most likely have mentioned before—the first ones that made me pause and say, WOW, imagine being able to create such wonder.

Here they are, a few of my favorite children’s picture books:

Who could not love Miss Rumphius with her beautiful intentions and her cozy home by the sea?
Farmer Palmer’s Wagon Ride is tremendously funny and clever with brilliant word choices!
I haven’t read Oma and Bobo in way too long but I’ll always remember the characters and emotions of this sweet story.
Frances is such a wise little character and she’s adorable to boot.
Library Lion–a
perfect union of author and illustrator resulting in an array of emotions and rich character development.

Interesting to note, all of the above are way over the word count for today’s requirements. 🙂

My nominees to post their own list of favorite children’s books (if they choose to do so!):

Rhonda at The Thankful Heart
Barbara at Book Club Mom
Cindy at
Lynn at Whimsical Words
Diana at Myths of the Mirror

Please be sure to visit my nominator Jennie at her wonderful blog:

Vintage Christmas

I wasn’t sure if I had time to sneak in one last post for 2017, but then while going through old pictures I decided why not just toss on a few. A nice excuse to again wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Hope those who celebrated Hanukkah this past week had a wonderful time, as well. This first picture inspired the title of the post and shows my sister and I on Christmas morning many years ago. I’m on the left with my brand new top.And here we are with Mom watching our grandparents take a turn on the saucer. We’re in Maine with their wonderful woodshed in the background–one of my favorite hangouts. I’ve just remembered one of these pictures ran before in my post about the woodshed from a few years ago. Here’s the link.
Next up a couple of long ago pictures of my children waiting for Christmas day.
And just to make sure my usual bookish theme gets into the post, here is a picture-book-covered wreath my library coworkers and I made for a charity drive.I’ve been checking out my friend Barbara’s blog where she’s posting all about advent calendars and other Christmasy things.  Inspired, I dug out my own calendar. Everything is cut out and the bottom extends forward for a 3-dimensional look. It’s hard to see how deep it is, but it’s about 5″. When you pull the tab, the characters move from one position to another. Can you find the four differences between these two pictures?Above a side view and below a close-up of some open windows:It’s a Scandinavian Advent calendar. My parents and sister go to a fair each year (I’ve been a couple of times, too) where these sort of goodies are sold.As Porky Pig used to say, “That’s all folks!”

It’s Snowing Snowmen!

I love how WordPress makes it snow on my blog each year for the month of December. Noticing this, I decided to whip up a post regarding snowmen (although, as always, this could lead me in all sorts of directions). There’s something about the round jolliness of snowmen that brings a smile to even the grumpiest scrooge.

Can’t miss a chance to put picture books in my post. 🙂 Here are some favorites featuring snowmen.I haven’t built a real snowman in many years, probably not since I helped make this silly snow bunny with my children.Here are some easy-to-make pins from my felt craft phase. You just cut out two shapes twice, white for the front and back of the snowman and another color for his/her hat, add embroidery details, stuff with a little bit of cotton batting and stitch them up.Another kind of snowman I’ve made quite often is pretty tasty and often gets requested for the annual cookie swap. Use your favorite cake mix and frosting for fast results.I added instructions for this cake to my Recipes & Crafts page. Here’s a copy:Speaking of the annual cookie swap, this event with my childhood friends has been going on for thirty years. There are seven of us and we take turns hosting each year. Last year one of my friends used this fun layout for her place settings.We draw names for presents and each of us makes seven dozen cookies to share. A potluck feast happens, as well. I’m hoping if I make the following collage of group photos very tiny, I won’t get in trouble with any of my camera-shy friends. It seems like hardly any time has gone by since we started doing this, but you might be able to pick out the oldest gatherings by some of our big hairdos. I had a feeling I’d be adding more to this post. After reading some of your wonderful comments, I remembered this little snowman—he’s a mug with a book on his head!
How about you? Do you have a snowman collection or maybe a favorite snowman memory?

More 2017 Picture Books!

It’s that time again and I’m happy to share another baker’s dozen of 2017 picture books. These are all recent releases from a wide variety of publishing houses. My brief first impressions are jotted down beside each cover, but I’m sure you’ll agree these thirteen books are all worth a look. Here they are in alphabetical order.

The Antlered Ship was written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan; published by Beach Lane Books. How can you miss with a philosophical fox named Marco who is in search of answers to life’s big questions? No one else seems to share his intellectual inquisitiveness, but in the end he finds what he needs most, friendship. The Fan brothers’ dreamy illustrations are exquisitely detailed with a mix of pen and pencil and then colored digitally. You’ll definitely want to be onboard for this ship’s voyage!

Arturo and the Bienvenido Feast was written by Anne Broyles and illustrated by K. E. Lewis; published by Pelican Press. This is a lovely follow up to the first award-winning Arturo book. The complete story is told in English as well as in Spanish. I love Arturo’s determination and resourcefulness in creating a surprise for his family. His wonderful connection with his grandmother is believable and enviable. Bright cheerful illustrations bring warmth and charm to the well-written text. Illustrated recipes and glossary are a bonus!
Dogosaurus Rex was written by Anna Staniszewski and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; published by Henry Holt & Co. At first glance this seemed like a long overdue mashup of two popular books from days gone by: Danny and the Dinosaur and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Nevertheless, this fresh take is well written with wonderful illustrations and makes a humorous read aloud. Sure to be a favorite with dinosaur fans!

Grandmother Thorn was written by Katey Howes and illustrated by Rebecca Hahn; published by Ripple Grove Press. This folktale style story is a great reminder of how unexpected beauty can sometimes rise out of a controlled situation when you let down your guard. The stunning pictures were painted, sewn, and crafted by hand with wonderful details. The main character meticulously tends her property until she finally meets her match in her battle with a stubborn root. The pages of this gorgeous book are worth studying again and again.

I Have a Balloon was written by newcomer Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Scott Magoon; published by Paula Wiseman Books. The humorous back and forth dialogue between Owl and Monkey is reminiscent of Willems’ popular Elephant & Piggy books. I got a kick out of the inside flap which says Spoiler Alert: This is NOT a book about sharing. The expressive digitally rendered illustrations are adorable and the surprise ending to this tightly paced book of few words is surely worth a look!

The Mermaid was written and illustrated by Jan Brett; published by G. P. Putnam. This fun twist on Goldilocks and the Three bears (except this time around, a mermaid and three octopuses) will be very popular with fans of this talented author/illustrator. As always, Brett’s decorative storytelling fills up the borders of each page adding more layers to the tale. Long before I had any of my own work published I used to exchange letters with Jan (regarding her work, as did many others) and I’ll never forget her generous nature in personalizing her responses. It’s always a treat to see a new book of hers released. Paintings are done in watercolor and gouache with airbrushed backgrounds.

Not Friends is written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender; published by Pajama Press. This latest Bender book is a wonderful addition to her previous work. The delightful illustrations were created with acrylic paint on texturized illustration board and add a lot of visual pizzazz to the short text. Because of the inclusion of many funny words and situations, this is a perfect read aloud book for library story times. Check it out!

The Old Mainer and the Sea was written by Jean M. Flahive and illustrated by Mari Dieumegard; published by Islandport Press. I love this gentle tale of persistence, routine, and an unexpected exchange of gifts of kindness. Set in the late 1800s, this story honors all the fishermen who brave the deep dark sea to earn their livings. Dieumegard uses a combination of acrylic and oil pastels to create her paintings which are awash with vibrant swirling colors.

Pup and Bear was written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Naoko Stoop; published by Schwartz & Wade. Both this book and Winter Dance (reviewed below) have a similar earthy quality about their pages. Pup and Bear is a lovely story about a polar bear who takes care of an abandoned wolf pup who later pays this kindness forward. Great message of accepting those unlike yourself. Stoop’s illustrations are rendered in acrylic paint, ink, pencils, and pastels on plywood, and then digitally finished.

Red & Lulu was written and illustrated by Matt Tavares; published by Candlewick. This is a heartwarming story about a pair of cardinals who get separated when their home—a giant Norway spruce—is taken down for a special purpose. Red searches high and low for Lulu who was inside the tree’s branches at the time it was taken away by truck. Fans of New York and Christmas will especially enjoy the details of this tale. The beautiful paintings were created using watercolor and gouache.

Shelter was written by Celine Claire and illustrated by Qin Leng; published by Kids Can Press. It’s a wonderful thing to see so many new books for children that cater to the theme of generosity and kindness. Like several others on this list, this poignant story takes place in the animal world and shows how reaching out to welcome newcomers in their time of need may not only save their lives, but yours, as well. The beautiful soft artwork is rendered in pen and ink and watercolor.

Winter Dance was written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Richard Jones; published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. With a single snowflake, a fine red fox realizes winter is coming and wonders what he should do. His forest friends all tell him what they will be doing but nothing seems right for the fox until a special someone reminds him of his role. The lyrical text is accompanied by absolutely gorgeous paintings.

You Know What was written by Carol Gordon Ekster and illustrated by Nynke Mare Talsma; published by Clavis. This colorful book about a curious little boy makes a fun bedtime story. Like many children, Oliver has a lot of interesting questions, especially when asking those questions delays bedtime. His sleepy mother does her best to keep up the conversation and is rewarded by his last words. Children will enjoy finding the comical bunny in each double spread of this sweet story.So there you have it. As always, I’m sure I missed many well deserving new titles, but there’s only so much space and time. Because I’m a stickler for details, I was a little disappointed to notice a blatant typo in three different books—one a scrambled word, one a repeated word, and one with a word missing. There are only so many words in these new mostly shorter-styled picture books. Is it really that difficult a task to quickly proofread before printing?

To those who live on this side of the pond, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And to the rest of you who pop in from various faraway locations, I wish you the best of the season, as well. Thanks for reading!

John James Audubon

John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 — Jan. 27, 1851) became interested in drawing birds and nature during his childhood in France. When he was 18, he moved to America where he began an in-depth study of North American birds. By the time he was 41 years old, his portfolio had become quite impressive. Audubon set sail for Europe in hopes of finding a publisher.

The American Woodsman, shown above in this famous 1826 painting, found success quickly in Edinburgh and then in London (especially after the king himself subscribed to his forthcoming books). And so, The Birds of America was published between 1827 and 1838. The four volume set included 435 hand-colored plates.
Audubon later settled in New York City and completed smaller editions of his Birds of America (7 volumes–1840-1844) and also Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (3 volumes–1846-1853). Many years ago, my library inherited a set of these original volumes and you can imagine the excitement when we recently unveiled them for people to come and see them up close. And yes, touch them, too! Apparently, white gloves have been discovered to lead to more harm than good when handling antique materials.We also brought in a speaker from the local Audubon Society. A longtime fan and researcher of John James, she gave an interesting talk about his life and work.Even today, years later, his skill in illustrating realistic-looking wildlife in its natural habitat is still highly regarded. For more posts about famous artists and authors of long ago, please click on the Author & Artist Spotlights menu tab.

One Lovely Blog Award

Many thanks to Dtills fromInvisible-No-More” for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. Be sure to take a trip over to her place for gorgeous pictures, food, and inspiration.

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Each nominee must thank the person who nominated them and link their blog in their post.
2. They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image.
3. Must add 7 facts about themselves.
4. Nominate 15 people to do the award

I was really stumped to come up with 7 things about myself (part of my excuse for the delay in posting) so I decided to turn it into a list of my favorite things. Here we go.

My favorite weather is 73 degrees, blue skies, not too breezy, with plenty of puffy white clouds.When I think of favorite foods, apple pie à la mode quickly pops into mind even though I haven’t had a slice in quite some time. I usually eat pretty healthy, but today it seems I’m thinking about junk food. Some of my favorites:A few of my favorite recording artists from the old days are Van, Willie, Norah, and Neil. I enjoy all kinds of music from classical to contemporary.Since I’m looking back a few years, here are a few of my favorite classic novels: My favorite jobs, past and present, include working at a public library, a long ago job in publishing as a textbook art editor, and writing and illustrating stories for children. You’ll find a slaphappy librarian on the job, at right.

Thinking of my favorite animals usually brings to mind the same ones that sneak into my writing—marine animals—harbor seals, puffins, orcas, and then a moose or two thrown in for good measure.

I’ve saved the best for last. The most important aspects of my life always come down to family and friends.

And now for my nominees! I’ve seen the rules stated two different ways, sometimes nominating 10 people and sometimes 15, so I’m going with ten. There are so many wonderful blogs out there, but it’s not easy coming up with names I haven’t already nominated in the past, therefore some of these are rather new, to me.

As always, there is absolutely no pressure to play along, completely optional, just wanted to give a shoutout to your lovely blogs!

A Voice From Iran
Tea is a Wish Your Heart Makes
Little Lilly Meets the World
Annika Perry
The Dire-Diarist
In Diane’s Kitchen
Watching the Daisies
Agatha Rodi
The Orangutan Librarian


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