Vampirina At the Beach and a Giveaway!

vampirinaatthebeach

by Anne Marie Pace and LeUyen Pham (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)

One of the best parts of making books is meeting other book makers. And since I’m lucky to know these two, I was extra excited when the folks at Disney reached out about celebrating this book. It’s brand-new-just-released one week ago on April 4th, 2017. Happy Birthday to you, Vampirina!

The books in this series are fun and funny and sweet and empowering. Because of that, they are never on my library’s shelves. They are total hits.

Here’s your chance to win this super prize pack so you can meet Vampiric Ballerina for yourself! That’s all three books starring this dancer plus some gear for a day at the beach. Storytime on a beach blanket? Perfect.

MeetVampirinaPrizePack-B

To win, comment on this post by Thursday, April 13th, at 11:59 pm PST.

You can also follow Disney-Hyperion for all the fun on Twitter and Instagram, using the hashtag #VampirinaBallerina.

Good luck!

ch1

Open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney-Hyperion.

Sunday Morning

IMG_6136

by Judith Viorst and Hilary Knight (originally published in 1968; Atheneum, 1992)

Okay. Do you know this one? It had escaped me for far too long until a recent trip to Books of Wonder. I’ll never look at 9:45 on a clock again.

I’ve been asking a lot of authors and illustrators recently about their story heroes, whether they are fictional or creative inspirations. If I were to ask myself that same question, Judith Viorst would top the list.  Here’s why.

(And after a little more research on Hilary Knight, I’d consider him a hero as well. Do I still want to be making books for kids at the age of 90. Yes.)

IMG_6135

I am a fan of picture books in first person, because if you have ever spoken with a kid, you know that they are natural storytellers. And on top of that, they speak with an urgency and expertise that is unique to them.

Grownups don’t do that. Grownups wouldn’t think of a story starting with something as un-interesting as a knock to their routine.

Kids do. Judith Viorst captures that.

The parents in this book directed these boys to not come out of their room until 9:45. Presumably, they’ve been out on the town which is why they were late in the first place. Sound familiar to grownup-you? But what about kid-you?

IMG_6133 IMG_6134

There is a lot to do. The text throughout this passage of time is one-hundred-percent-perfect.

IMG_6131

I love how these comic-style panels add to the passing of time, to the excruciating tasks that have to be done as the big brother. And Hilary Knight’s silhouettes, save for that striking blue and two expressive pairs of eyes, allow any of us to picture ourselves in the middle of this slapstick and simple sequence.

IMG_6127

This entire page.

IMG_6129

This pillow sentence is one of my favorites, and I love the cutaway of Mom upstairs, wondering about the time and the morning and the cat and the boys. It’s both everyday and tense, all at once.

That’s what I love in a picture book, a sort of heightened normalcy. A storytelling immediacy that is also timeless. And pictures that welcome you right into the book.

I love Sunday mornings at 9:45.

ch1

A Book Launch!

Carter A Rambler Steals Home Event 1

(Photo by my friend Michelle Sterling, the brains behind the #littlelitbookseries. You can find her here and here.)

My debut middle grade novel has been in the world and on shelves for a couple of weeks, and it has been such a special time. There was a reading and a kid-party and shiny gold pens and baseball cookies and Cracker Jacks and cool Insta-shots with baseball gloves.

20170304_155722 Littlebug copy Kgray autograph cart bookmarks

I even made the front page of the paper!

February Gazette

But most importantly, there was this.

littlebug2 copy

And this.

Omlor

Aren’t I lucky?

For more information about the book and links to order it, click here.

And Richmond-area-folk! I’ll be at bbgb on April 1st. Not a joke! Mark your calendars for 4pm. More info ASAP.

Screen Shot 2017-03-12 at 5.54.34 PM

ch1

 

Egg + The Happy Egg

Egg+TheHappyEgg

Last weekend I made my first ever stop at Books of Wonder in New York. And what I said on my Instagram Stories that day is still true: that place is my dream house. Have you been?

Here are a couple of the books I walked out with, unintentionally yet perfectly themed. Both celebrate the magic and surprise of something so fragile and small and not-yet-flying. Both are brilliant for the preschool set and the grownups who remember.

Both are absolutely perfect.

IMG_5627 IMG_5628 IMG_5629 IMG_5631 IMG_5632 IMG_5620

Is there anyone better than Ruth Krauss? If so, maybe it’s Kevin Henkes.

IMG_5633 IMG_5634 IMG_5635 IMG_5636 IMG_5637 A lovely pair.

ch1

PS: My book-egg is about to hatch! If you are local to LA, please join me for a launch party at Once Upon a Time. I would love to see you!

RamblerLaunch_OUAT_Insta

A Rambler Steals Home

rambler_cover

(available February 28 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers)

Three weeks from today, this book for middle graders (and the rest of us!) will be out in the world!

Have you heard? Here’s what you can find inside:

Garland, Derby, and Triple Clark spend each season traveling highways and byways in their Rambler—until summer, when small-town Ridge Creek, Virginia, calls them back. There they settle in, selling burgers and fries out of Garland’s Grill after each game the Rockskippers play in their battered minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer traditions bring her closer than she’s ever been to a real home that isn’t on wheels, but this time, her return to Ridge Creek reveals unwelcome news. Now the person Derby loves most in town needs her help—and yet finding a way to do so may uncover deeply held stories and secrets.

A big shout out to Brandon Dorman, the cover illustrator. I love this image so much. You’ll see this scene for the first time in the text on page It’s kind of a thing.

And here’s a bit of what you’ll find in the Acknowledgements of my book, a few sentences that celebrates this story’s beginning:

The first thing that showed up in my  heart was Garland’s Grill. It didn’t budge for a while, thanks to some busted wheels. But then there were some sparkling Christmas lights. There was a stadium, a turtle, and a Rambler. And then there was a girl.

That’s how stories start, from watching a bunch of small things. This bunch of small things became a story about the triumph of community and teamwork and finding families that look a little different than you’d imagined.

If you love books and parties and cookies shaped like baseballs, won’t you join me?

RamblerLaunch_OUAT_Insta

If you can’t make that party, but would like a personalized and/or signed copy, head here for all the details. Preorder links for other outlets are all here.

I’ll also be in Richmond, VA on April 1st at bbgb. Details to come.

Thanks for helping me celebrate this book! I’m looking forward to seeing it find its readers.

ch1

The Unexpected Love Story Of Alfred Fiddleduckling + An Interview with Timothy Basil Ering

TULSOAF

by Timothy Basil Ering (Candlewick, 2017)

One of my all time favorite picture books is The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone, which I wrote about here. That’s Timothy’s! I’m so excited to have him here today and to give you a peek of his latest book, a total delight, The Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling.

Check out this synopsis and see what I mean.

Captain Alfred is sailing home with new ducks for his farm when his little boat is caught in an unexpected and mighty storm. Everything aboard the ship is flung to the far reaches of the sea, including the very special and beautiful duck egg he had nestled safely inside his fiddle case. But perhaps all is not lost: the little duckling stumbles out of his shell and discovers Captain Alfred’s fiddle, floating not too far away in the waves. And when the duckling embraces the instrument with all his heart, what happens next is pure magic. Through an enchanting read-aloud text and beautiful artwork, award-winning author-illustrator Timothy Basil Ering shares a thrilling and fantastical story of a farmer, a gentle old lady, a dancing dog, and one brave, tiny duckling that will warm the heart.

Welcome, Timothy!

How did you get into picture books?

The foundation to my career as an illustrator was The Art Center in Pasadena CA. I don’t know where I’d be without that amazing training from a melting pot of truly amazing teachers. One of the biggest starts for me just before I graduated was when I caught word that an art director was visiting Pasadena for a day to look at student portfolios. Making that appointment to show my portfolio, which was a soup of all kinds of stuff, was one of those “OMG, I’m so glad I did this!” moments.

The art director, Lynette Rushchak, showed particular interest in the textures I was creating, and in my figure and anatomy drawings. She told me that she was looking for an illustrator that could create aged, distressed, anatomical figure drawings that were reminiscent of old DaVinci drawings. When my eyes lit up with curiosity, she asked me if I’d be interested to illustrate an exciting manuscript she had that was written by author, Roscoe Cooper. Of coarse I was thrilled about the opportunity and was all in! That project was The Diary Of Victor Frankenstein. After lots and lots of drawing, DKink, NY published the book and it was released in 1997. It was the 1st book I illustrated. The project was fantastic fun!

Trying to manipulate paper to give the appearance that the paper was hundreds of years old was part of the project that I really enjoyed, and creating pen and ink, and charcoal drawings of strange experiments and macabre anatomical illustrations was a blast. What’s more is that I illustrated that book on a small 30-foot boat! I had at that time also made a commitment to a 5-month sailing voyage alone with my father on that boat from Florida to Guatemala and back. It was an adventure that I will never forget! Creating art for that book hooked me deep with interest to illustrate more books!

And more books came.

After illustrating 3 more books by different authors, including a children’s pop-up picture book, I became more and more excited, interested, anxious, and determined to see if I could write and illustrate my own book. After hours, days, weeks, and months of writing and re-writing and scribbling and sketching and re-drawing, I was ready to show the work and I pulled off what seemed to be the impossible- getting in the door of a publisher to have a meeting to show the work and my ideas! It was a meeting with editor and publisher Karen Lotz in NY that launched the beginning of a dream. It was a meeting that I thank my lucky stars for every day! With Karen Lotz and Candlewick Press, my 1st book, that I both wrote and illustrated, was published in 2003, and this was the beginning of my ongoing, magical, and SO appreciated adventure in making books with Candlewick Press!

9780763664329 (1) 9780763664329 (2)

Where did Alfred Fiddleduckling’s story come from?

I had bits and pieces of dead end ideas for a story that I was trying to write around two characters I had imagined. The two characters had great potential that I did not want to give up on. One character was a duck named Alfred that played the fiddle. The other was a duck dog that did not like duck hunting but loved to dance, and in particular, he loved to dance to the fiddle! So, whenever I imagined my two characters interacting out in a marsh somewhere, it made me laugh, but the story just wasn’t going anywhere.

Whenever I hit a wall over and over again when I’m writing or art making, the way I clear my mind from frustration is to go fishing. Lots of ideas come to me when I’m out on the water fishing. So one day, during a “getting nowhere writing day,” I grabbed my fishing rod and hit the beach. I waded across the shallow flats through the water until I was about a ¼ mile off shore standing in waist deep water casting and thinking and relaxing and doing what I love to do when unexpectedly a huge thick white fog bank rolled in off the ocean right to me. I was locked in fog. I love the ocean, and extreme weather, so watching this fog was awesome but more so it got me thinking about a new element in my story! Fog! I had been lost and struggling in my story, and oddly enough, as I stood offshore, in waist deep water, in the fog, things became super clear to me! The fog made me think of mariners from long ago getting lost at sea in the fog, and it made me think of widows. Wow! 3 new ideas! The fog, a sea captain, and the sea captain’s wife were new ideas that immediately began to thread themselves into my dead end ideas and I knew just what to do with Alfred and the dog!

Normally I stay in the water until I catch fish but that day was a day I couldn’t get to my sketchbook fast enough! I jogged through the water, across the beach, up through the woods to my truck and sat in it dripping wet, writing so fast it looked like chicken scratch!

Can you tell us about your process?

I like to experiment with lots of different art making mediums. Which mediums I choose to use depends on the project. For The Unexpected Love Story Of Alfred Fiddleduckling, I used acrylic paint, charcoal, and pen and ink on paper for the interior art. I used acrylic paint on wood and canvas for the book cover. For most of the illustrations I worked on 19” X 24” paper. I created charcoal drawings first, and then painted on top of the drawings. However, some of the illustrations were started with paint first, then drawing over paint, then paint again.

Whatever mediums I use for my art, there will be several layers applied and mixed before I finish a piece. I like to start an image by loosely rubbing, scribbling, smearing, or washing the medium all over the surface that I’m drawing or painting on. I’d say I use my hands to move the mediums around as much as I use brushes, especially when using charcoal. I use charcoal pencils, and graphite pencils but I also love to grind pigment from the pencils or sticks onto the surface I’m working on so that I can rub the pigment, or smear it, and make shapes and forms and marks with my hands.

I’m definitely very inspired by the way children apply art-making mediums. At the beginning of a drawing or painting, I like to move the mediums around quickly to increase the potential for mistakes that can lead to unique things that happen to shapes and forms and colors. I’m always keenly watching for interesting visual things to happen and when they do, I stop to look and react to their beautiful possibilities. To me, mistakes show positive possibilities that I might not have imagined were there when I started. There’s a lot of trial and error, lots of mistakes, and different reactions to my mistakes. If something doesn’t work visually, it’s fun to deconstruct it by erasing or painting over it, and then to reconstruct it again with different color, or value, or size, or whatever it takes so that it does visually work. I also like to glue more paper, or canvas, or wood if needed to make room for more imagery rather than to start over again on a new surface. Sometimes I cut pieces of art from a piece to move it somewhere else in the piece or collage onto a completely different piece.

Below is an example of starting with a charcoal drawing. The paint was applied over the drawing.

1

Below is the beginning of the application of paint over a charcoal drawing.

2

Below is an example of starting with a loose painting.

3

The two drawings below of the gentle lady wearing a gray wool coat are examples of developing a charcoal drawing over a wash of paint, and they show how much my drawings change while I’m developing them.

4 5

Below you can see how much my scribbled drawing of Alfred shrunk in size before I started painting him.

6

The next two drawings below are examples of experiments with paint, ideas, textures, and composition during my process of figuring out these illustrations.

7 8

Believe it or not, the image below of this beautiful glob is actually my kneaded erasure that I pinched into a quick reference sculpture of Alfred Fiddleduckling playing his fiddle. I used it to help myself envision and draw the following illustration of Alfred playing his fiddle.

10

I used pen and ink to create the title text.

12

Who are some of your story heroes?

When I was in high school, I had a hard time finding books that captured my interest quick enough to keep me pouring through the pages until I read White Fang by Jack London. I love the outdoors, nature, wild animals, and adventure, so I really enjoyed that story, so much so that when I finished that book I remember wanting to see what else Jack London wrote. It was easy to find Call Of The Wild and I loved that story too. Again I searched for another story to read by Jack London and chose Sea Wolf and loved that one too! So, one of my story writing heroes is Jack London.

Another story writing hero of mine is Irving Stone. It only took one book of his to make him a hero of mine. It’s a big book entitled The Agony And The Ecstasy. What kept me into every page was Irving Stone’s wonderful descriptions of the life and times of my favorite artist, Michael Angelo. It was awesome! And Kate DiCamillo is not only a story writing hero of mine, but she also created a story book hero of mine- Despereaux.*

9780763625290

*Which Timothy illustrated! What a pair.

What’s your favorite piece of art in your house?

A single-haired paint brush painting of an owl by an artist from India who paints masterfully with a tiny, tiny, tiny one haired brush!

What’s next for you?

I am working hard on my next children’s picture book, but its waaaaaayy too early to say anything about it except that I’m struggling with fighting the good fight and I think I need to go fishing!


 

Thanks, Timothy! I can’t wait to see how that next fishing trip turns out.

ch1

THE UNEXPECTED LOVE STORY OF ALFRED FIDDLEDUCKLING. Copyright © 2017 by Timothy Basil Ering. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

The Green Umbrella

thegreenumbrella

by Jackie Azúa Kramer and Maral Sassouni (NorthSouth, 2016)

Here’s a gorgeous book that’s got it all. Beautiful language, lovely pictures, and a story that is rich in both originality and familiarity. It’s out early next month, and I’m so excited to bring you this sneak peek today.

spread1 spread2

An umbrella. An ordinary thing. But this particular umbrella has been around the block and had many adventures with other animals. It is, then, something that belongs to everyone. An ordinary thing with an extraordinary job.

1town6-close-rain

Here’s a note from illustrator Maral Sassouni about her process for this book:

My work is mixed media, a hybrid of traditional and digital methods. Specifically, the images are a mélange of cut paper collage and painting, with oil paint, acrylics, and inks. The characters are generally created separately, like little paper puppets, which I then glue to the painted setting, along with any foreground elements. I use Photoshop (when necessary) to digitally assemble hand-made collage elements and occasionally add some sparkle and glow where needed.


 

Sparkle and glow! Isn’t it lovely?  1mice-cover3-h700 1sq-mouse3-hand-r-skb 1sq-elephant3-treetop 1sq-cat10-palette9-tilt-v2 1hedgi5-hand-vgd 1hedgeboat3-BEST-c

ch1

Big thanks to NorthSouth and Maral Sassouni for the images in this post.

Writing!

img_5020-copy

by Murray McCain & John Alcorn (Ammo Books, reissued 2015; originally published 1964)

Take a look at this quirky book on writing I snagged recently. I love it for its oddball pictures and typography as much as for its spot-on quips on writing and how to do it. A craft book? A picture book? A coffee-table-slash-gift-book? Yeah. All of it.

img_5029-copy img_5028-copy img_5027-copy img_5026-copy img_5025-copy img_5024-copy img_5023-copy img_5022-copy img_5021-copy

ch1

Radiant Child

rc2

by Javaka Steptoe (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016)

Let’s start 2017 with one of the most exquisite books of 2016. If you don’t know it yet, I’d bet a Picasso that three Mondays from now you’ll be hearing more about it. Truly one for the year and one for our time.

Just look.

4-5-somewhere-in-brooklyn

This is what a great book looks like when a spectacular artist creates art in honor of a spectacular artist. Javaka Steptoe writes about his process at the beginning of the book–that much like Basquiat, he used parts of New York City itself. Steptoe scavenged for discarded wood from Brooklyn to Greenwich Village to the Lower East Side. Basquiat’s art isn’t reproduced in this book about him, but the spirit of his work is alive in these found planks and paintings.

Notice too, how the wood on each page fits not-so-neatly together. It’s whole, but broken. Cuts and ridges and physical places for more art to live. Again, much like Basquiat.

12-13-from-her-he-learns-that-art 18-19-as-time-goes-by

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in 1960 to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother. At home, they spoke three languages–four, if you include the language of art itself. Basquiat’s mother encouraged him to make and create and visit museums. She drew with him. She taught him how to see. She helped him heal.

This relationship is at the heart of the book, and is one that young readers can imagine of their own. Basquiat’s life was complicated and messy and deeply tragic. His mother was mentally ill. And yet, the book shines a light on Basquiat’s raw talent, his brilliant mind, and his loving relationship with his dear mother.

24-25-a-teenage-now

When you consider that art and story became this creator’s voice, a clear thread of hope arises out of both the book and Basquiat’s life. We see it. We hear it. We are inspired to make and fight and do the same.

32-33-a-grown-man-now

This is the final spread in the book, and despite an exhilarating crowd of faces eager for Basquiat’s work, the text says this, “. . . above all the critics, fans, and artists he admires, the place of honor is his mother’s, a queen on a throne.” We see them there in the background, under his signature crown, and we also see them on the right, the final image in our story. A famous artist, looking toward his mother for approval. She showed him it was possible.

See how a word is occasionally visualized differently on the page? The last four instances of this design choice make a lovely little poem that succinctly reflects the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

BEAUTIFUL

MAGICAL

RADIANT, WILD, A GENIUS CHILD

HE IS NOW A FAMOUS ARTIST!

For more on Jean-Michel Basquiat, check out this film and a companion NPR piece with its director, a friend of Basquiat’s. And for more on Javaka Steptoe and his book, do give this episode of The Yarn a listen.

Update: here’s a video chat between Little, Brown and Javaka Steptoe. Wonderful stuff.

ch1

Thanks to Little, Brown for the images in this post.  

2017 Middle Grade Debuts

swankymiddlegrade_janfebmarch_forweb_v02

Look at all of those beautiful books! Each of these book covers has a lovely author (sometimes two!) behind it, and I am so lucky to be debuting a book with this bunch. If you just can’t wait to spend some holiday money, a preorder of one or all of these is a wonderful idea. Treat your shelf!

You can find us chatting books at both of these hashtags on Twitter: #mgdebuts + #2017mgdebuts. Come join us!

Want to download a flier for yourself or your favorite local bookstore or library? Click here.

Speaking of favorite local bookstores, I am honored to have partnered with my friends at Once Upon a Time Bookstore to offer autographed copies of my book. If you’d like to preorder a copy of A Rambler Steals Home, just call (818-248-9668) or stop in.

Additional preorder links here, but don’t forget your local bookstores. They are doing important work!

preorder_rambler_twitter

Happy New Year to you and yours, and happy reading!

ch1