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The daily blog of Laurel Snyder, children's author, poet, mother, and occasional loose cannon. Posts range from rants about publishing to book reviews to pictures of Laurel's adorable rascals (awwwwww!!!). Not to mention periodic raves about new products from Trader Joe's and once in awhile, a cuss word or three (!!!)
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Okay, neither do I… not really. This was published long before I was born.
But I had a lot of books as a kid that had been my mom’s, and my dad’s, and belonged to their parents before them, or come to them from used book stores. So I remember what it felt like to read and read, and wait for the next amazing color plate. Or skip to it, because I couldn’t wait for the pretty shiny picture.
Like the one above.
Or like this one.
Little Women! Treasure Island! The Happy Prince! East O the Sun and West O the Moon! The Cuckoo Clock! These books all had amazing color plates in them, and I carry those pictures with me to this day.
I wonder if some evil wizard or conjurer has stolen all the art away? WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION CAN THERE POSSIBLY BE?
This morning I’m thinking about how graphic novels are hugely HUGELY popular.
And I’m thinking about how big visual glowing movies like Hugo or Hunger Games or Narnia are being made from middle grade books.
And I’m thinking about how often I hear people lament about “What can we do to get the kids reading?”
And I’m thinking about how, last night, Mose and Lew asked me to read picture books instead of starting a new readaloud novel. ”Because we like the pictures.”
And I’m wondering… WHY ARE WE REMOVING ALL THE INTERIOR ART FROM THE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS?
I mean, I know full color plates are too expensive to consider, but I so so so so love books with art in them. Who decided that only baby books should have pictures?
Last night I noticed that Geek Dad had posted his favorite picture books, and so I popped over to check out the list. And was shocked to find that they were almost all by men. This made me cranky. But I figured, “Eh, he’s just one guy.”
Then, this morning, I noticed that the Goodreads ”Best of” is also virtually all men. And that… is more complicated. Because WE made that list. We, the readers of the world.
Now, if there weren’t a ton of amazing 2013 picture books by women, I could maybe accept this. But there TOTALLY are. Which begs the question… WHAT’S GOING ON?
Do men actually just make better picture books than women? Do men get better marketing and publicity budgets than women for picture books? Or… as I’m beginning to fear… do we, the (largely) women who buy and blog about picture books have a tendency to elevate books by men?
I want to make a list to post today, of the 2013 BEST PICTURE BOOKS BY WOMEN. Help me out? What’s your favorite? I’ll add them later.
A few of mine, for starters:
City Cat, by Lauren Castillo
Jane, the Fox, and Me, by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
If You Want to See a Whale, by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead
Seriously, add them up! We’ll make a Goodreads list later, and I’ll add the covers here too…
And I’d like to add that I’m a HUGE FAN of the books on Geek Dad’s list. These are some of my favorite authors and illustrators too. But the list is incomplete.
“Everything is the same color–one enormous listless gray world where not a breath stirs and the birds don’t sing.”
(the Storm Book)
I’m sad tonight. Charlotte Zolotow has died.
I’ll leave it to someone else to talk about Zolotow’s contribution to children’s literature. I can only speak to how much she contributed to me, personally.
My grandmother loved her books, and I have a handful of signed first editions that she got for me. They entered my life when I was just the right age for them.
Zolotow’s books were special to me. Different from other books. Calm. Complex,
I loved The Storm Book.
I loved Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present. Deeply.
“She likes birds in trees.”
But wow. I loved My Grandson Lew best of all.
I had a grandpa who died when I was little myself. And I think Zolotow captured something in that book… the memory, the sense of loss, the vague memory. But the presence of a death, as well as the absence.
Somehow, I got that, as a kid…
Though as an adult… I see it differently.
(My Lew with Zolotow’s Lew)
So I am going to sit down tonight, and read CZ’s books to my kids, and think about the power of a good book at the right time.
Not a joke. Not a “hook.” Not a product. But a book.
The right book. Speaking in a calm ture voice to the people who need to hear it…
Just the way a grandfather might speak. With a crinkled eye, and a quiet laugh, or a wistful smile.
So that he can’t possibly be forgotten.
Not even when he’s gone.
“…now we will remember him together and neither of us will be so lonely as we would be if we had to remember him alone.”
“Snyder returns with a story that, like her Bigger Than a Breadbox (2011), offers a relatable heroine and a touch of magic. When 12-year-old Annie Jaffin and her mother visit Annie’s estranged, dying grandmother in the shuttered Baltimore hotel she grew up in, the woman Annie encounters is angry and aggressive. After a strange storm, however, Annie wakes up 50 years earlier, in 1937, where she meets her grandmother as a curious, kind, and deeply isolated child. Molly spends her days cloistered away in her “Lonely Room” because of her asthma; she wished for a friend and has no clue that Annie is actually her granddaughter. Because Annie knows that Molly will live to old age, they escape Molly’s locked room via the fire escape and seize the day. Through their adventures, Molly’s eyes gradually open to the realities outside the hotel walls, while Annie worries about getting home and whether she’s changing the future for better or worse. Friendship, connection, and understanding are at the heart of this warm, introspective story about the events that shape a person. Ages 8–12. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Jan.)”
Okay, so I generally try to avoid the hard sell. But this seems to be the time of year when people actually really want Jewish book recommendations, for Hanukkah gifts…
SO at the risk of offending absolutely everyone, may I suggest that your kids might appreciate one of my own titles?
While waiting for the bus, a man tells Baxter the pig about the joys of Shabbat dinner. But before Baxter can find out how he, too, can join in the fun, the man has boarded the bus. Soon after, Baxter learns that he certainly cannot be a part of Shabbat dinner because he’s not Kosher. So begins one pig’s misguided quest to become Kosher. Will Baxter succeed or will his dreams of taking part in Shabbat dinner remain unfulfilled? Readers will cheer as a series of misunderstandings leads to a warm message of welcome and community.
Learning—and using—Yiddish is fun for the whole family, from the youngest mamaleh to the oldest bubbe and zaideh. Introduced to America as the mother tongue of millions of Jewish immigrants, Yiddish has made its way into everyday English. The sprightly, rhyming text follows a toddler through a busy day and is peppered from beginning to end with Yiddish words. Oy!—will everybody kvell when they hear their little ones spouting words from this most expressive of languages. Here are just a few that are included in this sturdy board book: bissel—little bit; ess—eat; kibitz—joke around, chat; klutz—clumsy one; kvell—burst with pride, gush; kvetchy—dissatisfied, whiny.
A family trip turns into an adventure of discovery for a curious and carefree sister and brother. While the two explore the natural wonders of the seashore, woods, and fields, their parents plant trees as an offering of thanks for all they have received. In Jewish tradition, this is called tikkun olam, or repairing the world. As the children settle down to sleep, they are lulled by the soothing sounds around them that become the refrain: “good night, laila tov”—the same comforting words in English and Hebrew that their parents recite to them every night at bedtime.
Of course, there are lots of amazing Jewish picture books I didn’t write. And for those of you who really want a Hanukkah title, the very best one is, in my opinion, this gem:
Latkes are potato pancakes served at Hanukkah, and Lemony Snicket is an alleged children’s author. For the first time in literary history, these two elements are combined in one book. A particularly irate latke is the star of The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, but many other holiday icons appear and even speak: flashing colored lights, cane-shaped candy, a pine tree. Santa Claus is briefly discussed as well. The ending is happy, at least for some. People who are interested in any or all of these things will find this book so enjoyable it will feel as though Hanukkah were being celebrated for several years, rather than eight nights.
At the same time, I’m wandering around the stores, and seeing that there are beginning to be “Indian” items around, in advance of Thanksgiving. Feathers and teepees. I find myself assuming, based on the comments surrounding Ghost Hawk, that the way schools approach Thanksgiving has changed a lot since I was a kid. That they no longer dress up in loosely arranged feathers and play out the story of “Pilgrims and Indians.” I’m wondering what they offer instead. How much of the story?
So as we head into the Thanksgiving season, I’m thinking about how we educate our kids (or don’t), how we give them (or don’t) actual information, as opposed to myth. I’m thinking I have some work to do myself.
All my life, I’ve known versions of the Pilgrim/Indian story, of course. I’ve watched the Peanuts and Pocahantas. I’ve argued the merits of telling that story in a benign way with kids, and I’ve argued the age at which kids can learn the real story. But shamefully, in all those years, I’ve never learned about the TRIBE. The actual tribe. How is that possible? At the very least, Ghost Hawk pushed me out of that complacency. And the conversation surrounding the book is having an even stronger impact on me in that way.
They weren’t “Indians.” And “Native Americans” doesn’t cut it either in this day and age. They were The Wampanoag. And while I’m aware that they didn’t actually share a turkey with “us” (says this Irishy/Jewishy girl with no Mayflower blood in her at all, but who was still somehow taught the language of us/them), I know absolutely nothing about The Wampanoag.
I think, this year, Mose and Lew will try to learn about the tribe. Which is not to say “Indians.” We’ll read about their culture and language, about Massoit and Squanto/Somoset, and about King Philip’s War. I hope this will help the boys navigate the myth/truth of this season (and me too!). So often, specificity helps us see people as people. Because the more general we get, the easier it is to slip into stereotypes.
What does your school teach in this season? How much do you know about the Wampanoag?
(For the record, we’ll still be eating turkey. Because… you know, turkey.)
So… I’m scribbling a ton of new picture books. Most of them won’t work out.
One or two might.
But as I’m working, I’m flip-flopping about tone, and I wondered if you might chime in and vote.
Conventional wisdom is that editors hate rhyming manuscripts. I have not found this to actually be true, but in a lot of cases, rhyme distracts from a book, or undercuts humor. And of course, if it’s done poorly, rhyme is horrible.
if you had a choice between these two bits of text, which would you prefer?
On velvet paws he slunk downstairs And much against her wishes, Jim gobbled up his mother dear. She really was delicious!
Jim went downstairs. And ate his mother up, in three quick bites. YUM!
Please leave your vote in the comments! I really would love to know how people feel about this.
“Melissa Manlove at Chronicle has bought two beginning readers from Laurel Snyder, in a debut series called Charlie and Mouse, a collection of stories about the daily adventures of two curious brothers. Publication is set for spring and fall 2015. Tina Wexler at ICM negotiated the deal for world rights.”
I am very very very very excited about this. Mose (Charlie) and Lew (Mouse) are pretty thrilled too!!!
The inspiration for these stories (besides the boys themselves) came from my friend Susannah Richards. She was here, taking a walk with me in my very special neighborhood, Ormewood Park. She had just finished taking a picture of a Little Free Library when she said, “You should write about this place. We need neighborhood books”
It had been in the back of my head to try to write about the boys, but somehow, her comment shook something loose in my brain… and THIS was what happened.
One super cool thing about the deal is that the editor, Melissa Manlove, was cool enough to suggest that we let the boys pick their own names. A way of including them in the process. Isn’t that awesome?
I’d moved back from Manhattan about a week earlier, my tail between my legs. I hadn’t lasted 6 months in NY. I was ashamed, but also relieved to be back in Iowa.
I was crashing at Chris’ house, but he and his roommates were gone, playing some shows at Jimmy Buffet’s place (weird detail, huh?) in Florida.
So I was alone in the house when I woke up, turned on the TV, and saw that the world had fallen apart.
I’d been at the WTC a few weeks earlier, for a Laura Cantrell show, and somehow that detail drove me nuts. As though somehow, listening to country music, I should have been able to sense what was coming. As though any of us ever know what’s coming…
I called my family. My friends in NY. I was able to get some of them on the phone. I was scared for everything.
That was also the summer I published my very first bit of prose in an actual magazine (No Depression). That was the summer Chris and I decided to “make it work.” That was the summer a lot of things happened. Only none of them seemed to matter much after that day. In the retelling.
I don’t listen to Laura Cantrell anymore, but I can’t stop thinking about her today.
Let’s be honest. There have been lots of horrible events since that day. Millions have died. Natural disasters and terrorist actions. This single event is not bigger than those events.
And yet, in my own memories, it always will be. Bigger.
I felt safe, and then I didn’t.
It wasn’t until later that I found out a classmate of mine had gone down in Pennsylvania, on flight 93. Liz. We danced in the school plays together. I was horrified. That part still feels unreal, impossible. Trying to imagine that plane. “Let’s roll.”
Nobody I knew died in NY. And yet, it’s still the towers I see in my mind.
Today, as part of the WIK (Writing and Illustrating for Kids) Conference, organized by the SCBWI Southern Breeze Chapter (Go, Breezers!), I have a special treat for you. An interview with picture book author, Nancy Raines day!
In case you’re wondering, Nancy looks something like THIS:
And her books look something like THIS:
Pretty nice, huh?
But enough of that. You’re here for the INTERVIEW, of course. So maybe we should begin at the beginning. Nancy, when did you know you wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
Growing up, I was lucky to have Mary Ann Hoberman (who recently was children’s poet laureate) as a neighbor. Watching her grow as a children’s author was inspirational, and I thought from a young age that would be very cool to do. At about age 10, my best friend and I “published” a newspaper. That was before copiers, so we wrote out ten copies (our total circulation of friends and family) by hand. In sixth grade, my teacher chose me to help her edit a collection of the school’s best student writings, and I was hooked. Senior year, I was Editor of my high school’s yearbook. I studied journalism in college and grad school. I only wrote nonfiction magazines, booklets and books for adults–until I was a mom. Then I switched to fiction for children, my lifelong passion.
You grew up in CT, and now live on St Simons, you lucky thing. Is place something that informs your work? Does the landscape affect your writing?
In between CT and St. Simons Island, I lived in San Francisco and Sonoma wine country for 26 years–nice places all! But none of my picture books is specifically set anywhere. except Flamingo’s First Christmas had to be in Miami (where I hadn’t even been until after I wrote the book). On a Windy Night was inspired by the sound of wind rustling corn, which my husband grew in our backyard in CA, but could have been anywhere.
Now, on St. Simons, I spend a lot of time on the beach, which has inspired some of my upcoming titles, “Way Down Below Deep” and “Sand and Sea.”
I feel like the rhythm of wallking and waves does find its way into my rhyming books.
Picture books can be tricky little beasties, and my own notebook is full of false starts. I’m wondering what percentage of the things you start out to write actually end up feeling finished? I think sometimes people assume that once you’re published and agented, you just have to spit out work. What’s the process like for you, in terms of deciding what to send out?
Part of my process is to get feedback from my Savannah writers’ group, as well as my awesome online group. Between my own radar and theirs, I usually have a good idea when it’s ready to go. And my longest-term editor let’s me know when she thinks a manuscript is close, but could be closer!
I have only recently signed on with Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary Agency, so I’m looking forward to some help deciding which projects are most ready for prime time. A few of my ideas have fallen by the wayside, whether I’ve lost interest in pursuing them or can’t quite put my finger on what they need to make it out there. Of those I start, I probably do get 75-85% of them finished, though. Some flow right out of me, and others may take a decade, but I am a very persistent person!
What are some of your all time favorite books by other people? What about them appeals to you?
A Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is my all-time favorite picture book. No matter how many thousands of times I read it, both as a child and as a parent, I never got tired of it. It makes me laugh–and think. Even today, surveying my less than tidy office, these words come to me: …this mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we cannot pick it up. There is no way at all!
Now THAT is writing!
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?
If you feel you have to write, just keep doing it. Join a critique group, and learn all you can. Be patient, and don’t give up.
I’m curious about your involvement with SCBWI. Has it been a part of your path to publication? When did you get involved?
SCBWI has been key to my success since the beginning. I went to my first regional meeting in San Francisco, and was blown away by the talented and generous people I met. To get to my first national conference, my family camped in Malibu (I was hugely pregnant at the time) to save the hotel bill. My critique groups were great support during the ten years it took to get my first book published. Directly or indirectly, I’ve met all my editors through the SCBWI network. In my work critiquing manuscripts for others, I always tell writers that joining SCBWI will the smartest investment they ever made.
And what will you be talking about at wik13? I’d love a sneak preview of your session!
We’ll discuss the garden variety pitfalls in picture book manuscripts–trimming excess verbiage, letting adults take over, letting the truth stand in the way of a good story, and more–using real-life examples. Attendees should come away with the tools to prune their own picture book manuscripts closer to perfection.
I’ll also explain what a freelance editor/”manuscript doctor” can do and when using one might help.
That sounds great, Nancy! I’m sure our readers can’t wait for WIK! Thanks for joining us.
Thanks so much.
Nancy Raines Day is just one member of the impressive faculty for the 2013 Writing and Illustrating for Kids (WIK) conference, taking place October 12 in Birmingham, AL. WIK is a great place to get inspired, get tips on your craft, and learn about the business of children’s publishing. It’s also an opportunity to meet editors, agents, and an incredibly supportive network of working writers and artists. This annual conference is hosted by the Southern Breeze region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). To find out more or to register, visit https://southern-breeze.net/
You can meet other members of the conference faculty by following the WIK blog tour:
Aug. 28 Author Matt de la Peña at Stephanie Moody’s Moodyviews
When I was a kid, my parents “encouraged” me to read. By which I mean they filled our house with books, and then ignored me, locked me in my room, and established a rule that stipulated I could stay up as late as I wanted, but only to read.
But there was someone else in my life who really really really “encouraged” me to read. My grandmother.
She was a children’s librarian, and she was very invested in picture books. She spent a lot of time hunting down first editions for me, and then getting them signed by authors she loved. Marcia Brown. Arnold and Anita Lobel. Tomie de Paola. These were among her favorites.
The book coming out in January, Seven Stories Up, is very much a book she inspired– a fictionalized version of one summer in her life.
But in a funny turn of events, something else is happening to me this week. Something that connects to my grandmother. Tomie is coming to town!
So I am taking some of my books to get them REsigned, dedicated to my boys. There will be TWO generations of inscriptions in these books, which were bought by my grandmother, who never got to meet my boys. I was pregnant with Mose when she died.
How’s that for a family of reading?
(Unless of course Mr. De Paola refuses me. In which case I shall curse him, like the Troll-queen I am)
An interesting thing happened today. A friend told me this story:
She (we’ll call her Arabella) was in a library, and she mentioned my name.
The librarian was familiar with my books, and complimentary, but she commented, as a side note, that I spend a LOT of time on Twitter. She wondered aloud if perhaps the quality of an author’s work goes down when they’re online all the time.
Arabella, being a very good friend, emphatically disagreed, and said she’d read my new book, and loved it, etc. etc.
This librarian raises a good point. And I wonder what you think about it.
I’d like to start by saying that I try to divide my “writing time” from my online time. That when I’m in and out of Twitter (and you can see me there) I’m NOT typically at work.
This summer, for instance, I’ve been Skyping and Tweeting and Facebooking even more than usual, because I’ve had no childcare, NONE, and so I haven’t been writing at all. Except in very early morning hours, now and again, before everyone wakes up. I’m not working on a novel. I’m on vacation. And while the kids play Lego, and while the popsicles freeze, I tweet.
Usually I use a program that block me from the web for three or four hour stretches, to insure I don’t break the rules I’ve set for myself.
I’d also like to add that the book I’ve written that most people consider my strongest, Bigger than a Bread Box, was written within the Twitter bubble. And the book most people consider my weakest, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, was written before the advent of social media. Hardly a controlled experiment, but it’s something to mull.
But all that said, I’m absolutely addicted to social media. I can feel the addiction, whenever I’m typing. Arabella likened this addiction to a sugar addiction, when we were talking about it, and I think that’s right. The web IS a distraction. I lose focus because of it. It’s much harder than it used to be to dive into my work in a totally absorbing breathless way. And I miss that feeling of disappearing into the story for hours and coming up for air. I do.
If the web isn’t affecting the quality of my work, it’s affecting my experience of work, my process. In much the same way it affects the experience of reading a book. Reading for 10 hours in bed on a Saturday is like visiting an island. Stopping for a break every 20 minutes while reading isn’t like that, is it?
This is why I’ve actually made a crazy decision about my new novel, The Orphan Island, which I’ve outlined, and am beginning work on next week.
I’m GOING BACK TO DEAD TREES. For real. I’ve painted the characters, with actual paint on actual paper. I’ve painted the island, and will continue to add to it. I have an outline, on paper, and scraps and bits of notes and dialogue, in a little box beside my bed. And today I acquired a stack of legal pads and three new mechanical pencils.
I will, in the end, type this book up. But not until I’ve written a draft of it, longhand.
So we’ll see. We’ll see what happens when I go totally offline as I write. If The Orphan Island is the best thing I’ve ever written, maybe that will tell me something. About slowness. About needing a bubble to write in. About solitude.
But I want to say that I don’t owe this decision to the librarian, or to Arabella. The timing of that conversation was only a coincidence. This is a decision I’ve been moving towards all year. Though I only made this promise to myself yesterday. After a fight with Lew, who was very upset to discover that he’s not allowed “screen time” during weekdays, now that summer is over.
“Why?” He asked me. “Why can’t I play Minecraft? And watch TV?”
“There’s nothing wrong with screens,” I told him. “Screens are fine, sometimes. But I want your brain to be able to do other kinds of work too. I want your brain to be happy when it isn’t looking at a screen. I want your brain to be enough for you, all on its own.”
So. Yeah. There we are.
I’ll still see you online, around. And you’ll see me. Because I’m an addict. But also because I think Twitter and Facebook can be amazing forces for good in the universe (just today a Facebook friend dropped off two donated snare drums for my kids’ school band, because I posted a need on Facebook). And because I’d miss my friends. And because, honestly, it’s something publishers expect. But when you do see me, I won’t be writing. Not at all. And when I’m writing, you won’t see me. Not even a little bit.
Not until I’ve written a book. A good one, I hope.
It’s always scary, waiting to see the cover of a new book. Sometimes the book looks EXACTLY like you thought it would look. And sometimes it looks NOTHING like you thought it would look.
In this case, the book doesn’t look like I expected it to at all. I’d pictured a mysterious lamplit hotel, seen from the street, with one ominous window lit up, only one. Because this book is a companion to Bigger than a Bread Box, which had a mysterious feel to it.
But now… looking at this wonderful cover by Tim Jessell, I’m struck my how right it is. ANd by much it looks like a lot of the classic books of my youth. It reminds me of The Secret Language, or The Little Princess.
There’s a tradition of books like this– books where two kids bond and grow, in a little world all their own. Books about two girls who only need each other. I loved those books. Those books were timeless.
This is a book like that, I hope. Although it’s related to Bread Box, it’s a very different book. And the cover captures that.
Here in Atlanta, school starts TODAY, August 7, but vacation begins at the beginning of May. I don’t know why our schedule is so early. Maybe it has to do with the growing season… with kids needing to be out early to work on the farm or something…
In any case, I like it. I like that vacation comes FAST.
And I like that the kids go back to school before I begin to lose my mind.
This summer I didn’t really have any childcare. We took one long 2-3 week road trip, to Iowa City, Chicago, and Battle Creek. But mostly we’ve just been home, reading and swimming and shouting and laughing and eating popsicles and arguing about how many more minutes of Minecraft are allowed.
It’s been lovely.
But now I’m ready to GET BACK TO WORK.
Have fun at school, Mose and Lew. Learn lots of cool stuff!
Okay, so I LOVE Valentines Day. I always have. I think it’s something about how GENERAL the love is. How vague. Like, “Wow, the world is full of things to appreciate. Let’s remind each other about that, and say nice things, and OOH! CANDY!”
Last night I sat up and painted cards for the boys. Then, this morning, I (who never make a hot breakfast) crafted heart-shaped-chocolate-chip-pancakes. With whipped cream.
There were balloons…
I’ve always really wanted to do a Valentines Day picture book, but the idea has never come to me. However, I do have a retired manuscript, a book I’ve given up on, The Neglected Holiday Songbook. In it, Valentine’s Day gets a little ditty. So I’m enclosing it below, in case you want something to sing this morning…
Valentines Day (February 14)
I will not give you candy,
Or roses, or my love.
But if you keep on kissing me,
I might give you a SHOVE!
I did not make a card for you,
All red and white and pink.
But if you try to hold my hand,
I might just make a STINK!
I don’t want you to be my dear.
I don’t like you that way.
I really only want you, please,
To quickly GO AWAY!
Valentine’s Day or Saint Valentine’s Day is a holiday celebrated by many peoplethroughout the world. In the English-speaking countries, it is the traditional day onwhich lovers express their love for each other by sending Valentine’s cards, presentingflowers, or offering confectionery. The holiday is named after two among the numerousEarly Christian martyrs named Valentine. The day became associated with romantic lovein the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtlylove flourished.
A few years ago, I scribbled a book called The Neglected Holiday Songbook. The premise was that some holidays had never had songs written for them, because certain other holidays hogged ALL THE GLORY.
We never really sent it out, and the idea fizzled. In retrospect, I’m not sure how many people really need songs for Arbor Day. But today, in honor of my own Irishy heritage, and the wearing o the green… I offer an outtake:
St. Patrick’s Day (March 17)
I’ve hunted four leaf clovers,
and worn a bit of green,
I’ve never seen a leprechaun
(they don’t like to be seen).
But Granny says St. Paddy’s Day
is actually the day,
Some fella went to Ireland
and drove the snakes away.
This might be fine for Irish folks,
and squeamish sisters too,
But I like snakes, and think they’re cool.
I know what snakes can do.
I’ve seen them shed their scaly skins,
I saw one eat a mouse.
I catch them in the backyard,
(I lose them in the house).
So maybe old St. Patrick
should keep away from me.
I like it here here, inside my room,
where snakes (and me) roam free.
In case you don’t think I’m cheesy enough already, here’s a picture of me opening the sketches for my next picture book, SWAN.
Seriously, I cried. I had this weird little uncontrollable rainstorm.
It looks exactly as it did in my head, exactly. The little girl I once was and the little girl I still am and the Russian ballerina I always wanted to be… they got all tangled up and happy and started weeping.
Mose and Lew thought it was pretty interesting.
So, since I was sitting there in front of my computer at the time, I snapped a picture.
(I’m so shy, and reserved, and private, don’t you know?)
I just wish I could show you the sketches! But someday, someday…
I promise not to send emails more than once or twice a year, when I’m looking to set up a skype tour, or I have free advance copies of a book to give away, or I’m sending out batches of temporary tattoos and stickers, or I’m planning a visit to your town…
Basically, when I have major news and fun stuff to share.
PLease join? I don’t want to have to spam former employers and dentists (who happen to be saved in my contacts list, poor things) every time I want to tell YOU I have a new book coming out.
Which I DO have… four times in the next two years! EEP!
SO yeah, join up! It’s super easy. Look, you can do it right here!