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A writer and illustrator tries to find joy in the daily grit, connect with other writers, read books, manage four children and find out where she's put the phone today.
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Goodnight, pencil jars.
Hello, sunshine books.
Hello, swing seats.
Hello, sandy feet.
Summer is in session!
Sam and Jump by Jennifer K. Mann
A Beach Tail by Karen Lynna Williams, ill. by Floyd Cooper
Listen to Our World by Bill Martin Jr & Michael Sampson, ill. by Melissa Sweet
Surf's Up by Kwame Alexander, ill. by Daniel Miyares
Ocean Sunlight by Molly Bang & Penny ChisholmIsland: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin
A happy accident in pencils, cardboard backing
and color palette experiments
is my latest submission to the May SCBWI Insight's prompt word "borrow."
Don't you love getting to borrow from all the delicious books waiting in the library?
Here's a question for my creative friends - do you ever work with prompts?
I am stretched when I work on art for Birdy's sight word cards.
I try to think of all the ways a simple word speaks to me,
looking for the story behind it.
Online resources such as SCBWI Insight
or Colour Collective's weekly color prompts are a fantastic springboard
for experimentation. And online challenges are abundant, once one starts looking.
How do you stretch yourself?
Do you write from prompts?
Do you ever coax words out left-handed, if you're a righty?
Sketch with eyes closed, if you're an artist?
How do you dig deeper for inspiration?
My brother, illustrator Jesse Joshua Watson
continually inspires me,
He paints jaw-dropping wonder on reclaimed wood, old surfboards, drums, plywood.
Some of our borrowed library treasures this week:
The Night Gardener - Terry and Eric Fan
Roar Like a Lion - by Tae-Eun Yoo
A Rock is Lively - Diane Hutts Aston, ill. by Sylvia Long
The Bear and the Piano - by David Lichtenfeld
Pax by Sara Pennypacker, ill. by Jon Klassen
Tiny Creatures : the world of microbes by Nicola Davies, ill. by Emily Sutton
The Adventurers by Rachel Elliot, ill. by Valeria Docampo
Dream Animals - by Emily Winfield Martin
What does BORROW bring to mind?
so we hopped over for the book birthday celebration.
So many delicious new books. Drool!
Jennifer Mann read from her book SAM and JUMP,
which is a poignant story about loss, discovery, and friendship.
And then Jen shared stories of loveys lost and found.
The wildebeests brought up a book to be signed and loveys to show.
Jennifer is so engaging and gentle with all of her fans, even the small ones.
Here's a picture of Jennifer with local authors Margaret Nevinski
and Dawn Simon
I'm so thankful I have Dawn as my critique partner.
Her exuberance and wit are such a delight,
and her writing critiques brilliant.
What a treat to live near talented and gracious authors and illustrators.
What a treat to celebrate SAM and JUMP!
Because... of this poem
by Children's Author Nicola Davies, and the #3000chairs project.
It's worth every second it takes to read.
My husband and I had the opportunity to spend time in Kosovo with war survivors - refugees who returned to their homes carrying life-wrenching scars of war, with stories that ached in the hearing, and burned in the telling.
I wish a chair for every child running from war.
I wish refuge.
By: Faith Pray
Blog: SACRED DIRT
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Apparently, it's Poetry Month.
Only, I've been a little distracted.
I skipped off to the city
for my local SCBWI meeting -
an art show,
a lecture from book-wise and witty
editors Mary Kate Castellani and Caroline Abbey,
and then a consultation and workshop with
art director, professor, and story genius Joy Chu.
This is the same Joy who guided me over the last two winters
in visual storytelling classes through the UCSD online extension program.
I'm still reeling with inspiration.
I could have listened for days. Months. Years.
Now I'm home, all bright and hopeful,
waiting for my brain to shape so many beautiful tips
and ideas into working order.
Time to let the front thoughts simmer.
Time to play with poetry.
We started with a poet-tree.
The wildebeests and I cut out branchy trees and labeled each branch with simple word:
sky, go, sea, etc.
Next, we cut out dozens of leaves - in all flutters of color,
because it just looks more exciting that way.
Each branch grew rhyming leaf words:
sky = cry, my, pie, etc.
Because we like to make life even more thrilling, and sometimes complicated,
I thought it might be fun for the older wildebeests to thread their leaves on yarn.
Winnie added a button.
Pip used gold pen. She's really into gel pens lately.
And their finished masterpieces.
I'd love to meet a tree like this someday, shimmering with colors, yarns, and words!
I think I'd move in.
I'll share more poetry play next time.
Until then, here are a few favorites:
A Kick in the Head, An Every Day Guide to Poetic Forms - compiled by Paul Janeczko, ill. by Chris Raschka
The Random House Book of Poetry - edited by Jack Prelutsky, ill. by Arnold Lobel
Switching on the Moon - collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Peters, ill. by G. Brian Karas
Chicken Soup With Rice - by Maurice Sendak
When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne, ill. by Ernest Shepard
Now We Are Six By A.A. Milne, ill. by Ernest Shepard
It's National Library Week.
How glad I am for libraries this week and always.
How rich it is to have a place to borrow books,
to load up on research, art, music, words, and stories!
How glad I am for the staff at my library,
gracious souls who do not even sniff
when the wildebeests and I emerge
with a mountain of books to take home.
How patient they are with the noise and flamboyance
of kid-ruckus and story hour,
even when small bears and dragons and pirates
weave and wail beyond their story circles.
How perfectly like a matchmaker
is our children's librarian,
always hunting down treasure
to help her patrons fall in love with reading.
Happy Library Week!
Our latest librarian-found treasures:
When Mischief Came To Town by Katrina Nannestad
Hector and Hummingbird by Nicholas John Frith
Tea Party In the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
Detective Gordon: the First Case by Ulf Nilsson
Love that Dog by Sharon Creech
Happy birthday, Beverly Cleary.
Thank you for Henry, Ramona, and Beezus.
Thank you for Klickitat Street.
Thank you for your books.
Because you always wanted to save 10% in my shop
with the code Spring16.
Birthday cards? Wall art?
Sight word flashcards, anyone?
A gift for your teacher, your pre-K, your kindie...
A gift for your walls...
My Spring Sale goes through April 30. Cheers!
Things to do on your third stroke-aversary:
Dig for treasure.
My treasure might be hiding in the mountain of dirty laundry downstairs.
Or maybe in shuttling wildebeests to lessons, or practice.
Or maybe the treasure is in every speck of this beautiful daily dirt.
The sun is shining,
the flowers are out.
Being alive is good, my friends.
It's so good.
By: Faith Pray
Blog: SACRED DIRT
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SCBWI's drawing prompt for March is LUCKY.
I got to thinking about luck,
and what it means to me.
With or without four-leaf clovers, book contracts,
double-rainbows or pots of gold,
I am wishing-wells full of the best kind of luck.
I have beauty all around me -
in sky and earth,
in people with all their glorious quirks,
in a roof over my head, clean water,
in laughter and forgiveness.
And I am free -
free to write, to make art, to learn,
dream, wish, pray,
I believe thankfulness and hope can fill the darkest sky with stars.
That's my kind of lucky.
The Wishing of Biddy Malone by Joy Cowley, illustrated by Christopher Denise
The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies by Heather Forest, illustrated by Susan Gaber
Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
I'd rather have a turtle, and I'd rather wear a mock turtle.
I'd rather cook with crockery than be a mockery.
I'd rather party with Mock Caldecotts than with mock halibuts.
And party we did!
- complete with book toothpicks and book inspired snacks:
sunflower seeds (If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson),
honey and bread (Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick and Sophie Blackall)
tiny sandwiches (The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone Roach),
pretzel sticks and grape "stones" (Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and Tom Lichtenheld),
dried mangoes (Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez).
Voters designed medals for the winning books.
Kids announced both the ALA winners, and our Mock Caldecott winners.
Our committee results:
Our Mock Caldecott Gold Medal : Out of the Woods by Rebecca Bond.
And then, honor awards
for all eight of our runners up:The Bear Ate Your Sandwich - by Julia Sarcone RoachMango, Abuela, and Me - by Meg Medina and Angela DominguezA Fine Dessert - by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall Thank You and Good Night - by Patrick McDonnellIf You Plant a Seed - by Kadir NelsonThe Whisper - by Pamela ZagarenskiIn a Village by the Sea - Muon Van and April Chu
And then, the entire library voted on the People's Choice Award.
The winner was Sonya's Chickens by Phoebe Wahl.
In the book "A Fine Dessert," blackberry fool is made by four families, over four centuries, with different implements.
Our children's librarian Martha Ashenfelter had a brilliant idea.
Why not have our committee make the same dessert
using the same implements?
They loved it!
They ate it up. Every speck. Every lick.
What a sweet finish to a wonderful party.
Thank you, Martha.
Thank you, Mock Caldecott committee.
I hope we can talk and mock Caldecotts again soon.
My adorably rogue-ish nephew played a pirate in Peter and Wendy a few weeks back.
His mama asked if I'd like to try some Peter Pan art for the bake sale.
Tink. Hook. The ship. The acorn kiss. Peter and Wendy.
Enough for a whole fleet of fairies and lost boys,
and their cupcakes, too.
Avast and Blimey! What a yardarm of sweet pirate bounty.
Peter Pan by J. M. Barry, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Peter Pan retold by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson illustrated by Mary Blair
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
Fairies and the Quest for Neverland by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by David Christiana
I thought they might be a fun Valentine-y gift.
I like to carry around pocket-sized art decks, don't you?
Because don't we all carry words on the go?
Who doesn't like a little
fun on a ring?
Or words on a string?
perfect word surprises
for your small people -
or your pocket card collectors.
Local buyers can enter the code: LOCALPICKUP
on my shop to waive shipping fees
and arrange a delivery option.
Here's to the small, the tiny, the mini,
the little bits of love and beauty in this big world
that make life sweet and good.
Tiny book favorites:
Enormous Smallness by Matthew Burgess, illustrated by Eric DiGiacomo
The Tiny King by Taro Miura
Tiny's Big Adventure by Martin Waddell, illustrated by John Lawrence
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes - by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
My little buddy turns seven tomorrow.
He's kind of smitten with the ocean lately,
especially the big guys, the scary guys,
and the whales.
I love discovering new beauties in the creative process.
Coloring is something I'm both awed and fascinated by,
so I decided this would be a great opportunity
to experiment with how I color my sketches.
I sketched in buttery soft oil pencils,
and layered colored pencils on top.
No paint this time.
After that, I scanned my colored sketches on to the computer
and played with laying in textures with Photoshop.
Now I get to take my sketches
and turn them into the party -
fishy "paper dolls,"
sharks on a stick, perhaps.
More to come...
Whale-y wonderful books:
Whale Song - Tony Johnston, illustrated by Ed Young
The Storm Whale - Benji Davies
The Blue Whale - Jenni Desmond
Big Blue Whale - Nicola Davies, illustrated by Nick Maland
When books sleep, do they see in color?
In their slumbering, do they take a wayward path,
meandering through bright worlds and words,
do their characters reach for lofty things?
Do books dream
of Caldecott and Newbery?
Or do they wish
to be read,
to be loved,
from end to end,
from page to page,
word after word after word?
On Monday, the American Library Association announced their choices,
the most distinguished books of 2016.
They've picked the stellar standouts,
a handful of beautiful treasures.
gets the Caldecott medal this year.
Oh happy day for illustrator Sophie Blackall and author Lindsay Mattick!
Caldecott Honors go to:Waiting
, by Kevin Henkes, Trombone Shorty
, illustrated by Bryan Collier & written by Troy Andrews, Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
illustrated by Ekua Holmes & written by Carole Boston Weatherford
and one more Caldecott Honor-
glorious surprise! Last Stop on Market Street
, illustrated by Christian Robinson & written by Matt de la Peña
rode home not only a Caldecott Honor,
but a Coretta Scott King Honor,
and the Newbery Medal,
the award given each year for the most distinguished contribution
in American literature for children.
What an exciting day!
Some of our other book favorites were honored on Monday with special awards as well. Drum, Dream Girl
, illustrated by Rafael Lopez & written by Margarita Engle
won the Pura Belpre' award for illustration.Mango, Abuela, and Me
, illustrated by Angela Dominguez & written by Meg Medina
earned Pura Belpre' Honors in both writing and illustration.Emmanuel's Dream
, illustrated by Sean Qualls
& written by Pacific Northwest author Laurie Ann Thompson
was honored with the Schneider Family Book Award.
And tomorrow, our Library Mock Caldecott committee
finds out their winners.
Last week, the committee had to stand up
and defend their favorite book finalists,
provide good, deep dirt on why their books mattered.
Nearly every kid present had a different favorite book.
Each speaker, even my crowd-shy wildebeests,
braved the limelight to give strong, passionate, thoughtful evidence
as to why their book was a winner.
And that's when it struck me -
each book wins.
Each book published has a chance to speak, to set a spark in a child.
And that is a win.
That's the beauty and the power
of these little, flat packages of words and pictures
that we call books.
So if tomorrow at the Library Mock Caldecott Awards Party,
there just happens to be one Mock Caldecott winner
and a surprising eight Honor books,
it is because
each of those books
has won over
some very passionate readers.
And if you just happen to be around tomorrow -
Thursday, January 14, 2016 at 3:45 p.m.
at the Jefferson County Library,
come in for the party!
All are invited!
Come see the books!
Have some party snacks and toothpicks!
If you read five books, you get to weigh in on the People's Choice vote.
And next Thursday at 3:45 p.m. at the library,
we'll write letters to authors and illustrators.
We'll send awards to our winners.
Here's to books that dream,
and to books that spark readers and dreamers!
It's the final week before the
2016 Caldecott medal is awarded!
And it's almost time for our very own Jefferson County
Library Caldecott committee to choose a winner!
The selection of thirty-four books has been narrowed down
to these nine favorites:
Kid committee members meet this Thursday, January 7, at 3:45 p.m.
to defend and debate their favorites before their peers
and hold a final election.
Most of our members are kids, ages 5-11.
Did I mention that?
I have been blown away by the details they discover,
things that my broad adult eye skips right past,
the critical thinking skills they are developing
as they compare and contrast books and styles,
themes and layers of story.
What a treat to learn to look, to really look
alongside this multi-age group.
And the fun keeps coming!
Simultaneously, the library has displayed all 34 top contenders
in-house for the month of January, so that patrons of all ages can participate
in a library-wide People's Choice vote.
Look at those yummy choices!
Wouldn't it be exciting if picture book delight spilled over
to the greater library populace through all of this bookish hooplah?
I hope so.
bring on the sparkly gowns!
the fancy treats!
that gold sticker we've all been waiting for!
All ages are invited to our Library Caldecott Award Party
on Thursday, January 14 at 3:45 p.m.
Good times are sure to be had by all!
Our Top Nine Finalists:
Thank You and Goodnight - by Patrick McDonnell
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich -by Julia Sarcone-Roach
Out of the Woods - by Rebecca Bond
A Fine Dessert - by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Sonya's Chickens - by Phoebe Wahl
Mango, Abuela and Me - by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez
The Whisper - by Pamela Zagarenski
If You Plant a Seed - by Kadir Nelson
In a Village by the Sea - by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu
Small Business Saturday!
Thank you, friends, neighbors, you lovely folks all
who burst the coat buttons off our tiny downtown.
Cheers to you, supporters of the small!
Pip and Winnie helped all day.
Decorating the chalkboard was one of their important jobs.
The Holiday Bazaar held a treasury of beautiful things to be found-
handcrafted jewelry, rescued cashmere, shelves of books, felted creations,
art and prints by the Watsons (my dad Richard and my brother Jesse).
See the sight word cards in their handmade green and blue folios?
It felt strange, seeing them all lined up so soldierly after all this work.
I was kind of excited about the greeting cards and gicleé prints, too.
My heart feels squeezed up with gratefulness.
And just to keep the adventures rolling in,
I re-opened the Etsy Shop.
Birdy and Sugar Snack helped me with the photos.
Sight word art cards are in stock,
prints and cards are coming soon.
Have a look, if you like!
And thank you, my friends.
I'm warmed to the toes
by all of the support and love
I've had from so many of you.
Here's to warm toes,
and joy in each journey!
I'm bubbling about the SCBWI conference today.
This is the weekend children's book illustrators and writers in my region gather like starlings.
I go for the coffee and the courage.
For inspiration and advice.
To find out about thrilling new books.
To hug and high-five friends and peers.
To gain wisdom about crafting words and art.
My heart flies high.
I'm bringing new art. More here.
Art grown out of Joy Chu's UCSD Thinking in Pictures class.
What a class!
Here's a peek at one of my projects:
If you are one of my writer or artist buddies, I hope to see you there!
The twins are fast approaching ten!
"Tween twins!" Winnie reminds me.
"Double digits, doubled!"
And just like that, a decade ebbs with moon and tide.
Having soaked up the Emily Windsnap books lately,
they want to be mermaids.
So, I've been making art.
Waves of seaweed.
Cupcakes + art = yummy.
Mermaids, this way. Your party awaits.
The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell
The Tail of Emily Windsnap by Liz Kessler
The Little Mermaid - Hans Christian Anderson, ill. by Lisbeth Zwerger
Breathe - Scott Magoon
Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea - Steve Jenkins
Shh! We Have a Plan - Chris Haughton
The Storm Whale - Benji DaviesPlastic Ahoy! Investigating the great Pacific Garbage Patch - Patricia Newman
Shackleton's Journey - William Grill
And now we come to our smallest wildebeest.
I remember those tiny, newborn fists curling out of a green blanket.
I made it five summers ago out of fabric so soft it felt like clouds,
with the hope it could keep out the world's roughness as long as possible.
Ergo, in the nature of a true youngest child,
Birdy scrambles up trees and leaps from the highest branches,
tumbles headfirst into high winds,
and rakes up her knees better than all the others.
She is so ready for this.
Always looking to make art,
I decided to make flashcards - heaps of them.
I think I'll do a weekly series of the collection on my art blog.
They're for learning sight words, one of the ways to catch on to reading.
I guess this is my gift to her, like the green cloud blanket.
A way to say:
"When you want me, if you want help, I'm here. I love you."
Maybe it's proof.
And maybe every parent offering,
every bowl of oatmeal we cook up,
every lunch we pack, every book read aloud,
every tuck-in at night
is us, saying:
"You precious small people, you are loved."
"Even though we got grouchy about the muddy footprints,
or the scrabbly big mess in your rooms,
you are loved."
And maybe, it is proof for us as well.
Maybe these offerings to our small ones are gifts we keep close
as our birds wing the nest,
as our hair grays and our skin weathers,
knowing that in all our human roughness,
we have loved.
Friends, may you find love all around you,
and gifts in the giving.
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard - Jennifer Mann
Orange Pear Apple Bear - Emily Gravett
Owl Babies - Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson
Bo at Iditarod Creek - Kirkpatrick Hill
The Mighty Miss Malone - Christopher Paul Curtis
The War That Saved My Life - Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
A Year Down Yonder - Richard Peck
In November's gusty gale I will flop my flippy tail
and spout hot soup.
I'll be a whale!
Spouting once, spouting twice,
spouting chicken soup with rice.
- Chicken Soup With Rice, A Book of Months, by Maurice Sendak
It may not be spouting hot soup, but good news is easy to slurp about:
I get to help run Kids' Mock Caldecotts at the library!
And what a library
! They've ordered heaps of new books,
which the spectacular librarian Martha Ashenfelter and I
deliberated and drooled over for hours
before whittling our selection to a mere 32 book beauties.
On the first three Thursdays in November,
our library kids will form a Caldecott Committee,
evaluate, debate, and vote for their favorite books of 2015.
In January, we'll hold a final vote,
followed by an awards party.
Doesn't it sound fantastic?
If you are a local friend who knows of some book-loving kids,
bring them in on November Thursdays!
I'll try to post about our delicious book picks and the Caldecott sessions
along the way.
Doesn't it make you want to pick up a stack of picture books and start reading?
Hallo, who's there?
Hallowhoot, and have a happy hoot!
Little Owl Lost - Chris Haughton
A Book of Sleep - Il Sung Na
Little Owl's Night - Divya Srinivasan
Peek-a-Who by Nina Laden
Owl Moon - Jane Yolen, John Schoenherr
Owl Babies - Martin Waddell, Patrick Benson
Owl at Home - Arnold Lobel
Our Mock Caldecott project is in full swing.
Oh, the yummy books!
So far, we've discussed the Caldecott award,
the workings of a Caldecott committee,
and what to look for in our very own sessions.
Children's librarian Martha Ashenfelter and I created ballots with four voting categories.
I thought it might be fun to share how we're teaching our committee to vote.
We examine each book - its design, how the pages feel,
the endpapers, the copyright page.
We try to figure out the art medium used,
whether fancy research was done,
if the art is consistent, stunning, unique.
|"In a Village By the Sea" by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu|
We noticed the book "A Fine Dessert" by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall, a book about blackberry dessert, is partly painted with blackberry juice. That's a pretty tasty detail.
Nikki McClure's book "In" is made from paper cuts.
Vincent X. Kirsch's illustrations in "Gingerbread for Liberty" are made to look like gingerbread. More deliciousness.
|In - by Nikki McClure|
We consider how well the art and the text work together to fill up the story.
Is there a tone or mood to the words,
and do the pictures complement it?
We look at layers -
we ask ourselves what that story is really about,
and then, what else is it about?
|The Bear Ate Your Sandwich - by Julia Sarcone-Roach|
By "reading" the book first without words,
we figure out if the illustrations give us clues, if they tell some of the story.
Then we read it a second time with words, scrutinize how the text is represented,
if the pictures and words are perfectly matched,
or if they give too much away.
We look for details, hints, clues within the story and pictures
that might add to the wow of the book.
|If You Plant a Seed - Kadir Nelson|
And then we ask if we'd want to pick the book up,
if we think it would appeal to kids.
How much do we love that particular book?
Voters score books from 1-5 in each category,
and slip their ballot in its book envelope.
I have my favorites, but I have to keep mum.
Here is the library's Caldecottmobile.
Each of our nominees will be displayed in the library
and available for voting
until January, when our top finalists will be announced.
At that time, our committee will debate for favorites,
vote on the final few, and, drumroll....
Letters to Authors and Illustrators!
Some of our nominees:
Finding Winnie: the true story of the world's most famous bear
- by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, illustrated by Sydney Smith
It's Only Stanley by Jon Agee
Water is Water by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Jason ChinIn by Nikki McClure
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
Gingerbread for Liberty by Maria Rockcliff, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
The Night World by Mordecai Gerstein
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach
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Back from the printer
with my first tiny print run
of sight word cards.
Tomorrow, it's this:
And after that, I'll get the Etsy shop oiled up and rolling.
Gorgeous books about creative learners:
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann
The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola