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Here is your chance to win a copy of Karen Romagna’s new book, VOYAGE. All you have to do is leave a comment and be willing to write a short review of the book if you win. The review can be on your blog, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Facebook, or Goodreads. (See more at bottom of this post.)
Karen Romagna has just finished illustrating her first picture book. Voyage launched at The National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 30, 2014 and is available in bookstores October 1, 2014. Written by former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, Voyage is the tale of a young boy setting off for an adventure on the open sea. Karen used the softness of watercolor in illustrating this wonderful dreamlike tale.
Karen is a traditional painter. Her illustrations are primarily done in watercolor However, she also loves painting in oil.
Karen grew up surrounded by art, music, brothers, sisters and parents that always supplied paint, paper, and the freedom to try new things. She lives in rural New Jersey where she and her husband, John, raised two sons, Matt and Tim, in a house filled with music and art… and hopefully a spirit that has allowed her sons to try new things too.
For those of you who are not a member of the New Jersey SCBWI, Karen is the Illustrator Coordinator for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
I asked Karen if she would share the story behind Voyage and it’s beginning. Here is what she told me:
“Voyage” had an interesting beginning. Billy Collins wrote the poem back in 2003 in celebration of John Cole’s 25 years as Director of the Center of the Book in the Library of Congress. As John Cole wrote at the beginning of Voyage, “The creation and presentation of “Voyage” was wholly in the spirit of the Center of the Book, which was created to stimulate pubilc interest in books, reading and literacy.”
In 2013 Bunker Hill Publishing approached me wondering if I might be interested in “a collaboration with the poet Billy Collins!” Well…, of course! The publisher had seen a copy of the poem hanging on the wall in John Cole’s office and approached Billy with the idea of making it a picture book.
Billy Collins likes to pick the illustrators for his books and went surfing the net. He came across a painting of mine that made him think I should illustrate this poem. He asked the publisher to get in touch to see if I might be interested in this project. Well… “Of course!” Bunker Hill had an illustrator in mind for the book as well and asked me to submit a sample illustration along with a thumbnail dummy. Wanting to make sure I was giving myself the best shot, I asked the publisher if he wouldn’t mind telling me exactly which illustration Billy Collins had seen that made him feel I was the right artist for his book. “Of course!” he said “It’s the one of the boy in a boat.”
Well, my heart melted… that was not one of my illustrations… it was a portrait of my younger son, Tim. There was always something magical about my second child. He would find himself in a great adventure with a piece of rope that he’d found.
In the end I was chosen to illustrate “Voyage”. …so Tim will carry on this great adventure for a long time.
You might be interested in watching this video of Billy Collins and Karen Romagna talking about the book at the National Book Festival where she launched her book in Washington, DC. I laughed when Karen said she almost threw out the email from the publisher she received asking if she had any interest in illustrating the book thinking it was junky mail. Thank goodness she didn’t. Congratulations, Karen!
If you would like more changes to win you will get additional entries when you Tweet, reblog, or talk about Voyager on Facebook (Must check back and let me know what you did, so I can enter the right amount of tickets with you name on it.
DEADLINE: November 3rd. Winner announce November 4th.
Check back next Friday to read the four first page critiques.
November is nearly upon us. That means fall leaves, wooly sweaters, gluttonous behavior on the fourth Thursday of the month, and, of course, National Novel Writing Month.
Inaugurated in 1999 by the intrepid Chris Baty and a group of friends, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has become an international movement to inspire average joes like you and me to get off our duffs and write that novel we’ve always dreamed of penning. One month. One novel. It’s as simple as that.
According to NaNoWriMo, 310,000 adults participated in the writing frenzy in 2013, and 89,500 youth participated in NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program. Personally, I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo for the past two years, and the experience has been so deeply fulfilling I decided that I, as a children’s librarian, needed to get on this Young Writers thing.
What’s really grand about NaNoWriMo is that this non-profit organization provides you everything you need to make hosting a Young Writers program easy as pie. Just take a gander at these lesson plans and activities. If you’re a teacher, everything aligns to the Common Core. If you’re a public librarian, you can pick and choose a variety of activities to do with your young peeps.
I have some ridiculously talented people on board, too. I’m working with poet Hannah Jane Chambers, YA author Bethany Hagen, and YA writer Jennifer Mendez to make the magic happen.
At our library, Hannah Jane, Bethany, and I had an idea of creating a series of Come Write In events for the entire family which we hope we’ll be able to implement next year. Parents and kids could come to the library on Saturdays throughout the month of October to start planning their NaNoWriMo projects. On November 1, we could celebrate our hard work with a party / write-in where participants can get cracking on their novels. Jennifer Mendez will be hosting Intergenerational Come Write In events at her branch throughout the month of November replete with paper, pens, and plenty of outlets for the BYO-Laptop types.
What better way to get kids and teens engaged in literature than to have them write it themselves? And, hey, why not model that behavior? November is just a few days away. It’s not too late to sign up and write a novel of your very own.
So the saying goes, disasters strike in threes. After I fell down the stairs and broke my leg, I wanted to count those two events as disasters two and three. Number one was earlier this year when our house was broken into. The good news on that was I had nothing to take. The burglars made a mess of the house, overturning drawers, taking out every box, stuffed into my closet. The rascals tore open a pretty envelope that I was saving to use when the mood struck me to surprise someone with old fashioned postal mail. I was even offended when the thieves didn't take any of my jewelry, opting instead to throw earrings and bracelets to the floor. However, what they did take was a jar of quarters. Somewhere, dirty thieves needed to do laundry. I hope they feel good about themselves in their clean clothes.
The work of messy thieves.
So the break-in and my broken leg counted as numbers one and two. Fate would not allow me to count the surgery as number three. The proverbial third shoe finally dropped three weeks ago when a broken washing machine caused the house to flood. A fifty-cent plumbing part nearly destroyed the house. Luckily, we have flood insurance which will cover the cost of the demolition (now finished) and restoration. As with my million dollar leg, a fall that resulted in a giant medical bill, I am very fortunate to have health insurance and flood insurance.
What used to be the kitchen. Walls, floors and ceiling flooded.
The good news is that the house will be even better than it was before and we will be able to get rid of the carpet on the stairs that caused me to slip and break my leg. Perspective is key here. After having been rushed to the emergency room with a dislocated ankle, my foot facing the wrong way, and a broken fibula, most other disasters like the house flooding, the ceiling caving in the kitchen, complete with sink, cabinets, and appliance, walls and floors needing to be demolished and rebuilt, doesn't seem that horrible. I'm able to continue writing. There are two rooms in the house that were unaffected. And luckily, I had my laptop with me and was not in the house when the disaster happened.
My million dollar leg
I spent the entire summer in the bed office due to my broken leg and I get to spend the next couple of months there again due to a near total house flood and forced remodel.
My leg is healing well, although it will be another couple of months until I am up and running, or dancing. In writing news, I took Rudy's challenge and entered the William Faulkner WisdomCompetition, I made it to the final round in Poetry. Congratulations to winner Claire Dixon. Entering poetry competitions is sobering and challenging, but it's nice to be recognized for work that has already been published. Last week, Nicole Thompson featured me in Latin Post.
Blas Falconer, Melinda Palacio, Michelle Detorie after the Mission Poetry Series reading.
A highlight of this summer was reading in the Mission Poetry Series with Blas Falconer and Michelle Detorie. The September day was gorgeous. With perfect weather on one of the last days for tourism in Santa Barbara, along with a street closed by the Sol Food Festival, the audience could have been sparse, but instead we had a crowd eager for poetry. As my friend reminds me, It could've been worse.
My Neighbor Totoro (rated G): An Extremely Awesome Movie
A movie I would definitely recommend is My Neighbor Totoro by Studio Ghibli. I have dressed up as Totoro for Halloween, and introduced the movie to anyone who would watch it. In this animated film directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, two sisters adjusting to their move from the city meet a forest spirit called Totoro. He helps the girls and they become friends. The movie is super-cute, and the expansive forest backdrops are stunning. My Neighbor Totoro is definitely my all-time favorite movie and is great for everyone.
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands
by Katherine Roy
David Macaulay Studio (Roaring Brook Press), 2014
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her school library.
The shark section gets a lot of traffic in my elementary school library. Many young readers are fascinated by the creatures, so I was excited when I heard about
Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.
About the Book
WHO EVER SAID BILLIONAIRE BACHELORS AND MODEST MAIDS DON'T MIX?
Celine Santini couldn't have been more shocked when billionaire bachelor Pierce D'Amato offers her a job as nanny to his four-year-old charge. After all, he hardly even knows her. But after finding herself thrown into an unexpectedly intimate encounter with him, are they really strangers? Celine is captivated by the green-eyed heartthrob who takes her heart ransom but how can she give in to her feelings when they're from two totally different worlds?
From the first day he lays eyes on the dark-eyed beauty, Pierce D'Amato knows he is lost. He immediately devises a plan to get her under his roof...and it works. But the more he gets to know the sweetly seductive Celine Santini the more he realizes there's a lot more to this woman than he could ever have imagined. Her intriguing combination of sophistication and innocence keeps him forever off-balance and, before he knows it, his bachelor heart turns traitor. The heart knows what the heart wants and it wants Celine Santini...whatever the cost.
A thrilling romance with twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages...
All though there are a few cliches in this story, I gave it 4 stars because of the flow, characters and the overall warm fuzzy feeling it gave me when I reached the happily ever after ending.
I've been on a bit of a romance kick as of late and so I'm looking for that special something in the story. I will admit that I wanted to see Celine be a little bit more wary about Pierce's initial offer but other than that, I thought her reactions and behavior fit the story.
Pierce was interesting because he defied my idea of what kind of person/character he was going to be when he started waving around money and telling Celine that he needed her help. He was a little high-handed but that passed as the story unfolded.
We’re celebrating Halloween today, 7-Imp style, with lots of artwork.
Last week here at Kirkus, I did a round-up of some good, new Halloween titles. Today, I’ve got some art from each one. All the art, all the info, and all the covers are below. Greg Pizzoli even sent some early dummy images for his illustrations for Carol Brendler’sNot Very Scary.
Today over at Kirkus, I write about two of my very favorite brand-new early chapter books for children (and both are illustrated). That link will be here soon.
Enjoy the art …
Dummy images and art from Carol Brendler’s Not Very Scary, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, August 2014)
Title page spread (Click each to enlarge)
“Melly loved surprises and Malberta’s were the best. So on the scariest night of all, Melly set out for a visit.” (Click each to enlarge)
“…three wheezy withces following two skittish skeletons and one coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail! ‘Not particularly scary,’ said Melly, but she bit her claws, one by one. Then she saw …” (Click each to enlarge)
“…five grimy goblins following four mournful ghosts, three wheezy witches, two skittish skeletons, and one coal-black with an itchy-twithcy tail! ‘Not remarkably scary,’ said Melly, but she backed away, right into a briar patch. Then she saw …” (Click each to enlarge)
“…seven frenzied fruit bats following six sullen mummies, five grimy goblins, four mournful ghosts, three wheezy witches, two skittish skeletons, and one coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail! ‘Not especially scary!’ Melly yelled,but her little monster heart skipped a beat-beat-beat. Then she saw …” (Click each to enlarge)
“…nine rambunctious rats join eight spindly spiders, seven frenzied fruit bats, six sullen mummies, five grimy goblins, four mournful ghosts, three wheezy witches, two skittish skeletons, and one coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail! ‘Not tremendously scary!’ Melly yelled, but she shivered as she raised the rusty latch on the gate. Then she saw …” (Click each to enlarge)
“…ten vexing vultures join nine rambunctious rats, eight spindly spiders, seven frenzied fruit bats, six sullen mummies, five grimy goblins, four mournful ghosts, three wheezy witches, two skittish skeletons, and one coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail! ‘NOT VERY SCARY!’ Melly yelled, but her fangs ch-ch-chattered as she rang Malberta’s b-b-bell.” (Click each to enlarge)
“‘Surprise!’ cried Malberta. A party! There was poison ivy punch and lizard tongue trail mix. There was bobbing for crawdads and a Pin the Drool on the Ghoul game. But there was no one to play with. Where were the other party guests?” (Click each to enlarge)
“‘Here we are!’ shouted ten vultures, nine rats, eight spiders, seven fruit bats, six mummies, five goblins, four ghosts, three witches, two skeletons, and one coal-black cat with an itchy-twitchy tail. Malberta’s friends! They were invited, too.” (Click each to enlarge)
Cover dummy and final cover (Click dummy image to enlarge)
Art from Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, August 2014)
Art from J. Patrick Lewis’ M is for Monster: A Fantastic Creatures Alphabet, illustrated by Gerald Kelley (Sleeping Bear Press, August 2014)
Art from Harriet Muncaster’s I Am a Witch’s Cat (Harper, July 2014)
“I know my mom is a witch because she keeps lots of strange potion bottles in the bathroom that I am NOT allowed to touch.” (Click to see spread in its entirety)
“And when we go shopping, she buys jars of EYEBALLS and GREEN FINGERS.” (Click to see spread in its entirety)
“I know my mom is a witch because she grows magical herbs in the garden …” (Click to see spread in its entirety)
“I know my mom is a witch because once a week she gets out her broomstick and whirls it around my room. Sometimes she lets me have a ride. That is the BEST thing about being a witch’s cat.” (Click to enlarge)
“On Friday nights my mom goes out and the babysitter comes. I don’t mind, because the babysitter is nice.” (Click to enlarge)
“She lets me watch TV and eat popcorn until it is time to go to bed.” (Click to see spread in its entirety)
Families: they love us, they hate us, they confuse us, they support us, they believe in us, they hurt us, they forgive us, they never forget our mistakes …
It’s no good picking and choosing which of the above (in what could be an interminably long list) best applies to your particular family, or mine, because today’s assumption will become tomorrow’s irrelevance.
As author John Michael Cummings shows with such poignant and searing skill in DON’T FORGET ME, BRO families contain all of it. There’s simply no tidy, predictable emotional or dynamic boundary to draw around these most primal of human units. Even those who don’t know their biological families have collective relationships that daily test their autonomy, individuality, self-worth and dreams.
Cummings, who’s spent more than three decades writing about human beings, mainly of the everyday American persuasion, excels in uncovering those beneath-the-skin familial stories that realistically probe uncomfortable, often invisible, areas of life. And even in our current decade of sociological transparency, perhaps nothing is more resistant to illumination in this context than mental illness.
As a broad collection of chemical, biological and/or psychiatric disorders of the brain, it eludes clear-cut treatments and solutions as successfully as families elude pat definitions of who and what they are. When families and their perceptions of mental illness collide, as happens with such gritty persistence in DON’T FORGET ME, BRO all the discomfort of relationships, normal and otherwise, comes to the fore.
Returning home to West Virginia to deal with the premature death of his older brother Steve, long diagnosed as schizophrenic, Mark Barr carries plenty of his own emotional and psychological baggage, including a deep-seated distaste for a father he remembers as abusive, a mother who seems a passive bystander to life, and a middle brother who comes across as just plain weird. With a number of failed relationships on record – including the one that’s falling apart even as he sets out from New York – he’s not so sure about his own mental health either.
“Going back home” stories are often based on narrow cliché-filled themes that focus on a single character or experience. Like series TV shows, they are easier to control and wrap up in a satisfying sentimental or tragic package at the end.
Fortunately, DON’T FORGET ME, BRO isn’t one of them. It’s a gripping emotional and literary journey that hits just about every pothole one can expect to find on life’s road; that part is engaging and sometimes oddly familiar. And when Cummings throws in a few unexpected left turns, thanks to his character’s unpredictable relatives and colleagues, there are moments of surprise and difference to ponder as well. That skilfully managed dichotomy in itself sets this author apart, drawing the reader into places that challenge assumption and attitude.
At the outset, Mark does think this back-home story is all about him, but he’s not driven by ego or self-absorption as much as by fear, worry and chronic indecision. His own identity, perhaps even his future, are on the line.
But as he blunders into memories, people, and artifacts from the chaotic mosaic of his dead brother’s life he rediscovers who Steve really was. In spite of himself he grows into a kind of belated and bewildered stewardship over his brother’s cremated remains, which become a catalyst for revealing ever-deeper layers of family stories he never really knew.
Haunted by the last words he heard Steve utter – “Don’t forget me, bro” – Mark realizes that at the heart of every human existence is the fear of being forgotten, of simply disappearing into cosmic anonymity. After all, even families that can’t stand each other tenaciously remember their own.
With the unexpected complicity of his equally dysfunctional remaining brother, Mark hangs around his hometown, stumbling upon ways to build better memories than the ones he’d fled more than a decade earlier when he went to New York seeking success.
The Barr family changes a little, just enough for its surviving members to actually remain civilly in the same room together. That’s about it. Cummings doesn’t make their story television-comfortable, nor does he eliminate the heavy reality of an uncertain future.
Set against the larger contexts of contemporary economic depression, social despair, fear of the known and unknown, as well as multiple shades of guilt, remorse and anger, in the end DON’T FORGET ME, BRO can only exhale in a long sigh of acceptance.
Cummings adeptly leaves the reader suspended in that fragile moment before the next breath must be taken, yet strangely satisfied that compassion and justice have been attained. DON’T FORGET ME, BRO is a rare thing, a brilliant addition to a theme in which so many other novels under-achieve.
Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books about your outstanding first novel Laurinda (Black Inc.), Alice Pung. Thanks for interviewing me! You are well known for your excellent non-fiction, Unpolished Gem, Her Father’s Daughter and as editor of Growing Up Asian in Australia. Why have you sidestepped into YA fiction? Growing up, I went to five different high schools, […]
They've announced the shortlists for the French prix Femina -- notable because it has three categories: fiction (French), foreign fiction, and non-fiction.
There doesn't seem to be an official site, so see, for example, Prix Femina 2014: Le jury dévoile ses finalistes at 20 minutes.
Three of the five foreign-fiction finalists are translations of books written int English.
One of the best books I read this year and a truly important reading experience is The Public Library, a photographic essay by Robert Dawson. Published by Princeton Architectural Press, this is a gorgeously designed book of photos and essays on American public libraries, which I could not stop paging through.
Right now, you are probably thinking you know what the book is and agree with me that it's important and yet you likely have no interest in paging through it. A book like this is a good thing, but you already value libraries, right? You think you don't need this one.
Allow me to convince you otherwise.
I know public libraries matter on many levels. My hometown library had a huge influence on my life and I know that sentiment is the same for a lot of other people. So I approached The Public Library expecting an appreciation and I certainly was not disappointed on that score. But there is a lot more going on in this book, in the essays (by Bill Moyers, Ann Patchett, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver and more) and the photos.
Dawson shows libraries in a variety of situations: urban and rural, small communities and large, in remote locations and city centers. The design differences are amazing and the closed facilities are heartbreaking but what really got to me was seeing how really useful the libraries are in unexpected ways. Also, the issue of homeless patrons came up several times and the essayists were pretty blunt on that subject.
While I was reading The Public Library and pouring over the photos, what struck me time and again was that open, free libraries are not a gift for a community, but a necessity. They are an equalizing force between the rich and poor and as significant as schools and the right to vote. They can make the difference for so much that might be missing in your life and be a game-changer in so many ways.
The best case scenario would find all of our elected officials sitting down and reading this book. It's the type of title that makes you think and inspires action. (I feel like I'm getting almost silly about libraries right now but I can't help it; just looking at these pictures touched my heart.)
The Public Library--obvious choice for book lovers but an even more important one for folks who just don't get it yet and need to be persuaded.
The November-December issue of World Literature Today, with a focus on 'After the Wall Fell: Dispatches from Central Europe 1989-2014', is now available, a decent chunk of it accessible online -- as is the entire World Literature in Review-reviews section.
Title: Ten Thankful Turkeys | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podleś | Publication Date: October 4, 2014 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 2 to 8 Summary: This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
Kindle version available for only 99 cents from Amazon on October 24 & 25, 2014. Grab your copy now!!
Angela Muse was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children’s book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children’s picture books and released books in her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2013/2014. Her husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon.
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest closes: November 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway
(This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on my personal blog in October, 2010. I revisited it recently and decided to share it here.)
Wouldn’t it be great if, when you went to your mailbox today, you found a letter inside from the main character of your work-in-progress, telling you just how she feels about the central conflict of your story? Or maybe she wrote a love letter to another one of your characters, and somehow it was misdirected to you? Imagine what a resource a letter like that would be…
When I do my outlining for a new WIP, I write up a lot of backstory. I also do character sketches, to help me form a clear idea of each of my characters – not just hair color, eye color, and favorite movie, but what they would do on a perfect spring day, where they would go on vacation if money were no object, even how they feel about money, in general. I try to think of the most revealing questions possible. These sketches help me with the essentials of my characters, but they only get me so far.
That’s why I’ve taken to writing first-person narratives – letters to me, if you will – in the voice of each character. These narratives generally address the main conflict faced by that character in the story, and how she or he feels about it. Does she believe that the problem is insurmountable? Does she still have hope? Who is she counting on most to help her? Who does she expect to cause her the most trouble?
I also write first-person narratives by all the individuals involved in romantic relationships in my story. For each one, I ask the character to tell me:
What do you love most about this other person?
What would you miss the most if he or she were taken away?
When did you first feel an attraction and what triggered it?
And, well, I’m sure you can come up with a lot more questions along this line.
These letters are great tools to return to while drafting. They help me to maintain consistency within a character, but they also helped me see that, despite consistency, all well-rounded characters have internal conflicts they are dealing with. People are filled with contradictions. Your characters need to be, too, if they’re going to leap off the page as real people with real complexity.
When you ask your character to tell you how he feels about the central conflict, chances are his answer will be complicated. It won’t just be as simple as, “I hate my father and wish he were dead,” because where’s the true conflict in that? Nothing is ever that straightforward. If it were, in chapter one your character could pull out a shotgun and shoot his father and the story would be done. Instead, your character’s answer to how he feels about the central conflict will be layered, complex, and in some ways, contradictory.
For you, as the writer, the secret to your character’s arc lies hidden in these contradictions. Early in the story your character may respond most to the tug of one attitude toward the central conflict. But as the story moves along, he may feel the influence of another attitude toward that conflict, and he will begin to change. By the time he’s completed his character arc, he may find himself in a place of compromise between these two contradictory attitudes.
Do you think this method might work for you? Do you have any of your own unique methods of learning about your characters? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
Julie Eshbaugh writes fiction for young adults. She is the author of the upcoming Ivory & Bone (HarperCollins, 2016.) You can add Julie on Goodreads and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.
I don't normally feature PBs on this blog, even though I write them, but this one needs to be spotlighted for a few reasons. First, Sherry Alexander dedicates her blog and her books to helping children. I'm amazed at all she does for charities. She even donates part of her proceeds from her book sales to these organizations. She's really an incredible person. Second, how adorable is this book cover?
Oliver has a Hunger Dragon who rumbles and grumbles. He wants it to go away, but Hunger says he plans to stay. Is Oliver the only one who has a dragon deep inside?
Oliver is a story about child hunger and how it overpowers children making them too tired to play or to do well in school. But Oliver discovers hunger can be deterred through the power of friendship and the sharing spirit. A portion of all proceeds from the sale of this book will go the Clark County, WA Food Bank, Feeding America, and the Portland, OR Police Bureau's Sunshine Division to help feed the one in four kids in America who go to bed hungry every night. For a chance to win a book, check out the Goodreads Giveaway here. It ends TODAY so head over and enter now.
Want your YA, NA, or MG book featured on my blog? Contact me here and we'll set it up.
Dwell Studio have released several new collections including the very sweet 'Posey' design on baby's bedding and accessories. Dwellstudio was founded in New York in 1999 by Christiane Lemieux and its modern design aesthetic soon won it lots of enthusiastic customers. Besides Posey the latest ranges for children and babies include Chevalier, Flight, Wildwood and Pompom. I have also included
I recently interviewed author/illustrator Harriet Muncaster to learn more about her debut picture book I Am A Witch’s Cat,which was published this summer, but is perfect for Halloween. Her book contains fascinating scenes filled with incredibly detailed miniatures.I was an instant fan from page one. And the story is clever and sweet. It’s about a child who claims her mother is a witch (a good witch) and she is a witch’s cat, and she goes on to show the reader all the reasons why she knows her mother is a witch. But more than that, the story is about a special relationship between a child and a parent. Please read the interview and get to know rising star Harriet Muncaster.
Q. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in children’s books.
HM.Hi Lauri, I am so glad you like my book and thank you for having me on your blog! I have always loved making, drawing, reading and writing so I always knew I wanted to do something visually creative. However it wasn’t until we went on a school trip to an exhibition of James Mayhew’s work that I realized I could channel my creativity into children’s books. The thought had never actually occurred to me before and I had never been told that it was possible to do an illustration course at university as opposed to just a general art course. I think I was about 16 or 17 at the time. I absolutely loved James Mayhew’s work at the exhibition and it opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a children’s book illustrator myself. I did a foundation course in art and design after school and that made me more certain that illustration was the right path for me to take. After that I did a degree in illustration and then an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge. We were given some good exposure on my MA course – our work got taken out to Bologna Book Fair and that is where my Witch’s Cat book was spotted! In fact, it was a project I did on that course.
Q. You have a unique artistic style, which is evident in your picture book I Am A Witch’s Cat (which is gorgeous, by the way). How would you describe your style?
HM. Thank you! I am not really sure how I would describe my style to be honest. I kind of feel like I fell into it without meaning to. I was on my MA course and thought I would try out a book by making work in 3D out of paper and photographing it. I had done something similar before on my degree course where I made a paper model of a Snow Queen’s room. It was just the room though, I hadn’t taken it as far as putting characters in at that point. I guess that was my first ever foray into 3D illustration! So I thought I would try a similar technique to illustrate a book on my MA course. It went down quite well, I actually got highly commended for it in the Macmillan prize so my tutor suggested I do my next project in the same way. That project turned out to be Witch’s Cat, and it went from there. I enjoyed doing it because I absolutely LOVE making tiny things and I enjoy playing with lighting to get different atmospheres. (I actually think I prefer making physical things to drawing, it feels more natural to me.) I wanted it to be a warm book with an autumnal feel but also a bit magical. I watched a lot of the old Bewitched episodes while I was creating it.
So overall, to answer the question, if I were to describe my style in Witch’s Cat it would be: paper and fabric room sets with cut out characters, photographed with (hopefully!) warm lighting to give an autumnal feel.
Q. Can you tell us a bit about your process from beginning to end when you created I Am A Witch’s Cat?
HM. Well, I think I went about it in a pretty ordered fashion. Even though I am a messy person in real life, when it comes to work I find I have to be very ordered and focused. Firstly I thought of the story. Then I thumbnailed the whole book, did a dummy book and then started making the final art! To make the final art I made miniature scenes- about dollhouse sort of size, out of paper and card and bits of fabric and then photographed them.
These are some of the very first sketches of Witch’s Cat from my sketchbook.
And here are some work in progress shots when I was making the 3D scenes.
These are all the food boxes and tins for the supermarket scene.
The first finished version of Witch’s Cat (the one I created on my MA course) had more of a scrapbook feel to it but that got changed for publication.
Q. Photography plays a large part in your artwork.Would you consider yourself a photographer too?
HM. I’m not sure actually… I suppose I am in a way! I don’t feel as though I am worthy of the title ‘professional photographer’ though as I don’t feel I know enough of the technical stuff. Also I don’t own all the equipment!
Q. Do you personally create all of the miniatures you use in your artwork? (I especially love the tiny books I saw on your website!)
HM. I try to make as many of the miniatures as I can out of card, but I think sometimes it adds interest to put an actual miniature in there like a real dollhouse lamp or something. Sometimes, if I want to make something look properly 3D I will make it out of Fimo. Or sew it! Like these little soft toy cats in Witch’s Cat.
Q. I Am A Witch’s Cat is a perfect pick for Halloween. Was that your intention when you created it?
HM. No, I didn’t specifically think of Halloween funnily enough! But I was intending it to have an autumnal feel. I can see now though that it works well as a Halloween book!
Q. And how popular is Halloween in your part of the world?
HM. Halloween was never a big thing at all for me growing up. We weren’t even allowed to go trick or treating in my family! Halloween was a bit of a non-event in my house. It wasn’t until I went to university that I discovered that some people do like to celebrate Halloween. I’ve been to a few Halloween parties since. It’s definitely not as big a deal in the UK as it is in America though – Nowhere near!
Q. What projects are you working on right now?
HM. I have been working on a range of books about a princess called ‘Glitterbelle’ with Parragon publishing. I think they are coming out in January – or sometime round then anyway! I have just illustrated them, not written them and some of them are activity books. They are all done in my 3D style. I have also been working on a second Witch’s cat book called Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat which will come out next July. And then there are some other picture books I have been working on too but I can’t say much about those yet!
Q. Why do you believe picture books are important?
HM. I cannot imagine a world without picture books! Well, I can, but it would be a very boring world. I absolutely adore them because they are like little worlds you can just escape into. My absolutely favourite picture books are the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. I love the atmospheres they evoke. Of course there are other reasons why picture books are so important – like the use of them for teaching to read, introducing children to ideas, addressing important issues in a way children can relate to, provoking exploration and questions, bonding over bedtime reading etc… but that is my reason for loving them, the escapism and inspiration they provide. Also, writing and illustrating picture books is like being the director of a mini play/film. You have complete control to create a whole new world.
Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work or to simply connect with you?
HM. I don’t think I actually have any words of wisdom! I have just always done what I love and luckily it has led me to being able to do it as my full-time job. Maybe I would say: listen to criticism, use it to help you become a better illustrator/writer/artist/(insert word here) but ultimately do what inspires you and what you believe in. Don’t let anyone change that.
Oh my goodness, I love the tiny orange and yellow quilt on the bed, and the tiny food boxes, and the tiny plush kitties! Thanks for sharing, Harriet, and much success with all of your books!
As writers, one of the things that lies at the heart of our intentions is connection. We write books that we want people to read. We share our thoughts, our fantasies, the products of our imagination, sometimes our biggest secrets and the deepest angst in our souls - and we put it all out there for the world to read about.
‘Only connect,’ said EM Forster, and, over a hundred years later, this is still what drives us. And I don’t think this desire is restricted to writers. We all want it. That’s why telephones were invented. It’s why the internet has pretty much taken over the world. It’s why Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc etc etc are as massively popular as they are. They allow us to reach out, communicate, share, meet, interact…connect.
So what happened? How did these means of connection suddenly become the very things that keep us isolated and disconnected?
Actually, it didn’t happen suddenly at all. It sneaked up on us so gradually that most of us don’t even realise that it has happened to us.
I used to live on a narrowboat on the canal. I remember the day BT put a line across the farmer’s field and I plugged a phone into it. Out there, on a boat on a canal in pretty much the middle of nowhere, I was connected. It was incredible. (Till the day the farmer ploughed his field and cut the line to shreds – but that’s a different story.)
Me on my beloved boat, Jester. Crikey, my hair was short back then.
I remember my first mobile phone. I remember the first time someone showed me how to send an email – and my awe at the notion that the recipient could read it from anywhere in the world moments later. It was all very new at that time, and I’m glad that I am part of a generation that still remembers a time before these things were taken for granted. I still am in awe of the internet and what we can do with it.
But sometimes I wish we could all take a couple of steps back.
Phones today can do SO much – and the problem is that, nowadays, we so often use them to separate ourselves from the world around us, rather than connect us to it.
A couple of examples.
I was catching a train yesterday. Whilst I waited for my train, I looked around. On the platform opposite there were about eight people. A few of them in pairs and a few on their own, waiting for the same train. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them was looking at their phone. Every one. Not talking to the person they were with. Not smiling at a stranger. Not noticing anyone or anything around them. Each of them was locked away on their own with their screen.
The night before that, I’d been to a Lady Gaga concert. (It was amazing, by the way. The woman is utterly bonkers but WOW – what a show she puts on!)
The best decision my partner and I made (other than to buy 'Early Entry' tickets and get a great spot!) was to leave our phones at home. We met a couple of guys on our way in and became instant friends. The four of us watched, listened, sang, danced and loved every minute of the concert. I took it all in. Gaga, the dancers, the crowds, the outfits, the music. I was there.
Around us, probably half the people I could see spent most of the evening holding out their phones to photograph and record the gig – presumably to then share it on some social networking site and say ‘Look, I was there!’
But were they? Were they reallythere?
Generic photo off the internet - as I didn't have my phone/camera to take a pic!
We’d been chatting with a young woman beside us before the show began. Once it started, she was one of those who brought her phone out. At one point, when Lady Gaga was behind us, the woman videoed her back. At another point, when Gaga was too far away to get a decent shot, she videoed the dark stage with the blurry figure at the edge of it. When Lady Gaga and the dancers were out of our sight completely, the young woman held her phone out at the big screen and videoed that!
She wasn't the only one; far from it. All these people around us, so busy framing their shots, zooming in, zooming out, focussing, refocussing, they weren't even aware that in their haste to show they were there, they actually weren't there at all. They were watching an event via a tiny screen held up in the air that they could have watched for real if they put their phones away.
This isn’t a criticism of any of these people. Heck, I’ve done it myself. I’ve experienced something and started composing a Facebook status about it in my head before the moment is even over. I’ve half-watched a TV programme whilst on twitter and spent as much time reading tweets about it as taking in the programme itself. I’ve even sent a text to my partner from one end of the sofa to the other, asking for a cup of tea. (Only as a joke, I should point out.)
But I can’t help thinking that we have to start reversing things before it’s too late and we forget the art of human interaction altogether.
Last weekend, I was told about a site that I’d never heard of, but which apparently most people in their twenties already know about/use, called Tinder. The idea is that you log in to the app, tell it who you are looking for (gender, age group etc) and what kind of radius you are interested in, to a minimum of one kilometre, and the app does the rest. Any time someone fitting your wishlist comes into your specified zone, you get a notification. You check out their photos. If you like them, you give them a tick. If they like you, they give you a tick – then you can ‘chat’ and arrange to meet or whatever. (And I imagine that for many of the users, it’s the ‘or whatever’ that interests them.)
At the risk of sounding like the oldest fogiest old fogey in the room….
What happened to looking around? To conversation? To gradually getting to know someone? I’m not against online dating. Not remotely. I’m not, in fact, against any of this, and like I said, I'm as guilty of iPhone overuse as the next person. But I'm concerned by the constant speeding up of everything, and the taking us out of our surroundings to make us look at a screen instead of the things and the people around us.
So here’s my challenge – and I make it for myself as much as for anyone reading this. It’s not a super-radical idea. It’s about taking small steps.
Each day, use your phone a tiny bit less than you used it the day before. Make one decision a day where you say, ‘No, I won’t take my phone out of my pocket, I’ll smile at a stranger instead.’ Or one occasion where you decide, ‘I will allow myself this experience without having to share it online afterwards’. Just one small decision a day. Before we know it, we’ll all be connecting up again.
On which note I’m off for walkies with my partner, to chat, look at the waves, feel the salty air in my face and throw some stones for the dog.
Well, maybe not "need" but how about we could all help?
We Need Diverse Books (the group, not simply the concept) has announced a new award - The Walter (named for Walter Dean Myers) - and is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for it.
There are some gooooooood bonuses for funders... and a way to simply help spread the word by using the #SupportWNDB hashtag on Twitter (tomorrow during the hashtag party at 1 PM EST sure, but even beyond that!)
Dwell Studio have also teamed up with Robert Allen to create a bold, 60s-inspired collection that pays homage to decor magazines of the past. The new line puts an urban twist on the retro colors and can be seen online here.
And below are a selection of recent arrivals to Dwell Studio's main range including this unusual aviary bird design in yellow, grey and black..