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The truth is, I’m kind of a fake introvert. On those ubiquitous personality tests I hover right on the line between the two extremes. Nonetheless, a big social event like a SCBWI national conference can be overwhelming, and all the networking can push a pseudo-introvert like me to the point of social burnout. I’ve collected some tips below that have helped me have the best possible experience at one of these events. (If you want to learn more about what a SCBWI conference is, click here.)
Promo postcards and portfolio page, ready to go.
The seeds of a great experience are sown long before you get to the conference.
Try to read at least one book by every speaker. It makes their keynote more illuminating.
To be a real overachiever, come up with a question or two you’d want to ask each faculty member. If you ever end up sharing a table with them or in a Q&A session, you’ll be ready to participate.
If you’ve been to prior conferences, go through the contacts you made back then and refresh your memory. For extra credit, check out their websites to see what new stuff they’ve been up to. There’s nothing worse than introducing yourself to someone only to hear “um, we met last year.” (Sorry about that, Rodolfo.)
If you’re attending sessions with assignments, make sure to do your homework ahead of time.
2. Stuff you should probably bring with you
In addition to your underwear and toothbrush and so forth, don’t forget the following:
Your portfolio/dummy books/whatever.
Postcards and/or business cards.
A sketchbook/notebook and something to write with.
A copy of any of your recently published books that you want to show to your friends.
Copies of other people’s books that you want to get signed.
Warm things (it’s ALWAYS cold in the hotel. Plus it’s New York in February.)
Earplugs for sleeping if you’re sharing a room with friends.
Sleep mask (ditto to above.)
3. Networking tips for introverts, or something
I probably shouldn’t be giving advice at all in this area.
Try to avoid looking at your feet while talking to people.
Resist the urge to apologize for your work.
Be genuinely interested in other people.
Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself.
Don’t be one of those annoying, pushy people who stalk the faculty members.
Sit in the front. You can see so much better. Actually, never mind. DON’T sit in the front, because I want to sit there.
4. Chilling Out
For an introvert, a big conference in New York City is remarkably taxing. While the whole point of the conference is to network and go to keynotes blah blah blah, it’s okay to take some time to get away from it all in order to survive.
Use the gym or pool if there is one to get away from people for a little while.
Have your own room if you can afford it. This helps a ton, but it’s like $400 a night so I get it.
Skip a keynote if you have to. Or two.
Leave the hotel and go somewhere else. Cafes are good.
Have you been a national conference or book fair? What tips would you suggest? Feel free to share in the comments!
What do you do when you are at a posh reception at the French embassy to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of one of the top French Children’s publishing houses, ”Ecole des Loisirs, and you spot one of your favorite author/illustrators … Continue reading →
The screen is so unremarkable in its ubiquity that it might seem to take going out to the very limits to make us aware of the extent to which image projection has become our very condition. Take the migration of the phrase “screen time” from its place in film analysis as the descriptor for the edited duration of an action on screen.
Looking for a place to get the essentials for a Christmas Eve feast? Or perhaps you’re leaving the cooking to the professionals and you’re looking for a place to make a reservation? With the holiday season in full swing, what better way to celebrate than enjoying some of New York City’s top eats! We have compiled a list of some of the best New York City food and market spots from our latest title Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Guide to New York City. Enjoy and be merry!
These are some striking new designs available for licensing from Victoria Johnson. They form part of the portfolio she'll be showing at Blue Print in New York next week. To create the designs she began playing with paint, then chopped up the various papers and used them to make individual flowers for a potential greetings card range. Victoria is represented by Jennifer Nelson Artists who will
On a brisk fall morning, more than twenty authors and illustrators gathered at the White Plains Public Library for the second annual Westchester Children’s (and Teens!) Book Festival. Community members including children, parents, and educators were invited to meet the authors and illustrators, shop Barnes & Nobles pop-up shop, have their books autographed, and take in a reading of picture, middle grade, and young adult books. Literacy advocacy organization First Book gifted an age-appropriate book to each child in attendance.
The Westchester Children’s (and Teens!) Book Festival was a reunion of sorts. Rocco Staino and the crew ran into Stephen Savage, Julie Chibbaro, and J.M. Superville Sovak; past Read Out Loud and StoryMakers guests. Rocco interviewed authors and illustrators who cover a wide range of topics including fantasy (Tracey West), civil rights (Eric Velasquez), bullying and the power of creativity (Matt Davies), immigration and tradition (Tanya Simon & Mark Siegel), special education (Delores Connors), healing through yoga (Susa Verde), and being multiracial (Torrey Maldonado).
Meeting authors and illustrators is a good reason to attend a book festival, but it is not the only one. Visiting a book festival gives parents (great family activity) and educators the ability to connect with other community members and organizations interested in childhood literacy. While several festival guests were aware of KidLit TV we were able to interact with a new group of readers, viewers, and literacy advocates.
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR INTERVIEWS AND TITLES DISCUSSED
We’ve provided time stamps (in parentheses) and abridged summaries, from the author or publisher’s site, of books discussed during this episode of Story Makers On Location.
Anya Wallach (00:25) Stage Struck: Showstopper!(Co-Authored by Lisa Fielder) – Book 2 begins just days after the debut of the troupe’s first production. Relishing her success, Anya turns her attention to the troupe’s second show. But trouble rears its head almost immediately when their beloved barn venue is jeopardized. Stage Struck: Curtains Up!(Co-Authored by Lisa Fielder) – After 12-year-old Anya is cut from her middle school soccer team, she decides to pursue her true passion, which is theater. With the help of her sister and new friend Austin, Anya puts together a kids summer theater troupe (The Random Farms Kids Theater), recruiting area kids as actors and crew members. Susan Verde (01:03) I Am Yoga (Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds) – New York Times bestselling illustrator Peter H. Reynolds and author and certified yoga instructor Susan Verde team up again in this book about creativity and the power of self-expression. I Am Yoga encourages children to explore the world of yoga and make room in their hearts for the world beyond it. A kid-friendly guide to 16 yoga poses is included. You and Me(Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds) – You and Me is a loving tribute to how fate brought two best friends together. An adorable cat muses about the what-ifs in life: What if he had slept late that one special morning? What if he’d missed his train on that fateful day? Then he might never have met his favorite person in the world, and his entire life would be different! The Museum (Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds) – As a little girl tours and twirls through the halls of the art museum, she finds herself on an exciting adventure. Each piece of art evokes something new inside of her: silliness, curiosity, joy, and ultimately inspiration. When confronted with an empty white canvas, she is energized to create and express herself—which is the greatest feeling of all.
Eric Velasquez, Illustrator (01:51) New Shoes (Written by Susan Lynn Meyer) – When her brother’s hand-me-down shoes don’t fit, it is time for Ella Mae to get new ones. She is ecstatic, but when she and her mother arrive at Mr. Johnson’s shoe store, her happiness quickly turns to dejection. Ella Mae is unable to try on the shoes because of her skin color. Determined to fight back, Ella Mae and her friend Charlotte work tirelessly to collect and restore old shoes, wiping, washing, and polishing them to perfection. The girls then have their very own shoe sale, giving the other African American members of their community a place to buy shoes where they can be treated fairly and “try on all the shoes they want.”
Gary Golio(03:00) Bird & Diz (Illustrated by Ed Young) – A playful tribute to the creators of Bebop, starring sax player Charlie “Bird” Parker and trumpeter John “Dizzy” Gillespie! As they juggle notes and chase each other with sounds, the two friends create a new kind of music, thrilling fast jazz full of endless surprises.
Tanya Simon (Co-Author) & Mark Siegel (Illustrator) (03:35) Oskar and the Eight Blessings (Co-Authored by Richard Simon) – A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world.
Matt Davies, Author/Illustrator (06:14) Nerdy Birdy(Written by Aaron Reynolds) – Nerdy Birdy likes reading, video games, and reading about video games, which immediately disqualifies him for membership in the cool crowd. One thing is clear: being a nerdy birdy is a lonely lifestyle. When he’s at his lowest point, Nerdy Birdy meets a flock just like him. He has friends and discovers that there are far more nerdy birdies than cool birdies in the sky.
Ben Draws Trouble – Ben loved drawing more than anything else in the world (with the possible exception of riding his bicycle). He drew boats as well as bicycles, sharks and spaceships. But most of all he loved drawing people. When Ben loses his sketchbook his world is turned upside down. Who will find it? And how will they react? Find out in this worthy successor to Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Matt Davies’s first picture book, Ben Rides On.
Ben Rides On – Ben loves his new bike. In fact, he loves it so much he even likes riding to school (especially if he can take the long way around)! That is, until an encounter with the local bully, Adrian Underbite, leaves Ben bike-less. When Ben discovers where his bike actually is, the reader is in for a dramatic, and literal, cliffhanger. Will Ben ever be able to get his bike back?
Neil Swaab (07:24) The Secrets to Ruling School (Without Even Trying) – It’s the first week of middle school, i.e., the Worst Place in the Entire World. How do you survive in a place where there are tough kids twice your size, sadistic teachers, and restrictions that make jail look like a five-star resort? Easy: with the help of Max Corrigan, middle school “expert” and life coach. Let Max teach you how to win over not just one, but all of the groups in school, from the Preps to the Band Geeks. Along the way, Max offers surefire advice and revealing tips on how to get through universal middle school experiences like gym class, detention, faking sick, dealing with jocks and bullies, and acing exams (without getting caught cheating).
Tracey West (07:57) Dragon Masters: Power of the Fire Dragon – It’s time for the Dragon Masters to battle the dark wizard! This series is part of Scholastic’s early chapter book line called Branches, which is aimed at newly independent readers. With easy-to-read text, high-interest content, fast-paced plots, and illustrations on every page, these books will boost reading confidence and stamina. Branches books help readers grow! The Dragon Masters are going to visit Queen Rose’s kingdom. But Rori and Drake must stay behind. Then a four-headed dragon attacks the castle — and Maldred is riding it! How is Maldred controlling this giant dragon? Will Rori and Drake have to battle the dark wizard on their own?
Bianca Turetsky (08:18) The Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile – When Louise Lambert tries on a lavender Grecian gown during a visit to the mysterious Traveling Fashionista Vintage Sale, she feels a familiar tug and falls back in time, arriving at the dusty base of an enormous pyramid. She has landed in ancient Egypt…or has she? It turns out that Louise is on the legendary Old Hollywood film set of Cleopatra, but her time there is short-lived. Rummaging through the wardrobe tent, Louise gets her hands on a pearl necklace that dates back to 51 BC, and she suddenly finds herself whisked away once more, this time to the ancient city of Alexandria, Egypt. Gold and jewels shimmer in the Egyptian sunlight, but poisonous snakes and dangerous enemies also roam the palace halls. Louise quickly learns that life as a handmaiden to Queen Cleopatra is much more treacherous–and fashionable–than she ever could have imagined.
Delores Connors (09:05) I Don’t Want To Go – What is it like for a child to go from a mainstream classroom into a special education class? For Mark it’s a challenge, and he doesn’t want to go. Mark is struggling with the idea of moving from his “big classroom” into this “little classroom.” I Don’t Want To Go, through its poignant narrative, brings home the point that emotions can have a strong impact on student learning.
Torrey Maldonado (09:41) Secret Saturdays – Sean is Justin’s best friend, at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently: telling lies, getting into trouble at school, and hanging out with a tougher crowd. When Justin finally discovers that Sean’s been secretly going to visit his father in prison and is dealing with the shame of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his friend spirals further out of control. But what if confronting Sean means Justin loses his very best friend?
OTHER INTERVIEWS/CLOSING REMARKS White Plains Mayor Tom Roach & White Plains Superintendent of Schools Paul Fried (02:32)
Tamia M., child festival attendee (05:32) Max Rodriguez & Brian Kenney (10:24)
ABOUT THE WESTCHESTER CHILDREN’S (AND TEENS!) BOOK FESTIVAL The Westchester Children’s Book Festival is a partnership of the Harlem Book Fair, the White Plains Public Library, The City of White Plains, the City of White Plains Youth Bureau, and the White Plains Library Foundation. Festival sponsors include TD Bank, New York-Presbyterian Westchester Division, MVP Health Care Hudson Health Plan, Westchester Knicks, and First Book.
Following on from yesterday's competition to win a booth at next years Blue Print III Show we have another designer who will be at the next show. Blue Print II opens on 2nd December and runs until 4th of December and provides a pleasant environment for buyers to peruse the latest surface designs from a host of studios. Andrea is represented by Cinnamon Joe and will be showcasing new nature
Blue Print have launched a competition to give an affordable opportunity to an emerging surface pattern designer. The prize is to win a show booth at the Blue Print III Show in New York next May. To enter designers need to submit their vision of how they would create their booth design on banners and table skirts. All the details are available at this link here.
Meanwhile the next show
Seventy-five years ago folk singer Woody Guthrie penned the initial lyrics to “This Land Is Your Land,” considered by many to be the alternative national anthem. Sung in elementary schools, children’s summer camps, around campfires, at rallies, and during concert encores, “This Land Is Your Land” is the archetypal sing-along song, familiar to generations of Americans. But what most do not know is that Guthrie, the “Oklahoma Cowboy,” actually wrote the song in New York and that its production and dissemination were shaped by the city’s cultural institutions.
I have known Sarah Towle since my early days of writing. Back before I moved from Nice to New York and she moved from Paris to London. One day we may actually end up living in the same city! We … Continue reading →
This is one of those books that immediately after you start reading you know you are in the hands of a wonderful writer. Atticus Lish has delivered a delicately savage critique on post-9/11 America and the so-called American Dream in a beautiful love story of an illegal immigrant and an American soldier recently returned from […]
Huge apologies for the sudden lack of posts last week - I was struck down suddenly with a virus and with no time to post a warning or explanation I was totally unable to do any work. This means i am now hugely behind on Surtex postings so we have tons of great design to catch up on. We dive straight back in with
The Cinnamon Joe Studio whowill be hosting a new show called BluePrint 14-16th May
The final instalment in the Dave Hooper trilogy brings events to an epic crescendo. Not for the first time John Birmingham lays waste to the streets of New York. The Dave, who has been struggling to come to terms with his recently acquired hero status, has learnt he may not be the special and unique snowflake […]
I have interviewed several winners and runners-up of the SCBWI winter conference portfolio competition and it is my pleasure to welcome this year’s winner to the blog today, MIKA SONG. Congratulations on your win! And we have promised each other to … Continue reading →
Don’t you just love the serendipitous discovery that one of your favorite picture books of the previous year that you already have scheduled for this Friday’s Perfect Picture Books just happens to have won a well deserved Caldecott Honor Award … Continue reading →
I am so unbelievably blessed with some very open, honest, and funny girlfriends. I've always been one who struggles with friends, but as an adult, I believe I have some of the best and strongest relationships I never thought possible.
One of these friends is fellow illustrator and work from home mom, Candace Camling. We are so much a like, yet so very different, and I adore this about our relationship. We can be very honest, borderline offensive honest, and still want to talk to each other. I find this very special and I treasure it.
She's on her way to New York today for a very important trip. She's attending the SCBWI conference where she will be presenting her top notch portfolio to directors, editors, and participating in the illustrator event (sorry, I don't know ALL the details). She's on her way to the top as a children's book illustrator.
I thought of her this morning as she's beginning this fun adventure. I've been able to help her out with printing her portfolio, and I am very honored to be there for her. She helps me out by being my soundboard for those really rough days and nights all about being mom or struggling artist.
She's my light for today, reminding myself that you get what you put in. She puts in long hours, money, perseverance, and hope for her career, and I'm inspired by that.
I've been re-reading 'The Time Machine' and today feels very much like I've taken a trip back in time.
Today I scanned the negatives of the photos I took of my NYC apartment at 161 W. 78th Street back when I went to Parsons in the last century. It was so cool to recognize and revisit everything in that room. It was just like being a time traveler - I wondered at the objects I'd forgotten and remembered.
Some of the circled treasures are: my radio and toaster (that I'd hauled from Utah to Seattle and now to NYC). My cup hanging from a wire (to keep the roaches off), the mini-stove (sitting on top of the mini fridge), my tea kettle and my illustration in progress.
Everything but the bed was scrounged off the streets. You'd never guess how attached one can become to an old second hand toaster and radio.
But it was when I looked at the window at the view that I signed the lease without a doubt. The Museum of Natural History is just down the block. It was such an adventure to just look out the window in the mornings watching people going to work.
Did I tell you guys about the time Kevin nearly got ran over by an ambulance in New York City?
It was a few months after his motorcycle accident. It was July 2010. We had already booked a cruise out of New York to Canada and we weren’t sure if we would be able to go considering Kevin shattered his pelvis in April.
He had to live in a wheelchair for about 8 weeks after his accident to give his pelvis time to heal. Once the doctor’s said it was okay, he had to learn to walk all over again.
I tried to talk him out of the trip. Luckily, we had bought trip insurance and we could have gotten out of the trip if he really wanted to. He waffled back and forth on whether he could handle it and in the end, we went.
The trip was super hard on Kevin. SUPER HARD. We walked all over that city and poor Kevin hobbled along with his cane at first, but it just got to be too much for him so he switched to his walker.
You can really tell how weak and exhausted he was in this picture:
We were riding the New York subway and it was almost more than he could handle.
I felt so sorry for him.
And the weather certainly didn’t help – New York in July?!? What were we thinking?! I think we all lost five pounds in sweat alone.
We were only in New York a few days before catching our boat, but Kevin was exhausted after those few days and we still had another four days on a cruise boat to go!
In hindsight, we probably should have canceled the cruise. But I will say that though the trip for Kevin was super hard, it did him a world of good. He recovered by leaps and bounds after that trip. I think pushing himself really helped his body to heal faster.
But I wouldn’t want him to go through that again to test my theory.
And did I mention he didn’t complain once??
I am glad, though, that we took his walker. At least he instantly had someplace to sit when our walking just got to be too much.
We were walking through Times Square and … I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Times Square but it’s sensory overload, on crack. There’s so much noise. So many sights to see. So many people to dodge that your eyes don’t know where to land first and it’s hard to pick out sounds because THERE ARE SO MANY SOUNDS!
We were walking across the entrance to a side street, all of our heads turned in opposite directions, when I suddenly picked up the sound of a siren. (This was before I worked at the hospital – my life on foreshadow mode). I glanced down the side street and noticed an ambulance barreling toward us.
I hurried the boys across and then noticed that Kevin was distracted and hadn’t picked up on the fact that a two-ton truck was nearly on top of him. I yelled over the noise, frantically pointing in the direction of the white blur baring down on him. He was using his walker to cross the street and when he spotted the ambulance, he stumbled/speed walked to get out of the way.
I would have laughed but I was too terrified. It’s sort of like making a joke too soon after a traumatic event – the adrenaline hasn’t had a chance to wear off – and we had just survived six weeks of hospital and rehab after his motorcycle accident – how ironic would it have been for him to recover from that harrowing experience only to be run down by an ambulance, using his walker, in Times Square?
I didn’t really “rescue” him, more like I “warned” him, but I deserve a kudos for making sure the man didn’t end up bug juice on an ambulance windshield.
They say if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere. Well Little Elliot Big City by Mike Curato is about to take over New York. Little Elliot is an elephant who is trying to make his home in the big city. However, being small makes it hard for him to do everyday city things. He even gets ignored when he tries to buy a cupcake. Then he meets a mouse who is facing the same problem. Elliot knows just the right thing to help the mouse. The next day the mouse is able to help Elliot. In helping each other they become friends.
Here's to Elliot's success in the Big City starting August 26!
Check out the upcoming book trailer below.
As they say in New York First Come First Serve. I missed out on the official blog tour, but I did get a review copy so check out these other blogs for prizes during the tour. From Mike Curato site-
Elliot and I have been lucky enough to make a bunch of new friends who are super excited about Little Elliot, Big City. Some of them happen to be some pretty awesome bloggers who are each going to have a special Elliot post the week of the book release, August 26th! Not only will you learn some cool stuff about Elliot’s journey to your bookshelf, you might even win a free give-away! Be sure to check out the blogs on the dates below to find out how you can get a free copy of Little Elliot, Big City, a limited edition tote bag, and stickers!
Lydia sat with her two children in the waiting room. Her eldest read aloud from his new book, pausing every now and again to teach his mother and younger sister how to say the words in English. His little sister beamed with pride when he let her turn the page.
Andrea Gatewood of the Nassau County (NY) Department of Health knows that providing new books to families like Lydia’s leads to priceless interactions. For the past ten years, she and her colleagues at the Nassau County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program have been giving books from First Book to the local low-income women and children they serve.
Traditionally, WIC programs supply women who are pregnant or recently gave birth and children up to age five found to be at nutritional risk with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education. But at five WIC sites in Nassau County, families also receive colorful new books.
“The books from First Book teach children how to count, the alphabet, the importance of family, other languages, colors, different foods and incentives to promote physical activity,” said Andrea. “They strengthen family bonds, promote diversity and improve literacy.”
Andrea takes great care in selecting books that are both engaging and culturally relevant as nearly 100 percent of the children she serves come from minority households.
“We have distributed books at Christmas, Halloween and to kick off the school year. Our goal is to reach as many children as possible,” Andrea shared. “The partnership between First Book and WIC has allowed thousands of children to receive brand new books and will have a lasting impact on an individual and community level.”
Over the past ten years, the Nassau WIC Program has received approximately 20,000 books from First Book, thanks to grant funding made possible by members of the First Book – Long Island volunteer chapter and the Guru Krupa Foundation. The Foundation, based in Jericho, New York, funds initiatives related to education, health and basic sustenance of underprivileged children in India and the United States, and has helped First Book provide more than 51,000 books to children in need in the greater New York and Los Angeles areas in the past two years.
“We at Guru Krupa Foundation believe that education is a cornerstone for future success in life,” said Mukund Padmanabhan, president of the Guru Krupa Foundation. “Supporting initiatives that bring the benefits of education to underprivileged children can lead to enormous future dividends, not only for the children but to society.”
Patty’s Suitors is pretty much Kit Cameron’s book, if you’re looking for an easy way to remember it (and I am). It also gives us proposals from Ken and Phil (yes, again) as well as another flying visit from Big Bill Farnsworth, but Kit is new and Kit is involved throughout. And Kit is funny, and Phil Van Reypen hates him, so I’m pretty cool with that.
Kit is the cousin of Patty’s new friend Marie Homer (who exists to provide an alternate love interest for Ken as well as to introduce Kit, but who seems nice). Patty ends up accidentally talking to him on the phone one night when she’s trying to get hold of Marie, and, being Patty, conceals her identity and flirts with him instead of apologizing for the wrong number.
This clearly appeals to Kit’s sense of humor, and, once the issue of Patty’s identity is cleared up, they spend most of the rest of the book playing pranks on each other. He proposes to her, too, but she mostly talks him out of being serious about it.
Anyway, it doesn’t mean much. Once she’s out in society, people are always proposing to Patty. And then she steers them towards her friends. Kit gets pointed in the direction of Daisy Dow, who used to be awful to Patty but I guess isn’t in love with Bill Farnsworth anymore. Ken is paired off with Marie Homer by the narrative even before he’s proposed to Patty. I wish Ken didn’t have to propose to Patty, though. It reduces him, somehow. He’s been a part of Patty’s life since Patty at Home, and everyone thinks he’s great. I understand that everyone has to fall in love with her, but when it comes time to refuse him, Patty has to give him reasons she’s not in love with him and reasons he shouldn’t be in love with her, which is a) super condescending, and b) not her decision to make.
She doesn’t give Phil reasons. I’m very resentful of Phil Van Reypen being treated better than Kenneth Harper. And Patty apparently likes Phil best right now, which makes me like Patty less than I’ve ever liked her before.
Bill shows up toward the end, in an episode that should definitely tell you, if you didn’t already know, that he’s endgame. There have been plenty of men and boys who have been jealous of Patty’s other suitors, but none of them have made Patty jealous, and that seems to be the point of this bit — to show us that even if Patty doesn’t know it yet, this one is different for her.
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2014. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Penguin.
Despite the title, Brown Girl Dreaming is most certainly not just a book for brown girls or girls. Jacqueline Woodson's memoir-in-verse relates her journey to discover her passion for writing. Her story is framed by her large, loving family within the confines of the turbulent Civil Rights Era.
Sometimes a book is so well-received, so popular, that it seems that enough has been said (and said well); anything else would just be noise. Rather than add another Brown Girl Dreaming review to the hundreds of glowing ones already in print and cyberspace, I offer you links to other sites, interviews and reviews related to Brown Girl Dreaming. And, I'll pose a question on memoirs in children's literature.
As a librarian who often helps students in choosing books for school assignments, I have written many times about the dreaded biography assignment - excessive page requirements, narrow specifications, etc.
Obviously, a best choice for a children's book is one written by a noted children's author. Sadly, many (by no means all!) biographies are formula-driven, series-type books that are not nearly as engaging as ones written by the best authors. Rare is the author of young people's literature who writes an autobiographyfor children as Ms. Woodson has done. When such books exist, they are usually memoirs focusing only on the author's childhood years. This is perfectly appropriate because the reader can relate to that specified period of a person's lifetime. Jon Sciezska wrote one of my favorite memoirs for children, Knucklehead, and Gary Paulsen's, How Angel Peterson Got his Namealso comes to mind as a stellar example. These books, however, don't often fit the formula required to answer common student assignment questions, i.e., birth, schooling, employment, marriages, accomplishments, children, death. Students are reluctant to choose a book that will leave them with a blank space(s) on an assignment.
I wonder what teachers, other librarians and parents think about this. Must the biography assignment be a traditional biography, or can a memoir (be it in verse, prose, or graphic format) be just as acceptable? I hate to see students turn away from a great book because it doesn't fit the mold. If we want students to be critical thinkers, it's time to think outside the box and make room for a more varied, more diverse selection of books.
I discovered Jon Contino by following the work of Jessica Hische and Drew Melton (the typography world is very small). The first two things that resonated with me was the fact that he, like me, didn’t go to art school, and that he also used his musicianship as a passageway to his passion for design. As much as I’ve grown to love digital illustration and type design, I’m always the most drawn to analog aesthetics–and Jon prioritizes them in his work.
Jon Contino is an award-winning designer, illustrator, art director and self-professed alphastructaesthetitologist. His style is strongly inspired by contemporary street art, his native stomping grounds of New York, and the grit of hand-drawn type. He’s worked with clients like Ogilvy, Nike, Whole Foods, McSweeney’s, Target and The New York Times. He’s also an ADC Young Gun 9 winner to boot, and happens to possess a heartwarming Long Island-born accent.
Jon cites his family as being vital in governing his design and illustration aesthetic. His mother and grandmother happened to be artists, both supporting and assisting in his pursuit of his craft by bringing home reams of butcher paper and instructional drawing books (more about this in the wonderful Shoptalk interview here). He discovered that the lettering he was seeing in movie posters and baseball adverts still counted as typography–even at a very early age. It took me much longer to figure out that illustration and beautifully drawn words weren’t just for books–the marks of our handiwork can truly be found anywhere, if you just slow down and take the time to look.
As a teenager, Jon got his freelancer chops very early on. As a designer geek and drummer in a hardcore band, he was constantly relied upon by his band (and friends’ bands) to supply flyer designs, gig posters and the like. Soon enough, he realized that he could actually “make money at this thing,” and he was preparing invoices and freelancing by the ripe old age of 15.
In 2006, after working for a few different companies and design houses, he opened his own creative studio and has been working for himself ever since. He’s constantly turning pet projects into mini-businesses–most recently, he started up Contino Brand. And even amidst his successes, he’s learned the art of saying no for the sake of self-preservation.
Jon has spoken about how his preference for modern minimalism and his hand-drawn gritty aesthetic meets with a clash. That clash has governed a unique vision that brings the best of clean design and true-to-form drawing together. I’m enthralled by this intersection, and so clearly see the passion and determination that stands solidly behind Jon’s work. His personal history only continues to illuminate it.
As soon as I saw Vin Vogel’s wonderful banner for this year’s PiBoIdMo, run by Tara Lazar, and knew that Vin had written and illustrated a picture book about YETIS, I knew I had to interview him. Vin Vogel is … Continue reading →
Dasha Tolstikova’s lively, frenetic illustrations have a heart-warming naiveté that appeals to children and adults alike. It’s no wonder she seems to have her foxy paws in everything from children’s books to graphic memoirs and editorial pieces for The New Yorker and The New York Times. Tolstikova’s first picture book The Jacket (2014, written by Kirsten Hall) has received a lot of attention recently, including editor’s choice in The Sunday Book Review in The New York Times. Tolstikova earned her MFA (Illustration as Visual Essay) from the School of Visual Arts in 2012. She lives in Brooklyn, NY and is part of the studio collective Brushwick Studio.