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I’m sometimes called the Bread-Bike-Book Woman by people who recognise me in the community but don’t know me by name; I go everywhere by bike and my basket is nearly always full of either baguettes and or books.
Shop assistants will ask what I’ve borrowed from the library, or let me know when the fresh bread is cheap at the end of the day. It’s a sobriquet I’m quite at ease with
Tom McLaughlin‘s The Cloudspotter is actually called Franklin, but because of his passion for watching the sky and imagining what he can see high above him, everyone calls him after his hobby.
To some, the Cloudspotter might appear isolated; Indeed, he doesn’t have many friends.
But what he does have is bags and bags of imagination. He can look at the sky and imagine stories galore in which he’s a hero, and adventurer or an explorer. Simply put, he’s very happy with his head in the clouds.
One day, however, Scruffy Dog arrives on the scene. The Cloudspotter doesn’t want to share his adventures and poor Scruffy is sent packing. But could it be that Scruffy wasn’t trying to take anything away from Franklin? Perhaps he was trying to offer him something? Something kind and full of heart, to make adventures and exploring, on earth or in the sky, even more enjoyable?
Tom McLaughlin’s quiet and thoughtful story is a lovely celebration of the power of imagination to provide comfort and joy, as well as solace. The Cloudspotter also acknowledges that it’s quite OK to be a bit different, to daydream. It shows how when friendship comes knocking it’s about doubling – rather than halving – fun and games through sharing.
All in all a delightful book to encourage us all to be open to spotting more adventures in the world around us.
After sharing The Cloudspotter with my girls, I prepared somewhere comfortable to do a bit of our own cloud spotting…
…we lounged around and saw lots of scenes like this…
…then we went over to the paint station…
…and started covering large sheets of paper with various shades of blue, mixing in PVA as we went. The large sheets of paper were strips of wallpaper lining. The PVA (glue) was mixed in so that we could start sticking “clouds” onto our skies as soon as the paper was covered:
We used a mixture of cotton wool and toy stuffing for the clouds, exploring the different ways these materials stretch and becoming wispy.
Whilst our sky scenes dried, it turned out that cleaning up after painting was almost as much fun as creating our art!
A few hours later, our skies were ready to go above beds, enabling hours of relaxing cloud spotting. Here’s what the kids can now see as they lie with their heads on their pillows:
What can you see in our clouds?
Music to spot clouds by could include:
Blue Clouds by Elizabeth Mitchell and You Are My Flower
Baby Cloud by Caspar Babypants
Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell
Other activities which could be great fun to try out alongside reading The Cloudspotter include:
Can you imagine a world without colour, where all you see is black, white or the shades of grey in between? As a self-confessed colour junkie such a world would sap my energies and leave my life (perhaps ironically), somewhat blue.
Thus when two new books came to my attention both titled ‘The Colour Thief’ I was very intrigued; not only did they look like their subject matter would appeal to me, it was funny and surprising to see two books, from different authors/illustrators/publishers with the same title.
In The Colour Thief by Gabriel Alborozo an alien looks longingly across space to planet earth, full of colours and brightness. He believes such a beautiful place must be full of joy, and so sets off to bring some of that happiness back to his home planet.
With just a few magic words the alien is able to suck up first all the reds, then the blues and the greens and before long planet earth is looking very grey and sad. But what of the alien? Can he really be happy when he sees the glumness he has caused?
Alborozo’s story about kindness, desire and what makes us joyous and content is full of appeal. There are lots of themes which can be explored; from the beauty around us which we might take for granted (requiring an outsider to alert us to us), to whether or not we can be happy if we’ve caused others distress, this book could be used to open up lots of discussion.
Click to see larger image
Although the alien’s actions could be frightening, this is mitigated by his cute appearance, just one of the book’s charms. I also think kids will love the apparent omnipotence of the alien: He wants something, and at his command he gets it, just like that, and this identification with the alien makes the story more interesting and unusual. The artwork is fun and energetic, seemingly filled with rainbow coloured confetti. I can easily imagine a wonderful animation of this story.
Father and son lead a comforting life “full of colour”, but when depression clouds the father’s mind he withdraws, and all the colours around the family seem to disappear. The child worries that he might somehow be the cause of this loss, but he is repeatedly reassured it is not his fault and gradually, with patience and love, colours start to seep back into the father’s life and he returns to his family.
Mental health is difficult to talk about when you’re 40, let alone when you are four, but this lyrical and moving book provides a thoughtful, gentle, and unsentimental way into introducing (and if desired, discussing) depression. If you were looking for “when a book might help” to reassure a child in a specific situation, I would wholeheartedly recommend this; it is honest, compassionate and soothing.
However, I definitely wouldn’t keep this book ONLY for those times when you find a child in a similar circumstances to those described in the book. It is far too lovely to be kept out of more general circulation. For a start, the language is very special; it’s perhaps no surprise when you discover that one of the author’s has more than 70 poetry books to his name. If you were looking for meaningful, tender use of figurative language, for example in a literacy lesson, this book provides some fabulous, examples.
Click to see larger image.
And then there are the illustrations. Karin Littlewood has long been one of my favourite illustrators for her use of colour, her graceful compositions, her quiet kindness in her images. And in The Colour Thief there are many examples of all these qualities. I particularly like her use of perspective first to embody the claustrophobia and fear one can feel with depression, with bare tree branches leaning in onto the page, or street lamps lowering overhead, and then finally the open, sky-facing view as parent and child reunite as they walk together again when colour returns.
Particularly inspired by the imagery in Alborozo’s The Colour Thief we made a trip to a DIY store to pick up a load of paint chips.
Wow. My kids went crazy in the paint section: Who knew paint chips could be just so much fun? They spent over an hour collecting to their hearts’ desire. A surprising, free and fun afternoon!
Once home we snipped up the paint chips to separate each colour. The colour names caused lots of merriment, and sparked lots of equally outlandish ideas for new colour names, such as Beetlejuice red, Patio grey, Spiderweb silver and Prawn Cocktail Pink.
We talked about shades and intensity of colours, and sorted our chips into three piles: Strong, bright colours, off-white colours, and middling colours. I then put a long strip of contact paper on the kitchen table, sticky side up, and the kids started making a mosaic with the chips, starting with the brightest colours in the middle, fading to the palest around the edge.
Apart for the soothing puzzle-like quality of this activity, the kids have loved using the end result as a computer keyboard, pressing the colours they want things to change to. I also think it makes for a rather lovely bit of art, now up in their bedroom.
Whilst making our colour mosaic we listened to:
My favourite ever, ever song about colours…. Kristin Andreassen – Crayola Doesn’t Make A Color For Your Eyes
Colors by Kira Willey. This song would go really well with ‘My Many Colored Days’ by Dr. Seuss.
Roy G Biv by They Might Be Giants
Other activities which might go well with either version of ‘The Colour Thief’ include:
Both giggle inducing and surreptitiously brain expanding, Little Answer by Tim Hopgood is about BIG questions (“What is the meaning of life?”, “What is the secret to happiness?”).
Yes, really. It’s about sausages.
And I say that even though you could in fact argue Little Answer is ultimately about the biggest existential questions any of us face; it’s about trying to find out who we are, about trying to understand how we fit into the big wide world.
Profound AND full of laugh out loud moments, kindness and good old fashioned silliness, this is a fabulous book for all ages.
In this philosophical and joyously absurd book Little Answer actually knows his name (‘Sausages‘), but the worrying problem is that he can’t find his question. Something’s missing in his life, and until he can find the Q to his A, things just don’t feel right.
With help from a friend, Little Answer asks around. Could he be the answer to “What makes the wind blow?” or “Where did everything come from?”. There must be a question out there just right for him to answer…
Children will recognise themselves in the gloriously satisfying end to this book, and they and their parents will enjoy the inclusion of brief answers to all the more challenging questions posed in the story. Indeed this is the perfect book for children always asking “Why?”
Tim’s richly textured illustrations are bright and beautiful. His scribbles and prints, full of energy, have an appealing child-like quality to them. Thick crayon strokes look like they’ve just been drawn on the page. And Little Answer’s characterization is brilliant; he’s utterly personable and endearing!
Tim’s told me that the idea for this book came to him during a question and answer session at the end of one his school visits.
One boy put his hand up and said “I’ve got a guinea-pig” and the teacher then explained to the boy that that wasn’t a question.
She then asked the class “What does a question need?” to which they all replied “An answer!”.
And at that point Tim immediately thought, “But what if the answer can’t find its question…”
I do hope that little boy and his guinea pig one day find out they’ve inspired a wonderful, witty, and warm book perfect for feeding (and satisfying) curiosity.
You know a book’s hit home when within just a couple of hours of it arriving, the kids are already at play, inspired by the book. And so it was with Little Answer. Balloons were filled with rice (making them lovely to hold), and then eyes, smiles and legs were added to make our own Little Answers.
M couldn’t resist making a BIG Answer too! And the answers didn’t go nameless for long.
They were called:
and… 55 (she was the BIG Answer)
The girls told me that these were all answers to questions they had come up with, and it was now my job to find out what those questions were.
Well I like a challenge, and I was certain that one of the questions must involve cake, so off we set for a cafe.
To the huge delight of the girls, I was WRONG! None of their answers involved anything to do with a cafe (though they were more than happy to try some cake, just to be sure).
I thought I better up my game, so I then decided that the local library would be a good place to look for questions. M was very obliging and looked up the dewey numbers for the books which might help me find the right questions to the answers she and her sister had prepared.
So at least I was in the right section for some of my questions…. and I started knuckled down to work, with the Little Answers looking along side me.
The Big Answer preferred to lounge about!
I have to admit, it was quite a struggle to find the right questions. But in case you’re wondering what they were here they are:
What has antennae, wings and is beautiful?
Who do you find in Ancient Egyptian tombs?
What does Cadburys make?
Name a nematode that might live in your gut
Name a part of a flower
What’s my (M’s) favourite herb?
And are you ready for the really really BIG question?
What is 165 divided by 3?
I especially liked the big question. It really reminds you how different the world can see when you’re a kid!
Even if I struggled to find all the questions in the library, we had so much fun with this activity. Any game where the kids are in the know and the adults are clueless is always popular in this home! Plus, along the way we got to practise research skills and giggle a great deal. What could be better?
Music we listened to whilst making our little answers included:
There Are More Questions Than Answers by Johnny Nash
The Dewey Decimal Rap
What’s The Answer? by Gene Harris & The Three Sounds
Other fun activities to try out alongside reading Little Answer include:
Balloon Trees, the new title from Sylvan Dell, written by Danna Smith and illustrated by Laurie Allen Klein, reveals that the rubber that makes up balloons, balls, tires, shoes and many more things actually comes from trees! What other surprising things do you think trees give us?
The house you live in may be made from wood from trees; that’s obvious, but did you know that that house is filled with gifts from trees also? Do you like that your parents are less grumpy in the morning when they have their coffee? You can thank the coffee arabica tree for that, a 20 foot evergreen that grows in warm climates of the world. A cup of hot cocoa has made a long journey from cocoa trees along the equator to reach your kitchen. Maple syrup, cinnamon, fruits, nuts, and many more delicious items also come from trees.
Ever wonder how jelly candies get so goopy and great? Check the ingredients and you’ll find “gum arabic” in the list. Gum arabic is hardened sap from an acacia tree, and it’s used in foods like desserts to lend its goopy texture to them. It is also a key ingredient in glues, paints, and many other products that manufacturers want to make ‘slimy,’ ‘goopy,’ or ‘jelly.’
“Cellulose” is part of the ‘skin’ of trees, and when manufactured it can become “Rayon” clothing to make our own skin warmer. Cellulose is even an ingredient in foods and beauty products, lending its texture to them to make them ‘thicker’ or ‘heavier.’ When fat is removed from some “diet” or “fat-free” products, cellulose is often added to try and make the food ‘feel’ the same in a person’s mouth as before.
Trees also give us many kinds of medicine, such as aspirin, and even the first medicine for fighting malaria, “quinine.” If you’ve read our book, The Most Dangerous, you know how harmful the mosquito-spread disease malaria can be. Without the discovery of quinine from Peruvian trees, malaria would have harmed that many more people, and maybe even changed world history! Soldiers in WWII that fought in the Pacific jungles took quinine everyday, and it helped the building of the Panama Canal, and the Dutch and English to build their historical empires!
Of course, this is only the beginning of the gifts that trees give us. Say “thank you” back, by planting a tree, or at least reading a Sylvan Dell book under the shade of one!
Toys in Space by Mini Grey is our kind of book, all about stories providing comfort, where what is a ‘story’ and what is ‘real life’ become beautifully blurred.
It starts with an observation about family life which is tiny but which resonates loudly with us; it being summer holidays here and lots of time spent out in the garden, on more than one occasion it has happened that some of the kids’ toys have been left outside over night.
So a great start – we open Mini‘s latest book and the girls already think it is about our home (or so easily could be). Then a tiny bit an anxiety is introduced; the toys are a little scared by the night and what it might bring. Anxiety is ratcheted up to another level of worry when the toys are beamed aboard an alien space ship…
This worry is transformed into sympathetic concern when the toys discover the alien is only looking for his very own very toy which he has lost. Will the toys be able to help the alien? Will he be reunited with his own Cuddles? And will the toys make it back to their own garden?
Without giving away the details, the emotional arc we went through, which started with “delightful recognition >> anxiety >> worry” then continued “hope >> happiness >> relief >> great satisfaction (with a giggle)”. A perfect journey for a picture book!
As well as the thrilling emotional ride this book takes you on (with just the right amount of nerves for young children), this book scores highly for its adorable cast of characters. Having fallen in love with Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush, I did wonder if any new characters from Mini Grey could find a similar place in our hearts, but the crowd here are great and surely offer wonderful opportunities for more stories in the future featuring the same cast (What do you say, Mini?).
The visual narrative in the book is perhaps more complex than many picture books you’ll find on the bestsellers’ list, with a Jack Bauer / 24 style split screen take on events running concurrently. I like the richness this brings, and although my kids had absolutely no problems understanding how events are unfolding I wonder if some parents who are not confident readers might be put off by this.
I hope not, because Toys in Space is an exciting and heart warming story about losing (and finding) your favourite toy and is bound to delight children far and wide.
Hoctopize – the alien in search of his lost Cuddles
My girls were very keen to act out Toys in Space as soon as we’d read it for the first time. We gathered their favourite toys together, but didn’t have a suitable alie
So when I saw that Tim had a new book out I knew it was something I would want to read and review here. UnPOPpable, published last month, captures all the joy and wonder a simple balloon can bring. Kids will love this book as they will recognise themselves in it – the delight at playing with a balloon, squeezing it, holding it, the loss but also awe as it floats up into the sky, and the magic and squealy delight that comes when the balloon finally does pop.
The story is told with just a few bare words on most pages making is an enjoyable book for even the youngest children to listen to (and great for slightly older siblings to read to their toddler brothers and sisters). As an adult reader it’s a really fun read-aloud – there are plenty of opportunities to get into the spirit of things with loud popping noises.
Tim Hopgood’s illustrations are exuberant; even those depicting the black night sky and space feel bright and vibrant, and without wishing to give anything away, the big bang finale is bursting with energy just as it must have been back when time began.
I hope you’ll find an opportunity to give this book to a child with a helium balloon – I guarantee you will make someone very happy indeed!
Inspired by UnPOPpable we got up to some good old fashioned play with balloons. The girls drew silly faces on them and then we rubbed the ballons on our hair to charge them with static electricity. Once charged we could stick our balloons pretty much anywhere we liked – on the walls and on the ceiling. It seemed like magic to the girls!
Taking the magic to the next level I challenged the girls to stick a knitting needle in a balloon without popping it. Of course balloons ended up popping left right and centre, but then Mummy stepped in with the sort of magic that only mummies possess, and sure enough, with
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! We went to see the balloons being blown up for the parade (pictures below), then had a big beef dinner (not a turkey fan), and a relaxing weekend. What did you do for Thanksgiving?
On to the real purpose for this post: balloon pictures! When you try to take pictures of the balloons while they are being blown up, you’re at the mercy of how the balloon is positioned and how many people get in your way while you are aiming the camera. These three pictures were taken with my cell phone and came out okay, although pics from other years have turned out better.
So just how big are those balloons, anyway? They’re HUGE! Here’s a picture I took of Buzz Lightyear in 2008. Three people happily posed for scale … okay, they weren’t posing for me, so I blurred out the faces, but it’s still a great picture to show the scale of the balloons.
You might be wondering how they manage to find space to blow up all those balloons. What they do is close off the two streets on either side of the American Museum of Natural History and line the balloons up along each street. Here’s a picture from 2008 that shows Horton in between Shrek and some holiday balloons.
Balloon Line Up
Here’s another example. Remember the Kool-Aid Man picture above? Here’s the wide screen shot that shows him sandwiched in between Sponge Bob and a football and another balloon.
Balloon Line Up
If you want to see the balloons next year, be prepared for lots of people. The crowd is always wall-to-wall, even before you get anywhere near the balloons, and especially once you get there. It’s inadvisable to bring small dogs and strollers to this event, although some people bring them (it’s an easy way for a pet, child or adult to get injured in the crush of the crowd). Here’s a picture of the 2007 crowd. It’s a little blurry, so it’s hard to see past the first couple of rows, but it’s all people, as far as the eye can see (and no balloons in sight yet).
1 Comments on Thanksgiving Balloons and NaNoWriMo update, last added: 12/2/2010
*Senior pranks can be cause for trouble within the school or law. Make sure the prank is appropriate and doesn’t harm any person, property, or animal. I am not held responsible for any of the punishment, damage, or any other causes of these pranks. Trespassing, vandalism, or any other crime is not acceptable in the process of carrying out a prank.
A great idea for a senior prank is to fill an office, classroom, gym, or car full of balloons, popcorn, packing peanuts, or any other item that consumes up space. This is a hilarious prank that is pretty harmless.
This classic prank will also create problems within the school. Buy 700-1000 Dixie cups or how many you find appropriate. Fill them up with a little bit of water, but not to much. And place them all next to each other but very close so that you cannot step between the cups without knocking them down. Make sure you start on the opposite side of the room and make your way backwards toward the exit!
Order and Buy thousands of bouncy balls, most likely online. Get a good group of friends and distribute them amongst each other. Plan out a certain time in the day where everyone is spread out throughout the school and then just make it rain bouncy balls! This prank would definitely cause chaos and confusion, but would be hilarious.
An easy prank would be to saran wrap other student’s cars. Juniors would be the primary target seeing they are the other grade that can drive. Faculty may be a risky idea, but they would be an option. This may be one of the more expensive pranks, but it deserves to be on the list.
Forking the school yard would be another senior prank. Students would go to a store and buy hundreds of forks, and during the middle of the night they would stick them into the school’s courtyard, lobby, or football field. This prank would be a risky one seeing that it could be considered vandalism. A vulgar message may cross the line.
This classic prank is known all over. I don’t think I need to explain, but I will. Buy a bunch of toilet paper rolls and just go crazy. You can never buy too much toilet paper. Throw them all over the school’s building, trees, and anything else that works.
This prank involves getting as many seniors as possible and camping out for a night in the parking lot or any other good area. This would be a fun prank that seems pretty harmless if everything goes right. Grilling out, chilling, and playing some sports would make this a fun night.
This prank involves putting as many for sale signs as possible in the front lawn of your school. This would be a pretty humorous prank not to mention harmless. Another option is to put a real estate ad in the local newspaper.
For this prank you need to get a group of seniors, and while class is in session this group needs to run around with numerous jars of Vaseline and rub it all over door handles and lockers. This will definitely cause students to be mad and will leave a mark in your school’s history.
This final prank is pretty self-explanatory. You need to get a whole group of seniors and buy a bunch of post-it note packages. Then during school sometime or after when no one is in the hallways cover everything with post-it notes. Completely yellow-out the school hallway and it will look flawless.
Right. Maddy has a whole new hairdo consisting of a fringe (which Americans inexplicably call bangs), or bangs (which the English mysteriously call a fringe), and she looks oddly like the Coraline puppet from the Henry Selick film, while I have, er, not quite as much hair in my eyes as I did this morning. Stopped off at DreamHaven (http://www.dreamhavenbooks.com/) after the haircut and signed a pile of stuff for them (it'll be up on www.Neilgaiman.net soon enough).
Also bought a few books, which considering how much time I've had recently to read, and how much I have sitting in piles waiting to be read (I seem to be reading everything I can find about Bert Williams right now) is madness. Still, I picked up, with joyful expectation, Avram Davidson's Adventures in Unhistory, Diana Wynne Jones'sThe Pinhoe Egg, and Kim Newman's The Man from the Diogenes Club. It's nice to have books on the To Be Read Pile you know will be good. A Charles Vess cover drew my eye, and I found myself getting the paperback of HerminieKavanagh'sDarby O'Gill, and I wrapped up the shopping expedition with a copy of M. John Harrison's Viriconium(not to read, just so I had a copy with my introduction in).
And I just got to see some site statistics (courtesy of Dan Guy who has made the Webelf her Clouds -- the first is up at http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/labels/ and is really rather fun. Hurrah for you helpful people out there reading this) and I learned that as of the last post, I'd written One Million and Fourteen Thousand, Two Hundred and Sixty One words on this blog.
I wish I'd known that 14,261 words ago. We would have had a party. With balloons.
Strange things keep turning up in the right hand side of the page. (If you're reading this on a feed, you might want to click over to http://journal.neilgaiman.com/ and refresh a few times. I'm just saying...)
Hi Neil, I was just wondering, why don't you have comments turned on on the blog? I'm sure there would be tons everyday. Still, it would be fun to read other's comments and such. Just wondering. Love the new pics on the blog today. Oh and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BLOG! Hope your'e around for at least 7 more years.
Thanks and I love this blog (and you too!),
Jodi Because seven years ago, when it started, things like comments were unheard of, outside of a couple of the secret blogging laboratories on the Moon, and when, a few years back, Blogger introduced them, I was happy with the way things were - mostly because I knew the volume of stuff that comes in on the FAQ line, could only imagine the volume of comments we'd get, and knew how horribly interesting a good comment place can be. (Making Light is the best example, where the original post is the tip of an iceberg, and then things get really interesting or strange -- each comment thread can be a good day's reading, filled with interesting stuff.) Which meant, I suspected, that if I turned on the comments I'd ever get any actual work done again.
I know you watch Boing Boing and that's where I found this, but I wasn't sure if you caught the post since you're been in "The Graveyard Book."
Some authors hoping to plan a sci-fi convention that focuses on young adult. :-) Makes me all warm and fuzzy, really.
Tina @ ALA Good to know. I think it's a great idea. (Also, I was pleased to hear that Fourth Street is returning.)
If the snow effect you're talking about is the same one I saw at 3000m in the Haute Savoie (which makes it sound more impressive than "on a skiing holiday"), then it's called diamond dust. Single ice crystals formed in very low air temperatures, like being inside a frozen cloud.
It takes something special to make a dozen lads on a booze/wintersports holiday all shut up and gawp, but that did it. On a sunny, blue-sky day too, the air just sparkled.
It sounds like a local version of that. Right now we've got an "arctic front" with 45 mph winds gusting the just-fallen snow around in blinding howls, and I'm not looking forward to dogwalking...
Hey Neil! Any chance of getting a direct link to the original post for what comes out of the oracle?
We talked about it a while ago, and then forgot. I'll ask Da Goblin. In the meantime you can always cut and paste it into the site search engine at http://neilgaiman.com/p/Search and unless it's something unusual (I just tried it and it gave me a question mark) it should be easy to see where it came from. Has the Oracle ever said anything other than "You have to actually shake it?"
I am starting to lose faith in its power.
You didn't read the instructions at http://www.neilgaiman.com/oracle, did you? I'd particularly refer you to the bit that says "don't just click on it. Shake it." If you click on it, it will say "You actually have to shake it". Only when shaken will the curtain between past and future be lifted, and only then will the oracle pronounce oracularly.
First, thank you very much for your blog. It is a delight to read each day--particularly so when you describe just how much work you put into your writing.
I was wondering, though, about where you write. You have talked about your pens and paper and your ink, and I have seen many references to the small cabin in which you write, but I was wondering if your could (if you haven't already) describe the writing shack. I'm always curious about the conditions in which writing is produced, and the idea of a writing shack fascinates me. Do you always try to write in the same place? Before you had a writing shack, did you find similar places to write? Do you find that you grow attached to the place itself and that writing in other conditions (i.e. places, pens, papers) is difficult?
Thanks, again, for sharing all of this with us, and I apologize if my questions have been asked and answered elsewhere.
While I was typing this the sun came out. I may take a few photos of the gazebo at the bottom of the garden, which is where I'm currently doing a lot of writing, mostly because it's the easiest place to write with a large white dog, and post them. The rest of the writing is occurring in the small hours of the morning on a sofa.
I can write pretty much anywhere, in truth, although I like going places I've not been before. I like travelling, in moderation, and I like being in new places, and I especially like being in new places to write.
Meanwhile, here's a ten-year-old-photograph of me in the Patagonian town they named after my kind...
I missed everybody last week because I had to go out of town and I hope everyone that celebrated Thanksgiving had a very nice one. Have a wonderful extended weekend as well. My submission for Illustration Friday's "balloon" is another die-cut gift tag for a happy birthday greeting.
Professor William Waterman Sherman has just been fished out of the Atlantic Ocean by the crew of the S.S. Cunningham. They found the Professor floating among the detritus of some twenty deflated balloons. Obviously the Captain and crew of the ship were anxious to know the Professor's story, but he simply refuses to tell insisting that "This tale of mine shall first be heard in the auditorium of the Western American Explorers' Club in San Fransisco, of which I am an honorary member!" (p.11)
The Professor is then whisked cross country in none other than the President's very own train. Everyone, it seems, is awaiting the details of the Professor's round-the-world balloon trip.
Once the Professor is ensconced in a comfy bed on the stage in the auditorium of the Explorers' Club, he begins to tell his tale. And quite a tale it is! A tale including crash landings, shark infested waters, secret island habitations, diamond mines, international food, and escape plans!
This is a Newbery blast from the past of the very best sort. The pacing is perfect, the story is action packed, the people of Krakatoa and their "gourmet government" are hilarious, and the Professor is a great storyteller. William Pene du Bois definitely understood what kids want in a story. Readers will easily be able to see this turned into a film of the Willy Wonka variety if only in their minds.
One of the fun things about doing design work is that you never know when you might stumble across one of your designs in a store. I was in the grocery store the other day. I really wasn't in the mood to go grocery shopping but I knew ketchup and saltines for dinner wasn't going to cut it for dinner. As I slogged through the last aisle I was surprised to see the bakery department was decorated with mylar balloons that had my froggy design on them. I covertly snapped a photo on my cell phone. People probably thought I was a kook taking photos of the scones.
I went to Los Angeles, had a sort of a working holiday, came home, and am writing. Working out a lot with the trainer, got a new trampoline. The cherry tree is covered in cherries, and the wild raspberries (red and black) are out in the woods, and I find them when I walk the dog.
Nights here are filled with fireflies. Steve Brust came over for dinner tonight and brought his puppy, and we talked about stories and writing until late. It's a good world.
That's about it for excitement at this end. Lots of people have written in asking stuff about me and Amanda, and I don't really know how to answer them. Either they're really nice and pleased for us and encouraging and don't need answering, or they're the kind of things that leave me deeply puzzled, and to which the only responses are "Isn't that a bit personal?" or "Probably none of your business I'm afraid," or even "Why would you write things like that?"
Why don't you blog more often?
Just a death wish I guess. Your blog is a wonderful thing to read.
I have a rare case of skin cancer and your blog cheer me up!
Mostly because I have less to say right now, I think. Or at least, I hate repeating myself. The blog's eight years old, and over one million three hundred thousand words long. That's a lot of things. People write me lots of questions still, but so often they're questions that have already been answered on the blog, usually at some length -- the kind of things that make me think that I should spend time I could spend writing again (say) how you get an agent in, instead, organising things and getting a really useful FAQ up and running, or just a way of finding things, particularly advice on writing.
Todd Klein, letterer extraordinaire has the fourth in his series of prints out. The art is by J. H. Williams III, and you can see it here.
Back in November I was interviewed by Chip Kidd at the 92nd St Y. (I talked about it on the blog at the time.) The whole talk, with Karen Berger's introduction and all, is up now on YouTube, and is embedded here for your pleasure. It's an hour and a half.
And finally, there are now more than 666,666 people following me on Twitter. So we had a party. It's still ongoing, the party, over at http://bit/ly/666party and to join in all you have to do is upload a photgraph of you and a Balloon. And once 600 people showed up at the party, the webgoblin made this: a mosaic.