Thursday, April 30, 2009

BOOK NEWS: Google Faces Antitrust Investigation for Agreement to Digitize Millions of Books Online

Here's a link to a Wild Rose Reader post that I thought many of you might find interesting. It includes a link to Amy Goodman's video interview with Brewster Kahle for Democracy Now!. Kahle is the founder of the non-profit online library, the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive hosts an online text archive of over one million written works.


NEWS: Google Faces Antitrust Investigation for Agreement to Digitize Millions of Books Online


********************

THE STUFF AND OTHER GREATNESS

So it's going on 4 am here and I'm trying to get some painting done. I have also been watching some childhood memories on YouTube. It stared with the Electric Grandma. I was creeped out by it as a kid but also fascinated. All I remembered was the part where the grandma poured milk out of her finger. I also thought there was a part with coffins, but this must be it:



Then there was The Stuff. I looked it up and I guess it was supposed to be a comedy, but at the time I thought it was the best most creepy movie ever.




I can now see the comedy aspect... or at least the gross aspect. Yes!

It's interesting how kids perceive things. I'm sad that a lot of the books I loved as a kid could not be made today. Everyone is so careful. Kids aren't that delicate. What they will end up with is great/strange memories that will linger forever.

meghan

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

upcoming cupcakes

Recently, I was a bit dismayed when I was told that the bookstore would prefer that I not serve any food at my book launch. It was understandable (they had had some messy mishaps) but I was distressed. How could I have a book party without cupcakes? I couldn't do that!

So, after much thought, I decided that my book party WOULD have cupcakes, but they would be favors to bring home in the goody bag. To make it more fun, I am thinking about baking a coin inside one of them and whoever gets the cupcake with the coin will win a prize.

But even without the prize, I want each cupcake to be a treat. As you may know, cupcake decorating is a little dream of mine so I've been trying to think of some themed cupcakes that fit my book (a Chinese-folktale fantasy, not a lot of cupcakes in it). After searching the internet, I decided I would go for something like this:


But, now I needed the decorating skills to do it! (Enthusiasm does not equal skill, unfortunately). So enter in last night's CUPCAKE CLASS!

This is a class I signed up for long ago, and even though it came at a horrible deadline time, I still (guiltily) went. But it was a blast. I learned the basics of pastry bags and cake tips.


Experimenting with each tip, we made fun designs:

and I finally learned how to make a frosting rose!



By the end of the class, I felt like I would be able to make some pretty decent cupcakes for the launch. That means you'll come, right?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ps. A new blog



I've just launched a blog for OLD RED SHOE about recycling, reuse, and crafts! It will include news of the book of course, but also feature recycling craft projects I come across, and ones of my own making. I'd love to hear your ideas too, email me or comment with your crafty inventions and I will post them as well.

Check it out here!

A busy week for SHOE!


The past week has been a whirlwind! Earth Week brought a flurry of activity around What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?... here are a few highlights.

First of all, when I found out that USA Today was going to include the book in their Earth Day section I pictured a nice, small mention in a round-up of green products... maybe they would include the book cover. But when I managed to find a copy of the paper on Wednesday, I was shocked to see a full half page article! Pictures, excerpts, and all! I've never gotten press like this, so it was really a thrill. You can read the article here.



But that wasn't the only chance to celebrate SHOE, I also had a lovely event at The Wellesley Booksmith where we made our own shoe planters. I brought in a stack of old, worn out shoes I collected, and some cheerful marigolds:



Here are some of the kid's planters:







The next day I visited the Wenham Museum and gave a presentation on how the book was made in coordination with their exhibit "Soul of the Shoe". Unfortunately I couldn't take pictures in the museum of the amazing collection of shoes they had on display, but I did get these pics:





I finished my presentation by drawing some of the characters in the book, then hung them up for kids to color. A very focused brother and sister team got to work right away:

Monday, April 27, 2009

How I read submissions

In my previous post about my reaction to Jellicoe Road, I touched a little on the way I read submissions, mainly that I generally decide about novels based on the first 30-50 pages. I thought that I'd expand on this and talk more about how I read submissions and the way I decide if a book is something I'm interested in taking on, or something to decline.

Another editor I know got some flack for saying at a conference that editors (or, at least, her specifically) read submissions looking for a reason to say no. When I heard this, my first instinct was to say what an agent at the same conference said: that she reads looking for a reason to say yes. But honestly, the truth is a combination of both.

It's just not possible to publish every submission we get. Knowing this, it's true--I'm looking for reasons to reject most manuscripts. Some possible reasons? (feel free to ask me to elaborate on any of these)

-not well written
-too slight
-too quiet
-forced rhyme, off rhythm (for picture books, mainly)
-too similar to something already on our list
-too similar to too many books already in the market
-forced/inauthentic dialogue
-too didactic
-melodramatic
-cliche
-slow pacing
-too niche in appeal

and of course I could go on...

However, I'd be lying to say I'm not always hoping for that surprise--that I'll fall in love with a submission. And sometimes I'll fall in love with something despite it being something on the above list. It really IS like falling in love--I can fall in love with something, flaws and all. When I'm reading something that I'm really loving, my heartbeat will speed up. My mind will start racing, thinking about what I need to do to ensure that I get that manuscript. I'll imagine pitching the book at our editorial meeting, and then at our acquisitions meeting. I'll think about how I would edit the book, even what the cover would look like. I picture it winning the Newbery, making the NY Times bestseller list. In other words, I'll imagine us married with children during the middle our first date.

Generally, when I read a manuscript, it's either/or. Either I find a reason to say no, or else I fall in love with it. But the tough decisions happen when a manuscript falls somewhere in between. Agents, and perhaps authors who submit on their own, may be familiar with that rejection that takes an especially long time to come, where an editor apologizes and says that she was "mulling it over." This is what happens when I read a manuscript and can't immediately say no, but don't completely fall in love with it either. When this happens, I may put it aside to revisit later. And sometimes when that happens, I don't think about it again, and therefore usually will end up declining it. Sometimes when this happens, I keep thinking about it, which it generally a good sign that I don't want to let it go. And sometimes I'm completely on the fence, and then will either ask my assistant to read it, and/or I'll bring it to our editorial meeting to get some second reads.

This happens when the concept is really great, but the writing isn't particularly special. Or if there's just nothing wrong with the writing or the book, but I just don't fall in love with it. Or if I know the book is something publishable, but it's about something I just can't see myself working on, or reading over and over.

Sometimes when I'm in-between, a lot will depend on the current state of our list. Are we looking for more of that particular genre, or are we too saturated? For example, we're fairly overloaded with fantasy right now, which allows us to be even more selective than usual in acquiring that genre. A fantasy novel really has to be outstanding and original for us to even consider taking it on. For picture books, when I first started almost ten years ago, it was so much easier to acquire picture books than fiction. But in the last seven or eight years, in reaction to the market, we've cut our picture book list way back, and because of that, I'm even more picky when acquiring them--I can't just like something, I need to love it.

Sometimes I'm feeling in-between when an agent tells me that he or she has either received an offer, or else they "have a lot of interest." When this happens, I'll usually just end up passing on the submission, thinking that I don't love it enough to want to compete against other publishers. Of course, if I do love a manuscript, hearing that there's other interest will spur me on to move through the process more quickly.

And yes, I'm looking for love--I do want to say yes, I just know I can't say yes to everything. But like most people, I want the happily ever after.

***

In other news, I'm so proud and excited to share the news that one of those books that I fell in love with has attained a kind of "happily ever after": The Curious Garden by Peter Brown has hit the NY Times Bestseller list at #7! It's also #7 on the Indiebound bestseller list.

Congratulations, Peter!!!

(BTW, all but one sprout in my Curious Garden pot has died. But that sprout is going strong!)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

p.s

The below video was a pain to do! I set up my tripod so that nothing would move... but of course if the tripod was to be centered, that means I couldn't be. So I drew by reaching around the tripod while it was sitting on top of my drawing table. It was super uncomfortable to do! I hope it was worth it... to somebody out there.

I can't help myself.

Here's a video of me drawing an abandoned building sped up. Enjoy. Or not.

Friday, April 24, 2009

going YouTube

So I've finally decided to put up my videos onto YouTube. I'm afraid of the comments--anyone know how to turn that stuff off? I'm putting it on youtube so that others can post my videos if they so desire... and for no other reason.

Here is the url for the "how to draw"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-JBtcjHDnI

This is for the "how to color"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDrO0ov418g

Just copy and paste the "embed" section and put it on your blog or website or whatever. I give full permission! Share the love ya'll.

I'll let you all know if I post other videos on the all too daunting YouTube.

meghan

p.s - speaking of drawing astronauts... anyone remember this?

Opposite Poems--Part 2



Last week in my POETRY FRIDAY: Opposite Poems post, I invited readers to write opposite poems and share them with us. Well, one brave soul left her opposite poem in the comments.

Here’s the poem submitted by Laurie Peters:

A Couple Guesses

The opposite of poetry, I suppose, might be prose.
No, I’m pretty sure that isn’t true. Prose thrills too,
and prose can twist a common phrase through its maze to
reshape
with rhymeless meter, proving prose can sing poetically.
Let me try again.
the opposite of poetry might be
communicationg without relating.
Yes, I think that’s it.

Thanks for submitting an opposite poem for hosting here, Laurie!

You can read Some Opposites (written by Richard Wilbur) at the Poetry Foundation.

You may also enjoy Some Words Inside of Words by Wilbur.


Click here to hear a podcast of Some Words Inside of Words.


Here’s a YouTube video of Some Words Inside of Words:


The Richard Wilbur page at poets.org

The Richard Wilbur page at poetryfoundation.org

********************

At Wild Rose Reader today: Poetry Friday: Animal Haiku. The post includes reviews of four books of haiku about animals: The Cuckoo’s Haiku, If Not for the Cat, Least Things, and Dogku.

At Political Verses today: I have an original poem entitled Knock, Knock, Knockin' on Heaven's Door: John Yoo at the Pearly Gates.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Under the Covers this week.

HOW TO COLOR AN ASTRONAUT

Watch the other one first... but who am I to stop you?

video

HOW TO DRAW AN ASTRONAUT

video

stay tuned for part 2: how to color an astronaut

Thursday, April 23, 2009

watch him draw

One day I might do something like this... if I have the time. but here you can watch one of my favorite artists make a drawing in a book.



Here's another one of my favorites:


This is a very cool site that I just discovered. Check out out lots more here: www.sketchtheater.com

Speaking of which... Travis Louie:







I think what he does is amazing. Just look at the clothing--it's so real you can touch it. Old fashioned photos with monster type figures. So cool!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yay, Anna!


More good news!

Here is Anna's book featured in USA TODAY! Check it out!

seeing stars


Guess what?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
has already received TWO STARRED REVIEWS!

This news took me by complete surprise, considering the final books have not even been printed yet (and I think the final book with its full-color illustrations will be even better). But it's true! Both Kirkus and Booklist have given the great honor of a starred review. Booklist says:

“In this enchanted and enchanting adventure, Minli, whose name means ‘quick thinking,’ lives with her desperately poor parents at the confluence of Fruitless Mountain and the Jade River… With beautiful language, Lin creates a strong, memorable heroine and a mystical land. Stories, drawn from a rich history of Chinese folktales, weave throughout her narrative, deepening the sense of both the characters and the setting and smoothly furthering the plot. Children will embrace this accessible, timeless story about the evil of green and the joy of gratitude.”

I am truly, truly thankful and grateful that the book is already being well received and only hope that is it a sign of how the rest of the readers will feel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

helpful guidelines for visiting a bookstore

For those authors who are like me and never know the proper etiquette when visiting a bookstore (I am usually the "surreptitious" though I have been guilty of being the "sneaky") Josie Leavit at Shelftalker has this great post, with the following excerpt:

Authors tend to be readers and we love them for that. We love them for creating the works that we can so enthusiastically sell. But authors who just happen upon a bookstore act one of three ways: the upfront, the surreptitious and the sneaky.


Don't miss it!

Happy Earth Week!


This is a busy week for me as I celebrate the recent release of my "green" book What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? during Earth Week. As I mentioned here, I am blog touring this week to give a peek into the process of creating the book... today you can find me at fellow BRG Elaine's lovely blog Wild Rose Reader. She is having a book give away, so leave a comment if you'd like to win a copy! For a full schedule of blog interviews and other chances to win a free book click here.

Also I am very excited to announce that the book will be featured in tomorrow's issue of USA Today, in their Earth Day section. If you find yourself at a newsstand go check it out!

And lastly, I have some Earth Day events this week that are free and open to the public (I told you I was busy). If you are in the area, please come join me!

*Celebrate Earth Day with What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? at the Wellesley Booksmith. I will give a presentation about how the book was made, read and sign books, and run an art activity from the book. Make your own old red shoe planter.

Details:
April 22nd at 3 pm
Wellesley Booksmith

*I will present the process of creating What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? at the Wenham Museum in coordination with the exhibit Soul of the Shoe; artists interpreting how shoes are shaped by our culture. I will read the book followed by a presentation and kid's craft activity!

Details:
April 23rd at 10:30 am, craft activity
Booksigning will follow at 11:00 am
Wenham Museum

Monday, April 20, 2009

top 100 picture books, and Battle of the Kids' Books

Fuse #8 has been counting down the top 100 picture books, according to a poll she conducted. She's up to #35 so far, and I'm breathlessly awaiting the remaining picture books. I voted, did you? I don't actually remember what my top 10 was (I'll have to ask Betsy what I ended up sending her, I don't know if I saved the list anywhere), but I do know that so far only one of my top 10 has appeared (Yoko by Rosemary Wells was #85). I have a feeling that many of my choices won't be appearing at all, but I'm banking on my #1 to be in the top 5.

Any guesses as to what my #1 all-time favorite picture book is? I've probably mentioned it on the blog before, and I've also often mentioned it at conferences, so this shouldn't be too hard. (note: I didn't choose any of the books I've edited myself)

What would your top 5 look like?

****

And also, if you haven't checked out School Library Journal's Battle of the Kids' Books, do it! It's a lot of fun. And some biggies were upset in the first round (The Graveyard Book was beaten by The Trouble Begins at 8, for example, and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks was knocked out by We Are the Ship!)

I'm betting on either the Hunger Games or Graceling taking it all, and as they'd face each other in semifinals, I'll go out on a limb and say Graceling will come out on top. Do you have a favorite you're rooting for?

And this is fantastic, from a couple of fans who are cheering for Hunger Games to win:

Saturday, April 18, 2009

cool stuff

Maybe I'll start a weekly posting called "cool stuff." We're all about kids' books here but sometimes creative things in other forms can spur the imagination. Check out these cool sheets!



No, it's not cardboard. They're just made to look like they came off the street....

Real childhood, children's book childhood

I'm re-reading Noel Streatfield books (when I love a book, I read it over and over), including her autobiographical novel for adults, A VICARAGE CHILDHOOD.

The differences between the childhood in her autobiographical novels for children (FAMILY SHOES and MOVING SHOES, sometimes titled THE BELL FAMILY and MOVING SHOES) and adults is totally fascinating to me.

In the children's books, the parents are loving and supportive; the family doesn't have much money, but the mother understands how hard it is for the girls to wear their cousin's old clothes, and feeds them plain but nourishing food, with treats whenever she can manage it. Ginny (the character based on Noel Streatfeild) in the Bell family is outspoken, in a hilarious way, and gets in trouble in a charming way.

Vicky, her counterpart in the adult book, is much angrier (and with good reason!). Once she throws a bottle of ink at her governess's face -- and is pleased when ink gets all over her. In the way of dysfunctional families, this incident is "smoothed over" and never mentioned again, while Vicky is severely punished for little things like once eating bread with sprinkles during Lent -- at a party where all the other children were having the cake and cookies her father had forbidden her and her sisters to eat!

In the adult version, the mother is bored by clothes and cooking, too: meals are "poorly planned" and not nutritious (a biscuit and some cocoa for supper). The mother resents Vicky for her energy and strength and is quite mean to her at times. She makes Vicky go back to school while she still has influenza, while her younger sister (who has a less severe case) remains at home and is coddled. Vicky makes a vow: she will never forget what it feels like to be thirteen and treated unfairly.

Judging from her books, she never did -- and that is probably one thing that makes them so successful, and so satisfying.

What I wonder is: would her children's books be as satisfying as they are if they included more of her real childhood? I don't mean if they focused exclusively on the dark side -- books that do that are equally one-sided, though people often seem to consider "the dark side" more realistic than the bright side. I don't think either "side" is as interesting as a more rounded picture would be, after all life isn't a pancake! What I'd like to read is a Noel Streatfeild children's book in which the heroine's optimism and hope were achieved despite the obstacles of less-than-perfect parents.

And I may get to do just that! In June there will be a new Noel Streatfeild novel (at least, I hope it's new and not just a previously published book with a new title): SAPLINGS. It's been described as "an inversion of BALLET SHOES." It's not autobiographical, but it's a Noel Streatfeild children's book I haven't read (I hope) -- I can't wait!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A few works in progress...


POETRY FRIDAY: Opposite Poems



Last week, I wrote a post about Opposite Poems for Wild Rose Reader. It included excerpts from Richard Wilbur’s book Opposites, More Opposites, and a Few Differences, some of my original opposite poems, and a suggestion for writing opposite poems in the classroom.

Here are three opposite poems I wrote for that post:

The opposite of king is queen,

His consort on the royal scene—

Or else it’s some poor serf or peasant

Whose endless workday seems incessant.

***********************************

The opposite of engine? Trunk.

It has no parts that clank or clunk.

It’s a resting place for spare tires

And a body when your spouse expires.

***********************************

The opposite of ladies? Witches

Ugly hags with nostril twitches,

Cackling laughs, and warty faces...

Who are lacking in the social graces.

I also asked blog readers to write their own opposite poems and to submit them to me for future posting at Wild Rose Reader. Well, just one person took up my writing challenge—award-winning poet Julie Larios. Her poem, The Opposite of Hot Dog, is a pure delight from beginning to end—and a fine example of adeptly written light verse.

The Opposite of Hot Dog

By Julie Larios

A hot dog’s opposite is prone

to play the alto saxophone

in night clubs— he’s a real cool cat.

It’s also, oddly, quite true that

the opposite of hot dog is,

on summer days, a sloe gin fizz,

which goes down smooth and unembellished,

not gobbled up on a bun with relish.

And if the fate of old hotdoggers

is telling tales and quaffing lagers,

could be their opposites are the nerds

who drink alone and play with words.

I think that does it for the frank,

whose furter stands alone. I thank

all vegetarians, at whose behest,

the opposite of bratwurst is best.

Write an Opposite Poem: Maybe some of you would like to write your own opposite poems and share them with us. If so, just leave your opposite poem in the comments or email it to me. Check out this Wild Rose Reader post for more examples of opposite poems: Opposite Poems.

************

At Wild Rose Reader today--Red Sings from Treetops: A Book Review & An Invitation

At Political Verses today--Gasbag: A Limbaughrhyme

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Becky’s Book Reviews this week.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

more street art

I've been collecting street art and documenting it. I think we authors can learn something from it. The same symbols and images come up again and again... and they get burned into your brain. Can we do the same with our art and our books? That's my goal. I want to boil down my images and books and sum it up, making a logo perhaps and cards. Then I want them everywhere, like graffiti.







Just think about Fairey's Andre the Giant. It's marketing genius.

For the whole collection of my street art thus far, go here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Teaser II


This is the 2nd teaser (see the first one HERE) for my upcoming trailer and book Where the Mountain Meets the Moon out in June! The border on the cover of the book holds elements of the story--the teasers we've made are just to call attention (and hopefully pique interest) on what is to come!

Next month, I'll post a more extended trailer and then after that the ACTUAL BOOK will be released! I am so excited!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Auction and blog tour coming

Last week I posted about the illustrated proverb I donated to the Small Grace's auction for the Foundation for Children's Books. This week it is officially for auction on ebay! 100% of the proceeds go to a great cause, bringing authors into under funded schools.

Read more about the project here.

Click HERE to bid.


On another note, next week is Earth Week and I plan to celebrate by doing a mini-blog tour to talk about What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? A Green Activity Book About Reuse. Join me on the following lovely kidlit blogs to find out more about the making of the book, read reviews, and win a prize too! Several of the blogs will be holding book giveaways, your chance to get a copy of the book to share with kiddos you know for free. What better way to celebrate Earth Day then to do some recycling art activities with kids? Well driving less and planting a tree are probably better, but not nearly as fun.

Here is the schedule:

Monday the 20th: *Miss Rumphius Effect
Tuesday the 21st: *Wild Rose Reader
Wednesday the 22nd: 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Thursday the 23rd: *A Patchwork of Books
Friday the 24th: Katie's Literature Lounge

*These blogs are having book give aways!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Work Nightmare

My assistant Connie and I had just opened up a brand-new box full of copies of Grace's upcoming book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (pub date: June 2009). It was absolutely beautiful, and the gold ink on the cover was really striking...but then I noticed that the book had somehow been printed with the wrong title!!! Printed on the cover in brilliant, beautiful gold ink was one of the other titles Grace had tossed around when we were brainstorming different title ideas.

Before Grace completely panics, I have to say that this was all in a dream I had Friday night.

So, in my dream, it took me a while to realize what had happened. I freaked out and said to Connie in a panicked voice, "It has the wrong title!!!!" I had no idea how this could have happened. The ARCs had all been printed with the right title, we had all reviewed the proofs and the title had been right then. I frantically checked the interior, and the title was okay there, so it was just the jacket. That was a small relief. We started running around the office find the appropriate people to notify, and eventually determined that we'd have to print the jackets over...

And that's when I woke up. What a relief.

I'm not surprised I had this dream. Last week was a stressful work week (unrelated to Grace's book), we've had some printing problems with finished books lately (one book had been printed without the last 16 pages, another had the author's byline mysteriously gone from the front cover--in both cases, it was deemed to be the printer's error, and the books were reprinted at no cost to us--whew!) and I also found out that Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is printing on Tuesday (yay!). So, everything combined, it's somewhat natural that everything going on resulted in the nightmare. But man, I'm going to be nervous the first time I see a finished copy of the book! But the designer, the brilliant Alison Impey, will be going on press to make sure that the colors are just right--and I'm sure she'd notice if the title was wrong. Grace, don't worry, we'll get it right!

What types of anxiety work dreams do you all have? I have then all the time, sometimes funny, sometimes scary.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poetry Friday


It hasn't been the best of weeks. Today, I'm just leaving links to my Poetry Friday posts at Wild Rose Reader and Political Verses--and to the Poetry Friday Roundup post at Carol's Corner.

***************

At Wild Rose Reader, I have a post about “things to do” poems. It includes examples of that type of list poem that were written by some of my former second grade students.

At Political Verses, I have a parody of Shakespeare’s “Double double toil and trouble” bit from Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1. It’s a potent political pottage…a Macbethian mélange…Pelosi’s pot-au-pooh-poohers--written in rhyming verse.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Carol’s Corner this week.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

alien drawing



I just got this one in the mail. Isn't it cute? It's two pages taped together.

For lots of cool kid drawings go to my ART BY KIDS section. I have a lot more to add so check back a few times.

get your best photograph

I've been busy all day so I haven't had the time to post. Until I get my act together, here's a video to watch if you're thinking about doing some new author photos:

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

libraries I have seen

One of the fun things about going to so many different schools is seeing how each library has its own character. The schools, librarians and the PTA are always so creative in making the library space have its own personality. It's always like a little surprise to see! I forgot to document most of them (I'm going to make a special effort to so in the future), but did manage to capture a few.

Some just exuded happiness:


Or just made my inner-6thgrade-i-heart-unicorns-girl happy:

Others were more elaborate. This one had a library tree nook:complete with library-tree-themed murals


And this one had a cow/pasture theme mural on one side:
and a "reading porch" on the other:


So, what will the next library look like? Can't wait to see!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Small Graces auction: guest appearance


As most of you know, Grace has very generously founded yet another amazing charity event: the Small Graces auction to benefit the Foundation for Children's Books and the very worthwhile work that they do bringing authors into underfunded schools.

She could not have picked a better cause. The FCB works tirelessly to bring authors to schools that need them and promote literacy. I'll be visiting such a school in Chelsea this spring through their program and I can't wait, there is nothing like speaking to a group of kids who are hungry to learn about books and art and so rarely get the chance. I am humbled and delighted to be able to visit these kids.

Anyhow, the reason I bring this up is that this month Grace has offered me a way to participate in her project. I have donated my own illustrated proverb, to be auctioned on ebay from Monday, April 13th to Friday, April 17th.

As soon as I read the below proverb, I knew it would be perfect for an illustration of Abigail and George from Abigail Spells. I hope the painting is worthy of all the time and energy Grace has put into the project, and hope you will support the FCB by bidding on April 13th!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Beyond the Book: The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Beyond the Book:
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown.

Most of you probably know Peter's work from his Chowder books. Or perhaps you know him from his very first book, Flight of the Dodo (read my Beyond the Book here). His newest book, just out now, is The Curious Garden, and it's a bit of a departure from his previous books. Instead of the irreverent potty humor of his earlier books, this one has a more gentle humor, and a more classic feel overall.

The Curious Garden is the story of a boy named Liam who lives in a dull, gray city. Despite the dreariness of his surroundings, Liam still loves exploring, and one day he discovers a struggling garden on the top of an abandoned railway, and he decides to help nurse the plants back to life. Eventually, the plants thrive and end up exploring the whole city, inspiring other to join in the act of becoming gardeners!

Peter has really outdone himself with the art—each painting is truly a masterpiece, and the details throughout are just marvelous and full of life. There’s also a fun search and find element here, as red-headed Liam can be found on every spread, even the cityscapes. This is a charming, breathtaking and beautifully designed book in the classic tradition of The Little House and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel. This book really has both the best writing and painting that I’ve ever seen from Peter--it was a true labor or love, and I’m incredibly proud of him, and this book. Here's one of my favorite spreads which we turned into a lavish poster:Peter was inspired to write The Curious Garden in part by the Highline, a public space on an elevated railway on the West side of Manhattan, scheduled to open to the public later this year. There are also similar parks all over Europe, and what’s wonderful about this book is that the setting is really a kind of every-city—it could be NY, or London, or Berlin. There’s also a great environmental theme here (and we've printed the book on recycled paper), and of course I also love the message that one little boy can change the world--he helps completely transform a gray dirty city into a lush, green world.

Speaking of a lush green world, our fabulous marketing team decided to send these little pots with a packet of seeds to key accounts, and I decided to test my green thumb. Here they are, just starting to sprout:
A few days later, growing strong!Even better!

But then today I noticed the little forget-me-nots looked a little droopy. I've never been good with plants, and I think they might be dying. So sad. We'll see. Maybe I should sing to them, as Liam does in the book!One of the most exciting firsts for me in my publishing career is that we made a display for The Curious Garden. Now, the way this works is our marketing team chooses a few key books each list and offer displays for them. They design the display and mock it up for the catalog and offer it to accounts to order. Only if they get enough takers for the display do they actually produce it. I've had other displays offered for books I've edited, but this is the first time there were actually enough takers! I was so excited to put it together for my office:
Isn't it cool? And it comes with a little pocket for the free seed packets. And if you'll notice the little star stuck on top, that was added by me in honor of its starred review in Publisher's Weekly:

"Brown's latest is a quiet but stirring fable of urban renewal, sure to capture imaginations....In Brown's utopian vision, the urban and the pastoral mingle to joyfully harmonious effect-especially on the final pages, which show a city filled with rooftop gardens, fantastic topiaries, windmills and sparkling ponds."

Peter is going on a carbon-neutral tour later this month (including a few appearances at IKEA? Strange but cool), check out the dates and locations here!