Saturday, May 30, 2009


Sonia Sotamayor decided to become a lawyer after reading Nancy Drew -- books written, if any ever were, to entertain (and make money for the publisher). The author got paid a modest flat rate and never minded: she was quite content, going to her job as a reporter until she died at some amazing age -- in her nineties, I think. She wrote her column as usual, went home, and died in her sleep.

But that's another story. Sonia and Nancy Drew made me think about how children are influenced by what they read. A physicist I know decided to become a scientist after reading a biography of Madam Curie; someone at NASA chose astronomy when he got THE GIANT GOLDEN BOOK OF ASTRONOMY and went out to look at the stars with his father. He posted about that, which is how I know about it -- I remember it because I love, love, loved this book when I was around seven and had always felt faintly embarrassed by that. It's not exactly well-written and the illustrations are awful: MEN go to the moon, women are pictured only as scantily clad cavewomen worshipping it or conservatively dressed mothers.

Sometimes the influence is instant: the other day I was babysitting and, as usual, had some books with me -- YEAR OF THE DOG was one. The eight-year old instantly grabbed YOTD and started reading it, guffawing often. I was cooking dinner, and wanted him to tell me what was making him laugh so I could tell Grace....and then he got very excited when eating dumplings (which symbolized gold coins) made people rich.
"Can you put one in the pasta? And whoever gets it will get an extra privilege?"
Of course, I said yes -- with the caveat that the privilege had to be something allowed by their mother, and that I boil the coin to sterilize it first. He then ran upstairs to get a gold coin, with the caveat that whoever found it would have to give the coin back to him.

I was amazed at how into this idea both brothers were all through dinner, excitedly wondering who had the coin and trying to make me tell (I knew -- I had actually gasped as I saw it go onto the younger one's plate - but then I covered up this lapse by saying that that might have just been a trick on my part). Anyway it was a very jolly dinner: The privilege the finder chose was to "watch a movie with Libby -- not on a school night." Thank you Grace!

The ways books influenced me as a child were as different and unpredictable as the few examples here. What they have in common is that they enlarged my sense of possibilities, in big and little ways -- and often ways that neither the author or publisher could have foreseen. Ironically, the preachy books -- the ones adults probably thought were teaching valuable life lessons -- had by far the least influence!

In my own writing, I don't set out to influence anyone; but I appreciate being told if I have, in big and little ways. One girl recently wrote to me saying I probably didn't remember, but she'd written to me years ago about BLOW OUT THE MOON and how much she liked it (I did remember her). In this email, she said she just wanted to tell me she had re-read it often since then and it had really helped her get used to her English school and she wanted to thank me. At a school visit, a boy told me, with great earnestness, that he always put his knife and fork together at the end of a meal the way I did:
"And I always think of you when I do it." It's kind of fun (and also a little intimidating?) to think that we as authors are in other people's minds as much as that.

Friday, May 29, 2009

POETRY FRIDAY: Hurry by Marie Howe

I was looking for a poem to post for Poetry Friday. I found Hurry, my selection for today, at my first stop—American Life in Poetry, Column 218. Ted Kooser writes in his introduction that Hurry is one of his favorite mother-daughter poems. It’s now one of mine.

by Marie Howe

We stop at the dry cleaners and the grocery store

and the gas station and the green market and

Hurry up honey, I say, hurry,

as she runs along two or three steps behind me

her blue jacket unzipped and her socks rolled down.

Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?

To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?

You can read the rest of the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have Poems in Limbo—or unpolished poems for which I may never write a final draft.

Irene Latham has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Live. Love. Explore!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

criticism, fame, a 4 year old, and me

Put 20 toddlers in a room, give them giant canvases and lots of tubes of paint and instruct them to cover the whole surface. I wonder how many of them would make something like that of Marla Olmstead (I finally got netflix and watched My Kid Could Paint That – it’s a documentary about a 4 year old who was deemed a genius, a fake, and then back again).

(Marla - she's cute, that's for sure!)

The problem with kids’ drawings is that often not the right equipment is supplied. Crayons, for example, will make a picture look like crap no matter how talented the artist using them. That’s why you won’t see any books touting on the title page “done in crayon on paper.” The same goes for markers. They usually dry out and don’t cover the surface evenly.

Anyhow, it amazes me (no, not really) that no one wanted 4-year-old Marla’s paintings when they were deemed a hoax by 60 minutes (they indicated that perhaps the father was giving a helping hand). My brain thought, “Wait a minute, SOMEONE did them! You just said a minute ago that the paintings should be in the Moma!” Well, apparently only if they were proven to be done by the 4 year old. If her father gave her some instruction then all bets are off. Wouldn’t the father rather have been the famous one? I think so.

Anyway, someone at my last talk (girl scouts) asked when my parents first detected talent. I said 4 or 5. My mom said there was a definite difference between what I was doing and what my sisters were doing at the same age.

(Mickey - age 5)

However, my goal was to make my drawings look like something. I think that’s what most kids’ goals are. Not many of them are trying to make beautiful abstract paintings—after all, many adults don’t understand them! In my own personal opinion, to become a great abstract painter I think he or she needs to do the training (pay his or her dues) first. Do the realism. To understand that is to then understand the abstract, because after all, a great abstract painting has to have 1) color 2) design – move your eye around the page 3) create an emotion. It’s for this reason that I wonder if that then 4-year-old girl – now 8 – will crash and burn. If she doesn’t practice drawing a car and making it look like a car then I can only say that her “genius” is a fluke. I don’t care whether she got coaching or not. Who cares about that? Don’t all artists need feedback and some coaching? I’ll always say “Hey, what do you think of this red? Or should it be blue?”

A lot of times I feel like my artistic talent has boxed me into a life of living in the middle - or right now lower - middle class (sometimes poor?) If I went for the big bang like Marla I could be making millions. But it’s such a crapshoot and that’s frustrating. On top of this, I have to read comments about my children’s book art that I think are often off them mark. Lots of reviewers comment on my “brushstrokes.” Um… there are none! I blend everything with my finger. If you see brushstrokes in the artwork from one of my books then what you are really seeing is the gesso showing through thanks to the less than stellar print-job. I use a big house painting brush to prime my paper for painting. The big brush leaves big brush strokes. My fine paintbrushes and smooth fingers do not. That is just one obvious thing I can comment on. Other things that irk me are more a matter of opinion. And this again brings me back to Marla. I wonder what would have happened if my parents gave me globs of paint and some giant canvas when I was 4 and asked me to go to town in an abstract sort of way. Would I have ended up on 60 minutes? I guess I’m glad that my parents sheltered me from the criticism until I was an adult and old enough to seek it out myself, despite the dough I’d have in the bank account instead of the pile of unpaid bills.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

the Enchanted Inkpot

My new book WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON is a young MG fantasy (really a folktale/fairytale/fantasy, but I'm quibbling) and the first of that particular genre that I have ever written. That, however, did not dissuade the lovely and oh-so-talented folks at the Enchanted Inkpot to invite into their fray.

So, I've joined up, though I admit I am a bit of a wallflower as I've realized I am still rather a newbie when it comes to fantasy. But visit The Enchanted Inkpot blog for the others, it's a community for writers and readers of middle-grade and young adult fantasy. There you have the talented Cindy Pon, Jenny Moss, Ellen Oh, Marissa Doyle, RL LaFevers and more. Including Malinda Lo, whose book ASH had a display with WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON at the Bologna BookFair:

Nice company, I keep, huh?

Happy Spelling Week and a blog tour!

This week 293 spellers will go to the Scripps National Bee in Washington D.C.! If you've seen the movies Spellbound or Akeelah and the Bee, you know how fascinating a real live spelling bee is. Some of you might remember my post about the one I went to in Brookline when I was researching Abigail Spells!

To celebrate all the goodness that is a spelling bee and the book I wrote about a dedicated speller, I will be blog touring all week in the kidlitosphere. Visit me at the below blogs to learn more about the book and I how I made it. Some will feature reviews, some interviews, and all will have book giveaways. Comment on their posts and you can win a free copy of Abigail Spells!

Monday the 25th: MotherReader
Tuesday the 26th: A Patchwork of Books
Wednesday the 27th: Katie's Literature Lounge
Thursday the 28th: Brimful Curiosities
Friday the 28th: Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup

MotherReader's post yesterday asked what word gives you the most spelling grief. I have many, but the ones that probably trip me up the most are isn't, weird, and coalesce... all those i's and e's and s's! What are yours?

Monday, May 25, 2009

SCBWI tribute

Hi all,

I'm off for Memorial Day, but wanted to share this video. Peter Brown plays a role, as does my assistant Connie Hsu. And can you spot a hilarious cameo by Grace Lin? So fun!

SCBWI Tribute from Kimberly C. Baker on Vimeo.

Thank you to Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser for creating the wonderful SCBWI.

And thank you also to all the men and women who serve our country in the military.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

read all of: steal back the mona lisa!

I've been meaning to make a page for STEAL BACK THE MONA LISA! for ever. I never found the time. I've forced myself to do it now. Sadly, it's way too late for promotion. The book is almost OP. Anyway, go to the page and scroll to the bottom and you can read the book in its entirety. Why not let the world read it for free? Go here to check it out!


Friday, May 22, 2009

Politics by William Butler Yeats

In honor of Memorial Day I have a Favorite Poem Project video of Stephen Conteaguero talking about his life and reciting the poem Politics by William Butler Yeats.

Politics by William Butler Yeats

You can read the poem here.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have a link to a post at Mama Without Borders about a woman making and using a “poetry suitcase” to get her young daughter and son excited about poetry. I also have recommendations for poetry collections and anthologies that are excellent for sharing with preschoolers, kindergartners, and children in the early elementary grades.

Susan Taylor Brown has the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

lots of stuff

So... I spent at least 5 hours in traffic today in the hot sun. It was agonizing. I was doing a talk to a NJ girlscouts troop. It's funny (or not really) how I spent way more time in the car than I did at the actual talk. Anyway, I'm totally broke so thank goodness I got paid today! Now I have half of the rent.

On another topic, I may have mentioned finding an abandoned apartment in Brooklyn. You can see the whole photo series here.

Below are some objects I absconded with. These are perfect for my books! The right time period, great inspiration and so on.

Lastly, I'm almost done with the bubble gum book. Almost, but yet I have a feeling I'm going to be at it for a while longer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

mom's first signing

My mother recently attended the North American Taiwanese Women's Association conference in Atlanta, Georgia. At the conference, she saw that The Ugly Vegetables was for sale.

"That's my daughter's book," she said, nudging her companion.
"That's HER DAUGHTER'S BOOK!!" her companion said to the seller.
"You're the mother?" the seller said.
"Yes," my mom said and opened the book to the back flap, where there is a photo of the two of us, "See?"
"You ARE the mother!" the bookseller said, "You have to sign the book!"

Soon everyone was clamoring for a signature and, just like that, my mom had an impromptu book signing. She said it was very exciting.

I wonder if I could get her to do my school visits, too?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Packing and drawing, packing and drawing

This spring has been the busiest I've had in a very long time; two books came out within a month of eachother, I'm planning my wedding in July, and moving from Boston to Northampton (children's book author Mecca) in a few short weeks- eek! Right now I am going back and forth between sketching for my new project Disappearing Desmond and packing all our belongings for the trip West. I am excited for all the change but also sad about leaving Boston, where I've made my home for the past 12 years. Boston has been good to me, sigh.

Anyhow, not much time for posting today, but I would like to invite everyone out to The Andover Bookstore on Saturday, where I will be reading, presenting about, and signing Abigail Spells. There will be fun activities for kids (a spelling scavenger hunt is in the works), snacks, and all sorts of great spelling fun. Come join me!

The Andover Bookstore
Saturday May 23rd at 11:00 am

Monday, May 18, 2009

Bad Reviews

I just became acquainted with this blog via Lisa Yee and Facebook:

The Worst Review Ever

What a great idea! As my fellow Blue Rose Girls all know, bad reviews hurt. You know they shouldn't, that it's just one person's opinion, but whether it's an Amazon review or one in a review journal or magazine, it's hard not to take them personally and get upset. And it's nice to know that you're not alone in feeling that way.

Editorial Anonymous said in a recent post about bad reviews: "your editor sees a bad review and shrugs." I'll have to respectfully disagree. This editor for one takes bad reviews of the books she edits quite personally, although of course perhaps not to the same extent as the author would. Oh sure, I know the bad review isn't going to hurt the sales of the book--although it might if every single review is negative. But I certainly don't just shrug it off that easily. I get sad, and I get ANGRY. Because obviously the reviewer just didn't *get* the book. In fact, there are three reviews from a certain journal that I still seethe about when I think about them now, years later. I won't name names, though *cough-rhymes-with-circus-cough.*

Some of you might remember this post back in 2006, when Chowder by Peter Brown got a negative review from Kirkus the same week it received a starred review from Booklist. It helped to have the good and the bad together, rather than just a bad review and nothing to counter it. It's made it easier to remember that it's subjective and that not everyone can or will like your book.

I don't envy a reviewer's job, and I do appreciate the care with which most of them read and review books. The little plea I'll make is if you're writing a critical review, whether it be on your blog or for a publication, please don't be too personal, and please don't be cruel. For example, don't review a book like Tai reviewed Cher in Clueless:

Tai: Why should I listen to you, anyway? You're a virgin who can't drive.
Cher: That was way harsh, Tai.

Don't be way harsh! Anyway, try not to sweat the bad reviews. And I'll try to follow my own advice in the future. But here's to nothing but starred reviews in our future!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Taking chances

This has nothing to do with chidren's books -- but it's fun to look at on a rainy Sunday. It's a page from one of my favorite Web sites, hel-looks -- the hel is for Helsinki. Each day on this site they post a photograph of a look they saw on the streets there, with a one-paragraph commentary from the wearer.

Occasionally,it's not one, but two girls (or boys) who dress alike -- not all the people they photograph are young (there are even some in their sixties, seventies, and eighties),

but I've never yet seen people out of their teens (or maybe early twenties) who enjoy dressing just like their best friend. In real life or on hel-looks.

I'm not sure why I like this site so much: because I'm half-Finnish and many of the people look enough like me to be my cousins, because the clothes are so different from anything I'd see here in CT, or just because I like the bright colors. When we have grey day after grey day as we have here lately, I really understand why all the furniture in Scandinavia used to be painted every bright color there is.....and why people there dress so colorfully.

And in case anyone is interested: the old lady is wearing clothes she made herself (she says pinafores make baking easier and more fun), the girl in the last picture second hand clothes and the traditional Finnish folk dancing shoes she had as a kid. In some of the pictures people are wearing vintage Marimekko from their mothers' and grandmothers' closets -- if only MY mother had been into that!

I think one reason I like this site is that it shows that you don't have to be beautiful, or young, to look great. Maybe that's what it has to do with children's books. These people look great because they're not afraid to take chances and express who they are.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Point of view

I had a writing teacher once who said that when you write in the third person, with a point of view character:
"The reader can feel TRAPPED in that character."

I feel this way when I read some books....sometimes, I just don't WANT to know every detail of what's going on inside a character's head. But that seems to be how many character-driven children's books are written.
Jane Austen used the third person with a point-of-view character, too, but she slid in and out of her heroine's minds. And she was very selective about when she went in and how long she stayed. She never overstayed the reader's welcome.

That is the kind of point of view I most enjoy reading, and writing.....can you do it in a kid's book, though? Or does that kind of sliding in and out make a novel too adult?

Friday, May 15, 2009

POETRY FRIDAY: Three Poems for My Daughter

Sara and Me

In February, I wrote about my daughter’s engagement in this post: Will You Marry Me? A couple of Saturdays ago my daughter called and asked if I’d come with her to The French Bridal Shop to look at wedding gowns. She wasn’t planning to buy a gown that day—she just wanted to browse and maybe try a few gowns on. But once we got to the shop and she found several gowns she liked things got more serious. Well, we bought (ordered) her wedding dress that day! It’s absolutely gorgeous—just liked my only child.

I’ve been thinking about my daughter Sara a lot lately—about how much fun my husband and I had watching her grow up, about how proud we are of the woman she has become, about how much we enjoy being in her company, about how happy we are that she has found a wonderful man to share her life with.

I thought I’d post three poems for her today. Naomi Shihab Nye’s What Is Supposed to Happen has been one of my favorite poems for many years. I included it in a memory book for Sara when she graduated from high school.

by James Lenfestey

A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent,
holding earth and sky together with her shadow.
She sleeps upstairs like mystery in a story,
blowing leaves down the stairs, then cold air, then warm.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

What Is Supposed To Happen
by Naomi Shihab Nye

When you were small,
we watched you sleeping,
waves of breath
filling your chest.
Sometimes we hid behind
the wall of baby, soft cradle
of baby needs.
I loved carrying you between
my own body and the world.

You can read the rest of the poem here

I just found this poem by Margaret Atwood yesterday--and fell in love with it.

You Begin
by Margaret Atwood

You begin this way:
this is your hand,
this is your eye,
that is a fish, blue and flat
on the paper, almost
the shape of an eye.
This is your mouth, this is an O
or a moon, whichever
you like. This is yellow.

Outside the window
is the rain, green
because it is summer, and beyond that
the trees and then the world,
which is round and has only
the colors of these nine crayons.

Click here to read the rest of You Begin and to listen to a podcast of Atwood reading her poem.


At Wild Rose Reader, I have an original acrostic called DAYBREAK.

Kelly Polark has the Poetry Friday Roundup today.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Are you in San Antonio? Come to my signing!

Because of all the school visits I have done in the San Antonio, TX area (I am in SA right now), an extra special WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON pre-launch booksigning (like a preview movie screening) has been scheduled for:

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 at 7pm (TONIGHT!!)
Barnes and Nobles Northwoods
18030 HWY 281N,Suite #140
San Antonio, TX

Can't make it because it's a school night? Just call (210) 490-0411 and reserve an autographed copy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon TRAILER and more

So lots of little bits of news to share!

First, here is the extended trailer I promised after last month's teaser. It's a sneak peak of some of the color illustrations inside (even though WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON is a novel-grades 3 to 6- it will have full color illustrations, like the classic fairytale books). If your band width allows, please view it in High Quality (hit the HQ button at the bottom)--it makes a big difference.

I am so, so, so impressed with what my friend Alex (film editor) and my cousin Austin (composer/musician) created. I think they should start a book trailer business!

(PS--if you are a teacher and cannot access youtube, I also have the trailer available here on Where the Mountain Meets the Moon Book Trailer on Teacher Tube)

Secondly, I'm on auction! Or rather my art is:

My monthly painting for small graces is now taking bidders. Just in case you don't remember, I'm donating a painting a month to the Foundation of Children's Books to fund author visits to under served schools. Here is this month's painting:
You can bid on it NOW!

Also my donation to the Bridget Zinn auction is up too!

This is an auction to benefit Bridget Zinn, an author and librarian recently diagnosed with colon cancer. I donated original art and books from Robert's Snow. Both books are out of print now and the art is original--so this is a great chance!

You can bid on my art and books by leaving a comment on the auction listing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A new project

Meet Desmond. He is shy and likes to hide. Find out what happens when a certain outgoing rabbit named Gloria finds him and he discovers the joys of being noticed! This is my newest picture book project, which will be out in the fall of 2010. I'm in the process of creating the book dummy and will be posting lots of sketches and art as it goes along!

Good news for Priscilla!

Priscilla and the Hollyhocks (written by Anne Broyles, illustrated by me) has just been named one of Bank Street College's 2008 Best Children's Books of the Year! Hurray! You can read more about it here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Picture Book Don'ts

Last week at work we were discussing taboo or risky content in picture books--subjects, words, or images that should raise a red flag and either be taken out, or dealt with carefully where appropriate. Some of the things that came up:

Content to be careful about including (unless the book is specifically about the subject):
-Sexual content
-Depicting parents/teachers in a negative light (silly is acceptable, but neglectful/abusive is not)
-Difficult concepts, like homelessness, that are tough to understand/grasp even as adults

taboo text:
-curse words
-"Oh my God" or similar
-"stupid," "idiot, " "retard,"etc.
-words concerning violence or death (for example, one sibling saying to the other in a fit of anger, "I'm going to kill you!")

Things to watch in the illustrations:
-potential racial indicators that could be interpreted negatively, even if unintentional. For example, a book we published a while ago featured a white chicken and a brown chicken, and one review criticized it for depicting the brown chicken as the "naughty" one.
-alcohol (we discussed whether or not it was okay to have adults or animals drinking alcohol--I would probably err on the side of caution, unless it felt absolutely necessary for some reason. What do you think?)
-safety issues--kids especially should be shown wearing helmet if on a bicycle, even if the "kid" is an animal. Where applicable, people should be wearing seat belts in cars. Watch for kids in dangerous/precarious positions, for example, a child standing on a chair on tiptoes reaching for something, etc.
-nudity (little kid "bottoms" seem to be acceptable on occasion)

This is by no means a complete list, and of course, these are not "rules"--just things that in our experience we've had some pushback from customers or accounts on. There are always exceptions.

One observation I had is that it seems that picture books have become much more careful than in the past. For example, one of my favorite picture books as a child, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig, I think may be too scary/depressing to be published today. We also found that in some cases, these "rules" could be gotten around by using animals instead of people. For example, Are You My Mother? would probably be too sad and scary if it were a little human child instead of a bird.

So, what do you think? Anything to add? Anything you disagree with?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Bridget Zinn auction

Check out the Bridget Zinn auction! The children's book community have donated various cool items to help Bridget Zinn, an author and librarian recently diagnosed with colon cancer. It's a wonderful thing. I donated original art and books from Robert's Snow (though it isn't up on the blog yet). I haven't parted with any of the original art from that book yet and I had a slight twinges when I decided to; but when I looked at my work it just felt like the right thing to do.

Go an bid!

POETRY FRIDAY: More Color Poems

I spent so much time working on my Poetry Friday post for Wild Rose Reader that I didn’t have time to work on one for Blue Rose Girls today—so I’m leaving a link to the one I wrote for WRR. It’s an extensive post about color poems that includes an original color poem submitted by one of my blog readers; links to children’s original color poems at Check It Out; color poems by Christina Rossetti, Marge Piercy, and Paul Zimmer; reviews of children’s books with poems about colors; and a classroom connection for a creative writing and photography activity that teachers could do with their students.

Here's the link: More Color Poems

Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.

my last thurs. post

Firstly, my neck hurts. Looking down at an illustration for too long, I guess, will do that, especially to someone w/my what I will call "issues."

Secondly, when the Siberts came out I whined that I couldn't vocalize about them... but I want to say that I really love LIghtship. My kind of book. Wonderful illustrations, short text. Perfect. I "signed" with Brian last weekend in DC. I put "signed" in quotes because really he was signing, and then I was signing, but we never signed together. His new book Moonshot looks equally awesome. I must get myself a copy. Of course, I have an issue with all of this because we're both doing nonfiction and he's obviously giving me a run for my money. Oh well. So be it.

What was really cool for me was to see how much they were using my book at the Air and Space Museum. One of the organizers says she loves reading it to kids because of the short text, etc. Honestly, I'm always worried about what the experts will think! will they find fault w/any of it? Are they going to tell me that astrontuats don't really eat dried ice cream??? She did a great activity using my book w/the kids that I hope to put on my website soon.

Anyway, I'm almost done with the art for my bubblegum book. Yay! What a relief. I'm seriously almost out of money again. I think I have one more month of rent in the old bank and that's it. No joke. Sad times.

Lastly, my friends and I have discovered an abandoned apt. building in the middle of Brooklyn. No one knows about it! My friend already absconded with a cash register (he thinks it weighed 200 pounds or so, yet we both carried it out) from 1910 (looked up the serial number). I have two old radios--one from the 30s, an antique fan, and some other funky stuff. I'm going back in of course. It seems that the first floor used to be some sort of radio and appliance fix-it-shop. So I'm surrounding myself with these old objects while I paint my 1900s people. The inspiration is good. Perhaps I'll post photos.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

You're Invited!

Okay, it's the launch I've been talking and talking about!

My new novel that I have talked about non-stop is finally going to make its debut. Not only do I think this book is the best I have ever written, the novel is being printed in full-color (very unusual for a novel); I think it is also the most beautiful. So, don't miss its coming out party! Because YOU, yes, YOU are invited. If you read this blog, I'd like to meet you. It's only fair, don't you think?

It will be on Saturday, June 6th at the Porter Square Bookstore! Please visit their website for directions and parking tips. This is the Evite, but I'm not sure if it is accessible without a formal invite. Just e-mail me at and I'll put you on "the list."

I will be reading and signing and giving away uber-cool goodie bags! In these bags (amongst other great loot) will be a homemade boxed cupcake. One of these cupcakes will have a coin baked inside it. If you have the cupcake with the coin in it--you are the WINNER! What do you win?

You'll win your name or likeness in my upcoming book!

Isn't that neat? Wouldn't you like to see yourself in a book? Or your child? So, come to the signing and get a cupcake!

Please pass on the invite to anyone you think might be interested and RSVP if you can, so I know how many cupcakes to make (of course, you can come last minute too--I'll make extras!). Hope to see you!!!

Can't make it? Reserve a copy to be signed and pick it up at your convenience! 617-491-2220

Not in the Boston area? Stay tuned for the virtual launch invite!

needing kids questions cont.

I forgot - you can also just post the questions here. This will help not fill up the old in box!

calling all kids!!!!

I did another one.

I don't know if anyone has noticed, but I get really obsessed about things for short periods of time and then move on to something else.

On to a new topic... my book!

I need your help. I have an idea to but a Q&A in my backmatter - trying something new. Know a kid? Know a teacher or school? Ask them what their top question is about bubble gum. I want the most commonly asked questions and then I might, if my editor approves and I have room, answer the questions in the back of my book. If you know of a school, have them do a poll. I perhaps could credit either the school or the classroom, such as "Question by Mrs. Smith's 4th Grade Class" or some such.

Send your questions to me at

It's now almost 6 am and I haven't gone to bed so this is one of those ideas that may or may not seem good in the "morning" er, afternoon? Evening?

thank you all!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

a proposal...

Next time we get together, what if we roll out a sheet of paper and see if we can't combine our art?

the risd sale, or how my faith in humanity was restored

So it has been a busy week. I had 2 school visits, a presentation at the Connecticut Library Association conference, a surprise party to help plan and a big deadline for Ling and Ting. And to end the week, I also had the RISD sale!

Anna and I had signed up a while ago, deciding to share a table to sell our wares; so even though I was starting to feel burned out, off we went:

You can probably tell that I'm looking a bit haggard! But even though I was tired, I still had a nice time. I got to see fellow author/illustrator Liz Dubois' completely charming creations:
And I got these very cool ceramic coasters with designs by Ian Wells
as well as these incredibly cute and eco-friendly paper boxes from treeo design

However, I think all this shiny loot in conjunction with my busy-and-lack-of-sleep week distracted me. Because at the end of the day, Anna and I packed up the table, put everything in the car and drove home. And at about 10:30 pm (a good 6 hours after the sale was over) this text message conversation happened:

Anna:Do u have the money from the sale?
Grace: Um, no. Thought u had it.
Anna: I think I left the box it was in in the car
Grace: checked the car, not there. sure you don't have it?
Anna: no

I had left behind the box with the all money.

On a table. In the middle of the street. We had driven away without the cash box--eeks!

Immediately, I was filled with fatalistic gloom. It was gone, I was sure of it. It was almost all cash, who could resist? I was convinced we were the weeping losers.

Still, just in case, we half-heartedly called the organizers of the sale...and right before midnight they called us back saying they had the box, in tact. Someone, unknown, had turned it in.

Which fills me with warmhearted gratitude. The news is filled with Madoff-types and hipster grifters; but the real world has a lot of kind, caring and honest people in it. I thank you so much for being one of them.


You can see what I did this weekend from this video - the air and space museum. It's hidden in there! I didn't do it on purpose but it's funny how what's on your mind can seep into all sorts of stuff... or at least art related things.

On the couch today...

So this is what I did today. Real productive, eh? I was really tired and having a pain/ache go down my leg and didn't feel like getting up. That's what happens with me now. Instead of wasting time watching TV I do the videos. Don't worry, I'm painting now... and yes, it's past 4 am. Oh well.

The "music video" isn't done because cutting up the pieces crashed the program at least 4 times. Grrr! Frustrating! The song is done though.... Don't make fun! I enjoy it! My sister always makes fun of my signing and music. She says I "suck." So be it.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Abigail Spells is out at last!

Last week Abigail made her debut in bookstores, hurray! I am so proud of this book, and so excited that kids will be able to read it at last. For those of you that have been following our blog for a long time, you will remember this book going through many stages... from picking Abigail's handkerchief color, to choosing color schemes and patterns, to making the paintings. I posted about making a jacket sketch, painting the jacket (also here), and finishing the artwork.

Now that the book is finally in bookstores, the work to get the word out begins. Speaking of which, I have just launched a web site for Abigail: The site is a collaboration between myself and my computer genius fella- the one with the cupcake below! He helped me put together some Abigail spelling video games in a few short weeks by learning flash and animating Abigail... check out the "games" page to see her yourself!

If you'd like to learn more about the creation of the book, I have a number of events coming up this month where I will be presenting, showing artwork, and signing books. You can see a full schedule of where I will be here, but here are some highlights (all are free and open to the public):

This Saturday May 9th, I will be speaking about and signing both Old Red Shoe and Abigail Spells at Olivia Browning in Charlestown.
10:30-12:00 Preschool program and art activity
1:00-2:30 Grade school program and art activity

I will be celebrating the release of Abigail Spells at The Andover Bookstore. Come join me to learn about how the book was created, play spelling games and activities for kids.
May 23rd at 10:30 am

I will be signing Abigail Spells at Newtonville Books. Learn about the making of the book and see the original artwork!
June 27th Program will begin at 10:30 am

Monday, May 04, 2009

Good news galore!

Greetings from Boston! Or, Somerville to be exact. I came up for a quick, whirlwind trip yesterday (heading back this afternoon) for a surprise engagement party for fellow BRG Anna and her beau Bruno. The party had an Indian Wedding theme, and was very fun and festive. Here's our requisite BRG photo op:
Libby, Grace, Anna, me, and Elaine.

Last week I received a bunch of fabulous news about some of the books I edited:

1) The Curious Garden will be reviewed in the NY Times next weekend. The book is called "quietly marvelous" and “As all good, enduring stories are, The Curious Garden is a rich palimpsest. Echoing the themes of The Secret Garden, it is an ecological fable, a whimsical tale celebrating perseverance and creativity, and a rousing paean, encouraging every small person and every big person that they too can nurture their patch of earth into their very own vision of Eden.”

Aside from just being just a fantastic review, it taught me a new word--palimpsest! The Curious Garden is also up to #5 on the NY Times bestseller list!

On Saturday I went to Peter Brown's book signing at 192 Books, and as we were so close to the Highline, we took a walk over to take a peak at the inspiration for The Curious Garden. We weren't allowed up yet (it's opening in June), but here's Peter in front:

2) Thursday night at the Edgar Alan Poe awards ceremony, Tony Abbott won for Best Juvenile Mystery for The Postcard! It was really thrilling to be there with him to celebrate. It was a "real" awards ceremony, like the Golden Globes, with everyone all dressed up, eating and drinking and merry making, and eagerly awaiting each award presentation. It was so exciting to hear Tony's name announced as the winner. His speech was exuberant and gracious, funny and heartfelt and sweet. And the little statuette they give is really cute!
3) And finally, because good news comes in threes, I found out that Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein, illustrated by Ed Young, has won the Asian Pacific American Library Association (APALA) award for best picture book!

I love good news. Keep it coming!

And speaking of good news, congratulations, Anna and Bruno!