Monday, September 29, 2008

We're Back from Kidlit08 !

I'm finally home this morning at 10am after flying all night and I couldn't wait to post this blog. Here's how the trip went.

I arrived in Portland, Oregon on Saturday morning and was greeted by a flock of bees on the wall (airport art) how appropriate!

The shuttle to the Sheraton was quite a wait for my anxious soul but I managed to meet up with Nancy and catch Mark Blevis of Just One More Book and his entertaining presentation on using audio and video to communicate online. AKA PODCASTING

Although I had missed Anastasia Suen's lecture for beginning bloggers, Nancy was able to fill me in later. Anastasia is so amazingly personable and multi-talented. If you have the chance to meet her or take one of her classes do so! Mother Reader presented at the same time so we had to catch up with her and get her blogger's tips at the meet and greet session later in the day.

Lunch was the perfect time to socialize and meet the Kidlit community of bloggers, artists and authors.

Even though the waitress somehow lost our club sandwiches, Nancy and I felt satisfied with the food of idea exchange and inspiration at our table. "A talk feast." Some of the faces you see in the photo are YA author Christine Fletcher (Thank you Christine for the signed copy of Ten Cents a Dance : ), blogger librarian Maureen Kearney who writes Confessions of a Bibliovore, authors, Deb Lund and Susan Blackaby and another author whose card I forgot to get- but if you read this please send us an email because we enjoyed meeting you.

After lunch, the adorable, bubbly, pink-haired artist/author Laini Taylor and the exceptional Kidlit blogger, Jen Robinson led a Q&A style discussion on the bridge between authors and bloggers.

Next came Greg Pincus' presentation right out of Comedy Central, which not only gave us new insight on how to promote books and ourselves on the web, but had us all in stitches. I wish I would have snapped a shot of his brother (just as wild) as he was madly twittering away on his laptop. Such enthusiasm and energy these brothers brought to the room!

We caught Sara Zarr's helpful lecture about balancing the personal and the professional on your blog...and then... the party began as the kidlit authors, artists and bloggers set up their books on tables and we all had time to converse casually.

Nancy and I spoke quite a lot about life and kids with picture book author Deb Lund (donning purple 'Mama Monster' hair w/spikes) who gave us each a signed copy of her new book Monsters on Machines, illustrated by Robert Neubecker. Can't wait to review this one! Thank You Deb.

We ordered Pilsners for the happy hour break, then dinner came quick with a tasty buffet ( I went back for 2nds of the lasagna :) !) I think everyone won something at the dinner raffle....some more than others. There was a table of hipsters (you know who you are) who entertained the room with all their winnings. Thanks to all the publishers and booksellers who donated prizes. The raffle money went to buy books for a Portland Children's Hospital program.

Thank you * Jone, Laini and their husbands and support volunteers. You all did such a super job of hosting this event party and organizing the discussion groups.

Reader Girlz hosted a little party at the Columbia Bar and an opening for YA author Holly Cupala's new book A Light That Never Goes Out. Hey I won a cd of music that inspired her writing the book at the raffle plus a bag of purple jellybeans and tea. I heard they kept the party going until past 2:00am. Go! Reader Girlz Go!

Sunday morning we met some Kidlit early-risers for the continental breakfast. It gave us an opportunity to meet some of the folks we hadn't had the chance to talk with the previous day. Then off to Powell's! We caught the MAX downtown with Maureen and I was amazed at the emptiness and cleanliness of the subway. Although we bought tickets, there are no turnstyles in Portland and nobody checks your ticket. They run on good karma. I love this philosophy!

Over the river and through the woods to Powell's Books we go. Bike racks are all over the city- so eco-friendly and creative too. It has to be one of the greatest bookstores on earth and it's no coincidence we bumped into our Kidlit friends, including Jolie Steckly and Deb Lund.

After a few hours in Powell's and a stack of picture books later, we finally managed to make our way out.

OMG! Portland's Cargo is my new favorite store. I want everything in that place and I think I could live in there too. Amazing eye-candy and textiles for the artist's soul.

I remember excitedly running across the street when I spotted Reading Frenzy. It was on my list of Musts and a Must it is. Nancy found a prints by artists Nikki McClure and Kristine Virsis. And I discovered a bond with LA artist Saelee Oh.

Just outside we stumbled upon the Independent Publishing Resource Center and were buzzed in to the 2nd floor by Polly, a super helpful and friendly artist and author/printmaker.

Finnegan's Toys was our last stop to pick up some goodies for the kiddies. I love this toystore and around the corner is Little Finnegan's with the coolest Japanese turtle placemats we've ever seen.

On our way to catch the MAX we noticed the Guild carries good used books but no time for stopping.....

Goodbye Portland! We'll be back soon. And we hope to see all you fabulous Kidlit bloggers in DC next year! Find more blog posts about the conference here at Kidlito8. OK one more post, post link to Mark Blevis' many photos of the conference on FLCKR.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Last Christmas I bought Poetry Speaks to Children for a friend's daughter who is very verbal I knew she would be interested in listening to the poets on the companion CD. This year, Nikki Giovanni has edited a collection of poetry accompanied by a CD titled Hip Hop Speaks to Children. I've been loving the CD in the car and it such a welcome relief from the Disney Princesses' theme music my girls want unrelentingly.

Some of the poets on the CD compilation are better known as musicians (Queen Latifah, A tribe Called Quest, Sugarhill Gang)- which is the excellence of hip-hop. It's..." a celebration of poetry with a beat." Nikki Giovanni explains the roots of hip hop in African American music like Gospel and the Blues and how urban "hip-hop music, like poetry, encompasses everything about the human experience."

Visually it's a beautiful book with no less than five illustrators who contributed to the project. So, not only are the poems diverse but the artists' pictures are carefully edited to add visual interest. It's a real page-turner. One of my most favorite pages is 35, why some people be mad at me sometimes by Lucille Clifton with the illustration by Michele Noiset. You just have to love the rhythmic simplicity of this poem and the way the text is positioned between the ladies heads. they ask me to remember but they want me to remember their memories and I keep on remembering mine.

Poets in this collection include: Maya Angelou, Calef Brown, Gwendolyn Brooks, W.E.B. DuBois, Nikki Grimes, and Gary Soto among many other great writers. This book looks like a children's book but would be a welcome addition to any poetry collection as you see from this verse excerpted from Lauryn Hill's, Everything is Everything. (pages 48, 49)

"But things come slow or not at all And the ones on top, won't make it stop So convinced that they might fall Let's love ourselves then we can't fail To make a better situation Tomorrow, our seeds will grow All we need is dedication"

This is both a poem and a hip hop song. Here's the video of Lauryn Hill singing Everything is Everything showing how hip hop poetry is music.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

2008 Kidlit Blog Convention

This week-end I'm hittin' the road and traveling out west to meet up with Nancy in Portland, Oregon for the 2008 Kidlit Blog Convention! Yippee!!!!

Ike's back......and now he's 4. (previously featured in my May 25th blog)
This little guy really knows how to Rock!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Interview with Wong Herbert Yee

I am happy to have been given the opportunity to interview Mr. Wong Herbert Yee, the successful artist/author of several children's books. I admire his work, especially his art and lyrical text for "Who Likes the Rain?" and "Tracks in the Snow." His art exhibits such a wide range of styles with special attention to detail. I'm also impressed with his rhyming dialogue and interactive focus. He makes reading so much fun!

Tell me a little about your childhood/background.

I grew up in Detroit with six brothers and sisters. Our elementary school was K-6. At one point, there was a Yee in six of the seven grades. We were also the only Asian family for a time.

Do you have children of your own?
I have a daughter.

What brought you to write books for children?

This is directly related to the previous question. Our weekly visits to the library got me to thinking that this was something I would like to do.

I see that you graduated college with a BFA in Printmaking which is an unusual major (and one that I share with you!). How has your printmaking background helped/hindered your work?

Printmaking is a bit unusual, from the standpoint of making a living. The results are what appealed to me, and the method of working. I liked the ruggedness of it all; how you could scratch, scrape, work and rework an image. I'm referring to intaglio which was my area of concentration in printmaking. I also enjoyed the surprise element, peeling a damp sheet of paper off the printing press. Of course the first book I had published, EEK! There's a Mouse in the House was done in gouache/watercolor. Working with brushes was new. Watercolor is also such a touchy medium. The making of multiples is common to both, allowing affordability and availability.

Do you still create etchings/woodcuts/prints?

No I haven't. After graduating I lived in an upper flat. I set up acid baths in an attic space, non-ventilated to keep working on my prints. The chemicals eventually drove me in a different direction, searching for less toxic ways of making art. Fortunately, enough brain cells survived . . . I think? I did do a linoleum cut sample for my next book, Big Black Bear. I liked the results, but wasn't sure I had enough control. Lately I've been feeling a need to go back in that direction. That would bring me full circle; something I strive for in my writing half.

I love your interactive website. I see that you devote a lot of space for children's play/games, why?

At first the idea of a website was a way to direct teachers inquiring about school visits. After studying other sites I decided it would be nice to add something for the kids, as they are my intended audience.

Describe a "typical" work day.

I rise at 10:00 and mess around on the computer for a bit. I was an artist before becoming a writer. It would be easier for me to stay up to 5:00 am, as opposed to getting up that hour. (I've read some writers get cracking at this time.) If I'm working on illustrations I'll go until 4 or 5 before running out of gas. When doing creative things, 5 hours seems to be my limit. The time spent working is fairly intense, though. I write at anytime and enjoy it because I am not chained to my drawing table.

How many published picture books do you have out?

Works published including picture books, 11; early readers, 7 and boardbooks, 4.

What do you do when you are not reading/writing?

I ride my bike, keeping an eye out for turtles, birds and such. I run; there's a 1/2 marathon on my calendar (first in about twenty years). Avoid chores.

What's the best thing about being an artist/author?

Working out of the house; not driving; having been around to see my daughter come home from school everyday (I've mentioned the morning thing). Actually having control over what you're doing, especially since I write and illustrate.

What is your latest book for 2008?

The third book in the Mouse and Mole series, A Brand New Day with Mouse and Mole.

What can fans expect next from you?

I've been happy wandering in the world of Mouse and Mole. The fourth Mouse and Mole is in the hands of my publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I've just completed the art. Fine Feathered Friends is due out fall 2009. I'm preparing to submit MM5. Also, I'll be starting work on Summer Days, Summer Night for Henry Holt/Ottaviano, the sequel to Tracks in the Snow and Who Likes Rain?

What advice would you give for beginning children's book artists/authors?

To writers: never ask what you should write about.

To illustrators: pay attention to detail and craftsmanship, don't hog the spotlight.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Those knuckleheads in in the White House have nothing to do with this zany picture book by Joan Houlb. So, instead of dwelling on how the economy is fundamentally NOT OK, I read Knuckleheads to my wee ones. And chortled and smirked at its icky silliness.

The digitally rendered illustrations by Michael Slack make these improvised classics, Handsel & Gretel, Handerella, Thumbelina, and Nose White absolutely hilarious. (Then again BeetleJuice is one of my favorite movies.) Yes, it's a bit weird that these characters are hand or feet heads with bodies... Right! Knuckleheads! But that is exactly why this book is so much fun. It reads like a comic book with text bubbles for many of the puns. For example, Handerella's wicked stepsisters are feet and they say, "This is one toe-tapping sock hop. Love that sole music!" "Yeah, and that Prints is no heel. He's totally cute-icle! "

I really like Nose White. She's some kind of PJ Harvey rocker chick that's all Schnoz. The jealous witch wanted her singing career ruined so she gave Nose White a bunch of dandelions. Nose White was allergic and got stopped up. Along came the handsome prince (another Schnoz) who gave her a handkerchief. She blew so hard..."She and the prince wound up on an island somewhere on the Finger Lakes."

If you visit the Chronicle Books website HERE you will find an animated preview of the book as well as some of the inside pages. Knuckleheads will be available in October, just in time for holiday sleep-overs! I was going to end this post with a couple of political Knuckleheads, but decided the Three Stooges were the best Knuckleheads ever.

BUT..... post post, I have to add this link to Becky's Blog on Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories by Jon Scieszka about growing up Scieszka. Who's the best Knucklehead now!!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Amadi's Snowman

I just received this book in the mail from Sarah at Tilbury House Publishers. Tilbury House is a small independent publishing company in Maine that specializes in picture books on cultural diversity, nature and and character/confidence building through real-life stories of children. Thank you Sarah!

Opening Amadi's Snowman brought back a flood of memories like a dream, and I just had to dig up some of my old photos out of storage.

Here's one dated August 1990 from my travels in Africa. I'm preparing dinner (an all day process) with my dear friend Oumi while Ami sings and carries the baby on her back (see his cute little feet by her arms?)

Dimitrea Tokunbo's illustrations truly capture the colors, sights, simplicity and beauty that is Africa. The bright blue sky, warm golden dusty roads, the outdoor marketplace, women cooking and washing with big bowls, gorgeous multi-patterened fabrics... In fact, I had to scan the book cover because I couldn't find any online images bright enough to do Dimitrea's art justice!
Ms. Tokunbo is also a full-time mother of 2, a writer, and a Muralist. I would love to see her colorful murals gracing the gray New York City walls.

The author Katia Novet Saint Lot grew up in Paris and has traveled all over the world. A visit to Nigeria ignited the fire for Amadi's story about a boy who disobeys his mother and skips out on his reading lesson. While playing hookey, he becomes intrigued with a book he finds in the marketplace stall with pictures of a snowman. It is through this book that the door for him opens up with the possibilities of exciting new discoveries through reading. A reminder of how just one little book can change a persons entire life!

Katia's husband works for Unicef and they currently live in India with their 2 daughters. Hmmmm I wonder what book she is working on next? I can only imagine....... and I will definitely try to contact her for an interview as I believe she is one of the most inspiring and amazing picture book authors in these times of global awareness.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

October's Slidy Diner

My copy of Wondertime magazine came in the mail a few days ago and I've finally opened it. Of course it's the October issue with all the Halloween ideas. . . But I'm not quite through with Back-to-school just yet! Summer is slipping quickly into fall with the equinox arriving on September 22nd.

I'm not really complaining though because fall is absolutely my most favorite time of year. It's something about the changing sunlight and warm hues of crunchy leaves. The reason I mention Wondertime besides it being the October issue is because Inside the Slidy Diner by Laurel Snyder with illustrations by Jaime Zollars is listed as one of their not-so-scary storybook picks.

Kim and I had the chance to read it at the Tricycle Press Booth at ALA this summer, and we agreed it was like a bad dream, but in a good way. Edie, the little girl inside the Slidy Diner, invites a friend in through the glass door to share in all the weirdness, gross and yucky stuff, as my kids would say, that exists there. (Where's mom when you really need her?) No mom in that diner, only Ethelmae and she's hilariously scary. I remember one part in the book about the waitresses looking good and then they're really all saggy and mean. It reminded me of the haunted house in Disneyland when you go into the hallway and the lovely fair maiden turns into a hideous hag right before your eyes. Jaime Zollars' acrylic paintings are amazing and you can see more art on her site here. This book is a fine pairing of talent and I have to agree with the Wondertime editor that it makes a super not-so-scary Halloween read. BTW one of the other books recommended is Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich by Adam Rex who was recently interviewed over at Seven Impossible Things. And here is their interview with Jaime Zollars. Those ladies really cover the good stuff : )

Friday, September 5, 2008

Hurricane Hanna

Hurricane Hanna hasn't even touched down on the east coast of South Carolina and we are already experiencing heavy rainstorms here in Virginia. A stormy week-end is in the forecast with Ike to follow through mid week. Yes, it's officially hurricane season on the east coast and in the gulf, which calls for lots and lots......... and lots of rain.

Who Likes Rain? by Wong Herbert Yee makes for perfect rainy day reading. The illustrations are color-pencil soft and sweet and the hardcover 6x8 size is just right for little hands to hold. The words are lyrical and rhyming and it makes for fun guessing-game reading too : "When it rains, who's the first to scat? I know! Do you? Mew, Mew...." (turn the page) "It's the cat!"

Click on Mr. Yee's Website to watch the cute little woodsy intro and when you enter through the illuminated notebook you can see all of the many books he has written and illustrated. His art portfolio is diverse and I can also tell from the detail in his imagery that he is a master at printmaking as well. He is definately on my list of top 5 authors and illustrators to interview!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Recycled Books

The past weekend we took the girls to the Egyptian Museum in San Jose. Have you ever seen a mummified gazelle, baboon or cat? Among the many artifacts were a couple of human mummies too. My oldest didn't want anything to do with even the word mummy. I suppose that's understandable. Maybe it will be more fascinating when she's older.

Near the museum on the Alameda is a dusty shop
called Recycled books. And it's piled high with used books. The sign on the front door says, don't let the cats out. OK then, I had to investigate the kids' books and walk sideways through the front door.

Here's what I found:

A first edition hardcover signed copy of Fritz and the Mess Fairy by Rosemary Wells. I wonder who "Michael & Meredith" were? Well I have their book now. We are big fans of Max and Ruby and really anything by the great Rosemary Wells.

A library-bound copy (in new condition) of, The Genie in the Jar by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Chris Raschka. It was probably in new condition because most elementary school kids wouldn't really get Giovanni's rhythmic poem, but Raschka's illustrations are to melt over.

The day after our museum adventure was pretty uneventful except that the Lutheran Church near our house had a book fair, and I like a treasure hunt. So, here's what I found for all of $1.80:

A discarded library hardcover of Happy Hanukah Everybody by Hyman and Alice Chanover with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. This book is in very good condition. Could it be that Hanukah books are not as popular as Christmas books in our little agricultural town? Kim this book is a gift for you. It's classic Sendak. That little fuzzy bear looks like it's ready to jump right out of the picture. Oh and it reminds me of New York in the winter.

A 1967 hardcover edition of Tasha Tudor's illustrated First Poems of Childhood with a slight old book smell but otherwise in excellent condition. And mom this one's for you because I know how much you love Tasha Tudor. You may already have it???? It's pure Tudor sweetness.

And lastly, because it's so quirky, I brought home a little Scholastic paperback from 1968 called, A Tiny Family by Norman Bridwell. It's still in print as a level 1 Reader but the newer edition is now colorized and a different, standardized size.

Well, that was my lucky Labor Day weekend. You never know what you'll find at a church fundraiser or dusty used book store because there's always some lost book waiting to be found and read again. Kind of like a mummified cat isn't it?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


There are some days, like today, that I feel just like the character in this book. When "nothing ever happens around here!" except the usual mundane changing diapers, doing dishes, folding laundry, cleaning spills, paying's so routine, it's "boring."

Phooey! by Marc Rosenthal is a reminder to wake up and see how "Great" the world is around us. Step outside of the box and see how everything is constantly in flux and history is being made (even as I change a diaper!)

Just like how everything about this Presidential election is completely unusual and unpredictable. After the wonderful long Labor Day weekend, children are back in school and we are back to work, work work.... all the while History is being made and changes are in the air.

So thank you Marc Rosenthal for reminding me that "This Place Is Great!"