May 22, 2016
Heavens to Murgatroyd! First, can we all agree that that's a great expression that doesn't get used nearly enough? Let's all commit to saying "Heavens to Murgatroyd!" at least once a week.
Second, Heavens to Murgatroyd! Memorial Day is nearly upon us. I have just two more speaking engagements before my summer hiatus begins. (More about those events in a later post.) But first I want to take a moment to thank the wonderful school librarians at the annual conference of PSLA who welcomed me this past weekend to Hershey, Pennsylvania, and gave me more chocolate than I've ever received in my life. I had the great honor of giving the closing keynote at the conference and also leading a two-hour workshop on One School, One Book events. If you'd like to learn more about One School, One Book, go to readtothem.org or get in touch with me. I love OS/OB events!
To get you in the spirit, I'm including here a bunch of photos from a recent OS/OB event at Oak Grove Bellemeade Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. Enjoy the photos of this fun, fantastic celebration of literacy and community!
Second grader Amani Crawley watches from backstage as teachers put on a skit to kick off the One School, One Book celebration with THE LEMONADE WAR.
(photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund)
First-grade teacher Megan Crowe and music teacher Tevin Ware perform in a skit to announce THE LEMONADE WAR as the school's book choice.
(photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund)
Spanish teacher Maribell Ortiz and art teacher Steven Cogbill pass out THE LEMONADE WAR after the assembly. The book is also available in Spanish (LA GUERRA DE LA LIMONADA), making it a popular choice for schools with diverse populations.
(photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund)
First grader Kalyn Conner raises her hand to answer a teacher's question.
(photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund)
The books! Ready to be given to the students! (photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund)
Second grader Kaniyah Scott puts a bookmark in THE LEMONADE WAR, while Saniya Seymour (behind Scott) eyes the lemonade that is being given out.
(photo credit: Alexa Welch Edlund)
Great aerial view of the assembly!
The excitement builds!
Even teachers get involved at the kick-off assembly!
May 16, 2016
I always appreciate words of encouragement, and Natalie's call to "keep up the good work!" helped brighten my day. As did the beautiful rainbow of colors on her letter. Thanks for taking the time to write to me, Natalie, and for sending me such a vibrant note.
May 1, 2016
First of all, happy May Day! It's the beginning of a new month, the beginning of a new week, the beginning of a beginning. Let's begin.
I spent today at the SoWa Art Walk, which is an annual event in the South End of Boston, where artists throw open their studios and let the hoardes tromp through and Enjoy Art. Not only is it a feast for the eyes, but the artists are also on hand to answer any questions you might have about process, materials, inspiration, and the working life of an artist. I went with my daughter who is taking AP Art this year in high school and is just finishing her concentration pieces—a collection of twelve paintings that she's been working on for the entire academic year. The SoWa Art Walk was a wonderful way to celebrate all she's accomplished and to draw strength and courage to live the life of an artist—in whatever way, in whatever form. Here are just a few pieces of art from the spectacularly talented artists who were a part of today's event.
Caroline Bowden, "Angry Happy Determined," www.bowdenart.net
Beth Dacey, "Woman in Blue Suit," bethdacey.com
David Kasman, "Monhegan Cottages," davidkasman.com
Katherine Downey Miller, "Black, Blue and White Landscape," katherinemiller.com
Beverly Rippel, "The Flight of the Magnolia,"
Mike Sleeper, "Jerusalem Dories,"
April 26, 2016
If you work in children's publishing, then you already know that the Bologna Children's Book Fair was held earlier this month in Bologna, Italy. I, alas, have never been to the Fair (or Bologna, for that matter, though I have been to Italy a few times). Lucky for me, though, my books travel there, and I am so delighted that NOTHING BUT TROUBLE had a big presence in the HarperCollins booth. (See photo below!) Look at the size of that poster! What fun! And I'm so grateful to the wonderful folks in Marketing and Subsidiary Rights at HarperCollins (some of whom I had the pleasure of meeting on Friday) for putting my book out there, in the world beyond our North American borders. Isn't the cover terrific? The whole design team did such a great job with the book, inside and out. The publication date is still a ways away (November 1), but I wanted to share this fun photo with you now.
April 25, 2016
"To finish a picture? What nonsense! To finish it means to be through with it, to kill it, to rid it of its soul." —Pablo Picasso
I plucked this quotation from an exhibition entitled "Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible," at the Met Breuer Museum. It's a show that displays an array of unfinished paintings, and it's fascinating to catch a glimpse of the artist's work in process. I had the feeling that I could almost see the brush suspended above the canvas. Some artists work methodically from top to bottom; some draw underlying grids; some seem to fill in odd bits and pieces, in no particular order. The result feels like the artist suddenly walked out the door in the midst of painting, leaving an eerie, half-composed canvas behind. It made me think of the infamous Person from Porlock who interrupted Samuel Taylor Coleridge in the middle of writing his unfinished poem, "Kubla Khan." (I've always been suspicious of that story. Sounds like an author's excuse to me!)
As a writer, I often struggle with the issue of doneness. How do you know if a piece is complete? For me, it's more of a personal response than one that depends directly on what's on the page. When the energy goes out of the writing process, it's time to put down the pen. Sometimes, I need a different set of eyes to tell me when a piece is done. And sometimes, I'm just never satisfied with what I've created, and I need to move on. Perhaps unfinished.
Anyway, here are just a few examples of the paintings on exhibit. It's an excellent show and runs through September 4, 2016.
"Posthumous Portrait of Ria Munk III,"
1917–18, Gustav Klimt
"Self-Portrait," 2002, Lucian Freud
"Altar in a Baroque Church,"
1880–90, Adolph Menzel
"Street in Auvers-sur-Oise," 1890, Vincent van Gogh
April 24, 2016
It's official: Beyoncé likes lemonade. For those of us who have been bigtime fans of the sweet-and-sour beverage for years, this comes as no surprise. Kids I visit in schools often ask: "Who doesn't like lemonade?" Well, we can now cross one very famous name off that potential list. Beyoncé likes lemonade.
(Okay, full confession: I totally Photoshop'd in the cover of THE LEMONADE WAR in the photo below. But who knows, maybe Beyoncé likes middle-grade books about lemonade, too!)
April 23, 2016
The sun is out in New York City, and it is another gorgeous day here. We've had nothing but good weather this trip, which of course makes the city that much more beautiful. (See photo below taken from my hotel window.) I'm in town for a few days meeting with my editor and agent, while my daughter is looking at colleges. And, oh yes, we've managed to fit in a few shows. On Thursday night, we saw The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and last night we had the terrific experience of seeing Hamilton, and then tonight, we'll attend Shuffle Along.
It goes without saying that Hamilton is superlative. It truly is a tour de force, and I feel very lucky to have seen the show and been a part of what I think is a once-in-a-lifetime theater phenomenon—and in the week that Lin-Manuel Miranda won the Pulitzer Prize! Hats off to him! But I'm hardly the first person to say any of this.
What I want to talk about here is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which I think is one of the most creative, thrilling, blow-the-doors-off productions I've ever had the good fortune to see. Knowing and loving the book as I have since it first came out in 2004, it was hard for me to imagine how a dramatic production could possibly adapt the strong first-person narration that Mark Haddon created and that was the heart of the book. First-person narration rarely travels well from page to stage.
But these folks rose to the extraordinary challenge and delivered. Using lighting, sound, choreography, and an unbelievable set design, the play absolutely conveyed the experience of the main character, Christopher. I was particularly impressed by the use of other actors as props; they brilliantly flowed in and out of their humanness. At one moment an actor was a person and then the next moment the actor was an object in Christopher's world: a chair, a step, a door. When I commented on this to my daughter, she said that perhaps that technique furthered our sense of how Christopher experiences the people around him.
Kudos to everyone involved with the play. It won five Tony awards, and the only award it was nominated for and didn't win was Best Choreography. I'm shaking my head over that one. For me, the choreography was one of the most fantastic and powerful elements in the play; I will never forget the scene in which Christopher dreamed of going into outer space. Wow.
April 14, 2016
"Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw." —Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
Doors, doors, doors! These doors lead not into gardens, but into equally lovely classrooms at Anna Reynolds Elementary School. Each class decorated a door, and the results were quite inspiring. I loved all the terrific ideas the kids came up with to bring my books alive.
April 13, 2016
A very wise person once told me to never miss the opportunity to say thank you to anyone. I like that concept: that saying thank you is a chance that you don't want to miss, something fleeting, something you wouldn't want to lose. I try to follow that advice as much as I can. Today, I was on the receiving end of a thank you. A lovely card arrived in the mail from Pat Clark, the school librarian at Somers Elementary School in Somers, Connecticut, which I visited last week. She wrote:
What a buzz you created at our school! Your books have flown off our shelves and I've had so many requests for Panda Pants! Thanks for such a wonderful presentation. Each grade level was engaged. All the best,
Librarians of the world! You might not know how much it means to authors to hear that a visit is having a lasting impact. Remember, we leave the school soon after our presentations, so it's impossible to know if the student excitement we sense at the end of the day continues into the days and weeks following. But that's really the point of a school visit, isn't it? It's not meant to be a one-day event. It's meant to continue on and on: to get kids excited about reading and writing and stories—and to keep that excitement going, perhaps for a lifetime. I am so grateful that Pat took the time to write me this note. It absolutely lifted me off the ground. Thank you, Pat!
April 11, 2016
Okay, I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm a DIVA or anything, but I have to say I was tickled pink when I pulled into the parking lot at Anna Reynolds Elementary School in Newington, CT, and saw this sign waiting for me. And in the middle of an April snowstorm! Most welcoming! In fact, I loved it so much, I asked the wonderful Literacy Coach, Eileen Bredice, and the equally stellar Library/Media Specialist, Margarida Alves, if I could take it home with me. I put it in my garage, posted on the right-hand side, so none of my children will forget which parking spot is mine. (They all drive now, and occasionally I come home to find my spot in the garage is taken. Grr.) Sometimes, you just have to throw your weight around a little and remind your kids who is Top Dog. Thank you, Anna Reynolds Elementary, for the wonderful visit and for giving me my own parking sign. (I'm thinking of trying it out at the local grocery store. Do you think it will work anywhere?)
April 10, 2016
The folks at Wells Road Intermediate School in Granby, CT, took part in a particularly fun activity related to their One School, One Book effort: teachers, staff, and administrators got together one evening, received a quick lesson from the school's art teacher, Brenda Miller, in how to draw a lemon (not as easy as you might think!), and then each one made a painting. Below are just a few of the examples made by classroom teachers, the school secretary, and others. Impressive! I loved this idea because it gave the grownups a chance to relax together (building community) and also try something new (attaining new skills). Learning should be fun and challenging, and from everyone I spoke to who participated in the evening, it was the perfect combination of a relaxing night out and trying something new and different.
To make the whole thing even more fabulous, the teachers hung their artwork in the school halls right alongside the students' work. (The art teacher had been working with the kids all week to create their own lemon still lifes.) So yet another way that One School, One Book brings communities together and crosses divides. Beautifully!
April 7, 2016
I just got back from three terrific days visiting schools in Connecticut: Anna Reynolds Elementary School in Newington; Wells Road Intermediate School in Granby; and Somers Elementary School in Somers. I will be posting many wonderful (and some hilarious) photos from my trip over the next few days, but for this morning, I just wanted to send a shout out to ALL the kids at Woodland Elementary School in Kingsford, Michigan. The whole school read THE LEMONADE WAR during March, and they did a lot of activities related to the book, including making posters. The school held a contest for each grade, and the winners of the poster contest for the second grade (below left) and the fifth grade (below right) are pictured here. Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to everyone at Woodland Elementary who worked to make the whole-school reading event a success! Cheers!