Category Archives: Celebrations

So much to celebrate when a book is being born!

Embracing the Imperfect

Our lives are set up around milestones: memorable, noteworthy events that we mark with rituals and celebrations. In my own life, I can recall events that mark those big occasions: important birthdays, graduations, weddings, my godson’s baptism. There was a set moment for each of those, a moment that I can look back at and say, “Oh, yeah. I’ll never forget where I was and what I felt when that happened.”

For many writers, the journey to publication is marked with the same joyful celebratory dinners, champagne toasts, and group hugs as any of the more traditional life milestones. I love hearing friends’ stories of getting that agent phone call and bursting into tears, their families beaming with pride beside them. Their stories are beautiful, and my own heart bursts with happiness to cheer and celebrate all of that magic. But what if your own journey looks different?

Through circumstances beyond anyone’s control, my own first book milestones have been bittersweet. That heart-stopping call from my agent? I was on my way to work, and my husband was 3000 miles away on a business trip. He happened to fall asleep that night without charging his phone, so I carried my bottled-up joy to work with me. I finally couldn’t keep it in anymore, so I eagerly spilled the beans to my ten-year-old student, who could not have been any less impressed or interested. Humbling, to say the least.

A few weeks later my deal announcement appeared in the trades; seeing my photo and name in there made everything feel so real, and it meant I was finally free to share the news publicly.  However, just minutes after I saw the announcement, my husband called to tell me that his dad had been diagnosed with cancer. As our family worked together to help my father-in-law navigate the complicated world of cancer treatment, celebration couldn’t have been further from our minds. And now that he has successfully completed chemotherapy, his improved health and happiness feels like a much more special milestone for our family to mark.

I am incredibly lucky to have a publishing deal, and I am beyond grateful to have the chance to earn money as a writer. But, much as it pains me to admit it, when I remember these first Big Author Moments, while there is joy and gratitude in those memories, there is also loneliness, worry, and disappointment.  I have a book deal and a supportive circle of friends and family, but I still can’t help but wish that those first moments had been a little different. And then I can’t help but feel ashamed of myself for wishing that. It shouldn’t matter, I think. I am a jerk for caring about this.

Every writer I know has worked incredibly hard to get this far, and we all remember the wistful feeling of seeing other writers ahead of us, hitting those milestones. And while everything might look rosy and golden from a distance, there is no doubt that up close, everyone’s road is littered with frustrations and slights and missed opportunities.

So, and I’m saying this as much to myself as I am to anyone else, the journey toward publication is magical and thrilling and awesome and inspiring. But a lot of it can also be kind of sucky. That’s OK. Embrace the suck.  The disappointing, difficult, exhausting moments mean that all of this is actually happening. Living the Dream doesn’t mean turning your life into a dream; it means you’re turning your dream into real life. Your very own messy, imperfect, glorious life.


Kat Shepherd is a writer and educator living in Los Angeles with her husband, two dogs, and a rotating series of foster dogs. Her wonderful father-in-law lives nearby. They are planning a massive celebration when the first book from her Babysitting Nightmares series (Macmillan/Imprint) debuts in fall 2018. You’re all invited. You can find Kat at katshepherd.com or connect with her on Twitter @bookatshepherd.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Families, Guilt, Happiness, Inspiration, Thankfulness, Writing and Life

Going Out with a Bang (of Fireworks)!

It’s the last day of our celebration of the release of Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY WHITE STARS, illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Sarvinder’s book celebrates the beauty of America, so to wrap up the launch of Sarvinder’s debut, we thought we’d go out with a bang and talk about our favorite Fourth of July memories!

Debbi Michiko Florence: When we lived in Upstate NY and my daughter was younger, Bob, Caitlin and I would go to Bob’s brother’s house and then both families would go to the park in downtown Saratoga. We’d set up blankets, check out the booths and play cards and board games until it got dark. Then the fireworks show would start – and it was spectacular, but the best part was spending it with family. I miss those days! Our kids are all grown up and while we sometimes still get together with Bob’s brother and sister-in-law, I miss having the kids around.

Hayley Barrett: I love a parade and my neighboring town, Wakefield, has the best 4th of July parade in Massachusetts. A few years ago, I had the joy of seeing Rex Trailer — a local television personality from my childhood — ride by on a SPECTACULAR and high-spirited palomino horse. He would have been about 82 years old at the time and rode like the true-blue cowboy he was. Boom, Boom, Boomtown Forever!

Katie Slivensky: Growing up in my neighborhood, we would all decorate our bikes in red, white, and blue and have a giant bike parade to our local pond. There, we would swim and bbq and celebrate with bomb pops and all our neighbors! It was one of my favorite days of the year.

Jason Gallaher: There is absolutely nothing like going out to Coeur d’Alene Lake in Northern Idaho on the Fourth of July. I have so many memories of hopping in a boat, water skiing all day, then bobbing along just after sunset and watching fireworks blast over the lake. It’s beautiful, and I’m positive it’s the inspiration behind Katy Perry’s “Firework.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus: My favorite 4th of July memories happened AFTER it was all over. The fair used to come to town, and set up at the park just down the hill. I could see it from the tops of my climbing tree. They had a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, swings (my favorite because I was flying). My neighbor girl and I would go down after it was all over. What a mess! But as the hazy lazy days of summer dragged on, it was hard to find an adventure. So we’d go down and sift through the plethora for “treasure.”

You can see fireworks and so much more of America’s landscape and history in Sarvinder’s BLUE SKY WHITE STARS, out now! Grab a copy for yourself from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

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Bike photo from Bike Provo; Ferris wheel photo from Northforker/Katharine Schroeder

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The BLUE SKY WHITE STARS All-American Author Interview! Plus a Recipe!

Cue the marching band! Light the fireworks! It’s time for an All-American Author Interview! 

I asked Blue Sky White Stars author Sarvinder Naberhaus  about her favorite American foods, pastimes, and traditions. Here’s the scoop:

The 4th of July is coming, and you’re invited to my backyard barbecue bash. What tasty treat should I grill up for you? A hot dog? A hamburger? Something else entirely?

A grilled hamburger is good, but so is a grilled hot dog. It’s probably a toss-up, but I’d top either of them with barbecue sauce. 

Barbecue sauce on a dog or burger?! That’s some American ingenuity, right there. I’ll forgo my usual ketchup-mustard-relish-onions combo next time and try it. 

Batter up! We’re headed off to enjoy America’s favorite pastime — a baseball game. When the snack vendor comes our way, do you want peanuts or Cracker Jack?

When I was young I’d walk to Pammel Grocery and buy Cracker Jack. I only bought them for the prize. I would eat them, but never really liked them. I lived for the prize. 

Here you go, Sarvinder. All the prizes just for you.

Happy Thanksgiving! Do you choose a slice of apple pie or pumpkin pie? And what’s your favorite side dish?

Definitely pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Favorite side dish? French Silk Pie! 

Pie on the side? That takes the cake!

My kids love my pumpkin bars too, so I’ll share the recipe at the end of this post. 

Have you ever visited Washington D.C. and the Smithsonian museums? Which was your favorite? 

The Air and Space Museum. I’m fascinated with the stars and wanted to be an astronaut, hence the ending of Blue Sky White Stars. 

Readers will have to rocket to their nearest library or bookstore to see BLUE SKY WHITE STAR’s spectacular ending. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations are stratospherically stunning. 

It’s a perfect summer night with exactly zero mosquitoes. I’ve packed the station wagon with snacks and pillows. Let’s go to the drive-in! Which classic American film should we see? *crosses her fingers for JAWS*

My favorite movie is THE SOUND OF MUSIC, but for the drive-in, I say GREASE. 

Speaking of summer blockbusters, I’ve revved up the DeLorean’s flux capacitor. Let’s time travel! Which famous American would you most like to meet? 

There are lots of people in BLUE SKY WHITE STARS that I’d like to meet, but I’d have to say Laura Ingalls Wilder. 

Great choice! I’d love to hear Half Pint’s stories first-hand. Can you imagine getting writing advice from her? Amazing. 

Nothing is more American than a… In that spirit, it’s time for the speed round. Hold on to your 10-gallon hat, Sarvinder!

 

Fireworks or fireflies?

Definitely fireflies on a warm July night, millions blinking over the fields of Iowa. A sight to behold. 

Jazz or Country? Country. My favorite singer is Amy Grant. 

Nascar or rodeo? Nascar.

Coke or Pepsi? Neither. Dr. Pepper!

On that appropriately independent note, I’d like to thank you, Sarvinder Naberhaus, for participating in this All-American Author Interview. And now, for the grand finale:

Sarvinder’s Famous Pumpkin Bars With Cream Cheese Frosting

Grease a 10 x 13 ” pan. Preheat oven to 350.
Mix together:

4 eggs, slightly beaten
2 c. sugar
2 c. pumpkin (1 15 oz. can)

Then add:

1 c. vegetable oil

Next add:

2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Spread batter into pan. Bake 20 minutes. 

Frosting:

Soften 4 oz. cream cheese and 3/4 c. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
Blend cream cheese and butter with 1 tsp. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla extract, 1 3/4 c. powdered sugar until smooth. (Frosting recipe can be doubled. Freeze half for another day.)

Frost cooled pumpkin sheet cake and cut into bars. 

Enjoy while reading BLUE SKY WHITE STARS. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

(Vendor photo: Apr 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Ballpark vendor Chico Sakulsky sells peanuts and Cracker Jack before the Pittsburgh Pirates play the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

 

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Filed under Celebrations, Inspiration, Interviews, Uncategorized

Our Favorite America!!

The launch for Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS continues! To keep the celebration going, we talk about our favorite cities, states and national landmarks in the USA!

Terry Pierce: City – It’s a tie between Boston, MA, and Portland, OR. I love the “intimacy” of both these large cities and their “walkability” (a word I just made up to mean “ease of walking.”). Portland is the essence of the Pacific Northwest with its small coffee houses, frequent bookstores and gorgeous distant mountain scenery. Boston’s incredibly rich history, amazing food (Hello, North End!) and sight-seeing points of interest make it a favorite big city to visit (yes, I visited Robert McCloskey’s mother duck and ducklings statue—what children’s writer wouldn’t?).

Natural landmarks – No doubt, Yosemite National Park. There is nothing like it with its massive granite cliffs, cascading waterfalls, abundant wildlife and the lazy Merced River meandering down the middle of the valley floor. When I drive through the Wawona tunnel and see the full view of the valley, it still takes my breath away. It’s truly spectacular and makes me appreciate the amazing natural forces of our planet. I mean, to think that a glacier carved away the solid granite and sculptured the valley is mind-blowing.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Oh it’s hard to pick just one place, so can I pick a few? While there are many landmarks, states, and cities in the U.S. that I love and enjoy returning to, because I’ve moved so often in my adult life, my favorite places are those that take me to be with family.

San Francisco – City of my birth – I love the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, the foggy mornings, and all my precious memories created there.

Huntington Beach, CA, and Portland, OR – My parents live in Huntington Beach and visiting them means down time, relaxation, walks to the beach and on the pier, sunshine and ocean. My sister and her family, and my stepson, live in Portland and there’s nothing like hanging out with family while visiting a vibrant city with great food and sights.

Christina Uss: I will narrow down my list of eight million to two.

Philadelphia. I went to college here and spent four amazing years soaking in the history and culture of Philly. I’d finish classes for the day and then have to decide – did I want to go for a run up the steps of the Art Museum with the theme song to Rocky playing in my head, or go visit the Liberty Bell, or peruse an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, or stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest residential street in the U.S.? Or just go eat a cheesesteak or a butter-soaked Amish pretzel? Or do ALL of them? I adored how day-to-day life of people of so many diverse backgrounds was swirling around these historic sites every day, all hours of the day. Philly feels to me like a place where every layer of American history from colonial times to an hour ago is alive.

My heart swells with patriotic pride when I visit any part of our National Parks system, often called America’s Best Idea. I particularly love the ones out west with historic, epic National Parks lodges built in the early 1900s, like Many Glacier in Montana’s Glacier Park, Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park, El Tovar at the Grand Canyon. I was so grateful in my former life as a bicycling adventure tour guide to get to stay in these lodges; they struck me as the most brilliant combination of human architectural vision and craftsmanship with spectacular natural settings.

Katie Slivensky: Tough one! I love Glacier Bay National Park. It’s just so gorgeous and eerie and serene and wild. Also, Mackinac Island. Lots of horses. No cars. Beautiful sights. And FUDGE.

Anna Crowley Redding: Acadia, specifically Night Sky Fest, a week in the park with astronomers looking at planets, galaxies, and constellations!

Carole GerberCharleston, SC. Gorgeous city with wonderful restaurants, and mannerly, friendly people with beautiful southern accents. Did I mention there are lots of beaches nearby?

Hayley Barrett: I’m a true-blue Boston girl. I love that dirty water!

Jason Gallaher: Hands down, without a doubt, my favorite place in America and the whole wide world is Malibu, CA. I love strolling down the pier, I love having deep conversations with local dolphins by cackling back at them, I love recreating scenes from The Craft at Leo Carrillo Beach, and it definitely doesn’t hurt that Miley Cyrus just came out with  a song named after the city.

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I love the Grand Canyon and national parks!

You can see even more beautiful pictures and descriptions of America in Sarvinder Naberhaus’s BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS! You can find out more about the book here, and you can order a copy from IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller!

 

 

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Happy Book Launch, Sarvinder!!!

This week we’re celebrating the birth of a nation. Well, not exactly, but close. Sarvinder Naberhaus’s stunning picture book, BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, is a beautiful tribute to America and its diversity. What perfect timing for the release of this tribute to America and her flag, folded between two of our country’s most celebrated patriotic holidays, Memorial Day and Independence Day!

We all know that a great party (launch or otherwise) must have music! So, what better way to begin our celebration than with songs—specifically, patriotic songs—songs we learned in elementary school that still sing in our hearts and lift our spirits when we lend our voices to our country and her flag. So, to kick off the release of BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS, I asked the EMUs here in our nest to talk a little about their favorite patriotic song.

Christina Uss: My favorite patriotic song is “America the Beautiful.” When I rode my bike across our great country, I was inspired to spontaneously burst out singing it over and over and over again. There are many things to love about the U.S. of A., but this song is what bubbles up for me when I am knocked silly by the scenic beauty that is EVERYWHERE around us. I feel lucky as all get-out to be able to live and travel freely here whenever I see the fruited plain of Illinois, the amber waves of grain of Kansas, the spacious skies of Montana, the purple mountains majesty of Colorado, the alien’s play-doh playground of Utah, the sweep of the Pacific Coast in California, the bike paths of Virginia, the swimming holes of Missouri…I’ve gotta stop now or I’ll never get any other writing done, there’s JUST SO MUCH!

Jason Gallaher: It might not be considered your traditional patriotic song, but I really love Kim Wilde’s “Kids in America.” I think that song is timeless and expertly captures the anxiety teens/early-twenty-somethings feel about becoming a suburban stereotype. The kids just want to get lost in the music-go-round, dang it, and not get stuck in that suburbia sprawling everywhere!

Terry Pierce:   My favorite song about America is “This Land is Your Land” (composed by Woody Guthrie in 1940—betcha didn’t know that?). As a child, my family moved quite a bit and always explored the areas where we had traveled and lived. When I learned this song in the third grade, I loved it because I connected to many of the places in the lyrics: California, New York, forests, the Gulf, deserts and valleys. It gives tribute to the many and varied places in our country, with the message that this extraordinary place we live belongs to all of us. This is something I strongly believe, that it’s our duty as citizens to protect and cherish our land.

Hayley Barrett: I’ve always loved “My Country,’Tis of Thee.” As a child, I didn’t realize that the song was likely related to a landmark in my town. Author Samuel Francis Smith is said to have been inspired by the bell and steeple of Old South Church to write these lyrics, “I love thy rocks and rills, thy woods and templed hills, my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.”

Sarvinder Naberhaus: I have so many songs that I love. When teaching 4th grade social studies, my kids learned “50 Nifty United States.”  I love that one! “This Land is Your Land” is also another favorite as well as “America the Beautiful.”

Thank you, Sarvinder and Kadir, for bringing this stunning new book into our lives. For a closer look at BLUE SKY, WHITE STARS, please visit its website HERE.

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY, SARVINDER!!!

___________________________________

About Terry Pierce…

Terry writes board books, picture books, easy readers and middle-grade adventure novels. She lives in the California desert but avoids the summer heat by retreating to the Sierra Nevada Mountains to hike, bike, write and dip her head in high mountain sky. She’s a Vermont College of Fine Arts graduate and teaches online children’s writing courses for UCLA Extension. Her latest books include My Busy Green Garden (Tilbury House) and Mama Loves You So (Little Simon).

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Border Collies and Babies—It’s Never Too Soon To Start (plus a giveaway!)

The story I’m about to tell is relevant to Terry Pierce’s MAMA LOVES YOU SO. I promise.

mama-loves-you-so-coverYears ago, my brother got a beautiful border collie puppy. I remember how excited Warren was, and I remember the solemn advice the breeder gave him. It was this: Show the dog everything he’s ever going to see within the first six months of his life. In short, it was Warren and his family’s responsibility to quickly give intelligent, impressionable Comet the information he’d need to thrive.

*presses pause on dog story*

My first professional, if unrequited, love is midwifery. Permit me to geek out for a bit.

The importance of verbally communicating with babies—and I mean from about 6 months gestation onward—cannot be overstated. Auditory function in the human fetus is complete at 7 months. Not only do they hear and respond to outside noises, research suggests babies learn intonation and can develop a basic recognition of words before birth. After birth, newborns rapidly form brain synapses that correspond with their birth language. In fact, studies have shown that young children who leave their birth language behind through immigration or adoption retain an enhanced ability to relearn it. Cool, huh?

Now let’s talk about MAMA LOVES YOU SO. This book, meant for the tiny ears of the tiniest of people, employs exquisitely rich and melodic language. It describes a world that is sparkling, stony, and ablaze. These are words an adult would be happy to use on a given day. MAMA LOVES YOU SO is crammed full of such delicious and nutritious words. It’s a brain-building buffet for babies and a boon to the brave souls who care for them. Baby and Book

Babies are exhausting. I know. I’ve had two babies, and two aren’t many at all. My in-laws had ten. My parents had five. Have I wondered if  I’m a slacker in the baby department? Yes. But that’s not my point.

Babies require mountains of back-breaking, laundry-making, sleep-taking care, and that’s just to keep them alive. We’re also supposed to educate, encourage, and entertain them. While all forms of communication nourish babies’ language readiness, including singing and everyday conversation, it’s challenging to know what to sing or say to a baby all day, every day.

I ask you, how are sleep-deprived people, wracked as they are with desperate love and stabs of anxiety, supposed to dredge up words like ablaze? They need books. They need books to give them words when they are too tired or overwhelmed to think up their own. Their children are primed to quickly learn millions of discrete, dynamic words, and optimally, they’d possess this treasure trove before starting school.  Where language acquisition is concerned, variety isn’t the spice of life, it is life. Books like MAMA LOVES YOU SO are a sure and happy route to that variety.

We must encourage caregivers, all the caregivers, to talk to babies early and often. Encourage them to talk to the belly, to sing to it, explain stuff to it, and for the love of literacy, to read to it. Encourage them to talk to the newborn. To sing. To explain. To read. We can smile at them benevolently when they do all of this in public. If we get the chance, we can give the caregiver a minute to shower and eat something while we talk, sing, explain, and read.

It might be possible to show a puppy everything it’s ever going to see in six months, but it’s impossible for a human newborn. Luckily, we have opposable thumbs, and opposable thumbs are great for making bookstores and libraries. That’s where Terry Pierce’s beautiful and important MAMA LOVES YOU SO can be found, ready and waiting to offer intelligent, impressionable young people information they need to thrive.

*presses play on dog story* 

Comet lived a long and happy life. He understood his world and how to conduct himself in it, thanks to purposeful attention to his formative experiences. May we do the same for each new child. We have longer than six months to accomplish it, but we don’t have forever. It’s never too soon to start.

 

Terry is giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make this week—and please comment only once per day—she’ll enter your name into the giveaway.

Additional resources:

http://www.tipsonlifeandlove.com/book-mom

Valerie Garfield, Simon & Schuster editor of MAMA LOVES YOU SO, blogs about reading to and with children.

1000 Books Before Kindergarten

https://1000booksbeforekindergarten.org/about-us/mission-statement/


Enjoy the day,

Hayley
Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. BABYMOON, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press, spring 2019. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, narrative nonfiction illustrated by Diana Sudyka, is also coming spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Oh, Baby! Happy Launch Week Terry Pierce!

This week we are celebrating the launch of a book for newborns by Terry Pierce:

mama-loves-you-so-cover

Mama Loves You So by Terry Pierce, illustrated by Simone Shin (Little Simon/March 14, 2017)

This sweet book in rhyme celebrates nature and a mother’s love with gorgeous illustrations of animals and their young. A perfect bedtime (and really anytime) book to read to a little one.

We asked authors about a favorite baby book, either one read to them as infants or read to their own babies. Check out these baby pictures! And we’d love to hear about your favorite books from your childhood!

march-017

Christina Uss: My twins’ favorite book as babies was Sandra Boynton’s Barnyard Dance. Their eyes would get wide when I did this little dip-and-shuffle-thing and began “Stomp your feet…clap your hands…Everybody ready for the BARNYARD DANCE!”  Then their faces would crumble and tears began when I hit the last page – “The dance is done, but we’ll be back!”, so I’d just turn to the first page and start all over again. Literally for hours. I think they knew all the dancing and rhyme-reading must have meant their mama loved them so.

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Carole Gerber: My daughter’s favorite baby book was Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. We read it to her at least a thousand times. She and her husband welcomed their first child four months ago. Joanna Mae (JoJo to her Mimi – that’s me!). JoJo isn’t yet old enough to let us know her favorite book. I am hoping it will be Tuck-In Time by Carole Gerber (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).

 toddler-hayley-on-swing-2

Hayley Barrett: My earliest memory of story doesn’t involve a book. My mom spent my babyhood singing songs and teaching me nursery rhymes. I knew them all, but my favorite was The Three Little Kittens. I recall reciting it with great dignity to the checkout ladies in Woolworth to much applause and laughter. I would have been about three years old then, similar to toddler Hayley in this picture. The earliest book Mom and I both recall was a Golden Book, The Little Red Hen. She created different voices for each character. I loved it then and still do.

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Jason Gallaher: The book that was a staple for my mom’s reading to me was Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

 And finally, the lovely author of the lovely book —

babypicterry

Terry Pierce: Neither my mom nor I can recall a specific book I loved as a baby, but she reassures me that I did have many books. My earliest recollection of a favorite story was Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I’m not sure if it was because I identified with Goldilocks (notice my hair color in the photo) or the fact that there was something so satisfying about things eventually being “just right” but I loved hearing that story over and over again. In fact, the more I think on it, the more I realize that the classic fairy tales were amongst my favorite stories—The Gingerbread Man, The Little Red Hen,…Wait! Porridge, gingerbread, baking bread, a photo of me with my birthday cake—I think I’m seeing a theme here!

GIVE-AWAY ALERT!  Terry will be giving away a signed copy of MAMA LOVES YOU SO as part of her book launch week. How to enter? Leave a comment below! For every comment you make, she will enter your name into the giveaway (up to one comment per day).


fullsizerender-2When Debbi Michiko Florence was young, she loved having her dad read Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss. Her dad got quite good at reading those tongue twisters!

Today, Debbi writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her rabbit, Aki, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux on July 11, 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of an early reader series, Dorothy & Toto (Picture Window Books/2016).

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

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A Conversation with Vanessa Brantley-Newton, illustrator of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER

I’d like to start this post by noting that the subject of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER, the late Audrey Faye Hendricks, was nine years old when she was imprisoned for her civil rights activism. She remained in prison—real prison—for a week. She was locked in a cell. Interrogated by adult strangers. She was in danger, both inside the prison and after her release. She is an American hero. As of this post, she does not have a Wikipedia page.

audrey-faye

“I’d never heard of Audrey Faye Hendricks,” says Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of over 75 books. vanessa-brantley-newton“When I read Cynthia Levinson’s manuscript, it broke me. It made me cry. I became fascinated by Audrey. I read the manuscript to myself and then had someone read it to me. Right away, I could see the pictures—that’s very important.”

Vanessa goes on to detail aspects of her research, “I read Cynthia’s previous book on the Children’s March, WE’VE GOT A JOB TO DO, and weve-got-a-jobwatched the PBS program on the event. I wanted my work to be emotional—to make it clear that Audrey was a child. As I worked, I listened to music from that time, songs like “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around.” With one exception early in the process, Vanessa and the author did not actively collaborate on the project. “Cynthia wanted to see how I portrayed Martin Luther King Jr.—a friend of Audrey’s family—and once I showed her the sketch, we didn’t need to consult again.”

Like all of Vanessa’s work, THE YOUNGEST MARCHER glows with color and shimmers with texture. the-youngest-marcher“I’m a retro girl, heart and soul,” Vanessa says. “I love the colors of the sixties and seventies, the reds and oranges together.” She scanned vintage fabrics and included photographs in her collage work. Her use of marbleized paper adds swirling atmosphere to the image of a small, beloved child curled up on a prison cot.

Despite her age, Audrey’s bright-eyed conviction is made plain in Vanessa’s illustrations. As she heeds Dr. King’s call to fill the prisons, as she boards the police van in her starched skirt, bobby socks, and pink hair ribbons, she is full of hope and might as easily be headed to school or church. Although younger than the other marchers, she remains stalwart until the prisons are full to bursting and all are released. Hope intact, Audrey Faye Hendricks emerges to her parents’ arms and a changed world, one she helped to create.

“I hope that people can be inspired by my work,” Vanessa says. “As a child, I never saw children of color in books. We have this wonderful ability as authors and illustrators to tell stories that encompass what children go through so that kids feel included, like someone has captured their real world.”

I’d like to thank Vanessa for her time and for all of her efforts to bring Audrey Faye Hendricks and her story to vibrant, visual life. I’d like to thank author Cynthia Levinson for writing the story of THE YOUNGEST MARCHER. I’m glad and grateful to know about this remarkable story of courage.


Hayley's Author PhotoI write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

 

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Interview with THE NIAN MONSTER Illustrator, Alina Chau!

The launch for Andrea Wang’s THE NIAN MONSTER continues with an interview with the book’s illustrator, Alina Chau! Scroll below to read about New Year celebrations and mythical monsters, and to see some stellar illustrations!

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Jason Gallaher: Your illustrations for THE NIAN MONSTER are absolutely stunning! Can you describe your style and the materials used to create the illustrations?

Alina Chau: Thank you.  The Nian Monster illustration is mostly watercolor on paper, except the two pages about Nian’s legend. I use Photoshop to create the Chinese paper puppet look and some of the decorative elements on the flap, that looks like traditional Chinese paper cut art.  As for the style, since this is a Chinese New Year story, I use a design style that is influenced by traditional Chinese folk art and painting.  A lot of the New Year decorations in the book are inspired by the traditional decoration.  The feel and atmosphere of the New Year is very much drawn from my childhood memories in Hong Kong.  Chinese New Year was one of my favorite holidays as a kid.  Before the New Year, the market will be extra festive.  At home, everyone is busy preparing for the big new year dinner.  Chinese New Year dinner is kind of simliar to Thanksgiving here.  It’s an important evening for family to get together and give thanks and good wishes to each other.  Kids often get new clothes in red as a symbol of a new beginning.  I painted my favorite childhood new year memories in the pages.

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Alina’s workspace

How did you come up with the design for the Nian Monster? Did his look change much throughout the editorial process? Do you happen to have any images of his development that you could share?

As a kid, when we learn about Nian’s story, I always imagined it sort of looking like another Chinese mythological creature, Qilin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qilin).  While Qilin is considered a heavenly creature who protects the mortal world, Nian is a trickster.  Qilin looks a bit more like the relative of a dragon.  I imagine Nian would look like an earthy creature – the Chinese Lion.  I pretty much drew the Nian from my childhood imagination.  As for Nian’s color, my gut feeling is to have it be an orange and red creature, since they are the color of the New Year.  But I also did a color test of the green and blue color scheme.  The doubt I had was that I knew there would be many red elements in the background, as well as Xingling’s outfit.  I was worried the color would clash.  But after the color test, I don’t like the blue and green color.  It doesn’t feel right.  I decided to stay with red and orange and make the color work.

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How about Xingling? Is the way she looks now how you envisioned her from the start?

When I first read Andrea’s manuscript, I could see Xingling very clear in my head.  While I knew Xingling’s look well, I did spend some time trying to come up with a cute outfit for her.  I want her to feel relatable to our readers, but still reflect her regional culture trend.  I therefore researched current girl fashion styles in Asia.  The style of her pink dress is fairly trendy in China and Korea.  But I also tried to balance and not to push it too far.  I want the illustration of the book to be time lasting and have universal appeal.  Towards the end of the book, Xingling changes to a little red dress. I wanted her to wear red to celebrate the New Year tradition.

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Your depiction of Shanghai is so detailed and vibrant. Did it take a lot of research for you to create the Shanghai environment, or are you familiar with the area?

Jordan, my art director at Albert Whitman, sent me a lot of reference images of Shanghai.  I also went online and did research to get myself familiar with the cityscape of Shanghai.  I have never been to Shanghai, so all the Shanghai city designs are heavily relied on Google.  As for the atmosphere of the city, that is drawn from my own experience growing up in Hong Kong and occasional travel to China.

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What else are you working on right now?

I am working on a couple of new picture book and graphic novel ideas.  I want to try writing my own books.  My stories are focused in culture diversities, some are drawn from my personal experiences.  I was born in China, immigrated to Hong Kong during British colonial time and then moved to the US.  I have been a citizen of three countries.  I am blessed and never get into bad discriminatory situations.  Yet, it’s still challenging to grow up and be the kid that’s different for one reason or another. With the current political climate, there is more urgency to share diversity stories with children.  Ensure the children that it’s OK to be different.  It doesn’t matter if they have different cultures, skin color, beliefs etc., their voices and stories matters.

 

Thank you so much for your time, Alina! We can’t wait to see what you illustrate next!

Andrea is giving away a copy of THE NIAN MONSTER to one of our readers! Just comment on any of the posts celebrating her launch, and you will be entered to win! You can also buy a copy of the book at IndieBoundBarnes & Noble, and Amazon.

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It’s a Celebration!

Congratulations to Emu’s Debuter Andrea Wang on her fabulous debut picture book The Nian Monster, illustrated by Alina Chau.

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When the Nian Monster threatens to ruin the New Year’s celebration in Shanghai, clever and brave Xingling thwarts the monster and saves the city! I love so many things about this book, from the witty and upbeat Xingling to the bright and fun illustrations, but best of all, I love the descriptions of the food! MMmmm! So, I thought it would be appropriate  to start off Andrea’s launch week celebration by asking the Emu’s what their favorite holiday foods are.

Elly Swartz: My favorite holiday food is my husband’s homemade, strawberry, banana, cream pie. He makes it once a year for my birthday. This time of year coincides with Thanksgiving, so every turkey day, it’s our much anticipated dessert.  And, since I’ve become gluten and dairy free over the years, this pie takes a whole lot of love to make. What I love about it? To me, this pie is so much more than post-Thanksgiving breakfast, it’s family in a pie plate. It’s the time of year we are all together, sharing, laughing, loving. This pie is all the wonderment of family. All that I am grateful for.

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Terry Pierce: First, just ONE??? I have so many amazing memories of my family eating together during the holidays, but the one food item that just makes me smile is PIE. Everyone in my family LLLLOVES pie! For holiday dinners, we’d always have three pies (always a pecan because that’s my mom’s specialty, an apple because it’s my son’s favorite, and either pumpkin or chocolate). Pie is simply perfection on a fork!

But, probably the most memorable “holiday food memory” that I have with pie came at Thanksgiving dinner at my in-law’s home. My “sweeter-than-pie” mother-in-law was trying to spray whipped cream onto my father-in-law’s slice of pumpkin pie and for some reason, the whipped cream sprayed upward and into his face! He said, “What the heck, Dolly! What’d you do that for?” as he wiped the cream from his cheeks. We were all trying to suppress our laughter as she explained that she didn’t know, that the can malfunctioned. She said, “Let me try again” and then did the exact same thing! There sat my father-in-law, his face white with cream. At that point, everyone at the table completely lost it. Even my in-laws were laughing by then. Since then, I’ve never been able to look at a can of whipped cream without smiling at that memory.

Hayley Barrett: Every year I make a lamb-shaped cake for Easter. It’s a lemony pound cake dusted with powdered sugar. I add purple jelly bean eyes and a pink jelly bean nose. When my kids were little, we’d eat it after coloring eggs with the cousins. Now we usually have it for breakfast on Easter morning.

Like any traditional food, it takes a good bit of work to make. Results are not guaranteed, and occasionally I have to reattach a broken nose or missing ear with frosting. Sometimes I think I’ll skip it, but as the holiday gets closer, I always pull out the heavy aluminum mold and reach for the lemon zester. Easter isn’t Easter without Lambie Cake!

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Sweets are definitely awesome, but some Emu Debuters, lean toward the savory.

Christina Uss: My favorite holiday celebration food item is kielbasa, also known as polish sausage.

I think the two reasons it makes me so happy are:

1. My love of meat in tube form (hot dogs are also a favorite of mine) and

2. The fact I’m 100% Polish and my extended family always has kielbasa on the table at almost any and every holiday event.

This year I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house and made the choice to skip the turkey and replace it with two lovely locally-made garlicky pink kielbasas!

Darcy Rosenblatt: Oh so many to choose from but I have to go with matzo ball soup. Made by my grandmother when I was very little and then by my mother as I was growing up. The day before Passover it fills the house with yummy smells. Rich chicken soup with lighter than air matzo balls! It’s always a delicious way to start the meal after the long Passover service. (Everyone gets hungry). Some in my family only eat it on Passover, but we have adopted a new recipe – hot and sour matzo ball soup and we have it for smaller special occasions all year round. Yum. I think I’ll make some today with the turkey left overs!

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Debbi Michiko Florence: Fried won tons remind me of New Year’s Day celebration with my extended family. Growing up, New Year’s Day (not eve) was the big celebratory event in our family. Mom and aunts and grandma would cook a big feast and the rest of us would nosh all day. When I was old enough, I got to help make the won tons, scooping the meat mixture with a spoon and placing it carefully in the center of a square won ton skin.  It made eating the crispy fried treat all the more delicious! Now that our family is scattered around the country, we don’t get together regularly for the holidays. I miss those big family gatherings and all day feasting at the start of the year.

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And from the author herself, Andrea Wang: One of my favorite holiday celebration foods is the Chinese sticky rice stuffing my mom and grandma used to make for every Thanksgiving. It was full of shiitake mushrooms, water chestnuts, Chinese sausage, and dried shrimp. Not only did it taste amazing (especially when my grandma used real lard instead of vegetable oil), but when combined with the traditional American turkey, it was the perfect fusion of East and West. I loved being able to celebrate my Chinese heritage at Thanksgiving.

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What is your favorite holiday food? Whatever it is, be sure to check out what clever Xingling does to thwart the Nian Monster in Andrea’s debut picture book. I promise it’s a delicious story!

Andrea will be giving away one copy of The Nian Monster this week. Just leave a comment on any of this week’s posts to enter!


web_edit6xx8t3624Debbi Michiko Florence writes full time in her cozy studio, The Word Nest. Her favorite writing companions are her rabbit, Aki, and her two ducks, Darcy and Lizzy.

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth, the first two books of her debut chapter book series will be coming out from Farrar Straus Giroux on July 11, 2017, with two more books to follow. She is also the author of two nonfiction children’s books.

You can visit her online on her web site and her reading blog. She’s also on Twitter.

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