Tag Archives: Maria Gianferrari

Straight from the Editor: Penny & Jelly!

For the grand finale of our week-long celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s sublime Penny & Jelly, we’ve got a special treat: an interview with Maria’s editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Cynthia Platt. While we are all woof-ing it up for this delightful picture book, Cynthia was the editor who first saw and fell it love with it way back when, and here she shares her wisdom regarding the process of acquiring Maria’s AMAZING book and of guiding it through through preparation until it arrived, this week, to the world. Without further ado, say hello to Cynthia Platt!

What about PENNY & JELLY hooked you–and how did you know you wanted to publish this book?

I’m always saying that I want young, funny, character-driven picture books–and there in my inbox was just that. Also, from the start, I loved the DIY and crafting aspects of the story. And Penny and Jelly’s relationship is so wonderful. I could keep going….

What process did you and Maria follow after the offer had been made and accepted? Anything particularly interesting happen along the way?

After the initial email introductions, we got to work editing with lot of back and forth, sifting through the small details–of which there are always so many of when it comes to picture books. We were also lucky in that Maria lived in Massachusetts at the time so we got to sit down and spend an afternoon together talking about the book and getting acquainted.

What inspires you most about a picture book?

I’ve always been a die-hard reader, and I can easily trace the books that have both meant the most to me and inspired me to love reading even more. Those special books, for me, go back to the picture books I loved as a girl. So, as an editor, it’s a real gift to be able to assist in the creation of a picture book. Part of me always hopes that each picture book that makes its way into the world might be that special one for a young reader.

If you had to use three adjectives to describe PENNY & JELLY, they would be:

Warm, funny, and smart–then again, I’d describe Maria that way, too!

What qualities do you admire most in a writer?

Not to sound like a politician, but that’s a really interesting question to answer–because I think I’d answer differently as an editor and as a reader. As a reader, you just are looking for someone who writes a good book–someone whose worlds and characters you find engaging. As an editor, though, the writer isn’t some distant figure. It’s someone with whom you not only work closely, but with whom you work with on something near and dear to their hearts. So, you hope to work with writers who not only inspire you creatively, but also with whom you can relate on some level.

As a book is launched, what do you most hope will happen for it?

That someone picks it up and reads it. That lots and lots of someones do. And not only that they read it, but that they love it and find something in it that speaks to them.

Do you have a favorite book or a favorite quote or both? 🙂

Without a moment’s hesitation: Middlemarch. I love many books, but this one has become my bedrock.

What surprised you about publishing when you first got into this work?

As a sometimes overly-passionate reader who grew up pre-internet, it wasn’t always been easy to find people who shared that level of enthusiasm. Then I went into publishing and found this rich world of book people. It was a “these are my people” kind of experience.

What part of PENNY & JELLY do you love most (if you HAD to pick just one moment in the beautiful book)?

Well, if I HAVE to pick one, I love the moment when Penny begins to despair that she really doesn’t have anything she’s truly good at, and that she and Jelly solve the problem together–and that what she’s best at is being Jelly’s friend. Every time I get to the end of the book when they’ve been declared “Best Friends,” I smile. And believe me, I’ve read the book a lot of times at this point!

Thanks for sharing your ideas, wisdom, and all your love for Penny & Jelly with us! And readers, remember that by leaving a comment below, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a signed copy of the book and also some serious swag from Maria. To order your copy of the book today, visit http://www.pennyandjelly.com. Happy Reading!!!

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Filed under Celebrations, Editing and Revising, Writing and Life

Emus love dogs, especially literary ones!

It’s easy to see that we Emus love books, and you may have figured out by now that many of us love dogs, too, so what could possibly be better than combining the two? To continue this week’s celebration of Maria Gianferrari’s Penny & Jelly: The School Show, which released yesterday, here is a collection of our favorite dogs from literature. Woof!

Penny & Jelly cover

First, we have some classics…

Susan Vaught:

I’m a sucker for Lassie, not the television one (okay, that one, too), but the dog in Lassie Come Home written in 1940 by Eric Knight. I read it when I was about 10, nice and hefty, around 270-300 pages? Something like that. I absolutely lived in that book.

Penny Parker Klostermann:

Toto from The Wizard of Oz. “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” I worried about him through the whole movie even though was feisty and brave and revealed that the Wizard of Oz was not a wizard at all.

Carole Gerber:

Snoopy, of course! He is beloved by people all over the planet and still appears in cartoons and books sixteen years after the death of Charles Schultz, creator of “Peanuts.”

Donna Janell Bowman:

Hands down, my fave literary dogs were Old Yeller, and Old Dan and Little Ann from Where The Red Fern Grows. As a kid, I read each book a billion times. More than the actual plots (which would be questionable by today’s standards,) I was so enamored by the dogs’ personalities and with the bond between boy and dog(s).

 

And then there are some more modern middle-grade canines…

Megan Morrison:

As an avid Harry Potter fan, I’ve got to go with Hagrid’s dog Fang. I love that he’s huge, and his name is fierce, but he’s really just a lovable, slobbering coward who runs from the fight – unless he’s protecting Hagrid, in which case, he’ll take a Stunning Spell to defend his big best friend.

Mylisa Larsen:

I’m always amused by Hagrid’s dogs–Fang and Fluffy (aka Cerebus). I also love Winn-Dixie because you’ve gotta love a dog who can smile.

Elaine Braithwaite Vickers:

Ranger, the kind old bloodhound from Kathi Appelt’s THE UNDERNEATH. So inherently good and true, as literary dogs should be.

Rebecca Van Slyke:

Winn Dixie. He helps India Opal negotiate the tricky business of moving to a new town and making friends in unlikely places. Plus he can smile so hard it makes him sneeze.

Tamara Smith:

Both my daughters and I are madly in love with Bigfoot, from Alison McGhee’s JULIA GILLIAN series. According to Julia, they can telepathically communicate! Too awesome! Bigfoot is the quintessential big-hearted canine best friend.

 

And, of course, we wouldn’t forget the picture books!

Janet Fox:

My favorite literary dog is Martha from MARTHA SPEAKS by Susan Meddaugh. I remember how much I loved reading that book to my son!

Christine Olson Hayes:

I love the adorable dog named Hondo from Peter McCarty’s picture book, HONDO AND FABIAN. The story is simple and sweet, but it’s the art I adore–it gives off a warm, cozy glow that makes me want to curl up in front of a fire with a favorite book!

Kevan Atteberry:

I was moved by a graphic novel I read recently about Laika, the first dog in space. It was terribly sad though. I read the Plague Dogs years ago and enjoyed it but don’t remember the two dogs’ names. Brian from Family Guy probably wouldn’t count, so I’ll go with Olive from Olive the Other Reindeer.

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman:

I’m partial to “Dog” from Dog in Charge by K.L. Going and illustrated by Dan Santat. It’s a sweet and funny story about a dog left in charge of five cats with this refrain to describe him: “He’s a good dog, a smart dog, a very good dog.”

Adam Shaughnessy:

I always loved Clifford the Big Red Dog when I was little. I remember being especially fond of the illustrations and drawing (or trying to draw) Clifford again and again. I went through a lot of red crayons.

Laurie Ann Thompson:

Harry the Dirty Dog was one of my favorite books as a child, and it still is. I just love his transformation from a white dog with black spots to a black dog with white spots! And, of course, I love the happy ending.

 

Penny & Jelly author and fellow Emu Maria Gianferrari shared some of her favorites, too, as well as those of Penny and Jelly themselves!

Some of my favorite literary dogs are Bob (from the One & Only Ivan), Rontu (from Island of the Blue Dolphins),
Dismay (from Each Little Bird That Sings), and Rain (from Reign Rain).

Penny’s favorites are Winn Dixie, Hound (from the Penderwicks), and HMS Beagle (from Susan Patron’s Lucky books).

Jelly’s favorites are Gaston, Daisy (from A Ball for Daisy), and Hachiko.

(Of course, they’re all really my favorites too!) 😉

 

As you know, this week we’re all celebrating the launch of our newest favorite literary dog in Penny & Jelly: The School Show, and I’m sure the delightful Jelly will soon be one of your favorites, too! Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of this heartwarming book or some Penny & Jelly swag. You can visit Penny & Jelly at pennyandjelly.com, and be sure to purchase a copy for yourself and your favorite dog lovers by visiting one of the sites below:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers Amazon.com Books-a-Million Barnes & Noble IndieBound Politics and Prose Powell's The Toadstool Bookshop
Also available as an eBook in several of these locations, and at iBooks and Kobo.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Picture books, Updates on our Books!

PENNY & JELLY and the Weird, Wacky, Wonderful Talents!

Happy, happy book birthday to the inside-and-out beautiful Maria Gianferrari and her perfectly darling debut, PENNY & JELLY: THE SCHOOL SHOW! From the Penny & Jelly web site: “This young and funny picture book showcases the soon-to-be star of her school talent show: Penny. With a little help from her dog Jelly, Penny realizes that she and Jelly have a unique talent to share – unlike any other in the show.”

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What I love most about this book is that Penny is so resilient. She can’t immediately figure out what her talent is, so she exhausts every weird, wonderful, and wacky talent she can think of – and even when those talents don’t turn out to be so hot, she never stays beaten for long! She and Jelly are a great example of how to enjoy the creative process – and each other – without getting too hung up on results.

To celebrate Penny & Jelly’s birthday, the EMUs are here to share our own weird, wonderful, and wacky talents – and it turns out that we have quite a few!

Crybaby

That’s right, kid. Laurie cancelled Firefly with her mind.

Laurie Thompson “can go right back to sleep after getting woken up in the wee (or not so wee) hours of morning (useful when mothering small children… or pets). I can force new television series off the air simply by liking them. I can apparently go entire days without doing anything useful whatsoever. And I can (mostly) disguse my overwhelming shyness, extreme introversion, and social anxiety… at least for short periods of time.”

Penny Parker Klostermann’s “weird, wonderful, wacky talent is singing opera. But only to one song. And the one song isn’t meant to be sung in opera, but it’s so much fun when it is. The song is Sad Movies (make me cry), originally sung by Sue Thompson.  I shared this song opera-style at a college social. It wasn’t a talent show like in Penny and Jelly…but I think it was a hit in a weird, wonderful, wacky sort of way.”

SewerGrate

Hey, Janet, a little help here. I dropped my wedding ring down this grate…

 Janet Fox is a Finder of Lost Things

 

Christine Hayes “is pretty good at walking into a thrift store or flea market and finding stuff worth reselling. I kind of have an eye for interesting and unusual decor pieces, and can usually judge on the spot if an item is overpriced or if there’s money to be made. Of course taste is subjective, and a lot of the stuff ends up in my house, so it’s not exactly a profitable talent. But it’s a fun one!”

 

Handwriting

This guy was probably hungry. Or a murderer.

Carole Gerber is “an amateur graphologist and can tell a lot about a person by examining his or her handwriting. Years ago, I wrote a paperback for children titled “Secrets Your Handwriting Reveals.” I got interested in the science (it actually is a science) of graphology because my dear, departed mother-in-law was a certified graphologist. She was sometimes hired by companies to analyze handwriting of potential hires to sort out those who showed undesirable traits -i.e., dishonesty, mental disorders, etc. My husband used to send her his girlfriends’ handwriting when he was in high school and college to get her “take” on what they were really like. I also showed her samples of my friends’ handwriting and was astonished at her accurate insights into people she had never met. Her skill intrigued me and I obsessively studied library books on the topic. My interest has waned over the years but I can still get a quick “read”on people by examining a few written sentences and a signature.”

Pink

Not this kind of bird.

Megan Morrison “can whistle like a bird. I don’t mean that I have a beautiful, sing-song whistle; I mean that I can whistle in such a way that it confuses people – and sometimes cats – into looking around for a bird. I do not know why or how I developed this talent, but so it is. I used to list it on my acting resume under Special Skills, and sometimes in auditions directors would call me on it. ‘Whistle like a bird,’ they would say, and then I would do it, and they would sit back and say ‘Huh,’ because by George, I had done it. Somehow, this delightful trick never landed me a Broadway role… but my 4-year-old son thinks it’s very funny that ‘a bird lives in my mouth’.”

 

MLP

Sing it, Adam.

Adam Shaughnessy’s talent is that “I sometimes have trouble remembering what I had for dinner the night before, but I have an uncanny ability to remember the theme song lyrics for almost any show or cartoon from the 1980s and can sing them upon demand. Of course, there are very few demands… possibly because “the ability to sing” does not also appear on anyone’s list of my talents.

TamPic

Tam’s husband enables her with peanut-butter Valentines.

 

Tamara Ellis Smith says that “the one talent that I have been cultivating for as long as I can remember is my ability to put peanut butter on just about any food.  I practice every day—holidays and weekends included—and I have gotten pretty darn good at it, if I don’t say so myself.  🙂  I have peanut butter mixed into my oatmeal for breakfast, on apples for a snack, in the sauce I pour over vegetables for dinner.  I like it on pancakes, bananas, celery, tofu, to name a few more foods. And that’s the tip of the iceberg.  (The top of the jar?!)  Don’t even get me started on desserts… I have worked hard to strengthen my fingers to they can reach all of the way to the bottom of the jar, and I have repeatedly scraped the inside of peanut butter containers so that I know how to get every last bit of it out.”

Finally, Jennifer Chambliss Bertman has this to say:

I was drawing a blank on what my unique talents might be, so I decided to ask my three-year-old son for his input. This is the conversation we had:

Me: What is something Mama is really good at?
Son stares out car window, thinking . . . thinking . . .
Son: Ice cream.
Me: Ice cream? I’m good at ice cream?
Son: Yes.
Silence as I ponder this. I don’t make ice cream, and it’s probably been a month since we’ve had ice cream together. I decide to try again.
Me: You know how you’re really good at playing with your trains and doing Play-Doh? What is something Mama’s good at?
Son: Ice cream.
So there you have it. That’s my weird and wacky talent straight from the source of someone who spends a lot of time with me: Ice cream. And he might be onto something because shortly after that conversation, this happened:
IceCream

Next time I’ll say that her talent is “Disneyland”.

 

All in all, the EMUs are a mob of wonderfully wacky weirdos, and just like Maria Gianferrari and her fearless protagonist Penny, we are not afraid to show it.

Don’t forget to comment for a chance to win a signed copy of PENNY & JELLY – or some PENNY & JELLY swag ! You can purchase it for yourself and everyone you know by visiting the web site and choosing the buying link that’s best for you.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Launch, Picture books