Mar 22, 2010

Cactus Hotel

Because we are always working in the community recreation hall (where the good wireless signal is) lots of the park residents have gotten to know us and what the heck we are doing on our computers all day. The other day, the woman from the fifth wheel across from us came over and said to me “I know you work in children’s books, but I wondered if you write them, too?” I asked her why – she used to be a teacher – and she told me that two of the other women in the park had shown her an old saguaro cactus, with multiple holes in it, that seemed to be serving as home for a variety of birds. “I think that would make a great kid’s book,” she explained.

I walked down to see it, and she was right – there must be about half a dozen holes in the cactus and birds were busy flying in and out of them. Kind of like an apartment building, I thought and then Ding! I remembered this book – Cactus Hotel – which I used to sell when I was working in a kid’s bookstore. I remembered it as a beautifully illustrated book.

Off I went to look it up on the Internet – sadly, it seems to be out of print, but I found it here at Powell’s and it sounds just like I remembered. We’re going to visit Powell’s this week while we’re in Portland for PLA, so maybe I’ll look it up and bring it back as a gift to the campground’s library.

Mar 21, 2010

Review -- Where is Catkin?

Where is Catkin?                         
Written by Janet Lord
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Peachtree Publishers, 2010
hardcover picture book

I'm a huge fan of Julie Paschkis' art -- her colors and imaginative decorations are a visual delight. And I embrace the idea of sisters' collaboration. (Julie and her sister, Janet Lord, have shared credit for two previous picture books.) And, though I'm definitely a dog person, I like cats well enough. So, Where is Catkin?, is a natural as a picture book that delights and engages me. The story begins with young Amy and Catkin against a background of fantasical lush flowers and a shining sun. "Catkin sneeks through the grass./He sees something shiny and small./ Kerik-kerik. Kerik-kerik./Catkin hops ..." and is off to the hunt! Double page spreads full of bright colors against a black background, framed bottom and top by a decorative border in gold and orange-red, follow Catkin on the chase through the garden, as the cat hears various sounds and goes after a frog, a mouse, a snake. The borders also follow the story's progress as the animals chased but not caught populate the borders. Then, as the action shifts and Catkin is caught in a tree, the borders' placement changes. The last page portrays Amy with resucued Catkin in her arms, borders on all four sides, everyone happy and safe. Ahhh!

Thanks to Peachtree Publishers for the review copy.

Serendipity! I just went to the wonderful Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blog to check if there was an interview with Julie Paschkis I could link to. There is and it's dated today! Read it. Feast your eyes on images shown of art from Catkin.

Mar 16, 2010

The Redwall retirement plan

I’ve been thinking more about retirement these days, because we’ve spent the winter in Tucson with the snowbirds at Desert Trails RV park. There are a few others who are working like we are, but almost everyone else is retired, and they are making it look great: hiking, playing games, biking, swimming, bird-watching and a zillion other fun activities.

But I’ve decided to let Desert Trails go when my time to relax comes along. I’m going to go with the Redwall retirement plan. If you’ve read every single one of the books in Brian Jacques’ fabulous series, as I have, then you’ll remember that some of the most beloved characters are the old moles, badgers and mice – the wise ones, the ones who can no longer fight in the battles but are still treasured members of the Redwall community.

Most of the time, the old ones just sit in the sun, bounce the Dibbuns on their knees, tell stories and of course – eat! The feasts at Redwall Abbey are legendary, and I for one can’t wait to eat my fill of buttercream scones, slurp my way through a vat of Shrimp ’N Hotroot Soup, and drink my fill of October Ale and Summer Strawberry Fizz.

And if I do get tired of eating, talking and dozing in the sun – well, no doubt there will be a villain laying siege outside our walls any day now…

Mar 12, 2010

It's Babytime!

Last week I went to my very first Babytime. Different from the traditional storytimes which are standard fare at libraries, Babytime focuses on emergent literacy activities rather than listening to stories read aloud. There's generally music, rhymes, and movement led by a children's librarian and moms and caregivers take part too.
I went with a friend, Geri, her daughter Jeanette and Jeanette's son Wade, a lively 8 month old. Wade goes to Babytime once or twice every week and loves it.The Pima County Public Library has an extensive schedule of Babytimes and Storytimes and their efforts are supported by local agencies like Make Way For Books.

What a delightful time! Imagine 20 babies -- some sitting on laps, some walking around the room, some crawling on a huge colorful quilt in the center of the floor. There were 4 sets of twins! Using a rhyme and a big bear puppet the librarian introduced each child to the group; then the group recited various rhymes like "Eensy Weensy Spider" and "Where is Thumbkin" (those are the ones I remember because they're familiar) aloud with accompanying movements, all the adults engaging with the babies; and we listened to songs. The scheduled Babytime is followed by 30 minutes of free time when the moms and aregivers can talk together and babies can play while soft music plays in the background. There were lots of books around the room for anyone to pick up and look at (and check out too.) Maybe I'll get to go again before we leave Tucson!

Here are some favorite board books for babies:

Mar 9, 2010

Shine your creative light out into the world!

I’m sitting here paging through one of my favorite children’s books – I read it at least once a week, taking time to closely examine the pictures and laugh aloud at the simple text. It’s a very valuable book, a limited edition, called Kyra and Bobbie: Best Friends. Kyra is my 6-year-old niece, and a few years ago for my birthday my sister Jean (Kyra’s mom, a teacher and children’s book enthusiast) made this book for Kyra and I. We each have one – a print run of 2.

It’s the ultimate in niche publishing, isn’t it? A book with no marketing budget and very minimal production costs that’s guaranteed to reach (and delight!) its small audience – an instant classic destined to be read for years.

When I give talks about independent publishing to groups of would-be authors, I always make sure to say this: if all you want is to get your book or your story out into the world, you can do that yourself. You don’t have to wait for some far-off publisher to read your work, make a judgment about it and turn you down. With all of the print-on-demand technologies – heck, even with a color copier and a binding machine - you can be a publisher. And with the communication possibilities of the Internet and all of its accompanying social media, you can get your story out to its intended audience. Even if that audience is very, very small.

It’s time for a sequel to my Kyra book – her brother Keane was reading it with her and said to his mom: “I want to be in a book with Aunt Bobbie.” Start the presses…