April 30, 2014
Okay, a near panic attack just moments ago when I suddenly realized I hadn't booked my flight for my upcoming trip to the IRA conference in New Orleans next week. (Honestly, my wonderful publisher does just about everything short of holding my hand when it comes to travel arrangements, but I totally fell down on this one.) Luckily, the brilliant Rose at Egencia Travel Agency was able to save me from my own incompetence and get me on a flight. (I had visions of explaining to my Marketing Director that I would be driving from Boston to New Orleans...) So all is well. I can stop hyperventilating. And look at the lovely poster that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt made to announce the session. I'll be presenting with the amazing Carol Jago. If you're in New Orleans next Saturday—do come by!
April 29, 2014
I had a fabulous time today at Proctor Elementary School in Northborough, MA, meeting with all the kids from Kindergarten up through Grade 5. The kids were well prepared for my visit: reading my books, writing their own stories, and illustrating some of the scenes from my books. (You can see examples of their amazing work on the bulletin board below. Such talent at this school!) As always, good preparation is often due to a super librarian—and this school has two! Joanne Giancola and Sylvia Pabreza (pictured below). Midday, the three of us enjoyed a delicious lunch from the Picklehaus Deli and talked about some of our favorite books from when we were kids. (Remember Caddie Woodlawn? And The Wolves of Willoughby Chase?) A great day!
April 28, 2014
I'm still recovering from my three-week roadtrip (oodles of fun, but so glad to be home!) and pondering all the wonderful questions that the kids asked about the Lemonade War books. One of the questions I heard most often was, "What do Evan and Jessie look like?" There's very little physical description of either character in the books, and I like it that kids can decide for themselves about Evan and Jessie's appearance. To spur kids on to imagine for themselves, I went ahead and made an Action Figure activity where kids can create their own stand-up action figures of Evan and Jessie—with whatever hair, eye, skin, and clothing choices they want to make. Now they can answer that question for themselves: "Here's what Evan and Jessie look like!"
April 27, 2014
In the category of "Oops!": You might recall that back on March 21, I posted about my excitement at Loree Griffin Burns' next book: BEETLE BUSTERS: A ROGUE INSECT AND THE PEOPLE WHO TRACK IT, which will be out this fall. Well, I'm still pretty excited about that book (how does photographer Ellen Harasimowicz get such amazing pictures??), but it turns out that Loree has another new book out this year, so I wanted to take a minute to spotlight that one, as well. It's called HANDLE WITH CARE: AN UNUSUAL BUTTERFLY JOURNEY (January 1, 2014) and it's been named a Junior Library Guild Selection. More gorgeous photographs? You bet. Not to mention Loree's always engaging text. Hooray for nonfiction that grips.
April 24, 2014
Oh, it is always a good day when a new book by Lita Judge arrives in the world. Lita's newest, FLIGHT SCHOOL, tells the story of a penguin who wants to fly. (Who among us hasn't wished for something outside of our biological abilities?) With Lita's signature artwork (expressive, funny, warm-hearted), it's no surprise that the book received a starred review from School Library Journal, and raves from Publisher's Weekly and Kirkus. Be sure to get your hands on a copy of this one, and share it with a youngster who likes to dream big.
April 23, 2014
Hmmm, there must be something in the air...Spring...lemonade...making money...
On the same day that the International Reading Association's blog posted about THE LEMONADE WAR as a way to teach math and business skills (see yesterday's post), US News & World Report's "Money: Personal Finance" blog listed THE LEMONADE WAR as one of the five best books to teach kids about personal finance. According to the author of the post, Trent Hamm, who runs a personal finance website called TheSimpleDollar.com, “THE LEMONADE WAR teaches the basics of entrepreneurship, planning and money management in the context of an enjoyable adventure story that hits upon the lives of upper elementary children." I'm so glad he threw in that it's enjoyable—which is always my number one goal in writing a story.
April 22, 2014
Hey, check out the article I wrote for the International Reading Association's excellent blog Reading Today Online. My piece is part of "The Engaging Classroom" section, and it's chock full of tips and teaching materials from actual classroom teachers who have used THE LEMONADE WAR in the classroom to teach math and business skills. In conjunction, I'll be speaking at the annual conference of the IRA in New Orleans on May 10th at 2:30 PM. Carol Jago (former president of NCTE and all-around literacy goddess) and I will be talking about "Close Reading of Trade Books: Developing Thoughtful, Curious Readers Using Novels in the Elementary Classroom." It's going to be a LIVELY discussion with lots of hands-on learning and real-life experiences. If you're at the conference, by all means, join us. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is providing an impressive bag of goodies. You won't want to miss!
April 21, 2014
Exciting news! The results are in for the 3rd Annual Great Lemonade War Contest and the winning school is...(drumroll, please...) Spotsylvania Middle School in Spotsylvania, Virginia! The school raised a whopping $11,271 for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, which raises money to help fund kids' cancer research. Outstanding work, Spotsylvania Middle School! I will be traveling to the school to congratulate the kids in person, along with Jay or Liz Scott, who are Alex's parents. We're all eager to meet these energetic, compassionate kids who worked so hard to help fight cancer.
The second-place winner is Alden Primary School in Alden, New York, which raised $7,695, and the third-place school is Stewart Elementary School in Lower Burrell, Pennsylvania, which raised $4,007. Fantastic! I will be Skyping with both schools to congratulate them on their hard work.
Over the last three years, schools participating in The Great Lemonade War Contest have raised over $80,000, and the number keeps growing. I am ever impressed with what kids can accomplish when they put their minds to a task. All the schools that participated in the contest have made a huge difference in the lives of kids with cancer.
If your school would like to sign up for next year's contest, you can do so here. Don't delay. It's a wonderful way to connect literacy with community service—both lessons with life-long benefits. And you might win a free school visit from me. That way, we both win!
April 20, 2014
Well, a very nice review of THE MAGIC TRAP landed in my inbox today. It appears in the Books For Kids blog, written by former elementary librarian Glenda Childress. And while I am entirely too modest (ahem!) to quote the lovely things she says about the book, I am not at all too modest to provide the link to the review. At the very least, do check out the blog; it's a terrific resource for librarians, teachers, parents, and readers who want to know what's new in children's books.
April 19, 2014
Kids come up with all kinds of terrific projects related to my books, and here's one crafted by Anna, a third-grader in Oregon. She created a collage for THE LEMONADE CRIME. I love the images she chose: a basketball, a bicycle, a video game controller, a courtroom, and, of course, a pitcher of lemonade. She did a great job capturing all the most important elements in the book. Beautiful work, Anna! And what a lovely smile!
April 18, 2014
I mentioned what a busy day I had on Wednesday, but what I didn't say is that I found a sliver of time between events to sneak off to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art here in Indianapolis and enjoy the temporary exhibition: "Ansel Adams" (March 1–August 3). Stellar! Of course, we all know Adams' breathtaking, iconic wilderness photos (particularly his series focused on our National Parks), but what I hadn't realized was what a talented portraitist he was, as well. The photo of Georgia O'Keeffe (so many of Adams' photographs remind one of O'Keeffe's paintings) with Orville Cox was a standout in the exhibition, but so was his super close-up portrait of José Clemente Orozco. Throughout the show were quotations from Adams with the oft-repeated idea that one must trust one's intuition. True in photography. True in writing. True in life.
April 17, 2014
A great day at Eagle Creek Elementary School in Indianapolis meeting with kids in Grades K through 5. A very thoughtful bunch—we talked about all kinds of things, including our old friend John James Audubon. I had a lot of fun showing the kids his artwork and THEN looking at some of the bird paintings they had made in the style of Audubon. Wow. Aren't these gorgeous? I wanted to steal each and every one so I could hang them on my walls at home. But I restrained myself and just took a few photos with my iPhone. Nice work, future artists.
April 16, 2014
A wonderfully busy day, visiting with kids at New Augusta South school in Indianapolis (pictures to come) and then zipping over to Indy Reads Books for a fun-filled event with the folks at Lemonade Day Indianapolis, an organization that helps teach kids the joys of entrepreneurship. I read from THE LEMONADE WAR and spoke with founder Scott Jones. The event was moderated by Brooke Martin, anchor for WISH-TV News. The kids had great ideas about how to have a successful lemonade stand (charge $100 per cup! set up a lemonade stand in a laundromat on a hot day!) As I was leaving, I snapped this photo of the mural on the outside of the bookstore. Love it!
April 15, 2014
I spent the day with the delightful children and staff at Fishback Creek Public Academy in Indianapolis. We talked about all kinds of things: books, writing, what it's like to have brothers and sisters, why the Colts are better than the Patriots. (So not!) In between presentations, I was hanging out in the school library when I spotted BARNUM'S BONES by the über-talented Tracey Fern on the "New Books" shelf. You know, whenever I'm on the road and I come across a book by someone who is dear to me (Tracey and I have been in the same writing group for ten years), it really is like running into a friend. "Oh, hello! I didn't expect to see you here. How lovely to bump into you!" If you haven't yet read BARNUM'S BONES, then I encourage you to pick up a copy and see what all the buzz is about (three starred reviews and raves from the New York Times and the Washington Post).
April 14, 2014
I flew into Indianapolis yesterday and saw this arresting sculpture before even leaving the airport. (Baggage Claim, by Ron Baron, 2008) I can't tell you how much this looks like actual suitcases. You really have to look hard to see that it's made out of—bronze! The best part is that you're invited to sit on it. So I did. I sat on art. Nice to be back in Indy!
April 13, 2014
I need to share one more photo from my visit to Cincinnati. (Okay, two!) This I know about the city: they love their baseball! Here's a photo I took of an incredibly cool mural painted on the side of a building that is just around the corner from the stadium where the Cincinnati Reds play. Now, as you may know, I'm a diehard Red Sox fan and have been for the past 40 years. (Yep, count 'em!) And I will never (repeat, never) get over the pain of losing the 1975 World Series to the Reds. But hey, you gotta love a baseball town, even if they're rooting for the wrong team! Just kidding! I'm also including a photo of the baseball stadium, which is right in the middle of downtown. The whole area is just beautiful, and I can well imagine how much fun it would be to watch a game here on a warm summer evening. Play ball!
April 12, 2014
The publicity department at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sent me the cutest thing while I was on the road promoting THE MAGIC TRAP. It's a puppet of a rabbit that pops out of a top hat! How fun is that? Don't you want one for your own?? In THE MAGIC TRAP, Evan is learning to do magic tricks and needs a rabbit so that he can make it disappear in his show. Jessie (good little sister that she is!) decides to catch a rabbit for Evan by setting a trap in the backyard. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens. And you'll have to read the book to find out why I named this particular rabbit puppet Professor Hoffmann. It all makes sense once you read the story!
April 11, 2014
I had a great time at the Pike Literacy Fair tonight, an annual event in Indianapolis that draws 2500+ attendees to celebrate literacy in all its forms. I was there presenting as part of the kickoff to next week's district-wide school visit. The elementary school librarians received a $32,000 grant to fund a One School, One Book initiative (go, librarians!), so students at seven elementary schools will receive a copy of THE LEMONADE WAR, and I will have the pleasure of meeting each and every one of them next week. I already visited with the wonderful students at College Park Elementary School today, and next week, I'll meet the kids at Deer Run, Fishback Creek, New Augusta Public Academy South, Eagle Creek, Central, and Snacks Crossing. Looking forward to it.
April 10, 2014
Well, it's not every day I can say this, but I walked from Ohio to Kentucky today. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? I had a few hours between events in the beautiful city of Cincinnati (I had visited Pleasant Run Elementary School and St. Mary School, Hyde Park earlier and would be going on to a reading and signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers later), so I decided to take a walk.
Just a few blocks from my hotel, I found myself standing on the edge of the mighty Ohio River, which of course caused me to think of John James Audubon and the many times he had gone swimming in this same body of water. I had learned quite a bit about Audubon's river days while researching THE BOY WHO DREW BIRDS: A STORY OF JOHN JAMES AUDUBON. And it suddenly occured to me that the land across the water was Kentucky. And that there was a bridge right in front of me that looked entirely walkable. And that, indeed, there were people walking across that bridge, very casually, as if walking from one state to another is no big deal. So I decided I had to do it, too.
The entrance to the bridge on the Ohio side is painted a pretty blue, and was I surprised when I realized that it was designed by the same gentleman (John A. Roebling) who built the Brooklyn Bridge (which I have also walked across). This bridge over the Ohio River, in fact, was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time it was built (started 1856, completed 1867), and one of the reasons that it took so long to complete is that the Civil War happened right in the middle of the work.
Once on the Kentucky side, I took a picture of myself to prove that I was there (below! that's Kentucky in the background!) and then hightailed it back to my hotel so I wouldn't be late for my booksigning. A perfect day in Cincy.
April 8, 2014
Oh, I had such a nice day today in and around Washington, DC, first visiting with kids from several area schools at Politics & Prose, one of my favorite independent bookstores; then travelling with the good folks at An Open Book Foundation to West Education Campus, where I talked with third-graders about THE MAGIC TRAP; and finally on to an after-school tutoring program, 826DC, where the kids and I made watercolor paintings and wrote post-it note poems, using the technique described in THE CANDY SMASH. A wonderful day of connection and creativity. I hope to post pictures soon.
April 7, 2014
Thanks to Booklist for their very nice review of THE MAGIC TRAP in the April 1, 2014, issue of the magazine. (See unbelievably cute doggie cover below.) Reviewer Carolyn Phelan wrote: "One of the pleasures of reading the Lemonade War series, which began with The Lemonade War (2007), is watching the gradual development of the two main characters and the subtle shifts in their relationship, never more apparent than in this story. As the third-person narrative switches from one child’s point of view to the other, the contrast between the two is marked and consistently believable. Readers intrigued by the magic theme will also appreciate the appended instructions for a card trick. The series’ many fans won’t want to miss this one." You can read the review in its entirety, along with reviews of many other excellent books, by subscribing to Booklist. They even offer a free 14-day trial subscription. Can't go wrong with that!
April 5, 2014
I'll be speaking at the North Carolina Literary Festival later today, but I'm taking a minute in my hotel room to catch up on all kinds of things, including posting the photo below that captures the climactic results of a major competition: March Madness! The students at Memorial Middle School in Middlefield, CT, created their own March Madness for books—and look how far THE LEMONADE WAR made it through the grueling elimination rounds! In the end, I was defeated by DIVERGENT. Curse you! (as I shake my fist to the heavens!) I think it's great that the kids took such an interest in reading books, voting for their favorites, and having fun.
April 4, 2014
Today I had the pleasure of being "handled" by Mrs. Molly Weston, an energetic North Carolinian who served as my escort all day as I visited two middle schools and several bookstores in the First in Flight state. I talked with seventh graders at Pollard Middle School in Chapel Hill and sixth graders at Chatham Middle School in Siler City, and then stopped in at two great bookstores: McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village and Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. All in all, Molly and I put 250 miles on her Ford Fusion and got to know a lot more about each other than perhaps we should! A highlight was a lunchtime stop at Allen & Son for real North Carolina barbeque. To be specific, it was Eastern North Carolina barbeque. Apparently, what they serve in the West of the state can hardly even be called barbeque because it involves mustard and that just makes Molly shake her head in dismay.
April 3, 2014
Happy news from Review Land: THE MAGIC TRAP received a starred review from Kirkus. It's always lovely to know that a book is well received, and positive reviews are one way to know that someone out there is reading the work and appreciates it. So, thank you Kirkus, for brightening my day and hopefully encouraging others to pick up the book and judge for themselves.
April 2, 2014
Today I went back to college: Bank Street College, that is. Bank Street is a fabulous school for both kids and adults near Columbia University in New York City. The adults are learning to be teachers, and the kids are learning to be smart, engaged, active, self-directed, life-long learners. I met with 4th- and 5th-graders, and we talked about that interesting meeting ground of fiction and nonfiction: when real events from your life sneak into your imagined stories. They were a vibrant, fun-loving bunch, and I really enjoyed spending time at their school, which back in the day served as a writing laboratory for such great children's authors as Ruth Krauss, Edith Thacher Hurd, and Margaret Wise Brown.
April 1, 2014
Pub day for my new book THE MAGIC TRAP! Always exciting when a new book is released. I was lucky enough to be at Memorial School in Middlefield, Connecticut, visiting with fifth- and sixth-graders and celebrating. Anne Doyle, the wonderfully enthusiastic librarian at the school, snapped a picture of me signing the very first copy of the book! It was for a girl named Nina. Anne and I got shivery with excitement. See how happy I look?