August 26, 2014
I love it when I have something to look forward to, don't you? An upcoming trip or getting together with a friend or even just good leftovers in the fridge.
They all make me salivate! But nothing is as good as looking forward to a good book that will soon be published. So you can imagine how I started drooling (!) when I read in Publishers Weekly that Linda Urban is going to publish a new novel with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt called WEEKENDS WITH MAX AND HIS DAD. Linda is the author or some of my favorite middle-grade fiction. She has the uncanny ability to crawl inside a character's skin and make you feel what the character is experiencing. It's kind of like Invasion of the Body Snatchers—but in a good way! The last time I had coffee with Linda (see June 19th posting in which Linda and I are compared to dirty dishes), we talked about the project and its challenges—there are always challenges—so I'm doubly delighted to see that the book has found a home with HMH and will be published in Spring of 2016. But my goodness, that's a long time to drool.
August 25, 2014
Oh, I'm so behind the times. Linda Sue Park's wonderful XANDER'S PANDA PARTY came out nearly a year ago, and I am just now managing to find the time to read it. (I know, it's a picture book, so really how much time can it take? But believe me, I'm REALLY behind.) I can't tell you how much I loved this book. The plot is simple and progresses in a familiar way, but the story has great heart (an element I often find lacking in picture books today) and includes lots of little twists and clever developments that keep you wondering what will happen next. Best of all, at least in my opinion, is the delightful language. I occasionally grumble about prose that's masquerading (poorly) as poetry. Here's an example of pure, exhilarating poetry that's dressed up like prose: no self-conscious Line Breaks announcing, "This is POETRY!" But as you read the text, your tongue just tumbles over a riot of fabulous rhyme, clever assonance, and perky alliteration. This is really one of the best read-alouds I've come across in a long time. Who knew that Linda Sue could write a rhyming picture book or two!
August 23, 2014
Three different roses in my garden, all at different stages of unfolding. I know what you're thinking. Is she spending all her time in her garden?? Doesn't she do any work at all? Yes! I do work! In fact, I've been working very hard on a new book all summer. And it's at that fascinating stage of unfolding, right before my eyes. After two months spent thinking and researching and thinking and note-taking and thinking and writing bits and pieces of this and that—the story is finally beginning to open up, as it was meant to do from the beginning. If anyone can figure out a faster way to get from here to there—from tightly-closed bud to full-blown rose—please let me know. As for now, though, I'm very pleased to have a story that's coming together...and beautiful roses in my garden.
August 21, 2014
I'm not kidding, my backyard has turned into the Wild Kingdom. Rabbits have pretty much taken over, and I see several every evening as I'm sitting out on my deck. This one likes that particular corner by the stone wall—apparently it's a good spot for washing one's nose, which the rabbit did for several minutes. I like rabbits. But I'm also deeply suspicious that this rabbit has been eating every single last flower off my two lily plants, leaving gnawed stubs where there should be trumpetlike flowers of brightest yellow. I like to think I'm a person who knows how to share. But every time I see those chewed-up plants, I think, "Hey rabbit, that's mine." After all, there's a lot to nibble in the yard. Does he have to go after the flowers? Of course, this all reminds me of one of my all-time favorite books, Robert Lawson's RABBIT HILL. If you haven't read it, you really should. And if you haven't read it in a while (oh, say forty years), then I encourage you to give it another go as I did a few weeks ago. Now I try to absorb and live the motto posted by the New Folks in that book: There is enough for all.
August 17, 2014
Do you see it? Look closely. On the left. It's the very first beginning-to-ripen tomato of the season. This particular type of tomato plant is called "Early Girl," and all I can say is that if the middle of August makes a tomato "early" then I will never again feel guilty for being late. My tomato plants are doing terrifically this year, and I can't remember when I've had so much fruit on each plant—but the fruit is all green! At this rate, I'll be harvesting my crop in the middle of November. All of which makes me think of writing historical fiction. I know, I know, that's a bit of a leap, but not really. Every year, I decide I'm not going to grow tomatoes. They require too much effort and they take too long! And besides, I have a fabulous farmstand just two blocks from my house.
Why bother? But every year, at the last minute, I find myself planting those little seedlings and dreaming of the most perfect summer pasta sauce that has ever been made. It's a dream in my head, that sauce, but I can't resist going after it. The same is true of historical fiction. It takes forever to write! It's hard! I'm never doing it again! And then, that picture comes into my head of that perfect story, set in the past, and told in just the right way. Next thing I know, I'm planting seedlings...and dreaming of the harvest.
August 15, 2014
Could I be more excited to announce this good news about FIREFLY JULY? No, I don't think I could. I'm fairly bursting. FIREFLY JULY: A YEAR OF VERY SHORT POEMS, selected by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, has been named the 2014 Children's Book winner of the New England Book Awards by the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA). The book includes delicious, bite-size poems about the four seasons and has received gobs of praise, including three starred reviews. The New York Times had this to say about Melissa's artwork: "Sweet’s spectacular mixed-media illustrations seem poised to break free from the book’s large pages. They are alternately delicate and bold, mistily atmospheric and scorchingly bright. Her touch combines the rigor of a mature artist and the scratchy abandon of a child. Best of all, they illuminate the poetry with genuine wit, intelligence and emotion. They are poems come to life." Amen to that! Melissa, as you may know, illustrated my picture book biography of John James Audubon, THE BOY WHO DREW BIRDS. She is spectacular, in every way. Congratulations on the award!