Truth Floats

My first conference. I sent my illustrations ahead, and packed my bag: a healthy infant ms, a First Page, a lunchbox and toothbrush. The most valuable thing I brought was humility.

I read my baby aloud, popped out questions, and kept my ears tuned to all stations: criticism and comments from editors, agents, authors and comrades. Because all opinions are ‘just one person’s opinion’.

That’s also how I reeled in a remark from author Chris Crutcher‘s opening keynote: truth floats. I was lucky to experience some of my own truth surface with agent Karen Grencik. I signed up for her post-conference session (or voice excavation!) because I went for it all, almost. Who knows when I’ll get to another conference. And truth floats, all right! The surprise was in learning all I needed to find mine was to trust in Karen’s evocative questionnaire – and unzip! The tissue box was passed around as we revealed our answers and shared our connections. She finally prompted us to create a poem, in 10 minutes, with: “I come from…”

Here is the raw and unpolished version of what I spilled:

I come from underneath the leaves,

golden, red and brown.

Lying still and layered

upon the sacred ground.

I come from the linear space,

between two walls of brick.

Muffled inside the layers,

silent, dark and thick.

I come from blossom’s bowel,

intoxicated with scent.

Quiet, still and waiting,

tucked in tight and bent.

We shared, and applauded our courage. Then it was all over, and time to head home. I drove north in a daze, drunk with all I had consumed. Tears waxed and waned with passing exit signs. Relief found me a good hour later, parked in front of my  house, and not at Canada’s border.

Still digesting. More to follow…

PPBF: Bear With Me

D1D218CA-6778-4982-BC41-9407BA488CF5Author/Illustrator: Max Kornell
Publisher: G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 2011
Genre: fiction
Themes: friendship, bears, siblings
Age Level: 4-6
Opening: It started off just right. I had a mom and a dad and my own set of blocks. I had everything I needed.
Synopsis: from the publisher: Everything in Owen’s world is just peachy-till his parents bring home a bear named Gary-without even asking! Gary changes everything: he takes up way too much space and makes a mess of all of Owen’s toys. Gary means well, though, and eventually Owen starts to see that there are some good things about having a bear in the family.
Why I like this book: I am a sucker for great illustrations and Kornell captures the frustration of his main character impeccably, using vibrant watercolors and pencil lines, creatively arranged in collage with acrylics. The difficulty in adapting to change in a family is conveyed in a straightforward manner and balanced with gentle yet juicy humor.
Resource/Activity: This is the first time I have attached a book enrichment pdf, from Words Alive, so let me know if you have trouble downloading: ELIBookEnrichmentGuide_BearWithMe
The attached video was probably made as an intro piece, but it is fun and informative to see how his characters come to life digitally:
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog any day of the week!
PS – Playing around with a more graphic header, utilizing a font I created. Should I stick to pretty pics instead?

WIX: Water Under the Bridge

Recently the sister of a German friend was visiting from the Old Country (I love saying that!). We were all speaking German, two of us throwing in bits of English. For those who speak more than one language, and have lived in another country, you get accustomed to this ‘misch-masch’, as well as throwing in idioms from the other language, as happened last Friday. “What is water under the bridge?” the sister asked. At this point I remembered how absurd some common idioms sound to the foreign ear. “Well, just that which has passed is in the past. No need to fret over it if you can’t change it.”

As I ready myself for my first writer/illustrator conference (just 2 more days!), I consider the fact that I am no tadpole. Yet earnestly I prepare to greet the tumultuous PB industry head on. I know the traditional industry is is an odd position of uncertainty , and that chances of success can be likened to water cupped in a hand. The time of youthful vigor cannot be reclaimed, and I may be diving in a bit late, but I have lived in the water and learned. The more I write the more I am aware of my storehouse of experience and ideas, and the more I create the more confident I feel about my style. And the wiser I become the more I am unafraid, the more I realize there is to know, and the more I welcome what I can learn.

How old am I? Old enough to stop fretting!
And by the way, the Germans would say, it’s just “Schnee von gestern”, snow from yesterday.

PPBF: Zoozical

Author: Judy Sierra
Illustrator: Marc Brown
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011
Genre: fiction
Themes: rhyme, talent show, zoo animals
Age Level: 3-8
Opening: One blustery morning, when frosty winds blew, When families stayed home, and when field trips were few, The midwinter doldrums arrived at the zoo.
Synopsis: When the winter doldrums arrive at the zoo, a very small hippo and a young kangaroo decide to stage a ZooZical, to display their singing, dancing, acrobatic, and other talents to the people of Springfield.
Why I like this book: This book had me with the end papers! Simple line drawings and coarse (yet not itchy!) textures compliment such funny rhymes : Then the snakes (by mistake) tied themselves up in knots. Ocelots lost their spots.
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday.


Na nu! I love that German phrase. It’s sort of like ‘well, now’, but it’s so full of expectancy and spirit. That about sums it up for me after 6 months of blogging, something that I never imagined myself doing 7 months ago. Thanks Susanna Leonard Hill, and all my giving friends in the 12x12in’12 Challenge – I like it!

So many are celebrating this week too: Bethany’s Birthday, Dot Day, Carter’s Blogiversary, Jo-anne’s Third+ Competition, Susanna’s Summer Send-Off, and Elizabeth is celebrating all  month long!

To mark the occasion I am posting the images for my new business card, front and back. Should you care to leave a comment, it would certainly be considered a positive addition to my day.

Thanks for taking a peek!

PPBF: The Twin’s Blanket

Author/Illustrator: Hyewon Yum
Publisher: Frances Foster Books, Farrar Strauss Giroux 2011
Genre: fiction
Themes: twins, sisters, blankets, sharing, individuality
Age Level: 3 and up
Opening: We’re look-alike twins. That means we look like each other. That means we share everything.
Synopsis: Told from their POV, five year old twin girls, who have always shared everything, sleep in separate beds with their own blankets for the first time.
Resource/Activity: Project Linus: strives to offer comfort for children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need.
Why I like this book: I love the mother’s creative solution (isn’t that what makes a good mother – resourcefulness?!), and the simple and beautifully colored illustrations. Also one of School Library Journal’s Best Picture Books of 2011.
For more posts on Perfect Picture Books and resources visit Susanna Hill’s blog every Friday.

WIX: That smarts!

I dedicate this post to Beth Stilborn, writer of picture books, middle-grade and adult fiction, and ‘engine’ for the online Children’s Book Hub. She recently posted a photo that made me say “ouch” out loud (hope it feels a little better now). Searching for an equivalent I found the exclamation uttered with sudden pain (or the thought of it) is almost universal, and no matter where, or with whom you may find yourself there is probably no mistaking what is felt!

Hungarian: aú

French: aïe

German: aua

Catalan, Estonian, Finnish, Galician, Portuguese: ai

Spanish: !ay, or uy!

Albanien: uf

Japanese: あっ! (A), or あう (Au)

Arabic:  أخ (aakh)

Swedish: Aj

Croatian: jao, avaj

Dutch, Norwegian, Romanian: au

Philipino: aray (ah-wry)

Maltese: aħħ, or ajma (ay-ma)

Iranian: ai, ooi, au, akh, oof

Thai:  โอ้ย “oy”

Polish: auć (sounds like ouch’! ) or ała

Indonesian: aduh

Italian: ahi

Chinese: 哎哟 aiyo, or 哎呀 aiya

Hebrew: !איי(aay)

I wouldn’t know how to pronounce this, or even if it is quite correct, but this is what I found for Tamil, spoken in southern India and north-eastern Sri Lanka:

திடீர் என உண்டாகும் வலியை உணர்த்தும் சொல்

I wonder if this sounds as long as it looks!

Beth is also promoting International Dot Day: Every year on September 15, innovative educators around the world celebrate International Dot Day by making time to encourage their students’ creativity. – click for more info