Coloring Page - Ms. Klaus

I know that Santa gets all the attention; but as the saying goes, behind every great man, is a great woman. Indeed!
CLICK HERE for more Christmas-themed coloring pages
     Remember, I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! Especially... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book, now available as a board book too! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

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     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Teacups!

I recently participated in a fun little challenge from "Make Art That Sells" to create a collection of Teacups. I rather liked how they turned out, so I'm making them available on items like notebooks, cards, t-shirts, pillows, etc. at Redbubble. Maybe one would make a good gift for a friend? Click on an image to access them in my store. I hope you enjoy them!


Hollins University in the News

There was an interesting article in NPR about trans students at Women's Colleges. The story focused on Hollins University where I teach every summer. The post-graduate courses I teach in are co-ed, but only for the summer. During Fall and Spring, Hollins is a women's college. I have a large number of trans students that I work with at Winthrop U, and I'd never want any of them to feel excluded. However, I also recognize the value of a safe place to study higher education without patriarchal practices and pressures. I wonder what you think about the topic? READ THE ARTICLE HERE and leave your thoughts in the comments. LET'S DISCUSS!

Just Thinking - November

I'm excited that Miyazaki, creator of Studio Ghibli, is coming out with a new film. There's a wonderful article about him at the New York Times.

I'm sad over the loss of non-fiction writer April Pulley Sayre. I met her years ago at a children's book event. She was a star in our field and one of the best writers of non-fiction period. She will be missed. Read a lovely write-up about her at Cynsations.

I love this art made out of trash by Sugarfox - gorgeous!


I love this quote from Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All they have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to them.”

This article about the benefits of remote learning reminded me of all the online access the University of Glasgow was working towards. They were years ahead of where we are in the US, and that was before the lessons of the pandemic. With the new money funneling into universities for smart classrooms, I hope hybrid options become a priority.

Coloring Page - Dancing Elves

Since I'm not sending out as many coloring pages these days, it's been especially fun for me to create new Christmas images for you! Here are some Dancing Elves.
CLICK HERE for more Christmas-themed coloring pages
     Remember, I create my coloring pages to draw your attention to my books! Especially... THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN GEORGIA! Click the cover to learn about this state-themed picture book, now available as a board book too! Makes a GREAT teacher gift!
     Don't live in Georgia? Check with your local bookseller - Sterling has a version for each state.

If my news and images add value to your life, won't you please
patron
Just love this one image? Consider a one-time donation...

     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year, I am grateful for my wonderful students, for my wonderful friends and husband, and for all the developments in vegan offerings that allow me to have my favorite foods without the bad stuff in them. Speaking of which, at Atlas Obscura, I came across this awesome recipe from the 1660s for a Marlborough Pudding (Pie). It's basically an apple pie held together with a whiskey-laden custard. It sounded so good, I had to try it. I replaced the heavy cream with soymilk/olive oil, the sherry with sake (it's what we had around!), and the butter with pseudo-butter, and put the excess mixture into a separate bowl for cooking, and TA-DA!
It worked! And it's yummy! But very sweet. I think I may serve it with sour cream to cut the sweetness. Balance, it's all about balance!
     I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Kalah Maree's GATEWAY TO HALAK

We're nearing the end of the semester at Winthrop, so students are finishing up their BIG end-of-semester projects. For the Fine Arts students, that means they are exhibiting their works in dedicated display spaces. For me, this means seeing some of their amazing work for the first time. For instance, today.
     Kalah (pronounced "Kayla") celebrated the opening of her show "Gateway to Halak" today. It's a projection art piece that moves with subtle motions. For instance, on the first wall, a forest of sci-fi-looking plants invite you down an interesting path. (Click the image to see this one in motion on Instagram.)
On the second wall, the ice-cream-looking items slowly drip, almost like lava lamps. While the spiral-shapes slowly seem to rotate.
But my all-time fave was the third wall. Here, windows open to a magical forest where bioluminescent flowers glow from purple to pink, and vivid dust motes (or fireflies) slowly dance through the scene. The photo does not begin to do it justice. (Click the image to see it in motion on Instagram, although the window frames aren't in that one.)
      You enter the room and stand in the middle of all this mesmerizing motion to a soothing and soft music sound track. The room would be amazing to do yoga in, or to meditate. It is soooo relaxing. I keep going back to experience it again and again. Talk about some Creative Thinking!
     All I can say is, if you are an art buyer, this is some work you should seriously consider. It is sticky, sticky, sticky, as in, I can't stop wanting to experience it! To see more of Kalah's work, go to:
Her Website
Her Instagram Page
(Here's Kalah with her work - all shared with permission.)

Amalia Hoffman's MASHA MUNCHING

From Dr. e: I think young readers will get a real kick out of the fun and simple humor in Amalia Hoffman's charming new picturebook, Masha Munching. She stops by today to talk about the thinking behind her creativity. Welcome, Amalia!
Masha Munching
by Amalia Hoffman

     At the time when our society becomes more diverse, our children need to read books that portray children with disabilities and children of different backgrounds. Such books may include stories about single parent families, same sex couples who are raising kids, and children of new immigrants families.
      This is an exciting time for our young readers to embrace the richness of diverse neighborhoods and cherish cultures different then their own.
      In Judaism, there’s a concept called, “Tikun Olam,” which in Hebrew means, “To mend the world.” Tikun Olam tells us that it is possible for every individual to make the world a better place and heal what is wrong.
      We authors and illustrators are fortunate because we were given wonderful tools to make the world a better place: our stories, essays, books, and illustrations. Creators of children’s books are naturally close to young children and thus, have a wonderful opportunity to bring fresh ideas to children’s literature.
      In my picture book, My Monsterpiece (Yeehoo Press, 2021), a child narrator is caught up in his/her bias of what they were taught to believe is a terrible monster.
      As the story evolves, the child comes to the conclusion that overcoming prejudice can bring about understanding, acceptance and friendship.
      In my board book, All Colors (Schiffer Publishing, 2019), patches of different textures and hues create friends of different colors.
      In my picture book, Masha Munching (Yeehoo Press, 2022), a young goat who ends up at a French bistro persuades a snobbish waiter to visit her home and see “how much fun eating on the farm could be.”
      Prejudice is usually embedded in children at a very young age and often is inherited from the adults in the child’s life. Since young children can’t read, parents and caregivers read the stories to children and so, authors and illustrators can also change the adult’s attitude and perspective.
      By opening the doors to stories that feature children with disabilities, different ethnic foods, holidays or even different hair styles, our children are being better prepared to be responsible citizens who, in their future, will care not just about their own kind but also about others. Young readers of all countries, religions and race will turn to be curious adults who will be able to grasp wider horizons and open up their mind to be curious about what’s happening outside of their limited world.
      As an author, illustrator and storyteller, I feel fortunate because I can utilize my skills to help create a better and more joyful world.

Picture Hooks Festival of Illustration

I was thrilled to be invited to speak at this year's Festival of Illustration by dear friends Vivian French (author) and Lucy Juckes (agent). They run PictureHooks, the organization that was one of the driving forces behind my decision to move to Scotland for my MFA and PhD. "Picture Hooks provides opportunity and development for emerging picture book illustrators." I've been a long-time supporter and fan, so it was an honor to be included in this year's line-up.
     I gave a talk about Color Theory and finding your personal color palette. I was joined by several friends. Astrid Jaekel talked about collage and shared some wonderful new work from when she was stranded in the US at the beginning of the pandemic. Jonathan Gibbs, my MFA professor, shared his wry humor and wood carving skills. Other speakers were David Melling, illustrator and animator; Dr Sheena Calvert, artist and philosopher; Stephen Fowler, Senior Lecturer in Illustration at Worcester University; Stephen Fowler, artist, illustrator and printmaker and a Senior Lecturer in Illustration, Art & Design Communication at Worcester University; Tamlyn Frances, agent; Alice Sutherland-Hawes, agent; Philippa Milnes-Smith, publisher of such authors as Chris Riddell and Lauren Child; and a crew of folks who helped put the event together. (Special thanks to Siobhan Clark who put together the videos and was key to the event's success.)
     Visit the PictureHooks website and subscribe to learn about their future events.

Candice Ransom's ONLY MARGARET

My dear friend Candice Ransom has written about one of the most illustrious graduates from Hollins University (where we both teach during the summers), Only Margaret: A Story About Margaret Wise Brown". She stops by to tell us about her creative journey.
“Writing Only Margaret: A Story About Margaret Wise Brown.”
Candice Ransom

      How long does it take to have a nonfiction picture book published? Two years? Five? How about nineteen? From the spark of the idea to the book in my hands, Only Margaret: A Story About Margaret Wise Brown, was a long journey.
      In 1998, I bought the adult biography Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon by Leonard Marcus. I read from it every night for the next eight years, fascinated by this woman who became a pioneer of modern picture books. One night in 2002 as I closed Awakened by the Moon yet again, I heard a voice in my ear: Tell my story. I knew it was Margaret. I can’t, I said. But she insisted.
      So began my journey. By 2005, I had enough research to write my picture book biography. My story made the rounds and was rejected, yet I continued researching and revising. At times I wanted to quit, but Margaret wouldn’t let me. Years passed. I persisted with my story.
      What kept me going? Learning. Each time I revisited the research, or found new research, I learned more about Margaret. Learning has always kept me sane. During last summer’s lockdown, I bought a five-dollar yard sale school bus bench, parked it on my front porch and opened Porch School. Enrollment: one depressed pupil.
      Porch School started each day by choosing the day’s necessities: a journal, snacks, and books. That summer I reread T.H. White’s The Sword in the Stone, about young Arthur who is tutored by Merlyn. “The best thing for being sad,” Merlyn advised Arthur, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”
      My Margaret story had taught me so much. How Margaret staved off her own depression by writing stories for young children. How she stayed indominable during a time when picture book writers were dismissed by “serious” writers. How she never gave up. How she wouldn’t let me give up.
      I dug through my notes once more and found a funny anecdote told by a man who’d known Margaret as a boy. I read it and thought, Only Margaret! In a flash, I had a new focus for my picture book. I revised it one last time . . . it was finally acquired.
      Margaret is quiet now, but at night when I close my eyes, I still see the young blonde woman striding the streets of New York, trailing fur coats and her snappish Kerry Blue terrier, new ideas sparking from her fingertips. Our long journey is over.
      I opened Porch School again this summer and am already researching a new nonfiction picture book. There is so much to learn.

Just Thinking S'more...

I like this quote: “Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.” – Cynthia Kersey

I love this quote: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” – Jack Canfield

So sad to read that we've lost one of our great illustrators, Jerry Pinkney.

I like this story from The Guardian: Why Shouldn't Children's Writers Talk of Refugees, Persectuion, and Genocide" by Michael Rosen

I love this article with picture of folks just reading around New York City in the 60s/70s. It's very peaceful. :)

Books in the Wild

Stan and I recently visited my picture book buddy Ashley Belote and her husband up in lovely Davidson, North Carolina for lunch on the banks of Lake Norman on a beautiful fall day. Afterwards, we headed to Main Street Books, of course. After browsing for a while, Ashley and I were happy to see that her new picturebook, FRANKENSLIME, was proudly displayed face out.
Only to realize moments later, that my board book, MERBABY'S LULLABY (written by Jane Yolen) was also face out, just a few feet away!
What a fun discovery that was!

Shepard Fairey in Rock Hill

You probably know Shepard Fairey from the Obama HOPE poster. It turns out, he has a Rock Hill connection. So, before the pandemic, he was supposed to come to town to paint a mural downtown, and maybe even stop by Winthrop to see the "Get Out the Vote" mural my students painted two years ago. Then the pandemic hit, and all the plans went to scrap... for a while.
     This past weekend, Shepard came back. The city threw a private party at the newly renovated Mercantile building and several faculty and students from Winthrop were invited to attend. Original pieces were on display (and for sale for a hefty sum). Here are my dear friends Paula and Myles drooling over the artwork.
The party was a bit of a who's who in the Rock Hill art scene, so it was exciting to be included. It also felt like a rebirth of the arts social scene that's been asleep almost since I moved here as a result of the pandemic.
I had so much fun doing my butterfly thing, running around meeting people, and talking with friends. I met several local muralists who have been creating wonderful artwork in Charlotte and Rock Hill: Osiris Rain, Darion Fleming, Frankie Zombie, and a few others doing fantastic work on the Mural Mile in Rock Hill. And since my students were there, I was intent to make sure they met the man. Here are Erin, James, and Adam (all Illustration Majors) with Shepard himself.
     Adam is also a brave soul. He asked Shepard if he needed any help on the mural. Without missing a beat, Shepard said, "Sure, show up about noon tomorrow!" So, that's what they did!
     I dropped by to take pictures. Here are Griffin (Fine Arts Major), James, and Adam getting directions on what to do.
Shepard kept an eye on them for a short bit, and was obviously happy with what he saw.
Soon after, he was down there with them.
He wasn't just giving them busy work - he had them cutting and painting, the real deal. What an incredible experience. I sat and watched for the longest time. There was a crowd there doing the same thing - it was quite entertaining to watch! It was such a beautiful day and I was just silly happy that my students were getting to experience this. Before I left, I heard Shepard tell them he was ordering them all pizza for lunch. Cool!
     It was also fascinating to watch how Shepard works. The design was printed out onto large sheets of paper that his crew used as a template for spray paint. Moving scaffolding got them from the top of the building to the bottom.
I was surprised by the method as it wasn't all that different from what I came up with for our "Get Out the Vote" mural. Although, I was told that different muralists do different things, such as projecting an image, or even free-handing it.
     This mural was a massive undertaking, but the templates made sense with all the bold shapes. After watching the students work on the hair for a while, I understood why they were so willing to have people help - that was the hard part! I'm pretty sure my students went back the next day, as there was no way they finished that day. Here's the mural so far.
I'll get a picture when it's done and share that too.
     Overall, what an amazing treat this was to see and be a part of.

Eugene Yelchin's THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE

I'm thrilled to have my friend, Eugene Yelchin, here today to talk about his latest book, THE GENIUS UNDER THE TABLE. It's the story of his childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia, and it is a unique and moving history - I didn't want it to end! So, without further ado, here's Eugene...

     Let’s talk about naked mole rats.
     A colony of hairless creatures, nearly blind, loosely wrapped in semi-transparent skin. No holidays, no weekends, and no rewards for their endless labor in the gloom of the subterranean tunnels. Try to argue against such oppressive condition, and you’re as good as dead. The enormous queen, the naked mole rats’ ruler, is keeping her vigilant eye on you. But what is there to argue about? If you are a naked mole rat, the dull and dreary life is all you know.
     And yet, in every generation, one naked mole rat comes along who does not accept what it was born into. Somehow, inexplicably, the fellow is curious: is there another life beyond this colony, life free of terror, free of mindless labor, subterranean darkness, near blindness?
     The curious mole rat is so unlike the rest of its colony that even the punishing queen looks the other way. To admit the presence of someone so different from her serfs is to admit that her colony is not perfect. Thus, left alone, shunned by its compatriots, storing fat for the arduous journey ahead, the mole rat is planning its escape. And so one fine day, its head pops out of the hole, blinks into the unbearable light, sniffs the air, and when the cost is clear, the courageous fellow flees to freedom.
     But why is that mole rat so different from the others? The scientists will provide you with learned explanations, but I have my own silly theory. I suspect that the fugitive mole rat is an artist. It is curious as an artist. It is imaginative. Its point of view is unique. It is driven by creative passions. Its only responsibility, as the Russian American author Vladimir Nabokov would say, is to be irresponsible.
     Like it or not, this is a way of an artist, but also that of an immigrant. I happened to be both. I am an artist and a refugee from the former Soviet Union. As a result, the naked mole rats were on my mind as I was puzzling out my recent memoir, The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain published by the Candlewick Press.
Writing this book was far from easy. To begin with, it is different from any other book that I have written up to now. It is not a work of fiction, for example. Names, characters, events, and incidents described on its pages are not the products of my imagination, not by a long shot. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is certainly not coincidental. I relied on my memory, lengthy conversations with my brother, and the family lore. The question that I have attempted to answer was this: how and why I had been able to shift from the obedient mole rat to a risk-taking, passionate, and, ultimately, irresponsible artist.
Irresponsible, because the truth of it is, I wrote this book for myself. It is highly personal, embarrassingly so. Its chapters are filled with questions. Why was I different from my peers? What made me curious? Where did my imagination come from? How did I become an artist? And most importantly, were my imagination, curiosity, and passion for art the reasons that helped me to escape my own colony, the former USSR?
Eugene's studio is below - click to see it larger in a new window.
Whether I have succeeded or failed is not for me to decide. I hope the readers will like it in part because the book turned out to be funny. But more than anything I wish to smuggle my memoir to the naked mole rats’ colony. I wish the mole rats could read it. I drew so many pictures for this book, they could easily follow the story. What will they think? Go on with their dreadful chores as before? Or rebel against the oppressive queen? Naturally, I hope for the latter.

Rebecca Gugger and Simon Röthlisberger's THE MOUNTAIN

Today, I'm pleased to have Rebecca Gugger and Simon Röthlisberger stop by to talk about Creative Thinking and their new picture book for NorthSouth, THE MOUNTAIN. While a fun read with luscious imagery, it also imparts an important message for our time. Welcome both!

Rebecca and Simon: We are interested in questions about life, everyday questions, but often with a deeper meaning. Views on life, on living together, the behavior of us humans among ourselves. In our own life and work, such questions play an important role. For us, it is important to deal with philosophical topics without claiming to be able to answer them completely. We are more interested in raising additional questions, in rethinking our own opinions and behaviors. How can such topics be treated playfully, with lightness and humor? In the adult world, we are often interested in clearly defining, narrowing down and trying to explain things. Often we are stuck in our patterns of viewing and thinking. In these we have been trained over the years. Children look at the world with different eyes. Curious, fresh, unfamiliar...Our story should bring up and inspire new perspectives. Without wanting to lecture, the picture book The Mountain takes up one of the fundamental themes of positive coexistence, with a pinch of humor.

The Mountain explores the themes of tolerance and openness to other opinions. The mountain as a three-dimensional form becomes a pictorial metaphor and illustrates, visually simplified, how a topic (belief, view) can be viewed from different sides. Depending on where I am standing, on which side and at what height, the mountain looks physically different. My environment, in which I stay or live, has different characteristics on my side than the opposite side. These different views are all "correct" from their respective point of view. When you look at the big picture, however, they are put into new light.

The book is intended to encourage people to leave their own, sometimes narrow, point of view and to try to put themselves in the positions of others. Allowing this change of perspective also helps to rethink one's own convictions. To meet the other with openness and tolerance and to let different opinions stand is an elementary part of the story. Because, outside of one's own world, there are many other facets.


In relation to the mountain, all the different views add up to the whole. The questions—where does the mountain begin and what must a mountain have so that it is what it is—are presented in the book in an understandable and humorous way. This consists of many parts, and all are needed to make up the mountain. To look at one thing (in this case, the mountain) from a distance can help us understand others better and to reduce our own prejudices. The realization that—in addition to my own way of thinking, which has its right to exist and is just as important as others’—there are also other opinions, people, points of view, promotes a benevolent attitude towards the new and different. This also means that my opinion becomes relative in relation to the whole but not negated. Rather, the overview makes one aware of its tremendous diversity.


Rebecca Gugger and Simon Röthlisberger were both born in Switzerland and live together in Thun, close to the forests, the mountains, and the fresh air.


Rebecca is a freelance illustrator and graphic artist, studied at the HKB (Bern University of the Arts), and likes to have her head in the clouds. Simon is a trained graphic artist, is currently working as an art director, and likes sailing.