It's Banned Book Week!

     So shake things up and go read something you're not supposed to!
     Banned book week is hosted by the ALA (the American Library Association) every year and this year from September 29th through October 6th. You can learn more about it at their website or click on the icon.
     At the ALA website you can learn why books get challenged, by who, what books are banned, and what you can do to fight censorship in your libraries.
     What books have been banned? You'd be surprised. You've probably heard of Harry Potter being banned for witchcraft, but did you know last year's Newbery winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, was banned in many places because a snake bit a dog on his "scrotum"? Or how about A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle, for witchcraft? Even classics like The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson have been challenged or banned.
     There are so many amazing titles that shake people up and get them thinking. That's the point after all – to get readers to think. That's how we all become better citizens and keep America free. So, go read!

Human Flip Book

This is amazing (hope this embeds correctly):

But what's even more amazing is how they made it - go to their website to see the animation and their process:

Illustration Friday: The Blues (and figuring out color)

     This is old. I'll say that straight out. But it's got a story.
     I've told y'all that I was a corporate in-house illustrator for many years before I moved into children's books. Well, I drew this for a box of bird-seed for a gardening company a long time ago.
     I drew it. I didn't color or render it. It was sent out to a freelance illustrator to paint the final.
     Yup. At one of the companies I worked for, it happened a lot actually, and let me tell you, it gave me the serious blues.
     But back then, while I could draw my little tootsie off, I couldn't color very well. I could do flat color, cartoony stuff with my eyes closed. But the fine-art look, highly painterly styles, that wasn't me.
     "But aren't drawing and painting the same thing," you ask?
     Not at all.
     Knowing how to draw with black and white (pencil, pen and ink, etc.) is completely different from learning how to apply color well in any particular medium. Color is a finicky thing. Applying atmoshpere and light with color is a completely independent skill. You can't just make a color darker to throw it into shadow. Colors change, they grow cool and hot, they oppose each other. Color can cause objects to jump forward or hide in the back. Using color incorrectly can make a piece feel flat, or it can push things forward and back that shouldn't be, making the perspective feel wonky.
     Think about it. Have you ever seen artists who could draw like crazy with graphite, but the second they rendered their art with color, it went south like a duck in winter?
     When I first dove into freelancing with my own art, I had to figure out what my medium was, and then I had to become proficient with that medium to apply color effectively. It took several years and a lot of work. I feel like I'm only now reaching my stride. Nowadays, the puzzle I enjoy most in my art is tweaking color and light, making them really work.
     So now, I can finally work with color. I can pull off those painterly looks I always admired, but I always regreted that I hadn't rendered some of my earlier drawings and sometimes go back to them to see how much I've improved.
     I revisited this particular piece several times over the years in several different mediums (this one is colored pencil), and while I still don't think it's a success color-wise, I did reach a level where I thought, "It's okay." Of course, if I did it again today it would be completely different.
     Learning how to paint and render my own drawings has been an interesting journey for me though. I hope it's interesting to budding artists as well.

Bunny Slippers - Gimme!

So I'm looking up pictures of bunnies to make sure I'm drawing them correctly for a project I'm working on, and I come across this from Say no to crack. Unfortunate blog name, but these "slippers" are great! I want a pair!

Coloring Page Tuesday! - Fall Leaves

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     A new one for fall - a shower of Maple leaves.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send it back (small and low res) and I'll post it!
     For more coloring pages, go here.

     Learn about my Cinderella story picture book, The Prince's Diary, click the cover.

Check out this lovely embroidery by Mary Corbet!

Blog Book Tour for Karen Lee!

     It's Fall and that means a wave of new book releases. Once again I am surrounded by talented friends with new creations for you to drool over. Today, I'd like to introduce you to my bud, Karen Lee.
     Here's a pic I got of Karen on our recent trip to the SCBWI Portfolio Show at the Society of Illustrators in New York. (You can read about our trip here.)

Me: Congratulations on your latest release, My Even Day, which paired with One Odd Day has just won the Learning Magazine’s Teachers’ Choice Awards for 2008!! Wow!
Karen: Thanks!

Me: Your artwork adds so much to these zany stories, adding all kinds of fun elements that weren’t in the text. How did you come up with your ideas?
Karen: I start with some simple brainstorming and develop my ideas like a hungry spider in the middle of her web – building out from the middle and adding threads, following them as far as I can. Ultimately I can end up with ideas that are so far of the center of the web that they seem unrelated – but by my logic they are. To belabor my analogy - whatever ideas fly into the web for the next few days I offer up to the hungry spider “How bout this one?” What about this?” then I see what gets chomped on. I work that way for both writing and art.

(Note: Karen is also one of the top illustrators for Highlights Magazine and illustrated their recent 60th anniversary issue cover!)
Me: What was your method and do you feel like you’ve had to stretch yourself as an illustrator with these books?
Karen: I start the illustration process with super scruffy rough thumbnails in ball point pen. This keeps me trying new ideas and layouts and view points - if I don't like what I've done I am forced to start over.Once I've narrowed it down I redraw in larger storyboard format, revise, then a draw at full size.Once I've had approval and am ready to paint I transfer the least amount of line I can to maintain the layout. I work in watercolor and don't like the way line shows through where you least want it and I don't want to inhibit the spontaneity of the process by trying to color in the lines. It gives the work a much fresher feeling than I used to get when I did follow outlines more.
     This series of books has been synchronicity for me and I hope for the authors and publisher as well. The stories are absolutely wonderful but they needed the right artist to really pull off the wackiness. Donna German at Sylvan Dell saw this potential in my work when she offered the first book to me and it started me down an avenue that has opened up my whole focus. I always liked doing funny, silly images but there is a fine line before it crosses into a more cartoonish approach. I can hardly do a piece of art now with out having some wry or humorous elements in it.

Me: Do you have a favorite layout or element in any of the illustrations? Or have you hidden any personal jokes, like the family dog or somesuch?
Karen: My favorite is the breakfast scene in My Even Day where the two headed mom is flipping pancakes. It was pure fun for me to paint and the bees I put in where a last minute inspiration. I do find myself adding some of the same things in my art over and over again but not one specific thing.
     I do add some very personal things to the art sometimes. Each of my kids has done the childish artwork on the dedication page of One Odd Day and My Even Day. A heart with my husband’s initials and mine are carved into a tree in ABC Safari (note: Karen is both writer and illustrator of this beautiful book.) and the trees on that page are inspired by the view from his grandma’s front porch. It seems like the more personal things I put into an illustration the more keenly I feel connected to the art, then the more delight I feel. When this happens during the process the pieces are always pointed out to me as my most successful works. I think they resonate more with the viewer because they resonated with me and I put details in that convey that feeling.

Me: Will there be another book in this series?
Karen: Yeah – I am painting on My Half Day (about fractions) right now. It will be released in 2008. After that – maybe time?

Me: What other projects can your fans look forward to?
Karen: My fans – ha!
     I don’t know what will see the light of day but I have one story that I’d like to collaborate with my husband on the finished paintings with – it’s a silly, creepy Halloween story – perfect for the two of us to work on together. I have a few other writing projects in progress. Other than that – pick up a copy of Highlights For Children and sometimes you’ll find something I did in it.

     To learn more about Karen Lee, visit her website and get the latest news at her blog.

     Karen is also on tour the rest of this week, so to get more in depth information, follow her to the blogs of other talented friends (links will be updated to static as the tour continues):
Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Kim Norman
Ruth McNally Barshaw
Barbara Johansen Newman
Dotti Enderle
Kerry Madden

     To visit tours I've hosted for other talented friends, click on the category "BlogBookTours" to the right or go here.

Illustration Friday: Juggle

This is a little guy I cropped from a larger piece of art (which you've probably seen around on my website). I can't believe I had an actual juggler in my archives!

It's Talk Like a Pirate Day!!!

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     Ahoy mateys! In honor of "Talk Like a Pirate Day," I've created a new pirate coloring page for ye! Here's Cap'n Book with his valuable treasure - a booty of books! Considering the last pirate I drew was downloaded from herrrre to Timbuktu, I wagered ye needed a new one. Arrr!
     Click the image to get to a printable one. As with all my coloring pages, if you color it and send it back (as a low resolution .jpg - about 300 pixels wide), I'll post some of 'em.
     In the mean time, ye scurvy dogs, here are some scalewag jokes for ye:

Q: What does a pirate say when he's having a heart attack?
A: Arrr! Me heartie!

Q: What goes thump-thump Arr!, thum-thump Arr!?
A: A priate falling down the stairs!

Q: Why couldn't the pirates play cards?
A: The captain was standing on the deck!

Q: Did you hear about the pirate who took up boxing?
A: He had a killer left hook!

Find more pirate jokes at: (rated PG)
Harcourt publishing has some fun pirate activities at their website.
Go to the original Talk Like a Pirate Day website.
Go to the Talk Like a Pirate Day Blog.
Learn how to talk like a pirate yerself using this great pirate glossary!
And finally, Find out YOUR pirate name!

This pirate is by Kris's 7-year-old son, Trey, who is home sick today and sorry to be missing out on the pirate festivities at school. His Mom said he was "tickled pink" to find my coloring page. Thanks for sending it in!

     Learn about my Cinderella story picture book, The Prince's Diary, click the cover.

Coloring Page Tuesday!

I haven't forgotten you, my pretties. Come back tomorrow for a special coloring page to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day! Or go here to download an existing coloring page. :)

Coloring Page Tuesday! - Lifeguard

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     An oldie, but still one of my faves - the Lifeguard.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send it back (small and low res) and I'll post it!
     For more coloring pages, go here.

     Learn more about my fun picture book Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese - click the cover.

Sad news - we've lost Madeleine L'Engle

Madeline L'Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time and dozens of other well-loved classics, has moved on. We've lost a treasure today. Read more here.


     When I was named the Grand Prize W.I.N.ner of this year's Competition, I won a shiny new copy of Anastasia Suen's Picture Writing. Since I already have a much loved, dog-eared copy, I held a drawing to give the new one away. Turned out Kelly Milner Halls (one of the competition organizers) also had an extra copy - so two books are going out to two lucky readers!
     Well, hubbie had the honor of picking two names out of a hat last night, and the winners are (drum roll please), Janice Skivington and Kristi Valiant!
     So, check your mailboxes ladies as Picture Writing is on its way!! Thanks to all who entered. This was my first foray into a giveaway and 'twas much fun. I might have to do it again . . .

illustration Friday: Momentum

     This is an illustration for an upcoming educational picture book for Harcourt School - POP GOT A HIT.

My Article in Writer's Digest - Wippee!!

     I just received my advance copy of Writer's Digest Magazine with my article, "Drawing Success"! Woohoo!
     It's in the "You Can Write for Children" special edition which hits shelves September 25th. Included are articles by Candie Moonshower, Alice Pope, and Lauren Myracle - wow am I in good company! Be sure to look for it!

Fuse #8 and other Podcasts/Webcasts I love

Betsy Bird has taken the leap - she's gone to audio. We can now listen to her awesome reviews along with reading them. She's got a good voice for podcasting and she sounds just as quirky as she reads - fun! (Mostly MG fiction.)

This brings up podcasts in general, and I'd be remiss to not mention some of my favorites. For those who love to follow authors on their book tours, go to Authors on Tour run by the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Colorado. These are mostly adult authors (clarification: people who write for adults rather than children), but they occasionally get some crossovers.

The Library of Congress' National Book Festival. These are webcasts rather than podcasts (you can see the authors), and they have a ton of children's book authors and illustrators you can enjoy. Check out previous year's shows too!

BEA podcasts. These also tend to include a lot of adult authors, but have some great panels and commentaries on the publishing industry. It's where I learned about where you can find out who's touring in your area and go see them in person!

Meet the Author Bookbites. More authors than you could possibly imagine doing private interviews. Very cool. does interviews with authors and illustrators (webcasts). Not all are free, but a few fun ones are - just to tempt you.

Kidvidlit. Okay, this one is rather new to me too, but it looks like a lot of fun. They're silly videos of authors and their writing lives. (Beware they take a little time to load and crashed my browser once.) also has well done videos of authors talking about their books. (A whole section of children's book authors!)

Horn Book has decided to jump into podcasting as well and you can listen to their first foray: an interview with Jon Scieszka. They have a distinct advantage in their new venture - who wouldn't want to be interviewed by Horn Book? I long for the day when they knock on my door . . .

And last but not least, especially for the kiddies, you can see picture books read online by famous folks at Storyline Online. Very good.

Have more links to offer? Add them in the comments!

Coloring Page Tuesday! - Hamster

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     I met a little girl at the Decatur Book Festival who wants to be a veterinarian. I asked her what her favorite animal was and she said, "Hamsters." She has two.
     I thought about it, and y'know, I don't think I have ever drawn a hamster – it's about time I did!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send it back (small and low res) and I'll post it!
     For more coloring pages, go here.

Decatur Book Festival '07 - Sunday

     Okay. So, it's Monday morning and I'm still tired from Saturday and Sunday, but wow was it a great weekend!
     I began Sunday at a special SCBWI Southern-Breeze sponsored event at Little Shop of Stories. We were treated to a private breakfast with Melinda Long (author of How I Became A Pirate) and Judy Schachner (author/illustrator of the fantabulous Skippyjon Jones). They shared their work, work habits, and roads to success with us and were, of course, highly entertaining. Several of my fellow Southern-Breezers were there like Robyn Hood Black, Barbara Schneider, new friend Lola Schaefer, Hester Bass even drove all the way in from Huntsville! - we're quite a pack these days. So it was great to hang with friends and talk the biz. What a great kick-off to a great day!
     Here we are being Judy's adoring fans: Lauren Zimet, Me, Diane Z. Shore (thanks for pulling the breakfast together, Diane!), and Liz Conrad.

Here's Me and Liz hanging with Melinda:

And this was such a great pic, I had to include it. It's Lynn Cullen, author of I am Rembrandt's Daughter, and Melinda:

     So Sunday was a work day for me, if you could call it work, as I was MC for the Target children's stage all day. I had the honor of introducing all the stars, which also means I got to hang out with them backstage before they went on - woohoo!
     First was Melinda Long. The kids had a blast saying, "Arrrrr" and "Scurvy Dogs" as she read her pirate books. I'll bet her school visits are so much fun! I also got to meet her awesome husband, Thom. Melinda and I agree the real secret to success in children's publishing is a supportive spouse (here's mine being a ham with the Target dog).
     Next was the illustrator's panel, which I also moderated.
     Side note: Fabulous illustrator, Bill Mayer, stopped by to enjoy the panel too. Look for his latest illustrated work, The Monster Who Did My Math, written by our own Danny Schnitlein, author of one of my favorite books, The Monster Who Ate My Peas - coming soon!
     Obviously, I couldn't get a picture of the illustrator's panel onstage, as I was onstage asking them questions, but here's the gang still glowing from our brilliant affair, Judy Schachner, Chris Raschka, Laura Knorr, Liz Conrad, and me.

     Afterwards, we gathered around a lovely outdoor table in the shade at Sage for lunch and watched the crowds mull by - ahhhh. Well, ahhhh for them. I kept having to bounce up to go introduce the next speakers. Rough life, I know.
     Next were storytellers from The Wren's Nest. They specialize in telling the classic Uncle Remus Tales.
     I then had the enormous honor of introducing the illustrious Holly Black, author of the Spiderwick series (look for the movie coming soon - here's the trailer - chills, eh?). She had an enormous crowd of adoring fans, wow, and then signed books for a gazillion years - the line wound a long, long way.
     In the interim, Peter Kuper shared his new picture book, Theo and the Blue Note, along with his cartoon method for Mad Magazine and his many graphic novels.

     And then, the incredibly energetic and generous Holly Black returned to the stage to talk about her young adult novels, Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside. Honestly, I don't know how she did it. She presented at Dragoncon before coming to DBF and was going back to do yet another presentation that evening. We got to talk quite a bit when she was signing stock back at Little Shop of Stories. Holly is one nice, nice person - I wish we had more time to hang.
     Diane (owner of LSOS) and I ended the day back at Sage where we drank some wine and talked about what a wonderful success the festival was and how great it feels to bring reading into children's lives in such a fun and meaningful way. That's what it's all about after all. Reading creates better, more educated citizens which makes the world a better place for us all. Makes me so proud to be a part.
     Once again, thanks to the incredible volunteers and especially the staff of Little Shop of Stories, Diane, Dave, Terra, Justin and more. All you're hard work paid off with a smooth running, wonderfully engaging and exciting festival. We are so lucky to have you all here in Decatur - you've had a enormously positive impact on our community!

Decatur Book Festival '07 - Saturday

     It's the second annual AJC Decatur Book Festival this weekend, and in its second year it's already one of the top five largest book festivals in the country! In no small part due to the efforts of Diane Capriola, owner of Little Shop of Stories and cheif organizer of the Target children's stage - gotta love on our generous sponsors!
     Festivities actually started Thursday night when Diane invited me to join her, Chris Morris (Penguin Rep) and Judy Schachner for dinner. As I expected, Judy is a warm, intelligent and quirky lady - lots of fun!
     Friday, Judy and Chris Raschka did special performances for the local school children who walked to the square to enjoy a great time.
     Saturday started early with a parade and reading of Where the Wild Things Are, so the children's tent was already overflowing capacity (250 seats!) when Judy Schachner took the stage with Skippyjon Jones' latest title, Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble! All the kids joined in to say, "Holy Guacamole!" and went bezerk over the fun spanish. If you're not familiar with Skippyjon Jones, rush out and buy a book right now. And then keep some kleenex handy, because you will laugh until you cry! (I didn't get a great picture, but I'll see Judy today so I'll try again.)
     Chris Raschka took the stage next, and I have to say, he took his presentation to a whole new level. He presented his book, Mysterious Thelonious, as music. With a jazz singer, bassist and guitarist onstage with him. Chris switched between drawing on the easel, teaching kids about the twelve basic colors on a color wheel and how they correspond to the twelve notes in an octave (chromatic) - hope I'm getting that right. Anyhow, the musicians played a piece by Thelonius while Chris played along on a small accordion and read the story with the beats of the music. It was genius. Pure, absolute genius. And Chris is just SO cool.

     Hubbie and I caught up with fellow illustrator buddy, Liz Conrad and her husband, so we had sushi for lunch - yum! Liz will be on the illustrator panel I moderate later today (it's Sunday morning). I also saw memoirist (and good friend) Jessica Handler walking by, so she popped in to join us for a bit.
     Next came the amazing Rick Riordan with his Percy Jackson and the Olympians books. If you ever doubt the impact one person can have on society, this was the author to see. He asked questions about mythology (had the kids in the palm of his hand, let me tell you!) and every hand in the place went up. Not one child gave a wrong answer, from "who is the goddess of war" to "what is the name of the creature who is half bull, half man"? I wish these books had been around when I was a kid as I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology and never had the chance to really explore it. And here, Rick has an entire generation comletely educated on the subject under the guise of having fun. Brilliant!
     After Rick, we quickly ran over to catch Frank Turner Hollon and Joshilyn Jackson. Frank is a highly successful adult author (look for the movie "Life is a Strange Place" based on his best-seller), he also happens to be the author of Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese illustrated by yours truly.

     Back to the children's stage, I got to hang with my buds before they went onstage for the "Historical Fiction Authors Panel." One thing I love about the children's book business is how truly supportive everybody is and how you end up being friends with so many great talents. Here's Susan Ross Spain (author of The Deep Cut), Vicky Alvear Schecter (author of Alexander the Great Rocks the World, moderator and writing buddy), Me, Lynn Cullen (author of I am Rembrandt's Daughter) and Alan Gratz (author of Something Rotten) in the back, before they went onstage.
     And here they are doing their thing:

     Saturday was a great day of play. Today (Sunday) I go back to work as MC at the children's stage all day and moderate the illustrator panel. So, more fun adventures to follow!!