Invisible Sisters by Jessica Handler

     Today marks a milestone. Today is the official release of Invisible Sisters, a memoir by my good friend Jessica Handler. Her home-town launch party is tonight at A Cappella Books in Atlanta (she'll also be at the Margaret Mitchell house next week). Please visit their site for details, but to quote the write-up:
     Jessica Handler grew up in Morningside in the 1960s as one of three daughters of a progressive Jewish family. By the time she was nine, one of her sisters had been diagnosed with a rare blood disease that would kill her at a young age and the other had died from Leukemia. From this unimaginable family tragedy, Handler emerged and now shares her stirring story in Invisible Sisters, a memoir published by Public Affairs Books.
     Based on a Pushcart Prize-nominated essay, this clear-eyed, candid work portrays the immense emotional toll that two daughters' illnesses take on a family living in Atlanta.
     The family's move to Atlanta in 1965 allowed the father to support labor unions, and Handler, as the oldest, was alerted to the importance of demonstrations and even taken to the funeral of Martin Luther King. However, with Susie's diagnosis (compounding the worry over Sarah's chronic sickliness), the parents "began the slow and terrible turning away from one another that erodes families facing the death of a child."
     Atlanta Magazine's Teresa Weaver compares the book's "lyrical elegance and cool remove" to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking-- "the highest praise possible for any memoir of loss."

     As if that wasn't enough, Jessica also had a recent article in Newsweek: "I Won't Roll the Biological Dice."

     I had the great honor of being one of Jessica's readers as she struggled through writing this epic and moving story. It's personal and scary and Jessica and I enjoyed lots of lunches out as she worked through the angst of its creation. However, it's all paying off now and I am so happy for her. Critical response has been incredible as well as the attention she and the book are receiving. Of course, this is no surprise to me as I've been a fan for a long time now.
     CONGRATULATIONS JESSICA - well earned, my dear!!!

Summer Slide Challenge

     Scholastic is challenging kids to read at least four books over summer break. They launch their "Summer Challenge" campaign today with a webcast game show. Read more at School Library Journal

El dia de los ninos ~ el dia de los libros 2009

     El dia de los ninos ~ el dia de los libros ("Children's Day/Book Day") is tomorrow, April 30th, and I have lots of Paco Activity Pages that would be perfect to help celebrate.
     El dia de los ninos ("Children's Day") has been around for a long time, but the American Library Services to Children takes it a step further to emphasize the importance of advocating literacy for children of all linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
     So, pull out your copy of Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante and celebrate a day of multi-cultural reading!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Reading Doll

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     Even dolls love to read!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!

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

Pete the Cat on Ponce...

     The latest addition to our family... a 3'x4' original - hanging in the dining room where it's the first the you see when you walk into our home. We are positively THRILLED!!! Wowsa.
     Here's a reminder of how James Dean (the artist) and Pete came into my life: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.

Clanton Alabama - in the news!

     I had a fantabulous visit at Clanton Intermediate School Friday (Clanton is half-way between Montgomery and Birmingham in Alabama). I'll write more as I catch up (I have quite a bit of catch up to do) but thought I'd share this quick write-up in the Clanton Advertiser. More soon...

     I'm back - So, I picked up author, Kim Norman, from the Atlanta airport on my way to Clanton on Thursday and we had a blast finally getting to hang out in person since we've been talking online for years. Kim's newest book, CROCODADDY, just came out and it is ADORABLE!
     Friday morning, we had no idea what to expect so were thrilled to be greeted by posters and t-shirts and smiling teachers and parents - this is an involved school. Lucky kids - lucky us!
     Here's a shot of one of the great crowds I had that day:

     And I loved the swarm of questions, autographs and hugs at the end of each presentation:

After a catered lunch (lovely!) we read the students' winning books and posed for pics - here's our "Madonna - Strike a Pose" shot for one of the grades:

     Friday was a busy day, but there is nothing like a room full of excited kids to get you going. We had such a great time and they asked some really good questions!
     Afterwards, Kim and I unwound at the most charming local hang out - Peach Park. (Thanks Gena - great recommendation!)
     Thanks to Gena and Rochelle and all the teachers and parents of Clanton Intermediate School. When they say it takes a village to raise a child - you guys have it going ON! And I can't imagine a warmer welcome - thank you, thank you!


     It would seem my friends are creating a lot of very pink books of late! Well, Sarah Dillard's makes a wonderful addition!! Sarah is my roomie every year when I go to the Kindling Words Writer's Retreat in Vermont - and an incredibly talented author/illustrator. I'm thrilled to announce the release of her latest picture book, PERFECTLY ARUGULA!!
     Argula (a hedgehog) is a ... perfectionist. When she decides to throw a party, she imagines how perfect it will be. But when her friends bring a dose of reality to her perfect party - Arugula has to learn to adapt.

Q:     Okay, fess up Sarah - do you have an Arugula in your life who inspired the story?

A.     A lot of people I know share some traits with Arugula, but I can't say that she is based on any one person. When I first showed the book to my mother she seemed to be enjoying it, but when she had finished she looked at me apprehensively and said "Is this about me?"

Q:     Everything in Arugula's life is so completely perfect - is she like you at all?

A.     While I was writing the book, the one thing I was sure of was that Arugula was nothing like me. A while after I finished the book though, we had some friends over for dinner. I spent a lot of time preparing and had a certain idea of how the evening should go. Once our friends arrived I spent most of the evening doing everything I could to make sure things happened according to my plan. At some point I realized that I am more like Arugula than I thought. Luckily though my husband has a lot of Fidget in him and everyone had a good time in the end. I hope.

Q:     I love the colors and patterns you used in Perfectly Arugula - what was your inspiration?

A.     I wanted Arugula's world to reflect her personality. It needed to be bright and busy and maybe just a little bit garish and over bearing. If Arugula were a person, she would probably wear a lot of Lily Putlitzer clothes.

Q:     Perfectly Arugula is in a beginner's graphic novel format. Why did you create it that way and what's been the reaction?

A.     I've been an illustrator much longer than I've been a writer. When I first started writing I would treat the writing separately from the illustration and it seemed very awkward to me. I realized that my goal was not to write a story and not to illustrate a story. I wanted to CREATE a story using words and pictures and they needed to work together to achieve that goal. The graphic novel thing kind of grew out of that. Having the characters speak directly seemed a more organic way to deal with dialog and thoughts which led to using speech balloons and thought bubbles. And showing a sequence of events in panels felt more exciting than writing them and choosing one or two key things to illustrate on a page. In the end this just seemed to be the most natural way to tell the story.

Note: Read this great review and book give-away from a Mom who especially enjoyed the graphic format.

Q:     I love the relationship between Arugula and Fidget (what a great name!). In fact, all the names are so ... perfect! How did you come up with them?

A.     I've always thought that Arugula sounded like a girl's name. I suggested it to a friend of mine who was thinking of names for her baby, but for some reason she didn't take me up on it. I thought it was too good a name to go to waste though so I created Arugula. It is such a great sounding word; both fancy and awkward which after all, is kind of how my Arugula is. I have to give my mechanic credit for coming up with the name Fidget but that is a long and kind of inappropriate story.

Q:     How have you been celebrating the release of Perfectly Arugula - any fun upcoming events?

A.     I have had several local book signings and am looking forward to a teaparty at The Flying Pig Bookstore in May.
     I am also compulsively checking my Amazon sales rank which is not really a great idea.

Q:     Finally, what can your fans look for next?

A.     I have great plans for future Arugula stories as well as stories featuring her friends.

I can't wait to see them! Thanks so much Sarah!

Stats Hit 4,000!!!

     OMG. Can you see the number there? Yesterday, we had over 4,000 hits and almost 3,000 visitors at!!!
     Funny thing is, I've been watching because we were getting so close to busting the 2,000 ceiling. We'd done it once before around Christmas, but I took that as a holiday blip (and desperate need for coloring pages to keep kids happy). I've been waiting for the number to get that high again, but had no idea that when it did, it would blow right past 2,000 and go over double that!! WOWSA!!!!
     I know y'all are stopping by for the coloring pages - yeah! But I hope you're sticking around for my interviews, reviews, and tips on navigating this nutty business. If you didn't know, you can sign up for weekly coloring page alerts and e's news here. If you did know - I'd sure love to hear from you! Leave me a comment and tell me what you like about my blog. Is there anything else you'd like to see? Any subjects surrounding children's book creation you'd like me to talk more about? I'd love to hear from you!
     In the mean time, I'm so grateful for your interest! Big fuzzy thank-you's to all!!!

The Lorax Project

     It's our favorite environmentalist here to help celebrate Earth Day!! Check out all the cool things the Lorax has going on over in Seussville!

Earth Day '09 - Round 2

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     Tomorrow is Earth Day! Do you have any volunteer activities planned to help make the world a little greener? List them below in my comments!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!

     Learn about my bilingual picture book Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante - click the cover.

The Reality of a Times Bestseller

     Here's a great blog post on the realities of what authors actually earn.
     What are your thoughts on the subject?

Terra Elan McVoy's PURE

     It's seldom we get to meet real heroes in this world - people who fight against all odds to achieve a dream they've been living and breathing for most of their lives. Terra Elan McVoy is one of those people. And last night was the Decatur launch party for her new novel, PURE.
     Terra is a former editorial assistant from New York. Lucky for us, a few years ago she moved to Atlanta and became the manager of our local independent children's book store Little Shop of Stories.
     I've spoken about the kismet of the store opening a week before I moved here. Well, more kismet occurred when Terra became the manager. She oversees several of the teen and younger reading groups, helps parents and kids pick out books they will love, and basically keeps our little book store one of the best and strongest in the country - turning Little Shop into a true hub of our local community.
     She has some serious support here - especially when she went through a very tough time with her health last year. It was a testament to her strong will when she not only came out the other side completely well, but with her first novel too!
     We are all so incredibly happy for her - it seemed all of Decatur came out to help her celebrate the release of PURE last night. Truly, I've never seen the store so jammed packed - even the balcony was full. When Terra arrived, a cheer rang throughout like a homecoming parade.

     A talented musician entertained us, and then Terra read from her book - she did a great job. Some of the questions were tough, and some were about her great shoes. They were from a particular designer - anybody remember the name?
     We enjoyed cupcakes and champagne (with cherries, of course). Several of my favorite writing buds were there as well. Here are Liz Conrad, me, and Vicky Alvear Shecter (my hubbie is taking the picture). We all went out for pizza beforehand. Jessica Handler was there with her husband, Mickey, too. (More about Jessica soon!) Even Terra's editor flew down from New York!

     I imagine there weren't many copies left by the time the party ended - the signing line went on and on. (That's my drawing of "Rosebud" from Paco and the Giant Chile Plant keeping an eye on the books before the mayhem got underway - gotta luv it.)

     Truly, it was a dream release party - the kind you rarely hear about anymore. And nobody deserved it more than Terra. Bravo chickie - bravo!
     So, what about PURE? It reminded me so strongly of my own high school experience - being involved with Young Life and everything being so dramatic. Friendships are pushed to limits under the pressures of normal growing up and all the trials that puts us through. It's an uncomfortable thing to live through once, and uncomfortable to go back. But wow, will it feel familiar. The young teens in your life will completely connect with Tabitha and her friends as they navigate their own moral positions for the first time and their friendships through first loves, first kisses, and the first real changes on their way to discovering who they really are.

Illustration Friday: Impossibility

     It is an impossibility that Hugo will forget what to buy at the store if he shouts it out all the way there. Right? Right?
     Another layout from Soap, soap, soap! ¡Jabón, jabón, jabón!, my first picture book as both author and illustrator which comes out this Fall! (Click the image to see a larger version.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Earth Day '09

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     April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day - but really I hope it's something you celebrate every day. We only have one earth. Let's treat it nicely!
     Special note: We're gettin' down to the wire! As I've mentioned, this year's Earth Day image is available on t-shirts at my new merchandise store:
In association with
These are great for buying just a few shirts, but some schools used last year's image to print on canvas bags and the like. As my way to help and promote Earth Day, I am also making this image available free to non-profits for similar use in bulk on t-shirts, bags, hats, etc... (There will be a small fee charged to for-profit businesses who would like to use it.) Email me at and I'll be happy to get the high resolution file to you!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!

     Learn about my bilingual picture book Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante - click the cover.

Ms. Vieira's students colored some of my Earth Day images . . . all the way over in Portugal!! Check out this one:

and check out the others HERE.

Share a Story - Shape a Future's New Look!!!

WOWSA!!! Get a LOAD of the new website design for Share a Story - Shape a Future! I knew this would be a special event to participate in - but I had no idea the scope our planner, Terry Doherty of The Reading Tub, had in mind! It has become something SPECTACULAR! Y'all have GOT to check it out!

p.s. - Read my Day 5 topic for Share a Story - Shape a Future: Technology and Reading - What the Future Holds.

Illustration Friday: Fleeting

     For a fleeting moment, Jellybean wondered if she'd been set up...
     Yet another layout from Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón, my first picture book as author and illustrator coming out this Fall! (Click the image to see a larger version.) :)

A bona fide Coloring Book - I Love to Read!

Big News!
     Going on a trip? The first Coloring Page Tuesdays collection, "I Love to Read!" is now available as a bona fide coloring book you can take with you. It has 15 full-sized images from my Reading-themed coloring pages. Click the cover to buy a copy through ($7.50 plus shipping.)

2009 Green Earth Book Awards!

     With Earth Day just around the corner it's a great time to announce that the 2009 National Green Earth Book Award Winners were just announced! I haven't seen the two picture book winners in person yet, but I'm dying to. Don't they look gorgeous?


     Go to to learn more about these two books and see the winners in the other categories. (Wouldn't this be a cool award to qualify for?)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Bunny Egg Drop

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     Okay, so perhaps it's not the best method of egg delivery - but they are hard-boiled after all!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send me your colored version (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog!

In association with Zazzle.comNews Flash!!
     If you receive my weekly coloring page updates, you already know about this, but I've created an image for Earth Day - April 22nd - which was just begging to be on t-shirts. So I set up a zazzle store! If you just want one or two shirts, here's a great place to get them. (Click the logo or an image below.)
     OR, if you would like to use the image on t-shirts, canvas bags and the like, for your non-profit school or event, email me at and I'll arrange to send you the high resolution file for your printer - for FREE. It's my little way of giving back this Earth Day.

     Learn more about my very pink, perfect for Easter, picture book Glitter Girl and the Crazy Cheese - click the cover.

More Tech & Reading

     Ever since my Day 5 "Share a Story - Shape a Future" post of "Technology and Reading - What the Future Holds," the topic has seriously been on my radar. I've got an article off to SCBWI for the Bulletin (keep yer fingers crossed). And I just finished reading this fantastic, in-depth article about how our stories are changing at Publishers Weekly: The New Storytelling: Multimedia Children's Publishing. Worth the read!

A peek at Storybook Look

     Today I am sending you away, my lovelies. Yes, go ye forth and visit the blog of Sarah C Campbell (she took this awesome photograph).
     There you will get a sneak peek into what our show "Storybook Look" looks like at its first stop during the Fay B. Kaigler International Book Festival in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (You'll read a nice round-up too.)
     Go - shoo!

Illustration Friday: Talisman

     Wow, tough theme for this week's Illustration Friday. Would Hugo's soap, acquired after such a grand (and muddy) adventure, count as a talisman? Or would the cookie jar which pops up in so many of my books qualify as my talisman? Or even my dog Bernie for that matter? Hm.
     Anyhow - this is another illustration from my first picture book as both author and illustrator coming out this Fall, Soap, soap, soap ~ Jabón, jabón, jabón. (Click the image to see it larger.)

Laurie Halse Anderson at Decatur Library

     Laurie Halse Anderson dropped by the Decatur Library the other day to promote her new novel, Wintergirls. (Here we are: Laurie, Me, and the Thumb!) Considering Laurie is the author of such classics as Speak and Twisted I'm looking forward to reading Wintergirls. But it's a heavy topic - anorexia and cutting. Laurie has never been one to back away from a daunting subject. As she says, "I was never afraid to point to the elephant in the room."
     It was nice seeing Laurie again. She taught the writing thread during my first visit to Kindling Words and I've since had the pleasure to hang out with her on other occasions. She's incredibly warm and funny, and obviously brilliant.
     Her tour continues for a few more days and she may end up in your neighborhood as she hops around. I highly recommend you go give her a listen if you have the chance!

International Children's Book Day!

     Visit the IBBY website (click the poster) to learn more, but here's the description from School Library Journal:
"April is traditionally the time when the international community turns its attention to children and children's books. Since 1967, April 2 has been celebrated as International Children's Book Day, a date chosen in honor of Hans Christian Andersen, who was born on April 2, 1805."

30 Poets/30 Days!

     Drum roll please....
     Gregory K. Pincus is brilliant, and cool - no foolin'! Get a load of what he's up to (from Gregory):
I'm excited to announce 30 Poets/30 Days taking place all April at my blog ( Every day of the month, I'll be posting a previously unpublished poem by a different children's poet, including the former and current Children's Poet Laureates, Jack Prelutsky and Mary Ann Hoberman, Golden Kite Winners Kristine O'Connell George, Pat Mora, and J. Patrick Lewis, Newbery winner Linda Sue Park, Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes, Adam Rex, Nikki Giovanni, and many, many more.

     I am really looking forward to this!!