Coloring Page Tuesday - Gymnastics Giraffe!

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view more coloring pages!
     Let the games begin! The Summer Olympics are underway! Today I give you a Gymnastics Giraffe! What do you think - high score?
     Look for more Olympic images in the coming weeks.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Post it to a blog, then share it in my GALLERY!
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.

Learn about proper parenting language and the power of choice in, Ready for Bed! , Ready for the Day!, and Ready to Play! - click the covers!

Mashed Cauliflower recipe

I don't usually post recipes to my blog, but I've created one too good not to share. I'm especially proud of it because my husband is the amazing cook in our house. I'm usually his sous chef (and a darned fine one at that, thank you very much). But this recipe was all me.
     My mashed cauliflower is so light and fluffy, it melts in your mouth like eating a cloud. AND it's good for you!! It's also dairy and gluten free, which is a diet I've been on of late. I hope you try it!

Mashed Cauliflower
One large or two small heads of cauliflower
one garlic clove
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp mayonnaise
salt and pepper
fresh oregano

     Steam the cauliflower and garlic clove until extremely soft. A fork should hit no resistance going in.
     Place cauliflower and garlic in a food processor with the chicken stock (you can add this slowly as the amount may change according to how much cauliflower you have), olive oil, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Pulse until you achieve the consistency of fluffy mashed potatoes.
     Add fresh oregano and pulse in. (Save a little as garnish for the top.)
     That's it! It is so delicious and tastes like you're being bad and starchy (use in place of mashed potatoes), when actually you're getting your veggies! (You may never eat mashed potatoes again!)
      Leave me a note if you try it - I'd love to hear what you think!

Sliding pandas!!!!

OMG!!! This is so cute - it's beyond cute - I think I got a sugar rush it's so SWEET!!!! OMG!

Thanks to Daily Dawdle for the slides up!

Skydive Arena Praha

Four skydivers do a choreographed dance in the Skydive Arena wind tunnel in Prague, Czech Republic.
I have no idea how they did this, but doesn't it look fun!?
Thanks to The Kid Should See This for the heads up.

PBS remixes Bob Ross

OMG - this makes me all teary! Did you watch Bob Ross? I did! Oh to leave such a legacy of creativity for others...

Thanks to Boing Boing for the heads up, and my hubbie for calling me and saying, "OMG, you've got to go check this out!

The Jack Tales and Storytelling... Part 3

So I told you WHY the Jack Tales in Part 1. And I told you about the Hollins University portion of my Jack Tales journey in Part 2. But my adventure wasn't over yet! For the next part of our journey we drove from Hollins University to Valle Crucis, North Carolina, right between Banner Elk and Boone. I used to ski on Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain with my family as a kid, and I almost went to Appalachian State University (more of that full circle thing).
     But it is seriously in the boonies (in fact, I think that's where the term might have originated). Untouched by most of the ugly industry you find in cities - I had forgotten how green and verdant this area of the country is. It's all that fog in the mornings - Smokey Mountains indeed. It's not hurting for water like so much of the country and is just beautiful as a result.
     We stayed at the lovely and historic Mast Farm Inn in the Elizabeth Gray Vining room. Recognize the name? She was the Newbery Award winner in 1943 for Adam of the Road. Apparently, she was a regular guest. How appropriate, eh?
     Across the road was the garden where the chef picked herbs for our country breakfast each morning and where we met the bees who produced the souvenirs we purchased.
     And of course we had to visit the Mast General Store which has been there since 1883 and was THE store to many of the people I'm about to talk about.
     Behind it is the old school house (now a giftshop). I think this is where storyteller Orville Hicks' (Ray Hicks' nephew) went to school. Although after reading his biography, I'm pretty sure he hung out in the woods more than in this building. Wouldn't you if you had to hike all the way down a mountain to go to school, only to have the kids make fun of your overalls and your Elizabethan accent?
     So, why did we go to Valle Crucis? National Treasure Storyteller Ray Hicks is no longer with us, but much of his family is, and several of them have carried on the storytelling tradition he exemplified (like Orville). Their homes are situated up winding roads all over the area.
     Stan and I went to meet Ted Hicks (Ray's son) in Banner Elk. He's not doing too well health-wise right now. Even so, he regaled us with jokes and wonderful stories including a Jack Tale of his own invention "Jack and the Octopus." From what we heard, he keeps the entire life center entertained! (Doesn't surprise me a bit.) He came into the storytelling tradition a little later in life, but now he's considered one of the true keepers of the Jack Tales. I'm so glad I got to meet him.
     Afterwards, we had a lovely dinner at Vidalia in Boone - what a nice treat. Nowadays, Boone is a quaint (small) college town with charming galleries and excellent restaurants. Yes, it's in the boonies (there was very little internet access), but it's a gem and not only did we take full advantage - I highly recommend you visit!
     The next morning we headed up to "The Beech." You've probably seen images of the Hicks' family home as Bob Timberlake (yes, that Bob Timberlake) made them famous in his paintings Ray's Place and Ray's Moon. (Click the links to see his artwork of the Hicks' home.)
     Lynn Salsi tried to join us - but couldn't. Nor could Lisa Baldwin, but she did hook us up with Amy Michels - probably one of the best claw-hammer banjo players in the area and a subsistence farmer.
     In fact, Amy is a bit famous herself. A producer from the BBC joined us to scout out Amy's and Rosa's farms for an upcoming documentary, which didn't seem to phase Amy a bit.
     She is a dear friend to the Hickses, so we were thrilled to have her as escort. She even pulled out her banjo.
     You know the classic tunes "Angel Band" and "I'll fly away," right? She also played one about a train (I need to find the title), which was Rosa's favorite. There's a drone to classic bluegrass singing. It sounds more like a bagpipe than what we're familiar with today and is positively haunting.
     Here's who I went all that way for... Rosa Hicks (Ray's widow). Although she tended to step back whenever the limelight was on her husband, Rosa is a singer and storyteller in her own right. You just have to catch her when she's not in the kitchen.
     I also went to meet Leonard Hicks (another of Ray's sons). They're used to visitors at the Beech as scholars, film makers, and storytellers have been dropping by for decades. If you visit Ray Hicks' website, you'll see many, many photos taken on this very same front porch. This was just my turn.
     Here I am with Leonard and Rosa (and a man doing some work at the house).
     Leonard is signing my copy of The Jack Tales. Rosa signed it too. Remember I showed you that treasure on Day 1 - well, look again... It's something else, isn't it?
     The house was built by hand in the early 1800's, although the family lived on the land long before then. They didn't buy much as they could produce almost everything they needed. Water wasn't an issue. Here's the spring house.
     Heat, however, was always a problem. Here's the old iron stove that sits dead center in the front room and for which all that wood on the front porch is for. (That and Rosa's wood-burning stove in the kitchen.)
     Many a morning they awoke covered in snow (even with the roof over their heads). It would blow through the log walls and pile up on their quilts. But apparently snow is insulating and actually kept them warm. It speaks to the nature of their living conditions. There was no indoor plumbing, no electricity, no telephone, and certainly no internet! It was a tough existence.
     Here's the garden that kept them from starving most of the time. While it produced food, Rosa and the children would put up (can) potatoes, string leather britches (green beans), shuck corn, pick berries, you name it. It had to feed them all year. Can you guess what they did while they were working so hard? Told stories - yup.
     Stan went with Leonard to pick some cabbage and potatoes for us to buy. (They sell much of their produce these days.) Have you ever picked a potato straight out of the ground? Rosa said 'taters' were her favorite food. I suppose if they were the only thing between you and starvation, they'd be yours too.
     Stan got a workout diggin' up 'taters' - here was the haul:
     I tell you, there is something awe inspiring about meeting people who are still living our history. So many of us are caught up in our cities and technology, we can't imagine a time when stories by the fire were the only source of entertainment. A time when stories kept your hands working long after you were tired and ready to quit. A time when stories were as much a part of life as breathing.
     THAT is why this trip was so important and why I'm so glad we went. Of course, now the work begins to turn it all into a book. 100's of years and generations of storytellers telling Jack Tales. Think I can do it?

     On our way home, we stopped in Asheville, North Carolina and I'd be remiss not to mention Lauren Patton's ZaPow! gallery and Leslie Hawkins' Spellbound Children's Bookshop right in the heart of downtown. Lauren is an aspiring children's book creator and getting to see her was yet another fun connection on this voyage of connecting.
     So now we're back in the big city and we've certainly eaten well since our return... cream of potato and leek soup, cabbage and potato stew. With each bite I'm reminded how lucky I am with my modern conveniences, but also to have touched a world of stories and history that continues to add such value to my life.
     And I've noticed an interesting trend... Whenever I follow the path the Jack Tales put before me, good things tend to happen. I think I might follow that clever boy for a might bit longer.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Olympic Swimmer!

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view more coloring pages!
     Let the games begin! The Summer Olympics kick off this Friday and since I'm a swimmer, I thought I'd celebrate the sport I'll be watching most closely with a swimming bear. Not sure our fuzzy guy is very hydrodynamic, but I'm sure he'll give it his best shot.
     Look for more Olympic images in the coming weeks. And thanks to Caroline for the great idea - OF COURSE I need Olympic-themed coloring pages. Gah!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Post it to a blog, then share it in my GALLERY!
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.
     Since I'm all about Jack Tales this week, how about checking out my bilingual versions? (Click the covers to visit my BOOKS page and the individual titles.)

The Jack Tales and Storytelling... Part 2

Yesterday I introduced you to a brief history of the Jack Tales and how they entered my life. Ever since my exit show in college, for which I created a line of posters for the National Storytelling Festival, I've been fascinated by Jack Tales. In fact, two of my picture books are Jack Tales: Paco and the Giant Chile Plant (based on Jack and the Beanstalk) and Soap, soap, soap (based on, you guessed it, Soap, soap, soap).
     Mine are bilingual, and so the Jack Tales evolve again into a new culture and language. It's the natural evolution of stories and storytelling, and something that I like to demonstrate when I do my school visits.
     I ask children to line up in a row in front of me. Each one is assigned a place along the evolution of Jack Tales, starting in England, traveling across the ocean to America, climbing into the Appalachian mountains, and finally ending up in the Chihuahuan desert where I placed Paco.
     And for all my years of doing this presentation, a thought has been nibbling at my brain... I want to write a non-fiction picture book about the evolution of storytelling via the Jack Tales. (It's a tad bit complicated, so I'm not worried about anybody stealing my idea - which is why I don't mind sharing it with you!) But we've already lost some key people in the story - Ray Hicks (storyteller) and Richard Chase (gatherer of The Jack Tales). Was I too late?
     I emailed Tina Hanlon, Associate Professor of English at Ferrum College, about my idea. Tina has become the documenter of Jack Tales whenever they are published in their various incarnations and had included Paco and the Giant Chile Plant in her records years ago. So we've emailed off and on for years.
     "Oh, I wish you could come up," she said. "The Jack Tale Players are putting on a performance (potentially their last season) and Anne Chase (Richard Chase's daughter) will be here to see it."
     Richard Chase's daughter? (The man who wrote the book I shared with you yesterday, The Jack Tales.) The Jack Tale Players? I had to go.
     I put together an itinerary by leaning on the help of Jack Tale scholars and enthusiasts such as: Lynn Salsi, who has probably written more on The Jack Tales and Ray Hicks than anybody; and Lisa Baldwin, who wrote her thesis on Ted Hicks, Ray Hicks' son, and happens to be an amazing bluegrass musician. Then, my hubbie (Stan) and I hopped in the car and headed for Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia (just up the road from Ferrum College) to see the last performance and meet Anne Chase.
     Are you noticing the circles here? Roanoke is right down the road from Lexington, where my grandparents lived when they gave me The Jack Tales way back in 1975. Rex Stephenson started The Jack Tale Players in 1975 too! Coincidences abound when we talk about the Jack Tales and how they've intersected my life.
     I have to tell you the Jack Tale Players are no slouches. They put on a tight show, which demands a good deal of audience imagination. For instance, two players stand together to create a hearth, or several bob up and down to indicate they are on a ship. It's amazing how easily your imagination accommodates. On top of that, many of them are accomplished musicians. Heck, the lead actress, Emily Rose Tucker, played piano, oboe, and sang. Several are branching out as bluegrass musicians in their own right - check out Cornbread and Butterbeans. The Jack Tale Players were simply amazing and absolutely captivating.
     This was a special performance for Anne as well - especially when they invited her onstage to be the Princess in Hardy Hard Head. (Rex is in the center and Anne on the right.) They also performed "Jack and the Robbers" (one of my faves) and "Ashpet."
     I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and meeting Anne, who turned out to be a fireball of a gal - love her! And since Anne has picked up the storytelling tradition from her father, I had the pleasure of being part of a practice audience for her telling of "Whitebear Whittington" on Tuesday. (Here I am with Anne and Tina during a lunch book signing they set up for me.)
     An unexpected wonderful ended up happening because of all this. Hollins University is home to the "Certificate in Children's Book Illustration" program headed up by one of my heroes, Ruth Sanderson (click her name to see her beautiful work). She's also a bud from my Picture Book Artists Association board. In fact, there was a whole slew of amazing children's book illustrators teaching there. Here I am, from the left, with Ashley Wolff, Wendy Watson, me, Lauren Mills, and Ruth (leaning in the back). Wowsa!!!
     Between them, they have done hundreds of picture books. Even so, Ruth invited me to speak to the students in the program during one of their classes. I was so flattered. (Click to see the image larger - including Tina, Wendy, Lauren, and Ruth's amazing picture book collection - she took the photo.)
     We had a fabulous time eating at Hollywood's, hanging out at Rose Hill (circa about 1907) watching "Willa" - a Davenport Film (a film company begun in... 1975, whose main goal is to save these stories in dramatic adaptations), and generally getting to know each other. I left with lots of new friends who I hope I will get to see again next summer as Ruth has invited me back for another talk.
     Truly, could my trip be any more amazing? Well, yes, considering this was only the first leg of my journey. More on Wednesday...

The Jack Tales and Storytelling... Part 1

I'm going to tell you a story which began back in 1975 - for me anyhow. My grandparents, who lived in Lexington, Virginia at the time, gave me a book called THE JACK TALES: FOLK TALES FROM THE SOUTHERN APPALACHIANS COLLECTED AND RETOLD BY RICHARD CHASE. (Remember that name - it's important.) I called my grandparents Gammeo and Pop-pop. After all, I was only eight years old. They dedicated the book to me.
     Little did they know, that book would begin a lifelong interest that has never waned. But more on that soon...
     Have you heard of Jack Tales? You're probably familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk. The story was originally told in Europe, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. But then it got on a ship and sailed to America traveling with three families in particular - the Harmons, the Hicks, and the Wards - on that very next ship after the Mayflower. The three families headed up into the Appalachian mountains - Boone Mountain in North Carolina to be exact. One of them even traveled with Daniel Boone himself.
     It was a steep and rocky terrain and wasn't an easy place to live, so there weren't many outside influences on the families for many, many generations. As much as that turned their family tree into the shape of a wreath, it also preserved the culture they brought over from the old country, the skills and the dialects. Up there they spoke with an old Elizabethan drawl, saying "yu'uns" instead of "y'all," or "cloomb" instead of "climbed." They farmed their rocky land for potatoes and beans. They gathered herbs and greens like ginseng and galack (colt's foot). They put up corn and leather britches for the winters, and they told Jack Tales through it all.
     The stories evolved as each teller told them a little differently. Eventually Jack became a clever mountain boy, barefoot in overalls. He tricked the devil, robbers, and witches. And Jack and the Beanstalk became Jack and the Giants in which he fought multiple giants with multiple heads.
     Jack reentered my life in 1988. For my exit show in Graphic Design at the University of Georgia I had to present ten potential topics to my Professor. How could I have known he had a dear love of Jonesborough, Tennessee and their annual National Storytelling Festival? I ended up doing a line of posters on the festival - like "Monster Tales, Fairy Tales," and of course, "Jack Tales." There were a lot of rear ends in the project but I still got an A.
     To research the project, I attended the storytelling festival. There I heard Ray Hicks tell Jack Tales in his Elizabethan dialect that was so thick, I could barely understand him. But it was clear I was experiencing a great and special moment. Indeed, Ray Hicks was declared a National Treasure in 1983 for his telling and preservation of the Jack Tales.
     I drew a portrait of him while he told, which I then asked him to sign. It took him a while, as I don't think he could write all that well. (His signature is the second one.) I keep it framed in my home and it's one of my dearest treasures.
     Sadly, Ray passed away a few years back. The oral storytelling tradition passed to his sons Ted and Leonard Hicks, and his nephew Orville Hicks...

     But now, I started this story with a book by Richard ("Dick") Chase. His story began in the early 1930's as a song catcher. In sharing his knowledge of folk songs, mainly gathered from Mrs. Jane Gentry by Cecil Sharp, a man by the name of Marshall Ward (remember the Wards?) spoke up and asked him if he knew about the Jack Tales. He didn't, but quickly remedied that!
     Richard Chase hiked up into the Appalachians and collected Jack Tales and Grandfather Tales passed down through Old Counce Harmon. To this day his books (like the one above) remain the primary written records of the Appalachian stories that Ray Hicks and his ancestors told.
     We also lost Dick a few years back, but his daughter Anne is still with us, although in her 80's. And this is when the stories enter my life once more...      More tomorrow.

2012 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day!

Click the logo to register for the
Friday, August 31, 2012 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
at the DeKalb County Public Library (Decatur, Georgia USA)

I'm thrilled by our lineup this year: Kelly Barrales-Saylor (former editor/art buyer at Sourcebooks and now Editorial Director at Albert Whitman & Company); multiple Coretta Scott King honor award-winning illustrator R. Gregory Christie; illustrator Michael Allen Austin will again do a mentored art project with the first 12 registrants; and the big wait was for a surprise appearance by best-selling author/illustrator Peter Brown!!! (Thanks to a generous grant from SCBWI National to make that happen!)

COST: $50 for SCBWI members, $55 for SCAD or AIA students, and $70 for non-SCBWI, non-student members. A catered lunch will again be offered at an additional fee.

Visit our Illustrators' Corner blog under "Illustrators' Day" for the full schedule, more information, and for the link to register. This is going to be a bang-up year - hope to see you there!

Write Like the Wind (George R.R. Martin)

You know you've made it when your fans not only write to you about long anticipated sequels - but actually form a band and sing about it! This is for George R. R. Martin - creator of Game of Thrones. Great!

Bookstore Cats

Buzzfeed recently posted 12 Cuddly Bookstore Kitties - like Amber at Flights of Fancy in New York:

Adorable! Although I know the list isn't complete. There's Kona at Bound to Be Read Books here in East Atlanta. And Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis not only has a kitty - but also some chinchillas, a few chickens, a turtle, several rats, a tarantula (brrrrr), a ferret, several rats and a possum!
Thanks to Shelf Awareness for the heads up!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Ready to Swim!

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view more coloring pages!

     Is it hot where you live? Around here, it's summer and HOT. It's time to jump in a cool pool - preferably with floats...
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send your colored image (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog! Click here to find more coloring pages.

CALL FOR HELP! Amazon Likes Me?
Y'know on Amazon - "If you like this book, you might also enjoy..." Well, it's recently come to my attention that those recommendations are affected, in part, by how many people "like" you on your Amazon author page. Considering I create my coloring pages to promote my books - would y'all mind going to Amazon and clicking that you "Like" me? I'd so appreciate it! CLICK HERE - and Thanks!

     Did you know you can take Coloring Page Tuesdays with you on the road? I have three coloring books available through Lulu. Click a cover to buy Coloring Pages Tuesdays coloring books!

TreeHouse Company

I want to design tree houses! Can you imagine how fun that would be? Like this one by the TreeHouseCompany in the UK:

Jimmy Kimmel Lie Detective #4

Anybody who thinks writing for children is easy - let me remind you of the complexities of the child mind...

Fodder for fiction? Yup.
Thanks to Daily Dawdle for the heads up.

Pixar Story Rules

I wish this existed when I first started writing. Wait, doesn't matter. It helps now!!! Per the site:
"Pixar story artist Emma Coats has tweeted a series of “story basics” over the past month and a half — guidelines that she learned from her more senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories..."
Suggestions like #1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes. Or #9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
CLICK HERE on The Pixar Touch Blog to read the entire article!
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

The 20 Most Beautiful Children's Books of All Time

Flavorwire recently had an article listing the 20 Most Beautiful Children's Books of All Time. I agree with almost all of the choices - truly stunning work. It's nearly a perfect list.
(This illustration is by Arthur Rackham.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Super Reader!

Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and/or click here to view more coloring pages!

     Primary school librarian, Shelly, emailed me the other day. She is hosting a "Reading is My Superpower" theme for her library this summer. I hadn't created a super hero for you yet - so what a great idea! Happy reading Shelly and I hope my image helps!
     Click here to view the entire Coloring Page Tuesday collection.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. Send your colored image (less than 1mb) to and I'll post it to my blog! Click here to find more coloring pages.
     Did you know you can take Coloring Page Tuesdays with you on the road? I have three coloring books available through Lulu. Click a cover to buy Coloring Pages Tuesdays coloring books!