When I was a kid, I loved project books - oh, the possibilities! Well, here's a project book for your budding scientist or for kids on a rainy day. It's called CANDY EXPERIMENTS, written by Loralee Leavitt (Andrews McMeel Publishing). Did you know that some candy is covered in a glaze of shellac, wax, vegetable oil, or starch? There's an experiment to make them shed their skins. Or did you know that you can make a marshmallow sink in water? Yup.
     Most of the experiments are simple enough for kids to do on their own, while a few require adult supervision. Either way, I can't imagine a more interesting and fun way to play with your food!
     Today I'm interviewing Loralee about her book...

Q. Loralee, congratulations on the release of CANDY EXPERIMENTS! What inspired this fun book?
A. Several years ago, my four-year-old daughter asked if she could put some Nerds in water. At first I was reluctant, because it sounded messy and wasteful, but I let her try it. A few days later, she wanted to do it again, and I realized: she was ready to dissolve all of her Halloween candy! We covered the table with bowls of water and went to town. The candy was completely gone within days, and we started noticing crazy things, like the way M&M m's float in water, or wet lollipop sticks unroll.
     After that, we were on a roll. I drew on my own science background to create demonstrations, asked experts for other ideas, and watched what happened when the children just played around. We've gone through a lot of candy!

Q. CANDY EXPERIMENTS is a little outside my familiar genre of picture books. Who is the target market and what section will readers find it in their local bookstore?
A. I wrote CANDY EXPERIMENTS for a target audience of children ages 7-10. Kids of that age should be able to do the experiments (with parental help, of course) and also understand the science explanations. But it has a broader reach than that. Even toddlers love trying candy experiments, although they don't always understand the science, and older children love the fun tricks, like soaking gummi worms in water.
     Parents also appreciate CANDY EXPERIMENTS. With so many concerns these days about sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, artificial dyes, and obesity, parents love having an alternate way to use candy. I've heard from parents of diabetics and dye-free kids who were excited to finally enjoy Halloween, and families all over American do candy experiments after Halloween to go through the excess trick-or-treat candy.
     Readers should be able to find CANDY EXPERIMENTS in the children's science section of their local bookstore.

Q. Did you and your family perform all of these candy experiments? Surely you have some stories to tell!?
A. We did perform all of these candy experiments, and many more. Many of our experiments came from accidental discoveries. When you put every kind of candy in water, or heat them, or smash them, you see crazy things.
     A lot of these experiments come directly from the way my children played with candy. For instance, my five-year-old son and his friend started sticking candy together to see if they could make it sink, which led to my Marshmallow Submarine experiment. I started doing the Sour Bubble Acid Test by dissolving sour candy in water and adding baking soda to make bubbles, but it got even better when a six-year-old boy dumped Pixy Stix into a bowl of baking soda water, making bubbling trails of candy color.

Q. Have any of the experiments led to - *ahem* - a sugar rush?
A. When we do candy experiments, I tell my children the candy isn't for eating, it's for experiments. Usually they start thinking of it as a toy instead of a treat, and happily destroy it all. When we're done, I throw the candy away. Technically it's still edible, but it's usually melted, smashed, dissolved, or full of baking soda, and doesn't look very appetizing anymore.

Q. Is this your first book? What was your path to publication?
A. This is my first trade book, but I've been writing for several years. I started out by writing magazine articles, first for local parenting publications, and later for children's magazines. Since then, I've written about candy experiments, gold panning, children doing amazing charity work, travel, saving money, and other topics for magazines including Cricket, Highlights, Mothering, and Scouting.
     Currently I'm working on an ebook about family car trips, because every time we take our kids on a long drive other parents ask us how we survive. I also have some novels on the back burner, and am collecting more candy science ideas.

Good luck Loralee and thanks for stopping by!

To learn more, visit the Candy Experiments website at

      One lucky commenter will win a signed/dedicated copy of CANDY EXPERIMENTS. Must live in the continental US to win. Review copy provided by the publisher, winning copy provided by the author.
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Oliver Jeffers - his story

Children's Book Author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers (of THIS MOOSE BELONGS TO ME) recently gave a Creative Mornings talk which has been graciously shared online:

2010/04 Oliver Jeffers from CreativeMornings on Vimeo.

(You may want to click through to see it larger.)

Coloring Page Tuesday - Snow Queen

     Here's another one from the past - a slightly more complicated design than I usually share. It's the Snow Queen from Narnia. How's that for FROSTY!?
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...
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!

ALA Youth Media Awards TODAY!

Today the American Library Association will give out the top awards in children's books. This is where I will post them as soon as I knows 'em!

Here we go!!! Here are the winners:

Caldecott: Jon Klassen's THIS IS NOT MY HAT (CLICK HERE to read an interview with Jon at

Newbery: Katherine Applegate's THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Printz: Nick Lake's IN DARKNESS

Coretta Scott King: author Andrea Davis Pinkney's HAND IN HAND: TEN BLACK MEN WHO CHANGED AMERICA
illustrator Bryan Collier for I, TOO, AM AMERICA


Odyssey (best audio): John Green's THE FAULT IN OUR STARS

Sibert (best informational): Steve Sheinkin's BOMB: THE RACE TO BUILD - AND STEAL - THE WORLD'S MOST DANGEROUS WEAPON (this book also won a Newbery Honor)

Geisel: Ethan Long's UP, TALL AND HIGH

For a full list of the winners and the honor books, go to the ALA Youth Media Award website.

And here's a treat. Open Road Media has a video featuring their authors who have won the Newbery, Caldecott, or National Book Awards and how the awards changed their lives. It features folks like Jean Craighead George, Janet Taylor Lisle, Virginia Hamilton, Chris Rashka, Betsy Byars, and Adele Griffin.

They also share excerpts from nine Newbery Award winners and honor books at

The ALA Youth Media Awards Banquet!

Tomorrow morning at 8:00am PT (11:00am EST), the American Library Association will broadcast LIVE the winners of this year's Youth Media Awards - such as the John Newbery Medal (best text), the Randolph Caldecott Medal (best illustrated), the Coretta Scott King Book Award and the Michael L. Printz Award, among others. This is the red carpet of award shows for children's literature.
     Afterwards, the ALA website will feature an award wrap up and post video messages by the winners to their YouTube Channel. That should be fun to see. Equate it to Sally Fields when she won her 1985 Oscar Award for "Places in the Heart."

     Can't wait!

Leap Motion

This is an invention from a start-up out in California - Leap Motion. Looks like the way we use our computers will be changing again soon. Very cool. Very "Minority Report."

Read more about it at Readwrite.

MFA in Visual Narrative - SVA New York!!!

Oh! How can I express how much I want do this!
School of Visual Arts (New York): Visualized | MFA Narrative
     Begins June 2013! The MFA in Visual Narrative program at SVA is a groundbreaking approach to visual storytelling. Comprised of three eight-week summer sessions in NYC and two academic years online, this low-residency program places equal emphasis on creative writing and figurative visual expression: the education of the artist as author.
      The program is chaired by editorial illustrator and comic book artist Nathan Fox, joined by such diverse professional storytellers as cartoonists and authors Jessica Abel and Matt Madden, art director and illustrator Jennifer Daniel, writer and information designer Alicia DeSantis, writer and illustrator Edward Hemingway, artist and printmaker Ross MacDonald, historian and critic Leonard Marcus (!!!), publisher and writer Dan Nadel, designer and artist Jeff Rogers, artist Jonathon Rosen, illustrator Matt Rota, author Mark Sable and writer/game producer Ben Zackheim.
      For more information, visit, register for the information session on January 26, 2-4pm, or click here to apply now.


A brilliant writer friend, Michelle Knudsen, has a brand new picture book out which you're going to want to run out and snatch up for your little boys. It's called BIG MEAN MIKE and it's awesomely illustrated by Scott Magoon. Today, I am lucky enough to interview them both about this great new book about a bully with a soft side...

Q. Michelle and Scott, congratulations on an ADORABLE book! Although maybe that's too sweet of a word. I'll say awesome, stupendous and kick-bum instead. BIG MEAN MIKE has strong boy appeal - was that your goal and how did you set out to achieve it through both the writing and illustrations?

Michelle: I didn’t specifically have boys or girls in mind when I wrote this story, although I can see how Mike and his cool car (and the monster trucks!) might especially appeal to some boy readers. Most of the time when I write, and certainly when I’m working on a first draft, I’m thinking more about the story and the characters than the audience, and so I just end up writing about what I think is fun or funny or exciting or moving, and hope readers will be drawn to the same things that I like about the story myself.

Scott: Elizabeth, thank-you for having us here and for your kind words about Big Mean Mike! First, I should probably confess to you right away that are little white fuzzy bunnies everywhere here in my studio right now.* About a year or so ago when I was working on Mike—a story with a number of fuzzy bunnies as characters—I invited a few over for reference and they haven't left. Anyway, yes, I was mindful that this book could have a strong boy appeal but it didn't influence me to draw it any differently. I wanted it to appeal to boys and girls alike. I hope it does. Be right back, there's a bunny drinking my carrot juice on the couch.

Q. BIG MEAN MIKE is actually a great book to talk about bullies and bullying - in a fun way. Have you heard from any teachers using it to introduce the topic?

Michelle: I did a reading for a kindergarten class recently, and the teacher used Big Mean Mike as a conversation starter, asking the students to share experiences they had of being teased or made fun of, or to tell about a time they decided to stick up for a friend who was being picked on. I love the idea that the book can be used as a way to approach the topic of bullying, even though that wasn’t my original goal when I wrote the story.

Scott: Big Mean Mike is a great book to talk about bullies and bullying in a FUNNY way as well. Why funny? Well you've got this big tough guy Mike who gets all riled up at these teeny little silent bunnies who stand up to him because they either see he could be a good friend—or because they're mad as March hares. Its unexpected—and that makes for some very funny scenes. Teachers are skilled in using picture books in the classroom; I've heard that a number of them have used Mike in this way. This book is also an excellent story about sticking up for yourself—and for your friends. Oh no! Now I've got a fuzzy bunny turning on my TV watching Phineas and Ferb. Excuse me for a sec.

Q. Do either of you know any big mean Mikes? Where did the inspiration for the words and pictures come from?

Michelle: The first part of the story that came to me was actually an image: a big, tough main character (I don’t think I knew he was going to be a dog right away) surrounded by a whole bunch of soft fuzzy bunnies. I loved the contrast of the toughness and the cuteness, the hardness and the softness. I also knew that the bunnies would be more than just adorable; that they also had a toughness of their own (and a fondness for big, mean vehicles). Mike wasn’t based on any actual Mike that I know — the name just seemed to fit him, and I liked the alliteration of “mean” and “Mike.”

Scott: I wish I knew some Big Mean Mikes, I could ride around in his cool car and hit some Monster Truck shows, like he does! Originally Mike was going to be a bulldog, but we changed him to be more wolf-like. The inspiration for Mike's look came from a 1943 Tex Avery wolf cartoon with a dash of Brando in The Wild Ones.

Q. Michelle, on the writing... BUNNIES!? How in the world did this story come to you?

Michelle: I rarely know exactly where my ideas come from, but a while after I’d written the text for Big Mean Mike, I was working on a presentation about the story and suddenly realized that the scene where the other dogs are making fun of Mike is based on a memory of something that happened to me as a child. I was just at the age where I was maybe becoming a little too old to be playing with dolls and stuffed animals, but I still really liked to play with them. One day, I decided to put some of my dolls in my parents’ car to take on a trip, and some older boys from down the block walked by and started making fun of me. I remember being absolutely mortified — so embarrassed and hurting inside at the mean way they teased me. I hadn’t thought about that moment in years and years, but clearly it was still hidden away in my memory somewhere, because I can see its influence in that scene between Mike and the other dogs. Maybe some part of me wanted to recreate that experience and have it come out in a much more positive way this time around!

Q. Scott, on the illustrations... Can you describe your process to my readers?

Scott: Well, like I said I brought in some of these guys so that I could learn to draw them. I worked on their look with pen but it wasn't until I started painting them that they became super fuzzy. The brush I used created little puff balls that I kept dabbing until they were bunny-shaped. My process for all of the art in Mike was nearly entirely digital. That is, I sketched on paper but the next steps were completed on my Mac. Once I completed my sketch dummies—there were nearly two complete sketch dummies on this book before we got a layout and illustrations that worked well—I would paint the outlines first then go back in later with layers of color in Photoshop. Then I'd chip away at the color to give it a somewhat more painterly look, especially around the edges and on the linework. End result? Big bold illustrations for a big bold dog and his city.

Q. For both of you, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

Michelle: I think what I’d most like them to take away is the idea that real friends like you for who you are, and that it’s okay to be friends with anyone you want to be friends with, no matter what anyone else thinks.

Scott: Would anyone like to take away some bunnies? I have too many! Seriously, though, I hope our readers remember how Mike kept open to making new friends. For me, that's a very important lesson as a busy grown-up. Friends can come into our lives in the most unusual and surprising ways, throughout our lives—and if we're open to the new experiences, points of view they bring to us, then we remain spry and full of energy and young at heart. Just like fuzzy bunnies.

*Not really. But can you imagine? Please? :)

Saturday, January 26, 2013: Storytime at Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, NY

Saturday, March 16, 2013: Storytime at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ

One lucky winner will receive a free copy of BIG MEAN MIKE. Must live in the continental US to win - review and winner's copy provided by Candlewick.
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BIG MEAN MIKE. Text copyright © 2012 by Michelle Knudsen. Illustrations copyright © 2012 by Scott Magoon. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Quote of the Day

"Success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but by how many people you brought with you." - Wil Rose.

I love this.
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Let It Rain!

     I live in Georgia, and winter in Georgia does not look like a Currier & Ives postcard, oh no. There is no white fluffy snow, not usually. Winter in Georgia is damp and grey and RAINY. It's a good thing I love rainy days! How about you?
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...
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!

SCBWI Springmingle Blog Tour with Will Terry

We are thrilled to have Will Terry speak at our 2013 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day this year on Friday, February 22nd in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with being a respected and established illustrator, Will gives great advice to new and working illustrators on his blog and keeps on the cutting edge of new innovations. He's an illustrator with a teacher's heart and I know our attendees will learn so much from him.
     Illustrators' Day is a great place for beginning and working illustrators to learn more about the children's publishing industry, have their work evaluated, and learn how they might break into the biz.
     Today I have the pleasure of hosting Will on my blog and asking him some questions.

Q. Hi Will, We're thrilled you'll be speaking at our 2013 SCBWI Southern Breeze Illustrators' Day! Your topic is "Embracing Technology and Change." Can you give us a quick glimpse into your background with this quickly changing industry?
A. This is such a huge and important question. I feel I could write a few pages on this topic. So many different angles.
     1. I was getting tired of painting the same gradual blends in my backgrounds...they were taking me hours and in my mind I would often think, "I've done this before - I know how it turns out - if only there was a way to speed up this process - but if I rush I'll mess it up and then it will take even longer.
     2. My wife contracted an auto-immune disease and could no longer teach Jr. High - with that loss of income I had to get faster so I could make more money.
     3. Barnes & Noble opened up their doors to digital publishing at the end of 2010 allowing anyone to produce and upload their own ebooks.
     4. My brother in law, a programmer, was living with us - back from his world travels for a while. He made it possible for me to set up an online video tutorial page on my website.
     5. I read Linchpin by Seth Godin - it changed my life.
     6. I began teaching at UVU in 2009 and was exposed to many forward thinking teachers and students.
     Each one of these carries it's own story - I hope to be able to discuss some of these at the upcoming Southern Breeze SCBWI conference!

Q. But we also embrace the physical book! Can you tell us some of your titles?
A. Pizza Pat, Armadilly Chili, The Frog with the Big Mouth, The Three Little Gators, Senorita Gordita, Nasty Bugs, The Treasure of Ghostwood Gully, Little Rooster's Diamond Button.

Q. What is your illustration medium?
A. Digital

Q. How do you feel about traditional vs. digital?
A. I don't think they should be thought of as either - or...All children's illustration images end up in a digital form so how it gets into that form becomes irrelevant as far as the end result. The image is important. The look the artist wants each of his/her images to have is important. I think for the sake of time, ease, and making alterations - working digitally makes the most sense. However, if the artist cannot achieve the look they want or can't differentiate themselves digitally - working traditionally makes sense too. I do believe that any "look" can be achieved by working digitally or a hybrid of the two.

Q. Light plays such a strong role in your work. How do you approach light in your work?
A. I'm drawn in by moody pieces. To have mood you need light. I love interesting lighting situations. Sometimes I've made the mistake of placing a higher value on some of the beautification I try to put in my illustrations - so it's important to ask yourself what kind of light will help illustrate the context and message of the text. I'm also more literal I suppose in my artistic vision. Sometimes I get jealous of those who choose to ignore academic lighting rules in favor of making simple statements. In the end I think there is much room for all kinds of interpretations concerning lighting.

Q. How did you first break into children's books? (I love sharing path to publication stories.)
A. I never wanted to be a children's book illustrator. I was afraid of cute. I'm a guy what can I say? Guys are supposed to draw skulls and swords - dungeons and dragons - not cute little fluffy animals. Then I got married. And we had our first kid. You tend to come face to face with cute when you have a little "cute" of your own. Soon we were buying children's books and I started to look at them in a whole new light. After turning down Pizza Pat twice - the editor at Random House said, "what if we gave you a year and three months?" How could I say no to that after using lack of time as an excuse. I was flamboozled. "OK, I'll do it." - the fateful words that became my entrance into the children's book world.
      What I wasn't prepared for was the prestige that came with working on children's books that working on editorial pieces didn't bring. Everyone knows what it means to illustrate a children's book but many didn't know what I meant when I told them I was an editorial illustrator. (magazines & newspapers)

Thanks so much Will and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Know who else will be at Illustrators' Day and Springmingle 2013? Check out this list, follow the blog tour to meet them, then register to see them in person at

Jan. 21: Will Terry, illustrator, at Elizabeth O. Dulemba's blog
Jan. 22: Beck McDowell, author, at Bonnie Herold's Tenacious Teller of Tales
Jan. 23: Nikki Grimes, author, at Gail Handler's Write From the Soul
Jan. 24: Jill Corcoran, agent, at Donny Seagraves' blog
Jan. 25: Chad Beckerman, creative director, at Laura Golden's blog
Jan. 28: Katherine Jacobs, editor, at Cathy C. Hall's blog
Jan. 29: Mark Braught, illustrator, at Vicky Alvear Shecter's History with a Twist
Jan. 30: Carmen Agra Deedy, author, at Ramey Channell's "The Moonlight Ridge Series" The Painted Possum

Snow Circles by Sonja Hinrichsen

Snow Circles from Beauregard, Steamboat Aerials on Vimeo.

Aren't these lovely? Five people in snow shoes + three hours. It was filmed by aerial photographer, Cedar Beauregard, from a remote-controlled hexacopter!
Thanks to The Kid Should See This for the heads up!

It's FLU season!

The flu has reached epidemic proportions in the US. It's rampant in Georgia - has it made it to where you live?
     Here's a disturbing video about How A Virus Changes the World:

     The take away is - wash your hands! And if you're sick - stay home! Please. Please don't expose yourself to others.
     And while the flu vaccines are a good match to fight the strains out there this year*, washing your hands regularly helps too, as about 80% of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch*. Do both and you might just stand a chance at remaining healthy this season!

Flu gets an early start this season
Prevent Colds With Hand Washing
Thanks to SwissMiss for the heads up on the video.

ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT by Steve Light - Giveaway!

Somebody finally did it - somebody finally wrote a book with flying pigs in it! In fact, Steve Light's new book, ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT, is about all sorts of flying contraptions.
     As a kid who dreamed of being a bird, running across the back yard flapping her arms like crazy trying to get off the ground, I can so relate to this story! Zephyr loves airplanes, and sometimes her passion gets a little out of control.
     Boys and girls with both love this story which hints at the beginnings of flight with one brave main character, reminiscent of a young Amelia Earhart, on a grand adventure. Today, I have the pleasure of asking Steve about his latest book...

Q. Congratulations on yet another sweet book, Steve! What was the inspiration behind ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT?
A. Zephyr actually started by me drawing flying machines. I had just finished a book and wanted to do something that did not have a story! That was just fun to draw. So I started drawing flying machines. Ridiculous contraptions that would never really fly. I showed my Art Director and Editor the drawings one day and they both said “This has got to be your next book!”

Q. I love how Zephyr is always blowing bubbles - even in the most stressful moments. It's as if she takes it all with style and a sense of "Don't worry, I got this." What was your reasoning behind this?
A. It is like when you are scared walking home from school in the winter when it gets dark real early and you start whistling like you are not scared. I think Zephyr is a very confident little girl but blowing a bubble when there is a little stress helps her feel more confident.

Q. And her name - Zephyr! And the flying pigs! How did these come to be?
A. Zephyr came from reading everything I could on flying machines and wind and updrafts and lift and the word Zephyr was just so cool I had to use it. Little Zephyr is actually named after her Grandfather Zephyr Springsmith which is a name I love writing and the flying machine drawings I mentioned earlier are actually signed Zephyr Springsmith because they are HIS inventions. I was drawing a sketchbook of flying pigs also at that time and so when I felt I needed a place for Zephyr to fly to, I decided it had to be a place with flying pigs!

Q. I'm so intrigued by your illustration method. Looking at the breadth of your titles, like PUSS IN BOOTS, THE SHOEMAKER EXTRAORDINAIRE, and TRUCKS GO, I'm especially interested in how you achieve that sense of wild freedom in your artwork. It's something I'm working at myself right now. Can you give us a peek behind the curtain as to how you achieve this?
A. Puss in Boots and Shoemaker were my first books and done in collage because that is how I thought children’s books were illustrated. I was just following my two hero’s Eric Carle and Lio Lionni. I try not to spend too much time on an illustration. I try not to “noodle” it too much—I do not like when illustrations are overworked. I always say “Do it, then turn the page” My latest books are drawn with pen and ink. Drawing is my passion. I draw everyday and carry a sketchbook everywhere. I mostly draw with fountain pens and wanted these books to be about line and marks. My most recent work “CITY DRAGON” out from Candlewick 2014 was sketched as small 2 inch by 4 inch thumbnails and then I went right to the finished ink drawings with out full size pencils. I drew directly with fountain pen for the finished art, with out penciling it first. These are large very complicated city scenes—I LOVED every minute of it!! This was very freeing and kept the artwork very fresh.

Q. Your style in ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT appears more line-driven than some of your previous titles. I love the quality of your line work. How do you achieve that, and what is your philosophy behind this obvious evolution in your artistic voice?
A. My philosophy is drawing and finding the right graphic for that story that I am trying to tell. CHRISTMAS GIANT is more of a controlled line. Almost carved out of wood like an old Christmas toy or Currier and Ives print. Zephyr is much looser and full of energy but also scratchy and old like the old flying machines. These were all drawn with fountain pens. Fountain pens are an obsession of mine. I collect old ones, some 80-100 years old and fix them up so I can use them. I have about 50-60 in my collection ALL of which I use to draw and illustrate with. Some I have custom made nibs to make a certain kind of line. There is an amazing man Richard Binder that does custom nib work for me and some of his nibs are just a dream to draw with. He is now teaching me how to make those nibs myself, which is a lot of fun. The funny thing is TRAINS AND TRUCKS GO were drawn with a stick dipped in ink! So I don’t need a fancy fountain pen to make art with, but they are lots of fun to work on and with and I enjoy collecting them and having various ones that draw all very different. I really like picking the pen that best fits the graphic of the story I want to tell.

Q. My readers love hearing the break-in stories. How did you first get into creating children's books? What was your path to publication?
A. I was illustrating very adult things for Absolut Vodka and Sony Films because that is what I thought I was supposed to do. Then I started teaching 4-5 yr olds and reading them stories and telling them stories and thought why not illustrate my own stories. After showing EVERY publisher in NYC—sometimes 2 or 3 times—someone suggested I show a great illustrator Richard McGuire my work. Richard McGuire knew the new Art Director Howard Reeves at Abrams publishing who was starting their children’s book division and I showed Him my work and we did The Shoemaker Extraordinaire and Puss and Boots and some other work before I ended up at Candlewick working with Joan Powers and Kristen Nobles who are amazing to work with and really understand me as an artist. I also do books with Chronicle and Powerhouse. Sharyn Rosart works there and really gives me free reign to create cool, fun books.

Q. Finally, are you doing anything special to celebrate the release of ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT? And what are you working on next?
A. I celebrate EVERYDAY that I am able to draw, tell stories and teach children. City Dragon is coming out in 2014. DIGGERS GO a follow up to TRAINS AND TRUCKS GO is coming out in 2013 and “Down the Rabbit Hole” an accordion fold book about a rabbit family looking for a new home should be out in 2013 if the cost of production does not get in the way. I am so blessed to draw and tell stories that get made into these magical things we call books!

Q. Thanks so much Steve!

One lucky commenter will win a free copy of ZEPHYR TAKES FLIGHT. Must live in the continental US to win. Review and winner's copy provided by the publisher.
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Rilla Alexander: Without the Doing, Dreaming Is Useless

This is a bit slow, but the concept is spot on. It's the evolution of an idea from birth to completion. (A book in this case.) She presents all the obstacles, places where people typically stop.
     So how about you, dear reader? Are you still on the journey of making your idea happen?

Coloring Page Tuesday - Mars Rover

     I'm sharing a rather unusual coloring page with you this week. I came up with this idea years ago and have always wanted to make a cartoon out of it. With the Mars Rover getting so much attention, I couldn't help but wonder - what if Rover didn't discover life on Mars. What if life on Mars discovered Rover? The caption reads: "Can I keep him Mom? It followed me home..."
     Please leave a comment on my blog to let me know if you like it!
     So far, this is all the Rover has seen. It's a great panoramic shot of Mars from NASA. (Click the image to go to it's source and see one more.)

     There's also a new initiative to establish a colony on Mars - no lie. Wanna go for a ride? (Who recognizes that quote?) Check it out:

From Wired Magazine.
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...
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!

World Book Night - Volunteers needed!

World Book Night is looking for volunteers to "fan out across America on April 23, 2013! Just take 20 free copies of a book to a location in your community, and you just might change someone's life." More from their website:
World Book Night is a charity dedicated to the promotion of literacy and the celebration, sharing and enjoyment of reading amongst teenagers and adults. The first World Book Night was held in the UK in 2011. In 2012 World Book Night was celebrated in the USA as well as the UK and Ireland on April 23 and saw tens of thousands of givers share the joy and love of reading with millions of non or light readers.
The sign up deadline is January 23rd - so you'll need to get on this quickly. Go to the World Book Night website to learn more.

You get the oxygen first

A friend of mine has been struggling with finding time for himself because he's a key volunteer in his church and people lean on him - maybe too much. There's no time left for him to take care of himself - so he says.
     It reminds me of when I started out in this business of kids lit, I was a work-a-holic. I was in my office 24/7 with long hours, because I knew if I wasn't working, things weren't going to move forward in my career.
     It nearly drove me into the ground.
     One of the hardest parts of working for yourself (or being in charge of your own schedule) is realizing that you have to TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST.
     It's the old airplane rule - if oxygen masks drop from the overhead, you put on your mask first, THEN you help the person next to you. Because if you try to help the other person first, you may not be conscious long enough to finish the job and that would mean two people down instead of one.
     You can't give back, and you can't create, if you've let yourself drain down to empty. You've got to fill yourself up first. However you do that - through sleep, exercise, diet. Whatever it is, you've got to do it. And if you do - you'll find you have more to give, and more energy to be productive, than you ever did before.

Letter from Steve Anderson of Disney Animation Studios

"Artists are emotional creatures," says Steve Anderson in the opening of his letter shared on The Animator Letters Project. "But there are days when our emotions get the best of us." He goes on to describe one of the most harmful traits of artists - comparing ourselves to others - and advises us to only compare ourselves to ourselves.
     His advice is sound and isn't just for animators - it's good for all us creators. Listen below and/or CLICK HERE to actually see his letter.

John Hendrix on "How To Find Your Voice"

John Hendrix is a master of type and a fabulous illustrator. He offers sound advice that every illustrator should read on his blog Drawing on Deadline - "How to Find Your Voice."
(Illustration used with permission by John.)

Thanks to Patrick Girouard of the Picture Book Artists Association for the heads up.


There is a sweet new book out called BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! by debut children's book creator Melissa Guion. If you're a new parent, or a new sibling, this is the book for you! Per the flap copy: "What happens when alone time disappears - when babies arrive and what was quiet becomes chaos?" PENGUINS - that's what! Fun, chaotic, troublesome, cuddly PENGUINS!
     Today, I ask Melissa some questions about her new book.

Q. As a debut children's book creator - I know my readers are interested in your path to publication. Do you mind sharing?
A. Of course! One thing readers might find interesting is that I didn't pursue this career until my mid-thirties. I had a few previous careers, including one in finance which began accidentally when I moved to NYC and took a mailroom job at a hedge fund. I thought it was temporary, but I got swept up the ladder and ended up in a pretty serious role. My time in that world taught me a lot, but it got to the point where it was literally painful to go to work, I was so clearly in the wrong place.
      When I decided to pursue children's books, which was in 2003 or so, I was really starting over from scratch. I have an English degree but I hoped to illustrate as well as write, so one of the first things I did was sign up for some art classes to get a bit of technique under my belt. I really went about the whole thing in first gear: creeping along, drawing when I wanted to, working an unrelated part-time job and doing life stuff like renovating a house and starting a family. In 2006, I met Steve Malk, of Writers House. A former colleague of Steve's kept offering to introduce us and I kept putting him off, because I had only a smattering of personal work to show. Thank goodness my friend introduced us anyway, because Steve loved my work and gave me tons of valuable advice and encouragement. I wish I could say that lit a fire under me, but it only kicked me into second gear.
      By 2008, I had enough finished artwork to assemble a portfolio, and Steve lined up a round of editor meetings that proved to be totally fruitless. In retrospect, not getting a book then was really valuable. It toughened me up, the experience of sharing creative work face to face, and not hearing "yes." I also learned a lesson about staying with an interaction that isn't going your way. I had a meeting with Anne Schwartz and Lee Wade where it was quickly clear I was not going to get considered, let alone hired, but I lingered sort of despite myself. We ended up having a great conversation about other illustrators, including James Marshall, one of my heroes. Anne dug out some of his original art to show me. I shared a few out of print books I liked, which they'd never seen. The meeting was a lot of fun, it probably lasted an hour, and I'd have missed the best part if I'd left when I saw there was no job in it.

      In the fall of the following year, 2009, Steve and I did a postcard mailing featuring some of my artwork that led very quickly to a meeting with Michael Green, the president of Philomel Books (Penguin). Michael offered me a single picture book deal on the spot. (I think I signed the actual contract with Penguin in 2010, because the agencies and the publishers were mired in negotiations about electronic rights throughout that fall and winter.) That resulted in my recently published picture book, BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! In 2012, just before my first book came out, I signed a multiple-book contract with Penguin, and a deal for a BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! board book.

Q. How did this particular story come to you, and is it more for the parents or for the brand new brothers and sisters in a family?
A. I always had penguins in my portfolio but they were just playful characters without a story. Michael, my editor, really wanted to do something with them, and it was he who supplied the premise of the solitary penguin and the magic hat that produces little penguins. Together, we grew it into what it is now, which is nice since it's a book about the benefits of togetherness. Of course, the idea resonated with me as a new mother.

      I certainly hope the book speaks to parents. A lot of my experience with my three year old went directly into the book. I hadn't particularly thought of it as being for (or not for) siblings, but funnily enough, I just got a message from a woman whose 2- and 5-year-old like to read the book together. The 2-year-old enjoys looking at the little penguins, and the older one relates to needing time alone. So it's field-tested for sibling use as well.

Q. The artwork in BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! is delicate and charming. What is your method?
A. The art is just a soft graphite pencil and watercolor on 140lb Fabriano cold press paper. I used a bit of white gouache to make the grey of the baby penguins.
      As far as my working method, I made preparatory sketches and color tests on a cheap paper. I spent a lot of time getting the forms right because I knew the art would be spare. I worked mostly from my imagination; I didn't need much in the way of photo research, though I did look at some pictures of icebergs.
      Then I drew and painted the final art directly onto my good paper, without tracing. I lost some precision in my compositions that way, but it gave me the loose line quality I wanted.

Q. Your simple drawings have so much joy and character - I'm sure you must apply this skill to other critters as well. What others tug at your heart?
A. I like to draw birds. Birds really make me laugh. I also have a book in a drawer about a fish, and a lot of drawings of mean rabbits. My daughter has two guinea pigs and I've thought of turning them into characters. I mean, they're already characters, I'd just be committing them to paper.

Q. Are you doing anything special to help promote your new book? Please share! And what are you working on to follow such a stupendous debut?
A. I'd never heard of a "blog tour" until this summer, if you can believe it. I put one together for myself and it was really helpful in terms of getting to know, and be known by, the kids book community.
      I'm also doing a bookplate promotion with four other authors (including Dashka Slater, who I think you just interviewed). We designed bookplates for our latest books; buyers can request them, then we personalize them, sign them, and mail them out. Several media outlets picked up on the promotion, and the response has been good. I have to say I really enjoyed ganging up with other book creators on that project, because book promotion is not my idea of fun. (Is it anybody's?) It's much nicer to do with friends.
      As far as what I'm doing next: the board book version of BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE! comes out next fall, which thankfully requires no work on my part. I'm working hard on a second penguin book for Spring 2014, and I have a third book under contract for Spring 2015. I'm not sure what that one will be yet. I have a few ideas.

Thanks for sharing Melissa!

      One lucky commenter will win a free copy of BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE. Must live in the continental US to win. Review copy provided by the publisher.
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Children's Book Art Auction

Got a spare original print run copy of WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE signed by Maurice Sendak - maybe with a hand-drawn sketch in it? It could be worth about $15,000.
     How about an original sketch for "Little House on the Prairie" by my hero, Garth Williams? That'll be worth a cool $40,000.
     These and works by Dr. Seuss, Charles M. Schulz, Michael Hague and more are about to GO ON AUCTION. Click the image to see more.
     Gads, I wish I could afford to be a collector!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Mittens!

     Brrrrrr! Even here in Georgia it's getting cold outside. How about where you live? I love grabbing my scarf and mittens - they feel so cozy and happy!
     Click the image to open a .jpg to print and color. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages. And be sure to share your creations in my gallery so I can put them in my upcoming newsletters! (They don't have to be cards - share your kids' art too!)
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Check out my books...
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!