Featured Author at the Smyrna Library!

I am honored to be the March featured author for the Smyrna Public Library (Georgia) as they host "Dust, Drought & Dreams Gone Dry" - a national traveling exhibit commemorating the American Dust Bowl of the 1930s and similar environmental devastation. CLICK HERE to read my interview about A BIRD ON WATER STREET.

Friday Linky List - February 27, 2015

From The Guardian: Children's Books are Never Just for Children

From The Blabbermouthblog: Dish From a Literary Agent Intern... 5 Sites to Help You Write!

From the Official SCBWI Conference Blog: The Portfolio Showcase Award Winners

At PW: CCBC Stats Show Children's Books Shifting Toward Diversity

From HuffPost Books (via PW): The Best Is Yet to Come: An Early 2015 Picture Book Preview

From PW: En Garde: An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Daniel Handler

Recently spotted at Little Shop of Stories - by TinyDoorsATL.com

Jessica Young's Finley's Flowers series - Guest Post

Original Recipe, newly-released from Capstone Young Readers!

Idea Garden

by Jessica Young

      I’ve just finished the fourth book in my first chapter book series, Finley Flowers. While working on it, I’ve been hanging out with my 3rd and 4th grade self a lot. I wasn’t a kid who was constantly creating things like my main character, Finley, but I’ve always loved making stuff. Finley and I share some other qualities, too: enthusiasm, stubbornness, and having a hard time sitting still (which Finley calls being “hoppity”) come to mind. We’ve both been known to zone out in class, and patience is not one of our strengths. We twirl our hair when we’re thinking hard and tend to be tangential, which reminds me of geometry. And tangerines. But I digress. . . .
      In the series, Finley has an “idea garden” in her head where all her Fin-teresting thoughts grow — so many thoughts, it sometimes feels like they’re bursting out her ears. Her best friend, Henry, calls that her “Flower Power.” Finley may be extra creative, but all of us have idea gardens. Sometimes we neglect them, yet even then, ideas can thrive wild and untended. At school visits, I emphasize the importance of noticing ideas and writing them down. My thoughts are so fleeting — if I don’t capture them on paper, they usually escape for good. Just like real seeds, my idea seeds don’t always sprout right away. I have to water them with further thought, experimentation, or research, and wait patiently for them to grow. As I was writing the Finley books, I realized that some of my idea seeds had been lying dormant since I was a kid, or slowly putting down roots where they’d been lodged in my mind. It’s been really fun revisiting them and bringing them to life.
      As a child, I was lucky enough to have some great friends and a family who were supportive of my interests. But I also had a feeling of powerlessness — of wanting to do something important, yet feeling like I was “just a kid” and not really knowing what that thing might be. How could I have known that simply having my eight- and nine-year-old experiences, thoughts, and ideas would be so important later on? I only wish I’d paid more attention and taken notes!

About the Finley Flowers series:
      Original Recipe: Finley's best friend Henry is about to turn nine, and Finley has a major problem: she has no idea what to give him for his birthday. He already owns all of her best creations! The school cook-off might be the perfect solution. The grand prize is a year's worth of Flying Pie Pizza, Henry's favorite. But coming up with something original and tasty is harder than it looks. As one crazy concoction leads to another, Finley discovers that cooking is just like the rest of life — things don't always turn out as planned, and friendship is the real prize. (Click the image to go see the book trailer on YouTube.)

      Nature Calls: summer is here, and Finley is heading to Camp Acorn! She can't wait to make crafts, eat s'mores, and prove to her older brother that she's tough enough to get back to nature. Unfortunately, she'll be sharing a cabin with Olivia Snotham, who's not exactly the outdoorsy type. When nature calls and the girls get lost on the way to the restrooms, Finley's spooky ghost story comes back to haunt them. As they work together to find a creative way home, Finley discovers that there's more than one way to be tough.

      Books three and four, New and Improved and Art-rageous, will be out in Fall 2015!

      Jessica Young grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. The same things make her happy now as when she was a kid: dancing, painting, music, digging in the dirt, picnics, reading, and writing. She lives with her family in Nashville, Tennessee. When she was little, she wanted to be a tap-dancing flight attendant/veterinarian, but she’s changed her mind!
      Jessica’s award-winning debut picture book, My Blue is Happy (2013, Candlewick Press/Walker UK) is a 2014 Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title and was included on the 2014 Bank Street College of Education Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults, the Texas Library Association’s 2014 2×2 Reading List, the Ontario Library Association’s Best Bets 2013, and the Library of Congress/Center for the Book’s 52 Great Reads list. Her next picture book, Spy Guy, will be published in May by Harcourt Children’s Books. Original Recipe, the first book in her chapter book series, Finley Flowers, will be published in February by Capstone Books for Young Readers, and the second book, Nature Calls comes out in April. All Paws on Deck, the first book in her early chapter book series, Haggis and Tank Unleashed, will be published in January 2016 by Scholastic Branches. Find out more at: www.jessicayoungbooks.com

Photos from Jessica's Book Launch Party:

Coloring Page Tuesday - Snowman Family!

     I still want to play in the snow! Okay, so the snow warnings from last week never panned out. All we've had is rain and muddy paws on the doggie. So I still long for a bit of what y'all have up north. Just enough to build one snowman - if not a whole family!
     This is another old piece of art I did when I was working for a children's clothing company about 20+ years ago (gulp). I'm going through old artwork in preparation for this move to Scotland and I'm coming across all sorts of old treasures. I liked this one too!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

I don't want to be a frog

Here's a cute book trailer and song by the author of I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG, Dev Petty (illustrated by Mike Boldt), Random House/Doublday - click the image to go see on Youtube:

SCBWI Europolitan Conference!

I doubt I'll be over there in time for this, but it's exciting that the Euro-SCBWI chapters are putting this conference together - now in it's second year! Last time it was in Paris, this year it will be in Amsterdam. CLICK HERE to read more about it!

3x5 Art Challenge - Day 3

Oops - I missed yesterday, so I'm playing catch-up here. First off is a self-portrait I did eons ago. I still think it looks like me:

Second is from my colored pencils stage. These cacti were for a label in an NK Lawn & Garden planter:

And the third piece today is a series of banner proposals I did for the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee when I was working for dDN (or was it ddN, DdN?). Anyhow - they chose the one with the chair and the banners hung on the light posts in downtown Chattanooga for several years:

So, truly, I think just about everybody has done this by now, but I'll tag Robyn Hood Black and Janie Bynum because I haven't talked to her in a while.


I am thrilled to share that A BIRD ON WATER STREET is a 2015-2016 Nominee for the Georgia Children's Book Award! Woohoo!!! CLICK HERE to see the illustrious list of nominees - I am proud to be among them!

Friday Linky List - February 20, 2015

CLICK HERE to see the 2014 Cybils Award Winners!

From SLJ's fuse #8: Review of the Day - Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, by Sally M. Walker

Also from SLJ: Tuck Turns 40 (Hard to believe - Tuck Everlasting is 40-years-old!)

At The Guardian (via PW): Waterstones children's book prize 2015 - shortlist announced

From The Guardian: New Harry Potter covers - in animated gifs See the process - cool!

From Discover More (via PW): Don't Read These Beloved Children's Books To Your Kids (language) - article is okay, but the opening image by Jim Cooke made me laugh out loud. Click the image to read the article:

From Writers Helping Writers (via Cynsations): 4 Research Hacks for Writing Thrillers

From the Atlantic: School Is About More Than Training Kids to Be Adults

A LINE CAN BE by Laura Ljungkvist - Guest Post

Having worked as a licensing illustrator for Snoopy for six years early in my career, I developed a serious passion/geekiness for line quality. So when POW!/PowerHouse sent me a copy of Laura Ljungkvist's A LINE CAN BE, I flipped. I'm thrilled to have her on today to talk about her latest book...

My Line
by Laura Ljungkvist

      When I arrived in New York from Stockholm, Sweden in 1993 with my portfolio in hand the response for my work was quite overwhelming. Having freelanced as an illustrator in Sweden for 5 years before my arrival, my portfolio contained several different styles. Cute, graphic, painterly, one line drawings and more, but it was the “one liners” that art directors responded to the most. Working in Sweden as an illustrator you really had to work in many different styles. Being such a small country and “market”, your style can easily become “worn out” and overexposed.
      Coming to New York I quickly realized the importance of having a “signature style”. Since there are so many artists here, having one is essential to standing out and making a mark. This suited me just fine as I wanted to explore “my single line thing” and take it as far as I could.
      I had done my first “one liner” for a client about a year earlier in Stockholm and became enthralled with the concept of connecting everything in a single line.
      After a while I started adding flat graphic shapes of things and objects that interacted with the line. This added more depth and texture to my art. I quickly established myself and was very happy doing mostly editorial work for major magazines and newspapers. I call myself a “visual problem solver”. Clients of all kind have since I graduated art school in1988, given me assignments to communicate their story/message/ visually, and I still love doing that! But there came a day when I wanted to “solve my own problem”, One day I happened to come across a children’s book called “Mr. Lunch Takes a Plane Ride” by J.Otto Seibolds’s (which is still one of my favorites!) For me this was an inspiration and I set out to write a children’s book/solve my own problem.
      After many, many frustrations and numerous twists and turns, my first book, “Toni’s Topsy Turvy Telephone Day” was finally published in 2001 by Harry Abrams.
      All of a sudden I was being called “author” which felt very strange and to this day after publishing 10 books (soon) still feels unfamiliar. The ideas for my books always start with a visual. Then I write to accommodate my art!
      I am best known for my “Follow the Line” series of 4 hard covers for Viking Children’s books. In these books the line travels from place to place and tells stories forming concrete things and objects. Everything from camels to base guitars.
      It was absolutely thrilling when POW!/PowerHouse wanted to publish “A Line Can Be”, which will be my first board book. I always wanted to do a board book. The thickness of the board lends itself perfectly for putting fingers on the line and following it throughout, spread by spread.
      When I received my first advance copy of “A Line Can Be”, I was overjoyed. The matt quality of the board, the rounded corners, my colors, textures and line art. YUMMY!!!
      “A Line Can Be” is a biography of my line. Here the line explores abstract concepts – opposites, by telling the reader what it can be and where it can go. I love watching people’s faces and the smile that appears as they turn the page and see the conclusion. That last spread gives whole new meaning to all of the previous spreads!
      My profession is a very lonely job. When my family is away, days can go by when I hardly talk to anybody! And I don’t mind, as a matter of fact, I couldn’t do what I do with other people around.
      Now as an “author of children’s books” I have interactions and get more feedback from my audience then I ever did as an editorial illustrator.
      I remember a book signing I did years ago for maybe my third or fourth book, when a woman came up and handed over, what was by the looks of it, an extremely “well read” copy of my very first children’s book, and asked if I would sign it.
      It had been a favorite in her house for a long time and when she read in the newspaper that I was appearing she just had to come and tell me.
      That was big!
      It makes me happy knowing that once my work is done in my studio in Brooklyn, my books go out into the world and makes connections with people. And should they somehow make an impact on someone, however small, that’s just fantastic!

3x5 Art Challenge - Day 2

Okay - it's Day 2. The first image I'm going to share is the first piece of art I ever did in which I actually felt like a REAL illustrator - that I might actually do this for the rest of my life. It was for a candy package for Brock's:

The second image I'll share is just a goof-off. It's "Rob Anybody" from THE WEE FREE MEN:

The third piece I'll share today is actually two pages from my sculpture sketchbook. I loved sculpting and hope I get to do it again someday. I ended up creating the standing woman in bronze and the second image from the left, although I only have the ball left from that one.

3x5 Art Challenge - Day 1

Two friends have tagged me for the 3x5 art challenge on Facebook, which I will try to fulfill as I can. Today I'll share some early accomplishments in my illustration career. The first is a series of illustrations I created, which were then burned into the bottom of cast iron skillets by Lodge skillet. I received $150 for each design (I said this was my early days) and they went on to be carried in Eddie Bauer and every Cracker Barrel. Hm.

The next was my first billboard for a radio clinic which installed car radios. This was in Chattanooga if anybody saw it...

This third piece is a screen print sample of work I did for Buster Brown Apparel. I spent over six years working on the Peanuts line there. Here's Lucy baking:

Laurie Edwards and Susan Eaddy tagged me for this, so I'm tagging them back. I'd also love to see early works from Judy Schachner and Ashley Wolff.

Coloring Page Tuesday - Ready for the Snow!

     I want to play in the snow - and I might get to! The weather here in Georgia is calling for some frigid and snow ready temperatures!
     This is an old piece of art I did when I was working for a children's clothing company about 20+ years ago (gulp). I'm going through old artwork in preparation for this move to Scotland and I'm coming across all sorts of old treasures. I always liked this one - hope you do too!
     CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

Missed Connections

Still in the glow of Valentine's Day, I share "Missed Connections" brought to you by The Strand Bookstore in New York. Apparently folks meet in the Strand all the time and try to reconnect via Craigslist. But lo, most do not reconnect. The folks at the Strand have created romantic reenactments of these missed connections, starting with this one (click the image to watch the series on YouTube):

Classic Love Poems

Happy Valentine's Day! Audible.com has a free clip of Love Poems for you to relish in, read by velvet-voiced Richard Armitage (of The Hobbit). In the clip, he reads Sonnet 116, by William Shakespeare - can you say "butta"!? The full FREE recording includes 15 works by Shakespeare, Tennyson, Keats, Marlowe, Browning, Cummings, Emmerson, the list goes on! CLICK HERE to download your free luv mooshie gushie lovey words. What a wonderful way to say 'I love you' to your favorite someone!
     As Richard says,
“Narrating these classic love poems for Audible has been particularly gratifying for me as an actor,” said Armitage. “These are some of the most beautiful and most romantic verses ever written in the English language. I hope that those who are already admirers of these works enjoy my recitation, and that those discovering them for the first time through this production fall in love with the melodious and heartfelt poetry that makes Valentine’s Day and every day just a little bit more romantic.”

Friday Linky List - February 13, 2015

From the Scottish Book Trust: Who is your literary love match?

From Publishers Lunch: True: Harper Lee to Publish Second Novel with Harper - wow

From Brain Pickings (via PW): Happy Birthday, Ursula Nordstrom: How the Greatest Patron Saint of Childhood Stood Up for Creativity Against Commercial Cowardice

From School Library Journal: Fringe Factor: Small Presses and Self-Publishing

From PW - Q&A with Strand Book Store Children's Buyer Stella Williams

At Jane Friedman - Guest post by Harry Bingham: Why Authors Walk Away From Good, Big 5 Publishers

From Picture Book Builders: That One Line by Jill Esbaum

From Janice Hardy's Fiction University - At-Home Workshop: Revise Your Novel in 31 Days (For all you NaNo graduates!)

At Education Week Teacher: Fall Back in Love With Teaching

From The Guardian (via 100 Scope Notes): The 2015 Kate Greenaway Medal picture book prize long list

At Entrepreneur: Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Freelancer Love this quote:
...don’t ask your freelancer to do speculative work or to complete a project for free with the promise of more work later. It’s disrespectful of the freelancer’s time. If you can’t afford to test the freelancer with a project and if the freelancer’s portfolio and references are not giving you confidence, it’s best to move on leaving everyone with dignity intact.

THE JAGUAR STONES by Jon and Pamela Craik Voelkel - Guest Post

Jon Voelkel explains how an obsession with Maya glyphs inspired him to illustrate the Jaguar Stones books

      Growing up, all the books I loved had illustrations in them. I can remember poring over the maps in The Hobbit, tracing Bilbo's journey. I can still picture, clear as day, the illustration from Robinson Crusoe where the castaway spies the footprint in the sand; that one bare footprint, so loaded with mystery and possibility. And I sure would have struggled to imagine marshwiggles, fauns and other fantastic creatures without the illustrations in my Narnia books.
      Fast forward thirty years, and I was writing my own book. Or at least I was attempting to write down my kids' favorite bedtime story (an action-packed yarn based on my childhood in Latin America) and my wife, Pamela, an advertising copywriter, was attempting to turn it into a book. The setting for my story was some cool pyramids in the jungle. We began to research the people who'd built those pyramids - and that was when our obsession with the Maya began.
      There's so much misinformation on the internet that I signed up for a course at Harvard to learn how to read and write Maya glyphs. That opened a window into the Maya mind. One of the first things I learned was that the Maya used the same glyph for "scribe" and "artist", because Maya writing is art and Maya art is embedded with words. The artists like to tell you what things are made of, what they feel like and smell like, if they’re good or evil. There are swirly scrolls to indicate speech, breath and other, ahem, gaseous emissions. You can't help but smile. Everything bubbles with life and personality; not just plants and animals, but places, buildings, rocks - even time.
      As our first Jaguar Stones book, MIDDLEWORLD, took shape, we talked a lot about how to convey this amazing, vibrant, and essentially alien world.
      Even Maya architecture is a challenge. If pushed, some kids can visualize Chichen Itza. But most imagine an Egyptian pyramid. They're amazed to hear that every Maya pyramid is different: temples, palaces, observatories, offices - all wildly painted and ornamented. More thrilling still, these pyramids were alive to the Maya and crackling with ancestral mojo.
      So you can see why the Jaguar Stones books had to be illustrated. You can't describe this stuff succinctly in words. Kids needed to see on the page what we were seeing in our heads, so they wouldn't get hung up on trying to imagine the weirdness of it all. And since we couldn't find an illustrator who could capture this vibe, I stepped up to the plate.
      Of course, so much Maya art was destroyed in the conquest that we don't have a record of everything. So for THE LOST CITY, I've even gone a step further and created a spread of Maya monsters based on folktales.
      And before you ask, no I did not go to art school. I've been an inveterate doodler all my life, but I actually went to business school. So I had to invent my own techniques, based on trial and error. Pamela helps and is never short of ideas for illustrations: "A howler monkey riding a tapir!", "A Death Lord wearing a necklace of human eyeballs that's exploding because he's so angry!") I'm proud to say that we have never NOT included a picture because we couldn't find a way to make it happen.
      When I'm trying to mimic a Maya artist, I use modern versions of the tools they would have used. First I draw in pen and ink, then I scan the drawing, and add texture and shading with watercolor-like washes in Photoshop.
      For the full-page illustrations, I use a photo-realistic style. I start by taking dozens of photographs and collage them together on the computer. I then draw and paint on top of them to meld them into one seamless whole.
      It's been part of our mission to share our research with our readers, and draw them into the Maya universe. Our hope is that they not only enjoy a thrilling adventure, but also experience a glimpse into an ancient world that is more incredible, more advanced and more extraordinary than anything any of us could ever invent.

Jon Voelkel grew up in Peru, Costa Rica, and Colombia, all the while dreaming of a boring life in suburbia. Eventually, having survived monkey stew, an attack by giant rats, and a plane crash in the jungle, he rolled up his hammock and decamped to Europe. Meanwhile, growing up in a sedate seaside town in northern England, Pamela Craik Voelkel was dreaming of travel and adventure. The pair met in London, where they both worked in advertising. They went on to help found an award-winning agency, for which Jon was named one of the fifty most creative minds in Britain by the Financial Times. The authors' first book in the Jaguar Stones series, Middleworld, was an Al Roker Book Club pick. The Voelkels now live in Vermont with their three children. You can visit them online at www.jaguarstones.com.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Sharon Pinky Pollack - Q&A and Giveaway
Tricia Springstub - Guest Post and Giveaway
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Erin Prefontaine - Guest Post and Giveaway
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Elizabeth O. Dulemba - Guest Post
Friday, February 13, 2015
Heidi Grange - Review, Guest Post and Giveaway
Katie Barlow - Guest Post and Giveaway
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Pamela Thompson
Monday, February 16, 2015
Holly Schindler - Guest post and giveaway
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Charlotte Taylor

Coloring Page Tuesday - Eskimo Kiss

     Happy Valentine's Day this Saturday! Love is in the air! Even in the very cold air, where a kiss is simply rubbing noses. Eskimo kisses for all!
     CLICK HERE for more Valentine's Day coloring pages!
     Sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of six literary awards. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

A neighborhood walk and getting unstuck

Yesterday was unseasonably warm for Georgia - into the 60s! So Stan and I took Bernie for a walk. It had been a while since we'd been able to enjoy a leisurely sojourn outside, and it reminded me of how good these moments are for my creativity. When I suffer from writer's block or get stuck on a certain scene or puzzle in my writing, I go take a walk!
     In my neighborhood, a walk means going up what we affectionately call "poop alley" where everybody walks their dogs (hence the name). It's a dead end road just outside my neighborhood. There's only one house on it, so the half mile is mostly trees and rocks and banks covered with chipmunk dwellings. It also happens to be one Bernie's favorite places. We walk all the way to the end where the road meets the local elementary school before turning around. He loves it and so do I.
     I can't tell you how many times I've made this walk, trying to shake loose a problem or idea. Something about watching the birds diving through the canopy, my dog sniffing at invisible (to me) treasures, and the light filtering through various shades of green - it loosens the creative cogs.
     It also doesn't hurt that stories are waiting to be had on our little walk. For instance, meet "The Don." This is a male tom cat who lives a few houses up the street from us (and is one of the reasons our cat is an indoor cat). He is the boss of the street and I've seen him face off with many cats over the years.
     His ears used to stand up straight, until about a year ago. I'm sure some lesser cat required some straightening out. Ever since then, The Don has been much calmer, crooked ear and all - confident in his quiet control of our street as he basks in the sunshine on his concrete driveway.
Ironically, he's actually quite friendly - to humans. And he does get along with other cats, as long as they don't question his authority.
      We actually don't know his real name. But for us, for years, he has been "The Don." There's a story there, which I'll write one of these days. Or he'll become a character in a larger story. At any rate, do you see what I mean?
     Squirrels chasing each other, hawks soaring above, gentle breezes and dancing seedpods - they all have stories. Where did they come from, where are they going, what is the relationship, and why? They can all help shake your own story loose even if it's just adding some dimension to an already existing story, character, or setting.
     So, if you find yourself stuck with your writing - take a walk!
     Photos by Stan Dulemba.

Mardi Gras!

Yesterday Stan and I joined in on a Mardi Gras celebration that ended up at one of our fave weekend hangouts: The Imperial. (The broccoli salad is to die for!) Stan took some fantastic photos, which you can see at his Stan's Tumblr page, along with this one:
Folks were all kinds of dressed up for the parade! I especially liked the man who wore a mardi gras colors "cat in the hat" hat with a kilt and argyle socks - it was a collision of our past and our future coming together in one outfit!! Also, a friend's band, Spackle, played and we had fun listening to them. All in all, it was a great way to spend a beautiful Saturday!

Friday Linky List - February 6, 2015

From School Library Journal at Fuse #8 - For some of the best behind-the-scenes videos from the ALA award events - CLICK HERE. FUN!

From Bottom Shelf Books: Extreme Caldecott Placement - funny!

From The Guardian (via PW): 15 Signs to prove you're a book addict

From PW: 10 Random Facts About Lewis Carroll

Storyline Online: The Kissing Hand read by Audrey Penn

At BookTrust: When author school visits turn bad

Kameron Hurley: What I Get Paid For My Novels: Or, Why I'm Not Quitting My Day Job (from Sarah Dennard's Misfits & Daydreamers)

At GalleyCat (via Sarah Dennard): 2014 TED Presentations from Writers

From PW: CBC and ECAR Revamp Children's Choice Awards (...on the heels of a controversy that flared up last year...)

From BookRiot (via PW): 40 Tiny Tasks For a Richer Reading Life

From The Bookseller (via PW): Children's Book Industry Discusses Diversity Charter

From Vogue (via PW): Dress Like Your Favorite Children's Boo kCharacter, From Paddington to Madeline

From The Telegraph: JK Rowling: life after Harry Potter (and her amazing Harvard commencement speech)

Hester Bass' SEEDS OF FREEDOM - Guest post

Guest Post by Hester Bass

     Sometimes I feel as if I live in a world of labels. Entertainment is certainly categorized and targeted. I miss the wide marketplace of my youth, when I could pick up any book I could read, my family went to any movie that caught our interest, and we could watch any show on television – four networks to choose from, until the national anthem played and the stations went off the air. That world felt full of possibilities to me.
      I was a first grader in Georgia in 1962-63, who wanted to be a writer. I was taught that people should not be labeled, that everyone deserved respect and a chance to realize their potential. I believed I could do anything I wanted to if I never gave up, and thought everybody felt that way. America’s a free country, right? Land of Opportunity. Of course, it was not that simple. As a child I didn’t always understand what I saw on TV in black and white, but I could tell that there were a lot of people who were violently upset about the color of skin.
      When I visit schools as an author, one of the questions students ask me most often is: where do you get your ideas? I jokingly answer “on sale at Target” before revealing the truth: ideas come from everywhere all the time. I’m ever inspired by people and events – some from my experience, often in childhood, and some from quite outside my experience, often from history.
      The inspiration for my latest book Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama (Candlewick Press, illustrated by E. B. Lewis) took root on one of my first author visits for my first book, So Many Houses, when I was living in Huntsville. There’s an historical marker in the parking lot: “The first integrated elementary education classes in the state of Alabama took place quietly and peacefully here September 3, 1963.” It was further notable for its “reverse” integration nature – meaning that twelve white students enrolled at a school of black students.
      My mind raced to my own elementary experience. All the students at my school were white. I lived in the country and when we went to town, I saw what we then called Negro children and wondered where they went to school, and why things were so separated into “colored” and “white.” More labels. I was happy to see that at this school, just as in their past, everybody was getting along just fine.
      Later that year, I was driving beside one of the Huntsville hospitals when traffic stopped, and I noticed a second historical marker about “Fifth Avenue School: Site of Alabama’s First Public School Integration” on September 9, 1963. Same week as the other school. There must be a story here, I thought, and I went straight to the public library.
      After nearly six years of digging through periodicals and interviewing people who were there, I wrote the manuscript – draft after draft after draft. I wanted to tell the facts in a way that would engage readers in the struggle and in the success. I was so inspired by the fact that both sides had to remain committed to nonviolence, and by the courage, creativity, and ultimately cooperation necessary for integration to be peaceful in Huntsville.
      When I was at a dinner in Orlando in 2010, after accepting the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award for The Secret World of Walter Anderson, the stranger sitting next to me asked what I was working on. When I told her about this story from Huntsville, she kind of blanched a little and told me that she had been a student at Fifth Avenue School when the first black child walked through the door. That same woman, now a friend, wrote the Teacher’s Guide for Seeds of Freedom. I could go on and on about the little moments of serendipity that stitched this piece of history into a book.
      It must be difficult for children today to understand just how different things were at that time, when the world must not have felt so full of possibilities to children of color. It has been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and one look at today’s headlines could make one wonder if we’re headed in that direction. (Artwork by E. B. Lewis.)
      But just like the people of Huntsville, we have a choice. We can choose our own label. My hope for the book is that it will be one more nudge to help people realize that even small gestures by everyday individuals can ultimately help solve very big problems. My hope is that more people will embrace the labels of peacemaker and friend, until the seeds of freedom are planted everywhere, for everybody.
     (The view from Hester's favorite writing spot.)
SEEDS OF FREEDOM. Text copyright © 2015 by Hester Bass. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by E. B. Lewis. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.