Kristina Swarner's LIGHT THE MENORAH

This year, Hanukkah begins on the evening of Sunday, December 2nd and ends on the evening of Monday, December 10th. What a wonderful opportunity to share this gorgeous Hanukkah book, LIGHT THE MENORAH with you! It is written by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Kristina Swarner who stops by today to talk about her method. (Published by Kar-Ben Publishing.)
e: Hi Kristina! I love your illustrations in Light the Menorah. What is your creative process/medium, can you walk us through it?
I start out by just thinking a lot, especially when I’m in bed. It doesn’t look like I’m working, but that’s really when I’m working the hardest, because I’m focusing on coming up with ideas.
After a while, hopefully I get one or two that I like.
Then I draw a lot of really rough, mostly indecipherable little pencil sketches. Once I get a good one, I tighten it up and transfer it to a linoleum plate so I can print it.

After it’s printed, I paint on top of it with watercolor and then finish up with some colored pencil where it’s needed.

e: What do you think makes an illustration magical, what I call "Heart Art” - the sort that makes a reader want to come back to look again and again?
This is the tricky part—I try, but can’t always make it on demand! When I see it, I know it—there’s a certain depth or layer of meaning that appears or even just a detail that just makes me say, “Ohhhh!” It’s different for every illustrator. For me, when I make it happen, I can actually feel a sort of warmth in my chest—your name of “Heart Art” is a good one.
(Note: Kristina says a painting just isn’t complete until her cat lies down on it.)

e: Is there a unique or funny story behind the creation of this story?
I listened to a lot of loud music and sang and danced while I worked on the artwork— I often do when I’m working, but it especially seemed to go with the celebratory nature of this book. I had a great time, but I don't think my dog is a fan of my singing.
e: HA! How do you advertise yourself?
I have a few portfolio websites, and an agent. Sometimes I send out actual printed mailers.
e: What is your favorite or most challenging part of being a creator?
My favorite part is that I get to live my childhood dream of drawing ALL DAY LONG. The part I enjoy less is having to stop and be the Accounts Receivable/Accounts Payable/IT department.
e: Is there something in particular about this story you hope readers will take away with them, perhaps something that isn’t immediately obvious?
When I’m drawing people (animals, too!), I always identify with and feel very empathetic toward them, so I really felt connected to the families in this book celebrating in their different ways. I feel like I shared their warmth and closeness, and I hope the readers do, too.
e: What are you working on next or what would be your dream project?
I have an ongoing plan in my head for an elaborate glow in the dark book—I’m not sure if it’s even possible to make one the way I'm imagining it, but it’s fun to think about.
e: I'd love to see that! Best of luck with all!

My Lost Gloves Project

Do you remember when I first told you about my "Lost Gloves Project"? Well, I haven't stopped doing it. I share these found treasures on my INSTAGRAM PAGE, where I've shared 172 of these gems to date - these visible acts of kindness. Lately, I've been sharing the images to Facebook, which has introduced my project to another audience. Maybe you've seen a few of them? Not only are they a bright spot of happiness every time I see one, they're also an unusual way to share the beautiful scenery of Edinburgh. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Coloring Page Tuesday - Whale Makes a Friend

     Here's another light-hearted coloring page for you - that moment when Whale makes a new friend.
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VIDEO: I READ - a poem by Tom Pow

The Scottish Book Trust recently shared a wonderfully inspiring post called We read because... with a lovely poem called I Read by poet Tom Pow and many others. Click the image to have a listen at the SBT website:
And maybe give a helping hand while you're there, because the Scottish Book Trust is working to change lives.

Opening Up the Archives Conference

Students and faculty from the Children's Literature MEd and PhD programs at the University of Glasgow recently headed towards Edinburgh for the Opening Up the Archives conference hosted by the University of Edinburgh, the Centre for the History of the Book, and SELCIE (Scotland's Early Literature for Children Initiative). Since my home base is Edinburgh, I met everyone at the train station where we took the escalator up to Market Street.
Some of our students are natives, but many had never been to Edinburgh before, so I played a bit of the tour guide - which I LOVE! I took a slightly meandering route to the conference, albeit a pretty one full of funny stories and odd facts. That's me telling them about the bagpipe player who disappeared while trying to traverse the alleged underground tunnels that connect the castle at one end of the Royal Mile to the palace at the other end.
They were all excited to experience Edinburgh at Christmas! In fact, several of them went to the Christmas village after the conference before heading back to Glasgow. Here's the gang with the Christmas village in the background.
The conference itself was held in Teviot Row House, the student center for the University of Edinburgh. I've been there many times, but it was lovely to see it all decorated for the holidays!
     Lyn Stevens, curator of the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh kicked off the event and spoke about some of the books in their ever-growing collection, including this coffee-table book of natural history that didn't get everything quite right from the 1800s (but was charming nonetheless and was likely a family treasure).
She also talked about their current exhibit, Stories of Childhood that will be open through December 9th. There's a book on display that I really want to see, Richard Doyle's Fairyland Pictures from the Elf-World, so I want to go!
Several archivists from Seven Stories in Newcastle were there to talk about their archives and a current exhibit dedicated to author and friend David Almond. Apparently he wrote several poems specifically for the show to help segue the artefacts. I especially liked this opening one:
"Words should wander and meander.

They should fly like owls and flicker
like bats and slip like cats.

They should murmur and scream
and dance and sing.

Sometimes. . .
there should be no words at all.

Just silence.
Just clean white space."
Isn't that lovely?
     Ian Scott shared information about the incredible collection of children's literature at the National Library of Scotland focusing on the comics of D.C. Thomson (based in Dundee). I was shocked to learn that while I was enjoying the US version of Dennis the Menace, apparently there was a completely different version of Dennis the Menace going on in the UK! Two different creators, completely different versions, but both comics and both called Dennis the Menace - WOW!
Annette Hagan, also of the National Library of Scotland shared works from before the 1700s including these incredible hornbooks, which helped students memorize their alphabet.
After lunch, two groups went over to the University of Edinburgh archives to view some rare and valuable books like this first edition (1883) of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (photo credit to Clare Capaldi).
And this original copy of Peter Pan...
signed by J.M. Barrie himself!
Or this first edition copy of Andrew Lang's Silver Fairy Book (he and his wife, who doesn't get the credit she deserves, created an entire rainbow collection of fairy tales).
There was lots more covered, like children's plays in Gaelic, a folklore project from Ireland, and more on Scottish chapbooks - it was all so very interesting! Many thanks to the SELCIE team for putting the event together, including Katie Forrester, who mentored me on my PhD proposal (second from the right). I hope you guys will do lots more events like this - I know we'll be there!

Pumpkin Pie in Scotland

They don't celebrate Thanksgiving in Scotland or the UK, but most folks have a fascination with the holiday as it's such a nice sentiment - a day dedicated to being grateful. So, surprisingly, it's not hard to find canned pumpkin in time for the day (although you have to buy it when you see it as the stores do run out - learned that the hard way one year).
The harder challenge is meeting my gluten-free, dairy-free diet. But Stan was up to the challenge!
He used this recipe to make the crust: but he used a butter substitute rather than the one called for in the recipe.
For the custard, he followed the recipe on the pumpkin tin, swapping out soy products for the dairy.
And here's a neat trick we learned for the whipped topping. Per Stan: "Refrigerate a can of coconut milk overnight, and open the can carefully (no shaking!). Pull out the hard, gooey stuff (the solids) - add some powdered sugar and froth it with a fork." It was amazingly delicious. So, I got my pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving - YAY!
The turkey, on the other hand, was a chicken. It's very hard to find a turkey in the UK this time of year (you have to special order them). Everybody eats them for Christmas. And considering this year we were taking it a bit easy, a chicken did just fine. A chicken . . . and PIE!

Friday Links List - 23 November 2018

From Brightly: An Attitude of Gratitude: 15 Books That Show Kids What It Means to Be Thankful

Also from Brightly: Hurry Up and Read These Picture Books About Patience (Includes Jane Yolen's OWL MOON!)

From The Independent: World Kindness Day: 12 Amazing Random Acts of Kindness That Will Warm Your Heart

From Myth and Moor: On Writing Fantasy

From BBC: Creative conversion: Bizarre buildings turned into great galleries

From Muddy Colors: A Conversation with Wendy Froud (the creator of Yoda)

From The Bookseller: Spare Room Project relaunches with PRH UK sponsor and call-out for 50 new hosts - what a great idea to bring diversity into the business! New York needs to do this too!

From SLJ: Collaborating on High-Interest Topics | The Refugee Experience

From LitHub: Advice from the NBA 5 Under 35 Honorees About Writing a Second Book

From The Picturebook Den: Illustrating the night in children's picture books

From The Independent: Children’s books are seeing a heyday – and adults are loving them too

From The Edinburgh International Book Festival: Check out their podcasts and videos of speakers

From BBC: Specs appeal: The artist creating amazing eyewear from rubbish

And Seven things you might not know about Peanuts

From Book Riot: How to Keep People Coming Back to Your Little Free Library

From Atlas Obscura: How Writers Map Their Imaginary Worlds

From Wait Until 8th: Middle School Misfortunes Then and Now, One Teacher's Take


A guest post for...

On the Path to Publication: Little Miracles, Clothespin Angels, Rock Faces and a Talking Heart
By Laura Geringer Bass

      The Girl With More Than One Heart had a long and winding road to publication. It began when I was a child with my mother, my first writing mentor. She was a lot like the mother in my book. She didn’t have one green eye and one brown eye like that mother, but she did see miracles. “Not big miracles like Moses parting the Red Sea but everyday ones like the shadow patterns pigeons make in the park when they flutter. Or mist rising from the Hudson River when sunbeams bounce off the George Washington Bridge and hit the sky.” She taught me to notice all the little everyday miracles around me. And she advised me to keep a journal and to write them down. Those journals I kept as a child were my first steps toward becoming a writer.
      My mom also read me stories and encouraged me to read. Our home was filled with books, floor to ceiling, just as my home is today. I had the freedom to browse those bookshelves and make my own choices. My parents’ eclectic library opened up new worlds to me. The books took me far far away from our home on the Upper West Side of New York City to foreign lands real and imagined. They gave me a taste of lives so very different from my own. The independence my parents allowed me to discover books on my own made reading all the more intriguing. I invited many authors into our home: Willa Cather, Pearl Buck, Mark Twain, James Thurber, L. Frank Baum, Lewis Carroll, Nathaniel Hawthorne, J.R.R. Tolkein, They lived with us. The doors to their worlds were wide open to me. I made those worlds my own. It’s little wonder that my heroine Briana is a voracious reader and a storyteller and navigates the trauma of the loss of her father through storytelling.
      In addition to giving me the ability to see and appreciate the little miracles around me and to introducing me to the profound pleasures of reading, my mom was kind of a DiYer. She made things. The intimate hours I spent with her turning wooden clothespins into clothespin angels with sequins and little colorful wings for example shaped my imagination. The angels told stories. Through those stories, my mother transformed doing the laundry and hanging it up on the roof into magic.
      When my boys were little, I continued my mom’s DiYer tradition on our vacations in Cape Cod. I made Rock Faces out of beach stones with my kids. We named them together and told stories about them: Rockpunzel. Stonestiltskin. Little Rock Riding Hood. Those stories found their way into The Girl With More Than One Heart. So did my Mom’s clothespin angels.
      My father was a storyteller too. He called his stories “jokes.” I recorded him telling his funny shaggy dog stories to my sons. One of those stories “The Boy with the Golden Bellybutton” walked right into my book in the chapter “Three Wishes”. My father’s death in 2008 catapulted me into the writing of a memoir about the way he told stories to my sons. And that memoir eventually morphed into The Girl With More than One Heart thanks to my wonderful editor Tamar Brazis who read it, cried, and asked me to turn it into a novel.
      I didn’t have a clue how to write a book with characters so close to my real family. It took me about ten years to write. When it was finally published, I thought the book was inspired by my Dad and I dedicated it to him and to my sons. Later though, when folks asked me what most surprised me about the writing process, I had to answer that it was the re-discovery of my Mom.
      My heroine Briana tries to figure out what her imagined second heart, her “Dad heart” is saying to her. One of the mysterious things it says is “Find her.” Eventually she understands that it’s her Mom, her grief-stricken living parent, she’s seeking. That was a quest I needed to go on as well.
      Before she died, my mother lost her memory and no longer remembered my name. Like Briana’s mother, she suffered from depression. After she died, I found it was hard for me to think about her. It was hard for me to remember how she was before Alzheimer’s. She remained lost to me for years. Like Briana, I needed to “find her,” to find my “clothespin angel Mom.” Somewhere on the long and winding path to the publication of The Girl With More Than One Heart, I did.
Good News! The Girl With More Than One Heart was just listed in New York Magazine’s Holiday Gift Guide of best gifts for 10-year-olds.