Hiatus

Wait. I have a blog?

There will be lots of exciting stuff going on in 2014:

Screaming at the Ump comes out March 4. I get extra nervous awaiting reviews of a novel. (The potential for meanness is greater. It really is.)

Water Balloon, the paperback, comes out in April.

Edgar’s Second Word, illustrated by the purely brilliant Priscilla Burris, hits shelves in June.

And I’m doing a bunch of interesting things—teaching a picture book revision workshop this month at a Michigan SCBWI event. Speaking with three brilliant educators at NCTE in November. Celebrating one of those big birthdays with my sisters in Puerto Rico in February (even though my birthday is in April).

But right now, I’m working awfully hard at treading water. So I think this blog is taking a little break. (It had already been taking a break. But now I’m announcing it.)

I’ll miss you. But I’ll be back.

Anything below this line is not part of my blog–wordpress sometimes slaps an ad or video here.

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Girl Meets Squash: Pat Zietlow Miller Interview

I’m feeling very prescient. When I created this blog, I pictured it as a place to explore all kinds of literary friendship, but most especially those of the inter-species variety. While I did not specifically envision it as a place for discussion of the bond between a human child and well, a squash, I am delighted beyond measure that it is playing exactly that role. I also didn’t know that A) I’d find this picture online or B) be inexplicably charmed by it. But I digress. As I am always wont to do.

MeToday it is my great pleasure to welcome the fabulous Pat Zeitlow Miller to the blog. Her debut picture book, Sophie’s Squash, has been honored with no fewer than four starred reviews. FOUR! STARRED! REVIEWS!

You’ve taken interspecies friendship to a new dimension! Please tell us how you came to write about a girl who develops a close, personal relationship with a squash.

I owe it all to my youngest daughter, Sonia. When she was still small enough to sit in the front of the grocery cart while I shopped, she latched on to a butternut squash. When we got to the checkout, she was rocking it like a baby, and it was very obvious that particular squash was never going to be dinner.

CoverI took her friendship with that squash and made it more permanent and more intense, and Sophie and Bernice were born.

While Sonia liked her squash, she was never as attached to it as she was to her blue blanket and her stuffed pig. After her relationship with her squash ended, she did temporarily develop feelings for a bag of Gold Medal all-purpose flour, which she creatively named “Goldie.” I could sense disaster looming, so I ended that relationship before my living room was covered with flour. Not all love is meant to last.

Did you ever get attached to an inanimate object?

Not the same way that Sophie gets attached to Bernice, but I did have a little blue stuffed dog that I took along on a family trip to Michigan because, as I told my family, “He’s never seen it!” My parents still recall this fondly.

Are there any characters from books you read as a child that you think of as your friends? Any you wish had moved next door to childhood-you?

 I really liked Anne of Green Gables. She was a more adventurous child than I was, but I think she would have been a great next-door neighbor. I could have been Diana. I read the whole series several times, and liked learning about Anne and Gilbert’s children too.

And, when I read The Boxcar Children series, I identified with Violet. I think I would have gotten along very well with her. We were both quiet and bookish.

What can you tell us about your forthcoming books, Sharing the Bread and The Quickest Kid in Clarksville?

Sharing the Bread is a story about how an entire family works together to get a mouth-watering, old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner on the table. It’s got a lot of warmth and love and togetherness. And everyone cooks, from the youngest to the oldest. It’s coming out in fall of 2015 from Schwartz & Wade.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville is about two girls who idolize Olympic sprinter Wilma Rudolph. They start out by competing to see who’s faster, but end up coming together to support each other and honor Wilma’s achievements. It’s coming out from Chronicle Books.

What are you working on now?                           

I have several picture books in process. One is an ode to rocks. Another features a duck and a detective, and the third is about a very young and very determined football fan. And I just wrote a first draft that could be about a boy or a bear. I’m still trying to decide.

Thanks so much for stopping by Pat! You can learn more about Pat Zietlow Miller by visiting her website.

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UMP cover reveal

Do you know what’s fun?

Watching video of baby elephants learning to walk? Yes.

Searching for the missing library copy of Eleanor and Park? Not so much.

(You’re good at this.)

Getting to share the cover of your 4/1/14 middle-grade release?

WINNER! We have a winner!

screaming at the ump coverHere it is, in all its glory.

Also fun: An interview with the great Pat Zietlow Miller about her talk-of-the-town debut, Sophie’s Squash.

If you look up squash, by the way, you’ll see that its pronunciation is listed as skwosh, which is all kinds of fun too, no?

Come back next week to meet Pat and learn how her picture-book character came to choose a skwosh as her best friend.

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Happy International Friendship Day!

This holiday snuck up on me. I didn’t get you ANYTHING. I am so sorry. I hear it’s a big holiday in Paraguay. A tiny bit less so in New Jersey.

I think I shall celebrate by going to the beach today (singing the “Stronger than the Storm” jingle), and with this illustration of my favorite picture-book friendship. (Please do not infer anything about what I might look like in a bathing suit from this.)

I have a good idea! I’ll also mention Natalie Lorenzi‘s site, Biblio Links, an incredible resource all teachers and librarians should be friends with (international or not). Check it out–it helps teachers and librarians do their most satisfying work–linking readers with the just-right-for-them books.

By incredible coincidence, today’s post is about Bogart and Vinnie. Actually, Natalie was the one who told me about International Friendship Day AND she was together enough to get today’s entry posted at the appropriate time.  Like I said…she’s all kinds of wonderful.

Enjoy this day!

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Celebrating Chick-O-Saurus Rex with Lenore Appelhans and Daniel Jennewein

chickosaurusI hope that when you think BUFFALO, you think Daniel Jennewein. I made his acquaintance when he illustrated his first book, Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? I also had the chance to meet his lovely writer wife, Lenore Appelhans, when Daniel and I made some bookstore appearances in support of that title. And now they’ve created a picture book together!!

In Chick-O-Saurus Rex, a bullied little chicken discovers his inner strength along with some surprising dinosaur ancestry.

It’s impossible not to ask a which-came-first question when your main character is a chicken, so here it is. Which came first, the idea of having a chicken using his ancestry to impress or was there a chicken character who needed backstory, which led you to the link between chickens and dinosaurs?

While we were visiting a friend, her daughter asked Daniel if he knew what the closest living relative to the T-Rex was.  After a few incorrect guesses, she told him it was the chicken.  When we thought about that fun scientific theory, we knew it would make a great picture book.

chick spreadHow do you two work together? Did Lenore write about a chick because Daniel’s birds are so appealing? Or did Daniel suggest a chicken might make a brilliant leading man?

Daniel does do great birds! But it really started with the chicken’s surprising ancestry. While brainstorming how to implement the idea, we hit upon the fact that the word “chicken” is often used to mean “scared” or “wimpy” and having Chick be excluded by the “mightier” animals on the farm naturally led us to the subject of bullying.

buffalo entry-1I want to protect your character, who finds himself in a world of bullies. What kidlit characters would be good friends for Chick-o-saurus Rex?

The first character that came to both of us is the Buffalo of course! He’s gentle, but he’s also big, and he would give those bullies a run for their money.

copy of DJLAWhat are you working on now? Any new projects together?

We are in fact putting the finishing touches on a new joint picture book that features cats and the pressure that kids have these days from all the competiveness that is out there. It’s very exaggerated humor, which Daniel draws so well!

I know you’ll be in the US with some bookstore appearances planned. Can you please share those dates, as well as other ways readers can connect with you and your work?

Yes! We’ll be in three locations:

Saturday, July 27th at Watermark Books in Wichita, KS at 11 am

Saturday, August 3rd at Hoorary for Books in Alexandria, VA at 3:30 pm (with Ann Bonwill and Erin Cabatingan)

Saturday, August 10th at Fundamentals Bookstore in Delaware, OH at 10 am

Daniel is of course happy to do a personalized illustration for each person in their book!

You can find us at our websites: www.danieljennewein.com and www.lenoreappelhans.com.

Lenore is also on twitter @lenoreva

Many thanks to you both, and welcome to the world, Chick-O-Saurus Rex!

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Prepare Thyselves for Cuteness Overload

Oh, blog readers.

I try not to overwhelm. I seek to space out the cuteness over a period of days.

But it just didn’t work this time, and so you must brace thyselves for a one-two punch.

Edgar_front[1] (2)First up, the unspeakably adorable cover of my 2014 picture book, Edgar’s Second Word, illustrated to perfection by the great Priscilla Burris.

I did not overstate the cuteness, right? And if you could just see the spreads inside! The book’s not out until June, like almost a year away, but THE CUTENESS!!!!

And tomorrow, an interview on the very day of their picture book’s release with writer-illustrator, wife-husband team Lenore Appelhans and Daniel Jennewein. The book is called Chick-O-Saurus Rex and, as you may have guessed, it’s very, very cute.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow!

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Celebrating Interspecies Friendships

bogart and vinnie from bloomsburyI started this blog shortly after selling Bogart and Vinnie: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship. Tricia Lawrence, associate agent at Erin Murphy Literary Agency and something of a social media guru, helped me come up with the theme: literary friendship. We both loved the way it could apply to writers’ and illustrators’ relationships to the books they work on as well as to the characters in books they adored. And of course, it served the theme of Bogart and Vinnie, too.

The friendship, such as it is, between Vinnie, the crazy-happy dog, and Bogart, the wants-to-be-left-alone rhinoceros, was itself inspired by the spate of nonfiction picture books about interspecies friendships that have been popping up for nearly a decade. For more about the strange evolution of my book, be sure to check out Debbie Ohi’s awesome blog later this month, where I’ll be talking about precisely that.

Hootie June 13

Hootie, the two-year-old
dog who wants a bunny

Here’s the funny thing, reader: the strong desire for an interspecies friendship has hit home. Hootie, who turned two this month, has been none-too-subtle about her desire for a wild bunny. Our neighborhood is overrun with them, so she has had many opportunities to share said desire. A generally well-behaved dog (if you overlook the facts that she barks too much and sometimes jumps on people), she is like a human two-year-old in her ability to forget everything she knows (walk next to person on other end of leash, do not take off madly after hopping animals) when confronted with the object of her desire.

I suspect such a friendship would be very brief. And likely end in blood and death. And it’s a lesson well worth thinking through that perhaps not all interspecies introductions end in incredibly photogenic friendships.

And so we ignore Hootie’s request and offer, instead, a tennis ball.

Bogart and Vinnie: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship is officially out today. To celebrate, I’ve visited a number of great blogs. Keep an eye out for this month’s Bartography from author Chris Barton (and sign up to receive it, if you haven’t already).

There’s also a fun new column at The Children’s Book Review. And a Bogart and Vinnie giveaway.

Local friends, I’ll be doing a reading and signing at my adopted-hometown-store, Booktowne, in Manasquan, this Saturday, from 1-3.

Aside from comments, anything you see below this line has been inserted by WordPress and not by me.

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