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Friday, December 19, 2008

Kids Heart Authors Day!

Before this ingenious campaign by our own Mitali Perkins (of Rickshaw Girl fame), Valentine's Day was merely the annual homage to unlabeled and often surprisingly gross pieces of chocolate that you ate out of obligation, or to fill that lonely place in your heart. Now you can save your palate and your sense of dignity by marching down to your local independent bookstore and hanging out with children's authors and illustrators. You may even get a couple of hugs!

Kids Heart Authors Day is a new campaign to support literacy, children's authors and illustrators, and independent bookstores. What else could you want? Here's how it works: authors, illustrators, and bookstores from around New England can sign up to participate at www.kidsheartauthors.com. They will then be paired up and on February 14th, kids can show up to the bookstore nearest them to get signed copies of their favorite books and meet the people that created them. The events will take place from 10:00 a.m. til noon. More details are at the website, and we'll keep you up-to-date about Charlesbridge authors and illustrators who plan to attend.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mitali Perkins talks about life between cultures


Check out this wonderful interview with Mitali Perkins, author of Rickshaw Girl, at Kabiliana, the fantastic blog about books by Valentina Acava Mmaka.

Posted by Donna

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did Galileo Really Have a Dog?

This is a question children ask me over and over when I visit their classrooms to talk about the great scientist/inventor/- musician/astronomer/all-around Renaissance man Galileo Galilei. You see, there is a picture of Galileo with his dog "Luna" on the cover of my book, Galileo's Journal, which was published in 2006. Putting Luna there was not a frivolous decision, I can assure you. Galileo loved nature and, seemed to have a fondness for animals. In letters to him written by his daughter, Sister Maria Celeste, from her cloistered convent, there is communication about a small donkey kept on his property, as well as doves. And research showed that certain types of dogs were pets in Italian households during Galileo's lifetime. So we put Luna in the book and readers really connected with her. I always assure students that, while I don't know for sure whether he had a dog, Galileo was a gregarious sort of guy and liked companionship. So he might have had a dog like Luna. Kids seem to be okay with this reply.

I always begin my interactive presentation by getting children to think about what they might have in common with Galileo. Who likes to do experiments? Who plays a musical Instrument? Who plants a garden? Likes to go hiking? Who has brothers and/or sisters? Who likes mathematics? Does anyone here have a pen pal?

So this Larger than Life scientist becomes a little more human as children realize, "well, yes he discovered mountains and craters on the moon and tutored a prince, but Galileo also liked to take long hikes and spend time with his friends, and maybe even played catch with his dog. He studied hard and learned how to play the organ and the lute, but he was a regular guy.

With my show board and props, I meet with private and public school children and homeschoolers. I go to their book fairs and science fairs and writing clubs and their local author celebrations. There have been some memorable moments. Last February 15th, I sang happy birthday to Galileo with a group of homeschoolers in Stafford Virginia.

The children in Isabella Clemente's third-grade class at St. William of York, also in Stafford, stood up to greet me when I entered their room. After our Galileo discussion, they asked me some excellent questions and proceeded to take the accelerated reading test on my book. The following week I received a handwritten (and colored) thank you note from each and every child.

In a first grade class at Woodacres school in Bethesda, I noticed one little girl sitting criss cross applesauce, eyes closed and arms outstretched In a meditative posture, as I introduced myself. The whole class stayed quiet until she opened her eyes and was ready to begin. Then we got down to business and in a very calm and relaxed manner, proceeded to talk about the stars. After this particular presentation, I got a tour of the school's planetarium. Yes, this elementary school has a planetarium! The parents there do a great job of staffing it and teaching the kids about our solar system and beyond.

Not all schools have planetariums. In fact, I have been to a Washington DC inner-city holding school with not a patch of green grass in sight. But the children were excited to have me there. Some came up afterwards and asked me for my autograph. Meeting a local author is not such a big deal in Bethesda; it might be in some parts of Washington DC.

Sometimes the children sing to me. At the Oneness School in Bethesda, one of the classes sang a solar system song for me. The students assured me that even though Pluto was no longer technically a planet, they had decided to keep Pluto in the song.

And they all want to tell me about their pets. Dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, hamsters, fish, lizards.... "And what pets do you have?" they want to know. Luckily, I can share in their pet enthusiasm, We have a rabbit named Lady, a guinea pig named Fudge, and a fish named? Well, sometimes I forget his name even though I am the one who cleans his bowl, I say. He is the longest surviving fish in the long succession of fishes we have owned.

While I was waiting for the book to be printed, my family and I traveled to Italy. I thought it would be cool to see some of Galileo's telescopes in person. So we picked a day and took the Eurostar train to Florence. We went into the duomo and the bell tower and walked along the Arno River, just as Galileo might have done. When we asked a nice carabiniere for directions to the Science Museum, he informed us that the government museums were closed that day, our only day in Florence. There was a "sciopero," a strike; we wouldn't get to see Galileo's telescopes after all.

Earlier this month my daughter and I had the good fortune to return to Italy. We arrived in Rome to sunny weather. I thought about Galileo's trips to Rome, where he visited friends and made enemies. We walked around St. Peter's Square and I thought about the appointments Galileo had there, discussing his discoveries about the moon, Jupiter, and the stars when he was still allowed to ponder the secrets of the universe out loud. He must have marveled at the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Forum, just as we did.

Our trip was also to include an overnight in Venice, that magical city where Galileo first showed off his spyglass to dramatic effect. When he built his spyglass, Galileo was living in Padua, a city that was part of the Serene Republic of Venice. Galileo taught Mathematics at the university in Padua , but Venice is where he spent much free time in the company of friends. So we wanted to climb to the top of St. Mark's Tower and look out over the sea, just as Galileo did. We also wanted to visit the glass making factories, where he bought glass to use for lenses in his first telescopes.

We saved Venice for the end of our trip. The night before our sojourn to Venice, friends told us that a day-long train strike, a "sciopero," would begin at 9 AM the next morning. Going to Venice by train would be impossible. I inquired about the cost of a driver; the round trip would be 370 Euros. Going by car would also be impossible at that rate. Although we never did get to Venice, we spent a lovely day sightseeing and shopping in Milan (I'm not sure Galileo ever visited that city). Maybe on our next trip we will see Galileo's telescopes AND the glass making factories of Venice.

Galileo's parents wanted him to become a doctor. He tried very hard to please them and began taking courses in medicine when he started college. But he soon realized that mathematics was his passion. So he had to chart his own course and, the rest, as they say, is history. I always tell children that Galileo was a good son but what he wanted from his life and what his parents wanted were two different things. Galileo followed his dream. This is a lesson we can all take to heart.

Posted by Jeanne Pettenati

October 23, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I Heart Your Blog

Children's book editor, volunteer librarian, mother of two, and choir singing superstar, Emily Mitchell of the blog Emily Reads, hearts our blog! OMG! (In the spirit of journalistic integrity I must disclose that Emily also works for Charlesbridge.) Nevertheless! Someone actually reads this thing!

Now it is our turn to spread the blog love to others. The decision was tough and heart-wrenching, but we finally came up with seven (but not nearly all) of our favorites. All we had to do was write them a little love letter, post the links to their blogs, and voila! We heart these blogs:


Three Silly Chicks (For the silliest and funniest kids books around)

7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast (Reviews by grown-ups about kids books--but don't worry, these grown-ups are still a little childish--in a good way!)

Bartography (Of course we have to throw in a little nepotistic shout-out to our author of the upcoming book, The Day-Glo Brothers, Chris Barton. Yo what up Chris!?--that's was the shout-out part)

Guys Lit Wire (Wait, what? Guys read? Well according to this blog they do, and they do it a lot)

Poetry for Children (Helping to keep children's poetry alive and well. Thank goodness for this blog!)

Planet Esme
(The coolest place for those who love kid's books, written by a professional readiologist!)

I.N.K-Interesting Non-fiction for Kids (This pretty much sums up half of Charlesbridge's back list)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Poetry Friday

Two Writing Teachers is hosting Poetry Friday today!

One of our favorite illustrators, Grace Lin, joined by author Ranida McKneally, didn't just celebrate autumn (and the other seasons) in Our Seasons, they told us how the weather works and how it effects us humans. Pretty haikus are accompanied by scientific explanations.
Here's one perfect for today:

Punching the blue sky,
The wind shows off its poer.
Ki-Ki almost flies


Then we learn what makes the wind: "Air moves when there's a difference in air pressure from one area to another. Air pressure is the weight of air pushing down from above. Most differences in air pressure are caused by the sun's heat. Because the sun heats the earth unevenly, the air is warmer insome places than in others. Warm air doesn't press down as much as cold air, so we say it has low pressure. Cold air has high pressure--when air is cooled, it shrinks and sinks.

When air is heated, it expands and rises. As warm air rises, cold air flows in from surrounding areas to replace the rising air. Air always moves from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. When air moves you feel it as wind."

Posted by Donna




Writing is a Gift

When I visit schools and talk to students about writing I am frequently asked why I am a writer. Actually, the answer is really quite simple. I tell students that I write because I can’t not write. Believe me, I’ve tried, but I’ve never been able to go without it for very long. Lucky for me.

I’ve always written and I’ve always enjoyed it. From little made up books and plays as a child, to atrocious teen-aged, angst ridden poetry, to college essays and then children’s writing as an adult. I’ve always loved to write. Journal writing has been a part of my life, and unfortunately my personal baggage every time I move, since I was a teenager. I’ve always loved the thrill of following up on an idea, the joy of creativity and the hidden wonder of revision. But it is just recently that I have begun to see the power and purpose of writing in my life.

First of all, writing allows me the gift of time spent exactly the way that I want to spend it. Every morning I get up early and while the rest of the house is still asleep, I pour myself a cup of steaming, hot tea, wrap myself in a cozy quilt, and get out my journal. Most days I don’t know what I’m going to write, all I do know is that when I open the journal my heart and my mind opens also. Words flow, thoughts come easily, my imagination soars, and when my morning writing time is over I feel fortified to face my day. And why not when the first hour has been filled with all the things I most want to do anyway; read, think, daydream, imagine and of course, drink tea.

Writing has given me the gift of truly seeing. Georgia O’Keeffe said, “Nobody sees a flower—really—it is so small it takes time…to see takes time….” Writing gives me the time, and the purpose, to make myself slow down and really see, and through that closer look, my world grows and is enriched. Let me give you an example. I recently completed a picture book about Claude Monet, the Impressionist painter famous for capturing light in his paintings. As I read about him I found myself looking at my world through a different lens. Scenes that I’d seen a million times before I now saw through Monet’s eyes. I didn’t just briefly notice the pretty silver edging on a cloud, or the shimmering sunlight as it landed on a leaf. I looked more closely. “What color is the light?” I asked myself. “White? Silver? How would I paint it?” Thanks to my writing about Monet I notice more. And this is true for each person I’ve researched and written about. By putting myself in their skin, I also see the world out of their eyes. So my gift of writing has also become a gift of awareness.

Writing has given me a chance to reflect and go deeper. As I sit every day in front of my journal, wise and wonderful sayings do not automatically appear as if on cue. If they appear at all, they come unexpectedly as I follow a train of thought from one track to another, from one destination to another. Writing creates the opportunity to slow down enough to actually think. That too is a gift. I believe that we often don’t really know what we think about something until we write it down. I know this to be true for myself. There is so much swirling around in my head, deposited there through all of my senses and my daily experiences and encounters. Writing helps me figure out not only how to solve problems, but what they are. Writing helps me think through solutions, scenarios, and explore feelings. All of that knowledge is already there, in my head, a treasure trove waiting to be accessed. Writing is my way of digging for that unmined treasure.

And speaking of treasure troves, there is just so much untapped creativity in our heads. Writing, for me, has been a way to tap into it. My first book came to me as a total surprise. I didn’t set out to write a picture book. I sat down to do a writing exercise with my students. I set a timer for fifteen minutes and told them to write about school. As we all wrote in that silent classroom, the only sound was the scratching of pencils against paper and the ticking of the timer. And when the timer went off, lo and behold, I had completed the first draft of my book, First Day Jitters. The story wasn’t planned. I didn’t know that it was there, inside me, I just brought myself to the paper and I wrote the words that poured out of my head and my heart.
Salman Rushdie has said that “in this world without a quiet corner there can be no easy escapes…” Writing is my quiet corner. It provides me with an easy escape. All I need to do is pick up a pen and my journal and I can be traversing the landscape of my mind as in reflective journal writing, or I can be creating a new reality, as in fiction writing, or meeting new people, like Monet, when researching for nonfiction writing. Writing in all of its forms is a gift that has vastly enriched my life and a gift for which I am very grateful. Of course I can’t not write. And why would I want to?




Posted by Julie Danneberg, author of First Day Jitters and the forthcoming Lost and Found.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I am Moved to Write

My husband wants me to buy a plush and expensive new car. The Forester I am driving now is not that old and in great shape, so how does he justify this extravagance? “It will be a complete write-off,” he claims.

Maybe he has a point. Every August, when we begin our long drive to Maine, it is a matter of moments before I get that certain look on my face. And then Rob knows he’s in for it. Pretty soon I will be barraging him with tongue twisters and silly verse. From time to time I will consult him, asking which sounds better- “bumbling black bear” or “bungling black bear?” or other such blithering blather. But most of the time he is left alone, subject only to my incessant muttering and frenetic scribbling. For the next nine hours the poor guy is trapped in the car with me, his riding, writing fool.

He is free to listen to music, or to the news, or to talk on the cell phone, none of which distract me. Once I have engaged my gears, the RPMs (rhymes per minute) keep accelerating and my mind drives full speed ahead.

Oh, I could see myself in a spiffy new car, with lavish leather reclining seats, climate control, quiet interior, mood lighting and a computer with satellite Internet connection.

A limo is actually what I have in mind. Instead, we travel in my husband’s work van, loaded chock-full of luggage, 212 pounds of dogs and cat, and towing a sailboat. It happens to be a very nice, roomy vehicle, but its rigid suspension makes for a rather stiff and bumpy ride, and its lack of sound insulation creates a non-stop drone that resembles a ride in an old New York subway.

But all of this is irrelevant, for I have entered a blissfully oblivious state, and the only sound I hear is the playful babble in my brain.

My facial expressions, I am told, range from agitated twitches to motionless, blank stares. Rob will sometimes try to talk to me, or take my pulse if I don’t respond. But when I do look at him, my expression is glazed-over and strange. He has every right at that point to demand: “Who are you and what have you done with my wife?’

But, he is a patient and supportive man. Rather than feeling abandoned, he spurs me on. And whether it’s his big heart, or strong instinct for survival, he always assumes all of the driving when I am moved to write.

And now I need to talk to my accountant.

Posted by Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of loads and loads of books, but most recently Rufus and Friends: Rhyme Time, our characters of the month (see the bottom of the blog).

While your here, join the poll at the right. And why not follow us? Next month, author Julie Danneberg will be posting here.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

G'day, mate! - a note from Cassie

Hi ya!
My name if Cassie. I'm actually a character in an Aussie book called If the Shoe Fits. My wonderful author, Krista Bell, really captured me, I think. I love to dance. LOVE IT! But, the thought of dancing in front of an audience made me want to puke. But when I found out that the best dancer in the whole school--Jake (who is also very cute)--was also afraid, it gave me a weird kind of courage. I figured together we could help each other out. And we did! We even got chosen to be in the superstar dancer, Miranda Farren's, dance troupe. Teamwork really helps to make your dreams come true.

You know, living in Australia isn't so different than living in the United States, I think. Except, at Christmas, it's summer here. But, mostly the kids are just like the kids where you live. I love to dance just like loads of kids in the U.S. I worry about fitting in and wearing the right clothes, but I love hanging out with my friends. We do have different kinds of animals here, like koalas and platypus. If you want to get to know a little bit more about my country and the kids and animals who live here, try reading some of these books:

Besides dancing, I love to read and I've read all of these books. I guarantee you'll like them as much as I did.

Hoo-roo! (that means 'see you later').

Posted by Cassie, the main character in If the Shoe Fits.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Perceptions


Before I retired and started writing children's books I was a school social worker in Binghamton, New York. I worked with troubled children, children having difficulty adjusting, and children with disabilities. When I'd meet these children downtown or at the mall or in a restaurant there was no glimmer of recognition on their part that they knew me, no glimmer of recognition that we spent regular assigned time together. But after I retired from the school system and started writing children's books and did readings and signings in their schools--my how things changed! Now when these children see me downtown or at the mall or in a restaurant they run over and with a smiling face and a voice brimming with pride say,Hi Mrs. Grambling. I know you. You signed one of your books for me at my school. Remember?”

And yes. Of course I remembered!

As a school social worker I found my work very satisfying and productive. And now writing books for children I find my work very satisfying and productive. I must admit though that writing books for children is LOTS MORE FUN! And for sure it has changed the way some children perceive me!

Lois Grambling

P.S. When I first retired I was asked if I would be writing books about children with problems. I'll list my last five books and let you decide:

Can I Bring My Pterodactyl to School Ms Johnson? Can I?! Please?!?!

The Witch Who Wanted To Be A Princess

My Mom Is A Firefighter

T. Rex Trick Or Treats

Here Comes T. Rex Cottontail

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Puzzle of Books

This article by Caroline Arnold was published in the L.A.S.C.B.W.I.'s newsletter, Kite Tales (Summer 2008). It's a great insight into how a nonfiction author works. Thank you, Caroline.

I am fond of doing crosswords. Nothing is quite like the burst of satisfaction I get after filling in that last square to make the puzzle complete. I particularly like the Sunday crosswords, which not only have a theme, but usually employ some sort of word play to “get” the theme-related answers. In many ways, writing a nonfiction book is like doing a crossword puzzle. There is a topic or theme that threads its way through the manuscript; there is the network of clues used to create the skeleton, or support, for the theme; and often there is a twist at the end, which creates the “aha” moment, providing the reader with fresh insight.

Just as book writers always have their antennae up for possible book topics, puzzle creators need to come up with potential topics for their theme clues. These can be common phrases whose meanings change with the addition or subtraction of a letter; famous names that can be turned into puns; switched word orders, and so on. When one of these lists gets long enough, they make a puzzle.

In the same way, after I choose a topic for a book, I begin to collect information. Some of that information never gets used. It may be tangential to my main theme, for another age group, or, if the book is short, it may not fit. Some may get saved for another book. But when I think I have enough information, I take what I have and sort it into its various main topics or chapters. My next step is always an outline. I plan my book, page spread by page spread. This provides me with the overall structure of my book. Nothing is ever set in stone. As I work, the details of the plan may change, and I may rearrange parts if it makes sense to do so.

One thing I like about crossword puzzles is the symmetry of the grids. Each puzzle has an overall pattern made by the black and white squares. Usually, one half of the puzzle is a mirror image of the other. One of the challenges for the puzzle creator is finding pairs of theme answers that have an equal number of letters so that they can be placed opposite one another on the grid. In the same way, the structure of a book has to be balanced. It doesn’t have to be exactly symmetrical, but it needs to feel as if each part has relatively equal weight. And just as there are many grids for the puzzle creator to choose from, depending on the requirements of the theme answers, the structure of a book can take many forms as well.

In solving crossword puzzles, everyone has his or her own technique. I start in the upper left and work my way to the lower right. One of my friends answers all the theme clues first and then fills in the other squares. I would like to do this, but generally I need a few hints, so I wait until I’ve filled in enough squares with the regular clues to figure out the key to the week’s theme. The puzzle title helps, but usually involves another level of word play.

When I write my books, I work like my friend, and start with the main themes and gradually add the smaller details. Just like working a puzzle, the completion of the manuscript goes bit by bit, with periods when I surge forward, and other periods when I sit stumped, until suddenly I see how a missing piece pulls everything together.

I am sometimes asked when I do school visits, “What is your favorite part of the writing process?” My answer is always the same: “When I am finished!” Just as I breathe a sigh of satisfaction as I fill in the last square of a crossword puzzle, I have that same sense of accomplishment when the last word is written in the manuscript. Then I know that everything is in its proper place and, hopefully, will cause my readers to say “Aha! I’ve learned something new.”

Caroline Arnold is the author of many books for young readers, including these from Charlesbridge: Wiggle and Waggle, Birds: Natures Magnificent Flying Machines, Did You Hear That? Animals with Super Hearing, Shockers of the Sea and Other Electric Animals, Super Swimmers, Who Has More? Who Has Fewer, and Who Is Bigger? Who Is Smaller?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

ALA 2008, Anaheim, CA

Not quite like the glamour of BEA in Hollywood, but certainly a clean, well-ordered corner of the world, Anaheim was host to this year's American Library Association conference. It's a magical kingdom of books!

As ever, ALA was a love-fest of books, librarians, authors and illustrators. We were lucky to host a few in our booth:



Pam Muñoz Ryan signs Our California in California! For the sequel, we'll have to find out what the strange purple Disney flowers were.

First comes love, then comes Eve Bunting autographing The Wedding and Baby Shower


Caroline Arnold and Mary Peterson wiggled and waggled for us.

Marjorie Cowley made us giggle with her tale of ancient Mesopotamia.

The AWESOME April Pulley Sayre signs Trout Are Made of Trees and The Bumblebee Queen.

Pam Turner proves there is life on earth--and beyond.

Edward Einhorn, probably. He signs A Very Improbable Story.



The Charlesbridge Family Dinner. Better than Thanksgiving
(no actual family guilt served). But if you're in Anaheim again, you have to go to this restaurant... it was so good, we went twice (not in the same night). It's called Gabbi's Mexican Kitchen and it's a short drive from Anaheim to Orange. The margaritas are fantastic, but you will be dreaming about the churros for ages to come.

The night we all look forward to all year long: the Newbery-Caldecott banquet. Two great books this year, with two endlessly entertaining authors (and illustrator). With us at our table were the members of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award committee. We thank you very sweetly.





But this is why we were so proud to be at ALA this year: Hello, Bumblebee Bat was the recipient of a Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor.



Posted by Donna

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Pirates are good, okay?

The very first book I can remember loving was called The Pleasant Pirate. I got it--alongside my other favorite book The Story of Ferdinand (an antiwar picture book, so you can see how conflicted I was even then)--from the Newport News Public Library. My mother, baby brother, and I were living down in Virginia with our grandparents Dan and Fanny Berlin while Daddy (Will Yolen) was away in the War. Actually he was a second lieutenant and head of the Secret Radio ABSIE, stationed in London.

The
very first book I ever made was in 7th grade. It was a school project for one of my classes at Hunter Junior High in New York City. It was about pirates and I leaned rather heavily on my sources, made illustrations, cardboard-covered-with-blue-cloth jackets, and sewed it together. I think it was simply called Pirates.

The very firs
t actual book I sold to a publisher was called Pirates in Petticoats, about women pirates. I was living in New York at the time, and had a bunch of badly written picture books making the rounds plus one interesting nonfiction proposal. I never actually sold any of those picture books but Rose Dobbs, an editor at David McKay, made an offer for Pirates in Petticoats on my 22nd birthday and so my book writing career was launched. It took a year for the research (in the NY Public Library's rare book room, and at Foul Anchor Archives in Rye, New York, this being long before the Internet) and writing. The book got some nice reviews and went out of print just as the woman's movement was really getting going. Bad timing.

Years later, I took two of those women pirates--Ann Bonney and Mary Reade--and wrote a ballad about them called The Ballad of the Pirate Queens which David Shannon illustrated and it is still in print.

Which brings me to now and to Charlesbridge.

I had often bemoaned the fact that Pirates in Petticoats went OP. But I knew it had been
written by a 22 year old, one still learning how to write. I wanted to redo it. Once I thought of writing it for adults and calling it Buccaneer Broads. After all, most of the pirates didn't actually wear petticoats And I'd made up conversations between the pirates and their friends and enemies with abandon. (One did that back in the 60s in children's nonfiction.) I discussed this with the irrepressible Judy O'Malley, editor extraordinare who was--at that time--newly come to Charlesbridge. Among other things, I'd discovered Grania (Grace) O'Malley whom I hadn't put in the earlier book. I'd discovered that several of the pirates in my first book were probably simply storybook lasses, not real at all. In the ensuing years (Pirates in Petticoats had come out in 1963) much more had been written about women pirates.

Judy and Charlesbridge were intrigued. My granddaughter and her best friend went trick-or-treating as Anne Bonney and Mary Read the year Charlesbridge gave me a contract for the book (the next year they were "Thelma and Louise.") And I began to work hard on the research and writing.

Sea Queens will be out this year, in time for September 19, "Talk Like A Pirate Day." I plan to take to the airwaves, saying things like "Get off the poop deck!" and "Arrrrrrr" to anyone who will listen. I may even buy myself a parrot. Or learn to sail.



Posted by author Jane Yolen.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

World Enough and Time

Around the World in 114 days

It was a mild January afternoon in 2007. My husband Bill and I were rocking on the front porch, enjoying the last rays of a Savannah sunset when he asked, “When is your next book for Charlesbridge due?”

“I’m just beginning the sketches for Plant Secrets and final art is due in November,” I replied.

He asked what my schedule was after that. I told him I had quite a while before my next project. I looked at him quizzically and said, “Why do you ask?”

“Our fortieth anniversary is next year. How would you like to spend it in Venice?”

“Sounds great,” I replied.

He then said it would take a while to get there. In fact it would take months! He was proposing we go on a four month around-the-world cruise. I could hardly wrap my mind around such a possibility. I’m the type you might describe as a homebody. I love the life we are enjoying since my husband’s retirement and subsequent move from Connecticut to an island on the coast of Georgia. I have a fabulous art studio where I write and illustrate children’s books, paint landscapes, pet and people portraits, and teach an occasional art class. Not to say I don’t enjoy travel. We have done quite a bit over the years, but never much longer than two weeks. As an artist and writer I had to consider the insights and inspiration such a life altering experience would offer. To Bill’s delight, I found myself saying, “Why not!"

On January 4th we boarded the ms Amsterdam in Fort Lauderdale to begin Holland America’s Golden Anniversary Odyssey, World 2008 Grand Voyage. Our first stop was Grand Cayman, where I visited a butterfly farm while Bill snorkeled. We continued on to Costa Rica, then into the Panama Canal. My engineer husband was fascinated with the complexity of the locks.

During eight days in the Pacific we enjoyed ship life, lectures, shows, learning Tai Chi, making friends, and I even worked on sketches for my next book. Finally, “Land ho!” The South Pacific islands like, Tahiti, Moorea, and Tonga were enchanting. The people were friendly and happy with their simple life style. I did a drawing of a lovely young girl in Samoa. It is easy to see why so many artists and writers found inspiration in these tropical paradises.


We were anxious to get to our four ports in New Zealand. From the rolling hills of sheep farms, and the incredible seal, albatross and gannet colonies along the rocky shores, to the spectacular Fiord Lands, it did not disappoint us.

Our itinerary included three ports in Australia. Since many of my books celebrate wildlife, I enjoyed the variety of weird animals like the Tasmanian devil and wombat.

Continuing on to Indonesia, I particularly liked Bali where it seemed everyone was an artist. In Brunei, which is part of Borneo, I entered our first mosque, with headscarf, bare feet, and in a modified burqa!

Although Hong Kong and Singapore are a shopper’s delight, I preferred ports where we could mingle with simple people. For that reason I loved Vietnam. My fondest memory is of the happy children in a little village next to a rice field. They were anxious to meet us and practice some English words. A young father brought his baby out to show us.

India was a study in contrasts of modern and ancient, rich and poor, but always colorful and vibrant. We visited Hindu and Buddhist temples in Chennai and viewed an immense open air laundry in Mumbai.

Oman and Egypt brought us back to Biblical times. It is impossible to describe the immense impact of the pyramids and tombs of pharaohs. I have always been in awe of the sophistication of art and architecture in past millennia.

I can’t mention here all our ports, but we traveled through the Suez canal, into the Black Sea, to Sochi, Russia (where I practiced the little bit of Russian I knew) and Sevastopol, Ukraine, Istanbul, Turkey, Santorini, Greece, and finally to Venice for two days to celebrate our 40th in a romantic city. I had studied art in Italy in my senior year of Rhode Island School of Design, so Italy is very special to me.

After Lisbon and Madeira, our Atlantic crossing was calm and relaxing and a time to reflect on all that we had seen and look at our thousands of digital photographs. As we entered New York the sun was rising behind the familiar skyscrapers. Lady Liberty’s glowing torch welcomed us back. We had been a speck circumnavigating this wonderful blue-green globe suspended in the vast universe. We were Americans, but now felt like citizens of the world.

Posted by author/illustrator Phyllis Limbacher Tildes

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Practicing What We Publish

Friday the 13th was a lucky day for the Watertown banks of the Charles River. The hardworking staff of Charlesbridge picked up their sticks with pointy things on the end and put on their gardening gloves to pick up trash that mysteriously collects around the river.

Inspired by April Pulley Sayre's Trout Are Made of Trees, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, and in celebration of American Rivers' National River Clean Up, Charlesbridge staff made a day of it down the road at the riverside putting right what once went wrong and enjoying a beautiful day outside.

The Charles River, which begins at Echo Lake in Hopkinton, MA, snakes about 80 miles through eastern Mass before emptying into the Boston Harbor. It has a great history of industry and travel, and today is a major source of recreation--most notably the Head of the Charles Regatta held every October.

The river is home, or provider, for many native plants and animals... although not trout according to Richard, our DCR guide. Ah well, bass are made of trees, also. At Charlesbridge, we enjoy having the river, and the walking trail around it, right across the street. We don't just like to publish books about nature, we actually like nature!

Here, Erin wins the Deep Woods Off Award for going deepest into the foliage.






Even our fearless leader talks trash.



Editorial Director Yolanda LeRoy sifts through the muck and the mire.





After ridding our beautiful river of unwanted debris, we had a pizza picnic in the park by the river. And we picked up all our trash. Carry in, carry out!








Monday, June 16, 2008

Charlesbridge goes west

Enjoy this past due review of BEA... well, at least I got to it before ALA happened.

BEA is always a great show. There are so many different reasons to attend: introduce the new fall books that we're excited about, meet old friends and catch up on what's happening in bookstores and libraries around the country, meet new friends and business partners and hopefully impress the living dickens out of them with our books and gracious manners, visit with friends at other publishers and walk around their booths stealing ideas, have meaningful conversations with authors and illustrators (both on our list and not on our list), and travel to exotic locales like the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Meg and Taylor and I enjoyed L.A. so much, we think it's high time Charlesbridge opened a West Coast office. Here, Meg and I discuss the finer points of sales and marketing at our new beach front office space in Santa Monica.

And Taylor works on the new catalog cover.

The absolute best day of BEA (certainly no offense to the other days) is Thursday. That's the ABC New Voices luncheon. This year's speakers included the inspiring and delightful Cecilia Galante whose new book The Patron Saint of Butterflies is a fascinating story of two best friends, one of whom is devoted to their religious cult upbringing, and the other is not. We had the opportunity to meet Cecilia on Friday night at the ABC Not a Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction. Cecilia is a smart and funny new voice not to be "new" for long as she'll be most likely be turning up a lot.

The best part of Thursday, though, is that after the luncheon, we were free to go shopping in Hollywood as the booth was all set up and there were no pressing meetings to attend. Here, we found the footprints of homeboy Matt Damon at Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

This year we were ever so lucky to be accompanied by children's lit great Jane Yolen. Her new book Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World is new this July. Jane knew everyone, or, more to the point, everyone knew Jane. We were never wall flowers with Jane on our arm. The best part was when we made her climb the only hill in downtown Los Angeles to go to dinner at an Italian restaurant that shall remain unnamed. The doorman assured us it was walking distance. I suppose if you're really fit and looking for a challenge on an empty stomach. And, even though I did really love L.A., how come the entire city only exists on the inside? We could not find that restaurant for the life of us because it was tucked away inside some insidiously discreet hotel courtyard. And, don't ask for the water.

And, yes, we did work the booth also:


And this lame (but funny) video. I haven't quite figured out my new camera.

video

Posted by Donna... sorry.