Sunday, January 11, 2015

New York City Weather Calls for Earmuffs-EARMUFFS for EVERYONE! by Meghan McCarthy

It is the perfect release date (for New York weather anyway)for Meghan McCarthy's new title Earmuffs for Everyone! How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of Earmuffs. It is amazing to think there is a history behind every object you own and wear.  Earmuffs are no exception.

Meghan McCarthy's back page note explains, "I start work on every book with a bit of free association. For Earmuffs, I started doing searches on the internet-"unique inventors," odd inventions"-until ultimately I put in the word "kid inventors."   That's when I read about Chester Greenfield, who was born in 1858.  "Mary Bells of wrote,A grammar school dropout, he invented earmuffs at the age of 15 (1873).  While testing a new pair of ice skates, he grew frustrated at trying to protect his ears from the bitter cold...." Meghan McCarthy explains, "That's when I knew that Chester was going to be the topic of my next book.

The topic of the book led her to look for more information and the book starts off with an explanation of a few others that were associated with the invention of earmuffs.  However, Chester is the one given credit for the invention.  The story talks about his patent and explains what a patent is and how to get one. The people of Maine have even declared December 21 as Earmuff Day in his honor!

Here is a video clip of Maine celebrating Earmuff Day - 

Just makes you wonder about all the things you don't know about! 

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Michelle Knudsen - Part II Writing, The Evil Librarian and Marilyn's Monsters

 I am happy to continue my interview  and raffle a copy of Michelle Knudsen's latest title Evil Librarian.  Just leave a comment at the end of the post.

Q - Illustrations are a big part of picture books.  However your middle grade series and new YA title Evil Librarian are based on writing.  Since you do not do the illustrations is the writing of the picture book easier or harder?  

A-  Picture books and novels are both challenging in their own ways.  For picture books, it can be really hard to find the true core of the story -- there always seems to be a central piece that ether works or doesn't and without that, no amount of revising ever seems to make it right.  And then even once you find it, there are still the challenges of telling the story in as few words as possible and making sure you leave room fin the story for the illustrator.  The illustrators I've worked with have all done  a wonderful job of contributing to and enlarging the story through the artwork. 

For novels, there's obviously a lot more writing involved, and the plots are more complicated , wth more characters and events,  I think that in some ways, though, all that material to work with makes it easier to work out the story ..there's a lot more room to figure things out in the first draft than with a picture book.  But it's also a lot harder to hold the whole story in your mnd at one time, and a lot more to keep track of.  I think that's why I'm almost always working on at least one picture book and novel at the same time--they're hard(and fun) n different ways, and it's nice to be able to go back and forth, and take a break from one by working on the other.

Q- What gave you the idea for Evil Librarian?  How did you create Mr. Gabriel?

The Evil Librarian
A- I started Evil Librarian while taking a break from a somewhat heaver novel -- I was feeling a bit weighed down and wanted to work on something a little fun.  I didn't actually know what the story was going to be about when I first started it.  Really all I had was the voice of the main character, Cyn, and I just started writing to see what she had to say,  I don't think I even knew there would be a librarian until I got to the part where Annie first mentions him.  But then I somehow knew right away he would be evil.:) It took a while to figure out exactly what Mr. Gabrriel wanted and why he was there, but his overall character and personality came very quickly.  I liked him a lot from the start, even knowing he was going to be a very bad guy.

Q- Why a protractor and biology textbook (knife and shield) as the items used for protection?  Did you consider any other items?

A- I liked the idea of the magic items taking the form of very mundane school objects.  Both because things not being what they appeared was a constant theme running through the book, and because it just struck me as funny,  I wanted Cyn to be completely unimpressed by the protractor and the book to not be entirely sure she could put her faith in them at first.

Q- There are so many different genres mixed in - Horroe, Mystery, Romance.  Do you have a favorite genre to read and or write?

A-  I am definitely a science fiction and fantasy girl more than anything else, probably because those where the first novels I came to love as a young reader.  But I especially love cross-genre books. My favorite SFF stories are character driven and often have a dash of romance or mystery or horror mixed in.  I try to read  a variety of things, but I'm rarely drawn to contemporary fiction on my own-- I often really enjoy it, but it usually takes a trusted source making a recommendation before I'll pick something like that up.  As for writing, I definitely prefer to write things with a fantasy or supernatural aspect, Even my picture books tend to involve unexplained strange things happening ( a lion coming to the library, bunnies that just show up one day for no discernable reason, etc).

Q- The deal included multiple trips to the demon world.  Does ths mean ths might be part of a three part series?

A- I hadn't necessarily planned on a series at first-- I just liked the idea of leaving the story a little open-ended, so readers would know Cyn wasn't truly out of the woods quite yet.  But I'm happy to say that there is an Evil Librarian sequel in the works, and I'm planning on a third one as well.

Q- I saw the title of your new picture book Marilyn's Monster (release date March 2015).  Were you writing this at the same time as Evil Librarian? I just read a brief description that Marilyn might look for her monster.  Can you reveal anything about this new title?

A- Yes, I was working on Marilyn's Monster during the time I was writing Evil Librarian. It's another story that involves unexplained events--monsters begin showing up as companions to children.  Day by day all of Marilyn's friends and classmates acqure monsters, but the way it works is that you can't just go out and get one -- you have to wait for a monster to find you. Marilyn waits, and keeps waiting..but her monster still doesn't come. So finally she decides to take maters into her own hands, even if that's not supposed to work.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Past, Present and Future - Interviewing Michelle Knudsen about her books (Part I)

It was an honor to get children's book author, Michelle Knudsen to answer some questions about her books.  Here is what she had to share

Q - I love your picture books Library Lion and Big Mean Mike.  I have read Big Mean Mike to many classes and the students love Mike.  How did you get the idea for Mike?   Also why did you select to pair him with bunnies?

It is always hard to pinpoint exactly where the  initial idea for a story comes from.  I do try to pay attention these days, though since I know people may ask me after a book comes out!  I believe my first glimmer of the story for Big Mean Mike camd during a cab ride home form the airport in April 2007.  Maybe, a big, though-looking guy rode by on a motorcycle, or maybe I noticed a dog in a passsing car, but for whatever reason, I started thinking about this big though dog character  In my early thoughts he rode a motercycle, and by the end of the story the bunnies were all riding in the side car.  I started trying to think about what kind of story this character might be part of, and I liked the idea of pairing him with something (or somethings) really different from what he was like.   loved the contrast of this big, though dog with these tiny, adorable bunnies.   I could easily imagine that Big Mean Mike might have trouble with those cute bunnies, and it was fun thnking about how he might try to deal with them. 

Q- There is a constant highlighting of bullying today in schools.  Where you thinking about this when you were writing Big Mean Mike?

I wasn't intentionally trying to write a book about bullying, but I am very glad that teachers have found ways to use Big Mean Mike as part of discussions about this issue,   I don't think Mike himself s a bully, exactly -- he's big and tough and likes everyone to know it, but he mostly just does his own thing..he's not really interested in picking on anyone else.  The bullying moment really comes later, when the other dogs begin to harass Mike for hanging out with the bunnies.  That's when he needs to decide how much it matters to him what others might think or say, and whether he's going to stand up for himself and his new friends.

Q- The illustrations by Scott Morgan are just fabulous.  When did you know what Mike would look like?

I agree!  I love Scott's illustrations so much.  I got a bit teary when I first saw the sketches of the bunnies-they were just perfect, so small and fuzzy and adorable!  Scott did a couple of different versions of Mike before landing on the one that appears in the book,  I think Mikde turned out just perfectly too and I especially love the outfit he wears to the gym.

Found this funny quote at Scott's site- 

And remember, as Gene Weingarten once said, “always try to put the funniest word at the end of your sentence underpants.”

I will end on this note and continue with Part II with Michele Knudsen on Thursday as we talk about her newest book Evil Librarian and her future book Marilyn's Monsters.  

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving - A Time to Enjoy HOME!

This Thanksgiving Mark Fearing has a new book titled The Great Thanksgiving Escape.

Gavin thinks it is going to be another boring Thanksgiving at his grandma's house until he runs into his cousin Rhonda who reminds him, "sometimes you have to make your own fun."   So the pair tries to sneak out of the house to play outside.   They encounter some unexpected obstacles along the way.   First, two vicious guard dogs are blocking the front door, Then Rhonda gets trapped in the "Hall of Aunts".  However, there is no stopping these two.   They finally make it to the back door only to find a surprise.  And, it still does to stop them!

Also coming in the Spring is a new title by Carson Ellis called Home.   The Holiday time often brings thoughts of home so I taught I would share a sneak peak.   This book takes a simple look at the Home. The main question being, "This is my home, and this is me.   Where is your home?  Where are you?" It looks at various types of homes from many different angles, styles and cultures.   Here is a sneak peak-

Also I can never talk about Thanksgiving titles without looking back on a old post for Balloons over Broadway by Melissa Sweet.   The Balloons over Broadway activity kit at her site is just wonderful!

Plus, would just like to mention a new photography exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York
        Oct 15, 2014 - Feb 15, 2015
Pushing the boundaries of traditional documentary photography, Liao (b. 1977) creates large-scale panoramas by combining multiple exposures of the same location taken over the course of several hours. The resulting composite photographs are often fantastical; complex, hyper-real views that no single shot—or the eye—could capture.     ONE OF THEM IS A PAST NEW YORK CITY THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

TOMBOY by Liz Prince

Liz Prince talks as part of a panel on her new graphic memoir TOMBOY.

This book takes a look at fitting in during her preteen and teen years and remaining true to herself even years later. 

Liz Prince Talks TOMBOY

How she started -
I came into prominence in the comic scene with books that are comprised of short, autobio gag comics, and those are something that are fairly easy for me to make; that doesn’t mean that they are worthless, they  make a lot of people, and myself, very happy, but they are instant gratification for me as an artist.  I can draw a short comic about my cats and post it online immediately and get some likes and “LOLs” and call it a day.  These are the things that my fans have seen over the years.  But behind the scenes, I had a few false starts on some larger projects.

Why she did this book -
I drew this book because I was actively courted by the publisher, who was looking for non-fiction graphic novels by women.  Other publishers have invited me to pitch a project to them before, but none had come to me saying that they really really wanted one.  It took me about a year to have a project worth pitching: Zest Books is a teen/young adult publisher, and none of my other ideas for books would have worked for them, so it wasn’t easy for me to come up with a concept that I felt excited to work on, that would also fit the audience.  And before I was confident in pitching this project, I had to be sure that I could actually fill a book with it.  Tomboy is my story of growing up with gender identity issues.  For the first half of my life I wanted to be a boy; this book deals with the reasons why, and the reactions to, my staunch refusal of being a girl.  Before I pitched the book, I did an outline of what episodes I would discuss, and how long I felt the book would be.  I guessed around 150 pages.  I was presented a contract which gave me less than a year to complete the book; I signed in June 2013, the finished book was due March 15th, 2014.  I was someone who had never successfully completed a graphic novel before, and I just jumped into an agreement that would have me completing one in about 9 months.

How she feels about the book -
It ended up being more personal, and more about gender politics than I imagined it would.  I know that people will feel very strongly about this book, both in a positive way, and in a negative way, but I take solace in knowing that both reactions will spark discussion on what gender should mean, and what it shouldn’t.  I’ll put myself on the chopping block as a sacrificial lamb, if it can help us move forward, as a culture who can eschew gender stereotypes.


Check out some other bloggers as they talk about Tomboy.
November 5th
November 8th

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ivy and Bean Take Over New York!


book, lyrics & music by SCOTT ELMEGREEN
based on the books by ANNIE BARROWS
illustrated by SOPHIE BLACKALL
directed by ALISON BEATTY
Linda Gross Theater, 336 W 20th St.
Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30am
1 hour, no intermission. Best for ages 4 and up.

Based on The New York Times best-selling children’s book series by author Annie Barrows
 and Illustrator Sophie Blackall, Ivy + Bean, The Musical is the story of an unexpected friendship 
between two very different second graders. The moment they saw each other, Bean and Ivy 
knew they would never like each other. Bean is loud and wild and goofy. Ivy is quiet and full of ideas.
 But when Bean plays a joke on her sister, and needs a place to hide, Ivy comes to the rescue. 
When the two become a team, there’s mischief and laughter at every turn—along with lessons 
to be learned about the challenges and joy of family, friendship, and love.