Coming to a bookstore near you, spring 2015!
If there ever was an opportunity to use the word cornucopia, the Brooklyn Book Festival is it! The Brooklyn Book Festival, celebrating its 9th year, is the largest free literary event in New York City, with a little bit of everything for everyone, including indie booksellers and imprints, writing groups, workshops, poets galore, and lots of opportunities to find just the right book for you.
And here are some photographic highlights:
The AWESOME SCBWI Metro NY Chapter
Bank Street Bookstore
Bank Street Shoppers
Richard T. Morris, author of This is a Moose (illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld), with Moose
Christiane Krömer, illustrator of King for a Day (written by Rukhsana Khan)
The Strand Bookstore
The Brooklyn Public Library
With two awesome book festivals this weekend, there’s only one more thing to do.
Time to settle down in my comfy chair with a good book! Happy Reading!
Celebrating its 9th year, the Princeton Children’s Book Festival provides children, and bigger children like myself, the opportunity to meet some of their all-time favorite authors and illustrators, to learn about their craft, and to pray that their credit cards won’t exceed their credit limits because they’ve bought so many books. :)
And here are some photographic highlights of this year’s festival:
John Bemelmans Marciano
Me & Leeza Hernandez
Corey Rosen Schwartz
Shhh! You didn’t see me.
Alison Ashley Formento
I had an awesome, amazing, super, wonderful, very, very good day at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival! And I’m looking forward to next year’s festival—especially as an author with my own books on the way in 2015! Woo-hoo! :)
I am thrilled to interview my friend and fellow Creston Books author, Darlene Beck-Jacobson.
Teacher, speech therapist, and freelance writer, Darlene’s stories have appeared in Cicada, Cricket, and other magazines. Her debut historic middle grade novel, Wheels of Change (Creston Books), hits bookstores on September 22, 2014. She has also been working on another historic middle grade novel, A Sparrow in the Hand, exploring the coming of age of two sisters growing up in the coal mining area of Pennsylvania during the 1920’s. A chapter from this novel appeared in the March 2001 issue of Cricket magazine. You can also read this story on her website: http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com
Here’s what Kirkus has to say about Wheels of Change:
Changes fomenting both locally and nationally during the final year of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency are seen through the eyes of feisty, bighearted Emily Soper, daughter of a carriage maker in Washington, D.C.
Twelve-year-old Emily loves helping her father in his barn; she even dreams, in futility, of becoming a blacksmith like her father’s beloved employee, Henry. She and her best friend, Charlie, ponder such things as gender roles, women’s suffrage and “horseless carriages.” She dutifully tries to become a lady even while working on a secret that uses her “masculine” skills. As the year progresses, Henry falls ill, and Emily and her family are subjected to the uncertainties of changing times as well as some nasty treatment from white supremacists. Resemblances to To Kill a Mockingbird are strong, especially during a tea party hosted by Emily’s mother. A nice touch: Throughout much of the book, Papa teaches Emily—and vicariously, readers—new vocabulary words. The strength of the text lies in Jacobson’s ability to evoke a different era and to endear readers to the protagonist. The prose is straightforward and well-researched, heavily peppered with historical references and containing enough action to keep readers’ attention.
Readers will empathize with Emily as she goes through her own changes, and they will applaud her heroism in more than one chapter. (author’s note, photographs, recipes, bibliography, websites) (Historical fiction. 8-11)
Darlene, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.
It’s my pleasure, Robin.
Let’s start at the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to be a writer, and more specifically a children’s book author?
I’ve loved writing since I was a girl. I wrote letters to everyone I knew and made up stories in my head. Even as a student, throughout school, I was crazy enough to actually enjoy the writing or essay portions of exams. I began writing short stories in the late 1980’s into the 1990’s. Even though the stories were for adult publications at first, there was often a child narrator or main character. I think it may have been my own inner child directing me. There’s something about giving a voice to young people that appeals to me. It was a natural progression to want to write a book for young people.
How did you end up gravitating toward middle grade historic fiction?
It just seemed like a good fit. I love hearing stories of the past from people who lived it. I grew up listening to my dad recount his WWII experiences as a POW in Japan. I listened to my mother tell her childhood stories of life as a coal miner’s daughter during the depression. These are the personal stories you don’t read about in history books. Creating characters in those long ago settings brings the era to life for me.
I think Middle Grade kids like to hear about kids from the past—what they ate, wore, the games they played, and what they worried about. While many of the things seem strange to modern children, there is much that remains the same: friendship, family, getting along, fairness, righting wrongs and fighting injustice.
I LOVED Wheels of Change! I could not put it down. It has a timeless feel, akin to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie, and from page 1 found myself rooting for 12-year old Emily Soper, who unlike some of the adults in her life, was unafraid to take a stand for what is right. What makes Wheels of Change even more special is that it was inspired by the real life experiences of your grandmother, Mary Emily Soper. When did you realize that you wanted to tell her story?
There were two family facts I discovered while researching my family tree. One was that my paternal grandmother’s father was a carriage maker in Washington DC at the turn of the Twentieth Century. The other was that grandma received an invitation to a reception held at the White House by Theodore Roosevelt. She attended that reception and met TR. The story grew from there.
While this was the catalyst for Wheels of Change, I want readers to know the story is NOT a biography of my grandmother’s life. Everything else that occurs in the story is made up. I like to think of it as a re-imagining of grandma’s childhood. The grandmother I knew—and the Emily Soper in WOC—are two entirely different people.
You also explore the socio-economic, political, and industrial changes facing the United States in the early twentieth century. Was this your intention at the outset?
It was. I wanted to show how change affects us all and can bring welcome and unwelcome things into our lives. It’s up to each of us to decide the importance of those changes. We can’t stop change—it still happens all around us. But, if we make it work for us, we can see a better outcome.
From start to finish how long did it take you to write and research Wheels of Change?
It took about five years from the “idea” to a picture book that was too long and complex, and then to the final middle grade manuscript.
I’ve been fortunate enough to read your picture book, Together on Our Knees, about a young abolitionist, Matilda Joslyn Gage. Can you tell us how you became interested in her story?
I found Matilda’s name on a poster of The Alternative Alphabet For Big and Little People under the letter G. When I researched her online, I discovered she was a prominent abolitionist and suffragist who worked alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, yet few people know about her. There are some wonderful books written about her adult life: She Who Holds the Sky by Sally Roesch Wagner, and Sisters in Spirit also by Sally Roesch Wagner. There is nothing featuring her as a child. Together on Our Knees is my attempt to rectify that.
Can you share some insights into your writing process? What’s a typical writing day like for you?
One of the few consistencies in my process is the first draft which I always do with pen and paper. I lose a measure of creativity trying to get the original ideas down on a computer, so I don’t use one until I have a written draft. That frees me up to make mistakes, scribbles and jot down ideas in margins or on sticky notes as I go. I try to write something every day—whether it’s a blog post, letter, a few pages of editing—and on days when I can’t or don’t write, I read or review ideas or plot points in my head to keep the story going, and to work through problems I’ve encountered.
How did you meet your agent?
I am especially happy to answer this question for you Robin since you and I share the same agent: Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency. I met her—and her co-agent Ginger Harris—at our NJSCBWI annual conference in Princeton, NJ in 2010. I pitched the idea for WOC to Ginger who requested 30 pages. Liza then asked for the full manuscript and made an offer of representation not long after that.
Liza selling the book to Marissa Moss of CRESTON BOOKS is another serendipitous thing we share, since your books, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery (illustrated by Deborah Zemke), and Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep (illustrated by Chris Ewald), will be coming out with CRESTON next year. It’s fun having that connection.
I couldn’t agree with you more! :)
Do you have any words of wisdom for new writers?
Two things always come to mind and have become a sort of life philosophy with regards to writing: Nothing ventured, nothing gained, which means you can’t be afraid to dive in and write, edit, pitch, ask for critiques, and do what needs to be done to get your manuscript out into the world. The second is, persistence. How many times did Edison fail before he got a light bulb to work? How many other authors faced multiple rejections before a success? If you learn your craft, do the revisions that are necessary and keep trying to improve your writing, YOU WILL GET PUBLISHED.
Lastly, how can your fans get a hold of you if they would like you to do a school visit?
Darlene, many thanks for doing this interview. And congratulations and much success with Wheels of Change.
It’s been a pleasure Robin. Thanks for having me.
And to learn more about Darlene, Wheels of Change, and toys and candy from the early 1900’s, please don’t forget to stop by Tara Lazar’s awesome blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), www.taralazar.com, on September 19, 2014.
With the beginning of the school year come eager faces, sharpened pencils and new notebooks, and all those wonderful fall book releases. But it is also the glorious season of the book fair, and I wanted to let you know about two awesome book fairs coming up this fall.
The first is the Princeton Children’s Book Festival, celebrating it’s 9th year, taking place on Saturday, September 20, 2014, from 11 am – 4 pm at the Princeton Public Library and Albert E. Hinds Memorial Plaza in Princeton, New Jersey. For details and directions, please go to: http://bookfestival.princetonlibrary.org
The second is Collingswood Book Festival, celebrating it’s 12th year, on Saturday, October 11, 2014, from 10 am – 4 pm, on Haddon Avenue in downtown Collingswood, New Jersey. For details and directions, please go to: http://www.collingswoodbookfestival.com
Both events are FREE. Don’t forget to book the dates!
Summer’s coming to an end, and writing for my part has been moving at a snail’s pace. At the beginning of August, I was the queen of high hopes: make progress on my YA novel, write 500 picture books, and come up with solutions for world peace and hunger. Okay, maybe the latter three were a bit ambitious, but a girl can dream, right?
So the summer progressed with my sending out one picture book. El numero uno. I suppose one is better than zero. I also started on another picture book and made some progress, “some” being the operative word, on my YA novel. A start. Baby steps.
And speaking of baby steps, my son, who’s no longer a baby, starts second grade next week. Where did the time go?
How was your summer? Did you accomplish all that you set out to do? Read any amazing books?
I would like to note that unlike myself, the bugs on the North Fork of Long Island have been extremely busy little beavers. I have been bitten by EVERYTHING this summer, and stung by two extremely vindictive bees. The first bee was upset because I stepped on him while going into the pool. The second one, who must have been friends with the first bee, was just pure evil. He staked out a spot in my sneaker.
There are some books that are etched in my memories of childhood—Babar, Where the Wild Things Are, Pierre, and last but certainly not least, Madeline.
I remember when my twin sister and I were about six-years old running down the streets of Paris on our way to school, chanting, “Boohoo, we want to have our appendix out, too!”
And so, my heart skipped a beat when I heard that the New York Historical Society Museum & Library was commemorating the 75th anniversary of Madeline’s publication, with an exhibit entitled, “Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans.”
The exhibit follows the life of Ludwig Bemelmans, most notably from his arrival in New York through Ellis Island in 1914. He became a busboy at the Ritz Hotel on Madison Avenue and 46th Street in 1915. He then served in the army, became a naturalized citizen, and subsequently returned to the Ritz. He spent 15 years at the Ritz, working his way up to assistant banquet manager. It was during the 1920s and 1930s that he also started work on cartoons and commercial pieces to help to pay his rent. His work for Judge magazine caught the attention of children’s book editor, May Massee at Viking Press, who thought, “he had potential as a children’s book author.” (Source: NY Hist. Society Exhibit) Working on cartoons, also helped “hone his craft as a storyteller . . . “ where he learned to “balance strong images with minimal text.” (Source: NY Hist. Society Exhibit)
Bemelmans started to write Madeline at Pete’s Tavern. (Interestingly, Madeline was originally spelled as “Madeleine,” but as Bemelmans worked the story, he realized it rhymed better as “Madeline.”) The idea for the story came to him when he was hospitalized in 1938, after having been hit by a baker’s truck. When he was in the hospital, the girl resting next to him had appendicitis. He did some sketches at Café Voltaire in Paris, but “it was only in New York that he realized the full story of Madeline.” (Source: NY Hist. Society Exhibit) Madeline won the Caldecott Honor Medal in 1940.
The exhibit includes illustrations from all six Madeline books, among his other notable works.
There is a wonderful family audio guide, for children ages 4 and up, to accompany you on your visit. The audio guide is geared for children with questions for them to ponder as they examine Bemelmans’ work. The audio guide also includes an excerpt from Bemelmans himself. What a treat it was to hear his voice!
Bemelmans loved his work. He once described children as, “A clear-eyed, critical and hungry audience of people, all of whom are impressionists themselves, who love my pictures and sometimes even eat them.” (Source: NY Hist. Society Exhibit)
The exhibit runs through October 19, 2014. The New York Historical Society also offers Madeline tea parties. For more information about the exhibit and their tea parties, please click on the word, Madeline.
And on a parting note,
“Good night, little girls!
Thank the lord you are well!
And now go to sleep!”
said Miss Clavel.
And she turned out the light—
and closed the door—
and that’s all there is—
there isn’t any more.”
 Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. Ed. Simon and Schuster. 1939. New York: Puffin Books, Published by Penguin Group, 1998.
 The hotel was demolished in 1951, but Town & Country magazine commissioned Bemelmans to document his career at the hotel, and his wonderful illustrations are included in the exhibit.
 Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. Ed. Simon and Schuster. 1939. New York: Puffin Books, Published by Penguin Group, 1998.
Every year NJ SCBWI’s annual conference gets better and better, and this year was no exception. And I would like to shout out a very big THANK YOU to everyone who made this year’s conference so very special.
The Incredible and Amazing Volunteer Committee
Me and Leeza Hernandez
Rosanne L. Kurstedt
Lauri Meyers & Tara Lazar
Mike Allegra perfecting his “I won the 2014 Highlights for Children Fiction Contest” look.
The good old “thumbs up.”
And of course, the “I can’t believe I won” look!
Opening Keynote Speaker Floyd Cooper
Sheri Oshins, Annie Silvestro & Laurie Wallmark
Corey Rosen Schwartz
Adam Lehrhaupt & Ame Dyckman
Laurie Wallmark, me & Darlene Beck-Jacobson
Comedian Robin Fox
Closing Keynote Speaker Rachel Vail
Not to sound preachy, BUT if you are a writer or illustrator considering doing one conference this year, this is THE conference! It is invaluable for making professional connections, getting editorial and agent feedback, and best of all, it’s just a ton of fun!
THANK YOU NJ SCBWI!
On a sunny August morning in 1985, two station wagons stuffed to the gills left New York and headed down to Bryn Mawr College. My dad and I were in one car; my twin sister and Aunt Peggy were in the other.
I hadn’t planned on going to a women’s college. I had attended an all-girls high school and the very last thing that I wanted was a women’s college. But from the moment that I stepped on the campus, I knew it was the place for me. So, did my twin. And two years later, so did my stepsister.
This time around my twin and I were heading back for our twenty-fifth college reunion. We took one station wagon, my nine-year old niece, and somehow still managed to overpack. We also found ourselves arguing over who was going to wear what. Some things haven’t changed.
We stayed in one of the dorms. Not one that I had lived in during my three years on campus. (I spent my junior year abroad studying in Strasbourg, France.) I forgot much of what it was like to live in a dorm: the musty smell and worn carpets; the closet-sized rooms (palatial by New York housing standards); the beds hard as rocks; the community bathrooms with the skimpiest of shower curtains; and those wonderful corkboards with welcome notes on the doors.
At the top of my to-do list was a visit to the library and my old carrel in the Romance language room. And like old times, I seemed to have a hard time getting to the library. Instead, I made it to the Cloisters and Thomas Great Hall. In Thomas, there is a statue of Athena. Students leave offerings for Athena, hoping she will help them do well on exams. I had a spare piece of chewing gum on me and I couldn’t help but leave an offering—just in case, she might have some influence over my manuscripts on submission. You never know! :)
Thomas Great Hall
Both my dad and aunt have passed away since our journey down in August 1985. My dad loved Bryn Mawr. He loved academia. He felt less of an affinity for the tuition bills he paid for the three of us! I recall the morning of Hurricane Gloria he called me to see if I was going to classes. I explained to him that I had a class that morning at Haverford and that the Blue Bus wasn’t running. His response, “You better walk carefully.” Instead of making it to class, I ended up at breakfast in the Campus Center. And guess who else was there? My twin sister.
Going back to the mothership, as one of my classmates described it, felt like going home. We were older, most of us a few pounds heavier, but some things remained the same: our friendships, support for one another, and our love for this amazing institution.
Hilary, me, Sarah Longstaff
I cannot wait till the next reunion. And perhaps down the road, my niece will be joining us for one of her own reunions. Anassa Kata!
I get an enormous amount of junk email. Seems like everyone and his brother, sister, cat, dog, and ant has me on their mailing lists. But from time to time, something good pops up. And occasionally, even a gem!
So, I was delighted and quite surprised to get an invitation to attend the award ceremony for The Bank Street College of Education’s Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature and The Cook Prize for Excellence in Presenting STEM Principles.
The Irma S. and James H. Black Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature goes to an outstanding book for young children – a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing the other to produce a singular whole.
The Cook Prize honors the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book published for children aged eight to ten.
What makes these awards extremely special is that children are actively involved in the process of evaluating the text and illustrations, both in the library and the classroom, over a five-week period before ultimately judging the finalists.
Fourteen schools originally participated in the voting for the Irma S. and James H. Black Award. Today voting has extended to such far off places as Hawaii, Pakistan, and Sicily, with 7500 votes for That Is Not a Good Idea! written and illustrated by Mo Willems (Balzar + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books). And 3700 children in third and fourth grade voted for The Cook Prize.
This year’s keynote address was given by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, co-authors of Battle Bunny, both previously honored by the Irma Black Award.
Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka
And wow! Let me tell you, they did not disappoint! They were hysterical.
Mac Barnett and Jon Scieszka shared a photo of themselves dressed as bunnies for some Texas librarians. (Wish the lighting had been better.)
I especially enjoyed their acceptance speech for Mo Willems. Mo is currently in Paris for the year and he sent back his “supposed” acceptance note in French. Well, Jon gave his version of it in French, and Mac gave the English translation which obviously strayed significantly from the French. It was one of those things where you just had to be there. The audience was in stitches!
If you haven’t read Battle Bunny, illustrated by Matthew Myers, it’s the story of a boy who’s grandma has given him a sugary sweet book called Birthday Bunny. Well, the boy has his own ideas and he starts marking up and doodling on the book so the story morphs into Battle Bunny. The book is wonderfully empowering for children because it unleashes their creativity and conveys a message that their ideas are important and their stories are worth telling.
During the keynote address, Jon and Mac happened to mention that the illustrator got 6 versions of Battle Bunny.
And now, without further ado, the winners are . . .
The three Irma S. Black Award Honor Books published in 2013 are:
Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton, illustrated by Russell Ayto; published by Peachtree
Chick-O-Saurus Rex by Lenore Jennewein, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein; published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
The King of Little Things by Bil Lepp, illustrated by David T. Wenzel; published by Peachtree
The 2014 Irma S. and James H. Black Award Winner is:
That Is Not a Good Idea! written and illustrated by Mo Willems; published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books
The three Cook Prize Honor Books published in 2013 are:
Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth; published by Millbrook, an imprint of Lerner Publishing
No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young, illustrated by Nicole Wong; published by Charlesbridge
Toilet: How It Works by David Macaulay with Sheila Keenan; published by David Macaulay Studio, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
The 2014 Cook Prize Winner is:
The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös by Deborah Heiligman, illustrated by LeUyen Pham; published by Roaring Brook, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Today’s event was sponsored by The Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature. For more information, go to bankstreet.edu/irmablack
And for more information about any of the Bank Street College of Education children’s literature initiatives, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to the winners! What a wonderful morning!