Let’s Talk Book Fairs

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! 

By rnewman504

Back to School


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.

By rnewman504

Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans

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!”[1]

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.”

Madeline - NYHS

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.[2] 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)

Madeline - Stairs

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.”[3]


[1] Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. Ed. Simon and Schuster. 1939. New York: Puffin Books, Published by Penguin Group, 1998.

[2] 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.

[3] Bemelmans, Ludwig. Madeline. Ed. Simon and Schuster. 1939. New York: Puffin Books, Published by Penguin Group, 1998.

2014 NJ SCBWI Annual Conference—The BEST CONFERENCE EVER!

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.

Volunteer Committee

The Incredible and Amazing Volunteer Committee 

Me & Leeza

Me and Leeza Hernandez

Rosanne Kurstedt

Rosanne L. Kurstedt

Lauri Meyers & Tara Lazar

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! 

Floyd Cooper

Opening Keynote Speaker Floyd Cooper 

Sheri, Annie

Sheri Oshins, Annie Silvestro & Laurie Wallmark


Corey Rosen Schwartz 


Kami Kinard 


Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen 

Ame and Adam

Adam Lehrhaupt & Ame Dyckman 

Creston Authors

Laurie Wallmark, me & Darlene Beck-Jacobson 


Rachelle Burk 


Kim Pfennigwerth  

Robin Fox

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!


My Twenty-Fifth College Reunion

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.

ID My Old College ID

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.

Twins Hilary and me

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! :)


Cloisters 2



Thomas Great Hall

AthenaStatue of Athena  

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.

Hil, Me & Sarah

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!

class of 1989

Bank Street College of Education’s Irma S. and James H. Black Award and The Cook Prize

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.

Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

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!

9781442446731If 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:

Lenore Jennewein

Lenore Jennewein

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:

Sara Levine

Sara Levine

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:

Deborah Heiligman

Deborah Heiligman

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 ccl@bankstreet.edu

Congratulations to the winners! What a wonderful morning!


By rnewman504

The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter at the New York Public Library

On this glorious Saturday, I had the afternoon free, and what better way to spend it than at the New York Public Library?


The ABC of It exhibit draws from 250 items in the New York Public Library collection, spanning a period of 300 years, as it shows us in a particularly powerful way “Why Children’s Books Matter.”

abc of it

It looks at some of the earliest books for children, including the New England-Primer, first published in 1690, to Aesop’s Fables and selections from Songs of Innocence by William Blake, as it works its way to the present day.


The New England-Primer

Of particular interest to me was how the development of child psychology in 1900 helped inspire progressive educators, such as Lucy Sprague Mitchell at the Bank Street School, and writers, such as Margaret Wise Brown, Maurice Sendak and Crockett Johnson, to write “stories about the world [preschoolers] knew, as well as books that invited their playful, collaborative participation.” (Source: Exhibit Poster, The Work of Play: The Progressive Child.)


During my tour, the guide mentioned that Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, first published in 1947, was not included New York Public Library’s collection until 1972 because it was not considered literature. Isn’t that unbelievable?


The exhibit delved into topics of censorship, the influence of children’s literature on film, theatre and merchandising, the artistry of the picture book, and the exhibit concluded with a look at New York stories.



The New York Public Library offers free 45-minute tours. For information about tours and the exhibit, please click here.



On my tour, we had a lovely 10 month old, Abigail. Although she didn’t say much about the exhibit, she grabbed a copy of Goodnight Moon and started to chew on the book. I’m assuming that was her way of saying she liked it.


I highly recommend the exhibit. The exhibit runs through Sunday, September 7, 2014.



Three Cheers for Tori Corn and Nancy Cote’s, Dixie Wants an Allergy!

Yesterday The Corner Bookstore was buzzing with excitement, as eager fans came out in droves to celebrate the launch of Tori Corn and Nancy Cote’s picture book, Dixie Wants an Allergy.


Nancy Cote and Tori Corn

Nancy Cote and Tori Corn


“Dixie Wants an Allergy provides a comical and engaging approach for children who are beginning to learn about and who are coping with allergies—and who also have trouble finding what makes them unique. Corn’s playful text and Cote’s inviting illustrations encourage children to accept those with differences while learning that wanting what others have is not always a good idea.” (Source: Sky Pony Press)


Julie Matysik, Nancy Cote, Liza Fleissig, Tori Corn, Ginger Harris 


And check out these adorable, not to mention delicious, cookies!

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Dixie Wants an Allergy, please stop by The Corner Bookstore, 1313 Madison Avenue, at the corner of 93rd Street, New York, New York. (If you stop by, I promise you’ll have a hard time leaving! :) ) You may also contact The Corner Bookstore at (212) 831-3554, or via email at info@cornerbookstorenyc.com.

Dixie is also available online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Congratulations Tori and Nancy! What an amazing evening!

Do Writers Ever Take Vacation?

Whether I’m stepping away from my laptop or putting away my pen and notepad, I still find myself thinking about my stories. I have an extremely hard time shutting down my writing brain.

But this past week, I decided to do a temporary shut down—or at least put my writing brain in a kind of semi-pause mode. We were in Paris for my seven-year old’s spring break, and I just wanted to step away from mice, witches, wolves, pigs and peacocks, and absorb everything around me.

eiffel tower day - cloudy

I love Paris. I lived in Paris and Normandy for a number of years when I was a child, not to mention my stepmother is from Brittany, so going back to Paris is very personal. It feels like going home. And when I’m there, I have these wonderful flashbacks to my childhood—learning how to ride my bike on Rue de Bellechase, watching the puppet show in the Tuileries, and trekking to Joe Allen’s for burgers and apple pie. What can I say, we were still Americans. :) And I keep hoping that when my son looks back at his childhood, he’ll have his own cherished memories of Paris.

me and noah seine 2

On the Seine

For this trip, we rented an apartment in my old hood, the 7th arrondissement, down the block from my old school, and within walking distance to the Eiffel Towel and the Tuileries. The location could not have been better.Rue de Grenelle

Doors of Ste. Clotilde

My old school

We did a bunch of touristy things—went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited the Catacombs, took a ride on the Bateau Mouche, and did a world-wind tour of the Pompidou Centre.



view of nd from bateau mouche

View of Notre Dame from Bateau Mouche 

At the Musée Grevin, the wax museum, I got the chance to catch up with my friend, Gerard Depardieu, and my husband managed to practice some of his karate moves with Jackie Chan. My son also enjoyed learning about the process of making a wax figure.

front of musee grevin

me and gerard d.

Me and Gerard Depardieu

michael and jacki chan

Michael and Jackie Chan 

process of making a wax figure

And when in Paris, we naturally indulged in the food. How can you not? We pretty much ate our way from arrondissement to arrondissement, and not once did we cheat from our Nutella banana crepe-a-day diet! :)

But the highlight of the trip was catching up with old friends and visiting the Luxembourg Gardens. In the Luxembourg Gardens, there’s an enclosed supervised play area. It costs a few euros to enter. The play area has climbing structures and jungle gyms for kids of all ages, including a replica of the Eiffel Tower, for the seven and older crowd. To my delight, my son started playing with a group of three or four children. I was hopeful he’d pick up some French words or at least try to use the few that he knew. But then I heard the mother of one of the kids yell out, “Speak French with the little boy,” and one of the kids shouted back, “But he speaks English!” Turns out they were from New York too.

Noah in Luxembourg Gardens

And while I was watching my son play, my writing brain started up again. But instead of drifting to my old stories, I started to think of new ones. So, perhaps a vacation, even a temporary one, wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

The Little Prince, A New York Story


Yesterday I had the extra-special treat of meeting up with fellow blogger, picture book writer, and Francophile, Laura Sassi, at The Morgan Library & Museum to view their exhibit of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original manuscript and watercolor drawings of The Little Prince.

The exhibit focuses on the two-year period from 1941-1943 when Saint-Exupéry was living in Manhattan and Long Island, having been exiled from France during World War II.

Before leaving New York to re-enter the war effort as a reconnaissance pilot, he gave his friend Sylvia Hamilton a rumpled paper bag containing the manuscript and illustrations for The Little Prince.  He told her, “I’d like to give you something splendid, . . . but this is all I have.” (Source: http://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/exhibition.asp?id=90)

The exhibit features 25 of the manuscript pages and all 43 of the book’s earliest versions of the illustrations. The manuscript pages are handwritten rough drafts, replete with cross-outs, rips, stains and cigarette burns.  You really get a sense of Saint-Exupéry’s meticulousness and attention to detail—not to mention his pure genius—when you read through his notes, and see his first sketches.

One item that caught my eye was his preliminary publishing contract, dated November 12, 1942, with Reynal & Hitchcock for The Little Prince and another book, which he never completed.  The contract provided for an advance of $3000.

The exhibit also had some interesting materials covering the marketing of the book.  Seems that there were questions about whether the book should be marketed for children, adults, or both.

If you love The Little Prince, it is definitely worth a trip to The Morgan.  The exhibit is running through April 27, 2014.  They also have two lectures coming up about The Little Prince.

  • Saint-Exupéry in New York, A Conversation with Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer (March 11, 6:30 p.m.)
  • The Pilot and the Little Prince, A Conversation with Peter Sís (April 22, 6:30 p.m.)

And if you have time, lunch at their café was also an extra-special treat.  In keeping with the theme of the exhibit, Laura’s grilled cheese sandwich came in the shape of a star and was served with the most adorable airplane cookies.


By rnewman504