April 15, 2014
I spent the day with the delightful children and staff at Fishback Creek Public Academy in Indianapolis. We talked about all kinds of things: books, writing, what it's like to have brothers and sisters, why the Colts are better than the Patriots. (So not!) In between presentations, I was hanging out in the school library when I spotted BARNUM'S BONES by the über-talented Tracey Fern on the "New Books" shelf. You know, whenever I'm on the road and I come across a book by someone who is dear to me (Tracey and I have been in the same writing group for ten years), it really is like running into a friend. "Oh, hello! I didn't expect to see you here. How lovely to bump into you!" If you haven't yet read BARNUM'S BONES, then I encourage you to pick up a copy and see what all the buzz is about (three starred reviews and raves from the New York Times and the Washington Post).
April 14, 2014
I flew into Indianapolis yesterday and saw this arresting sculpture before even leaving the airport. (Baggage Claim, by Ron Baron, 2008) I can't tell you how much this looks like actual suitcases. You really have to look hard to see that it's made out of—bronze! The best part is that you're invited to sit on it. So I did. I sat on art. Nice to be back in Indy!
April 13, 2014
I need to share one more photo from my visit to Cincinnati. (Okay, two!) This I know about the city: they love their baseball! Here's a photo I took of an incredibly cool mural painted on the side of a building that is just around the corner from the stadium where the Cincinnati Reds play. Now, as you may know, I'm a diehard Red Sox fan and have been for the past 40 years. (Yep, count 'em!) And I will never (repeat, never) get over the pain of losing the 1975 World Series to the Reds. But hey, you gotta love a baseball town, even if they're rooting for the wrong team! Just kidding! I'm also including a photo of the baseball stadium, which is right in the middle of downtown. The whole area is just beautiful, and I can well imagine how much fun it would be to watch a game here on a warm summer evening. Play ball!
April 12, 2014
The publicity department at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sent me the cutest thing while I was on the road promoting THE MAGIC TRAP. It's a puppet of a rabbit that pops out of a top hat! How fun is that? Don't you want one for your own?? In THE MAGIC TRAP, Evan is learning to do magic tricks and needs a rabbit so that he can make it disappear in his show. Jessie (good little sister that she is!) decides to catch a rabbit for Evan by setting a trap in the backyard. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens. And you'll have to read the book to find out why I named this particular rabbit puppet Professor Hoffmann. It all makes sense once you read the story!
April 11, 2014
I had a great time at the Pike Literacy Fair tonight, an annual event in Indianapolis that draws 2500+ attendees to celebrate literacy in all its forms. I was there presenting as part of the kickoff to next week's district-wide school visit. The elementary school librarians received a $32,000 grant to fund a One School, One Book initiative (go, librarians!), so students at seven elementary schools will receive a copy of THE LEMONADE WAR, and I will have the pleasure of meeting each and every one of them next week. I already visited with the wonderful students at College Park Elementary School today, and next week, I'll meet the kids at Deer Run, Fishback Creek, New Augusta Public Academy South, Eagle Creek, Central, and Snacks Crossing. Looking forward to it.
April 10, 2014
Well, it's not every day I can say this, but I walked from Ohio to Kentucky today. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? I had a few hours between events in the beautiful city of Cincinnati (I had visited Pleasant Run Elementary School and St. Mary School, Hyde Park earlier and would be going on to a reading and signing at Joseph-Beth Booksellers later), so I decided to take a walk.
Just a few blocks from my hotel, I found myself standing on the edge of the mighty Ohio River, which of course caused me to think of John James Audubon and the many times he had gone swimming in this same body of water. I had learned quite a bit about Audubon's river days while researching THE BOY WHO DREW BIRDS: A STORY OF JOHN JAMES AUDUBON. And it suddenly occured to me that the land across the water was Kentucky. And that there was a bridge right in front of me that looked entirely walkable. And that, indeed, there were people walking across that bridge, very casually, as if walking from one state to another is no big deal. So I decided I had to do it, too.
The entrance to the bridge on the Ohio side is painted a pretty blue, and was I surprised when I realized that it was designed by the same gentleman (John A. Roebling) who built the Brooklyn Bridge (which I have also walked across). This bridge over the Ohio River, in fact, was the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time it was built (started 1856, completed 1867), and one of the reasons that it took so long to complete is that the Civil War happened right in the middle of the work.
Once on the Kentucky side, I took a picture of myself to prove that I was there (below! that's Kentucky in the background!) and then hightailed it back to my hotel so I wouldn't be late for my booksigning. A perfect day in Cincy.
April 8, 2014
Oh, I had such a nice day today in and around Washington, DC, first visiting with kids from several area schools at Politics & Prose, one of my favorite independent bookstores; then travelling with the good folks at An Open Book Foundation to West Education Campus, where I talked with third-graders about THE MAGIC TRAP; and finally on to an after-school tutoring program, 826DC, where the kids and I made watercolor paintings and wrote post-it note poems, using the technique described in THE CANDY SMASH. A wonderful day of connection and creativity. I hope to post pictures soon.
April 7, 2014
Thanks to Booklist for their very nice review of THE MAGIC TRAP in the April 1, 2014, issue of the magazine. (See unbelievably cute doggie cover below.) Reviewer Carolyn Phelan wrote: "One of the pleasures of reading the Lemonade War series, which began with The Lemonade War (2007), is watching the gradual development of the two main characters and the subtle shifts in their relationship, never more apparent than in this story. As the third-person narrative switches from one child’s point of view to the other, the contrast between the two is marked and consistently believable. Readers intrigued by the magic theme will also appreciate the appended instructions for a card trick. The series’ many fans won’t want to miss this one." You can read the review in its entirety, along with reviews of many other excellent books, by subscribing to Booklist. They even offer a free 14-day trial subscription. Can't go wrong with that!
April 5, 2014
I'll be speaking at the North Carolina Literary Festival later today, but I'm taking a minute in my hotel room to catch up on all kinds of things, including posting the photo below that captures the climactic results of a major competition: March Madness! The students at Memorial Elementary School in Middlefield, CT, created their own March Madness for books—and look how far THE LEMONADE WAR made it through the grueling elimination rounds! In the end, I was defeated by DIVERGENT. Curse you! (as I shake my fist to the heavens!) I think it's great that the kids took such an interest in reading books, voting for their favorites, and having fun.
April 4, 2014
Today I had the pleasure of being "handled" by Mrs. Molly Weston, an energetic North Carolinian who served as my escort all day as I visited two middle schools and several bookstores in the First in Flight state. I talked with seventh graders at Pollard Middle School in Chapel Hill and sixth graders at Chatham Middle School in Siler City, and then stopped in at two great bookstores: McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village and Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. All in all, Molly and I put 250 miles on her Ford Fusion and got to know a lot more about each other than perhaps we should! A highlight was a lunchtime stop at Allen & Son for real North Carolina barbeque. To be specific, it was Eastern North Carolina barbeque. Apparently, what they serve in the West of the state can hardly even be called barbeque because it involves mustard and that just makes Molly shake her head in dismay.
April 3, 2014
Happy news from Review Land: THE MAGIC TRAP received a starred review from Kirkus. It's always lovely to know that a book is well received, and positive reviews are one way to know that someone out there is reading the work and appreciates it. So, thank you Kirkus, for brightening my day and hopefully encouraging others to pick up the book and judge for themselves.
April 2, 2014
Today I went back to college: Bank Street College, that is. Bank Street is a fabulous school for both kids and adults near Columbia University in New York City. The adults are learning to be teachers, and the kids are learning to be smart, engaged, active, self-directed, life-long learners. I met with 4th- and 5th-graders, and we talked about that interesting meeting ground of fiction and nonfiction: when real events from your life sneak into your imagined stories. They were a vibrant, fun-loving bunch, and I really enjoyed spending time at their school, which back in the day served as a writing laboratory for such great children's authors as Ruth Krauss, Eidth Thacher Hurd, and Margaret Wise Brown.
April 1, 2014
Pub day for my new book THE MAGIC TRAP! Always exciting when a new book is released. I was lucky enough to be at Memorial School in Middlefield, Connecticut, visiting with fifth- and sixth-graders and celebrating. Anne Doyle, the wonderfully enthusiastic librarian at the school, snapped a picture of me signing the very first copy of the book! It was for a girl named Nina. Anne and I got shivery with excitement. See how happy I look?
March 28, 2014
I am sadly falling behind in emails (in the past hour I have answered seven, while twelve more have entered my Inbox), but I did just receive one that warranted a break from email in favor of a quick Friday posting:
THE CANDY SMASH has been included in the 2014 edition of Best Books of the Year for Children and Young Adults, selected by the Children's Book Committee. The CBC is a lovely bunch of folks with a primary mission of supporting literacy. They do lots of educational programming and literacy advocacy, and they work hard to highlight books they think kids will love. Thanks for such a wonderful "hurrah" to kick off the weekend.
March 26, 2014
Quick! Party hats and noisemakers! Yesterday was the pub date for Cindy Lord's newest Hot Rod Hamster (does that name just crack you up, or what?) book: HOT ROD HAMSTER: MONSTER TRUCK MANIA! You've probably already met this energetic furball in her two previous picture books: HOT ROD HAMSTER and HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HAMSTER, but in this third book, HRH goes to a Monster Truck Show to get his engines revved up. It's funny, it's clever, and it's oh! so much fun to read out loud. Congratulations, Cindy!
March 23, 2014
I'm including here two videos of the same thing: the extraordinary Book Hive installation at the Bristol Central Library in Bristol, England. Designed by the artist group Rusty Squid, it's an animatronic collection of 400 books to celebrate the library's 400th anniversary (remarkable, that, all in itself). The first video explains a bit about the installation and gives some excellent background information that will help you understand just how this thing works. But the second video, only 48 seconds in length, gives a better demonstration of what is truly remarkable about this piece of book art. Watch until the very end to have your breath taken away.
March 22, 2014
In THE MAGIC TRAP, Mrs. Treski hangs a poster in her laundry room that reads, "Keep Calm and Carry On." Many of you may know that this is a reference to a Word War II propaganda poster created by the British government to help people buck up and endure the horrendous aerial assault launched by the Germans against the island nation. Here is an absolutely wonderful, warm, charming, understated video that gives a little background on the now-famous poster (which was never actually released during the war) and introduces what may be the single most delightful independent bookstore in Northeast England. The video is only three minutes long, and I promise you won't be sorry you took the time to watch it.
March 21, 2014
I had such a great time visiting the kids at Runkle School in Brookline, MA. Many thanks to super-librarian Teresa Gallo-Toth for making it happen. I want to share one moment with you. During the Q&A session with the first graders, we had been discussing those who might like to be writers some day, and one girl raised her hand with such a look on her face. The best way to describe it was a Wemberly Worried look. Clearly, something was causing her great anguish. Very quietly she explained her problem: "I'm a scientist. But I like to write." "That's wonderful," I said. "My friend Loree Griffin Burns is a scientist who writes the most wonderful, exciting books about the world around us!" (Loree was particularly on my mind, because I had just reread her spectacular TRACKING TRASH a few weeks earlier.) You can't imagine the smile on this little girl's face when she realized she could love both writing and science. And then imagine the smile on my face when, after the presentation, Teresa told me that Loree had recently visited the older kids at Runkle to talk about ocean currents. Fabulous! I love it when the circles of our lives intersect in unexpected way.
Is anyone else waiting with baited breath for Loree's newest book? I am. It comes out this fall, and it looks like a page turner.
March 19, 2014
What a relief! We all survived the Ides of March. Technically, the Ides of March is just one day: the 15th, but I always feel like the danger zone spills over a few days before and a few days after. But by today, we are safely through. Well done! And of course that means that spring is truly within sight. But I'd like to harken back for a moment to a wonderful December parade that was held in Berwick, PA. This is an annual, town-wide event, and each block of the parade route is decorated with a particular theme. Fourteenth Street School (seen in the background) chose THE LEMONADE WAR as its theme, and, boy, did they do themselves proud. I especially loved the giant plywood figures of Jessie, Evan, Mrs. Treski, and Officer Ken. With spirit like this, every day is a parade at Fourteenth Street School!
March 16, 2014
A friend sent this picture of The Lemonade War series of books on display at the Boston Barnes & Noble store. What fun to see them all together—soon to be joined by the next in the series, THE MAGIC TRAP. Hey, wait a minute! Is that a rogue copy of THE CANDY SMASH trying to sneak into the book display next to it? Maybe it wanted to go visiting neighbors, or maybe it just thinks it deserves the label "DRAMA." And I can't help but notice that one of my all-time favorite picture books from my childhood is making a sneak appearance in the background: CORDUROY. Books gone wild!
March 14, 2014
Don't you love Fridays? I do. Although if you think about it, it's a pretty strange word. A day for frying? A day of feeling fried? Enough nonsense! I promised to post the brand-new trailer for the fifth book in The Lemonade War series, THE MAGIC TRAP, and here it is. Enjoy!
March 13, 2014
Got home late last night (thank you Berwick, Pennsylvania, School District and Countryside Elementary School in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey, for hosting such fun-filled visits) to find four large boxes from my publisher filled with...new editions of some of my books. Always fun to see! There was the brand-new Spanish edition of THE LEMONADE WAR in both paperback and hardcover; the newly released paperback edition of THE CANDY SMASH; and the not-yet-released (but soon! April 1!) edition of THE MAGIC TRAP. I felt like it was my birthday with so many fun boxes to open. I'll be posting the just completed trailer for THE MAGIC TRAP soon, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, you can watch the trailers for the other four books in the series here.
March 7, 2014
Very pleased to arrive home to find out that THE MAGIC TRAP and the Spanish-language edition of THE LEMONADE WAR (entitled LA GUERRA DE LA LIMONADA)
have both been named Junior Library Guild selections. Lovely! I raise a glass of lemonade to the Guild!
March 5, 2014
Hey, how fun is this?
Teachers at F.N. Brown Elementary School in Verona, New Jersey, surprised their students with a Flash Mob dance to kick off the school's One School, One Book event reading THE LEMONADE WAR. These teachers have moves! (That's the book they're dancing with!) I'm so impressed that they managed to rehearse this dance despite all the snow days they've had. Go, teachers!
March 1, 2014
I recently got back from the greater Philadelphia area, where I had a wonderful time visiting with kids in Lafayette Hill, Wilmington, Wynnewood, Middletown, and Cherry Hill. I also had time to sneak off to the Philadelphia Art Museum, which has a world-class collection of good art. There was a terrific temporary exhibition on Surrealism, but the piece of art that stole my heart was this little oil-on-paper painting by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. What can I say? I love dogs.