December 7, 2014
As you may know, today is the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into World War II. It's a solemn day, and it commemorates an important part of our history as a country. World War II was a transformative war in many ways. It ushered in the age of the atomic bomb, which had profound effects not only on the geopolitical structure of the world but also on our individual psyches in terms of our sense of security and permanence. My book WHERE THE GROUND MEETS THE SKY is a historical novel for students in grades 4–7 set in Los Alamos, New Mexico, which is where the atomic bomb was developed. It provides young readers with a window into that time and the urgency of the work that ended the war and helped shape the world we live in now. It also raises some pretty tough questions about the value of life and the damages of war. The book won a whole bunch of awards, and I often get letters from readers telling me how much they like the main character Hazel and her fun-loving, daring friend Eleanor.
December is also traditionally the season of giving, and so I'm giving away classroom sets of WHERE THE GROUND MEETS THE SKY. If your school or your homeschool group would like to receive a set of the books (new, hardcover), just send me an email telling me a little bit about your school and how you might use the books in your classroom. I'll be happy to send you a set of books, and I hope this book will spark many excellent conversations about war and peace and humanity—which continue to be such important topics for young people to think about in the twenty-first century. And please pass this link along to others who might like to share this book with their students.
November 29, 2014
First, can we all just agree that pie is an excellent breakfast food? And it doesn't matter what kind: pumpkin, berry, apple. They are all first-rate menu items to get your day off to a great start. I would also argue that whipped cream is an excellent breakfast food, but I think I'd get some pushback from the National Institutes of Health—so I'll let that one lie there.
In all the hubbub leading up to Thanksgiving, it's often hard to find the time to be grateful. (I hosted eleven family members this year, so the focus was more on gathering enough flatware and finding Pyrex dishes to hold all the side dishes for heating.) So it seems to me that the few quiet days following the holiday are well suited to reflection, and as I look back on the previous twelve months, this, for me, has been a year of extraordinary bounty. I will begin, as always, with thanks for my good health and the health of my children and family. Nothing is more important than family, and I am so very lucky to have kind, funny, smart, surprising children who make my days better just by existing. But I'm also thankful for my work, which I love, and in particular for the current joy of watching a new book with new characters take shape in front of my eyes. (I continue to be unsure of exactly how a book gets written, but I am ever delighted to be a part of the process, though I struggle with it, as we all do.) I'm thankful that I have readers who regularly reach out to me, sending me letters and emails that allow me to glimpse (briefly) into their lives. I appreciate their generosity. I'm thankful for my friends, and in particular that a dear friend came through her surgery well on Monday and is recovering at home. I'm grateful for my writers group (Tracey Fern, Carol Peacock, and Sarah Lamstein) and for the larger community of writers for children who engage in thoughtful, difficult discussions about important topics. I'm thankful that Jackie Woodson continues her mission and shares what she knows with the world. I'm thankful for good books (most recently NEST by Esther Ehrlich). And I'm thankful for YOU. That you stop by here, however often or infrequently, and visit for a moment or two. Many thanks.
November 22, 2014
As I think I've mentioned in previous posts, I am behind on everything. I've been working feverishly to meet an upcoming manuscript deadline, visiting schools (hello to friends at Boyden Elementary!), and attempting to get ready to host Thanksgiving. (Tablecloth and runner, sewn! Pie server, purchased!) However, all this frantic activity means that I never did get around to doing much (ahem, any) yardwork this fall. (I will rue the day in spring when I have to muck out all the sodden, half-decomposed leaves from my flowerbeds.) I haven't even managed to clear off my back porch, and since we've had several hard frosts already, the abandoned plants out there are looking pretty grim. But the happy part of not clearing away the dead and the dying is that birds continue to visit and eat what they find. One little bird came by and repeatedly hopped in the air to grab the last few berries off my gaura plant. The berries must have been rock hard since the temperature this morning was 22°, but this bird didn't seem to mind. If only the birds and all the woodland creatures (as they did in Disney's movie of Snow White) would come and rake my yard. Oh, what a lovely thing that would be.
November 17, 2014
Ladies in hats! How great is that? An adult book club recently read my historical novel LOST, and when they met to discuss the book, they all wore hats circa 1910! Don't they look marvelous? In addition to dressing the part, the organizer, Pat, provided information relevant to the story, including pictures of fashions of the time, photos of the garment industry, and the history of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911. She also made bookmarks and served (homemade!) New York cheese cake, since the story is set in New York City. The women had a lively discussion about the book, responding to some of the ideas raised in my 2010 acceptance speech when the book won the Julia Ward Howe Award for Young Readers. The book was also a finalist for the Jewish National Book Award and winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award. Although it's a young adult book and has been included in high school curricula, it has a strong audience among adults, particularly those who have family that lived on the Lower East Side of New York at the beginning of the twentieth century. Thank you, ladies, for sharing this wonderful photo and for reading my book!
November 13, 2014
It's that time again! Time to sign up for the Great Lemonade War Contest, which is when schools from all across the country compete to see who can raise the most money for Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money to help fund research to end childhood cancer. The Grand Prize is a visit to your school from me! Wouldn't that be fun?I'd love to come to your school. Over the last three years, the Great Lemonade War Contest has raised over $80,000, and we're hoping to do even better this year. So sign up today! You get all kinds of free stuff just for signing up, including a copy of THE LEMONADE WAR. And here's a little video from me giving you all the details.
November 12, 2014
Are you going to be anywhere in the area of Burlington, Vermont, tomorrow? Because if so, you're going to want to be sure to make it to Phoenix Books at 191 Bank Street for a must-attend book launch party for LIKE WATER ON STONE, the debut young-adult novel by Dana Walrath that has so many people talking. Karen Hesse called it, "A heartbreaking tale of familial love, blind trust, and the crushing of innocence. A fine and haunting work." And Chris Bohjalian wrote, "I have walked through the remnants of the Armenian civilization in Palu and Chunkush, I have stood on the banks of the Euphrates. And still I was unprepared for how deeply moved I would be by Dana Walrath's poignant, unflinching evocation of the Armenian Genocide. Her beautiful poetry and deft storytelling stayed with me long after I had finished this powerful novel in verse." The book has already received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal, and one can only expect that more stars are on the way. Dana is funny, intelligent, filled with the human spirit, and a gifted speaker, so you definitely don't want to miss this evening. The event begins Thursday, November 13, at 7:00 PM, but I would suggest getting there early. It's going to be a night to remember!
November 7, 2014
I mentioned in yesterday's post that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is celebrating 150 years of publishing books for children this year. Here's a really fun montage of book covers that span those years. Watch it and you'll be astonished how many of your favorite books have come from this venerable house.
November 6, 2014
I pretty much had more fun today than should legally be allowed in a 24-hour period. First, I was greeted by dancing lemons at Jane Ryan School, in Trumbull, Connecticut. What a way to start the day! They were terrific, and the crowd of kindergarteners and first- and second-graders loved seeing the "big kids" in the spirit. (Jane Ryan School read THE LEMONADE WAR as a One School One Book text, and these dancing lemons made several appearances over the past month.)
On my way home, I stopped in at Edgewood Elementary school in Bristol, Connecticut. Their school was also reading THE LEMONADE WAR for a One School, One Book event, so I didn't want to miss the chance to meet with the kids and answer their well-thought out questions about the book and being a writer. We only had a few minutes together because I had to zip back home, but it was wonderful to see them and I appreciate the Herculean effort the principal and teachers went to (they re-arranged the lunch schedule!!!) so that I could spend some time with their kids.
Finally, I ended the day with a party (woohoo!) to celebrate Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's sesquecentennial (yep, that's 150 years of publishing books for kids). It was a wonderful gathering, and always great fun to meet other HMH authors and have a chance to meet and talk to all the wonderful people who do so much work on my books. Sales reps, marketing, art design, publicity—my instinct at such events is to wander from person to person and say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you for caring about my books." They are good people! And to top it all off, I got to meet Chris van Allsburg who was wearing a stunning ombre plaid orange suit. A show-stopper, as are all of his books.
Fun bookmark HMH created for the event. Can you spot my book in the collage of book covers?
November 2, 2014
Welcome to a new month! It's actually snowing here today for the first time this season. Not that the snow is sticking to anything, but still, there are big, fat, wet flakes hurtling themselves to the ground as if they're worried that they're late to the party. It's only November, snowflakes! Take your time!
Well, who am I to preach patience when I'm already thinking ahead to summer? Specifically Summer 2016, which is when my new picture book PANDA PANTS will be published by Knopf Books for Young Readers. I'm happy to announce that the illustrator for the book will be Sydney Hanson, and I'm even happier to share some of her wonderful artwork with you. I adore the EXPRESSIVENESS of her characters. Sydney's also done a lot of work in the field of animation, and I'm curious to see how she brings a sense of movement and action to the story of a young panda bear who wants pants and his father who just doesn't get it. But (sigh) I must cultivate patience, because the first rough sketches won't be ready until January, at which point I expect my house will be buried to the rafters in snow.