Thursday, April 21, 2011

Me ... Jane

"Here is the story of a little girl named Jane who dreamed of a life helping animals and grew up to help change the world."

Since tomorrow is Earth Day, I thought I'd review Patrick McDonnell's newest picture book ME ... JANE.

This book tells the story of Jane Goodall as a child--she was a little girl who loved nature and learning about science. She was a little girl who carried around a stuffed monkey. She was a little girl who dreamed of someday going to Africa to live among and study animals.

She was a little girl who's dream came true.

This is an absolutely charming book, and Patrick McDonnell's illustrations are perfect for such a sweet, simple and moving story (if you haven't read his book ART, I highly recommend that one too!).

It's an educational book as well. In addition to telling a beautiful story in an accessible way, this book can open the door to teach children about Dr. Jane Goodall who is a world-renowned primatologist and environmentalist. She is quoted on the back of the book jacket:

 There are so many people who have dreamed seemingly unattainable dreams and, because they never gave up, achieved their goals against all the odds, or blazed a path along which others could follow ... They inspire me. They inspire those around them.

Now, step away from your computer and go take a walk!


Oh, but before you take that walk, check out what the other Bookanistas are reading ...

Elana Johnson visits Dark and Hollow Places
LiLa Roecker gets silly over Spoiled
Christine Fonseca has a passion for Possession – with giveaway
Shannon Messenger marvels at Moonglass – with giveaway
Jamie Harrington adores Invincible Summer
Shelli Johannes-Wells is in the grip of Possession
Scott Tracey bathes in Blood Magic
Carolina Valdez Miller interviews Invicible Summer author Hannah Moskowitz
Jessi Kirby praises Playing Hurt
Bethany Wiggins delves into Divergent
Shana Silver presents a Guestanista gushing over Between Here and Forever
Gretchen McNeil  parties over The Anti-Prom
Carrie Harris sings out about Shift
Rosemary Clement-Moore applauds Abandon
Matt Blackstone loves Like Mandarin
Corrine Jackson delights in The Duff

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I absolutely adore THE BEST BIRTHDAY PARTY EVER by Jennifer LaRue Huget and LeUyen Pham.

I bought this book for two reasons:
       1) I adore LeUyen Pham's illustrations. Always. She's amazing, amazing, amazing.
       2) I had a panic attack because my book also has pink balloons on the cover ... and my book is about a birthday party ... yikes. (I'm happy to report that the story is completely different from mine--but dang! I wish I'd thought of this one!!)

The book begins with a girl counting down the days until her birthday party and as she plans her party, it gets bigger and bigger and bigger in her imagination--complete with elephants, ferris wheels and a birthday card from the President. When her real birthday rolls around, her mom and dad prepare a very normal birthday party for her--which is just fine because she has her friends, her cake, and a real live bunny as a gift.

Don't you remember doing this when you were little (or, heck, some of us still do it--daydreaming about that Oprah appearance anyone?)? It's so much fun to plan those bigger-than-life events, and I love how this little girl's birthday party is just fine. Even after all the daydreams of elephants.

Check out what the other Bookanistas are reading today:

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sending off my babies ...

I did it.

On Friday morning, I shipped all of my final paintings off to the Penguin offices in New York (this after one more redo late Thursday night).

Whew, right?

Actually ... not just yet.

I packed everything carefully with bubble wrap and double boxes, and I took my babies to the Fed Ex store.  The clerk measured and tallied everything up. I gave her the address.

"How much do you want to insure it for in case it gets lost?" she asked, nonchalantly. Like, it was NO BIG DEAL.

I stated a number, her eyebrows went up, and she quoted an amount I couldn't afford.

"Um, okay, let's don't do that. I guess the money doesn't matter anyway. These aren't replaceable ... I mean, if you LOSE them, I'll have to redo 32 paintings that have taken me months to finish."

"Okay," she said, like it was nothing.  Then she tossed the box into the stack behind her and gave me a receipt with the tracking number on it.

I wanted to explain to her that my package was really special--that it wasn't like all the other packages in the stack. I wanted her to be, I don't know, wearing a clerical collar and sprinkling my box with holy water. I wanted her to say something like, "Ooooo! Artwork. How cool! And, you're sending it to a publisher? Are you an illustrator? Do you have a book coming out?? We'll be so, so, so careful with these ..."

But, there was nothing like that. Just your basic "have a nice day, ma'am."


Needless to say, I've checked the tracking number all weekend. And, guess what? At 9:15 this morning, my package was delivered.

But, I haven't heard from my art director yet, and now, I'm slightly panicked that I gave the wrong address to the uninterested lady at Fed Ex. I didn't even double check the label before she put my box into the stack ...

Later y'all. I must go refresh my email.


UPDATE: They made it, safe and sound.  Woo hoo!!!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

MATCHED by Ally Condie

A couple of weeks ago, Ally Condie came to Oxford as part of the Oxford Conference for the book. The ninth graders in Oxford read MATCHED and heard her speak about her writing process and how she came up with ideas for her book.

My favorite story that she told was about students at a high school where she taught English. At this school, when prom season rolled around, several of the senior boys (football players, student council members ...) didn't ask a date. Then a list circulated around a couple of weeks before prom which listed the names of all the girls who didn't have dates to the prom--and all of the guys who had waited asked those girls to go with them. That way, all of the girls got to go to the prom and nobody stayed home crying in their pillows. Pretty sweet, huh?

This was just one of the stories that sparked Ally's imagination as she was writing MATCHED--what if everyone were paired up, but the stakes were even higher? What if you were matched up with the person you were going to spend the rest of your life with?

If you haven't read MATCHED yet, where have you been??? From the MATCHED website, here's a quick summary:

In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one… until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow — between perfection and passion.

Ally posted about her trip to Mississippi on her blog. Thanks Ally! We loved hanging out with you!!

And, this book's clean. I was happy to pass it along to my twelve-year-old who absolutely couldn't put it down and is begging me to score an ARC for the next book in the series CROSSED which comes out this fall.


Check out the other Bookanista posts this week:

Monday, April 4, 2011

J & P Voelkel

A couple of weeks ago, we had our book conference here in Oxford. As part of that conference, several groups get together and bring in two childrens' authors--one for fifth graders and one for ninth graders. Every student in those grades is

  • given a free copy of the author's book (over 500 kids in each grade)
  • they read the book in school
  • they are brought to the University of Mississippi campus to hear the author speak
  • they come after school to the bookstore to have their book signed and meet the author in person
Pretty amazing, yes?

This year's fifth grade author, actually authors ... were Pam and John Voelkel who wrote the Middleworld trilogy. The Oxford students read THE JAGUAR STONE which is a wonderful adventure book filled with ancient Mayan mystery. Check out the Voelkels' amazing website here.

As great as the book is, I have to say that the Voelkels' presentation just as great. They showed wonderful videos and pictures taken from their research trips to Central America. They talked about the ancient Mayan culture. 

And, they brought a plate of fried worms and dared the teachers to come on stage and sample them. 

John Voelkel, who used to play in a band, finished up the presentation with a guitar jam session.

But my favorite part came towards the end of the presentation when Pamela talked about the power of stories. She noted that during their presentation the kids had taken a journey through the rainforests and ended with a rock concert--and one of the best places to take a journey like that is through books.

Suffice it to say, if your school is looking for wonderfully educational and dynamic speakers, give the Voelkels a call.


On Thursday, Ally Condie ...