Sunday, February 23, 2014

Some REALLY great books!

Just poking my head out of my self-imposed exile in a Hobbit-hole (where I am trying to make some headway on a middle-grade novel, but keep getting distracted by picture-book ideas) to tell you about some recent releases that you should really, I mean REALLY, pay attention to.

First up, the picture books:

This is just adorable.  If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I am desperately trying to write a chicken book just because....well, I am not sure why.  I just really want to. (The current incarnation also includes a baby porcupine in case you were wondering.) However, now I am not so sure I need to write a picture book with a chicken because this is the best one there is. All future chicken picture books will pale in comparison.  HENNY by Elizabeth Rose Stanton is THE chicken book.

Ah, what can I say about MAPLE?  It is the book I wish I'd had to read to my daughter when we were expecting my next daughter! (The girl on the cover actually looks like my eldest....) Anyway, this book is so sweet--it EARNS its name of MAPLE!  Also, Lori Nichols and I have a special project coming up next year called KITTEN WANTS A PUPPY, so I was super excited to see her 2014 debut.  It does not disappoint.  I feel so honored to be working with her!

Moving on to Middle Grade books:
First, let me say that I don't think this picture does the cover justice.  In real life, it is a gorgeous yellow.  But that is neither here nor there.  It's what is inside the pages that matters.  This book is heartbreaking and lovely and mysterious and the kind of book you think about for a long time after you finish it--I know I did.   When Nikki Loftin asked me if I' read it and maybe give it a blurb last year, I was honored but a little scared.  I mean, what if I didn't like it?  But I made and agreement with myself that I'd be honest and that if it didn't resonate with me, I'd just say so because not every book speaks to every person and that's just the truth of life.  So I read it and it made my heart ache and my eyes tear up because Nikki's voice is just to pure and true.
I am now quite proud that my blurb appears in her book.

Now, I do adore the cover of this book, but let me just say that the story inside is even better.  There is a way this story is told that makes you live inside of it.  You really get to know these characters and the town of Midnight Gulch! I loved my time with Felicity Pickle and am sure that Natalie LLoyd will be around writing wonderful children's novels for quite some time.  She's one to watch, and you'll be able to say you read her very first one!

There is not much I can say about this book but, "Well done, Newbery Committee."  This book is unique and wonderful and gives me hope as both a writer and a human.  Kate DiCamillo does not disappoint.  This might be my favorite book she has written EVER--and that is a very high compliment indeed. (Also, she is the new Children's Literature Ambaassador, which is awesome.)

So, I just want to sit around and hug these books and re-read them over and over again.  Each has touched my heart in a different way, which is exactly why we read, isn't it?  To be changed a little?  To have our hearts filled up?

But now I have get back at it. Stories are waiting for me, dangling about upon the page, needing my careful attention before they blow away with the wind.  Crawl back into the Hobbit-hole, StoryQueen.


PS I'll be at the San Diego County Office of Ed. for their Library Day of Learning on Tuesday.  Maybe I'll see you there!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Stuff to Love

So, lots of stuff to love this week!

The week started off amazingly!  On Saturday night, I was the keynote speaker at the California State Library Association Conference Dinner (to honor California Young Reader Medal winner Mo Willems--who could not be there due to being in Paris for the year.)

It was on a boat. Seriously.

A BOAT!  It was so cool.  The buffet was downstairs, then you walk upstairs...gorgeous!

This is the ceiling!  Stained glass like a Tiffany lamp.  I want one.
At the dinner I sat next to this amazing third-grader named Daniel. His job was to give his reflections on the importance of the CYRM to children, and to introduce the clip of Mo Willems accepting his award from Paris. I was a little nervous about giving my upcoming speech so I engaged Daniel in conversation.

Me:  I'm a little nervous.  Are you nervous.

Daniel:  Nope.

Me:  Really?

Daniel:  Just remember to have a good time. Even if you mess up, just have a good time.

Wise, wise words from an eight year old.

Really bad selfie of Daniel and me taken by the lady who canNOT take a selfie.  Me. Plus, this is the only picture of the night in which you can see the awesome 800 lb crystal necklace I am wearing.  It was sparkle-tacular.  Thank you for letting me wear it, Issy.
We signed each other's programs from the night, which was cool. Then I spoke for a while about how to find magic in the mistakes of life and how many of my books had actually been inspired by mistakes.  (Shocking, I know!) The audience was wonderful and laughed in the right places.  Whew.

This is what the room looked like after--when I remembered to take a picture!  Gorgeous boat!

When I was signing books in the lobby, Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver were, too!  This is the only sneaky photo I could get because my table was too far away.  Alas.


Yes.  That IS THE SEVEN TALES OF TRINKET in paperback.  It really didn't release until Tuesday, February 11th, but Miss Nelson's Bookstore managed to get it a few days early and had it there for the event. Yay!

It is SO pretty!  
And there is BONUS material inside!!

There is an interview in which you can find out which superpower I would have if I got to choose. (Which my husband did not even know.  He said I would choose time-travel, which I said could not even really be a superpower.  Time-travel would need a device, and a device was not a superpower, unless you had invented the device with a super-brain.  A twenty-minute debate ensued.  Yes, this is what we talk about in the Thomas house.)

AND There is MORE BONUS!!!


The only place you can read the eighth tale is in the paperback.
See? You cannot read it here because it is tiny. And blurry. And sideways. But if you get the paperback, you can read it in regular size and not blurry. And not sideways, either.
So, so much to love today!!



Sunday, February 2, 2014

Rigor? Really?

The teacher speaks:

Rigor.  What an unpleasant word. I am going to start by saying that I am tired of it.  The word just needs to go away.

We don't need more rigorous standards.  We need more thoughtful standards.

 We don't need a more rigorous curriculum.  We need a curriculum that inspires curiosity in a greater way.

We don't need to guide children only to books of higher rigor.  We need to inspire and invite children to read widely and wildly.

I could rant, but I am tired of ranting about this.

Rigor is not the answer.
Wonder is the answer.

What fosters wonder and curiosity?  Doubt. Difficulty. Uncertainty--that which is Strange. Perplexing. Weird. Unfamiliar. Novel.

Which brings me to my next point.

You can find all of the above in STORIES. .  More stories. That is what schools need.

(Well, that and a big dose of Humanity.)

If you want schools to be the best places for our children, bring Wonder and Humanity to the forefront, not Rigor.