Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tomie dePaola

Yesterday afternoon, the news that author and illustrator Tomie dePaola had died at the age of 85 after falling earlier in the week quickly took over my Facebook page. I know an impressive number of people who had their picture taken with dePaola and/or have a Tomie story.

Tomie dePaola was born in Meriden, Connecticut and maintained connections with that city and this state. Beginning in 2001 he wrote a series of seven autobiographical books about growing up at 26 Fairmount Avenue in Meriden immediately before and during World War II. In 2011 the Meriden Public Library renamed its children's wing for him, and in 2018 it had to turn people away when he made an appearance there.

In 1999 dePaola donated professional materials to the Northeast Children's Literature Collection at The University of Connecticut. The University celebrated with a day-long symposium-type event. It was probably for educators. Around that time, I managed to attend a number of teacher literary events at UConn, because I had somehow gotten onto a teacher mailing list through a parent/teacher reading group I took part in at my sons' high school. So, yes, I crashed the Tomie party. That fall the William Benton Museum on UConn's Storrs campus also ran an exhibit of his work, The Heart of the Whitebird: The Art of Tomie dePaola. In October of that year, UConn awarded dePaola an honorary doctorate, one of nine he received.

And, finally, dePaola frequently was a featured author/illustrator at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair, most recently in 2018. I saw him signing there one year. The Fair had placed him on the far wall of the ballroom. The line of people waiting to speak to him went through the room, almost to the door. All the other writers signing just sat there and watched.

There was no Connecticut Children's Book Fair last year, and, personally, I have my doubts about whether it will come back, even if the U.S. is back to some kind of normal this fall. If it does, it will probably be a very long time before before the Fair finds as big a draw as Tomie dePaola willing to come out to a remote state university campus to support it.

The Connecticut children's literature world will surely miss his presence.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming weeks I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can. I'm collecting this information on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Many more authors and illustrators will be affected who you won't see here.

The Only Black Girls In Town

On March 12th, Brandy Colbert announced that her March tour dates for her  middle grade novel The Only Black Girls in Town have been cancelled.

The Only Black Girls in Town, published by Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers, deals with the only two black girls in town, one a newcomer, who find a box of old journals and set to work to determine what that's about.

Brandy Colbert is the author of five books for young people and a contributor to anthologies. She is also a teacher in a MFA program and a copy editor.

My Life As A Potato

March and April events for My Life As A Potato by Arianne Costner have been postponed.    

My Life As A Potato, published by Penguin Random House, is about a boy forced to become a school mascot. It is Arianne Costner's debut book.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Social Isolation Is Improving My Technology Skills

Thursday night I attended a Greater Hartford SCBWI Meet and Greet. By way of Zoom. Someone in my family decided to memorialize the moment with a picture, which means...blog post!

This was a come-as-you-are event. I want credit for having replaced the flannel shirt I'd been wearing for days (and have on as I type this) with a cleanish cardigan. For some reason, I also felt compelled to brush my teeth. However, if you look very closely, you can see I wasn't wearing socks.

In order to take part in this event, I had to learn how to use Zoom. By which I mean another family member got me set up. Remotely. Because he ran through a practice with me, I got to see him, which was an additional benefit. It appears I can take part in Zoom meetings, if someone else is hosting and sends me an invitation. I don't know how to initiate anything myself. (Like I'm ever going to want to initiate a gathering, even on-line.) That's what I mean by having learned "how to use Zoom."

On Monday I'm signing up to try to get into a SCBWI workshop conducted through Zoom. There are a number of those kinds of workshops coming up in the next few weeks I may be able to be part of.

This is a big tech step forward.

But We're Not Just Talking Zoom!

In the last two weeks I've also learned how to insert photos and images into word documents so I can write illustrated letters to family members. This is a ridiculously easy thing to do. I should have tried it long ago.

I also learned how to "show this thread" on Twitter, for a long-involved reason that is also connected to what I've been doing recently. Another ridiculously easy thing to do. Embarrassed I never tried it before.

There Must Be Historical Precedent For This

I am sure there are all kinds of examples of cultures making technological advances, because they needed to respond to illness or war or natural disaster. I'm guessing someone has also written on  individuals who have done the same thing. It's definitely happening for me.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Malka Penn Award Goes To "The White Rose"

The White Rose by Kip Wilson has won the 2019 Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children's Literature.  This is the third year for the award, which was  established in part by writer Michele Palmer who has written children's books under the name Malka Penn. The award also is connected with the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut.

The White Rose is a novel-in-verse dealing with the White Rose resistance movement in Germany during World War II. Kip Wilson has published an extensive amount of short fiction and nonfiction. The White Rose is her first book.

Honor Books 


Four Malka Penn honor books were named this year:

The awards ceremony is scheduled for April 23 at the Thomas Dodd Research Center on the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut.

On April 11, 2018: Author of "My Beautiful Birds" Wins First Malka Penn Award

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

March Book Release: When the Babies Came to Stay

When the Babies Came to Stay by Christine McDonnell with illustrations by Jeanette Bradley was published yesterday by Viking.

According to the book description, four unrelated babies arrive by different means on an island. A librarian ends up raising them in the library. Which is, of course, where many of us wish we'd grown up.

McDonnell is the author of ten children's book, across all age groups. Bradley's debut book was published in 2018, and she is co-editor and illustrator of an anthology being published in September.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Good News! I Got A Rejection This Weekend!

I received a rejection late Saturday for an adult novel that I started thinking about, sort of, back in college. And then thought about some more in the '90s. And started working on many years ago and finished last year. I made this submission less than two weeks ago, on the Tuesday of the week everything went to hell.

I assumed that would be my last book submission for years, maybe ever, because I never recovered professionally after the economy sunk into the toilet in 2008. Publishing was hard hit then, I just accepted that the same thing is going to happen as a result of this month's/year's pandemic turmoil. I thought I would shift to short-form work and try to publish with journals, on-line and off, paid or not.

That was my plan to maintain a writing life.

But I've seen a few things on Twitter and Facebook that suggest that there's a little activity going on with editors and agents. And then I got this rejection.

Why Is The Rejection A Good Thing? 


Because that rejection means that agent is working. She hasn't thrown in the towel. And she could. She's in Seattle. But she's still working, and working on a Saturday.

So I will continue to work, too. I just generated half a page of new work!

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus Cancellations In Childlit

Over the coming weeks I will be covering book launches within the children's literature world and other childlit-related events that are cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in this country. You can help out these authors by spreading the word about their new books, following them on social media, recommending their books to your libraries, and, of course, purchasing them when you can. I'm collecting this information on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Many more authors and illustrators will be affected who you won't see here.

Today's author info relates to events that appeared on the March Connecticut Children's Literature Calendar and includes nonbook launch appearances. These are followed by some Massachusetts news.

Amphibian Acrobats

R. J. Julia Bookseller's (Madison, Ct.) Event Calendar has been cleared until the end of the month. Leslie Bulion was to have appeared there on Saturday, March 21. Her March 22 Byrd's Books (Bethel, Ct.) appearance has been rescheduled to June 5, 5:30 to 7:30
Both dates supported her book, Amphibian Acrobats.

Amphibian Acrobats, published by Peachtree Publishing Company and illustrated by Robert Meganck, is a nonfiction book dealing with amphibians around the world.

Leslie Bulion is the author of six other books for children, which have been named to lists sponsored by such organizations as the NCTE, Bank Street College, and Book Sense.

A Galaxy of Sea Stars 


The Barnes and Noble in West Hartford, Ct. has no events listed for the rest of the month. Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo was to have appeared there on Saturday, March 21 in support of her latest book, A Galaxy of Sea Stars.

A Galaxy of Sea Stars, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  involves an eleven-year-old American girl whose family sponsors a family from Afghanistan that includes a girl her own age.

Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is also the author of Ruby in the Sky, which won a number of awards before publication.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail

Leslea Newman's March 29 appearance at the River Bend Bookshop in Glastonbury has been cancelled. She was to have read her new book, Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale With A Tail.

Welcoming Elijah, published in January by Charlesbridge and illustrated by Susan Gal, is the story of a young boy celebrating Passover with his family while a kitten observes from outside the house.

Newman is the author of numerous books that have won multiple awards. More importantly, she was at the University of Vermont around the same time I was. Seriously, we overlapped on campus two years. Additionally, she was at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference as a participant the year after I finished my three summers there as the pastry assistant in the kitchen! This is amazing! (I feel that I may have noted this info sometime over the years in a post about Newman, though I can't find it. Well, if I have told people about this before, all I can say is that it is well worth repeating.)

Other Cancellations

The Public Library of New London, Ct. is closed as of last Friday, March 13. Katie L. Carroll and Patrick Scalisi were to have appeared at the library's Local Author Fest on Sat., March 28.

The Storytellers' Cottage in Simsbury, Ct.  is closed for the rest of the month. Joyce Lapin was to have appeared there on March 21st.

The New England Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators spring conference on May 1   through May 3 has been cancelled.

The New England SCBWI art show, Art From the Heart, at the Wedeman Gallery, Lasell College, from May 8-30, has been cancelled.

La Francophonie Day: Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Well, mes amis, we have reached the official La Francophonie Day, and my final La Francophonie Day post. Today I am discussing an American book written in English but set in a Francophone country, Haiti. French is an official language there, but, significantly, so is Haitian Creole.

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite starts out with a lot of humor about a Haitian American girl, Alaine Beauparlant, working on a Latin American history project on Haiti's history. Two of my favorite things--history and humor. I was psyched. The story veers off to dealing with Alaine's mother's health, her aunt's high-level work in Haitian government, a family curse, and a college boy. It was a little trop pour moi. But on the other hand, that's how a lot of YA books are. They're piled with many elements.

As exposure to another culture, though, Dear Haiti works very well. There's some French, there's more Creole, there's food, there's a lot of beautiful scenery. There's good presentation on the wealth versus poverty aspect of the country. The book definitely left this reader interested in Haiti.

Since my focus this week has been on language and culture, I'm going to bring up a point about the main character's last name, Beauparlant. I read that as meaning something like beautiful talk. And, sure enough, it's a surname meaning "fine speaking." Alaine is the daughter of a well-known on-air journalist with plans to become a journalist, herself. An excellent name for her. I spend a lot of time sweating over the names for my characters. I found this one very apt.

A La Francophonie Day Roundup

Links to this week's La Francophonie Day posts here at Original Content:

A Break From Angst To Celebrate La Francophonie Day

La Francophonie Day: Manon Gauthier

La Francophonie Day: Who Left The Lights On?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

La Francophonie Day: Who Left The Light On?

Today's La Francophonie Day post features a book from Restless Press, a company that publishes English editions of books from around the world. Who Left the Light On? is a picture book written by Richard Marnier and illustrated by Aude Maurel. It was translated by Emma Ramadan.

Who Left the Light On? is described by its publisher as being "about a uniform, monotonous village where all the neighbors follow the same rules of how their homes should look and when it’s okay to turn on the lights—until one day someone decides to turn on the lights at the “wrong” time."

Emma Ramadan wrote Five Translators on the Joys and Challenges of Translating Children's Books for Words Without Borders. She begins the piece discussing her own work translating Who Left the Light On?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

La Francophonie Day: Manon Gauthier

 Today in honor of La Francophonie Day, this Friday the 20th, I am featuring Quebec children's illustrator Manon Gauthier.  She is described by Canadian publisher Pajama Press as working in "many media, including gouache, pencils, and paper collage."  
She is a self-taught illustrator who has been nominated for the Governor General’s Literary Award for illustration four times and has had work  selected for the illustrators' exhibition at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

I like Gauthier's style, though I'm not knowledgeable enough about art to describe it, and, of course, she has a very cool name.

We have no connection. There are many Gauthiers in the French-speaking and Franco-American worlds.