Monthly Archives: July 2019

2020 Picture Book Previews Part Four

I really don’t know what to say other than…. Enjoy!
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UNSTOPPABLE ME Release Day! Interview with Author Susan Verde

Happy Book Birthday to UNSTOPPABLE ME! Here joining me today is author Susan Verde!

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Hi Susan! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Hi Dylan! Thank you so much for having me here!

Tell us a little bit about Unstoppable Me!

Unstoppable Me is really about perspective. As a mom and former teacher I have had my own children and students who had lots of energy. People often call these kids “spirited” and can view their inability to be still as challenging and often it’s seen as negative. This story is meant to express the positive things about the need to move and express and expel seemingly boundless energy. It’s the “can” versus “can’t.” I know for myself I am way more productive when I am able to move my body as opposed to being still. I wanted to share the beauty of this way of being in the world. 

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Tell us a little bit about your writing process. 

I set aside time everyday (even on weekends) for writing. That is how I hold myself accountable and how I stay connected to the work. Even if I am not ultimately thrilled with what I have written on a given day I know I sat down and did my best in that moment. When I have an idea I try to let it all pour out on the page without getting stuck on structure or spelling or word count. It is when I feel I have gotten it all down on paper that I then go back and edit and shape my story. I typically use my laptop as opposed to a notebook although I do have a small journal I carry with me in case an idea strikes when I am without my computer. Sometimes I share my early writing with my kids, writer friends or my agent to flesh out ideas.

Have you always been into writing?

I have always written but not with the idea of publishing just as a way to work through things or capture something that moved me. I started realizing when I was very young, maybe 3rd grade that writing made me feel good or better if I was feeling low. I used to write a lot of poetry and in high school I wrote A LOT of angsty teen poems but again it helped me feel centered. 

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I think it is most exciting when I know I have written something good. That doesn’t mean it will get published necessarily although that is a HUGE thrill but there’s a kind of buzzy excitement when I feel I have written something meaningful. The other most exciting part is when I hear from a teacher or a reader who has been moved somehow by a story. And when I get to visit kids and educators and interact and share messages of empathy and peace and the power of books! Oh so many exciting things…hard to pick one! 

What inspires your creativity?

I think the moments when I am present and observant and paying attention to the world around me, the kids around me and also staying in touch with my own inner child that I am the most inspired. It can be a conversation had or overheard or a piece of art or an act of courage or even something challenging that can spark an idea. 

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Hmmm… well I love music, in particular hip hop. I often dance in my kitchen (much to my children’s dismay). I used to work for a music magazine and my mother had a record company so it’s always been a part of my life. I also lived in France for a bit when I was younger. 

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I think I would be an elementary school teacher because I have done that and it was an incredibly fulfilling experience. Or I might be working in the field of mental health focusing on children and teenagers. I have a child with ocd and I am always studying things about the brain and learning how to help and support kids with these kinds of challenges and anxiety. 

What can readers expect from you in the future? 

I have more books coming in my I Am series with Peter Reynolds as well as some beautiful “helpful” fractured fairytales and a few more exciting things in the pipeline. 

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Just that I am so grateful to connect with people interested in the power of picture books and love to help support educators and others doing great work in the world with kids. And a big THANK YOU to you, Dylan for all you are doing!

Cover Reveal: Three Little Kittens by Barbara McClintock

Here today joining me for a cover reveal of her Spring 2020 title is Barbara McClintock!

Here are a few questions Barbara answered about the book….
-You broke away from your traditional illustration style for this book. Tell us about that.
Recently, I’ve been going back through old childhood drawings of mine that my mom saved. I love the sense of spontaneity and immediacy in those early drawings.  A big inspiration in much of that early artwork were HannaBarbera cartoons, specifically the 1960’s character Top Cat.
When I was little, I sat in front of the tv on Saturday mornings with a big stack of paper and crayons, drawing characters from cartoons as I watched.
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I began to write and draw my own comics, many about Top Cat, In fact, I became so infatuated with Top Cat that I insisted everyone call me Top Cat for a brief period of time!
I thought it would be fun going back to my earliest interests and way of drawing, and that inspired the early Barbara drawings/cartoon style I used.
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The nursery rhyme ‘The Three Little Kittens’ has been illustrated many times, including a recent version by Jerry Pinkney. The energy and underlying message of the story has been covered over by the antique language of the text, which has also driven the approach illustrators have taken to portraying the kittens and their mother. The kittens are invariably wearing frilly victorian clothing, and the design approach of the page layouts is very classical.  The Three Little Kittens is actually a deliciously antic story about typical toddler behavior, getting in and out of trouble, and forgiveness. Once I broke away from rigidly adhering to the early to mid-1800s version of the text, and the conventional tropes that others have taken to visually narrate the story, everything suddenly came alive and got very, very exciting.  Originally, I was going to retain the original text and have it appear in a very overwrought Victorian type font, and have the kitten’s dialogue become the contemporary beat of the text. Dianne encouraged me to tweak the original text so that the text and the kitten’s comments – appearing in word balloons – flowed together. There’s still the older flavor to the language of the text, but it’s in sync with a more current sensibility.
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The illustrations are quite simple, but a lot of behind-the-scenes work went into developing the visual and textual narrative. I pretended to interview each character to get their point of view of what happens in the story, and wrote out their rather long-winded responses to the questions I put to them. I really had fun getting to the heart of their personalities, motivations, excuses for lame behaviors, and ultimately, their acts of generosity. ( Spoiler alert – there’s a  powerful ‘love the stranger’ message at the end )
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-Where did you get the idea for this book? 
My editor at Scholastic Press, Dianne Hess, has talked about my doing an illustrated version of THE THREE LITTLE KITTENS for a long time. I hesitated because I had in my mind the same old approach which would have been just a repeat of what many other illustrators have done before. Once I realized I could break out of that box and take the text and images to a new level, I really engaged with the project.
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-What else would you like to tell readers? 
Have fun finding new narrative approaches to each text you encounter as an illustrator and author. And as a reader, look beyond the obvious and find new meaning and playfulness in stories you may have read a bajillion times.
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And now…. here it is!!!
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