Friday, November 30, 2007

Poetry for Hanukkah

Selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Pictures by Melanie Hall
HarperCollins, 2004

Hanukkah Lights is An I Can Read Book. It’s a poetry collection for beginning readers. Its poems are also just right for sharing with very young children. This slim volume contains a dozen poems about potato latkes, dreidels, and Hanukkah lights. Poets whose works can be found in this book include Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Lillian M. Fisher, Ann Whitford Paul, and Avis Harley.

The collection begins with Maria Fleming’s poem Dizzy in which a child expresses excitement about the coming holiday by comparing herself to a “dizzy top.”

From Dizzy
by Maria Fleming

I feel all giggly and wiggly
All twirly, whirly, squiggly
Like a dizzy top
and spinning
and humming…

Most of the poems are rhythmic and rhyming like Michele Krueger’s Latke Time.

From Latke Time
by Michele Krueger

Grate the potatoes gently,
Chop some onions, too.
It’s time to make the latkes,
a heaping plate for you!

Heat the griddle slowly,
pour the oil in,
fry up forty latkes,
let the feast begin!

Most of the poetry in Hanukkah Lights: Holiday Poetry has little imagery or figurative language. The short poems are written in simple language and most could be easily memorized by young children. This is a book that would be nice to have on hand to share with children whose families celebrate Hanukkah.

by Maxie Baum
Illustrated by Julie Paschkis
Scholastic, 2006

I Have a Little Dreidel is an adaptation of the traditional dreidel song known by many children who celebrate Hanukkah. Baum adds verses to the song to tell the story of a family gathering to celebrate the holiday. Relatives arrive at the home of the child narrator and share in the preparation of the latkes they will eat for dinner. Verses about the holiday traditions of cooking and eating latkes, lighting candles, and playing the dreidel game are included in this holiday tale.

Julie Paschkis’s colorful folk-art style paintings are stunning and really bring Baum’s text to life. Her illustrations express the closeness of the family and their joy in celebrating the holiday with each other. One picture shows three generations joining in making the dinner: father and children peel potatoes, grandmother tests the applesauce, and mother fries the pancakes.
Each two-page spread has two verses of the poem/song—with the refrain on the right hand side. The verses are set inside boxes framed by blue and white borders that contain the Star of David, dreidels, and other design elements. The text is placed at the bottoms of the pages throughout the book. The main illustrations are set atop the bordered verses.

Here’s an excerpt from the book:

Mommy fries the latkes
And puts them on a plate;
Supper’s almost ready,
And I can hardly wait.

Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
I made it out of clay;
Oh, dreidel, dreidel, dreidel,
Then dreidel I shall play.

The illustration of the family assembled at a table covered with a lemony yellow cloth that exudes warmth is a visual feast. We see smiling adults and children raising glasses in a toast while one child reaches down to feed the dog with his other hand, a gray cat with a quizzical expression sitting at the foot of a another child’s chair, the baby dropping its cup on the floor, a large golden menorah gleaming in the window, platters laden with latkes and bowls brimming with applesauce. Paschkis’s art is the star of this book. Her illustrations are filled with brightness and color and holiday cheer.

I Have a Little Dreidel can be read in two different ways. One way is to read the book page by page from beginning to end. Another way would be to read only the verses on the left-hand pages and exclude the refrains. Done the second way, the text reads more like a narrative poem than a song.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Two Writing Teachers today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hanukkah Lights, Hanukkah Books

Written by Michael J. Rosen
Illustrated by
Melissa Iwai
Harcourt, 2001

Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael Rosen is a good book to read aloud to very young children. Its narrator is a five-year-old boy. As he and his family celebrate each night of the Festival of lights, the little boy sees Chanukah lights everywhere. On the first night when his family lights one candle on the menorah, the boy thinks “the skinny moon beams like a proud candle flame against the dark sky.” On the fifth night, when his great-grandma gives him five shiny silver dollars, the young boy lines up the coins on his hand and arm. "They sparkle like five more lights in the candles’ glow.” On the seventh night, he and his family drive past the house of his best friend who celebrates Christmas. The boy sees one candle-lamp with a single bulb glowing in each window—seven altogether…just like the candles in his family’s menorah. On the last night of Hanukkah, the boy and his father stand atop their city building looking through a telescope at the sky. The young boy finds the seven stars in the Big Dipper and the North Star and feels as though God were “lighting his own menorah in the sky.”

Chanukah Lights Everywhere is a simply told tale. It’s also a counting book. Melissa Iwai pictures the objects the boy sees that seem to echo the number of candles lit in his menorah each night: one skinny moon, two headlights, three outside lamps illuminating the entrance to his house, four flaming burners on the stove, five shiny coins, six other houses with menorahs gleaming in their windows, seven Christmas candle-lamps glowing in the windows of his best friend’s house, eight stars shining in the sky.

Melissa Iwai’s acrylic illustrations bring coziness to Rosen's straightforward text. The houses’ windows glow with yellow light infusing the winter night scenes with warmth. Her use of bright colors and changing perspectives also add visual interest to this quiet story.
An author's note with information about the history and tradition of Chanukah lights is included at the end of the book.
Click here to view two illustrations from Chanukah Lights Everywhere.

Written by
Janice Cohn, D.S.W.
Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Albert Whitman, 1995

The Christmas Menorahs: How a Town Fought Hate is a nonfiction book. It's a true story based on events that happened in 1993 in Billings, Montana.

It’s Hanukkah, and the Schnitzer family has menorahs glowing in the windows of their house. On the third night of the holiday, someone throws a rock through young Isaac Schnitzer’s bedroom window. The police chief informs the Schnitzers that there has been a small group of people in their town causing trouble by passing out leaflets saying hateful things about some minority groups and committing hate crimes against Jews, Native Americans, and African-Americans. Community members work together to fight against the prejudice. Many citizens put pictures of menorahs in their windows to show their solidarity with the Schnitzers. After a time, the crimes begin to stop.

The Christmas Menorahs is a good story to share with children to show how people can band together to take a stand against acts of bigotry and to help protect minorities in their community.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Magic & Monsters: Picture Books for Hanukkah

Written by
Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
Holiday House, 1989

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins is my favorite Hanukkah read-aloud picture book for the Festival of Lights. Kimmel, a great storyteller, hit a literary homerun with this spooky tale, which is a favorite of elementary school children.

Wicked goblins haunt an old synagogue at the top of the hill in Ostropol. They make life miserable for the villagers. The goblins especially hate Hanukkah. They do everything in their power to ruin the holiday for the people. To rid Ostropol of the goblins, the menorah candles in the old synagogue must be lit every night of Hanukkah. On the final night of the holiday, the king of the goblins must light the candles himself. Hershel, the main character, is not afraid of the goblins so he volunteers to spend the eight nights alone in the haunted synagogue. Hershel proves he is not only brave…but also clever. He outwits the goblins and destroys their power over the village.

Trina Schart Hyman received a Caldecott Honor for the illustrations she created for this original story that reads like an old tale. She captures the mood and drab setting perfectly with her use of gray, black, brown, and blue in her artistic compositions. Her goblins are creepy looking creatures. Her painting of the silhouette of the towering red-eyed goblin king standing in the doorway of the synagogue is truly frightening. Story and art combine to make this book a surefire hit with young kids.

At the end of the book, Kimmel includes information about Hanukkah, the menorah, the dreidel, and potato pancakes.

Written by
Eric Kimmel
Illustrated by
Jon Goodell
Doubleday, 2001

Another of my favorite Hanukkah books is an exciting tale, also written by Eric Kimmel, entitled Zigazak!: A Magical Hanukkah Night. I used to read it aloud in my school library. My students loved it!

In this story, little devils flying over the town of Brisk notice menorahs shining in the windows and deduce it must be Hanukkah. They decide to have some fun. They use their magic powers to disrupt the holiday celebration in the town. Zigazak! Dreidels grow arms and legs and begin dancing in the butcher’s house. Zigazak! Latkes go zipping through the air at Hannah Leah’s. Zigazak! Instruments fly out of musicians’ hands and play a lively kazatzka and candles explode like fireworks, shooting colored flames through the house of the town’s richest resident.

The village is in pandemonium. The frightened townspeople run to the home of their rabbi for help. The rabbi is a wise man. He confronts the evil spirits. The calm and clever holy man outwits the mischievous devils and the town of Brisk ends up celebrating Hanukkah as it never had before.

Jon Goodell’s illustrations bring us the action of this hectic holiday night of flying latkes, dancing dreidels, airborne instruments, and rockets of colored flames shooting through the air. He also shows the emotions of surprise, fear, sadness on the faces of the story characters. His demons are devilish looking, indeed—but not too scary for young children to appreciate.

Click here to view an illustration from Zigazak!.
Click here to view the cover art for Zigazak!.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Robert's Snow 2007: Auction 2

Well, Robert’s Snow Auction 1 ended on Friday afternoon. I bid on five snowflakes—but, unfortunately, did not win any. I hope to win at least one in Auction 2. I already own eight snowflakes—four from Robert’s Snow 2004 and four from Robert’s Snow 2005. I also got my daughter a snowflake as Christmas gift in 2005. I take my snowflake bidding seriously!

Auction 2 will begin accepting bids on Monday, Nov. 26 at 9:00 a.m. (Eastern Standard Time) with a starting bid of $100 for each snowflake. Bid increments are $20. All bids must be in before 5:00 pm (Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, Nov. 30. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. All but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.

Grace Lin & Her Sister Ki-Ki
Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Ashley Wolff at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Karen Katz at Whimsy Books
Maxwell Eaton III at Books and Other Thoughts
Matthew Cordell at Just Like the Nut
Rick Chrustowski at laurasalas
Lisa Kopelke at Lisa's Little Corner of the Internet
Melissa Iwai at Brooklyn Arden
Susan Miller at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Joanne Friar at The Longstockings
Annette Heiberg at Lisa's Little Corner of the Internet
Susie Jin at sruble's world
Roz Fulcher at Goading the Pen
Scott Bakal at Wild Rose Reader
Tim Coffey at The Silver Lining
Linas Alsenas at A Wrung Sponge
Ellen Beier at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Alexandra Boiger at Paradise Found
Joe Kulka at ChatRabbit
Kevin Hawkes at Cynthia Lord's Journal
Diane Greenseid at Just One More Book!! Mary Haverfield at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Denise Fleming at MotherReader
Aaron Zenz at Jo's Journal
Carol Schwartz at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup
Theresa Brandon at The Shady Glade
Janet Stevens at The Miss Rumphius Effect
Don Tate at The Silver Lining
Laura Jacques at cynthialord's Journal
Sarah Dillard at The Silver Lining
Teri Sloat at The Miss Rumphius Effect
Margot Apple at Jo’s Journal
Rose Mary Berlin at Charlotte’s Library
Carol Heyer at The Shady Glade
Cecily Lang at Kate's Book Blog
Cynthia Decker at The Silver Lining
Mike Wohnoutka at laurasalas
Lee White at Please Come Flying
Denise Ortakales at cynthialord’s Journal
Akemi Gutierrez at AmoXcalli and Cuentecitos
Amiko Hirao at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast Amy Schimler at Please Come Flying
David Macaulay at Here in the Bonny Glen
Lauren Stringer at laurasalas
Greg Newbold at The Longstockings
Holli Conger at Please Come Flying
Judith Moffaft at Jo's Journal
Lizzy Rockwell at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Matt Tavares at Please Come Flying
Sheila Bailey at lizjonesbooks
Sophie Blackall at not your mother’s bookclub
Steven James Petruccio at Blog From the Windowsill
Sylvia Long at Whimsy Books
Timothy Bush at Here in the Bonny Glen
Jane Dippold at Just Like the Nut
Jane Dyer at Whimsy Books
Wendy Edelson at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Paul Brewer at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Brian Biggs at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Calef Brown
Timothy Bush
Barbara Lanza
Lauren Stringer
Graeme Base at Just One More Book
Cece Bell at Jo's Journal
Stephanie Roth at Writing with a broken tusk
Sherry Rogers at A Life in Books
John Hassett at cynthialord’s Journal

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Hanukkah Books for Children

Now that Thanksgiving has past, my thoughts have turned toward children’s books about other holidays. Hanukkah falls in early December this year…so I thought I’d start by posting links to some lists and blog reviews of Hanukkah books.

From Web Sites

Themed Reviews: Hanukkah from

Top 10 Children’s Books about Hanukkah from

Hanukkah: The Festival of Lights from

From Kidlit Blogs
Come Light the Menorah! comes to us from The Planet Esme.
Susan of Chicken Spaghetti compiled a list of Hanukkah books for children last December in her post The Eating of Latkes: Hurray for Hanukkah.
Here is my review of The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes, which I posted at the Blue Rose Girls blog last December.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

And the Winner Is!!!

I’m sure many of you are eager to hear who the winner of the Robert’s Snow signed, limited edition giclee print is. First, I’d like to explain how I did the drawing. Each time a person left a comment at one of the posts about a Robert’s Snow artist, I wrote his/her name in a notebook under a column with that illustrator’s name at the top. Last night, I wrote the names of the people who left comments...along with the initials of the artists at whose posts they left a comment on Post-it notes. I used a different color Post-it note for each artist so I could make sure that the notes got well mixed when I shook them around in the basket. Then I put the basket over my head and picked a name. The first person whose name I picked is the winner of the Robert’s Snow limited edition print. The other five people whose names I picked will receive a small print with one or two of the Robert’s Snow mice. The small prints have also been signed by Grace Lin.

The GRAND PRIZE WINNER is Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Here are the names of the other five winners, in the order in which they were plucked from the basket:

TadMack of Finding Wonderland
Jules of 7-Imp
Sara Lewis Holmes of Read Write Believe
Laura Salas of Writing the World for Kids
Miss Erin of Miss Erin

Note to Winners: Please email me your addresses. I will probably put your prizes in the mail some time next week. Congratulations to you all!

Thanks to everyone who left comments at my Blogging for a Cure Robert’s Snow artist features.

Auction 1 of Robert's Snow 2007 began yesterday! Why not bid on a snowflake and give it as a very special gift to someone you love?

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Robert's Snow 2007: Win a Prize!!!

WIN A PRIZE!!! I do hope you’ll stop by to read all of my Blogging for a Cure interviews and to comment about the artists and their work if you have not done so yet. I have a special prize for some lucky person who leaves a comment at any of my six posts featuring a Robert’s Snow artist: a limited edition giclee print of an illustration from Grace Lin’s book Robert’s Snow! Here is a picture of the print:

Each time you comment at one of my Blogging for a Cure posts about a Robert’s Snow artist, I’ll put your name in a hat. If you comment at all six posts, your name will go into the hat six times! The drawing will take place around 11:30 tonight…so you still have an opportunity to comment and to win a prize.

Note: I also have several consolation prizes for commenters who don’t win the “big” prize: five small prints of the Robert’s Snow mouse(mice).

Don’t forget that bidding begins on the first of the three Robert’s Snow 2007 auctions today!

Read about the following Robert's Snow artists that I interviewed for Blogging for a Cure:

Here is a link to my interview with Scott Bakal.

Here is a link to my interview with Alissa Imre Geis.

Here is a link to my interview with Wendell Minor.

Here is a link to my interview with Susan Kathleen Hartung.
Here is a link to my interview with Mary Newell DePalma.
Here is a link to my interview with Wade Zahares.

Robert's Snow 2007: The First Auction Begins Today!!!

The following information comes courtesy of Tricia Stohr-Hunt of The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Auction 1 will begin accepting bids on Monday, Nov. 19 at 9:00 a.m. with a starting bid of $50 for each snowflake. All bids must be placed before the close of Auction 1 on Friday, Nov. 23 at 5:00 pm. Don't forget that 100 percent of the proceeds from this online auction will benefit sarcoma research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and that all but $25 of the winning bid is tax deductible.Read about all the illustrators who contributed to this auction at the sites linked below. (The order presented is the same as on the auction page.)

Daniel Mahoney at Paradise Found and Great Solutions to Team Challenges
Brie Spangler at Lectitans
Yangsook Choi at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Ginger Nielson at MISS O's SCHOOL LIBRARY
Philomena O'Neill at Jo's Journal
James Gurney at Charlotte's Library
David Ezra Stein at Hip Writer Mama
Barbara Garrison at Brooklyn Arden
Hideko Takahashi at The Silver Lining
Brian Floca at A Fuse #8 Production
Mary Peterson at Brooklyn Arden
Maggie Swanson at Chicken Spaghetti
Elizabeth Dulemba at sruble's world
Michelle Chang at The Longstockings
Gretel Parker at Finding Wonderland
Sara Kahn at Kate's Book Blog
Ann Koffsky at Book Buds
Frank Dormer at What Adrienne Thinks About That
Erin Eitter Kono at Sam Riddleburger
John Nez
Julie Fromme Fortenberry at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Sharon Vargo
Abigail Marble
Marion Eldridge
at Chicken Spaghetti
Chris Gall at Through the Studio Door
Annette Simon at Check It Out and Deo Writer
Rolandas Kiaulevicius at a wrung sponge
Paige Keiser at Your Neighborhood Librarian
Tracy McGuinness-Kelly at Sam Riddleburger's blog
Jeannie Brett at cynthialord’s Journal
Peter Emmerich at Loree Griffin Burns: A Life in Books
Anna Dewdney at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Erik Brooks at Bildungsroman
Joan Waites
Patrick Girouard at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Yuyi Morales at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Jennifer Thermes at Through the Studio Door
Liza Woodruff at Check It Out
Ilene Richard at Something Different Every Day
Molly Idle at The Shady Glade

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Robert's Snow: Starring Wade Zahares

Wade Zahares

I met Wade Zahares several years ago when I attended In Celebration of Children’s Literature, a three-day-long conference at the University of Southern Maine at Gorham. The final day of the conference started off with the Maine Connection, a panel discussion with four authors and illustrators who lived in Maine. Wade was one of the illustrators on the panel. I hadn’t heard of Wade before and after listening to him speak I decided that I wanted to learn more about him and his I attended his breakout session after the panel discussion.

Wade showed his session participants some of his original picture book illustrations. I was blown away by Wade’s huge originals—especially those from his book Big, Bad and a Little Bit Scary. I had never seen picture book art quite like his. It was bold and bursting with color. I was taken with the power of some of his images; the close-ups and different perspectives; the deep, rich colors he used in his art.
Since that conference our paths have crossed more than once. Last April, I had an opportunity to chat with Wade after a presentation he made about the art he had created for his most recent book, Lucky Jake, at the Newburyport Literary Festival in Newburyport, Massachusetts. We also talked at the Robert’s Snow Artists’ Open House in Newburyport in October.

Grace Lin & Wade Zahares at the Newburyport Literary Festival in April

I jumped at the chance to interview Wade For Blogging for a Cure. I believe he is a talent on the rise. I know I'm not the only individual who thinks this illustrator is a mighty talented artist. Window Music, the first book he illustrated, was selected as a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book.
Here's what some reviewers said about Window Music:

“Zahares's bright and thickly painted palette is wonderfully light-infused. The sinuously curving lines reinforce the loopy track and the panorama, viewed from both inside and outside the chunky train, is ever-changing. The illustrations are idealized and dreamlike, a combination of childlike simplicity and the occasional surreal image. This quick and jolly read-aloud is right on track.” — School Library Journal

“In Zahares' first picture book, pastel drawings curve and flow with the train over bulbous hills and chunky tracks; a scene of a sleeping child on the title page implies a dream journey, so the stylized illustrations accentuate objects in adventurous ways, e.g., grapevines that resemble barbed wire, and waves as flat and white as spilled milk. A glowing trip.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[G]orgeous drawings... a lovely story line… telling us in pictures about a little girl returning home after a visit to her grandparents.” — The New York Times Book Review

(I'd like to note here that Anastasia Suen is the author of Window Music.)

Interview with Wade Zahares

Elaine: Wade, you create most of your art with oil pastels. Is there a reason why you like working with that medium?

Wade: Actually, I work with soft pastels, a combination of Schminikee, Sennelier and Unison sticks. I’ve been working pastels for 25 years starting with college. At the time I loved working with charcoal, the compressed kind, working only in black and white on large sheets of paper. I was going into my senior year of school at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, when my instructor really wanted me to add color to my charcoal drawings so I picked up a blue pastel , I think it was Rembrandt or Nu pastel, and started adding it to my drawing on the cool side of the subject matter. The next week I added another color and then another color until it was a full blown pastel drawing that I really liked. I like the immediacy of the chalk and the flat soft look of the finished piece.

Elaine: You really have a distinctive artistic style. You use bold primary and secondary colors and lots of odd perspectives in your picture book illustrations. Did you develop your style when you were in art school…or later?

Some of Wade's Artistic Creations

An Illustration from Window Music
An Illustration from Lucky Jake

Wade: I have always loved perspective and have been trying to take it as far as I can. My color has been developing over the years always changing. I started with a distinct style in school and have been pushing that continuously not knowing where it will take me. It’s funny, I teach a pastel class at an art school but have never had a pastel class myself. Maybe that has helped with my unique style.

Elaine: Has any artist or illustrator influenced your work?

Wade: I may have been influenced some by artists like Edward Hopper, Grant Wood Wayne Thiebaud, but I have always been a strong believer in developing you own style and not letting others influence your work to much.

Elaine: I have seen some of the original illustrations you created for your picture books Red Are the Apples and Big, Bad and a Little Bit Scary. They were really quite large. At the Robert’s Snow Artist Open House, you said you are beginning to scale down the size of your illustrations. Have you found it difficult working on a smaller scale?

An Illustration from Big, Bad and a Little Bit Scary

Wade: Years ago when I was working large, 30” x 40”, I would find it very difficult working small so I didn’t—but slowly over the years I have progressively been working smaller and smaller. It makes life easier carrying an entire book of original art to New York in the back of my jeep or on the train. I think the publishers also like it. I am beginning to oil paint in my studio, on a very large scale. I also am working on a 12’ X 36’ mural at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Last month, along with 500 plus children I did a mural on the floor, inside and out, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York based on my book Liberty Rising, The Making of the Statue of Liberty, where they gave all the participants my book.

Elaine: Window Music, your first picture book, was designated a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book. Do you feel that award opened more doors for you in the world of children’s book publishing?

An Illustration from Window Music
Wade: It was definitely a great jump start! I was working with Viking at the time and it got them very excited to be working with me and in having me do another book. As an artist it boosted my ego quite a bit, which was definitely needed at that time as I had just moved from Boston to Maine. Ten years later I am still using the fact as publicity.

Elaine: In addition to illustrating children’s books, you also create works of fine art. Is there a difference in how you approach the two?

Wade: It is almost exactly the same. You can’t tell the difference between my book illustrations and my gallery work. When I do art that is not in a book I generally work on one piece at a time—but when I do a book, I work on all the art at one time, bringing all the pieces to completion at the same time.

An Illustration fron Lucky Jake

Elaine: Have you ever considered writing a children’s book?

Wade: I sure have. I have folders of ideas but can’t seem to put an entire story down on paper. I am trying to write it as if I were writing a song, which I haven’t done either. I have also worked with a few writers on a couple of ideas but so far that hasn't worked. I always say when the story is ready to come out of me it will just pour out.

Elaine: Do you have any new books coming out next year or any projects that you are working on at the present time that you would like to tell us about?

Wade: I just finished my roughs for my newest book Pony Island with Walker books which is due out in the spring of 2009. It a story by Candice Ransom about the ponies on Assateague Island, a small island off the coast of Virginia. Next week I will start the final pieces of art and have a deadline of March 2008. I work on all the approximately 20 pieces of art at the same time so they’re all at the same level of completion. I do have all the paper cut.

I am also working with a design company, White Dog Arts, designing a new web site for my self, I am drawing the entire site so it is taking a good chunk of my time. The site will be up and running very soon and when it is I will be sending an announcement out.

As I also mentioned, I am doing a 12’ x 36 ‘mural at the new student center at Philips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. I have been doing freelance work for the academy since 1994, including campus maps, bulletin covers and scratch board ink renderings of their many buildings.

An Illustration from Liberty Rising

Wade's 2004 Snowflake

Elaine: Liberty Rising was the inspiration for your 2004 snowflake. What was the inspiration for your 2005 snowflake?

Wade's 2005 Snowflake

Wade: The release of Liberty Rising happened during the time I was creating my snowflake for 2005. I had already used that book for my 2004 snowflake and was also stuck on the story of people coming from all over from the world to settle in America so the idea of “The World” popped into my head.

Elaine: Can you tell us about the snowflake you created for Robert’s Snow 2007?

Wade: To me, painting the snowflake is almost as difficult as painting an entire book. I took my idea for the snowflake from my newest book Lucky Jake, having Pa, Jake and Dog walking over the mountain on a cold winter night. Being from Maine, those cold winter nights with a full moon are some of my favorite nights of the year.

An Illustration from Lucky Jake

Wade's 2007 snowflake is the "mystery" snowflake. As far as I know, no one has caught a glimpse of it yet. Snowflake investigators are hard at work searching for an image of it. I promise to post a picture of it as soon as the snowflake is captured on film.

All illustrations © Wade Zahares. They may not be used without his permission.

REMINDER: WIN A PRIZE!!! I do hope you’ll stop by to read all of my Blogging for a Cure interviews and to comment about the artists and their work. I have a special prize for some lucky person who leaves a comment at any of my six posts featuring a Robert’s Snow artist: a limited edition giclee print of an illustration from Grace Lin’s book Robert’s Snow! Each time you comment at one of my Blogging for a Cure posts about a Robert’s Snow artist, I’ll put your name in a hat. If you comment at all six posts, your name will go into the hat six times! The drawing will take place on November 19th, the day bidding begins on the first of three Robert’s Snow 2007 auctions.

I also have several consolation prizes for commenters who don’t win the “big” prize: five small prints of the Robert’s Snow mouse(mice).

Read about the following Robert's Snow artists that I have already interviewed for Blogging for a Cure:

Here is a link to my interview with Scott Bakal.
Here is a link to my interview with Alissa Imre Geis.
Here is a link to my interview with Wendell Minor.
Here is a link to my interview with Susan Kathleen Hartung.

Here is a link to my interview with Mary Newell DePalma.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thanksgiving Poetry

I thought some of you might be looking for Thanksgiving poems to share with children so I decided to write a review of Thanksgiving Day at Our House: Thanksgiving Poems for the Very Young. I’ve also included the full text of two traditional poems and a link to Ivy O. Eastwick’s Thanksgiving, a poem I used to share with my elementary students every November, in this Poetry Friday post.

Written by Nancy White Carlstrom
Illustrated by R. W. Alley
Simon & Schuster, 1999

This book opens with a poem that is set on the day before Thanksgiving at an elementary school where kindergarten and first grade students are celebrating the holiday with a pageant. The fifteen poems in this collection take us through the school festivities as well as those of a family with three young children. I'll give you a flavor of the poetry you'll find in this book. Here is the first stanza of the first poem.

From The Day Before

All kinds of turkeys
are strutting the halls.
Finely feathered gobblers
are squawking out their calls.

The next two poems, The Mayflower and The First Thanksgiving, are recited by children dressed up as Pilgrims and Native Americans. In The First Thanksgiving, thanks are given for friends and for the foods that helped to sustain the Pilgrims: pumpkins, beans, and corn. This is how the three-stanza poem ends:

From The First Thanksgiving

So thank you for corn
And thank you for friends.
On the earth and on others
We all must depend.

The rest of the poems take place at the home of the family hosting the Thanksgiving Day feast. There’s a poem in which Granny tells the children what it was like when she was a little girl. There are poems about activities that young and old relatives participate in before dinner: Thanksgiving Parade and Thanksgiving Charades. There are four poems about giving thanks: Thank You God for Bugs, Graces, Thank You Singing Game, and Goodnight Prayer. There is also Prayer for Others, a poem in which the children ask God to help Grandma to get better and to help those less fortunate than they.

I don’t want to leave the impression that all these poems and prayers about thankfulness and thinking about others lends a too-serious tone to the book. The poems are told from a child’s perspective and many are expressed with a childlike exuberance. In addition, R. W. Alley’s cartoon-style illustrations, rendered in pen-and-ink and watercolor, add a lot of levity and humor. They complement and extend the text. In the illustration for the poem Rhyme Time Thanks, Alley depicts a family busily preparing the Thanksgiving dinner. The painting abounds with lots of droll details: The dog has a slice of pie in its bowl; a mouse looks at cream that has spilled onto the floor as Grandfather whips the cream into a froth; the youngest child pushes a cat around the kitchen in a rolling baby chair.

Here’s an excerpt from The Way It Is at Our House, one of the most lighthearted poems in the collection.

From The Way It Is at Our House

Do Uncle Ernie’s socks match?
No! No! No!

Does Joey’s little dog scratch?
So! So! So!

Does Granny Nan tell funny jokes?
Ho! Ho! Ho!

Thanksgiving Day at Our House ends with Goodnight Prayer, a poem in which the young children of the family who hosted the holiday dinner express their gratitude for all the things they appreciate—including their happy feast, friends and relatives, blankets and toys, Papa’s singing noise and Mama’s kisses.

This is a delightful read-aloud to share with young children at Thanksgiving time. It's all about being thankful and sharing happy times with people close to us.

More Thanksgiving Poetry

Giving Thanks
Author Unknown

Giving Thanks
For the hay and the corn and the wheat that is reaped,
For the labor well done, and the barns that are heaped,
For the sun and the dew and the sweet honeycomb,
For the rose and the song and the harvest brought home -
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!

For the trade and the skill and the wealth in our land,
For the cunning and strength of the workingman's hand,
For the good that our artists and poets have taught,
For the friendship that hope and affection have brought -
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!

For the homes that with purest affection are blest,
For the season of plenty and well-deserved rest,
For our country extending from sea unto sea;
The land that is known as the "Land of the Free" -
Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving!


The year has turned its circle,
The seasons come and go.
The harvest is all gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain.
So open wide the doorway-
Thanksgiving comes again!

From Thanksgiving
by Ivy O. Eastwick

Thank you
for all my hands can hold-
apples red,
and melons gold,
yellow corn
both ripe and sweet,
peas and beans
so good to eat!

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Kelly has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Big A, little a today.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Robert's Snow: Starring Mary Newell DePalma

I met children's author and illustrator Mary Newell DePalma at the first Robert's Snow Open House of 2004, which was held at the Child at Heart Gallery . Since that initial encounter, our paths have crossed a number of times.

We were both on hand for a Robert's Snow kickoff event in Boston in 2005. Mary is the person on the far left in the picture above. I heard her speak at the 2007 Robert's Snow Artist Open House in October.
We see each other and chat at some of the events sponsored by The Foundation for Children's Books. Here you see--from left to right in the picture above--Mary, Grace Lin, Me, and Anna Alter. We were all at Boston College to hear Janet Wong.

Mary joined in celebrating at Grace's birthday party in May. She's pictured here with Steve Engel, the man who cut all the wooden snowflakes by hand, and Nicole Tadgell who created snowflakes for Robert's Snow 2004 and 2005.

Mary attended the May 2007 dinner meeting of the PAS North Shore Council when Mary Ann Hoberman was our featured speaker. Here she is sitting with my friend Peg Howard.

Mary Newell DePalma is a talented author and illustrator of children's books. She is also personable, has a great sense of humor, and is a pleasure to be around.
Mary doesn't limit her artistic talents to creating picture books. She also knits mittens and sometimes constructs "odd objects."

One of Mary's "Odd Objects"

Interview with Mary Newell DePalma

Elaine: Would you like to tell us about some of the different job experiences you had before you ventured into creating picture books for children?

Mary: I tend to avoid traditional nine-to-five jobs. In HS I knitted sweaters for a local designer, and used my calligraphy skills to address envelopes and make signs. During college and after, I interpreted for the deaf, mostly in classroom settings. My first job out of college was at a small greeting card company in Chicago where I did some typing, filing, and brainstorming for scented stickers for children. For example, if the scent was grapes, I’d make a list of hundreds of ideas for what a bunch of grapes could do: sing, skydive, drive a racecar, walk on stilts, go white water rafting, paint, eat an ice cream cone, etc, etc…I didn’t get to draw the stickers, I was just thinking up ideas for the guy who did draw them. I lasted there about six weeks. Then I took an even lower paying job being an apprentice engrosser where I ground my own ink, mastered various lettering styles, and wrote names on certificates all day long.

Mary is still knitting the mittens above.

Elaine: When did you decide you wanted to become an author and illustrator of children’s books? What inspired you?

Mary: Well, after the engrossing thing, I tried all kinds of illustration. I attempted medical, semi-technical, editorial, advertising, and textbook illustration. I would get the work, try really hard, learn new skills, flounder a bit, realize I wasn’t very good at it, cross that career off the list and move on. So by process of elimination I was left with children’s book illustration. I knew lots of illustrators, but none who illustrated children’s books. I had never even given it a thought because I was kind of in awe of children’s book illustration, I guess. I imagined that some separate species of illustrator—geniuses—illustrated children’s books.

But I did send out postcards advertising my work to editors and art directors at publishing houses. I was pretty much dumbfounded by the response. Susan Hirschman, editor at Greenwillow, called and wanted to know if my illustration had a story to go with it. No, I said. She suggested that I try to write a story. Oh, sure, do you need your car repaired or any brain surgery while I’m at it???! I mean, I knew writers were very serious about their business and I had never written more than grocery lists. But I got this response over and over and I finally tried putting some book dummies together.

The stories that I made up for my book dummies were terrible, but my illustrations were charming. Some editors were very kind and thorough in their responses, and I learned what NOT to do. By making every error known to children’s book writers, then eliminating them, (and sheer dogged persistence), I did finally write and illustrate a book that was published.

Elaine: You have illustrated books for other authors as well as your own texts. Do you find there is a difference in how you approach a picture book project when the text is your own?

Mary: I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of writing my own text. Sometimes the story evolves in surprising ways and I’m free to follow my ideas and change my text if I want to. Illustrating other writers’ works helps me to stretch out of my comfort zone and has helped me to learn new things. For example, I would never have attempted to illustrate a crowd of children if it weren’t for Betsy James’ wonderful text for My Chair. (I would have avoided writing a crowd scene because I would have been too lazy to draw it.)

Elaine: You created snowflakes for Robert’s Snow 2004 and 2005. Can you tell us what your inspiration was for each of those snowflakes?

Mary: In 2004, I illustrated a book by Eileen Spinelli titled Now It Is Winter. It was the perfect snowflake theme book! I made a three dimensional mouse skating on the snowflake. I even knitted him a little sweater.

Mary's 2004 Creation for Robert's Snow

In 2005, my book A Grand Old Tree was published and I was pondering how to make a tree snowflake. My son suggested having the snowflake be the crown of the tree. So he was the creative genius behind that one!

Mary's 2005 Snowflake Tree

Elaine: I know that your 2007 snowflake was inspired by your new book The Nutcracker Doll. Would you like to tell us about the book and how you created your beautiful three-dimensional snowflake?

Mary: When my daughter Kepley was in the third grade, she got a role in Boston Ballet’s The Nutcracker. The book is about that wonderful experience, and it is published just in time for her 21st birthday! I built a little Kepley ballerina standing on her snowflake stage with a wire armature, newspaper, and rigid wrap. I sewed her a costume out of ribbons and netting. I hope it captures the adorable awkwardness of a very young ballerina.

We make these snowflakes with love and we’re grateful to have the opportunity to share that love with everyone who sees the snowflakes and benefits from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s work.

Mary Newell DePalma has a great website that includes a book animation of A Grand Old Tree, a Kepley paper doll activity sheet, and curriculum guides for some of her books. Why not stop by for a visit?

REMINDER: WIN A PRIZE!!! I do hope you’ll stop by to read all of my Blogging for a Cure interviews and to comment about the artists and their work. I have a special prize for some lucky person who leaves a comment at any of my six posts featuring a Robert’s Snow artist: a limited edition giclee print of an illustration from Grace Lin’s book Robert’s Snow! Each time you comment at one of my Blogging for a Cure posts about a Robert’s Snow artist, I’ll put your name in a hat. If you comment at all six posts, your name will go into the hat six times! The drawing will take place on November 19th, the day bidding begins on the first of three Robert’s Snow 2007 auctions.

I also have several consolation prizes for commenters who don’t win the “big” prize: five small prints of the Robert’s Snow mouse(mice).

Read about the following Robert's Snow artists that I have already interviewed for Blogging for a Cure:

Here is a link to my interview with Scott Bakal.

Here is a link to my interview with Alissa Imre Geis.

Here is a link to my interview with Wendell Minor.

Here is a link to my interview with Susan Kathleen Hartung.