Today, we're here to celebrate her latest picture book Doggone Feet! (Boyds Mills Press, Mar 1, 2013) which is SO doggone cute! Congratulations, Leslie!
What was the inspiration behind this story? And the path to publication?
A couple of years ago, I saw a tapestry hanging in a shop with two dogs sitting under a table. I went back to my room and started writing about the dog’s point of view. I grew up with dogs around the table, so I was familiar with their behavior. But raising my own family with a dog under the table at mealtime gave me a new perspective. We always laughed at how the dog knew where to position herself for the most tidbits. Even though I thought this was a brilliant relatable idea, it was a tricky sell. I didn’t think I wanted to illustrate with all the perspective involved in portraying life under the table. So it was initially sent out with only the text. Several publishers passed it by thinking it was limited visually because of the setting being under a table throughout. But I could imagine it being done—I could see it in my head. Finally, I decided to illustrate a scene or two myself to show how it could be done. A couple of artist friends convinced me that the perspective could be distorted and that what I was doing was working. As soon as my agent sent it out with art it was picked up.
Doggone Feet! is told from the dog’s perspective in rhyme and the language is toe-tapping, read-a-loud fun! I’ve heard it’s very difficult to write in rhyme especially when it comes to revision. Do you approach the revision process differently when you’re revising in rhyme as opposed to prose?
- Current Mood: happy
It’s not every day I welcome a bestselling author and poet to my blog so I’m beyond thrilled that Liz Garton Scanlon has stopped by to discuss her latest picture book Happy Birthday, Bunny! with us. She’s a prolific picture book author and some of her highly acclaimed books include All the World, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes and Think Big. When she’s not writing or teaching or visiting schools, she’s busy with her girls making art, sharing quiet time with her loving hubby or finding a home for an abandoned animal. Thanks for making time in your busy schedule to chat with us!
Happy Birthday, Bunny! Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (Beach Lane Books, Jan 2013) invites readers into an adorable family of rabbits as they celebrate Bunny’s birthday. Birthdays are such a special part of a child’s life, a day they look forward to and treasure all year. What were birthdays like for you as a child? Did you tap into your childhood as you created the story? And how do the Scanlons celebrate birthdays today? Any traditions carried forward from your childhood?
I remember my birthdays being happy when I was little – my mom was very good at making special events extra special. This was back in the day when cakes were homemade, and mine were always beautiful. My birthday is in the spring so one year I even had a bunny cake – maybe that’s where I first felt the tickles of this book!
I’ve always tried to make my daughters’ birthdays special, too. For a number of years, we made piñatas in the weeks leading up to the big day. Often, our papier mache was so strong that not even a dad with a bat could break it open!
But even best-laid birthday plans can go awry. I grew up in the mountains and my “spring” birthday was often interrupted by a late season blizzard. My oldest daughter’s September birthday often sees record-breaking heat. And my youngest daughter was so sick on her 2nd birthday that we practically had to skip the whole thing. Plus, birthday parties sometimes require patience, etiquette and sharing skills well beyond what the birthday boy or girl is truly up to. I think it’s those things that really inspired this book for me. Birthdays are full of expectation – sometimes so much so that they’re a little overwhelming for the guest of honor.
You skillfully unveil the inquisitive nature of a child in choosing a question and answer structure for this book, did the story start out this way or did it evolve over many drafts?
Even my very first draft was in question/answer format (though LOTS of the specific questions and answers later changed). I’ve never written a piece using this structure before, but it worked because of that sense of birthday overwhelm I was just talking about. We bring so much energy to birthdays, but little ones – turning 1 or 2 or 4 or 5 – must be SO confused. They don’t know the traditions, the rituals, the rules. What would happen, I wondered, if one of them just asked? And we answered?
|Liz and I in 2008 at the Hill Country Book Festival|
At what stage did you see Stephanie Graegin’s art for the book and were there any surprises?
I saw some of Stephanie’s sketches relatively early on and I adored them. But, I was surprised, once the final art came along, how much MORE I loved it with color. Her palette is so rich and creamy, and every inch of the book is awash in color – from the endpapers on. I feel very lucky to have been paired with her and her beautiful work.
Here’s one other fun thing to share about Stephanie’s art. Her animals were so endearing – so perfect – that we changed the title for them! The book was originally called HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABY! but once those animals came to life, our editor suggested changing it to HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUNNY! and I’m so glad we did.
You’ve just returned from a fabulous vacation with your family, will this latest adventure spawn any future stories? Can you share a favorite memory from your trip?
We just spent a month traveling around Asia – specifically China, Laos and Thailand. I hope a story might emerge from the experiences we had, but there are no guarantees. I work with a very independent muse J.
There is a really interesting tradition of haggling for goods in developing countries – my kids find it fascinating and a little off-putting. The key is to be gracious but straight-up. The artisans are quite good at balancing those, and with a little practice you can mirror them. I’ll bet there’s a story in there somewhere, don’t you think?
As for a favorite memory, wow. That’s like asking if I have a favorite book. We loved every place we went, everything we did, and nearly all the food we tried! I think the best part of the whole thing was just being together as a family. Our girls are getting older and are off living their own lives more and more, so to have so many uninterrupted days together (and nights, crammed into little guesthouse dorms!), that’s something I’ll treasure forever.
The book officially released on January 15th, and a release party is planned, please share all the juicy details for readers.
I’ll be at BookPeople in Austin,Texas, this Saturday, January 26, at 2:00 p.m. Think “birthday party meets storytime”: bunnies, balloons, cake! Come one and all…
Thank you, Carmen, for having me. It’s been a treat!
- Current Mood: busy
I'm participating in Nonfiction Monday with the breathtaking Monet Paints A Day by Julie Danneburg, illustrated by Caitlin Heimerl (Charlesbridge, 2012). This week's Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Travis Jonker at 100 ScopeNotes.
I was first introduced to Julie Danneburg's work with the book First Day Jitters, illustrated by Judith Dufour Love, the perfect companion for anyone starting school or the first day at a new school! It's delightfully funny and engaging with the ideal surprise ending. If you missed reading it, visit your library for a copy or pick up the book from your favorite indie bookstore. It's worth finding!
So I'm not the least bit surprised to be entertained and carried away in Danneburg's rendition of a day in the life of Claude Monet while he was vacationing in Étretat, France in 1885 with Monet Paints A Day. It's by far one of my favorite nonfiction books of 2012, and I'm happy to see it honored by the 2013 Zolotow Award committee as Highly Commended.
To quote Danneburg from the book, "Like a string of ducklings," we follow Claude Monet and a "gaggle of children" with canvases, paint box and palette as he leaves his hotel ready to paint the day. Danneburg takes us on a journey zigzagging along cliff paths and trudging across a rocky beach to reach the strip of sand where Monet paints The Manneport along with many more scenes. Like the illustrations, her prose is art and the author's note and instructions on painting techniques at the back of the book are rich with educational details, an additional gift for the reader to delve deeper. Sprinkled throughout the book are Monet's letters and words to his fiancee, Alice Hoschedé in which he wrote about his painting progress and his frustrations at capturing the scene before the light changed.
The rumbling waves explode a warning at my feet, but I can't stop painting. Not now. "Faster, faster, only a few more minutes to catch this light," I mutter to myself.
It's storytelling at its finest as Danneburg places us on that beach with brush in hand, waves lapping at our feet and a broken canvas in the end. The entire book is an album of art, the illustrations masterful, emotional and personal using an extraordinary palette of colors similar to Monet's own brushstrokes. I highly recommend this book for your library, classroom or studio.
- Current Mood: awake
The book is on its way to be enjoyed by you and your family!! Hooray!!
- Current Mood: energetic
Sadly it is the last day of November and that means it's also the last day of Picture Book Month. Sniff. Sniff. So on that note, I'm going to leave you with my ReaderKidZ review of Oh, Nuts! by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Dan Krall (Bloomsbury, 2012). Click HERE to read the review.
But that's not it. Every day is worth celebrating picture books and if you agree, leave me a comment with your name, favorite picture book, and email address (format: cao at carmenoliver dot com) for a chance to win Oh, Nuts! I'll draw the winner and announce it next Friday, December 7th, 2012 (Eligibility: United States only).
- Current Mood: cheerful
Each Thanksgiving I'm reminded of all the wonderful things to be thankful for (family, friends, health, community) and this season is no different, but I want to add to my list this year and say I'm thankful for picture books and the joy they brought to me as a child, the joy they've brought to me as a parent/educator and the joys they've brought my children. I'm also thankful for all the writers and illustrators who work tirelessly to craft the best stories for children. Who battle self-doubt and at times sheer frustration to find the right words to tell the best story. Bravo!
To honor the joy I have for the picture book, I want to highlight two posts today. The first one is by my author/illustrator friend and critique partner Don Tate. Click HERE to read the post at PictureBookMonth and the story he uses to illustrate the importance of picture books.
Secondly, I want to highlight a joint writing post with my agent Erzsi Deàk of Hen & Ink Literary Studio as we discussed new and old picture book favorites, many which included bear characters hence the title of the post "A Bearful of Stories." Click HERE to read the post and leave a comment at Hen & Inkblots letting us know your favorite picture book and/or character. Bear vs. Mouse. Penguin vs. Chicken. It'll be fun to tally the results and see which books come out on top!
Blessings of the season to you and your family. Happy reading!
- Current Mood: grateful
Click HERE for Part II of my recap from the 17th Texas Book Festival on picture book advice at Hen & inkblots. This post Language Serves the Story highlights advice from authors Liz Garton Scanlon and Candace Fleming.
I hope you enjoy! Let me know what resonates? Do you have any revision tricks up your sleeve? How many times do you revise to make art?
- Current Mood: curious
It's a crisp morning and the sun is shining and it's Picture Book Month! Cluck! Cluck!
In celebration of that and to pass along information I gleamed from attending the 17th Texas Book Festival in Austin this past October, I have done two posts for my agent Erzsi Deak and the agency Hen & Ink Literary Studio. Part I - How Children See the World ran yesterday and if you missed it you can click HERE to read it. Thanks, Erzsi! It was a dream reporting for Hen & inkblots and clucking about picture book panels!
Check out Hen & inkblots on Friday, November 16, 2012 for Part II - Language Serves the Story. If you missed this year's festival or couldn't attend all the incredible panels of authors/illustrators, I hope these two posts give you a flavor of the literary extravaganza Texas hosts. Enjoy!
- Current Mood: thankful
I'm celebrating Picture Book Month!! Are you?
There's a lovely post at Picture Book Month by Alma Flor Ada in where she talks about why picture books are important for children. The bond it creates between adult and child and that picture books can be enjoyed by the very young as well as the older more sophisticated child reader. Each day of the month a different picture book champion weighs in on why they think picture books are important.
The Bear in the Book written by Kate Banks (also an agency sister with Hen & Ink Literary) and illustrated by Georg Hallensleben is a beautiful representation of storytelling between parent and child, where a little boy listens to a story being read by his mother and metaphorically speaking he's so caught up in the story that he enters the world of the bear. He identifies with the words and pictures he sees playing out over the pages. Excerpt below:
Snowflakes began to fall across the pages of the book.
The snow sat snugly in the boughs of the trees.
The boy could almost feel it.
"Snow is cold," he said. He nestled closely against his mother.
"I like snow," he said.
Winter settled like a big hush," read the boy's mother.
"And the big black bear slept."
"Shh," said the boy.
It's picture book storytelling at it's best! And the vivid artwork by Hallensleben is extraordinary like watching a painting come to life. It's a tribute to fostering a love of reading in children at least that's the conclusion I'm drawing, and I say Bravo!
I showed you one of my new favorite picture books now it's your turn. Celebrate picture book month with me by leaving a comment below listing one of your favorite picture books.
Happy Picture Book Month! Happy reading!
- Current Mood: determined
Halloween is just around the corner and I've reviewed two picture books that will tickle children's funny bones and have them screaming with laughter!
Pigmares: Porcine Poems of the Silver Screen by Doug Cushman, (Charlesbridge, 2012) and Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins (Charlesbridge, 2012)
ReaderKidZ is a website devoted to fostering a love of reading in kids K - 5.
- Current Mood: impressed