Valentines from Canada!!!

Valentines Day.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

When I was little, it was a holiday I dreaded. I loved addressing all my cards and having little candies ready to give away.

But horrible thoughts loomed.

“What if I don’t get back as many Valentines as I give away?”

Or worse . . . “What if I don’t get any???”

It was a possibility. This was in the bad old days before the invention of class lists and valentines for all. With my very own eyes I’d seen classmates collapse in tears because their VRR (Valentine Receiving Receptacle), carefully made with construction paper as a class activity and taped over the edge of their desk (like a Christmas stocking hung by the chimney with care, only heart-shaped), was cruelly EMPTY at the end of the day.

It’s not something you forget.

So I still dread Valentine’s Day.

Horrible thoughts loom.

Lucky for me, last week ended well. Fourth graders at the Whitney Junior Public School in Toronto, Ontario,IMG-20140207-03154IMG-20140207-03155where snow days for inclement weather have not yet been invented, sent me the sweetest letters:scan0001

So this week, with no Valentines flooding my Valentine Receiving Receptacle, and with the hope of receiving any rapidly diminishing, I dashed off an email to their teacher, “Do you think your students would mind if I post their letters on Valentine’s Day and pass them off as Valentines?  . . . Do you think one of your students would mind drawing me colorful artwork to go with the letters? Maybe a Valentine, even?” It was as utterly desperate as it sounds. Believe me.

His reply: “We never had this whole Valentine’s Day thing in the Netherlands where I grew up, maybe that’s why according to UNICEF the children in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world.”

Then I received not one piece of artwork.

But a trove of them:Valentines

They made Valentines for the characters in ALVIN HO!!!

Wow. It’s the BEST VALENTINE’S DAY EVER!!!

THANK YOU, Mr. van Hoeijen’s Amazing Fourth Graders!!! You’re SUPER-DUPER FANTASTIC AND WONDERFULLY KIND AND THOUGHTFUL!!!!!!!

And here’s a little interview with their teacher, Mr. Bert van Hoeijen, who is from the Netherlands and can read in Dutch to his students whenever he feels like it:

How did you come across Alvin Ho? And why did you choose to read him to your class?
Ms. Soares, a colleague from another school introduced me to Alvin. I thought the book was humorous and would interest many students so they would start reading more themselves. There are also many things in your books we can talk about in class. Just like good readers make connections, visualise, infer, etc. while they are reading we talk about your stories in class while I’m reading them.

Did you do a book project or activities with Alvin?
We made organised lists and PDKs in class. We also made Valentine cards today for our favourite Alvin Ho character.

Is your school a Dutch school? (You had mentioned reading books in Dutch.)
I teach in a Canadian Anglophone school. I read a book to the class that was written in Dutch, but when I read it out loud, I tell the story in English or none of the students would understand me 🙂

What languages are your students learning at school?Â
In grade four we learn English and we start learning French.

What languages do they speak at home?
Most speak English at home but we have some who know gibberish, French, Tagalog (nannies helped), Farsi, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Manderin, Italian, and Spanish at different levels.
How did you end up teaching in Canada?
I visited Canada a few times during my last year of university and I fell in love with it so I moved here and started teaching a year later.
How is this school different from the school you attended in the Netherlands?
I love teaching here. I have very talented and kind students in my class. I do think students have to do more tests and homework than we had.
Happy Valentine’s Day EVERYONE!!!

How to Make Chinese Paper Cuts

Dear Reader,

With another winter storm on the way, I thought I’d give you a fun snow-day project — Chinese paper cuts!

I learned to make these in Chinese school just before the Lunar New Year, which started with the new moon on January 31. People in China like to decorate their windows and doors with red paper cut-outs at New Year’s to invite luck into their homes.

Here’s the first one:IMG_84361. Fold a square piece of paper in half, twice.

2. Using a pencil or pen, draw the red lines above on your paper.

3. Cut along the red lines. (The blue parts above are the discarded pieces.)

4. Unfold, and it will look like this:IMG_8424This is the character, shuangxi, which means “double happiness.” The character xi means happiness or joy, and when it’s written twice, side-by-side, it’s twice the happiness. Chinese is very logical. The symbol is used during New Year celebrations and weddings.

When it’s written, it looks like this:Calligraphy_tattoo_378

When you’ve practiced a bit, you can make fancier versions of this cut-out, like this:images-1

Or this:Double_happiness6Okay, let’s not get carried away here.

If it’s a really good storm, you’ll want to go outside and scream your head off and slide around, not stay inside making a million little cuts in a little piece of paper!

So don’t even think of trying any of these:ux_a12032800ux0263_ux_g03Enough of that one.

Here’s the next cut-out I learned in Chinese school.IMG_8432 1. Fold a square piece of paper in half, and half again, lengthwise.

2. Fold the top half in half, then fold it in half again. Keep the top quarter folded down.

3. Cut a rounded corner in the top left (see above).

When you unfold it, it looks like this:IMG_8434Oops.

My teacher says I did it wrong. IMG_8426That’s my teacher. Her name is Liu Yao. She’s very nice. She’s from Shanghai.

Disregard the above instructions. I had to do it over (and over) until I unfolded it, and it looked like this:IMG_8438Uh, how do I explain how I got here? I don’t exactly know. But you gotta fold the paper so that all these creases show. Then you cut the corner :).

Then you fold the right side under like this:IMG_8439If I’ve just lost you, I’m SORRRRY!!! That’s the problem with cut-outs. They were meant for people who had nothing to do in ancient China but sit for a thousand years along the Great Wall and be on the lookout for scary barbarian invaders who couldn’t come until the snow melted. When you try to do an ancient snow-day project nowadays, it just makes you want to SCREAM, doesn’t it? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!

That’s better.

Here are my classmates, Joanna (left) and Donna, cutting away:IMG_8431Yes, you, too, can do this without having a breakdown.

Okay, now take a deep breath like in yoga — and fold the bottom half up, then draw a triangle with your pen above the bottom fold and along the vertical crease like this: IMG_8442Then you snip out the little triangle.

When you unfold half of the bottom, it looks like this:IMG_8443After that, you draw these lines:IMG_8445And cut:IMG_8447When you unfold, it should look like this:IMG_8449Wow! Now we’re looking fancy!

Time to work on the left side.

Draw a line to match the cut on the left side below, and cut along the line:IMG_8451Unfold, and it should look like this:IMG_8452This is the Chinese character, fu, which means good fortune, luck, or prosperity.

Written, it looks like this:

images-2

Or this :Unknown

Families in China often turn it upside-down when they put it on their door at New Year’s:images-4

When it’s upside-down, it resembles the character dao, which means “arrive.” So it announces that good fortune has already arrived at this house. IMG_8459Looks like good fortune has arrived on my notebook!

Here’s the character dao:

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So there you have it. A snow-day project from ancient China when it really snowed. It’s especially appropriate since Lunar New Year celebrations will continue until the full-moon on February 14.

Speaking of really snowing, here’s the character for snow, xue:

images-8

The top part is the character, yu, “rain.” And the bottom is used in characters for broom and sweeping. So snow is rain that can be swept. Isn’t that cool?

If only I knew how to cut that. Then we would hang it upside-down from all our doors and have a really fantastic, buried-to-the-rooftop snow day!!!

Hope we have one anyway!

Enjoy!

How to Handle Rare Manuscripts

CONCORD, MA — Dear Reader, Have you ever wondered where I get all those fun facts about the American Revolutionary War and details about Concord to put into my Alvin Ho books? Well, I come to Concord, of course. I open my eyes and ears. I talk to people. I ask questions. I take lots of notes in my writer’s notebook. Then I go to the local library to check out those facts and details to make sure that I got ’em right. And it works the other way around too. I’ll find something interesting in the library, then I’ll go out and look at it with my own eyes (Alcott’s house), feel it with my own hands (Henry’s gravestone), swim it with my own arms (Walden Pond), and walk on it with my own feet (Old North Bridge). When you’re an author, you have to do that. It’s important to describe things just as you see it, not as it’s described by someone else.

Since I’ve shown in you in previous posts how I do research in the field, I thought it would be fun to take you on my most recent trip to the Concord Free Public Library where I’ve spent a lot of time in the Special Collections room over the years. I was there for three days after Christmas this winter, looking for details for a new, not-Alvin book. And this is how it went.

First, I went to the library, which looks like this: IMG_8251Right inside the front doors is an old engraved stone that tells you who built the library:IMG_8249And a newer engraved stone that tells you the same thing with a few extra details:IMG_8248The main part of the library looks like this:IMG_8218Isn’t it grand?

The study alcove where I spent an evening after the Special Collections room closed:IMG_8219Very cozy!

Here’s the reference room:IMG_8225Reminds me of the Atheneum in Boston.

And the children’s room:IMG_8231With lots of fun sketches on the walls from visiting author/illustrators.

Here’s one from Grace Lin:IMG_8233Beautiful!

But I digress.

Normally, when I come here, I see none of this. I use the side entrance and head straight to the basement to Special Collections. IMG_8240IMG_8213To be admitted into Special Collections, you have to ring the buzzer. These double doors are locked. Because the contents inside are invaluable and irreplaceable, you have to look someone in the eye before they’ll let you in. You cannot look like an international manuscript thief. Or a chocolate smuggler.

Once inside, the curator, Leslie Perrin Wilson, warmly greets you and sits you in a chair:IMG_8274And asks what you’re looking for.

“Uh . . . um . . . oh . . . ah,” are not good answers.

“I’d like to see anything that was written about Concord’s bicentennial celebration in 1835,” is a pretty good answer. I also give her the names of two people whose lives intersected that year.

Immediately, Ms. Wilson gives me titles of books to read. And suggests the diary and letters written by a certain young woman who was the sister of one of the people I was asking after.

Then she asks me to sign her guest book on her welcome table below:IMG_8280Now she has my address and fingerprints, just in case.

Ms. Wilson is amazing. Her main job is to grow the collection. But she’s also a walking encyclopedia of Concord history.

Her transcription of and commentary on the diaries and correspondence of Martha Prescott are published here:IMG_8208Below, she’s showing Henry David Thoreau’s manuscript of his essay, “Walking,” to a group of visitors the next day:IMG_8204I had held this very manuscript in my own hands years before, and as I read Henry’s words formed by his own flowing hand, and touched the same delicate paper that he had held, I felt as though he were writing to me, and I began to cry.

The pages are now enclosed in archival sleeves, Ms. Wilson explains to the group. “Because people used to come in here and cry over it.”

Oops.

I slip back into my corner to hide, I mean, work.

Here’s the manuscript to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first public address, given at the town’s bicentennial in 1835:IMG_8210And here is what I was looking for and didn’t know it, until I found it: IMG_8272The school records for the public school in 1835, kept in an archival box. It lives in the large climate-controlled vault in the back with the Thoreau and Emerson manuscripts. The contents of this, as well as the famous manuscripts, cannot be duplicated and published without permission from the Collection. I can only show you the covers and the illegible view above.

Though I could not photograph the contents, I could copy whatever I wanted into my writer’s notebook . . . as long as I used a PENCIL. IMG_8199As you can see from the above photo, taken in the reading alcove where I had retreated after Special Collections had closed for the day, I was in the habit of using my pens. Then on the last day of my research, a gentleman spied me and firmly admonished in a loud voice, “Use PENCIL ONLY when handling manuscripts.”

I froze.

I wanted to disappear.

He was absolutely right. An ink smudge on a rare manuscript alters it forever.

And so do tears.

How could I be so thoughtless???

So now you know. When you’re an author, you won’t embarrass yourself like I did, because you will know . . .

HOW TO HANDLE RARE MANUSCRIPTS

1. Don’t cry.

2. Don’t even think of it.

3. Use PENCIL ONLY.

Year-End Thanks and Awards!

Dear Readers,

As this year ends and another one begins, I have much to be thankful for. So let me begin.

Thank you for following my blog.

Thank you for reading my books.

Thank you to all the schools and libraries who hosted me this year.

Thank you for treating me to lunch.

Thank you for eating lunch with me 🙂 .

Thank you, parents, for buying my books so that I have something to sign when I get to your schools.

Thank you, young readers, for laughing at my jokes 😀 and rolling in the aisles as though on cue!

Thank you for HUGS!!!

Thank you, Dan Yaccarino, for a rave review in the New York Times. My first!

Thank you, Schwartz & Wade, for publishing my books.

Thank you, Random House, for inviting me to Take-Your-Child-To-Work Day. I felt seven-years-old all day 🙂 !

Thank you, kung fu monks at Shaolin Temple for being my friends.

Thank you Debbie, Doug and Declan for being true kung fu warriors.

Thank you, Wall Street Journal, for naming BRUSH OF THE GODS as WSJ Best Children’s Book of the Year 2013. Read the article here.

Thank you, Booklist, for naming BRUSH as a Booklist Books for Youth Editor’s Choice 2013. (Article to appear Jan 1, 2014.)

Thank you, Mrs. Tracewell’s second-grade class at Emerald Heights Elementary in Silverdale, WA, for your letter and for sending me not one, but ALL of the most prestigious literary awards an author can ever hope to get:IMG_8297Wow! I can’t believe I won all these. Aren’t they fantastic?!!! I put them up on my writing wall today, just above my desk. Their letter begins thus,

Dear Ms. Look,

Hello! We are 2nd grade students in Washington state — at a school you have visited [twice!] before, Emerald Heights. We just finished your first Alvin Ho book — Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School and Other Scary Things. We really enjoyed EVERYTHING about the book — including the humor, the repetition, the illustrations, the characters, the funny phrases, and the similes! We loved it so much we are sending you 21 book awards — made specifically for you and Alvin. We hope you will feel special when you get these. IMG_8310IMG_8315IMG_8299IMG_8312IMG_8303IMG_8302IMG_8308IMG_8300 I can’t believe these are mine, with my name on each of them. They are fireworks on my wall. You’ve made me feel so special, I can’t even begin to tell you. I feel like dancing!!!

Thank you, second-graders, for ending my year with such a big bang!

Happy New Year, everyone!

XXOO

Meet My Local Children’s Librarian: Lois Gross

Dear Readers,

Did you know that it’s very important to make friends with your local children’s librarian?

There are sqillion of books out there, and this person can help you find what you need to read. I don’t mean need to read as in for a homework assignment, though they can do that too, but need to read as in important books that you shouldn’t miss as you’re growing up because missing one is to miss a great gift.

Besides, your librarian could turn out to be a very interesting person, and missing out on her/him, would be to miss another great gift.

Hmmm. When you think about it, we’re surrounded by great gifts everywhere — that we miss everyday :(.

Anyway, I’d like to introduce you to my own local children’s librarian . . . and hope that it inspires you to run out to your library as fast as you can, and make friends with yours.

Here she is, Lois Gross, a k a Miss Lois, at the Hoboken Public Library:IMG_8119She is as nice and friendly as she looks! And the children’s collection on the third floor is a bright and happy place. I love going there!

Born in Philadelphia, Miss Lois has lived in Colorado, Florida, and since 2008, Hoboken. She is married to Eric Gross and they have a daughter, Dayna. Often you can find her walking her dog, Mardi (as in Mardi Gras), in Columbus Park. This is Mardi: 484530_3961216282073_347523718_n

He’s a rescue cotton ball, a “poochon” poodle and bison, I mean bichon frise. LOVE!

LL: Thank you, Miss Lois, for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. What inspired you to become a children’s librarian?

LG: Being a children’s librarian sort of found me rather than the other way around. I’ve been a librarian for 40 years. When I went back to work after having my daughter, I started working for the Aurora (Colorado) Public Library and sort of landed in children’s. It wasn’t exactly a choice.  It just happened.  Serendipity.  It was a good fit.  I loved the creative aspects of it, and the storytelling.

LL: Do you have to be super-smart to be a librarian?

LG: I think you have to be smart to do any job well.  I do have a Masters’ Degree in Library and Information Science which means I went to school for an extra year to learn about being a librarian.  I have a very good memory and I think that’s important to my job, especially when I have to remember, out of the thousands of books I’ve read which would be best for a young reader.  I always liked the fact that people think librarians are smart and that we know everything!  I don’t know everything, but I certainly know where to look it up. “Ask a librarian: the best search engine.”

LL: What kind of qualities should you have if you want to become a librarian?

LG: To be a librarian, you need patience.  I’m not good at that.  I need an answer NOW.  You need curiosity.  That’s a given.  I always want to know about new things and I’m able to find things in books.  I just read a book about dolphins that were rescued after Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.  In the book, the author talks about how dolphins used to be land animals and have residual bits of legs in their skeletons.  I never knew that! I never would have known that if I hadn’t been reviewing the book about dolphins.  Cool, huh?

LL: Very cool! What was your favorite book when you were a child?

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Miss Lois, center, with sisters Phyllis (left) and Annette.

LG: When I was a very young child, I’d have to say that my favorite book was probably MADELINE by Ludwig Bemelmans.  I still use that in story time and I can still recite most of it from memory.  We didn’t have a lot of books in our house, and most were hand-me-downs from my sisters. There was a copy of Disney’s “Cinderella” that I loved for the picture of her blue ball gown.  We also had a copy of A.A. Milne’s poetry collection, WHEN WE WERE VERY YOUNG, that I could recite from memory.

LL:  What kind of books did you like to read then? And what kinds of books do you like now?

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“I’m the chubby one at the end of the third row.” — Miss Lois.

LG:  I read anything about theatre, including lots of plays.  I really wanted to be an actress, and took drama lessons and starred in plays at school.  There was a series of books called, THEATER SHOES by Noel Streatfield that I loved and read over and over.   I am Jewish, and I used to read books about Judaism and Jewish people.  My parents didn’t belong to a synagogue and I was so curious about our religion.  My dad used to say that I always had that need to know about my roots.  I also loved to read biographies – books about real people – but I wanted to read about famous women and there weren’t a lot of books about famous women in those days.  In our school library, we had one shelf of a series called, FAMOUS AMERICANS and I read the same four or five books about women, over and over: Eleanor Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Juliet Gordon Lowe, and Clara Barton.  I’m so glad there are more books about famous women now so that girls have lots of role models to choose from.

I read so many different kinds of books, now.  I’m a big fan of good dystopian fiction, like THE HUNGER GAMES. I read HARRY POTTER before anyone else had discovered it.  I love historical fiction, and I continue to read biographies.  I read books about the American West because sometimes I miss my home in Colorado.  I write book reviews for a website called CLDC.com, which is strictly for children’s books.  I am a very honest reviewer.  If I don’t like a book, I say so.  But every now and then, they’ll send me a book that is so wonderful and exciting that I can’t stop talking about it.  For example, I just read I AM MALALA by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.  Malala is a young girl in Pakistan who is fighting for all young people, but especially girls, to get an education.  The Taliban, men who don’t agree that girls should be educated, shot her.  She recovered and continues to fight for the rights of young women.  She is a hero to me.

LL: That sounds like an inspiring book. Is there a book that changed your life?

LG: It’s very hard to think of one book that changed my life.  I suppose I would say A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith was one.  I read it when I was about 11.  It’s about a young girl growing up very poor in Brooklyn and how, in a way, books saved her life.  I identified with her going to the library and wanting to read every book, from A to Z.  I have a collection of books that I read in my teens that had special meaning for me: A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN; TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee, which is one of the most important books ever written in this country; SNOW IN AUGUST  by Pete Hammill; DAVITA’S HARP by Chaim Potok; ANNE FRANK: THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL. When I was a child, World War II had happened only a few years before, and we were still learning about how cruelly the Jewish people had been treated in Europe.  I had friends who were the children of concentration camp survivors, and learning about that chapter of history has become a special obsession of mine.  I have three or four different versions of Anne’s diary.

LL: When I was little, I spent much time at the public library, but no one guided my reading choices. I read a lot, but randomly, and missed some great books. Do you see kids like that, and how do you try to help them?

LG: I read the same way you did as a child, until I was about 12.  Then one day I announced to the children’s librarian that I was sick of children’s books and I wanted to read adult books.  She asked me to read one book before I “graduated.”  It was A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L’Engle.  It was probably the first science fiction/ fantasy book I ever read, and I loved it.  When a child asks me what to read, I first ask them if they think they are a good reader or not.  It’s important that kids read books that they can handle so that they don’t give up on them.  I also ask them what the best book they’ve ever read is.  That helps me to know what kind of book they like and sometimes I can find something with a similar feel.  Every now and then, I’ll simply hand them a book and say, “You have to read this.”  For little, little kids, my favorite book to hand out is PRESS HERE by Herve Tullet. For older kids, I love to give them books by Eva Ibbotson.  Sometimes I’ll give newer readers the MRS PIGGLE WIGGLE books by Betty McDonald.

LL: Do you think kids are reading more, less, or the same amount than they used to?

LG: Sadly, I think kids read a lot less than they used to, and the books that they read are not always the best books in the library.  There’s nothing wrong with reading WIMPY KID, but as a steady diet, you deprive yourself of wonderful, wonderful books.  A lot of schools are now using Common Core, as well, and they are requiring kids to read only non-fiction books.  It’s great to have children read anything, and to learn about true events and facts.  However, unless kids also read imaginative stories, I fear that their brains will stop growing in ways that help them experiment, create, write, do art, love music, and all of the things that I find so important in my life.  A steady diet of facts is not as exciting as a mixture of fact and fiction.  We need dreamers as well as thinkers.

LL: You run a lot of different programs for children at the library. Do you have a favorite?

LG: That’s a toss up.  I love Reading Dogs [children practice reading by reading to therapy dogs].  I’ve carried that with me all over the country.  Each time I start a new Reading Dog program, I am amazed at the loving, caring people who work with therapy dogs and the magic that is performed by the dogs.  However, I also love putting together the Family Fun Day programs, especially when I get to bring in something really wonderful like the Phoenix Quintet that we are hosting in January.  I was raised on classical music and music in general.  When I can bring in something really worthwhile and culturally memorable like “Peter and the Wolf” (something that I also heard every year as a child), it takes me back to how important music is in my life.

Miss Lois is currently looking for more volunteers to help in her Book Buddies program on Thursday afternoons from 3:30 to 4 p.m. Book Buddies is older kids (around 11 years old) reading to younger kids (aged 3 1/2 +). Here’s what it looked like last Thursday:

First, the little buddies pick a book:IMG_8090Then they take it to a bigger buddy to read it to them: IMG_8099IMG_8088IMG_8094 Miss Lois keeps an eye on things, just in case: IMG_8093IMG_8105It’s SOO much fun, we could hardly stand it!

At the end, when all the little buddies have gone, the big buddies give Miss Lois a group hug:IMG_8108Sweet!

What are the most popular books young readers ask for? Miss Lois showed me her collection of “Pink Books,” Blue Books” and “Books for Free Children: IMG_8111LG: With little kids, it’s princesses for girls and trucks for boys. I find that discouraging, but I finally got tired of searching for those books and made shelving areas with just “pink” and “blue” books.  However, being a sneaky librarian, I also made a section of books “For Free Children,” books that encourage kids to see themselves as something other than stereotypes; books that say boys can love princess dresses if they want, and girls can fight dragons if one happens to get in their way.

LL: Do you have any hobbies?

LG: Need I say reading?  And writing.  I write for several blogs, on-line.  I haven’t had much time to do storytelling, other than at the library, but that also remains a special passion.  When I retire, I think I’m going to get involved in local politics too.  I think it’s very important that thoughtful people of good conscience get involved in the political process because it has gotten so out of whack.  I want to encourage young women, in particular, to make their voices heard, politically.

Click here to see a guest post that Miss Lois has written for metromoms.

LL: What author, dead or alive, would you most like to have dinner with?

LG: I’d love to sit down with Harper Lee and talk about her father who inspired Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  From what I’ve read of her, she’s such a level- headed, smart woman who doesn’t know her own worth.  Of course, I’d also like to sit down and talk to Anne Frank because that would mean that she was still alive and had not been murdered in the concentration camps.  I see Malala Yousafzai as sort of her heir apparent, brave young women who, when faced with incalculable odds, rise above their hardships and serve as beacons for the rest of us.

LL: Thank you, Miss Lois, for this fantastic interview, and for all the wonderful book recommendations that came with it. You ROCK!!! I hope that my young readers will feel inspired by you and run out to meet their own librarians and ask them a lot of questions!

And if you live in Hoboken, hop on up to the third floor of the library . . .IMG_8132 where Miss Lois and her very helpful assistants, Miss Gloria (left), and Miss Marianne, are just waiting for you with so many great gifts, you would not believe: IMG_8118

Newark Museum Signing This Wednesday

Dear Readers,

You are cordially invited to join me at the Newark Museum this Wednesday, November 20,  to kick off their Holiday Shopping Spree! I will be signing copies of my latest picture book, BRUSH OF THE GODS, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Continue reading

How to Make Friends at the Browning School

1. Say no. When the Browning School librarian calls to invite you to their book fair, say no.

2. Say no again. When the same librarian invites you the following year, just say no again.

3. Explain that you’d be happy to come during your normal school visit season — in the spring.

4. Say that you don’t do school visits in the fall or winter. It’s your writing time.

5. If she’s still inviting you, then you have to give it to her straight, “I DON’T DO BOOK FAIRS!!! IT’S JUST A SHOPPING DAY FOR KIDS.” Continue reading

How to Make Friends in China

Dear Readers,
Staying in one place in China for a month is a very different experience than hopping around from city to city. The best thing about it is you get to make friends! Making friends in China is not that different from making friends anywhere else. The Chinese are generally quite informal like Americans. They say hey, and then they hang out. When you buy something from someone, the next time they see you, hey, you’re a friend! And you didn’t even know it. And if you stay with a family, like I did, you really become family and get included in everything they do, even going to visit a sick grandchild in the hospital.
When you’re an author, making friends and becoming family is very important. Your inspiration and ideas will often come from these relationships. So here are some tips and helpful hints on HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS IN CHINA 🙂 ! Continue reading