Lizann Flatt on Loving the Language in Children’s Books

Lizann Flatt2smallIt’s a pleasure to welcome Lizann Flatt to Good Books to Share. When I walked in the door for my first retreat with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Lizann greeted me with a smile. Her gracious welcome set me at ease. I’m grateful for the leadership she showed in organizing that retreat and many other events for the Canada East Chapter of the SCBWI. 
 
Lizann is the author of many nonfiction books, short stories and poems for kids. Recent nonfiction picture book titles include Shaping Up Summer, Sizing Up Winter, Sorting Through Spring, Counting on Fall, and Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Here. Her work has also appeared in Ladybug, Babybug, and Highlights for Children magazines. Lizann was formerly the editor of Chickadee magazine. Today she lives in rural Muskoka, Ontario with her husband and three children.
 
Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?
My parents read to me at bedtime, and I loved that. Partly my good memories are from the together time, me tucked under a cozy blanket in bed, but it was also the way the stories sounded. I loved the language of them. I loved memorizing the stories and knowing what was coming on the next page. I loved thinking about the stories as I tried to fall asleep. Today I still keep a few of the books I had as a child on my bookshelf. I only have to open them to bring back memories of my early love of rhythm, rhyme, and story.
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What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?
 
I think my favourite thing about sharing books with kids is the way the book can spark discussion or questions or connections. When I do school visits with my Math in Nature series I hear about the squirrels kids have in their backyards, or how they saw milkweeds. When I share my Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Here kids tell me about the transportation vehicles they use or like best. One boy even told me about how he came here to Canada on a boat just like in my book. I think those connections are terrific. It shows kids that reading and books are connected with our lives.
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Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.
 
I’ve always been glad I followed the advice I’d heard and began reading to my kids when they were babies. As in as soon as they were old enough to sit up in my lap, I read them short nursery rhymes or board books. And I read them aloud with feeling and drama like I really enjoyed them—because I did. Then, as they grew, I’d let my kids touch the pages—okay gnaw on the pages sometimes—and then help me turn the pages. Even my fidgety firstborn would sit through a whole board book and then later longer stories. For all my kids, once they voiced an opinion I’d let them choose the story we’d read. If they wanted more than one, they got to choose one and I chose one. Once they wanted to read chapter books or middle grade novels, I let them take the lead on what we’d read. That’s not to say I didn’t have suggestions, but if my suggestion didn’t grab them after a couple of pages, we moved on to something else. I always wanted reading at home to be fun. Now that they’re teenagers I can say, “Mission accomplished.”

 

How about you? What childhood books contained language that you loved?

Good news! Those who comment on this post will be entered in a draw for two of Lizann’s books. First, I am giving away a copy of Counting on Fall. Also, Lizann is donating a signed copy of Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Herewhich was selected by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to be given to every Grade One student in Canada in the TD Grade One Book Giveaway. 

To be eligible for even more giveaways by wonderful children’s illustrators and authors, sign up below for Aimee’s newsletter. 

 

Check out Lizann’s books:
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Visit Lizann 

Daydreaming on Paper with Arree Chung

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Arree Chung is a children’s book illustrator and author. He has worked at Pixar and in the games industry as a designer and art director. Arree and I share an agent in Rubin Pfeffer: www.rpcontent.com. It’s my pleasure to host him on Good Books to Share today.

 

 

 

Arree, please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

My parents were new immigrants and were struggling to learn the English language themselves, so I don’t recall reading a lot of picture books when I was young. I do remember Dr. Suess’s bold colors in his books.

I was more of a late reader. I loved Shel Silverstien’s books of poems. Where the Sidewalk Ends is probably my favorite. I became an avid reader in middle school. My favorite books were James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (practically anything from Ronald Dahl) and Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Those books engaged my imagination. I don’t think I’ve stopped dreaming ever since.

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Arree’s vibrant art

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

The best feeling I have as an artist is seeing kids’ faces light up when they see your work. You can see their imaginations kick into gear. When I present, I make sure to show them how a book just starts with an idea. I call it “daydreaming on paper.” Sharing good books is so important because it engages the imagination—and if you can imagine something, then you can make anything happen. I love this quote by Albert Einstein: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

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Some of Arree’s daydreaming on paper

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

I think a common mistake grown ups have in sharing books with kids is trying to share books that “teach a lesson.” Many books that teach a lesson do so in a heavy-handed way and are just not fun books.
 
Kids are just like adults. Or perhaps, rather, we’re a lot like kids in bigger bodies. Anyhow, we don’t like being told what to do, and we’re all different. Matching the right book to a kid is about understanding what the kid likes or what that child may be going through. Of course, there are those few books that just strike a chord with practically everyone because they are so magical.
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classic moment from Ninja!

I love the idea of daydreaming on paper. Your daydreams have produced some delightful books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today, Arree.

Good news! Arree is giving away a signed copy of Ninja to one person who comments on this blog. What a fun book to share with a child you love! I’ll draw the winning name on Saturday, July 25.

For more giveaways from top-notch authors and illustrators, sign up for Aimee’s newsletter below.

Check out Arree’s picture books:

 

ninja amazonhow to pee girlsArree how to pee

Visit Arree at his website for activity and coloring pages based on Ninja!

Website: www.arree.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/arree.chung

Twitter: www.twitter.com/arreechung

 

Expanding Horizons

The gestation period for my book was much longer than it was for my three children. I first had the idea nine years before Mama’s Day with Little Gray was published. Launch day brought feelings of excitement, curiosity, and a little bit of maternal protectiveness. Would my book find its way safely to new shelves? Would it be accepted? Liked, even?

I remembered the days of parting with my children at the Kindergarten door. Sometimes the teacher would send a note home with one of them that said: “I had a great day!” How much I appreciated those. Now that my book is out in the big, wide world, it’s been special to receive reports and pictures of Little Gray from various places. Like postcards from camp, they let me know that my book is faring well on this new adventure.

Below are a sampling of the places I’ve heard from:

Charlotte Glover, former children’s librarian and owner of Parnassus Books and Gifts in Ketchikan, Alaska wrote to say that she enjoyed Mama’s Day with Little Gray and had featured it for Mother’s Day in her store.

Parnassus Books

Ben McNally Books, a gorgeous store on Bay Street in Toronto, Ontario displayed the book by the cash.
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Nancy Fanning, event coordinator at Bethany Beach Books in Bethany Beach, Delaware reported that Mama’s Day with Little Gray was a hit at a recent story time.

Bethany Beach Books

Friends far and wide sent pictures of my book in their local Chapters, Indigo, or Barnes and Noble stores.

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And I found it nicely displayed in an area bookstore, Bryan Prince Bookseller, on the first day of release.

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How wonderful to see Mama’s Day with Little Gray keeping company with such fine people and books. Thanks for celebrating with me, everyone.

 

 

Shannon Hitchcock on Growing a Reader

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Shannon Hitchcock is a freelance writer specializing in stories for children and young adults.

I met Shannon while we were both attending the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s conference in Miami, Florida. Her debut novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, was inspired by her son’s eighth grade history project. It’s great to have Shannon visit Good Books to Share.

 

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

The first stories I fell in love with were fairy tales. Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstalk were my favorites. I remember hearing my mother read them in her slow southern drawl. I shivered when the mean ol’ giant chased Jack, and then clapped in delight when Jack chopped down the beanstalk.

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Shannon’s son, Alex, in second grade.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child.

I enjoyed reading to my son when he was little. Two particular favorites were The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and all of the Thomas the Tank Engine books.

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Alex’s graduation. See those honor cords hanging around his neck? Being a voracious reader pays off!

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

My son has grown up to be a voracious reader. If I look back at the reasons why, these four things stand out.

Ready access. I kept a basket full of books in the family room and a well-stocked bookshelf that he could reach in his bedroom. 

I made reading fun. Alex would be sad when his dad had to travel for business, so after dinner and bath time, I’d let him crawl into bed with me. I would read several books aloud to him and then say, “Mommy’s going to read a grown-up book now, while you read to yourself.” It was relaxing for both of us.

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Alex’s eighth grade research project was the inspiration for Shannon’s first novel.

I read what interested Alex, even if it didn’t interest me. I must have read The Pokemon Handbook at least a thousand times.

As soon as Alex was old enough, I signed him up for the summer reading programs at our public library. He loved the competition aspect and winning little prizes.

These are fabulous ideas, Shannon! Thanks for sharing them.

 Be sure to check out Shannon’s historical novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl.

 

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 Connect with Shannon:

Website: http://www.shannonhitchcock.com

Twitter: @ShannonHitchcock

For more great literacy tips and the inside scoop on the inspiration behind children’s books, subscribe to Aimee’s newsletter below. 

Toni Buzzeo on Libraries and Disneyland

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It’s a treat to have the warm and talented Toni Buzzeo visit Good Books to Share. Toni and I share a love of baby elephant stories. Just as Mama’s Day with Little Gray features a warm relationship between a mama and her son, Toni’s book My Bibi Always Remembers depicts a baby elephant and grandmother. 

Toni was a high school and college writing teacher before she became a children’s librarian. Since she began to write for children in 1995, Toni has written 19 books for children and 11 books for professionals. Among these is the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book One Cool Friend.

Welcome, Toni! Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have? 

What a lucky girl I was! I was born into a family of women who loved to read. I have wonderful memories of my Grandma Mae reading to me and talking about books with me. Those conversations opened a door for a shy child like I was, as you can see in this photograph.

In addition to the pleasure of being snuggled up next to my grandmother’s side with a book opened on our laps, I had the pleasure of accompanying my mother or grandmother to the public library every week. We always returned with an enormous stack of picture books.

Toni and Grandma Mae Reading

Luckier still, when I was 8 years old, my town built a branch library just three and a half blocks from my house. For me, that was like Disneyland appearing in my neighborhood! I read my way through all of the children’s novels and the young adult alcove before graduating, at 13, to the adult books.

My life as a reader started at my grandma’s side and in my town’s libraries, and it has never flagged.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

Perhaps it was those many early experiences in libraries that led me onto my professional path, but I grew up to be a librarian! So, for me, sharing books with kids was my life’s work for many, many years. I started as a children’s librarian at a local public library and moved on to become a teaching librarian in school libraries. In both settings, I was always eager to share stories with my students.

A particular memory that still delights me is reading Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to my students. No matter what time of day, if I student walked by my desk with that book in his or her hand, I jumped up, asked him/her to hand over the book, settled the kids around me, and launched into a raucous and lively reading of the book, complete with student-chorus.

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How special it was, then, when my own books began to be published. (I continued to work as a librarian for my first two years after publication). Sharing my OWN books with my students was such a treasure. I remember a class of fourth graders quizzing me about the decisions I made in the plot of my first book, The Sea Chest (still in print a dozen years later) and the little kindergartner who picked up the rubber-banded f&g (folded and gathered copy) of Dawdle Duckling and asked, “Mrs. Buzzeo, how many copies of this book do you have to SEW TOGETHER?”

Please give us your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

What a pleasure it is to share my books now with enormous numbers of kids at school visits and reading festivals! My favorite way to share books is through puppets. I have a full complement of puppets for all of the characters of my books: Stay Close to Mama, No T. Rex in the Library, and Little Loon and Papa. I ask adults/teachers to select the actors for me (describing for each whether they will have lines to speak or special attitudes or actions) and then I read the book to the larger group and sneak up behind each puppeteer and whisper their lines or needed actions. The kids love it, the teachers and/or parents love it, and most of all, I love the fun of bringing my stories to life on the stage!

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So whether you are a teacher, a librarian, or a parent, start building sets of puppets (even finger puppets work with small groups) to accompany the stories you share!

Thanks, Toni! How about you? What fabulous memories of libraries do you cherish?

Connect with Toni through her website: website: http://www.tonibuzzeo.com/HOME.html

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Deborah Underwood on Classics Old and New

With Bella 2It’s  lovely to host Deborah Underwood on Good Books to Share. Deborah is the author of many children’s books, including Here Comes Santa Cat; The Christmas Quiet Book; Bad Bye, Good ByePirate Mom; and the New York Times bestsellers Here Comes the Easter Cat; The Quiet Book; and The Loud Book. She co-wrote the Sugar Plum Ballerina chapter book series with Whoopi Goldberg, and she has written 27 nonfiction titles. She lives in Northern California with her feline muse, Bella.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

My parents were both teachers, and I grew up surrounded by books. So it’s not surprising that my parents read to me a lot when I was young. I have fond memories of using my finger to trace the tail of the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz at the end of Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and of correcting my parents if they missed reading one of the numerous beebeebobbibobbis in The Baby Beebee Bird.

But I most strongly remember connecting with the books I read in elementary school—laughing at Ramona’s mishearing of the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” being inspired (along with half of my class) to get a spy notebook after our teacher read Harriet the Spy out loud to us, and reading classics like Thimble Summer and The Good Master over and over when I was having a difficult time for one reason or another.

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In this photo, I’m reading a book called “Mary Bakes a Cake.” Early evidence of my lifelong love of both reading and cake!

I often felt out of place as a kid. I’d skipped a grade, so I was a year younger than everyone else in my class, and I was terrible at sports, and I was shy. I remember the relief I felt when I discovered that the elementary school library was open during lunch—I could go there and read rather than hanging out on the playground trying to avoid getting whacked by stray baseballs! The books I read not only helped me escape school life, but also showed me other worlds and other more inviting possibilities.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I don’t have my own kids, but I madly adore my two nieces who live in Scotland. They’re older now, but when they were picture-book age, I really enjoyed reading to them during our visits. One reason, of course, was that it was just wonderful to share the experience of reading with them. But I also learned things that were incredibly helpful to me in my own writing.

For example, I stumbled across Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! in a bookstore not long after it came out, and laughed out loud as I read it. I knew immediately that I wanted to get it for my youngest niece. I brought it out during my visit to Scotland, and was delighted that she loved it as much as I did—it validated my instincts about what kids might like.

One thing surprised me: after the first reading, she immediately wanted to read it again, but said, “You be the reader, and I’ll be the ‘no’-er.” This potential for interaction hadn’t dawned on me as I stood in the bookstore reading the book to myself, but of course that implied and repeated “No!” is obvious to a kid!

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My oldest niece several years ago, reading as she walks down the street just as I did as a child.

Another important lesson I learned from reading to them: short books are greatly appreciated, especially at bedtime. I’m sure all parents know this, but I didn’t! When my nieces went to the bookshelf to choose a bedtime story, I cringed if it was a really long one. Now I know that when I cut words in a manuscript, I’m not only tightening my story and leaving more room for the illustrator, I’m also helping a parent get to bed a little earlier!

And the last lesson that was a revelation to non-parent me: a bad book is even worse when you have to read it over and over and over. There was one book that one of my nieces inexplicably loved, and it was painful to have to reread it. I try to write books that hold up to repeated readings, not just for the child’s benefit, but for the adult’s as well.

What are your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children?

I’m sure others you’ve interviewed here have covered all the concrete ideas I’d have plus many others: varying vocal dynamics and tone, assuming voices for different characters, asking the kids what they think will happen next, giving them time to really look closely at the illustrations—kids are so much more observant than I am of the little details on the page!

For me, the important point is that kids are smart. If you’re enthusiastic about reading, and if you love a particular book, they will absolutely pick up on that. I think one of the best things you can do to encourage a love of reading is to let kids see that it’s an important part of your life. What a great excuse to curl up with a good book!

Thank you, Deborah! 

Special offer: Leave a brief comment on this post to be entered in a draw for one of Deborah’s wonderful Christmas books. You can choose which book you would like to receive, and Deborah will autograph it for you. Comments must be posted by midnight EST on December 7th, 2014.  

Another holiday offer: For a limited time, Aimee is shipping out free, personalized bookplates that can be placed inside copies of Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Click here for more information. 

Santa Cat Cover copyChristmas Quiet Book

Connect with Deborah: 

Website: DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com
Twitter: @underwoodwriter

Want the inside scoop on how Santa Cat came to life as well as other behind-the-scenes tales from children’s book creators? Sign up for Aimee’s newsletter below. Subscribers are also eligible for giveaways of wonderful children’s books.

 

Free, Personalized Bookplates

I’ve been touched by notes from readers telling me about those with whom they have shared Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Copies have gone to brand new babies, young adults just leaving the nest, elderly parents, andof coursechildren. I even heard that a book is on its way to a family in Thailand that runs an elephant shelter. 

With gratitude for the many ways people are sharing Mama’s Day with Little Gray, I am offering, for a limited time, to send out free bookplates with personalized inscriptions. The bookplate is clear with adhesive on the back so that it may be affixed to the book. 

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Just drop me a note through the contact form at www.aimeereidbooks.com. Let me know to whom I should address the autograph and where you’d like it sent. I will not share your information. 

I’ll try to send out your bookplates soon after I receive your requests in case you’d like to give Mama’s Day with Little Gray as a holiday gift. I would love to be a part of your festivities in this small way. 

Warm holiday wishes!

Aimee

 

 

Hélène Boudreau on Fostering Your Family’s Love of Reading

heleneHélène Boudreau grew up on an island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean but now writes fiction and non-fiction for kids from her land-locked home in Ontario, Canada.

Her picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn, is a 2013 Parents’ Choice Award winner, a 2014 OLA Blue Spruce Award nominee, and a Crystal Kite Winner. 

Her tween novel, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings is a 2011 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award Finalist.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have? 

I’m from a family of ten so books were kind of community property in our house, growing up. I remember, though, that my godfather sent me my very own hardcover Trixie Belden for Christmas one year. I cherished that book because it was mine. All mine! That feeling of ownership of a story, a character, a whole world, is what really influences me to write for kids.

Once I read that first Trixie book, I was hooked. We didn’t have a public library where I grew up but we did have a bookmobile bus that would come to our island every few weeks. I remember walking up and down that bus aisle, perusing the shelves looking for the latest Trixie Belden. Most of my friends were Nancy Drew fans but since receiving that book as a gift, I was Trixie all the way.

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Please share about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. 
 
Last year, I was on vacation with my family when my picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn was released. I dearly wanted to see my book on store shelves but thought it would be a long shot to find it in the local bookstore where we were traveling, so we surreptitiously went to the bookstore to browse and, lo and behold, my book was there in the children’s section. Even better—I found out the bookstore staff was planning to read it at the children’s story hour that weekend, and they invited me to read instead.

What a happy accident that turned out to be! Being able to share my newly published book with a story time full of inquisitive, lively toddlers was such a highlight. And seeing all the children there with a dad, or a grandpa, or a mom, or a family friend, reinforced the idea that when it comes to books and children—all it takes is an interested adult to put a book in front of a child and the rest will follow.

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Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

Creating a ‘library culture’ in your home is a wonderful way to foster reading in children. Library cards are free and most villages, towns, and cities have access to public libraries in North America. For me as a child it was a book mobile. For my children, we are lucky enough to have a wonderful library system in our area.

We make regular trips to the library and have taken advantage of their many library programs. Checking out lots and lots of books on a regular basis and just putting books within the reach of children and letting them choose is one of the best ways I know to foster a love of reading.

Libraries, for the win!

Thanks, Hélène. Check out Hélène’s fun picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn, at your local library or store!

I Dare you Not to Yawn

Are you interested in winning free, signed copies of children’s books like Hélène’s? Sign up for Aimee’s newsletter below.

Connect with Hélène:

Website: http://www.heleneboudreau.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heleneboudreaubooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeleneBoudreau

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2743065.Helene_Boudreau

 

 

Rachel Eugster on Books as Nourishment

Rachel10I’m happy to welcome Rachel Eugster to Good Books to Share. Both of our new books feature warm relationships between mothers and sons and were inspired by experiences we had with our own children. Rachel and I have attended writing conferences together where we commiserate and share inspiration.

Rachel Eugster wears two professional hats: one as a writer and editor, and the other as an actor, singer, and music director.

Rachel’s first picture book, The Pocket Mommy, was inspired by the day when she dropped her son off at kindergarten and he announced that he wished she was tiny enough to keep in his pocket all day. The book was released by Random House Canada (Tundra Books) in August, 2013.

Rachel is also the author of Beans and Other Pulses, Fruits, Grains and Cereals, Seeds and Nuts, and Vegetables, published by Franklin Watts as the Ingredients of a Balanced Diet series. As a magazine writer, her focus has been concentrated on food, healthy living, medical science, and interesting people. She has also written articles for children on such fascinating topics as horse communication, the Robotarium, ringtones for leopards, reawakening volcanoes, and exploding toads.

A former editor of Walking magazine, Rachel has edited nearly every form she can think of, from fiction to poetry to medical journals to architectural writings. She particularly enjoys editing the manuscripts of writers for children.

In Rachel’s parallel career, she is a founding member of the theatre company Bear & Co. (http://www.bearandcompany.ca/) and the ensemble Dragon’s Tea Trio (with cellist Joan Harrison and guitarist Andrew Mah).

Born in one national capital (Washington, D.C.), Rachel now lives in another (Ottawa, Ontario) with her husband, two sons (when they are home from university), two cats, and a greyhound.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

That is as difficult as describing my first taste of solid food! Who remembers the first banana they tasted as a baby?

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What was your first taste of solid food like?

Books have been a constant, as far back as I can remember. They were companion, refuge, entertainment, distraction, sustenance.  There has always been one in my hand or within easy reach—and here is photographic evidence.

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Nothing like a little philosophy before bed.

I don’t remember being read to, although I’m quite sure I was. But I do vividly remember being taught to read by my mother, whose hand-lettered cards and brilliantly conceived phrases rewarded decoding with a nugget of humor.

Thus, I entered kindergarten one of two children who could read. In one of my only memories from that class, Miss Bucket held up the book she was about to read aloud, and asked the two of us if we would read the title to the class. Painfully shy, I wasn’t confident enough to speak, so the other child (worse: a boy!) got all the glory, and I spent the rest of the day kicking myself for looking like a fraud. Shyness goes deep, and books were everything to me, as they are for so many shy children.

One important early gift was Bulfinch’s Mythology, from my grandmother. She, too, was a writer, and often asked what books I was reading. It took her aback when, at age of 9, I asked for Bulfinch’s. Her only condition was that I read it. Needless to say, there was a teacher behind the wish: ours had been reading from it to my class.

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I kept my promise to my grandmother.

But I read everything and anything, and have never stopped reading children’s books. That’s less unusual for adults these days, but my mother used to say I was the only person she knew who read them “as if they were literature”!

Now that you are an adult, what are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I don’t remember many picture books from my own childhood, and reading to my own kids as a young mother led to wonderful discoveries. Both boys are in university, now, but I still have most of the collection we accrued. How can I get rid of Goodnight Moon? Blueberries for Sal? Grandfather Twilight? Bea & Mr. Jones? Perfect the Pig?

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As my sons grew older, I loved sharing books from my own past, as well as exploring the new things that were being published. We read everything, and even though they are very much children of the computer age, both of my sons still do.

The bedtime ritual of reading aloud that we established very early continued right up until my older son left for school. With four and a half years between the boys, it was sometimes a challenge to find things that would interest the whole family. Books from my past often came to the rescue: Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family, Tove Jansson’s Moonintroll books, Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, L. M. Boston, Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, James Thurber.

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Since my own book, The Pocket Mommy, came out last fall, I have also loved reading it to children in bookstores and libraries. Watching them sit entranced as I read, hearing them giggle in exactly the places that I think are funny—this is deeply fulfilling.

As an author visiting bookstores in cities far away from home, one of my best experiences so far occurred when a child who had just left the store pulled her mother back in so she could meet me—because she had recognized my book as one she loved from her school library. And this was only three months after it had been released!

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

Really, there’s only one tip to give: Read to them. Whenever you can. Wherever you can. Whatever you can.

Whenever means start reading to them when they’re really little—the earlier, the better. It also means read to them when they’re happy, when they’re fussy, when they’ve woken up or are about to go to sleep; whenever they ask, and at the drop of a hat.

Wherever means at home or away, snuggling in bed or while standing in lines, waiting in cars or sitting at the airport.

Whatever means anything and everything: Shakespeare, poetry, economics, history, mathematics, newspapers. Read them anything you love and believe in. Nothing you love will be too hard for them, as long as you are ready to answer questions.

Rachel8Rachel9

Also, be sure to read for your own pleasure, and be seen to be enjoying reading! Make sure it isn’t just newspapers and magazines, either. Let you kids know, by showing them, that you, too, like to read books, whether in print or electronic form.

Great advice! Thanks, Rachel.

Pocket Mommy

The Pocket Mommy is a perfect back-to-school choice.  What other books have you found helped to ease the transition back into the fall schedule? Share your suggestions below.

Connect with Rachel: 

Websites:

http://racheleugster.com/

http://www.randomhouse.com/book/223093/the-pocket-mommy-by-rachel-eugster

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thepocketmommy?bookmark_t=page

https://www.facebook.com/rachel.eugster.1

Twitter: @RachelEugster

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My Writing Process: On Sparks and Spreading Joy

Today’s post is part of the “My Writing Process” blog tour. I was invited to participate by Lisa Dalrymple. You can visit Lisa online at www.lisadalrymple.com and read her responses to the blog tour questions here: http://lisadalrymple.com/launch-of-book-cafe-writing-process-blog-tour/ My answers are below.

What are you working on?

At present, I am working on several picture books in various stages as well as an early chapter book.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

Maybe the easiest way to answer this question is to highlight books that have been compared to my new one, Mama’s Day with Little Gray, and reflect on some similarities and differences. Liitle Gray 1Mama’s Day with Little Gray is a gentle, call-and-response book that features a curious little elephant and his mother. Little Gray asks his mama, “When I grow up, will you grow down?” Their conversation over the course of a day reveals Little Gray’s wish to be able to care for his mama when he grows up. He imagines what life would be like if their roles were reversed. Each interaction–snacking, swimming, finding pictures in the clouds–is overlaid by Little Gray’s wonderings and Mama’s reassurance of his competence.

Readers have told me that this book reminds them of The Runaway Bunny, Love You Forever, and Guess How Much I Love You? I’m honored by these associations because each book offers reassurance of a parent’s unconditional love.

There are subtle differences between these books and mine. Unlike The Runaway Bunny, Little Gray wants to stay close to his mama, and unlike Love You Forever, it is the child who takes centre stage as he imagines future connection with her. In Guess How Much I Love You?, Little Nutbrown Hare and his father enjoy a playful competition about whose love is bigger. Mama and Little Gray’s conversation focuses more on Mama’s affirmation of Little Gray’s dreams:

Mamas-Day-with-Little-Gray_Cover-HiRes“If I grew up and you were my calf,” said Little Gray, “I’d spend every day with you.”

“I would be your calf and stay right by your side,” said Mama . . . .

“I would be tall enough to reach the tastiest leaves, and I’d share them with you,” said Little Gray.

“You would be big,” said Mama. “And very kind.”

I hope I’ve captured something unique in the affirming nature of Mama and Little Gray’s conversation. I love hearing that the children and adults who read it together are able to celebrate anew their caring relationship.

Why do you write what you do?

Joy. There is real joy in celebrating healthy child-parent bonds and the everyday beauty and humor of human relationships. I feel a strong desire to notice and draw attention to what is good about our world.

The work of two individuals that I admire comes to mind.

The first is Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighbourhood fame. I didn’t discover the show until I was an adult. As my young daughter and I watched it together, I grew to appreciate the way that Fred Rogers respected children. He never talked down to them. He didn’t shirk difficult questions. However, he also pointed out the kindness, strength, and indomitable spirit of the many, many people who do good every day.

When giving advice on how to cope with large-scale disasters such as 911, Mr. Rogers said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” I want my work to be a tribute to this sort of enduring good.

The second person is writer and artist Nancy Tillman (author-illustrator of On the Night You Were Born). Her joyful, nurturing books celebrate the wonder of being alive and connected to one another. When asked what one message she would give to children, Nancy responded, “You are loved.” I like that. If I were to answer the same question, knowing that Nancy’s answer was taken, I think I would say this: “You are valuable.”

How does your writing process work?

Somewhat mysteriously.

I’m a checklist-lover, but I’ve realized that I can’t schedule inspiration. What I can do is create an environment where inspiration is likely to arrive. I’ll share a few of the stages of my writing process with this caveat: they don’t necessarily occur in linear order! My writing process is more like a dance than a march. I visit and revisit each stage several times for each piece of writing.

Creative spark: There is always a spark. Sometimes a new character wakes me up at night by whispering a few lines in my ear. Maybe I see a connection in a fresh way, and there is a hard-to-describe but goose-bump-producing recognition that this is my next story.

Idea generation: This stage looks a lot like daydreaming or napping or gazing out over a lake. Basically, I get quiet and listen for the story. Often it comes to me through the voice of a character.

Sept. 2012 400

Drafting: Now is when I sit at the keyboard and type. For a while, I suffered under the notion that only this part of the process counted as actual writing, but I know now that’s not true. All stages feed into the others in a fluid process. The story sometimes takes surprising turns when I’m drafting. I’ve learned to be open to these swerves.

Revising: I revisit the piece and look for big picture issues. I usually need to set a piece aside before I gain enough distance to see it with fresh eyes. I send my manuscript to my trusted critique partners for their thoughts as well.

Polishing: Once I feel that the story is working, I look more carefully at all of its small pieces. I read it aloud and listen for the cadence of the lines. I search for more robust verbs and fuss over the placement of each word. I enjoy this part of the process.

Repeat as needed:

Once I’ve polished a manuscript (and sometimes re-polished, revised, and polished yet again several times), I send it off to my agent for his suggestions. If it sells, then I wait to hear how my editor would like the piece to be shaped. I do think that different perspectives can strengthen a work, and I want it to be at its highest sheen before it is sent out into the world to be read at story times.

I continue to be a student of my writing process. Sometimes I need to remind myself to trust each part of it. One thing I have definitely figured out is the importance of keeping a pen handy. Inspiration bubbles up at unexpected times.