I’m excited to share that I have another book in the works. THE NOTE WHO FACED THE MUSIC is a pun-filled musical celebration about learning to be yourself and love yourself!
I started writing this book at the beginning of 2016, and it will make its debut in the world in 2023. 7 years later!! That just goes to show that patience and persistence are definitely pre-requisites if you want to be a children’s author.
The wait was well worth it as my amazing editor, Kayla Tostevin, and the whole team at Page Street Kids, helped to make this book so much better than I could have made it on my own. I’m so grateful that they loved my little Half Note as much as I did.
Music lovers, I think you’ll especially appreciate this book. Even if you don’t know much about music (Points to self! I learned a lot in the process of making it!), I have a feeling this book will still strike a chord with you.
Prepare for more shameless music puns when the book releases!
Tonight my husband was out for the evening with some friends so the task of putting our kiddos (4 years old and 16 months old) to bed fell on me for the evening. Both kids are challenging to get to sleep. Both demand excessive cuddles. Physical presence.
That’s why my husband and I usually divide and conquer – I put the oldest down and he does the youngest. But tonight a difficult task was made more difficult because my 4 year old knew I was leaving for a trip the next day and would be gone for four days.
I told him to go to his room and look at some books while I got his brother to sleep. Usually he’s willing to do it. Tonight he refused.
My first instinct was to be angry. “Go!” I made my tone firmer.
I started coming up with punishments. “If you don’t go NOW, I won’t read you another bedtime story.”
Major fail! He looked close to tears.
“Mom, I want to be with you.”
Finally, instead of just hearing his words, I listened to his heart.
Was he ignoring my wishes? Yes. Was he making it more difficult for me to put his brother to bed? Yes. But how could I be angry when he needed me? Even if it was only a perceived need, it was very real to him. I felt terrible for treating him so dismissively.
I scooted over and made room for him on his brother’s bed. I was now sandwiched between my two babies. The 16 month old did his typical evening tango. Rolling toward me, putting a hand on my face, an arm around my neck. Holding me tight. Then rolling away only to repeat the same dance a few moments later.
At one point when it seemed they were finally both asleep, I tried to extricate myself from their grip. My 4 year old’s sleepy eyes fluttered open. His body tensed. “Are you leaving now?”
I shook my head. I made myself comfortable. Again. No use being in a hurry.
As I lay there I started to think about the children in detention centers at our border.
Children with no one to put them to sleep.
Children as young, or younger, than my children.
Children who have their own routines of falling asleep which have been completely disrupted.
Children who have no one to give them comfort and no way of understanding why they are in their current situation.
I am leaving tomorrow for a work trip, but I know the separation from my children is temporary. I will be back in 4 days. I also know that my children will be in the care of my husband. Their father. He will be there to remind them that Mom will be home soon.
As I finally crept out of the room, I thought about the empty space in the bed. The gaping hole between my children where I had once been, giving them all the comfort they needed to fall asleep. I thought about the gaping hole in the lives of these children whose need is very real – and how as a storyteller, as a mother, as someone’s child — I owe it to them to raise my voice until that hole is filled.
This month I’m exploring perspective in picture books. I love getting into the mind of different characters and playing with who should tell a story and how it should be told. Each of the following books does just that — playing with point of view and perspective in a unique way.
They All Saw a Cat
by Brendan Wenzel
This book blew me away with its brilliance and beauty. I love the way it shows children that while we may all see the same thing, we don’t all see it the same way. It’s the story of a cat who goes walking through the world, encountering many different creatures along his path. However, on each page spread, the cat is depicted differently, as it would be seen thru the eyes of the other character.
On the spread with a fox in hot pursuit the cat looks especially plump; on the spread with a flea it looks like a mess of hair; and on the spread with the mouse, its claws and teeth are exaggerated, making it look like a monster. Lastly, the cat comes to a river, and we get to see how the cat sees itself. This fascinating book was the beginning of some interesting discussions with my son about perspective and point of view and how that influences the way we see things. It’s an important conversation to have if we want to help people of all ages learn to see from a lens different than their own.
by Thyra Heder
The illustrations in this book are adorable and immediately drew me in. The story starts out being told from the point of view of Nia. On her six birthday, she gets a pet turtle, Alfie, who is also turning six. Over the course of the next year, Nia does everything she can to build a relationship with Alfie from bringing him gifts to telling him jokes, but his lack of response leaves her feeling like it’s not worth the effort. Then on the morning of their 7th birthday, Alfie disappears!
At this point, the book switches perspective and is told from the point of view of Alfie. Heder perfectly captures the voice of Alfie with her descriptions [“her (Nia’s) home tickled my toes”]. My favorite page has Alfie saying, “She (Nia) made me laugh and laugh and laugh.” This is contrasted with the illustration of a straight-faced turtle, showing how what Alfie feels on the inside is not communicated on the outside. It turns out that the reason Alfie has disappeared is that he’s on a mission to find the perfect birthday present for his dear Nia. The mission ends up taking much longer than planned, but somehow Alfie shows up right on time with the perfect gift. This sweet story of friendship told from two different points of view is made more meaningful after reading the author’s note and discovering that the story is based in real life.
Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten
by Deborah Underwood; illustrated by Ned Young
Every child (and many adults!) has a vibrant inner world. They alternate from what is actually to happening (reality) to their own imagined version of what is happening and that’s exactly what Arnold, the main character in this picture book does as well. Arnold doesn’t want to go to kindergarten so when he meets his teacher Mr. Z for the first time he imagines him as the Evil Zorgo. Arnold does whatever he can to escape Evil Zorgo’s clutches — even climbing to the top of the tallest skyscraper which in reality is the slide on the school playground.
From an author’s perspective, I’ve often wondered how to differentiate between a character’s real and imagined worlds in my own writing, and I love the seamless way it’s done here both through the presentation of the text and illustrations. On pages that depict what is actually happening to Arnold, a traditional font is used and the illustrations depict Arnold in his everyday clothing. On the pages depicting what Arnold imagines to be happening a funkier, more italicized font is used and all text appears in a yellow text block. The illustrations in these imagined spreads depict Arnold wearing his Super Saurus costume. These simple changes make it easy for the reader to follow all of Arnold’s story — both what the outside world sees and what he’s experiencing internally.
It’s hard to believe, but summer is right around the corner! And you know what that means — time for the 2018 Summer Reading Program! Below is my schedule of performances that are open to the public. Check with the library to see if registration is required. Unless noted, the program offered will be my interactive Bremen Town Musicians program. Learn more about that program as well as my Music/Story Mash-Up program here and feel free to share this schedule with family and friends!
2018 Summer Reading Program Tour Schedule
June 6: 1pm @ Doylestown Public Library
June 7: 11am @ Buckeye Branch Library (Medina County District Library)
June 11: 10:30am @ Licking County Public Library
6pm @ Pataskala Public Library
June 19: 2pm @ Nordonia Hills Branch Library (Akron-Summit County Public Library)
June 20: 11am @ Girard Public Library
June 22: 11am @ Seville Branch Library (Medina County District Library)
June 25-28: Mansfield-Richland County Public Library System
June 25: 11:30am @ Crestview Branch
2:30pm @ Plymouth Branch
6pm @ Ontario Branch
June 26: 10:3oam @ Main Library
2:30pm @ Lucas Branch
6:30pm @ Lexington Branch
June 27: 10:3oam @ Lexington Branch
2:30pm @ Butler Branch
6:30pm @ Main Library
June 28: 10:3oam @ Main Library
2:30pm @ Bellville Branch
6:30pm @ Madison Branch
Monday, July 2: 2pm @ Highland Square Branch Library (Akron-Summit County Public Library) (MUSIC/STORY MASH UP)
Tuesday, July 3: 1pm @ Goodyear Branch Library (Akron-Summit County Public Library) (MUSIC/STORY MASH UP)
Thursday, July 5: 11am @ Portage Lakes Branch Library (Akron-Summit County Public Library) (MUSIC/STORY MASH UP)
Friday, July 6: TBA @ LoveCanton (Storytelling in Spanish)
Monday, July 9: 6pm @ Euclid Public Library
Tuesday, July 10: 1:30pm @ Aurora Public Library (MUSIC/STORY MASH UP)
Thursday, July 12: 10:30am @ Ida Rupp Memorial Library
2:30pm @ Marblehead Library
Wednesday, July 18: 11am @ Louisville Public Library
2pm @ Dover Public Library
Tuesday, July 24: 6:30pm @ Reed Memorial Library (Ravenna, OH)
April 10th is National Sibling Day so I thought this month it would only be fitting to share books celebrating siblings! Of course, spring is also the time of new life and since my writing critique partner’s goat gave birth to the sweetest little kids, I couldn’t resist throwing in a few books about babies! Here are our picks for the month of April!
Hoot and Peep
by Lita Judge
The cover of this book is so sweet and beautiful that it pulls you right in. In this tale of two owls, older brother Hoot wants to impart his owly wisdom to younger sister Peep. That wisdom consists of the fact that owls say, “Hooo!” and only “Hooo!” for everything. But Peep sees the world differently. She believes in singing about the mystery of things — ‘Schweepity peep ding dong bong!” — and her songs express that. The enchanting illustrations in blue and yellow hues capture the beauty of a the perfect owly night and the poetic text makes this sibling story soar.
by Tara Lazar
One of the ways a book makes it onto this list is by getting repeatedly requested for readings by my son – and this book definitely fits that criteria! I’ve previously mentioned my son’s love for all things monster and when we’re not reading the book, he makes me go through and pick out my favorite monster on every page.
Zack gets a monster in the hopes of keeping his little sister, Gracie, out of his room – only to find that the monster, Manfred, befriends Gracie and teaches her new ways of annoying him. He tries to return his defective monster only to be sold more monsters — each of which yield the same result! Zack is at his wit’s end until something super-spooky stops Gracie and the monsters in their tracks! You’ll have to read the book to find out what the terrifying thing is – and that is by far, my favorite part of the book – so I hope you will check it out!
Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals
While the title would make you think this book is for babies, other than the mirrors at the beginning and ending of the book, it didn’t strike me as all that baby-friendly. Nevertheless, I absolutely LOVE it. If you’re a parent (old or new), it’s sure to touch your heart and tickle your funny bone as it prepares little ones for the good and not-so-good stuff that awaits them intheir lives as humans. (I especially love the hysterical spread about Log-In Codes. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to a time before you needed any of those? )
While my one year old didn’t have the patience for a read-through of it, my four year old did — and I especially appreciated how the book highlights the fact that the child-parent relationship isn’t one-sided. Our kids teach us valuable lessons if we’re willing to pay attention and learn from them. I also love the way that the special bond formed through reading together is reinforced through the book’s refrain – “. . .while we read this book together.”
by Kate Beaton
What’s not to love about a King Baby? After all, if you’ve ever shared your home with a baby you know it’s the truth — we are all simply the underlings who must fulfill King Baby’s every command (or else listen to incessant screaming!) In Beaton’s signature humorous style, she shows the baby king, complete with tiny crown, on his journey toward becoming a big boy — from crawling to mastering the tricycle. But once he’s arrived at big boy status, he discovers a new challenge awaits him and his growing family.