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Maryland Blue Crab Award

I enjoyed my trip to Ocean City, Maryland, this week, where I talked to Maryland librarians about how Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator came to be. I also accepted the Blue Crab Young Reader Award for Beginning Nonfiction.

Talking About the Back Matter

With the Maryland Blue Crab Award Committee

I spent time with Janis Cooker, the chair of the Maryland Blue Crab Award committee, Jill Hutchinson, and Catherine DiCristofaro. They picked me up at the airport and took me out to dinner the night before my presentation. I learned about some interesting programming they are doing in the library system of St. Mary’s County — especially with children who are identified for early intervention services and hands-on science. Jill was among presenters for a pre-conference program titled Quality Programming for Pennies and Janis joined others to present on Creating Successful Cultural Connections for Preschoolers and their Families.

Catherine and Jill


Sarah and Janis

Gestalt Gardener and Lemuria Signing

It was a big weekend for Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature. On Friday, I started the day as a guest on The Gestalt Gardener, a radio show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting hosted by Felder Rushing. We talked about the book and getting kids excited about the natural world, math, and gardening. I am a longtime listener to Felder’s show so I was familiar with its rhythms; Felder fielded about 8 calls and we fit our conversation in around them. The show was re-broadcast the next morning, which coincided with our signing at Lemuria. Many of our guests at the signing told us they had heard the show. I thank Felder and Ezra Wall, the show’s producer, for having me.


Lots of friends, old and new, came out for the signing, which began during Lemuria’s regular Saturday story hour. (Thank you, Patty, for taking photographs.) One attendee, named Kimberly, brought along an observation she wrote after spending some time talking about Fibonacci numbers and pinecones with her grandmother. (Her grandmother had heard the Gestalt Gardener show.)

Kimberly's news

signing for Madeleine

grandmother who heard the show

signing for Alex and Benjamin

Anna and Jane

Anna and Jane

mom and sons

Kimberly and Bailey and Grandpa and Grandma

Reonna, a budding photographer from Davis, and her mom and sister

talking with Anna about a sand dollar

Growing Patterns: Introducing Richard

Today is the reading and signing party at Lemuria. We’re looking forward to seeing young readers and their grownups at 10 a.m. for some Fibonacci fun!

After being on a blog tour all week (thanks to all of the hosts), we have the featured attraction right here. I interviewed Richard about his unique contribution to Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature.

This is the fun portrait I took of him when we were doing our publicity photo shoot. The powers that be at the publishing house wanted a straight (faced) shot for the catalog so I decided we’d use it here.

Hester Bass Visits Power APAC

Hester Bass reading from The Secret World of Walter Anderson

Hester Bass reading from The Secret World of Walter Anderson

Hester Bass did a fabulous job at Power APAC today introducing visual arts students from grades 6 through 12 to the creative process of writing picture books. In the above photograph, she is reading from The Secret World of Walter Anderson, which was recently named one of Kirkus’ Best Children’s Books of 2009. Because she worked so closely with her fantastic illustrator, E.B. Lewis, she also shared much about the process of illustrating a picture book with watercolor paintings. Power APAC students had studied Walter Anderson’s work prior to Hester’s visit and had also done some historical research, but her tale sparked a renewed interest in his work and life.

Hester being interviewed by MPB arts reporter Ron Brown

Hester being interviewed by MPB arts reporter Ron Brown

Hester’s publicist at Candlewick worked with Mississippi Public Broadcasting to set up an interview for an online program titled Don’t Lecture Me. The show will go online in about two weeks.

Middle School Art Students Listen to Hester

Middle School Art Students Listen to Hester

Students provided a back drop for a mini-set on the Power APAC stage. It was a pleasure for me to see Hester in action. I always learn from my colleagues in this business. Hester’s stage presence was obvious from the moment she stepped in front of the students. She sang and she read. She encouraged the students to read, to write (and sketch) in journals, and to set goals. She got questions about publishing and about Walter Anderson. One student wanted to know about the Walter Anderson Museum in Ocean Springs.

Dr. Marlynn Martin, assistant principal, Hester Bass, Rooney Davis, librarian

Dr. Marlynn Martin, assistant principal, Hester Bass, Rooney Davis, librarian

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

hbass-210-Secret_worldMy friend, Hester Bass, wrote an extraordinary picture book biography of Walter Anderson, a great American artist who did most of his work in Mississippi. Publisher’s Weekly called the The Secret World of Walter Anderson, published by Candlewick Press, “a powerful tribute to the lengths artists will go for their passions.” A starred reivew in Kirkus said it was “a gorgeous chronicle of a versatile southern American artist.”

The story is illustrated by E.B. Lewis; an additional 8-page author’s note gives more details about Anderson’s life and includes photographs of his paintings, linocuts, and decorations on pottery. I interviewed Hester last month at the Writing and Illustrating for Kids conference put on by the Southern Breeze regional chapter of SCBWI. Click on the play button below to hear why Hester wrote the book and to hear her read an excerpt.

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Hester is heading to Mississippi next week for a brief tour that will include stops in Jackson and Vicksburg. hbass-210-Bass_30-72dpiShe’ll be signing books at the Mississippi Museum of Art on Saturday, Nov. 14; Lemuria bookstore on Sunday, Nov. 15; and she’ll be doing a school visit at my kids’ school, Power Academic and Performing Arts Complex, on Tuesday, Nov. 17. You can catch her in Vicksburg at Lorelei Books on Monday, November 16. Click on Hester’s website or on the venue’s links to check times for the public events. Hester, who once delivered singing telegrams, is an engaging performer and her book would make an excellent gift for the kids, teachers, and art lovers on your Christmas list.

Please let me know if you like the video interview. I am experimenting with using more video on my blog. I’d like to use more video to show my work process with photography. Let me know what you think.

Wolfsnail Storytime at Jackson Zoo

wolfsnailI will be at the Jackson Zoo on Tuesday, August 4, at 10 a.m. reading Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. The rain we’ve been having recently makes for perfect snail hunting weather. I spent time outside this  morning helping my boys pick up sticks in our yard — and I saw bunches of garden snails, crickets, pill bugs, and, of course, mosquitoes. In addition to the book, I hope to have a few surprises. I hope you’ll come and see me.

Growing Patterns: Fibonacci Numbers in Nature update: I am disappointed that the layout isn’t ready yet. I hope to see it next week. Keep your fingers crossed.

Geisel Ceremony

_SCC0376I thoroughly enjoyed the Geisel Ceremony. Mo Willems made a truly funny speech. My boys particularly appreciated the line: “Screw you!” He suggested it as his preferred comeback to the dog in ‘Go Dog, Go” who keeps saying “I do not like that hat.”

Chicago trip-3Richard and I received nice plaques with our certificates mounted on them. My friend Hester Bass (author of the forthcoming title The Secret World of Walter Anderson) led the “whoops” section. By happenstance, we ended up sitting not in the section reserved for honorees but among the various selection committee members. This made it easy for me to thank the Geisel committee members for noticing Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator.

It was fun to hear Kadir Nelson talk about his first meeting with Hank Aaron, who would write the forward for his multiple-award-winning book, We Are the Ship. Nelson was accepting the Siebert Medal.

We went back to the exhibit floor to sign books for an hour. The boys, meanwhile, worked on restaurant selection. We ate a late lunch at Giordano’s and then Richard and the boys took off for the suburbs. I went back to sign for another hour.

Visitors to the booth continued to express interest in Growing Patterns. I gave out a bunch of business cards to librarians who expressed an interest in my website‘s supplemental material for Wolfsnail — especially the teachers’ guide and slideshow.

First Day at ALA

Chicago trip-2Richard, the boys, and I arrived at McCormick Place in Chicago slightly ahead of schedule this afternoon. We split the 12-hour drive from Jackson in half, stopping over Saturday night with friends in Carbondale, IL. Now that I am comfortably settled onto my college roommate’s couch, I am ready to write about our first impression of the ALA’s exhibit hall.

Huge! Overwhelming! Great books (and authors) at every turn — after finding the Boyds Mills booth, I went immediately to Candlewick‘s to see Hester Bass‘s book: The Secret World of Walter Anderson. Even though I saw the galleys and thought it looked wonderful, the real book is a work of art. Get this one as soon as you can.

We saw fancy new furniture, display cases, and game systems. We saw a vending machine dispensing books much the way snacks and candy bars are dispensed. N and I stopped at Out of the Box Publishing and played a few fun games: Ninja vs. Ninja and Backseat Drawing.

We stopped at Hyperion’s booth to have two books signed by Lita Judge: Pennies for Elephants and One Thousand Tracings. I highly recommend these books. Her illustrations are wonderful and the stories very interesting. She certainly knows how to take historical events and make them into engaging picture books.

N and I also stopped in at the Wizards of the Coast Publishing booth. The boys were convinced that the ALA would not have books like the ones they like: read fantasy, science fiction, game tie-in novels, etc. Boy, were they wrong. N walked into the WCP booth and pointed at the not-yet-released title by RA Salvatore and a very nice staffer handed him a free copy of a book Salvatore wrote with his son called The Stowaway.

Richard and I signed for an hour at the Boyds Mills booth and it was a ton of fun. Anastasia Suen walked by and I called her over to say that I had learned a good deal from her book Picture Writing. We talked some about Growing Patterns; she leafed through my draft copy and asked that I send a review copy next spring. Absolutely!

I also met the first librarian to review Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. Amy Schardein is a librarian in northern Kentucky (where my mother’s family hails from). I thanked Amy for her review last year and I showed her Growing Patterns. It is so nice to meet people in person who have embraced Wolfsnail and used it in their libraries.

I’ll add pictures when I can — probably from the exhibit floor.

Sarita and Alex (roomie and baby)

Sarita and Alex (roomie and baby)

Going to ALA, Missing HS Reunion

ALA_Chicago_09_LogoRichard and I will be at the American Library Association conference in Chicago next week, receiving a certificate for a 2009 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award for Wolfsnail: A Backyard Predator. We will arrive Sunday for a signing from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Boyds Mills Press booth (#1917). We have two signings on Monday after the award ceremony: from noon to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. On Tuesday, I will be signing on my own from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. Please stop by and say, “hello.” This will be our first national conference and we are looking forward to learning a lot.

wolfgeisel51+NdxYKyKL._SL500_AA240_Wolfsnail was reviewed on Lori Calabrese Writes! for Nonfiction Monday. In part, Lori writes “This is a wonderful book to teach young readers about predators.” I appreciate the kind words. I understand from my editor that Growing Patterns is in layout. The anticipation is killing me. I really, really want to see it!

Francene VisitThe only downside to being invited to Chicago is that I’ll miss my high school reunion. I enjoy seeing the people I went to high school with and, since many are scattered across the country, the chances are few. Our class has gotten together about 5 times since we graduated in 1984 and I’ve made most of the parties. I hate to miss this one. To my great joy, however, I got to see my closest high school buddy today. She flew in from northern climes and I picked her up from the airport. Her mom came by a few hours later to claim her and take her further down the road, but we had time to tour the garden and she gave me wardrobe advice for next week. francene graduationIt felt like old times to be considering clothing and, gasp, accessories. Her kids are slightly older than mine (19 & 16) so I got to hear about what to expect as mine get further into the world of high school — driving and prom and cell phones, oh my.  When her mom came to pick her up, she had two grandchildren with her; Franny’s sister’s children. This was the sister who was a baby when we were in junior high. It could make a person feel old. I am hoping my classmates take lots of pictures and share them on facebook.

Hummingbird, School Visit, 200 Posts

HummingbirdOur picture of a hummingbird is in High Five magazine this month in the Look at the … feature. Four other photos we took will appear in the coming months. Look for the squirrel, tapir, zebra, and river otters.

st-francis-xavier
I had a wonderful time Thursday at St. Francis Xavier Elementary School in Vicksburg. I spoke with first through sixth graders in three separate groups. I got some suggestions from the students about what my next project should be: vampire bats and tide pools. I was invited to St. Francis by Mrs. Dinnie Johnston, the librarian. We met at the Children’s Book Festival this year. I learned during the visit that Wolfsnail is now part of the Accelerated Reader program. It is leveled at 4.4 and is worth .5 points. I took a look at the AR quiz for Wolfsnail. The last question was a little strange. One of the possible answers was a “female wolfsnail.” Snails are hermaphrodites, which means that each snail has female and male reproductive parts. I have always wondered about the AR process — how books are selected and who makes out the tests. After the visit, I stopped at Lorelei Books to leave some signed copies of Wolfsnail.

wolfsnail-hand
Today’s post is my 200th. I started the blog nearly 2 years ago (August 2007). It has become an integral part of my work. I love being able to communicate so easily with friends, readers, students, colleagues, and, even, family. I received a letter this week from one of my readers who lives in Hattiesburg. He told me he’s found several more wolfsnails near his house. “Me and my friend set a woflsnail on our piano and forgot about it. Then the next day I found it stuck to a corner of the piano! There are so many wolfsnails here!!!” He signed his letter “Wolfsnail Jackson over and out.” It was great to hear from Wolfsnail Jackson. His story about the piano reminds me of the day we “lost” a wolfsnail in the kitchen. We found ours tucked between some cups that held the boys markers and pens. My mother took the photo on the left. The snail was crawling onto my hand from a table at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science and leaving quite a trail behind.