Sunday, June 21, 2009

Librarian's Special

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I don't get to work at the library much, but when I do I love it. Since I'm so into children's books (yeah, I barely think about anything else) the picture books and junior reading are my sections. I try to keep books on display that the kids are into. I'm always happy to see when things I put on display have been checked out and take note which books aren't.

Every week I put up a new themed display in the picture book area. Sometimes it's tricky. The library is small and the books on the shelf don't always jump out at me in categories. I try to order in books from the library system, 28 libraries in all, but that takes planning and organization and if you've read my blog much you know that I am organizationally challenged. But, I usually manage to pull things together.

With the start of the Summer Reading Program this week I decided to go with the display I like to call "the librarian's special", all books about reading and the library. Here's the books I found on the shelves:

OUR LIBRARY by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Maggie Smith (Clarion Books, 2008) is about a raccoon and his friends going to great lengths to save their library. Quite inspirational as our library is in need of some saving, the building is falling apart.

CHARLIE COOK'S FAVORITE BOOK by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Alex Scheffler (Dial BFYR 2006) is a circular story. Each character in the book is reading about the next and it begins and ends with Charlie Cook. A fun read and my head librarian's favorite.

I.Q. GOES TO THE LIBRARY by Mary Ann Fraser (Walker & Co. 2003) is about a school mouse's first trips to the library and quest to get his own library card.

LIBRARY LION by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick Press 2006) has a sweet lion who loves the library and helps out, but it is a story about following the rules, and knowing when to break them. It's one of my favorite books.

AMELIA BEDELIA, BOOKWORM by Herman Parish, pictures by Lynn Sweat (Greenwillow 2003) is literal word fun with Amelia at the library.

RICHARD WRIGHT AND THE LIBRARY CARD by William Miller, illustrated by Gregory Christie (Lee & Low Books 1997) is based on a scene from Richard Wright's autobiography. Based on a scene from Wright's autobiography, Black boy, in which the seventeen-year-old African-American borrows a white man's library card and devours every book as a ticket to freedom. This one we recently got into the library and is on my to read list.

CLARENCE THE COPY CAT by Patricia Lakin, illustrated by John Manders (Doubleday BFYR 2002) is a fun story about a cat who isn't welcome anywhere until he finds the library but doesn't want to hurt mice--and it's his job to keep them out!

BEVERLY BILLINGSLY BORROWS A BOOK by Alexander Stadler (Silver Whistle/Harcourt 2002) Beverly's book is overdue, and she is afraid she's going to get into big trouble--maybe even go to jail!

READING MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD by Todd Parr (Little Brown 2005) is of course about reading. The illustrations are a big hit with the young ones.

I TOOK MY FROG TO THE LIBRARY by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Blanche Sims (Viking 1990) shows how disastrous it can be to bring your pet to the library. And when I say disastrous I mean funny, if it's not at my library, of course.

So that's my display for the week. I wanted to add THE LIBRARY DRAGON by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Michael P. White (Peachtree 1994), but it was checked out!

Like I said, the library is small as is my town so check out rates aren't as high as in a big city, but I'm looking forward to seeing what gets checked out this week.

If you have any favorite books about reading or the library I'd love to hear about them!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Interview with Dawn Jeffers, publisher at Raven Tree Press & author of BEAUTIFUL MOON/BELLA LUNA, plus a contest!

Haven't we all had a day we wished would never end? Dawn Jeffers did, and she wrote a book about it. BEAUTIFUL MOON/BELLA LUNA is the story of a girl's wish for a never ending day. One problem--a never ending day has consequences!

As you may or may not know, my picture book, BEDTIME MONSTER, is coming out next spring from Raven Tree Press. Besides being an author, Dawn is my wonderful publisher. When I asked if I could interview her she was happy to oblige. Yippee!

Not only has Dawn let me ask her questions about writing and publishing, she's giving away a signed copy of her new book! Stay tuned for details at the end of this interview.

On to the questions:

Dawn, what inspired you to write Beautiful Moon?

I actually was on vacation with my sister and brother-in-law in Italy. At the end of one of our first days we were sitting under the moonlit sky wishing that the day would never end. It was absolutely perfect and we had so much more we wanted to do. That is the basis of the book. Since it was also produced as a bilingual title, Beautiful Moon is translated to Bella Luna in both Spanish and Italian.

Are there any similarities between you and your main character?

The similarity between the main character and me exists because we both run out of time in a day to continue to do everything that appeals to us.

Why do think readers will relate to the story?

Kids are always hoping that their wishes come true. Wishing under the stars on a moonlit night is such common experience for kids of all ages.

How do you find the time to write? Do you write regularly? What do you do with your manuscripts?

Writing finds me. It could be when I am in the doctors office, stuck in traffic or by the pool. I always have a tablet with me and am jotting notes, dialogue or stories. It does come in spurts. I used to save my handwritten scribbles…the ones on napkins, envelopes, and tablets. Now I put everything in a Word document and hit save.

What are you doing to support the publication of your book?

I have developed a private electronic list of book buyers, book reviewers and friends and family. I send press releases and sell sheets to influence purchases. This list will also get updates on any reviews or awards for the book. I am doing signing events and a few school visits next fall.

Do you have any other books in the works? Tell us about your work-in-progress.

I actually just wrote a musical theatre production. All that is left is the musical score so I have been at a small electronic keyboard with my lyrics hoping songs flow out.

How does being a publisher change you as a writer?

I do know how to present material to prospects knowing both sides of the book business. I know that it is important to do your research and only send when they are looking and what they are looking for. If you have built in marketing and sales outlets it makes a stronger case for the book also.

What’s the most essential part of your education that applies to your work as a writer and publisher?

My business degree is a daily help from the Publisher perspective. I think writing all of those term papers helped me practice as a writer.

I love that Raven Tree Press publishes books in both Spanish and English. How did Raven Tree Press come to be?

There is a burgeoning Spanish speaking market in the US and we determined there were not high quality bilingual picture books available. There were bilingual books in the marketplace that were culturally based or with Hispanic theme. We wanted to have universal family oriented storylines in our books, so there would be readers in both English and Spanish regardless of ethnic background. Raven Tree Press was born.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write to what you know and what you are passionate about. Do your homework before sending to publishers and find a good support system to bounce your writing ideas with. Don’t work in a bubble. Your writing is stronger after you get feedback.

What sorts of books really strike your fancy?

I live everyday in the picture book world. I love the art as much as I love the story. If an illustrator can make a subtext with pictures the book is much more interesting.

As a publisher, what kinds of stories do you look for?

We are very specific because our books are bilingual. They must be low word count, entertain and educate with universal appeal and be illustratable.

How does publishing bilingual books affect your acquisition decisions?

The word count must be low, we do not use rhyme or word play, and word choice is sometimes also changed.

Raven Tree Press was acquired by Delta Systems last year, how has that changed Raven Tree’s publishing program?

All of the operational functions are handled by the home office. That frees me up to concentrate on acquisitions and creative work. We now co-produce English-only, Spanish-only and bilingual books in both paperback and hardcover editions. I am working currently on expanding our line in foreign markets with other languages.

What do you like to see in a submission? Any pet peeves?

We want to see the full text… we are only taking 750 words or less. PLEASE have your name, contact information and any marketing or sales suggestions. It does get attention and makes it easier when I need to contact someone. You cannot believe how many packets of information have no contact details, typos or manuscripts for books we do not produce. Know what the publisher is looking for by doing your homework.

(You can see Raven Tree Press submission guidelines here.)

Finally, if you could live in any book, which one would it be and why?

I would love to live in Under the Tuscan Sun. There is something about an Italian villa in the vineyards that has great appeal.

BEAUTIFUL MOON/BELLA LUNA by Dawn Jeffers and illustrated by Bonnie Leick is available from Raven Tree Press in both bilingual and English-only editions.

Like I said, Dawn is giving a signed copy of BEAUTIFUL MOON to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment on this post. If you want you can tell us what you'd do if you had a day that never ended. I, of course, would write!

Contest is open to U.S. addresses and closes Sunday, June 14th. I'll post the winner the next day.Good luck!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Billy's Bucket

I've been wanting to talk about this book for a long time. It's one I go back to time and again.

It's Billy's birthday, and he wants an unusual present. He won't be talked into anything normal like a new pair of sneakers or a bike. No! Billy wants a bucket for his birthday.

Mom and Dad don't like the idea. Like mom says, "buckets are far too bucketty to be a birthday present." So starts Billy's Bucket by Kes Grey. After a little pleading, Billy gets his way.

Where does one go to get the perfect bucket? Buckets R' Us, of course. Once Billy finds his bucket, amongst a warehouse full of them, it's time for some adventure because when Billy fills his bucket with water it turns into... an ocean.

In his excitement, Billy tells his parents about the creatures is his bucket. Mom and Dad don't believe a word of it and have some good laughs over their sons "imagination". Boy are they in for a surprise.

I love that Billy knows just the right bucket to choose. It cracks me up that Billy's parents heckle him but Billy keeps right on being chipper about all the cool things he's seeing. I adore Garry Parson's illustrations; Billy's head appearing at the top of the ocean like a full moon.

Billy's Bucket is a bucket full of imagination and fun, and while I might omit a couple of adjectives, it certainly makes for a great story time read.

Billy's Bucket, written by Kes Gray and illustrated by Garry Parsons, is published by Candlewick Press.

Monday, June 1, 2009


I realized something the other day. Something I already knew, but I suppose didn’t occur to me as being significant. I, yes I, was a bedtime monster.

Now, I don’t remember being a problem at bedtime when I was a kid. I think I went to bed when my mom asked. Heh heh. I'm sure I hardly ever turned into a monster. But, I'm sorry to say that I was quite monstrous after I was tucked in. No, I didn’t get out of bed and play or sneak out the window or anything like that. I stayed in bed.

My poor mom.

You see, I laid in bed and called her. Quietly at first—-mom. The kitchen where she was washing the dishes was far down the hall, so I had to call a bit louder—-Mom. I could hear her at the table, talking. I’d yell—-MOM! And I wouldn’t just call her once or twice, no. I’d call her over and over and over again. MOM. MOO-OM. MOOOOOOOMMM!

Heck, I didn’t have anything else to do. I was in bed, not tired, and following the rule of staying tucked in. I’m sure I never called her for anything important. Sometimes she would come and see what I needed. But, she was no fool.

So, when my kiddos called me from bed one night, what did I do? I made sure they understood that calling mom from bed was not okay, of course. And they don’t, unless it’s an emergency, of which there aren’t many when one is tucked in. Most nights are peaceful around here.

But, everyone gets a little monstrous sometimes. Apparantly even me. And I think that's part of why I wrote Bedtime Monster. I just didn't know it.