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Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books for Kids


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Good Times at WonderCon 2017

My sons and I had a great time attending WonderCon yesterday.


We had beautiful SoCal weather.


Comic conventions always boast entertaining food trucks.


A well-designed Gen. Grievous costume from Star Wars.


With author/illustrator Will Terry at his booth.


With NY Times bestseller and Caldecott honoree, John Rocco.


I moderated a rock star KidLit author/illustrator panel with Joe Cepeda, Stacia Deutsch, Eliza Wheeler, John Rocco and Marla Frazee.


Signing books after the panel, next to Caldecott honorees John Rocco and Marla Frazee (looking like the cat that ate the canary)


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Interview with NY Times bestselling children’s book illustrator Tim Bowers

Tim Bowers is a children’s book illustrator. His first picture book was published in 1986. Since then, he has illustrated over 45 other titles. A couple of the titles have landed on the New York Times best seller list. His art is usually filled with animals and humor…and people, when needed. Tim currently lives in Granville, Ohio with his beautiful wife. They have four talented grown children and are proud grandparents.

bowerstim

For what age audience do you illustrate?

I illustrate for all ages, but mostly for children. I hear from many parents who have enjoyed my books as much as their kids. That’s especially true for my title, MEMOIRS OF A GOLDFISH by Devin Scillian. A very funny story.

Henry: Sounds like quite a fish tale…

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is FOOTLOOSE by Kenny Loggins. Kenny re-wrote his 80’s hit song, Footloose, into a kid’s version, which includes a zoo keeper (who, I’m told, looks a lot like Captain Kangaroo), dancing animals and a couple of curious kids.

What do you hope readers will get from that book?

When your life is a total zoo…DANCE!

Seriously, it’s a fun story about two kids who sneak into the zoo just before closing. The zoo keeper and animals have a great dance party under a full moon. The party continues until sunrise.  Kids can read the story, follow the illustrations and listen to the song (a CD is included in the book). So, I hope kids will put on their dancin’ shoes and have fun!

Henry: Fun! And now you’re only one degree away from Kevin Bacon.

“Now I gotta cut loose
Footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes
Please, Louise, pull me off of my knees
Jack, get back, come on before we crack
Lose your blues, everybody cut footloose”

What aspect of illustrating do you find most challenging?

A children’s book is a long project: from character development, sketches and book dummy to the final art. It takes focus and endurance to keep the process moving forward. There are times during the painting of the final art that seem to move at a snail’s pace. My mind seems to wander during those times. I’ll think of new book projects, other art techniques to explore, people I’d like to meet, a good name for a pet elephant, how would I even get a pet elephant?, would I rather have an elephant or a monkey?… and guitars, wish I could practice more, wish I could buy another guitar.

Then, I snap out of it and get back to the final artwork. Come to think of it, I’ve had this problem since childhood. Focus, focus, focus.

Henry: Would You Rather Have a Monkey or an Elephant sounds like a great picture book idea. Thanks!

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being an illustrator?

Art is a powerful tool used to tell a story, deliver a message or share an idea. I want to use my talent to help deliver positive messages and good ideas and stories to viewers and readers. That’s why I like to illustrate children’s books.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been an illustrator?

There are a lot of them. I’ve been to hundreds of elementary schools to share my experiences and talk to students about making art for picture books. I love talking to kids and sharing my art with them. I wouldn’t have had that type of a connection without being an illustrator.

I’ve also worked with some celebrities because of my illustrations. I illustrated DREAM BIG, LITTLE PIG! by Kristi Yamaguchi. Without the illustration connection, I probably would not have worked with Kristi because I’m a lousy skater. I’ve also illustrated books by Neil Sedaka (DINOSAUR PET) and Kenny Loggins (FOOTLOOSE). I’m not in their social circles, and I need a lot more practice on my guitar so being an illustrator got me those “gigs”.

I guess the “powerful lesson” would be that being an illustrator has allowed me to connect with people through stories, from children learning to read to well-known people with stories to share.

Henry: I’d pay good money to watch you play guitar while ice skating. Triple axle!

What advice would you give to aspiring children’s book illustrators?

Surround yourself with books. Study the great picture book art of the past, explore current art trends, and use the best of both to create your own personal voice.

Work on your craft. Draw. Learn the elements of visual story telling/sequential art. Draw more. Strive to create art that connects emotionally to the reader. In most books, the words and art must unify to tell a clear story. Practice working with text, using your art to compliment the written word. Then, draw some more.

Much can be learned by connecting with groups like The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org).

So, three things that I would suggest: One- work to improve your art skills, Two- learn about the business/process of creating children’s books, and Three- make connections (network) with people in the biz: editors, authors, designers and others who are pursuing your same goals.

Henry: Four – get an elephant. Or a monkey.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I have a huge file of quotes. Here are a few of my favorites for today:

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”
– Groucho Marx

“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”
– Miles Davis

“I get up every morning determined both to change the world and to have one hell of a good time. This makes planning the day difficult.”
– E.B. White

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today. It is already tomorrow in Australia.”
– Charles M. Schulz

Henry:

“Every dog has his day, unless he loses his tail, then he has a weak-end.”
– June Carter Cash

“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

Hmmm, let’s see. I usually listen to music, have a cup of coffee by my side and try to keep focused on the task at hand (see earlier answer about staying focused). I find it extremely hard to work if my paintbrush isn’t just right for the job…if it’s lost the sharp point, too big, too stiff. The wrong brush can drive me crazy. Brushes wear out after a while, so I have a container filled with hundreds of those retired brushes. I often work better at night. Between 11pm and 3am seems to be an easier time to focus. I can’t think of anything else that might apply…Hey, did I tell you that my Grandpa had a monkey?  Would you rather have a monkey or an elephant?  Oh, sorry… where were we?

Henry: Life’s too short to use the wrong brush.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The power to heal at will. I could eliminate the pain of people suffering from abuse, burns, cancer and accidents… as a starter. It breaks my heart to see kids who suffer in life. Having wings would also be cool but then what? You fly around. That would be nice but I think that healing would be my superpower. But, having two powers, flying around AND healing, would be even better. I’d like to negotiate for two superpowers, if that’s ok.

Henry: Ah, the old “wish for more wishes” ploy. Healing is a lovely wish.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

The Apostle Paul…because he was there.
Kate DiCamillo…because her work is full of heart and humor. One of my very favorite story tellers.
Cynthia Rylant… because her work is full of heart and humor. Another one of my very favorite story tellers.
There are so many amazingly talented authors (I’ve worked with a lot of them), so I’d have to have a few more dinners.

Henry: Trying to break the rules again? I sense a trend. 🙂

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’d have to go with dragons. I’ve illustrated a great dragon book, NOT YOUR TYPICAL DRAGON by Dan Bar-El. Mermaids would come in a close second place…who doesn’t like mermaids? I’ve illustrated one book with a mermaid, Sometimes I wonder if POODLES LIKE NOODLES by Laura Numeroff.  I created some “Mer-mutts” (dog mermaids) in THE ADVENTURES OF UNDERWATER DOG by Jan Wahl, but that probably doesn’t count.

Henry: The blog judges rule that Mer-mutts is an acceptable response.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I play the guitar. I do more listening to great players than playing but I’m always thinking about guitars. I also have a beautiful ukulele and mandolin (my grandpa, who had a monkey, was also a mandolin player). They get less playing time than my guitars. I also like to fish. I only had time to fish a couple of times, this summer. That’s why I didn’t have you over for a big fish fry, Henry. I really like to golf, but I’ve only done that several times. My kids bought me a new set of clubs for father’s day, so I need to golf more often.

This question is leading me to believe that maybe I work too much. I have a lot of interests but don’t seem to have much time outside of my work schedule. I think I need more balance in that area. Thanks for bringing it up, Henry.

Henry: You’re welcome, Tim. You should definitely have more fish fries. I’ll even bring the fish!

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I’m not sure but here’s another quote that might apply:

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms…”
– Henry David Thoreau

Where can readers find your work?

In children’s books at your local library or bookstore. On line, you can visit my website: http://www.timbowers.com/ and my blog: timbowersart.blogspot.com.

Henry: Thanks for joining us, Tim!


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Interview with graphic novel/picture book author/illustrator Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke is an author and artist of graphic novels and picture books. His notable works include the ZITA THE SPACEGIRL TRILOGY, the Eisner award-winning LITTLE ROBOT, and the picture book JULIA’S HOUSE FOR LOST CREATURES.

hatkeben

For what age audience do you write, and in what genre?

My comics are mostly classed as “middle grade” but I really try to write for everybody. I also make picture books which are even more for everybody. As to genre, I tend toward fantasy and science fiction. I tend to add swords and robots and goblins to just about everything I touch.

Henry: You complete me. Fantasy makes everything better. And cowbells.

Tell us about your latest book.

MIGHTY JACK is a two-book, modern-day, graphic novel retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk story.

Henry: Fun! I’m a big fan (and writer) of fractured fairy tales.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

A sense of wonder.

Henry: Wonder at the world you created, or wonder at what goes in inside your head?

What aspect of writing or illustrating do you find most challenging?

It’s all challenging, and really, the challenges are the best part. Except for drawing cars. That’s just terrible no matter how you look at it.

Henry: Conversely, I can only draw cars. Ha! Let’s collaborate on a fantasy picture book: DON’T LET THE DRAGON DRIVE THE BUS.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being an author/illustrator?

You never know who will be touched by your books, or how. It’s incredibly humbling to see both kids and adults connecting to some crazy story you made up.

Henry: Right! Which is why it is so important to weave a positive theme in one’s story.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been an author/illustrator?

There have been many. In 2014, I was invited by my French publisher to the big comic festival in Angoulême. It was such an amazing week that I cried at the end.

Henry: Oo la la! Not only do they host the Angoulême International Comics Festival, but “the commune has been awarded four flowers by the National Council of Towns and Villages in Bloom in the Competition of cities and villages in Bloom.”

hatke-angouleme

What advice would you give to aspiring authors/illustrators?

Make things and share things all the time. Creativity is a habit, and the more you do it the better your work will become.

Henry: For example, Ben posts sketches on Facebook.

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

You know, I honestly can’t think of anything…

Henry: Uh huh. Really? A guy who teaches his daughter to shoot flaming arrows has no strange work rituals?

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

The ability to know with certainty, once a day, when and where something terrible was going to happen. Everything else can be planned for.

Henry: Coupled with the power to NOT BE THERE.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

C.S. Lewis: because I feel like he’s my fairy godfather, my Serious Black.
Neil Gaiman: because very early on I modeled many of my career goals after his career, and boy do I have questions for him.
Jane Austin: because she has hilarious insight into human nature that make me think she’d be lots of fun at dinner, and because my street cred would be through the roof.
Honorable Mention: Patrick Rothfuss, because we got to be friends while arguing in front of a full room at Comic-Con last year.
Extra Honorable Mention: Cory Doctorow, because he’s fun and I think my wife would get a huge kick out of arguing with him.

Henry: By the way, I was in that room at Comic-Con (as was Laini Taylor) when you and Patrick spoke. I watched the bromance bloom in person. You guys were great.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

That …whew, that can change from day to day. Goblins, though. I think Goblins are my steady. I love those filthy little guys.

Henry: Didn’t see that coming AT ALL from the author/illustrator of NOBODY LIKES A GOBLIN… I loved the wink at Dungeons & Dragons.

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

It’s really hard for me to distinguish my hobbies from my work. Even when I’m hiking, I tend to bring a sketchbook. The closest thing I had to a pure hobby was skipping rocks. I also really have a deep love of archery. Gosh I love arrows.

Henry: Especially exploding arrows! How do you feel about trebuchets?

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I guess if I live a life of legend, my tombstone could say “Yes, THAT Ben Hatke.”
Oh! Or how about “Here lies Ben Hatke: shit got real there at the end, didn’t it?”

Henry: Also consider, Ben Hatke: Teller of Tall Tales and Drawer of Dark Domains. You’re welcome.

Where can readers find your work?

At the library! (and online at BenHatke.com, Instagram @heybenhatke, Twitter @benhatke)

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Ben!


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Interview with NY Times bestselling picture book author Sherri Duskey Rinker

Sherri Duskey Rinker is a mom who loves to garden, cook and collect old oil paintings. She lives in a crazy house, filled with unmatched socks, kids, total chaos, endless noise and a dog who barks whenever she picks up the phone. She is also a #1 New York Times bestselling children’s picture book author.

rinkersherri

Tell us about your latest book.

On Valentine’s Day, the long-awaited sequel to GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE debuts, titled MIGHTY, MIGHTY, CONSTRUCTION SITE.

Henry: Will there be rhyme? Will there be heavy equipment!?

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

First, I hope that fans of GGCS will enjoy and appreciate this second offering; I’m so afraid of letting anyone down! Next, the theme of the book deals with friendship, teamwork and cooperation, and I hope the spirit of that comes through — joyfully.

Henry: Breathe! You’ll be fine. 🙂

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

For me, it’s finding the TIME and the QUIET to write in the mix of a busy life — taking care of my kids and our home, promoting books, traveling for school visits, etc. Oh, and editing. I hate editing.

Henry: And yet, revision is key to getting the most story out of 500 or so words. I thought you were going to say creating good rhyme, BTW.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

The stories we put out there can become treasured memories for kids and their families. That’s pretty big. And amazing.

Henry: So true. And those stories can shape lives. I still remember borrowing (over and over again) WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE from my elementary school library. WTWTA was a gateway drug to LORD OF THE RINGS. And LOTR eventually lead me to become a writer.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I’ve had the opportunity to “talk shop” with authors and illustrators that I greatly admire. That’s been pretty awesome. And, school visits: I love school visits and talking about books with kids. When I mention a book that I love and a bunch of faces light up… wow: such a connection!

Henry: I love answering young reader questions at school events. You never know what they’ll ask. “What’s your favorite color?” “How old are you?”

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Read everything in your genre. Stalk bookstores. Read reviews. Read the trades.

Henry: Read like no one’s watching. But write like everyone is.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” — Albert Einstein
(I think this resonates with me because I’ve always felt a little intellectually inadequate — my recollection of history, geography and factoids is limited. I don’t watch much television, so I’m always out-of-the-loop on pop culture conversations. My ability to recall classic literature and romantic poetry is faulty. I fail miserably at Jeopardy. But, perhaps, imagination makes up for that, just a little? Einstein boosts my confidence — a bit, anyway.)

Henry: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” – Henry David Thoreau
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

I prefer to be showered and dressed — I’m not sure that’s strange, but I hear of authors writing in their pajamas, and that just doesn’t feel like “work mode” for me. Also, I like beverages —Sorry, Henry — Nothing too odd; I’m kinda boring.

Henry: There’s nothing strange at all about writing in ballroom attire… *backs slowly away*

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Does singing count as a superpower? Ok, then — FLYING. Totally.

Henry: Magical singing that produces an extraordinary result most certainly would be a superpower! See “Treesinger” in THE WHEEL OF TIME or Tolkien’s AINULINDALË, the tale of the song the angels used to create the world.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

JK Rowling, Kate DiCamillo and Beverly Cleary — just to bask in their greatness and hear them discuss their work, processes and inspirations with each other.

Henry: I think everyone knows who JK Rowling is. Wikipedia helpfully adds:
“Katrina “Kate” DiCamillo is an American writer of children’s fiction for all reading levels, usually featuring animals. She is one of six people to win two Newbery Medals, recognizing her novels THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (2003) and FLORA AND ULYSSES (2013). Her best-known books for young children are Mercy Watson series illustrated by Chris Van Dusen.

Beverly Cleary is an American writer of children’s and young adult fiction. One of America’s most successful living authors, 91 million copies of her books have been sold worldwide since her first book was published in 1950. Some of her best known characters are Henry Huggins and his dog Ribsy, Ramona and Beezus Quimby, and Ralph S. Mouse.

She won the 1981 National Book Award for RAMONA AND HER MOTHER and the 1984 Newbery Medal for DEAR MR. HENSHAW. For her lifetime contributions to American literature, Cleary received the National Medal of Arts, recognition as a Library of Congress Living Legend, and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal from the Association for Library Service to Children.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I adore Despereaux! — such a dramatic, emotional, unlikely hero with so much surprising inner strength.

Henry: Don’t get me started on fantasy animal heroes! Here are four heroic mice: Desperaux Tilling (from THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX by Kate DiCamillo), Reepicheep (from PRINCE CASPIAN by C.S. Lewis), Martin the Warrior (from REDWALL by Brian Jaques), and Celanawe (from MOUSE GUARD by David Petersen)

miceheroes

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Read a book, work in the garden, bake a nice bread, shop for old oil paintings or antique gesso frames (but, admittedly, I’m running out of wall space). Oh — I’ll confess: I love naps. Especially on Sunday after church, or on dreary days. I. LOVE. NAPS.

Henry: Not enough wall space? “Honey, we need a bigger house!”

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

Thanks for stopping by! Now… go read to a child: It makes all the difference.

Where can readers find your work?

Wherever books are sold. 🙂

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Sherri!


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Interview with picture book author/illustrator Terry Fan

Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto.

fanterry

For what age audience do you write?

Our books are listed for “young readers”, but I’d like to think that any age group could enjoy our books.

Henry: Please note: when Terry uses first-person plural, he is not employing the “royal we”. He collaborates with his brother Eric.

Tell us about your latest book.

Our latest book is entitled THE DARKEST DARK, in collaboration with Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield and co-writer Kate Fillion. It’s a very cool story inspired by real-life events that happened during his childhood. In picture book form, it recounts what how he overcomes his childhood fear of the dark and goes on to become an astronaut.

Henry: Teaching kids to reach for the stars. Literally and literarily. Well played, sir.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

That everyone started from somewhere, and that it took conquering his fears to accomplish all the incredible things that he has. Hopefully it will inspire children to face their own fears, knowing that even future astronauts can be afraid of the dark. I’ll quote a lovely passage (written by Chris Hadfield for the epilogue of the book) that encapsulates what the whole book is about: “The dark is for dreams —- and morning is for making them come true.”

Henry: Speaking of quotes about the dark, I always liked “Character is who you are in the dark.” Bonus points for anyone who can name the movie in which that was uttered.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

To be honest I find all of it challenging, it’s difficult to pick one aspect. However when it comes specifically to picture books, there often has to be a strict economy of words because it’s such a compressed format, so that’s definitely challenging. Our books often have spare dialogue, which some might think would make things easier, but it’s really the opposite. A lot has to be said with very little text and it has to marry with the illustrations seamlessly.

Henry: It IS all hard to write picture books! I agree the tight word count is a big challenge. As a non-illustrating author, I think another challenge (that you talented author-illustrators don’t face) is ensuring every aspect of a spread is conveyed without resorting to copious art notes. 

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

That it always takes so much more care, thought and time than most people realize, even for something as seemingly straightforward as a picture book. Countless revisions are pretty much par for the course, at least in my experience.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer/illustrator?

I never would have met our wonderful agent Kirsten Hall, published a picture book, met all the fantastic people associated with the books I’ve worked on, flown in a plane with Chris Hadfield… the list goes on and on.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Just never give up. I didn’t start making a living off art until my mid-forties. Since joining her agency (Catbird Agency, based in NYC) I’ve finished two picture books with Eric and we have four more projects in the pipeline. That should give some hope to all those late-bloomers out there.

Henry: I was also a late-blooming kidlit author. It’s not when you start; you just have to start!

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I have a bunch of them, but here are a couple of my favorites:

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot

“The tree wants to be still, but the wind keeps blowing” ~ old Chinese proverb.

Henry: Nice. My wife uses a variant of the latter. “You want to lie on the couch, but I need you to take out the trash.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write/illustrate?

I have similar rituals for both. Nothing too strange, usually just drinking wine, listening to music and sometimes chomping on a Nicorette. Creating art can be a lonely business, so a few distractions are often helpful.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Super healing powers, because life is too fragile.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Mark Twain, Charles M. Schulz and Maurice Sendak. They’ve all had a huge influence on me, and I’ve always felt a certain kinship with the way they approached things. Charles and Maurice might be a bit glum from what I’ve heard, but Mark would no doubt get them laughing. I’d also have to add Sir Arthur Conan Doyle because I’m a huge Holmes fan. Maybe there would even be a séance after dinner.

Henry: I can see Sendak’s influence in your art for THE NIGHT GARDENER. I have a relevant Twain quote: “Go to Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

That’s a tough one! I’d have to say Gollum, from THE HOBBIT. He’s just such an awesome, well-realized character with a fascinating back-story.

Henry: Great choice. He’s a classic example of “there but for the grace of God, go I.” Many readers don’t notice that without Gollum, the One Ring would never have been destroyed.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing/illustrating?

It feels like I’m always writing/illustrating, but I confess when not working I’m usually not up to much. I try to spend as much time as I can with family. Other than that, watching Netflix on my iPad or trying to catch up on my reading is about all I can manage. Although I do try to get out at least once a day. I live near a beach and there’s a boardwalk that runs along it, so when I get the chance, I go for brisk walks. I also enjoy cooking a lot and by extension, eating a lot.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

That Crowfoot quote.

Henry: We are all fireflies in the night.

Where can readers find your work?

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo Books, most independent book stores.

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Terry. You can see more of his beautiful artwork at http://www.krop.com/terryfan/


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Interview with children’s author Kelly DiPucchio

Kelly DiPucchio insists she grew up on a farm in Michigan but her husband has serious doubts about her claim. As a child, Kelly had a pet goat and jumped in manure piles so you be the judge. Kelly is the author of over twenty award-winning books for kids including two New York Times bestsellers. Some of her titles include: GRACE FOR PRESIDENT, ZOMBIE IN LOVE, and GASTON. Kelly lives in a suburb of Detroit with one husband, two dogs, and three children.

dipucchiokelly

For what age audience do you write?

I write what I like to call everybody books which are picture books for all ages.

Henry: As all picture books should be. Well played.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is called ONE LITTLE, TWO LITTLE, THREE LITTLE CHILDREN, illustrated by Mary Lundquist and published by Balzer + Bray. It’s very different from my more recent titles because it’s a short, rhyming book inspired by an old nursery song.

Henry: As the author of MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES, I like what you did there!

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

I hope the book conveys that children, mothers, and fathers all over the world are more alike than they are different, and that families, no matter how they’re structured, or how they look, want the same things: love, peace, and happiness.

Henry: Nice. This is true of monsters, too.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

For me, the writing itself is a joy. What I find most challenging is struggling with feelings of inadequacy when it comes to networking and publicity. After being in this industry for nearly 20 years, you’d think I would have gotten over my insecurities, but at my core I’m still a shy, awkward introvert who often compares herself to her more gregarious peers.

Henry: It is something of a paradox that the solitary activity of writing, must be supplemented by promotion, which is done in front of audiences.

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I’ve learned that we are the authors of our own life stories and it’s never too late to revise.

Henry: Just don’t “murder your darlings” in real life!

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

I never would have had an opportunity to co-author a book with the Queen of Jordan and go to The Oprah Winfrey Show! (THE SANDWICH SWAP, illustrated by Tricia Tusa, published by Disney-Hyperion. 2010)

Henry: Umm, YEAH!! Did you know the current King of Jordan had a cameo guest role on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I always suggest that new writers join SCBWI, read and study picture books, find a really good critique group and have fun. I know it sounds ridiculously corny and cliché, but having a book published is more of a journey than a destination.

Henry: Good advice. Studying other picture books is doubly helpful. It hones your craft, and it can help you avoid duplicating an existing book. For example, I had a zombie book idea. Did some research, and, whadya’ know? You had done something similar already! Also, critique groups are invaluable.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I keep a journal of favorite quotes but two that seem relevant with everything that is happening in the world today are both by the Sufi mystic, Rumi. “Raise your words not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” And “Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise so I am changing myself.”

Henry: Nice. I also like, “What you’re doing speaks so loudly, that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?

I don’t know if I would call it strange, but I meditate before I begin writing any new manuscript. I also do some visualization exercises and I imagine the book is already completed. These two rituals really open a channel for me and allow the story to flow. Strong coffee and Pop-Tarts help too.

Henry: There is nothing strange about eating Pop-Tarts!

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

It would be to eat whatever I wanted and never gain a pound!

Henry: That tailors nicely with the Pop-Tarts response. That reminds me of a scene from the movie Defending Your Life.

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I absolutely adore Dan Santat’s Beekle. I love the character, the concept and the inspiration behind Dan’s unimaginary friend. Beekle is one of those brilliant ideas I wish I had thought of first!

Henry: Wait. Beekle’s not real!?

beekle

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

ATTENTION VISITORS: Kelly DiPucchio has been relocated to a different department. Check your internal directory for a listing of her new assignment and location.

Where can readers find your work?

Readers can find me at http://www.kellydipucchio.com and on Twitter @kellydipucchio, Thanks for sharing your space with me, Henry!

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Kelly. I’m a big fan of your work!

 

 


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Shakespeare-Inspired Children’s Books

My new picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, is an urban fantasy bedtime picture book inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet. Clearly, this is not the first, nor will it be the last, children’s book inspired by The Bard. Below are some other Shakespeare-inspired children’s books (picture book through young adult).

Mabel

Little Mabel is an expert at not going to sleep. She knows all the best bedtime-avoiding excuses. “I’m thirsty.” “I need to use the bathroom.” “Will you tell me a story?” Luckily, Mom’s quiver of bedtime tales includes the story of the Fae Queen, who paints children’s dreams and can only visit when their eyes are closed. Inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Romeo & Juliet, in which he details how the tiny fairy queen influences people’s dreams as she passes by in her flying chariot, the soothing story evokes images of an ant in a worn gray coat and a hazelnut-shell chariot with a roof of grasshopper wings.

 

 

 

ROMEOW and DROOLIET by Nina Laden
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Author-artist Nina Laden has taken her trademark wit and applied it to one of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays. Adults familiar with the classic love story will delight in the many references to the original play, all of which make this a rarity: a children’s book they want to read again and again. And young children who know nothing of the Bard will be riveted by this funny yet touching tale about Romeow the cat and Drooliet the dog, two star-crossed lovers who meet by chance, marry in secret, and are kept apart by a snarling rottweiler, appalled owners, and the animal control warden.

 

THE SHAKESPEARE STEALER series by Gary Blackwood

blackwoodA young orphan with a valuable skill, a greedy stage director, and a thievery gone wrong … or right? With vivid characters and unexpected twists, this trilogy is a realistic portrayal of life in the theater during Shakespeare’s time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SECRETS OF SHAKESPEARE’S GRAVE by Deron R. Hicks, illustrated by Mark Edward Geyer
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This modern-day mystery surrounds a young girl’s family business, a mysterious portrait, and the grave of Shakespeare himself. She must figure out how they’re all connected to save her family from financial ruin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRINCE OF SHADOWS by Rachel Caine
caine

A Robin Hood-like hero creates a dramatic love story all his own in this reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. It’s told through the eyes of Benvolio — Romeo’s cousin and the greatest thief in Vienna.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

srsly HAMLET by William Shakespeare and Courtney Carbone
carbone

Fans of quirky adaptations of classic tales will love this new version of Hamlet, told entirely in texts! This is a fun way to experience one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays and a humorous alternative to the more serious versions on the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WEDNESDAY WARS by Gary D. Schmidt
schmidt

The Wednesday Wars is a 2007 historical novel set during the Vietnam War. The book, which received a Newbery Honor medal, follows Holling Hoodhood, the lone Presbyterian 7th grader amidst his Catholic and Jewish classmates. Instead of receiving religious education, Holling is assigned Shakespeare’s plays. While they seem like torture at first, he grows to appreciate them for both their lively insults and timeless wisdom.

 

 

 

 

 

THE MAGICIANS OF CAPRONA by Diana Wynne Jones
caprona

This story of rival houses in an Italian city populated by spell-makers has many echoes of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The Montana and Petrocchi families are bitterly feuding while their city faces invasion by outside armies. However, the two youngest members of the feuding families unite with hopes of ending the fighting and saving the city.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM by William Shakespeare and Bruce Coville
coville

A simplified prose retelling of Shakespeare’s play about the strange events that take place in a forest inhabited by fairies who magically transform the romantic fate of two young couples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OPHELIA by Lisa Klein
kleinOphelia is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, narrated by the young woman who was a minor character in the original play, though a significant one in Hamlet’s life. In this book, Ophelia’s story is explored in depth, beginning with her early years as she tags along with Laertes, her brother. She and Hamlet eventually fall in love and are secretly married. Yet Hamlet’s consuming passion for revenge ultimately comes between them, just like in Shakespeare’s play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENTER THREE WITCHES by Caroline B. Cooney
cooney

This is a novelized version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, a dark tragedy told here from the point of view of Lord and Lady Macbeth’s young ward, Lady Mary. The violence and power-grabbing that sweeps through the court envelops Mary and thrusts her into a world of danger. Enter Three Witches mostly follows the major events of the play and even includes some dialogue from Shakespeare himself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KING OF SHADOWS by Susan Cooper
cooper

King of Shadows begins with young Nathan Field rehearsing for the part of Puck in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Following a sudden illness, he finds himself waking up in 1599, playing Puck at London’s Globe Theatre. Not only is he in a wildly different time and place, his new director is the Bard, whom he calls ‘Will.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAVING JULIET by Suzanne Selfors
juliet

Mimi Wallingford is a 17-year-old girl starring in her family’s Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet. Yet acting isn’t her passion and she desperately wishes for an escape. In a miraculous turn of events, she and her costar, Troy Summer, are transported to Shakespeare’s Verona. Once there, Mimi decides that she must save Juliet from her tragic fate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOOL’S GIRL by Celia Rees
rees

The Fool’s Girl is a continuation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night that weaves in many historical figures, including the Bard. In the story, Violetta, the teenage daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Illyria, travels to London to find a stolen relic. As the plot thickens, she must work alongside Shakespeare to thwart an attempt to assassinate Queen Elizabeth.

 

 

 

 

 

LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE by Carolyn Meyer
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In this story, teenage Agnes Hathaway loses her mother and is left to a wicked stepmother. Agnes maintains a friendship with Shakespeare from childhood, and as they reach adulthood a romance blossoms. Loving Will Shakespeare is drawn from the scant details that are known about this actual historical figure who is believed to have played a role in Shakespeare’s life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE JULIET CLUB by Suzanne Harper
harper

A group of American and Italian teenagers spend a summer participating in a Shakespeare Scholar program in Verona, where they analyze and perform scenes from Romeo and Juliet. Romance between the teenagers quickly develops, with the novel drawing from the plot of Romeo and Juliet. It’s also influenced by lighter Shakespearean fare, such as Much Ado About Nothing.

 

 

 

 

FALLING FOR HAMLET by Michelle Ray, which lead to the E! TV show The Royals.

rayMeet Ophelia: a blonde, beautiful high-school senior and long-time girlfriend of Prince Hamlet of Denmark. Her life is dominated not only by her boyfriend’s fame and his overbearing family, but also by the paparazzi who hound them wherever they go. As the devastatingly handsome Hamlet spirals into madness after the mysterious death of his father, the King, Ophelia rides out his crazy roller coaster life, and lives to tell about it. In live television interviews, of course.