Saturday, October 22, 2011

Authors in Schools, Adults Still Learn

Sunrise today was at 7:38, sunset will be 6:09 (I accidentally typed sunwet. Appropriate for today.).

Wet. the leaves are coming down off the crab apple trees, the maple is still pretty well-leaved but we are expecting gusty winds later today which means a lot more space showing through those boughs. The tree to the right is our maple. We are worried about its health. It keeps us cool and shady in the summer and we have amazing views and sun through its branches in the winter, but it's got more empty branches than last winter and the fruit is really heavy, more twirlies than leaves. The arborist said to watch it. I've taken pictures, we'll compare next spring. The raccoons love it! The lilacs are turning red, too.

These are the trees across the street from our house. They are like flames, they almost glow as the sun goes down. The sidewalks stay yellow for weeks after the leaves fall, like a mosaic, and the air underneath the trees is yellower than anywhere else.

Thursday (which is my Friday) was one of those odd days that can only happen when the place you work deals with both adults and children. I was out with Mark Pett all day and ended my day sitting a few feet away from Duff McKagan (Guns 'n' Roses). Just a little weird.

I spent all day with children's book author and cartoonist, Mark Pett, going to two different schools and watching him do his act, hearing the story The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes, and watching him teach children about sketching and then turning the sketches into drawings. He teaches the students to sketch, that sketches are just practice for the final drawing. You make some mistakes as you go, then choose the "good" parts to make the drawing itself. It was fun, he was pretty entertaining, but his juggling leaves a little to be desired.

The book is about a little girl who has never made a mistake. She has fans, she is polite, she always finishes her homework. On this particular day, she almost makes a mistake, almost drops the eggs she was using to make muffins. This causes her to be really nervous about everything- she can't raise her hand in class and won't go ice skating.

That night, she is to juggle in the talent show. She grabs the salt shaker, her hamster, and a water balloon and heads off to the show. Unfortunately, she didn't get the salt...She makes a huge mistake, now how will she deal with it?

You probably guessed it! At the end of the presentation, the kids ask for the juggling and, I didn't even get my camera up in time, he made one pass around and the ceramic salt shaker went flying off onto the cement auditorium floor, shattering into myriad pieces. (The photo below is just after the shaker hit the floor.)

I have to admit that I thought it was supposed to happen! It could have been an illustration of how to handle a mistake right out of the book! I was a little disappointed that it wasn't staged. It would have been a perfect teaching moment. At the next school, all went as well as could be, but he didn't mention what happened at the other school: That he dropped the salt shaker, that's why he doesn't have one here, that it exploded and now he has to figure out how to deal with it; that everyone makes mistakes and learns from it. His lesson is to carry plastic salt shakers.

Mark's program was pretty good, and his little class in how to draw, that making mistakes is how you learn to draw, is pretty well done, but I think it will be even better the next time around. I hope he incorporates the salt shaker incident into his future presentations.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Driving in the Dark, Waiting for the Moon

I went to bookgroup the other night. We've been meeting for years, started at the bookstore and, after it closed, continue now at each others' homes and the last one was at Jennifer's house, off near Carkeek park. We read kid's books and have been meeting for maybe 15 years.

It was dark, and I never remember exactly where her house is. I pulled over to find the tiny directions that get me to her driveway, and saw something moving in the grass by the driveway. I turned the lights off and waited a second and then turned them on and there was a little raccoon popping up and down in the ditch, going into and out of the culvert under the driveway! It was sleek and seemed very young, venturing out into the dark, playing in the ditch.

It was absolutely adorable and reminded me very much of the little raccoon in Wait Until the Moon Is Full, one of the best books in the world. See that little raccoon on the cover there? The one looking out at the world? That's what the one in the ditch looked like.

This is a wonderful bedtime book for slightly older readers. It's a little more text heavy than some of Margaret Wise Brown's books so a 4 or 5 year old will appreciate it more than a toddler.

Every night the little raccoon asks if he can go out and play. He wonders if there is a rabbit in the moon, he wants to see the owl, and every night his mama says, "Wait. Wait until the moon is full". And when the moon is finally full, the little raccoon goes out and meets the owl and the rabbits and all the nighttime animals who live and play in his meadow.

A quiet, simple book like many of MGB's but one with more substance than others. It's a good one for leading into discussions of why we sometimes need to wait for things. There isn't a lot of obvious repetition but it still has a lullaby-ish, lulling rhythm to it, encouraging quiet reading, soothing a child into quieting rather than into sleep. If you haven't read it in a while, or if you are young enough that it wasn't on your radar until now, take a look at it and pore over the illustrations. Ages 5 and up. HarperCollins. $6.99. Available now (and forever!).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Karma Wilson, picture book goddess

Sunrise will happen, yes, it will! at 7:35, sunset at 6:12.

It is still dark at 7, still too dark to type without a light to diffuse the blue screen effect.

It looks like fall! Gray skies, wet air, yellow leaves, and just a tiny bit of wind out there. I have to get out and clean up the yard, the pea plants need to get out of the pots.

I spent yesterday with Karma Wilson going from school to school and then ending up at the Ravenna store for a signing.

What an amazing presenter- she had the kids completely intent, she would get them noisy, quiet them down, get them noisy again. She read her books out loud and used a gruff voice for bear, a little squeaky voice for wren, and stuffed icky things into the Frog in the Bog's puppet-y mouth.

Someone really should offer a class in how to have a school visit. Karma walked in and owned that library, she spoke to almost 300 children at the first school and between 150-200 at each of the others, and she let the students know who was in charge from the very beginning. She was very clear and using simple instructions told the children what she expected from them. She used the teacher's quiet signs (a rhythmic clapping for two schools that got their attention and focus) and told the children exactly what she wanted from them before they got started.

She introduced herself, told them she drove here from Montana where she lives, and told them what she does, that she writes books but doesn't illustrate and then explained about book art and had the kids talk about different ways a book can be illustrated.

And then the fun began. She read The Bear Snores On, telling the students exactly what their role was and when they needed to snore. A little practice, a nod from Karma, and we were under way!

After the first book, she asked for questions and she was so good about this part. She said, "We have time for 5 questions. Before we start, I am the storyteller today. I get to tell you stories, you get to ask me a question. If you have a story to tell me, you will need to put your hand down." and down went many hands, and the kids had stories they could write later.

She asked them questions, too: Where do stories come from? (What if...comments start many of hers.) What is an illustrator? Who can be a writer? What is a bog and will you ever forget what it is? Why didn't I use the word SWAMP in the book Frog in the Bog, instead?

She had a nice ending, too, she said it was time to re-cap the day and asked them the questions from before, giving everyone a chance for success. Then she asked the kids to raise their hands way up, put them down behind their heads, and then give themselves a nice pat on their backs and applaud themselves for being a good audience.

It was a good lesson in being polite and giving your attention to someone. It doesn't hurt that Karma is a really good storyteller and that she's funny. Her patter works well for the age she writes for and her rhymes are perfect, setting children up for memorizing and a little reading.

We sold a lot of books, still have a lot of books in the back of the Jeep, and now I'm on my way to another round of school events with Mark Pett! I understand that he draws and juggles!

Our Ravenna store has books available signed by Karma- They will make great holiday gifts for families with children ages 1-7.

PS someday we'll talk about the after hours with authors, the talk that happens after the kids go home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Very Long Day with Talented People

Sunrise was at 7:35 and sunset will be at 6:14.

Doesn't it seem like it gets darker faster in the fall than it gets light in the spring? It was dark at 6:30 yesterday. It makes me sad, although the air smells like pears and pine needles. That makes me happy. It's foggy and cool, the fog beginning to tear like batt as the sun rises- I can finally see the buildings downtown, pinking up in the sunrise.

Last Wednesday at this time I was on my way to load the Jeep with books and school visit supplies. On my way to Einstein Middle School for an event with the Pen Fatale Author Tour: 4 authors, two publicists, and a boatload of books. Gabrielle Zevin, Mary E. Pearson, Alyson Noel, and Jessica Brody on a three week tour together talking about their books and their lives as writers.

I'll bet they were really happy to get home.

We didn't make many sales at the school, there is something about middle and high schools that doesn't inspire book buying at the school. Could it be teacher time constraints? No dedicated discussion of the books and authors? No librarian or English teacher who can add something into their curriculum that is such a tiny piece of the overall teaching plan? Who knows? The following morning's visit to Madison Middle School was better sales-wise and the librarian said she and the students just had a blast. No telling what happens between one and the other.

The events themselves were fun and laughter filled- the authors had great stories about their reading habits and their travel habits, the students had good questions, except for that one boy who hurt Gabrielle's feelings but then apologized (man, middle school boys...sometimes they should be seriously restrained), and I think the students will definitely check the books out of the library.

The event at the store was good. We had about 30 people and a group of young women and an adult driver made the two hour trip from Elma, a little town near Shelton, which is a little town near Bremerton, which is on the south-western side of Puget Sound. How cool is that? They had good questions and stood in line with books to be signed.

I so enjoyed Gabrielle's new book, All These Things I've Done. Sorry, ladies, but I've been a big fan of Gabrielle's for a long time and read this one back in the summer while sitting on the front porch steps at the in-laws so the memories of her book are infused with heat and cats, listening to family cooking and talking, and trying to finish it so I could give it to Mary to read.

It's a story set in the future, chocolate and coffee are illegal, and our heroine is the heir to a mafia-esque group that controls the chocolate trade. In 2083, water is rationed, paper is rare, the library and the art museums are now dance clubs, and Anya is the care-taker of her dying grandmother (the last person to actually know what OMG means), her very smart little sister and her brain-damaged older brother. She is also trying to get through school and negotiate a couple of boys, her current boyfriend and a new boy she shouldn't find attractive as his dad is trying to find ways to put Anya and her family out of business. When people start dying after eating her chocolate, Anya is accused of the deaths, and now has to figure out who is really behind it all.

Funny, really well-written, All These Things I've Done is the first of a series and I have to say, I am thrilled! I love these characters and I love the new New York she's invented. The backstory of the libraries and museums turning into clubs came from a thought Gabrielle had: What if everyone stopped reading books (paper books)? What would happen to the buildings when the populace stopped attending them? It's a fascinating thought and I think she did a great job showing us what she thinks. Ages 13 and up. (Macmillan Publishing. $16.99. Available now.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Maggie Stiefvater and a full moon

Sunset is at 7:22, it will set at 6:29.

The moon is full and beginning to set at 6:30 am.

I can watch it as it slides over the horizon, it's right outside the window, and is just in the space between the maple tree branches on our side and the crabapples across the street. I love how we can see how the earth moves as we watch the moon set. The moon has moved farther north as it sets (or have we turned farther south)? It 's a perfectly fall scene and I wish I could capture the view. It's really windy and the clouds are whisking across the moon's face and at the same time the clouds all around are glowing. It is so beautiful and I can see why it would be worshiped.

And let's not forget Jupiter, the biggest star-like body in the sky right now.

Maggie Stievater will be at the store tonight. I am looking forward to hearing her speak. I have to write an introduction for her!

Ooh, much later! Days later than when I started, I will finish this post!

Maggie was so much fun. She has great stories, a wicked laugh, and had us completely charmed. We had a smallish crowd- 30 or so - but, like many things, the small things are often best. We all got a chance to meet her, we got to hear all the words, we got to ask all our questions, and her next time around, it may be harder to find a seat up front.

We had her at the store at 5:30, much earlier than usual just because there was another author at 7 so we had to hurry through the last moments of signing.

A family of girls who'd hurried to meet her at 7 just missed her, the oldest clutching Shiver to her chest. We looked out onto the commons and Maggie was still there. We called to her and she came over to say hello.

With great grace, she asked if they wanted pictures and called everyone over, signed her book, and chatted for a minute. What a star!

(We had shells, rocks, battery candles scattered around the area- so pretty!)

Scorpio Races, Maggie's newest book, is absolutely my favorite book right now. It's one of the few books I would like to read again. It is a wonderfully atmospheric book filled with horses, mythology, loneliness, and finding true friendship. Ages 12 and up. Scholastic. $17.99. Available TODAY!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Reading Books that Don't Clash with Your Furniture

Sunrise was at 7:21 (and it's only 7:41 now! 20 minutes of daylight so far!) , sunset will be at 6:31.

Boy, I was sure wrong about the weather last Saturday! It got warm and blue with these amazing architectural clouds building and dissipating as they came over the mountains and hills. We walked along Lake Union and imagined what it would be like to live on a houseboat. It's kind of like living in a dollhouse; everything needs to fit just so. We decided that having open space all around us and not being able to reach the house next door by leaning over and stretching is more to our liking right this minute. Well, there was that one with a slide that drops you into the lake. That was cool. We had a nice couple of beers in a restaurant with a patio over the lake and then had dinner in a German restaurant in South Lake Union as the clouds finally covered the last of the blue. In bed by 7, asleep by 8. On a Saturday night. We are finally old.

I've been noticing that the books I've been reading kind of match the places I've been reading. This is my favorite place to read. I sit sideways, head on one side, legs over the other, an old wool blanket, and, if she's cold enough, the cat. The window faces our backyard and I can watch the birds darting in and out of the holly.

This is the last book in the series by Maggie Stiefvater about werewolves and epic romance, Forever. The rest of the series includes Shiver and Linger and they are so GOOD (and she will be at Third Place Books on October 11 at 5:30!). (Scholastic. 12 and up. Forever is $17.99 and the others are in paperback.)

And this is what I was reading when I fell asleep in bed yesterday. I hate napping in bed- it feels so much more slothful, you have to plan to nap when you're in bed, you just fall asleep when you read in a chair - but I was cold and Gidget loves this blanket so she will sleep here and keep me warm. It could be that the color of the blanket lured me up the steps.

This is Jo Walton's book, Among Others, and it is an amazing story. It's about a girl who was once a twin but the other one died. I still haven't found out how or why, but bits and pieces are being revealed as we go along. Mori (short for Morwenna) is journaling about what she is doing and how she got here. She had run away from home, from her mother, she was turned over to her father, someone she'd never met, and his family and now she's in the boarding school her aunts had gone to. She is teased for her gimpy leg but takes refuge in the science fiction and fantasy books she reads. She is extremely worried about the magic she knows her mother is using like a net, pulling her back. She also knows that the fairies in Wales can help her figure out what's happening with the people she loves, but the English fairies are mean and won't talk to her, they just glare.

It is such a well-written book! It's absolutely PACKED with book titles, authors, bits and pieces of some of the best science fiction and fantasy books ever written in and before 1979. I LOVE this! I want to do a display with this book and the others linked to it by yarn. So cool.

Because it's a journal, she starts where she starts and it's only when she's trying to figure out connections, do you find anything out about her past and how she gets here. The fairies and magic are only a part of the story, something children would believe and maybe grow out of, she just hasn't yet. And now there's something a little bit off happening to her. I just started to wonder about her sanity. Ooh. It's so good. It was written for adults but wood be good for age 14 and up. (Tor. 24.99. Available now. Probably coming in paper soon.)

There is a list of books included in this one on the Tor website. I'm going to print it out and hang it in the science fiction section. This would be a great cross-over novel for teens.

Maile Meloy, The Apothecary, and Dahlia Lounge

Sunrise was at 7:18, weird that sunrise happens after we're already up, sunset will be at 6:35.

It's Saturday and cold, I see a band of blue across the Sound, beyond the blocking of Beacon Hill, but it's gray here! No wind, no birds, just one of those in between days of October that makes you feel that you're stuck and there's nothing to do. Even though the art room is calling me, all the cupboards need cleaning out, and I need to clean up the yard, I still fell like there's no where to go, no thing to do.

That being said, we will be heading out in a little while. Yes, we are going to start our holiday shopping and my sister's birthday is in a couple of weeks. I woke up wanting to go shopping, wanting to be around people in a crowd, looking at lights and soaking up movement on the streets.

We, Seattle area children's booksellers, had a lovely dinner at Dahlia Lounge with new author Maile Meloy last night. She's written a really good book about magic and saving the world during the 1950's nuclear age called The Apothecary. Janie's family is blacklisted and they move to London. The next door apothecary promises a cure for homesickness and his son wants to be a spy. When the apothecary goes missing during a violent dispute, Janie and Benjamin find his magic book, the Pharmocopeia, and they set off to find the apothecary using the spells in the book. It turns out that they are the only things between peace and nuclear war. Spies, spells, secrets, and grand adventure. (Ages 10 and up. Putnam. $16.99. Available now.)

I love sitting with all these wonderful booksellers, talking about books and publishing, making lists and gossiping about the authors we love. Thank you, Colleen, for putting it all together! Thanks, Maile, for giving Colleen a reason for having a party!

P.S. I had the salmon with blueberries, the Oodles of Noodles was really good (noodles with parmesan and butter, the perfect comfort food), the crab cakes are always what I want, the bread salad was exquisite, and the Coconut Creme Pie was HUGE! I brought it home to share with the husband. Oh, and the wine was plentiful and so very, very good. The little spoonful of soup that started the party was cool and savory, and the sea food platter was fresh and tasted of the sea. The goeduck was really good, something I'd never tasted before. I don't usually like seafood, it often reminds me of the smell of the dock in Port Orford, but this was clean and cool and spiced.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Interview on Northwest Booklovers blog

Sunrise was at 7:11, sunset was at 6:45. It's soon going to be dark before I get off work.

Hey, look at this link about me! NorthWest BookLovers posted this interview today on their website! Take a look:

I am reading Forever, by Maggie Stiefvater and it is so good! Can't wait to meet her on October 11. She's coming by for an event, at 5:30, so you should come on by.

This is the last book in her series about werewolves and the grand love between the main characters while they are human. Very romantic, very well-done, the main male character, Sam, is naive and strong at the same time, Grace is very much a human who would be fun to hang with. I'm almost done and it was a hard choice between TerraNova, that new science fiction t.v. show, and Forever. I'm reading during the commercials. Going to go finish it now. Ages 13 and up. Scholastic. $17.99. Available now!

And Scorpio Races will be out on October 18. This is one of my absolutely very favorite books this year.