Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Archive | Skinny Dip

Skinny Dip with Kara LaReau

Kara LaReau

Kara LaReau

We’re pleased to con­nect you with author (and edi­tor) Kara LaReau, whose two book series, The Infa­mous Rat­sos and The Unin­ten­tion­al Adven­tures of the Bland Sis­ters, are tick­ling read­ers’ fun­ny­bones and stir­ring their sense of adven­ture. She was an edi­tor for ten years, edit­ing some of our most-loved books such as Because of Winn-Dix­ie and the Mer­cy Wat­son series. You’ll want to fol­low her career as her inven­tive mind beck­ons to us with more sto­ries!

Do you keep your book­shelves in a par­tic­u­lar order?

 I have the books in our liv­ing room orga­nized by col­or. Then there’s a pile next to my bed in no par­tic­u­lar order, but no one sees that but me!

What’s the pre­dom­i­nant col­or in your wardrobe?

I don’t have one pre­dom­i­nant col­or. Prob­a­bly black, blue, and gray.

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett JohnsonWhich book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

Harold and the Pur­ple Cray­on by Crock­ett John­son.

What’s your food weak­ness?

Oh, I have so many. Right now it’s salt and vine­gar pota­to chips, which taste best at the beach, imho.

What do you con­sid­er to be your best accom­plish­ment?

My son.

Have you trav­eled out­side of your state? Which state draws you back?

I’ve vis­it­ed sev­er­al states, but my favorites (so far) are Maine and Cal­i­for­nia.

The Infamous Ratsos: Project Fluffy

Kara LaReau’s forth­com­ing book

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? 

Yes. My favorite (so far) is Italy—I hope I can go back there soon!

What’s the last per­for­mance you saw at a the­ater?

I saw the come­di­an Tig Notaro.

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

Come on, I can’t pick just one!

What would you wear to a cos­tume par­ty?

Edna Mode from The Incred­i­bles.

Chocolate almond croissant and coffeeWhen you walk into a bak­ery, what are you most like­ly to choose from the bak­ery cas­es?

A choco­late-almond crois­sant. And a very large cof­fee.

Do you remem­ber your dreams?

Yes, vivid­ly! Some­times that’s where I get my ideas for sto­ries.

If you could have din­ner with any­one from his­to­ry, who would you choose (don’t wor­ry about lan­guage dif­fer­ences.)

Julia Child

What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn?

French.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with C.M. Surrisi

C.M. Surrisi

C.M. Sur­risi

Have you read the Quin­nie Boyd mid­dle-grade mys­ter­ies? The May­pop Kid­nap­ping, Vam­pires on the Run, and A Side of Sab­o­tage? I dis­cov­ered them this spring and I stayed up sev­er­al nights to read them. The author of those books, C.M. Sur­risi, is just as inter­est­ing as you’d think the writer who dreamed up Quin­nie, her friends, and her vil­lage in Maine would be. When I real­ized she had a pic­ture book out, The Best Moth­er, I won­dered if she could car­ry that sense of humor over to a short­er sto­ry­telling form. Yes, indeed. That book’s delight­ful, too. We know you’ll want to learn more about this intrigu­ing author.

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book?

In a tent in the Rantham­bore Tiger Pre­serve in Sawai Mad­hop­ur Rajasthan, India

Do you keep your book­shelves in a par­tic­u­lar order?

By sub­ject mat­ter. Not quite Dewey Dec­i­mal Clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

How many book­cas­es do you have in your house?

An embar­rass­ing­ly large num­ber.

pho­to: tarzhano­va | 123rf.com

What’s the pre­dom­i­nant col­or in your wardrobe?

Jeans. Is that a col­or? So, blue, I guess. I spent so many years in a world where jeans were not accept­able dress that when I left that world, I embraced jeans again in a big way. I have sev­er­al forms of den­im again now. Light, dark, patched, ripped, cropped, boyfriend, skin­ny, jack­et, cut­off. Sor­ry. I’m all about com­fort now.

Which library springs to your mind when some­one says that word? What do you remem­ber most about it?

When I think library I think of the mid­dle grade fic­tion shelves, with their chunky nov­els, in plas­tic cov­ers, with col­or­ful jack­ets, swollen pages from wear, the deli­cious smell of paper, and scent of glue and ink. That’s where I go first in every library I vis­it.

Which book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

The Children of Primrose Lane by Noel StreatfieldThe Chil­dren of Prim­rose Lane by Noël Streat­field.

When I was in fourth grade, I picked this book off the shelf for its size, weight, jack­et image, and all around library book smell.  I didn’t know who Noël Streat­field was, and I hadn’t read any of the bal­let books. I fell into this sto­ry about a group of kids liv­ing in Eng­land dur­ing WWII who took over an aban­doned house on their dead end street as a club­house. Soon they real­ize they were shar­ing the house with a man they sus­pect­ed was a shot-down Ger­man pilot pre­tend­ing to be British. They played along with him until he acci­den­tal­ly over­heard one of the chil­dren say some­thing about the war effort that the child should not have shared. Their mis­sion became keep­ing the pilot from trans­mit­ting the infor­ma­tion to his base.

This was my first expe­ri­ence with chil­dren being involved with high stakes. The kids were all dif­fer­ent, the cir­cum­stances were sear­ing, the dra­ma intense. I have nev­er for­got­ten it. I found a copy of the book as an adult and reread it, only to find some cul­tur­al­ly inap­pro­pri­ate aspects that were asso­ci­at­ed with war pro­pa­gan­da. I real­ized  those aspects of the book didn’t go over my head. I had been indoc­tri­nat­ed by them. The book would have been just as pow­er­ful from a sto­ry per­spec­tive with­out them. I con­tin­ue to hold it in high regard because it opened my world and trans­port­ed me to a place where chil­dren did some­thing noble.

What’s your food weak­ness?

If the item is edi­ble, and attrac­tive­ly pre­pared, I will gen­er­al­ly give it a go.

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise?

Danc­ing. I wish that ball­room danc­ing could be eas­i­ly accom­plished alone. Drat, it’s so pairs ori­ent­ed. Yes, Fred Astaire pulled it off much of the time, but I’m no Fred. I love the feel­ing of pairs danc­ing, but I don’t have a dance part­ner and don’t real­ly want one. So I dance around the house by myself and make do.

Blue Hyacinth

pho­to: Melanie Faul­stick | 123rf.com

What’s your favorite flower?

Blue Hyacinth. The col­or is impor­tant. It adds to the already spec­tac­u­lar­ly cloy­ing smell. I love the spikes with their crowds of bells and the fleshy, glossy, green leaves. When I was a child, my moth­er had a ceram­ic flower pot that was an eight-inch cube that looked like a white woven bas­ket. She filled it with blue hyacinths every spring. They sat in the cen­ter of the kitchen table. A close sec­ond would be old-fash­ioned ros­es. We had a big, unruly old-fash­ioned rose bush next to the back door, and every time we banged the screen door open when we ran out to play, it shook the bush and released the fra­grance.

Who’s at the top of your list of Most Admired Peo­ple?

My hus­band, Chuck. He had a stroke nine years ago, and the full range of emo­tion, ener­gy, deter­mi­na­tion, and humor he’s sum­moned to cope with it has made him my hero.

What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn?

All of them.

Do you read the end of a book first?

Oh, no. Nev­er.

If you had a choice, would you live under the ocean or in out­er space, and why?

The very thought of either of these makes my head explode. I’m claus­tro­pho­bic.

If you could write any book and know that it would be pub­lished and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple would read it, which book would you write?

If I knew this, I would have already writ­ten it, but then again know­ing it and being able to write it are two dif­fer­ent things, aren’t they? So the answer I guess would have to be “the biggest-heart­ed book.”

If you could be grant­ed one wish, what would you wish for?

That chil­dren would be safe. Safe from adults and safe from each oth­er.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Phuoc Thi Minh Tran

Phuoc Thi Minh Tran

Phuoc Thi Minh Tran

We are pleased to Skin­ny Dip with Phuoc Thi Minh Tran this week. As a librar­i­an, author, sto­ry­teller, and moth­er, she adds her per­spec­tive to the rich­ly tex­tured quilt of books for chil­dren.

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book?

In the hos­pi­tal, I read my new­ly released book My First Book of Viet­namese Words : An ABC Rhyming Book of Lan­guage and Cul­ture to my 94-year-old father-in-law as a bed­time sto­ry. Every­thing was saf­fron yel­low that day from the hos­pi­tal gown to my father’s in-law ‘s jaun­dice  to  my book cov­er. It was weird and depress­ing. I read aloud page by page and I saw tears in his eyes, but his hap­py smile bright­ened the room. He told me that he loved my fam­i­ly and the chil­dren and he was always very proud of us. He passed away 10 days lat­er.

Which library springs to your mind when some­one says that word? What do you remem­ber most about it?

Alham­bra Civic Cen­ter Pub­lic Library in Cal­i­for­nia was the very first library I vis­it­ed in Amer­i­ca. These words still stuck with me until today “Rental Best Sell­er Books, $1 for 2-week rental.“ I thought I would be charged for a library card and books, and I couldn’t afford it. I nev­er asked her any­thing due to my lan­guage bar­ri­er and my shy­ness. I left Cal­i­for­nia with­out hav­ing a library card and nev­er checked out a sin­gle book dur­ing my short stay there.

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise?

Storiga­mi. Fold­ing papers while telling a sto­ry because each fold has a twist and turn that mes­mer­izes the audi­ence and young­sters. My favorite storiga­mi is my “Jour­ney in Search for Free­dom.”

What’s is your favorite flower?

Def­i­nite­ly the lotus flower because the beau­ti­ful lotus flower grows in mud­dy water and ris­es above the sur­face to bloom. It is also the nation­al flower of Việt Nam.

Phuoc’s daugh­ter and sis­ter at a lotus pond dur­ing their short stay in Việt Nam

Have you trav­elled out­side your state? Which state draws you back? (How many states have you vis­it­ed?)

Cal­i­for­nia and Texas are the most loved states because our fam­i­lies live there. I have vis­it­ed Cal­i­for­nia, Texas, Wis­con­sin, Neva­da, Illi­nois, New Jer­sey, New York, Con­necti­cut, and Mis­souri. I live in Min­neso­ta.

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? Why?

Dubai. It was our very first fam­i­ly trip out of the coun­try  We had fun rid­ing the camel in the desert and vis­it­ing Burj Khal­i­fa, the world’s tallest build­ing.

Vietnamese Children's Favorite StoriesIf you could be grant­ed one wish, what would you wish for?

Be able to lis­ten to the ani­mals’ lan­guage like Da Trang in my book, Viet­namese Children’s Favorite Sto­ries.

If you had a choice, would you live under the ocean or in the out­er space, and why?

It would be under the ocean because the sea king­dom always amazes me. I imag­ine that I could swim along with the singing mer­maids, the giant thou­sand-years-old tur­tle, the Loch Ness mon­ster, and the great white shark, but I doubt it.  

What do you con­sid­er to be your best accom­plish­ment?

Rais­ing our chil­dren in a bilin­gual home.

Thank you, Phuoc, for shar­ing your expe­ri­ences with us. Dear read­ers, here is a video that express­es more of Phuoc’s insights about sto­ry­telling, includ­ing Da Trang’s abil­i­ty to lis­ten to the ani­mals, which Phuoc described as her wish.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Becky Kruger

Becky KrugerWe are so for­tu­nate to have ded­i­cat­ed and inspir­ing librar­i­an edu­ca­tors work­ing with chil­dren in many schools through­out our land. Becky Kruger not only serves as the librar­i­an at Ray Miller Ele­men­tary School in Mis­souri but she also helps orga­nize the annu­al Tru­man State Uni­ver­si­ty Children’s Lit­er­a­ture Fes­ti­val.

Which book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

It is not so much that the sto­ry influ­enced my life – but the book that I remem­ber most from my child­hood is The Five Lit­tle Pep­pers and How They Grew. My Mom and Dad gave it to me for Christ­mas when I was in the 3rd grade and I still have it and trea­sure it!!

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise?

My favorite form of exer­cise is work­ing in my veg­etable and flower gar­dens!

Who’s at the top of your list of Most Admired Peo­ple?

The per­son that I admire most in this world is my daugh­ter. She is the most kind, car­ing, fun­ny, hard work­ing and intel­li­gent per­son that I have ever known. She nev­er ceas­es to amaze me.

 What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn?

I wish that I could speak flu­ent Span­ish.

Do you keep your book­shelves in a par­tic­u­lar order?

I orga­nize my books by sub­ject (non-fic­tion) or author (fic­tion). I also group my children’s books togeth­er.

What’s your food weak­ness?

Dessert. Def­i­nite­ly dessert.

What’s your favorite flower?

I have nev­er met a flower that I didn’t love, but if I had to choose, I would say that peonies are prob­a­bly my favorite. It is unfor­tu­nate that they are so fleet­ing.

Copy­right Tere­sa Kasprzy­c­ka | 123rf.com

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

I love words! Rather than name a favorite word, I would like to name a few books that I love because of the author’s use of words: Natal­ie Lloyd’s A Snick­er of Mag­ic and Kather­ine Hannigan’s Ida B. If you haven’t read them, you should!!

Do you read the end of a book first?

Nev­er!! But…I do have this very annoy­ing habit of skim­ming a few pages in advance when a book gets very sus­pense­ful, or I am wondering…is the dog going to die? Is she going to tell the secret? Are they going to move again? It is like I just have to know before I real­ly read it!! Ha! Does any­one else do that??

If you could be grant­ed one wish, what would you wish for?

I would wish that every per­son in this world had access to clean water and abun­dant, nutri­tious food and that we could all live in har­mo­ny. (If it is all in one sen­tence, can it count as one wish?)

Child drinking clean water

Copy­right: bor­gog­niels / 123RF Stock Pho­to

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Pat Schmatz

Pat SchmatzPat Schmatz is the smart, well-read, insight­ful, and tal­ent­ed author of books such as Lizard Radio, Mouse­traps, Blue­fish, and her most recent The Key to Every­thing. She occa­sion­al­ly teach­es writ­ing, espe­cial­ly to mid­dle school and high school stu­dents. If you have a chance, attend one of her class­es.

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book? 

Inside a snow cave that I had built by tun­nel­ing far into an enor­mous drift, by can­dle­light. I start­ed feel­ing kind of funky, so I crawled out­side. Didn’t occur to me until (much) lat­er that the can­dle was using all of the oxy­gen in my lit­tle snow cave!

How many book­cas­es do you have in your house?

6 – in a 2BR apart­ment.

The Outsiders by S.E. HintonWhich book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

The Out­siders by SE Hin­ton

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise?

Cross-coun­try ski­ing in the win­ter, swim­ming in the sum­mer, sculling on the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er in the spring and fall.

Have you trav­eled out­side of your state? Which state draws you back? (How many states have you vis­it­ed?)

The best trip I ever had was a ten-day walk­ing tour in West­ern Ire­land. That was amaz­ing. But I think my favorite coun­try to vis­it is still Japan. I spent sev­er­al months in Kyoto and every bite of food was amaz­ing and the beau­ty every­where was almost more than I could stand.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto

Kiy­omizu-dera Tem­ple in Kyoto (pho­to: cow­ard-lion | Adobe Stock)

What’s the last per­for­mance you saw at a the­ater?

The Pink Uni­corn at Illu­sion The­ater in Min­neapo­lis. It was excel­lent!

The Key to Everything

Pat Schmatz’ most recent book

What would you wear to a cos­tume par­ty?

I like to go as road kill. Take your clothes and lay them on the dri­ve­way. Pour black paint on the car tires. Dri­ve back and forth over your clothes. Add a grue­some mask and you’re all set.

If you could be grant­ed one wish, what would you wish for?

Glob­al Jus­tice (peace would fol­low)

What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn? 

 I love lan­guage study. I’m cur­rent­ly study­ing Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage, Span­ish, Japan­ese, and Hebrew. I would love to be flu­ent in all of these, and also pick up Gael­ic and Ital­ian.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Kathleen Baxter

Kathleen Baxter and Pete Steiner

Kath­leen Bax­ter and Pete Stein­er, the grand­son of the real-life Cab Edwards in the Bet­sy-Tacy books

Kath­leen Bax­ter, a librar­i­an for more than 30 years, a nation­al­ly-known book­talk­er, a co-author of the won­der­ful Gotcha! resource books, is best known as the woman who has worked tire­less­ly to keep Maud Hart Lovelace’s books in print, there­by intro­duc­ing new gen­er­a­tions of read­ers to the Bet­sy-Tacy books and the oth­er cher­ished nov­els set in Deep Val­ley. Her most recent book, My Bet­sy-Tacy Mir­a­cle: a Lit­er­ary Pil­grim­age to Deep Val­ley, shares the charm­ing, true sto­ry of Kathleen’s meet­ing and cor­re­spon­dence with the author Maud Hart Lovelace. 

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book? 

Exer­cise bike, maybe? 

Do you keep your book­shelves in a par­tic­u­lar order? 

Not real­ly, though some book­cas­es have some rhyme or rea­son to them. 

How many book­cas­es do you have in your house? 

At least ten.

What’s the pre­dom­i­nant col­or in your wardrobe? 

Black, prob­a­bly. 

Which library springs to your mind when some­one says that word? What do you remem­ber most about it? 

Anoka Coun­ty North­town, I worked there for 32 years. 

Which book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life? 

The Bet­sy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace

What’s your food weak­ness? 

sug­ar

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise? 

walk­ing, I guess

What do you con­sid­er to be your best accom­plish­ment? 

It astounds me that both my broth­er and I are in Who’s Who in Amer­i­ca and have been for years.

What’s your favorite flower?

lilacs and lilies of the val­ley

Have you trav­eled out­side of your state? Which state draws you back? (How many states have you vis­it­ed?) 

I love New York as well as the New Eng­land states. I have been to all the states but Hawaii and I turned down a chance to give a talk there because it would have been crazy to go on the sched­ule they gave me.

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? Why? 

Eng­land, Scot­land, Ire­land. I am an Anglophile to the core, love the Queen, love all things British. And my DNA comes back 97.2% British Isles and Ire­land, so that may have some­thing to do with it as well. 

What’s the last per­for­mance you saw at a the­ater? 

Assas­sins at The­ater Lat­te Da, two days in a row. I love Sond­heim. 

Who’s at the top of your list of Most Admired Peo­ple? 

Stephen Sond­heim is right there, for his sheer genius. I great­ly admire peo­ple who are unfail­ing­ly kind and gen­er­ous.

When you walk into a bak­ery, what are you most like­ly to choose from the bak­ery cas­es? 

sug­ary things

What are your favorite piz­za top­pings?

pep­per­oni and olives

Do you remem­ber your dreams?

Almost nev­er. 

If you could have din­ner with any­one from his­to­ry, who would you choose (don’t wor­ry about lan­guage dif­fer­ences.)

Maud Hart Lovelace

Do you read the end of a book first?

nev­er

If you could be grant­ed one wish, what would you wish for? 

to be slen­der and only want to eat real­ly healthy food, and not miss any­thing. 

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Jerdine Nolen

Jer­dine Nolen is the ver­sa­tile author of pic­ture books, chap­ter books, and nov­els, includ­ing her most recent books, the Brad­ford Street Bud­dies series and Cal­i­co Girl. We enjoy hav­ing the oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn more about this writer and edu­ca­tor.

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book? 

The weird­est place I have ever read a book is in a clos­et. It wasn’t a dark clos­et. There was a nice win­dow with lots of light and there was enough room for a small lamp. It was quite com­fy and cozy.

Which book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

Fairy tales and tall tales, poet­ry

What’s your food weak­ness?

I like choco­late-cov­ered orange peels. Yum­my.

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise?

My favorite form of exer­cis­ing is walk­ing and row­ing, though not at the same time.

What’s your favorite flower?

Some of my favorite flow­ers: peonies, iris­es, hydrangea

Have you trav­eled out­side of your state? Which state draws you back? (How many states have you vis­it­ed?)

Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, Wash­ing­ton, Ore­gon, Neva­da, Ari­zona, Texas, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Alaba­ma, Geor­gia, North Car­oli­na, South Car­oli­na, Vir­ginia, West Vir­ginia, Wash­ing­ton, DC, Delaware, New Jer­sey, Penn­syl­va­nia, New York, Mass­a­chu­setts, Rhode Island, Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin, Illi­nois, Ten­nessee, Ken­tucky, Indi­ana, and Iowa

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? Why?

I like France best because we have friends there and my favorite foods and restau­rants. I trav­elled for fun either alone or with my fam­i­ly to Italy, France, Cana­da, Israel, Ger­many, and Eng­land.

What’s the last per­for­mance you saw at a the­ater?

I’m plan­ning to see The Ice­man Cometh lat­er this year.

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

As a child, cucum­ber was a favorite word of mine. I think I still like it as much.

August WilsonWho’s at the top of your list of Most Admired Peo­ple? 

My par­ents and my ances­tors. Play­wright August Wil­son.

When you walk into a bak­ery, what are you most like­ly to choose from the bak­ery cas­es?

Almond or choco­late crois­sant

What are your favorite piz­za top­pings? 

Basil, pep­per­oni, extra cheese

Do you remem­ber your dreams?

Usu­al­ly, and I remem­ber them vivid­ly and with much detail. When this hap­pens, I have to write them down.

If you could have din­ner with any­one from his­to­ry, who would you choose (don’t wor­ry about lan­guage dif­fer­ences.)

William Shake­speare, Thomas Jef­fer­son, and Galileo for now

What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn? 

I’m learn­ing French. 

Do you read the end of a book first?

Some­times.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Lester Laminack

Lester Lam­i­nack

Lester Lam­i­nack is sought after as a speak­er in school dis­tricts all over the coun­try. A retired pro­fes­sor, active­ly involved in lit­er­a­cy on many lev­els, he’s thought­ful, artic­u­late, and has a sparkling sense of humor.  We’re pleased that this very busy author and speak­er took time to share his thoughts with Bookol­o­gy’s read­ers this month.

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book? 

Well, it isn’t real­ly all that weird, but most of my read­ing hap­pens on air­planes. I fly a lot to work with kids and teach­ers around the coun­try.

Do you keep your book­shelves in a par­tic­u­lar order? 

I do. Most of my books are arranged in alpha­bet­i­cal order by author’s last name. How­ev­er, I have sev­er­al sets of books that I like to keep clus­tered by theme. I have some books on shelves next to my desk and those rotate depend­ing on the project I’m work­ing on at the moment.

How many book­cas­es do you have in your house?

I have a room for books. I call it my library. Then, there is my office and it also has lots of books. And I have books in crates at my house.

Lester Lam­i­nack: book­cas­es and art

Lester Laminack meeting table

Lester Lam­i­nack: a meet­ing table sur­round­ed by books

Lester Laminack books in crates

Lester Lam­i­nack: Books in crates

Lester Lam­i­nack: desk

Lester Laminack a place to read

Lester Lam­i­nack: a place to read

What’s the pre­dom­i­nant col­or in your wardrobe?

Blue. I like lots of col­ors and wear reds and orange and pink and green and gray and black, and I have most­ly plaids and checks, but the col­or you’ll see most in my clos­et is blue.

Which library springs to your mind when some­one says that word? What do you remem­ber most about it?

I have spent a lot of time in many libraries, but that word most often con­jures mem­o­ries of the library in the ele­men­tary school I attend­ed as a child—Cleburne Coun­ty Ele­men­tary in Heflin, Alaba­ma. I can still hear the voice of Mrs. Hand, our librar­i­an, read­ing The Box­car Chil­dren. She had the best read aloud voice.

Which book you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

Hmm­mm, I think that would be The Wiz­ard of Oz. When I was in the fifth grade my fam­i­ly moved to Key West for a year. In that year I read The Wiz­ard of Oz and for the first time I fell inside and lived in the book. It was an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence to be there, in the sto­ry, with that cast of char­ac­ters. That expe­ri­ence changed the way I read.

What’s your food weak­ness?

Hmmm, bread. Oh, and did I say bread? OK, and éclairs. I do love a good éclair.

What’s your favorite form of exer­cise?

Walk­ing and yoga, but I have fall­en out of the habit of doing yoga. So, if you don’t do it, does it still count as a favorite? Hmmm, I need to get back into that again. Maybe I’d lose that 20 pounds I found. Note: If you have lost 20 pounds in the last 24 months please con­tact me. I think I found them.

What do you con­sid­er to be your best accom­plish­ment?

My son.  He is a kind, decent, car­ing young man with a love­ly, con­fi­dent, intel­li­gent wife and a beau­ti­ful young daugh­ter.  He is also a col­lege Eng­lish pro­fes­sor. 

What’s your favorite flower?

Daylilies. And dahlias. Oh, and Aza­lea and rhodo­den­drons and moun­tain lau­rel and dog­wood and camel­lia and peony. I almost for­got crêpe myr­tle. Say, did I men­tion zin­nias?

Daylilies

Have you trav­eled out­side of your state? Which state draws you back? (How many states have you vis­it­ed?)

I have trav­eled in 47 of the 50 states, all but North Dako­ta, South Dako­ta, and Mon­tana. But, I’m going to speak in Mon­tana in 2018. I grew up in Alaba­ma, but I have lived in North Car­oli­na since 1982. North Car­oli­na is my home now and no mat­ter where I trav­el I am always delight­ed to return to these moun­tains. With that said, I do love the area around Sedona, Ari­zona,  and Taos, New Mex­i­co.

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? Why?

I love Italy. The lan­guage is music. Din­ing is an expe­ri­ence. Art is an essen­tial part of life. I adore Paris. And I’m trav­el­ing to Scot­land in about three weeks, so I may have a new favorite.

Who’s your favorite artist?

Any child who makes art with joy and aban­don. I have long admired the art of Mary Cas­satt. I great­ly admire the art of Jonathan Green in  Charleston, South Car­oli­na. At present I col­lect the art of two artists from the South Car­oli­na Low­coun­try.  Mary Segars and Cas­san­dra Gillens.

What’s the last per­for­mance you saw at a the­ater?

Body­guard.

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

Dénoue­ment and aspara­gus and cor­duroy and bour­bon …

What would you wear to a cos­tume par­ty?  

I’m not a cos­tume par­ty guy. I’m sort of a char­ac­ter in reg­u­lar clothes. When I’m work­ing you’ll almost always find me in Levi jeans, a but­ton down shirt, and a bow tie. Oth­er­wise I’m like­ly to be in jeans and a sweat­shirt or t-shirt.

Who’s at the top of your list of Most Admired Peo­ple? 

Mr. Rogers.

When you walk into a bak­ery, what are you most like­ly to choose from the bak­ery cas­es?

Hands down I will go direct­ly to the éclair. And a real­ly good look­ing slice of car­rot cake can eas­i­ly get my atten­tion.

What are your favorite piz­za top­pings? 

Mush­rooms, green and black olives, ham, lots of cheese.

Do you remem­ber your dreams?

Some­times, not always. I don’t usu­al­ly make any sense out of them, but I can some­times remem­ber snip­pets. About once a year I will have a dream that I am rush­ing like crazy and final­ly get to school with all the kids busy at work not even notic­ing that I’m late.

What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn? 

I took French in high school. I wish I could speak flu­ent­ly. I love the sound of Ital­ian and I’d love to have it flow from my mouth like a water­fall. But, to be prac­ti­cal I would like to learn Span­ish because I believe it would be most use­ful. 

Do you read the end of a book first?

Nev­er. And I nev­er eat dessert before din­ner either.

If you had a choice, would you live under the ocean or in out­er space, and why? 

Nei­ther. I am just fig­ur­ing out how to live on this earth. I’ll stay right here if you don’t mind.

Peace symbolIf you could write any book and know that it would be pub­lished and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple would read it, which book would you write?

A mem­oir writ­ten for adults. 

If you could be grant­ed one wish, what would you wish for?

Peace on this globe. If I could have one wish grant­ed it would be for all peo­ple to have enough, to live in kind­ness and har­mo­ny with oth­ers and to be good stew­ards of this earth.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Purdie Salas

Lau­ra Pur­die Salas

Lau­ra Pur­die Salas is a poet, a researcher, and a pop­u­lar vis­it­ing author in ele­men­tary and mid­dle schools. Sev­er­al of her books have turned heads and stirred up a buzz, includ­ing Water Can Be … and If You Were the Moon. She has pub­lished many books about writ­ing for chil­dren and fre­quent­ly speaks at con­fer­ences. We’re pleased that this very busy author is spend­ing some time with Bookol­o­gy this month.

What’s the weird­est place you’ve ever read a book?

Perched in a tree and lying under­neath a tram­po­line in the shade were two favorite spots when I was a kid grow­ing up in Flori­da. I have also read books on bor­ing car­ni­val rides, dur­ing recitals (don’t tell!), and while canoe­ing. There is pret­ty much no place I would not be hap­py to read a book.

Laura Purdie Salas, reading in a tree

Lau­ra Pur­die Salas, read­ing in a tree

What is the pre­dom­i­nant col­or in your wardrobe?

Black, but that sounds so sad! I live in yoga pants in my dai­ly life, and black ones are the most flat­ter­ing. My top half is usu­al­ly more colorful—I swear!—and blues and pur­ples are my favorite col­ors to dress in.

Which library springs to your mind when some­one says that word? What do you remem­ber most about it?

The orig­i­nal Win­ter Park, Flori­da, Library. I would ride my bike to the small, ancient-look­ing build­ing once or twice a week. When I would walk between the tall white columns to go inside, it was like enter­ing anoth­er plan­et. Big wood­en card cat­a­logs. The bustling hush of peo­ple walk­ing pur­pose­ful­ly around. The children’s area, where I knew I was sup­posed to be. The rest of the library, where I wan­dered around and learned about the world beyond the hap­py lit­tle children’s books. I can still pic­ture the wall around the cor­ner that had all the mys­ter­ies, where I worked my way through the Agatha Christies. I felt like every­one there was smart and hap­py, and I knew books were the rea­son. l always checked out as many books as I could jug­gle home. Halfway through my child­hood, they built a new library, which was very nice and mod­ern­ized and big­ger. I know I used that one con­stant­ly, too. But my mem­o­ries are all of the first one—my very first library.

Which book that you read as a child has most influ­enced your life?

The Figure in the Shadows John BellairsI devoured books like they were pota­to chips, and I went for quantity—and escapism. I lost myself in books, and they were sort of like lost dreams after­ward. I don’t remem­ber too many indi­vid­ual books, but The Fig­ure in the Shad­ows, by John Bel­lairs, was a big favorite. It showed me that fam­i­ly isn’t restrict­ed to your bio­log­i­cal fam­i­ly. And it scared the bejee­bers out of me—I loved it! Two oth­ers I read around (I think) 7th grade, Crooked House, by Agatha Christie, and Flow­ers for Alger­non, by Daniel Keyes, still haunt me a lit­tle. SPOILER ALERT: In Crooked House, the mur­der­er is a child, which total­ly shocked me. Not a mis­un­der­stood child. Not a men­tal­ly ill child. A greedy, self­ish child the same age I was when I read the book. It made me think about the enor­mous capac­i­ty for good and evil human beings have. Flow­ers for Alger­non, which I recent­ly reread, shaped my thoughts about love, intel­li­gence, kind­ness, and the lim­its of sci­ence. And it broke my heart.

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? Why?

In the past ten years, I’ve got­ten to vis­it Scot­land twice, Ire­land, France, Aus­tria, the Czech Repub­lic, and Ice­land. So far, Scot­land is my favorite—so beau­ti­ful and with so much his­to­ry. Famil­iar enough to be com­fort­able, but for­eign enough to be an adven­ture. But see­ing the North­ern Lights in Ice­land was my favorite sin­gle event while trav­el­ing. This world is just so amaz­ing.

Lau­ra Pur­die Salas, on the shore of a loch in Scot­land

Lau­ra Pur­die Salas with her hus­band, Randy Salas, tour­ing a lava tube cave in Ice­land

the north­ern lights as viewed from Ice­land

What’s the last per­for­mance you saw at a the­ater?

Improv com­e­dy at Com­e­dyS­portz in Min­neapo­lis. Improv is so much fun—watching peo­ple cre­ate sto­ries, live, in the moment, is incred­i­ble. It’s like being thrown into a thun­der­storm of a first draft, and you nev­er know when light­ning will strike.

When you walk into a bak­ery, what are you most like­ly to choose from the bak­ery cas­es?

Some­thing frost­ed! Or with gooey caramel. Or with a mousse. When I buy cup­cakes, I always ask the bak­er to choose the one with the most frost­ing for me. It dri­ves me nuts on bak­ing shows when a judge will say with dis­dain, “This cream cheese frost­ing is just too sweet.” Or “You have way too much but­ter­cream on this cake.” Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly impos­si­ble state­ments, in my opin­ion.

If you had a choice, would you live under the ocean or in out­er space, and why?

Out­er space fas­ci­nates me, but I’d want to live in the ocean. The idea that there are still so many mys­ter­ies and unex­plored places on our very own plan­et is crazy! Plus the ocean is so … water­col­ory and gor­geous and tran­quil. Out­er space seems less hospitable—all dark­ness and sharp­ness and emp­ty space.

If you could write any book and know that it would be pub­lished and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple would read it, which book would you write?

I would write a pic­ture book, maybe a poem, that would reas­sure kids that they are who they choose to be. They are not defined by their home, their fam­i­ly, or their family’s jobs, income, cars, edu­ca­tion lev­el, ill­ness­es … But with­out sound­ing preachy, of course! :>)

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard (pho­to: Kather­ine Warde)

Lisa Bullard is a well-respect­ed writ­ing teacher in Min­neso­ta and beyond, hav­ing shared her wis­dom and her sense of humor about writ­ing with class­rooms full of adults and chil­dren (usu­al­ly not at the same time). She has two books on writ­ing, one for adults (Get Start­ed in Writ­ing for Chil­dren) and one for chil­dren (You Can Write a Sto­ry! A Sto­ry-Writ­ing Recipe for Kids), as well as a series of Insid­er Guides co-writ­ten with Lau­ra Pur­die Salas. She has writ­ten Bookol­o­gy’s pop­u­lar Writ­ing Road Trip col­umn for sev­er­al years.

Lisa Bullard's READ Bookcase

My favorite book­case!

How many book­cas­es do you have in your home?

Based on my house, this ques­tion is open to inter­pre­ta­tion. What qual­i­fies as a book­case? For exam­ple, if the baker’s rack in my kitchen holds dozens of cook­books (despite the fact that I don’t cook), does this qual­i­fy as a book­case? Does it influ­ence the judg­ing if I explain that one of my absolute favorite books as a child was Bet­ty Crocker’s Cooky Book? I spent hours “read­ing” the book and invent­ing sto­ries to go along with the cook­ie cre­ations pic­tured there.

But okay, back to the orig­i­nal ques­tion. In addi­tion to the “kitchen book­case” described above, I have six-and-a-half book­cas­es.

What’s your food weak­ness?

My food weak­ness is that I love food far beyond its nutri­tion­al pur­pose. It rep­re­sents so much more than just that to me. Food is sneak­ing into the kitchen late at night with Grand­ma to eat pick­les while Mom looks askance. Food is spit­ting water­mel­on seeds into the lake and get­ting brain freeze from home­made ice cream on the 4th of July. Food is the brown­ie you lick so that your broth­ers don’t eat it first.

Licking the brownie

If you’re ask­ing about my favorite food rather than my food weak­ness, it’s any food that some­body else has cooked. I am for­tu­nate enough to have sev­er­al friends who love to cook, and who express their affec­tion by cook­ing for me. Now that’s love!

Have you trav­eled out­side of the Unit­ed States? Which coun­try is your favorite to vis­it? Why?

I’ve been lucky enough to trav­el out­side of the U.S. to Eng­land, France, Switzer­land, Italy, and Cana­da. I found things to love in all of those coun­tries, but I most loved how dif­fer­ent I became in Italy. For some rea­son I trans­formed into a whole oth­er per­son there. Some­one who knows me well once described me as a “cheer­ful pes­simist;” grow­ing up, I was heav­i­ly influ­enced by my sto­ical­ly Scan­di­na­vian moth­er; and I’m typ­i­cal­ly very cau­tious. But under Italy’s influ­ence, I trans­formed into a risk-tak­er who gam­boled from one roman­tic city to the next with hard­ly a care in the world. I real­ly liked that per­son, but she only seems to exist in Italy!

Juliet's balcony in Verona

Juliet’s bal­cony in Verona

A gondolier in Venice

A gon­do­lier in Venice

What’s your favorite word because you like the way it sounds?

I love say­ing the word “col­ly­wob­bles.” It’s such a won­der­ful, roly poly word, and it sounds so much more joy­ful than its mean­ing. When­ev­er one of us kids was sick, my mom’s first ques­tion was: “Do you have the col­ly­wob­bles?” Few of my friends knew what the word meant, so they usu­al­ly looked blank when I asked them the same ques­tion. For a long time I thought it was a word that belonged to my fam­i­ly alone; that you had to have access to some kind of Bullard Fam­i­ly Dic­tio­nary to be able to decode it. This was also true, by the way, of one of my most dread­ed words: “potch.” My mom threat­ened to “potch” us when we were naughty, and it wasn’t until I was an adult that I was able to fig­ure out that this “Bullard fam­i­ly word” was (sur­pris­ing­ly, giv­en our her­itage) in fact Yid­dish.

What for­eign lan­guage would you like to learn?

I don’t know if it’s defined as a “for­eign” lan­guage or not, but one of the things on my buck­et list is to learn Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage. When I attend a per­for­mance or pre­sen­ta­tion where some­one is inter­pret­ing into ASL, I’m riveted—I’d love to be able to make my words dance in the air the same way that I try to make them dance on the page when I write.

Do you read the end of a book first?

I’m actu­al­ly per­fect­ly hap­py to start a book some­where oth­er than the begin­ning, and then to read it in sec­tions com­plete­ly out of order. But now that I’m a writer, I’ve made a rule to allow oth­er writ­ers the chance to tell me their sto­ry in the fash­ion they think is best (in oth­er words, I make myself read it in the order it’s pre­sent­ed, from begin­ning to end). But if I grow bored a cou­ple of chap­ters in, the rules change, and I revert to ran­dom read­ing order. In that case, I usu­al­ly dip into the mid­dle and read a bit to see if the sto­ry seems more excit­ing at that point. If not, I’ll read the end as my way of giv­ing the author a final chance to sell me on their sto­ry. If I like the end­ing after all that, I some­times go back and read ear­li­er bits, dip­ping in and out of the sto­ry in ran­dom fash­ion until I get back to that end again.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Brenda Sederberg

Brenda SederbergBren­da Seder­berg is the cur­rent facil­i­ta­tor of the Chap­ter & Verse Book Club in Duluth, Min­neso­ta. She’s an enthu­si­as­tic read­er and won­der­ful­ly avid about shar­ing the books she reads. A retired teacher, she con­tin­ues to inspire learn­ing wher­ev­er she goes.

How many book­cas­es do you have in your home?

Oh … soooo many! When I retired from 34 years of teach­ing I brought very lit­tle home from my class­room, but I did bring 24 box­es of children’s books! I’m just not ready to part with them. They take up book­shelves on an entire wall in my house. From time to time I will be chat­ting with some­one about some­thing, and end up say­ing, “oh … you should see this book by .…”, and I find the book and loan it out. When guests with chil­dren vis­it they often end up read­ing books from my shelves.

I also have shelves of books in anoth­er room in our house, orga­nized:

  • nature and out­doors books
  • books by His­pan­ic authors (I taught mid­dle and high school Span­ish for a num­ber of years … before teach­ing ele­men­tary school)
  • trav­el books
  • an assort­ment of Nobel Prize win­ning lit­er­a­ture
  • children’s books from places I’ve vis­it­ed (Maine, Texas, Rhode Island, France, Ger­many)
  • favorite fic­tion and non­fic­tion books I’ve read or want to read

Brenda Sederberg's bookcases

Have you trav­eled out­side the Unit­ed States?

I love to trav­el, and when I do I look for children’s books from the area I’m vis­it­ing, or read a book while I’m there that was writ­ten by an author from that region. I read Hei­di in Switzer­land last fall, and Pinoc­chio in Italy the year before. I enjoy hik­ing and bik­ing in the wide open spaces in these coun­tries, the small towns … and I stay away from the big cities.

Mt. Royal Public Library, Duluth, MN

Mt. Roy­al Pub­lic Library, Duluth, MN

Which library springs to mind when some­one says that word?

It’s hard to choose one! We lived in a small town in North Dako­ta when I was young, and I biked to the Pub­lic Library there and checked out as many books as the book clamp on my bike would hold. It was a beau­ti­ful build­ing, of course, as libraries are! There were large steps lead­ing up to the door, and columns along­side the steps. The old pub­lic library near Lin­coln Park School was a favorite when I went to school there, and now I LOVE the Mt. Roy­al Library in Duluth. When I was in col­lege in Duluth, I worked 10 hours a week in the Children’s Library at UMD, run by Lor­raine Bis­sonette. She arranged books beau­ti­ful­ly, with stuffed ani­mal book char­ac­ters next to books, col­or­ful mobiles hang­ing above the shelves, green and flow­er­ing plants through­out, and com­fort­able chairs in which to sit and read. It was a library like no oth­er, to be sure … more like some of the won­der­ful children’s book­stores … the Wild Rum­pus, for exam­ple.

Do you read the end of a book first?

NEVER. I do not usu­al­ly read any infor­ma­tion on the flap or the back, either. I like to start with the ded­i­ca­tion, and then the first line of the book, and con­tin­ue from there. I want to read it and let it speak for itself, I don’t like to know much at all about a book before I read it! First lines are impor­tant to me … I sort of “col­lect” first lines!

"In the Carpenter Shop," Carl Larsson

In the Car­pen­ter Shop,” Carl Lars­son

Who is your favorite artist?

It is hard to choose one … I like the art of Carl Lars­son, Swedish painter, and vis­it­ed his home in Swe­den where one can see the paint­ing he did IN his home, above door­ways, around walls. I copied a “say­ing” he paint­ed in his house, above a door­way in our home: “Whef Du Vad, Var God Och Glad,” in Swedish (for­give any errors!), in Eng­lish: “I’ll tell you what, be good and glad.” I love Bet­sy Bowen’s wood­cuts, and the prints of Rick Allen, who has a stu­dio in Canal Park in Duluth and each spring releas­es a new print of “The Trapper’s Daugh­ter”! He has prac­ti­cal­ly writ­ten a book in print­ing her many adven­tures! The let­ter­ing and text he some­times incor­po­rates in his work is won­der­ful, and often humor­ous.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with DeDe Small

DeDe Small

DeDe Small shares her enthu­si­asm about books, read­ing, and lit­er­a­cy with her stu­dents at Drake Uni­ver­si­ty in Des Moines, Iowa. We invit­ed DeDe to Skin­ny Dip with us, our first inter­view in the New Year.

When did you first start read­ing books?

I don’t actu­al­ly remem­ber learn­ing to read but I do always remem­ber hav­ing books. I even came up with my own cat­a­loging sys­tem in the lat­er ele­men­tary grades.

Din­ner par­ty at your favorite restau­rant with peo­ple liv­ing or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

I don’t know where it is but I know I am eat­ing a real­ly good steak and we need a big table because I am invit­ing Barak Oba­ma, JK Rowl­ing, Buck O’Neill, St. Ignatius of Loy­ola, Jane Goodall, my par­ents, and my aunts.

All-time favorite book?

This is real­ly hard because there are too many to name! I loved it when my moth­er read The Secret Gar­den to me. As a young child, I loved read­ing Andrew Henry’s Mead­ow by Doris Burn. In upper ele­men­tary, Island of the Blue Dol­phins by Scott O’Dell was my favorite. All-time favorite might have to be the entire Har­ry Pot­ter series because it speaks to choos­ing kind­ness, love, and integri­ty over pow­er and fame.

DeDe Small's favorite books

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

I was cuck­oo for Cocoa Puffs.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Doing the laun­dry.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

I love the feel­ing when every­thing starts click­ing and you can sense where the project might go. That sense of poten­tial is ener­giz­ing.

SocksBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Bare­foot in warm weath­er and socks when it is cold. You will most often find me curled up on my couch with a book, doing school work or watch­ing a movie. The activ­i­ty changes but my loca­tion does not.

When are you your most cre­ative?

I am most cre­ative when I step back and take the time to let an idea per­co­late a bit.

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

My strongest mem­o­ry is actu­al­ly of my pub­lic library. We would go once a week. It became a great bond­ing expe­ri­ence with my moth­er and I came to think of the library as a spe­cial place. I now have four library cards.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Mint Chip.

Book(s) on your bed­side table right now?

Wishtree by Kather­ine Apple­gate, Wolf Hol­low by Lau­ren Wolk, and La Rose by Louise Erdrich.  I recent­ly read The Under­ground Rail­road by Col­son White­head, Refugee by Alan Gratz and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Vac­cines

Which is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

Spi­ders. Way too many legs and eyes.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

Recy­cling

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

I find hope in the char­ac­ters of good books and real-life sto­ries. Lloyd Alexan­der was specif­i­cal­ly ref­er­enc­ing fan­ta­sy but I think it is true of all good sto­ries: “Some­times heart­break­ing, but nev­er hope­less, the fan­ta­sy world as it ‘should be’ is one in which good is ulti­mate­ly stronger than evil, where courage, jus­tice, love, and mer­cy actu­al­ly func­tion.” Books allow us to rec­og­nize our own human­i­ty in oth­ers and that makes me hope­ful. If we read more, con­nect more, and under­stood more, the world would be a bet­ter place.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons

Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons (pho­to: Lundies Pho­tog­ra­phy)

You may know Kel­ly Star­ling Lyons for One Mil­lion Men and Me or Tea Cakes for Tosh or Ellen’s Broom, mem­o­rable pic­ture books, but we’re cel­e­brat­ing her new chap­ter books star­ring Jada Jones! Thanks, Kel­ly, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in Decem­ber.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

That’s a tough ques­tion. I loved all of my teach­ers. But two that stand out are Dr. Kupec at Beech­wood Ele­men­tary and Mr. Pow­ell at Mil­liones Mid­dle School.

Dr. Kupec was my sec­ond grade teacher and lat­er prin­ci­pal of the school. I looked for­ward to going to her class to see what won­ders were in store. Would we sing? Act? Read books that took us to oth­er worlds? She knew how to cap­ti­vate kids and make learn­ing fun.

Anoth­er favorite was band direc­tor and teacher Mr. Pow­ell. Bril­liant, cre­ative and exact­ing, he taught me the pow­er of prac­tice and feel­ing what you’re play­ing. Under his direc­tion, I couldn’t just blend into the back­ground. I had syn­the­siz­er solos that put me in the spot­light. He even wrote a song that show­cased my play­ing called “Kelly’s Blues.” I’ll always remem­ber how amaz­ing that made me feel.

Something BeautifulAll-time favorite book?

A children’s book that made a big impact on me was Some­thing Beau­ti­ful by Sharon Den­nis Wyeth. In the sto­ry, an African-Amer­i­can girl learns that the pow­er to cre­ate beau­ty lives in her. I looked at her face full of won­der and saw girls I know and lit­tle me. That was the first time I saw a black char­ac­ter on the cov­er of a pic­ture book.  It called me to write for kids and will always have spe­cial mean­ing.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

Break­fast is my favorite meal. On week­ends, we would sit around the table and mar­vel at the spread made by my grand­ma and mom. The table was filled with favorites—fried apples, scram­bled eggs with cheese, home­fries, link sausage, home­made muffins, banana pan­cakes with warm maple syrup. It was a feast of food and love.

Your best mem­o­ry of your library?

My local Carnegie Library was mag­i­cal. All around, sto­ries wait­ed to be read and explored. It was a place where adven­tures and dreams came to life. Read­ing was like being on anoth­er plane, out­side of time and space. Those sto­ry­telling jour­neys meant every­thing to me. I feel blessed to be cre­at­ing them for chil­dren today.

Your favorite toy as a child?

I trea­sured my home­made Raggedy Ann doll. In stores, I just saw white ones. But a rel­a­tive made one with skin the col­or of mine. It was more than a toy. It was an affir­ma­tion, a love let­ter. It’s one of the few keep­sakes I’ve held onto from child­hood. Today, it’s my daughter’s.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Sarah Aronson

Sarah AronsonSarah Aronson’s most recent books, The Worst Fairy God­moth­er Ever (The Wish List #1, Beach Lane Books) and Keep Calm and Sparkle On! (The Wish List #2) are at once light­heart­ed and serious—stories that are fun to read and encour­age work­ing for caus­es that mat­ter to the world. Sarah is wide­ly known in the children’s book writ­ing com­mu­ni­ty as an enthu­si­as­tic and effec­tive writ­ing instruc­tor. Thanks, Sarah, for tak­ing a Skin­ny Dip with us in Decem­ber!

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

This is an easy one! My favorite and most influ­en­tial teacher dur­ing those first years of school was my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Dan Sigley.  

It was a year that began with mixed emo­tions. At that time, I didn’t real­ly feel pas­sion­ate about books. Oh, I liked books, but the­ater was my favorite sto­ry medi­um. I had also just returned from 8 months in York, Eng­land. I went to school there and was intro­duced to new set­tings (that you could vis­it) as well as writ­ers like Charles Dick­ens. I read Enid Bly­ton. More impor­tant, I watched my friends take the 11 plus exam, effec­tive­ly track­ing and divid­ing them for dif­fer­ent kinds of futures.

The PearlMr. Sigley awak­ened my cre­ative spir­it in many ways. He got me hooked on books in three dis­tinct ways. First, our class read and per­formed Romeo and Juli­et—unabridged! He showed me that even if I didn’t under­stand the indi­vid­ual words, I could infer mean­ing in a text! Sec­ond, he tire­less­ly hand­ed me books—he was deter­mined to make me a read­er. The book that did it was John Steinbeck’s The Pearl. That end­ing blew me away! It made me think! This was what I want­ed from books! A chance to think about injus­tice and rela­tion­ships and fam­i­ly … and how I could make it bet­ter. Last, he taught us how to make books—from writ­ing to illus­trat­ing to bind­ing. This first home-made book, The Adven­tures of Prince Charm­ing, con­nect­ed the dots. Books were like the­ater. Books were unique for each read­er. I loved get­ting into the heads of my char­ac­ters. I loved hold­ing a book, too.

About the time Head Case was released, Mr. Sigley moved to the house next to my par­ents, so I got to see him many times and thank him for every­thing he taught me. He was a gen­tle, cre­ative man. He was the first per­son who held me account­able and awak­ened my imag­i­na­tion.

All-time favorite book?

The word, favorite, is my least favorite word ever! Here are the books I keep on my desk—they are the books I love. They are the books I reach for when I’m stuck. These are the books that have taught me how to write.

  • The Story of Ferdinand, The Rag and Bone Shop, Sandy's Circus, What Jamie SawOliv­er Twist (Charles Dick­ens)
  • The Rag and Bone Shop (Robert Cormi­er)
  • Mon­ster (Wal­ter Dean Myers)
  • Clemen­tine (Sara Pen­ny­pack­er)
  • Bun­nic­u­la (James Howe, Deb­o­rah Howe)
  • What Jamie Saw (Car­olyn Coman)
  • The Car­rot Seed (Ruth Krauss, Crock­ett John­son)
  • The Sto­ry of Fer­di­nand (Munro Leaf, Robert Law­son)
  • Har­ri­et the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh)
  • Blub­ber (Judy Blume)
  • Offi­cer Buck­le and Glo­ria (Peg­gy Rath­mann)
  • Charles and Emma (Deb­o­rah Heilig­man)
  • Sandy’s Cir­cus (Tanya Lee Stone, Boris Kulikov)

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

When I am in pre-writ­ing mode, noth­ing counts! (I am one of those weird writ­ers that deletes her first dis­cov­ery draft!!!) I love writ­ing with­out expec­ta­tions! It doesn’t feel like work. It is all dis­pos­able!

ShoesBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

You have to ask? I write books about fairy god­moth­ers! I like shoes. Always shoes. I love shoes and boots and would even wear glass slip­pers if I didn’t think I’d trip and break them.

When are you your most cre­ative?

First thing in the morn­ing. Best advice I can offer: hide your phone. Be a word producer—not just a con­sumer. Get out of bed and cre­ate. Get some­one to make you a cof­fee. Jour­nal every morn­ing. Or doo­dle. Get the pen to the paper. Find a way to tran­si­tion from the real world to your imag­i­na­tive state. The world and social media can wait!

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

In the win­ter: choco­late

In the sum­mer: peach

But the gela­to place around the cor­ner makes Greek Yoghurt gela­to. It’s sweet and sour and tangy! Yum.

(File under: this author has prob­lems with favorites.)

Book on your bed­side table right now?

I’m cry­ing over Matyl­da, Bright and Ten­der, by Hol­ly McGhee, rec­om­mend­ed by Olivia Van Ledt­je, also known as @thelivbits

Sarah Aronson's elephantWhat’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I can turn any­thing into a writ­ing les­son.

Also: I can draw an ele­phant from behind.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Young peo­ple give me hope. They val­ue kind­ness. And the envi­ron­ment. They stick up for one anoth­er. They exhib­it a strong sense of good­ness and a will­ing­ness to speak out against injus­tices.

That is what I have seen and learned from readers—to kids and teens—even the shy ones who wait until they can email me to ask a ques­tion. Our young peo­ple are grow­ing up in a time where there are no bar­ri­ers to infor­ma­tion. Yes, there is a lot of mis­lead­ing stuff, but the good stuff is at our fin­ger­tips, too. I could com­plain a lot about phones and the inter­net, but tech­nol­o­gy is also equal­iz­ing. We live in a time when we can inter­act with just about any­one. There are so many ways to learn.

In young peo­ple, I see moti­vat­ed kids like Nora (from The Wish List). They want to make the world bet­ter. They believe in good­ness. They are not afraid to speak out. They sup­port each oth­er. That gives me hope.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Mira Bartók

Mira Bartok

Mira Bartók, author and illus­tra­tor, recent­ly ush­ered The Won­der­ling into the world and it is already on sev­er­al best of 2017 book lists. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Mira, and thanks for shar­ing your respons­es with our read­ers.

When did you first start read­ing books?

Age 4.

The Arrival, Shaun TanAll-time favorite book?

The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

Lunch: grilled cheese sand­wich, mashed pota­toes, and choco­late milk!

What’s your leasst favorite chore?

Vac­u­um­ing.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

Read­ing all kinds of books and tak­ing ran­dom notes, and also going to muse­ums to sketch objects and paint­ings that relate to what I’m work­ing on.

Bare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Soft, com­fy socks.

When are you your most cre­ative?

When I’m not pro­mot­ing a book, and when I turn off all elec­tron­ic devices. And my brain is usu­al­ly explod­ing with ideas when I’m either in a muse­um or walk­ing in the woods. 

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Mint choco­late chip.

Landscape with Invisible Hand, M.T. AndersonBook on your bed­side table right now?

There are sev­er­al: M.T. Anderson’s Land­scape with Invis­i­ble Hand, two vol­umes of fairy tales by 19th cen­tu­ry Scot­tish writer George Mac­Don­ald, the first Red­wall book (I still haven’t read the series!), and a new short sto­ry col­lec­tion called The Age of Per­pet­u­al Light by a  bril­liant young writer named Josh Weil.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I think I sightread piano music pret­ty fast. 

Your favorite toy as a child …

A lit­tle stuffed pony named: PONY

Favorite artist? Why?

South African artist William Ken­tridge. Because his work is avant-garde yet acces­si­ble, per­son­al and polit­i­cal, and intel­lec­tu­al and emo­tion­al.

William Kentridge

A Uni­ver­sal Archive, copy­right William Ken­tridge

tarantulaWhich is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

I love them both! I worked in a zoo and han­dled every­thing, includ­ing taran­tu­las!

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

I’m not sure which is my own best con­tri­bu­tion but I know that com­post­ing and recy­cling every day is super easy and real­ly helps. 

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

It’s hard to feel hope­ful these days but when I see the lit­tle lit­tles of the world expe­ri­ence won­der, it give me hope. So I sup­pose I feel hope­ful because of them.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Susan Yutzey

Susan Yutzey

Susan Yutzey

Susan Yutzey worked as an Ohio school librar­i­an for many years, serv­ing in local, state, and nation­al lead­er­ship posi­tions. Now retired, she con­tin­ues to be a tire­less advo­cate for school libraries and librar­i­ans.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

Ms. D’Angelo was my sev­enth grade teacher. I was a new stu­dent at Edith A. Bog­a­rt Ele­men­tary School and Ms. D’Angelo made me feel wel­come. From encour­ag­ing me as a left-han­der to posi­tion the paper the way I felt most com­fort­able to serv­ing as my piano accom­pa­nist at the annu­al tal­ent show as I sang selec­tions from my favorite musi­cal “Gigi,” Ms. D’Angelo was always my role mod­el.

Nancy DrewWhen did you first start read­ing books?

My first book was a gift from my grand­moth­er—The Lit­tle Engine that Could. From that point on, I remem­ber read­ing every Nan­cy Drew book, rel­ish­ing my Sat­ur­day morn­ings as I devoured The Secret of the Old Clock, The Mys­tery of Lilac Inn, The Secret at Shad­ow Ranch, and all the rest. To keep track of my books I cre­at­ed “check­out” cards and attached them to each book. Play­ing librar­i­an at the ten­der age of ten should have been my clue that twen­ty-nine years lat­er I would embark on a career as a school librar­i­an.

The Poisonwood Bible Barbara KingsolverAll-time favorite book?

The Poi­son­wood Bible by Bar­bara King­solver.

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

The library in my high school was a two-sto­ry library with shelf after shelf of books and peri­od­i­cals. From the sec­ond floor to the first floor was a wind­ing stair­case. Dur­ing the two years I was a stu­dent at North­ern High­land High School, I was sec­re­tary of the Library Coun­cil. The offi­cers of the Library Coun­cil had their year­book pho­to tak­en on that wind­ing stair­case. I also have fond mem­o­ries of Mrs. Enos, the school librar­i­an, and her assis­tant Mrs. Holm­strup who pro­vid­ed a sup­port­ive envi­ron­ment for stu­dents and encour­aged inde­pen­dent think­ing and action.

Turtles All the Way DownBook on your bed­side table right now?

I seem to being going through a British mys­tery phase so on my bed­side table you’ll find Friend Request by Lau­ra Mar­shall. I just fin­ished read­ing John Green’s Tur­tles All the Way Down. I usu­al­ly have two books going at the same time so my non­fic­tion read is The Pow­er of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Busi­ness by Charles Duhigg.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

As an ele­men­tary school stu­dent I dis­cov­ered that as a left-han­der, I could write back­wards. I would write my name or a phrase back­ward, hold it up to a mir­ror and there it was—able to be read by any­one! It was great for pass­ing notes to friends.

Graeter's Ice CreamFavorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Graeter’s Ice Cream is a Cincin­nati-based cream­ery. My favorite fla­vor from Graeter’s is black rasp­ber­ry choco­late chip.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

Walk­ing wher­ev­er and when­ev­er I can and recy­cling plas­tics and paper in our neigh­bor­hood recy­cling pro­gram.

Susan Yutzey, library advocate

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Anne Broyles

Anne BroylesAuthor Anne Broyles is a world trav­el­er, explor­er, and social jus­tice advo­cate who writes books about his­tor­i­cal jour­neys, fam­i­ly tra­di­tions, and the immi­grant expe­ri­ence.  

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

My fifth grade teacher at Schu­mak­er Ele­men­tary School, Mr. George Willems, encour­aged me to think of myself as a writer through our week­ly writ­ing assign­ments. One week he put on a scary piece of music called “Danse Macabre” and asked us to write the sto­ry that came to us as we lis­tened to the music. My sto­ry was about skele­tons in the grave­yard. Anoth­er week, he took us out on the play­ground to lie on our backs and use the clouds for inspi­ra­tion. I still have a lot of the work I did in his class.

I have few regrets in life, but I do wish I had returned to the school to thank him for his encour­age­ment, but by the time I was old enough to real­ize that this might have meant some­thing to him, he was already gone.

What is your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

I love the ini­tial inspi­ra­tion of a new project, then the research into mak­ing sure my ideas, set­ting, lan­guage, and details are all accu­rate. For instance, in my research for my mid­dle grade nov­el-in-progress, Plen­ty Pow­er­ful, I spent two week­ends in Arthurdale, West Vir­ginia, a planned com­mu­ni­ty that Eleanor Roo­sevelt helped found dur­ing the Depres­sion. I spent time with the real-life peo­ple who, had my char­ac­ter been an actu­al per­son, would have been her class­mates. They told me what it was like to move from extreme pover­ty in min­ing camps to a place where they had homes, run­ning water, elec­tric­i­ty, and a sense of com­mu­ni­ty. Those are the kinds of details I love to include in writ­ing fic­tion..

grilled cheese and tomato soupFavorite lunch as a kid?

Toma­to soup and grilled cheese sand­wich.

Bare­foot or shoes?

I grew up in Tuc­son, so I am def­i­nite­ly a thongs/sandals per­son. I feel sad when sum­mer is over and I have to start wear­ing “real shoes.” Though I back­packed through Europe for sev­en months right after col­lege and loved my heavy hik­ing boots so much, I some­times slept in them after I got home!

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Like Anne Frank, I “believe, in spite of every­thing, that people& are tru­ly good at heart.” I try to look for and find the light that is in every­one I meet.

Best inven­tion of the last two hun­dred years?

The tele­phone, because it gave peo­ple oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with fam­i­ly and friends who were not geo­graph­i­cal­ly close. I use email and texts to stay in touch, too, of course, but there’s noth­ing as sat­is­fy­ing as hear­ing the voice of some­one I love, and get­ting to have a back-and-forth con­ver­sa­tion when we are apart.

Long Way DownBook on your bed­side table right now?

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, which I just picked up today. I look for­ward to see­ing how he pulls off the con­cept of “a nov­el that takes place in six­ty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to mur­der the guy who killed his broth­er.”

Your most cher­ished accom­plish­ment?

I received a Youth Men­tor Award from the League of Unit­ed Latin Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Patti Lapp

Patti Lapp

A ded­i­cat­ed edu­ca­tor in Penn­syl­va­nia, we invit­ed Pat­ti Lapp to answer our twen­ty Skin­ny Dip ques­tions.  

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

Mr. Jor­dan was my favorite teacher who taught 7th grade. He was fun­ny and straight­for­ward; all of us stu­dents respect­ed him, and he cer­tain­ly kept every­one in line. I attend­ed a Catholic school, and he was unique in that set­ting.

When did you first start read­ing books?

My mom read to me when I was very young, and because of her ded­i­ca­tion, I could read inde­pen­dent­ly when I entered kinder­garten. I have been read­ing vora­cious­ly since.

Your favorite day­dream?

I day­dream of hav­ing time to write!

Din­ner par­ty at your favorite restau­rant with peo­ple liv­ing or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

The din­ner par­ty would be at Sog­gy Dol­lar in Jost Van Dyke, BVI. The guest list would include: Jesus, of course! This choice is cliché, but how inter­est­ing would this din­ner con­ver­sa­tion be with Him?! At this din­ner, I would also invite Mary Mag­da­lene, Stephen Hawk­ing, David Bohm, Albert Ein­stein, Gregg Braden, Niko­la Tes­la, Edgar Cayce, Nos­tradamus, Shirley MacLaine, Nel­son Man­dela, Charles Dick­ens, Maya Angelou, Avi, Vig­go Mortensen, Paul McCart­ney, and my father and grand­fa­ther, both deceased.

A Tale of Two CitiesAll-time favorite book?

A Tale of Two Cities—bril­liant plot­line, indeli­ble char­ac­ters, and a notable begin­ning and end!

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

My mom made the best French toast. The key is a lot of cin­na­mon.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Get­ting ready the night before for the next day’s work.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

Inspi­ra­tion.

Bare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Bare­foot or socks—season depen­dent.

When are you your most cre­ative?

Sit­ting alone in the qui­et dark at night, decom­press­ing before bed­time.

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

When in ele­men­tary school, my best mem­o­ry is of the Nan­cy Drew mys­tery sto­ries that I bor­rowed every week. Now, as a teacher, my best mem­o­ries are dis­cussing nov­els with the many librar­i­ans that we have had over the years. They read a lot; so do I.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Cher­ry Gar­cia.

Purgatory Ridge William Kent KruegerBook on your bed­side table right now?

William Kent Krueger’s Pur­ga­to­ry Ridge, the third nov­el in his Cork O’Connor murder/mystery series of cur­rent­ly 16 books. I got hooked on his bril­liant sto­ry, Ordi­nary Grace, a stand­alone nov­el. He writes beau­ti­ful­ly.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I can weave.

jacksYour favorite toy as a child …

Jacks—Any­one remem­ber that game?

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Clean water and indoor plumb­ing and the print­ing press and the elec­tric light.

Favorite artist? Why?

I love Van Gogh because of his tex­tured brush strokes, col­or, and cre­ativ­i­ty.

Which is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

Snakes are the worst. I do not kill spi­ders because they will con­sume most of the insects in our homes. If they are big and hairy, they pack their bags and leave—in a cup—to move out­side.

vegetablesWhat’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

I am a veg­e­tar­i­an. It takes 15 pounds of feed to gen­er­ate 1 pound of meat; hence, more peo­ple in the world can be fed when peo­ple con­sume a veg­e­tar­i­an diet. Addi­tion­al­ly, ani­mals are saved, many that would be raised in inhu­mane con­di­tions, many that would be treat­ed inhu­mane­ly.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Ideas are humans’ most valu­able resource. If we con­tin­ue to invest in inno­va­tion and research that make our plan­et health­i­er and improve the qual­i­ty of life for the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty, we have hope. As a very sim­ple exam­ple, look at the fair­ly new aware­ness of GMOs in our food. With aware­ness, comes demand. With demand, comes change—and human­i­ty clear­ly needs to con­tin­ue to make pio­neer­ing and pos­i­tive changes.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Cathy Camper

Cathy Camper

Are you fans of the Lowrid­ers graph­ic nov­els? We are! And we can’t wait for the next one. The author who thinks up those great sto­ries is Cathy Camper. We invit­ed her to Skin­ny Dip with the Bookol­o­gist … and she said yes! When we asked her point­ed ques­tions, here’s what she had to say.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

Eat­ing cake for break­fast just like Two Bits in The Out­siders.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Mak­ing my stu­pid lunch. I work full-time and it’s nev­er-end­ing! I make my lunch, go to bed, go to work, eat my lunch, go home, and have to make my stu­pid lunch all over again.

When are you your most cre­ative?

When I have a lit­tle bit of some­thing with caf­feine, prefer­ably dark choco­late, maybe a small gulp of cof­fee, then go for a run or walk, or some mind­less activ­i­ty that allows me to day­dream. When the ideas start to come, I write them down imme­di­ate­ly.

Raul III, Jon Scieszka

Raul III, win­ner of the 2017 Pura Bel­pre award for illus­tra­tion, with Jon Sci­esz­ka and Cathy Camper at the Chron­i­cle Books booth at ALA in Chica­go, 2017

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Indoor plumb­ing and clean water, in par­tic­u­lar, hot water WHENEVER you want a bath or show­er, and clean water when­ev­er you want a drink. I give great thanks for being born in a time and soci­ety where we have that lux­u­ry.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

I nev­er had kids. One less human.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Costner

Suzanne Cost­ner

We’re thrilled to Skin­ny Dip with out­stand­ing edu­ca­tor Suzanne Cost­ner, Thanks to Suzanne for answer our ques­tions dur­ing her very busy end-of-the-school-year hours.

Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Hill in 4th grade. She read to us every day after lunch: Stu­art Lit­tle, Where the Red Fern Grows, James and the Giant Peach. She intro­duced us to so many awe­some writ­ers that I still go back and reread.

When did you first start read­ing books?

I can’t remem­ber a time that I didn’t read. I still have my first lit­tle cloth book that I chewed on as a baby. My grand­moth­er had a set of Dr. Seuss books on the shelf and read them to me when­ev­er I stayed with her. I was read­ing on my own before I start­ed kinder­garten.

Suzanne’s first book, a Real Cloth book.

Your favorite day­dream?

In my day­dream, I am liv­ing in a lit­tle cab­in in the woods with my dogs and my books. There is a lit­tle stream gur­gling along near­by and sun­light fil­ter­ing through the trees.

Din­ner par­ty at your favorite restau­rant with peo­ple liv­ing or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

The Restau­rant at the End of the Uni­verse with C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, Ursu­la K. Le Guin, Anne McCaf­frey, Andre Nor­ton, Isaac Asi­mov, and Lloyd Alexan­der. My sis­ter and my nieces would have to be there, too.

All-time favorite book?

The Princess Bride—chas­es, escapes, sword­fights, tor­ture, pirates, giants, mag­ic, true love…

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

My favorite lunch was a peanut but­ter sand­wich, and I always asked for “a lid on it,” because I didn’t like open-faced sand­wich­es.

What’s your least favorite chore?

It’s prob­a­bly laun­dry, because the wash­ing machine is in the base­ment and it means mul­ti­ple trips up and down the stairs.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

Bounc­ing my ideas off my friends and hav­ing them sug­gest ways to make things even bet­ter.

Bare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Bare­foot, and either read­ing a book or lis­ten­ing to an audio book.

Toy RocketWhen are you your most cre­ative?

When I am writ­ing grant appli­ca­tions to fund more STEM activ­i­ties for my stu­dents. I can think of all sorts of ways to tie rock­ets, robots, and gad­gets into lit­er­a­cy instruc­tion.

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

I was a library aide in mid­dle school and loved being in the library and help­ing to get the new books ready for the shelf. That “new book” smell when the box was opened should be a sig­na­ture per­fume or cologne.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

O’Charley’s Caramel Pie ice cream from May­field Dairies (the best of both worlds)

What I'm reading nowBook on your bed­side table right now?

Astro­physics for Peo­ple in a Hur­ry by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and The Unbreak­able Code by Jen­nifer Cham­b­liss Bert­man.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I have a brain that holds onto triv­ia, so I can come up with a song or movie quote for almost any occa­sion. Some­times at fam­i­ly din­ners we all just speak in movie quotes.

CowgirlYour favorite toy as a child …

I had a lit­tle wood­en rid­ing toy that looked like a giraffe. I rode it up and down the walk behind my grand­par­ents’ house. I also had a cow­girl out­fit, com­plete with boots and hat that I loved to wear.

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

Dig­i­tal books so that I can go on vaca­tion with­out tak­ing a sec­ond suit­case just for all my read­ing mate­r­i­al.

Favorite artist? Why?

I love space and stars, so Van Gogh’s Star­ry Night is my favorite paint­ing. I don’t real­ly have one favorite artist.

Which is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

Spiders—because my sis­ter Jamie hates them and I have to res­cue her from them.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

Recy­cling. espe­cial­ly trad­ing in books at the used book­store, or using CFL bulbs in my read­ing lamps.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Because kids still fall in love with books. If they can lose them­selves in char­ac­ters and set­tings that are dif­fer­ent from their every­day world, then they can learn tol­er­ance and kind­ness.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Aimée Bissonette

Aimée Bis­sonette

We’re thrilled to Skin­ny Dip with Aimée Bis­sonette, who is the author of two acclaimed pic­ture books so far, North Woods Girl (Min­neso­ta His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety Press) and Miss Colfax’s Light (Sleep­ing Bear Press). Thanks to Aor tak­ing time away from writ­ing and work to answer Bookol­o­gy’s ques­tions!

When did you first start read­ing books?

My best friend, Lyn, taught me to read when I was 5 years old.

Fun with Dick and JaneLyn was a year old­er so she went to first grade the year before I did. When she got home from school, she would bring her read­ing books (the “Fun with Dick and Jane” series) over to my house. We’d sit on my front steps and Lyn would teach me every­thing she’d learned in school that day. I am sure I read with mem­bers of my fam­i­ly, too, but Lyn was the one who real­ly taught me to love read­ing.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

I always loved Sun­day break­fast grow­ing up. It was the one time of the week we were all guar­an­teed to be in one spot togeth­er. I have six broth­ers and sis­ters, so it was a bit of a chal­lenge to get enough food ready at the right time to feed every­one. (Remem­ber, this was before microwave ovens!) And it was pret­ty chaot­ic. My mom used to joke that when she wrote the sto­ry of her life, she would title it “Raw Eggs and Burnt Bacon.” Maybe I’ll write a book about her some­day with that title.

Sock basketBare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Socks! I love socks! In fact, my moth­er-in-law used to laugh at the size of the sock bas­ket in my laun­dry room—you know, the place where you throw all those clean socks from the dry­er so you can pair them lat­er while watch­ing TV? My sock bas­ket is huge.

When are you your most cre­ative?

I am at my cre­ative best when I am out in nature. I love to hike, bike, and snow­shoe.  I walk every day—rain or shine, pud­dles or snow. I need to get away from my desk, smell out­door smells, lis­ten to bird­song. Nature always finds its way into my books.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Mint choco­late chip. Hands down.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Susan Latta

Susan Latta

Susan Lat­ta

This week we’re all set to Skin­ny Dip with Susan Lat­ta, who is cel­e­brat­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of her first trade book on Sep­tem­ber 1st, Bold Women of Med­i­cine: 21 Sto­ries of Astound­ing Dis­cov­er­ies, Dar­ing Surg­eries, and Heal­ing Break­throughs (Chica­go Review Press). With his­tor­i­cal to con­tem­po­rary biogra­phies of women who have found cures, advanced med­i­cine, and tend­ed to the sick with com­pas­sion, Susan has writ­ten an inspir­ing book that teen read­ers will find fas­ci­nat­ing. Thanks to Susan for tak­ing time to answer Bookol­o­gy’s ques­tions!

Bold Women of MedicineWho was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?

My favorite teacher was my third-grade teacher, Mrs. Palmquist. I don’t remem­ber her first name. She had a sys­tem of writ­ing the num­bers 1, 2, 3, on the black­board for dis­ci­pline. If the class mis­be­haved and she got to num­ber 3, that meant she wouldn’t read to us that day. Since I was one of the “goody two-shoes” in the class it always made me so angry when one of the boys (usu­al­ly Den­nis) did some­thing to get us to num­ber 3. I espe­cial­ly remem­ber when she read Charlotte’s Web and Stu­art Lit­tle. I was fas­ci­nat­ed and looked for­ward to that time of day.

Caps for SaleWhen did you first start read­ing books?

Prob­a­bly in about first grade. We had all the usu­al books for the time; Cat in the Hat, A Snowy Day, The Lit­tle Engine That Could, Mike Mul­li­gan and His Steam Shov­el, Caps for Sale. When I was a lit­tle old­er, I loved the Lau­ra Ingalls Wilder series, as well as any­thing by Bev­er­ly Cleary. And a bit lat­er, I devoured every Agatha Christie mys­tery.

Din­ner par­ty at your favorite restau­rant with peo­ple liv­ing or dead: where is it and who’s on the guest list?

Broder’s Pas­ta Bar in Min­neapo­lis, their home­made pas­ta is to die for. As far as guests, I think Abi­gail Adams, Dr. Bertha Van Hoosen, Dr. Helen Taus­sig, Sis­ter Eliz­a­beth Ken­ny, Lau­ra Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, and my fam­i­ly; hus­band Rob, sons Ryan and Rob­bie, and daugh­ter Kris­ten. Our gold­en retriev­er Stan­ley would love to come for the left­overs.

Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksAll-time favorite book?

Hard to choose just one. As a child, My Side of the Moun­tain by Jean Craig­head George and Snow Trea­sure by Marie McSwigan. As an adult: Pil­lars of the Earth by Ken Fol­lett, The Immor­tal Life of Hen­ri­et­ta Lacks by Rebec­ca Skloot, John Adams by David McCul­lough.

Favorite break­fast or lunch as a kid?

Amer­i­can Braun­schweiger which is a type of liv­er­wurst or liv­er sausage with a lit­tle may­on­naise on white bread. Haven’t had it in years; not sure it is con­sid­ered health food.

What’s your least favorite chore?

Chang­ing the sheets.

What’s your favorite part of start­ing a new project?

Dig­ging into the research.

Bare­foot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?

Shoes and good wool socks in the win­ter, bare­foot in the sum­mer.

strong coffeeWhen are you at your most cre­ative?

Morn­ing, but after break­fast and good strong cof­fee. And when I say strong, I mean “spoon almost stand­ing up in the mug strong.”

Your best mem­o­ry of your school library?

As fifth graders, we wrote and illus­trat­ed pic­ture books to read to the kinder­gart­ners in the library. Mine was some­thing about bears. Sure wish I still had it.

Favorite fla­vor of ice cream?

Mocha chip.

Lilian Boxfish Takes a WalkBook on your bed­side table right now?

Lil­lian Box­fish Takes a Walk by Kath­leen Rooney.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I can wig­gle my ears.

Your favorite toy as a child?

My Bar­bie and Skip­per dolls.

Best inven­tion in the last 200 years?

The dish­wash­er.

Girl with a Watering Can

Girl with a Water­ing Can, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1876

Favorite artist? Why?

Claude Mon­et or Renoir. I love impres­sion­ism and had a poster of Renoir’s paint­ing A Girl with a Water­ing Can in my bed­room grow­ing up. I also love Anna Mary Robert­son Moses, bet­ter known as Grand­ma Moses. Her idyl­lic paint­ings have so many things to dis­cov­er.

Which is worse: spi­ders or snakes?

That’s a toss-up. Prob­a­bly spi­ders.

What’s your best con­tri­bu­tion to tak­ing care of the envi­ron­ment?

Recy­cling.

Why do you feel hope­ful for humankind?

Because buried in each of us there is good­ness. In some it may be hard to find, but it is there.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Gary Mlodzik

This time around, we’re Skin­ny Dip­pin’ with Gary Mlodzik, founder of the Grow Your Library ini­tia­tive with­in the nation­al lit­er­a­cy foun­da­tion Kids Need to Read.

Gary and Tina Mlodzik in Argentina

Gary Mlodzik and his daugh­ter Kody in Puer­to Madryn, Argenti­na

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Lee Child. I love his writ­ing! I have read every one of the Jack Reach­er books and love his sto­ry­telling style. Lee let’s your imag­i­na­tion fill in the blanks. A Joe Fri­day approach to writ­ing, “Just the facts, ma’am.” No more than need­ed to cap­ture the essence of the sto­ry, no less than required for a thrilling adven­ture. I have heard him speak at a book sign­ing and he has a great sense of humor and he’s very engag­ing.

Favorite city to vis­it?

San Diego. When you live in the Ari­zona desert, the ocean is a wel­come reprieve from the sum­mer­time heat. San Diego is a six-hour dri­ve and brings a wel­come change of scenery. Great food, fun attrac­tions, recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties, and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to relax by the gen­tle waves make for a great get­away.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

Ice­land! God’s beau­ty in so many forms, all in one coun­try! The Auro­ra Bore­alis, beau­ti­ful coasts, wildlife, caves, glac­i­ers, water­falls and hot springs are wait­ing to explore and enjoy.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Def­i­nite­ly a morn­ing per­son! Get up and get ‘er done! I have a list ready and hit it hard. Once evening comes, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty declines rapid­ly.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

Dis­cov­er who you are as a per­son, accept who you are, build your life into the best you that you can be.

Kids Need to ReadGary shares his pas­sion for lit­er­a­cy by vol­un­teer­ing!

I vol­un­teer with the nation­al lit­er­a­cy foun­da­tion Kids Need to Read (KNTR). I am hon­ored to serve on their board of direc­tors. In 2015, I devel­oped the Grow Your Library pro­gram for KNTR. For this pro­gram, KNTR pro­vides 200 books to four care­ful­ly select­ed, eco­nom­i­cal­ly chal­lenged libraries through­out the USA per year. Along with the book dona­tion, my wife, Tina, and I vis­it the library, con­duct a sto­ry time and explain how the kids can “donate” more books to the library just by email­ing KNTR with a short note regard­ing what they like about read­ing or what they like to read. Then, Tina and I donate a book to the library with the child’s name on a book plate inside the cov­er! It’s the child’s gift to the library! Each child in atten­dance also gets a book to keep and a High­lights for Chil­dren mag­a­zine to take home. Some­times the kids are in awe that the book is real­ly theirs for life.

I have been blessed with sup­port and encour­age­ment from many sources. I am hum­bled by the num­ber of peo­ple who, like me, believe that pub­lic libraries need our sup­port to pro­vide ser­vices for future gen­er­a­tions. If read­ers would like to sup­port this endeav­or, please make a finan­cial dona­tion. Or if they have a favorite children’s book they would like us to include in our pro­gram, they can send the books right from their favorite book­seller direct­ly to:

Kids Need To Read, Grow Your Library
Attn: Gary Mlodzik
2450 W. Broad­way, Suite 110
Mesa, AZ 85202

Mul­ti­ples of four books per title are usu­al­ly best so we can send one to each library.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Loni Niles

Loni Niles

Loni Niles

We inter­viewed Loni Niles, K-12 media spe­cial­ist in the Wade­na-Deer Creek pub­lic schools in west cen­tral Min­neso­ta. She shared her thoughts about books and life.

What is your favorite late-night snack?

I love pop­corn and can eat it any time dur­ing the day, even for break­fast!

Favorite city to vis­it?

Chica­go. Even though we moved from there when I was just a baby, I still take some pride that I was born there!  Now I love to vis­it there because my step­daugh­ter and her hus­band are such won­der­ful hosts—they show us all kinds of won­der­ful things the city has to offer.  Oh yeah, and there’s that grand­son there, too! He def­i­nite­ly is a draw for me to vis­it this won­der­ful city!

First date?

My hus­band and I do not real­ly agree on when our first date was. For­tu­nate­ly, we agree on some of the more impor­tant things in life!

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

I find myself pas­sion­ate­ly rec­om­mend­ing the nov­els The Lot­tery Rose by Irene Hunt and A Wrin­kle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Miss Steim­le, my fifth grade teacher, read both of these out loud to my class in the 1970s, but today’s kids love them, too!

The Lottery Rose, A Wrinkle in Time

This is NOT a Cat!Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Mike Wohnout­ka. My favorite book of his work is writ­ten by one of my favorite authors, David LaRochelle. It’s a final­ist for the Min­neso­ta Book Awards this year and called This is NOT a Cat! Check it out! 

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Got­ta have my cof­fee in the morn­ing!

Favorite sea­son of the year?

Although I love them all, it’s win­ter! Min­neso­ta is the per­fect place for me!  We typ­i­cal­ly get a real win­ter here and we def­i­nite­ly get four sea­sons!  At age 48, I start­ed to down­hill ski.  But I love to watch high school hock­ey, go snow­mo­bil­ng and sled­ding, and when my sons were younger we used to love play­ing in the snow!

Marathon candy barFavorite can­dy as a kid?

Any­one remem­ber the Marathon can­dy bar?! A yum­my caramel braid cov­ered in choco­late.

Broth­ers and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I’m in the mid­dle of two broth­ers. I always told my two sons that I’m the best mom for them because I know what it’s like to have that big broth­er pound­ing on you and that lit­tle broth­er pick­ing at you!  I used to lament not hav­ing sis­ters, but I have been sur­round­ed by won­der­ful women (and girls, too—I have three grand­daugh­ters) in my life—so it’s not so much an issue any­more. 

Loni Niles and her brothers

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

I do live a very con­tent­ed life, but I don’t real­ly have a tip on how to do it. See­ing the good in things and peo­ple comes pret­ty nat­u­ral­ly to me.  I try to remem­ber my mom’s advice to always assume the best. This is the same woman who once told me as a teenag­er com­plain­ing about my acne that I should just be hap­py I have a face. That still makes me chuck­le! 

Hope for the world?

My hope for the world is that we begin to rec­og­nize each oth­ers’ tal­ents (and our own!) and appre­ci­ate each other—even our dif­fer­ences.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Mike Wohnoutka

Mike Wohnoutka

Mike Wohnout­ka

We inter­viewed Mike Wohnout­ka, children’s book illus­tra­tor, wide­ly known for his books Dad’s First Day, Moo!, and Lit­tle Pup­py and the Big Green Mon­ster. (Mike’s last name is pro­nounced wuh-noot-kuh.)

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

Pic­ture books in gen­er­al. I often hear par­ents say their chil­dren are too old for pic­ture books. Recent­ly a par­ent told me her first grad­er had “moved on” from pic­ture books.  This absolute­ly dri­ves me crazy. You are nev­er too old for pic­ture books.  They are sec­ond to none when it comes to art, sto­ry­telling, and lan­guage.

picture books

Favorite city to vis­it?

New York. I love the muse­ums, com­e­dy clubs, book stores, and the­aters. It’s also nice to go to lunch with my edi­tors since most of the pub­lish­ers I work with are in New York.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Play­ing Kick the Can with all the kids in our neigh­bor­hood.

Mike Wohnoutka and David ShannonIllustrator’s work you most admire?

David Shan­non. David is the rea­son I became an illus­tra­tor. After see­ing his pre­sen­ta­tion, when I was in col­lege, about how he illus­trat­ed his first children’s book, How Many Spots Does A Leop­ard Have?,  I thought “THAT is what I want to do!” His paint­ings are tech­ni­cal­ly stun­ning and his sto­ries are so fun­ny.

When I vis­it schools I tell stu­dents about David being such an influ­ence on me. It’s amaz­ing how excit­ed the stu­dents get when I show the cov­er of No David! and it’s incred­i­ble that every stu­dent is famil­iar with that series. He obvi­ous­ly has struck a chord with chil­dren.

A cou­ple years ago, David and I both pre­sent­ed at the Maz­za Muse­um sum­mer con­fer­ence. It was won­der­ful to meet him. He  is the nicest guy and it was fun to let him know how much of an inspi­ra­tion he has been to me.

Go-to drink?

Cof­fee, espe­cial­ly in the morn­ing as I write or paint.

Mike Wohnoutka

Copy­right Mike Wohnout­ka

Favorite sea­son?

Fall. Leaves chang­ing col­ors, cool­er weath­er, the World Series, and Hal­loween are a few of the many things I love about fall.

Dream vaca­tion?

Prague

What gives you shiv­ers?

Mice

Strangest tourist attrac­tion?

Mike Wohnoutka's family at the Wizarding World of Harry PotterOur fam­i­ly recent­ly took a trip to Uni­ver­sal Stu­dios in Orlan­do, main­ly to vis­it The Wiz­ard­ing World of Har­ry Pot­ter. It was such a fun vaca­tion. The atten­tion to detail in cre­at­ing Diagon Alley, Hog­warts Express, and Hogsmeade was awe-inspir­ing.

My wife and I got teary-eyed when we first entered Diagon Alley. 

Also, the rides through­out Uni­ver­sal and Islands of Adven­ture were a blast. Of course our kids loved it all, but the strange thing about this tourist attrac­tion is how much my wife and I tru­ly enjoyed every­thing, too. We can’t wait to go back.

Broth­ers or sis­ters? How did they shape your life?

Ever since I can remem­ber, I’ve loved to draw. Hav­ing three old­er broth­ers who were all real­ly good at draw­ing had a big influ­ence on me. I remem­ber being so impressed with the sim­plest sketch they would do and I was deter­mined to be as good as they were.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

I have found med­i­ta­tion and yoga very help­ful. I start every day with a 20 minute med­i­ta­tion (before the cof­fee).

Read more...

Skinny Dip with April Whatley Bedford

April Whatley Bedford

April What­ley Bed­ford

We inter­viewed April What­ley Bed­ford, life­long read­er, cur­rent­ly the Dean of the School of Edu­ca­tion at Brook­lyn Col­lege.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Can I choose two? I would love to have cof­fee with Michelle and Barack Oba­ma, either togeth­er or indi­vid­u­al­ly. I’m sure I’m not alone in this answer, but there are no two peo­ple I admire more in the world, and I also believe we would laugh a lot dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tions.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The Girl Who Drank the MoonThis changes on a fre­quent basis, but I just fin­ished read­ing the most recent New­bery win­ner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. I have not been able to stop think­ing about it since I fin­ished it. Kel­ly Barnhill’s beau­ti­ful lan­guage, the world she imag­ined and described in such exquis­ite detail, the ulti­mate mes­sage of hope and for­give­ness … I could go on and on about this book. I feel sure that the well-deserved award will bring this book to the atten­tion of more readers—of every age—who need to know about it.

Favorite city to vis­it?

Until I was for­tu­nate enough to live in them, my two favorite cities to vis­it were always New Orleans, where I lived for 15 years, and New York City, where I have lived for the past three. Now my favorite city to vis­it is San Fran­cis­co, but I also dream of liv­ing in Paris some­time. There is nev­er enough time to explore all the won­ders of each of these unique and cul­tur­al­ly rich cities, and they all have pret­ty fan­tas­tic food, too.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Radiant ChildAgain, I could nev­er pick just one but I am cur­rent­ly swoon­ing over Java­ka Steptoe’s spec­tac­u­lar Radi­ant Child: The Sto­ry of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat! Since I moved to Brook­lyn, I have become friends with Java­ka, and when his name was called in Atlanta at the ALA Youth Media Awards first for the Coret­ta Scott King medal and then for the Calde­cott, I couldn’t stop scream­ing. He showed me a draft of the book on his iPad about a year before it was pub­lished, and I was count­ing the days until I could see it in print. His col­lages, evok­ing the style of Basquiat but pure Java­ka, are so cap­ti­vat­ing to me. We invit­ed the fifth graders from a local part­ner school, PS 119, to hear him speak at Brook­lyn Col­lege just a few weeks before ALA Mid-Win­ter and gave them each a signed copy of Radi­ant Child. Being able to con­nect chil­dren with authors and illus­tra­tors is one of the great joys of my per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life, and I was thrilled to be able to call the prin­ci­pal of PS 119 after the awards cer­e­mo­ny with the won­der­ful news that she could share with all of her fifth-graders. I am def­i­nite­ly one of Javaka’s biggest fans!

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

Grow­ing up in Texas, I was always a sum­mer sun wor­shiper, but since mov­ing to New York, I’ve grown very fond of the fall. As a teacher, the begin­ning of a new school year has always seemed like the real New Year’s for me, but most of my life I lived in places that real­ly didn’t have four sep­a­rate sea­sons. There’s just an excite­ment in the air as the sea­son changes from sum­mer to fall that I love. I’m still not a fan of New York win­ters, but it’s pret­ty hard to beat the hol­i­day sea­son in the city.

Autumn in New York, Central Park, New York Ciity

What gives you shiv­ers?

Sun­sets, fire­works, can­dle­light, shoot­ing stars, light­en­ing bugs, water­falls, the ocean…all in a good way.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Most def­i­nite­ly a night per­son.

Your hope for the world?

My great­est hope for the world, espe­cial­ly dur­ing these dif­fi­cult days, is that we are all able to expect kind­ness and com­pas­sion from one anoth­er.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Nancy Peterson

Nan­cy Peter­son

We inter­viewed Nan­cy Peter­son, EdD, pro­fes­sor of ele­men­tary edu­ca­tion at Utah Val­ley Uni­ver­si­ty and co-chair of UVU’s annu­al Forum on Engaged Read­ing “For the Love of Read­ing” con­fer­ence and retreat. 

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I recent­ly learned that Patrick Hen­ry (Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War Patri­ot) is one of my ances­tors. I’d love to talk heart to heart with him about what I have read con­cern­ing his per­son­al tri­als. For instance, I believe his first wife suf­fered from a men­tal ill­ness, and that he remained loy­al and respon­si­ble for her until she died.  I’d real­ly like to know how he coped, dealt with it, etc.

Gift from the SeaWhich book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

Gift From the Sea by Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh. I re-read it every so often… find­ing dif­fer­ent gems for the first time, depend­ing on my life’s cir­cum­stances.  I love that book… love that woman!

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I can’t even think about it….   Today is my 188th day of no sug­ar, no flour, and no snack­ing.  When I crave “that thing,” I just have go to bed!

Providence, Rhode IslandFavorite city to vis­it?

Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, in the fall. I’ve only been there once, but I was enam­ored with it, and want to see it again!

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

I real­ly want to answer this, but I have to share three: Steve Jenk­ins, and his exquis­ite­ly detailed cut paper work that almost rede­fines real­ism, in my mind! Mar­la Frazee, whose illus­tra­tions are drip­ping with unique per­son­al­i­ty and “voice.” And final­ly, Jon J Muth. Some words I have bor­rowed to express how I feel about his water­col­or and pas­tel illus­tra­tions are “mag­i­cal,” “haunt­ing,” “charm­ing,” “majes­tic,” and “cozy.” All I can say is that I can’t get enough of them.

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Shas­ta diet root beer… I just love that stuff!

Favorite sea­son of the year?

Autumn (not “fall” – autumn) Why? Evening walks in the crisp, damp air, the vivid col­ors of gold, orange and scar­let leaves, and the aro­mas com­ing from the chim­neys of the first hous­es on the block to light their fire­places.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

I would love to take the train from Wash­ing­ton, DC, to Harper’s Fer­ry, stay in a bed & break­fast inn, and walk and wan­der around for 2 or 3 days sight-see­ing the his­tor­i­cal land­marks and muse­ums and shop­ping in the his­toric vil­lage and quaint shops – in autumn, of course!

What gives you shiv­ers?

Snakes and mice.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Morn­ing.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I am an amaz­ing grand­ma! For my tal­ent of “grand­moth­er­ing” I have the hair, the rock­er, the sto­ry­books, the sewing machine and the most beau­ti­ful two and four year old grand­chil­dren ever to walk this earth!

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

M&Ms – always and for­ev­er! Have you tried the Mega M&Ms?

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child?

I’m the old­est of five girls.

How did that shape your life?

I’m head­strong, opin­ion­at­ed, stub­born, and always But I’m also a pleas­er; I can hold my tongue when I want to, and I usu­al­ly go over­board in try­ing to make a good impres­sion.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

Tak­ing time to be alone and find joy. Anne Mor­row Lind­bergh says women need to take a minute of every hour, an hour of every day, a day of every week, and a month of every year (or some­thing like that) for them­selves. I don’t have a reg­u­lar sched­ule for it, but I know when I’m need­ing it, and I go to great lengths to get it.

Your hope for the world?

For every human being to receive and give kind­ness more than feel­ing and inflict­ing pain.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park

Lin­da Sue Park

We inter­viewed Lin­da Sue Park, vet­er­an author and New­bery medal­ist, whose books have inspired chil­dren in many ways, appeal­ing to a wide range of read­ers with books like A Sin­gle Shard, The Mul­ber­ry Project, Keep­ing Score, Yaks Yak, and A Long Walk to Water.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

My pater­nal grand­moth­er, whom I nev­er got to meet. How­ev­er, I sus­pect she wouldn’t invite me to a cof­fee shop; she’d invite me for naeng-myun instead (Kore­an cold noo­dle soup. Deli­cious.). And I real­ize that she is not a celebri­ty in the con­ven­tion­al sense, but I believe that all brave women should be.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

Cur­rent­ly: All Amer­i­can Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Bren­dan Kiely

Brendan Kiely, Linda Sue Park, Jason Reynolds

Bren­dan Kiely, Lin­da Sue Park, Jason Reynolds

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Real­ly good guac with real­ly fresh chips. I will eat mediocre chips if they’re all that’s avail­able. The guac is what mat­ters.

Favorite city to vis­it?

New York!

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Sat­ur­day morn­ings at the pub­lic library.

First date?

Roller-skat­ing and ice cream, 6th grade, with a boy named Cur­tis. Where is he now?

Xander's Panda Party and Yaks YakIllustrator’s work you most admire?

UNFAIR ques­tion. Reg­is­ter­ing protest by not answer­ing.

No, strike that: I’ll name the illus­tra­tors of my two most recent pic­ture books: Matt Phe­lan (Xander’s Pan­da Par­ty) and Jen­nifer Black Rein­hardt (Yaks Yak). ‘Admire’ is too staid. Their work for my texts THRILLED me.

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Tea in the morn­ing, espres­so once or twice a day, swee’ tea when I’m in the South. My go-to is water.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

Snor­kel­ing, read­ing on a beach, and eat­ing fab­u­lous food, both street and fine din­ing, with fam­i­ly and/or friends, some­where that has live­ly out­door mar­kets.

WormsWhat gives you shiv­ers?

Worms.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

NIGHT. Morn­ing is a recur­ring insult to the psy­che.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

It has fad­ed with time, but I used to be able to iden­ti­fy red M&Ms blind­fold­ed.

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

As a kid? Why not now? As a kid: Bit O’Honey. As an adult: pecan rolls.

Is Plu­to a plan­et?

Of course not. He’s Popeye’s nemesis—that big guy, with the arms. 😉

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

The DMZ, bor­der between North and South Korea.

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

One of each. I’m the old­est. I don’t think my life has a shape. Or maybe it’s con­stant­ly chang­ing.

The Park family

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

1) Find a way to do work that you love. 2) When you’ve got the blues, do some­thing for some­one else.

Your hope for the world?

Every child a read­er.

Cavern of SecretsLin­da Sue, thanks for these can­did answers for our Bookol­o­gy read­ers. If they haven’t read all of your pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished books, we encour­age them to have a Lin­da Sue Park read-a-thon. Could you share with us which books comes out next?

I hope you’ll enjoy the sec­ond book in the Claw & Wing series, Cav­ern of Secrets. It fol­lows Book #1, For­est of Won­ders. You’ll find the book in book­stores on March 7, 2017. Raf­fa sets off on a treach­er­ous jour­ney across Obsidia to save his friends and fam­i­ly … and the world!

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Caren Stelson

Caren Stelson

Caren Stel­son, author

We inter­viewed Caren Stel­son, first-time author, whose non­fic­tion book Sachiko: a Nagasa­ki Bomb Sur­vivor Sto­ry has received a good deal of pos­i­tive recog­ni­tion, includ­ing the longlist for the Nation­al Book Award and inclu­sion on many Best Books of 2016 lists. (Her name is pro­nounced just as you would say Karen.)

Which celebri­ty would invite you like to invite to a cof­fee shop?

If I could invite any­one to cof­fee, I’d invite Eleanor Roo­sevelt and hap­pi­ly pick up the tab. Eleanor—what a woman! She over­came so much, from her dif­fi­cult child­hood, to find­ing and claim­ing her own life work, to being Franklin Roosevelt’s con­science as First Lady. Actu­al­ly, she was the con­science of the nation, then as U.N. rep­re­sen­ta­tive, the con­science of the world. I’d love to ask Eleanor, “What do you think of Don­ald Trump as Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States?”

To Kill a MockingbirdWhich book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

I keep com­ing back to To Kill a Mock­ing­bird by Harp­er Lee as my favorite book. Any­one who wants to under­stand the Unit­ed States needs to read Harp­er Lee’s nov­el.

Favorite city to vis­it?

Can I have two favorites? Bath, Eng­land is one and Nagasa­ki, Japan is the oth­er. I lived in Bath, Eng­land in 2001–2002 and spent that year inter­view­ing adults who had sur­vived the April 1942 blitz as kids dur­ing World War II. I was fas­ci­nat­ed by what they remem­bered about liv­ing through the war and what those mem­o­ries meant to them now. I have great mem­o­ries of the inter­views and great mem­o­ries of the city of Bath, itself. Bath is a Geor­gian archi­tec­tur­al won­der with lay­ers and lay­ers of his­to­ry. The Roman Bath in the heart of the city is the best pre­served Roman bath in the world. I loved liv­ing in Bath. I still have many friends there, mak­ing Bath “home away from home” for me. Nagasa­ki, Japan is anoth­er city where I’m at home. Of course, my friend Sachiko Yasui lives in Nagasa­ki as do many of my oth­er Japan­ese friends. Because Nagasa­ki was the sec­ond city destroyed by an atom­ic bomb dur­ing WWII, the hor­ror of nuclear war is for­ev­er stamped on the city’s con­science. So is the neces­si­ty for peace. For me, Nagasa­ki is Ground Zero for the study of peace.

City of Bath, England

Bath, Eng­land

Roman Bath

The Roman Bath in Bath, Eng­land

Nagasaki, Japan

Nagasa­ki, Japan today

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

One of my most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ries is sled­ding down a hill in Ver­mont one win­try night with my fam­i­ly. I still can see my father stretched out on a wood­en sled with my moth­er on top of him, speed­ing down the hill. I can still hear their screams of laugh­ter echo­ing through the dark. I don’t have many mem­o­ries of that kind of fam­i­ly laugh­ter, so I hang onto this mem­o­ry pret­ty tight­ly.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

My dream vaca­tion is a pho­to­graph­ic safari to the Serengeti Plain. My hus­band and I trav­eled to Tan­za­nia in the 1980s and camped on the floor of Ngoro Ngoro Crater, the place with the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of wild ani­mals in the world. I can still hear the lions’ roar­ing at night. And the eyes. At night, we aimed a high-pow­ered flash­light out­side the cir­cle of tents and watched the eyes of ante­lope stare back at us. Today it’s not pos­si­ble to camp on the crater floor, but I’d do it in a heart­beat as my dream vaca­tion.

Ngoro Ngoro Crater, Tan­za­nia (Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

What makes you shiv­er?

There’s a lot to shiv­er about these days, but hon­est­ly, the first thing that popped into my mind was shark attacks. Any sto­ry that has a shark attack in it will give me night­mares.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

I used to be a night per­son when I was younger, but now I’m a straight morn­ing per­son. Some­times I’ll get out of bed around 5:00 am, maybe ear­li­er, put on the cof­fee, and start writ­ing right away. When I’m in that half-sleep, half-awake zone, lots of inter­est­ing things start hap­pen­ing on the page.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I real­ly love hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions with three-year-olds. I think that can be con­sid­ered a tal­ent.  I recent­ly took care of a three-year-old for a day and we had the best time explor­ing every mechan­i­cal item in the house, from how a mix­er works to how a piano makes its sound. If we could all sus­tain our three-year-old curios­i­ty, we tru­ly could be wide-awake, life-long learn­ers.

Piano iinterior

Explain­ing how a piano makes sound (Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

Favorite can­dy as a kid?

Good ‘n‘ Plen­ty. I loved those pink and white can­dy cov­ered pieces of licorice, par­tic­u­lar­ly if I ate them at the movies.

Broth­ers and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have an old­er broth­er and a younger broth­er, so I’m the sis­ter stuck in the mid­dle. Being the only girl shaped my life quite a bit. My broth­ers weren’t all that inter­est­ed in sports, but I was. My father taught me how to throw a foot­ball, play ten­nis, and get up the courage to play var­si­ty high school sports. Hav­ing that father­ly atten­tion gave me con­fi­dence. But I also missed not hav­ing a sis­ter I could con­fide in. I looked for that close­ness in the books I read and in my per­son­al jour­nals. Today, I think of my clos­est women friends as my sis­ters, which makes up for the hole in my child­hood.

Sachiko: a Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's StoryHope for the world?

What is there but hope for peace? The world is heat­ing up with fears and ten­sions we haven’t seen in decades. This does not bode well for the future. It’s a long shot, but I hope the nations of the world will col­lec­tive­ly real­ize war is not the answer to our prob­lems. Real­ly, we have no choice. Between nuclear weapons and cli­mate change, our exis­tence on this plan­et is at stake. We Amer­i­cans and the rest of the world’s pop­u­la­tion have to fig­ure out how to work togeth­er and work for peace. As indi­vid­u­als we may feel pow­er­less in the face of world ten­sions, but we can begin the peace process among neigh­bors and across our cities and states. I love the quote by peace activist and Quak­er Gene Knud­sen Hoff­man, “The ene­my is a per­son whose sto­ries we have not heard.” We can start lis­ten­ing.

Nagasaki, Japan

Caren Stel­son in Nagasa­ki, Japan

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Taylor LisleFor this inter­view, we chat with Janet Tay­lor Lisle, New­bery Hon­or-win­ning author of After­noon of the Elves, the Scott O’Dell Award-win­ning The Art of Keep­ing Cool, and the thriller Black Duck, along with many oth­er read­er favorites.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I’m quite sure Emi­ly Dick­in­son, shy and secre­tive as she was, would nev­er invite me to a cof­fee shop, but per­haps I could slip a note under her door in Amherst, Mass­a­chu­setts and beg for a vis­it. I’d like to ask her why she made her poems, what some of them mean, and if it mat­tered to her that her work was unpub­lished dur­ing her life.

The LeopardWhich book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

My all-time favorite book is The Leop­ard (Il Gat­topar­do) by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampe­dusa. Every time I read it, the nov­el changes what I see around me. Lampe­dusa wrote only this one work but it’s enough to put the uni­verse at your fin­ger­tips.

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I am not noc­tur­nal but my cat Nel­lie would like to men­tion here that she will take straight canned tuna fish and milk any­time after mid­night. After 3 a.m., too, if it comes to that.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

So, we three chil­dren are sail­ing off Martha’s Vine­yard with my dad when a sud­den storm hits. Vio­lent sea! Howl­ing wind! My dad is on deck reef­ing the sails when a huge wave rolls into the cock­pit. It lifts my lit­tle broth­er up and is sweep­ing him over­board when I grab him by the arm and hold on with all my strength. Hugh is saved! (That was close.) I cry. He grows up to become a loved doc­tor who cares deeply for his patients.

Janet Tay­lor Lisle with one of Bar­ry Flanagan’s “hare” sculp­tures, at the Nation­al Gallery of Art Sculp­ture Gar­den, in Wash­ing­ton, DC

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

I guess the illus­tra­tors I loved as a child still speak to me most direct­ly. Beat­rix Pot­ter for her hedge­hogs and rab­bits; John Ten­niel for his Mad Hat­ter and March Hare; N.C. Wyeth for his mur­der­ous, one-legged pirates and mys­te­ri­ous islands. So many oth­ers. Today, it’s any­thing by William Steig or Arnold Lobel for me and my grand­chil­dren. (Nel­lie cozies up to these guys too.)

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

Win­ter in New Eng­land. Stark. Qui­et. When the leaves fall off the trees the land  opens to show its real face. The moon looks big­ger.

Janet Taylor Lisle

Win­ter, Janet’s favorite time of year

What gives you shiv­ers?

A recent arrival in my Rhode Island neigh­bor­hood is an otter-like ani­mal known as a Fish­er Cat. It hunts near the pond and screams most hor­ri­bly at night. I pull the blan­kets over my head and Nellie’s. We don’t like even think­ing about this crea­ture.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

I’m a morn­ing per­son. I like to rise with the sun. Rosy-fin­gered dawn for me, and a walk on the beach. (My nov­el The Lamp­fish of Twill came from this dai­ly  habit.)

Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Tay­lor Lisle in front of the pond in Lit­tle Comp­ton, the inspi­ra­tion for my fic­tion­al Quick­sand Pond.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I love to sing and have sung in choral groups all my life. Mozart, Beethoven, Han­del, Bach. I’m not a reli­gious per­son but the big requiems and mass­es some­times bring me to tears even as I sing them. I’m a suck­er for pop­u­lar music too: a big croon­er in the car. Radio always on.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

For a con­tent­ed life, keep it sim­ple and keep out of the lime­light. Fame nev­er did any­one any good.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Ed Spicer

For this inter­view, we vis­it with Ed Spicer, edu­ca­tor, author, cur­ricu­lum guide writer, and ALA com­mit­tee mem­ber many times over.

Ed SpicerWhich celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I would love to spend some time in a con­fi­den­tial, friend­ly chat with Michelle Oba­ma.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

Oh! This depends so much on what col­or your wheel­bar­row might be! As a teacher, I’ve always loved edg­ing stu­dents out of their com­fort zones and we are all stu­dents. I adore Leslie Mar­mon Silko’s Cer­e­mo­ny. I love Audre Lorde’s poet­ry, which is most cer­tain­ly a win­dow for this white, male read­er.

CeremonyCur­rent­ly, I am get­ting ready to do a pre­sen­ta­tion at a sym­po­sium fea­tur­ing Nao­mi Shi­hab Nye, so I have fall­en in love again with 19 Vari­eties of Gazelle, a gor­geous book that helps us to remem­ber that no sin­gle sto­ry can encap­su­late a peo­ple or a cul­ture or even a sin­gle human. If you want to read a book with your ears, I think Tobin Anderson’s Feed is actu­al­ly enhanced by the audio (and it is ter­rif­ic with just your eyes).

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Either cashews or ice cream. but don’t tell any­one!

Favorite city to vis­it?

If I were only allowed one, I could very well choose stay­ing at the Hotel Mon­teleone in New Orleans in the win­ter or spring (they treat­ed us like fam­i­ly). If not, Chica­go and Toron­to would have to bat­tle it out.

The badge of honor in Ed's class was trying things that are hard. These students are eating seaweed.

The badge of hon­or in Ed’s class was try­ing things that are hard. These stu­dents are eat­ing sea­weed.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

A lot of my child­hood mem­o­ries are not pleas­ant. I watched my father knock my sister’s front tooth out with a cement sprin­kler attached to a gar­den hose. I ran away and lived hid­ing in a church youth cen­ter for about a year. I was on my own for good at the age of 15. Yet I absolute­ly cher­ish these mem­o­ries. As The Asso­ci­a­tion says, “Cher­ish is the word I use to describe all the feel­ing I have hid­ing…”

First date?

When I went to col­lege, I weighed under 100 pounds and was approach­ing the five foot mark. Dat­ing wasn’t a word that meant the same thing to me as it did to the young women I thought I was dat­ing. In any event, my first 500 dates were total­ly bor­ing and insignif­i­cant. I may also be exag­ger­at­ing the five actu­al dates I real­ly did have, but I still do not remem­ber them.

Ed Spicer Dinner Party

A recent din­ner at Ed and Ann’s house with (clock­wise from left) Charles Emery, Eric Rohmann, Gary Schmidt, Edith Pat­tou, Bill Perkins, Lynn Rutan, Ani­ta Eerd­mans, Cindy Dobrez, Lynne Rae Perkins, Can­dy Flem­ing, Stephanie Hemphill, Ed, Travis Jonker.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Too many! Kadir Nel­son, Beth Krommes, Pamela Zagaren­s­ki, Melis­sa Sweet, Jer­ry Pinkney, Paul Zelin­sky, Mar­la Frazee, Mo Willems, E.B. Lewis, Matt Faulkn­er, Yuyi Morales, Ash­ley Bryan … And, of course, Mau­rice Sendak, Wan­da Gag, Beat­rix Pot­ter, Dorothy P. Lath­rop from ear­li­er years. Among the younger illus­tra­tors com­ing up the pipe, I am very excit­ed by the new work Shadra Strick­land is doing. I also think Chris­t­ian Robin­son will become even more of a force. My friend Ruth McNal­ly Bar­shaw gave me a water­col­or she paint­ed of Red Rid­ing Hood. Water­col­or is a new medi­um for her and it is among my very favorite pieces of art and I hope it bodes well for her.

On of Ed's favorite reading photos

One of Ed’s favorite read­ing pho­tos

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

COFFEE, cream and no sug­ar! Some­times there is noth­ing bet­ter than a gin and ton­ic, how­ev­er.

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

ALA Mid­win­ter sea­son! This may not be a uni­ver­sal­ly acknowl­edged sea­son, but for me it begins that slow trek back into feel­ing healthy. I suf­fer from sea­son­al affec­tive dis­or­der and ALA comes right after the hol­i­days in Jan­u­ary (some­times, painful­ly, Feb­ru­ary). Hang­ing around so many believ­ers in chil­dren, in lit­er­a­cy, and, more impor­tant­ly, kind­ness always restores my faith in the world and in myself. From an art per­spec­tive, I love autumn. The col­ors nev­er cease to blow me away.

Ann and Ed at Yellowstone National Park

Ann and Ed on their nation­al park tour

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

My wife, Ann, and I have begun explor­ing our Nation­al Parks. Last sum­mer we vis­it­ed six, which brings our total close to 20. We want to keep explor­ing. I have dreamed of trav­el­ing down the Zam­bezi Riv­er through the Oka­van­go Delta region of Zam­bia, Zim­bab­we, and Botswana although I fear I may have missed my oppor­tu­ni­ty.

What gives you shiv­ers?

Our new­ly elect­ed pres­i­dent and our lack of kind­ness and even civil­i­ty toward those who do not share our cul­ture, reli­gions, cus­toms, hol­i­days, lan­guage, etc.

Logan, a former first grader in Ed's class, now a writing major and slam poet at Emerson College in Boston

Logan, a for­mer first grad­er in Ed’s class, now a writ­ing major and slam poet at Emer­son Col­lege in Boston

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

NIGHT! Bed­time before 1:00 am is for wimps.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

Years ago I was a very suc­cess­ful cologne sales­per­son dur­ing the hol­i­days! I sold a lot of Russ­ian Leather cologne. Today, I am not a chef, but I do make very pret­ty food that tastes good! I can­not, how­ev­er, fol­low recipes to save my life and I have rarely made the same thing twice.

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

Any that I could steal.

Mission to PlutoIs Plu­to a plan­et?

Ha! I write the cur­ricu­lum guides for Houghton Mifflin’s Sci­en­tists in the Field series. I just fin­ished doing the guide on Plu­to. The lead sci­en­tist in this book thinks of Plu­to as a plan­et. I will side with him.

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

Corn Palace? I have been to some very sketchy amuse­ment parks. In Alle­gan, I often take peo­ple to see our giant chick­en at our Coun­ty Fair site.

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

When every­one was alive, I had 2 broth­ers and 5 sis­ters. At least one broth­er has passed away and I haven’t seen the oth­er for more than 50 years. I haven’t spo­ken to any­one in my fam­i­ly for more than ten years. It is more like anti-shap­ing.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

Get help!

What a Wonderful WorldYour hope for the world?

When I taught first grade, I could nev­er read the Ash­ley Bryan illus­trat­ed ver­sion of Louis Armstrong’s What a Won­der­ful World with­out cry­ing! I read this book every year and cried every time. “They’ll learn much more than I’ll ever know…” always hit me as so beau­ti­ful and so true. I often told peo­ple every year that I had first graders who are much smarter than I am. Many peo­ple assumed I was being face­tious, but I meant it quite lit­er­al­ly. I have more expe­ri­ence and I have more facts at my dis­pos­al, but my first graders always demon­strat­ed the cre­ativ­i­ty, the dreams, and the fear­less­ness that make me feel hope­ful for our future.

Ed Spicer's Classroom

Ed Spicer’s class five years ago

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Cynthia Grady

Cynthia GradyFor this inter­view, we vis­it with Cyn­thia Grady, author and librar­i­an, at her home in New Mex­i­co.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Oh, most def­i­nite­ly Beat­rix Pot­ter. My ear­li­est lit­er­ary hero.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Back­man. I turned back to page 1 as soon as I fin­ished read­ing it.

 Whirley-Pop Hand Crank Popping MachineWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

Popcorn—fresh popped on the stove in a Whirley-Pop Hand Crank Pop­ping Machine –with lots of but­ter and salt. But I will pop it and eat it any­time.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

I wouldn’t call this my most cher­ished mem­o­ry exact­ly, but one that I’ve been revis­it­ing lately—is how a friend and I roamed sev­er­al neigh­bor­hoods, cross­ing streets we weren’t allowed to cross, by way of creeks and drainage pipes.  

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Am I allowed to say Irish whiskey? Straight up? After that comes laven­der lemon­ade. Mmm­mm. Deli­cious.

Necco wafersWhat gives you shiv­ers?

The dark. Since age 3.

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

Neccos—at the movies.

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

The Muse­um of Ques­tion­able Med­ical Devices, now locat­ed with­in the Sci­ence Muse­um of Min­neso­ta. A fright­en­ing expe­ri­ence of med­ical quack­ery!

RabbitsBroth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

Ah. I am num­ber six of nine chil­dren. Being the youngest of the first six, the eldest of the bot­tom four, and near­ly in the mid­dle over­all has shaped every sin­gle bit of my life, from my abil­i­ty to sleep any­where to my absolute love of silence.  Plus, I dis­play all of the char­ac­ter­is­tics on those birth order charts.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

A house rab­bit or two.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Debby Dahl Edwardson

For this inter­view, we vis­it with Deb­by Dahl Edward­son, author of the Nation­al Book Award final­ist My Name is Not Easy and co-founder of the Loon­Song Writ­ers’ Retreat.

Debby Dahl EdwardsonWhich celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Anne Lam­ott. I feel like I already know her so well though her books that I would actu­al­ly feel com­fort­able with this kind of meet­ing, which is a bit out of my com­fort zone, for sure. Lam­ott seems like the kind of per­son you could talk to about anything—from your strug­gles with spir­i­tu­al­i­ty to your awful first draft—and she’d empha­size, hav­ing just dealt with these same issues like yes­ter­day morn­ing or in the mid­dle of the night last week.  

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry? 

Get­ting lost in books. When I was 12 years old, my god­moth­er gave me a book for Christ­mas. It was a book that had won the New­bery award that year and it cap­ti­vat­ed me. Clichés aside, I was pulled imme­di­ate­ly into the dark and stormy night with which the book opened and I found myself instant­ly inside that lit­tle attic bed­room where Meg Mur­ry was just begin­ning to awak­en to the series of strange and won­der­ful events. I remained immersed in that book for sev­er­al days. I reread it imme­di­ate­ly upon fin­ish­ing it. I sim­ply did not want to leave that world. I am talk­ing, of course, about A Wrin­kle in Time, by Made­line L’Engle. Enter­ing new worlds through the world of books are among my most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ries.

Debby Dahl Edwardson and George Edwardson

Deb­by Dahl Edward­son and her hus­band, George Edward­son

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

Fall. It’s always been my favorite. I love the col­ors and the smells of fall every­where, even here in Alas­ka, where I live on the tree­less tun­dra. I love the way the tun­dra turns rus­set and the air tin­gles with the promise of snow. I remem­ber, as a child in north­ern Min­neso­ta, watch­ing the sky dark­en with geese call­ing out their rau­cous calls, head­ed south. And now that I am in the fall of my life, I love that, too!

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

I have about a hun­dred dream vaca­tions. Most of them involve ocean beach­es because I love the ocean and I love to swim. But one non-beach place I’d love to vis­it and spend time in is north­ern New Mex­i­co, the region where Geor­gia O’Keeffe lived and paint­ed. I have a pic­ture of hers in my writ­ing room. It’s one you’ve nev­er seen: a sin­gle blue trail lead­ing up into pas­tel blue and gin­ger moun­tains. I want to go there. I love adobe, too, the way the red hous­es seem to grow from the red earth—and there’s a hot spring there, too: Ojo Caliente. I love hot springs. Above that pic­ture of O’Keeffe’s paint­ing in my writ­ing room is a pho­to­graph of her with the words that have pret­ty much become my writ­ing mot­to: “It belongs to me. God told me if I paint­ed it enough I could have it.” I am attract­ed to land­scapes that hold that kind of pow­er.  

Proud grandparents Debby Dahl Edwardson

Proud grand­par­ents!

My Name is Not EasyYour hope for the world?

That peo­ple will learn true empa­thy and devel­op, from a young age, the abil­i­ty to see the world through mul­ti­ple lens­es. I think many of the prob­lems we face in the world come from an increas­ing ten­den­cy to see the world mono­lith­i­cal­ly. This kind of inflex­i­bil­i­ty is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous in pret­ty much every way you can imag­ine. One of my favorite quotes is this one, from Wade Davis:  “Oth­er cul­tures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique man­i­fes­ta­tions of the human spir­it. The world in which you were born is just one mod­el of real­i­ty.” We will not begin to find true solu­tions to our deep­est prob­lems until we devel­op the abil­i­ty to see mul­ti­ple ways of con­fig­ur­ing real­i­ty.”

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Heidi Hammond

For this inter­view, we vis­it with Hei­di Ham­mond, asso­ciate pro­fes­sor at St. Cather­ine Uni­ver­si­ty in the MLIS pro­gram, long-time school librar­i­an, and author of Read­ing the Art in Calde­cott Award Books: a Guide to the Illus­tra­tions, along with co-author Gail D. Nord­strom.

Heidi HammondWhich celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I would love to enjoy a cup of tea with Michelle Oba­ma and find out what the first fam­i­ly plans to do after Pres­i­dent Oba­ma fin­ish­es his sec­ond term of office.  

What’s your favorite late-night snack? 

I don’t usu­al­ly stay up late, but my favorite after sup­per snack is pop­corn (unbut­tered) and ice cream (Coconut Explo­sion), not togeth­er, but in that order. Some­times I just have pop­corn and ice cream for sup­per.

Favorite city to vis­it?

Lon­don! I’ve been there six times. “…when a man, (in my case, a woman), is tired of Lon­don, he (she) is tired of life; for there is in Lon­don all that life can afford.” —Samuel John­son

Moonstone Castle MysteryMost cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

One of my favorite child­hood mem­o­ries is receiv­ing a stack of Nan­cy Drew mys­ter­ies for Christ­mas and hav­ing all of the Christ­mas hol­i­day to read them.  

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

I drink tea and water. That’s pret­ty much it. I learned to drink tea after my first year of teach­ing. I chap­er­oned a group of 12 junior high stu­dents (What was I think­ing?) on a four-week exchange pro­gram with a school in Wales. I stayed with the deputy head­mas­ter and his fam­i­ly, and every morn­ing he made his fam­i­ly tea and served it to us in bed. I would hear a knock on my door and the ques­tion, “Tea, Hei­di?” It was a love­ly way to begin the day.

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

My favorite sea­son on the year is fall. Hav­ing been an edu­ca­tor or school librar­i­an all my pro­fes­sion­al life, fall always seems like a new begin­ning with the kick­off of the school year. It’s like hav­ing two New Years, one in Jan­u­ary and one in Sep­tem­ber. That means two fresh starts.

Ouzel Falls

Hik­ing to Ouzel Falls, Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

A dream vaca­tion for me is one that involves some hik­ing. In the sum­mer of 2015, I hiked Hadrian’s Wall from coast to coast in north­ern Eng­land, all 84 miles. In spring I hiked in the Grand Canyon. This past sum­mer I hiked in Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park. This Sep­tem­ber I’m hik­ing the Great Glen Way in Scot­land from Fort William to Inver­ness, all along Loch Ness. That part of the world just hap­pens to be the set­ting for “Out­lander.”

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I am a very good par­al­lel park­er. It seems I’ve been attend­ing the Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta off and on from 1974 to 2009. I couldn’t often afford to pay for park­ing in one of the lots, so I’d par­al­lel park on the res­i­den­tial streets sur­round­ing the uni­ver­si­ty and walk blocks and blocks to class.

Your favorite can­dy as a kid?

Milk Duds. I still like them, but I think red licorice is my favorite can­dy now. And, dark choco­late caramels. I like pret­ty much any kind of can­dy. I have a sweet tooth. They are open­ing a new Abdallah’s can­dy store about a mile from my house in Sep­tem­ber. I’m not sure this will be good for me.

The MarvelsWhat’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

I don’t know if this qual­i­fies as strange, but it was very dif­fer­ent and won­der­ful. The last time I was in Lon­don, right after I read Bri­an Selznick’s book The Mar­vels, I vis­it­ed the Den­nis Sev­ers’ House. I had heard Bri­an talk about his new book at the Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion Annu­al Meet­ing in San Fran­cis­co a few weeks before I left for Eng­land in 2015 to hike Hadrian’s Wall. If you know the book, you know the house is an impor­tant fea­ture. When I entered the house, I told the young man at the door that I had come because I’d read the book and heard Bri­an speak. He said I was the first per­son to vis­it who had read the book (I had an advance read­ing copy). Unbe­knownst to me, he told the cura­tor David Milne about me, and David found me and spent quite a bit of time with me talk­ing about Den­nis and the house. He even went and got the book and showed me an illus­tra­tion of one of the rooms while I was in that room. It was one of the most inter­est­ing places I’ve ever vis­it­ed in Lon­don.

Dennis Severs House

Den­nis Sev­ers House, Lon­don [pho­to: Matt Brown, Cre­ative Com­mons]

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

Every­one express­es good in his or her own indi­vid­ual way. See the good­ness in oth­ers and appre­ci­ate it.

Your hope for the world?

Like Rod­ney King, I wish we could all get along.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Pamela S. Turner

For this inter­view, we vis­it with Pamela S. Turn­er, children’s book author with two new books out in 2016, Samu­rai Ris­ing: The Epic Life of Minamo­to Yoshit­sune and Crow Smarts: Inside the Brain of the World’s Bright­est Bird:

Pamela S. TurnerWhich celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Sir Richard Fran­cis Bur­ton, the Vic­to­ri­an anthro­pol­o­gist, trans­la­tor, lin­guist, and African explor­er. I’ve had a huge crush on him ever since I read The White Nile.  

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry? 

Get­ting my first library card at age four. Mom said I couldn’t get one until I could write my own name, so I learned in a flash.  

Sir Richard Francis Burton

Richard Fran­cis Bur­ton by Rischgitz, 1864

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Why isn’t “mar­gari­ta” one of the options here?

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

Abba-Zab­ba … or maybe Bit O’ Hon­ey … or maybe Big Hunk … no, wait! Cot­ton can­dy. I still love cot­ton can­dy. I have the taste buds of a three-year-old.  

Is Plu­to a plan­et?

No. But Plu­to being demot­ed from plan­et­hood is a won­der­ful les­son in how sci­ence works. In sci­ence data mat­ter, not tra­di­tion.

Cotton CandyBest tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

I think Bud­dhists have the best mot­to of all: “com­pas­sion for all sen­tient crea­tures.”

Your hope for the world?

That we will find a way to live with­in our eco­log­i­cal means and not muck every­thing up for our­selves and for all oth­er sen­tient crea­tures.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Mélina Mangal

Mélina MangalFor this inter­view, we vis­it with Méli­na Man­gal, children’s book author and librar­i­an:

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

My favorite ANYTIME snack is white ched­dar pop­corn.  

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?  

Roam­ing through the north woods, climb­ing trees with my sis­ter and broth­ers.  I loved being out­doors so much.   

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

There are so many illus­tra­tors I admire, such as Leo and Diane Dil­lon, whose vast body of work has inspired sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions.  Also: the late Vera B. Williams, David Diaz, Cor­nelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu, Pat Cum­mings, Maya Cristi­na Gon­za­lez.… I could go on! 

Melina Mangal's most admired illustrators

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

Sum­mer is my favorite sea­son.  I can work in the gar­den, swim out­side, bike every­where, and read in the back­yard ham­mock next to the apple tree.  

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Def­i­nite­ly a morn­ing per­son.  I love to wake with the sun.

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have one old­er sis­ter and two younger broth­ers. Being in the mid­dle made me flex­i­ble and helps me lis­ten, medi­ate, and empathize.

Melina Mangal Books

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Rebecca Kai DotlichFor this inter­view, we vis­it with Rebec­ca Kai Dotlich, poet and children’s book author:

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

As most of my friends know, that would be Bil­ly Collins. And then Meryl Streep would stop by too of course.

Favorite city to vis­it?

I’m not a far and wide trav­el­er, but the city I’ve always want­ed to vis­it is any city in Switzer­land.

Reading-(HS)-on-couch-400px

In high school, read­ing on the couch.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The Glass Cas­tle by Jeanette Walls. Friend­ly Fire by C.D.B. Bryan. On Writ­ing: a mem­oir of the craft by Stephen King. Big Mag­ic by Eliz­a­beth Gilbert. Prince of Tides by Pat Con­roy.

Stromboli (photo credit: wikimedia commons)

Strom­boli (pho­to cred­it: wiki­me­dia com­mons)

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

I haven’t eat­en late-night snacks since my col­lege days at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty. Strom­bo­lis. Deliv­ered.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Oh, so many. Pil­ing into the sta­tion wag­on on a sum­mer night to go to the dri­ve-in in our paja­mas. Watch­ing Roy Rogers and Sky King on Sat­ur­day morn­ings. The smell of baby dolls and new sad­dle oxfords.

First date?

First love 8th grade, Den­nis. First date, high school and I am pret­ty sure it involved a dou­ble date and a dri­ve-in.

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Cof­fee. Grow­ing up, there was always a pot per­co­lat­ing in our house. My grand­moth­er made me cof­fee from a very young age. She added lots of cream and sug­ar and called it Boston cof­fee. I still love it that way.

Favorite sea­son of the year?

Fall. Why? The chill in the air. The fresh­ness. The new­ness. Reminds me of new begin­nings, sweaters, and school sup­plies.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

Being in a lit­tle town with book­stores, art muse­ums, cob­ble­stone streets, lamp­lights and noth­ing but time.

Burgess Meredith, Twilight Zone, 1960, wikimedia commons

Burgess Mered­ith, Twi­light Zone, 1960, wiki­me­dia com­mons

What gives you shiv­ers?

Heights. Burgess Mered­ith. (Twi­light Zone. “Time Enough At Last.”)

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

All of my young adult and adult life I was both. Easy up at 5 and to bed after mid­night or 1 o’clock. Now I’m more of a morn­ing per­son.

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

Nada. Except maybe a good recall of song lyrics. And bak­ing darn good Christ­mas cook­ies. Oh yes, and imag­i­na­tive con­cept pho­tog­ra­phy. (uh-huh, well it’s on the buck­et list.)

Your favorite can­dy as a kid?

Sky Bar. Rock can­dy (icy clear, nev­er col­ors.)

Is Plu­to a plan­et?

Wait, I have to google that … seems it depends on the year, the poor guy keeps get­ting demot­ed. His head must be spin­ning.

I did get a little huffy sometimes. With my brother Curt on my grandparents' front porch.

I did get a lit­tle huffy some­times. With my broth­er Curt on my grand­par­ents’ front porch.

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

A big broth­er and a lit­tle sis­ter. Big broth­er ruled the land of sib­lings, so I am used to not squawk­ing much when it comes to fol­low­ing rules sug­ges­tions. He also taught me by exam­ple that books in the hand, on the shelf and splat­tered on the bed are the best trea­sures of all. Lit­tle sis­ter passed me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to rule in the land of sib­lings. And also to feel respon­si­ble to look out for some­one, which for­tu­nate­ly or unfor­tu­nate­ly I still feel com­pelled to do.

with my brother and sister and our cousins

with my broth­er and sis­ter and our cousins

Your hope for the world?

Besides peace, love and kind­ness, it would be for the erad­i­ca­tion of bul­ly­ing, and more under­stand­ing of, and com­pas­sion for, depres­sion and oth­er men­tal health issues, espe­cial­ly for our youth.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Nancy Johnson

Nancy JohnsonFor this inter­view, we are pleased to share answers from Nan­cy John­son, pro­fes­sor, children’s/young adult lit­er­a­ture and English/ lan­guage arts edu­ca­tion, West­ern Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty:

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Eleanor Roo­sevelt and Michelle Oba­ma. I’d do my best just to lis­ten … and learn.

Favorite city to vis­it?

Favorite coun­try is Viet­nam. Favorite “city” in Viet­nam is Hoi An. It’s mag­i­cal!

Dragon Fountain, Hoi An, Vietnam

Drag­on Foun­tain, Can­tonese Assem­bly Hall, Quant Trieu, Hoi An (cred­it: Wiki­me­dia Com­mons)

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Cof­fee (dark roast) … no sug­ar, no cream.

Reading on the beach

© Yude­sign | Dreamstime.com

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

A pile of books, lots of sun, a beach (and noth­ing to grade!)

What gives you shiv­ers?

Spi­ders and snakes. It’s irra­tional, I know, but they creep me out (even the tee­ny-tiny, non­poi­so­nous ones). And aer­i­al acts (cir­cus­es, the Blue Angels, etc.).

Your favorite can­dy as a kid …

Movie the­atre can­dy = Jujubes

Drug store can­dy = can­dy cig­a­rettes (Seri­ous­ly! They looked so cool—and so did we—but they tast­ed like chalk.)

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

It’s not real­ly a tourist attrac­tion but … when we were kids, my Dad and my best friend’s Dad took us on a field trip to a sewage treat­ment plant.

 

Read more...

Skinny Dip with April Halprin Wayland

April Halprin WaylandToday we wel­come author and edu­ca­tor April Hal­prin Way­land to Bookol­o­gy. Her most recent pic­ture book, More Than Enough, is a sto­ry about Passover. April was one of nine Instruc­tors of the Year hon­ored by the UCLA Exten­sion Writ­ers’ Pro­gram, Cre­ative Writ­ing.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

I would LOVE to have cof­fee (one-shot lat­te with extra soy, extra foam) with Crock­ett John­son, author/illustrator of Harold and the Pur­ple Cray­on but most notably for me, author/illustrator of Barn­a­by, a com­ic strip that ran dur­ing WWII (actu­al­ly 1942–1952). I think of it as the pre­de­ces­sor of Calvin and Hobbes. Barn­a­by stars five-year-old Barn­a­by Bax­ter and his fairy god­fa­ther Jac­k­een J. O’Malley. Mr. O’Malley con­tin­u­al­ly gets Bar­ney into trou­ble. It’s bril­liant.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

You’re jok­ing, right—one book? I’ll tell you right this very minute what books (plur­al) I rec­om­mend. But ask me in half an hour and my list will be com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent.

Favorite city to vis­it?

NYC! And Poipu, Kauai! And let’s not for­get Lon­don, for heaven’s sake. And any­where my hus­band, my son, or my best two friends are.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

One August when I was nine or ten, I found a raft by the Feath­er Riv­er, which ran by our farm. I repaired it (I don’t remem­ber if an adult helped me or not), then climbed aboard and lay back. The next month, at the begin­ning of the school year, my teacher asked us to choose a word and define it by writ­ing about some­thing that hap­pened that sum­mer. I wrote about that hot sum­mer day on the riv­er. My word? Bliss.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

Like my favorite books, this will change in the next half hour. For right this minute it would involve my hus­band, our lanky, knuck­le-brained dog, Eli, our son and his girl­friend, hik­ing, bik­ing, mead­ows, forests, and arriv­ing at a dif­fer­ent bed-and-break­fast each evening with farm-fresh, just-har­vest­ed food for din­ner, a down quilt each night, and a one-shot lat­te with extra soy, extra foam each morn­ing. 🙂

April Halprin Wayland in the classroom

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

I ask myself a cen­tral, touch­stone ques­tion: Will this action or thought help me to like myself?

So, for exam­ple, each day I might ask myself: Should I say yes to this invi­ta­tion to speak? Should I eat this whole bag of (fill in the blank)? Should I spend an extra half-hour with this per­son, even though I have a pile of work at home? Should I go to this polit­i­cal gath­er­ing? Should I vol­un­teer to help put on an event? Should I skip med­i­ta­tion (or exer­cise or walk­ing the dog) today? Should I pick up that piece of trash I just passed? Do I real­ly need to eat the whole jar? Should I floss my teeth? Should I work on this poem or this book? Should I go to a meet­ing tonight? Should I turn off the com­put­er and spend time with my hus­band, who just got home from work?

If I ask myself that ques­tion, the answer is always clear. I may not choose to act on the obvi­ous answer, but if I do, I feel more con­tent.

Monkey-and-Eli-read-poetry-together_600px

Mon­key and Eli read poet­ry togeth­er.

Your hope for the world?

That we will be kind to each oth­er.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Polly Carlson-Voiles

Summer of the WolvesToday we wel­come author Pol­ly Carl­son-Voiles to Bookol­o­gy. Her book, Sum­mer of the Wolves, has been a favorite adven­ture sto­ry with mid­dle grade read­ers, a recent con­tender for the Maud Hart Lovelace Award.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Jane Goodall.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The War That Saved My Life, by Kim­ber­ly Brubak­er Bradley

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Spend­ing a sum­mer on the wind­ward side of Oahu, in Hawaii.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

So very many…but I would have to say, Graeme Base…

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

I love the sea­son I am in … right now I love the spring with tiny green leaves mist­ing the tree tops, the wild white blos­soms of ser­vice­ber­ry and chokecher­ry. I always reluc­tant­ly say ‘good-bye’ to the last sea­son and then fall pas­sion­ate­ly in love with the new­ness of the new sea­son, with changes, new birds, new sounds, new col­ors.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

To go to Africa and see ele­phants and oth­er crea­tures of the African wilds.

What a way to make a Skype visit with wolves in the background at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota.

What a way to make a Skype vis­it with wolves in the back­ground at the Inter­na­tion­al Wolf Cen­ter in Ely, Min­neso­ta.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

My best writ­ing hap­pens right after I wake up in the morn­ing. I get some of my best ideas in those shad­owy first moments of com­ing awake when my brain isn’t filled with dis­trac­tions. But I am not one who wakes at dawn.

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have one old­er broth­er who was expect­ed to do won­der­ful impor­tant things. Since we were raised in a sex­ist time and my father was very tra­di­tion­al, I felt very unim­por­tant as a girl child. It made me feisty, though, to feel that girls were expect­ed to let boys win at games, to not excel in school too much, and to be afraid of phys­i­cal risks. My rebel­lion against this was one of the great­est gifts of my child­hood.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

To find your pas­sions and cul­ti­vate them like a gar­den. Do things you love.

Working with a school group at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota

Work­ing with a school group at the Inter­na­tion­al Wolf Cen­ter in Ely, Min­neso­ta

Your hope for the world?

That we all keep evolv­ing to learn from peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent from us, and that we all learn to trea­sure the gifts of wild crea­tures and wild places.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Eric Rohmann

 

Today we wel­come author, illus­tra­tor, and Calde­cott medal­ist Eric Rohmann to Bookol­o­gy. He agreed to give us the skin­ny on sev­er­al top­ics of vital impor­tance.

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Dar­win, New­ton, William Blake … and so many oth­ers I’ll need a big cof­fee shop.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The Lost CarvingLate­ly, The Lost Carv­ing by David Ester­ly.

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Pop­corn.

Favorite city to vis­it?

Vien­na, New York, Paris, Madrid, Sin­ga­pore … still gonna need a big cof­fee house in each one.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Trav­el­ing in the Amer­i­can west.

First date?

Some­time in the fog of High School.

Illustrator’s work you most admire?

Like a per­son could name just one!

red mug of coffeeTea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Cof­fee.

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

Autumn. Clear, cool, and col­or­ful.

What’s your dream vaca­tion?

The next one I have planned … so many places to see!

What gives you shiv­ers?

Good shiv­ers: watch­ing dogs run, Bad shiv­ers: con­ser­v­a­tive talk radio.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Morn­ing.

Paint­ing you could look at again and again.

Bosch’s Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights; any Rem­brandt self-por­trait; Cezanne’s apples; Delacroix’s The Death of Sar­danopo­lus … lots of wall space in the cof­fee shop!

gr_garden_of_earthly_delights

Hierony­mus Bosch, The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

I can cook well, a lit­tle.

Milk DudsYour favorite can­dy as a kid …

Milk Duds.

Is Plu­to a plan­et?

Is Bron­tosaurus real­ly just a big Apatosaurus?

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

Haw Par Vil­la in Sin­ga­pore.

Har Paw Villa

Har Paw Vil­la

Broth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

Broth­er and sis­ter. Good: I was nev­er alone. Bad: I was nev­er alone.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

Be curi­ous.

Your hope for the world?

Wish­ing for any­thing but peace would just be self­ish.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Bobbi Miller

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

My def­i­n­i­tion of celebri­ty is some­one whom I admire, who I think has con­tributed to soci­ety in his actions or words. To me, celebri­ty is more than a pret­ty face. He does more than recite words that some­one else wrote, act­ing out a sto­ry that some­one else has planned out and directs.

Eric Kim­mel is my favorite celebri­ty. I always love talk­ing to him. Anoth­er celebri­ty I can’t wait to meet is Mon­i­ca Kulling.  Of course, I’d love to talk to Mark Twain, too, about his adven­tures rid­ing the stage­coach west and his time in San Fran­cis­co. And Abi­gail Adams, wife of John Adams, about the times she lived in.

But let’s be real: my friends are the celebri­ties in my life.

Eric A. Kimmel, Monica Kulling, Mark Twain, Abigail Adams

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

John Adams by David McCullousI am cur­rent­ly reading—for the sec­ond time—John Adams by David McCul­lough. I love McCullough’s blend­ing of nar­ra­tive and research, cre­at­ing such a pow­er­ful sto­ry. Of course, we know all of his­to­ry is a sto­ry. He does it so well. I just fin­ished Ein­stein, by Wal­ter Isaac­son. For a long time I always thought I’d love to meet Ein­stein, speak­ing of celebri­ty. It turns out, while he didn’t like the label “celebri­ty,” he cer­tain­ly lived the life. Ein­stein was such a hound dog. For all his lofty thought exper­i­ments about space and time, he real­ly didn’t have a clue about life on this plan­et. He had an inter­est­ing, com­plex life, and saw a lot of his­to­ry. It would be more inter­est­ing to speak to one of his friends, wives, or girl­friends, to see their reac­tion to nav­i­gat­ing such a com­plex per­son­al­i­ty. One of my favorite movies is IQ, in which Wal­ter Matthau plays Ein­stein as an old man. I like that Ein­stein.

Even more inter­est­ing, I bet it would be cool to lis­ten to a con­ver­sa­tion between Ein­stein and Stephen Hawk­ing!!

Anoth­er book I just read was Hap­py Birth­day, Alice Babette, writ­ten by Mon­i­ca Kulling and illus­trat­ed by Qin Leng. This books tells a gen­tle sto­ry about a birth­day par­ty between two friends, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Tok­las. Of course, we know the his­to­ry of those two celebri­ty writ­ers, which makes this book all the more impres­sive.

Favorite city to vis­it?

Big River's Daughter Girls of GettysburgI’ve vis­it­ed many his­tor­i­cal cities and towns as I researched my sto­ries. I vis­it­ed Get­tys­burg, PA sev­er­al times, walk­ing the bat­tle­fields, as I researched my Girls of Get­tys­burg. I’ve dri­ven along the Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er for a ways, as I researched life along the riv­er for my Big River’s Daugh­ter. I’ve been to Boston and the sur­round­ing area, which is intent­ly inter­est­ing as it relates to John Adams. I’ve been to Wash­ing­ton, DC, of course, and just love that his­to­ry. I’d like to go again and check it out more, espe­cial­ly Arling­ton Nation­al Ceme­tery.  And I’d love to go to Philadel­phia, for all the his­to­ry.

Tea? Cof­fee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Diet Coke, most def­i­nite­ly. Although I’ve cut down quite a bit since my young years and now drink more water. I recent­ly had my first cup of cof­fee, made very weak and includ­ed sug­ar free hazel­nut cream­er. Very tasty! And it did the trick: I was up at 4, and I had a long day of trav­el­ing ahead of me. I was able to make it through with­out nod­ding off.

gr_plutoIs Plu­to a plan­et?

What a tricky good ques­tion!

Plu­to is a hound dog, and he’s every bit as loy­al a friend as Lassie and Old Yeller. Just like Mick­ey Mouse!

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Barbara O’Connor

 

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

Missing MayMiss­ing May by Cyn­thia Rylant. I read it at a time when I was strug­gling to find my writ­ing voice. I was so struck by the strong sense of place in that book. It was obvi­ous that West Vir­ginia was Rylant’s heart’s home. So I decid­ed to write sto­ries that were set in my heart’s home—the South—and specif­i­cal­ly the Smoky Moun­tains. I wrote her a let­ter to tell her the impact her book had on me and she sent me a love­ly hand-writ­ten note back, signed “Take good care. Cyn­di Rylant.” *swoon*

Favorite sea­son of the year? Why?

SUMMER all the way!! I love the heat. The flow­ers. The long days. Love it all.

What gives you shiv­ers?

Heights. OMG….. And one more thing: snakes. *shiv­ers*

What’s your hid­den tal­ent?

Tap DanceI’m actu­al­ly a pret­ty good tap dancer. I took tap lessons for years, from child­hood all the way up until just a few years ago. I love to tap dance. It total­ly suits me much more than yoga.

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Morn­ing all the way. I turn into a pump­kin about 8 o’clock. My writ­ing day nev­er extends beyond about 3 o’clock … cause I’m head­ing toward Pump­kin Town. (Triv­ia for you: There is actu­al­ly a town near my home­town of Greenville, SC, called Pump­kin Town.)

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Marsha Qualey

 Joni MitchellWhich celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

Joni. And I’d come pre­pared with ques­tions about her paint­ing, not her music, because then, just maybe, she’d see beyond the gob­s­macked fan. Maybe she’d draw some­thing on a nap­kin for me.  

If she didn’t show, I’d be okay because I’d have a back-up date with Louisa May. 

buttered toastWhat’s your favorite late-night snack?

But­tered toast, but I can’t indulge that often now. Once upon a time, though, it was a night­ly thing. Then when I was diag­nosed with celi­ac dis­ease I went years with­out it because the bread I made or could find in stores just didn’t cut it. And then along came Udi’s.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

I had the best best friend any qui­et, intro­vert­ed, book­ish girl could have. Mary was just the oppo­site of me, and when I was with her, adven­ture wasn’t just some­thing that hap­pened in books, it was some­thing we made togeth­er.

earthwormsOne first grade day we were walk­ing the six to sev­en blocks home for lunch. It had rained all morn­ing and we were excit­ed by all the earth­worms still on the side­walks. What if we gath­ered them all and sold them as bait? We began col­lect­ing the liveli­est ones and putting them in the pock­ets of our rain­coats. The pick­ings were grand and we didn’t notice the time pass. When we neared our hous­es, con­ve­nient­ly across the street from each oth­er, some­thing made us real­ize how late we were (A beck­on­ing fam­i­ly mem­ber? Church bells? Kids return­ing to school? This detail is lost.).  We rushed to our respec­tive homes for a quick lunch and met up again at her fam­i­ly car for a ride back to school—we were that late.

The sun was shin­ing and we were in a car and nei­ther of us wore a rain­coat. The sun pre­vailed for many days there­after. Only when at last we again need­ed our rain­coats, did either of us remem­ber the grand plan to make a seven-year-old’s for­tune by sell­ing worms.

The worms were dust in the pock­ets of our size 6x rain­coats. There’s an old woman’s somber metaphor about dreams in there some­where, but it wouldn’t have reg­is­tered with Mary and me.  We laughed then and we still laugh about it now.  

Morn­ing per­son? Night per­son?

Night, now and for­ev­er.

What’s the strangest tourist attrac­tion you’ve vis­it­ed?

Mary Nohl HomeI love envi­ron­men­tal art—the con­crete and bot­tle con­struc­tions that an indi­vid­ual artist builds over the years on his or her prop­er­ty. Thanks to the John Michael Kohler Art Cen­ter in She­boy­gan, Wis­con­sin and the Kohler Foun­da­tion sev­er­al such instal­la­tions in Wis­con­sin have been pre­served. Any one of these would qual­i­fy as strange, and they are all worth a vis­it.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Caroline Starr Rose

Which celebri­ty, liv­ing or not, do you wish would invite you to a cof­fee shop?

L.M. MontgomeryAuthor L.M. Mont­gomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame. I’ve read all of her books sev­er­al times over, includ­ing the jour­nals she kept from four­teen until the time of her death. In fact, I’ve com­mit­ted to revis­it­ing Maud’s jour­nals every ten years. So far, I’ve read all five vol­umes twice.

Though I have a feel­ing Maud wouldn’t approve of me (she was not fond of free verse), she has always felt like a kin­dred spir­it. Like me, she was a teacher, a Pres­by­ter­ian pastor’s wife, a moth­er to two boys, and an author. I’d like to think we’d have a lot to talk about!

Lat­er this year my best friend and I are head­ing to Maud’s home, Prince Edward Island—a trip six years in the mak­ing and dream come true.

Which book do you find your­self rec­om­mend­ing pas­sion­ate­ly?

The Phantom TollboothI adore Nor­ton Juster’s The Phan­tom Toll­booth. I’ve prob­a­bly read it thir­ty times, first as a stu­dent, then as a stu­dent teacher, then with my stu­dents, and final­ly with my own chil­dren. It’s wit­ty, it’s clever, it’s fun, and oh so quotable. It’s also great for teach­ing ele­ments of sto­ry. There’s a reluc­tant hero on a clas­sic quest, and even the cli­max takes place at the high­est phys­i­cal point in the story—the Cas­tle in the Air.

Most cher­ished child­hood mem­o­ry?

Ernest HemingwayI’m going to change this one slight­ly to my most star­ry-eyed lit­er­ary child­hood mem­o­ry. My fam­i­ly host­ed a Span­ish exchange stu­dent named Paula when I was in fourth grade. Since then, Paula’s fam­i­ly and my fam­i­ly have con­tin­ued to remain close. The Maci­ciors own a home that is hun­dreds of years old, a grand thir­ty-four room struc­ture in the Span­ish coun­try­side, near the city of Pam­plona. In the 1920s Ernest Hem­ing­way rent­ed a room there while work­ing on The Sun Also Ris­es.

I vis­it­ed this house as a pre-teen and a teen. Though I hadn’t yet read any­thing by Hem­ing­way, I knew his name and was thrilled to learn I’d get to stay in the room where a real-live author had tem­porar­i­ly lived. There are two beds in the room, and you bet­ter believe I slept in both, to cov­er my claim-to-fame bases.

Caroline Starr RoseBroth­er and sis­ters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

I have a half sis­ter and half broth­er who are ten and twelve years old­er than I am.  I often describe myself as a semi-only child, as much of my child­hood was spent as the only kid at home. This taught me to enter­tain myself, cer­tain­ly, and meant I had plen­ty of time for read­ing and imag­in­ing and just mak­ing do.

Best tip for liv­ing a con­tent­ed life?

This is one I’m still learn­ing (and prob­a­bly will be till I die). But so far I’ve learned con­tent­ment comes from grat­i­tude, from real­iz­ing how many sim­ple, won­der­ful, often-over­looked gifts we expe­ri­ence every­day. Like breath­ing. Have you ever con­sid­ered how amaz­ing it is that there’s air to fill your lungs every sin­gle moment? Con­tent­ment comes from lov­ing and being loved. And it comes from acknowl­edg­ing what you can con­trol and let­ting go of what you can’t. Eas­i­er said than done, I know.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Steve Palmquist

Chinese foodFavorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Well, that usu­al­ly involves food—we try to have Chi­nese food on Christ­mas Eve. Our fam­i­ly has had a lot of changes late­ly, so we’ve been try­ing to cre­ate new tra­di­tions.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

Annunciation SchoolBoth! At times I was a mod­el stu­dent and oth­er times I was the class clown. I’m sure the clown­ing was a bit dis­rup­tive but I only got sent to the principal’s office once. This was at a parochial grade school. The prin­ci­pal was a nun who was about 6′3″. She was a gen­tle dis­ci­pli­nar­i­an but it did sort of seem like her height gave her a direct line to God and all the grav­i­tas that goes with that.

What’s the first book report you ever wrote?

I don’t remem­ber the very first but the one that sticks in my mind was a report for a book about liv­ing in space. I did a hor­ri­ble job with it and was allowed to redo the report. I knocked it out of the park with the sec­ond attempt—that taught me the val­ue of revi­sion.

Do you like to gift wrap presents?

I like the idea of wrap­ping presents but my exe­cu­tion leaves a lit­tle to be desired. Gift bags and a sup­ply of col­ored tis­sue paper have saved my bacon on more than one occa­sion.

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

You are going to be loved and cher­ished by some­one who will inspire you to be the best per­son you can be.

Look beyond the hurt that some peo­ple seem to always give—that always gives a clue about where they’re tru­ly vul­ner­a­ble or hurt­ing them­selves.

Keep your mind free and open—it will be your best tool and lead you into many adven­tures.

What three children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

Oh, gosh, that’s a hard one. If I go his­tor­i­cal, how about Mark Twain, Mar­garet Wise Brown, and Don Free­man?Mark Twain, Margaret Wise Brown, and Don Freeman

Where’s your favorite place to read?

I don’t have that over­stuffed chair from my par­ents any longer. My favorite place to read now is any­where near my wife, Vic­ki, so when­ev­er one of us gasps or laughs at a book, we get to share with the oth­er one.

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Michael Hall

Red: a Crayon's StoryWhat is your proud­est career moment?

Sev­er­al months before the pub­li­ca­tion of my book, Red: A Crayon’s Sto­ry, The Wall Street Jour­nal pub­lished an edi­to­r­i­al bemoan­ing the “gen­der indus­tri­al com­plex,” “cul­tur­al war­riors,” and books—including mine—“that seek to engage the sym­pa­thies of young read­ers … and nudge the nee­dle of cul­ture.” I had writ­ten some­thing good enough to pro­voke the wrath of the WJS edi­to­r­i­al page. It was a proud moment, indeed.

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

The first thing that comes to my mind is base­ball. But there are prob­lems.

First of all, base­ball isn’t an Olympic sport. (It became an offi­cial Olympic sport in 1992, but was oust­ed after the 2008 sum­mer Olympics.) Nev­er­the­less, since we’re talk­ing about fantasy—and since I have a rich fan­ta­sy life—this is rel­a­tive­ly easy to over­come. Let’s face it, if I can imag­ine the bald­ing, pot-bel­lied, six­ty-some­thing me grace­ful­ly climb­ing the wall in left field to rob a bat­ter of an extra-base hit (to the thun­der­ing approval of the crowd), I can cer­tain­ly imag­ine that base­ball has been rein­sti­tut­ed as an Olympic sport just in time for the sum­mer of 2016.

Michael Hall sports fantasyBut there’s a more dif­fi­cult prob­lem: Hav­ing spent much of my life imag­in­ing myself as a star left field­er for the Min­neso­ta Twins, my sta­tus as an ama­teur is clear­ly in doubt. If it came down to it, I wouldn’t sac­ri­fice my imag­i­nary Twins base­ball star sta­tus in order to imag­ine win­ning an Olympic gold medal for the Unit­ed States Olympic team.

So I’m going with table ten­nis.

What is your favorite line from a book?

In an old house in Paris that was cov­ered with vines lived twelve lit­tle girls in two straight lines.”

What keeps you up at night?

These pesky crea­tures called should’ves. I don’t know how they get into the house, but at night, they crawl into my bed and whis­per in my ear.

You should have done this, Michael.”

And frankly, you should have done that as well, Michael.”

This makes sleep­ing dif­fi­cult.

It’s well known that should’ves tire eas­i­ly. If you ignore them, they’ll fall asleep. So I thought I could just wait them out. But it’s less well known that they snore loud­ly. So, even while sleep­ing, they keep me awake.

One night, after the should’ves fell asleep—and were snor­ing horribly—I picked them up, put them in a shoe box, and took them out the back door. I went back to bed and was doz­ing off, when I was vis­it­ed by five angry shouldn’t’ves.

Michael, you should not have done that!”

Which of your books would make a good movie and who would be the star?

It's an Orange AardvarkThe book with the most crisply drawn char­ac­ters is prob­a­bly It’s An Orange Aard­vark, a book about five car­pen­ter ants who awake to a noise out­side their dark nest in a tree stump. One ant tries to get clues as to what it is by drilling holes in the stump. As each new hole reveals a dif­fer­ent col­or, a sec­ond ant, who is con­vinced that it’s a hun­gry aard­vark, twists the infor­ma­tion to fit his pre­con­ceived belief, even as his ver­sion of the truth becomes more and more absurd.

For me, this was always a book about sci­en­tif­ic method. The hole-drilling ant is a wide-eyed, ded­i­cat­ed, ide­al­is­tic sci­en­tist. I think some­one like Toby Maguire would be per­fect for the role. (There is no love inter­est here. It’s a pic­ture book after all. But I’m sure a tal­ent­ed screen­writer could fix that.)

The sec­ond ant, the one who’s con­vinced an aard­vark awaits, is sort of a cross between Dick Cheney and Cliff Clavin from Cheers. I could sug­gest some­one like Willem Defoe, but I don’t want to play up the sin­is­ter part too much (it’s a pic­ture book, after all), so I’ll go with John Ratzen­berg­er from the Cheers cast. 

 

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Karen Blumenthal

Matzo ToffeeFavorite hol­i­day tra­di­tion?

Food! I love to bake and hol­i­days are the best excuse for bak­ing! Peach cob­bler for the Fourth of July, apple cake for the Jew­ish hol­i­days, dozens and dozens of cook­ies for friends and fam­i­ly in Decem­ber, and this killer can­dy that we call mat­zo tof­fee at Passover. I make a ton of it for friends and even send some to spe­cial edi­tors. It’s the most addic­tive thing ever and it proves that choco­late makes every­thing bet­ter.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

Most­ly a teacher’s pet. I had poor eye­sight and super-thick glass­es and had to sit up front. But I also have strong opin­ions, so I’m sure I was a chal­lenge as well.

Mexia TexasWhat’s the first book report you ever wrote?

This is embar­rass­ing, but I don’t remem­ber book reports in ele­men­tary school. I remem­ber reports on a town in Texas (I chose Mex­ia, pro­nounced Me-hay-a) and oth­er sub­jects, and even a report on Nixon’s trip to Chi­na, but no book reports. Maybe I blocked them out! We did do them in junior high and I got in trou­ble for choos­ing a 1934 nov­el by John O’Hara that the teacher deemed too old for me.

First BookDo you like to gift wrap presents?

That’s kind of a fun­ny ques­tion. Yes, and no. Here’s why: For the last 12 or 13 years, my fam­i­ly has gift-wrapped books at local book­stores dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son to raise mon­ey for a lit­er­a­cy orga­ni­za­tion called First Book. Some years, we worked many shifts at sev­er­al book­stores and some years, we worked just a hand­ful of shifts. But near­ly all of those years, we gift-wrapped on Christ­mas Eve, which is a crazy day when all the last-minute or vis­it­ing-from-out-of-town shop­pers come in. By the mid­dle of the sea­son, I could hard­ly bear to wrap our family’s own gifts.

All togeth­er, our wrap­ping raised more than $20,000 for First Book. But we decid­ed 2014 would be our last year. Our daugh­ters, who were 12 and 14 when we start­ed, are now grown and live on oppo­site coasts and we don’t get to spend much time with them.  It was a great expe­ri­ence though, and I’m now an excel­lent wrap­per!

What do you wish you could tell your 10-year-old self?

Hmmm. I enjoyed writ­ing at that age, but was becom­ing self-con­scious about it, and I had classmates—including anoth­er Karen—who were more skilled. Prob­a­bly I would tell her that pas­sion and per­sis­tence are about as impor­tant as any­thing and to keep at it.

ph_dinner_300What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

One of the real­ly great things about being an author is that you get to meet oth­er authors, and even have a meal with them. So I’ve got­ten to meet some of my heroes, like Rus­sell Freed­man, Steve Sheinkin, and Susan Bar­to­let­ti.

Oh, this is so hard! Bev­er­ly Cleary, for sure, because she was one of my ear­ly favorites and still is.  J.K. Rowl­ing, because that would be amaz­ing. And maybe John Green, because he’s so cool.

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Any­where! Real­ly! I’ll read just about any­where, though I pre­fer a chair. I read a lot at my break­fast table, but also in a com­fort­able chair in our den, on the bike at the gym, on planes, and when I’m wait­ing for an appoint­ment. 

 

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Eileen Beha

Mad MenWhat TV show can’t you turn off?

I watch very lit­tle TV; I will almost always choose to read a good book instead. How­ev­er, I do admit that I’ve not missed a sin­gle episode of Mad Men since the series pre­miered in 2007 or Down­ton Abbey, which will end after its sixth sea­son this win­ter. Late­ly, I’ve got­ten into this strange habit of watch­ing old episodes of Mur­der, She Wrote on Net­flix. Mind can­dy. I’m inspired by the main char­ac­ter, a retired-teacher-turned-mys­tery author named Jes­si­ca Fletch­er, peer­ing through her over­sized, horn-rimmed glass­es, typ­ing her man­u­scripts on an old Roy­al type­writer. (A few months ago, I bought a new pair of eye­glass­es that are strik­ing­ly sim­i­lar to hers, I just now real­ized.)

In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

I would like to win a gold medal as a mem­ber of the U. S. Olympic women’s soc­cer team. All of our children—one son and three daughters—played soc­cer, so I have attend­ed innu­mer­able soc­cer games in my life. I real­ly do love the sport and wish that I could have played in a league when I was grow­ing up. Watch­ing a soc­cer game is very much like the process of plot­ting a sto­ry, where every action on the field—pass, kick, shot, or header—is sig­nif­i­cant and con­tributes to the final out­come.

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

White Paterson CurtisI would invite children’s book authors E. B. White, Kather­ine Pater­son, and Christo­pher Paul Cur­tis to my fan­ta­sy din­ner. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Stu­art Lit­tle; Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hop­kins and Jacob I Have Loved; and Curtis’s The Wat­sons Go to Birm­ing­ham and Bud, Not Bud­dy are books I use as mod­els of qual­i­ty, sub­stance, voice, and style when I write books for young read­ers. We would meet at Gramer­cy Tav­ern, my favorite restau­rant in New York City, or in front of the fire­place in my liv­ing room in Min­neapo­lis dur­ing a win­ter snow­storm. I’d serve home­made split pea soup, fresh­ly-baked whole wheat bread, and pump­kin pie with whipped cream, made from scratch. I wouldn’t say much, I’d just sit back and lis­ten.

What ani­mal are you most like?

Since my hus­band, Ralph, knows me bet­ter than any­one else in the world, I asked him, “What ani­mal am I most like? Say the first thing that comes into your mind.” He answered, “A black bear.” Of course, I pressed for his rea­sons. Appar­ent­ly I’m affa­ble but not Hel­lo-Kit­ty-cute and remind him of Eva Bear, one of his favorite stuffed toys. My image of that par­tic­u­lar mam­mal is one of a moth­er bear rais­ing a den-full of ram­bunc­tious cubs, which I’ve expe­ri­enced as a moth­er, step­moth­er, teacher, and school admin­is­tra­tor.

What is your proud­est career moment?

National Blue Ribbon School of ExcellenceMy proud­est career moment hap­pened in the mid-1990’s when St. Antho­ny Mid­dle School, where I served as build­ing prin­ci­pal, was select­ed as a Nation­al Blue Rib­bon School of Excel­lence. I had the hon­or and priv­i­lege, along with rep­re­sen­ta­tive mem­bers of my out­stand­ing staff, of attend­ing a recep­tion at the White House, host­ed by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, Vice-Pres­i­dent Al Gore, and U. S. Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion Sec­re­tary Richard W. Riley. A once-in-a-life­time oppor­tu­ni­ty.

What is your favorite line from a book?

My favorite line from a book is: “Life is dif­fi­cult.” This three-word sen­tence is the first line of The Road Less Trav­eled by M. Scott Peck. For the past cou­ple of years, a con­fi­dante has been teach­ing me the grace and peace that comes with “rad­i­cal accep­tance” of this not-so-sim­ple truth. 

 

Read more...

Skinny Dip with Stephanie Greene

bk_Posey10What keeps you up at night?

Not much. If I do wake up and start wor­ry­ing about some­thing, I put my newest plot dilem­ma into my brain. Puz­zling over it puts me right to sleep.

What is your proud­est career moment?

I guess I’m most proud that I’m still com­ing up with fresh ideas after twen­ty years. I’ve writ­ten sev­er­al char­ac­ter-dri­ven series, some stand-alone books, sev­er­al anthro­po­mor­phic books, and new ideas con­tin­ue to arrive. Maybe I should call that a pro­fes­sion­al mir­a­cle.

What’s the first book you remem­ber read­ing?

The first book I remem­ber car­ing about, deep down, was The Secret Gar­den.

Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s chal­lenge?

bk_SophieDepends on what grade you’re talk­ing about. Not sure I was ever a pet, but I cer­tain­ly became a chal­lenge in mid­dle and high school.

What 3 children’s book authors or illus­tra­tors or edi­tors would you like to invite to din­ner?

Hilary McK­ay, E L Konigs­burg, Louise Fitzhugh

Where’s your favorite place to read?

Almost any­where. At night, in bed. In the morn­ing, on a bar stool at the kitchen counter. While I eat lunch, at the table. On a nice day, out­side. If it’s rain­ing … see what I mean? While in line at the gro­cery store, if it’s long. Any­where, any­time.

 

Read more...