Advance copies of Blossom Plays Possum arrived on my doorstep! I'm so pleased with how it turned out, from the touches of glitter on the cover to the thoughtful advice from a child psychologist in the back matter. (And I'm doubly pleased that my husband was with me when I opened the box, to see I dedicated the book to him!)
The folks at Magination Press consistently put out great books to help kids deal with all sorts of issues, and they're so lovely to work with.
The book will be out in July, so if you know any shy kids, or parents of shy kids, check it out!
Look what the book stork left on my doorstep! This is the second book I've illustrated in a series by Magination Press called "What to Do" books. In case you're not familiar with Magination Press, they are the children's publishing arm of the American Psychological Association, and they do a wonderful job of helping kids deal with all sorts of issues. This one, What to Do When You Feel Too Shy: A Kid's Guide to Overcoming Social Anxiety,is especially well done. Using the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, the authors guide children in methods for dealing with that little voice in your head that can sometimes seem more foe than friend. Though it's meant for kids aged 6-12, the advice is good for all ages, including deep-rooted wallflowers like myself.
I'm very lucky to have a sister who teaches first grade nearby. Once a week, I visit to share one of my Hidden Picture puzzles with them and to read a story. It's wonderful. They're always happy to see me, which is a big ego boost, and I'm always happy to spend time with them and absorb their energy. It's also hugely interesting to see how they'll respond to the book I've chosen.
This week, I brought Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood, written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell and illustrated by Rafael Lopez. I picked it because it combines two of my passions: art and activism. (You can read a review of the book here.) The illustrations are beautiful, but I wondered if the plot would hold a classroom of kids, because it's pretty simple. I needn't worry, because it went over very well. One girl even hugged herself and said quietly, "I love this," as I read.
I explained that this book was inspired by a true story, but the girl in the book was a made up character. One girl's eyes lit up and she raised her hand. "Is this historical fiction?" she asked. Wow. Yes, I suppose it kind of is, I said. The girl next to her asked, "What's husautica ficta?" THIS is what I love about first grade. You get kids with a wide range of experience and abilities, but they're all curious, and they're not afraid to ask when they don't get something (if you have a class that feels like a safe space, as this one does). So we talked about what historical means and what fiction means. I could almost hear the wheels turning behind their eyes. Then a girl said, "'Like 'Titanic'! I've seen it six times." "What's Titanic?" asked a boy. And so we discussed the sinking of that famous ship.
It wasn't the discussion I thought we'd have about the book (how art enriches our lives, how people coming together can change the world), but I didn't mind. It's just so much fun watching young minds grow, and watching how books help make it happen.
I'm officially in love with Copenhagen (which, when not capitalized, spellcheck likes to change to "open haven"). My son is doing a semester abroad there, and I recently spent a truly wonderful week visiting him and bumbling through Denmark together.
There's much to love about this charming city, from the cobblestone streets to the quirky houseboats, to the bike-centric culture. Maybe it's my profession or my mom instincts talking, but I was most charmed by the children of Denmark. The temperature hovered around freezing the whole week, and I noticed little snow suited people everywhere.
Prams are also omnipresent. The Danish firmly believe in the power of fresh air, especially for sleeping babies. They zip them right into their deluxe "child wagons" and stroll around town, with the little snow suit people hanging on so they all stick together. I once saw a child wagon with four little, pointy-hatted babies inside and almost melted on the spot. I had to sketch them right away.
I hope to return to this lovely haven one day, preferably in non-snow suit weather.
Sometimes, when I don’t know what the hell to do next, and
I’m feeling a bit unsettled, I draw some growing thing. When my youngest son
started school full time and I suddenly had the house to myself for hours on
end, I sat down and drew the giant tree in our neighbor’s backyard. I used
charcoal on a giant pad of newsprint and filled the whole page.
Three days ago, I quit my agent of ten years. It was time, and
I don’t regret it, but yesterday morning I woke feeling adrift and at sea. So I drew
the tree again. This time with India ink and tempera on cardboard.
A lot has changed in 10 years. The giant tree is even bigger,
and that youngest son is getting ready to pick a college.
I’ve changed too, but have I changed enough?
Mary Oliver asks,
“Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
Feeling better today, but yesterday it was a struggle to resist climbing in bed with a box of kleenex. I never experienced the days of "house calls," but I do remember making shadow animals. My brother was a master at it.