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As a Missouri native, I grew up landlocked and far away from the east coast. Until I moved east in September, I said “pop” instead of “soda,” had never been to New York City, or even on a train . . . Since coming out here, I’ve developed an “East Coast Bucket List” that is helping me to see all that the area has to offer, and I’m hoping it keeps me busy this summer!
With warm weather on the way, I look forward to the weekends when I can escape to the beach and check another “first” off my E.C. Bucket List: the boardwalk. Pick a boardwalk, any boardwalk, and take me there! I love the beach, though I’ve only really experienced the Gulf coast . . .
Coney Island is definitely a summer stop I’m excited about. Why? It’s the setting for one of the newest releases from a seasoned Pip . . .
CYCLONE by Doreen Cronin hit shelves last week, and it has me in the boardwalk mood. Also, I need to check out this roller coaster, which is at the center of this novel.
Okay, the roller coaster isn’t REALLY at the center. CYCLONE is the story of a girl who is learning how to process her guilt after an incident involving her cousin, who ends up in the hospital. But the coaster definitely has a big role, and it’s the first time I’ve ever even heard about Cyclone (Midwesterner, remember?). Nora has waited her whole life to ride Cyclone, and it’s finally her chance.
This is Doreen’s first middle-grade novel and it’s one that kicks off the summer season with themes of determination and self-forgiveness, with a fiery voice from “four-and-a-half-foot-twelve-year-old” Nora. I’m so excited about this debut. There isn’t really anything out there like it, and I think that reading about the self-conflict Nora faces is a learning tool for anyone, not just middle grade readers. Definitely worth the read on your drive out to Coney Island. Grab your copy here!
As Doreen celebrates the release of her first novel, I will be celebrating my first East Coast summer!
(Image from Lunar Park NYC)
P.S. Cyclone, which amazingly is celebrating its 90th birthday this year, recently made it on a list of the top four roller coasters within reach by public transit, so if you’re feeling brave, grab your metro pass and try them all! Check out the list here. Maybe I’ll see you at the top!
A note from Holly McGhee:
Let's make as much light as we can from the arts.
In this last month of 2016, here are some words and pictures from the writers and artists we are honored to represent, as we rely more than ever on story to help expand our minds and imaginations in our struggle to find the light.
“It's never occurred to me that the stars are still up there shining even in the daytime when we can't see them.”
— I’LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson
“Hasn't the world always been full of monsters and lies? Isn't it our place to fight them, to tell the truth, to rewrite the story? To ensure the return of spring in a world of winter?"
— THE GALLERY by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
“I am here and you are here and we are here together.”
— RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE by Kate DiCamillo
“Maybe we always were the people we imagined ourselves to be. Able and brave. Maybe we still are.”
— THE DISENCHANTMENTS by Nina LaCour
“In the still of the night, the baby was born. He opened his eyes to kind faces, quiet animals, a soft blanket. . . and a dark sky that was made lovely with light. . . . Light in the darkness—the best gift of all.”
— STAR BRIGHT by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
“Hail to honor, courage, love . . .”
— ROLAND THE MINSTREL PIG by William Steig
“And so she had. Grandmother, who had spent a thousand years in a jar, had finally chosen love.
She had seen it, pure and simple and clean, seen it in the small beings of two gray cats and an old dog. Love in all its complexity and honor made a circle around them all.”
— THE UNDERNEATH by Kathi Appelt
“‘Of all the questions you ever ask yourself in life, never ask, “What’s the point?” It’s the worst question in the world,’ Ruby said.” — HELLO UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly
"‘Just because a magic is small doesn't mean it is unimportant,’ the Lightbender said. ‘Even the smallest magics can grow.’"
— CIRCUS MIRANDUS by Cassie Beasley
“Later she sat on the ground in the forest between school and home, and spring was so bright and beautiful, the warm air touched her so tenderly, she could almost feel herself changing into a flower. Her light dress felt like petals.
‘I love everything,’ she heard herself say.
‘So do I,’ a voice answered.
Pearl straightened up and looked around. No one was there.”
— THE AMAZING BONE by William Steig
“Someday you will swing high—so high, higher than you ever dared to swing.”
— SOMEDAY by Alison McGhee
“And in the moment between moonset and sunrise, Ernest D. looked upon the endlessness of his newly discovered land. ‘All this was hiding in a pond,’ said Ernest D. ‘How exceptional.’”
— BEYOND THE POND by Joseph Kuefler
I did not say yes to this question at first.
I need to work on my book, I thought. It’s the manuscript that is taking me a long time to write, much longer than I usually take, because it’s requiring some research and also because it’s different from any other book I’ve ever written.
I should work on my book, I thought. Shouldn’t I?
And then I remembered that I made a promise to myself a couple of years ago. And that promise was that I would no longer skip out on life to write, when I had a choice. Sometimes deadlines don’t give us much, if any, choice. But I’m not on any kind of deadline with this book. In fact, for maybe the first time ever in my professional career, I’m purposefully writing a book slowly. I’m taking special care with it, because it feels very much like something that should not be hurried.
Looking back, there have been times in this writing career of mine when I refused to take a day off from writing while drafting a new story. It was like I had an extremely loud bug sitting on my shoulder, shouting in my ear: You must finish this book, you must finish this BOOK! Because, of course, every time I finish a book I am much, much closer to another sale.
There were times I would say no to invitations from friends in order to stay home and work on a draft. Times I didn’t go to the movies with my family in order to stay home and write. Times I took my computer along on vacation so I could write, early in the morning, before everyone else woke up.
What I know now that I didn’t know years ago is that time away from the page is just as important as time at the page. Some people call it “filling the well.” I like to call it feeding my soul. And writers shouldn’t feel guilty for doing it. I would argue breathing life into our stories happens because we are breathing life ourselves. So we went to the beach. I ate clam chowder, searched for shells as we walked along the shore, and basked in the glorious sun while reading a book. Soon the rain will come, I thought, as I looked up at the clear, blue sky. The perfect writing weather. As for yesterday, I did not add words to the page. But I did add joy to my heart. And writing with a joyful heart, I’m reminded today, is a really great way to write.
Jason's recent piece for NPR, part of Weekend Edition's Next Chapter series, is a stunner. It is the type of thing I'd listen to on a loop, forcing my friends and family to listen, too. Hear how influential 80's and 90's rap has been is on his poetry and fiction.
So, listen here. Then listen again. Then share . . .
Spoiler alert: this is the last line of my newest picture book, SOME PETS.
Though, when I was a kid I don’t think I would have ever agreed with that statement, most likely because when I was a kid I had the worst pet in the world, Bootsie.
The only photo of Bootsie in existence. All cuddled up with my Gram shielding me from her claws and teeth.
I was 4-years old when my mom finally caved from months of relentless badgering for my dream pet—a kitty. A kitty I could sleep and snuggle with, dress up in adorable outfits and push around in a stroller…but what I got was something very different. Sure, Bootsie looked like a sweet and loveable calico cloud of grey, orange and white fluff on the outside, but beneath that furry exterior lurked a miniature rabid Siberian tiger. There was no way that cat was going to let me accomplish my 4 year-old dream of pushing a Holly Hobbie bonnet-wearing furbaby around in a lacy pram. Instead, my arms became Bootisie’s scratching posts, my ankles her chew toys and my Mom’s favorite shag carpeting, her litter box.
Despite these shortcomings, I still loved her. But, after several months of hissing, spitting, scratching and peeing, my mom had endured enough.
Looking back, I have vague memories of Bootsie’s departure. Mom said something about, “a farm where Bootsie can run and play all day, happy and free.”.
Fast forward 30-plus years: I was allergic to cats, (which is just as well as I think Bootsie showed me that I was not a “cat person”) and I was now a Mom who was relentlessly badgered by my 4-year old daughter, Sophia, for her dream pet—a puppy.
Sophia illustrates her bond and affection for her pup (and like many little girls she also wants a pony).
As a parent, I wondered if a 4 year-old was too young to care for a dog? Did I want to spend the hours potty-training and caring for a puppy and a preschooler? What if it turned out to be the dog counterpart to Bootsie? Would I have to resort to “the farm”? However, I recalled how, like Sophia, I was an only child who desperately wanted a fur-sibling. I finally caved and began combing through countless pet profiles listed on animal rescue websites, determined to avoid (what I now dubbed) “The Great Bootsie Fiasco of ‘77” and find our perfect pet. A dog we could give a fur-ever home to.
And, we did.
Our modern girl's version of a bonnet- matching superhero capes.
I have no idea what breed our dog is, but Sophia dubbed her Mimi The Wonder Dog, “because we always wonder what breed she is.” And we get asked that a lot because Mimi is such an adorable, sweet pup. Sure, she barks when the doorbell rings, steals shoes and pees when she gets excited, but luckily there is no shag rug.
Thanks to our friends at Thomas J O’Connor Adoption Center, Mimi became the newest member of our family and for that I am fur-ever grateful. Grateful for the love and affection she shares, the laughter and beauty she has brought to our lives (and for the ending she has given me to SOME PETS).
The other day Sophia told me that Mimi is her best friend. “What makes her your best friend?” I asked. “What makes your best friend your best friend? “ she countered. I thought carefully before I answered, “My best friend is always there for me. They make me feel better when I’m down. They listen to me when I need to talk. They make me laugh and they love me.” Sophia smiled and replied, “Yup. Just like Mimi.”
Soph and Mimi, her BFFF- best fur-friend forever.
SOME PETS, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, the sequel to the “bright” and “breezy” (Booklist) SOME BUGS, will be released on August 23rd from Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster,
“The plot is a celebration of diversity, both human and animal,as everyone cavorts and cuddles.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Bouncy verse, playful illustrated details, and abundant affection between animals and humans add up to an exuberant reminder of the joy that having a pet can bring.” — Publisher’s Weekly
If you aren’t familiar with his work, first as a record album cover and jacket designer and then as a Caldecott-winning illustrator, visit the wonderful web site his family has created, where you can find out all about his career and hear his voice on a video as well: Pulcinella Press.
This July 12th marks the fifteenth anniversary of his death, and we miss him just as much each year. It was a terrible and dark day when we found out he had passed away after a three-year battle with colon cancer. We knew his death had been fast approaching, but we weren’t ready. Nobody could possibly be ready to say goodbye to this elegant artist and friend.
Here are some things that people said about him in a tribute.
During that last year of his life, Fred had finished the story, the sketches, and even painted some of the final art for Arrivederci, Crocodile, the sequel to his bestselling I, Crocodile, the first original book he had ever written and illustrated.
And now finally, with the help of the legendary editor Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum Books, we have found a way to publish Arrivederci.