Izzy the cat in Catmagic is “blotchy and splotchy from tail-tip to head.”The cats that kids draw after reading it are a riot of colour in dozens of different ways â€“ ripples, stripes, spots, dots, and even dashes, as first-grader Cade did so uniquely here.I think his multicoloured cat is quite beautiful! And very original for a six-year-old. I met him at Adjala Public School in Loretto, Ontario, last week.I’ll tell you more about the creative kids at this school soon, with some pictures of their hanging witches and wildly varied soup bowls.SPRING SCHOOL VISITS:Â Visits,Â e-mail meÂ Â or call 416/960-9996.Loris
What they say about “southern hospitality” turns out to be quite true! The teachers, librarians, professors of children’s literature, booksellers and organizers of the book festival I just spoke at in Mississippi were wonderfully hospitable. Also deeply committed to their work, smart, talkative, and generally delightful. I’ll go into shock the first time someone is rude to me again…
The occasion was the 41st Annual Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Catherine Bomhold had heard a presentation of mine in Reno, Nevada, at an International Reading Association conference some years ago and kept my card on her bulletin board until she had a chance to choose the authors for this festival herself. She called to book me the minute she was made the organizer (about a year in advance of the event); she was so enthusiastic on the phone, I didn’t hesitate in saying “yes.”
I met other authors from everywhere, and attendees from a huge circle around Hattiesburg, Mississippi. There was no warm-up time conversationally â€“ everyone launched into talk immediately, sharing their experiences, techniques, tactics, anecdotes. I especially liked talking to, laughing with and learning from Gerald Hausman from Florida and Vicki Cobb from New York. Pat Mora was the Medallion Recipient this year (a list that includes Lois Lenski, Ezra Jack Keats, Madeleine L’Engle, Maurice Sendak, Katherine Paterson, Eric Carle, Rosemary Wells, Lois Lowry and many other brilliant contributors to children’s literature). She pointed out to us that fourteen per cent of American children are now Latino, though only two per cent of American children’s books are by or about Latinos.
I was happy to be able to tell her that two of my rhyming picturebooks, Boy Soup and Cat Magic, are in Spanish, the work done by excellent translators, thanks to Annick Press. Pat Mora’s creation of excellent Spanish and bilingual books of stories and poems for children is ongoing.
Of course, coming from Toronto, I found it much too hot down there â€“ the air conditioners are already on, and it’s muggy all the time. None of the fresh, crisp cold that we have up here â€“ that we count on to keep us alert. I asked if they ever had bracing or chilly days, and they said oh sure they did, five of them a year, during their “winter.”
I’m looking forward to confirming some of the requests I received to do presentation in New Orleans, Alabama and Texas, as I’m thrilled to be back on the road again with my Titanium2007X Ultra-Deluxe new hip. This terrific trip reminded me how much fun it had been a few years ago to speak in so many places â€“ Baltimore, Orlando, Victoria, Newfoundland, San Luis Obispo, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, South Dakota, Calgary, can’t name them all. It’s always both interesting and exciting to meet new people and to find out how similar the values are among passionate teachers, professors and librarians everywhere. I also get to hear innovative new ideas about education, literature, and publishing. Okay, so I get stranded overnight every now and then in Memphis, these things happen…
All for now, it’s time to unpack and sort out the inevitable p*a*p*e*r*w*o*r*k that goes with any trip, even the ones not all the way to the Gulf Coast (which is recovering, slowly but surely, from Katrina).
Here’s an interesting thing going on in grade seven classes: the teachers have their students take a look at Shoe Shakes and my earlier book, Zigzag: Zoems for Zindergarten, then give them the assignment of writing poems for very young kids. More fun than writing sonnets, but harder than it seems.
Wordplay, interesting rhythms, delightful sounds: all required. Now there’s a springboard idea I’d never have thought of myself. Teachers constantly surprise me.
One way to make the winter pass is to answer all those letters from you kids at school. All those questions about “I Did It Because…”! I really had to do some hard thinking to come up with good answers.
Another good way to spend the winter is MOVING. I packed up everything I owned and moved it across town to the 18th floor of a big redbrick octagonal building that overlooks the whole city. It also looks right into the ballet school, which has glass windows from top to bottom. I could see men, women and kids doing their ballet exercises day and night.
And in between letters and dance-watching, I worked on my next book, with Michael Martchenko doing the illustrations. Here’s the picture that’ll go on the title page:
Back to the drawing board. Keep warm. Letters, questions, and inquiries about Author Visits, e-mail me anytime.
I think everyone visiting my website should spend the day thinking about and looking at and sniffing leaves (especially poplar leaves, a wonderful smell) and write me a leaf poem.
Sometimes walking through leaves feels like being in a giant bowl of cornflakes.
They can be very slippery, though, especially under runningshoes. And they leave marks on the sidewalk, even after they’ve disintegrated. So…here’s a poem I wrote about that. It was first in Nothing Beats A Pizza, now it’s shown up again in “I Did It Because…” with this extremely goofy illustration by Michael Martchenko:
Leaf poems, letters, questions, and inquiries about Author Visits, e-mail me anytime.
Hi everybody, especially John, and also Hunter and Elif and Cathy and Maggie and Ronda and Rebecca and Natalie and Jon and Kyle and Daniel and Zach and everyone else who wrote to me over the summer.
I loved the summer, but September is my favourite month. And THIS September, “I Did It Because…”, my new book, is finally out. Michael Martchenko did the pictures, Annick Press published it.Thanks, guys!
Below is one of the opening pages that tells you how to loosen your lips, flex your ears and flap your tongue when getting ready to recite a poem. Do you think this is silly? It’s supposed to be.
Talk to you again soon,
P.S. Teachers, if you’d like information about booking me for an Author Visit at your school, e-mail me anytime. (And kids, I always like to hear from you.)
You can work… or you can talk about your work… and lately it’s been the first part for me, I’ve been totally wrapped up in “I Did It Because…” which will be 64 pages, full of those poems of mine that kids and teachers have liked best plus about 20 pages of how poems happen. Michael Martchenko did the illustrations, which are so funny you’ll crack up even after you’ve seen them 67 times. That’s why I haven’t made any new notes here for awhile.
The next thing I’d like to do is take some photos of my studio and show you where I work. First of all I have to tidy it up. Second I have to get the cat off the drawing board, where she likes to sprawl on top of wet illustrations and piles of pencil crayons. (How CAN that be comfortable? I do not know!)
Look for “I Did It Because…” in September. Talk to you soon,
The rhyming chart I made up for myself a few years ago has turned out to be extremely useful.
Now at About Writing & Drawing you can get a printoutâ€”just click on the chart itself. I keep one on my desk, one taped to the steering wheel of my car, and always one in a pocketâ€”you never know when poem-writing inspiration will strike and you have a rhyming emergency. Let me know if it works for you.
Talk to you again soon,
P.S. Any questions comments hellos or poems of your own? E-mail me anytime.
P.P.S. Working on “I Did It Because…” (How a Poem Happpens), the upcoming collection of my poems in a 64-page book illustrated by Michael Martchenko, is coming along a treat. It’s so interesting to have someone else illustrate my work for a changeâ€”especially when that “someone” is as good and funny as Michael. Look out for it in the Fall!
While I’ve been working on “I Did It Because…”, an upcoming selection of those poems of mine that kids have liked best (and a couple of new ones), I’ve also had to write some pages about How A Poem Happens.
For those, I’ve been looking up a lot of poetry-for-kids websites. Some of them are FANTASIC!
Here are some for now. Soon I’ll put a page on this site just with these kinds of links. I’ll only recommend ones that are interesting and not dreary, and are good for all ages, big kids, little kids, teachers, and even poetic Moms and Dads:
Why Teach Poetry? (for teachers, parents, and kids who want to teach themselves).
By the way, Michael Martchenko is illustrating “I Did It Because…” and it’s been fascinating for me to see how someone else interprets my poems (I’ve always illustrated my own books to date). I love his artwork. He uses a wild, silly, boyish sense of humor in his work that makes people laugh the minute they see it (you know what great pictures he always did for Robert Munsch’s books.) (The 64-page anthology will be out in the Fall.)
Talk to you again soon,
P.S. Any questions comments hellos or website suggestions of your own? E-mail me anytime.
As I wend my way back to sanity after a complete computer crash (the twigs and glue no longer holding together on my ancient system), I’ll work on my next entry for this page and in the meantime send you to ILLUSTRATOR BARBARA REID’S website â€”the opening is thrilling!
Talk to you again soon,
P.S. Any questions comments hellos or poems? E-mail me anytime.