Hear Ye, Hear Ye

Quoting Grover again (see previous post), “Oh, I am so excited!” I just couldn’t wait until Monday to say something.

Secrets, pub coverIt’s now on Amazon. The e-book should also be available maybe even at this moment. Starting Monday, I’ll be putting up more information and answering some questions in my posts. Right now I’m just allowing my muscles to relax and adjust to the fact that it’s done. Then comes the hard part.

I’m also celebrating that just this week I learned how to add a link! (See the purple letters. But you probably already knew that.)

Read more

 

The Grizzly’s Christmas e-Book

The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)Ann, Miranda, and I are excited to let you know The Grizzly’s Christmas e-book is here! Well, actually it’s there . . . on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GVHSDZU 

Since it’s newly up, you’ll probably have to put in “The Grizzly’s Christmas” by Malcolm F. Farmer if you’re just looking around on the site.

Irving, a grizzly, doesn’t know why St. Nicholas wants his help or why St. Nicholas thinks Irving has special powers. But by helping St. Nicholas, the grizzly regains a deep sense of himself and his importance to people.

The story is written for children as young as five or six and is designed to grow in meaning as a child matures. Notes about bear lore and ancient beliefs from many areas of North America, Europe, and Asia explain aspects of our long and complex relationship with these amazing creatures.

Please take a look and, if you read the book, please leave a review. Thank you! Thank you!

To read more about the book, go to the page under the Hundred Book Pile Up photo.

Yikes! It’s Halloween!

 

The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)

Please click on “The Grizzly’s Christmas” in the black bar above to find out more about the book.

 

 

Have you ever caught yourself looking at a signal light two blocks ahead and then realizing there’s a red light between your car and the light you’re looking at? If you haven’t, then I’m just embarrassed. But if you have, you’ll understand how my focus on The Grizzly’s Christmas caused a “Yikes! Halloween is a few days away!”

 

snake shadow

Notice the snake’s shadow.

 

batI quickly pulled out my rubber bats, plastic insects and other creepers, fake spider webbing, and a pruned tree branch, always good to have on hand. For good measure, and because a rubber snake needs to be used whenever the opportunity presents itself, I added a rattlesnake to the bottom of my “dead” tree.

Then it was time for to rush to the bookstore to look for new Halloween books.

Hlown '13, #2If you have a daughter who wants to be a ballerina, this is the year to get her a Halloween book starring a vampire ballerina or a zombie ballerina.

If you have a school-age child who is aggravated by a younger sibling, take a look at Vampire Baby, written by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Paul Meisel, and published by Candlewick Press in 2013. Tootie bites, and her brother can’t convince their parents that she’s a vampire. He decides to take matters into is own hands. The book is funny; and, ultimately, family ties win.

Here are other books that I would so buy for my first graders . . . if I still had first graders.

Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat is by the team of Doreen Cronin and Betsy Levin, who wrote and illustrated Duck for President and Click, Clack, Moo. Long-suffering Farmer Brown takes to his bed in Halloween fear. Anyone who already knows his strong-willed farm animals will chuckle as they encounter these characters again.

As a long-time Bunnicula, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight fan, I couldn’t resist Creepy Carrots, written by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown, and published by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2012. The book is a Caldecott Honor Book. The black and white illustrations set off the few objects of carrot orange and help a child understand the jokes. Jasper Rabbit fears he is being followed by his favorite food. Are the carrots out for revenge?

C carrots

Not from the book, this is just an example of the color pallet.

A remark in Skeleton for Dinner, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Will Terry, and published by Albert Whitman & Co. in 2013, leads to a misunderstanding in the Amelia Bedelia tradition. Cute introduction to multiple meanings.

Do you remember Boris Karloff singing The Monster Mash? We, meaning my first graders and I, used to have a lot of fun reading/singing the song and doing the Transylvania Twist at this time of year. I wish, how I wish, David Catrow’s book of the same name (2012) that illustrates the song had been available then. What a hoot!

Ten Creepy Monsters is both written and illustrated by Corey F. Armstrong-Ellis and published by Abrams in 2012. The rhyming countdown from ten monsters to none is a fun journey. The ghost disappears when she blows away as mist in the wind. Each monster exits in a fitting manner until the last little twist. The illustrations are great and kids will love the rhythm and rhyme.teddy

Who would ever expect a dragon to be afraid of Halloween? Me and My Dragon: Scared of Halloween, by David Biedrzycki, another writer/illustrator, and published by  Charlesbridge in 2013, is another book that would have been fun to read with my kids. The illustrations add to the humor as a boy tries to find a way to help his big red dragon find a costume and lose his fear of Halloween monsters.

Have a happy and safe Halloween! If you want to read about more Halloween books go to the posts of 10/25/12 and 11/1/12.

The Grizzly’s Christmas

The Grizzly's Christmas - Postcard (Rev. 1)The Grizzly’s Christmas has arrived! We are so excited about finally being able to hold it in our hands and see that the book matches our dream for it.

William A. Geiger, Professor of English, Whittier College, praised the book:  “Horace, the Roman writer, said that literature should delight and instruct. The Grizzly’s Christmas does both superbly. Irving, a grizzly from Idaho, is needed at the North Pole to help St. Nicholas deliver gifts, both material and immaterial, to children in many cultures. This beautifully illustrated story also relates the importance of bears in cultural beliefs and rituals.”

teddyThe story is appropriate for children as young as five years old. Its layers of meaning and bear track notes about folklore and traditional oral history allow this story to grow as a child grows.

Read it with a son or daughter or a grandchild.

So grab your teddy bear, click on The Grizzly’s Christmas page in the black bar above to learn more, and find out how to order.

How The Grizzly’s Christmas Got Its Name

Cindy Schuricht's book release, this picture shows an actual grizzly bear waving. He seems to be smiling.If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that I’ve adapted a children’s story, The Grizzly’s Christmas, written by my college anthropology instructor, Malcolm F. Farmer. The book is currently in the hands of the printers. We reviewed the proof Tuesday.

Rita Mailheau, a professional copy writer, suggested doing a series of interviews about the book. Actually, she more than suggested. She allayed my fears, decided on topics for four segments, organized the shoots, and handled all the technical issues. She’s great. You can go to   ritamailheau.com  to find her blog, the most recent on interviewing, and learn about her services.

Before you view the first segment, here’s a short adaptation of a story I heard Jane Yolen tell. A young man searches the world for Truth. He finally finds her. She is an old, old woman with wrinkles, wispy white hair, and bunions. She teaches him for a year. When he is ready to go back into the world, he asks what he can do to thank her. “Tell them,” she said, “that I am young and beautiful.”

My request to you is that when you tell somebody about the video, please mention that I am young and beautiful. Thank you.

Part One: How The Grizzly’s Christmas Got Its Name or Would You Buy a Book from This Woman?

In this segment of a four-part interview series, I share about adapting Malcolm Farmer’s earlier work into our soon-to-be-released version—The Grizzly’s Christmas. It’s about  a treasure hunt.

Since we’re talking adaptations, I’d like to steer you to one of my favorites. There are many versions of The Water of Life, a Grimm’s tale, but I never felt the heart of the story until I read the version by Barbara Roasky, with gorgeous illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, and wisely published by Holiday House in 1986. Maybe I just need things more spelled out than other people do, but finally the test of galloping down the middle of the golden road made perfect sense.

This version of The Water of Life has become a part of my value system and informs my retelling of The Tortoise and the Hare, but that’s a different adaptation for a different day.

You can contact me at grizzlychristmas@gmail.com or through this blog.

Ode to Joy

Last week I rushed to complete a quilt for a show at my church. The theme is “Ode to Joy.” My inspiration was, of course, the music by Beethoven plus our garden, Melody Bells, and a book called AMARANT: THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF ATLANTIS BY A LADY BOTANIST.

I’ve always thought we are much better off finding the joy in our life rather than pursuing happiness. And one sure way for me to find joy is spending time in the beauty of nature—especially if trees are involved. So a tree became the first element in my quilt design.

Right now the garden has passed it’s spring prime of abundant poppies, ranunculus, daffodils, love-in-the-mist, and nasturtiums. Now lilies, geraniums, roses, and passion flowers bloom. Only a few butterflies flit around the pond, but little chompers on the passion vine promise an abundance later in the season. Flowers and butterflies became the second

Future butterfly, current glutton

element to show joy—sigh, such a cliche.

AMARANT: THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF ATLANTIS BY A LADY BOTANIST, written by Una Woodruff and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1981, popped into my mind. My mom gave me that book years ago, and her impulse buy at Pic ‘n Save became one of my treasures. Old-fashioned botanical style drawings of things such as “wayside plant” with pods like double peas that grow into free-flying beetles abound. Other flowers transform into ladybugs . . .  or butterflies. Maybe this quilt could inch a little farther, no longer quite so cliche.

I cannot match the artistry of the author/illustrator Una Woodruff. But she did inspire me to employ a skill I do possess. I cut out lots of fabric butterflies. (Have I mentioned I live close to Rosie’s Calico Cupboard, known to me as Fabric Heaven.) Big butterflies, tiny butterflies. Purple, blue, pink, red, even brown butterflies. Then I cut apart individual wings from some of the big butterflies and used those sections as flower petals. The undissected butterflies fill the sky as if the flowers themselves took flight. Well, I hope that’s what it looks like.

The tiny butterflies and the Melody bells, you ask how they play in the design? Well,  wired ribbon rises from the tree trunk. The tiny butterflies become notes on a musical staff. The butterflies are color-coded to match five musical chimes, taking the place of the Melody Bells inspiration. A little mallet hangs from the quilt border so an art appreciator can “read” the butterflies and play “Ode to Joy.”

My version of being part of the digital age is to make an “interactive” quilt and post it on the blog. So be one of the first to view this work. If only I could figure out how to let you play it on-line!

In the post of 10/18/12, we talked about some children’s books featuring quilts. You’ll be glad to know, we haven’t exhausted the list. One of my sisters, who’s quilting skills outshine mine in every way but weirdness, gave me THE QUILT MAKER’S GIFT, written by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken, and published in 2000 by Pfeifer-Hamilton. Wow! Beautiful story about greed, giving, and joy. Enough stunning illustrations for two or three books. On top of all that—it has a bear!

QUILTS FROM THE QUILT MAKER’S GIFT by Joanne Larsen Line and Nancy Loving Tubesing with illustrations by Gail de Marcken was published by Scholastic also in 2000. It has twenty patterns for quilts from the story. The blocks range from easy to challenging.

Any picture book about quilts should be ashamed of itself if it is not beautiful. SHOW WAY can hold its head up with beautifully justified pride. This lovely book, written by Jacquiline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott, and published in 2005 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, pieces together the history of eight generations of the women in the author’s family. The mamas “loved those babies up so. Yes, they loved those babies up.” The Show Way quilt of the title shows the way to freedom. Bet you can’t read it with dry eyes.

Oh, and my quilt? I raced to get it in on time only to find out I was a week too early. That turned out to be a good thing since there were technical difficulties. I hear some of you ask, “What kind of technical difficulties can a quilt have? Ones that aren’t actually too complicated. They have been resolved and the quilt is to be hung tomorrow.

Last year’s quilt, “As a Deer Longs for Flowing Streams,” based on a chant by John Philip Newell. Find out more about him at salvaterravision.org

Pay Attention to the Bear!

Australian flame tree—did it get your attention?

If you read “No Lions or Tigers, But Bears, Oh My!” posted on 11/29/12, you know

Miranda’s first illustration.

something about my capture by bears. And you may remember that I’ve been working on a children’s book titled THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS. I’m very excited to tell you Miranda Marks, a local fantastic artist, has nearly completed the illustrations, and the manuscript is now in the book designer’s hands.

Some of you may also remember the original book was written by my college anthropology teacher, Malcolm F. Farmer, who asked me to rework his story. My first thoughts were that it was a cute story in the “Who Pulled Santa’s Sleigh?” category. But Malcolm left hints of deeper meanings underlying the story. The first clue to grab my attention was a passing reference to a “taboo concerning bear names.”

Taboo about bear names? What was that all about? Turning to what my husband calls “the intra-net,” I found that people in many different cultures didn’t use their word for “bear” (which is apparently itself a euphemism for whatever pre-history word originally meant bear.) Since this taboo was found in many varied cultures, there is a long, long list of euphemisms for the word bear.

Over the course of more than a year, I have rewritten the story itself. I’ve used Malcolm’s other writings about bear beliefs along with papers and books by other anthropologists to add notes that explain what some of the old bear beliefs were. I understand why the most popular stuffed animal is the bear and why I have felt such a strong connection to them.

The word “bear” is not used in the story portion of THE GRIZZLY’S CHRISTMAS. And I shouldn’t just leave you wondering how to address a bear if you meet one. While there are lots of possibilities (of course, you’ll find more in the book), “Grandfather,” “Auntie,” and “Good-Tempered Beast” should do for now.

Now, as I read books that star or include bears, I look for evidence of the old beliefs still lurking deeply in many of us.

A STORY FOR BEAR, written by Dennis Haseley, illustrated by Jim LaMarche, and published by Harcourt, Inc. in 2002, is a gentle, loving story that falls into the category of books I wish I’d written. The beautiful illustrations fit the story so well. The woman in the story doesn’t know the taboo about calling a bear “bear”, but the bear in the story doesn’t mind. Many ancient people thought that bears were the animals closest to people and that although animals could no longer speak, bears could still understand. The love in the story reminded me of the fox sitting in the wheat field in THE LITTLE PRINCE. A STORY FOR BEAR is worth a search and will delight a bear and/or book lover.

See the post of 12/20/13 for a review of Red Sled, written and illustrated by Lita Judge and published by Atheneum in 2011. This wordless picture book has a bear as the most “human” of the animals in the story.

Also back on 11/29/13, we looked at Seekers: The Quest Begins, written by Erin Hunter and published by Harper Trophy in 2008 – 2010. This series is geared for older elementary students and apparently me too. Because I’m hooked and now have five in the series. On the first page of the first book, a mother tells her child an old tale of the bear constellation Ursa Major. Only this is a polar bear version.

As I’ve continued to read in the series, I’ve found more instances of bear beliefs. Before I would have read some of these things as an example of the writer’s individual imagination.* Now see I connections to beliefs that are thousands of years old. The only hint I’ll dangle right now is there is a character who brings to mind one of the Navajo names for bear—”Turning into Anything.”

And, lucky for me, there is at least one more book in the series.

Did you have a teddy bear when you were a kid? What did that bear mean to you? And, do you still have it?

*Did you know that Erin Hunter is more than one person?

Faire Books and Dogsong

The Bookfaire at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts at Whittier College (3/23/13) was terrific, except for the part about not being able to be in three breakout sessions at the same time. Sometimes, physical laws are so limiting.

Laura and I at Bookfaire. She’s the tall, non-disheveled one.

I was able to hear Tom and Laura McNeal separately. (See the post of 2/21/13, Predators, Hormones, and Slippery Slopes, for their young adult books.) Hearing the back stories of inspiration for these books and the McNeals’ process of co-writing added richness and even more depth to stories I already found highly satisfying. So I bought two that I hadn’t yet reread, THE DECODING OF LANA MORRIS, by both Laura and Tom, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007, DARK WATER, a National Book Award finalist by Laura, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010, and an adult novel, TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER, by Tom, from Back Bay Books, 2011.

Laura spoke about what makes a young adult book. Besides needing to have a protagonist of similar age, books for this age range need to be honest. They can provide a way for a young person to explore some paths in life that he or she doesn’t actually have to take with their resultant actual consequences. Tom and Laura’s books for young adults fulfill Gary Schmidt’s criteria for what children’s literature needs to do, namely provide tools for kids to become more human.

Besides being terrific writers, both separately and together, they are wonderful people. I felt so blessed to spend so much of Friday evening and Saturday with Laura. It was a great time. Thank you, Laura and Tom.

Although the other authors at the Bookfaire write for adult audiences, some of the books may appeal to YA readers. I just finished reading FINDING EMILIE, written by Laurel Corona and published by Gallery Books in 2011. In the eighteenth century, a French woman, Gabrielle-Emilie le Tonnelier de Breteuil, wrote a translation and commentary on Newton’s Principia Mathematica. The marquise died six days after the birth of her second daughter. The daughter died before turning two. Corona’s historical novel tells of the life she imagines the Marquise would have wanted for her daughter, Lili. We have few historical details of the lives of women, and Corona feels that historical novels are the best way for us to reclaim the lives of the women who have gone before us. I think young women who like Jane Austen may find this book a fascinating look at an aristocratic life that makes me grateful for the rights women have now.

From left: Kelly Lange, former anchorwoman, mystery writer, and keynote speaker; Ann Farmer, former English teacher at Whittier College and Bookfaire chair: and moi.

Now we have to wait almost a whole year for the next Bookfaire.

I did promise DOGSONG the next time I posted. After reading THE QUILT, I decided it was time to read Gary Paulson again. THE QUILT told of Paulson’s  emotional connections—a layer of meaning I’d hadn’t always found in his writing. Now when I picked up my copy of DOGSONG, published by Scholastic Inc. in 1985, I found a solitary boy facing nature story, but with strong human connections.

And I love his description of the human-to-animal/nature connection as the boy, Russell, bonds with his dog sled team. “He let them run and they seemed to want to head the same way he wanted to go . . . did the dogs know where they were going? . . . he let the dogs decide because that was the same as him deciding.” It’s one of the best pictures of creatures knowing and trusting each other that I think I’ve read. Anyway, I’m back to picking up Paulson’s books.

And let me know what you’ve been reading.

I’m hoping for some trades if you live where it’s still cold. When you have spring, things will be getting hot and dry, and many of our plants will go dormant. Then I’m hoping you’ll send pictures

Books I Wish I’d Written

For a change of pace, all of the books I’m writing about were written in this century! I’ve tried to include something for every age. For those old enough, all of them are wonderful.

Press Here, a picture book written and illustrated by Herve Tullet, published in France in 2010, and in the U.S.A. in 2011 by Chronicle Books. This book is the kind of book that leads people to say things like, “I could write that.” His illustrations even lead me to say, “I could do that.”

But those of us who are not Herve Tullet did not have the deceptively simple, yet dazzlingly brilliant idea that makes this picture book such a clever, funny, and even interactive (?) book without any google eyes, pop-ups, or any kind of gimmick (not that I’m always opposed to gimmicks).

I can’t tell you much more without giving it away. It made me laugh each time I read it so I bought it. One friend didn’t get it—which is my only clue that it might not be for everyone, but I just can’t wait to read it with some kids, age unimportant.

After you read the book, do you have any ideas for stickers or crayons?

Remember the SCBWI conference (Three Days of Peace, Love, and Rollicking Books, 8/23/12)? Remember Gary Schmidt who said writers should write to “give kids more to be a human being with”? Well, I checked out two of his books for middle-grade readers. Wow! He can speak and write eloquently.

Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy, written by Gary D. Schmidt and published by

Not the Atlantic actually, but . . .

Houghton Mifflin Co. in 2004. The backstory for this novel is an actual event that ocurred on a small island off Maine’s coast that was settled by people who were not ethnically or otherwise acceptable to the people of the nearby mainland town.  The island people were eventually run off the island. The novel is the story of the new preacher’s son who is considered an outsider among the boys of the town. Turner makes friends with an African-American girl from the island and with some of the town’s residents who are also considered inconvenient by the townsfolk.

This book has sentences of great beauty, scenes that are heart-breaking, and scenes that inspire. It faces part of our ugly history, but reminds us there are people who, by fighting prejudice and injustice, remind others of what is important. Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy was a Newbery Honor Book.

The Wednesday Wars, written by Gary D. Schmidt and published by Houghton Mifflin Co. in 2007. At first I enjoyed the story (it’s funny too), but felt it didn’t have the depth of Lizzy Bright and the Buckminster Boy. As the story continues, more layers are added, and we see the protagonist grow in understanding and compassion while the book retains its humor. This was also a Newbery Honor Book. There were many beautiful lines I read to my husband. There were certain elements of the book that interfered with his suspension of disbelief—some unrealistic school practices.

In both books, Gary Schmidt provides tools “to be more human with.” These are books that will be on my giving list.

The Fault in Our Stars, written by John Green and published by Dutton Books in 2012. While an adult novel, this book seems perfect to me as a young adult read. Hazel is seventeen years old. She has loving parents . . .  and terminal cancer, which she sees as “a side effect of dying” and by extension a side effect of living. She loves her loving parents and worries about the side effects of her death on them.

The book has drama, lots of funny lines, lots of thoughtful lines, true love, true friendship, international travel, and a “disgusting” author of the book Hazel is obsessed with. There were lots of lines I wanted to read to my husband, but didn’t since he’s going to read it next.

For some terrific night sky photos, go to

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/new/2012/05/pictures/20515-best-earth-sky-picture-2012-comet-milky-way-space/

Wish I knew how to make it a link. You might be able to copy and paste into your browser.

Now I’d like to ask for your help. Some other blogs I’ve checked give much more detailed information about plot and characters. I’ve kept these reviews shorter because I personally have trouble reading too much about a story—I want to just get to the book and get to know the characters for myself. Please let me know if you’d like more detail, about the same amount of information, or less. I’ll also be writing about writing (but not necessarily in a systematic way). And look for a contest in a few weeks.