Mar 29, 2013

Playing Games in a Reader's World

Confession time: my first love was not reading.

Gasp, I know.

For the longest time, I would pretend to read books as a way to get to recess quicker or impress my teachers—even as a young child, I knew how to manipulate my way in to rewards for all my “hard work.” Actually, I didn’t care to read anything for a good deal of my kindergarten through second grade education.

Rather, I spent a great deal of time dodging books as a way to get back at my mother and father. I thought that by avoiding books, I was actually doing them a disservice, and they would feel terribly guilty for grounding me for this or chastising me for that. Once, at six years of age, I even wrote in a private journal that I would never read again as a way to show my mom how angry I was.  I guess when your family runs a bookstore you have a warped sense of how to show another person you have the upper-hand.

I’ll teach my mom to ground me! I’m never reading again! Can you imagine?

No, reading was not my fist favorite activity. Instead, I spent a great deal of time with a controller in my hand and my eyes glued to the television. Yes, dear readers, I’m afraid that I was a video games kid.

And here’s another shocker: I still am.

Mar 22, 2013

Sharing A Day at the Lake: An Interview with Stephanie Wallingford & Dawn Rynders

A Day at the Lake invites the reader to jump right into the colorful sights and playful sounds that accompany long summer days at the lake. To celebrate its release earlier this week, we’re kicking off its very own blog tour right here! We had the opportunity to ask the pair of wordsmiths—and friends—who wrote the book to give us this exclusive first look at the story behind its magic.

Stephanie Wallingford
1.       What inspired you to begin writing books for children? How are children's books  special?
Stephanie Wallingford: I’ve been writing my  whole  life. I’ve always liked poetry and combined with a love and deep appreciation of art and illustration, picture books are a perfect match. Besides, what’s more special than sharing a book with a child? 

Dawn Rynders:  I have loved writing since I was old enough to string together words that I copied out of my mom’s magazines.  Once I came around to studying good children’s literature in college, I found myself thinking, “I wish I had written that…”  Then one day, Steph challenged me to try our hand at writing a book and we found the words and rhythm of A Day at the Lake.

2.     The book is definitely filled with playful rhymes and soundsit's   almost musical. How did you develop this ear for language?

SW: Once we had established the rhythm of the writing, it served as a great framework for writing. We did start to think and talk that way for a while—kind of annoying to the people around us for sure, but…lots of laughs.

DR:  I love the process of discovering the right word for a phrase.  It’s like a puzzle just waiting to be put into place…

3.      How do you collaborate as writers? What is your process like? 

Mar 18, 2013

A Day at the Lake Blog Tour

Our newest picture book, A Day at the Lake, is going on tour! Well, a blog tour that is. The book follows three children as they explore the many wonderful things about spending a day at the lake, and with the winter we're having, some fun in the sun is just what we all need! The book will release this Wednesday, but the tour will start on Friday. Until then, here's a sneak peek at where we're heading:

Mar 12, 2013

Announcing the Release of Nalah and the Pink Tiger!

We're happy to announce that the day has finally arrived! Our very first picture book, Nalah and the Pink Tiger by Anne Sawyer-Aitch, is officially available online and in bookstores across the country. 

In this adorable picture book, Nalah is a rambunctious little girl who lives so intensely in her own imagination that grownups view her as a troublemaker. Things come to head whenin addition to all of the other exotic animals Nalah has placed in the housea pink tiger "follows" her home from the zoo, and creates havoc. 

Here are some of the great things people have been saying about Nalah and the Pink Tiger:

"… A great book for kids, and one that parents will enjoy reading more than once as well." — Open Hands Blog
"What a gorgeous book! The vibrant illuminated illustrations draw the reader into the playful story. A mischievous young girl, Nalah creates an array of imaginary animals including Tico the Pink Tiger, who might be as lively as she is.Nalah and the Pink Tiger is great to read aloud. It's also a wonderful book to pore over and enjoy the intricate artwork again and again." — Elizabeth Larson, Youth Services Librarian Hopkins Library, Minnesota
"A charming story...Nalah has populated her world with whimsical and expressive playmates who may be wild, yet not scary....Sawyer-Aitch's energetic color palette makes this fun book a gem." — Carol Frisch, Retired Director of Motheread Fatheread, MN Humanities Commission
"Anne has found a way to contain her vibrant performance creativity between the covers of a book—Open any page and you'll hear the story calling your own imagination to stretch as wide as Nalah's!" — Debra Frasier, Author & Illustrator of On the Day You Were Born
“The story reminded me a bit of Sarah Weeks’ If I Were a Lion or even Where the Wild Things Are…” — Proper Noun Blog
"My 7 year old daughter and 10 year old son both read this one repeatedly. The story is funny and lively and transgressive, and the densely gorgeous illustrations reward a lot of close attention." —Sara, on Goodreads
"This is a wonderful story of an imaginative young girl. We were given the book as a gift and my two kids (ages 7 and 9) loved it! The illustrations are amazing and the story is fun and engaging. We then got the iPad app and love that too! It is great fun listening to both the English and Spanish versions of the book. If you and your kids enjoy fun characters, vivid pictures, and unique stories you will truly love this book. I know we do!"—Allison on Goodreads
"My son loves this book. His favorite is to be the voice of all the imaginary animals in Nalah's life. I love the illuminated illustrations--they're beautiful and one of a kind." —Zoe on Goodreads
"A fun book about imagination.  Very vivid." —Sara, Page Appropriate 
We're so excited to share this great picture book with everyone. Happy reading! 

Mar 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Wanda! Celebrating a Classic Children’s Author

Monday marks the 120th birthday of Minnesota artist and children’s author Wanda Gag. Gag was the creative mind behind the beloved Newberry Honor book, Millions of Cats, with its memorable refrain, “Millions and billions and trillions of cats!”  Whether spinning a tale of an invisible dog that strives for “somethingness” or translating her own version of Grimm’s fairy tales, Gag made sure her stories contained equal parts perfect nonsense and sly moral commentary.

As chronicled in several biographies, Gag was a true Bohemian. Her parents emigrated from Europe and settled in the German community of New Ulm, Minnesota near the turn of the century. Gag’s work would later pay tribute to the Old World peasant folk she grew up with and her rural roots. When her parents both died, teenage Wanda became caretaker of her six brothers and sisters. But her artist father’s last request to his talented daughter was, “What papa couldn’t do, Wanda will have to finish.”

While acting as matriarch, Gag still held dreams of becoming an artist. She eventually attended art school and became a savvy commercial artist, refusing to illustrate any books but her own. Sporting a handmade dress and a smart 30s bob, Gag moved to New York, combining her storytelling heritage and success as an artist to become the author/illustrator of many acclaimed children’s books. While she returned home often, in later years she lived on a rural estate in New England, called “All Creation,” where there was plenty of room for family visits--and for her (not quite millions of) cats.

Celebrate this homegrown artist this weekend! Much of her work is housed in the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Collection and at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. And a special exhibition of both classic and newly revealed works will open tonight at the Brown County Historical Society Museum in New Ulm. The opening reception will be followed by Saturday festivities for families. Here’s to Minnesota’s very own model of “somethingness.” Happy birthday, Wanda!

Mar 1, 2013

Happy Read Across America Day!

You'll need:
-a paper plate
-black pipe cleaners
-white cardstock
-red paper
-a black marker

Are you stuck in a rut with nothing to do? Bored on a Friday and feeling so blue? 

Perk up, my dear friends, for here’s something new. From Scarletta Press: a fun craft for you!

It’s ever so easy and terribly fun.  You’ll grin from the start and won’t stop ‘til you’re done!

Some paper, a marker, and one stick of glue. And it takes just a minute…okay, maybe two!

So take a small break to put a book in your way; join our celebration of Read Across America Day!