Tuesday, June 30, 2009



Tuesday, 30 June, 2009

The pink rose at bottom is, I think, a perfect rose, and it blooms today, June 30, which was my parents' anniversary. My father was an avid and proud gardener of both flowers and vegetables. His most prized flowers were tea roses and peonies; his most prized vegetables were big, red, beefy tomatoes.

My mother took pleasure in my father's gardens, perhaps especially because he did all the work: all the tilling of soil and planting and weeding. She had her hands full with us five children. We siblings were later pressed into weeding and trimming labors, and although we grumbled plenty, we are all appreciative gardeners as a result. None of us is as good at it as my father was, though.

Lately, I realized that I've been replicating the plants and trees of my childhood home: rhododendrons, azaleas, onions, tomatoes and herbs, maple and pear trees, and of course, peonies and roses, roses, roses.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ready to Fly

Sunday, 28 June, 2009

These are last year's baby robins just before they left the nest on our front porch. We saw them fly, one by one. Four of them were crammed in this nest and then one day the parents sat in a nearby tree calling to them and off they went. We watched, astounded at this 'normal' miracle.

Robins (the same?) built a nest in the same place this spring, laid eggs, and the mother sat on them. One morning, though, we found the nest on the porch floor, the eggs crushed. We can't figure out what could have knocked them down, as this lamp is about six feet high, with no place for an animal to climb nearby. Bats, maybe?

Friday, June 26, 2009


Friday, 26 June, 2009

I have a love-hate relationship with fan mail, which arrives in lumps like this (above), usually a day or two after I've finished answering the last batch. Once I calculated how long it took me to open each letter, read it, answer it, address an envelope, close it and stamp it, and then I figured in the cost of the paper, envelope and stamp. I forget the result, but it wasn't encouraging. I bless everyone who sends an S.A.S.E. Sometimes I kiss the S.A.S.E.

But it would be bad form to whinge too much. I am fortunate to have readers, to do what I love to do, and to make a living from it. I am grateful for all the incredible teachers out there who fire kids up over books. (I am not always so grateful for the ones who ask students to tell me what they did not like about the book.) And as every writer knows, sometimes you get those letters that take you to your knees. My most recent favorite is from a girl who, as she read one of my books, nibbled at the corners. She read the book many times, each time nibbling more. She literally ATE the book because she loved it so.

Today the sun is shining; the dock beckons. Lie on the dock or answer mail? Maybe this compromise: dock first, mail later.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Wednesday, 24 June, 2009

This is Nico and Pearl. Give them paper masks and stickers and, ta da! Superheroes! I love how they get into character so quickly and spin out their fantasies so passionately. Children: ahh.

Monday, June 22, 2009

California 'Work'

Monday, 22 June, 2009

This is one of my favorite photos of two talented, funny women: Kate DiCamillo and my editor, Joanna Cotler. We three were in Santa Monica last year for a presentation. I love how that light anoints their heads. Nothing is work when you're with these two.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Thursday, 18 June, 2009

This is one happy boy: in a restaurant, in his Boba Fett (Star Wars) costume, with his "guys."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Raschka Art

Monday, 15 June, 2009

I love Chris Rashka's art, his wild, genius mind, and his cool, calm, gentle nature. I love how he captures mood and tone with a few brushstrokes and how he experiments endlessly with color and shapes. When he did the illustrations for Fishing in the Air, I was blown away that he had been able to render visually the very abstract process of how we imagine. His cover for Granny Torrelli Makes Soup captures the swirly relationships in that book. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak, go. I think he will fascinate you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Blue Kayak

Thursday, 11 June, 2009

Twenty years ago, my husband gave me this blue sit-on-top kayak for a birthday present.  The kayak has been well-loved and well-used.  Normally it is tied up at the dock, not sitting on dry land like this. My husband has a matching white one. We are not white-water kayakers, nor twenty-mile-a-day kayakers.  About an hour's paddling in fairly calm water is just right for us. You can get up close to shore and see the ducks' hideouts, the catfish spawning, the long, narrow Muskies gliding through the weeds.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kids in a Box

Monday, 8 June 2009

My niece and grandchildren had more fun in this storage box (first photo): hiding in it and surprising aunts, uncles and cousins as they passed by. We laughed so hard because they were laughing so hard.  The cardboard box (second photo) was one of those appliance boxes large enough to make a fort out of, providing days of play.

My own children loved boxes, too, and sheets draped over tables or behind sofas.  I don't remember making indoor forts when I was young, but my siblings and neighbors and I made various rickety outdoor ones with old lumber, branches and leaves.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Saturday, 6 June, 2009

This is Brutus, my daughter's and son-in-law's and grandchildren's dog.  He is about the sweetest dog on this earth.  I love his expression here: one of quiet resignation.  It was the middle of a family gathering, with thirty-some people milling about, and fifteen of those were children jumping and leaping and squealing.  Ah, Brutus.  Patient Brutus.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Diaz Art

Wednesday, June 3

Above are three of David Diaz's illustrations for Who's That Baby?  I'm not sure if it will be clear in the photos, but each has inspired the painted walls in one part of the house.  The Grandpa illustration hangs in the 'best' guest bedroom, where the walls are pearly blue-gray. The "Baby in a Basket" illlustration hangs in a golden hallway, adjacent to a wine red wall (not seen in photo).  The "Hold a Baby" illustration (also known in our house as 'Flying Lady') decorates a pale yellow wall adjacent to a coral one.

Here is the text for the poem that accompanies the 'Flying Lady' illustration:

"Hold a Baby"

Hold a baby 
every day:

dip and swing
and swoop and sway.

Hold a baby
every day:

that will sweep
your woes away!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Diaz Art

Tuesday, 2 June, 2009

Sorting through photo images today, I came across a file of David Diaz's artwork for The Castle Corona.  How I love these images.  There are about a dozen paintings repeated throughout the book: at the beginning of each major section, and at the beginning of each of the fifty-six chapters.  Some are full page and some are half-page.  Beautiful, bold colors.  I'm going to frame several of these.  
We framed six of his illustrations from Who's That Baby? when we renovated our house, and we based the house's entire color scheme on his artwork.  I'll gather a few photos of those for tomorrow's blog.
Stunning, stunning art!