Mar 12

Meet the illustrator for my 2015 book Pioneers & Pirouettes!

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The text is done for Pioneers & Pirouettes: The Story of the First American Nutcracker, my 2015 title being published by Millbrook, and now it’s time for the illustrator to do her thing.

But first, how about if I tell you who the illustrator is?

Cathy Gendron
will be providing the images for this true story of how small-town Utah brothers Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen got into dancing and passed through vaudeville on the way to turning an old Russian ballet into an American holiday tradition.

I’m excited as can be about the talent that Cathy brings to this project. I’d say that I can’t wait to see how she brings the Christensens alive on the page, but the fact is that I do have to wait. And you do, too.

So, in the meantime, here are some of my favorite pieces from Cathy’s portfolio:

Izzy Makes Waffles

Izzy Makes Waffles

Cleaning House

Cleaning House

Night Owl

Night Owl

Waiting for a Kiss

Waiting for a Kiss

River Walk, San Antonio

River Walk, San Antonio

Bayou Boogie

Bayou Boogie

The Whatchamacallit

The Whatchamacallit

Spreading the Love of Food

Spreading the Love of Food

Welcome aboard, Cathy!

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Mar 11

Interview Across a Breakfast Table: On the boats and on the planes…

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Today, Jenny decided I should answer this one:

What would other people be surprised to find that you enjoy?


And what question did I have for Jenny … TODAY?

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Mar 10

Interview Across a Breakfast Table: Postdisposed

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Jenny‘s daily question for me is:

What is the best thing you accidentally disposed of?

My older son’s first lost tooth. It’s been the better part of a decade now, but as I recall, he lost the tooth while I was at work, and his mom put the souvenir into a container on the kitchen counter so that I could admire it when I got home.

Well, when I arrived home, nobody else was around. I saw an opportunity to tidy up the kitchen, in the course of which the container went into the dishwasher after its contents went down the drain and into the garbage disposal.

Oddly enough, I think the Tooth Fairy left more money than the going rate that night, even though there was nothing for her to haul off.

And what did I ask Jenny?

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Mar 10

A comprehensive list of U.S. college- and university-sponsored or -hosted children’s and young adult literature conferences, festivals, and symposia

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(All of them that I could find, anyway.)

In 2011, I was looking for such a list, wondered why I couldn’t find one, and decided to just go ahead and make one myself. Since then, I’ve periodically updated and reposted it, and I plan to continue doing so. If I’ve missed any, or included some that no longer exist, won’t you please let me know?

Children’s Literature Association
Diverging Diversities: Plurality in Children’s & Young Adult Literature Then and Now at University of South Carolina

University of Alabama National Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature

University of Arizona Tucson Festival of Books

Antioch University Los Angeles Children’s Literature Conference
University of Redlands Charlotte S. Huck Children’s Literature Festival

University of Connecticut Connecticut Children’s Book Fair

Kennesaw State University Conference on Literature for Children and Young Adults
The University of Georgia Conference on Children’s Literature

Northern Illinois University Children’s Literature Conference

Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College, University of Cincinnati, and Xavier University Ohio Kentucky Indiana Children’s Literature Conference

University of Kentucky McConnell Conference

Simmons College Children’s Literature Summer Institute

Frostburg State University Spring Festival of Children’s Literature
Salisbury University Read Green Festival

University of St. Thomas Hubbs Children’s Literature Conference

University of Central Missouri Children’s Literature Festival

The University of Southern Mississippi Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival

Concordia University Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival

New Hampshire
Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival

New Jersey
Montclair State University New Jersey Council of Teachers of English Spring Conference
Rutgers University One-on-One Plus Conference

New York
Stony Brook University – Southampton Southampton Children’s Literature Conference

North Carolina
Appalachian State University Children’s Literature Symposium

Bowling Green State University Literacy in the Park
Kent State University Virginia Hamilton Conference
The University of Findlay Mazza Museum Summer Conference and Weekend Conference

Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference

Sam Houston State University Jan Paris Bookfest: Children’s & YA Conference
Texas A&M University – Commerce Bill Martin Jr Memorial Symposium

Brigham Young University Symposium on Books for Young Readers
Utah Valley University Forum on Engaged Reading

The College of William and Mary Joy of Children’s Literature Conference
Longwood University Summer Literacy Institute
Shenandoah University Children’s Literature Conference

Western Washington University Children’s Literature Conference

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Mar 9

Interview Across a Breakfast Table: Macaroni, cheese, and…

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Today, Jenny picked for me the following Loaded Question:

What was your favorite meal when you were growing up?

Macaroni, cheese and hot dogs. We’re talking homemade cheese sauce, and a package of hot dots cut up, boiled, browned in a skillet, and baked in with the macaroni and cheese.

I’m kind of surprised I don’t make that more often than I do. But then, I feel the same about French toast, which I used to get every Thursday morning.

Who knows what meals our own kids will remember fondly, but not make all that often for their own families?

And who knows how Jenny anwsered my question for her?

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Mar 8

Interview Across a Breakfast Table: What, Me Lazy?

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Today, Jenny asks:

Is there anything you do that would make someone describe you as lazy?



Funny that she should ask me that on a rare, rainy day when my main ambition is to lie about reading (Grasshopper Jungle). And working on taxes. And training the dog. And completing a costume for an upcoming victory — I mean, contest. And…

So, lazy and I don’t get along nearly as well as I sometimes wish we did.

But I am pretty lazy when it comes to shopping. I’m not a browser or much of a hunter or a good waiter-for-bargains. My wants and needs are pretty simple — most things, I don’t mind getting secondhand — but when one arises I’ll figure out what it is I’m looking for and buy it for the best price I can get that day or weekend rather than search or wait for an opportunity to get it or an acceptable substitute for less in the not-so-distant future. I’d usually rather save the time than the money.

All of which is to say that I’ve just paid retail for the last piece of my costume. I’m done, and now I’m in it to win it. Check back around Memorial Day to see how that went.

Meanwhile, what did I ask Jenny today?

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Mar 7

Interview Across a Breakfast Table: ROWLF-L

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The question Jenny selected for me today is:

Who is your favorite Muppet?

Any Muppet can be my favorite if it gives me a chance to introduce someone to one of my all-time-most-beloved conversational subjects, the Chaos Muppet/Order Muppet theory of human relationships.

When discussing how that theory fits Jenny and me, I explain that I’m Rowlf –

"THE MUPPETS"..Ph: John E. Barrett..© 2011 Disney

– an Order Muppet, but a moderate one.

My favorite Muppet, though, is the one that Jenny claims as her spirit Muppet, the lovably chaotic Grover:


And what did I ask my favorite Muppet’s spirit human today?

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Mar 6

Interview Across a Breakfast Table: Tattoo Me

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Jenny and I are back in the Interview Across a Breakfast Table business, with a little help from this here board game:


Each day between now and the start of the Texas Library Association conference — a date both arbitrary and not that far off — we’re each going to answer a question selected by the other, choosing from one of four on a randomly picked game card.

Did I explain that right? I think I explained that right. Let’s get going, and you can decide for yourself whether I explained that right.

Here’s the question Jenny picked for me for today:

If you had a tattoo, where would it be and what would it be?

Man, I thought this would be an easy one! “A Woody Woodpecker tattoo on my chest or shoulder,” I was going to say, reasoning that a few folks out there would know exactly what I was referring to: the matching tattoos sported by H.I. McDunnough and the Lost Biker of the Apocalypse in one of my favorite movies, Raising Arizona.


smalls tattoo

Then I went looking for a video clip, only to discover that the tattoo is not of Woody Woodpecker after all. It is, in fact, the logo for muffler maker Thrush. Or maybe it’s the logo for Clay Smith Cams. Or both. There’s a lot more backstory and debate about that tattoo than I would have expected.

But whatever it’s called, that’s what I would get. And I would agree with the name used by anyone who recognized it, though I would suspect that anyone who didn’t call it a Woody Woodpecker tattoo had too much time on his hands.

And just what question did Jenny get?

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Mar 1

What the cover of Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! will look like

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Or might. Sort of.

It’s not final, and the dimensions have changed from an 8″ x 8″ square to a 7″ x 9″ horizontal rectangle, but here’s an idea of what the cover of my upcoming book with Joey Spiotto will look like:

ABC preview cover

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Feb 24

Picture book biographies coming in 2015

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Illustration by Adam Gustavson from Fab Four Friends

Illustration by Adam Gustavson
from Fab Four Friends

Inspired by Greg Leitich Smith’s annual list of books from our Austin writing community, I thought I’d start compiling the picture book biographies scheduled for publication in 2015 (including a pair of mine).

I know there are lots more picture book biographies on their way from publishers recognized by SCBWI, so if you’re interested in helping keep this list reasonably complete and up to date, please let me know in the comments which ones ought to be added.

The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch (Eerdmans), written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate

Emmanuel’s Dream (Schwartz & Wade), written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls

Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt), written by Susanna Reich and illustrated by Adam Gustavson

The Hole Story of the Doughnut (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), written by Pat Miller

The House that Jane Built: A Story about Jane Addams (Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books), written by Tanya Lee Stone and illustrated by Kathryn Brown

One Plastic Bag (Millbrook), written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Pioneers & Pirouettes: The Story of the First American Nutcracker (Millbrook), written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton (Peachtree), written and illustrated by Don Tate

Step Right Up: The Story of Beautiful Jim Key (Lee & Low), written by Donna Bowman Bratton and illustrated by Daniel Minter

Vivien Thomas – The Man Who Saved the Blue Babies (Lee & Low), written by Gwendolyn Hooks

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