Fans of Harriet the Spy will probably remember that Harriet played the onion in her class's Thanksgiving play. That's her practicing, up above. I never realized before what a perfect costume choice the striped pajamas are.
Anyway, I was reading Evan S. Connell's Mrs. Bridge the other day and came across this:
Some Saturdays they (ed note: Mrs. Bridge's daughter Carolyn and the gardener's daughter Alice, who happens to be black) would stage extremely dramatic plays which went on for hours--with time out for other games--the leading part always being taken by Alice Jones because, at her grade school in the north end of the city, she was invariably the Snow Queen or the Good Fairy or some other personage of equal distinction. Carolyn, whose stage experience had been limited to a Thanksgiving skit in which she had been an onion, seldom objected and in fact had some difficulty keeping up with the plot.
Weird, eh? Mrs. Bridge was written in 1959 so maybe Louise Fitzhugh read it before she wrote Harriet. Actually, there is something very Mrs. Bridge about Harriet's mom, Mrs. Welsch. She's wealthy and shallow and remote and completely uninvolved with her child, although to be fair to Mrs. Bridge, she seems to take a bit more interest in her own children. In fact, they may be her only interest.
Or maybe there was a school play going around in the 50s and 60s that featured an onion?
Anne Tyler mentioned Mrs. Bridge in the New York Times the other day, which is the first time I'd heard of it -- there is a companion volume called Mr. Bridge , published ten years later, which tells the story of their marriage from his perspective. They both have a similar, intriguingly modern structure -- very short chapters devoted to various anecdotes and episodes from their lives, almost like flashes. Very little happens. Good books.
My friend Sara O'Leary is putting together a book trailer for her gorgeous new book This Is Sadie. She need 30 second video clips of children between the ages of 3 and 7 pretending something. (Making, doing, and being!) Sylvie stars in an example video as a giant. Those of you with small children, please join in! Just catch your children pretending and send the short video along to ThisIsSadieBook@yahoo.com. Head on over to the This Is Sadie tumblr to see Sylvie's debut as a giant and for all the details.
A thousand years ago, I had an idea for a book devoted to photographs of beloved stuffed animals. Since I'm not a photographer, my idea went nowhere. (I tend to have a lot of good ideas for things I could do if I were a totally different person.)
Today I discovered that not one but two such books were published in 2013, and they both look beautiful: Much Loved and Dirty Wow Wow and Other Love Stories: A Tribute to the Threadbare Companions of Childhood. (Although, I think I prefer the title "Much Loved" to "Dirty Wow Wow," which puts me in mind of a rapper name. Or maybe rappers name themselves after their childhood comfort objects? Hmm, that might explain a lot...)
Take a gander:
More Much Loved photos.
My dear friend Sara O'Leary asked me to participate in this blog book tour. This is very exciting and momentous for me because I wouldn't qualify to do it if my first picture book hadn't JUST been published. So thank you, Sara, and yay!
Sara is the author of the gorgeous Henry books and a kind of magical, generous mentor figure to me. (If you can have a mentor who is basically the same age as you.) I first stumbled upon When You Were Small in Munro Books when I was living in Victoria, B.C. and I remember being STRUCK. I was both absolutely charmed and incredibly envious. It was exactly the kind of book I wished I'd written. The other two books in the series are just as amazing.
Sara has a number of wonderful new books coming out that I've been lucky enough to read in draft form and I can't wait to see them in print. They include This is Sadie, illustrated by Julie Morstad and published by Tundra Books, and a series of baby books, published by Owl Books and illustrated by Soyeon Kim. I'm SO curious about the illustrations.
Q: What are you working on?
Right now, I am working on four new picture book ideas and honestly, I am afraid to talk about any of them. What if I jinx them? So I won't say anything more about that. I am also working, in a very vague, now-and-then sort of way, on my collection of Grim Stories, which is more YA than anything else, I suppose. And I am thinking about working on a collection of short stories for adults. Does thinking about working on something count as working on it? Probably not.
Q: Why do you write what you do?
Because I can't write anything else? Seriously, though, I am really drawn to constraints. I love flash fiction -- short stories that are less than 1000 words long and ideally much shorter than that. Every single word matters. When I had children and started reading to them, I realized that picture books work the same way. Only the text has to interact with the pictures, too, and that can be a fun challenge.
Q: How does your writing process work?
Ideally, I get flashes of inspiration and work really hard, for a day or two, trying to capture them on paper. Then I let them sit there for a while before going back to edit them. I love writing when writing is like this -- the flashes of inspiration feel like magic, the writing tends to pour out of me, and I even enjoy the editing process. But, unfortunately, you can't just command yourself to have flashes of inspiration. So I only work like that when they come. When they don't come, which is most of the time, I just...try hard. It's like exercising. And, like exercising, I don't do it often enough. It also takes a long time to see the results.
Isn't it stunning?
And why not visit some of the other authors and illustrators who have answered these questions on this blog book tour?
And of course: Sara O'Leary. Thank you so much for asking me to participate, Sara, and for hosting a giveaway of my book!
My dear friend (and writer extraordinaire) Sara O'Leary answers some interesting questions about writing over on her blog and also offers a copy of my newly published picture book "If I Wrote a Book About You" to a lucky Canadian winner. To enter the contest, all you have to do is leave a comment on her blog post or tweet something about why you love picture books to @saraoleary using the hashtag #stephka and she will enter your name! Good luck! And thank you so much, Sara!
The lovely Kerry Clare, editor of The M Word, will be discussing the portrayals of mothers in children's literature with other contributors to the book. I would love to be there -- it sounds fascinating. And see that, down there in the right-hand corner? That's If I Wrote a Book About You, which will be included in the discussion if copies of the book get to Parentbooks in time! (Although it was officially "published" on May 30th, copies of the book don't appear to be available in stores yet. Hurry, little book! Flap your wings!)
We've been reading Harriet the Spy and Luke wrote this week's Reading Response to it, for school. In answer to the question, "If you were a character in your book, what would you do?" Luke wrote:
If I were Harriet, I wouldn't write such mean things about the other children. If I were the mom, I wouldn't go out so much. If I were the dad, I wouldn't hire chefs and babysitters all day. If I were the chef, I wouldn't be so grumpy. If I were the chef (again), I'd mind my own business.
He's more like Harriet than he realizes. Which I love. (I guess he'd limit himself to writing mean things about grown-ups...)