Archive for the ‘ Children’s Books ’ Category

American Horror Story’s Jessica Lange Talks About Her Sweet (Not Scary) Children’s Book, ‘It’s About a Little Bird’

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

American Horror Story: Asylum scared me so badly last season that I couldn’t even go into my dark basement (still can’t). And forget walking the dogs at night–they had to fend for themselves because I was afraid Bloody Face was outside plotting to murder me.

No matter how chicken I am, I can’t wait to watch the new season one week from today. It’s mostly because I will follow Jessica Lange anywhere–from her role in King Kong to her new foray into children’s book publishing. In AHS: Coven, she’ll play the glamorous witch Fiona Goode. But I have a feeling Fiona might be really, really bad.

Beautiful Jessica Lange, of course, is best known for her award-winning acting. But she’s also an avid photographer who loves the technique of old-fashioned hand tinting. Add her hand-tinted photos to a partly-true story, and she has produced a uniquely satisfying children’s book called It’s About a Little Bird. This book sat in my pile to review, and I loved it even before I noticed the byline that reads, “Story and pictures by Jessica Lange.” The artwork and story are bright, fresh and different. And all of them are handmade by Jessica–nothing is digital! Even my 7-year-old twins fell hard for this book–the girls, the grandma, the farm and the bird. They ask for it every night.

I love to read It’s About a Little Bird and introduce them to Jessica Lange. I tell them how I got to interview her on the phone recently. Jessica Lange talked to me about her sweet (and not scary) new book. See what she had to say about it–and AHS–below.

KK: How did this book come about?
JL: ”I’ve done photography for quite a while. Really it was just for myself, but it became more than that. From that, I became very interested in the old colored postcards, the hand-tinted photographs. I started hand tinting my black and white photographs and created a story around some of these images. It was meant as just a little family thing. But it spiraled out of control, and now it’s a book. This is a story I made up for my granddaughters.”

KK: In the story, two little sisters, Adah and Ilse, stay at their grandmother Mem’s farm. Of course, they explore everything and then ask Mem to tell them about a birdcage they found. It turns out that Mem once lived in Rome and had a special canary named Uccellino. This bird went with her everywhere and sang gorgeous songs. One day, when Mem had to return to the U.S., she couldn’t bear to go without her bird. So she snuck Uccellino onto the plane in her pocket. The two landed safely and lived happily ever after. I hear some of this is true!
JL: “There is an element of make believe, but a lot of it is true. The whole thing with the little bird happened. It’s true where I got the bird, how I got it back and about the birdcage… Putting together a book is brand new territory for me. I don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. It’s good to do things that mix it up a little bit.”

KK: Yes! You definitely mix it up each season on American Horror Story. Can you give us any hints on what will happen next?
JL: “It takes place in New Orleans which has a very rich element to add to the story. It deals with witchcraft and broader themes, too. I think he’s (Ryan Murphy) thinking in terms of using witches as metaphors for any minority that is persecuted. There are things that go back to the Salem witch trials. This season, sometimes I’m wondering, ‘What the hell are we all doing?’ I think it should be interesting. And it will be scary. It’s always scary.”

So get your fill of Jessica Lange this week–check out her enchanting and emotional new book and then watch her scene-stealing acting on FX next Wednesday, October 9, at 10 p.m. EST.

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Be a Mom and Follow Your Dreams: Tips from Author of ‘Escape From Eden’

Friday, September 13th, 2013

I just love author Elisa Nader. She’s a super-cool person, mom, writer and designer. I’ll just be honest, she was my student when I taught young adult novel writing in New York City. She was incredible then, and she’s incredible now. She just published her first YA book called, Escape from Eden

Kirkus practically raved about Elisa’s work: ”In a harrowing and often disturbing adventure, two teen members of an exploitative cult try fleeing to safety…Mia’s story is not for the faint of heart. Its rewards, however, are many: fast-moving action, a capable heroine and a resolution that leaves plenty of room for a sequel.”

Rock on, Elisa. She wrote a guest post for me about how to be a mom and follow your dreams–something she knows a lot about.

“My husband texts me a photo of my daughter on the National Mall playing frisbee, or watching a video art installation at the Hirschorn, or hiking over the Billie Goat Trail, or tubing in Harper’s Ferry.

And where am I?

At home. Writing a manuscript. Or working on grassroots book publicity. Or catching up on the hours of my day-job work I may have missed because I had to swap those hours during the week to write. Because I’m a writer. And a mother. And I have a full time job. (Let’s not even mention the household upkeep, because, come on. The laundry can wait. Isn’t that what the back-of-the-drawer underwear is for?)

Please, though, let me be clear: I’m not complaining about writing. I’m not performing life-saving brain surgery. I’m not cleaning muck from a Porta Potty (although, being a mother, I’ve come close). I’m not doing a job that’s a threat to my health (unless I go all Hemingway, or Plath, or Fitzgerald, or… crap. Never mind). I’m at a laptop, writing. The most dangerous threat to my health is carpal tunnel and sitter’s butt.

But parenthood is full of tough choices, we all know that. But there are times those choices feel selfish—especially when they don’t contribute to the family monetarily and, right now, my writing isn’t adding anything significant to our bank account.

When I left my corporate job in 2008, I promised myself I’d finally revive my writing after years of atrophy, or at least try. I wrote at all hours. Balancing writing and life was easy because I hadn’t found a new job yet, and my daughter attended preschool.

But it didn’t last long.

By the time I’d started a new full time job (one that required me to commute to New York City weekly), my brain was melting out of my ears trying to juggle work/home/family/writing. I knew I should have stopped the writing, it would have made everything easier, and I’d feel less guilt. But giving up on my dream to become a published writer felt wrong; felt like I’d be cheating myself and, somehow, my daughter, too.

Thankfully, I married a very supportive husband who will take our daughter somewhere exciting for an afternoon so I can write. So, maybe I’m not with them on every adventure. Maybe my writing career isn’t exactly lucrative. Maybe I forget more items on my to-do list than I remember. But maybe, when she’s old enough, my daughter will see that the moment you give up is the moment you’ve cheated yourself out of your dream.

I’ll never regret following my dreams–and I wish the same for my daughter.”

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Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at the New Book, ‘Llama Llama and the Bully Goat’

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Get ready for more Llama Llama! The seventh book in the bestselling series comes out today. Llama Llama and the Bully Goat promises kids the drama and fun they expect from this beloved, childlike character. Problems arise when school starts and Gilroy Goat teases Llama. What should he do? Fight back? Tell someone? Can the two animals ever become friends again?

Prolific author and illustrator Anna Dewdney answers these questions and more in ways that will delight parents and children–as usual. After all of these years doing her job, she knows what makes her readers happy. To celebrate today’s release, Anna wanted to give you a behind-the-scenes look at her creative process. Check out the images below to see how Llama llama and the Bully Goat came to fruition. Then go to your local bookstore. This book is great for kids ages 3 to 5, but my 7-year-olds are begging for a copy, too.

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Happy Fourth of July: Try a Mad Lib Today

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Happy Fourth of July! We’ll be marching in a parade, going swimming, fixing a feast and making lots of memories.

I’m going to take a few minutes out of our busy day do something wacky, see below. Check out these super clever and silly word games from Vacation Fun Mad Libs, the most popular Mad Lib in the famous line of books. If you’re a Mad Lib addict, be sure to check out their app.

Have a [insert adjective] hot dog for me!

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Kids’ Picks: Check out Tiptoe Joe and Giant Dance Party

Friday, June 28th, 2013

If you see these two new books at your local store, check them out. My three children gave them both a big thumbs up.

Tiptoe Joe
by Ginger Foglesong Gibson, illustrated by Laura Rankin
This book for preschoolers also delighted my kindergartener and twin first graders. Tiptoe Joe and his very loud friends frolic through the woods. But of course, when a bear runs with a rabbit, turkey, donkey, moose, beaver and owl, it’s difficult to stay quiet. The book has a fun rhythm and cadence, and includes beginning words that are perfect for early readers. The sweet ending makes my kids ask for this book again and again.

Giant Dance Party
by Betsy Bird, illustrated by Brandon Dorman
Lexy loves to dance–but oh no, she doesn’t want to go to her recital. When her parents figure out she just has major stage fright, they suggest she loosen up by giving lessons. The problem is, no one shows up to take them except for a bunch of big, blue, furry giants. Boy, they need Lexy badly. With lively words, characters and pictures, this book will especially appeal to ballerinas. But it’s also great for all kids who sometimes get scared.

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