Happy Birthday, E.B. White!

“All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” — E. B. White

When I volunteered to do a #FridayReads post, and randomly chose the July 10th slot, I already knew I’d be writing about E. B. White. What I discovered only as I began to write was that that was the day before White’s birthday! He was born 116 years ago, on July 11, 1899.

Charlotte's Web

It may be a bit of a cliché to claim Charlotte’s Web as my favorite children’s book, but I can’t help it. From the moment I first read (and reread) it as a child to the dozens of times I shared it with my own children, it has never failed to move me to tears. The book is more than 60 years old, but is freshly beguiling on every read. And how can you resist a story that kills off one of its main characters, but still uplifts you, ending with (slightly abridged):

[The barn] was the best place to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of manure, and the glory of everything.

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. . . . She was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.

Absolute perfection.

That’s not to pass over Stuart Little or the sometimes overlooked but beautiful homage to wilderness, The Trumpet of the Swan. What E. B. White gave me was an early appreciation for nature and the natural ebbs and flows of life—“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder,” he advised—and though I didn’t know it at the time, he probably planted the seeds that led to my becoming an author. His prose was witty, wise, and gorgeous; he always chose the right words—and just the right words, no wasted verbiage. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered White also wrote for adults.

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I still consult his Elements of Style (the newish version, with the bonus of illustrations by the great Maira Kalman). Check out White’s story and poetry anthologies; they’re a revelation. His poem, “Natural History” is undoubtedly the most romantic poem ever written about a spider (E. B. White is a one-man PR marvel for spiders).

E.B. White

So tomorrow, have a piece of cake for E. B. White—or better yet, revisit one of his classics. Prepare to be utterly enchanted. He was SOME WRITER!

Leslie Kimmelman is a children’s book author and works part-time as an editor at Sesame Street Books. She also works from home as a freelance writer and editor. She lives just outside of New York City, where her and her husband have brought up two children and two dogs.

Happy Birthday, E.B. White!

Natural Materials Make Welcoming Homes for Fairies, Pixies, Elves, and Gnomes

Rebecca O’Connell, a librarian, is the author of Baby Party (2015) and Baby Parade (2013).

Baby ParadeBaby Party

She lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, son, two cats, and a big dog. O’Connell talks about fairy tales in this week’s edition of Friday reads!

 

I like walking with my dog, Bear, in a little wooded area near my house; there’s green space within the city. Bear is looking for woodchucks and squirrels. I am looking for sticks, catkins, pine cones, acorns, pebbles, or other building materials—construction supplies for fairy houses.

rebecca bear

Fairy houses are tiny houses (or schools or castles or libraries…) for the hidden folk.

The Hidden Folk

The structures are made of natural materials. We leave them outside (or, sometimes, in a window) in the hope that someone will find this welcoming shelter and move in.

I love to pore over the photos of fairy houses in the books by Barry and Tracy Kane:

Fairy Houses...Everywhere!Fairy Houses and Beyond!

 

Fairy Houses … Everywhere! (left)

Fairy Houses and Beyond! (right)

 

 

Fairy Houses...Unbelievable!Fairy Homes & Gardens

and Fairy Houses…Unbelievable! (left)

And this new one by Barbara Purchia and E. Ashley Rooney, Fairy Homes and Gardens (right), which includes the poem “The Fairy Dew Drop” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I page through the photo books for inspiration. Seeing what can be made from petals and shells and seed pods and bark makes me want to construct something. The possibilities are endless, as can be seen in page after page in the books or on Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Facebook page, for example.

The wee people for whom we build can be tricky or friendly. They can be shy or sociable. Usually, they will respond to kindness with kindness. I keep that in mind as I gather materials for their cozy nooks or luxurious mansions. I think about The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren. That is where I learned about the tradition of leaving a bowl of milk out for the Tomten. (Putting up a little house is like leaving out a bowl of milk, right?)

The Tomten and the Fox

When I picture the soon-to-move-in wee little neighbors, I picture the flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker. Aren’t they beautiful? Wouldn’t you set your mind to making the most comfortable home possible for them to enjoy?

My Garden of Flower Fairies 1The Complete Book of the Flower FairiesA Treasury of Flower Fairies 3

 

 

 

I like to learn about who the wee people are, their habits, their preferences – all the better to recognize and welcome them. The poems in Fairies, Trolls & Goblins Galore, complied by Dilys Evans, illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers are a fine introduction to (or reminder of) our hidden neighbors.

 

Natural Materials Make Welcoming Homes for Fairies, Pixies, Elves, and Gnomes

Mother’s Day: Authors Tell All

It’s already Mother’s Day weekend! A few of our authors sent a special photo of themselves with their moms. Our authors noted how each of their moms have impacted and influenced their lives.

Ana Crespo family photoSock Thief

(Pictured: Author Ana Crespo)

In this picture you see not one, but three moms (and possibly a 4th one in the future) – my mom Sandra, my grandma Carmen, me, and my daughter. The picture was taken here in the U.S. in Indiana, at Appleworks Farm. There’s nothing more special than having a supportive family.  I am thankful to be so close to my mom and my grandma, despite the physical distance (both live in Brazil). Happy Mothers’ Day!


Kathryn AllenShow Me Happy

(Pictured: Author Kathryn Madeline Allen)

In many ways, my mother and I are alike. We both love tea, anything tea: pots, cups, Earl Grey. We both love our family, floral patterns, and Lake Michigan. We love to create: she paints, I write. Her house is neater than mine, but I try! She taught me the importance of manners and love, two topics I’ve written about. A Kiss Means I Love You is dedicated to her and my dad. People often say I’m just like my mother. Thank you very much, I say.


 

WhitneyStewartRaftingMom[1]Meditation is an Open Sky

(Pictured: Author Whitney Stewart)

Mom has a book addiction. I can’t remember a day when she didn’t lose herself in prose. She reads at home and on adventure. She reads by head lamp or candle, at dawn and dusk. She reads to know herself and the world. And she gave this gift to me. We have traveled together across continents, up mountains, and down rapids, forever lugging books in our packs. What better end to a journey, Mom thinks, than finding HOME in a book?


Laura Hurwitz and mom9780807524688_DisappearHome

(Pictured: Author Laura Hurwitz)

Frances Somerville Krick, a.k.a. my mom, died in 2009. She was an English teacher. Whenever I showed her my writing she would read it carefully, then point out any grammatical errors. “But what did you think of the story?” I would ask, exasperated, after hearing that the third sentence in the first paragraph contained two independent clauses which should be linked by a semi-colon instead of a comma. “It was wonderful, Lolly,” she would say, unruffled, as if this were a given. While my mother considered her role limited to proofreading, the truth is she shaped my life relative to words. In the days before tech she was a faithful snail mail correspondent; when I was living on one side of the country and she on the other, she penned lengthy letters several times a week. She was a dedicated reader. In fact, I cannot recall a day (apart from her very last) that she didn’t spend some period of time with a book in her hand. As a grandmother she made it a loving daily practice to read aloud to her grandchildren. And, despite her characteristic humility in casting herself as proofreader, I know the truth: she was not an editor but an exemplar. The dedication in my debut novel reads simply For my mother. It is an independent clause linked to her shining spirit.


 

heather and momOriginal Cowgirl

My mom embodies generosity. I can’t remember her ever saying “no” to anyone who asked for help, and she has a sixth sense when friends need support. More than anything, I admire her generosity of spirit. She is a true listener—genuinely

(Pictured: Author Heather Lang)

interested and empathic. Whether listening to a mundane anecdote or a serious problem, my mom is never distracted and never thinking of a witty reply or what she wants to contribute to the conversation. She listens to understand. I work hard to emulate her, and it turns out, good listening has helped my writing tremendously.


Sarah and NancyOpposite of Love

My mother taught me that anything was possible if I put my mind to it. I learned that hard work was more important than raw skill, and that being kind was more important that being smart or being pretty or being talented. She introduced me to the love affair that is reading. I knew that spending a summer

(Pictured above: Author Sarah Lynn Scheerger)

lounging with book after book after book was a “good use of time.” I learned to think for myself…and that what I had to say mattered.  She showed me how to appreciate life’s gifts, no matter how big or small. And you’re one of those gifts, Mom. Thank you! (I learned to say “thank you” too!)

Suzanne Slade with momWith Books and Bricks

(Pictured left: Author Suzanne Slade)

About twenty years ago I (the Mechanical Engineer who didn’t take any writing classes in college) told my mother I wanted to try writing children’s books. What did my practical, realistic, two-feet-on-the-ground mother do? She read story after story, kindly pointing out typos, grammar mistakes, and paragraphs that were just plain confusing. She encouraged, even when rejection letters piled up. She applauded, even when the “successes” were incredibly small (like a rejection letter with my name on it.) And when I finally got published, she bought books for most everyone she knew. Thank goodness for mothers!

Mother’s Day: Authors Tell All

Brazilian Picture Books: My childhood

Albert Whitman author Ana Crespo shares some of her favorite childhood picture books from Brazil in this week’s #Fridayreads. Ana is the author of The Sock Thief (Spring 2015), J.P. and the Giant Octopus (Fall 2015), and J.P. and the Polka-Dotted Aliens (Fall 2015).

I love picture books. So, as you can imagine, I read lots of them. For now, I have a good excuse – a five-year old who loves them as much as I do. However, I don’t think I will have the excuse for too long, as the five-year old will soon move on to more wordily adventures.

Born and raised in Brazil, the books I read as a child were not the same ones you probably read. Throughout my childhood, my two favorite picture books were Flicts by Ziraldo (a renowned Brazilian cartoonist) and Chapeuzinho Amarelo (Little Yellow Riding Hood) by Chico Buarque.

flicts

Flicts tells the story of a lonely color. No one wants to play with Flicts because he’s different. Flicts travels the world looking for a place where he’s accepted, but finds none. He ends up in the moon. As Ziraldo tells it, “nobody knows, except maybe the astronauts” what color the moon is. On the very last page of the edition I have (but can’t find), Ziraldo says he met Neil Armstrong when the astronaut visited Brazil. After telling him about Flicts, Neil Armstrong confirmed, “The moon is Flicts.”

chapeuzinho_amarelo-1

Chapeuzinho Amarelo is about a little girl who spends her days doing nothing, because she’s afraid of everything. “She was afraid of thunder. For her, worms were snakes. And she was never caught under the sun, because she was afraid of the shadow,” Chico Buarque writes. Eventually, Chapeuzinho Amarelo gets over her fears, thanks to a play with words that just works in Portuguese. So creative!

Because I grew up abroad, I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to American picture book classics. The first time I read an Eric Carle book, for example, was in 2002. I had never heard of Lois Ehlert, Shel Silverstein, Leo Lionni, or even Dr. Seuss, until about a decade ago. And I am sure there are lots of wonderful authors and illustrators that I still don’t know.

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Of the most recent American picture books, some of my favorites are Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown, The Dot by Peter Reynolds (and almost anything by Peter Brown and Peter Reynolds. What is it about Peters?).

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I also love Stuck by Oliver Jeffers, and Mark Pett’s The Boy and the Airplane and The Girl and the Bicycle. The five-year old excuse loves My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza, and The Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.

51OZaZ-YNzL

However, I don’t read only picture books. I have a lot of catching up to do in other genres too. I love the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Angela’s Ashes is possibly my favorite book ever. I just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which I also enjoyed.

9780807583708_DownFromMountain

Before that, I went through some of Albert Whitman’s recent titles–Down from the Mountain, The Black Crow Conspiracy, Biggie, and The Poisoned House. I enjoyed all of them!

What’s your favorite childhood book?

Brazilian Picture Books: My childhood