Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Have you ever hosted an author visit at a school or been part of a planning committee to bring an author to your community? I know from my own experience that author visits are one of the best ways to promote reading and writing and provide the opportunity for students and teachers to interact with a “real live” author/illustrator such as myself.
My friend Alexis O’Neill, author of The Recess Queen and many other well loved books, has been working on a study to provide statistics and stories to assist teachers and librarians in making a case for bringing authors and illustrators to their schools. But first, she needs to “take the temperature” of anyone who has hosted an author visit at their school or library.
If your answer is yes to the above question, it would be much appreciated if you would take the 2-minute survey at the following link. You responses may help bring more authors into schools and classrooms.
This study is being sponsored by the Ventura County Reading Association (California) and is the first of its kind. We’re hoping that this can offer helpful insights to schools as well as to published authors and illustrators.
As you may know, since the start of the recession and the No Child Left Behind initiative, teachers and librarians have had to fight harder to convince their administrators to host an author visit. Now that it’s the era of Common Core, will it be the same, worse or better climate for author visits?
Thanks a million for helping to get the word out!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Radical Changes in the Editing Process: Santa Barbara Breakfast With the Authors

Greg Trine, Joan Graham, Heidi Gill, Susan Casey, Valerie Hobbs, Alexis O'Neill, Sherry Shahan, Mel Gilden, Sara Kras, Marianne Richmond, Caroline Arnold, Robin Mellom, Amy Koss
Last Saturday I participated, along with thirteen other authors, in the 62nd annual Breakfast with the Authors sponsored by the Santa Barbara County Office of Education.  After time to mingle and chat and eat a delicious breakfast we each had the opportunity to address the question:  What is the most radical change you have made to your manuscript in the editing and rewriting processes?

For me, the answer was easy.  It was the conversion of my 24 page nonfiction picture book A Panda’s World (PictureWindow Books, 2006) to a 20 page board book.  First of all, the page sizes were shrunk from 11 by 11 inches, to 8 by 8 inches. (The illustrations remain the same, except smaller.) Then all the front matter (information about panda size, weight, etc.) was eliminated along with three pages of back matter (map, fun facts, glossary, etc.).  Then, the text on each page spread had to be shortened from two paragraphs to about two sentences! That's a radical change! And, the sidebars with fun facts were also eliminated. What was left were the essentials of the story.  Net result: a new book perfectly suited for a parent to read to a young child or for a beginning reader to read alone.  The board book edition of A Panda’s World will be published in February 2015, along with three other titles from the same series–A Penguin’s World, A Zebra’s World and A Polar Bear’s World.  I am delighted to have the new board book versions of these books, which make the stories available to a whole new audience.

The morning’s program also included a panel of teen readers who responded to anonymous first pages.  It was fascinating to hear their opinions and find out how they identified with the characters in the stories.
Thanks so much to Rose, Matt, Fred and Doris for all the hard work to organize the breakfast.  It is always a pleasure to participate!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Children’s Literature Class, Santa Barbara City College

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth Bowman’s children’s literature class at Santa Barbara City College in Santa Barbara, California.  The students are current or pre-experience teachers at preschool and elementary grades.  They were a lively and appreciative audience with lots of excellent questions.  I talked about my books and life as an author and offered a variety of ways that books like mine can be used in the classroom both for reading and as jumping off places for related projects.  At the end of my presentation the last question was: “As you have visited schools over the years, what is the most memorable question you have had from a student?” I will never forget the student who asked, “If you could be a dinosaur, what kind of dinosaur would you be?”  My answer: a feathered dinosaur!
Thank you Elizabeth for inviting me to your class!

Friday, September 26, 2014

BANNED BOOKS WEEK, September 21-27, 2014, Celebrating the Freedom to Read

(reposted from the ABFFE September 26 Newsletter)
Booksellers around the country are participating in Banned Books Week, the national celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds have created displays of banned and challenged titles, and many have organized events.
Independent bookstores are enthusiastic supporters of Banned Books Week, but as small businesses many do not have the resources to participate. To make it as easy as possible, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE), the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship, has joined the Ingram Content Group in distributing a free promotional kit that contains everything a bookstore needs to create a display, including a full-sized poster, "Caution" tape, bookmarks, stickers, and a flyer with detailed information about last year's book challenges. One hundred and sixty bookstores ordered the kit. 

Censorship affects all of us. To find out more about Banned Book Week celebrations and events, go to .

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


THE ANCIENT CLIFF DWELLERS OF MESA VERDE, my book about the Anasazi, Native Americans who inhabited the cliffs and mesa tops of Mesa Verde, Colorado, a thousand years ago, is now available again as an e-book at StarWalk Kids. It is illustrated with beautiful photographs by Richard Hewett. You can also find it at Amazon as a Kindle book.  This book was originally published in 1992 as a hardback and paperback book by Clarion Books and may still be available in your library.  I am thrilled to now have it as an ebook as well!

SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL: The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde
Grade 4-6-- Sharply focused and dramatic full-page, full-color photographs are an outstanding feature in this book on the Anasazi people of the American Southwest. Mesa Verde serves as the backdrop and focal point. Photos of the spectacular cliff dwellings can be found throughout, but there are also pictures of archaeologists at work and many of the artifacts that have been found there. Chapters include a description of the discovery of the area by ranchers in the late 19th century and the development of the area into a national park. Readers will also see how painstaking archeology has re-created the probable scenario of how people lived when the area was at its height of development and various theories concerning the fate of the Anasazi. An engrossing introduction to the culture, the place, and the time, and how we have learned about them. --David N. Pauli, Missoula Pub . Lib . , MT

Saturday, September 20, 2014


With Tina Nichols Coury at the SCBWI Author Showcase, Bakersfield, CA
A week ago on Saturday I had a great time in Bakersfield at the SCBWI CenCal PAL Showcase and met lots of enthusiastic parents and educators. Along with eleven other children's book authors, I had eight minutes to show some of the things I do during my school visits.  During the breaks, attendees came to our tables to collect information and book school visits for the coming year.  I am now looking forward to a number of visits to Kern County Schools.  Many thanks to Rebecca, Mary Ann and Allison for organizing the day!  Afterwards, all the authors had a delicious dinner at Mexicali restaurant and a chance to relax together.
All Twelve Showcase Authors!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don’t Miss Santa Barbara’s BREAKFAST WITH THE AUTHORS, Oct 4, 2014

On Saturday, October 4th I will be one of the authors speaking at the 62nd annual Breakfast With the Authors.  This has been a highlight of the fall much longer than I’ve been an author and I always enjoy taking part.
You can enjoy a delicious brunch featuring several types of quiche, fresh fruit, and baked goods while mingling with well-known and much-loved authors & illustrators of children’s literature.
The program includes a panel discussion, an open mic forum, authors’ comments, brunch, and the chance to purchase personally autographed books.

This year’s guest authors include:

Caroline  Arnold
Susan  Casey
Mel  Gilden
Heidi  Gill
Joan Bransfield Graham
Valerie  Hobbs
Amy Goldman Koss
Sara Louise Kras
Robin  Mellom
Alexis  O’Neill
Marianne  Richmond
Sherry  Shahan
Greg  Trine
Eugene  Yelchin