Wednesday, October 5, 2022

KERLAN COLLECTION: Archiving My Book Materials

Kerlan Collection archive, University of Minnesota Libraries

The Kerlan Collection at the Children’s Literature Research Collections at the University of Minnesota is an internationally recognized center of research in the field of children’s literature. The Collection contains original materials, including manuscripts, artwork, galleys, and color proofs for more than 1,700 children’s book creators. These materials represent over a century of American children’s books and selected titles published in other countries. The Kerlan Collection also includes more than 110,000 children’s books.

The Children's Research Collections are at the Elmer L. Anderson Library 

On my recent trip to Minneapolis, I visited the Kerlan Collection to donate some of my book materials. (Over the years I have made several donations.) It was a delight to talk with Lisa Von Drasek, the Director, and to get a tour of the archives, deep below the library in cavernous light and temperature controlled rooms. 

Special lifts bring librarians up to the top shelves.

Lisa pulled out one box to show me the artist’s dummy for Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parrish, a book that had been a favorite of my children when they were young. The original pen and ink drawings were there, along with blocks of text taped in place, and hand-written comments from the editor. It is a one-of-a-kind treasure.

Artist's dummy for Amelia Bedelia

I am proud to have my work included in the Kerlan Collection. I am now motivated to continue going through my book boxes to organize additional material to donate. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022


Book signing at Plum Creek Literacy Festival, Seward, Nebraska

Last week I spent three full days, along with eighteen other children’s book creators at The Plum Creek Literacy Festival in Nebraska, speaking to children and adults in schools in Lincoln, Nebraska, and on the campus of Concordia University in Seward, Nebraska. For me, this was the first time doing live visits in schools since Covid, and it was wonderful to see the smiling faces of the enthusiastic audiences. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the other authors, sharing meals and van rides and free time together.

Dylan Teut, Festival Director, and Caroline

I thank Dylan Teut, the organizer of the festival, for all the hard work of putting the program together, and all the 2022 committee members and and volunteers who helped make it all run smoothly. I am especially appreciative of Dawn Navis and Jeanne Gee for ably transporting us to and from all the events.

On Thursday, Betsy Thomas, my host in Lincoln, not only took me to all the schools, but treated me to a delicious lunch at the Green Gateau and a personal tour of the amazing capital building. 

On Friday, my host for the day was Tammy Stuhr, who helped make everything run smoothly and used her skills as a 4H trainer to entertain the children in between sessions. 

Authors, Festival Committee and Kiwanis and Rotary Members

On Friday evening, we were treated to a special barbecue at the Isaac Walton League cabin, sponsored by the Seward Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. The steaks were delicious!
Saturday was the Adult Conference on the campus of Concordia University. I thank all the volunteers who helped at the festival. 

The final event at the festival for me was the luncheon on Saturday, with keynote speaker Pam Munoz Ryan, who, as always, gave an inspiring talk about the importance of books and reading.

It has been twenty years since I last participated in the Plum Creek Literacy Festival. It was good to be back.


Wednesday, September 21, 2022


KEEPER OF THE LIGHT by Caroline Arnold, illustrated by Rachell Sumpter

Juliet Nichols, the lighthouse keeper on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay from 1902 to 1914, is the subject of my book KEEPER OF THE LIGHT (Cameron Kids/Abrams 2022.)

Juliet recorded the weather in her log book twice a day—once in the morning and once in the evening.  She also noted activities relevant to running the lighthouse–such as repairs, the delivery of fuel, or a visit of the lighthouse inspector.  She used the information in her log book to write her monthly reports.

Juliet's log for February 1906

You can make your own log to make a record of the weather where you live.

You will need: a large notebook with lined paper, a pencil, outdoor thermometer, graph paper.

Using Juliet’s lighthouse log as a model, write your name, the month, year, and location of your observations in the notebook at the top of the page. Along the left margin, write the numbers, 1-31, one date per line.  Once each day (at about the same time) write down your observations of the sky (clear, partly sunny, overcast, foggy), air temperature (measure with a thermometer), and precipitation (rain, snow, sleet.)    

Sample graph

At the end of each month you can make a simple graph of the daily temperatures.

What was the average temperature for the month? (Hint: Add all the temperatures and divide by the number of days in the month.)

Sunday, September 18, 2022

AUTHOR VISIT: Reading THE TERRIBLE HODAG to the ESNS Preschool in Minneapolis

Showing the picture of the Hodag on my Camp Bovey sweatshirt to the ESNS preschool.

My first trip to Camp Bovey, the ESNS camp in northern Wisconsin, was when I was four years old. Then it was called Camp Hodag and as we sat around the campfire at night, my father told stories of the Hodag—a creature with the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator. I remembered those stories and when I grew up and became a children’s book writer, I wrote some of them down.

Ole Swenson meets the Hodag.

Last Friday, I visited the preschool at ESNS in Minneapolis and read my book THE TERRIBLE HODAG to the three and four-year-olds. They were just as fascinated with the Hodag as I had been when I was four. One of the children had even gone to Camp Bovey with his family and was proudly wearing his Camp Bovey t-shirt with a picture of the Hodag on the front.

Camp Bovey.

My father, Lester Scheaffer, was the director of ESNS (East Side Neighborhood Services) for 18 years and founded Camp Bovey in 1949. I thank Margie, the preschool director at ESNS for inviting me to read to the children. Long ago, I too attended the ESNS nursery school, then housed at Northeast Neighborhood House.

THE TERRIBLE HODAG in Spanish, available on Amazon.

THE TERRIBLE HODAG has long been out of print in hardback (although you may be able to find it online as a used book, or in your library) but you can find a digital version of the book on Amazon in both English and Spanish.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022


Illustration for KEEPER OF THE LIGHT by Rachell Sumpter

Juliet Nichols, the lighthouse keeper on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay from 1902 to 1914, is the subject of my book KEEPER OF THE LIGHT (Cameron Kids/Abrams 2022.)

On April 18, 1906, Juliet was woken by a violent earthquake. She wrote in her log:. Calm. Hazy. Severe earthquake at 5:07 A.M. followed by several lighter shocks.

Earthquakes occur when two parts of the Earth’s crust push against one another. To demonstrate what occurs when this happens, you can make a tiny earthquake in a box. (It is best to do this project outside.)

You will need
: a shallow cardboard box, scissors, damp sand.

First, cut the box in half. Then put the box back together by overlapping the cut edges. Fill the box with sand. Pat the sand to make it smooth. Now slowly push the two parts of the box together. 

What happens to the sand? Does it form little hills or valleys? Have you made any tiny earthquakes?

Wednesday, September 7, 2022


EL TERRIBLE HODAG, is one of the books featured on the SCBWI reading list for the month of September. Hurray! The theme is "Celebrate Books in Translation". 

In honor of #WorldKidLitMonth, an annual celebration of world literature for children and young adults, we are celebrating our PAL members who have translated books into English, or who have had their books translated into other languages. So get ready to read the world through kids' book in translation!

Click on the section labeled "Picture Books" and scroll down to find El Terrible Hodag (listed alphabetically.)

EL TERRIBLE HODAG (StarWalk Kids, 2018) was first published in English as THE TERRIBLE HODAG (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1989). It was translated to Spanish by Thomas Scheaffer. It is available as an ebook at Amazon.

Un leƱador llamado Ole Swanson se hace amigo del terrible hodag. El hodag ayuda a Ole a echar al jefe del bosque.

With many thanks to all the translators who have made so many of my books available to children who speak other languages--Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, and German. A list of those books is available at my website.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

LITLINKS GUEST POST: Watching the Weather and Keeping a Log

What would it be like to be a lighthouse keeper--as a woman, alone, on an island in San Francisco Bay?

This week at LitLinks you can find my article about how you can use my new book KEEPER OF THE LIGHT: Juliet Fish Nichols Fights the San Francisco Fog in connection with reading and STEAM activities. I am happy to contribute to Author/Speaker Patricia Newman's wonderful blog featuring ways to connect STEM and STEAM books with literature in the classroom. My article features hands-on activities and reading strategies for using my book with students, helping them understand the concepts in the book. It posted on August 31, 2022 , joining dozens of previous posts by other children's book science writers and illustrators.

Many thanks, Patricia, for the opportunity to contribute to your terrific site!