Monday, November 28, 2022

XIN XIN, Star of my book PANDA: The Last Panda at the Mexico City Zoo


Xin Xin and her mother Tohui at the Chapultepec Zoo, 1991

In 1991, I traveled to Mexico City with photographer Dick Hewett to research and photograph the pandas at the Chapultepec Zoo, home to the largest group of zoo pandas outside China, including Xin Xin, a one-year old baby panda, who became the star of our book, Panda (Morrow Junior Books, 1992). Xin Xin, now age 32, is the last surviving panda at the zoo.

I was surprised and pleased to find an article in the LA Times this week about Xin Xin and the history of pandas at the Chapultepec Zoo.  Xin Xin is the granddaughter of Pe Pe and Ying Ying, the pandas given to Mexico by China in 1974 as part of their “panda diplomacy.” Since 1984, all pandas in foreign zoos have been on loan from China, and any baby pandas born from loaned animals since 1985 must be returned to China. So Xin Xin was unique in being able to stay in Mexico and grow up there.

My book, Panda, is part of the baby zoo animal series I did with Dick Hewett. Although the paper book is long out of print, Panda continues to be available as an ebook on Amazon and other sites.

Here is the link to the LA Times article about the pandas in Mexico City.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

CLCSC AWARDS PROGRAM: Honoring Southern California Authors and Illustrators

On Saturday, November 12, 2022, I was happy to attend the annual awards celebration of the Children's Literature Council of Southern California, held in person for the first time since the pandemic. In 2020, I was honored to receive the nonfiction award for my book Butterflies in Room 6, but at that time the ceremony was held online and interaction was limited to my computer screen. It was wonderful to be able hear this year's recipients tell about their books in person, and to listen to the keynote speech by Dr. Claudette McLinn and Michael McLinn of the Center for the Study of Multicultural Children's Literature (CSMCL.) 

The event was held in the social hall of Throop Church in Pasadena. While we listened to the speakers we sipped tea and coffee and dined on delicious sandwiches and desserts. Before and afterward everyone had a chance to chat and catch up on the news of the last two years! Many thanks to all the people at CLCSC for making the event possible.


Here is a list of the 2022 award winners:

Distinguished Work of Juvenile Non-Fiction
Cougar Crossing
by Meeg Pincus, Illustrated by Alexander Vidal

Outstanding Picture Book Reflective of World Events
Outside, Inside
by LeUyen Pham

Outstanding Contribution to Juvenile Fiction
by Carol Cujec and Peyton Goddard

Stellar Work of Fiction for Young Adults
The Girl from the Sea
by Molly Ostertag

Dorothy C. McKenzie Award
for Distinguished Service to the Field of Children's Literature
Keren Taylor
from WriteGirl

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Review of KEEPER OF THE LIGHT by Ronna Mandel at Goodreads with Ronna


Many, many thanks to Ronna Mandel for her enthusiastic and detailed review of my book KEEPER OF THE LIGHT: Juliet Fish Nichols Fights the San Francisco Fog, published at her blog on November 9, 2022. She captures the key elements of the story and shares several of the pictures, giving readers a preview of the wonderful, atmospheric art for the book by illustrator Rachell Sumpter.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Ronna’s review:

Keeper of the Light written by Caroline Arnold and illustrated by Rachell Sumpter is a fascinating, “fictionalized account based on true events and historical documents about Juliet Fish Nichols …” I love learning about historical figures, especially women who had non-traditional careers, whose stories might never be told were it not for an inquisitive picture book author.

A widow at 42 and in need of a steady income, Juliet Fish Nichols worked for over a decade as Keeper of Angel Island Light Station in San Francisco Bay. Author Arnold presents an engaging interpretation of several years of Nichols’ life there—Point Knox to be precise—in log format so that readers can gain insight into the important responsibilities she was tasked with. This not only involved making sure the lamp (visible for up to 13 miles) was filled with oil, clean, and in working order but when needed, operating the fog bell machine.

For the full review please go to Ronna’s post at her blog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022



Authors and Illustrators Day at R.D. White School, Glendale, CA, sponsored by the Glendale Assistance League

On November 4, 2022, I had an excellent Zoom author visit at R.D. White Elementary School in Glendale, California, as part of the Authors and Illustrators in the Schools program sponsored and organized by the Glendale Assistance League. I especially thank Linelle Vincenti and Kathy Blyth for all their support and making sure that everything ran smoothly. I was one of six authors at R.D. White on Friday. I met with four groups of first and second graders, each class for about forty minutes, sharing my books and my life as an author and answering questions from the students. I enjoyed it immensely. And I could tell that the teachers and kids enjoyed it too.

Zoom visit with two classrooms at R.D. White School

The theme of my presentation was gardens–featuring my new book PLANTING A GARDEN IN ROOM 6: From Seeds to Salad, as well as my fiction book WIGGLE AND WAGGLE (reading the first story and singing the gardening song with my Wiggle and Waggle sock puppets), and sharing my miniature garden inspired by Mr. McGregor’s garden in PETER RABBIT by Beatrix Potter. 

In my home office.

I also talked about how authors get ideas for books, sharing that the inspiration for KEEPER OF THE LIGHT came out of a visit to Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. And I showed how I create the cut-paper illustrations for my books, using A ZEBRA’S WORLD as an example.


Sunday, November 6, 2022

STORIES IN STONE: On the November SCBWI Recommended Reading List

I am pleased to have my book STORIES IN STONE: Rock Art Pictures by Early Americans featured on this month’s SCBWI recommended reading list in the nonfiction section. Each month, SCBWI features books written and illustrated by its members. And every month highlights a new theme that will foster discussions, activities, and enjoyment!

The theme for November is Native, First Nations, and Indigenous Heritage, featuring books that celebrate the diverse cultures, traditions, and histories and acknowledge the important contributions of Native people. On this list, you will find fiction, nonfiction, Own Voices books, bilingual books, and more. So pick up a book and become immersed in this rich culture.

STORIES IN STONE: Rock Art Pictures by Early Americans is available as an ebook from Amazon. It was originally published by Clarion Books in 1996.  

STORIES IN STONE is illustrated with photographs by Richard Hewett. This visit to the canyons of the Coso Range in the California desert reveals of thousands of ancient stone engravings of people, animals, and abstract symbols -- evidence of some of the earliest human life in North America.

I frequently discover ideas for new books while I am working on other projects. What is mentioned as a passing fact in one book later turns out to be the main theme of another project. For instance, in my book The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde, I wrote a short section about petroglyphs, or rock art. I was fascinated by the stone images carved into the rock and by the fact that they have endured for hundreds of years. A few years later, as I was leafing through a local museum publication, I learned of a rock art site in the California desert where thousands of petroglyphs lined the canyon walls. I arranged a visit and discovered the subject for a new book, Stories in Stone: Rock Art Pictures by Ancient Americans. In it I explored not only the stone images themselves but the people who made them, how they did it, and what the symbols may represent. Learning about people who lived in the past is another of my long time interests. When I visit an ancient site such as the petroglyph canyons or Mesa Verde, I find it easy to imagine myself living hundreds or thousands of years ago. I am amazed by how much archeologists can learn about the daily lives of people who lived long ago by examining the things they left behind. My goal in writing about these subjects for children is to convey some of that same sense of wonder.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

ILLUSTRATIONS FROM A DAY AND NIGHT IN THE DESERT, at the Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA

At the Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA.

 I have just returned from the Humboldt County Children’s Author Festival, four days of celebrating books and reading. Events include author visits to schools throughout Humboldt County, book signing at the Humboldt County Library in Eureka, California, a dinner and banquet with community members, and an exhibit of children’s book illustrations by participating author/illustrators at the Morris Graves Museum of Art. Two of my cut-paper illustrations from my book A Day and Night in the Desert are part of the exhibit. The art, on display in the downstairs youth art section, will remain up through the end of October and possibly through the end of November. With many thanks to Lucy Quimby on the Festival Committee, and Jemima Harr at the Morris Graves Museum of Art. I am pleased to have the opportunity to share my work as part of the Author Festival.

For more about the Festival, see my post at this blog for October 26, 2022.

In front of the Morris Graves Museum.



Wednesday, October 26, 2022


Author visit at Ambrosini School, Fortuna, CA, for the Humboldt County Children's Author Festival

I am home now in Los Angeles and am thinking about all the amazing events of last week. It was wonderful to be back in beautiful Humboldt County for the Humboldt County Children's Author Festival.  I sensed an extra level of enthusiasm for the festival after waiting an extra year since the last festival because of Covid. Special thanks go to Festival coordinators Joan Williams, Becky Giacomini, and Linda Lorvig.

My art from A Day and Night in the Desert on exhibit at the Morris Graves Museum, Eureka, CA.

The Festival Committee and the dozens of volunteers do such a good job making sure that everything goes smoothly. From the opening reception and art exhibit, to the Thursday night potluck and student performance, to the Sky Walk at the Zoo and Banquet on Friday, to the book signing at the Humboldt County Library on Saturday, everything was great. 
Author visit at Cuddeback School, Carlotta, CA.

My schools (Ambrosini on Thursday and Cuddeback on Friday) were terrific. The students were enthusiastic and asked great questions. I thank Kim Gans, the librarian at Ambrosini, and Principle Blaine Sigler at Cuddeback for helping to prepare the students for my visit. At Ambrosini, each class had focused on one of my books and created a poster for display on the walls of the MPR. 
Mural by 1st graders inspired by Keeper of the Light

I was especially impressed by the first graders' mural of my new book Keeper of the Light. One of the students from that class came to the library on Saturday with his family and proudly told me that he had drawn the giant bell. 

Redwood Sky Walk at the Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka, CA

On Friday afternoon, after we had finished our school visits, we had a special tour at the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka of the new Redwoods Sky Walk. This was a special treat, especially to have a guided tour by the zoo director. I learned, among other things, that the park has the distinction of having the tallest redwood in an urban area anywhere in the world!
At the Carson mansion, site of the Friday night banquet.

Friday evening was the traditional banquet, held at the elegant Carson Mansion at the edge of Humboldt Bay, a chance to celebrate with community members--at my table there were three librarians--and to hear each author give a short talk. The challenge is keeping one's remarks to less than 3 minutes!  

At the Saturday book signing at the library with author/illustrators Bob Barner and Bethanie Murguia.

On Saturday, at the library, I made a point to take pictures of all the authors (including a selfie of me)--in our colorful Take Flight With Books t-shirts. 

This year's festival theme was Take Flight With Books. The display at the Humboldt County Library featured my books A Zebra's World, A Moose's World, and Hatching Chicks in Room 6 next to a giant papier mache balloon.

The special thing about the Humboldt County Children's Author Festival is spending time with the other authors and getting to know the local volunteers who are involved in making it happen. Special thanks to Peter Springer for arranging my travel. I have been coming to the Festival since 2007 and enjoyed it every time.
Take Flight With Books Poster. Cake by Ramones (dessert at banquet)

Again, to all the volunteers and members of the committee, thanks so much for inviting me again to be part of the Author Festival! It is always a highlight of my year.

For more about the festival and its history, take a look at Peter Springer's blogpost.