Wednesday, October 31, 2007

For the Love of...

Jen Robinson is a smart and thoughtful blogger. She's one of a handful of kidlit blogsters who I correspond with and have tried to meet up with in her hometown of San Jose, where I also have family.

I was away last week and fell behind on my blog reading. Jen Robinson's Book Page is always the place where I find myself slowing down, nodding in agreement, and thinking how intimidating Jen is (she's so much more worldly and intelligent than me).

Anywho, she mentioned in a recent post, her love of reading and how she feels it led to her education at Duke University. I am convinced that my love of reading and my desire to be close to books led me to my dream job, but I digress. This is not about work or college.

My story begins in late 2003. I'm eight months pregnant and sitting on the floor in front of my (then) husband, surrounded by dozens of other just-as-pregnant couples, all of whom are strangers. The two teachers are irritating me, as is everyone there (hormones) and I'm emotional, tired, hungry and just want to know when I'd be able to receive an epidural (I had no idea that I'd end up having a c-section at this point).

At one point, one of the teachers asks us all, one at a time, to share one of our partner's traits that we hope will be passed on to our unborn child. Luckily, my partner and I are in the middle of the half-circle so I'm grateful that I will have time to listen to every one's responses and to come up with an even better one of my own.

People around us are saying things like, "Her smile, or his sense of humor," along with other physical traits that I can't understand. I mean, I of course want my child to be healthy and happy, but I never thought about wanting him to have certain physical features.

When it came to our turn to speak, I was proud of both my answer and my partner. I spoke up loud and clear and let everyone know that the one trait in my partner I hoped would be passed along to our son would be his work ethic. He's a very hard worker and does everything he can to provide for his family.

I thought this was it. I was done. I no longer had to speak or participate for the rest of the day so I let my guard down. My partner (who I couldn't see because I was leaning back upon his chest), said, "I hope our son inherits her love of reading." I would've fainted if I hadn't already been sitting down. Tears poured out of my eyes and I was literally choking up over his thoughtful response and probably the biggest compliment one could ever pay me.

Illustration from And After That...
From Belgium, by Jeanne Ashbé

(K/M, 2002)

I have been working hard every day to make sure that my son does inherit my love of reading. I think that part of my job is done, as he enjoys heading to the library, the local bookstore, or my office, which is of course lined with bookshelves.

My son is already a hard worker and I can see how dedicated and focused he is on whatever task or challenge is presented to him. He's inherited his dad's smile, his mother's patience and his grandparents' red hair. And who knows? He could end up at Duke someday, too.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

National Association for the Education of Young Children

I leave for Chicago a week from today. While I have every intention of writing the weekly newsletter while I'm on the road, I may have to send a summarized edition of weekly websites instead.

In the meantime, I'm gearing up for a week of fun-filled networking with early childhood educators. This is always a fun conference to attend because the teachers are so used to working with toddlers and young children in diapers that they can't help but be pleasant and excited to spend nearly 5 full days with other adults! We moms can relate and I too look forward to attending the National Conference and heading to the Windy City.

My sister will be joining me for this trip. I think it will be the first time the two of us will be together without our kids (or our parents) so I'm sure we'll be laughing non-stop, like two giggling girls at a sleepover - at least for the first few nights, before we remember what it was like to share one bathroom!

Books about siblings are always a great hit which is why I am especially eager to introduce the Toddler Tales series at this conference and let the attendees know about the spring additions to the series: Little Brothers Are... and Little Sisters Are... by Beth Norling.

From Australia

by Beth Norling

Little School

(K/M, 2003)

Beth is the very talented Australian author/illustrator who brought us Little School, a wonderful book for pre-schoolers and for the adults who want to help get them prepared for the daily routine of laughing, learning, and playing with friends.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

American Association of School Librarians

Even though I'm watching Game #3 of the World Series and sitting at the Reno-Sparks airport, I'm also running through my notes from the past few days during the AASL conference.

It was a quick two and a half days but I had a wonderful experience and accomplished quite a bit:
  • I met a lot of great people and introduced several school librarians to Kane/Miller
  • I met quite a few vendors who were so nice and pleasant to be working near
  • I was able to sign up for the 2009 conference which is to take place in North Carolina
  • I was able to donate the remaining books to a local school here in Reno
My flight is boarding soon and I still need to eat dinner while cheering for the Rockies. Overall, the last few days have been quite successful and I'm pleased that we attended this bi-annual conference and look forward to meeting again in 2009.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wicked Witch of the West

Throughout the Denver Broncos game last night, and during the entire half-time, the TV screen kept flashing with updates about the evacuated areas in Southern California due to the growing winds that kept the nearby fires spreading.

I had a flashback to 4 years ago to the date - just about - when I was six months pregnant with my son, and my ex-husband and I were just moving into the place where my son and I still reside. We drove South, past the wildfires that had just jumped across Highway 15 towards the direction of our new home, which we hadn't even slept in at that point.

Fast forward four years and my son and I are inside, doors and windows shut tight, air conditioner and humidifier running while all I could smell was fire. What used to be a pleasant reminder of bonfires is now a brutal reality that the fires could once again spread quickly and threaten our home and of course, those in our neighboring communities.

We watched the news - and the football game - and after my son fell asleep I made sure I had packed away the belongings and personal items that I would take with us come morning.

I really couldn't get much sleep. I kept tossing and turning. The smell of smoke grew stronger throughout the night, as did the howling winds and I kept thinking about what we would do, where we would go, what I would take with us.

Just as I assumed, the morning sun did not peek through the smoke. Ash was now falling from the sky. My son and I made two trips to the car before finally feeling ready to leave, not knowing when exactly we'd be back. I ended up taking him into the Kane/Miller office with me while I took care of a few things, but mostly just needed the comfort of being around other people. There was no reason to really be working since a State of Emergency had been declared for all of San Diego County, as well as six other counties in Southern California.

My son is with his dad this evening. I am staying with one of the founders of Kane/Miller, as she has kindly opened up her home to me. This is the first time I have spent the night here but certainly not the first time her spare bedroom has been offered. In fact, I had a key to her house on my key chain for nearly six months after my ex-husband filed for divorce and things started to become unsettled in the home front.

I have become rather close with the Kane family and all of the employees during my nearly seven years with the company. I am grateful for all they have done for me, both personally and professionally. It was Mrs. Kane and her husband who first initiated me on my first business trip back in 2001. It was Mr. Kane who introduced me to anchovies during that same visit to Baltimore. And it is with the Kane family who my son and I will spend Thanksgiving with, as we have done every year (with one exception) since I started working for Kane/Miller.

I can't imagine working for anyone else after all this time. I have fantastic co-workers who are wonderful individuals and have become family to my son and I.

We are safe this evening and we are grateful for every one's kind thoughts and prayers and can only hope that all of the good karma that's due comes our way this evening.

The Santa Ana winds are supposed to get worse over the next few days. Homes just North and East of my neighborhood have been evacuated, including the home of one of our staff members.

After the Cedar Fires of 2003, the county and city of San Diego, the people, and the emergency crews are better prepared. Evacuations have been prompting people out of their homes with time to spare but the fires are unpredictable, the winds are sporadic and the resources are scarce.

The Witch Fires of 2007 have already been determined to be the worst fires that Southern California has ever seen and I hope and pray that all of those that have been evacuated can recover from this devastating loss once the fires have died down and our lives are meant to return to normal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Java Mama Story Time

I had an opportunity to promote and sell Kane/Miller picture books through the Working Moms with Toddlers Meetup Group that I'm a member of here in San Diego. One of the moms in the group suggested that I host a story time at Java Mama in La Mesa.

It turned out to be a fantastic event although I couldn't tell you how many moms and kids were there (I was too busy reading a counting book to count the number of heads).

The counting book that I read, with the help of my page-turning assistant and son, was One Woolly Wombat, from Australia. Written and illustrated by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent, this picture book features Australian birds, reptiles and other creatures along with rhyming text and the numbers 1-14.

One Woolly Wombat
by Rod Trinca and Kerry Argent
(Kane/Miller, 1987)

Afterwards, I read a second book from Australia, Bobbie Dazzler. By Margaret Wild and Janine Dawson, this one features a red-necked Wallaby who amazes her friends with the acrobatic - gymnastic abilities she has, although sadly, the list doesn't include the splits. Bobbie's friends Koala, Possum and Wombat don't mind, but Bobbie certainly does.

Bobbie Dazzler
by Margaret Wild and Janine Dawson
(Kane/Miller, 2007)

After much practice Bobbie finally manages to do the splits, although she's not quite sure how she's going to get back up to a standing position! Her friends help Bobbie, encourage her and even participate in these activities that also kept the children jumping, hopping, whirling and twirling.

I sold a few books this morning, made some new friends and discovered a wonderful place to take my son and enjoy my daily caffeine requirement at the same time. I can't wait to go back and possibly host another story time event before the holidays.

Selznick, Frazee & A Big Box of Books

The SCIBA Trade Show and Authors Feast was last night. It took us nearly three hours to get to the Biltmore with an accident, road construction and typical Saturday evening traffic holding us back but we finally arrived!

We had enough time to walk the floor of the Trade Show, visit with many wonderful Sales Representatives and page through several fall books which I had not had a chance to see prior, and we still had time to mingle, enjoy a cocktail and wander through the beautiful hotel to see what other events were taking place that evening.

I was joined by two of my colleagues for dinner: Lynn, who most SCIBA members recall from her previous position as manager of The White Rabbit; and Christina, from The Book Works in Del Mar.

Also at our table was a member of the Harcourt children's division (also located in San Diego), along with four booksellers representing Russo's Books and Newsboy Books & Video.

The highlight of my night was meeting two of the award nominees (the two that I would've asked to meet if I was able to choose). Marla Frazee, whose work I absolutely adore, sat down at Table #12 just before dessert was served (what was that, by the way?). I nearly leaped across the table to shake her hand and gush over her work. She took me by surprise when she mentioned that some of her favorite picture books were Kane/Miller titles and I couldn't even begin to think of what to say to her after that, especially since we had to practically yell at one another to be heard.

Lynn was able to introduce me to Brian Selznick after the event and I was able to congratulate him after he received his much-anticipated award for his children's novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

Other award-winners were: Lisa See (Peony in Love), Wendy Werris (An Alphabetical Life), Denise Hamilton (Los Angeles Noir), and Robin Preiss Glasser (Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy), who admitted on-stage that she had a little too much to drink.

It was a wonderful event and I was so pleased to be able to attend and very grateful for the big box of books that I opened early this morning with my son, who insisted that I read him Bossy Bear and Merry Christmas, Mouse! immediately. (This of course, after he asked me why his babysitter had to leave.) Welcome home, Mom!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cybils: 2007 Fiction Picture Book Nominations

I'm faced with a different dilemma each day. This morning, I discovered that so far, one Kane/Miller picture book from 2007 has been nominated in the 2007 Cybils Fiction Picture Book category. The dilemma is now deciding which one picture book we've published this year that I would nominate if I could.

Anne-Marie of A Readable Feast has nominated Samsara Dog, a sophisticated picture book for older readers that discusses the idea of reincarnation. Both text and illustrations were created with care and both Helen Manos and Julie Vivas did an amazing job in this collaboration that touches on the Buddhist concepts of Samsara and Nirvana.
Illustration from Samsara Dog,
written by Helen Manos and illustrated by Julie Vivas
(K/M, 2007)

I can't possibly explain how touching this story truly is. Originally published in Australia by Working Title Press, Samsara Dog a book that one must first read, alone. There should be time set aside for reflection afterwards - and a chance to wipe away your tears before sharing this beautiful treasure with loved ones. And trust me, you will want to.

The great thing about working for such a small company is that each and every one of us has a say in the books that are published. We read them to ourselves, we read them to our children, we read them aloud to one another. And in the end, we only publish books that we are all 110% enthusiastic about. We brainstorm about who would buy it, how it would be used in a classroom / story time setting, and how we would market it to the adults who sell it to consumers (our bookseller friends who have the arduous task of choosing books for their store among the thousands that are available each season).

The difficulty I have then, is that I am equally connected to and could just as easily recommend any of the following for a nomination in the fiction category for this year: The Zoo by Suzy Lee (South Korea), New Clothes for New Year's Day by Hyun-Ju Bae (South Korea), The Story of Cherry the Pig by Utako Yamada (Japan), And What Comes After a Thousand? by Annette Bley (Germany), The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley by Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat (Australia), and My Cat Copies Me by Yoon-duck Kwon (South Korea).

Illustration from
And What Comes After a Thousand?
by Anette Bley
(K/M, 2007)

I would not be able to choose between Could You? Would You? by Trudy White (Australia) and Who's Hiding? by Satoru Onishi (Japan) for the non-fiction picture book category nomination.

I realize that these are not all of the picture books we've published in 2007 but I know children's books. After all, I'm surrounded by the best books from around the world on a regular basis and several of the nominated books from the Cybils list sit on my son's bookshelves at home as I want to expose him to all types of books, but of course, only the best.

I can't imagine being on any committee where selecting only one or a few winners is the end result. It'd be like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Therefore, I'm not going to select just one Kane/Miller title to nominate this year. I'll leave that up to the readers. After all, I'm going to be busy trying to help narrow down the list of the books we'll be publishing for fall 2008.