Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Kadir Nelson's Latest Masterpiece

I've written before about this talented illustrator and can't wait to see his next work.  Here's a good article on his connection to history and how he goes about finding his story.

Three years later the dividend of that trust is Heart and Soul: The Story of American and African Americans(HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, Aug.) which PW, in a starred review, called "a tremendous achievement." In the voice of a woman who's seen it all, Nelson takes readers from pre-Revolutionary War America all the way up to the election of President Barack Obama, recording the tragedies and the triumphs.   

"It's ironic," Nelson writes in his author's note. "History was not at all my favorite subject in school." And yet much of the acclaim that has come Nelson's way stems from his ability to powerfully illuminate the troubled existence of blacks in America—the perilous journey out of slavery in Henry's Freedom Box, written by Ellen Levine; the soul-stirring biography of Harriet Tubman in Carol Boston Weatherford's Moses; the indignities suffered by the men who played baseball just as well as white men but were paid a pittance because of the color of their skin in We Are the Ship.  "I had been telling the African-American story all along but I hadn't tried to tell it all in one place," Nelson says. 

Before We Are the Ship, he hadn't written the stories himself either. The success of that book, which won the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Robert F. Seibert Medal (for nonfiction), gave him the confidence to try again, albeit on a much broader canvas. When Bray gave the green light, however, he remembers thinking, "Uh-oh. This is a big fine mess I have gotten myself into." Nelson confided his fears to a friend who confirmed them. "He said to me, ‘There's no way you can do that! It's too big! Do you know how many books you're going to have to read?' He was just saying what I had already said to myself." 

Nelson was determined, however. "Someone once asked me what my work was about and I said, ‘I am in hot pursuit of the truth.' History is a way to look for it. You get a general swath of it in school but that wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know the real story. And I had to begin with me. Find out more about my family, how they contributed not only to my life but to the life of our country." 

Nelson persevered through several attempts that were "not good," he says now. He showed his draft to his agent, Steven Malk at Writers House, "who said to me, ‘Well. There's some good things here.' "Nelson took his struggle to Ann Dieble, the designer who had worked with him on We Are the Ship, which is narrated by a (fictional) old-time veteran ballplayer. In Heart and Soul he had tried a similar device—but the voice was less a person than "an ancient spirit from across the ocean." According to Nelson, Dieble told him, "Make it a woman. Don't go so far back in time." 

"When she said that, I knew it was right. I immediately thought of my grandmother," Nelson says. His grandmother, Verlee Gunter-Moore, had inspired him before. A grocery store owner in Atlantic City, N.J., Gunter-Moore had muscular forearms from ripping up boxes by hand and shelving products. Nelson had used her as a model for Moses, as a "cuter version" of the powerfully built Harriet Tubman. 

He also relied on family for research, interviewing siblings, his parents, aunts and uncles, his grandmother. He remembered a story his Aunt Elaine had once told him about the last member of their family to have been a slave. He prohibited the serving of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, a Southern tradition thought to bring good luck, because when he was a boy, the black-eyed peas were poured into a horse trough on New Year's Day for the slaves on the plantation to eat like animals. "After he was freed, he vowed neither he nor any of his families would ever eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day again," Nelson says.  


"I think his work is more emotionally charged than anybody else's I've come across because he feels these subjects completely," Bray says. "So many of his portraits are composed so that the subject is looking directly at you. You feel so drawn in, like he's gotten inside these people. I think the reason for that is Kadir has not only passion for the subjects but compassion. He is moved by these stories and wants other people to feel the same." 

Yes, Nelson says, he could choose lighter or easier subjects at this point in his career, but he feels drawn to take on subjects worthy of his considerable—and he would humbly say—natural-born talent. His next project is a picture-book biography of Nelson Mandela for Katherine Tegen Books at HarperCollins, for fall 2012. 

"Some people don't discover what their gift is for a long time but mine was apparent from a very young age and I am cognizant of that and respectful and grateful," Nelson says. "It took a long time for me to figure out not to get in the way of it, that it's not really mine, it just comes through me. The only important thing about the work now is that I do whatever it is that is on my heart."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Schools for Military Children

This article on military schools was very insightful though filled with opinion.  My recollection of schools on the many bases and posts I've lived on can relate.  Let's put some tax dollars towards this initiative!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Grand Finale's

One of the things I love about my first grader is the way she comes home every day, comes straight to me and unloads her backpack of important papers that she is supposed to give her mom.  I don't know when it began but she started doing her grand finale each day which was whatever she deemed the most cool thing in her backpack.  

One day it was this hat for her Three Billy Goats Gruff play that week.  

Here's a video of another day and the grand finale.  

More grand finale's were:

I've realized that each day when she comes home, I get very excited to see what the Grand Finale is going to be.  Sometimes it's a 100% on spelling test, or an art project, or the tootsie roll from the treat jar.  I love it just as much as her.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Jump bands

Ever heard of this unique type of jump rope system called Jump Bands.  They can be purchased at the following website and make "Jump Rope for Heart" a real event.  While these images only show a few students, you can get whole class jumping in overlapping star shaped formation for a great team building experience.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


"Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It's about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be. And that, if you're lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be." 

Joan Ryan, "The Water Giver".

Monday, May 7, 2012

Toddler Computer Skills

My parents recently came to town and couldn't believe that my two year old, Louis could maneuver his way around our laptop with ease.  Here he is enjoying one of his favorite websites.  

Other websites my kids like lately are:  Try to find the Where's my Blankie game and also the roller coaster one.  They are hilarious.

The little ones also like games.  There is a toddler section with sing a long songs that are great!  

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


No....I'm not talking about Jacob and Renesme.  I'm talking about finding that perfect publisher for a good story.  Each one with their own audience, type of book published and submission guidelines.

Here are some examples of children's and YA imprints, by publisher.*

Macmillan - includes FSG, St. Martins, Bloomsbury/Walker, Feiwel&Friends, Holt, Roaring Brook, Tor among others

Penguin - includes Dial, Dutton, Putnam, Viking, Razorbill, Puffin, among others

HarperCollins - includes HarperTeen, Katherine Tegan Books, Rayo, Balzer&Bray, among others

Random House - Knopf, Bantam/Delacorte/Dell, Schwartz&Wade, Wendy Lamb Books, RH Kids, among others

Simon & Schuster - Atheneum, McElderry, Little Simon, Beach Lane, Pulse, among others.

Scholastic - AAL, Scholastic Press, Orchard, among others. 
Then there are places that I consider "one-and-done", where the editors seem to work together more and don't really have significant divisions, including CandlewickChronicle,Egmont, HyperionLittle Brown, FluxSterling,Sourcebooks etc. They might have different lines for different types of books (like Sourcebooks Fire YA line, Little Brown's Poppy line or Candlewick Sparks early readers) but those don't quite constitute their own departments with their own dedicated staff.