Author/Illustrator Mary Zisk Presents: The Art Behind THE ART OF BEING REMMY.

I am thrilled to have children’s book author and illustrator Mary Zisk to talk about her debut middle grade novel THE ART OF BEING REMMY. I had the pleasure of reading this delightful time travel adventure back to 1965 and will share my review at the end of this post.

Mary will talk about the art she created for the book and her inspiration for writing it.  Here’s Mary:

The Art Behind The Art of Being Remmy

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The most exciting event of my junior high life inspired my new middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. When I was 13, I won a Draw-the-Beatles contest and tickets to a Beatles concert. The BEATLES! My best friend and I could barely hear the Fab Four singing with all the screaming, but the event was electric and so memorable.

The Art of Being Remmy

When I decided to write my novel, I used the pride and thrill I had felt from winning the contest to mold my main character, Remmy Rinaldi—a twelve-year-old girl who dreams of being an artist in spite of the objections from her father, the rivalry with a knucklehead boy, and the possibility of losing her best friend to a rat fink. I also reconnected with the remembrance that there were unwritten rules keeping girls in their place in the mid-sixties—sports are for boys, limited career options with the preferred being homemaker, dress codes, etc.

During draft number six, I came to a realization: how can I write a novel called The Art of Being Remmy and not have any art in it? I first drew an illustration that helped me define the premise of the book and create a possible visual direction.

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As I continued rewriting drafts, I drew more cartoons—Remmy’s Wow Wall, best friend Debbie’s bedroom with matching canopy twin beds, and Suzanne The Rat Fink.

The Art of Being Remmy

But as my text drafts got deeper into Remmy’s emotions, I put myself in her place and felt that any artwork in the novel would be most meaningful and impactful if Remmy did all the illustrations from her point of view in her Super Secret Sketchbook—like illustrating in first person, instead of third person.

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But what if readers of illustrated or graphic novels expected to see Remmy and all the characters acting out the narrative in scenes? I could be taking a big risk. As an experiment, I illustrated Remmy’s dream of the Beatles in NYC, influenced by her favorite painting, The Starry Night, by Vincent Van Gogh. Creating that illustration felt so right and natural to Remmy’s inner feelings and to my artistic process, I knew that was the direction I had to take.

The Art of Being Remmy

I continued by doing a full-page illustration for each of the 35 chapters of the book (plus a small spot illustration for each chapter opening).

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

The Art of Being Remmy

It has taken nine years to bring Remmy out into the world. I hope her story will now entertain middle grade girls as well as give them inspiration and feelings of empowerment as they create their own life journeys. Follow your Spark!

Mary Zisk is a graphic designer (mostly of magazines), an author/illustrator, and an artist with a passion for capturing foreign destinations in watercolor. She is the author and illustrator of the picture book, The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted, and the illustrated middle grade novel, The Art of Being Remmy. Mary lives in New Jersey with her daughter and four white fluffy rescue mutts.

To learn more about Mary (and Remmy), please visit www.MaryZisk.com. She blogs about her many eclectic collections at www.TheClutterChronicles.com.

The Art of Being Remmy is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

As promised, here is my (Darlene’s) review for THE ART OF BEING REMMY:

The Art Of Being Remmy by Mary Zisk is a delightful time travel trip back to 1965 when the Beatles reigned supreme. Remmy Rinaldi and her best friend Debbie ADORE all things Beatles and make a plan to one day meet their idols. Remmy also loves art and has a second secret plan to develop her Spark as an artist, even though it means going against her father’s wishes. Girls in the 1960’s need to know their place and follow the path men have set for them. A path that includes being housewives, mothers, maybe teachers, nurses , secretaries or stewardesses. But artists? NEVER!

Remmy is determined to prove her father and everyone else – including her once friend Bill – that she can be a great artist. Good enough to win a contest. She keeps her drawings in Super Secret Sketchbooks and earns her own money to take painting lessons so she can enter the Art Awards Contest.

Lots of challenges get in the way of Remmy’s plan, including problems with her best friend and a devious French Rat Fink. Along the bumpy road of 7th grade, Remmy learns that some rules are worth challenging and fairness for girls in all aspects of life is one of them.

This illustrated middle grade book is a funny and charming peek into the days when the Beatles took the world by storm and the force of female protest was at their heels. An entertaining read that celebrates creativity and girl power.

 

 

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Author Colleen Kosinski Presents Her New MG: A Promise Stitched In Time.

When brainstorming for a new book idea I like to scour the Internet for interesting stories. Many days dawn turns to dusk as I plunge down the rabbit hole of article after article. One day, I came across a snippet from a book called Nazi Chic that mentioned two girls who were imprisoned in the attic of Hedwig Hoess (the wife of the Commandant of Auschwitz) and forced to make clothing for her and her family using fabric from the very clothing that had been stolen from the prisoners of the camp! Nobody knows the girls’ names or what became of them.

With that story in the back of my mind, I was perusing a thrift shop looking for cool vintage clothes. As I examined the garments I started thinking about the clothing’s backstory. Were these once prized possessions of the former owners? Had somebody scrimped and saved to buy this silk dress? Was this retro coat a beloved anniversary gift?

It was then that the two ideas began to merge and that is how the story of A Promise Stitched In Time (Schiffer Publishing 2018) began.

912EbeHM7QL_thumbnailHere is the blurb from the book:

Promises can be hard to keep, but Maggie McConnell is determined to keep the promise she made to her father before he died. She must win a scholarship to a prestigious art program, but her grief gets in the way as she struggles to find her artistic vision. When Maggie purchases an old tweed coat as inspiration, she never guesses this fur-collared coat will forever change the way she views life and her place in it. The coat awakens her muse, but also awakens something else: Maggie believes its previous owner haunts the coat. Dreams and visions give way to clues from the past, and then a Holocaust victim’s tattoo appears on her arm. With the help of a steampunk-dressing school outcast named Taj, Maggie must decipher what the ghost wants her to discover, and in the process find herself.

Darlene asked me to think of five things a reader should know about my main character.

My main character is Maggie McConnell, an Irish Catholic girl from New Jersey.

She has a sister Patty who is ten months older. Some people call this an “Irish twin.” While her sister is outgoing and popular (and a bit bossy), Maggie is quiet and more of an introvert.

Maggie and Patty’s father has been dead for three years, and the story shows how each of the sisters deals with their grief in different ways.

Maggie is a visual artist and throughout the story the reader sees how Maggie relates to the world through “artist’s” eyes.

Maggie grows more confident as the story progresses. She befriends the school outcast, must solve the mystery of the identity of the ghost who haunts her vintage coat, and she even gets her first kiss.

While the themes in this story may be heavy, I try to keep a balance of lightness and some humor for my middle grade audience. What I would like the reader to take away after reading this book is to consider how we treat others and be active in helping those who are being treated unkindly. This is something we all need to remember in these days and times.    

Attention Teachers: a free 42 page downloadable teacher’s guide is available for A Promise Stitched In Time on Colleen’s website!

AuthorPortrait   A Promise Stitched in Time
https://colleenrowankosinski.com/my-books/a-promise-stitched-in-time

Monsters and Villains in Literature.

Thinking about the season of Halloween  took me on a trip to my childhood and the scary books I read. The books that have stayed with me because of the hero of the quest, but also because of the villain the hero had to encounter. In the days before Harry Potter and Voldemort, there were still plenty of scary characters in the pages of books.

My favorite monster was, and still is, Frankenstein.  Not only because he was scary to look at, but also because he was so much less a monster than the man who created him and the people who misunderstood him.  A classic tale that makes us consider the monster hidden in all of us.

As far a villains go, there are a few that sent delicious shivers down my spine as a kid. The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland with her gleeful willingness to chop the heads off little girls.

 

 

Another memorable rogue was Fagin from Oliver Twist.  An opportunist who found a way to exploit children under the guise of caring for them. He housed and fed them while society ignored them. If they had to pick pockets and become thieves, oh well, it was all part of life in Victorian London.

o t While frightening to my childhood soul, these villains paled in comparison to the quintessential villain of all time: The Wicked Witch of the West in L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Scary enough to shake the slippers off of any young girl, this character came to life in all her green-faced glory in the form of Margaret Hamilton in the classic movie.  Scary to look at, to listen to, and to be in the same room with.  

There’s a villain to remember!     

Who are your favorite monsters and villains from children’s literature?

 

Five Book Fairs in Collingswood and Counting!

This past Saturday I attended my fifth Collingswood Book Fair as an author.

1                  Another opportunity to share my book with old and young alike, to meet young people and their parents, teachers, and friendly people who are out to celebrate their love of books. It was also another opportunity to reconnect with  fellow authors in the kid lit community.

Here are the highlights in photos.

3Speaking on a YA Panel about Challenges and Changes in Children’s Literature.

 

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Picture book authors Patricia Lugo, Ryan Sias, Betsy Devaney

4YA authors Maria Andreau and Yvonne Ventresca

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With fellow MG author and KidLIt Club Member Charlotte Bennardo.

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YA and KidLit Club Authors Jeffry Johnston and Dianne Salerni.

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PB Author/illustrator and fellow KidLIt Club member Timothy Young.

Picture Book Author Robin Newman Presents: Squawking with Jim, the Peacock + Book Give-away.

Today it is my pleasure to be a stop on the blog tour for PB author Robin Newman’s newest book NO PEACOCKS which is illustrated by CHRIS EWALD (Sky Pony Press). I’ve got the inside scoop from none other than Jim, resident peacock.

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Every day Phil, Jim, and Harry are fed sunflower seeds by the staff who care
 for them at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. But one day, they decide they’re sick of seeds. They make a break for the New York City streets in search of pizza or Chinese takeout. But everywhere they go, they’re told “No peacocks!”

So, they try to get an ooey, gooey, delicious meal closer to home. But 
how are they going to sneak into The Cathedral School’s dining hall and get their wings on the school’s world-famous mac ’n cheese? A little plotting, some stolen disguises, and help from the students, and the mission is a go!

Will the peacocks get their mac n cheese? Or will their cover be blown, forcing them to fly the coop? This fictional feathered tale was inspired by the real-life beloved celebrity birds living on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.

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DBJ: Jim, you are the first peacock I’ve ever interviewed.

Jim: It’s funny but you’re not the first person to say that to me.

DBJ: Just a bit of background for my blog readers. You and your brothers, Phil and Harry, live on the grounds of The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine on 112th St. and Amsterdam Avenue in New York.

Jim: That’s right! Harry and I have been around since about 2002. Phil came later.

DBJ: I couldn’t help but notice that you and Harry are the traditional blue-green peacocks while Phil has white feathers.

Jim: Phil is a leucistic white peafowl. Everyone seems to think it’s a big deal (especially Phil!) and tourists are always trying to snap his picture but personally I don’t see the appeal.

DBJ: Is there a way to tell you and Harry apart?

Jim: Ask any of the children. Each one seems to have a foolproof system for telling us apart. Say, are you going to eat those almonds?  All I had for breakfast were some sunflower seeds. And those pesky neighborhood pigeons kept pecking at my food.

DBJ: You poor bird. Please take the entire bag.

Jim: Thanks!

DBJ: Speaking of food, I hear that there’s a new book about the three of you focused on food.

Jim: No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, by Robin Newman and illustrated by Chris Ewald. It flies onto bookshelves September 4th.

DBJ: Can you tell us a little bit about the book?

Jim: It’s about pizza and baked goods.

DBJ: Anything else?

Jim: Our quest to try the world’s best mac ‘n cheese.

DBJ: And?

Jim: I don’t want to spoil the plot (or your appetite). You’ll have to read the book.

DBJ: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Jim: If you read the book, and like the book, please leave a review. Also, please come by and say hello. You can even check out our fancy new coop. The New York Times wrote an article about it.   You can see the article at the end of this post.

 DBJ: Thanks, Jim!

Jim: Wait! I forgot to mention. Harry is stopping by Patricia Tilton’s blog, Children’s Books Heal, on September 7.  https://childrensbooksheal.com

Oh, and we’ll be looking for you at our BOOK SIGNING tonight! Be sure to stop by, we’ll be serving our favorite food (hint…it’s cheese)

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Newman_Robin

Robin Newman was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She is the author of the Wilcox & Griswold Mystery Series, The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake and The Case of the Poached Egg, as well the picture book, Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep, illustrated by Chris Ewald. She lives in New York with her husband, son, goldfish, and two spoiled English Cocker Spaniels, who are extremely fond of Phil, Jim and Harry.

Website: www.robinnewmanbooks.com

Twitter: @robinnewmanbook

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049

Robin is giving away a signed copy of her book to a random person who leaves a comment on this post.  If you share the post on social media, I’ll put your name in the hat twice. The winner will be announced on WEDNESDAY 9-19 on this blog.

Books Have the Power to Change Lives: How You Can Help.

Those of us in the Kid Lit Community know how powerful and trans formative books can be and we do everything we can to get good books into the hands of children.  We also know that many children do not have access to books.  You can change that by supporting the BRIDGE OF BOOKS FOUNDATION. The organization’s goal is to collect, sort, and distribute a MILLION books by 2020.

To learn more about how you can donate your books to the organization visit: http://www.bridgeofbooksfoundation.org

Give a book to a child and open up her world!

PB Author/Illustrator Barbara DiLorenzo Presents – QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

I recently had the pleasure of reading a new PB by one of my favorite author/illustrators Barbara DiLorenzo, QUINCY:The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In.

Here’s my review of this delightful story that makes a perfect read aloud for young children worrying about how they’ll do on their first day of school:

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QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN by Barbara DiLorenzo (Little Bee Books 2018) is a sweet and delightful picture book about a chameleon who wants to like school and tries hard to blend in.  But, unlike other chameleons, Quincy can’t hide his thoughts or feelings. Everything he thinks about or gets excited about shows up on his skin.  It isn’t until he discovers art class, where self-expression is expected, that he realizes he can be happy just being himself.

The illustrations add whimsy and humor to a story that readers of all ages will find themselves reading over and over again. Quincy is destined to become a new classroom favorite.

     Barbara DiLorenzo is the author/illustrator of RENATO AND THE LION (2017) and QUINCY THE CHAMELEON WHO COULDN’T BLEND IN (2018).  She is an art teacher at the Arts Council in Princeton, NJ and lives in New Jersey with her family and her active imagination.

RENATO AND THE LION (Viking Children’s Books)
QUINCY: The Chameleon Who Couldn’t Blend In (Little Bee Books)

Represented by Rachel Orr of the Prospect Agency 
Co-President of the Children’s Book Illustrators Group (CBIG)
Instructor & Outreach Program Coordinator for the Arts Council of Princeton
Co-Assistant Regional Manager for New Jersey SCBWI