It Starts With Wonder | Guest blog post from Kate Messner

It Starts With Wonder

by Kate Messner 

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This series started on a school field trip. I taught seventh grade English for fifteen years, as part of a wonderful interdisciplinary team. Every winter, we used to take our students on a snowshoe field trip in the nearby Adirondack Mountains to look for animal tracks and other signs of life in the winter woods. On one of those field trips, we saw this.

Hole in snow
Photograph by Loree Griffin Burns

It was just a little hole in the snow, with some tiny tracks leading up to it. The naturalist guiding us could have walked right on past. But instead, she stopped our group and said, “Oh! Everyone gather around and look at this!” When we were all circled around, she pointed down and said breathlessly, “Do you know what this means?” She paused. Then she whispered. “This means that we’ve had a visitor from…the subnivean zone!”

We stood in hushed silence for a moment until someone said, “What’s that?” And our guide explained that the subnivean zone is the fancy phrase used to describe the secret network of tunnels and tiny caves that exist under the winter snow. All the smallest forest animals knew about it, she told us, and they’d go down there to be a little warmer, a little safer from predators. And then we continued on down the path.

But the rest of the day, as I padded through the woods on my snowshoes, I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d said. We’d been hiking for three or four miles…and all that time, there’d been a secret invisible world going on down there, under the snow? I asked a lot more questions. We talked more about the different animals who make their winter homes under the snow and the creatures who find their way through the woods above. And when I got back to the school bus, after I took attendance and made sure we hadn’t left any seventh graders out in the woods, I started writing. I didn’t even have a notebook with me that day – my first draft of Over and Under the Snow was written on the back of the attendance list for the field trip, in bumpy, school-bus handwriting. But it couldn’t wait, because I was fuelled by wonder that afternoon.

That’s what we do as writers of children’s books – we wonder. We stop everyone in their tracks. We slow down the day for a few minutes to say, “Look at this! Look more closely… Isn’t it amazing?” And that’s how I know when I have a story idea with the staying power to grow into a picture book. If I’m feeling that sense of awe at how things work, how things are, how amazing this part of our natural world is, then kids are likely to feel that way, too.

After Over and Under the Snow was published and doing well in the world, Chronicle asked illustrator Christopher Silas Neal and I if there might be another hidden world we’d like to explore. We emailed back and forth a bit, talking about the things that made us wonder. And we discovered that we both loved our vegetable gardens. Not just the weeding and tomato-eating part of gardening…but the wondering part. We’re both parents who love getting down on our bellies to look more closely at the critters that inhabit our gardens, and that was the wonder that sparked our second book together, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt.

Our third book together, Over and Under the Pond, starts in that same place – with a familiar setting and a desire to slow down for a closer look. When I was getting ready to work on this book, I went back to the setting of Over and Under the Snow – the trails of the Paul Smiths Visitors Interpretive Center in the Adirondacks – but in a different season. The pond that had been covered with ice and snow in January felt like an entirely different place in July — a green, lush, buzzing ecosystem, just waiting to be explored. So I scheduled one of the centre’s guided canoe trips and spent a day paddling through the reeds. We marvelled at the tiny water striders skating on the pond’s surface, stared up at woodpecker scars on a tall tree by the water, and gasped as an American Bittern fluttered up from the grass.

Over the pond
Photograph by Loree Griffin Burns

There were families along on the trip, and I watched them, too. With their phones turned off and tucked away in waterproof bags, they paddled through the quiet together, whispering about the minnows and wondering what might live in that hollow log on shore. Slowing down in places like this feeds us in important ways. As a writer, I walked away from my canoe at the end of the day full of ideas, full of images and poetry and fresh air. I was ready to hit the library, finish my research, and get to work on Over and Under the Pond. But maybe even more important than that, spending time in the quiet of a cold snowy trail or a warm mountain pond reminds us to slow down. To look. Listen. And wonder. That’s my biggest hope for these books – that they’ll bring families together on the couch for a cozy story and then outdoors to wonder, too.


Over and Under the Pond is out now, order your copy today.

Guest Blog Post | Sarah Lemon’s Inspiration for Done Dirt Cheap

Sarah Lemon has momentarily put down her motorcycle to talk to us about the journey that brought her to write her debut novel: Done Dirt Cheap.

Take it away Sarah!

Done Dirt Cheap Inspiration

Writing at times feels like a superpower, unwieldy in my hands, not something I’m fully in control of, but a power that lets me raise my fingers and pull fragments of my world together into something new and beautiful. I can point to shards of glinting glass in the whole and talk about how that piece came to be. Done Dirt Cheap came from many places in my life and history. But for today, I want to tell you how it almost never happened.

There’s an unspoken rule in Art: Don’t talk about how much you suck, your fear, or how tenuous it feels. Unless it’s in a self-deprecating show of humility as someone is handing you the Pulitzer.

It’s part of success—the sheen of it, like a rainbow slick of oil on water.

But I’m not always great with rules and clear water is better than oil.

Done Dirt Cheap only happened because of a lesson I had learned a long time ago, on the back of a monster dirt-bike, on which I couldn’t touch the ground even when I pointed my toes.

I was fourteen, living in a part of the world that was only valuable for its minerals. My landscape had been stripped, clawed at, dug under and left behind as garbage. Our groundwater was tainted. Our basements full of radiation. Our streams clogged with weird foams and slick spools of dark muck. We had dug too deep and a darkness hung over everything.

In the strip mines, I found a place I could breathe. In those raped and forgotten places I could string together forty or more miles of new life. The landscape would rise and fight with me, and together we wouldn’t be forgotten girl and forgotten land, but two things who were still alive and able to grasp at our fate. It brutalised me to make me. I was in every way, an average, bookish, fourteen-year-old girl with a fear so strong it came out as teeth. But out in the mines, I was free of that skin. I could fly. I could see a line and fight my way to the end. I could fall, pitch over the handlebars, run my bike up a tree, flip end over end and still stand, pick up the bike, and begin again. Just writing this, fifteen years later, I can still feel the pump in my arms from wrestling the dirt-bike on the thin threads of trails that wound around deep, sentient holes of green water, cone mountains of slag and silt, and grated air shafts leading into the abyss.

“Treskow” was a route we took often—named after the tiny old mining town it began in. We rode through the woods, along an old railroad bed with no tracks, before dropping down a slippery rock covered mountain into an uninhabited valley. I would drag my back brake the whole way down, my teeth chattering from the rocks. But the real challenge was at the end of the mud-holed valley. We always stopped and craned our necks at the steep switchback of the mountain ahead. It made me sick to look at it, every time. By that point, there was no way to get home and no way to give up. I wanted to be there, but hadn’t known how terrifying it was going to be. Every time.

When I started Done Dirt Cheap, that’s where I was – at the bottom of a giant switchback, too far from home and looking up at the power lines humming between transformers while everyone else sped ahead of me.

In those tenuous moments where you are balancing on the edge of failure, the natural desire is to hold back. You think “Oh I’ll go slow and easy and pick my way up.” But in slippy slag and miles of steep switchbacks, you simply will run out of power. Each switchback has to be hit hard and powered through, or you’ll never make it to the top. There is no easing through the terrain.  Manoeuvre swiftly or you’ll pitch over the edge. So, with this book, I was miles deep into publishing terrain. I had failed a lot. I had dragged my back brake down the mountain and even though, yes, I was out there, I was at the back of the crowd, wishing I was at home. Uncertain I could actually do this.

Looking ahead, I wanted nothing more than to go slow and safe. Something sure. But I had been here before. I knew what held me back was fear.  This was the moment in riding where you have to pin back that throttle and ride with your jaw tight and your stomach in your throat.

So, I did.

Lord, I did.

And just like in riding, I prayed and held on and hoped for the best. With Done Dirt Cheap, I somehow popped over the top of that switchback with the valley below me and the sky above. I’m further than I ever expected to be.

Further, but with miles to go. I know the trail still—how it winds over the ridge before dropping down again and then taking me through another technical mountain crossing. I’m leaning over the gas tank, holding the throttle back. The wind is whipping my hair and I taste elation, panic, and dust in my mouth. All I can do is hope the trail keeps up with me, and I keep up with the trail.

Ride or die. Write or die.

P.S. Please buy my book.

Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Lemon is on sale 7th March 2017. Order your copy here.

Done Dirt Cheap
Image by Kate Ormand

Celtic Tales

Kate Forrester, illustrator behind the bold illustrations in Celtic Tales, talks inspiration, loving what you do and the beauty that comes from stepping out of your comfort zone.

Celtic Tales_Book Cover

Every now and then I get sent a commission that really allows me to push the boat out and create something really special. So often my jobs are very heavily art directed and don’t require as much imagination as you would think but this was no such project.

Before I had even got my hands on the manuscript, I knew this project was going to be right up my street! When i spoke to Emily, the designer from Chronicle, I knew we would be approaching this with the same vision. As well as illustrating the stories, she wanted me to design various patterns and bring the traditional Celtic knot work into my work and those are the kind of details i adore. I knew that it would work well to keep the illustration quite simple and the colours flat – my work is often likened to paper cuts or silhouette art – so this balanced nicely with the decorative borders and end papers she had in mind. Despite the traditional nature of the tales, I knew from the start that i didn’t want my illustrations to be too quaint or conventional so this was a challenge to overcome.

Once I read the manuscript, I was even more excited to be asked to illustrate such a rich collection of stories. There were sea monsters, princesses and even a 3 headed giant! Being very character driven, it was quite different to my usual commissions which tend to involve hand lettering as the main starting point. But it was refreshing to do something different and out of my comfort zone.

As luck would have it, right about the time I accepted this job,there was a big exhibition at The British Museum on the art and identity of The Celts. It was such a perfect start to my research. The exhibition was brilliant – dark and atmospheric and featuring lots of knot patterned metal and ceramic tools in pleasing shapes.

The way I work is to sketch out the rough layout of each story illustration using pencil and pen on paper and fill in heavy areas of dark shades to make sure they are more or less balanced designs. I do not keep my sketches and they are not beautiful!

Rough Sketches_Celtic Tales

 

But I was happy to know that my roughs were accepted pretty much as they were with very little amends before moving on to the final images.
The next stage for me was to develop the colour scheme as this was to tie all the tales together and was to be quite limited (I think there are only 8 or 9 shades in the whole book.) I also saw this as a chance to inject a more modern element to the book with some nice clashing shades of coral pink and mustard yellow. Colour is always important in my work but for this project it was vital to get it right!

Celtic tales Colour scheme

I guess the most laborious (but satisfying!) part of the task was researching and re-imagining the Celtic knot borders. Luckily my research at the British Museum had  left me with a wealth of books and visual reference to draw from. Once the 16 designs were complete, the cover was a breeze. I simply chose my 4 favourite characters from the stories and used them as a starting point to fit in the rough layout given to me by Emily.

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We tried a few different colour ways but i was very pleased when my favourite coral and teal version was chosen for the final jacket.

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It was a dream project and I was so excited when the final book landed on my desk this week. I just hope everyone else enjoys reading those crazy , wonderful tales as much as I did!

We think you did an incredible job Kate! 

Find out more about Kate and Celtic Tales here.

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QUOTH THE RAVEN, “NEVERMORE.”

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary,

while I pondered weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping,

suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping,

rapping at my chamber door . . .

 

Paper engineer, David Pelham, has re-imagined Edgar Alan Poe‘s haunting poem; The Raven, through incredible paper craft; he is here today to share the process and inspiration for creating this awe inspiring book.

UNDER THE SPELL OF ‘THE RAVEN’ by David Pelham

In the grey drab days of the late 1930s my earliest memory took shape from within the confines of an iron-framed, high-sided hospital bed. Three years old and recovering from an emergency operation, I was visited by a very kind but rather gaunt giant of an uncle in a dark overcoat. I can still see him looming above me as he reached deep into his pocket, slowly withdrawing the most wonderful, the most dazzling and exciting toy I had ever seen: a toy that awoke in me a visual sense that has influenced and enhanced my life ever since.

It was a magical clockwork butterfly, its shiny tin wings printed in rainbow colours. To me it was the toy-most toy imaginable, joyful and strange, with wings flapping, colours blurring and merging to make more colours. This thrilling piece of clockwork poetry delighted me as it flitted noisily about upon my bed-tray, while outside the dark clouds of war were gathering ominously.

Today, over seventy years later, I still vividly recall my infant joy at the sight of my wonderful tin butterfly, and I believe that something of its bright colours and the visual excitement it gave me during those dark days have stayed with me, and have had a strong influence on my novelty books for the young.

I have had a lifelong passion for kites; their design, construction, performance, and, of course, their bright colours. In the mid 1970s while art director of Penguin Books I wrote The Penguin Book of Kites which is still in print today. This book later led on to a further large-format volume called Kites to Make and Fly, published in 1981 by Pan Books. When detached, the pages could be cut, folded and glued to create ten kites.

During the process of designing these paper kites I became captivated by the creative potential offered by the simple, low-tech immediacy of constructing three-dimensional sculptural forms out of nothing more than folded paper and glue. After an intensive period of self-instruction and exciting experimentation I found that my hitherto flat creative efforts were almost magically lifting off the page as pop-up entities into a dramatic extra dimension. This discovery had set me free, and my love-affair with pop-up books and paper engineering began.

The Raven Book Cover

The idea of treating Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven in pop-up form was first suggested to me in 2013 by my wife, Jacqui Graham. Jacqui works closely with Clive James and would regularly check James’s sales on the Amazon bestseller list and elsewhere. While doing so she was struck by how often The Raven topped the poetry charts both in the UK and the US. After some further checking she was also struck by the number of distinguished translations of the poem that exist.

The Raven: A Pop-up Book

As she knew that my interest in the works of Edgar Allen Poe goes back to my schooldays, and that I had previously considered other Gothic ideas, she suggested that The Raven might make an interesting proposition. As usual she was right, and I spent the next six months or so pondering on the notion, assessing how best to distribute the eighteen wonderful stanzas of the poem through the seven spreads of the book in such a way as to maximise the drama, impact and dimensional potential of each spread while completely respecting and staying true to the text.

So vivid is the imagery of the text it was not long before I had the book planned and, while the paper engineering had its challenges, the structure of each individual tableau began to slowly emerge from the seven spreads of the book.

The Raven

Pop-up books vary widely in complexity, and the degree of complexity obviously very largely governs the cost to the publisher, The Raven is a complex book with some very challenging assemblies and, while designing the book wasn’t easy, the real work starts when the printer is sent a blank dummy of the proposal. This assembled blank is accompanied by a make-up sheet showing all the die-cut shapes arranged jig-saw style. The pieces are grouped along with the concertina pages into which the pieces will eventually be fitted.

These sheets are generally referred to as ‘nesting sheets’, and if the complex die-cut pieces exceed the available area on the sheet then it’s back to the drawing board for modifications. This takes time of course, so the designer is then caught between – not so much as a rock and a hard place – but more between a budget and a schedule.

On receiving the designer’s blank dummy and the nesting sheet, the printer then cuts and assembles a number of copies of the blank, carefully timing the assembly process in order to help establish an overall manufacturing cost.

Several of these dummies are then sent to the publisher and the designer for approval. Much later they will send out printed proof sheets for the approval of the designer and the illustrator.

The Raven: A Pop-up Book

From the outset of The Raven project I had hoped to persuade the artist and engraver Christopher Wormell to illustrate the book. I had admired his work for many years yet had neither met nor worked with him. Prior to our first meeting – in order to convey something of the illustrative technique I wanted – I prepared a further dummy by montaging each spread with blowups of Victorian engravings to suggest the mood I had in mind. To my delight Christopher was very enthusiastic, and I knew at that moment that this book was no longer ‘my’ book but ‘our’ book, and that with Christopher on board it could become very special.

Communicating mainly by email I would send Christopher the refined die-cut shapes showing my rough drawings, along with reference material and so forth, and by return I would receive his preliminary sketches. These were magnificent, strong and assured drawings of such confidence and brilliance that they constantly brought to mind my complete dismay that drawing, the rudimentary skill of visual creativity, is – to our shame – no longer taught in our art schools.

The Raven_Internal

Drawing is the discipline that lies at the very root of creative endeavour, as important to artists, designers, architects, engineers and scientists as is the written word. Similarly in music the understanding, appreciation and practice of scales and chords must form the rudiments of any real musician’s craft, so the ability to draw is essential to any real artist or designer.

The study of drawing not only concerns itself with making marks, it also develops scrutiny and perception, sharpening our ability to look rather than to simply see. It is an essential skill; a means of enhancing our perception of the physical world around us; a skill that helps us not only to observe, but also to convey, develop and present our creative concepts.

Although Christopher had never previously tackled the demands of a pop-up book he took to the task quickly and positively, constantly providing work that far surpassed that which was expected from the brief.

The Raven_Internal

Some months later I was holding an assembled pass-proof, apprehensively turning each page, carefully scrutinising each little tableau in turn, checking that every one of my detailed adjustments had been carried out by the printer, the die makers and the assembly teams. All was in order. I was holding the result of three years of intensive work in my hands and it felt good.

The Raven: A Pop-up Book is out now. Find out more and buy your copy on our website.

 

#SummerReads | Author Suggestions Part 3

Share a picture of your TBR pile!

The wonderful Jennifer Mason-Black is here to give us an amazing array of #SummerReads suggestions. There is a little something for everyone, from Watership Down to American Girls 

Which one will you pick? Join the conversation using #ACBbooks.

Take it away Jennifer…

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Watership Down by Richard Adams

I have a passion for epics, though, paradoxically, less so for traditional epic fantasy. This story, with its amazing world building, friendship, and heroism, is one I return to repeatedly. I first experienced it as a child, when my dad read it aloud to me. I still have the same tattered copy.

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The Killer In Me by Margot Harrison

Out in July, this debut novel is masterfully crafted. Less a mystery than classic noir with a modern facelift, it is dark, character rich, and imbued with a sense of place that had the hot desert air of the Southwest blowing through  my chilly New England home.

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The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude

Again, a novel with a tremendous sense of place. If I’m going to be on the beach, I very rarely want to be reading about the beach. I want to be transported elsewhere, and this story of secrets and murder had me on location in the Ozarks. Please note that this is a DARK read. Proceed at your own risk.

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Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A story that held me in its palm from beginning to end. More friendship, more heroism, facing the unfaceable. The kind of book I wish had been around when I was the YA target audience.

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American Girls by Alison Umminger

This is one of those books that keeps you up all night. The voice of the main character is truly that compelling. And L.A. itself feels like the obvious summer read backdrop: hot, sunny, and full of illusion.

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The Devil and the Bluebird

Jennifer Mason-Black’s debut novel: Devil and the Bluebird, came out in May. You can read the first chapter here.

Clear Your Desk, Clear Your Mind, with a few tips from Francine Jay.

Cluttered Desk

Clear Your Desk, Clear Your Mind

By Francine Jay, author of The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify

Is your desk space filled with pens, papers and files? Francine Jay, aka Miss Minimalist, is here to help. 

In some cases, a messy desk may be a sign of genius. But for us non-Einsteins, it’s more likely hindering (rather than helping) our productivity.

When our workspace is cluttered, it’s difficult to focus on the task at hand. The piles of paperwork, pens, and other paraphernalia are both physical and mental roadblocks to progress. Conversely: when our desk is clear, our mind is clear, and we can work with ease and efficiency.

The single best way to keep a tidy desk is to think of it as “flex space.” In the corporate world, flex space is a work area open for anyone’s use. When an employee arrives in the morning, she sets up at an available (empty) desk for the day; and when she leaves, she clears it completely, leaving it free for someone else to use tomorrow. Of course, it’ll only be you—but wouldn’t it be lovely to sit down at a clean space?

Follow these five simple tips, and you’ll be on your way to a streamlined and serene workspace:

1. Out with the old. When you replace old equipment with new—phones, monitors, printers, etc.—don’t hang on to their predecessors. Donate or recycle them responsibly. For maximum space and efficiency, keep only your latest and greatest devices.

2. Eliminate the excess. If you’ll never use 1000 paperclips or 50 pens, cull your supplies to a reasonable amount. Likewise, declutter duplicate staplers, rulers, scissors, and other items. Don’t keep extras when you only need one.

3. Purge the paperwork. Go through your piles and files, and toss any outdated or irrelevant paperwork. Use a scanner to digitize documents for which you need the information, but not the original. Organize active paperwork into category- or project-specific folders, instead of stacking or strewing them across your desk.

4. A place for everything. Make a place for everything, and keep everything in its place. Assign specific spots for every category of office supply and paperwork you have. If it helps, label containers, drawers, and shelves to remind you of their appropriate contents.

5. Keep surfaces clear. Clear off your desk as you wrap up each day’s work. Tuck away office supplies in drawers or containers, use a wall-mounted rack for paperwork and mail, and hang notes, reminders, and other random scraps of paper on a bulletin board.

And if you’re so inspired, let that beautiful space on your desk spread out to other parts of your work life. Instead of striving to get more done, try having less to do. Be selective with the commitments you make, and devote your energies to those that really matter. A little breathing room in your To Do list reduces your stress levels, and can do wonders for your productivity. What’s more: it can put you on the fast track to success. For when we pare down to the essentials, we give ourselves the time, space, and energy to accomplish the extraordinary.

The Joy Of Less

The Joy of Less: A Minimalist Guide to Declutter, Organize, and Simplify is out now.

In The Joy of Less Jay shares simple steps to cultivate a minimalist mindset and form new habits, paving the way to lasting success. Her easy-to-follow STREAMLINE method works in any space-from a single drawer to a closet, room, or entire house.

Pick-up your copy from any good bookstore or on online

Share a picture of your tidy desk with us on Twitter with #JoyOfLess.

Pssst…look what is coming out later this year: 

The Joy of Less Journal

The Joy of Less Journal: Clear Your Inner Clutter.

In this journal, Francine turns her minimalist philosophy inward, providing an easy system to Reduce Stress, Release Worry, and Restore Clarity. Featuring 52 thought-provoking prompts, motivational quotations, and space to write and reflect, this inspiring journal helps readers discover a lighter, simpler, more serene life.

A Mother Is a Story.

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Motherhood powerfully transformed my life, and transformed me. Crafting this book, I sought to portray the experience in all its glorious, messy, sometimes terrifying beauty. Nothing in life prepared me for the instant mad love I felt at the first sight of each of my children, or the emotion I feel each time I smell them, or feel the softness of their skin and the warmth of their bodies. To be a mother is sublime.

A mother is A Story

That said, motherhood presents a constant whirlwind of simultaneous, often conflicting emotions. We are deeply in love, deeply exhausted, exasperated and proud, worried and blissful—these feelings form their own special harmony in the music of motherhood.

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I began work on A Mother Is a Story while pregnant with my second child, Vivian. I continued work on it through the pregnancy, the birth, and the first year of her life. Simply curating the quotes struck me to the heart as I navigated so much flux and change in our lives, watching Vivi grow faster than thought while nurturing my proud little son Henry through an experience that would change his life forever at a moment when he was already buffeted by the start of school and all the other changing tides of life at five.A Mother Is A Story

I selected quotations I hope mothers of all ages and stages can recognise themselves in, words that can profoundly stir treasured memories of our children at each stage of life. I created my illustrations to convey my sense of the emotions of those words, the fragile, titanic beauty of the deepest love, the love of a mother for her children.

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Initially when I started searching for quotes I looked within the literature I referenced for my last book, Well-Read Women: Portraits of Fiction’s Most Beloved Heroines. There were very few in there as sadly many mothers in literature are not portrayed that well. I did land on a couple of good ones though, from J. M Barrie, Frances Hodgson Burnett and Nathaniel Hawthorne.ABR_20160119_0188

The first quote I found that made me want to do the book, actually didn’t make it in. It was from the iconic children’s book The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. The page where the mother bunny says “If you become a bird and fly away from me, I will be the tree you come home to.” I find this so utterly poignant because as a parent you want to hold onto your children and make them feel so loved and supported. You never want to let them go but you know they need to fly, so you train them to do so and let them go but you will always be there for them to return to.

I really wanted the quotes to be unique from other motherhood quote books so I searched high and low for special ones. In fact I found some current ones from author Emma Straub, Sarah Ruhl and Natalie Holbrook as well as Cynthia Rowley. I wanted the vibe of the book to convey the whirlwind of emotions by including witty ones like the Lemony Snicket, and poignant ones like Promoedra Ananta Toer and even ones that can convey the mixed feelings we feel as mothers, like Rachel Cusk. There’s something in here for mothers of all ages and stages.

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A Mother Is A Story by Samantha Hahn is on Sale today!

Also available; Stories for My Child: A Mother’s Memory Journal, filled with features prompts for capturing the spectacular and quotidian moments of raising a child, alongside thoughtfully quotes from contemporary and literary sources. Designed with Hahn’s ethereal watercolours and chic hand lettering, the journal is a sophisticated parenting keepsake, and a treasure to pass along to your child.

Stories for my Child journal_Samantha Hahn

On the 5th Day of Christmas A.G Howard gave us The Little Drummer Boy!

Merry Bookmas!

The wonderful A.G Howard has added her favourite Christmas song to the A&CB Merry Bookmas Playlist!

Ever since I was young, my favorite Christmas Carol has been “The Little Drummer Boy.” It spoke to me on a different level than other songs, in that it was a story revolving around a poverty stricken little child, who had nothing in his possession but a drum. On the outside, he was small and insignificant to the world, especially in comparison to wealthy kings. Yet inside, he had something to offer that he didn’t even realize made him unique.

This message helped me see we’re all put on this earth for a reason, and we each have our own talents to share. We only need the courage to embrace them with our whole hearts, and show the world what we can do ;).

We wonder what Christmas looks like in Wonderland!

Stop by tomorrow (and everyday till Christmas!) for more Christmas songs!

MERRY BOOKMAS EVERYONE!

Have yourself a very Merry Bookmas!

Merry Bookmas

Here at Abrams & Chronicle Books HQ we go all out celebrating Christmas. From the 1st December it is all mince pies, Christmas songs and tinsel…everywhere. To spread our festive joy beyond the four walls of our office we asked a selection of our authors to share their favourite Christmas songs with us.
First to board the A&CB Polar Express is Shea Serrano, author of The Rap Year Book. 

My favorite Christmas song is “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” from the How the Grinch Stole Christmas! TV special. I like it because it’s the only Christmas song that’s actually a rap diss song. It’s super mean. Look at some of the things they say about the Grinch:

“Your brain is full of spiders.”

This is devastating. What if it’s a medical illness? What if those are cancer spiders? One of the most famous rap diss songs of all-time is Tupac’s “Hit ‘Em Up.” It’s just this really hateful, hurtful song about Biggie. And at the end of it, Tupac makes fun of a person for having sickle cell. I would argue that making fun of someone with cancer spiders in their brain is worse.

“You’re soul is an appalling dump heap.”

His soul? It wasn’t enough with the cancer? The hatred here has transcended the physical realm. We’re into existential hate, the highest level of hatedom.

“Your heart is an empty hole.”

Jesus.

“You nauseate me.”

I mean, you don’t just say that to another living thing. It’s not even clever. It’s just hurtful.

“You’re a crooked jerky jockey.”

Possibly a gay joke, which is never acceptable.

“You drive a crooked horse.”

I don’t even know what this means, but it feels very bad.

Anyway, but so “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” is my favorite Christmas song.

Clearly someone needs to create an anti-bullying policy in Whoville!

Stop by tomorrow (and everyday till Christmas!) for more Christmas songs, including picks from Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, Anita Grace Howard and Jeffery Brown!

MERRY BOOKMAS EVERYONE!

Psst – you can listen to the A&CB Bookmas playlist on our Spotify! See if you can guess who picked which song!

Countdown to Untamed | A.G Howard answers the questions we’ve been dying to ask!

Untamed

With less than a week to go excitement is building for the release of Untamed, with humans and netherlings alike!

To celebrate the release of this final trip down the rabbit hole, we asked A.G Howard to answer some questions we’ve been dying to ask:

  1. Do you have a favourite book in the series? Untamed, because I love happy endings! :)
  1. Which book in the series has your favourite cover? Unhinged. Purple and blue are my two favorite colors.
  1.  Who would you cast to play Alyssa in a Splintered movie? Emily Browning or Avril Levine.
  1. Which character do you identify with with most? We both love to thrift shop and have a fear of heights.
  1. Who is your favourite Alice In Wonderland Character? The caterpillar, naturally. ;)
  1. What would be the one piece of advice you would give your teenage self? The most important thing you’ll ever need is a strong core of self-respect. Self-respect comes from knowing, accepting, and loving who you are. We’re all individuals. So how can someone else’s idea of normal be the same as yours? We have different gifts that make us unique. Find what yours are and embrace them—nurture and grow them. Because if you’re true to yourself, even if you’re teased about it sometimes, you will find your own version of “normal.” And in turn, you’ll find your happiness.

Also, you can read more advice I’ve given to my teen self on this Dear Teen Me Interview from a couple of years ago.

  1. What has been your favourite YA release of 2015? I just finished a wonderful retelling of the Little Mermaid by Esther Dalseno called DROWN (October 2015 by 3 Little Birds Books). This was nothing like the Disney version. It was dark, lush, and touching. It broke my heart in several places. Everything a good retelling should be.
  1. What are you writing now? I’m working on my next YA classical spinoff for Abrams, called ROSEBLOOD. Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads: This Phantom of the Opera retelling / spin-off follows a high school senior who is sent to RoseBlood Academy—a French boarding school for musical arts inside a renovated opera house rumored to have ties to the classic opera—only to discover a very real danger lurks within that has awaited her for over a century. I’m having a lot of fun in this new, haunting world filled with music, magic, unrequited love, jealous rivals, and eccentric and mysterious personalities. Can’t wait to share it with everyone in 2017!
Thank you A.G. Howard for bringing the Splintered series into our lives! We can’t wait to read Untamed! LESS THAN A WEEK TO GO! Celebrate the release of this final installment with us; share your favourite moments from the series with us on Twitter @ACBYA!

Splintered Series

Here are some of our favourite reviews for the series, thank you to all the amazing bloggers who have jumped down the rabbit hole with us year after year!

“The setting was jaw-droppingly awesome, the characters jump off the page, the adventure was badass in every level and the twist in the end was unexpectedly heartbreaking. Need I say more?” Books For YA

“Splintered, you’re gothic and twisted but you’re mine. Now let’s officially move you onto my favourite bookshelf”. Reflections of a Booksworm

“Splintered is a wonderful retelling of the original Alice in Wonderland. Readers will love the madness, romance, action, and the dark twists and turns of the story. Howard’s outstanding writing, bizarre but loveable characters and mysteriously fresh tale will take you to a whole world where everything is unexpected yet fascinating” – Word Contessa

“Splintered is an utterly captivating story on so many levels and I am sure is set to be a classic in its own right. A feast for the imagination as well as the eyes”. – Book Angel Booktopia

“I really can’t urge everyone enough to go pick up this highly addictive book, because I can promise you that you’ll not have read anything like it before!” – Fiction Fascination

“I highly recommend this series to you all. Take a tumble down the dark brightly coloured rabbit hole, play with devious and alluring Wonderland creatures and put your mind to the test and see if you want to resurface from this read.” Big Book Little Book Blog

“The perfect continuation from Splintered, Unhinged was madness and crazy combined into a pocket of badassery encased with gruesome creatures and magic. Suspense and a cliff-hanger that’ll leave you wanting Ensnared the minute you finish reading, Wonderland really was only the beginning.” Studioreads Blog

“‘Unhinged’ builds on ‘Splintered’ in the best way, and Howard has really done an excellent job with this development. It’s a gripping read, that really works on the mystery behind the story, and, more than anything, leaves me dying for Book Three. 2015 can’t come quicker.” One Round Panda 

“This story had me under its spell from page one. Ensnared is a terrific (and satisfying) conclusion to an amazing series.” Kate Ormand

Everything described is just so wonderfully insane and bizarre that I just can’t help but love every single aspect of it. A.G. Howard’s writing and world building is so incredibly good. She has this way with words that make a story come alive.” - IrisjeXx Blog

“Ensnared is an epic adventure, full of deception, romance, and lots of magic.” - Much Loved  Books Blog