Archive for A Pirates Guide (Series)

Ahoy, Lubbers, It’s “Speak Like a Pirate Day!” Today’s Word Is HORNSWAGGLE, Featuring Art By Greg Ruth

“Young children who love pirates—
and parents who might relish reading aloud
with swashbuckling gusto—
are going to find “A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade”
just their cup of grog.” 
— The Wall Street Journal.

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Today’s phrase: “Sink me!”

An expression of surprise.

Today’s word: “Hornswaggle.”

To cheat.

Put ‘em together: “Sink me! I’ve been hornswaggled by scallywags!

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Below you’ll find various images from two books that I cooked up with the brilliant artist (and occasional “bilge rat”) Greg Ruth – A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade and A Pirate’s Guide to Recess. Now double quick, set your goggles here for some review snippets about the First Grade title . . . plus Greg’s great work.

9780312369286“Told entirely in pirate lingo, this story follows a boy and his entourage of ethereal salty dogs through the first day of school. ‘Me great scurvy dog slurped me kisser when I was tryin’ t’ get me winks!’ The protagonist’s fruitful imagination turns ordinary routine into a high-seas adventure complete with a small, skirted buccaneer walking the plank during recess. In the end, where does X mark the spot? Treasure abounds in the library, with the chance to experience the adventure of the written word. The illustrations have a vintage feel, complete with boisterous grog-drinking, scabbard-waving, and bubble-pipe-smoking pirates. The combination of the muted tones of the pirates with the bold colors of the real world adds to the visual appeal . . . it can serve as a tremendous read-aloud, especially on Talk Like a Pirate Day.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review.

“Preller’s buoyant pirate-inflected storytelling and Ruth’s illustrations, which have a decidedly vintage flair, form an exuberant tribute to imagination and a spirit of adventure.”Publishers Weekly, Starred Review.

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“Pirate-addled readers will dance a jig; press-ganged kids will be happy for the glossary. Good fun, me hearties.” — Kirkus Reviews.

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“Young would-be buccaneers facing their own first-day jitters will enjoy this droll title, which ends with a cheer for libraries. A great choice for sharing on September 19, International Talk Like a Pirate Day.” – Booklist.

Arrrrr!

COVER!!

 

 

Student Artwork: A Riot of Zombies to Celebrate an Author Visit

If I’ve said it a hundred times . . .

Authors don’t do school visits.

Schools do author visits.

I arrived home last night after a brief trip to New York State’s magnificient North Country — Chaumont and Clayton specifically — where I enjoyed visits to two wonderful schools.

I’m on deadline, late with a manuscript, so don’t have much time to dilly-dally today. Or not as much as usual. However, I am free to dither. Mostly I want to share some student artwork with you.

I have no idea what might have inspired students to create their own zombie art.

I have no idea what might have inspired students to create their own zombie art.

The art comes from the Lyme Central School in Chaumont, one of those cozy K-12 schools you sometimes see in less populated areas. My visit was organized by the incredible Linda Lepper, who assured me that this was not her first rodeo. In fact, I was the 28th author that Linda had invited to visit the school. Or maybe I was the 27th, not sure.

In any event, Linda finally worked her way down, down, down the list and got to me.

This is a school where they really embrace an author visit. There are activities all week, posters, art, themes, games, quizzes, and on and on. By the time I arrived, the students were prepared and enthusiastic. For my part, I spoke to four distinct groups: Grades 1-2, Grades 6-8, PreK-K (mini version), and Grades 3-5. Quite a range, which helped keep things fresh and fun for me. It’s a different show every time, folks.

To prepare for my visit,  many students created artwork, which was displayed throughout the school. A lot of them focused on zombies:

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And from the younger grades, a brilliant spin on my “Pirate’s Guide” series. In this case, those rapscallions are concerned with water safety.

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Caption reads: Never dive in shallow water.

Caption reads: Never dive in shallow water.

Thank you, students at Lyme Central. I’m sorry I couldn’t share all your work, but there’s only so much space available on the internet. And thank you most of all, Linda Lepper and all the teachers and staff at your warm, clean, well-lighted school.

Fan Mail Wednesday #176: The Video!

This one comes with a book trailer!

Kelsey, who has her own blog, writes:

I really enjoy your book. I am a student in edm 310 at the Univerity of South Alabama. My assignment this week was to make a book trailer. I chose your book because my kids enjoy it so much. I wanted to share the trailer with you.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

I replied:

Kelsey,

Thanks for sending along that link. I love the trailer. Love the focus on the boy’s journey, well-edited, and the music was especially invigorating. It got me standing up, marching around the room, punching myself in the chest. (Which hurt a little bit, btw.) I was, I should say, fully prepped for a reading adventure!

I love Greg Ruth’s artwork in that book. He’s pretty spectacular and has a new graphic novel out, The Lost Boy. A staggering talent and a nice guy, too.

There is also a sequel out, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess. It expands on the boy — Greg and I call him “Red” — and his imaginary world, as it collides with another first-grader, Molly, and her swashbuckling crew of seafaring scallywags.

Good luck in your teaching career. We need good, young, committed teachers, now more than ever. Thank you for choosing that honorable path.

JP

Two Images I Love, and Why I Love Them

For starters, apologies to the artists, Iacopo Bruno (SCARY TALES #3: Good Night, Zombie) and Greg Ruth (A Pirate’s Guide to Recess).

The art represented below might make them sick to the heart; I can only guess. The shots below were taken from the books via my iPhone. The quality of the original artwork is in no way reflected here. But as far as I’m concerned, these crude snaps serve the conversation. Also: I’m going with what I’ve got.

The art immediately below comes from a spread late in the book, Good Night, Zombie. It’s an exciting moment of peril and temporary escape, of dead hands reaching, clawing. I love it. And I’m grateful for the design here, which breaks away from the usual layout of the book, with the art leaking across the gutter, where for a moment the chapter book takes on more of a picture book aesthetic.

“Up, up, up!” Carter cried.

The picture below is a detail of a larger piece of art from my most recent picture book, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess.

To me, as an ex-kid who became a published author, the moment depicted here feels like the story of my imaginal life. I was that boy. Dreaming things, imaginary games, battling monsters or tough pitchers, walking the plank or ducking for cover. Bombs exploding, tacklers approaching. Inside my private skull, it was one “Yikes!” moment after another.

And when I ran, the life of my imagination trailed after me. Stomping in heavy boots.

That’s what I tried to get at with this book — what I hoped to celebrate — and it is a personal thing. The stuff of dreams. It’s amazing that an artist I’ve never met helped bring it vividly to life.

Thank you, Greg Ruth.

And for the zombies, and all the great art in the Scary Tales books, thank you, Iacopo Bruno. I can’t wait to see what you do with Scary Tales #4: Nightmareland.

If You Really Want to Talk Like a Pirate . . .

Wake Up, It’s Pub Day!

Today is the official “pub day” for A PIRATE’S GUIDE TO RECESS.

You can run out and buy a dozen copies right now.

There’s nothing stopping you any longer.

You are free to go.

And thanks for your support.

You can buy ‘em by the box!

And while you’re at it, stock up on the new paperback version of A PIRATE’S GUIDE TO FIRST GRADE. It’s cheaper than the hardcover!

Both are illustrated by Greg Ruth, who is awesome.

Publishers Weekly (starred review) for RECESS:

Preller and Ruth transform a school playground into a swashbuckling adventure featuring two rival captains—Red (from the previous book) and fearsome Molly. Their respective pirate crews are again rendered in pencil, creating a ghostly effect, and their surly theatrics will pull readers through this nautical fantasy. “Don’t scowl so, sweet Red!” Molly tells Red after his crew mutinies. “We’re just having a little yo ho ho.” Preller and Ruth put kids at the helm as they communicate the joy of escaping into a world of pretend.

School Library Journal (starred review) for FIRST GRADE:

“Told entirely in pirate lingo, this story follows a boy and his entourage of ethereal salty dogs through the first day of school. ‘Me great scurvy dog slurped me kisser when I was tryin’ t’ get me winks!’ The protagonist’s fruitful imagination turns ordinary routine into a high-seas adventure complete with a small, skirted buccaneer walking the plank during recess. In the end, where does X mark the spot? Treasure abounds in the library, with the chance to experience the adventure of the written word. The illustrations have a vintage feel, complete with boisterous grog-drinking, scabbard-waving, and bubble-pipe-smoking pirates. The combination of the muted tones of the pirates with the bold colors of the real world adds to the visual appeal . . . it can serve as a tremendous read-aloud, especially on Talk Like a Pirate Day.”

A Favorite Illustration

Greg Ruth created a lot of great illustrations for our upcoming book, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess, but I have to say that the one above has a special place in my heart. Not because it’s the “best,” but that it captures what for me is the essence of this book, and really a big part of childhood itself.

The boy off and running, trailed by whomever or whatever he might conjure in his waking dreams. In this case, pirates. In another, dinosaurs. Or ballerinas. Or baseball players.

It’s all imaginative play. You can sit down in the dirt with any five-year-old kid and he’ll tell you: “Okay, these rocks are the fort and those sticks are the warriors coming up to capture the king.”

You point to something and ask, “What’s this?”

He says, “That’s my cookie and if you eat it I’ll kill you.”

That sort of thing.

The thing is, you go along with it. You don’t step back and ask, “Oh, I see. Are we playing pretend now?”

No, you just jump into it . . . and play.

Which is how Molly deals with Red out on the playground. They become real friends through their imaginative worlds.

Starred Review, A PIRATES GUIDE TO RECESS (Coming Soon!)

It’s been a good week for reviews. Publishers Weekly just gave my new picture book — illustrated by Greg Ruth — a starred review. Eager readers can meet Greg at the Eric Carle Museum on June 8th. In the meantime, I’ll be at BEA in NYC to sign pretty much anything that’s put in front of me. (Except for feet. I will not sign feet.)

Using the same blustery pirate slang and vintage-style artwork that propelled A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, Preller and Ruth transform a school playground into a swashbuckling adventure featuring two rival captains—Red (from the previous book) and fearsome Molly. Their respective pirate crews are again rendered in pencil, creating a ghostly effect, and their surly theatrics will pull readers through this nautical fantasy. “Don’t scowl so, sweet Red!” Molly tells Red after his crew mutinies. “We’re just having a little yo ho ho.” Preller and Ruth put kids at the helm as they communicate the joy of escaping into a world of pretend. Ages 3–6. Author’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (June)

Title Page Art: A PIRATE’S GUIDE TO RECESS

Let’s roll . . .

Illustration by Greg Ruth, a piece of spot art that was originally intended for A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade but didn’t serve the story, so failed to make the cut. Greg brought it back as spot art on the title page for the sequel, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess. It glad it will see the light of day.

File this under: You can’t keep a good idea down.

PIRATE’S GUIDE Sequel, In Which Red Meets His Match

Here’s a touch of art from Greg Ruth, the amazing artist behind A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade and the upcoming sequel, A Pirate’s Guide to Recess.

I had an interesting experience writing this one, because it was the first time that I wrote a picture book knowing who the illustrator would be.

Note that the industry standard, in the absence of an individual who both writes and draws, is to begin with a manuscript and match it with an illustrator. Words first; art an afterthought. Think about that. Consider the advantages when one individual is both author and illustrator. As the great Bernard Waber long ago told me in an interview:

“When I am writing, I think of myself as a writer. But when I am illustrating, I think of myself as an illustrator. I think, though, that I try to create situations with my writing that will be fun to illustrate. The writer in me tries to please the illustrator.”

I shared that same feelling with Waber, that I was also writing to please the illustrator. I wanted to give Greg something. An offering. And that I was also writing to please myself (always), the reader, the art-lover; I wanted to see Greg get a pirate ship out on the water, watch as the confines of the actual world — in this case, the school playground — washes away. I wanted this story to fully enter the true, pure, imaginal world shared by Red and Molly. I thought it would be fun, sure. But more importantly, that’s how kids play. By agreement. “This piece of glass is the castle, and these rocks are the army, and this stick . . .”

I hope these books celebrate that playfulness. Intellectually, I wanted to see the next book extend the premise of the first book, not merely repeat the same joke.

Imagine this as a stunning double-page spread, printed with attention and care. The only words on the pages:

“Arrrrr,” Red muttered. “Rapscallions all.”

Anyway, writing with an artist in mind was completely new to me. Greg Ruth, specifically, was going to draw this thing that was in my head, transform it in his own way. Knowing that, I tried to create visual opportunities that would bring out the best in Greg.

It’s like, I don’t know, you’re having a party and there’s Fred Astaire sitting on the couch, chatting with Ginger Rogers. You put on a record because you want to see them dance. You don’t say, “Come on, everybody. Let’s play charades!”

Oh, about the book: It won’t be out until next summer, July 2013. Published by Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan. More details on that another day.