Tag Archive for Charise Harper

Children’s Book Day: Marker Misery

Living where I do, in the hole of the donut (read: Albany area), I don’t get to meet many children’s book authors and illustrators. So Children’s Book Day at Sunnyside presented a rare opportunity to eyeball the competition. I mean to say: hang out with my colleagues!

During the two-hour signing session, I found myself sitting next to Rebecca Stead. Who is, like, a really big ┬ádeal. Fortunately, she doesn’t seem to know it. She’s down-to-earth, totally unpretentious. So I kind of had to like her, even though she’s an award-winner and everything.

Whenever a kid came up to Rebecca to have a book signed, Rebecca smiled sweetly — with those straight white teeth of hers — and gestured to an array of six different-colored markers. She asked, “Which color would you like?”

This made me look pretty bad, what with my one lousy black Sharpie. I silently fumed. The audacity! I mean, did she have to wear the Newbery Medal around her neck? Really? So maybe I kicked the table a few times, right when Rebecca was signing. “Oh, gee, sorry, it looks like you ruined another book,” I’d apologize.

It felt good.

And yes, I’m lying about the Newbery Medal necklace.

Sometimes kids would slide over to me and ask for an autograph. I’d hold up my lone Sharpie, glare hatefully at Rebecca, and ask, “Which color?” I’d add in a whisper, “Say black.”

Anyway, despite the horror show of the whole marker situation, it was a decent day and a treat for me to make personal connections with some people I knew only through their books. By happenstance, my daughter, Maggie, is reading When You Reach Me right now. In fact, I read the first few chapters aloud to her, and was again reminded of Rebecca’s gift.

I think one of the most difficult things to do as a writer — something I struggle with all the time — is to create a loose, informal tone and yet still write well-crafted sentences — especially when writing in the first person. To write informally, I’ll tend to insert filler words like “just” and “kind of” and “like” or whatever. You know, the empty words people actually use. But if you aren’t careful, those sentences get flabby. Wordy. Soft around the edges. And I hate flabby sentences. So you have to work hard to find a balance between the casualness of a conversational tone and, say, the ruthlessness of the hard, clear, lean, direct writing which I value.

Rebecca’s book has been justly praised for its plotting — the remarkable puzzle-mystery she constructed — but for me, it’s the sentences. The humor. The tone. The way she writes, word by word, sentence by sentence.

Another fabulous celebrity I’ve meet is Charise Harper (she tweets!). We sat next to each other last year (I guess that’s how I meet people, they plop down next to me and if they aren’t stuffy with South London accents, we’re okay). Charise is one of those endlessly creative people — always making, drawing, folding, doing. A playful spirit and a little nutty in a good way. I think she’s a true, bone-deep artist.

She makes fun little videos, too:

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COMING MAY 1st: “The 2nd Annual Hudson Children’s Book Festival” — Highly Recommended!

I don’t know how to say this except for . . .

You should go. YOU should go. You SHOULD go. Really, you should go.

It’s a great event. And an absolute privilege that it’s up in our neck of the woods (in my case, maybe the collarbone). If you value reading, if you want to send that message loud and clear to your children, if you want to make that reading/writing connection, if you want to have fun . . . come, come, come. Where and when else in your entire life do you get this opportunity?

It’s FREE. There will be more than 100 authors and illustrators — and not just the hacks! We’re talking hugely popular folks, rising up-and-comers, cagey veterans, with a range of titles of interest to preschoolers up to young adults.

You want names? Here’s some names: Aimee Ferris, Alan Katz, Alexandra Siy, Anita Sanchez, Ann Haywood Leal, Ann Jonas, Anne Broyles, Barbara Lehman, Bruce Hiscock, Charise Harper, Da Chen, Daniel Mahoney, Danielle Joseph, Daphne Grab, Donald Crews, Emily Arnold McCully, Eric Luper, Eric Velasquez, Eve. B. Friedman, Gail Carson Levine, Jacqueline Rogers, Jan Cheripko, Janet Lawler, Jennifer Berne, Jo Knowles, John Farrell, Kate Feiffer, Katie Davis, Kyra Teis, Karen Beil, Marc Tyler Nobelman, Mark Teague, Maryrose Wood, Megan Frazer, Melanie Hall, Michelle Knudson, MJ Caraway, Monica Wellington, NA Nelson, Nancy Castaldo, Nancy Furstinger, Neesha Meminger, Nick Bruel, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Pam Allyn, Peter Marino, Doreen Rappaport, Richard Michelson, Rose Kent, Seymour Simon, Siobhan Vivian, Suzanne Bloom, Sylvie Kantoroviz, Thomas Locker, and many, many more.

Seriously, it’s a staggering array of talent — with books for every kind of reader, of every age.

Do you know what else is FREE? Every kid who comes will be handed a free book, many of them signed by the authors. There are more than 2,500 books, many different titles, waiting for young readers. I spent a couple of hours signing labels the other day — WORST AUTOGRAPH EVER! Horrid southpaw scrawl, sigh.

On a personal note: We see a lot of mothers at these things. Where are the fathers? When we talk about the reading gap, and how boys are falling behind in literacy skills, how Johnny doesn’t like to read, I keep coming back to one basic thing: These boys need to see Dad reading. As fathers, it is the most powerful message about reading that we can send our children.

We open a book.

We share our enthusiasm.

We model the fine art of sitting in a chair and getting lost in a book — any book, of any kind.

We show them that reading is a Guy Thing.

So come on, dads, bring the kids to the Hudson Book Festival! Show ’em that you value reading.

ADMISSION IS FREE. FOR FULL DETAILS, CLICK LIKE YOU MEAN IT.

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If you’d like to hear me, along with event coordinator Lisa Dolan, discuss the Festival on the WAMC Roundtable Show with Sarah Laduke, click here and hear us roar!