Celebrate Books at the 25th Annual Rochester Children’s Book Festival

Yeah, it’s happening this Saturday, November 5th.

Please come if you are in the area. 

New location this year, so be sure to stomp on this link for details & directions.

And while I’ll have many books available to sign, we won’t be selling copies of my new middle-grade series, EXIT 13: The Whispering Pines, which is only available at this time through Scholastic Book Clubs and Book Fairs. However, if you are a teacher or a librarian, talk to me: I can possibly slip you an Advanced Reader’s Copy, free of charge. 

5 QUESTIONS w/ Kyra Teis, author/illustrator of “Klezmer!”

My Nation of Readers will be thrilled to learn, one might hope, that I have decided to bring back my famous “5 Questions” interview format — but with a key difference.

This time I’m going to limit it to 5 actual questions.

Shocking, I know. 

In the past, I’d get too excited and ask too many questions and come away with a 2,000 word interview. Fun, but time-consuming for all concerned. And maybe a little bit daft.

Today I’m kicking off 5 Questions 2.0 with the preternaturally creative Kyra Teis. We’ll be focusing on her recent book, Klezmer

1) Kyra, you grew up in a household of creative people. I wonder if you can talk about that.

It’s true. Both my parents were artists — my father a painter, and my mother in textiles. Both had home studios and they gave my siblings and I full access to their materials and spaces. That said, because they were so knowledgable they were quite demanding — there was no, “That’s wonderful, dear! Let’s put this on the fridge.” It was more like, “That arm’s too long,” and “You need more contrast.” But overall, art was a way of life. Not something extra we added in. This picture is of me in 1976, I was six. At that time my mom was a weaver. She made us 1776 costumes and we went all around to craft fairs. She would make yarn on her spinning wheel while I sat at her feet carding wool.

2) I love your recent book, Klezmer! How did this particular book begin for you? A visual image? A phrase? A song?
Thanks! This is the book I can point to and say: “This is everything I am!” When I first heard Klezmer music, I was like: What the heck is this crazy music? It’s sad, it’s happy. It’s fun, it’s serious. When I dug into the subject, I was struck how much the music itself echoes the Jewish religion/culture it was born out of: Global, but connected to its roots. Keeping a finger on happiness, even in the midst of tragedy. I played with drafts over about ten years trying to figure out how to represent those ideas.
3) You do an amazing job capturing the joyful vibrancy of klezmer music — both in the artwork and the text. Playful and buoyant. “Klezmer’s oldish, and newish, Like jazz, but it’s Jewish.
What I love about klezmer as a music genre is its variety. Every musician gives it a unique twist — bringing in all different instruments, rhythms, sounds. I love to be surprised.
4) Your artwork seems to have evolved. The characters have a loose, rhythmic vibe — yet you incorporate collage techniques and even historical photos. It just feels to me like you were inspired and sort of let it all hang out with this book. 
I agree that my art has evolved. Some of that I owe to switching from traditional paper collage to digital. I had used paper collage for years in book illustration, but it became too heavy and static a medium for me. I wasn’t able to incorporate the energy of the hand-drawn line because I didn’t like the way lines would break over the edges of paper. To go digital, I scanned hundreds of my textural painted and blotted papers, I learned Photoshop (a year-long process!) and created about 20 portfolios worth of new artwork. After a while a new voice emerged. I like it: it still has the bright colors and deep texture of my earlier art, but it is much more gestural and layered.
5) When we first met more than 20 years ago, you had already experienced some success in children’s books. You had a passion for it and a knowledge of it. However, as it is for so many of us, the road has not always been smooth. Yet you’ve persevered. What has that experience been like? Any takeaways?
I’d rephrase that to say, the road hasn’t been a straight line. I’m at my best when I alternate time in my studio with epic projects involving lots of people and moving parts  — planning conferences for SCBWI; designing Nutcracker costumes for my daughter’s ballet school; helping friends’ political campaigns; starting a handmade clothing line — it’s all good, you know? I think the overall goal is to have a full and creative life. 
I love that answer. A full and creative life. Thank you, Kyra. I wish you success in all of your rich & varied artistic endeavors. Now I think I’ll go listen to some klezmer music . . . 
JAMES PRELLER is the author of many books for young readers, including Bystander, Upstander, Blood Mountain, Six Innings, All Welcome Here, and the popular Jigsaw Jones mystery series. Look for his strange & mysterious middle-grade series, EXIT 13, on Scholastic Book Fairs and Book Clubs. It will be available in stores in February, 2023. 

What Makes a Great Photograph?

 

What makes a great, award-winning photograph?

I mean, what qualities lift a photograph above the commonplace?

Is it the lighting? The composition? The careful arrangement of objects? An emotion captured? A storyline conveyed? The inclusion of Yoda?

All of those things, I guess.

When I look at this photograph of Colin, a lad I’ve never met, sent to me by Erin, a mother I’ve never met, I know I’m looking at something special. 

Doubly so. 

Thanks, Erin, for passing this along, and for your desire to gift my new book to your classroom teacher.

 

 

Come See Me at Book Festivals Across New York: Warwick, Chappaqua, Rochester, Hudson

 

Let’s imagine, for a wild moment, that you are desperate to see James Preller sitting at a table filled with many of his/my books, Sharpie poised in his/my hand, glazed look in his/my eyes. 

Well, this is your lucky day!

Here’s a list of 4 different book festivals in New York State that I’ll be attending in the near and semi-near and quasi-distant future.

No other state will have him/me. 

And by “near” I mean: this Saturday. And the Saturday after that. 

And by “quasi-distant” I mean: Next Year!

And — joking aside — I am grateful to be invited to participate in these celebrations of books, of literacy, of reading. Meeting teachers and parents and young readers. There will be a day soon enough when I am no longer invited anywhere. Which is why I say yes to everything!

Thankfully, happily, eagerly.

Click on the links for details if you are a detail person. 

 

CHILDREN’S BOOK FESTIVAL APPEARANCES . . . 

WARWICK: October 8th!

CHAPPAQUA: October 15th!

ROCHESTER: November 5th!

HUDSON: May 6th!

 

Thank you and, yes, please, ask me about school visits!

EXIT 13 Features a Unique, Hybrid Format w/ Graphic Novel Component

 

The EXIT 13 series comes in a hybrid format. While most pages are traditional type, the book breaks out into a graphic novel format every once a while. I think it’s effective and enormously appealing. Art by Kevin Keele.

 

 

So while there are entire chapters of standard text, there are also these cool, dramatic sections that break into illustrated pages. For example . . .

 

 

EXIT 13 is available exclusively from Scholastic Book Fairs and Scholastic Book Clubs. It will be available in stores — officially published — in February, 2023.

Thanks for stopping by!