Tag Archive for A Pirates Guide (Series)

Thanks, and so on and so forth

I came across this quote on a school visit during some down time. I loved it immediately and copied it down:




— Theodore Roethke

Confession: I did a little digging and could not find the source for this quote, or even confirm its attribution. But who cares!

I’ll tell you why I love it. I live a modest life, a little dull, probably. I’m a cliche: three kids, the house in suburbia, soccer practices in the minivan, etc. It’s so . . . ordinary. And I guess I once suffered from the image of “writer” as someone who lives an adventurous life, travels to exotic places, experiences big things, has important friends. And maybe, at times, fleetingly, I wished I lived that amazing life. But that’s the thing: I do. I already do. I have three children. A beautiful, loving, caring wife. Good friends. A house! I could go on and on. That’s enough material for a writer, the everyday fabric of our lives. It’s enough for anyone. We just have to absorb it, appreciate it, stand before it as if front of an alter and revel in the awe of it, this ordinary miracle, life.

So I’m thankful today, as a writer, father, husband, brother, son, neighbor, earthling.

And also: I’m grateful to you folks for stopping by here, of all places, in this cluttered world. I appreciate it. Just today I had to double my costs to up the giga-somethings to host this blog’s steadily growing traffic. Craziness.

* Thanks, too, for the folks who sent in photos for my Fathers Read project. It’s coming in December, promise! I’m so happy about this, it feels absolutely right, and really hope it contributes in some small, positive way to make the simple statement: Reading is a guy thing. We need male role models to sit down with a book and be counted. Please, keep sending in those photos.

* You can vote in “The Kiddo Awards” for A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade in the category of Best Illustrated Book of 2010. Greg Ruth did the illustrations. I sooo don’t want to come in last place.

* Harriett Levy offers a special holiday message of love. And I have to say, I loved this video about nine different ways.

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

Almost forgot . . .


Pirate’s Booty & Some Snaps

Ahoy, me hearties! I am struggling with spacing issues for the photos, but I can’t fuss over this any longer. Sorry about the mess.

So much to talk about these days — my head is spinning with thoughts on “books for boys,” after a spate of blood-boiling articles — that I’m clearing the decks today for more focused thoughts next week.

Jonathan Liu over at Wired has caught the pirate bug:

Set your goggles double quick on this jolly good book: A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, written by the old salt James Preller and illustrations by Greg Ruth that’ll shiver yer timbers. OK, yes, International Talk Like a Pirate Day was eleven days ago, but I didn’t discover this treasure in time. Besides, who says you can only talk like a pirate one day a year, right?
For the full review, go here. Mr. Liu goes on to say:
The best part? The end pages have a “Pirate’s Vocabulary” with all the words used throughout the book so that your kids can start talking like pirates themselves!
Quick story about that: The idea for the glossary didn’t come until late in the process, when we were staring at the layout, wondering what to do with the extra space afforded by moving from 32 to 48 pages. I suggested the glossary and Liz instantly recognized it as a good idea. Very glad that happened. The good idea, I mean. Nice to trip over one every once in a while.
Greg Ruth shared some photos from a recent bookstore experience. Thought you might enjoy them . . .
That’s Greg himself. Remember, Greg, to get that pirate gruffness, it has to come from the thromborax.
A scurvy crew of rapscallions.
Prepare to be boarded!
Arrr, this one looks like a rascal if ever there was one.
Seriously, aren’t those shots great? Isn’t this book just so much fun? I know that’s unbecoming of me to say, as the author. But I’m sometimes asked about the appeal of pirates, especially since they are clearly not positive role models for our children. And the answer is in these photos, I think. There’s always room for laughter and whimsy in a world of high seriousness. I’m proud of this book! There, I said it.

Overheard: “I can taste things without eating them. That’s my power!”

Okay, a few things:

* My daughter is an enthusiastic girl, prone to exclamations and grand pronouncements. Especially when it comes to food. Maggie loves to eat, and does so with the zeal of a rhinoceros. Last night I told her that Mom had a meeting after work, and then we had to run out for Open House Night at school, so I was ordering pizza for the boys.

“What am I going to eat?” she asked.

I said I’d order a chicken parm sub for her.

She replied:

“Really?! Today, this morning, I had the taste of chicken parm in mouth. I can taste things without eating them. That’s my power!”

* We are two days away from Talk Like a Pirate Day. With my new picture book out, A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, it’s assumed that I’m one of those wildly extroverted guys who loves to talk like a pirate. So I’ve done a couple of radio shows, giving it my all, billowing and sputtering. These things are best filed under, “Live & Learn.”

Regrettably, due to an excess of rum and ill-advised gusto, I cut off my right hand and inserted a hook.

I hoped it would lend me street credibility, a quality that’s equally important to rappers and children’s book authors alike. But now I can only wear slip-on shoes. Arrrr.

A while back I nominated Kiss the Book for best logo image — and my support has not wavered. It’s actually a very good site, and you can find it on my handy, dandy sidebar. The good folks over there recently reviewed A Pirate’s Guide.

Here’s the booty quote:

“If you want your students to spend the next few hours speaking and acting like pirates – this is exactly the right book for you. What a fun way to start the school year – ending with a trip to the library to find the buried treasure!”Kiss the Book.

* Lastly, two reminders: If you are within range of Tarrytown, NY, this Sunday, September 19 (which is, coincidentally “Talk Like a Pirate Day”), you’ll find me and dozens of way better authors & illustrators at “Sunnyside.” Click here for more details.

But if you are close to Ashton, MA, you can hang out with me heartie, illustrator Greg Ruth — hoist the mainsail, swill some grog, the whole magilla. I heard they are going all out for what should be a great, grand, jolly time, transforming a bookstore, Elmer’s, into a Pirate Ship! I hope Greg takes pictures. Look at the cool poster he created:

Artwork From the Cutting-Room Floor

Greg Ruth, illustrator of A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade, recently shared a piece of art that never made it into the book.

Don’t you love it? The thick brushstroke of blue, the off-kilter headlong forward whoosh of the whole thing. How can something that great not make it into a book? What else is in Greg’s garbage pail? Can you imagine having that much talent?

I should note that to their great credit, the folks at Feiwel & Friends expanded the book beyond the industry standard of 32 pages, going to the expense of a full 48 pages. Very rare, these days. I believe they reached this decision when Greg’s artwork came in, and sometime after they picked themselves up from the floor. When you look at Greg’s illustrations — his first true picture book for children — you can understand why they felt compelled to give him the scope and space his work deserved. Something special was happening.

I wonder if the sample above was an abandoned cover concept, since it conveys a similar energy to that of the final cover art (see masthead, up top). I’ll have to ask Greg about it. And if true, I can understand the wisdom of moving from 1950’s-styled wagon to a yellow school bus. (POSTSCRIPT: Greg confirmed that my speculations were correct.)

Here’s an early sketch that Greg also shared, another scene that didn’t make it into the book:

For more on deleted scenes from a writer’s perspective, here’s a few blasts from the past:

* Deleted Scenes: Six Innings

* Deleted Scenes 2: Six Innings

* Deleted Scenes 3: Six Innings

* Deleted Scenes 4: Six Innings

* Deleted Scenes 5: Six Innings

Booklist Online Gives PIRATE’S GUIDE a “Twins’ Thumbs Up!”

Thank you Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan, writing for Booklist Online, for the kind comments about A Pirate’s Guide for First Grade.

Cindy and Lynn take a collaborative, two-headed approach to book reviews, giving the traditional book review the old Siskel & Ebert update. I think it’s a cool idea that works — and that might even work best when they disagree.

For the full review, please click here or walk the plank. Your choice.

The money quotes:

“A whale of a tale perfect for young buccaneers . . . Reassuring and packed with humor, this is a perfect choice for any small swabbie feeling a little nervous about setting sheets to the wind for first grade.” — Lynn


“My favorite illustration of Greg Ruth’s is the one of the young lass walking the plank (a teeter totter being held horizontal). I also appreciate the author and illustrator’s inclusion of just how tiring it is to be at school for a whole day. I’m headed back next week and I am ready for a nap already.” — Cindy

Cindy notes the book includes a nod to libraries, but I’d also like to echo her thoughts and give a nod to nods. I could use a nap myself!

Detail from double-page spread, art by Greg Ruth. Wish I could scan the whole thing, since the facing page is so much fun, but I can’t, so there you go.