Archive for June, 2017

Counting Down to a Counting Book!

Sometimes inspiration comes from the small details around us. In October 2014, I was participating in a Highlights Foundation Unworkshop (an unstructured writer’s retreat) at the Foundation’s retreat center outside of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, when I saw the last two leaves hanging tenuously on a tree. I watched them twitch in the breeze for several minutes, wondering if I would see them fall to the ground. As I watched, a line popped into my head: “One leaf, two leaves on the tree, three leaves, four leaves, count with me!”

With that line as an inspiration, I rushed back to my cabin and pulled out my laptop. By the end of the day, I had roughed out a manuscript telling the story of leaves growing on the tree from 1 to 10 in the spring, dropping from 10 to 1 in the fall, and then growing again the following spring.

After getting feedback from my fellow writers at the Highlights Unworkshop and colleagues in the northern Delaware SCBWI critique group, I sent the manuscript to my agent, Erin Murphy. She loved it and submitted it to Nancy Paulsen, President and Publisher of the prestigious Nancy Paulsen Books imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. Nancy accepted it in just eight days and then enlisted the talented Clive McFarland of Ireland to bring the words to life with his illustrations.

Now the countdown is on for One Leaf, Two Leaves, Count with Me! The finished book will be released on September 5, just in time for the fall foliage season.

Here’s how Penguin’s promotional webpage describes the book:

“This playful counting book shares the colorful highlights of the four seasons in charming illustrations.   Count your way through the seasons! In spring, the tree’s leaves appear, one by one. By summer, there’s a glorious canopy. And when autumn winds blow, leaves fly from the tree, one after another, leading us into winter. There’s a world of activity to spy in and around this beautiful tree as the wild creatures, and one little boy, celebrate the cycles of nature. As little ones count leaves, look for animals, and enjoy the changing seasonal landscape, bouncy rhymes and bold illustrations make learning to count easy—corresponding numerals reinforcing the learning fun.”

Of all my 35 books, I think I may be most excited about this one! I will have further updates on the book as publication grows closer. Here’s the cover.

My Favorite Meeting: The Imagination Library

Each spring for the past 15 years, I have had the honor and privilege of traveling to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, to participate in book selection for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. It’s my favorite meeting, and I look forward to it each year.

Dolly Parton initially founded the Imagination Library as a way to benefit the children of Sevier County, Tennessee, where she grew up. She credited reading with helping her envision the wider world beyond her isolated mountain home. Through her generosity, every child in the county receives a book a month from the time they are born until their fifth birthday. This means that each child enters kindergarten owning a personal library of 60 books.

Over time, other communities wanted to implement the program. Funded by state or local governments, local United Ways, banks, and other donors, the program now operates in hundreds of communities throughout the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Operated by the nonprofit Dollywood Foundation and using books published by Penguin/Random House (which has both a rich collection of classic titles and a broad selection of new books each year), the program now distributes more than a million books every month. It is poised to distribute its 100 millionth book early in 2018!

For three days each May, the Book Selection Committee meets to choose the books that will be included in the program for the next year. We read and discuss roughly 100 new books and debate which might replace books that are currently in the program. Always, we keep in mind factors such as the developmental stages of the recipients, racial and gender diversity, and which books we believe will truly stimulate the imaginations of young readers.

Getting together with the other members of the Book Selection Committee is like meeting old friends from camp for an annual reunion. And exploring so many great children’s books is an energizing experience. The staff of the Dollywood Foundation provides wonderful hospitality. Some years, if she’s in town, Dolly even stops by to greet us. She takes great pride in the Imagination Library and the impact it has on children’s lives.

To learn more about the Imagination Library, visit the project’s website. As for me, I’m already looking forward to the 2018 meeting!

 

Tag Cloud