Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Book Giver

Dear friends,

I wrote this posting two and a half weeks ago, but life has been so hectic that it has sat and simmered on my computer till tonight. So sorry, but I know you understand. I did receive some notes from friends who worry that I will stop blog postings since I am active with Facebook. Yes, I do post one photo and a few words each day on Facebook, but many of my readers/friends don't want or know how to use Facebook, and they don't want me to stop regular postings. So, I promise to continue, though somewhat erratically. I love keeping in touch with you. So if you keep writing to me, I promise to keep writing to you too.

A note from a friend

Aline and her grandson Timmy made me feel rich when they sent me the photo above and the words, "He loves this book." Hurrah! Writers (most of them) seldom know if their book is pleasing someone, so words like this can be the biggest spirit lifter of all. Then add on the photo, and wowie, home run. So there are my riches in the flesh! Thank you, Aline, you are so sweet to share this.

Inspiration beyond the ken

I was so fortunate to spend this morning with retired librarian Liz Krieger (see contact info at post script below). She may be retired from the regular 9 to 5 at the library, but she is a librarian at heart and continues to educate and inspire hundreds of children a year.

Liz and her husband Dan attend book sales, tag sales, library sales, and anywhere books are sold, and purchase the best children's books by the car load. She doesn't purchase them to sell; she buys them to GIVE them to the children of Hawthorne School.

Kids arrive at Liz's house with empty shopping bags, and before Liz serves lunch, the kids are allowed to "shop" from tabletops, bookcases, carts, and entire rooms filled with books. 

You won't find any duds here. Liz considers the needs and aspirations of each child and hand picks everything.

Liz's dining room is given over to the books she selects for the children. I found about ten that I wanted, but heck, this day is for the kids.

I'll take the blue easy chair for further reading and lounging. Soon this room filled with excited and eager fifth and sixth graders and their tired, looking-forward-to-end-of-school teachers.

Well, we haven't had any rain here for ages, but wouldn't you just love to be let loose in this house? I would. And then I want to curl up in one of the overstuffed chairs (or, like the three bears, choose a bed) and read, read, read till my eyes cross and I have to come up for air and food.

She told them which bookcases held the books they especially liked.

Watch and learn. I watched Liz weave her love-of-books-spell with the children. I learned from the master. I could not believe how Liz could pick up a book, virtually ANY book, and tell the children the stories and her favorite parts. I wonder if she ever sleeps?

 Oops, did I forget to comb my hair? I think so. Well, it is ok, I got it cut a couple of hours later.

But look at these stacks...she has the names of different children on each book. She researches what their interests are and matches the book to the child. Amazing, no? Then, before she hands them to the child, she tells the entire group what the books are about and why she chose that particular book for that special child. 

I know that Liz sometimes works through the night before her group arrives, and you can see the results. She spins tales about the lives of authors; she gets the kids excited about every aspect of the book. It is amazing to see the wonder and joy in the faces of the children, especially when Liz says, "Take your bag and choose the books you love, but try to choose one or two from your favorite category." (I just finished reading Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder and his Long Way From Chicago, pictured above). Richard Peck's books resonate even with children my age! Hilarious.

Liz with John (an enthusiastic volunteer) in the background. John read some snippets of a book he loves.

Liz reads from The Wind in the Willows.

I am sharing some of the process of creating My First Bird Book

My part in all of this magic was to talk to the children about following (and working for) their dreams and goals. I explained that when I was young I didn't do well in school, but I kept drawing, writing, and dreaming. 

One young boy told me that he really loves to do illustrations, but that he doesn't think he is good enough. I told him to just keep working and to develop his own style. I asked who was judging him. He admitted that he judged himself and compared what he created with art work of others. "Quit comparing yourself. There will always be someone better and someone worse than you," I said.

I think the kids were interested in My First Bird Book and Bird Feeder because (by a long stretch) it helped them feel connected to R.J. Palaccio who wrote the great, middle grade novel, WONDER. Raquel was the art director at Workman Publishing who did the layouts and devised the packaging etc. for my bird book. She is not only a writer, but also a visual artist. I was so happy to have her creative input with the book, and she informed me that her boys love it! Hurrah.

I explained about the different kinds of books I've written and how exciting each one is. More like exploring and discovering treasures that you never knew existed. The above book is The Little Green Island with a Little Red House (DownEast Publishing), which is just going back to print again. I am showing them the tide pool page, which is a reflective mirror so that children see themselves in it. 

My first book, Sunflower Houses, originally published in 1991. Still in print! I'm so grateful.

And, finally, Liz asked me to read a few paragraphs of my new book Running Out of Night, Random House, November, 2014. I did and afterward got some great comments from the kids. Thank you everyone! We'll make sure that you get to read the entire book come November.

Interactions with the children is fun. Here are some typical questions from the students

"Are you rich, teacher?" one of the kids asked me. "No," I said. "Not the way you may be thinking of rich."

"What way?" he asked.

"I have lots of wonderful people in my life, and my books make them happy. They're like family to me, and they make me feel rich in something besides money." 

Another question? How old are you? When I answer them, they are shocked that I am still able to stand and talk (let alone write and draw). 

Is Lovejoy REALLY your last name, or did you make it up? That is a question I am always asked, and they are reluctant to believe that I was actually born with that name. I explain that not only was it tough to be a redhead, but to have the name Lovejoy really sealed my fate. I was teased constantly.

Pizza Time

The scent of freshly baked pizzas wafted through the book rooms. Stomachs growled; kids sniffed at the aromas and begin to get antsy.

Liz gave some final words of encouragement and guidance to the children. She said, "Don't just read these books and toss them aside or give them to a thrift store. Read them over and over. Begin to build your own library." Think of that..."Begin to build your own library." That is a great way to encourage children to re-read books, to care for them for the long haul, to cherish them as they should be cherished.

My granddaughter Sara May made me a bookmark. I think her words say it all, "I love books." (And did you notice her choices of books? That was before she read the entire series of Harry Potter; now they would be listed too. Probably right at the top of her list.

Thanks to my Grandmother Lovejoy, thanks to my favorite librarians, thanks to some of my beloved teachers and professors, and thanks to people like Liz Krieger, I love books too!

Normally I would do a book give-away this month, but instead I ask YOU to give a book or two to Liz. She and her husband are retired and spend much of their time and their money on books for children. Do you have any good books for children that need a new home? Write to me and I'll introduce you to Liz. She needs any help that can be offered. Thanks!

Workman Publishing just sent me a reprint notice today. This is the 11th printing of Roots, which is amazing to me. I am so grateful to all of you who keep this book alive and thriving.

I send love to you across the miles,


p.s. Liz gave me permission to publish her contact information for anyone who would like to send her books.

Liz and Dan Krieger
662 Islay St.
San Luis Obispo, CA. 93401

805-543-9611 home. 
805-440-1113 Liz's cell