Adjusting

This year has really been all about adjustment. Mostly great adjustments, I have to say. Hand-picking a team that has become very close knit.  Integrating with our magnificent distribution partners at Chronicle.  Learning to be both disciplined and FREE in our pursuit of great storytelling and equitable inclusion.

Since the pandemic there have been tougher adjustments as well. Being separated from my colleagues. Not having the routines of an established office.  And right now…I’m longing to hold the first printed copies of Levine Querido’s launch list…then to send them with notes to our authors and artists.  Those advance copies won’t just “come in” and get distributed.  We’ll have to figure out how to send them to my house…and from there out into the world.  A small problem compared with the ones facing those who are ill, or caring for the sick. But still…an adjustment.

Hello old blog

I just came by to see whether the old place had fallen into disrepair. Certainly the streets are empty, and tumbleweeds are blowing down the pavement.  It’s dark in there…no lights on. It seems no one’s home. The paint is peeling. I think one of the gutters has come loose. And everything about the garden is wildly overgrown. I don’t know if I have the strength to really FIX this.  But at least I forced myself to look. Rolling up the window and heading away now.  Maybe I’ll be back….

What a Beautiful Morning Story Hour Kit

17048_v.tifMany in our communities struggle with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. While the disease affects the entire family, children can feel the changes in a loved one most acutely.

How can you be a catalyst for conversation and connection?

We are pleased to offer early childhood and elementary educators, librarians, booksellers, and Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia support groups:

What a Beautiful Morning
STORY HOUR KIT

The picture book What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur A. Levine & illustrated by Katie Kath (Running Press) explores Alzheimer’s disease in a gentle, age-appropriate manner. Be prepared to sing and celebrate the bonds of family!

This kit offers resources, activity sheets, and suggested dialogue to:

• Partner & Advertise an Alzheimer’s event for families
• Discuss the book and Alzheimer’s disease
• Share Alzheimer’s Resource sheets
• Explore Art with children
• Sing book-themed lyrics to Row, Row, Row Your Boat

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“The book does a nice job of explaining some of the memory loss and confusion that can be typical of Alzheimer’s, and provides age-appropriate explanations…The comprehensive toolkit takes that several steps further by discussion how the illustrator has used color to provide meaning and foreshadowing into the book.”
—Ruth Kolb Drew, Director of Family & Information Services, Alzheimer’s Association National Office

THE FREE STORY HOUR KIT

Explore The Event Kit for Libraries, Schools and Alzheimer’s Organizations (PDF)

Do you like to design your own event marketing materials? Story Time Poster (JPG)

 

What a Beautiful Morning: An Interview with Arthur A. Levine

9780762459063An interview with author Arthur A. Levine about his acclaimed picture book What a Beautiful Morning (Running Press).  Interview conducted by Kirsten Cappy of Curious City.

You love to sing, and your character in What a Beautiful Morning loves to sing.  Was music a part of your family experience and relationships?

“My dad was a very enthusiastic singer.  He loved nothing better than to walk around the house early in the morning singing at the top of his lungs, ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning.’ (That was sometimes very irritating if you were trying to sleep.) But music is the connection between me and my dad, and singing is at the heart of this book.”

How did dementia affect your father and your family’s relationship with him?

“As my father began to develop dementia, he began to forget things, and certain types of activities would be difficult for him. He’d have a hard time conversing. He’d lose words. Then it progressed to the point where he didn’t recognize us all the time, and he couldn’t find his way around the house anymore. My son would be his guide: ‘Here grandpa, follow me. The bathroom is this way, follow me.’ It was very poignant to see how they were still finding things to connect them. I started writing this book because I was so moved by that process and very aware of my own sense of loss.”

Could your father still access music during his dementia?

“Music was the thing that my father had almost literally till the day he died.  This was the point at which I couldn’t have a conversation with my father—that was too difficult. If, though, I sang a line of a song to him, he could sing the next line. He had all the lyrics and all the tunes of all the songs he knew. It would be like having a conversation, to sing, ‘Oh, what a beautiful morning.’ He’d sing, ‘Oh, what a beautiful day.’ It was like having a conversation about the weather, only you know, as a kind of an aria, like an ongoing opera.”

What was it like seeing Katie Kath’s illustrations for What a Beautiful Morning?

“Katie Kath did such a beautiful job. She was so creative about how she translated the feelings and the experiences in the book into line and color.  She would fade out the color when Grandpa was feeling faded out of life. She captured the moment a song came into his mind and came out of his mouth.  All the color came back into his face. It’s such a perfect and beautiful metaphor.”

What do you hope happens with this book? What would you like this book to do in the world?

“I guess with every book, you hope that you really get to the essence of an experience and that it contributes to a reader’s sense that ‘you’re not alone.’ For anybody who has had the experience of a relative who has changed bewilderingly, I hope that they will read the book and feel some sense of comfort.”

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A Generous Book-Maker for Everyone – some thoughts for Vera Williams

I read just now that Vera Williams has died and am suffering that intensely personal sense of loss that book lovers can feel for someone who has moved and inspired them so much, in private moments, curled up, a world unfolded on your lap, smiling through that wonderful silent conversation between the book and the turning pages, and the images, and the reader. You can always go back and have those particular conversations again – that’s the beauty of this sort of intimacy! – but the creative force that produced those books is present now only in what’s been left behind.

I never knew Vera Williams personally; my connection to her was always that of fan-to-author. She was about the same age as my mother, though; when I heard her speak she reminded me of some ardent, passionate politically leftist artists in my parents’ circle. And her books held a combination of sincerity, beauty and warmth that spoke to me in the same way that my favorite aunts and “aunts” (those friends of family who were too close not to be thought of as relatives) might, calling you over to their side on a couch, telling you a good story about the old neighborhood.

By the time I was getting ready to enter the industry (1984), Williams had already launched a vibrant career. But it was her books about Rosa that seemed to embody all the things I loved about children’s books, all the things I felt were important, all the good I felt could be done. Her characters lived in a multi-racial world, presented unselfconsciously, an obvious and true – if perhaps mildly idealized, but that was/is the case in lots of picture books – reflection of a world I recognized. The stories themselves were filled with genuine emotion – a child striving to buy a comfortable chair to replace one lost in a fire, a group of kids finding a way to entertain a sick grandmother. And her art was carefully nuanced and impactful. Its naïve style suggested spontaneity, while the consistent quality of all her books gave strong evidence of rigorous planning and design.

Sometime in 1985 or 86, in a besotted conflation of my personal response and my professional admiration for Vera Williams I made an embarrassing faux pas unique (I hope) in my career. A struggling editorial assistant, and a hopeful writer, I sent Vera a copy of a manuscript I’d written. (How did I get her address, I now wonder. There was no Google. No websites. It must have taken detective work.) It was a story about a woman who embraces the changing ethnicities and racial characteristics of her neighborhood over several decades, and stands up for it (literally) by chaining herself to an old tree that is threatened by an uncaring government.

I am full of sympathy for the kid who did that. The themes WERE Williams-esque maybe. She would have been an amazing artist for the book. Greenwillow would have been a dream publisher. But oy, the inappropriateness of sending it to the artist directly!! Totally embarrassing.

Fortunately Williams responded to my action with kindness and generosity. In a letter I opened with trembling hands, she said she liked my story. She encouraged me to continue writing! But, she said, treating this chutzpah-filled young writer with far more seriousness than I deserved, she had too many books of her own that she wanted to do.

Thank goodness, really. The world needed her to spend time on all those wonderful contributions she made in those thirty years.

Thank you again, Vera Williams. And thank you Susan Hirschman, Ava Weiss, and Virginia Duncan. Who knows how many lives have been touched, how many hearts soothed, how many smiles of recognition have broken out in the course of reading the wonderful books of Vera Williams. Millions I’m sure. With many more to come.