Reading to Savor

It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s just plain yucky. Normally, I love being outside, but not today.
Luckily, I came across some sweet and creative thank you letters from students I visited this past school year. And they warmed my heart…not in a sticky way, but a good way.

Here is a sampling of my favorites:

Yes! I am “amazing and cool”! Wait until I tell my own children!

This student included her own charming illustration of 1 of my books, with a clever, original caption!

A letter that made me happy to learn that my messages came through loud and clear.

And who doesn’t like to have her portrait drawn?

 

 

 

I got a Kick out of Kick Off Summer Reading!

Last week I had the good fortune to be the featured author at Leicester Memorial School’s annual “Kick off to Summer Reading” night.  This fun and ingenious event includes a book swap in which children pick “new to them” books collected from families and the community.

A few months ago I had done 3 sessions on revision at the school, so the students and I were excited to see each other again. I got a chance to meet their parents, sign books, and marvel again at the wonderful literacy initiatives by Principal Tina Boss and other members of the Memorial Schools staff and faculty.
To sweeten the deal, I got to eat some delicious pizza and baked goods!

Happy summer to all!

How lovely to see oneself in the limelight!

Signing DON’T CALL ME SIDNEY, about a poetry-writing pig

Happily explaining the origins of WHAT’S UP WITH THIS CHICKEN?

Chatting with students and parents was lots of fun.

Signing a copy of Confessions of an Orange Octopus 

Talented Students!

Recently, I had the fun task of helping choose the winners of The Authors Award for Excellence in Imaginative Fiction for students at Minuteman Regional Technical High School in Lexington, MA. Prior to convening, panel members read 16 entries by juniors.

Then we discussed each story as a group. We were impressed by the quality of the writing. The stories, in a variety of genres, were imaginative, entertaining, interesting, and often riveting. It wasn’t easy to select the 3 winners! We eventually chose two stories tied for first place and a second place story.

Congratulations to the winners, to all the writers, and to Minuteman Regional Technical High School, for fostering interest in creative writing through this terrific competition.

Drum roll…The winners!

Cary Library: The Place to Be

Last week I got to share several of my books with young listeners at Cary Memorial Library, a jewel in Lexington, MA. Below are some photos, courtesy of my husband, Alan Ticotsky, who kindly shlepps along with me to my author events, enduring the umpteenth readings of my familiar stories and capturing candid shots.

My grandson, Caleb, spots a familiar woman on the library poster. Could that be Grammy? As you can see, we were both delighted.

 

Volunteers reenact scenes from WHAT’S UP WITH THIS CHICKEN?

Multi-tasking young’uns listen to me read DON’T CALL ME SIDNEY while working on baby chick crafts

Meet the Author!

…that would be me! The wonderful children’s department in my local library, Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, MA, is hosting me for a Meet the Author program, next Saturday, May 12th at 3 PM.

My plan is to read WHAT’S UP WITH THE CHICKEN? followed by a reenactment of key scenes by volunteers. After I read DON’T CALL ME SIDNEY, I’ll do rhyming games inspired by the story of Sidney the pig’s poetic aspirations. Then I’ll offer signed copies of these and other books. It should be fun!

Center Elementary, Center of Literacy

I was delighted to be invited back to Center Elementary School in Peabody, Massachusetts twice this year. In the first presentation I spoke to younger grade students about how my ideas turn into a book, first reading them my tale about a hen who refuses to get off her eggs, What’s Up with This Chicken? Although the students were little, their attention span was long.

K-2 students asked wonderful questions!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My second visit was a session for older students on revision. It included writing prompts to practice showing the 2 things I look for when I revise: character and evocative description. I was delighted to see students hard at work on their writing and then to have so many volunteer to share what they wrote!

“The blank page is the biggest enemy of the writer, but if you know you can go back and revise, it’s not so scary!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On all my visits to the school I was given a warm welcome by Principal Jacqueline Orphanos. It was exciting to see such excellent literacy work going on at Center Elementary School!

Students eager to share the stellar results of their writing prompts

This fourth grade class asked me to visit their classroom afterwards to hear some of their essays. I’m glad I said yes because they were awesome!

Story Time at Great New Indie Book Store

Recently I got to read Paulie’s Passover Predicament at a wonderful new independent bookstore in Belmont, MA: Belmont Books.

The story time was triple the fun because I was joined by children’s book authors Carol Gordon Ekster and Ellen Mayer, my frequent story time partner.

Carol Gordon Ekster, who read her book You Know What?, moi, and Ellen Mayer, who read her book Rosa’s Very Big Job

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The store is a terrific new addition to the western Boston suburbs, attractive and well-stocked, with a great café. The upstairs children’s books department felt warm and intimate, perfect for sharing our books!

I just had to show the photo of myself reading to my grandson, Caleb, to whom Paulie’s Passover Predicament is dedicated!

Carol Gordon Ekster expertly held up the pictures while I read aloud.

We’re Back!

Barnes and Noble in Burlington has graciously invited fellow children’s book author and friend Ellen Mayer to do several events in its spacious, cheerful children’s department. Ellen and I always have a great time, and our most recent Author Meet & Greet was no exception. We read our books, interacted with young listeners, and brought along arts activities. 

We’re back!

Our dynamic team: I read, Ellen shows the pictures!

Loading “the dryer” where Paulie the moose in Paulie’s Passover Predicament finds the afikomen, the hidden matzah.

My grandson, Caleb, looks up at Grammy, whose heart is melting.

 

Having family, friends and especially our toddler grandchildren among the active participants was the icing on our happy cake!

 

 

Caleb and friend get a kick out of props that depict “the seder plate.”

Paulie’s Debut

Paulie’s Passover Predicament‘s pre-Passover 2018 roll-out is done. Paulie and I had a lot of events packed into just a few weeks, but all were fun, and all were different, depending on the age of the audience, the venue, etc.

Temple Isaiah in Lexington

The first, at Temple Isaiah in Lexington, MA, was a story time combined with a Havdalah service, which separates the Sabbath from the rest of the week. Matthew Emmer, Engagement Specialist at the temple, did a lovely job leading the service and explaining its significance in child-friendly terms. He also sang and played guitar.

 

Matt Emmer’s guitar playing and singing of Dayenu inspired the audience to sing along.

Matt’s musical skills especially complemented the end of the book, when my animal characters sing Dayenu, which Matt led the audience in doing!

When young volunteers re-enacted the story using stuffed animals and props, it was gratifying to see that the oldest actress (7 years old) had listened extremely carefully to the plot and knew the significance of each item on the seder plate!

 

But my favorite line had to be from the 3 year old, who piped up as I asked about the seder plate egg, “And I eat scrambled eggs!”

My good friend Regina Worsnop kindly held up the pictures so I could concentrate on reading. What’s under the sheet? Storytelling props to be unveiled after the reading!

 

    

Article in the Jewish Journal With Me and My Favorite Reader

A recent article in the Jewish Journal by Penny Schwartz talks about Paulie’s Passover Predicament,  my writing career, and more. I love the article, and the photo of me reading it to my grandson, Caleb, makes me smile all over.

Just in time for Passover, a new children’s book by Lexington’s Jane Sutton

 

Journal Correspondent

Jane Sutton, an award-winning children’s author from Lexington, reading to her grandson, Caleb, to whom she dedicated her newest book, “Paulie’s Passover Predicament.” Photo courtesy Jane Sutton

MARCH 22, 2018 – A lifelong love of writing, a silly sense of humor, and a soft spot for animals has proven to be a winning combination for Jane Sutton, the award-winning children’s book writer from Lexington who for decades has been tickling the fancy of her young readers.

Sutton’s playful, humorous, and endearing stories often star a menagerie of quirky animals, from hippos to chickens. Her 2013 book, “Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster,” features a purple gorilla who can’t seem to find the right Hanukkah gifts for her friends.

Sutton’s latest book is “Paulie’s Passover Predicament,” illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi and published just in time for the start of the eight-day Jewish holiday that begins this year on Friday, March 30. It’s a lively story with a tender touch on the importance of kindness among friends.

Young kids will warm up to Paulie, a guitar-playing moose – a moos-ician – who is hosting his first Seder for all his friends, including a porcupine, a bear, and a bunny. At the store, he piles his cart with matzah, candles, and lots of grape juice that he’ll need for the four cups of wine during the Seder.

         “Paulie’s Passover Predicament” By Jane Sutton.
Illustrated by Barbara Vagnozzi. Kar-Ben, 2018

But Paulie’s friends poke fun at his unusual Seder plate. Instead of the traditional items used as symbols of the Passover story, Paulie’s has a really big ostrich egg, and there are pieces of pine cones in the charoset, the ceremonial fruit and nut mixture that is symbolic of the bricks and mortar the Israelites were forced to use to build the Pharaoh’s pyramids.

When Paulie goes searching in the basement for the hidden matzah, called the afikomen, the door accidentally closes behind him. Kids will cheer when Paulie uses his wits to solve his problem. Grateful for his freedom – the theme of Passover – Paulie leads his friends in a rousing rendition of the popular Seder song, “Dayenu.”

Vagnozzi’s lively and large, brightly colored illustrations are a perfect match for Sutton’s playful story that captures the excitement of celebrating Passover.
The Journal caught up with Sutton in a phone conversation as she was gearing up for a round of story hour readings and book signings in Greater Boston.

Even as a young girl, Sutton welcomed the vocabulary and spelling homework that she turned into plays and stories sprinkled with humor. In high school on New York’s Long Island, she was editor of her school paper, and notably, was voted class comedienne.

In one class at Brandeis University in the early 1970s, Sutton embraced the challenge to write a few children’s stories. Other writing opportunities came her way after she graduated, including penning short essays for standardized reading tests.

Now, as a book author, when she visits schools, she tells the kids: “I want to apologize” for making them suffer through the tests.

As a journalist, Sutton wrote holiday stories for the New York Sunday News. Her break into the world of children’s books came when a story for Valentine’s Day was turned into her first book, “What Should a Hippo Wear?,” published in 1979.

She’s been writing children’s books ever since, along with raising two now-grown-up children with her husband, Alan Ticotsky, who she met at Brandeis. She also teaches a community education class on writing for kids.

Sutton naturally draws on humor for her stories, but it’s important that her books emphasize a deeper meaning, she said.

“My books are always funny. But they also have an underlying message,” she said. “I try to be subtle. I don’t want to be didactic.”

In “Paulie’s Passover Predica­ment,” the story emphasizes empathy. Kids also see that mistakes can be corrected and that the book’s characters come up with a solution.

Sutton also wrote a book for middle-grade readers, “Me and the Weirdos,” published in 1981. It’s a humorous tale about a girl named Cindy who is embarrassed by what she considers to be a very eccentric family. Beyond the humor, the story becomes one about the courage to be different. The book struck a chord with readers and garnered multiple awards, including the American Library Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice award.

While now out of print, Sutton recently heard from a group of school-age girls in a small town in Utah who asked for permission to turn it into a musical. Sutton was so moved by their dedication to the project that in January, she and her husband made the long trek to Blanding, Utah, for the premiere. They were warmly welcomed by the town and treated like celebrities.

“It was an unforgettable experience,” said Sutton, who thinks the story still resonates today and is working to have the book republished.