The Utah Connection, Continued

After I gave permission for my novel Me and the Weirdos to be transformed into a musical, the two seniors in Blanding Utah, Ashley Berrett and Eva Perkins, got to work writing the script and song lyrics and composing music. Several months later, they invited me to review and provide feedback on their 68-page script, now titled Me and the Krinkles.

As I began reading, I was blown away! 

The dialogue and the stage directions were amazingly professional. The song lyrics were clever and perfectly complemented the plot. The jokes were laugh-aloud funny.

Even more impressive to me was that these talented young playwrights changed aspects of the book in order to render scenes more stage-friendly. They also softened the personality of the book’s villain, Roger Snooterman, hinting that his insulting behavior towards the narrator, Cindy Krinkle, is due to his crush on her and misguided attempts at making conversation. This seemed like such a smart dramatic decision for their middle school cast and audience, who are right smack at the age where fitting in and navigating new romantic feelings are knotty issues. Eva and Ashley also explained that they wanted to show that even this initially unlikeable character is capable of changing and growing. Yes!


I spent many hours reading and commenting on the script. I really loved it and gave suggestions for clarifying characters’ motivations and improving consistency. I appreciated their openness to my input, and they appreciated my providing it!

In the mean time, whenever I told friends and colleagues, or family members about this ongoing collaboration with two girls who lived 2400 miles away from me, they would say, “You should go see the play!”
And I’d think, I would love to…but it’s so far! And the play will be performed in January, with who-knows-what kind of weather. Should I go anyway???

Welcome to the World, Paulie!

I am delighted to announce…drum roll…the release of my 11th book for children, PAULIE’S PASSOVER PREDICAMENT! It’s about a moose named Paulie who wants his seder to be perfect…but, well, it’s not. Despite his series of amusing gaffes, the significance of the holiday and warm friendships make for a joyous celebration.

I’m really pleased with the illustrator’s (Barbara Vagnozzi) colorful, fun pictures that complement the pro-empathy message. You can get any indie bookstore to order it for you or order it online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target, you name it. Just search for the title, or see my “books” page on this website.
Anyone who buys a copy and would like it signed can contact me. If you live far away, I can mail a signed sticker. Oh–and there’s currently an Amazon Giveaway for it:
https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/e1484ce214c94f93

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Yay for Memorial Elementary School!

Last week I had the good fortune to do interactive presentations with grades 3, 4 and 5 at Memorial Elementary School in Leicester, Massachusetts. My topic was revision, and the students were polite, enthusiastic, and engaged. The time and effort administrators and teachers had put into preparation was clear. All the students had already heard several of my books. They had even written poems using their own names, like my character Sidney the poet in Don’t Call Me Sidney. Their charming poems, with illustrations, were posted all around the gym.
The students’ responses to my questions and writing prompts made it clear that the school is doing a great job encouraging literacy. I was told that my presentation inspired students. Well, they inspired me!

Students responding to writing prompt

Hard at work on a writing prompt

A volunteer sharing her stellar writing that served as practice for character development

Press Coverage in Local Paper

I’ll be writing more about the wonderful experience of having one of my books turned into a musical, but first, I’ll share an article from the newspaper in San Juan County, Utah:

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Two thumbs up for world premier of adapted book
Jan 30, 2018 San Juan Record

Eva Perkins (left) and Ashley Berrett (right) meet with author Jane Sutton at the world premier of Me and the Krinkles. The play was adapted by Perkins and Berrett from Sutton’s book Me and the Weirdos. Courtesy photos

Eva Perkins (left) and Ashley Berrett (right) meet with author Jane Sutton at the world premier of Me and the Krinkles. The play was adapted by Perkins and Berrett from Sutton’s book Me and the Weirdos. Courtesy photos

by Nan Barton

The world premiere of Me and the Krinkleswas a terrific success. The show was performed to rave reviews on January 22-24 at San Juan High School by an ensemble cast of ARL Middle School students.

In the words of Kristi Redd, “It was seriously awesome! So funny, great acting, amazing singing.”

Danelle Shumway said, “I genuinely laughed out loud plenty and got a little teary-eyed once or twice.”

Merri Shumway said, “Great job to everyone involved in this musical. Very impressive.”

Lynette Adams said, “Those girls did something amazing!”

The play was a collaborative effort by Ashley Berrett and Eva Perkins. The San Juan High School seniors and Sterling Scholar candidates contacted author Jane Sutton several months ago to ask for permission to adapt Me and the Weirdos into a theatrical performance.

Nothing of this scale has ever been attempted by San Juan High School students, but this talented duo was undaunted.

Working with the author’s approval, the girls composed the script, the lyrics and the score over several months. Next, they held auditions, selected a cast, and rehearsed for several weeks.

The young cast includes Saylor Perkins as the lead, Cindy Krinkle. Charity Raisor, Toby Ward, and Ashlyn Bake played members of the unusual Krinkle family. Elijah Ward portrayed the “airhead” friend Roger Snooterman. Elizabeth Pugh and Caroline Crippen rounded out the main roles.

These young actors portrayed their characters in a fun and believable way.

The musical numbers were stunning and meaningful. The duet by Charity Raisor and Caroline Crippen was especially compelling.

On the night of the premiere, author Jane Sutton attended and gave her stamp of approval on the performance. The author also graciously presented some writing workshops at the high school.

She enjoyed visiting Blanding, and she noted how welcoming everyone was. She and her husband, Alan Ticotsky, traveled all the way from their home in Lexington, MA.

The couple stayed at Stone Lizard Lodging with a complementary gift basket provided by the Perkins and Berrett families. They were provided a private tour by ther staff at Edge of the Cedars Museum and State Park.

They also received a guided tour of some of the natural wonders of the area by Four Corners Adventures. They enjoyed the food and hospitality of Pop’s Burritos and Patio, as well as other local establishments.

Of the experience with the play, Director Ashley Berrett has said, “I’m so grateful for the opportunity I have had to direct these kids. They are seriously amazing! They are smart and funny and talented.”

Eva Perkins, who composed and directed the musical numbers, said, “As we rehearsed and got ready for performances, we understood why we chose who we did. They play their parts perfectly. I am so proud of them.”

Eva and Ashley are both very talented individuals and friends. The process of writing this musical brought them closer together in many ways.

Both have shared leading roles in multiple performances at San Juan High. Eva has excelled in music, and Ashley has been actively involved in drama, on stage and behind the scenes. They also assisted in previous middle school productions and bring a great deal of experience to the process.

Eva Perkins first discovered the book “Me and the Weirdos” in her home library as a young girl. A voracious reader from the age of four, she connected with the story and the characters right away.

The book had been beloved by her mother, Kd Perkins, when she was a young child. Published in 1981, the book is one of the most popular books written by Jane Sutton.

Of the experience watching the play, Sutton said, “Al and I were blown away by the professionalism and wonderfulness of the play, as well as the warm welcome we received from Eva’s and Ashley’s families and the whole town!

“It’s deeply touching to me that the humor and the message of the book, that it’s OK to be different, still resonates.”

The elaborate set is designed by Clayton Perkins and donated by San Juan Building Supply.
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Adventure in Utah: The Back Story

My middle grade novel ME AND THE WEIRDOS was originally published back in 1981 by Houghton Mifflin. Later it was published in paperback by Bantam, excerpted in a Holt Anthology, translated into French, and won an ALA/CBC Children’s Choice Award and the Utah Children’s Book Award. 

Over the years I’ve received lots of fan letters from children who read the book, from all over the US and other countries. But we’ll get to that later… Last June I received the most unexpected, beautifully written, sweet email ever!!…from two high school seniors named Eva Perkins and Ashley Berrett who live in Blanding, a small town in southeastern Utah. They began by saying that they had been chosen as Sterling Scholars, a scholarship program in Utah.

Eva Perkins, Sterling Scholar for Music

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from their email:

Ashley Berrett, Sterling Scholar for Drama

 I have always had a strong love of reading, and part of that love came from reading and re-reading your book “Me and the Weirdos.” It was my mom’s book before it was mine, and she read it, too. It is a book that taught me valuable lessons about accepting people for who they are and loving life. 

The email went on to say…

Well, as sterling scholars, we are currently trying to write a musical for our local middle school to perform…we both really liked the idea of using a children’s book as a plot basis. Immediately, I thought of “Me and the Weirdos.” It has a perfect quirkiness to it that every musical needs, and it teaches very good lessons that lots of middle schoolers need. 
     …So, I’m asking if we can use your book as inspiration for our musical… As an aspiring author, I am very excited for the possibility of using one of the books that helped me form a love of reading as a musical idea… 
So of course, I wrote back, “No way!” Just kidding! I said Yes and thanked them for asking permission. They later told me that upon receiving my response, there was much jumping up and down and shrieking. Stay tuned…

 

Hot Off the Press

There’s an old, apt joke about an author at a party. He’s been talking another guest’s ear off (no, it wasn’t Van Gogh) about all things himself. Suddenly, he stops mid-sentence to say, “But enough about me. What did you think of my latest book?”

As I sometimes do on this blog, I will stop talking about all things moi, to introduce two wonderful brand new picture books:

The first is I Love You for Miles and Miles by Alison Goldberg, with pictures by Mike Yamada (ISBN13: 9780374304430). Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, it’s a very sweet, beautifully illustrated book that brilliantly combines love of vehicles with love for the reader. It made my heart feel warm, and I look forward to sharing my copy with my toddler grandson, a truck enthusiast.
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Then we have Fossil by Fossil: Comparing Dinosaur Bones by Sara Levine, illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth (ISBN-13: 978-1-4677-9489-3). A non-fiction title from Millbrook Press, this communicates fascinating facts about dinosaurs in an appealing, often humorous way – not an easy feat. The writing is clear, and the illustrations, with diverse dinosaurs and children, are imaginative. I think school and public libraries will snap it up, as I did, to share with young dinosaur aficionados.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Here’s wishing a happy, healthy new year to all!
In Lexington, Massachusetts, as in much of the country, we’re in the midst of a ridiculously brutal cold spell. High of 11 degrees today! No relief in sight. But a recent event that warmed my heart was being able to surprise family and close friends at our annual Chanukah party with a reading of my new picture book, Paulie’s Passover Predicament.

My friend and fellow children’s book author Ellen Mayer, who had pre-ordered the book and received it before moi, the author, kindly loaned me hers for the occasion. After everyone had eaten my husband’s scrumptious latkes, I revealed the book, to gasps and smiles. My husband took these photos to help me remember the occasion and to be able to share this first reading with you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Met and Greeted

Report on the aforementioned (I love that word – it’s so pretentious!) Meet and Greet:
I had fun chatting with shoppers, especially children whose eyes lit up at the idea of a book signed by a real live author!

 

To my surprise the store had copies of What’s Up with This Chicken? for me to sign, too. Thank you to Dominic at Barnes & Noble, Burlington, who always makes me feel so welcome.

Meet & Greet

If you’re shopping in Burlington on Thursday 12/14, (that’s Burlington, MA), come by and say hi to me at Barnes and Noble between 12 and 2. I’ll be near the entrance (inside, thankfully!) doing a Meet and Greet the Author, with my kids’ book, ESTHER’S HANUKKAH DISASTER.

Warm Inside and Out

Inside the brightly lit, beautifully restored Lexington Depot last Saturday, the atmosphere was warm, and outside for Small Business Saturday shopping, the end-of November air was unseasonably warm.

I shared 2 of my picture books with different groups. In one group an adorable 1 year old kept popping up to touch pages with Sidney, my pig poet character. One never knows what to expect from young audiences, but they’re always fun.

Reading Don’t Call Me Sidney wearing my lucky red sneakers

Something funny always happens with young audiences.