Once again, I think you will forgive the gap between posts. I won’t assign causality, but there is definitely a correlation between such gaps and welcome distractions — in this case, the arrival of adorable Gabby, our third grandchild and first child of our daughter, Becky, and her husband, Dan. See for yourself …
2 Hours Old!
Deep in thought
From a very special Mother’s Day. Not the most flattering shot of me, but look at those 3 cuties: Linny, Caleb, and Gabby!
The sweet new family: Becky, Dan, and little Gabby
In my young adult novel, Defintely Not Sexy, Diana Pushkin and her friends discuss the relative sexiness of their high school classmates and assign themselves to the lowly category of the book’s title. Struggling with low self-esteem, Diana navigates various hurts and hilarity and her major crush on a new student, eventually discovering that some of the classmates she most admires for their sex appeal look up to her for her intelligence and wit.
When it came time to dedicate the book, I thought back to my seventh grade teacher, Douglas Dannay, whom I was lucky enough to have for both English and Social Studies. He was dynamic and challenging and taught me to be a better writer and more analytical thinker. I will never forget the first day of class on the first day of junior high. We were already buzzing in our seats when he held up a piece of yellow chalk and asked what it was. Someone responded, “Chalk.” “No, it’s not,” the teacher said. “Yellow,” someone else called out. “No, it’s not,” the teacher insisted. Or he might ask, “How do you know?” This went on for some time, and we wondered who this guy was and what kind of school we had enrolled in. By the end of the class, Mr. Dannay had convinced us that the words we had been calling out were not the thing itself but mere labels.
Cover of Little, Brown Hardcover
Cover of Bantam paperback
I loved learning philosophy in this way and also having ammunition to go home and annoy my parents by trying some of these strange exercises on them. It didn’t hurt either that the teacher was young and handsome, with striking blue eyes. So I guess it makes sense that besides honoring him for what he had taught me, I dedicated a book featuring a crush to him.
I recently got out my junior high yearbook and found what he had written to me: “To the most unusual student in a most unusual class.” I remembered that he had told the parents that our class was amazing, so I feel honored by what he wrote to me!
Here’s the dedication of Definitely Not Sexy:
The two-book story time I did at The Blue Bunny Bookstore in Dedham, MA was a blast! Thank you to everyone at this attractive, friendly store for hosting me. The kids listened attentively and were eager to participate in the dramatic play follow-up … wait … so were the adults!
Al, my sweetheart husband, held up the pictures of PAULIE’S PASSOVER PREDICAMENT so I could concentrate on reading.
We read; they listened to the story of a moose who wants his first seder to be perfect, but, well, it’s not.
“Who wants to help me act out Paulie’s story?” I asked. “I do!” “Me!” “Me too!” Music to my ears!
This little cutie really liked Evelyn the Bear, who comes to Paulie the moose’s seder.
I was delighted that audience members of various ages expertly acted out scenes in WHAT’S UP WITH THIS CHICKEN?
Thank you to the North Suburban Jewish Community Center in Peabody, MA for inviting me to do a get-ready-for-Passover program! After a warm welcome from the staff, I had fun sharing my picture books PAULIE’S PASSOVER PREDICAMENT and DON’T CALL ME SIDNEY. The follow-up activities and crafts were a hit. And the breakfast afterwards was yummy. What more could a guest author want?
Ready to read. Thank you, Liz, for holding up the pictures!
Listeners ranged from 8 months to 89 years old.
Actors eager to re-create Paulie the moose’s not-so-perfect Passover seder
Children’s responses to my questions showed how carefully they had listened to the story.
Cutie-pie artists coloring a seder plate
I’m looking forward to sharing two of my picture books and running fun follow-up activities this Tuesday, 4/16 at 11 AM, at The Blue Bunny Bookstore, 577 High Street, Dedham Square, MA!
I’d heard great things about The Silver Unicorn, an independent bookstore in West Acton, MA, and I was not disappointed. I was there with other contributors to the Writers’ Loft’s An Assortment of Animals poetry anthology and loved the warm atmosphere of the store. We presenters had as much fun as the audience! Thank you, Silver Unicorn!
Anthology presenters at The Silver Unicorn: Bob Thibeault, Jodie Apeseche, moi, Doreen, Buchinski, Ellen Cohen, and Alice Fulgione
Doreen Buchinski, Anthology designer and illustrator of many of the poems, explains her illustration process.
Jodie Apeseche displays her collage techniques, inviting children to touch the components.
Poet Ellen Cohen shares her charming centipede poem.
Illustrator Bob Thibeault takes sketch requests from young attendees.
Doreen Buchinski and I pose before sharing the poem I wrote and she illustrated, “The Superb Blue-Crowned Mot-Mot.”
I’m looking forward to next Sunday morning, April 7th, when I’ll be doing a get-ready-for-Passover program at the North Suburban Jewish Community Center in Peabody, MA. I’ll get to share two of my picture books with children and their families, and run some fun activities!
Plus … there will be food (not just the food for thought kind). See you there!
240 Lynnfield Street
Peabody, MA 01960
When it came to my humorous but heartfelt middle grade novel Not Even Mrs. Mazursky, based on my real life worship of my fifth grade teacher, subsequent disillusion, and eventual realization that no one is perfect, hence the title, (wow! this is a long sentence!), I decided to dedicate it to my sister:
Because, as the dedication says, my big sister is an extraordinarily generous and warm person.
She gives herself wholly to people she meets professionally, to her friends, and her family.
Part of her generosity is expressed through the meals she makes for countless people — always yummy and bountiful.
“How did you make all that?” I might ask. “It’s delish!”
“Oh, it was easy,” she’ll say. Maybe for you, I’d think, accepting a second helping. As the dedication references, she has an amazing amount of energy. No one can keep up with Judy. I don’t think anyone has tried!
My energetic, generous big sister, Judy Storeygard
For my third book, I honored my grandfather, aka Poppy, with whom I had a close, joyful relationship. He came to the U.S. at age 18, having escaped from the czar’s army (yes, we’re talking pre-Russian Revolution), knowing no English and almost no one.
George Balloff (my Poppy) at age 18, soon after he arrived in NYC from Russia
He learned English, Italian, and Spanish, graduated from the Columbia University School of Pharmacy and eventually owned two pharmacies in New York City. When I studied Russian in high school and college, Poppy and I had a secret language deployed at family gatherings.
At age 90, he wrote his autobiography. My dedication reflects Poppy’s belief in me.
Poppy with my husband and me on our wedding day
The aforementioned third book is my middle grade novel Confessions of an Orange Octopus, in which eight year old “Chooch” learns to juggle and wants to become a street juggler, but his parents are not on board. After he and his friends (members of the Gripe Club, whose mission is to complain about grown-ups) have variuos adventures, Chooch and his parents agree on a compromise. And who gave Chooch the how-to-juggle book and devised the compromise plan? His grandpa!
Last week I had the honor of being invited back to do an author visit at Minuteman High School, the regional technical-vocational school located in my hometown of Lexington, Massachusetts. Since the visit involved presenting to students in the design & visual communications and early childhood education classes and giving feedback on picture books they were creating, I was joined by the designer and illustrator of Me and the Weirdos, Doreen Buchinski. Her art tips and insight turned out to be a wonderful complement to the my writing guidance and suggestions.
It was a joy spend the day at this school, with talented, receptive students and welcoming, dedicated staff members.
Nice to be welcomed with a big sign!
Talking to students about my writing process
Now Doreen explains her design and illustration process.
After a delicious lunch prepared by culinary class students, we opened our surprise gifts: cutting boards carved with the school logo, made by Minuteman students!
The icing on this cake!!!! It depicts the cover of my picture book The Trouble With Cauliflower. We were amazed and delighted by its 3-D quality. And by the way, it was delicious.
Doreen and I met Kimmee, the talented culinary student who created the spectacular cake.