One of the joys of summer is seeing wildlife. And despite staying more close to home during this pandemic summer, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to see wild creatures right in my own neighborhood.
I’ve already posted a bunny sheltering under a lawn chair during a rainstorm and an unusual beetle. Another day we had an impressive visitor across the street from us, apparently burying her eggs:
Huuuuuuge snapping turtle laying eggs on our across-the-street neighbor’s front lawn
I was impressed that, despite the fact that snapping turtles do live up to their name, after all, the neighbor roped off the area to protect the eggs.
And soon afterwards another neighbor created this sign!
Continuing the theme of natural wonders in my own backyard, check out these ENORMOUS lilies! My husband (seen below, last week when temps were 30 degrees below what they are today) planted them a few years ago. But this summer they just kept growing…and growing…and growing…until they tower over the aforementioned lovely Al. Well, don’t take my word for it…see for yourself!
Spending more time than usual in my backyard this sheltering, sometimes sweltering summer, my husband and I have encountered some brand new natural phenomena we might not have noticed in previous years.
One day we saw two different creatures that seemed to enjoy our lawn furniture…
During a heavy downpour this bunny took shelter beneath a chair. When the rain stopped, it resumed its lawn chomping duties.
My research tells me that this striking-looking insect is an Eyed Click Beetle.
When my local library, Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, asked if I’d like to read one of my books to share on its YouTube Channel, I thought, “What fun!”
And it was. I chose to share my giggles-inducing picture book about Sidney the pig, an aspiring poet who wants to change his name because his name is un-rhymeable (except for kidney). I hope the children who tuned in had as much fun as I did! Kudos to Cary Library for coming up with this program…
The favorite part of my author visits, whether in-person or virtual, is Question Time. The ager hands waving to be called on, the earnest queries. The virtual visits I’ve switched to due to the pandemic actually make it easier to hear questions and to see the questioner’s face close-up.
Showing an illustration in an anthology to point out differences in illustrations of my characters in ME AND THE WEIRDOS (4 different artists for 4 different editions)
Often a “question” is preceded by the student saying, “I have a comment.” This always pleases me because I can tell the teacher has worked hard to distinguish question from comment, a distinction adults standing the microphone at my local Town Meeting sometimes fail to make.
Here are two of my favorite recent “questions.”
Second Grader: “I’m definitely going to look for more of your books.”
Third Grader: “I want to be an author. After I retire. First I’m going to be a doctor. Because I want to help people and I want the money.”
When I read one of my stories during an author visit, I love seeing the bright eyes trained on the big screen as students sit crosslegged on the gymnasium floor. And I relish hearing the giggles when one of my characters says something silly. But hey, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, so what are ya gonna do?
Turn to technology, that’s what!
Last week via Google Meet, I shared my picture book The Trouble With Cauliflower, about a koala bear named Mortimer who’s convinced that eating “that horrible vegetable” brings him bad luck the next day. Then, by sharing a screen of my slide presentation, I showed the class of second graders the steps involved as an initial idea evolves to published book.
It felt a bit strange to hear just silence, and no giggles, since the students were instructed to mute their computers. Thankfully, one student did not follow this directive, and I could hear a little voice make comments, like “She wrote that book!” instead of my talking into a void. Thank you, young scofflaw!
During question time, I got to see those bright eyes and smiles and answer the students’ astute questions. I’m looking forward to my next virtual visit!
As a children’s book author, I often talk in classrooms about my writing process, how to enliven writing, and other topics depending on the age group. Trying to think how I could volunteer during this crisis when students are confined to their homes, I had an IDEA!!
I can still answer questions or correspond with individual or groups of students, as part of school assignments, enrichment, or to satisfy curiosity.
See the page called visits to see the programs I usually offer.
To go along with such an author-student connection, 7-11 year olds might enjoy reading my lighthearted novel Me and the Weirdos, available in paperback for $7.99 on Amazon.
But this is not necessary, and any kind of questions are welcome!
During this real-life science fiction novel we’re all living in, this year’s Passover will be celebrated in disparate ways. Since my picture book Paulie’s Passover Predicament was first published, I’ve loved hearing about families reading it as part of their gatherings. This year, with many families apart, children and relatives can still share the paperback via videochat or through Audible or Kindle. Indie bookstores, Amazon, or the publisher (Kar-Ben) carry the paperback and/or e-book. I hope my story of a moose hosting his first seder will bring some smiles during this challenging time.
Letters from readers are always a joy, but when they’re accompanied by artwork depicting scenes of one of my books, the joy is doubled. I suppose one could say they reflect compound interest! But I’m digressing, as I play with budgetary puns…
Recently, a teacher sent me a packet of illustrated letters from her students, who had enjoyed listening to my middle grade novel Me and the Weirdos. She reads the book to her class every couple of years!
In their letters the children asked if I would please write a sequel and told me what parts were their favorites. Here are two of my favorites of their pictures. Captions (by me) explain what’s happening in these scenes.
During her last-ditch effort to unweird her family, Cindy Krinkle encounters a skunk and tries to appear friendly to avoid getting sprayed. The skunk turns to follow a popcorn trail dropped by Cindy’s came-to-the-rescue father.
In the book’s epilogue, after Cindy realizes her family is weird but also wonderful, she goes trick-or-treating as a skyscraper—here between her friend Patti, a surprise package, and her father, a grunting ape.
I’m very pleased to report that I am now being represented by the KirchoffWohlberg Literary Agency. I’ve had terrific conversations with my agent, Ron Zollshan, and am looking forward to our collaboration. Below is the write-up about moi on the agency website:
Jane Sutton is the author of 7 picture books, 3 middle grade novels, and one YA novel. They feature humor and subtle plugs for empathy and acceptance of oneself and others. Some have been translated into French and Italian. Recent titles include What’s Up with This Chicken? (a hen refuses to get off her eggs), Paulie’s Passover Predicament (a moose wants his first seder to be perfect, but it’s decidedly not), and a new edition of her middle grade novel Me and the Weirdos (ALA/CBC Children’s Choice, Utah Children’s Book Award).
Jane grew up (although never completely) on Long Island. Faced with the indignities of adolescence, she developed a sense of humor and love of writing. In high school she was elected class comedienne, and in college, to Phi Beta Kappa (Brandeis University, BA in Comparative Literature), perhaps a rare combination. Jane has worked as a newspaper writer, a copywriter, and a special education tutor. She teaches a class on writing children’s books and does author visits for all ages. Jane and her college sweetheart husband, a science educator, live in Lexington, MA. They feel beyond lucky that their grown children and families live in the Boston area.
This gentle story is told with humor and creativity, and the watercolor-and-pencil cartoon illustrations extend the charming text. Many of the animal neighbors have all-too-human expressions, the indoor and outdoor scenes are warm and whimsical, and the picture of the plumber duck diving into Mortimers toilet to retrieve a bar of soap is likely to evoke a lively response. Kids will be taken with this title. – School Library Journal
Sutton’s humorous story about overcoming superstitions is expanded by Harris’ watercolor-and-pencil illustrations that are filled with whimsical details–Sadie’s charming houseboat, Mortimer’s cozy tree house, and the tiny mouse that appears on every page. Children will chuckle over Mortimer’s folly, even as they recognize familiar anxieties. – Booklist
A delightful tale about the mysterious relationship between food and fortune…. Astute readers will have gleefully guessed, of course. Spirited watercolor-and-pencil illustrations are full of movement and humor, and the text is freshly funny right up to the hilarious last line. – Kirkus Review
Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster
In this adorable and brightly illustrated Hanukkah story from Sutton (Don’t Call Me Sidney) and Rowland (Little Nelly’s Big Book), Esther the gorilla joyfully sets out to the Jungle Store to get everything she needs to give Hanukkah presents to her friends. She happily chooses the gifts, but as she hands them out to her monkey, elephant, hyena, turtle, and zebra pals, Esther realizes that her gifts may not have been as perfectly thought-out as she had hoped (such as the jogging suit she purchases for the turtle). Esther’s innocent mistakes and her ingenious solution will prompt laughter. – Publisher’s Weekly
Paulie’s Passover Predicament
Paulie the moose is hosting his first seder, and things aren’t going well. He carves a horse from a radish instead of horseradish for the maror (bitter herbs)… Paulie’s friends can’t help but laugh at his Passover faux pas, but they love him…Vagnozzi’s toylike, apple-cheeked animal cast exudes high spirits and open hearts. – Publisher’s Weekly
…A cheerful addition to the Passover library, this book centers on the idea of friendship and acceptance while also explaining most of the holiday’s symbols and rituals. Buoyant illustrations of a menagerie of animal friends strike just the right note. – Jewish Book Council
Don’t Call Me Sidney
…This amusing story about a poetic pig’s search for his true identity is accompanied by humorous acrylic and pencil collage illustrations in which large figures of the characters dominate the subtly detailed scenes. The subdued palette of reds, tans, and blues complements Sidney’s quirky personality. Children who wonder what life would be like if they were given a different name will identify with Sidney. – School Library Journal
This fun story about the importance of a name stars Sidney, a slightly goofy pig who has a way with words. …The accessible, textured illustrations, done in pencil, acrylic, and collage, feature amusing facial expressions on the pigs and Sidney’s other animal friends; their round, expressive eyes (sometimes with long eyelashes that seem to be batting, especially at Sidney’s doting mother) convey exactly what the characters are feeling. – Booklist
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