“To Make This World A Whole Lot Brighter…”

‘Twas a mighty day, when Lee Bennett Hopkins was born.

To appropriate from an ancient text,
how I feel about poetry is that
poetry “restoreth my soul.”

And today on April 13, the birthday of Lee Bennett Hopkins,
I am thrilled to think about how
it seems that no other person for so long, steadily
creates opportunity “to restoreth the soul”
of poetry to young readers of all ages,
than Maestro Lee Bennett Hopkins.


For decades & decades, Lee has not only shared
his poems, but he has also brought hundreds of
other poem makers into anthologies that are
beautifully illustrated &
sought by families who love poetry,
by classroom teachers & by school librarians.
Lee is a book maestro
arranging for poet & artist to create together
musical results, such as in
THE SEA IS CALLING ME
& JUMPING OFF LIBRARY SHELVES.
& RAGGED SHADOWS
& SHARING THE SEASONS
& ALPHATHOUGHTS
& others, which some outfit by the name of
Guinness has counted up.

In one of my favorite’s of his, THE SEA IS CALLING ME,
a three-verse poem by Lilian Moore floats the lines:

“Until I saw the sea
I did not know
that wind
could wrinkle water so…”

©LILLIANMOOREallrightsreserved “Until I Saw The Sea”

At the shore
I now am tickled to see
Lilian Moore’s wrinkled water
where I didn’t think of it
that way before.

Lee is a fierce
advocate of many decades standing for
diverse voices being on stage.
In
A CHORUS OF CULTURES, Lee brings Arnold Adoff
into class with the four-verse,
“The Way I See Any Hope For Later”
that says in part,
“…And stop looking
at who is a woman
and
who is a man.”

©ARNOLDADOFFallrightsreserved
And Lee published this book 25 years ago.

I am among the many fortunates, especially in children’s literature,
who call Lee & his genial partner Charles, pals.
We met at a poetry workshop in their adopted
state, Florida, which has also adopted back,
naming Lee Bennett Hopkins
to the august roll call
of artistic legends in the Florida Artist Hall of Fame
where Hurston, Hemingway, Williams & Rawlings
are equally honored.

 

And back at that Society of Children’s Book Writers’ & Editors
workshop I met writers
in a nurturing space who have become pals. There, I also
felt how Lee leads us into the still waters &
the green pastures
of poem making with goodness, mercy
& his sprightly twinkle.

His rough child days
held little twinkle,
needed more laughs.
A teacher
saw a creative spark
in the writings of her student
Lee, who was being ridiculed
for liking writing. Her
lifting him up
made him hope:

“To
make
this world
a whole lot
brighter

when
I grow up
I’ll
be
a writer…”

©LEEBENNETTHOPKINSallrightsreserved

Reading through the
other linked poem moments of his New Jersey
& Pennsylvania start with
a very stressed single mother,
in BEEN TO YESTERDAYS,
fully shivered me.

Lee Bennett Hopkins does
make this word a whole lot brighter.

HB!HB!HB! to dear Lee.
With many many more
poetry books
yet to see,
on top.
SMOOCH!


……..
To see more Lee Bennett Hopkins joy celebrated across
the Kidlitosphere of Poetry Friday & associates, please
turn to the artistic site of my South Carolina
pal & Haiku whisperer,
Robyn Hood Black.

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FLASHLIGHT NIGHT: shining picture book

Hello flashlight fans! Poetry Friday is beamed out from READING YEAR/A Year of Reading.

* * *

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT
by Matt Forrest Esenwine with artwork from Fred Koehler

As a fan of the world’s most gargantuan flashlights – lighthouses –
I carry a torch for creative stories
where flashlights are woven into the action.
So it is not surprising that I am all aglow to
open a new picture book with you – FLASHLIGHT NIGHT.

The text by Matt Forrest Esenwine is a poem story alive with the promise
of high adventure unfolding in the sedate backyard.

Shines a path where waters rush
reveals a hole in the underbrush

The illustrations by Fred Koehler are a nocturne gallery, with the nightshade from
scene to scene heightening the child’s delight in overlooked but important clues,
to go back and look at up close, as soon as the book is first read. This is a read again & again trek into the make-believe unknown, undertaken by three children, a girl and two boys.

To celebrate publication, the two creators agreed to tell me something about their childhoods.

MATT FORREST ESENWINE
“Hi, thank you for doing a post, Jan! I really appreciate that.”

(The book deserves a lot of spotlight, Matt.- jga)

“Growing up in rural New Hampshire, I developed an appreciation for nature from a young age. We lived on 10 acres of mostly wooded property, and although I was not allowed to go deep into the woods, the woods were all around me and therefore afforded me a great opportunity to use my imagination.

I never had a treehouse as a child, but I did have something I called my “hideout”, which was an area just off of our lawn that consisted of lots of large, flat stones, thick juniper bushes, and a couple of large, easily-climbed trees. Some days I would pretend I was a bad guy hiding from the law, while other days I was the good guy trying to track down the baddies.

My hideout was also my “secret” place to have lunch. Mom would give me my food and I would head out to one of the flat rocks there and eat underneath the tree. And even though this little area was right along the edge of the lawn and only 15 feet or so away from the road, I felt like I was in my own little world!

I suppose it is no wonder, then, that the natural world and my sense of family have played such crucial roles in my writing, both for adults as well as for children. I am fortunate that dad has not sold the place yet – at 82, he still lives on that same old dirt road surrounded by woods – but I know that a not-so-little piece of me will be lost the day he does.”

(This paints an evocative picture, Matt. Thank you! – jga)

I first encountered Matt’s work via the Poetry Friday/Today’s Little Ditty crowd, where I am happily surprised to find that we have just appeared in an anthology together.
Now I anticipate Matt’s poems in many forthcoming books.
Please visit him here.

C. Copyright illustration,
FRED KOEHLER
C. text,
MATT FORREST ESENWINE

FRED KOEHLER
“When I was a kid, our house backed up to an acre or two of Florida scrub. Through the woods I had neighbors whose dad worked construction and brought home all the scraps of job site lumber. In those trees, we would build the most elaborate fort systems, with tight ropes lines between the trees, trap doors, and even underground bunkers. We had more fun than any other kids on the planet, and probably could fend off pirates better than the Swiss Family Robinson.”

(I see the foundations of an artist’s mind in those constructions, Fred.
Thank you! – jag)

For more about this exceptional artist, whose work I first encountered in the hilarious, minimalist-word Rebecca Kai Dotlich story, ONE DAY, THE END
& now anticipate next year in Fred’s Pacific garbage patch-set debut novel,
please visit his site & online gallery.
Also, travel along as KidLitTV reveals, via a talk with Rocco Staino, how Fred helped develop this book’s evocative nightscape.

I ordered FLASHLIGHT NIIGHT from my local indy, Midtown Reader.

My hideout (Robyn & Laura, appreciations for sharing yours) memories include
the fairy woods on one side of us in the 1st house & the creek ravine woods
behind the 2nd house.

C. illustration,
FRED KOEHLER
C. text
Matt Forrest Esenwine

Artist-Author LISA DESIMINI & THE FLEATASTICS + book for you!

LISA DESIMINI & THE FLEATASTICS

Today I am thrilled to interview my favorite picture book
artist who is also a dear pal.
Lisa Desimini is a frequent illustrator – interpreter of poems
for children, in beloved titles such as

DOODLE DANDIES, Poems that Take Shape
GOOD MOUSEKEEPING And Other Animal Poems
LOVE LETTERS
TOUCH THE POEM

The poets Lisa appears with, between covers, are
among my many favorites, including –
Naomi Shihab Nye, J. Patrick Lewis, Arnold Adoff.  
 
Lisa is also the author of her own delightful picture books.
They include DOT THE FIREDOG and also a story my
Book Bear puppet & I schlep along to reading time at
school each October, TRICK-OR-TREAT, SMELL MY FEET!

c. Peggy Gifford/ Lisa Desimini

FAMOUS Naomi Shihab Nye/Lisa Desimini


Until recently, Lisa’s newest lovely books are
THE GREAT BIG GREEN, which she illustrated for poet Peggy Gifford, and
FAMOUS, illustrated for poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

This spring Lisa’s newest, THE FLEATASTICS, which she
wrote and illustrated, jumped into the welcoming world.
These reviews scratch the surface:

 “Desimini’s frolicking microscopic world of fleas is a realm within a realm…
Amid the plot about perseverance, (she) sprinkles in the flea family’s running
commentaries.
The engaging, brightly colored scenes filled with comical asides
should be a great story time read for high-energy kids.”
– Booklist
 
“Desimini’s…universe of fleas delights with boundless imagination
and pockets of hilarious flea dialogue, vivaciously depicted.”
– Kirkus Reviews
 
 Let’s give a bouncy Poetry Friday welcome to LISA DESIMINI as she shares about
THE FLEATASTICS.

LISA: Hi Jan, I’m thrilled to be a part of your book blog!
Thanks for having me!

THE FLEATASTICS Artist-Author LISA DESIMINI, c. 2017 Lisa Desimini


Q. 
It’s a joy to be with you, Lisa.
You jumped from one coast to the other. When we visited years ago
in New Orleans, your base was the NYC area. These days the West Coast
is your muse. Is the children’s book vibe different in California and as
author and artist in children’s literature, what resources do you
connect with there?

LISA: SCBWI has a summer conference here and I’ve attended twice.
I saw friends from NY and met some new ones here on the west coast.
I received tons of valuable information and inspiration.
Even though I’ve done many books, I find there is always more to learn.

Q.
I remember your sharing (and I kept it under wraps) about this lively
idea that you couldn’t shake off – a flea circus!  It made me giggle.
And now that I have met tiny main character Sarafleana, I have a seat
on the front row of the tent. What were the high points of your creating
Sarafleana, her family, and her journey?

LISA: It was a long circuitous journey. I tried out several main characters with different motivations.
I had Farley Fillmore–he was too small to be a part of the circus.
I thought about a traveling sporting event with a tiny flea that was never allowed to play.
When I came up with the first line, “Sarafleana was a born jumper.”
I knew I was on the right track.
Another joy was coming up with flea-inspired ideas, names and terms like the grand fleanale.
The classic name Sarafeana was perfect, I just had to add the “l” to transform it to Sarafleana.


Q.
One of the delights of this book is finding the sly puns and terms, especially
on re-reading THE FLEATASTICS for hidden treasures.
Here is the chicken or egg question. Art and image first, or words and story?

LISA: Well, the first thing I came up with was a quick sketch of a Dachshund.
His tail was on page one, then there were 13 spreads of his body,
(just a line through the middle of the page) the final spread was his head.
I thought maybe there could be different scenarios going on behind the dog.
The seasons could change or the weather.

One day I looked at that simple sketch and saw the dog’s body as a stage.
That’s when I came up with the idea of a flea circus performing.
I developed the story before I did any serious sketching.
It took many rounds of sketches before I came up with the look of the fleas.
I wanted them to look cute and silly not scary and mean.

Q.
You aced that!
Switching to another species, I know about the serendipitous arrival of the kitty,
Crash, into your life. (How is Crash these days?) But you LOVE dogs, too.
Right here on the shelf, I’ve pulled out DOT THE FIRE DOG, the sweet visit
with a dedicated dalmation that you wrote and illustrated. What is it
about dogs that makes them ideal characters for picture books?

LISA:I think dogs are loyal, silly and present.
They are our pals.
I’ve only had and been around good-natured dogs that want to be a part of everything.
And they can be so wise.
I am now a kitty lover since we got our, Crash.

Beloved Crash devotedly assists in all aspects of office work.
c. Lisa Desimini


If things go well with THE FLEATASTICS I would love to do a sequel with cats.
Cats have their own silly quirky habits.
I think grooming their entire body, hairballs and catnip might be a part of that story.

Q.
As an upright who has lived with spunky kitty Ginger
for 16 years, that sequel sounds so mewvelous.

For visual artists and for writers who glom onto art-process
details, please share a peek into your studio.
At home or off site?
Corner of a room or an entire four walls?
Natural light or electric?  
Digital-creation or hand-drawn?
And, just how do you corral all the supplies that a dedicated
collage artist such as yourself, wrangles?

LISA: Good question! I counted… my studio is about eighty-eight steps from our house.
It was the garage turned into an apartment by a previous owner.
So it has a bathroom, bedroom and kitchen, but I removed the stove and put two sets of flat files in there. They contain all my collage papers and many paintings from kids books and book jackets.
I have a futon bed for guests or in case I work late.
I have acrylics, oils and my computer.

c. Lisa Desimini

For THE FLEATASTICS, I made paper collages, I sealed them with a clear gel and painted shadows and highlights and added texture.
Then I scanned them into the computer and added backgrounds and other details.
I made the fleas in the computer because they were too tiny.
I keep a folder of scanned papers, objects, fabric, photos and painting textures in my computer so I can do my collages digitally, if I have to.

Q.
Appreciations for a groovy peek into your process and the inspiring studio.

We are not giving away any story spoilers today about performers
in THE FLEATASTICS circus, to savor the surprises in reading it.
But before we leave the famous act, is there any encore information
you’d like to share?

LISA: This book was very different for me, it was challenging but
SO much fun!


I loved working with thought/dream bubbles, the background
flea dialogue, and subplots.
I want to explore that format even more so I’m working on a
graphic novel idea about a magician.

 
Q.
A Lisa Desimini graphic novel – that sounds magical.
Thank you again for this visit about fun but also educational,
THE FLEATASTICS.
(I didn’t know anything about flea hatching!)
Please tell high-jumping Sarafleana, Brava!
And we wish THE FLEATASTICS family many tents of happy
performances ’round the world.
Also a scratch of the heads, to sweet
Sparky and sleepy Snoozer.

LISA:
Thanks, Jan! I loved your Q’s!

Q:
Applause back at you, Lisa!

This is a joyful book that unfolds in
an easy- to- follow surprise story line, yet with many fascinating asides.
I love seeing each little flea’s “look” and how the visitors
to the dog park have personalities, such as the one dog always
thinking of the yellow ball.
Also, I love seeing the woman wonder about a cat park.
Every time I read it, I find discoveries. You will too.

THE FLEATASTICS Show Continues

Now, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, cats and dogs,
fleas and fleamasters,
Lisa’s Desimini’s flea circus offers an encore right here on
Bookseedstudio’s stage with our giveaways, via generous
publisher Boyds Mills Press.
Please comment below and your name will identify you.
If I don’t know you let me say, Hello!
Be sure to share your real name & contact info (website link, email)
if that info can’t be easily found online. If you don’t want to be considered
for the give-away – and we do have multiple copies – you can still comment & say so.
After Monday July 24, more comments are welcome, but they won’t be entered,
so be sure to comment before Tuesday July 25.
Thank you.

Hop over to these links, too.

Mr. Schu Reads
Watch a book trailer for THE FLEATASTICS

I previously reported on THE GREAT BIG GREEN