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

Billy, meet Tameka

This past week breezed right in.
Sunday we took a brisk walk that turned out to
be a lovely 10 miles in the sand near the Apalachicola
fishing village, where a book event caught our attention.
And the week also brought us March 22, the birthday
of Billy Collins, so beloved a poem-maker,
he has served as U.S. Poet Laureate twice.

I have a few lines to share from a poem maker new to
me, who I discovered at a workshop this summer,
but first I’d like to pay tribute to Collins.
He is suitably feted by the Poetry Friday community this month.

(And if you are looking for more Poetry Friday greatness,
it is here this week.)

These words below are from Billy Collins’
“To My Favorite 17-Year-Old High School Girl”

For some reason, I keep remembering that Lady Jane Grey

was Queen of England when she was only fifteen,

but then she was beheaded, so never mind her as a role model.

 Frankly, who cares if Annie Oakley was a crack shot at 15

or if Maria Callas debuted as Tosca at 17?

We think you are special by just being you

playing with your food and staring into space.

c.Billy Collins all rights reserved

 

See this for an interesting Billy Collins page.
Now here are two verses from the poem maker I don’t
think you know. She brings this one to us in
the voice of a child.
The girl just loves her skipping around moments,
close to home.
It is from “Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day”
by Tameka Fryer Brown:

Blue sky, no clouds,
Corner store.
One more
Block to walk before
I’m home. It’s a special day
today, around our way.

Blue sky, no clouds.
No one stares,
or cares
That loud music blares.
Hustle… bustle… salsa sway,
Wild day, around our way.
c. 2017 Tameka Fryer Brown

AROUND OUR WAY ON NEIGHBORS’ DAY by
Tameka Fryer Brown
art by
Charlotte Riley-Webb

Neighbors pour out into the street to share
food, music and dancing and the child whirls through
all the yards and visits the front porches,
in a sweet community coming together of people of
varied cultures.

I am not alone in following the work of Tameka
Fryer Brown.
Here is what Kirkus said about this poem,
published in picture book form with sensational
art by Charlotte Wiley-Webb. “…In this lively and
accessible poem, a multicultural community brings food, music
and laughter to the streets to celebrate their neighborhood….”

I think I’ll mosey over Tameka Fryer Brown’s way. She is one to watch.

October, with Barbara Juster Esbensen

I hope you enjoy this verse
from the poem, “October Alchemy,”
by Barbara Juster Esbensen.

She is one of my favorite poets who I learn from,
especially through her guiding,
A CELEBRATION OF BEES:
Helping Children Write Poetry.

October Alchemy
By Barbara Juster Esbensen

Wind runs howling,
Rain slants cold;
Elm leaves pave
The streets with gold.

c.1963BarbaraJusterEsbensen,
in SWING AROUND THE SUN (2003)
……..

Family in New England jump for joy when June arrives.
I know someone who dotes on December.
My month is October.

As Barbara Juster Esbensen says,
it’s golden.

I opened the door to the dark this morning
& this very first day
of my month rewarded me
with a crisp embrace.

Love Cups, by Anna Maria Annino

Love Cups, by Anna Maria Annino


Unplanned,
now today is the morning I
carefully picked up our
summer-idled
Love Cups. They were created in New England, then
surprise-gifted to us
by the hard-working multi-media artist
in our family, Anna, a brand-new law
student.
Our heart-handled sips
(organic coffee, my husband)
(chai green tea with licorice tea, me)
taste better in these gorgeous cups,
if the morning ranges from cool
to freezing. (North Florida can freeze.)

October 1 is also when I
delight in a return
to crafty ways.

c.2016JanGodownAnnino

c.2016JanGodownAnnino

TODAY
is the first day
of the rest
of my best
month.

Lee Bennett Hopkins, please

Poetry Friday percolates perfectly at READING TO THE CORE this week.

It is a good week at Bookseedstudio.
With permission from generous educator and poet,
Lee Bennett Hopkins,
some of his words on poetry are here today.

Also gathered today are
three recent poetry links,
important to me. They appear after
the words from LBH.

Lee Bennett Hopkins, briefly, on the Poet, on Poetry

A poet is, in the narrowest sense, a maker of verses.
A poet is also imaginative in thought, expressive in
language, and graceful in form.

Good poetry is imaginative. It deals with emotion and has
significance beyond the act of creation. It uses figurative
language, yet is compact in thought and expression. Good
poetry has an element of beauty and truth which appears
unstable outside of the poem.

Poetry both predates and transcends the written word.
It is the rhythmic expression of imaginative thoughts
about our world and its people. –
Lee Bennett Hopkins

I will dwell with those thoughts this weekend.

The awards for the winner and honor books
in the 2016 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award for Children
were given this week at Penn State.
The Honor Books are
MY SENECA VILLAGE by Marilyn Nelson
HYPNOTIZE A TIGER by Calef Brown
with Winner,
ENCHANTED AIR by magical poet Margarita Engle.
These winning titles shine like moonbeams on my reading list.

551763_3185685260838_1433051237_n

Three links, promised above, are

A Sept. 19, 2016 online celebration of LBH,
where he shares a bit about his 2017
title due from Lee & Low.

A septercet poem, attempted. The
septercet is a classy form
originated by wondrous Jane Yolen.

An explainer of the septercet form,
as covered at TODAY’s LITTLE DITTY,
treasured blog that is celebrating
septercet creator Jane Yolen
this very month. Look sharp,
the septercet challenge is offered
near the end of the informative
post.

This very week here in Florida,
I presented assemblies
to about 80 attentive
4th graders & also to their pals,
about 100 attentive 5th graders.
I snuck in a little poetry appreciation,
too, although the talk was about
non-fiction research
& writing, of the
non-poetry flavor.

Finally, here I am back at Poetry Friday.
Yes, a good week.

img_5463

Salty summer with Langston Hughes & Ashley Bryan

Poetry Friday’s weekend picnic is collected by Tabatha!!!

Today, my little corner of the blogosphere
washes ashore with
a picture book poetry collection and artwork
that may make you sail fast,
to the nearest beach.

On a recent humid, landlocked night at the library,
I hooked into the splashy, floaty cover of SAIL AWAY.

This bounty is a group of poems by Langston Hughes,
with art
from puppet maker, painter, creative wizard,
Ashley Bryan.

SAIL AWAY  cover artwork  c. Ashley Bryan,  poems c. Langston Hughes

SAIL AWAY
cover artwork
c. Ashley Bryan,
poems c. Langston Hughes


Many readers know that Mr. Bryan is a long-time,
year-round dweller of an island off the coast of Maine.
His artwork collage compositions for this collection
are rolling, liquid beauties.
(A surprise on the endpapers reflects his love of his Mother, is all I will say about his process for this book.)

Not many of us – me included – are familiar
with the years that the late, great, Mr. Hughes
labored as a seaman.
This book tells us that his appreciation of the
salt life stems from jobs he landed on ships and boats
in Europe and Africa.

Long Trip
by Langston Hughes

“…We dip and dive,
Rise and roll,
Hide and are hidden
On the sea….”

lines from “Long Trip”
c.Langston Hughes

My first editor in the news bureau where I worked
upon college graduation was also a licensed
U.S. Coast Guard Captain.
Capt. Mike, who was as gentle a wordsmith
& boatsmith as you could find, would
understand those lines.

The seas become inscrutably flat at
times, which is how our family likes it
when we pop up a big umbrella at the shore.
But who knows what flat water covers?

Sea Calm
by Langston Hughes

“How still
How strangely still
The water is today.
It is not good
For water
To be so still that way.”
c.Langston Hughes

I hope you can ship off to your favorite pond, lake,
creek, river, bay, ocean, or backyard kiddie pool,
with Capt. Hughes & Capt. Bryan.
I’d like to give a basket of tumbled-in-surf, St. George
Island, Florida, shells to the brilliant publishing team that
hauled this catch ashore for the world to sing.

For more on Ashley Bryan, I found an important
interview from The Horn Book, with details about
SAIL AWAY.
http://www.hbook.com/2015/08/talks-with-roger/ashley-bryan-talks-with-roger/#_

Of the many online resources about Langston Hughes, I think this
one from Howard University Library is especially wonderful.
http://www.howard.edu/library/reference/guides/hughes/

And I hope you swim back here, likely sometime
in August, after this blog returns from break.

Oyster Boat c. JanGodownAnnino

Oyster Boat c. JanGodownAnnino

A visit with Irene Latham

Happy summer! The very helpful Diane is herding haiku folks &
other poetry people into the weekly partee known as Poetry Friday.

A visit with Irene Latham

I have twice bumped into Alabama-based author
Irene Latham.
We exchanged grins at a cozy SCBWI Southern
Breeze workshop. Then months later, we appreciated
the airy space of The Bookshelf, a friendly emporium
in a Georgia village.

Irene Latham P.B. Shelf (with approving elephant) The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA  c. 2016 JanGodownAnnino

Irene Latham P.B. Shelf (with approving elephant) The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA
c. 2016 JanGodownAnnino

All my moments with this often-traveling, award-winning poet,
novelist & picture book author give me the feeling that
I want to be a calmer & kinder person & a much more
creative writer. No wonder I’m craving an Irene Latham fix. 

I left a trail of peanuts, in hopes of enticing this
elephant-loving woman into the Bookseedstudio studio.
The snacks worked. We are today’s exclusive site for,
A visit with Irene Latham.

Q.  
Peanuts or popcorn?

I can’t pick… enjoy them both! Especially if there’s
chocolate involved…

Q.  
 Book wrangling. Keep them in a tall, narrow bookcase? A
short, fold-up bookstair? Alphabetized by author?  How do
you tame your home/office library?

I have books in every room of the house — but I try really
hard to keep only the books to which I have strong attachments.
(Books are meant to be read, not collecting dust on a shelf!) I don’t
do alphabetical, though it sure would make things easier to find! I
tend to group according to emotional impact. I do have several
bookshelves devoted to only children’s literature.

Q.  
Background sounds. What is your writing zone playlist?
Is silence when you write, golden?

Silence is my sound of choice. Or birdsong.

Q.  
We are visiting Birmingham, your town. 
What are 3 places you’d take us to?

Vulcan at night,
Johnny’s in Homewood for the best
upscale meat-n-three you will ever eat,
and Reed Books.
And then there’s the Civil Rights Museum, Railroad Park,
Birmingham Museum of Art, the Botanical Gardens,
our fabulous zoo… 

Q.  
Please finish the sentence. A map is…

. . . unnecessary.
Let the journey guide you, not the map! (I actually love maps
and am learning some of the best things ever are found when
you put the map away.)

Q.  
If your name weren’t Irene, it would be…

. . . Hannah. (I am named after my great-grandmother,
Hannah Irene.)

Q.  
If writing weren’t your work, it would be… ?

My husband and I love to travel and love to EAT, so
maybe together we’d host a TV travel show? 
 
Q.  
What should children’s writers ask
themselves when they start a new project? 

Am I having fun? Am I delighted?
Does this story fill me with wonder and joy?

Irene Latham with young friends, The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA

Irene Latham with young friends, The Bookshelf, Thomasville, GA

Appreciations
to Irene for these fun thoughts. You can glean a fine dollop of
poem-making tips & shake paws with the elephant-loving
Irene Latham at these fresh & delicious 2016 events: 

Alabama Writers Conclave (Birmingham, AL) – July 15-17
Mississippi Book Festival (Jackson, MS) – August 20 
Poetry Camp (Bellingham, WA) – October 1
SCBWI Writing & Illustrating for Kids (Birmingham, AL) – October 8
Louisiana Book Festival (Baton Rouge, LA) – October 29
NCTE (Atlanta, GA) – November 17-20

ALSO
you will not want to miss, coming to a bookshelf near you
(sooner or later) this hard-working poet’s way with words in:
IT’S NOT BLACK AND WHITE
(poetry picture book, co-authored with Charles Waters)
FRANK AND MISS FANCY
(historical fiction picture book)
POP, BAM, BOOM!
(poetry picture book)
THE OCTOPUS POSTCARDS
(nonfiction picture book)

FOR
more juicy details visit www.irenelatham.com

AND
if you have’t already, read these Irene Latham books
find them fast:
FRESH DELICIOUS
DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST
WHEN SHE SUN SHINES ON ANTARCTICA<
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LEAVING GEE’S BEND
DON’T FEED THE BOY


THE COLOR OF LOST ROOMS
THE SKY BETWEEN US
WHAT CAME BEFORE <
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Here is a little Irene Lantham poem-in-progress,
about Irene,
but certainly not BY Irene.

Brave Irene

Deep down in
another writer’s desk
dwelled fusty words,
not the best.

Irene swatted the dull things
away. She clapped her paws:
“Walloping crisp verbs,
come in and play.”

A calvacade of tight terms
appeared:
crack
creak

gulp
flick
shine
peel

hammer
squabble
gobble
burble

leap
convene
squint
grimace

Multitudinous words danced
in the now-lively place.
Appreciations extended!
Violets in a vase.

“Tut, tut,” Irene said,
“Good words always lived here.
You just had to banish
that writerly fear.”

-jga

ELF

c. Jan Godown Annino

c. Jan Godown Annino

With the arrival of our gal from Boston,
we here in the little yellow cottage are feeling
much Christmas cheer.

Inspired by J. Patrick Lewis, who created a poetry
form called Careerhyme, I offer, “ELF.”

ELF: A sprite, an industrious assister;
A rare visitor; A child charmer,
Who delivers wishes come true;
A needed part of Holiday frivolity.
I wish one, or a bunch, for you.
– c. Jan Godown Annino

Appreciations not only to JPL, but also to his
colleague David L. Harrison, for his generous blog,
which shares writing prompts + much more.

Do you love Christmas books as much as I do?
This year, the first book I’m reading is the volume of
Father Christmas letters of J.R. R. Tolkein to his children.
Then I will nest in the rest.

I hope your nest is your best!

cedar-key-christmas-tree-inside-0011