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

In poetry this week

This seems like a moment to share a collection of
poems by creatives who are deeply connected to places
such as Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Saudia Arabia, Palestine, Syria,
Jordan, Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Turkey & even as far east
as India.

This volume of adult-written poems for students,
selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, is an original Aladdin Paperback,
offered to classrooms where students ages 8-12 are
expanding their horizons.

With many national flags represented in the collection.
one of the poems I especially return to has this in it –

“ …the ones who raise the flag of childhood high.”

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In this season of anguished refugee news & intense military fighting
around the world, I meditate on the idea that despite everyting that is
rotten among countires on the planet, families are united by the flag of childhood.

Here is more of that poem.

from Letters to Childhood
Mohammed Shehadeh
translator: Aziz Shihab

All the children of the world
in all my abodes
you are the roses in my courtyard,
the green and the fresh,
the sun and the stars,
you are the beautiful hands,
the ones who raise the flag of childhood high.

©Mohammed Shehadeh

Other poems in, THE FLAG OF CHILDHOOD, carry titles such as “Beginning Speech,” “History Class,” “Growing (after Pablo Neruda’s ‘Walking Around’), “Class Pictures,” “I Have No Address,” & “Why Are We in Exile, the Refugees Ask.”

Another poem in this 98-page collection that I return to is, “The Bridge” by Kaissar Afif, who writes, in part – Poetry is a river/ And solitude a bridge

I have appreciated that Naomi Nye collected this group of poems.

poetryfriday180
Also this week, I turned to Worlds, Words & Wings, for a list of books about peace. The link is for middle grade; at the end of the post you can find links for the other school ages.

http://wordsworldandwings.blogspot.com/2009/11/top-ten-books-for-middle-grades-that.html

Also this week–

In some of the English-speaking world, such as Scotland, Ireland & England,
readers & writers celebrated National Poetry Day – October 8, 2015.

Perhaps I tune into it even tho I am on the Florida side of the Big Pond,
because of my good fortune at Hollins University to take one class with an invigorating guest lecturer from Wales via England – Prof. Morag Styles.

For Your Inquiring Mind

What is National Poetry Day, Oct. 8?
http://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/national-poetry-day/what-is-national-poetry-day/

Did anything happen in the U.S.?
Student Poet Event Washington D.C
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/10/08/remarks-first-lady-national-student-poets-ceremony

I had absolutely no role in this but I would like to raise up one student from my state, Chasity Hale, who was honored in a ceremony with President Obama and Mrs. Obama, for her poetry this week! Here is a link to a lovely photograph of the ceremony.
Brava!

Please find Poetry Friday well-schooled by Laura at WRITING THE WORLD FOR KIDS
To be ready for next week, Poetry Friday cultivation on Oct. 16 is in the autumn garden with Amy, at The Poetry Farm

Summer

 Summer

by Jan Godown Annino

more time immersed in water

meals made without cooking them

less care with my looks

pared schedules

serendipity

daydreams

writing

reading

c.  Jan Godown Annino
Water!

This summer I’m in the water more than usual, but also,

working with deadlines I didn’t expect.

Below, I’m sharing lines from a poem that feels suited to my writer self, from a poem which I have long-admired by Naomi Shihab Nye, a poet who I have long-admired for more than this one poem.

After her poem, “The Art of Disappearing,” I share links to more about her and also, short poetry from Nye’s students.

The Art of Disappearing

by Naomi Shihab Nye

….When someone you haven’t seen in ten years

appears at the door,

don’t start singing him all your new songs.

You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.

Know you could tumble any second.

Then decide what to do with your time.

c. Naomi Shihab Nye

For more please see Naomi Shihab Nye

and also, American Academy of Poets

Fourteen years ago Nye brought students to publication in

SALTING THE OCEAN, 100 Poems by Young Poets, 

with perfect illustrations from Ashley Bryan.

If you remember family kerfluffles (usually the grownups) in tight summer quarters, this untitled one from then-student Amy S. A. is for you:

Untitled by Amy S.A.

The sky looks like the ocean.

The flowers smell like perfume.

But nobody’s happy.

c. 2000 Amy S.A.

 

That should be enough to help the grouchiest cottage-sharing grump

want to go sniff the roses.

 

Here is an excerpt of one by Karen A.L. from the same collection, in case your summer is sailing away too fast.  

Untitled

by Karen A.L.

Where does my free time go?

Does it fly off like a shooting star?

What if I don’t use it?

Does it feel neglected?

Or does it understand?

Is it all-encompassing?

Or know give-and-take?

Does it keep an alarm?….

c. 2000 Karen A.L.

POETRY FRIDAY  swims along this week, watched over by Reflections on the Teche.