Saturday, July 27, 2013

44th Anniversary

I missed posting this review on the 44th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, but only by a week. Okay, I have to admit I have heard the stories from a number of people who watched this historic event on television, my husband and parents among them. Me, I didn't see it. In fact, I wasn't even born yet. It would be over a year before I appeared on this Earth. So for me, astronauts, rockets, space shuttles, and NASA have always been a part of my life; just like Satellites, Tang, Teflon, and Velcro.

For me, the space event I remember the most happened when I was a freshman in high school. I was sitting in Mrs. Leonhardt's English class the morning of January 28, 1986. She was at the front of the room talking about something I'm sure was very important for my grammatical and / or literary future (like righting blog entries and book reviews), but what I remember the most was the knock on the door. Now, it was not unusual for someone to knock on the door, but when Mrs. Leonhardt walked out the door and when she re-entered the classroom, she had a completely different demeanor. I don't remember ever seeing one of my teachers cry. In fact, as a teacher's kid I was used to seeing teachers in a variety of moods, but devastated was just not on that list of emotions. I could not imagine what could have happened to upset her so. I went to comfort her by giving her a hug. That is when I found out the Space Shuttle Challenger with the first member of the Teacher in Space Project had broken apart and disintegrated in Florida. It is one of those moments in history where you will always remember where you were and the people around you.

The Astronaut Wives Club
by Lily Koppel
During the publicity buzz for The Astronaut Wives Club I saw an interview with some of the wives who played a key role in this book on the CBS Sunday Morning. After listening to these brave women talk about the homes and community they built in Togethersville, "the ironic name journalists gave to the space burb of Clear Lake City, the "City of the Future" [Loc 1478], I knew I wanted to learn more about these amazing women who stood in the background of history.

I can't say I have always been fascinated with space. When you live in the city, it is hard to see the stars, let alone imagine the wonders of the universe. I can't even imagine the lives these women lead during late 1959 through the 1960s. Every time my husband or son leave the house I tell them to be careful. I can completely understand Barbara Cernan's comment in the book "If you think going to the Moon is hard, try staying at home" [Loc 2961]. I would be a nervous wreck.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about the different groups of astronaut wives (Mercury Seven, The Next Nine, The Fourteen, The Scientists, and the Original Nineteen) and how they intermingled, or not. The background stories of each of the wives was very different and enlightening. It is sad to learn so many of the marriages between the women who stayed home and maintained some semblance of normalcy for their family and their astronaut husbands were destroyed because of this profession. Their lives were interrupted by journalists and reports. They had no privacy and they were constantly scrutinized. The wives had to watch every step and not "bother" their husbands with trivial tasks or problems around the house. I'm not sure how any of the marriages lasted with this kind of pressure. I have to applaud these women for the sacrifices they made for the technological advancement made by the United States Space Program. It was quite a daunting task and they should be applauded and held in high esteem. They should be in the history books along with their husbands and not hidden behind the kitchen door.

I will say the layout of the book seemed jumpy to me. Now, I don't know if this is because I was reading an electronic copy of the book or not. I do know the final published book had photographs that were not included in the eBook. This could have caused the sense of bouncing from one astrowife to another.

I would recommend this book for public and high school libraries. I believe this is wonderful background information into the history of women in America and helps to show exactly how far we have come as a society in making women an equal partner.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Grand Central Publishing has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book through

Friday, July 26, 2013

Confessions of a BAD Teacher

When I was a young child I played with Barbies and stuffed animals, but the majority of the time they were seated in front of my large metal teacher desk that was located in my bedroom. Yes, I had a teacher desk in my bedroom! If I remember correctly it looked something like this.
NOT my actual desk, but it reminds me
of the one I had.
I always wanted to be a teacher. My mother's parents were teachers, both of my parents were in education (my mom as a teacher, my dad as a librarian), it just seemed natural for me to follow in their foot steps. I remember seeing the frustration on my mother's face after a long day at school. I remember hearing the stories (you can never repeat any of this, was a constant refrain during the BASS (B!tch about School Stuff) meetings. I was never told I could not be a teacher, but I was encouraged to search other avenues of professions.

Like all educators, I did not go into the profession for the money! Teaching is a calling, especially for those of us who go to college straight out of high school to work on a teaching degree (for me Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies). I don't remember ever considering another profession. When I graduated from high school my plan was to double major in Education and Library Science. However, at the time, the two did not overlap. If I was going to do a double major, I would be required to take the courses for both degrees and it would take me twice as long to graduate. My father was completely against this, since he was footing the bill. So, I settled on a teaching degree, followed years later by a Master's degree in Reading which was very beneficial in obtaining my current position as a librarian for 750+ four-year-olds!

Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking
Truth from the Front Lines of American
Public Education
by John Owens
When I saw the cover of this book and read the title I was intrigued. I thought, who in their right mind would admit to being a bad teacher, and why would you right a book about it. Then I started reading the book! I have to say, Mr. Owens, hits the nail on the head in this depiction of public education. Now, his experience, albeit for only one year, took place in New York City. I live over 1500 miles away in Texas, but it seems to me the education system is similar. I'm not going to say I have been in the same situations as Mr. Owens because, in all honesty I have not. He taught high school. I have worked in an elementary and pre-school. The similarities come when references are made to our passion for teaching and the unrealistic expectations placed on teachers.

Mr. Owens compares his first days of teaching as being an apprentice clown and being expected to be an expert in juggling a variety of dangerous objects in the air. Now to that I can relate on my level (working with very young children) and anxiety level (loosing a child on the first day of school)!

I remember my first day of teaching. There was a young child, at the time I did not know if this child was a boy or a girl (I will refer to this child as Gabriel in order to maintain anonymity). The child had beautiful long flowing blonde hair, french braided down his/ her back. About twenty minutes after Gabriel's mom left my classroom door, he / she ran out the door faster than a cheetah. Now, I couldn't leave the other twenty children unattended (I didn't have an aide in my classroom, it was just me and twenty bright eyed children, most of them as new to school as I.) I quickly motioned to the teacher next door and asked her to stayed in the doorway between our classes and watch both sets of students while I attempted to run and look for my escapee. As I was racing down the hall I ran into one of the vice principals, we'll call him Mr. Smith. He was very calm and quickly assisted me in locating my little runner. Come to find out Gabriel, who was quick to tell the other children he is a BOY (but not until after he ran away), had run into the men's restroom and hid behind the door. Welcome to the classroom Mrs. Betts!

The comparison between public schools and charter schools Mr. Owens make is very close to what I, and my education friends have talked about for years. It would be ideal if we could hand pick the students we allow into our schools and classrooms. However, this is not how public schools work. Charter schools are not held to the same state rules and regulations as the public schools from which a number of parents flock away from each year. Instead of placing all of the pressure on the classroom teachers, charter schools seem to have a firm control on the parents and students. Requiring parents to be involved in their child's education.

For the past three years I have volunteered my time each Thursday evening in order to have the library at my school open for parents and their children to check out books. During the last school year, not only was the library open, but each week there was a special activity or event in which the families could participate. Now, I do not write this in order to blow my own horn, but simply to make a point. Was I required to do this? No. I did it because I believed, and still do, I felt it was important to provide this service to my students and their families, especially since the public library within walking distance of our school was closed three years ago. 

Like Mr. Owens, I wanted my students to get excited about learning and books. I can't say I was surprised to read that the author's lead teacher told him not to get the students excited. It seems that so much of the fun of learning has been removed from our schools, along with any kind of recognition for excellence. I say this because of my son's experiences in school. On my campus, thankfully for my four- and five-year old students, we still have fun while learning. We learn about to be a good audience member by listening to story tellers or children's musicians who visit our school. We learn how to control our bodies through a variety of obstacles in the spring when we have the annual Bunny Trail. We even learn how to cheer for our friends and fellow students when we recognize them for coming to school every day during a six weeks grading period. However when our students move on to elementary school, middle, and high school, these events, activities, and celebrations are few and far between, if they exist at all. 

Too much emphasis is placed on the standardized tests. Across the country school districts are not looking at the students, but the data (daily and six weeks grades, as well as standardized test scores) received, generally at the end of the year. Is it any wonder test scores are manipulated and scandals reported across the country? Careers are held in the balance by students. Children. Children who come from all kinds of families. 

When it comes to actually teaching, I love how Mr. Owens compares engaging lessons to the power of a video game. Yes, students can get lost in the excitement and challenge of video games and wouldn't it be fabulous if we had the same power as educators? 
Today, teachers must be able to pull very student into every topic with the power of a video game and get them to not only absorb but also to process, analyse, and synthesize the information at the highest level. And do it every day, every time, regardless of the students' learning abilities or the resources available to them. The general expectation is that poverty, learning disabilities, medical- emotional issues, and behavior problems shouldn't stand in the way of student achievement.[Loc 945]
An experienced teacher can develop engaging lessons over the years and have a treasure chest of tried and true lessons from which to pick each year. But don't think this makes teaching easier. Yes, these lessons can be pulled, but then they have to be tweaked in order to make them fit with the current curriculum (it seems to be constantly changing) and the students being taught. What worked two years ago will not necessarily work for the students who will be walking into the classroom this year. Corinne Driscoll, a twenty-two year veteran teacher in the Syracuse City School District, makes a wonderful observation.
...our leaders think of children as parts on an assembly line. If we plug in A and tighten screw B, all will be well, and every child will be a carbon copy of the other- on the same date all children of the same will get the same score on the same test. Education is not a product; it's a process. Children are not identical machine parts, but complex human beings coming to school with a whole variety of baggage, both good and bad.
This book is NOT about a bad teacher. It is about a teacher who was caught in a broken system (Latinate Institute). A broken system with a commanding officer (Ms. P) who was more driven by the outward appearance of success (outdated school information) than the actual success of the students. When reading about his experiences, and those of other contributing teachers, the dedication to the school and students is evident. In general teachers want only the best for their students. We don't go into the profession for the money. There are a great number of other career paths that are a lot less stressful and a great deal more lucrative, but not as rewarding in the sense of achievement. The feeling you have when you see the light come in on that one child's eyes as "they get it" for the first time is like none other. You truly feel like you have won. Now, tell me, how can the CEO of any top  business relate? Okay, maybe they are going to make in one day what a classroom teacher makes in an entire year (or sadly maybe two years), but will they have the satisfaction and helping a child learn a skill that will be used for the rest of their life? Remember, that CEO got to be in that position because great teachers helped them along the way to be successful!

Although the title of the book is a little off-putting, it is a fabulous read. It made me think about my twenty year career in education. I am thankful I have never been in the same position as Mr. Owens, traveling from classroom to classroom with a cart of materials or working for a difficult commanding officer. My experiences are very different in a number of ways, but very similar in others. I think all educators will be able to relate to this book and see they too could be labeled as a "bad" teacher simply because what they see as the best for their students may seem inappropriate by the "powers that be". This makes me think of a saying I read on a bumper sticker (or somewhere else), "Those who can, teach. Those who can't make the rules for teachers!"

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Sourcebooks, Inc. has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book through

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Halloween Safety Guide ... for Scaredies

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween
by Mélanie Watt
Are you thinking to yourself, "Texas Library Lady it is July! Why are your writing about Halloween?!?" Well, my answer is simple, you can never be too early for Scaredy Squirrel and his helpful, handy hints, better known as his safety guides. Not only that, but in order to be completely prepared, you have to, well, prepare! Just think about it. Halloween will be here before you know it.

Scaredy Orville Squirrel (appropriate initials follow - S.O.S.) provides everyone with the essentials necessary to survive Halloween, and it is all in this handy guide clearly outlined in eight short chapters. With the use of his favorite means: lists, diagrams, and maps, S.O.S. provides readers with a hysterical (or should I say "nutty") ways to get ready for All Hallows Eve.

He starts off with a quiz in order to evaluate your level of need for this guide (if you score anywhere between 1 - 8, it is the perfect book for you). Other features in this safety guide include the following:  a plan to help you danger proof your home (be sure to place your "blender on HIGH" at the top of your home -the "deafening noises [is] sure to keep ghosts and goblins away!" - even if they are fictional), a handy guide to help you pick the perfect costume (they range from "unscary" to "terrifying" - my personal favorite - the Theoretical Physicist - and in case you are wondering, he is listed as "unscary") for the scariest of all holidays, and a chart to help you choose the perfect size container needed to transport your candy.

Scaredy Squirrel provides a great deal of laughs for all in this wonderful book preparing young children for Halloween. Yes, S.O.S. is funny and everyone will have fun reading this safety guide, but when it comes down to the "nuts" and bolts of this book, it is a fantastic way to talk to kids about Halloween. This special day for children is no longer the carefree adventure it was when I was young. It is a day when some people choose to prey on the innocent. We shouldn't have to inspect our children's candy before they can eat it, but Scaredy reminds readers of the importance of "Detecting Quality" when he advises readers to "hand it over for thorough inspection." He even provides some alternative solutions to the door-to-door tradition, by suggesting party planning tips and activities.

You can read the history of Halloween or you can recall your own experiences from childhood, but I think the humorous manner in which Scaredy Squirrel presents Halloween will be one you and your family will want to revisit each year. Don't delay in picking up a copy of this book. I mean, after all, you don't have too much time....

Just look how many days are left!!

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Kids Can Press has provided a complimentary electronic copy of this book for review purposes through

Leaving Nelson

Leaving Nelson
by Kim Moss
I recently had the wonderful fortune of reading a phenomenal new novel written by Kim Moss. Some of you are probably going to recognize her name right away as a fantastic friend and outstanding teacher. Others will say, “Who is THAT?!?” In my humble opinion, which everyone knows is of utmost importance, once Leaving Nelson is published, the name Kim Moss will be much more recognizable in the world of young adult fiction.

This is the story of Bailey Baxter and her family who move from Nelson, Louisiana to Fulton, Tennessee following the death of her mother. Like the majority of the reviews I write, this one has a personal connection. While reading this coming of age story about fifteen year old Bailey, I could see my cousin Cassie Lea in the role.

During the summer of 2007, my first cousin, Cynthia Lynn, passed away as a result of breast cancer. She was only 37 years old. Only six months separated us and as a result Cynthia and I were very close. She and her older sister, Charlotte, were like the sisters this only child never had. At the time of Cynthia’s death, her daughters Cassie Lea and Rylie Mae were fifteen and nine.

Like Cassie Lea, Bailey has a younger sister, Gracie. Rylie Mae was a little older than the character of Gracie, who in the book is only five years old and beginning her second semester of kindergarten when the family moves to Tennessee.

Through flashbacks and her writing, which is a comfort, Bailey provides information about a loving caregiver, her mother. Conflict and drama build in the book through events taking place in school. A surprising twist at the end of the book helps cement a bond building throughout the story between a teacher, Miss Rose and her student, Bailey.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I would say I highly recommend it for all middle and high school libraries as well as public libraries serving young adults. The problem is…this book has yet to be published! I have to say, this is very sad for all of the readers who need to be touched by this story. I know the character development in the book will have readers connecting with Bailey, her family and her friends. You will be drawn into their lives and want to know more. In the end, you will want more. Now, the best part of wanting more, is the author has already written a sequel! For me, it is very exciting because I get to learn more about the people I have grown to care about, but until this book is actually picked up by a publisher there will only be a handful of us who know the true depth and impact Bailey’s father’s decision has on her life when they are off to Fulton and Leaving Nelson.

If you, or someone you know is interested in contacting Ms. Moss about her book, please feel free to contact her at

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Even Monsters Go to School

A few weeks ago my son took me to see Avenue Q. I fell in love with this musical when I saw the Broadway cast perform on the Tony Awards in 2004. I immediately purchased the CD and have been a fan every since. We never had the opportunity to see a live production and I was simply thrilled when he asked me if I would go with him. If you know the show, you might ask "Awkward seeing the show with your son?" and I must say, yes at times. However, we are both lovers of live theater and knew what we were getting into. The show was phenomenal.

For those who don't know Avenue Q, it is the musical story of a group of three actors and eleven puppets (animated by puppeteers who are unconcealed on the stage throughout the production - you focus on the puppet and forget the puppeteers are actually on the stage). Some of the puppets remind those of us who grew up with Sesame Street of favorite characters like Cookie Monster (Trekkie Monster) and Bert and Ernie (Rod and Nicky). Kate Monster and Trekkie Monster (no relation, don't ask!!! - this is really funny if you know the show, if you don't know the show, just trust me) are the main reason I am making a connection here. Kate's dream is to start a school for monsters. Trekkie, through some very salacious means, is able to make Kate's dream come to fruition. It represents a rather noble goal coming to fruition via *ahem* carnal means.

Avenue Q
winner of three Tony Awards, including
Best Musical, 2004
I'm sure you are wondering why I am making the connection of Avenue Q to the newest book I am reviewing! Please note, I am by NO MEANS comparing this delightful children's picture book to Avenue Q in any way other than the appearance of monsters in both! I could have totally gone with the Pixar's new movie Monsters University (for obvious reasons), but I wouldn't get the WOW factor!

by Daniel J. Mahoney
illustrated by Jef Kaminsky
Daniel J. Mahoney has the perfect book for young humans who will be walking through the doors of schools everywhere very soon. Monstergarten is the story of monster friends Kevin and Patrick who are trying to get their scare-on before their first day of Monstergarten (if you can't figure it out, human kiddos will be going to kindergarten - duh moment!). One of the rules of Monstergarten, you have to be scary (according to a first-grader, and everyone knows they are the experts in all things Monster-/ Kinder-garten!!)

I loved seeing Kevin and Patrick head to books in order to research how to be scary! What a great way to show children how to obtain information about something. Way to go Mr. Mahoney! The story line is perfect for this time of the year when parents are preparing their little humans for the first day of school. Patrick's angst is completely understandable to all who have been in his shoes (or in this case, his boots - this Texas girl loves this detail). A wonderful little twist will pull at the heartstrings of parents, especially those who will be taking their children on the first day of school, but the final two page spread brings a laugh to all, even if it derived from the scariest monster in all of Monstergarten!

The hysterical facial expressions of these monster friends are perfectly frightening for young readers. They are not so scary to cause nightmares, but not comical to the point of losing the friends' be scary. I love the details included in the Kaminsky's illustrations. The endpapers with the individual student photographs. It allow you to see all of the students (monsters) in Mr. Goop's class and just how individualist each one is, just like in a human kindergarten class. [Like Kaminsky, I was a kindergarten teacher for six years before becoming a librarian for 750+ pre-kindergarten students.] Each monster has their own personality, which is very evident in the classroom setting. The details of the classroom are right on target for children who will be trying to make connections, with the exception of the class pet. I think that one would freak me out!

I would highly recommend Monstergarten to all parents who will be walking the halls of schools everywhere, holding the hand of an anxious young child. It doesn't matter if the child will be going to kindergarten, fourth grade, high school, or even college, there is a level of anxiety everyone feels on the first day of school. Oh, and by the way, this apprehension is not limited to the children! Trust me on this one. As a parent and teacher there is always a sense of uncertainty no matter how many years you have under your belt. Maybe the laughs you get from Kevin and Patrick will help all with the excitement, wonder, and dread for the first day of school.

*To comply with new guidelines introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Daniel J. Mahoney has provided a complimentary copy of his book for review purposes.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Illustrator Spotlight - Paul O. Zelinsky

In my last post I reviewed one of my favorite new titles named to the Texas 2x2 Reading List, Z is for Moose written by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Mr. Zelinsky is quite a character, I must say. After reading a number of articles about this wonderful artist I would have to say he could be a comedian on the side. For more information on Mr. Zelinsky, read my post from July 18th

I am very excited to have the opportunity to share a little more insight into Mr. Zelinsky. He has graciously taken the time to answer a few questions about his art, books, and cats.

You have illustrated 34 books to date. Six of these books you have also authored. 

How do you choose the stories you are going to write, like The Lion and the Stoat or retell, such as Rapunzel?

I don't know. Luckily, I don't think I have to know. The way I see it the stories chose me.

What kind of research do you do before beginning work on a project?

My research happens after I begin working on a project, more than before. I won't know what I need to know until I start trying things out. Then I do every kind of research I can possibly do in order to put off the day when I start making finished art. Plus it can be endlessly interesting to learn things you never knew you didn't know or would want to. For instance, in Europe, hand mirrors were convex in shape until the middle of the sixteenth century, because they hadn't developed the technology to make flat glass panes smooth enough for a good mirror. Since I set Rapunzel around the year 1500 I had to give her a convex hand mirror.

Rapunzel's convex hand mirror on table
(from Mr. Zelinsky's personal collection)
Wow! That is very interesting. Details like this make me want to go back and study your illustrations in Rapunzel even more. I think it is very important for people to understand a great deal of research has to go into writing and illustrating books. The smallest of details may seem unimportant to some, but can stand out to others. These are the elements which separate the good from the great.

I have read you have a very different style for each of the books you illustrate. I have also seen a number of different mediums used in your illustrations.

What is your favorite medium in which to work?

Yes, I've used a lot of traditional art mediums, because they all give you different feelings when you look at the art. There are still some I haven't used, such as collage. I think probably oil is the one I'm most at home in, because it doesn't pop as many surprises on you as watercolor or gouache, and mistakes are almost always reparable. The Horn Book once asked me to write something about using different mediums, and I wrote this - Studio Views: Why I Use Oil Paints So Much

I understand both of your daughters appear in The Wheels on the Bus and the little girl carrying the miller's daughter's train when she marries the king in Rumpelstiltskin is your daughter, Anna.

That’s true.

Being a lover of animals, I was wondering if the cat in Rapunzel is modeled after your Siamese cat Skimbleshanks?

Yes, indeed. That cat was Skimby, who unfortunately died young of a heart condition. I don't consider myself a very good cat artist; without a model my attempts to draw cats often look more like dogs or goats or some unidentifiable mammal. In Dust Devil I gave Aunt Essie two small cats that I based on ones my daughter had when she lived in the Marshall Islands. The black-and-white one came back and still lives with her; the yellow one was killed by a wild dog. The cat in Z is for Moose is imaginary. Any similarity to any other cat, real or fictional, is purely coincidental.

Aunt Essie's cats
(from Mr. Zelinsky's personal collection)

On a side note, I would like to tell you I too had a cat named from T.S. Eliot’s classic book of poetry Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. My black cat’s name was Mistoffelees.

I imagine Mistoffelees and Skimby would have got along famously!

Are there any artists who have been a great influence on your work?

Yes; other than Maurice Sendak, who was my inspiration to do illustration, I'm influenced by so many painters there's not much point in making a list. And I think the list would be different from day to day anyway. It starts in prehistory and ends probably in the 1950s.

I neglected to mention Mr. Sendak in my previous post. I’m sure he was a huge inspiration to you, especially after attending his course on the art and history of the children’s picture book. It is not surprising you have following in his footsteps as a Caldecott winning illustrator.

Thank you. I consider myself unbelievably fortunate. I was asked to write about that class for the new Sendak book - Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work hat accompanies the current exhibit at the Soceity of Illustrators in New York, if anybody wants to check it out.

Rapunzel sketch
(from Mr. Zelinsky's personal sketches)
Do you have a favorite illustration from any of your published works?

I don't do well at deciding on favorites of anything, but a favorite among my own works is a choice I don't even like the idea of making.

I'm sure it would be like choosing your favorite child. I completely understand.

I used to think exactly that, until I had a couple of children. Then I noticed that there were in fact some differences. But the idea is right.

Maybe this will be an easier question. 

What book was the most fun to illustrate?

Lots of them have been fun, and for different reasons. I can tell you which one was the easiest: Jack Prelutsky’s book Zoo Doings I just filled a lot of pieces of paper with animal doodles and gave them to the art director to try to fit them somehow onto pages. But easy and fun aren’t the same thing. Some books have been no fun at all, but rewarding enough to look at the art as it got finished that my travails felt like they'd been worthwhile. If you guessed which was which, you'd probably be right.

That is a daunting task, and one I don't think I want to ponder, simply because I am amazed at your talent. I am not an artist, but I appreciate great work, especially when it has such fine details as seen in your work.

What do you do to help inspire you when you reach a creative block?

One good thing I've found is to get new art supplies Even a color of paint I've never had before can work, but best is a different kind of art-making tool. This will make me want to start playing again.

Watercolors, including new ones
(from Mr. Zelinsky's personal collection / drawer)
It sounds to me like you could be compared to a kid in a candy store around art supplies. I can relate when around books. I also love that you refer to your profession as playing. It shows your passion for your craft.

I understand publishers usually pair an author and illustrator for a project. It has also been my experience the two rarely communicate during the production / publication process.

Is there anyone with who you would like to collaborate?

I don't really think about this. I've been tremendously lucky in the authors I've been able to illustrate. There isn't anyone else I have in mind, but ideal would be someone who is not only a spectacular writer, but also has a fan base that numbers in the billions and yet is happy to split royalties with me. I have tried never to make decisions about my books on the basis of what would or wouldn't sell, but only on what I think is the inherent quality of the work. But I'm more than willing to make a pretend decision in an interview on that basis.

How many books do you have in the planning stages? Are you willing to share any information at this time?

I'm largely done (I think) illustrating a second book about Moose. Then there is a picture book by Emily Jenkins about the same toy characters in the Toys Go Out books, StingRay, Lumpy the buffalo and Plastic. After that it isn't clear.

I am so excited to hear there will be another Moose book. He is a fun character a lot of children (and some adults) can relate to.  It is also wonderful to know the Toy characters will be coming back for a fourth book. I can't wait to see what these charming characters will do in their next adventure.

What was the last book you read?

Lately I've been reading middle grade novels by people I know. Just finished Peter Lerangis' Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises; before that Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle. Before that I read The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood, whom I don't know and which isn't a middle grade novel.

New books to add to my ever growing list of "Want to Reads". Thank you for sharing these titles. 

Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) loves to sing 80s hair band songs while doing karaoke.

What would be your featured song?

I only did karaoke once, at the Kindling Words retreat this January, and the choices were very limited, so I don't really know. In fact I don't listen to a lot of music; I listen much more to talk radio and podcasts. Maybe I'd sing made-up lyrics to the NPR theme.

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?

Beats me. Thanks for these questions. They were extremely useful in allowing me to put off making finished art.

Thank you, Mr. Zelinsky. I appreciate the time you took to answer these questions.