Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Next New Book!!


I finally got an actual, real-life advance copy of the looooooong awaited Spring Goes Squish!! The artwork for this book was completed over two years ago, but printer problems left it stranded in Thailand for many moons.

It looks good (if I do say so myself). This is the first book where I've done the layout and design work as well. It was a slightly frustrating learning curve, but I got the hang of it and am eager to take on some more design jobs.

I'm not sure when it will be available as the remaining copies are being surface shipped (i.e. slow boat from Thailand). Stay tuned for more details.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Lemony Snicket reviews my book in New York Times!;init:.jpg

My newest book, Twelve Terrible Things, has had some pretty good reviews.

Here's what The Denver Post said:

"The Lemony Snicket-esque introduction advises the reader not to turn the page, which is how many of us anticipate feeling the day after Tuesday's election. No candidates hide inside these pages, but there are one or two Terrible Things that could be even worse.

Kelley's looming dentist says, "Say AHHH," instead of the truly chilling "You might feel some discomfort."

But the birthday clown? Pure evil. So are the elderly lady's manicured fingernails lunging toward the reader ("Oh my goodness, just look at those CHEEKS."

Cool. But did you notice that line about it being Lemony Snicket-esque?

Well, it just so happens that today's New York Times book review contains a review of my book by none other than Mr. Snicket himself:

School Library Journal gave it a starred review:
Here's a good one from Kirkus Reviews:

“I'm warning you. If you turn the page, you are going to see some terrible things.” No exaggeration there. Twelve childhood fears, anxieties and worries are rendered in hugely realistic two-page spreads. The book begins with readers looking down at a delicious double-scoop of ice cream lying heartbreakingly on the ground; they’ll experience each horrible happening firsthand, from the dizzying view from the edge of a diving board to a friend’s smelly sock thrust in their faces. The 12 everyday bad things are delightfully exaggerated: When Grandma reaches for “those cheeks,” she looks positively predatory. After the 12th terrible thing occurs, readers find themselves in an ice-cream store reaching for a double-scoop cone, and the cycle begins again. This is essentially Gary Greenberg’s Pop-Up Book of Phobias (1999) but with a wonderful sense of how kids sometimes feel the world treats them. Expect this book to be a hit with not just younger children but their older teenage siblings as well. Turns the terrible into the terrific

Another favorite came from Three Silly Chicks.

Sometimes authors and illustrators sneak up on us. It's not nice, really. They tend to be so big and wear pointy shoes. Little chicks like us don't stand a chance. And yet, it happens all the time. Most recently, it happened with author/illustrator Marty Kelley. Somehow, we had not noticed this funny guy sneaking up behind us with all his funny books and then BAM! He pops out his latest title, TWELVE TERRIBLE THINGS and gets us smack on our feathery heads.

We loved this funny book which relies almost entirely on illustrations to deliver its punch. Try to think of the most mortifying things you tried to avoid in your childhood and you're sure to come up with at least one of scenes from TWELVE TERRIBLE THINGS. From the terrifying great-aunt out to pinch your cheeks to the view from atop the high dive, they are all here.

Our personal favorite is the clown scene. Frequent readers of our interviews will understand why.

Like this spread, some of these jokes might zoom past very young readers (and that might be a good thing), but 2nd and 3rd graders will snort with laughter.

They even interviewed me. Check out the entire thing here.

I can keep going. Want to read more?

Here's one from For Immediate Release Reviews:

Have you ever picked up one of those books where the cover is terrific and the inside is just blah? This is a book that lives up to that promise and delivers the goods. Two surprises await you inside: 1) the best illustrations weren't used for the cover and 2) author Marty Kelley is FUNNY.

Crack this open to discover the twelve worst things that can happen to a kid. Like Great-Aunt Eunice and her claws of death (photo above). Your head after believing in your sister's ability to produce a good haircut. Lunch Lady Doris and her need to encapsulate all foods in gravy. Plus nine more.

The text is intentionally sparse, allowing the marvelous illustrations to speak for themselves. Rendered in watercolor, each terrible thing spans two over sized pages; these alone make this book worth acquiring. Pair these extraordinary illustrations with the author's sarcastic wit and you have an unbeatable combination. Pile on some childhood trauma and you have one heck of an excellent children's book.

Side note: My four year old held his foot up to our neighbor and said "Smell THIS, doofus." Thanks, Marty!

From A Patchwork of Books:

"...The true gem within this book are the amazing illustrations. They are done so well, they almost look as if they are photographs jumping off the page. My favorite page is that of the dentist reaching into the patient's mouth...he really looks like he's coming for you! I was in awe by the realistic nature of Kelley's drawings.

Kids will laugh all the way through Twelve Terrible Things and none of the experiences listed are so terrible as to not be shared with the little ones. Though I will admit, if you're not scared of clowns before reading this, you just may be afterwards!"

Okay. Just one more. This one is from the Provo City Library:

As a child, did you ever drop your ice cream cone on the ground, before you even got to have a lick? Wasn't it tragic! Were you ever the "new kid" at school? How horrible were all those eyes on you when you walked into the classroom for the first time? Did you ever take swimming lessons? That diving board was waaaaaaaaaay to high to ever jump off of! And horror of horrors, "Great-Aunt Matilda" coming at you to pinch your cheeks! Don't even mention The Dentist, we just won't go there! These are just a few of the Twelve Terrible Things that Marty Kelley shows us. The minimal text is effective in conveying the message of what is "terrible" to a young child. It is the illustrations, however, that make this my new favorite picture book. Kelley's watercolors portray exactly what a child would see in each event. The details are great. For example, look at "Great-Aunt Matilda's" chin and in the road trip picture each family member has great facial expression. A must-read for everyone. Adults will most likely be more entertained than children just because it will dredge up some childhood memories for them.

Wow. Is all that super cool, or what?
You know what I noticed? Many of the reviewers who mentioned the old lady pinching cheeks gave her a name. I think you should name this old lady. Leave a comment and tell me what her name is.

It was a really fun book to work on. I recommend that everyone run out and buy it in bulk.

Right now.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keene State Children's Literature Festival

Yesterday I spent the day with my good friend Julie (the star of my next book...) at the Keene State College Children's Literature Festival. I haven't been able to make it to the festival in a few years and it was inspiring, as always, to go back.

Dr. David White, the festival organizer, always gathers some great talent to talk about their work. This year Stephen Kellogg, Jerry Pinkney, as well as several other authors and illustrators gave great talks.

As an added bonus (for me) Dr. White paid me the honor of purchasing some of my artwork to hang in the festival's permanent collection.Is that super cool, or what? It's a great feeling to have my work hanging in the same collection as the work of some of my favorite illustrators of all time.

I also contributed an owl to the festival's owl collection. Mine is on the bottom right, waiting to frighten people getting a drink of water.

I have never really done much realistic animal artwork, so this owl was a challenge, but I was very happy with it. You can see a better picture of it here.

Next year, a couple of my friends, Beth Krommes and Lita Judge will be presenting, so I'll be in the front row heckling them mercilessly. Come join me. I'll save a seat for you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Librarian Party

Yesterday I got to be one of four authors to present to a group of librarians in Danvers, MA. The other authors who presented were Jill Stover, Sue Goodman, and Deborah Noyes. It's always fun to be able to meet other authors. Working alone all the time can get frustrating, so it's good to be able to whine and complain and kvetch with others. (Actually we always get together and discuss how wonderful our lives are and how simply smashing our publishers are.)
My biggest disappointment of the day was after almost everyone had left, Deborah (who is also an editor at Candlewick) came back and said her battery was dead. She asked if I had jumper cables. I said that I thought I did and would be happy to help. "Ah! HA!" I thought, "I will jumpstart her car and she will be forced to publish my next book!! Mwah, ha, ha, ha!"
It was unfortunate that I stopped at the bathroom on the way to the parking lot (it was a long ride home) because she enlisted a few of the maintenance guys to help her. They were SURE they had jumper cables, unlike my 'pretty sure'.

So be on the lookout for an upcoming book written by a couple maintenance guys and published by the fine folks at Candlewick...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Save me from the glamour!

So, some people wind up being jealous of me because I don't have to get up and go to work every day. I'll admit; that is cool. Working for a living has many faces, however.
My life is not the unalloyed glamor that some people think it is.
Yesterday, for example, I was planning on installing a small area of hardwood floor in my library. We have a 200 year old farmhouse and every job has potential to be a thrilling spiral downward into disaster. When I pulled up a few boards to get down to the sub-floor, I found that the floor, the joists and part of the main beam supporting that part of the house were rotted and moldy.
So much for easy installation of flooring. Hello major structural renovation. At least the crawlspace beneath the room is cramped and dusty and dank.
I've posted a few pictures so you can share in the fascinating joy that being a writer can entail.
Remember these pictures the next time you are tempted to quit your job and become my competition...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Hooray! I met the Ambassador!

I finally got around to making a blog so you can all see what a thrilling, amazing, fun-filled life I have.
Saturday, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting and introducing Jon Scieszka at a local talk he gave. He's a very funny guy and I gave him a few of my books in a shameless attempt to ingratiate myself to him and bask in his reflected glory.
I have a feeling that making bunny ears on The First Ambassador of Young People's Literature is possibly frowned upon in diplomatic etiquette manuals, but Jon was a very good sport.

Sunday I was down in Boston with my buddy, the very talented children's musician, Steve Blunt. We played at the Read and Romp, an annual event to raise money so all children can have books in their homes. We had a great time playing music at lunch. There were a lot of people reading and romping at the Read and Romp.

Steve and I are working on some programs that we'll be offering together, as well as a CD that is going to be really cool. Stay tuned for more details on that...