Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Caldecott Kudos

The big news this week is the announcement by the ALA (American Library Association) of the 2009 Caldecott and Newberry Medal winners.

Drum roll please ......... The winner of the 2009 Caldecott Medal is THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT by Susan Marie Swanson and illustrated by Beth Krommes.  The Caldecott announcement is always big news, but this year it's especially exciting because Susan Marie Swanson is one of "our own."  Susan Marie lives two blocks from Micawber's and is a frequent customer.  Not only is she Minnesotan, but a neighborhood gal too.  Hooray for Susan Marie Swanson!

Susan Marie's husband stopped into the store yesterday.  He said how happy they were and how the phone was ringing off the hook.  But I don't think he understands yet how dramatically their life is about to change.  For one thing, THE HOUSE IN THE NIGHT is currently (as of this hour) ranked # 37 on Amazon for all books and is in the #1 spot for Picture Books.  This is HUGE!  Do you know how many books are on Amazon?  Well, it's a lot.  And to be ranked in the top 50 is amazing!

So, Susan Marie Swanson from down the street, is about to become a very well-known person in the writing world.  And did I mention that her book is great?  It totally deserves the award. Beth Krommes scratch art is wonderful.  Another book that I love that Beth illustrated is called GRANDMOTHER WINTER by Phyllis Root (also a Minnesotan).  You should buy both of these books.  You will not be disappointed.

And by the way, the 2009 Newberry Medal went to Neil Gaiman for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. Gaiman is also a "local" author.  He lives just across the border in Wisconsin.  Yea for Neil Gaiman who also totally deserves this medal!

I once heard an editor from New York say, "There must be something in the water up there because there are so many good writers."  I have to agree.  But I don't think it's the water.  I think it's the winter.  But, that's another blog altogether.  Bye for now and happy reading!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hello From Florida

I'm writing today from sunny Florida!  My daughter and I are down here for the week taking a break from sub-zero temperatures.  But before you start thinking we are lounging pool side or wading in the Gulf, let me tell you a few things.  It is COLD here in Florida this week.  I know cold is all very relative.  In comparison to Minnesota, it's practically balmy at 50 degrees.  But gimme a break, 50 degrees in Florida!

January is a great month for discounts and fewer tourists, but there's no guarantee the weather will be in the 70's and 80's.  Go in March if you want to be sure.  But, despite the relative coolness, Juliana and I are having a great time.  Monday we went to the Ringling Museum and estate.  We had the uber-tour of the entire Ringling Mansion and it was amazing!  Also, on the veranda we saw a famous person being protected by four, foreign-speaking body guards.  The "person-in-need-of-protecting" was a very tall, beautiful blond woman with her two little blond boys.  I did not catch enough of the conversation to figure out what language they were speaking and when I ventured closer for a better listen, one of the body guards gave me a serious stare-down.  I backed off.   So, we probably saw a princess of some northern European country, but I can't say for sure.  

Yesterday, we went for a freezing tour of the Myakka State Park.  We did not see a single alligator because it was too dang cold.  They were all deep in the water trying to stay warm. We did see many birds including Osprey, Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Black Vultures.  The park's wild pigs and bobcats were also in hiding that day.

We'll be here till Saturday and the weather report is promising.  It should be 70 by Friday.  So, we may get one day by the pool or on the beach.  Only time will tell.  Until next week, Adieu. And stay warm!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Cold Outside!

It is very, very cold here in Minnesota this week.  Tonight it will be 20 below zero.  And that's not even with wind chill.  All week it's been below zero most of the day. This is bad news for several reasons.  Micawber's, as you know, is an old, wonderful shop.  But, those ancient radiators just aren't up for the job on days like today. In other words, it's COLD in the store. 

Today, a customer brought in four of those instant hand warmer things that you put in your boots while skiing or in your pockets at football games.  Well, I cracked one of those babies open and had it in my pocket all day long.  I think the customer brought them in as a joke, but not really.  You know it's bad when customers not only leave their coats on but their hats and mittens too.

Another negative aspect of this super-cold weather is the fact that my dog, Lucia, refuses to go pee outside.  She doesn't want to put her little tushy down near the cold snow.  So, she holds it and holds it.  Luckily, she does not pee in the house, but I'm sure she's going to develop a bladder infection one of these cold days.  When I finally get her outside, we walk around and around in the freezing cold.  She starts walking on three legs and limping.  It's truly pitiful.  I try to explain to her that the quicker she goes, the quicker she gets back into the nice, warm house. But for some reason, she doesn't seem to get this logic. 

Speaking of Lucia, my dog made a guest appearance at our "Second Saturday" children's book event last Saturday at the store.  Children's author & illustrator, David LaRochelle, was at Micawber's reading his great book, THE BEST PET OF ALL.  The theme of the day was "pets" so Lucia was our representative pet.  She graciously let the children brush her and pet her and give her treats.  (I'm sure the treat-eating part was very difficult for her.)  The event was a success.  David did a wonderful job speaking to the group and he illustrated a "castle story" right on the spot with the kids.  It was a lot of fun!

Next Wednesday, I'll be writing from someplace warm and sunny.  No, not in my imagination. My daughter and I are running away to Florida for a week.  I need to thaw out a bit before I can face the rest of winter.  So, as long as I can find WiFi somewhere, there will be a blog post.

Parting thought - stay warm, people.  It's cold outside!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It's a New Year!

Whew!  It's January and I survived my first "holiday season" at the bookstore.  December was quite a rush - of activity and excitement.  I am happy to report that people still bought books as gifts.  The way I figure it, in this economy, people still wanted to give some kind of gift to loved ones.  The book lovers will always buy books.  But perhaps this year some of the former "big-screen TV purchasers" opted for a good book instead.  Whatever the reason, we were kept busy at Micawber's in December and I am happy for it.

Now we are into January and the pace of things has slowed down.  After any rushed, exciting time, it's nice to have a little quiet time to regroup.  So, I too will regroup.  I have been quite lax in my blogging as of late.  For that, I apologize.  With any new year comes New Year's Resolutions.  So here is my online resolution.  In addition to cutting back on caffeine, exercising more, and watching fewer episodes of Law & Order, I resolve to be a consistent blogger.  I will blog every week on Wednesday.  (And if I have a little something extra to say, I'll add it on another day.)  So, let the New Year Begin!

This Saturday at Micawber's is the second installment of our "Second Saturdays" children's book event series that I created for the bookstore.  Each "Second Saturday" has a theme and features a children's author &/or illustrator.  This Saturday, January 10 has a "Pets" theme. David LaRochelle will read from his award-winning book, The Best Pet of All.  He will also lead the group in creating an original "Castle Story."  I have seen him do this activity and it is great!  In addition, we'll have treats and a special guest appearance by my dog, Lucia.  Lucia will be our representative "pet" and will graciously allow all the little kids to brush, pet and hug her. That reminds me that I need to make a grooming appointment for Lucia this week.  (She smells BAD!  We don't want to scare the little children away.)

On the writing front, I have News - News - News!

The publication of my picture book, Muriel's Red Sweater, is fast approaching.  The big day is February 5, 2009!  That's less than a month.  Yikes!  My writing friend, Laura Purdie Salas, and I got together today to work on marketing ideas for our upcoming books.  Laura's picture book, Stampede, comes out April 10, 2009.  In addition to hatching plans for our individual books, we have been brainstorming ways to promote our books together.  Working together on marketing and promotion over the last several months has been a great way to expand our ideas, be creative and have some fun while we're at it.  Look for future announcements on our upcoming book appearances together.

Have a great week and see you next Wednesday!