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The Apartment Girl, Yurts, and “Let’s Be Friends”

9 Feb

I grew up in a little ranch house in a midwestern suburb. My classmates were similarly situated. We were all ranch house kids—except for one girl, who lived with her mom in an apartment. Let’s call her Valerie.

Valerie was a tough cookie, let me tell you. Feathered hair, oversized plastic comb, jean jacket. Fierce.

Mousey Me would have feared her even if she lived in a ranch house like the rest of us, but her apartment-dwelling mystique made her all the more terrifying.

Decades later, when gathering ideas for Let’s Be Friends, I found myself categorizing various potential barriers to friendship—and I remembered my bias against Valerie. A “dwellings” category was added. Can friends live in any kind of house? Of course they can!

Originally, I drew a yurt under the flap. I thought a yurt would be a funny surprise.

About the Yurt

For a while, right around the time that I was writing Let’s Be Friends, my husband was fantasizing about retiring in a yurt. With me. We even spent a few nights in a very lovely New Zealand yurt AirBNB, as research—both for retirement, and for the book.

The yurt in Let’s Be Friends was eventually replaced by a treehouse. And unless fate takes an absurd twist, I very much doubt that my husband and I will live out our days in a yurt.

Incidentally, the couple who own the NZ yurt AirBNB also rent out a ship that they converted into a treehouse. Please, nobody tell my husband. We live in an apartment now, and I’d really like to keep it that way! :o)

Let’s Be Friends is the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day. Order your copy today!

Quite a List!

2 Feb

Great News for Babies Around the World

Reader’s Digest recently listed Babies Around the World (which I illustrated) 4th in their list of the 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time.

Wow!

One of my favorite images from Babies Around the World.

A Family Affair

Written by Puck and published by duopress in 2017, Babies Around the World is special to me.

When kicking off the process of illustrating this charming book, I made some style samples. The publisher liked them all and told me to choose, so I called Graham into my studio and asked him to look over my shoulder. “Which one?” I asked. He pointed, and the rest is history. Since that day, I’ve illustrated several books in this fun, splashy style. But that’s not the only way that Graham helped!

My son also contributed a handful of architectural drawings, which I incorporated into the art for Babies Around the World. This was not our only collaboration, but alas, it’s our most recent. The little bugger grew up and into other interests. Color me gobsmacked. I used to say, “Hey kiddo, draw the Petronas Towers for me.” Ten minutes later, a freshly inked masterpiece would appear. IMHO the young man is a remarkable artist. He’s following his own path now though, studying law. (Again. Gobsmacked.)

I treasure every building my baby ever drew, including those featured in Babies Around the World. (He drew the lamp posts in the London illustration, above.) How incredible that Reader’s Digest included Babies Around the World in their auspicious list? And coming in at number four? Talk about gobsmacked!

Click here to peruse Reader’s Digest’s complete list, written by Molly Pennington, PhD. It’s a wonderful resource for anyone curating a home library for little ones.

To read more about how the art for Babies Around the World was made and see some of Graham’s drawings, click here.

And click here to order your copy of Babies Around the World. Make sure to read the reviews, they are great!

My Mom

7 Dec

Today—December 7—would have been my mom’s 84th birthday. She passed away in late September.

My mom didn’t have a super-happy childhood, but all of that changed when she met my dad.

The Tragedy

In 1969, when I was very young, my parents and aunt and uncle were in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. My uncle was behind the wheel. His wife, riding shotgun, was instantly killed. (My beautiful Aunt Emma. Mother of five.) My parents were in the back seat. Of the survivors, Mom was the most seriously hurt. She was told she’d never walk again, which turned out not to be true. She also suffered a brain injury, however, from which she never fully recovered.

When I think of my mom, and my own life, I’m reminded of Isaac. Years ago in a bible study, I learned that Isaac’s life was less eventful than other Old Testament heroes. He was nearly sacrificed by his father, Abraham, but that happened when he was very young.

I don’t remember life before the crash, so I never really got to know my mother as her true self. I grew up like Isaac, in relative calm, after my family’s terrible tragedy.

One day I will write all about this, but not today. Today I celebrate my beautiful mother, Marianne, as she was—the Marianne I never got to know.

I love you, Mom.