Ten Random Things You Should Know About Me

This post is for David, who is working on a book project on Alvin Ho and couldn’t find anything about the author.

1. Writing is really hard for me.

2. But if I don’t write, I would shrivel and die.

3. My favorite opera is Tosca.

4. My favorite color is split-pea-soup green.

5. My favorite food is PIZZA!!!!

6. My favorite book is TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

7. I’ve never owned a TV.

8. I have super-duper bad eyes anyway.

9. My biggest fear is spiders.

10. I love museums.

 

Here’s a bonus list for you, though you didn’t ask –

TEN THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT KNOW ABOUT ME:

1. I nearly flunked kindergarten.

2. I’ve been living by the seat of my pants ever since.

3. I drove a very powerful car down the highway between 90 and100 mph recently.

4. I didn’t get caught.

5. I would do it again.

6. I’ve eaten insects, caterpillars and snake.

7. I would NOT do it again.

8. I know some really fantastic secret kung fu moves.

9. If I show them to you, I’d have to kill you.

10. With a single touch.

Well, there you have it. I hope this helps. You won’t find this information anywhere else on the Internet, that’s for sure. Good luck, David, with your poster board! You’d better get an A+++++, or else!!!! Can’t wait to get a photo of you to add here :).

Alvin Publishes in China!

The ALVIN HO series is coming out in China!!!!! Published by Shanghai Gaotan, here’s the first cover! ?????1?2Isn’t it awesome??? I just LOVE it!!!

Hey wait, where’s my name? My Chinese name is nowhere on the cover! Nor my English name. Hey, what’s going on here?

Tucson Festival of Books

Dear Reader,

I just had the most incredible weekend.

I went to the Tucson Festival of Books (a k a @TFOB).

When you’re an author, you must go to this. Here are the reasons why:

1. You get to walk a red carpet. IMG_8652This was my wonderful welcome host, Emily Morrison. She and her husband Ted gave me a ride from my hotel to the University of Arizona campus where the event took place. I sat in the backseat of their car between Jacquelyn Mitchard and Christina Baker Kline. In case you don’t know (and I didn’t), it was for Jackie’s book, The Deep End of the Ocean, that Oprah started her book club. And Christina’s book, Orphan Train, has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the past seven weeks. I had no idea. I asked them dumb questions like, “Did you say your name is Pritchard?” And “What’s your favorite book that you’ve written?”

2. You get treated to a fancy dinner. IMG_8656Your book is the table’s centerpiece, and they make a little place card just for you. The other author at my table was D.J. MacHale. He’s a dashing dude, but I was too shy to say hello. As for his book, well . . . you don’t see it do you? I wonder what happened to his book . . . ??? (Shhh, when you’re vegetarian, many things are edible!)

3. You meet Kathy and Jerry Short. IMG_8659Here’s Kathy holding the beautiful service award she won from the Arizona Daily Star. Kathy is the founder and director of the Worlds of Words library at the College of Education at the University of Arizona. It contains the largest collection of children’s books in North America., around 40,000 titles. This is what it looks like:IMG_8694photo 3IMG_8698There are beautiful murals by David Christiana that invite you into another dimension:photo 2Like this:IMG_8707Aren’t they fantastic?!!!

Back inside, there’s an artist’s studio where illustrators are invited to come and work on their books:IMG_8693And a classroom for graduate students:IMG_8692And a large collection of signed first-edition books and a collection of signed original artwork, including these from Grace Lin:IMG_8697And friendly, helpful gatekeepers at the front desk:IMG_8699Dr. Short donated much of the books from her own collection from her travels around the world. She is also a professor of Language, Reading and Culture, the President-elect of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and is responsible for inviting the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators to the festival and determining the format of their presentations. She was also a member of last year’s Caldecott committee. In other words, she’s a super-duper VIP in the world of children’s lit. So you can imagine my surprise to find myself seated at her table. And you can imagine my further surprise when the MC mentioned my name as an example of the authors Kathy brought to this year’s festival. Really? Me?

Oh, I should have fixed myself up after getting off the plane!

4. You get to hear Rebecca Eaton, the executive producer of Masterpiece Theater, give the keynote speech. She’s the executive producer of Downton Abbey. I LOVE Downton Abbey! And she’s speaking and coughing into the same microphone in which my name was just spoken. Just when you think you’ve died and gone to book festival heaven . . . .

5. You get to appear on a panel discussion with God. IMG_8684Lois Lowry, two-time Newbery winner, and the winner of the international Hans Christian Anderson Award and everything else. You can’t stand any closer to the epicenter of children’s lit than this. Wow. I’m only cosmic dust in her orbit, but here I was in her orbit nonetheless! Orbiting on the other side is Patrick Jennings, author of the Guinea Dog series and other funny books. God even wanted a selfie with us!

6. After you’ve touched divinity, other authors start orbiting around you.IMG_8703Who are these guys anyway???

They were sticking to me like cosmic dust or something.IMG_8705They are none other than the award-winning illustrators and authors, James Ransome and Jarrett Krosoczka, my co-conspirators in crime, I mean creation. We had a gut-busting, butt-kicking good time in our session on our journeys as authors, moderated by the great Marney Weimers, ringmaster extraordinaire. Our wild, crazy circus swung between the Lunch Lady’s robot socks:IMG_8700And The Rope taking a million selfies for his Facebook page!

What a quick fall from divinity to photo bomb.

I rush for the shuttle to take me to the Phoenix airport.

7. Back in the real world, no one cares that you’ve had drinks and dinner with God. You’re not cosmic dust. You’re not even a photo bomb. Your name is not on the passenger manifest for the shuttle because your publicist did not make a reservation for you because you’re a nobody. The driver looks at you contemptuously and flicks you on the sidewalk like a cigarette butt.

Your plane leaves in three hours and you are two hours away from the airport.

You cannot miss your flight because you need to be at a school visit within 48 hours.

Your superpower is not IT (Instantaneous Transport).

8. But Jerry Short’s is. He owns this awesome car:IMG_8714It’s a Shelby GT500. It has a 6th gear that will take you up to 185 mph at 2000 rpm. The engine looks like this:IMG_8717It is a BEAST, and a menace:IMG_8715See the cobra? If you see it in your rearview mirror, it means you better get out of the way!

Whoa, baby.

Without hesitation, my gracious host who had taken me to the shuttle stop and insisted on staying until I got on the shuttle, throws my bags back into the Shelby and I tuck into shotgun, and off we roar, spinning the yellow Tucson dust behind us. IMG_8710I’ve never been in a faster car in my life! Yikes!!!

To take my mind off ID (Instantaneous Death), I ask him lots of questions about his car. I learn all about the rare, expensive Shelby. It’s FAST. It’s DANGEROUS. It can go from 0 to 60 in 4.4 seconds, and eat 1/4 mile in just 12.5 seconds at 119 mph. It is BADASS.

Jerry handled The Beast really well. I began to relax.

Then about halfway, we made a pit stop. We needed the restrooms and a soda.

Coming out of the convenience store, Jerry asked, “Wanna drive it?”

That was what he said. But what I heard was, “I dare you to drive it.”

I stopped dead in my tracks.

“Me, drive it?” I squeaked.

“You’ll have a lot of fun,” he said. We were walking towards the car, and somehow I was on the driver’s side and he was on the passenger’s side. When I looked down, the keys were in my hand. Wait a minute. How did that happen???!!!

“I’d love to drive it, but I think you’re much better at it, so I better not,” I sputtered nervously. You’d sputter too if you’re facing Certain Death just minutes away!

“Press the unlock button,” Jerry said.

Before I knew it, I was pressing the button to buzz the driver’s seat forward so that my foot could reach the clutch.IMG_8723 I adjusted the mirrors. I grabbed the stick shift. I don’t think I said my prayers though. It was too late for that. As soon as you turn the ignition on The Beast, you’ve sold your soul.

I rolled gently out of the parking lot, getting a feel for it like one would gently feel a cobra before jumping on it’s back and riding it. Oh, I was SOOOO scared!!!!!!

Then the on-ramp. I know what to do on on-ramps. You accelerate. You get up to speed with the traffic on the highway. You merge. Your life is NOT supposed to flash before your eyes. You are NOT supposed to be thinking of how you’re a few feet away from dying without a will. Intestate they call it. Intestate. Intestate. Intestate. Intestate on the interstate. Gulp. I never imagined that my final moments on earth would be filled with this single word. It doesn’t even sound nice. It sounds like something I will not mention.

Still rolling on the on-ramp, I was no longer waking a cobra, but I was driving like an old lady behind a walker. I heard Jerry say, “Get on it. Get on it.”

Huh? Then before I knew it, I got on it. VAROOOOOOM!!!! 

I peeled the asphalt right off the road.

I shifted into 6th gear and hit 90 mph. Maybe even 100, when I wasn’t looking.

I passed cars on the right and left.IMG_8734“Get on it,” Jerry said again.

I passed 16-wheelers.

I flew past a couple of cop cars waiting by the side of the road. Oops!

I sweated a little. I slowed down a LOT.

Then I went back to dodging drivers who tailed me, pushing the atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed!

I passed the Arizona Shuttle that had left me on the sidewalk :).

I owned Route 10, honey.

I zoomed all the way to the Phoenix airport, just like that. Here I am at the end of my ride:IMG_8737Badass.

THANK YOU, Jerry and Kathy Short for everything!!! You guys really ROCK!!!!

Brush of the Gods – ML wants to meet the author and illustrator

Originally posted on What is ML Reading?:

BrushoftheGods

We’ve received bookmarks, posters and advanced copies from some authors and illustrators.  Also, we’ve met authors and illustrators at our local bookstore.  Apparently, ML thinks I have an in with all authors and illustrators.  Last night after reading Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look and illustrated by Meilo So, ML said, “I love this book.  I want to meet the author and illustrator.”

Lenore Look lives in New Jersey.  Meilo So lives in the Shetland Isles, a subarctic archipelago of Scotland.  If either visits Quail Ridge Books, we will be there.  If someone wants to fund a visit to Scotland, ML and I will be happy to visit Meilo So on her small island.

Brush of the Gods highlights the life of Wu Daozi;  considered a master painter during the T’ang Dynasty in the seventh century.  According to the author’s note, “He introduced the concept…

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Valentines from Canada!!!

Valentines Day.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

When I was little, it was a holiday I dreaded. I loved addressing all my cards and having little candies ready to give away.

But horrible thoughts loomed.

“What if I don’t get back as many Valentines as I give away?”

Or worse . . . “What if I don’t get any???”

It was a possibility. This was in the bad old days before the invention of class lists and valentines for all. With my very own eyes I’d seen classmates collapse in tears because their VRR (Valentine Receiving Receptacle), carefully made with construction paper as a class activity and taped over the edge of their desk (like a Christmas stocking hung by the chimney with care, only heart-shaped), was cruelly EMPTY at the end of the day.

It’s not something you forget.

So I still dread Valentine’s Day.

Horrible thoughts loom.

Lucky for me, last week ended well. Fourth graders at the Whitney Junior Public School in Toronto, Ontario,IMG-20140207-03154IMG-20140207-03155where snow days for inclement weather have not yet been invented, sent me the sweetest letters:scan0001

So this week, with no Valentines flooding my Valentine Receiving Receptacle, and with the hope of receiving any rapidly diminishing, I dashed off an email to their teacher, “Do you think your students would mind if I post their letters on Valentine’s Day and pass them off as Valentines?  . . . Do you think one of your students would mind drawing me colorful artwork to go with the letters? Maybe a Valentine, even?” It was as utterly desperate as it sounds. Believe me.

His reply: “We never had this whole Valentine’s Day thing in the Netherlands where I grew up, maybe that’s why according to UNICEF the children in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world.”

Then I received not one piece of artwork.

But a trove of them:Valentines

They made Valentines for the characters in ALVIN HO!!!

Wow. It’s the BEST VALENTINE’S DAY EVER!!!

THANK YOU, Mr. van Hoeijen’s Amazing Fourth Graders!!! You’re SUPER-DUPER FANTASTIC AND WONDERFULLY KIND AND THOUGHTFUL!!!!!!!

And here’s a little interview with their teacher, Mr. Bert van Hoeijen, who is from the Netherlands and can read in Dutch to his students whenever he feels like it:

How did you come across Alvin Ho? And why did you choose to read him to your class?
Ms. Soares, a colleague from another school introduced me to Alvin. I thought the book was humorous and would interest many students so they would start reading more themselves. There are also many things in your books we can talk about in class. Just like good readers make connections, visualise, infer, etc. while they are reading we talk about your stories in class while I’m reading them.

Did you do a book project or activities with Alvin?
We made organised lists and PDKs in class. We also made Valentine cards today for our favourite Alvin Ho character.

Is your school a Dutch school? (You had mentioned reading books in Dutch.)
I teach in a Canadian Anglophone school. I read a book to the class that was written in Dutch, but when I read it out loud, I tell the story in English or none of the students would understand me :-)

What languages are your students learning at school?Â
In grade four we learn English and we start learning French.

What languages do they speak at home?
Most speak English at home but we have some who know gibberish, French, Tagalog (nannies helped), Farsi, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Manderin, Italian, and Spanish at different levels.
How did you end up teaching in Canada?
I visited Canada a few times during my last year of university and I fell in love with it so I moved here and started teaching a year later.
How is this school different from the school you attended in the Netherlands?
I love teaching here. I have very talented and kind students in my class. I do think students have to do more tests and homework than we had.
Happy Valentine’s Day EVERYONE!!!

How to Make Chinese Paper Cuts

Dear Reader,

With another winter storm on the way, I thought I’d give you a fun snow-day project — Chinese paper cuts!

I learned to make these in Chinese school just before the Lunar New Year, which started with the new moon on January 31. People in China like to decorate their windows and doors with red paper cut-outs at New Year’s to invite luck into their homes.

Here’s the first one:IMG_84361. Fold a square piece of paper in half, twice.

2. Using a pencil or pen, draw the red lines above on your paper.

3. Cut along the red lines. (The blue parts above are the discarded pieces.)

4. Unfold, and it will look like this:IMG_8424This is the character, shuangxi, which means “double happiness.” The character xi means happiness or joy, and when it’s written twice, side-by-side, it’s twice the happiness. Chinese is very logical. The symbol is used during New Year celebrations and weddings.

When it’s written, it looks like this:Calligraphy_tattoo_378

When you’ve practiced a bit, you can make fancier versions of this cut-out, like this:images-1

Or this:Double_happiness6Okay, let’s not get carried away here.

If it’s a really good storm, you’ll want to go outside and scream your head off and slide around, not stay inside making a million little cuts in a little piece of paper!

So don’t even think of trying any of these:ux_a12032800ux0263_ux_g03Enough of that one.

Here’s the next cut-out I learned in Chinese school.IMG_8432 1. Fold a square piece of paper in half, and half again, lengthwise.

2. Fold the top half in half, then fold it in half again. Keep the top quarter folded down.

3. Cut a rounded corner in the top left (see above).

When you unfold it, it looks like this:IMG_8434Oops.

My teacher says I did it wrong. IMG_8426That’s my teacher. Her name is Liu Yao. She’s very nice. She’s from Shanghai.

Disregard the above instructions. I had to do it over (and over) until I unfolded it, and it looked like this:IMG_8438Uh, how do I explain how I got here? I don’t exactly know. But you gotta fold the paper so that all these creases show. Then you cut the corner :).

Then you fold the right side under like this:IMG_8439If I’ve just lost you, I’m SORRRRY!!! That’s the problem with cut-outs. They were meant for people who had nothing to do in ancient China but sit for a thousand years along the Great Wall and be on the lookout for scary barbarian invaders who couldn’t come until the snow melted. When you try to do an ancient snow-day project nowadays, it just makes you want to SCREAM, doesn’t it? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!!!

That’s better.

Here are my classmates, Joanna (left) and Donna, cutting away:IMG_8431Yes, you, too, can do this without having a breakdown.

Okay, now take a deep breath like in yoga — and fold the bottom half up, then draw a triangle with your pen above the bottom fold and along the vertical crease like this: IMG_8442Then you snip out the little triangle.

When you unfold half of the bottom, it looks like this:IMG_8443After that, you draw these lines:IMG_8445And cut:IMG_8447When you unfold, it should look like this:IMG_8449Wow! Now we’re looking fancy!

Time to work on the left side.

Draw a line to match the cut on the left side below, and cut along the line:IMG_8451Unfold, and it should look like this:IMG_8452This is the Chinese character, fu, which means good fortune, luck, or prosperity.

Written, it looks like this:

images-2

Or this :Unknown

Families in China often turn it upside-down when they put it on their door at New Year’s:images-4

When it’s upside-down, it resembles the character dao, which means “arrive.” So it announces that good fortune has already arrived at this house. IMG_8459Looks like good fortune has arrived on my notebook!

Here’s the character dao:

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So there you have it. A snow-day project from ancient China when it really snowed. It’s especially appropriate since Lunar New Year celebrations will continue until the full-moon on February 14.

Speaking of really snowing, here’s the character for snow, xue:

images-8

The top part is the character, yu, “rain.” And the bottom is used in characters for broom and sweeping. So snow is rain that can be swept. Isn’t that cool?

If only I knew how to cut that. Then we would hang it upside-down from all our doors and have a really fantastic, buried-to-the-rooftop snow day!!!

Hope we have one anyway!

Enjoy!