Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau Wins PEN/Steven Kroll Award

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau has won the PEN/Steven Kroll award for picture book writing. 

The extent of my gratitude to PEN,  and to judges Barbara Shook Hazen, David Wiesner, and Cheryl Willis Hudson can be neither fathomed nor expressed. (Can you tell I've been in 19th century mode for my latest project?).  I am thrilled and deeply honored.

Thanks are also owed to Eerdmans, who chose the brilliant Amanda Hall to illustrate the book (and I hope we'll do more in the future.) Anna Olswanger and the The Lisa Dawson Agency sent me my own personal jungle, to celebrate the occasion.

It was a joy to share the news with friends and colleagues, whose encouragement has nourished me throughout the years. What a happy day. Art, love and beauty forever!
Barbara Shook Hazen, David Wiesner, and Cheryl Willis Hudson - See more at:

Barbara Shook Hazen, David Wiesner, and Cheryl Willis Hudson - See more at:
Barbara Shook Hazen, David Wiesner, and Cheryl Willis Hudson - See more at:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sparkling Nonfiction Picture Books at SCBWI Summer Conference

When I started writing for children several years ago, SCBWI (The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) offered encouragement, reassurance,  information about editors and markets,
and useful writerly advice (Type out the text of your favorite books. Read your own manuscripts aloud. Read lots of poetry- especially if you write picture books. Read deeply and widely for weeks, then after a period of silence, write your own book etc etc).

So, you can imagine what a pleasure it was to join the faculty of the Summer Conference this year.

Some points I made during my breakout session:
  • mad love for your subject fuels and sustains expressive language 
  • extensive research will provide telling, evocative and fresh details
  •  do all you can to capture and keep the attention of your audience: children. You must know the things that fascinate and challenge them, and the things they're going through.
We discussed humorous and lyrical and innovatively formatted NF pbs, and I gave tips for writing biographies, some of which are recounted here at GalleyCat.
I attended other NF workshops, dined with new friends, and reunited at the autograph session with my esteemed colleagues of CAN! (Children's Authors Network). Here is yours truly with Alexis O'Neill, Jeri Ferris, Joan Graham and Barney Saltzberg (not pictured are Mary Ann Fraser and Joanne Rocklin.)

The many splendored weekend ended with a wrap party under the stars. A heartful thanks to SCBWI!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Catching Up with Brave Girl

My goodness. So much has happened since Brave Girl entered the world in January.

Harper Collins created a fierce downloadable teacher's guide, which included connections to Common Core.

The book was selected by the Junior Library Guild and went on to receive four starred reviews,

 from School Library Journal which called it a "sparkling picture book biography,"

from Publisher's Weekly:  which said "Markel doesn’t sugarcoat the obstacles and injuries Lemlich faced as she went on to lead the “largest walkout of women workers in U.S. history,”

from Kirkus ("Catches the heart.") and from Booklist ("This book has fighting spirit in spades - you go, Clara!" )

In her review for The New York Times for Women's History Month, Pamela Paul called Brave Girl "an excellent, timely portrait of the labor leader"and according to Horn Book,

 "In her simple but powerful text Markel shows how multiple arrests, serious physical attacks, and endless misogyny failed to deter this remarkable woman as she set off on her lifelong path as a union activist."

It was an honor to launch the book on March 10 in celebration of International Women's Day, at Workmen's Circle in Los Angeles. Judy Fjell sang labor songs, Tania Verafeld read from a play about the Triangle fire, and Hershl Hartmann, a Yiddish translator and educator who knew Clara Lemlich, spoke about her lifelong commitment to social justice.
Clara on the mural at Workmen's Circle

In April, Brave Girl was nominated for an Amelia Bloomer award, and there are plans to release it as a paperback edition for PJ Library.

I am eminently grateful to Melissa Sweet for her wonderful illustrations (complete with stitchery, cloth and vintage documents), to the publisher for being so supportive, and most of all to Clara herself, for inspiring me with her courage and her legacy to the labor movement.