Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas Reading

In Mrs. Claus Explains It All by Elsbeth Claus (yes, Mrs. Claus herself ;) ) and David Wenzel (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2008), Mrs. Claus answers children's questions about her husband Santa, the elves, and the reindeer. Did you know that no one ever sees Santa's village at the North Pole because of a dense fog created by special cloud-making machines? Did you also know that Santa takes more than one trip to deliver all the toys on Christmas Eve? He has a special combination launch pad and loading dock, and a pit crew of elves who restock his sack, de-ice the sleigh, water the reindeer, and refill his thermos. All under ten minutes of course. Or did you know that the elves' favorite books are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Charlotte's Web, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Wizard of Oz?

David Wenzel's warm and spirited illustrations of all things Christmas - from elves and reindeer to cookies and snow - spread Christmas cheer. Mrs. Claus' answers to children's questions and Wenzel's illustrations give this picture book a traditional and classic Christmas feel. Read this with a child asking questions like: Why didn't Santa give what I asked for? How can he get into houses without chimneys? And the most important question of all: What are Santa's favorite cookies?!

I know what some of you are thinking. "Boy, Tarie reads a lot of those Horrid Henry books written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross." These early chapter books are kind of addicting. (Trust me. I've actually tried to stop reading them.) And Christmas is my favorite holiday, so I couldn't help but be curious about how Henry would celebrate Christmas. But this is HORRID Henry we are talking about. This means Christmas DISASTER stories. Horrid Henry's Christmas (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009) has four stories. The first one takes place December 22 and the other stories follow Henry to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

In "Horrid Henry's Christmas Play," Henry plays an innkeeper who turns Joseph and Mary away in the school's Christmas play. His only line is "No" and he would like to make his part bigger. He could shout "NO!" He could shout "NO!" then hit Joseph. He could shout "NO!" then hit and rob Joseph... Hmm, the possibilities for Henry's role in the play are endless...

In "Horrid Henry's Christmas Presents," Henry manages to get Christmas presents for everyone without spending a dime. There's the soap in the bathroom for his cousin Prissy Polly. (It comes with a strand of hair, too.) How about writing a poem for Mom?

Dear old wrinkly Mom
Don't be glum
Cause you've got a fat tum
And an even bigger bum
Ho ho ho hum
Love from your son,

There. That didn't cost a thing.

"Horrid Henry's Ambush" is about Henry trying to capture Santa Claus so that he can get all the presents in Santa's sack (naturally). Henry sets up a bucket of water over his bedroom door, stretches a jump rope in front of the door, crisscrosses his room with a string with bells, and strategically places whoopee cushions all over the room. Santa couldn't possibly escape from all that. But maybe Santa has a trap for Henry, too!

And finally, "Horrid Henry's Christmas Lunch" with his family doesn't quite go as planned, but they all still have a merry Christmas together. :o)

Read Horrid Henry's Christmas for funny Christmas stories! Happy Holidays, everyone!

[Both books were provided by the publisher.]

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I've been meaning to help spread the word about this for some time now: Usok, a quarterly web-based magazine of speculative fiction by Filipino writers. It's published by Rocket Kapre Books and edited by Paolo Chikiamco. Let me take this opportunity to say that I am SUPER impressed by Paolo Chikiamco.

Enchanted Conversation is an online magazine (in Blogger format) that celebrates fairy tales through short stories, essays, and art. (Thanks to Saints and Spinners for the link!)

YARN (Young Adult Review Network) publishes short stories for young adult readers, ages 14-18, and those in other age groups who enjoy young adult literature. YARN also features creative essays, poetry, book reviews, and author interviews. (Thanks to Finding Wonderland for the link!)

Behold a new press: Twenty-six-year-old Sumanth Prabhaker has started Madras Press. Madras Press publishes beautiful individually bound short stories in regular series of four. One hundred percent of their net proceeds from sales go to charitable organizations.

These two Madras Press books are on my Christmas wish list. They seem oh oh oh so lovely!

Rebecca Lee’s Bobcat offers a tense, poetic, and emotionally harrowing account of a fateful dinner party in which couples at various stages of life and love intersect.

In Sweet Tomb, Trinie Dalton tells the story of Candy, a candy-addicted witch who resents her inherited lifestyle. After a fire burns down her gingerbread house, she leaves the forest and ventures out in search of the excitement of a more urban environment. Along the way she encounters a self-mutilating puppet, tastes meat for the first time, and falls in love with Death, a skeletal woman with a shoe fetish.

I am in awe of Sumanth Prabhaker and truly inspired by Madras Press. Read this interview over at Bookslut for more about them. (Thanks to BookDragon for the links!)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Hi, everyone! Please head on over to Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind to read my interview with writer, editor, and SCBWI RA Mio Debnam. She fills us in on the children's and young adult literature scene in Hong Kong! :o)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind

Wow. The big reveal is today. I can't believe it.

My sooper sekrit project is a second blog called Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind. Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind is a children's and young adult blog about books set in Asia and books with Asian characters (regardless of where they are published and whether or not their authors and illustrators are Asian), and Asian authors and illustrators (no matter where they are in the world). I started the blog because of the sheer pleasure I get from such books and from getting to know such authors and illustrators.

Also, there aren't enough blogs highlighting Asian children's and young adult books. This needs to change.

I am not going to abandon Into the Wardrobe. Into the Wardrobe will remain my more general children's and young adult book blog.

I'm launching the new blog with interviews of two Filipino writers: Perpilili Vivienne Tiongson, the author of "I Hate My Mother!", and Candy Gourlay, the author of Tall Story. Coming soon: blog posts on the children's and young adult book scene in Hong Kong and South Korea! (I've also cross-posted a lot of relevant Into the Wardrobe posts over at the new blog.)

Click HERE to check out Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind! I hope you all like it. =D

P.S. Carlo Angelo Canlas ( designed both my blogs. Isn't he awesome? =D

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Sooper Sekrit Project

I've been away from Into the Wardrobe because of a sooper sekrit project. I'm going to reveal it soon. Hopefully next week. In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at it. Feel free to leave your guesses in the comments section!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Publishing Giant Acquires Giant Novel - Written by a Filipina!

Press release:

David Fickling Books is enormously proud to announce the acquisition of a new stand-(tall)-alone novel, TALL STORY!

TALL STORY by Candy Gourlay is an outstanding and highly original novel for 10yrs+. The deal was negotiated by Hilary Delamere from The Agency and David Fickling.

This is a book about Bernardo, a boy who lives in the Philippines, and Bernardo is tall. Not just tall, he’s 8ft tall. Bernardo is actually a GIANT! In a novel packed with humour and quirkiness, Gourlay explores a touching sibling relationship and the comedic results of two very different cultures colliding.

Editorial director, Bella Pearson, knew there was something special from the first page: “It isn't often that I am in fits of laughter one minute and in tears the next - TALL STORY is one of the warmest, funniest, most moving books I've read in a long time - and Candy Gourlay is a rare and new voice in children's fiction. We are feeling immensely excited (and smug!) to be able to add her name to the DFB list.”

Candy Gourlay was born in Manila during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. She was in her twenties when she moved to the UK after covering the revolution that overthrew Marcos. In addition to journalism and writing for children, Candy is involved in a range of media: blogging, designing websites and even creating
YouTube videos.

Candy is passionate about embracing and exploiting the digital world to promote books, meeting other likeminded people and reaching out to younger readers online. She runs the popular blog Notes from the Slushpile for aspiring writers. TALL STORY will be Candy’s first full-length published novel.

TALL STORY will be published in June 2010 in hardback and will be launched with widespread digital publicity and buzz; David Fickling Books in the US will publish later in the year and Hilary Delamere has negotiated a separate edition to be launched in the Philippines by Ramon Sunico’s Cacho Publishing House.

For more information about Candy Gourlay see:

For more information about DFB see:

Notes for Editors

David Fickling Books is publisher of quality picture books and fiction, and is home to some of the most bestselling and highly acclaimed authors including Philip Pullman (published by DFB in the UK only), John Boyne, Mark Haddon (published by DFB in the UK only) and Jenny Downham. Its authors have won all of the major literary prizes including the Costa Children's Book of the Year, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, and most recently the Carnegie Medal. David Fickling Books is an imprint of Random House Children’s Books UK and Random House Children’s Books in the United States and is based in Oxford, England and New York, USA.

For more information please contact:

Georgia Lawe, Deputy Publicity Director at RHCB
T: 020 8231 6413 or E:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Author Interview: Sang Pak

Today, I welcome debut author Sang Pak to Into the Wardrobe! Sang has English and Psychology degrees from the University of Georgia and is a denizen of Georgia, Southern California, and Seoul. His coming-of-age novel, Wait Until Twilight, was published in August. :o)

Sang, what motivates and inspires you to be a writer?

Writing makes me feel connected and gives me a sense of purpose and meaning.

Can you tell us a bit about your debut novel?

Wait Until Twilight is a story about a high school boy, Samuel, who comes across a set of deformed triplets and their psychotic adult brother. Samuel finds himself obsessing about the triplets, though he is repulsed by them. All this coincides with re-emerging emotional memories of his dead mother. It’s a southern gothic / coming of age tale full of grotesques, adolescent life, and violence.

Why did you write Wait Until Twilight? What's the story behind the story?

The story is based on a set of dreams I had one summer a few years ago. Over a two week period I had many vivid dreams I wrote down all set in high school. So I put the pieces together and fleshed them out into a novel.

What were the challenges and rewards of writing Wait Until Twilight? What was the path to publication for the novel?

The challenge was getting a strong central story arc for the disparate vignettes that comprised the book. Once I got the story arc it was fine. Getting published took a few years of submitting to agents until one of them loved it and was able to get a deal with HarperCollins.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that your novel was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings? How did you celebrate the good news?

I think I was about to go out on a Friday night when my agent called me to tell me about getting the deal. My thoughts and feelings were basically it’s about time I finally got published!

I had drinks with friends! Woohoo!

What are your favorite coming-of-age novels? How have they influenced your own coming-of-age novel?

I love the psychological exploration and transformation in Demian by Herman Hesse and I love the humor and youthful angst of Catcher in the Rye by Salinger.

Well, the aspects I love about them, I hoped to incorporate those aspects into my novel. The psychological exploration of Demian and the humor and angst of Catcher. Also these novels showed how a coming of age novel can be done in a literary style without being boring....

What do you think is the importance of coming-of-age novels?

A coming of age novel is more or less a story of transformation, which is always interesting and relatable. It just so happens to be in the framework of child to adult.

What books would you like your own work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact/influence, popularity/sales, or awards)?

I really can’t say. I can’t compare. I don’t think I’m competitive enough!

What is your strongest or favorite memory from when you were Samuel's (your main character's) age (16)?

Wow so many. But what comes to mind this moment is just the impression of driving country roads with friends without a care in the world.

Are you working on another novel right now?

Yes I am but I don’t talk about them until they are finished! I’m superstitious that way!

Sang, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with me!

Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Coming-of-Age Edition

Yes, that's me on the left. My best friend Luningning is in the middle, and my other best friend Amor is on the right. We were all fifteen and juniors in a Catholic high school for girls when this picture was taken.

Please don't comment if you have nothing nice to say. :P LOL!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pieces of You by Daniel Armand Lee

Pieces of You is a collection of short stories written by Daniel Armand Lee. Lee is better known as Tablo, the frontman of Epik High, which is one of the best - if not the best - hip hop groups in South Korea. The ten stories in the collection were all written from 1998 to 2001, when Lee was studying creative writing and literature at Stanford University. (The Korean translations of the stories were published in 2008 and the original English versions were published just this year.) They are slices of life about family, friends, romantic relationships, secrets, being lost, unhappiness, and sickness, among other things. Several of the characters are creative types.

These are all stories I would like to read and puzzle over and reflect on again and again. Stories I would love to discuss with others. My favorite is "Andante" (written in 1998), which is a story about Jonathan, a Julliard student majoring in piano, his mother, and how they are dealing with Jonathan's Alzheimer-ridden father - who was a master pianist before he was stricken with the disease. It has been a while since a short story has touched and moved me the way "Andante" did. There is the immense strain from taking care of a very sick family member. There is a loving but incredibly complicated father-son relationship. There is a lost young man trying to find his way. And there is a real and palpable love for music in every sentence. Beautiful.

I hope Lee writes and publishes more short stories soon. He leads such a rich and fruitful life and career as an artist. I can't help but be curious about what he would come up with more than ten years after writing "Andante."

[I borrowed a copy of Pieces of You from my good friend. Thank you, Nice!]

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Reading

Here are three books I highly recommend for your Halloween reading!

"On the first day of Halloween, / my good friend gave to me: / a vulture in a dead tree."

The 13 Days of Halloween, written by Carol Greene and illustrated by Tim Raglin (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009), is a Halloween twist on the classic Christmas carol "The 12 Days of Christmas." Children will love singing "The 13 Days of Halloween." And they will be tickled by the funny illustrations. The song is about what one friend gives another for the 13 days of Halloween, but the illustrations show a man ghoul courting a lady ghoul. And they show the hilarity that would certainly ensue with such gifts as "eleven bats a-swooping" and "four giggling ghosts"! The ending of this picture book is engaging. It doesn't reveal the thirteenth gift, so kids can have fun guessing what it is and making up their own ending to the song!

I Need My Monster, written by Amanda Noll and illustrated by Howard McWilliam (Flashlight Press, 2009), is simply stunning. It's a truly unique story: a little boy named Ethan absolutely needs the monster under his bed.

"The whole point of having a monster, after all, / was to keep me in bed, imagining all the / scary stuff that could happen if I got out."

His monster, Gabe, is gone for the week to go fishing and substitute monsters try to fill in for him. However, none of them are as scary as Gabe, so Ethan just cannot fall asleep!

The illustrations in I Need My Monster are amazing. They were drawn with pencil on paper, then rendered with digital acrylic paint that jump off the glossy pages quite nicely. Ethan is adorable and has a very expressive face. Plus, the interesting shapes, monsters, and perspectives in the illustrations (as well as the story itself) balance humor with a little bit of scary stuff for children.

Below are a few of the illustrations from the book, as shared by Howard McWilliam on his official website:

The monster under author Amanda Noll's bed is Gertie. The monster under Howard McWilliam's bed is Brompton. There is no monster under my bed, which probably explains why I have trouble falling asleep at night. :o(

What's the name of the monster under your bed?

The last of my Halloween reading was Horrid Henry's Underpants and Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter, both written by Francesca Simon and illustrated by Tony Ross (and both published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009). I'd like to share a bit about Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter because it contains a Halloween story.

Halloween is Henry's favorite holiday because it is a day devoted to gorging on candy and playing pranks on people. But this Halloween, Henry isn't allowed to go trick or treating as punishment for giving his younger brother Perfect Peter a scary haircut: one side of his head gets a big bald patch. LOL. But hey what was Henry supposed to do? He was dressed as a red and black devil and didn't want to be seen with Peter in his pink bunny costume!

How will Henry make sure that he still gets to fill his trick-or-treat bag? Read Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter to find out!

[My copies of The 13 Days of Halloween, Horrid Henry's Underpants, and Horrid Henry and the Scary Sitter were provided by their publisher. My copy of I Need My Monster was provided by the author.]

Happy Halloween!

The winners of the Halloween book giveaway are...

Third prize: Petrufied

Second prize: Angelica Louise (Angel)

First prize: Bendrix

Congratulations!!! Please email me ( your contact details. :o)

Yay! =D

I have never been on any kind of "best" list, so I am really happy that Into the Wardrobe is part of the 100 Best Book Blogs for Kids, Tweens, and Teens. I'm especially thrilled about Into the Wardrobe being categorized under "Well-Rounded Book Blogs." Yay! =D

Thank you, Online School. I am glad there are people who enjoy reading this blog and find it helpful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Halloween Giveaway for Book Lovers in the Philippines

Calling all book lovers in the Philippines - this is for you! I am giving away five books and all you need to do for a chance to win is leave a comment for this post.

Third prize:

The third prize is a copy of Defining Twilight by Brian Leaf (Cliffs Notes, 2009), a vocabulary workbook for students that uses words from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. Now, I know what you are thinking, because I thought it too at first. "No more Twilight please!!!" And I was thinking this even though I love Twilight and am a fan of Stephenie Meyer's. We can only take so much, right? So why am I promoting this book? Because it's a pretty darn good vocabulary workbook. Words are presented (some examples are "sauntered," "chortling," "unequivocally," "furtively," and "proprietary") and the reader/student is directed to the pages where they appear in Twilight so that they can be read in context. The reader/student is encouraged to determine the definitions of the words using context clues. She can then check her guessed definitions against the definitions provided by the book. Many times the synonyms, antonyms, etymology, and morphology of words are also given. And of course there are multiple choice, matching type, and fill-in-the-blank vocabulary exercises to help the reader/student review the words and their definitions. All in all, six hundred words are discussed in Defining Twilight, and the entire workbook is in simple, accessible, and even fun and friendly writing. I honestly can't think of a better way to make vocabulary lessons enjoyable for pre-teen and teen girls.

Second prize:

Every parent's worst nightmare is up to his old tricks in the early chapter book Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse by Francesca Simon (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009). (For more about Horrid Henry, click here to read my review of the earlier books in this series for grades 2-5 / ages 7-10.) It's actually really nice reading about, laughing at, laughing with, and rooting for a naughty little boy!

The second prize is a copy of Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse and a copy of Defining Twilight.

First prize:

The first prize is a copy of Defining Twilight and a signed copy of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl (Graphia, 2007). That's right, a copy of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl signed by its awesome author Barry Lyga. Signed I tell ya, SIGNED!!!

*calms herself*

Okay, so their adventures aren't really astonishing, but Fanboy and Goth Girl are likable, very interesting, and authentically flawed teenage characters that seem so real. I am sure teenage readers (as well as the teenager in older readers) will relate to their insecurities, problems, hopes, and dreams. Plus all the comic book geekery in the novel is exciting!

(For more about the awesomeness that is Barry Lyga's writing, click here to read my review of one of his other novels, Boy Toy.)

So there we have it, folks. Those are all the prizes. If you are in the Philippines, please leave a comment below. These are all great books for yourselves or for your children, nieces/nephews, godchildren, grandchildren, or students. I will randomly choose three winners and post their names / contact them on Saturday, October 31.

Good luck and Happy Halloween! =D

[Horrid Henry and the Mummy's Curse was provided by its publisher. Defining Twilight and The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl were provided by their authors. Thank you!!!]

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cybils Update

Heeeeeey! Yes, I know, it's been awhile. Just been REALLY busy. I'm checking in today to share a link. Nominations for the Cybils awards are closed. Click here to see the complete list of nominees for the science fiction and fantasy category!

It's quite a list. Any of you have predictions for what will make the shortlist???

Monday, October 05, 2009 Puts a Spotlight on the Philippines

For the months of October and November, PaperTigers, a website on multicultural books for young readers, is featuring children's and YA books from and about the Philippines, as well as their talented authors and illustrators. I am absolutely thrilled that a spotlight has been put on Filipino children's and YA books!

I had the great privilege of contributing four articles to this latest edition of PaperTigers:

Click here to read my interview of author Carla Pacis.

Here to read a reprint of my interview with author Dorina Lazo Gilmore.

Here to read a reprint of my interview with author/illustrator Edna Cabcabin Moran.

And click here to read my fully revised review of "I Hate My Mother!": Magnetic levitation, a grain of rice & 3 women by Perpilili Vivienne Tiongson.

I'd also like to point out the special feature on illustrator Sergio Bumatay III. I especially like his illustrations for Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! (PaperTigers reviews the book and shares some of Sergio's illustrations from the book.) The man's work is FREAKIN' AWESOME.

Check out all this and more at PaperTigers! :o)

P.S. For all Filipinos in America, all Filipinos who grew up in America, and all who are half Filipino/half American, Happy Filipino American Heritage Month!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The 2009 Children’s and YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards

It's now time for the fourth Children’s and YA Bloggers’ Literary Awards (the Cybils), so far the only book awards from the blogging community! The Cybils reward the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine literary merit and “kid appeal.”

How are the winners chosen? Anybody may nominate any children's and YA books published in the contest year in English. This is where you come in! Click here to nominate your favorite books published between Oct. 16, 2008 and Oct. 15, 2009 in English. Nominations are already open and they close on Oct. 15, 2009. You may nominate one book per category. Here are the categories:

Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Fiction Picture Books
Graphic Novels
Middle Grade Fiction
Non-Fiction, MG/YA
Non-Fiction Picture Books
Young Adult Fiction

Panelists read the nominated books and determine a list of five to seven finalists for each category. The finalists are announced on Jan. 1, 2010.

For example, here are this year's panelists for the science fiction and fantasy category:

Panel Organizer: Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

Panelists (Round I Judges), MG/Elementary:

Anamaria Anderson, bookstogether
Cindy Hannikman, Fantasy Book Critic
Brian Jung, Critique de Mr. Chompchomp
Eva Mitnick, Eva's Book Addiction
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte's Library

Panelists (Round I Judges), Teen/YA:

Steve Berman, Guys Lit Wire
Gwenda Bond, Shaken & Stirred
Tanita S. Davis, Finding Wonderland
Nettle, The Muse, Amused
Sheila Ruth (see panel organizer)
Angie Thompson, Angieville
Samantha Wheat, Twisted Quill

From Jan. 1 to mid-February 2010, a different group of judges will read all the finalists and pick the winners. Here are the second round judges for the Cybils' science fiction and fantasy category:

Round II Judges:

Maureen Kearney, Confessions of a Bibliovore
Anne Levy, Cybils
Sam Musher, Parenthetical
Tarie Sabido (THIS IS ME!!!), Into the Wardrobe (THIS IS RIGHT HERE!!!)
Tasha Saecker, Kidslit

I am sooo grateful to be part of the Cybils this year. And I am sooo excited to read all the finalists and choose winners with the other judges. The winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day 2010. :o)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Author/Illustrator Interview: Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Today, I gleefully grill Elizabeth O. Dulemba, author and illustrator of the English and Spanish picture book Soap, Soap, Soap / Jabón, Jabón, Jabón (Raven Tree Press, 2009)! (The book also has an all-English version.) In Soap, Soap, Soap / Jabón, Jabón, Jabón, Hugo's mother gives him some dinero and tells him to go to el mercado to buy jabón. Hugo takes the looong way to el mercado, gets into trouble, and forgets what he needs to buy. ¡Ay caramba!

Welcome to Into the Wardrobe, Elizabeth!

Who are your favorite artists, graphic designers, and children's book illustrators? How have they influenced your work?

The one I credit for planting the seed of the dream to illustrate children's books is Garth Williams. I used to devour his work as a kid. Other big influences while growing up were Chris Van Allsburg, Brian Froud, Maurice Sendak, and Paul O. Zelinsky. Of course, I always want to evolve as an artist so I'm always looking at variations on the style that has become mine. Lately, I've been soaking up the work of Diego Rivera and Thomas Hart Benton. All of these amazing artists have inspired me to reach for new things and experiment with new ideas.

The really fun illustrations for Soap, Soap, Soap were colored digitally. What are your thoughts on traditional art versus digital art?

When I went digital I grew wings, so I'm a huge fan. Coming from a background of graphic design, I never really learned how to mix colors, but with a computer I have the entire rainbow available to me. The downside is, I don't have an "original" piece of art in the traditional sense - only the printed page or prints. No matter what the medium though, they are just tools for the artist to achieve their vision. And the printed book IS the final goal.

What inspired and motivated you to write Soap, Soap, Soap? What's the story behind the story?

I illustrated Paco and the Giant Chile Plant ~ Paco y la planta de chile gigante for Raven Tree Press in 2008. It was an adaptation of the classic Appalachian Jack Tale, "Jack and the Giants" - originally "Jack and the Beanstalk." So, when Paco did so well that Raven Tree wanted me to do another book for them, it seemed only natural to stick with a Jack Tale. I looked through my own library (I've been a long time fan of Jack Tales) and came across SOAP. The story had to be completely overhauled for a modern, bilingual audience, but that's where I got to play.

I personally prefer the bilingual edition of Soap, Soap, Soap - because I am trying to learn Spanish! What do you think is the importance of bilingual children's books?

In Europe, it's common for people to speak more than one language. But in America we've been sheltered and cut off from other influences until recently. Our world has changed. Cultures, races and people from various backgrounds are more integrated than ever. It's unrealistic to expect everybody to speak the same language, eat the same foods, wear the same clothes and look the same - and frankly, who would want it? It's the mix that makes our world exciting and interesting. But it does require flexibility on everybody's part by learning other languages so that we can interact and function with all the people in our society.

Can you guide us through the creative process you used for Soap, Soap, Soap?

Once the manuscript was nailed down, I started doing character sketches. Lots of them. I drew and drew until Hugo showed up saying, "This is me!" I broke up the text and sketched thumbnail ideas of what the individual layouts would look like and then slowly built them up. Each spread got about three rounds: thumbnail, larger sketch (about 4" wide) and full size. Each version was bigger and more detailed. When I get to the largest version, I drew the elements separately - all wonky all over a page - then scanned them into Photoshop to arrange the compositions. Once all the final sketches were finished and approved, I went through and did flat color studies for all the pieces. That was for consistency so I could make changes easily before moving on to the next and final stage. I rendered the pieces in Painter, adding in all the highlights and shading and touching every inch of the canvas with texture and color. Voila!

What do you hope children will experience or take away from the book?

Ironically, a lot of teachers have been using SOAP to teach their students about general hygeine and hand-washing - very important in this swine flu season. I'm thrilled that I've created a book that encourages participation, repetition, and laughter. So, I guess what I hope they will take away from it the most is a smile (and maybe some Spanish vocabulary).

Soap, Soap, Soap certainly put a big smile on MY face, Elizabeth! And yes, I learned more Spanish words because of it.

I've watched a video of you during a school visit. I love your energy! How do you do it? Where do you get all that energy? What will your school visits using Soap, Soap, Soap be like?

Y'know, it's funny, I'm a bit of a hermit at home. But you put me on a stage and I become a complete ham. I'm quite comfortable working an audience to participate, react, and laugh. And I soak up the energy from a good audience like chocolate. It's an odd and unexpected facet of this career, but I love it.

I presented SOAP for the first time at the Decatur Book Festival when I opened for Judy Schachner and the tent was overflowing - wowsa! I read SOAP (with lots of audience participation), gave a quiz at the end (with rubber duckie prizes), then drew the rubber duckie from SOAP and did a Q&A. I received some wonderful compliments afterwards and plan to do some of the same things during my school visits (and three more festivals coming up this Fall). Of course, in schools I also include my slide show about my work method.

Honestly, if I wasn't a writer/illustrator, I'd probably be a teacher. So I adore the chance to share what I do with kids and adults.

What is it like to be the Illustrator Coordinator for the Southern Breeze region (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (USA)? What kind of work do you do for this role?

It's a lot of fun, but a lot of behind the scenes work as well. My first event in my new position was a gallery show for our illustrators. It got picked up by the Southern Arts Federation to travel the South for two years as "Storybook Look: Illustrations by Southern Artists." That's a hard event to follow! We're about to have the other event I created - our 2nd annual Portfolio Workshop. Beyond that, I've set up a blog for our illustrators as an online critique resource and I help with the illustration side of the conferences and festivals. It's a big commitment, but it's been amazing. And I was actually awarded a scholarship to attend the SCBWI Summer conference in LA this past summer for my efforts - what an honor.

Your current work in progress is The 12 Days of Christmas in Georgia. Christmas is my favorite holiday and I love Christmas books. This sounds fabulous! Can you tell us a bit about it?

Sterling Publishers is doing one of these for each state and they're tons of fun for the lucky authors and illustrators who get to work on them. And it's given me the opportunity to explore my own state and discover new things - Georgia is pretty cool! Sketches are awaiting approval right now, so I will probably be going to final (color) art soon.

Having one of those books for each state sounds awesome!!!

What else are you working on now?

Right now my focus has been marketing to make sure SOAP kicks off in a BIG way. The next squeaky wheel is the Portfolio Workshop on October 3rd. But I'm also working on a storybook app for the iphone, writing a novel, and waiting for word on a new picture book I have with my agent - along with 12 Days. Lotso, lotso stuff.

Wow, a storybook app for the iPhone . . . and a novel? You are busy indeed! I can't wait to see what you have in store for us, Elizabeth. Thank you so much for stopping by Into the Wardrobe to answer my questions!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Author Interview: Joy Preble

I'd like to introduce another debut author today. :o) Joy Preble is the author of the young adult fantasy Dreaming Anastasia: A Novel of Love, Magic, and the Power of Dreams (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2009), an intriguing and enjoyable re-imagining of what happened to Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia and the Russian folk tales about Baba Yaga and Vasilisa the Beautiful (also known as Vasilisa the Brave).

Thank you very much, Joy, for stopping by today to answer my questions!

How does your teaching high school English affect your writing and vice versa?

I suppose the biggest effect on me is that I’m around my target audience five days a week, 8-9 hours a day. So I definitely feel somewhat hooked in to trends, issues and the whole inner angst of high school. I do think that most adults forget the intensity of the teen years sometimes, but it’s hard for me to do that when it’s basically right on top of me all the time. I also think it gives me a healthy respect for how hard it is to grow up- to learn about love and loss and regret as well as triumph and success - and I do want to reflect that in my writing. As for the vice versa, I do think writing teenage characters does make me fairly mellow most days. (okay not all days) But it’s hard to gripe at some kid for not reading his chapters in To Kill A Mockingbird or whatever when you’re going home and writing in the head of a girl who’s blowing off her academics because a handsome hottie has told her she needs to save a Russian princess.

Why did you write Dreaming Anastasia? What’s the story behind the story?

I’ve been fascinated by the Romanov story for a very long time. Such a huge tragedy – all those pretty people gunned down in their prime. That creepy, creepy Rasputin. And of course Anastasia herself – so young and feisty and full of life. Russian history always seems to exist on such an enormous, larger than life scale. So it was hard not to have it all stuck in my head. Eventually, when I got serious about writing novels, the idea of a girl came to me. She was in high school, and she was smart and funny and possibly a little angry. Her life wasn’t what she wanted it to be. And then she starts getting stalked by this guy who tells her it’s her destiny to save Anastasia. I figured a lot of wackiness would ensue. And I guess it did!

What influences and inspirations (both literary and non-literary) did you draw from while writing Dreaming Anastasia?

You know I can’t really point to any one influence. I think my influences in general come from a variety of places. I admire Sarah Dessen for her ability to make her characters seem absolutely real and I strive to emulate her in that regard. I love Libba Bray’s use of history in her Great and Terrible Beauty series. I think John Greene and Maureen Johnson are hysterically funny when they write and I only wish to get to their level at some point. Television writers influence me as well – the genre blending of western and sci fi in Joss Whedon’s Firefly let me think that it was possible to do things differently and get away with it. And of course the Palladinos set the bar for fast paced, smart dialogue in Gilmore Girls. If I could be an ounce as good as any of those folks, I’d be a lucky girl.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that your novel was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings? How did you celebrate the good news?

Actually, I was on my way to the dentist to have a cavity filled when my agent at the time emailed and said she had news and would I call her. My heart started pounding because I knew that Dreaming Anastasia (then titled Spark) had been in acquisitions at Sourcebooks. But even with that, you never count on a deal until it’s actually offered. It was honestly the happiest I’ve ever been while sitting in the dentist’s chair! It ended up that I needed a crown not just a filling, and I was sitting there saying whatever! My book sold. Drill away. Eventually, when the Novocain wore off, my husband took me out to dinner. I chewed on one side only, dribbled my wine down my shirt because my lip was still a little numb and smiled a crooked smile all night.

Do you have a message for your readers in Asia?

I hope that Dreaming Anastasia is as universal a story as I think it is. And if you like this tale of a girl who thought her life was ordinary until she discovered it wasn’t, a guy who has more than a few regrets, a princess who made some of her own mistakes and has been trapped for a long time, a maybe crazy, maybe not witch, a bad guy or two and a best friend who’s always there when the going gets rough, let me know. It’s about love and loss and redemption and our need for second chances, about the things we wish to change and the ones we find we can’t. I hope that appeals to everyone – no matter where we live!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Books I Scored at the 30th Manila International Book Fair

This is my first time to participate in the In My Mailbox meme from Alea of pop culture junkie and Kristi of The Story Siren. Here goes!

Below are the children's and YA books I bought Saturday at the 30th Manila International Book Fair. :D

From Taiwan:

The Careless Boy, Mr. Know-it-all (The Illustrated Sutra of the One Hundred Parables Vol. 3) by Yun-peng Kung, Chia-chi Kuan, and Kristian Kildall

From the Philippines:

Children of Two Seasons: Poems for Young People written by Lara Saguisag and illustrated by Hubert B. Fucio

The Brothers Wu and the Good-Luck Eel: A Tale from the Philippine Islands written by Fran Ng and illustrated by Arnel Mirasol

Haluhalo Espesyal written by Yvette Ferreol and illustrated by Jill Arwen Posadas

Papa's House, Mama's House written by Jean Lee Patindol and illustrated by Mark Ramsel Salvatus III

Naku, Nakuu, Nakuuu! written by Nanoy Rafael and illustrated by Sergio Bumatay III

Displaced by Aneka Rodriguez

Ang Inuwi ni Nanay / What Mama Brought Home by Ramon C. Sunico (Darn, no cover image available online!)

The Grand Parade written by Carla Pacis and Nanoy Rafael and illustrated by Marcus Nada (Double darn re: no cover image available.)

From the US:

The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming (Book II of The Brotherhood of the Conch) by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports (Maximum Ride, Book 3) by James Patterson

Double Dutch by Sharon M. Draper

Sweet Valley High #1: Double Love by Francine Pascal

Ghost Ship written by Mary Higgins Clark and illustrated by Wendell Minor

Celebration of International YA Bloggers

Australian YA blogger Adele is celebrating international YA bloggers at her blog Persnickety Snark. She's already featured YA bloggers from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Spain, the Netherlands, and other countries - and the celebration is only halfway over! Today, she is featuring yours truly. :o) So if you want to know a little bit more about what it's like to blog about YA books from the Philippines, head on over here to read Adele's interview of me!

And oh yeah, today is my 27th birthday. :o)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Author Interview: Kaleb Nation

Today I have a quick Q&A with probably the youngest children's/YA debut author of 2009. This twenty-one-year-old is the author of Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, a novel about a teen who has discovered that he has incredible magical powers - while living in a city where magic is illegal.

Introducing... Kaleb Nation!

Kaleb, please tell us, what motivates, inspires, and influences you as a writer?

As a writer, I think that I am most influenced by the things that happen to me in real life. Everyone has experienced happiness, and heartbreak, and joy at some time or another. When I am writing, I try to think back to the things that I've felt in my life, and I try to imprint those feelings onto my characters.

Where were you and what were you doing when you found out that your novel was going to be published? What were your first thoughts and feelings? How did you celebrate the good news?

When I got the call from my agent, I was actually sitting in class at my university. My phone buzzed and I quickly checked the Caller ID, and the moment I saw my agent's name, somehow I knew it was THE call. I got out five minutes later, and I raced across campus to my next class, playing his voicemail a dozen times on the way. I called him back from the hallway, and he had the deal!

I was so flustered that I was 15 minutes late for the next class. But when the professor found out why, she didn't mind too much!

What books would you like your own work to match or surpass (in terms of writing, impact/influence, popularity/sales, or awards)?

If I could one day become at least half the writer that John Green is, then I will feel I have really achieved something. And as for goals, I've always wanted to be a New York Times Bestseller sometime.

If you could choose only one, which would you choose: for your novel to be award-winning, or for it to be bestselling? Why?

I think I would prefer award-winning. Books that win good awards usually stick around longer than quick bestsellers.

Do you have a message for your readers in Asia? :o)

It's amazing that you'll be reading the book all the way around the world from where I wrote it! Hope you enjoy the story :D

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Kaleb!