My Favorite Pets!

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There’s a good reason sheep show up so often in my news. They are the favorite pets in my new picture book, My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class, illustrated by the brilliantly funny Harry Bliss, who seems to be as crazy about sheep as I am.

For those of you who live in or near Massachusetts, Harry and I will be sharing our new book at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art this Saturday, July 9, at 2PM. Our matching sheep hand puppets Sheepie and Sheepish will also be attending and will have plenty (possibly too much) to say.

WRSI host and local hero Monte Belmonte interviewed me this week about the new book.

(The arm in the photo belongs to Tom Dyer, who owns and cares for the sheep along with his wife, beloved children’s book illustrator Jane. For this, I’ve dedicated the book to them.)

Susan Hill Long Photo Shoot

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When Susan Hill Long was visiting this past May — for our tour of her book, The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel — she let me photograph her in my tiny shooting studio. Despite her distrust of cameras (I feel the same way, believe me), we were successful, and one of the results is now her author photo, which you can see on her blog.

Here’s another of the photos, which I think makes her look like a mysterious heroine of a 1930s novel.

Mr. Frumble Rides Again

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Dana Sheridan, the Education & Outreach Coordinator of the Cotsen Children’s Library at Princeton University, can make just about anything children-book related out of . . . well, just about anything. Costumes, props, giant snakes, rodent rockets, you name it. Take a look at her blog Pop Goes the Page to revel in her wild imagination.

Last summer Dana was kind enough to give me her very own version of Richard Scarry’s Mr. Frumble, a glorious concoction of paper towel roll, green masking tape, construction paper, and plastic (the tires, which say BADGER PLUG COMPANY on them.)

For most of the time, Mr. Frumble stays quietly on my shelf, but recently he drove into a photo shoot that had nothing to do with him. Two of the participants were kind about it, but Jarrett Krosoczka’s Punk Farm Goat grumbled endlessly about being pushed off to one side. Only recently has he stopped, and it’s been a great relief to all of us.



New England Tour: When Writers are Friends

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This is a story about second chances.

In elementary school, my best reading friend was Susan Hill. We read the Narnia books together, and both The Phantom Tollbooth and A Wrinkle in Time when they were newly published. In this photo from my third grade birthday party, Susan is the second from the right, with the gap-toothed smile, and I’m the second from the left, in the gray wool skirt. (Why wool in the spring? I don’t know. Ask my mother.)

When I started publishing books for children, Susan was one of the people I thought of — I hoped she knew that I was tapping memories we’d made together. But foolishly I didn’t try to contact her, and discovered too late that she’d died of cancer in her fifties.

Then several years ago I met the writer Susan Hill Long and felt like I’d been given another chance. When it turned out that Sue’s best friend in elementary school had been another Jeannie, we knew it was fate. Since then we’ve become very good friends indeed. And because we’re writers, we’ve shared a lot about our writing, our process, and the fears and joys that go along with being an author.

This week, on May 10th, Sue has a delightfully funny new book coming out, The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel. And yes, it really does have all those things in it, and they fit together in a glorious plot that makes me gnash my teeth with envy. (Sue’s a really good writer — did I mention that?) To celebrate her book, Sue and I will be visiting five New England independent bookstores over the next few weeks. We’ll be talking about her book, our friendship, and maybe I’ll give away a few tidbits about the last Penderwicks book, the one I’m working on now.

Here are the stores. Please check their websites for more details. And hope to see you at one of them!

R. J. Julia Booksellers, Madison CT on Friday, May 13 at 5 PM

Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center VT on Saturday May 14 at 2PM

Broadside Bookshop, Northampton MA on Sunday May 15 at 3 PM

Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley MA on Monday May 16 at 5PM

The Children’s Book Shop, Brookline MA on Tuesday May 17 at 3PM (held at the Brookline Public Library)



Heading to Narnia


Well, not exactly. But I am going to be in Chicago discussing Narnia, among other matters, with my friend and fellow Lewis-ite, N.D. Wilson. On April 30 at 1 P.M. we’ll have a panel discussion with Elizabeth Bird at the Evanston Public Library. Then at 5 P.M. N.D. and I will meet again for an event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Napersville.

A Chair of One’s Own

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‘Writers are solitaries by vocation and necessity. I sometimes think the test is not so much talent, which is not as rare as people think, but purpose or vocation, which manifests in part as the ability to endure a lot of solitude and keep working.’

Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

Bank Street Bookfest

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On October 24, I’ll be in New York City for the Bank Street Bookfest. My panel — at 11:15AM — is called “Young Women in the (Plot) Driver’s Seat,” and will also include Laura Amy Schlitz, Kat Yeh, and Liz Kessler. But come for the whole day if you can, for there will be writers and artists galore, including my favorite dance partner Rita Williams-Garcia.


John Fowles and Me

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I have an essay in the current issue (Fall, 2015) of the Iowa Review. The essay, My Green Redoubt, discusses what I learned about privacy and secret gardens from the novelist John Fowles.

Families and (with Luck) Dancing

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On Saturday, August 1, I’ll be at the NYC Public Library for this panel with the fabulous Rita Williams-Garcia. We’ll discuss what it’s like to write books about families, especially, I imagine, families with lots of girls in them, since that’s true for both the Gaithers and the Penderwicks.

Dancing isn’t a scheduled part of the panel, but it could be a good way to celebrate summer, books, and families full of sisters.