Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Constance Lombardo is in the House and a Giveaway!

 Today I'm celebrating a book birthday!!

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America by Constance Lombardo

And Mr. Puffball himself stopped by to tell us that author/illustrator Constance Lombardo is here to tell us a bit about herself and her latest book.

 From the publisher:

In Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (Harper/Collins), Mr.
Puffball, El Gato and the gang take to the road in search of some
fantastic footage for their buddy film. Hop aboard this fast-paced travel adventure – It’s van-tastic! 

Our interview: 
What is it with you and cats?

Funny you should ask, Barbara. When I started writing, my books were about turtles and snails, two animals I can totally relate to. But my cat Myrtle kept giving me that penetrating ‘Why don’t you write about cats?’ look. So I did. Also, cats are furry, whiskered, and they have pointy ears!

Interesting! Next question: you have a knack for getting inside a cat’s head. Have you ever been a cat psychic?

Not exactly. I get my insights into the feline mind by watching, listening and belly-rubbing. My cats are Myrtle the Elder and Gandalf the Grey, the mischievous kitten. G.G. was the inspiration for Pickles, the adorable, but irritating kitten, who is in my new book, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America.

When did you start drawing?

My first drawing of Three Men in a Tub, done when I was only four years old, is the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, it has gone missing. (Have you seen it?) When I was about ten, my sister Rita did a drawing. Not to be outdone, I did my own drawing, and I haven’t stopped since. I used to draw people. Now cats. What’s next? Maybe I’ll draw one of those scary jumpy bugs my cats keep killing and leaving lying about. But probably not.


Tell me more about your latest book, please.

Sure thing! My illustrated middle grade novel, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America, is the second in the Puffball series. Mr. Puffball and his BFF El Gato film a buddy movie demo reel at American landmarks such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, the Coney Island Cyclone, and Paul Bunyan’s Onion Ring Ranch. Rosie is the director, and the rest of the gang is along for the ride. It’s a wild road trip adventure with lots of chase scenes, rodeo numbers, diner mishaps, and litter box stops. 

In writing and illustrating this book, what was the most challenging part?

I love to draw cats, people, donuts, and other round-ish things. Drawing cars, vans and road signs requires straight-ish lines. I did my best, and I’m very proud of my drawing of the funky road trip vehicle – a VW microbus. It has wheels and everything!

Is it true there’s a character in Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America named Benedict Cumbercat?

Yes! I’m a huge Benedict Cumberbatch fan, and I love all things British. In my book, Benedict Cumbercat does some not very nice things, but in the end we understand his motivation. There’s even a visit from the Queen of England! I drew this character as a corgi, since evidently Queen Elizabeth II loves corgis. 

 What is one thing you’d like your readers to know about Mr. Puffball?

I’d like them to know that Mr. Puffball is a good-hearted, loyal, and fun cat with a big dream-to be a movie star! I think we should all dream big! My dream is to write and illustrate books that kids of all ages will love and that make them laugh. I think my dreams are coming true!! 

What’s the best part of being a published author?

The absolutely best part is getting fan mail!! (after my first book, Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat to the Stars) It’s such a thrill to hear from kids who love Mr. Puffball! Some say they don’t usually like reading, so if I can get a kid into reading through my books – wow!! Some include drawings, which is wonderful. Either way, I just love hearing from my readers.

The second best part is going into my local bookstore or library and finding my book on the shelves. What an amazing feeling!  

What’s next?

I’m working on Mr. Puffball book three!! More adventures are on the way…

Thanks for stopping by, Constance.

To celebrate this new addition to the Mr. Puffball series, Constance is giving away a signed copy!
Just leave your email address in the comments by 9 p.m. Sept 27.

Constance Lombardo enjoys drawing and writing about cats who
are famous and infamous. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband, daughter, Myrtle the Good Cat and Gandalf the Grey the Mischievous Kitten.

Mr. Puffball: Stunt Cat Across America (HarperCollins) is on shelves today. Visit your local independent bookstore to get your copy.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Be Light Like a Bird - A Book Birthday!

To celebrate the book birthday of the wonderful new middle grade
novel, Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder, I invited her to stop by and tell us where the seed for the came from.

It's always fun to hear how a seed grows and then blossoms into a book.

Here's what she said:
            When I visit schools students often ask where my ideas come from. So I'd like to share here the origin of a particular idea that I used in Be Light Like a Bird: a girl burying roadkill and a boy taking photos of animals killed on the road.

            Be Light Like a Bird is the emotional, realistic fiction story of 12-year old Wren, who is heart-broken after losing her father in an airplane crash. Wren's father always told her to be "light like a bird, not like a feather," - to control her own destiny, to make her own choices. But Wren is adrift after her father dies. Her mother acts distant and angry and takes her away from her home. Over the course of the story Wren has to heal, and when she finally learns the reason for her mother's behavior, she needs to learn to forgive.

Monika with her dog, Frank

            After her father's death, no body was found and her mother
doesn't even want to have a memorial service for her late husband. In developing Wren's character, I tried to put myself in Wren’s position and felt that her desperation about the loss of her father and her mother’s distant behavior needed an equally desperate outlet. She ends up burying roadkill. The idea for the roadkill came to me on my morning run in my North Carolina neighborhood, where on any given day one may find small animals dead on the road. I often wonder what it says about people’s relationship to animals that so many of them are killed in this way and then left dead and unattended on the asphalt. 

One of Monika's many beautiful gardens

            But then I also remembered that many years ago, a friend of mine, the talented photographer Jim Pojman, had shown me a series of black and white pictures that he had taken of roadkill. If you have the stomach for them you can see them here:

            Jim also had taken pictures of objects arranged in several rows of equal lengths, such as gummi bears, screws, buttons, dead flies, etc. From that memory I developed the idea to have Theo show Wren such images during one of their early meetings. He pulls out his binder of photos and shows her a picture of screws and then the photos of roadkill he had taken, which, of course, she doesn't want to see at that point, since she doesn't want to have anything in common with a nerd like Theo. 

            As you can see, often events, memories, and observations are stored for a long time in a writer's head and just as a new story develops they may connect and become a part of that story.

 Monika grew up in Germany and has lived and worked in international schools in Egypt, Chile, Oman and India. She is the author of Saraswati's Way, The Dog in the Wood and My Brother's Shadow. Before she moved to the US she was the elementary school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Monika now lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her husband and dog. If she doesn't write she reads, bakes or tends to her flower garden. Her latest novel for middle-grade readers is Be Light Like a Bird. Visit her at: www.monikaschroeder.com