Friday, November 01, 2013

Giving Thanks; Poems, Prayers, and Praise Songs of Thanksgiving

Edited and with reflections by Katherine Paterson, Illustrations by Pamela Dalton.Chronicle Books, 2013. (review copy) I was delighted to receive this lovely, timely book in the mail the other day. It is absolutely gorgeously illustrated with paper cut done by Dalton in a sixteenth century German and Swiss technique called "Scherenschnitte" or "scissor cuts," which was brought to the States by Pennsylvania German settlers. See some of her work and read more about it at her site The team of Paterson and Dalton also produced Brother Sun, Sister Moon in 2011.

Giving Thanks is a collection of short prayers, poems and praise songs taken from a variety of cultures and traditions. Opening to a random page one can find wisdom and beauty shared from Islamic prayers, Chinese proverbs, Native American poems, Vietnamese prayers, King James Bible verses, and traditional American blessings. It is a balanced and graceful smorgesbord that will charm a child's heart and lift the spirits of weary adults gathering the family together at the end of a long day or preparing to face the day's challenges. Hildegard of Bingen and Matsuo Basho share a page to remind us of the simple joys found in a single, precious day:

Katherine Patterson introduces each section of the book with a reflection of her life and growing up years. Her stories are just the right touch to bring us closer to finding meaning and unity in this diverse, wide ranging panorama of the celebration of thanks in the human heart. If you are looking for a refreshing splash of thankfulness and joy this season presented with beauty and exquisite skill - this is the book for you and your family!

Publisher's Weekly review

Friday Poetry is hosted by Linda at Teacher Dance on this All Saint's Day. Enjoy!

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Poetry Sisters Write Pantoums

We've been at it again. My poetry sisters have been up to hijinks once again. I've been privileged to be schooled in several poetic forms by these fabulous and talented women before, when we challenged each other to write a crown sonnet , villanelles, and rondeau redoubles. Liz got us going this time by challenging us to write pantoums sparked by the line "I've got better things to do than survive," from Ani DiFranco's song "Swandive." Several years ago Miss Rumphius's Monday Poetry Stretch taught us the form and I tried it out here. I really struggled with this one, editing and fussing over it right up to today's publication time. I am not done tweaking I am afraid, but we agreed to go public so here I am,  jumping into free fall. Please go read the others at Laura's Friday Poetry roundup post, and share some love with the kidlitosphere's weekly poetry celebration.

doll bin.JPG

Moth Sisters

"I've got better things to do than survive"
she flung over her shoulder on the way out.
The crash of her door a shattering cry
supplanting my lamp with a far distant star.

Gusting over her shoulder on the way out,
her tresses diffused a cool honey shine,
supplanting my lamp with a far distant star
(silk spun for protection hides hooks on the end).

Her tresses diffusing her cool honey shine,
a cocoon once jostled begins to emerge.
Silk spun for protection hides hooks on the end.
And me alone with my dolls in a muddle;

a cocoon once jostled begins to emerge,
from crumpled wings expanded she flutters away.
And me alone with my dolls in a muddle.
She believes she's outgrown what once kept her whole,

from crumpled wings expanded she flutters away.
The crash of her door a shattering cry
She believes she's outgrown what once kept her whole -
"I've got better things to do than simply survive!"

Andromeda Jazmon


Friday, October 04, 2013

Rock Climbing Haibun

Last weekend we went hiking in a state park where there is a large outcropping of rock towering above a creek that winds through the valley. We ate lunch on the top of the ridge with a view that scanned the clouds floating on the horizon, the forest hills, and the tumbling whitewater far below.

could be trout
far out of casting distance;
rushing stream

We climbed down the trail twisting between trees that sometimes clung to the very rock wall on our left. We passed climbers strapped into high tech gear and trail crews scrubbing graffiti. Everyone was in a cheerful mood. I got an ache in my neck from straining to take in the sheer awesome bulk of the rock that rose above us. Trees grew below, beside, in the midst of, and above rock in every shape an size. Roots exposed or sunk into the crevices, each one found a way to flourish and catch the sun.

roots in the air
from trees clinging to cliffs;
rocks in the treetops 

Down at the bottom of one of those formations, under a trickle of spring water sliding over mossy rock, we found a tiny pool of muddy water.
moss from spring 

 I bent down to get a closer look and discovered a tiny frog sitting under a leaf in the puddle. He held still for me to take several photos and didn't seem startled to see me hovering over him. Perhaps he is accustomed to ignoring massive shadows looming over his head. He was secure in his fortress; stone wall at his back. 

frog in rock pool

little frog at home
under the rock wall;
all else is sky

This type of haiku story-writing is called Haibun. It's an old form of prose poem/travel log or journal with haiku poems interspersed between short narrative descriptions, made famous by the 17th c. Japanese poet Basho in his writing The Narrow Road to Deep North. Read more about the form here.

Today's Friday Poetry roundup is hosted at Dori Reads. Enjoy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Autumn is Good for Melancholy Haiku

 Our cherry tree turns/ yellow; last time you were here/ tight buds newly green #haiku #FridayPoetry #melancholy

our cherry tree turns
yellow; last time you were here
tight buds newly green

-Andromeda Jazmon

Haven't done Friday Poetry in a while but with the changing seasons I am inspired again. I always enjoy a good melancholy haiku.

Today's Friday Poetry round up is hosted by Amy at The Poem Farm. Enjoy!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Ferdinand Fox’s First Summer

by Mary Holland. Sylvan Dell, 2013. (Review copy). This charming book is packed with gorgeous close-up photographs of a fox kit in his first summer. Holland is a nature photographer and environmental educator doing a fine job of introducing children and adults to the secret lives of foxes . You may think there are no foxes living near you, but if you are in the Northern Hemisphere you might be surprised. Foxes live in farmlands, forests, prairies, deserts and cities. Last summer my son and I saw a fox running home with a groundhog in her mouth while we were standing at the local suburban ice cream place having a cone. She ran across a field, crossed a parking lot and major roadway, and disappeared behind the next housing development, bringing dinner to her kits I am sure. Foxes are nocturnal and adapt very well to human habitats. They will eat a wide variety of things including groundhogs, garbage, earthworms, mice, voles, berries and fruit or garden produce, frogs, snakes and turtles.

Holland's nonfiction picture book follows the first summer of young Ferdinand, the runt of his litter, as he emerges from the den, nurses from his mother, wrestles with his litter-mates, learns to hunt and grows into an independent young adult. The back of the book includes sections "For Creative Minds", with fun facts, life cycle events to put in order, and photographic examples of all the things foxes eat.

My sons and I also read the ebook on our iPad Mini, downloaded from iTunes. The photos are even more stunning on the iPad, although the screen is smaller than the 8.5"x10" paperback. The paperback has the photos spread between both pages with significant sections of the images lost in the center fold space. On the screen you can zoom and pan to take in small details with no loss of image (although you can see where the fold is). The story can be read to you with automatic page turning, or you can chose to read it yourself with your child. At the end of the ebook are several educational modules including some fun quizzes.

During Children's Book Week (May 13-19, 2013) you can go to the website Sylvan Dell and read the book for free under the Staff Picks section. And, this week only, all the featured ebooks are just 99 cents! Check out the Events and Author Visit page to see if there is something happening near you.

I am giving away a copy of this wonderful book from the publisher Sylvan Dell. Just leave a comment with your contact info to get put in the drawing!! (US and Canadian addresses only).

Today's Nonfiction Round up is hosted by Julie at Instantly Interruptible. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2013

It is that rollicking good time day when you are encouraged to carry a poem and share it with friends, family, strangers - pass it around like a smile!

It started in NYC several years ago and now is celebrated all over. Go to for ideas of how to celebrate and poems you can print to carry or share. At my library I am postings and passing out some of my favorites by Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Lucille Clifton, and many others. Fun times!

You can follow the hashtags #poetrymonth #pocketpoems or #poemaday to follow my Twitter and Instagram haiku with photos (haiga) all month and find other poets that are posting today and all through National Poetry Month.

My eight year old son went to school with this in his pocket:

Put Something In

Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-grumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
'Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain't been there before.

-Shel Silverstein

We found it in the Special Edition (2009) A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein.

What are you packing today?

The Friday Poetry Round up is celebrated today  by Irene at Live Your Poem...

Friday, April 12, 2013

April Rain Haiga

leafing willow haiku

I am continuing to post haiga on my Instagram account every day in April, as an exercise for National Poetry Month. The whole collection is gathered here on this post. You can follow me on Twitter or Instagram also.

I am experimenting with using Phonto and the Flickr photo editor Aviary to add text so the haiku is directly on the photo. So far I like what I am getting. I wish my iPod Touch had a better camera though! Maybe I should upgrade to this.

Haiga is a Japanese poetic form developed in the 17th century. It is a combination of haiku poetry, images, and caligraphy. In old Japan it was ink paintings suggesting a connection to the haiku word images. Nowadays many poets use photography. You can learn more about the form here and here. I have been looking at other modern English haiga on these two sites: DailyHaiga and HaigaOnline. If you have done haiga before please share where and let me know how your work procedes!

Today's Friday Poetry Round up is hosted by Diane at Random Noodling . We are in the middle of a fabulous National Poetry Month with action all over the kidlitosphere linked here at Jama's blog. Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Winners in the Hilary McKay Blog Tour!

Last month I took part in the Hilary McKay blog tour with an interview focused on her Lulu books. It was such a fun interview - we got to have a fascinating conversation about how she worked with illustrator Patricia Lamont to portray her character Lulu. The publisher, Albert Whitman & Co sponsored the tour and promised to give away copies of the Lulu books to two lucky commentors on my blog post. Since only three people commented on that post I begged Albert Whitman & Co to spread the love a little farther, and they agreed! So now I just need to hear from you Sarah, Tanita, and Jill. Send me your snail mail and I will pass it on to the publisher!! Congratulations you lucky ducks!!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Nonfiction Monday Round Up is Here Today!

Every Monday the Kidlit blogosphere hosts a round up of posts about children's and young adult nonficiton books. Today I am hosting with links from all over. If you have a post up leave a comment and put your unique URL in Mr. Linky below. Then come back later in the day or tomorrow to visit all the blogs.

My contribution is a recommendation of the book Hand in Hand; Ten Black men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. (Jump at the Sun Books, 2012). Winner of the 2013 Coretta Scott King Author Award. This flowing, accessible story of ten great leaders in American history covers the span of Benjamin Banneker, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Barack H. Obama II. The Pinkneys speak directly to children and young adults about the trials and tribulations faced by these outstanding Black men and show how determination, struggle, faith and grace enabled them to change the world for the better. One section that I am making a point to share with my sons is the chapter on Thurgood Marshall, who Pinkney describes as a "one of a kind kid with a way all his own. The boy wore knee-pants and hard shoes. He carried a comic book in both his back pockets, and was good at snapping gum. [...] Thurgood was  an A+ prankster, too."  Pinkney goes on to say "A true trickster, the one who makes the best mischief, is the one paying the closest attention." I need to keep that in mind in my house! Thurgood's principal sent him to the school basement to memorize passages from the Constitution as a punishment. After a while he was known as the boy who could help other students with their memory work and explain all the hard words. This boy grew up to be "Mr. Civil Rights", arguing Brown vs. Board of Education and the one who "Knocked "separate but equal" on its crooked head." Andrea Pinkney's poetic prose reads like a folktale and her husband Brian's full color portraits and illustrations are vibrant and beautiful. This book is a treasure!!

Reviews at NYT, GoodReads, and Horn Book are worth checking out too.

Now let the wild rumpus begin!!

Ms. Yingling has a fiction/nonfiction pairing on the Battle of Gettysburg.

Jeff @ NC Teacher Stuff has The World is Waiting for You, which he would "call it the nonfiction version of Oh, The Places You'll Go!."

Brenda @ proseandkahn has Self Portrait with Seven Fingers; The Life of Marc Chagil in Verse.

Lisa @ Self Employed has A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin.

Alex @ Randomly Reading has Tito Puente: Mambo King.

Ami @ A Mom's Spare Time has kid's cooking books in a series from Lerner.

Sally's Bookshelf has Miss Ladybird's Wildflowers.

Booktalking has Earth Day Every Day.

Jean Little Library has One Step a Time; A Vietnamese Child Finds Her Way.

Cindy and Lynn have Style Me Vintage at Bookends.

Wrapped in Foil is singing the praises of Forest Has a Song.

Perogies and Goyza has What's for Lunch? How School Children Eat Around the World.

Mother Reader is featuring a pet care book on small mammals.

Biblio File has Blizzard of Glass; The Halifax Explosion of 1917.

Janet Squires has the ABC's of Baseball. It must be spring!

Alicia @ The LibrariYAn has Migrant Mother; How a Photograph Defined the Great Depression.

Sonder Books has Helen's Big World.

Be sure to visit these wonderful blogs this week and discover so new and fabulous nonfiction!

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Haiku on Instagram for National Poetry Month 2013

Here is a collection of my daily haiku/haiga done through Instagram. I started using Phonto, a photo editor that works on my iPod to put the haiku directly onto the image. Have you tried this? If you are using Instagram let me know!

Monday, April 01, 2013

National Poetry Month 2013

 spring parsley

Happy April
Happy Spring
Happy Poetry Month!!

In years past I have used this space to post daily haiku and photos all through April. This year I am not going to use the blog to do it. I feel the need to change things up and be more mobile. I want to use my iPod touch to take photos and post haiku on Twitter. I am finding several hashtags in use today, the first day of National Poetry Month: #haiku #npm #poetrymonth #haikuaday #napowrimo. What have you seen or used?

You can follow me on Twitter @AndiSibley. I am also experimenting with having tweets sent to FB and the sidebar of this blog. I haven't used Instagram so far but I am curious about how that would work. Do you have experience with it? What do you like/don't like about it?

ETA: signed up for Instagram and will try using it all this month, sharing haiga on Twitter & FB.

You can find the whole lineup of bloggers celebrating Poetry Month here at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Find more poetry happenings and ways to celebrate at

In my library we will be posting poems throughout the month and doing Poem in Your Pocket day on April 18.

What are you doing?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Text Message Found Poem

I had to clear out the text messages in my cell phone this week. I found a poem there! You know how disjointed a text conversations can be, and reading it over you are going backward in time? There is something about the layers of meaning and the unique undercurrents in a conversation between familiars. There is no body language like f2f but there is a flavor, a vibe. It calls to the heart.

keyboard puzzle

Your Msg Box is 90% Full

Be right there

They want us there by 9
OK I don’t think it’s too late

the parks lady called
My battery is low

Call me when you get close
The ticket line is taking a while

Where R you?
LOL I looked at my bike today

What does the Doc say?
I just wanted to know

OK I am open now
Went to work

Driving now can’t text
Home tomorrow

Good! Come by @ 2
I love you and the boys

I was getting off the train
I was just panicking

I think I’m lost
Trapped by pouring rain

LOL you don’t look out of place!
Sitting in Starbucks

Can you come home?
Can you grab me a shirt?

Awesome and yes

Marmalade and pb sandwiches?
Want to meet for lunch?

You sound stressed

Sorry my phone doesn’t know your name
In Philly airport

 - Andromeda Jazmon

Today's Friday Poetry Round up is hosted by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Enjoy your Easter weekend!

Also - the March Carnival of Children's Literature is up here at Secrets & Sharing Soda. Catch some of the best blog posts of the past month and discover a few new-to-you bloggers!

Don't forget to check out the Hilary McKay blog tour that went on this week! Some great interviews and reviews posted, including my giveaway post here. We had a riveting conversation about writing cultural identity into diverse characters in children's literature.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hilary McKay Blog Tour!! Interview and Giveaway

I am very excited today to be part of the Hilary McKay Blog Tour! Today she is stopping by for an interview focused mainly on her books Lulu and the Duck in the Park and Lulu and the Dog by the Sea. These two endearing early chapter books are a delight to read. I will be giving away copies to two lucky commentors on today's post, so make sure you stick around and put in your two cents at the end!  (Contest ends April 1, 2013. We can only ship to USA or Canadian addresses).

Also, Lulu and the Duck in the Park is up for a 2013 Kiddo Award at ReadKiddoRead! From that site:

The KIDDOS honor those books published in the last year that were the best at turning kids on to reading, the strongest at lighting the spark that takes a young reader from one book to the next and the next and the next. 

Jump on over there and place your vote for your favorites! Then come back and have a hot cuppa and sit back and enjoy the interview.

AJ: Ms. McKay (may I call you Hilary?) WELCOME!!! I have been a fan of yours for a long time. Ever since I first read Indigo Star back in 2006 and of course had to read all of the Casson series right up to Caddy's World, which I was fortunate enough to read for the Cybils award judging last winter. I know you've been interviewed tons of times and all the good questions have been asked again and again so I am going to try to reach to new territory. Sound scary? Not.
HM: Certainly you can call me Hilary if I can call you Andromeda, which is a lovely name and shows great imagination on the part of your parents. And thanks for liking the Cassons!
Yes, I have been interviewed tons of times, and no you do not sound scary.
AJ: I seem to recall that sweaters and lost sweaters in particular are involved in a lot of your books. Are you a knitter? Do you have a sweater collection or tend to lose sweaters? Maybe know some children who do? Just curious! I love to knit and have lots of sweaters, so I wonder about these things. What is your sweater/story connection?
HM: Really? Sweaters and lost sweaters? How did I miss that? My knitting fills my children with horror. They say (suspiciously) 'Who is that for?' and sidle away. It is usually scarves because I am better at straight lines. I too have lots of sweaters (bought not knitted by hand) and so does everyone else I know. They are essential in this horrible English climate. We have had no sunlight to speak of for two years straight. No sweaters have been lost during this time because nobody has the courage to take them off.

AJ: Oh. Well. Hmmm. Anyway. Your character Lulu is famous for animals.  You do such a marvelous job of writing the story from the dog's point of view. I am not even a dog person and it brings tears to my eyes when the Dog from the Sea bolts away from dog catcher trouble in Lulu and the Dog from the Sea. Do you have a lot of pets? What would be the perfect pet in your opinion?
HM: My character Lulu is indeed famous for animals. I am so sorry to hear you are not a dog person but perhaps I can convert you. Dogs are kind and merry animals and many of them (not all) leave the human race standing when it comes to civilized behaviour. True, their fur is inclined to fall off (we had a black and white collie- well we had two actually, and we used to marvel at how cleverly the dogs shed their white hairs onto our black sweaters and the black ones onto our white ones). True also, they sometimes, especially when wet, smell a little. Nothing compared to the messiness and smelliness of the human race of course.
No, I do not have a lot of pets. Hardly any at the moment. I am on the lookout for a perfect dog. I think he will be a black poodle (non-shedding and non-smelly and highly intelligent) and I think he will be called either Roly (after my beloved Roly) or Doodle the Poodle. I have not yet 1. Found him. 2. Decided. (Watch this space) Lately I have been feeling so dogless that I tell the children every time they leave the house, 'You are welcome to come home with any dog you chance upon. I will not complain.' I don't know why this hasn't happened yet, but I have great hopes that very soon it will.

AJ:  I am sure it will! My favorite word in these stories is "squished" and I notice you used it gloriously several times in funny, clever ways. Open lines in Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, describing the friendship of Lulu and Mellie: "They could visit each other easily without getting lost or squished on the road." I think that is a really lovely way to attract and draw in young readers. They will immediately connect with the situation and the sentiment. What are some of your favorite words that you recognize as being particularly connecting for early chapter book readers?
HM:You seem to read these books far more carefully than I write them. Squished is a more light hearted and liquid form of squashed, and as such a useful word. I have never ever thought of any words as connecting words in early chapter books. Never. I did not know people considered such things.
AJ: Er Maybe you caught me being overly teacherly I might think too much about textual connections, its true. Ill try to settle down and just enjoy! Just a couple more questions

I was really pleased to see the illustrations in the Lulu books, drawn by Priscilla Lamont. They are lovely and charming and perfectly compliment your story. I understand that authors often don't get much of a say in the illustrations chosen for their books. I am curious about whether you got to discuss your characters with Ms. Lamont before she drew them. I see them as Black or at least some ethnicity other than white. I am wondering if you indicated that they were Black before she drew them? Did you have that concept in your mind from the beginning or did it develop in the course of writing or the editing process? Did you have specific reasons for that choice?
HM: I KNEW we were going to get on the subject of Lulu being Black! (I see you use a capital B so I am doing the same although it is not usual here.) And her father and her mother and her Nan (a saintly woman) and her cousin.  You Americans are fascinated by the choice! Why? Why is it so surprising? Have you not noticed, for instance, that you have a Black President? The Lulu books have been out in the UK now for years and nobody has remarked on the colour of Lulu's skin.

AJ: I guess I have some background explaining to do for the race-related questions. I have been quite interested in diversity representation in children's literature for a long time. I've been a librarian and teacher of young children for many years, and I am parent to three boys aged 25 - 7. I have found that a lot of the literature published for children mainly includes central characters that are Caucasian. I believe it is important to strive for more balance in representing a variety of ethnicities and skin tones. I don't think that happens by co-incidence so I work toward it consciously. But please, continue telling us about your collaboration with Priscilla Lamont!
HM: Yes, I have a lot of input in the illustrations, from choosing the illustrator to scrutinizing each one before it goes to print. And sometimes describing specific scenes we need to help the story along. Right from the beginning I said, 'Let's make Lulu Black'. And so she was.  I did not have any particular reasons. I suppose I was aware of the fact that there are more white children than Black in early chapter books. However,  and a million times more importantly, we live in a multicultural society here in the UK (hurray) and a class all of white children would be mighty odd. Why should she not be Black? She is adorable and brave and smart and funny and kind too. I wrote stories with children who were other than white  years ago, they just were not published in the US.
Priscilla's illustrations are lovely, I agree. She drew my thoughts. It is a great partnership. They add so much to the stories- she can draw in half a page what would take me two pages to describe.

AJ: I don't see much in the text that would identify the main characters as a people of color, but I am so happy that they are! We need to see all races/ethnicities represented in wonderful stories so I am thrilled. Are there any parts in the text that you feel added to that identification? Since the story is set in England and things are a bit different there than the States perhaps I am missing some cultural information. Can you share with us what went into the writing that builds their identity as people of color?
HM: You will not see anything in the text. There is nothing in the text. What would you expect to see? There is nothing in other books that I have written to identify white characters as white. I have always tried to leave how people look to the readers' imaginations.
AJ: I see your point. In my experience many parents and teachers have expressed interest in finding more books that feature Black, Latino, Native American or Asian children, because it can be a challenge to find really high quality books with those characters. It's important for all children to see that but it doesn't always happen. When the teacher reads a book to my son's second grade class I would love to have your Lulu books right next to the Clementine and Ramona books. As wonderful as Ramona is, her world is white. I happen to think we all need to see normal, average, quirky, fun, smart, interesting kids that are of diverse ethnicities in our books. I would love to hear if you have some other books to recommend that fit that description as well as Lulu.
The reason I asked about whether you had included some indication of Lulu's family being Black in the text is that I think, actually, Black families do exhibit unique cultural aspects. If you are Black you have a cultural legacy. Not all the same, certainly, and not in any stereotypical way. Black families are certainly not all the same. But they do tend to be a little different from white families or Latino families or Chinese families... KWIM? If Lulu's family were African American (I know they are not, but if they were...) they might have relatives down South, eat Southern comfort foods, BBQ with Southern recipes, listen to RandB, Soul, Jazz, or Reggae, etc. Not that they have to. Just that they might tend to do that more than my Anglo Scotch/Irish/English family would when I was growing up.

HM: I hear what you are saying about cultural references- I would have used them if I thought they were appropriate, Reggae for instance, I am sure Lulu's father especially listens to all the time! It wouldn't mean a lot over here though- we listen to it a lot in this family too. Nothing went into the writing to build their identity as people of color. It was not necessary- it was in the illustrations.  Perhaps if they had not been illustrated I would have mentioned it. Perhaps if it had ever been a problem to Lulu? But I am writing about a happy little girl in a normal not-very-well-off but loving family. My children and my friends' children went to school with people like that. My sister teaches people like that (only 10% of her classes in her London school are what I think you would call White). There is undoubtedly still racism in this country in places; there are all sort of miserable intolerances. But in the world I live in, here in the countryside and in London, in the education I know, and the health service and the cities and shops and television, to be other than white is a normal and unremarkable part of life.
Do your sons (maybe they are too little) know the work of Malorie Blackman (guess where Malorie and I last hugged each other!' No. 10 Downing Street', I hear you cry. Yes. Quite right.) or Bali Rae (Sikh writer- brilliant- we have the same agent). Bali writes for younger children sometimes- your boys might like his books. I think he manages to squeeze a lot of football in- that would be soccer to you!

AJ: Thank you so much for the suggestions! I will be sure to look them up and find those books. And thank you for taking the time to really invest in this conversation. It is fascinating to hear your point of view.
I am glad to hear that you live in a very diverse, multiethnic community. I live near Philadelphia and we have a complex history when it comes to race. I know from experience that talking about race is not a simple thing. I know it can be uncomfortable to put it out there. I do think it's important to try to open the conversations though, and I really appreciate your willingness to go there with me in this interview!!

HM: I see your point of view entirely. Right then Andi, there are at least 3 more Lulu books to come to you after the first three.  In the last one at least, the children's grandmother is cooking- we could get in some cultural references there if the publishers agree to a few extra lines but I will need your help. American cookery is a closed book to me. If you would like to choose supper for a hot day that a grandmother would cook for her two grandchildren I will do my best to get it in. And I'll relook at the other two, but mostly they are about animals. Perhaps I could work in a bit of reggae...

AJ:  In America she might be making a pasta salad with chicken, potato salad, BBQ chicken, sliced ham, corn bread, fruit salad, iced sweet tea, lemonade, corn on the cob, a peach cobbler, or some kind of fruit/berry pie: cherry, raspberry, strawberry/rhubarb, blueberry, peach. I vote for the pie! I was going to ask where the girl's grandparents were and where their family was from historically but I didn't want to pry. ;)

HM: Thanks! Jamaica. I asked about American food because I don't really expect 7 year olds to get that they are reading about British children. The UK versions are not quite the same as the US versions, so I thought I could put it in when I did the US edit (here they got lemon cake!)

AJ:  My colleague in the library is African American and his grandmother is Jamaican. I told him about our conversation and asked him what his grandmother would cook. He said she did a lot of Southern cooking and could "tear up that Spanish rice." LOL he started daydreaming about it. He also said peach pie would be good, or something with sweet potatoes. We found a recipe on a blog - Sweet Potato Apple Casserole. I'll send it to you. He is going to take that recipe home and try it with his wife and daughter. This is so much fun for me!

HM: Thanks Andi, if the US publishers are okay with it then, I will work in some grandma cookery for US readers in Lulu's 4, 5 and  6. And some reggae- my son can advise on that though! It's a very good idea, and thank you very much for having it. That recipe looks good. We use lots of sweet potatoes, especially in curry and chili pasta sauces. You have been such a help! Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog,

AJ: Hilary this has been such a treat for me. I am delighted to be able to chat with you! I am planning to gift my son's teacher with a whole stack of your Lulu and Charlie books at the end of the year. Thanks so much for writing them! I hope the conversation will continue with readers in the comments section.
Hilary McKay's next book in the series is called Lulu and the Cat in the Bag. It will be available from Albert Whitman & Co. (print) and Open Road Media (ebook) in the fall of 2013.
 Thanks so much for joining us! Now to participate fully you ought to leave us a comment. What struck you in our conversation? I will be doing a name drawing for two lucky winners of Lola books, courtesy of Albert Whitman & Co. (Must be USA or Canadian addresses. Contest ends April 1, 2013). Please comment and give me an email address in case you win!

Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Priscilla Lamont. Published in 2013 by Albert Whitman & Company.