Monthly Archives: January 2010

More Literate Than Lauren Conrad!

Thanks to The Longstockings blog for highlighting the “expert” interview of author reality star Lauren “LC” Conrad on’s Shelf Life.  It’s no surprise that the girl couldn’t have come up with a genuine answer if she tried (Goodnight Moon? Really?), and it’s pretty funny. I feel for her ghost writer.

I decided to show the West Coaster how it’s really done… by filling out the interview for myself.  Read on…

Favorite book as a child / There were SO, so many, but my standard answers as a child were Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco for my favorite picture book, and as I got older, The Trumpet of the Swan by EB White.

Book you’ve gone back to and read over and over again / I’ve probably read the Golden Compass by Philip Pullman dozens of times in my life, and it is fascinating in a completely different way now than when I was 10 years old.

Required reading that you hated / God rest his soul, J. D. Salinger, but I genuinely hated Catcher In The Rye.  I’m sorry, but that’s what I would’ve said last week.

Fictional character you most identify with / She’s not fictional, but Sloane Crosley, whose memoir I Was Told There’d Be Cake had me in stitches for weeks, is the Westchester-Jewish-writer version of myself.

Favorite book by a fellow celebrity / Does David Sedaris count? How about Amy?

Favorite book as a teen / Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, is pretty much the reason I made it through my adolescent years.  She was my role model… I used to read it over and over for reassurance.  My dog-eared copy still sits on my shelf at college, and I’m pretty sure I’ve teared up every time I’ve read it.

Book you’ve faked reading / I try never to use SparkNotes, but I did fake reading Nietszche. He’s not my scene.

Book you’d use as a doorstop / Janson’s A History of Art is the requisite doorstop of any art student.

Book you want to read next / I’m simultaneously reading The Help and Double Take, but the top three books/audiobooks I’ve been dying to get to for months are Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation, Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Female Brain by Louann Brizendine.

Book that changed your life / I already mentioned Stargirl, so here is my cheesy runner-up answer to make LC proud: last year, He’s Just Not That Into You became the first and only self-help book to change my life. Seriously. Now, it’s the book that I want to use to slap my girlfriends in the face.

Book with the best movie version / I’ve always had a soft spot for High Fidelity, and the movie adaptation is almost as witty, poignant and entertaining as Nick Hornby’s novel.  More recently, I was blown away by Precious: based on the novel Push by Sapphire, and I keep picking up the book in stores but I don’t think I have the guts to read it (if you can believe it, the movie actually glossed over a lot).

Best author to read on airplanes / I always read short stories, like No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, that keep my attention, but I can fall asleep and not lose my place if I want. Just make sure the person next to you isn’t reading over your shoulder at the inappropriate parts.

Fictional character you have nightmares about / After reading The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen in 4th grade, I had nightmares about the Holocaust for the rest of the year!


I’m A Goonie Bird

The other day, making my blog rounds, I came across BoysLife, who is essentially the male counterpart of every female I know’s blogger/hero, Alexi Wasser of ImBoyCrazy. BoysLife’s most recent post is a story about a particular kind of lady.  5’10″+, broad shoulders…

“Even when they are pretty, or on the skinnier side of goon, there is something inexplicably goofy about these girls. Being tall does not make you one, neither does being of plus size. If you know goonie birds, you know one when you see one; it comes down to a kinda vibe.”

I felt labeled.  I didn’t know there was a name for girls like me. Was I supposed to be offended, or what?

But as time goes on, this “goonie bird” title has only become more hilarious. Goonie birds are everywhere! It explains so much.

Like The Rescuers Down Under.

Even Lois Lowry has a whole middle-grade novel series on 2nd grader (and my kindred spirit) Gooney Bird Greene.

It made me wonder about the tendency to judge others and label them on the way that they present themselves. Why take offense? Maybe it’s not so bad. Maybe it’s funny. Maybe it’s just a way for us to find common ground, to know that others share the same “vibe”, and to surround ourselves with people who accept us, just the goonie way we are.


First Look – Sketches of the Brooklyn Parrots

Here’s a sneak peek at my latest book project, tentatively titled, Argentina, New York.  It’s the story of a young, curious Brooklyn parrot (based on the real birds in Green-Wood Cemetery!), who grew up just like any other city kid – eating pizza, living in a Brooklyn high-rise “apartment”, and playing with his nervous pigeon friend.  But upon hearing the story of his family’s origins from the faraway borough of “Argentina”, the little parrot sets off on an adventure across the city to find his roots.

Though I am SO ridiculously excited to start this story and learn more about the birds (I’m going on the next parrot safari in a few weeks!), I have a long way to go.  But it all starts with drawing the first few parrots…

Top Obsessions of the Moment

1. Wild Brooklyn Parrots

2. Missed Connections

3. Mocha Latte Art

Pay Your Future Rent With Craigslist Ads

    I’m kicking off this semester with a time-honored tradition of the struggling illustrator – getting a part-time job.  In a little over three months, I’ll be thrown out of my cozy ELJ dorm room and out into the wild world of Brooklyn apartment living, and something tells me I won’t be able to buy cans of tuna, let alone sign a lease, on my meager pittance of work-study income.

    Forgoing any job descriptions that include, “willing to work in body paint“, I’m applying for anything, really, that works around my schedule and would hire a lowly design student.

    Best Case Scenario: I get something working with kids a couple of days a week (it’ll be fun inspiration).  Or being a Barnes and Noble sell-out.

    Worst Case Scenario: Flipping Chipotle burritos.

    After a few hours of looking at the same “administrative assistant” positions, it’s best to just forgo the part-time listings all together and stay productive by looking for descriptions of yourself on the “Missed Connections” section.

    Can’t make a connection? check out 1500 Live Ladybugs, my favorite “Best Of Craigslist” posting.

    Have a little extra cash? 1500 Live Ladybugs are only $12.99 on Amazon.

    When I Grow Up – Caldecott and Newbury Awards Announced Tomorrow

    EDIT: Easiest Caldecott to call. Ever.

    Don’t expect me to drag out of bed just to watch the Caldecott and Newbury results show live at some ungodly wee hour of the morning. I’ll re-create the experience later that day by rooting for this book and turning up this jam.

    When I Grow Up –

    Posted using ShareThis

    It’s Not As Simple As It Seems – Part II

    Thinking about Neal Hagberg‘s commitment to addressing social issues in his songs, it got me to thinking about what I could do to incorporate important themes into my own children’s books. Since I don’t have a second senior project lined up yet (think… think…), this could be a perfect opportunity to create something that is meaningful to me, and could speak to others as well.

    I’ve mentioned before that I remain VERY skeptical of the use of biblio-therapy. I fear that basing a children’s book around a “moral” or lesson could lead to a preachy tale that hits the reader over the head – I’d rather see books as a form of escapism or entertainment.

    However, when I thought about it, some of the best books speak to greater issues, teaching children (and adults!) while still being beautiful and expressive in themselves.  Here’s my top five:

    1.  Religious Tolerance: The Trees of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco (Simon & Schuster, 1996).  When scarlet fever falls on Trisha’s Christian neighbors, her Russian Jewish family prepares a celebration for them, complete with latke dinners and Christmas trees.

    Roy and Silo (photo credit and full article)

    2.  HomosexualityAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole (Simon & Schuster, 2005).  This is a story about a REAL gay penguin family in the Central Park Zoo!  I still can’t believe that this adorable story of nurturing is on banned books lists all over.

    “We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families.  It’s no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks.” – Justin Richardson, to the New York Times

    3.  Death of a ChildThe Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka (Schwartz & Wade, 2007).  This is the most beautiful book on death I’ve ever seen, using the imagery that terminally ill children express in art therapy of a floating purple or blue balloon.

    4.  BullyingChrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, 1991).  Unusual children (ahem… like myself) need to grow up with this book of standing out and being “absolutely perfect” even if you’re different.

    5.  CharityThe Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister Herbert (North-South Books, 1995).  Today’s society needs this book to learn how to share a bit.  (Note: when I was looking it up on Amazon, there was a comment about this book being “socialist propaganda”.  Case in point).

    Can a children’s book make a difference (or make a point) in the world?  These five did it.  But can – or should – I?  I’m going to find out.

    – ABE