Monthly Archives: December 2012


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The article I read recently that got me thinking about handwriting: The Missing Ink: The Lost Art of Handwriting and Why It Still Matters

Script and Scribble, by Kitty Burns Florey, a book that Julie Paschkis gave me because I talked with her about the above article (and yes, I know Julie’s handwriting quite well).



Bells Tolling 1

Bells Tolling in Georgia

Two things happened today which took me to the extremes of sorrow and delight. One was the tolling of the bells all around the country in remembrance of the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week ago. The other was a lunch meeting with my Books Around the Table friends and fellow writers, and the realization once again that I am so, so lucky to know them and to spend time in their creative company.

From grief to gladness in just a few hours. It’s hard to keep our balance in today’s world, isn’t it?  Extremes like this – too many of them casting deep shadows – bring into relief the complicated outlines of our lives.

Maybe this wide swing of the pendulum began yesterday, when I went to The Hutch School in Seattle (a public K-12 school sponsored by The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center) to talk with the students about what being a writer is like. As wonderful as the visit was – filled by the kids’ tremendous energy and their capacity & desire to share stories – I was unglued upon arrival to realize that I had to be “buzzed in.” Security measures don’t allow people to walk in off the street, and this was the first time I experienced such a precaution. The whole time I talked with the kids, I saw their eager faces and felt the weight of the year 2012 and the Newtown shootings pressing down on me. When I was in first-grade in 1954, I’m quite sure no one –  from administrators down to kindergartners –  thought even once about whether they were secure from “intruders” in their own school building.

First-Grade Class 1954

First-Grade Class 1954

The more light the kids at The Hutch offered up to me, the darker I felt inside. Hard to handle, hard to process, these extremes. I came home mid-afternoon and went straight to bed.

The idea of addressing this sadness of mine in my last blog post of the year made me hesitate.  After all, the holiday season is a time of celebration, and the coming New Year’s Day is a time of hope.  And our blog is about writing books for children, not about political or social policy. But I found that the need to express my feelings here, in this blog, overwhelmed my hesitations. I believe strongly that writers for children have a responsibility to be advocates for children as well.  No matter what solutions you feel are appropriate to our problem with guns in America – and that problem is huge –  I hope you will write to your representatives and senators and urge them to be brave and to enter into the search for solutions. It doesn’t take long to compose a quick letter to your elected representatives. And not long at all to email it. Barely more than it takes a bell to toll 26 times.

Bells Ringing

Sandy Hook Medics

Let It Snow

Seattle at this time of year is dark, wet and coldish. But it is not snowy, and in December I want snow.  Let it snow!Midnight Ski, Julie Paschkis

This illustration was painted by Alois Garigiet for the 1958 book The Snowstorm by Selina Chonz.snowstorm, alois garigiet

Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire wrote and illustrated Ola in 1932. I saw a documentary once where they demonstrated their technique. Every color was drawn in black and white on a separate sheet of translucent paper or acetate. They both worked on every drawing. The results shimmer.Ola, Parin d'Aulaire

Ivan Bilibin’s 1932 painting of Father Frost is stylized, but based on perfect observation of snow on trees. Also he uses color sparingly; the warm tones are a gift just like in a real winter landscape.bilibin father frost

Last winter this painting was on my favorite blog, Animalarium. The palette is crazy and exhilarating.fortnum bag

Kamisaka Sekka’s snowy traveler has a completely different mood from Ezra Jack Keat’s Snowy Day illustration, but there is an echo in tilt of the bodies.keats snowy day

kamisaka sekka

Despite the beauty of snow and the cheer of holiday lights I often feel the underlying melancholy of December. Maybe that is why this is my favorite winter poem:
In The Bleak Midwinter,  by Christina Rosetti

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen,
Snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

And here is a final painting by Alois Garigiet from The Snowstorm to banish any melancholy.carigiet procession