Amazon.com Plays Hard Ball

Wow! In a severe (my opinion) reaction to Macmillan's negotiation for better e-book/digital rights and pricing controls, Amazon.com has pulled ALL of Macmillan's books from its vitual shelves. Not just the e-books - everything! Henry Holt, publisher of 5+ books that I have illustrated, is a Macmillan imprint. At present, you can't buy them from Amazon.com. They are there - available "from these sellers" - but not actually from Amazon. A bit alarming when the biggest player in the game stomps its foot down, but I stand firmly in support of Macmillan's attempts. Go Indibound and get local.

By the way, Macmillan has a new kids blog to trumpet as well.



Wonder Schools! Part 3

Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska, site of my most recent elementary school tour, AND home to almost all of my very own elementary school education! From January 11-15 I visited 6 different schools in the greater Anchorage School District, including O'Malley Elementary where I attended 1st-5th grade.

This was only the 3rd stuffed polar bear that I saw in my first hour off the plane. It was in my hotel lobby, along with a musk ox, a wolverine, and a dall sheep. Any wonder that I am still fascinated by arctic animals after all these years?

And here it is, my old stomping grounds. SO COOL TO VISIT YOUR OWN SCHOOL!

...and to be welcomed back in style.

Extra sweet: O'Malley was the site of my first ever "published" drawing. As I recall, I was at least partly responsible for the design of their former mascott, the O'Malley Yellowjacket. They dug this out of the archives and it was a definite kick to see it :)

One of the MANY great groups of "Alaska Grown" kids that I had the pleasure to visit...

...and one of my two extremely generous hosts for the week, Totem Tale author, Deb Vanasse. It was a rare treat to meet the author of one of my favorite illustration projects. Deb and her partner Guy were nice enough to let out their quest room, and to shepherd me towards some of Alaska's finest pizza and beer at the Moose's Tooth.

A drawing from Spring Hill Elementary...

...and my foggy expression of sincere joy with respect to the lighted xc ski trails that cover incredibly many kilometers of municiple parkland. Amazing to have these groomed and lighted trails. Why the lights? Keep in mind that the official sunrise during my visit was 10:03am!

Alright, so here I am in second grade... Did you find me? Use the photo below for reference:

While your at it, marvel at the fact that I also reconnected with my second grade teacher on this trip :) Indeed, Mrs. Apodoca is now a Title 1 reading specialist at Taku Elementary. She has almost retired several times, but loves what she does and still finds joy and inspiration amongst her "kids". Given that she is one of the few teachers that I can remember from way back when, she 's surely doing somethin' right!

A parting shot from my final visit at Apenglow Elementary in Eagle River...

...and a nostalgic pic of Anchorage's Fireweed theater (site of my Empire Stikes Back viewing circa 1980 something)...

...and finally, my welcome home from the red-eye flight to Seattle (and the five-hour drive after that). Much fun in the sun at the Methow Valley's first ever Super Tour. Thank you, THANK YOU to all of the PTA members, staff, and students that made this all possible. A fine week indeed!


Happy New Year!

Music. A New Year's resolution? Not that I'm learning to play an instrument or anything, but I DO listen to lots of different things when I paint. Time to share :) Santa delivered two new CDs to our house this Christmas, and I can think of no better way to usher in the new decade!

Especially appropriate for the traditional New Year's saluations is Billy Kelly's "Thank You for Joining the Happy Club." This is some rockin' good kid's music! Curiously odd at times, but in all of the very best ways. Part They Might be Giants, part Brady Rymer. A great voice, and with rythmns and lyrics that are choice for kids and parents alike. I'm especially fond of "Don't Worry about the Government."

Also pretty cool is the fact that Billy was the assistant art director on my first book! He moved from Winslow Press to Little Brown, and eventually started his own design company. He's an aspiring book illustrator as well and does all of his album art in addition to a bunch of other stuff. A Renaissance Man and to be sure!

On the "world music" scene, as I attempt to categorize this next selection, is Luc and the Lovington's "Feel the Warmth." Lush and layered, with playful guitar and choral harmonies, is also an impressive debut. Even better, Luc is originally from Twisp, WA. His younger brother is a talented sax player in his own right, and known by many 'round these part as "Super Babysitter, David."

Both of these excellent debut cds will get your new year started with a smile. Enjoy!