Sunday, October 22, 2006


My friend Meghan suggested that we get together to carve pumpkins. "Great idea," I said. "I haven't done that in years." I went to the corner store, bought two bright orange beauties, and schlepped them home with my laundry. Covered the kitchen table with newspaper, got out an assortment of knives and spoons, and welcomed Meghan as she walked in the door.

The sun shone onto the little square table where we sketched out our design plans. We cut off the tops and scooped out the seed-strewn innards. "Let's toast the seeds," I suggested, and proceeded to separate the seeds from the cold orange goo. Sprinkled the seeds with salt and oil and put them on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees.

As the seeds toasted, we carved our pumpkin faces. Meghan made a cat and I made a moon and a star to represent each eye. I named mine "Celeste" for the celestial theme. We each placed a white votive candle in a condiment dish and then into the bottom of the pumpkin. Magic! Celeste and The Cat glowed from within up as we munched on the salty seeds.

Felt great to do a hands-on project. Invigorating and relaxing at the same time. Must do this again next year!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


Holy Cow! Ann Morris has written more than 100 picture books for children! I met Ann at a workshop for teachers at the Guggenheim Museum and instantly wanted to get to know her. Ann graciously welcomed a visit from me in her lovely apartment in the upper west side of Manhattan. There, she shared the path that led to her rich and rewarding career as a children’s book author.

Originally a teacher of young children and a teacher of teachers, Ann went on to a 13-year stint at Scholastic as the head of the early childhood department. In that position, she oversaw the production of the magazine Let’s Find Out, various sound filmstrips, and other audio-visual materials. When Ann decided that she wanted to develop her own educational materials, she sold her book ideas quickly. She met Ken Heyman, Margaret Mead’s photographer, and initiated collaboration with him on some of her books. Currently, much of Ann's work is done with Peter Linenthal, whom she calls "a talented artist,photographer, sculptor and creative partner in all ways."

In books such as Bread, Bread, Bread and Shoes, Shoes, Shoes, you can see that Anne is the master of taking a single concept and depicting it, through words and photographs, across a multitude of cultures around the globe. Young people get to see similarities and differences in a visual way. In the back of the concept books, Ann tells where each picture was taken.

The global nature of Ann’s books is fed by her life-long love of travel. Indeed, Ann will testify to the high number of adventures connected to the making of her books. She travels to do research, to interview people. She travels with different photographers.

Currently, Ann volunteers for Learning Leaders in their Authors Read-a-Loud program. She visits various school classrooms to share her books and book-making processes with young people. She also conducts multicultural grandparent/parent/child book-making workshops which tie in with her series What Was It Like, Grandma? This collection includes books that look at the lives of grandmothers of seven different heritages: Latina, Arab, Chinese, African, Native American, British and Jewish.

One thing I admire and respect about Ann is how she keeps her life big and interesting through her genuine love for people and curiosity about the world around her. Her office bulletin board is full of photographs of the people she’s met and kept in touch with; her home is full of keepsakes from her travels. Being in her apartment feels like being in a smaller, more intimate version of a museum.

Ann Morris is a woman with a thousand stories to tell. Fortunately for us, she continues to tell them through her beautiful, well-crafted books.

If you’d like to know more about Ann and her work, you can visit her website at

Monday, October 02, 2006


What can I say? I love the children’s book characters George and Martha. I remember their picture books from long ago and was thrilled to find the video George and Martha: Best Friends in the Donnell Library. The video, featuring the voices of Nathan Lane and Andrea Martin, animates four stories – The Book, The Acting Class, The Misunderstanding, and The Secret Club.

After viewing Best Friends with Mike, I turned to him and said “George and Martha are a lot like us, aren’t they?” Mike laughed and agreed. We’re best friends who quibble sometimes but mostly enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life together.

Soon after renting the movie, I found stuffed animal versions of George and Martha at The Corner Bookstore and gifted them to Mike on Valentine’s Day. We particularly like the red tulip tucked behind Martha’s left ear and the gold tooth hanging over George’s chin. G and M are easy on the eye. They also serve as convenient scapegoats for unexplainable acts of mischief. When Mike asks questions like “Where’s the rest of my sorbet?” Or “Why are there cookie crumbs all over the futon?” or “Why is my hairdryer broken?” I simply avert eye contact and say “I dunno. Ask George and Martha.”

This morning, I had George, Martha, and a small hand-knit, toothbrush-carrying walrus performing a dance to my version of Justin Timberlake’s SexyBack. “Do you think it’s weird that we’re adults who have stuffed animals around?” Mike asked. “No!” I exclaimed. “Every literary household has stuffed animals. It means we’re reading the good books!” That being settled, George and Martha let out a collective sigh of relief.

PS - The original George and Martha books were written by James Marshall and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. The illustration above is from