• New Class: Art of Dialogue

    Dialogue helps writers meet their characters in the deepest way, by how they speak. The writer can open that depth to the reader. Dialogue can include regionalisms, dialect, or turns of phrase that individualize people.

    1.) Read beautifully-created passages of people talking

    2.) Practice in listening very carefully to people talking

    3) Write dialogues to engage two characters.

    Let a conversation tell the story. It’s better to show your characters’ personalities through what they say to one another, rather than describe how they are feeling.” R.L. Stine

    Handouts for the ‘Art of Dialogue’ Class


  • Can You See the Rabbit? Interview with Artist Lisa Laughy

    Rabbit in the Moon by Lisa Laughy in water color and acrylic

    The story of the moon rabbit crosses the globe. I first discovered the rabbit in the Buddhist Jataka tales. Later I found the moon rabbit is celebrated across the Asian cultures. And then found versions of the story in indigenous American folktales. No one has brought the myth so personally to me as the artist Lisa Laughy. Lisa and I are friends going back to days in Bethlehem, NH where she lived and I visited. Both of us were creators, she an artist and writer. I was trying to write a novel. We shared our work with each other. I loved the depth of her art and the way she could talk about it. She had a deep connection with the animals she lived with, her beloved dog, a soulful doberman pinscher, and her chickens who were named. She spoke softly to the animals and I felt a solace that she must have offered them.

    Years have gone by since the Bethlehem days. She has a business now, Ninth Wave Designs that features the work she does as a master wood carver. She creates Celtic designs, many inspired by early medieval Irish manuscripts, and also symbols and myths of animals native to New Hampshire

    Very recently we talked about her image of the rabbit in the moon. I wondered what inspired her image because it was so important to me. We talked about the rabbit and much more. She helped me begin to imagine the well that her art comes from. She turns her own creative process into story. And the story is universal.

    “When the moon was full,” Lisa remembered, “I could look up and see that rabbit. I was never alone. I must have heard the Native American story. ‘Can you see the rabbit?’ I remember the question. I was 6 or 7 or 8. It was reassuring, it’s constancy.

    When she 10, she read Watership Down by Richard Adams, the epic novel of a band of rabbits in the wild who have their own language and mythology. She liked to copy the illustrator’s, Eric Tenney’s, style of rabbit that appeared on the cover of the paperback edition.

    Illustration by Eric Tenny, Watership Down, 1977 Artnet.com

    Lisa said, “The rabbit crept into my artwork. Sometimes it’s tilted this way or that way. It’s this grounding thing to me still.”

    “This version I created of the rabbit in the moon was spontaneous. It’s water color with acrylic ink. Put water color down and it moves. Acrylic makes it solid.”

    What about the symbols on the painting? Were they words? Yes. Lisa had started working with an alphabet she found in an old book of alchemy from the Middle Ages. “Later I invented a runic alphabet. I wanted to use a language nobody understood so that they could make their own meaning. They could project their own inner subconscious rather than, this is what I told them it is.” But on social media people have responded a lot to her alphabet. They recognize the letters. “So there is something archetypal there. There’s a commonality.”

    Later, Lisa created a new site called Tail of the Bear: the Tarot Card Artwork of Lisa Laughy.

    Here, images and words are “on big archetypal themes that influence your soul life.”

    She writes on Tail of the Bear, “The discovery of turning over a randomly selected card to reveal a symbolic image is a unique experience filled with the potential for self-reflection.”

    “It turns out, then,” she writes about the images of the tarot, “that this is a creation story, and it starts with: ‘In the beginning there was anxiety . . .’ But happily, it doesn’t end that way.”

    You ’elp a mouse. One time a mouse ’elp you. You want ’im ’e come.”

    says a mouse in Watership Down who just saved a warren of rabbits

    “I wanted the Tail of the Bear site to be an illustrated story book at it’s heart and it sounds like you felt that way, too.”

    I did.

    “I think I assume,” Lisa said, “whatever experience I have with my artwork will be what I want it to mean. To me, the rabbit in the moon is about my experience with it as a small child. When I was twelve, my father died. His absence left a void.” The rabbit in the moon was a constancy.

    Lisa made her first painting when she was five, a robin catching a worm. The natural world has inspired her art ever since. “It is the greatest of privileges,” she said, “when you find someone who understands the story you are telling, whether that story is told visually or in writing, and to have them recognize it as their own.”

    See Lisa’s art work on Instagram @tailofabear and @ninthwavedesign

  • Books in Translation Honored by the Batchelder Prize

    The American Library Association honors children’s books published in other countries and translated into English with an annual prize called the Batchelder. Here are the 2022 winners.

    Temple Alley Summer by Sachiko Kashiwaba, illustrated by Miho Satake, and translated by Avery Fischer Udagawa, published by Restless Books. Temple Alley Summer is the winner of the 2022 prize.

    The author is much beloved in Japan and we’re lucky to read her in English. It’s a mystery, maybe a ghost story, also magic. “Just then,” the main character Kazu tells, “I saw a figure step from behind the curtains. Wearing a kimono. A white one….I think I saw the face. But I didn’t see the eyes.” I feel pulled into a Joan Aiken novel. Kashiwaba lives Iwate Prefecture, Japan.

    The Sea-Ringed World:  Sacred Stories of the Americas, by María García Esperó, illustrated by Amanda Mijangos, translated by David Bowles. Published by Levine Querido. The Sea Ringer World is a Batchelder honor book. These are creation myths of the early peoples who lived in the Americas before Europeans arrived. They come from the Taino, Andean, Maya, Nahua, Bribri, Hopi, Ojibwe, Alutiiq, Inuit, and more traditions. Mijangos’ illustrations are breathtaking.  One myth from the Nahua tradition opens with:

    Four goddesses

    and woman combined.

    Her name Quilaztli,

    mighty, divine.

    She can be a snake,

    an eagle too.

    She can be a star

    or plants for food.

    Precious bones

    she knew to grind,

    And then she shaped

    all humankind.

    Sato the Rabbit is a second honor book by Yuki Ainoya, translated by Michael Blaskowsky, published by Enchanted Lion Books. It begins, “One day, Haneuro Sata became a rabbit.  He’s been a rabbit ever since.” This story is enchanting and is also from Japan. As a rabbit, Sato envisions the most ordinary things as transformed.  He sails on waves of grass. His watermelon becomes a boat in which he rides. A puddle becomes a passageway to the sky!

    Here are three more honor books:

    Coffee, Rabbit, Snowdrop, Lost by Betina Birkjaer, illustrated by Anna Margrethe Khjaegaard, translated by Sinead Quirke. Enchanted Lion Books. From Denmark

    In the Meadow of Fantasies by Hadi Mohammadi, illustrated by Nooshin Safakhoo, translated by Sara Khalili. Penguin Random House. From Iran.

    The Most Beautiful Story, by Brynjulf Jung Tjønn, Illus by Øyvind Torseter, translated by Kari Dickson, Enchanted Lion Books. From Norway.

  • Feast! Picture Books about Food and Friends Across Culture

    Thank you! Teachers and Librarians. Here I’m sharing with you a new picture book reading list about food and people coming together. It’s inspired by the way A Feast for Joseph has been received as a book that brings happiness around cooking and sharing delicious food. Below are links to more book lists about newcomer kids and food. Happy New Year. Here’s to maybe a tiny new beginning and who knows where that could lead.

    Feast! A Reading List of Picture Books about Food and Friends Across Cultures

    EVERY NIGHT IS PIZZA NIGHT by Jenji López-Alt, illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero, Norton Young Readers, 2020.

    Pizza is “the BEST. This is a scientific fact,” Pipo proclaims. But to investigate her science, she surveys dishes her neighbors are cooking. When a neighbor invites her to taste bibimbap, she says, “I do not need it. I do not want it. But I will try it. For science.” She actually loves it. And so it goes through visits to families in the neighborhood, trying tagine, red beans and rice, dumplings from the food truck, spicy green pozole soup. Then Pipo has to think a lot about what her neighbors love what best might really mean.

    FOOD TRUCK FEST! by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Mike Dutton, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2018

    The story follows the food truck cooks and one hungry family racing to eat at the festival of foods. “Let’s get moving. No time to rest. Everybody’s going to the food truck fest.” In New York City, the food trucks circle round.  “Kimchi tacos, that’s no illusion, Korean and Mexican make a tasty fusion.” Ah but there’s more, Belgian waffles, kebabs, crab roll, shrimp, Vietnamese Pho Sho, Texas Brisket. A fusion of cultures and delicious foods.

    GOING UP by Sherry J. Lee, illustrated by Charlene Chua, Kids Can Press, 2020

    A little girl is invited to go to a birthday party on the 10th floor of her apartment building. The story is about the ride up on the elevator and all the people from many parts of the world and walks of life who get on the elevator with their many foods, clothes, animals.  And who’s birthday? That’s a surprise.

    LET ME FIX YOU A PLATE: A Tale of Two Kitchens By Elizabeth Lilly. Holiday House, 2021

    A family goes on a road trip, first to visit Mamaw and Pawpaw’s house in the mountains of West Virginia where they eat banana pudding and blackberry jam and sausages. Then they drive “forever” to the other grandparents in Florida, Abuela and Abuelo, where they eat corn flour cakes, arepas with queso blanco, naranjas from the trees.  A honest, delightful story to capture moms and dads and kids in their individuality andof cultures coming together as family.

    THANK YOU, OMU! By Oge Mora, Little Brown, 2018

    A gorgeous story told in bright collages of a cook who is so amazing that people in the neighborhood find their way to her door. The people are of all colors, all jobs. Even the hot dog vendor comes. They love the scent of Omu’s stew. When they arrive at her door, she offers them a taste. “A doctor, an actor, a lawyer, a dancer.”  Pretty soon she doesn’t have enough left for her supper, but an act of generosity follows.  Oge Mora came to the U.S. from Nigeri; the name Omu in the Igbo language means “queen.”

    A FEAST FOR JOSEPH by Terry Farish and OD Bonny, illustrated by Ken Daley, Groundwood Books, 2021

    I’ll end with OD’s and my new picture book. I guess it captures my Jane Jacobs desire to bring people together. Joseph, born in Uganda, pulls off a feast in Maine where he now lives. To have a feast is his heart’s desire. He invites a little girl who lives upstairs and her mom who was born in the Dominican Republic. Between Joseph’s traditional food of kwon and dek ngor and Whoosh’s tres leches cake, the neighbors make friends.

    A Few More Diverse Reading Lists to Pass On

    Rabbit in the Moon Reading Lists

    Rabbit in the Moon Reading Lists I love to explore kids books from around the world and have been reading and reviewing many of them on my blog, Rabbit in the Moon.  It includes books about newcomers to the U.S. and New Hampshire and stories set in the countries from which newcomers have arrived..

    Finally, Diverse Book Finder, I’m Your Neighbor Books, and More Ways to Find Diverse Books

    Warm wishes to you in 2022.


    A child from Pittsfield, NH retells the story of The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup in her own pictures.