Earlier this month I attended my first Letters and Lines Conference for Children's Writers and Illustrators. It is put on every year in Colorado by the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I have attended many similar conferences while living in New Mexico, but this was my first Colorado conference. It was held at the Denver West Marriott in Golden.
One of the best perks of being a member of SCBWI is getting to know so many talented children's authors and illustrators. It is a pure delight when I already love a book and then get to meet the author or illustrator behind that book at an SCBWI event. That happened a few years ago when I ran into Dow Phumirik at Second Star to the Right Bookstore. I already loved her masterfully illustrated Counting on Katherine: How: Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo Thirteen written by Helaine Becker. I was in the process of highlighting it as one of the titles I explored in my book, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Student Learning Through the Power of Storytelling, so it was great fun to meet the illustrator. Since then I have become a big fan of anything illustrated by Dow, so I was thrilled to see another book of hers that I already loved at the Letters and Lines Conference Bookstore - Hello, Tree. Even more special, the author, Ana Crespo, was a conference presenter. She is an agent as well as an author and had wonderful insights to share during a pitch panel and a picture book critique seminar. In the photo below, Dow is pictured on the right and Ana is on the left.
Hello, Tree fits perfectly with my blog theme for the year on stories about resilience. Although it is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the 2013 Black Forest fire in Colorado. Watch a video of Ana talking about the book HERE. What I love most about this book is that it is written from the perspective of the tree which makes it a wonderful selection to use with any age group to explore point of view. I suggest comparing it to Almost to Freedom written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson (a friend from SCBWI New Mexico) and illustrated by Colin Bootman. Vaunda's book is a story about the Underground Railroad written from the perspective of a doll. Because they are short, using picture books for POV discussions provides the opportunity to discuss two or more complete works in a limited time frame.
I also got to catch up with Beth Anderson and Jolene Gutierrez. We presented an author/educator panel on "Using Narratives as a Bridge to Informational Text" at Reading in the City in Denver last April and will be presenting the same panel in Copper Mountain at Reading in the Rockies on September 30. Please attend if you happen to be at that conference sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.
Last but surely not least, Andrea Wang, author of Watercress, was the keynote speaker. We all loved Andrea and her work before her book won the Caldecott, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and a Newbery Honor, so it has been especially exciting to watch her popularity as an author grow and expand. See the author panel below on promoting storytelling that Beth, Dow, and I did with Andrea before she and Watercress were so famous.
Check out these blog posts:
Interview with Beth Anderson on The Resilience of English Language Learners.
Interview with Jolene Gutierrez on The Resilience of Bionic Beasts
Children's Author Panel on Promoting Storytelling with Dow, Beth, and Andrea.
Watch for upcoming blog posts where I will share more book titles from Letters and Lines.