Gracias • Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra, has been awarded Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor!
Today we’re bringing you a guest post from authors Edith Hope Fine and Judith Pinkerton Josephson, authors of Armando and the Blue Tarp School. Their book tells the story of a young boy who spends his days picking through a trash heap in search of anything useable or sellable, until he is given a chance to learn when Señor David—a real-life volunteer—spreads a blue tarp on the ground and calls it a school. Now Armando and the Blue Tarp School is also a musical! The authors are here to tell us how their book was transformed into a play, and to share their experiences watching the production. Take it away, Edith and Judith!
Watching our book Armando and the Blue Tarp School transformed into a children’s musical has been magical for us. The sneak preview took place on November 14, 2009, at David Lynch’s Responsibility fundraising gala. With fresh, earnest faces and clear, bright voices, four eighth graders and one tenth grader presented the show to a large crowd of Responsibility supporters. It was a smash hit!
The songs drew directly from our book, with clever additions: Flaco the rat wove the narrative between the songs, with comic interruptions by his flamboyant sidekick, Gordo the rat, who elicited laughs from the opening moment when she threw a tortilla scavenged from the dump into the air. In “We Are Pepenadores,” the actors sang about the flies, heat, and stench, and of working the dump all day as pepenadores, trash pickers. The poignant “Someday, Maybe,” a duet between Isabella and Armando, conveyed his deep longing to learn at Señor David’s school. In “We’re Going to Build a School,” staccato music and lyrics pulsated as the whole colonia, the neighborhood by the garbage dump, worked together to construct the school. The actors mimed hammering and sawing as they sang, “Bam, bam, bam, hit that nail, bam, bam, bam . . . saw, saw, suh-saw, saw.” In “Fuego!” their worried faces portrayed the urgency of the fire with their waving arms representing flames. In the jazzy, upbeat “Blue Tarp School,” the audience clapped along, and in the finale, everyone joined in singing the chorus with the actors.
Today I am conducting a joint blog with author/illustrator, Christy Hale. We are going to talk about the nuts and bolts behind planning a book launch. A successful book launch doesn’t just happen all by itself. It takes a significant amount of planning, organization, and coordination. Over the years, we have sponsored many book launches and although they are a fun reason to get people together to celebrate a joyous occasion they are not usually very profitable for any of the parties involved. Yes, profitability is one of those subjects that people don’t like to discuss, but selling books acts as the unquestionable measuring stick to tell you if your book launch was successful or not.
Recently, Christy held a book launch for her new book The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan. It was successful in both the amount of people who turned up and the amount of books sold. The launch also led to other connections and events that Christy was able to follow up with after the book launch had ended.
JL: Christy, can you detail for us some of the initial planning you conducted to get the book launch started?
CH: I’ve received invitations to launch parties at other Books Inc. stores in the Bay Area, so I knew the stores were open to this kind of event. I did not have an existing relationship with the local store, but two of the members of my writer’s group attend a book club meeting there regularly, and knew the person I needed to contact to set up my event. I e-mailed and together we selected a date.
JL: What kind of promotion did Books Inc. do for the launch?
CH: Though my book was published Sept 1, I didn’t contact Books Inc. soon enough for a September event—unless I wanted an event without the store’s publicity. I opted to postpone my launch until October. Books Inc. ran ads in newspapers. In addition they have their own newsletter that highlighted events for the whole month. They posted the event on their website, plus my book was reviewed on their blog prior to the event.
JL: What kind of promotion did you do for the launch?
CH: I designed an e-vite and e-mailed people in my address book. I created an event on Facebook, and sent out invitations to Facebook friends. Both of these are FREE ways of contacting people. I designed simple postcard invitations and sent them snail mail to people I could not contact through e-mail or Facebook. I also gave family members and friends stacks of these postcard invitations to give to their friends.
I contacted local elementary school librarians, and asked the librarian at my daughter’s old elementary school to put an announcement in their e-mail newsletter. I sent invitations to the public librarians. Members of my writer’s group extended invitations to their friends and their children’s school communities. I enlisted lots of help! My near and dear ones were excited for me and wanted to do what they could. I felt enveloped in good will.
This week is officially National Teen Driver Safety Week!
Now, before you think to yourself, “How many more of these random ‘holidays’ can there possibly be in one calendar year,” consider this: 1 in 4 crash fatalities in the US involves someone between the ages of 16 and 24. Nothing —not drugs, not sex, not rock n’ roll—kills more teens than driving, and the risk of a fatal crash goes up with each additional peer passenger in the car. This time of year the number of accidents goes up even higher because of things like homecoming. Take a look at these Teen Driving Safety Tips for ideas on raising safe young drivers.
This morning, we went up to the Bank Street College of Education for the announcement of their Best Children’s Books of the year list—and to celebrate, with cake, the centennial of the Children’s Book Committee.
Every year for the last one hundred years, The Children’s Book Committee—then of Child Study Association of America, now of the Bank Street College of Education—has recommended books that are good for children. They read thousands of books, they share books with children and ask for their opinions, and then they make recommendations to teachers, librarians, and parents. They have good taste—they included Alicia Afterimage, Bird, Honda, Horse Song, No Mush Today, and Seven Miles to Freedom on their list of the best books published in 2008—and they love books.
We have a bell on the wall in the office. It’s the good-news bell; whenever we get a starred review, an award, or a really big order, the bell is rung, the staff gathers around it, and the news is announced to the office.
Jason, as publisher, is the first to know when we get starred reviews: the relevant journal emails him the news. My first inkling comes when Jason sidles up to Hannah’s desk—right next to mine—and mutters something along the lines of, “Check your email. I forwarded something from Booklist.” After a pause long enough for the email to download and open, Hannah says, “oooh!” She then gets up and walks in the direction of the bell, Jason following surreptitiously two steps behind. That’s the point at which I know I’d better slip my feet into my shoes—I tend to kick them off under my desk—and get ready to gather around the bell for the good news.
Woot! GRACIAS • THANKS by Pat Mora is our second book this fall to get a starred review from Kirkus (a review journal certainly not known for dishing them out freely). Since it’s running later than our other fall titles, this is the first review we’ve gotten in, so we were all pretty excited this morning to read this:
“I love the freedom of writing fiction. Still, to be believable, fiction has to be grounded in some reality.”