Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is it about Picture Books? Interview with Lori Mortenson and Book Giveaway

Ever since I was a little kid and excitedly checked out Where the Wild Things Are from the Gregory Gardens Elementary School library for a special birthday night reading, I’ve had a special place in my heart for picture books. Within a mere thirty-two pages, they manage to be funny, touching, clever, rambunctious, surprising, suspenseful, and memorable. When I was small, writing them was the farthest thing from my mind. I was short and shy, but whenever I opened them up, I was instantly drawn away into worlds far away from my ordinary home on Jennie Drive.

Later as a dance major in college, I spent most of my time sweating and spinning across the dance floor. But when there was a lull in the action, I’d find myself wandering around the children’s section of the campus book store. As I paged through the picture books, I idly wondered how someone became a part of such a magical endeavor, but it wasn’t really a question. Wherever authors lived, they lived far away from me and somehow it seemed as if only people who were born to the profession had the right to claim it.

Come See the Earth Turn
by Lori Mortenson

So when did I begin writing? I was a stay-at-home mother of three when I was reintroduced to children’s literature and secretly wondered—could I write a picture book? The idea was stunning, as if I’d challenged the laws of the universe. What did I have to say? What did I want to say for my children, and the child in me?

Many years later, that’s still the exciting reason I sit down at my keyboard and bring a story to life. When I sit down at the keyboard, the screen becomes a vacant world, that I fill as I please with characters, plots, and themes that take shape from my own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Sometimes it’s hard to get started, but once I do and I know where I’m going, there’s nothing more exciting than wrestling with words on the page until they fall into their proper place.

Cindy Moo by Lori Mortenson
What is it about picture books? They’re a lot harder to write than they look. Picture books are so short, I’m sure many people pick them up and think they could knock one out in five minutes if they just had the time. The text is so short, how could it take any longer? Short as they are, however, the beauty of pictures books is how they pack so much into so little—character, drama, rhythm, rhyme, and meaningful undercurrents of theme. When they unfold across two eager laps in a chair, it’s an invitation to share a new world together through extraordinary pictures and words. Some of my favorites? King Bidgood’s Bath by Audrey and Don Wood; The Night Moon Fell Down, by Linda Smith; and The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neil.



Ringity Zingity.

What is it about picture books? I love them and I love writing them. There’s nothing I’d rather do (although dancing comes close.) And if children ever think that any of my picture books such as Cindy Moo, In the Trees, Honey Bees!, Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Leon Foucault, and my upcoming book, Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg are clever, awesome, or ringity, zingity, then I’d be delighted. Maybe one day, it’ll be my book that’s tucked under the arm of an excited child on their way home for a special birthday night reading.

Lori Mortenson is an award-winning author of over three dozen books and more than 100 stories and articles that have appeared in Highlights, Ladybug, Jack and Jill, The Friend,

and many other publications. Like a detective on the trail for a clue, Lori follows her writing interests wherever they lead her-sometimes to a fascinating French scientist who proved the earth turned (Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Léon Foucault, Random House 2010) and other times to the remarkable insider activities of a honey bee hive (In the Trees, Honey Bees! Dawn Publications, 2009, winner of multiple awards including the NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Book for Students K to 12.) Her titles with Picture Window Books, Capstone Press, Stone Arch Books, KidHaven Press, and Marshall Cavendish Benchmark Books include early readers, biographies, American history, mid-grade nonfiction, and first graphic novels.

In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen
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1 comment:

  1. with lots of kids, we LOVE picture books and these look and sound wonderful!