All posts by Linda Sue Park

The greatest joy

Callan Reeves Dobbin is home today.

Clever lad: He decided to make the joy of a first grandchild’s homecoming even greater by giving us a little scare at the start. Callan was born at 12:01am on August 11, 8lbs, 7oz. On emerging into our world, he had some trouble breathing, so he spent his first days in the neonatal intensive care unit…getting a little stronger every day, until at last his parents were allowed to take him home this morning!

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‘Look, Ma, pacifier AND nasal cannula, pretty good stuff, am I right?’

With his lovely mama:

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And his terrific dad (who was once MY baby…):

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Proud paternal grandfather:

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The two grans made chocolate-dipped strawberries for the wonderful nursing staff on both the postpartum and NICU wards:

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The new family!

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‘So I’m going home for the first time, what’s the big deal?’

It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen in love so hard and fast….


Twinkle twinkle little panda…

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I’m delighted to report that my new picture book, XANDER’S PANDA PARTY, illustrated by Matt Phelan, has received three starred reviews!

From Publishers Weekly:

*“Phelan takes Park’s jaunty story about a panda with a complicated social life and develops it still further. In ink-and-watercolor vignettes, he animates the many zoo creatures Xander considers inviting to his party, capturing their expressions and interacts with a few quick pen strokes….”

From School Library Journal:

*“…(a) charming story that celebrates friendship and inclusion…The cartoonlike animals have wonderfully expressive faces, so even the wordless pages convey the panda’s feelings. The upbeat, mostly rhyming text provides a surprising amount of information about animal families and species without tripping up the pace. Perfect for young animal lovers and a great read-aloud for storytime.” –Marian McLeod, Darien Library, CT

From the Horn Book:

*“Liberal use of internal rhyme–‘Xander felt a little blue. He chewed bamboo, a stalk or two”–makes Park’s text sing….” –Christine M. Heppermann

Publication date: September 3! Please ask for it at your local libraries and bookstores! 🙂


#4: with thanks to teachers, librarians, students and schools…

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In the print edition of today’s New York Times, A LONG WALK TO WATER is #4 on the middle-grade bestseller list. This would be thrilling in any case, but it’s even more special because the book, about a Sudanese ‘Lost Boy’ refugee, was first published in 2010. It’s unusual for a book to make it onto the list for the first time three years after publication.

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How did it happen? Because of teachers, librarians, students and schools all over the country, and even internationally. From classroom readalouds to all-school and community-wide reads, young people and the adults in their lives have taken Salva Dut’s story to heart. Often it’s been a teacher or librarian who reads the book and shares it widely. Sometimes it’s a young person: I’ve received several letters from adults who read the book after it was recommended to them by an enthusiastic young reader.

THANK YOU ALL, from the bottom of my heart–to every person who has read the book, read it and shared it, read it and talked about it. And more importantly, thanks also from Salva, his organization www.waterforsouthsudan.org, and the *hundreds of thousands* of people living in South Sudan who now have access to clean water because of donations from people who read the book.

Amazing. Simply amazing. And please don’t stop now–let’s see how long we can keep spreading the word! 🙂

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Visiting Alaska: libraries and SCBWI

In Alaska, I got to meet a whole bunch of readers and writers. I have the best job in the world. 🙂

July 2, Seward Community Museum and Library. Librarian Rachel James hosted young readers and their families with snacks and drinks. I talked about books and reading and writing and A LONG WALK TO WATER, then did a signing. A great way to kick off my Alaska events! The Seward Phoenix Log covered the gathering: http://www.thesewardphoenixlog.com/story/2013/07/11/education/author-illustrates-the-power-of-change/1636.html

July 8, SCBWI-Alaska. Regional Advisor Stefanie Tatalias met me (along with Hub and Dot) for an early dinner at Simon & Seafort’s, a landmark Anchorage restaurant with great seafood and stunning views. Then Stefanie and I were off to the Blue Hollomon Gallery, the venue for my evening workshop. The Gallery’s current exhibit is work by children’s book illustrators, curated by Amy Meissner (more on Amy later). It was the perfect setting for the workshop.

Because Alaska is so vast, Stefanie has even more challenges than most RAs, and she’s been very creative about solutions! ‘Live’ at the gallery with me were half a dozen people, but the workshop was available virtually too. People joined in from all over Alaska, and from places like Hawaii and Montana as well! There were some tech glitches (for the remote participants, it came down to a choice of either seeing me or hearing me, so they got only a brief glimpse of me in action), but overall everything went smoothly. While in-person meetings will always have their advantages, this option is great for folks who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend. I hope the remote folks enjoyed the workshop as much as I did. Thanks to Stefanie and everyone who participated.

July 9, Anchorage Public Library system, Loussac branch. Loussac is the main branch of the APL system. In the afternoon, I gave a presentation in the auditorium to elementary-age readers, then signed books afterwards.

Later that day–oops, I guess it was evening, but it was still so light out!–I did a workshop at the Teen Underground, a space set aside for teen readers. They were a talented and respectful group; I loved working with them. Thanks to Jim and Candace for facilitating.

July 10-11, Muldoon, Gerrish-Girdwood, Eagle River and Mountain View branches. I enjoyed being able to visit each of these APL branches–all different, with staff working hard to serve their clientele. Even the drives in between were fun, with the mountains just outside Anchorage always in sight.

And a special treat at the Eagle River branch: I had seen illustrator Amy Meissner’s terrific work at the Hollomon Gallery. Some of her illustrations are executed in textiles. She created an amazing fabric mural of a dragon which hangs in the children’s section:

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It’s two-sided!

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Detail:

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Although some of the audiences were rather ‘intimate’ ;-), all were enthusiastic and attentive. I really appreciate everyone who came to hear me speak, especially since the weather was so beautiful that week, it was hard to be indoors!

Many thanks to: Sue Sommers, Jim Curran, Lacey Hemming, Sue Sherif, Stephanie Schott, Denise Dargan, Terrie Weckerle, Dean Brovold, and Elizabeth Nicolai (fresh from ALA and the 2013 Newbery committee), all of whom took great care of me during my stay.

Obligatory food photo:

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King salmon prepared sort of Mexican-style, with rice, corn, black beans and a red-pepper puree. Underneath, a really good thick corn tortilla. At Kinley’s in Anchorage. The king salmon was the best I’ve ever eaten.

I came home with two special souvenirs. One was given to me by Terrie Weckerle, who drove me around on my last day. Her husband and son are commercial fishermen, and Terrie gave me a jar of smoked salmon caught and processed en famille!

On Wednesday, librarian Sherri Douglas–my contact for the trip, who planned the whole schmear–made a special stop for me. I’d been to the Anchorage Museum earlier in the day and had been awed by the baskets made by Native Alaskans. Intricate, beautiful, practical. They sold miniature versions in the museum shop, but those were out of my price range. So Sherri stopped at a store specializing in Native creations, and I found a lovely little basket–a perfect souvenir of my trip.

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Basket at right, with miniature celadon vase from Korea and miniature copperware from Peru.

THANKS, Sherri. HURRAH for Alaska libraries–I can’t wait to go back!


Alaska!

Alaska journal

I traveled to Alaska with Hub and Dot. The first week was mostly vacation, followed by presentations for the Anchorage Public Library system.

Monday, July 1: Flew into Anchorage around 8:00pm—midnight in New York. Still full daylight. Body very confused.

Drove to the hotel, had dinner at a nearby bar & grill (not very good, alas). Came out around 10:30, still full daylight, young kids riding their bikes in the streets!

Hotels here have heavy blackout curtains to help Outsiders deal with the 22 hours of daily (& nightly!) sunshine.

Tuesday, July 2: drive rental car to Seward. Stunning scenery: the highway skirts the Turnagain Arm of the Gulf of Alaska, with the Alaskan Railroad running alongside much of the way.

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Arrive in Seward. Lunch at the Smoke Shack, a remodeled railway car. Good pulled pork sandwich. Then we stop by the beautiful new Seward Community Library and Museum. Librarian Rachel James has arranged tickets for the Alaska SeaLife Center, where we spend the afternoon viewing sea lions, seals, octopi, salmon, puffins and more.

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Woody the stellar sea lion at the Alaska SeaLife Center–he weighs almost 2,000 pounds!

On Rachel’s recommendation we ate at Chinook’s on the harbor. Good eats: Dot had the halbut, I started with two oysters then had the warm mushroom salad with smoked scallops on the side.

Best part: Our window table had a view of the boat slips. For most of our meal, an otter was floating and playing there! I could have watched it all day…

Wednesday, July 3: A gray and drizzly day, but we were comfortable in the cabin of the boat for our fjord cruise. Out of Seward, into the Gulf and up the Northwestern Fjord. Humpback whales, dolphins jumping as if on cue. Bald eagles, seals, otters, puffins, millions of gulls, arctic terns. The glacier itself was awe-inspiring. And two humpbacks put on a perfect show, leaping out of the water several times—way better than that insurance commercial!

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In the Northwest Fjord.

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The glacier grumbled occasionally, a very impressive sound.

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Humpback show.

Thursday, July 4: The weather—grayer and drizzlier—discouraged us from going into Seward to see the famous Mt. Marathon race. Instead we hiked to the edge of Exit Glacier and then visited Mitch Seavey’s sled dog kennels! 16 beautiful Alaska sled dogs pulled us on a cart for a two-mile run.

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At Exit Glacier, with Hub and Dot. As Hub is always the photographer, it’s hard to get a photo with him in it!

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At the Seaveys’ sled-dog compound.

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Getting ready to go.

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GOOD DOGS!

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Dot makes a friend…

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…and another (one of the three-week-old puppies).

Friday, July 5: Drive to Cooper Landing. Raft trip down the Kenai River to Skilak Lake. Across the lake (with a stiff breeze off the glacier, brrrr…) to Kenai Backcountry Lodge, remote and beautiful.

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In full wet-weather gear.

Bald eagle on the riverbank:

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Ready…

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Set…

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GO!!!

Saturday, July 6: Hiked six miles total, to a point above the treeline where we ate a picnic lunch.

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Halfway up, view of Skilak Lake. (The odd headgear: mosquito nets, an absolute necessity.)

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From the top.

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Along the trail: the blond fur of a grizzly caught on a tree trunk.

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Dot wearing mosquito net, seen through “Old Splitty,” a split cottonwood tree.

Wildflowers everywhere:

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Monk’s hood and dwarf dogwood.

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Wild geranium.

Sunday, July 7: return drive to Anchorage. Stop en route at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for closeup encounters with wildlife (orphaned or injured, most are rehabilitated and then returned to the wild). Brunch at Anchorage’s (justly) famed Snow City café. Wandered through the weekend City market.

Up close and personal with moose…

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…and musk ox.

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Monday, July 8: Biked the Tony Knowles Coastal trail. Stopped to watch a pair of sandhill cranes picking through the mudflats.

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And on our way back, we saw our first big animal in the wild:

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MOOSE!

Vacation ended with a lovely dinner at Simon & Seafort’s in Anchorage, where we dined with Stefanie Tatalias, SCBWI Regional Advisor for Alaska. I had the halibut. (Halibut in Alaska is different from halibut anywhere else. It’s uber-halibut.)

It was a perfect way to finish our Alaskan sojourn. What a special place–I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to visit!

Next entry: presentations for the Anchorage Public Library system.


Into the North…

Events in July–in Alaska! 🙂

My schedule includes programs for readers of all ages, as well as a writing workshop through SCBWI (also open to non-members).

Tuesday, July 2: Seward Community Library
7:00pm
http://sewardcitynews.com/2013/06/author-program-for-youth-seward-community-library-museum/

Monday, July 8: SCBWI-Alaska, Anchorage
6:00-9:00pm “Becoming our own best editor”
More info here: http://49writers.org/class-catalog

Tuesday-Thursday, July 9-11, Anchorage Public Library system

Presentations for elementary readers:

Tuesday, July 9, 2:00pm: Loussac Library

Wednesday, July 10, 2:00pm: Muldoon Library
6:30pm: Girdwood Library

Thursday, July 11, 1:00pm: Chugiak-Eagle River Library
3:30pm: Mountain View Library

Calendar here: http://www.muni.org/events/Pages/default.aspx

Teen Writing Workshop
Tuesday, July 9, 6:00pm-8:00pm Loussac Library

It will be my first time in Alaska. I can’t wait!


Misc photos & recent reading

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With Lindy Lorenz and Katie Sullivan at the Judson University Literacy in Motion conference. Lindy and Katie gave a presentation on how to use my books in the classroom. It was an AWESOME session–I was so impressed by all the work they do to connect their students to books! Made me wish I was their student… 😉

Lunch yesterday with a very special visitor:

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Salva Dut, back from South Sudan for a visit! Salva is the subject of my book A LONG WALK TO WATER. It was wonderful to catch up with him.

Best fan photo ever?

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This is Smith, age two, who loves the book BEE-BIM BOP! so much that he wouldn’t go to daycare without it! So his mom snapped this pic of him hugging the book while waiting for the subway. (Wow, do I love this photo….)

Recent reading: After a bit of a dry spell (a few books in a row that were kind of meh), I’m on a hot streak now.

–EXTRAORDINARY, by Nancy Werlin. YA fantasy, a modern fairy tale. I loved IMPOSSIBLE, by the same author. To my delight, EXTRAORDINARY is even better.

–PERFECT ONCE REMOVED, by Philip Hoose. Adult memoir. The author was a nine-year-old boy when his cousin Don Larsen pitched the only perfect game in World Series history. A must-read for fans of memoirs and/or baseball.

Currently reading ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, by Benjamin Alire Saenz. YA fiction, contemporary realism. A ‘sigh’ read–which means that I’m sighing every few pages over the pure beauty of the writing and the compassion of the story. Would that many more YA books were this well written….


Off-topic but irresistible

I have two grand-dogs. They belong to my son and daughter-in-law, and several days a week, they come to my house during the day to hang out. Their names are Malcolm and Matilda; they’re half-sibling golden doodles (from http://lakeviewdoodles.com/ ).

Matilda is what’s known as a guardian dog; she returns to the breeder when it’s time to have puppies. She just had her first litter–three puppies! I guess they’re my great-grandpuppies?

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Tilda, counting to make sure everyone’s there. (They’re hers, even if they don’t look like it–the father is a dark red poodle.)

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The biggest puppy, a boy.

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Second biggest, another boy, with his other great-grandma.

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The teeny-tiny girl–my favorite, so she gets another photo:

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Good thing all three of them are already spoken for, or I would have stashed one in my bag….


Judson University: Literacy in Motion conference

Literacy in Motion, literally: Today’s sessions opened with a hiphop routine, complete with rapper!

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(This is not live blogging. This is very slightly tape-delayed blogging.)

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Dr. Steven Layne, conference director, who invited me to speak here.

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Author/illustrator Chris Soentpiet presenting about his many wonderful books.

There’s a great vibe at this conference–everyone seems to be thoroughly engaged and also having fun. Later today, one lucky attendee will win this prize:

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A reading corner for classroom or library: rocking chair and bookshelf, complete with lamp, pillow, cozy throw–and *books*, too cool! (Wonder if I’m eligible for the drawing!?) 😉

I’m up next. Time to start doing a little deep breathing.


My cousin, chef & author

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My cousin Ed Lee has a new book out! (And yes, he’s really truly my first cousin: His mom (hi Auntie Soon Ja!) and my dad are sibs. I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy: food with Southern and Korean roots!? YUM!

Ed’s restaurant, 610magnolia.com/ is in Louisville, Kentucky. These days he’s on a book tour, which last night took him to North Carolina. My lucky parents, brother, and nephew got to eat dishes from Ed’s book, and visit with the author himself!

(Ten years ago, Ed was working in New York at a place called Clay. I ate there with pals Julia Durango and Andrea Beaty. Ed’s food was already really good, but since moving to Kentucky, he’s been truly inspired by the agriculture of the region. It’s driving me crazy that I haven’t gotten to eat his food since then.)

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Chef Ed Lee with his aunt & uncle, aka my parents, who report that the food was terrific. Mom’s favorite dish: the fried chicken.

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Chef Lee with my nephew Craig, newly minted UPenn grad. If Craig is my nephew, and Ed is my cousin, that makes them…um, first cousins once removed. I think.

Thanks to Fred–Craig’s dad, Ed’s cousin, and my brother–for the photos.

And finally, more congrats to Ed and his wife Dianne on the birth of their first child, Arden Rose (*my* first cousin once removed). Wow, what a busy time for the Lees–new book, new baby–hang in there and get some sleep!