Category Archives: Blog Post

One more photo…

At the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, some of the many volunteers run the Busy Bookworm activity center, with book-centered arts and crafts for young readers. This year, there was a simple-but-GENIUS craft project to go with XANDER’S PANDA PARTY: an awesome paper-plate hand puppet!

Sarah Mead, with book and puppet.

Sarah Mead, with book and puppet. Sarah not only helps with the activities but also does the Festival’s website.

I am the proud owner of one such puppet. Every home should have one (along with the book, of course). 😉

Misc photos, aka ‘things you didn’t know about M.T. Anderson’

November: The Rochester Children’s Book Festival. Captained by Sibby Falk and Kathleen Blasi, with help from scores of volunteers, this event gets better every year. I get to meet hundreds of readers, and hang out with the authors & illustrators.

At the Festival, signing books with the help of a special visitor:

(photo credit: Stephanie Dobbin)


Susan Beckhorn Williams and Paul Zelinsky.


Bruce Coville & Jane Yolen starred (as agent & editor, respectively) in a skit written for the occasion by Sibby Falk and performed at the post-Festival dinner for authors & volunteers.

December: Rochester Area Children’s Writers & Illustrators Christmas party. Graciously hosted by Vicki Schulz in her family’s lovely home, this year’s entertainment was a talent show. The talents on offer were varied and delightful–from Deena Vivian’s recitation of all 44 presidents to Bill Thomas playing the mountain dulcimer to Marsha Hayles arm-wrestling, I learned things about the members that I hadn’t known before! M.T. Anderson was a special guest, and his talent was awe-inspiring: He can play Rossini’s William Tell Overture by hitting himself in the face.

(photo credit: Vivian VandeVelde)

Now if that don’t make you wanna read his books, I don’t know what will. 😉

For the next year or so, I’ll be doing almost no school visits and relatively little travel, for two reasons. One, I’ll be in The Cave, working on a project.

And two, this is my world now…


Wishing everyone a safe and joyous holiday season!


What a trip!

Thursday, Nov. 7

–Flew to LA (via IAD, airline geography again…). Did a little writing on the plane (good girl). Packed my own lunch (survival tactic for long flights): wild rice-lentil-quinoa salad with walnuts & dried cranberries; edamame; an apple. Excellent.

Decided to have the full LA experience and rented a car at the airport.

Drove to Sunset Strip for dinner at NIGHT+MARKET, Thai street food. (Thanks to cousin Randy for the recommendation!) Really interesting menu. The sour sausage and the hog collar were my favorites.

More importantly, I met my friend Margie there. We hadn’t seen each other in maybe thirty years! But with a rare few people, you fall right back into comfortable conversation as if the years were minutes, and it was just wonderful to catch up with her. I promise that ‘next time’ will happen much much sooner!

Margie and I were in the same freshman dorm at Stanford (Gavilan, FloMo). In my junior year, I left to go to France for my term abroad. In those days you could see air travelers off at the gate. Just as I was about to board the plane, Margie came running through the airport and surprised me with a bon voyage gift, a necklace whose pendant was a tiny exquisite ceramic clown. I had never seen anything like it before or since.

For thirty years, through many moves from city to city and even continent to continent, I cherished that little clown. At one point his chain broke, and I did a dreadfully amateurish restringing job. One of his shoes chipped off. But he stayed with me, and the way I am about my belongings, that’s saying something. (To this day I have no idea what happened to my albums, including Springsteen bootleg….)

So I wore the clown to dinner that night.


Isn’t he beautiful?


With Margie–a terrific reunion.

Drove from the restaurant to my hotel in Calabasas, a ways out of town, but convenient for the next day. Bed at 2:00am EST, zzzzz…

Friday, November 8

–School visit: Viewpoint School in Calabasas. Three presentations, to grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8. This visit was the result of persistence and long planning by ELA teacher Tracy Wymer, who made the original contact, and Michele Shumow, primary librarian. It was a real pleasure: the students well-prepared, enthusiastic, and attentive. The final bonus: meeting a 6th-grade student who had read A LONG WALK TO WATER over the summer and initiated a fundraising drive for Water for South Sudan! I hope to have some photos from Viewpoint soon.

Drove back into town. Getting my freeway chops now. Dinner at Osteria Mozza with Lin & Alan Oliver, Stephen Mooser, and Sally Crock of SCBWI. I had the burrata with bacon, then sweetbreads with spinach and artichokes. Oh, and a very good perfect Manhattan.


Mozza’s sweetbreads. (Those paying attention will spot the Manhattan, with homemade brandied cherries, yum.)

Lin and Steve are top of the pops to me. They founded SCBWI way back in the day, and have overseen its remarkable growth into THE BIGGEST WRITERS’ ORGANIZATION IN THE WORLD—more than 20,000 members worldwide. Despite this, they remain among the warmest and most approachable folks I’ve ever met.


With Lin Oliver

Great conversation, plus a celebrity spotting: Diana Nyad, the endurance swimmer. Wow, is she in good shape—I guess she’s in her 60s, but she looks 40, tops!

Freeway again, return to hotel. In bed either early (PST) or late (EST).

Saturday, November 9

–Hello, freeway. A short trip this time: to the Skirball Cultural Center for the Southern California Children’s Literature Council’s Fall Gala. Many thanks to Marjorie Arnett, Betsy Kahn, Maxine Lucas, and the rest of the board for their hard work on this wonderful event.

I gave the keynote address, then got to hear the acceptance speeches of the award winners (given annually to authors/illustrators who reside in SoCal): for YA, OUT OF REACH, by Carrie Arcos; for historical fiction, KING OF THE MOUND, by Wes Tooke (baseball story about Satchel Paige!); for poetry, LOOKING FOR ME, by Betsy Rosenthal; and the winner of the Dorothy McKinzie award for contribution to children’s literature Allyn Johnston, publisher of Beach Lane Books. I enjoyed hearing the other authors (with thanks to Wes for the KEEPING SCORE shoutout), and Allyn’s speech was the perfect way to end the day.

Then a convivial lunch at the Marmalade Cafe in Sherman Oaks with the CLC Board and a guest, my dear friend Theresa Nelson.


Theresa at front left; Marjorie Arnett at rear left; Maxine Lucas, front right; CLC President Betsy Kahn, third from right, and other members of the CLC Board, with me in the middle there somewhere.

Driving into town for dinner, I had my only encounter with the dreaded Freeway Monster: A trip that had taken about forty minutes on two previous occasions took almost an hour and a half. It was, to be honest, awe-inspiring, and I arrived at the restaurant appropriately flustered. But I would brave the Monster ANYTIME when Angelini Osteria is the destination!

Last meal of the trip: at Angelini, which might be my favorite restaurant on the planet. It’s always so hard to decide what to order there; this time I had the beef marrow (dramatic presentation, a large bone split and grilled), which came with the most delicious little dumplings (gnocchetti), then the pasta alla norma, with eggplant. I also ordered the sea urchin pasta, which I shared with the table. Greedy, I know, but I only get to eat here once a year!

With me at dinner were Theresa and her husband, the actor Kevin Cooney. Dinner at Angelini has become almost an annual event for us, and it’s invariably one of my favorite evenings of the year.

Flight home without incident (no small thing these days…). Did a little writing again, and now this morning I had Gramma duty. Lucky me!

Thanks to all who helped make this trip such a pleasure. I love LA.

Road fun

Late September: SCBWI Rocky Mountain region annual conference. Keynote, breakout, and workshop intensive. A lot of work, but also a lot of fun! Many thanks to RAs Todd Tuell and Denise Vega and all attendees for a great weekend.

October: East Baton Rouge Parish Library Author-Illustrator Program. A terrific two days thanks to Children’s Services director Pabby Arnold and the rest of the staff. An enthusiastic and supportive audience. And as if that weren’t good enough, the folks in Baton Rouge sure know how to eat! 🙂


With librarians Tara Dearing and Pabby Arnold.

hallelujah crab

Hallelujah Crab–a soft-shell crab, stuffed and deep fried, at Juban’s restaurant in Baton Rouge. SERIOUS YUM.

–New York & Philadelphia. Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, Children’s Book World in Haverford, PA. Thanks to both stores for hosting me and Matt Phelan, presenting XANDER’S PANDA PARTY, and to the folks who came to the events, especially Diana Sinche and her students in NY and Roberta Jacoby and students in PA.

Brooklyn bonuses: I got to spend time with Dot; great eats at Talde with Dot, cousin Randy, friend Nancy; a fun dinner with author Matt DeLaPena and his wife Caroline.

With teacher Diana Sinche (back row second from left) and her students from MS 217 in Queens, at Greenlight Bookstore.

At Children’s Book World, Matt and I were joined by David Weisner, who talked about his new picture book MR. WUFFLES!


Matt Phelan (left) and David Weisner signing at Children’s Book World, David peering at me suspiciously.


With David and Matt at dinner after the event. Resurrection Ale House in Philly, where we shared lots of good things to eat & drink, including octopus, brussel sprouts, beef tongue, and craft beers.

I’m blogging from the Philly airport, awaiting my flight home. For the rest of the week, I get to take care of The Grandbaby…

Cal Oct

…for whom I recently knitted this sweater:

blue sweater

I love traveling and meeting readers. I love taking care of The Grandbaby even more. 🙂

A party for a Party!


You’re all invited to XANDER’S PANDA PARTY! (Official publication date Sept. 3, 2013.) I can’t wait for folks to read it because of the WONDERFUL illustrations by Matt Phelan.

The fun begins with the book trailer, thanks to the folks at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

MORE FUN: Lovely reviews for the book!

*“Phelan takes Park’s jaunty story about a panda with a complicated social life and develops it still further. . . . There’s food for thought throughout.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

*“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.”
—School Library Journal, starred review

*“Liberal use of internal rhyme. . . makes Park’s text sing as it relates how Xander tackles each new challenge.” —The Horn Book Magazine, starred review


in Rochester, NY, Saturday, September 7
11:00am LAUNCH event!
Pittsford Barnes & Noble, 3349 Monroe Ave, Rochester NY

in Washington DC, Saturday, September 13
10:30am Reading and signing with Matt Phelan
Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave, Washington, DC

in Brooklyn, NY, Saturday, October 19
11:00am Reading and signing with Matt Phelan
Greenlight Bookstore, 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY

in Philadelphia, PA, Sunday, October 20
1:00pm with Matt Phelan and David Wiesner,
reading & signing XANDER and David’s new book MR. WUFFLES (I know, right?!!)
Children’s Book World, 17 Haverford Station Road, Haverford, PA



First Grandchild, three weeks old. Aka “One Cal burrito to go, please”.

(You didn’t think I could possibly do a post without a grandbaby picture, did you!??)

Thanks to all for joining in the celebration!

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!


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

With his lovely mama:


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


Proud paternal grandfather:


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


The new family!



‘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…


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…


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.


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, 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! 🙂

Locust Valley

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:

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:


It’s two-sided!




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:


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.


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 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.



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.


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!


In the Northwest Fjord.


The glacier grumbled occasionally, a very impressive sound.


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.


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


At the Seaveys’ sled-dog compound.


Getting ready to go.




Dot makes a friend…


…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.



In full wet-weather gear.

Bald eagle on the riverbank:







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


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


From the top.


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


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

Wildflowers everywhere:


Monk’s hood and dwarf dogwood.


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…


…and musk ox.


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


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



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.