Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, November 4, 2016

Looking Skyward... Waiting For Snow Blog Tour

In an effort to teach patience many parents (including mine) utter the classic proverb a watched pot never boils.  In other words if we wait with over-the-top attention and restlessness for a specific moment, it takes an excessive amount of time for it to happen.  If on the other hand, we go about our business with hardly giving it a thought, miraculously it occurs in minutes.

Then, too, there are those who have no expectations because they have never enjoyed said moment.  When you watch a puppy see snow for the first time, it's as if you are seeing it for the first time too.  (Witnessing this first-hand sixteen years ago, the arrival of a new canine companion promises a similar experience.)  But here's the thing, if you, like my dog and I, love snow, every year thereafter the anticipation is stronger.  In Waiting For Snow (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, November 1, 2016) written by Marsha Diane Arnold (Lost. Found.) with illustrations by Renata Liwska (The Loud Book, The Christmas Quiet Book, and Once Upon A Memory) one particular individual has lost all patience.

Hedgehog found Badger staring at the sky.
"What are you doing Badger?"

Badger wants snow.  It is, after all, winter.  Hedgehog kindly advises Badger to wait.  Badger is completely frustrated with waiting.  Pots and pans are banged in a chorus of clanging to wake up the sky.

The sky does not wake up but Rabbit, Vole and Possum are wide-eyed and wondering as they approach Badger and Hedgehog.  When they understand what Badger is trying to do, they want to help.  Rabbit thinks throwing pebbles will punch holes in the sky allowing the snow to fall.  Do you think this works?

With each new approach and its lack of success, Hedgehog quietly comments about those things remaining constant day in and day out throughout the seasons.  Nothing seems to be working so the friends step forward in a final attempt.  When this does not satisfy Badger, they all finally decide to wait together.  Badger's mood is deeply down-in-the-dumps.

Hours pass.  Day turns into night.  To Badger's delight, Hedgehog was right.

Whether you are a fan of winter or not, you have to admit there is something like pure magic when the snow first falls.  The air feels charged and the quiet is quieter.  The fresh white covering everything is like a clean slate, a new beginning or the promise of a new beginning.  All these things are depicted wonderfully by Marsha Diane Arnold in this book.

We all can identify with Badger.  Our minds comprehend what Hedgehog is saying.  And our hearts want to help along with Rabbit, Vole and Possum.  It's the blend of text and dialogue in the narrative which readers will find completely charming.  Here is a sample passage.

Pebbles rained down.
Snow didn't.
"It will never snow," groaned Badger.
"When it's spring, crocus bulbs always bloom," said
Hedgehog,"...though sometimes they are late.

Seeing the five friends, Badger, Hedgehog, Rabbit, Vole and Possum, looking up circling the title text will have readers gazing up and looking for snow too.  The expression on their faces, furry figures, knitted mittens, hat and scarf are full of warmth.  To the left, on the back, the ISBN is placed inside a television screen with Weather Report above it as Badger pounds on the top of the set.  Perhaps he thinks this action will change the prediction.  The colorful elements set within the blue-gray canvas are varnished on the dust jacket but not the matching book case.  A much paler shade of blue covers the opening and closing endpapers.

Drawn in pencil and colored digitally the illustrations usually span two pages.  To slow the pace or show passage of time Renata Liwska has used single-page pictures or a series of smaller images on several pages.  Her muted, natural color palette is ideal for this story.

You will be smiling or laughing out loud at Liwska's attention to detail.  When Hedgehog first appears the tops of mushrooms are sticking to his back until Badger's banging on pans blows them off.  As the friends get ready to throw the pebbles up, Hedgehog is opening an umbrella knowing the results. After the long dance Possum is soaking his feet in a soapy pan of water.

One of many favorite illustrations is when the four friends are on Badger's roof "making snow."  Without giving away the exact details three are hard at work as a fourth is scooping the "snow" into his mouth.  A leaky bag is sending a steady stream over the side of the roof right into Badger's mouth below them.

Waiting For Snow written by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Renata Liwska presents readers with a delightful portrait of wanting, waiting and the lengths friends will go to help another.  With each page turn you can feel the expectation heightening until the welcome conclusion.  I can pretty much predict readers will utter a sigh.

To learn more about Marsha Diane Arnold and Renata Liwska and their other work please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names. Renata Liwska maintains a blog here. She is interviewed at the Art of the Picture Book.

Please take a few minutes to read this conversation I had with Marsha Diane Arnold via email.  Enjoy the other stops on the blog tour.

Thank you for agreeing to answer some questions and take a few minutes to chat with me, Marsha.
I’m delighted to chat with you, Margie, and hope someday to chat in person over a pot of tea, as we wait patiently for the snow.

From reading your wonderful biography on your website again I am reminded of the importance of family throughout your life but especially during your childhood.  Did the behavior of one or both of your children prompt the writing of this book?  Or was it someone or something else entirely?  
Family has always been the center of my life and my children definitely inspired most of my “homegrown treasures” columns as well as a few of my early books. (Cal directly inspired Quick, Quack, Quick and Amy inspired Edward G. and the Beautiful Pink Hairbow). But Waiting for Snow was not inspired by anything directly. It was one of those ideas that floated in on the breeze one day. Actually, it was the first words that floated in on the breeze. My earliest draft in 2013 shows the beginning words, “Hedgehog found Badger staring at the sky. “What are you doing Badger?” Those are the same words on the first page of the book.

I know you grew up as a friend to animals and you have a keen eye for finding the beauty in the everyday. (I read one of your homegrown treasures’ columns.) Is there any specific reason you chose a badger, a hedgehog, a rabbit, an opossum and a vole?  
I love almost all animals; I do have a few issues with mosquitoes, wasps, and scorpions.

There’s no specific reason I chose Badger and his friends. As I mentioned, they floated in on the breeze. But there is one original friend who is missing: Dormouse. Dormouse and Vole were fast friends in my original story, with lots of witty repartee. But I was asked to replace Dormouse as my illustrator, Renata Liwska, was working on another book with a dormouse.

I like all my characters to be from the same real-life geographical area if possible, even in fiction, so I did research to be sure my characters could all be found in the British Isles. My original characters, along with Dormouse, are, but Possum doesn’t fit into the English countryside. Squirrel, which does reside in the British Isles, was a contender to replace Dormouse, but my editor and I were both partial to Possum. We preferred aesthetics to geographical accuracy in this fictional fantasy. Welcome, Possum.

Do you have a special place for writing, Marsha?  Do you write every single day?  Do you carry a writing notebook with you?

I fear I am a “bad” writer. I don’t write every day and I don’t carry a notebook with me. Truly, all of us have our own creative ways and in my presentations and courses I always encourage others to find their individual paths. Usually, I send inspirations that come to me when I’m away from home to myself in an email or scribble them on a paper napkin. There are also long periods of time that pass without my working on a story, but I think of myself as a squirrel collecting nuts for the winter. When I have or take the time to write, all these thoughts are waiting for me in the back of my mind.

My main writing place is my study.  We moved into our new home a year ago and I’m still working on making it welcoming, for myself and my characters. My best writing is done in the comfort of my home, but I wander about quite a bit. You may find me at the kitchen island, on the living room sofa, the outside picnic table, or...surprise!...my study.

I have a pretty good idea you feel the same way I do about the illustrations of Renata Liwska.  When you first saw her work for your book, what one word came to mind?  Do you have a favorite illustration in this book?

“Classic” is the word I use for Renata’s exceptional art. That’s one of the words I used to describe her art even before she agreed to illustrate Waiting for Snow. She was extremely busy at the time my editor approached her, but said my story made her laugh and she really wanted to illustrate it. I’m so lucky she said “yes.”

But the word that describes my feelings when I first saw her work specifically for Waiting for Snow might be “tumultuous.”  You see, the first sketches were of possible replacements for my beloved Dormouse: Squirrel or Possum. They were adorable character sketches, but I found it very difficult to let my Dormouse go.

First interior image by Renata Liwska
Kate O’Sullivan, my wonderful editor, shared Renata’s sketches all along the creative process and always requested my input. We three worked as a team and I’m so happy to have been involved in the process.

A favorite illustration? It has to be the cover image, our characters looking expectantly into the sky. It reminds me of the vision I had for the last page of Waiting for Snow as I wrote the story. That image was of Badger with a snowflake landing on his nose, along with the final words, “it was time.” The book’s last image, of Badger and friends playing in the snow, is more fun and kid-friendly, but I love that the cover reflects one of my original visions.

A favorite inside the book? That might be Hedgehog with his red polka-dot umbrella protecting him from the rocks falling from the sky. (The characters threw pebbles to punch holes in the clouds so the snow could fall through!)  

But all of Renata’s adorable Waiting for Snow art makes me smile. I hope our story makes all our readers smile too...as they patiently wait for whatever they’re waiting for.


October 31st, Monday - Cynthia Alaniz, Librarian in Cute Shoes - https://librarianincuteshoes.blogspot.com
Nov 1st, Tuesday - Alyson Beecher, Kid Lit Frenzy - http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com
Nov 2nd, Wednesday - Dylan Teut, Reading with Mr. Teut - https://readingwithmrteut.wordpress.com
Nov 3rd, Thursday - Mia Wengen, Pragmatic Mom - http://www.pragmaticmom.com/home/
Nov 4th, Friday - Margie Myers-Culver - Librarian’s Quest - http://librariansquest.blogspot.com
Nov 6th, Sunday - Matthew Winner - The Best Book Ever (This Week) - http://www.allthewonders.com/best-book-ever-this-week/
Nov 7th, Monday - Niki Ohs Barnes, Daydream Reader - https://daydreamreader.com
Nov 8th, Tuesday - Bridget and the Books - https://bridgetandthebooks.wordpress.com

UPDATE:  Waiting For Snow was showcased as Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast by author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson on January 29, 2017.

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