A few weeks back, I had the incredible opportunity to spend an afternoon with several local bloggers, my friends at PBS, and two amazing authors. Today, one of those women, Susan Meddaugh author of Martha Speaks, is guest posting for us AND giving away a signed book pack to one special reader! Welcome, and thank you, Susan!
About the author: Susan Meddaugh was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey. Susan is the creator of many humorous and inventive books for children, including the wildly popular Martha Speaks tales about Martha the talking dog. Martha Speaks was included on the New York Times Best Illustrated List in 1992. In 1998 Susan was the honored recipient of the New England Book Award, given by the New England Booksellers Association to recognize a body of work. The Martha Speaks book series is now an animated series in its third season on PBS KIDS. Aimed at views between the ages of four and seven, Martha teaches vocabulary, and what better way than through a dog who just can’t stop talking?Martha Speaks airs locally weekdays at 7:30AM on WETA. Visit Martha Speaks online at pbskids.org/martha.
Susan lives in Sherborn, Massachusetts, surrounded by dogs. The pack now includes Kaiser (a 98 pound black lab from a shelter), Oats (a pug who needed a new home, and now has a role in the PBS series), and Dudley (a stray dog abandoned at a Georgia gas station). Susan’s house obviously has “decor by dog.”
There have been many books that I have loved because they spoke to where I was at a given time in my adult life. One book that I encountered in my twenties totally shook up what I thought I knew about children’s books. I was working as a children’s book designer, interviewing illustrators, and feeling pretty confident that I knew what I was doing. Going through the library one day, I came across a book that I had read as a child. I pulled it out and my immediate reaction was that I would never hire this illustrator to do a picture book. Sophisticated designer that I was, I did not like the art at all. But as I leafed through the pages, I suddenly came to a picture that sent me hurtling back in time. Not a memory, but the complete experience of being 6 years old and entranced by the illustration on the page. Needless to say, it was an embarrassing wake-up call. And actually this was a famous and very successful children’s book author-illustrator. Obviously I needed to rethink what made an illustration work for a child.
This truly came in to play later when I was doing my own picture books, and I gradually began to explore the mystery of the much asked question: Where do ideas come from? And how do you know when something is right? I began to delight in the sudden burst of inspiration that might or might not lead to a story, or solve a problem in a story I was already working on. I learned to trust my intuition about what worked. I accepted the fact that my stories hardly ever ended up the way I had in mind at the start. And I was particularly thrilled when a character I created actually began to take over and tell the story, seemingly without my input. These experiences, which I believe many authors have had, seem pretty close to magic to me.
Susan and Martha at the National Book Festval!
I don’t believe that any book I read as an adult could match the experience of some of the books I read as a child. So that experience of being 6 again for at least a moment was important. One book I remember reading over and over was Zephir’s Holidays by Jean de Brunhoff. I still have my original battered, poster paint covered copy which dates to either the late 30’s or 40’s. (The title page is long gone.) It is bigger than the later version where the title was changed to Babar and Zephir, and the text is no longer in cursive writing as it was in my childhood copy. The pictures were magic to me then, and I still love them.
So what’s the difference between looking at the book now? As an adult and as an author-illustrator, I understand that the words and the pictures together created a world for a child to enter into. The illustrations did what they were supposed to do, and that had nothing to do with being “great art”. They were great illustrations! The double page spread of Monkeyville invited me right in. I was there, in that drawing, living in one of those little tree houses. The scene of Zephir and the nightingale at the window held all the magic of being awake in the middle of the night while being safe in your own bedroom. The desolate island picture of Zephir among the gray boulders was mysterious and (probably) frightening, but I know my mother read the book to me the first time. And the second and third etc. I could return later to the pictures and still be in them, but without fear, knowing that the ending was happy. And I did, but that is something I remember, and that’s different.
Creating a world for a reader with words and pictures is always something I try to do with my own books. Getting lost in a story is truly wonderful, whatever age you are.
GIVEAWAY: A signed copy of Martha Speaks and Martha Speaks gift pack!
Do you want to win a signed copy of Martha Speaks and a Martha Speaks gift pack?
- Leave a comment here (along with your email address) simply sharing what you love about Martha Speaks.
- For extra entries, you can share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!) OR Tweet this: Win a @pbsmarthaspeaks signed book and gift pack on @teachmama http://teachmama.com/?p=576 #ece #literacy
This contest ends on Monday, November 15, 2010 at midnight ET.
Do you want to share a book that moved you? Let me know!
The just 1 book feature gives everyone a chance to share their love of literature and the power of books. Guest writers are invited to share a book that moved him or her:
‘all it took was just 1 book’. . . to get you thinking, get you moving, get you arts-and-crafting, get you talking, get you writing, get you counting, get you traveling, get you thinking, get you cookin‘, dancin’ or dreamin‘.
And if you’re interested in guest posting for the just 1 book series, please let me know! Anyone and everyone is welcome; just drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org