Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Author Interview: Playing Possum by Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Clarion Books)

Playing Possum

Written and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Clarion Books, July 2020

What joy! Playing Possum is such a delightful book! I fell in love with Alfred and Sophia and the way fear and anxiety dictated their actions. I enjoyed their many interactions and the way the forest creatures joined their adventures, many of them with their own responses to fear. The illustrations and story captivated my imagination and I couldn’t wait to turn the pages to see what happened next.

How does one make friends when burdened with such a built-in fear factor? Calmly and patiently! Jennifer Black Reinhardt has skillfully woven the story of kindness and friendship between unlikely friends in a magical woodland. I invited Jennifer to visit and tell us more about Playing Possum.

Here’s Jennifer!

Welcome, Jennifer! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, Angie, thank you so much for having me visit. I grew up with a mother who was an artist, and her mother (my MomMom) was an artist as well. So, I was always encouraged to create. When I was in second grade, I discovered that I could put words with pictures to tell even more of a story—- I was hooked.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and got my degree in Illustration from Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, I worked as a freelance illustrator and had success illustrating pretty much everything except picture books. Finally, after many, many years of being persistent, I’m now getting to live my dream of writing and illustrating books for kids.

One is never too young (or I hope, too old) to write stories and draw pictures!

What was your inspiration for Playing Possum?

One night several years ago, my husband was taking out the trash and called to me to identify the animal in our trashcan. Sticking out of the top of the can was a snarling, frozen, possum! I remember feeling sorry for him. He looked so scared and I thought that it was probably even scarier not being able to run away.

Poor thing!

What was the writing and illustrating journey you took as you created this beautiful picture book?

I wrote the initial draft of the story (we all know there are many, many, drafts, and revisions) quite quickly. It is sparse text, but once I had my characters, this story seemed to fall into place (It’s not always like that). I shared it with my critique group and then sent it to my agent. We had interest from editors right away who wished to acquire it (again, not usually like that). Illustrating-wise it was important to me to find a believable balance between what is real and what is imagined. I wanted readers to feel Alfred and Sofia’s kindness toward each other and then having the desire to spread their empathy to help others.

Wow, you are right! Playing Possum fell together quite easily, but it’s not always like that.

How did you celebrate the July 2, 2020, release of Playing Possum? 

Well, a bit differently than for past books, of course. I teamed up with a local bookstore, Sidekick Coffee and Books, and held a virtual Zoom launch party.

Good for you! It is an odd year for book releases and gatherings. Sounds like you had a perfect plan.

Surprise us. What else would you like to share?

One of my earliest and warmest memories is of my mother reading me The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by one of my very favorite illustrators, Gyo Fujikawa. There is a tiny mouse that she has hidden on some of the pages. I can remember so clearly how much I adored looking for that little detail with my mom. It made me extremely happy that I could put so many hidden ‘critters’ in Playing Possum for other young readers to find. I hope they enjoy all those secret surprises.

I love surprises! I can’t wait to go back and reread my book and see how many I can find. Fun!

Thank you, Jennifer, for visiting today! Thank you so much for sending me a copy of Playing Possum via Picture Book Builders. I am very grateful to meet such wonderful characters and read about their adventures.

We send all the best wishes to you and much success with Playing Possum. I hope we get to meet Alfred and Sophia in a new adventure!

Here’s how you can support and get in touch with Jennifer:

Website: jbreinhardt.com

Instagram: jenniferblackreinhardt

Facebook: @jenniferblackreinhardtillustration

Twitter: @jblackreinhardt

Check out the book trailer for Playing Possum.

https://youtu.be/8eOKMhHWO08


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Haiku Moment: fledgling

Photo by Angie Quantrell

 

pasture grown fledgling

flightless, injured; parents guard;

frightened, precious. help!

 

fledgling by Angie Quantrell

 

This pretty red-tailed hawk is now rehabbing at Blue Mountain Wildlife in Pendleton, Oregon. Visit link to learn more about this wonderful organization. http://bluemountainwildlife.org/


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Pasture Pets

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The pets we have. Let’s call them pasture pets.

Foo-Foo. Not technically our rabbit. Though I have recently informed my honey that this is my rabbit. Not rabbit soup. (No guarantees for others in the bunny market, as it were…coyotes, hawks, eagles, and other larger predators who roam freely. Like the playground cougar sighting at the school where 3 of my grands attend.)

Poor bunny Foo-Foo. Someone released him. Or he escaped. He is quite the digger, as evidenced by the ditch beneath our Mabel Gate. Or she. I feel like it is a he though.

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Charcoal. Again, not our pet. I can’t even claim him, because he really belongs to the neighbors on the east side of the pasture. They would know if we adopted this funny guy. Also thought he was a she and hoped for a random egg now and then. But she began crowing all hours of the day. This daily visitor will either help our garden grow (by eating pests and fertilizing) or keep it from growing (by nibbling greens and digging up tender shoots). Either way, not our chicken.

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Speaking of…just as I was finishing this post, who trots in from the pasture with a fresh snack?

Monet. This one is really our pet. She adores pasture life and voraciously hunts other pasture pets of the rodent and avian varieties. By our pet, I mean she sleeps in at night (to avoid cat/dog/coyote fights in the wee hours), we feed her on a regular basis, and pay her worming and vet bills. We used to have her twin sister, Mabel, until a pack of dogs decided she was snack worthy. Those dogs were definitely NOT our pets. And they are the reason we now have a Mabel Gate.

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Ginger. Not our pet. Though we are doggy grandparents. She loves visiting us in the pasture. More for chasing the ball and occasional cat (Monet) or jumping in the ditch filled with mud and water. But still. If we would let her, she would visit inside the RV. What fun that would be! So. Though she is not our pet, technically, we have adopted her as a family member. Neighbor. Just over the fence.

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Other “not our pets” include (but not restricted to) hawks, eagles, coyotes, skunks, goats, ducks, quail, geese, voles, mice, rats, woodpeckers, blue jays, magpies, doves, cats, dogs, frogs, snakes, water rats (I really don’t know what they are…but they are big and swim in the irrigation ditch), crows, worms, slugs, song birds, and lots and lots of insects.

Need a trip to the pasture zoo? Come spring, we will be open for business. I mean, the hibernators will be out and about, the frozen will thaw, eggs and litters will hatch, and who knows what else will spring to life. Bring a lawn chair and a camera. We’ll treat you to the habitats and adventures of Pasture Pets.

Our human pasture guests. (not pets)

 

 

 


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Haiku Moment: lump

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odd-shaped pregnancy

mystery bump; What? Hello!

furry lump, “Mee-yow”

 

lump by Angie Quantrell

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Spidey Snack, A Teeny Story

SPIDEY SNACK

by Angie Quantrell

 

Written in honor of Susanna Leonard Hill’s 9th Annual Halloweensie Writing Contest. As Susanna says, “aahhhrrrooooOOOOO!!!!!” It’s time for some fun!

Read more tiny stories at Susanna’s blog here.

 

SPIDEY SNACK

“Help! I’m stuck in this cobweb!” shouted Bumblebee.

Hedgie looked up. “I’ll help” she called. But how? She was too low, Bumble too high.

In her workroom, Hedgie searched recipes. Grow tall spell? Invisible wings oil? Jumping legs gel?

Hedgie heard a chanting voice. “Hungry, yes, starving! Who’s in my web?”

“Legs is coming!” squeaked Bumble.

A floating spell? That’s the trick.

Hedgie mixed ingredients and chugged the potion. She glided up, grabbed Bumble, and popped open her spines.

“Ouch!” yelled Legs. “Wahhh! I’m still hungry.”

“You may not eat my friend. But do join us for Halloween pumpkin soup.”

 


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Throwback Thursday: Kids & Nature in the Arizona Desert

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I was probably in first or second grade in this picture. And I can tell you, we had no nature deficit disorder in my family. We were always outside. Either the kids were out, by choice or by mom’s choice, or the entire family was off and exploring.

It seemed like our family spent most weekends in the station wagon or camper, heading off to explore and find what we could find. Though I know we also went to church on a regular basis, so maybe we spent Saturdays traveling and skipped a random Sunday now and then to camp. Life as a kid was always an adventure.

I’m pretty sure this picture was taken at Turkey Creek in Arizona. Turkey Creek was a great spot. I can remember camping there at least 3 different times. Judging by the grin on my face, I loved getting outside. And in Arizona, being outside around water was a treat. Being a desert and all. We four of kids (maybe not James, who was a baby) had a ball splashing in the creek. We did the usual-get muddy, catch critters, drench ourselves, throw rocks, find favorite rocks, go fishing with plain sticks. I remember one trip in particular when I found a snapping turtle. I was, of course, sticking my finger towards its mouth, seeing if it would snap. It did. Pinched my finger hard enough that I wet my pants! I remember crying. Hello. If you poke a wild animal in its mouth, it will bite.

Besides random attacks from snapping turtles, I remember all of us being together. That was important. The mom and dad, the 4 kids, the dog, the cat, the bird. We all crowded into the camper and dad drove us along bumpy dirt roads to get to our camp or picnic destinations. That was back in the good old days when kids rode in the camper while the vehicle was in motion. We played cards, colored pictures, ate snacks, climbed up and down from the over-the-cab bed, and I’m sure, fought like crazy. But somehow, we all made it to adulthood.

Looking back at this picture of myself standing on rocks and my sister collecting nature items, I can remember the beauty of the water, the rocks, the plants, the dirt. I can feel the sun on my back. Just look at those boulders behind me. I mean, they are gorgeous. Plenty of lichen and hiding spots for poisonous desert dwellers. But we didn’t worry too much about those. Stay away from the obvious dangers like tarantulas and rattlesnakes. Leave them alone, they’ll (most likely) leave you alone. Dappled light gives great luster to this photo. I love how the sunlight highlights my braids. And I see I am, even at that young age, wearing one of my lifelong favorite colors. Orange. And stripes. I’m still into stripes. Funny.

I’m so glad my parents instilled in us a love of the outdoors and exploring our surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you live, there are interesting and beautiful nature hot spots just waiting to be discovered. You can go as far as your backyard (welcome, gallon jars of tadpoles) or escape to a different state or country.

Hello, Arizona desert. I miss you.

How about you? Where did you go exploring when you were a child?


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Book Report: Borrowing Bunnies, A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits by Cynthia Lord

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Borrowing Bunnies, A Surprising True Tale of Fostering Rabbits

Written by Cynthia Lord

Photographs by John Bald

Illustrations by Hazel Mitchell

Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2019

 

“Come along on a surprising adventure with two very special bunnies as they find their forever families!” (back cover)

I send a special thanks hopping to Cynthia Lord, for gifting me with a beautiful copy of Borrowing Bunnies, complete with three autographs! Thank you for the bunny keepsake! Thanks also goes out to Kathy Halsey and Group Blog for offering the opportunity to win a copy of this adorable bunny tail. Tale. Hop on over to read about great books.

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Amazon Blurb:

Newbery Honor author Cynthia Lord likes fostering rabbits—or, as she fondly calls it, “borrowing bunnies.” This is the heartwarming true story of the author’s own journey with two very special rabbits.

In the spring of 2016, Peggotty and Benjamin were saved by Maine’s Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue after their previous owners had neglected them. But before the two Netherland Dwarf rabbits could be adopted, Cynthia had to help them learn to trust people and feel safe inside a home. The bunnies slowly settled in, enjoying their clean pens, nibbling new foods, and playing with fun toys, while Cindy’s husband, John Bald, photographed Benjamin and Peggotty’s every step toward adoption. At that time, hundreds of viewers were drawn to Cindy’s Facebook page to watch their progress. Now, she has adapted the rabbits’ true story into a picture book that explores love, responsibility, empathy, and letting go—along with fostering’s many surprises, both big and small.

Young readers will delight in watching these bunnies thrive while also learning a few fun animal facts. With Cindy’s pitch-perfect blend of warmth and real-life experience, Borrowing Bunnies is a new classic in narrative nonfiction.

Things I Like About Borrowing Bunnies:

1. BUNNIES! At once glance, I was in love and wanted to run out and foster (to keep-ok, that is called adoption) a baby bunny! Fortunately, I live in an RV and there is no room for in indoor bunny. Outdoors will not work, as we have a hunting pair of hawks who return each spring to nest, raise their young, and teach them to hunt-right in our pasture.

But read on, friends. Be prepared to spend time and resources to care for, love, train, and snuggle with these cuties.

2. New information. I learned so much about rabbits and their habits. Wonderful illustrations and photographs merge on colorful pages, telling the story of fostering bunnies. I’m still wondering how to potty train a bunny though. Is it like a kitten where you just keep putting it back in the kitty box until it potties and makes the connection? One of my junior high friends had an indoor pet rabbit and it left a trail of bunny pellets everywhere it traveled.

3. Narrative. Cynthia Lord writes in a clean and captivating way, engaging me and explaining along the way. Young readers will love the bunny story and not even notice how much they are learning!

4. Illustrations and photos. Perfect combination of information, character profiles (bunnies), and adorableness.

5. Overall package. This book is just right. Spring, when we tend to think of baby bunnies and other assorted baby animals, is the optimum time to read Borrowing Bunnies. This book would fit right into an Easter basket or collection of spring animal books.

6. Emotions. Some sections of this book will make you cry, laugh, love, and experience loss. Readers are exposed to the emotions connected with fostering and caring for animals. Discussing these emotions will help young readers understand their feelings.

I hope you are encouraged to purchase or check-out Borrowing Bunnies and read all about real life bunnies. Maybe one day you will foster baby animals!

 

KID KANDY:

Here are a few fun things you can do after reading Borrowing Bunnies:

~ hop and leap like a bunny

~ use blankets to make a soft bunny nest for stuffed animals or yourself

~ curl up in your nest and read Borrowing Bunnies!

~ visit a zoo or farm to see and pet live bunnies

~ eat a bunny salad for lunch (carrots, lettuce, radishes, peas)

~ pick dandelions to make bunny bouquets (bunnies love dandelions)

~ use paper, markers, glue stick, and cotton balls to make a bunny picture; draw the bunny with long ears and whiskers; glue a cotton ball on for a tail

Hoppy Day!

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Three-Horse Alarm

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Happy New Year!

Like everyone else I’ve read or spoken with, I can’t believe how fast 2018 disappeared. I’m not sure which is correct: the older you get the faster time goes, or the older you get the slower time goes. Some days both are true. Or perhaps these sayings are talking about memory. Definitely true.

Welcome to 2019!

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For fun, I’d like to introduce you to our three-horse alarm, formerly posted about in this blog as The Three Chocolates.

The three chocolates (white, milk, and dark) live in the pasture next door. I only know 2 actual names, so the chocolates they remain. They are very good watch horses. Excellent in fact.

Not too long ago, I noticed all three stationed facing east (looking our way), heads up, tails up, ears forward, alert and ready to flee (or attack). That’s my alarm going off! Time to see what’s going on.

That time, an entire herd of goats was free from pasture and roaming just above the horses and our pasture. Not causing trouble, other than the possibility of traffic issues if they persisted in grazing west. I called to let authorities know. I knew exactly when help arrived due to the alarm horses. I could follow the drama by peeking out the window to see what the horses were doing.

Other days, with just one glance, I can tell from which direction trouble comes, be it dogs, people, noisy trucks, goats, other horses, yelling children . . .. It’s a pretty fascinating way to spend time, observing my alarm horses. They are used to us, and now we are in the category of boring. Unless we have snacks. But should a new person approach, beware the attention.

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Yesterday, two girls had dogs on leashes on the west side of the pasture fence. Oh, the alarm was a three-horse blare! Running, snorting, kicking up heels, and from the white chocolate, preparation to attack. We thought we might witness an injury accident as the girls were oblivious to the danger facing their dogs.

Fortunately, adults intervened and disaster was averted.

What an alarm system! I feel pretty secure knowing three sharp-eared, eagle-eyed equines stand guard in our little community. Combine the three-horse alarm with the five-dog contingent to the east and our hunting cat Monet who is ever alert, and there is not much that can sneak up on us.

Hope your New Year is as entertaining as life in the pasture.

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via Tuesday Debut – Presenting Laura Renauld!

Porcupine’s Pie

By Laura Renauld

Illustrated by Jennie Poh

Beaming Books, October 2018

 

Happy book birthday, Laura and Jennie! What an adorable picture book! I know I can’t wait to get my hands on it and read about Porcupine and friends. And I hear there is a great pie recipe at the end, so let me at it!

Congratulations!

Note to writers: This interview is chock full of information about the Laura’s publishing journey. I loved learning more about the process.


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1971: Throwback Thursday

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January 1971. My daddy and me, posing in our 70s single-wide mobile home trailer. I just turned 8 years-old.

Purchased brand new, our goldenrod and white 4-mile long mobile sparkled. Shag carpet, wood paneling, avocado/gold/rust colors, 2 bath, 3 bedroom, open concept living room kitchen dining room combo. Family of 6, plus assorted dogs, cats, birds.

It worked, this stylish model. I have so many memories of Christmases, birthdays, meals, chores, crowded rooms. This mobile home was truly mobile, as it moved from the original park in Huachuca City, to Presidential Estates further from town (moved twice while there), and then to the White Mountains. As a kid, it looked fine. But I’m sure the poor thing degraded with every move.

Dad eventually added built-in couches (convenient storage) and a full-size wood stove. Seriously! That stove kept us toasty warm in the White Mountains, come whatever snow and ice and frigid temps the season delivered. By the grace of God, we did not burn up in that mobile.

The girls scored with the bigger bedroom at one end of the trailer, mainly because we were older and bigger. The boys, including baby James, didn’t take up as much room. Both bedrooms connected to a central bathroom. Bunk beds gave us space and plenty of personal area, plus opportunities for causing havoc doing things like kicking up the bed from below or spilling liquids on the lower bunk resident.

One of my favorite memories of the top bunk, besides having Cry (our cat) crawl beneath the covers and sleeping cozied up to me, was looking out one winter night. I don’t remember what woke me, but it was probably coyotes or such. Snow covered the ground and the moon was full. I could read a book in that light! It was gorgeous and I kept the curtains open so I could continue to enjoy the feeling of being right out there in the middle of the night. The windows began just below the level of the upper bunk, so I really was floating out in space.

Others fond memories included my horse, Blaze, wanting to come inside. Why not? After all, the four of us kids, mom, dad, the cat, and the dog were nice and comfy. She just leaned up against the steps, sticking her entire head and neck through the door to see what was what. Whichever animal needed a little TLC was welcomed in. Kids (goats), rabbits, chickens, ducks. Poor mom! I imagine we created a disaster of mud, snow, dirt, footprints, grass, food, poop…

In this picture of daddy and me, he is standing right in front of a painting my parents had done of him. Handsome cowboy! I don’t remember him ever riding a horse – other than the 4-wheeled variety. Engines were his babies. He was a parts man who could rattle off part numbers and outrun anyone else in the department to locate specific items needed to repair vehicles.

Notice our caterpillar (sign of the times) and the record player and complete collection of country western music LPs. We. Were. Stylin.’

What do you remember about the 70’s? Were you even born then? The good old days.