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Strange Creatures Discussion Guide

We just posted a new Strange Creatures discussion guide on Lita's web site.

It contains projects and activities for Vocabulary, Music, Art and Science, and includes an author interview. The guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and children’s author (visit her Web site here).

Strange Creatures in the News

We're back again after taking a brief blog break since the end of last year. We just received our first box of STRANGE CREATURES from the publisher and were psyched to see a nice review of  STRANGE CREATURES in the Wall Street Journal this weekend. [WSJ Review]

And last week we heard that STRANGE CREATURES was picked as a featured elementary biography selection of the Junior Library Guild!

Here are a few things we picked out of the reviews so far:

"There’s much in Walter Rothschild’s story for a tyke to like, particularly the timid boy’s end run around his father’s ambitions, and Judge makes the most of the battle of wills in her humor-tinged watercolors. Wild animals pop up all over the swanky estate while portraits of ancestors glare down from their frames in disapproval of the family ado. A final note comments on Rothschild’s contribution to the burgeoning field of zoology and on the way collection practices and wildlife study have changed over the past century and a half. Primary-grade children who are encouraged (assigned?) to read a biography will find Rothschild to be one of the most engaging guys they’ve never heard of." BCCB

"In richly colored paintings Ms. Judge shows readers ...  nautiluses and octopuses, lizards and kiwis, okapis from the Congo, capybaras from Colombia, and marabou storks." WSJ

"Energetic, expressive paintings, many with unusual perspectives, fill the pages. Not surprisingly, the odd creatures that fascinated Walter are among the most engaging characters, like the giant lizard that peers out from Walter's mother's lily bed. Human characters are more sketchily drawn, which emphasizes Walter's preoccupation with the natural world..." Kirkus Reviews

"Judge's picture-book biography of the shy genius may encourage readers to follow their own creative ideas..." School Library Journal


Monadnock Open Studio Art Tour

We love the fall! We've got the winter wood pile stacked. The maples, birches, blueberry bushes and ferns in the yard have all turned color. And before we know it,  Columbus Day Weekend arrives and we're again opening up our house and studio as part of the 15th Annual Monadnock Open Studio Art Tour. The Tour is on Oct 9th and 10th, from 10am to 5pm. During the last Art Tour there were 50 open studios with 58 artists participating. And it looks like the weather will be perfect this weekend! Lita will have some of the original artwork from all her books and lots of studies and sketches (many for sale) along with various watercolor paintings she’s done over the last few years during our travels. And she'll be signing books too! It’s quite a nice tour — below are a few pictures of Lita at work in her studio, and a beautiful barn in Hancock.

Please drop in and visit in case you find yourself in our neck of the woods (we’re in Peterborough, NH -- number 20 on the tour map -- and the tour is also in Hancock, Dublin, Jaffrey, Harrisville, and a few other towns around Mt. Monadnock). Maps are available here. Monadnock Art / Friends of the Dublin Art Colony presents the Art Tour each October during the peak of the colorful foliage season in southwestern New Hampshire. The Tour is self-directed, and it's free!

Cybils Middle Grade/YA Non-fiction

(Written by Dave) I've been a judge with the annual Cybils awards, which honor various categories of children's books, since 2008.  And I'm doing it again this year! The Cybils themselves started in 2006. Lita's One Thousand Tracings was a finalist in non-fiction picture books in 2007.

Anybody can nominate a book (starting on October 1st), and all the books that are eligible, and deemed to be in the proper category, go to the first round judges. (Actually quite a few publishers fail to send us books so I usually get them through library loan.) Last year I was a 2nd round judge for Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction -- we got to pick the one winning book from the group of finalists picked by the round 1 judges. Two years ago, I was  a panelist (round 1 judge) for non-fiction picture books, and this year I'm a round 1 judge for the Middle Grade/YA Non-fiction category. I'm thinking a lot of books will be nominated this year -- seems like the numbers go up every year -- so I'll be doing a lot of reading. Last year there were some great books in this category -- but amazingly, the Sibert Award winner was not even a finalist. Of course the Cybils finalists are picked before the Sibert is announced, and the criteria are different (here is the Sibert criteria). Anyway, I grabbed this list of all the round 1 and 2 judges for Middle Grade/YA Nonfiction from our panel organizer, Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti. It includes panelists' Twitter feeds, marked with an @ -- follow them and keep up with book news and conversation. Panelists (Round I Judges): Karen Ball, Mrs. B's Favorites Sarah Mulhern Gross, The Reading Zone @thereadingzone David Judge, Adventures at Wilder Farm Jessica Leader, Jessica Leader @JessicaLeader Susan Thomsen, Chicken Spaghetti @C_Spaghetti Judges (Round II): Edi Campbell, Crazy Quilts @crazyquilts René Colato Laínez, René Colato Laínez, La Bloga @renecolato David Gutowski, Largehearted Boy @largeheartedboy Colleen Mondor, Chasing Ray, Bookslut @chasingray Sandhya Nankani, Literary Safari, Sepia Mutiny @litsafari The panelists in many other categories have also been announced. See the Cybils blog for details.

National Book Festival

The Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library will feature the work of Lita Judge at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. -- here's part of the press release from the New Hampshire State Library:
For Immediate Release Contact: Mary Russell , 603-271-2866 September 20, 2010 Alongside representatives from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the New Hampshire Center for the Book will promote the Granite State at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010. In the festival’s Pavilion of the States, the New Hampshire Center for the Book will feature the book Born to be Giants: How Baby Dinosaurs Grew to Rule the World, written and illustrated by Lita Judge. The New Hampshire table will also provide information about visiting the Granite State and about our literary heritage. Lita Judge lives in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Her books have been chosen as Junior Library Guild selections, ALA Notable Books, Smithsonian Notable Books for Children, and have been nominated for various state book awards. Her book, Pennies for Elephants, won the New Hampshire Outstanding Work of Children’s Literature Award in 2009. You can learn more about Lita Judge at her website, More info is at the New Hampshire State Library website.


Fenway Park

(Written by Dave) Not being a native New Englander, I've never before been to a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park. But I finally got there this week and watched the Red Sox get clobbered 14-5. Lita had suggested I staple some red sox to my shirt to show my team support, but I never quite got around to that plan. It was a beautiful, warm, fall night and the fans seemed to get more into the game as the other team (Tampa Bay Rays) scored more and more runs -- even the Kazoo Man (who had stapled sox to his hat and/or ears) came out late in the evening. Unfortunately a lot of people had already left by that time and didn't get the opportunity to hear his rallying calls...

But it was such fun to see Fenway Park after Lita had done so much visual research into how it looked in 1914 during the Pennies for Elephants story. Here's how things look now from the bleachers just past the right fielder:

And here are a few pictures (from the Library of Congress and Boston Public Library photograph collection) during the 1912-1914 time period:

In Pennies for Elephants, the kids of New England raised the money to buy three retiring circus elephants for the Boston's Franklin Park Zoo. To introduce the elephants to the city, there was a huge event at Fenway Park. Here's the newspaper headline, and a cartoon of the elephants from the Boston Post, and a newspaper image of Elephant Day at Fenway:

One of Lita's images of the elephants at Fenway Park has been used for the 2010 Keene Children's Literature Festival poster.

In fact, we also just heard that Keene State College gave a framed version of the Festival poster to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan when he passed through Keene, New Hampshire last week. Pretty cool!

So September is here and Lita's event schedule is starting up again. She'll be at the New England Reading Association Conference on Wednesday night (September 22)  at the Smorgasbord of Authors and then she's presenting at the early riser's morning session on Thursday, Sept 23. Then on Oct 9-10 we'll be opening up the studio for the 15th Annual Monadnock Art Open Studio Art Tour. We hope the fall color is out and at its best by then!


Strange Creatures

(Written by Dave) We just received a shipment of F&Gs for Lita's next book—Strange Creatures: The Story of Walter Rothschild and his Museum. This book is with Disney-Hyperion Books and is scheduled for release on Feb 1st, 2011.

Here's a short description of Walter's story:
Walter was born in 1868 and was the son of Lady Emma and Lord Nathan Rothschild. The Rothschilds were a family of bankers and Walter was expected to someday take over the bank. But Walter wasn't interested in the bank. Instead, he loved every creature that crawled, slithered or flew. He began collecting bugs and butterflies at the age of seven. The family also knew explorers who traveled the world to bring back animals for the London Zoo, and soon Walter started collecting more exotic creatures like kangaroos and kiwis. From there his collection grew and grew, until it threatened to take over the Rothschild estate. Lord Rothschild eventually lost patience with Walter's hobby and insisted that Walter become a banker, like everyone else in the family. Reluctantly, Walter obeyed, but his dream couldn't be dimmed. Eventually Walter created the largest zoological collection gathered by one man and was respected throughout the world for his contribution to science. He wrote 1200 books and scientific papers and named 5000 new species. Animals that now bear the name Rothschild include butterflies, fish, a millipede, a fly, a lizard, a porcupine, a wallaby, a bird of paradise, and even a giraffe. The painfully shy boy who never made a good banker forever changed our understanding of the world’s diversity of creatures.

Lita actually has a strange connection to Walter. Lita's grandparents, Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom, were ornithologists who cared for birds of prey. One of their scientific mentors was Ernst Mayr, who began his career on an expedition collecting for Walter Rothschild. Later he became curator of Rothschild's collection of birds, now housed in New York's American Museum of Natural History.

The picture above is Ernst Mayr with Sario, one of his Malay assistants, in the former Dutch New Guinea in June 1928. The picture below is Lita at Walter Rothschild's Tring Museum in June 2009.


Back from England

Lita's last event of the 2009-2010 school visit season was on May 19th, and on the 21st we took off for a vacation in England and Scotland. We flew into Edinburgh and drove down to the Lake District (about 3 hours) where we had rented a lovely cottage near the village of Hawkshead. The cottage was built in the 1600s and was just above the village.

Also just above the village, through the sheep pastures on the path of our walk into Hawkshead, sits a beautiful old 17th Century church.

Hawkshead is the home of The Beatrix Potter Gallery, which is in a building that was once the office of the local solicitor William Heelis, who married Beatrix in 1913. They lived at Castle Farm in Near Sawrey, a couple of miles down the road. Beatrix's Hill Top Farm is also open to the public and is a fun place to visit. The main activity in the Lake District is walking. One of our favorite hikes is in the Borrowdale Valley.

And another beautiful walk is in Grasmere, the home of William Wordsworth's Dove Cottage.

We ended up in Edinburgh -- here just below Edinburgh Castle -- and the weather turned dark and stormy...

The other main activity in England and Scotland is visiting pubs. Up near Edinburgh Castle we found a pub called The Jolly Judge, a good place for a pint of beer and a cup of soup!

Born to be Giants Released!

We're so excited that the release date for Born to be Giants has arrived, so we're rolling out our new Born to be Giants mini-website!

Born to be Giants by Lita Judge

Lita has produced an expanded group of dinosaur coloring pages (download them from here) , based on the images in Born to be Giants and her earlier D is for Dinosaur.

And we have some pages that show the sketch to painting process for this book, and some pictures from Lita's first dinosaur dig with the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology.

Born to be Giants by Lita Judge

Here are some snippets from the reviews for Born to be Giants:

"Eye-catching illustrations and the combination of two perennially popular topics make this book a sure hit." -Kirkus, March 15, 2010 "..insightful book filled with fascinating details...expressive paintings make artful use of dimension and scale while bringing the compelling creatures to life." -Pulishers Weekly, March 29, 2010 "The text is a model of logical reasoning...The detailed, richly colored illustrations, which often place readers at baby-dinosaur eye level, take the same care in balancing accuracy and imagination." -Horn Book Magazine, May/June, 2010 "..a full measure of visual appeal." -Booklist, March 1, 2010 "A surefire hit for dinophiles." -School Library Journal, May, 2010 "No one has presented some of these findings to children yet. Nor have dinosaurs been presented in quite this way before. Judge’s approach is one that celebrates the scientific method, first offering facts scientists have gathered about various types of dinosaur babies, then making educated guesses about their behavior." -Concord Monitor, May, 2010 "Of particular interest are the juxtapositions of the prehistoric creatures with contemporary counterparts, illustrating conjectured behavior. An excellent introduction to the science of juvenile dinosaurs." -GregLSBlog Born to be Giants is a 48 page picture book published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan.

North Country New Hampshire

(Written by Dave) It was a humid 85° three days ago in New Hampshire, but last week Lita visited schools and libraries in Berlin, Gorham and Randolph, New Hampshire, and it snowed several inches -- on April 28th! I haven't been up that way for several years so I decided to come along.

On April 27th, Lita's new book Born to be Giants was released, and she signed a few copies at the White Mountain Cafe and Bookstore in Gorham. Below is a picture of Lita with the first book store copy sold.

The community was so welcoming -- there were signs for Lita all over:

The kids at Berlin Junior High School made a fantastic poetry circle, with poems written on the foot tracings, that emphasized what it's like to be in other people's shoes around the world. It was really well done!

This was Lita's last group of March and April school visits. She did more than 40 presentations during the last three weeks of April. Here she's in the Library at Berlin Junior High School.

And at the the Randolph Public Library -- shown a beautiful drawing of a turtle.

Everything was wonderfully organized by Yvonne Jenkins, a super librarian at Berlin Junior High School and at the Randolph Public Library, and by Ingrid Graff, another super librarian at the Edward Fenn Elementary School in Gorham. Thanks Yvonne, thanks Ingrid! And thanks to all the librarians who organized Lita's school visits this year, it was a great season!