Book Report: Didn’t We Have Fun!

March 14, 2013

9781933987170_p0_v1_s260x420Didn’t We Have Fun!

Written by Hilda Robinson and Jeff Kunkel

Featuring paintings by Hilda Robinson

Published by Crickhollow Books

First off, I enjoyed everything about this book — its poetic prose, its vibrant art, its aura of a down-home African American culture gone by. The book captured it all so perfectly.

Didn’t We Have Fun is written and illustrated by celebrated artist Hilda Robinson, who shared the joys growing up in a closely-knit African American family and neighborhood. In a quiet, plain-spoken voice, she affectionately described the games she played as a child, the songs she sang, the chores completed. It’s a nostalgic look at a simpler life before television and video games were invented. url

The book is divided into two-page chapters. Within each chapter, we get a glimpse into different aspects of the author’s life growing up. Readers are introduced to Robinson’s five brothers and sisters, described as kind, bookish, dark skinned, strong, cute, happy and spoiled. We meet her Mama who cooked and cleaned for the family. We meet her Daddy, who often answered the children’s questions by saying, “Go ask your mother.” They made their home in Philly, but the love is universal.

This book struck me emotionally. I saw myself in it, my own childhood. I saw my mother and father, and my grandparents. I found myself wanting to share this book with them knowing they would enjoy seeing themselves in it, too.

url-2One of my favorite spreads is entitled Rollerskating. A passage reads: “Not far away, there was a steep street called Sulzberger Hill. This hill meant danger and fun! In summer, we took our rollerskates and skated down Sulzberger Hill. Each of us held onto a long rope and played Crack the Whip all the way down. Oh, what speed!…“

This scene played out in my own life. Growing up, our Sulzeberger Hill was known as Dead Man’s Curve. We shot down that hill on rollerskates, skateboards and bicycles. Our rope was a bed sheet that doubled as a parachute.

Hilda Robinson creates vibrant paintings with oil pastels laid thick and textured, colorful and bold. Her characters imbued with dignity, charm, and a spirit of pride.

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Didn’t We Have Fun! is published by Chickhollow Books and perfectly exemplifies what is best about indy publishing — it’s quality art for the sake of quality art, with no shortcuts due to smaller niche market.

The book is co-authored by Jeff Kunkel, an artist, an ordained United Methodist pastor, and accomplished writer. Hilda and Jeff have collaborated on several projects in public schools, churches and galleries.

It’s a book to be enjoyed by young, old, and everyone in between. Don’t stow this one away on your bookshelf, instead display it in the family room for everyone to enjoy.

–Don

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Virtual Tour: My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood

March 11, 2013

tamekaBBS member Tameka Fryer Brown is on a virtual tour for her delightful picture book with Shane W. Evans, My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood (Viking, 2013). Today’s stop is right here.

Please join us as we learn more about her new book, favorite colors and love of crayons.

What inspired My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood?

It was inspired by the simple acknowledgement one day that I was “in a mood.” As soon as I had the thought, my writer’s ear determined that “I’m in a mood” would make a great first line or title for a picture book. When I sat down to write, the words just seemed to flow. I had a really good first draft in a couple of days.

Please tell us about your publication journey.

coldplumMy critique group, the Mudskippers, reviewed the manuscript for (what was then) IN A MOOD before I sent it to my agent, Jen Rofé. She really liked it so we sent it out right away. Early in the submissions process, editor Joy Peskin expressed interest in the story and soon made an offer on behalf of Viking Children’s. Joy and I worked together on some light revisions before she left Viking. Joanna Cardenas became my second editor, and she’s taken wonderful care of both me and MY COLD PLUM LEMON PIE BLUESY MOOD.

How did the story grow and evolve through that process?

This particular story didn’t change very much. We had a few wording changes here and there, and in one scene, Joy asked me to make a streetlight reference a little more accessible to today’s kids, as they might not understand the big deal about not being inside before they came on. 

How did you feel when you saw the illustrations by Shane W. Evans? Do you have a favorite picture? What is it?

Illustrator Shane W. Evans (and art director, Denise Cronin) took my words to another level with the most stunning artwork. There is something to gush about in each and every spread, but I do have a favorite. It’s the black mood spread because of how feisty Shane made Jamie’s little sister. She’s really giving it to the older brothers and I just love his characterization of her! I also appreciate how Shane depicted the intensity of Jamie’s emotions with all of the swirls on the page, especially the one that wraps around his body. To me, the spread shows both sides of the color black: the brooding of Jamie, the strength and personal power of his sister. It’s perfect.

What’s your favorite color? Does that express how you feel when you’re happiest?

My favorite colors are all the colors of the rainbow (ROY G BIV), in the brightest hues possible. Bright rainbow colors make me feel energetic and alive, and that is how I feel when I’m at my happiest. If you force me to choose one, I’d say yellow, but I prefer it when they’re all working their polychromatic magic together.

Tell us about your affinity for crayons. What do you like to draw? How do you feel when you color?

I’m pretty sure my affinity for Crayola crayons is strongly linked to my affinity for bright color. The last set I bought had way over 100 crayons and was pure bliss. I don’t really like to draw with crayons—I like to color with them, on coloring pages with bold, black outlines and scenes that lend themselves to using a variety of colors. I feel authentically me when I am coloring, not bound by age or expectations or anything except the feeling of joy and peace the activity brings.

What do you hope children take away from your story?

I want children to know that ALL of their feelings—the good and the not-so-good—are important, valuable, and deserve to be acknowledged…especially to themselves. I want them to recognize they have a right to feel every one of their emotions, to express them verbally or in writing, in constructive and/or creative ways.  Identifying, acknowledging and expressing feelings are life skills that precede effective problem-solving—skills we are never too young to start learning.

aroundourwayWith this book and Around Our Way on Neighbors’ Day, you feature a jazzy, lyrical style and celebrate family, community and cultural diversity. Will we see more books from you in this area?

Lyrical writing, most likely. That seems to be a consistent feature in all my picture book stories. As for the other commonalities, I’m sure these elements will find their way in and out of future published stories, as they are all important to me personally. But I’m constantly challenging myself to write outside of the box, so I’m sure you’ll see something unexpected from me too.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a couple of projects which are still in their early stages. We’ll see which one makes its way to market first!

Learn more about Tameka at www.tamekafryerbrown.com. You can visit other stops on her virtual tour here.


A Mood to Celebrate

March 7, 2013

coldplumBreak out the streamers and confetti! It’s party time at BBS. Today is the birthday of the second picture book by our own Tameka Fryer Brown. Her wonderful new title, My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood (Viking, 2013), illustrated by Shane W. Evans, is officially here. Yay!

Already the book is winning accolades. Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say:

“It’s valuable both for its believable exposition of Jamie’s interior world and for its warm portrait of the life of a nonwhite family in which sharing is essential, rules are followed, conflicts are resolved, and meals are enjoyed together.”

To kick off the release, Tameka is on a blog tour. Her schedule is here. Today, you can find her over at awesome Cynsations. Lucky us, Monday’s stop is right here. Come back to find out how My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood came to be and why Tameka loves coloring.

We’re so proud of Tameka and Shane and excited about their new release. Please join our celebration of their new book and spread the word.