Monday, January 27, 2014

Loved to Pieces . . . with Kate Messner

Kate at the Beverly Clearly Sculpture Garden in Portland, OR
Good morning! Mr. Pig here. The Cottagers and I are enjoying tea and porridge with our good pal, Kate Messner. Won't you join us?

Kate is the author of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.; Sugar and Ice; Eye of the Storm; Sea Monster’s First Day; Over and Under the Snow; and the Marty McGuire chapter book series. 

We're celebrating her BRAND-NEW book -- Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets! -- that releases this week! Congratulations, Kate! 

She was just about to share her favorite book from her childhood. Tell us about it, Kate. . . .

"When I was a little girl, I was far more Marty McGuire than Fancy Nancy. My sneakers were muddy, my room was messy, and I had to be wrestled into a dress for those evening school concerts around the holidays. Dresses itched. Who needed that?

In hindsight, I understand now. These days, I’m a mom who cringes when my son walks out the door in a T-shirt stained with chocolate syrup or my daughter shows up at the end of the school day, still sporting cream cheese in her hair from breakfast. So I don’t blame my parents for signing me up for ballet lessons, way back then. Mostly.

Our teacher, Miss Laurie, was everything that I was not. She was tidy and long and slender and graceful as could be. Her studio had the traditional barre and full-wall mirror in which I watched myself stumble and trip. It was torturous, week after week. And I felt sure I was alone in the world of ballet-class misfits until I met Ellen Tebbits.

Beverly Cleary was one of my favorite authors growing up, and while ELLEN TEBBITS wasn’t one of her best known titles, it was the one that spoke to me. Ellen was a reluctant ballerina who somehow managed to be even more awkward than I was. I loved her for that. I loved her for the woolen underwear that itched under her tutu, for the way it started falling down in the middle of class, for the way she tried so valiantly to hold it up without coming out of the pose, the way she leaped and tugged hopelessly across that shiny studio floor. Finally, a character who danced like me! 

Beyond that, Ellen was a character I loved for her imperfections. She made messes. She made mistakes. And she always did it in a way that simultaneously made me laugh and understand.  Ellen and I would have been good friends, I could tell. In a way, we were…and still are, thirty-five years later.

Thanks, Beverly Cleary."


Kate Messner is the author of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., winner of the E. B. White Read Aloud Award for Older Readers; Sugar and Ice; Eye of the Storm; Sea Monster’s First Day; Over and Under the Snow; and the Marty McGuire chapter book series.

A former middle-school English teacher, Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her family. Visit her at

 Don't miss Kate's NEW Marty McGuire book!
by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca 
Scholastic, February 2014

Marty McGuire really has her hands full this time, with a lazy boa, a hyper hamster, and a potty-mouthed parrot! Is her pet sitting business about to go out of business?

After visiting a sanctuary for retired lab chimpanzees, Marty wants to follow in the footsteps of her idol Jane Goodall and help with their care. But "adopting a chimp" is expensive, so Marty and her third-grade pals hatch a plan to raise money by holding a talent show at school and opening a pet-sitting business in Marty's basement. It turns out that each pet has a personality of its own, and wrangling them is much harder than Marty expected. How will Marty keep her latest great idea from going to the dogs?

Praise for the Marty McGuire series:

"A quick, amusing read . . . a perfect match for its young intended audience." --KIRKUS REVIEWS, starred review

"Amusing and always engaging. The gray-washed ink drawings capture the characters' quirks and emotions with precision. [A] lively chapter book." --BOOKLIST

"While the book is clearly targeted at early chapter-book readers, the spirited dialogue and hilarious descriptions make this a fine read-aloud candidate as well." --BULLETIN OF THE CENTER FOR CHILDREN'S BOOKS


  1. Oh how I adored Ellen Tebbits when I was in third grade. And fourth grade. And probably still in fifth grade. I just finished reading it to my older daughter who is in kindergarten. She loved it - although I did have to explain to her, as my mom did to me, what winter woolen underwear was - and was crushed when I told her that unlike Ramona, there weren't anymore Ellen books.
    All of Beverly Cleary's books made - and still make - me smile. But this one is extra special.

  2. We couldn't agree more, Marilee! And we love your story about reading Beverly Cleary's books to your older daughter and having to define winter woolen underwear. Thank for visiting!