Thursday, December 4, 2014

Loved to Pieces. . . with Nina Laden!

Hello, friends! I'm so pleased to welcome Nina Laden to the Cottage! Nina is the author and illustrator of more than a dozen charming books for young readers including, Peek-a ZooDaddy Wrong Legs and Once Upon A Memoryillustrated by Renata Liwska—a Bank Street College Best Book of 2014.

Welcome, Nina! Let's have some hot chocolate while you tell us about the book you've brought today.

"Thanks, Mr. Pig. Not many of the books that I loved in childhood have survived all the way to today, but Madeline and the Gypsies has made it, despite a bit of wear and tear. Looking back I know that I loved this book for so many reasons, and in so many ways it seems to predict a lot of my life in the future, both in childhood and in the present.

My parents, who were still married, albeit not happily, gave this book to me for my fourth birthday. That is my father’s handwriting, which was probably the last time he wrote in a book to me, except for when he crashed the launch of my newest picture book, Once Upon A Memory and he wrote in my book telling me how great he is. Long story there. I needed Madeline to help me get through childhood.

I needed her to help me get over my fears. I was very afraid of thunder and lightning storms. Madeline was caught riding the Ferris Wheel when lightning struck. I was standing next to a big tree in a summer camp in Massachusetts when the bark flew off and the ground shook.

I was also deathly afraid of elevators and being stuck between floors, so despite growing up in New York City, land of tall buildings, I would refuse to get in the elevator and I would defiantly take the stairs. I was also very afraid of being forgotten, but I had to get used to it, like Madeline did, after my father ran off with my brother’s first grade teacher.

From Madeline I learned that you could have fun with other people, and the night time was a magical time. Perhaps that is why I made “the night” figure so strongly in my first book, The Night I Followed the Dog.

I fantasized about having my own pool to swim in, and later on, in my all-time favorite chapter book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I wanted to swim in the fountains of the Metropolitan Museum of Art like Claudia and Jamie do- and they run away, too. One of my biggest fantasies was that I wanted to live in Paris and see France. I took seven years of French in school.

I’m happy to report that I finally took myself to Paris in 1997 when I was 35. I went to the Gare du Nord, which looks a lot like this train station illustration. Ludwig Bemelmans depicted many parts of Paris and France and they lived on in my imagination until I finally saw some of them.

I even made it to Normandy. In 2000 I was invited to speak in schools and participate in a wonderful children’s book festival because my book, When Pigasso Met Mootisse is used in curriculum (in French) in schools there. After an amazing week in Cherbourg, my husband and I took the train to Paris and we met with George Matisse, the great-grandson of Henri Matisse. All because of a book that I had created…

…and in many ways, from a book that I had loved to pieces. A book can do so much for you if you take it to heart, keep it on your shelves and let it live in your imagination."

Beautiful, Nina. Thank you for sharing this book and its story -- your story -- with us. Cheers! Have a few more marshmallows in your hot chocolate.

"My pleasure, Mr. Pig. Thank you for having me (and for the extra marshmallows)."

Nina Laden is an award-winning, best-selling children’s book author and illustrator who lives in Seattle and on Lummi Island, WA, but mostly she lives in her imagination. She grew up in the New York city area, the daughter of two artists and received a BFA from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. She has over a dozen books in print including “The Night I Followed the Dog,” “When Pigasso Met Mootisse,” and “Roberto the Insect Architect.” “Peek-A Who?” has sold almost a million copies and there is a new OWL plush toy for sale. Her latest books are “Once Upon A Memory” from Little, Brown & Company, and “Peek-a Zoo!” and “Daddy Wrong Legs” both published by Chronicle Books. Nina also visits schools, libraries, and speaks at events. She loves to inspire children and adults to be creative.

Read her blog here: and visit her website here:
Once Upon A Memory
by Nina Laden
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (December 2013)
ISBN: 978-0316208161

Praise for Once Upon a Memory:
A Bank Street College Children's Book Committee Best Book of 2014 Selection
* "A rhythmic poem explores origins, both physical and abstract...Animal characters are tender and genuine. These musings on memory and change are thought-provoking, yet the piece also works as a lullaby. Reflective and peaceful."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"[A] gentle, dreamy picture book...A lyrical series of questions that play with the concept of memory and origins...[are] grounded by Liwska's pencil and mixed-media drawings."—School Library Journal

Peek-a Zoo!
by Nina Laden
Chronicle Books; Brdbk edition (March 2014)
ISBN: 978-1452111759
"Reprises the format of 2000's Peek-a-Who in this equally enjoyable follow-up."—Publishers Weekly

Daddy Wrong Legs
by Nina Laden
Chronicle Books; Ina Brdbk edition (March 2014)
ISBN: 978-1452115283

"Every daddy is different—and here's the proof! Featuring Nina Laden's colorful artwork and trademark humor, this interactive format will delight the youngest readers (and their fathers) as they mix and match the split pages to create a bevy of daddies that are part hairy, part scaly . . . and wholly fun."

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