World of Julie

World of Julie

Mom on the edge.

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Snappsy Updates

Work on Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) continues to move forward. I am so excited at every step of the way! I just really feel so super lucky that I’m in this spot. My story about a normal alligator and a meddling narrator will someday be a real book that you can all read (and buy! you should buy it.).

Tim Miller is doing amazing things with the illustrations, and believe it or not we’re nearing a point where Things will start to happen. Things like cover reveals and the ability to pre-order (when I say “nearing a point” I mean “within the next nine months” but that is amazing to me — so close! really!). I’ve seen some of Tim’s illustrations and every one of them makes me scream, “I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!” I’m hoping I stop having this spontaneous reaction by the time the book comes out, or reading it aloud to classrooms and bookstores is going to be weird and time-consuming.  Fall of 2015 is getting closer every day!

I have an illustrator!

If you’re not involved at all in the publishing world, it might be surprising how much waiting you do when making a book. If you are in the publishing world, it’s still kind of surprising. It’s a lot of waiting: waiting for people to read your words, to fix your words, to find someone to draw your words.

But it’s good. This is a book, with your name on it, so you want it to be a lovely thing. It’s not something to rush. Remember last July, when I announced that Viking would be publishing my debut picture book? Maybe you were wondering about updates. Well, my amazing editor, Joanna Cardenas, and I worked together to refine the text. The text was finalized in October, and then I held my breath and waited. Who would draw my words?

And now, finally, I can tell you: TIM MILLER. I am so happy I could cry. I did, actually. First, go to his website and look at his amazing art. Then go to his Instagram account and see! for the very first time! an initial sketch of Snappsy. (While you’re at it, why not follow him on Twitter too, if you do the Twitter thing.)

Tim, I’m thrilled, and so, so excited that we’re making our debut together. YAY!

Eli Turns 8 (with accompanying soundtrack)

This guy is 8 now. He likes to say he’s part Bigfoot. Which he might be. Since his feet are bigger than mine.

It’s been a few years since we’ve done a birthday mix, but Eli had enough songs he’s obsessed with right now to fill an hour. Need a snapshot into the brain of my kid? Here you go. I’ve included links to the music and “Monty Python skits” by my own kids.

I’ll leave you to figure out which songs Eli heard on his own, and which songs he heard in our house from his mother who treats every day like it’s her college radio show.

1. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson. Yeah, ok, this song is super catchy and now I love it too. Fine.

2. Dynamite by Taio Cruz. Thank you, last year’s 4th grade talent show, for this one.

3. Something Completely Different by Henry. A Monty-Python-inspired thought piece.

4. Mickey by Toni Basil. Yeah, sorry about that.

5. Tania by Camper Van Beethoven. Good song to inspire Eli, learning fiddle.

6. Ramona’s Mustache Song by Ramona. She sang this after the boys sang their mustache song, which is number 27.

7. Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard by Paul Simon.

8. Don’t Carry It All by The Decemberists. I just blew Eli’s mind when I told him that the people singing this song also wrote Wildwood. It was a mistake on my part. Now he’ll never think I’m cool. Also, Ramona thinks this song is about cleaning up your toys. Like: don’t carry it ALL, just carry whatever you can, bird by bird, to the toy box, until it’s clean, or until you throw a tantrum and get put down for a nap or whatever.

9. Britches Full of Stitches by Eli. I share this link, telling you that Eli hasn’t been playing fiddle for that long. I love these clips for what they’ll be later, when he’s better.

10. Rudie Can’t Fail by The Clash. Eli says, “I thought this song was total nonsense and gibberish until I listened to it more.”

11. Pressure Drop by The Specials.

12. Little Red Caboose by Zuzu. I think she’s supposed to be singing? It’s more of a monotone rap, really.

13. Bad Coffee by Ed’s Redeeming Qualities.

14. I Want Candy by Bow Wow Wow.

15. It’s the End of the World As We Know It and I Feel Fine by R.E.M. I already said this somewhere, but I felt like I could check of some little parenting box when I taught Eli the importance of yelling, “Leonard Bernstein!” during this song.

16. Girls Just Want to Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper.

17. Finale from Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Eli considers this scene in Bedknobs and Broomsticks to be the finest scene in the history of movies.

18. Bonnie Tammie Scolla by Eli. Another fiddle song. Henry sings on this one.

19. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins.

20. The ABCs by Ramona. It’s like she’s learning nothing in preschool.

21. Who Shot the Bartender? by Eli and Henry. This is audio evidence of our failure as parents. Our kids think British accents, bartenders, and guns are funny. I’m sorry. (I do super love Henry’s British Lady accent, though.) (And the part where he yells, “Avocado!”) (Ok, fine, I also maybe think this is audio evidence of our parental success. It’s hard to know.)

22. Vieux Amis by Victoria Williams. Another good fiddley song.

23. Friday I’m in Love by The Cure.

24. If I Should Fall from Grace with God by The Pogues.

25. The Lovecats by The Cure.

26. Little Red Caboose by Ramona. Her version of this, 12 seconds after hearing Zuzu’s version.

27. The Mustache Song by Eli and Henry. They’re justifiably proud of making this one up.

Boxing Day

This just in: I have decided that Boxing Day is my favorite holiday. Not because I give gifts to the servants. I…have no servants. Not like the rest of you.

And it’s also not my favorite holiday because of the great Elvis Costello song, which goes through my head every time I spell my last name out loud, since Falatko ends with T-K-O!

No, it’s my favorite holiday because all the work and stress and heightened expectations of Christmas are over, and the fridge is full of leftovers, and all the gifts are already open and we can just sit back and play with them and read them and wear them.

This December, Eli was asking me some very pointed questions about Santa, and we had a long, long, torturous talk in which I ultimately told him nothing, because it was clear he didn’t want to know, as evidenced by this re-enactment:

Eli: One part of me is saying, ‘Ask her!’ and the other part is saying, ‘You don’t want to know! There will be consequences!’
Julie: What kind of consequences?
Eli: Like I’d get hit by a bus.

So besides the fact that we need to work on Eli’s potential runaway imagination issues, I figured this was a year when I really had to ramp things up, magic-wise. We left Santa pralines, carrots, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Eli wrote this note:

So the kids went to bed and Dave and I arranged the presents, and then he went to bed as I adjusted the stockings just so, and then, like some kind of parental amateur, I decided to open up the fireplace and sprinkle some soot on the hearth. For verity. Sure. Seemed like a fine idea.

Except then I was upstairs brushing my teeth and I looked down and saw SOOT, soot there on the bathroom floor, with the distinctive footprint, not of Santa’s boot, but of Julie’s sneaker. So then I was scurrying through the house, with a wad of paper towel, in my glasses and pajamas, frantically wiping up all of my sneakery sootprints, which led tellingly up the stairs and to my toothbrush.

And then I finally got into bed and there was a tickling itch in my throat, and I tried not to cough too loudly, because Dave was already asleep and snoring, but it was really irritating, and I kept having to get up to drink water, and I realized that I must have inhaled some soot and had now given myself Santa Lung and I just kept hoping that this was a curable condition and also that I would eventually be able to get to sleep and that the kids would think my frequent stomping out of bed for another glass of water was the merry tinkling of hoofbeats on the roof, instead of their polluted mother.

But all was fine, I guess, and the tots were excited in the morning to find that Santa wrote them a thank you letter on his own stationery (which I think he got from here) (hush now, it’s truly a letter from Santa).

So Christmas was lovely, really, and everyone was very joyful and excited, and OH BOY was it nice to wake up this morning and start putting away greenery while everyone contentedly kept themselves busy.

For instance, here’s Zuzu, wearing all the sparkly clothing she got, washing a window with her window washing kit, which she whisperingly told Dave, “Was all I really wanted.”

So Merry Merry Boxing Day to you! And me!

You have entered Level Three of Parenthood.

Many mornings, when I am wrestling my kids into snowpants, and some of them are still in pajamas and the bus will be here in 2 minutes, and one of them is singing so loudly I can’t hear what the other one is crying about, I know for sure that I am doing it wrong.

All this is often so stressful, and for what? Who knows? We love our kids, and hug them, and read to them (too much? are we reading to them too much? are we hugging them too much? loving them too much? yelling at them in that screechy way too much?) and you hope they’ll come back to visit you but maybe they’ll turn into murderers. Or at least turn into people who need a lot of therapy to deal with all that awful hugging from their mother.

And just when I’m about to leave because I know for sure I’m doing it wrong, they throw me a bone and do something so lovely and funny that I see that there is hope.

I should clarify that this whole cycle happens roughly once every ten minutes.

So last night I walked by Eli as he was spinning in the living room, flapping his arms. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Are you dancing?”

“No!” he said. “This is level three!”

Like that made any sense.

But then later, after dinner, Henry started flapping his arms in the living room, and moving slowly back and forth. “Level one!” he shouted, and the other three kids started running past him, trying not to get smacked.

Then Eli started spinning, arms out, while the other three ran past him. “Level two!” Henry got smacked. “I still have two lives left!” he said.

They had made their own living video game. Zuzu got 100 extra lives, because she threw a fit. Ramona ended up winning, because she’s so little that she can run under everyone’s flapping arms. And I know none of these things are directly resume builders, exactly, but it felt like we were doing ok, as parents, or at least as people creators, that they had made up this hilarious game.

And then later Henry was typing something, and when I asked what he was typing, he yelled, “It’s a secret!” and threw his torso over the typewriter. And maybe this is a violation of his privacy, but when he does that, I think, “Ok, I’ll just read it when you go to school.” Also, if it were that big of a secret, he might have hidden it a little better.

rules and things for understanding grownups | World of Julie

Henry’s rules for understanding grownups. Besides the fact that this makes me and Dave sound like old timey folks rocking in rocking chairs on the front porch of the general store, I think we’re doing OK.

Christmas presents 2013

Here it is, my annual holiday gift round-up. As usual, no pictures — don’t want the kids peeking anything from across the room. This list isn’t quite complete. I’m a little bit using it to figure out what else I need. Though we are being real hammers this year about not getting too much. Our kids just don’t need anything else, truly. They circled a bunch of stuff in catalogs that they already own. Which I took as affirming that they like their own stuff already, but I’m not buying Zuzu a second broom. That’s just silly.

Henry, age 10:

  • The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He’s read and re-read The Hobbit and is ready for this, I think. I got him this nice edition (from my local indie bookstore).
  • The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen. I’ll admit I haven’t read this (yet) but it has gotten great reviews from people I trust, and Henry loved Nielsen’s Goblin Wars trilogy.
  • Wildwood by Carson Meloy (another one I want to read, and that I think Henry will like)
  • Odin’s Ravens. This is a game. It’s out of print, so I got it on eBay.
  • King of Tokyo. Another game. Haven’t decided yet if I’m giving this to him, or to everyone.

Eli, age 7:

  • Journey by Aaron Becker. A beautiful, beautiful picture book. We got it out of the library, and Eli declared it “the best book I’ve ever seen.” And every time he looked at it, he’d talk about how amazing he thinks it is. So not only did I get this for him, I bought all the copies they had at the bookstore. Teachers are getting this one too. (I am also seriously tempted to get Eli one of the prints, too. Thinking.)
  • Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Haven’t decided yet whether this is for Eli or for everyone.
  • The kid wants a wooden toy boat. A lot. This is the one he wants, I might make a half-hearted attempt to find one that’s slightly larger.
  • Ok, so Eli wants a tank that shoots at things (like, really shoots) and also a sword (like he doesn’t already have enough swords).  I’m definitely not getting the tank, because I’d like everyone in the house to keep both of their eyeballs. My compromise to all this might be to get him a punching bag. I still have to look into this more, but he is a kid who likes big movement, and I think a big thing to punch at would be helpful.
  • Both boys are getting (together, I mean) this Lego Ewok village thing. They super duper asked for it. And I like getting Legos because they occupy the kids for so long, and also (mostly?) we have a dedicated place for them to go, already, in the house (a Lego bin).
  • Both boys are getting Fantasy: An Artist’s Realm by Ben Boos. Because it’s a little ridiculous how many times we’ve gotten it out of the library.

On that last point, I’ll pause here to say that, at this point, having four kids, I see toys they might want — fairy treehouses or doll houses, or play kitchens, or dolly strollers, and I know they would love them, but we just don’t have room. I feel conflicted about this. Like, is this it, forever? “Here are our established toy systems. We do not deviate from these systems. You can have Legos, toy food, blocks, or those little hard plastic Schleich animals. You may not choose any toy that is its own piece of furniture. Do you want a game? A book? You can have those. You want a cradle for your doll? Sorry, honey. We’ll have to get rid of your dresser to make that happen.”

Zuzu, age 5:

  • So last year we got her this Learning Resources School Set, and she has played with it every day since. If you have a kid who likes to play school, you need to get this. I wish I could give it to her all over again. Or something. At any rate, I got some teacher-y things at the dollar store. Some flash cards and a counting thing that I think is stickers you can put on the window?
  • The girl loves her shoes. And clothes. I don’t want to pigeon-hole her too much, but oh boy she loves shoes. She has a pair of cowboy boots she wears every day, but they’re getting small, and one day I was trying to get stuff done and showed her how to pin stuff onto Pinterest, and she made a whole board of shoes she wants.  She’s going to get these shimmery blue cowboy boots for Christmas. And also some clothes from the Gap that have sparkles on them. (And sunglasses for the rest of us, so we can look at her, with all this glitter.)
  • She’s had a bunch of dress-up tiaras in her five years, and they’ve all broken. I don’t really get too much into the princess stuff, but she does love a tiara every now and again, and is always heartbroken when they break. So Z and Ramona are both getting sturdier tiaras.
  • Zuzu really wants a window-washing kit. I don’t know whether to be horrified (like she’s so repulsed by my housekeeping that she’s going to take over the job) or thrilled (she’s going to take over the job!). Anyway. She’s cute.
  • She showed some interest in a potholder loom, and, honestly, when the boys started making some of those rainbow loom bracelet things, Zuzu turned out to be kind of an instant genius at it. She completely understood the whole weaving concept, while the rest of us were getting frustrated and inadvertently shooting rubber bands across the room.
  • Did you know that there’s a Hello Kitty graphic novel? A few of them! My pal Colby Sharp says they’re pretty good. Zuzu’s going to love them.

Ramona, age 3

Oh, poor fourth child, who is so happy to go along with everything. What will I get you?

  • Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs by Michaela Muntean. This is such a sweet story. Ramona loves this book, but we didn’t own it.
  • A dress with POCKETS. The girl loves pockets.
  • One of those study tiaras that Zuzu is getting.
  • Ramona’s favorite gift from last Christmas was a black lab doggie I got at Goodwill. He looks like this. Last weekend we were at a birthday party, and one of the birthday presents was a tiny version of that doggie, in a little bag. Ramona got uncharacteristically anxious; she started chewing on her thumb and looked extremely agitated. Basically — she was trying to hold it in and not run over and take that dog-in-a-bag because she wanted it so much.
  • Something else? She loves her doll stuff. Maybe a doll thing. Or more play food. She likes that a lot too. Or something else that one of you suggests?

Santa might be bringing everyone a Lego minifigure in their stockings. He’s also bringing them candy canes. And bookmarks. And the usual round-up of oranges and apples.

The kids all have also requested Lego sets to give from each other (not sure about that sentence syntax — they want to buy each other Lego sets).

That’s the round-up right now. I’ll post more in the comments if things change.

New Review: MOONDAY by Adam Rex

Anyone who knows me knows what huge Adam Rex fans we are here. We read everything he has any part in (just the other day we were reading his discarded to-do lists for a bedtime story) (not really) (but we would if we could).

So I was so glad that Adam somehow managed to schedule the release of Moonday to coincide with the first day of school.  The kids had Moonday waiting for them when they got off the bus.

You won’t be surprised to hear me gush about it on this week’s episode of Brain Burps About Books. It’s a gorgeous, lovely, amazing book, a wondrous book. Moonday proves (not that we doubted it) that Adam Rex is not a one-note writer/illustrator. This book is dreamy in a way his other books are not, but in a way that we all get (note: I mean dreamy as in “like a dream” not like “Davy Jones is dreamy”).

And just look how that book glows! It illuminates Henry’s face like the book is actually the moon! [Insert requisite pun/joke here about Henry therefore being the sun/son.]

You can hear my review and read more about this week’s podcast here, or listen directly in iTunes here.

Oh, p.s. I forgot to post before: I was asked to make a Celebridot. This is a site celebrating the Peter Reynolds book The Dot, about making your mark, and the Celebridot site has dots made by…this feels weird to say…celebrities? Like I’m one of those? Whatever: I was honored to be asked and I had so much fun making my dot I can’t even tell you. My dot is all about the magical power of doodling. Go check it out!

New Review: The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli

You know what I love doing? Audio reviews for the Brain Burps podcast. I have so much fun writing and reading them. I didn’t do any allllll summer long, because it turned out it was hard to write with everyone home this summer, and also I couldn’t ever figure out how to record a review with the noisey noisemakers in the house.

So Katie used up all my recorded-before-June reviews during the summer, except …we forgot one! So today you can hear a review I recorded back in the spring (you can tell I recorded it a long time ago because of the part where I say it’s not watermelon season yet) (and I need to maybe remember not to make my reviews so seasonally-dependent).

Today’s review is The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli, a book that can be enjoyed all year round, not only during watermelon season. We love love love this book. And you’ll hear my extreme love of the design of the book, too, if you listen to the review. (And look at how cool it is that Greg uses watermelon-colored pens to sign the book!).

You can see all the information about this week’s Brain Burps About Books episode here (Katie interviews Terry Shay about Dot Day), or you can listen directly in iTunes here.

Also be sure to check out the trailer for The Watermelon Seed. So great!

A letter from me, at 10 years old

I got the most amazing and wonderful package in the mail today. It was from my childhood friend Kate (who I’m still friends with). Her mom moved and there were some boxes of Kate’s things, and in one of those boxes was a letter. A letter from me, to Kate, when I was 10. It wasn’t a regular letter. Not me asking Kate how she was at camp or anything like that.

It was a letter where I was a librarian. And, in many ways, a writer (if we’re defining writer as “someone who makes stuff up, and then writes it down”).

If I ever need to write a scene where someone receives a letter from their 10-year-old self, I will know how to make them act: It made me say, “Oh my god” repeatedly, made me cry, and felt like a large tube of black construction paper had been placed around me. I saw nothing but the letter for a few minutes, and I felt eerily like my 1982 self was standing right next to me.

How did 10-year-old me KNOW? If you had told me, in 1982, “You’ll grow up to be a librarian and a children’s book author” I would have looked up from Bridge to Terabithia, wearing that rainbow shirt, and nodded.

(So why did I work retail after I graduated from college? What took me so long to figure it out?)

Here it is. A letter from me. (Kate lived on Oak Avenue, I lived on Knickerbocker.)

This is my voice. It’s the same. This might mean I have the mind of a 10 year-old, or that I was a very mature preteen. Or it might mean our self, who we are, is always there, etched in our bodies, and it’s our job to be true to that self and not let our lives get sidetracked.

Me: apparently I was always meant to be in love with books and libraries (and also typewriters and being funny). Apparently I was always a huge goofball.

Thank you so much, Kate, for sending this (and also for being game to and co-conspirator in so many shenanigans of childhood).

And you know what? Reading really does give you the answers to all of your questions.

Julie in the news (links)

The Portland Press Herald has a great story about Little Free Libraries in Maine — including ours. Read it here. (Also, see a photo that shows what we look like from a bird’s point of view.)

I wrote a blog post for Tara Lazar about how Picture Book Idea Month led to my success at a writer.

When Mr. Schu came to visit a few weeks ago (on the day the Snappsy book deal was announced!), he recorded our visit using Vines.

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