World Read Aloud Day with Mrs. Lussier

April 20, 2015

Cosmo likes to Skype too.Way back in March, when snow was still on the ground, I Skyped with a few classes for World Read Aloud Day. It was so fun. Anyone who thinks you can’t make a connection with students over Skype is just wrong. I love reading to students over Skype and answering all their questions.

I had a particularly great time reading to 1st and 2nd graders in Connecticut. I met their librarian, Mrs. Lussier, at nErDcampNNE in January. Those students are lucky to have such a passionate reader leading them — and go read her post to see the HUGE number of Skypes she did for World Read Aloud Day! I’m seriously impressed.

Reading I Don't Want to Be a Frog to Mrs. Lussier's libraryAnd I’m grateful that she said “Julie is enthusiastic, kind, passionate and clearly loves kids and children’s literature” and “Julie is terrific at reading aloud!” and “If you get a chance to have a school visit or skype with Ms. Falatko, you will enjoy every moment!” I swear I didn’t pay her even a little bit of money to say those things. But you should probably listen to her. She’s super smart.

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CATEGORIES: books, class visits

Best Books Ever (so far in 2015) on the Let’s Get Busy podcast

April 12, 2015

Best Books Ever #LGBpodcastHi everyone! I’m excited to be part of a new segment on Busy Librarian Matthew Winner’s Let’s Get Busy podcast, where my best pal Carter Higgins and I talk about what books we love that came out in the last three months. We had so much fun talking about books, and as soon as we hung up, I thought of about twelve books I forgot to mention, so we’ll definitely have to do this again.

If you’re not already listening to the Let’s Get Busy podcast, you should be! Well, only if you’re interested in hearing children’s book authors and illustrators talk about their books. Matthew is a terrific interviewer, and I always, always, come away amazed, inspired, and impressed.

You can listen to me and Carter talk books here, or see the giant book list here (you should print it out and bring it to your library!).

(On a side note: I had only had one cup of coffee and was coming down with the flu when we recorded this, so if you listen and think, “I thought Julie would sound more awake and also be able to put nouns and verbs together more succinctly,” that’s why.)

 

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CATEGORIES: books

Ellen Conford

March 23, 2015

When I was a kid, I didn’t realize authors were real people. I read all the time, but the books were my friends, not the authors. The characters in the books were so real to me, it didn’t make sense that anyone actually made them up.

My Holy Trifecta of Authors when I was in fifth grade was Paula Danziger, Norma Klein, and Ellen Conford. They wrote stories where the things that happened to the main characters were things that might happen to me. The girls in the books were a lot like I was. Maybe their parents split up, or they liked food a lot, or they only knew how to face life’s chaos with humor and exasperated shrugs.

Ellen Conford’s books especially resonated with me. Her characters seemed like teased-out versions of me and my friends, threads of similarity pulled out and woven together into a book. And I learned things too. I learned about shaving my legs in Hail, Hail, Camp Timberwood. Me and the Terrible Two made me appreciate being an only child who lived on a corner with no other kids around. The Luck of Pokey Bloom sent me scheming with various moneymaking adventures (none of which made a cent). And To All My Fans, With Love, From Sylvie, which was the closest thing to a horror novel I read as a kid, mostly put a healthy fear of strange men in me, and made me very, very glad for my normal suburban life.

But most of all there was The Alfred G. Graebner Memorial High School Handbook of Rules and Regulations. This book! Not only did the main character and her friends seem so much like mine, but her name was actually Julie. Julie and her friends were hilarious, their life at school was ridiculous and real, and — probably in no small part because of our shared name — it seemed like Julie’s reactions to situations were exactly what mine would be. It was like reading about myself in an alternate reality.

As I got older, I understood in a vague way that children’s book authors were the ones who wrote the books, but a huge part of me still couldn’t grasp that the characters in the books weren’t real. Because they were. I see that now, that when an author creates someone well, that character is real to them, and becomes real to the reader. It’s magic though, trickery, wonder, and a very difficult concept for a 10-year-old in 1981. Or a 30-year-old in 2001.

When my oldest, Henry, was 4, we enrolled him in preschool. At Cottage Road Neighborhood School they studied music and cooking, put on plays every other week, and had a reading room piled with pillows. Henry loved it. I was in library school and reading huge piles of children’s books (for school! so fun). The couple that ran the school, Gloria and Michael, got pregnant, and their doctor told them that maybe Gloria shouldn’t shlep huge bags of books from the library to the preschoolers every week, so I volunteered to get the books for the rest of the year. Why not? I was in the library all the time anyway, and it’d be good librarian practice.

I was on the phone with Gloria talking about this, talking about the books I’d gotten on my initial runs, talking about how much I love children’s books. Gloria said, “Actually, Michael’s mother is…” and the name on the caller ID suddenly flashed in my memory. CONFORD. Michael’s mother is…Ellen Conford.

I burst into tears.

It was so weird. Ellen Conford was a real person? Not only was Ellen Conford a real person, but she had a son, and he was teaching musical theory to my 4-year-old?

Michael told me his mom had based a lot of the characters on him and his friends and I almost had to breathe into a paper bag.

Something shifted in me. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve always loved children’s books. But it wasn’t until that moment that I really realized who children’s book authors were. They were real people. They were alive, and had families, and played Scrabble.

I could do it.

I never met Ellen Conford. I don’t know what I would have done. Fainted or thrown up on her shoes, most likely.

Ellen Conford died on Friday, March 20.

Thank you, Ellen Conford, for writing about real children. And thank you for being a real, human writer, so I could become a real, human writer too.

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CATEGORIES: books

Excited to announce more books!

October 29, 2014

I am so, so excited to tell you all that I got two more picture book deals! Here is the official announcement:

BunnyRooster

Joanna Cardenas is the same editor I’ve been working with on Snappsy, and I am beyond thrilled to be working with her again. She is a genius editor, and we have similar taste in books and in words, which makes the whole revision process a total joy. I like revising anyway, but when there’s someone who suggests a new direction that cracks open a great new road for your story to go down, it’s magic.

Being a writer is so weird. It is still strange to me that these wacky stories are going to be out there in the world. But I’m super duper excited about it, too.

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CATEGORIES: Uncategorized

Snappsy Updates

July 1, 2014

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!

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CATEGORIES: books, Julie, News

I have an illustrator!

April 8, 2014

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!

CATEGORIES: books, Julie

Eli Turns 8 (with accompanying soundtrack)

February 12, 2014

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.

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CATEGORIES: Eli

Boxing Day

December 26, 2013

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!

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CATEGORIES: holidays

You have entered Level Three of Parenthood.

December 16, 2013

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.

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CATEGORIES: Parenting

Christmas presents 2013

December 10, 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.

CATEGORIES: etsy, Henry, holidays, Ramona, Zuzu
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