children's books

My Mother Wants to Meet You

#kidlitwomen want change. We want equity, recognition, and as we move forward to achieving our goals, we also want an acknowledgement of the forces that have been standing in our way. So all this month, my colleagues have been posting important and timely messages, making sure that the issues that face women, and in particular, those in children’s books, are in focus every day this month, which is Women’s History Month.


 I wish I did not have this story to offer, I am a little embarrassed about how I behaved. I promise you I know better now. Of course, that wisdom came with age, and it is age that is at the heart of this cautionary tale.

The conference was held in Racine, Wisconsin. At the very last minute, most likely after someone more illustrious canceled, I was invited to be the guest illustrator. I was thrilled anyway. Lois Lowry was speaking as well, and at that time I was, heck I still am, a great fan of her work. What’s more, it was a chance to get away, mingle with colleagues on a weekend.  Back then, life was a frenzy of balancing work with caring for my three daughters, the youngest just 18 months.

I pulled together some work, and some non-studio, non-mom clothes. That was the easy part. Leaving home in those days, meant lots of other prep, too. There were scheduling negotiations with my husband whose work demands included a great deal of travel, grocery shopping, preparing meals, catching up on laundry, and writing those crucial informational notes to sitters, neighbors, and friends about emergencies arrangements.  Finally, tearful goodbyes, and I was off.

In the taxi to the airport, I sat back and took a welcomed breath.  For the moment, no one needed me. I felt lighter and looked forward to looking at portfolios and being asked my opinion about work, not snacks.

I wasn’t at the conference long, probably still at the meet and greet, when a woman my age approached me. “My mother wants to meet you,” she said.

I paused. I hope you will understand why, as often over the years I have  reviewed that pause, and long ago, forgiven myself. I wanted that conference to be for the worldly me, the artist. My mother. Mom. Motherhood.  Those words, for that moment, dragged me back to mothering. The carriage had turned to a pumpkin, and the ball was over.

Or so I had envisioned. And how very wrong, how very mistaken I was.

Mother turned out to be the gracious, hilarious, lovely, and occasionally wickedly funny, Florence Parry Hiede. She was the author of TREEHORN, one of my favorite books. At that time, we shared an editor, Susan Pearson, who told Florence I was going to be in Racine, not far from where she lived.

“I had to meet you,” she told me. And I will be forever grateful that she did.

For the next almost two decades, we were pen pals. Letters from Kenosha were always on Florence's signature blue stationary decorated with a border of simple figure drawings --in red. She always used words like happy or joyous, and never forgot to ask about my kids. Usually, she tucked poem inside. Once she wrote a birthday poem for one of daughters. She celebrated my successes and was sympathetic to my disappointments. Her presence in my life cheered me on, as writer and as a mother. We both hoped we would meet again. But we never did.

In THE SHRINKING OF TREEHORN, Florence wrote about a child who is shrinking.

Shrinking Treehorn.jpg

 “I am sitting up,” said Treehorn. “This is as far up as I come. I think I must be shrinking or something.”

“Nobody shrinks,” said Treehorn's father.

I tell you this story about meeting Florence Parry Hiede, even leaving in my pause, my initial reluctance to meet her, because I know how like Treehorn, we women can shrink. How others can do the shrinking for us. I know how we can let our weight, age, education, or even a bad haircut, ect. keep us small.  So here’s to moving past all that towards a wisdom and greatness that sometimes comes in lumpy gray packages. It’s okay if you pause before going there. I understand. I did too. But make sure you go.


What I'm Reading Wednesday : ACB with Honora Lee

Long live the lavishly produced middle grade novel! Do not miss this hauntingly peculiar, beautifully illustrated, heartwarming book. Buy a copy for yourself and for anyone you know who hungers to hold all that a book can be. 

ACB inside illio

The Luck of the Buttons

 “Tugs Button darted past Zip’s Hardware, stumbled over the lunch specials sign at Al and Irene’s Luncheonette, and pushed through the door of Ward’s Ben Franklin as if the devil himself were chasing her.” Anne Ylvisaker, The Luck of the Buttons, (Candlewick Press, April 2011)


Please help me welcome Tugs Buttons to the world of children’s books. She’s the spunky star of a new middle grade novel, The Luck of the Buttons. Written by my friend, Anne Ylvisaker, her story is set in Iowa circa 1929 and it’s a great read.

Here's how you can catch The Luck of the Buttons internet buzz, and join in the book’s celebration.

  • Head over to Anne Ylvisaker’s blog where she’s been writing and illustrating with family photos the stories behind Tug’s story.
  •  “Oh yes, and there's pie in the story!”  Don’t miss the pie party over at Vintage Cookbooks and Crafts . All week there will pie recipes and posts are by Anne. Today’s rhubarb.
  • When you have finished your pie, stop by Anne’s Facebook Author’s page.
  • Don’t let your excitement end there.  Get yourself a copy and read The Luck of the Buttons. Look for it in the usual places—great independent bookstores like The Red Balloon Bookshop, online booksellers like Amazon, or your local library. It's also an audio book.


Reuimel’s Mittens


They were knit in a soft tan and cream wool. There’s a left one and a right one--a refinement I left behind a hundred mittens ago. The cuff is ribbed with a two stitch cable. The top of the hand and thumb were decreased to form a triangle. The diamond stitch pattern is an interesting play of negative and positive, knit at 7 stitches to an inch. A simple folk mitten, they are more complex than any of my own creations.  And though they are a tight fit for my hand and rarely worn, they reside in the basket where I keep my everyday walk gear--hand knit mittens, hats, and cowls. Their presence adds a welcomed grace.

I found the mittens at the Crowded Closet, a thrift store in our town, run by Mennonites. A thin strand of the mitten’s wool held them together along with a small tag-like card completely written in what I thought was Cyrillic. Today, examining the tag more closely, I found some English words. Googling them, I learned the mittens were Estonian. Studying that informative little slip of paper with its official looking rubber stamp, and unique code of numbers, I was drawn to very last entry on the back side. Meister. Mactep. Although I could not translate it, I think I know what it means. Master--the knitter who made them. And beside it, inked in a confident blue scrip was just one name. Reuimel.


Of Interest --Related and almost related suggestions

Children’s Books

Winter is the Warmest Season, Snow – Lauren Stringer.

Lauren’s books are picture book winners. Look for her titles as well. And check out Lauren’s new blog.


Estonian mittens all around the world- Aino Praakli

I haven’t read this yet, but it came up on my Google search. Looks very interesting. 

Lativan Mittens: Traditional Designs and Techniques  Lizabeth Upitis

At one time, I owned two copies of this book. I have never knit any of the mittens, but I love looking at the piuctures and reading about them. One day, I will knit a pair. Or maybe just one.

Recipe: The Best Brisket Ever

What to serve on a cold spring night?

This recipe is from Art Ginsburg, a.ka. Mr. Food. I knew Art and his family when I was growing up in Troy, New York. I wished had known his brisket recipe years ago. It took scores of advice from the experienced, and the first few years of my marriage, to nail down cooking brisket. I had been a vegetarian, and back then, beef baffled me. Now brisket is what I make when I need something easy for dinner. I like to make it the day before, or early in the day. That way the brisket has time to sit, and the fat can easily be skimmed off the top. Try this recipe with potatoes, carrots and cabbage.

Note: I will now be blogging regularly on Fridays. Post should appear by noon CST. I have added a Blog RSS for those of you who would like to follow that way. I am thing about starting a monthly newsletter with stories, pictures, pattern and recipe links. If you'd like to be on my mailing list, send me an email from the contact page.

Thee, Hannah


It was a visit last weekend from our friend Bill that got me interested again in the work of author/illustrator Marguerite de Angeli. In our conversations about children's books, her name came up.

Did I know her work?

I ran down to my studio to find Henner's Lydia, Elin's Amerika, Bright April and the other few prized volumes of her books that I own.

Did I have Thee, Hannah?

No. But after Bill told me it was based on his great grandmother who was de Angeli's friend, I quickly ordered a copy. Yes, it is still in print. And it arrived the other day. This morning, a cold and bright Friday, I sat in my studio and read it.

There's a quiet peacefulness to this book which takes place in Philadelphia before the Civil War. Illustrated in watercolor and fine pencil drawings,  de Angeli tell a genuine story of a young Quaker girl's curiosity, desires and ultimately, her courage. She also gives us a view into the times-- including the Underground Railroad.  I especially adore how each chapter starts with the street calls--oyster man, pepper pot lady, and more.

A few of Marguerite de Angeli's books remain in print.  Look for others at your local libraries and second hand book vendors.

Nine o'clock, and all's well!

Nine o'clock of a rainy night!