“It’s looking a lot like Christmas here in Sun Valley, Idaho. It’s feeling like it, too. It was 5 degrees outside when I brought my kids to school this morning! Brrr! Though there’s white stuff on the ground, with only 20” of snow on Baldy for skiing, we’re praying to the snow gods. However, we’re amending our prayers to include NO snow on the days we’ll be driving to and from Seattle for the holidays! A few years ago we had door-to-door snow from Seattle to Ketchum on Christmas Eve. We arrived back home to Ketchum at 2 am to find twenty-four inches of new snow in our driveway that had to be shoveled before we could even park the car and go inside. Of course, Santa hadn’t yet arrived, so we were up until 4 am putting out milk and cookies and generally preparing for his arrival. This year, we’re hoping for the 24″ after we unpack the car.
Luckily, with a space heater, my studio is a bit warmer than it is outside, which is good because I’ve been in here a lot lately. Just before Thanksgiving, I finished a Christmas board book that I started working on in July. It was hard to think in green and red in July. It would be easy now that Christmas has arrived and I’m surrounded by green and red, but now working on a Valentine’s book – so here I am in my studio thinking in pinks and purples!
One of the best things to do when it’s 5 degrees outside, is to cuddle up with a good book (preferably under an electric blanket on high!). I have a few from my recent reading list to recommend, with Iconoclast Books in Ketchum as my favorite NW independent.”
For a pet-loving daughter: A Pet for Petunia by Seattle author and illustrator Paul Schmid. I got to meet Paul in Portland at the PNBA fall trade show and hear him talk about his first book, which is based on his daughter who loves all animals with a passion. I would argue that this book is also based on my daughter who loves all animals. And, probably if you have a girl in your life who loves animals you will think it’s based on her. This funny tale about Petunia, a little girl who wants a pet skunk more than anything, is easily relatable to both animal-loving kids and their parents. The charcoal illustrations, sparsely colored with watercolor, are simple and perfect.
Great read-alouds for kids and tweens: Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Lauren Child. This timeless story could have just as easily been written today. Child’s colorful, edgy illustrations go perfectly with the story of the super-strong fancy-free Pippi Longstocking and her monkey, Mr. Nilsson. My 7-year-old and 9-year-old girls are entranced.
The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, by a compilation of fourteen authors, illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. After enjoying The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for years, making up our own stories for the illustrations left behind in a portfolio by the elusive Harris Burdick, it is fun to get a glimpse into the minds of these fourteen well-know authors to see what they come up with. My middle-schooler has read books by many of these authors and is familiar with most of them. If you are lucky and your middle-schooler still lets you read out loud to them (I’m lucky — so far!), this is a great Twilight-Zoneish bedtime book with lots of room for discussion.
For the grown-ups on your list: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife is an engrossing, entertaining novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife Hadley and their life together in Paris in the ’20’s. Man, do they drink a lot! The novel follows the couple on a trip to Pamplona to watch the bullfight with their party-happy friends, which becomes the basis for Hemingway’s book, The Sun Also Rises. Naturally, I was inspired to re-read The Sun Also Rises when I finished The Paris Wife now that I had a little backstory. In memory of the 50th anniversary of Hemingway’s death (which happened to take place right here in Ketchum, Idaho), this was an enlightening two-book reading journey to take. When I finished, I uncorked a bottle of wine, but I only had two glasses and re-corked the bottle. Hemingway surely would not approve.
For your long Holiday roadtrip: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. When I do my illustrations for my books, audio books are the perfect way to pass the time without going insane from the long hours alone. I am currently “re-reading” this favorite novel about tiny Owen Meany and his BIG VOICE. The narrator, Joe Barrett, perfectly captures the all-caps voice of Owen Meany. Everytime Owen speaks, I can’t help but laugh. This book will last you both directions on your long road trip: it’s almost 27 hours long!