Monday, November 14, 2011

Creating for our Readers

I have to admit that I’ve always had a little trouble with reality.  Maybe that’s why I love to write, to immerse myself in a world of fantasy.  Even when I’m writing a non-fiction piece (like the one you're reading) I’m shaping the narrative into a story by choosing what to put in, and what to leave out.  We can’t do that in real life!
But what really shaped me into a writer is a combination of things, including disappointments and loss. 
I was fortunate to have parents who surrounded my brother and me with a rich library of children’s books when we were growing up.  But neither my mother or my father saw any special talent in me, or any possibility of what I might become.  No one was paying attention.  Oddly enough, this worked in my favor.   While my brother was busy collecting insects and butterflies for his growing collection, I was dreaming about escaping to the land of Oz.  (My brother is now a happy and highly-successful entomologist.)  But my day-dreams were productive, too.  In them were the beginnings of stories I would one day write.
When I was seven we moved from our two-story colonial in Stamford, Connecticut to a small bungalow on a tiny, postage-stamp sized yard in Berkley, Michigan.  I felt a deep sense of loss.  I had loved our old  neighborhood with its big shady backyards and uneven stone walls.
But there was a kind of beauty in the simple and unassuming suburb we moved to.   Because it was so ordinary, Berkley was an ideal canvas on which to weave my dreams and fantasies.  Where one green yard flows into another and the long summers are yours to fill anyway you want, one is free to do and imagine anything.  Living in a place where I had to create the beauty, mystery and adventure for myself turned out to be an advantage.
When I was eight, something amazing happened.  I discovered I had a gift for writing.  With only a pencil and a spiral notebook from Kresge’s Five and Dime, I could create magic.  
We were never asked or encouraged to write in school.  Once again, no one was paying any attention.  That could look like an oversight.  But it was also freedom.  I was having fun doing what I loved.
All these things went into making me a writer, and in particular the kind of writer I am.  I’m grateful now that I had the freedom to daydream as a child, and that when I was seven we moved to what could have been a boring suburb if not for my imagination.  And I’m glad we didn’t have writing programs in school when I was growing up.  For most kids, such programs are overwhelmingly positive.  But I needed to find my own odd and very individual way.
I told you I wasn’t very good at reality.  What I am good at is creating a reality for others, through my writing.  I still have fun doing it. And I am always surprised by the way children bring themselves and their own imaginations to the stories I’ve written. 
And that’s the most fun of all.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In the Hands of Our Readers

As children's book authors we get so caught up, first in creating our books, then in submitting, revising, and marketing them that we sometimes forget the best part – getting them into the hands of our readers!

When I wrote my first book NOELLE OF THE NUTCRACKER, illustrated by Jan Brett, I truly did forget or perhaps I never fully realized that one day children would read the book and bring to it their own imaginations, stories, and dreams.  I had been so immersed, first in writing it, and then in the euphoria of having it published, that I didn't think about the kids.  Then I got my first fan letter from a little girl in Chicago.  "I liked your book because it made me happy," she wrote.  "Thank you for writing this book." (What a review!  Children not only make great readers, they are the best reviewers.)

A friend recently sent the photo above of her God-son reading my new Halloween book, LITTLE GOBLINS TEN.  I love seeing it in his hands, where it belongs.  And if he wants to review it, that's fine by me too.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


"There's a Book" review– 

"The illustrations are fantastic, so it’s easy to see how they would be drawn to each of the characters... it’s nice to see a picture book with beautiful illustrations that are still a little spooky, but not frightening. Little Goblins Ten was yet another Pamela Jane hit in our home and I’m positive it will continue to may even catch a child or two mouthing the words right along with you. This is the perfect book for the spooky Halloween season with little ones who look forward to not only the candy, but the chance to be excited about counting and cackling like a witch!”

"The Road to Here" review – I could tell you what a wonderful book this is and how much I enjoyed it but for a proper review I needed a child. So I borrowed my neighbor's four year old granddaughter for a reading.  

As I read the story she laughed and giggled and pointed at the pictures of the ghost and goblins and assorted creatures. One each page she counted, all the way to ten at the end. When I finished she said, "Read it again." So I did! This time around she acted out each of the characters. From a witch child's cackle to a ghostly boo and even a bat's swoop. You really should have seen her zombie "stare".

This is a colorful fun filled book for young children. The illustrations are delightful and the characters are spooky cute. I definitely recommend this book for any child you know.

"Colloquium" Review –

"I can't think of a better way to prepare for that evening of tricks and treats, than by reading Little Goblins Ten, a delightful romp through a magical forest inhabited by monsters, skeletons, werewolves, mummies, zombies, and even a few witches.  It is not only a charming tale about mommies teaching their beastie offspring how to behave on Halloween, it is a great way to teach your own little monsters to count to ten!  The illustrations are adorable, perfectly complementing the clever rhyme."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

LITTLE GOBLINS TEN Gets a Starred Review from Kirkus

I was thrilled to get a starred review from Kirkus for LITTLE GOBLINS TEN.  I hope this classic rhyme will mean as much to all the little goblins out there as it did to me when I was a child.

*LITTLE GOBLINS TEN by Pamela Jane                                                
Illustrator: Manning, Jane
Review Date: August 1, 2011

Numerous titles interpreting “Over in the Meadow” have been published, but trust the team of Jane and Manning to conjure up an impressive new vision in time for Halloween.

Set in a fantastical land dominated by watery blues, greens and grays and punctuated by warm reds and yellows, Manning’s tale presents ethereal ghosts, country-bumpkin werewolves, parading mummies, screeching witches, happy bats and boogieing skeletons that readers will instantly want to have as friends. The preschool set should find comfort in seeing how loving and attentive the ghoulish moms and dads are with their offspring. Parents may see a bit of themselves here as well. (Mothers, especially, may chuckle at the staring zombie mom pictured in disheveled attire with her tongue hanging out.) Even though this is essentially a counting rhyme, the author elevates the reading and listening experience with interactive rhyming text that is rich with alliteration and strong action words: The monster “scared and he scampered,” ghosts “hid and they haunted,” witches “crowed and they cackled” and bats “swooped in the shadows.” The story begins and ends with the green-horned monster mommy and her little monster one—“ ‘Trick or treat?’ asked the mommy; / ‘Treat!’ cried the one. / So they skipped off together / For some Halloween fun!”

Truly satisfying. (Picture book. 3-6)


Friday, March 18, 2011

Just the Words

       We're proud of the books we write, but at a recent school visit, I discovered that maybe it's not that impressive a thing after all.  After all, it's just words.
My Power Point slide show was over.  The lights in the school auditorium came back on.   The kids stretched their legs.  I turned off the projector, and glanced at the clock.  It had been only been a half hour but I was still under the spell of the past evoked by my slides – the ballet doll my Aunt Ruth sent me for Christmas that inspired my first children's book, the farm house in Bucks County where I began to write it, the beautiful cover of Noelle of the Nutcracker
It was time for questions and answers.
 “Does your hand get tired when you color?” asked a little girl in blue leggings sitting in the front row.
 “Well, actually I don’t draw the pictures for my books,” said, with a smile.
Another hand shots up.
“Do you glue the covers on?” 
I shook my head.
The kids looked puzzled. 
Finally a boy in the second row raised his hand. 
“What exactly do you do?”
All the kids looked at me, waiting.
“I just do the writing,” I said.   “Just the words.”
“Just the words?”  He looked incredulous.
I nod.
Just the words.