Ah, January: that month touted as the time to refresh everything from one’s diet and wellness to home decor. Why not apply the same mentality to your daily Insta scroll with some new bibliocentric feeds.
Special collections libraries, rare booksellers and collectors have embraced Instagram as an ideal platform to virtually share their treasures with the world. Fellow FB&C writer Nate Pedersen wrote the inaugural “rare Books on Instagram” post back in 2016, profiling institutional accounts like those of the British Library (@britishlibrary), the American Antiquarian Society (@americanantiquarian), and others. Follow-up posts looked at librarian accounts and collector feeds. Keeping with that theme, below, in no particular order, are ten noteworthy institutional Instagram accounts that excel at showcasing rare books, manuscripts, and other works on paper.
Don’t have an Instagram account? No problem: All of these accounts are freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
To one generation, the name Henry Winkler is a reminder of the 1970s hit sitcom “Happy Days,” where he portrayed the fast-talking Fonz. To a much younger generation, he is the author of a series of early-reader chapter books starring a goofy yet lovable boy named Hank Zipzer. Along with writing partner and co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Lin Oliver, Winkler has written dozens of stories in the Here’s Hank series. The critically acclaimed books appear regularly on bestseller lists and even inspired a television series on the BBC. Children gravitate to Winkler’s Hank, an endearing boy with learning difficulties but whose determination and spirit provide inspiration and courage to face any obstacle.
Winkler was diagnosed with dyslexia at age thirty and understands firsthand the difficulties children face with learning. The Here’s Hank series grew out of Winkler’s desire to encourage kids to embrace their differences and realize that there’s more than one way to achieve success. On January 31st, Penguin released the latest Hank adventure: Always Watch Out For Flying Potato Salad. Winkler and Oliver kindly answered a few questions about the origins of the Here’s Hank series, best practices for building self-confidence, and the influence of good storytelling on reluctant readers.
The questions below were edited from an e-mail conversation on February 6, 2017.
The Hank series deals with dyslexic child. Could you talk about what made you decide to become a children’s book author of a series with a dyslexic protagonist?
Winkler: The idea of writing a children’s book about my learning challenge was suggested to me by my agent. I was incredulous at the thought. It took a few months for my courage and the idea of my writing anything to merge in my brain, and very simply, I wrote what I knew. The emotion of Hank Zipzer is very true. The humor Lin and I create is exaggerated.
You have been collaborating since the early 2000s. Could you talk about your work process? How do you come up with storylines?
Winkler: Lin and I meet every morning and we write in her office. One of us brings up a story idea and either spark to it right away or we throw the idea out. If the idea really hits us, we come up with a hundred possibilities in a matter of minutes, and then we know we’re on to something. I talk, Lin types. Lin has an idea, and she types, I wait, and then we argue over every word.
How did you discover the Dyslexie font used in the Here’s Hank books? Have you, Henry, noticed a difference in your own comprehension when you read in this font?
The font was brought to us by our publisher who thought it would be an excellent addition to Here’s Hank, which is our younger series for second and third graders. [The Hank Zipzer series follows the protagonist through elementary school.] And yes, when I read the books out loud in classrooms and bookstores, I find the font helps my eyes and the words on the page become friends.
In this installment, Hank goes with his mom to her deli for Take Your Child to Work Day and discovers what he’s good at and where he could use a little more practice (taking sandwich orders, for example.) It’s an important message—that it’s OK to make mistakes and we all have special gifts and talents. Where did the idea for this storyline come from?
Oliver: The story started with the sentence, ‘Take your child to Work day.’ The deli seemed to be the perfect cauldron of situations to highlight Hank’s challenges.
I’ve read that many of the storylines in the books come from your own life experiences. True? Which Hank stories hit closer to home?
Winkler: Not being able to spell, to take orders, to play sports, to write a report, to use a dictionary, to figure out how a robot works, to reading cold from a page of a script, to organize, just to name a few.
Were there any teachers who encouraged you not to give up?
Winkler: Actually, Mr. Rock, my music teacher in the 11th grade, who appears throughout the Hank Zipzer series. I am so proud that I got to play him in the BBC television series for the last four years.
Were there any teachers who were insensitive? What was that like?
Winkler: When Hank Zipzer gets to the fourth grade, he has Ms. Adolf as his primary teacher. She is the worst teacher on the planet AND she was mine.
Describe what it’s like actually writing a book as someone who never read as a child.
Winkler: Writing this series of 34 novels with Lin Oliver makes me so proud, so happy, so amazed, so triumphant, and so aware of my learning challenges that never disappear.
Henry, you’ve said that you didn’t read when you were a child because of your undiagnosed dyslexia. What do you read now? Do you still find reading difficult?
Winkler: Reading now is still difficult but my eyes and my mind seem to enjoy thrillers and suspense, especially Daniel Silva and Lee Child.
Do children and parents ever write to you with feedback on the books?
Winkler: Children have written to Lin and I all the time since 2003. The same two comments find themselves into so many of those letters: 1) How did you know me so well? 2) I laughed so hard my funny bone fell out of my body. Parents always write how much they appreciate that their children enjoy reading now because of Hank.
Do you travel to schools and speak with kids about Hank?
Winker: Lin and I, together and separately, love speaking to students. I have spoken in schools all over our country and in Canada, England, and Italy.
What are some best practices for children to build self-confidence in the face of dyslexia?
Winkler: A learning challenge can make a child’s self image plummet like a stone to the bottom of the ocean, so it is vital for every adult in a child’s life to help them hold on to the concept that no matter how difficult learning is, it has NOTHING to do with how BRILLIANT they are.
What do you hope children take away from the Hank books?
Winkler: I hope kids read about Hank and realize that their cup is half full, too; that there is greatness in every reader and the child’s job is to figure out what that greatness is, and give it to the world as a gift.
What is the key to good storytelling?
Oliver: I think good storytelling starts with a deeply felt truth, which is then dramatized and amplified by the story teller. In Hank’s case, we feel that this child has to deal with the frustration and low self-esteem that learning challenges can bring. That is the deeply felt truth. Then, we add drama and high stakes to that truth to make a story. In our most recent Always Watch Out for Flying Potato Salad, Hank wants more than anything to be successful during Take Your Child to Work Day; he wants his mother to be proud of him. When he can’t help but mess up, the story emerges that is full of both laughter and emotion.
Do you have plans for subsequent books in the series?
Oliver: In the Here’s Hank books, we plan to follow Hank throughout his school year. We hope that this series of what will likely be twelve books will sustain our chapter books readers until they are ready to move on to the Hank Zipzer novels, which follow upon the chapter book series. We want Hank to become a friend and trusted companion to our readers throughout their grade school careers.
Children’s picture-book creator Ashley Evanson talks with Literary Features Syndicate about her craft and the magic of childhood.
Hello, World! series author Ashley Evanson is back withThis Book is Magic!(Grosset & Dunlap, $14.99 32 pages, ages 0-4) an interactive picture book-board book hybrid for emerging readers. Evanson’s clearly got a knack for getting kids interested in reading and she kindly answered a few of our questions about her craft and the magic of childhood.
Below is an edited transcript of our question and answer session from January 17, 2017.
What was the inspiration for this book?
A couple of years ago my little brother called to ask a few questions about the first Harry Potter book, which I happily answered since I’m a huge fan of the series. The phone calls continued and I decided to read the books along with him so we could call each other every night to chat. Over the next year we read all seven Harry Potter books, Lord of the Rings, and the entire Sherlock Holmes series. I looked forward to our “book club” with great much excitement. These nightly discussions had me constantly thinking about magic, which is why I dedicated my book to my little brother.
Why focus on magic? You have a whimsical, bright style that youngsters gravitate towards.
I think childhood is its own element of magic, and everything in this book is something I imagined as a child or see my own children imagining.
Your Hello, World series is adorable–I have all 4 titles here–do you have plans to add to that series?
I would love to create more Hello, World books! But first I’m publishing a companion book for This Book Is Magic.
What’s your medium?
Everything I do is on Adobe Illustrator.
How do you approach a project? What’s your process?
My approach is pretty primitive. I mean, my rough drafts contain stick figures! The concept always comes first and the art follows, but I only include concepts of things I know I would love to draw. I have inspiration boards of my favorite artists, color palettes, and photographs of the images I’m drawing.
Do you work solely in children’s picture-book illustration?
I feel like if I tried to illustrate anything else it would still end up looking like a children’s book illustration. It’s just who I am.
Could you tell me how you think your work is helping shape and excite young minds.
I feel like the most unqualified person to be publishing books so I tell people if I can do it, seriously, anybody can do it!
What are you working on now?
I’m in the brainstorming phase for the companion book to This Book Is Magic, but it feels a little more like the writer’s block phase! I’ll get there!
What else should I have asked you that I didn’t but that you would like our readers to know about you?
My occupation may be an author-illustrator, but my number one job is being a mother. There is nothing more magical or important than childhood and raising your little ones.
In part one of my Q&A with children’s book author Jim Arnosky, we explored how he got his start in picture books as well as how he became a naturalist. Today, he shares his transition from cartooning to illustrating,
the importance of great editors, and how his books take shape.
Basbanes: What made you decide to go the children’s book route?
Arnosky: Well,on the first day of each month, Deanna and I mailed out drawings to see if I could get some freelance work, and the first publications that responded were Ranger Rick and Jack and Jill. These seemed to be where people responded to my work most. When I saw an advertisement for Cricket magazine I thought, ‘Whoa! that’s beautiful! I love that cover!’ It was [Caldecott Medal winner] Trina Schart Hyman who had done the cover.
It turned out she was the art director at the time, and I sent her some drawings. She didn’t like them at all. She said, ‘This is not what we want. In fact, it’s the exact opposite of what we’re looking for. It’s all too Madison Avenue.’ My drawings were indeed very ‘Madison Avenue,’ because they were advertisements, but I wrote her back and said, ‘We live in a one-room cabin, we take a bath in a small galvanized tub. I catch our food, we grow our food and I heat the house with the wood that I cut on our property. I’m as far away from Madison Avenue as you can get.’ She responded by sending me a another letter, asking me to send something that better represented me. So I sent her my journal drawings, and she responded by giving me a Farley Mowat story to illustrate. After that I became kind of a regular at Cricket.
B: How wonderful when an editor sees talent and reaches out and says this isn’t what they want, but encourages you nonetheless.
A: Well, back in that time—and I’m sure that it still happens somewhere today, but not with me because I’m so old and I’ve been at it so long—people would say they recognize raw talent and if you were willing to hear some criticism and accept guidance, they would mentor you along. They would help you. and they would help you. Trina would write and say that I couldn’t draw hands very well and that I should work on that. That was enormous for someone like me who never had a single formal art lesson. I always drew from my natural ability and for Trina to – as such a skilled artist as she was—to show that interest in me was a godsend. I loved her. It turns out we lived pretty close to one another I visited her at her home here in Lyme, all the way up until she passed away [in 2014]. I used to bring her trout, so she could have fresh fish to eat.
B: What a powerful relationship.
J: Yes. Our daughters were friends, and we ended up living fairly close here—I was in Vermont, she was in New Hampshire.
B: Your work speaks to children and to adults. While they’re realistic, they’re obviously not photographs. They show this love and appreciation of the natural world. It was wonderful that Trina saw that you had such talent. You said writing wasn’t something you ever thought you would do, but now you do a lot of it. What is your work process now? How do you start a new book?
J: Ideas come to me in bits and pieces and over the course of many years. It took me seven years to write Pirates of Crocodile Swamp, and almost eighteen years to write Frozen Wild, which is out now making the rounds. These things are always based on true events, things I’ve seen and things that I know about. Still, they are fictionalized stories. Whereas with the nonfiction books, I normally become fascinated with something, or fall in love with a place, or an environment, like the Florida Keys, for instance, or the Everglades, and then after four to five years of visiting the place, photographing, sketching, and writing in my journal, usually I get some idea of what I might be able to do in a book. The pictures always come to me first. As the drawings take shape on my board I’m always fascinated by them being there, because, like I said, have no training in this, and I believe it’s some sort of gift that I am able to make a picture. Sometimes I’ll walk by my drawing board during the course of that day, and I just stare at it wondering where it comes from. Then the picture itself inspires me to write the words, and that’s when the words come.
B: Could you talk about Manatee Morning?
J: I tell this story in schools a lot. We went to Florida because I wanted to see manatees in a
wild environment. Deanna and I searched and searched, and we couldn’t
find any. We kept going further
south into Florida and finally we found manatees down in Chokoloskee in
the Everglades. I had seen them at Sea
World, and the state park where you can go under the river in a tunnel and see them in the wild, but you’re sort of in a zoo-like
environment. I wanted to see them in the true wild. When
that occurred, it was very happy experience for me, and I came home and I
first wrote a song about them because I had always written songs
long before I wrote books. I wrote a song called “The Manatee Morning,” which inspired the book. This was the first time I ever left rhymes in my text for a
book. (A number of books were written first as songs, but I took
the rhyme out in order to qualify it in my mind as picture book
text.) I did the book
exactly the way the song was written—to the words of the song. And it
captures the animals beautifully because the music is very gentle, and
the wording is very careful and gentle, and it captures what I think
manatees represent when you see them in the wild.
B: Since that book
has been published, [in 2000] have you noticed the book being used to promote manatee awareness? Do you find your books being used to educate children on the
importance of these and other animals in the wild?
A: I’ve done two more
books on manatees in that regard. I did one called All About
Manatees (2008) for Scholastic which was more of a science book, which gets
into their needs and how they what they eat and how they live. Then
there was a picture book called Slow Down for Manatees (2010) about a
particular rescue effort where a manatee gets hit
by a boat. It goes to a sea park in Miami where they take the animal in and they bring it back to health. In this case, the scientists discovered the manatee was pregnant after they
had rescued this wounded manatee. I wondered whether they would keep the calf as a money maker once it was born, because
everybody wants to go to the zoo and see a baby manatee. Or would they
do the right thing, and that would be to let it go with its mother. Happily they were both released. I wrote this
little story that reflected that event.
get interested in an animal, it’s never
scientific at first, it’s just a pure love, fascination,
and joy that an animal brings me. Once I get to know the animal and
see it and watch it and study it, then it becomes more of a subject of curiosity. That’s when the science and animal
welfare comes into it. That’s how the story usually builds
in my mind.
Next time, we talk about Arnosky’s favorite animals, climate change, and what’s on his drawing board now.