Friday, February 27, 2015

An Interview with Monica Wellington

Today I have a special treat, especially if you love ballet or know young boys or girls who love going to ballet class every week. Author/illustrator Monica Wellington is here to talk about her newest creation -- My Ballet Journal. Published in 2014 by Dover Publications, this 32-page journal and coloring book is a perfect keepsake for young dancers who want to record their dance memories throughout the year!

Although Monica took the lead in creating the book, she didn't do it alone. Her daughter Lydia, who is a professional ballet dancer, was a co-author. As you might expect, Lydia had lots to say about what went into the book, given that she knows firsthand what it's like to be a ballet dancer from a young age. You can read more about this wonderful mother-daughter collaboration in my interview with Monica. Here we go!

Who is the target audience for My Ballet Journal?

We think the journal is probably best for children ages 6 and up, for children once they start taking formal ballet classes. Ages 8-10 would probably be ideal, when training tends to get more serious and kids start to do small performances. I know Lydia would have loved to keep a journal like this herself at that age. It also seems to appeal to older kids too. Some of Lydia’s adult colleagues at New York City Ballet saw the journal and wanted to write and draw in it themselves!

I had the same reaction! My two daughters are really enjoying the journal, and I bought an extra copy just so I could have one for myself! The first few pages include space for a child to write his or her name and age and to either draw or paste a picture of himself or herself. The last few pages include a ballet dictionary and space for students to write their future goals. And the large middle section of the book is where all the fun is! Students can decorate a ballet bag, learn how to make a bun, write down the ballet steps they are learning, color dancers and costumes, and so much more! Here's a sample page, courtesy of Monica



How did you come up with the idea for the journal?

I have written and illustrated over 30 picture books, but none of them are about dance. I have wanted to do a book project about ballet for a long time, and at last this is my first one! Lydia was the inspiration for this project. I was remembering when she was a young ballet student and all the things that she first loved about studying ballet. Ballet was hard but she kept at it year after year. There were big milestones, like her first pair of pointe shoes and her first time performing on stage in the Nutcracker. It would have been fun to have been able to keep a record in some way, and to have a memento years later.

Here is a recent photo of Lydia. She was cast to perform the Arabian dance in the New York City Ballet's 2014 production of the Nutcracker. Wow!



Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Lydia?


When Lydia was about 11, she designed a card that was printed up for an event at her ballet school. We modeled the style of the illustrated dancers in the journal after this image. To begin the project, I made an outline for the journal, including rough sketches. I showed all of this to Lydia and she made suggestions and corrections. When she looked at some of my sketches of ballet positions, for example, she said, “What is this?!” She took her pencil and redrew the little dancer, straightening the leg or pointing the toes...making all kinds of adjustments, just as if she was a teacher with her students in the studio! Lydia went to a high school for the arts here in New York City, LaGuardia High School, and she was in the visual arts department. (She did all her dance classes at the School of American Ballet.) Lydia is a really good artist and she still enjoys going to figure-drawing classes whenever she has the time. She contributed a lot to the drawings for the journal.

That's really neat. It sounds like a really special experience working with Lydia on this book. Do you have any other children's book projects in the works -- dance-related or otherwise?

I am working right now on a picture book about autumn leaves that will be out in fall 2015. I’m also hoping to do more projects about dance. Maybe Lydia will write a story that I can illustrate!


How are you and Dover Publications getting the word out about this book? How can readers of Picture Books & Pirouettes help?


We are trying to get the word out to dance students, teachers, and schools. Thank you for having us do a Q&A on your blog. Lydia is always so busy with dancing, but I hope she can do a few things with me. It would be fun to do a book-signing event where she could show how to put on pointe shoes, how to put on stage make-up, and demonstrate various ballet steps, for example. 


Oh, that sounds like fun. Let me know if you end up hosting an event like that, and we can post some photos on Picture Books & Pirouettes. And thanks again for taking part in this interview. I just know your journal is going to be a big hit!

To learn more about Monica, visit her website here. You can also link to Dover Publications to see all 19 of her projects with this particular publisher. And finally, you can read more about Lydia and her dancing career here. Also, feel free to leave a comment to let Monica and Lydia know what you think of their journal. I'm sure they would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book and Boogie in 2015!

Hope it's not too late in the month for an enthusiastic…..Happy New Year! Thanks for hanging in here with me, as I know my posts are sometimes few and far between. I'm happy to report, though, that I already have a couple fun posts lined up for the coming months. So stay tuned!


In the meantime, I wanted to highlight Book to Boogie -- a feature on The Library as Incubator Project website that I help curate. It's a monthly series that pairs picture books with dance and movement activities for preschool story time. The series already includes 19 posts, which means 19 great ideas for bringing movement into libraries, classrooms, dance studios, and homes!

I always try to feature the latest Book to Boogie posts in my Read & Romp Roundups, but you can also follow the series at The Library as Incubator Project itself. The mission of this wonderful project is "to promote and facilitate creative collaboration between libraries and artists of all types, and to advocate for libraries as incubators of the arts." This mission really comes out in Book to Boogie and the many other features on the site.

To entice you even more, here is a list of the talented guest bloggers who make the Book to Boogie series possible. Click on their names, and you'll see just how passionate they all are about integrating movement and the arts. Wow!

Jayne Gammons (kindergarten teacher)
Julie Dietzel-Glair (freelance writer and library consultant)
Maria Hanley (early childhood dance educator)
Amy Musser (children's librarian)
Jill Homan Randall (modern dancer and teaching artist)
Liz Vacco (dance, yoga, theater, and early childhood educator)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Read & Romp Roundup: Sept/Oct 2014

Welcome to the September/October Read & Romp Roundup! And since it's actually November, this post also gives me an opportunity to highlight one of my favorite online celebrations -- Picture Book Month! The Picture Book Month blog is full of posts from children's book authors and illustrators who have been sharing all month long why picture books are important to them. It's a very inspiring read, and one I am feeling thankful for this time of year!


Just in time for the cold weather, Darshana at Flowering Minds reviews the new picture book Flora and the Penguin -- the sequel to the popular Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle. Her post includes a delightful trailer for this lift-the-flap book about friendship, told through beautiful ice dancing scenes with the two main characters.


At Wild Things Yoga, Kathleen shares some yoga ideas to go with Manfish: A Story of  Jacque Cousteau by Jennifer Berne and Eric Puybaret. She uses the book to talk about the concept of Ahimsa (non-violence) and try out some fun yoga poses related to the sea!


At Mother Daughter & Son Book Reviews, Renee and her son highlight the new picture book Twelve Dancing Unicorns by Alissa Heyman and Justin Gerard -- a variation of Twelve Dancing Princesses but with unicorns instead! Renee says the book is "an absolutely enchanting tale weaving the themes of magic, love, and friendship" with artwork that is "among the best I've seen in picture books."


Book to Boogie is a monthly series of the Library as Incubator Project in which guest bloggers pair picture books with movement activities for story time. The September post was on Quick as a Cricket by Audrey and Don Wood. The October post was on Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball by Vicki Churchill and Charles Fuge.


Debbie at American Indians in Children's Literature features Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle by Carole Lindstrom and Kimberley McKay. The main character is a girl named Metisse who would rather play the fiddle than dance, even though most people in her community expect girls to dance. Metisse is part of an Aboriginal group known as the Métis people, who live in parts of Canada and the Northern United States. According to Debbie, you can find elements of Métis culture on every page! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Join the Sept/Oct Read & Romp Roundup!


The mornings are getting darker, the days are getting shorter, and fall is in the air -- at least here in the states. So it must be time for the September/October Read & Romp Roundup! If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave your link in a comment on this post. Or, you can reach me on Facebook or Twitter to let me know about your link. I'll round up all the links and post them together soon. Looking forward to hearing from you! 

Submissions are open through Monday, October 27, 2014. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Read, Create, Dance: Crafterina's New Video!

Today's a special day for our friend Vanessa Salgado -- dancer, dance educator, visual artist, and creator extraordinaire. Vanessa is the mastermind behind a unique character and children's book called Crafterina, which is a storybook, craft book, and dance lesson all rolled into one. Today is special because it marks the launch of Crafterina's first YouTube video about the book. Take a look!


I had the pleasure of interviewing Vanessa last year to talk about how Crafterina came to be and how crafts and dance go hand in hand. You can read that interview here. And, to supplement the book, Vanessa has created an Etsy site where you can purchase a wide range of additional dance-themed crafts. Her back-to-school paper dolls and pumpkin Halloween mask are popular ones for this time of year. Congratulations, Vanessa, on all your success!
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