Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Aunt Vicky

This year my beloved Aunt Vicky, a woman short in stature, but fierce at heart, has been fighting a ghastly giant called cancer.  This amazing woman who baked me cinnamon rolls, made me double over in laughter from her performance singing "Sadie, Sadie" from Funny Girl, and taught me how to make beautiful crocheted flowers is now battling this horrific beast and it hurts my heart.

Through it all, Aunt Vicky is handling this with tremendous grace and courage. If you would like to read more about her journey visit my Uncle David's blog Little Woman Big Soul. Her story is truly touching and has brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion.

I love you Aunt Vicky! You are truly an inspiration and even though I live so far away and I am not able to show my support for you in person, I just want you to know I'm here in Illinois rooting for you on the sidelines! You are a star.

Sunday, May 24, 2015


SCBWI is starting an awesome new feature called "Draw This!" where each month the illustrators are given a prompt and their work is displayed online.  This month's prompt is "Bounce"

This piece is a paper cut-out piece that was modified slightly on Photoshop.  My inspiration came from a childhood memory of piling thousands and thousands of autumn leaves on the trampoline with my siblings and getting lost in the swirling masses of red, orange, and yellow.   If you have never experienced this I strongly suggest you put it on your to-do list this upcoming fall!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Neil the Fabulous

This year I have decided to do an illustration for all of my family members on their birthdays.  Since I have 5 brothers and sisters this will add up to quite a lot.  Today is my brother Neil's birthday.  He is a big tall guy, with a big personality, and even bigger heart.  I love this crazy younger brother of mine.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Confessions of a Dyslexic Library Page

I couldn’t believe my ears when I got the call from the Champaign Library offering me a position as library page. To others this may seem like a small victory. A part-time job that pays barely over minimum wage? What’s the big deal? But for me it was a big deal. It was huge! I’ve been applying for library jobs for years, but to no avail. I’m sure there are multiple reasons for the rejections I’ve received, but one of them stands out in my mind above the rest. My dyslexia

My parents never told me I was dyslexic until I came home in tears after taking a reading test in 7th grade. I’d learned to my horror that my score was significantly lower than the class average. My face burned with shame as I sank lower and lower in my desk each time someone asked me my score. I couldn’t understand it! English was my best subject. I loved reading far more than the majority of students in my class. But there I was with a test score telling me my reading level was far behind theirs. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. The words beat over and over again in my head like the sound of a drum.

So when my mom came to pick me up from school I let loose an avalanche of tears as I told her what happened. That’s when she told me. “You are dyslexic.” I was never angry at my parents for keeping this from me. In fact I am glad they did. By not treating me like a special case, someone with a disability, I never had any reason to doubt myself. I had no excuses to give up on reading. Sure I wondered why it took me longer to learn how to read than the other kids in first grade, but back then it didn’t bother me so much. I’d always loved books and I was determined to learn. When things finally did click there was no stopping me. I read American Girl Books. I read the Boxcar children. I read Witch of Blackbird Pond, A Wrinkle in Time, and Little Women. By the time my parents told my I had dyslexia I’d already developed a fierce passion for books. Dyslexia could not hurt me in that respect.

It did, however, hurt me when it came to test taking. I managed to pull off mostly A’s in high school, but when I took the ACT for the first time I got a crushingly low score, 18. Again the words stupid, stupid, stupid beat mercilessly into my insecure, adolescent brain. I cried and cried, but months later after studying like crazy I took it again and brought my score up 3 points to a 21.

So yeah. Test taking has always been a problem for me. You can imagine how my heart sank when I realized there was a test I had to pass to get a library page position. An alphabetizing test at that! When I went to take the test at the Urbana Library they put a big stack of papers in front of me full of multiple questions. I was asked to complete it in 25 minutes and only allowed to miss 15 questions to pass. Despite my best efforts I didn’t even make it to the dewey decimal section before I heard those dreaded words, “Times up!”

I had failed. I managed to keep my head up and put on a brave face as I left the library, but as soon as I was out the door hot tears began to flow. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Luckily I have a loving husband who held me in his arms when I got home until the hateful voice inside my head subsided. Later I mustered up enough courage to apply for the library page position at the Champaign Library.

I got an interview and sure enough there was a test. I was given two stacks of cards, one to organize alphabetically and the other to organize in numerical order. I did the best I could, but of course when I handed them over I had a sinking feeling that I had failed again. The interviewers were very kind, but they didn’t tell me whether I passed the test or not. I told myself not to expect anything as I waited for the call. I’ve always been the kind of person that hopes for the best, but expects the worst. So when I got the job offer I was ecstatic.

My first two days working at the library has been a whirlwind of new information. There is so much to learn and a never-ending load of work to do. Sometimes when I fell like I am being particularly slow about shelving books the familiar pounding of Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. rises again, but I’m learning to push it away. I have earned my right to be here, in a library, a place I’ve always dreamed of working in. I am wanted. I am capable. I belong.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Happy National Children's Book Week!

It's here!  The one week of the year devoted to what I am most passionate about, children's books!!!  I have some fun posts planned for this week, but for today please enjoy this paper-cut out illustration and make some time to pull a favorite picture book off the shelf (regardless of whether you have kids or not) and read.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Picture Book Friday - Art and Max

Happy Picture Book Friday everyone!

Title: Art & Max
Written and Illustrated By: David Wiesner
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010, Fiction

Recommended Age: 3-7

Opening: Careful Max!
                 Hey, Art, that's great!
                 The name is Arthur.
                 I can paint too, Arthur!
                 You, Max?  Don't be ridiculous.

Brief Synopsis: Art is painting portraits of his lizard friends when Max comes along and creates chaos.

Why I like this Book: I've always loved David Wiesner, but somehow this one flew under the radar for me.  When I discovered this at the library I was delighted.  It is uproariously comical and unusual.  My 4 year-old son Samuel loves it too.  Usually he doesn't ask me to read books spontaneously in the middle of the day, but he asked me to do so with this book multiple times.  It's the perfect book for both kids and adults.

To see more fabulous picture book recommendations visit Susanna Hill's blog here.