Sun Above and Blooms Below: A Springtime of Opposites

Honk! Honk!

Get out those umbrellas! (Honk if you love puddle-jumping!

Sun Above and Blooms Below Stop Go Spread

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A Little Rain, a Little Sun

Sun Above final page FULL My mother has an oft-repeated saying: “Into every life a little rain must fall.” Now, I don’t know who actually coined that chestnut, but in the case of my mother’s repeating of it, the timing’s key. She seems to pull it out like an umbrella, at the right moment, when skies darken and it begins to rain.

And there are those of us who see the rain as a nuisance, forgetting how it can lead to flowers.

What’s my point, you may ask, or are we just rambling sightseers?

Lately the skies for me have been somewhat cloudy, and I never know if it’s about to rain again or if the sun’s going to break through, so as always I’m re-learning the lessons of trust and patience.

Meanwhile… life grows busier than ever. Loved ones are always coming and going. Sometimes I think of our house as a train station, a hotel—and I myself would like a ticket to a place where task and obligation take a backseat to leisurely daydreaming…

For a while, because I always seem to want to get back to business. While brings me inevitably around to another “B” word: balance.

When I was working on the opposite pairings for Sun Above and Blooms Below I developed a curious notion of balance, about how the opposing words, when paired, create a stable, level sensation, which led in turn to an awareness of how both ends of the spectrum—hot and cold, night and day, up and down—are necessary to complete the circle of our experience.

There’s nothing novel about this observation apart from my surprise at the intensity of my encounter with it. Perhaps it’s simply a part of the inherent pattern of our world, a reflection of how the universe functions. But it feels good—amidst the bustle and occasional chaos we human beings create in our attempt to impose our desires, our intentions, and our schedules on the great and ancient natural order—to feel that tugging reminder that I, too—woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, citizen, neighbor, friend, reader, writer, editor—am a part of it all, everything we call life, as it’s happening, moment to moment to moment.

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How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm?

peek a moo!Good morning!

Here’s a photo of a calf at Schaefer Farms, a landmark here in Flemington, New Jersey. You can visit any season, for chicks and an Easter egg hunt in spring; for flowers and vegetable plants and fresh Jersey produce throughout the summer; to pick pumpkins in fall; and to drive through the holiday lights display in winter. Over the years my children have taken field trips to this farm and we’ve stopped by any number of times to buy mums or herbs or tomato plants or harvest corn at the farm stand.

A favorite stop is often just to visit the farm animals—goats, rabbits, pigs, chickens, turkeys, even an emu or two. Visits to Schaefer and other farms and farm stands in Hunterdon County inspired me to write my rhyming picture book series illustrated by Susan Swan, and continue to inspire me to write stories and poems and manuscripts.schaefer farm goat smaller

I didn’t grow up on a farm, but in suburban Parsippany, in Morris County, although we had two brooks and lots of trees and flowers and gardens, lovingly tended by my dad and grandfathers, on our property. It was magical, watching the seasons change as the plants and animals and weather changed around us while my sisters and I played outside after school and on the weekends.

Remember when children played outside?

schaefer farm wee bunnyWe were tumbled outdoors, out of my mother’s hair, to run and ride our bikes and ride the swings in the backyard. The yard served as a fantastical, ever-changing landscape of our invention, but I soon learned to read the real signs of the growing year. Tiny gold and purple crocus blooming impossibly in the snow meant spring was coming. In summer we held our noses as we hunted wild carrot and field onion around the skunk cabbage in the woods that bordered our backyard. My grandfathers grew amazing vegetable gardens as the tiger lilies burst into bloom. A favorite time for me was the onset of fall, when the purple figs on our fig trees ripened and I knew that pumpkin season was just around the corner.

We ice skated in the brook in winter. At other times of the year I had a habit of running too close and falling in! A happy memory: my best friend Jenny and I sunning ourselves sitting on some big rocks in the middle of the brook as we practiced the flutophone songs we learned in fourth grade. The next year she chose clarinet and I chose French horn as we became part of the school band. It was a rite of passage during childhood and I cannot untangle such memories from what was happening in our yard. As we approach May, for example, and the time when azaleas bloom, it always reminds me of the verdant carpet and blazing hedge that was my father’s pride and joy. My sisters and I all took prom and wedding pictures on that lawn.schaefer farm yellow chicks

It’s amazing what images an encounter with a daffodil or duckling can conjure. The last time we went to Schaefer Farms my son and I met a bunch of cute chicks. They were funny and fascinating and they reminded me of a few of the spreads in my latest book, Sun Above and Blooms Below: A Springtime of Opposites, which in turn reminded me to give thanks, because I feel so grateful to see my inspiration come full circle. My son asked me if we could try raising chicks, and I would love to do that sometime. For now I’m happy with tending memories and raising him—the last of my own chicks—and growing more stories.

Chicks page from Sun Above

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Califon Book Shop Recap

califon book shop treats close upWork and feeling under the weather kept me from posting earlier this week about my Earth Day author visit to the Califon Book Shop last Saturday. The pretty town was bustling, the weather was perfect, and I was fortunate enough to sign books and conduct children’s activities under a sunny blue sky just outside the shop. The shop sits across from the post office and next to a bait and tackle shop. Lots of letters to post and fishing vests passed my way!

califon book shop fans 2
califon book shop fanscalifon book shop signing activity sheets
califon book shop signcalifon book shop signing table If you’ve never been, Califon’s a lovely town with lovely people! Thanks to Mary at the Califon Book Shop for allowing me to share my books with your patrons and visitors!

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Earth Day Book Signing at the Califon Book Shop!

I hope you stop by to help me celebrate the green and growing season!

Please visit my events page for information on future visits and signings!

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An Eggcentric Sun Above and Blooms Below Activity Sheet

Maybe you’re coloring eggs this week. Well, here’s another eggcentric activity 

for the kids to do based on Sun Above and Blooms Below. Enjoy!

Sun Above and Blooms Below Activity Sheet--Word Scramble

Click this link to download the activity sheet:

Sun Above and Blooms Below Activity Sheet–Word Scramble

Stop back tomorrow for another activity sheet!

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Looking Up and Down for Things to Keep the Kids Busy?

Need something to keep the kids busy while you prepare for the holidays?
Here’s a Sun Above and Blooms Below activity sheet I’ve created:

Sun Above and Blooms Below Word Search

Click this link to download the activity sheet:

Sun Above and Blooms Below Activity Sheet–Word Search

Stop back tomorrow for another activity sheet!

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Spring

Spring can fill an empty heart!

Empy Full spread_Page_1

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Eggciting Author Visit!


excited about Easter

Love the hunt?

Let me help you find something exciting for this year’s basket.

Meet me tomrrow at Twice Told Tales in Flemington, New Jersey!

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Happy Spring, Chickenhead!

chickenheadSpring is starting with a bit of March Madness where we live, so why not keep it going with a laugh?

Actually, I’m preparing for spring author visits to share the release of my fourth rhyming picture book, Sun Above and Blooms Below: A Springtime of Oppositesand celebrating a great review of the book in this week’s Booklist:

There’s just so much fun packed into this happy springtime tale that readers will want to hear it read aloud many a time. Color, collage, rhythm and rhyme, and the concept of opposites are combined in this clever, simple story of a spontaneous field trip. One morning, Miss Ava decides that her students would much rather be out than in, and they all hop on a bus and spend the day at a nearby farm. The adventure is described in couplets that include pairs of antonyms, such as up and down, crooked and straight, top and bottom, and cloudy and sunny. These words are set off from the rest of the text in larger, bold letters so young readers can learn to recognize them. Mixed-media illustrations seamlessly integrate digital images and cut-paper collage to fill each two-page spread with color, depth, and texture.

Sun Above and Blooms Below completes the series of four books illustrated by the wonderful Susan Swan and published by Albert Whitman & Company!

I must admit I’m looking ahead to sharing this book and the series with readers and leaving the snow behind us!

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