Susan Swan

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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Retweet to Win a copy of Sugar White Snow and Evergreens from Albert Whitman!

Retweet to win a copy of Sugar White Snow and Evergreens from the publisher:!



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Meet Grady!


I wonder if he likes pancakes and maple syrup, too?

Speaking of maple syrup, here are some sweet images of my visits with new readers this past weekend at the South River Public Schools Bookfair at the East Brunswick Barnes & Noble in the morning and later with the kids’ book club at the wonderful Book Garden in Frenchtown. Thanks to Cathy Genna and to Caroline Scutt for inviting me back to their respective book stores. It’s always a delight!

South River Bookfair East Brunswick Barnes and NobleBook Garden Book Club
Book Garden--SageBook Garden sisters

Rainbow spread from Sugar White Snow and Evergreens

Let’s celebrate the countdown to Maple Syrup Day with a stack of Susan Swan’s pancakes topped with Mr. Sweet’s Maple Syrup!

Eight days to go!

Toby being patient and silly

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A Daily Dose of Fruits and Veggies

Book Basket for PICTO Night by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky

Here’s the book basket we created for an upcoming PICTO night, a very popular picture bingo basket auction fund-raiser that’s held yearly at my youngest child’s school. The basket contains a signed copy of each of my books, a certificate for my forthcoming Sugar White Snow and Evergreens: A Winter Wonderland of Colors, and a few bookmarks, all surrounded by some fun play fruit and veggies. It felt good to work with the vibrant colors of the growing seasons—both summer and fall—because, as we all know too well, it has been such a long and tough winter.

That’s part of what I like about this recent Booklist review of Cheers, due out in just a few days:

Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting.
Chernesky, Felicia Sanzari (author). Illustrated by Susan Swan.

Mar. 2014. 32p. Albert Whitman, hardcover, $16.99 (9780807511305). PreS-Grade 1.
REVIEW. First published January 16, 2014 (Booklist Online).

On a hot, steamy day in August, a brother and sister visit the local farm stand with their mother. As they gather fruits and vegetables, the rhyming, rhythmic text switches into counting mode, featuring numbers from 1 to 12 and leading off with “1 watermelon so smooth and round. / 2 purple eggplants that weight two pounds.” Checking for items on Mom’s grocery list, the children find items such as “stinky onions,” “fuzzy peaches,” and “fresh-picked corn,” before pausing for a last-minute addition: a sunflower. It’s an everyday excursion for these kids but an evocative, vicarious experience for young children who don’t have a farm just down the road. While there’s a bit of humor in the easy-going text, the book’s jovial spirit is created chiefly in the lively digital collages, which combine cut-paper elements with painted effects for a richly colorful visual experience. This pleasant picture book makes a flavorful read-aloud choice, best savored in the summertime.

— Carolyn Phelan

While each of the picture books in this series covers an early learning concept, a season of the year, and some aspect of a visit to a local farm, the rhyming text and the color-drenched, textured, and patterned illustrations by the wonderful Susan Swan blend companionably to engage readers in the characters’ experiences—and this reviewer (to my delight) seems to have felt this.

For me, that’s the essence and aim of these books. In Pick a Circle, I hope readers are bouncing along with the book’s family as they search for the shapes of the harvest as they enjoy a pumpkin hayride, a popular fall tradition everywhere.

In writing Cheers, which was actually the first picture book manuscript I ever wrote, I was inspired by a visit with my son—in preschool at the time, and learning to count—to a farm stand on the road that leads to the school that’s hosting the PICTO night where the above-pictured basket will be auctioned!

Those kinds of connections mean a lot to me, which is also why I dedicated Cheers to my mother, who taught me and my sisters how to pick out fresh produce at local farm stands in northern New Jersey, where I grew up. To call the process a ritual would make this post better suited to a foodie’s blog, which it obviously isn’t, but it’s accurate. For me, as with more and more of us these days, if I’m not engaged in growing a garden myself, a visit to a local farm stand or farmer’s market involves something other than just picking up the week’s lettuce and apples—it’s a way to slow down, reconnect, and celebrate the land and enjoy some fellowship.

There’s nothing sappy or high falutin’ about this. It’s a pretty obvious statement these days. We all seem to be growing hungrier again for the simpler, fresher, real things in life, and those delicious moments where we can disconnect from all forms of social media and plug back into the world and commune with our fellow human beings:

Spread from Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting, by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan

Spread from Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting
by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, illustrated by Susan Swan

For me, this holds true even in winter. My family looks forward eagerly all year round to Saturday visits to the indoor Stangl Factory Farmers’ Market and on Sundays to the Dvoor Farmers’ Market.

These markets are populated by earnest, inviting, and friendly people, and glorious goods that uplift body and spirit—and both are just minutes from home. It’s a blessing that it’s so easy to find some of the golden sunshine we associate most often with summer in the chill and silver months.

Sugar White Snow and Evergreens, title pageAnd speaking of winter, while we may be tired of it, it’s still a lovely season. I can’t help but share this gorgeous snowscape, beautiful for the contrast between color and purity. It’s the title page from Sugar White Snow and Evergreens, which appears September 1 and focuses on the concept of colors as it takes a sleigh ride with a family during a mouthwatering visit to their favorite local farm to learn how maple syrup is made.

I’m excited for readers to experience the colors and textures within this rhyming picture book. Susan Swan, you’ve done it again! I can’t wait to see what illustrations you’ll create for the final book in this series—on spring.

To glorious new green growings!

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Daisies in December

Daisy Troop Author Visit 3Tempus fugit!

Doesn’t it seem like a moment ago you we’re still preparing for Thanksgiving? Suddenly the first week of December is nearly gone and the days are filled with (often canned and corny, but I love it!) holiday music programming and the (sometimes welcome) predictions of snow!

For me, a lot intervened between the wonderful cap to my fall activities and appearances involving the publication of my first book, Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes, and posting these wonderful images of my visit with lively Daisy Troop 20113 in Nutley, New Jersey, at the end of November.

Daisy Troop Author Visit 4Thanksgiving celebrations, editorial deadlines, not to mention a week-long bout with flu-like exhaustion have kept me buried in work and tissues, but I’m back and ready to run the race to 2013’s finish line!

While I’ve been working against an impending journal deadline and refilling the humidifier, the Elf on the Shelf has made his cheeky yearly reappearance and Christmas lights have gone up everywhere. It’s a favorite part of the season for me—nothing makes the mundane more magical than sparkling  strings of blinking, winking lights. And if you can nearly see such lawn displays from outer space, all the better!

Having decided to enjoy all the little moments this holiday season, thankful even for every gimcrack and bauble, I’m happy to be a witness to the unfolding process of celebration. I tend to be a nose-to-the-grindstone type of individual and while the fall was a wonderful first-time author whirlwind, I often put (I admit) enjoying it all last on my list. When I sit back and look at these pictures, I’m reminded of how joyous these feisty young Daisies were—throwing themselves into participating in the troop’s activities, unafraid to ask questions, join in, and not worry about making mistakes. The meeting focused on recycling and as a compliment to the lesson, we created a cornucopia, collage-style like Susan Swan’s gorgeous illustrations in Pick a Circle, using materials like leaves cut from old magazines and wrapping paper fruit.

Daisy Troop Author Visit 6The girls were game, and so were their parents, including several fathers, which is always great to see. I’d like to thank the troop leader, Francesca Ciotoli (also my youngest sister) for inviting me to meet with the troop, and especially to my niece Ava, who read Pick a Circle beautifully to her sister Daisies!

While I’m looking forward to a bit of a long winter’s rest, I’m also thankful for what lies ahead, for my family, and for the appearance of my second book in March 2014, Cheers for a Dozen Ears: A Summer Crop of Counting, and the third book in the series, which arrives next September. That book, by the way, is getting a new title and new last stanza—so it’s back to work!

Here’s wishing you safe and peaceful travels on your own journey to 2014!

Daisy Troop Author Visit 5

Who knows what treasures lay ahead for each of us?

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