Get well soon, Andrea!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009.

We just received an email from Richard Michelson with a link to a video taken November 8 at the 20th Annual Children’s Illustration Show at his gallery. The video features an incredible gathering of authors and illustrators sending get well soon wishes to Andrea. How cool is that?!

Thank you to everyone for participating and to Richard for organizing this.

Front Row: Heidi Stemple, Rebecca Guay, Jane Dyer, Jeanne Birdsall, Diane deGroat, Barbara Diamond Goldin, Nonny Hogrogian, Susan Yard Harris.
Second Row: Brooke Dyer, Shelley Rotner, Norton Juster, Jane Yolen, Lesléa Newman, Brian Karas, Barry Moser, Susan Pearson, Anna Alter, Alice Schertle.
Third Row: Wendell Minor, Jeff Mack, Rich Michelson, Kathy Brown, Nancy Sippel Carpenter, Jeannine Atkins, David Kherdian.
Back Row: Carol Weiss, Mo Willems, Scott Fischer, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Mordicai Gerstein, Paul Jacobs.

Filed under: News and Notes

The Warrior Theme

Sunday, November 15, 2009.

Pre-Diagnosis JOMB AndreaThe day after Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer, Mark sent a personal email to every one of the 220 interview guests of Just One More Book!! asking each if they would leave a voice message on our hotline sending good wishes to Andrea. The plan was to create a CD of audio messages Andrea could listen to during recovery from surgery and during her chemotherapy treatments.

The messages started to pour in immediately (Henry Winkler responded first, within minutes). In all, 126 messages came from authors, illustrators, librarians and publishers from around the world (including England, Spain and Israel) and ranged from newcomers to celebrities.

Many of the messages were more than just good wishes. Some people recited poems or sang songs they wrote for Andrea. Some related their own experiences with cancer and others offered to speak on the phone anytime Andrea wanted someone to talk to. An overwhelming 75 minutes of audio! Plus, Andrea received a number of packages in the mail — handwritten cards with original artwork, t-shirts, books and other gifts. She even received two “bionic” candy apples.

In fact, we received so many messages that Mark realized he needed to create a summary audio clip for Andrea so she could get a quick hit of support and energy any time she needed it. The result is an audio collage called The Warrior Theme packaged over Sunshine and Starlight, a fantastic instrumental by Bjork Ostrom.

There are too many names to transcribe and link to from this post. Instead, listen carefully to everyone who contributed so far!

Filed under: Podcast

Making Andrea a Breast Cancer Survivor

Wednesday, October 7, 2009.

The Just One More Book!! children’s book podcast will be taking an indefinite hiatus so that Andrea and I can focus on making Andrea a Breast Cancer survivor. We received the results of Andrea’s biopsy, yesterday. This morning we met with a surgeon and discussed the treatment process.

Note that before we stop production we still have two interviews and four audio essays to publish. We also plan to do a “so long for now” show. If you’d like to be a part of that show, please leave a short comment on our voice feedback line, 206-350-6487 (UPDATE: our feedback line is no longer in service). We’ll include as many comments as is practical and reserve the right to edit any comments. We don’t know when we’ll publish the show so get your comments in quickly!

Just One More Book by the numbers:

  • 1,362,954: total downloads in the last 18 months; an average of 2100 downloads per day (more than 2 million downloads since we launched in July 2006).
  • 623: the number of regular episodes published
  • 21: the number of shows in our Rock Stars of Reading documentary series
  • 392: number of review episodes published
  • 220: number of interview episodes published
  • $0.00: the amount of money we accepted for JOMB (we self-funded the full production as well as all travel, accommodations and expenses and donated all of our time)

Thank you for being a part of our community and helping to promote great children’s books, the people behind them and a love of reading.

Best wishes and live strong!

Mark and Andrea

Filed under: News and Notes

Soup du Jour: Unwavering Self-Worth Inside and Outside the Box

Friday, October 2, 2009.

Today we look at a clump of four books about independent thinkers who, without fanfare or animosity, disregard the judgements of others and are simply happy being who they are.

Ingredients (books discussed):

Jump into Today’s Soup (feedback):

Join the conversation by clicking the Comments link below or sending an email to

Second Helpings (transcript of podcast):

In a society where the media, schools and, sadly, even parents often expect us to conform to prescribed,cookie-cutter ways of being, a common challenge for adults and children alike is to understand and appreciate out-of-the-box thinking or behavior in ourselves and others. With so much emphasis on conforming, being or even befriending a person who is viewed as different can be a scary and isolating experience.It’s not surprising, then, that we sometimes go to great lengths to reject or hide our unique selves — and to avoid those who don’t.

Many children’s books and, to a greater extent, movies attempt to reduce the social stigma against being different through boisterous victory-of-the-underdog themed stories in which the independent thinker saves the day and, to the rousing cheers of once-distant peers, instantly becomes the poster child of popularity. There is no denying that such victories feel great but I believe stories which present quiet appreciation, improved understanding or simply congenial co-existence go further to help children deal with different ways of being.

Before looking at the books, let me explain that I like to read to my two daughters in clumps. That is, I like to read in one sitting several books that are completely parallel in certain ways — offering similar characters, situations, or themes — but are different enough to make the clumped reading interesting. I clump by activity (riding a bike, say), by storyline (several variations on the Frog Prince story, for example) or, as in the case today, by explorations of a similar type of character (a girl that is viewed as being different). There are many books that deal with differences in, what I believe are, very constructive ways. Today we look at a clump of four books about independent thinkers who, without fanfare or animosity, disregard the judgements of others and are simply happy being who they are.

Odd VelvetOdd Velvet (Mary Whitcomb Illustrated by Tara Calahan King; 1998 Chronicle Books) tells the story of a happily independent school girl who has bypassed the consumer mentality of her peers and finds beauty and entertainment in the world around her. What I love about this story is that Violet’s unimposing enjoyment of life remains steadfast throughout… her self esteem easily withstands the taunts of her classmates and she remains true to her nature as she gradually gains the respect of her peers. Violet’s self worth is clearly not tied to her judgment by others.
The Recess Queen The Recess Queen (Alexis O’Neill Illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith; 2002 Scholastic Press) relays, in snappy, what is it? Hip hop beat? the story of a school yard bully effortlessly felled by the teeny tiny independently minded Katie Sue, a kid you might scare with a jump and a boo!. Here again, the beauty of the story — for me — is in Katie Sue’s unwavering sense of self worth regardless of her noticeably different approach to life and in the fact that she takes in stride both the bullying and her offhanded deflation of the bully.
Suki's Kimono Suki’s Kimono (Chieri Uegaki Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch; 2003 Kids Can Press) is a refreshing celebration of individuality and joie de vivre. This first-day-of-school story contrasts the uninhibited and happily independent six year old Suki with her self-conscious, stiff and validation-seeking sisters — and their complete embarrassment that their little sister is wearing a kimono to school. Although I think Suki could do without the applause of her classmates, Suki’s sunny self-assurance remains constant throughout and she gains no satisfaction from the fact that her sisters’ preparation and preening brought them nothing but exasperation.
Annie Bizzanni Annie Bizzanni (Frances Halle Illustrated by Fil et Julie; 2006 Bayard Canada Books) introduces us to a creative, multi-tasking and impulsive free-spirit who lives life in large slices which she feels no pressure to complete. Although her friends are obviously amused, inconvenienced and, sometimes, scared by Annie’s quirky behavior what I love about this book is that Annie’s way of being is simply portrayed as being different — not better or worse — than that of her peers, that her friends love her for who she is and that she is very happy being herself.

Although society may expect it, we’re not cookie cutouts and we all fall inside and outside various different boxes. We might as well enjoy ourselves!

Thanks for listening. I’m Andrea Ross from the Just One More Book!! Podcast and we’ve been Swimming in Literary Soup.

Interview with Rukhsana Khan

Tuesday, September 29, 2009.

Rukhsana KhanIt’s no mystery that books are powerful. They teach us skills and history, and take us to places we’ve never been or that never existed.  Many of the best books take us to a place inside of ourselves where we can connect with other stories and escape our own realities.

The Roses in my Carpets tells the story of a young boy, his mother and sister, living in a refugee camp.  The camp serves merely as a setting for this family as we experience the common reality of feeling out of place while dealing with life around us.

Author Rukhsana Khan joins Mark to talk about how books saved her, writing politics out of children’s books and her thoughts on life as a marathon and books as sprints.

Photo provided by Rukhsana Khan.

Love of Reading Gallery – Lily (age 6)

Friday, September 25, 2009.

I’ve had the privilege of interviewing authors, illustrators and book people of all walks of life and spanning both ends of careers.  Today, I break new ground for me as I interview a six year-old who’s not my own daughter.

Lily was five when she submitted an illustration to our Love of Reading Gallery, making her the youngest contributor to our collection of art.  She never named her piece so I’ve called it Books and Friends.  On this edition, I speak with blogger and budding author/illustrator, Lily, about her illustration, the tools she uses and the projects she’s working on.

Listen to interviews with other members of Lily’s family:

Be sure to enjoy all of the amazing artwork in our Love of Reading Gallery.

What’s in it for me?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009.

Raise a Reader” Canwest Raise-a-Reader is a national campaign to generate funds for local literacy programs and increase awareness about the importance of encouraging family literacy. The Raise-a-Reader program has raised $12.7 million for literacy beneficiaries across Canada since it began in 2002. One hundred per cent of the money raised stays in the community it was given to support local programs.

Today is Canwest Raise-a-Reader Day! CanWest newspapers across Canada have published special literacy editions of their local newspapers  and volunteers in bright orange t-shirts are standing on street corners across the country handing out free copies  in exchange for donations to local literacy initiatives. A handful of change can make a difference.

Andrea’s article, What’s in it for me? The family that reads together… is part of the special literacy coverage.

Filed under: Podcast

Interview with Shauntay Grant

Monday, September 21, 2009.

Photo of Shauntay Grant (by Raul Rincon)While her book Up Home may be set in the one of Canada’s most important black communities, author Shauntay Grant‘s story is universal. As noted in the jacket flap, the book celebrates growing up and remembering our roots.

On this edition of Just One More Book!!, Mark speaks with Shauntay Grant about turning a spoken word performance piece into a children’s book, the role of verse in children’s literature and sharing the experience of growing up.

Photo of Shauntay Grant by Raul Rincon.

Love of Reading Gallery – Isaac (age 10)

Friday, September 18, 2009.

We opened our Love of Reading Gallery in July 2008 and invited all illustrators to submit original artwork that promotes a love of reading.  Submissions spanned the globe including Venezuela and Romania and covered all age ranges.

On this edition, Mark speaks with artist, blogger and budding author, Isaac, now 10 (he was 9 when he created his illustration) about Bedtime Snack, his contribution to our Love of Reading Gallery and a book he’s creating with his father, author/illustrator Aaron Zenz.

Be sure to enjoy all of the amazing artwork in our Love of Reading Gallery.

Love of Reading Gallery – Gracie (age 7)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009.

We opened our Love of Reading Gallery in July 2008 and invited all illustrators to submit original artwork that promotes a love of reading.  Submissions came from as far as Brazil, Vietnam and South Africa and covered all age ranges.

On this edition, Mark speaks with artist, blogger and budding author, Gracie, now 8 (she was 7 when she created her illustration) about Love for Reading, her contribution to our Love of Reading Gallery, her illustration technique and a book idea she has.

Be sure to enjoy all of the amazing artwork in our Love of Reading Gallery.

Did you notice Gracie’s reference to The HICCUPotamus (on JOMB)?

Love of Reading Gallery – Aaron Zenz

Monday, September 14, 2009.

As part of the second anniversary celebrations of the Just One More Book!! children’s book podcast, we invited illustrators to submit artwork that promotes a love of reading. Now, well into our fourth year, we’re still conducting short interviews with contributors to our Love of Reading Gallery.

On this edition, Mark speaks with author/artist Aaron Zenz (on JOMB) about The Big One (his contribution to our Love of Reading Gallery), reading with his children and pencil technique.

Be sure to enjoy all of the amazing artwork in our Love of Reading Gallery.

A Capital Lament: The End of an Era

Friday, September 11, 2009.

It’s Poetry Friday and, since I’ve been pushed beyond my limits by members of the book industry’s dark side, we present a poem I wrote back in the spring of 2005 to lament the loss of CBC Ottawa’s much loved afternoon host, Brent Bambury.

I’ve loved doing Just One More Book!! and it will be sad to turn my back on it.

While I’m reflecting on the future of what has been a huge part of our family, every single day for more than three years, I thought it was appropriate to share this era-ending poem (read by its recipient, Brent Bambury).

A Capital Lament — by Andrea Ross, May 2005.

That April day, infused by May, seemed clearly heaven sent,
The Gomery mess couldn’t bug us less — we’re listening to Brent!
Big news from Rome, then Pow! our own calamitous event,
We’d lost our man, and thus began our Capital Lament.

In two aught two, when Brent was new, our cautious ears we lent,
But soon his pace, words, voice and taste led to enravishment.
Who know his stint would be a glint? That Go! would lead to went?
And we’d be left a town bereft, despite all blandishments.

Robert Fontaine, comedien, now who will he torment?
Will Lucy sob? Or grab the job? To whom will Laurence vent?
We’re sure of this, we’ll sorely miss our host omniloquent.
You’re lane to fame is Hog Town‘s gain. Best luck and Thank you, Brent.

Read Mark’s post about Just One More Book!! as a member of our family: The baby, the bathwater, or both?


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