Liar, Liar, Liar!

The Neighborhood Sing-Along - Miss Mary Mack

©Nina Crews from The Neighborhood Sing-Along 2011

I have just returned from Sheboygan Wisconsin. Spent a day talking about my books at the Mead Public Library and leading an art workshop at the Kohler Art Center. Spent two evenings talking shop with other authors and illustrators while tasting Wisconsin specialties like fried cheese curds. (Yes, fried cheese curds.) Here are some photos of me in an article about the festival from the  Sheboygan Press. You can look at them here.  (But be patient, there are lots of photos of Steven Kellogg first!)

During my morning presentation I learned something new which is the reason why this post is titled “Liar, Liar, Liar”. Apparently in Chicago, the song, “Miss Mary Mack,” is sung a little differently than what is printed in my book, The Neighborhood Sing-Along. Children’s author  James Kennedy sat in on my session and told us that when kids get the end of the song they shout “liar, liar, liar!” because the song is all lies. I am sad to say that I don’t think I ever really got the joke as a kid, but no room for subtleness in Chi-town. Fun!

Also fun is James Kennedy’s project the 90 second Newbery.  Kids of all ages create a 90 second film based on their favorite Newbery award winning book.

Booksigning this Saturday May 5th!!!

If you're Happy and you know it

“If You’re Happy and You Know It” From The Neighborhood Sing-Along ©Nina Crews 2011

Will you be in the Hudson Valley area this weekend? Come by, buy a book, or say hi!

I will be signing books at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival this Saturday from 10am – 4pm. Many wonderful children’s book authors and illustrators will be sharing their work! Walter Dean Myers – the current Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Donald Crews, Ann Jonas, Jacqueline Woodson and Seymour Simon to name just a few. Should be a great day to read books!

The Storied City: New York in Picture Book Art

A Was an Apple Pie... From The Neighborhood Mother Goose @Nina Crews 2004

Come join me, Donald Crews, Yumi Heo, Boris Kulikov, Jerry Pinkney, Amy Schwartz, Eric Velasquez, and Neil Waldman for Family Day at the Katonah Musuem of Art!

An illustration from The Neighborhood Mother Goose has been included in this show and I will be there this Sunday along with seven other illustrators participating in the show. The event runs from 12:30 to 5pm and I will be there from about 2 to 4pm.

At 2:30 there will be a half hour panel discussion with me and my father, Donald Crews, which will be followed by a booksigning.

Here’s a review of the show:

For more info on the event:

Saturday events!

This coming weekend is the Brooklyn Book Festival! A perfect time to come to some children’s book events!

On Saturday, September 17, 2011,

11-11:45am – I will be reading and signing Jack and the Beanstalk and The Neighborhood Mother Goose at Greenlight Bookstore, on Fulton Street in Fort Greene.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

12:30 – 1:30pm – Collage with Crews! A Brooklyn Book Festival Bookend Event. Let’s make some art together! Each child is invited to take a nursery rhyme or song and create their own illustration using magazines, paper, and drawing. Central Branch, Brooklyn Public Library, Youth Wing. Space is limited. First come, first served.

Inspired by Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star…©Nina Crews 2011

And on Sunday, September 18, 2011,
I’ll be just another parent at the readings happening at the Brooklyn Book Festival Children’s Stage at Borough Hall. Fun!

Climbing the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

I am so pleased that my retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk will be published next week! I started thinking about the story way back in 2004 and wrote my first drafts in 2006. It’s about time!

The visual possibilities excited me first. I loved the idea of a huge beanstalk curling into the sky past a brick apartment building.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

I then did a little online research and learned that that the story as I knew it was one of many possible versions of a basic sketch – a boy, called Jack, climbs a beanstalk and meets a giant. From there almost anything can happen. In the earliest English versions, Jack is simply a giant slayer, killing giants who terrorize Cornwall. In Victorian versions, Jack is often portrayed as a naughty, lazy, stupid boy in need of redemption. In recent years, the story has continued to undergo big changes – Jack has even become Kate in one notable example. With such a wide range of interpretations, I thought a contemporary Brooklyn take on the tale had possibilities, and then, out of the blue, I found a small article in the local newspaper about a boy who grew a giant beanstalk with some exotic beans that he’d found in a local store. I definitely wanted to explore this idea further.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

As I wrote, I had to resolve how to address two themes that loom large in this story – justice and a restoration of the social order. The giant is a thief and killer. Jack’s own stealing and killing are justified by the fact that the giant has either killed his father or has killed other young boys and threatens him. Was my Jack poor? Fatherless? A thief? Perhaps, I worried too much (after all nobody can truly climb a giant beanstalk), but I felt that if I was going to set this in the present then present day values had to come be considered.

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

My Jack is not poor and his story is not a tale of vigilante justice. He is a curious young boy and the giant is a braggart. The giant is living the large caught up in the clouds. Jack gets his magic beans doing chores for his neighbor, and climbs up to the giant’s castle. Curiosity sends Jack up. And through his escape from the giant’s castle, he brings the giant “down to size.”

Jack and the Beanstalk © Nina Crews

There are risks and rewards in working with familiar material. I love the many versions of this tale and I enjoyed building my version from them. I also had fun making some big changes to the story. My hope is that readers will find this retelling a satisfying twist on well-known material.