Monday, March 21, 2011


We've had some rain here in Phoenix, last night and again today.  The sun just now began to peek out from behind the clouds (at 6:30 pm), and I looked north out of my kitchen window at Camelback Mountain.
Would you ever expect to see this sight in the middle of a desert?  Fog-after-rain hanging around the top of a mountain?  When I saw this, it reminded me once again that, no matter what seemingly impossible thing I draw or paint, Nature is---always---even more imaginative and creative an artist than I am.  Humbling, and freeing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Amelia Maldonado Elementary in Tucson, Arizona, to talk with their first and second grades.  The school is named in honor of Amelia Margarita Maldonado, who lived from 1895-1988.  I quote from the school's website:  "She became a pioneer in bilingual education teaching in both English and Spanish around 1919.  A third native generation of Tucson, she was the youngest of three daughters of Francisco and Josefa Maldonado.  The Maldonados considered education a 'sacred honor', and encouraged their daughter to continue.  Amelia was one of the first Latinas to graduate from the University of Arizona in 1919.  She began teaching at Drachman Elementary at the heart of the barrio.  More information can be found in the book Latinas in the United States, A Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Vicki Ruiz and Virginia Sanchez Korrol."  

I planned to drive down to Maldonado the morning of my visit.  I left my house at 6 am for the 2-hour drive---plenty of time to arrive before my 9 am program, I thought.  Perhaps I would even have time for a second breakfast before I presented!  But it was not to be.  First there was  an automobile accident---fortunately not serious, but enough to delay traffic considerably.  Then there were the long, long sections of road repair work.  Again, more delays.  And last but not least, miles and miles of all traffic travelling at just 35 mph or less.  When I finally got up to the obstruction myself, I found that it was a huge, two-lane-wide piece of machinery on an enormous rig, travelling along the highway at a snail's pace, escorted by multiple police cars with flashing lights, fore and aft.  All of us by-now-anxious commuters had to inch around this behemoth one vehicle at a time.  I glanced at my watch more and more frequently.  Eight-thirty...eight-thirty-five...eight-forty...and I was still miles away from Maldonado.  I called the librarian on my cell phone and alerted her to the problem.  At eight-fifty-five I wheeled into the Maldonado parking lot, dripping with persperation.  Whew!  I grabbed my satchel, jumped out of the car, and bounded into the inner courtyard where the librarian was waiting for me.  She rushed me to the library, I taped paper to the rolling bulletin board, and was ready to go---just as the students began filing into the room!  Whether because of the rush, or in spite of it, my program was a complete success.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


At the beginning of March I had the privilege of participating in one of the best book festivals I've ever attended, "March Into Reading," hosted by Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island.  This is an annual event that brings a visiting author or illustrator into every Aquidneck Island school on Friday, and then follows up with activities on Saturday at the University.  I made some of the presentations...
...and autographed books for my fans.
I also checked out some of the other Saturday events.
One of my favorites on Saturday was the "petting zoo"!  Especially because some of the baby goats were Nubians, the same breed that I helped to raise when I was a child.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


I've heard rumblings about how "going to seed" is a failure of...character.  In rebuttal, I say that there are good reasons for allowing this process to take place.  I'll use the example of the lettuce in my front yard (not that I'm plagarizing from anyone else, of course.  If you've been reading Bessie Beetum's Blog at you'll know what I'm talking about.)  
Soon after my lettuce began to bloom, I noticed visitors.
 It seems that honey bees LOVE lettuce blossoms!
Every morning now, there are clouds of honey bees, drifting in and out of the lettuce blossoms.
Then I noticed just the other day that the lettuce seeds were beginning to mature.  This morning, as I walked through my living room, I stopped.  That sound!  I was sure I heard the chirping and tweeting of birds....almost inside the house!  
A hasty glance (all I got) was enough to confirm what my ears were telling me:  there are now birds as well in the lettuce plants, breakfasting on the ripening seeds.
So I'm all for going to seed!  

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I just returned from the Tucson Festival of Books in Tucson, Arizona ( where I was one participant in a cast of 450!  Or more accurately, Father Fox and I were two participants in a cast of 450.  The crowds of attendees were enormous.  Father Fox and I both felt a bit overwhelmed, country folk that we are.
I had the great honor of being part of a panel on Saturday March 12 with Adam Rex and E. B. Lewis.  What wonderful company!  Our panel was titled and described as: "I Didn't Write it, But...Illustrating for Other Authors:  Illustrating a manuscript by another author means listening to the manuscript by reading and re-reading until the manuscript becomes as familiar as an old friend.  These illustrators will talk about how they create new perspectives and connections to the story, creating a whole that reflects but goes beyond the words."  The three of us together represented three generations of illustrating and publishing---all the way from the early 60's to the present.  Kind of amazing!
Father Fox and I also took our turn on the Story Blanket, where we entertained a small group of babies, toddlers, youngsters,and their accompanying parents and grandparents.

Father Fox taught them the delightful poem about Bert who ate his buttons, from Father Fox's Pennyrhymes (written by "another author" Clyde Watsonwhile I drew a picture of Bert.  Then I drew portraits of two or three child volunteers, who seemed quite OK with the way their portraits turned out---complete with furry ears, big teeth, and tails.  Lastly I read aloud from my own titles Bedtime Bunnies, Lollipop, and Has Winter Come.  I'm looking forward very much to going again next year.