Fish in a Tree, a Review.

fish cover

Note: the design of this cover cannot be ignored; it is fantastic and iconic. Congrats to the designers at Penguin. The spot gloss varnish on the matte background is a great touch.


Lynda Mullaly Hunt has crafted a beautiful story about being “that kid”, the one for whom the expectations are low, and who retreats into her own world to keep the real one at a distance. Ally sees in pictures. Words are nearly impossible to decipher; so she doesn’t try. With the help of a great teacher, who begins to crack her code, Ally starts opening up to the idea that maybe there’s more to herself than she realized. It’s a powerful realization, and one that so many kids will relate to.

Through the course of the story, Ally finds and connects with other kids who accept her and see beyond the attempts at distancing herself from them. Ally’s allies, Albert and Keisha, feel very real to me. Their bond of friendship helps Ally realize that she has much to offer, and it bolsters the trio against the sideways glances and smack talk of some of the other kids, like Shay.

The author has effectively put into words that claustrophobic feeling of what it’s like to HAVE to stay one step ahead of being figured out and labeled as dumb. That crushing feeling- that need to stay under the radar, or even be deemed problematic, instead of the world finding out the truth, feels so real here.

Mr. Daniels is the teacher who sees beyond the front Ally has put up. He knows something is up with this girl, and refuses to let her go under the radar. We discover that Ally is actually dyslexic, and that it is a workable condition. The more Ally understands this, the more empowered she is. And her friends help her through it all.

Everyone should be so lucky as to have a Mr. Daniels in their lives. A good teacher can literally be a turning point in a struggling student’s life. I know I had a few teachers like that- the ones who saw the person before the grade. They are the real unsung heroes in the ever-changing and difficult school landscape, and this story shines a light on them.

“Now I realize that everyone has their own blocks to drag around. And they all feel heavy.”

So true. This story is a good reminder for folks of all ages, really, to look beyond the surface and see the potential in every person.


Fish in a Tree Launch

My good friend Lynda Mullaly Hunt recently held a book launch for her new middle grade novel, FISH IN A TREE. It’s exciting to see this baby swim out into the world now. I was lucky to have been able to read it before it was a book, and one of the lead characters might be named Albert Dubois, who has a mom named Audrey Dubois (my daughter). Suffice it to say, we are honored and stoked to have this nod in the book, and it was a blast to be involved in Lynda’s full-out themed launch!

Here are a some scenes from the launch, which included making your own fish and putting it in a tree, Albert’s science Jeopardy game, fishing for words, and making sketches for the Sketchbook of Impossible Things. It was a huge, well-attended success, with a lot of writer friends, family, and local kids and librarians adding to the electricity.

Be free, little fish! You belong to the world now, and they will be better for it.

Read my review of the book here.

fish collage



2013 RI Festival of Children’s Books and Authors

This year’s Book Festival at Lincoln School in Providence was fabulous- just full to the brim with great presenters, and very well-attended by a huge crowd.


Here’s Jarret Krosoczka with one of his first books, and whipping out a Lunch lady drawing. I like how he is so candid with kids and adults about the non-direct path to publication. And he happens to be a great guy, too.


Kate Messner was there. I had never heard her talk before- she is truly a natural speaker and I loved her approach to writing and life in general.


Laurie Keller is a big favorite of ours, and she led the mixed audience of kids and adults in drawing otters.4_keller1
5_keller2(Just check out that concentration!)

Kim Newton Fusco gave a great talk about her path, and finding your own path and voice. She has a beautiful and slow approach to honing her books to be the best they can be. 
6_fuscoThis is Lemony Snicket. I think. Otherwise, he sent some guy named Daniel Handler to handle the ginormous crowd that was there for him.

7_snicket1(he had the crowd in stitches,and also occasional headlocks).  


8_snicket2Marin, Steve and Lesley get their book signed- he takes time to harass everyone in the line, it’s sweet!
9_wildWild Thing, I think I looove you.

Here’s Chris Van Allsburg signing one of his amazing books.



Susannah Richards “interviewed” Sharon Creech in a casual discussion about her writing path, and getting the Newbury call.



Dan Santat- the hardest workin’ man in illustration, and one of the best!

Some new book loot. What, it’s not like I could just NOT buy SOME books. 🙂


As always, a great time- looking forward to next year, already!



A couple of weeks ago I was asked to come speak to RISD students in the illustration department about my work. It was great fun to be able to go back to the very building I spent many hours in (the ISB, which hasn’t changed a bit) and talk about the post-RISD experience!

There’s the unchanged ISB. What has changed is in front of it- a beautiful waterfront complete with art tile-encrusted walkways and arches. It’s about a million times nicer than the late 80s landscape I saw as a student!

Here’s my first indication that I would have to be “professional”!

A Professional Practice flyer about me!
Check out those great student watercolor studies to the left!

My talk was mostly in the dark, with a Powerpoint display, so no pictures there! But afterwards, the students could come up and play with the array of my products, toys, children’s books and kid’s menus that I brought along.

I like seeing peoples’ initial reactions to these things… it’s very telling.

While I was in the vicinity, I had the chance to walk over to the always-fun risd/works store nearby, which is now part of the cool new wing of the museum.

risd/works carries a lot of my design items, and displays them in a gorgeous setting!

Here’s a wall o’ fun from the Fred Co. My designs shown are: CooKeys, MonKeys, EarRing, TropSticks, and Cool Jewels.

Aristocakes is a new product of mine. Crown-shaped cupcake bakers!

Pastasaurus sighting!

A great array of my art glass items… Winestein, Half Pint, and Calf and Half.

If you go to risd/works, and you really should, be sure to say “hi” to the ultra-friendly and helpful Evan and Dinah!

Aren’t they cute? Be sure to tell them Liz sent you! 🙂

My Book In Rhode Island Monthly!

The May issue of Rhode Island Monthly Magazine has a feature called Rhode Readers, highlighting books by local children’s authors. How happy am I to see What Does A Seed Need? in the lineup!

Check out the other titles by friends Anika Denise and Chris Denise, Peter Mandel, and my old RISD teacher, R.W. Alley and his wife Zoe B. Alley. There are so many great artists and writers in this state!

The Blue Bunny Bookstore!

We found out that Lisa Yee was going to follow up her American Girl signing with a signing of her latest book at The Blue Bunny. I have been wanting to check out this store for quite a while, so it was the perfect excuse to head up to cute, old town center in Dedham Mass.

The Blue Bunny is the brainchild of author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. I have a lot of respect for his philosophies and work, so I expected that the store would be a great blend of toys, books, art, and fun. And it was!

Here we are with our friends the Sheas, who came up from CT for the signing.

Seriously, for me as a toy designer and a children’s book creator, it doesn’t get much better than this! The children and adults who were there that day seemed to agree- it’s a grand place to explore.

According to Lisa, ours was the very first copy of her new book, Warp Speed, to be signed. WooHoo! The book is about a Star Trek geek (there might be a couple… a few…OK, FIVE Star Trek fans in our house), so it was a must-have addition to our nearly complete Lisa Yee library. She’s such a great writer- and just the kind of role model that you want your kids looking up to.

I got to hold Peepy! She’s clearly a girl. And we both were rockin’ the stripes.

Lisa’s back in sunny California now, but we are glad to have seen her here on the East coast. We will certainly be back to The Blue Bunny- and if you live in these parts, check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Well, Hello Dollies!

Guess who came to the local-ish American Girl store the other day?
None other than Lisa Yee! She wrote the latest Girl of the Year Books about Kanani, a Hawaiian girl. She also wrote Millicent Min, Girl Genius, and the subsequent stories relating to it. Oh, and also, she’s awesome. Add to that a few kids who are both American Girl and Lisa Yee fans, and you have the ideal day trip!

Lisa is from California, so it was great to get to see her on our coast! Here she is with the Dubois girls. Amazingly, she is still smiling after having met with approximately five thousand (mostly) little girls, with another thousand still to follow.

Poking around in the American Girl store, we couldn’t help but notice that our pal Mary Beth’s new book was on the shelves there, too! Check out the Paper Shaper Forest Friends, a make-it-yourself book of adorable animals in MB’s signature style.

Yes, Millie thought you should see what the back of the book looks like, too!

I bought some stylin’ shoes while we were there, too.
Doll shoes. Unbearably cute saddle shoes!

They do not fit me. But so help me, I will find the ideal miniature feet for them to fit on.
It’s a shame we don’t have any cats anymore!

A Blizzard of Books!

OK, so, it’s merely snowing today, and my author copies don’t exactly amount to a “blizzard”. But they finally are here!

Real, printed copies of What Does A Seed Need?

They look nice when stacked neatly…

OR, when you toss them up in the air and let them land on a blue Snuggie™!

Inside, you’ll find flap, tabs and pop-ups designed for preschoolers. I adore books for this age group! Little discoveries on every page.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me with their enthusiasm upon it’s release!

The Lunch Lady Guy!

I had the chance to go see Jarrett Krosoczka today, who was at Friendly Neighborhood Comics in Bellingham, Mass. signing books. Jarrett’s been making books for ten years now, and I remember going to his first big signing waaay back then! It was fun to see him dress patrons up as Lunch Lady characters and do quick gesture drawings of them. He has always been a great, dynamic presenter.

You can see some of Jarrett’s original art behind us, as won by the comic store owner in the Joe and Shirl Scholarship auction. It should be noted that this is a FABULOUS comic shop with a lot of attention paid to carrying a diverse selection of books: the usual faves, but also well-chosen children’s books, European comics, classic volumes, and the best selection of graphic novels I’ve seen in a while. Plus, they have author/illustrators come to visit! Well worth the trip.

Piggy New Year!

Well, what do you know? It turned into another year! As I was poking around looking at vintage images, I found a bunch of New Year pig images:

Pigs. For New Year. Hmmm.

It appears to have been an all-Europe phenomenon, imported to the US.

I am surprised I never noticed this ‘gluckschwein’ (lucky pig) imagery in conjunction with the New Year before.

By luck, I happen to have a pig book coming out early in this New Year- in a mere 17 days! This is what my little pig guy looks like.

With maybe just a little more luck, it will be discovered and enjoyed by actual kids.
Happy New Year everyone! Oink!