I began writing Maya’s Treasure in 2016. It is a dream come true that this story is about to become a picture book published by Peter Pauper Press. It is beautifully printed and produced, far beyond my expectations, which I must say were high. Thank you Mara Conlon, Jax Berman and of course my wonderful agent Matt Belford for getting me here.
Collaborations are a wonderful thing, especially when you’re teaming up with the delightful, inspiring and talented Kate Allen Fox.
In response to a competition hosted by Emory University’s Global Health Institute, Kate had written a lovely picture book for children about Covid- 19, that needed to be illustrated. With only one week to create 23 pastel illustrations, I put my foot to the pedal!
Kate, a professional children’s author, worked at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for eight years. Her public health background is reflected in this book. Watch out for her debut picture book, TREMBLING GIANT, published by Capstone next year!
Illustrator, Laurie Smollett Kutscera, is also a writer, whose debut middle-grade novel, Misadventures of a Magician’s Son, was recently released by Blue Whale Press. She studied Fine Art and Children’s Book Illustration at Queens College, CUNY and is an award winning graphic designer. Laurie lives on the north shore of Long Island with her husband and rescue dog, Cody.
Even Heroes Feel Sad: Fighting Coronavirus Together written by Kate Allen Fox and illustrated Laurie Smollett Kutscera, provides information for children, while also acknowledging the feelings they may have during this pandemic. Great attention was paid to ensuring its scientific accuracy, while also creating an enjoyable and comforting read for kids ages 6—9.
There’s nothing like a little magical escapism to chase away the bad news in the world. Middle school is hard enough, but more so for Alex. He’s in a new town after his famous magician father passed away attempting to create a new trick. When Alex discovers a magical deck of playing cards his dad left him, the adventure begins and what he knows about magic changes forever.
The story is fast paced and frequent illustrations by the author add to the appeal. The royal family of hearts comes to life, but only Alex can communicate with them. That is until he misplaces the deck. His ways of dealing with the crisis are sincere and kid like. The fictional small town of Orchard, Maine is the setting Alex despises as it is quite the change from growing up in his home state of New York. Filled with magical surprises and a thrilling ending, the book would appeal to any girl or boy—along with a few of us older MG readers. There’s also a hint on the final page of what would be a welcome sequel.
BOOK BIRTHDAY: APRIL 1, 2020 (no fooling!) PAGE COUNT: 178
FIVE MORE THINGS TO LIKE ABOUT
MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON
1. The joker in the deck will cause a smile or two as you read.
2. The 27 chapters (each announced with accompanying cards from the magical deck) were the perfect length for a read-aloud.
3. Mom pretty much stays aside for the story and keeps the young characters in the forefront.
4. Magic lovers might be inspired to get there own deck of cards. There weren’t any sources in the back pages but I can recommend an oldie but goodie: The Kid’s Guide to Magic Tricks.
5. The small town setting was nicely woven into the story. Big city kids might be surprised at the differences.
Laurie Smollett Kutscera was born in Greenwich Village and grew up in Queens, New York. At the age of 11, she performed her first magic trick and was destined to be a ventriloquist with the aid of her childhood friend, Neil, who today is a real magician! But rather than follow in the footsteps of Houdini, she went on to study fine art and children’s book illustration at Queens College with Caldecott medalist Marvin Bileck. She is an award-winning graphic designer, a published children’s book illustrator, and toy designer.
Laurie’s passion for writing began 12 years ago while cruising the eastern seaboard from Nantucket to the Virgin Islands. Today she continues to write and illustrate and is currently working on several contemporary picture books and middle grade novels.
Laurie lives on the North Shore of Long Island with her husband Nick and rescue doggie, Cody. You can learn more about Laurie by going to lskillustration.com.
One of the joys of writing MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON was delving into the art of magic. Enter Joel Goldman, magician extraordinaire. I spent many hours working with Joel, studying his technique and learning his craft. I was mesmerized watching his variety of shuffles, fans and sleight of hand maneuvers. Alexander Finn is a remarkable 12 year old magician, thanks to Joel.
I am thrilled he had the time to answer all my questions here. But WAIT…THERE’S MORE! Joel has allowed me to share this amazing You Tube video of him performing in Central Park. WOW! What a treat!
AND NOW, HERE’S MY INTERVIEW WITH JOEL…
Joel, it was such a wonderful experience working with you while I was researching magic card tricks for MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON. You were quite adept back then at age 15. How old were you when you became interested in performing magic?
Thanks Laurie, I enjoyed working with you too. So, I became interested in magic when I was four-years-old.
What about magic appealed to you?
For me, each trick was a little puzzle to solve.
That makes perfect sense. I know your Dad is a big fan of puzzles too. Was this something you both connected with?
Absolutely. I loved puzzles, and still do. I think a lot of the things I learned while doing magic over the years have helped me throughout my life and now in my professional career. Thinking like a magician is a valuable skill especially when it comes to problem solving.
What kind of tricks did you start with?
I would try everything and see what worked. The things that didn’t work I would practice and improve on. The things that did work, I would try to make even better.
Can you give an example of one of the tricks that worked and one that didn’t, or took a while?
Some beginner coin magic, like a French drop, came really easy to me, but as I moved into more advanced coin magic routines like hanging coins, I really struggled. It was sometimes difficult, but I continued to practice and push through, and ask others for help.
Tell us about this performance.
This was just a photo shoot. Magic came with celebrity status even at a young age. HAHAHA!
Were there any magicians that inspired you? Has that changed?
Tons of magicians, I’d read and watch anything I could get my hands on. I’d think, what makes this magician so great, and I’d try to emulate it.
Can you give us an example of a magician you admired and what he specifically did that challenged you?
Penn & Teller are incredible performers to watch. They just captivate the audience and take you on a journey. For card manipulation, I am a huge fan of Kostya Kimlat and Joshua Jay, and no your name does not have to have alliteration in order to be a magician.
How did you learn to do card manipulations? Did you do any exercises to prepare?
I’d say learning to become a magician is an exercise in will-power and determination. Even while doing homework or sitting at the dinner table, I’d have a deck of cards in my hands practicing specific moves. Its all about Practice. Practice. Practice! From an author’s perspective, this was such an important element to include when building Alex’s character.
How long did it take you to really master your array of card tricks and flourishes?
Depends on the trick or flourish. Some, like a double lift came easy with a few hours, others like a second deal or bottom deal took weeks.
Is there a specific card trick or tricks you perform that get the most reaction?
This is a pretty common question, and it has a fairly interesting answer. I’d say any effect, even the simplest ones can have incredible reactions- it’s all about the presentation. For example, I’ve seen the reversed card blow people’s minds, and that’s a trick you could teach a five-year-old in an hour.
Have you ever created your own card tricks or manipulations?
Absolutely, and that’s probably one of my favorite things to do. Take pieces of tricks you already know, and recombine them in a different way to create something entirely new.
What advice do you have for aspiring young magicians?
If you want to sharpen your skills PRACTICE! Practice in front of the mirror so you can see what your audience is seeing.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your expertise with us. Here’s an illustration from the book of Alex Finn performing one of Joel’s amazing shuffles!
MISADVENTURES OF A MAGICIAN’S SON, published by Blue Whale Press, will be available on April 1st. To learn more about Alexander Finn and his remarkable adventures pre-order now, or you can request it from your local library!
WOW! Congratulations to all the Winners and Honorable Mentions of the #50PreciousWord contest. I am thrilled that my entry FIREFLY was selected and included with such wonderful, heartfelt and hilarious finalists.
If you want to read all the marvelous entries, click on the link above, scroll down and enjoy!
Thank you again, Vivian Kirkfield and your team, for all the energy and support you continually give the picture book writing community!
FIREFLY by Laurie Smollett Kutscera (50 words)
Emelia caught a firefly, And for a moment It felt like she held the moon.
“You are perfect,” she whispered. Its amber light cradled between her fingers.
And then, she let it go.
It hovered close, as if to say, “You are perfect too!” Then flew into the summer night.
While we are all looking for activities during our self imposed quarantine, birdwatching might be the perfect answer. I know…Christmas Bird Count is over, for now–but there are plenty of birds outside and it’s still a fun way to get some fresh air!
Join Ava’s team as she becomes a citizen scientist for a day on her town’s Christmas Bird Count. Ava is excited when Big Al, the team’s leader, asks her to record the tally this year. Using her most important tools—her eyes and ears—she identifies and counts the birds they observe on a route through diverse habitats.
This informative story by author Susan Edwards Richmond, coupled with Stephanie Fizer Coleman’s charming depictions of birds in their winter habitats, is the perfect book to introduce young readers to birdwatching. The text offers simple explanations of the identification methods used by birdwatchers and clear descriptions of bird habitats, and a section in the back provides more information about the birds featured in the book and the Christmas Bird Count.
One of the advantages of writing for young readers is discovering Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture book Challenge and KidLit 411. These two marvelous writing communities have given me the opportunity to connect with some pretty amazing authors. And I am thrilled to share a few of their recent picture books with you!
I CAMPAIGNED FOR ICE CREAM! A Boys Quest for Ice Cream Trucks
How can a nine-year-old make a difference in his community? This upbeat, educational, and heartwarming true story is about Joshua Lipshaw, who petitioned his local government to change an outdated law that prevented ice cream trucks from driving through his town.
Relive Josh’s passionate journey as he works to bring the joy of ice cream trucks to his town. Young readers will not only be inspired, but will learn about leadership, persistence, and civic action as Josh takes on Town Hall and fights to repeal their ban on ice cream trucks. Complete with adorable illustrations by Wendy Leach, this sweet book is a tasty treat as well as a lesson that they too can make a difference in their communities.
If you feel up to the challenge, here are the submission guidelines: Your story should be appropriate for kids ages 12 or under, that has a total word count of 50 or less. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious…whatever works for you.Title is not included in the word count.ONE entry per person, please. Deadline for posting the story in the comments is Thursday, March 5, at 11:59pm. Winners will be announced Saturday, March 21.
I’ve posted my entry below. GOOD LUCK!
Emelia caught a firefly,
And for a moment
It felt like she held the moon.
“You are perfect,” she whispered.
Its amber light cradled between her fingers.
And then, she let it go.
It hovered close, as if to say, “You are perfect too!”
Then flew into the summer night.
As a member of On The Scene in 19 (a group of debut picture book, chapter book and middle grade authors publishing in 2019/2020), I am literally surrounded by the wonderful work of these creative authors.
SHE LEADS is a poignant picture book written by June Smalls and illustrated by by Yumi Shimokawara, about a matriarchal elephant society.
Inspiring text and striking illustrations follow the empowering journey of an elephant matriarch as she leads her family through the wilds of Africa. June Smalls offers fun facts in this moving, lyrical story about African elephants along with a powerful message about real girl power that will encourage young girls to be the trailblazers of their generation. SHE LEADS offers an incredible story and an unforgettable tribute to the strength of a true leader.
This is a stunning book with educational facts and notes on female empowerment. Readers can enjoy the spare text, or delve into the facts about elephants provided in smaller print sprinkled throughout.