TWO new books for Deborah Hopkinson!

Today we have a double delightful post, a guest post celebrating not one but TWO new books for Deborah Hopkinson!


Letter to My Teacher CoverA Letter to My Teacher
Schwartz & Wade (April 4, 2017)
“A valuable lesson in empathy, internalized and paid forward.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Hopkinson’s moving epistolary text and Carpenter’s emotionally incisive flashbacks chronicle the evolving relationship between an impulsive second grader and her life-changing teacher.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

and then

Independence Cake: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History Is Unfortunately Unknown

Schwartz & Wade (May 9, 2017)
“Downright charming watercolor-and-ink illustrations invite close inspection.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Both budding chefs and those who happily (and patriotically) consume their handiwork will eat this up.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

I love both of these new books, and highly recommend you check them out. (Be warned, however, A Letter to My Teacher made me cry!) And now, please welcome Deborah back to the blog, this time to talk about the illustrations in Independence Cake:

Deborah Hopkinson
Deborah Hopkinson

As a picture book author, I often get asked, ‘Do you choose your illustrator?’ People new to the field of children’s books are often surprised when I say the decision is in the hands of the editor, though there are many exceptions and, of course, well-established author-illustrator collaborative partnerships.
Some people wonder how an author can let go of his or her words. The truth is that I rarely have a vision in my head of what the story should or could look like. In fact, I love the element of surprise as I first see sketches, then finished art. But it’s not until the final book is in my hands that I truly appreciate how the vision and talents of the editor, designer, and illustrator have expanded the words on the page to create something entirely new.
That’s certainly the case with my May 2017 picture book, Independence Cake, illustrated by Giselle Potter. When I visit schools, I always discuss the difference between fiction and nonfiction. And Independence Cake is most decidedly fiction, as the subtitle makes clear: A Revolutionary Confection Inspired by Amelia Simmons, Whose True History is Unfortunately Unknown.
I’ve been a fan of Giselle’s work since I first read Gabriella’s Song, written by Candace Fleming and published in 1997. Her style is perfect for this light-hearted story loosely based on the real Amelia Simmons, who in 1796 penned American Cookery, the first published cookbook in America. In my story, Amelia, an orphan, is sent to live with the Bean family, where she delights six little boys (and comes to their mother’s rescue) thanks to her resourcefulness, energy, and cooking skills. (It’s a safe bet the life of a real “bound girl” in 18th century America was much harsher than what’s portrayed here.)
Amelia becomes so proficient that the town ladies call on her to bake an Election Day Cake (similar to an English fruitcake) in honor of George Washington’s inauguration. She creates an Independence Cake, a recipe which appeared in the second edition of Amelia’s cookbook. (We’ve included the recipe and some background information on Amelia Simmons in the author’s note.)
From the endpapers to the author’s note, Giselle’s art is sure to delight young readers (and aspiring bakers). In a starred review, Publishers Weekly praised Giselle’s work, noting that her “signature rendering style is an ideal match for the subject matter, her flattened perspectives, understated expressions, and creamy colors harking back to 18th-century portraiture.”
Picture book art? Delicious!

Delicious, indeed! Thank you, Deborah Hopkinson, for appearing here once again. For other stops on the Deborah Hopkinson Double Blog Tour please check out, and follow the #DoubleBlogTour hashtag.

Deborah Hopkinson guest post about Beatrix Potter!

blog tour banner
blog tour bannerDeborah Hopkinson is the author of nearly 50 fantastic books for young readers. I have blogged previously about several of these books, including her most recent nonfiction work, Courage & Defiance, which was named a NCTE Orbis Pictus recommended book and Sydney Taylor award notable book. Her newest middle grade novel, A Bandit’s Tale, The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket, a Junior Library Guild selection, will be released this April. And today we’re celebrating the recent release of Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig (Schwartz & Wade), which I know will have a special place in my heart because a) I love guinea pigs, and b) when I was a little girl I had a beloved set of bunnies named Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail. Just check out this intriguing review:

As this book’s foreboding title suggests, a guinea pig does not survive its encounter with the future creator of Peter Rabbit—nor do Sally the snake, an unnamed bat, and numerous snails. In her childhood, Beatrix Potter made a habit of capturing London’s wild creatures. “But the sad truth is that although Beatrix loved animals, she did not always have the best of luck with them,” sighs Hopkinson (Courage & Defiance), who shares evidence from Potter’s childhood diary and, according to an afterword, takes a few authorial liberties with actual events. Troubles arise when Beatrix borrows a pet guinea pig, drolly named Queen Elizabeth, to sketch. After Queen Elizabeth devours a fatal “repast of paper, paste, and string,” Beatrix humbly returns to its owner with “a stiff and bloated Queen Elizabeth” and a “delightful little watercolor” of the subject. Hopkinson’s jesting tone combines false grandeur with a note of regret, and Voake’s (Ginger) breezy watercolors suggest Beatrix’s combination of curiosity and nonchalance. Sensitive souls will feel for Beatrix’s victims, even as this diverting narrative sheds light on her childhood fascinations. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Feb.).”  — Publishers Weekly

And now, here is today’s guest post, written by Deborah Hopkinson herself:

Deborah HopkinsonThis year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter (1866-1943), the creator of some of the best-loved children’s classics in the world. I first began toying with the idea of writing about Beatrix five years ago, but it took more than a year and a half of trial and error. Finally, with the guidance of my editor Anne Schwartz at Schwartz & Wade, I found my way to the story that became Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig. Inspired by a true incident that Beatrix recorded in her journal, she recounts borrowing a guinea pig named Queen Elizabeth from her neighbor, only to have it expire in the night from eating paste and glue and other forbidden treats.
Beatrix Potter was a fascinating woman, as well as a legendary artist, author, and conservationist. Her journal, written in code, was decoded and transcribed in 1958 by Leslie Linder and published in 1966. In it, Beatrix describes a series of pet disasters, some of which appear in my book.
I was also intrigued by Beatrix’s creative process. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, published in 1902, was originally a “picture letter” written to cheer up a sick boy named Noel Moore, the son of her former governess. She begins, “My dear Noel, I don’t know what to write to you so I will tell you a story about four little rabbits whose names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter.
Beatrix Potter coverI love playing with the structure of picture books. Some of my previous books have been written in journal format, or divided into innings or courses (like chapters). For this book, we wanted to as much as possible imitate one of Beatrix Potter’s own picture letters. Even before the title page, the story begins with an introduction: “My dear Reader.” At the end, the story is signed by me. The postscript? That’s an author’s note which includes photos of Beatrix and images of her journal and the picture letter to Noel. As an author who visits schools all over the country, I’m looking forward to incorporating picture letter into my author visits and can’t wait to see what students will create. I’m also eager to share with them the story of an artist and writer who began practicing her craft at a young age.
Charlotte Voake, whose delightful watercolors make this book so special, is British, and I’m excited that our book will also be published in Great Britain in July, to coincide with Beatrix Potter’s birthday on July 28. The Royal Mint is issuing 50p coins in honor of Beatrix (there is also a coin to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death).
For more Beatrix Potter special events, follow the hashtag #Beatrix150 on Twitter. And, as Beatrix learned the hard way, do be careful whenever you borrow something from a neighbor.

Many thanks to Deborah Hopkinson for guest blogging here today!  For other stops on the Beatrix Blog Tour please visit