Finally, a blog post.

Hello! And welcome back to The Blog That Time Forgot.

Or that Jen forgot.

I really haven't forgotten. I've just been feeling really shy! It's funny how when you finally get a chance to toot your horn because your efforts have resulted in something worth tooting about, you (I) get all tongue tied and pigeon toed. Hands behind your back, toe in the dirt. Nothing to write about. Nothing to report on. It's tough to be a horn-tooter! I know you know what I mean.

But toot my horn I must.  Because it would be a shame to hide the fact that I have finally realized a long held dream! And because it would be a shame to keep the end result of the hard work and the long hours, and the blood, sweat and tears, a secret.

Biggest and most exciting on my horizon is my very first ever book launch party with George Shannon for our picture book, Turkey Tot! George and I will be celebrating on November 3, at 3 pm at Eagle Harbor Books. If you are in the area, stop by for some blackberry treats, and maybe you will even learn how to make your very own blackberry picking stilts!

Kirkus Reviews had some nice things to say about Turkey Tot, which is a picture book for the preschool set:

"A determined turkey gets the sweet, juicy, high-hanging berries.
Turkey Tot is wandering about the bucolic farmstead—the reader winningly transported there via Mann’s easy-handed, dark-lined, watercolor-washed artwork—where he lives with his friends Chick, Pig and Hen, in search of something to eat. Blackberries beckon, but they are too high to reach. So Turkey Tot looks about for some way to access the berries. His friends think all his ideas are cockamamie—and repeatedly so in Shannon’s polyphonic refrain: “You’re talking silly talk.” “We can’t reach the berries, and that is that.” “He’s been different since the day he hatched.” They decide to take a nap by the pond. But Turkey Tot will not be discouraged. Perhaps his first few ideas are a little off note—one has him finding a ball of string to which, he figures, he will tie a balloon and float Pig up to berryland—but he finally manages to wire all his different schemes together and snag the berries. Then he shares them with his uninspired comrades, which is more than the Little Red Hen would have done. Good for Turkey Tot: freethinking, resolved, generous.
Let’s hope that when November rolls around, Turkey Tot has become the farm’s mascot, not its dinner."

And School Library Journal had some great things to say as well:

"Turkey Tot thinks outside the box. He’s hopeful, imaginative, and persistent, refusing to let his Debbie Downer friends in the farmyard discourage him. He’s determined to retrieve juicy blackberries that hang just out of reach, but he needs a little help to implement the plans he makes to get within range. His enthusiastic schemes include floating up to the berries via a bunch of balloons and being flung at them from a teeter-totter. Naysayers Pig, Hen, and Chick tell him no way, no how. No matter, because Turkey Tot pulls together materials to make a pair of stilts from tin cans, and he fills a basket with the plump berries on his own. Now, his detractors sing a different tune. Hen’s observation that Turkey Tot has been “different since the day he hatched” is no longer a criticism but a compliment. Shannon’s writing is simple, clean, and cheerful, and his message of stick-to-itiveness is delivered perfectly. He also incorporates refrains that kids will have fun repeating during storytimes. Mann’s illustrations, a blend of watercolor, pencil, and digital collage, pop against ample white space, and the four characters are depicted in a wonderfully silly and endearing style. This picture book, like its protagonist, is a bona fide winner.–Alyson Low, Fayetteville Public Library, AR

I am pretty thrilled with these reviews! And I think all kinds of kids will love Turkey Tot, too!

Meanwhile, I am about to travel to NYC for some festive KidLit related events, including a 15th anniversary party at Pippin Properties, a visit to the Society of Illustrators to see the Original Art Show, and a chance to visit with some editors and art directors. I'll swing through Massachusetts for a long overdue visit with family, and then spend a little time with the wonderful Kate Fletcher and Heather McGee at Candlewick Press. They've invited me to read to their staff from my own picture book, Two Speckled Eggs, which they are publishing next spring! Talk about feeling a little shy! Yikes!! I wish I could share the cover of Two Speckled Eggs with you, but it's still a little early. It's release date is April 8, 2014!

And in between and all around these other things, I am busy working on the final art for another project for Candlewick, a second book of my own, called I Definitely Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard.

And I am daydreaming and doodling on a few other things as well. Stay tuned! I'll try to be less shy from now on.