Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Crossing Niagara comes out TODAY!

My new book, Crossing Niagara, comes out today! Look for it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or at an independent bookstore near you.

This is the seventeenth book I've illustrated, and the eighth book I've written. This one was a lot of fun to work on. As part of my research, I took a trip to Niagara Falls with my family. It was awe-inspiring to see it up close, to stand next right to the falls. We got drenched on the Maid of the Mist...

... and ventured out to the end of the observation platform at Prospect Point. I tried to imagine what it must have felt like for the Great Blondin to be right near that very spot, unthinkably high above the raging river, walking on a rope just three inches wide. (It was scary enough standing on a twenty-foot-wide platform!)

I really enjoyed working on this book. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Here is a free Crossing Niagara teachers' guide Candlewick Press put together.

I have a bunch of events in the works for the spring and summer. Here are some of the places I'll be reading and signing Crossing Niagara:

April 12 3:00-5:00 pm, Winchester Town Hall in Winchester, MA, part of Authorfest 2016.

April 23 2:30 pm, Niagara Falls Public Library in Niagara Falls, NY.

May 14 (time TBA) G. Willikers in Portsmouth, NH

June 4 (time TBA)  Book Ends in Winchester, MA.

June 4 (time TBA) The Boston Book Festival presents "Hubbub". I'll be doing a book signing and a hands-on illustration workshop as part of this fun all-day family festival.

And here's a full list of events.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fun Story from Red Sox Winter Weekend

Here's a snippet from an email that made my day, from the mom of a young reader named Matthew:

... Had to share this photo with you. We went to Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods, this past weekend.  Matthew carried your book around all weekend, hoping to get Pedro to sign it.  Matthew even used your book at a panel discussion, where he got up in front of a packed room (probably 300 people) by himself, and stepped to the microphone, asking Pedro how he went from "throwing rocks at mango trees to being one of the greatest pitchers of all time?".....not bad for an 8 year old! 

Anyway, we came close to getting the book signed twice, and missed.  However, upon checkout yesterday, who was also waiting for the valet to get a car for him??? Yup, Pedro!  Matthew took the book over, and he very sweetly, signed the book.  Was so nice!  Way to end our weekend!!!!

And here's the photo of Matthew with his copy of Growing Up Pedro, signed on the opening endpapers, "Pedro Martinez, HOF 2015". So cool! Recognize the guy in the background? (hint: IT'S PEDRO MARTINEZ!!)

I also love this picture from earlier in the weekend, showing Matthew pulling off a brilliant Growing Up Pedro photobomb, right behind Pedro himself! Well done sir!

Thanks Matthew! Glad you had a fun weekend, and I'm so happy you finally got to meet Pedro.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Growing Up Pedro, behind the scenes in the DR, part two

Researching for Growing Up Pedro in The Dominican Republic

When I draw people in my illustrations, I often ask real people to pose for me. I'll take photographs and sometimes short videos of them acting out the scenes in my illustrations, then use those as reference when I'm drawing and painting. When I'm in the early stages of a book, even if I'm with my family at a restaurant, or at my daughter's soccer game, or wherever, I'm always looking for people who look like my characters.

When I was working on Growing Up Pedro, I gathered tons of photographs and videos of Pedro Martinez as a grownup. There were endless pictures to choose from, because as a famous baseball player in the modern era, people were always taking pictures of him. But I didn't have any pictures of him as a kid. In fact, when Pedro was growing up in the Dominican Republic, his family probably didn't even have a camera.

Here's the youngest picture I was able to find of Pedro, from his first season at Campo Las Palmas, the Los Angeles Dodgers Dominican Baseball Academy. He was sixteen years old.
So when I traveled to the Dominican Republic to do research for Growing Up Pedro (full disclosure: it was also a family vacation), while I mostly hoped to soak in the atmosphere and get some good reference photos of houses, scenery, trees, etc., I was also on the lookout for someone who looked like a young Pedro Martinez. Then one day I saw this kid. His name is Dani.

Dani lived out in the countryside and was visiting a friend who worked at the resort where we were staying. As soon as I saw him, I knew he would be the perfect person to pose as a young Pedro Martinez. With the help of a friend who speaks Spanish, my wife and I asked Dani if he would be willing to help me with my book. He thought that sounded pretty cool.

So I went through all my sketches, and acted out the parts myself, then asked Dani to try it. I took a bunch of short videos and photographs like this one.

Dani was the perfect model- he looked a lot like Pedro, plus he was a baseball player, so he knew how to do all the stuff I needed him to do. But there was one little problem: Dani was left-handed! So basically I just needed to look at my sketch, then picture it backwards and have Dani pose for it backwards. Then once I had the image in my computer, I could flip it horizontally to make it look like Dani was throwing with his right hand.

Here's the illustration I painted using that photo of Dani as reference. As you can see, I use my reference photos pretty loosely, mostly just to get the pose right and to help with things like folds in the fabric and lighting.

On the last day of our trip, just minutes before we were about to head to the airport, Dani came riding on his bike, in his full baseball uniform! He wanted to pose for some more pictures, and thought the uniform might be helpful. What an awesome kid! So I took a few more pictures, including this one, which I ended up using as reference for the cover illustration.

And here's the illustration, a secret second cover illustration, hiding underneath the jacket:

My family had such a great time on that trip, we decided to go back again the following year. Growing Up Pedro hadn't come out yet, but I did have one finished hardcover copy, along with a jacket proof of the Spanish edition. I decided that if I could track down Dani, I would give him my only copy.

Unfortunately, he wasn't very easy to find. My wife and I asked around at the resort, but when we tried to describe Dani, nobody knew who we were talking about. We showed people his name in the acknowledgements, and showed pictures in the book that he posed for. But still, nothing.

Then finally, on the second-to-last day of our vacation, a teenage boy washing cars at a taxi stand just outside the resort said he knew Dani, and offered to go pick him up on his moped. He returned about twenty minutes later, with Dani riding on the back.

At first I worried that he wouldn't even remember who I was, but as soon as he saw me and my family, he gave us a big smile. I handed him the book, and he spent a long time looking through all the pages, pointing himself out in all the pictures. It was pretty awesome.

I pointed out his name in the acknowledgements...

He looked at that for a long time.

I signed his book.

We also brought some other goodies to thank him for his help- a Red Sox cap, a Pedro Martinez bobblehead I got at Fenway Park, and a pack of baseball cards.

For more, here's my other blog post about some research I did in the Dominican Repubic.

And for more about Growing Up Pedro, visit tavaresbooks.com.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

NCTE 2015

Later this week I'll be attending the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in Minneapolis. I've never been to NCTE before, so I'm really looking forward to it. I'll be there from Thursday until Saturday, but Friday is my big day for events. Here's where I'll be:

Friday, November 20

11:00-12:15 Convention Center Room 103: I'll be presenting with my editor, Katie Cunningham, as part of the "Guiding Writers: Bringing the Author/Editor Relationship to the Classroom" roundtable.

Session Description: Attend this roundtable session to discover how the editor/author relationship can be applied to the teacher/student dynamic to improve the art of writing instruction. You will hear from four of the author/editor pairs learning insights, methods, techniques, tips, and strategies for guiding student writers in your classroom.

1:00-2:00 signing Growing Up Pedro at the Anderson's Bookshop, booth #950

4:00-5:00 signing Growing Up Pedro at the Candlewick Booth, #727-729

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 2, 2015

My next book...

...comes out April 12, 2016. Here's a peek at the proofs.

I'm busy right now working on my next next book, so... back to the drawing board!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

LLEGAR A SER PEDRO available today!

LLegar A Ser Pedro, the new Spanish edition of Growing Up Pedro, is officially available today!

When I set out to write about Pedro Martinez, I always hoped it would be published in Spanish. So I'm grateful to my publisher, Candlewick Press, for making it happen. I'm really excited to know that Spanish-speaking kids will now have access to this story of brotherhood, perseverance, and baseball.

I was truly honored to have my story translated by renowned Spanish translator Teresa Mlawer, who has written the Spanish versions of some of the all time classics of children's literature, including Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are.

A Junior Library Guild selection, Llegar A Ser Pedro is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an independent bookstore near you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Let's Get Busy Podcast

I'm honored to be today's guest on Matthew Winner's excellent Let's Get Busy Podcast. We talk about Growing Up Pedro, Candlewick Press, kickball, and more.

I often listen to Matthew Winner's podcast while I'm painting, and really enjoy it. If you like children's books and have never listened to this awesome podcast, you're in for a treat. I hope episode #166 lives up to the awesomeness of the other 165. Enjoy!