everything grows with love

Stories about My Experiences with Writers & Illustrators Who Bring Light into the World…by Bonnie Ingber Verburg


Anniversary of Virginia Hamilton’s Passing

On this day, February 19, 2002, the blazing spirit of magnificent Virginia Hamilton, friend, mentor, writer, confidante, and kick-around girlfriend, took off with the power of a comet and left this world for the next. Virginia was–and still is–the most distinguished writer of books for young readers in the world, and she was given every major award in her field, including some that had never been given before, such as her MacArthur (genius) Fellowship. As her longtime editor and pal, my life has been blessed more than words can say. And I don’t want closure. I want every door and window and drawer she opened inside my heart and mind to STAY open. Virginia, I miss you every day. You go, girl. You go…. You reconfigure the stars in the sky and keep on shining.


Rodman Philbrick Answers a Few Questions about ZANE AND THE HURRICANE

Zane and the Hurricane
Rodman Philbrick’s newest novel, Zane and the Hurricane, has caught the attention of young readers, and it has received three starred reviews and inclusion on the Texas Bluebonnet Master List. Philbrick has been writing since he was a teenager, and it took him many, many years to finally have a book published…but he never gave up. I asked him to answer a few brief questions about Zane.  (BIV) 
Why did you choose to write a novel set during Hurricane Katrina?
Shortly after Hurricane Andrew devastated parts of Florida, I had the germ of an idea for a story about a hurricane set in the Florida Keys, where I live for half of the year. By the time I got around to writing it, New Orleans had been hit by Katrina, and I thought that would make a bigger and more important story.

Is the process of writing a novel set during a famous event different than writing a novel set in a place of your own invention—such as the town where Freak the Mighty takes place?

Freak The Mighty was inspired by real people in a real place, but I purposely didn’t name the specific location in the hope that  readers might think it was set in their own back yard. But writing about a specific event – the Battle of Gettsyburg, or the devastation of New Orleans – means you have to get the details right. And that means lots of research. Lucky for me many of the survivors’ impressions and experiences are preserved on video, or in interviews with journalists such as Douglas Brinkley and Jed Horne, both of whom wrote terrific books on the subject. Those recollections and impressions helped me get inside the head of my character Zane–and see the flooded world through his eyes, in a way that I hope rings true to the experiences of the actual survivors.

Are there any autobiographical angles in Zane and the Hurricane?
None, I guess. Oh wait, Zane is a boy from New Hampshire. Me, too.
What are some of the more interesting comments and questions that have come to you about the book?

A couple of readers wanted to know if the strong and willful character Malvina was inspired by the young girl in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild.’ The answer is no, because I began working on Zane’ in 2011, a year before the film was released, and long before I heard about it. Still haven’t seen the movie, but I hear it’s fabulous.

What do you consider the main themes of this novel? When you were weaving the story, were there specific issues in the story that you wanted your reader to think about?

I don’t really think about themes while writing (or much of anything but the narrative itself), but on reflection all of my stories seem to be about overcoming adversity. This is no exception. And if the story illuminates injustice, and class and racial divides, or makes readers think or want to read further on the subject, so much the better.


Zane and the Hurricane is popular among young readers for many reasons. Some of them are its fast pace, interesting characters, dramatic scenery, and real-life setting. How did you manage to balance these and other story elements?

Writing a novel is like juggling flaming bowling balls while riding a unicycle on a tightrope strung across the Grand Canyon. Lots of things can go wrong, and do. I concentrate on making each scene as crisp and visual as possible. My intention is that every scene – and every conversation – carries the story forward. I very much have my fifth-grade self in mind as a potential reader. Would I read this? Would I be intrigued? Would I want to turn the page? Does it ‘sing’ when read aloud? (By the way, Jerry Dixon did a fantastic job as narrator of the audio version.)

Thanks to Rodman Philbrick for answering these questions–but most of all, thank you, Rod, for continuing to write for young readers! (BIV)
(just for fun–proof of upcoming Zane and the Hurricane paperback cover)


Overview: On the Wings of Time


Rodman Philbrick Answers a Few Questions about Zane and the Hurricane (see March 2014 for entry about the book)


Usher reads Leo & Diane Dillons’ If Kids Ran the World to 30,000 U.S. schools


Eat Spam, Dumb Bunnies! Dav Pilkey and the funny Good Night Moon Room Story

Personal: FDR and If Kids Ran the World


AUGUST 2014:

Southie, Fergus, and Dog Heaven

Why Head Lice Are More Popular than Congress: David Shannon Understood It First

Leo & Diane Dillon: Diane Dillon interviewed by Julie Danielson at Kirkus

Jim Moore’s new book of poetry: Underground


JUNE 2014:

The Dillons’ Kitchen: A Letter about Making If Kids Ran the World

How Do You Publish How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? Snapshots of Working with Jane Yolen and Mark Teague


MAY 2014:

JoAnn Verburg: PBS Video of My Sister’s Photography

If Kids Ran the World: This Week’s Opposing Reviews (Positive: Publishers Weekly; Negative: Kirkus) and My Letters and Thoughts about Them


MARCH 2014:

Jane Yolen: Faster than Lightning

Rodman Philbrick: More Talented than a Hurricane

Snapshot: Leo & Diane Dillon: IF KIDS RAN THE WORLD (unpublished)

Snapshot: Mark Teague: THE TREE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT (unpublished)


JUNE 2013:

Robin McKinley: A Pen, a Princess, and a Lot of Rock Music

Debra Frasier: On the Day You Were Born

Lois Ehlert: Growing Vegetable Soup

Richard Wilbur: Sir Richard Wilbur the Kind-Hearted Poet vs. the Dizzy Blonde


MAY 2013:

Virginia Hamilton: Whiteout in PLAIN CITY

David Shannon: No! No! No, David!

Audrey and Don Wood: Limitless Imaginations

Jimmy Buffett: Afternoons in Margaritaville

Dav Pilkey: Captain Underpants and the Big Pitch



Virginia Hamilton: IN THE BEGINNING: An Editorial Afternoon

Leontyne Price: AIDA



Barry Moser and Van Dyke Parks: JUMP! The Adventures of Brer Rabbit

Leo & Diane Dillon: The Heart with Wings

Nancy Willard: The High Rise Glorious Skittle Skat Roarious Sky Pie Angel Food Cake


The Genius Club: Quotes from Remarkable Writers and Illustrators

About Reviews

Only God Loves California: Short Story


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