everything grows with love

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


IF FDR RAN FOR PRESIDENT TODAYThe connection between If Kids Ran the World and FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights” was purely coincidental, yet the parallel in content was uncanny. When something like that happens–a book you publish turns out to have almost the same content as an excerpt from one of FDR’s most profound State of the Union Speeches–it’s hard to ignore. My own lack of awareness of the speech was unsettling, and I was very happy by the additional coincidence that documentary filmmaker Ken Burns is airing his remarkable history of the Roosevelts on PBS this month of September when If Kids Ran the World has been published–with the book’s coverage of that “Second Bill of Rights” speech and the FDR “Four Freedoms” speech in its back matter.

A friend brought this political cartoon (above) to my attention last night, and I don’t think the artist, David Horsey, would mind that I’m posting it here. It’s unfortunate that in many U.S. circles it’s become unpopular to give good medical care to the sick, feed the hungry, and provide a good education for all children–things FDR advocated, and notions presented in this book. Thank you to Ken Burns for bringing these concepts to the public, so younger people such as my son can know that at one time these thoughts were taken seriously (and yes, like 93% of Americans, I am disgusted with our Congress), and thank you to David Horsey for this cartoon that reminds us how distorted our news coverage has become.

If Kids Ran the World wasn’t meant to be political or religious. It wasn’t meant to take a side in any argument. It gently advocates equality among all humans–a very simple concept.  And it warmly advocates love, patience, kindness, and generosity.

They are also the same qualities my minister, Dave Carpenter, used in his sermon on Sunday–to describe a man who supposedly said: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Love one another. It’s so simple to say yet so difficult to put into practice…as individuals, communities, cultures, governments. When I was searching for quotes for the back case of If Kids Ran the World (the printed cover of the book under the dust jacket), I realized that the people I admire most aren’t the powerful or rich or glamorous. They are the Bishop Desmond Tutus and Dalai Lamas of the world who see humanity–and behave toward all people–with an entirely different attitude and interpretation than the one I encounter in my daily life. But it’s so simple, I say aloud as I comb through the grass, searching for a four-leaf clover. And then: If it’s so simple to do, then why can so few people do it?  

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No answer today. Just more questions. And my opinions are obviously my own here and do not reflect that of…well, the newscasters in David Horsey’s political cartoon–and I guess most people in today’s world, right?




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


Last night on THE DAILY SHOW, Jon Stewart announced that Congress is currently LESS popular than head lice.
This past fall, I published David Shannon’s BUGS IN MY HAIR!–a funny book about head lice. And it’s true, they are much more appealing than Congress.


Ten Reasons Why Head Lice Are Better than Congress:

1. Head lice don’t fight among themselves.

2. Head lice get the job done.

3. Although it’s a challenge, you can make head lice go away.

4. Head lice are honest about what they do (feed on your blood and multiply), where Congress does the same thing but pretends to be helping you.

5. Head lice do not discriminate between rich or poor, black or white. Head lice treat every American the same way.

6. Head lice do not spend money and bankrupt anybody.

7. Head lice do not lie about themselves and one another.

8. Head lice do not send me 20-30 emails a day.

9. Head lice don’t pretend to care about what people think, where Congress doesn’t care but pretends they do.

10. Head lice come, and head lice go, but they don’t permanently wreck our lives. Congress, on the other hand, is destroying democracy.


Bonnie Verburg

VP, Scholastic Inc.
Editorial Director of the Blue Sky Press, an Imprint of Scholastic.

I published this book, and I approve this endorsement of replacing Congress with head lice!

(August 1, 2014)

Leo and Diane Dillon: Diane Dillon interviewed by Julie Danielson at Kirkus.com

I just read this lovely interview of Diane Dillon, written by Julie Danielson at Kirkus.com–and I want to share it. Thank you, Julie…especially for celebrating the enormous contributions the Dillons have made to children for more than five decades.
See the original at this link (with photos, illustrations, and nice typography):


Making a Better World
By Julie Danielson on August 7, 2014

The dedication of the upcoming picture book with the names Leo and Diane Dillon on the cover reads as such: “In Memory of Leo, who wasn’t able to finish this one.”

The pair, who had been writing and illustrating picture books since 1970 and were twice awarded the Caldecott Medal, did indeed collaborate on If Kids Ran the World, a book from Scholastic’s Blue Sky Press, scheduled to hit shelves in late August. However, Leo died in 2012, just as they were finishing the book.

It’s a tale spilling over with unfettered joy, one that imagines a world full of peace, purity and utter harmony in the hands of children alone. A book that strikes such an unsullied and merry tone is certainly the best possible one with which to leave readers. “Leo was a very positive person and had a great sense of humor,” Diane tells If Kids Ran the Worldme. “One of his favorite sayings was: ‘Everything is going to be all right.’ The book was in its final stage when he died. The preliminary decisions had been made about the layout and what style and technique to use, and the research and many of the drawings were finished.”

The book also includes a note about the very collaborative process involved in the writing—that is, between Leo, Diane and their editor, Bonnie Verburg. This note states that the concept and multiple drafts came from Verburg, and despite protests from Leo and Diane, “she chose to be publisher rather than author.” Diane adds: “We had many conversations with [her] for nearly thirty years about how we wanted to approach the book—especially in the beginning. For instance, the underlying issues include hunger, homelessness, poverty, and war, but we wanted to illustrate the positive and hopeful actions people are taking, such as feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the homeless, and promoting equality and peace.”

It’s a book that has been met with mixed reviews, given the pie-in-the-sky view of the world with children fully in charge. Think The Lord of the Flies and turn it on its head (or, really, just altogether throw it out the window): There’s no waste, no cruelty, no war, no strife whatsoever. But the Dillons, Diane explains, had their reasons: “We feel that children want to be needed and like to be helpful. They have an innate sense of fairness and honesty and a capacity for joy. Even in the midst of the most dire circumstances, children can be seen playing and laughing. They have an innocence that we tend to lose as we grow older. It’s true that If Kids Ran the World presents a utopian world, but why not aim for the highest possibility?”

In fact, it’s to this notion of underestimating children that Diane returns when I ask about diversity in picture books today. If Kids Ran the World is an overt celebration of multiculturalism and inclusion, something the pair had championed in their long and lauded careers. In Margalit Fox’s New York Times piece on Leo’s death, she notes the “stylistic diversity” that characterized their work, as well as their dedication to portraying people of all colors. “All schools should have the same quality teachers, equipment, and books, and the expectation that all children can learn,” Diane says when I ask what schools can better do to champion diversity today. “The best way to teach children about diversity and peace is to live it ourselves as parents, teachers, and leaders of governments and religions. Too often some children are underestimated and under-challenged. This book was meant to inspire them to be their best. They have a part in making a better world.”

And what’s next for someone who spent decades working so successfully in tandem with her life partner that their work was described (again by Fox) as “a seamless amalgam of both their hands”?


“There is something in the works,” Diane says, “but it’s too early to talk about it yet. It’s a time of introspection and reinvention for me, and right now I am enjoying a life without deadlines.”

We fans can surely wait patiently for Diane’s re-emergence and for the stories to come.

Illustrations from If Kids Ran the World © 2014 by Leo & Diane Dillon. Used with permission from The Blue Sky Press/Scholastic.

Julie Danielson (Jules) conducts interviews and features of authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog primarily focused on illustration and picture books.

Jim Moore’s new book of poetry: Published today, September 2, 2014

From the Star Tribune: First review of my brother-in-law’s new poetry book, Underground, sent to me this morning by JoAnn Verburg, my sister. The photo on the cover is by Jo.


Southie, Fergus, and Dog Heaven


When my son was still in diapers, he met David Shannon’s dog, Fergus. They were the same age, and they played together as puppies. I have always thought of Fergus as my son’s first friend. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that a Westie entered our family, too. We named her Southie, short for Southpaw, and at first we also called her Fergus’s fiancé–although when he came for a visit, the Westies weren’t remotely interested in each other. Southie was busy with her “gift” bone, and Fergus just wanted to get out past the kitchen dog gate and into the living room where his humans were. Yesterday, at age 12, Southie trotted off to Dog Heaven, where she is chasing rats and catching squirrels (finally). No more cancer, no more pain. And I am grateful to Cyndi Rylant for writing and illustrating Dog Heaven, a book I love and am very proud to have published, because it is that image of my dog running across God’s fields that allows me to imagine Southie is still loved and being petted by hands so great they know no bounds and are generous with the roasted chicken strips. I am counting on you, God, to have a generous supply of squeaky banana toys.

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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


The Dillons’ Kitchen Table: A letter about making If Kids Ran the World

I was recently asked to write a letter to librarians and booksellers about IF KIDS RAN THE WORLD. A few hours ago I returned from the American Library Association Convention, where the 45th Anniversary of the Corretta Scott King Award was celebrated. It is such a warm, welcoming, loving community, and I had just received the first hardcover copy of KIDS from the printer. i slipped it into my bag and carried it with me the entire weekend, sharing it with friends who had known and admired the Dillons forever…. Lots of memories, lots of hearts touched by the splendid art as well as the generous sentiment–so typical of Leo & Diane.

Meanwhile, here’s the letter:

A Note from Bonnie Verburg, editor of If Kids Ran the World

For more than twenty-five years, it has been my great privilege and honor to work closely with Leo and Diane Dillon. In 1992, when I left Harcourt to become Editorial Director of Trade Books at Scholastic, I founded an imprint called the Blue Sky Press, and Leo and Diane drew our logo: a heart with wings. That winged heart is significant, because everything grows with love. And on January 11, 2011, when we began talking about creating a book called “If Kids Ran the World,” love was at the center that discussion—and the hundreds of discussions that followed.

Our original idea was to make a book that would introduce children and their older allies to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity; Heifer International; Doctors without Borders; and a full range of people and groups who exist to help others. What was initially difficult was to create such a book without including poverty, starvation, disease, war, racism—frightening issues that are tearing apart our world. It was at Leo and Diane’s kitchen table that we decided to cut all of that out of the book; I remember saying that when I imagined reading this book to my son, I didn’t want it to be his introduction to the horrors of war and other nightmares he would eventually encounter. So Leo and Diane instead built a book of optimism. Children feed the hungry, give medicine to the sick, build safe housing for those who need it, and keep the air and water clean. Certain issues had to be resolved—what would the children wear? It was important to the Dillons that children could wear any kind of clothing without being ridiculed. A child didn’t have to have that popular brand of $250 sneakers to be cool; he or she could wear the pair purchased at the Salvation Army, and nobody would laugh. Every detail in If Kids Ran the World was discussed at length; for a book with a very whimsical, light-hearted feeling, it was in fact planned with great seriousness. What an education I have had with each book I have published by Leo and Diane.

The manuscript was re-written so many times I lost track, and the pencil sketches and most of the finishes were complete when Leo became ill. When he decided to have surgery, it was beyond comprehension that he would catch an infection in the hospital and not return home to the studio.

Leo and Virginia Hamilton were my mentors, and Diane is one of my closest friends. The loss is profound. Yet the shining light left behind—and it positively glows in If Kids Ran the World—can never be diminished. In five decades of working together, the Dillons have changed the very fabric of what we consider to be a children’s book. And their commitment to include all people in their books— every race, religion, and socio-economic group—has not always been popular, but it has changed the lives of generations of children who were finally able to see their own beautiful faces in the stunning library of books that emphasized the beauty in each one of us…including you.

I hope you love If Kids Ran the World as much as we do, and I’m including Leo here. Every thought and brushstroke is an act of kindness and grace.

May the sun always shine upon you, may you always remember to be grateful for your many blessings, and may you bask in the pure joy that comes from helping others. Thank you for sharing the light.




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