Favorite Books

Meet Hassan Manasrah

As part of our ongoing series introducing readers to Penny Candy authors and illustrators, we're happy to present Hassan Manasrah, award-winning illustrator of The Blue Pool of Questions (English-language version to hit the shelves in September!). Meet Hassan, then and now:

Hassan is a visual artist, illustrator, and comic creator. He studied interior design at al Balqa Applied University and painting at The Jordanian Fine Art Center. He also studied printmaking at the Jordanian Fine Art Museum where he concentrated on lithography, etching zinc and copper, and lino- and mono-prints. From 2008 to 2010, he worked as Assistant Art Director for the animated cartoon series Pink Panther & Pals. Since 2010, he has illustrated 25 children books. In 2014, the book Why Not? was shortlisted for the Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature for best illustration and made the White Ravens list. In 2016, he won an Etisalat Award for best illustration for the Palestinian edition of The Blue Pool of Questions.


"Regarding my favorite book," Hassan writes, "it was Bahbahan Is Playing. Bahabahan is the name of a chubby blue elephant with a big red cheeks. I think it's my choice for favorite book because it was the only one I owned for a long period of time. As an adult, I did a little research and discovered that it is a book of poetry, published in 1981. But I only remember that blue elephant—and the large size of the book itself."



Meet Amy Losak

As part of our ongoing series introducing readers to Penny Candy authors and illustrators, we're happy to present Amy Losak. Amy's mother, Syd, as you'll read below, is the author of H is for Haiku, scheduled for release next April. It is with Amy's help and blessing that we're publishing her mom's work, as Syd is no longer alive. Here's a great photo of mother and daughter back in the day:

Amy Losak is a New Yorker (Queens) who now lives in Bergen County, NJ. A seasoned public relations professional (healthcare, corporate, nonprofit, arts/education, etc.), Amy has been on a mission for several years to revive some of her late mother’s literary works—especially her poetry, and most especially, her haiku and senryu for kids. Sydell Rosenberg (1929-1996) was a public school teacher, ESL instructor, and a published writer. She was a charter member of the Haiku Society of America, established in NY in 1968, and her short poems were anthologized in journals, books, and other media over the years. Syd’s alphabet picture book, H Is For Haiku, will be published in April of 2018 (National Poetry Month). Inspired by Syd, Amy dabbles in short-form poetry too now. Some of her work has been published in print and online journals.

Two books had a transformative influence on Amy as she was growing up: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith and the Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery. According to Amy, “Francie and Anne are from vastly different worlds, each one with its own set of challenges. But they are, I think, 'kindred spirits' despite the disparities in their external circumstances. These amazing young women possess a singular vision, compassion, and imagination. They have a deep desire to learn and carve out their own place, their own destiny. Francie and Anne are strong, even indomitable—made of 'thin invisible steel'."

Amy continued, “I wanted to be like them—perhaps Anne, especially, with her feistiness, romantic views about life, and her love of language and nature—and yes, even her 'carrot'-red hair (though she yearned for 'handsome auburn' tresses!). I loved their grit and creative ideas and hopes. These great books (and others by Smith and Montgomery) had a profound impact on my life when I was a girl. My parents even took my brother Nathan and me on a 'pilgrimage' to Anne’s home when she came to live with the Cuthberts: Prince Edward Island. I think I was around 13 or 14 then. It was a wonderful adventure—a dream come true.”

An added bonus: one of Amy's own haiku:

sun clock . . .

my day unwinds

with low-flying sparrows

Meet Quraysh Ali Lansana

Another addition to our series! We've been asking the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood books . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Reacquaint yourself with Quraysh, then and now (with his best friend, Russ, in a 6th grade photo):

Quraysh has taught in elementary schools, high schools, and universities in Chicago, where he lives, and across the country. Known by many as Q, he has written eight poetry books, three textbooks, three children's books, and has co-written a book designed to help teachers teach poetry. Q has also edited eight anthologies of literature, most recently The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip Hop (2015). He has several books forthcoming, two of which center around the poet Gwendolyn Brooks, who was his mentor. Check out a more in-depth profile at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/quraysh-ali-lansana.

About his favorite childhood books, Q writes, “I am the youngest of six, with 12 years between my oldest sibling and me, and four years separating the sibling closest in age. I spent much time in aloneness, a silence only tainted by television, the low hum of domestic violence, or Mama calling from work to check on me. I read a great deal of books.

The Enid Public Library was refuge and dream space.

My best friend Russ Hutchison and I spent every Saturday in the library for six years. All day, from opening to closing time. We loved The Great Brain series by John Dennis Fitzgerald. The escapades of T.D., the conniving and brilliant middle brother in the Fitzgerald family, always set our minds on fire. We likely even tried a 'Great Brain' trick or two on my unsuspecting younger cousins.”

Meet Maya Abu-Alhayyat

Another addition to our series! We've been asking the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood books . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Meet Maya Abu-Alhayyat, author of the upcoming book, The Blue Pool of Questionsthen and now:

Maya is an award-winning Palestinian novelist, poet, and children’s book writer. She has published three collections of poetry: Home Dresses and Wars (Dar Alahlyah, 2016), This Smile, That Heart (Dar Raya, 2012), What She Said about Him (House of Poetry & Qattan Foundation, 2007); and three novels: Bloodtype (Dar el-Adab, 2013), Grains of Sugar (House of Poetry, 2004), and Threshold of Heavy Spirit (Ogarit, 2011); as well as several children’s books. Her writing has been featured in international journals and magazines and has been translated into English, French, German, Swedish, and Korean. Since 2013 Maya has worked as the director of the Palestinian Writing Workshop in Birzeit, West Bank, Palestine. She currently lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children.

Maya has provided a list of her favorite children's books, but not ones from her childhood because, she writes, "I didn't have access to children's books when I was a kid." Maya goes on to explain, "I was raised in the diaspora without my father or mother, who were separated when I was one year old. I lived with my aunt, who was poor, and reading was not a priority. Later, I lived with my father in Tunis. He was afraid that books and reading would make me who I am today :-)." Maya's novel, Bloodtype, explains her complex story and is currently looking for a home with an English-language publisher. 

Maya's favorite children's books: 

Haltabis Haltabis حلتبيس حلتبيس  by Rani Sghair 

The Story of The Squash قصة الكوسا by Samah Idress

Is this a Photo  هل هذه صورة شمسية by Nadin Touma

Hazzur Umm Fazoura حزورة أم فزورة by Rula Sadeh

really really  حقاً حقاُ by K.Gray

Boulqash بولقش by Yara Bamieh

Unimportant Tips for The Young Reader نصائح غير مهمة للقارئ الصغير  by Anas Abu Rahmeh

Author photo by Salim Abu Jabal

Meet Tracey Zeeck

As you probably know by now, we've been asking the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood books . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Meet Tracey Zeeck, author of The Not In Here Storythen and now:

Tracey Zeeck was born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma City, where she currently owns a boutique public relations firm specializing in clients with good business practices and better stories to tell. She and her husband were lucky enough to become parents through adoption in November 2007 and have been on a mission to tell the world their family’s love story ever since. The Not In Here Story is the ever-evolving origin tale of her little family.

Tracey writes of her childhood favorites, "I was a HUGE fan of all Dr. Seuss, and my favorite book of all was Green Eggs and Ham. My mom even made it for breakfast once, but nobody ate it. Anyway, I loved the comforting rhythm. It was so balanced . . . and I still feel that way about it."

Meet Skip Hill

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book . . . and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids! Meet Skip, illustrator of A Gift from Greensboro, now and then:

Skip Hill’s body of art is comprised of illustrations, murals, collage paintings, and drawings that weave a rich tapestry of aesthetic styles, languages, and philosophies rooted in cultures around the world. He explores images and forms from cultural sources as diverse as comic books, Folk art, Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, Graffiti, and European Art History to produce an art that embraces the viewer in a visually engaging experience.

Skip’s early inspiration for making art was established in childhood through a love of reading and when his father introduced him to the work of artist Romare Bearden. Beyond his artistic innovations, Bearden’s activism and commitment to the Civil Rights Movement has influenced Skip’s commitment to using art and art education as a vehicle for affirming positive personal and social change. Follow Skip on Instagram: @skiphillart

Skip writes of his favorite childhood books, "The Henry Huggins series by Beverly Cleary immediately comes to mind. I tore through every new release. Looking back, I realize the boy that was me was drawn to the freedom of the world Henry lived in. I shared his sense of adventure but grew up in a strict, constricting family. The edge of my world was fenced in by my parents’ fear, while Henry and Ribsy could take the bus downtown without a grown-up in sight. I always wanted to do that as a kid.

Looking back, I also considered the idea of identity in children's literature for that time (60's-70's). I don't think I consciously thought of Henry as a "white boy" as much as an avatar for myself. But being the visual art that children's books are, I can't help but consider how this imprinted my personal narrative about Race and my place in this society. There was a sense in the world of my childhood reading that White kids could do so many things we couldn't do. Then Leo & Diane Dillon changed everything."






Meet Mariana Llanos

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book...and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids. Meet Mariana!

Mariana, age 3

Mariana, age 3

Mariana Llanos was born in Lima, Peru, to two journalists. She developed an early passion for writing and studied theatre at the prestigious CuatroTablas school in Lima. She has lived in Oklahoma since 2002, where she worked as a teacher in a preschool center. In 2013 Mariana self-published her first book, Tristan Wolf, which was a Finalist in the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Award. Since then, she has published seven books independently in English and Spanish and through virtual technology has chatted with students from more than 150 schools around the world to promote literacy. Penny Candy Books will publish Mariana's bilingual picture book, Luca’s Bridge/El Puente de Luca, in Spring 2018. Luca's Bridge/El Puente de Luca is the emotional story of a boy coming to terms with his family’s deportation from America to Mexico. 

Mariana Llanos

Mariana Llanos

Mariana writes, "I had so many favorite books when I was growing up, but I'll have to say that The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery had the biggest impact in me. I wanted to be like that boy who lived on a faraway planet and loved a rose. His wisdom and tenderness inspired me to write my own stories when I was just a young girl. Also, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was another book I always came back to. Ah, the humor, the wit! I just had to write my own stories inspired by the wonder-full land of the White Rabbit."

Meet Tiffany McKnight

We asked the authors and illustrators of our current and upcoming titles about their favorite childhood book...and as a bonus we asked for photos of them as kids. Meet Tiffany! Well...you probably already know Tiffany if you've been paying attention to Penny Candy news! Tiffany is an artist, illustrator, graphic and pattern designer, and the creator of the coloring book, NUVEAU: The Future of Patterns. 

Tiffany, kindergarten

Tiffany, kindergarten

Tiffany McKnight

Tiffany McKnight

Growing up with three older siblings Tiffany learned to develop her imagination early in life by creating hundreds of paper dolls by hand, reading fashion magazines, and creating animations through video games like Mario Paint. From the beginning Tiffany always knew one of her many gifts was to explore the arts.

Born in Miami, Florida and raised in Tulsa, Oklahoma, she moved to Oklahoma City and received her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Oklahoma in 2012. Her art is inspired by her love for color, African textiles, Art Nouveau, and biology, and often pays homage to the vibrancy she experienced growing up in Southern Miami.

She currently resides in Oklahoma City and continues to expand her vivid style through an array of media. You can find her patterns recently published on the labels of certain flavors of San Francisco’s own Clearly Kombucha and on luxury wallpaper produced in collaboration with SixTwelve and Ketch Design Centre. Tiffany was named a 2016 Angel Award recipient that acknowledges unsung heroes that have effected positive change in the lives of others.

About her favorite childhood book, Tiffany writes, "Scrambled Eggs Super! by Dr. Suess was one of most favorite books of all time, so much so I still physically own a copy! My favorite thing about Scrambled Eggs Super! was that it allowed my imagination to run wild by showcasing all the different animals and their patterned eggs in the Seuss world! One of my favorite meals is breakfast, and this book really set the standard for me and inspired me to cook perfect scrambled eggs—assisted by my mother. One of my favorite parts of the book is the very last page when the siblings are in the kitchen looking at the rich bounty of all of the beautifully patterned and different sized eggs. I remember being genuinely excited at the sheer amount of eggs they foraged as well as thinking about all of the different things they could create with so many eggs. This book will always hold a special place in my heart, and I cherish the way Seuss illustrated such colorful whimsical books for children." 

Check out http://www.nuveaucoloringbook.com/ and http://tiffanymcknight.com/ for more Tiffany!

Chad's favorite book

Join us all month, beginning this week with Children's Book Week, as we feature favorite childhood books from our authors, illustrators, and staff!! 

Clockwise from top left: Chad age 2.5, book cover, Arnold Lobel, Arnold Lobel self portrait as pig

Small Pig (Harper & Row, 1969) by Arnold Lobel is one of my favorite books from childhood. I like it better than his more well-known and more celebrated books, such as Frog and Toad Are Friends, Mouse Soup, and Fables. Those are classics of the genre,  but Small Pig holds special meaning for me because it taught me that sometimes parents could be wrong and kids could be right. Plus I really liked that pig.

Small pig is the hero of the book, and he loves nothing better than sinking into good, soft mud at the end of a long day running around his farm. Farmer and his wife love the small pig and think he’s the best pig in the whole world. This makes small pig very happy.

But one day the farmer’s wife goes on a spring cleaning spree with her new vacuum cleaner and she goes outside and—whoosh!—sucks up small pig’s mud puddle! This makes the farmer’s wife happy but it upsets small pig greatly, and he decides to run away to find good, soft mud somewhere else.

Small pig visits many places but none of them have what he’s looking for. Finally he arrives at a big, polluted city where construction workers are pouring a new sidewalk. Small pig confuses the wet concrete for good, soft mud and sinks in, content at last.

When small pig realizes his mistake, he’s stuck fast in the sidewalk and a crowd of city dwellers have gathered around. How embarrassing for him! But to his surprise (and ours!) the farmer and his wife have been searching frantically for their beloved pig and driving through the city they stop to see what the crowd is gawking at. It’s their beloved small pig! They rescue him with the help of firemen with jackhammers and take him back to the farm where they give him all the good, soft mud he could ever want.

I loved and related to small pig. I remember feeling intense pleasure that he got to sink into his mud at night. To me, it felt like crawling in bed. I recall the anger I felt when the farmer and his wife cleaned away his mud. How unfair! How misunderstood he was! How at the mercy and whim of his unpredictable owners he was! I remember the fear and excitement I felt along with small pig, the sense of adventure and independence, as he made his way from farm to bog to junkyard to city. And of course I remember the relief I felt at his rescue. The love and understanding. The comfort of returning home and to having a little place to sink into at the end of a long day. I remember remembering all these feelings as I snuggled into my bed, falling asleep while my parents read this book.

Looking back at it, this book taught me that parents (or farmers) aren’t always perfect and that they make mistakes. It taught me that these mistakes can be honest ones. It taught me that kids (or small pigs) have legitimate complaints when they are misunderstood or taken for granted. That sometimes kids might want or need to run away (even if running away if just having some quiet time in your room). That running away is sometimes the only way to learn the true value of home. That parents (or farmers) can’t micromanage their young wards. That sometimes it’s best to compromise. And that home is the place that makes you feel good at the end of the day, like a warm bed or good, soft mud, or the sound of your parent’s voice softly reading you book after book until you fall asleep.