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My Writing and Reading Life_ Jeanne Birdsall

Jeanne Birdsall, Author of My Favorite Pets | My Writing and Reading Life

The Children’s Book Review | July 18, 2016

My Writing and Reading Life_ Jeanne Birdsall

I write because . . .

I’m lucky enough to be pretty good at it but mostly because I was terrible at all my other jobs.

I read because …

I’ve always read and can’t seem to stop.

Latest published book …

My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class, illustrated by the brilliantly funny Harry Bliss.

You wrote this book because …

I finally discovered a character I’d been searching for: wild and warm-hearted Gus. And because my friends Jane and Tom Dyer had just acquired a pet sheep, well, it was inevitable.

Best moment …

… was in October, 1973, when I kissed (and was kissed by) Ken Bosne, the sexiest and most gorgeous man in my high school or maybe anywhere.

Your special place to write …

In my garden when weather permits. In a comfy chair overlooking the garden when it doesn’t.

Necessary writing/creativity tool …

Vast amounts of time alone for imagining and strategizing.

The person who has been my greatest writing teacher or inspiration is …

Anthony Trollope, T.H. White, Eva Ibbotson, Muriel Spark, Angela Carter, E. B. White (the essays!), Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, John Fowles, Alice Thomas Ellis, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth von Arnim, and a million other writers.

Currently reading …

I just finished Adam Gidwitz’s new tour de force, The Inquisitor’s Tale. It’s not just very well-written—Gidwitz’s authorial voice is a delight—but also fun to read, and a model of what historical fiction can and should be. Other recently read books that I highly recommend: The Ghost Network, written by Catie Disabato and published by Melville House, one of my two favorite independent publishers. (The other is Small Beer Press.) The Lie Tree and Cuckoo Song, both by Frances Hardinge, one of our best YA writers on either side of the Atlantic. The Humans, by Matt Haig, and Deep Secret, by Diana Wynne Jones, which eerily echo each other in a way that makes me want to read both again and soon. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, which I am foisting onto all of my friends. So far everyone has loved it. Watch this guy Sloan. Big things to come.

Favorite bookshop …

In my hometown of Northampton, Massachusetts, it’s Broadside Bookshop, a five minute walk from my house. In the rest of the state, I choose The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline. There’s also a bookshop I visit in my dreams, where the shelves stretch up to the ceiling, packed full of books I’ve never read but know I’ll love. There’s also a special table for a middle grade trilogy about Dutch children . . .written by me! Each time I dream it, I say the same thing. “There you are—I’d forgotten about you. Are you out of print or something?” I still don’t know the plot but I love the design, which echoes Raggedy Ann books I had as a child.

All-time favorite children’s book you didn’t write…

Edward Eager’s Knight’s Castle.

Favorite illustrator …

Other than the three who have illustrated my books—Matt Phelan, Jane Dyer, and Harry Bliss—I’ll go with Jean-Jacques Sempé and Quentin Blake.

A literary character to vacation with …

I prefer to vacation alone so that I can do exactly as I want, like sleep all day. But if the children from Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Cosmic were staying nearby, I wouldn’t mind having a few lunches with them as long as Frank came, too.

When you aren’t reading or writing you are …

… gardening or asleep. I don’t include eating because I read during meals.


My Favorite PetsMy Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class

Written by Jeanne Birdsall

Illustrated by Harry Bliss

Publisher’s Synopsis: A hilarious picture book from New York Times bestselling author of The Penderwicks Jeanne Birdsall and New York Times bestselling illustrator Harry Bliss about one child’s outrageous school essay on his “pet” sheep.

Things to know about sheep:
Sheep live outside.
Sheep have wool.
Sheep will not learn to ride a skateboard.
Sheep will not climb a tree.
Sheep will come into the house…but this will get you into trouble.

Seventeen sheep plus one Gus means that life is never dull on the farm! From National Book Award winning author Jeanne Birdsall and New York Times Bestselling illustrator Harry Bliss comes a hilarious tale about man’s other best friend.

Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0385755702

Available Here: 


About Jeanne Birdsall
Jeanne Birdsall

Jeanne Birdsall

When Jeanne Birdsall was young, she promised herself she’d be a writer someday–so that she could write books for children to discover and enjoy, just as she did at her local library. She is also the author of The Penderwicks, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Penderwicks on Gardam StreetThe Penderwicks at Point Mouette, and The Penderwicks in Spring.

Jeanne lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with her husband and an assortment of animals, including a dog named Cagney. You can find out more about Jeanne, her books, and her animal friends at JeanneBirdsall.com.

About Harry Bliss

Harry Bliss is a cartoonist and cover artist for the New Yorker magazine. He grew up in upstate New York amidst a family of successful painters and illustrators, and is also the illustrator of A Fine, Fine School by Newbery-Award winner Sharon Creech and Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin; among many others. Harry lives in South Burlington, Vermont. Learn more about Harry and his work at HarryBliss.com.

Discover more books like My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Classwritten by Jeanne Birdsall and illustrated by Harry Bliss, by checking out our reviews and articles tagged with , and ; plus, be sure to follow along with our Writing and Reading Life series.

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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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