Unabridged: a Charlesbridge Children's Book Blog


Afterword from an Astronaut! 0

Did you know that astronaut Alan Bean, the fourth man on the moon, wrote an afterword for Suzanne Slade's Daring Dozen? Slade interviewed Bean for her picture book exploring the unsung Apollo missions; in this afterword, Bean reveals what it was really like to do the moonwalk. 

I’m often asked, “When you first stepped on the moon, what were your thoughts?” Although that moment was the culmination of many dreams and fears, successes and failures—none of that was on my mind. Instead, I was thinking I had to learn how to move in one-sixth gravity as fast as I could. Only then would I be able to do the tasks on the checklist strapped to my wrist, such as gather rocks and set up experiments.

It didn’t take long to learn how to run in a space suit. The knee and hip joints were stiff, but the ankle joints moved easily. So I kept my legs relatively stiff and mostly used ankle motions. It felt and looked as if I were dancing on tiptoe. On Earth I weighed about three hundred pounds with my suit and backpack. On the moon my equipment and I weighed only fifty pounds. This light weight made me feel super-strong, as if I could run forever. 

“This is the moon,” I said in disbelief to my crewmate Pete Conrad while looking down at the dusty gray surface. Then I squinted and stared up at that beautiful crescent Earth and said, “That is the Earth!” It was hard to believe we were standing on our only moon.

  • Colette Parry

Will's Words: The ForeWORD 0

How can we speak of the Bard without using his household words? Shakespeare coined hundreds of words and phrases which are still used to this day; without him, English would be a sorry sight. Jane Sutcliffe's foreword to Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk gives us the long and short of it

Dear Reader: 

We have to talk. I have failed you. I set out to write a book about the Globe Theatre and its great storyteller, William Shakespeare. About how the man was an absolute genius with words and wove those words into the most brilliant and moving plays ever written.

But that's just the trouble. You see, I wanted to tell you the story in my own words. But Will Shakespeare's words are there, too, popping up all over the place. 

It's not my fault. Really. Will's words are everywhere. They're bumping into our words all the time, and we don't even know it. So how could I help it, for goodness' sake?

There, you see what I mean? Those are Will's words, all mixed in with mine. People just love his plays, and they've kept on loving them for hundreds of years–hundreds!

And the more they love his plays, the more they use his words. Now his words and sayings are everywhere, ending up in the stuff we say and write every day. I couldn't avoid them if I tried–and I did try. 

Well, I suppose what's done is done.

Oh. Right. 

Maybe I'll just stop now and let you read the book. 

Yours truly, 

The Author.

Will's Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

  • Colette Parry

E-I-E-I-O! Illustrating Old MacDonald Had a...Zoo?! 6

Iza Trapani stops by to chat about her process for illustrating her new book Old MacDonald Had a...Zoo?


The illustration process for all my books starts the minute I begin a story. My head fills with images, and I start doodling and storyboarding as I work on the manuscript. I find it really helpful to figure out the pagination, to know what text will go on each page. That way I can pace the story, see where I can cut words, change things around, and make sure to move the story forward from page to page. I sketch the storyboard on an 18” x 24” sheet of paper and layout all thirty-two pages of the book on it. Here is the entire storyboard:

And here is a close up:

As you can see, these are very rough sketches. I redo them as needed and glue on revised sketches. That’s why it’s all such a sloppy mess! Then I doodle some larger sketches, like this one:

Then I sketch and re-sketch.  I use a tracing/sketching paper to draw on. This allows me to trace over other images, and if I flip the paper over it’s easy to see irregularities or errors (like one eye lower than another…). Here is the final approved dummy sketch for the above page:

Here it is painted in watercolor and acryla gouache:

Early on, I do character studies in different poses:

My husband is a convenient model and has posed for this and previous books.

And in case you are wondering what’s in the next scene…


The chickens, rooster, horse and dog in this book are friends’ pets. The cat is ours. I also browse endless Google images and books for the animals, scenery, architecture, and whatever I will need to draw. And I drive around and take many of my own photos. So much work goes into the illustrations: sketching, re-sketching, researching, checking for consistencies (in characters, setting, colors), painting, repainting…

The cover is especially important. Contrary to the old adage, we DO judge a book by its cover. It needs to hint at what the book is about and also be appealing. Here are some cover sketches/designs I had done:


And some color studies:

Here’s the final sketch and cover as approved by Charlesbridge:

Poor Old MacDonald…He just wanted to milk his cow and have a normal day on the farm.

Not so…

 But all is well in the end.

Well, almost…


Purchase Old MacDonald Had a...Zoo? for your readers today!

  • Mel Schuit

My Five Favorite Scenes from Select 0

Select author Marit Weisenberg digs deep and narrows down her five favorite scenes from her author debut. Warning: spoilers ahead!!

1. When the entire pack of sixteen highly-evolved teens break the rules and go out in public as a group

This is my most favorite scene, and, because it was the first scene I imagined and the seed that grew into a whole story, I think of it as the heart of the book. It is extra special because it takes place at one of my favorite spots in Austin: Barton Springs, a natural spring-fed pool that has been referred to as the crown jewel of Austin. I move the scene through different aspects of the location — the steep slope of the lawn under the pecan trees, the crowds on all sides of the enormous pool, as well as the serious chill of the water and the eerie plant life floating beneath the surface.

Marit with Executive Editor Monica Perez 

2. When the teens are arrested

This scene was inspired by imagining the night the Kennedys and their power brokers handled Teddy Kennedy’s accident in Chappaquiddick, an incident that resulted in the death of a young woman. The thought of the wealthy and powerful brazenly exerting their influence over the local authorities has always lived large in my mind. And, in other stories, I’ve always loved scenes when officers do their jobs and then find out from a higher up that they’ve accidentally messed with someone powerful who they should have stayed away from.

3. When Julia meets her former bad boy crush and longtime best friend Angus at the dock

I love stories about boy/girl friendships. Friendships between straight males and females can be so complicated, especially as they evolve over time. Even if lives go in different directions, even if one or both have had feelings for the other, I think there is always an extra special bond when two people have grown up together and have a shared history. Nothing can erase that. 

Marit giving a talk at Book People in Texas 

4. When the long overdue blow up takes place between Julia and her younger, breathtaking half-sister, Liv

This was also one of the hardest scenes to write because it had to be full of things the sisters have always been afraid to say out loud. From the beginning stages of writing Select, I knew I wanted to examine a blended family with a very uneasy, unspoken dynamic. What’s it like having a stepparent who makes you feel unwelcome in your own home? And how do children from a first and second marriage who are being raised together deal with the unequal division of love? This scene is where it all comes to a head between two sisters who really love each other but whose loyalties are being tested.

5. When Julia arrives at John’s house at dawn

This scene embodies what I love to write about most: the roller coaster of first real love. I wanted my novel to have romance and heartbreak and that out-of-control feel when the heart has completely taken over despite thinking you’d moved on. Most importantly, I wanted to include how very scary it can feel to make yourself vulnerable to another person.

Purchase Select for your readers today!

  • Mel Schuit