Leslie Helakoski grew up in Louisiana, and has lived in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania; but luckily for all of us, she now lives in Michigan. I'm pleased to feature Leslie as this week's Michigander Monday profile.
Debbie: Could you tell us a little about your latest books?
Leslie: My two latest books were released this past January. One is a sequel to Big Chickens called Big Chickens Fly the Coop. It is about fear again (surprise!) but this time the chickens try to follow their dream but play it safe by running back to their coop every time they become afraid. It is primarily for pre-school through 2nd grade, and filled with lots of fun verbs and adjectives.
The second book, Woolbur, is about a sheep who does not follow the flock and how the herd handles his differences. This book was on the Book Sense list this spring and won the Great Lakes, Great Book Award for picture book 2008. It is a finalist in the GLBA awards (winners announced in August) and is on the Harper Collins UK list for Australia and New Zealand (big sheep country, don't you know?)
Debbie: And tell us a little about your other books and projects.
Leslie: I enjoyed being part of the Michigan Reads! program this year with Big Chickens as the one state, one picturebook book for 2007. School visits kept me busy but I enjoy reading to kids and traveling around the state. I recently sold a third chicken book to Dutton. It is called, Big Chickens Go to Town, and this time the chickens are lost in a big city. I'd originally thought of it set in NYC but decided to set it in my favorite city, New Orleans, instead. When I told Henry Cole, the illustrator, about it, he loved the idea. We then went to New Orleans with our editor to scope out the scenes we wanted to use. It was not really necessary but totally fun and exciting. I can't wait to see that book.
I'm currently working on a couple of other picture books--always my favorite thing to work on. I'd like to illustrate one of these books myself and am having a bit of a dance with publishers about it. Some publishers like the art and not the manuscript while others like the manuscript and not the art. I should have bought that voodoo doll back in New Orleans.
Debbie: Any upcoming appearances?
Leslie: I'm taking most of the summer off to write and paint and spend time with my family. I am heading to New York in August, though, for an interview with Spoken Arts, a company that makes DVD's of picture books. They will be filming me introducing the book, Woolbur, and placing me inside the artwork. I'm anxious to go to NY but nervous about sounding like a piece of wood.
Debbie: What's your favorite place in Michigan?
Leslie: Oh, my favorite would have to be the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. Absolutely gorgeous, it feels like another country. I can't go there enough. I like it all--hiking the dunes, swimming, tubing, sailing, the islands, the history, everything!
Debbie: And your favorite Michigan event or happening?
Leslie: I love harvest time when you can ride by the vineyards after a warm day and smell the grapes in the air.
Debbie: Care to tell us about a fun Michigan person we should all know about?
Leslie: Many of you already know Lori Eslick, the fabulous Michigan painter and illustrator. She's helped me more than she knows with her honesty and sincerity.
Debbie: Finally, some residents of Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders; others Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: Are you a "Michigander" or a "Michiganian"?
Leslie: That would be "Michigander," Debbie, but I always feel a little like a goose saying so.