Maryann Cocca-Leffler is the author and illustrator of over 40 books for children. She grew up one of five children in a large Italian family in Massachusetts where her mother was often found rolling meatballs while her father picked tomatoes in their garden. As a youngster Maryann enjoyed going to school, listening to The Beatles, drawing, and painting. By the time she was in fourth grade she knew that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, and she even painted a full-scale mural on the outside of her family’s garage door as a teenager! Her experiences as a child inspired many of Maryann’s books and illustrations, including Bus Route to Boston, which describes famous Beantown landmarks such as Bailey’s Ice Cream Shop and Filene’s Basement, and Wednesday is Spaghetti Day, which details her love of Italian food. Her book Mr. Tanen’s Ties, the tale of a school principal and his colorful collection of neckwear, was a 2001 Florida Reading Association Children’s Book Award Winner and 2003 Hoosier Young Book Award Winner.
A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art, Maryann currently lives in New Hampshire with her husband, Eric, and their two daughters.
Princess K.I.M and the Lie That Grew
Kim is very nervous about starting in a new school. She fears the other kids will not like her. So when she learns that there is another girl named Kim, she announces that her name is K.I.M. for Katherine Isabella Marguerite and that she is from a royal family. This gets her lots of welcome attention, so her fanciful story grows. But she has told everyone that her grandmother is the queen, so when she announces that grandmother is coming to visit, Kim does not know what to do. Fortunately, a surprise visit from Grandma Betty saves the day, but Kim herself realizes that it does not pay to lie and that she is really happy just being plain Kim. The cartoony characters behave like typical kids in a variety of spaces from small vignettes to streams across a double page. The text varies in size and placement, mostly in blocks of a few short lines, but becoming large and sweeping as Kim’s imaginative stories are told. Glitter adds to the appeal of saucy Kim on the jacket while the end pages overflow with the trappings of royalty. Readers will be amused by Kim while they understand her predicament and perhaps learn a lesson. 2009, Albert Whitman & Company, $16.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewers: Ken and Sylvia Marantz (Children’s Literature).
Mr. Tanen’s Ties Rule!
Career Day opens at the Lynnhurst School with the eagerly awaited “Tie Ceremony.” This is the day when the students take over the jobs that adults do at school… and one lucky student even gets to take over Mr. Tanen’s job, the principal at the Lynnhurst school! Each student is given the perfect tie which matches their new job as the “teacher,” and everyone in the school begins the day with great enthusiasm. All goes well, except for the unplanned visit of Mr. Apple, the director of schools, and Mrs. Harding, all the way from Washington, D.C. She is visiting to decide whether Lynnhurst School should win the National School Award! The author pokes gentle fun at the director through both illustrations and dialogue. He worries that the visit is not going well, and he cannot quite seem to find Mr. Tanen, though the rather tall student in P.E. catches his eye. Not to worry, though. Predictably, Lynnhurst emerges the winner in the end. Each page is bright with color, movement and expression, drawing the reader in to thoroughly enjoy the humor in the illustrations above the text. 2005, Albert Whitman & Company, $15.95. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Diane Carver Sekeres, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Jack’s welcoming teacher Miss Lucinda celebrates the first day of school by asking her students to reveal their talents. Miss Lucinda is good at gardening, Michael is an excellent speller, and Francesca is savvy about soccer. Jack’s turn comes last and he recounts all the marvels he has heard and then tells his class that he is not good at anything. His wise teacher corrects him, telling him he is good at remembering and Jack’s smile is wide as he sees her truth. This is a great book to initiate a talk about the special hidden gifts your child is bringing to school. 2007, Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.00. Ages 4 to 7. Reviewer: Susie Wilde (Children’s Literature).
Maryann’s school presentation is based on the theme of her latest book. She presents a Powerpoint slideshow that both educates and excites, inspiring children to create their own art and stories. Through her presentation “The Story Behind the Story”, she shows how a book is developed from concept to finished book. She tells what sparked the idea behind each book and shares her storyboards, sketches, and paintings. Her presentations are geared for grades K-4 (although she will adjust for higher grades), and for grades K-2 she will make a drawing for the school to keep. The presentation ends with a question and answer session.
Maryann does a maximum of three sessions per day with each session running about 50 minutes. During free time, before or after sessions, she is happy to sign books. The average group size for her presentations is 40-50, although if a microphone and screen is available, she is willing to present to up to 200 people.
Fees: Local school visits (under one hour from Amherst, NH) are $1050/day. For over a one hour commute: $1100/day. Out-of-state visits: $1200-$1500/day plus travel and hotel expenses where necessary.
To learn more about Maryann Cocca-Leffler and her publications please visit www.maryanncoccaleffler.com.