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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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Updated: July 26, 2016

This is part of the super-fantabulous Bonus Page for WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, Debbie's first solo picture book, published by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in 2015.

If you're interested in finding out more, please visit the Simon & Schuster website, the WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Bonus Page or follow my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Facebook page


WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 5, New Jersey): Lincoln Elementary, Hillside Elementary, Taylor Swift, book jewelry, cupcakes and Books, Bytes & Beyond

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see

It was Stripes Day at Lincoln Elementary, in honor of the little girl in I'M BORED. Photo: Jackie Soroko.

I had been looking forward to the New Jersey leg of my book tour for many reasons, but one was because I had been so enjoying tweets by indie bookseller, Books, Bytes and Beyond. I love the sense of humor and excitement about children's/YA books that comes across in tweets like this one:

I was picked up at 7 am the next morning. Part of the reason: MANY students in the Jersey City area had pre-ordered my books. YAY! This meant, however, that I'd have to sign a LOT of pre-ordered books during my lunch hour. Which would be okay, except that I also wanted time to eat and chat with BB&B.

So instead, I opted to visit Books, Bytes & Beyond before my school visits that day began:

One of my book tour highlights was hanging out with Mary Brown and Trish Bernabeo of Books, Bytes and Beyond:

Not only are they incredibly passionate about getting children and teens excited about books, but they are lots of fun to hang out with. While I signed books, our conversations ranged from books (of course) to authors to Star Trek to food to the children's publishing industry. Mary is also Jordan Brown's mother, and I was delighted to discover that Jordan used to be in a band.

With Jackie Soroko and students at Lincoln Elementary (Wyckoff, NJ).

But back to signing. I find that while I can chat while I'm doodling in the books, I can't chat while I'm signing with text. You'd think I would have learned from last year's signing session with Michael Ian Black, when I started writing my I'm Bored-themed message in the front of Naked!

So our conversation tended to be sporadic. I'd sign a bunch of books, then give my tendons a break and chat, then go back to signing, etc. We still managed to get in a lot of fun conversation. :-)

Chatting with K-3 students at Lincoln Elementary. Photo: Trish Bernabeo.

The first school visit was Lincoln Elementary in Wyckoff, NJ; Trish accompanied me to both schools that day. Many thanks to media specialist Jackie Soroko, who ended up doing more setup for my visit than she expected when one of the other staff couldn't attend that day. And it was her birthday, too!

I discovered that Lincoln had declared that day "Stripes Day" in honor of the little girl in I'M BORED; even the principal was wearing stripes! Not only that, but Jackie showed me a table at the front where the students had their found object art on display, inspired by me.

I was so moved that I had fiercely tell myself dontcrydontcrydontcry and focused on the presentation.

Hillside was just as fun! As the students were coming into the gymnasium, I chatted with some of the younger students near the front. These were some of my favorite conversations on the book tour, when I had the chance to chat with smaller groups of young readers.

Sometimes they noticed my handmade book jewelry:

The earrings were made by library assistant Marj Engle via Etsy, and the NAKED!-themed necklace was a gift from my friend Diane Paine-Wheeler.

Talking with K-2 students at Hillside Elementary (Closter, NJ). Photo: Trish Bernabeo.

After my presentation at one of the schools (I can't recall which one), Trish and I passed a girl in the hallway who said that the reaction of the students was "like Taylor Swift came to visit our school!

With Principal Mary and students at Lincoln Elementary (Wyckoff, NJ)

I was flattered, of course, but I was even more impressed by the fact that these students loved books and reading so much that they were HONESTLY EXCITED about the creators of the books. Again...kudos to the teachers and librarians of these schools!

Drawing the girl from I'M BORED for Hillside students

Between the school visits, Trish took me back to Books, Bytes and Beyond and I did more signing plus had some lunch. And CUPCAKES! I love cupcakes. Or rather I love cake in general and I also love miniature food, so cupcakes are like a dream food for me. And darn, I forgot to take photos of the cupcakes.

Chatting with K-3 students at Lincoln Elementary (Wyckoff, NJ). Photo: Jackie Soroko.

After my presentation at Hillside Elementary ended, I hurried out to the car. Why the rush? Because I knew timing was going to be tight re: getting to Allentown Public Library on time; I had several locals tell me that they didn't think I would be able to make it. I told the driver not to break any laws but to please PLEASE do what he can to get me to the library as quickly as possible. 

To be continued (!)....


WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 4, North Carolina): Irving Park Elementary, New Garden Friends School, Scuppernong, why I love talking to K-4 readers

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see

Melanie Mendenhall introduces me at Irving Park Elementary. Photo: Kira Larson.

The next morning in Greensboro, NC, my driver and I arrived at the school early. Which made me very happy; I FAR prefer being early than late or just barely on time...less stress, and it gives me a chance to get my bearings and breathe. I asked him to find somewhere peaceful to wait and he discovered this beautiful park:

We both stretched out legs, got some fresh air. So wonderful to start the day in such a beautiful setting, with the birds singing and sun-dappled shadows all around. 

Kira Larson, my contact at Scuppernong Books, came to greet me when we arrived at Irving Park Elementary. Kira had left Scuppernong since I had interviewed her for my blog, but was kind enough to accompany me anyway; thanks to Kira for taking photos during my school visits, too! I also enjoyed meeting Irving Park Elementary Media Specialist, Melanie Mendenhall:

Melanie Mendenhall and Kira Larson at Irving Park Elementary

While we were waiting for all the classes to arrive, I started doodling on the flipchart easel. One of the students came over to greet me and I decided to sketch her:

I had great fun doing two presentations at Irving Park Elementary, and the audience of young readers was super-enthusiastic. Yay for books and reading! I had fun chatting with some of the students in the front rows as the others were filing in for each presentation.

Also had a wonderful time with my presentations at New Garden Friends School:

Talking to students at New Garden Friends School (Greensboro, NC). Photo: Kira Larson.During my book tour, I talked to groups of many different sizes. I don't have as much in-person public speaking experience as some other authors/illustrators so was expecting to be super-nervous in front of the larger crowds. 

What I discovered, however: When I was talking about something that I cared about, I tended to forget about being nervous and focused on connecting with my young audience instead, to help them see why I was so excited and why they should be, too.

I especially love talking with the K-4 age group. They are so honest and upfront in their reactions and affections.

With Michele Larson at New Garden Friends School (Greensboro, NC). Photo: Kira Larson (Michele is Kira's Mom!).

Thanks to Michele Larson, Erin, Meg and the other faculty for making me feel so welcome. Check out the great welcome sign above! They also presented me with a very cool New Garden Friends backpack and a mug. I used the backpack to carry some of my gear to my Toronto book launch a week later.

After my presentations at New Garden Friends, I headed to Scuppernong Books, a lovely bookstore and cafe. The cafe serves organic coffee and espresso, wine and beer, and fresh sandwiches and sides all made in-house. Co-owner Brian Lampkin saw me taking a photo of the sign mentioning my name out front and came out to greet me:

Brian made me a sandwich and I had one of their specialty green teas while I waited for my session time. YUM. Thanks to the adults and children who came out to see me! I especially enjoyed meeting Caroline and her family:

Caroline and I had already been interacting via Twitter and other social media. Her children had made me this adorable card:

And it was also great to meet Ena Jones; Ena and I have the same literary agent: the awesome Ginger Knowlton of Curtis Brown. Ena's book, Clayton Stone, At Your Service debuts this fall from Holiday House!

My Music Express driver had strongly advised me to leave Scuppernong a bit earlier than planned in order to catch my flight from Piedmont to NYC; if there was heavy traffic, I might not make it. Happily, traffic was okay and I arrived at Piedmont International Airport with a bit of time to spare. 

Another driver was waiting for me when I landed at LaGuardia:

Ordinarily I would have chatted more with the driver, but I was pretty wiped; I nodded off a couple times in the car. It had been a fun day, but very busy. :-) I went to bed very soon after checking in.

Continued in Part 5...


WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 3, Illinois): Peterson Elementary, River Woods, Media Escorts, Questions From Students

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see

With AnnSchimmoler at Peterson Elementary

At Peterson Elementary (Naperville, IL), I was delighted to see that Aaron Reynolds had visited the school in the past:

Aaron Reynolds signed poster at Peterson Elementary

In fact, Aaron's visited several of the schools I've been doing virtual visits with as well as some of the schools I visited on my book tour. Everyone raved about his fun and informative presentations. They were excited to hear that I'm illustrating a new picture book written by Aaron, SEA MONKEY AND BOB (coming out from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers in Fall 2016).

I hope to meet Aaron in person someday!

Love the student art on the ceiling in the Peterson Elementary library!

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had a media escort with me: Genene Murphy, who works with Bill Young Escort Company. When Genene picked me up the first morning, I had assumed she was just a driver. As we started talking about the plans that day, however, I realized she was much more.

ME: "Waitasec. You mean you're going to be with me the whole day?"

GENENE: "Of course! I'm your media escort."

As soon as I realized that Genene was going to be watching over me while I was in Illinois, I could feel my whole body relax. And I wasn't wrong...she was FANTASTIC. She went with me into schools and helped to make sure everything was running smoothly. She asked so many questions that I wouldn't have known to ask, like whether I'd be expected to sign books and whether there were special needs children in the audience. The latter was good to know because then I would be prepared if there were certain kinds of interruptions.

Genene also kept an eye out of my well-being, helping make sure I didn't get too tired or hungry but also helping to keep me on schedule. Sometimes it was a challenge to do both, but Genene was SO great. I learned a great deal by asking questions as well as just observing her in schools.

She also took photos during my events as well as asking the school's permission about whether I could post them online. Here's one she took of me doing a found object drawing demo with students at Peterson Elementary:

I varied my presentation a bit from school to school, depending on the number of students, their ages, their reactions during the first part of my talk, and how much time I had.

Talking with K-2 students at River Woods Elementary (Naperville, IL)

I so appreciated the warm welcome that schools showed me during my book tour. Check out this wonderful welcome sign that greeted me when I arrived at River Woods Elementary in Naperville:

With Mary Giuliani at River Woods Elementary (Naperville, IL)

Another highlight of my trip: the questions that students asked during the Q&A. In some schools, students had questions prepared ahead of time. In others, they made them up on the spot and you never knew what they'd be asking.


Q: "May I have some water?" 

Q: "When do you get tired?"

Q: "Do squirrels attack people?"

My answer to the last one was (of course) NO, but then another little girl put up her hand and volunteered the fact that squirrels DID attack people, she saw it in the news. I quickly changed the topic. :-)

 Rearranging my carry-on at O'Hare before flying to Greensboro, NC

After River Woods, Genene drove me to O'Hare International Airport. It was hard saying good-bye Genene; I so badly wanted to take her with me the rest of the trip! But I don't think she would have fit in my carry-on, plus after me, she had another client to watch over. Genene was efficient, fun, easygoing and did a fantastic job at helping everything run smoothly, plus I felt well taken care of. If you're looking for an excellent media escort in the Naperville, IL area, I strongly recommend her services.

I had several hours at O'Hare before my flight, so had time to rearrange my carry-on (in case they forced me to check my bag) and also look around. I loved all the art on display in the airport, including these benches. Turns out that the benches were hand-painted by Chicago teenagers as part of a program called After School Matters, which employs teens and has them work with professional artists to create unique pieces of art while also learning valuable job skills. What a great program!


My flight to Greensboro, NC was delayed so I ended up not getting to bed until pretty late (late for me, anyway). Stayed up long enough to do some prep before my pickup the next morning, then crashed.

Continued in Part 4


WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour (Part 2, Illinois): Carol Stream, Science and Arts Academy, Avoca West and Anderson's Bookshop

For an index of all my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Tour recap posts, see

At Carol Stream Elementary (Carol Stream, IL)

Because of my work schedule and the fact that I don't drive, I tend to do more virtual school visits than in-person. Also, I'm relatively new to the industry compared to some others; I've been TRYING to get into the industry for far longer :-), with my first book illustration project (I'M BORED, written by Michael Ian Black) coming out only a few years ago.

With Deanna (artist who created the book-themed decorations) and Gabriela at Carol Stream Elementary

This was the FIRST TIME I had ever visited schools where so many were already familiar with my work. More than once, I arrived at a school to find that some students were already avid fans of I'M BORED or NAKED! 

Many of the schools did advance prep by reading some of my books, researching online and going through some of the bonus material in my Teacher's Guides (thank you, Marcie Colleen!) and on my book pages. The first- and second-graders at Carol Stream showed me the squirrel masks they had printed out from my Where Are My Books? Bonus page:

Carol Stream Elementary invited students and families to prepare for the visit by exploring their Padlet and for students to submit their questions ahead of time.

Students at the schools I visited also tended to be familiar with my face because of the posters and handouts they had seen in advance of my visit, so when I arrived at a school, I often saw them whispering to each other, "That's the author!"

How cool is that? And this isn't just about author-illustrator ego (though I do admit that bit was nice) but more about young readers who love reading so much that they treat the creators of books with such excitement. Kudos to the librarians, teachers and booksellers who do so much to encourage young readers, and the parents who encourage lifelong reading habits at home. 

Marcia and Darlene at Science and Arts Academy (Des Plaines, IL)

It was wonderful having a media escort with me the first two days; I learned a great deal from watching Genene Murphy in action, listening to the questions she asked, asking her advice. More on media escorts and Genene in Part 3.

Thanks also to Anderson's Bookshop (Downer's Grove location) for working with the schools in IL to help organize my visits and book pre-orders. I saw one of the order forms up at Science and Arts Academy, and it included info about me as well as my new book:

Speaking of Science and Arts Academy (Des Plaines, IL), I was so impressed by the creative student work on display everywhere, especially the art. Check out these cardboard portraits, for example. WOW:

Next stop on the first full day of my book tour was Avoca West Elementary. I was especially excited to visit Avoca because their Kindergarten and 1st Grade students had chosen I'M BORED as their ITC March Madness Champion a couple of years ago:

I was also delighted to finally meet Avoca West students Lindsay and Laila, who did this great reading of NAKED! last year:

And yay, I also finally got to meet K-5 media specialist Susan Geidner:

So enjoyed chatting with her students! As I signed pre-ordered books in the library, I admired the decorations as well as cozy reading nooks, like this one:

I had dinner with my friend, children's book author Patricia Murphy. I first met Patricia back in 2009 at the SCBWI Los Angeles Conference. I didn't know many people and this was also before my first children's book contract, but I clearly remember how welcoming and friendly Patricia was to me back then. Patricia has many, MANY books out in the world, but one of her newest projects is Mama, LOOK!, a picture book she's doing with Caldecott Medalist David Diaz (and one of my early illustration mentors). Publication is scheduled for spring 2017.

Thanks to Patricia for her advice about throat care (I nearly lost my voice at one of the schools where the microphone wasn't working properly) and for coming out to my book event at Anderson's Downer's Grove:

Patricia ended up being the ONLY person who showed up for the evening event. I admit to being embarrassed (AUGH! I wasn't a big enough a draw to attract people to the store!!), but it ended up being a nice evening anyway: as I signed stock, we had tea and chatted with Genene Murphy (my media escort) and Kathleen March, Children's Book Manager at Anderson's Downer's Grove (pictured on the left below). Wonderful conversation, much of which focused on what we were all reading/enjoying.

I mentioned Karen Krossing's PUNCH LIKE A GIRL, among others.


Before I left, Kathleen invited me to choose any book in the store to take with me. I asked her what middle grade she had loved reading lately, and she recommended this book:

Looking forward to reading this!

HUGE THANKS to Patricia for coming out to my Anderson's event and for her encouragement. She had asked me to sign her copy of the book ahead of time to avoid the line-up, and she ended up being "the line-up." She even stuck around the whole evening to keep me company. *snif*

The world could use more people like Patricia Murphy. 

 And thus endeth my first full day of the book tour.

I was pretty beat by the time Genene dropped me off at the hotel that evening, but rewarded myself with a luxurious soak in the hotel tub:

I messaged the photo above to Jeff but I was so tired that I accidentally messaged Genene instead!! I only realized it the second after I sent it, of course. Happily, Genene has a sense of humor. :-D 

Continued in Part 3...



WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? Book Launch at Another Story Bookshop

Playing my tin whistle at my book launch. Photo: Kevin Sylvester.

Oh my gosh, I had SO MUCH FUN LAST NIGHT at my WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? book launch! Thank you again to everyone who came out last night. I know how busy people can get and how many other commitments and events are out there, plus it meant taking the transit or driving during rush hour for most of you. Please know that I deeply appreciate you taking the time and effort to help me celebrate in person as well as support Another Story Bookshop.

Before the event, my sister Ruth took me out for dinner to celebrate the launch of my first solo picture book (thanks, Ruth!) and then we headed to Another Story Bookshop. In case you missed it, here's my profile and mini-interview with this wonderful Toronto indie bookstore.

With Sheila Koffman, bookshop owner. Photo: Ruth Ohi.

When we arrived, Shannon Vaughn from Simon & Schuster Canada was there with supplies. She and Ruth assembled fruit skewers while Jeff set up the book-themed cake and cupcakes.

Jeff, Shannon (Simon & Schuster Canada) and Ruth during setup

Thank you so much to Michelle Colombo for the adorable mini-cupcakes and to Danijela Pulcini of L'il Chick Cupcakes for the creative book-themed cake:

In case you were wondering, Jeff and I didn't give Danijela any specific instructions except a copy of the book. We both love what she came up with! And here are the cute little cupcakes by Michelle Colombo:

There were copies of WHERE ARE MY BOOKS? and NAKED! for sale. Originally the store had also planned to have I'M BORED available but after sending half the books to a book fair, Sheila said that all the copies had been bought and they sent the rest of their stock to the fair. Apparently I'M BORED has been selling very well for them, yay!

 Meanwhile, some of my friends were starting to arrive. Like actor and writer, 'Manda Whitney:

Photo: Ruth Ohi.

and children's book author Sharon Jennings:

Photo: Ruth Ohi.

and I finally got to meet Robin Marwick in person! We've been online friends for years, from Livejournal days:

I did a reading of WHERE ARE MY BOOKS?, explained how I got the idea as well as My Thing With Squirrels, talked briefly about my process, played my tin whistle, enlisted the help of some young attendees to demonstrate how to create a character using found objects (in this case, ripped up pages from a magazine).

Photo: Another Story Bookshop.

Afterward, I signed books and chatted with those who came out to the event (THANK YOU THANK YOU AGAIN FOR COMING!!!).

And huge thanks again to Another Story Bookshop and Simon & Schuster Canada for making this event possible.


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