With Author/Illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton
The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all. Which is why I came up with my ABC game. My new series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘Top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.
Feel free to play along, maybe your answer off the top of your head will match theirs. Enjoy!
Our ABC game contestant today is Vanessa Brantley-Newton, author and illustrator of and and also illustrator of numerous picture books and chapter books
to show a few.
Below is Vanessa’s list of categories from A – Z along with her answers.
ANTONYM FOR AWFUL: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious
BEST SONG EVER: Feeling Good
CARTOON CHARACTER: Bugs Bunny
DAY OF WEEK: Friday
ENDANGERED SPECIES: Tiger
GOD OR GODDESS (NAME A): Venus
HAPPINESS IS: being loved
ICE CREAM FLAVOR: Chocolate
JEWEL: Ethiopian Opal
KINDNESS…: Is a must
LAUGH (WHAT MAKES YOU): Stories told by my favorite Comedian Arnez J
MUSICAL: Daddy Long Legs
NAME THAT STARTS WITH ’N’: Natasha
ONOMATOPOEIA WORD: Hooty Hoot
PIRATE NAME: Black Jack Shellac
QUIET PLACE: Old country house
UNUSUAL COLOR: Magenta
VERB (ACTIVE): Leap
X NAME: Xena
YOUNG ADULT BOOK: Solo
ZODIAC SIGN: Libra
ME: Welcome Vanessa! Wow! As I read your Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious category sheet, I answered them off the top of my head too and we had three in common: Friday (I love Fridays!), Venus, and cedar. I am envious I did not think of Bugs Bunny though. Is he one of your favorites and if so, why?
VBN: Oh my gosh is one of the very first cartoon characters that I would fall in love with! I love the antics and the comedy of him.
ME: Bugs is the coolest! Speaking of cool, I’ve heard you sing; you have a beautiful voice. It’s uplifting and soulful. Makes sense you chose FEELING GOOD as the best song ever. But there are a few songs with that same title. Which one is the song for your answer? When did it become the best song ever for you?
VBN: Feeling Good by Nina Simone! I first heard this song many years ago. It was something about the way Nina sang it. It was a song of course, but poetry at the same time and even after that is was a story for me. It created word pictures for me. It speaks to my soul as an artist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXqKswtX_KU
ME: I understand why! That song resonates loving life. Makes sense why that’s the best song ever for you since your love for life shines through you and your illustrations as well as your love for uplifting music too. I’ve heard you sing…you are wonderful! You fill your audience with joy.
I cannot place the musical DADDY LONG LEGS, but the title suggests it could be about a dancer, a basketball player, a musician, or an arachnid…will you tell us about it?
VBN: I am a big fan of musicals and this one has two of my favorite actor/ dancers in it. Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.
Daddy Long Legs is a stage musical based on the novel of the same name by Jean Webster. It was written by John Caird, with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon. Set in turn-of-the-century New England, the musical tells the story of orphan Jerusha Abbott of the John Grier Home and her mysterious benefactor who agrees to send her to college, who she dubs “Daddy Long Legs” after seeing his elongated shadow. Under the conditions of her benefactor, Jerusha sends him a letter once a month, describing her new-found experiences with life outside the orphanage.
ME: I cannot believe I did not recognize that musical classic! Leslie and Fred were incredible! Like your ‘G’ and ‘H’ answers, that story is filled with love. I’ve read numerous picture books you have illustrated and in each one, love shines through your illustrations and you also infuse humor. I’m not sure you can share any of Arnez J’s stories, but maybe you can share one of your favorite stories with us that makes you laugh.
VBN: I come from a very religious background and so much stuff went down at church. First of all it was like going back into the 50’s when you walked in. It was filled with characters that I still remember! My mom use to make the most delicious Pineapple Upside-down cake this side of heaven! Oh my goodness, it was truly to fight and die for!! Okay, so the Pastors wife was a very spiritual woman and pious. I never saw her ever come out of her face at anyone, but this Sunday my mom had made her cake and brought it to the church social. Well, other members had brought their cakes too, but there was something magical, spiritual, almost life altering about this cake. Now, my moms’ cake was famous at our church and everyone always wanted seconds and third of this cake. The Pastor’s wife didn’t treat my mom the best and was a little smug when it came to my mom, but something would come over this poor woman when it came to my mother’s Pineapple Upside-down Cake!! The Pastor’s wife would sneak downstairs to the kitchen and tell the other women to hide my mother’s cake. It was my mom’s joy to see people eating that delicious cake! So mom comes down stairs to the church kitchen and see’s everyone else’s cake except hers and of course she went to investigating where the cake might have gone. These where church women mind you, so they didn’t want to lie, so no one answered. She asked again because there were people asking about it? “Where is Sister Shirley’s Pineapple Upside-Down? We’ve been waiting the whole service for it.” So my very bold mom rushes into the church kitchen to find her cake hide in the back of the fridge in somebody ‘s cake carrier with the Pastor’s wife’s name on it! I guess we all have weaknesses! LOL!
ME: Wow! The poor Pastor’s wife was sick with jealousy over your mom’s delicious cake. She must not have known the secret behind your mom’s cake was that it was made with love just like Mother Nature makes things. Such as the Ethiopian Opal. Is there a tidbit or story behind this answer? Could this tidbit or story have anything to do with Captain Jack Shellac? 😉
VBN: LOL!!! I just love Ethiopian Opal. The pinks and blues and greens are just beautiful. All the colors that I love all mixed into one beautiful opal. That is all I know. Nothing deep! Tee hee~!
ME: They have an ethereal quality. Somehow I think maybe someday, one will appear in one of your beautiful books. 😊 I am adding to my mustread list of books, and need to know if the SOLO book you named is the one written by Kwame Alexender?
VBN: YASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! Magnificent Book!! Get it and read it.
ME: Yay, I was correct! I just added it to my list.
When I read ‘Walruses:… rock’, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious images floated through my mind. Like your newest books this year that I have not read yet… I am leaping into the future here…what can you tell us about your current or upcoming projects? (am hoping a walrus appears in one of them soon.) Feel free to use art here to show us or text to tell us.
VBN: So, I really love relationship stories. Grandma and granddaughter situations because I spent a lot of summers with all of my grandparents and they were totally interesting to me!!! So I wrote a story about a little girl who is interested in what is in her Grandma’s Purse and so goes the name LOL!! I love all things retro, but as a child I didn’t see myself in children’s books in the 60’s, Not until Ezra Jack Keats came out with The Snowy Day. I also loved Madeline, but she never had a black friend and this saddened me deeply because I always thought that she and I could have been great friends. So, with the help of Nancy Paulsen and Random House Books I will be doing a book about the black Madeline so to speak. LOL! Her name is Jewels. I am very excited about this book! It will be done in pen and ink and I can’t wait to share it with the world. I haven’t worked on it yet, but I can share some images from Grandma’s Purse due out in Jan 2018!
ME: So glad you gave us a sneak peek into GRANDMA’S PURSE and your new black Madeline book!
Thank you Vanessa for playing ABC’s OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD! This was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious fun! We can’t wait to enjoy your new books. 😊
To learn more about Vanessa and her or her books, you can find her at:
Thank you Readers for stopping today. If you enjoyed this edition of ABC’’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD, please share it and leave a comment for Vanessa or me.