October 31, 2012
An unexpected perk of being an author is the chance to meet a lot of swell folks. I’ve met enthusiastic readers. I’ve met talented young artists. I’ve met first-rate teachers and librarians and other authors and illustrators. I even got to meet my longtime writing hero.
One of the best guys I’ve met since becoming a writer is Aaron Zenz, pictured with his kids here. He’s the author/illustrator of Chuckling Ducklings and The Hiccupotamus and more. He produces an excellent children’s literature blog with four of his six (!!) children called Bookie Woogie.
Here’s the problem. Aaron’s wife Amity is struggling from multiple brain surgeries she had to undergo in the past few weeks. The surgeries were to relieve pressure on her spinal column and brain, but it has caused more pain, blackouts, and nausea. I imagine it’s challenging enough to keep a family of eight (!!) running smoothly in the best of times, but the Zenzes need help now. Friends and family have set up a site, Friends of Zenz, where you can show your support.
I first met Aaron because he submitted a video for our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival. It remains one of the best videos I’ve ever received for the contest, a 90-second retelling of Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, done entirely with shadow-puppets:
(Here’s my original rapturous blog post upon receiving this astonishingly good video, which went on to win a School Library Journal Trailee award.)
But that’s not all. Aaron and his daughter Lily followed this up with a hilarious 90-second Newbery video for Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron:
(Here’s my original very appreciative blog post of this movie. It’s always a crowd favorite whenever I show it at 90-Second Newbery screenings!)
Later on the kids at the Bookie Woogie blog gave The Order of Odd-Fish a glorious review, and the kids all did exquisite fan Odd-Fish art, which you can find below.
This is all to say: Aaron Zenz is that rarest of combinations, an artist and a mensch. The way he draws his kids into his creations is an inspiration to me. I feel lucky to have met him. I fervently hope his wife makes it out of her medical problems happy and healthy again, and that the medical bills aren’t overwhelming.
Again, you can help out the Zenzes at Friends of Zenz here.
Get well soon, Amity!