Teachers & Librarians

Penguin Young Readers

Author Access John Bemelmans Marciano

JOHN BEMELMANS MARCIANO carries on the legacy begun by his grandfather, Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of the Madeline books, with stunning watercolor artwork and playful, energetic storytelling. John Bemelmans Marciano is the author and illustrator of several other books including Delilah and Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline's Creator. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


You can learn more about THE NINE LIVES OF ALEXANDER BADDENFIELD here.

If you are interested in hosting an appearance by John Bemelmans Marciano at your school, library, or conference, please use the online request form, send an email to authorvisits[at]us.penguingroup.com with possible dates, your school name, location, details about the day, and your contact information.


Author Appearance Q&A with John Bemelmans Marciano

What can a school, library, or conference expect when you are making an appearance? What do you do differently with audiences of varying sizes, ages, and interests?

In schools and libraries where I am presenting to a dozen kids or more, I like best to do a kind of workshop where I lead the children through the creation of a new Madeline story or a sequel to The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield. The focus is on their understanding the structure of a narrative and learning the importance in storytelling of introducing conflict and resolving it. It is a very flexible presentation that expands easily to all sizes and school ages. In a conference or library setting, I very much gauge the audience. Sometimes, I focus on my family history and the creation of Madeline; at others (specifically those with adults interested in the process of making books), I speak about the transformative nature of having helped foster the Brooklyn community of authors and illustrators, from curating the large "Drawn In Brooklyn" exhibition at the Brooklyn Public Library to being involved in the Bookmakers Dozen (actually thirteen) and working alongside some of the most talented people in the business (Brian Floca, Sophie Blackall, John Rocco, Sergio Ruzzier, and Edward Hemingway) in our studio together. From a perspective of the work itself, I am most interested to talk about writing for different ages, having written and/or illustrated board books, picture books, and chapter and middle grade books, as well as non-fiction books for adults. What particularly fascinates me about the latter is how one can maintain their voice writing when writing across a broad audience spectrum, and how writing for children should never involve dumbing down or overly simplifying one's material.

What makes your author appearances unique?

I think my ability to engage audiences with storytelling is what makes my talks different. With the exception of a picture book reading where I get kids to hold books up, I never use images in my presentations. My wife is a set designer for theater and opera and she says that whenever a designer uses a projection of any kind the audience looks at that and only that—the actor is lost. I see the same thing with any author or illustrator using PowerPoint. What I like so much about creating a story with a group of kids is not only the high level of interaction and what they learn, but that together we create something unique. I also love telling stories on a non-interactive level, but to do it spontaneously. I never give the same talk twice; no matter how much I may be hitting the same basic points. As far as the content of what I do, I think my range of books makes me unique, as well as my family history.

Do you enjoy making appearances for adult audiences? What do you do when presenting to adults?

I love talking to adults, especially when it comes to the process of making books. (See second half of first answer.)

What can schools and libraries do to ensure a successful appearance?

I think so long as schools and libraries let their kids know what to expect, there are no problems. I can't think of a single event I've done that I wouldn't call successful on some level.

Do you enjoy traveling to other parts of the country for appearances?

One of the reasons I like to do appearances is so I get the excuse to travel. It is just about my favorite thing in the world to do. (After eating good food, which is often best done in conjunction with traveling.)

Do you ever make appearances at more than one school in an area? Could schools and libraries from one area join together to bring you to their institution?


What do you hope your audience will come away with from your presentation?

First and foremost, I hope that they will be entertained. Second, I would wish that they think a little differently about the next book they read, having learned more about how they are made. I also can be quite opinionated on my favorite subjects—the state of picture books, what classic kids' books really aren't that good, why great authors are often the worst people in the world to give good writing advice—so I hope that they will also come away challenged.

What was your favorite/most interesting/most memorable appearance experience?

The best story a class I talked to ever came up with involved Madeline going to New Hampshire, falling into a deep cave, and being saved by a monkey who did the cha-cha-cha. I am still trying to figure out how to use it.


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