In a snapshot: Elba has a big block. She's been dragging it around for a long time.
Norris dances everywhere he goes, even uphill. He is always surrounded by a happy cloud of butterflies.
Can Norris and his butterflies help ease Elba's sadness and convince her to join them on a trip to the ocean?
The idea for Maybe Tomorrow came about when a student asked me if I ever got writer’s block. I said, “No, Emily, I’m more likely to have too many ideas.”
The notion of ideas like butterflies kept following me around as if I were some kind of Norris, and, eventually, dour and sad Elba presented herself to me. She was dragging around her block (NOT writer’s block, but a deeper block made physical).
Working with children, as I do, I think it is important to address life’s big issues through art and books. Issues, for example, like death and sadness. Maybe Tomorrow does this, focusing on friendship and its power to help us go on.
While I am used to illustrating my own work, being paired with the AMAZING Ana Ramirez was a stroke of good fortune. She’s a wonderful adoptive mom to my characters. Also, I like that we are both immigrants!
While I love it when people support their local bookstores, amazon is featuring a pre-order for this book. Check it out here.
Mud, Sand, and Snow
I’m so excited about my new book with Islandport, an amazing publisher right here in Maine. It’s my first board book! It takes a little girl, her family and her friend, through Maine’s seasons: Mud, Sand, Snow indeed! (Also sunflowers, crows, and so much more…) Look for it in April 2019!
Love is All of Us
This image was my Women’s March sign. My daughter, Anna Simmons, encouraged me to make it more widely available.
Love IS All of Us!
If you wish to have this on a t-shirt, a mug, stickers, a poster (and more) please visit my shop at Redbubble!
My friend Robert is a dashing teacher (note his laptop cover)…..
Earlier Picture Books
These books date back to the early 90s! Some of these books are hard to find, so check your local library! Books are funny, though; they sometimes return with new life (in paperback, in "school edition," or even in another language). The internet can help you find copies of these books. If you are shopping, please support your local, independent bookseller, whenever possible! (In my hometown, we are fortunate to have two independent bookstores: the Gulf of Maine and the Bowdoin College Bookstore).
The Sailor's Book The Sailor's Book was my first book. It was published in Canada, by Firefly Press in 1991. It was originally supposed to be a chapter book, or so I thought. I got stuck writing, and starting doodling. The first few lines were originally notes I made in the margins of an illustration. After the book was published, my friend Barbara pointed out to me that it was autobiographical - there was my Swedish self, and my Hong Kong self. I'd never noticed that. Art is funny for what it can tell us about ourselves. Often the artist doesn't quite realize what is going into a piece (speaking for myself!).
Mud Makes Me Dance in the Spring I Wear Long, Green Hair in the Summer Wind Spins Me Around in the Fall I Slide into the White of Winter The winter book was the first one I wrote. Mark Melnicove, who was at the time editor of Tilbury House, asked me if I couldn't do a book for each of the seasons. A quartet. It was such a wonderful vote of confidence. These books are my "fictional autobiography." They are based on experiences I had with my young family.Did everything happen just like it does in the books? No. As my daughter used to point out, her father would never fall asleep under a newspaper on the beach. And I would have gone to the beach, even with no sleep and a grumpy baby. To me, these books are both fiction and encapsulated memories of who we once were.
These books also came out in French. A friend once saw the entire set in a bookstore window in Lyons, thrilling me greatly. (Les Edition du Sorbier) Unfortunately, the translation was not so wonderful.
Dancing Feet Dancing Feet was published by Harcourt in 1994. The New York Times Book Review ran an illustration from it, and said that it was "ebullient" (dictionary.com). That is just what I hoped it would be. The cover was inspired by Swedish midsommar dances, which tend to be ring dances. The book grew out of a rhythm that was stuck in my head. I Swam with a Seal I Swam with a Seal was written long after I swam with a seal (quite by accident, in Harpswell, Maine), but the experience stayed with me. It made me wonder – what might animals think of us? All the animals in the book are Maine animals. This was another Harcourt book (1995). Both of them were edited by Liz van Doren. To the Island & Up the Mountain To the Island and Up the Mountain were published by DK Ink in 1998 and 2000. The editor was Dick Jackson. It was fun doing books about animals who act like people. These books celebrate ordinary pleasures and small moments – picnic pickles, blackberries on a mountain, a rainy morning. There are a number of books about Chicken, Cat, Rabbit, and Dragon in my warehouse of unpublished stories. I like to think of them frolicking in the files.
Maine is always my muse. I love to make cards!
Summer Sails on!
Sometimes, a picture book becomes something else. Here’s a small book I did long ago, now a short video, much enhanced by my son Jon Simmons’s music.
Welcome Home or Someplace Like It is Aggie’s story. Why hasn’t her mother ever taken her to the small town in which she grew up? Why does she leave Aggie and her brother Thorne there for a whole summer? Will Aggie uncover the family mystery? Will she make friends with the bold and enigmatic Mad?
Some reviews of this book, published by Henry Holt (2003):
"Written with humor as well as reflection, Aggie's breezy, first-person account of her experiences makes engaging reading." --Booklist
"[Aggie's] takes on Ludwig, her family, home, and what it means to be a teenager are fresh, funny, and self-aware." --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"[Agell] creates in Aggie a wry observer whose narration is punctuated by the Zen sayings of her totem, a clay Chinese fisherman names Old Henry, and augmented by her sketches to make an altogether fresh and pleasing package." --Kirkus Reviews
"This novel has strong and winning characters; excellent pacing; and a lazy, nostalgic setting." --School Library Journal
"Small town America never looks as good as when Agell (as Aggie) writes about it." --Kliatt
Shift (Young Adult)
What would happen if you were fifteen and lived in the United Christian States of America, and the government was running a salvation for profit scheme? What if your father were missing and your scientist mother was forced to work for the evil regime? What if you and your psychic little sister had to cross the Deadlands with a love interest and an endangered penguin? Read Adrian’s story to find out!
This novel was published by Henry Holt in 2008.
Thanks to the Theater Project of Brunswick, Maine, for turning this into a fabulous Young People’s Theater Play!