Thursday, April 5, 2012

Banana Peelin' with Audrey Vernick

I am just plain giddy here in Bananaland this month. Not only are my local Target and public library getting face lifts (my homes away from home), but I have won a critique with the Picture Book Whisperer, Mira Reisberg! I don't think I have won anything in my entire life, except when I play my kids in a mean game of Hungry Hippos. (No. I don't feel very good about myself. But it's just too easy!)

Oh and here, at this very site, this very month, we have Liz Garton Scanlon, Amy Novesky, and Jill Esbaum, not to mention today's guest, the wonderful Audrey Vernick. There is some award winning talent here folks and I can hardily contain myself. Actually, I haven't contained myself at all. Oh, how my family suffers, as well as the children's librarians, oh and the baristas down the way and that one lady at the gas station.

In all seriousness, what has truly left the largest impression on me that I just have to share has been the generosity and humility of each author listed above. They set the bar high folks in talent and Coolness. (Please note it's Coolness, with a capital c).

In fact, Audrey Vernick, today's Banana Peelin' author has offered to giveaway:

1) Her latest book, Brothers at Bat (Eeek! Lucky ducks!)

2) A ball signed by three of the Acerra brothers (This offer made my heart drop. Literally, it was on the floor. Splat.)

How might one win one of these items?
To enter to win the book, leave a comment below. If you wish to win the ball, please indicate so in your comment and explain what baseball has meant to you and your family. Two winners will be drawn using

Ladies and gentleman (Hi Eric!), let us welcome Audrey Vernick.

I enjoy creating and participating in events that tie in with the themes of my books. I’ve spoken at the Baseball Hall of Fame, celebrated my middle-grade novel, WATER BALLOON, with my kids and their friends in a faux water balloon fight right before its launch party, read IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? to students in the very classroom in which I was a kindergartner.

So I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to celebrate Effa Manley Day with the Newark Bears. Effa Manley was the subject of my nonfiction picture book, SHE LOVED BASEBALL, the co-owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles, a Negro League team.

I met with the Bears’ new management. We agreed on a date. My publisher graciously donated books to be given to the first 50 kids through the gate. The book trailer for SHE LOVED BASEBALL would be shown on the big jumbo-tron . The team’s manager, former Yankee Tim Raines, would read my book to kids before the game. We even arranged for Effa Manley’s niece to throw out the first pitch.

Now, you sort of have the punchline already in your brain, since you know that banana peel moments aren’t shining examples of everything going according to plan.

It began early in the week when we learned that Effa’s niece couldn’t get to the stadium. I decided my daughter would throw out the first pitch instead.

I invited family and friends, far and wide, and was touched by how many made the trip. But I had a sense, as the gates opened, that things weren’t going to be running smoothly.

There wasn’t a copy of SHE LOVED BASEBALL anywhere in sight. The ticket-takers knew nothing about it. It took a long time to track down my (busy, overworked, stressed) contact at the Bears and have her arrange for the books to be at the two gates.

Tim Raines, it turned out, was letting a player go (aka firing him) at the time he was supposed to read my book. So they sent down a utility infielder of questionable literacy. He was game and an awesome sport, but it was uncomfortable. SHE LOVED BASEBALL had never before seemed like SUCH a long book. But we all looked forward to seeing the trailer on the jumbo-tron once the reading finished. At least there’d be that.

Except he took so long to read that they showed the trailer while we were still in the green room, listening to the longest-ever reading of a picture book. We were told they’d play it again at the end of the game. After the fireworks.

Then it was time for my daughter and me to go on the field. The scoreboard welcomed us with a big misspelling of our names—Anna and Audrey Bernick.

Anna threw a crazy arching shot that miraculously landed right in the strike zone. My sisters were still laughing about Bernick, but everyone else was cheering.

A lot went wrong, but I spent the night in the company of wonderful relatives and friends, doing a better job of not stressing out than I’d have been able to do a few years earlier.

At the end of the night, many had left, but we stayed to watch the fireworks. And to watch the trailer on the jumbo-tron. It was awesome against the black sky backdrop.. It really was.

When I talk about Effa Manley Day, I usually leave out the way her niece dropped out, the books nowhere in sight when we arrived, the sweet infielder who most decidedly was NOT Tim Raines who gamely made his way through my book in about 27 minutes, the way we missed the initial viewing of the trailer on the jumbo-tron. Oh, and in a classic example of how maybe they really didn’t get it over there at the Newark Bears’ ballpark on this particular night, they chose to have the mascot named Effa sit out that night, while her counterpart, Rupert, carried on with mascot antics.

It was a mess. A mess I invited loved ones to witness. But we still had fun.
Audrey Bernick Vernick, thank you SO very much for being so incredibly kind and participating in this series.  I wish you nothing but the best. =)  

Ms.Vernick has just a few books under her belt.

Recent books:
My next book out is Brothers at Bat, illustrated by Steven Salerno, published by Clarion 2012
So You Want To Be A Rock Star, illustrated by Kirstie Edmunds, published by Walker 2012

Other books:
Bark and Tim: A True Story of Friendship, co-written with Ellen Glassman Gidaro (my sister), illustrated by Tim Brown, published by Overmountain Press 2003
Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, published by Balzer & Bray (HarperCollins), 2010
She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story, illustrated by Don Tate, published by Collins (HarperCollins), 2010
Teach Your Buffalo To Play Drums, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, published by Balzer & Bray (HarperCollins), 2011
Water Balloon, published by Clarion, 2011

Bogart & Vinnie: A Completely Made-Up Story of True Friendship, illustrated by Henry Cole, published by Walker, 2013
Edgar's Second Word, illustrated by Priscilla Burris, published by Clarion 2014


  1. Hilarious! A classic example of "if something can go wrong, it will." Seriously, I was looking for something that *didn't* go wrong, and...just nothing! Audrey, thank you so much for sharing your experience - in the moment, it's awful when things go so spectacularly wrong, but oh, the stories you get to tell after. :) Congrats on your latest book!

    Elizabeth, I also loved your amusing intro and shout-out to our very own Eric. (Maybe we should put a routine together and take the show on the road.) And your lineup this month is stellar. I have to agree with you about the generosity of spirit - I've encountered the same good humor and willingness to jump in while gathering my poets for Poetry Month. What a wonderful thing is the kidlit community!

    P.S. Book = yummy, but leave the baseball to the fans.

    1. Renee. I goofed. I replied but below your comment. Whoops!

  2. the idea taking the show on the road. Let's use your roads though. I am not sure why, but Italian roads seem much more appealing to me. :)

    Yes, this community truly is something special.

    And I love your Poetry Month. You are pretty much a genius. :) The whole video footage+nature. Awesome.

  3. Once again, I was completely entertained by your humor, Elizabeth!

    Wow! There were enough banana peel slips in your baseball experience to feed a barrel of monkeys! But, obviously those slips did not trip you up, Audrey...and your last name is well-known among us picture book lovers :-)

    I'm with Renee...I'd love the book, but leave the ball to a fan who's dying to get their hands on it.

  4. Elizabeth -- I really appreciate being referred to as a gentleman! Thanks :) Another great post -- Hungry Hungry Hippos huh? I love that game -- If we ever meet in person, I challenge you to a game!

    Audrey -- I think I would have been freaking out with the series of unfortunate events that happened to you on that day! I loved that there was a happy ending -- seeing your book trailer on the jumbotron -- that had to have been really cool! Thanks for sharing your banana peel story!

    1. problem. :) Hungry Hippos seems to be a hit among adults. We should create a Hungry Hippos, SCBWI Edition!

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  6. That was a great post, Audrey. Love the misspelling of your name on the Big Screen. I was presenting in a college classroom yesterday, and my power point didn't work and I didn't have back up notes!! So, I had to do it from (very poor) memory! But we all learn not to sweat these things that are beyond our control, otherwise the stress-level will be unbearable. I'm always so glad to read that I'm not the only one these things happen to, and I really admire your positive attitude through it all.

    My 6 year old son is a baseball fanatic, so he'd love the book and the signed baseball. We have several baseball picture books already, but I know he'd be thrilled to get another one.

  7. May I suggest we schedule a "Hungry Hungry Hippos" tournament at the next national SCBWI conference? Seems we've found common ground for a competition!

    I cringed through the story - thank goodness for Anna's great aim! Very humbling, Ms. Bernick. LOL

    1. I just let Eric in on Hungry Hippos, SCBWI Edition. It's on Cathy! :) Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Great post! And congratulations for staying so calm. I'm not sure I could do the same -- especially during the "reading."

  9. GentalMAN... Bahahaha I almost fell out of my seat laughing so hard! *Waves hi to Eric!*

    Audrey, I would have passed out. I would have stressed sooo badly, I would have just fainted (probably right into the lap of the Effa mascot!). You seemed to have handled it with grace. Bravo to you!

    I'd love the book! The baseball would end up the same way Babe Ruth's signed ball from the movie The Sandlot did. Out dog is huge, our kids like to throw balls for him to catch, he never returns them. So, save it for someone who has a little hampster and maybe a good trophey case!

    Loved this, Elizabeth!!

    1. Too funny. Way to think ahead about that ball. That would be too sad! Loved the description! Thanks so much for your support Bethany!

  10. Wow! That IS one heck of a banana peelin' story. But to see your book trailer under the bright lights? That must have made it worthwhile. Another great post in this fab series!