Happening Soon at Square Books Junior


11/04/2014 4:00 pm


In this latest entry in the #1 New York Times-bestselling series, Skippyjon Jones, the Siamese cat that thinks he's a Chihuahua dog, stars in a Snow White-esque fairy tale set in the winter wonderland of his imagination. Includes a bonus CD. Full color.


“I was the last child and only daughter born to Edward and Mary Francis Byron on August 20th, 1951 in the city of Waltham, Massachusetts. My oldest brother Ted was very good at art and my middle brother Kevin kept me laughing with his funny stories.

Growing up we didn’t have much money. My mother was very ill, and to make matters worse, I was extremely shy. All my teachers complained that “Judith needs to speak up in class, Judith needs to improve in arithmetic, and Judith needs to finish her work on time.” But no one complained about my artwork. On paper I drew myself a world where mothers were healthy and teachers were kind. My life was perfection in pencil.

In 1969, Massachusetts College of Art accepted me as a student despite my poor SAT scores. I graduated in 1973 with a BFA in illustration and went straight into the greeting card factories which included a stint at Hallmark. For five years I designed cute cards, sad cards, funny cards, and wedding cards. I was not having fun; in fact I never wanted to pick up a paintbrush again.

Then I met my husband, Bob, and for the first time in many years I could step off the 9 to 5 treadmill and devote all my energy to creating a portfolio of children’s book art. That was until two little baby girls were born. Then motherhood became my favorite new job.

Over the years I read hundreds of books to my daughters. Inspired by the art and words, I was moved once again to finish my portfolio and take it on the road to New York. That’s when I met Lucia Monfried.

The most important relationship in publishing is that of the author/illustrator and her editor. I am most lucky to have Lucia. With her gentle encouragement and wisdom she took me by the hand and helped me accomplish the impossible. In 1995 I not only illustrated my first picture book but I wrote it too. Willy and May was published to wonderful reviews and no one ever suspected my fear of semi-colons.

The great thing about my job is that one day I can be writing about history, as I did in Mr. Emerson’s Cook. The next day I’m drawing a wacky old woman for I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie. Or I can bring to life a beloved pet cat in my book The Grannyman. I live in a constant state of 3rd grade bliss – making up stories and drawing pictures. Isn’t that what we all did as children?

Several years ago the great author Lloyd Alexander stood in my back yard admiring my daughters’ Viking ship (that’s another story.) Never in my wildest fantasies did I ever think that my art would inhabit his world of words. How the Cat Swallowed Thunder proves that dreams really do come true.”


ISBN-13: 9780803737891
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dial, 10/2014

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There long had been a plan -- almost since Square Books opened, in 1979 -- to find a location around the square to establish a stand-alone children's bookstore. In fact, it was when Richard Howorth was looking for such space in the early 1990s that he happened upon the soon-to-be vacancy of Denton's Furniture Store. But the old store was very dark and cavernous, too much so for a children's store. Nevertheless, Howorth signed a ten-year lease with Bennie Denton because he had also dreamed of a stand-alone remainder store, and thus was born Off Square Books, in 1992. But the quest for a special place for children to have their very own bookstore was not over, and when the Tourism Council office became available on the east side of the square, next to Neilson's, and just below the upstairs of the original Square Books, the bookselling team excitedly began to prepare to open what would become Square Books, Jr.

Their first idea? DON'T TELL ANYBODY!! The booksellers covered up the windows with paper. No one knew what was going on there. No one knew who had rented the building. People thought it would be another bar. Then they thought there would be more lawyers. One person was even saying that it would be a place where prisoners would be placed when jail became overcrowded. But the booksellers kept their secret, and began ordering new children's books, LOTS of them. More Ferdinand! More Polar Express! More Ramona the Pest! And puzzles and games and stuffed animals and art supplies and things that Square Books had never had before!

Things began to come together for Square Books Jr. early in the summer of 2003. Remember any significant children's book being published in June, 2003? A book, like, in a series? That's right, you Muggles! -- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phonenix! So Square Books advertised a special event for the release of the new Harry Potter on June 21. But people were advised to come to the old store, the main Square Books, and that it would open at 6 a.m., and that anyone who came dressed as a Harry Potter character, or whose parents were dressed IN THEIR PAJAMAS would be treated to a breakfast of juice and doughnuts and get at 20% discount off their Harry Potter book.

So at six that morning a line formed (you've never seen so many grown-ups in pajamas with their embarrassed children!) outside Square Books, but there was a problem, a big problem. Square Books had been CLOSED by order of the Ministry of Magic. No one could enter, the door was boarded up. But someone had left behind Marauders' Maps, which sent people on a Harry Potter scavenger hunt around the square -- to the Magic Mirror at Gathright Reed (now Regents Bank), to Professor Dumbledore (Matt Parks), to Professor Snape, to Professor McGonagall (Katie Snodgrass, the first Junior manager), to the Bank (First National), where clues were given all along the way. The last clue was the Phoneix feather, which let you into this mysterious new building that still had the windows covered in paper. And what was there? THE BRAND NEW NOTHING-BUT-CHILDREN'S-BOOKS BOOKSTORE!!! SQUARE BOOKS, JR!!!

Katie and Yulanda Bishop, the first Square Books, Jr. booksellers were on the floor that day. Within a week or two Jill Moore came on the scene (one of the best booksellers ever). After Katie went on to other exciting adventures, Lauren Lanza became manager of Square Books, Jr. From day one creating a space the community can enjoy and running a thriving bookstore was a challenge. But the core staff, Jill, Ramona and Mrs. Patton (the lovely Leita) with the help of a bright and talented staff, have made Jr. one of the most exciting things ever to happen to Oxford. From Day One, Jr. has ROCKED!