Dara's Blah Blah Blog #6

I am deeply touched by the beautiful review of my new book, Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift, by Marc Pollick, Founder and CEO of The Giving Back Fund. He found the perfect words to convey a message in my story that is most meaningful to me. Thank you Marc!

"Every once in awhile a book comes along that reaches out and touches your soul.  In Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift, author and illustrator Dara Goldman offers a gift to children everywhere replete with a timeless message of gratitude and generosity.  How appropriate for the holiday season!  The brightly colored pictures are so endearing and evocative that the artwork literally competes for your attention with the very moving storyline.  And yet they are woven together masterfully and delightfully.  You almost can't wait to turn the page to be able to enjoy the next set of pictures.  
At the heart of the story is the selflessness displayed by boyfriend and girlfriend bears Boris and Stella.  It called to mind a phrase from a book I once read as a young teenager. "Life's greatest possessions, are those which when shared, multiply; those which when divided are not diminished." I think if children can learn that concept--if all humans could learn and manifest that concept, our world would be ever so much more peaceful and harmonious. This beautifully illustrated book, eloquently exemplifies that concept. Thank you Ms. Goldman for contributing to the increase of kindness and giving in the world!"  

Marc Pollick - President and Founder, The Giving Back Fund


Source: http://www.amazon.com/Boris-Stella-Perfect...

Dara's Blah Blah Blog #5

Have you ever wondered why there are so many bears, mice, and pigs getting star roles in children's books? It's because they lend themselves so well to being upright.   When I first showed my drawing of Stella to my editor, Amy Lenex, she and her savvy editorial team, wondered if using a pig for the non-Jewish character of Stella would detract from  the story. People sometimes ask if I mind when a publisher thinks I should make a change to my story or art.  If I follow their suggestions, am I compromising something by doing so?  The answer is almost always NO!  It is a privilege to work with an art and editorial team who are experienced in the art of bookmaking, and who will give me thoughtful suggestions to improve my story.  Amy and Felicia Macheske, my art director, had some brilliant ideas that made my book better!  We considered some other animals. A kangaroo was a nice upright animal. But, Stella is from Italy, so a kangaroo wasn't logical.  Then we considered a mouse. This posed some interesting and amusing illustration possibilities because the size difference between her and Boris would be enormous. But, would this work through out the entire story?  In the end, I decided Stella should be a bear too.

It took a few sketches to get Stella's clothing right. She needed to be feminine, and girly, but the feather boa felt too much like dress up.  I also wanted her clothing to be minimal so that she could remain more bear-like. We  went shopping for her on our computers!  Felicia found a perfect, little sweater with loops of yarn around the collar. I changed it to a ruffle so it would read more clearly against her fur. Then we changed the flower in her hat to a daisy for a younger look. 


Pssst ... The pig character I first drew has a new name now, Lottie Da. Watch her dance on my "About" page!

Dara's Bla Bla Blog #4

This wonderful review by Maureen Wade at the School Library Journal was just sent to me from my publisher.  She found the perfect words to describe my story and the message it offers. Thank you Maureen!


K-Gr 3–Goldman makes O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi” accessible to younger readers and successfully keeps the tenderness and warmth of the original short story. An Italian bear named Stella celebrates Christmas; her bear friend, Boris, from Russia, celebrates Hanukkah. Stella sells her most precious possession, a pine tree from her family farm, to buy Boris a dreidel. Meanwhile, Boris sells his childhood dreidel collection and buys a star ornament for Stella’s tree. When the holiday arrives and presents are exchanged, they realize what they have done, but their love for each other helps them feel better about their decisions. The juxtaposition of the two different religions and nationalities reflects our diverse world and offers a message of acceptance. The lush watercolor illustrations depicting the holidays in a quaint town carry the same emotions of love and devotion as her text. Even the font, resembling handwriting, lends a cozy, personal touch. Perfect for one-on-one or small group read-alouds.–Maureen Wade, formerly at Los Angeles Public Library


Dara's Bla Bla Blog #3

I always tell my students that illustrators must wear many different hats while they are working on a book. They must be a casting director to cast their characters, a movie director to choose their camera angles, a set designer to find locations, an interior decorator, a costume designer, an actor, and oh yes, an artist!!!  

When I'm writing a manuscript, I usually have a pretty good idea who my characters are, but I don't begin drawing until the manuscript is finished. I think this is because while I write, they are still evolving in my imagination.  Once I begin drawing, I must think about them visually in specific ways. Here are some questions I ask myself to get started:

Is he/she an animal or person?

How old is he/she?                                                                                                           

What time period does he/she live in?                                                                              

Does he/she wear clothing? What kind of clothing?                                                                                 

Is there something about him/her that is distinct or recognizable?                  

 Does he/she have a sidekick? 

From the beginning, I knew that Boris and Stella were going to be animals living in the city, and I knew that Boris was a bear.  But I wondered ... would he be a bear living in a world of people or a world of animals? And if it is an animal world, will there be different kinds of animals or just bears?  

The drawing I made of Boris was almost perfect right from the beginning.  


Pssst ... My father wears a hat like this. 

Dara's Bla Bla Blog #2

The idea to write Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift first came to me about 15 years ago when my children were small. It was bedtime, and I was looking for a picture book to read out loud that I hadn’t already read a million times. That’s when I found The Gift of the Magi. It was a beautifully illustrated retelling by Lizbeth Zwerger, and a story I loved. My version had a lot of text. It was too sophisticated for my children, so I improvised and simplified it as I read. 

O.Henry’s gentle tale is about the art of gift giving but, it is also about love, generosity, and thoughtfulness. I thought it was a story that young picture book readers would enjoy, and a message that was important.  My only question was, “Will they be animals or people?

Pssst ... When I first drew Stella, she was a pig.