"I'm in awe of animals," Winnick says. "I think they're amazing. They teach me about basic truths."
"Barn Sneeze," which chronicles the journey of a sneeze that affects poultry and porcine alike, is sure to prove contagious among tots as well. The book benefits from Winnick's loose pastel-and-charcoal illustrations, which echo her all-time favorite work of children's literature "Charlotte's Web."
Winnick, the wife of philanthropist and Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick, has been writing and drawing children's books since her single days. She studied under revered illustrator Milton Glaser at the School of Visual Arts. Over the years, she has actively kept in touch with her inner writer by refreshing her skills through UCLA Extension classes. As creative people know, the ability to express one's soul, not formal technical ability, is what separates artist from artisan.
"There are millions of people who draw better than me, and there are millions who write better than me," Winnick said, "but I have a strong imagination."
It was Winnick's love of children and animals that kick-started the L.A. Zoo's Children's Zoo. She also created Winnick's Winners, a $1 million endowed fund that rewards high school reading tutors, and she's a big supporter of KOREH L.A., a Jewish Community Relations Committee literacy program that recruits volunteers to read books to public school pupils. When sports superstar Shawn Green announced his endorsement of KOREH L.A. at a Dodger Stadium press conference a few years ago, Winnick was also on hand, giving away copies of her books to kids.
"I am lucky enough to support things I believe in," she says, " and literacy is where it all begins."
Karen Winnick will read and sign copies of "Barn Sneeze" on June 1, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at Pages Books for Children and Young Adults, 18399 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana, (818) 342-6657.