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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1,326 - 1,350 of 7,794
1326. Time for a Bath, by Phillis Gershator | Book Review

Time for a Bath is a great way for kids to get excited about taking a bath!

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1327. The Environmental Book Club

No, I am not going to claim that The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is an environmental book. Though, I suppose I could. When I'm looking for environmental books, I look for experienceThe Snowy Day is all about a child's experience of winter, of a snowy day. Peter is immersed in a winter environment.

What I'm going to do, instead, is argue that environmental children's books need a The Snowy Day.

Back in 1962, The Snowy Day broke the color barrier in mainstream children's publishing. Little Peter is African-Amercan. But nowhere in this book is there anything that says, "Oh, this is an important story I'm telling here. Here is a lesson for us all--we're all alike when it snows!" Deborah Pope of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation said in a NPR interview that Peter's ethnic background "...wasn't important. It wasn't the point." She said that Keats "wasn't necessarily trying to make a statement about race when he created Peter." He was a white illustrator who had never used a child of color in his work and decided he would. The Snowy Day is the story of a kid having a good time in the snow. He just happens to be black.

So many children's environmental books are heavy with lesson. The mini-lectures undermine whatever story is there and destroy the experience of being immersed in some natural element. I'd love to see an environmental equivalent of The Snowy Day, in which child characters simply go about their business recycling or composting or living in a solar house or living as a part of some ecosystem or another without hammering readers about the significance of what they're doing.

Maybe for the time being I'll settle for The Snowy Day as an environmental book and read and watch little Peter  surround himself with winter.

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1328. Finding Spring with Carin Berger

In Finding Spring, a little bear named Maurice strikes off on his own in search of Spring, instead of hibernating. It is a story about seeking and about the magic of discovery. It is about those empowering childhood adventures that I remember so vividly – those moments of exploration without an adult supervising. It is also about the elusiveness of that which we seek and the happy accidental discoveries along the way.”

* * *

This morning over at Kirkus, I chat with author-illustrator Carin Berger about her new picture book, Finding Spring (out on shelves next week). Carin has actually already visited 7-Imp to talk about the book, over a year ago, but more on that next week — when she’ll share a bit of art from the book over here.

That Q&A at Kirkus will be here later this morning.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Carin used with her permission.

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1329. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Pinkerton, Behave!

By Stephen Kellogg


It’s the 35th anniversary of the Great Dane, Pinkerton, that arrived at the Kellogg household in 1976 as a pup, and ultimately grew into a favorite of young readers in droves. And Kellogg’s anniversary edition reacquaints both parents and young readers with the reason why they fell in love with this positively peerless pooch.

So,what is the first rule of thumb for all newly minted pups? Why, to follow the commands of its master and family members, of course! And failing successful training by their owners, pups are usually relegated to Puppy Training Classes. They are sometimes, but not always, headed by dog trainers that look with a very jaundiced eye of disapproval at owners unable to hold sway over their dogs.

And woe betide the dog that does not fall in line immediately with other pupils in accepting the trainer’s commands. He, or she, is at once banished to doggie Bogey land. Reason: They are setting a very bad example for the rest of the class.

Enter Pinkerton. He is a Great Dane that is, well, great in size and temperament, but sadly not in his ability to obey the slightest command correctly. For instance, if he is asked to COME, he jumps out the window, fetching slippers quickly turns into a munch fest of the fetchables, and, if bad guys approach and a loud bark is called for, Pinkerton will deluge the perpetrator with slobbery kisses. This puppy appears to have a problem in distinguishing commands!

One solution appears to present itself in the form of the The School of Perfect Behavior for dogs with Director, Dr. Aleasha Kibble the helm and Dr. Kibble runs a tight ship. Ms. Kibble obviously does not suffer fools gladly, nor dogs, that will not knuckle under.

The beloved Pinkerton is such a dog who is quickly dismissed by the sniffy Ms. Kibble when she learns that dogs follow the alpha dog’s example and that, of course, is the lovable Pinkerton!

Pinkerton put me in mind of our own episode with our bichon, BJ, who had his own issues with following commands. We ended up at the local middle school-held obedience class with a whole group of similarly frustrated puppy owners. The trainer was in complete command of her charges UNTIL she tried to demonstrate the technique of a CORRECTION to a dog named Duncan. Duncan was a black Scottish Terrier and was having none of that quick tug of the collar on his neck, so he promptly took the leash between his teeth at the exact proper point, making the snap IMPOSSIBLE! No amount of “Now Duncan, let go!” could convince this terrier to topple to that corrective measure. As I vaguely recall, our class was convulsed in silent laughter as Duncan and his owner were unceremoniously dismissed from class!

After his own dismissal by Ms. Kibble, Pinkerton and his owners get a first hand look at seeing if any of Pinkerton’s mixed up methods of obeying can serve as a deterrent for an unexpected house intruder. Will Pinkerton’s defense mode peter out when it comes to crunch time? OR will Pinkerton’s owners realize that THEY are the ones that have to adapt and adopt Pinkerton’s confused responses to commands, and use them to their advantage in a pinch!

Stephen Kellogg’s 35 year-old Pinkerton is as fresh a picture book pup as the day he arrived on the publishing scene.

And unlike the dour Duncan, he cannot be dismissed ever from the pantheon of lovable picture book pets!




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1330. Stormy Night, by Salina Yoon | Book Review

Salina Yoon knocks this one out of the park with Stormy Night! This book features her most recent character, Bear, as he experiences the terror of a thunderstorm.

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1331. KidLit Author/Illustrator Events Jan. 20-27


I’m sorry I missed posting last week’s events. They were wonderful, so to avoid more shame, I won’t mention any more about them. (Hides head in paper bag.) But look what we’ve got this week!

Please remember to check the bookstores’ websites for the most up-to-date information!

January 22, Thursday, 7:00 PM THE LIVING by Matt de la Pena
Blue Willow Bookshop
Matt de la Pena, YA Author

Matt de la Pena will discuss and sign his fifth novel, THE LIVING (Ember). In this Pura Belpre Author Honor Award novel, Shy takes a summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all. But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy is only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.

The earthquake is only the first disaster. Suddenly it’s a fight to survive for those left living.

January 23, Friday, 6:00 PMFIREFIGHT by Brandon Sanderson
Murder By the Book
Brandon Sanderson, MG Author

Internationally best-selling author Brandon Sanderson will sign and discuss FIREFIGHT (Delacorte). In this sequel to the #1 bestseller STEELHEART:
Newcago is free.
They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable—is dead. And he died by David’s hand.
Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.
Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic—Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

January 23, Friday, 4:00 PM KREMLIN KERFUFFLE: KOSHKI OF THE CIA by George Arnold
January 24, Saturday, 10:00 AM
January 25, Sudday, 10:00 AM
Barnes & Noble, Vanderbilt Square
George Arnold, MG Author

Author George Arnold signs his book for young readers, KREMLIN KERFUFFLE: KOSHKI OF THE CIA (Eakin Press). In this seventh story in the Cats of the CIA, Buzzer Louis, Cincinnati the dancing pig, Dusty Louise, and the kitten twins—Luigi and Luisa—are dispatched to Moscow to help the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) track down the opium smuggling panda from China, Ar-Chee. In Moscow, our secret agents confront a spy-turned-traitor, turned-patriot named Natasha, who presents an ongoing puzzle for them. With the help of Boris Alexandrovich, head of the FSB, and Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, our heroes set a trap for the panda. A trap designed by Luigi and Luisa that’s sure to snare Ar-Chee.

In the process of tracking down Ar-Chee, the heroes learn to speak considerable Russian. You will, too, with a 750-word and–phrase vocabulary and pronunciation guide in Russian, built right into the story.

January 24, Saturday, 2:00 PM SILLY SHOES: POEMS TO MAKE YOU SMILE by Lawson Gow
Blue Willow Bookshop
Lawson Gow, Children’s Poet

Lawson Gow, author of SILLY SHOES (Bright Sky Press), will meet and greet customers. The world can seem so serious, and sometimes people just can’t think of a reason to smile. SILLY SHOES, a collection of whimsical, endearing poems, gives kids just the tickle that’s needed. Life is good, and SILLY SHOES reminds us of the color and fun that surrounds us, if we’re willing to look. No matter what’s going on, Lawson Gow proves that there are always things to smile about if you just put on your silly shoes and tie them up tight!

January 24, Saturday, 2:00 PM THE PRIOR by Katie Lea Yates
Katy Budget Books
Katie Lea Yates, YA Author

KBB welcomes back Katie Lea Yates as she discusses and signs her young adult book, THE PRIOR (Rocking Horse Publishing LLC), sequel to THE PROVIDER, a huge hit with both the young adult and middle grade book clubs last summer.

Please visit KBB’s Event page for important information.





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1332. Metacognitive books: How early should they be introduced?

During the last few months I’ve encountered a number of children’s picture books with a self-reflective or metacognitive approach. The texts encourage readers not just to reflect or think (cognitive) but to think about their thinking (metacognitive). Since the books’ illustrations were eye-catching and the topics were relatable, I read them to some three-year old children. Some really enjoyed them while others got lost and disengaged easily.

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't FitAll of these books are creative. In Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Rayner, the reader follows a moose who doesn’t fit onto the page as he tries to squeeze different body parts into view, leaving others out. Finally, his nameless squirrel friend has an idea. Take masking tape and extra sheets of paper and build out a page so the reader can fold out the final sheet, quadrupling its size to show all of Ernest. The children, silent, seemed mesmerized by Ernest on every page.

Open Very CarefullyAnother favorite is Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The story begins as that of the Ugly Duckling and is narrated by one of the ducklings. The expected story is quickly interrupted by a crocodile who climbs into the book and eats letters and words. Later, the narrator asks the reader to shake the book and rock it from side to side so the crocodile will leave the pages. The rocking just puts the crocodile to sleep, but this allows the duckling to draw on him. Waking suddenly, the crocodile tries to run out of the page and hits his head. Finally, he chews a hole — literally — in the back cover and climbs out.

monster end of bookOther examples include David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs, the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of this Book, and the new social media sensation by B. J. Novak, The Book with No Pictures.

These texts demand more active thinking from readers while they listen to the stories. I was a bit hesitant to read these books to small children, but after doing so have come to the conclusion that they in fact help to “wire” their reading habits and other skills such as problem solving and perspective thinking.

What do you think?



The post Metacognitive books: How early should they be introduced? appeared first on The Horn Book.

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1333. The Adventures of Bella & Harry: Let’s Visit Edinburgh!

Bella and Harry, two adorable Chihuahuas, visit countries around the world with their family of people. In this edition, Bella and Harry visit Scotland.

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1334. Horton and the Kwuggerbug and More Lost Stories, by Dr. Seuss

This exciting release of HORTON AND THE KWUGGERBUG AND MORE LOST STORIES has Dr. Seuss fans, young and old, heading to the bookstore.

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1335. Book and Boogie in 2015!

Hope it's not too late in the month for an enthusiastic…..Happy New Year! Thanks for hanging in here with me, as I know my posts have been a little few and far between lately. I'm happy to report, though, that I already have a couple fun posts lined up for the coming months. So stay tuned!

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight Book to Boogie -- a feature on The Library as Incubator Project website that I help curate. It's a monthly series that pairs picture books with dance and movement activities for preschool story time. The series already includes 19 posts, which means 19 great ideas for bringing movement into libraries, classrooms, dance studios, and homes!

I always try to feature the latest Book to Boogie posts in my Read & Romp Roundups, but you can also follow the series at The Library as Incubator Project itself. The mission of this wonderful project is "to promote and facilitate creative collaboration between libraries and artists of all types, and to advocate for libraries as incubators of the arts." This mission really comes out in Book to Boogie and the many other features on the site.

To entice you even more, here is a list of the talented guest bloggers who make the Book to Boogie series possible. Click on their names, and you'll see just how passionate they all are about integrating movement and the arts. Wow!

Jayne Gammons (kindergarten teacher)
Julie Dietzel-Glair (freelance writer and library consultant)
Maria Hanley (early childhood dance educator)
Amy Musser (children's librarian)
Jill Homan Randall (modern dancer and teaching artist)
Liz Vacco (dance, yoga, theater, and early childhood educator)

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1336. Review of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich

sarcone-roach_bear ate your sandwichstar2 The Bear Ate Your Sandwich
by Julia Sarcone-Roach; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Knopf   40 pp.
1/15   978-0-375-85860-4   $16.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-98242-1   $10.99

“By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened.” An offstage narrator spins this entertaining tale about the fate of a missing sandwich. The narrator’s creative version of events begins with a hungry bear, a berry-eating binge, a postprandial nap in the back of a pickup truck, and an unexpected road trip to the big city. All the while, we see words at entertaining odds with the pictures: those “high cliffs” the bear notices are the skyscrapers in the big-city landscape to which the truck has inadvertently transported him. Sarcone-Roach uses a vibrant color palette in her impressionistic paintings, gleefully depicting the bear exploring unfamiliar terrain. To her credit, the question of the narrator’s identity — and reliability — may not come up for readers until book’s end. If they do wonder, the diverting story and illustrations help to keep it a surprise. After the bear returns to the forest, the silver-tongued narrator’s subterfuge quickly falls apart, and the truth is unleashed (“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”). The book stands up to repeat readings; the illustrations (and endpapers) beg for more attention.

From the January/February 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The post Review of The Bear Ate Your Sandwich appeared first on The Horn Book.

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1337. Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Back of the Bus

By Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Floyd Cooper


It may seem strange perhaps to post a book on Rosa Parks’ act of defiance on December 1, 1955, to honor Martin Luther King on his national holiday, but as so many other events in history, they are interlinked. When Rosa Parks defied the Montgomery, Alabama city code that required them to not only sit in a separate section of the city buses, but to give up their seats if white passengers boarding, could not find seating in the all white section! Young readers need to be reminded how life was for many of our citizens in the not too distant past. And that is what “Back of the Bus” helps to achieve in telling the Rosa Parks event through the eyes of a fictional black child and his mother seated on the bus that day.

Aaron Reynolds fills his book with small events to portray the small boy as just a child riding the bus with his mom as an everyday event in his life; a day just like any other except it turned out to be a defining moment in history he chances upon. He takes out his bright, shiny marble, a tiger’s eye, and rolls it. As the bus slows, it follows the law of gravity away from him and rolls right into the hand of Rosa Parks who rolls it back with a grin. More passengers get on.

Then it happens. Mr. Blake, the driver growls out, “Y’all gotta move, now.” Some people do get up and move, but the bus is at a dead standstill. Somebody is speaking up. But the words of the bus driver carry to the back of the bus, “I’m gonna call the police, now.”

Whispers fill the halted bus and the boy can see from his perch at the back of the bus that the speaker was Rosa Parks.


She doesn’t belong up front like that,

and them folks know it.

But she’s sittin’ right there,

her eyes all fierce like a lightnin’ storm,

like maybe she does belong up there.

And I start thinkin’ maybe she does too.


Words may be instructive as we parents know, but I still think example is the strongest teacher. And in Ms. Parks her subsequent arrest and fine because of the violation of Montgomery’s city code was a watershed event.

The boy’s mother placates him with the words, “Tomorrow all this’ll be forgot.” Though his mother says the words, he too takes note of the new “lightning” storm” in her eyes. And instead of feeling afraid, he feels a new strength.

Taking out his tiger’s eye marble from the tightly closed fist, instead he holds it up to the light with a new pride. I love the illustrations that seem a bit out of focus and muted until Rosa Parks takes her stand. The defining lines and shapes seem dim with everything hazy and unclear, including the people on the bus. Mr. Cooper’s artistic technique changes with Ms. Parks’ refusal. Images are sharp and clear. People, including the young boy’s mother are drawn with clear and delineated thoughtful feelings of emotion at what has happened. Art and narrative blend beautifully to display the change that is afoot. 

Where does Martin Luther King’s life intersect with Rosa Parks? Following this event, the Mt. Zion Church of Montgomery spurs the formation of the Montgomery Improvement Association, lead by Martin Luther King. Their initial goal is to effect change starting with the very segregation bus code effecting Ms. Parks. The MIA organizes a very successful boycott of the buses for 382 days with some 40,000 black riders cobbling together alternate means of transportation to get to work. They included walking, carpooling, riding in African-American operated cabs. Martin Luther King’s home was attacked in the ensuing violence the boycott began.

Rosa Parks single act of defiance with the words, “I don’t think I should have to stand up,” was the catalyst for change. Books and the ideas they foster have done the same thing for people with each turn of the page. And for your young readers, “Back of the Bus” may not only provide a look back in history at a single and seminal act of defiance that changed an unjust law, but a model for a way to stand up for something they believe in when the still, small voice in each of us tells us to do so.




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1338. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #415: Featuring Steven Weinberg

Every now and then here at 7-Imp, I like to link back to this 2008 post I wrote with my friend and librarian extraordinaire (and current Caldecott committee member!) Adrienne Furness, and I always like to add books to our Straight Talk About the Food Chain bibliography. (There’s no actual bibliography — just one in my head.) Rex Finds an Egg! Egg! Egg!—the debut picture book from Steven Weinberg, who is visiting 7-Imp today—would be a great addition to the list. The book will be on shelves in late February from Margaret K. McElderry Books.

The story is of a very energetic young dinosaur, who thinks he’s found an egg. You can see his reaction pictured below. He runs for his life in the next moment, because a volcano has just exploded. Rather he does this: “Run. Run! RUN!” (The wonderfully spastic text is filled with a lot of these monosyllabic moments.) Rex takes his discovery and attempts to find a quiet spot, but there are many obstacles in his way: A cliff and other dinosaurs (including a pterodactyl). Look closely at his surroundings, and you’re likely to see another volcano, ready to blow up and out. (This is the Mesozoic Era after all. Things were probably very rarely quiet and soothing.)

After one particularly active explosion, his “egg” flies away. When it lands and doesn’t break, he discovers—thanks to another smaller dinosaur who’s been following his trail all the while—it’s really a rock. And then comes the kicker, the funny, rather twisted, and deliciously dark ending, which … well, I’M SORRY, but I can’t give it away if you want to read this for yourself. (This isn’t a review blog, so dems the breaks, and I don’t want to spoil your reading experience.) The key word above is “deliciously.” A dinosaur’s gotta eat.

This is a funny story, especially that ending. (Just when you think you’re reading yet one more picture book about a happily-ever-after friendship, Weinberg throws you a curve ball.) And Rex is a lovable protagonist (despite the ending). He isn’t the sharpest tool in the tool box, but he has an infectious and rambunctious energy. Weinberg’s lines are relaxed, and his palette is eye-opening, to say the least. “Using garish colors and a thick, red crayon for the scribbly linework,” the Kirkus review writes, “Weinberg crafts a mad cartoonist’s vision of a prehistoric setting that, seemingly on the verge of shaking apart at any moment, ratchets Rex’s flight into a giddy scramble.”

Steven is visiting this morning to talk about his work (in his own words) and share some art and preliminary images. I thank him for visiting (and I can’t wait to see what he does next)!

Steven in the studio
(Click to enlarge)


On Debuting a Picture Book …


It’s really exciting to think this book began somewhere on my many trips to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, growing up in D.C. I loved staring up at the dinosaur skeletons and those murals where, magically, every living thing happens to be out at that exact same moment. Flash forward twenty-some years to me in my studio having the idea for Rex.



Through all the drafts of writing and drawing, I’ve had my agent Marcia Wernick (Wernick & Pratt), editor Ruta Rimas, and designer Lauren Rille at Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster) helping me shape it all. They’re an all-star team. So basically, having this as my debut picture book is kind of a blur. A really really really exciting blur.

“First first first sketch of opening spread …”
(Click to enlarge)


“First go at final art. [It] pretty much stayed the same all the way through.”
(Click to enlarge)


“The kind of notes that editor Ruta and I made on the first dummy of the sketches.”
(Click to enlarge)


“And at some point, months and months later, I made the final.”
(Click to enlarge)


On Other Work …


Up until now, I’ve been a real jack-of-all trades illustrator. For one reason or another, I’ve ended up doing a lot of work for bars: murals, posters for events, tee shirts, and even hand-painting their signs.

I moved up to the Catskills from Brooklyn just over a year ago with my wife, Casey Scieszka. We opened the Spruceton Inn [pictured below], a nine-room inn with a bar. Casey really runs all of that, day-to-day, while I work on new books and such. Though I have discovered I’m something of a carpenter! I built our bar and the booth in there, plus a whole lot of tables, all from reclaimed wood in our barn.

(Click to enlarge)


Since moving up here, I’ve also been doing a weekly (often animated) cartoon all about being a Brooklyn-artist-turned-Catskills-artist for the art site hyperallergic.com.



That’s been a really fun way to keep track of this crazy move and make sure I never stop drawing. Here’s my most recent one all about a recent trip to Montreal with some restauranteur friends.



And I’ve been watercolor-painting up a storm since moving to the mountains. I have great views right from my studio and will be showing a bunch of these down in NYC next month.

(Click to enlarge)


On Influences …


I really like cartoons. And still cannot get enough of The Simpsons and anything Looney Tunes. I love the dynamism of all that and love the challenge of getting picture books (which of course are inherently static) to feel like they have the same amount of energy.

I also lucked out, and my mom is a children’s librarian. So, growing up, I remember spending hours in libraries and then getting to take home as many picture books as I wanted. I loved eating up new books and also making my parents re-read and re-read books, like Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. (I’m the middle kid, so there’s a lot to be terrible about.)



I also happen to have a pretty cool father-in-law: Jon Scieszka. He’s been a huge supporter of Rex from the get-go. My jaw is still kind of dropped from the first time I showed him a dummy of Rex, and he said “Dammit! I wish I’d thought of this!” He’s also a good check on making sure everything I do has the kind of manic energy I would have wanted as a kid.


On What’s Next …


I’m finishing up final art for my next book with Simon & Schuster, called You Must Be This Tall. It’s the classic story of two snakes who want to ride a roller coaster, but one of them isn’t tall enough. As someone who grew up as a younger brother, it’s a concept near and dear to my heart. That one will come out next Spring, and then they have me for another one after that too.


Rex is officially out on February 24th, and I’m just really excited to get out and start doing events for it from then on. It’s really fun to write and draw books in my studio — but even more fun to read the final product with kids. I’m also really pretty good at drawing dinosaurs, so I kind of can’t wait to just go to schools and see how long I can just draw dinos on command.

You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram as @Steven_Draws. And most everything else is on my site at StevenWeinbergStudio.com.

Here are more images from Rex:

“First go at the underwater spread. Thought it could be best at two moments.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Then, realizing it could be a great moment to slow things down and show off the underwater world, I re-did it as one spread. (Not shown: time spent watching underwater dinosaur documentaries on YouTube
and sketching these insane looking guys from that.)”

(Click to enlarge)


“The final ….”
(Click to enlarge)


“First go [of pterodactyl spread].
Have action going right to left, which is a little counterintuitive.”

(Click to enlarge)


“The final. (Changed the orientation and made the pterodactyl bigger and
more dramatic. Just more fun fun fun.)”

(Click to enlarge)


REX FINDS AN EGG! EGG! EGG! Copyright © 2015 by Steven Weinberg. Margaret K. McElderry Books, New York. All images here are reproduced by permission of Steven Weinberg.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Well, this is very funny.

2) Last week, I wrote that I had submitted an essay I hoped would be well-received. It was well-received! Whew.

3) A weekend (this one) with no big plans and pretty much no busy-ness.

4) I’ll be speaking at this event at the Nashville Public Library (but hosted by Parnassus Books) this week. I’m looking forward to it.

5) Oh, and I’ll be doing a Twitter chat about Caldecott contenders on Tuesday, January 27, at 7:30pm with the librarians at Metro Nashville Public Schools. I’m excited about that too, because as I’ve said before here at 7-Imp, school librarians are my jam.

6) A surprise copy of Uptown Special sitting on my desk on Monday morning. “Don’t believe me just watch.” (Here’s where I’d post a video of me, I dunno, dancing or something, but I don’t have the smooth moves for that great song. I just sort of balter when it comes on.)

7) These words of wisdom. (Just say no to small talk.)


What are YOUR kicks this week?

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1339. Seuss on Saturday #3

The King's Stilts. Dr. Seuss. 1939/1967. Random House. 56 pages. [Source: Library]

 First sentence:
Naturally, the King never wore his stilts during business hours. When King Birtram worked, he really WORKED, and his stilts stood forgotten in the tall stilt closet in the castle's front hallway.
Setting: The Kingdom of Binn

Premise/Plot. When King Birtram works, he REALLY works, and, when he plays, he REALLY plays. He knows that there is much work to be done in his kingdom. But he also knows that it is important to have fun now and then. This king has fun by walking on stilts. The story is more complex than that, of course. There is the fact that the kingdom is in danger from the sea. The kingdom is protected by the roots of the Dike tree that border the sea. The trees are in danger from the Nizzards--birds that find the tree oh-so-delicious--but the trees are protected from the Nizzards by 1,000 patrol cats. 500 to guard during the day. 500 to guard during the night. The Patrol Cats are essential to the kingdom. And it turns out, the stilts are essential to the king. The book is about what happens when a grinch-like character, Lord Droon, steals the stilts.

My thoughts: This is my very first time reading The King's Stilts. I loved it. I absolutely loved, loved, loved it!!! I love the King. I love Eric, the page boy. And I love the Patrol Cats!!! Yes, the book is text-heavy. So It's definitely a story book, it even has a fairy tale feel to it. But it's oh-so-delightful and rich in detail. It's a good, satisfying story.

Have you read The King's Stilts? What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to hear what you think of this one!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Horton Hatches An Egg.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1340. Please, Mr. Panda (2015)

Please, Mr. Panda. Steve Antony. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
Would you like a doughnut? (panda)
Give me the pink one.  (penguin)
No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind.  (panda)
Would you like a doughnut? (panda)
I want the blue one and the yellow one. (skunk?)
No, you cannot have a doughnut. I have changed my mind. (panda)

If the book had not been described as a book about manners, I would have been puzzled by Steve Antony's Please, Mr. Panda. In my opinion, it is still a very strange book. My first impression of the story was NOT that the animals were lacking in manners and being rude to Mr. Panda. Far from it. I actually found Mr. Panda to be the rude one since he was ASKING animals, "Would you like a doughnut?" and then abruptly changing his mind and saying NO, YOU CAN'T HAVE ONE AFTER ALL. The description may say that Panda is patient and polite, but, that was not my impression. He came across as bored, disinterested, and disgusted. But apparently, that isn't the proper way to read Please, Mr. Panda. Readers are supposed to believe that it is the animals who say "Yes, I'd like a doughnut" who are being RUDE. At least according to Mr. Panda, no matter what else is said if you fail to include the word "Please" it means YOU are being unforgivably rude and justifies completely his subsequent actions. Perhaps further complicating the situation, I never could distinguish if Mr. Panda was offering free doughnuts he'd made OR if Mr. Panda had a job selling doughnuts. If selling doughnuts was his job, if it was his job to go around asking animals if they'd like a doughnut, he was TERRIBLE at it. Clearly Mr. Panda would be far, far happier at another job where he didn't have to interact with anyone at all. Since clearly he is not what I'd call a "people-person." If none of this was job-related, I'm still confused. Clearly, Mr. Panda hates doughnuts. And he probably hated making them just as much as he hates walking around trying to give them away. The question I have is WHY would he bother? Either way, I think Mr. Panda had a bad attitude and was extra-sensitive to "insults." It wasn't as if the animals were going: Hurry up, I want it NOW, NOW, NOW! Or whining WHY ARE THERE NO SPRINKLES?! I NEED SPRINKLES!!! Or THESE DOUGHNUTS ARE TOO SMALL. The animals didn't come across as demanding or whining or picky or complaining. If the book is teach the importance of saying Please and Thank You always, always, always, then a little exaggeration of the "rudeness" so it was less subtle and actually obvious may have been preferable. I think the animals in the story are just as puzzled as I was. They're probably thinking, WHAT WAS HIS PROBLEM, ANYWAY? Now that I've read the book three or four times, I can see that the ostrich was definitely rude and the whale was very, very tacky. But still am puzzled by the book as a whole.

This one was originally published in the UK. I do like the illustrations well enough. But it was hard to like Mr. Panda.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1341. Xander's Panda Party (2013)

Xander's Panda Party. Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. 2013. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Xander planned a panda party. Yes, a dandy whoop-de-do! But Xander was the only panda. Just one panda at the zoo. Xander sat and chewed bamboo. He changed his plans and point of view. 

Premise/Plot: Readers meet Xander, a party-planning panda bear, who is struggling with his party plans. At first, he was planning a panda party. He then expands it to include all bears. But one thing after another after another leads him to include ALL the animals at the zoo.

My thoughts: I read this one because I needed an "X" title for my Alphabet Soup challenge. I can't say that I really "liked" Xander's Panda Party. I liked it in places. Some phrases seemed to have a just-right feel to them. For example, "He wasn't sure what he should do. He chewed a slew of new bamboo; he nibbled, gnawed, and thought things through" (11) But in other places, I thought the writing style (the word choice, the rhythm and/or rhyme) were off.  For example, "And he planned a hearty party! 'Fur or hair or hide can come. All the mammals, every one!'" (12). It just wasn't consistently working for me. Because it worked for me some of the time, I wanted it to work for me all the time. That being said, it was a cute enough story about a panda making new friends. I liked that he won't be a lonely panda for long.

I liked the illustrations. I needed repeated readings to fully appreciate them perhaps. For example, readers know that there is just one panda at the zoo, but the illustrations show many, many pandas. The illustration reveals Xander's frantic pacing and rushing about, his emotional distress.  (I'm thinking of page 15 and 19/20.) Amanda Salamander also makes frequent appearances, it took me a second reading to spot her on many of the spreads.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1342. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Dahlov Ipcar,Ronni Solbert, and Leonard Weisgard

“The Snowshoe Rabbit, white as white,
Runs over the snow in the bright moonlight …”
– Spread from Margaret Wise Brown’s
The Golden Bunny,
illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

(Click to enlarge)

“On his dream-sea tall ships sail,
And a great black whale meets a great white whale.”
– Spread from Dahlov Ipcar’s
Black and White
(Click to enlarge)

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got two good, brand-new nonfiction picture books — Hester Bass’ Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, and Kathleen Benson’s Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews, which includes the paintings of Andrews. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about some picture book reissues, including Dahlov Ipcar’s Black and White, originally published in 1963 with a new edition coming from Flying Eye Books this April; Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Bunny, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard and originally released in 1953 (out on shelves again this month, thanks to Golden Books); Jean Merrill’s The Elephant Who Liked to Smash Small Cars (pictured left), illustrated by Ronni Solbert, originally released in 1964, and coming to shelves in March from The New York Children’s Collection; Peter Spier’s The Book of Jonah, originally published in 1985 and coming to shelves again at the end of this month from Doubleday; and Chris Van Allsburg’s Just a Dream, which turns 25 this year. An anniversary edition will be released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in March.

I’ve got art today from three of these books.



From Jean Merrill’s The Elephant Who
Liked to Smash Small Cars
illustrated by Ronni Solbert:


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“One day, a car salesman opened a car store on the road where the elephant lived.
The man had a lot of small cars to sell.”

(Click to enlarge)



From Margaret Wise Brown’s The Golden Bunny,
illustrated by Leonard Weisgard:


Illustration from the story “The Golden Bunny”;
click to enlarge and read text


Illustration from the story “Here Comes a Baby”;
click first image to see spread enlarged and in its entirety (and to read the text)



From Dahlov Ipcar’s Black and White:


“The little black dog and the little white dog
Went in their houses and said good night.
They climbed in their beds and they curled up tight.
The night outside grew dark and deep,
And each dreamed a dream when he fell asleep.”

(Click to enlarge)


“The little black dog / all curled up tight
Dreamed a dream / of a jungle night.
In the dark jungle / of his dream
Big black elephants / ford a stream.”

(Click to enlarge)


“Black-and-white zebras and antelopes graze
Through the long, hot jungle days.”

(Click to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

BLACK AND WHITE. Copyright © 1963 by Dahlov Ipar. First Flying Eye Books edition © 2015 Flying Eye Books. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

THE ELEPHANT WHO LIKED TO SMASH SMALL CARS. Copyright © 1964 by Jean Merrill. Illustrations © 1964 by Ronni Solbert. 2015 edition published by the New York Review Children’s Collection, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

THE GOLDEN BUNNY. Copyright © 1953 by Random House LLC. 2015 edition published by Golden Books, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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1343. Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke has written a picture book! Julia's House of Lost Creatures has all that makes his graphic novel trilogy, Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita and The Return of Zita, absolutely winning - strong girl character, cute (and sometimes creepy) creatures and a strong sense of family - and more. Hatke begins Julia's House of Lost Creatures with the sentence, "Julia's house came to

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1344. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls (ages 5-9)

Children are drawn to books in part to see themselves reflected, but also to look into the lives of other people far away. I think truly wonderful books can help us do both. Emmanuel's Dream tells the inspiring story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who was born in Ghana with one deformed leg. He faced life with courage and fortitude, and his story helps readers think about how we face life's challenges.
Emmanuel's Dream
The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
by Laurie Ann Thompson
illustrated by Sean Qualls
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, p2015
Your local library
ages 5-9
*best new book*
From an early age, Emmanuel's mother encouraged him to go after what he wanted. Even though one of his legs was deformed, he hopped more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, and even learned to ride a bike with his friends. In 2001, Emmanuel rode his bicycle four hundred miles across Ghana to spread his powerful message: disability is not inability.
"As Emmanuel grew, Mama Comfort told him he could have anything,
but he would have to get it for himself."
Laurie Ann Thompson
Today, I have the honor of starting off a blog tour celebrating the publication of Emmanuel's Dream with an interview with Laurie Ann Thompson.

Mary Ann: How did you first find out about this story?
Laurie: I first learned about Emmanuel’s inspiring story when he appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2005 at the launch of Emmanuel’s Gift, a documentary about his life narrated by Oprah herself. On her show, Oprah said, “I think every parent should go take their children to see this movie because it will change the way your children think about what they can do and can be.” I agreed, but as a children’s book author I thought it would be even better if every parent could share Emmanuel’s story with their child through a book!

Mary Ann: Then how did you go about learning more about Emmanuel?
Laurie: First, I bought the movie and watched it over and over again. Then, I did research online and through library databases to find newspaper and magazine articles about Emmanuel and his activities. Finally, in 2010, I had the honor of meeting Emmanuel and interviewing him in person. After that meeting, I had 18 pages of typed, single-spaced notes to add to my research file! Since then, Emmanuel and I have kept in touch by email and phone, so he was able to answer all of my follow-up questions directly.
Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and Laurie Ann Thompson in San Diego
Mary Ann: What was really interesting or surprising to you?
Laurie: What I love most about Emmanuel’s story is how thoughtful he was about what he was trying to accomplish. He’s an incredible athlete, yes, but he’s also very intelligent and observant, and his ride was more than just a physical pursuit. He specifically chose a sport, cycling, that most people think would require two legs. He hired a photographer to document his journey along the way. And he intentionally arranged meetings with key government officials and religious leaders all along his route so that his story would be featured in newspapers and magazines and on radio and television. This careful cultivation of the right kinds of media attention was a huge factor in his success.

Mary Ann: When you read this story with children, what do you find they really connect to in Emmanuel's story? What inspires you about children's reactions?
Laurie: Since it just came out, I actually haven’t had a chance to read it with very many children yet, but what attracted me to the story was the fact that Emmanuel was such an underdog. He wasn’t expected to do anything important with his life—he was expected to become a beggar. First, he ignored that expectation, and then he completely turned it on its head! The setting will certainly be unfamiliar to most readers in the United States, and many children won’t be able to relate to being disabled and but I think all of us, especially children, can relate to that feeling of being underappreciated, of someone else’s expectations for us coming in disappointingly, frustratingly low. I hope that after reading the book children will give themselves permission to follow their own dreams and live up to their own potentials, regardless of what others may tell them is possible or not. I think that’s the real power behind Emmanuel’s story, and what I most wanted to convey.

Thank you so much, Laurie, for taking the time to share your thoughts on this beautiful story. I absolutely agree -- I think that this story helps children look inside themselves to see how they can be courageous, how they can live up to their potentials no matter what others tell them.

I look forward to following all the stops on Laurie's blog tour.
Mon, Jan 12: Great Kid Books
Tues, Jan 13: 5 Minutes for Books
Wed, Jan 14: Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Jan 15: Sharpread
Fri, Jan 16: Cracking the Cover
Sat, Jan 17: Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 19: Once Upon a Story
Tues, Jan 20: Proseandkahn
Wed, Jan 21: Geo Librarian
Thurs, Jan 22: Nonfiction Detectives
Fri, Jan 23: The Fourth Musketeer
Mon, Jan 26: NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Jan 27: Teach Mentor Texts
Laurie Ann Thompson is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, a how-to guide for teens who want to change the world. An advocate for social justice, Laurie is dedicated to inspiring and empowering young readers. Emmanuel's Dream is her picture-book debut. Visit her at lauriethompson.com.

Illustration © 2015 by Sean Qualls from EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH by Laurie Ann Thompson; published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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1345. Picture Book Monday with a review of Mr. Squirrel and the Moon

Today's picture book is one of the funniest books I have read in a while. I literally laughed out loud as the story unfolded. The characters in the story are so delightful, and readers will find it impossible not to feel sorry for them AND laugh at them at the same time.

Mr. Squirrel and the MoonMr. Squirrel and the Moon
Sebastian Meschenmoser
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
North South, 2015, 978-0-7358-4156-7
One day a man who is transporting some big yellow cheeses in a cart stops to take a rest. While he is having a picnic meal with his little boy one of the cheeses rolls out of the cart and rolls down the hill. The little boy chases the cheese, but it is going so fast that he can’t catch it. Then the cheese flies off a cliff and is gone.
   Down in the valley Mr. Squirrel is woken up when the moon (the wayward cheese) lands on the branch right outside his front door. Mr. Squirrel has no idea why the moon has left its place in the sky. Perhaps someone stole it and then lost it. Perhaps people will think he stole it, and then he will “be arrested and thrown into prison.” The idea is too terrible to contemplate. There is only one thing Mr. Squirrel can do. He has to get rid of the moon as quickly as possible. Using every ounce of strength he has, Mr. Squirrel pushes the moon off the branch ... and it lands on Mrs. Hedgehog, where it gets very very stuck. Now both Mr. Squirrel and Mrs. Hedgehog are both going to get arrested for stealing the moon. This is a disaster!
   Readers of all ages are going to love this deliciously funny picture book. One cannot help sympathizing with Mr. Squirrel, but at the same time it is hard not to laugh at the mess he and his animal friends get into.  As the story unfolds the situation gets worse and worse, and funnier and funnier. It is hard to be know how things are going to turn out.

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1346. Seven Questions Over Shots with Nick Bruel


Author-illustrator Nick Bruel is serious about breakfast. When I ask him what pretend-breakfast-of choice we’ll pretend-have over pretend-coffee this morning, his answer is detailed (right after my own breakfast-lovin’ heart):

Choice? Well, the finest breakfast dish I ever had was an oatmeal crème brulee from a hotel somewhere in Miami. It was dessert; it was breakfast; it was oatmeal; it was sugary; it was delicious, and I’ve never had anything like it since. But my typical breakfast of choice is some nice, fresh, untoasted sourdough bread and a quality olive oil for dipping. I especially like a mushroom-roasted garlic oil that comes from a shop in Tarrytown, NY.

Years ago when I traveled in China, my favorite breakfast dish was what Westerners here call congee, which is a hot rice porridge accompanied by at least half a dozen small dishes filled with assorted items, like egg or pickle or vegetables. You scoop out some of the hot rice mush into your bowl and add whatever you feel like from the smaller dishes. If you do it right, it can be delightful.

I have a lot to say about breakfast. I like breakfast.

Nick’s Bad Kitty, one of children’s literature’s most refreshingly naughty characters, appeared ten years ago—”Bruel’s little black star is perhaps the hammiest, most expressive feline ever captured in watercolors,” wrote Kirkus at the character’s debut—and it’s safe to say things haven’t been the same for Bruel since. Bad Kitty’s adventures began with a picture book, which then turned into a bestselling chapter book series.

But Nick started out with picture books and returns to them, in part, this year with the release this month of A Wonderful Year (our purple friend above comes from this story), already the recipient of a handful of positive reviews, some starred.

Nick talks about that new book, and much more below, and I thank him for visiting. As you’ll read, we may have a few shots with our coffee. (What? I’m up for just about anything.)

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Nick: Both. So there.

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)

Nick: Bad Kitty – blah, blah, blah. But I will give particular shout out to Bad Kitty: Drawn To Trouble and the upcoming Bad Kitty: Puppy’s Big Day.

Who Is Melvin Bubble?

Bob and Otto, written by my father, Robert O. Bruel.

Little Red Bird.

The upcoming A Wonderful Year –- possibly my best book.



Jules: What is your usual medium?

Nick: Pencil, ink, watercolor, gouache, and stress.

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

[Pictured left: The first-ever painting of Bad Kitty.]

Nick: The different challenges between making books for these particular age ranges have less to do with the illustrations and more with the writing. When writing picture books, I have to pace my story to fit into those exact 32 or 40 page measurements. When writing the chapter books, I can just go hog wild and keep writing the story until I think it’s done.

As for the art — interestingly, the picture books and the chapter books both take me an equal amount of time to illustrate. The picture books are much shorter but are painted in color. The Bad Kitty chapter books may all be illustrated monochromatically, but some of those beasts are as much as 160 pages long, almost all of them fully illustrated.

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Nick (pictured right in first grade): Until recently, we lived in bucolic Tarrytown, NY. Now we live in equally bucolic Briarcliff Manor, NY. And if that name sounds at all familiar, then, yes, the name of the insane asylum where all the mayhem takes place in the second season of American Horror Story is “Briarcliff Manor.”

Jules: Can you tell me about your road to publication?

Nick: I worked at a children’s bookstore in NYC called Books Of Wonder for over seven years. The store’s still there. During my evenings, I spent all my time creating and selling cartoons to various magazines and trade journals. About halfway through my tenure at BOW, I began to combine my interests and create my own kid book manuscripts. A regular customer named Jennie Dunham was curious about my work and eventually became my agent. A former store manager named Schuyler Hooke recommended me to a friend of his, who happened to be the great Neal Porter, who had just started the then fledgling Roaring Brook. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Nick’s first book, published in 2004

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Nick: www.nickbruel.com. But Bad Kitty herself has a wonderful site my publisher Macmillan created at www.badkittybooks.com.

Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Nick: Because my books target a pretty wide age range, I get to talk to lots of different age groups. For the most part, I like to conduct an exercise on how to come up with story ideas, which I cater to each grade level. For 5th graders, I like to conduct what I call a “cartooning symposium” that’s really an exercise on overcoming writer’s block. When the rare opportunity arises for me to speak to middle schoolers, I like to give a talk on criticism and censorship.

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Nick: I will have five brand new titles that I’ve both written and illustrated coming out in 2015. Crazy, right? In January, the newest Bad Kitty chapter books comes out, which will be Bad Kitty: Puppy’s Big Day, the first chapter book to feature Puppy.

In May will be some new Bad Kitty stuff. First, a picture/chapter/activity book titled Bad Kitty Makes Comics, my instruction manual on how kids can make their own comics with Bad Kitty and Strange Kitty as their guides.

At the same time will come the first Bad Kitty early readers, Bad Kitty Does Not Like Dogs and Bad Kitty Does Not Like Candy. These two books may represent the opening salvo of what may become the next Bad Kitty series.

Lastly, on the same day as the release of Puppy’s Big Day will come my first non-Bad Kitty book in many years, A Wonderful Year. [Some spreads are pictured below.] This concept behind this book came to me when I woke up one morning contemplating what I might have done if I was asked to do my own Nutshell Library. The book will be four short stories in one picture book, each story set in one of the seasons of the year. Each story will be independent of each other, but none of them could really exist without the other three. When kids ask me what my favorite book may be, I always tell them that I don’t have a favorite. And I don’t. But having said that, A Wonderful Year may indeed be my best book.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Nick again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?


: My process is pretty similar for all of my books, but I’ll describe it specific to how I make the chapter books.

First I take a shower. Seriously. Some of my best ideas come to me while hot water is pouring onto my head. The shower is just a great place for me to focus my thoughts.

Once inspiration has hit me and I’ve dried off, I like to put all of my early thoughts on paper. These really will be random thoughts, and they may not even take a linear shape in the form of a story.

Rough drawing: Creating a page for the upcoming Bad Kitty Goes To The Vet,
to be released in January 2016

(Click to enlarge)

Once I do have a story in mind, I will go to the computer and type out a detailed outline. The typical Bad Kitty chapter book outline is around 5-6 pages, single spaced. I like to describe outlines as being like maps for the story itself. Every now and then, you like to get into a car knowing exactly where you’re going and how to get there — point A to point B to point C … and so on. But every now and then you get sidetracked or lost or just feel like going off-road for a bit. That’s okay. Most maps delineate multiple routes.

Next, I go back to pen and paper. I have to. Because my books are so heavily illustrated and because I firmly believe that illustrations tell a story just as much as words do, I start writing and sketching at the same time. This 160-page mess of hand-drawn and hand-written pages doesn’t even represent the manuscript because …

Kitty, penciled and inked
(Click to enlarge)

Next I take all of those loose sketches and make clean, penciled illustrations on hot pressed Arches watercolor pages. I use the hot pressed stuff after Jerry Pinkney suggested it to me, because the smooth texture works will with pen and ink. (This will not be the first big name I drop. Everyone can drink their first shot now.)

Once everything has been penciled, I scan all of the pages individually. Once scanned, I create a computer design file where I combine all of my words and pictures for submission, because THIS file will be the manuscript, the book dummy.

It all sounds like a complex process, but I have it so streamlined now that it all goes pretty smoothly.

Final art
(Click to enlarge)

Once my editor has give me the green light to finish the artwork, I outline all of my penciled pages with good ol’ fashioned crow quill pen (a Gilliott 1290, to be specific) and ink. After the ink’s dried, I paint everything except for Kitty in watercolor paints. Kitty, I paint with gouache. That’s because gouache is solid and opaque. I could never get that deep, even [the] black in Kitty, by painting her with watercolors. Also, painting her with a different medium helps her to stand out from her background.

Dummy of cover for first Bad Kitty book

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.


: If you’ve ever seen the last scene of Blair Witch Project, then you’ve seen my studio office. I gave up a long time ago trying to be tidy with my workspace. It’s just a filthy mess of papers and loose paint tubes and pens and cat hair. All I need is one can of spilled motor oil, and I think I could apply to the government to label my office as a superfund site.

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?


: One guy that few people remember, but everyone should, is Jack Kent. He was one of the rare breed of children’s book creators who also had his own syndicated comic strip in the newspapers for years.

I remember his work well from when I was a kid and admire him greatly to this day, even though almost none of his books remain in print. There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon I believe is still in print. But everyone should look in their libraries for Joey and Silly Goose and Socks For Supper to see what smart, simply-executed pictures look like. I would love to see his work re-discovered.

I’m also a great admirer of my good friend Jules Feiffer. (Take another shot.) His multi-faceted career in cartooning and children’s books and theatre and novels is the kind of career I would most like to emulate.

I honestly think that Bark, George is the closest thing we have to a perfect picture book in this generation.

4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Nick: This is a bit of a problem for me, because I’ve met a lot of my heroes already — not because of what I do now, but because of what I used to do. Working as a bookseller, like I did, gave me the opportunity to meet tons of great talent. I had several discussions with Shel Silverstein, who was a regular customer. (Take a shot.) I spoke at great length once with Maurice Sendak (shot). Lane Smith lived, literally, next door to the store. I’ve already met pretty much everyone. (You know what to do.) But a few more people do come to mind.

I’m a huge fan of Cynthia Rylant. I think her Mr. Putter and Tabby series is the finest “I Can Read” series out there for kids. I’ve met the illustrator, Arthur Howard, several times and told him as much. I think she really has the knack for writing for children, as evidenced by all of her marvelous books and series. I would love to sit and have lunch with her someday.

I owe a great deal to Lois Ehlert. When I was first writing Bad Kitty, I was stumped as to what to use for “x” in alphabet of vegetables that’s in that book. My last resort was to “borrow” what Ehlert did for her sublime Eating The Alphabet, which was to use “xigua.” I could not have completed that first Bad Kitty book without that filling in that one letter. I’ve often said that if I ever get the opportunity to meet Lois Ehlert, I owe her a nice box of chocolates.


Lastly, I’m going to cheat and invoke a deceased artist: Dick King-Smith. I was given the lovely opportunity to illustrate five of his shorter novels a few years ago. I leaped on this opportunity, because I really wanted to share cover credits with him. And I very much wanted these books to be an opportunity to meet him. But, alas, he died shortly after the final book, Clever Duck, came out. I do regret not having made more of an effort to contact him, if only by mail.

5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Nick: When I’m writing, I can’t listen to ANYTHING. When writing, I need to be inside something as close to a sensory deprivation tank as I can get. Even the smallest distraction can really throw me off my game.

But when I’m illustrating, anything goes. My recent habit, oddly enough, has been to watch—but, really, listen to—Netflix. I love British mysteries, because they’re paced slowly, and you can listen to them like you would a radio drama and not feel like you’re missing anything. Poirot has been great. My most recent obsession has been Midsomer Murders. Good stuff!

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Nick: Even people who know me personally don’t necessarily know that I am half Chinese. My father is Belgian (hence, “Bruel”), but my mother was born in Shanghai. I don’t think my Chinese upbringing comes through in my work much. But it’s certainly a part of my personal life.

7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Nick: “What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?”

Oh, wait. Never mind.

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Nick: “Roofer,” as in someone who builds and repairs roofs. There is just no elegant way to say that word out loud.

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Nick: “Republican.”

Did I just get myself into trouble?

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Nick: Solitude. I love my little family. But I also really love being alone.

Jules: What turns you off?

Nick: Interruptions.

Jules: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Nick: “#@%&*!” I’ve used this word-that’s-not-really-a-word in several of my books. You’d be amazed by how many angry emails, judgmental blog posts, and outraged Amazon reviews I’ve received because of this “word.” They only encourage me to use it again and again. And I have.

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Nick: My daughter’s laughter.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Nick: My daughter’s complaints.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Nick: My wife Carina always says I could have been an actor. That might have been fun.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Nick: I’ve never been a waiter. I honestly don’t think it’s a job I could physically sustain. I feel the same way about cab drivers.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Nick: “Hi, Nick. Feel like another go around?”


All images are used by permission of Nick Bruel.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.

3 Comments on Seven Questions Over Shots with Nick Bruel, last added: 1/13/2015
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1347. The Big Blue Thing on the Hill by Yuval Zommer

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill is by Yuval Zommer, who comes to the world of picture books after many years as a creative director at some of the world's top advertising agencies. His debut is wonderful, and the story reminds me of a bit of the picture books of the environmentally conscious, animal friendly Bill Peet. Zommer's illustrations are full of energy and a little bit kooky,

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1348. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

When Everybody Wore a Hat

By William Steig


I confess I had never heard of this title by one of my favorite picture book authors. William Steig, former illustrator for the “New Yorker” who did not start his picture book career till he was in his sixties, is a sure reminder for all those second career, “Chapter two” people dreaming out there, that it is never too late to dream. What is that saying? ”There is one book in EVERYONE.

And Bill Steig had a slew of them in him from his Caldecott medal winning, “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” to “The Amazing Bone”, also a Caldecott Honor book, and from “Amos and Boris” to “Dr. De Soto”, and “Abel’s Island”, BOTH Newbery Honor books. Quite a haul for someone that wrote such stories of imaginative adventure and characters of cunning, ingenuity, daring, along with a knowing acceptance of life. Coupled with wonderful vocabulary using words such as phosphorescent and odoriferous to describe the sea with the first word and a villain with the second, and it’s easy to see why young readers still love his books. Ever hear of a kindly ogre named Shrek? That’s Bill Steig’s book too!

I love books that connect generations. Kids want to know what life was like in mom and dad’s day, and better still, gram and pop pop’s day! And here, Bill Steig serves it up to this generation from HIS generation, in the story of when he was a boy, .”…almost a hundred years ago, when fire engines were pulled by horses, boys did not play with girls, kids went to libraries for books, there was no TV, you could see a movie for a nickel and everybody wore a hat,” as he tells it.

Bill gives a clear, but vividly cartoonish take in art and a wonderfully descriptive feel for his parents from the Old Country. I chuckled at his depiction of a typical mom/pop quarrel in which they spoke one of the four languages they spoke; German, Polish, Yiddish and English. Thankfully, the kids didn’t quite know what caused the ruckus, but the radiator also came in for a bit of dad’s ire for letting off steam as well.

Caruso and the opera were favorites of his parents, as they listened to a phonograph you wound up with a crank. Hey, I have one of those too, and the sound is great! Chess also was a favorite game played with a neighbor named Mr. Hoffman.

Hats were worn – sometimes with fruit on it – by ladies. Hey, I even remember wearing hats to church on Sunday! If you watch old news footage of baseball games in the 40’s and 50’s, EVERYBODY is mostly wearing a hat, even on a weekday! You’re right, Bill!

And, boy were things inexpensive as Bill points out. For instance, young readers will be agog at the fact that a hot dog could be bought for a NICKEL, as well as a pound of fruit and a seat at a movie.

They’ll also marvel at the number of times Bill moved and he was impressed at how strong those movers hauling huge pieces of furniture down flights of stairs were. Bill Steig lets us meet lots of interesting people that came in and out of his life when he was eight years old. Here are but a few worth meeting; foibles and all: Esther Haberman had a big mouth, a beefy butcher named Barney, Prince the janitor’s dog that scared the local kids, the elegant Mrs. Kingman who was just passing through the neighborhood with her pooch, and kindly Dr. Wager who actually came to the HOUSE! Yup, doctors made house calls then. I may be dating myself, but our family, too, had a fine man named Dr. Modrys that visited us when my youngest brother had the measles. It really wasn’t very unusual then.

Bill Steig’s trip down the memory lane of his young life is worth the reading journey for your young reader. It’s a fine peek into a window in time that has closed. Then, boys like Bill had haircuts in barber chairs and listened to stories filtering through the air at Ditchick’s Barbershop. And sitting on a horse like a real cowboy and having your picture taken was a treat.

All of these simple pleasures and interesting characters fed Bill’s very active artistic imagination with lots of material for his books. All the drawings in this book will make you feel as if you have taken a stroll through Bill’s neighborhood with him and know these people too.

But his closing lines are very telling. He says he wanted to be either a seaman or an artist. He DID become the artist, but you can’t tell me he hasn’t sailed to some pretty interesting places aboard those books he wrote!

And the best part of it all is that WE get to go along for the ride in all of them. Thanks for the ride, Bill! We get to see the past through your eyes and art. A time it was and what a time it was.


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1349. The Single Best Resource for Picture Book Authors

12 x 12 new bannerPicture Book writers of the world, listen up!

The single best resource that I know of for picture book writers is — for a very limited time — accepting new registrations.

12 x 12 is a year-long writing challenge, where members aim to write 12 complete picture book drafts, one per month, for each 12 months of the year, with advice, encouragement and submission opportunities along the way. Created by author Julie Hedlund, 12 x 12 is now in its fourth phenomenally successful year, and provides all the motivation, support, and accountability you need to help you write, submit and get published.

Imagine a 24/7 writing community where, if you have a question, you can receive answers almost instantly from a network of over 750 authors. Imagine having curated resources for planning, writing, revising, submitting, and promoting picture books at your fingertips, every day. Imagine a picture book playground where you can meet other writers & illustrators, talk shop with people who “get” you, give/receive feedback on your manuscripts & queries, form critique groups, and tap into an endless supply of inspiration. This is 12 x 12.

But it’s ONLY for picture book authors – and registration is ONLY open in January and February, so don’t wait.

Here’s my personal affiliate link to get more info:


To your success!

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1350. A Peek at Pat Cummings’ Process

Early thumbnail
(Click to enlarge)


Pat: “This is the scene when Beauty has returned home, overstayed her visit, and has
a bad dream about the Beast dying in the castle garden, because she’s broken her promise. The round symbol repeated on the base of her bed is her family motif that I wanted to suggest one of the west African Adinkra symbols.”

(Click to enlarge)


I’m following up today at 7-Imp with some art from H. Chuku Lee’s Beauty and the Beast, illustrated by Pat Cummings and published by Amistad/HarperCollins earlier in 2014. I talked with them both at Kirkus last week (here) about this book, and as always, I wanted to be sure to share some images from it. I thank Pat for sharing some final art, as well as for including some early thumbnails and other preliminary images (plus a bit of explanation as to what the images are).

Enjoy. …


Pat’s Initial Thumbnails for the Opening Spread
(Click each to enlarge):



Experimenting with Medium
(Click each to enlarge):


Pat: “Initially, I thought I’d do the art in black and white [pencil],
referencing the Cocteau film.” (See last week’s Q&A for an explanation.)

Pat: “I planned to use color in the way that
old photos were retouched with pastels.”

Pat: “Then I thought I’d try to do the book digitally.”

Final version in watercolor, gouache, and pencil


Some Final Spreads
(Click each to enlarge):


Pat: “The architecture of the Beast’s castle is based on buildings by the Dogon tribe in Mali, West Africa. I tried to add windows and elements that would suggest eyes or fangs but what I realllllly wanted to do was to make the handrail on the stairs a serpent. I had painted it that way, scales and all, and it got nixed as too scary. Much later, after I had finished the book, I saw an image in a book about Cocteau that showed a serpent-handled stairway I think he used in another movie.”

Pat: “This is the first time the Beast appears in full. He’s often depicted as a boar or a lion-like creature, but I wanted him to look more human — like the prince he was,
but after a run-in with a bad fairy.”

Pat: “On Beauty’s return to the castle, she can’t find the Beast, so she wanders from room to room, morning till evening, looking for him. One of the elements that resonated with me in the Cocteau film was the use of objects like candle sconces to show that Beauty was constantly surrounded by unseen attendants.
She was always being watched.”

* * * * * * *

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Copyright © 2014 by H. Chuku Lee. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Pat Cummings. Published by Amistad/HarperCollins, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Pat Cummings.

2 Comments on A Peek at Pat Cummings’ Process, last added: 1/15/2015
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