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1326. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #374: Featuring Katherine Tillotson

This morning, we’re going to meet a dog, who is—in the words of illustrator Katherine Tillotson—a little more than a scribble and a smudge.

Shoe Dog (Richard Jackson/Atheneum Books for Young Readers), written by Megan McDonald and illustrated by Katherine, hits bookshelves next week. It tells the story of one very enthusiastic dog, adopted from a shelter, who loves to chew shoes. His owner—whom McDonald calls She, Herself—scolds the dog, but he repeatedly gets into trouble. Shoe Dog most certainly loves his cozy and warm home, where he’s so happy to be, but he struggles to behave. No worries. She, Herself eventually comes up with just the right solution, involving a cat. Of sorts.

Katherine is here today to tell us how she created the illustrations for this story — and what inspired her to do so. The story, particularly the artwork, are nothing short of “totally ebullient,” as the starred Kirkus review puts it. Shoe Dog is all action, energy, and bounce—I mean, right? Just look at him up above there—and it’s fascinating to read how Katherine put him together, as well as to read about the tools she used for everything that surrounds our naughty, but loving, protagonist.

So, let’s get right to it. I thank Katherine for sharing.

* * *

Katherine: When I begin work on a new book, it is always with small scribbly page layouts, but when I began work on the book Shoe Dog, I never expected that a small scribble would make his way to the final pages of the book.

A couple of my very early, very scribbly sketches:

(Click each to enlarge)

When Shoe Dog originally landed on the page, he was a bull terrier. You can see him here in a couple early dummies for the book.

(Click each to enlarge)

In the final illustrations, Shoe Dog still holds onto a smidgeon of terrier, but he is now little more than a scribble and a smudge. His essence.

I used crayons, a square graphite pencil, and charcoal to build the illustrations.

I will have to back up a little to describe the technique. My friend and crit-mate, Christy Hale, introduced me to a wonderful book, Creative Rubbings, published in 1967. I found the techniques described in the book irresistible.

(Click to enlarge)

Shapes were cut out of tag board, and then a crayon was used to rub an impression, much as we place a penny under a piece of paper and rub it with graphite to create a flat rendering of that penny. I loved the idea of using crayon rubbings to illustrate the world inhabited by the scribbly Shoe Dog.

I experimented with rubbing all sorts of textures …

(Click to enlarge)

…but mostly I cut out shapes and then made rubbings. These are how the environments—the house, furniture, stairs, shoes, etc.—were constructed.

(Click to enlarge)

Black and white sketches helped me determine value before I rendered the final illustrations in color.

(Click each to enlarge)

The computer is a wonderful tool for collage, and Shoe Dog is basically collage. I scribbled and made crayon rubbings and then combined all the hand-made marks by using the computer.

Here is some of the final art [without the text]:

“Dog wanted a home. A real home. A place full of hundreds of nose kisses,
dozens of tummy rubs. A place as warm as soup and cozy as pie.”

(Click to enlarge)

“A place with room to run …”
(Click to enlarge)

“BAD BAD DOG! She, Herself said. That night, Shoe Dog slept downstairs on the cold, cold floor with only a mop for a friend. Shoe Dog did not want to go back to the
Land of Sad Puppies and Scratched-Up Cats and One-Eared Bunnies. No!

(Click to enlarge)

And lastly the cover, front and back:

Thank you so much for asking me to show and tell. I had such fun creating the illustrations for this story!

SHOE DOG. Copyright © 2014 by Megan McDonald. Illustrations © 2014 by Katherine Tillotson. Published by Richard Jackson/Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Katherine Tillotson.

* * * * * * *

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) I really love how an old, obscure book from 1967 gave Katherine such inspiration.

2) Because my oldest was home for three days this week (adenoid surgery), I got to see an awful lot of her.

3) Painting clay.

4) A day out with the family yesterday to see Muppets Most Wanted. Very funny.

5) I got nice and unsolicited feedback about 7-Imp this week, which I really appreciate. In this day and age of rampant social media, I often stop to wonder if my blog is still relevant (I think this is a natural question for any blogger today; I promise I’m not just self-deprecating for fun), so to get compliments, ones that are truly informative, can be energizing.

6) Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.

7) I read a galley of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (a YA novel) in just about 24 hours. It’s a compelling novel, to say the least.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #374: Featuring Katherine Tillotson, last added: 3/23/2014
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1327. Lola’s Fandango, by Anna Witte | Book Review

This is a charming book in so many ways, and definitely fun for a family to enjoy together. It will appeal to readers ages 5 to 8, who like stories about Spanish culture, stories about sisters, and surprising revelations about parents.

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1328. Illustrator Saturday – Melanie Hope Greenberg

melpic290Melanie Hope Greenberg has illustrated 16 trade published children’s picture books; six of them she wrote. Greenberg was recently an artist in residence for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s National Endowment for the Arts grant. Her original picture book illustrations were exhibited in a solo show and as a part of the “Drawn in Brooklyn” group exhibition at Brooklyn Central Library-Grand Army Plaza.

Greenberg was also the selected artist for the Texas Library Association conference’s Disaster Relief Fund raffle. SCBWI NY Metro steering committee member. Keynoter, panelist, workshop presenter, picture book manuscript / dummy / portfolio critiques for SCBWI regional conferences.

Judge for the 2005 SCBWI Golden Kite Award, 2006 SCBWI Magazine Merit Award. Judge for the 2010 Cybils Awards.


Here is Melanie talking about her process:

Muriel Feldshuh was kind enough to invite me to participate, for a second time, in her traveling children’s picture book artist quilt project.  She sent a kit containing a lovely note, a blank square of muslin, packing, and a self addressed, stamped return envelope. How could I refuse?

The  first muslin square I painted is in the red quilt above. Feldshuh’s quilts exhibit in galleries throughout the United States.

For the new quilt, consisting of Brooklyn based illustrators, I chose an icon that both represents Brooklyn and my picture books. This is a sketch of a book cover test for MERMAIDS ON PARADE. The publisher thought it was “too old” for the age level of my book.

I still love this sketch and I’ve wanted to use it somewhere else. So, I did.

I work with a copy machine. I cut out extras and fixed some lines. Then copied again. There’s my outline.

I copy once more, and experiment with paint on the paper first. I discovered my glitter nail polish made a quick drying sparkle over the paint. Yippie, no glitter mess.

Using a lightbox, I trace the mermaid’s outline onto the muslin square with pencil. I lay down shapes of pure colors.

Now I add some details to the under layers of paint.

I add purple pen out line and carefully brush in the glitter. I do not want paint or glitter to spill onto the muslin outside the mermaid outline.

Remember to always ventilate while using the nail polish in large areas. I painted by an open window.

Finished art.

How long have you been illustrating?

Before kindergarten. I cannot remember not coloring or drawing. Here’s a painting from my teenage years living in Co-op City in the Bronx.


What was the first art related work that you did for money?

UNICEF greeting cards was my first professional illustration job. I also worked in a frame store and in graphic art studios.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

When I met a picture book art agent. Finding her was random luck as I pounded the pavement with my portfolio and illustrating for the gift industry.


Greeting Card published by Michel & Co

Did you do freelance before you got into children’s books?

Yes. I still freelance. I’ve published hundreds of illustrated images on greeting cards, coffee mugs, posters, gift items and more.


What was your first book you had published? What year was that and who published it?

AT THE BEACH which I wrote and illustrated for Dutton Children’s Books 1989


How did you get that contract?

Through the agent. We worked for about 6 months crafting a dummy and writing. Then I got the job!


What spurred you to write your own book?

I always liked to write and my agent encouraged me to write a story.


How did you find a home for that book?

Through the agent. I was incredibly green.


Is there anything you can point that ratcheted up in your career to the next level?

Understanding the vast scope of our business and how it all connects. Marketing my art and books with an individual vision to a target audience.


What book was your first big success?

When I saw my illustration from AT THE BEACH in Publisher’s Weekly with a lovely review. I was on an interview at Publisher’s Weekly for a freelance graphic job. When the art director flipped through the magazine there was my painting! The review made me realize that books were more than a freelance gig which is what I thought about my first book deal. Had no idea about picture book reviews.

PS: I got the freelance job at Publisher’s Weekly, too!


Since then, which book do you feel is your biggest success? Which book is your personal favorite?

A big success is DOWN IN THE SUBWAY which is still in print and has received several honors and became a New York Time Great Children’s Read. MERMAIDS ON PARADE is my personal favorite because it’s a personal story that came from real life. And the story in the book manifested in real life, too. We marched with a little girl who I met at my Eric Carle Museum program. She and her mom came all the way from Massachusetts to Brooklyn to march with my friends in the Coney Island Mermaid Parade. She won a medal for Best Little Mermaid. Just like my book!


Have you won any awards for your books?

Yes, notables, honors, a New York Times Great Children’s Read, and state awards.


Did you do the original cover of Lizzy Logan Wears Purple Sunglasses by Eileen Spinelli or the latest cover or both?

Great question! I illustrated the first cover in my folk art style and I have no skills to illustrate the new cover. LOVE that they used the same hair style, I’m honored!


I see you have done a number of books with Henry Holt. How did you make that happen?

Agent connection to editor, Nina Ignatowicz. I published THE WIND’S GARDEN and A CITY IS with Henry Holt.


How many picture books have you published?

16 trade picture books. Six of them I’ve written.


Do you plan to write and illustrate more books?

Always trying. I have polished projects which I submit and various new projects in different stages.


Are you open to working with self-published authors?

I’m not seeking it out, however if I am paid well I’d consider it as a freelance job. Because I am considered “hybrid” I might self-publish my own previously published books now out of print. These books have a track record with the public library system and with schools.


Do you feel your style has changed since when you started out?

Yes, from a decorative cartoon style to a painterly style. That evolution was challenging. In retrospect, it was breaking out of barriers (black lines) into a light filled open field (no black lines). The art mirrored my psychology at the time. Learning to expand interior spaces and how to illustrate with moods and symbols.


What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

Gouache, pens, pencils. Ballpoint rainbow colored gel pens rock my world for fine detail work.


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

No. Ten fingers are my digital age ;)


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

Yes. I had a monthly job with Scholastic’s Instructor Magazine for many years before their illustrations changed to photos. My first assignment with Scholastic was for poems edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. He and I are currently Facebook Friends! Also, worked with Children’s Television Workshop, and teacher magazines.


Have you done any books with educational publishers?

Yes, A SCARY THING IN THE KITCHEN with McGraw-Hill. I AM with Scholastic. And many more black and white illustrations for textbooks.


What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

Postcard mailings. Submitting proposals. Online presence. Networking.


Do you have an artist rep.? If yes, who? If not, would you like to have one?

I did have a 23 year year long good relationship with an agent who is not as active. I went on my own but would LOVE an energetic rep. It’s a lot of work to meet the art directors and editors, do the paperwork and contracts. Definitely worth the commissions.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Totally! My platform has ballooned. I meet people at events who say they see my name everywhere.


How did you get your first school visit?

I cannot remember, almost 22 years ago. Probably local, I sent mailers to the schools.


Do you actively look for school visits? Or do they find you through word of mouth?

Both. I have a booking agent now but I still must market on a consistent basis and do so with personal lists I’ve built up over time.


Do you have any tips on how to get invited to a school for a presentation?

Marketing to the target audience is always best.


Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

Yes, and lots of paperwork! However, deadlines shape a timely art production. I paint better and more efficiently when I am eating.


What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My paints.


Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, I LOVE to research! I have files of research before I sketch, write, etc. Especially if I am not clear on what info to convey in the art or story. If I can take photos I do, but I use my own visual files and the internet to search for images and other research.


Jay Asher, author of 13 REASONS WHY, on left standing next to Melanie and the Disco Mermaids from the SCBWI party was research for MERMAIDS ON PARADE. They appear inside the book as well as on the flap jacket. )

Have you ever thought of getting back the rights to your out-of-print books and self-publishing them?

Yes! At this point I am hybrid, books in and out of print. I sell my remainder copies. I’ve learned how to sell to bookstores and the public via experience, the events I do and through social networking. Again, because I am “hybrid” I can self-publish previously published books now out of print which have a track record with the public library system and with schools.

melaniehgQ35Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Retire properly with financial security. melaniehgQ36

What are you working on now?

Submitting, submitting, submitting. I have a new Ebook being released with Random House. It’s the reincarnation of IT’S MY EARTH, TOO, originally published by Doubleday, released in 1992. It went out of print around 1995 when Doubleday merged with Random House.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us?

Play with whatever excites your imagination and experiment.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Work your butt off. Stop waiting for others to do the heavy lifting. Keep trying. Present your creativity with an authentic individual voice.

Melanie thank you for sharing your journey, talent, expertise, and process with us. Please keep us informed of all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them.

For more of Melanie, you can find her at: http://www.melaniehopegreenberg.com/ or  http://mermaidsonparade.blogspot.com/

All art and photos are the copyright of Melanie Hope Greenberg.

Please take a minute to leave Melanie a comment. It is always nice to hear your thoughts and I am sure Melanie would appreciate it, too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process, Tips Tagged: Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art's, Melanie Hope Greenberg, SCBWI Magazine Merit Award

7 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Melanie Hope Greenberg, last added: 3/25/2014
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1329. 99 Problems, But a Book Ain’t One (plus a giveaway!)

110912_Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen_BB_AB_0136by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

As an author, I look forward to my next book release the way parents look forward to the birth of their child. After all, the release date is a birthday of sorts—the day my creation is real to everyone, not just me! If you’ve ever known someone expecting twins, the excitement is even higher—though, the fear associated with the event is also heightened.

This year, I’m having the publishing equivalent of quadruplets:

duckduckmoose orangutangled

snoringbeauty tywrecks

Like I said, I’ve got 99 problems, but a book ain’t one.

I get it. To have her problems, you might be thinking. After all, too many things publishing is a far better problem than too few. Or none at all. But there are problems created by my multiple birthing. Here are a few things you might not consider when praying for a year like this:

  • The whirlwind of marketing becomes a tornado.
    Since January, I’ve done three blog giveaways (the first was a DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE package of a book, a book, and a package of magic erasers, the second was a piece of Aaron Zenz’s original art, and the third is the autographed book we will give away here on this blog) with a fourth one coming up. I’ve done 42 Skype classroom visits—not including the 14 I have scheduled for the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS launch. I’ve flown to a conference in California and done a bunch of signings. I’ve revamped my website, I’ve had educator guides created, I’ve read the books so many times I have them memorized. And on the 7th day I rested…except, not really. Remember, all these marketing things are in addition to my regular job of writing, revising, preparing workshops, creating professional development. Oh, and raising all my kids.
  • orangutangsbyaaronToo much of anything is good for nothing.
    As much as we want to see our books in print, publishing is about more than just personal accomplishment—t’s about sales. While my ego might be excited by multiple books out at the same time, the market is another story. Have you ever heard of market saturation? Economic theory says in a given market, only so much growth can be supported. For authors, that means there are only so many new books a consumer will buy at a given time. Having too many books at once can actually reduce the probability that a fan will buy all of them, just because he may not want to buy more than a certain number of books within a short time period. This principle also extends to recognition. It’s highly unlikely that you’d have multiple books nominated for a given award in the same year. So you’ve increased your overcall competition by competing with yourself.
  • The “what have you done for me lately?” problem.
    Let’s face it—people are basically raccoons, distracted by whatever is new and shiny. And if you have a bunch of books come out at once, chances are, that will be followed by a long gap until your next release. But a book only keeps it’s “new car smell” for a finite amount of time. When something else new and shiny comes along, you won’t be able to compete and the raccoons will move on.

So, who still wants to have lots of books published at once? And who doesn’t?

Well, let me tell you a secret—it’s not up to you.

For the most part, publishers work on their schedule. And their concerns aren’t your concerns. So books may come out slowly at regular intervals, or they might appear all at once. As authors, we don’t have much say in this.

So how do you deal with this? How can you turn all these negatives into something positive for you?

I’ve given you the problems, so let me propose some solutions:

  • Find your overarching narrative.
    Whenever I have a book release, I take the details of its inspiration and craft a storyline that matches to a theme. For example, every night at bedtime in my house, my kids go nuts. My son, especially, when he was younger, he refused to sleep—no naps, no bedtime, no nothing. He was absolutely convinced I was going to do something awesome. This became the backstory for CHICKS RUN WILD, and I’ve introduced the book to hundreds if not thousands of readers by telling this story. With each of your books, you should be creating a narrative as well—but when you have multiple books at once, think of an umbrella narrative that talks about all the books. For example, DUCK, DUCK, MOOSE and ORANGUTANGLED are both about having bad days (though they resolve that issue differently). When I talk about them together, I tell my audience about taking bad days, mistakes, blunders and turning them into inspiration. They’re also both about friendship, and the different ways your friends can help you get through a rough patch. When you have one narrative, that message starts to represent you as a brand instead of the individual products/books. And at the end of the day, you want fans of your brand, not just your book.
  • Coordinate efforts.
    When you start marketing one book, leave yourself openings to market the others. For example, when I was booking release day virtual visits for SNORING BEAUTY and I had too many requests, I offered the folks I couldn’t schedule in March a spot on the TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS release day. So instead of having to start from scratch for the next release, I’ve got some legwork done already.

sudiptabookmarkUse this principle in your marketing materials, too. Having bookmarks printed? Think about designing something that works for all your new releases. Making postcards? Create a “New for 2014” card instead of individual designs.

Just breathe. As I said before, in the grand scheme of things, having too many things published at once is the better dilemma to have. Because if you’ve got to have 99 problems, at least a book ain’t one.


Thank you, Sudipta! This is all good to know since I will be having two books released in 2015! Yikes! TWINS! Somebody boil some water!

Do you have any questions or comments for Sudipta? Leave a comment below and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of one of her 2014 books, YOUR CHOICE! (And a tough choice it is!)

Also be sure to visit Sudipta’s awesomely nerdy blog, Nerdy Chicks Rule.

10 Comments on 99 Problems, But a Book Ain’t One (plus a giveaway!), last added: 3/21/2014
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1330. Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss (ages 6-10)

Do you remember when you were a little kid and looked into the cockpit of an airplane? Wowwwww... all those controls and buttons and dials. I love sharing the story of early women pilots, and one of my favorites is Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee. Pair this with a great video interview of Maggie, which I'll include below.
Sky High:
The True Story of Maggie Gee
by Marissa Moss
illustrated by Carl Angel
Tricycle Press, 2009
your local library
ages 6 - 10
As a young girl, Maggie Gee longed to fly, but it wasn’t until World War II broke out that she was able to achieve this dream. One of only two Chinese-American women to join the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), Maggie’s passion for flying shines through in this biography of a true local hero. Gee went to UC Berkeley and was a longtime resident of Berkeley after her days in the WASP.
Maggie Gee
WASP 44-W-9
Young kids often ask me, "Is this real? Is she still alive?" They're trying to put history into context. Maggie Gee lived in Berkeley for many years, passing away in February 2013. Here is a wonderful interview to share with students:

Older students might want to use this as a launching pad for talking with neighbors, family members and friends about their experiences when they were younger. I found this article about Maggie Gee in Bay Area Insider also very interesting.

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss (ages 6-10) as of 3/22/2014 2:59:00 PM
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1331. Spring Reading 2014

Picture Books

Rip Van Winkle- Retold and illustrated by Will Moses, based on Washington Irving's book. Philomel Books a division of Penguin Putnam Books for young readers. New York 1999. This book is based on a  classical folk tale about a man who goes into the woods and falls asleep waking up many years later to a new world. This classic tale is retold with a combination of wonderful illustrations and words. It is probably better suited for the older child because of complex words and storyline. This new version brings a wonderful story back to our modern world. The storyline and sophisticated crafted words make it more suited for an older child.  

Patti Cake and Her New Doll- Written by Patricia Reilly Giff and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. Published by Orchard books New York an imprint of Scholastic Inc. 2014. The book describes one day in a life of a little girl named Patti and her home companions mainly a dog named Tootsie and a new doll she got. With an imaginative approach, the author turns an regular day into an adventure and makes the ordinary into the extraordinary. A good book for you to get for you kids.

The Fisherman & His Wife- Based on a story by Grimm and Illustrated by John Howe 1984. Published by Creative Editions Mankato MN, 2001. The fisherman is happy living a simple life until one day everything turns around when he catches a magical fish. The fisherman's wife cannot be satisfied with what she gets. Her greed takes away everything the fish gave them. It is a great book for the older reader and the illustrations are stunning.

   Trouper- Written by Meg Kearney and Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Published by Scholastic Inc. NY, 2013. The book is written from the point of view of a dog. The dog Trouper tells us his life story: how he lived on the streets t the time he was put in a pound and finally adopted. This book makes readers empathize with millions of abandoned dogs running on the streets or sitting in cages in the pounds waiting to find a loving home. I highly recommend this book to everyone.   

The Little Engine that Could
- Retold by Watty Piper and New Art by Loren Long. Published by Philomel Books a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group 2005. This is a great version of a classic. I loved how the writer and illustrator gave life to the characters. The story does not only teach children a lesson about never giving up, but it also introduces them to four kind of trains. I really loved this book and I strongly recommend you get it with your children. Each of us can accomplish anything we put our mind too.    

 Under the Same Sun- Written by Sharon Robinson and Illustrated by AG Ford. Published by Scholastic Press, New York 2014.  This is a great educational book about Tanzania a small country in Africa. One can vividly imagine the beautiful land of Africa with its lush scenery and many different animals. This book is very unique and the illustrations are amazing. The story is idle for a classroom setting.

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1332. Ned & Rosco, by Robin Robinson | Dedicated Review

Ned is a book-smart turtle with a very introspective way of thinking. As Rosco cartwheels onto the scene singing a song, Ned’s long awaited moment of serenity is shattered and so begins the story’s true tale of accepting differences and finding a balance between learning and living.

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1333. Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, by Tanya Lee Stone (ages 6-10)

Do we help our girls by sharing stories of women who broke through barriers, daring the world to accept them as they wanted to be seen? I definitely think we do. Who knows what our girls will want to do as they explore their passions and confront others' expectations. Tanya Lee Stone's upbeat portrait of Elizabeth Blackwell is a delight to share with young girls.
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors?
The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell
by Tanya Lee Stone
illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2013
your local library
ages 6 - 10
Girls will like the way Tanya Lee Stone talks directly to them right from the beginning:
"I bet you've met plenty of doctors in your life. And I'll bet lots of them were women. Well, you might find this hard to believe, but there was once a time when girls weren't allowed to become doctors." Young readers will be drawn in by Stone's challenge: Who do you think changed all that?

Elizabeth Blackwell loved exploring new things, taking on challenges and doing the best she could. Don't you just love Marjorie Priceman's illustrations? As The Horn Book writes, they lend a perfect framework of energy and pacing to the text."
Even though she was rejected from 28 medical schools, Elizabeth kept pursuing her dream. Read this aloud with 1st through 4th graders, talking about what qualities helped Elizabeth persevere. See where you can see her courage, sense of self, and determination.

For more resources, definitely check out The Classroom Bookshelf, a blog created by four terrific professors of education and literacy. Their posts include a wealth of ideas for using books as a springboard for discussions and projects. They also always include many links to pursue for further information. Here are some gems they share about Elizabeth Blackwell:

Illustration copyright © 2013 by Marjorie Priceman, Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors?, written by Tanya Lee Stone. Published by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell, by Tanya Lee Stone (ages 6-10) as of 3/20/2014 9:55:00 AM
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1334. Beyond the Moongate: True Stories of 1920s China, by Elizabeth Quan | Book Review

Quan’s watercolor paintings bring each anecdote to life in brilliant jewel tones and with quirky humor. This is a beautiful book for families to share and for individual readers to revisit.

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1335. Deborah Underwood & Claudia Rueda Discuss “Here Comes the Easter Cat”

It's rare that an author and illustrator get to work closely together while creating a picture book—this makes it very fun to get a peek into a conversation between a picture book duo that have been paired together by an editor and live in two different countries. In the case of the adorable Here Comes the Easter Cat, bestselling author Deborah Underwood wanted to know how award-winning illustrator Claudia Rueda managed to capture both Cat's crankiness and his sweetness.

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1336. KidLit Good News!

NIGHTINGALE'S NEST by Nikki LoftinYesterday brought exciting news:  New York Public Library’s Youth Materials Collections Specialist, Betsy Bird has tagged Austin author Nikki Loftin‘s new MG magical realism novel NIGHTINGALE’S NEST as a 2015 Newbery contender! Says Bird, “Honestly, it’s like nothing else I’ve seen in quite a while.” :) :) :)

And there’s more good news; Nikki will be the keynote speaker at the Houston Writers’ League Agents and Editors Conference next month, April 11, where she will also be leading a breakout session on writing successful query letters. Sign up!


GRANDFATHER GANDHI by Bethany Hegedus/Arun Gandhi, illustrated by Evan TurkAND! Besty Bird has also predicted the picture book GRANDFATHER  GANDHI by author Bethany Hegedus (founder of Austin’s The Writing Barn), co-author Arun Gandhi and illustrator Evan Turk, as a 2015 Caldecott nominee!

Read about both of these nominations as well as the books Betsy Bird thinks will be their main competition so far on Fuse Eight’s Newbery / Caldecott 2015: Spring Prediction Edition.

CHAINED by Lynne KellyIn other news, have you seen Lynne Kelly’s new site for CHAINED? It’s full of fun information like deleted scenes of Hastin telling folktales to his little sister Chanda, a book trailer, and a curriculum guide full of great classroom ideas.

ARMY CAMELS: TEXAS SHIPS OF THE DESERT by Doris FisherDoris Fisher’s new nonfiction picture book ARMY CAMELS: TEXAS SHIPS OF THE DESERT has been getting some good buzz! It’s been included in librarian/teacher Michael Sullivan’s list of Best Boy Books. Author JoAn Martin gave it a 5 Cart Review on publisher Pelican’s site.

DONNA OF THE DEAD by Alison Kemper

My D4EO Literary agent-mate Alison Kemper is having a blog tour for her debut YA DONNA OF THE DEAD from Entangled Teen. In this campy humor-meets-action vein of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, a teen girl has to face the obliteration of the human race from a virus that makes people act zombie-like, with only the help of a rag-tag group of high school classmates, including her long-time crush. (Coming soon: DWIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD!)

Hop over to The Reading Diaries, The Library of the Seen, The Happy Booker, The Bookworm’s Blog, and Addicted Readers for reviews, excerpts and giveaways!

There are so many exciting upcoming conferences and workshops; unfortunately, I can’t go to all of them. I can’t even go to most. But I can go to some! I will of course be at the Houston SCBWI Conference on April 26-27, and I might be at the Houston Writers’ Guild Conference on April 12. I really want to go to the Writing For Young Readers Conference in Utah this June, then there’s the enticing Full Novel Revision Week in August at The Writing Barn, and I’ve already committed to the Florida SCBWI Conference next January (TBA) to meet and hang out with Verla Kay (yes, I’m name-dropping :) ) and many other SCBWI Blue Board friends. I hope to run into some of you at one of these awesome writers’ events!


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1337. One Busy Week … Er, Day

My co-author and I had (what we think might actually be) final edits on our book this week, so I’ve been busier than normal. I don’t have art for you today for different reasons, but I do have a short review I wrote at BookPage about Lola M. Schaefer’s One Busy Day, illustrated by Jessica Meserve.

That’s here.

Until Thursday …

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1338. My Writing and Reading Life:Patricia Hruby Powell

Patricia Hruby Powell danced throughout the Americas and Europe with her dance company, One Plus One, before becoming a writer of children's books. She is the author of Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, an extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker written in exuberant verse. She lives in Champaign, Illinois. You can visit her online at talesforallages.com.

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1339. Review of Ballad

blexbolex ballad Review of BalladBallad
by Blexbolex; trans. from the 
French by Claudia Z. Bedrick; 
illus. by the author
Primary, Intermediate    Enchanted Lion    280 pp.
11/13    978-1-59270-137-7    $22.95

The French illustrator (Seasons, rev. 7/10; People, rev. 9/11) is as provocative as ever in this graphic celebration — and parody — of the very idea of story. Like Dr. Seuss’s And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), Ballad compounds the fantastical — literally, here: each chapter has twice the pages, less two, of its predecessor (4, 6, 10, 18…); at 130 pages, the seventh and last chapter is half the book — just one instance of Blexbolex’s intricate crafting. Meanwhile, the story expands from chapter one’s uneventful walk (“The school, the road, home”) to closer observation of the real world before entering an imagined world and its characters (“the stranger” — storyteller, musician, hero; “bandits” resembling Pinocchio’s Cat and Fox; “the witch”). Each chapter begins with a précis, but it is Blexbolex’s square illustrations, captioned with just a couple of nouns, that convey the action and accumulate references—a queen, a kidnapping, a dragon, a volcano, mountains, a waterfall, a castle, a captive elf, night, storm, rescue, escape. Ultimately, at dawn, the stranger and queen arrive “home.” Blexbolex’s simple forms range in colors from gentle blues and greens to the arresting yellow of the stranger’s raincoat and his trouser’s fluorescent pink; coarse grids of halftone dots add modeling and subtlety to the elegantly composed scenes. An intriguing book — one to unravel, decode, and ponder in successive re-readings.

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1340. Dee Dee and Me by Amy Schwartz

Dee Dee and MeHaving a big sister is not always what it is cracked up to be, especially if that sister hogs your toys and your friends and shakes up your pet ladybug and cuts up your favorite apron to make into a purse! Little Hannah has decided that she has had enough from her big sister Dee Dee, and she decides that she will be too busy if her big sister wants to see her new apron or to have breakfast with her or to play with her. Not only that, Hannah is going to run away so she doesn’t ever have to see Dee Dee again! Unfortunately, she can’t leave until after she has a small snack and finds her teddy bear “Brown Bear”, who seems to be missing.

Much to her surprise, her sister Dee Dee has taken “Brown Bear” to sew on a new eye, which makes Hannah very happy. It is the small kindness that makes us believe that these sisters really do love each other, and they will find a way to be friends. This realistic story about sibling rivalry is so refreshing, because it is an honest look at being sisters and what that really means. These sisters are just like most sisters in that they antagonize each other and tease each other, and then they learn to take care of each other, and eventually grow together as true friends.

Posted by: Mary

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1341. A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream, by Kristy Dempsey & Floyd Cooper (ages 4-9)

What's it like to hold on to a dream? Can a role model truly encourage a young child, or is that just what parents and teachers tell themselves? There are times that sharing a story helps me keep faith, just as much as reading an inspiring biography. A Dance Like Starlight is a book that filled me with hope and warmth, as I read about one little ballerina's dream.
A Dance Like Starlight
One Ballerina's Dream
by Kristy Dempsey
illustrations by Floyd Cooper
Philomel/Penguin, 2014
your local library
*best new book*
ages 4-9
A young African American girl longs to dance with the ballet school, but her mama says "wishing on stars is a waste anyhow." Hope is the key, mama says, but "hoping is hard work." Her mama certainly knows hard work, taking in laundry at night, and working every day sewing and cleaning costumes for the ballet school.
Mama says
is hard work.
When the Ballet Master sees her dancing in the wings, he notices her talent and dreams and invites her to join lessons each day "even though I can't perform onstage with white girls." Demspey and Cooper build up the story slowly and softly, helping readers understand the setting in 1950s New York, the discrimination at play.

When Mama takes her daughter to see Miss Janet Collins, the first African American prima ballerina to dance with the Metropolitan Opera House Ballet, the little girl's heart soars, "dancing, opening wide with the swell of the music."
It's like Miss Collins is dancing for me,
only for me
showing me who I can be
This story reminds me of the power of role models, the way they can inspire us to reach out for our dreams and persevere through hard times. Floyd Cooper's artwork is uplifting and dreamy, with soft grainy textures. Did you know he creates all his artwork by first painting layers, and then erasing them slowly to reveal the shapes?

Share more information about Janet Collins with your children. I loved reading about her in the New York Public Library article and this New York Times article, both celebrating the life of Janet Collins.

Thanks very much to Deborah Ford's and Junior Library Guild's Booktalks to Go LiveBinder. If you're looking for more books to read with kids and information to make that reading experience richer, I highly recommend this site.

All illustrations are copyright ©Floyd Cooper, 2014, shared with permission of the publisher, Penguin Books for Young Readers. The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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1342. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #373:Featuring Sophie Benini Pietromarchi

(Click to enlarge)

In The Color Book, to be released by Tara Books next month, Sophie Benini Pietromarchi explores color with child readers in a multitude of ways. “If you ask me,” she writes on page one, “I would have preferred to color quietly, instead of talking. I’m marking this great white page with blue ink, but ideally, I would rather not have written any words at all. Color speaks for itself better than words can — you can ‘feel’ color, and it goes straight to your heart.” But despite this, she notes, she wrote the book to invite children to “get to know colors” — by playing with them, contemplating their subtleties and meanings, considering the emotions that they evoke. It’s what she calls a color dance.

It’s a book both poetic and practical. She opens by relaying the feelings she remembers from her childhood — all based on colors. She then explores what colors are capable of by creating a character for each one (the Red Dragon, Mrs. Brown Snail, etc.), and she further discusses colors and moods by devoting an entire chapter to them. In the book’s second section, “The Basics,” she discusses such things as primary colors, complementary colors, and contrasting colors. And she closes the book by suggesting readers create their own books that explore color; her suggestions for readers’ color books are detailed, and child readers could easily follow along.

Pietromarchi, who both wrote and illustrated the book, uses collages, photos, and found objects in nature to lay it all out, and with an infectious passion for art, she invites readers to make connections and create art meaningful to them.

Here are a few more spreads …

“Yellow is a Bird of Paradise — wearing a flowery scent. Her eyes are two glowing lanterns, and she lives in a castle of straw with a thousand rooms. …”
(Click to enlarge and see full text)

“Here’s a sunny, laughing face. And the surrounding colors are equally happy — cheerful, strong and direct.”
(Click to enlarge)

” … I was thinking of Ms Yellow who carries a lemon in her yellow bag;
or a startled blue goat whose milk is made of ink …”

(Click to enlarge and see full text)

THE COLOR BOOK. Copyright © 2013 by Sophie Benini. Translated from the original Italian by Guido Lagomarsino and edited by Gita Wolf. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tara Books, UK and India.

* * * * * * *

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 * * *

My daughter, who turned ten years old this week, is having a birthday party sleep-over, so needless to say, I can hardly focus now. (Our house is tiny. It’s LOUD.) Consider it a minor miracle if anything I typed above makes any sense whatsoever, so I’ll forego kicks this week, except to say I’m extra grateful to have had the pleasure of my daughter’s company for ten whole years now.

Also, remember this August 2013 up-and-coming illustrator feature with Kate Berube? I’m happy to say she’s signed with an agent. News like this makes me want to do jazz hands AND spirit fingers. Check it out:

What are YOUR kicks this week?

11 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #373:Featuring Sophie Benini Pietromarchi, last added: 3/16/2014
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1343. Happy by Mies Van Hout | Book Review

Happy presents a cheerful introduction to emotions through the portraits of some very colorful and expressive fish that seem to be swimming in the depths of the dark sea.

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1344. Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm & At the Port by Britta Teckentrup

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - BUSY BUNNY DAYS -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> German born, British educated illustrator and author Britta Teckentrup has written and illustrated over 60 books, a handful of which have been published in the

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1345. The Odd One Out by Britta Teckentrup

New from Big Picture Press, The Odd One Out by Britta Teckentrup just might be their smallest book yet, in terms of trim size, but it is every bit as visually stunning and fantastically fun as every other book they have published since launching last year! With The Odd One Out, Teckentrup presents readers with yet another look-and-find book, but one that is markedly different from the

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1346. Peek-a-Zoo!: Nina Laden

Book: Peek-a-Zoo!
Author: Nina Laden
Pages: 22 (Board Book)
Age Range: 2-5

Nina Laden's Peek-a-Who? was one of my daughter's favorite books when she was about two. We've given it many times as a gift since then. So I was naturally interested when the new sequel, Peek-a-Zoo! landed on my doorstep. Like the first book, Peek-a-Zoo! is a board book featuring cut-outs that gives clues, and invites young children to guess what's coming next. In this example, all of the mysteries involve animals one might find at the zoo. The selections are driven by maintaining a motif of words that rhyme with "zoo." So we have "Peek a MEW!", showing a tiger cub playing with a ball, and "Peek a BAMBOO!", with a panda bear chewing on some bamboo. 

Because of the narrower focus, I found the answers much more difficult to guess from the tiny hint shown in the cutout than in the first book. "Peek a COCKATOO!" was particularly challenging, with its display of a fan of green feathers. But level of difficulty isn't really a problem with a book like this, because the child is going to read it dozens or hundreds of times, and he or she will have a chance to learn what all of the pictures mean. Like the first book, an embedded mirror at the end gives the child a chance to participate in the story. 

In truth, I don't know whether or not Peek-a-Zoo! will have the same appeal for toddlers that Peek-a-Who? does. I don't have a toddler nearby to test it out on. To me, the examples seem a bit more contrived (as necessitated by the book's tighter focus). But the illustrations are eye-catching without being too busy. And books about animals are always popular with the pre-preschool set. So I will  add Peek-a-Zoo! to my go-to gift list for new babies, as a companion book to Peek-a-Who? And if any of you have tried out both books with your toddlers, I would love to hear about their reactions. 

Publisher: Chronicle Books (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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1347. Free Fall Friday – Editor Announced

CALL FOR ILLUSTRATIONS: Only one illustrator sent in something for March. Surely you have something to show off, so please look to see if you have an illustration that would go well with the month or any illustration that might go with a writing or illustrating post. Same as always: At least 500 pixels wide, sent to kathy (dot) temean (at) gmail (dot) com, and include a blurb about you. Thanks!

I am pleased to announce that Susan Dobinick, Assistant Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux has agreed to be our Guest Critiquer for March.


Susan wants to work on everything. Right now she is especially looking for funny middle grade girl novels. In the young adult realm, I’d like to see books that tackle big social issues but aren’t preachy. With picture books, I like short and funny; I prefer quirky stories over cuddly. Across all formats, I’m a fan of books that have depth but are accessible—so that both kids and critics will love them.

Susan assists two children’s trade imprints. She works with fiction and nonfiction, ranging from picture to young adult books. Her specialties include children’s trade publishing, picture books, chapter books, middle-grade books, young adult books, educational publishing, textbooks, and teacher editions. She holds a B.A. in English from Chicago Goucher College.

Susan is Edith Cohn’s editor for Spirits Key, which is coming out in September. Edith has a nice interview with Susan on her blog. Here is the link:


Here are the submission guidelines for submitting a First Page in March: Please attach your double spaced, 12 point font, 23 line first page to an e-mail and send it to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail.

DEADLINE: March 21st.

RESULTS: March 28th.

Put “March First Page Critique” or “March First Page Picture Prompt Critique” in the subject line. Make sure you have your name on the submission, a title, and indicate the genre.

You can only send in one first page each month. It can be the same first page each month or a different one, but if you sent it to me last month and it didn’t get chosen, you need to send it again using the March directions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be the same submission. It can be a first page from a work in process or you can use the picture prompt above.

Please include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it is as picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top.

BELOW IS THE MARCH FIRST PAGE PICTURE PROMPT for anyone who would like a little inspiration to spark their first page.


Always thought there was a story with this picture illustrated by Mark Meyers. Mark spends his days drawing and painting pictures filled with kids, escaping circus monkeys, and everything in between. He was featured on Illustrator Saturday. Here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/illustrator-saturday-mark-meyers/

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Editor & Agent Info, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, picture books, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Chicago Goucher College., Farrar Straus Giroux, First Page Critiques, Free Fall Friday, Susan Dobinick

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1348. Illustration Inspiration: Diane Goode

DIANE GOODE has illustrated 55 beloved and critically acclaimed picture books, including the New York Times best seller, FOUNDING MOTHERS and the Caldecott Honor Book, WHEN I WAS YOUNG IN THE MOUNTAINS.

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1349. Happy St. Patrick’s Day from The Snuggery!

Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk

An Irish Tale Told and Illustrated by Gerald McDermott


St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. In fact Belmar, New Jersey had its annual parade recently to honor the saint that drove the snakes out of Ireland. Not to compare this parade, though attended by tens of thousands, and a much smaller version, to its mammoth counterpart in New York, but it is an indicator of small towns throughout the country that celebrate St. Patrick and all things Irish on March 17th. Though born in Britain, Patrick was kidnapped from his native home and held as a slave in Ireland for many years. But following his escape at about sixteen years of age, he nevertheless returned to Ireland to bring his captives, the faith. How’s that for a lesson in forgiveness?

The Irish culture is awash in folk tales handed down in oral tradition. While families gathered around peat fires and told stories that sometimes echoed the grinding poverty and desolation, that deprivation could be forgotten for a moment in the closeness of family and the telling of folk tales. These stories can definitely take you to another place when the present is difficult to understand, much less cope with. So the Irish have a rich history and penchant for the lively folk tale filled with the “little people” or leprechauns, and, whether it be for wisdom or whimsy, it is worthwhile introducing some of these stories to your young readers come March 17th!

Meet Tim O’Toole and his bride who are “so poor they had not penny or a potato between them.” Porridge is the mainstay of their diet and even the mice that inhabit the house are thin, and their cat is too tired to chase them! Now that is poor when even the mice are thin!

Being the practical one of the family, Kate O’Toole hands Tim what for and tell him to stop complaining and go out and find some work. Ah, but as he travels the countryside, he can find no employment, but he does hear MUSIC from a hollow nearby. Yup, it’s the “wee folk” singing away with fiddles, drums and pipes to beat the band. Has Tim’s luck changed for the better? For it is well known in Ireland that whosoever chances upon these leprechauns in the light of day, can “demand their treasure.”

Faith and begorrah, Tim, your problems are solved. Saints be praised! Or are they? Read on and discover how the “wee folk” are a generous lot and Tim and his bride are gifted in turn by a goose that lays golden eggs, a magic tablecloth that produces food, and a strange green hat that… (Hmm, that would be giving too much away). However, they are also gifted, though that is too kind a phrase in referring to this duo, with the McGoons; a pair of jealous neighbors that Tim unfortunately tells of his good fortune. The devilish McGoons (great name) employ the “ole switcheroo” con game to the kindly O’Toole husband and wife.

Will the McGoons get what’s coming to them? Will the sudden array of friends that descend on Tim and Kate in their sudden wealth, be sent packing? Where were they before is what I want to know?

Trust the kind “wee folk” and the magic green hat to set it all aright!

Your young reader will be cheering for Tim and Kate while booing the crafty McGoons who do get their comeuppance. But I shall not say how. Read Tim O’Toole and the Wee Folk to see, in this charming folk tale, to see how “just desserts” are served up Irish style. Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 


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1350. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Chris Van Dusen

“It was a pretty good plan. And so those eight great minds rolled up their sleeves,
and they yanked and they tugged.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I have a bit of a Shel Silverstein appreciation. That link will be here.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Mac Barnett’s newest picture book, President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath (Candlewick, March 2014), illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. As a follow-up today, I have two spreads.

“‘Blast butter!’ said Taft. ‘As soon as I’m out, I’ll just need a bath.”(Click to enlarge spread)


Until Sunday …

* * * * * * *

PRESIDENT TAFT IS STUCK IN THE BATH. Text copyright © 2014 by Mac Barnett. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Chris Van Dusen. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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