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1326. In the works...

Pepi Moves House

Just completed "Pepi Moves House" e-book five in the series 
written by Alarna Gray....Coming Soon!

New Works Program

Characters developed a play written by Marcia Trimble for
Boston Children's Theater New Works Program

This is a sequel to Marcia's FREE ebook - Fairytale Moments - Who is Your Giant?

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1327. Illustrator Saturday – Susan Detwiler

detwilerRed Canoe book signing 410 008croppedSusan grew up in Maryland and was educated at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, where she and her husband and two sons now live. Besides books for children, her illustrations have been used for advertising, merchandise, and greeting cards. She is the Illustrator Coordinator for the SCBWI MD/DE/WV region.

We have a real treat this Saturday. Susan has offered to give a way her book BIG CAT, Little Kitty.  If you would like a chance to win, please leave a comment and tweet or add to your facebook page. Next Friday I will announce the winner. 

Here are some of Susan’s clients:

Baltimore Precision Instruments, The Baltimore Sun, Barton-Cotton, Bits & Pieces Puzzles, Catalpha Advertising & Design, Educational Press, Girl Scouts USA, Hallmark Cards, Highlights for Children, Humane Society US, Johns Hopkins Women’s Health, Ladybug Magazine, McDonogh School, National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Prospect Hill Press, Real Creative Advertising, Stave Puzzles, Stemmer House Publishers, Success For All Foundation, Sunrise Greetings, Sylvan Dell Publishing, Tree-Free, US Can, Words & Numbers, World Wildlife Fund.

Here is Susan explaining her process:


For the panda book, as with all my picture books, I started by gathering reference photos.


Then I made thumbnail sketches of each spread on one sheet of paper so that I could plan the way it would flow.


I enlarged my thumbnail. 


Then made a more detailed sketch to submit to the editor for approval.


Once approved, that sketch was projected onto my drawing surface, which in this case was gray charcoal paper.


The final was done in soft pastels made by Derwent, Faber Castell and other brands.


I scanned the finals and Sylvan Dell added the text.


Book cover above and interior spreads below:





BIG CAT, Little Kitty written by Scotti Cohn - Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing; First Edition (March 10, 2011) ISBN: 978-1607181248

The First Teddy Bear by Helen Kay – Publisher: Stemmer House Publishers; 2nd edition (September 1, 2005) ISBN-13: 978-0880451536


One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing (May 24, 2012) ISBN-13: 978-1607186090


On The Move Mass Migration by Scotti Cohn  Publisher: Sylvan Dell Publishing (March 5, 2013) ISBN-13: 978-1607186168


How long have you been illustrating?

In the early 1980s I worked as a staff illustrator for J. Walter Thompson Recruitment Advertising, a job that was a lucky break. I learned to draw line art depictions of all races of people and to work within short deadlines. I took freelance assignments whenever I got them, and after a few years decided to freelance exclusively.


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

I have always wanted to illustrate books for children, and when I read about Stemmer House, a small publisher near Baltimore, I contacted the editor and made an appointment to show my portfolio. Another lucky break! I was given a contract to illustrate The First Teddy Bear, published in 1985. I am happy to report that it is still in print; a second edition was released in 2005.


I see you graduated from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Can you tell us a little bit about that school?

The Maryland Institute College of Art was such an exciting place for me to be in the mid-seventies when I was there! The school was just beginning its phenomenal growth that continues into the present – MICA is one of Baltimore’s premier cultural institutions, is recognized as one of the top art schools in the country, and is the center of Artscape, the largest free arts festival, held each July. I studied Graphic Design/ Illustration for three years and met my artist husband there. I have been back to participate in an illustration workshop, and have several friends on the faculty. However, I was unable to finish my degree back then; I hope to do so in the future.



What types of classes did you take?

I took Illustration classes with Cyril Satorsky and Richard Ireland, Graphic Design with Bob Wirth, and Screen Printing with Quentin Mosley.


Did you have a focus in on any area of art?

I knew that I wanted to be an illustrator, so I concentrated on sharpening my drawing and painting skills and the elements of graphic design that apply to illustration. I regret that I did not study sculpture, because I love to sculpt and spend time at the beach each summer making sculptures in sand.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

While I was in high school an amateur theater company hired me to design and screen print posters for their production of The Music Man. I was thrilled to get money for having so much fun!


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?

My work is regularly published in Highlights.



Do you have representation from an artist rep or an agents?

I have a licensing agent, but I am not represented in the children’s market.


Your website shows that you published four books with Sylvan Dell Publishing. Could you tell us how they found you?

Actually, I found them; I heard about this young company at a SCBWI conference and was attracted by the fact that they publish only picture books and take email submissions. I submitted a book dummy, which was rejected, but the editor asked if I’d be interested in illustrating a book for them. Of course I said yes!


Are they mainly an educational publisher?

Sylvan Dell includes educational material in the back pages of each picture book, but their books have good stories and beautiful illustrations as the highest priority; their motto is Science and Math Through Literature. They market to bookstores as well as schools and libraries.


Which book was your first?

I illustrated One Wolf Howls by Scotti Cohn, published in 2009.



You also have another book published by Stemmer House. How did that contract come about?

That was my very first book illustration contract, and I was young and had little idea of how it all worked! The editor at Stemmer House gave me the manuscript for The First Teddy Bear and instructed me to divide it into pages and make a book dummy with sketched illustrations on each page. I worked on that book for a year… I don’t think my experience was typical. After that I joined the SCBWI and learned a lot.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Oh, yes! My head is full of ideas, and I experiment with stories and drawings whenever I can.


As Illustrator Coordinator, what types of things have you done with the MD/DE/WV SCBWI chapter members?

Besides offering individual portfolio reviews by art directors, editors and agents visiting our conferences, once a year we have a “First Look” panel of visiting faculty comment on illustrators’ work (anonymous) in a slide show format. We also display members’ portfolios at conferences, and include at least one workshop or breakout session geared specifically to illustrators. This year, our region’s 20th anniversary, we held a logo contest.



Have you taken advantage of showing off your portfolio at one of national conferences?

Yes, I participated in the Portfolio Showcase at the NYC SCBWI Winter Conferences of 2012 and 2013.


Do you see yourself writing and illustrating your own book someday?

Yes, I’ve got a couple in the pipeline.


It looks like you have illustrated for a large variety of companies. What did you do to get that work?

While my kids were small I concentrated on greeting card and local advertising freelance assignments, which I got by word of mouth and a minimum of self-promotion. Those jobs were able to be completed quickly and I received payment quickly, too, which suited my situation as a parent working from home. The freelance market has changed since then, and self-marketing and promotion claim a much bigger part of my time. I am targeting the children’s publishing market more than before, but still accept assignments from businesses, when they come my way.



Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

It was not true when I started my business, but today I could not function without my computer. The internet changed everything. It’s hard to imagine my work as a freelancer without email, Photoshop, scanning and printing.


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

When facing a deadline I am completely disciplined about work, but an average day is broken up with domestic chores and walks in the park with my dog, as well as art work.


What is your favorite medium to use?

Pencil, followed closely by watercolor.


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

My studio contains a four-drawer file cabinet full of picture clippings I’ve been gathering since I started this work, although I more frequently use the web for photo references. I sometimes sketch or take my own photos for reference, but I always do research at the start of a job.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Well, it has brought the world to my fingertips right here in my studio, and it enables me to communicate with clients or potential clients and allows far more people to see my work, so that’s a definite yes.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, I am digitally coloring drawings sometimes, and Photoshop has freed me from the fear of messing up when working in traditional media – I can always fix it on the scan.


Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet?

I do not own one, but have been curious.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your materials changed?

My commercial work requires me to be fluent in a number of styles, which is fun, like trying on costumes. I did my second book for Sylvan Dell entirely in soft pastel, then a completely new medium for me. But my natural inclination is a fairly detailed and painterly style which has changed only a little over the years. Animals have been my book subjects most often, but I also love to depict children in my illustrations, and use watercolor and pencil more than other media.


How do you market yourself?

I am always looking for new ways to get my work seen by people who could hire me. I have a website, a Facebook page, am registered on LinkedIn, send postcards to editors and art directors, and take every opportunity to hand out business cards. I regularly visit schools and give presentations of my work.


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

Okay, if you’re talking dreams… I’d like to win the Caldecott. But more realistically, I would like to be successful enough in the children’s publishing market that my work would be regularly pursued.


What are you working on now?

I am working on a retelling of an Aesop’s fable about mice.



Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

For the panda book, as with all my picture books, I started by gathering reference photos. Then I made thumbnail sketches of each spread on one sheet of paper so that I could plan the way it would flow. I enlarged my thumbnail and made a more detailed sketch to submit to the editor for approval. Once approved, that sketch was projected onto my drawing surface, which in this case was gray charcoal paper. The final was done in soft pastels made by Derwent, Faber Castell and other brands. I scanned the finals and Sylvan Dell added the text. For watercolor illustrations, I use Strathmore 500 series cold-press illustration board, which I buy from Utrecht in packs of 10 sheets. You can use both sides, and it’s 100% cotton rag. I love pan watercolors and Windsor Newton series 7 brushes. I transfer my rough drawings onto the board via an artist’s projector (mine is an ancient “Kopyrite”).



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

Keep working to hone your craft, even if you have to give yourself assignments. Join the SCBWI. Keep listening and learning and studying the art that excites you. Take every opportunity to let your work be seen.

detwilersand_hound copy

Susan takes her artist talents even to the beach.

Thank you Susan for sharing your talent, journey, process, and one of your books with us.  Please let us know when you have a new success or a new piece of art you would like to show off.  You can visit Susan at www.susandetwiler.com

I always ask if you will leave a comment for Saturday’s Featured Illustrator, but this week you will put yourself in the running for one of Susan’s books, if you leave and comment and post something on Twitter or facebook about this post. Of course if you do not have a Twitter or facebook account, just let me know with the comment and you will be included in the drawing.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, opportunity, picture books, Process Tagged: A SCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Maryland Institute College of Art, Susan Detwiler, Sylvan Dell Publishing

12 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Susan Detwiler, last added: 3/9/2013
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1328. Fast Five: Picture Book Biographies


"A beautifully realized labor of love and affection brings to life one of our brightest founding fathers." – Kirkus Book Reviews, starred review

"With a jacket showing Benjamin Franklin as a cross between a mad scientist and a superhero standing amid wild lightning bolts and surrounded by all manner of electrical devices, this book shimmers with excitement, begging to be read." – The Horn Book, starred review

"It's a fascinating and comprehensive portrait, and an asset for student research." – Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Large in format and ambitious in scope, this appealingly designed book spotlights Benjamin Franklin and his times." – Booklist, starred review


"Deft storyteller Shana Corey knows that good history writers pick rich details to paint a life story. That’s exactly what she does in ‘Here Come the Girl Scouts!’.” —The New York Times

"Corey tells Low’s story with few words, but a lot of energy. This is an exuberant celebration of Low’s work just in time for the Girl Scouts 100th anniversary.” —School Library Journal, starred review

"Corey’s gung-ho prose conveys Low’s gumption and optimism. Hooper’s folksy mixed-media art, much like Corey’s prose, portrays the Scouts and their history in a fresh, unstuffy manner.”—Publishers Weekly

“Girl power, all the way around.”—Booklist


"A witty and wise portrait of strength being born out of difference. " --Starred Review, Publisher's Weekly

"A graceful and good-humored account introduces the very human sides of the disparate duo who came together in the Continental Congress to give birth to American independence in an extraordinary achievement in 1774-1776. Humorous, respectful and affectionate: a solid invitation to learn more."
 --Kirkus Review

“Forthright and dynamic....authoritative yet child-friendly.” — School Library Journal

“Light-hearted but eminently humane.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


"Irrepressible Alice Roosevelt gets a treatment every bit as attractive and exuberant as she was....The large format gives Fotheringham, in his debut, plenty of room for spectacular art." --Starred Review, Booklist

"Theodore Roosevelt's irrepressible oldest child receives an appropriately vivacious appreciation in this superb picture book.... Kerley's precise text presents readers with a devilishly smart, strong-willed girl who was determined to live life on her own terms and largely succeeded." --Starred Review, Kirkus

"Kerley's text gallops along with a vitality to match her subject's antics, as the girl greets White House visitors accompanied by her pet snake, refuses to let leg braces cramp her style, dives fully clothed into a swimming pool, and also earns her place in history as one of her father's trusted advisers. Fotheringham's digitally rendered, retro-style illustrations are a superb match for the text."--Starred Review, SLJ

ANNIE AND HELEN - Deborah Hopkinson

“...What is breathtakingly shown here, through accurate, cross-hatched watercolor paintings; excerpts from Sullivan’s correspondence to her former teacher; and concise and poetic language, is the woman’s patience and belief in the intelligence of her student to grasp the concepts of language....elucidating the brilliant process of educating the deaf and blind pioneered by Annie Sullivan.” --Starred Review, School Library Journal

"Combining short excerpts from Annie Sullivan's letters with lyrical prose, Hopkinson succeeds in making the early years of the relationship between Helen Keller and the woman she called Teacher feel newly remarkable." -- Publisher's Weekly

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1329. Cheer Up, Mouse! by Jed Henry

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - CHEER UP MOUSE -->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 --> Cheer Up, Mouse! is the newest book from the pretty brand-new picture book illustrator and now author, Jed Henry. I featured Just Say Boo! by Susan Hood

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1330. Pluto's Secret

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - PLUTO'S SECRET -->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 --> Pluto's Secret: An Icy World's Tale of Discovery is written by Margaret Weitekamp and David DeVorkin and illustrated by Diane Kidd. The authors are both curators

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1331. TAMEKA BROWN and My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood!

I am excited to be part of the blog tour for  Tameka Brown’s newest picture book — My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood! Welcome, Tameka! *and the crowd goes wild!* Tameka graciously answered some of my questions below. I hope you are as inspired by her responses as I am. Her interview made me want to go …

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1332. I Dare You Not to Yawn by Hélène Boudrea, illustrated by Serge Bloch

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN -->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);} I Dare You Not to Yawn by Hélène Boudreau and illustrated by Serge Bloch really should come with a warning label. I mean, I know it should be obvious, but still, I am quite

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1333. The King of Space by Jonny Duddle

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE KING OF SPACE -->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);} The King of Space by Jonny Duddle is an epic picture book. As a parent and longtime children's bookseller, I am deeply aware that the contents of a picture book might not always seem to

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1334. Janeen Brian – Part Two

Janeen 2Do you have an all time favourite book character you secretly aspire to be more like? Discover Janeen Brian’s

Q Who or what was your favourite book character as a child? If you could incorporate that character into one of your own stories, which would it be and why? How would you adapt that character to suit?

I wanted to be one of the girls in the Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Secret Seven series, because, having few books in my childhood, I felt as if I personally knew the girls. But as well, they were up front characters who had adventures and were at time, quite gutsy. I liked that! I think many of my girl characters have some of those characteristics!

Q Which Aussie children’s book author do you admire the most and why?

How can any reader or writer answer that! I love the work of my friend and poetry colleague, Lorraine Marwood. Her words sing to me or shake me about. Her work is so real and yet, magical. A bit like her.

Q How long does it take you to develop a children’s story? Does the time vary dependant on the genre: picture book, MG novel, script etc.Eddie Piper

I have recently compiled an anthology of my poems, entitled, As long as a piece of string. That will have to suffice for my answer to that one, because as vague as it is, it’s the truth. Sometimes picture books can take as long to write as a piece of fiction. Of course, you’re not necessarily slogging at it for hours every day, but developing it, shaping it and re-writing it over time.

Q Do you write every day? What is the most enjoyable part of your working day?

It’s rare that I miss a day where I’m not writing, even if it’s just catching up on my diary.

I'm a Dirty DinosaurQ What inspires you to write like nothing else can?

Certain words; strong, emotional situations; a state of tranquillity.

Q Do you have a special spot or routine to make the magic happen or can you write anywhere, any time?

I work mainly in my home office; and each morning I prime myself by responding to emails and getting lots of admin out the way first. It’s also a way of letting my brain know that I’m here and we’re going to do something to do with writing or brainstorming. I do a lot of brainstorming. I don’t tend to start putting anything on the computer until I’ve written enough, using pen on paper, and have a physical feeling that that I’ve captured the voice of the character or that I’m ready to start.

Q What is that one thing that motivates you to keep on writing (for children)?

I love the creativity; the tumble and jumble of words and feelings; the constant astonishment that so much of what happens in your life can become the story for another and the fact children seem to like what I write.

Shirl at the Show JBQ Name one ‘I’ll never forget that’ moment in your writing career thus far.

So many! I think being a writer is full of surprises, but a recent one was winning the Carclew Fellowship in the 2012 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature. The Fellowship awarded me a sizeable amount of money to further research and develop a three-in-one-project. When the phone call came to say that I’d won, my first reaction was that I was going to be told my application was disallowed because it involved three proposals, not one. But instead, I was told I’d won!

Q What is on the draft table for Janeen?

Three books due for release within the next six months – so, much admin, media promotion and launches to organise. The books are: A picture book for the very young, called I’m a dirty dinosaur. (illustrated by AnnMeet Ned Kelly James and published by Penguin group Australia). An Australian historical picture book for the young called Meet Ned Kelly (illustrated by Matt Adams and published by Random House) and an historical, adventure novel for upper primary, called That boy, Jack.(published by Walker Books) I also have a number of other projects out with my agent or publishers.

My next project will be another picture book. I have vague ideas, but will need to do more research first.

Can hardly wait. For a full list of this year’s releases visit Janeen’s website too.

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1335. Making Connections between Books and Day to Day Life

ShareAStoryLogo-colorThis post was written for Day 3 of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. The overall theme for this year's Share a Story is Literacy: The First Five Years. Day 3, hosted by Debbie Alvarez at The Styling Librarian, focuses on literacy for pre-preschoolers (ages 2-3). Since I work on building a love of books for my pre-preschooler (Baby Bookworm, who is nearly 3) every day, this seemed like a theme in which I should participate. Specifically, I'd like to talk about making connections between books and day to day life.

Making connections between books and the real world is a recommendation that I've seen in various blog posts and books. But for me, this isn't actually something that I work on consciously. I think that this is just something that happens when you have a book-focused household. If you read the same book over and over and over again (as will happen), it's natural that you think of that book when something crops up. All you have to do is share those thoughts with your child, and let her share them with you. 

Yesterday morning, as I was lying in bed looking at the sunlight coming in, I thought: "The sun was up. The day was bright. It filled our room with yellow light." This is the opening for Good night, laila tov, by Laurel Snyder and Jui Ishida (my review). My daughter wasn't there at the time. But if she had been, it would have been the most natural thing in the world to say those words aloud. She would have known what I meant. 

When we see a dog, she'll mention Bailey (by Harry Bliss). When she is being particular about what she wants to wear, I'll tell her that she's being like Ella Sarah (Margaret Chodos-Irvine), or Zoe (Bethanie Deeney Murguia). Sometimes I'll say "hmmpf", and my daughter laughs and says that I'm being "just like Bear" (from Bug and Bear, by Ann Bonwill and Layn Marlow). When she gets dressed in the morning, Baby Bookworm will say: "pink me up" or "purple me up", in reference to Charise Mericle Harper's Pink Me Up!. When we go through the security lane at the airport, her blanket goes through the big machine, just like Knuffle Bunny (Mo Willems). 

These things are pretty much seamless. I think the important thing is to encourage them as much as possible. You don't need to force it, or make artificial references to books. But if something that you see makes you think of a book, by all means point it out. And if your child refers to something from a book, celebrate that, and encourage it where you can.  

Of course there are other ways that these connections work, too. Up to this point, I've been talking about mentioning things that you've seen in books as you go about your day-to-day life. Another aspect of making connections lies in mentioning things about your day-to-day life as you are reading books. And although this is a little bit different, I think that includes making connections between books. Because the other books are part of our life, too. 

So, when we were reading Big Mean Mike (Michelle Knudsen and Scott Magoon) last night, I pointed out to my daughter that Mike's reaction to the bunnies was almost exactly the same as Bear's reaction to Mouse in A Visitor for Bear (Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton). This, to be honest, was over her head. But when we see a reference to a tiger in a book, it's logical for me to say, "what other tigers do we know from books?" and for her to chime in with "Louis!" (Louis the Tiger Who Came from the Sea, Michal Kozlowski and Sholto Walker).

When we see a reference in a book to a baby, we talk about Baby Bookworm's new baby cousin. We just read Bear's Busy Family (Stella Blackstone and Debbie Harter), and talked about all of her cousins. When we read Pink Me Up!, there's a reference at the end to a daddy who is a doctor. Baby Bookworm always chimes in with "My daddy a doctor, too." 

Making these latter sorts of connections (back to the real world, or to other books, while reading) may feel a bit more forced, at first. Sometimes as a reader you don't want to interrupt the book to talk about something else. But I think, particularly for books that are repeat reads, that this actually makes your child appreciate the book more. The book has relevance to her life. And she can better understand what something means, if it's compared with something concrete that she knows. 

In summary, here are three ways to help your pre-preschooler to make connections between books and life:

  1. Point out connections to favorite books as you go about your day to day activities. This shows your child that you value books, and increases his or her excitement about reading the books. If you do this consistently, you'll soon find that your child is making these connections on his own.
  2. As you read books, point out connections between the book and the child's larger world. This shows your child that books are relevant, and helps to enhance her understanding. 
  3. As you read books, point out connections to other books. This helps to solidify the universe of books in your child's mind, and gives him practice in making connections (which can in turn help with 1 and 2). 

Making connections between books and day to day life (and between books and other books) is a way to improve your pre-reading child's literacy. It's also fun, easy, and completely addictive. I highly recommend it. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

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1336. Nora's Chicks by Patricia MacLachlan, illustrated by Kathryn Brown

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - NORA'S CHICKS -->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);} Nora's Chicks by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated  by Kathryn Brown visits one of her favorite places - the prairie. In Nora's Chicks, the titular character is an immigrant from Russia who

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1337. The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone, 10th Anniversary Edition, by Timothy Basil Ering

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE STORY OF FROG BELLY RAT BONE -->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 --> The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering is ten years old! But, it's new to me...  I'll be honest, I think I may be the

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1338. Trends – New bends in the path to publication. By J.R.Poulter

Some time last year, Erica Wagner, Publisher at Allen and Unwin, is reported as having said that there was a lot to be gained by having a text already illustrated [not that Allen & Unwin published picture books]. This is seemingly a change in direction.

Some writers/illustrators I know have recently signed contracts for ‘print ready’ books.  This is not self-publishing, but submission to a royalty paying publisher of a book that is ‘ready to go’ in publishing terms.

What constitutes a ‘print ready’ book?  It is a book that has been -

  • professionally edited,
  • proofread, has been
  • designed to industry standards,
  • professionally designed cover and,
  • if illustrated, has all images appropriately set.

This is a great way to go for authors who are able to pay illustrators and book designers up front. Most authors are not able to do this.  This then means all creators involved in a book project agreeing to royalty share and working between paid projects to collaborate on their book.

What have I gleaned about such ‘print ready’ deals? One company, smaller and reasonably new, offered a small advance and a good contract, by industry standards, with higher than regular royalty share for creators. An offer of help with promotion was also part of the deal. Another company, medium sized and established, offered no advance but better than average royalty shares for creators and help with promotion and marketing of the book.

How does this stack up against what is generally on offer now?

  • Small and middle range publishers, in general, do not offer advances.
  • Larger publishers offer advances depending on the book, depending on the author, and depending on the agent involved.
  • Smaller and middle range publishers often [there are exceptions] expect the author to do it all in relation to promotion, even requiring the submission of a marketing plan.
  • Larger publishers vary greatly as to how much promotion they will give a book.
  • Generally, publishers will submit copies of their publishing output for major awards, such as the CBCA, and to a selection of leading review outlets.

What’s the down side for author, illustrator, book designer, [often the illustrator], to go down the  ‘print ready’ publishing path?

  • It IS a lot of extra work for all creators involved to ensure the book is ‘professional’ standard even before it is submitted.
  • There is no money upfront.

Are the rewards worth the effort?

  • If you love collaborative work, it is a big plus.
  • Creators have much more project control to create the book they have collaboratively envisaged.
  • A quality product, ‘print ready’,  is a major bargaining point for creators/agents. ‘Print ready’ saves the publisher heaps!

The first company mentioned does small print runs, sells out their print runs, reprints and even sells out reprints and so it seems to be gradually snowballing.

It is too early to know in the second instance.  [I’ll keep you posted!]

My feeling is that, if Erica Wagner was sensing a ‘trend’ and if these companies make a success of it, we will see more such deals.  It’s something to think about!

To be launched end of June – “Toofs!” a collaboration between J.R. and Estelle A.Poulter an illustrators Monica Rondino and Andrea Pucci. More to come on what was a ‘print ready’ deal.

TOOFS by J.R.Poulter & Estelle A. Poulter, illustrated by Monica Rondino & Andrea Pucci

TOOFS by J.R.Poulter & Estelle A. Poulter, illustrated by Monica Rondino & Andrea Pucci

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1339. I Like Old Clothes: Mary Ann Hoberman & Patrice Barton

Book: I Like Old Clothes
Author: Mary Ann Hoberman
Illustrator: Patrice Barton
Pages: 32
Age Range: 5-8

I Like Old Clothes is, just as the title promises, a celebration of the merits of hand-me-down and used clothing. The narrator, a young girl, spends page after page outlining all of the things that she likes about previously-owned clothing. While not a riveting topic, perhaps, this book has two important things going for it.

First, the author is Mary Ann Hoberman (former US Children's Poet Laureate, and author of many many children's books in verse), which means that every page contains a perfect little poem. Like this:

"Clothes that belonged to a friend of a friend,
Who wore them to school when she lived in East Bend.
"You lived in East Bend once, Blue Sweater," I say.
"Just think, you are living in my town today.""


"I like to wonder what they've done,
What games they've played
And if they won,
And if the parties turned out fun." 

Second, I Like Old Clothes is illustrated by Patrice Barton, whose work I loved in Sweet Moon Baby. Barton's pencil sketch and mixed media illustrations make extensive use of texture, making them especially suited to a book about fabrics. She actually weaves clothing-related elements into other parts of the pictures, showing flowers made of buttons, and a sepia tape measure stretching across a floor. On one spread, the siding of the house is rendered in oh-so-gentle plaid. There are as many textures to the book as there are articles of clothing. The little girl is shown rosy-cheeked, muss-haired, and ever joyful, enjoying her wonderful, new-to-her clothing. 

The text of I Like Old Clothes was originally published in 1976 with different illustrations. I haven't seen that version, but this one is lovely. I Like Old Clothes is a 2012 Cybils nominee in Fiction Picture Books. And in fact, it would be a perfect companion to last year's short list title I Had A Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn. I'm not sure how broad the appeal of this one will be, but I do recommend it for readers old enough to have opinions about where there clothes come from, and for anyone who love Hoberman's verse or Barton's pictures. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2012 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

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1340. Open Very Carefully: A Book With Bite by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - OPEN VERY CAREFULLY A BOOK WITH BITE -->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 --> Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite, written by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne joins a fine tradition of picture

4 Comments on Open Very Carefully: A Book With Bite by Nick Bromley, illustrated by Nicola O'Byrne, last added: 3/7/2013
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1341. Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - MONSTERS LOVE COLORS -->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);} Everyone always needs another book about monsters (and robots) but you might ask yourself, "Do I (my kid) really need another book about colors?" If the book is Monsters Love Colors

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 Hey teachers!  Kids too!  Are you writing any nonfiction stories in class these days?  Lots of schools are trying out this approach to writing in general, and they’re studying the different ways good nonfiction books are written in particular, especially in light of the CCSS.  So what different kinds of writing might work nonfiction-wise?  There are plenty.


Try doing live interviews or writing a journal, for example—they both count as nonfiction. A few ideas:

Maybe your class can interview various folks who were on the scene during a great or terrible historic event, such as the Summer Olympics or even 911. Or try interviewing somebody who has an unusual job; maybe the old Santa Claus at the mall  or a fireman (naturally) or your mayor or a local musician or a TV personality or your own bus driver. 

And maybe you can pen some truly amazing journals during a field trip to a museum or a festival or an historic site. (Of course if you aren’t going on any field trips, you can always write some pretty entertaining journal entries about the food in your cafeteria.)

Or take a stab at uncovering the true story of how your own family came to America. Whether they got here last Wednesday or 300 years ago, doing the research is a hoot…and be sure to ask your parents or grandparents. You'd be surprised what they know and what you don't.

Or you can write research papers about things you’re learning in class—some examples might include compiling all sorts of comments about the frogs (living or dead) in your science lab, or researching and writing about a disterous Civil War battle for your history class, or making like a professional critic who’s writing book reviews for your English class, or examining the statistical issues behind today’s economic crisis in your math classes without putting anyone to sleep.  Now there's a challenge for you.

Yup, your writing has to shine; that’s a given.  But here’s an outstanding tool that lets you spice up everything you write, gets people interested in your stories and papers, helps you learn faster, makes sure readers remember your most complex material in a flash, and entertains your own self at the same time:

Really?  Most definitely!  After all, just think about it.  Whenever you go online or watch movies or TV or play video games or look inside certain books, they’re all about the pictures.  Lots of you are probably taking pictures yourself today by using a cell phone, or you’re adding pictures to online sites like Facebook.  So while you’re busy writing papers and journals and stories at school, why not think the way you do in the real world…whenever you write, stir plenty of artwork and photos and other visuals of your own into the mix.

Here are a few tiny examples of the gazillion ways to add pictures to your writing:

When you bring your journal along on a school field trip – or even on a regular day – be sure to bring some colored markers or colored pencils or just regular lead pencils. Then draw the coolest things you see.  Try to show the real world and still use your artistic imagination at the same time.  Put pictures next to the words you just wrote or use pictures to make a rebus or spread pictures into the margins or make them into cartoons or make them extremely realistic.  Let some of the pictures fill a whole page or two or three of their own.  They can most certainly be funny. They can most certainly be serious  or scientific. Doodling is just fine.  Cartoons are just fine.  Beautiful pictures are, well, beautiful and wonderful.  And of course you can draw all kinds of fancy lettering in your topic headings along the way. 
Trust me, people will want to see what you wrote if it’s illustrated.  When explores like Lewis and Clark or scientists like Charles Darwin wrote journals, they did these exact kinds of things. Their writing was incredibly fun to read and was informative to the max at the same time.  Yours should be too.
Another idea is to take photos during the day, print them out, and tape them in later.  Or collect small stuff you find and glue that in too—for example, add brochures or cut them up and tape some of the picture into your journal. Or add small parts of the plants you see on a farm visit. Or leaves you pick up on a hike during the fall.

One idea is to draw the person you are interviewing yourself! Or take your own photos of them doing something verrry cool and then paste or tape them into your written work. Or if they have any pictures taken when they were kids, make photocopies and add them to the mix. Even if you write your interview (or any other stuff) online, you can scan in your pictures and imbed them. 

Make colorful illuminated maps of the places you’re studying and add them into the mix.  To see exactly how this works, go here and check out the pictures

Think of cool and colorful pictures you can add to your charts and graphs:
If they look great, they can offer readers a fast and entertaining way to learn a lot of boring stats in a single glance.

Try putting the quotes inside of talk balloons that point at a picture of the person who's being quoted.  Maybe this person is a new cartoon character of your own creation (kind of like the one Jeff Kinney made up for his Wimpy Kid), or maybe you can research what the people you quoted really looked like and what they really wore, and then draw them accurately.


YIKES! Art is in danger of disappearing from our schools, and that would be a DISASTER.  Help bring it back by adding artwork to your written work in school.  

Paint pictures on wood! 

Rough canvas! 

Pebble board!  

Write words on all kinds of unusual paper.  

Try playing around with paint, scraps of cloth, cut paper, or scratch board, and then add them to your written work.  

Experiment with your photographs.   

Make collages using buttons, flowers, seeds, or leaves picked up off the ground....if your essay or journal is lumpy, so what? Your writing will end up being a keeper, and you will learn to think, be creative, do research, and remember what you wrote about for a very long time.

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1343. Prairie Chicken Little: The Sky is Falling! Again!

Win this book! See below to enter.
In a funny and frenetic remake of the traditional tale, Prairie Chicken Little by Jackie Mims Hopkins chronicles the over-reaction of one prairie chicken who thinks the sky is falling, or more accurately, a stampede is coming!

Listen to this text's unique voice as the story begins:

Out on the grasslands where bison roam, Mary McBlicken the prairie chicken was scritch-scratching for her breakfast, when all of a sudden she heard a rumbling and a grumbling and a tumbling.

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "A stampede's a comin'! I need to hightail it back to the ranch to tell Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan. They'll know what to do."

So away Mary ran, lickety-splickety, as fast as her little prairie chicken legs could carry her.

The onomatopoeia, the rhymes, and the word choice (such as "hightail it") combine to create a voice that matches both the book's setting and its levity. 

The book's fun is well supported by Henry Cole's splendid pictures. You might recall seeing his handiwork in Three Hens and a Peacock, mentioned here in a previous post. To me, Henry Coles' work is Audubon meets Looney Tunes. His animals are faithfully rendered in the physical sense, but with a personality and pluck that embodies them with all-too-human emotions. I particularly love that he gets us up close and personal with each animal, making the images seem larger than the book itself.

  • In the event that your students are studying other ecosystems such as as rain forests or polar regions, you could adapt this idea, challenging students to create a crisis or calamity, as well as appropriate creatures who would help spread the word. It's a pretty cool way to synthesize students' collection of random facts from a unit into a creative response. Can't you just see a penguin or a toucan as the main character? The book Loony Little: An Environmental Tale by Dianna Hutts Aston does just that for the Arctic region.
  • Fractured Fairy Tales are an all time favorite for kids to read, and they're fun to write as well. A recent post at the Peachtree Publishing blog provides some great titles to get you started.
  • Contrast Prairie Chicken Little with other books of this genre such as Chicken Little by Rebecca and Ed Emberly, Chachalaca Chiquita by Melanie Chrismer, Earthquack by Margie Palatini, and The Rumor: A Jataka Tale by Jan Thornhill.  
  • Try some other fun animal activities! Lots to choose from in my previous Animal Attraction post.
  • Have students research any of the animals from Prairie Chicken Little. Some of the real-life critters who populate this book sport some pretty amazing features. A good place to start? The Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society.
You can win your very own copy of Prairie Chicken Little direct from Peachtree Publishers!
Simply email me at keithschoch at gmail dot com (standard format) with Chicken Little in the subject line, and you're all set! Contest ends on Friday, March 15 at 11:59pm EST. You can even double your chances to win by visiting other blogs on the Prairie Chicken blog tour.

Don't forget to enter to win a copy of Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? as well. Contest ends 3/08/13.

1 Comments on Prairie Chicken Little: The Sky is Falling! Again!, last added: 3/6/2013
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1344. Illustrator Saturday – April Chu

AprilpicsmallI am an architect with an architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley. I currently reside in Oakland, California. Most important, I love illustrating and storytelling and it all started when I was very little…

One of my most vivid and earliest memories as a young child was my drawing of an old man sitting on a stool. I couldn’t believe how lifelike he turned out! I showed my grandmother who immediately told my mom, “Did you know your daughter can draw?!” I fell in love with drawing ever since. Everyday after school I would watch cartoons and then try to create my own characters and stories. My school notebooks were often filled with more outlandish doodles than actual notes.

Here’s April:

Before I do any sketching at all, I will read a manuscript over and over many times.  Sometimes I even close my eyes and just brainstorm ideas.  This step is important to me because this is when all the initial images and emotions I get from a story start forming in my head.  I also start doing research and compiling photos at this point as I did for Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments.

aprilPhoto 1
Then I start on rough thumbnail sketches.  Since I have a hard time drawing at a very small scale, my thumbnails are usually at half size.

aprilPhoto 2

Next I refine my thumbnail sketches.  I know that for this particular spread, I wanted the background to have a grandiose feeling of wind, waterfalls, and mountains that was reminiscent of a traditional Chinese painting.  This was the imagery that popped into my head when I did my initial brainstorming.

aprilPhoto 3

Sometimes I have a couple of options with different compositions.

aprilPhoto 4

Once the final thumbnail sketch is chosen, I will work on the final, full size sketch.

aprilPhoto 5

I scan the image into my computer and color in Photoshop.  Here is a final illustration of a girl playing the guzheng from Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments (Shen’s Books, 2013).


How long have you been illustrating?

I have been drawing since as far back as I can remember.  I was definitely that kid in school that had her notebooks, binders, and backpack covered in doodles.  So technically I have been illustrating for almost my entire life.  But professionally, I started in January 2012.


I see you are an architect. When did you decide you wanted to illustrate a children’s book?

After being in the architectural profession for many years, I realized that I could never be totally passionate about building design.  I needed to do something that gave me the freedom to be more creative and whimsical.  So in 2009 I enrolled in a children’s book illustrating course at UC Berkeley Extension and I instantly fell in love with the combination of storytelling and art.  I knew this was the direction I wanted to go in.


Did you go to school for art? If so, where and what did you study?

No, I studied architecture at UC Berkeley.


What was the first thing you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

I recently had an art exhibit at a local ice cream parlor for the Oakland Art Walk.  I sold a few pieces from that show.


Have you done any work for children’s magazines?  

No, but I would love to!


I see that you are represented by Kendra Marcus at BookStop Literary AgencyHow did that come about?

Kendra was one of the speakers at the South San Francisco SCBWI Illustrator Day last September.  Her straightforward attitude and experience in the children’s book industry really stood out to me.  Another huge plus is that her office is located in the Bay Area.  Although I didn’t formally meet her at the event, I invited her to check out my art exhibit a few weeks afterwards.  It turns out she remembers my work from the Illustrator Day (which is always a good sign) and a week later we met up for coffee.


It looks like you have a signed a contract with Creston Books. Will this be your debut book?

No, the contract with Creston Books has a longer schedule (release date Fall 2014) so my debut book will actually be with Shen’s Books (2013).


Can you tell us a little bit about the book and how that contract came about?

Creston Books is a young, local publishing house started up by author and illustrator Marissa Moss.  In fact, the debut list of books is coming this Fall.  I met Marissa at her children’s book party this last summer.  At the time she was looking for an illustrator for a manuscript she had acquired.  She sent me the story to see if I would be interested.  The fictional story is comprised of beautiful, minimal text and strong imagery about a family living in a fishing village.  Once I read it, I accepted the offer.  The book is appropriately titled Village by the Sea.


It looks like you also are illustrating a non-fiction book with Shen’s Books.  How did that contract happen?

The author Emily Jiang picked up my postcard from the SCBWI LA Conference last year and thought that I would be a good fit to illustrate her book, Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose about Chinese Musical Instruments.  Luckily, the publisher agreed.


Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?

Yes, I would love to write and illustrate my own book.


Have you put together a portfolio geared for the children’s book industry?

Yes, I prepared a portfolio for the SCBWI LA Conference last year.  It’s a work in progress because I am constantly switching out and adding new pieces to it.


Have you made any book dummies to show off?

Yes, I have a couple of book dummies for stories that I have written and illustrated.  One story is about a magical fish ball called Little Me and the other is about an adventurous beagle called Frank the Monster.


Not counting your paint and brushes, what is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

My computer, but my coffeemaker would come in at a close second!


Do you try and spend a certain amount of hours every day working on your art?

It seems like for the last year, I haven’t gone one day without working on some kind of art project for at least a couple of hours.  Lately I have been working like crazy to meet the deadline for my first book.  I actually have to remind myself to get up and stretch every so often.  It’s hard to step away when I am really immersed in my work.


What is your favorite medium to use?

At the moment, it’s pencil and digital.


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

Researching is very important to me before I begin a project especially for the nonfiction book about Chinese musical instruments I am working on with Shen’s Books.  In this case, researching on the Internet was not adequate since I needed to have a good detailed look at each instrument.  Fortunately, there is a local Chinese youth symphony that allowed me to take photos during their practice.  I was able to get a firsthand look at how the musical instruments were played, what they sounded like, and what they looked like in real life.  All those elements eventually shaped the final artwork.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes, the Internet is definitely a great marketing tool and is a convenient way for people to view my portfolio.  I was really opposed to social media sites at first but then I came to terms with the fact that it’s a necessary evil because it’s one of the main ways that people interact and stay connected nowadays.  So now I have learned to embrace it and to have fun with it.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

Yes, I scan my pencil drawings and then color them in Photoshop.


Do you own or have you ever tried a graphic Drawing Tablet? 

I own a Wacom Bamboo tablet.  It’s pretty basic but does the trick so far.


Do you think your style has changed over the years? Have your material changed?

I am constantly learning new things and refining my craft.  So I have definitely evolved as an illustrator but there are certain elements of my style that has carried through.  Initially I was set on being a traditional artist.  My medium of choice was either watercolor or colored pencil.  Then I ventured out and tried using Photoshop to tweak and then color the illustrations.  To me, it’s just another artist’s tool and I have never looked back since.  Now I am more comfortable with experimenting with other materials or I may even go back to using watercolor in the future.


How do you market yourself?

Besides using the Internet (updating Facebook, Twitter, my blog), I attend SCBWI events, hand out postcards, participate in art shows, and enter in art contests.  Bottom line is I try to get myself out there as much as possible because I never know who is going to see my artwork.


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

I often daydream that I would follow in the footsteps of illustrators that I admire: Chris Van Allsburg, Brian Selznick, Shaun Tan…just to name a few.  Not only do they all have long lasting careers, but their work has also branched out into the world of film and animation.  If you’re going to dream, why not dream big!


What are you working on now?

I am working on my two book illustration projects, submitting a proposal for another art show, and developing some of my own stories and illustrations.


Do you have any material tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tired – A how to tip, etc.

I could not function without my iMac, Photoshop, Epson large format scanner, and Cuisinart Grind and Brew Coffeemaker.


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

I strongly believe that if you work hard and stay focused, you can achieve anything.  Success will follow naturally.  Stay inspired and don’t be discouraged because the path to success is different for everyone.  Last but not least, remember to have fun!

Thank you April for sharing you journey and process with us.  Please let us know when you picture books come out. We’d love to see them and cheer you on. You can visit April at: www.aprilchu.com

If you have a moment I am sure April would like to read your comments.  I enjoy reading them, too, even if I don’t have time to reply to all of them. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: April Chu, Creston Books, Illustrator Saturday

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1345. Five Ways to Share Picture Books More Effectively

In my workshops, teachers often express the desire to use picture books in their classroom, but wonder how to do it most effectively. The answer to that question depends entirely upon what we want to accomplish.

Below I've provided a few thoughts on this topic, as well as some recommendations.

1) Teacher to Class Sharing

This strategy is probably as old as reading itself, and most closely mimics the read-together experiences shared by many children at home with family. The close proximity, the intimacy of this approach, explains why reading picture books online or on a tablet feels so much less satisfying. I would recommend this approach the majority of the time, no matter what the age group. When I read a picture book to my sixth graders, I still ask them to "come join me on the rug."

Before you choose this method, however, you might want to define your purpose. Why this picture book, and why now? Below are some thoughts which might help you clarify or find a purpose for sharing a picture book aloud.

  • Picture books activate not only prior knowledge, but also attitudes, beliefs, and misconceptions. Picture books create a bridge between the student’s prior knowledge and newly introduced learning. In a Social Studies lesson, for example, you might read aloud the picture book The Honest to Goodness Truth (see summary and lesson suggestions). After reading, you say, “I thought we all agreed yesterday in our discussion about elections that ‘Honesty is the best policy.’ Yet this book seems to say almost the exact opposite! So who’s right? Is there a time when honesty isn't the best policy?”

  • Pictures books construct schema. A teacher wishing to introduce a fantasy genre might share a picture book which exemplifies six traits of that genre. Upon completion of the reading, the teacher asks her students to list the traits they noticed. How best to confirm or disqualify these traits? Have the students read additional fairy tales in small groups or stations (see below). Discovering the critical attributes of any genre could be done in this same way (see ideas on exploring Fables)

  • Picture books create common ground. Before reading a novel set in the Depression, you might read aloud or show images from several picture books which deal with that topic. One might be illustrated with photographs and eyewitness reports, one with period art works sponsored by the WPA, and one with illustrations and a narrative by a contemporary author. In just a few minutes time, students would construct a shared set of images, feelings, and understandings on a single topic. Recently, my own students were challenged to address the topic "Is Winning Everything?" in an argumentative essay. In addition to a number of videos and discussions, our principal visited as a guest reader and shared :Let Them Play by Margot Theis Raven and Chris Ellison (see summary). When finished, he asked, "What would these boys have to say about winning? Was that all they wanted?" (See the video prompts at my How to Teach a Novel blog).
  • Picture books can make abstract concepts (such as life skills) concrete. As teachers we are often expected to teach “fuzzy” character concepts such as cooperation, responsibility, and integrity. Where are those lessons in our textbooks? Here is where picture books can play a large role. Through picture books, universal themes such as patience, empathy, teamwork, cooperation, forgiveness, fairness, and responsibility are captured in just sixteen or twenty-four pages, creating a memorable model for children who still think and generalize in very concrete terms. An idea such as integrity becomes very real to students through a shared reading and discussion of a book such as Demi's The Empty Pot.
2) Paired Readings

This type of reading usually occurs with a specific outcome in mind. In lower grades, paired readings allow readers to practice fluency and clarity. It also demands that readers are “attentive” at least 50% of the time. However, many students suffer in comprehension when required to read aloud. They are so concerned with the demands of meeting the needs of an audience that they “check out” from comprehending. It’s not uncommon for a student to read aloud an entire paragraph or page, and then have no clue what was read. 

Possible solutions? You might provide students with assigned portions and require that they silently read their selections first, seek help with unknown words, and then read aloud only after they've previewed the text in this way. You might also create “checkpoints” for discussion, which require reading pairs to stop and discuss what they've read, and only continue if they've understood the text.
3) Group Readings or Station Readings

In this format, students are grouped in threes or fours, and rotate to various stations. At each station is a single title (perhaps multiple copies of that title), and students read together with a set purpose. One purpose, for example, might be to establish common knowledge about a topic through its presentation in a number of diverse picture books. Students might read from a number of baseball picture books, for example, and then report back to the group on the author's purpose in each. Then, the teacher might read a newer title from that same topic, such as Matt Tavares' Becoming Babe Ruth, and ask students to discuss how this author's purpose may compare and contrast with those of other authors they had experienced. (See the cover image at the top of the post, and see an inside image here).

In order to ensure attentiveness to specific ideas from books within a theme, teachers might provide handouts with questions for each title. An essential question might be repeatedly asked of each and every book in the stations to gauge awareness of the "big idea," with a more title-specific question included to assess reading comprehension of each text. I've done this in the past with Holocaust Picture Books such as Irena's Jars of Secrets with great success; key to the success of this experience, however, is having many diverse titles and plenty of copies, since some picture books are much longer than others. Students might also read a number of picture books containing the same print content (The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere) with different visual interpretationsby the various illustrators.

4) Independent Reading

Students read independently for a number of reasons, pleasure being the foremost. But as students mature, they should also read picture books as models for their own writing. This makes perfect sense, as picture books are typically the length of student stories in the upper elementary and middle grades, and the length of writing tasks expected on standardized tests. Sixth grade students such as my own might be seeking creative ways to include opposing viewpoints in their argumentative writing. A book like George Bellows: Painter with a Punch does that masterfully. 

Students may also read picture books as sources of reference. A student seeking background on the Sioux tribe, for example, might express reluctance to wade through a difficult nonfiction text, encyclopedia entry, or web site meant for more mature readers. This same student, however, could access similar information through three or four picture books whose illustrations would aid in deciphering and extending difficult terms and concepts. Now armed with a general understanding of the topic, he might now be more willing to check out that difficult nonfiction text, encyclopedia entry, or web site which seemed so onerous earlier. When my students were researching predators for their HOWL Museum essays, many chose to use trade books versus the Internet to gather facts and supporting details to prove that their creature was a predator worthy of the Hunters of the Wild Lands Museum (see Peerless Predators at my Animal Attraction post).

5. Independent Choice Reading

This one I can't emphasize enough. Having a library full of enticing titles, attractively displayed, is one of the best methods for getting students to read. And I'm not asking you to break the bank and spend all of your personal money on books! When I started out as a teacher a million years ago, I tried to build my classroom library as quickly as possible through garage sales, thrift shops, and Scholastic Book Club bonus points. But additionally, I would visit my public library and sign out twenty-five to fifty different picture books each week. These rotating titles offered my students plenty of variety and in turn encouraged them to visit the public library as well (our small private school didn't have a library). I continued to do this even when I began teaching at a public school, and in 25 years of teaching, only two books ever went missing. A small price to pay for encouraging the love of reading!

How do you share picture books in your classroom? We'd love to hear from you in the Comments section below.

2 Comments on Five Ways to Share Picture Books More Effectively, last added: 3/4/2013
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1346. Open This Little Book, by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - OPEN THIS LITTLE BOOK -->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 --> There's been a lot of buzz about Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee for months now and I an so thrilled to finally have it in my

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1347. Wave, Mirror, Shadow and The Zoo, written and illustrated by Suzy Lee

It is an egregious oversight on my part, especially considering the article I wrote, How to Read a Picture Book Without Words and the label on my blog, Stories Without Words, featuring wordless picture books, that I have never reviewed a book by Suzy Lee until now. Lee is from South Korea and has a MA in Book Arts from Camberwell College of Arts in London which sounds like just about the

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1348. Picture Book Monday - A review of Friends

True friends are a very rare and precious gift. They are people who will sacrifice a great deal for their friend's happiness, and who are always there in happy times and in times of trouble.
   In today's picture book you will meet a cat who is a superlative friend and who gives his best friend something more valuable than gold or diamonds.

Michael Foreman
Picture Book
For ages
Andersen Press USA, 2012, 978-1-4677-0317-8
Cat considers himself lucky because he is able to “wander wild and free, far and wide.” Cat’s friend Bubble is not so lucky. Bubble is a goldfish and he lives in a tank. Poor Bubble spends his days swimming around and around his aquarium. He never goes anywhere or sees anything, and Cat feels very sorry for him.
   One day, Cat is in the park when he sees a bucket in the sand box and he gets an idea. Cat fills the bucket with water and he carries it home. Then he encourages Bubble to jump into the bucket, which the little fish happily does.
   Cat takes Bubble to see the pond in the park, and to the river, and finally Bubble gets his first glimpse of the “wide, wide sea.” Bubble had no idea that there was so much to see out in the world. Then Cat invites Bubble to dive into the sea so that he too can be “wild and free.”
   True friends are a rare commodity. All too often a friend thinks of him or herself first, but this is not the case with Cat, who is willing to do whatever it takes to give his goldfish friend the opportunity to be free and at liberty.
   With wonderfully expressive watercolor illustrations and a powerful story with memorable characters, this is a picture book that readers of all ages will enjoy.

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1349. Some Suggested Titles for Baby Gifts

ShareAStoryLogo-colorThis post was written for Day 1 of the Share a Story - Shape a Future literacy blog tour. The overall theme for this year's Share a Story is Literacy: The First Five Years. Day 1, hosted by Maria Burel at Once Upon a Story, focuses on literacy for infants.

Having had an infant in my home relatively recently, I thought that I would suggest some titles to give as gifts to new babies (showers, baptisms, etc.). These titles could also be used by expectant parents to help create a baby book registry (something that I found incredibly useful three years ago - we still maintain ours here). I have limited myself to books that are in print and readily available (at least online), and I have tried to avoid books that are so obvious that you can assume that people already have them. 

Mrs. Mustard's Baby Faces by Jane Wattenberg (Chronicle). Babies LOVE to look at photos of other babies. I prefer the BeginSmart Baby Faces book to this one, but that one is apparently out of print. Still, this one can be folded out and set up in baby's crib or pack-n-play, for hours of baby viewing. The babies on one side are smiling. The babies on the other side are crying.

Peek-A-Who by Nina Laden (Chronicle). This is a fun board book with cutouts, and a sort of mirror at the end. It's sized for very young children. It was one of the first books that my daughter requested (over and over again), and eventually became much-chewed.

Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman (Putnam). This one is admittedly quite well-known. But it would be a travesty not to have it as part of a baby's collection, so is worth the risk of duplication. Goodnight Gorilla is a wordless picture book, full of entertaining details to reward repeat readings (of which there are sure to be many).

Baby Love: A Board Book Gift Set (All Fall Down; Clap Hands; Say Goodnight; Tickle, Tickle) by Helen Oxenbury (Little Simon). This set of four tiny board books (about 4" square), complete with a slipcase, was a huge hit with Baby Bookworm. The books only have a few words each, but feature Oxenbury's engaging illustrations of multicultural babies. You can also buy these books in larger board book editions, and those are nice to have, too. But these small editions lend themselves to very early "reading", as well as entertaining efforts to put the books back into the box. 

Also illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, written by Mem Fox (Harcourt), is a must-have for baby's library. Available in traditional hardcover and padded board book editions, this book is a lovely, rhythmic read-aloud, populated with Oxenbury's round-faced, sturdy babies in various settings.

While we're looking at picture books about babies, there are two from Karen Katz's large collection that I think are particularly good choices as baby gifts. Ten Tiny Babies (Margaret K. McElderry) is a bouncy counting book that focuses on many of the things that slightly older babies like to do (dance, run, etc.), and then works its way into being a bedtime book ("all ten babies are fast asleep. Goodnight babies." 

The Babies on the Bus (Henry Holt) features the same basic collection of babies, but puts them on a bus ride for a preschool field trip. The text is a variant on the song The Wheels on the Bus, more applicable to babies (they cry, they fall asleep, etc.). Even the bus driver is a baby (and takes a nap during the ride - not quite sure how that's supposed to work, but kids find it funny). I think it's good to have some books that encourage parents to sing to their children, and this is a fun one. My review.

Another baby-centric book that toddlers will want to read over and over again is Everywhere Babies, written by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Marla Frazee (HMH Books). There's a nice, oversized lap board book edition that is perfect for reading with toddlers. Each page focused on a different thing that babies do (or have done to them), like being kissed, or eating. Within each page are either a series of small vignettes showing different families, or a larger picture showing diverse families in the same setting (e.g. a picture of all the ways babies are carried on a busy sidewalk). My review.

Also illustrated by Marla Frazee, and not to be missed, is All the World by Liz Scanlon Garton (Beach Lane Books). This 2010 Caldecott Honor book is pure poetry, soothing to read, and full of the same detailed illustrations that make Everywhere Babies such fun. It's uplifting, too. Among the best that picture books have to offer, I think. 

And last, but not least, I recommend Bubble Trouble, by Margaret Mahy and Polly Dunbar (Clarion), available in hardcover or board book editions. Children won't really appreciate until they are at least two, but it is SUCH fun to read aloud that it's worth making sure people have a copy early on. My review.  

I could go on all day. You can't go wrong with Sandra Boynton, or Kevin Henkes, or Mo Willems, or the Carl books by Alexandra Day. The DK Peekaboo series is full of fun titles for babies, as is Robert Priddy's First 100 Words (etc.) series. And of course it's always fun for parents to receive copies of classic books that they loved as children, like Where the Wild Things Are

The important thing, I think, is not to be afraid to give people books for their babies. Yes, there's a risk that they might already have the book that you choose. Despite my handy Amazon registry, I still received three or four books that were duplicates. But it's not like I minded. Hmmm... An extra copy of a great book. Do I keep it, in case we lose ours? Or do I give it away to someone I love? A win either way. And I LOVE remembering who each book came from, as we read our favorite titles now. 

When I was younger, I sometimes hesitated to buy books for babies because I wasn't sure if that's what people wanted or expected. But my feeling is this. If you're giving books to people who love books, then they'll be happy to have them (even if one or two might be duplicates with books that they already have). And if you're giving books to people who don't love books, and who aren't thinking of a baby shower or christening as an opportunity to build their baby's library, well then, you can really make a difference.

Buy some of the books that I suggested above. Or buy books that your own children loved, or that you loved as a child. But if you have babies in your life, and you have occasion to buy them gifts, buy them books. Give them a gift that will last a lifetime. 

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

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1350. Look! Another Book!: Bob Staake

Book: Look! Another Book!
Author: Bob Staake
Pages: 48
Age Range: 4 to 8 

I reviewed Bob Staake's Look! A Book! as part of last year's Round 1 reading for the Cybils in Fiction Picture Books. I recently received the sequel: Look! Another Book! There's not a lot that's new to say about this second book - it is very similar to the first one. But I personally have an endless capacity to marvel over Bob Staake's illustrations, so I wanted to give it a try.  

 Like Look! A Book!, Look! Another Book! is a seek and find book chock-full of pictures. Here is part of Staake's intro:

"Discover things, both small and large,
you can DO it--just take charge!

Scary monsters, hanging bats,
super-goofy flying cats!
The words are few and far between,
more PICTURES than you've ever seen!

Now open up this crazy book,
grab a seat--and have a LOOK!"

The  remainder of the book alternates between incredibly detailed, themed pages, and pages that just have a few cut-out circles, isolating individual items from the details. The first page, for instance, is a shopping mall. Readers are advised to "Watch out for that bowling ball" and asked "Can you find the waterfall?" Windows look into this scene from ahead and behind. Observant readers will find plenty of delightful tidbits, many more than suggested by the text, like a black and white checkered cow, a purple alligator carrying a purse (or perhaps a shopping bag), a bat flying out of the top of a stovepipe hat, and much, much more. 

The characters in the book, a mixture of people, animals, and robots, are in Staake's classic style, the people shown with round heads, huge eyes, and a variety of skin tones never to be seen in nature. There's an underlying joy to many of the displays, a constant sense of fun, that will make Look! Another Book! appeal to readers of all ages. Well, to readers age four and up, anyway. The illustrations are a bit too small, and too surreal, to appeal to very young children. 

At the end of the book, in a page that opens up from the bottom to a vertical double page spread, Staake sends readers back to the pictures. He includes a dozen quests, ranging from "1 panda" to "12 green books". I personally like the fact that, somewhere within Look! Another Book!, readers can find "11 blueberry bagels", though I don't personally have the patience to look. But if I was a curious and determined six-year-old, I'm sure it would be a completely different story.

I recommend Look! Another Book! to anyone who enjoys Bob Staake's illustrations (I can imagine it as a great coffee table book for twenty-somethings), but especially to parents and librarians of kids who like seek and find books. You can't go wrong with this book.  

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@lbkids)
Publication Date: December 4, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you). 

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