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1326. New Literary Division at Capital Talent Agency

Capital Talent Agency located in Washington, DC has added a new literary division to their agency services. They say they want to provide a wonderful home for authors who are looking for a supportive and hands-on agency. “We want nothing more than to see our authors achieve their dreams, and we do everything we can to make that happen.”

CapitolTalentAgency Screen-ShotAgent Cynthia Kane has been involved in the publishing industry for more than ten years. She has seen over 100 titles to market and has edited for UN Women (The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women). She has worked with Michael Gross, New York Times best-selling author, on “740 Park: The Story of the World’s Richest Apartment Building” and “Rogues Gallery: The Secret History of the Moguls and the Money That Made the Metropolitan Museum.” Cynthia has also written for national and international publications and has served as a writing instructor at the Writopia Lab in Washington, DC, and has run several writing workshops. Cynthia received her B.A. in Literature from Bard College and her M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from Sarah Lawrence College.

She is looking for: young adult, children’s, nonfiction, memoir, commercial fiction (but no science fiction or fantasy).

How to contact: “Submissions should be sent to literary.submissions [at] capitaltalentagency.com. We accept submissions only by e-mail. We do not accept queries via postal mail or fax. For fiction and nonfiction submissions, send a query letter in the body of your e-mail. Attachments will not be opened. Please note that while we consider each query seriously, we are unable to respond to all of them. We endeavor to respond within six weeks to projects that interest us.”

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Agent, authors and illustrators, children writing, Editor & Agent Info, Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, picture books, Places to Submit, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Capital Talent Agency, Cynthia Kane

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1327. Congrats to others on The Bulletin Of The Centre For Children's Books 2014 Blue Ribbon list!

Totally thrilled that NAKED! is a 2014 BCCB Blue Ribbon winner! Congrats to the others on the BCCB's Blue Ribbon list, including others in the picture book category (shown above). Here are BCCB's Blue Ribbon picture book picks of the year:

Black, Michael Ian. Naked!; illus. by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Simon. 4-7 yrs (July/August)

Campbell, Scott. Hug Machine; written and illus. by Scott Campbell. Atheneum. 4-7 yrs (September)

Dolan, Elys. Weasels; written and illus. by Elys Dolan. Candlewick. Gr. 1-4 (February)

Dubuc, Marianne. The Lion and the Bird; written and illus. by Marianne Dubuc; tr. from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick. Enchanted Lion. 5-7 yrs (July/August)

Frazee, Marla. The Farmer and the Clown; written and illus. by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane/Simon. 4-6 yrs (November)

Haughton, Chris. Shh! We Have a Plan; written and illus. by Chris Haughton. Candlewick. 4-7 yrs (November)

Nolan, Dennis. Hunters of the Great Forest; written and illus. by Dennis Nolan. Porter/Roaring Brook. 4-7 yrs (December)

Ruth, Greg. Coming Home; written and illus. by Greg Ruth. Feiwel. 4-7 yrs (January 2015)

Shea, Bob. Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads; illus. by Lane Smith. Roaring Brook. 5-8 yrs (December)

Tan, Shaun. Rules of Summer; written and illus. by Shaun Tan. Levine/Scholastic. Gr. 3-5 (July/August)

I posted about the BCCB on my NAKED! blog, but for those who missed it:

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB) is one of the leading children's book review journals for school and public libraries. You can see the full list of the other 2014 BCCB Blue Ribbon winners on the BCCB website.

"Blue Ribbons are chosen annually by the Bulletin staff and represent what we believe to be the best of the previous year's literature for youth." You can see the Blue Ribbon Archive for other lists from 1990 through to the present. You can also download a PDF version of the list.

You can browse BCCB Blue Ribbon book covers from past years in theLibraryThing Book Awards archives.

Curious about how books are reviewed at The Bulletin Of The Center For Children's Books? Check out the video above, which shows a book's journey through the CCB and how it becomes part of the  CCB's research collection.

The Bulletin Of The Center For Children's Books is devoted entirely to the review of current books for young people. It provides concise summaries and critical evaluations to help its readers find the books they need. Each review gives info about the book's content, reading level, strengths and weaknesses, quality of format and suggestions for curricular use.

From the website of The Center For Children's Books: "The Center for Children’s Books (CCB) at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) is a crossroads for critical inquiry, professional training, and educational outreach related to youth-focused resources, literature and librarianship. The Center’s mission is to facilitate the creation and dissemination of exemplary and progressive research and scholarship related to all aspects of children’s and young adult literature; media and resources for young (age 0-18) audiences; and youth services librarianship.

In partnership with The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books—an authoritative analytic review journal—the Center aims to inspire and inform adults who connect young people with resources in person, in print, and online. The Center sponsors activities and hosts interdisciplinary research projects involving both theory and practice. In its dual role as research collection and educational community, the Center has national impact on the future of reading and readers."

I encourage you to check out The Bulletin's website, a rich resource of children's book recommendations and information, and The Center For Children's Books.

And again, THANK YOU so much to The Bulletin of The Center For Children's Books for the Blue Ribbon honor!

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1328. Garbage Trucks by Cari Meister

Garbage TrucksBullfrog Books Machines at Work is an easy non-fiction series for the youngest transportation lovers. Titles include Airplanes, Fire Trucks, Garbage Trucks, Helicopters, Ships, Tractors, and Trains. Currently, Garbage Trucks is the favorite in our house, but there is something to appeal to everyone in this series. The books include real photos and short text. In Garbage Trucks, children are introduced to front loaders, rear loaders and side loaders and how they work. In the back of each book, there is a page that highlights different part of the vehicle and a picture glossary. It’s a great way to introduce some new vocabulary.

Posted by: Liz

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1329. Picture Book Monday with a review of No Ordinary Family

These days many children grow up in in blended families. Often, in the beginning, many of the adults and children find the new situation confusing or complicated. In today's picture book we meet a blended family that it very unusual indeed and we see how the children in the families concerned figure out how to solve their problems.

No Ordinary Family
No Ordinary FamilyUte Krause
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
North South, 2013, 978-0-7358-4149-9
Before all the trouble started they were an ordinary bandit family. The many children (seven in number) played and roughhoused, Dad read the paper, and Mom counted their loot. Then, for some reason, Mom and Dad began to argue. Pots and pans flew through the air, voices were raised, and the children looked on with wide eyes.  Dad moved out and the children missed him because now their “life was only half the fun.” The children decided that something needed to be done, so they packed up some bags and went to visit their father. From that day onwards the children moved back and forth between the houses of their parents.
   Then one day they got to Dad’s house only to discover that a princess and her children were in residence. The interlopers were “prim and prissy” and none of the bandit children like them. There was nothing they could do about the situation though because the princess was there to stay. Now the bandit children had two families to live with. Having two Christmases and two birthdays was great, but they did not like the fact that they never had their father to themselves. Sometimes Mom was unhappy, or Dad was unhappy, or the princess was unhappy. The little bandits decided that the only thing to do was to get rid of the princess and her offspring. They thought that that doing this would solve all their problems, but it didn’t.
   Families come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and when families blend there is often a settling-in period that no one enjoys. No one knows quite what to expect, tempers gets frayed, feelings get hurt, and often many of the family members wish they could turn back the clock. Figuring out how to make things work takes time, creativity, and lots of patience.
   This sweetly funny picture book explores how several families come to terms with change, and how the young members of these families learn that love is limitless. There is always plenty to go around.


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1330. Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters by Oliver Jeffers, 112 pp

Oliver Jeffers has a weird sensibility for a picture book author and illustrator. The thing is, he has an effortlessly amiable way with weird, whether it is a boy who discovers he gets smarter when he eats books, a stoically lost penguin or a kid who tosses a number of increasingly huge (and impossible) items into a tree to dislodge his kite. Jeffers's sparse illustrations are populated with

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1331. Elle & Buddy – 2015 Diversity Reading Challenge

On January 1st, An Unconventional Librarian, an educational, book-loving blogger whom I follow, posted the following challenge, which I love and have been promoting over the inter-webs. I thought it would be fun to take the challenge myself and blog … Continue reading

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1332. Four Picture Songbooks with CDS

 Have You Seen a Monster? By Raymond McGrath, Puffin NZ

This one is slightly different to the other three because it has a proper picture book story and the CD is an extra. The well-shaped story focuses on Elliott and Emma-Jane Rose who have a knack for finding things. They are hot on the trail of something very big and hairy that’s left a terrible trail of destruction in the town. A delightful double-spread illustration shows what they’re tracking – a big red hairy monster who’s LOST! I won’t tell how the children solve the problem of what to do with a miserable monster… The illustrations are the best part of the book – they’re colourful, quirky, and packed with interesting detail. The CD contains three songs and a read-aloud version of the story. (Oh yes, parents can now park the children on the sofa with the book, play the CD on the laptop, and walk away – but I hope they won’t!) It’s a fun book to share with children of about four to six.

ISBN 978 0 143 50599 0 RRP $19.99 Pb

 Square Eyes, words and music by Craig Smith, illus. Scott Tulloch, Scholastic NZ

The words of the song have a heart-felt message for children – “Come on, let’s exercise, don’t get square eyes”. It offers various alternative activities – listen to music, dance, read, swim, bake, ride a bike, play a board game, etc. Scott Tulloch’s bright friendly illustrations of animals doing different activities are excellent. The bouncy song on the CD is sung by Craig Smith, who is well-known to every New Zealand child for his entertaining local and school performances.

ISBN 978 1 77543 269 2 RRP $21 Pb

The Farmer in the Dell, sung by the Topp Twins, illus. Jenny Cooper, Scholastic NZ

If you liked There’s a Hole in My Bucket, Do Your Ears Hang Low, and She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain, then you’ll like this one! Jenny Cooper’s hilariously inventive illustrations enliven a fairly repetitive song. The good ol’ hound dawg on the front cover is priceless. The song is rendered in jovial fashion by the Topp Twins, and it certainly encourages children to get up and sing and dance (just as Craig Smith recommends!).

ISBN 978 1 77543 195 4 RRP $21 Pb

We Wish You a Kiwi Christmas, Lynette Evans and Myles Lawford, sung by Pio Terei, Scholastic NZ

I’ve missed the deadline for posting overseas, but this book would be great for grandparents to send to grandchildren living in other countries. It’s a Kiwi take on the classic Christmas carol, in which Santa unfortunately breaks down and loses his reindeer – only to be rescued by Little Kiwi and her bird friends. Myles Lawford’s Adobe Photoshop illustrations cleverly combine a traditional and a New Zealand flavour, with cheery big-eyed birds and a forlorn gnome-like Santa. There’s a Maori version printed in the book and sung on the CD, and a useful glossary provides meanings for some of the Maori words.

ISBN 978 1 77543 267 8 RRP $21 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman


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1333. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #413: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Esther Lui

Crazy Like a Fox, 2014


It’s the first Sunday of the month—the first one of 2015, of course, and Happy New Year to all!—which means a student or debut illustrator here at 7-Imp. Today, I’ve got a recent graduate. Her name is Esther Lui, her website is here, and she’s here to tell us a bit about her work, as well as share some art.

I thank her for visiting. Oh, and she does comics, too! (This one will take care of my nightmares for a while. HOO HA.)

Circus, 2014

Esther: Hi! I’m Esther Lui. I graduated with a degree in Illustration from RISD last May and am currently working as a textile designer and illustrator in my hometown of Philadelphia.

When I was little, I spent all of my spare time reading. I think at one point I was going through ten books a week! That’s where my love of narrative started. But rather than writing, I ended up expressing my own stories through pictures instead.

Llama Wrangler!, 2013

Because I view a lot of my illustrations as stand-alone stories, I try to fit in as much detail as possible. That way, the viewer can really get immersed in the world I created and wonder about what the characters are like and what’s going to happen to them.

I usually work with a mix of traditional and digital media techniques. I like the physicality of a drawing on paper, and on the computer I can freely experiment with different colors and textures. It’s a good fit for me, because I don’t like having a messy palette.

Dirty Secrets, 2013


Right now, I’m working on some personal projects of stories that I’ve wanted to work on for a while. I really enjoy the process of it, because sometimes in the middle, the piece will take a very different direction that what I first intended – and it becomes even better as a result!


The Herbarium, 2013


The Magnolia Room, 2013


Summer Flowers, 2013


What Liesel Thinks of Horses, 2014


Cover illustration for Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day,” 2014


All artwork here is used by permission of Esther Lui.

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) We didn’t watch Fargo, the T.V. series, when it first came out this year, but I kept seeing it on year-end best-of lists (from critics I trust), so we watched it. And boy howdy, is it good — especially the acting.

2) I can’t get over how good this song from Blake Mills is:

3) Finishing this book with my girls:

4) Finishing a galley with my girls of Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks in Spring (coming in March).

4½) The girls wanted to RE-READ the Penderwick books, one to three, before starting the galley AND they had never read the Joey Pigza books (though I had) AND the one pictured above was the last Joey book, as I understand it, so it was a lot of Joey and a lot of the Penderwicks for the past month or so AND this was a good, good thing.

5) I’m reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See, and that man can turn. a. phrase.

6) I knew that Kate Berube, once featured here at 7-Imp as an up-and-coming illustrator, had a good year, but I was extra-happy to see on Facebook that she landed four book contracts this year. Given that one of her 2014 resolutions was to get one book contract, I’d say she’s doing well! Congratulations to her!

7) I got to see friends visiting town for the holidays (including Eisha, who co-founded 7-Imp with me back in the day). This was lovely.

BONUS #1: At the time of this writing, it’s 29 days and 9 hours till the ALA Youth Media Awards!

BONUS #2: Llama-wranglers!


What are YOUR kicks this week?

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1334. Seuss on Saturday #1

And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. Dr. Seuss. 1937/1964. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
When I leave home to walk to school, Dad always says to me, "Marco, keep your eyelids up and see what you can see."
Premise/Plot: While Marco is on his way home, he plans what to say to his father when he asks what he's seen. Marco really sees just a horse and wagon. But what he imagines he sees, well, it gets outlandish. What will he end up telling his father? a pack of lies? or the truth?

My thoughts: It's been years since I read this one. And it is a bit dated when you think about it. For example, as Marco gets carried away with his story, he imagines a reindeer pulling a sled. But he stops himself by adding,
Say--anyone could think of that,
Jack or Fred or Joe or Nat--
Say, even Jane could think of that.
Also of note, it includes a "Chinese man who eats with sticks..." and the illustration of course is not ideal. I'm not mentioning these things to say that the book is "bad" and doesn't belong in your child's library. Just noting that times have changed quite a bit since 1937!!!

Overall, I'd say I liked this one. Didn't necessarily "love" it. But I like it. How many picture books from the 1930s are still in print?! Well, I suppose there's The Story of Ferdinand, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Madeline, and The Story of Babar. There may be others as well.

Have you read And To Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1335. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups (2015)

Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups. Stephanie Clarkson. Illustrated by Brigette Barrager. 2015. [January 2015] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time four fairy tale misses, tired of dwarves, witches, princes, and kisses, so bored and fed up, or just ready to flop, upped and left home for a fairy tale swap…

I enjoyed this one for the most part. It is a cute and clever fractured fairy tale. It begins with a frustrated Snow White leaving the home she shares with seven dwarves. She's searching for a new place to call home. She comes across another princess who is a bit frustrated with her situation as well. They change places. Then she goes off to find someplace new…

It was a fun story starring Snow White, Rapunzel, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. It has a fun and playful premise. The endings have all been adjusted as well. For better or worse. I enjoyed the style of the illustrations. I enjoyed the illustrations of Snow White the best. I loved her look!

I am not sure that I LOVED this one. But I definitely found it fun and worth reading!

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1336. 2014: Best Picture Books I Read & Books My Students Loved

2014: Funniest Picture Books   Thank You, Octopus  by Darren Farrell   Shh! We Have a Plan   by Chris Haughton Sam & Dave Dig a Hole  by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen  My Top 10 Favorites Picture Books of 2014   Blue on Blue   by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes    100 Things that Make Me Happy  by Amy Schwartz   Vanilla Ice

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1337. Best Selling Picture Books | January 2015

Reader's Digest's What I Like About Me is our best selling picture book from our affiliate store this month. As per usual, we've shared our hand selected titles of the most popular picture books from the nationwide best selling picture books.

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1338. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Deirdre Gill and John Hendrix

Illustration from Deirdre Gill’s Outside
(Click to enlarge)


Illustration from John Hendrix’s
Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914


Today over at Kirkus, I write about some good things that happened in 2014 in the realm of picture books. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Since last week I chatted with John Hendrix (here) about Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (Abrams, October 2014), I’ve got some art from the book today. I also wrote last week about some snow books (here), so I’ve also got some art from Deirdre Gill’s Outside (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 2014).

Enjoy the art, and until Sunday …


From Deirdre Gill’s Outside:


“Inside, a boy has nothing to do.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“… and bigger …”
(Click to enlarge spread)



From John Hendrix’s Shooting at the Stars:
The Christmas Truce of 1914


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


“… After the sun went down, we decided to chance a fire outside the bunker, but when we stepped outdoors we heard the sounds of singing! …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Not only were they singing as loud as they could—it sounded like ‘Silent Night’—but all along their line, tiny Christmas trees lit with candles and lanterns had appeared. Several of our boys suggested taking shots at the trees, but most of us
were just glad the Germans weren’t busy trying to shoot us.
We all wondered where they got all those little trees!”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“… One of their officers poked his head up, saw the jam,
and then stood right up, waving at us! …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“We all met along a small ditch in the center of No Man’s Land. The first thing we did was bury our fellow soldiers who had been killed. They were everywhere at our feet.
It took some time to finish the grim task. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“I can hardly describe to you what it was like here. We were talking with men we were trying to kill just the day before! A few of the lads had brought pocket cameras from home, so they took pictures together. I traded buttons off of my field coat with a German soldier named Karl for his belt buckle.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“There was also much trading of biscuits and puddings — we had our fill. There were two Germans in such a good mood they started kicking around an old biscuit tin like a football, using two battered tree stumps as a goal. Karl said to me,
‘Why can’t we just go home — and have peace?’”

(Click top image to see spread in its entirety)


“We spent most of the afternoon out there. It was such a beautiful day. As the evening came, we made our way back to the trenches. Many returned with souvenirs like I did. Everyone was jealous of Bruce Coy, who traded his helmet for a German one with a pointy top — they call them “Pickelhaubes.” We sat up on the edge of our trench and laughed together. It felt like I was back at school.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

OUTSIDE. Copyright © 2014 by Deirdre Gill. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

SHOOTING AT THE STARS: THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914. Copyright © 2014 by John Hendrix. Published by Abrams Books, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of John Hendrix.

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1339. Hug Machine by Scott Campbell

Hug MachineWatch out! The Hug Machine is on the loose and ready to hug! At first glance the Hug Machine looks like a typical boy in a striped shirt, shorts, and red boots. But readers will quickly learn this is no ordinary boy. There is no person or thing the Hug Machine will not hug. It doesn’t matter if one is small, large, long, or spiky. There are hugs for everyone!

I absolutely love this book. Scott Campbell delivers in both text and illustrations in his creation of the Hug Machine. The boy’s facial expressions warm my heart when his eyes are closed and he is hugging someone so intently. This story is not only sweet, it’s also quite humorous. In this picture book we learn that the best way to keep a hugging energy high is to eat pizza. We also learn that there is a safe way to hug a porcupine. This would be a great story to share as a family since both children and adults will enjoy this book. Once you are done reading together make sure you give your little one a great big hug!

Posted by: Katie

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1340. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, by Mac Barnett | Book Trailer

The multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have perfect pacing in Sam and Dave Dig A Hole. Ages 4-8

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1341. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with David Roberts

photo taken by Lynn Roberts MaloneyI couldn’t let 2014 go by without posting this interview with British author-illustrator David Roberts. I’ve enjoyed his books over the years, but he also provided spot illustrations for Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, the book I wrote with Betsy Bird and the late Peter D. Sieruta, which was released in August of this year (Candlewick Press). David filled our book with a set of very entertaining startled bunnies, one pictured above (it’s hard to pick a favorite, but she may be it), and he also did the cover art, the image at the very bottom of this Q&A.

So, it’s the very last day of the year, but I managed to get this interview in here just in time.

As you’ll read below, David has illustrated more than 150 books (picture books and beyond), some—but not all—originally published in the UK and then released here in the States, thanks to publishers like Abrams and Candlewick. I appreciate David taking the time to talk about his work this morning and share some art. For breakfast, he told me that every Friday he has breakfast at Joe’s Kitchen near where he lives in South London: poached eggs on brown toast with bacon and tomatoes. He also said he’d always make room for a Danish pastry, but I’m all about the toast this morning (with coffee, of course), even if it’s not Friday, so we’ll have that while we chat.

Without further ado, here’s David …

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

David: Both. I have written and illustrated two books and illustrated more than 150.

Illustration from Carolyn Crimi’s
Dear Tabby (HarperCollins, 2011)

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


[Ed. Note: You can see a selected bibliography here at David’s site.]


David: “Me and Andrea enjoy our favourite cakes in Chez Snooty Pa Toot
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

)” …
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What is your usual medium?

David: Watercolour, ink, pen, pencil, crayon, pastel, anything that comes to hand.


(Click to enlarge)

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

David: I have illustrated for very young children with books like Dirty Bertie, Jack and the Flumflum Tree, and The Troll. I’ve also illustrated for young adult readers with books like The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, the Tales of Terror series, and Tinder.

(Click each image to enlarge)

I’d say I never really think too hard about the age that the book is aimed at. It’s always the individual response to that piece of text, but the main difference would be that for picture books you are telling the story through the images, whereas for fiction it is more about creating an atmosphere.

Above: “Thirteen flaming vicars” from Tom Baker’s
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs (Faber and Faber, 1999)


Illustration from Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror

(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

David: South London and Liverpool, my hometown.

Illustration from and cover of Andrea Beaty’s
Iggy Peck, Architect

(Abrams, 2007)

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

David: Hated school, apart from art. Hair washer, shelf-stacker, egg-fryer, film extra, coffee-maker, milliner, fashion, illustrator, children’s books — Hooray! Got there in the end!

Illustration from and cover of Janet S. Wong’s
The Dumpster Diver

(Candlewick, 2007)

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

David: www.davidrobertsillustration.com; www.davidrobertsillustration.tumblr.com.

One of David’s old Christmas cards

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

David: Very loud. Lots of “Urgh!” and “Yuck!” and “Blurgh!” and “Ew!’” and “Blah!” and ending with a triumphant “trump!”

The delinquent dogs from Jon Blake’s Stinky Finger’s House of Fun
(Hodder & Stoughton, 2005)

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

David: I’m really excited to be doing a fourth fairy tale book with my sister (Lynn Roberts). We’ve collaborated on Cinderella: An Art Deco Love Story, Rapunzel: A Groovy Fairy Tale, and Little Red: A Fizzingly Good Yarn [pictured below]. The new one will be our interpretation of the Sleeping Beauty story.


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

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


: I start by reading the text, and if it’s for a chapter book I will be looking for what I think will make an interesting illustration or scene to illustrate. Sometimes this might not necessarily be the most obvious.

Sketches and dummy images from Andrea Beaty’s
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

(Abrams, September 2014)
(Click each to enlarge)

For a picture book, it’s working out the pagination, where the page turns should be, whether the text will be integrated in the image or kept separate, whether the text requires the illustration to tell more of the story than what is actually being said in the words. I’ll then plan the content, thinking very much about colour, composition, and style. I’ll usually get an image of how I want the book to look the first time I read the text. And although things can change slightly as I work through, often I stick to that original vision. I find inspiration from film, music, art, exhibitions, fabric, wallpaper, fashion. All of these can influence me in my work.

From Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

(Click to enlarge)

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


: I always used to work in a corner of my studio flat, but last year I moved and now have a whole room just to work from. One whole corner encompasses a floor-to-ceiling book case for all my own books and foreign editions, plus all the books I use for reference and inspiration. I then have a desk in front of a window to get the maximum light, which is always a complete chaotic mess. Behind me is a mirror, not because I’m vain but for working out facial expressions for my characters. I have lots of postcards, pictures, and objects — and a lovely grey plan chest to store all my paper and artwork. The walls are white and grey with grey carpet, and I have three maps on the wall of places that I’ve been to and adored — Scandinavia, Manhattan, and the Faroe Islands.

Cover art from the newest book in Alan MacDonald’s Angela Nicely series,
Puppy Love!

, coming in 2015

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


: Actually, I wasn’t a very confident reader as a child and I really struggled with it, but I loved stories and my older brother used to read to me at night, so I would always fall asleep with images of Fantastic Mr. Fox or James and the Giant Peach.

David’s vision of Dahl’s Mister Unsworth

I also loved Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree and Wishing-Chair series. The first book I felt confident enough to read myself was the first book I ever bought and remains my favourite to this day. It’s called A Hole is To Dig, written by Ruth Krauss and beautifully illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

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

David: I would love to have a glass of wine ‘in spirit’ with Edward Gorey, Charles Keeping and Errol Le Cain. Living and not yet met is very difficult [to answer], as I’ve met so many of my heroes over the years.

Above: The Lepidoctor from Mick Jackson’s
Ten Sorry Tales (Faber and Faber, 2005)

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

David: Folk music is never far from my CD player, and The Roches, Sandy Denny, John Martyn, and Joni Mitchell are in constant rotation. I’ve been going through all of my Kate Bush albums, as I’ve just been to see her live performance (the first one in 35 years!). My recent new obsession is with Perfume Genius. I always work to music or the radio. My favourite channel is 6 Music on the BBC.

From Paul Fleischman’s The Dunderheads
(originally released in 2009 by Walker Books)

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

David: I went on a course to learn how to make Elizabethan ruffs.

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

David: Can you hula hoop?

And the answer is “Yes!”


* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

David: “Hooligan.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

David: “Dapper.”

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

David: Art, music, cake.

Jules: What turns you off?

David: Time.

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

David: “Oh, bother.”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

David: Walking on snow.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

David: My own voice!

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

David: Bee-keeping. (They turn the roses into gold.)

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

David: Chef.

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

David: “I knew you were coming, so I’ve baked a cake.”


All images are used by permission of David Roberts.

Photo of David taken by Lynn Roberts Maloney.

WILD THINGS!. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by David Roberts. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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

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1342. Flora and the Penguin, by Molly Idle | Book Trailer

Having mastered ballet in Flora and the Flamingo, Flora takes to the ice and forms an unexpected friendship with a penguin in Molly Idle's Flora and the Penguin.

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1343. I Stumbled Upon A Couple Of Charmers

I think these are the only two picture books I read off the Cybils list. (I've read myself into a mild coma, so I can't be sure.) They are both particularly engaging.

I read Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio with illustrations by Christian Robinson first and was delighted. Gaston does not exactly fit with his teapot poodle siblings, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La. Does his mother care?  Not a bit.

One day this family is out at the park where they meet another family of dogs with a member, Antoinette, who doesn't fit in with her siblings, Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno. Quelle horreur! Has a terrible mistake been made?

Gaston is all about feeling right as well as looking right. It's amusing and quick and kind of deep. I did wonder if some kids reading this will learn about the possibility of being switched at birth and be a little shaken. But, hey, literature is dangerous.

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle is one of those books in which the pictures tell the tale. There are no words. I can't recall when I've seen a book in which facial expressions and body language--even on the part of the penguin--did such a terrific job of conveying emotion and action.

Gaston and Flora and the Penguin are both Cybils nominees in the fiction picture book category.

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1344. Final PiBoIdMo 2014 Prizes!


“Look, Daddy! Teacher says every time a bell rings, a PiBoIdMo’er gets a prize!”

That’s right, Zuzu. It’s the final prize announcements for PiBoIdMo 2014! Sit back and scroll down. I hope you find your name!

I will be emailing all winners within the next week to arrange prize delivery. Be on the lookout for an email from me.

Congratulations to everyone and see you next year!


Kristi Valiant’s PRETTY MINNIE Winner:



Kelly Bingham’s Critique Winner:



Karen Henry Clark’s SWEET MOON BABY Winner:



Pat Zietlow Miller’s Book Winners:



Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s PB Course at Kidlit Writing School Winner:



Jennifer Arena’s 30-Minute Consult Winner:



Deborah Freedman’s THE STORY OF FISH & SNAIL Winner:



Molly Idle’s FLORA & FLAMINGO signed poster Winner:



Tammi Sauer’s NUGGET & FANG Winner:



Josh Funk’s PB Winners:



Corey Rosen Schwartz’s NINJA RED RIDING HOOD Winner:



Barbara Krasner’s GOLDIE TAKES A STAND Winner:



Shelley Moore Thomas’s NO, NO, KITTEN! Winner:



Deborah Underwood’s Book Winners:



Dev Petty’s Critique Winner:



Kelly Light’s LOUISE LOVES ART Book and Holiday Print Winner:



Henry Herz’s Critique Winners:



Emma J. Virjan’s NACHO THE PARTY PUPPY Book & Tee Winner:



Marsha Riti’s THE CRITTER CLUB Books Winner:



Diana Murray’s Critique Winner:



Liz Garton Scanlon’s GOOD PIE PARTY Winners:



Ruth McNally Barshaw’s ELLIE FOR PRESIDENT Winner:



Mylisa Larsen’s Critique Winner:



Aaron Reynolds’s Book Winners:



Trinka Hakes Noble’s THE ORANGE SHOES Winner:



And now the prizes you didn’t even know about!

A picture book critique <800 words, donated by Alayne Kay Christian:



A complimentary stay at Palm Creek Cottage on Tybee Island, a “Writer’s Getaway” donated by Elaine W. Duree:



A copy of Jaqueline Woodson’s THE OTHER SIDE, signed by illustrator E.B. Lewis, donated by Sally Flannery:



Remember, even if you didn’t win a prize, you’re still a winner because you’ve ended the year with more picture book ideas! Yes, it really is a wonderful life!




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1345. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #412: Featuring John Alcorn

John Alcorn, Christmas card, 1958


Before 2015 gets here, I want to take some time today to tell you all about a book I really enjoyed this year, John Alcorn: Evolution by Design, edited by Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi, and published in 2013 by Moleskine. (I believe it was published here in the U.S. this past summer.) And, fortunately, I’ve got some art from it to share here at 7-Imp.

This is a beautifully-designed (book-lovers, take note) and quite comprehensive tribute to artist, designer, and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (Back in 2012, I featured a bit of his children’s book illustrations.) Sironi, a researcher at the Centro APICE at Milan University, writes the book’s foreword, and the book’s opening piece, “Reflections on the Life and Art of My Father John Alcorn (1935-1992)” is from his son, Stephen Alcorn, also an artist and children’s book illustrator (whom I interviewed here in early 2010). In this opening piece, Stephen writes in detail about his father’s career and, with great reverence and a personal touch (the book also includes family photos), lays out the evolution of his father’s work. “At the time of writing,” he notes, “nearly a quarter of a century has gone by since my father’s passing, yet despite the passage of time, his work remains as culturally relevant today as the day it was created.”

The book is divided into four sections — the early years (“The Rise of the Merry Craftsman”), including Alcorn’s studies of abstract expressionism and representational art at Cooper Union, to his experiences at Push Pin Studios, to his apprenticeship with Lou Dorfsman; the “Sixties Heyday,” his experimentation with a more psychedelic style and his graphic design and book jacket work, a time during which most of his work was commissioned (and this section includes a piece on his children’s book work); his time in Italy during the 1970s, which includes discussions of his political satire and work for Federico Fellini (Alcorn designed the opening titles for several of his films); and, finally, Alcorn’s return to the States after he “was beginning to feel as if he had exhausted the creative challenges and professional opportunities Italy had to offer.”

Editorial illustration, “Florida’s Gulf Coast”;
Redbook, January 1966


The book, so elegantly designed, reproduces in color around 500 of Alcorn’s graphic compositions and illustrations, including children’s book illustrations, book jackets and slipcase designs, logos, magazine covers and editorial illustrations, drawings, paintings (some previously unpublished and some printed alongside preparatory drawings), portraits, advertisements (including early newspaper advertisements), poster designs (including political posters from the ’70s), and even billboards — this from an artist who worked in many mediums and styles. It is a treasure trove of information for fans of his design, typography, and illustration work, as well as anyone interested in illustration and visual communication.

Book jacket for Sam Ross’ The Tight Corner, New York, Farrar Straus & Cudahy, 1956


It’s a fascinating and thorough look at an artist who has played an important role in graphic design and advertising both here in the United States and in Europe.

Below are some more images from the book. …

Book jackets from 1969-1971


Editorial illustration, Redbook, ink and dyes on paper, c. 1969


Packaging design, Love Cosmetics, agency;
Menley & James, art director; Murray Jacobs, 1969


Alcorn’s illustration for Alan Aldridge’s The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, 1969.
This, Alcorn’s first interpretation of “Eight Days a Week,” was considered
“too licentious” and was rejected. To see the second image, the one the publishers included in the book, click this image to enlarge it.


Advertisement, Master Charge, c. 1970


Book jackets, 1973-1977
(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


Book jacket, Richard Adams, La collina dei conigli;
pen, sepia ink and watercolor on paper, 1975


Click to enlarge spread, which includes an unpublished book jacket


Preparatory drawing for a Chekhov book jacket, 1974
(Click to enlarge and see final book jacket)


Illustration for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, watercolor on paper, 1986


Rizzoli advertisement, pen and Indian ink on paper, 1975


JOHN ALCORN: EVOLUTION BY DESIGN. © 2013 Moleskine SpA. © 2013 Stephen Alcorn. © 2013 Università degli Studi di Milano, Centro Apice. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Moleskine SpA.

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) Two whole days with no work whatsoever! (The up side to freelance work you can do from home is your very flexible schedule, year-long; the down side is you don’t really get time off like other people during the holidays, but it’s hardly as if I’m complaining either, ’cause that year-long flexible schedule? I love it. A lot.)

2) Good novels.

3) Good novels that are good read-alouds.

4) Calendars. (Well, I can’t help it. Once a nerd, always a nerd.)

5) Toy purges with a nine- and ten-year old.

6) Ernest and Celestine!

7) That I have a family and a roof over our heads and food on our plates and warm blankets and good music to hear and good books to read and good art to see and warm cocoa. That about covers it. I’m grateful.

BONUS: My favorite gift? This album-sized limited edition print about one of my favorite songs ever:


What are YOUR kicks this week?

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1346. Wrapping up the year… 2014 best books for middle grades

Wrapping up the year… 2014 best books for middle grades | Storytime Standouts

Best Books 2014 - 1prncs shares her favorite titles for middle grade readersI always say this but I can’t believe it’s the end of another year. How? Especially since so many of the days seemed so very, very long. Trying to remember what I did yesterday is painful, but I’m going to attempt to recap the best books I’ve read in 2014.

Middle Grade/ Young Adult

2014 best books for middle grades including The Shadow ThroneThe Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen

The final book in a trilogy that captivated not only my whole class, but me. A book I’ve recommended countless times. The main character is one that everyone can identify with in some way. The action is gripping as Sage/Jaron shows readers what being courageous really means.

The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.com

The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of The Ascendance Trilogy at Amazon.ca

My True Love Gave to MeMidnights by Rainbow Rowell

I should be honest and tell you that this author could write a to-do list on a paper towel and I would love it. There is something about every one of her books that grabs me so strongly, I have to remind myself that, she doesn’t actually know me, but somehow, she gets me. And then I remind myself that she doesn’t actually write her books just for me. Elenor and Park is in our elementary library but I think the subject matter is above grade six. However, this is one of those reads that would delight an early middle school reader as much as it did me. It’s a beautiful and sweet short story.

It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins

A new author for me that I discovered because she edited the collection of short holiday stories in which Midnight was the first. Aimed at teens and up, it was just absolutely delightful to read.

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories at Amazon.com

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories at Amazon,ca

2014 best books for middle grades including Will Grayson, Will GraysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

I can’t read Fault in Our Stars. I know my limits, I read within them. However, I’ve read just about everything else he’s published. This one is my favourite by him. It’s an excellent teen read that speaks to acceptance, diversity, adversity, and the amazing relationships that can stem from being in the same place at the same time.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson at Amazon.com

Will Grayson, Will Grayson at Amazon.ca

2014 best books for middle grades Including Are You There God? It's Me MargaretAre you there God, it’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume

I re read this for the first time in many, many years. I wanted to read it with my daughter and I was so pleased she enjoyed it as much as I did, both then and now. If there was a “what’s it like to become a teenage girl” book award, this would be it.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at Amazon.com

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret at Amazon.ca

2014 best books for middle grades including Hook’s Revenge by Heidi SchulzHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz

This is a fun book with quirky characters that made the students laugh. Determined to avenge her father’s death, Jocelyn sets out on an adventure that teaches her as much about herself as it does about her past.

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 at Amazon.com

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.ca

2014 best books for middle grades including Dork DiariesDork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

I started reading these with my daughter this last year. They are laugh out loud funny and so easy to connect with. Nikki is a great character and the teen drama she faces, and how she deals with it, is authentic.

Dork Diaries Box Set (Book 1-3) at Amazon.com

Dork Diaries Box Set (Book 1-3): Dork Diaries at Amazon.ca

2014 best books for middle grades Including Sisters by Raina TelgemeierSisters by Raina Telgemeier

My 11 year old read this first and then I read it with my 8 year old. It’s funny and cute and true to life in that, it’s not always easy being a family. But, when you need them, they’re there.

Sisters at Amazon.com

Sisters at Amazon.ca

2014 best books for middle grades Including FrindleFrindle by Andrew Clements

This is an awesome book. I read it with my 8 year old and it made me laugh even as it opened the door to great conversations with her. The main character makes up a new word for what we call a “pen”. A great read about the power of words and how they impact our actions.

Frindle at Amazon.com

Frindle at Amazon.ca

2014 best books for middle grades Including Wonder Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I haven’t even finished this book but I can tell you without one tiny hint of doubt that it will be one of the best reads ever. Not just this year.

Wonder at Amazon.com

Wonder at Amazon.ca

Picture Books

(contrary to some beliefs, these are not only for small children)

2014 best books for middle grades including This Plus ThatThis plus That: Life’s little equations by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Jen Corace

A sweet and fun read with adorable pictures that highlights math vocabulary even as it shows kids how things are connected. Me+ Writing= Happy.

This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations at Amazon.com

2014 best books for middle grades Including Those ShoesThose Shoes by Maribeth Beolts

This one was read to me and I have to say, I still love being read to. This is a great one to open kids eyes to the power of empathy and giving.

Those Shoes at Amazon.com

Those Shoes at Amazon.ca

The Invisible Boy by Trudy LudwigThe Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and Patrice Barton

This story is a little bittersweet. You feel bad for the little boy with no friends, but love the fact that he’s okay in his own little world. Also worth noting, the color comes as friendship brightens his life which is beautiful, literally and figuratively.

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.com

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts suggests The Very Inappropriate Word written by Jim Tobin and illustrated by Dave CoverlyThe very inappropriate word by Jim Tobin and Dave Coverly

Full of great vocabulary, this book is funny. I’ve read it several times and it’s a great way to get kids to look at the power of words and language.

The Very Inappropriate Word at Amazon.com

The Very Inappropriate Word at Amazon.ca

What Do You Do with an Idea?What do you do with an idea? by Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom

My school librarian shared this book with me and it is such a tangible idea to show how when your brain gets locked on an idea, sometimes you have to go with it.

What Do You Do With an Idea? at Amazon.com

What Do You Do with an Idea? at Amazon.ca

Books I can’t wait to read in 2015

Fish in a TreeFish in a Tree – Linda Mullaly Hunt

The name is part of one of my favourite quotes so of course I’m drawn to it. That and the fact that her book One for the Murphys was one of my favourite reads of 2013.

Mark of the ThiefMark of the Thief – Jennifer A. Nielsen

I think I need to read this one on my own before with my class. When I read the Ascendance Trilogy, I got so hooked that we might have missed some math lessons.


What are some of your favorite kids reads this year? Anything you’re looking forward to? Also, in an openly shameless bid for self-promotion, I hope to one day make it onto one of your favorite lists. Either with the adult books I have coming out in 2015 or with the picture book, SWEET DREAM SISTERS, that will be available in 2016. Have a very, Happy well-read 2015.


Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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1347. If You Were Me and Lived in … Greece, by Carole P. Roman: Dedicated Review

Eleventh in her children’s cultural series, Carol P. Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in … Greece: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World takes her young readers to Southern Europe and the tiny island of Greece.

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1348. If You Were Me and Lived in … Hungary, By Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

Carol P. Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in … Hungary: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World is the thirteenth in her series briefly introducing young readers to our world’s diverse cultures.

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1349. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Dark

Everybody has something that they are afraid of. Some people are terrified of spiders, some find large bodies of water intimidating, and then there are those who are afraid of the dark. Today's picture book explores such fears in a clever way, showing us how one little boy confronts what he is afraid of.

The DarkThe Dark
Lemony Snicket
Illustrated by Jon Klassen
Picture Book
For ages 6 and up
Little Brown, 2013, 978-0-316-18748-0
Laszlo, like many boys and girls (and even some grownups) is afraid of the dark. The dark shares his house, and during the day it can be found is hiding in the closet, behind the shower curtain and in the basement. Nighttime is when the dark comes out from its hiding places. It presses up “against the windows and doors” of the house.
   At night a little nightlight keeps the dark away from Laszlo’s bedroom. Then one night the nightlight goes out and the dark visits the room and speaks to the little boy. It wants Laszlo to see something and so Laszlo, with his flashlight casting a beam of light ahead of him, goes to the place where the dark is waiting for him: the basement.
   Fear is a crippling thing, and a fear of the dark can be truly terrible because try as we might, we cannot keep the dark at bay. It is always there, somewhere, waiting for night to fall. In this beautifully paced picture book a boy learns that the dark is not what he thinks it is. He goes to the place where the dark is most noticeable, and he discovers something remarkable about the dark and himself.

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1350. Review of Firebird

copeland_firebirdFirebird: Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance like the Firebird
by Misty Copeland; 
illus. by Christopher Myers
Primary   Putnam   40 pp.
9/14   978-0-399-16615-0   $17.99   g

Think you can simply write off celebrity books? Think again. American Ballet Theatre soloist Copeland is just as graceful with words as she is with her body. Here she addresses the next generation as she imagines a dialogue between herself and a young female African American ballet student who claims she is “gray as rain / heavy as naptime, low as a storm pressing on rooftops.” Copeland reassures the girl that she had the same self-doubts, and “darling child, don’t you know / you’re just where I started.” Myers’s stunning collages layer strips of thickly painted paper to echo the wings of a firebird (Copeland’s signature role), whether they are illustrating the stage curtains or a cloudy sky. His deep, rich colors make even the portraits of the dancers at rest dramatic, and when the dancers are on stage, they seem to fly. The words of the girl appear in italics and the dancer’s words in boldface to clearly differentiate between the speakers. In an author’s note, Copeland tells us that, as a child, she never saw herself in ballet books; this book encourages today’s aspiring dancers of all colors and backgrounds.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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