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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1,326 - 1,350 of 6,571
1326. My Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett

Thanks to my husband, my eight-year-old has his first pet peeve. Whenever he tells his dad he is hungry, this is what he hears, "Nice to meet you, Hungry!" Of course a book titled My Dad Thinks He's Funny is going to be a hit in our house, but I think my husband is not alone in his specific sense of humor... My Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein and illustrated by Tom Jellett

2 Comments on My Dad Thinks He's Funny by Katrina Germein, illustrated by Tom Jellett, last added: 5/6/2013
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1327. Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America, by Kathi Appelt (ages 6 - 9)

The flowers all around us astound me at this time of year. It makes me remember hiking through the California hills with my mother, noticing all the different flowers around us. These memories drew me to this picture book biography about Lady Bird Johnson, but what makes it stick in my mind is how it shows us the way that each one of us can make a difference by taking action, starting with small steps and moving larger.

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers
How a First Lady Changed America
by Kathi Appelt
illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein
HarperCollins, 2005
at your public library
on Amazon
ages 6 - 9
This picture book biography weaves together two tales, one of Miss Lady Bird Johnson's life story, and the other of her passionate work to spread wildflowers and beauty throughout our country.

Lady Bird grew up in eastern Texas in the early 20th century, finding solace in the wildflowers and bayous after her mother died. I loved the image of her as a young girl holding ceremonies for the first daffodils that bloomed each spring. Appelt writes,
"It was as if Aunt Effie's flowers became companions and helped take some of Lady Bird's loneliness away."
After Lady Bird moved to Washington, D.C. when her husband was elected to Congress, she realized that the city parks were dingy and had few flowers. Appelt quotes Johnson as telling a friend,
"It is important for a child to plant a seed, to water it, to nourish it, tend to it, watch it grow, and when he does, and when she does, they themselves will grow into great citizens." -- Lady Bird Johnson
image copyright © Joy Fisher Hein, 2005
Johnson followed this passion by urging Congress to pass the Highway Beautification Act, and later in her life, establishing the National Wildflower Research Center. Have you ever noticed wildflowers growing along the side of a highway? Or traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the cherry blossoms? Or marveled at a city landscape with native flowers? Much of those are the direct result of Johnson's efforts.

The scene that stands out in my mind is how she stepped in front of her neighbor's tractor on her Texas ranch, imploring him not to plow under a field of pink evening primroses. It's this gusto, this initiative that captures her energy, creativity and determination to keep wildflowers growing throughout our land.

Appelt and Hein capture her energy and love of beauty in a way that inspires me. Hein shares more of her artwork from the book at her website. She also shares a nice teacher's guide. I particularly loved the interview with Appelt and Hein about this book at Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog Cynsations.
For more nonfiction gems to share with your children, check out Nonfiction Monday, hosted today by Anastasia Suen at her Booktalking site.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

3 Comments on Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America, by Kathi Appelt (ages 6 - 9), last added: 5/15/2013
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1328. Kudos!

I have to point out the book trailer that Gayle Krauss sent me a few days ago. I knew that Gayle had published a book titled, RAT GIRL.  I was planning to buy a copy, because I know Gayle and I always try to support people I know, but somehow (Don’t be mad at me Gayle) the title did not entice me. I am so glad Gayle sent me this trailer, because it does exactly what a book trailer should do – sell the book. Now I am really  looking forward to reading RAT GIRL: SONG OF THE VIPER. Great job!

Gayle Krauss’s RAT GIRL: SONG OF THE VIPER book trailer.

Kit Grindstaff did a great job with her book trailer, too, for her new book THE FLAME IN THE MIST

kit signing05_ FitM The Authorcropped

Kit at her first book signing.

paula Newcomercropped

Paula Newcomer signing her poetry book, TOSSING OFF THE GLOVES.


Tori Corn’s debut picture book, WHAT WILL IT BE PENELOPE? arrived in the warehouse this week and will be available on June 4th. Here is the Amazon link.

It looks like Penelope is a popular name.


Robin Hutchinson has combined the fun of cooking and reading in this self published book titled, PENELOPE’S SECRET COOKING CLUB: IS THERE A SECRET TO KEEP? Here is the Amazon link.

Congratulations to all!

Hope I will be able to share your success on a future post.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Kudos, News, picture books, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Book Trailers, Gayle Krauss, Kit Grindstaff, Paula Newcomer, Robin Hutchinson, Tori Corn

1 Comments on Kudos!, last added: 5/6/2013
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1329. Take a Vacation…with PENGUIN ON VACATION (and get a beach ball, too)

It’s finally May—the flowers are pushing through the dirt, the sun is ablaze with warm promises…and, well, it’s time to take a break!

I thought I’d consult with someone who knows vacationing very well. No, not my Aunt Myrna, the Long Island travel agent queen. Salina Yoon’s Penguin!

He’s a cute, chubby fellow with an itch for adventure. Let’s scratch it, shall we?


Penguin, thanks so much for joining me today. Tell me, what’s been happening at home that you decided a vacation was in order?

Hi Ms. Tara! I was just bored of the snow and ice. I can only count to 99, and after I counted my 99th snowball, I didn’t know what else to do.

You could make 33 miniature snowmen, but ya know, I like the vacation idea better.

What did Grandpa say when you packed your bag?

33 miniature snowmen…I never thought of that!

Grandpa always says to me that I should go and explore the world—and I will come back a wiser penguin. I think he is right. Grandpa is very wise, and he has traveled very far. In fact, he has been to the beach once long ago. He gave me his old swim suit for my trip. It fit perfectly.

I hope you sent him a postcard. He probably missed you very much.

I did better than that, Ms. Tara! I met a lovely seagull on the beach, and she had a camera. It went, “click! click! click!” and pretty pictures came out of a box. She took some photos of me and Crab, and Seagull delivered the photos to Grandpa because she can fly! It was very nice of Seagull. It turns out that we are distant relatives!

penguin1 penguin2penguin3

Speaking of Crab, you did some fun things together. What other places did you two visit on your vacation?

Crab took me caving, snorkeling, and even cliff diving on the island! I am a very good swimmer, so it was very fun. But the caves were nothing like the ice caves back at home. It was fun to see and try new things.

What advice do you have for kids heading away on vacation to someplace new and different?

My advice is to make new friends on vacation, because they will know how to have fun there even if you don’t! Also, I would say to be open to trying new things because you can do what you always do and eat the foods you always eat when you get back home. And take sunscreen…if you are going someplace sunny!

Where would you like to vacation next?

I would love to visit the Grand Canyon one day, even though I would have to pack a lot of ice with me to stay comfortable. I would also like to visit Mount Everest and see the world from the highest point on Earth! And then of course, Disneyland!

That sounds perfect. I can hear the television announcer booming, “Penguin, you just had your book published, what are you going to do now?!”

Thanks for waddling by today, Penguin. And thanks for leaving behind your adorable book signed by Salina, plus a beach ball to boot! Or throw. Or float in the pool with. Whatever the winner prefers!

Thank you for inviting me to talk with you, Ms. Tara. And happy vacationing, friends!


salinabeachPlease leave a comment below telling Penguin about your favorite vacation spot.

A winner of the book and ball will be randomly selected in one week!

Good luck!

12 Comments on Take a Vacation…with PENGUIN ON VACATION (and get a beach ball, too), last added: 5/3/2013
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1330. The Matchbox Diary, by Paul Fleischman - full of warmth and memories (ages 6 - 11)

There's something truly special about the time a young child spends getting to know his or her grandparents. I remember soaking up my grandmother's stories, imagining her past and feeling connected to a history larger than myself. The Matchbox Diary captures this special moment, when a great-grandfather shares his stories with a young girl. It's a wonderful picture book to share with children as they start to get to know their own grandparents' stories.

The Matchbox Diary
by Paul Fleischman
illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Candlewick, 2013
ages 6 - 11
your public library & Amazon
* best new book *
When a young girl meets her great-grandfather, he tells her to pick something and he'll tell her its story. She picks an old cigar box that holds dozens of tiny matchboxes - his diary. The grandfather explains, "When I was your age, I had a lot I wanted to remember but I couldn't read or write." So he started collecting little things to remember each experience.

As they peek inside each box, the grandfather shares his memories from his childhood. They find an olive pit from his home in Italy. As a very young boy, his family was very poor. "When I'd tell my mother I was hungry, she'd give me an olive pit to suck on." Different mementos remind him of his journey across the Atlantic to join his father in America, a frightening inspection at Ellis Island, and his first years in the United States.

As we turn each page, we are swept back into the grandfather's memories. Ibatoulline's illustrations are full of warmth and capture the emotion of each memory. They are large enough to work well reading aloud, and yet full of details that children will love pouring over. The sepia tones of the paintings reflecting the grandfather's memories help children identify that these are flashbacks. Here we see the grandfather working as a typesetter in a printing press.

Children are very aware of how small items carry many memories. My own children can tell you where each stuffed animal came from, where they got a certain bottle cap, which pen came from a special friend. I love the way that Paul Fleischman helps children connect with the stories their grandparents can share, in such a universal way.

Young children will absorb the warm feelings of family, but older children will be able to think about different themes in this story. I particularly like the way the grandfather values writing as a way of preserving memories and stories. "Books are like newspapers. They show you where you've been."

Pair this with Patricia Polacco's The Keeping Quilt in a unit about family stories. Younger children who enjoy this might also enjoy Rosemary Wells' illustrated chapter book Following Grandfather, where a young mouse remembers her grandfather's childhood immigrating from Italy to Boston.

Check out these other great reviews:

  • Bookends Blog - I especially like the way Cindy ties this book to the importance of family storytelling, and her memory of Alex Haley at the National Storytelling Festival
  • Librarian's Quest - I absolutely agree with Margie that Paul Fleischman had me hooked with the first two sentences! Margie made me think about how Fleishman told the whole story through dialog between the young girl and her grandfather. That dialog added a real heartwarming touch to the story.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Press. Teachers should check out the teaching guide and author's note on the Candlewick site. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 Comments on The Matchbox Diary, by Paul Fleischman - full of warmth and memories (ages 6 - 11), last added: 5/3/2013
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1331. Windblown: Edouard Manceau

Book: Windblown
Author: Edouard Manceau
Pages: 32
Age Range: 3-7 

Windblown by Edouard Manceua is a concept book, part book about shapes, part book about animals, and part cumulative text. Several tiny scraps of paper are blown, one by one, onto the early pages of the book (as shown on the cover). Then a chicken declares ownership of the scraps, which are magically assembled to form a chicken's head.

"They're mine!" said the chicken.
"I saw them lying around!"

A fish takes exception to this, having cut the paper into pieces before the chicken saw them lying around. The pieces are used to form a fish in the picture. Then a bird claims to have made the paper, and so on. Each animal goes further back into the process of creating paper, even as the illustrations show the same shapes used to render the different animals.

Some of the illustrations work better than others, but it's a nice trick that the same seven shapes can be used to draw several different creatures. At the end of the book, the author suggests that the reader use the shapes to do something else. 

Both text and pictures are quite minimalist in Windblown, making it rather remarkable that the author is able to do so much with so little. We have counting, shapes, animals, and (in a very simplified fashion) the process by which paper is made. All in a book in which all of the illustrations are made with only minor additions to the seven basic shapes (most of which are circles). 

Windblown is a book that could work for very young children, who just like to look at the shapes. But I think that the primary audience is probably kids who are learning how to draw. You could use it as a predecessor to books that more directly given drawing instruction. I can also imagine tracing the shapes and cutting out copies, so that my child could move them around herself. (Librarians beware - I can also imagine kids let loose with scissors just cutting the shapes right out of the book.) 

For those looking for something a bit different, with a modern art sort of flavor in picture book form, Windblown is well worth a look. Recommended for home and for preschool use. 

Publisher: Owlkids Books (@OwlKids)
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook


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1332. Hooray for Bread by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - HOORAY FOR BREAD -->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 --> You know how much I love all things Allan Ahlberg and, while Janet and Jessica Ahlberg are my favorite illustrators of his work, frequent collaborator Bruce

0 Comments on Hooray for Bread by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman as of 5/1/2013 4:45:00 AM
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1333. What’s Wrong with Writing Message-Driven Picture Books?

A few months ago, when Gangnam Style fever had kids ponying around the country, two baffled Fox News pinheads personalities debated the song’s appeal.

gangnam“I think what this fella Psy is tapping into…is the fact that people don’t want any meaning right now. The most popular music apparently is that without intelligible words…not reality, not feeling, not meaning.”

“So it means nothing…”

They never once considered that the song was in Korean and the gibberish they were hearing was indeed actual words in a different language, satirizing the wealthy Gangnam district of South Korea, an area obsessed with western culture.

From that mind-numbing discussion, they somehow segued into their perceived lack of meaning in children’s books.

Wait? What was that? No meaning in children’s books?! Oh yeah, the ignoramus commentator had a picture book rejected and was obviously still reeling from the sting.

“I had a little kids’ book I wrote; I sent it out to a few publishers. They bemoaned the fact…they said, gee, it seems like it has a message. I said, ‘Well, yeah, it’s about empowerment’. Well, books about messages right now aren’t selling.”

He then ridiculed WIMPY KID and OLIVIA, two of the best-selling children’s book series. (Probably because he didn’t think of them first.)

“Try to tell them about ‘courage’, that’s not going to be purchased by the great masses who now want not to be tapped on the heartstrings, if you will, but simply to be pushed toward ‘a good beat’.”

sledgehammerDarn straight, readers want a good beat. What they don’t want is to be beat over the head with a lesson you think they need to learn.

Message-driven picture books begin with the intention of teaching a life lesson, like how to have good manners. With the writer’s purpose being so righteous, the story can come across as preachy and self-important. Why don’t these books sell? Because they lack the one thing that kids really want: FUN. Think about it—children are being taught all day long—at home, at school, at places of worship. When they pick up a book, do you think they want to hear “remember to say please and thank you” yet again? If I were a kid, I’d shelve that book pronto. Kids want to be entertained.

Message-driven books are not subtle. They often contain the very phrase the writer intends to teach, like: “Just be nice and you’ll always have lots of friends!” This is the classic mistake of “telling” instead of “showing” with your words. It’s talking down to kids, it’s assuming they’re not intelligent creatures with limitless imaginations.

Not all books with messages are message-driven. In fact, the best books do contain messages, but they are subtly woven through a wondrous story rich in character, setting and action. Every good story contains a universal emotional truth—friendship, family, fitting in—that is slowly revealed through the main character’s journey. The character at the beginning of the book is not the same person by the end; they have been transformed. How have they changed? Within the answer lies the lesson. Character is paramount, not the message.

I’m going to leap upon my soapbox now. I believe children’s books should be fun-driven. If books are going to compete with computers, iProducts and video games, authors need to deliver an escape, a fantastical world where anything can and does happen. I write with fun in the forefront. I think back to my childhood and the things that I loved—like secret hideouts adults didn’t know existed. I was fascinated by Dahl’s chocolate factory and the fact that he chose a kid to run it. (I hope I didn’t spoil that for anyone. It has been almost 50 years since the book was released.) A kid in charge! Marvelous!


So let’s circle back—does DIARY OF A WIMPY KID have a message? It sure does. I can name a bunch: being yourself, persevering through difficult situations, being able to laugh at yourself. These are all important life lessons.

No one would call Jeff Kinney’s series “message-driven”, yet a lot of people mistake FUN books for being worthless teachers, for being meaningless. I beg to differ. (And I beg Fox News to get a clue.)

It’s time to do the exact opposite of writing message-driven books: assume kids are already smart as whips. (Believe me, they are.) A message-driven book isn’t going to teach them anything except to avoid reading. And that’s a lesson no one needs to learn!

11 Comments on What’s Wrong with Writing Message-Driven Picture Books?, last added: 4/29/2013
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1334. Snippet: The Early Riser: Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Book: Snippet: The Early Riser
Author: Bethanie Deeney Murguia (@aquapup)
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-7 

Though it introduces a new set of characters, Bethanie Deeney Murguia's new picture book, Snippet: The Early Riser comes across very much as a companion piece to her earlier book Buglette: The Messy SleeperSnippet is an ordinary young snail, drawing on the sidewalk, chewing leaf sculptures, and getting piggyback rides from his parents. Snippet's problem is that he wakes up much earlier than the rest of his family. Desperate to have his family members to play with, Snippet tries everything his friends can think of to wake his family up. He finds, however, that the solution lies in understanding what his family members really love. 

I love Murguia's understated humor. Like this (after Snippet fails several times to rouse his family):

"Hmph. How did I end up with a family of slugs?" wondered Snippet. 

Or this:

"I could stink them out," offered Stinkbug.

"We'll have none of that," declared Caterpillar. And then he turned back to his breakfast.

The text and illustrations together enable the reader to completely inhabit Snippet's snail and insect world. Snippet draws on the sidewalk by making slime trails (though Murguia renders them in white to make them more visible). He makes leaf sculptures by chewing patterns into the leaves. A pill bug gets used as a soccer ball. Murguia does a great job of taking some real attribute and then making it fun and quirky, and completely kid-friendly.

Murguia's distinctive illustration style (Snippet is clearly a book-sibling to Buglette) completely works for this story. The plants and leaves are over-sized and realistic, while the insects and snails are charmingly quirky. Snippet himself wears a patchwork shell. His mother's is flowered. There is plenty of white space in the illustrations, but also enough greens and yellows to make the reader get a sense of the outdoors.  

Snippet is funny, creative, and lacking in didactic messages. I hope that Murguia and Random House add more to this semi-series. I also adore Murguia's Zoe Gets Ready (with a human protagonist), and look forward to the coming sequel, Zoe's Room: No Sisters Allowed. Snippet: The Early Riser is a great choice for preschoolers and up, for home or library use. Recommended! 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: March 12, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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1335. HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI (and for you, too!)

hothotroticoverOh boy, do I love Indian food. Sometimes I think I oughta start a foodie blog. Samosas, tandoori, palak paneer—I can’t get enough of the spicy stuff. So when I heard about HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI, I knew I had to devour it. My nephew is half-Indian and the boy on the cover reminded me of him. But inside HOT HOT ROTI is a story about any grandfather and grandson, for the sentiments transcend culture and ethnicity. Inside is a story about memories, imagination, and the power of sharing family traditions.

I asked the author, Farhana Zia, to join us today. And stick around, because after the interview I have a copy of the book for you and Farhana’s personal recipe for HOT HOT ROTI!

What inspired you to write HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI?

farhanaziaThe motivation for writing HHRFDJ was a desire to do something enduring for my three grandchildren. They are pre-readers now but one day they’ll read the book to themselves and also, not far down the road, to others important in their lives and I hope that when this happens, they’ll sense the love that’s packed inside. I wrote the book to create some good memories for them. We all need warm, lasting memories. Good memories can be so comforting at unexpected times.

The inspiration for the story came from a host of such memories of childhood…memories of sights, smells, sounds, tastes and emotions that linger on and on and are comforting. Foremost among these is the memory of snuggling up to my own grandmother for her wonderful stories.

In the book, Dada-Ji gets his power from the hot, hot roti. What food is your own personal power source?

First of all, I’ll take the liberty to use the word “food” metaphorically and say that each new day, when things generally go right, is the ultimate power source for me as well as a reason to give thanks. In addition to that, as an elementary school teacher, I can truthfully say I derive plenty of power from the energy and vibrancy of my students. They keep me on my toes and competing with their exuberance every single day! A classroom is definitely an exhilarating place to be. As far as real food, I have lots of favorite power sources. At the risk of surprising you I’m going to put a steaming, tongue burning, pepperoni, mushroom, anchovy pizza at the top of the list. This is an occasional weekend treat when I’m absolutely not in the mood to cook. My husband runs down to the local pizza place and I keep the oven nice and hot! A medium rare filet that cuts like butter is a close second in my personal favorites and falls under the, “I don’t want to cook, let’s go out to eat” category. I could go on but….a fluffy, piping hot bature (deep fried leavened bread), puffed up to the size of a volley ball, with a spicy potato can hit the spot when one is very, very hungry. Trust me!

It’s refreshing to see the South Asian/Indian culture in a picture book–that’s rare in the market. How can children from different cultures relate to this story?

I wrote the book for all children, regardless of nationality and ethnicity. While the book definitely has cultural elements, the underlying themes and attributes are universal. I like to think that the story is a testimony to the unfailing creativity and initiative present in all children.

When kids read about Aneel making roti for his grandfather, they’ll recognize their own innate inventiveness. I witness it every day in my classroom. Kids also love to take charge. They can surprise you with their cleverness and their ability to offer creative solutions. They can also be so helpful and they especially love to feel responsible. I think all young readers will recognize and revel in these traits. Besides, Hot, Hot Roti for Dadaji is a fun story mixed with a bit of fantasy and tall tale and what child doesn’t like that? The book is also very strongly a story about inter generational relationships which happen to be universal. All children know about grandparents who love to spend time with them, play with them and spoil them. Whether it’s Dadaji or Grandpa, Gramps, or Pop-Pop the relationship is the same… special and immediately recognizable. Lastly, the book is about food and kids love food, in one form, or another.

My niece me once that when she read the book in her daughter’s kindergarten, she had all kids crying out, “Wah!” Now that’s music to my ears!


Do you have a recipe for hot, hot roti to share with us?


Whole Wheat Flour (Chapati Flour, available in Indian grocery stores) – 2 cups. Reserve 2 Tablespoons for rolling and dusting.
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Warm Water – 3/4 cup

1. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and salt.
2. Gradually add warm water to form a medium soft dough ball. The dough should not be too stiff, nor too sticky. Knead the dough about fifty times. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 15 minutes
3. Heat a skillet on medium heat until a water droplet sizzles and evaporates immediately.
4. Divide the dough into 8 golf ball size balls.
5. Coat one ball in the reserved four and roll it out into a thin disc (the thickness of a penny), approximately 6 inches in diameter. Sprinkle more flour on the rolling board to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling surface.
6. Shake or rub off excess flour from the roti and place it onto the hot skillet for about 10-15 seconds.
7. Flip to the other side and allow the roti to cook for 10-15 seconds until you see bubbles appear. Use a paper towel to move the roti around on the skillet for even heat distribution.
8. Flip the roti one last time. You should see scattered golden brown spots. Gently press down on various places using the paper towel. This will make the roti puff up with the built up steam. Be careful that escaping steam does not scald you!
9. Remove the roti from heat and keep it covered with a towel. Repeat the process for the remaining dough.

Hot, hot roti is ready!

Thanks, Farhana! It looks delicious!

And now HOT HOT ROTI is ready for you, too! Please leave a comment for a chance to win the book! I’ll randomly select a winner in one week. Good luck and happy eating (and reading)!

11 Comments on HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI (and for you, too!), last added: 4/26/2013
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1336. Tiger in My Soup: Kashmira Sheth & Jeffrey Ebbeler

Book: Tiger in My Soup
Author: Kashmira Sheth
Illustrator: Jeffrey Ebbeler
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

Tiger in My Soup is a picture book about a boy who is left home in the care of his older sister. He tries again and again to get his sister to read to him, but she is immersed in her own book. Finally, over lunch, he conjures up a tiger rising from the steam of his soup. Eventually, his imaginary adventures break through his sister's self-absorption, and she reads him his book (about tigers, of course). 

I think that this book might be a little confusing for younger kids. The narration and pictures both convey the tiger in the soup and related actions as if they were real, not imaginary. This makes for some rather stunning visuals, but younger readers may well wonder how the sister could avoid noticing the tiger battle just a few feet away. It's definitely a book that's going to require a bit of extra explanation.

But for those who can follow the subtleties of the plot, or who are young enough to just accept the story as-is, Tiger in My Soup offers a breathless narrative. Like this:

"I have to protect myself. I stab at him with my spoon. Some tiger spit lands on my face.

This means war!"

The acrylic illustrations in Tiger in My Soup are gorgeous. The siblings' house is on a rocky island, up a huge, twisty flight of wooden stairs, Ebbeler uses different perspectives (like looking up, and then down the stairs) to maintain visual interest. When the boy is fighting with the tiger, he puts a metal colander on his head, and brandishes a sword and belt. Angles and points of view shift with the battle. The characters (boy, sister, and tiger) are all rendered with an ever so slightly exaggerated realism. The boy is priceless, with his round glasses, spiky hair, and range of expressions. The tiger practically leaps from the page. 

And oh yes, the siblings are African American. This doesn't affect the storyline in any way that I can see, but it's nice to have a picture book that matter-of-factly incorporates non-white characters. 

Of course the thing that I personally love most about this book is that the entire storyline keys off of the love of books. The boy wants his sister to read his book to him. He tries to look at the pictures on his own, but it's just not the same. The reason that the sister won't read to him is that she's lost in a book herself. Delightful. 

Tiger in My Soup, with its seamless mix of reality and imagination, may not work for the very youngest of readers. But for early elementary school kids, especially anyone fascinated by books and/or tigers, Tiger in My Soup is a fun visual treat. The fact that it adds a bit of diversity to the picture book section is a nice bonus. Recommended for home or early elementary school use. 

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (@PeachtreePub)
Publication Date: April 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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1337. Pitch Perfect!


I'm so glad you stopped by.

Now get out of here and head over to Susanna Leonard Hill's Blog to critique my pitch for my picture book A Noise In the Dark for Perfect Pitch Wednesday!

And since I don't want to leave you empty handed:

Take a puppy with you, or should I say cupcake?  Aren't they just too cute to eat? I love it!

And hey, Thanks for all the support!

2 Comments on Pitch Perfect!, last added: 4/27/2013
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1338. Giant Dance Party: Betsy Bird & Brandon Dorman

Book: Giant Dance Party
Author: Betsy Bird (@FuseEight)
Illustrator: Brandon Dorman
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8 

Of the many books that arrive on my doorstep, few fall into the "sit down and read it immediately" category. The second Hunger Games book comes to mind, and not much else. But when I received an advance copy of Giant Dance Party, written by Betsy Bird and illustrated by Brandon Dorman, I set everything aside and opened it up.

If you don't know why, you haven't been following Betsy's blog, A Fuse #8 Production. Betsy is a tremendous force in the field of children's literature. Her lengthy, in-depth reviews are humorous and insightful. Her Top 100 Picture Books and Top 100 Children's Novels poll results are widely used and highly regarded. She was the primary host for last year's Kidlitosphere conference (and is a regular host for other NYC kidlit events). Giant Dance Party is Betsy's first published picture book. Much attention will be paid.

But let's talk about the book, shall we? Giant Dance Party is about a little girl, Lexy, who loves to dance, but is afraid to perform in front of an audience. Instead of performing herself, Lexy decides to start offering dance lessons. She'll let her students perform, while she basks in the joy of dance from behind the scenes. When the only ones to take Lexy up on her offer are a group of fuzzy blue giants, however, things get a bit more complex. And a lot more fun.

Giant Dance Party features a breezy voice, with short sentences and fun words to read aloud. Like this:

"So she tried hypnotism.

She tried pretending Moore and Caroll and Anne were people.

She practiced for her parents every night while they tried to watch TV.

And every time she was sure her stage fright was gone, along came another recital, and blammo! Ice pop." 

Those who have read Betsy's reviews for years will recognize her voice, particularly in that last paragraph. Giant Dance Party also reveals a surprisingly subtle humor (surprising given the over-the-top nature of the plot). For example, when the giants are waiting for Lexy to agree to teach them, we have:

"They folded their arms, crossed their legs, and sat down. 
They stuck out their lower lips. Birds perched on them."

I love "birds perched on them." I also laughed at:

"When the big night arrived, Lexy felt the familiar butterflies in her stomach. But at least she wouldn't have to dance. Instead, she gave her giants a big smile, patted them on the heels, and said, "You can do it!""

Get it? She patted them on the heels, because they were too tall for her to pat on the head. Just a little gem tossed in there for the alert reader.  

Brandon Dorman's exuberant illustrations add to the humor, and the general bouncy feel, of Giant Dance Party. When Lexy is practising for her parents as they try to watch TV, we see her leaping across the television set, ribbons flying, clearly blocking the parents' view. When she stands there on stage, frozen with stage fright, she looks rather like a wide-eyed, tutu-wearing ice pop, if such a thing is possible.

I think my favorite illustration is a little vignette from when Lexy is trying to interest people in her dance lessons, and blasts "snap-happy mambo music from the porch." Her posture, eyes, and clothing all match up perfectly with "mambo." In general, her huge brown eyes capture her many moods, windows to her trials and tribulations. Dorman also makes nice use of perspective to show Lexy's tiny size relative to that of the blue giants. 

Giant Dance Party is told in a mix of short and long paragraphs, and of small vignettes and full-page illustrations. While there are quite a lot of words in the book overall, there is also plenty of white space, making the book a good, unintimidating fit for individual readers or library storytimes. I do think it's more of a book for the 4 to 8 crowd than for the youngest readers (who won't understand stage fright, and might find the movement conveyed in the illustrations a bit overwhelming). 

Giant Dance Party is eminently read-aloud-able, the perfect mix of the practical (overcoming stage fright, solving problems) and the absurd (umm, furry blue giants dancing). Lexy, as conveyed in both words and pictures, is a delight. I am expecting Giant Dance Party to fly off the shelves. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Greenwillow Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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1339. Your Attention Please!

 Picture Book Fans!!            I have an announcement to make!

Tomorrow is Perfect Pitch Day over at Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.  It is also the day in which she will be featuring my perfect pitch for my picture book  A Noise In the Dark.

Please click over to Susanna's blog check out all the wonderful goodies she has on her website and don't forget to critique me!

At the end of the month, don't forget to go back and vote for the best pitch of the month!  Thanks everyone!

1 Comments on Your Attention Please!, last added: 4/23/2013
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1340. The Dark: Lemony Snicket & Jon Klassen

Book: The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen (@burstofbeaden)
Pages: 40
Age Range: 3-6 

The Dark is going to get a lot of attention in the coming weeks. That's because it's written by Lemony Snicket (of A Series of Unfortunate Events fame) and illustrated by Jon Klassen (who just won the Caldecott for This Is Not My Hat). The Dark also fits into a well-established niche in children's books: books to help kids to deal with something. In this case, that something is fear of the dark. I am personally quite suspicious of the "books to help kids deal with something" genre. So many of these stray into didactic territory. Fortunately, I don't think that either Snicket or Klassen could be didactic if he tried. As a result, The Dark is a winner. 

The Dark is about a young boy named Laszlo who is afraid of the dark. He views "the dark" as a vaguely menacing thing that lives in his basement during the day, only spreading throughout the house at night. Laszlo keeps a flashlight nearby at all times. Naturally, he sleeps with a glowing night light. But when his night light burns out one night, Laszlo must face his fear head-on. Well, sort of head-on, anyway. Snicket continues the device of treating "the dark" as an entity, lending a fantasy quality to the story. The suspense of Laszlo's encounter with the dark will keep kids reading. And the mildly cryptic treatment of the means by which Laszlo overcomes his fears will keep them from feeling manipulated.

Klassen's illustrations are, as usual, brilliant. While somewhat spare (hardly any furniture is shown in Laszlo's house, for example), and with a limited color palette, they do a fine job of conveying the size of a big creaky house as perceived by a small, scared person. Klassen shows a lot of old wooden flooring, and angled staircases.

Although this is a book about fear, the only thing that is scary in the images is the presence of the dark, rendered as pure black. Laszlo's night light, however, and his flashlight, stave off the dark admirably. And the scenes in which the night light burns in this room as he curls up beneath a patchwork quilt are coziness personified. 

I especially love the subtlety of the book's final page, in which Laszlo plays with a couple of toys as the sun is setting. This picture mirrors a page early in the book. The only difference is the lack of a flashlight nearby. Laszlo has conquered his fear. 

I recommend The Dark to fans of Snicket or Klassen, and to anyone with kids in the three to six or so age range who are battling with fears of the dark. I haven't tried it on my own daughter yet, but I do plan to. I'm not sure if I would use this as a storytime book or not - I think it might be better suited to home and the comfort of one's own night light. But for home use, The Dark is going to be big. 

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (@LBKids)
Publication Date: April 2, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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1341. A Place for Turtles, by Melissa Stewart - celebrating Earth Day 2013 (ages 4 - 8)

Children are eager to explore the world around them. Many love to read about animals, learning about different species, their habitats and life cycles. I've often wondered how we help young children learn about problems caused by pollution, habitat loss or global warming without making children too worried or sad. Melissa Stewart's A Place for... series of picture books look at environmental problems, but focus on ways people can change them and help animals live and grow.

A Place for Turtles
by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Higgins Bond
Peachtree Publishers, 2013
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Turtles live in all sorts of different environments, but many have faced challenges brought about by environmental problems. Melissa Stewart introduces young children to specific problems that turtles face, such as habitat loss caused by invasive nonnative plants, but does so in a clear, simple way. Throughout, she emphasizes that we can all help change these problems.
"Some turtles have trouble building nests when new kinds of plants spread into their home habitat. When people find ways to control the new plants, turtles can live and grow."
Stewart balances this clear, simple narrative with sidebars that provide more details on different species and the challenges they face. These specific examples add detail and interest, especially when combined with Bond's detailed acrylic illustrations. For example, Stewart writes that the bog turtle's wetland habitat has been threatened by invasive purple loosestrife that is growing too thickly. Families will find it interesting to talk about different projects that communities are undertaking to improve life for turtles.

If you like this, check out the other books in Melissa Stewart's A Place for... series:
I have greatly enjoyed following Melissa Stewart's blog: Celebrate Science. - she shares her passion for science, animals and the environment in many different ways. She has been thinking deeply about how to connect information picture books to the Common Core, and has many helpful ideas for teachers and librarians.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Peachtree Publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

2 Comments on A Place for Turtles, by Melissa Stewart - celebrating Earth Day 2013 (ages 4 - 8), last added: 4/26/2013
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1342. Storytime: National Library Week

Bats at the Library by Brian Lies Another inky evening’s here- The air is cool and calm and clear. Can it be true? Oh, can it be? Yes! Bat Night at the library! Join the free-for-all fun at the public library with these book-loving bats! Shape shadows on walls, frolic in the water fountain, and …

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1343. Picture Books

Rating: 5/5 Stars

About the Book: Set in the style of a silent movie, a fox invites a goose to dinner.

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GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was lucky enough to get a galley of this one at ALA Midwinter. When I sat down in my hotel room and needed a break from all my Printz meetings, I opened this picture book and it was just what I needed!

The illustrations are done in the style of a silent movie, so right there I'm in love. The illustrations are hilarious with subtle hints as to what is going to happen. I also love that it gives a great talking point about silent films and what movies used to be like. Add in the little chicks repetitive refrain of "that is not a good idea" and you've got yourself a wonderfully riotous storytime read aloud. The story has a very funny plot and kids will love shouting along with warning to the goose-because we all know how these stories go-or do we? I said in January that this was my favorite picture book of the year and I'm sticking to that-it's funny, it's great to read aloud, the pictures are fantastic and full of details, and the entire book will leave readers laughing. Once you finish it you want to turn back and start all over again. It's one of the few picture books that I actually laughed  out loud over when I read it. A must read and a must have for storytime collections!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

About the Book: A little panda causes chaos when he sneezes. Will he sneeze?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says:  Ok, seriously, how can anyone resist that adorable panda  on the cover? Chu is just too cute you  have to fall in love with him. The story is simple-Chu is a small guy, but  his sneezes are big. He goes throughout his day and everyone is wary of what might happen if Chu sneezes. I read this one in storytime and the kids had a blast pretending to sneeze along with Chu. 

While the story is simple and funny, the illustrations are what make the book stand out to me. Adam Rex does a fantastic job with beautiful full page spreads that you just want to pour over. Each scene he creates adds to the story. You can make up a story about every little character you see on those pages and it's so fun to look at. A cute story with fantastic illustrations.  The simple text and bright colors make it a fun choice for storytimes.

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from galley copies received at ALA Midwinter

2 Comments on Picture Books, last added: 4/23/2013
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1344. Deductive Detectives


“Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth,” Sherlock Holmes has said about his method of detective work. In Sylvan Dell’s new picture book, Deductive Detective, our hero Detective Duck shows that he’s learned from the best! He dons his best deerstalker hat, his much-too-big magnifying glass, and solves the case of the missing cake with the same methods the pros use!

That is, a style of logical thinking called “deductive reasoning.” In deductive reasoning, someone finds an answer they’re looking for by first finding out what the answer isn’t. When Detective Duck examines the clues and finds out which of his friends couldn’t have stolen the cake, it leads him closer to what really happened!

Of course, you don’t need a weird hat and a magnifying glass to use deductive reasoning. These methods come in handy every day! If you lose a toy, for example (or car keys), you may make your search easier by determining where the item isn’t.

“Oh yeah,” you may say, “I didn’t bring it to my friend’s house; I wasn’t holding it when I walked to the living room, or landed on the moon. I wouldn’t have brought it to my parents’ room or under the ocean or into Mordor.” By deciding where you shouldn’t look, you now have a better idea of where you should.

This kind of logic process happens throughout the day, sometimes without you even being aware of it; you might say your brain is always on the case as much as any detective!

Apply deductive reasoning the next time you’re in the bookstore: subtract the books that don’t meet the highest educational standards, offer pages of activities and facts, offer online supplements, are fun to look at and fun to read! You’ll be left with books by Sylvan Dell like The Deductive Detective!

0 Comments on Deductive Detectives as of 4/17/2013 4:12:00 PM
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1345. Picture Book Critiques to Benefit One Fund Boston


I saw author Jean Reidy’s post this morning about donating a picture book critique to benefit One Fund Boston and thought it was such a wonderful thing, I offered to join in.

Please visit Jean’s blog and bid!

Or, if you don’t wish to win a critique, click the flag to donate directly. As Audrey Vernick said, “You’ll win a good feeling.”

7 Comments on Picture Book Critiques to Benefit One Fund Boston, last added: 4/19/2013
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1346. Fantastic visit with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson at our school!!

Last week, our students were thrilled to spend time with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, learning about her writing process and hearing her passion for her work. As we read books by different authors, we try to think about an author's purpose in writing a story or a piece of nonfiction. We dig into the ideas authors layer in their work. Our students really appreciated hearing directly from Ms. Nelson about her many books.
"Bass Reeves was a true American hero. I felt that everyone should know about him." Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Ms. Nelson started by talking with our 4th and 5th graders about Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, US Deputy Marshall. She told students that one day she was watching a documentary about Blacks in the Old West and that there was a brief mention of Bass Reeves. "I wondered why I didn't know about him, and felt that everyone should know about him."

Our students had all read Bad News for Outlaws before meeting Ms. Nelson. She really talked with them, asking them questions and making them an active part of the discussion. This really extended their thinking beyond just listening to the book or hearing her presentation. They could feel just what she meant when she said,
"Bass was honorable; he had integrity; he was strong, smart and clever."
Ms. Nelson told our older students about her newest book, No Crystal Stair, which tells the story of her uncle's bookshop in Harlem. She talked about how he wanted to establish a bookshop that helped African Americans learn about their history, their stories, their literature. We are all looking forward to the picture book which Ms. Nelson is writing about her uncle's bookstore.

Our 2nd and 3rd graders talked with Ms. Nelson about her picture book Almost to Freedom, a story about a young girl's escape to freedom through the Underground Railroad. She started off by talking about why she writes.
"I know it's because my parents read to me every night. My siblings would argue about going to bed, but secretly I was dying to get into bed because my mom would read the next chapter of our book. My dad loved poetry and would recite poetry from memory to me."
Her parents taught her not only to love stories, but to love words and to understand their power. Our students love Almost to Freedom because it's told from the perspective of a doll. Ms. Nelson really creates the voice of this doll, and students can connect to that voice.

Ms. Nelson talked about how when she looked at the dolls in the museum, she started wondering,
"If those dolls could talk, what would they tell me?"
I loved a 3rd grader's question: "When you write, do you start feeling how your characters are feeling?" Yes, she does very much -- because she needs to feel what it might be like to run away through the forest at night hiding from the slave catchers, to be able to share those feelings in her words and create them for her readers. She brought her collection of African American dolls to share with our children.

Enjoy this Animoto slideshow of our visit with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.

I want to thank the Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California for sponsoring Vaunda Nelson's trip to the Bay Area. For a wonderful resource of materials about sharing history with children, check out ACL's resources from their recent Institute. I would also like to thank the Emerson PTA for sponsoring Ms. Nelson's visit to our school. Our children appreciate your support and enrichment. But most of all, I want to thank Ms. Nelson herself for her time, energy and enthusiasm sharing her passion for stories with our children.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

1 Comments on Fantastic visit with Vaunda Micheaux Nelson at our school!!, last added: 5/4/2013
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1347. Interview with Kidlit Agent Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency

susanhawkI’ve bumped into Susan Hawk a few times lately, which is  easy for me, since I walk with a cane and my balance stinks! *rimshot*

Knowing I have blog followers who are eager to snag a picture book agent, I sat down with Susan (after we bumped—yes—right there on the floor) and asked her some questions about picture books, agenting, and the surreal softness of the carpet. Was it Turkish cotton? Or do they only use that for robes and towels? (Um, scratch those last couple questions.)

Susan, what led to your decision to become a kidlit agent? Can you tell us about your professional background?

I’m lucky to have worn a number of hats within the children’s book world. I’ve been a bookseller; I have a degree in Library Science and have worked in an elementary school library as well as the Brooklyn Public Library; I acquired a few book projects for Dutton Children’s Books. But most of my background is in Children’s Book Marketing, gathered at Penguin, Henry Holt and North-South Books. All of that led to my decision to make the jump to agenting three years ago, which feels like the perfect way to put these experiences to work. But, really, I think it all began with this: I’m a reader. I love reading books, I love meeting new characters and going new places in the pages of a book, and that’s always been true for me.

spoonWhat are some of your all-time favorite picture books?

Ah, a great question. It’s hard to stop!

  • ME, JANE by Patrick Jennings
  • SPOON by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Scott Magoon
  • I’M NOT by Pam Smallcomb and Robert Weinstock
  • THE HELLO, GOODBYE WINDOW by Norton Juster and Chris Raschka
  • SO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT by Judith St George and David Small
  • “MORE, MORE, MORE,” SAID THE BABY by Vera B Williams
  • breadjamfrancesBLUEBERRIES FOR SAL by Robert McCloskey
  • GEORGE AND MARTHA, or anything by James Marshall
  • MISS RUMPHIUS by Barbara Cooney
  • FREDERICK by Leo Lionni

What about those books make them special?

Three things: character, humor, and each of these is a very satisfying book.

In most of them, the main character is someone I love. Like, obsessively love. ME, JANE—I already think Jane Goodall is amazing, but in the pages of this book, we’re introduced to a real little girl who’s so true to her own interests, that you can’t help but be entirely charmed. Spoon features the most adorable spoon you’d ever want to meet, not to mention his smart, reassuring parents. And it goes on—every one of these books holds a real, textured person, brought to life in just a few words and pages.

Almost all of them are funny. Some of them are more broadly so, in some of them the humor lies more in a clever twist, but with all of them, I find myself smiling. A lot.

You know the feeling when you close a book and think, I can’t wait to read that again? That happens when the author and artist, together, create a perfect symphony of voice, character and plot. When everything works in concert, you finish the story feeling somehow more whole, and will want to come back to that story again. Obviously, which books do this will be different for different people, but for me, these books all give me that sense.

What do you look for in a picture book submission?

Pretty much what I described above!

Also, shorter text (about 500-600 words), and I’m not usually a fan of rhyming text.

What makes you stop reading a submission?

Predictably, longer texts, rhyming texts—I usually stop reading those. There are also quite a few “evergreen” stories, themes or subjects out there—making a new friend is one. (Here’s a list of a few others.) These can be tricky because in the right hands, they can feel fresh and new, so I’d never say that I’d automatically stop reading a story like this. Still, these texts will be competing with quite a few others out there, so I’m cautious with these.

bookquoteIs there anything you see too much of in your submission pile?

I see quite a few projects that want to teach kids a lesson. I’m not particularly interested in this, though there are quite a few picture books that want kids to understand some values—fairness, for instance—and do this quite skillfully. I guess that, in terms of message books, I want to see this emerge from the character’s journey, rather than leading the story.

What is the word from picture book editors these days? What are they seeking in picture books?

The main thing editors ask me for is strong, original characters with a compelling, meaty story. If that character has the potential to build a series, all the better. Length should be shorter (see word count above). Most editors will find something funny very appealing and are often looking for something quirky. This is harder to quantify—one gal’s quirky is another gal’s odd—but in general, I think this is about looking for something that feels new and different.

What factors go into your decision to offer a picture book author representation? (Do you offer representation based on only one picture book, or do you prefer that the author have a few ready to submit?)

Two things—I need to love the work, and I need to feel that I can sell it. Easy to explain, hard to find! Mainly that’s because it’s ultimately personal and what I may love is so different than what someone else may love. It’s best if the writer has a few books in the bag, so to speak, but not 100% necessary.

Do your rep author-illustrators? Is it best for them to query with a full dummy, or just a story and a portfolio?

I do! In fact, I’m very eager to take more author-illustrators on. I love seeing a full dummy, but querying either way is fine. My submissions information is here: http://www.thebentagency.com/submission.php.

Could you describe your ideal client?

Someone who loves their work. Writing and illustrating is amazing work, and I feel super lucky to work with children’s book creators, but it requires dedication, patience, flexibility, and some grit. You’re probably going to hear no a few times before you hear yes. Being able to balance all that against a deep love for your work, and a real pleasure in doing it, is key.

Are you open to submissions? How can writers reach you?

Very much so. Please visit The Bent Agency website to learn more about being in touch.

Thank you, Susan! I hope to bump into you again soon! Without dumping us both onto the floor. Although, it sparked a lovely, informative conversation, didn’t it?

11 Comments on Interview with Kidlit Agent Susan Hawk of The Bent Agency, last added: 4/19/2013
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1348. Eight Recent Baby Bookworm Favorites: April 19

This post is the third of a series (here are number one and number two) in which I have been highlighting some of my daughter's favorite reads. She just turned three, and her tastes do not always coincide with mine (as highlighted below). Here are eight books that she has been especially enjoying over the past month:

1. Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! by Kyle Mewburn (ill. Ali Teo & John O'Reilly). Peachtree. Reviewed here. This is a book that I've had for years, ever since reviewing it back in 2008. It pops in and out of favor with Baby Bookworm, but she's been requesting it lately. It's about a little boy who runs away from the sloppy kisses of his Auntie Elsie, but then misses those kisses when Elsie is unable to visit for a while. It's funny, and a bit touching at the end. I think that Baby Bookworm is just at the right age to find the idea of kisses being "yucky" entertaining. 

2. A Bedtime for Bear by Bonny Becker (ill. Kady MacDonald Denton). Candlewick. Reviewed here. The grouchy Bear and "small and gray and bright-eyed" Mouse are always popular with Baby Bookworm. Lately she's been requesting A Bedtime for Bear at bedtime. Could be because it's a relatively long picture book, or because she is just starting to appreciate the humor in Bear being scared of the dark. 

3. Nini Lost and Found by Anita Lobel. Random House.Reviewed here. This is a book that I love, despite not being at all a cat person. It's about a housecat who sneaks outside. Nini enjoys exploring the woods until things become a bit scary after dark. She makes it home safely, of course. I think Baby Bookworm likes the fact that this book is scary in the middle, but ends up safe and cozy at the end. 

4. If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff (ill. Felicia Bond). HarperCollins. Baby Bookworm was introduced to this series (which starts with If You Give a Mouse a Cookie) by her cousins. She received a boxed set of five small books in the series, and she requests them constantly. In truth, I find them hard to read aloud without falling asleep, due to the repetition. But Baby Bookworm loves them, especially If You Give a Moose a Muffin (she is partial to muffins herself). 

5. The Peace Book by Todd Parr. Little, Brown. This is a book that Baby Bookworm picked up from the library. It lists various definitions of things that are related to "peace" in some way (some of them quite tangential). For instance, wearing different kinds of clothes. The book shows children of various (and unearthly) skin colors. Baby Bookworm quite enjoyed it, but I found it a little too overtly message-y for my taste. 

6. The Dark, by Lemony Snicket (ill. Jon Klassen). Little, Brown. Review coming next week. This book is fabulous, and is a favorite with our whole family. I won't be at all surprised if it turns out to be award-winning. Not only is it a great read, with gorgeous illustrations, but I think it actually has helped Baby Bookworm in coping with fear of the dark. At the very least, it inspired me to buy her a night light. 

7. The Teeny-Tiny Woman by Paul Galdone. Sandpiper. This is another library book that Baby Bookworm became fascinated with. I was a little surprised, frankly, because it's kind of a creepy story. It's about a "teeny-tiny woman" who goes for a walk, finds a bone in a graveyard, brings it home, and is subsequently hounded by a ghost. But it's fun to read aloud. "Teeny-tiny" is repeated almost enough to make it a tongue-twister.  

8. The Three Bears, by Byron Barton. HarperFestival. Another library book, this 1991 edition of the classic story is very straightforward, with uncomplicated illustrations. It was a nice introduction for Baby Bookworm to the three bears (she also has a doll that shows Goldilocks one way and the bears another way, but she hadn't known the story until now). We read it over and over again. Rather than buying her this version, though, I think we'll just try out some others, and see which ones she likes best. 

What books have your children been enjoying lately? Do you find them clamoring for you to buy them copies of favorite library books? We had to do this once lately, after my daughter would not let me return Soup Day by Melissa Iwai. Fortunately, she had a birthday coming up! 

FTC Required Disclosure:

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

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. 

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1349. Join the April Read & Romp Roundup!

We had such a great Read & Romp Roundup last month. Let's make April just as great! If you have a recent (or even not so recent) blog post that involves picture books or children's poetry AND dance, yoga, or another form of movement, leave a link to your post in the comments below. I'll gather up all of the links and summarize them in a new post in a few weeks. If you're new here or aren't familiar with the roundup, you can read some of the old ones here. Can't wait to hear all of your ideas!

Submissions are open until Tuesday, April 30, 2012.

6 Comments on Join the April Read & Romp Roundup!, last added: 5/2/2013
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1350. Illustrator Saturday – Shawna JC Tenney

shawnaIMG_4080Shawna JC Tenney has always loved to draw and she has always loved children’s books. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from Brigham Young University and started illustrating as a freelance illustrator a year later. Since then, she has created artwork for 16 books along with children’s magazines, charities, educational materials, religious materials and theater playbills. I love drawing and learning every day.  She works in a number of mediums including acrylics, digital- Photoshop and Painter, charcoal, pastels and watercolor.  

Shawna lives in Utah with two very artistic little girls and graphic designer husband.  Shawna says, “One of my favorite things to do is teach an art class for my girls and other neighborhood kids. I love seeing the beautiful artwork they create!”

Here is Shawna explaining her process:

Process 1: First I draw lots of thumbnails. This helps me decide where to place characters and which angle I want to use. Sometimes I draw the thumbnails in pencil sometimes I use ink or the computer.


Process 2: I always sketch my drawings out first by hand using a mechanical pencil. Then I scan the picture into the computer and adjust lines and shape sizes in photoshop. Often I have to draw more than one sketch to get it right. Then I bring the lines into a new layer by selecting the channels so I can use my original lines and color under them. This also allows me to lock the “lines” layer and change the line colors later.


Process 3: Next I make a grayscale study.


Process 4: Then I make a color study. I usually don’t make this many, but it was fun to explore different color options for my dragon.


Process 5: I lay in the background color in photoshop. I like to use lots of different textures on my brushes. Sometimes I will print out my sketch and throw in some background colors with watercolor, just for fun.


Process 6: I lay in all the foreground color.


Process 7: Then I work in all the details over the top. Sometimes I finish the painting in Photoshop. Sometimes I use Painter because of the fun paint textures you can get. And that’s about it!

How did you end up going to Brigham Young University?

I first went to Utah Valley State College (which is now Utah Valley University) on an art scholarship, where I earned my associates degree. I had a great experience there, but at the time, they offered no Bachelor Degrees. I decided to go to BYU because at the time it had the best illustration program in the state (and also very high ranking nationally). At first I showed my portfolio to one of the professors there, Richard Hull. He thought I had some good potential. Unfortunately, I did not get in the university because of very high admittance standards. Richard Hull wrote a letter to admissions to request that I be admitted into the university to study illustration. Happily, it worked, and I was admitted. I will always be grateful to Richard for helping me get into an amazing illustration program where I learned so much valuable knowledge, which prepared me to working as an illustrator.


What types of classes did you take that really helped you to develop as an illustrator?

I took some awesome figure drawing classes, taught by Robert Barrett, who is phenomenal at figure drawing. I took an amazing (and very difficult) oil painting illustration class from Doug Fryer, where I learned amazing things about mixing color and composition. I also took some amazing illustration classes from Richard Hull, and Bethanne Anderson. Bethanne was my senior project mentor, and she inspired me in so many ways to become a children’s book illustrator and live my dreams. I took a couple  of digital classes in college, but hated them, and vowed I would never be one of those “digital” illustrators. This is very funny if you read on.


What did you do after you graduated?

Funny story. I graduated and had a baby two months later. Then we moved so my husband could go to school at another university. My husband was only able to get a part time job early in the morning working for UPS, and it wasn’t making enough to support us. So I went and got a part time job at JoAnn’s working in the frame shop. I worked there for a while, getting more and more annoyed that I was working at a retail frame shop for minimum wage. I was a well-trained frame shop worker (I had worked at several frame shops prior), and besides, I had a bachelor’s degree in illustration!  All I really wanted to do was be at home with my baby and draw. So I decided to work and pray really hard- take a leap of faith, quit my job and send out my work into the wide expanse of children’s illustration art reps and publishers, and see what happened. I think it was no coincidence that I was in the right place at the right time. Within a month, I got my first illustration job, and I got an art rep.

shawnaFlying Pig

Did Brigham Young University help connect you to companies that could give you work?

No, but I did learn a lot of valuable information about the business of illustration, and how to start getting work.


I notice that you use a lot of different paint materials. Did you start out with a favorite material and expand to others?

When I graduated from school, my medium of choice for my children’s illustrations was acrylics.  Like I said before, I was scared of the computer. Then I saw more and more how people were able to save a lot of time and money by doing their art digitally. I was still afraid that using it would change my style, and I wouldn’t be able to make my art look enough like a traditional medium. Finally, I decided I wanted to learn once and for all how to paint digitally. So I asked my friend Manelle Oliphant to teach me a few things. I also learned from asking some of my other friends a lot of questions. I decided to jump right in and digitally paint a book I had been assigned. It took a while to really understand how to do things the right way (I am still learning a ton all the time), but eventually I got things to look more traditional than digital. So to answer your question- now I only paint digitally- except for things like watercolor sketches. I have tried a lot of different techniques, which may explain why it looks like I use a lot of different mediums.


What was the first thing you did that you got paid to do?

It was some illustrations for a crossword puzzle for a magazine called The Friend, a children’s religious magazine. My second job was the more interesting one (in a bad way). It was a reader for elementary school called The Case of the Bushy Tail. Because of a misunderstanding I took on the job not realizing that I would only have 10 days to paint the entire book- and take care of a 1 year old at the same time. It was…something I don’t want to do again. But many lessons learned.


What was the turkey’s illustration for?

It was a self-promotion piece I did a few years back.


How long have you been illustrating?

About 8 years.


How  many children’s books have you illustrated?

If you count all the readers and chapter books, 17 all together.


I see that Picture Window Books published The Truth About Ogres that you illustrated.  Can you tell us how that contract came your way?

I got that job through my agent.


Can you tell us a little bit about Picture Window Books?

Picture Window books is an imprint of Capstone Publishing. They mostly publish through the school market. I have also illustrated one of their Read-it Readers, called Allie’s Bike. That was the second book I illustrated- a bit embarrassed to look at it now, but its fun to look back on it and see how my illustrations have grown since then.


How many children’s magazines have you done illustrations for?

The Friend Magazine, Highlights, Spider and Ladybug.


You illustrated a few book with Magic Wagon. How did those books and contracts find you?

That was also a job I landed through my agent.


Tell us about DEADWOOD put out by the new small publisher Pugalicious Press. I assume that it is a middle grade book and you were hired to do the cover. What is the story behind getting this job?

Yes, Deadwood is a middle grade novel written by Kell Andrews. I illustrated the cover, and the book came out November 2012. I also landed this job through my agent. Unfortunately, I recently heard that Pugalicious Press has gone under, and the book is already out of print. But I also heard that they are selling the rights to a new publisher, and trying to see if they can use the cover artwork that I have already created.  I hope that things go well for Deadwood, especially for the author’s sake!

shawnaIce Cream

It also looks like you have done a few Christian picture books. Could you tell us about those books, the publishers, and how you landed those contracts?

Yes, I have worked with  Concordia Publishing house on a couple of books (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, and King Josiah and God’s Book) which I got through my agent. I also illustrated a book called, When I Take the Sacrament, I Remember Jesus, through a local publisher called Covenant Communications. I got that job because I met the art director at a couple BYU Alumni events.


It also looks like you have done a few Christian picture books. Could you tell us about those books, the publishers, and how you landed those contracts?

Yes, I have worked with  Concordia Publishing house on a couple of books (The Parable of the Prodigal Son, and King Josiah and God’s Book) which I got through my agent. I also illustrated a book called, When I Take the Sacrament, I Remember Jesus, through a local publisher called Covenant Communications. I got that job because I met the art director at a couple BYU Alumni events.


I notice a lot of illustrations on your website that have a Christmas (Santa) theme. Are they all from one book? Where they published in a picture book?  Same questions for the reindeer illustrations?

The Christmas and reindeer themed illustrations are all from a book I illustrated for an author, Chantell Taylor, called Rosie the Reindeer. The book was finished about 3 years ago, but the author has not been able to publish it yet. That was a fun book to illustrate!


Do you want to concentrate on being a children’s picture book illustrator?

Yes, it is my dream and passion. I have always loved picture books- I love looking at them and reading them to my kids. My big dream is to write and illustrate my own books.


Where were the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella illustrations, published?

I think what you are referring to is the Beauty and the Beast pictures? I illustrated  a Young Learners Classic Reader version of Beauty and the Beast for Compass Publishing.


Tell us a little bit about the educational books that you have illustrated.

Well, I’ve done a lot of readers for the educational market. They are good bread and butter jobs, but not ultimately what I want to do for my career. Same thing with the religious books. I am really trying to focus my career on getting work in the trade book /big publishers market.


Have you ever tried to write and illustrate a children’s book?

Yes, I have written a few of my own stories, which have failed. I am currently writing a new story, which I plan on finishing soon and then illustrating. I have so many great ideas floating around my head, and I would really just like to write and illustrate my own stories and ideas rather than always illustrating other peoples ideas.


Have you made a picture book dummy to show art directors, editors, and reps.?

I did make one dummy book that I sent to my art rep some years ago. It was a flop, but I learned a lot from the experience and gained a lot of wisdom since then. I hope to have a new dummy out by this fall.


What types of things do you do to get your work seen by publishing professionals?

I’ve been doing a lot of blogging, social media, and sending out my own post cards. Lately I’ve really been focusing on what kind of things I need to do to connect with other illustrators and art directors.  I’ve also been trying to focus my work on the trade book market.


Do you have an agent? If so, who and how long have the represented you?  If not, would you like one?

Yes, my agent is Janet DeCarlo of Story Book Arts Inc. She has been a great agent and has gotten me pretty steady work for the past 8 years.


Do you ever use two different materials in one illustration?

Yes, I’ve used digital with pastels, Photoshop with Painter, watercolor with Photoshop. It’s fun to experiment!


Have you seen your style change since you first started illustrating?

Yes, a lot. When I first started, I only painted in acrylic. My goal was to have as little texture as possible and to finish every single last detail. My colors were very saturated all the time. The end result is that every one thought my illustrations looked too “Disney” and too mass market. So I’ve changed things up quite a bit. Now I use a lot more textures. I realized I don’t need to finish every single little last detail- in fact, it works better when I don’t. I have tried to make the eyes of my characters look less “Disney.” I know better how to use color. I know now that it’s better not to saturate everything with pure color. I also know better how to stylize characters and how to compose an illustration. I think it’s important to be learning all the time- from teachers, from friends, from books, from conferences. I hope my style evolves and changes and improves a ton in the next 10 years!


Have you gotten any work through networking?

Funny enough, no, not really. But I have gotten lots of lifetime friends through networking. And I learn tons from my friends all the time. In fact, I run a local monthly illustration critique group, which I love!


Do you do any art exhibits to help get noticed?

I have participated in a couple BYU Alumni illustration shows. I have also participated in two shows at the Bountiful Davis art center called Illustrators Utah. It is a juried show, and the last  show I was in, I one 3rd place for my illustration entitled Ghost Watcher.


Are you open to doing illustrations for self-published picture book authors?

As I said before, I illustrated the book Rosie the Reindeer for a self-publishing author. I think since then I’ve learned a few things. I may be open to illustrating for a self-publishing author if they had a phenomenal story and gave me an offer I couldn’t pass up. But for the most part, I would say no. I’d rather write and illustrate my own stories or work with a publisher.


When did you start using Photoshop?

The first book I illustrated in Photoshop was The Parable of the Prodigal Son, which was published in 2008. After my friend Manelle showed me how to paint in Photoshop, and I just jumped right in, hoping to make it look just like I illustrated it in acrylics. Since I was so new to the medium, the process took way longer it would have taken to just do in acrylics. Since then, I have learned a lot of tips and tricks to really speed up the process.


Do you own a graphic tablet? If so, how do you use it?

Yes, I paint all my illustrations in Photoshop and Painter with a Wacom Bamboo tablet. I hope someday soon to be able to get a Cyntiq!


How much time do you spend illustrating?

Well, I’m a mom. So whenever I can fit it in! Both my kids are in school now for a full day, so I really try to get a lot done while they are at school. Sometimes I illustrate late into the night or early in the morning.


Do you have a studio set up in your house?

Yes, I have a studio/office room in the house. It’s pretty small and I share it with my husband who is a graphic designer. I have a computer desk and a drawing desk, he has a computer desk, and we also have scanners, printers, a book shelf, and a supply closet. So as you can guess, it’s a little crowded in here. It is also often filled with my kids and their drawings, so it gets even more crowded! But it serves it’s purpose.


Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?

Of course, my computer (I used a Macbook Pro which I hook up to a bigger screen). My Epson Scanner (since I draw all my drawing with pencil and scan them in). I also love my Epson Artisan 1430 large format printer. And of course my art books. I am obsessed with children’s books and art books!

shawnaChristmas Surprise

You have an illustration you titled Christmas Surprise. Was that used in a picture book? What about the one titled Flying Pig? 

Christmas Surprise and Flying Pig are both self-promotion pieces I illustrated quite a few years ago- when I was still using acrylics. I like Christmas Surprise, but I don’t put it in my portfolio anymore because I often get the comment that it looks too mass market, and I’m going for trade books.


Any picture books on the horizon?

Right now I’m working on a few non-picture book jobs. But I am also working on my very own written and illustrated book –I hope to have a dummy finished and sent out this year.


What are your career goals?

I would love to illustrate more middle grade novels. My ultimate goal is to write and illustrate my own books steadily.


What are you working on now?

I am working on an few illustrations for The Friend Magazine, and I am illustrating a story which will be published by Oxford Publishing house called Harpoona. It’s an under the sea/fish Cinderella story .  And of course, I’m working on my own story!


Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Something that I really like to do is scan textures into Photoshop- such as watercolor textures or gesso textures. This is how to do it. Scan in a texture such as a watercolor texture. Change the mode to gray scale. Play with the curves to make the pattern more contrasted. Select the entire image. Go to the “Edit” menu and choose “Define Pattern” and give it a name. Then your pattern will show up in your brush palette when you double click “texture.” Then set the brush mode on multiply and you can make the contrast go as high as you like. Use this on an already textured brush. Then you can get textures that look like you are using real paint!


I  love the examples of the paper doll illustrations you have on your site. Who did you do these for?

I did some paper doll illustrations for Girl Guiding U.K. (equivalent to Girl Scouts in the U.S.). I also did a fun zombie-ish paper doll for self promotion.


Here are a few examples of Shawna’s black and white illustrations,



Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

If you are in this field, illustration needs to be your passion. You need to keep finding ways to learn and improve your style every day. Find friends and mentors who will help you and inspire you. Blogging and social networking are important. Never ever give up, no matter how depressed you might feel about where your career is going, or feeling that your art isn’t good enough. The people that make it are the ones that never give up. I don’t even feel like I’ve made it yet to where I want to be, but I’m not going to give up! Remember, you don’t have control over what is happening in the industry, but you do have control over the quality of artwork you are producing– so keep making better artwork. Don’t ever do artwork for free. Don’t take on cheap jobs that pay way too little. Instead, focus on making better artwork, and if you do, the better jobs will come. I keep having to tell myself this every day. I know if I do, good things will happen for me and my art. And I know it will for you too!



Thank you Shawna for sharing your talent and process with us. I see a great future for you and you art and good luck with adding the writing to your achievements. Please remember to let us know when you have new successes. It will be fun following you.

If you would like to visit Shawna, you can go to: www.shawnajctenney.com Please take a minute to leave a comment below for Shawna. It will be  much appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Brigham Young University, Digital Art, Graphic art, Shawna Tenney

12 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Shawna JC Tenney, last added: 4/20/2013
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