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1326. Pett.

Mark Pett, that is.

I like saying “Pett.” I like to imagine that when Mark Pett walks into a bar, his friends yell, “PETT”, à la Norm Peterson.

Anyway. Last week at Kirkus, I wrote about Mark’s newest picture book, The Girl and the Bicycle (Simon & Schuster, April 2014). That is here.

I like to read reviews. I read one reviewer refer to the “Capra-esque” worlds of Pett’s books. I like that. Capra-esque could be entirely too much, depending on the illustrator, but Mark Pett does it just right.

Here are some more spreads from the book.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


* * * * * * *

THE GIRL AND THE BICYCLE. Copyright © 2014 by Mark Pett. Published by Simon & Schuster, New York. Illustrations used here by permission of the publisher.

2 Comments on Pett., last added: 5/8/2014
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1327. News Release: 2014 Carle Honors Honorees from the Eric Carle Museum

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Announces 2014 Carle Honors Honorees

Ninth annual awards celebrate the creative vision and long-term dedication of leaders in the world of picture books

Amherst, MA (May 7, 2014) - The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to announce the 2014 Carle Honors honorees to be awarded at Guastavino’s in New York City on Thursday, September 18, 2014. The ninth annual gala and fundraiser will fête the talented people who have played an instrumental role in making children’s books a vibrant and influential art and literary form in America. This year, the Carle Honors will award the following: 

Artist: Jerry Pinkney

Celebrated illustrator of over 100 children’s books and winner of numerous awards, including the 2010 Caldecott Medal for The Lion and the Mouse.

Angel: Reach Out and Read represented by Brian Gallagher and Dr. Perri Klass

Tireless promoters of early literacy and school readiness, as exemplified through the Reach Out and Read program established in thousands of pediatric exam rooms nationwide.

Mentor: Henrietta Smith

Influential children’s librarian, scholar, and author; leading advocate for quality and diversity in children’s literature.

Bridge: Françoise Mouly

Publisher and editorial director for TOON Books, high-quality comics for young children; art editor of The New Yorker.

The Carle Honors celebrates individuals and organizations who bring creative vision and long-term dedication to children’s books and the many ways they open children’s minds to art and literacy. The awards are selected each year by a committee chaired by children’s literature historian and critic Leonard S. Marcus, who was central to the founding of the Honors. The committee recognizes four distinct awards: Artist, for lifelong innovation in the field; Angel, whose generous financial support is crucial to making illustrated children’s book art exhibitions, education programs, and related projects a reality; Mentor, editors, designers, and educators who champion the art form; and Bridge, individuals who have found inspired ways to bring the art of the picture book to larger audiences through work in other fields.

The Carle Honors is a critical fundraiser for The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, helping to support the Museum’s in its mission to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. The annual event also includes a silent auction featuring artwork from top illustrators, including Eric Carle.  For ticket and sponsorship information, please contact Rebecca Miller Goggins, Director of Development at 413-658-1118 or rebeccag@carlemuseum.org.

About The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art:

The mission for The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading. The only full-scale museum of its kind in the United States, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.

See more details at the Museum’s website at www.carlemuseum.org.

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1328. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: May 7

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currently send out the newsletter once every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book and young adult) and two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently (including a ton of links related to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign). I also have two posts with content from Scholastic about Summer Reading. Not included in the newsletter, I posted:

I do have more picture book reviews coming up in the next couple of weeks, for those who are interested in those. 

Reading Update: In the last two weeks I read two young adult and three adult books:

  • Laini Taylor: Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy, Book 3). Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Young Adult. Completed April 24, 2014, on Kindle. My review.
  • Amber Kizer: Pieces of Me. Delacorte Press. Young Adult. Completed April 25, 2014. My review.
  • Jo Nesbo: The Bat (the first Harry Hole novel). Vintage. Adult Mystery. Completed April 27, 2014, on Kindle (library copy).I found the characters well-developed and the mystery intriguing in this, my first of Nesbo's books. But there were too many digressions for allegorical stories told by the characters for my personal taste. 
  • Sue Grafton: U is for Undertow. Putnam. Adult Mystery. Completed May 1, 2014, on Kindle (library copy). I'm finding these good exercise bike books, for some reason. I'll be sorry when I finish catching up. 
  • Jodi Picoult: Second Glance. Atria Books. Adult Fiction. Completed May 3, 2014, on MP3. This book got off to a slow start for me, but I enjoyed it once I became invested in the story. It's a book that will make readers think. 

I'm currently reading Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life by P.J. Hoover in print and Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell on Kindle. I'm listening to Influx by Daniel Suarez. Baby Bookworm is obsessed with Moldylocks and the Three Beards by Noah Z. Jones. You can check out the complete list of books we've read to her this year if you are interested to see more. You can see on the list the impact of her recent visit to the library, from which she brought home a host of TV tie-in and Little Critter-type books. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

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

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1329. Illustrator Interview – Jacque Duffy

I met Jacque Duffy in our lovely 12×12 community last year. She was one of the most committed participants last year and her enthusiasm and vivacity was and is contagious.  I am very happy to be interviewing another Australian on … Continue reading

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1330. Picture books for launching mathematicians

My school uses a play-based approach to teaching math, which is advantageous because as an early childhood teacher, my students still love math and they love to play games. They enjoy learning and working with numbers and I can build on this through math games.

For me, teaching math is often challenging because my own mathematical background emphasized “doing” math over understanding with drills, formulas, and math algorithms rather than reinforcing why we use specific math procedures. Add to this the new Common Core Math Standard’s focus on conceptual understanding, fluency, and application and you get a recipe for highly reflective lesson planning!

One way to bridge this gap between doing and understanding math is with picture books. They provide purposeful ways to ground students intuitive use of math and easily get them using and talking about the most effective strategies.

There are so many wonderful math concept and picture books out there, yet selecting books that effectively support mini lessons and launch play requires a bit more searching. The books need to interest students, embed rather than simply present math concepts, lend themselves well to differentiated extension activities, and of course, be fun!

Some books I’ve successfully used and that meet these criteria are:

I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean — This is a Kevin Sherry’s story about a giant squid who thinks he’s bigger than everything in the ocean. He’s very big, but is he the biggest? This book is great for introducing relative size, comparisons. This is an alternative text for introducing standard measurements as well as scale when students are challenged to rank by size or to think of reliable ways to determine how much bigger he might be than other animals.

roostersofftoseeworld 218x300 Picture books for launching mathematicians Rooster’s Off to See the World — This classic Eric Carle book can help launch math activities about number sets. In the book, Rooster seeks company as he travels around the world. Along the way, he encounters different types of animals and invites them along. The best part of this book is that every time he meets a new animal, the number of them increases. It’s a great way to introduce students to counting in groups and helps students to distinguish between total numbers and sets of numbers. With this book, students played sorting games and counted number sets.

Ppigswillbepigs 300x259 Picture books for launching mathematiciansigs Will be Pigs — This is the hilarious tale of a family of pigs who need to find enough money to pay for dinner at a restaurant. The author Amy Axelrod wrote this book to teach explicitly about money and she does a fabulous job. I especially love this story because it can also be used across the curriculum. I’m connecting this to a social studies unit on access to healthful food. Grocery store or restaurant math games using coins are natural extension activities with this book.

alexanderwhousedtoberich 300x229 Picture books for launching mathematiciansAlexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday — Judith Viorst’s Alexander tales normalize my students’ every day experiences and emotions. This one is no different. Alexander has just spent every cent of the money his grandparents gave him. As he recounts how he spent it, students add up how much he spends or can subtract from the initial total. I love this one because a few of the items have prices that some students might find awkward to work with. As with Pigs Will be Pigs, it also lends itself well to cross-curricular connections, especially the basic economic principle of scarcity: Alexander had to learn the hard way about saving versus spending his limited income. For this book, a game to help Alexander save is also a next step for money.

When using picture books to teach math, pre- and post-assessment of student understanding can easily get lost. Talking to students about the math concepts in the books before sending them off to play math extension games can give you a sense of their thinking. For post-assessment, reviewing student work and requiring them to either to write or share out their strategies for success on the games lets them talk about their math knowledge and provides natural entry points for correcting misconceptions or pushing learning.

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1331. HANDS: Growing Up to Be an Artist AND The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

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1332. Happy Book Birthday to WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN, plus KidLit Events May 6-13

WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN by Kristin RaeHappy Book Birthday

to Kristin Rae’s debut YA novel


Seventeen-year-old Pippa Preston, sent to Italy for a three-month art history program, decides instead to see the country on her own, armed with a list of such goals as eating an entire pizza and falling in love with an Italian, but soon finds herself attracted both to a dangerous local boy and an American archaeology student.

Join Kristin at her launch party at Blue Willow Bookshop Saturday, May 10 at 2 PM!

Here’s more events happening this week:

May 5-9, 5:00 p.m.Little Miss Molly
Hahn Gallery
Read3zero Literacy Extravaganza

Hanh Gallery and The Hanh Collection are hosting a week long extravaganza featuring the works of children’s author Melissa Williams. All proceeds will benefit the READ3Zero Literacy Foundation, inspiring kids to read and write. RSVP to eric@hanhgallery.com for the dates you are attending.

May 7, 5:00 p.m. President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath
Blue Willow Bookshop
Mac Barnett, Children’s Author

Mac Barnett’s latest picture book is PRESIDENT TAFT GOT STUCK IN THE BATH. George Washington crossed the Delaware in the dead of night. Abraham Lincoln saved the Union. And President William Howard Taft, a man of great stature — well, he got stuck in a bathtub. Now “how “did he get unstuck? Author Mac Barnett and illustrator Chris Van Dusen bring their full comedic weight to this legendary story, imagining a parade of clueless cabinet members advising the exasperated president, leading up to a hugely satisfying, hilarious finale.

May 10, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.SLEEPYHEADS by Sandra Howatt; Illustrated by Joyce Wan
Barnes and Noble, The Woodlands
Sandra Howatt, PB Author

Join picture book author Sandra Howatt as she celebrates her debut, SLEEPYHEADS. This sweet, snuggly, and silly bedtime book with irresistible illustrations is sure to prepare little ones for a cozy night’s sleep.  The sun has set, and sleepyheads all across the land are tucked into their cozy beds.
Rabbit is snoozing in the weeds, and Duck is snuggled in the reeds.
Bear is nestled in his cave, and Otter is rocking on a wave.
But there’s one little sleepyhead who’s not in his bed.
Where, oh where, could he be?

A perfect bedtime read-aloud!

May 10, Saturday, 2:00 p.m. The Vintage Contessa & Princessa
Donae Cangelosi Chramosta, Children’s Author

Join Tootsies for a Mother-Daughter Tea Party and Book Release party for THE VINTAGE CONTESSA & PRINCESSA by Donae Cangelosi Chramosta. Celebrate beauty from within on a fashionable and luxurious adventure full of love, hope and friendship. The Princessa dreams of helping her mother plan the perfect charity event to honor her BFF! When the night of the festivities arrives, a major disaster turns the two little girls fabulous celebration upside down. Even the prettiest dresses and most fashionable hats can’t fix this dilemma. The Princessa discovers that life is not always perfect, and it is in our greatest challenges where we find the true beauty of love.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of The Vintage Contessa & Princessa will go to cancer charities in communities around the world. Please RSVP to sue@longtalepublishing.com.

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1333. The Birds and the Bees Before Breakfast

(Click to enlarge)


The basics of reproduction before I’ve even had my coffee yet? That’s a 7-Imp first.

Over at BookPage, my review of Sophie Blackall’s The Baby Tree (Nancy Paulsen Books, May 2014) has been posted. If you wanna read all about it, head over to their always informative and entertaining site. The review is here.

I follow up today with a visit from Sophie and some art from the book.


* * *

Sophie: This is a page from my sketchbook where I first scribbled thumbnails for the layout of The Baby Tree. I remember I was on the subway and it was crowded, and I was balancing the book on my lap with my elbows tucked right in. And for some reason I was able to get pretty much the whole thing down, something which had been eluding me in all the previous hours at my desk.

(Click to enlarge)


This was the tiny squiggle …



… which would grow into this sketch …


(Click to enlarge)


… which changed a bit in the final painting below. The ambulance was just too weird.


“So I ask Mrs. McClure if she knows where babies come from.
From the hospital, she says, and then she says,
Boys and girls, it’s time to wash our brushes.”
(Click to enlarge)


Here’s another sketch which changed a bit in the final:


(Click to enlarge)


“Roberto, the mailman, thinks babies come from eggs.
But he doesn’t know where to get the eggs.”

(Click to enlarge)


I knew I wanted to balance spots for the boy’s real world and full-bleed images for the scenes he imagined. I borrowed the white space from one of my favorite books, The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr



… and patterns and lines from Koganemaru the Dog by the Japanese illustrator Shotaro Honda:


(Click to see larger version)


And I built my palette around the colors in this 18th century Indian painting I saw at the Met, possibly by Mir Kalan Khan. (I thought someone might ask me one day, so I wrote it down!)



I also snuck in an indulgent couple of cameos: The boy’s bedtime reading selections at the end are my studio mates’ books: Sergio Ruzzier’s Bear and Bee and Brian Floca’s Locomotive!


“And I ask them.
Where do babies come from? …”

(Click to enlarge and read full text)



* * *


Thanks to Sophie for visiting. Here’s a bit more art from the book …


(Click to enlarge)

“And Grandpa tells me, A stork brings your baby
in the night and leaves it in a bundle on your doorstep.”

(Click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

THE BABY TREE. Copyright © 2014 by Sophie Blackall. Published by Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, New York. All images here used by permission of Sophie Blackall and the publisher.

5 Comments on The Birds and the Bees Before Breakfast, last added: 5/9/2014
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1334. Catching Up With Winfred Rembert

I'm not sure what led me to take my copy of Don't Hold Me Back by Winfred Rembert off my shelf yesterday to show to a family member. I met Rembert back in 2004 when we were both nominated for the Connecticut Book Award, back when there still was a Connecticut Book Award. (Not to be confused with the Nutmeg Award, folks.) But as a result, I looked up Rembert today.


Winfred Rembert is a leather folk artist whose work has gotten around. He's had gallery shows that were reviewed  in the New York Times. He's had other gallery shows.  Oh, look. Another, very recent show. The Huffington Post carried a piece about him. A book has been written about him. And a documentary has been made.

I was going to offer my copy of Don't Hold Me Back to a couple of my family members who are library/reading teacher people. But I love folk art! And Rembert signed it! I think I will make them drag it from my cold, stiff hands. They can look forward to fighting for it.

Here's something I've been thinking about this afternoon. I love a lot of the folk art I've run into over the years. It's not so much the execution, which I'm not qualified to judge, though there are definitely some things I've liked more than others. It's that these people, who have little to no art training, need to create so badly that they won't let the fact that they have only a vague idea what they're doing stop them.

So why don't I feel the same way about work from untrained writers?

And was I the equivalent of a folk writer when I started publishing?

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1335. Revising a Picture Book: Length, Common Core, Details and Research

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Vagabonds by Darcy Pattison


by Darcy Pattison

Giveaway ends May 09, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I just did a quick revision of a picture book that’s in progress.

Shorter. One goal was to shorten the story whenever possible. I cut out an entire page, and an entire sentence. Doesn’t sound like much? At only 700 words, the story is as streamlined as I can make it. Well, no. I just cut out one page and a sentence. Honing the text to the tightest possible is important for picture book texts.

When I’m asked to read someone’s manuscript, here’s my main comment: Cut it in half.

And a friend adds this: After cutting it in half, cut another 100 words.

Classroom reading center: Will your picture book be useful in the classroom?

Classroom reading center: Will your picture book be useful in the classroom?

Common Core. The Common Core education standards are a couple years now and their requirements are definitely on my mind. I am constantly consulting the standards for each grade level and working to make sure the picture book is useful in the classroom. Because I write for early elementary, I consider this a crucial aspect of what I do.

Oliver511x400First, I focus on the story. Is the story itself compelling and interesting for the audience? If so, then can I add anything that will enhance it’s use in the classroom, without changing the essential story elements? For example, my picture book, THE JOURNEY OF OLIVER K. WOODMAN is now ten years old and still selling well. Part of the reason is that the story is told in letters and postcards. Of course, children’s learn about writing letters and postcards in early elementary, so this book is a natural for teachers to use as a mentor text. The story came first and demanded to be written in an epistolary (big word for letters) format. But after the story worked, then the layout and design decisions enhanced its usefulness in the classroom. Story first; but don’t ignore the book’s classroom usefulness.

Details. The Work-in-progress is about cats and I’m looking at about 20 cats that could be used in various places in the story. Which cat goes where? It’s a balancing act which requires me to know something about different cat breeds and match them to my story. I also have to carefully tabulate and re-tabulate which breeds I’ve used. I can’t use one breed twice, but each of the 20 breeds must be used. Check. No, move that one to this place. Re-check. It was a morning of detailed work!

I know–everyone loves cat videos. But have you ever seen a Devon Rex cat?

If you can’t see this video, click here.

In case you were wondering, according to the Cat Fancier’s Association, here’s the top 20 most popular cat breeds in 2013. (In other words, I am doing research to document and justify the breeds I am using in the story.)

1 Persian
2 Exotic
3 Maine Coon Cat
4 Ragdoll
5 British Shorthair
6 Abyssinian
7 American Shorthair
8 Sphynx
9 Siamese
10 Devon Rex
11 Norwegian Forest Cat
12 Oriental
13 Scottish Fold
14 Cornish Rex
15 Birman
16 Burmese
17 Tonkinese
18 Siberian
19 Russian Blue
20 Egyptian Mau

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1336. Review of From There to Here

croza from there to here Review of From There to HereFrom There to Here
by Laurel Croza; illus. by Matt James
Primary, Intermediate    Groundwood    32 pp.
5/14    978-1-55498-365-0    $18.95
e-book ed.  978-1-55498-366-7    $16.95

In the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award-winning I Know Here (rev. 5/10), the young narrator knows she and her family will soon be leaving their home in the glorious wilderness of Saskatchewan, and in this sequel, so they do. The Toronto of the book’s era (early 1960s) might look positively quaint to us, but to the girl it is completely exotic. “There” she lived on a gravel road without a name; “Here” she lives on the well-paved Birch Street. “There”: the aurora borealis; “Here”: “street lamps in a straight row.” But just when you think the book is a paean to the forest primeval, in comes new neighbor Anne, “eight, almost nine” just like the girl, who back in the bush had no friend her own age. The palette of the Toronto scenes is predominately blue-sky sunny, reflecting the story’s ultimate optimism, although the wild dark colors of the forest continue their hold on the girl’s memories and in James’s paintings, where images of moose and pine trees rest matter-of-factly within the confines of the girl’s new house on Birch Street (birchless, by the way). While the bike helmets on Anne and our girl are more than a touch anachronistic, we know that the ride begun at the close of the book promises both amity and adventure.

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1337. The Short Giraffe by Neil Flory

The Short GiraffeGeri is the shortest giraffe who ever lived. Normally that doesn’t seem to cause a problem except for when Bobo, the baboon, tries to take a photo of all the giraffes. Everyone wants the picture to be perfect. Unfortunately, Bobo finds it impossible to snap a perfect picture that includes the tallest giraffes along with the shortest giraffe. How can he get them all to fit in? Geri offers to stay out of the picture, but the giraffes won’t hear of such nonsense. They come up with a variety of ways to help Geri to be tall. Some very silly ideas are attempted and, as a result, some very silly pictures are taken – none of them just right. Finally, a little caterpillar that had been watching all the failed attempts comes up with a perfect idea. And, sure enough, Bobo is able to take a PERFECT picture that includes all the giraffes!

What a perfect little book that includes sweet illustrations and some tall ideas about working together. The giraffes, along with the help of the tiny caterpillar prove “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Posted by: Wendy

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1338. A Whale of a Parenting Tale

Following Papa’s Song

By Gianna Marino


Recently, we observed “Take a Child to Work Day” and I’m sure loads of moms and dads took their young readers to see what they “do” all day. Young children have images in their minds, I’m sure, of where their parents are while they are at home, school or daycare. So, it’s a treat for kids to tag along and actually see where you are when you’re not with them, and what activities occupy you!

Gianna Marino, author of Too Tall Houses and Meet Me at the Moon has used animals in her picture books to great advantage in telling stories with deeper themes of friendship, togetherness and the parent/child bond.

In Following Papa’s Song, it’s not exactly following the Papa Whale to work, but then again maybe it is. It’s certainly reproducing those great Q and A’s reminiscent of many asked by the very young. And they are: “Are we going very FAR?”, asks Little Blue of his dad.

Papa Whale informs Little Whale they are going to greater depths than they ever have before in the briny deep. It’s a sort of metaphor for the untried and new experiences in a child’s life. I like that. New experiences are exciting for a child and, at the same time may be a bit frightening in that they are a subliminal prelude to the question all children secretly feel, “Will you always be there for me?” Little Blue’s persistent questions are those of every child – “How will we know which way to go?” and as Papa relates the age old call of the whales’ song, Little Blue queries, “When I am big, Papa, will I still hear your song?”

Ms. Marino’s Little Blue keeps Papa in sight as they plumb these new and greater depths of the ocean of life where it is VERY QUIET and sound is harder to decipher – sounds like the cry of Little Blue calling for Papa!!

Can Papa hear the call of his young one? Will Little Blue gain the confidence needed for a lifetime of greater depths of new experiences? The answer is an emphatic YES to both. Ms. Marino has managed to perfectly capture the essence of the parent/child relationship and the great paradox at the heart of that relationship. And that is, in order to be a really effective parent, the job is to prepare the young one for a day when you are superfluous. Little Blue will always need Papa Whale’s love and guidance, but at a young age, the small mammal is slowly being given the tools needed to navigate LIFE in the deep on his own! She has a beautiful reassuring message for both parent and child as they navigate life together, “If you listen closely, you will always hear my song.”

Ms. Marino’s use of color is magic. Her greens mimic the clarity of life in the upper reaches of the ocean and as the depth increases for Little Blue and Papa, the blue green morphs to an inky blue that is barely transparent – except for SOUND! And her picture of the whales’ rise to the surface and “sounding” into a pinkish yellow light is beautifully done. It is a great match of art and narrative!

Ah, life lessons! Ms. Marino has written a book with a beautiful message for man AND mammal! Take the plunge and dive in with your young reader along with Papa Whale and Little Blue. It’s a great ride that this picture book starts, and you will continue with your child for a lifetime of deep depth diving – together! And Mom, I still can hear your song!














































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1339. Picture Book Monday with a review of Big Bear Hug

One of the things I like about living on the west coast is that most of the people around here are very huggy. When my mother visited for the first time, my new friends hugged her as if they knew her well. She wasn't quite sure what to do. Why were all these strangers hugging her? I explained the people around her are friendly.

In today's picture book you will a sweet, lovable bear who is VERY huggy and who truly understands how to show others that he likes them.

Big Bear HugBig Bear Hug
Nicholas Oldland
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Kids Can Press, 2009, 978-1-55453-464-7
In a forest there is a bear who is “so filled with love and happiness” that he hugs every living thing he encounters. The bear even hugs animals that bears normally eat, and no animal is too big or too small for the bear’s loving embrace. He even hugs smelly skunks and “scary” snakes.
   Though the bear loves to hug other animals, he loves to hug trees even more. He hugs trees of all kinds and he loves them dearly. One day he sees a man chopping down a tree and the poor bear is appalled. He is horrified. He even starts to get angry, and he thinks that perhaps he should bite the man. After all, the man is harming one of the bear’s beloved trees.
   In this simple yet incredibly powerful book we meet a bear who is goodness personified. Children will immediately fall in love with the big bear who is willing to hug a skunk, and who wraps himself around the trunk of a tree with so much obvious devotion. Most of all, readers will be delighted to see how the bear responds when something negative enters his world. Surely this bear has something to teach us all about how to deal with the negatives things that we encounter in life.

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1340. Seven 2014 Picture Books

Go! Go! Go! Stop! Charise Mericle Harper. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

One day, Little Green said a word. 
It was his first word. He had never spoken before. The word was... GO!
He liked how it sounded. He practiced it quiet. Go! Then medium. Go! And finally very, very, loud. GO!
It was exciting to have a new word. Little Green couldn't wait to share it. 

Loved it. In this picture book, readers meet Little Green, who loves the word, GO, and Little Red, who loves the word STOP. Before Little Red showed up, things were lively: very, very lively. A bit out-of-control, and growing more chaotic by the minute. Little Red and his STOP definitely prove their worth in this one. Little Green and Little Red learn to work together to achieve the right balance at this super busy construction site.

For little ones who love construction, who love trucks and action, who love funny books, this one is great! I liked the story. I liked the language. "Tow Truck towed terrifically. Crane carried carefully. Dump Truck dumped dependably. Mixer mixed marvelously. And Backhoe waved his long arms in the air." I liked the details. I liked looking at the illustrations closely, the trucks were often talking to each other, or, interacting with each other. For this story, these illustrations work well.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

Weasels. Elys Dolan. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Weasels. What do you think they do all day? Eat nuts and berries? Frolic in the leaves? Lurk in the dark? Argue with squirrels? Hide in their weasel holes? 
Well, all of these are wrong.
What they really do is...
plot world domination!
And today is the day they'll take over the world.

I loved this one. It is worth spending time with this one, focusing on the illustrations, following it along from cover to cover. If you do, you'll see that these weasels have personalities. The basic story is simple: the weasels have worked very hard, they are getting ready for the big countdown, they think their moment is at least here, and, then, they discover something is horribly wrong: the machine is BROKEN. Can this plot to take over the world be saved? Can the weasels work together to find out WHY the machine is broken? Can they fix it? This one has plenty of text. There is the main text of the narrator, and then the weasels' dialogue among one another. Added to the stories told through illustrations alone, and, readers are in for a fun treat. It may take more than a quick read to appreciate everything. This one may work best reading one-on-one with a child rather than in a group setting. Also this one may be a picture book older readers (independent readers) pick up. I think it's fun for many different ages--adults included.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

Mama's Day With Little Gray. Aimee Reid. Illustrated by Laura J. Bryant. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The sun shimmered in the sky as Little Gray walked in Mama's shadow. "Mama," said Little Gray, "when I grow up, will you grow down?" "Well," Mama said, "when you grow big, I may look smaller." "If I grew up and you were my calf," said Little Gray, "I'd spend every day with you." "I would be your calf and stay right by your side," said Mama. Their trunks swung together as they strolled along.

Mama's Day is a sweet picture book. I liked it very much. I like books that celebrate family. Little Gray imagines that she is all grown-up. She also imagines that her Mama has grown down, that she is, in fact, Little Gray's calf. The following conversation is cute, sweet, and perhaps familiar. What-if conversations between parent and child aren't exactly new to the genre. But. I liked it. I happen to LOVE elephants which certainly helped.

Plenty of books celebrating mothers are published each year, and this one is a very nice addition. I thought the illustrations were especially lovely.

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

Taking Care of Mama Rabbit. Anita Lobel. 2014. Random House. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 One morning, Mama Rabbit stayed in bed. That made her ten little rabbits worried. "Where is Papa?" they asked. "Papa went to get me medicine," Mama mumbled.
Medicine! Mama did look very pale. And not at all happy. "We have to cheer up Mama," the ten little rabbits agreed. One by one, they brought her...

I think the book itself is simple enough, but, I can't stop over-thinking it. First, the story: Mama Rabbit is sick in bed. The ten rabbits can't find their father. They learn he's gone to buy medicine. They decide to cheer her up. By the end of the book, when the father returns with a bottle of medicine, she is all better without it.

The problem? If you're really sick and in need of medicine, drinking hot chocolate, eating cookies, and putting ribbons in your hair is not going to make you magically feel better. It's a nice enough thought, perhaps, but what Mamas need more than toys and apples and ribbons and necklaces is to be left alone to rest. I can imagine the ten rabbits interrupting her every five minutes in an effort to "cheer" her up. If she's not actually sick, if she is perhaps just SICK of her children's behavior and wants to take a break, then, the children's kindness might get her out of a bad mood. This one just leaves me unsatisfied.

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

A Gift for Mama. Linda Ravin Lodding. Illustrated by Alison Jay. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Morning bells rang out over Vienna. Shoppers and sellers filled the streets, and carriages clippity-clopped against the cobblestones. Oskar peered wide-eyed into the shop windows. It was his mother's birthday, and he wanted to give her the perfect gift. 

I enjoyed this one. Oskar, our hero, wants to give his Mama a gift. He has one single coin to buy that gift. His first gift is a yellow rose. It doesn't stay the gift for mama, however, for someone soon appears that has greater need for it. And he's willing to trade. A paintbrush for a rose. This may be the first exchange, but, it won't be the last. What gift will Oskar give his mother?

Oskar travels all around Vienna meeting lots of different people in Lodding's picture book A Gift for Mama. I think the premise is a good one. I enjoyed meeting the different characters. The illustrations in this one are just wonderful.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

Where's Mommy? Beverly Donofrio. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2014. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Maria had a friend who was a mouse. And Mouse Mouse had a friend who was a human. Maria and Mouse Mouse lived in the same house but couldn't tell anyone about each other. If Maria's parents knew there were mice in the house, they'd get a cat. If Mouse Mouse's parents knew their daughter was friends with a human, they'd flee to a hole in the ground. And so Maria and Mouse Mouse kept their secret.

Maria and Mouse Mouse think they know their mothers well. But. It turns out that their mothers both have secrets from their daughters. BIG secrets. Maria and Mouse Mouse get suspicious one night. Both Maria and Mouse Mouse realize that their moms are completely missing. No one else cares. No one else worries. But Maria and Mouse Mouse, well, they HAVE to find out where their moms are NOW! So they go searching everywhere. 

Where's Mommy is either a sequel or companion to Mary and the Mouse and The Mouse and Mary. I have not read the first book. But I'm guessing that this is a book about Mary's daughter.

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

The Pigeon Needs A Bath! Mo Willems. 2014. Hyperion. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Hi! I don't know if you've noticed, but the pigeon is filthy. So, I could use your help, because: THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH!
That is a matter of opinion.
What a Kidder.
I don't really need a bath!
I took one last month!
I think it was last month.
"Clean." "Dirty." They're just words, right?
I feel clean.
Maybe YOU need a bath!
Yeah! When was the last time YOU had a bath?!
Oh. That was pretty recently.

I love Mo Willems. I think if you were to go back and read all my reviews of Mo Willems' books, they'd all start the same gushy way. I do indeed love Mo Willems' work. I would never say--could never say--that my love for Pigeon matches my LOVE, LOVE, LOVE for Elephant and Piggie, I have grown fonder of this character over time. I think The Pigeon Needs A Bath may be my personal favorite from the Pigeon series.

Pigeon is going to do his best to convince you, his reader, that he absolutely does NOT need a bath. He sets forth quite a few arguments, but, ultimately, all fail. To the bath, he goes, will he like it? will he hate it? will he love it?

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1341. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #380: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator Elizabeth Lilly

An illustration of Nikki Giovanni’s poem, “Migrations”
Bicycles: Love Poems)


It’s Sunday! It’s Spring! Hurrah!

It’s also the first Sunday of the month, so today I welcome a student illustrator. Her name is Elizabeth Lilly, and she’s here to tell us all about her work, as well as share some of her art.

So, without further ado …

* * *

Elizabeth: When I was a kid, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I mostly just loved reading, so when I was eight I decided to be a librarian. How great would it be to be surrounded by books every day?

In high school, I was drawing rabbits and animating dancing grapes while my friends were all applying to Ivy League schools, with promising lawyer/doctor-type futures ahead. I applied to be an architect, went to a prestigious architecture program, and was miserable.

Abuelita Gallina (Grandma Chicken)

After two years of crying over elevation drawings and chipboard staircases, I left and transferred to MICA [Maryland Institute College of Art] as an animation major and finally settled in the General Fine Arts department.

Starting over in Baltimore was lonely, but soon I started to feel at home, as I wrote my own stories and made images to go with them. Crumbled brick buildings, rats in the train stations, geese that waddled between gravestones — everything in my new city seemed to swim with stories.

This year, my last year in school, I took my first illustration class, a book illustration class taught by the fantastic Shadra Strickland, and everything made perfect sense. I loved the thrill of telling a story with images, of composing pages, of making words and lines and colors all work together.

Nicaragua Bus
(Click to enlarge)

Now I’m working on a new story about Geraldine Giraffe, who has a hard time fitting in (literally) when her family moves from a giraffe town to a human one. I’m excited to show it to publishers this summer, and I’m working with a friend to make an animated version of the story as well.

Character work
(Click to enlarge)


Thank you, Jules, for featuring my work!

* * *

Be sure to explore Elizabeth’s website, if you’re so inclined. Some of her narrative illustrations have a definite Thacher Hurd vibe. Best of luck to her in her career!

All artwork is used by permission of Elizabeth Lilly.

* * * * * * *

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) The Tennessee Renaissance Festival — jousting, lutes, pirates, pixies, and people generally (and gloriously) letting their freak flags fly.

2) The We Need Diverse Books campaign, which launched this past week. One of the best photos/statements I saw is here at author-illustrator Grace Lin’s blog.

3) I presented at the 2014 Tennessee Library Association conference on Friday, which went well, and I got to have breakfast with a dear friend, in town for the conference.

4) This trailer cracks me up, and I love my Jemaine Clement sightings:

5) Tiramisu.

6) Walks in the park.

7) I’m still enjoying The Goldfinch.

Congratulations to Peter Brown on the 2014 Bull-Bransom Award!

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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1342. Jim Curious: A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision by Matthias Picard

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - JIM CURIOUS A VOYAGE TO THE HEART OF THE SEA -->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 --> Jim Curious : A Voyage to the Heart of the Sea in 3-D Vision by Matthias Picard is, no pun intended, amazingly immersive! While

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1343. If You Were Me and Lived in … Australia, by Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

Here’s a bonza (first-rate) addition to award-winning author Carole P. Roman's fun and informative series, If You Were Me and Lived in …. This time readers are introduced to the sunburned country found down under in the southern hemisphere, Australia.

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1344. Breathe: A Visit with Scott Magoon

“Listen to the sea. Sing.”
(Click to enlarge)

Hi, all. Author-illustrator Scott Magoon is visiting 7-Imp today to talk about creating the artwork for his newest picture book, Breathe (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, April 2014). This is the story of a young whale, learning independence, while exploring his watery world, and even facing danger — but always with mama whale by his side. Scott, among other things, discusses his color choices below in these digital illustrations, and the colors in the final art (he shares them here without the text in them) are one of my favorite things about this book. It’s a book Kirkus calls in their starred review “richly composed and sweetly appealing — just right for baby storytimes as well as one-to-one sharing.”

I’m gonna get right to it. By this time on a normal day, I’d have done maybe four to five very possible things before lunch, but I’ve got a very unwelcome flu of some sort, and this may be all that I accomplish today. (I crawled to my computer in very distinct stages.) But it’s a good one thing to accomplish — to share some of Scott’s art from this sweet story.


Color Development

Above is an early color attempt. I think something like this could’ve worked. It’s definitely more painterly, but it’s less luminous, which is something I wanted to capture in the art. There’s something about a glowing iceberg or beluga underwater. This approach wouldn’t have supported that as well, I don’t think.

(Click to enlarge)

An early color experiment. I was thinking it could work to have super flat color, but I quickly abandoned this as soon as I realized it would make for a VERY dull book, visually.

Early Whale Types

(Click to enlarge)

Breathe started out as a narwhal story. Something about the narwhal’s horn (actually its a long tooth!) didn’t fit with the softness of this story.

Then it was a sperm whale, but I didn’t want such an iconic whale. I wanted something arctic and different. Finally, I settled on a beluga.


(Click to enlarge)

I wanted to capture a close relationship between baby beluga and mom here. And introduce his little fans, the Puffins.

(Click to enlarge)

I was looking to include a little of the fantastic here, the second of two such moments in the book (the other is “Sing”). I wanted the whale to appear as though he was sleeping, dreaming, and flying.


(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

Life can’t be all rosy for these two belugas, and so I had to introduce conflict into the story. At first it was a squid, but as I changed the whale to a beluga whale, its natural predator is a polar bear.


(Click to enlarge)

I had to include a shipwreck. Its really the only instance of man’s existence in the story.

(Click to enlarge)

Maybe the ship was once a whaling vessel?


(Click to enlarge)

Breathing and singing are so inexorably linked (especially in humans). I wanted to include a singing spread. Of course, like all of the spreads in Breathe, “singing” represents something else. Here it represents being creative, expressing yourself. Belugas are also known as the “canaries of the sea,” because they are such frequent singers. I really like that and wanted it in the book.

Some Final Art

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

“Most of all, love and be loved.”
(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

* * * * * * *

BREATHE. Copyright © 2014 by Scott Magoon. Published by Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, New York. All images here used by permission of Scott Magoon.

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1345. Illustrator Interview – Tim Miller

I actually knew about Tim first through his children’s work with Queens Museum here in New York. Then I fell under his mice spell, or was it pics of swiss cheese and skunks? Whatever, I am a big fan and … Continue reading

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1346. Storytime: Mother’s Day round-up, part 1

  Ladybug Girl and Her Mama by Jacky Davis & illustrated by David Soman Ladybug Girl loves her mama, and can’t wait to spend the day with her. They plant flowers in the garden, share a special lunch, and enjoy a favorite movie. Together-time has never been so sweet. Just right for Mother’s Day! My …

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1347. Environmental Book Club

Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau's Woods isn't a children's book. And I don't know how many people find climate change a riveting subject. But the author, Richard Primack, was involved in a fantastic interview on Science Friday on NPR last week. Guess what Thoreau did? He spent years recording changes in plants in Concord, as well as when birds arrived in the spring. And scientists are using that information today. Doesn't that make you want to start taking notes on something? And hope someone will hold onto it for 160 years?

I can make a children's book connection for you. You can introduce your young ones to Henry David Thoreau with D. B. Johnson's lovely books about the naturalist and writer, including Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.

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1348. Best Selling Picture Books | May 2014

The Children's Book Review's best selling picture book for this month is a lovely illustrated story for little ballerinas, Too Too Many Tutus by Suzanne Davis Marion. As per usual, we've also shared our hand selected list of the most popular picture books from the nationwide best selling picture books, as listed by The New York Times.

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1349. Drawing 100 lions (or maybe more)

When I ran a little advertising/design shop on campus a few decades ago I drew up a poster that said,
Before you decide on one, draw 50.
Under that headline was some line art: 50 thumbnail illustrations (and they were actually decorated thumbnails). The poster was to remind me not to settle on an idea too early in the brainstorming or drawing process. My best work doesn't usually come on the third try.

I'm illustrating a book about a lion.
The first task is to get to know that character inside and out: what's he like?
For a method actor the question would be, what's his motivation?
My best way to figure it out is to draw, draw, draw.
I don't just aim for 50, anymore.
Usually I aim for 100.

Eventually I figured out the lion. (After drawing 137.)

Now, on to the rest of the characters...

(And if I need to draw dozens more lions because I ultimately don't like the one I chose -- or the art director doesn't -- I won't be surprised. Whatever it takes to get my best work.)

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1350. Feathers Not Just for Flying – Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Title: Feathers Not Just for Flying Written by Melissa Stewart Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen Published by Charlesbridge, 2014 Ages: 6 through adult Themes: feathers, birds, First lines: Birds and feathers go together, like trees and leaves, like stars and the sky. All … Continue reading

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