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1326. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #309: Featuring Melissa Guion

Mrs. Santa

This morning, I welcome new-to-the-field illustrator Melissa Guion. She’s here to share some of her bright, gentle watercolors and talk about her debut title, Baby Penguins Everywhere!, a picture book as much for the parents and teachers of this world as it is for children (as Melissa herself notes below). It tells the story of a lonely penguin, suddenly visited by a gaggle of baby penguins. (Can penguins exist in gaggles? I’m going to pretend they can, even though I think gaggles involve geese.) Finding herself a bit frazzled by all the wee penguins in her care, she comes to understand that she needs a moment’s peace. (Ah, isn’t that the truth if ever the truth was spoken?) She needs, as Publishers Weekly put it in their review, time to recharge, though she comes to appreciate the company of the young penguins, even when it’s chaotic.

I’ll let Melissa tell you more about it — and her work. I certainly look forward to what she brings readers next. Also, please note that Melissa’s online portfolio is here, if you’d like to see more art. (more…)

26 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #309: Featuring Melissa Guion, last added: 12/27/2012
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1327. Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie A, Jacobs

5 Stars Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie Laurie A, Jacobs Anne Jewett Flashlight Press 32 Pages Ages: 5 and up Inside Jacket:  Sophie and Chloe are lucky that their Grandma Tillie knows how to be royally silly. To their delight, whenever Grandma Tillie babysits she seems to disappear, only to be replaced by a parade of [...]

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1328. Saturday Library Post

Bunch of books have to go back today; before they go, a quick catalog of the ones my gang loved:

Gideon by Olivier Dunrea, from the Gossie & Friends series.

Huck enjoyed this short, simple story about a gosling who isn’t quite ready to take his nap. A repeat request, usually as a stall tactic at naptime. ;) Sweet art; pleasingly small trim size. A good library choice, since Huck, at a month shy of four (eek), is on the top end of the age range this book is likely to appeal to.


Ling & Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin.

A leveled reader that enchanted all three of my youngest. The homey adventures of imaginative twin girls with very different personalities. The making-dumplings chapter is Rilla’s favorite. She’s hoping for more Ling and Ting tales.


Rabbit and Robot: The Sleepover by Cece Bell.

This early reader scored especially high with my boys. Huck’s an easy mark: you had him at “Robot.” Wonderboy was amused by the way Robot upended Rabbit’s careful sleepover plans. Plus: Magnetic hands! A lost remote control! A snack of nuts and bolts! And poor, flustered Rabbit, worrying about sticking to his schedule—a character Wonderboy can very much relate to. I might snag a copy of this one to keep.


Happy Pig Day! by Mo Willems.

One of the few Elephant & Piggie books we don’t own, which means we wind up checking it out often.



I’m sneaking Autumn Leaves out of the house after approximately thirty-seven reads.

Related: Early readers as read-alouds.

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1329. Illustrator Saturday – Juana Martinez-Neal


Juana Martinez-Neal was born in Lima, Peru and has been illustrating since she was 16 years old. Juana was awarded the Illustrator Mentorship in 2011 by the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCWBWI).

In summer 2012, she was awarded the prestigious SCBWI Portfolio Award Grand Prize. Juana has illustrated for educational publishers including McGraw-Hill and Capstone Publishers, as well as Cricket Magazine Group and Nestle, Inc. Juana attended the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru – School of Fine Arts.

In 1995, she moved to the United States and now lives with her young family in Scottsdale, Arizona.


While I’m working on my books, I always keep books open on a lay out area that I have next to my table. I have books illustrated by Ana Juan, Rebecca Dautremer and Yuyi Morales this time.


 I hand completed pieces in front of my. My bookshelves get covered with artwork, too. I need to be able to look at the work while I’m painting. I’ll always find something that I need to tweak after a couple of days of completing a piece.


Final Sketch for “Three Little Pigs” included in the 2013 Storybook Brushes Wall Calendar.


 I always do my tweaks the old-fashioned way: tracing paper over sketches.


Detail of “Three Little Pigs” while still in process of finishing the piece.


 Final Illustration “Three Little Pigs” included in the 2013 Storybook Brushes Wall Calendar.


I have transferred my sketch to the paper and laid paper on top to create texture. I start painting with acrylics.


I continue painting. I paint with layers and keep adding details as I’m getting areas done.


I refer to my final sketch and keep other pieces from the books close so I keep colors and features consistent throughout the book.


You attended Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru – School of Fine Arts, before moving to the United States. Could you tell us a little bit about the school and some of the classes you took?

Back when I attended the School of Arts at PUCP in the early 90’s, it was a 6-year art school. The first 2 years were core art classes. You had to take composition, life drawing, sculpture, intaglio, serigraphy, woodcut, perspective, and more. You also took classes like Art History, Anatomy, Mathematics, Psycology, etc. Years 3 and 4 were Specialty years. You chose between the 5 specialties: Painting, Sculpture, Printmaking, Graphic Design or Industrial Design. Classes focused on your specialty. The last 2 years were Studio years, mainly focused on developing your work and style.


Interior art from “Dana’s Trip” published by Kalimat November 7, 2012.


Do you feel your experience at the college helped develop your style?

Attending art school gave me the art concepts that I used until today. I think attending art school is invaluable.

Have you taken any art classes, since you moved to the US?

Yes, I have taken classes at various colleges, institutes and art centers. I’ve taken from linoleum printmaking, mixed-media techniques and dark room photography; to more software oriented classes like Photoshop and Illustrator at UCLA extension back when I lived in LA.

My goal is to take at least 1 workshop a year. More if time and deadlines allow me. I believe that every class gives me tools that I can apply to my illustration, mixed media work. Plus it takes my mind away from my regular work.


What was your first book?

My first book was a “The Wall”.


How did you get that contract?

“The Wall” was a collaborative book written by several authors from the Phoenix’s Writers Club. “The Wall” was a chapter book and they needed black and white interior illustration plus a cover. This was back in January of 2006, I was just getting back to children’s illustration.


The Wall was published by Neelie Publishing Who is Neelie Publishing? I see they are in Arizona. Is that how you connected with them?

Neelie Publishing is a small publishing house in Arizona. Eileen Birin is the author that runs it and she uses Neelie to publish her books. Eileen was one of the authors from “The Wall”.


Juana Illustrated The Messy One which came out in January 2012.


How did this opportunity come to you?

One of the Art Directors from Capstone made a call to illustrators. I emailed some samples and a couple of days later I got the offer for “The Messy One”.


Is Picture Window Books an umbrella name that many small publishers use? 

No. Picture Window Books is the Picture book division of Capstone Publishers in Minnesota – http://www.capstonepub.com/category/LIB_PUBLISHER_PWB


Have you seen your work change since you got out of art school?

Immensely. When I attended art school, I was a painting major. Although my work was a lot more whimsical and representational than the rest of people in my class, I wanted to force a more artistic approach to how I viewed the world. Back then, I didn’t know I could be and make a living as a children’s illustrator. Ten years had to go by and I had to move to the US to realize that I could be a children’s illustrator. Thinking back, the clues were there all along but I just wasn’t ready to see them.


Book Cover Art for The Night Before My Birthday above and three interior illustrations below.




Do you have a favorite illustrator?

Yes, Rebecca Dautremer.


Ellie the Different Elephant cover art above – Interior Art Below.


How did the author of Lellie the Different Elephant find you?

She saw my work at www.childrensillustrators.com.


I notice that Wasteland Press is a self-publishing book company.  What did you think of the quality of the Lellie the Different Elephant put out by them?

They did a good job. I have no complaints.


What was the first piece of art you did and got paid for?

A black and white illustration that was published in the SCBWI Bulletin. I still have the check. Never cashed it and never will.


This was done for a workshop Juana took in September 2011 with Joann Hill, Art Director from Disney Hyperion. The assignment wasto illustrate “The Gingerbread Man” story.



How have you found that experience of working with authors wanting to self-publish their book?  Do you feel they give you the freedom you want?

My 10 years working with graphic and web design clients taught me how to listen to clients and how to hear to those subtle red flags. To me it was pretty simple: if during the first meetings I heard anything that made me feel uneasy, I would say no to the project.

Overall, I feel fortunate to have worked with some great authors. They have all believed in my work and vision. They gave me their ideas and told me what they wanted to see but always believed in my work and experience and gave me freedom.


Can you make enough money illustrating books for self published writers?

I was and I’m sure you still can. I have stopped taking self-published projects for some time now. I’m focusing on something else at this moment.


What goes into the decision to work with a specific author?

I needed to like the story. I have to see the illustrations in my head the very first time I read the manuscript. I also had to believe in the author’s mission, motivations and ideas.


Do you have a contract written up to use?

I never start working on a project until I have a signed contract and the deposit with me. The Graphic Artist Guild has the “Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines” that includes sample contracts. I would recommend buying it: https://www.graphicartistsguild.org/handbook/



Do you have a favorite medium you use?

I’m a mixed media artist. I love using acrylic mediums, papers, acrylic paint and colored pencils.

Juana epapepe2

Do you take research pictures before you start a project?

I do research for every project. I occasionally take pictures if I need to figure out light or a body posture. Most of the time, I use Google images. I save, rename files and place them in an Inspiration Images folder for each project. Then as I’m sketching or painting, I go through my folder for reference.


Of all the books that you illustrated, which one is your favorite?

This is a hard question. I have things that I love in all of the books. I really can’t pick only one.


Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?

Only while I’m tweaking sketches. Photoshop allows me to move things and characters around until the composition looks just right to me. I’m extremely anal and my sketches include everything that I will include in the final art.


Do you have and use a graphic tablet?

Yes, I own one and have used one in the past but never for my illustration work. I’m a traditional artist. I find a strange pleasure looking at my artwork and knowing that everything that will be reproduced is right there in front of me. No tweaks, no fixes.


This piece was a 1 of the 5 Juana did for the Phoenix Zoo in 2011. It’s called “Tiger Teeth”. She donated the pieces to raise funds to benefit the Phoenix Zoo.


From Poppy’s First Day of School


“Poppy Learns Something Special”  Nestlé 2012


Cover and interior illustrations from Poppy’s Best Day Ever


Poppy The Best Day Ever and Poppy’s First Day of School: Are these both published books or are they books that you are working on?

Both published. “Poppy’s Best Day Ever” was published on August 2011. “Poppy’s First Day of School” on July 2012. Both were done for Nestle “El Mejor Nido” which is the Hispanic division of Nestle. The books are part of the company’s Summer reading program. They are not sold but handed out in Hispanic areas throughout the country. In 2011, 150,000 copies were handed out. 2012 they were more copies but I don’t know exactly how many.


Do You still work with writer’s who want to self-publish their book and need an illustrator?

I no longer take on these kinds of projects.  



Do you work with ECKO House Publishing for them as a freelance artist or where you hired by the author?

I was also hired by the author to do the illustrations for the chapter book.


How did you and Stefanie Von Borstel at Full Circle Literary connect?  Has that happened recently?

Stefanie and I met at SCBWI Los Angeles Conference this August. She saw my work at the Portfolio Showcase. We talked and had been talking for the last 3 months. We officially signed a couple of weeks ago.


Have you ever thought of writing and illustrating your own books?

Yes, I have some stories I’m working on at the moment.



Do you have a studio in your house?

After working for years in spare bedrooms and dining room tables, we built my studio in 2005. Everything just as I wanted and dreamed it. From flat files in the walk-in closet to glass doors and skylights. It’ll be hard to move in a year.


Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?

I’m a simple person. I write them down in a piece of paper and look at them as often as I can. When I attain one, I remove it and add a new one to the list.


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

If you use acrylics, try using gesso instead of white. It will make your colors more matte and chalky, more like gouache. I prefer that to the plastic, shiny look that you get as you add more layers of paint with acrylics.

Another tip, love your sketches but don’t let the sketch tell you how to paint. I transfer my sketches to paper and then I cover them with a base color, whichever I need. The sketch is there but looks really light. I don’t worry about covering it. I find that if I do it this way, I paint without worrying about details. Details will come in the next layer and I can always go over any area and tweak it until the painting is just right.


“Gee-Up, Neddy” Babybug Magazine July-August 2012


What kinds of things do you do to promote yourself?

I hand postcards at conferences and carry portfolios in both my iPad and my iPhone. I  try to blog regularly and keep a FB page and a twitter account. I do try to do at least 1 series of blog posts a year of some sort. The last 2 years 3 children’s illustrators and I have had the November of Mini-Interviews (http://juanamartinezneal.com/blog/2012/10/03/the-november-mini-interviews-2012/ ). Just now, we have a new project: A collaborative 2013 wall calendar. We are 4 children’s illustrators from different parts of the world and are mailing those calendars to publishers. You can read about our group “Storybook Brushes” here: http://storybookbrushes.com. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, you can do so here: http://juana.bigcartel.com/product/2013-storybook-brushes-wall-calendar


Above and below from the Ant and the Grasshopper


What are you working on now?

I’m working on a chapter book, a new Nestle Nido book, some magazine work and my personal projects.


Above and below from The Ant and the Grasshopper


Are you the only artist in the family?

Nope. My father is a watercolor artist, my father’s father was an artist, my grandfather’s father was a violinist, my brother is an artist, my uncles were writers and painters. All on my dad’s side. My mom is a craft woman. She enrolled me in ceramics and painting classes since I can remember.



Did you always know that you wanted to be a Children’s Illustrator?

No. Everything just happened. My father was an AD for many advertising companies in Lima. Once when I was 16 he got an account for a toy company. My father is an incredible realistic artist but doesn’t know how to illustrate so he asked me to sit and draw some children for him. More to keep me busy, to tell you the truth. So I drew. I remember my dad’s eyes getting round and big when he saw what I did. He knew I was a children’s illustrator but I didn’t. At least, not yet.


With the market changing so rapidly. Many people are thinking about using e-books to publish their picture books. Do you have anything to share in this area?

Yes, remember you still have to consider that even if your book is digital, you will still have to pay the illustrator, the company that formats your ebook and the developers of your app. You then have to sell and promote it. And simply put, how many copies would you need to sell in order to get your investment back? I encourage you to search online for other people who have done e-books and apps and listen/read their stories. You must know in order to make an informed decision.


What are you working on now?

I’m working on a chapter book, a new Nestle Nido book, some magazine work and my personal projects.


Can you share your thoughts about self-publish your story?

I would not recommend it. Self-publishing a book is expensive – $20,000+. You will have to wear many hats, way too many in my opinion. You’ll be the writer, editor, art director, distributor, marketer and the venture capitalist. And being honest, each of those jobs are better done by someone who works full time doing only the job they excel at. That’s why I feel you should want to submit your manuscript the traditional way, first.


Do you have any words of wisdom to share with other illustrators?

I don’t consider myself a wise person but I can share one thing: Always say yes. You never know what opportunities will come from that initial project.


Juana, thank you so much for sharing your talented illustrations and process with us.  If you would like to see more of Juana’s artwork or follow her, you can find her using:  Website+Blog http://juanamartinezneal.com
Twitter http://twitter.com/juanamartinez
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/juanamartinezneal.illustrator

Please take a minute to leave Juana a comment.  I appreciate it.  Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, How to, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, picture books, Process Tagged: Juana Martinez-Neal, Literary Circle, McGraw Hill

8 Comments on Illustrator Saturday – Juana Martinez-Neal, last added: 12/14/2012
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1330. The Selfish Giant lives again - the Art of Ritva Voutila

This is one of the most stunning picture books I’ve ever seen. I’ve been looking forward to it ever since Ritva used the winter picture on the invitation as an e-Christmas card last year. And despite having been to Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday, and my horror of going there more than once a week (or once a month!) there was no way I was going to miss the launch – I wanted to see those paintings ‘live.’ They were as wonderful as I’d expected from that sneak peek, but the book is even better. It’s beautiful not just to see, but to hold; everything about it is beautifully crafted: the binding, paper quality, design...  The words, of course, are Oscar Wilde’s, so they’re hard to improve on, but the paintings have added further depth – and I love how she’s humanised the giant. He looks an 18th century country gentleman, just oversized. Reading the story unillustrated, I’ve always pictured a Jack the Giant Killer type of giant – this version makes much more sense.
The exhibition, at Melbourne Art Rooms, 418 Bay St, Port Melbourne, is up till 20 December. And if you can’t buy any of the paintings (those that weren’t sold last night!), you can get them all inside the book. (That was what I decided to do.)  The book is published by Allen & Unwin Australia and should be available in all good bookshops.

 I also admit that seeing the exhibition made me feel lucky all over again that Ritva illustrated one of my books, Poppy’s Path, years ago. It was a little chapter book, so they were black and white line drawings: fantastical, perfect, showing definite traits of Ritva's northern European background (Finland)   –  and totally unique. 
All of her art is worth looking at, and The Selfish Giant and its exhibition are a great opportunity. 

Art from Poppy's Path

2 Comments on The Selfish Giant lives again - the Art of Ritva Voutila, last added: 12/8/2012
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1331. What I Learned During Picture Book Idea Month

Picture Book Idea Month has come and gone, and I'm so happy I participated. Here are some things I've learned:
  • Idea generating is like any other part of writing: it must be practiced to be strengthened.
  • Playing with ideas without drafting means deeper, broader, more outlandish concepts; fresh perspective; and creative freedom...things will lead to some pretty fun writing.
  • With my picture book read aloud years essentially done, I have some gaps in my knowledge I need to fill in. Here are three great places I've found to brush up on my studies:
      1. PiBoIdMo Day #7 -- Tammi Sauer (books in the picture above are taken from this post)
      2. Nerdy Book Club Awards Picture Book Award Nominees
      3. The Picture Book Month website
What are my writing goals for December?
  • Study, study, study to fill in some picture book gaps
  • develop a few manuscripts based on my month of brainstorming
  • line edit my most-recent verse novel for agent Michelle

What about you? What do you plan to accomplish this month?

6 Comments on What I Learned During Picture Book Idea Month, last added: 12/8/2012
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1332. Christmas Books: Five of the Best New Gift Books for Christmas

By Bianca SchulzeThe Children’s Book Review
Published: December 6, 2012

The Christmas Quiet Book

By Deborah Underwood; Illustrated by Renata Liwska

Reading level: Ages 4 and up

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (October 16, 2012)

It’s impossible to keep quiet any longer. It just has to be shouted loudly to everyone: We love the winning combination of Deborah Underwood’s sweet and pitch-perfect “quiet” holiday moments and Renata Liwska’s gentle and charming drawings that make you wish you could reach into the pages and give each and every character a warm embrace. Make a little book bundle and include the original The Quiet Book and The Loud Book—three books and a piece of ribbon and you have the perfect gift for any young child—go the extra mile and tie a little stuffy on top, too.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?

By Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Mark teague

Reading level: Ages 0-4

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: The Blue Sky Press (September 1, 2012)

Get ready to roar with laughter with your preschooler. The bestselling combo Jane Yolen and Mark Teague are back again with their winning “How Do Dinosaurs” series. The oversized, egocentric, juvenile dinosaurs wreak havoc through the house for the first half of the picture book—they have no regard for the special traditions of Christmas. As per usual, good behavior is highlighted in the second half and a lesson of “how not to act” is delivered brilliantly. This is a must-have Christmas book, especially for fans of prehistoric animals.

Christmas Magic

By Kirsten Hall; Illustrated by Simon Mendez

Reading level: Ages 4 and up

Hardcover: 20 pages

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books (October 2, 2012)

With lyrical verses that have a nostalgic quality and a unique art form that allows every painted illustration to change with a simple pull of a tab, this is a Christmas book that will hold an audience captivated.

The Nutcracker: A Magic Theatre Book

By Geraldine McCaughrean; Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

Reading level: Ages 2-7

Hardcover: 24 pages

Publisher: Chronicle Books (October 3, 2012)

We can’t resist the magical movement of this new take on The Nutcracker. Large die-cut board pages have been made to be handled and allow the cast of characters to literally dance there way through the story. This Nutcracker version gets our vote based on the delightful illustrations and inventive paper-engineering—”A Magic Theatre Book” is definitely the write description.

Stable in Bethlehem: A Countdown to Christmas

By Joy N. Hulme; Illustrated by Dan Andreasen

Reading level: Ages 1-3

Board book: 22 pages

Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books; Brdbk edition (October 1, 2012)

Not just a numbers primer for babies and toddlers, the stunning artwork of Dan Andreasen and Joy N. Hulme’s gentle rhymes also introduce the littlest readers to the religious beginnings of Christmas.

Looking for more suggestions? Try our lists from previous years:

20 of the Best Kids Christmas Books

Christmas Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

Original article: Christmas Books: Five of the Best New Gift Books for Christmas

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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1333. Charlie and the Christmas Kitty: Ree Drummond & Diane deGroat

Book: Charlie and the Christmas Kitty
Author: Ree Drummond
Illustrator: Diane deGroat
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8 

Last year I reviewed Ree Drummond's Charlie the Ranch Dog. The sequel, Charlie and the Christmas Kitty, is very similar. In fact, the "Christmas" part of the story is almost incidental. Charlie and the Christmas Kitty is about the reaction of Charlie, a somewhat lazy and set in his ways ranch dog (not that he sees himself that way) to the arrival of a new kitten. Primarily, it's a character study of Charlie, a beguiling basset hound with a fondness for naps.

Charlie is fun. Astute young readers will see the disconnect between Charlie's words ("I'm such a hard worker, some people even call me King of the Ranch") and his actions (heading over for a snooze, while the younger ranch dog actually does help with the Christmas decorations). Kids are also likely to be amused by the fact that Charlie doesn't even realize that the kitten is a kitten at first, thinking that the tiny, ribbon-bedecked bundle is a rabbit. I liked his deadpan response on this realization (accompanied by sad basset eyes):

"I have to say, I really wasn't expecting this development."

Drummond maintains a light touch at the end of the book, avoiding sentimentality. Even as Charlie is coming to, grudgingly, accept the kitty, a new, wriggly present arrives with his name on it. 

deGroat's illustrations are warm and detailed. Charlie and the kitten are rendered with particular affection, while the human characters remain, as they should, in the background. The early scenes of Charlie and the Christmas Kitty do convey a Christmas feel, with ornaments and stockings and brightly wrapped packages. A number of the later scenes take place outside, on the porch of the snowy ranch. 

2 1/2 year old Baby Bookworm gave this book her top endorsement, immediately demanding "Read it again!" after our first read. Fans of Charlie and the Ranch Dog will be pleased with Charlie's re-appearance in Charlie and the Christmas Kitty. While the story itself is only incidentally about the holidays (the kitten is a Christmas gift), the cozy feel of the book, and the illustrations, suit the tone of the season nicely. 

Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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

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1334. Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick

Stranger in the WoodsAn overnight snowfall has beautifully dressed the forest in glimmering white. In the morning, the birds are the first to discover there is a stranger in their midst. Soon all the forest animals are a twitter expressing curiosity about this stranger. Who could this forest intruder be? Also, who will be brave enough to go check him out?

One by one the animals discover that the stranger has brought them some tasty treats. The delightful part of this forest fantasy is discovering that the stranger is a snowman with seeds in his hat, corn buried in the snow around him and, of course, a carrot nose. Hiding nearby are the brother and sister who have built this friendly stranger and who happily watch as the animals enjoy the treats that they have left.

The photographs that accompany this story are simply gorgeous! The reader gets a true sense of being in the forest on this snowy winter day. Be sure to check out the recipe for a snowman at the end of the book!

Posted by: Wendy

0 Comments on Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick as of 12/6/2012 12:41:00 PM
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1335. Something beautiful ... a full rainbow

What's the most beautiful thing you've ever seen?

In Gateshead, Carol Thorn of Bill Quay Bookshop, chose an elemental phenomena for her most beautiful sight - a complete, circular rainbow:

‘It was incredibly beautiful - like a coloured halo in the sky. Usually you only see an arc because the rest of the rainbow disappears beyond the horizon, but up in the hills where I used to live I was high enough to see the whole thing.

‘When I first saw it, I was like a child. I ran indoors and told my husband, “just come and look at this!” I hadn’t realised until then that rainbows were circles, but it explains why they never have an end. For me this realisation, far from spoiling the mystery, somehow made the whole thing even more beautiful.’

If you've always wondered how rainbows are formed, there is a simple explanation here including a description of the circumstances in which Carol's full rainbow can be observed. It also includes this simple diagram showing white light from the sun refracting as it passes into a water droplet before reflecting back against the back surface of the droplet to make it visible to the observer. Depending on the position of the observer, he or she will only see one colour emerging from any single droplet but as he or she glances up or down he or she will see bands of light emerging from millions of neighbouring droplets.

For a more detailed explanation about the formation of rainbows visit here which includes Descartes' experiment to understand what happened inside the water droplet.

René Descartes' sketch of how primary and secondary rainbows are formed (courtesy Wikipedia)
As it happens, one of our published titles Bella's Bubble by Karen Hodgson features a rainbow - but one with a more supernatural and at the same time more physical form.  In the story, Bella is chasing a giant bubble which ends up bouncing off the magical rainbow before it eventually lands splat on her grandmother's nose.

Bella's Bubble - by Karen Hodgson and illustrated by Rebecca Griffiths  

To help promote our new title The King Who Wanted More, We're finding out what is the most beautiful thing people have ever seen. It could be a landscape, a painting, a building, or maybe something altogether different...it’s completely up to you. Please email enquiries@hogsbackbooks.com if you'd like to take part.

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1336. Press Here written and illustrated by Hervé Tullet

This review originally ran in May of 2011 when Press Here was still a bit of a sleeper. By the time the holiday season rolled around we were selling stacks and stacks of this brilliant book. I'm running the review again for anyone who hasn't heard of Tullet's masterpiece. Press Here by Hervé Tullet is a joy to read for a few different reasons. I need to thank Travis Jonker over at 100 Scope

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1337. The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jane Ray

Last year Jane Ray gave us the gift of The Dollhouse Fairy and this year another treat! Her sumptuously illustrated, wonderfully imagined version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Everyone knows most of the song, but there are very few, nicely illustrated editions of this book on the shelves which makes Ray's version stand out even more.  The setting for this traditional carol seems to be

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1338. Perfect gift for your little daredevil

Do you have a little daredevil at home? My nephew loves everything that goes fast, jumps high and makes loud noises. His dad's favorite hobby? Going to the car races. So we know where this little guy gets his passion!

This holiday I'm going to make him a daredevil cape - bright red and shiny. It's going to be the perfect "go faster" special effect for him. But the book that I'm going to have tucked inside this cape? Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show - it's a fun spoof on a little boy's quest to be a daredevil in his own right.

Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show
by Michael Buckley
and Dan Santat
Abrams, 2012
ages 5-8
find it: Amazon and your local library
Kel Gilligan is a daredevil - brave enough to attempt awe-inspiring feats like eating broccoli, facing "the Potty of Doom," and taking a bath with only ONE assistant. Santat's illustrations heighten both the drama and the humor in Buckley's story. You can tell just by the cover how much kids are going to love this.

Our kindergartners thought the Potty of Doom was hilarious. They are just the right age to remember those little potties and know just what an achievement it is to master them. As the review in Kirkus says,
"Whether he is in underpants, in his caped stuntman outfit or bare-bottomed, young readers (and their grown-ups) cannot help but laugh out loud at the hilarious details of Kel's silly adventures because they tackle them daily and know them too well."

It's interesting that Kel appeals most to kids ages 5-8 who are able to laugh at Buckley's exaggeration and understand that he's really making fun of these small achievements. They know that Kel talks tough, but is really soft inside - especially when it comes to checking for monsters under his bed.

Take a look at Santat's early sketches for Kel - he had originally imagined him as a preschooler, but through editing changes it was decided that Kel should be older, perhaps around 5. Santat developed the flashback device using the parent's videocam to recall the potty and broccoli scenes from Kel's younger days. My kindergartners were a bit confused at these transitions, but it did not detract from the overall impact of the hilarious scenes.

If I can't get my act together to make a red cape, I think this one will do the trick just perfectly: Creative Edition's Red Adventure Cape. I must say that I have not seen this cape in action, but it's gotten great reviews on Amazon.
The artwork is copyright © Dan Santat, shared by the artist. The review copy of this book came from my local review group, the Association of Children's Librarians of Northern California, and was sent by the publishers Abrams Books for Young Readers. Thank you to ACL and Abrams for sharing this very funny book. 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 ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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1339. 2 New Hanukkah Books

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: December 5, 2012

In case you’re looking for some new books to spice up your “Books that Celebrate Hanukkah” collection, here are two titles that we think you’ll love reading (and cooking with) as you celebrate the Festival of Lights.

Maccabee Meals: food and Fun for Hanukkah

By Judye Groner & Madeline Wikler; Illustrated by Ursula Roma

Reading level: Ages 5-10

Paperback: 64 pages

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (August 1, 2012)

Chow your way through Chanukah with this kid-friendly cookbook that provides recipes for eight kinds of latkes (and much more), crafts and games for eight themed parties, and tidbits of factual information about the holiday itself.  Illustrated dreidels highlight the degree of difficulty for each recipe: One dreidel means no cooking or baking is required. Two dreidels means the recipe may require chopping or slicing. Three dreidels means a hot stove is used to boil or fry. Safety tips are party etiquette are offered up, too. Here comes Chanukkah! Use this cookbook and you’ll have so much funukah! And … don’t forget your yamaka!

How Do dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah?

By Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Mark Teague

Reading level: Ages 0-4

Hardcover: 40 pages

Publisher: The Blue Sky Press (September 1, 2012)

This bestselling writer and illustrator duo hit the spot (AGAIN!) with their zippy rhymes and entertaining illustrations. Gigantic dinosaurs with their juvenile and mischievous antics take the edge off  any holiday tension and manage to encourage good behavior. A lesson in manners and a laugh, what more could you ask for? This book is a guaranteed must-read all eight nights of Chanukah.

Looking for more Hanukkah books? Try our lists from previous years:

8 Hanukkah books: One for Each Day

Kids’ Hanukkah Books: One for Each Night

Original article: 2 New Hanukkah Books

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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1340. On Being Snowed In (with Amy Hest, Helen Oxenbury, Carin Berger, Eileen Spinelli, and Marjorie Priceman)

Illustration from Amy Hest’s Charley’s First Night,
illustrated by Helen Oxenbury


Early sketches from Carin Berger’s A Perfect Day
(Click to enlarge image)


“On Saturday, the icicle on General Toby’s nose reached down to the dimple on his chin. Ice glazed alleyways. Spoken words became puffballs in the frigid air. Page one of the Toby Mills Crier read: COLD SNAP! The Sullivan Sisters served steamy soup and bubbling stew at the Sullivan Diner. In between customers, they knitted mittens as big as flapjacks for all the kids in Toby Mills. Mrs. Moffat—the church soloist—
gargled with salt water every hour to avoid getting a sore throat.”
– From Eileen Spinelli’s
Cold Snap, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
(Click to enlarge spread)


It might be near seventy degrees here in middle Tennessee (I wish I were making that up) here on the fifth day of December, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying—and maybe living vicariously through—good, new picture books that are snowy in nature. I’ve got three today, a spread from each posted above with more spreads below, as well as some sketches from Carin Berger. (Below and to the left is a Helen-Oxenbury puppy from Charley’s First Night.)

Last week at the Kirkus Book Blog Network, I wrote about Eileen Spinelli’s newest picture book, Cold Snap, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman (Knopf, October). That link is here, if you’d like to read all about the book.

I’ve also got here today some sketches and final art from Carin Berger’s A Perfect Day, released by Greenwillow in November. This is the story of a day of unbridled joy, as a group of children revel in new-fallen snow: “The whole world was white.” Berger enchants with her collage art, creating her illustrations atop graph paper, what look like old letters, and other lined paper; in the New York Times (here, where she also writes about Cold Snap), Susan Dominus wrote (and I love this), “Berger creates the backgrounds of her collages using faded old receipts and other ephemera. Children may not even notice the ghostly scrawlings, but for adults they serve as a reminder of the contrast between the concerns of grown-ups (bills, balances, investments) and those of the Finns and Sophies who populate this snowy world.” Berger captures the specific joys of a day of snow play—snow forts, “a wild flurry of snowballs,” sledding, snow angels, going home to “warm hugs and dry clothes and steaming hot chocolate”—with warmth. As mentioned, Carin shares some early sketches and final art below.

And I’ll start below with some illustrations from Amy Hest’s Charley’s First Night, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Candlewick, October), a story which captures—from the point-of-view of a young child—both the joys and apprehensions of having a new pet and anticipating how it will acclimate to a new home. A gentle story with an immediate and authentic voice, it’s matched by Oxenbury’s satiny, soft-focus artwork, each illustration captured in a border, showing restraint and subtlety.

You can see art from each book below. Enjoy. (more…)

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1341. Review of the Day: The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson

The Chicken Problem
By Jennifer Oxley and Billy Aronson
Random House
ISBN: 978-0-375-86989-1
Ages 3-7
On shelves now.

I was once in Prospect Park in Brooklyn when I passed a very small child wearing a porkpie hat running as fast as his chubby legs could carry him. Behind him his father yelled out (to little avail), “Pontius! Pontius, slow down!” I mention this because there is a particular Brooklyn aesthetic to a picture book like The Chicken Problem. Consider, if you will, its heroine Peg. Here she is sporting a mighty trendy little outfit replete with striped tights and buckled red boots. Even her name, Peg, suggests that she was named after Peggy Lee or someone of equal caliber. Notice too that she’s playing a ukulele on the endpapers and that pretty much clinches it. Peg is trendy. Too trendy for your preschooler? Not in the least. Peg may be a specific type of heroine peculiar to a single geographical location but with her urbane Cat and her trouble with high-spirited chicks this is one of those memorable heroines and one-on-one readalouds that add a little bit of math to a little bit of story alongside a whole lot of fine and beautiful art to bring us one fine fine book.

It’s a bright and beautiful day when young Peg and her cat Cat go to the farm to have a perfect picnic with a pig. Peg is one of those girls who like everything to be just so, and when she discovers that she accidentally cut an extra slice of pie she feels it’s a dire problem. Cat solves the imbalance by removing a very small chick from a nearby coop and surely that would be the end of that . . . if he’d managed to remember to close the coop door. Suddenly one hundred chickens are free and roaming the farm. It’s up to Peg, Cat, and maybe that pig they picked up, to figure out a way to cajole these freedom loving fowl into returning from whence they came. When that mission is finally accomplished that leaves one final matter: Time for pie!

I’ve read the occasional professional review that snarked about the svelte story found here, but to be honest I was rather charmed by it. It’s not the most dire straits that Peg and Cat must escape but in the simplest sense it’s a story with a mistake, a solution, and a conclusion that feels satisfying. The language itself repeats in good ways and sounds pleasant on the tongue (“The pie was fresh and juicy and gooey”) while the plot appeals to the pint-sized obsessive compulsives out there that insist that everything be exactly right.

The art is particularly charming, though I found I couldn’t figure out the medium. If I was going to harbor a guess I’d say that it was digital art doing a stand-up and cheer imitation of mixed media. I might have figured it to be done by hand, were it not for the fact that on more than one occasion a chicken will repeat in a large crowd scene. No matter, since it’s the charm of the characters that ultimately pull this puppy through. Peg, noseless though she may be, is a likeable soul. Cat, a feline I initially considered lacking in smiles, turns out to have quite a bit of nuance to his rotund eggplant-like little body. The pig is always referred to as “a pig”, as if he were just some barnyard stray the duo stumbled over on their travels. He seems so content wherever he is, legs neatly crossed beneath him, that you suspect he’d follow Peg and Cat to the ends of the earth if they asked. As for the chickens themselves, they’re beautifully expressionless and yet you spend a lot of your time just trying to keep up with their antics.

Speaking of endpapers, I’ve seen inside jokes in my day. I’ve seen clever details and little pokes of fun. What I have never seen are endpapers that are SO o’erfilled with details and ideas that you could spend the better part of twenty minutes parsing them. It is important to know that the front endpapers are incredibly different from the back endpapers. I mention this in part because I know that libraries have a tendency to glue their bookflaps to their books’ front and back covers and the result is going to cover up quite a bit of content. At the front of the book you can find six scenes drawn from Peg and Cat’s adventures. Sometimes they might be rowing George Washington over the Delaware while other times they’re jamming with a band of bears. Quick flip to the back of the book and you’ve the strangest collection of one hundred chickens you ever did see. An explanation is provided in the special thanks section. It says, “And, for posing so patiently for the pictures, the one hundred chickens,” and then names each and every last one of them. It took a while for me to realize that the names correspond with the pictures on the opposite page. I had already looked at the pictures of the chicks before and noticed odd details about them (like the fact that one of them resembled President Obama on his HOPE poster) but didn’t realize that each one had a name (“Barawk Obama”). Look closely enough and you’ll find references to Lady Gaga, Mahatma Gandhi, Rumpelstiltskin, St. John, George Bernard Shaw, and many others. My personal favorite was the preppy turtleneck donning Cluck C. Cluck III. Even without reading his name I knew he was a 1% chicken, if you know what I mean.

As the bookflaps explain, Peg and Cat are well on their way to becoming a television series on PBS that teaches preschoolers math someday. And while that might account for some of the adventures on the endpapers, the story stands perfectly well on its own. I don’t need to see Peg on my TiVo to know she’s a special kind of kid. Whether or not the show occurs, I do hope that we’ll see more of Peg and her erstwhile purple companion on good old-fashioned paper and board in the future. I suspect folks will end up picking up the book more for the art and story than the math, and that’s okay. Fun pretty much sums it up.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Interview: Nerdy Book Club


There was a cute little book trailer, of course:

And though its website is gone, you get a pretty clear sense of Peg, Cat and their world here.

I am now entertaining the ridiculous hope that when the show premiers they make Peg-with-ukelele YouTube videos like the millions already out there.  Just Peg, a ukelele, a blank wall, and one of her songs.  I mean, might as well at this point, right?

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1342. Two Holiday Books from the "How Do Dinosaurs" Series: Jane Yolen & Mark Teague

Book: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas?
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Mark Teague
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8 

I'm not a huge fan of Yolen and Teague's "How Do Dinosaurs ..." series (though I think that they are both very talented). It's just that I don't tend to favor books that use a fictionalized format to so overtly teach something to kids (in this case, proper behavior). However, I did like How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? and How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? more than the other books in the series. Perhaps a bit of sentimentality on my part in reference to the holidays.

In each of these two books, Yolen and Teague introduce various holiday traditions through the misbehavior of assorted young dinosaurs. Like this:

"And the very next day
does he grab up
the gelt,

squeezing the
candy coins
till they all


"Does he eat all the cookies
left out for
Saint Nick,

giving each candy cane
one sloppy lick?" 

These first parts of the book are humorous. Teague's dinosaurs cavort about the house, gleefully misbehaving, even as distressed parents race to stop the madness. These sections of the books are also educational about holiday traditions without feeling didactic. It's only in the last part of each book, where the dinosaurs behave properly, that the books start to feel a bit too sugary for me. But it's hard for a Christmas book about dinosaurs to be too sugary.

I think that fans of the series will enjoy these two holiday-themed installments. The end pages alone (showing the different types of dinosaurs in their holiday gear) make it worth checking out the books.

Publisher: Blue Sky Press (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Source of Book: Review copies from the publisher

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

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1343. Author/Illustrator Events Dec. 3-10

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving; I certainly did.

Though the next two items are not book related, I wanted to pass on information about two charitable events going on in the Houston area right now:

Treeman, Photo taken by Steve Lathem December 11, Tuesday, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Mixed Emotions Fine Art and Frame, 95 Tuam St.
Art For the Trees If You Please – Art Benefit

Our beautiful park suffered severely from last year’s drought. Money raised through ticket sales for this event and 30% of artists’ sales will be donated to The Memorial Park Conservancy for park reforestation.

Come enjoy the wine, dessert and snacks at the cocktail reception featuring the founder of Paws on Patios, Patrick Walsh, Jim Porter– chairman of The Memorial Park Conservancy, Brian Kalinec– singer/songwriter, Suzanne Marsh– silhouette artist, and the amazingly tall Walking Tree Of Life performer as well as many wonderful artists who will be selling tree-themed art. Visit www.theartfullumbrella.com/art_benefit for the details and to purchase tickets. Art which is not purchased at the event will be for sale online from December 12th-18th at www.theartfullumbrella.com/art_gallery/. Photo credit: Steve Lathem

For those of you in the West Houston/Katy/Fulshear areas, I wanted to pass on news of the 3rd annual “Stuff the Sleigh of Katy”, an all-volunteer holiday toy drive benefiting pediatric cancer patients treated at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) – West Campus, and their siblings. Santa Claus will present the children with toys collected in his Santa’s Sleigh at a family holiday party. The community toy drive is accepting donations to purchase holiday gifts through Wednesday, December 12. Those interested in sponsoring a child’s gift may stop by the Firethorne Community Center to select a ‘sleigh’ gift card with a wish list item on it from a young cancer patient or their brother or sister. Photo credit: Ginny Lund

We have several fun events happening this weekend! Remember that the information here is from the sponsoring bookstore or organization’s website and changes do happen. Please check their websites for the latest, most up-to-date information on these events.

Llama Llama Holiday DramaDecember 8, Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
McGovern-Stella Link Houston Public Library
Anna Dewdey, PB Author/Illustrator

Best-selling picture book author and illustrator Anna Dewdey will visit Houston to kick off the Houston Public Library’s annual Season’s Readings program. Anna is the author of the LLAMA LLAMA picture books as well as ROLY POLY PANGOLIN, GRUMPY GLORIA and NO BUNNY’S PERFECT.

My Super Sweet Sixteenth CenturyDecember 8, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands
Rachel Harris, YA Author

Join Rachel Harris as she discusses and signs her new book MY SUPER SWEET SIXTEENTH CENTURY.

Armed with only a backpack full of contraband future items, Cat is thrust into the Renaissance on the eve of her sixteenth birthday where she soon falls for the gorgeous aspiring artist Lorenzo. But romance takes an unpleasant turn when the much-older Niccolo starts sniffing around. Can Cat find her way back to modern times before her Italian adventure turns into an Italian forever?

December 8, Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
Murder By The Book
Joy Preble and Sophie Jordan, YA Authors

Joy Preble will be signing her DREAMING ANASTASIA along with Sophie Jordan who will be signing the FIRELIGHT series.

December 9, Sunday 2:00 p.m.
Barnes & Noble, The Woodlands
Nancy Binford, Illustrator

Illustrator Nancy Binford presents her new book, THE LAST CHRISTMAS TREE. The story of a not-to-handsome tree that has watched all the other trees on the lot get taken home. Will The Last Christmas Tree get a home?

While you’re out doing your holiday shopping, don’t forget to stop by the Houston area fine independent bookstores which frequently sponsor author and illustrator events:

Blue Willow Bookshop: Houston
Katy Budget Books: Katy
Murder by the Book: Houston
Brazos Bookstore: Houston
Kaboom Books: Houston
The Book Nook: Brehnam
The Book Nook: Sugarland
Good Books in the Woods: Spring
The Book Attic: Tomball

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1344. Andrew Drew & Drew – Picture Book Trailer

Reading level: Ages 3-6

Add this book to your collection: Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg

Video courtesy of When Andrew gets hold of a pencil, anything can—and does—happen in this innovative and artistic book. The story literally unfolds step-by-step as readers are invited to follow Andrew through flaps and gatefolds. After sharpening his drawing implement on the first page, Andrew challenges the boundaries of each spread by beginning with a line that leads . . . and leads . . . to unexpected finishes. Staircases become dinosaurs, kites become rockets, and even the most unassuming squiggle morphs into a giant chicken! This lighthearted depiction of artistic inspiration is sure to engage doodlers of all ages.

Praise for Andrew Drew and Drew

“Any question of reality versus representation is the gentlest kind, utterly unobtrusive…Joyful imagination, plain and simple.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The magic comes from the accompanying artwork, which follows the eponymous boy and his adventures in drawing… Like a certain boy with a purple crayon, Andrew knows that drawing offers limitless possibilities, and readers will, too.”
—Publishers Weekly

“In this humorous and heartfelt portrait of a young artist, Andrew models by example the ebb and flow of the creative process.”

“Each page in this cleverly-designed book is filled with a line, a loop, even a stair step that Andrew has doodled on the paper, and the beginnings of his drawings often lead to something that even the artist himself doesn’t expect.”
—Reading Today Online

Available now wherever books are sold! 

Find out more: http://www.abramsbooks.com/Books/Andrew_Drew_and_Drew-9781419703775.html

Original article: Andrew Drew & Drew – Picture Book Trailer

©2012 The Childrens Book Review. All Rights Reserved.

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1345. The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton by Angela Shelton blog tour

& giveaway contest!

If you had a super power what would it be? Invisibility? The ability to fly? X-ray vision? What about the ability to make hats? Not regular hats but magical hats . . . hats that make people blossom, help them become the person they secretly wish they could be. Tilda Pinkerton has that ability. But will hat making help her save the universe from evil powers trying to destroy it?

Somewhere out in the Sombrero Galaxy, Tilda Pinkerton is being hunted by the Keeper of Darkness. But Tilda isn’t worried. Of course that could be because she doesn’t remember who she is or what she’s doing on the planet of Ooleeoo. Even in the middle of cosmic danger, Tilda does what she does best: creates hats that make people . . . not better, but MORE of the person they are meant to be. When the mayor of Ooleeoo bans Tilda’s hats is he just being a curmudgeon or is he secretly working for the enemy? Can Tilda figure out who she is in time to save the galaxy?

The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton is the perfect combination: it has a roller coaster ride of a story for middle-grade readers and the interesting addition of words to expand their vocabulary that will make parents (and teachers) happy. If your child is looking for a new series to enjoy The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton may be the answer to their reading wishes.

Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Quiet Owl Books (July 31, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0615646778
ISBN-13: 978-0615646770
Twitter hashtag: #TildaPinkerton

The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton: Crash Landing on Ooleeoo is available in print and e-format at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and your local bookstore.

Book Giveaway Contest: To win a copy of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes this Friday, December 7 at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!

About the Author:

Angela is an author, actor, and public speaker. She has been writing since she was eight years old. Her first novel was adapted into the movie Tumbleweeds. Angela won a regional Emmy award for her portrayal of SafeSide Superchick in The Safe Side video series created by Baby Einstein’s Julie Clark. After living in Los Angeles for over a decade, Angela left the big city for a one-light country town to marry her first love and fulfill her dream of writing books in a barn house.

Her Tilda Pinkerton books can be traced back to her childhood fear of dictionaries! Angela was a big believer in the “if I can’t spell it, how can I find it in the dicitionary to learn how to spell it” school of thought. In fact, she was so frustrated by the uselessness of dictionaries that she destroyed several during her childhood. She eventually got over her fear of dictionaries (OK, she still hates them. But she learned to hide her antagonism for word books), and began writing. Her Tilda books contain a plethora (Go ahead, look it up. At least you know how to spell it!) of wacky words and definitions to expand the vocabulary of readers in a fun way. No dictionaries involved!

Find the Author Online:

Tilda Pinkerton website: www.tildapinkerton.com

Facebook for Tilda Pinkerton: http://www.facebook.com/tildapinkerton 

Twitter: @TildaPinkerton

Angela Shelton: www.angelashelton.com

Facebook for Angela Shelton: http://www.facebook.com/AngelaSheltonFanPage

Twitter: @AngelaShelton

------Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: We always love to hear the story of the birth of a book. How, when, and where did you get the idea for your Tilda books?

Angela: Actually, the idea of Tilda Pinkerton was presented to me during a meditation prayer. It was in 2010, January in Malibu. I was praying in the meditative way that I do and I asked what I was meant to write next. I always ask the muses (aka those little creative angels who plant ideas into our minds) because they tend to give you the best ideas. I asked what I should write next that was original, fun, and good for children and adults alike. I sat there and waited.

I heard Tilda Pinkerton collects hats in a very English accent and my eyes popped open. I announced that I loved it and wanted to hear more. Then I heard in my mind—not like hearing voices or something—Whenever Tilda Pinkerton gives you a hat, your life changes forever.

I loved Tilda from the first moment the idea of her was placed in my mind. And so Tilda Pinkerton was born, not through me but through a higher source. That’s how I work best.

WOW: Your main character, Tilda Pinkerton, is making her debut in a middle grade series. But we see that you also have a chapter book for younger readers. Did you plan to cross age groups with Tilda? How did it happen? Is the middle grade series a "warm-up" for the chapter books?

Angela: The plan is to write a vocabulary builder with a character you grow up with—literally. So as you learn to read, the more you can learn about Tilda and her adventures from the picture book to the big book.

The middle grade book is a bit of a warm up, yes. It tells the history of where Tilda originated from and what started her on her hat making journey. The chapter books for K-3 take place when Tilda has already made it to Earth. So, the younger readers actually know more about Tilda’s future than the older readers do.

I’ve been around a lot of children at a lot of different ages and have seen how they love to advance. If they are reading a book series, they are very proud of the fact that they are on book four and their little sibling is only on book one. They love knowing more about a character than their friends do too. By switching things up and having the younger books be in the future, I let the little ones in on a few more secrets. There will also be a picture book series that tell the big book stories in very simple terms with gorgeous artwork.

WOW: Why do you think Tilda appeals to such a wide range of ages?

Angela: I think Tilda appeals to all ages (so far 50+ are her most popular readers!) because the theme of finding ones inner strength while good battles over evil is universal and ageless. Plus, I think everyone loves hats and what better hats to have than a magical hat given to you by Tilda Pinkerton?

I wrote what I wanted to read and what I’d want to read to my little ones. A story that makes you think while inspiring you to learn new bigger words and concepts is right up my alley.

WOW: Do you have a preference for writing chapter books or middle grade? What are some of the challenges presented by writing for each age group?

Angela: I absolutely love writing the chapter books. They are quick, fun stories loaded with life lessons and educational lessons—thank you to the elementary school teachers who are helping me on them. The chapter books focus on Tilda’s magical hats helping with various jobs so they definitely have more of a simple focus than the larger books.

But honestly, the big books are my favorite. I love that Tilda started making hats in the Sombrero Galaxy—and that there really is such a place. I love getting to write about nebulas and it pleases me to no end that things like the water bears and bionic bugs really exist!

It was decided that Tilda should first appear in the big books since it tells her history. The chapter books officially launch in March, 2013. Then I get to write my hands off for quite a few years it looks like—assuming readers love Tilda as much as I do. There are 26 chapter books mapped out and so far 5 big books. So, we shall see!

WOW: You absolutely have to tell us how you got such an incredible book cover! How important do you think a book cover is in children's literature? How did you get so much input when the rule is that, unless they are also the illustrator, authors get little or no say in illustrations, book covers, etc?

Angela: I begged. I pleaded with the painter to paint it and I pleaded with the publisher to pay for it. I discovered Shanna Trumbly, the amazing painter from Trumbly Designs in Oregon where I bought a few of her pieces. Much later, after I had finished Book One of the Tilda series, an Oregonian friend reminded me of Trumbly as I was beginning the cover design process with the publisher.

I emailed Shanna from her website and told her about the book and asked her if she worked on commission. Sadly, she replied that she did not work on commission but the book sounded very interesting. The next day she emailed me back saying that she’d had a dream of a green hat and wanted to know more about my book!

From how Tilda was born, I bet you can understand how excited I was that a dream had inspired her. I told her all about Tilda and voila she said she would paint the cover. Then I had to go get it paid for. But when the group at Quiet Owl saw Trumbly’s work, it did not take long to convince them that she should paint Tilda.

WOW: Your book has an unusual vocabulary facet. Why did you decide to include so many "50 cent words" in your book?

Angela: I had problems with big words as a child. Even though I was always placed in the advanced classes and gifted kids programs, I had a serious disdain for the dictionary. I slowly lost that as I got older, along with my fear of admitting I did not know a word used in conversation. I used to get so frustrated and angry at not knowing a word. Now I’ll pull out my Iphone and ask what a word means.

I wanted Tilda Pinkerton to be a fun vocabulary builder for kids and adults as well as a beautiful adventure. And of course, as an author I get to live through Tilda, who has a much better vocabulary than I do.

WOW: How are you reaching out to your potential audience? How are you making your book appealing not only to children but also to parents and teachers?

Angela: Finding new readers via blogging has been working well. Thank you, WOW!

Tilda is also reaching more children through the teachers that I’ve worked with on the books. I reached out to a group of local elementary teachers on the chapter books to help me with the teacher’s guides.

Teachers and parents love that there are teacher guides that go with each chapter book. We’ve tested them out on a group and I’m working with a group of teachers to make sure I make their lives easier by adding all kinds of things they can use in their classrooms, including many reproducables – a thing I did not know about before Tilda’s Teachers began helping.

WOW: What's up next?

Angela: I have new things for kids and adults!

Book Two of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton has begun and it is one wild ride. Tilda’s chapter books for K-3 are launching in March along with a smart board website for teachers.

I write the most in the winter and have two other books in the works for adults. One is about my decade as a model in the fashion industry – that’s some mommy private time reading! I also have another book about how four French chairs saved their owner from a sociopath. The chairs tell the story and it has been very fun to write since each chair is very opinionated. One of them only wants male models to sit on her. It’s definitely not a kid’s book.

I love to write for younger readers, but there is always naptime . . .

WOW: I can see your model and French chair books are definitely going to have to visit different blogs for their WOW blog tours!

---------Blog Tour Dates

Monday, December 3 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!

Thursday, December 6 @ Words by Webb
Wondering what The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton is all about? Stop by for today's review.

Friday, December 7 @ Cathy C. Hall
Learn how dinosaurs affected Angela Shelton's writing and enter to win a copy of her middle grade fantasy The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Monday, December 10 @ Kid Lit Reviews
Angela Shelton, author of the Tilda Pinkerton books, is revealing a secret all children's authors should know: why teachers are an author's most valuable supporter.

Thursday, December 13 @ Joanna Celeste
Need a great book for the tween in your life? Stop by for a review of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Friday, December 14 @ Mother-Daughter Book Club
Learn about the challenges of writing fantasy for children from author Angela Shelton and win a copy of her latest book middle grade novel The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Monday, December 17 @ Read These Books and Use Them!
Stop by to learn more about author Angela Shelton and the wacky Tilda Pinkerton! Also, enter to win a copy of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Friday, December 21 @ Joanna Celeste
Have you ever wondered what it's like to be a space warrior...who also happens to make magical hats? If so, today's your chance to meet Tilda Pinkerton, star of the middle grade fantasy book The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Thursday, December 27 @ It’s About Time Mamaw
Don't miss a visit with Angela Shelton, author of a most unusual middle grade reader. You also have a chance to win The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Wednesday, January 2 @ Buried in Books
Want an attitude adjustment for 2013? You need a hat! Angela Shelton, author of the a middle grade fantasy about a hat maker named Tilda Pinkerton shares the power of hats today. She's also giving away a copy of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton.

Thursday, January 3 @ Buried in Books
Don't miss a review of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton and your LAST CHANCE to win your very own copy!

Monday, January 7
We're calling out the experts today! Stop by for a review of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton by a children's librarian. Don't miss your LAST CHANCE to win a copy!

To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.

Get Involved!
If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at blogtour@wow-womenonwriting.com.

Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget this Friday, December 7.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

7 Comments on The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton by Angela Shelton blog tour, last added: 12/3/2012
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1346. Picture Book Monday - A review of The Day Louis got eaten

Though I strongly believe in not judging a book by its cover, I must confess that some book covers grab my attention and I feel compelled to read them straight away. Today's picture book title, The Day Louis got Eaten, is just such a book. The title made me immediately want to find out what happened on the day Louis got eaten. Trust me, you too will want to know the answer to this question!

John Fardell
Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Andersen Press USA, 2012, 978-1-4677-0315-4
One day, Louis on his scooter and his big sister Sarah on her bike go into the forest. They don’t get very far before a large Gulper, a furry monster with a long tongue, eats Louis. Being a well-informed girl, Sarah knows that Gulpers eat their food whole. For at least a while Louis will be safe in the Gulper’s stomach. She quickly grabs something and then she sets off after the Gulper.
   Sarah almost catches up with the Gulper when a huge black feathered Grabular swoops down out of the sky and gobbles up the Gulper. The Grabular then flies out to sea. Sarah quickly converts her bike into a water bike and she peddles after the Grabular as fast as she can. She is just about to reach the Grabular’s nes, when the bird is eaten by an Undersnatch. Now she has to chase a beast that swims underwater!
   Children are going to love this deliciously bizarre adventure. Full of fantastical monsters that have splendid names, it is a picture book that is full of surprises and a perfectly perfect ending. Children will enjoy looking for clues in the art that indicate that a monster might be in the offing!

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday - A review of The Day Louis got eaten as of 12/3/2012 7:23:00 AM
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1347. Bon Appetit: The delicious life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland

Bon Appetit: The delicious life of Julia ChildThe upcoming holidays are about a lot of different things but the one aspect that ties them together is food and when you’re—at least I’m—talking about food, the name of Julia Child has a tendency to enter the conversation. I’m a longtime devotee. My father gave me my first copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking when I was in high school. I watched her on black and white TVright after the demise of the dinosaurs. After reading and thoroughly enjoyable Bon Appetit!, I learned that we also have several other things in common. Like Julia, I’m a terrible typist. Right out of college she tried to get a job at Newsweek magazine but flunked the typing test. I just plain flunked typing. Secondly, we both had the good luck to marry charming and witty men who happen to look like Stanley Tucci. And then there’s the food thing….

Speaking of the food thing, one really good aspect of Bon Appetit! is that it covers all the areas of Julia’s life from her growing up years in Pasadena, CA to her last years in Cambridge, MA. It’s about what made her special not just the food thing. I think that kids, really all readers, want to know about a personality’s early years. We want to know that they’re like us, and that with luck and a fair amount of perspiration, we might have a book written about us someday. I’ve read My Life in France, Julia’s autobiography, but I never knew she was a daredevil , a prankster or a mischievous tomboy. She never mentioned that stuff and it’s too bad because I think it only serves to make her more likable.

That’s what Jessie Hartland does in Bon Appetit!, she’s makes Julia even more likable—if that’s possible. Her “homespun” illustrations capture Julia’s zest for living and her knack for not always getting everything just right—think fish dropped on the floor or soufflés falling before millions of viewers. Hartland’s simple French phrases scattered throughout the text add veracity and fun to the story plus a certain “je ne sais quoi.” All in all, it’s a great read.

My only quibble with the book is that some of the pages, especially the recipe for crepes at the end, are a bit too crowded. There’s just too much fun stuff to see and it can be distracting. However, if I’m going to be distracted I can’t think of a better book—or subject– to be distracted by.

Posted by: Eileen

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1348. A Late-Night Visit with Illustrator Lee White

Fall Walk

This evening I’m handing the blog over to illustrator Lee White, who’s here to share some artwork, including his illustrations for Sophie’s Fish, written by A. E. Cannon and released by Viking in March. Lee, who lives and teaches in Portland (the Art Institute of Portland), has illustrated many picture books and is currently writing his own stories as well.

Sophie’s Fish, which received a starred review from Kirkus, tells the story of Jake, a young boy who promises to babysit his friend Sophie’s fish. The balance of the rest of the book is him worrying himself ragged over everything that could go wrong while taking care of this fish, all wrapped up with a very funny punch line of an ending. All that creative worrying in between Sophie’s request and the final page is quite entertaining, and observant readers will have fun spotting White’s fish all throughout the illustrations. Kirkus, calling it “visually offbeat and beautiful,” wrote:

“Watercolor dominates the mixed media, inventively complemented by collage and drawing. Lines dance playfully around the shapes they’re meant to outline, sometimes sliding off a shape’s edge, sometimes bleeding into the watercolor. Tidbits of collage, sometimes of patterned paper, are fascinating yet never loud.”

There’s lots more from the book below—I’ll close this post with illustrations from the book—but I’ll open with some illustrations from White’s portfolio. (Why not open with random pieces? His work is beguiling.) [Note: The font and text in some of the spreads below from the book are slightly different from the spreads as they appear in the final printed version.]

Enjoy the art. (more…)

14 Comments on A Late-Night Visit with Illustrator Lee White, last added: 12/16/2012
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1349. Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature by David Ellwand, 144 pp, RL All Ages

Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature, is the sole creation of David Ellwand, the creative mind, eye and hands behind the first Fairie-ality book, Fairie-ality: The Fashion Collection from the House of Ellwand. With this book, Ellwand moves beyond Fairie fashion to Fairie lifestyles. There are photos of Fairie houses and fairie furniture as well as a little bit more

0 Comments on Fairie-ality Style: A Sourcebook of Inspirations from Nature by David Ellwand, 144 pp, RL All Ages as of 12/4/2012 4:21:00 AM
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1350. When My Baby Dreams of Fairy Tales by Adele Enersen

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - WHEN MY BABY DREAMS OF FAIRY TALES -->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 --> In January of this year, Adele Enerson, who's blog is  Mila's Day Dreams, an advertising copy writer living in Helsinki, Finland (where

0 Comments on When My Baby Dreams of Fairy Tales by Adele Enersen as of 12/4/2012 4:21:00 AM
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