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Lita Judge
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1. Sketches from Sweden

I'm just settling back to the easel after a trip to Sweden. It's always good to get out of the studio to see and draw new things. Here are a few of the sketches done in my sketchbook while away. I wish I could spend my whole life wandering around this beautiful world looking at art and sketching.

Our first day in Stockholm – snow blanketed this cemetery. I loved the stark gravestones and cross against the white and brilliant yellow of the church.


Wedding spoons of the Sami people – carved reindeer antlers


Swedish Folklore design


The post Sketches from Sweden appeared first on Lita Judge.

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2. Flight School

Oh the joy and expectation of a new book soon to be released! I live a quiet life tucked in the NH woods, crafting stories each day with pencil and paint. But then a bright sunny day of expectation comes bolting toward me on the calendar, when a new character will soon join my family of book characters I've been fortunate enough to create.

Here's a sneak peak.

Flight School will be released on April 15th!

The post Flight School appeared first on Lita Judge.

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3. Story Walk

I received a lovely e-mail from Jennifer Knauer who celebrated her son's 5th birthday by hosting a story walk birthday party with Red Hat! If you haven't heard of story walk, here's a link to learn more about it. This amazing activity for families to celebrate and embrace stories was established by Anne Ferguson (Montpelier VT) and The Kellogg Hubbard Library.

Following the story Board tradition, Jennifer laminated the illustrations from the book and presented them (in the same order as in the book) along the path. After Dylan's birthday celebration, they gave the Story Walk materials to the ParentChild Center in Orange County, Vermont, so that the families in that program may continue to use it.

I just love activities like this -- Dylan and his friends and all their families romping through the woods playing follow-the-leader and other silly twirling games as they followed the 1/2 mile of hiking trails to find each of the laminated spreads of the story, then ending with a picnic and hot cider. It sounded like the perfect scamper through the woods for everyone and it makes me very happy to think my book Red Hat was a part of this lovely day.

I hope more families discover this amazing program and enjoy!

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4. Good Morning to ME!

I just finished the jacket art for my next book, Good Morning To ME! It's always a great feeling to bring a project to this stage. After more than a year of sketching, and revising, and re-sketching, then painting up a storm, at long last, the art and words are in place and the book is taking shape.

I've written a lot about how the animals I love and draw inspire my stories, but this story came directly from my household of critters, so I look forward especially to sharing it. A real team effort this one is!

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5. Born in the Wild

F&G's for my next non-fiction book, Born in the Wild, peeked out of the snow on my doorstep! How exciting to see a book start taking shape. I look forward to sharing more about this book as we near the release this fall.

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6. Coloring pages for How Big Were Dinosaurs!

I'm woefully behind on providing an activity around my book, How Big were Dinosaurs?, but some dear young readers have inspired me. So I have just created coloring pages from the book. These can be downloaded as a pdf file from my website or from my pinterest site. I hope they offer a launching off point for activities in classrooms and at home with little ones who are interested in the topic of dinosaurs. I remember as a youngster, I drew and drew and drew, mostly dinosaurs. I believe this passion is what led me to take the plunge into a career as a writer and illustrator. So I plan to provide more activities in the future around my books, in hopes they foster creativity and imagination with my young readers.



Download these new dinosaur coloring book pages for How Big Were Dinosaurs. Includes Velociraptor, Ankylosaurus and Stegosaurus.

The post Coloring pages for How Big Were Dinosaurs! appeared first on Lita Judge.

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7. In the Path of Those who Came Before

Painting and drawing intensify life for me. Last spring Dave and I traveled to Paris to sketch and savor art in the museums. I expected to be moved by the paintings of my favorites, Vulliard and Bonnard, and so many other great painters. But then we found ourselves in the path of treasures that moved us in ways we didn’t expect. In the Louvre, we found ourselves gawking at ancient ceramics turned from clay, and small glass vessels fired from sand. The craftsmanship of the ancient artisans combined with time had built a richness into the patinas that no modern craftsman can replicate. Iridescent blues, greens and golds reflected back at us as we moved slowly around each tiny sculpture and vessel.

Ancient glass vase from Iran

Painting in the Louvre with watercolors is not allowed, but I couldn’t resist. I had to pull out my paints and sketchbook. How could the guards say no when one is in the midst of such delight. I think my enthusiasm was contagious because soon a flock of kids gathered around as I tried to capture thousands of years of beauty onto the slender leaves of my sketchbook. Some of the kids were in giggles as I sat with as many as 4 paintings at a time precariously balanced on my lap, waiting for each puddle of watercolor to dry while diving into another. Soon kids from all over the world, who spoke different languages, surrounded me. We laughed together as they played lookout for guards, and held my paints, and even teased me for having too many paintings going at once. And then we shared my discovering of some small detail of a carving or glaze and got caught up in it all and urged me to start another sketch. The guards discovered us of course, but just shook their heads and smiled. How grateful I was they didn’t interrupt.

A close up of a ceramic plate

Inspired from Egyptian carving

The attempts to capture the iridescence of ancient glass or ceramic glaze on paper always falls short of course, but the act of trying has a way of solidifying it in one’s imagination and memory far deeper than a photo or passing glance would. And most of all, to take part in creating, that’s the best thing to come of it. These pieces sculpted by an artisan long gone, his or her name lost to time - we are separated by thousands of years, but their art and life fuels mine. How fortunate we are when we take the time to soak in beauty created by artists who came before.

A close up of glazes from an Iranian ceramic

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8. The expectation of a new book

The expectation of a new book, soon to be released, is almost unbearable. It takes so many months, but I'm starting to look forward to Flight School coming out this April. One of the hardest things for me is just thinking about how much fun I have creating these little characters. I always have the temptation to go back and paint it all over again. After so many months of revision on a story, it can be hard to just leave it be. But there comes a point when you have to just stop and trust and let the book bloom on it's own. Here's just a little sketch of my penguin in Flight School – one that actually sits on the cutting room floor and didn't make it into the book. But it expresses my eagerness for this project to be out into the world soon!


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9. Beatrix Board

Beatrix got wind of my putting images on Pinterest and she thought, seeing that she has her own book in the works, that she should have her own Pinterest board. So here are her first images for the "Beatrix" board. As you can see, we kind of live in a birdie filled world here.

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10. Home and Studio: A Creative Space

I finally did it - I decided at long last to check out pinterest a few weeks ago and I have to say, I like it. It's a great way for artists to store reference and show creations. And even better, a place to discover the work of other artists. So I just thought I'd mention it here today. I just created a new board (here's my pinterest link) sharing some images of my home and studio and how I set about creating a space in which I find inspiration to work and live. I'm a novice at this new pinterest platform, but finding it fun.

Working from a studio connected to home presents both challenges and luxuries. The down side is that escaping work can be difficult, it's so easy to sneak into the studio at all hours of day and night and feel the pressing need to work on projects in progress. But it's also a luxury to go to work simply by trotting down the hall with your favorite birdie and puddy cat as companions. It means having a lot of discipline and focus to maintain sane hours, but I really love it and feel fortune to have worked from home most of my adult life. But I didn't always have such surroundings in which to paint. I spent years working on kitchen tables of cramped homes, painting in poorly lit spare bedrooms, or in the middle of living rooms. Our early house was cluttered with paintings, frames, easels, crates, panels, and the smell of wet oil paint stifled the air. The scent of baking bread never had a chance over turpentine. Now I'm spoiled, I have a spacious studio filled with light and beauty (and I dropped the toxic oil paints for the lovely soft scent of watercolors). I saved for years for this studio, feeling in my heart that creating a space to work in was an important part of the act of creating. And not just the space became meaningful, but all the totems and art objects that fill our home and studio. Today, as I start a board on pinterest that'll focus on the home and studio, I'll share a few photos of where I work and the art totems it holds.

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11. Beginnings

The beginning stage of creating a book is such a delightful time for me. Lots of unanswered questions of course, and yes, many doubts, but it's also the high octane exciting time of creating. Knowing which idea, from hundreds that occur to the one that becomes the main focus of a year's work, can be a bit of a mystery as well.

Some of my books have come from true life events that I wanted to record, or consider more deeply, or share with others. More and more my stories are completely fictional, growing out of my own imagination. But these still have true life experiences and emotions that rest close to the surface. I find for me the most important thing that allows me to "notice" or "grow" a story is just to be open to the beauty around me. To do this I carry a sketchbook just about everywhere, recording life through drawings and writing. I try never to judge the work when writing in a journal, just record. More often than not, I'm so completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the thing I'm recording, there's no time to judge. Later is the time for thoughtful contemplation and a "going over" of these ideas. That’s when the "one" rises to the top and becomes a full fledged story.

Notre Dame, Paris

I've just begun a new story for a picture book that bubbled up from one of my journals – one I kept on a trip to Paris last spring. My journals don't just hold memories of things I saw or did while traveling. The cluttered pages filled with sketches and watercolors hold daydreams and musings recorded during that enchanted time away. I used to paint only what I saw on travels, trying to capture architecture, nature, or every beautiful note of light. But on this trip, the daydreams I indulged in as I looked out over the rooftops of Paris, or walked the halls of museums were just as important to the experience as what I was seeing. I painted a lot from my imagination and a new freedom and experimentation danced into the pages of my journal. I also painted characters that came to my imagination while walking the streets of Paris. Now two of these little characters, born from such a treasured trip, are coming to life in this story.

Paris Journal

I've always encouraged kids in classrooms to keep a journal – keep filling them up, and remember to go back and look at them later. I'm thankful for this practice I started so many years ago. Stacks of journals line my bookshelves keeping memories alive, and books have grown directly from their pages. I'm thankful too that I have a husband who loves to travel with someone who spends a lot of time with her nose in a blank book. The time I put into it can be "somewhat" intense. But Dave happily explores and daydreams himself, and treasures the journal of memories that grows during our time away. He doesn't mind holding brushes and paint pallets when I setup in cramped spaces makes it difficult to spread out. And he's been known occasionally to leap heroically after brushes that are about to float away on the waves of rivers. I'm lucky in my travel companion. And this trip to Paris was one of our best trips ever, so I'm lucky to get to create a story from it!!

Here are just a few of the paintings done on that trip – a varied range of musings from life and imagination. I'll share more of the story itself when it is further along.

Musings from the Louvre

Ancient Egyptian Carving

Persian Pot, Louvre

Cypriot painted terracotta, Louvre

Painted on a brown bag from Shakespeare and Company, Paris

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12. Recent Paintings/Studio Musings

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13. Done, but not quite

I was very excited this Thanksgiving when I finished ALL the final art for the book – GOOD MORNING TO ME - that I've been working on this past year. It features my beloved parrot, Beatrix, and kitty. I started it last Thanksgiving. I spent a quiet morning in my studio packing up each painting, wrapping them in paper and sealing them up safe and tight in layers of cardboard to be shipped off to my lovely editor and art director, all the while dreaming of the feast I would make for my husband later that day, and thinking how we would kick back and savor the feeling of finishing another story. So then why the weird feeling when I tried to kick back that night? And why the next morning the desire to open up the package?

Ah done… but not quite.

I poured everything into this story. I scrutinized every sketch and revised countless times over the past months. I did color study after color study and painted up a storm to finish this book. The first few hours I chalked it up to that age old feeling that it's really hard to let go of a project after a year of work. But by mid afternoon, I knew it wasn't just that feeling--there was more to do. I ripped open the package and spread the paintings out one last time. Then I had to break it to my husband that I needed to revise and keep painting through the weekend. He's always awesome about this kind of thing and knew the regret of not pursuing this idea outweighed the lost weekend.

Students of writing and illustration always ask me, "when do you know when something is finished?" I think with creative pursuits you can never really know. One always looks at a work and thinks I wish I had done that or this differently. And sometimes in the pursuit of perfection we go sailing past the point of DONE and venture into over-baked, over-thought and over-worked. It's heartbreaking at times to know you've gotten to that point. But I want to strive to the point where there are no regrets. That you don't get to the end and wished you had tried one more thing. And so I'm painting away on these last few spreads and my heart is already telling me they're an improvement.

I was asked today to teach at a writers conference later this spring. Unfortunately it conflicts with my schedule and I can't, but it inspired me to want to share one little kernel of something I've learned working on these stories. Students often share paintings and dummies of picture books with me and ask if I think they're finished. No one can tell us this except our own hearts. Characters and stories grow up very slowly for me. Layer upon layer of understanding comes to me as I sketch and re-sketch and paint and repaint. I have friends who work much faster and I envy them that. But then again, I love the fact that I have so many happy hours with my characters as I create them. They are good company!

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14. Summer

It has been a good summer here at Wilder Farm. I’m starting the final art for my book FLIGHT SCHOOL. What fun it is to create.

I’m also very excited to be working on a new non fiction book about baby animals. It feels like the culmination of a life long passion for watching animal behavior and drawing animals. Here is a sneak peak at a few of the sketches.

Many of the animals depicted in this book are inspired directly from animals I’ve watched – the Grizzly cubs my parents photographed in Yellowstone, a baby giraffe I met behind scenes at the wildlife park just a few hours after his birth, a baby orangutan I watched and sketched, raccoon kits that lived in our backyard… I’m fascinated with the ways animals have adapted to raise their young, so I love doing the research for this book.

I’m also gearing up for the release of my next book – RED HAT. Yes, it is a follow on to RED SLED. I’ll be posting more about that soon. I’m very excited about this book. And to celebrate it’s release I’m trying to get all my friends and family to wear their red hats and send me a photo. I’ll be posting more about this on my website soon – but just to entice you – here is a photo of my parrot, Beatrix putting on her red hat. Her grandmama is currently knitting and embroidering several more hats, so more photos to follow.

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15. Flight School

I’m excited to be working on a new story called FLIGHT SCHOOL. It’s a whimsical tale featuring an irrepressible penguin. I’m still in the early stages of the creative process so will wait till later to share more story details, but wanted to share this video of me drawing penguins. I often create my characters by drawing animals from life – observing how they move, noticing small details of their features.

Then slowly, as I keep drawing, my imagination takes over.

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16. How Big Were Dinosaurs?

Yippee – I JUST finished all the final art for my book –  HOW BIG WERE DINOSAURS? — coming out with Roaring Brook Press next year. It’s always a grand feeling to finish a book, especially one like this which has been a few of years in the making. This book was a long journey, but what fun to work on a topic that I’ve been interested in since I was about 4 years old. During all the hours I spent on this, I couldn’t help but think how thankful I was to be sitting at my easel drawing dinosaurs for another book–something I did a lot of when I was little girl and dreamed of being able to do for a living someday. I still have to pinch myself that it’s all real.



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17. Phoebe Nest Started

For the past several years we’ve had a pair of Phoebes nesting in our woodshed. They’ve just started on this year’s nest! Here are a few pictures from last Thursday (May 3rd):

(Click on the images to see them a bit larger.)

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18. Creating BIRD TALK

Creating BIRD TALK was the culmination of a life-long passion for watching and drawing birds.


From an early age I was exposed to birds in an intense way. My grandparents were ornithologists (scientists who studied birds) and lived in an old farmhouse filled with a menagerie of owls, hawks, and eagles. We studied hawks on the marsh in the early mornings and raised a variety of orphaned or injured birds. Some grew strong and were released back to the wild. Others stayed for a lifetime. One bird in particular was a favorite of my grandmother’s, who worked for years to breed endangered golden eagles in captivity. Each spring the eagle called sharply, and my grandmother responded by bringing sticks. Then together they built a nest. She observed her eagle so carefully; she could practically talk to it. I grew up watching this intimate relationship between ornothologist and bird, and developed a huge respect for how complex and diverse bird communication skills are.

As my grandparents worked on their research with birds of prey, I found my own area of interest. I recorded songbirds in the mornings before school so I could learn to identify them by their calls. At night, I lay in bed and listened to the screeching of rescued barn owlets, who liked to roost on the top of my grandmother’s refrigerator. One summer, when a storm took a tree snag down, I rescued several baby starlings that were nested in its trunk. I kept one of them and was tickled when it soon began to mimic the calls of my parakeet.

My parents were wildlife photographers and we watched many birds in the wild as well. In the spring before dawn, we hiked the high desert and listened to Sage Grouse boom. Their ritual performance made me laugh—I thought their puffed up chests and inflated air sacs looked like hard-boiled eggs.

But my favorite memory was canoeing alongside Western Grebes as they danced on water for their annual spring mating ritual.

As an adult I sketched the birds I watched and noted their calls and behaviors, piecing together what those calls meant. I read everything I could find about how and why birds communicate. And I wanted to create a book that explored this fascinating topic for young readers. With the illustrations for Bird Talk, I wanted to create a visual record of the exquisite forms of bird communication. What fascinates me most about bird communications isn’t just how they sing, but how they dance, strut, boom, and bob to make their meanings clear. The most rewarding

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19. Strange Creatures Discussion Guide

We just posted a new Strange Creatures discussion guide on Lita’s web site.

It contains projects and activities for Vocabulary, Music, Art and Science, and includes an author interview. The guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and children’s author (visit her Web site here).

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20. hiatus

Hello all,

I hope everyone is having a good summer. Some of you may have noticed a lapse in my blog posting over the last several months. I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus to recover for health reasons, but hope to be on the mend soon and look forward to being much more consistent with postings in the near future!

And I wanted to thank all of the students and teachers who have sent well wishes over the spring. Thank you. It means a lot to me!


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21. Emerging

I feel a like I stepped off a 1000 foot cliff at the beginning of this year and began a dreadful impersonation of humpty dumpty. Some of you may have heard I was laid low, very low, with an autoimmune illness, a complication from a bad case of mono that actually began last year. I’m still battling to regain strength, but a loving husband, caring friends, good doctors, and a bitter dose of chemo drugs applied every week have begun to put the pieces back together. Like humpty, I’ll never be quite the same, as I am reminded each and every week I face down that last bit – the chemo, and struggle to get my joints moving, my hands working, and my feet walking, but I am beginning see bigger and bigger pieces of my old self shining through the rubble. I’ll never be smooth and flawless, my scars will forever show, but perhaps all this time and energy spent gluing back my health will make me stronger in a way, autoimmune illness and all. I’ve had an awful lot of time to think about life and art in the last 9 months. I see that I spent the first 40 years racing through life, always trying to get somewhere faster. I was impatient with myself and burned through energy like it was an endless resource. But a little wisdom has seeped in over the many months I’ve had to lie flat on my back mostly, and I appreciate every small gift that life has to offer.

It feels like it was ages ago that I finished my upcoming book, Red Sled, but I just received my first copy of the book from my editor at Athenaeum. Turning through the pages reawakened the delight I had in creating this book and I am reminded and overwhelmed at what a gift it is to create my stories. I still feel like I’m that earnest little 4 year old who was so moved at seeing my first picture book. I was forever changed and sculpted by it. That first picture book not only fueled my imagination, it gave light to a lifelong passion for creating art. From the day I opened the very first book, I knew I wanted to make my own, even if I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever make that dream come true. Red Sled was a story that began long ago, around that time my imagination was first startled awake. In my childhood musings and daydreams the characters of this book kept me company. It took years for me to grab their abstract elements out of the ether and put them to paper. But I’m grateful for all the happy hours I spent chasing them down in the wandering paths of my imagination, before setting them down in just the way I would have loved as that 4 year old girl. Somewhere in this sore, achy body that little girl is smiling bright.

So I am very excited by the fact that Red Sled is soon to be coming out – November 1st to be exact! I wish I was fully recovered and could charge on ahead with life, working hard on new stories, and hitting the road to share this book with my readers. But for now, I must persevere with my treatment and embrace all the kindness that comes my way when readers reach out to me and send me well wishes. I hope readers find this book. It’s creation was such a celebration for me. And I was thrilled when my editor sent me the first review – a STARRED REVIEW from Kirkus!

Here it is:

Red Sled

Written by Lita Judge
(Atheneum; ISBN: 9781442420076; November 2011; Fall catalog p. 31)

Judge’s latest may be virtually wordless, but it packs a powerful visual punch that will stick with readers long after the final page is turned. At the end of a winter day, a child props the titular sled outside a cozy cabin. A bear finds it there and sets off to enjoy the ride of all rides, joined in turn by some other forest denizens. As each joins the ride, the animals’ positions change: The bear is on his back with the rabbit perched on his feet, then he is atop the moose’s antlers,

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22. My Muses

I was just interviewed on a fantastic blog called Seven Impossible Things before Breakfast and one of the questions was, “Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.” So here’s what I asked and answered.

Question: Tell me about your muses

My favorite muse is my cat, Pu. She is the inspiration behind many of my characters!

And then there is the grizzly bear I grew up watching with my parents (they are wildlife photographers). I knew someday I’d have to do a story with this bear.

Since the bear lives out in the wilds of Montana Pu finds it necessary to supervise my projects.

If you’re interested in the art and creators of picture books please read this blog. It’s the best one out there. Thanks to Jules Danielson for creating and working so hard on such an awesome blog for us all to enjoy!

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23. Red Sled In the News

USA Today
“Talk about joy rides…It’s a perfect book for reading aloud, especially by expressive readers who can do justice to a walk in the snow: Scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch scrinch scrunch.”
Washington Post
“.. a delightful winter book for very young readers. Each double-page spread features a serene snowscape bathed in moonlight, the perfect foil for the explosive humor of the animals’ antics.”
“Just the right blend of danger and delight, this book is perfect for a wintry night.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“It’s strikingly original and totally inspired.”
Concord Monitor
“As with many a treasured children’s book, the details are left to the fertile young imagination…the book is exactly what a book about sledding should be: pure fun.”
Book Page
“Parents and kids will enjoy this sweet, energy-filled tale.”
Shelf Awareness
“Like the red sled’s riders, young readers will be pleading, AGAIN!”
Newburyport News, Newburyport, MA
“Charmingly depicted”
Ithaca Child
“A delicate, beautiful book about the wonder of winter and play.”
Winter Indie List
“This is my new favorite snow book! The minimal text highlighted with fun sound effects is complemented by beautiful art…In this sweet and wonderful picture book, Judge successfully captures all of the joy of a great sled ride.”

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24. Red Sled Short Video

(Written by Dave) Lots of our friends have commented on the short video that Lita and I created for Red Sled, so I wanted to post it to the blog and mention a bit about how we produced this. So first, here’s the video:

When Lita and I work together on these types of things, she does all the story-boarding and then I produce something quickly to get started from and then we tweak and change things until it feels right. There are many, many iterations of tweaks and changes. To get the right feel for the animation we did a lot of experimentation. We used Adobe After Effects CS5 (mac version) for the whole thing and for the animation. Here’s what the project looks like in After Effects:

We had various ideas for the music but then I saw a snippet of Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet on Pianopedia. It wasn’t quite long enough so I made up the rest and recorded it and it seemed to set the right mood.

There are many video settings, and I’m not sure if I went down the optimal path, but I find it quite helpful when other people post their settings, so here’s what I did. I made the “master” copy at 1280 x 720 pixels, 29.97 frames per second, using Apple QuickTime mov format. This created a 230 MB file for just over a minute of video. Then I compressed the file using Adobe Media Encoder to an MP4 format, still 1280 x 720, but now more like 20 MB. Then I upload that to YouTube where it gets compressed again into whatever format they use.

We hope you like the video!

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25. The Secret Language of Birds

Please check out this article on The Secret Language of Birds in BookPage: http://bookpage.com/interview/the-secret-language-of-birds

If you’ve ever wondered—or tried to explain—what birds are saying as they flit about in trees or preen on their perches, help is here: Lita Judge’s new book, Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why, is a wonderfully illustrated compendium of bird behavior and communication for young readers.

Bird Talk by Lita Judge
BIRD TALK will be released on March 13th!

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