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1. Incredible Covers: Peek-A-Boo Bunny by Holly Surplice

Bow WOW! That's an INCREDIBLE COVER!

Bow WOW! That’s an INCREDIBLE COVER!

We’ve all heard the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, and that’s good advice, but there’s no denying that it is often the cover that grabs our attention first. That’s why it’s important to have a great cover and nowhere in the publishing industry is this more true than in the realm of picture books. The cover represents the book and it needs to say, “Hey, look at me.” The cover makes a promise to the reader: Inside you will find something magical.

 

 

Peek a Boo Bunny


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2. Here Comes the Easter Cat

Here Comes the Easter Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Title: Here Comes the Easter Cat

Author: Deborah Underwood

Illustrator: Claudia Rueda

Publisher/Year: Dial Books/2014

Summary: When Cat tries to replace the Easter Bunny, he soon learns that the job is much harder than he expected-and does not allow time for naps.

 

I am getting my review of Here Comes the Easter Cat in just in time, since Easter is right around the corner. If you’re looking for an Easter picture book that’s clever, unique, and elicits smiles with every new page, then this is the book for you.

Author Deborah Underwood manages, in her delightful story, to create an interactivity between the reader and the starring character Cat, all without buttons to push, or moving parts, or batteries. Of course, all books should trigger this kind of connection for the reader, but Deborah takes this concept one step further.

Cat and Reader speak directly to one another. The first line reads, “What’s wrong, Cat? You look grumpy.” In response, Cat holds up a picture of the Easter Bunny. Then the reader says, “The Easter Bunny? What about him?” Then Cat holds up a picture of hearts and makes an “I don’t get why everyone loves him so much” kind of face. So we get a back and forth between Cat and Reader, a conversation really. The best parts are the expressions on Cat’s face, a new one on every page. Illustrator Claudia Rueda does an excellent job portraying Cat’s thoughts, emotions, and moods through his expressions. Kids will love it!

The book is also unusual in that the cover is smaller than the typical picture book and there are more pages than in the typical 32-page picture book. Here Comes the Easter Cat would make a great gift for a child.  It would fit perfectly into an Easter basket. Aha!

 


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3. Friendly Day

Title: Friendly Day

Author: Mij Kelly

Illustrator: Charles Fuge

Publisher/Year: Barron’s/2013

Love it! That was my first thought after reading Friendly Day, a colorful, rhyming picture book that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I really like books that are happy and make me smile. Friendly Day is all about friendliness…and kindness. I’ve discovered that kindness is a theme I often incorporate into my own writing. I believe children can never read enough books about treating others with kindness, respect, and, of course, friendliness. Still, as all the experts say, you don’t want to preach in a picture book, you want to teach kids in a way that doesn’t feel like teaching, but rather entertains. And Friendly Day does just that with its joyous, frolicking rhyme that rolls off the tongue, and bold, bright, super-fun illustrations of animals interacting with one another. I’ve just got to share the wonderful opening verse:

When Cat caught Mouse, outside his house,

courageous Mouse cried, “Hey!

Put down that plate and see the date.

It’s Friendly Day today

-a day for sharing, a day for caring,

when everyone is nice,

when Frog reads Snail a fairy tale

and cats do NOT eat mice.”

 

This book makes me wish there really was a Friendly Day!

But maybe every day can be Friendly Day…that’s even better. :)


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4. Incredible Covers: Nest by Jorey Hurley

Bow WOW! That's an INCREDIBLE COVER!

Bow WOW! That’s an INCREDIBLE COVER!

[Brand New Feature: Incredible Covers] We’ve all heard the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, and that’s good advice, but there’s no denying that it is often the cover that grabs our attention first. That’s why it’s important to have a great cover and nowhere in the publishing industry is this more true than in the realm of picture books. The cover represents the book and it needs to say, “Hey, look at me.” The cover makes a promise to the reader: Inside you will find something magical.

So, what is it about a cover that grabs your attention? Is it the illustration? Is it the use of color? Is it the overall design? Maybe it’s all of those elements and more.

I’m not an illustrator, but I know what I like, and I’ll do my best to explain why I feel a cover is worthy of being featured in the Incredible Covers spotlight. Feel free to leave a comment telling me why you think this cover is incredible.


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5. PB 14:14 Day Fourteen/Joone

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Title: Joone

Author/Illustrator: Emily Kate Moon

Publisher: Dial Books

Year: 2013

Word Count: Approx. 325

Summary: Five-year-old Joone, who likes ice cream sandwiches and the colors orange and purple, lives in a yurt with her grandfather and pet turtle, Dr. Chin.

The book Joone is all about Character. So that’s the picture book element I’m going to discuss on the fourteenth and final day of Christie Wright Wild’s PB 14:14 blog challenge. It’s been a lot of fun reading, studying, and sharing fourteen picture books in fourteen days, and I sincerely hope Christie offers the challenge to us again next year.

Now on to the analysis of Joone. Right away, we get to know our title character Joone, who is telling us her story. Look at page one above. It reads, “My name is Joone. Some people spell it with a U. I spell it with a smiley face.” Through the text, we can already tell that Joone has a “happy”, and perhaps precocious, personality. Also, look at the turtle on her head. It’s another clue to her personality. This proves that Character can be shown through illustrations.

Throughout the story, Joone tells us about her life with her grandfather and her pet turtle, Dr. Chin. Her personality is constantly shown through her words and actions.

“Grandpa says it’s important to do things for other people. So, today, I’m organizing his books in rainbow order…”

I love that line and this one:

“Dr. Chin is my turtle. I got him last year when I was little.”

The interaction between Joone and her grandfather is both sweet and humorous:

She taught him how to make a daisy crown to wear on his head.

Sometimes she helps him fix the house. Sometimes she doesn’t.

She’s always busy doing something, to which Grandpa says, “Joone, I don’t know where you find the energy.”

To which Joone replies, “Grandpa, I don’t know either!”

Joone says that if she is good, she gets dessert. And if Grandpa is good, she reads him two bedtime stories.

Character really shines through in this story about a happy little girl and her loving grandfather.


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6. PB 14:14 Day Thirteen/Big Bad Bunny and Day Twelve/Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit

  

Title: Big Bad Bunny

Author: Franny Billingsley

Illustrator: G. Brian Karas

Publisher: Atheneum Books

Year: 2008

Word Count: Approx. 400

Summary: When Baby Boo-Boo, a mouse dressed in a bunny suit, becomes lost in the forest, her mother follows the sound of her cries to locate her.

First, let me apologize for not getting a PB 14:14 blog challenge post completed for yesterday, day twelve. I was suffering from a migraine and needed to rest. I’m going to try to make up for it today, day thirteen, by posting two picture book analyses.

I’m going to start with Big Bad Bunny and the picture book element Pacing. I like how this book goes back and forth between Big Bad Bunny (aka Baby Boo-Boo) and Mama Mouse.

The story begins, “Big Bad Bunny has long sharp claws.” (page turn)

Scritch! Scritch! Scritch! (some onomatopoeia, then a page turn)

Then the focus shifts from Big Bad Bunny to Mama Mouse.

“But over in the Mouse House, everything is quiet. It’s naptime, and Mama Mouse tucks her babies into bed.” (page turn)

Then we shift back to Big Bad Bunny. On the left side of the two-page spread:

“Big Bad Bunny has pointy yellow teeth.”

Chomp! Chomp! Chomp! (more onomatopoeia)

On the right side of the spread, back to Mama Mouse:

“Mama Mouse kisses Little Tippy.”

We turn the page and it’s back to Big Bad Bunny on the left side of the spread, and then back to Mama Mouse on the right side of the spread. And so it continues through two more page turns, until Mama Mouse realizes that Baby Boo-Boo is missing and sets off to find her.

Then, Mama Mouse appears on the left side of the spread and Big Bad Bunny appears on the right. That pace continues through three page turns until Mama Mouse finds her Baby Boo-Boo who just happens to be Big Bad Bunny. Then the two characters appear together through the ten remaining pages as they retrace their steps back to the Mouse House.

It is difficult to explain Pacing through a blog post, so I hope what I wrote makes sense. Big Bad Bunny is a very good example of Pacing in a picture book, so I definitely recommend picking up a copy to study. The book is also filled with onomatopoeia:

Scritch

Chomp

Ka-splosh

Splat

Eek

Crash

And several more.

________________________________________________________

Title: Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit

Author/Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Year: 2012

Word Count: Approx. 700

Summary: Randy Riley, a science genius who loves baseball but is not very good at it, needs to use both his interests to save his town from a giant fireball that is heading their way.

Is there room for another example of spectacular Rhyme? I hope so because Chris Van Dusen is a master rhymer. He was able to write a 700-word picture book entirely in Rhyme. And it’s so good! It’s a real pleasure to read. Check out these stanzas from the beginning, middle, and end of the book:

(Near the beginning)

He studied all the planets.

He memorized their tilt.

He researched how the thrusters

on the rocket ships were built.

He knew the constellations

and the light-years to the stars.

And wouldn’t it be great, he thought,

to ride a bike on Mars?

(In the middle)

The robot needed power,

and Randy knew precisely

that ninety-seven batteries

would energize it nicely.

(Near the end)

Randy’s eye was on the ball.

No room for error now.

Three-two-one and FLIP THE SWITCH!

A SWOOSH and then…

KA-POW!!

Here are some of the rhyming pairs:

mound/pound

throw/go

by/sigh

ball/all

face/space

room/gloom

bed/instead

sky/eye

clear/near

path/math

frown/town

dad/bad

red/bed

through/do

resolution/solution

fun/done

said/red

moon/noon

grew/do

reveal/steel

complete/street

town/down

mill/hill

be/three

stance/trance

done/run

began/man

grin/in

day/play

ball/all

I’d love to give you more stanzas, but I really want you to read this book for yourself. You won’t be disappointed!


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7. PB 14:14 Day Eleven/I Hate Picture Books

  

Title: I Hate Picture Books!

Author/Illustrator: Timothy Young

Publisher: Schiffer Publishing

Year: 2013

Word Count: Approx. 420

This is day eleven out of fourteen in Christie Wright Wild’s PB 14:14 blog challenge. I’m having a ball reading, studying, and sharing all of these wonderful picture books with PB 14:14 participants and Frog on a Blog followers.

When I first came across this book online, I knew I had to read it. I  mean, come on, look at that title: I Hate Picture Books! As a picture book lover, I needed to satisfy my curiosity about a book with such a, well, with such an extreme title. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could hate picture books. Well, my library didn’t own a copy, so I asked Miss Jenny, the children’s librarian, if she would please purchase a copy, and she did. Now that I’ve read it (and love it, by the way), I want to share it.

I’ve chosen the picture book element Conflict to share today.

Right away, one page one, the story opens with Conflict. Max, the young star of the book says, “I hate picture books!” He goes on to say that he is throwing them all away because, “All they do is get me in trouble.”

After his mother read him a book about a kid with a purple crayon, he got in trouble for drawing on the wall.

When he was sent to his room without dinner, he wished a forest would grow and a boat would come take him away, but he was disappointed when NOTHING happened.

Things got worse when he found some green ham in the refrigerator and he ate it, and then he threw up. “I’d like to see them put that in a picture book!” (I love that line!)

Then he tells us about a book that has a baby bird in it that can’t find its mother. It made him cry so, “It was the first one I threw away.”

Here we come to the turning point in the story where Max hesitates, “Wait…I do love that book.”

Then he rushes to find it in the box full of picture books that he was going to throw away. And of course, he pulls out one book after another. He can’t throw any of them away. He loves them all.

The story ends with Max lying on the floor reading, and he’s surrounded by all of his glorious picture books.

I love, love, love, this book! It has humor. It has tons of references to beloved picture books. It has illustrations of many, many well-known picture book covers. And best of all, it has Picture Book Love. Yay!

You’ve gotta read this book!


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8. PB 14:14 Day Ten/Cub’s Big World

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Title: Cub’s Big World

Author: Sarah Thomson

Illustrator: Joe Cepeda

Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books

Year: 2013

Word Count: Approx. 330

For day ten of Christie Wright Wild’s PB 14:14 blog challenge, I will examine the element Theme. The themes presented in Cub’s Big World are curiosity, courage, and the comfort of home.

The story starts out telling us that Cub knew all about the world.

It was smooth and white and cool. Inside the world were Mom and Cub. And that was all.

Cub was happy inside this world that she knew. She felt safe and comfortable in the den with her mother, but things were about to get interesting.

Mom left the den and Cub “scrambled outside after her”. Cub had never seen the blue sky before or felt the cold wind. She was very curious, so she set off to explore.

Cub found a hill. Step by step by step, she went up and up and up. At the top she stopped and stared. The world was big, big, big!

Cub played in the snow for a while until she realized that Mom was nowhere to be seen. So after startling a raven, an ermine (short-tailed weasel), and a seal, because she thought they were Mom, she mustered up some courage and climbed another hill.

Cub was brave. She found another hill. Step by step by step, she went up and up and up. From here, she thought, I will see Mom.

Finally, Cub does find Mom. Or did Mom find Cub?

“Dear Cub,” said Mom. “The world is big. I’ll be close by till you’re big, too.”

And finally, on the last page, we come around full-circle to the comfort of home.

Mom’s fur was soft. Her voice was sweet. Her heart beat thump, thump, thump. “Home,” whispered Cub.

The illustrations in Cub’s Big World (done in oils and acrylics), are superb and complement the text perfectly. I especially like the picture of Cub rolling down the hill. This book is worth a look!


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9. PB 14:14 Day Nine/Moonlight

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Title: Moonlight

Author: Helen Griffith

Illustrator: Laura Dronzek

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Year: 2012

Word Count: Approx. 100

Summary: One cloudy night, after Rabbit goes into his burrow to sleep, the moon comes out, covering the countryside like butter and awakening Rabbit to come out and dance.

Moonlight is a beautiful rhyming picture book, but today I want to focus on the element of Word Play for my PB 14:14 blog challenge post. Moonlight is the perfect bedtime book with its dreamy illustrations and sweet, lyrical text. Here’s the opening line:

Rabbit hides in shadow

under cloudy skies

waiting for the moonlight

blinking sleepy eyes…

Isn’t that lovely?

Word Play is incorporated into the book through the use of Simile and Personification. Check out this exquisite line (my favorite in the whole book), in which the moonlight is compared to butter (Simile):

Moonlight slides like butter

skims through outer space

skids past stars and comets

leaves a butter trace…

We also get descriptive words that describe the moonlight’s actions as it makes its way to Rabbits burrow. These words make it seem like the moonlight is another character in the story (Personification):

slides (like butter)

skims (through outer space)

skids (past star and comets)

skips (along the mountainside)

sucks (at twigs and branches)

butters

skitters

slips

seeps

spatters

shakes

Moonlight is a stunning book and I highly recommend picking up a copy for yourself. Maybe you will find other elements of Word Play that I missed.


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10. PB 14:14 Day Eight/Love Monster

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Title: Love Monster

Author/Illustrator: Rachel Bright

Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux

Year: 2012

Word Count: 235

All this talk of monster stories has motivated me to choose a monster book for day eight of Christie Wright Wild’s PB 14:14 blog challenge, in which participants read, study, and share 14 picture books in 14 days.

The focus of this post will be on the important picture book element Plot. I wasn’t sure how to break down the plot of Love Monster, so I mozied on over to Christie’s blog, Write Wild, to see how she does it. Christie reminds us that there are five main parts to Plot: exposition, rising action (and conflict), climax, falling action, and resolution. And that Plot, Character, and Conflict all work together. So here’s my Plot analysis of Love Monster.

Exposition: Monster is funny-looking. He lives in a world of cute, fluffy things that everyone loves. No one loves Monster. Monster sets off to look for love.

Rising Action (and Conflict): Monster wanted to be loved, but no one loved him because he wasn’t cute and fluffy, so he set off to find someone who would love him just the way he is. “He looked high. He looked low. He looked middle-ish.” (I love that last line!) Then he thought he found what he was looking for, but he was wrong.

Climax: Things get worse. Monster gets caught in the rain. Then it gets dark outside, and scary.

Falling Action: Monster has lost all of his “oomph” and decides to give up and go home. So he waits at the bus stop for the bus.

Resolution: Monster meets a monster who is just like him. It’s the bus driver. And it’s love at first sight. “You see, sometimes, when you least expect it…love finds you.”

Even though Monster is described as “funny-looking” and “a-bit-googly-eyed”, I think he is absolutely adorable and definitely lovable. He has personality that shows, not only in the fantastic illustrations, but also through his actions. The reader might feel sorry for him because nobody loves him, but Monster is not the “moping-around sort”. Therefore, he set off in search of love.

Here are a few more interesting bits about Love Monster:

1. The author uses “direct address”, that is, the author speaks directly to the reader. On at least three separate occasions, the author used some form of the word “you” to address the reader:

  • “I think you’ll agree,…”
  • “You know, cute, fluffy things.”
  • “You see,…”

2. There are hearts scattered throughout the book, even inside letters. Nice touch!

3. The illustrations were created in a very unique way. Here’s what it says on the back jacket flap: “Love Monster was illustrated with a technique called solar etching, which uses ultraviolet light to create printing plates. So the monster in this book is , quite literally, made of sunshine.” Love it!

 


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11. PB 14:14 Day Seven/Maya Was Grumpy

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Title: Maya Was Grumpy

Author/Illustrator: Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Publisher: Flashlight Press

Year: 2013

Word Count: Approx. 300

Character is the picture book element of the day for Christie Wright Wild’s PB 14:14 blog challenge. Maya, the star of Maya Was Grumpy, radiates character! The author, Courtney Pippin-Mathur, did an excellent  job bringing this little girl to life through text and illustrations.

The first line simply reads, “Maya was grumpy.” The accompanying illustration shows a young girl with big, wild hair and a scowl on her face. So already, on page one, we get a strong sense of Character.

The text on page two strengthens Character even more through the use of descriptive words:

She didn’t know why she was grumpy.

She was just in a crispy, cranky, grumpy, grouchy mood.

The words I put in bold type above were printed in bold in the book, along with several other descriptive words used in the story, such as:

grouch

bad mood

grumped

snarled

glumped

clumped

grumbled

thumped

growled

grumpy

scowled

grouched

rolled (her eyes)

When her very patient grandmother manages to change Maya’s mood and begins to literally turn her frown upside-down about 2/3 of the way through the book, we see a change also in the descriptive words:

tingle

tickled

wiggle

giggle

hug

The story is awesome! I would tell you more details, but I really want you to read it. One thing I will tell you about though, because it is my absolute favorite part of the book, and probably what I would consider the strongest aspect of the book to show Character, is Maya’s hair. Her hair gives her character because her hair changes with her mood. It almost has a life of its own. It starts off big and wild, but as her mood gets worse, it gets even bigger and wilder.  Then later, as her mood improves, it begins to shrink and by the end of the story, we see a sweet, happy little girl with two curly ponytails.

We definitely get to know Maya and her personality through the wonderful text and super-colorful, super-amazing, full-page illustrations in Maya Was Grumpy!


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12. PB 14:14 Day Six/Tadpole Rex

  

Title: Tadpole Rex

Author/Illustrator: Kurt Cyrus

Publisher: Harcourt

Year: 2008

Word Count: Approx. 400

Summary: A tiny primordial tadpole grows into a frog, feeling just as strong and powerful as the huge tyrannosaurus rex that stomps through the mud.

Rhyme is the picture book element I’m featuring today for the PB 14:14 blog challenge. I love rhyming picture books and wish I could write one too. My grandmother was a poet, so you’d think it would be in my genes, but although I love writing children’s stories (and feel I got my writing skills from my gram), the ability to write poetry and rhyme has continued to elude me.

Thankfully, there are authors like Kurt Cyrus who are masters at rhyming and show us how it’s done through their amazing picture books. Tadpole Rex is one such book. It is a rhyming story with nonfiction elements. Not only does the story flow beautifully and rhyme flawlessly as it follows the life of the tiny tadpole, it also introduces children to dinosaurs.

Check out this first line:

Deep in the goop of a long-ago swamp,

a whopping big dinosaur went for a stomp.

Now if that line doesn’t capture a child’s interest, I don’t know what will.

There’s also Word Play throughout the story, as the author uses onomatopoeia in conjunction with the rhyme. Check out this next line:

Stomp! went the dinosaur. Squish! went the goop.

Up came the bubbles-

Bloop.

Bloop.

Bloop.

Here are more fun onomatopoeic words used in the story:

Swish

Splash

Floop

Fleep

Ribbet

Tadpole Rex is a lot of fun to read aloud. Here’s more of the glorious rhyme:

Gone are the dinosaurs. Gone are the stompers,

the rippers, the roarers, the bone-crunching chompers.

Gone are the dinosaurs, swept away…

But hoppers and croakers are here to stay.


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13. PB 14:14 Day Five/Baby Penguins Everywhere!

  

Title: Baby Penguins Everywhere!

Author/Illustrator: Melissa Guion

Publisher: Philomel Books

Year: 2012

Word Count: Approx. 115

Summary: When a penguin finds a hat floating by, she discovers something inside…baby penguins!

The focus of today’s PB 14:14 blog challenge post is Pacing. Baby Penguins Everywhere! is an excellent example of a picture book that employs “page-turn” pacing. The author and designers of this book know how to split up a sentence so that it starts on one page and ends on the next, creating that magical “suspense” moment that urges the reader to turn the page. Here are the first two pages, a double-page spread, with text on one side and an illustration on the other:

The text reads, “Once there was a penguin…”

Now of course the reader will want to turn the page to find out more. Here’s the next double-page spread:

The sentence from the preceding page is finished in the text on the left side:

“…who was all alone.”

Then the text on the right side of the spread reads, “She enjoyed the peace and quiet of the sea and ice. Yet some days…”

As you can see, the sentence is split once again, causing the reader to turn the page. So on the next page (after the page turn) the sentence is completed: “…she felt lonely.”

This type of pacing is used quite effectively throughout the book. In some instances, half the sentence is on one side and half is on the other side of a double-page spread. And in one instance, a sentence is split and spread over three pages (four pages, if you count a page in between that has only a picture). The text on each page is very short and, in some instances, made even shorter by splitting the sentences. I could go on and on about it, so if you want to study pacing in a picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere! is a super example.


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14. PB 14:14 Day Four/Never Too Little to Love

  

Title: Never Too Little to Love

Author: Jeanne Willis

Illustrator: Jan Fearnley

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Year: 2005

Word Count: 290

Patterns is the picture book element I chose to focus on for day four of Christie Wright Wild’s PB 14:14 challenge. I could have posted about Never Too Little to Love back on day one, since that was Valentine’s Day and this book would be perfect for the occasion, but I figured love is a topic that can be discussed any day of the year.

Let’s start with a short summary of the story: Tiny Too-Little happens to love Topsy Too-Tall. He tries every thing he can think of to reach up and give her a kiss, but he’s just not tall enough. Topsy Too-Tall loves him too, so she figures out what to do.

This book is sweet and simple and uses a lot of repetition that very young children will enjoy. The back cover states that it is for ages 1 and up. The repetition is what creates the pattern, but it’s created in a unique way. The book has over-lapping pages that get smaller as the story progresses. It’s hard to explain, so I took a couple of photos to illustrate the point.

 

You can see (hopefully) from the photos that the pages overlap and move up the left side of the book. This allows the text from the previous page to fall under the new text and be re-read in a specific order. It also allows the tower on the right side of the book to get taller and taller.

So, we know that Tiny Too-Little wants to reach up and give Topsy Too-Tall a kiss, but he can’t reach. Here’s what happens next as it appears in the story:

But he’s far too little, even on tiptoes…

on a thimble.

He’s too little, even on tiptoes

on a matchbox,

on a thimble.

He’s too little, even on tiptoes

on a watermelon,

on a matchbox,

on a thimble.

He’s too little, even on tiptoes

on a teacup,

on a watermelon,

on a matchbox,

on a thimble.

And so it continues with a cabbage, a candle, a clock, a cupcake, and stilts, until everything comes crashing down. Then Topsy Too-Tall decides she will bend down and give him a kiss instead.

It’s hard to tell from the picture, but the giraffe is a pop-up. So when you open to that page, she literally bends down to give the little mouse a kiss. It’s super sweet.


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15. Picture Books Make Great Gifts All Year

Christmas is over for another year, and I hope many of you gave (or received) books as gifts. But just because the holiday is over, doesn’t mean you have to stop giving books. A book is the perfect gift for any occasion and even for no occasion at all. To me, giving or even loaning a book to someone says, “I like you.” A picture book given to a child makes that child feel special. And reading it with them is even better. Every picture book is a treasure chest waiting to be opened.

The five books below are just a tiny sampling of all the wondrous, adventure-filled picture books waiting to be discovered and shared.

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details


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16. A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree

Title: A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree

Author: Colleen Monroe

Illustrator: Michael Glenn Monroe

Publisher/Year: Sleeping Bear Press/2000

A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree is a gorgeously illustrated holiday picture book told in flawless rhyme. It is sweet, magical, and heartwarming. The story is about a sad evergreen tree that has watched year after year as the trees around him are chosen to be Christmas trees. He knows it’s too late for him because he has grown too big and tall. He is heartbroken because being a Christmas tree has always been his dream. In order to cheer him, the woodland creatures find a way to show him just how much he is appreciated. This book is just beautiful in so many ways. First, look at the wonderful cover image above. From the sparkling snow, to the glowing background, to the character in the tree’s face, this picture makes you want to open the book to see more. Even the title is in the shape of a tree. And if you open the book, you won’t be disappointed. My favorite illustration depicts songbirds perched in the tree’s branches. The picture accompanies wonderful text such as this: “The first morning sun brought a wondrous sight, as icicles glimmered and captured the light. Colorful birds perched all over the pine, as beautiful as bulbs and just as fine.” Love it! Besides being visually stunning and a joy to read, the story conveys a message of friendship and caring. A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree is a must read!


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17. Happy Holidays!

“I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year.”Ebenezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens


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18. Much Too Much

Children’s book author Jennifer Rustgi and illustrator Molly Allen need your help. They are self publishing a beautiful picture book entitled Much Too Much. They’ve started a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the necessary funds to bring Much Too Much to life. To learn more about their worthwhile project, go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/muchtoomuchbook/much-too-much-childrens-picture-book. You can view a video, read the entire children’s story, and make a contribution to their cause. So far, half of their goal has been reached, but they will only receive the funds if the entire goal has been met. So, check out Jennifer and Molly’s page and consider backing their wonderful project or at least spreading the word. Good luck Jennifer and Molly!


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19. Interview Alert: Emily Kate Moon

I’d like to extend a big Frog on a Blog welcome to up-and-coming picture book author and illustrator Emily Kate Moon. Her first picture book (and certainly not her last) Joone was published this year. Joone stars a precocious and sweet little girl and features bright colors and a whole lot of fun. I think fun may be the perfect word to describe Emily Kate who, as you can tell by her wonderfully detailed interview responses, has a lot of fun doing what she does. You will no doubt enjoy this interview as much as I did.

Q. You are both an author and an illustrator; which do you prefer and how did you get your start in the children’s picture book arena?

EKM. Oooh… I don’t know if I could say that I prefer one over the other.  I really love them both.  And they are so interconnected, I find it that one gets the other going!  When I sit down to start a new idea, I do it with a pad and pencil.  If the words don’t come, the drawings do.  And with each pencil stroke, the story comes to life, whether my pencil is making a picture or a word.  It’s a really fun process.  And when I’m really in the flow, it feels like I am channeling from some other place.  That’s the most glorious moment of all: when I have no struggle to create what comes out — I’m just the one holding the pencil!

I got started in the children’s picture book arena when I was 17.  I illustrated someone else’s book, but it didn’t go anywhere.  It was an important step, though.  It definitely started my career.  (It’s a long story, actually.  If people want to know more, send them to my website blog!)

studio shotQ. What is your workspace like and do you have a favorite medium you like to work with when creating your illustrations?

EKM. My workspace consists of two desks: a drafting table that tilts, and a flat desk on which rests my computer and art supplies.  I also have lots of cubbies and drawers and a big bookshelf full of children’s books!  Looking around right now, my studio is kind of a mess.  I guess I like it that way.  It feels like something is always in progress!

My default medium is pencil on paper.  It’s the easiest for me.  I also love fat felt tip markers.  But I really enjoyed learning how to use gouache when making the illustrations for Joone.  Gouache is a magical medium!  It’s somewhere between watercolor and acrylic.  And I also love doing large paintings: abstracts of acrylic on canvas.  I’ve just moved to Florida and right now I’m inspired by the ocean so I’m working on a series of wave paintings.  I love standing outside at an easel, with the music on, lots of colors to choose from, a cup of brushes and a bucket of water — just going with the flow to see what happens!

Q. What inspired you to create your picture book Joone

EKM. Joone wandered into my head one day, fully formed, and bugged me until I knew I had to write about her.  I had always wanted to write and illustrate children’s books, so it didn’t really surprise me that this little girl popped in one day and wouldn’t go away!  She came with all the details: orange dress, purple hat, brown shoes and turtle atop her head!  She even came with a grandfather.  (The yurt came soon thereafter.)  I grew up in California, so the setting is inspired by the country hills and vineyards that surrounded me there.

Q. Who are your favorite authors and illustrators? Any favorite picture books?

EKM. I have all sorts of favorites!  And I love so many of the new authors these days that my list just keeps growing!  I think storytelling, in general, is getting better.  Which makes sense, I guess, as we learn from each other and expand on our collective work.  But some of my classic favorites are Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight, Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne and Ernest Shepard, and the many tales by Beatrix Potter.  As a little kid, I memorized Eloise from beginning to end (which is quite a feat, considering the length of that story!) and I later filled drawing pads with watercolor reproductions of Ernest Shepard’s and Beatrix Potter’s beautiful illustrations.  I also love Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes, and Joone’s proportions were greatly influenced by Calvin!  And, of course, who doesn’t love Dr. Seuss… I’m pretty sure he has influenced us all!  But my all-time favorite children’s book is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann.  That one just really hits me!  It makes me emotional all the way through because it is so well done.  By page 4, my children are like, “Mom why are you crying?” and I say, “Oh! Because it’s just so good!”

Q. Can you tell us about any picture book projects you are working on right now?

EKM. Joone 2!  Joone’s sequel is in the works!  And then I have several other characters, one in particular, Benny the Singing Dog, who definitely needs a book of his own.  Maybe that’ll be next.

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?

EKM. My website: emilykatemoon.com or Joone’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/joonebook

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with picture book fans?

EKM. When I tell people what I do, they often say, “I’ve got an idea for a children’s book!” or “My cousin wants to do that!”  It seems everyone has an unmade picture book in their lives somewhere.  But it’s something that remains faraway… mostly because they don’t know how to move it forward.  My answer to them is, “Just start it.”  (Or tell your cousin to start!)  Start by writing it down.  Make it as good as you can.  Read it to people, including children, and see what responses you get.  Be willing to change it.  If it’s great, submit it to an agent!  (Agents are everywhere, but it will require some work to find the right one.) And some of the best advice I ever got is this: do not team up with an illustrator.  It reduces your chances of being published.  Either do it all yourself or submit the manuscript alone.  These agents and editors who will read your manuscript are pros; they can envision illustrations and will match your story with the right illustrator.  Most of the people who say they have a children’s book idea but haven’t moved forward with it is because, as they put it, they can’t draw.  Don’t let that stop you!  There is a whole world of illustrators out there who can draw and would love to illustrate your book!  And the world might just love your story….


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20. Interview Alert: Courtney Pippin-Mathur

Welcome author and illustrator Courtney Pippin-Mathur! Courtney’s first picture book Maya Was Grumpy has been available for several weeks now and it’s just gorgeous! I love her wonderful color palette and lively, playful style. I think all people can relate to Maya, the adorable star of the story, who was feeling grumpy for no apparent reason. My favorite part has to be her wild hair and especially how it gets less and less wild as she becomes less and less grumpy. Maya Was Grumpy is a delightful picture book that you and your kids will absolutely love. And I know you will enjoy Courtney’s delightful interview as well. Read on for more information about Courtney Pippin-Mathur and Maya.

Q. How did you get your start as a children’s picture book author and illustrator?

CPM. I majored in Studio Art in college but I knew the fine art path wasn’t right for me. When a teacher brought in Stephen Gammell’s “Monster Mama” a giant gong went off in my head. I have always loved books and the art of picture books so it made perfect sense.

Q. What’s your favorite part of creating picture books for children?

CPM. Two parts- the spark of the original idea or sketch and the joy of the finished, bound book in your hands.

Q. What authors and illustrators have been inspirations to you?

CPM. Roald Dahl, Polly Dunbar, Lauren Child, Stephen Gammell, Shel Silverstein to name a few

Q. Please tell us about your book Maya Was Grumpy. How did you come up with your idea and what was your creative process like from idea to finished book?

CPM. I was sitting on the couch with my laptop and sketchbook in front of me when my 3-year-old stomped into the room, stomped her foot, and declared “I’m Grumpy!” I wrote down the first line and sketched a grumpy little girl with crazy hair.

Q. What materials do you like to work with when creating your illustrations?

CPM. Mechanical pencil, paper, pen , watercolor paint & paper and Photoshop

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?

CPM. http://www.pippinmathur.com

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog on a Blog fans?

CPM. I’m a long time fan of frogs. I created a frog character in high school that I used as my signature. His name was Moran and I drew him constantly. And for my daughter’s baby shower, I drew a flying frog for the shower announcements. 


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21. Elecopter

Title: Elecopter

Author/Illustrator: Michael Slack

Publisher/Year: Henry Holt and Company/2013

Who’s up for an exciting story about a hero who fights fires and performs daring rescues? You can’t go wrong with Elecopter by Michael Slack! Creating a helicopter elephant was an amazing idea. (I wish I had thought of it.) This rhyming story is an action-packed adventure filled with danger and excitement. It’s also filled with beautiful, vivid, full-page illustrations and a whole lot of fun. Check out the gorgeous cover above. Elecopter is the star of the story and the hero of the savannah. She looks out for all the other animals and she’s just so darn cute. I love the picture of Elecopter giving the lion a haircut! I know, I don’t just think, I know kids will love this book. I purchased a copy for my little nephew and I think his father, who’s a big elephant fan likes the book just as much as he does.


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22. Interview Alert: Jessica Young

I am extremely pleased to present this interview with children’s book author Jessica Young, whose debut picture book My Blue is Happy is literally teeming with color. As all of my blog fans know, I love color, so to have a chance to interview an author who shares my passion for our wonderful, colorful world is just so satisfying. In My Blue is Happy, Jessica is able to express her unique feelings for each color as the story moves along. Illustrator Catia Chien’s brilliant artwork enhances the text, and together, the words and pictures immerse the reader into that wonderful, colorful world I mentioned. I have to say, since blue is my favorite color, and has been since forever, I absolutely love how Jessica conveys blue as happy and not sad, the emotion that is usually associated with the color. Think about how many shades of blue there are, from the darkest navy to the lightest baby blue and every shade in between. My favorites are periwinkle, teal, turquoise, and sky blue. So I have to agree with Jessica when she says, “My Blue is Happy”! (P.S. Check out the gorgeous cover image below!) 

Enjoy the interview!

 

Q. What do you enjoy most about writing for children?

JY. Kids are naturally creative, curious, and silly – and they tend to be open to new ideas and experiences. It’s exciting to think that my story might spark a change in perception, understanding, or emotion. Also, I love accessing the parts of me that are five or nine or seventeen. As Madeleine L’Engle said, “I am still every age that I have been.” And I like spending time at those younger ages within myself.

Q. How do you motivate yourself to sit down and write?

JY. I spend so much time wanting to write and thinking about story ideas as I’m doing other things that most often when I do sit down to write it feels relieving. I sometimes leave a difficult piece for a while and entertain a shiny, new idea, or toggle back and forth between two or more works-in-progress, but when necessary, I just try to plow through. Being accountable to my critique partners also helps. And fun snacks and drinks!

Q. What inspired you to write your beautiful picture book My Blue Is Happy?

JY. I can’t remember the exact moment the title and idea came to me. But I’ve always been interested in individual differences and perspective. Blue is one of my happy colors, and I wondered if having a sad association like “the blues” colors people’s perceptions of it. I’ve also observed adults telling kids that colors mean specific things, and that grass is green and sky is blue, and I’ve wondered how kids reconcile that with their own experiences. There are universal/collective ideas about color, but also variations across cultures and individuals. I wanted to explore the concept of subjectivity through the lens of color.

Q. What was it like to work with illustrator Catia Chien? Were you able to collaborate on what the illustrations would look like?

JY. I’ve actually never met Catia, and we didn’t correspond at all while making the book (as is often the case), although I’d seen her art and loved it. I discussed my vision for the story with my wonderful editor at Candlewick and worked with her to develop the text, and Catia did the same with the art director. It was amazing seeing it come together. The illustrations are so imaginative and ethereal – they really take the text to another level.

Q. What’s the first thing you did when you held the completed hard copy of your picture book in your hands for the first time?

JY. I showed it to my kids. It was really amazing for me to have them read it and see their names in the dedication. A good friend and her kids were over at the time, and we all looked at it and took pictures.

Q. Can you tell us what projects you are working on right now?

JY. Several picture books, a chapter book series, and a young adult novel – but that one may take me a while.

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?

JY. www.jessicayoungbooks.com

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with Frog On A Blog readers?

JY. I wouldn’t have gotten this book published without joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and finding the support of my writing friends and crit partners. They push me, humor me, cheer for me, and teach me. If you’re writing and thinking about joining a critique group and/or SCBWI, I highly recommend it!

        


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23. Picture Book Month

November is Picture Book Month. I love that there is a month dedicated to picture books! All month long, on the official Picture Book Month site http://picturebookmonth.com/, picture book authors and illustrators have shared their thoughts on “Why Picture Books Are Important”. I thought it would be fun to post my own thoughts on the subject right here on Frog on a Blog.

 

 

Why Picture Books Are Important

 by Lauri Fortino

Between the covers of every picture book there is a world of wonder waiting to be discovered. It’s a world of color, imagination, and new friends. It’s also a starting point for literacy because a picture book has the magical ability to instill the love of books and reading in a child. Reading is something that many of us take for granted. But for those who struggle to read, it can mean the difference between success and missed opportunity or the difference between feeling accepted and feeling lost. If children are introduced to books and reading early on and throughout their growing-up years, I know that they will become strong readers. The best way to begin the journey toward literacy is by reading picture books. So parents, and grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, and brothers, read picture books with the children in your lives often. By doing so, you will help those children grow up to be successful, thriving adults who in turn will have the opportunity to introduce their children to the wonderful world of picture books.

The ability to read is the jump-off point from which all of life’s successes take flight.

 


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24. Interview Alert: Jonas Sickler

My sixth and final interview of the year is with someone very special, illustrator Jonas Sickler. Jonas is the artist who created the awesome blog logo that wonderfully represents the purpose of Frog on a Blog, which is to provide a fun, colorful forum for picture book fans to discuss all things related to children’s picture books.

Jonas is also the illustrator of six Indestructibles baby books that are specially designed to withstand the destructive behavior of the youngest picture book fans. They are tear resistant and waterproof! They are also absolutely gorgeous and they make great gifts!

Enjoy the interview!

Q.  How long have your been creating art and when did you first realize that you wanted to illustrate children’s books?

JS.  I have been making art since I was about 2 years old.  Somehow I always knew that I would be an artist.  Although there was a brief time around 4 years old when I thought I might be a fireman or a chef instead.  I had always planned to work for Disney.  It wasn’t until college that I began thinking of other options.  That’s when I discovered Lane Smith through “The Stinky Cheese Man” and instantly knew I wanted to illustrate children’s books.  During a trip to the Society of Illustrators, while my classmates were pouring over the exhibit, I took a field trip on my own to see Lane’s private studio.  There, I met his wife Molly, and saw some works in progress.  That day was unforgettable. 

Q. How would you describe your style?

JS. My style is a bit difficult to categorize, though, I’m sure most artists say that to make themselves sound more unique and marketable.  I certainly have a quirky, gritty style.  There is never a shortage of textures and patterns in my art.  Sometimes I work a bit darker- more Tim Burton/ Lane Smith.  And sometimes I lean to a brighter Mary Blaire/ Karen Katz style.  It depends on the subject of the book.  

Q. Do you have a favorite medium you like to work with when creating your illustrations?

JS. My medium of choice is painted cut paper, even though most of my cutting is done in Photoshop these days.  I still insist on using actual paint, rather than computer generated colors.  I like seeing my hand in the finished art.  Using the computer to collage my painted scraps into finished art has great advantages over scissors and glue.  Such as instant color editing, and quick changes requested by art directors at the last minute. 

Q. What picture book artists do you most admire and how have they influenced your work?

JS.  As I mentioned already, I’m a huge Lane Smith fan.  As well as Mary Blaire, Oliver Jeffers, Ezra Jack Keats.  I keep all of these illustrators on my studio bookshelf for inspiration.  Lane influenced me by showing me that children’s book illustrations can be dark, and still sell very well.  Oliver Jeffers extraordinarily simple art and endearing stories captivate and inspire me to never over-think a book.  Mary Blaire has incredible texture and color combinations, and Keats works wonders with simple shapes and patterns.

Q. What projects are you working on right now?

JS.  I have about 10 books written, and awaiting illustrations on my drawing table.  I tend to go through creative phases.  I write my brains out until I have purged all of my ideas.  Then I choose the best manuscript, and begin the illustration process.  When everything is ready, I start shopping the project to publishers.  I’m in the art phase right now on a few projects.  But they are all top secret! :D  

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?

JS. My website has a selection of my work, and my blog has great tips for beginning illustrators, as well as a more in-depth look at my Lane Smith obsession.  You can find me at http://www.jonasillustration.com

Q. Any closing thoughts for fans?

JS.  Creating children’s books is not an easy career.  It requires endless patience and persistence.  It is more of a lifelong process riddled with defeats than a career.  But occasionally luck swings your way, and dreams come true.  It is for this reason we all continue to pursue the buried treasure of a children’s book contract.  All the rejection letters and dashed hopes will vanish in an instant with that one simple “yes”.


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25. Why Picture Books Are Important

Today is the last day of Picture Book Month 2013. What better way to see the month out than with a post by DeWitt Community Library children’s librarian Jennifer Burke on why she believes picture books are important.

After you read Jennifer’s thoughts here on Frog on a Blog, check out her awesome blog Miss Jenny Reads at http://jennythelibrarian.blogspot.com.

Jennifer says she can go on and on about the importance of picture books. That means a lot coming from the chair of the Empire State Award Committee of the Youth Services Section of the New York Library Association.

Why Picture Books Are Important

by Jennifer Burke

Why are picture books important? What a question with many answers! I love picture books and using them in story times. Nothing makes me happier than sharing a picture book with a group of children and seeing them interact with the pictures and being read to. One important thing I’d like parents to know is that picture books aren’t just for “little kids”. There are a variety of picture books that can be enjoyed by children all the way up to high school! In my experience as a children’s librarian, some parents try to push their young child into chapter books too early, not understanding that picture books are a valuable tool in learning to read.

Picture books are generally a child’s first encounter with books and it introduces them to reading, even if they aren’t able to read yet. The pictures are a major part of the written story and they expose children to different styles of art, while also enhancing the story with visual cues, like the emotions on a character’s face. Interacting with the pictures while listening to the story helps a child become engaged in the reading process, and helps foster a love of reading. 

From a librarian’s point of view, picture books are important because they are a tool in teaching parents early literacy skills they can do with their child to get them ready to read. Reading picture books is critical in children developing a sense of how words sound, what words mean, and what the letters of the alphabet look and sound like. While reading to a child, adults can talk to them in a way that encourages the child to engage in the story and understand what is being read to them.

Finally – and this is a personal perspective – picture books provide a sense of comfort. When I open up a picture book that I read as a child, wonderful memories of my grandfather and mom reading to me wash over me and I feel like I am returning home. Reading the same books as an adult brings me back to my childhood and I enjoy the book even more because I am experiencing those memories again. And that’s a wonderful feeling.

Thanks, Miss Jenny!


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