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1. I Wanna Happy Birthday!

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Happy Book Birthday to Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow’s newest “I Wanna” picture book I Wanna Go Home! Fans of I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room will be thrilled that a third book in the series has finally been “born”. Can you believe it’s been ten years since I Wanna Iguana, the first book!? It was one of my nephew’s favorite picture books. He was six at the time; now he’s sixteen!

I Wanna Iguana was one of the very first book reviews I did on Frog on a Blog back in 2009. Read my review. I loved the book so much that I contacted Karen to do an interview for me and she agreed. Her interview was the very first interview I did on Frog on a Blog! Read the interview.    

Personally, I can’t wait to read I Wanna Go Home and see what clever Alex is up to this time around. I wanna bet it will be hilarious. Read the summary and Kirkus review below.

SUMMARY OF “I WANNA GO HOME”, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons: Alex is not happy about being sent to his grandparents’ retirement community while his parents go on a fabulous vacation. What could be worse than tagging along to Grandma’s boring bridge game or enduring the sight of Grandpa’s dentures?

But as the week goes on, Alex’s desperate emails to his parents turn into
stories about ice cream before dinner and stickball with Grandpa. Before
he knows it, Alex has made a surprising discovery: grandparents are way
cooler than he thought!

KIRKUS REVIEW
A child’s skepticism takes a header when a vacation with Grandma and
Grandpa proves more wild than mild.
After getting his iguana (I Wanna Iguana, 2004) and failing to
successfully petition for his own space (I Wanna New Room, 2010), Alex
returns for a third time, and now the situation’s truly dire. His parents
are taking off for Bora Bora, which means he and his siblings are slated
to stay with their grandparents for the duration. Broccoli lasagna and the
absence of both video games and computers are bound to lead to a terrible
time. In his initial desperate letters and emails written to his
vacationing parents, Alex pleads with them to return ASAP. Yet soon, Alex
is singing a different tune, as he discovers square dancing, bingo,
stickball and other wonderful aspects of old-folk living. Turns out that
two weeks just isn’t enough time. The epistolary picture book is hardly a
new genre, but it can prove a difficult one. Orloff handles the format as
well as the subject with grace and aplomb. Alex’s gradual acceptance of
his doting ancestors plays out believably, pairing beautifully with
Catrow’s controlled craziness. The pencils, watercolors and inks find the
funny in almost every single spread.
A clever conceit ably rendered; this is bound to prove popular with loving
grandparents and caustic kids alike. (Picture book. 4-7)

**AND NEW THIS YEAR, FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS — A WEBSITE GEARED JUST FOR THEM, OFFERING IDEAS AND TEACHING MATERIALS FOR USING THE “I WANNA” BOOKS IN THE CLASSROOM***
Visit www.iwannabooks.com. The site offers lesson plans, printable
activities and games for students, testimonials from teachers, teacher
resources, and more.


2 Comments on I Wanna Happy Birthday!, last added: 9/25/2014
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2. Looking for a Fantastic Critique Service?: Picture Book Critiques from Danielle Davis

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Have you written a picture book story? Are you looking for a professional critique of your manuscript? Have you considered a critique service, but were reluctant to give it a try?

If you answered “yes” to the three questions above, then you’ve come to the right post. I have also hesitated to send my work to a critique service: What if I don’t agree with what they say? What if they think my story is awful? It costs money.

What you need is a person you can trust to offer suggestions based on her expertise in the picture book market, in a nonjudgmental, positive, and gentle way, and is worth every penny. You need Danielle Davis. 

I recently had a critique done by Danielle. I was more than pleased with her very comprehensive and detailed review of my latest picture book story, Cloud, The Monastery Dog. Not only did she go through my manuscript line by line, leaving comments and suggestions, she also wrote a personal letter with more feedback and advice.

I chose Danielle’s service because (and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her) she says, “It’s not about my style or preferences at all—it’s about making the work sing!” I really appreciate that and I would definitely use Danielle Davis’ Picture Book Critique service again.


4 Comments on Looking for a Fantastic Critique Service?: Picture Book Critiques from Danielle Davis, last added: 9/13/2014
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3. Plant a Pocket of Prairie

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Title: Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Author: Phyllis Root

Illustrator: Betsy Bowen

Publisher/Year: University of Minnesota Press/2014

 

Hurrah for nonfiction picture books! If authors and illustrators of nonfiction picture books accomplish their goals to create top-notch books on subjects they are passionate about, then children will learn about captivating people, places, and things in a fun and engaging way. Nonfiction picture books must, just like fictional stories, grab and keep the attention of young readers. Often this is done through story-like text and eye-catching illustrations.

In Plant a Pocket of Prairie, author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen introduce us to an endangered ecosystem, the native prairie of the United States, and many of the plants and animals that can be found there. Through sparse, flowing text that connects each page to the next and large, beautiful pictures, Root and Bowen succeed in capturing prairie life and conveying to readers the importance of not only cherishing it but helping it continue on. Plant a Pocket of Prairie is a fascinating look at native species that may be in our own backyards and yet we take them for granted.

Did you know that native prairie once covered almost forty percent of the U.S.? But now less than one percent remains! Due to the encroachment of people (farming, grazing, building, etc.), prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. And unfortunately, as it says in the back of the book, “We can’t bring back the prairie as it once was.” But there is hope for at least some of the native prairie plants and animals. All you have to do is “plant a pocket of prairie”.

Planting prairie plants and attracting prairie animals, especially various species of birds and butterflies, as suggested by this book, would be a perfect outdoor project for parents or teachers to work on with their kids or students.


2 Comments on Plant a Pocket of Prairie, last added: 9/12/2014
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4. Author Challenge: Uncovering “The Dinosaur Tag Survival Guide” — by Lauri Fortino

Lauri Fortino:

Big cover reveal today at MeeGenius! I love it!

Originally posted on MeeGenius Blog:

There’s no better way to get an adrenaline rush than by playing tag with dinosaurs. But before you play Dinosaur Tag, there are a few VERY important rules you have to follow. Are you ready to play?

View original 48 more words


2 Comments on Author Challenge: Uncovering “The Dinosaur Tag Survival Guide” — by Lauri Fortino, last added: 9/5/2014
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5. Gordon

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Title: Gordon (A tale of a baby American bison)

Author/Illustrator: Martha Mans

Publisher/Year: WinterBird Press/2014

 

Children’s picture books are works of art. Gordon, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented Martha Mans, is proof. Hold it in your hands. Look at the front cover. Turn is over and look at the back cover. Open it up and flip through the pages. Let your eyes take in all the majestic beauty of life on a Colorado ranch.

Then start at the beginning and read about Gordon, a young American bison, and his animal friends. Follow along as he is rescued from a creek, meets new friends, and finally discovers what he is and where he belongs. Gordon is an endearing story based on true events and it really brings to life, especially through Martha Mans’ amazing watercolor paintings, a part of America that many people may not be familiar with.

I really like how this story introduces readers, young and old, to the animals and wildlife that can be found in the gorgeous state of Colorado, particularly the bison. Did you know that back in the 1800’s, bison were on the brink of extinction? But thanks to the efforts of many, bison are no longer in danger of disappearing, at least for now. And thanks to Martha Mans and Gordon, the majestic bison will not soon be forgotten.   


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6. The Toothless Tooth Fairy

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Title: The Toothless Tooth Fairy

Author: Shanelle Hicks

Illustrator: Anca Delia Budeanu

Publisher/Year: Mirror Publishing/2014

 

Author Shanelle Hicks and illustrator Anca Delia Budeanu have created a dazzling fairy story, in their picture book The Toothless Tooth Fairy, that could easily rival any fairy book on the market today. Their book is filled with brilliant illustrations that depict seven lovely and ethnically diverse young tooth fairies who have come together to take part in the Miss Tooth Fairy Smile Contest. For fairies who place much importance on teeth, a smile contest certainly seems fitting.

One tooth fairy in particular, Bella, was known for her beauty and her kindness. All of the other fairies thought for sure that she would win. But one jealous fairy, Zelda, maliciously causes Bella to lose a tooth. With a missing tooth, Bella no longer feels beautiful, so she sets off to find a tooth. Her three attempts to borrow a child’s tooth fail and Bella returns to Cloud Nine defeated and depressed where she meets Zelda who brags about what she’s done and how she will win the contest. But instead of being angry or being upset that she won’t win the contest, Bella feels sad for Zelda and because she is a kind fairy, gives Zelda a hug. Her magical hug transforms Zelda’s heart and she becomes beautiful too, on the inside and the outside.

What I like best about The Toothless Tooth Fairy is the message that true beauty comes from a kind heart. The message is not preached, but rather it is woven into a sweet and entertaining story that kids (especially young girls) will enjoy.


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7. Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

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Title: Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

Author/Illustrator: Nata Romeo

Year: 2014

Nata Romeo’s stunning children’s concept book, Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, introduces young readers to the 26 letters of the alphabet accompanied by corresponding animals.

I’m truly impressed by Nata’s watercolor and pen and ink illustrations, which are visual feasts for the eye. Some are bursting with color while others are wholly black and white. Most are a mix of both color and black and white, but all of them are unique, lively, and beautiful to look at. My favorites include the bird on the “B is for Bird” page and the cat that sneaks its way in at the very end of the book. Nata’s choice to use the image of the lion for the front cover was a good one. It’s attention grabbing and gorgeous.

While Alphabet Wildlife A To Z will help children learn the alphabet, I believe the book will stimulate artistic creativity in children as well. Kids are going to want to draw their own animals surrounded by fun and dramatic backgrounds, just as Nata has done, and I think that’s awesome!


4 Comments on Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, last added: 8/17/2014
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8. Meet the Finalists: Lauri Fortino

Lauri Fortino:

I was featured today on the MeeGenius blog!

Originally posted on MeeGenius Blog:

Lauri Fortino

Meet Lauri Fortino, author of “Dinosaur Tag”

View original 302 more words


2 Comments on Meet the Finalists: Lauri Fortino, last added: 8/13/2014
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9. The Gentleman Bat

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Title: The Gentleman Bat

Author: Abraham Schroeder

Illustrator: Piotr Parda

Publisher/Year: Ripple Grove Press/2014

 

The Gentleman Bat is a spectacular debut for picture book publisher Ripple Grove Press. From the amazing front cover all the way to the satisfying conclusion, I was completely mesmerized and drawn into a bygone era filled not with people, but with gentleman and lady bats. The text is fluid, fun, and fantastic to read, and is complemented by beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations. 

Join the gentleman bat as he takes a stroll along cobblestone streets dressed in his finest attire and ready for a night on the town.

The gentleman bat, with his gentleman’s cane,

went out for a walk one night in the rain.

He meets his lady friend and the two head to the town square where a band is playing. She accepts his offer to dance.

He spun her around and dipped her down low;

she giggled and laughed and kicked up her toe.

Could there be a romance brewing?

Their hearts fluttered wistfully as he departed,

and made his way back to his house where he started.

The Gentleman Bat is a lovely story that will entrance both children and adults. And if you are not a fan of bats, this picture book just may change the way you feel about the oft-misunderstood creature of the night. The Gentleman Bat is available for pre-order now and is due out October 1. Congratulations Ripple Grove Press!


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10. The MeeGenius Author Challenge

 

 

I am thrilled to be a finalist in the 2014 MeeGenius Author Challenge! MeeGenius is a digital children’s book publisher that offers hundreds of picture eBooks via the MeeGenius app which is available for download to all the major operating systems and devices. MeeGenius creates enhanced eBooks that captivate young readers by sporting “read-along word highlighting, rich illustrations, and engaging story narration”.

I am one of ten finalists. In September, a winner will be selected who will receive a cash prize. Regardless of who wins, all of the finalists stories will be published in digital format and available at www.meegenius.com. Click on the MeeGenius logo at the top to see all of the finalists. And stay tuned to find out when my story Dinosaur Tag will be available and if I win the contest!


2 Comments on The MeeGenius Author Challenge, last added: 8/2/2014
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11. Swooning Over Swag (or Christmas in July)

I count myself lucky to know some really terrific people. And one such person is my colleague and friend Brian Abbott. Brian is the coworker who went to the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference back in January and brought me back several ARCs. (Read more about that by clicking Here.) A few weeks ago, he attended the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and he came back bearing swag, and lots of it! From posters, to prints, to magnets, and even CDs, they were giving it all away at ALA. And Brian gave a bunch to me! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But his generosity didn’t end there. He waited in line and managed to grab me a signed copy, yes, a signed copy of Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s book Locomotive! (Read my review of Locomotive Here.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, that’s definitely sweet, but the most unique item Brian brought back was a seven-page, full-color booklet that was given out to attendees of the Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet. Brian was invited to attend! (Okay, push down the author envy.) The booklet is so cool; it even has a pop-up in it! Swoon.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Brian, you’re awesome! To learn more about adult mystery novelist Brian Abbott, check out his site, The Poisoned Martini, and look for his debut novel Death On Stoneridge, coming soon.


2 Comments on Swooning Over Swag (or Christmas in July), last added: 7/25/2014
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12. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I’ve been wanting to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for quite some time. I finally got the chance to go this past weekend. So, with my sister Linda acting as navigator, I drove over 200 miles and 3 1/2 hours along the New York State Thruway to Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day Sunday, perfect for a road trip. And though we were on a highway, we passed through some very scenic areas with rolling tree-covered hills and picturesque valleys. We even crossed the Hudson River. 

After many miles, two rest stops, and two toll booths, we finally reached the museum with no trouble. Although, I almost drove right past it until I spotted this gorgeous sign marking the entrance.

The building and grounds are beautiful. But you really have to go inside to experience the wonder of the museum. They have three lovely galleries exhibiting artwork from several picture book artists. For our visit, they showcased the art of Simms Taback, Harriet the Spy (the book turns 50 this year), and What’s Your Favorite Animal (a book featuring art from many well-known illustrators, including Eric Carle himself). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No photography was allowed inside the galleries, of course, but the museum offered other opportunities for picture-taking.

 

The museum also has a wonderful library filled with picture books (they also do story times there), an auditorium (for films, lectures, plays, author/illustrator visits), an art studio (where all ages can be creative and crafty), and a bookshop/gift shop (I was like a kid in a candy store). All that was missing was a full-service cafe, though they do have a vending machine and plenty of places to sit and eat inside and outside (in a lovely orchard) if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister and I had such a good time. I hope to visit again sometime in the near future. If you are a picture book lover, I highly recommend it. And while you’re there, don’t forget to use the restroom; you won’t regret it!

Yes, this is a bathroom stall!


4 Comments on The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, last added: 7/1/2014
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13. Why I Self-Published & What Works by Tabitha Grace Smith

If you are curious about self publishing, then you will find author Tabitha Grace Smith’s article fascinating. She has some excellent advice for authors who are considering self publishing. She also explains why she chose the self-publishing path over traditional publishing, what’s involved, and how she makes it work.

Why I Self-Published & What Works
by Tabitha Grace Smith

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 9 years old. I chose my college, my career (I work in social media marketing), and my hobbies because of this passion for writing. Mostly I had a desire to write adult novels, but when my first niece was born I desperately wanted to write kid’s books. Books had a huge impact on me and I wanted to share that with my nieces (who are now 6 and 7). The idea for my first book came from my cats, who seemed to love sitting on the edge of my bathtub, but never wanted to go in. I wrote Jack the Kitten is Very Brave, a book about a cat who loved being a pirate, but was afraid of water.

I read a lot about the book publishing industry. From my research I knew that picture books are incredibly hard to break into as a first-time writer. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to get published and miss the years where my book would be perfect for my nieces. That sense of a deadline was a huge deciding factor in self-publishing.

Self-publishing has become less of a stigma in the past couple years, but there still is a stigma and anyone who wants to self-publish needs to understand that. I had a lot of questions when I first went about publishing Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and several people immediately assumed that it wouldn’t be a good book if I did it myself.

When it came to choosing how to self-publish I did a lot of research. I wanted a POD (Print on Demand) service so I didn’t get stuck with boxes and boxes of books. I also have a lot of friends who live all over the world so I wanted a service where they could order without paying a TON of money. CreateSpace (which is part of Amazon) wound up being the perfect solution. Just a note here: you shouldn’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to a self-print book service. Beware, there are a lot of scams out there. You’ll never make that money back.

There are four HUGE skills you need to self-publish:
1. Design Skills
2. Art Skills
3. Editing Skills
4. Marketing Skills

Design Skills. Thankfully, I have some design skills. My first job was doing graphics and layout. A big part of doing a book yourself is understanding how to format and set up a layout. You’ll need to understand things like pixels, dpi, how to create a multi-page PDF, page bleeds, etc. If you don’t know these things there are a ton of free classes online to get the skills. Another option is to hire someone. Please make sure to pay for the service. Formatting and layout for a book is a lot of work and it takes a good amount of time.

Art Skills. I have zero art skills. I can draw some pretty awesome stick figures, but that is not good enough for most picture books (Okay, one of my books I drew myself, but it’s pretty doodle-y). For the artwork I had a dear friend, Mindy Lou Hagan, who I had seen a ton of art from. I loved her style and we worked together on the layout and images. I have to be completely honest here, a lot of the unsuccessful self-published children’s books I’ve seen have terrible artwork. Do yourself a favor and search for a good artist. If you have no artistic talent yourself or you have no artistic friends, search sites like Deviantart.com. Again, pay your artist. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when artists don’t get paid. Artwork is at least 50% of the selling point of a children’s book. Mindy and I agreed on payment before we started the project. Have that all in writing.

Editing Skills. Picture books need as much (if not more) editing as a novel. Have as many people as you can read your book before you publish it. I found out early on that people will catch different things, so multiple editors really helps. Also, try and have at least a couple friends who will be 100% honest with you (i.e. don’t just have your mom read it). Have the editors edit the text, have them edit the text placement, and have them edit the story. Read the story out loud to kids and check their enthusiasm level (if you have no kids, ask a local school librarian if you can come in and read your book). Edit. Edit. Edit. A lot of first-time writers are way too attached to their writing. As a result, they’re not open to edits and changes. Don’t be that person. Listen to what your editors say and take it to heart if they’re right.

Marketing Skills. So you have a book. It’s uploaded. Fantastic! No one is going to buy it. This is the huge con for self-publishing. There are no sales without your marketing. Absolutely none. There are thousands of books out there that someone can buy for their child. If they don’t know about your book, they will not buy it. You’re going to need to sharpen your marketing skills. Learn how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) effectively, learn how to publicize without being spammy (check the authors that you love and see how they do it), offer a print copy of your book to some bloggers (check to see how much interaction they have on their blog), pitch yourself to local schools and offer a free author visit, ask folks for help to get the word out, and find places you can sell your book (local fairs, garage sales, charity events, etc.). Cross-promotion with other blogs and authors is your big friend here. I think 90% of the time people usually buy self-published books because they love the author.

There are a couple other things you need to learn like self-employment taxes, keeping track of expenses, etc. Find a tax accountant who can help you with that if you start making some good money off your book.

{From Tabitha Grace Smith’s book Machu the Cat is Very Hungry}

Another option for publishing and getting the funds you need to publish is crowdfunding. My latest book, Jack the Kitten is Very Sleepy, I am funding through Kickstarter. This is a great way to get fans in on helping make the book and pay for the artwork. If you’d like to check it out, it’s here: bit.ly/SleepyJack. If you like pirates and cats, it may be the perfect book for you!

Kickstarter is a huge commitment; I often tell people it’s like a full-time job. So if you’re thinking about crowdfunding, I really suggest backing a couple projects first to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve been very happy with how well my books have done so far. I’m no Stephen King of picture books, but I’ve sold a good amount. Copies of my books are all over the world. I get awesome letters from kids who have read my books. Best of all, my nieces love my books and I get to read them to them whenever I visit. School visits are probably my favorite. Once, I was walking the hall of one school as the kids were going home, one of the little first graders got all excited when she saw me and waved like mad and said, “Hi, Author!”. It was a really fun feeling.

My big take away from the whole experience is that self-publishing and doing it well is a lot of work, but it’s a ton of fun too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and give help to others whenever you can. Another thing that really helped me was giving my book away. A lot. Ultimately, I wanted kids to read it, not to become rich. One time I was at a car wash fundraiser and I saw a very sad little boy. I happened to have copies of my book in my bag and I gave him one. His face lit up like it was Christmas. That was well worth buying the book myself and giving it away. After all, what good is a book if no one reads it?

Well said, Tabitha!

Tabitha Grace Smith is a professional geek, blogger, writer, web designer, podcaster, social media expert, and strategist. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She’s written five children’s books including, Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, which were based on her real life cats. You can find them on Amazon or over at MachuandJack.com. She also wrote a book for reluctant readers called Mary Lou Wants to Be A Big Star and a book about dealing with bullies called Everyone’s Mean, Except When They’re Not. Both are available on Amazon. Her latest book, Jack the Kitten is Very Sleepy is currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

Find her on Goodreads or online at tabithagracesmith.com.

{The real Jack and Machu with their books}

{Tabitha Grace Smith's latest picture book}

{Tabitha Grace Smith’s latest picture book}


4 Comments on Why I Self-Published & What Works by Tabitha Grace Smith, last added: 6/27/2014
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14. When You Are Blue (A Squishy Blueberry Tale)

 


Sharing information about great causes is something I love to do here on Frog on a Blog, particularly if the cause is related to picture books and helping children. So, I am thrilled to introduce Squishy Blueberry, a charming character created by author and illustrator Amanda I. Greene, who is also the founder of D’inkling Publishing. Amanda’s goal, through her Squishy Blueberry book series, is to encourage children to look within in order to discover a wealth of confidence, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence, qualities that we all possess but might need a bit of help bringing to the surface.

Amanda’s first book, Reflections of a Blueberry, is already available and is beaming with beautiful, whimsical, brightly colored illustrations and lyrical, rhyming text. To bring her second book to life, When You Are Blue, Amanda is seeking our help through a PUBSLUSH campaign. Please click on the cover image above to learn more about Amanda’s worthwhile project. You can watch a video, read about Amanda’s vision, make a contribution (and earn some great perks), or simply spread the word. You can also go to the Squishy Blueberry site: http://www.squishyblueberry.com/ for more information and oodles of “squishy blueberry” fun. 

I think a little bit of Amanda herself can be found in the character of Squishy Blueberry who follows his heart and his dreams, notable endeavors indeed. Good luck, Amanda!

{Image from the When You Are Blue PUBSLUSH campaign page}

 


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15. The Change Your Name Store

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Title: The Change Your Name Store

Author: Leanne Shirtliffe

Illustrator: Tina Kugler

Publisher/Year: Sky Pony Press/2014

Summary: Wilma Lee Wu doesn’t like her name anymore, so she decides to try on some new names at the Change Your Name Store and is transported all over the world to new cultures.

The Change Your Name Store is a fantastic first introduction to new cultures for the youngest armchair travelers. It’s super fun to read aloud, which is good because you may be reading it over and over again. Its rhyming text not only rolls off the tongue, but also presents some rather unusual names  from around the world that kids will find fascinating. 

The energetic illustrations perfectly depict a precocious little girl, Wilma Lee Wu, as she imagines herself with a new name and experiences life in new cultures. I especially like how her dog accompanies her to all the new places and even becomes a poodle when they arrive in Paris. I also like the wraparound cover with the beautifully detailed buildings. There’s a library on the back!

I can relate a bit to Wilma. When I was growing up, I didn’t like my name either. I even approached my mother once about changing it to Lorraine or Lorena (I know, they’re not that much different from my name, silly me.). It was, of course, a phase I was going through, and it didn’t take long for me to appreciate and embrace my name, just as Wilma does.


4 Comments on The Change Your Name Store, last added: 6/20/2014
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16. Woot Woot! I’m Getting Published!

I want to share good news with all of my Frog on a Blog fans. I’ve signed with the awesome Ripple Grove Press to publish my first picture book! It’s called The Peddler’s Bed and it’s due out in the spring of 2015. 

I actually signed the contract back last October, but I wanted to wait until we got a little closer to publication before making my announcement. 

I am eager to see a few sketches from the incredibly talented Bong Redila, the illustrator who will be working on The Peddler’s Bed. Hopefully that will happen soon, but in the meantime, I’m trying very hard to focus on writing and revising new stories. I love writing picture book stories, and I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer. (I’ll share more about that in an upcoming post.) I think I forgot about it for a while, up until about 9 years ago. That’s when I took a “Writing Stories for Children” class and started getting words down on paper. Then, I put my writing on hold again in 2009 in order to go back to school and get my degree in Library and Information Services. Happily, I finished my education this past winter and am now diving head first into writing children’s picture books. 

To prove to myself that I am a real writer, and with my wonderful husband’s support, we went shopping for a new desk. I got a chair too! We rearranged some furniture. My husband put the desk together (Did I mention how wonderful he is?). I assembled the chair (Yay, me!). And the result: I now have my own little office space. 

It may be small, but it’s all mine! Well, I do have to share it with my assistant.

He keeps a close eye on me to make sure I’m working hard. If he thinks I need a break, he’ll often go for a walk with me. He’s really helpful.

I get ideas and inspiration from our walks, but also from my book collection. Here are some of my picture books…

…and my pop-up books (upper shelf)…

…and my writing books.

Thank you for taking this tour with me and for being a fan of Frog on a Blog. If you haven’t already, please consider entering your e-mail in the box to the right to become an official follower. And be on the look out for The Peddler’s Bed next spring! Woot Woot!!!


7 Comments on Woot Woot! I’m Getting Published!, last added: 6/15/2014
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17. Aviator Owl Books: Enlightening Children, Raising Awareness, Supporting Great Causes

Today’s interview is with a young entrepreneur and college student who has become a huge inspiration to me. S.A. Porcher is one of the creative minds behind Aviator Owl Books Inc., a company devoted to sparking imagination in children while also raising awareness of and contributing to charitable causes. S.A. Porcher and her partner, Chris Bill, have pledged to donate a portion of the proceeds of the sales of their picture books, eBooks, and other products to causes such as First Book and The Make-A-Wish Foundation. They are also dedicated to creating quality books for children that entertain and educate. I’m excited about Aviator Owl Books. I’m convinced it’s a rising star and I’m happy to share its story with you. Read on to learn more about S.A. Porcher and AO Books.

Q. Can you tell me a bit about yourself and what inspired you to start Aviator Owl Books? 

S.P. Sure! I’m 24 years old, I love being outside and I love to learn new things. I was raised on a steady diet of imagination, curiosity and science, which is probably why it is rare for me to find a subject that I don’t enjoy (and also why I was always into trouble as a child – sorry Mom). I have always had ideas for stories randomly bubbling up in my head, but it wasn’t until college that I started to act on them. The original designs for Aviator Owl were born the summer before I left for Purdue University, and I never thought it would go further than digital images that I sold on a site called Zazzle. The five owls were created specifically to be sold on that site, and I had never really considered it more than a fun summer project. 

Meet the five owls.

Only later was it recommended to me that I write a children’s book, and The Aviator Owls Learn Their ABCs was born in the fall of 2010. At the same time I was working on a side project called Write for the Cause – which was (then) completely separate from Aviator Owl. The first book was My Dragon Humphrey, which I wrote specifically with HALO Animal Rescue in mind. I got pretty serious about Write for the Cause, and had all but given up on Aviator Owl to focus on it. 

As luck would have it, I met Chris Bill in the fall of 2012, and after a lot of discussing and planning, we officially went into business together in October 2013. He loved the idea of writing books to promote causes, and with his background in Computer Graphics Technology, we Frankensteined all of our talents into one entity that we could both get behind. We decided to merge the Aviator Owl characters with the idea of writing books for causes. Through research we discovered that children today enjoy books in print and online, which ties into Chris’s background of CGT quite nicely. We also found that kids hate learning unless it’s done in a way where they have fun. Put simply: they like games. All of these put together and we came up with Aviator Owl Books Inc. So your question “What inspired me to start AO Books?” is tricky to answer. I wanted to help children learn, but both Chris and I also wanted to do something we love. I think what we came up with fits both.

Q. What is the goal or mission of Aviator Owl Books? 

S.P. AO Books seeks to inspire and educate children through print books, eBooks, online games, and apps. (Or at least that is what we are hoping for in the future. Right now we only have print books and eBooks.) We want to help cultivate children’s imaginations, and also raise awareness of important causes. Right now we support HALO Animal Rescue, First Book, and the Make-A-Wish America, but we hope to show our support for many more in the future.

Q. Who writes, illustrates, and publishes the books you sell? 

S.P. I do. I was born to make up stories, and I’ve been writing them down since I knew how. (Although when I was younger I also included illustrations that make no sense to anyone anymore.) I fell in love with drawing when I was in high school and taught myself Adobe Illustrator the summer before college. I love having the ability to come up with a story, write it, and illustrate it on my own because it gives me a freedom that I know a lot of other writers and illustrators are forced to give up. That being said, I do have story ideas that demand a certain type of illustrative style, and I’m not talented enough to fulfill exactly what I want. I am trying to teach myself, and I practice almost every day, but if the time comes to begin serious work on those stories and I don’t feel prepared to complete adequate illustrations, then I have no problem hiring a freelancer to help us out. 

S.A. Porcher's drawing process.

S.A. Porcher’s drawing process.

As for the publisher: AO Books goes through Amazon’s CreateSpace. We purchase our own ISBNs and barcodes and put them on the covers and then upload all of our files onto our CreateSpace platform. Eventually we would love to publish our own books in-house, but that’s something that we’ll have to address as we grow.

Q. How do you decide what charities to contribute to? 

S.P. All three of the charities we support now have come to us differently. We did research to find an organization that made sense for our ABC book, and First Book was a perfect fit. HALO Animal Rescue was chosen because Ellen DeGeneres mentions it on her show occasionally, and she’s a huge inspiration to me. The most recent charity we chose was the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and we chose that to go along with the book called The Boy Who Played With Stars (which was just launched). I came up with the idea for that book in a (dreadfully boring) English course. I was doodling stars and thinking that everyone should be able to do what they want to do in life, even if it seems crazy. A boy who literally goes into the sky to play with the stars is a bit far-fetched, but the idiom is very common. Shoot for the stars, and dream big. Chris and I have both known people who participate in Make-A-Wish, so it seemed like a no-brainer for that book. Of course, we also accept suggestions!

Q. What books are currently available and how can they be purchased? 

S.P. All three books can be purchased at Amazon.com.

Links:

The Aviator Owls Learn Their ABCs: http://www.amazon.com/Aviator-Owls-Learn-Their-ABCs/dp/0988636824/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1401761201&sr=8-13&keywords=s.+a.+porcher

The Boy Who Played With Stars: http://www.amazon.com/The-Boy-Who-Played-Stars/dp/0988636832/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1401761181&sr=8-10&keywords=s.+a.+porcher

My Dragon Humphrey: http://www.amazon.com/My-Dragon-Humphrey-S-Porcher/dp/0988636808/ref=sr_1_12?ie=UTF8&qid=1401761201&sr=8-12&keywords=s.+a.+porcher

Q. Do you have other items available for purchase as well? 

S.P. We currently offer free printable activities, which we upload to our website two times a week (Mondays and Thursdays). Those can be accessed here: http://blog.aviatorowl.com/activities/all/. 

We also have a very small Zazzle storefront. It used to be much larger but after our trademark was approved, we took everything down and slowly we are uploading new designs with the trademark. There you can purchase clothing, posters, iPhone cases, etc. Eventually we’d love to expand to stuffed animals and educational toys, but for now we’re more focused on the books and expanding those into interactive online pages, even if they are just seasonal. For example, this past Christmas we set up a site where kids could write a letter to Santa.

A Christmas project at AO Books.

Q. As a full-time student, how do you juggle your academic life and the responsibilities involved in running Aviator Owl Books? 

S.P. Very carefully, and sometimes not well! (There are a lot of sleepless nights involved.) My three majors are Industrial Design (aka Product Design), English, and Creative Writing, and my two minors are Entrepreneurship and Psychology. Every day at school I take classes that are directly applicable to AO Books, so that helps keep me motivated to learn new things, which in turn helps keep my grades up. On the flip side, AO Books benefits from what I learn. Of course, there is the occasional class that bores me to death and those are the classes in which you can find me at the very back doodling, drafting, editing, or anything else AO Books needs done. 

I often have people tell me that I’ve “bitten off more than I can chew”, or whatnot, but I think part of keeping everything from spinning into chaos is keeping the right perspective. I keep in mind that I’m very lucky to be in school, which is something some students take for granted. I know a lot of college students are notorious for procrastinating, but my version of procrastinating is working on Aviator Owl because that’s what I love. I love coming home to sketch and think about otherwise impossible things (like a boy who plays in the night sky). I know exactly what I want to do and really college is just teaching me how to do it.

Q. Where can people go to find more information about Aviator Owl Books? 

S.P. Our main website can be found at blog.aviatorowl.com. At http://www.zazzle.com/aviatorowl we have some products (and we upload new designs as we create them). And of course people are free to email me at saporcher050@gmail.com, or the company at aviatorowl@gmail.com!


2 Comments on Aviator Owl Books: Enlightening Children, Raising Awareness, Supporting Great Causes, last added: 6/8/2014
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18. The Sunshine Award

I was surprised and pleased to be nominated for the Sunshine Award by Lauri Meyers over at Lauri’s Stories. She is so sweet to think of me and I’m so glad that Frog on a Blog has brought some sunshine into her life. Incidentally, Sunshine was the name of my most favorite stuffed toy growing up. He’s a dog in overalls with a matching denim cap and he has bright orange eyes. I still have him!

As I understand it, in order to earn the Sunshine Award, I have to share ten interesting things about myself and then nominate some other deserving bloggers. I’m happy to share, but I’ll let you be the judge as to how interesting my little blurbs are. So here goes-

  1. When I was a kid, I couldn’t say aquamarine, so I called the color aquadarium.
  2. Also when I was a kid, I waited until everyone left the dinner table and then I stuck my peas down the heating vent. My mother didn’t find out until years later. I still hate yucky peas!
  3. I’m probably the oldest female fan of the Japanese anime series Naruto. Believe it!
  4. I worked as a stable hand and groom on a horse farm when I was in my mid-twenties.
  5. My grandmother, Harriet Whipple, was an awesome poet and was published many times in Ideals Magazine. They still occasionally print her poems.
  6. I was on a bowling team for ten years. Please don’t ask me if I was any good.
  7. I have a fraternal twin sister named Linda. She somehow managed to grow four inches taller than me.
  8. I run outside when I see sun and rain at the same time. There could be a rainbow!
  9. When I’m irritated, my word of choice is “meep”. My husband got me a t-shirt with “meep” on the front.
  10. Again when I was a kid, I used to snoop for Christmas presents in my parent’s bedroom closet. I was a good kid though, really.

Whoa, that was a lot of information! Okay, now it’s my turn to nominate some bloggers. To those of you I’ve nominated, if this isn’t your thing (or if you’ve already been nominated), no worries, I still want to recognize your excellent blogs here on the Frog:

Robin Newman at Robin Newman Books

Vicky Lorencen at Frog on a Dime

Sarah Harroff at An Awfully Big Adventure

Christie Wright Wild at Write Wild

Fiona Campbell at Book Bake Blog


7 Comments on The Sunshine Award, last added: 6/2/2014
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19. 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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20. Pelican Bill – A Sickeningly Good Yarn!

Kids love stories about pirates. Kids also love to laugh. What’s funnier than a pirate who gets seasick? Wouldn’t your child want to read a story like that? That is exactly what children’s author Fran Sivers and illustrator Leilani Coughlan have created in their book Pelican Bill. But they need our help. They’ve begun a KickStarter campaign in order to raise the necessary funds they need to bring Pelican Bill and his pirate crew to life in a children’s picture book. Please go to their KickStarter page, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1163027881/pelican-bill-a-sickeningly-good-yarn, watch the short video clip, read about the project (you can even read the entire rollicking, rhyming, jolly good story), and consider supporting their campaign. If you cannot help financially, at least spread the word about this really great cause. I’m sure Fran and Leilani will appreciate any assistance you can give.


0 Comments on Pelican Bill – A Sickeningly Good Yarn! as of 4/24/2014 10:45:00 PM
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21. Children’s Classics on DVD

Not too long ago, while at the library, I came across the DVD Guess How Much I Love You (The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare): Friendship Adventures (2011).

I instantly thought that I should watch it and see how it compares to the classic book written by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram.

So I checked out the DVD along with the book Guess How Much I Love You (1994) and another, more recent title, The Adventures of Little Nutbrown Hare (2012). I needed to refamiliarize myself with the story and the characters.

The DVD does a nice job bringing the beloved Little Nutbrown Hare, his father Big Nutbrown Hare, and his animal friends to life, in seven short chapters. It’s skillfully animated and beaming with beautiful color. I love the flowers that are all over the meadow and the sweetness of the characters.

The stories are about friendship, sharing, caring, honesty, feelings, promises, forgiveness, and doing what’s right. It’s perfect for the littlest viewers, just like the books are perfect for the youngest readers. Recently, I discovered that there are other books and other DVDs starring Little Nutbrown Hare and his friends. So if you are looking for a good, sweet series for your young child, I highly recommend this one!

This comparison got me thinking about other classic children’s stories that have appeared on DVD, or have been made into movies or TV series. I’m sure there are quite a few. If you know of any, especially those of you who have kids, please share!

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4 Comments on Children’s Classics on DVD, last added: 4/29/2014
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22. Interview Alert: Lori Nichols

I am incredibly pleased to present this awesome interview with the author and illustrator of Maple, Lori Nichols. After I requested the interview, and she accepted, I was super eager to read her responses to my questions. She did not disappoint! Lori’s answers are detailed, personal, and interesting, with a sprinkling of humor mixed in. You are going to love this interview!

Q. Can you tell us a little about your process from start to finish when you created Maple?

L.N. The process of creating Maple was organic. To start, I’d have to go back about 45 years. I have always loved trees. We had a beautiful Maple tree in our yard growing up, and I played under it all the time. This is one of my favorite, and earliest, memories from my childhood. I remember the moss on the trunk, digging for worms, big black ants that I’d let crawl on my arms and legs, the knobby feel of the bark. Most importantly though, I remember the canopy of the tree. It truly was magic for me to sit under my tree and look up at the sky between the leaves.

When I had my own daughters, my husband and I planted a tree for each one. They were actually oak tree saplings (my husband’s favorite tree) from the yard where he grew up in West Virginia. We watched our children and their trees grow together. So began the story for what is now Maple. But in a strange way I didn’t set out to write this story. It came organically from a sketch here, a drawing there, and from watching my children play outside.

One day in 2010 my daughter Zoe was eating grapes. She came into my studio and held up the bare grape stem and said “Look Mom, a tree.” The grape stem did look like a tree, so Zoe and I scanned the grape stem into the computer and scanned some Japanese Maple leaves from the tree in our yard and began doing fun things in Photoshop. I then plopped a small pencil drawing of a little girl in with our tree creations and wrote “Maple loved her name.” This was another “growth ring” in Maple’s story.Grapes2

I showed the drawing to my agent and she encouraged me to work it into a story. This process started in July and took a few months. Then in November we were ready to pitch it, and Nancy Paulsen Books picked it up. Nancy Paulsen, Cecilia Yung and Marikka Tamura directed me over the next year on changes that would help the story. It then took another year for the book to be printed and  marketed. The rest is history!

 

 

 

 

 

Q. What are the pros and cons when it comes to illustrating your own book?

L.N. Pros: It’s completely driven by my imagination.
Cons: It’s completely driven by my imagination.

Q. What was your experience like working with the editors at Nancy Paulsen Books?

L.N. Nancy Paulsen is lovely and incredibly gentle in her approach with me. She understands and respects the creative process and seems to know just the right amount of direction to give. Not giving me too much or too little direction allows me to still take ownership of the book. I feel incredibly lucky that this was my debut picture book and that I had such a wonderful mentor. I also have a sticky note on my computer that says “Listen to your voice, I trust it.” Cecilia Yung, one of my art directors on Maple, said this to me and I try to take this advice when I start doubting myself.

Q. Can you tell aspiring children’s book authors and illustrators what it’s like to work with a literary agent?

L.N. My literary agent rocks! I think she’s an alien from another planet though, because I have no idea when (if ever) she sleeps. Her name is Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary, and we started working together about four years ago when she saw my portfolio at a NY SCBWI conference. She contacted me after the conference asking if I needed representation. Joanna has reminded me of my own voice and vision, and has encouraged me in so many ways. She gives me great feedback on my manuscripts and always provides me with the direction I need to elevate my work to the next level. I came to the picture book business by way of illustration and page design so I felt vulnerable when it came to telling my stories with words. She believed in me. Plus, there’s no question that’s too mundane or insignificant for her. She approaches all my questions with respect and even though she’s extremely busy she’ll get back with me at the drop of a hat. Yep, she’s an alien from another planet.

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

L.N. OK, this is a question that might take a lot of time to answer. I’ll try to narrow it down. Here is the short list: Tomie dePaola, Roger Duvoisin, Mary Blair, Kevin Henkes, Olof and Lena Landstrom (my all-time favorite illustrator/writer team EVER!), William Steig, Barbara Cooney (love!), Maurice Sendak, Sandra Boynton, David Ezra Stein, and my three girls.

Q. Why do you believe picture books are important?

L.N. I love this question because it’s something I feel very passionate about. As a new mother, I began reading to my daughter when she was very, very young. Days home from the hospital we would snuggle up to one another and I would read to her for as long as she’d let me. She seemed to crave my voice and even though she was too little to focus on the pages, she loved this time (and so did I). It became a long love of reading for her, and then for my other two daughters. But first, it was a safe, warm, soft, happy place to hear their mother’s (or father’s voice). For me it was a beautiful bonding experience. I also think picture books are journeys for children, journeys where a child can explore a world in a safe environment…on the lap of a caregiver.

Q. What exciting projects are you working on right now?

L.N. I’m currently working on some companion books to Maple that I’m really excited about (see next question). Also, I’ve just finished illustrating the wonderfully hilarious book This Orq. (He Cave Boy.) by the talented author David Elliott (Boyds Mills Press, September 2014).

Q. What does the future hold for Maple and her little sister Willow?

L.N. I have a companion book to Maple titled Maple and Willow Together coming out November 2014. I am also working on a third companion book with a tentative publish date of September 2015.

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

L.N. http://www.lorinichols.com, Lori Nichols on Facebook, Maple on Facebook, lorinicholsbook on Instagram, @lorinicholsbook on Twitter

Q. Any closing thoughts for fans?

L.N. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for loving Maple (and Willow) as much as I do.


2 Comments on Interview Alert: Lori Nichols, last added: 5/4/2014
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23. Check Out Alan Sitomer’s Photo Contest!

I’m happy to share an exciting and super-fun new contest offered by the amazing, successful, award-winning teacher and author, Alan Sitomer! Alan created his fabulous photo contest to celebrate his brand new picture book, Daddy’s Zigzagging Bedtime Story, which was recently praised in USA Today as a perfect pick for Father’s Day. It sounds like it’s following in the footsteps of his other wonderful “Daddy” book, Daddies Do It Different. Both books are illustrated by the talented Abby Carter. 

Contest participants must submit a photo of what bedtime reading looks like in their home. You can enter to win a library of books from the Disney Book Group or a copy of one of Alan’s books.  Click Here To Enter. Good luck!


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24. Arthur and the Elephant

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Title: Arthur and the Elephant

Author: Fiona Campbell

Illustrator: Laura Vann

Publisher/Year: Purple Poodle Press/2014

I am a big fan of elephant stories. Elephants are amazing creatures. With their huge size, large ears, long trunks, and wrinkly skin, it’s no wonder that kids are fascinated by them. So it just makes sense that kids would like stories about elephants too. And I know they will love Arthur and the Elephant. 

Author Fiona Campbell tells us the amusing story of a boy named Arthur who discovers an elephant sitting on his bed. His mother has rented out his room. She doesn’t know that Mr. Grey is an elephant, but Arthur does. He just needs to prove it. The rest of the story follows Arthur as he tries everything he can think of to expose the elephant beneath the bowler hat and funny glasses. 

I like artist Laura Vann’s large, full-page illustrations. They are both sweet and humorous and pair nicely with the text. I’m especially fond of the background images and textures she’s used to depict the walls in Arthur’s house. Very nice!  

Overall, Arthur and the Elephant is a fun, clever, endearing story with lovely illustrations and a satisfying ending. Share a copy of this book with your kids today!


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25. Parodies: The Power of Picture Books

32929  If someday someone writes a parody of your book, then you know that your book has power, staying power. It’s so well-known and so popular, that another author has decided to “borrow” and capitalize on your recognizable style, story, or theme to generate interest in his or her own book. 

There are many, many parodies of beloved and classic children’s books. Most are NOT for children. Often they poke fun at popular culture, mainstream America,  or some social issue that’s dominating the media. Sometimes they’re just for fun. Sometimes they’re a bit risqué. Sometimes they’re a tad offensive. And usually, they are not authorized. 

Pop Quiz: Which of the following are for children?

 

Answer: With the exception of Goodnight Goon, which is a “monstrously” clever picture book crawling with creepy creatures, none of the above are for children.

The 1947 classic, Goodnight Moon, is probably one of the most parodied picture books. Here are a few more “Goodnight” books: Goodnight Putter, Goodnight Keith Moon, and Goodnight Husband Goodnight Wife.

Other popular children’s picture books that have been parodied include Curious George, The Runaway Bunny, The Giving Tree, Pat the Bunny, and Where the Wild Things Are. Here’s just a sampling:

Furious Husband Mummy Tree

Whether you love them or hate them, parodies are proof-Picture Books Have Power!


4 Comments on Parodies: The Power of Picture Books, last added: 5/24/2014
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