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Viewing Blog: Picture Book Junkies, Most Recent at Top
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A group of author/illustrators that are absolutely addicted to picture books and the children's book industry. This blog serves as an extension to their online group and website.
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1. Book Review: Goodnight Songs

As soon as I heard about Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown I knew it needed to be in my home. A collection of 12 lullabies illustrated by some of the finest illustrators in the field, it also includes a beautiful CD of all the songs. The cover is by Isabel Roxas (and it's our favorite song of the CD!) I'm sharing a few of my favorite spreads below (so hard to pick!):

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2. Book Review: Frosty the Snowman

In many parts of the US, it is still winter. And prime snowman building season. Frosty the Snowman, illustrated by Wade Zahares with a musical CD by Kenny Loggins is honestly just year-round fun.

I'm lucky enough to know Wade and to have seen some of these amazing pastel paintings in person - note: they are BIG! He has a very unique approach to perspective and high-contrast color palettes that make his work instantly recognizable. Frosty glows almost as much as a real, crisp winter day - magically.

This is my absolute favorite spread in the book. It's a stellar point of view and captures that chase with all the fun intended. The Kenny Loggins version is upbeat but not frenetic - and there are a few other bonus tracks that you'll find your kids popping in on their own. You can find links to many videos of Kenny performing on the Facebook page, here.

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3. Double Picture Book Review: Wild and Part-time Princess

Since I've been away so long, I thought I'd kick my return off with a DOUBLE picture book review!

Two of my favorite picture books that I bought recently are Wild by Emily Hughes and Part-time Princess, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Cambria Evans. The subjects couldn't be further apart, but both are empowering and joyous stories for little ones to read again and again.

Emily Hughes has a blog FULL of amazing work, and her website has this fabulous illustrated story you can NOT miss. I just can't wait to see what she makes next.

Wild is lush and decorative and beautifully designed from cover to cover. The story of a little wild girl who (briefly) returns to civilization packs a strong punch. How often do you see a green haired, sharp toothed little girl as a main character? I won't say more. Just go read it.

Part-time Princess is the FIRST princess book I purchased. My daughter became pink and princess obsessed at about 2.5yo. Rather than ban all princess items out of my own concerns, I was lucky enough to find this lovely book about a brave, fierce princess who enjoys getting dressed up AND getting muddy.

 There are lots of details to surprise you on re-reads and this spread in the tub is catches me every time for it's bold composition and humor. My son just pointed out that the bubbles on her head form a crown, so smart! Cambria Evans also has a wonderful blog, even if it's no longer active - still fun to pore over.

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4. Happy Valentine's Day!

Wishing everyone a very sweet and cozy Valentine's Day!

I'm looking forward to jumping back into my book reviews on this blog - I'm still reading, but I've been focusing very hard on new goals, a new website, and new books. See you back here soon! xoxoxo

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5. Merry Christmas!

                                                ©2013 Deborah Melmon

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a 
happy and creative New Year!

The Picture Book Junkies

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6. SkADaMo!

November is a big month for different writing and illustrating cyber challenges and I so wanted to participate this year. Life has been hectic on this end with a move to a new state...first in a rental and most recently into our own home. That with steady illustration work, there isn't much time to play. I got into it a week late but decided to participate in "SkADaMo", created by the very talented Linda Silvestri.

It means sketch a day month and that is it...pure and simple. Try to create a sketch a day and post it. :)  No pressure whatsoever and that is what I love about it. I don't ever draw for myself anymore and this is allowing me to do so without the anxiety of if it will seek the approval of a teacher, editor, art director etc.
It's the middle of November but you can always jump in too...no rules, remember?  :)
Go Here to read more about it and see a list of participants.

Happy Fall everyone!

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7. Book Review: Mustache Baby

 I'm totally smitten with Mustache Baby. My 2yo and 4.5yo are equally taken with this spectacularly illustrated and hilarious picture book by Bridget Heos and Joy Ang.
The premise is so ridiculous that I dare kids not to need to pick it up and read more. But then the character design, double-meanings, and future of Billy's mustache keep you going.
The illustrations totally knock my socks off - they delivered ultra-cool, stylized characters with tons of emotion and lush details. The turns of phrase and parallels to normal kid life are smart enough to give your older readers motivation to read it again and again. And, it's just funny. And pssst... if the book designer is out there reading this - bravo. From cover to cover, this book is beyond well-designed.

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8. Summer with Albert and Wanda

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer.  Before we see the last of August, I thought I'd show you what I have been up to with the latest editions of Mouse Math by Kane Press. 

Albert decides to make a beach of his own in the People's backyard sandbox in "A Beach for Albert," written by Eleanor May. The only problem is how to fill up his "beach" with water. Albert learns a big lesson on Volume and Capacity in this story. 

As he begins his plan to fill up a "pool" with his own tiny bucket, he soon realizes it will take him the  rest of summer to get the water high enough so that all the mice can go swimming. 

That's where Albert's creative thinking comes in. And, of course, his older sister, Wanda, is not all together sure he knows what he is doing.

 In "Albert is Not Scared," also written by Eleanor May, Albert and Wanda visit Mousey World and this time, it is Albert who is unsure of the amousement park rides. He's not really afraid....he just doesn't like rides that go up and down, or left and right, or around and around.

Albert decides he will go on the Chew-Chew Train, because it only goes "forward," but what happens when Albert and Wanda accidently get in the wrong line for the train? This super fun and fast story teaches Direction Words.

These books are the eighth and ninth books in the adorable Mouse Math series and are available on Amazon.  Additional materials can be downloaded on the Kane Press website. I'm currently illustrating the next book in the series which involves Albert baking in the kitchen!

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9. Babybug Magazine

© copyright Alicia Padrón 2013

I worked on these illustrations for Babybug magazine a while ago. I believe this was for the March 2013 issue, but only until now I was able to see them in person.

 © copyright Alicia Padrón 2013

© copyright Alicia Padrón 2013

Sorry about the not so great pictures, hehe. I had to illustrate different ethnic families on each page and had to make sure the sun was at different times of the day.

 © copyright Alicia Padrón 2013

© copyright Alicia Padrón 2013

I had fun with these! :o)

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10. What We're Reading

Here are some of the books our family is reading this week. We rotate books often, but Richard Scarry has been a staple for my 4yo for the past month or so. Finding this very large storybook was a nice change of pace from Busytown since it seems like we've read all those stories MANY times over. Once this one becomes rote I'll be hunting down some of the books I just saw on the Random House page for Scarry.

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11. What's On My Desk? Squeak Squeak!

This is a tiny corner of a gouache painting in progress. With any luck, it'll be completed in a few days and I will submit it for the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search. I've enjoyed watching friends participate in her Make Art That Sells course, so this was one way for me to get a taste of the action. I'll share the final piece after the deadline next week. I'll also share the internally-dramatic journey I needed to take to get to a final direction for the submission. More to come! And good luck to any readers out there who are also submitting for the contest!!!

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12. What's On My Desk? PBJ Postcards!

What's heading out my door to publishers everywhere? These oversized postcards featuring work from all five of the Picture Book Junkies! I'm excited to roll these out along with our new branding. I'm lucky to know Roz Fulcher, Alicia Padrón, Kathy Weller and Deb Melmon. You'd be lucky to work with any of them. OK, me (Gina Perry) too. This is a self-promo after all!

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13. Judy Blume

This wonderful lady needs no introduction. :o)

I really enjoyed listening to her. Hope you do too!

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14. Back to School with Lilla Rogers

Well, we've wrapped up the first session of Lilla Rogers' e-course, Making Art That Sells. Five weeks went by so fast! We have a couple of months off, and then Part B starts up in the Fall. Can't wait!

The assignment for this final week was to create a Hyper Lush zipper bag. Basically you throw in tons and tons of imagery. Busy is good. I fight with this concept all the time in my picture book work as I can get very busy and have to edit, edit, edit. But with this assignment it was all ok. Open the flood gates!

I added patterns, textures and icons from previous projects with this class, and also from some of my past picture books. There is a flower pattern from "Picnic at Camp Shalom," and photos of flowers from my garden. This project is great for mixing photography and painted art.

The work that has come out of this class is outstanding. I've learned so much, not only from a licensing point of view, but also techniques that I can carry over into my picture book work.

Lilla's class starts again in the Fall. If you have the time, I highly recommend it. You can find all the information on her website here. 

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15. Lumpito And The Painter From Spain

By Monica Kulling

Take one look at those eyes and you are drawn right into this charming tail of a dog who finds his forever home with famous artist, Pablo Picasso. This is a clever little story that focuses on the journey of an adorable dachshund while introducing children to a renowned artist in the process.

 "Lump" begins his life with photographer, David Douglas Duncan, in Italy and although he has a good life there, it could be better without "Big Dog" who takes charge and bullies Lump on a daily basis. David decides to take Lump to the South of France with him when he visits Picasso and it is soon evident that this is the home for him.

Along with the relationship that is growing with Picasso, Lumpito - as he is soon nicknamed- also delights in his newfound friendship with Picasso's big but friendly dog Yan and goat, Esmeralda.

Ultimately, Lumpito is invited to stay for good and the adoration Picasso had for this lovely Doxie is apparent in real life as he is included in several of his works of art.

Dean Griffiths' watercolor and pencil illustrations compliment the story well and captures the warmth and spirit of Lumpito which makes the story all that more engaging.

I love stories that weave fact with fiction and Monica Kulling seems to do this effortlessly. I asked her if she would share her process and how this lovely story of Lumpito came into being.

Meeting Lumpito
I’ve long been fond of writing poems based on paintings. I like the challenge of finding words that resemble the mood and effect that a particular painting conveys. In fact, my first sale was a poem based on a painting by the British Columbian artist, Emily Carr.
I met Lump, the dachshund whose name means “rascal” in German, when I turned to writing some poems about Pablo Picasso’s life and works. I’m not a huge Picasso fan, so it was an odd choice. Perhaps I was hoping his passionate approach to creativity might infect my own work.
While researching, I came across the story of photojournalist David Douglas Duncan’s trip to Cannes. He was on assignment to take photos of Picasso for Life Magazine. I was smitten with Lump and quickly bought Duncan’s book Picasso & Lump: A Dachshund’s Odyssey, which chronicles the visit in photos and text. I knew the story was wonderful picture-book material and thought children would identify with the small dog, renamed “Lumpito” by Picasso.
Weaving truth and fiction seems to be what I’m doing a lot of these days, so that part comes relatively easily for me. I begin with all the facts, choosing those that pertain to my story’s focus — those that I think kids would find most fascinating. In bringing historical characters to life, I use the same techniques one uses to give life to made-up characters — action and dialogue, humor when you can, and of course, insight into motivation. It’s difficult to fail when your main character is a dachshund as adorable as Lumpito.

This is a heartwarming, quiet story that will interest young readers as well as fit nicely into an art teacher's curriculum.  A cute dog and an introduction to a unique artist...what more can you ask for?  

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16. Back to School with Lilla Rogers

One of my goals this year was to spend a little more time on personal art projects that would stretch me a bit, loosen up the creative flow and just allow me to play around. Unfortunately, I tend to put personal things on the back burner when I'm busy with deadlines for clients. And then a whole year goes by and suddenly you realize you've done nothing about what was once such a great idea!

So when I saw the posting for Lilla Rogers e-course on Making Art That Sells, I thought it would a perfect opportunity for me to get charged up to create and experiement with some new art and have a specific framework of goals to keep me on track. The class is five weeks and each week we explore a different aspect of the licensing world. This week happened to be picture books.

The story we illustrated was a fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson called the "Snail and the Rose Tree."  We could illustrate the cover of the book, or a spread, but the requirements were that we needed to create a compelling character (the snail), an environment, and incorporate some hand-lettering.

The snail was a thinker, but also pompous and arrogant and he sheltered in place his whole life living within his shell.

But the rose tree lived a very charmed and easy life with great meaning, blooming year after year.

There are only a few days allowed to complete the assignments, so I had to limit the amount of time I obsessed over this piece. Otherwise, I probably would never have finished it. I learned some new things with the hand-lettered type (not so easy to do, but adds a lot of charm to an illustration). Drawing from life for reference keeps elements of the illustration from being too generic looking. I tend to draw from my head, but if I look at reference, I can find all kinds of little details that make the illustration more interesting. The green vine growing over the snail was a plant I found out on my morning walk and I added it in at the very end. One of my favorite elements as it gives the feeling that the snail has been sitting in the same spot for a very long time!

Lilla Rogers is an international licensing agent, teacher, author and award-winning artist. You can visit her website here. This class will be offered again in October.

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17. What I'm Working On

I've been sketching Giants and Fairies this week. I keep telling myself to work on cute animal pieces to balance out my portfolio, but this is what came out of the pencil and I want to keep going with it.

I blogged about it with a few other sketches on my sketch-blog. I'm going to keep playing around, rather than just sitting down to work out a tighter drawing for a portfolio or promo piece.

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18. How to Put a Children’s Illustrator Portfolio Together by Illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal

Today I wanted to share a wonderful link that I am sure will be really helpful to all illustrators out there.

The very talented and lovely Juana Martinez-Neal did a post on how to put a kids' portfolio together. She covers different brands of portfolios, what art to include, even how the sequence of the illustrations should go! It's just wonderful.

I confess I don't have a physical portfolio at the moment. Everything I have is online. The only time I had to make one was for a SCBWI winter conference several years ago. But I plan on putting together a really nice one at some point and when that time comes, I will definitely be following Juana's advice. :o)

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19. Children's Illustration with Lisa Brown

I love looking for interesting videos on YouTube. Today I found this great one that I wanted to share with you.

We can see the talented Lisa Brown talking about all the books she has written and illustrated and I believe this is a class at The Academy Of Art University. She also shares her studio, her likes and dislikes in kids' books and explains how she works from thumbnails to finish art.

It's very interesting to see what she liked as a child and the books she creates now. What truly fascinates me is the fact that she really has a long line of varied work. Amazing, I love that. That's a talent not every artist has.

Oh and by the way, she is so right about the coffee mug and watercolor water. Has happened to me, for real! Hehe.. You'll know what I mean when you watch the video.

Enjoy! :o)

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20. PW- BEA 2013: Booksellers Tour Artists' Studios: A Photo Essay

I came across this great post on PW and thought I would share it with you today. I love peeking into other artists' studios, don't you? :o)

These are a few pics of mine. It's tiny and dark. Has a small rectangular window that doesn't face the outdoors, only the terrace, so almost no natural light comes in. But we have to work with what we have right?

I painted the studio white with a satin paint so the light from my 6 lamps, LOL, would reflect and it does the trick I have to say. I also have a little lamp that simulates day light, I always work with that lamp very close to my watercolors and paper.

This is Lucy, my shadow. She is usually on her bed, sleeping under my desk, like on this pic or sleeping on my lap while I work. Sometimes she likes to sit on my lap and watch closely how I paint, sneaks a kiss here and there.

Someday I hope to have a big, open and airy studio that faces the garden and that is filled with natural light... but this one will do for now. Despite how small it is and how dark it is, I still love it because its mine. :o)

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21. It's a Puppy Parade!

Last year I illustrated a book called "Ready or Not, Here Comes Scout!" Written by Jill Abramson & Jane O'Connor, the picture book, published by Viking,  is based on Jill's real-life pup, Scout. I posted some images from the book last fall, which you can see here.

Well, Scout is back in a really cute Penguin Young Reader, called "Puppy Parade." It was so fun to get another turn to develop Scout's character.

 I worked with a fabulous Art Director, Giuseppe Castellano, and if you are a kidlit illustrator, you should definitely be following him on his Twitter feed! @pinocastellano.

The process I used to create the art was the same as the picture book. I painted Scout and the puppies traditionally, but created the backgrounds in photoshop. This gave me more options to move things around, but still keep a loose feel on the art and stay compatible with the first book.

In some respects, the book was easier to work on. The format was smaller and images were bigger and simpler. However, there were a few spreads showing the town, the crowd and all the puppies that were a bit more labor intensive. A bit of controlled chaos....!

A second Penguin Reader is in the works with artwork beginning later this year.

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22. Book Review: My Neighbor Is a Dog

Illustrated by: Madalena Matoso

With a limited palette, flat rendering, and brilliant use of white space Madalena Matoso has illustrated a deep and quiet story by Isabel Minhós Martins. Look how beautifully Matoso conveys a cityscape. A marvel! 

The overarching story is about not judging a book by it's cover, but there is so much fun in the visuals and animals and silliness of behavior in their apartment building that you don't feel you are being preached to at all.
Every element, from story, to character, to design and pacing works so well. This is one for the bookshelf. The bookshelf below, by the way, belongs to Time of Wonder (part of Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, NH). I spent oodles of time in their store last week and found it to be one of THE best children's bookstores. The selection, space, and staff are amazing. One bonus as a mother shopping here? A minimal amount of toys. Your little ones will be too busy reading in the corner bench with the bears, anyhow.

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23. How To Price Illustration for Children's Books, Editorial, etc.

The wonderful Will Terry gives great advice on how to price illustration work. Really worth while watching!

While you are at it, make sure to check out Will's gorgeous work and books. :o)

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24. It's Bath Time- Highlights Hello

I received these tiny books! They are the smallest format I have ever illustrated and so darn cute! Pages are really sturdy and since they are so small these books will fit wonderfully in toddlers' hands.

This is my favorite spread. I thought at brushing time, bunny should be brushing ducky too. :o)

Sometimes with board books there is not so much room to tell a parallel story with the illustrations as there is with Picture Books for example. Board books are very straight forward, usually with a few simple and easy to read images that little ones can really recognize. But I find there is always a way to make things interesting for little ones reading the book. I decided to give baby bunny a favorite toy, rubber ducky. So kids can look for ducky on every page, find him and look forward to the next page where they will look for him again.

Another great thing about illustrating books is that sometimes the power of an image can make the text change. For example, on this page, the text initially was "dry everywhere".

I decided instead of have dad dry bunny with a towel like on the left, it would be fun to have bunny shaking his little tail. I mean, what a better way to dry all over and fast right? Hehe.. Plus I just knew kids would really like that page. Luckily Highlights agreed with me, they really loved that illustration and decided to work the text around it.

So, never doubt sending your initial ideas of how you think a book should go. Send them your best possible interpretation of the book. These are sketches and they will go through a lot of eyes in the publishing house and a lot of revisions. People can't really guess what you have in mind. The best way to tell them is to show them your vision.

There is something so especial about creating books for babies. It's a book in it's simplest form. The thought of catching babies' attention and just thinking of baby snuggling with mom/dad looking with wonder at the book... It's a privilege to do this.

It's Bath Time is a delightful little book part of a set of books published by Highlights and goes along beautifully with their new magazine Highlights Hello. :o)

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25. Hopscotch Sample

I have enjoyed doing a few books for Dover Publishing. I once proposed an activity book teaching outdoor kid's games like hopscotch, leap frog, kick the can. Ultimately, they asked me to do a yoga book instead. Here is one of the samples I created and now colored to add to my portfolio...

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