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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: Dojo Daycare


I've been meaning to share this gem of a picture book for some time. Dojo Daycare, written and illustrated by Chris Tougas is published by Owlkids Books


There is so much to love in this smart, modern, and funny rhyming picture book. It is paced beautifully and you can feel the tempo pick up and then settle down for the ending. I found the framework of the dojo daycare and sympathetic storyline toward the 'master' really inventive. My kids (5 and 3 years old) love rereading to follow the smaller details and mini-plots. 


You can track each ninja and their ninja pets at home, the bear as he gets pulled apart (and see where he ends up!), and my kids' favorite part - see the little green fluff coming from one little ninja. Yup. It's a silent but HILARIOUS surprise when you figure out how that last fight starts. 

I was given a review copy by the publisher, but my words and opinions are my own.

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2. The Change Your Name Store: Giveaway Winner!


Don't you love wandering character maps in books?

I looked all over Wilma Lee Wu's town until I found a winner.... Daniela Weil! Congratulations!!!!

Thank you to everyone who commented and shared the giveaway for The Change Your Name Store. Be sure to get your hands on this picture book soon to enjoy the whole story for yourselves. You can buy it here, or here, or ask for it at your local library or bookstore. And thank you to Tina Kugler for donating a signed copy with a little extra swag tucked inside.

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3. Book Review: The Change Your Name Store (AND A GIVEAWAY!)


The Change Your Name Story, written by Leanne Shirtliffe and illustrated by Tina Kugler is packed with humor and heart and... names! Tina has generously offered a signed copy as a giveaway - be sure to read to the end for details!


I did a big double take on the opening page. What a powerful way to kick a story off! It's a great first impression of our protagonist, Wilma Lee Wu - both in the art and that opening line!



This is such a fun read-aloud book and perfect for leisurely re-reads. You'll want to pick out all the fun names and details that Tina has peppered throughout. Wilma Lee Wu's story speaks to diversity, but also that universal feeling we have at times of just not liking our names. I'll leave the rest of the story as a surprise, as it should be!



Comment here for a chance to win a signed copy of The Change Your Name Store. You can also share this review on Twitter for a chance to win (just be sure to tag @PBjunkies). Enter until midnight of May 29th EST - the winner will be announced on May 30th.

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4. Author/Illustrator Interview: AJ Smith and Even Monsters


I'm really excited to share this interview with author/illustrator AJ Smith. His picture book, Even Monsters, came out earlier this month and it chock-full of monsters, cooties, and a silliness that kids and grownups alike will really love. So let's get right into the wit and wisdom, shall we?

G: I love the rich, layered look to your art for Even Monsters. What is your process like?

A: My process involves a hodge-podge of mixed media: pencil, ballpoint pen, sometimes technical pens or brush pens, acrylic paint, cut paper, a shoddy laptop (donations welcome!), lots of caffeine, with a dab of old school Crayola crayons! I work different depending on the client but the common denominator is always rough pencil sketches on 8.5 x 11" copy paper.


G: What came first for you with Even Monsters: the words or the visuals?

A: Mostly the words came first for Even Monsters (way back in 2006). As I revised it, I began to ping pong ideas back and forth: a written idea would become a sketch and then that would ignite some new writing brainstorms and 'round and 'round we go...

G: Could you share one sparkling nugget of advice for aspiring author/illustrators?

A: First, have a sound foundation in drawing and/or in writing. Practice often and always. If you want to write and illustrate picture books,you should be reading picture books! Beyond that, I think you have to bring something new to the table. Have a unique voice, unique style. Be yourself. Be different. Do the art you want to do. You will meet rejection at every stage of the game (I'm always surprised to hear how much Jane Yolen is STILL rejected) so be doing the art you want to be making, not what you think publishers/editors want to see.

G: You are one busy guy - speaking at events, creating fun videos, and throwing awesome monster book parties. What has been the best part of promoting Even Monsters so far?

A: To me promotion is something an author/illustrator HAS to do. It's part of the job. And that is not always something that's easy to grasp. The tricky part is that you don't get paid to promote your book. In fact, it's been quite the opposite in my empty-pocketed experience. That said there is a reason I do it: To help the book do well (I'm terrified and convinced that this cannot happen on its own unless you are already a bestselling author/illustrator) and to network: meet new people -- educators, librarians, parents, KIDS. Promotion is not just promoting your book. It's promoting and fostering literacy. And if that didn't answer your question, I'd say making videos where I dress up like this has been the best part:


G: What's your next project? And does it involve having the readers spot cooties? (I do love the cooties! They are little orange puffs with silly eyes. Can you spot 3 in the illustration below?)

A: My next book is Even Dinosaurs, which comes out in 2015. There might be cooties. If there are, they'll be Cave Cooties. Still toying with that idea, but I really like the idea of adding an "Easter Egg" element to the book that kids can hunt for on a second read of a book. I hope kids really like them... Really like them or say "eww, gross -- cooties!" Either would be perfect really.



*FYI: My kids LOVE finding the cooties. Like it's their job. And everyone at the book launch loved the way AJ kept 'finding' cooties.

Many thanks to AJ for his thoughtful answers and insight. Be sure to visit www.evenmonsters.com to see where you can buy his book, see more silly videos, learn how to draw Skeebu and Glubb, have your kids enter in his Monster Art Contest, and even design your own silly underpants. I know what my kids will be doing after breakfast!

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5. Sneak Peek: Even Monsters book trailer

Tomorrow I will be posting a fun interview with my super talented friend, AJ Smith. We'll be talking about his new picture book, Even Monsters, available now! Until then, enjoy his awesome book trailer!

I was way lucky enough to go to his official book launch a few weeks ago - check out my mug in his oversize monster board! (The things mommies do to get our kids to do something silly too!) I was blown away with all the layers of fun he built into the book launch. He has tons of events in the New England area, be sure to visit www.evenmonsters.com for more info and fun for the kids.
Check back tomorrow for the interview!!!

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6. Double Book Review: Wild About Bears & Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo


Since it's been awhile, I'm popping on the PBJs today to post a double book review. I was lucky enough to get the above books signed by the author/illustrator Jeannie Brett and author Ammi-Joan Paquette. Both books are visually beautiful and offer layers of interest and depth for readers.


Wild About Bears is a non-fiction picture book giving an overview of the eight bear species. The artwork is captivating and lush, and the facts are so intriguing. This is a true family book, and I can see us returning to it for years to come. Visit Jeannie's website for loads of information and bonus materials. 


 If you recall, I reviewed Mustache Baby last year, illustrated by Joy Ang. I instantly recognized her bold, expressive style on the cover of Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo, written by Ammi-Joan Paquette.


True to picture-book form, this book is a fine marriage of words and images. Ammi-Joan has written a big, bold, hilarious tale full of big, bold, hilarious words.


 I love that my near 3 year old walks around saying hullabaloo after reading this book (and knows EXACTLY what it means). The endpapers smartly include definitions - I know I needed to reference it for the word 'defenestration'.


Everything is done with fun and mischief so you might not even realize that you've been hornswoggled into learning a few new words. Thanks, Ammi-Joan!



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7. 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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8. 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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9. 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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10. 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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11. 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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12. 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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13. 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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14. 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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15. 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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16. 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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17. 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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18. 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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19. Judy Blume



This wonderful lady needs no introduction. :o)

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

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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. 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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24. 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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25. 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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