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1. Picture Books Make Great Gifts All Year

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

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

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

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2. Happy Holidays!

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

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3. Picture Book Month

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



Why Picture Books Are Important

 by Lauri Fortino

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

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


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4. Interview Alert: Jonas Sickler

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

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

Enjoy the interview!

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

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

Q. How would you describe your style?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What projects are you working on right now?

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

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

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

Q. Any closing thoughts for fans?

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

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5. Why Picture Books Are Important

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

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

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

Why Picture Books Are Important

by Jennifer Burke

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Miss Jenny!

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6. Much Too Much

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

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7. Picture Book Month



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8. Interview Alert: Melissa Guion

BabyPenguinsCoverFor my first interview of 2013, I am extremely pleased to showcase super-talented author and illustrator Melissa Guion. Baby Penguins Everywhere may be her first picture book, but it certainly won’t be her last. It is interesting to note that I can interview several people and get responses as diverse as the picture books they’ve written. In other words, I could interview ten authors or ten illustrators and ask them the same or similar questions and each would have totally unique answers. But all of them are fascinating. I know you will find Melissa Guion’s interview fascinating as well. Enjoy!

First of all, congratulations on the publication of your first picture book Baby Penguins Everywhere! It’s a wonderful book and I hope we see more from you in the near future. 

1. Have you always enjoyed writing and drawing? And when did you decide that you’d like to be published?

MG. Yes, making books is probably my oldest dream. I wanted to be a gymnast for a while, after watching Nadia Comaneci at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. One out of two isn’t bad.


2. What’s the first thing you did when you got the news that your manuscript was accepted for publication? How did you get the news?

MG. I was actually hired without a manuscript! My future editor saw my artwork and emailed (via my agent) to say he wanted to give me a multi-book deal. I went into our first meeting fairly dubious, but it turned out he meant it. When I got home, there was an email in my inbox from the editor about how we might go about developing a story, and we were off.

When I got that email, I think I did all the obvious things like jumping around. I called my mom. I had champagne with friends that night to celebrate. The next day I told different friends and we also had champagne. I dragged it out.

3. How long did it take from acceptance to finished, shelf-ready book?

MG. People keep asking this and I keep guessing. I’m going to actually look it up right now… Start to finish, it took 2 1/2 years. That’s slightly misleading because, again, there was no manuscript. We made a handshake deal to do a penguin book in late 2009. I had a contract by the summer of 2010, and that’s about when I had my first dummy done. I turned in the final art in January 2012 and saw a finished copy in August 2012.

That’s a really long time. My second and third books will get done much faster, at least according to my contract.

4. How excited were you when you saw your finished book for the first time?

MG. I’m excited every single time I see it. I don’t know if that ever wears off.

5. How did you come up with the idea for Baby Penguins Everywhere?

MG. When I met my editor, I was a new mom and a first-time illustrator. My life was full of chaos. My editor suggested the premise of the lone penguin who finds a magic hat overflowing with babies. It felt applicable to every area of my life.


6. You also illustrated your book. What materials did you use to create the illustrations? Are they your favorite media to work with when creating art?

MG. I used pencil and watercolor. I thought about doing something experimental, but I already had plenty of challenges to deal with. Anyway, I really like watercolor. I love that it has a mind of its own.

7. Where can your fans go to learn more about you?

MG. I have a website, www.melissaguion.com. Readers can subscribe to my blog there. I try to update it a few times a month. I’m also on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BabyPenguinsEverywhere) and Twitter (@MelissaGuion).

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

MG. If they’re ever in NYC, they need to go to Russ and Daughter, on Houston Street, for smoked salmon and horseradish cream cheese on a bagel. It’s the best! Penguins like it, too.

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9. Caldecott Thoughts 2013

This is not my hat  This year’s winner of the Caldecott Medal is This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press, 2012).  This story is a big fish tale, but not in the way you might think. It’s also a small fish tale about a small fish who stole the hat of a big fish. He’s pretty sure he can get away with it, but stealing is wrong, isn’t it? Do you think he’ll get away with it? Do you think he should? This story certainly made me smile. Mr. Klassen does a superb job moving the story along with short sentences and illustrations that change ever so slightly as they move to the right and off of the page.

Creepy carrots! The ALSC chose five honor books this year! Among them is Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2012). This fun picture book is cleverly illustrated with just enough color to set an eerie mood. If picture books were horror movies, this one would be rated G. It’s just so much fun; I read it three or four times. Jasper Rabbit has this terrible feeling that carrots are following him. Is it his imagination? Or have the creepy carrots devised a plan to keep Jasper out of the carrot patch?

Extra yarn Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer+Bray, 2012) is my favorite of the picks this year. The story includes everything from a magic box of colorful yarn, to an evil archduke, to a sweet, young heroine who cares very much for her town. I like how the town gets more and more colorful as the story goes along. But the best part is the quiet, unassuming, and peaceful ending.

Green This honor book simply titled Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (Roaring Brook Press, 2012) is beautifully illustrated in different shades of green, one of my favorite colors. It sports minimal text and peek-a-boo cut outs on several of the pages, which tie one page cleverly to the next. As you may guess, all of the illustrations depict the great outdoors and the natural beauty of the world, and showcase trees, flowers, animals, vegetables, and more.

One cool friend One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo and illustrated by David Small (Dial Books, 2012) stars a polite, young boy named Elliot who decides he wants a penguin. I like Elliot; he has a lot of character. I like the combination of color and black and white for the multimedia illustrations. My favorite picture shows Elliot and the penguin skating in his room. This is a fun story that will make you laugh. And the twist at the end is the best!

Sleep like a tiger Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (Houghton Mifflin Books, 2012) is a dreamy, bedtime story with muted colors that fill up the pages. The paintings are a mix of fantasy and reality and, along with the solid text, tell the story of a young girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep. I just love the pictures of the dog asleep on the couch; just gorgeous!

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10. Interview Alert: Carin Bramsen

I am super excited to share my newest interview with Frog on a Blog readers. Say “hello” to awesome author/illustrator Carin Bramsen. The first time I saw her  beautiful picture book Hey, Duck!, I became an instant fan. Her style is playful, colorful, and so detailed, three qualities I love in a picture book. Just look at this gorgeous cover. Of course, to really get what I’m talking about, you have to check out the book in person. I immediately noticed the amazing realistic detail of the little duck’s feathers and the cat’s fur. And of course, the story is wonderful too. Enjoy the interview!

I have fallen madly in love with your soft, little duckling and his gorgeous feline friend from your book Hey, Duck! I’m excited to have this chance to get to know more about you and your work through this interview, and to share your answers with my blog fans.

1. How did you get your start in children’s books? And which do you prefer, writing or illustrating?

CB. Thank you so much for inviting me! I’m honored and delighted to appear on this wonderful blog devoted to picture books.

My path to children’s books was roundabout. I’ve always loved both drawing and writing, and some of my best childhood memories are of illustrating my own stories. But as a misguided young adult, I thought I had to choose between writing and the visual arts. I made many false starts in either direction. At some point, my sister, Kirsten, and I spoke casually of collaborating on a book about one of her childhood experiences. We eventually revisited the idea, she wrote a terrific story called THE YELLOW TUTU, and I set about trying to illustrate it. I had much to learn, so I started poring over heaps of picture books to see what worked. I read Martin Salisbury’s Illustrating Children’s Books, which taught me how to put together a picture book dummy. The more I worked at it, the more I fell in love with the challenge of telling a story through pictures as well as words. We published THE YELLOW TUTU with Random House in 2009. By then, I was hooked on the picture book genre, and my own stories flowed naturally from learning about narrative art. One of the many things I love about this field: it turns out I don’t have to choose between writing and illustrating!

2. Your characters are so full of life. I feel as if they could jump right off the page. What medium did you use to create your illustrations for Hey, Duck?

CB. Thank you! I’m so happy to hear you find my characters full of life. I drew the illustrations for HEY, DUCK on my computer, with a digital tablet. The tablet comes with a mouse shaped like a pen, which I use to draw (paint) colors, shapes, textures and tones as I would with a traditional brush or pen. But Photoshop allows me more flexibility than paint and paper would for moving parts around, layering and reworking if need be.

3. What is your workspace like?

CB. My workspace is an unprepossessing corner of my living/dining room. (And by “corner” I mean a third of the space; this is a Brooklyn apartment, after all!) I have my computer desk next to a folding table with a drawing board on top, and lots of jars filled with brushes and pencils. Lately, I’ve dragged my old easel into the living room, where I’ve been playing around with bigger drawings. I still love all kinds of traditional media, and the visceral feel of working big.

4. What picture book authors and illustrators do you most admire? Do you have any favorite picture books?

CB. Oh, dear. I have so many favorite authors, illustrators and picture books, I can’t keep track. A few of the books that make me sit back and say, “perfect”: THE SNOWY DAY, by Ezra Jack Keats; SNOW, by Uri Shulevitz; TEN LITTLE FINGERS AND TEN LITTLE TOES, by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. I adore the Mole Sisters books by Roslyn Schwartz. I often find a special beauty in books that skew very young, and I love anything that makes me laugh. But my tastes range anywhere from James Marshall to Dr. Seuss to Kadir Nelson to Gennady Spirin. There’s an endless variety of riches in picture books, all indispensable.

5. What other books have you written or illustrated, and are you working on any new projects?

CB. I’m pleased to say there are new books with Duck and Cat on the horizon.

6. Where can people go to learn more about you and your books?

CB. I have a website: http://carinbramsen.com/home.html

I also have a blog: http://carindraw.blogspot.com/

And I’m on Twitter: @carinbramsen

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

CB. Often, a good picture book experience owes much to a talented art director. I’m indebted to Tracy Tyler, the Random House art director who has brought so much knowledge, dedication and inspired insight to both of my book projects to date. Picture books are always a team effort.


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11. Like a Kid In a Monstore

Monstore is available now. Check out Tara Lazar’s site for more information:

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12. Interview Alert: Emily Kate Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. What inspired you to create your picture book Joone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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13. Interview Alert: Courtney Pippin-Mathur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CPM. http://www.pippinmathur.com

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

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

1 Comments on Interview Alert: Courtney Pippin-Mathur, last added: 8/24/2013
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14. Interview Alert: Jessica Young

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

Enjoy the interview!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JY. www.jessicayoungbooks.com

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

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


10 Comments on Interview Alert: Jessica Young, last added: 10/8/2013
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15. RIF Needs Help

 RIF is asking for our help. Click on the Reading is Fundamental link in the sidebar. Look for the Action Alert. Congress will be voting soon “on an amendment to ban ALL domestic earmarks in the FY11, FY12, and FY13 budget cycles.  Although RIF IS AN AUTHORIZED PROGRAM AND NOT AN EARMARK, this moratorium would cover all national projects, authorized or unauthorized, local or national in scope.  This would include Reading Is Fundamental and a number of other programs.” (RIF) You can help by using RIFs online form to contact the Senate and ask them to vote “no” on the moratorium. It’s quick and easy. The vote is tomorrow, so hurry!

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16. New Year’s Resolutions

Resolution means oath, pledge, promise, declaration. How many of us make resolutions at the start of each new year only to break them or give them up a few short weeks later? I count myself amongst the guilty. I admire those who are able to see their resolutions through, those who reach goals, those who make changes, those who conquer a fear or a long-over due task or see something to conclusion. I used to be like that when I had more time. Now, I try not to make a resolution at all. I don’t want another year of failure after all. Instead, I try. Yes, I try to write more. I try to exercise more. I try to clean more. I try to blog more. I do my best to accomplish my goals. But they are not goals set in stone. I allow myself the freedom to add, cancel, or change my goals-or even to put a goal on hold. If I’d rather spend time playing with my puppy than sweeping the kitchen floor, then that’s what I’ll do. At the end of the year, I don’t feel guilty if I didn’t reach all of my goals. By then, I probably have all new ones anyway. All you can really do is just keep trying and keep living. And hopefully enjoy life along the way. Happy New Year Everyone!

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17. 2010 in Review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2010. That’s about 4 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 52 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 73 posts. There were 54 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 910kb. That’s about a picture per week.

The busiest day of the year was February 7th with 56 views. The most popular post that day was Three Awesome New Interviews!!!.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were dewlib.org, writingforchildrencenter.ning.com, alphainventions.com, jacketflap.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for sun clip art, clipart sun, frogonablog, clip art sun, and suns.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Three Awesome New Interviews!!! February 2010
1 comment


Interviews With Authors and Illustrators January 2010


About Me November 2009


Interviews With Authors and Illustrators (Part 2) February 2010


Interview With Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom January 2010

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18. Urgent: RIF Needs Our Help

 The following information is taken directly from the Reading is Fundamental site. Click the link in the sidebar for more information and to see how you can help.

“The House Appropriations Committee released its recommended spending cuts for the FY11 Continuing Resolution, which includes terminating funding for RIF’s nationwide services. This means 4.4 million of the nation’s most vulnerable children would no longer receive free books and literacy support.” (RIF)

It’s quick and easy to send a message to Congress asking them to support RIF. Just go to the RIF site and follow the instructions. I did.

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19. Yeah! My New Image Is Finally Here!!!

Thanks to super talented artist Jonas Sickler, my brand new blog image is here!! It’s fresh. It’s colorful. And it represents Frog On A Blog perfectly. It’s about time I had an updated image to go with my new theme, don’t you think? If you’d like to see more of Jonas’s art, check out his website:  http://jonasillustration.com/ or click on the sidebar image.

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20. More Fun With Rhyme

   Here’s a little poem I wrote several years ago. See if you can figure out the answer to the riddle before you get to the end. Enjoy!

At the end of the rainbow there’s a magical place that transcends all time and suppresses all space.

Do you know what’s there? Care to venture a guess? I’ll give you a clue, it’s not a skirt or a dress.

It isn’t pants or underwear. And you won’t find shorts or blouses there.

No coats, no ties, no belts, no vests. No shoes, no hats, no suits well pressed.

What remains? Have you figured out what’s deposited by the magical spout?

It’s a great big pile of rainbow loot that traveled along the rainbow chute.

It isn’t shining coins or sparkling diamond rocks. Straight from your laundry room-it’s socks!

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21. Amphibian Minds Want to Know…


Take Our Poll

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22. Amphibian Minds Want to Know…

   Please take a second to answer the poll at the bottom of the sidebar to the right. I really want to know what your favorite kind of children’s book is. Thank you for participating!

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23. Finley Hopped In

Our esteemed host, Finley, hopped in today. Here’s what he had to say:

Me: Hi Finley! Why are you so upset?

Finley: I had a fight with my brother.

Me: Can you tell us about it?

Finley: About what?

Me: The fight with your brother.

Finley: Which brother?

Me: You have more than one brother?

Finley: Yes, I have 21.

Me: Wow! Any sisters?

Finley: 59, but I don’t count them.

Me: Why not?

Finley: Because I can’t count that high.

Me: That’s a lot of siblings. Are you a handful?

Finley: That depends.

Me: On what?

Finley: On the size of the hand.

Me: Okay, tell us about the fight you just had with your brother. What’s his name?

Finely: Flip.

Me: What did you and Flip fight about?

Finley: He’s trying to steal my friend Chelsey away from me.

Me: Chelsey’s your best friend. Why would Flip try to steal her away from you?

Finley: Because he’s jealous.

Me: Why is he jealous?

Finley: Because he doesn’t have any friends.

Me: Why not?

Finley: Because he’s always flip-ping out.

Me: Okay, are you telling us a story?

Finley: Maybe.

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24. Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!!!


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25. Rhyme Time with Finley

Inspired by the upcoming Halloween holiday, Finley has decided to share a special poem with you. He calls it Halloween Feast.




Halloween’s a comin’,

It’s on its way.

Halloween’s a comin’,

Are you ready to play?


Do you have a costume?

Is it scary, funny, both?

Do you have a basket,

pillowcase, or tote?


We’ll hop from door to door,

Proclaiming tricks or treats,

And when the night is over,

We’ll leap home and have a feast.

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