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1. Thankful


“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

_W.T. Purkiser

0 Comments on Thankful as of 11/23/2015 9:54:00 PM
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2. The Crow’s Tale

I can’t resist filling your screen (and mine) with this gorgeous front cover:


The Crow’s Tale by Naomi Howarth (@nhillustrator) is a visually spectacular retelling of a Lenni Lenape Native American legend about how the crow came to have black feathers, and about what counts as real beauty: not how you look, but how you behave.

Deep in the middle of a snowy winter, the animals are all cold and hungry. Crow volunteers to bring back some warmth from the sun, but in doing so he is changed forever. Will his friends still love him?

You see, Crow used to have breathtakingly brilliant feathers in ever colour under the sun. But where there’s fire, there’s soot, and Crow despairs at how his outward appearance is transformed, when all he wanted to do was help his friends.

What this dazzling story tells us all, however, is that “your beauty inside” is what really matters and shines through. Selfless, brave and still beautiful, Crow learns that what his friends really value is his kindness, generosity and courage, not whether his feathers are black or shot through with rainbows.


Howarth’s picture book début is a feast for the eyes, and not least in the way the black crow feathers are reproduced (I can’t show them here because the special printing techniques just don’t show up on a computer screen). Her use of colours reminds me at times of a favourite illustrator of mine – Karin Littlewood – and Howarth’s use of varied perspective keeps page turns surprising.


The fluency of the rhyming text doesn’t quite match the sumptuous heights of the illustration, but the sentiment is heart-warming, encouraging and just right for boosting confidence and encouraging consideration of what we value in ourselves and others.

Inspired by the stunning array of Crow’s original feathers we set about making our own rainbow plumage. We decorated lots of white feathers using slightly watered-down acrylic paint (the acrylic paint “sticks” nicely to the feathers – much more easily and/or brightly than watercolour or poster paint does – and by watering it down it is easier to apply):




Once our feathers were dry we turned them into a piece of art, positioning them in a circle (we used a plate to guide us) on a piece of black card.


It’s now one of the first things you see when you enter our front door (along with obligatory piles of books):


Whilst painting feathers we listened to:

  • Beauty Inside by Mister Marc. This is rather catchy and just a perfect match to the sentiment in The Crow’s Tale.
  • Crow by Joe’s Backyard Band.
  • The Carrion Crow by Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger. We love the nonsense words in this song.

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading The Crow’s Tale include:

  • Finding out more about the Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation. You could also see if you can find a copy of When The Shadbush Blooms by Carla Messinger, Susan Katz and David Kanietakeron Fadden, a picture book including lots of detail on the Lenni Lenape culture and language, past and present.
  • Crow spotting! Eight species breed in the UK and many are easy to spot even in cities (apologies to readers in the very North-West of Scotland where it will be much harder to spot any members of the crow family). Why not go on a walk and see how many different members of the crow family you can spot. Here’s the RSPB page on the crow family.
  • Painting with nail polish. This sounds crazy, but if you want to get the iridescent sheen on the crow’s black feathers you can use pearly nail polish over black paint. Alternatively try collaging with iridescent cellophane on top of your black paint.

  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • Making colourful wings out of tissue paper
  • The Iridescence of Birds (or: Painting with eye-shadow)
  • Creating a guinea fowl collage
  • crowoptions

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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

    3 Comments on The Crow’s Tale, last added: 11/23/2015
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    3. Read Out Loud | Tad Hills Reads ‘R Is for Rocket’

    Read Out Loud Tad Hills Image

    Rocket believes reading rocks and kids will too after they hear Tad Hills read R Is for Rocket: An ABC Story. Rocket and his animal pals go on an alliterative journey from A to Z while introducing readers to art and nature. Your early reader will enjoy seeing Bella the squirrel balancing on a ball, Owl offering a cawing crow a cookie and a crayon, and a guest appearance from Tad’s most popular waterfowl friend!

    Do you have the book at home? Open up the dust jacket to find a poster of the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet! Feel free to read along too.

    KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!



    From Random House Kids
    R Is for Rocket: An ABC Book – Learn the ABCs with Rocket, the dog who inspires kids to read and write! This irresistible alphabet book from the creator of the New York Times bestsellers How Rocket Learned to Read and Rocket Writes a Story is sure to appeal to kids, parents, teachers, and librarians. From finding acorns, to balancing on a ball, to offering a cookie and a crayon to a crow, readers will love exploring the wonderful world of Rocket and his friends. The whole cast is featured, among them the little yellow bird, the owl, Bella the squirrel, and more. Even Goose from the beloved and bestselling Duck & Goose books makes a cameo appearance! With charming and delightful scenes for every letter, here’s an ode to the wondrous, mighty, gorgeous alphabet.


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    Read Out Loud
    Executive Producer: Julie Gribble
    Producer: Kassia Graham
    Director of Photography: Eric Lau

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    READ OUT LOUD - Tad Hills Pinterest Image

    The post Read Out Loud | Tad Hills Reads ‘R Is for Rocket’ appeared first on KidLit.TV.

    0 Comments on Read Out Loud | Tad Hills Reads ‘R Is for Rocket’ as of 11/22/2015 3:24:00 PM
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    4. All about the fine quality black line: An interview with Victor Ambrus

    Since I began championing children’s book on this website I’ve had a lovely game I indulgently play in my head: Who would I interview if I could interview anyone?

    Over the years one name repeatedly popped up, but I didn’t dare act on my daydreams until very recently. It all started earlier this year when Dick King Smith’s The Rats of Meadowsweet Farm arrived on my desk. Published in a fantastic new edition by Barrington Stoke as part of their covetable Little Gems series, it featured illustrations by none other than the subject of my aforementioned daydreams: Victor Ambrus. Victor turned 80 this year, and I hadn’t realised that he was still working and so the flame on my candle of hope burned a little brighter, but my bravery still stumbled.


    Then last month another Barrington Stoke book made its way into my hands. The Seal’s Fate by Eoin Colfer is also illustrated by Victor Ambrus, and I was so moved by the visual and verbal storytelling, it gave me the courage I needed. It’s a powerful book I’d really like to tell everyone about and it provided me with the final spur on to make an interview request.


    Victor Ambrus has won the Kate Greenaway medal twice (for ‘The Three Poor Tailors’ [1965] and ‘Horses in Battle'[1975]) and has illustrated more than 300 books. His historical illustrations showing archaeological interpretations were featured on Channel 4’s Time Team for 20 years. Indeed, his passion for illustrating history has been central to his career, both in children’s book illustration and also in adult non-fiction. Ambrus’ animal illustrations are also especially highly regarded and have formed another constant strand in his work, from his illustrations for K.M. Peyton’s Flambards series right up to his two newest books with the grimy humour of the rats and the soft, sweet eyes of the seal.

    And thus the time came for me to interview Victor over the phone. Victor was born in Hungary in 1935 and I started by asking what sort of reading life he had had as a child, what books he had loved. I was all ready to look up lots of Hungarian authors (and quite keen to do so, as I studied Hungarian literature at University) but “no, there were numerous books, but they were all English books – in translation of course. I was bought up on things like Winnie the Pooh!” Many were given to him as presents and one of his favourite books was Ursula Moray Williams’ ‘Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse’. It was, however, the books of Arthur Rackham that in many ways changed his life forever. “He was a huge influence on me… and he meant that I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil!


    Victor’s immediately family weren’t especially artistic (though he grew up with tales of a particularly talented uncle who had died young during the influenza epidemic following the First World War), but they were immensely supportive of Victor’s growing interest in drawing. Victor’s father, an industrial chemist, was especially encouraging: “He was convinced I was going to be an artist when I grew up.

    Victor’s passion for historical illustration was laid down as a child: “I just drew and drew and drew and enjoyed it. I illustrated anything that I read – books on history, poems… in fact I did a vast number of drawings of the fights we Hungarians had with the Turks in the 17th century.

    But then there came a point where I had to enter grammar school. But I still kept drawing and drawing and eventually I got to a point where I could apply for the Academy of Fine Art, a very fine, traditional school offering a classical training in drawing, including anatomy and all sorts of things you don’t often get these days. But illustration per se didn’t come into my training actually. It was all terribly straight-laced. Illustration was just something I did for myself.

    Victor’s education and training at the Academy of Fine Art was cut short in awful circumstances. In 1956 the Soviet Union invaded Hungary and life in Budapest became very hard. There came a point where Victor had to make what he himself describes as “a kind of life or death decision”; to leave Hungary and seek refuge abroad.

    It was very demanding physical conditions. There was heavy snow you had to walk through all night to get across the border. It was a kind of life or death decision. I had to leave family behind. I actually had no choice. They had a list of people who were attempting to hold the Academy building against the Russian tanks. I was one of these people… but I did a very bad job at it. It was terribly frightening. Eventually they cornered us in the basement of the building and they executed eight of us on the spot – four students and four regular [Hungarian] army soldiers. I was lucky to survive it.

    Victor eventually made his way to the Austrian border and from there he chose to make England his new home, with the much-loved books and illustrations from his childhood very much in mind. He ended up in Farnham and from there applied to the Royal College of Art. Education there was quite different to that Victor had experienced in Budapest’s Academy of Fine Art: “The Royal College was very much more liberal. It was a kind of a loosening up process.

    Victor’s early work included a lot of lithographs and etchings. “Etchings have played a big influence in my life because they produce fine quality lines and nice deep tones which appeal to me, even though I haven’t made any for quite some time because of you need quite sophisticated machinery, making it hard to do at home. Still, I was almost addicted to using very fine lines and my early illustrations are very like etchings except that they were not actually printed etched into glass plates – rather, I just used a very fine nib.

    I’m very curious about this passion for etching and how that tallies with Victor’s style now which to me seems much more fluid, looser and more vibrant than is typically achieved with the precise lines in etching. Was this something Victor himself recognised? “Yes, I turned away from this approach, probably because of the subjects I was getting – I was getting a lot of free flowing, fast action historical illustrations, where people might be riding a horse or fighting, and to start using very fine etching lines was not practical. It took a long time and gave the wrong effect. It became very laboured.

    And then at this time when I was getting going, colour illustration came in in a big way and so I got into colour and my approach changed somewhat. I’d draw things up very quickly in pencil making sure everything moved the way I wanted it to and then I’d apply colour and more sweeping lines. But thinking about colour… funnily enough I think black is a very important thing in my drawings. I like to have the impact of black in an illustration – once I have heavy black lines I can use more intense colours. In a way the black boosts the colours I use, it makes the colour really work.

    Victor uses ink and also water soluble pencils for his black lines and part of the secret to the way he uses them is that “the most intensive black goes down when the illustration is done – then I can see exactly where it is needed, where it needs a punch.


    But taking a step back, to explore a little further this change in approach, this development in Victor’s illustrative style. It was whilst at the Royal College that Victor had a stroke of luck which led to his breakthrough as a book illustrator. He was commissioned by Blackie and Sons to illustrate a book with a lot of horses – a love of Victor’s since his youth spent working on the great Hungarian plains where he would often witness large groups of semi-wild horses in their natural habitat. That books was White Horses and Black Bulls by Alan C Jenkins and on the back of a review in the Times Literary Supplement which included two of Victor’s illustrations (“It caused quite a stir!”) suddenly a stream of horse-related illustration commissions started flowing Victor’s way.

    Luckily I love drawing horses… why? because they are so complicated… so impressive!

    At that point, Victor couldn’t himself ride but as he received more and more historical illustration commissions he realised this would have to change if he wanted his pictures to be authentic; it was very important to him to accurately capture how people sit when they are riding.

    This commitment to detail, this concern for accuracy is another mainstay in all of Victor’s work: “I really enjoy the research. It’s important as otherwise the illustrations don’t feel convincing. It’s got to be right!

    On occasion, however, this drive for authenticity has led him into a spot of bother: “Well I didn’t know how they used a sword on horseback. Now I happened to have a sword and so I took it out and practised with it. I rode in the local forest where there were a lot of pine trees and I would take aim at a branch, swipe at it and see what was the best way of cutting it. Oh I enjoyed it! But then I had to stop because one day a swipe revealed a white-faced mushroom picker who was scared out of his skin. I hadn’t realised he was there and at that point I thought I’d better not do this any more and so I put the sword away.

    Another area of great interest for Victor when it comes to illustration, especially historical illustration, is costume and clothing. Whilst he studied at the Royal College he spent many hours just down the road in the Victoria and Albert Museum. “I’d sooner illustrate any period but the modern because the clothes are boring – there’s no colour – whereas the 17th, 18th century… ah, they are fabulous!” I’m very sorry when later in our conversation I find out that Victor’s own wardrobe at home isn’t full of the colourful and rich outfits he loves to draw.

    An interior illustration from The Seal's Fate

    An interior illustration from The Seal’s Fate

    As well as historical illustrations, Victor has always enjoyed drawing animals. And not just horses. “I’ve spent a lot of time in zoos. One of my favourite drawings I did in London Zoo, of a fantastic male gorilla. He sat there and stared at me for a long time and when I finished the drawing and walked away he came up to the fence, right up to the edge. And other people nearby said, ‘Show him, show him your picture of him,’ and so I turned around and showed the picture to him and it was quite amazing. He took it all in, with his eyes wide open. I don’t know what he thought of it but he was definitely puzzled.

    Animals have not always been so appreciative of being drawn by Victor though. “Once I was drawing a lovely big parrot who was on the end of a long post, at the far end, and I was drawing him and enjoying myself until he started to move up the post step by step. He came right up close to me and then it was absolutely amazing – he looked at me and reached forward and took the pencil from my hand, snapped it into two and chucked it behind him and walked off! I thought it was a devastating piece of criticism of my efforts! I was utterly speechless!

    Being observed whilst drawing is something which has played an important role throughout Victor’s career. For many people, he will be most famous as the illustrator for Channel 4’s Time Team (one of my own favourite programmes as a child), where archaeologists had three days to excavate a site, and Victor would draw interpretations of the site and archaeological finds, being watched whilst he did so not only by members of the public visiting the excavations but also by millions on TV.

    And it’s actually all thanks to The Reader’s Digest that Victor became part of the brilliant Time Team crew. One day in a Bristol library, the director of Time Team came across Victor’s illustrations in a history of Britain published by The Reader’s Digest. A phone call later and the two of them met. “‘Can you draw quickly?’ ‘Ah.. yes, I can try’ ‘Well, draw a portrait of me then,’ and so I drew a quick-as-lightning pencil drawing of him and he was suitably impressed and the following week I was invited to go to Oxfordshire…” and the rest, as they say, is history, with the programme running for 20 years.

    It was a wonderful opportunity to see places you’d never get to … all sorts of weird places and drawing all different things. Of course it was sometimes a bit of an ordeal because your hands get so cold drawing outside, but the hand-drawn illustrations brought something special – by being hand-drawn, the image is more alive, it is saying this how it could have been, whereas a computer printout will say this is how it was and there is no argument.

    Did Victor ever get to have a go at digging? “It appealed to me – oh yes – but they never let me near the ground. I used to try to persuade Phil Harding [one of the Time Team Archaeologists] to let me have a dig but he would snarl at me and tell me to keep my hands out of the ground and keep on with my drawing!

    Copyright: Emilia Krysztofiak Rua Photography 2012

    A sample of Victor Ambrus’s illustrations at Athlone Castle. Copyright: Emilia Krysztofiak Rua Photography 2012

    And keeping on with his drawing is what Victor has been doing and continues to do, even as he enters his ninth decade. Recent commissions include creating illustrations for the museum at Athlone Castle in the Republic of Ireland, an opportunity to return to his beloved 17th century, horses and interesting clothes, but also a chance to steep himself in the landscape and people of Ireland – a boon when it came to illustrating his most recently published book for children, The Seal’s Fate. And right now he is steeped in the history of Somerset whilst he finishes off a big project for the Taunton Castle Museum, covering Somerset from its prehistory “up to Butlins!

    But being busy drawing makes Victor happy. “I couldn’t imagine it otherwise. I’d miss it if I wasn’t drawing. I’m just obsessed with drawing. Even when I’m not drawing I might be thinking about drawing.” And with 300 books and a lifetime of illustrating under his belt, what advice would he have for children who were interested in illustrating?

    Draw and draw and draw. And it’s important not just to do the drawing you have to do, but to draw for yourself, just to please yourself.


    Victor AmbrussmallI’m indebted to Victor for being so generous with his time and stories from his life. When I asked him to check over my interview notes and make any changes he wished to see, the only thing he wanted to add was that he has “a lovely wife and two big sons.” This, to me, speaks volumes of Victor’s understated modesty, charm and warmth which I hope has come across in this dream-come-true disguised as an interview.

    4 Comments on All about the fine quality black line: An interview with Victor Ambrus, last added: 11/19/2015
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    5. Counting Lions

    countinglionsCounting Lions written by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Stephen Walton is a book where things are not quite what they seem.

    It features illustrations which look so incredibly lifelike that you think they must be photos. They are in fact hand drawn with charcoal – and lots of patience. It’s a counting book and is of course about numbers, but not only the first ten digits we learn. Rather it makes readers reflect on when numbers mean the difference between life and not just death, but extinction. It’s a remarkable book.

    It’s a book to make you look, and think, and wonder in awe. Ten animals are introduced, each with a double page spread featuring Walton’s breathtaking and moving illustrations and a short poetic text giving the animals a context, introducing a few judiciously chosen facts about their lives. A tiger is described as “a flash of fire and night“. The elephants don’t just migrate, they “travel the dust paths of memory.

    Counting Lions can be read as a learn-to-count book – one lion, two gorillas, three giraffes and so on. Young children will love the scale of the illustrations (this is an out-sized book), and I’m sure many a small hand will end up stroking the pictures, reaching out and feeling an emotional connection with the animals depicted. But don’t be fooled. This book will also capture the imagination of a ten year old who’s long past the 1,2,3 stage. The quiet, powerful language, the addition of fact files on each animal(including its status on the list of endangered animals) in an addendum, as well as links to further reading make this a springboard for anyone curious about and appreciative of the natural world.



    Inspired by Walton’s remarkable use of charcoal we decided to explore this medium ourselves. I found this guide, this introduction and these tips very helpful background information.


    We explored smudging, drawing fine lines, shading, removing charcoal with a rubber, “painting” with charcoal and a wet paint brush and more. Pretty soon we were quite dirty!


    Charcoal is a very expressive medium to draw with – it makes such a satisfying mark even when pressing lightly. I’d definitely encourage you to use the largest possible sheets of paper if you try this out yourself as the ease with which such a juicy black line appears made us all want to make large movements whilst drawing.


    We tried drawing in the dark, with just one light beaming on a “still life” (hence the lamp on the table in the picture above); this idea came from the rich darkness of the charcoal, and the sensory experience of drawing in the gloom was quite exciting! Here’s our final gallery:


    Whilst we explored making art with charcoal we listened to:

  • The Lion by Benjamin Scheuer (do check out the video – it’s very lovely)
  • "The Lion" by Benjamin Scheuer & Escapist Papers from Radish Pictures on Vimeo.

  • A Counting Error from John Upchurch and Mark Greenberg

    A COUNTING ERROR by John and Mark from Barry Phipps on Vimeo.

  • Animal Friends by Frances England

  • Other activities which might work well alongside reading Counting Lions include:

  • Reading Animal Rescue by PatrickGeorge – another book where things aren’t quite what the seem, and ideal for the crowd who are at the stage of learning their first numbers.
  • This prompt to create “an art agency and try to secure the job of creating a children’s book about endangered species” – I can imagine this working really well in classrooms.
  • Doing a stock-take of your kids’ soft toys/plastic animals. Can they find out which ones (in real life) are endangered? What could they do to help? This resource from Wonderopolis might be useful.
  • Making your own charcoal pencils. I think kids will really enjoy this activity – Tools! Fire! Smoke!

  • If you liked this post you might like these other posts by me:

  • Cave Baby by Julia Donaldson and Emily Gravett – lots of cave painting, including the use of charcoal.
  • An interview with author and illustrator Katie Cleminson, who uses a lot of willow charcoal in her work.
  • Counting up to VERY large numbers. Using smarties.
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    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of this book by the publisher.

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    6. A Chicken Followed Me Home!

    A Chicken Followed Me Home!: Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl   by Robin Page Beach Lane Books, 2015 ISBN: 978-1-4814-1028-1 Grades K-3 The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher. Robin Page is known for collaborating with Steven Jenkins on nonfiction picture books such as What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?,  My First Day, Time to Eat and How to Clean a

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    7. Jezebel Waiting for the Barn

    Late in the afternoon the donkeys wait to be let into the barn. I sit up on the fence, because otherwise Jezebel will put her head in my lap to get attention.

    At 43 years old, Jezebel is the oldest jenny. She has her own stall in the barn because she is on a special diet. 
    Donkeys' proportions are different from those of horses: large head and ears, small hindquarters, big long belly, and small hooves. They also have a black marking called a "cross" running perpendicular to the back and down along the withers.

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    8. The Other Side Of Heaven

    Hey, how have you been?

    This post is dedicated to Sandee of Comedy Plus, her "hubby," whose heartful post inspired me, and to their little dog "Little Bit," who they lost recently. Please stop by Comedy Plus, if you haven't already, and read Sandee's husbands post. 

     The Other Side Of  Heaven                                                  

    We often think of going to heaven, but we seldom consider the fact that heaven comes to us.  I think it’s because we’re not paying attention to the gifts we see around us every day.
    For example, people say “money doesn’t grow on trees,” when, in fact, we have oranges, apples, and the other kind of foods that grow from a seed, produce a tree, and bear fruits that literally fall from the tree, not the grocery store.

    Obviously, I do know what people mean when they use that expression, it’s because man discovered long ago to charge for their hard work at harvesting their crops, plants, etc…   But, you get my point, money does grow on trees, and, in fact, it’s a gift from heaven and a gift that will keep on giving.

    And I believe your animals or the people we love will show themselves in a different form to let us know they’re just on the other side of heaven and will see us soon.

    People also say that nothing is free, it’s another expression that simply isn’t true, for example, love is free. I believe we were born to live, love, and teach each other many things, the most of which is love, but the noise we experience in our daily routines gets in the way.
    However, animals do not hear the noise, so they allow their spirits to love freely, unbounded by the restrictions us humans require of one another.

    I believe domesticated animals are heaven sent perhaps to teach us how to live a life of joy, love, compassion, understanding, and loyalty to the ones with love, without judgment.  

    So, go hug your animal today, and if you do not have a pet, hug a person you love.
    And for those of you, who, like my friend Sandee and her husband have just lost a dear friend, hug someone you know you may also be grieving a pet, and help them remember the things their pets came here to teach them.

    Because, as I mentioned they are sent to remind us how to live a life of joy, love, compassion, and understanding, the most of which is love.  

    Show them that they taught you well, and you will gain strength from the treasures they gave you and remember you will see them again. -'Cause we are just on one side of heaven.-

    God bless  “Little Bit” Sandee, and Hubby.


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    9. Beartime Stories

    0 Comments on Beartime Stories as of 11/10/2015 9:04:00 AM
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    10. Aww... Monday's: Drive Carefully

    Welcome to Aww...Monday's. The only rule of Aww...Monday's is to post a picture that makes you say Aww...and smile.
    Created by Sandee of Comedy Plus who has the Mister Linky's link to join in the fun. Here's the link to Comedy Plus   where you can read her post, add the link to your post, and meet other bloggers.

    Aww..is indeed a great way to start the week.

    Drive Carefully, because you never know who is sharing the highway.
    I'm going to get some Tuna Fish

    Image Credit Google images

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    11. Meow says mother cat and her little kittens four.

    November's theme is FAMILY, so here's my illustrated spread showing the cat family. This is for Over on the Farm which will feature ten animal families living on the farm. It comes out spring 2016, is written by Marianne Berkes, illustrated by me and published by Dawn Publications.

    Thanks for taking a look and Happy November!

    0 Comments on Meow says mother cat and her little kittens four. as of 11/6/2015 4:23:00 PM
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    12. Animal Families

    This month's themed art is Family.  I thought I'd share some animal moms and their families.

    Momma Bear soothes Baby Bear.
    written and illustrated by Shennen Bersani.

    Mother elephant sleeps with her baby.
    written by Linda Stanek, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.

    A mother garter protects her young.
    written by Jerry Pallotta and Van Wallach
    illustrated by Shennen Bersani.

    A zebra shark and her children.
    written by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.

    And finally, as bats prepare to hibernate…
    written by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Shennen Bersani.

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    13. #769 – Cuddle Bunny by Charles Ghigna & Jacqueline East

    Cuddle Bunny Series: Tiny Tales Written by Charles Ghigna, aka “Father Goose” Illustrated by Jacqueline East Picture Window Books     8/01/2015 9780-1-4795-6532-0 64 pages     Ages 4—7 “What kind of name is Cuddle? Well, it’s the perfect name for a kind, caring, and adorable little bunny! Cuddle Bunny enjoys all of life’s adventures. From …

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    14. Review: The Black Stallion by Walter Farley



    May Contain Spoilers


    I am often reluctant to reread childhood faves, because as I’ve aged, my reading tastes have changed.  Since The Black Stallion was written almost 80 years ago, the age of the novel also gave me pause.  I impulsively checked it out of the library anyway (I do have an ancient hardcover copy somewhere in my own book collection, but it’s so much easier to read a digital copy).  I remember the first book in the series being one of my least favorites, but after finishing it again, a gazillion years after my first outing with the Black and Alec, I must have remembered incorrectly.  I can’t see how later books can top the excitement and adrenaline rush of this one.

    The book starts with young Alec on a freighter, headed home from a summer in India visiting his uncle.  During the journey, two remarkable things happen; a wild black stallion is loaded during a stop in Arabia, and the violent storm breaks the ship apart.  Saved inadvertently by the Black, Alec and the stallion are marooned on a small, desolate island.  Alec struggles with all of the life skills he possesses to keep himself and the horse alive while awaiting rescue.  They form a close bond, and Alec even braves several unplanned dismounts (he is quickly and powerfully tossed from the Black’s back and thrown to the ground) to ride him.

    They are rescued, and when Alec and the Black finally, finally arrive back home in New York, the boy convinces his parents to let him keep the horse.  In an incredible convenience, the Dailey’s, an older couple that live down the street, have a run-down barn and an acre pasture, and they agree to allow Alec to board the horse on their property.  Henry Dailey, a former jockey and horse trainer, sees the potential in the wild stallion, and decides to  help Alec train him. 

    I could not put the book down, and I’ve read it a number of times in the past.  It’s been decades since my last reread, and I had forgotten many plot details.  I completely forgot about the match race between Cyclone and Sun Raider, and was wondering how the Black would be able to race without papers.  Now that I have horses of my own, I know how important registration papers are if you want to compete in breed events.  That small detail wouldn’t have meant much to me during my first visits with the Black and Alec, when I was, what, eight? 

    Alec’s adventures are harrowing and leave you on the edge of your seat.  Even his rides on the Black are exciting.  Walter Farley makes the most of drama, giving the Black speed that blinds Alec, brings tears streaming down his face, and even weakens him to the point of losing consciousness.  The Black is a wild, violent animal, always a hair-trigger away from coming completely unglued.  Only the special bond he shares with his human keeps events from escalating into disasters.  Is it very believable?  No, but it makes for tense, hard to put down reading.

    One thing I missed from this version of the story where the illustrations in my old hardcopy.  They gave the story more depth and were just plain fun to look at.  That’s the only knock I have for this edition.  I’m glad I reread this, and I’ll probably read more of the series, because I have completely forgotten most of the other books.

    Grade:  A

    Review copy borrowed from my local library

    About the book:

    First published in 1941, Walter Farley’s best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black’s first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old.

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    15. Painting at a Wolf Sanctuary

    In this new video, we visit a wolf sanctuary to feed the wolves and paint their portraits. (Link to YouTube video)

    Wolves are silent most of the time, and they bark only when they're scared. When occasional visitors like us appear at the sanctuary, the "ambassador wolves" are curious to meet us. 

    They're hungry and restless at first because it's feeding day, which happens only twice a week. After feeding them donated livestock, we enter the enclosure and sit down with our backs straight.

    I'm not scared, really, but more intensely riveted, especially when they bring their noses right up and press them against mine, with their yellow eyes looking right through me. 

    Portraits of wolves by James Gurney, casein, 5 x 8 inches
    Once they have checked us out to see we're not a threat, they're no longer interested in us. They're ready to take a nap, and we set up our easels just outside their enclosure. 

    Here's a video with more about Mission: Wolf (Link to Vimeo)

    Mission: Wolf allows visitors, and you can even stay there for a couple weeks if you're willing to volunteer your time.

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    16. Mia Charro

    nature-always1 all-you-need-cat1 puppy1 be-the-change1 

    Mia Charro is a spanish illustrator and children’s book author, who is inspired by nature, fairytales and magic. Her illustrations are very whimsical, highlighting her love for the outdoors. When she’s not illustrating she loves nothing more than walking through the woods and writing.

    Find out more about this great illustrator at her website and blog

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    17. The Great Monkey Rescue

    The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins by Sandra Markle Millbrook Press, 2015 ISBN: 978-1-4677-8030-8 Grades 3-6 The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher. Over the past few years we've reviewed  The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats by Sandra Markle. These titles have proven to be high interest books for

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    18. Are You My Mommy?

    Board Book: Are You My Mommy? Mary Murphy. 2015. Candlewick. 16 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: Are you my mommy? No, I'm a sheep. And...here's my lamb.

    Premise/plot: A puppy is looking for his/her Mommy. The puppy is asking EVERYONE "Are you my Mommy?" Will the puppy find his/her Mommy? How many different animals will readers meet?

    My thoughts: Are You My Mommy? is a flap book. I do like lift-the-flap books. Some better than others, of course. This is one of the better ones, in my opinion. One of the reasons why I do enjoy it is I really like the illustrations. The puppy is just adorable.

    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    19. Coloring Page - Where is Salami?

    Another adorable coloring page featuring characters in "Where is Salami?" (by Donna J. Shepherd, illustrated by Jack Foster). 

    0 Comments on Coloring Page - Where is Salami? as of 9/16/2015 5:17:00 AM
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    20. Book Launch: They Just Know

    TheyJustKnowRobin Yardi is releasing her first picture book this week, They Just Know: Animal Instincts. The combination of the whimsical and real life come together perfectly with Laurie Allen Klein’s art as readers learn how some animals don’t need mom and dad to show them the way, they just know!

    Before we get to the inside scoop on hidden gems in the art meet Robin and find out how this story came to be…

    RobinYardiWhat was your incentive to write this particular book?

    When my daughter was young we loved to talk about animals that didn’t need their mothers. I remember playing mommy and baby butterfly with her (a game of her invention) and trying to explain, “Well actually, butterflies never meet their mothers.” You should have seen her face! “Who teaches them to fly?” she asked. “Who makes them breakfast?” After years and years of watching butterflies in our garden this still amazes her, so I thought a book about the wonderful things animals can do all on their own would appeal to other kids too.

    What animals in They Just Know have you seen before?

    that winter and really don’t have many left. Now when I find ladybugs I give them to my children to wish on.

    I’ve never seen a spring peeper, or pinkletink as some people call them, but I do love and worry about the world’s amphibians. I’ve had pet frogs and toads and once ended up with about two hundred tadpoles!

    I’ve swum among Green Sea Turtles in the waters of Hawai’i. These turtles are protected and you cannot touch them, but you can look deep, deep into their eyes. I’ve rarely seen anything so beautiful, curious and gentle.

    As a kid in California I caught two species of kingsnake, both strikingly and stripingly beautiful!

    To read the full interview with Robin, click here, but first play find and seek throughout the book with Laurie Allen Klein’s art!

    Hide and Seek in They Just Know

    LaurieAllenKlein(hint, Laurie answers these questions on Nonfiction Nook, but see if you can find them yourself)

    • Find the t-shirt with all the animals from the book pictured on it.
    • Which way is the current headed for the baby swimming turtles?
    • What kind of “helmet” might a ladybug wear for flying?
    • If a shark needed a nightlight what kind of fish serves that purpose?
    • First flights are celebrated with a ritual, why is a cut t-shirt so special?
    • What is the equation on the frog’s blackboard showing?TJK-spread-13
    • What game are the king snakes playing?
    • What other Arbordale book is pictured within the pages here?

    Comment here and enter to win your own copy of They Just Know!

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    21. Kate Wilson

    bluebird_670   journal_art_670 Katie_Wilson_Billy_Goats_Gruff_576 running_rabbit_small pods_birds_670 sun_clouds_full_670 meadow_1 

    Kate Wilson is a New Zealand based illustrator. Her illustrations are peaceful and whimsical, concentrating on the wildlife and small beings that live outdoors. She has a keen eye for small things, which translates in her work. Her influences include; gardening and spending time with animals but she does dislike mowing the lawn! 

    See more from this lovely illustrator at her website, blog and Facebook

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    22. Spotlight and Giveaway: Sit! Stay! Speak! by Annie England Noblin

    Enter to Win a
    Print Copy of SIT! STAY! SPEAK!
    (US Only)

    A Novel
    Annie England Noblin
    Released Sept 9th, 2015
    William Morrow


    Echoing the novels of Mary Alice Monroe, Allie Larkin, and Holly Robinson, this charming debut novel tells the unforgettable story of a rescue dog that helps a struggling young outsider make peace with the past.

    Addie Andrews is living a life interrupted. Tragedy sent her fleeing from Chicago to the shelter of an unexpected inheritance—her beloved aunt’s somewhat dilapidated home in Eunice, Arkansas, population very tiny. There she reconnects with some of her most cherished childhood memories. If only they didn’t make her feel so much!

    People say nothing happens in small towns, but Addie quickly learns better. She’s got an elderly next door neighbor who perplexingly dances outside in his underwear, a house needing more work than she has money, a best friend whose son uncannily predicts the weather, and a local drug dealer holding a massive grudge against her.

    Most surprising of all, she’s got a dog. But not any dog, but a bedraggled puppy she discovered abandoned, lost, and in desperate need of love. Kind of like Addie herself. She’d come to Eunice hoping to hide from the world, but soon she discovers that perhaps she’s finding the way back—to living, laughing, and loving once more.


    She sighed and pushed her blond hair off her neck, piling it high on top of her head. Her thoughts went back to Chicago. To Jonah. To what life had been like before she’d inherited a house that needed more work than she had money. Jonah would have liked this house, she thought. Addie knew that if he were here, they would have stayed in town after the funeral. Jonah would have picked through each piece of furniture, each knickknack. He would have asked for stories about each one, stories Addie had long forgotten.

    She rested her head against the coffee table. It had a glass top, something her aunt had brought all the way down here from Chicago. It wasn’t worth much, as far as Addie could tell, but her aunt loved it and stuck cards from relatives underneath the glass. Each time Aunt Tilda had a visitor, she’d tell them about whichever relative happened to be resting underneath that visitor’s coffee mug. Today there was no coffee, and there were no visitors. There was no Jonah. Addie let her hair fall back down onto her sticky neck and said out loud to no one, “I’ve got to get out of here for a while.”

    The Mississippi River in Eunice, Arkansas, looked nothing like it had when she’d crossed the bridge in Memphis. It was smaller, tranquil almost. Addie stood with her toes touching the water. She hadn’t been down to the levee since the last time she’d visited Eunice. Even this close to the water, it was hot outside. She found herself wishing she’d just stayed inside with all the unopened boxes and dusty furniture—at least there was air-conditioning.

    Gazing around, Addie realized that this was no longer the nice, clean picnic area that her aunt had taken her to during her childhood visits. The tables were overgrown with weeds, and there was an obvious odor of trash in the air. This place hadn’t been taken care of in a long time.

    Addie bent down to wash out her flip-flops when she heard a noise coming from behind her. She turned around to face a small wooded area. The noise grew louder. It sounded like a whimpering, but all she saw were bushes. She shoved her feet into her shoes and walked over to the direction of the noise. She pushed her way into the first set of bushes, where a thin layer of trash covered the ground. Off to one side there was a large, black trash bag.

    The trash bag was moving. Addie crept closer to the bag. She bent down and touched the plastic. It had been tied in a tight knot. Digging her fingers into the plastic, Addie ripped the bag wide open. The object in the bag stirred, whimpering slightly. It lifted its head and tried to move, but failed. It was covered in blood and blood-soaked newspaper and dozens of crumpled packages of Marlboro Reds.

    Addie was looking at a dog.


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    Annie England Noblin graduated with an M.A. in Creative Writing from Missouri State University and currently teaches English for Arkansas State University. Her poetry has been featured in such publications as the Red Booth Review and the Moon City Review. She lives with her son, husband, and four rescued bulldogs in the Missouri Ozarks. In addition to her writing, Noblin started working with rescue organizations across the country ten years ago, and has never looked back. The work she does serves as an inspiration in everyday life, as well as in her writing.

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    23. Fur, Fins, and Feathers by Cassandre Maxwell

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    24. Biology Week: a reading list

    In honour of Biology Week 2015, we have compiled a reading list of biology titles that have helped further the cause through education and research.

    The post Biology Week: a reading list appeared first on OUPblog.

    0 Comments on Biology Week: a reading list as of 10/10/2015 6:35:00 AM
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    25. Untamed, The Wild Life of Jane Goodall – Book Recommendation

    As regular readers of my blog know, one of my passions is the conservation of our planet and all its species, and today’s post returns to that theme. There is only one of my childhood heroes that followed me into … Continue reading

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