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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Book Review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Galapagos George – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Galapagos George Written By: Jean Craighead George Paintings By: Wendell Minor Published By: Harper, 2014. Themes/Topics: Galapagos Islands, giant tortoise, extinction Suitable for ages: 7-11   Opening: This is a story that took so long to happen that only the stars were present at the … Continue reading

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2. New Picture Books I Love and Recommend (And A Few Older Books But Goodies)

I love finding picture books where the art and the writing work together just right, where the storyline is compelling and the illustrations are beautiful. Picture books like that are treasures, sure to inspire imagination, good feeling, greater understanding, and/or and dreams in young readers. I also love books that celebrate books and reading. All these picture books are ones I highly recommend.


Where’s Mommy?
Written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Published by: Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House
Published: March 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-375-84423-2
Recommended Age: 3-7 years (and up)
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My policy is only to review books that I love or enjoy.

As soon as I opened Where’s Mommy? I was drawn in by the warm, comforting images and delightful storyline. Every image has a yellow-orange background like sunlight that creates a warm happy, mood. There is SO much to look at in every illustration; so much detail to study and enjoy. And the writing is just enough to keep the reader interested and tell us what we need to know, but not too much that it becomes hard to sit through.

In Where’s Mommy? a little girl and a little mouse who are friends but can’t tell anyone about their friendship, both can’t find their mothers one night when they’re getting ready to bed. They look for their mothers, ask their family, and start getting worried–until they find their mothers together.

Where’s Mommy? is beautifully written and illustrated. We see two lives at once; the human girl’s and the mouse’s. Both the dual storyline and the dual illustrations parallel each other, and then converge in a satisfying story. I LOVE the parallel stories; in every page or spread, we see the human girl doing something–getting on her pajamas, brushing her teeth, looking in the kitchen for her mother–and then on the same spread (often below the human girl, or beside her), we see the mouse girl doing the exact same thing. The mouse family lives beneath the floor of the human family, and the way McClintock illustrates it, we see them not only doing the same kinds of things, we also see their rooms parallel each other, sharing not only the house but the page. Absolutely beautifully done.

McClintock’s detailed pen-and-ink, watercolor, and gouche illustrations are a delight to pore through. There are so many details in every drawing that make the illustrations feel cozy and just right, that tell us a happy family lives there–the toys lined up along the couch and shelves and scattered on the floor in the human image, with furniture and plants and books and paintings–and in the mouse family, so many creative, sweet details, like beds and seats made out of teacups, an iPod for a giant music system, clothespins making up part of a bed, Christmas lights and flashlights creating light, an empty plastic berry container as a countertop, and yes–tiny books and dishes and art. Everything is drawn beautifully, with great care and perspective. Warmth and friendliness emanates from every page.

Donofrio’s text is beautifully written. The story starts out with friendship, a secret, and the reason for the secret, with the two lives paralleling each other. It takes us on their paralleling journey, has the two characters bump into each other, and then at the climax gives us a delightful surprise. The text makes the girl and mouse’s lives closely parallel each other but still fit their own world; it’s satisfying to read. The story is fun and grabs the readers’ curiosity and interest–what will happen next?–and pulls us though to the surprise and the ending, where the lives parallel each other once more, ending with a question that the reader can answer.

I think this book will inspire friendship and hope, imagination, appreciating differences, and give readers a sense of comfort and belonging.

This is one book where the story text and the illustrations work so perfectly together that they just belong together; it’s as if they were created by the same person. Both are created so beautifully that the book is a joy to read; this book is one of my new favorites. I highly recommend it.




Journey
Written and Illustrated by Aaron Becker
Published by: Candlewick Press
Published: Aug 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6053-6
Recommended Age: 4-8 (and up)
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Source: I purchased the book myself.

This wordless book is pure delight. It reminds me of both Harold And The Purple Crayon, and The Red Book by Barbara Lehman, where a lonely child finds a friend, happiness, and joy through creativity.

In Journey, a lonely young girl uses a red crayon to draw a door into another world–a world busting with color, beauty, and imaginative adventure. The nameless girl starts out in a gray-brown city, all alone and dark except for the pop of red from one toy she takes with her–her scooter, a kit, a ball. But when her family is too busy to play with her, her world turns completely gray-brown–until she spots the red crayon on her floor, and draws a door in the wall of her bedroom. She walks through the door–into a world lush with color, life, and imagination–a green forest with hanging lights. She goes on an adventure, using her magic red crayon to escape from danger, and to help rescue a beautiful purple bird that soldier captured. Together, the girl with her red crayon and the purple bird escape and travel through another door into another magical land–and then back to the city, where the bird is reunited with the boy who drew her, and the girl, the boy, and the bird become friends and go off on an adventure, riding a bike that both the girl and the boy created together.

Becker’s illustrations are powerful and a delight to page through. The initial bleakness of the girl’s world is shown dramatically through the gray-brown washes–lacking any other color except for the one bright red spot of hope through the girl’s toy when she approaches someone to play–and her crayon. Her red crayon becomes a focal point, both through the dramatic pop of color and through the magic of what it can do. Each object that the girl draws to help herself–a door, a boat, a hot-air balloon–are a red burst of color that stand out against the muted but lush colors of the magical worlds she travels through.

Becker’s illustrations are intricate and detailed, with so much to look at. I also like how the illustrations aren’t all the same size; in some, there are three small drawings on a white background per page, on some, they are full color but confined to one page, and on some the action takes place over an entire full spread of color. This helps keep the story appealing and engaging.

This in an enchanting, hopeful, imaginative book that reminds readers of the importance of friends, and the power of art and imagination to transport us out of unhappiness and make our lives happier and brighter. It’s also a 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, and rightly so. It is one of my absolute favorites. Highly recommended!





The Story of Fish and Snail
Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman
Published by: Viking (Penguin Group)
Published: June 2013
ISBN: 978-0670784899
Recommended Age: 3-5 (and up)
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Source: I purchased the book myself.

Snail and fish are friends and live in a book together–called The Story of Fish and Snail. Snail waits each day for Fish to come home and tell her a story. But one day Fish says he found a new book, and wants to show it to Snail. Snail doesn’t want to go into other books, and they argue. Fish leaves, and Snail is all alone and sad. But then Snail sees Fish in an open book below theirs, and dives down into the new book. The two friends, together again, sail off to have an adventure in the new book.

I love the concept and playfulness of characters who live in the book we’re reading about, where the book becomes part of the art (kind of like Chester by Melanie Watt). There’s something so creative and appealing (especially to book lovers) about this. I love how the illustrations move from seeing Fish dive into the open pages of The Story of Fish and Snail as if the pages hold water and everything that we see within the pages for real, and not just illustrations, to closer and closer up views of the pages of the book until we don’t see the book any more, but just the book world (under water with stones and a tiny castle), getting closer and bigger views of the arguing friends so that they almost take up the page visually (and also with the emotion and fight), until Fish leaps right out of the book and we once again see that it’s a book spread open. I also love how the only color is inside the book pages; everything else (when we get a farther out view) is shades of gray in a library–because the rest of the setting isn’t important. What’s important are the worlds inside the books, and how they come alive. It’s also a great analogy of how books really do come alive for readers.

This is a beautifully drawn and written book. Visually, the characters are so expressive and full of emotion, and the book worlds are beautiful and magical–as if books physically hold what the words and pictures say they do. The illustrations are warm and comforting, showing two lives at once, and there is so much for readers to look at. The climax was strong, the writing was just right–not too much, just enough to tell the story, and perfectly matching the illustrations.

The Story of Fish and Snail encourages a love of books and imagination, and also reminds us that fear can hold us back, but sometimes we have to stretch ourselves a little if we want to keep up with our dearest friends. This is another new favorite of mine. Highly recommended!



The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art

Written by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary Grandpre
Published by: Knopf Books For Young Readers/Random House
Published: Feb 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-0307978486
Recommended Age: 4-8 years (and up)
My Rating: 5 out of 5

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My policy is only to review books that I love or enjoy.

In The Noisy Paint Box, Vasya Kandinsky was taught to be a proper Russian boy, with manners and rules and things to practice, and he lived up to that–until his aunt gave him a wooden paint box. Vasya heard the colors make noise when no one else could. And so he painted the sound of the colors. But his family didn’t understand and wanted him to be like a normal Russian boy–so for a long time he held himself in and did what was expected of him–until finally he couldn’t ignore the singing of color. Finally, he went back to painting, painting what he heard and saw and felt from color. And when he did that, he created a new form of art–abstract art. Art that was meant to make people feel.

Text and illustrations work really well together. I love that Barb Rosenstock tells us about Vasya Kandinsky–a famous painter–and tells it as a story that comes alive, a story that we can almost touch and hear. Her word choices feel like poetry: “He spun a bright lemon circle onto the canvas. It clinked like the highest notes on the keyboard,” and make us feel it, see it, almost hear it. Her beautiful writing will grab the reader’s interest and keep them wanting to know about the little boy who people tried to force to conform, who grew into his own creativity and art. I also like that there’s an author’s note at the end of the book that included detailed information about Vasya and shows some of his actual paintings.

Mary Grandpre’s illustrations (the illustrator of the Harry Potter books) make the story come alive even more. The characters are expressive, and the illustrations are so creative, with words and images and bright swirls of color incorporated right into the illustrations themselves. For instance, when the grown-ups talk at dinner, not only do we see strips of cut-up words coming from their mouths, but we also see their heads and bodies full of words. And once Vasya discovers paint, we see the paint colors swirling up off the page with words, symbols, and bright color to show the sounds he hears. Grandpre’s style is unique, visually compelling, and full of movement, bright color, and energy.

The Noisy Paint Box reminds readers that creativity is powerful, that it’s important to be true to ourselves no matter what anyone else says, and that if we have a dream, we should follow it. This book will encourage creativity and art, and creative, out-of-the-box thinking. Highly recommended!





Books Always Everywhere
Written by Jane Blatt, illustrated by Sarah Massini
Published by: Random House For Young Readers
Published: May 27, 2014
ISBN: 978-0385375061
Recommended Age: 3-7 years (and up)
My Rating: 4 out of 5

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My policy is only to review books that I love or enjoy.

Books Always Everywhere is another book that celebrates books and reading, and so encourages the reader to enjoy books. I think this is especially important when young children are increasingly introduced to technology, television, and video games. Books teach us about the world and encourage empathy and help us understand the world in a different way than even movies can–by putting us inside the characters through our own imaginations. So I love this book about books for very young readers. I could see it being made as a board book. (The copy I have is a regular picture book.)

Jane Blatt’s rhyming text is very simple, aimed at young children learning to read: “Book big/Book small/Book wide/Book tall.” Words also appear on the books the toddlers read–some on the inside pages, and some on the covers or spines. The text flows easily and quickly, and the rhymes are just right–something I’m particular about when reading, because when the rhyming is off it can take the reader out of the story. But here it works perfectly, and gives the readers a sense of books being everywhere.

Sarah Massini’s illustrations are sweet, simple, and fun–a good match for the text and the age. They they remind me of Helen Oxenbury’s style. The baby and toddler characters are adorable in their various onsies and PJs and little outfits, with simple, sweet faces, just dots for eyes, and little curves for noses and mouths–and babies and young readers are sure to enjoy seeing other little people in the pages. I also like that various ethnicity are shown in the characters. But my favorite part are the books within the pages of this book–three-dimensional books that are much bigger than they’d be in real life–big enough to climb on–and smaller books that the toddlers hold, read, and sit on. I love, too, how the books are not just books to read, but also books to play with–to sit on, to create a fort with, a hat, a tower–prompted by Blatt’s text–just like books are used in real life with young kids, and also books are enjoyed everywhere, on swings, in bed, at the beach.

I think Massini must have had fun creating book titles and text that fit what the characters were doing in each illustration. Young readers will enjoy hearing the silly, funny titles: “Trees Are the Bee’s Knees,” “Ooops-a-daisy!” when a baby drops a book, while other titles are of classic tales.

Books Always Everywhere is a sweet, simple book about enjoying books everywhere. It will encourage a love of books and reading, and shows other young children reading, too. I think kids need to see reading modeled to help them read more, and this book could encourage that. Highly recommended!

0 Comments on New Picture Books I Love and Recommend (And A Few Older Books But Goodies) as of 6/23/2014 3:31:00 PM
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3. Review of the Day: Wild by Emily Hughes

Wild1 Review of the Day: Wild by Emily HughesWild
By Emily Hughes
Flying Eye Books
$16.95
ISBN: 978-1-909263-08-6
Ages 3-7
On shelves now.

There lives in every child an animal. A wild, untamable creature that will emerge without fail at the worst possible moments, rendering its parents helpless and hopeless all in one swoop. There also exist in this world picture books that touch on this restrained/free duality. You might even argue that the BEST children’s books touch on this in some way (Where the Wild Things Are being the most obvious example). In 2013 alone we saw Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild talk about the need in every child for order as well as wild uninhibited freedom. Wild, in contrast, is a simpler story. Following just one girl from her path from nature to the city and back again, it has a different lesson in mind. It is all well and good for some to find a happy medium between chaos and order but for some kids chaos is clearly MUCH more appealing!

“No one remembered how she came to the woods, but all knew it was right.” A green-haired baby smiles contentedly on a forest floor as a bear, bird, and fox look on. Over the years the bird teaches her to speak, the bear to eat, and the fox to play. Unfortunately a hunter’s trap catches the child by her foliage-like hair and a pair of baffled hunters takes her back with them to civilization. There the child is forced to reside in the home of a well-meaning psychiatrist and his wife. Attempts to normalize her fail resoundingly and at last she flees back to the wild, the family dog and cat in tow. After all, “you cannot tame something so happily wild.”

Wild2 300x125 Review of the Day: Wild by Emily Hughes

A British/Hawaiian author/illustrator, Emily Hughes’ art is fascinating to look at, partly because it’s so incredibly European. It’s something about the eyes, I think. Or maybe just the way the landscape and the animals intertwine. The bears, for example, reminded me of nothing so much as the ones found in The Bear’s Song by Benjamin Chaud (a Frenchman). The heroine herself is somehow big-eyed without devolving into preciousness (a delicate balance). Her plant-like hair almost looks like it might be sentient at times. People in general are rendered with a fine hand. My favorite shot is of the wild child being brought to civilization by the two clearly shell-shocked hunters. As the men, and even their dog, drive in the rain, their eyes ringed with worry, the child sits on the front seat with only her eyes visible over the dash. She is clearly silent and livid.

It’s interesting to look at the settings and colors in the book as well. As the girl is raised there isn’t a white page to be seen until the last fateful line of “And she understood, and was happy.” Then, when humanity intervenes, the white pages begin to proliferate. Interior spreads are either grey/green or peach/brown and nothing else. It’s as much a relief to the reader’s eye as it is the child’s spirit when she escapes again into the wild. I was particularly pleased too with the two-page wordless humanless spread displaying only the child’s wanton path of destruction. As for the wild itself, here we have a utopian Eden, where animals might eat the occasional fish but never a green-haired baby child. Or, for that matter, one another.

Wild3 300x259 Review of the Day: Wild by Emily HughesOne quibble I have with the book is the final line. It ends on an ellipsis, you see. Now I’m as big a fan of your average everyday ellipses as the next gal. And I understand that there must have been long editorial discussions with the author/illustrator that justified its presence on the last page. I just have absolutely no idea what those justifications could possibly be. The line reads, “Because you cannot tame something so happily wild…” Maybe the dot dot dot is there to suggest that this isn’t the end of the story? I haven’t a better idea.

Oh, they’ll tag this as an eco-centric morality tale, I’m sure. Wild/nature = good, civilization/standardization = bad. That sort of thing. Honestly, I think it has a lot more to say about the inner life of a young child than any overt messagey message about Mother Earth. But there aren’t any rules governing how you use a book, so go on! Use it to talk to kids about nature and the outdoors. Use it to talk about acceptable and non-acceptable behavior and when those rules break down. Use it to discuss tropes most common in European vs. American books, or what makes this book a stand out in its field. Talk about it any old way you like, but make sure you talk about it. A surprisingly lovely little piece that bears similarities to hundreds of pictures books out there, but isn’t really like a single one. One of a kind.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

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4 Comments on Review of the Day: Wild by Emily Hughes, last added: 12/26/2013
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4. Book Review and Giveaway: Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth and Jeffery Ebbeler


Having an older sister in charge wouldn't be so bad if she actually paid attention to you. 

When a boy is left in the care of his sister, he tries to get her to read his tiger book to him. Instead, she is too busy reading her own book. With ear buds planted in her ears, nothing will distract her. When she finally takes a break to give her brother a bowl of soup, he finds a ferocious tiger escaping with the steam from his bowl. The boy declares war on the tiger using the things in his kitchen while his sister cares only that his soup gets cold.

Bright colors evoke the warmth of Indian fabrics. The image of the tiger cowering on a table from the deluge of kitchen implements coming at him will give the young reader the thrill of victory and keep him glued to the pages long after he reads the words.

Recommended to Highly Recommended (4 1/2 stars)


Publishing Information:


Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (April 2013)
ISBN-13: 978-1-56145-696-3
Ages 4-8


Purchase from the following retailers.


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**Disclosure:  Review copy received from publisher at no charge. No monetary compensation was received. My review is based upon by honest opinion and is not influenced by outside sources.

Giveaway Details: 

Winner will receive a copy of Tiger in My Soup. Use the Rafflecopter form to enter. By entering, you acknowledge you have read the terms on the form and agree to them. Contest ends 5/30/2013 at 11:59 EST.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

21 Comments on Book Review and Giveaway: Tiger in My Soup by Kashmira Sheth and Jeffery Ebbeler, last added: 5/31/2013
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5. Get Sucked into THE GREAT LOLLIPOP CAPER by Dan Krall (plus a giveaway!)

greatlollipopcaperDan Krall is genius. I mean, he created a book about lollipops! What kid doesn’t love lollipops?!

And there’s something for us adults, too. Capers! Ya know, the salty little fellas that go with lox and a nice schmear (that’s NY-talk for cream cheese). Delish (more NY-talk). I can’t decide which I like more. And thankfully I don’t have to, because both get equal billing in THE GREAT LOLLIPOP CAPER…which releases today!

In the book, Caper’s a sourpuss. He wants kids to love him as much as they love Lollipop. Caper goes on a great caper to elevate his kid appeal, only to ungracefully fall far from grace. But don’t worry, he cleans up his act. And everyone else cleans their plates.

As you can imagine, Dan is super busy, what with the book release and working on “Chowder” and all. He’s tied up, so he sent Lollipop and Caper over to have a chat with me.

lollipopandcaper

Caper, you’re beloved by adults and chicken piccatas everywhere, so why did you feel the need to convert kids into fans?

Well…no offense to adults, but they’re kind of boring. They’re not gonna see this, are they? I mean they’re fine in their way, sitting quietly in a candlelit restaurant, sipping wine, enjoying me on pasta while having a quiet, serious conversation… “Oh, does this have capers on it? Why, I believe it does…” Blah, blah, blah. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s better than just hanging out in my jar all day. But come on, when I see the party Lollipop is having with children? Running around screaming, carnivals, theme parks, birthday parties…I mean, they go nuts for him, so who doesn’t want to get in on that?

Lollipop, you’re such a sweet guy. You wanted to help Caper even though he tried to wiggle in on your likable, lickable territory. Why so generous?

I’m a sweet and tangy lollipop and children love me. [smiles vacantly]

Um, yeah. And to think you spend your day having your brain sucked out. Never woulda known.

So let’s come back to you, Caper. I’m amazed you passed yourself off as a pea to sneak into the lollipop factory. I didn’t know capers were such masters of disguise. What other impressions do you do?

Thanks for noticing that, you know it’s one of my several talents and one of the many reasons everybody would love me if they just got to know me a little better. I have a very wide repertoire of personas I can inhabit—Bogart, Mitchum, McGruff the Crime Dog, The Neighborhood Watch guy, pretty much anybody I set my mind to that’s wearing a trench coat and fedora. I can also do a pretty mean fava bean.

So I suppose after all this, you’re content with being a Caper. Lollipop, are you happy being candy?

I’m really happy being just about anything as long as it’s sweet, and nice, and pleasant, and lovely and…. [drifts off into a vacant stare] Oh…and I always kind of wanted to be a forest ranger. [smiles]

Well, fellas, it’s obvious that Dan captured your personalities perfectly for this book. So let’s show our blog readers by having a little giveaway.

lollipopcapergiveaway

Please leave a comment to enter, letting us know if you prefer Lollipops or Capers.

A winner will be randomly selected in about a week! Good luck!

And be sure to check out THE GREAT LOLLIPOP CAPER by Dan Krall, available today!


10 Comments on Get Sucked into THE GREAT LOLLIPOP CAPER by Dan Krall (plus a giveaway!), last added: 5/7/2013
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6. Take a Vacation…with PENGUIN ON VACATION (and get a beach ball, too)

It’s finally May—the flowers are pushing through the dirt, the sun is ablaze with warm promises…and, well, it’s time to take a break!

I thought I’d consult with someone who knows vacationing very well. No, not my Aunt Myrna, the Long Island travel agent queen. Salina Yoon’s Penguin!

He’s a cute, chubby fellow with an itch for adventure. Let’s scratch it, shall we?

penguinonvacation

Penguin, thanks so much for joining me today. Tell me, what’s been happening at home that you decided a vacation was in order?

Hi Ms. Tara! I was just bored of the snow and ice. I can only count to 99, and after I counted my 99th snowball, I didn’t know what else to do.

You could make 33 miniature snowmen, but ya know, I like the vacation idea better.

What did Grandpa say when you packed your bag?

33 miniature snowmen…I never thought of that!

Grandpa always says to me that I should go and explore the world—and I will come back a wiser penguin. I think he is right. Grandpa is very wise, and he has traveled very far. In fact, he has been to the beach once long ago. He gave me his old swim suit for my trip. It fit perfectly.

I hope you sent him a postcard. He probably missed you very much.

I did better than that, Ms. Tara! I met a lovely seagull on the beach, and she had a camera. It went, “click! click! click!” and pretty pictures came out of a box. She took some photos of me and Crab, and Seagull delivered the photos to Grandpa because she can fly! It was very nice of Seagull. It turns out that we are distant relatives!

penguin1 penguin2penguin3

Speaking of Crab, you did some fun things together. What other places did you two visit on your vacation?

Crab took me caving, snorkeling, and even cliff diving on the island! I am a very good swimmer, so it was very fun. But the caves were nothing like the ice caves back at home. It was fun to see and try new things.

What advice do you have for kids heading away on vacation to someplace new and different?

My advice is to make new friends on vacation, because they will know how to have fun there even if you don’t! Also, I would say to be open to trying new things because you can do what you always do and eat the foods you always eat when you get back home. And take sunscreen…if you are going someplace sunny!

Where would you like to vacation next?

I would love to visit the Grand Canyon one day, even though I would have to pack a lot of ice with me to stay comfortable. I would also like to visit Mount Everest and see the world from the highest point on Earth! And then of course, Disneyland!

That sounds perfect. I can hear the television announcer booming, “Penguin, you just had your book published, what are you going to do now?!”

Thanks for waddling by today, Penguin. And thanks for leaving behind your adorable book signed by Salina, plus a beach ball to boot! Or throw. Or float in the pool with. Whatever the winner prefers!

Thank you for inviting me to talk with you, Ms. Tara. And happy vacationing, friends!

penguinbeachball

salinabeachPlease leave a comment below telling Penguin about your favorite vacation spot.

A winner of the book and ball will be randomly selected in one week!

Good luck!


12 Comments on Take a Vacation…with PENGUIN ON VACATION (and get a beach ball, too), last added: 5/3/2013
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7. HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI (and for you, too!)

hothotroticoverOh boy, do I love Indian food. Sometimes I think I oughta start a foodie blog. Samosas, tandoori, palak paneer—I can’t get enough of the spicy stuff. So when I heard about HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI, I knew I had to devour it. My nephew is half-Indian and the boy on the cover reminded me of him. But inside HOT HOT ROTI is a story about any grandfather and grandson, for the sentiments transcend culture and ethnicity. Inside is a story about memories, imagination, and the power of sharing family traditions.

I asked the author, Farhana Zia, to join us today. And stick around, because after the interview I have a copy of the book for you and Farhana’s personal recipe for HOT HOT ROTI!

What inspired you to write HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI?

farhanaziaThe motivation for writing HHRFDJ was a desire to do something enduring for my three grandchildren. They are pre-readers now but one day they’ll read the book to themselves and also, not far down the road, to others important in their lives and I hope that when this happens, they’ll sense the love that’s packed inside. I wrote the book to create some good memories for them. We all need warm, lasting memories. Good memories can be so comforting at unexpected times.

The inspiration for the story came from a host of such memories of childhood…memories of sights, smells, sounds, tastes and emotions that linger on and on and are comforting. Foremost among these is the memory of snuggling up to my own grandmother for her wonderful stories.

In the book, Dada-Ji gets his power from the hot, hot roti. What food is your own personal power source?

First of all, I’ll take the liberty to use the word “food” metaphorically and say that each new day, when things generally go right, is the ultimate power source for me as well as a reason to give thanks. In addition to that, as an elementary school teacher, I can truthfully say I derive plenty of power from the energy and vibrancy of my students. They keep me on my toes and competing with their exuberance every single day! A classroom is definitely an exhilarating place to be. As far as real food, I have lots of favorite power sources. At the risk of surprising you I’m going to put a steaming, tongue burning, pepperoni, mushroom, anchovy pizza at the top of the list. This is an occasional weekend treat when I’m absolutely not in the mood to cook. My husband runs down to the local pizza place and I keep the oven nice and hot! A medium rare filet that cuts like butter is a close second in my personal favorites and falls under the, “I don’t want to cook, let’s go out to eat” category. I could go on but….a fluffy, piping hot bature (deep fried leavened bread), puffed up to the size of a volley ball, with a spicy potato can hit the spot when one is very, very hungry. Trust me!

It’s refreshing to see the South Asian/Indian culture in a picture book–that’s rare in the market. How can children from different cultures relate to this story?

I wrote the book for all children, regardless of nationality and ethnicity. While the book definitely has cultural elements, the underlying themes and attributes are universal. I like to think that the story is a testimony to the unfailing creativity and initiative present in all children.

When kids read about Aneel making roti for his grandfather, they’ll recognize their own innate inventiveness. I witness it every day in my classroom. Kids also love to take charge. They can surprise you with their cleverness and their ability to offer creative solutions. They can also be so helpful and they especially love to feel responsible. I think all young readers will recognize and revel in these traits. Besides, Hot, Hot Roti for Dadaji is a fun story mixed with a bit of fantasy and tall tale and what child doesn’t like that? The book is also very strongly a story about inter generational relationships which happen to be universal. All children know about grandparents who love to spend time with them, play with them and spoil them. Whether it’s Dadaji or Grandpa, Gramps, or Pop-Pop the relationship is the same… special and immediately recognizable. Lastly, the book is about food and kids love food, in one form, or another.

My niece me once that when she read the book in her daughter’s kindergarten, she had all kids crying out, “Wah!” Now that’s music to my ears!

hothotrotiinterior

Do you have a recipe for hot, hot roti to share with us?

Certainly!

Ingredients:
Whole Wheat Flour (Chapati Flour, available in Indian grocery stores) – 2 cups. Reserve 2 Tablespoons for rolling and dusting.
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Warm Water – 3/4 cup

hothotrotipileMethod:
1. In a large mixing bowl, mix flour and salt.
2. Gradually add warm water to form a medium soft dough ball. The dough should not be too stiff, nor too sticky. Knead the dough about fifty times. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 15 minutes
3. Heat a skillet on medium heat until a water droplet sizzles and evaporates immediately.
4. Divide the dough into 8 golf ball size balls.
5. Coat one ball in the reserved four and roll it out into a thin disc (the thickness of a penny), approximately 6 inches in diameter. Sprinkle more flour on the rolling board to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling surface.
6. Shake or rub off excess flour from the roti and place it onto the hot skillet for about 10-15 seconds.
7. Flip to the other side and allow the roti to cook for 10-15 seconds until you see bubbles appear. Use a paper towel to move the roti around on the skillet for even heat distribution.
8. Flip the roti one last time. You should see scattered golden brown spots. Gently press down on various places using the paper towel. This will make the roti puff up with the built up steam. Be careful that escaping steam does not scald you!
9. Remove the roti from heat and keep it covered with a towel. Repeat the process for the remaining dough.

Hot, hot roti is ready!

Thanks, Farhana! It looks delicious!

And now HOT HOT ROTI is ready for you, too! Please leave a comment for a chance to win the book! I’ll randomly select a winner in one week. Good luck and happy eating (and reading)!


11 Comments on HOT HOT ROTI FOR DADA-JI (and for you, too!), last added: 4/26/2013
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8. Whoever Heard of a Fird? by Othello Bach

5 stars Whoever Heard Of A Fird? Othello Bach Shann Hurst 60 Pages     Ages: 7+ ………….. Back Cover: If you haven’t heard of a fird, part fish, part bird, you don’t know that he’s looking for a head of fird. He wants to find out if he’s “firding” right. You see, Fird was raised by [...]

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9. Chasing Watermelons by Kevin White

4 Stars Chasing Watermelons Kevin White Rex White 32 Pages     Ages: 3 to 6 ……………… Press Release: When Duck opens a crate of watermelons for a watermelon feast, they begin to roll. Duck chases after them. One by one, Duck invites Goat, Pig, Chicken, and Cow to join the chase by promising, “If you help, [...]

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10. Recent Picture Books I’ve Loved: I’m Bored; Mine!; The Stone Hatchlings; and Rocket Writes A Story

I have so many fantastic picture books I’ve recently read and loved, and I’ve been wanting to share them with you, but I keep getting buried under all my work. So I decided to do a bunch of shorter reviews, all together, of my most recent favorites. I think any of these books would make fantastic gifts!

I’m Bored
Written by: Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by: Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Date:
Recommended Age: 3 and up
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I loved this book so much I bought two copies–one for myself and one for a three-year-old boy I love. The story interested me and is well written, but for me it was the lively, expressive illustrations that really made the book.

In I’m Bored, a little girl is bored until she finds a potato that talks to her. The potato is not any potato–it’s a talking potato–and it’s bored, too. The potato thinks kids are boring, so the little girl sets out to prove that kids are NOT boring. In trying to convince the potato, the little girl realizes just how much she can actually do and what fun she can have. She doesn’t change the potato’s mind–but the grumpy potato is in for a surprise!

Black has written a dryly funny text that both kids and adults will enjoy. Kids will love joining in with the potato’s expected response: Boring, boring, boring! I loved how Black showed how kids can do both real-world things to have fun (turn cartwheels, skip, spin around) and use their imagination (be a ballerina, lion tamer, or fly), and also how he has the child realize that she’s glad she’s a kid. And the twist at the end was perfect! I was also so happy to see a mixture of things the girl could be, that kept it from being really sexist (such as that she could be a lion tamer).

Ohi’s illustrations are so full of life and emotion. Think a potato can’t have expressions or look like a person? Open up I’m Bored and you’ll see differently. With just a few lines Ohi makes the potato come alive just as she does the girl. Ohi’s style reminds me a bit of Mo Willems; I think Ohi will become just as well known and loved.

The illustrations are done in bold black lines, filled out with some color, and the characters really stand out; there is little to no background in most of the spreads. Where the background comes in is when the girl is using her imagination, and then we see dragons and lions, etc in pale blue lines that help the reader understand she’s using her imagination. When the girl uses real-world objects, like a paper box with the faceplate cut out for an astronaut’s helmet, it’s also in bold lines like the girl.

The girl and the potato are both very expressive; I love the expressions on the potato’s face, especially, when he’s bored or surprised. I also love how Ohi gave the girl a pretend sword when she’s a fairy princess with dragons and unicorns, which for me helped that page not be sexist.

I’m Bored is a funny book that will encourage imagination, play, and remind kids that they can do anything they want. It may also help kids (and adults) see that while not everyone may not find you interesting, everyone experiences that, and you can have fun all by yourself. Highly recommended!

Source: I bought the two copies myself. Full disclosure, I know the illustrator, but that does not affect my review. I only review books I absolutely love.



Mine!
Written by: Shutta Crum
Illustrated by: Patrice Barton
Published by: Knopf Books
Date: Aug 2012
Recommended For: Ages 1 and up
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a book I’ve been meaning to review for a while; I first read it as a hardcover picture book and fell in love with it. I recently got the board book as well, and fell in love with it all over again.

In Mine, a toddler who has trouble with sharing learns not only to share, but to make friends–with both the baby and the dog.

This delightful picture book is almost wordless; the only two words that appear are “mine” and “woof” (from the dog).
Shutta captured the childlike joy of play and copying something silly (such as dropping toys into the dog’s water bowl and enjoying the splash, after the dog did that first), as well as the desire to have something be your own. I love how Shutta shows the natural openness and kindness of children (who haven’t been hurt).

Patrice Barton’s style is warm and soft, almost fuzzy, reminiscent of Shirley Hughes. She captures the emotions of the two children and the dog so beautifully, with expressive faces and body language. The illustrations look like watercolor, gouache, and pencil, with shadow grounding the characters and the toys on the ground, and lines to show motion (like throwing a toy). A cute, expressive little dog appears in almost every image, and will be fun for little readers to see what she/he is up to.

There is such a lovely sense of play and fun in this book, and the ending is sweet and heartwarming. It may encourage co-operation, friendship, and play. Highly recommended.

Source: Review copy from the publisher for an honest review. I only review books I love.





The Stone Hatchlings
Written by Sarah Tsiang, illustrated by Qin Leng
Published by: Annick Press
Date: June 2012
Recommended for: Ages 4 and up
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In The Stone Hatchlings, Abby adopts two “eggs”–two smooth stones that she finds in her backyard. She makes a nest for them, sits on them to help them hatch, and then feeds and sings and takes care of her “birds”. Abby spends many happy hours with them, until her interest starts to wane, and she sets them free in her backyard again. This is a wonderful story about the power of a child’s imagination.

I love how Tsiang had Abby’s parents be both honest with her “Those are stones,” and encourage her creativity and imagination by allowing her to sit on the sweater nest and “eggs” during dinner, and trying to see and hear the birds that Abby could so strongly see and hear. This is a warm, friendly story with caring parents and a very creative, nurturing little girl. There’s enough text to make this a book for slightly older children (four or five), but the text never feels too much; it keeps moving the story forward.

Leng’s illustrations are expressive and often humorous, adding little details that weren’t in the text, such as the dog sniffing the father’s smelly feet when Abby tries to take his shoes, or Abby taking the scarf off her mother’s neck for her nest. There’s lots of movement in the illustrations, and a sense of liveliness. Some illustrations use the white page for the background and only show the important foreground details (and so feel more light), and others have a background that helps you see Abby’s house and world (so feel more complete). I liked the movement back and forth between them.

The stones stand out from the watercolor illustrations; they look like photos. Leng deftly adds to the stones when Abby imagines them as birds, adding necks and beaks and wings, showing the reader what Abby imagines but still keeping it grounded in reality.

The Stone Hatchlings is whimsical, imaginative, humorous, at times sad, but with a happy ending. The Stone Hatchlings can encourage creativity, imagination, creative play, and finding joy in simple things. It can also, in a way, deal with loss. Highly recommended!

Source: I bought the book myself from an indie children’s bookstore (Mable’s Fables in Toronto)



Rocket Writes a Story
Written and Illustrated by: Tad Hills
Published by: Schwartz & Wade
Date: July 2012
Recommended for: Ages 4 and up
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In Rocket Writes a Story, Rocket loves to read and to find new words. When his teacher, little yellow bird, asks him what he’s going to do with all the words he’s collected, Rocket decides that he’ll write a story. When Rocket gets stuck, his teacher helps him, and then Rocket learns how to write through his stuckness. When Rocket decides to write about an owl he passes, he gains a new friend.

Hill gives many hints in this book on how to write–from needing good characters, to writing about something that inspires or excites you, to taking time to mull over the story you’re writing, to showing that writing doesn’t always come easily, and that sometimes it helps to take a break from writing to write well. Aspiring and veteran writers will identify with and enjoy Rocket’s attempts–and then success–at writing. I enjoyed the story, though I felt at times that there could be a little less text, and a bit more actual things happening (but that may just be me). I also felt like I didn’t quite connect enough, that I was missing something emotional in the story, though that again could just be me. I loved how Rocket learned to write and enjoy the process, and made a new friend through his story. The ending was feel-good, and felt just right.

Hill’s illustrations are sweet, with soft colors and a softness to the characters. Rocket is adorable, both child-like and dog-like in his exploration of the world and words and new-found love of words and writing. I loved how when Rocket “found” a word, it was through finding that object (like a buttercup). I think that will help children connect to the idea that words are all around us and help us describe our world. This was also echoed in the word pictures that Rocket made, with each word having a drawing next to it (except for words like “to” and “at”). Some spreads have one illustration, some have multiple illustrations per page, moving the reader through the story.

Rocket Writes a Story may encourage a love of books and reading, a love of writing stories, and an interest in words. Recommended!

Source: Review copy from the publisher for an honest review. I only review books I love.



0 Comments on Recent Picture Books I’ve Loved: I’m Bored; Mine!; The Stone Hatchlings; and Rocket Writes A Story as of 12/4/2012 11:33:00 AM
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11. Picture Book Review: Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates (Highly Recommended!)

Title: Dog Loves Drawing
Author/Illustrator: Louise Yates
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf/Random House
ISBN: 978-0375870675
Published: August 2012
Recommended Age: 4 and up

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Review copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.



The beautiful pencil-and-watercolor drawings in Dog Loves Drawing are what initially grabbed my attention and drew me into this book. I love how Dog, the main character, is drawn as if he is a flat pencil drawing, while the tools he uses–colored pencils–look so real it almost seems like you can pick them out of the book. It’s a beautiful contrast, made all the more poignant when the dog is the one creating drawings in the book.

In Dog Loves Drawing, Dog, at home in his bookshop, receives a book without words from his aunt–a sketchbook. He begins to draw–starting with a door that he steps through onto an empty page–and his drawings come alive. Together with the characters Dog sketches (a stickman, duck, owl, and crab), they all have an adventure, each character drawing bits of the vehicles or surrounding world that help their adventure come alive–riding a train, sailing on a boat, landing on an island where duck drew a monster that chased them around until Dog saved the day by drawing a door,leaping through it and landing back in his bookshore. Dog draws his friends safe and the monster held at bay.

The text was written well, but I wished at times that there was a bit more connectedness or consequences from the things they drew (though there was with the monster). They went from a train to a boat for no reason that I could
see, and drew food but we didn’t hear them eat it (though we did see that it disappeared). But overall, the story is enjoyable, pleasing, and great fun.

Yates’ characters are expressive and full of energy. It looks almost like a drawing (Dog) is drawing other drawings to life, though they are still clearly two-dimensional drawings. Dog is the most vivid and fully-drawn character–as he should be since he’s supposed to be the most real (as is his aunt, and the people in his bookstore), and the characters he draw look more like a very talented child might draw. This can help a child reader feel that drawings they create might come to life just like Dog’s drawings did. And for me this is emphasized by the very realistic drawing implements (colored pencils and watercolor brushes).

The background is a bright, clean white–perfect for the pages of a sketchbook–and Dog and the characters and scenery they draw, plus big three-dimensional drawing and painting tools–all stand out brightly on the page, and really feel alive. I love that the characters seem to move right across the edge of the page onto the next page. I also love that the pencils and paintbrushes are sometimes still drawing the drawings that are coming alive (especially in the train rushing by).

There is something highly appealing about thinking that something we draw, and our imagination, can make our drawings come alive and really happen. Readers who like Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Flyaway Katie by Polly Dunbar, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis, and Ish by Peter H Reynolds will especially enjoy this book.

This is an imaginative, playful, whimsical story that is sure to spark imagination and an interest in doodling and art. Dog Loves Drawing is a delight. Highly recommended!




Good for encouraging: Imagination; Creativity; Playfulness; Doodling, drawing, and painting; Love of art; Love of Books. Give kids this book, and a sketchbook and some drawing tools, and watch them have a blast!

2 Comments on Picture Book Review: Dog Loves Drawing by Louise Yates (Highly Recommended!), last added: 9/2/2012
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12. PUGS IN A BUG! A Jaunty Joy-Ride with Carolyn Crimi and Stephanie Buscema (plus a giveaway!)

Ever heard of the picture book THE LOUDS MOVE IN? It’s one of my all-time favorites, with a cast of unique characters like Miss Shushermush, who eats quiet meals of leftover mashed potatoes. When the Loud family moves onto Earmuffle Avenue, the chaos begins and friendships are eventually [noisily] forged.

Ever since I read THE LOUDS I have been a huge fan of author Carolyn Crimi. So when I heard about her newest book PUGS IN A BUG, and then saw the illustrations by Stephanie Buscema, I nearly fell off my chair with an attack of acute cuteness. Punch-buggy green! Gotcha!

PUGS is a “catchy canine counting book” with a jaunty joy-ride rhyme and a groovin’ get-up-and-go beat. It’s so much fun to read aloud with its twists and turns in language—and in the road. Chugging along, the pugs meet up with a pooch parade, so there’s not only pugs in a bug, but bulldogs in a taxi and poodles on skateboards. This book proves that it’s not always about the destination but the journey. Beep, beep! Bow wow! I know you want to win it now!

So Carolyn and Stephanie are both here today to talk about the creation of PUGS…and yes, you can win it!

TL: Carolyn, are pugs your favorite kind of dog? Do you own a pug? Why PUGS?

CC: I actually love all kinds of dogs. I met a Newfoundland yesterday that I was ready to take home with me. Alas, she was a big dog and probably would not have fit in my car. But pugs are probably my favorite. They’re the comedians of the dog world. When I walk down the street with my pug Emerson people laugh. I kind of love that about him—he brings laughter with him wherever he goes.

Not that he cares about that. All he really cares about is food. If he had to choose between me and a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken I’m afraid there would be no contest. KFC would win, paws down.

Not only do I own a pug, I also own a VW Bug. It’s even green, just like the one in the book. I came up with the entire idea for PUGS IN A BUG the very first time I took Emerson for a ride in my car. That was way back in 2001. I still have both the pug and the Bug. I highly recommend both!

I’ve attached a pic of Emerson for your amusement.

TL: Aww, I love Emerson! His tongue is hilarious.

So you had the idea for the book over 10 years ago. How long did it take you to write it?

CC: Boy, I wish I had a timeline for this book, but I don’t have a clear idea of when I wrote the first draft. I don’t think it was submitted until 2003. Of course the whole submission process takes forever and a day. I also probably revised it a bunch of times to no avail. Then I think it took a while to find the right illustrator.

In other words, same ole same ole.

My first drafts don’t usually take long at all. Maybe just a couple of days. It’s the many revisions I do that take years. Yup, years. I’ll put something away for a while if it doesn’t sell right away. I’ll take another look at it years later and will sometimes be able to see the changes that need to be made. Some

11 Comments on PUGS IN A BUG! A Jaunty Joy-Ride with Carolyn Crimi and Stephanie Buscema (plus a giveaway!), last added: 4/23/2012
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13. Sarah Frances Hardy is PUZZLED BY PINK! (plus a giveaway)

What a busy April over here! So many creative new picture books to celebrate!

Sarah Frances Hardy certainly has reason to party—even tea party. Her debut picture book releases today!

PUZZLED BY PINK is the story of what happens when Wednesday Addams meets Fancy Nancy, with whimsical watercolor illustrations that will delight little girls on both sides of the fence, whether they LOVE pink or just don’t get what the big fuss is all about.

Please welcome Sarah to the blog today! *throws confetti* *serves tea and orange-cranberry scones*

TD: Sarah, on this blog we like to talk about story ideas. Tell us, where did the inspiration for Izzie and her sister Rose come from?

SFH: The inspiration for Izzie came from my oldest daughter. When she was little, it seems like every book geared toward little girls was pink, pink, pink…and she just wasn’t into it. I wanted to write a book for girls who wanted to be girls, but they wanted to do it without having to wear pink-glittered fairy wings.

Rose, Izzie’s little sister, is inspired by my middle daughter who has always loved everything about being a girly-girl—from ballet to pink to tutus.

TD: So is your youngest daughter represented in the book?

SFH: Ha! She’s asked me that too, and I tell her that she is Jinx, the pet cat, who is actually the most fun character in the book. She’s thrilled.

TD: I’d love to be Jinx, too! Izzie a strong character who does her own thing even though it’s not popular. How do you hope young readers will relate to her?

SFH: Well, I think we’ve all had the experience of being excluded because we’re a little different or we’re not wearing the right thing. I hope kids will take away the message that you can be yourself, dress the way you want to, and still go to the party.

It takes courage to say you’re going to do your own thing and stick to your guns! But it’s always best to be true to yourself .

TD: So tell us a little about your journey to publication as an author-illustrator. We authors say it must be “easier” for an author-illustrator to break into the business, while author-illustrators may say it’s easier to wear just one hat. (I tend to think no matter how many hats you wear, it’s never easy! Especially if they’re sombreros and you can’t fit thru the doorway.) What do you think?

SFH: It is a sombrero! And the door feels like it’s tiny!

But I will say that it’s a little easier to get an agent if you are both an author/illustrator because you don’t have to split royalties, and there are more agents out there who are willing to represent you.

The downside is that you are giving editors TWO reasons to reject you, so I always tell people to be sure that their illustrations and text are equally strong.

My journey is fairly typical in that I spent years going to conferences and learning everything I could about the craft of writing and illustrating for children. I wrote some pretty terrible books, submitted them, and amassed a small mountain of rejection letters,

Finally, I came up with this character and concept, and I started getting a little interest. I signed with my amazing agent and worked on revisions for several months with her. In the summer of 2010, I sold my book to Viking Children’s Books.

10 Comments on Sarah Frances Hardy is PUZZLED BY PINK! (plus a giveaway), last added: 4/12/2012

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14. The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Ammi-Joan Paquette (plus a contest!)

Some of you are probably hoping this is a post about tracking Ammi-Joan Paquette, the [amazing] agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. But it’s not. It’s about tracking Ammi-Joan Paquette, the author!

Yes, Joan (as she prefers to be called) made her kidlit debut with THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES from Tanglewood Press. She has since released NOWHERE GIRL, a middle grade novel, and now, another TIPTOE GUIDE!

And what’s it about?

MERMAIDS!

Who doesn’t love mermaids? They’re pretty, they have flowing manes of hair, they can breathe underwater, and they start name crazes like “Madison”. (OK, anyone under 30 isn’t going to understand that reference.)

TL: Joan, first fairies and now mermaids. Why do you think children are so fascinated with these creatures?

AJP: I think fairies and mermaids are two of the creatures which most fire the imagination—I was going to say “of the very young,” but actually, the appeal is open-ended! Perhaps because they feel just one step removed from reality, it’s easy to visualize them lurking just out of sight, right around the edges of perception. Who knows what might be possible, if you truly believe? For this reason, I don’t think our collective love for fairies or mermaids will ever wane—they’re just too likely.

TL: Your TIPTOE GUIDES combine photographs with whimsical illustrations. Whose idea was it to combine these two styles?

AJP: The first book in this series was inspired by a nature walk/fairy tracking adventure I took with my daughters when they were young. As we walked, I took photos of our discoveries and wrote down a lot of ideas and notes, many of which (the notes, not the photos!) were incorporated into the final manuscript. So early on there were definitely photos in my head. As I polished the story into an actual manuscript and eventually sent it on submission, though, I really put the illustration side out of my mind—and once it was acquired as a picture book, I just assumed it would probably be illustrated with art. My wonderful editor, Peggy Tierney of Tanglewood Press, was the one who conceived of this combined artwork/photography medium. I couldn’t be more thrilled with Marie Letourneau’s finished products—they are even more gorgeous than I could ever have imagined!

TL: So your TIPTOE GUIDES are about finding a little more magic in the world. Why is this an important message?

AJP: I think a hopeful outlook is like a cherry on top of life’s sundae. There’s a childlike quality to expectancy, to being open to the possibility of more that can open some of the most amazing doors. Message? I don’t know. I just like the way it feels to me.

TL: Is there a third tiptoe guide in the works?

AJP: Not yet! But who knows what may lie ahead?

TL: Well, maybe our blog readers know!

So let’s have a contest to give away a signed copy of THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS! Our last drawing contest was such fun; let’s do another.

Parents, have yo

11 Comments on The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Ammi-Joan Paquette (plus a contest!), last added: 4/8/2012
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15. Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme?

One of the most frequently asked questions by new kidlit writers is “why do editors say not to write in rhyme?” There’s plenty of picture books written in rhyme, right? They get published somehow!

Well, the answer is a bit complicated. It’s not that editors don’t necessarily LIKE rhyme. It’s just that it is very difficult to do well. Here’s why:

  • Rhyme scheme can dictate story–but shouldn’t. Tales should unfold organically, not be forced into the confines of the rhyme. Often it’s suggested to write in prose first—so you don’t get locked into a plot that doesn’t work—then translate it to rhyme.
  • Common rhyme schemes can be stale. Editors see them again and again. Avoid overly simple, one-syllable rhyme schemes like  go/show/know, to/you, me/be/she/he/see, run/fun/sun, day/may/way/say. If your reader can guess the word at the end of the line before they get there, your rhyme scheme may be too common. Editors want to read rhyme that surprises them.
  • Forced rhyme or near-rhyme can ruin a story. This is when words don’t exactly rhyme unless you mispronounce them. Once in a while this is acceptable, but more than a few times in a manuscript and it distracts.
  • The meter (or beat) must be spot-on. That doesn’t just mean the number of syllables in each line, but the emphasis on those syllables. Meter shouldn’t be so sing-songy and constant that it lulls the reader to sleep (unless maybe it’s a bedtime book) or so rough that it tongue-ties the reader and forces them to speak unnaturally. Some good rhyming books offer a break in the rhyme scheme for variety—not unlike a bridge in a song.
  • Rhyming books are difficult to translate into other languages. An editor may not want to lose out on foreign book sales, so they’ll pass on a rhyming project.

However, if your heart is set on rhyme and if you have a talent for it, you should go for it. At first, Karma Wilson listened to the “don’t rhyme” advice.

“When I first started submitting some 15 years ago all the guidelines said, ‘No rhyme and no talking animals!’ For THREE years I avoided rhyme and talking animals. But guess what my first book sale was? BEAR SNORES ON! And guess what the guidelines said for McElderry books? NO RHYME AND NO TALKING ANIMALS! My passion is rhyme, and talking animals are great as long as they have something interesting to say.”

Yes, you can break the rules like Karma. But get your rhyme critiqued and know whether or not you can nail it.

Me, I’m terrible at rhyme and I know it. I cannot “hear” meter. I’ve tried and failed. My friends have coached me, but I still don’t get the right beat. I can’t dance to it. (I can’t dance anyway. Think Elaine from Seinfeld. Sweet fancy moses!)

So what is successful rhyme? I’m glad you asked! I’ve got a few examples for you.

In HUSH, LITTLE DRAGON, Boni Ashburn spoofs the lullaby “Hush, Little Baby”. Instead of buying her baby a mockingbird, the mama dragon in the story brings her darling son various villagers to eat. It’s delightfully tongue-in-cheek. Some of the best lines:

Here she comes with a fresh magician.
Don’t mind the tast

11 Comments on Why Do Editors Say Not to Write in Rhyme?, last added: 3/13/2012
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16. Perfect Picture Book Friday: It’s a Big World, Little Pig!

Before Michelle Kwan, before the whole Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan scandal, there was a figure skater who exhibited that perfect balance of power and grace: Kristi Yamaguchi. She had the high jumps and fast spins, but she also had a style and effortless elegance no one else could match.

OK, so why am I gushing? I used to be a competitive figure skater, but no where near the level of Kristi Yamaguchi. She was a role model to me. So today I’m very pleased to share with you her new picture book, IT’S A BIG WORLD, LITTLE PIG! And yes, it’s about figure skating!

First, let me introduce the main character, Poppy. Isn’t she cute? In her first book, she had the courage to DREAM BIG and chase after her goals.

Now, in the sequel, Poppy receives an invitation to Paris to compete in the International Games. She musters up her porcine prowess to travel far from home–with encouragement from her friends and family, of course.

When Poppy arrives in Paris, she’s overwhelmed. She doesn’t know anyone and doesn’t know where to go. But Poppy is great at making friends. She bumps into Li, a panda snowboarder. And Poppy finds out that even though they are from different countries, they “both smile in the same language.”

According to John Sellers, children’s reviews editor for Publishers Weekly, “There’s certainly a need for books that portray, mirror and show the value in all kinds of families: same-sex families, mixed-race families, stepfamilies, families with grandparents as guardians.” I also believe that books should reflect the diversity in the world around children. In my own neighborhood, there are families from Brazil, India, the Czech Republic, Spain, Portugal, China, Taiwan, Denmark, and Mexico. So I was pleased to see that Yamaguchi’s book introduces readers to animal competitors from all over the world.

Tim Bowers illustrates with such adorableness (is that a word???), bright colors and a jovial quality. You can’t help but smile at the wonderful world he’s created.

IT’S A BIG WORLD, LITTLE PIG brings together many cool themes (besides ice): following your dreams, making friends, diversity, independence, and doing your best. And it’s all rolled up in a figure-skating package! What could be more perfect?

Well, I’ll tell you! One hundred percent of Kristi’s profits from IT’S A BIG WORLD, LITTLE PIG will benefit early childhood literacy programs supported by her Always Dream Foundation.


10 Comments on Perfect Picture Book Friday: It’s a Big World, Little Pig!, last added: 3/9/2012
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17. You Want Book: ME WANT PET! (Me give you book!)

ImageOoga!

Know Tammi Sauer? She write new book. She write good book. Bob Shea draw picture. It ME WANT PET!

Cave Boy star. Cave Boy want pet.

He find pet. Mama say no. Gah!

He find new pet. Papa say no. Gah, ug!

He get new new pet. Gran say no.

Cave Boy sad. Me sad. You sad!

What Cave Boy do?

Me no tell.

You read book. Ooga!

So…

Daughters want draw. I ask, “What pet you want Cave Boy have?”

Daughter Eight draw dinosaur. Me say no. Too stompy.

Daughter Five draw giraffe. Me say no. Too tall. No fit cave.

You have kid? Kid draw Cave Boy and new pet. Send to tarawrites (at) yahoo (dot) com by March 13. Me post here. Me pick pet. Kid win book.

OOGA!

Tammi Sauer author. She write many, many kid book. Book like CHICKEN DANCE and MOSTLY MONSTERLY and MR. DUCK MEANS BUSINESS. You visit her: TammiSauer.com. OOGA! (Ooga not book. Me like say OOGA!)


10 Comments on You Want Book: ME WANT PET! (Me give you book!), last added: 3/6/2012
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18. Review of the Day: How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti

How Many Jelly Beans?: A Giant Book of Giant Numbers!
By Andrea Menotti
Illustrated by Yancey Labat
Chronicle Books
$18.99
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0206-1
Ages 4-8
On shelves February 29th

Boy, I tell you. You get a kid and suddenly you find yourself scheming all these crazy schemes. “I’m going to get my kid to like vegetables!” “I’m going to get my kid to appreciate classical music!” “I’m going to get my kid to like math!” Crazy, right? I mean the first two seem doable, but the third? I’m an English major, guys. What are the chances that I’m even capable of instilling a math love in my offspring? To the rescue comes a new generation of picture books for kids with math-centric concepts. I’m not talking about books that take a math problem, turn it into a story, and somehow that’s going to magically get kids excited about integers. No, I’m talking about math books that practically dare kids to deny the pleasure of counting, estimating, etc. Such books most certainly exist, though it takes some digging to locate them. Now at long last we’ve a book that not only encourages kids to count on their own, but hits them over the head with a number they may hear all the time but could never quite comprehend. Until now.

Emma and Aiden. They like their jelly beans, they do. When Emma is asked how many she’d prefer she opts for a standard “Ten!” Not to be outdone, her brother Aiden asks for “Twenty!” So naturally Emma asks for twenty-five, and Aiden sees her twenty-five and raises the number to fifty. At a certain point, of course, Emma points out to her bro that when it comes to numbers like five hundred jelly beans (and you can see all five hundred on the table in front of them) there’s no way a person could eat that many. Aiden points out that in a year he could eat as many as a thousand. Up and up and up the numbers go, with more and more jelly beans filling the pages until at long last you reach the thrilling conclusion. Turn the page and you find some folded pages. On one side the kids are suggesting a MILLION jelly beans. Well, as it just so happens, that’s how many fill these folded pages. And finally, at long last, Aiden concedes that maybe a million, just maybe, might be too much.

It’s nice when you can imagine how a book’s going to be used. Author Andrea Menotti also happens to be a Senior Editor at Chronicle Books (whatta coincidence!). Her goal here was to give the book the barest outline of a skeleton of a plot on which to hang the art and those images of copious delicious colorful sugar bombs that appear on every page. The ending, I’ll tell you right now, relies on the shock of the number rather than the interaction between the two kids. Basically the dare at the end of the book that one number or another is “too many” is finally accepted. So there you go. When you first open it up you come to a two-page spread where Emma is being offered ten jellybeans. At this point a certain strain of child is going to insist on counting those beans, just to make sure the author and illustrator got it right. They’ll probably be the same kids that count the twenty an

4 Comments on Review of the Day: How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti, last added: 2/20/2012
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19. Happy Birthday, Frances!

Karen MacPherson's syndicated Children's Corner column this week alerted me to an important occasion: the 50th birthday of Frances, star of the classic picture book series by Russell Hoban. (I strongly recommend reading Karen's column - always good and this one is chock full of interesting facts about Frances and how she came to be. Also, if you haven't read the Frances books, it's time to get to the library. Or better yet, go buy them.)

I first met Frances, the strong-willed, persnickety, song-writing, problem-solving badger, when I was a strong-willed, persnickety child myself. Although song-writing and problem-solving weren't my strengths so much, it's still small wonder that I identified with the young badger. The challenges Frances faces are universal ones of early childhood, and she confronts them with a quirky intelligence and creativity that I found both inspiring and reassuring. 

To celebrate this important event, I broke out some homemade bread and jam and my copy of Bread and Jam for Frances, my favoritest Frances book of all. Everything was delicious, and the dog enjoyed our read-aloud very much.

Possibly what she liked best was that I shared my bread and jam with her.

Anyway, I noticed something while I was reading the book: one spread seemed kind of familiar to me. And then I realized why.
6 Comments on Happy Birthday, Frances!, last added: 11/20/2010
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20. Looking for a funny picture book?

Imogene’s Antlers

written and illustrated by David Small.
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers/Random House
ISBN-13: 978-0375810480

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Looking for a funny, laugh-out-loud picture book? Check out Imogene’s Antlers by David Small. It is SO funny, and has beautiful illustrations! It’s written and illustrated by David Small.

The story goes into fantasy–a little girl, Imogene, wakes up one morning with antlers. At first she encounters some problems (getting dressed, getting out the door), but then she also discovers some fun–hanging donuts off the antlers, feeding birds that way, having her mother faint. Imogene clearly enjoys her new experience. I think kids will delight in the adults’ reactions–her mother fainting away (twice), the principal getting bugged, the doctor unable to find anything wrong.

The text is beautiful–just enough to tell the story, but not overdoing it. Short sentences that tell us so much. I wish more writers wrote like this. And the illustrations! They are gorgeous–so full of life, light-hearted and happy, fun and funny.

The ending is also a delight–when it appears that the next morning, Imogene has been “cured”–only to see that she’s got a huge peacock’s tail attached. This is a funny, feel-good book. It’s one of those books I think both children and adults will enjoy.

I highly recommend it.

source: review copy from the publisher, in exchange for an *honest* review. (I do not review books I don’t like.)

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21. Picture Book Review: CHICKS RUN WILD!

Do you have a love/hate relationship with bedtime? It’s a cozy time to snuggle and read a book with the kids, but it’s also when they refuse to settle down to sleep. Mom, can I sleep in your bed? Dad, can I have a glass of water? Could you fluff my pillow? Can we read one more book? Please? Five more minutes? Pretty please with sugar on top?

Ey yi yi. It’s enough to drive any mama hen wild! And it does in Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s new picture book, Chicks Run Wild.

In her Coop Sweet Coop, Mama has five chicks to put to bed. She tucks them in, gives them each a peck goodnight, but when she closes the door, they leap out of bed and cause a riotous ruckus. Feathers fly and Mama’s patience wears thin.

At first Mama scolds her chicks, but when she realizes her little ones are not ready for dreamland, she does something unexpected. Chicks Run Wild lets both parents and kids know it’s okay to break the rules every once in a while.

With a bright and cheery color palate, Ward Jenkins creates an adorable brood of five chicks with distinct personalities. One chick always has one eye opened, awaiting Mama’s departure. And there’s other fun details, like a spoof of the Beatles’ album cover Abbey Road, and Mama’s favorite read, Gone with the Wing. Sudipta’s jaunty rhyme makes you want to get up and shake your tail feathers with the family.

Bedtime is going to be a lot more fun with Chicks Run Wild. When your kids ask to read one more book, you’ll happily pick this one.

Want it? Sure you do!

Chicks Run Wild
Story by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
Illustrations by Ward Jenkins
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
January, 2010


9 Comments on Picture Book Review: CHICKS RUN WILD!, last added: 1/16/2011
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22. picture book review: My Name Is Not Alexander

my-name-is-not-alexander

My Name Is Not Alexander

written by Jennifer Fosberry, illustrated by Mike Litwin
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Publisher: Sourcebooks, March 2011
ISBN-13: 978-1402254338

My rating: 4/5 stars


In My Name Is Not Alexander, a young boy goes throughout his day, refusing to be called by his own name, Alexander, but rather choosing, each time, a new (historical) hero to be called after. Each time his father calls him the name he last used, he chooses a new name–that of a specific hero. The story has a playful feel to it, and a good rhythm, with the reader quickly expecting that the boy will try on a new hero and name. In the first few pages the text felt a bit stilted, but it quickly became a very enjoyable read. The story encourages the reader to dream big–to know that they can do anything they want to, become anything they want. I like that the heroes are not just traditional ones, but also include an inventor and a dancer.

At first I found the text “the father,” and “the boy” disconcerting and distancing, but I grew to expect it. The father goes along with the boy’s new name each time, being patient and encouraging, and always understanding which hero the boy means, though the boy only uses first names (which helps with the story flow). Fosberry’s text is made up entirely of dialog, which helps the story move quickly, as does that Fosberry made sure we only see each new name and event they are going to, not any extraneous details.

Litwin’s imaginative, vibrant illustrations add so much to this book. The life in them reaches off the page, the colors vibrant and rich, the characters with an almost 3-D quality to them. Adults will love the depth, the perspective, the way Litwin is aware of light and shadow, and the textures and subtle patterns, while young readers will like the almost cartoon-like appeal, and the things that the teddy bear is doing in every second illustration.

I love when an illustrator enriches the text, adding images that help make the story stronger, the text richer. Litwin creates a visual link from page to page; with the text alone, we would sometimes miss out on exactly where they were or what event they were coming from, but Litwin makes it clear. Litwin also visually shows us the context for each hero. For instance, from the words alone “I am Joseph, the greatest, proudest warrior who ever was!” the reader might not understand that Joseph was a Native American leader, but with Litwin’s illustrations showing the chief appear through smoke (the teddy bear fanning it), and the teepees growing along into the modern world, it becomes clear.

Readers will love seeing how the boy’s teddy bear, who is clearly just an inanimate, normal teddy bear in the illustrations where the boy is a boy, come alive to take part in the boy’s imaginative quests into being a different person, actively helping him (pitching for Jackie, turning a crank for Thomas, and m

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23. Picture book review: Seasons by Anne Crausaz

seasons-anne-crausaz

Seasons
written and illustrated by Anne Crausaz
Reading level: Baby-Preschool (and up)
Publisher: Kane/Miller
Date published: March 2011
ISBN-10: 161067006X, ISBN-13: 978-1610670067

My rating: 4.5/5 stars

Seasons will encourage children to see the joy in the natural world, to truly take in all the sensory experiences nature has to offer, and will remind adults of that joy.

Crausaz’s lean text reads almost like poetry. It is evocative; in just short sentences, she reminds us of our many senses and the way that we can enjoy nature–by seeing the green of springtime, smelling the blossoms, hearing the birds sing, feeling the tickle of a ladybug, tasting a sweet cherry. Crausaz’s text is very tactile. She reminds us of the simple beauty and magic of the world (fireflies, leaves to jump in), and encourages us to enjoy it. Crauzaz takes us from spring through all the seasons, and then back into spring again.

Crausaz, through beautifully spare, stylized art, shows us the beauty of nature, and the ways that we can interact with it. The leaves and flowers look almost like cut-outs, and are often repeated in patterns on the page. Only a few colors are used in each spread–red, green, some yellows and browns appearing most often–yet nothing feels like it’s missing. A young girl appears in many–but not all–of the spreads; nature is big and bright in the pages, and draws the reader’s attention.

Seasons can help introduce the outside world in a way that is soothing and cheering; it will encourage young and old to get out in nature and enjoy its beauty. Highly recommended.




Source: Review copy from publisher

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24. Passover Picture Book Review: Afikomen Mambo and The Matzah Man

Every year at Pesach time,
We eat the matzah, we drink the wine.
We ask four questions one by one,
But before the seder’s done…

The moment Afikomen Mambo arrived, my kids fought over it. One look at the bright, happy cover and they knew there was a fun beat inside.

While Christian children have the Easter egg hunt, at Passover our children search for the afikomen, a piece of matzah traditionally broken in half at the beginning of the seder and then hidden for the children to find when the seder is over. The child who finds the afikomen is awarded a prize, and what could be a better prize than Afikomen Mambo?

Now you can hide it in a table,
Hide it in a box,
Underneath the stairway,
Or inside the kitchen clock.
You can put it in your pocket,
Put it under the TV,
But you can’t hide the afikomen from me…

The book by Rabbi Joe Black sports a catchy rhyme and even catchier CD with the mambo song–you can play the music for the kids while they peek under pillows and behind bookcases. The whimsical watercolor illustrations by Linda Prater are bright and cheerful (except for when the characters make faces at the bitter herbs!).

I’m gonna find it, I’m gonna find it,
I’m gonna find it, I’m gonna find,
Gonna find the afikomen!

This is a must-have book for Jewish families with young children. You can begin a Passover tradition with the reading of the book and singing of the Afikomen Mambo song. Kudos to Kar-Ben Publishing for producing delightfully fun books for Jewish holidays.

Another playful book for Passover is The Matzah Man by Naomi Howland.

Hot from the oven I jumped and ran,
So clever and quick, I’m the Matzah Man!

You guessed it–it’s a take-off on the Gingerbread Man with a whole new rhyme scheme and cast of characters. There’s Grandma Tillie and her tender brisket, Auntie Bertha shopping in high heels, Grandpa Solly chopping onions, Miss Axelrod stirring her soup, and you’ll never guess who swaps roles with the tricky fox, finally outsmarting the Matzah Man.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to mambo while I make matzah ball soup.

Happy Passover!


1 Comments on Passover Picture Book Review: Afikomen Mambo and The Matzah Man, last added: 4/15/2011
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25. Review of Picture Book Three By The Sea by Mini Grey

Three by the Sea
by Mini Grey
Reading Level: Ages 4 and up
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (April 5, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0375867842
My Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review copy from publisher

You know when you read a picture book, and the artwork and the writing work beautifully together that they feel almost inseparable? That’s what I experienced when I read, and re-read, Three by the Sea by Mini Grey. The text didn’t tell the entire story–the illustrations told us the rest, and the reader had to look at the illustrations to understand the things that the text didn’t tell us. The text also flowed well and never stumbled, telling the story in an appealing way, and the illustrations were whimsical and drew me in.

In Three By the Sea, three friends–a cat, a mouse, and a dog–all live happily together, each doing their own work to help each other out. But when a fox salesman comes along, he sows discontent and suspicion, and after a big fight and then a crisis, the three friends have to figure out what they mean to each other and how to be happy. And figure it out they do, with a few changes.

I love the way it’s so clear, without telling us outright, that the salesman means no good even though he’s saying he does, and that free is not really free (at least from salesmen). And I also love how Grey suggests that advertisements can make us unhappy by suggesting we need or want things that we don’t actually need or want and were quite happy without. I also took from Three By The Sea that ads and society can push stereotypes on us that don’t fit us at all, and that friendship and love can be stronger than any disagreement. Friends can be family. There are good messages in this book without being didactic; instead, they are woven into the story.

Grey’s illustrations are quirky, expressive, and layered with texture, and are pleasing to the eye. The illustrations and panels move the story along visually; we see the wet fox salesman arriving on the beach in one panel, and then his hand knocking on the friends’ door while we see them happy eating cheese fondue through the porthole window in the next panel. And the text moves well; there’s just enough on every page to tell the story well. This is an enjoyable story that underscores the importance of friendship and love, and living the way that feels right to you.

Recommended!

4 Comments on Review of Picture Book Three By The Sea by Mini Grey, last added: 11/8/2011
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