What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(tagged with 'Picture Books')

Recent Comments

JacketFlap Sponsors

Spread the word about books.
Put this Widget on your blog!
  • Powered by JacketFlap.com

Are you a book Publisher?
Learn about Widgets now!

Advertise on JacketFlap

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
<<October 2016>>
new posts in all blogs
Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 7,775
1. Author-Illustrator Interview: Ambelin Kwaymullina on Justice, Hope & Her Creative Family

Sample chapter from Candlewick Press
By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

The second of a four-installment dialogue with Ambelin and Cynthia.  

Our focus is on the creative life and process, speculative fiction, diversity, privilege, indigenous literature, and books for young readers.

Yesterday, Ambelin spoke on ethics, the writing process and own voices.

We have children’s-YA literature and the law in common. That’s actually a pretty common combination here in the states. Why do you think there are so many people involved in both?

Well, I’ve had some of my law students suggest the law is so horribly dry that it drives people to being creative in order to escape its clutches (these are generally the students who are studying law because their parents thought it was a good idea).

But for me at least, I think the reason I studied law and the reason I write are the same. In both realms, I am seeking justice – and justice, in Aboriginal societies, generally equates to balance, not just between human beings but between all forms of life (and everything lives).

I write speculative fiction because I want to write about the possibility of defeating injustice; to write about the terrible things that were (and are) while imagining what could be.

The oppressive law I wrote about in the Tribe series divides people into three categories: those without an ability (Citizens); those with an ability (Illegals); and those whose ability is considered benign (Exempts).

This is not an invented law. It is based on the Western Australian Natives (Citizenship Rights) Act 1944, a piece of legislation that purported to offer Aboriginal people ‘citizenship’ by exempting us from racially-based restrictions that only applied to my ancestors in the first place because they were Aboriginal.

In the Tribe series, this law is ultimately defeated by an alliance of the marginalised and the privileged, and by a heroine whose power is to identify and sustain the connections between all life.

And in writing of connections, I am writing of something that is central to the law in Aboriginal legal systems where (at its broadest) law is the processes of living in the world that sustain the world.

You clearly articulate the impact of white privilege on writing and writers, noting the negative impact on the work of Native voices and POC voices. What would you say to those Native and POC writers who may find themselves angry, frustrated, hurt or discouraged by these dynamics?

First: it’s not you. Exclusion is not something you are inventing in your head and you are neither unlucky nor unworthy.

It helps in this context to form connections with other Indigenous writers as well as with writers of colour, LGBTI writers, and writers with a disability.

You are likely to hear stories of authors getting similar comments across different contexts (e.g: you’re not writing to the Indigenous experience … this story is too Asian … gay books don’t sell … we’ve already published a ‘disability book’ this year).

It matters to have a network of people with whom to share both the good and bad experiences; and perhaps most importantly, to understand that you are not alone.

Second, never forget how to laugh. Some of the comments I’ve listed above have been part of the experience of other writers that they’ve laughed about with me – not because these comments are not discriminatory and hurtful, but because laughter has always been one of the ways in which marginalised peoples have dealt with pain.

Third, define success in your own terms. We all know what ‘success’ is supposed to be in literary industry terms: book sales and/or critical acclaim (preferably both). I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to that. But I also think that if marginalised writers define our success solely in the terms set by an industry that consistently privileges white, straight, cis-gendered people who don’t have a disability, we are also buying into an underlying lie.

The lie is that if we can just prove we are good enough we will be treated equally. But once equality has to be earned, it is no longer equality.

So I think it’s important that each of us define success according to what matters to us – and for me, it’s being a person that my ancestors would be proud of.

Book sales wouldn’t overly interest them. But honouring who they were, and who I am; treating cultural knowledge with respect; helping other Indigenous writers whenever and wherever I can – these are the kinds of things they’d be concerned about.

Fourth: be hopeful. I am. I locate my hope in people, and there are many, many people working towards a world in which all voices have an equal opportunity to speak and all stories are equally heard.

I think change will come, and in the meantime, I’m proud to be a part of a global community of voices, marginalised and privilege alike, that are speaking out for justice.

While you don’t feel it’s appropriate for non-Indigenous writers to reflect your community in first person or deep third, you are open to them writing secondary characters. Why does your opinion differ depending on how centered the character’s perspective is in the story?

Ambelin's desk
I don’t think it’s appropriate for non-Indigenous people to speak as if they are Indigenous, especially given the operation of privilege which means that non-Indigenous voices will be heard in a way that Indigenous voices are not.

For me, writing from an ‘outsider’ perspective (so not in first or deep third) is to respect boundaries; to accept there are limits on what we can know of others and how we should represent others in our own work.

When I write of experiences of marginalisation not my own, I do it from an outsider perspective – reflecting that this is much as I can understand and that understanding may of course be wrong; I am not suggesting that I know what it is to see the world from an ‘insider’ view of a group to which I don’t belong. I think the spaces must be created for everyone to speak to their own worlds, and I want to be part of making those spaces a reality.

What advice do you have for non-Indigenous writers in crafting those secondary characters?

I think something you’ve said is the best place to start – you’ve spoken of the need for writers to read 100 books by Indigenous people before writing about us.

I agree. No one should be writing an Indigenous character without being familiar with Indigenous stories (not the ones told about us but the ones told by us).

It’s also important to ensure that any stories people are reading are ethically published because there is a vast body of Indigenous stories that were taken by anthropologists and others and are now in the public domain without the informed consent (or sometimes even the knowledge) of the Indigenous peoples concerned.

The easiest way to check that a story is appropriately published is to see who holds the copyright; where Indigenous peoples hold copyright in their own stories it is at least some indication that they control the text.

In addition to reading stories, I’d say, become familiar with representation issues. Engage with the online dialogue happening around representation and children’s literature as it relates to Indigenous peoples. There are no shortage of voices speaking in this space.

And finally: words spoken about marginalised peoples have a weight and a cost. But if you are not a member of that group, then it’s a weight that you don’t carry and a cost that you don’t pay.

So don’t measure the impact of your words by how they will be read by people like you. Measure them by how they’ll be read by the people you’re writing about.

How did you learn your craft as a writer and illustrator?

By doing! I have no formal training in writing or illustration. But nor do a lot of Australian Indigenous writers and illustrators, and we have been storytellers for thousands of years.

So to learn craft I look to the work of Indigenous writers and artists, both within Australia and elsewhere, as well as to the ancient teachings of my people.

What inspired you to direct your talents toward creating stories for young readers?

In my YA series, I was writing about a superhero, so it had to be about a teenager. I don’t believe grown ups have it in us to save the world, because we are spectacularly failing to do so.

But in the young I see all the hope for the future – they are more interconnected, quick to embrace new ideas, and passionate about fighting anything they perceive as an injustice.

They’re also more honest, especially the children for whom I write picture books. When they like a book, they write me lovely letters telling me how they sleep with the book under their pillow and begging me to write more. When they don’t like it they’re equally forthright.

People ask sometimes whether its difficult as an author to deal with bad reviews, to which I say: try writing for six-year-olds. Every once in a while, children send me letters about one or the other of my picture books that begin something like this: “My teacher made me read your book. I didn’t like it.”

I’ve had a few of these letters that went on for ten pages or more, and since that length is like War and Peace from a six-year-old, it means I’ve had kids hate my work enough to send me the child equivalent of Tolstoy.

Adverse reviews from grown-ups are nothing in comparison.

What was your initial inspiration for The Tribe series?

Sample chapter from Candlewick Press
My brother Blaze. He came up to me one day and said, “I’ve got an awesome title for a book. It’s called The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf.”

I said, “That’s a pretty good title – what’s the story?’

To which Blaze replied, “Oh, there’s no story. Just the name, and I can’t be bothered writing it so I’m giving to you.”

Having bestowed the title of the novel upon me, he wandered off, leaving me to start thinking about the story. (And for anyone who’s read any of the Tribe series, the character of Jaz is very like my brother Blaze).

What were the challenges—literary, research, psychological and logistical—of bringing the stories to life?

I think the primary challenge is this: in so many ways, I wasn’t writing fiction. A post-apocalyptic world is not a fantasy for Indigenous peoples; the colonial apocalypse has already happened and much of The Tribe series is drawn from Australian colonial history.

Much of it too is drawn from the experiences of my ancestors and that is why hope runs so strongly through the narrative. They held on to hope through hard, cruel times when all their choices were taken away from them.

Indigenous peoples are so often spoken of as victims and I certainly don’t wish to minimise the suffering and the multi-generational trauma inflicted upon us by the colonial project. But the very fact that the Indigenous peoples of the world survived determined efforts to destroy us demonstrates our great strength.

I think the ability to hold onto hope is part of that strength and its something I try to honour.

You’ve created several picture books with Sally Morgan. Could you tell us about your work together?

Ambelin with her creative family
So, Sally is my mum. I’ve also done books with my two brothers, Blaze and Zeke, and the four of us have written together as a family. We’re all authors and artists, and we always give each other an honest opinion – sometimes this results in one of us storming off (usually me or Zeke, we’re both excellent stormers).

Generally, once we’ve had a chance to think about the criticism we come creeping sheepishly back and agree that yes, actually, that particular portion of the narrative (which we were previously so proud of) does indeed need more work.

I think from the outside our working process probably looks chaotic; we all talk at the same time and over each other; generally, the person with the best story gets to hold the floor until they get boring and someone else interrupts. If you want a place in the conversation in my family, you have to be prepared to earn it.

What can your readers look forward to next?

I’m working on three YA novels right now, but the one I’ll finish first is a book I’m writing with my brother Zeke.

It’s a mystery with fantasy elements that’s told from the perspective of three Indigenous female protagonists. It’s been a difficult book to write in places because terrible things happen in it, but its ultimately a story about the power of young Indigenous women and how they find their way home.

Add a Comment
2. Picture Book Monday with a review of They all saw a cat

So many of the world's problems arise because we think everyone thinks and sees things the way we do. We dare to think that they if they don't see things our way, then they are in the wrong. We forget that who we are - our life experiences and our background - hugely affect our perceptions.

This amazing picture book shows us how different characters all see the same thing in very different ways. Their viewpoints are startling, visually, and give us cause to pause. As we look at the artwork we are gently reminded to think about how we perceive our world.

They All Saw a CatThey all saw a cat
Brendan Wenzel
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Chronicle Books, 2016, 978-1-4521-5013-0
A cat, wearing a red collar that has a little yellow bell attached to it, goes out into the world with its whiskers ready and its tail in the air. The cat is seen by a child, a dog, a fox, a goldfish, a mouse, a bee, a bird, a flea, a snake, a skunk, a worm, and bat. One would think that they would all see the cat in the same way, but this is not the case.
   To the child the cat is a smiling, benign animal that is there to be patted. The dog sees the cat as a lean, mean looking creature. The goldfish, from its watery home in a fish bowl, sees a blurry shape with enormous yellow eyes. For the poor mouse the cat is a monstrous beast with yellow, slit eyes, huge claws, and sharp fangs. The bee, with its compound eyes, sees a pointillist cat, a vague figure made up of lots of colors. The bat, flying in the night sky, also sees a shape made up of dots, but the dots it sees are white in color.
   Every animal sees the cat differently depending on its perspective and its place in the food chain. The kinds of eyes and senses they have also determine what the cat looks like to them. How does that cat see itself?
   This wonderful picture book takes children on a journey into the imagination. It also presents them with the idea that different characters will see the same thing in widely different ways. We all view the world through eyes that are touched by our biases, interests, and backgrounds, and therefore we have to be sensitive to the fact that other people’s perceptions are not like our own.

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of They all saw a cat as of 10/24/2016 7:22:00 PM
Add a Comment
3. Box by Min Flyte, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Box by Min Flyte with illustrations by Rosalind Beardshaw is about one of my favorite things - boxes. Building cardboard box forts as a kid and for my kids, as well as smaller cardboard box houses for dolls and toys, is  and long has been one of my favorite things to do. With Box, Flyte and Beardshaw have created a marvelous story and exploration that little listeners will love. Best of all, and crucial for a book in which boxes are the star, there are TONS of flaps to lift and boxes to peek inside!

Unfortunately, I could not find any illustrations to show you just how fantastically the flaps compliment the illustrations and story so I'll just have to describe them. Thomas, Alice, Sam and Nancy each have a box. What is inside each box? A drum, a blanket, a tricycle and more boxes! Five flaps lift to reveal a toy mouse sleeping in a cozy little box. After the boxes are emptied, of course they need to be played with every bit as much as the things that were inside! Imaginations take off and castles, pirate ships and puppet theaters are created - all with flaps to lift. But wait, there's more! If you put all the boxes together you get a special flap that unfolds, like an accordion, to reveal a rocket ship! But wait - there's even more! A four page gatefold reveals one more creation, followed by tired out inventors and creators asleep - in a box, of course!

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Box by Min Flyte, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
4. Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies

Sometimes I will do a cold reading to a class of kids when I want to get a group opinion on a picture book. Occasionally, I will love a picture book that I read in the silence of my own home and it falls flat when I read it out loud to a group of kids. And vice versa. More than once I have not been moved by a picture book only to have the audience go crazy for it. I read Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by the marvelous Benji Davies (author and illustrator of Grandad's Island), out loud without even cracking the spine first, to two classes of kindergarteners and it was a hit - for all of us. Also an Octopus turned out to be a special treat for me because it is a book about story telling and how to tell a story, something dear to my heart. This is especially so since I became the librarian in a school where more than two-thirds of the student body are English language learners, less than two-thirds are reading at grade level and very few have the stamina to read a whole book (that is not a graphic novel). I am constantly talking to my students about story structure, the problem and solving the problem and Also an Octopus perfectly packs this lesson into a brilliantly and brightly illustrated picture book that is so fun to read.

 I was especially excited to learn that debut author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, a former children's bookseller and event coordinator at a well loved, independent San Francisco bookstore, was inspired to write Also an Octopus after repeated readings (out loud, for work) of Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back. When she asked herself, "Why is this book so good?" the answer she realized that it is the "perfect basic story, stripped down to the bare parts: Bear, quite simply, wants his hat back." This led Tokuda-Hall to begin writing a story about an octopus who wants to travel to far away galaxies but first, she realized, "Every story starts the same way . . . with nothing."

Moving on from nothing, every story needs a character. How about an octopus who plays the ukulele? But, Tokua-Hall tells readers, "in order for it to be a story, and not just an octopus, that octopus needs to want something." Thus, the problem is identified and the main character can spend the rest of the story solving the problem! As you can see from Davies's wonderfully bright illustrations that pop with purples, yellows and oranges, there are many ways to solve this problem. Tokuda-Hall, who said she felt like she "won the illustrator lottery" when she was paired with Davies, felt that Davies not only shared her vision for this story but "made it so much better and cooler" with the strong sense of story that his illustrations embody. I couldn't agree more! The words and pictures are perfectly paired in Also an Octopus, with Davies's artwork bringing the crazy world embodied in the text to life.

Whether you are looking for a spectacularly illustrated picture book that is a delight to read out loud (or to yourself) or a tool to teach story structure and story telling to kids (or adults), Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing is a MUST.

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Also an Octopus or A Little Bit of Nothing by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies as of 10/19/2016 7:21:00 PM
Add a Comment
5. I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino

Dan Yaccarino has written a picture book that really speaks to me. I Am A Story tells the story of, well, storytelling, with the story as narrator. As Frank Viva writes in his review, it's "kind of a historical biography of storytelling." Yaccarino uses a bright, primary palette for his illustrations, with the colors evoking and connecting different time periods. I Am a Story is the perfect book for a librarian and teacher, especially for someone who works in a school where character education is a major pillar of our curriculum. I Am a Story solidifies my belief that stories connect us and form the foundation of a community, a culture. While words can divide us, I think that ultimately, story telling unites us.

Yaccarino begins his book, "I am a story. I was told around a campfire." From there we are off on a journey that visits the highlights (and some low points) of the varied and long history of storytelling. From carvings and pictographs to tapestries and illuminated manuscripts. 

Yaccarino goes on to share the places where stories are discovered, from private to public libraries, biblioburros and Little Free Libraries. Stories are shared through the radio, and here Yaccarino shows a family around the radio, probably listening to The War of the Worlds. Another illustration shows movie goers enjoying Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon. Television and computers are also shown as a way to share stories. Censorship, book banning and book burning are also addressed. Yaccarino ends I Am a Story with these wonderful words, "I've inspired millions. I can go with you anywhere and will live forever. I am a story."

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino as of 10/18/2016 4:47:00 AM
Add a Comment
6. Once, Twice, Thrice

A little girl "reads" to her father at bedtime.  "One mouse, two mouses, three mouses."

So begins my friend's new picture book, "Once, Twice, Thrice" by Kim Chatel.  Like parents everywhere in the English speaking world, the father explains that when you add one mouse to another mouse, you get two mice.  Are two houses called hice, then?

The father daughter duo explore other irregular plurals in this cleverly written and charmingly illustrated book.  Artist Kathleen Bullock picks just the right color palette for a night time tale.

Besides being a sweet bedtime story, this book will be a winner in primary language arts classes and with ESL teachers. 

Click here to get your own copy.

0 Comments on Once, Twice, Thrice as of 10/15/2016 9:18:00 PM
Add a Comment
7. The Launch Continues...

This week EMU'S DEBUTS has been celebrating the launch of Donna Janell Bowman's debut picture book, STEP RIGHT UP. It's a fabulous picture book biography about Doc and Jim Key and how they began the humane treatment of animals movement. Every day, a new post has been made to give insight into the creation of this wonderful book.

Today, Cynthia Levinson lets readers get to know some of the EMUS a little more closely by sharing stories and pictures of their own pets. I've always said that behind every great author there's a cat (or dog or horse or some furry, finned or feathered creature!). Enjoy Cynthia's post here!

0 Comments on The Launch Continues... as of 10/14/2016 11:47:00 AM
Add a Comment
8. Yet More Darwin at The Little Crooked Cottage

Head on over to The Little Crooked Cottage for some more art and talk about the inspiration and process behind Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure! (And check out the rest of the blog. Those ladies know how to rock the kids books!)

0 Comments on Yet More Darwin at The Little Crooked Cottage as of 10/13/2016 5:27:00 PM
Add a Comment
9. Imagine a City by Elise Hurst

Imagine a City is the gorgeously unforgettable picture book by Elise Hurst that reminds me of a childhood favorite, Rain Makes Applesauce, a 1964 Caldecott honor book by Marvin Bileck and Julian Scheer. Imagine a City begins with a gentle voice inviting readers to, "Imagine a train to take you away / Imagine a city and drops of rain / A world without edges / Where the wind takes you high."

Hurst's illustrations are rooted in reality, but the world she creates is filled with magic and wonder. And there are little details everywhere to be discovered, including nods to great surrealist painters like Rene Magritte, as seen in the illustration below.

Imagine a City is a book that is perfect for sending little listeners off into dreamland, but also a marvelous springboard for imagination. The next rainy or snowy day, be sure to pull this book off the shelf and inspire your children to create their own "world without edges."

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Imagine a City by Elise Hurst as of 10/13/2016 4:10:00 AM
Add a Comment
10. Wonderful New Picture Book is Out!

Donna Janell Bowman's debut picture book is out! STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM KEY TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS is a beautiful story about the relationship between a man and a horse and how that relationship began the humane movement.

Read an interview with Donna Janell Bowman here and an interview with her editor here.

Want to buy the book? Visit it on Amazon.

0 Comments on Wonderful New Picture Book is Out! as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
11. The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends by Brittany R. Jacobs

I really like cryptids. They are a universal creation, from the Mongolian Death Worm to the Scottish born Loch Ness Monster to the Chupacabra of Mexico, every culture seems to have a mythical creature that some people believe is not mythical. And, because they are (probably?) mythical, authors and illustrators are free to give cryptids any kind of personality traits and back story they want. Finally, with Brittany R. Jacobs's new picture book, The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends, this fantastic cryptid is getting attention that unicorns, Big Foot and the yeti have been monopolizing.

Jacobs has a great take on the trouble with being a kraken, most notably the challenge of making friends. When you are a giant squid, this just doesn't come easily. The kraken tries to be more approachable by knitting a koi fish costume that doesn't fool anyone.

The kraken seeks out advice from the great white shark who, oddly enough, seems to be a pro at making friends. The kraken follows all of the shark's rules, but still no joy. Finally, the kraken realizes that there is one fellow who he can bond with, and a chum is made.

Jacobs's illustrations are cinematic and cartoonish at the same time, which makes for a very animated story. Her palette is limited but lovely. Best of all, Jacobs manages to make a giant squid cute and even cuddly and very expressive. I can't wait to see what cryptid or creature Jacobs takes on next!

Soure: Review Copy

0 Comments on The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends by Brittany R. Jacobs as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
12. Picture Book Monday with a review of Imagine a City

The imagination is a powerful thing. Indeed, if people did not have an imagination many books, pieces of music, and art would never be created. Today's picture book celebrates the imagination in a unique and exciting way. Readers of all ages may find themsleves wishing that they too could create a city, through their imagination, that is like the one that they visit in this title.

Imagine a CityImagine A City
Elise Hurst
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2016, 978-1-101-93457-9
Imagine if you can what it would be like to get on a train, a train that is going to take you to the city so that you have a special outing. It is an ordinary train that stops at an ordinary train platform. You get on board and off you go. It is not long before a waiter comes around and serves you a luscious tea. You sit on the comfortable seats sipping hot tea and eating delicious little cakes and treats. Perhaps you notice that one of the passengers in the car has rather long ears, and paws instead of hands. Or perhaps you don’t.
   When you get to the city ordinariness disappears. Here humans and animals live side by side, and there are many strange and wondrous things going on. The pictures in a gallery that you visit refuse to be contained by their frames. Here the buses are fish instead of machines and they swim through the sky above the streets. Here the stories in books, like the pictures at the gallery, will not lie down quietly on the paper. Instead they hop off the pages and sometimes you get quite a shock!
   When you stop for a bite in a little restaurant you find that the tables and chairs are little trees. In addition to the now no longer unusual assortment of animals, there are gargoyles partaking of drinks and snacks.  It is important to remember that when you can imagine a city there is no accounting for what might happen.
   In this visually stunning picture book, the author takes us on a journey full of wonderful impossibles and glorious imaginings. A minimal, lyrical text accompanies the art, and together they capture the sense of a place where adventures lie around every corner and where “The World is your teacher.”
   This celebration of the imagination will delight readers of all ages, many of whom will wish that they could jump into the pages and visit the land that lies therein.


0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of Imagine a City as of 10/11/2016 5:09:00 PM
Add a Comment
13. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen is the final book in what has come to be known as the Hat Trilogy. While not the ending I might have anticipated or hoped for, it IS a very satisfying and perfect finale to what are possibly the two funniest, smartest, best picture books I have read.

I don't want to give away the plot because, as with all books in this trilogy, it is a delight to discover on first read. But, I can tell you that We Found a Hat is the story of two turtles who both look really good in the hat that they find in their sparse desert landscape. I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat (which I didn't review because I was working for Klassen's agent when it came out) and We Found a Hat all deal with envy - hat envy, to be specific. Klassen takes a different approach to this envy in this new book in a way that solidifies his status as a superb author and illustrator.

The book trailers for all three books in the series, especially We Found a Hat, with Burl Ives singing Home on the Range in his sonorous, rich voice, are fantastic. I'm assuming that anyone reading this review is familiar with the Hat Trilogy, so enjoy this walk down memory lane!

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen as of 10/10/2016 4:56:00 AM
Add a Comment
14. Hooray for Today

Hooray for Today! Brian Won. 2016. HMH. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "I'm wide awake and ready to play!" said Owl. "This will be a good, good day."

Premise/plot: Owl is ready to start the day. The problem? Owl's "day" is actually night. And all of Owl's friends are asleep--or about to asleep. Owl is frustrated and sad that no one wants to PLAY.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't like it the first time I read it, however. I needed to meet Owl and friends properly by reading Hooray for Hat! Once I got 'attached' to the characters I went back to read Hooray for Today and liked it much, much better. My advice? Read both books.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Hooray for Today as of 10/9/2016 9:27:00 AM
Add a Comment

Little Bot and Sparrow by Jake Parker is a sweet, quiet picture book that got me a little choked up at the end. In fact, Parker's book thematically calls to mind picture book author and illustrator Peter Brown's debut children's novel, The Wild Robot. Great minds do think alike...

Little Bot and Sparrow, which has a fantastic book case showing the blue prints for Little Bot on the front and Sparrow on the back, begins its story on the title page where we see a space ship flying over a snowy landscape and jettisoning something. That something is Little Bot, who is "thrown out with the garbage" when he isn't needed any more. Alone in a new environment, he tries to make friends with a flock of birds. All but one fly off in fear. Curious, a sparrow watches and eventually befriends Little Bot, seeing that he just needs to be "taken under her wing." Sparrow teaches Little Bot about the world around him, and he is a quick learner. When he questions her about why she needs to sleep, she replies, "To rest and to dream." Not needing to sleep and not knowing what it means to dream, Little Bot decides that it is best left to the birds.

As winter approaches, Little Bot knows that it is time to say goodbye, and he does so with a tear in his eye. He watches her fly off with her flock until she is only a "tiny dot in the sky," then he wanders past places they explored, wondering if she is safe. That night, Little Robot closes his eyes for the first time. And he dreams.

Little Bot and Sparrow can be read and enjoyed on more than one level, making it even more meaningful. Parker's illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, with a soft edge that echoes the story. Scenes from the natural world are often filled with humor and playfulness, while Little Bot is presented as almost human in form and never threatening. That glimpse of the space ship on the title page made me want to know more about the world that Little Bot came from. Maybe next time?

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on as of 10/6/2016 4:24:00 AM
Add a Comment
16. Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog, written and illustrated by Lisa Papp, is a marvelous picture book that hits a lot of sweet spots for me. But, what first drew me to Papp's book is her illustration style, which reminds me of the wonderful Holly Hobbie. Papp's soft pencil sketches are enhanced by a muted palette and created on paper with visible fibers. She creates an inviting world right away, even in it is a prickly world for Madeline Finn, at first anyway. 

Madeline Finn does not like to read. Not books or magazines of "even the menu on the ice cream truck." Decoding is hard for Madeline and she is tired of getting a "Keep Trying" heart sticker instead of a star sticker like everyone else in her class. But things change when Madeline gets a very special opportunity at her public library.

Mrs. Dimple, the librarian, leads Madeline to a room filled with dogs and kids reading to them! She picks Bonnie, a beautiful dog like a "big, snowy polar bear." Soon enough, Madeline is reading to Bonnie, not worrying about her mistakes and feeling better about reading, happy to try those hard words over and over. Just when Madeline is ready to read out loud in class, hoping to get in one more practice session with Bonnie, Bonnie and Mrs. Dimple are not at the library!

 America being read to in my library

There is a happy ending for Madeline and Bonnie, one that means there will be even more dogs for kids to read to at the library. Papp tells Madeline's story with a simple sweetness and I love that she has written a book about a real thing - kids practicing reading with dogs! There are more than a few organizations that provide this service, in fact there is even a dog named America that visits my school from time to time to give the kids practice reading and it is a truly magnificent thing to witness.

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp as of 10/5/2016 4:12:00 AM
Add a Comment
17. Pirate's Perfect Pet by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Matt Myers

There is always room for a pirate picture book, especially one like Beth Ferry's Pirate's Perfect Pet, brought to life by the painterly illustrations of Matt Myers. Pirate's Perfect Pet begins with Captain Crave taking a dive off plank of his pirate ship when he spies a bottle with a message in it bobbing near a shark. No problem! Back on board, the Captain unfurls a letter from his Mummy, praising his piratical skills and sharing an article found in Be Your Best Buccaneer magazine. This article just happens to include a checklist to make sure you are living up to your perfect pirate potential as a captain. With the help of his crew, Captain Crave ticks off items on the list, only to discover he is missing a peg leg. And a pet.

Scurrying to set this right, the crew docks in a place that looks quite a bit like Miami Beach. Myers's illustrations are richly detailed and full of laughs. From the beach to the farm to the zoo, Captain Crave just can't find the perfect pet, although he does get his peg leg after a visit with a lion. 

His quest ends in a pet store when something poops in his eye. A parrot with an eye patch and a peg leg? Yep! The pirate's perfect pet.I thought the story could have gone in a different direction, but that's just me. Give the people what they want, and who doesn't want a pirate to have a parrot?

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Pirate's Perfect Pet by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Matt Myers as of 10/5/2016 4:12:00 AM
Add a Comment
18. Charles Darwin ~ Book Birthday!

Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure is officially out today!

I'm so thankful for friends, colleagues— and funny Darwin gifts— along this journey!

(I wonder what kind of cake Charles liked?) ♡

0 Comments on Charles Darwin ~ Book Birthday! as of 10/4/2016 11:22:00 AM
Add a Comment
19. Author Interview: Monique Gray Smith on My Heart Fills With Happiness & Advice for Beginning Writers

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Today I'm honored to feature Monique Gray Smith, "a mixed heritage woman of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish descent" and the author one of my favorite new titles--my official go-to gift book for 2016.

What put you on the path to writing for young readers?

I never set out to write for young readers and to be honest, I never saw myself as a writer.

When Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience first came out, it was marketed to adults, but then it won the Canadian Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature.

This award sends 2500 copies of the winning book to schools and programs across the country, and all of a sudden, Tilly was in the hands of young people, in schools, classrooms and friendship centres and it became a YA book.

Congratulations on the release of one of my favorite new titles, My Heart Fills with Happiness, illustrated by Julie Flett (Orca, 2016)! What was your original inspiration for this title?

Thank you for your kind words about My Heart Fills. Working with Julie was a true privilege. We spoke on many occasions about the message and illustrations; it was a beautiful collaboration.

My Heart Fills with Happiness was inspired when I was facilitating a workshop on our history and resilience at an Aboriginal Head Start program.

At lunch, the children joined us and I witnessed a Kookum (Grandma) sitting in her chair and her grandson came running over to her. He stood in front of her and she took his face in his hands and his whole body changed. His shoulders went back, his chin came up and his eyes lit up.

What I saw was the way she looked at him with such love filled his heart with happiness. This got me thinking about what fills my heart and our hearts as human beings. A couple weeks later, I was visiting with five of my dear friends and as we were talking, the book came.

Literally, in one quick write, it was done. Only one line has been changed. My next children's book, called You Hold Me Up has also been inspired by Aboriginal Head Start. This is such a powerful program in our country and now has been running across our country for over 20 years and has 50,000 graduates. Culture and Language as well as Family Involvement are two of the six components of this program and as a result it is a significant aspect to the healing of Residential Schools in Canada.

What were the challenges between spark and publication, and what lessons were learned along the way?

This book was a gift from the Ancestors, I know that with every fibre of my being, Cynthia.

Her first book!
As I said above, there was only one line change and in the end there were three publishing companies that wanted to purchase it.

There were some miscommunications with the design between myself and Orca Publishing and as a result I think we have both learned the importance of ensuring connection throughout the project.

I know that this is a new way of relationships between author and publisher, but in these times of reconciliation, it is critical we work together instead of the publisher having all the power and decision making.

What did Julie Flett’s illustrations bring to your text? (Full disclosure: I'm a fan.)

Oh Julie! As I said above, it was a privilege to collaborate with Julie. When Orca informed me it was going to be Julie Flett illustrating My Heart Fills with Happiness I literally did a happy dance in my office. Not only do I admire Julie's contribution to literature; both as an author and illustrator, but I also have profound respect for her as a human being.

I think Julie's illustrations bring the words alive. The way she was able to capture the tender nuances on facial expressions and body postures is precious!

And the cover, I have had numerous girls say to me, "look, that's me on the cover." I think that says it all! When a child sees themselves on the pages it is incredibly affirming for them and in some ways, their right to be seen.

We all need to be seen and heard, but for generations literature has not only not seen us as Indigenous people, but especially not Indigenous women and girls.

Let me simply say, Julie's illustrations make this book what it is!

You also are the author of Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience (Sononis, 2013). Could you tell us a little about this book?

Tilly is loosely based on my life through Tilly's journey and the characters she meets they tell aspects of our history as Indigenous people in Canada. It weaves together some of our traditional teachings, culture and ways of being.

It also speaks to my personal journey of alcoholism and recovery and the beautiful relationship Tilly has with her alcohol & drug counsellor, Bea.

How have you grown as writer over time? 

Oh yes, I am still growing...and to be honest, hope to never stop growing. I am not a trained writer, so I need exceptional editing support.

One of the aspects where I feel I have grown the most is being willing to let the story flow through me.

I used to want to interrupt and pause the story, but now I close my eyes and type away or I share what I'm thinking into my phone. Especially dialogue between characters, that seems to come to me in the place between wakefulness and sleep.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Pay attention. Notice your surroundings, the mannerisms of individuals, the ways people speak, how the light looks on the land at different times.

I'd also say, put yourself out there: let others read your work, send it in to contests, send it to publishers. And remember, you will get on of three responses. Yes. Not yet. Or I have something even better in mind.

View of Gonzales Bay from Monique's office
How about Native American/First Nations authors?

Our people are craving to read our stories and stories that they can see themselves and their lived experiences in. Write them, share them. And if writing them isn't necessarily comfortable, talk them.

On most phones, there is the microphone app on email, if you record your story and then send it to yourself by email it will come as text and voila, you have your first draft.

I would also remind you of the importance of ceremony when writing. I find it helps ground me and opens me for the story to come through me. Offerings of gratitude help me every single day, not only when I am writing, but every day.

I would also say read as much as you can and raise up and talk about those you are reading.

Add a Comment
20. New in Nonfiction: Animal Legs


Bend your knees or jump up and down, how do you use your legs?

Compare how your legs work with the action of a frog’s legs or the webbing of an otter’s feet in Mary Holland’s new release Animal Legs. This is the third book in the Animal Anatomy & Adaptations series, and a perfect place for young readers to find amazing facts about the lives of animals found in their backyard.

We asked Mary Holland about her inspiration for Animal Legs and here is part of that interview.

A: Whose Animal Legs do you find most interesting?

MH: I’m afraid this is too hard a question to answer, as I find the many different ways that animals use their legs equally interesting.  One of my favorites is a mole’s front paws. They look just like paddles to me, and the perfect tools to dig with. I also find the flap of 12-hairy-tailed-moleskin that goes from a flying squirrel’s front legs to its back legs and allows it to glide through the air a remarkable adaptation. The fact that katydid ears are on their legs is pretty amazing, too!

A: Is there an animal/fact that you wish you could have included in the book or series but it just didn’t fit? 

MH: There are so many animals that have such interesting feet and legs that I can’t even begin to count them, but one group that may have the most is insects. I could only fit a few of them in the book.  Grasshoppers “sing” by rubbing their legs against their wings!  Have you ever looked closely at a cicada’s front legs?  They are pretty scary looking!  Butterflies taste with their feet!

A: What is the most unusual predicament you have faced photographing an animal? 

MH: I got very close to a young skunk in order to photograph it, and before I knew it, I was covered with skunk spray.

I once was trying to find a porcupine at night that was up in a tree, screaming its head off, and suddenly it fell to the ground about three feet from me.  I almost had a head full of quills!10-striped-skunk

I was tracking a bobcat in late spring that had crossed a beaver pond, and the ice, which had started to melt, gave way (I weighed a lot more than the bobcat) and I fell through the ice into the cold water with snowshoes on.  Fortunately, I could touch bottom with the tips of my snowshoes and managed to get out of the pond!

A: What would you like to share with young children about your love for nature? 

MH: I feel so very lucky, as each day I get to discover something new. I never know what I’m going to find.  I head outdoors, and go on what is to me very much like an Easter egg hunt – I look for animals and their signs and rarely do I come home without having found something new to observe and admire.

A: What do you have coming up next? 

MH: I am working on two books.  One is called Naturally Curious Day by Day.  It describes two or three different animals or plants that you might see each day of the year.  I am also writing a book called Otis the Owl, about a young barred owl.

Otis the Owl will fly onto bookshelves in the spring of 2017.

 Learn more about Mary’s new book Animal Legs on Arbordale Publishing’s website. For daily updates with amazing animal facts and photos, follow Mary’s blog Naturally Curious with Mary Holland.

Add a Comment
21. Mervin the Sloth is About to Do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chen

I'm kind of done with meta picture books, but I will never be done with sloths, especially sloths named Mervin. Happily, Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World is a really fantastically fun meta picture book. Colleen AF Venable, graphic novel designer for the excellent FirstSecond by day and graphic novelist by night, makes her picture book debut with the help of illustrator Ruth Chen.

Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World begins with Mervin, center page, slowly moving to the right with each page turn, as the title drops in from the top of the book over the course of a few pages. A red panda, Mervin's friend, strolls onto the scene, taking excited notice of the falling title. More and more friends arrive, all speculating about the best thing in the world that Mervin is about to do. Flying? Digging? Gazelling (which is not even a word, as bird points out)? Is Mervin going to fight a shark? Turn into a robot? Do all our homework? Invent a time machine? 

There will definitely be lots of laughs as you read this book out loud, which is a must. Mervin the Sloth Is About to Do the Best Thing in the World should not be read alone and when you get to the end of the book you will see just why...

Be sure to watch this brief video of Colleen and Ruth doing a stellar job reading their book out loud!

Soon to be on the shelves of my school library, Colleen's graphic novel series Guinea PI:

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Mervin the Sloth is About to Do the Best Thing in the World by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chen as of 9/29/2016 4:08:00 AM
Add a Comment
22. Darwin ~ Publishers Weekly Review

"Letting her background in map illustration shine, Thermes (Little Author in the Big Woods) follows the travels of Charles Darwin while concisely explaining the influence they had on his growing understanding of the interconnectedness of nature..."

Read the full review here...

0 Comments on Darwin ~ Publishers Weekly Review as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
23. Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz

Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz may not be the best book to put your little ones to sleep, but it could be the best book to teach them about all the things that we do BEFORE we fall asleep! Zenz has been illustrating and writing picture books and beginning readers since 2008, which is when I started this blog. In fact, Aaron left a comment early on and that is when I learned about his career, his very creative kids and the blogs that they have. A father of six kids, ages (best guess) 6 to 18, Zenz and his kids review their favorite books at  Bookie Woogie. Over at  Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty, the Zenz family blog where they share drawings and more, often inspired by kid's books. In fact, the monsters in Monsters Go Night-Night were inspired by drawings Zenz's son made when he was four and five!

The bedtime routine for monsters begins with a snack, moving on to a bath, pajamas, a snuggly companion, tooth brushing, a trip to the bathroom and, of course, kisses goodnight. What makes Monsters Go Night-Night both charming and clever and guaranteed fun for both reader and listener is the guessing game Zenz plays with this routine.

Monsters take baths, but what do they take baths with? Chocolate pudding, naturally! Silly, surprising answers are sure to get laughs. Happily, when we reach the page near the end of the book that reads, "Monsters need to go potty. Where do monsters go?" you will not have to worry about potty training backsliding. Ever the thoughtful parent, a page turn reveals that "Monsters go in the toilet!," with this aside, "Whew! It's a good thing MONSTERS know where to go."

For a very fun peek into the world of a picture book creator, awesome dad and monster lover, be sure to check out this video!

Source: Review Copy

0 Comments on Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
24. Eat, Sleep, Poop

Eat, Sleep, Poop. Alexandra Penfold. Illustrated by Jane Massey. 2016. Random House. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I haven't been here very long. But I already have a rigorous schedule.

Premise/plot: This picture book is narrated by a baby. When the book opens, the baby is very new indeed. But by the end of the book, he's sitting on his own, crawling, grabbing and learning, eating in a high chair, and drinking from a sippy cup. As to his schedule, well, the title says it ALL.

My thoughts: Loved this one. Loved it. The text is simple enough, and the premise is straightforward. But the illustrations say a lot--just as much as the text itself. For example, the opening pages show the parents arriving home with baby. Grandpa and Grandma are on hand. The first 'eat' shows the Mom giving the baby a bottle. The first 'sleep' shows Grandpa getting to hold the sleeping baby while the Grandma snaps LOTS of pictures, and the new mom sleeps as well. The first 'poop' shows the Grandpa quickly handing off the baby because he now stinks. Even the dog looks uncomfortable at the 'new' smell. Each 'eat' 'sleep' and 'poop' shows the progression of growth in the baby's first year.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

0 Comments on Eat, Sleep, Poop as of 10/2/2016 8:40:00 AM
Add a Comment
25. Picture Book Monday with a review of Madeline Finn and the library dog

When I was a child I struggled to understand mathematics. Numbers became my worst enemy and it did not help that I was often ridiculed by my peers when I made mistakes. I even had a teacher who made fun of my struggles, which was terrible. If only I had had the kind of help the little girl in today's book gets when she is trying to learn how to read. Kind, non-judgmental support goes a long way when it comes to learning how to do something that is difficult.

Madeline Finn and the Library DogMadeline Finn and the library dog
Lisa Papp
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Peachtree Publishers, 2016, 978-1-56145-910-0
Madeline Finn does not like to read. At all. Anything with words, including the menu of the ice cream truck, is to be avoided. Reading out loud is the worst because then people can hear how she sometimes struggles to make sense of the words, and on occasion they “giggle” when they hear her mistakes. No matter how hard she tries, Madeline Finn’s teacher never gives her a star sticker. Instead, she gets a heart-shaped “Keep Trying” sticker, which is so frustrating.
   Madeline Finn wishes very hard that she will get a star of her own, but day after day her reading efforts just aren’t good enough. On Saturday Madeline Finn and her mother go to the library. Madeline Finn reminds the librarian that she does not like to read, which is when the librarian, Mrs. Dimple, shows her a surprise.
   The children’s reading area is full of dogs. Real live dogs, and apparently they are there to be read to. Mrs. Dimple introduces Madeline Finn to Bonnie, a beautiful, big, white dog who is apparently a “great listener,” and in spite of herself Madeline Finn decides that she would like to try reading to the dog. She never imagines that Bonnie is going to be more than a good listener.
   This wonderful, heartwarming picture book explores one little girl’s reading journey. It is a journey that is full of struggles, frustration, and heartache, but it turns out that a patient and accepting dog is just want the little girl needs.
   With an authentic first person narrative and wonderful illustrations, Lisa Papp tells a story that will resonate with everyone who has struggled to learn how to do something new.

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of Madeline Finn and the library dog as of 10/3/2016 3:08:00 PM
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts