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1. Illustrator Saturday – Laura-Susan Thomas

Laura-SusanThomasphotoLauren-Susan Thomas currently illustrating children’s books, on the foggy Central Coast of California. She earned my BFA in Illustration at the University of Arizona, worked as an illustrator/designer since graduating in ’87’ and worked as a ‘Walt Disney Imagineer’ for 11 years creating themed dimensional graphics and illustrations from creatures under the sea mermaids to dinosaurs to ancient Tibetan ruins.

She has illustrated for, BabyBug magazine, Kids Reading Room LA TImes and an up coming book series, ‘Reid’s Amazing Universe’ the first of which is out on ibooks for children.

Here is Laura-Susan discussing her illustrating process:

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I had to share Laura-Susan’s cute little studio. It is only a few yards from her house.

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How long have you been illustrating?

I have been Illustrating since graduating from college, way back in 1987, but drawing since I was a kid. I doodled on my notebooks, school assignments and was forever thrilled when my elementary teachers uttered the word, Diorama. My dad would bring home reams of old spreadsheets from his work and I would draw on the backsides.  My favorite thing to draw were characters and the worlds they inhabited in my imagination, which without realizing was a great primer for the storytelling and world building later at Disney and the children’s literature world.

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What made you choose to you study art at the University of Arizona and get your BFA?

I always knew I wanted to be an artist, but I also loved archeology and the romance of ancient civilizations, so I chose U of A because they had a strong Fine Arts department and a renowned Archeology Department as well! I actually was able to combine some of my love for archeology and old civilizations with art and when I was at Disney Imagineering on some of the lands I worked on.

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Have you taken any other art related courses after that?

Currently I am very excited and inspired, in August I started with EB Lewis in his “Visual Mentor” program. It has been such great opportunity and chance to learn and expand the feel and look of my artwork!

After graduation form college, I took some animation courses and many figure drawing courses. At Disney they encouraged their artists to keep learning and offered free Wednesday figure drawing sessions after work.  I went back to school while at Disney in the evenings, for computer arts, learning vector based and digital based tools for the arts, photoshop and illustrator.

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What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

The first legit paying gigs I had were in College. I created the character/mascot for a yearly triathlon in Tucson, A buff bike riding, running swimming frog and I painted the billboards for the drama theater on campus for a time and did some summer theater backstage work.

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What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

I worked for a screen printer creating graphics and designs for surf wear and clothing.

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How did you get the job with Disney?

I applied through an industry ad for a screen printing fine arts separator. It was my fine arts background and my first job in screen printing that helped me get the job at Disney Imagineering. Our department produced the final hand done separations and the fine arts Serigraphs and posters for the parks. From there I moved on and worked in the Graphic Design department as a comp/production artist, and later as a Designer and Illustrator. As an Imagineer you are part of creating essentially the worlds biggest stage sets. Being an artist at Imagineering was a fun, nontraditional, imaginative, job. As a designer, you had the honor of working with, Blue sky designers, writers, architects, interior designers, props, sculptors, robotics experts and more. I got to be part of creating all sorts of things, from themed ancient tibetan ruins, giant carved fish characters, to dinosaur paintings and mermaids, in Euro Disney, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Tokyo Disney Seas.

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How did you decide you wanted to venture into freelance art projects?

In 1996, my husband, Hariette (our pet rabbit) and I took a a chance and an adventure and made our way from Los Angeles up to the little surf towns, ranches and rolling oak covered hills of the Central Coast of California. I continued to work for Disney full time from afar. I was one of their first full time telecommuters back in the age of dial up, conference calls and Fedex, painting away in my foggy studio. Our Fedex planes here were prop planes and our post office was actually in the back of hardware store and I admit many conference phone calls were done while working, wearing my “casual attire”. FaceTime did not exist yet thank goodness. It worked wonderfully and I would drive to LA once week and travel to job sites in Florida for many years. When my daughter and later my son arrived I took a break from travel and full time work, it seemed the perfect time to start working on a freelance basis.

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Do you think Disney influenced your style?

Imagineering was all about backstory, telling the tale of the place through characters, through writing, props and themed space, that helped a guest believe they had gone from reality to another world. I think that idea greatly influenced my work and I love to be able to create art for books, that transports someone to a world they believe in and get to play in for awhile.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

I attended a Conference in Marian Del Rey when the SCBWI was SCBW and was hooked. I began collecting children books before I had kids. When my kids were school age, I jumped in full time. Five years ago. I Attended a conference in LA, met a circle of friends who later became our fantastic illustrators critique group! Between my critique group and all the amazing people I have met through the SCBWI, I am so excited to be a part of this community!

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What are you doing to help connect with art directors and editors?

I have postcards and a website with childrensillustrators.com and Carbonmade, and try to keep up by reading industry blogs. Attending conferences and smaller SCBWI events and participating in portfolio reviews whenever they are offered and portfolio showcase through the LA conference.

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Have you put together a portfolio and or a book dummy?

Definitely a portfolio online and a real world portfolio. I try to update both when I have new work. Sometimes I make small dummies for ideas I am working on.  It is a interesting process and great way to really see how your work flows with the page turns.

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Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

I had the opportunity to do a cover illustration and a full spread for Babybug Magazine.  As well as Magazine work, I produced illustrations for some of the short stories featured in the, Los Angeles Time’s Kids Reading Room. It is fast turnaround but fun to focus so intently and figure out how to tell a story in one illustration.

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Do you have an Artist Rep. to represent you? If not, would you like to find representation?

I don’t have an artists rep., but I would love to find representation.

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What types of things do you do to find illustration work?

I tend to be a bit of a very shy, nerdy, introvert so Social media and self promotion are the hardest parts of children illustration for me. I know it is important though so I try and get out there at conferences and talk to people, make connections, get my work into portfolio reviews and such. Sending postcards, is an introverts best friend! A great way to reach out and have your work be seen from afar. So far I have only met wonderful nurturing people in this field, so for my fellow artists introverts, take the leap and put yourself out there and take chances, it does pay off!

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What is your favorite medium to use?

For sketching I love regular old black ball point pens.  The cheaper the better. I find when you sketch with a medium where there is no eraser and no “undo” it frees you up. I also love that you can get so much variation in line and shading with those old crummy pens. For finished work, I love to work in gouache. and pen and ink in the real world, Corel Painter and my Wacom in the digital world.

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Has that changed over time?

Yes, Since the recent ebooks series I worked on was going to have some animation, I wanted to be able to manipulate the art on layers. I started using Corel painter and a wacom tablet. I love the way you can mimic real world art mediums and still maintain layers and experiment. I still start with those old crummy pens and pencil in the real world even when I am going digital. It still feels fresher to me.

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What do you consider is your first big success?

BabyBug was exciting, to be able to do not just create a spread but also the cover art for a large publication was wonderful!  It was happy dance day!

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How did that come about?

I think getting your work out there with websites and postcards. The art director at Carus Publishing had seen some of my work and when a job came along that matched my style, she contacted me. I had missed the call, as I was out picking up kids, so she had left a message for me. I listened to the message three times, did a dance around the room with the kids, regained my demeanor and called her back, very excited to be working with them.

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Do you ever want to write and illustrate a picture book?

Absolutely, I would love to get some of the worlds and the stories, rolling around in my imagination and my sketchbooks, onto the page and into a book! I am working on my writing craft along with my illustration.

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Would you be open to working with an author who wants to self-publish a picture book?

It would depend on the story and situation. I have worked with one author, self publishing an ebook series, “Reid’s Amazing Universe”. Getting a book, out there and seen, seems to be an issue in self publishing, especially in the digital realm, competing with apps and more. The author and developer in this case, are very good at self promotion and marketing and had some good connections so it seemed like a good challenge. I think the challenge to self publishing for an illustrator specifically, is not having an Art Director. It is difficult to self edit your work and having a talented art director on board is invaluable.

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Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

I get books from the library, google images and make big image boards for characters and setting and color palates. Right now my wall is filled with gorillas, smug kids, and downtown street scenes. I have a little mirror above my art table so I can make faces at myself,  in order to get a great facial expression in my characters.

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Have you done any work for educational publishers?

No, but I am interested in both this area and the Middle Grade areas, after hearing two great breakout sessions at the conference this summer in LA.

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What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Music, I tend to work in different mediums and love my studio space, but I have about six different albums that play in the background when I work. It helps me to get lost in my drawings.

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Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I really believe keeping a good balance helps your creativity and with your life as a whole. I try hard to do this, even though I am an Artist-Mom/taxi driver of short people, I set aside around 5 to 6 hours each day during the week to sketch, paint, research and learn. If I have a deadline approaching then it is whatever it takes. That can mean, walking out to my studio at 4am in the quiet hours, or in the late evening hours, keeping the balance with my family’s daily life and get the deadline met.  My kids love the studio. If I need to put in the extra time even as my kids get older, I will find myself working with someone reading a book under my art table and listening to my husband practice guitar in the house. It becomes creative time for everyone.

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Do you have an agent? If yes, who? If not would you like to find one?

I don’t have an Agent, but yes,  I’d love to have an agent. I think it can be a great partnership for an artist, to navigate the ins and outs of the children’s field and to help further their work.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

For artists I think the internet is fantastic! It allows us to share our work and inspiration and ideas and connect with other artists and people in our industry through Facebook, websites , Instagram and more. In my case, I Skype each week for the Visual Mentor program, and my critique group has maintained a strong bond and can help each other in an instant, even though we are from all different parts of the country. Once again internet a great tool for introverted artists!

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

For many years I used Photoshop, but I have become a Corel Painter fan. If I work digitally I tend to work in Corel with a Wacom tablet.

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Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I love my Bamboo Wacom tablet. it is as portable as a sketchbook!

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Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

My Career Dream, I would like to have been a part of creating books with humor and heart, that are worn on the edges, because they are the ones grabbed off the bookshelf over an over again to be read We on the couch at bedtime.

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What are you working on now?

I’m starting to sketch on the third ebook series for “Reid’s Amazing Universe” and working on expanding my art and creating illustrations for a possible book in my Visual Mentor program.

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Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I love sketching with ball point pens but also I have a few sets of warm and cool  grays, and black Faber-Castell pens and tracing paper. They come in sets of warm and cool grey and black with different sized tips and brush pens. When I am working I will have several layers of tracing paper with different shading or trying out different gestures above the original sketch. I find my work is much looser if I am sketching by hand rather than on a screen. Later I will combine what is working either in the real world or in Corel Painter to form a final sketch before going on to the finished art.
For Art supplies we live in a small coastal area so Blicks online is my go to source for supplies.

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Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

I am not nearly as far along as many of the creative and talented illustrators whom I admire, interviewed on this blog. As far as words of wisdom, I think to get where I am today with some success at being published and hopefully more opportunities in my future, for me it comes down to truly wanting to be a children’s illustrator, loving this field, and as an Artis/Mom, finding the time to truly work hard, getting your work out there to be seen.

Becoming a member of the SCBWI was an important step for me and an amazing organization with wonderful talented people. Everyone I have met has been willing to talk or help a new or emerging illustrator or writer to the find their way and welcome them into the children’s books community. It is where I have garnered friends, critique groups and contacts. Attend conferences and events through the SCBWI. Take classes, be open to opportunities!

Most importantly, find the time and the balance for your art or writing in your week and stick to it. Laundry will still be there tomorrow and I do believe Dust Bunnies qualify as pets, so give them a cute name, pat them on the head, and go sketch!

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Thank you Laura-Susan for sharing your journey and process with us. Please let us know all your future successes. We’d love to hear about them and cheer you on. You can visit Susan at:  www.laurasusanthomasillustrator.carbonmade.com  

If you have a moment I am sure Anne would like to read your comments. I enjoy reading them, too, even if I don’t always have time to reply. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, demystify, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Baby Bug Magazine, Laura-Susan Thomas, University of Arizona

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2. Imani’s Moon – Perfect Picture Book Friday and GIVE-AWAY

Title: Imani’s Moon Written by: JaNay Brown-Wood Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell Published by: Charlesbridge, Oct. 14th. 2014 Themes/Topics: Maasai, being little, big dreams Suitable for ages: 6-9 Fiction, 32 pages Awards: winner of the NAESP Picture Book Competition Opening: “Look at tiny Imani!” the other children … Continue reading

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3. Pre-PiBo Day 6: Dianne de Las Casas and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Title

Kid Chef Eliana and Mom Dianne de Las Casas July 2014by Dianne de Las Casas

I am the founder of Picture Book Month and it starts tomorrow, November 1. The website, PictureBookMonth.com, features essays from thought leaders in the children’s literature community. Each day in November, a new essay is posted. This year’s Picture Book Month Champions are: Chris Barton, Aaron Becker, Kelly Bingham , Sophie Blackall, Arree Chung, Anna Dewdney, Johnette Downing, Ame Dyckman, Jill Esbaum, Carolyn Flores, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Robin Preiss Glasser, Deborah Heiligman, Marla Frazee, Stefan Jolet, Kathleen Krull, Rene Colato Lainez, Loreen Leedy, Betsy Lewin, Ted Lewin, Brian Lies, Kelly J. Light, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Alexis O’Neill, Sandra Markle, Ann Whitford Paul, Aaron Reynolds, Judy Schachner, Linda Joy Singleton, and David Schwartz. Please join the celebration!

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As you prepare for PiBoIdMo, think about the titles of your picture books. In a recent interview for California Kids! magazine, Patricia Newman asked me, “How do you come up with titles for your books?” This started me thinking in depth about picture book titles. What’s in a title? How important is a title to a book? Can a book be centered around its title?

As it turns out, titles are vital to a book’s success. Author Scott Westerfield says, “Titles name a book, and names are important. A good name can make or break you.”

Brandi Reissenweber of Gotham Writers “Ask the Writer” column says, “A title is a story’s first impression. People make a first impression with appearance, wardrobe, and body language. Stories do it with a title.”

Eric Ode says, “Dan, the Taxi Man began as nothing more than a title. And one of the books I have coming out next year began as a title.”

PiBoIdMo founder and picture book author Tara Lazar says, “Most of my books begin as titles. It’s just the way my mind works. I want a BAM! concept, something that really hits you, and I find that people get HIT best with a succinct, powerful title.”

Corey Rosen Schwartz says, “I have written several books around titles! Like Tara [Lazar], most of my books begin that way. Goldi Rocks and the Three Bears, for example, was just a title on my PiBoIdMo 2009 list.”

 

Character-Based Titles

Many picture books have character-driven titles. The character of the book IS the title. Do you have a book character that is so compelling that the character’s name should be the book’s title? Here are some examples:

  • Olivia by Ian Falconer
  • Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton
  • Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
  • Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
  • Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor

Robin Preiss Glasser book cover

 

Clever, Punny Titles

I am a big fan of clever, punny titles. In fact, several of my books have punny titles. Here are some examples that are just too clever for words… almost.

  • Crankenstein by Samantha Berger
  • The Monstore by Tara Lazar
  • Little Red Hot by Eric Kimmel
  • Pinkalicious by Victoria Kann
  • Epossumondas by Colleen Salley

Crankenstein

 

Verbose Titles

I am generally a fan of the “less is more” title for a book but sometimes, a garrulous title is EXACTLY what the book calls for. Can you imagine these books with a short title?

  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
  • How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? by Jane Yolen
  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback (a folktale retelling)
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

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Plot-Based Titles

Some titles beckon you to open the book. These titles are based around the book’s plot. Yes, as short as a picture book is, it can still have a plot. In fact, these picture book plots were so inspiring that they were turned into Hollywood blockbuster movies!

  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
  • A Night at the Museum by Milan Trenc
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  • We’re Back! A Dinosaur’s Story by Hudson Talbott
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

 

Single-Word Titles

A picture book title can also be short and succinct, even one-word. These acclaimed picture books prove that a word is worth a thousand pictures.

  • Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Blackout by John Rocco
  • Ninja! by Arree Chung
  • Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds
  • Hug by Jez Alborough

Arree Chung cover

Aaron Zenz says, “Hiccupotamus started with the title. I really wouldn’t have had any desire to write a book about a bunch of jungle animals chasing around a disruptive hippo if not for the title. In my mind, the pun ‘Hiccupotamus’ is the most important thing about that particular book.”

As you create and engage your imagination this month, think about your picture book’s title. In what way can an engaging title enhance your picture book? How can you use the title to attract readers? Perhaps you can be the Author with the Terrific, Tremendous, Oh-So-Grand, Very Remarkable Title.

As you celebrate PiBoIdMo and Picture Book Month, read LOTS of picture books. Comment below and share with us your favorite picture book titles and why you think they are so splendiferous. Here’s to Picture Books! Read * Share * Celebrate!

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Dianne de Las Casas is an award-winning author, storyteller, and founder of Picture Book Month. Her performances, dubbed “revved-up storytelling” are full of energetic audience participation. The author of 24 books, Dianne is the International Reading Association LEADER 2014 Poet Laureate, and the 2014 recipient of the Ann Martin Book Mark award. Her children’s titles include The Cajun Cornbread Boy, There’s a Dragon in the Library, The Little “Read” Hen, The House That Santa Built, and Cinderellaphant. Visit her website at diannedelascasas.com. Visit Picture Book Month at PictureBookMonth.com. Twitter & Instagram: @AuthorDianneDLC Picture Book Month Twitter: @PictureBkMonth Facebook: fanofdianne and PictureBookMonth. Dianne is the proud mom of 14-year-old culinary celebrity, Kid Chef Eliana.


10 Comments on Pre-PiBo Day 6: Dianne de Las Casas and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Title, last added: 10/31/2014
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4. Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Mac Barnett Jon Klassen are the brilliant team that brought us Extra Yarn, winner of the Caldecott Honor Medal. With Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, Barnett and Klassen have created yet another book that readers (and little listeners) will instantly bond with. Seemingly simple, this book will satisfy adults and kids and is sure to get repeated readings wherever it lands, in part because of the wry

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5. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Eva Eriksson

All storytelling has its backbone in realistic fiction. So many kids, even at a surprisingly young age, are eager to read scary stories. I tried to fill that gap. ‘Scary’ thrills them. It makes their hearts beat faster. … To me, the great sentence is: The door knob slowly, slowly turned. That delicious moment of anticipation, of danger climbing the stairs. I’ve tried to provide those chills, while still resolving each book in a safe way.”

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Over here at Kirkus yesterday, I talked to author James Preller, quoted above, about his Scary Tales series from Feiwel & Friends. The latest, The One-Eyed Doll, was recently released. Perfect for Halloween reading. We also chat about his middle-grade novels and school visits.

Next week, I’ll have some art from the Scary Tales books. They are illustrated by Iacopo Bruno.

Today at Kirkus, I write about some picture book imports — that is, those picture books originally published in other countries but now on American shores. That link will be here soon.

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Last week, I wrote here about two early chapter books, one featured more in-depth on Wednesday of this week. Below are some illustrations from the other book, Rose Lagercrantz’s My Heart is Laughing, illustrated by Eva Eriksson (Gecko Press, May 2014). Enjoy the art.


“It was so high they had to go and find a chair so they could climb up it.
They climbed for hours pretending to be monkeys.”


“‘This is very sad!’ she sighed. ‘Is there anyone else this has happened to?’ It was quiet again. ‘Me,’ said Jonathan finally. ‘Vicky and Mickey keep pushing me all the time!’
And Susie waved her arm furiously.”


“‘I forgive you anyway,’ she said. Everybody breathed out. The drama was over.”


“Dani just sat and waved her pen around and smiled at Ella,
who had been given a sheet of paper to write on.”


 



 

* * * * * * *

MY HEART IS LAUGHING. First American edition copyright © 2014 by Gecko Press. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher.

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6. The Spooky Box by Mark Gonyea

The Spooky Box by Mark GonyeaKnock, knock! What would you do if you found a box at your door? It’s not just any box though, it’s a spooky box! This small package could be filled with anything. There could be old bones or slithery snakes. When reading this book you will be presented with multiple items that could be contained in this mysterious black box. The narrator invites participation by eventually asking readers to open the box by lifting a page flap to discover what’s hiding inside.

This engaging picture book is perfect for Halloween celebrations since all the illustrations consist of only three colors: black, white, and a very light shade of orange. The suggestions for what could be in the box also reflect a Halloween theme with items like spiders and candy. This would be a wonderful story to spark creativity with either a large group or one-on-one. Children with wild imaginations will greatly enjoy this tale. So what do you think is hiding in the spooky box?

Posted by: Katie


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7. Pre-PiBo Day 5: Molly O’Neill Looks at the World with New Eyes

mollyby Molly O’Neill

It’s day [whatever] of PiBoIdMo when it finally happens . . . you run out of ideas.

The blank page. It mocks you. And you’re panicked, because you’ve already plundered every cute/amusing thing your kids/pets have ever done, looking for inspiration. You’ve already turned your own experiences into rollicking, rhythmic (but never rhyming!) texts. You’ve perhaps even transformed Buzzfeed videos about unexpected animal friendships into whimsical odes to human emotions.

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So now what? Well, now comes inspiration in the form of one of my favorite quotations:

 The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.                                                                                                                                                     Marcel Proust

Even though this quote is nearly 100 years old, it’s meaningful, especially for a writer. In fact, Proust probably made this observation because as an author himself, he knew well that reaching past one’s initial, obvious, or cliched ideas to a place of true, fresh, personal creativity is among a writer’s greatest challenges—and greatest triumphs, when achieved. So, in Proust’s spirit, here are 5 tips to train your eyes, make new discoveries, and ultimately shape your words as a writer.

  1. Warm up your vision. Take one of your favorite ideas from a previous day’s writing and spin it into something fresh and new by changing one key element—like the point of view, the setting, or even a character’s identity. Switch the narrative voice from first person to third person, or turn from a contemporary setting to one that’s exotic or faraway or historical or fantastical. You can even turn human characters into animals and vice versa, or swap who the reader will see as the story’s hero/villain. And since the shape of your story was already established in your earlier creation (whether it was a full manuscript or just a simple outline), you’re temporarily free from thinking about plot and can instead play with transformation-enhancing details of voice and language. You may even realize that you enjoy the resulting version of the story more than your original! (An aside—one of my favorite books on writing covers similar ground: exploring how shifts in perspective can spark your creativity: check out 99 Ways to Tell a Story by Matt Madden.)
  1. Train your new eyes in real life. For one week, outlaw yourself from taking even a single photo. Every time you reach for your phone or other device to take a photo, force yourself instead to capture the moment differently, using only words! At the end of the week, select your favorite of these moments-turned-into-words on Facebook or Instagram and ask your friends and family if they can “see” the moment through your words alone. (If you like, snap a photo of your screen or notepad for more effective/visual social sharing.)

new eyes

  1. Watch for details that make you ask “why. Stories don’t always arrive in your mind, fully-imagined. Often, they start with a simple-but-intriguing image or detail, and the author’s curiosity to explore the story behind it. So study everyday life for places where paradoxes happen and tensions meet—for moments are memorable and yet unexpected at the same time. If you’re writing a humorous story, these details can sometimes add a layer of ridiculousness or absurdity that picture book readers will delight in. But more importantly, they make readers ask “why” enough to keep on turning pages. For example, imagine: Best friends who are suddenly not speaking, and no one knows why. A castle with a doorway that’s too small for any of its inhabitants to walk through. An abandoned home with a gift-wrapped package waiting at the door. With any of these jumping-off points or thousands of others like them, you can often reveal an interesting story to yourself (and your future readers) if you ask enough whys or what-ifs.
  1. Reverse the story-making process with visual storytelling. Many writers are accustomed to thinking that text always precedes art. But exercises in visual storytelling can engage your creativity in entirely different ways—making art an integral part of your creative process. To try this type of hybrid creativity, explore Storybird, which houses a curated collection of high-quality, original art and offers free and simple creative tools for authors. Simply select an image that catches your eye, and then use the art to enable your writing in one of countless ways—it can help spark or inspires story ideas; help you “unlock” or puzzle your way through a story, offering visual clues and perspective to offset your own imagination and talent with words; or simply enhance a story you’ve already been imagining. You can keep a story private, and share the link only with those you choose (like critique partners or friends/family); or you can add your stories into Storybird’s public library to get swift feedback from millions of young readers worldwide who use the platform.

storybird

  1. Remember that less is more. In art or photography, “negative space” is the white space in and around an image’s subject that helps viewers focus. For writers, there is sometimes a temptation to think that more words = better. But just like negative space can enhance artwork, sometimes a few well chosen words will say far more than an endless ramble. Fewer words means that each carries more power, so their precise selection and arrangement matters more. Similarly, remember that what’s not on the page is just as important as what is, and if a detail of your story can be portrayed through artwork, then it rarely needs to be repeated in the text. Your job as an author is to decide what does not belong in a story, as much as what does!

Here’s hoping you arrive at the end of these exercises—and PiBoIdMo—with powerful new eyes that would make Proust proud. Questions? Thoughts? Please share them, and your own suggestions to fellow writers seeking creative vision and unique perspectives, in the comments.

guestbloggerbio2014

Molly O’Neill is Head of Editorial at Storybird where she works at the intersection of story, art, technology, and new publishing opportunities for authors and artists. Previously she was an editor at HarperCollins, where she launched the careers of talented authors and illustrators including bestselling phenom Veronica Roth (author of Divergent), heartwarming award-winner Bobbie Pyron (author of A Dog’s Way Home), and the distinctive narrative and visual voices of S. J. Kincaid (author of Insignia), Hilary T. Smith (author of Wild Awake), Sarah Jane Wright (illustrator of A Christmas Goodnight), and many others. Follow Storybird on Twitter for daily thoughts on art, writing, and creativity.


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8. 11 Kids’ Books on Dealing with Loss, Grief, Illness and Trauma

Here is a list of 11 books that address a wide range and variety of emotions that young readers may experience when faced with serious illness, loss, grief or trauma.

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9. Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton

I almost didn't review Rex Wrecks It! by Ben Clanton. I reviewed Tyrannosaurus Wrecks by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, illustrated by Zachary Ohara in April of this year and the world play of "wrecks" and "rex" feels a little done. But . . . well . . . Clanton draws a mean monster, an adorable uni-rabbit and an endearing little robot. And then there are the building blocks. Clanton does amazing

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10. Firebird, by Misty Copeland and Christopher Myers -- follow your dreams and soar (ages 6-10)

We want to teach our children to follow their dreams, to reach for the stars -- but we also want them to realize that it takes hard work, practice and perseverance to get there. Firebird is a beautiful, stirring new picture book by ballerina Misty Copeland that shares both of these messages, and more.
Firebird
Ballerina Misty Copeland Shows a Young Girl How to Dance Like the Firebird
by Misty Copeland
illustrated by Christopher Myers
G.P. Putnam's / Penguin, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-10
*best new book*
As you begin reading this picture book with children, you'll need to take on two voices, for Copeland creates a conversation between a young girl who dreams of dancing and herself as a professional ballerina. The girl looks up to Copeland, saying, "the space between you and me is longer than forever" -- how could I ever become as beautiful and graceful as you?
"you are the sky and clouds and air"
Firebird, by Misty Copeland & Christopher Myers
The real magic begins when Copeland turns to the young girl, reassuring her that she was once just as small, just as shy, that "you're just where I started." Through this poetic conversation, Copeland conveys that this young girl can become a professional dancer if she puts in the hours of work, sweat and practice.
"I was a dancer just like you
a dreaming shooting star of a girl
with work and worlds ahead"
Share this picture book with older students, perhaps 3rd and 4th graders, who can understand Copeland's poetic language and the interplay between the two characters. Encourage them to read this story more than once--it is one that really grew in my heart each time I read it.

Deepen their appreciation for Copeland's message by encouraging them to learn more about her as a professional dancer. Read her afterword, a note to the reader about why she wanted to write this story.
"My hopes are that people will feel empowered to be whatever they want to be... No matter what that dream is, you have the power to make it come true with hard work and dedication, despite what you look like or struggle with."
Students would find this ABC News interview very interesting:


Christopher Myers' artwork brings strength and grace to this story with dramatic lines and colors. The idea for this book was actually Chris's, as Misty told Jules Danielson in a recent Kirkus article. His mixed media collages contrast the bold colors of ballet with the young girl's grey concrete world, but they also juxtapose angular lines with the dancers' dynamic graceful movement.

I can't wait to hear what my students say about this. I think this is a book that they, too, will return to time and time again. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Penguin Random House. Illustrations are copyright ©2014 Christopher Myers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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11. Goodnight Moon: Making a Classic Bedtime Story Available to Bilingual Readers for the First Time

GNM_EngSpan_cFor generations, American families have gathered together to read the cherished children’s book, Goodnight Moon, as part of their bedtime routine. Today, with Harper Collins Children’s Books, we are making the iconic title accessible to millions more families in a bilingual edition for the very first time.

Goodnight Moon/Buenas Noches, Luna is now available through the First Book Marketplace to educators and programs serving children from low-income families. Recognizing the growing need for greater diversity in children’s literature, HarperCollins is offering the book at the retail level as well.

The creation of the English-Spanish board book marks another important milestone in The Stories for All Project, our effort to increase the diversity in children’s books. The initiative is making classic children’s books and books featuring diverse characters, authors and illustrators more accessible to children in need, and, in the process, helping to demonstrate the growing market for culturally diverse books.

Are you an educator or program leader serving kids in need? You can find Goodnight Moon/Buenas Noches, Luna and other outstanding, culturally relevant titles on the First Book Marketplace.

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12. Way Back Wednesday Halloween Edition!

Scary, Scary Halloween

By Eve Bunting; pictures by Jan Brett

 

Isn’t it great when you have an essential Halloween classic that gives you a window in to the early art of an iconic picture book author like Jan Brett? “Scary, Scary Halloween” is such a book. I think anyone familiar with the artistry and attention to detail that Brett picture books are famous for would be very interested in this 1986 Halloween offering by Eve Bunting with pictures by Jan Brett.

Might you be familiar with a made-for-TV Halloween movie called “The Worst Witch” that came out in the same year, 1986? It was based on a book series of the same name by Jill Murphy. The series, published in 1974, may strike a chord with your young adult kids that may STILL remember the song from the movie, titled “Anything Can Happen on Halloween”, sung by the Grand Wizard himself, Tim Curry. And “Scary, Scary Halloween”, by the talented team of Bunting and Brett, is a visual of the words to THAT song. Funny how all these book and movies interrelate to a time in my now grown children’s Halloween time capsule. Movies and songs provide a sort of soundtrack to our lives, in that they can quickly take us back to a time and place.

Starting with the colorful and puckishly painted endpapers that set the tone to what follows, this tale of what can be seen and heard on Halloween is a hoot. Pictures are set against a purplish, inky night sky, as a ghostly band made up of costumed skeletons, vampires, werewolves, witches, goblins and gremlins cavort through a neighborhood, reveling in the freedom of being “someone else” for a night.

A costumed devil literally prances by a split rail fence, as he follows the happy hoard of trick or treaters. His elegantly bordered cape with eye ball design accents, is a window into Jan Brett‘s development for defining detail! It is the most chic of devilish designs in costume couture that I have seen in some time.

And as for those dark, glowing yellow and green eyes peering out from the dark following the parade of trick or treaters, whoooo can they be? Those are not owlish eyes you see, but practically purr fect and furry in nature would be my guess.

Have a Halloween treat with your kids reading the book and seeing this ghostly parade pirouette through the streets and fields even as you look out your window on Halloween and see its replication with YOUR kids.

And please give “The Worst Witch” a read too. Both the book and movie are very much worth it. Youtube has clips from the movie, so check it out. Happy Halloween!!

 

*******************

And here’s some more over-the-top Halloween Fun!

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13. Pre-PiBo Day 4: Darshana Khiani’s Old Memories Are Like Hidden Treasures (plus a prize!)

darshanaby Darshana Khiani

Memories are those things sitting in the back of your mind collecting dust … until something in the present triggers them forward. Some of the best books act as that trigger; they awaken those memories that represent “universal truths”. These truths are what you want to capture in your writing.

So where do you find these universal truths?

They are happening all around you every day! They can be a little tricky to spot especially when you are rushing to pick-up the kids, rushing to meet a deadline, rushing to cook dinner, etc. But if you stop to listen to the singing child at the check-out stand or observe the toddler watching the mall Santa from behind his parent’s legs, you will see the universal truth standing there naked in front of you.

How do you know what experience is worth capturing?

Look for the emotional clues in any situation.

Search for the unusual in the usual. Is a child practicing their handwriting interesting? Probably not, but what if there was a rip in the paper from being erased upon so many times (frustration) or a drawing of a rainbow unicorn in the margins (boredom). These little details can be the key to something bigger.

emotions3

Notice repetitive behaviors. Lately, whenever anything goes wrong for my 6-year-old daughter—stumbles, makes a mistake on her drawing, breaks something, stubs her toe—she blames it on me. I also noticed my daughter spends a lot of time on her penmanship (determination). Or that she worries about not getting a 100% on a test (nervousness). By noting down these observations, I realized that my daughter is a perfectionist who can’t handle making mistakes. Now I have the seeds for developing a strong character. And because I wrote down those incidents, I have a springboard upon which to generate other zany challenges/obstacles for my character.

How best to save the memories?

journal_pages

Journaling
For the past few years, I have kept a journal where I store my observation of kids. I have a terrible memory, and my biggest fear is that once my kids are older I will forget what picture-book aged kids are like. So I write down any tidbit that is interesting, odd, funny, or sad so I can refer to it later. These observations will help make my characters feel alive.

Here are some examples:

  • 5-year-old dances in front of mirrored closets, at the dinner table, in-line at the grocery store, teaches her classroom teacher, etc.
  • 3-year-old told me to whisper since her Minnie baby doll was sleeping.
  • Both girls cried the day the ducks at school left for the farm. The 6-year-old said “I will miss the ducks” while the 4-year-old said “The ducks will miss me.”

Video Clips
With the prevalence of smart camera phones, it’s easy to take a video anytime, anywhere. My husband took a ton of movies when our girls were babies and toddlers. One of my favorite videos, from their pre-school era, is a two-minute rant of “I Want Pizza” for dinner.

Once in a while, I still eavesdrop on my school-aged girls’ conversations with my smartphone or journal. Fodder in case I ever decide to write a chapter book. (Note: Do not take videos of kids other than your own without permission from their parents.)

Don’t have kids? No problem.
If you don’t have kids, no problem! There are plenty around – storytime at the library, afternoons at the playground, babysit for a neighbor. Just observe them.

Also, in this day of the Internet, there is soooo much on-line. You can get ideas from other friends’ Facebook posts, websites such as the Honest Toddler, and YouTube, which has a plethora of silly, quirky, and inspiring videos.

Here is video that went viral. It’s just full of awesomeness.

Hope you find these tips helpful of how to look for ideas, save them, and find the universal truths within. Have a wonderful PiBoIdMo!

guestbloggerbio2014

Darshana Khiani is constantly journaling about her silly, adorable daughters and the world from her home in California. You can find her on-line at www.flowering-minds.com and on Twitter @darshanakhiani. She is represented by Jodell Sadler of Sadler Children’s Literary.

prizedetails2014

Darshana is generously giving away a picture book critique! Leave one comment to enter. A random winner will be selected at the conclusion of Pre-PiBo!

Good luck!


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14. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis and illustrated by Gilbert Ford is a revelation! I had no idea that this structure that I always thought of as a slightly sketchy carnival ride had such an interesting inception and remarkable beginning. When, with only ten months to go before the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, a contest is announced inviting Americans to outdo the star

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15. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

sam and dave dig hole1 223x300 Sam and Dave Dig a HoleWhat will the Caldecott committee be talking about when it turns its scrutiny to Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s Sam and Dave Dig a Hole? Maybe the question should be, What WON’T the committee be talking about? Like Yuyi Morales’s Viva Frida, this is one discussable book. Though, perhaps, for different reasons.

The art is certainly distinguished— excellent in execution and pictorial interpretation, appropriate in style for the story and mood, with plenty of child appeal. I don’t think the quality of the art will be in dispute here. Look how the palette gradually changes from soft and pale and airy in the beginning to dark and stark at the climax/nadir of the boys’ adventure and then back to soft and pale at the end. Look at how the considerable white space (well, actually, soft creamy space) at the beginning is gradually encroached upon as the horizon rises and the hole gets deeper. Look at how Klassen makes the earthen landscape so varied and textured and interesting without necessarily drawing our eye to it. Look at the contrast between the softness and texture of the art with the sparseness of the compositions and the clean edges of the white space/tunnel. Both the art and the book design use geometric shapes to great effect. The art, through the tunnel’s rectangles (echoed, often, in the upright figures of Sam and Dave) and the pentagons? of the gems; the book design through the consistently columnar arrangement of the type. (Sometimes the art is columnar, too. Near the end, particularly. The wide vertical tunnels in the center of the page. The figures falling through space, vertically arranged in the center of the page.)

The interplay between text and art is perfect; this is a true, interdependent picture book. The simplicity and mundaneness of the text (“On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole”; snacking on chocolate milk and animal cookies) contrasts humorously with the increasing wildness of the situation and exaggerated size of the gems the boys JUST miss as they dig. There’s also an implied contrast: between the boys’ limited perspective (ie, complete obliviousness) and the reader’s omniscient perspective. Not to mention the dog’s. That dog Knows All. Klassen’s ability to telegraph the dog’s bewildered awareness is brilliant: so simply, using just the eyes, whether it’s looking at the reader with a “what next?” appeal or directly at the buried, just-missed gems or, at book’s end, taking in the anomalies of the backyard in which they have just landed.

Ah, the ending. Yes, we’ve arrived at the discussable part. What happened?!? Where ARE they? The backyard looks the same, but the details are different: different tree, flowers, weathervane. (And either a different cat or a cat wearing a different collar.) Travis Jonker at 100 Scope Notes put forth a few theories, including It Was All a Dream and — my own favorite — They Have Entered an Alternate Reality. But whatever theory you subscribe to, there is no doubt that this is one open-ended story. (As Sam Bloom put it in his Horn Book Magazine review, “All that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way.”) The story has just begun, it seems. What happens after the last page?

And there’s the rub. Will this Caldecott committee be intrigued by the possibilities or frustrated by the lack of closure? I hope it’s the former. There’s so much to appreciate about this child-friendly, carefully conceived and constructed, funny, provocative book.

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16. KidLit Events Ocotber 28-November 4

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With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) kicking off this weekend, there’s a lot of support opportunities for those of you (not me!) who are planning to tackle the challenge of writing a full 50K word novel in one month. I’ll cheer you on while I finish revisions on my current WIP. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other events going on this week. Please remember to check the sponsoring bookstore or organization’s website for full details.

October 28, Tuesday, 7:00 PM FROM SEA TO SHINGING SEA by Callista Gingrich; Illustrated by Susan Arcerio
Blue Willow Bookshop
Callista Gingrich, Children’s Author, with Newt Gingrich, Adult Nonfiction Author

In FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA, Callista Gingrich shares a new adventure into American history with Ellis the Elephant as he explores the untamed wilderness with Lewis and Clark! He learns about the Louisiana Purchase, the two explorers’ epic journey across the North American continent, and the amazing discoveries and innovation it sparked.

Appearing with Callista will be bestselling author Newt Gingrich with his new adult nonfiction title, BREAKOUT.

November 1, Saturday, 10:00 AM-Noon, & 1:30-4:30 PM Kathy Duval, PB Author
Writespace
Kathy Duval: Picture Book Workshop
PRICE: $ 85.00

Kathy Duval, author of TAKE ME TO YOUR BBQ (DISNEY/HYPERION) will present a picture book workshop: Make It Shine!: Polish Your Picture Book Manuscript to Its Full Potential.
A successful picture book is an art form combining lyrical language and dynamic images, each dependent on the other.  To compete, your work must shine, as well as follow the conventions of today’s crowded market. This hands-on revision workshop will take a fresh look at your characters, setting, plot, and picture book language. Participants will complete exercises to polish their prose, as well as create a dummy to see how your text fits into a picture book format. Feedback in small groups will help you take your picture book to the next level.

November 1, Saturday, 9:00 AM-1:00 PM Read3Zero
Hilton Americas
Read3Zero 5th Anniversary Luncheon

Houston non-profit literacy organization, READ3Zero, will honor students nationwide at a memorable Luncheon and Book Signing event for this year’s winners of the I Write Short Stories For Kids By Kids contest and celebrate the organization’s 5th  anniversary. The event will feature the works of 55 published student authors and illustrators. The Keynote speaker will be Neil Bush, chairman to the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation, and the event will be emceed by Deborah Duncan of Great Day Houston. Click here for more details and to purchase tickets.

November 1, Saturday, 2:00 PM
Barbara Bush Library
CC Hunter, YA Author
Kickoff National Novel Writing Month with a talk by NYT bestseller C.C. Hunter!

November 2, Sunday, 11:00 AM-1:00 PM Matthew Salesses, Author
Writespace
Novel Workshop: The Three Inciting Incidents
COST: $10
NOTE: Register in this workshop and when you attend on Nov. 2nd, you will receive your 10$ back in a 10$ coupon for another Writespace workshop!

In this two-hour course, novelist Matthew Salesses will give a craft lecture on “the three inciting incidents” to support National Novel Writing Month writers, as well as NaNoWriMoall Houston writers seeking to start new projects. After Matthew’s one-hour lecture, each writer will bring his/her novel concept to the table and get some help with development.

November 2, 16, 30, Sundays, 2:00-5:00 PM
Writespace
NaNoWriMo Write-Ins
Cost: Free

Come write with us and keep on-track with your word count goals!

November 3, Monday, 7:00 PM IN THE AFTERLIGHT by Alexandra Bracken
Blue Willow Bookshop
Alexandra Bracken, YA Author

Alexandra Bracken will discuss and sign IN THE AFTERLIGHT, the finale in the DARKEST MINDS series for young adults.

Alexandra Bracken is the New York Times bestselling author of THE DARKEST MINDS and NEVER FADE. Ruby can’t look back. Having suffered an unbearable loss, she and the kids who survived the government’s attack on Los Angeles travel north to regroup. Ruby tries to keep their highly dangerous prisoner in check, but with Clancy Gray, there’s no guarantee you’re fully in control, and everything comes with a price.

When the Children’s League disbands, Ruby becomes a leader and forms an unlikely allegiance with Liam’s brother, Cole, who has a volatile secret of his own. There are still thousands of other Psi kids suffering in government “rehabilitation camps” all over the country. Freeing them–revealing the government’s unspeakable abuses in the process–is the mission Ruby has claimed since her own escape from Thurmond, the worst camp in the country.

But not everyone is supportive of the plan Ruby and Cole craft to free the camps. As tensions rise, competing ideals threaten the mission to uncover the cause of IANN, the disease that killed most of America’s children and left Ruby and others with powers the government will kill to keep contained. With the fate of a generation in their hands, there is no room for error. One wrong move could be the spark that sets the world on fire.

November 4, Tuesday, 7:00 PM The Strange Maid: Book 2 of United States of Asgard, by Tessa Gratton
Blue Willow Bookshop
The Roadside YA Tour

The Roadside YA tour hits Houston when authors Tessa Gratton, Julie Murphy and Natalie Parker discuss and sign their newest novels for young adults.

Tessa Graton will present THE STRANGE MAID: BOOK 2 OF THE UNITED STATES OF ASGARD. Signy Valborn was seven years old when she climbed the New World Tree and met Odin Alfather, who declared that if she could solve a single riddle, he would make her one of his Valkyrie. For ten years Signy has trained in the arts of SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY by Julie Murphywar, politics, and leadership, never dreaming that a Greater Mountain Troll might hold the answer to the riddle, but that’s exactly what Ned the Spiritless promises her. A mysterious troll hunter who talks in riddles and ancient poetry, Ned is a hard man to trust. Unfortunately, Signy is running out of time. Accompanied by an outcast berserker named Soren Bearstar, she and Ned take off across the ice sheets of Canadia to hunt the mother of trolls and claim Signy’s destiny.

Julie Murphy will present SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY. When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, she vows to spend her final months righting Beware the Wild, by Natalie Parkerwrongs. So she convinces her best friend to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge as it is about hope. But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission, and now she must face the consequences of all she’s said and done.

Natalie Parker will present BEWARE THE WILD. The swamp in Sterling’s small Louisiana town proves to have a power over its inhabitants when her brother disappears and no one but Sterling even remembers that he existed. Now Sterling, with the help of brooding loner Heath, who’s had his own creepy experience with the swamp, must fight back and reclaim what–and who–the swamp has taken.

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17. The Highlights of a Professional Life: An Interview With Ursula Dubosarsky

Ursula Dubosarsky has written over 40 books for children and young adults. Some of which include The Terrible Plop, Too Many Elephants in This House, Tim and Ed (Tim and Ed Review), The Carousel, The Word Spy series, and The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta series. She is a multi-award winner of many […]

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18. Review of Bow-Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors

newgarden bow wows nightmare neighbors Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighborsstar2 Review of Bow Wow’s Nightmare 
Neighbors Bow-Wow’s Nightmare Neighbors
by Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash; illus. by the authors
Preschool    Porter/Roaring Brook    64 pp.
9/14    978-1-59643-640-4    $17.99    g

Bow-Wow is back in this fanciful wordless follow-up to Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug (rev. 7/07). This time, the stalwart canine sets out to retrieve his stolen doggy bed from the ornery ghost cats and kittens who live across the street in a haunted mansion — complete with loose floorboards, secret passageways, and moving-eye portraits. Around every corner, it seems as though the pup may have found his purloined cushion at last, but each time, he’s mistaken. With beady-eyed specters peering out from various nooks and crannies ready to nip the tip of his tail, Bow-Wow finally makes his way through the house — only to come face-to-face with the mother of all ghost cats in an absurdly funny (and cuddly) denouement. In a strange house with the lights out, the predominantly grayscale palette captures the eerie confusion of eyes playing tricks with the shadows, while carefully placed flourishes of color amp up the humor at just the right moments. Through expert use of comic-book panels, Newgarden and Cash play with perspective and timing, giving a sense of immediacy and light suspense to each increasingly silly scene. A fresh look at things that go bump in the night.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Neighbors

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Neighbors appeared first on The Horn Book.

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Neighbors as of 1/1/1900
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19. The Monsterator, by Keith Graves -- and other fiendish delights (ages 5-9)

Do your children want to be something goulishly great on Halloween? Do monsters delight them? There's no doubt that The Monsterator, with its bold promise of 625 monsters inside, will captivate many young readers who dream of something "screamingly scary."
The Monsteratorby Keith GravesRoaring Brook, 2014
Your local libraryAmazonages 5-9
*best new book*
Young Master Edgar Dreadbury finds your standard Halloween costumes a terrible bore. "I wish I could be something screamingly scary. / Something fanged and foul and horribly hairy!" Graves draws readers in with rhyming text that is a delight to read aloud, but he really grabs readers when Edgar steps into The Monsterator. All of a sudden, Edgar is completely transformed "from his teeth to his toes."
The Monsterator, by Keith Graves
"When the machine finally quit,
Edgar crashed through the door.
He banged on his chests with his fists
and roared."
The Monsterator, by Keith Graves
I love how Graves strikes just the right balance between frightening and fun for first and second graders. But what they will love most of all is the surprise at the end, when they can "monsterate" young Edgar, by turning a series of flaps to create hundreds of different creatures.

If you like this, you might like some of these other monsterish favorite picture books:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan Books. Illustrations of The Monsterator are copyright ©2014 Keith Graves, used with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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20. What’s Your Favorite Animal?, by Eric Carle | Book Review

In Eric Carle’s What’s Your Favorite Animal, he collaborates with fourteen renowned children’s book artists to create mini storybooks about a favorite animal.

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21. Interview with JaNay Brown-Wood and Hazel Mitchell, creators of Imani’s Moon

One of the fun things of being friends with illustrators is getting sneak-peaks at art spreads before the book is published. I fell in love with this story back last Christmas when Hazel was busy working on the front cover, … Continue reading

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22. Pre-PiBo Day 2: Margie Myers-Culver’s Love Notes to Picture Books (plus prizes!)

bMargieandXena10192014y Margie Myers-Culver

Some form of picture books have been a part of my life for more than sixty years. We had little extra money for books when I was younger but I still have my copies of The Tall Book of Nursery Tales pictures by F. Rojankovsy, The Tall Book of Make Believe selected by Jane Werner, pictures by Garth Williams, The Tall Book of Christmas selected by Dorothy Hall Smith, pictures by Gertrude Elliott Espenscheid and The Tall Book of Bible Stories retold by Katherine Gibson, illustrated by Ted Chaiko. I took numerous trips to the tiny one room township library in our small community quickly reading through all the books in their children’s section. Our elementary schools had no libraries. In fact when I was in junior high school my mom was the first librarian, library clerk, in the very first library in my elementary school, Sycamore Elementary School, before she moved to Wilcox Elementary School.

Picture book 1    Picture book 2

Picture book 3    Picture book 4

She brought in authors and illustrators like Tomie dePaola, Eric Carle and Jose Aruego for her students and staff, staying in touch with them for decades, as well as Pat Hutchins and Dick Gackenbach, who dedicated a book to her. It came as no surprise to me when in college I switched from studying to be an elementary school educator to a K-12 certified librarian. My courses examining picture books increased, as did my affection for this format. Regardless of the level library in which I have served—high, middle or elementary—picture books have always been a part of my collections. I have watched my listeners, no matter their age, sit in total stunned silence. I have seen their eyes fill with tears. I have heard their gasps, giggles and bursts of laughter.

Love_notes

In August a tweet appeared in my feed where another supporter of children’s literature, educator Terry Shay, commented that my blog posts were like love notes. In my way of thinking if an author or illustrator spends years bringing their work to readers, if they are willing to put bits and pieces of themselves on a printed page, the very least I can do is thank them for their marvelous efforts. Your books change lives, book by book, reader by reader. Here are three of many reasons why.

1. Picture books are an entire world you can hold in your hands. Tweet:

Whether a picture book is a work of fiction or nonfiction for the minutes it is read, readers step into another place, another time, with characters they may or may not know. Your stories bridge the generation gap, break our hearts and heal them again, make us laugh ourselves silly, empathize with sibling problems, make the smallest everyday things beautiful, enlarge our understanding of other cultures, and acquaint us with specific people and the most intricate phenomenon in our natural world. Your works make us truly feel the wonder of a sunrise, believe we can dance with a flamingo, think we can sneeze so hard the shock will be felt miles away, want to shop in a store filled with monsters, and understand a boy and a robot, a bear and a bee, a duck and a goose, or a zebra and a moose can be friends. We want to be like an intrepid tractor, a chicken with arms, a whale finding serenity, a penguin who knows his heart, a protective mama squirrel, a brave mermaid, a boy who tames Toads, lots of dogs and a very special imaginary friend. Your pages make us want to learn more about artists like Horace Pippin, Henry Matisse or Edward Hopper, religious holidays like Passover, significant events in the Revolutionary War, the changed status of bald eagles, the Japanese internment camps, baseball and prominent figures in the game, songs like Sing, Yankee Doodle, America The Beautiful and The Star-Spangled Banner, miraculous days like the Christmas Truce in World War I, rain forests and chocolate, dinosaurs, frogs, trains, butterflies and bees.

2. Picture books contain power. Tweet:

Those words you choose, selected with care, connect with readers on an emotional level you may or may not fully understand. We know each reader brings to a book their own personal experiences, but I don’t think we can ever fully predict how they will react to a story. Therein lies the power.

When illustrations become part of the story, or perhaps they tell the entire story, each one, no matter its size, is a piece of art to be enjoyed. I simply marvel at the combined use of color, various techniques and styles, layout and design. How can we not feel sadness when a small dog gets lost, the outrage of cranky crayons, the plight of parrots, the delight of a small girl wearing a red knit cap, the frustration of a days gone wrong, the panic of swallowing a seed, the comedy of a fractured fairy tale, the pure pleasure of discoveries during a nighttime walk, the security of having an alligator, the joy of finding a friend and cupcakes, the fearlessness of a ninja, the promise that comes with wearing a hat, the despair of moving, the love of a grandfather or grandmother, the warmth of family, the purpose of gravity, roots and so many wonders in our world, or the passion of pursuing art.

3. Picture books transcend their intended audience. Tweet:

The truth of this was never more apparent than the last two months of my ninety-four-year-old mom’s life. Every day I would read her at least one picture book I had recently read or was planning to use for a blog post. On the last evening I spent with her, when I arrived in her room, she was lightly sleeping with her head to the side of her raised bed. When she saw I had three picture books with me, her entire demeanor changed. For the time I spent reading those stories with her, she was lively, filled with smiles and laughter. We chatted about how children would feel about these books. As I was leaving her room with my hand on the door knob, I suddenly stopped. Mom had not told me she loved me like she always did. Her bed was around the corner so I called out to her, “I love you, Mom.” She replied with her favorite phrase, “I love you a bushel and a peck.”

So to all you authors and illustrators who create the magic we will always need, who take “what-if” and boldly go forth: “I love you a bushel and a peck.”

I will champion you and your work for as long as I can to anyone who will listen.

guestbloggerbio2014

Margaret M. Myers-Culver, Margie Culver, has been a teacher librarian for thirty-four years. She did her major course work at Central Michigan University and Western Michigan University. She is head-over-heels in love with talking about books at Librarian’s Quest. For picture books reviewed in 2013 and 2014 you can follow her Pinterest boards. She maintains two Scoop.it! magazines, All Things Caldecott and Gone To The Dogs. Links to her current Goodreads challenge and Learnist board for this year’s Mock Caldecott can be accessed from her blog. She has read so many books her students frequently ask her if she’s read everything in the library. They really enjoy coming to her house on Halloween when she hands out books instead of candy. When not reading or writing she shares the great landscape surrounding Charlevoix, Michigan with her sweet dog, Xena.

prizedetails2014

Margie is generously giving away four picture books to four winners: Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light, The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo, Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix, and The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat.

Comment below ONCE to enter. Four random winners will be selected at the conclusion of Pre-PiBo!

Good luck!


10 Comments on Pre-PiBo Day 2: Margie Myers-Culver’s Love Notes to Picture Books (plus prizes!), last added: 10/27/2014
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23. Picture Book Monday with a review of Scaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies

Where I grew up, on the island of Cyprus, Halloween wasn't something that people celebrated. I had to wait until I moved to the States before I was finally able to enjoy Halloween. Mind you, it wasn't until we moved to Oregon that I really got into the spirit of things and started dressing up. Unlike poor Scaredy Squirrel, I love Halloween, though some of the costumes people around here wear are definitely scary.

Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for ScarediesScaredy Squirrel prepares for Halloween: A Safety Guide for Scaredies
Melanie Watt
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 8
Kids Can Press, 2013, 978-1-894786-87-4
Scaredy Squirrel is the kind of creature who likes to be ready for every possible event. Really ready.  He loves “lists, plans and safety equipment,” and hates “danger and unpredictability.” Because of these loves and hates, Scaredy Squirrel has put together this guide to help people who are like him. As far as Scaredy is concerned Halloween decorations are “nerve-wracking” and Halloween itself makes him “pass out.” If you have a similar reaction to Halloween then this guide was written for you.  The guide is divided into eight chapters, and it is “designed to help you prepare for and survive Halloween, all in one piece!”
   In the first chapter Scaredy shows his readers how to get their living area ready for Halloween. Scaredy provides us with an illustration that shows us how to use garlic, a scarecrow, a blender, bug repellent, caution tape and a doghouse to make our home safe from werewolves, creepy crawlies, ghosts and goblins, black cats and witches, and vampires. Who knew that such everyday items could be so useful!
   Next, Scaredy tackles the subject of Halloween decorations. Scaredy appreciates that Halloween jitters might cause you to experience decorating problems, so he shows you how to carve a pumpkin safely, how to decorate your front door so that it is “inviting,” and how to make your living room “ghoulish” but “not too ghoulish.”
   Choosing a Halloween costume is not easy, but Scaredy’s ingenious ideas you are sure to help you to find something that suits your personality. He looks at costumes that are classics, some that are fun, and a few that will appeal to people of action. There are also hero and villain costumes, fairy tale and science fiction costumes. He considers the advantages of makeup versus masks, and he shows us how to make three do-it-yourself costumes.
   The next four chapters look at “Halloween trick-or-treating,” “Halloween candy,” “Halloween Notes,” and “Halloween Fun.” Then Scaredy wraps up with a chapter titled “If all else fails …” which does not need to be described as the title says it all.
   For readers who know Scaredy Squirrel already, this new title is sure to reinforce the connection that they have with this delightful little animal. For readers who have never met Scaredy before, this title will show them what they have been missing!

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24. Zen Ghosts by Jon J Muth

Zen GhostsIn the 2005 book Zen Shorts by Jon J Muth, Stillwater the giant panda moves next door to siblings Abby, Michael, and Karl. Stillwater becomes their friend – he plays with them, talks with them, lets them climb on him, and tells them stories that relate to their lives. The stories Stillwater tells are simple stories rooted in the Zen Buddhist tradition. In the book Zen Ghosts, it is Halloween, and Stillwater is helping the children decide what costumes to wear. He invites the children to meet him for a ghost story after they go trick-or-treating, and the story he tells is eerie and mysterious, yet gentle (and not exactly scary). Afterward, there is swapping of candy and quiet enjoyment of the moonlit Halloween night.

Muth uses watercolors to illustrate scenes of the children and Stillwater, and brush and ink to illustrate Stillwater’s ghost story. The watercolors capture the beautiful colors of autumn, and there are a couple of wonderful wordless spreads – one being an evocative picture of all the costumed trick-or-treaters out on the darkened neighborhood street that readers will pore over. In the author’s note, Muth explains that the ghost story Stillwater tells is a koan, a kind of story that is a paradox to be meditated on, from the Zen Buddhist tradition. As Muth writes, “They appeal directly to the intuitive part of the human consciousness, not to the intellect.” Zen Ghosts is gentle and philosophical (though more playful than ponderous), and a wonderful Halloween read aloud for kids in grade K and up (it would make an especially good match for older kids).

Books featuring Stillwater the panda include Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, and Zen Ghosts (and you can meet Stillwater’s nephew Koo again in Hi, Koo!).

Posted by: Parry


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25. Brave Little Monster Returns

Over the past few years a lot of people have asked me where they could get a hold of my bedtime picture book Brave Little Monster. I would tell them that sometimes Scholastic makes it available through their book club in October, but that was hit and miss. Now I'm happy to say that you can purchase the paperback version of Brave Little Monster on Amazon. Yay!!!!

 To top it off, an ebook version should be available in a few days as well. Enjoy!

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