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I am excited that Babl Books, whose mission is to offer bilingual picture books, including mine, to kids everywhere, will be at ALA this weekend. They are sharing a booth with We Need Diverse Books. Check them out if you go! BABL BOOKS will exhibiting at the ALA Conference in Orlando – Jun 24-27 Find […]
When I was growing up on the island of Cyprus, summer was all about going to the beach. Here in Oregon we have lots of beaches, but only nutters venture into the water because it is so cold. Sunbathing isn't really an option either much of the time because it is too chilly. Still, the beaches are beautiful and we all enjoy walking and tide pooling, and my husband spends hours looking for rocks.
Since summer is now officially here, I thought I would kick things off with a beach book. Enjoy!
It is a sunny day at the seaside and Mr. Hulot is going to spend some time on the beach. He has a deck chair, an umbrella, a tennis racket and everything else a gentleman might need for such an expedition. He buys a newspaper and then heads for the sands, where he fights with the deck chair for a while trying to get it to cooperate. Which it does. Sort of.
As he reads his newspaper, an inflated beach ball lands on Mr. Hulot. Some people might get upset by a disturbance of this sort, but Mr. Hulot does not mind. He kicks the ball to the little boy it belongs to and, in the process, Mr. Hulot’s shoe comes flying off and lands in the water. He manages to rescue the shoe (using his shrimping net) and then puts it on top of his umbrella to dry.
A passing seagull sees the shoe and decides that it is just what it needs. It swoops down and carries off the shoe, with Mr. Hulot in hot pursuit. Causing a great disruption at the hotel, Mr. Hulot climbs up onto the roof of the building to retrieve the shoe, only to find that the seagull has laid some eggs in it. There is nothing for it. Mr. Hulot returns to the ground shoe-less.
One would think that this escaped would be more than enough of an adventure for one man to have during a sojourn at the seaside, but Mr. Hulot is not your average man and so more misadventures lie in wait for him after he returns to the beach.
Inspired by the work of the French comic actor and filmmaker, Jacques Tati, David Merveille brings Tati’s wonderful Mr. Hulot character to life in this, his second, Mr. Hulot book. The story is wordless and takes readers on a wonderful series of mishaps that are sweetly funny.
This video shows my illustration process in fast forward. I scanned my pencil drawing and greyscale watercolour washes, then coloured in photoshop.
I originally illustrated this for the cover of, Take Ted Instead, a picture book written by Cassandra Webb (New Frontier Publishing, 2016). However, I had to change the orientation layout of the boy and Ted to standing position, so the illustration would fit nicely around the words.
Ben Hatke is a gifted graphic novelist who creates stories perfectly balance themes of family, bravery, and belonging with wonderfully detailed illustrations and characters you won't forget. For his second picture book, Nobody Likes a Goblin, Hatke visits a medieval world where even a goblin needs a friend.
Goblin has a daily routine, and his best friend, Skeleton, is part of it. Skeleton lives in the Treasure Room and one day while he and Goblin are goofing around with the treasures, the room is raided! Goblin decides to abandon the safety of his routine and head out into the world to find his friend. He stops to as a hill troll if he has seen anything and in the process agrees to find the troll's "Honk-Honk," which was also plundered. The troll's parting words warn Goblin to be careful because, "Nobody like a Goblin." Across the fields and through the village, with an angry horde (that includes a few warrior women) on his little green tail, Goblin searches and rescues. The two hide out in a cave where Goblin finds his tribe. Together, with a ghost and one of the warrior women, the new tribe delivers Honk-Honk to his owner and settles down in the dungeon for a fine feast.
This adventurous and rollicking story might sound simple, but Hatke's magnificent watercolor and ink illustrations add an an almost cinematic layer to the text. There are many little details to be pored over and humans and creatures alike to be examined. The palette is gently pastoral, making the creatures and the action less than scary, despite the caves, bats, rats and skeletons. Nobody Likes a Goblin is enchanting, entertaining and timeless.
The writers represented all levels from raw beginners to those on the cusp of selling something. Our job was to help them move along the journey of being a children’s book author.
The first night was intense: we spent three hours talking about the basics of picture books from length of printed book to the length of manuscripts that sell well. Character, plot, language–basic topics took most of the night’s material.
Some participants said that within the first hour, they were mentally rewriting their picture books!
Focusing Statement: Start Your Picture Book with a Bang
One helpful exercise was the Focusing Statement:
This is a story about ________________
Who more than anything else wants ___________________,
But can’t because:
When you get an idea for a picture book, it’s helpful to focus it by working on the narrative arc like this. If you have the focusing statement right, it shapes the story as you write.
Picture Book Language
On Saturday, discussion turned to the language used in picture books. Because they are read aloud, it’s not necessary to strictly limit your vocabulary choices. However, there’s a delicate balance of interesting words and maintaining clarity for the reader and audience.
My B.A. is in Speech Pathology and my M.A. is in Audiology. My favorite college class was phonics, or how the mouth changes shape to create various sounds. This knowledge of phonics has been extremely helpful in writing children’s books because the rhythm, voice and meaning are all affected by the sounds we choose. For example, if you are writing a lullaby, you don’t want to use harsh sounds such as d, t, k, g. Instead, choose words with liquid sounds such as l, w, r. At the PB&J retreat, we spent a session exploring how phonics affects the success of a picture book manuscript.
Picture Book Dummies
I love the process of cutting up a manuscript and pasting it into a dummy book. It’s easy to see if you have enough action images for an illustrator, or if you only have talking heads. When you read the manuscript as it will be laid out in a 32-page book, you suddenly see that this section is too long, that one is too short, and this one just doesn’t advance the story. Page turns become crucial. It’s a fun part of the process.
Picture Book Round Table Critiques
One fun part of the retreat is digging into the manuscripts. Participants were divided into three groups and assigned a table chaired by Kelly, Leslie, or myself. We read through each manuscript and talked about what was working, and then turned to the author’s next step in revising. The most common recommendation was the cut or tighten the prose. Some manuscripts went from 1000 to 350 words over the course of the weekend and the three critique sessions.
First Pages with Editor
As the weekend progressed, excitement built because on Sunday afternoon, we held a First Pages session with visiting editor Kelsey Murphy of Balzer & Bray (Harpercollins). This is a common session in writing conferences wherein the editor listens to someone read aloud the first page of a manuscript. Then she makes comments. Kelsey was generous with her comments pointing out what worked, why it might or might not work for her company, and generally encouraging the writer.
That wasn’t enough excitement, though, because while Balzer & Bray is usually closed to unsolicited submissions, Kelsey will take submissions for a month from this group. That kept the excitement high as writers worked to incorporate her comments in their next revision.
This is the third year that Leslie and I have taught the PB&J session at Highlights and it was exciting for us. The enthusiasm was high, writers bonded and created critique groups and everyone made great strides in their writing. A career isn’t built on a single book; instead it takes a concentrated effort over a long period of time. But the foundation laid this weekend for writers was amazing. Look out! These writers are going to do fantastic things!
Yes, we’ll be offering PB&J next summer at Highlights again. I’ll announce it on my blog when registration is open.
Many of us spend a great deal of time and energy looking for a place that we can call home. Often what we are really looking for are the right people, the people who can make anyplace a home for us because they are there. Today's picture book tells the story of a dog who is looking for a place to call her own. It is a sweet and life affirming story that will resonate with readers of all ages.
One day Tupelo’s humans dump her, and her sock toy, on the side of the road. Tupelo cannot understand why they would do such a thing, and does not know where she should go next. Not being the kind of dog who gives up, and believing that “Everyone belongs somewhere,” Tupelo picks up her toy, Mr. Bones, and she sets off to find her place.
At first none of the animals she encounters is interested in having her join “their tribe,” but then Tupelo picks up the whiff of something wonderful. She follows the scent and comes across a pack of dogs that are taking part in a bone-burying ritual. They all make a wish to Sirius, the Dog Star, and then bury a bone as an offering to him. The dogs believe that the ritual will bring them “good luck and fortune.”
Under the glimmer of Sirius the dogs all make their wishes and then bury their bones. All of them except Tupelo. She has no bone to bury and she cannot bear to bury Mr. Bones. Instead of wishing, Tupelo decides to follow the dog pack. The dogs are fed by a hobo called Garbage Pail Tex and then the man and all the dogs hop on a train. The hobo tells the dogs about famous dogs from history, dogs like Lassie and Toto. He sings them a bedtime song too, and Tupelo wishes that the ride will “last forever.”
When they arrived in Hoboken, Garbage Pail Tex and some of his hobo friends set about reuniting the lost dogs with their families, and finding homes for the others. One by one the dogs go off to be with people who will love and cherish them. Finally, Tupelo is the only one left and she is alone once more with no one for company except Mr. Bones.
In this lovely story about a dog who is looking for a home, Melissa Sweet combines her charming multimedia artwork with a narrative that readers of all ages will love. Anyone who has felt lost and alone at some point will appreciate how Tupelo feels as she tries to find her place.
Good morning, dear Imps! I’ve got a review over at BookPage of Lynne Rae Perkins’s Frank and Lucky Get Schooled (Greenwillow, June 2016), which is such an excellent picture book. Normally, I like to link to these reviews from here at 7-Imp so that I can also show you some art from the book. But […]
Sophie is back and so are Bonnie and Baxter, the two gourds that became Sophie's friends at the end of Sophie's Squash. In her latest adventure, Sophie tests the social waters as she maneuvers the first days of school. Although her parents assure her that school will be fun, Sophie is certain that it won't be. And of course her prediction comes true, especially when some her classmates wonder if Bonnie and Baxter are edible.
Sophie's rough adjustment to school is made even harder by Steven Green. Cheerful Steven isn't a bully. He just wants to be Sophie's friend. But Sophie doesn't want friends and rebuffs his overtures. She already has friends, she tells Steven, and shows him her squash. Sophie fights the good fight against Steven's attempts to become her friend, but she finds the classroom especially lonely after she temporarily says goodbye to Bonnie and Baxter. Now friendless, stubborn Sophie still resists the ever eager Steven. Events come to a head when Steven inadvertently tears Sophie's drawing of Bonnie and Baxter. How Sophie and Steven work out their differences and become friends will delight young readers and show them that "sometimes growing a friend just takes time."
Zietlow Miller's charming story is sure to strike a chord with readers who will soon be facing their own first day of school and all the worries that big event can bring. And Wilsdorf's illustrations are crammed with whimsical details for readers to ponder. Sophie's messy yet creative bedroom alone provides valuable insight into her character.
Sophie's Squash Go to School By Pat Zietlow Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf Schwartz & Wade 40 pages Published: June 2016
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“… but I’m sweet and sour, not a little flower!”— From Yasmeen Ismail’s I’m a Girl!(Click to enlarge spread) “‘One of my dads is tall and one is short. They both give good hugs.'”— From Sara O’Leary’s A Family Is a Family Is a Family, illustrated by Qin Leng(Click to enlarge spread) Today […]
“Over pie and coffee, I pitched Sophie a couple ideas. One was nothing more than a setting—a small city in southern Italy I had visited a dozen years earlier. The thing about Benevento is that it was totally infested with witches of all kinds, and for generations kids had to learn strategies on how to […]
Kristy Dempsey and Mark Fearing join forces to deliver the Superhero Instruction Manual! Despite the comic book feel and solid set of instructions, the Superhero Instruction Manual remains wonderfully free of conflict and violence, instead delivering a wonderful story of familial love.
As a boy pores over the Superhero Instruction Manual, ready to take the "seven easy steps" that will turn him into a superhero, his sister watches in the wings, hoping to join forces with him. He picks a name, a partner and a disguise. He secures a secret hideout and chooses his superpower with quite a few amusing missteps. Fearing's colorfully funny illustrations alternate action packed comic book panels with full page illustrations that include instructions from the manual - and disclaimers.
Superhero Instruction Manual culminates with a true emergency when Fluffy the sidekick takes off after a squirrel in the park. Happily, Super Sister is not too far away and she saves the day. Dempsey and Fearing wrap up their story with a sweet ending, telling readers that a "true superhero is always there when it counts," as the Super Siblings share a cookie in their super hideout.
I grew up in a rather conservative place where families typically consisted of a mother, a father, and two children. Because many mothers had to work (so that their children could go to university) grandmothers were often a part of the family. They helped raise the children and did some, or all, of the housework. It was only when I moved to the U.K that I saw other family formats, and now I live in a town where their are all kinds of family units. Today's picture book celebrates the family, in all its forms, and the narrative shows how love is the common denominator that connects them all.
Today the children in a class are talking about families, and the teacher asks her students what they think makes their families “special.” One little girl wants to go last because her family is not like anyone else’s and she has no idea what she is going to say. What she does not know is that each of the twelve families she is going to hear about is unique, just like hers.
The first little girl tells her classmates that her parents have been best friends since first grade and that they are really fond of one another. They even kiss in public, which is “kind of gross.” The little girl who goes next has lots of brothers and sisters. A little boy then tells the class that he has two mothers, both of whom are terrible singers. However, this does not stop them from singing very loudly. Another little boy has two dads, one of whom is very short and the other who is tall. They both “give good hugs.”
Then there is the little girl who is being raised by her grandmother, and a little girl whose parents are separated. She spends one week with her mother, and one week with her father, which she things is right because “Fair’s fair.”
When it is finally the little girl’s turn to tell her classmates and teacher about her family, she is able, with a smile on her face, to tell them about a special moment that she shared with her family.
This wonderful book celebrates the many kinds of families that there are out there. Alongside the little girl we come to appreciate that families come in so many sizes, forms, and formats, and every single one of them can provide a child with a loving environment in which to grow.
How can I not like The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien? Having three kids of my own and working with kids, I have been getting asked what my favorite animal is for over 20 years now. And not only do I get asked what my favorite animal is, I get asked specifically what are my favorite mammal, sea animal and reptile - red panda, narwhal and Komodo dragon, respectively. Two years ago, I discovered the blobfish and the axolotl while reading Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Earth's Strangest Animals and became a little obsessed. In fact, a student of mine even made me a Pokemon blobfish card...
With The Blobfish Book, Olien has a story within a story, meta kind of thing going on. Blobfish, seen initially as a quasi-cute cartoony character, is about to read The Deep Sea Book, which he takes a red crayon to, making it his own.
Readers will actually learn a bit about deep sea creatures and how they live in The Blobfish Book, despite Blobfish's defacement. However, if this book sparks curiosity in your young readers, be sure to check out Glow: Animals with Their Own Nightlights by W.H. Beck, which I reviewed last year.
The twist comes when the enthusiastic, slightly goofy Blobfish finally gets to the page displaying his species and is deeply saddened to learn that the blobfish was once voted the world's ugliest animal. He burst into tears, but his fellow deep sea creatures come to his side and draw up a final page for the book, showing the world that blobfish are in fact cute, friendly and fascinating. The Blobfish Book ends with a two page spread that gives readers more facts about the cast of characters and the environment that they live in.
The Blobfish Book is a good way to introduce readers to this curious creature. But, as a fan of the fish itself, I have no doubt that there are lots more creative possibilities for blobfish in picture books and am sure they are already being written and illustrated...
Chicken in Space is a marvelously illustrated picture book about imagination, creativity, perseverance and adventure written by Adam Lehrhaupt and illustrated by Shahar Kober. Chicken in Space begins, "Zoey wasn't like the other chickens." The aviator caps and goggles should be the first indicator. Then there are the blueprints. Zoey is going into space and she is not taking "no" for an answer, despite the very reasonable concerns and protests from her pal Sam, the pig.
There are no problems, just opportunities, and Zoey takes them where she finds them. No ship? No problem. A basket and a bunch of balloons (which have been bobbing in and out of the illustrations from the start) get these friends airborne in no time.
As with any adventure, there are challenges, and this is where Zoey's magnificent imagination comes in! A baseball? No! It's an asteroid! Kites are comets and birds are alien attack ships that bring on a crash landing amidst sacks of corn. Zoey is thrilled with the success of their mission, but Sam is not so sure. However, back in the farmyard, he has a different story to tell!
And Zoey has the perfect gift for this pie loving pig - a moon pie! As Chicken in Space comes to and end and Sam is wanting to share his moon pie with Zoey, she already has her head buried in her next adventure!
By now, you may have already read about The Rabbit hOle, the ambitious new project from the owners of Reading Reptile, a children’s bookstore in Kansas City, Missouri. The video above is a great introduction to the project, and not just for the reference to rye whiskey. This Kansas City Star article from April […]
“We are ALL Americans,Just the same.”(Click to enlarge spread) This morning at Kirkus, I have two new picture books (well, both are forthcoming, one sooner than the other) all about defying labels. That will be here soon. * * * Last week, I talked here with Faith Ringgold. I’m following up today with two […]
At the school where I am the librarian, my students rarely experience the kind of silence that allows them to listen to the world around them. When I can, I sit them down to practice focusing. We choose one thing to focus on (counting our breath, the ringing of Tibetan singing bowls) and we notice when our minds wander. Then we bring ourselves back to focusing. I feel pretty certain that these are the only minutes of the day, possibly even the week, when they are still, quiet and awake, and I am grateful to be able to give them this experience, this chance to sit with themselves. I tell you all this because reading Andy Goodman's picture book, It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop reminds me vividly of these rare, quiet times. As she sits in a swing, the narrator says, "As I listened to the breeze. . . I could hear kites flutter, a busy bee buzz, a leaky tap drip and my wristwatch tick."
She goes on to list all the things she hears, and slowly these sounds get louder. As they do, the text gets louder and the illustrations more vibrant. The narrator hears the dog bark, the baby wake, Jill singing in the bath, Peter whistling. Things continue to escalate and the narrator begins to question herself. Is that elephants stampeding? A steam train accelerating? A loose cannon firing?
Goodman's illustrations are perfectly paired with the text. The expansive, marvelously thick white pages have images that feel a bit like antique clip-art, allowing the reader to use her or his own imagination as the story unfolds. The gentle colors of the initial quietude give way to a more vibrant palette as the story arcs. Being quiet, the mind wanders and listening leads to imagination. I love the stream of consciousness progression of It was so quiet I could hear a pin drop and everything that it inspires. It's also the perfect book to read leading into a moment of focusing/meditation/quiet with kids, which is something we all need now and then.
by Joyce Audy Zarins If someone from a school overseas invited you to do an author or artist residency in connection with your picture book what would you do? I said yes even before I knew the particulars. If that would be your reaction, there are a few things you may want to consider to […]
“Inside the airport you stand in lines.You stand in lines to get your ticket. You stand in lines to check your bags.There are lines for the restrooms. There are lines to go through security.”(Click to enlarge spread) Arriving just last month (is it already June?) on bookshelves was Lisa Brown’s newest picture book, The […]