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1. An Interview with Caroline Stellings

Author extraordinaire . . .

I became acquainted with Caroline Stellings through a review I wrote of her book, The Manager, an engrossing tale about boxing with quirky, captivating characters. You can read the review at The Children's Book Review HERE .  The Children's Book Review is an award winning, online, book review site endorsed last year by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.  
          The Manager, published by Cape Breton University Press in 2013, is a young adult novel that won the Hamilton Literary Award for Fiction.  Carolyn Stellings' middle-grade novel The Contest (published in the USA by Seventh Generation) won the ForeWord Book of the Year gold medal in 2010. Her teen mystery, The Scratch on the Ming Vase -- which I'm reading right now and loving -- was published by Second Story Press and was included in the Canadian Children's Book CenCentre's 2013 Spring edition of  Best Books for Kids and Teens . She also writes and illustrates picture books.

Humor and boxing . . .

Anne of Green Gables,
look out!

First in an exciting mystery
series . . .

It’s my pleasure to have this award-winning author as my interview guest today. I’ll get right to it:

EV: Have you always been interested in writing? When did you first get into it seriously?
CS: Well, it was nearly 20 years ago, and I was in a PhD program at McMaster University, but stumbled upon a book about the life of the famous illustrator from Vermont, Tasha Tudor. She, of course, has done numerous stories about her corgies, and I decided then and there to quit the academics and write books about my dogs, which have always been Schipperkes. These are little black sailing dogs from Belgium, and very smart. First, though, I had to learn how to do watercolors.

EV: You write both YA fiction and picture books. Do you favor one of them over the other, or do you enjoy them equally?
CS: I love the picture books because they feature animal characters, not only my Schipperkes, but I have also done a series of mice books, and recently, my book about a fortune-telling cat, Gypsy’s Fortune (published by Peanut Butter Press) was chosen as a Best Bet in Canada, one of the top ten picture books of the year. I think everyone liked the traditional fortune cookie sayings! Novels are more difficult, but I have enjoyed doing a mystery series because I am a big fan of Nancy Drew.

EV: Do you approach the two genres differently? If so, what are some special challenges of each?
CS: The biggest challenge with the picture books, for me, is the art. I was not lucky enough to be born with artistic talent; in fact, it took me years to learn to paint. With the novels, the challenges come at that stage when the publisher assigns an editor. She then goes over the book piece by piece, and there is a lot of re-writing to do. 
          With The Secret of the Golden Flowerthe second book in my Nicki Haddon mystery series, my wonderful editor really worked hard to get it right. Nicki,the main character, is a female Chinese James Bond, and anytime a book has a number of clues, etc. the editing can take almost as much time as writing the book in the first place.

EV: Do you have any favorites among the books you’ve written?
CS: My two Skippers books, Skippers at Cape Spear and Skippers Save the Stone because they are about my dogs.

EV: Can you describe your writing process? Do you plot ahead of time? Become haunted by a theme or idea? Start with a character and then see where that leads?
CS: It usually takes me a few months to decide on my next project. Those are the months when my house is the cleanest, because I find it easier to wash floors than face the blank page. Once an idea hits, then my house isn’t so clean, because I can’t tear myself away from the computer.
         I always seem to know what my ending will be, and then I sketch out a basic plot, and a few sentences for each chapter. This inevitably changes, of course, once the characters start developing minds of their own and bossing me around.
         Sometimes, a book requires research. With The Manager I had to learn about boxing. Even though the book is a comedy, and boxing is just in the background, I still had to know it, right down to the last jab.

EV: The research really showed. I felt the world of boxing come alive when I read it. What was your inspiration for The Manager?
CS: One hot summer night, when I couldn’t sleep, I watched a movie called The Station Agentstarring Peter Dinklage, an achondroplastic dwarf, and a fantastic actor. I fell in love with him, and decided I had to write a YA novel with a dwarf character. I wound up with a female lead, but never stopped thinking about that film. Nothing much happens in that film, but thanks to the superb actors, it haunts you for a long time.

EV: What were some of your favorite books while growing up?
CS; The Wind in the Willows was my favorite illustrated book, and then Nancy Drew when I was a bit older. Later, of course, it was Tasha Tudor’s books, and Corgiville Fairis a masterpiece.

EV: What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
CS: I keep this piece of advice on a sticky note on the front of my computer at all times: SOMEONE MUST WANT SOMETHING ON EVERY PAGE. 

EV: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
CS: 1.) Don’t invent a book, experience a book and then write it.  2.) Don’t tell the reader anything; make the reader feel everything instead.

EV: What are you working on now, or can you say?
CS: I am starting a western, set in 1857 Utah Territory. Because I must learn the time period, speech, clothing, etc. I am taking longer than usual with the preparatory stages, but enjoying it. And I hope to begin editing a novel I have written about Janis Joplin called Saskatoon Blues. She came to Canada just before she died in 1970 to ride the Festival Express, and when the musicians aboard the train ran out of liquor, they made an unscheduled stop in Saskatchewan. That is where my story begins!  There‘s only one problem with writing about Janis Joplin – she steals every scene she is in!

EV: Ah . . . Janis Joplin. I can believe she would. When oldies-but-goodies come on my car's radio, she outshines all the other singers the DJ plays.

Caroline. It’s been such a pleasure to learn more about you and your work. Thank you for sharing all this.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth!

EV: Readers can find more about Caroline Stellings and her books at:

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2. Hippos Are Huge! (2015)

Hippos Are Huge. Jonathan London. Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. 2015. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 Hippos are huge! Except for elephants, no other land animals are as large as hippopotamuses. They can weigh as much as fifty men!

I really enjoyed reading this nonfiction picture book about hippos. I loved the narrative--the larger font. I loved the additional details and descriptions--the smaller font.

I found the book to be informative and entertaining. (I love it when a book is packed with a I-didn't-know-that facts. True, I didn't know much about hippos before picking this one up. So it was easy to intrigue me, I suppose. But still. I think the book is well-written.)

I really love, love, love the illustrations by Matthew Trueman. I think my favorite illustration was of the baby hippo paddling to the surface and taking a first breath. (Did you know a newborn hippo (a calf) weights 100 pounds?! Did you know in just six months, he'll weigh 500 pounds?!) 

I would definitely recommend this one if you're looking for nonfiction picture books to share with younger children. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Review: Lulu Loves Flowers by Anna McQuinn and Rosalind Beardshaw

'Lulu Loves Flowers' written by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Alanna Books, 2015) - pub'd in US as 'Lola Plants a Garden' (Charlesbridge, 2014)


Lulu Loves Flowers
written by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind BeardshawContinue reading ...

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4. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Boy on the Page

Most people, at some time or another, wonder why they are here and what they should do with their lives. When we are children we ask each other "What are you going to be when you grow up?" and when we are grown up we ask ourselves, "Am I doing what I should be doing with my life?"

In this exceptional picture book we meet a young boy who wonders why he is where he is, and what he discovers will resonate with readers of all ages.

The Boy on the PageThe Boy on the Page
Peter Carnavas
Picture Book
For ages 5 and up
Kane Miller, 2014, 978-1-61067-245-0
One day a small boy landed on an empty page. It was a rather abrupt arrival, and for a while he just stood there as there was nothing else around him. Then, slowly, a world began to appear on the white page. Green hills, trees, flowers and then animals of all kinds joined the. Soon other people were there too, and buildings. As he grew up in the every changing world, there was a question that the boy wondered about. Why was he there?
   The boy went on to have all kinds of wonderful experiences. He rolled down a hill, rode a horse, planted a tree, paddled a canoe, and made music with friends. He grow up and fell in love, he became a father, and built a house. He did so many things and yet he still had no idea why he was where he was. What was this all for?
   In this beautiful and sweetly simple picture book we watch a boy, and then a man, experience all the wonderful things that life has to offer. We see how the boy (and man) gives of himself to others, and receives so much in return. When we come to the end of the tale we realize that the answer to the boy’s question is a simple but powerful one.
   Throughout the book wonderful illustrations are paired with a spare text, and together they offer readers of all ages a message that is timeless.


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5. Dick Whittington and His Cat (1950)

Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Long ago in England there lived a little boy named Dick Whittington. Dick's father and mother died when he was very young, and as he was too small to work, he had a hard time of it.

Premise/plot: Dick Whittington, an orphan, goes to London to seek his fortune--or at least a somewhat better life. It won't be easily come by that's for sure! He eventually finds work in the home of a merchant as a cook's assistant. With his one penny, he happens to buy a cat who is an excellent mouser. The cat will be the key to it all: his eventual success.
Not long after this, Mr. Fitzwarren had a ship ready to sail. He called all his servants into the parlor and asked them what they chose to send to trade. All the servants brought something but poor Dick. Since he had neither money nor goods, he couldn't think of sending anything. "I'll put some money down for him," offered Miss Alice, and she called Dick into the parlor. But the merchant said, "That will not do. It must be something of his own." "I have nothing but a cat," said Dick. "Fetch your cat, boy," said the merchant, "and let her go!" 
My thoughts: Loved the story. Dick Whittington and His Cat received a Caldecott Honor in 1951. I can't say that I particularly "liked" the illustrations. (But I didn't dislike them either.) I enjoyed the story more though.

Have you read Dick Whittington and His Cat? What did you think? Do you have a favorite Caldecott or Caldecott Honor book? 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #428: FeaturingBeatrice Alemagna and Sergio García Sánchez

– From Nadja Spiegelman’s and Sergio García Sánchez’s
Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure


– From Beatrice Alemagna’s Little Big Boubo
(Click to enlarge)


I’m kickin’ it all international today with Italian author-illustrator Beatrice Alemagna, born in Bologna, and Sergio García Sánchez, who is a cartoonist from Spain.

If I had a dime for every time an illustrator here at 7-Imp has named Beatrice Alemagna as an inspiration, well … I’d be in Italy now. Yep. Why not? Italy sounds good right about now.

Last year she wrote and illustrated Little Big Boubo—on shelves here in the States this month, thanks to Tate Publishing—and I’ve got some spreads from it today. This book had me at its first lines:

Hello! My first name is Boubo.

My last name is Boubo too.

Boubo is proud of his growing independence and launches his best campaign in this story to convince readers that he’s a big boy. “I only wear my nappies one day a week,” he says, “like grown-ups.” With a small trim size, this story about a proud toddler is just right for toddler hands, perhaps those who have graduated from board books.

Know how he knows he’s big? His mother tucks him in nightly, saying “Sleep well, my BIGGEST love.” That’s how this story of child development also becomes a tribute to maternal love.

Also below, I’ve got some spreads from Nadja Spiegelman’s and Sergio García Sánchez’s

Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure (TOON Books/A Toon Graphic, April 2015), which is so fun to read — and not just because we Danielsons returned fairly recently from our own NYC adventure. (The book’s opening endpapers depict a subway map, something to which we became very accustomed just a couple weeks ago.)

This is the story of a boy named Pablo, new to a NYC school and reluctant to make friends, since his family moves so often. His class heads out on a subway adventure and, along the way, learns about the history of the subway system. Pablo is paired with a girl named Alicia, who is trying her best to befriend him, despite the walls around him. The two of them eventually get on the wrong train but find their way back to their teacher and class. Sánchez’s spreads, colored by Lola Moral, are bursting with energy and life, and it’s a testament to his artistic sensibilities that he keeps these busy spreads from getting confusing for the reader. The book even closes with informational matter about the history of the subway system. Fascinating.

Below are some spreads from that too. Enjoy the art. …


Art from Little Big Boubo:


(Click each image to enlarge)


Art from Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure:


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)


LITTLE BIG BOUBO. Copyright © 2014 by Beatrice Alemagna. All images here reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tate Publishing/Abrams, New York.

LOST IN NYC: A SUBWAY ADVENTURE. Copyright © 2015 by Nadja Spiegelman, Sergio García Sánchez, and TOON Books. All images here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

* * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Very busy week. My first kick is just Getting Everything Done. (This also means that, if you’ve emailed me about something blog-related, boy howdy and howdy boy … sorry for the delay. One day, I’ll get caught up.)

2) A brand-new coffee maker that is oh-so, oh-so good at what it does.

3) My girls and I went to hear author Matthew Baker speak at Parnassus Books this weekend. We’re enjoying his debut children’s novel (pictured below) so far, and it was good to hear him talk about the writing of it.



4) I’ll be teaching my picture book grad course again this summer, and my kick is that I sat down to go through my lecture notes and slides and the syllabus, etc. in order to get ready to update them for this year — and I think I actually got my bearings. (I last taught it two years ago.) Lots more work ahead of me, but I’m ready to go, I think.

5) Whenever I think of summer (as I just did above), I get excited about the extra time I’ll have with my daughters.

6) Tonight, I’ll have dinner with a good friend. And that’s always good.

7) Opportunities.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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7. Never Ask A Dinosaur to Dinner (2015)

Never Ask a Dinosaur to Dinner. Gareth Edwards. Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Never ask a dinosaur to dinner. Really, never ask a dinosaur to dinner. Because a T. rex is ferocious and his manners are atrocious, and you'll find that if he's able…he will eat the kitchen table. He'll grow fatter while the rest of you grow thinner, so never ask a dinosaur to dinner.

Premise/plot: The narrator shares with readers why they should never ask a dinosaur to dinner, why they should never share a toothbrush with a shark, why they should never let a beaver in the basin, why they should never use a tiger as a towel, why they should never choose a bison for a blanket, and finally why they should never share a bed with an owl. All in rhyme of course. This is a book all about the bedtime routine. It's a silly book, as you can tell.

My thoughts: I liked it well enough, I suppose. I think the rhymes worked for the most part. I can be a bit picky when it comes to judging rhyming books. I can get annoyed quite easily when it doesn't sound right. That being said, I didn't love this one especially. It was nice, but, not an amazing read.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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8. Seuss on Saturday #16

Happy Birthday to You! Dr. Seuss. 1959. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I wish we could do what they do in Katroo. They sure know how to say "Happy Birthday to You!"

Premise/Plot: The narrator shares how birthdays are celebrated in Katroo. Every single moment of the day is packed with special fun just for you to celebrate how wonderful and unique you are. It begins with The Great Birthday Bird from the Katroo Happy Birthday Asso-see-eye-ation coming to your house. But his special birthday greeting is just the start.

My thoughts: Happy Birthday to You is not a book I really enjoyed. Oh, I love Dr. Seuss's silly rhymes in general. But I didn't find this one particularly wonderful. I hope other readers appreciate it more than I did.

Have you read Happy Birthday to You! What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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9. Melissa Marr: BUNNY ROO, I LOVE YOU


BUNNY ROO, I LOVE YOU by Melissa Marr; Illustrated by Teagan WhiteMelissa Marr reads Bunny Roo, I Love YouYesterday, I got to spend a delightful morning at Blue Willow Bookshop for a special story time with Melissa Marr. Melissa’s young adult novel WICKED LOVELY took the YA world by storm when it debuted eight years ago. Since then, she’s successfully ventured into the world of MG fantasy as well as books for adults. Now she’s breaking into what may be the toughest challenge for  a writer, picture books.

Bunny PicHow do you tell a beautiful, funny and touching story in under three hundred words? Take a look at BUNNY ROO, I LOVE YOU, from Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin.

That’s how.

There is so much love in this book, maybe because Melissa wrote it while she Little Artistsstayed in the hospital with her newborn son for forty days. The beautiful hand painted illustrations by Teagan White are warm and sweet.

To put whipped cream and sprinkles on top, Melissa was great at story time. Her little listeners had a blast making animal noises (along with Melissa) and creating bunny pictures, complete with googly eyes and fluffy puff tails. She brought stickers of the VKNoseimages in her book which the children used to decorate their pictures when they were through drawing.

Blue Willow’s owner and manger, Valerie Koehler, was in top form, too, as she led the little ones in a song and then a hilarious game of Simon Says.

Melissa also just announced Nancy Paulsen Books will be publishing her new picture book. BABY DRAGON, BABY DRAGON is about a day in the life of an adorable, hyperactive baby dragon, who finally simmers down when he meets his match. This book is scheduled for release in May 2017, but you can start getting excited about it now by visiting the website of the chosen illustrator, Lena Podesta.


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10. The Last Polar Bear – Perfect Picture Book Friday

This is my last picture book in the series of books I wanted to suggest as part of your Earth Day celebrations next Wednesday. Title: The Last Polar Bear Written by: Jean Craighead George Illustrated by: Wendell Minor Published by: Harper, 2009 Themes/Topics: polar bears, … Continue reading

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11. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Lauren Castillo

“I run to my dad. I’m really bawling. ‘I’m not for sale, am I? You wouldn’t sell me, would you?’ My dad drops the garden chair he’s holding. ‘Not for a million, trillion dollars,’ he says. ‘Not ever, ever, ever.’ He wipes my nose.
Suddenly my mom’s there and we are all hugging at once.”
– Sketch, line art, and final art from Eve Bunting’s
Yard Sale,
illustrated by Lauren Castillo

(Click each to enlarge)


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about a Belgian import, Jan De Kinder’s Red (Eerdmans, March 2015). That is here.

* * *

Since I wrote last week (here) about Eve Bunting’s Yard Sale (Candlewick, April 2015), illustrated by Lauren Castillo, I’ve got some art from the book, as well as some of Lauren’s early sketches and line art for some of the spreads.


From the sketchbooks



Early version of opening spread
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch, line art, and final art: “Today there are a lot of people walking around our front yard, picking up things, asking the price, though Mom and Dad
already put prices on them.”

(Click each to enlarge)


Sketch and line art
(Click each to enlarge)


Sketch, line art, and final art: “I suddenly see a man loading my bike into the back of his truck. I rush over to him and grab one of the wheels. I’m really angry. ‘You can’t take this,’ I say, pulling on it. “It’s mine.’ ‘Oh!’ The man looks surprised, but he sets the bike on the grass. ‘I’m sorry. I just bought it. Was it not meant to be for sale?'”
(Click each to enlarge)


Sketch and line art
(Click each to enlarge)



* * * * * * *

YARD SALE. Text copyright © 2015 by Eve Bunting. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Lauren Castillo. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. Sketches and line art reproduced by permission of Lauren Castillo.

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12. Flowers are Calling by Rita Gray, illustrated by Kenard Pak

I was immediately drawn to Flowers are Calling, written by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak, because the illustration style reminded me of Jon Klassen with a splash of Brendan Wenzel (Some Bugs). What a treat when I opened the book and discovered that the text is as inviting and intriguing as the rich illustrations! With Flowers are Calling, Rita Gray has created a picture book

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13. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

A Day’s Work

By Eve Bunting; illustrated by Ronald Himler


Maybe you’ve them seen; workers standing in the early morning hours. They gather huddled in groups drinking coffee trying to get warm. And waiting for work.

At a certain hour, trucks and vans pull up and eager workers hop in. Maybe someone needs a laborer or a gardner, bricklayer or some other job – for a day.

You’ve heard the phrase, “A day’s work for a day’s pay”or “It’s all in a day’s work.”

Tens of millions of undocumented immigrants seem to be waiting for just that every day; just a days work.

I’m not going to argue the legalities involved here or the moral imperatives to finding a just and legal solution to this conundrum that has galvanized a nation’s frustration on both sides of the argument for years.

But, that is what I love about picture books. They can bring issues such as immigration to the fore for children with stories accompanied by wonderful art that both prompt questions from readers and also points sometimes, in a direct or indirect way, to simple ways to build character in a child. I venture to say that your young reader may have plenty of questions for you after sharing this book.

Eve Bunting’s picture book, “A Day’s Work” and the earthy artistry of Ronald Himler does just that.  It provides a window on a new elderly, immigrant carpenter turned gardener for a day.

How his abuelo or grandfather, shapes the life of his young grandson, Francisco, through his reaction to the grandson’s telling of a lie in order to get work for his grandfather is revelatory and character building.

Abuelo, newly come to California to live with his daughter speaks no English. His grandson in a generational role reversal acts as interpreter and guide, in the scrambling shape up for jobs.

Hired for a weeding job on a hillside for one day culminates in a misunderstanding of what’s what in the identification of chickweeds versus plants! A botched job results and Mr. Benjamin, the new boss is angry.

But the soft spoken abuelo, a just and honest man realizes his hirer has been fibbed to by Francisco, in his grandson’s eagerness to obtain the $60 daily wage for the two of them. This is unacceptable to abuelo and must be rectified.

As abuelo and Francisco replant the entire bank of flowers, refusing even half the wage until the entire job is completed as promised, a young boy has modeled to him what a man’s word and integrity mean.

It is a question of honor…and honor is rewarded, because in the words of Mr. Benjamin, “The important things your grandfather knows already. And I can teach him gardening.”

Named a Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies, it was also named a 1994 Americas Commended Title by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs.

Intergenerational books are some of my favorites. And here in Eve Bunting’s touching tale of old and young learning what’s important from one another, the wisdom of age sometimes trumps the young’s ability to interpret the world.

Was it MLK, Jr. that said something akin to, and I am paraphrasing here, “An education devoid of values is like a ship without a rudder.” Well said.

Francisco has been guided true north by the compass of his abuelo’s conscience and the content of his character. They will both be alright!

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14. And Now For Something Entirely Different

In order to take a break from all this environmental thinking we've been doing, let's talk picture books.

I'd heard of The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee, and it's a book that does live up to its hype. The story of the farmer who sees a little clown fall from a circus train and takes him in is told totally in pictures. It's one of the easiest to follow wordless books I've ever seen.

I "read" this is as a sad story about the farmer. But when I finished, I looked at the front flap and found a much more upbeat interpretation, one I think that works. One that's much more from the clown's point of view.

So two stories going on here, all without a word.

I snatched up Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by G. Brian Karas because I'd already read  Applegate's The One and Only Ivan. My interest was in seeing an author use the same material in different ways. The picture book really is quite good. I almost thought I might like it better than the novel, but than I remembered Ivan's voice in The One and Only Ivan.

Both novel and picture book are very well done.                        


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15. Cracker 2015 CBCA Short List

This year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia short list is a cracker. Older Readers I’ve reviewed most of the Older Reader titles for the Weekend Australian, which means that I think they’re excellent. It’s a superlative list this year. Incidentally, most of these authors are relatively or brand-new published YA writers; and are women, representing […]

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16. KidLit Author Events April 14-21


Art by Diandra Mae

It’s finally here! This weekend is the SCBWI Houston conference! All the details are in place, agents, editors, authors and illustrators will be flying and driving into Houston for the big weekend. If you haven’t registered, there is room for walk-ins Saturday morning. Come to the Westin at Memorial City and find out what it takes to be an author or illustrator for children’s and young adult literature! (Art by Diandra Mae.)

The Houston Public Library is offering an exciting opportunity:

Win a Lunch with Jon Scieszka!FRANK EINSTEIN AND THE ANTIMATTER MOTOR by Jon Scieszka

Create an art masterpiece inspired by one of the many books written by the award-winning, world-famous author Jon Scieszka! Fifty winners and one adult guest each will be treated to a catered lunch 
with Jon Scieszka and receive an autographed copy of “Frank Einstein & the Antimatter Motor!” This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is scheduled to take place prior to the kickoff of the 6th Annual Books Alive! Children’s Book Celebration on Saturday, May 16, 2015.

Deadline: Friday, May 1, 2015
Winners will be notified by Friday, May 8, 2015.

For more information visit the Books Alive! Contest.

Now for this week’s author visits:

April 14, Tuesday,  5:00 PMDEAR HANK WILLIAMS: Kimbrely Willlis Holt
Blue Willow Bookshop
Kimberly Willis Holt, MG/YA Author

Kimberly Willis Holt will discuss and sign her newest novel for kids, DEAR HANK WILLIAMS. It’s 1948 in Rippling Creek, Louisiana, and Tate P. Ellerbee’s new teacher has just given her class an assignment–learning the art of letter-writing. Luckily, Tate has the perfect pen pal in mind: Hank Williams, a country music singer whose star has just begun to rise. Tate and her great-aunt and -uncle listen to him on the radio every Saturday night, and Tate just knows that she and Hank are kindred spirits.

Told entirely through Tate’s hopeful letters, this beautifully drawn novel from National Book Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt gradually unfolds a story of family love, overcoming tragedy, and an insightful girl learning to find her voice.

April 16, Thursday, 10:00 AM BUNNY ROO, I LOVE YOU: Melissa Marr; Illustrated by Teagan White
Blue Willow Bookshop
Melissa Marr, PB Author

Melissa Marr, author of the bestselling Wicked Lovely series as well as the adult fantasy novels GRAVEMINDER and THE ARRIVALS, joins Blue Willow Bookshop for a very special story time with her debut picture book, BUNNY ROO, I LOVE YOU!

The world can seem like a big, bewildering place for new babies—fortunately, their mamas know just how to soothe and comfort them. Through enchanting scenes portraying all kinds of mama animals looking out for their little ones, the mother in this story reassures her baby, and young children everywhere, that their caretakers will always love them and keep them safe. This beautiful picture book has the feel of a classic and its heartwarming premise should make it a family favorite.

April 16, Thursday, 6:30PMTHE FINISHER: David Baldacci
Murder By The Boook
David Baldacci, YA Author

Worldwide bestselling novelist David Baldacci will sign and discuss THE FINISHER (Scholastic). Vega Jane has never left the village of Wormwood. But this isn’t unusual, nobody has ever left the village of Wormwood. At least not until Quentin Herms vanishes into the unknown. Vega knows Quentin didn’t just leave, but that he was chased. And he’s left behind a very dangerous trail of clues that only she can decode. The Quag is a dark forest filled with terrifying beasts and bloodthirsty Outliers. But just as deadly are the threats that exist within the walls of Wormwood. It is a place built on lies, where influential people are willing to kill to keep their secrets. Vega is determined to uncover the truth. But the closer she gets, the more she risks her life.

Thursday, April 16, 7:00 PMI AM HER REVENGE by Meredith Moore
Brazos Bookstore
Meredith Moore, YA Author

Houston author Meredith Moore will sign her debut YA novel, I AM HER REVENGE. She can be anyone you want her to be.
Vivian was raised with one purpose in life: to exact revenge on behalf of her mother. Manipulative and cruel, Mother has deprived Vivian not only of a childhood, but of an original identity. With an endless arsenal of enticing personalities at her disposal, Vivian is a veritable weapon of deception.

And she can destroy anyone.
When it’s time to strike, she enrolls in a boarding school on the English moors, where she will zero in on her target: sweet and innocent Ben, the son of the man who broke Mother’s heart twenty years ago.

Anyone…except for the woman who created her.
With every secret she uncovers, Vivian comes one step closer to learning who she really is. But the more she learns about herself, the more dangerous this cat and mouse game becomes. Because Mother will stop at nothing to make sure the truth dies with her.

April 16, Thursday, 7:00 PM Image from THE CROODS
Texas A&M, Langford Building
The Neuland Concept Designers
Cost: FREE!

SCBWI Brazos Valley Illustrator Event: The Neuland Concept Designers

Concept designers Margaret Wuller and Patrick Hannenberger will discuss their work for film projects such as The Croods, Rise of the Guardians, Monsters vs. Aliens, and How to Train Your Dragon. The free public lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the Geren Auditorium at the College of Architecture on the A&M campus.

Houston YA/MG Writers
Writespace: Silver Street Studios – Studio 212

Cassandra Clark: Workshop: Engaging Your Reader Through Tension
Cost: FREE!

Tension may be a bad thing in our personal lives, but it’s a necessity in our writing. Nothing engages a reader like tension! This month, YA and adult science fiction and fantasy writer Cassandra Rose Clarke will show us how writers can effectively build tension throughout their work. We’ll consider how to up the tension through the internal and external elements of the story, from cliff-hangers to pacing and from character motivations to story stakes. We’ll leave with the tools to keep readers turning pages until late into the night!


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17. Illustration Inspiration: Tracy Dockray, Illustrator of Izzy and Oscar

Tracy Dockray's most recent book is “Izzy and Oscar”, an octopus out of water tale, by Allison Estes.

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18. Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Josh Schneider

Everybody Sleeps (But Not Fred) by Theodore Seuss Geisel Award winner Josh Schneider is flat out superbly hilarious. Perhaps because of the nature of the beast, going to bed books can be notoriously dull, but Schneider turns this genre on its head with Fred, the thumb-headed fellow with a "to-do list you wouldn't believe" who resembles a Weeble, a wobbly toy from my childhood. Schneider

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We’re soon to touch down in one of our absolute favorite literary states for the Texas Library Association Conference in Austin! If there’s anything better than talking books, hanging out with authors and librarians, and enjoying sunshine and Shiners, then we don’t want to know about it.

If you’ll be in the Lone Star State, too, please swing by our booth, #1341, for galleys, giveaways, and face time with the HarperCollins Children’s Books School & Library team. We can’t wait to chat and put books in your hands.

But if you’re reading this thinking, “sure, you guys are nice, but we’re here to meet the AUTHORS, silly!” check out our top-notch signing schedule, here:

11:00am–12:00pm, Joy Preble, Aisle 7, Finding Paris
11:00am–12:00pm, Melissa Marr, Aisle 8, Made For You
12:00–1:00pm, Kiera Cass, Aisle 8, The Selection Series
1:00–2:00pm, Thanhha Lai, Aisle 8, Listen, Slowly
2:00–3:00pm, Dan Gutman, Aisle 8, Genius Files #5: License to Thrill
4:00–5:00pm, Lauren Oliver, Aisle 8, Vanishing Girls

10:00–11:00am, Sherry Thomas, Aisle 3, The Elemental Trilogy
11:30am–12:30pm, Neal & Brendan Shusterman, Aisle 1, Challenger Deep
2:00–3:00pm, Gordon Korman, Aisle 1, Masterminds
2:00–3:00pm, Julie Murphy, Aisle 2, Dumplin’ galleys
3:00–4:00pm, Becky Albertalli, Aisle 1, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

You don’t want to miss our coupon in the aisle by aisle guide, either! It points you to our booth for a free copy of BONE GAP, by Laura Ruby (*while supplies last), and a chance to enter to win a piece of framed original art by Jef Czekaj, from his upcoming picture book, AUSTIN, LOST IN AMERICA.

We can’t wait to see y’all!


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20. Monday Mishmash 4/13/15

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Monroe County Book Expo  I'll be at the Hughes Branch of the Eastern Monroe Public Library this Saturday from 10am-3pm selling copies of ALL my titles (both Kelly Hashway and Ashelyn Drake titles). If you're in the Stroudsburg area, please stop by to see me and a bunch of other local authors.
  2. Scholastic Book Fair  Someone help me. I'll working the Scholastic Book Fair at my daughter's school again this week, and it's a BOGO sale! My poor wallet. I just can't help myself when it comes to buying books.
  3. New Adult Scavenger Hunt  I'll be participating in the New Adult Scavenger Hunt April 23-26 as Ashelyn Drake. I'm Team Blue! I'm promoting Looking For Love and giving away a copy of the Campus Crush paperback, which includes ALL the books in the series—yes, even Looking For Love. Find out more about the hunt here.

  4. The Monster Within in a B&N Ad?  I was on my email last Friday and this was the ad that appeared in my sidebar. That's The Monster Within! No idea how this happened, but woo hoo!!! Totally made my day. I hope others saw this ad in their email sidebars, too. I'm just going to tell myself they did. ;) 
  5. New Picture Book Released  I had a new picture book release through Guardian Angel Publishing. It's titled A Lion's Song and you can purchase a copy on Amazon or the publisher's website. Right now the paperback is available in both places, but the ebook version is currently only up on the publisher's website. Robert Lee Beers did such a great job with the illustrations. Just check out the cover: 
    Amara is the only lion who can't roar. Every time she tries, it comes out like a song.  She doesn't know what her purpose in the pride will be if she can't be ferocious. But when a Nile crocodile threatens her family, Amara's song just might save them.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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21. A Poem in Your Pocket, by Margaret McNamara & G. Brian Karas (ages 4-10) -- delightful encouragement for all writers

Poetry encourages us to see the world through a different lens, slowing down to notice small details. But how do you encourage a child who's feeling absolutely stuck, unable to let go enough to trust their own "poet's eye"? This delightful new picture book offers a gentle lesson on how a special teacher and a visiting poet did just that.
A Poem in Your Pocket
by Margaret McNamara
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2015
Random House teaching guide
Your local library
ages 4-10
*best new book*
Everyone in Mr. Tiffin's class is excited when he announces that poet Emmy Crane will be visiting in April to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day with them. All through April, Elinor and her class start reading poetry, learning about different types of figurative language and forms of poetry, and writing their own poems.
"Mr. Tiffin taught them about similes, and they tried them out.
'Robert is as tall as that really high building in the middle of town!' said Robert.
'Math is like a knot,' said Tara.
'One that we can untangle together,' said Mr. Tiffin."
When Elinor has trouble writing her own poems, Mr. Tiffin encourages her to keep trying. "Remember, poetry is a messy business," he tells her. But the more she works, the more frustrated she gets.

Many children will relate to Elinor's frustration--staring at an empty page can be overwhelming for any of us. Margaret McNamara develops this story in such a gentle way that she encourages all readers to try using their own "poet's eye."

When Elinor finally meets Emmy Crane, young Elinor is nearly frozen with fear. But the kind, gentle writer tells her "no poem is perfect... tell me what you were thinking about."

I adore this story, for its message that poetry begins in the heart, and for the way it shows how we all need to be kind and not judge our own attempts too harshly. Brian Karas's illustrations add gentle warmth throughout. I especially love the way he shows poet Emmy Crane as an African American woman, incorporating subtle affirmation of the diversity of our classrooms, students and authors.

Our school collaborates with local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day. Our 4th graders are so excited that their original poems go out to the whole world, carried in people's pockets. Learn more from the Academy of American Poets:
"Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people throughout the United States celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day as schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, and other venues ring loud with open readings of poems from pockets."
Read the starred review at Kirkus; and a terrific review at the blog Randomly Reading. Teachers, definitely check out this teaching guide. Illustrations ©2015 by G. Brian Karas; used with permission from Random House. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Random House. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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22. On the Wing by David Elliott illustrated by Becca Stadtlander

On the Wing by David Elliott and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander is enchanting and absorbing, an ideal book for introducing young readers to poetry as well as the world of birds. Becca Stadtlander's illustrations are magnificent. The birds are presented with a realistic crispness while the backgrounds take on a more painterly feel that invites your imagination to wander and wonder

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23. Interview: Author Trish Cooke

MWD Interview - Trish CookeTrish Cooke is the award-winning author of such acclaimed and enduring picture books as Full, Full, Full of Love and So Much!, which was recently included in UK book list ‘The 50 Best Culturally Diverse Children’s Books‘. … Continue reading ...

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24. Drum Dream Girl (2015)

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Margarita Engle. Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

On an island of music
in a city of drumbeats
the drum dream girl
of pounding tall conga drums
tapping small bongo drums
and boom boom booming
with long, loud sticks
on big, round, silvery
moon-bright timbales.

 Margarita Engle's Drum Dream Girl is a picture book biography of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. Millo and her older sisters formed Cuba's first all-girl dance band. (The historical note adds that she performed at a birthday celebration for FDR.)

She grew up at a time and in a place where women were not allowed to play drums, or professionally play drums. The book highlights her ambitious dreams, her diligence and perseverance. It is a beautifully written biography. I've always been a fan of Margarita Engle's narrative style, her rhythmic way with words. Drum Dream Girl did not disappoint!

I loved the bold, colorful illustrations by Rafael Lopez. This one is easy to recommend!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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25. Goodnight Already! by Jory John & Benji Davies

Goodnight Already! by Jory John and Benji Davis is an odd couple story with winning illustrations that's hard to resist even if you can seen the end coming. Chipper Duck is fully caffeinated and ready to go while weary Bear is ready to drop with exhaustion. The relief on his face as he pulls up the covers is palpable. The dance begins, Duck suggesting things to do, Bear declining.

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