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1. New Picture Book for Easter: P. Zonka Lays an Egg by Julie Paschkis

P. Zonka Lays an Egg, by Julie Paschkis (Peachtree Publishers, 2015)P. Zonka Lays an Egg
by Julie Paschkis
(Peachtree Publishers, 2015)

A gorgeous new picture book for Easter, about a hen who lays no ordinary eggs but colourful, patterned ‘pysankas’ – … Continue reading ...

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2. Seuss on Saturday #13

The Cat In the Hat. Dr. Seuss. 1957. Random House. 61 pages.  [Source: Library]

First sentence:
The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house all that cold, cold wet day.
Premise/Plot: Sally and her brother can't find ANYTHING fun to do on a rainy day until a strange cat comes to their house, invites himself in, and turns everything topsy-turvy. This rhyming book also stars a fish, who knows that the Cat in the Hat's fun only leads to trouble, and Thing One and Thing Two.  (One of the games they play is up-up-up with a fish. Another is fun-in-a-box.)

My thoughts: I've read this one dozens of times. It's so familiar, so fun. It's hard for me to imagine what it would be like to read it for the first time. I've also heard the audio book read by Kelsey Grammer. Is this my FAVORITE Seuss book? I'm not sure that it is. But it's so fun and silly.

Have you read The Cat in the Hat? Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or reading Dr. Seuss' picture books (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Cat in the Hat Comes Back.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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3. Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

Two years ago I fell in love with Flora, her flippers and her fantastic dance with a flamingo. I was thrilled to learn when author and illustrator Molly Idle had a second dance - I mean book - in the works. Idle follows up the fabulous, Caldecott Honor winning Flora and the Flamingo with Flora and the Penguin.  For this outing, it's wintertime and Flora has some skates to put on. Idle

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4. Telephone by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jen Corace

Telephone, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace (two of my absolute favorites) is one of those books that makes you wonder why no one has jumped on this idea before. It's also one of those deceptively simple picture books that has so much more going on. Taking the old game that kids still love to play as inspiration, Barnett sets the story in motion when a mother pigeon

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


“Jenny is feeling out of sorts, but she doesn’t want to talk about it.
She just wants to be loved.”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


 

This morning at Kirkus, I weight in on the anniversary edition of Heather Has Two Mommies, as well as a couple of Heather’s descendants. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about an import originally published in Quebec in 2013, Sibylle Delacroix’s Prickly Jenny (Owlkids Books, March 2015), so today I’m following up with some art from the book.

Enjoy.


“There’s nothing but ice cream for dessert,
and Jenny says she wants nothing to do with it.”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


 


“Wait … Is that a smile, Jenny?”
(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


 


“Jenny doesn’t know what she wants today.
But tomorrow, when she’s bigger, it will get better.”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety)


 



 

* * * * * * *

PRICKLY JENNY. Copyright © 2013 Bayard éditions. Published in North America in 2015 by Owlkids Books Inc. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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6. Books from The Horn Book: March/April

I have a subscription to The Horn Book Magazine and it is one of my favorite things.  I spend a couple of hours reading each issue. No matter how much I keep up online and with friends about new and upcoming books, The Horn Book always alerts me to books I haven't heard about.  I always end up adding several books to my To-Read Stack.  Sometimes I get most of the book titles from the reviews, sometimes from the ads, and sometimes from the articles. If you haven't picked up The Horn Book lately, it is well worth in terms of what is offered in every issue.

Over Spring Break, I read the newest issue of The Horn Book.  And I found lots of new books to add to my stack!   I find that mostly, the books I find are books from favorite authors--I am always thrilled to see new books by authors I already love!  These are the books I want to add to my stack after reading


I love anything written by Charlotte Zolotow so I definitely want to read Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection.


I had seen Return to Augie Hobble by Lane Smith but for some reason I had thought it was more middle school/YA. After reading the 5 Questions Interview (a Horn Book Feature that I LOVE), I added this one to my list. It looks too good to miss and definitely good for older elementary readers.  This is Lane Smith's first novel!


Bob Shea has a new series coming out for beginning readers. Ballet Cat looks to be fabulously fun. I love Bob Shea's other books and am excited to see a new series from him.  This one is more early chapter book, I think.


Yard Sale is a new picture book by Eve Bunting. As with all of her books, this one looks to be a great conversation starter. It will give kids lots to think about.


Knit Together by Angela Dominguez is one that drew me in because of the topic. A little girl loves to draw and her mothers loves to knit.  This seems like a book that can invite great conversations around creating, creativity, following your passion, etc. 


And who wouldn't want to meet two new duck characters from Olivier Dunrea. Gemma and Gus looks as fun as the others!


I Don't Like Koala by Sean Ferrell looks like a picture book my 3rd graders might like.  It is described by a few reviewers as "creepy".   The Horn Book describes it as clever. Seems to be just the kind of humor I like in a picture book!


I was very excited to see Look! by Jeff Mack coming soon!  I love Jack Mack and am thrilled that his new book is about books and reading! What fun!


I'm not a big fan of The Stupids and this book is being compared to it. But I am a fan of Sara Pennypacker so I definitely want to read Meet the Dullards. Looks pretty funny to me! (Love that the cover says "Extra Boring Edition"! How could this not be hysterical?)

There are LOTS more great books reviewed and discussed in this issue (and EVERY issue) of The Horn Book Magazine.  There are just some of the titles I am adding to my stack after reading the issue. I imagine when I pop through the issue again, I'll add more. I highly recommend reading The Horn Book from cover to cover 6 times a year!  


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7. Pencil roughs from Onesie Mumsie







 

Some of my pencil roughs from Onesie Mumsie (written by Alice Rex) due for release April 1, 2015.

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8. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic

Hansel and Gretel

By The Brothers Grimm; Pictures by Eloise Wilkin

A Little Golden Book

 

I venture to guess most, if not all, of the Baby Boomers that are now grandparents, grew up reading these books.

Starting in 1942, they originally sold at the ginormous price of 25 cents! Yes, for one quarter of a dollar, your child could read the likes of “The Pokey Little Puppy”, “Tootle the Train”, “Scuffy the Tugboat”, “The Saggy Baggy Elephant”, “The Shy Little Kitten”, “The Tawney Scrawny Lion”, “The Little Red Caboose”, “Mother Goose”, “Prayers for Children”, “Three Little Children” and a slew of other initially published titles.These small books soon found their way into households, hands and eventually the hearts of young readers everywhere. And they have stood the test of time, with the authors and illustrators whose artistry created them. That is my definition of a classic picture book read and Little Golden Books are classics.

Their lure was not merely their attractive price, but their writers and illustrators were the likes of Garth Williams, illustrator of “The Little House on the Prairie” series, “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little”, Margaret Wise Brown of “Goodnight Moon” fame, Richard Scarry, Trina Schart Hyman, James Marshall, and Alice and Martin Provensen to name but a very few.

These people made artistry and great narrative available to every child that had a quarter. That, in and of itself, is a wonderful thing.

Guess the reason I keep bringing these classic books forward in the Way Back Wednesday segment of The Snuggery is that I firmly believe their artistic value needs to be brought forward again and again so a new generation can see them and hopefully love them as we Boomers did.

I had a first hand experience of the impact they had on one child now grown to be an artist that did covers for Penguin paperback books. Bill had, as a child, a well loved copy of “Scuffy the Tugboat.” It somehow was lost in the passage of time. When he spoke of this book, and its story and art, you could tell it had affected his life, AND maybe even his future profession as artist.

So I made up my mind to find an original of this Little Golden Book. It took a while, but I did it. Wish you could’ve been there when I put the book in his hands. It was really something to see him gently thumb the pages of a book he had treasured as a child and could practically recite as a adult.

Books DO affect young readers for a lifetime.

So, why not perhaps revisit YOUR journey with these wonderful Little Golden Books and launch a new discovery, via your own grandchildren, children or a young reader you know?

Please go and rediscover a Little Golden Book with your little ones. It’s way past time!

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9. Chris Haughton – Illustrator Interview

One of the thrills of being part of the children’s literature community is reading a book and then reaching out to the author and/or illustrator and actually entering into dialogue and quite often friendship with them. Even well known busy … Continue reading

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10. The Fairy-Tale Handbook: An Interactive Adventure Through the Magical World of Fairy Tales by Libby Hamilton, illustrated by Tomislav Tomić

The Fairy-Tale Handbook: An Interactive Adventure Through the Magical World of Fairy Tales is the work of illustrator Tomislav Tomić, contributor to the fantastic StoryWorld series of detailed cards that encourage creativity and storytelling in kids and adults, and Libby Hamilton, contributor to the encyclopedically awesome The Monstrous Book of Monsters. The Fairy-Tale Handbook: An

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11. KidLit Author/Illustrator Events March 24-March 31

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JUST ADD MAGIC by Cindy CallaghanI’m so excited today, running around, packing and getting ready for D4EO Literary Agency’s client/agent retreat, which starts tomorrow! I’ll get to spend time with agents Kristin Vincent, Mandy Hubbard and Bree Ogden, plus a whole lot of writers and illustrators including Gail Shepherd and Priscilla Mizel! Squee!

BTW, D4EO author Cindy Callaghan’s Middle Grade debut, JUST ADD MAGIC, is now an Amazon TV pilot! Watch and share!

I want to wish a Happy Book Birthday to Paul Greci’s debut MG novel, SURVIVING BEAR ISLAND, which launches tomorrow from Move Books! Watch the exciting intro:

Here’s the fun I’ll be missing in Houston:

March 28, Saturday, 11:00 AMONE DEAD SPY by Nathan Hale
Blue Willow Bookshop
Nathan Hale, Author/Illustrator

Author and illustrator of graphic novels and picture books Nathan Hale will meet and greet customers. His graphic novel ONE DEAD SPY is on the Texas Bluebonnet list this year. Nathan Hale has gathered some of the most fascinating true-life tales from history and given them his inimitable Hazardous Tales twist. Easy to understand, funny, informative, and lively, this series is a great way to be introduced to U.S. History.

Take a look at Nathan’s fun and fascinating presentation, WAR HATS. SPOILER ALERT: He might show this at the presentation, so if you’re bringing kids to BW for his event, don’t let them see this!

 

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12. Four Must-Have New Picture Books!

I've been discovering lots of fun picture books lately--books that are great for read aloud or any kind of sharing.

I read Marilyn's Monster to the kids during the last few minutes of the day before Spring Break. They were glued --the loved it.  They immediately noted similarities to Beekle, one of their all-time favorites. This is a great author/illustrator team. Author, Michelle Knudsen, wrote Library Lion and illustrator Matt Phelan illustrated The Storm in the Barn and Bluffton.  This is such a fun story with such adorable monsters that you can't help but fall in love with it.

Goodnight Already! by Jory John is going to make a fabulous read The Terrible Two as a read aloud in my 3rd grade classroom--the kids know co-author Mac Barnett as he visited our school. It will be fun for them to get to know Jory John's picture books as they already love his Terrible Two series. This book is especially good for primary classrooms--I think kids will laugh out loud. (And if you visit Jory John's website, beware--there are some pretty cute magnets for sale so you might spend a chunk of money between the book and the magnets. Don't say I didn't warn you:-)
aloud!  I loved it when I first glanced at the cover.  It is a fun story of a bear who is sleeping and his duck friend who is wide awake--and who wants some company. The story and illustrations are quite fun.

Our literacy coach shared I Know a Bear with us last week. My kids had a very long discussion after reading the book. The book seems to be a simple story about a girl and a bear but it is more than that. It is a story of the friendship between the girl and the bear but it also brings in issues of animals/zoos.  Kids can enter this at many levels as there are many layers of invitation here.

Sidewalk Flowers is my new favorite wordless picture books. I was so happy to find this one! It is such an amazing book!  SO SO SO SO wonderful. It is the story of a little girl and her father walking home from somewhere. The little girl is busy noticing so many things around her on their walk.  The father doesn't notice so much but he is patient with her noticing.  This story is similar to many in its message and the idea of a black and white world with colorful flowers will make for great conversation. Definitely one with so many possibilities for the classroom.

These were four must-haves for me. I loved them all for different reasons but they are all perfect for elementary classrooms or libraries. Such fun and such great conversation starters.





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13. Where is Curious George? A Look-And-Find-Book - Around Town

I am a huge fan of look-and-find books, especially if they are geared towards the preschool crowd. Good look-and-find books at this level seem to be hard to find, but Curious George? Where is Curious George: Around the Town, which follows Where is Curious George?, are perfectly geared toward the toddler crowd. And who doesn't love Curious George?  Each page has rhyming couplets that sets

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14. Jay Hosler and Sentient Beetles Before Breakfast

Here’s a book I’ve been wanting to blog about for a while, Jay Hosler’s Last of the Sandwalkers (First Second, April 2015). If you haven’t seen an early copy of this book, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love science and/or graphic novels. That’s because it’s a graphic novel created by a biology professor/entomologist and cartoonist, and it tells the story of Lucy, a beetle (a “sandwalker”), who loves to explore and investigate. She lives in a community of beetles, which includes a group of elders who harbor a secret about the world beyond the palm tree in the desert where they live. Lucy, who puts the spunk in spunky, heads out into the wild world to discover its secrets, even breaking the rules to do so — and learns that beetles aren’t the only creatures in the world.

This is an entertaining story that packs in a lot of science — but also much more. As the Publishers Weekly review notes, Hosler “mingles themes of family, forgiveness, and freedom of ideas, and even manages to make big-eyed, mandibled crawlers emotive without getting too cartoony.” There’s a lot of adventure packed into this graphic novel.

First Second invited Jay, pictured above, to visit a small handful of blogs and share, at each one, an original drawing, as well as beetle facts. An original drawing. I just couldn’t say no, given that 7-Imp is, for all intents and purposes, an art blog. And I’m happy to post about the book, given it’ll be a big hit, in particular, with children who love to read about science (but not limited to just them, by any means). Pictured above is the Bark Beetle. They’re characters in the book, but below are all kinds of fun facts about them, straight from Jay:

Character Name: The Bark Beetle Gang
Species: Dendroctonus ponderosae
Length: 5 mm
Color: Black
Habitat: Pine forests
Superpower: Giant killer

Imagine a bowl of rice attacking a big, mature ponderosa pine tree and killing it. That would be pretty impressive for a bowl of rice. Now imagine that this was an outbreak of killer rice and the little buggers went on to destroy 70,000 square miles of pine forests. This is precisely what is happening in the western United Stets and Canada, except the culprit isn’t rice, but rice grain-sized bark beetles.

Now, to be fair, despite the devastation, these little beetles aren’t mustache-twirling villains. They’re actually a normal part of a healthy pine forest ecosystem. Bark beetles live on and in pine trees. They lay their eggs under the bark and consume both living and dead tissue in the trees. The trees fight back by secreting toxins or resin to kill the beetles, but bark beetles typically only attack weak or dying trees that can’t put up much of a fight. Consequently, bark beetles play an important role in removing older, less healthy trees form a forest and making it easier for younger, stronger trees to take their place. Unfortunately, this delicate balance has recently been upset, and there has been a massive outbreak of bark beetles that has overwhelmed healthy, as well as more susceptible, trees. The result is a devastating loss of forest. There are number of possible reasons for this outbreak, but climate change seems to be playing a significant role.

Over the last several years, rising warming global temperatures have made summers drier and winters milder in the western U.S. and Canada. These changes have a cascading effect. Drier summers and an increasing number of droughts have weakened more pine trees and made them susceptible to attack by bark beetles. In addition, milder winters have allowed the bark beetle to reproduce more frequently and spread into new forests full of trees that have not evolved defenses against their attacks. As a result, bark beetles are on the most wanted list of insect pests and are only one of two beetle species to have their genome sequence. The hope is that the more scientists know about their behavior and genetics, the more likely they will be to find a means of controlling the outbreak.

In Last of the Sandwalker, our intrepid band of beetle scientists meets an insipid band of bark beetles during their first foray into the wild. These little pests make a nuisance of themselves, but our heroes soon learn that their bark is much worse than their bite.

Many thanks to Jay for the drawing. If you want to see even more from the book, here’s the list of blogs he’ll be visiting in the next couple of weeks.

* * * * * * *

The Bark Beetle drawing is copyright © 2015 Jay Hosler.

Photo of Jay taken by Lisa Hosler and used by his permission.

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15. RhyPiBoMo

Rhyming Picture Book Month is just around the corner! For anyone interested in joining the fun, click here.

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16. Review of You Nest Here with Me

yolen_you nest here with meYou Nest Here with Me
by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Preschool   Boyds Mills   32 pp.
3/15   978-1-59078-923-0   $16.95   g

Yolen and Stemple gracefully incorporate natural science into a comforting picture book comparing various nesting birds with a “nesting” child (“My little nestling, time for bed…”). Some birds, such as pigeons, which “nest on concrete ledges,” will be familiar to many children, while others may be less so: “Grackles nest in high fir trees / Terns all nest in colonies.” Almost always, the verse ends with the soothing refrain, “But you nest here with me.” Sweet’s watercolor, gouache, and mixed-media illustrations use rich colors and delicate lines. The pictures are both accurate and arresting, page after page. Many details are included for children to pick out, such as a frog mother and child sitting on a log near a coot’s nest, or a fox gazing interestedly at a killdeer performing a “broken-wing charade” to protect her babies. A closing spread includes additional facts about each bird, along with a picture of its shape, feather, and egg. Science meets wonder in this deeply satisfying collaboration between poets and artist.

From the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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17. Cover Revealed For Strictly No Elephants

Strictly No Elephants

Lisa Mantchev has unveiled the cover for her forthcoming picture book, Strictly No Elephants. Artist Taeeun Yoo served as the illustrator for this project.

We’ve embedded the full image above—what do you think? Paula Wiseman Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, will release the book on October 27th.

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18. All things wild and wonderful….

Something About a Bear

By Jackie Morris

 

Jackie Morris and bears; it seems from the jacket flap of this title, that they have wandered through her artistry for many years. Her overarching goal in her picture books appears to be giving young readers a renewed respect for all things wild and wonderful. And bears are both.

Eight interesting bear types are her topic here. Be they the Asian Moon bear, the fierce and huge-clawed Sun bear, the jungle Spectacled bear, the rare, white Black Bear the Chinese Giant Panda or three others, Jackie’s gorgeous paintings brings each bruin to a beautiful intensity of interest.

Each bear is unique in its habitat and habits and your young reader will enjoy poring or shall I say “pawing”, through this great picture book find.

Any of her other titles including “I am Cat”, “The Snowy Leopard” or “Song of the Golden Hare” have given nature’s inhabitants a very distinctive plug for these wild things and where they abide.

She has also written a book called “The Cat and the Fiddle – A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes” that I am anxious to have a look  at.

If your child has an interest in nature or just loves bears, as most kids do, this is a not-to-be-missed read.

She even includes conservation web sites at the conclusion of the book, along with additional information on the habits and habitats of each bear – plus their favorite chow. The Sloth Bear, for instance, nibbles on his snack; a tasty tidbit called termites! Yum! Kids will love the yuck factor here as the bear sucks them down through a gap in his front teeth. Cool!

And I love her closer:

 

 

“Of all the bears in the wide wild

world, the very best bear of all

is…your bear.”

 

 

Still have mine!

 

 

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19. The Princess and the Pony (2015)

The Princess and the Pony. Kate Beaton. 2015. [June] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In a kingdom of warriors, the smallest warrior was Princess Pinecone. And she was very excited for her birthday. Most warriors get fantastic birthday presents. Shields, amulets, helmets with horns on them. Things to win battles with. Things that make them feel like champions. Princess Pinecone got a lot of cozy sweaters. Warriors do not need cozy sweaters.

Premise/plot: Princess Pinecone wants a pony for her birthday. The pony she wants is different than the pony she gets. The pony she gets is short and round and--depending on your point of view, either cute and adorable or ugly. She certainly can't imagine riding the pony, especially not into battle. The pony isn't very warrior-ish. But the pony has a way of charming the other warriors and even Princess Pinecone herself.

My thoughts: If pony farting books are your thing, then The Princess and the Pony may be just right for you. (I believe it got a starred review from Kirkus). Unfortunately,  I am not the right reader for the book. I found it odd and not charming enough.

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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20. Seuss on Saturday #12

If I Ran the Circus. Dr. Seuss. 1956. Random House. 58 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
"In all the whole town, the most wonderful spot
Is behind Sneelock's Store in the big vacant lot.
It's just the right spot for my wonderful plans,"
Said young Morris McGurk, "...If I clean up the cans."

Premise/Plot: A young boy imagines the circus he could have if only he cleaned up the vacant lot behind his favorite store. What a circus, he'd have. The best, BEST circus ever. He shares his plans for all his sideshow acts and for all the acts under the big tent too. Page after page, readers see one fabulous act after another.

My thoughts: Loved it. I wasn't expecting to love it. No one quite does rhythm and rhyme like Dr. Seuss. His books are fun to read, but, they're even better read aloud. He makes it look so simple and easy. To write in rhyme, to entertain young ones with a fun, imaginative story. But the thing is, it isn't that easy at all. So. I am definitely enjoying reading and rereading Seuss this year! I can't believe I never read this one growing up. But it's NEVER TOO LATE.

Have you read If I Ran the Circus?  Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you think of it!
 
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 The Cat in the Hat.

Bonus: How The Grinch Stole Christmas was published in 1957. I reviewed this one in December of 2014.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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21. Audrey's Tree House (2015)


Audrey's Tree House. Jenny Hughes. Illustrated by Jonathan Bentley. 2015. [April] Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Your house is getting too small for me," said Audrey one morning.
"You do look much bigger than you did yesterday," said Dad. "But where will you go?"
"I haven't decided yet," said Audrey.

Premise/plot: Audrey has "outgrown" her house, or, so she thinks at the opening of this delightful picture book by Jenny Hughes. Audrey and her Dad go outside looking for a house--a new house--that is just right for the bigger-than-yesterday Audrey. They decide to build a treehouse. Side by side, they spend the day. But when evening approaches, well, Audrey realizes just where she belongs, where she'll always belong.

My thoughts: Loved, loved, loved it!!! Cute premise, cute illustrations, lovely text. This one just works really well for me!!! My favorite illustration is of Audrey in her Dad's sweater with the cat following along behind her.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #424: Featuring C. G. Esperanza


“With her trunk she grabbed a brush and joined my little game.”


 

This morning at 7-Imp, I welcome artist C. G. Esperanza (Charles, pictured right), whose newest book is from Sky Pony Press. Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!), a promising author-illustrator debut, was released this month. Charles has previously illustrated Tania Grossinger’s Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship (Sky Pony Press, 2013), a story that is partly about famed baseball player Jackie Robinson, and he lives in the South Bronx. He tells me and 7-Imp readers more about himself below, and we get to take a look at some more art from Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!), as well as some early sketches from the book and a few of his other portfolio pieces.

I thank him for visiting.

P.S. If you want to read Charles’ thoughts on why picture books are the new Hip Hop, head over to his piece at Afropunk

.

 

Jules: Can you talk about the seeds of this story, Red, Yellow, Blue … and how the story came to you?

Charles: I actually thought of the story back in my art school days, when I realized a lot of my non-artistic friends didn’t know the primary colors and how to make secondary colors. So I decided to make a picture book about the primary colors that would be cool enough for adults to read and would perhaps inspire people to express themselves artistically. I decided to design the main character after my sister Crystal, who was seven years old at the time, after I saw her running around the house with her gigantic afro and writing her name on everything in crayon. For the first version I created in Eric Velasquez’s picture book class, I used her as a model. Since then, I’ve revised the story multiple times — and added her big blue elephant friend, Elebooyah.


(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“Like a PINK dinosaur that can bite!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“BLOOO BLOB BLUB! This mix made a muddy GREENISH GRAY
Like an ugly mud monster!
GRAAAAH is all he could say.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

Jules: You live in the South Bronx, yes? How do you think the Bronx has influenced your work, if at all?

Charles: I do live in the South Bronx. So does most of my family. For a long time I was ashamed of being from there. I didn’t learn to appreciate it till I met people in college from around the world, who had never been there before and were fascinated that I was from there. I became more interested in the history of these neighborhoods. They were once filled with beautiful mansions owned by the famous Tiffany heirs — and meadows that were demolished, burned, vandalized, and now rebuilt. I couldn’t help but let it all inspire me! My art is influenced by the hand-painted Bodega signs; the beautiful, vintage, abandoned architecture covered with colorful burners; the colorful bottles that sit on top of the old Puerto Rican dude’s Piragua cart; and all of the other untold stories waiting to be told.






Early sketches from Red, Yellow, Blue …
(Click each to enlarge)


 


Early cover
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Who are some artists/illustrators who inspire you?

Charles: Jerry Pinkney’s amazing drawings full of imagination and color; Kadir Nelson’s stylized, powerful expression; Adam Rex’s edgy, whimsical characters; and Ezra Jack Keats’ gritty, simplistic, yet complex execution and ability to see the world through a different perspective all inspired and shaped my voice as a picture book illustrator.


Nelson Mandela, a 2012 piece from the Paint It Black series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What else inspires you?

Charles: There’s something inspirational about things like a dirty ice cream truck loudly playing a slightly warped, melodic tune, as children chase it down the street, or a beautifully sculpted statue, decorated with bird droppings, that really gets me going. The undiscovered beauty of something that is ugly or imperfect. I like to see the potential and emphasize its beauty.


(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Explain how you’re a “Visual Emcee,” as mentioned in the AfroPunk piece.

Charles: I once had a vision of Sam I am and Will I am eating green eggs and ham and then BAM! Hip Hop and street art were the fists of a Bronx-born spawn; with one fist the message was shouted and with the other it was drawn. Nothing Gold can stay, especially when it turns Green. So Hip Hop and Street art parted ways at the seams. Or at least that’s how it seems, until you take another look! I’ve brought Rhythmic poetry and Art back together in Picture Books!

Jules: I see at your blog that your father is West Indian and your mother is Puerto Rican. Do you think that (or they) influence your work in any way?

Charles: My parents are very Americanized, so they never really introduced me to their native cultures. But Heriberta, my grandmother who grew up in Borinquen, definitely inspires me. Her chairs are decorated with the finest wood-carved rococo designs and floral patterns on the cushions. Her wardrobe is filled with art nouveau textiles and pastel colors. She’s always loved collecting dolls and listening to Celia Cruz. She’s also very funny!


Percy Julian, a 2012 piece from the Paint It Black series
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: When did you know you wanted to illustrate picture books? What are the biggest joys of it for you? The biggest challenges?

Charles: Fortunately, I met Eric Velasquez while taking his Picture Book Illustration class. He reintroduced (or, in some cases, introduced) many of the students in his class to Jerry Pinkney’s, Shel Silverstein, David Wiesner, and E.B. Lewis. But it was after I saw Eric’s work in the book The Rain Stomper [by Addie Boswell] that I knew this was something I wanted to pursue.

 



 

The greatest joy of making picture books is making books that change people’s perspectives on what a children’s book should be. Also, being able to tell stories is great. The biggest challenge I’ve faced is trying to do things the way I want, while still pleasing my mentors, editors, peers etc. Thankfully, they all seem to love what I’ve done so far!

Jules: Any new projects you can talk about and/or anything you’re really eager to do next?

Charles: The boom bap beat in my head continues to loop, just waiting for a new rhythmic stanza that tells a story everyone can enjoy. I am having discussions with a couple of popular rappers about possibly collaborating on a fun story, using hip hop style rhymes that speak to the new generation of kids who love hip hop — and the older generation that loved Dr. Seuss and Slick Rick.


– From Tania Grossinger’s
Jackie and Me: A Very Special Friendship


(Sky Pony Press, 2013)
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Anything else you want to add? What’d I forget to ask you?

Charles: I am very honored to contribute my voice to the amazing culture of picture books and to be talking about my work on Seven Imp! I consider this blog to be the best for discovering how awesome picture books can be. I hope to inspire everyone, especially people in the Bronx, where few are exposed to the visual arts. Also, I would love to adapt Red, Yellow, Blue (And a Dash of White, Too!) into a film. So, if Alejandro Jodorowsky or Ben Zeitlin are reading this, call me!


(Click to enlarge photo of Charles)

RED, YELLOW, BLUE (AND A DASH OF WHITE, TOO!) Copyright © 2015 by Charles George Esperanza. Published by Sky Pony Press, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Charles.

Photos of Charles taken by Manny Sy and used by Charles’ permission.

* * *

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) I appreciate Charles’ kind words, and his art woke me RIGHT UP before I even had coffee.

2) Starting a project I should have started a good while ago.

3) My girls and I are reading Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird. We are enjoying it, and check out the beautiful cover art from Sophie Blackall:

4) Laura Marling’s South X lullaby at NPR.

5) Laura’s new CD is playing in its entirety here, and it’s good stuff.

6) We saw Song of the Sea on the big screen. Holy WOW, such beautiful animation.

7) We also saw What We Do in the Shadows. So funny, this movie.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #424: Featuring C. G. Esperanza, last added: 3/22/2015
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23. Little Blue and Little Yellow (1959)

Board book: Little Blue and Little Yellow. Leo Lionni. 1959/2011. Random House. 42 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: This is little blue. Here he is at home with papa and mama blue. Little blue has many friends but his best friend is little yellow who lives across the street. 

Premise/plot: Little blue and Little yellow are best, best friends. One day Little blue goes over to play with Little yellow. He wasn't home, no one was home. He worries. He must find Little yellow! Luckily, he finds him. He was just around the corner. They hug. That's when something happens...Little Blue and Little Yellow turn green. Oh no! What will their parents say?

My thoughts: I had no idea that this book was first published in 1959! I love this sweet story of family and friendship and blending colors. The story is simple, yet full of emotion. The art is simple, but bold. Have you read it? Did you like it? love it? I'd love to hear what you thought of this one!


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Oksana Lushchevska: An International Collaboration

What a treat I have for readers today, especially those of you who, like me, enjoy following international picture books. In fact, next week is the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy (how I wish I were going!), so the timing of this post is particularly good.

Today, I welcome Oksana Lushchevska, a PhD student in Reading, Writing, Children’s Literature, and Digital Literacy in the Department of Language and Literacy Education at The University of Georgia. She is contributing a guest post on contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature. Oksana’s doctoral research is focused on international children’s literature, and she also translates picture books from Ukraine into the English language, some of which have been awarded the Bologna Ragazzi Award. She also works with a private publishing house in Ukraine, creating bilingual picture books for children.

Oksana reached out to me to see if she could write here at 7-Imp about Ukrainian picture books. “I strongly believe that contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature might be of interest in the U. S.,” she told me, “especially bilingual picturebooks and award-winning translations.”

I was so pleased she contacted me; I’m glad to have met her, if only online; and I am grateful she is contributing this post today, especially since it’s filled with art. She calls this piece “Contemporary Ukrainian Children’s Picturebooks: Why Shouldn’t We Welcome Them?” Let’s get right to it …

* * *

Oksana: First of all, I am very thankful to Jules for this wonderful opportunity to introduce contemporary Ukrainian picturebooks on her marvelous blog, which I’ve been following for quite a while. To briefly introduce myself, I’d say that I can surely call myself a children’s literature enthusiast, and my involvement in children’s literature is multifold. I must admit that all my activities often divide my daily routines into two parts: my “Ukrainian” phase of the day and my “American” phase of the day (because of the seven-hour time difference). It is sometimes really challenging, but is also very interesting!

I am currently a third-year PhD student at the University of Georgia, researching and studying U.S. and international children’s literature. Together with my academic advisor, Dr. Jennifer Graff, I am serving as a columnist for the “How Does That Translate” column. Additionally, I regularly contribute to the IBBY European Newsletter, which focuses on contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature. From time to time, I am doing children’s book reviews for Bookbird, WOW, JoLLE, the WGRCLC Blog, and several Ukrainian literary websites.

Three years ago, my friend Valentyna Vzdulska, a Ukrainian children’s book author, and I co-established Kazkarka, a blog about children’s literature written in the Ukrainian language. A year ago, I initiated a Kickstarter project, A Step Ahead: Becoming Global with Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks, and I cherish the incomparable experience that I am gaining from it!

In my spare time, I write my own children’s books in the Ukrainian language and translate contemporary Ukrainian children’s literature into English. Also, from time to time, I work on interviews with international children’s book writers.

In this post, I would like to present five contemporary Ukrainian picturebooks. These books might effectively foster global awareness and visual literacy, broaden cultural horizons, and provide social messages with “a high degree of cultural authenticity” (Markus, 2010, p. 50). They might also serve as a set of quality titles to start communication about similarities and differences between cultures via both vibrant verbal and visual narratives.

Perhaps, the strongest picturebook that features the Ukrainian landscape is A Tale about an Old Lion, written by a popular Ukrainian poet, Marjana Savka, and illustrated by Volodymyr Shtanko. A Tale about an Old Lion is a “postcard” of the “cultural” capital of Ukraine — the city of Lviv. The main character of this book is an Old Lion who settles on a mansard of the City Hall, which is home to the City Council and is one of the most cherished symbols in Lviv. From his perch there, the Lion admires picturesque views of the Old City. Since the weather is often rainy in Lviv, the Old Lion’s ceiling starts to leak. He needs immediate assistance with its major repairs and maintenance. His friends—a Crocodile, Elephant, and Giraffe—come to Lviv to help. On their way, the guests get into a number of misfortunes and turbulences, but in the end, the Mayor of the city welcomes all of them and invites them to enjoy Lviv. The story’s ending offers a verbal invitation to tourists all over the world to come to Lviv and see with their own eyes the welcoming atmosphere of an ancient city:

Tell me, have you still not heard of the city of Lviv?
Hurry right now to book hundreds of tickets indeed.
Invite all your relatives and closest friends,
Come to Lviv soon, come to our land!
This is a city where you’re bound to be lucky,
Poets and singers think it’s just ducky!
There are squares, and cobblestones, shiny tram tracks,
And on the oldest mansard, the Lion still lives,
He drinks some tea and smokes a pipe,
And books for children he happily writes!

A Tale about an Old Lion offers not only vivid views of the city and the layouts of its famous landscapes, but also warm colors in the illustrations, brown and yellow, that depict a unique authentic state of both the old and contemporary Lviv. Since the city is often known as “the city of coffee” with its numerous coffee houses and pastry shops, this particular color palette is the best choice to recreate the aroma of the city.




(Click each image to enlarge)

A Tale about an Old Lion was published in Lviv in 2011 by the Old Lion Publishing House. The book was awarded the Best Book of the Year Award and was included in the White Raven Online Catalogue, 2012.

The bilingual picturebook “Монетка”/A Coin is written by Ania Chromova and illustrated by Anna Sarvira. This playful story offers the universal experiences of a child: activities during daycare and relationships with parents and friends. When Romko receives a coin from his mother, he takes it to his daycare. Unfortunately, Romko has a hole in his pocket, and he losses the coin without noticing. At first he gets upset, but not for long, since he acquires something much more valuable — a rewarding communication with his father, who helps him to understand that humor and imagination can be essential to overcoming misfortune. While A Tale about an Old Lion represents Lviv, “Монетка”/A Coin recreates some geographical and cultural must-see places in Kyiv, the official capital of Ukraine. This book provides a vibrant visual experience that moves readers through the pages of an unfolding story. Additionally, it is important to mention that this book was published as part of the project A Step Ahead: Becoming Global with Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks, which is an on-going bilingual picturebook project that provides some important possibilities for literacy practices and developing global awareness. With the emphasis on two languages, this book provides advantages to learn from/about Ukrainian children’s literature, to familiarize readers with the Ukrainian language, to use this literature in educational settings and Ukrainian immigrant communities, and to assist Ukrainian readers in learning the English language. It also contributes to the body of bilingual picturebooks that offer a joyful reading experience.


… “‘It looks like a dried apricot!’ said Romko. ‘It also clanks.
Mommy, may I take it to the daycare?'”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


… “‘It’s not magical, daddy. It’s not magical!
It’s holey!’ Romko grew angry. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“‘I can put the Earth in it. Or, the entire Ukraine. Together with the Dnipro River!'” …
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Another book that was published through this project is a picturebook Скільки?/How many?, a poem written by Halyna Kyrpa and illustrated by Olha Havrylova.

 


(Click to enlarge cover)


 

The text of this poem raises many philosophical questions and might stimulate deep critical thinking:

Скільки у сонця промінчиків? / How many rays does the sun have?
А скільки хмарок у небі? / And how many clouds are in the sky?
А скільки піщинок на березі річки? / How many grains of sand are there on a riverbank?
А скільки хвиль у Дніпра? / And how many waves are in the Dnipro River?


 


“How many rays does the sun have?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“And how many clouds are in the sky?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“And how many waves are in the Dnipro River?”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Both “Монетка”/A Coin and Скільки?/How Many? were published in Kyiv in 2014 and 2015 by Bratske Publishers. Скільки?/How Many? is recommended by the Ukrainian “Critic’s Rating.”

A traditional Ukrainian folk tale, The Mitten, designed by Art Studio Agrafka (Andriy Lesiv and Romana Romanyshyn), is—to put it in Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles’ words (2012)—“‘the unique art’ of picturebooks” (p. 50). The story about a mitten is primarily known in the U.S. due to Jan Brett’s version.

A Ukrainian version of The Mitten was retold and recorded in the 19th century. It is a cumulative folktale that tells the story of how an old man loses his mitten in the forest and how a number of animals try to fit in it. Lesiv and Romanyshyn’s The Mitten not only has full-color illustrations, but also represents the meaningful and thoughtful process of creating a book as a cultural artifact. The designers masterfully reinterpret the traditional story and offer an adorable example of synthesis between text and image. Page by page, they demonstrate a number of design variations to introduce the artistic merits of contemporary Ukrainian illustrators and the printing technology available in Ukraine. The Mitten can generate a broad and “an effective cultural message” (Marcus, 2010, p. 49), while revealing a new version of a well-known folktale for English-speaking communities.

 




(Click each image to enlarge)


 

This picturebook was published by the Navchal’na Knyha – Bohdan Publishing House. It was included in the White Raven Catalogue, 2013 and was given an award by Biennial of Illustration Bratislava (BIB).

 

Another picturebook by Romana Romanyshyn and Andriv Lesiv, Stars and Poppy Seeds, narrates the story of a young girl, Dora, who is interested in mathematics. She is the daughter of well-known mathematicians, and she inherits her parents’ enthusiasm for figures and numbers. Dora counts everything around her: real and imagined animals, grains of rice, beads on her mother’s necklace, stars in the sky, and even poppy seeds. Figures are always in her head. While admiring the Milky Way, Dora plans to count all the particles of stardust. However, she finds this task to be impossible. Dora is upset, but her mother explains that to achieve any dream, one needs to handle challenging tasks by accomplishing small steps. Romanyshyn and Lesiv’s illustrations of mathematical, geometrical, and astronomical features connect readers with science, while emphasizing the humanities as well. Stars and Poppy Seeds was awarded the Bologna Ragazzi Award 2014 in the category of Opera Prima. It is translated into four languages (French, Korean, Spanish, and English). It was published in 2014 by the Old Lion Publishing House.

 


“Dora strove to count everything around her. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“During a walk in the park, Dora counted the leaves, dandelions, stones,
ants moving every which way, the buttons on coats of passersby,
and even the holes in those buttons.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“… Looking at the Milky Way, Dora imagined the stardust and
strove to count each of its particles.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

In a nutshell, these are five selected Ukrainian picturebooks that I wanted to share with enthusiasts of children’s literature, but there are many, many others! Additionally, I want to say that the English translations of the texts of these picturebooks are available. Starting in the summer of 2013, I co-translated these picturebooks, together with Michael M. Naydan, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, and cherish a wish that one day these books will be published in the U.S. and reach U.S. readers.

In her article “Where Worlds Meet,” Maria Machado (2011) reinterprets the possibility of building and extending an understanding of humankind by touching on the marvelous diversity between cultures (p. 397). She believes that representing the art of literature created all over the world will provide opportunities to cross borders, to meet neighbors, to get to know different people, and to see a variety of landscapes. Moreover, it will offer the possibility of fueling readers with unknown languages and authentic reflections of their otherness. Machado raises the question: “… why not meet otherness through what otherness creates?” (p. 398). Indeed, I believe that the best way to represent the rich experiences of voices from many countries is to translate and read what is created and written in them. In this scope, contemporary picturebooks for children from Ukraine not only represent creative approaches and perspectives of Ukrainian authors and artists, but invite readers to enjoy many exciting literary journeys. Today, Ukrainian children’s literature strives to claim its place on the international stage, so why shouldn’t we welcome it?

References

  • Khromova, A. (2015). “Монетка”/A coin. Kyiv, Ukraine: Bratske Publishers.
  • Kyrpa, H. (2014). Скільки?/How many? Kyiv, Ukraine: Bratske Publishers.
  • Machado, A.M. (2010). “Where worlds meet.” In Shelby Wolf et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on children’s and young adult literature (pp. 397-403). New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Marcus, L. S. (2010). “Outside over where?: Foreign picture books and the dream of global awareness.” The Horn Book, 86(6), 45.
  • Romanyshyn, R., & Lesiv, A. (2012). The mitten. Ternopil, Ukraine: Navchal’na Knyha – Bohdan.
  • Romanyshyn, R., & Lesiv, A. (2014) Stars and poppy seeds. Lviv, Ukraine: Old Lion Publishing House.
  • Savka, M. (2011). A tale of old lion. Lviv, Ukraine: Old Lion Publishing House.

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25. Picture Book Monday with a review of Such a Little Mouse

Some picture books have wonderful rich stories that catapult you into a different world and take you on a grand adventure. Other picture books are quieter, more contemplative, in nature. Today's picture book review title is just such a book. The story is a very simple one, and yet it is still meaningful and incredibly enriching.

Such a little mouseSuch a little mouse
Alice Schertle
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-64929-2
It is spring and a little mouse, who lives in a burrow in the middle of a meadow under a clump of dandelions, pops his head out of his hole and takes in the world around him. He explores, watching a snail and bees go about their business. He listens to the sound of a woodpecker hammering away at a tree. Next the little mouse looks at his reflection in a puddle and then he heads off home, a little seed in his mouth. He goes down a tunnel into his kitchen, down another tunnel to his bedroom, and then down yet another tunnel to his storeroom, where the shelves are mostly bare.
   On a summer morning the little mouse “pops out of his hole” and heads out to check on his neighbors. He watches the beavers, who are busy working on their lodge in the pond, and then pops in to visit a toad who has set up house under an upside down flower pot. At the end of the day the mouse carries a sprig of watercress home and he puts it in his store room, which is starting to fill up.
   When fall comes around, leaves lie on the ground and the mouse has a grand time tunneling through them. Everywhere he turns he sees and hears signs that winter is coming. Animals are on the move and there is a lot of work to be done. At the end of the day the mouse carries a big acorn back to his storeroom.
   In this delightful and gently sweet picture book we go through the seasons with an industrious little mouse, whose days are full of visits, explorations, and food collecting work.
   Throughout the book beautiful illustrations capture little mouse’s world to perfection. The pictures take us into his world, even down into his cunning little home, and we cannot help growing fond of our new little friend. We watch the seasons unfold in gorgeous color, and can appreciate how much joy is to be had from life’s little pleasures.

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