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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 7,794
26. The Launch Continues...

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

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


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27. Yet More Darwin at The Little Crooked Cottage
















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

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28. Imagine a City by Elise Hurst




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



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


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






Source: Review Copy

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29. Wonderful New Picture Book is Out!

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

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



Want to buy the book? Visit it on Amazon.


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30. The Kraken's Rules for Making Friends by Brittany R. Jacobs



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

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








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

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

Soure: Review Copy

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31. Picture Book Monday with a review of Imagine a City

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

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

   

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32. We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen



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




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

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






Source: Review Copy

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33. Hooray for Today

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

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

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

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

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34.


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


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





















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

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




Source: Review Copy

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35. Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp



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


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



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

 America being read to in my library

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

Source: Review Copy

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36. Pirate's Perfect Pet by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Matt Myers




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


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



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

Source: Review Copy

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37. Charles Darwin ~ Book Birthday!

























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

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

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

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38. Picture Book Monday with a review of Madeline Finn and the library dog

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

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

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39. Eat, Sleep, Poop

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

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

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

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

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


© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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40. Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz



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


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


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


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


Source: Review Copy

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41. Darwin ~ Publishers Weekly Review
















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

Read the full review here...

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


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


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

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


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




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





Source: Review Copy


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43. Author Interview: Monique Gray Smith on My Heart Fills With Happiness & Advice for Beginning Writers

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How have you grown as writer over time? 

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

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

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

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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44. The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel


The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel is a picture book for both kids AND parents. I am not a helicopter parent by any stretch of the imagination and my kids are not over-scheduled. That said, I have signed them up for various classes and worried that they weren't getting the most out of them as they whined about having to go or, even worse (and predictably) complained about having to practice. Then I worried that I was forcing them to do something that I thought was important but would never be important to them. Then I worried that they would reach adulthood without realizing their creative or athletic potential (why did my mother let me quit piano lessons? And guitar lessons??) and maybe miss out on a scholarship or two. For me, reading The Cranky Ballerina was a huge catharsis. Maybe I am reading too much into Gravel's delightfully charming book, maybe I am just carrying a ton of parental guilt around with me. Either way, The Cranky Ballerina is a fantastic read, whoever you are, whatever lessons you took and whatever lessons your parents let you quit or you let your kids quit...

It's Saturday and Ada wakes up cranky. She hates everything, from her too-tight leotard to her itchy tutu to the car ride. Ada hates ballet.  She hates to practice and her pirouettes are nearly catastrophic. Fourth position sends her swirling into the hall where she head butts a guy dressed in "some kind of pajamas" who asks, "Do you think you could do that again for my class?"



Turns out that guy in weird pajamas is a karate instructor and Ada has all the right moves for his class! "Front kick! Swoosh! Side Punch! Roundhouse kick! Swat!" Ada learns something new and feels something new - a smile spreads across her face as she feels, for the first time, successful at something. The penultimate page of The Cranky Ballerina shows Ada, in her tutu, practicing with the class. The final page turn show a classmate in his ghee thinking, "I hate karate."

Genius! Brilliant! I am in love with Elise Gravel's books and can't wait to see what she does next! 

Source: Review Copy


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45. Dog Loves Drawing

Dog Loves Drawing. Louise Yates. 2012. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dog loved books. He loved books so much that he opened his own bookshop.

Premise/plot: Dog receives a package from his Aunt Dora. It is a blank sketch book. Dog knows just what to do: he grabs his drawing supplies and draws a door. Not wanting to be alone, he draws some friends: a stick man and a duck. His drawings soon start drawing too. Soon they are joined by an owl and a crab. It is Owl's idea to go on an outing--and it is with the outing that the ADVENTURE begins. (They start out on a train...) Soon Dog's sketchbook is FULL.

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one very much. I thought it was fun, playful, creative, charming. I really enjoyed all the drawing adventures. It is, of course, a bit like Harold and the Purple Crayon. I really enjoyed the characterization and the action. For example, "While the duck was arguing with the others about who should drive, the stickman drew himself a driver's hat, scribbled some steam, and...they were off!" I love seeing Dog and Duck argue! The expressions on the crab and owl are pretty priceless as well.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. Dog Loves Counting

Dog Loves Counting. Louise Yates. 2013. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dog loved books. He loved reading them late into the night and didn't like to leave them for long.

Premise/plot: Dog knows he should go to bed, but, he's having trouble falling to sleep. He decides to count something--not sheep--to help him sleep. So he opens a book, finds himself inside, of course--Dog gets lost in books, becoming part of the action--and starts to find things to count. He makes friends too, of course.

My thoughts: Of the three books, this is my least favorite. I still love Dog as a character. And I can even relate to not wanting to put down his book and go to bed. But as an adult reader, I can't really lose myself in a book that focuses on counting from one to ten and back again. I just can't. For young children, of course, this one is still recommended. But it feels more 'educational' than the previous two in the series.

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

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. New Voice & Giveaway: Maria Gianferrari on Penny & Jelly

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

Maria Gianferrari writes both fiction and nonfiction picture books from her sunny, book-lined study in northern Virginia, with her dog Becca as her muse.

Maria’s debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder (2015) led to Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars (2016)(both HMH Books). 

Maria has seven picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press, Aladdin Books for Young Readers, GP Putnam’s Sons and Boyds Mills Press in the coming years.

Could you tell us about your writing community--your critique group or partner or other sources of emotional, craft and/or professional support?

In the spirit of my main character, Penny, an avid list maker, here are my top five answers:

1. Ammi-Joan Paquette:

I am so grateful for my amazing agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette!

Where do I begin? I owe my writing career to Joan, for taking a chance on and believing in me. She has been sage guide, a cheerleader and champion of my writing from the get go.

She’s made my writing dream come true!!

2. Crumpled Paper Critique (CP):

I would not be where I am today without my trusted writing friends and critique partners: Lisa Robinson, Lois Sepahban, Andrea Wang, Abigail Calkins Aguirre and Sheri Dillard. They have been such a wonderful source of support over the years, in good times, and in bad.

Yes—it’s kind of like a marriage—that’s how dedicated we are to each other’s work! They’re smart, thoughtful, insightful, well read, hard-working and the best critique partners one could hope for!

We have a private website where we share not only our manuscripts, but our opinions on books, ideas, writing inspiration and doubts. I treasure them and wish we lived closer to one another to be able to meet regularly in person. Hugs, CPers!



3. Emu’s Debuts:

Like many other writers, I’m quite a shy and introverted person. If you’ve seen that classic hamster ball cartoon about introverts, that’s me! Having a book debut is extremely intimidating.

I was so lucky to have joined the ranks of Emu’s Debuts, so named for clients and debut authors affiliated with Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA).

The Emu’s Debuts blog is a place for sharing thoughts on the craft of writing and illustrating, being debuts, and most importantly, helping launch our books into the world. I have since fledged, but it was so helpful, reassuring and fun to be a part of this community of very talented, kind and generous people. Check out the current flock of Emus.



4. Tara Lazar:

Picture book author extraordinaire, and founder of PiBoIdMo (picture book idea month), Tara has also been a generous supporter, not just of me, but for all the pre and published picture book authors and illustrators out there. Thousands of writers participate and are inspired by guest posts during PiBoIdMo, November’s picture book idea challenge. She shares insights on craft, the field of publishing, new books, interviews, giveaways, etc. on her popular blog, Writing for Kids (While Raising Them), throughout the year.

When the news of the Penny & Jelly sale broke, Tara kindly offered to host me of her blog. Later, she invited to be a contributor for PiBoIdMo, and last year she also participated in my blog tour for Penny & Jelly.

5. Kirsten Cappy of Curious City:

Kirsten’s a kidlit marketing guru and owner of Curious City. She was invaluable in sorting through the mire that is promotion.

Kirsten’s clever and creative and had so many wonderful ideas for promoting Penny & Jelly in ways that would be most comfortable for an introvert like me. She designed a Jelly banner with original art from illustrator Thyra Heder for use as a photo booth so kids could “be” Penny and pose with Jelly, as well as gorgeous postcards and business cards.

I especially love the talent show kit for library and classroom use that Kirsten designed. Please feel free to share and use it.

As a picture book writer, you have succeeded in a particularly tough market. What advice do you have for others, hoping to do the same?

1. Write What You Love:

Write what you’re obsessed with. This will help you not only endure the inevitable rejections along the way, but also the winding road of revision.

My debut nonfiction book, Coyote Moon, was released this July. It initially began as an article on suburban coyotes for "Highlights."

Well, "Highlights" rejected it, but I wasn’t ready to let go of my manuscript.

The coyotes kept howling in my head, so it morphed into a poetic picture book.

Several revisions later, it won a Letter of Commendation for a Barbara Karlin grant from SCBWI; many more revisions later, it was acquired by Emily Feinberg at Roaring Brook Press. And I am so in love Bagram Ibatoulline’s illustrations. They are absolutely stunning!

2. Read. Read. Read:

Then read some more. I once read that before attempting to write one picture book, we should first read 1,000. But don’t just read them, see them as teachers, as mentor texts for your own work.

One of the most helpful exercises is to hand-write or type the words of my favorite picture book texts, to feel the rhythm of the and pulse of the story in my fingers, to get under the story’s skin—see its bones or structure and the way the muscles and sinews, rhythm, refrain and repetition, are bound together. Doing this helps us find a story’s heart, its elusive soul and helps us understand our own work.

Consider joining founder Carrie Charley Brown’s ReFoReMo, where picture books are studied as mentor texts. Get ready to dig deep!


3. Don’t Give Up!

Persevere! Keep swimming! Rejection is at the heart of this journey and it’s not usually a linear journey, it’s more circuitous, with ups and downs along the way.

Take it one day, one moment at a time, and celebrate all of your successes, both big and small.

And remember, keep improving your craft, and building your connections, you will get there!

(See #1 again)

4. Play and Experiment:

To find your writing voice, play with different points of view. Change genres. Try out different structural techniques like letters, or a diary format or lists, like I did with Penny & Jelly.

Think about the shape of your story. Is it circular? Could it be a journey? Would a question and answer format enhance it? Does it have a refrain?

I’m not an illustrator, but you can do the same kinds of things to find your visual voice—switch sketching for sewing, or painting for clay. And most of all, embrace your inner kid and have fun!

5. Reach Out:

Connect with your local and online writing community—there are so many valuable resources out there. You’re reading Cynsations, so that’s a great start! If you haven’t already joined SCBWI and found a critique group, that’s a must. As I mentioned above, join Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge in November, or Paula Yoo’s NaPiBoWriWee to write a picture book a day, which takes place in May.

There’s a plethora of writing groups on Facebook. One I highly recommend is Kidlit411, co-run by Elaine Kieley Kearns and Sylvia Liu. It’s such a wealth of information for authors and illustrators on writing/illustrating craft, on promotion, on submissions for agents and editors, revision—all kinds of things. And to borrow Jane Yolen’s title, above all, Take Joy!

Cynsational Giveaway


Enter to win an author-signed copy of Penny & Jelly: The School Show and Penny & Jelly: Slumber Under the Stars. Eligibility: U.S. only. From the promotional copy:

This young and funny picture book introduces the soon-to-be star of her school talent show: Penny. Despite her desire to knock everyone's socks off, Penny's having a tough time deciding on what talent she might have. With a little help from her dog, Jelly, Penny tries out various talents—from dancing to unicycling, fashion designing to snake charming—with disastrous results. That is, until she realizes that she and Jelly have a talent to share that's unlike any other.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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48. Sprains, Strains, and New Directions

New Akashiya Sai Watercolor Pens: the full set!

Two weeks ago I sprained my ankle. I was on the way to my writer’s group at the Albuquerque Museum and while I was walking through the car park, I stepped on an extended sprinkler head hidden by a covering of gravel. The pain of the event is indescribable: a spike through the ball of my foot, sending me into a contorted loss of balance, that then resulted in a totally twisted ankle and foot. Somehow I limped to my meeting, managed to converse for the next few hours, and then went home to collapse. Ice and pain killers got me through the worst of it, but my foot is still very tender as is my other foot and leg, as well as my back and shoulders from all the strain of hop-hop-hopping along every day to get from A to B.

By the third day of hoppity-hop I wanted to know WHY this had happened to me. Besides knowing that I wasn’t looking where I was going (I rarely do), I wondered if there could be some sort of symbolism or metaphysical lesson to be learned here. I did a quick Google search and got the same message several times over: a sprained ankle is an indication that you are to seek out a new direction. 

Sitting with my foot elevated and my stack of books and journals handy, I decided that the only new direction I wanted at that moment was to close my eyes and nap all day. But apparently the universe had other ideas. Almost immediately after reading several websites each saying the same thing about following new paths, the mail arrived and I received some new pens I ordered online several weeks earlier: a twenty-color set of Akashiya Sai Watercolor Brush Pens, along with a sampler set of eleven black drawing pens. Thirty-one pens in total. For a minimalist such as myself, the number was mind-boggling, and thoroughly distracting. It was like when I got a ball of Silly Putty when I was five and had chicken pox.

Right away I forgot about my nap and started to try out my new pens. After all, my journal was right there in front of me. As I was doodling, I then naturally got some new ideas (no, no, please no new ideas): 

  • Why not try Inktober this year? Similar to NaNoWrimo for writers, Inktober is a challenge to produce, and post on social media, an ink drawing a day for the entire month of October. I've always wanted to try it, but never had the courage to post daily. While I was thinking about this, I then had the idea to:
  • Finally start that children’s picture book I’ve been dreaming of since last year, which involves:
  • Learning to draw horses and ponies (the most difficult subject I can think of). 


Three new directions that are entirely do-able, don’t interfere too much with my already carefully-laid plans to work on my new novel, and if anything, enhance what I’m doing already. For instance, I draw every day anyway—so why not just work with ink for a month? And although I am currently marketing my picture book based in Barcelona, wouldn’t it be a good idea to be able to tell editors I am working on a second book? 

An interesting side note about learning to draw horses is that horses have delicate legs and ankles. Their feet must be considered and cared for in a serious and responsible way. Where they walk, how their shoes fit, and how they're exercises all matters. It made me think that what I need to do until the end of the year is to keep my eyes open, pay attention, and sit still long enough to get my work done. 

Thankfully, I can report that my own foot is on the mend and I'm certain I'll be  back to my old self in another week or two. But I also understand that there’s plenty of room for a new self, too--especially the one that gets to sit down all day!

Tip of the Day: According to metaphysical practitioners, there’s a lot we can learn from illness and injuries. In my case, despite the pain and inconvenience, I feel I’ve come through with some valuable insights and renewed energy for my art and writing. The next time you’re under the weather, ask if there is anything you are meant to understand or explore on a deeper level. Like me, you might be surprised at what you discover.

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49. Picture Book Monday with a review of It's a book

For many young people today a book is digital file on a tablet. Print books just aren't a part of their lives. I read books in both formats but I generally prefer a printed book. There is something about how a book feels, how it looks sitting on a shelf, and even how it smells that I love. I have books in almost every room in my home, and book cover images appear in frames on my walls.

In today's picture book you will meet a character who has no idea what a print book is. He is puzzled by the book that his friend is reading because it cannot be twitched on, it doesn't noises, nor can you play games on it. What is the point of a book he wonders. What indeed!

It's a BookIt’s a book
Lane Smith
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Roaring Brook, 2010, 978-1-59643-606-0
One day Jackass comes over to where Monkey is reading. Jackass asks Monkey what he has in his hands. Monkey explains that it is a book. Jackass is not sure what a book does so he asks Monkey a lot of questions about the strange object that he is holding.
   Jackass wants to know if you can scroll down with a book or blog with it. Does it have a mouse? Can it make characters fight? Does it tweet or use wi-fi- or make noise like Jackass’s laptop? It turns out that a book cannot do any of these things. Monkey shows Jackass that the book he is reading has a story in it about pirates. In Jackass’s opinion there are too many words. As he takes the book and goes to sit down, Jackass learns that the book does not even have a screen name, nor do you need a password to read it. How bizarre!
   This wonderful book shows young readers all the things that a book isn’t. Then, in a sneaky and completely silent way, it shows us the wonderful magic that can be found in an object that does not need a power cable, upgrades, or a mouse pad.
   With a minimal text, delightful characters, and touches of humor, Lane Smith gives readers a fantastic reading experience.

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50. New in Nonfiction: Animal Legs

animallegs_cover

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

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

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

A: Whose Animal Legs do you find most interesting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A: What do you have coming up next? 

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

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

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


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