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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 6,085
26. #660 – In This Book by Fani Marceau & Joёlle Jolivet

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In This Book

Written by Fani Marceau
Illustrations by Joёlle Jolivet
Chronicle Books                8/01/2014
978-1-4521-2588-6
Age 3 to 5            94 pages
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“I am in the poppy, said the bee. I am in the nest, said the bird. I am in space, said the planet . . . And there is beauty all around us!

“From bestselling author and illustrator duo Fani Marceau and Joёlle Jolivet comes an art-immersive experience featuring early concepts and themes for infants, toddlers, and anyone delighted by the wonders of everyday life. Inspired by linocut art techniques, the illustrations offer windows onto ordinary objects and experiences. Open the book, delve into the details, and discover animals, people, and surprises large and small gracing each oversized page in this whimsical book that makes the perfect springboard for storytelling, learning, and dreaming.”

Opening

“I am in the poppy, said the bee.”

In This Book_Int_Barette and Nest

Review

At first glance, one would think In This Book about finding the bee in the poppy or the bird in the nest. The objects that are in things are not hard to find. This is not another Where’s Waldo type of art book for children. Far from it. In This Book brings a certain amount of sophistication to the picture book genre for very young children. A total of 52 images fill the pages. A few run the full spread but most just the single page. All begin with the phrase,

“I am in the [blank], said the [object in the blank].”

Repetition is good for this age group, yet reading this first-person phrase over and over and over becomes tiresome. Young children should have no trouble finding the object on each page and will enjoy their success. The biggest problem with the text is a lack of story. The languid phrase “I am in the . . . “is the only connection between each page, each object. Interestingly, the final spread is that of a child asleep in the lap of a sleeping adult. Wonderfully, the adult is dad, who does not get his share of representation in picture books. The child is holding a book—In This Book—and I wonder if the phrasing put them to sleep or if it was simply that time of day.

In This Book_Int_Box and Boat

The illustrations are an art technique called a linocut. For those, like myself, who need an explanation of a linocut, there is a wonderful visual explanation of the art from HERE. Once the illustration is drawn onto a piece of art-grade linoleum, and the artist carves out their image, the result is used somewhat like a stamp to make the prints that became this book. The carved linoleum must be a reverse-cut of the image, meaning any part of the image remaining white is carved out of the linoleum. The areas inked remain untouched. This is a rather simplest explanation. For those who want a better, visual “mini-lesson” in the art of linocut printing, please click HERE. (This is the same link as the above link.)

I think the fun In This Book comes from the stories a reader can make up about each object. Why did the monkey sit in the tree? Why is there only one person on the multi-car train? This spread of the train is a wonder shade of purple in a backdrop of green and purple. It looks to be a super train or a bullet train. Where might it be doing? The number of questions and stories imaginable are endless for each object. Those question, or simply talking about the illustrations, can further stimulate each child’s imagination and sense of wonder. For every reading, the stories can change, making In This Book a never-ending adventure.

In This Book_Int_Arms

IN THIS BOOK. Text copyright © 2012 by Fani Marceau. Illustrations © 2012 by Joёlle Jolivet. Reproduced by permission of the US publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.
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Purchase a copy of In This Book at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Booksyour favorite bookstore.

In This Book, originally published in France, in 2012 by hélium, is entitled, Dans le livre.

Learn more about In This Book HERE.
Meet the author, Fani Marceau, at her website:
Meet the illustrator, Joёlle Jolivet, at her website:
Find additional picture books at the Chronicle Books’ website:   http://www.chroniclekids.com/
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Also by Fani Marceau

Panorama: A Foldout Book

Panorama: A Foldout Book

My Big Book of Colours

My Big Book of Colours

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also by Joёlle Jolivet

Panorama: A Foldout Book

Panorama: A Foldout Book

365 Penguins

365 Penguins

Rapido's Next Stop

Rapido’s Next Stop

Oops!

Oops!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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in this book
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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book Tagged: children's book reviews, children's picture book reviews, Chronicle Books, Dans le livre, Fani Marceau, hélium, In This Book, Joёlle Jolivet, linocut, picture books

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27. Read & Romp Roundup: July/August 2014

I just realized that August was the four-year anniversary of Picture Books & Pirouettes. When I was starting the blog back in 2010, someone asked me if there were really enough dance-related picture books to keep the blog going. I had done my research, and I knew that the answer was yes. But, as time has gone on, even I have been amazed by the sheer number of movement-related books out there -- those that contain movement, those that inspire movement, and those that do both. And they just keep coming!

If you check out the left-hand column of the blog, you will see some new releases, some books that have been on the shelves for a little while, and some others that will be published in the next few months. The July/August Read & Romp Roundup also highlights many of these titles -- a true testament to this special niche in children's literature. Thanks for helping Picture Books & Pirouettes keep going strong!



At Playing by the Book, Zoe hosted a summer picture book party that included reading, dancing, and creative cooking and crafts. One of the books she featured was Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance, which inspired Zoe and her daughters to dance with abandon, just like Frances Dean learns to do in the book!


Thanks to Cathy Ballou Mealy, I also found a lovely review of Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance on the blog The Illustrated Forest. The author of the post sums up this beautiful book by Birgitta Sif so eloquently in the first few lines of the post that I hope it entices you to read the rest. "Birgitta Sif writes books for people like us; she takes characters that are introverted and makes them brave; she makes them heroes in their own way, and if you are a little shy that is truly uplifting."


Kathleen at Wild Things Yoga shares a yoga lesson plan, perfect for first and second graders, to go with the picture book I Wonder by Annaka Harris and John Rowe. Following a discussion of the book and what her students wonder about in general, Kathleen explores the concept of wondering using movement. For example, "I wonder what would happen if we try to balance on our hands?" and "I wonder what would happen if we try to put our head to our knees?" Fun!


At Picture-Book-a-Day, Amy shares one of her monthly picture book roundups, where she reviews four recent picture books. Two of the books -- Father's Chinese Opera by Rich Lo and I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison -- contain lots of movement. And if you're looking for movement ideas to go with I Got the Rhythm, Amy's got you covered! She features the book, along with movement ideas for preschool story time, in the August Book to Boogie post at the Library as Incubator Project.


The July Book to Boogie post at the Library as Incubator Project features the picture book Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault, and Ted Rand. Written by dance educator Maria Hanley, the enthusiastic post provides plenty of ideas for getting babies and toddlers moving with different body parts!


Thanks to Darshana Khiani, I found out about the blog All Done Monkey, which recently featured a board book about dances from India! Dances of India is the first in a series of four books created by two mothers who wanted to increase the availability of multicultural books for small children. With the help of two characters named Maya and Leela, the book takes readers on a journey across India, introducing four classical dances from distinct regions of the country.


I had the pleasure of meeting well-known author and illustrator Jules Feiffer at a children's writing conference a few years ago and was delighted when I stumbled across a video of him discussing his new picture book Rupert Can Dance. The MacMillan Children's Publishing Group hosts the wonderful one-minute video, during which Mr. Feiffer talks about his inspiration for the book.


I recently discovered the blog The Brown Bookshelf, which "is designed to push awareness of the myriad of African American voices writing for young readers." In July, the site highlighted two picture books about young girls inspired to dance. The first -- Firebird -- is written by Misty Copeland, who as a soloist for the American Ballet Theater was the first Black woman to star in the Firebird ballet. The second -- A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream -- is about a little girl who becomes inspired by the first Black prima ballerina, Janet Collins.


And last but not least, I discovered a post on The Book Chook featuring a new picture book out of Australia called Little Piggy's Got No Moves. Written by the husband and wife team of Phillip Gwynne and Eliza McCann with illustrations by Tom Jellett, the book celebrates the uniqueness of every child through a story about Little Piggy, who learns that he really can dance, even though no one thought piggies could groove. Check it out!

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28. Illustrator Saturday – Mehrdokht Amini

photoMehrdokht Amini has worked on many books for children. One of her latest picture book “Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns” in collaboration with” Hena Khan” has been highly praised and has been selected in the 2013 ALSC notable children’s booklist, which is a list of best of best in children’s book.

She lives in Surrey, England.

Below are her clients:

The British Museum Press,
Chronicle books
Random House
Stentor Publication
Harcourt Publishing
Overbrook Entertainment
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Here is Mehrdokht explaining her process:

This is the step-by-step process of one of the illustrations of the book that I have written myself. At the moment I am working on some samples of this book to take to the publishers. The book is called “The day I met Poppito.”

In this image, the main character of the book has come down for breakfast and sees that his parents are very annoyed by this news that a family of hippos have moved in next door to them. The mother is particularly not happy with the situation.

I start the project by first sketching the overall composition that I have in mind and a bit of character designing.

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 Gradually I delve into more details of the image .The character facial expressions are especially very important to convey the massage of the picture.2

 

I scan all the sketches and save the files in tiff format to make sure all the details are kept as accurately as possible for next stages. Then I start to take photos for my image based on the composition. I might not use all the photos I take but at this stage I try to gather whatever material I think might come in handy in later stages of the work.

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I might need the texture of a plastered wall.

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Or details of a room because it is an indoor image.

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After the sketches are finished and I am done with taking photos. I start working on the background of the image.

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I brush the surface of a watercolor paper with GOLDEN Molding Pastes a few times on intervals to get the desired texture and then I color the surface with Acrylics in layers. I put one layer of color, wait for it to get dry then repaint it again with another color. That’s because sometimes I scratch the surface to get to the layers underneath and have a more interesting surface.

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I take then everything to Photoshop. Here the floor needs to be change so I make another surface for it.

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I then fit it into its place in Photoshop in a separate layer. In the “Hue/Saturation” I bring down the saturation of the floor layer to zero and finally put it in the “soft light” mode so the layer beneath could be seen through.

There I arrange the sketches on the background in a different layer and change their mode on “intensity” to be able see through them. Then I start painting on them with the brush tool.

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Using my photos I work a bit more on the texture of the wall and the staircase.

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I feet the table perspective doesn’t really work this way so I change it too.

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Eventually this is how the picture looks like when finished.

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Finished image

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Book Covers

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Book covers

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How long have you been illustrating?

I went to Secondary School of Creative Arts in Iran and I remember once a teacher asked us to choose a story and make illustrations based on that. I chose “The Red Shoes” by Hans Christian Anderson and it was the first time I tried to illustrate a book. I enjoyed the process so much that I decided then that I wanted to continue my career in that direction. What I enjoyed most and continue to take pleasure in was that for a short time it gives me the opportunity to live in an imaginary world and create my own characters and scenes and share them with others.

75507

I see you attended Alzahra University in Tehran. How did you decide to study Graphic Design there?

After getting my Secondary school certificate in Art it was a natural thing for me to continue my higher education in the creative field. As there was no BA course available in illustration I decided to study in Graphic design. At the time it wasn’t a very well known subject to study in Iran and studying art was considered by many parents as something for the students who couldn’t do very well in scientific subjects. So I guess it was a brave act for my parents to go along with my desire to become an artist.

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What were you favorite classes?

I enjoyed life-drawing classes partly because we used to laugh a lot during that course. The thing is, in Iran a lot of restrictions are imposed on art students. As ridiculous as it might sound, in life drawing classes no nudity was allowed. So we had to sketch the models all dressed up. We had to guess what was under the folds of clothes and so occasionally our sketches looked ridiculous. I also enjoyed photography courses. It was the pre -digital era and we had to develop and print our photos in the dark room. I loved the dark room anticipation of seeing the result of the work appearing gradually on the paper and the various techniques we could do with the developing materials on the photo papers.

75509

Now that you live in the UK, do you think the Universities are different than the ones in Tehran?

They are totally different. Here the art students have the freedom of expressing their feeling with no boundaries whatsoever. It is an essential ingredient for an artist which some might take it for granted. Over there, there are many taboos and lines that could not be crossed.

75512

Did you immediately decide you wanted to get your MA in Art Research or did you get a job right out of college?

I was still in college when I got my first commission to illustrate a book. It took me some years to go back to university to get my MA and the reason I chose Art research was because I felt a lack of enough theoretical knowledge in myself.

75514

What types of things do you study when you go for a degree in Art Research?

I am not sure weather such a course is available here in MA degree or not. But over there it ranges from history and philosophy of art to critical thinking in art.

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What was your most interest class while going for your MA?

For me it was a course during which we did lots of discussions on contemporary theories of art. We worked mostly on “A reader’s guide to contemporary literary theory” by Raman Seldon and Peter Widdowson. There I learned for the first time about the developments of modern art theories; A fascinating subject that change my point of view not only on art but also on life itself.

75517

Did the School help you get work?

No, Unfortunately in Iran schools don’t feel any obligation to find work for the students.

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Do you feel the classes you took in college have influenced you style?

No, I don’t think so. They help me a lot in term of having a better critical mind as an artist and choosing my path. But thankfully the professors didn’t try to influence our style. I think it is a catastrophe when the art teachers try to impose their ideas on students. They should probably just show the ways and let them decide.

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

Apart from illustrating books I did occasional designing jobs here and there but I have always been freelance.

75503

What was the first art related work that you were paid?

The book that I did for “Khane Adabiat” publication during my BA was my first paid job.

64616

Do you have an agent or artist rep.? If so, who are you with? When did you join them and how did the two of you connect? If not, would you like to find representation?

Yes, I decided to find an agent for myself last year because I am not that good at representing myself.

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At the moment I am working with “The Illustrators Agency“(www.theillustratorsagency.com) based in Australia. So far we have been connected only through emails. They have managed to find me two book commissions so far from “Cengage Learning” which is a global educational publisher and I am very happy to be able to work with them.

22750

When and what was the first children’s book that you illustrated?

There is a very famous Iranian poet called “Ahmad Shamlou” who sadly passed away a few years ago. He has a few long poems, which in form are quite rhythmic and seem to be written for children but their contents occasionally have some political connotations.

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One day when I was still studying for my BA I decided to work on one of these poems and as it was not very long for a whole book, I came up with this idea to illustrate it in a new format. Something like a big three folded brochure. It worked and subsequently I worked on other poems of the same writer and some other famous contemporary poets in the same format.

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How did that contract come about?

I didn’t have any particular publishing house in mind at that time. The only thing I knew was that most of the publishing houses were clustered around a few avenues around Tehran University. So when I finished the draft of the work, I took in my portfolio case and started searching around in that area for a children’s book publisher. By chance I came to Khane Adabiat and the editor of the time liked the idea very much. Every thing started from there.

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Do you consider that book to be your first big success?

I do. It was vey successful and after more than fifteen years copies of it is still selling in Iran. But it is greatly due to the fact that the poet is very famous in Iran and these series of his work were only published in collections and not individually -illustrated format. The new format of the book also made it stand out in the shelves of the bookshops. But if I could illustrate them again I would totally change the illustrations!

28485

It looks like you did a large amount of books with Khane Adabiat Publications. Are they the big publishing house in Tehran?

At that time they weren’t huge but after some years they made a good name for themselves in children’s publishing industry in Iran.

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Have you tried to write and illustrate a children’s book, yet?

This is my ultimate goal to be able to illustrate my own stories.

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What made you move to the UK?

I guess it was destiny that brought me here!

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After ten years of publishing with Khane Adabiat Publications, you get to do a picture book with a publisher in Poland and Harcourt in the US. How did those two books contract come about?

I came to live in UK ten years ago and at first I didn’t know how to continue my career here as an freelance illustrator so I decided to learn Photoshop and Corel draw and try to find a job as a Graphic designer. It took me 6 months to learn these two software and during the process of learning them I discover how powerful they could be as a tool for making illustrations. Eventually I did a few digital pieces and decided to have a website to showcase them. These were the ones, which gained me these two commissions.

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What was it like to illustrate a picture book for the British Museum in the UK? Did they have an editor or art director?

It was a great honor for me to work with the British museum. Apparently Helen East, the author of the book “How the Olympic came to be”, had spotted my website and recommended me as the illustrator for her upcoming book with The British museum. We had a few meetings with the editor of the time and discussed the sketches together. It was a really enjoying experience.

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How did that come about?

It was a year before the London Olympics and the book was the story of Olympics through Greeks myths and legends. I was supposed to get inspiration from the objects of British museum related to the story for my pictures. It was really fun because it gave me the opportunity to study the classical period of Greek art and learn more about Greek mythology. I particularly fell in love with their ancient potteries and all the delicate silhouettes painted on them, each telling different stories about Greek heroes and villains.

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How did you hook up with Chronicle Books to illustrate GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS?

They had found me through childrensillustrators.com and contacted me to see whether I was interested to work on the “Golden domes and silver lanterns”.

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How did you connect with them?

Our contact was only through emails, which at the beginning created a bit of problem. We didn’t have the chance to discuss the pictures face to face and as a result my first round of sketches was almost completely rejected. I had imagined the settings to be depicted in an ancient time, whereas the editors and writer had a clear objective to have the story portrayed in a contemporary atmosphere.

I had to redo the sketches but I think eventually we were all happy with the final result.

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Do you feel living in the UK has broaden your career as an illustrator?

Living here has lifted many obstacles in my career. I have more access to different sources of inspiration and could keep myself up to date. In Iran many Internet sites are blocked and young artist have limited way of displaying their work or connecting with the rest of the world.

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What illustrating contract do feel really pushed you down the road to a successful career?

It is not one contract that helped me in my career but the whole portfolio of my work. Each piece has it’s own importance and has pushed me a bit forward. I am not completely satisfied with my early pieces and wish I had a chance redo them again but each had its own importance in my career.

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Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

When I was still in the university one of the teachers who was running a magazine for children asked me to do some illustrations for her but after that I didn’t have the chance to work for a children’s magazine any more.

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What materials do you use to paint your color illustrations?

I usually make a background with the help of GOLDEN Molding Pastes and acrylics or whatever medium I think is appropriate. Sometimes I paint straight on this background or use other surfaces for different part of the illustration, then I scan all the materials and take everything to Photoshop and continue to work on the image from there.

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

For some years now I have been subscribed to childrensillustrators.com and had some commissions coming from that site. Occasionally I send samples of my works to the publishers who accept unsolicited materials. Social medias is a powerful tool for getting noticed too but it is very time consuming and needs lots of dedication. Right now I am hoping that my agent will find me work so I could have more time for the creative side of work.

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

It is my digital pen.

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

Not really. When I start to work on a piece I lose the track of time.

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

Yes, I do take pictures all the time and with the help of Photoshop might use them in my illustrations too.

The research phase is the first and one of the most important parts of the work for me. It helps me to have a more accurate picture of story in my mind. For example I had a commission few years ago to do a few pieces based on a short story that was related to Hispanic culture. I had to do a long research through photos, their art, history etc… to familiarize myself with the setting in that story.

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Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Most definitely. All my commissions are coming from the Internet. But the truth is that as much as Internet had made the life easier for illustrators, in my opinion, it has created the problems of its own.

The industry is really tough and the competition for getting a commission is really high.

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Occasionally I am approached by clients who ask for a great amount of work in exchange for a ridiculously low fee. I usually say no because thankfully I’ve got other means to support myself, but I am sure there are illustrators in countries hit by economy crisis who might be happy to work with that amount of money. There are also graduate students who are willing to work for low fees just to have a published piece of work in their portfolio. So I guess it has created a bit of financial instability for illustrators too.

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Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

Yes, I work with Photoshop all the time but I try to use it carefully. The problem with digital work is that if you limit yourself to just drawing with a digital pen and nothing more, the end product would be something bland with no spontaneity in it. In manual works you often make mistakes, an unintentional drop of ink on the surface or a wrong stroke of the brush etc… that make the work even more interesting. So I try to have a mixture of manual and digital techniques in my works.

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

Yes, it is many years now that I have one and I think it is one of the best tools that I have bought for myself so far.

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

I wish that one day I get the chance to illustrate a collection of the “One thousand and one night”.

Many artists have tried it so far, among the best in my opinion is the one by Edmund Dulac but I think it still has a great potential for exploration and hope that one day the opportunity rises for me to do it too.

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What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on a story that I have written myself called “The day I met Popito” I have finished the first draft of the story and I am working on some samples to take to publishers now. The story is about a family who one day finds out that a family of hippos has moved next door to them. They are not happy about having hippos as their neighbors at all but in time they learn to know and appreciate each other more.

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I think the message in the story is probably appropriate for our time. More and more people come across a situation where they have to co-exist with people who might be different from them. Different in color of skin, nationality, religion etc… we have to find a way to harmoniously live together and accept our differences.

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

Recently I have bought this gadget from Wacom called “Inkling digital sketch pen”. While you sketch on paper with a ballpoint pen provided, it captures your sketches digitally and then you can transfer the files to your computer with a USB connection. It lacks a bit of smoothness and occasionally misses the lines if you don’t press your pen hard enough on paper but I found it a very interesting device to have for sketching digitally.

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

Once, one my college professors gave me a good piece of advice, which I still remember. She said” if you try, all your life, to perfectly imitate someone else’s work or style you might end up becoming very good in it but your work has really no artistic value and doesn’t take you anywhere Eventually you would be just a good imitator. But if you try to draw one straight line, it belongs to you and it has some originality of its own.”

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Thank you Mehrdokht for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about all your future successes.

To see more of Mehrdokht’s illustrations visit her at:

Website: http://www.myart2c.com

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Mehrdokht, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books Tagged: Alzahra University in Tehran, Golden Domes And Silver Lanterns, Graphic Design, Mehrdokht Amini

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29. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Bagram Ibatoulline

Today at Kirkus, I write about two picture books, Chieri Uegaki’s Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin, illustrated by Qin Leng, and Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award winner Frank Morrison. That link will be here soon.

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Last week, I wrote here about two wonderful new books for budding, young photographers, Susan Goldman Rubin’s Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, and Ruth Thomson’s Photos Framed: A Fresh Look at the World’s Most Memorable Photographs. I’ve got a bit of art from Ibatoulline today.


“…Julia Margaret thrilled at the work of the Old Masters, especially Raphael, and his paintings of angels and the Madonna. The pictures made a lasting impression on her,
and later she directly borrowed some of their compositions for her photographs.”

(Click to enlarge and see full text)


“…Rather than showing Annie’s whole figure, Julia Margaret had taken a close-up of her face and shoulders. Annie is lit by daylight shining through the
glass roof of the chicken coop.”

(Click to enlarge and see full text)

Until Sunday …

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STAND THERE! SHE SHOUTED. Text copyright © 2014 by Susan Goldman Rubin. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Bagram Ibatoulline. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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30. Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine is a new, non-fiction picture book by Gloria Whelan, superbly illustrated Nancy Carpenter. Whelan, who is now in her 90s, is the author of several books for young readers, many of which are historical fiction that take place all over the world. While I have only read a handful of her books, I have loved and been moved by each and every one. You can read my

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31. Ollie’s School Day: a Yes-and-No Book by Stephanie Calmenson

Ollie’s School Day: a Yes-and-No BookStarting school can be stressful for some children. If you are looking for a fun introduction to the school day and to lighten the mood, check out Ollie’s School Day. It is a question and answer book that follows Ollie through a day of school. Each set of questions includes three silly suggestions followed by the correct one. Will Ollie wear a bathing suit, a space suit, a police officer’s uniform or a pair of pants and a shirt to school? It’s sure to have kids laughing at the crazy suggestions of what Ollie will do throughout the day. While listening and laughing, young readers won’t realize they are learning how to behave at school. If you are looking for other silly school stories with a similar format, pair it with Saltzberg’s Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for School? Or Milgrim’s Eddie Gets Ready for School.

Posted by: Liz


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32. Illustrator Interview – Arree Chung

I had the pleasure of meeting Arree at an SCBWI conference schmooze and I was struck by his dedication, enthusiasm and humility.  [JM] Illustrator or author/illustrator? If the latter, do you begin with words or pictures? [AC] I consider myself … Continue reading

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33. #656 – Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

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Flashlight

Written and illustrated by Lizi Boydtop-10-use-eb-trans (1)
Chronicle Books           8/01/2014
978-1-4521-1894-9
Age 2 to 6        32 pages
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“Inside the tent it’s cozy. But what is going on outside? Is it dark? Is it scary? Not if you have your trusty flashlight! Told solely through images and using a spare yet dramatic palette, artist Lizi Boyd has crafted a masterful exploration of night, nature, and art. Both lyrical and humorous, this visual poem—like the flashlight beam itself—reveals that there is magic in the darkness. We just have to look for it.”

Opening

The young girl, let’s call her Amy, is outside with her flashlight, shining it on the ground. Look! she has found a mouse, no three mice, going about their nighttime activities. Looking up with her flashlight beam, Amy finds an owl, which looks a little spooked that Amy found it in its tree.

Flashlight Product Shot 1

Review

Flashlight is an amazing picture book. Without words, “Amy” has a nighttime adventure of a lifetime. With her flashlight, Amy finds all sorts of animals, but misses just as many who are in the dark. She spies an owl in a tree, a couple of fish in a pond, a fox, and doe with her two babies. If this is not the best adventure for a young child, I cannot think of what could be better. The artist strategically added a hole placed in each spread that focuses upon something the young girl does not see in the dark, but the reader now can. I like that little change that holds more surprises for the reader.

Oops! Amy tripped on stone, tossing the flashlight onto the ground. A raccoon has the flashlight and is lighting up Amy’s face. It passes the flashlight to a beaver, which lights up Amy’s backside. The animals continue to pass off the flashlight until the owl takes possession, pointing the light onto the opening of Amy’s tent. I believe the owl, as wise as it is, thinks Amy should be in bed. Amy tucks in then reads a story to the three mice. I wonder what the story she is reading those three mice.

Flashlight Product Shot 2

Flashlight is an amazing nighttime adventure right in the young girl’s backyard or park, there is no way to be sure. She enjoys finding the animals as well as young children will enjoy finding them. I enjoyed it. There are so many stories kids can imagine with each animal and what they are doing at might. Why does the wise owl want Amy to stop flashing its friends and go to sleep inside the tent? Is he worried about her sleep, or does he want her to stop interfering with the animals nighttime routines?

Children and parents will love this picture book adventure, as do I. Read as a bedtime story, Flashlight can about the young girl or the animals. Parents and their child will enjoy discovering the different animals. How wonderful that could be. The illustrations are all on black paper, with silver-lined animals (in the dark) and colorful animals as the flashlight shines upon them. Flashlight is a magnificent picture book and one of the most original I have seen this year.

Flashlight Product Shot 3

Flashlight is a Junior Library Guild selection for 2014.

FLASHLIGHT. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Lizi Boyd. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Three Questions with Lizi Boyd

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Purchase Flashlight at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Booksat your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about Flashlight HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Lizi Boyd, at her website:  http://liziboyd.com/ 
Find more magnificent books at the Chronicle Books’ website:   http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

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Also by Lizi Boyd

Inside Outside

Inside Outside

Black Dog Gets Dresssed

Black Dog Gets Dresssed

I Love Mommy

I Love Mommy

I Love Daddy

I Love Daddy

 

 

 

flashlight

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: backkyard camp-out, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, illustrations only, Lizi Boyd, nature, picture books

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34. The ABCs for the Rambunctious Set!

M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children

By Linda Ashman; illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

 

How do you find a picture book that teaches good behavior by showing the exact OPPOSITE in little rascals that model pure unadulterated mischief from the get go AND introduces the ABC’s in the process?

Example is usually always the strongest teacher when WE model behaviors we want to see in our children such as empathy, honesty, kindness, sharing, politeness and the like. But Ms. Ashman has chosen a different approach. She shows in her alphabetically listed antics of a very anti social group of young ones, A to Z named kiddies modeling behaviors you hope your young would be reader will opt to AVOID!!

Picture book readers are probably fascinated like their older siblings with all things electronic. What about starting them out as they begin the adventure of reading and recognizing letters with a physical book. The mischievous maniacs listed here will help build sustained attention span in your child as you relate the antics of this wildly uncivil group!  

Sometimes, and the operative word here IS sometimes, the more effective way to reinforce GOODNESS is to point out its counterpart in VERY NAUGHTY kiddies. Ideally, the behavior you point out will look so awful they will roll their eyes and say UGH!

BUT, there is always the slightest of risks that these behaviors may look, shall we say, attractive and their reaction will be…Hmmm! But Ms. Ashman has wisely put a poetic caveat at the intro to her book.

 

DEAR READER.

 

 You, of course, are not the sort,

 To argue, fight, or brag.

 You’re not inclined to be unkind:

 you rarely whine or nag.

 

 Others aren’t so pleasant, though.

 Read on and you shall see.

 Here’s a catalog of naughtiness.

 Presented A to Z.

 

Linger longingly when you read the most ubiquitous behaviors of these 26 baddies such as Impolite Irma, Joking Jackson and Untidy Ursula. Then skip quickly through the more irascible ones such as Kicking Ken, Vile Vern and Zany Zelda. But then again they’re probably the ones your young one may cotton to. Twas ever thus! Nancy Carpenter’s art is fresh and funny illustrating the antics of the deviant behaviors of this lot of young ones to a tee.

But if you’ve ever sat in a restaurant and watched a fellow diner’s child wreak havoc while people attempt to enjoy their meal, you may just recognize SOME of these behaviors. I like Ms. Ashman’s approach. If you don’t recognize BAD behavior, how can you learn to avoid it? Kids will certainly recognize it here AND learn their ABC’s from this self-obsessed group of god-awful kiddies.

Roald Dahl’s “CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY” crew, famously named Violet, Augustus, Mike and Veruca are a walk in the park compared to this lot. They definitely need a trip to the factory and a visit from the Oompah Loompahs!

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35. #655 – Stanley’s Garage by William Bee

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Stanley’s Garage

by William Bee
Peachtree Publishing      9/01/2014
978-1-5614-804-2
Age 3 to 8         32 pages
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“Stanley is working at his garage today. From filling up Hattie’s red sports car with gas to changing the tire on Shamus and Little Woo’s blue car, it sure is a busy day. As his friends each come in with their car problems, Stanley knows just what to do to get them back on the road.”

Opening

“This is Stanley’s Garage. Who will drive in today?”

The Story

Stanley the hamster owns a garage and a green tow truck. He spends the day helping his friends. Hattie needs gas in her car, and, like the days of old, Stanley pumps the gas for her. I love her red sports car. Shamu’s car has a flat tire. While Shamu and Little Woo’s car has a flat tire, Charlie’s car is overheated, and Myrtle, in her purple car, needs towed back to Stanley’s garage. All day Stanley fixes auto problems. It’s a lot of work for one day. Stanley, smudged in black oil spots, walks home. He takes a bath, eats his supper, and heads to bed ready for tomorrow. What job will Stanley take on tomorrow? Will he be a chef at his own diner, or maybe the farmer that grows the food?

4me

Review

Young boys will love the Stanley’s Garage. Stanley does a variety of jobs, all to help his friends. Young boys, and some girls, will enjoy Stanley in his new business. In his garage, Stanley works alone, unlike as a builder with Charlie. The illustrations are basic with large, easy to recognize shapes, separated by solid black lines, which help deepen the colors and drawing one’s attention. The colors are basic primary and secondary colors. Kids should be able to recognize each color, and he basic shapes that compose the items in Stanley’s world, if asked.

I love this clean presentation. The white background helps keep the eyes focused on the illustrations. I like watching Stanley helping his friends and I really wish, like Stanley, garages with gas pumps still pumped the gas for customers. What else has changed that kids might recognize? The text is simple with a few complex words related to automobiles. These words are: radiator, overheating, jacks, tow (no, not toe), and oily. Boys and girls will have a new vocabulary to use when playing with their toy cars.

5me

Young children will enjoy learning about the jobs Stanley takes on in this series. Along with building a house and running a garage, Stanley will be a chef in his own cafe, and grow food as a farmer. What other jobs Stanley might take on in the future is anyone’s guess. After reading Stanley’s Garage, young children will wonder why mom and dad pump their own gas. Stanley’s Garage can help prepare for kindergarten, as they learn the colors, shapes, and new words in each story.

The Stanley books are also a great choice for story-time. The illustrations, thanks to those black lines, are easy to see from a short distance. Stanley has more adventures on the way. Young children will eagerly await each new addition. Next, Stanley runs a cafe and then becomes a farmer.

8me

STANLEY’S GARAGE. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by William Bee. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishing.

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Purchase Stanley’s Garage at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPeachtreeyour favorite bookstore.

Stanley’s Collection

cover farmer

stanleys cafe

cover

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Review is HERE

 

Learn more about Stanley and his series HERE

Meet the author/illustrator, William Bee, at his website:   http://www.williambee.com/

Check out William Bee’s fantastic blog:  http://williambee.blogspot.com/

Find all of the Stanley series at the Peachtree Publishing website:    http://peachtreepub.blogspot.com/

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Also by William Bee

Beware of the Frog

Beware of the Frog

Whatever

Whatever

And the Train Goes...

And the Train Goes…

And the Cars Go...

And the Cars Go…

Digger Dog - NEW

Digger Dog – NEW

 

 

 

 

 

Migloo’s Day – March 24, 2015

 

stanley's garage

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Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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Peachtree Publishing Book Blog Tour

Stanley’s Garage

Monday 9/8
Green Bean Teen Queen
Tuesday 9/9
Jean Little Library
Geo Librarian
Kid Lit Reviews
Wednesday 9/10
Chat with Vera
Thursday 9/11
Blue Owl


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Reluctant Readers, Series Tagged: automobiles, children's book reviews, jobs, Peachtree Publishers, picture books, Stanley the Builder, Stanley the Farmer, Stanley's Cafe, Stanley's Garage, William Bee

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36. How Teaching Makes You Better at DOING by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (plus a giveaway!)

by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

IMG_5422 (1)It’s back to school season here in New Jersey (or, outside Philadelphia, as I typically refer to it) and that means big changes in my household. All summer, my kids and I are bums. We hang out at the beach, at the pool, at the mall. We travel, we sleep in, we do nothing. Summer is heaven.

But come September, my children’s lives change. Gone are the no schedule, no stress days and in their place we have wake up alarms, agenda books, and deliverables (and, it seems, a LOT of laundry!). The kids aren’t the only ones who go back to school—as a children’s book author, the school year means that I go back to school as well.

Every year, between school visits, Skype visits, and events like Dot Day or World Read Aloud Day, I connect with about 100 different schools all around the world. Because I spend so much time with school kids, I end up doing quite a bit of teaching, especially teaching writing. Which happens to be a completely different skill than actually writing.

There is a very stupid expression that you sometimes hear people throw around: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I want to be very, very clear here: that is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Not only is it disparaging, inflammatory, and demeaning, it also has the distinction of being very WRONG. I definitely knew that before I personally started working with schools, but now that I teach on a regular basis, I can tell you that those who teach can do better than anyone else.

teach

It has to do with the nature of teaching. In order to teach someone a skill, you have to know it so well that you can explain every step, even the ones you do automatically or on muscle memory. Here’s an example: when I was in graduate school, I bought a brand new Mustang that I couldn’t drive. Because it was a stick shift and I only knew how to drive an automatic. So I had a friend try to teach me how to drive stick. We got in my car, I started it up, and I asked him what to do next. He said, “OK, now drive.” I looked at him blankly. “Just don’t stall the car,” he added. I had no idea what that meant. So he said, “Don’t ease off the clutch to quickly. Or too slowly!”

At that point, I threw him out of the car. He, to this day, doesn’t understand what had upset me.

He knew how to drive a manual, and things that I needed to know—how to properly come off the clutch when changing gears, how to tell when to shift up or down, etc.—were things he’d stopped thinking about. So he couldn’t teach me to do them because he hadn’t been thinking about all those little steps that you do to succeed that once you’re successful, you completely forget about.
(For the record, I can now totally drive a stick.)

When I started teaching writing, I struggled with this same thing. I thought to myself, How can I teach something that I just DO? Trust me, this was very difficult to figure out. But the more I did figure it out—the better I got at teaching others how to write—the better I actually got at writing. Just like my friend who failed at teaching me how to drive my Mustang because there were so many things he was doing on autopilot that he couldn’t explain, as writers, we do that same thing. When you get to a certain point in your writing journey, you don’t even think about certain things like how to conceptualize a complex character or add layers to your plot, you just do it. But if you try to teach someone else how you do what you do, you have to break down every action into baby steps so that you can show your students how to mimic your actions. This forces you to think through your methods, and in the process, refine them even more.

So even if you’re not at the point in your publishing career where you are teaching, I’d like to encourage you to think like a teacher to become a better writer. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to create a charismatic main character,” I’d ask you to analyze what steps you’d take to do that, like:

  •  Start with something familiar
  •  Add some positive unique features
  • Give the character some flaws that make him or her relatable
  • Give him or her positive relationships (family, best friend, etc.) and negative relationships (nemesis, villain, etc.)
  • Temper every extreme (like “good” or “bad”) with something that brings it back a notch (like “good but hates kittens” or “bad but rescues kittens”)

The more you go through this process of treating your writing objectives like lesson plans, the deeper you’ll understand what you’ve done when something work—and what you may have left off inadvertently when something doesn’t work.

When you’re a good teacher, your students will benefit. When you yourself are your own student, your teaching skills make you so much better at doing.

Happy Back to School!

SudiptaParisSudipta is an award-winning author of over 40 books and the co-founder of both Kidlit Writing School and Kidlit Summer School. Her books include DUCK DUCK MOOSE, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, ORANGUTANGLED, and over thirty more books that have been acclaimed by the Junior Library Guild, the California Reader’s Collection, the Bank Street Books Reading Committe, the Amelia Bloomer list, and many more. Find out more about her by visiting Sudipta.com or her blogs Nerdy Chicks Rule and Nerdy Chicks Write.

Sudipta’s new class: Picture Book A to Z’s: Plotting in Picture Books

The Picture Book A to Z series is designed to be a collection of master level classes that cover all of the fundamentals of picture book craft. While each class is complete on its own, taken together, the series will teach you everything you ever wanted to now about picture books- and a lot more!

The ability to craft a strong picture book plot is one of the factors that separates unpublished writers from those who consistently sign publishing contracts to see their work in print. This course will teach you the essentials of creating compelling plots, starting with Arcs, Beginnings, and Climaxes — then literally taking you through the alphabet. Each topic will be explored in depth, both in the lessons and in the discussion forums and webinars. The writing exercises that are a part of of the course are designed to help you apply the lessons to your own writing seamlessly and immediately. By the end of the course, you will never look at plotting the same way again! The first course in this series, Plotting in Picture Books, will begin on October 6, 2014.

Bonus Critique: Register for Plotting in Picture Books before September 20, 2014 and receive a free picture book manuscript review and 20-minute Skype session with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, redeemable within six months of the course’s completion.

Thanks, Sudipta! And now for the giveaway…either a 20-minute telephone/Skype PB critique with Sudipta or one of her signed books. The choice is yours. Just comment once below by September 16th to enter!


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37. You’re Wearing That to School!?! by Lynne Plourde

You’re Wearing That to School!?!Penelope couldn’t be more excited to start school! She’s even chosen an extraordinary colorful outfit to wear for her first day. Her best friend Tiny started school last year and he instructs Penelope to choose a plainer outfit in order to fit in. Tiny then explains what Penelope should bring for lunch and what to choose for show-and-tell. Penelope and Tiny have entirely different opinions and in the end she must decide whether to take Tiny’s advice or be true to herself.

This is a perfect story to share with children who are just starting school. The repetition of text encourages participation with young readers and Sue Cornelison’s bright, exuberant illustrations will delight readers of all ages.

Posted by: Katie


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38. Blog Tour: Stanley's Garage by William Bee

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About the Book: It's another busy day for Stanley! His friends need help fixing their cars and Stanley and his garage is there to rescue them.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Stanley's adventure in his garage is perfect for transportation loving toddlers. William Bee's illustrations are bright and colorful. The color scheme and clear illustration style make this one that would work great in a group setting for storytime as well as one on one.

Stanley's friends all drive different colored cars, so there's a subtle inclusion of color introduction as well as a simplified insight into what cars need to run. Animals need help fixing a flat tire or getting gas and Stanley helps another friend whose car breaks down and needs a tow. The text is simple but offers a lot of great vocabulary (overheating, radiator, oil) which is a fantastic way to give young readers a look into how cars work.

The Stanley books follow the same format-Stanley helps his friends and then heads home for supper, a bath, and bed after a busy day. The repeating format, fun illustrations, and engaging text make this series stand out as a great toddler addition. A sure hit with young readers-be prepared to read about Stanley's adventures frequently!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from galley sent by publisher

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39. Picture Book Monday with a review of Doug Unplugs on the Farm written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Being the parent of a teenager means that I have to, on occasion, separate her from her phone and/or her computer so that she actually spends some time in the real world. I am relieved that she usually does not make a fuss when I do this. In today's book you are going to meet a charming little robot who discovers the joys of being unplugged.

Doug Unplugs on the FarmDoug Unplugs on the farm
Dan Yaccarino
Picture book
For ages 5 to 7
Random House, 2014, 978-0-385-75328-9
Doug is a boy robot who lives in the city with his parents. One day Doug and his parents set off for the country where Doug’s grandbots live. When they get in their car, Doug and his parents “plug in” so that they can “learn all about farms on the way.”
   As they drive fast fields and barns plugged in Doug learns about pigs, horses, cows, apple trees, chickens, and sheep. Then a flock of sheep runs across the road and Doug’s family car ends up in a ditch. When Doug sees that the farm girl needs help to retrieve her escaping sheep, he offers to help round them up. After the sheep are back where they below, the girl asks Doug if he would like to help her complete the rest of her chores. Doug is happy to help out and he discovers that experiencing farm animals and farm chores first hand is more rewarding that he expected it to be.
   These days many of us “Google” the Internet when we need some information. It is easy, and we can even use our phones to do it. Often the things we want to know are purely informational in nature, but sometimes we use the Internet to experience things as well. Instead of just reading about what it is like to make bread, we could try making a loaf. Instead of reading about tree planting, we could try planting a tree.  We miss so much when we don’t experience these activities for ourselves.
   This wonderful book celebrates the joys that come with learning how to do things by doing them. Experiencing sounds, smells, tastes and textures when we are learning about something make the process richer and more meaningful.


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40. Nine 2014 Picture Books

Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show. Mark Sperring. Illustrated by Sarah Warburton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Ladies and gentlemen! Boys and girls! Hurry, hurry, for the BEST SHOW ON EARTH! Tonight for your entertainment and delight, we proudly present, from all the way behind the curtain, the world's youngest magician. Please put your hands together for... MAX THE MAGNIFICENT. 
DRUMROLL, PLEASE!
Tonight we will see his world-famous and death-defying PUTTING OFF BEDTIME FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE SHOW!
For his first trick...

 Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show is a delightful picture book. The hero, Max, who is not tired and does not want to go to bed--at least not yet--is putting on a show for his family. The show also involves the family dog, Brian. Brian, well, he's not quite as magnificent as Max himself. The text is lively and clever. I love the descriptive language and the playfulness of it. It is a bit over-the-top, but, in a good way. For example,
And now prepare to be SHOCKED and AMAZED. You are about to witness the seldom seen FLOATING PAJAMA TRICK. Max will cause his pajamas to float off the chair and across the room. And, perhaps the most difficult part of all, he'll attempt to put them on. Audience, be warned, this trick can take up to half an hour to perform...though, luckily, not tonight. 
I also love the illustrations. I do. I loved Max's expressions. Overall, this one is oh-so-easy to recommend. (This one was originally published in the UK.)

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

Red Panda's Candy Apples. Ruth Paul. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Red Panda is selling candy apples. He made them himself. They are delicious and very sticky. Rabbit is his first customer. He gives Red Panda some money. Red Panda counts the coins and puts them in a jar. But Red Panda is sad to give Rabbit the candy apple. He is not very good at selling things he would like to eat himself. Lick. Crackle. Crunch.

I love this book. I do. I love the character of Red Panda. I could sympathize with his dilemma. On the one hand, he has made the apples to sell, and he is making money. On the other hand: Lick, crackle, crunch. He has to watch his customers eating "his" candy apples. I loved this one cover to cover. The text has a just-right feel to it. Not too wordy, not too sparse.

I love the illustrations. They are quaint but not cutesy. I love the subdued colors. I definitely recommend this one. I agree that this book may now wow everyone. (It's not a call-attention-to-myself book like, for example, Max and the Won't Go To Bed Show.) But what picture book ever does, really? (This one was originally published in New Zealand.)

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

I'm My Own Dog. David Ezra Stein. 2014. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself. I work like a dog all day. When I get home, I fetch my own slippers. I curl up at my own feet. Sometimes, if I'm not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over. And I do.

What a fun book! I'm My Own Dog is a funny, playful book about a dog and his pet human who follows him home one day. The first half of the book establishes his independence, and the second half focuses on his new relationship. The book ends with a sweet confession.

As I said, it's fun, playful, and a good read-aloud choice. Especially for dog-lovers. I found the text to be quite clever.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out 5
Total: 9 out of 10

Peppa Pig Ballet Lesson. Adapted by Elizabeth Schaefer. 2014. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Mummy Pig is taking Peppa to her first ballet lesson. Madame Gazelle greets them at the door. "You must be young Peppa," she says with a graceful bow.

I love Peppa Pig. I do. That being said, some Peppa Pig books are better than others. Some seem to capture the magic of the show in book-form better than others. I thought the Ballet Lesson worked well. It captures the playfulness of the episode well. I liked all the thumping. I liked how Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig just happen to have been quite good at ballet back in the day.

For fans of the show, this book is a good read aloud choice. It is also an affordable choice.

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

I Feel Five. Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Candlewick. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

On his fourth birthday, Fritz Newton ate birthday pancakes, got his very own cape, and picked apples for birthday pie. Being four was fun, but tomorrow...Fritz will be five! And he is quite sure that five will feel very different. He'll probably even lose his first tooth.

 Will Fritz wake up FEELING five on his birthday? Will being five really feel differently than being four? Fritz thinks so. At least in the beginning. He has this idea in his mind of what it will be like to be five, what it will feel like. Ultimately, he's disappointed for most of the book. What he does day-to-day at five is essentially the same as what he did day-to-day when he was four. There does come a point in the book where Fritz does start feeling five. This happens when he helps a girl. He helps her by picking an apple for her from the tree. Something he can do--just barely--by jumping in his brand-new shoes.

I Feel Five! is an almost book for me. The premise makes sense, in a way; people of all ages can have high expectations of BIG birthdays and be a little disappointed at the sameness. And it does handle the concept of disappointment relatively well. It is a thoughtful book. But it isn't exactly a happy again-again read-aloud. It's not funny or playful or sweet.

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

Go To Sleep, Little Farm. Mary Lyn Ray. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose,
because the bee knows day has come to a close.
Somewhere a beaver weaves a bed in a bog. 
Somewhere a bear finds a bed in a log.
Somewhere gray mice hide their bed under roots,
safe from the owl who whoo-whoo-hoots.

Well. It has at least one starred review. (Publishers Weekly) But. This bedtime book didn't quite work for me. Not that it was awful. It wasn't. It leans more towards poetry than most picture books. For better or worse. Some lines, some rhymes seem to work well. Take the opening line, for example, "Somewhere a bee makes a bed in a rose, because the bee knows day has come to a close." This book is all about imagery and language and the sounds of words--being lulling. If a lulling bedtime book works, works dependably to send little ones to sleep quickly, or, efficiently then that has some value especially to parents.

The reason this one doesn't quite work for me is because some of the imagery is a bit too bizarre or whimsical...for me. It doesn't start out that way. It really doesn't. So the whimsy sneaks up on a reader. Is that good? Is that bad? Who can say! I'll show you what I mean, "Now little fish lie still in a brook. Somewhere a story goes to sleep in a book. Somewhere a worm sleeps in the dirt. Somewhere a pocket sleeps in a skirt."

The illustrations. Well. Some spreads I do love. Others seem--at least at first glance--even more bizarre than the text itself. They do match the whimsical, surreal tone of the text. So if you love one, you'll probably love the other.

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

The Scarecrows' Wedding. Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay were scarecrows. (They scared lots of crows every day.) Harry loved Betty, and Betty loved Harry. So Harry said, "Betty, my beauty, let's marry! Let's have a wedding, the best wedding yet. A wedding that no one will ever forget." Betty agreed, so they hugged and they kissed. Then Betty said, "Harry, dear, let's make a list." "Just as you say," answered Harry O'Hay. So they wrote down the Things they would Need on the Day: a dress of white feathers, a necklace of shells, lots of pink flowers, two rings and some bells. Then Harry gave Betty O'Barley his arm and the scarecrows set off on a hunt round the farm.

It's certainly an interesting story with a couple of unique elements. I had no idea what to expect, and, it certainly ended up surprising me here and there. Which I guess is a good thing? The first half of this book is focused on Betty and Harry being together and looking for all the things on their list. The trouble occurs when the two go their separate ways. Just one item remains on their list. Harry wants to get it himself. But. Harry is slow, very, very, very, very slow. So slow in fact that the farmer presumably gets another scarecrow to replace him! His name is Reginald Rake. Almost everything that occurs after his arrival is a bit bizarre. (I wasn't expecting cigars in a picture book! I actually found that plot twist a bit disturbing.) It is still plenty predictable though by the end. I'm not quite sure how this book was both predictable and surprising, but, it was.

(This one was originally published in the UK.)

Text: 2.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 5.5 out of 10

The Loch Mess Monster. Helen Lester. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In faraway Scotland there was a famous lake called Loch Ness. And legend had it that deep in this lake lived a monster. No one had ever seen it. But guess what? The legend was false. In truth, way, way, down at the bottom of Loch Ness there lived not one...but three monsters! there was Nessie, her husband, Fergus, and their wee laddie, Angus.

The Loch Mess Monster has a glossary of Scottish terms (in order of appearance) before the story. It is needed. Trust me. Unless you happen to know that hummie-doddies are mittens or that puggy-nits are peanuts. The story will make more sense if you familiarize yourself with the vocabulary!

The Loch Mess Monster is a book about being messy, too messy. It is a book about how one should clean up after himself, to put things back where they belong. Angus is the mess-maker. His messy room is out of control. Some of his mess belongs in the trash. It's simply disgusting. Some of his mess are his own books and toys. Until he sees for himself the dangers of being TOO messy, the problem just keeps growing worse.

The book is obviously a lesson book. For better or worse. This one is not my favorite on the subject. But it's a nice book. This one will appeal especially to storytellers who like to do accents or try to do accents.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 2.5 out of 5
Total: 5.5 out of 10

Big Bad Bubble. Adam Rubin. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 2014. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

You may not know this, but when a bubble pops, it doesn't just disappear. It reappears in La La Land...where the monsters live. For some reason, all the big, scary monsters are terrified of bubbles. Froofle, why are you running away? Yerburt, what's the matter? Wumpus, stop crying. (Tell Wumpus to stop crying.)

What you see is what you get. For the most part. In my opinion, if a book is going to be strange and bizarre, it's best to know that from the start, preferably from the cover. Monsters and bubbles. That's what readers are promised. Now. Are the bubbles big and bad?! Well, that's a matter of perspective. Readers expect monsters to be big and bad, but, bubbles?

The premise of this one is silly but simple. Monsters live in La La Land. Monsters are scared of bubbles. Bubbles disappear from here--when they're popped--to La La Land. Therefore monsters spend a lot of their summers terrified by bubbles. The narrator (and the reader) try to talk some sense into the monsters. Bubbles are not scary. Bubbles can be easily popped. Especially by monsters. There is no reason to run away from a bubble. Will the narrator successfully help the monsters?

It's silly. It's weird. It's certainly unique. It probably won't be for everyone. It seems like a book people will either love or hate. It was better than I expected. However, I wasn't expecting much.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 2 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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41. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #396: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Esmé Shapiro


(Click to enlarge)

I always look forward to the first Sunday of every month here at 7-Imp, since that’s when I feature student or recently graduated illustrators, and today is no exception. I’m happy to introduce you to Esmé Shapiro, a recent grad. Let’s just get right to it, since she says a bit below and shares even more artwork.

I thank her for visiting.

(Please note that all of the images below are at Esmé’s site, as well as her Tumblr presence, and you can also read further at those cyberspace stops about the ideas behind the images. For instance, the above is an illustration for a story she wrote, called “Carmella Chameleon.”)

Esmé: Hello! I’m Esmé Shapiro. I just graduated in May from the Rhode Island School of Design with my BFA in Illustration. Now I am a freelance illustrator living on a tree-lined block in Brooklyn, New York, with my puppy, Chebini.

I grew up amongst the palm trees of Los Angeles in a little oasis of a neighborhood called Laurel Canyon, which is where old Hollywood stars and directors used to build their hunting lodges. When I was a little girl, I would imagine I was a starlet from the 1920s and dress up in long gowns to go on long hikes through the cactus-studded hills. Laurel Canyon cultivated my interest in the styles and stories from the past and my love of nature, and I believe that you can see that in my work.


I tend to work very small, especially now that I have moved into a tiny Brooklyn apartment. Sometimes people are very surprised when they see how small a painting actually is in real life. I usually work on mat board with tons of layered gouache and watercolor. I spend a lot of time preparing for the image, but when it comes to the actual act of painting, I work really fast. It’s like the painting already exists, and it’s up to my right hand to create it. It’s a lot of pressure on my hand, but I think it handles it well.



(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge)


 

I have a big book shoved next to my pillow of all the projects I would like to do, and the list goes on for what seems like forever. Of course, my biggest dream is to see one of my children’s books published, but there are a lot of other projects too. I would also like to design children’s textiles, art-direct animations, build a giant dome to live in, paint huge murals, illustrate for all types of magazines, build a giant pink zebra, and then eventually a miniature pink zebra.


(Click to enlarge)


 

All artwork is used with permission of Esmé Shapiro.

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) Esmé’s bit about the pink zebras made my 8-year-old laugh very hard. (Me too.)

2) I just ordered some sheet music (“easy” piano, since I’m still learning) for The Beatles and Chopin.

3) Fionn Regan.

4) My oh my, this book is good:

5) I love picking up my girls from school every day, ’cause that’s our time to talk and read together and discuss the day. I’m grateful for the kind of job that allows for that (er, jobs, rather).

6) It’s Blaine Danielson’s birthday …

7) … which means there is cake, and what a wonder is cake.

BONUS: It’s really great to hear from folks who are reading Wild Things.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

11 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #396: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Esmé Shapiro, last added: 9/8/2014
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42. A Mermaid Sighting



 

Have you noticed a particular blog tour goin’ on this week? Author-illustrator Ben Hatke (I wrote here about and then followed up with art here from his newest picture book, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures) is makin’ the rounds and talking about his bestiary of lost creatures. This is the kind of art-filled blog tour I can get behind. If you want to see all his creatures from this week, they’re listed at this link.

Today, I’m hosting the mermaid.

Here’s Ben …

Ben: Mermaids: Rarely seen, the most likely evidence of a nearby mermaid is a sad, lilting song heard among the waves in rocky harbors. Mermaids tend toward solitude, moonlit nights, and rainy days. Of all the creatures that show up at Julia’s crowded doorstep, the mermaid is perhaps the most unlikely. Mermaids do drag unwitting sailors into the cold depths of the sea, but not nearly so often as you might think.

Mermaids make fairly peaceable houseguests; they are quiet, and if you enjoy their melancholy melodies they can be quite easy to live with. They are very hard on plumbing, though, shedding scales and seaweed-like hair into the drains, and in a domestic situation they require a lot of water. Expect your water bill to triple (at least) and make sure you are on friendly terms with your local plumber.

My very favorite mermaid story of all is called The Animal Family. It’s a beautiful book by Randall Jarrell and masterfully illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Not only is The Animal Family my favorite mermaid story, but it’s one of my all-time favorite books.

* * * * * * *

All images here (with the exception of the book cover) used by permission of Ben Hatke.

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43. Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Friday reviews are back, starting with an adorable true seal story! Back in June, our Perfect Picture Book blogging community celebrated: 100 weeks of fabulous picture books with resources of all kinds to make them easy for parents and teachers … Continue reading

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44. Oh Dear, Geoffrey! by Gemma O'Neill

I almost passed on reviewing Oh Dear, Geoffrey, the debut picture book by Gemma O'Neill, because  it seemed like another jungle story about a clumsy giraffe. But, after reading it a few more times, I just couldn't get her marvelous illustrations out of my mind. Her style is vibrant and vivid, filled with texture and action and her meerkats are spot on. When we first meet Geoffrey, his "

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45. Pete the Cat in the Big Easy

I just spent a week in New Orleans, a place I’ve wanted to visit since first reading Interview with the Vampire as a teen. The week held plenty of sights and experiences I’d been highly anticipating (a ghost tour, the Garden District, blues and jazz clubs, and — of course — beignets) and some I hadn’t expected (Mardi Gras beads hanging in many trees; the informative but emotionally intense National WWII Museum, which Cindy also visited last year; lots and lots and lots of rain).

litwin pete the cat i love my white shoes Pete the Cat in the Big EasyOne pleasant surprise during my trip to NOLA was an encounter with Pete the Cat, star of the series of picture books and early readers written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean. During a leisurely stroll in the French Quarter, I spotted Pete’s familiar face in the window of Gallery Rinard. My parents are huge Pete fans (and I’m an unrepentant cat lady), so I dragged my boyfriend into the gallery to take a look at Dean’s original art.

While the gallery offered lots of original canvases, prints, and even puppets of the cartoony Pete his picture-book readers will know and love, many of Dean’s paintings are geared towards adults in content and humor (such as this “Most Interesting Man in the World” Dos Equis commercial parody). A series of re-creations of well-known photos and paintings — including The Mona Lisa, Klimt’s The Kiss, and Munch’s The Scream — features cameos by Pete.

And much of Dean’s work portrays his feline friend in a softer, more realistic manner, revealing the artist’s deep affection for the real-life Pete. After quite a bit of deliberation, I eventually chose one of these as a souvenir for my parents:

 Pete the Cat in the Big Easy

“Pete the Cat: Weather or Not” by James Dean

Like Cindy encountering a Dahl book at the WWII Museum, I didn’t expect for my kidlit life to come out to play while I was on vacation — but I’m glad it did!

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46. #650 – The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey by Gregory E. Bray & Holly J. Bray-Cook

cover 2 mzzox

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The “Tail” of a Boy Named Harvey

Written by Gregory E. Bray
Illustrated by Holly J. Bray-Cook
Published by Gregory E. Bray         6/01/2013
978-1-488271465-4
Age 4 to 8              32 pages
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“Harvey is always playing with his pets, but his pets don’t like the way he plays with them. When the tables have turned, will he enjoy the way he’s played with?”

Opening

“Harvey was an energetic boy. He loved playing sports.”

The Story

Harvey is a typical five-year-old. He is rambunctious, energetic, imaginative, and self-centered. Harvey loves playing with his pets: a dog and a cat (names not given). Being a young boy, he does not think of either pet’s feelings or consider how they might like to play. The pets are like large dolls that breathe. Harvey puts clothes on them, uses the cat as a basketball, and dresses both up in military garb when he wants to play army—sending the cat up into the air so it may return in a parachute. To say Harvey plays rough with his companions is a mild way of describing his actions. Harvey plays like a little boy plays, with energy and enthusiasm.

The poor dog and cat are not happy and try to avoid Harvey at all costs. His parents cannot figure out why the pets react so adversely to their son, until the day mom catches Harvey ready to catch his parachuting kitty.

“She sent him to his room after dinner and he was only allowed to come out for school and meals.”

Harvey’s response to his punishment further shows he has no idea what he did to get into so much trouble.

“Stupid pets!”  [Harvey said, while lying in bed.]

Review

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I really like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Subconsciously, Harvey understood what he did was wrong. In his dream, he is the “pet” and the pets “own” him. The pets play with Harvey exactly as he played with them—thrown up in the air, dressed up, and abruptly awakened. Harvey hates this “playing.” The army games the pets play with Harvey terrify him enough to jolt him awake. Mom tells him it is only a dream, but Harvey has other thoughts on his mind,

“I’m sorry guys. I didn’t know how bad I treated you. I promise to play nice with you for now on!”

I like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey because animal abuse starts with that first inappropriate action. While most kids do not continue on abusing animals—and later extend the abuse to humans—the sooner they learn to respect their pets, the faster they will learn to respect other people and themselves. Harvey’s self-centeredness, typical for his age, opened up a notch with his revelation. I love that Harvey came to this realization mainly by himself, though he would have gotten there much slower had mom not punished him. This is a perfect example of how kids learn. The author’s inspiration for the book came in part from his son Liam and their cat Harvey. The author got it right.

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Now, what I do not like about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. I am not a fan of the 8 x 8 format mainly because little hands need the stronger pages of a traditional picture book format. A couple of pages came loose from the binding in my copy. The main problem with the story is the lack of action. The narrator tells us 90 percent or more of what is happening instead of letting the characters do this. The story would be more engaging had this happened. The reader would also be able to add to the story by adopting character voices and further charm their child. Please remember the key maxim: Show not Tell.

The illustrations are good, not traditional looking picture book illustrations, but nicely done. The pets are great at showing their dislike through facial expressions, though my cat would have simply hissed or bit, then run away. When the pets do run away, their fast retreat is nicely illustrated. The illustrator made sure we understood Harvey’s point of view drastically changes when he becomes the pet. The dog and cat (wish they had names) are adorable. Nice job with the little details I love so much.

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I think kids will like The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey. Young kids will appreciate the story and laugh at Harvey’s predicament. Those with pets will quickly learn from Harvey and that is a great thing to happen. Classrooms with a pet would do well to read this story, as would any child soon to get their first pet. The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey is the author’s, and the illustrator’s, first children’s book. They both did a nice job bringing the story of Harvey (the cat or the boy, I am no longer sure which) to life.

THE TAIL OF A BOY NAMED HARVEY. Text copyright © 2013 by Gregory E. Bray. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Holly J. Bray-Cook. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gregory E. Bray, Sacramento, CA.

For a young lad’s critique, click HERE

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Purchase The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey at Amazon—B&N—CreateSpace—Gregory Bray—your favorite bookstore.

Learn more about The Tail of a Boy Named Harvey HERE

Meet the author, Gregory E. Bray, at his blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Meet the illustrator, Holly J. Bray-Cook, at her website:

Gregory E. Bray published through CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

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tail of a boy named harvey

Copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

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A Little about Gregory E. Bray

gregory e bray authorx

“Gregory E Bray (1967-present) was born and raised in Sacramento, CA where he still resides He was a film major in college who now works in the IT industry. He has written scripts for corporate videos and shorts and uses humor in everything he writes. He uses his humor in this, his first children’s book, to help get the books message out to children. His inspiration for writing this children’s book comes from his wife Lita, their son Liam and their cat Harvey.”

How to Find Gregory E. Bray

Website:

Blog:   http://gregoryebrayauthor.blogspot.com/

Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/gregoryebray

Goodreads Author Page:   https://www.goodreads.com/geb1967

Amazon Author’s Page:    amazon.com/author/gregorybray


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: be kind to pets, cats, children's book reviews, dogs, Gregory E. Bray, Holly J. Bray-Cook, imagination, pets, picture books, relationships, respect

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47. You Are (Not) Small, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant (ages 4-8)

"Who's grown over the summer?" I asked my 2nd grade class today -- and 20 hands shot high into the air. They ARE bigger, and yet... they're still little kids, right? So are they big, or are they little? And what's that all really mean, anyway? Anna Kang's new picture book, You Are (Not) Small, helped us talk about this -- and then extrapolate to what it meant about other things in our lives.

You Are (Not) Small
by Anna Kang
illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Two Lions, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
A small purple creature walks up to a larger orange fuzzy one and the orange creature promptly declares, "You are small." Well, I wonder how that makes the little guy feel? He turns around and says, "I am not small. You are big."

It's not me -- it's you who's different. They each bring out a host of friends to show how they're like everyone else -- and it's the other guy who's different.
My students could easily relate to the argument that quickly escalated into a shouting match. When a giant stomped into the middle of the scene, forcing everyone to reevaluate who exactly was big and small, I could just see my students' perspective shifting.

I loved talking with 2nd graders about how they could relate to being big AND small at the same time. As 2nd graders, they are now the big kids out at recess with the kindergartners and 1st graders. They know how everything at school works. But if they walk upstairs, right away they feel small again peeking into the 5th graders' classroom.

Even better was the way I could encourage them to apply this to other areas, seeing how they might feel good about themselves doing one thing, but not so good doing something else. Duncan said he felt "big" when he played baseball, but not so big when he had to be catcher. We even applied that to ourselves as readers, and what it meant to choose a book that was "just right" for ourselves -- not worrying about other kids in the class.

Tonight, I shared with the teachers this excerpt from an interview with the author, Anna Kang:
Where do your ideas come from?

My childhood, observing my daughters and what they experience, characters I want to see come to life, a particular feeling or problem.
Christoper Weyant and Anna Kang
Where specifically did “You Are (Not) Small” come from?

I’ve been playing a version of the dialogue in the book in my head since I was a child. I’m considered “small” or “petite” here in the U.S. (I’m Korean American), and among other things, it’s extremely challenging to find clothes that fit. When I was nine years old, I spent the summer in Korea, and I remember shopping with my Aunt and discovering racks and racks of clothes that were exactly my size in every store we entered, as if the clothes were custom-made specifically for me. The clothes weren’t in a special “petite” section or in a younger, more “junior” section. They were just clothes. Regular, everyday clothes for a nine-year old girl. For the first time in my life, my size—in addition to my skin color, hair and eye color—was “normal” and unremarkable. I suddenly looked like everyone else in the world, including the people on TV, in movies, advertisements, and in books. As a child, this was an overwhelming experience. It made me feel incredibly safe and empowered, and it boosted my confidence and grounded me when I returned home at the end of the summer. I was not “other” or “different.” I was just “me.”

I eventually learned that how you saw yourself and others depended on your personal experience and your community, that perspective is subjective and not necessarily the entire truth.

So, years later, when I sat down to write a story for a children’s book, this idea naturally popped out.

source: Cracking the Cover
I look forward to talking with kids specifically about Anna's experience -- I think many will relate.

What a terrific way to begin the year -- recognizing that we all have strengths and weaknesses, that we are all growing and have changed over the summer, but we're all growing at our own pace.

Many thanks to friend Alyson Beecher for recommending this at her site Kid Lit Frenzy -- check out her interview with Anna and Christopher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Two Lions. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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48. Flora’s Back!A Visit with Author-Illustrator Molly Idle



Early sketch and final spread
(Click second image to enlarge)


 

Just the other day author-illustrator Aaron Becker visited to talk about his new picture book (Quest), which is a follow-up to one that won a Caldecott Honor early this year (Journey).

So then it occurred to me (I swear I don’t plan these things, as in I’m not that organized) that I’d love to invite author-illustrator Molly Idle to do the same. Molly also received a Caldecott Honor early this year for Flora and the Flamingo, and she sees the release at the end of this month of a follow-up picture book about the same character (Flora, that is), Flora and the Penguin (Chronicle Books).

And I had this idea just yesterday, I think it was, so I’m glad Molly was able to roll with this and send me images and interview responses so quickly. I figured I’d ask her the same things I asked Aaron (with the exception of questions that pertain specifically to their books, of course).

Flora and the Penguin is (like Aaron’s book) another wordless tale. This one is entertaining, too — the charm and cheer and grace that was on every page of Flora and the Flamingo is here again. This time, Flora is dancing partners with a penguin. At least she tries to skate with him on the ice, though he’s mighty distracted by some fish. And the color palette! O! The palette! You’ll see what I mean in some of the final spreads pictured below.

Let’s get right to it, and I thank Molly for visiting. (For those of you who want even more, remember that Molly visited 7-Imp here in 2013.)

Jules: You’ve probably already discussed elsewhere what it was like to get the Caldecott call, so I apologize if this is redundant, but hey, what was it like to get the Caldecott call?


“My scribbly sketchbook with the first notes for Flora and the Penguin”


(Click to enlarge)

Molly: Are you kidding?! It was AWESOME! I knew that somebody was going to be getting a call that morning, but when it was my phone that rang at 4:30 a.m., you coulda knocked me over with a feather! I remember stammering my thanks to a roomful of happy, laughing, cheering people on the other end of the line, while standing in my kitchen in my jammies. When I hung up the phone and put it down, I just stood there for a moment. Then, I picked up the phone again and thumbed through to “recent calls” — just to be sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. I turned around, still holding the phone, and there was my husband standing there in the kitchen, grinning at me and saying, “Well?” I just nodded, grinning back, and finally I said, “I won.” And he laughed and said, “Phew! Well that’s good, because I hate to think they’d call and wake you up just to tell you you hadn’t!”

Then, all was happy pandemonium at our house.


Early sketch: Flora with her skates
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch: “Thinking about the ‘sit spin’ and how a penguin would manage it …”
(Click to enlarge)


Sketch: “Playing with opposites — x’s and o’s …”
(Click to enlarge)



Sample sketches: “Playing with poses for flaps that would have worked
like the ones in
Flamingo (up and down) …”


Sketch: “… but I wanted to be able to move these two far apart and then back together. The ‘flamingo flaps’ wouldn’t do that.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: How’d you deal with the pressure of creating both a sequel and a sophomore picture book when the success of your debut was so huge? This is assuming you felt stress. Perhaps you did not.

Molly: Did I feel stress? Yes! Absolutely, but not on this book. I had already finished the artwork for Flora and the Penguin by this time last year, so for me there was only the pressure that my art director and editor and I were applying to ourselves to make this book a good book. And that was plenty.


“This scribble is what I jotted down when I got the idea
to use double-sided, horizontal flaps.”

After Flora and the Flamingo won the Caldecott Honor, though, I felt a huge sense of outside expectation, which of course was totally only in my own mind. It’s not as if I started receiving emails saying, “Dear Ms. Idle: Your next book better measure up … or else.” But I felt a weird sort of weight of uncertainty. Could I measure up against myself? And what did that even mean? And I sort of seized up creatively. I just froze. So, it was really lucky that I had a huge pile of work waiting to be done. Seriously. Because the only way to get work done is to do it. Sitting frozen wouldn’t make my deadlines disappear. And through working, that paralyzing fear of expectation slowly started to diminish.

I have a fortune cookie fortune on my desk that says “Action is worry’s worst enemy.” That’s not really a fortune, is it? But I think it’s a truism. The best way to deal with it—whatever “it” is—is to work through it.



” … So I tried it out. And it worked! With the flap anchored toward the center of the book and images printed on both sides,
they could skate back and forth across the page.”
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: Do you want to talk a bit about working with the designers and such at Chronicle? How much input do you have on the book’s overall design?

Molly: Do I want to talk about working with the folks at Chronicle? “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”

I love the folks at Chronicle. They are dedicated to making wonderful, beautiful, different books. And to do that, they pay attention to the smallest details. I’m a believer that the smallest details often make the biggest differences. I’ve been so fortunate to work with art directors, editors, and designers that believe that too. We share a love of simple, elegant design. We also share a love of ego-less collaboration. Whoever has the best idea, it doesn’t matter who thinks of it — that should be the path taken. So there aren’t really rigidly defined boundaries in how we divvy up design. My art director will make editorial notes; I’ll design a different way to engineer a gatefold or flap; my editor will make color palette suggestions. There’s a lot of overlap. There’s a lot of trust. I like that.


“Now that I knew how the movement would work,
I started sketching/choreographing their story …”
(Click to enlarge)


“Even on the pages that don’t involve movement of flaps, I like to make sure that the movement flows between one pose and the next,
so I take them apart and overlay them.”
(Click to enlarge)


“Then I use the old-school, traditional animation technique of flipping between drawings to make sure they move smoothly.”
(Click the play button)


“Then I lay them back out in the dummy.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: Are there specific experiences that formed the essential bases, the fundamental building blocks, of your artistic vision? Books, movies, artists, events, images, anything else, etc.?

Molly: I grew up in a theatrical family with an eye to making movies, so films and plays play a major role in my bookmaking process. My favorite movies have always been the old Technicolor films of the ’40s and ’50s. These days, most films are shot on location, but in those days most everything was filmed in the controlled environment of a sound stage. A sort of handcrafted, hyper-real, bright and shiny reality. I like that sort of perfectly staged feeling.

I also like blackbox theatre. Plays in a blackbox use minimal sets and props. They rely on the actors to convey the story and the imagination of the audience to fill in the surroundings.

When I’m laying out a book, I think of it as if I’m staging a play or a film. Scene by scene, shot by shot.


“We were searching for just the right blue—not too icy, not too warm—in Pantone …”


 



 

“… and in Prismacolor.”


 


“Once we figure out the palette, I make myself a cheat sheet
so that I remember what colors I layered and in what order.”
(Click to enlarge)

Jules: What do you, as an artist, find most challenging and satisfying in the creative processes you employ?

Molly I think the thing I find most challenging and most satisfying in my creative process is the initial uncovering of the entire story. There’s nothing for it but to sit down and start working it out on paper. Page by page. And, for me, it is hard work. The easiest thing for me to do is to sit down and make nice lines and connect those nice lines to make nice drawings. I’ve been at it long enough now to know that anytime I sit down at my drawing board, I can turn out a pretty nice drawing. Muscle memory –like riding a bike.

But to make those lines into drawings that connect in a new and meaningful way, to make a story worth telling — that’s a whole other thing. And I feel as though I am just learning to ride without my training wheels.



Two pieces in progress …
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: Okay, I’ve gotten lately to where I simply love to ask people: What are you reading now?

Molly Okay, this is going to sound awful, but I am not reading anything for myself right now. I can’t pick up a book and read a chapter and then put it down and come back to it later. I’m a binge reader. I like to sit down and devour a book in one sitting.

That said, I’ve been so busy with work and family that I haven’t had time to take a day off to read in a few months, so my TBR stack is reaching to tottering heights! But I do read with my boys every night, and we’re working our way through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (one of my personal faves). We also just finished rereading Jedi Academy (one of their personal faves).



Some final spreads
(Click each to enlarge)

Jules: On that note, what picture books have you loved lately? Or whose work have you seen that you think deserves some love and attention?

Molly Oh my, there have been a lot of good picture books out lately, and a bunch more coming out soon! But I shall confine my list to a few that are already out and that made me feel ridiculously happy. The kind of book you finish, hug to your chest, and open and read again.

Hooray for Hat by Brian Won. This book had me grinning from the moment I opened it.

Sparky! by Jenny Offill and Chris Appelhans. There is so much to love about this book. There’s a raw sort of openness to the text and the sincere yet deadpan expressions. And don’t even get me started on the gorgeous limited color palette. Love it!


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. I bet everyone mentions this one, right? And for good reason! I could read it over and over. Which is good, because it is one of the most requested, “just one more!” bedtime reads in our house.

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli. This is just one of those stories that is just perfect. Simple. And perfect.

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K. G. Campbell. Keith’s art is so beautiful that it makes my heart hurt. *wistful sigh*



Jules: What’s next for you? Anything in the works that you can talk about now?

Molly: Right now I am working on the third Flora book, Flora and the Peacocks. Yes, peacocks. Plural. All the Flora books are about exploring different aspects of friendship. The first was about making a friend. The second is about what happens when two friends want different things. The third is about groups of three. Three can be tricky. So often someone ends up feeling left out. I’m looking forward to exploring that dynamic — and all those fabulous feathers!

* * * * * * *

FLORA AND THE PENGUIN. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Idle. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. All images here (with the exception of book covers) used by permission of Molly Idle.

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49. Back to School and ABCs

R is for Robots : A Noisy Alphabet

By Adam F. Watkins

 

Hey picture book lovers! I’m still at the farm and we’re nearing the close of another season “living close to the land” and feeling its rhythms. As the leaves begin to turn a rusty color on the enormous chestnut tree at the front of our farm stand, I’m sure I’ll also soon see the familiar sight of yellow school buses coursing up and down Main Street in our little town of Southold, New York. It’s Back to School time just in case you haven’t noticed, patient parents. But then, I’m sure as the Labor Day weekend wound down, you were making frenetic trips to Staples, stocking up on the endless list of school supplies, and all while fitting in ONE MORE trip to the beach! Beginnings and endings are full of memories and moments we never realize ARE a memory until they’e OVER!

And speaking of beginning and endings, it led me to a perfect start off to Back to School books, namely those featuring the ALPHABET! There are some great ones out there for your young soon to be reader! Tackling those letters and becoming familiar with their shapes and the sounds they make is the FIRST STEP to the magic Open Sesame door to READING. So why not make it an adventure with books that help make the intro easy and fun?

“R is for Robots: A Noisy Alphabet” is a colorful cacophonous romp through the alphabet . According to an article written on “The History of Robots” by Paula Timpson that I read recently, robots “come in every shape, size and color.” Did you know back in 850 B.C., the poet Homer wrote about a creature called a “bot”, short for robot? Today, they can play chess, talk, paint, dance and have even gone to Mars! Why even Leonardo da Vinci sketched a mechanical knight when he was 12! Yikes! He showed that movement by humans could be copied.

Remember Robbie the Robot in the great movie, “Forbidden Planet”? And who can forget the iconic R2D2 and C-3PO of Star Wars Fame. Well, Adam Watkins has fashioned a collection of lovable robot rompers that march forward on wheels and more. As they try to harness these pesky alphabet ABC’s, Watkins’ robotic roustabouts find it is no easy task! A lot of grunting and groaning of effort ensues. They’re on a assemblage mission replete with emanating sounds that begins with the letter they’re harnessing. Cool! As a giant B is carted into place, the phrase BEEP BOOP also moves into view and C falls to the ground causing a robot to cover its ears as a deafening CLANGO CLINK CRASH echoes on the construction scene.

These cute and clamorous robots vacuum, drill, haul, cycle, tractor and cycle. And as the letter T totters into place, a large robot with a tick tock clock for a body, points to the hands as if to say, “Let’s get it going, guys!”

Don’t let your young one miss the letter S hard working senior robot that uses a walker as he gingerly helps out. The tennis balls on the bottom of his walker glide smoothly over the grass as if to say, “I may be old, but I am STILL useful. KIDS, take note!”

By the time Y and Z are put into place with a YOINK and ZAP from a Super Soaker-iike gizmo, kids will be saying, “READ IT AGAIN! and please don’t forget the sound effects, reader! It’s half the fun of making Mr. Watkins’ book make the letters A to Z clatter clearly and with cacophony, into the consciousness of the young!

 

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50. A Library Book for Bear by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

A Library Book for Bear is the newest book from Bonny Becker and Kady MacDonald Denton, creators of four other books featuring this odd but endearing couple. I reviewed the beginning readers book A Birthday For Bear back in 2009 and have been reading the Bear books at story time ever since. Maybe it's because I relate to bear, who is a homebody, stick-in-the-mud who doesn't like change.

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