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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 7,153
26. A Picture Book Refugee Story: The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman and Karin Littlewood

The Colour of Home, a refugee story written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Karin Littlewood (Frances Lincoln, 2002/pb 2012)Whist putting together my new interview with Mary Hoffman, I revisited my first encounter with her beautiful book The Colour of Home, which I … Continue reading ...

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27. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #452: Featuring Moira Birch Swiatkowski


Hey there, dear kickers. I had a post lined up today, saying that I’d be taking a week-long blog break. A couple months ago, I received the James Marshall Fellowship from the University of Connecticut. That means I’m going to head up there to look through the papers of author-illustrator James Marshall. (Big fan here of his work. I’m excited!) I was going to do that this week, but plans have changed. My father is actually on hospice and is, I think, nearing the end. So, I’ll do that trip another day, another time.

But that sudden change in plans left me with nothing to post today, especially since I’m out at my parents’ house. You all know it breaks my heart to put up a post without any art. I decided to ask the talented Moira Birch Swiatkowski, a regular kicker herself (and an artist previously featured here at 7-Imp), if she could share some art. She gave me permission to pick whatever image I wanted from her site, and I thought the above image was fitting. As you can read here, it’s all about breakfast and all about fathers.

Since I’m around this week after all, please do leave your kicks, if you’re so inclined.

[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.]

10 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #452: Featuring Moira Birch Swiatkowski, last added: 10/6/2015
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28. I Thought This Was a Bear Book – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: I Thought This Was a Bear Book Written by: Tara Lazar Illustrated by: Benji Davis Published by: Aladdin (S&S), 2014 Themes/Topics: aliens, Goldilocks and Three Bears, metaphysical mash up Suitable for ages: 4-7 Opening: Once upon a time there were three bears. Synopsis: An … Continue reading

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29. What Makes a GREAT Bedtime Story?

Swedish psychologist Carl-Johan Forssén Ehrlin surprised the book publishing world this summer as his book for children and their parents shot to number one on Amazon. The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep is a self-help book that gives parents a script to follow as they try to get a child to go to sleep. Because of its performance on Amazon, Penguin has picked up the book for a reported seven-figure deal.

Of course, I had to read it. Buzz does sell books.

Rabbit (if I can casually call it by the name of the insomniac main character) reminds me of the Academy Awards ceremony. Screenwriters, directors, actors and actresses, cinematographers and the full complement of support staff for a major move were awarded the highest honor that filmmaking can bestow, Academy Awards. And for every movie about a cause—from elderly rights to gay rights and beyond—the person being honored felt compelled to stand up and explain why their cause was so important and timely. . . thereby negating the art for which they’d just been honored.

Why did they not trust their art to plead their cause in deeper and stronger ways than a week diatribe made during a gala ceremony? It baffles me.

In the same way Ehrlin explains why a good bedtime story works. He has built into the script certain keywords – sleep now, yawn, now—which should help put the child in the right frame of mind. Further, he uses some words because they sound calm and slow, thus reinforcing the desired frame of mind. Repetition finds its place as a tool to calm and convince a child to fall asleep.

But why does Ehrlin feel the need to explain it all so blatantly? Perhaps, it’s because parents don’t go behind the scenes for a children’s bedtime story; they don’t understand, and therefore don’t trust, that the writer really knows what s/he is doing when writing this kind of story.

In fall 2016, I’ll join the ranks of authors with a bedtime story, ROWDY: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep. Let me show you what’s behind the curtain of my writing process.
Write a GREATBedtime Story: 4 Crucial Elements | darcypattison.com

The Sounds of Words

As a young writer, I once heard Newbery medalist Lois Lowry speak about a story that ended in a quiet moment that she hoped would calm a child and help them sleep. She avoided harsh-sounding words and used soft words. That’s right. The way the words sounded was just as important, if not more so, than the meaning of the words.

Poets John Ciardi and Miller Williams said a similar thing in their classic book, How Does a Poem Mean. They emphasize the “connotations speaking to connotations,” an effect they say will create imagery and symbolism. In other words, it matters whether you use the word “fire” or “inferno” because of how it sounds, its connotations and its definitions. Just as important, though, is how it affects the rhythm pattern of your piece of writing. Fire has only one syllable, while Inferno has three syllables; using one over the other affects the rhythm patterns of the writing.

I have a B.A. in Speech Pathology and an M.A. in Audiology; one of the most useful classes from my college years was phonics, or the study of how sounds are made in the human mouth and how to record those sounds with the International Phonetic Alphabet.

For a bedtime story, you want to avoid harsh sounding consonants, what phonetics calls fricatives or affricatives: f, v, th, t, d, sh, zh, ch, j, s and z. Other sounds to avoid are the plosives: b, p, t, d, k, g. You can’t avoid these two major groups of consonants entirely! But you can minimize them, especially when you want the words to be the softest.

Another distinction phonetics makes is among voiced or unvoiced consonants. Put your hand on your throat and say T –T –T ; repeat with D – D – D. Do you feel that your vocal cords vibrate for the D, but not for the T? T is unvoiced; D is voiced. Unvoiced consonants are softer, and more suited to bedtime stories.

The softest sounds are the glides: w, l, r and y. These are the real winners for a calming bedtime story.

For vowels, you should understand that some vowels involve lots of tension in the mouth, while some are created with a relaxed mouth. Say a long A; now say AW. Do you feel the difference in the mouth’s tension?

Ehrlin merely takes a clue from phonetics/linguistics and uses relaxed vowels, along with soft consonants.

Why is a rabbit the right animal for Ehrlin to choose for a bedtime story? Rabbit is a relatively calm word: Glide R; short A is relatively relaxed; B is a plosive, but it’s buried in the word’s middle; UH is a relaxed vowel; T is a plosive but because it’s unvoiced, or your vocal cord doesn’t vibrate for it, it’s relatively calm.

My Fall 2016 bedtime story, ROWDY: THE PIRATE WHO COULD NOT SLEEP, is about Captain Whitney Black McKee. She’s a rowdy pirate captain who fights sea monsters and returns to home port, but finds that she can’t sleep. Her crew goes a’thievin’, in search of a lullaby to help her sleep. In the end, the cabin boy brings back her Pappy who sings her a lullaby.

Here’s that last stanza, which you cannot read it harshly because the words, the phrasing and the story that I wrote demand that you say it softly.

Then Pappy sang of slumber sweet,
while stars leaned low and listened.
And as the soft night gathered round.
The pirates’ eyes all glistened.

Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep | Preview of Fall, 2016 book by Darcy Pattison

GREAT bedtime stories include. . .

  1. Child-in-lap relationship. Mem Fox, the beloved Australian writer, talks about the importance of keeping in mind the child-in-the-lap relationship. She means that when you read a story to a child, you are also developing a relationship with that child. She likes to end stories with something that will make the child turn to the adult and give them a hug or say, “I love you.”

    koalalouHer beloved book, Kaola Lou, has the refrain, “Kaola Lou, I do love you.” And of course, it’s hard to read without also saying to the child in your lap, “I love you.”

  2. Language development. The great bedtime stories take into account the whole child, not just his or her ability to go to sleep quickly. Instead, they develop a child’s language. Because these are books provided at developmentally appropriate times in a child’s life, it’s an opportunity to entice them with language: the sounds of their native language, the vocabulary, the rhythm patterns and so on. Kindergarten teachers spend time teaching nursery rhymes (Jack be nimble; Jack be quick; Jack jump over the candlestick.) because it develops skills in language.
    In a like manner, the classic Goodnight Moon! by Margaret Wise Brown uses rhythm, refrains and much more. Consider the humor of this line: “Goodnight, nobody.” It makes for a story that you don’t mind reading for the 1000th time.

  3. Story. As children develop language, an important skill is the ability to understand stories. This involves sequencing of events (beginning, middle, end), understanding cause-effect relationships, character motivations and much more.

    llamaLlama, Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney has an appropriately simple story. Baby Llama is tucked into bed, but when Mama leaves the room, he calls that he needs a drink of water. The plot complication is just that Mama is delayed in bringing up the water, so Baby Llama panics. When Mama shows up, she reassures him that she is “always near, / even if she’s / not right here.” It’s a gentle, reassuring story. And while it tells the story, it also gives kids experience in understanding Story.

  4. Vocabulary building. Kids love big words—in the right context.
    Jane Yolen’s story, How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? provides great fun with the names of various dinosaur species. What kid can resist words such as Allosaurus, Pteradon, Apatosaurus, and Tyrannosaurus Rex? But Yolen also includes words appropriate for the bedtime hour. “Does a dinosaur slam his tail and pout?”
    You can’t read this without screwing up your face in a pout, thus teaching the meaning of a vocabulary word in a natural context.

My own bedtime story is titled ROWDY: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep (to be released Fall, 2016). Will kids know the meaning of “rowdy”? Doubtful. But within the story’s context, they’ll learn it. Bedtime stories, then, are a comfortable and natural context for teaching new words.

Great children’s book authors create works that don’t need the artificial crutches of bold and italic fonts to tell the adult reader how to present the story. Instead, it’s right there in black and white on the page. It tells a great story that reinforces language and vocabulary development. And when it’s done right, a great bedtime story gives an adult an opportunity to give the kid a hug and a kiss and say, “I love you.”


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30. Best Selling Picture Books | October 2015

It only takes a couple of beautiful autumn days and the holiday season suddenly feel so much closer. Readers are not wasting time getting into the holiday spirit: this month, our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is the delightful rendition of E.T.A. Hoffmann's Nutcracker, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

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31. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Freya Blackwood, Jean-François Dumont, Wolf Erlbruch, Torben Kuhlmann, Viviane Schwarz, Annemarie van Haeringen, & Rafael Yockteng

“‘I am the king,’ said the king. ‘Play for me!'”
– From
The King and the Sea


– From I Am Henry Finch


“‘Coco! Pay attention! Pull that thread out and follow the pattern, NOW!’ …”
– From
Coco and the Little Black Dress
(Click to enlarge spread)


“My new blanket grew just as warm and
soft and comfortable as my old blanket.”
– From
My Two Blankets
(Click to enlarge spread)


– From Moletown
(Click to enlarge spread)


“When people do notice me, they make a face. I tell myself that I must not smell very good. It’s true that it’s been a long time since I’ve bathed,
but a bear smells like a bear — that’s just how it is. …”
– From
I Am a Bear
(Click to enlarge spread)


– From Two White Rabbits
(Click to enlarge)


That may be my longest blog post title ever. Er, sorry to your eyes.

But it does mean that I have a lot of art for you today.

First things first: If you’re so inclined to read about the 150th birthday of Lewis Carroll’s Alice, I’ve got some thoughts over at Kirkus today about why The Complete Alice, released by Macmillan last month, is well worth your time. That link will be here soon.

Secondly, last week I wrote here about the following picture book imports (or books created by authors and/or illustrators who live overseas):

Today I’ve got a bit of art from each one. (I don’t have art from Kes Gray’s Frog on a Log?, illustrated by Jim Field and also mentioned in my column, but it’s funny stuff.)

Enjoy all the art. …


From I Am Henry Finch:


“The finches lived in a great flock. They made such a racket all day long,
they really could not hear themselves think.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“He sat still and listened to his thoughts. He had more of them. He liked them. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)



From Coco and the Little Black Dress:


“‘I’ll never wear a corset!’ said Coco. ‘Nor endless skirts with full hips.
I’ll make a dress that you won’t even feel when you’re wearing.
A dress you can dance in and ride a bicycle with. …'”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Now everybody has a little black dress. And Coco?
She’s not such a little nothing at all. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)



From The King and the Sea:


– From “The King and the Cat”
(Click to enlarge spread and read story)


– From “The King and the Ghost”
(Click to enlarge spread and read story)



From I Am a Bear:


“I am a bear. I know, there’s no such thing as a bear who lives on the street,
right in the middle of everyone. It took me a while to admit it too. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“At first, I didn’t know that I was a bear. But when I tried to speak to this little lady
who was passing by, and I saw her reaction, I started to understand.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


” … a small voice caught my attention:
‘Why do you look so sad?'”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“I didn’t get a chance to answer. Her father grabbed her by the hand,
and they hurried away. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)



From My Two Blankets:


“But the girl kept smiling.
She took me to the swings. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“At first my new blanket was thin and small.
But every day I added new words to it. …”

(Click to enlarge spread)



From Moletown:


“The story of Moletown began many years ago. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)


“Many generations later, the moles’ green meadow
had completely disappeared. Almost.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



From Two White Rabbits:


“When we travel, I also sleep
and I dream that I am moving, that I’m not stopping.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“‘Where are we going?’ I ask sometimes,
but no one answers.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

COCO AND THE LITTLE BLACK DRESS. Copyright © 2013 by Annemarie van Haeringen. English translation copyright © 2015 by NorthSouth Books, Inc. Illustrations used by their permission.

I AM A BEAR. Text and illustrations © 2010 Jean-François Dumont. English edition © 2015 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Illustrations used by their permission.

I AM HENRY FINCH. Text copyright © 2015 by Vivane Schwarz. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Alexis Deacon. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

THE KING AND THE SEA. English language edition © Gecko Press Ltd 2015. Illustrations used by their permission.

MOLETOWN. Copyright © 2015 by NorthSouth Books. Illustrations used by their permission.

MY TWO BLANKETS. Text copyright © 2014 by Irena Kobald. Illustrations © 2014 by Freya Blackwood. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston.

TWO WHITE RABBITS. Text copyright © 2015 by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Rafael Yockteng. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Groundwood Books, Canada.

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32. Fall Fun Book for Preschoolers

A time for Fall Fun is the second in a Four Season book series for preschoolers and the young at heart.


0 Comments on Fall Fun Book for Preschoolers as of 9/30/2015 3:58:00 PM
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33. KidLit Author Events Sept. 29-Oct.6

My apologies for being late with this post, but it’s in time to catch all the events happening this week. I want to send a big THANK YOU to Kimberly Morris and SCBWI Houston for the wonderful workshop we had Saturday, and to Mary Wade for taking us on a tour of the beautiful Lanier Theological Library. What a gorgeous, inspiring place!

THE MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS BY CRYSTAL ALLENI want to remind everyone to sign up for the Connections and Craft: Novel Workshop at SCBWI Brazos Valley on October 10 in College Station. Featured speakers will be award-winning author, Kimberly Willis Holt; the Book Doctor, Robyn Conley; and Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins) editor, Kelsey Murphy (By the way, Kelsey Murphy is editing Crystal Allen’s upcoming series, THE MAGNIFICENT MYA TIBBS!). Workshop topics include:

  • “Develop Your Character”
  • “After the First Draft”
  • “Self-editing without Self-destructing”
  • “Cross Marketing Story Elements for Cross Selling”



TWEENSREADThe big KidLit event happening this week is TWEENS READ! This one-day event is this Saturday, October 3, from 9:30–5:00 at South Houston High School, 3820 Shaver Street, South Houston, TX 77587. There are SO MANY AMAZING AUTHORS coming this year including SCBWI Houston’s own Crystal Allen, and SCBWI Austin’s Nikki Loftin! Grab a tween and get there!


Now for the rest of this week’s events:

OCTOBER 1, THURSDAY, 7:00-9:00 PMWritespace
Social Media Workshop for Writers with Rebecca Nolan

COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Social Media for People Who Don’t Like Social Media: A Hands-On Workshop
There are many reasons you might not like social media. Have you put off creating social media accounts because it all seems too overwhelming? Do you have a couple of social media accounts but they use a language and method foreign to you and you don’t have time to mess with it? Are you worried about strangers seeing what you’re up to? Bring your laptop and learn how to creatively make social media your own workhorse. Learn how to deal with time constraints and pick up tips and tricks that make social media less time-consuming. In this workshop we will discover how to make Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ work to your advantage.

Central Library, 500 McKinney

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at Houston Public Library’s (HPL) 4th Annual Houston LibroFEST on Saturday, October 3, 2015. Featured presenters include author, activist, and television director Jesús Salvador Treviño, Viola Canles, and children’s author and illustrator Xavier Garza; as well as programs and activities connected to the Houston Metropolitan Research Center exhibit on display, Remembering World War II: Houston’s Latino Veterans. Also taking part in the festival: musicians, artists, and local literary organizations and vendors including Arte Público Press, Gulf Coast Literary Journal, Inprint, Writers in the Schools (WITS), and more.

The theme of this year’s LibroFEST is “heros.” LibroFEST coordinators are looking for Hispanic and Latino children’s and young adult book authors to read, sell their books, or participate on panels. Those interested should contact Carmen Abrego at Carmen.Abrego@houstontx.gov .”

Northwest Houston Romance Writers of America
2015 Lone Star Writers’ Conference
COST: $130 Members, $140 Non-members

“The Power of Subtext: Body Language, Dialogue Cues, and Visceral Responses” Master Class with Margie Lawson. Visceral responses can be more than roiling stomachs and pounding hearts. Dialogue cues can be more than predictable, carry-no-power, pin-the-cliched-tag-on-the-dialogue. Body language can be more than cookie-cutter expressions. More than one-descriptor smiles. More than over-used phrases that many readers skim. This power-packed workshop will teach writers how to how to add psychological power to body language, dialogue cues, and visceral responses. Participants are requested to bring five chapters (or more), printed, double-spaced, in a binder. They’ll have opportunities to review their chapters and rewrite or add the right amount of subtext in the right places. Also attending is Linda Scalissi, an agent with 3 Seas Literary Agency.

OCTOBER 3, SATURDAY, 2:00-5:00 PMWritespace
Writers’ Workshop: Easy E-book Creation with Scrivener, with D.L.Young

COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Does the idea of e-book formatting fill you with dread? Have you tried to create an e-book, but can’t get the darned thing to come out right? Are you new to e-book creation and looking for tips and shortcuts? When you are equipped with the right tools and techniques, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to create a professional-grade e-book. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll create our own e-books and learn how to set up an e-book friendly template for our novels and short stories—and even learn to create e-books with our signature on them! Please bring your laptop, and D.L. Young will take you through the process step-by-step.

SCBWI Houston
Tracy Gee Community Center
Elizabeth White-Olsen: How to Empower Your Prose by Stealing the Super Power of Poets
Cost: FREE; All are welcome!

This monthly meeting of the Houston Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators features Elizabeth White-Olsen, Director of Writespace.

DUMPLIN' by Julie MurphyOCTOBER 6, TUESDAY, 7:00 PM
Blue Willow Bookshop
Julie Murphy and Cammie McGovern, YA Authors

Julie Murphy and Cammie McGovern will discuss and sign DUMPLIN’ and A STEP TOWARD FALLING, their new books for teens.

IN Julie Murphy’s DUMPLIN’, Willowdean, Dubbed Dumplin by her former beauty queen mom, has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . . untilWill takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But sheissurprised when he seems to like her back.

A STEP TOWARD FALLING by Cammie McGovernInstead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself.So she sets out to take back her confidence by doingthe most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant along with several other unlikely candidates to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she ll shock the hell out of Clover City and maybe herself most of all.

Cammie McGovern’s A STEP TOWARD FALLING is about learning from your mistakes, and learning to forgive. Emily has always been the kind of girl who tries to do the right thing until one night when she does the worst thing possible. She sees Belinda, a classmate with developmental disabilities, being attacked. Inexplicably, she does nothing at all.

Belinda, however, manages to save herself. When their high school finds out what happened, Emily and Lucas, a football player who was also there that night, are required to perform community service at a center for disabled people. Soon, Lucas and Emily begin to feel like maybe they’re starting to make a real difference. Like they would be able to do the right thing if they could do that night all over again. But can they do anything that will actually help the one person they hurt the most?

OCTOBER 6-NOVEMBER 10, TUESDAYS, 7:00-9:00 PMRice University
Glasscock School of Continuing Studies
Co-sponsors: Blue Willow Bookshop, Writespace
Writing Children’s and Young Adult Literature, with Elizabeth White-Olsen
COST: $265, For Rice alumni: $239

Children’s books have a power that resonates across time and generations. They connect us to our younger selves, to the children in our lives today and to the rich imaginative capacities that characterize childhood. This lively workshop invites aspiring and practicing writers to explore the craft of writing for children and young adults. The course will share guidelines specific to the main genres of children’s literature: picture books, middle-grade novels and young adult novels. Participants will also explore applications of fundamental writing topics to children’s literature such as characterization, plot, point-of-view, metaphor and voice. Engaging in-class writing exercises will provide multiple starting points to develop stories based on your imagination and life experiences.

OCTOBER 6, TUESDAY, 6:00-9:00 PM Writespace
Workshop: The First Six Months: Creating Your Own Book Launch Marketing Plan, with Pamela Fagan Hutchins
COST: $20-$30; See website for details

Whether you publish indie or traditional, the marketing and promotion of your book is up to you, and the launch is critical. Bestselling (Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iTunes), nationally-distributed indie author Pamela Fagan Hutchins will lead a hands-on workshop as you create a launch timeline, budget, and marketing plan for “your” book. Pamela will pull from her experience as president of the Houston Writers Guild, her many indie workshop presentations, and the launch of her own six romantic mysteries and six nonfiction books, as captured in her USA Best Book award-winning how-to, What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?  Bring your funny bone and a sharp #2 pencil (or laptop), as well as a book/manuscript (yours or someone else’s), with the blurb/description, genre, market, sales formats, a general budget, and price in mind.

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34. Momo & OHora (& Frank Zappa) Before Breakfast

Author-illustrator Zachariah OHora visits 7-Imp today to talk about his newest picture book, My Cousin Momo (Dial, June 2015). Momo is a flying squirrel, and he throws his cousins for a loop when he visits and does things his own way. You know, we all have a cousin like that (thank goodness, because normal people worry me). It’s a story about family and acceptance and embracing your inherent weirdness, and it’s very funny. OHora has a style all his own, and you can see that for yourself below in the art he shares. He also shares some preliminary images, which are always fun to see.

Let’s get right to it. …

Zachariah: In looking back in my folders, I have over 17 fully sketched-out dummies of Momo. I was working with Nancy Conescu at the time, and we just went down a writing rabbit hole — in part, because it was hard to parse what the book was all about. In the beginning, it was about Momo being such a weirdo but saving the day by becoming a human (?) kite in a contest after he ruins the cousins’ chances of winning. Ultimately, and with a lot of help from Nami Tripathi, the story became more about acceptance and lowering one’s expectations. Or maybe adjusting one’s expectation of other people and realizing they are great, even if it’s different than who you are or what you are projecting onto them.

These are a few of my favorite spreads:


“We’d been counting down the days until his arrival.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


The treehouse was a lot of fun to paint. It gave me a good excuse to troll for treehouse pictures on the internet, a wonderful way for me to waste an amazing amount of time. I even saved a few pictures just to stare at them once in a while and pretend I live in one. How fun would it be to live here?


(Click to enlarge)


I loved making this spread [below], because Momo is so dejected about having to fly on command, despite the fact that he has the whole neighbor-wood cheering him on. And since this is a semi-modern tale, there’s always that chipmunk with a video camera waiting to load it up to YouTube or sell it to TMZ.


“We might have told a friend or two about Momo’s special ability.
But Momo seemed kind of shy.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Acorn-Pong. This game also had varying degrees of importance depending on the dummy/draft version. This one still makes me smile, especially the little sister’s frustration, which is straight out of Schulz’s Peanuts, except they’re acorns.


“We started a game of Acorn-Pong instead. Every squirrel, flying or not,
knows how to play Acorn-Pong! Every squirrel except Momo.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


In all my books, I put in lots of personal jokes. And I usually do one or two that are also sly references to Frank Zappa. There’s a great Zappa/Captain Beefheart song called “Muffin Man” that I always loved. As it happens, Zappa was riffing off an old nursery rhyme from England, so it kind of comes full-circle here. The muffin theme is from a different version of the book, where Momo makes the best muffins ever. Somehow that turned into the Muffin Man. Here’s a link to the Zappa song if you are so inclined:



“So we decided we should play superheroes.
But Momo’s idea of ‘superhero’ was a little strange.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


Here are a couple old thumbnails and sketches. This is a version pretty close to the final art.


(Click to enlarge)


Early on, Momo was going to win a kite contest for the cousins by flying as the kite. This is the moment when they see him win the contest and fly for the first time:


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Early on, the cousins tried everything they could to trick or coerce Momo into flying.


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Some early thumbs on mini Post-its:


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Here are the first two drawings of Momo. On the left is a mini book cover, and on the right is the very first drawing of Momo, a Valentine for my wife Lydia.


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Here is an early cover concept:


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The final cover:



* * * * * * *

MY COUSIN MOMO. Copyright © 2015 by Zachariah OHora. Published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin, New York. Illustrations used by permission of Zacharian OHora.

1 Comments on Momo & OHora (& Frank Zappa) Before Breakfast, last added: 9/30/2015
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35. Illustration Inspiration: Jim Arnosky, Creator of Frozen Wild

Artist and naturalist Jim Arnosky has been honored for his overall contribution to literature for children by the Eva L. Gordon Award and the Washington Post/Children’s Book Guild Award for nonfiction. His latest book is "Frozen Wild."

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36. Top 5 stories with a spark of science, especially for girls (ages 4-14)

Only two generations ago, our grandmothers faced serious limitations on the careers they could pursue. Today, our girls can do anything they put their minds to, but far fewer women pursue scientific careers than men. Here are two picture books and three novels that share the exciting spark that fuels so much passion in young scientists.

The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires
Kids Can, 2014
Your local library
ages 4-7
This picture book celebrates the trials and tribulations that come with making things. As the young artist & engineer pulls a wagon full of odds and ends, she starts designing her magnificent creation. But science is hard work, filled with disappointments, before a triumphant ending.
Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
Abrams, 2013
Your local library
ages 5-8
This rhyming picture book tells the story of shy Rosie who likes to build things hidden away in her attic room. Her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit, helping young Rosie see her way through her current contraption’s failure: for now she can try again. Rosie the Riveter would be proud, indeed.
Chasing Secrets
by Gennifer Choldenko
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 9-12
Turn-of-the-century San Francisco comes to life for young readers as 13-year-old Lizzie Kennedy accompanies her father on medical house calls, forms a friendship with the son of Jing, her family’s beloved cook, and grapples with the injustices that exist with gender, class and race. Local author Choldenko creates a tender and gripping story of friendship, mystery and persistence.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Henry Holt, 2009
Your local library
ages 9-14
A natural-born scientist, 11-year-old Calpurnia would like spend time examining insects, getting to know her scientist grandfather or reading Darwin’s controversial The Origin of Species. But in 1899 Texas, all around her expect young girls to learn to sew, run a household and attract a future husband. Readers adore this witty heroine, and will be thrilled to read the sequel just published this year.
The Fourteenth Goldfish 
by Jennifer L. Holm
Random House, 2014
Your local library
ages 9-12 
When a vaguely familiar teenage boy shows up at Ellie’s house, she is confused until she realizes that her grandfather has discovered a way to regenerate himself. But now he needs Ellie’s help regaining access to his laboratory. Young readers love the relationship between Ellie and her grandfather, but they also feel her growing excitement for scientific discoveries.

This article was originally published in Parents Press, September 2015. Many thanks for all of their support. On Wednesday, I'll share 5 nonfiction books that highlight the accomplishments of women scientists.

The review copies came from our school library, public library and home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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37. And to Think He Was Almost a Drama Critic . . .

Right on the heels of his Eric Carle Honor, I have a long chat with editor Neal Porter over at Phil & Erin Stead’s Number Five Bus blog about publishing picture books today and all kinds of other stuff. The Barry Manilow moment is courtesy of the Steads.

That interview is here. It’s got some sneak-peeks at upcoming picture book art (from the likes of Jerry Pinkney, Christian Robinson, Hadley Hooper, Eric Rohmann, Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Phil Stead, Antoinette Portis, and probably more), which makes me especially happy.


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38. Review: 25th Anniversary Edition of Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch

25th Anniversary Edition of Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch, with Afterwords by Floella Benjamin and LeVar Burton (Frances Lincoln, 2015)Amazing Grace (25th Anniversary Edition)
written by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch, with Afterwords by Floella Benjamin and LeVar BurtonContinue reading ...

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39. Picture Book Monday with a review of A Lucky Author has a Dog

I am very lucky to have not one but two dogs in my life, and since I work at home they are my constant companions. They don't mind when I read reviews and stories out loud. In fact they are wonderful listeners! They don't mind when I mutter and fuss when things are not going well, and will press their noses into my hand when they feel that I need a little attention. They are wonderful work mates, which is why I was immediately drawn to today's picture book. Anyone who has a dog in their life is lucky, but I think we authors really need our dogs.

A Lucky Author Has a DogA Lucky Author has a dog
Mary Lyn Ray
Illustrated by Steven Henry
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-51876-5
Every morning a dog up wakes its person with a kiss. The dog’s person is a little different from other people because she is an author, and authors tend to stay at home to work, which means that the dog has a companion all day long. The dog is therefore very lucky indeed.
   The interesting thing is that the dog is not the only one who is lucky. The author is lucky too because she has the dog. Dogs are wonderful partners who understand that what the author is doing is important even if the dog really “isn’t exactly sure what an author does.” The dog is an “encouraging friend” who is always there, and the dog knows when it is time for the author to take a break. Walks are good for the dog, but they are also good for the author as well because new sights, smells and sounds help feed a mind that is stuck and frustrated. In fact, a dog can really show an author “how to look and listen the way a dog does,” which can make all the difference in the world when you are a wordsmith and storyteller.
   In this unique picture book we find out what the life of an author is like, and we also come to appreciate that being an author’s dog is not a job to be taken lightly. As the narrative carries us through the day we see that the relationship between the author and her friend is special because both partners know that they are lucky to have each other.

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40. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #451: Featuring Joyce Wan

“Ten! Ugh!”
A final spread, followed by its sketch


We’re going to say goodbye to summer today, dear kickers, with a book I had meant to post about during the summer months — but better late than never. We’ll use this opportunity to wave farewell to swimming outside and lounging in the sun, since this past week marked the first day of Autumn.

If you read about picture books as often as I do, you may have seen the New York Times coverage in May of Joyce Wan’s The Whale in My Swimming Pool (Farrar Straus Giroux, April 2015), where Emily Jenkins wrote, in part:

Wan is a greeting card designer and the creator of many board books. Her curvilinear and comforting style recalls Hello Kitty and other Japanese pop art in its fat dark lines and squat characters, but the hero has an antic physicality and a wide range of emotional expressions. Her world feels safe and joyful, even as the hero experiences anger and frustration.

This is the story of a boy who heads out on a warm summer day to the tiny kiddie pool in his yard, only to find a whale occupying it. (“Never has a young child shared anything so awesome as a kiddie pool completely without conflict,” wrote Jenkins.) It’s funny stuff, as you can see in the illustrations here today: The mammoth whale is perched atop the wee pool, balanced perfectly. The boy tries various ways to get the whale out of the pool — to no avail. But that doesn’t mean there’s not a happy ending. There’s, to be exact, a happy ending followed immediately by a bit of a comic rimshot, which you can see below.

It’s a funny book with an endearing main character children will root for, and I thank Joyce for visiting today to share some art from it.

Opening endpapers
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“Whoa . . . A whale?!”
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“Mooooooom, there’s a whale in my swimming pool. …”
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“Why my pool? Why not the pool next door?
They have the best pool on the block!”

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“Wouldn’t you rather swim with other whales? What if we taken turns? …”
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“I give up. Wait a minute. I have an idea! …”
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“Oh, great. He snores!”
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Closing endpapers
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THE WHALE IN MY SWIMMING POOL. Copyright © 2015 by Joyce Wan. Published by Farrar Straus Giroux, New York. Illustrations used by permission of Joyce Wan.

* * *

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) The intro to this post makes me think of “Olivia” from Lowland Hum, where they sing “get your body in the water before it turns Fall.”

2) My 11-year-old drew this comic, and when I shared it via Facebook, cartoonist Harry Bliss asked if he could draw it. So this was in newspapers on Friday. Very fun!

3) My 11-year-old’s face when I told her.

4) Sometimes you just have to drop everything and play with an almost-four-year-old, which is what I did on Friday night.

5) This is so good.

6) Cooler weather means it’s almost hot-cocoa weather.

7) Did I already mention the girls and I are reading Laura Amy Schlitz’s The Hired Girl and loving it? It’s also the perfect read to follow Anne of Green Gables, which we just finished.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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41. Pig Is Big On Books

Pig Is Big On Books. Douglas Florian. 2015. Holiday House. 24 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Pig is big on books. Pig likes to read. 

Premise/plot: Readers meet a pig who loves, loves, loves to read books. Big books. Small books. All kinds of books. Pig loves to read anywhere too. But what happens when pig can't find a book to read?!

My thoughts: I loved this book. I really loved, loved, loved it. I do love books and reading. So it shouldn't come as a big surprise that I loved this very reading-focused title. Still, there is something simple and just-right about it. It flows really well. And I loved the direction the story went. I definitely recommend this one. It is an "I Like To Read" book.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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42. Sitting In My Box

Sitting In My Box. Dee Lillegard. Illustrated by Jon Agee. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Sitting in my box. A tall giraffe knocks. "Let me, let me in" So I move over.

Premise/plot: A young boy is reading a book while sitting in a box when....a tall giraffe, an old gray elephant, a big baboon, a grumpy lion, and a hippopotamus intrude in a delightfully predictable way. They ALL want in HIS box, of course. But is there room for so many animals in such a small box?! What can he do?! What will he do?! Read for yourself and see in this imaginative book.

My thoughts: Enjoyed this one very much. Though I do wish it said, "Let me in, let me in!" instead of "let me, let me in." But other than that, this one is definitely delightful and just FUN for sharing aloud. (I loved the "not me, not me, not me, not me" page, for example).

For another picture book about boxes, try A Mighty Fine Time Machine by Suzanne Bloom. That one is also quite charming.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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43. Seuss on Saturday #39

Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! (Rosetta Stone) Dr. Seuss. Illustrated by Michael Frith. 1975. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: You may not believe it, but here's how it happened. One fine summer morning...a little bug sneezed. Because of that sneeze, a little seed dropped. Because that seed dropped, a worm got hit.

Premise/plot: You never know what may happen with one little sneeze! Cause and effect have never been so much fun as in Seuss's Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!

My thoughts: I love, love, love, LOVE this one. I do. It's always been one of my most favorites. It's just so funny. And I think it's one that just begs to be read again and again and again. Do you have a favorite scene?

Have you read Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is Hooper Humperdink...? Not Him!

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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44. The Books With No Limits: Exploring Child-Centered Storytelling

"...individual readers can make the experience more child-centered by engaging kids in a dialogue."

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45. The Bear's Surprise by Benjamin Chaud

I have reviewed quite a few of books illustrated and written and illustrated by Benjamin Chaud now. For an overview of many of his books (those published in the US) check out my review of The Bear's Sea Escape. The Bear's Surprise is the third adventure in the life of this father and son pair of bears and it has quite a few revelations!  First off, there are superb cut-outs on every

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46. Bike On, Bear! by Cynthea Liu, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Bike On, Bear! written by Cynthea Liu and charmingly illustrated by Kristyna Litten is a fantastic new book about the childhood milestone of learning to ride a bike. And as a former bookseller, I can tell you  that there just aren't enough good picture books about this important event in almost every kid's life.  Bear has a very hairy problem. He is smart, flexible and

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47. The Whale in My Swimming Pool – PPBF

Title: The Whale in My Swimming Pool Written and illustrated by: Joyce Wan Published by: Farrer, Strauss, Giroux, 2015 Themes/Topics: swimming (paddling) pool, whale, boy Suitable for ages: 3-5 Opening: Race you to the pool! Whoa…         … Continue reading

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48. Winston the Book Wolf

Winston the Book Wolf. Marni McGee. Illustrated by Ian Beck. 2006. Walker. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I definitely enjoyed reading Marni McGee's Winston the Book Wolf. If you enjoy fairy tale twists OR books about books, then this is one to seek out. Winston the Wolf LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to eat words, all sorts of words. He is literally eating the words, thus one of perhaps many reasons why he is banned from the library. But someone has pity on Winston, a girl with a red hood, and shows Winston that there is a BETTER way to devour words: that way, of course, is by READING them. After Winston learns to read, he NEEDS the library; he needs more books, more stories, more words. But sadly, he is banned. Can he and his new friend find a way to sneak him into the library?!

This one is definitely worth reading and sharing.

The illustrations were a bit odd, I admit, but they mostly worked for me. Mainly because they definitely add to the story. Readers can spot, for example, three little pigs on nearly every spread. One thing I didn't quite get, however, was WHY the tables and chairs and such had to have faces.

First sentence: Winston the Wolf swished his tail as he ran past the burger stand. He did slow down to sniff, but he did not drool. Meaty treats were not what Winston had in mind. Winston wanted books, and he knew where to find them.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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49. The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. Jon Scieszka. Illustrated by Lane Smith. 1989. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Everybody knows the story of The Three Little Pigs. Or at least they think they do. But I'll let you in on a little secret. Nobody knows the real story, because nobody has ever heard my side of the story.

Premise/plot. A. Wolf (the narrator) wants readers (like you and me) to know the TRUTH. He is not a BIG BAD WOLF. He's not. Here's why: he was simply going to his neighbors' to ask for a cup of sugar. Why? Well, it was all for the best of causes: his dear granny's birthday cake. True, his neighbors all happened to be PIGS. But his intention was for SUGAR, AND SUGAR ALONE. It's not his fault that he had a cold and that his POWERFUL SNEEZES took out the first two pigs' houses. And it's not his fault that the pigs he found within the collapsed houses were DEAD. Perhaps it wasn't neighborly to EAT them after he found them dead. But it was the natural thing to do--he is a wolf, and pigs are tasty. He asks readers to trust his side of the story. Do you?!

My thoughts: This one is fun, fun, super-fun, just a true delight to read and reread. I've read it plenty of times since it was first published in 1989, but, this is the first time I've reviewed it. If you haven't read it yet, you should! You're never too old to pick this one up.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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50. Q&A with Hervé Tullet (Yes, It Rhymes!)

What drove you to start creating children's books? A revolt! When I had my first child, children’s books looked like some stupid marketing thing.

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