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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 6,899
26. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Octopuppy

Most children, at some point, want to get a pet of some kind; usually they ask for a kitten, puppy, or a bird. All too often their precious hopes are dashed when a grownup tells them that having a pet is out of the question. Or they are told that they can have a pet, but it has to be something small; an easy-to-care for animal such as a goldfish or hermit crab. In today's book you will meet a little boy who wants a dog for a pet, but who ends up with a very unusual animal instead.

The Octopuppy The Octopuppy
Martin McKenna
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Picture Book
Scholastic, 2015, 978-0-545-75140-7
Edgar wants a dog; a dog he can walk and train and spend time with. A dog who will chew shoes, chase cats, and eats dog biscuits. On his birthday Edgar does not get a dog. Instead, he is given octopus called Jarvis. Jarvis cannot behave like a dog at all, in part because he is a lot cleverer than the average dog. When Edgar takes Jarvis out for a walk, Jarvis gets him an ice cream cone. When Edgar tells Jarvis to lie down Jarvis puts on his jammies, gets a teddy and a pillow, and goes to sleep.
   In short, Jarvis goes too far, and this drives Edgar crazy. All he wants is for Jarvis to behave like a dog. Is that too much to ask? Wanting to please Edgar, Jarvis tries very hard to be more like a real dog, and for a while he succeeds. Then Edgar takes Jarvis to the big dog show and Jarvis can “only be himself,” which means that he goes over the top and his behavior really embarrasses Edgar. After this disaster Jarvis decides to leave. In a good-bye note he says “I’m sorry I was a bad dog. Love, Jarvis.” When he sees the note Edgar realizes that what he was asking of Jarvis just wasn’t fair. Jarvis wasn’t a dog. Instead he was “the best octopuppy in the word” and now he is gone.
   At some point all of us are guilty of trying to change the people who are close to us, or of wishing we could change them. This book explores this idea with humor and sensitivity and we see how Edgar comes to appreciate that his pet is just perfect the way he is.

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27. G+D Vintage Books: The Animals' Vacation and Mr. Wishing Went Fishing

Growing up in the 1970s, I was well positioned to enjoy picture books from my mother's childhood and, along with Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight's Eloise, Little Golden Books were always a favorite of mine. When my two oldest children were little, it was hard to find the classic Little Golden Books that I remembered, but in 2001 they reissued many of the vintage titles that I had been missing.

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28. Maisy Learns to Swim (2015)

Maisy Learns to Swim. Lucy Cousins. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Maisy is going swimming today. Time to get ready! Do you have everything you need, Maisy?

Premise/plot: Maisy Learns to Swim is a Maisy First Experiences Book. The book is about her taking swim lessons with her friends. The instructor's name is Poppy. Poppy appears to be a great teacher. The book focuses on the details of a swim lesson: kicking, floating, blowing bubbles, etc.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I like Maisy and her friends. I especially love Eddie the elephant.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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29. Peppa Goes Swimming (2015)

Peppa Goes Swimming. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It's a beautiful, warm summer day. Peppa and her family are at the swimming pool. "Peppa, George, let Daddy put on your swimming armbands," says Mummy Pig. Today is George's first time at the pool, and he's a bit scared of getting in the water.

Premise/plot: Peppa's family is going swimming at the pool. This is George's first time in the pool. Will he like it? Will he love it? Peppa's family hangs out at the pool with Rebecca Rabbit's family. George and Richard have fun together. Rebecca and Peppa have fun together. Fun is had by one and all.

My thoughts: I do love this episode of the show. This adaptation is fun. Recommend the book series to anyone who loves the show.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #437: Featuring Jessixa Bagley

“That evening, Buckley and Mama went for a walk.
Buckley brought along the little boat he had made especially for Papa
with a note attached that said, ‘For Papa. Love, Buckley.'”


I read a brand-new picture book this week, which I found really moving. It’s from debut author-illustrator Jessixa Bagley (pictured below), originally from Portland, Oregon, and now living in Seattle. “[M]y love of picture books,” Jessixa writes at her site, “has been the constant goal my entire life and has always been a working focus.”

Boats for Papa (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, June 2015), which will be on shelves at the end of this month, is about Buckley, an anthropomorphized beaver who lives with his mother in a tiny house by the sea. “They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.” Buckley’s father is gone. One doesn’t really know why—I suppose it’s possible he took off for one reason or another—but it’s also perfectly plausible that he has died. Readers who look closely will see loving family photos, which include Buckley’s father, on the walls of the house.

Buckley loves to make things, especially boats from the driftwood he finds on the shore. He makes boat after boat, his mother always encouraging his creative efforts. “Your papa would be proud!” his Mama tells him. Buckley, who misses his father, wants to show him his favorite boats, but he settles for carrying them to the sea, with notes attached that say “For Papa. Love, Buckley,” and he pushes the boats out on the tides — all in the hopes that the hand-made vessels will reach his father.


Opening endpapers
(Click to enlarge)


“Buckley and his mama lived in a small wooden house by the sea.
They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.”

(Click to enlarge)


“And he loved to make things with his hands.”


“‘Mama, look what I made for Papa!’ said Buckley.
‘What a wonderful boat! Your papa would be proud!’ said Mama.
‘I wish I could show it to him,’ said Buckley. He missed his papa.”

(Click to enlarge)


“After Buckley had drifted off to sleep, Mama went out onto the beach
and thought about Papa. She missed him too.”

(Click to enlarge)


“… boats with real sails, ropes, and even tiny anchors.”


“And each time he made a new boat, it was even better than the last.”
(Click to enlarge)


One day—it’s Buckley’s birthday, and he and his mother picnic on the shore—Buckley runs back to the house to grab paper for the note for Papa he wants to attach to his latest boat. When he looks into Mama’s desk for paper, he finds a pile of the boats he’d made for Papa — the ones he had pushed out to sea:

Buckley closed the lid and sat quietly. The boats must have washed back onto the beach, after all. They had never reached Papa.

Buckley runs back, after jotting something on his boat-note, and he and Mama watch the boat drift out to sea.

Later, readers see Mama walk to the beach, grab the boat that has sailed back, brush the sand off of it, and wrap it in her shawl. As she does so, she sees the note that reads: “For Mama. Love, Buckley.”


“Soon it was Buckley’s next birthday. They built a fort, played pirates, and looked for buried treasure on the beach. Mama even made Buckley a very special cake
in the shape of a boat!”

(Click to enlarge)


“At sunset, they went for their walk to send a boat to Papa. Suddenly Buckley realized he’d forgotten to write a message. ‘I’ll be right back. I need to go write my note, so Papa knows the boat is for him,’ he said anxiously.”
(Click to enlarge)


I don’t like to make a habit of giving you the entire plot of picture books, because I don’t like to ruin surprises for you or go on and on about how good stories are laid out. But I pretty much have to share that with you so that you can understand when I say that the ending moved me to tears. This is such a tender tale of loss and love. It’s striking in its subtlety and restraint; in the hands of a lesser author, such a story could be a treacle-fest. Once you turn the last page, you think back to the part I quoted above: “They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.” It’s clear that both mother and son ache over their loss, yet they are helping each other through the pain as best they can — and Buckley’s mother always there, always sure and kind. In fact, after he realizes his mother was trying to spare him more sorrow by keeping the returned boats from him, he merely says to her, “Thank you, Mama. I had a really great birthday. And thank you for making every day so wonderful too.” In this way, it’s almost as if he lets go of some of the loss, having realized the steadfast affection always directed his way from the parent he has left.


Closing endpapers
(Click to enlarge)


It’s an eloquent and poignant story, one you won’t soon forget.

As for the book’s rich watercolors, well … you can see that for yourself here today, since Jessixa (her site, by the way, says that the “x” is pronounced like a “c”) shares some paintings from the book, as well as some early sketches. She’s including the original thumbnails for the story before it changed. It was once called Drift. “Neal [Porter],” she tells me, “came up with the title Boats for Papa, because he said Drift was too melancholy, like Mama and Buckley were drifting aimlessly. I joked with Neal, telling him one day I would write a YA novel just so that I could call it Drift, because I still liked that title a lot.”

Jessixa also includes here today the original test pieces of art that she made when she got the idea for the book, “as well as a photograph of all the paint tests that I created during the painting process. These are some of my most favorite things in the world — all the little scraps of paper I tested colors on and figured out what color the sand, water, and sky would be at different times of the day.”


(Click each to enlarge)


Early samples


Jessixa: “Here are some pictures of actual wooden boats
and a nautical flag map alphabet that I made.”

(Click each to enlarge)


“I’ve been doing one boat drawing a day, leading up to the book launch,” Jessixa adds. “I’ve been posting them to Instagram, Twitter, and my blog. It’s under #30boatsin30days and #boatsforpapa. I usually add a boat fact with the image, too. My Instagram and Twitter handles are Jessixa Bagley, and my blog is jessixabagley.blogspot.com.”

Boatloads of thanks to Jessixa for sharing today.

BOATS FOR PAPA. Copyright © 2015 by Jessixa Bagley. Published by Neal Porter/Roaring Brook Press, New York. All images here today reproduced by permission of Jessixa Bagley.

* * *

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 * * *

Well, the news in Charleston this week was incredibly disturbing and sad, so we have to make the most of it, yes? Help me out with your own kicks, dear readers.

1) It’s Father’s Day, and my daughters are very lucky to have the father they do.

2) Story time at Parnassus Books with attentive children and my friend’s daughter (one of my favorite children on the planet) right by my side.

3) She’s baaaaaack!

I actually read an early copy of the book, but I’m happy to have the hardback. My girls and I laughed so hard when we read this that tears streamed down our faces.

4) One of my dearest friends, Susannah Fotopulos, was featured on Nashville Public Television recently. She is doing great things in local schools with her organization, Plant the Seed, creating outdoor classrooms in school gardens to educate and empower under-resourced children.

5) Evidently, my blog is listed as a good picture book website in the back of this new book from Martin Salisbury (a book I really want to read):

6) Getting a much-needed kick in the pants on a project.

7) I particularly enjoyed featuring Caroline Magerl’s work this week, and I am happy to share Jessixa’s today, too.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #437: Featuring Jessixa Bagley, last added: 6/22/2015
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31. Review: The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point by Trina Saffioti and Maggie Prewett

The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point, written by Trina Saffioti, illustrated by Maggie Prewett (Tradewind Books, 2013)

The Old Frangipani Tree at Flying Fish Point
written by Trina Saffioti, illustrated by Maggie Prewett
(Magabala Books, 2008)

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32. Seuss on Saturday #25

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet. Dr. Seuss (Writing as Theo LeSieg) Illustrated by B. Tobey. 1965. Random House. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I wish 
that I had duck feet.
And I can tell you why.
You can splash around in duck feet.
You don't have to keep them dry.

Premise/plot: A young boy imagines what it would be like to have duck feet, antlers, a whale spout, a tiger tail, and an elephant trunk. He imagines first WHY it would be GREAT. But the more he thinks it out, the more he comes to see the potential problems. Yes, duck feet and a whale spout would be great, but, would his mother like either one on her son?! NO! By the end, the boy concludes that it's great to be himself.

My thoughts: I really love this one. I have always loved this one. The storytelling is just fun. Though I didn't realize as a kid that Big Bill might just be a bully bothering the young hero.

Have you read I Wish That I Had Duck Feet? Did you like it? Did you 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 I Had Trouble In Getting to Solla Sollew.   

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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33. A Fine Dessert (2015)

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 2015. Random House. 44 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A bit more than three hundred years ago, in an English town called Lyme, a girl and a her mother picked wild blackberries. Their hands turned purple with the juice. The thorns of the berry bushes pricked the fabric of their long skirts.

Premise/plot: A Fine Dessert shows four families from four different time periods making the same delicious frozen treat: blackberry fool. The first family is a mother and daughter living in Lyme in 1710. The second family is a mother and daughter--both slaves--living in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1810. The third family is a mother and daughter living in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1910. The fourth family is a father and son living in San Diego, California, in 2010. The recipe hasn't really changed, but, HOW they get the ingredients and HOW they use them has. (For example, how whipped cream is made.)

My thoughts: I liked this one very much. It was very well written. The premise is interesting, but, if it wasn't written so beautifully, I'm not sure it would work. I liked the family aspects of this one. It was a very sweet book.

Text: 4.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4.5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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34. Review: Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior and Laura James

Anna Carries Water, written by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James (Tradewind Books, 2013)

Anna Carries Water
written by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James
(Tradewind Books, 2013)

Anna desperately wants to be able to carry the … Continue reading ...

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35. Chu's Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex

Chu's Day at the Beach is the third in a series of picture books about a little panda with big a sneeze written by  Neil Gaiman and magnificently illustrated by as master author in his own right, Adam Rex. Sometimes Gaiman's story doesn't get beyond the gag of the explosive sneeze, but Rex's illustrations are always a treat. Painterly and packed with out of the ordinary (for picture

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36. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, FeaturingAmy June Bates, Gary Clement,Todd Stewart, and Peter Sís

– From Peter Sís’s Ice Cream Summer


“Every year we stay at the same place. I call it our cottage.
But it’s not really a cottage. It’s a motel.”
– From Andrew Larsen’s
See You Next Year, illustrated by Todd Stewart
(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“A long, long drive. It’s been a year of dreaming, waiting. Summer’s here.”
– From Deanna Caswell’s
Beach House, illustrated by Amy June Bates
(Click to enlarge spread)


– From Gary Clement’s Swimming, Swimming
(Click to enlarge spread)


This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got two new picture books, especially perfect for preschoolers. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about some very summer’y picture books — Andrew Larsen’s See You Next Year, illustrated by Todd Stewart (Owlkids, March 2015); Peter Sís’ Ice Cream Summer (Scholastic, May 2015); Gary Clement’s Swimming, Swimming (Groundwood, May 2015); and Deanna Caswell’s Beach House, illustrated by Amy June Bates (Chronicle, May 2015).

Here’s some art from each book. Enjoy!


Art from Andrew Larsen’s
See You Next Year,
illustrated by Todd Stewart:


“Every year we take the same roads. We pass through the same towns.
We arrive at the same beach.”

(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“We always come on a Saturday. We always stay for a week.
We’ve been coming to the same place every summer since I was little.
Nothing changes. That’s why I like it.”

(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“It’s not long before the beach is a sea of umbrellas.
You can hardly see the swirls or the sand.”

(Click to see spread in its entirety)



Art from Gary Clement’s
Swimming, Swimming:


(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)


(Click to enlarge spread)



Art from Deanna Caswell’s
Beach House,
illustrated by Amy June Bates:


“Breathe salt air. Squint at the sun.
Hot-foot hopping. Squeal and run.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Marco Polo. Dives and dunks. Body surfing. Floating trunks.
Castles rise. Moats are filled. Stacking, smoothing. Smash, rebuild.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


“Hungry tummies. Sun-kissed knees.
Salty skin. Chilly breeze.”

(Click to enlarge spread)



Art from Peter Sís’
Ice Cream Summer:


“You can be sure my brain is still working.
I am reading the encyclopedias you gave me.
I am diving into world history!”

(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

BEACH HOUSE. Copyright © 2015 by Deanna Caswell. Illustrations © 2015 by Amy June Bates. Published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Illustrations from Ice Cream Summer: Written and illustrated by Peter Sís. Illustrations © 2015 by Peter Sís. Used with permission from Scholastic Press.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR. Copyright © 2015 by Andrew Larsen. Illustrations © 2015 by Todd Stewart. Published by Owlkids Books, Toronto. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

SWIMMING, SWIMMING. Copyright © 2015 by Gary Clement. Published by Groundwood Books, Toronto. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

1 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, FeaturingAmy June Bates, Gary Clement,Todd Stewart, and Peter Sís, last added: 6/19/2015
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37. Bright Skies with Aimée Sicuro

“With the city suddenly darkened,
Phoebe and Dad sat in the store, listening to the rain. …”


Since I chatted last week (here) with author Uma Krishnaswami about her newest picture book, Bright Sky, Starry City (Groundwood, May 2015), I’m following up here today with some spreads from the book, which was illustrated by Aimée Sicuro.

Enjoy the art.

(Note: Some of the text in the spreads featured below varies slightly from the text in the final copy of the book.)


“Phoebe helped Dad set up the telescopes outside his store. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Two of the planets—Saturn and Mars—would be up in the sky later, between those buildings. They’d be up, but Phoebe worried she wouldn’t be able to see them. …”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“… Rain blurred the lights. Clouds blotted out the sky.
Dad hurried Phoebe back into the shop.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Crash! Boom! The echoes faded. But something had changed.
Where were all the lights?”
(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“Above the newly washed city, with the power still out,
glowing, sparkling, gleaming lights painted the night …”
(Click to see spread in its entirety)


“… How deep the night was and how endless!”
(Click to enlarge spread)


“Phoebe breathed in the night, with all its stars and planets.
‘What a bright, bright sky,’ she whispered.”
(Click to enlarge spread)



* * * * * * *

BRIGHT SKY, STARRY CITY. Copyright © 2015 by Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrations © 2015 by Aimée Sicuro. Published by Groundwood Books, Toronto. Spreads reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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38. Best Selling Picture Books | June 2015

Exciting news: This month our best selling picture book from our affiliate store is a non-fiction book. Hooray for our smart and engaged readers!

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39. 48 days, day 6: the proposal method -- what's enough?

 {{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days, I'd love to hear/see what you're doing. Please link to your work/blog/etc in the comments (or just comment!) so all can see. We'll cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

Mourning dove, through the screen door. I tried to get closer, to capture it without the screen between us, and to get the hummingbird and wasps, but they were not having it.
I wish you could have seen the party at the birdbath in my garden this morning: one mourning dove (very big), one hummingbird (very small), and three red wasps (tiny!), all vying for turns at fresh water. I tried to take a photo, but of course they wouldn't sit still for me to do that. Yesterday when I filled the bath, five red wasps were right there, waiting for me to finish, as well as a bee. (Yay, bee! Bring your friends!)

It makes me so happy to see the life in the garden, even when it's the birds that I have to shoo away from the blackberries each morning. I have planted enough berries for them and enough for me.

Enough for them and enough for me. That's what I'm thinking about today as I write. How much of a draft/revision is enough for those who will read it, and how much is enough for the one who writes it? And then there are the gatekeepers who make some of those final decisions, once we get a final draft and the book goes into production... editors, publishers, marketing people, book sellers, teachers, librarians, parents, but more about them another day. It's a miracle a book makes it into a young reader's hands at all!

I'm working on Rachel today, more focused than yesterday. A comment on yesterday's post really helped me with my feelings of not getting enough done: "I think summer just calls us away from our tasks... Gardening and just soaking up the long days are just part of summer. It isn't writing for me, but just the things I need to take care of around the house."

That's part of it, I'm sure. Thanks, Sandy. I want to remember glorious summer... something I write about quite a bit, actually... RUBY, ALL-STARS, FREEDOM SUMMER, REVOLUTION... the joys of summer.

I've been at it since early morning. It's coming along. Some days the tide sweeps you out to sea, and some days you're able to stay put against the undertow. Today seems to be a stay-put day. I'm working on what's good-enough to submit for a draft.

A good friend (who espouses writing every single day, even in summer, all day if possible (with breaks for exercise!) and who produces quite a bit more writing than I ever will) says to think of a picture book like a proposal. It can be revised and re-thought, and even re-worked completely, if you can get the attention of an editor who is intrigued enough to ask for a revision.

This goes counter to the "get it as perfect as possible" method writers cut our teeth on, eh? If we look at picture books as proposals -- offers? -- to write the entire book beautifully and sellably (:>), then what is it that will intrigue that editor and get him/her to ask for a revision?

I think it's a fresh approach, a new idea, a different structure, and above all -- voice. That elusive thing no one can seem to define.

More about voice in another post. This morning I'm working. Hope you are, too. I'm lucky to have these 48 days off, and I want to use them up, wear them out, make them count, all while enjoying these summer days that call me away from my tasks. A tall order. A cool drink is what's required now. Even the creatures at the birdbath know that.

Write on!

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40. Papa's Suns Coming Soon!

I'm thrilled to announce that my latest picture book, Papa's Suns is scheduled to be released shortly.  Below is the official blurb for this book which should be coming out at the end of the month.

Jacob and his grandfather like to spend time drawing pictures together. But after
Papa has a stroke, Jacob is afraid that his Papa will be different. Although Papa’s
body is healing, Jacob discovers that the love between him and his grandfather will
never change.

This book is close to my heart because it based on the relationship between my father-in-law and my daughter. Here is a sneak peek at the cover.  The illustrations are beautifully done by Samantha Bell.

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41. My Cousin Momo by Zachariah OHora

When I was a bookseller, I remember being so excited when I read Stop Snoring, Bernard! for the first time in 2011. It was a great hit at story time and I fell in love with Zachariah OHora's illustration style and his charming characters. Somehow I missed his next book, No Fits, Nilson, which I still need to get my hands on. Now, author of three books of his own, OHora has also illustrated

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42. Ice Cream Summer by Peter Sís

I am embarrassed to admit that this is the first Peter Sís book I have reviewed here in the seven years since I started this blog. Peter Sís is a picture book author who's work ranges from playful to serious, always with a unique sensibility, an out of the ordinary perspective and a magical vibe. Above all else, imagination and seeing something no one else does are themes that appear over

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43. 48 days, day 5: avoiding the draft

 {{ I am chronicling 48 days of writing before my July 31 travel. If you are chronicling your summer writing/days, I'd love to hear/see what you're doing. Please link to your work/blog/etc in the comments (or just comment!) so all can see. We'll cheer one another through. Strength to your sword arm! }}

Day 5: Avoiding the Draft.

Not THAT draft. Although I'm avoiding book three of the sixties project right now, probably because I'm a little in shock that I would actually think to move the book from 1968 to 1969, after all the reading and research I've done on 1968. More on that later.

The draft I'm avoiding is the Rachel draft I finished yesterday that needs So Much Work. I have found eleven-hundred other things to do today that have kept me from sitting down to this draft until an hour ago when I knew I was going to have to be accountable here for my writing day. (See how this works? huh.)

I bought cat food.

I consulted four times outside in the 95-degree heat with Roger, who is truly finishing up this long, long project with our yard, helping us manage water flow and create an edible landscape.

I read. Now, reading is essential. I want to fit it into every day I live. When I'm on a tight deadline, the only reading I'm doing is the manuscript or research. When I'm not, like now, reading for pleasure and reading for work are necessary. Maybe two hours in the middle of the day isn't necessary, when I've got these precious 48 days in which to write like mad. Maybe I'm still finding my rhythm. I want to cut myself a break.

I did get up early and get right to it, sitting down with the manuscript. There is nothing stopping me from revising today except me. Am I afraid of the story? No. Am I afraid to be messy? Heavens no, I've been nothing BUT messy with this draft for 16 years. Am I avoiding work? Well... yes.

Writing. Is. Hard. Work. At least it is for me. It requires so much attention, energy, focus, stamina, structure, skills, and strength -- strength of mind and heart. Maybe I just didn't have all that today. Am I making excuses? Maybe. Am I for-real? Yeah. We never know what private stuff someone may be wrestling, and it turns out some news from a friend yesterday has me slightly off-balance today.

Not that I can't write through it. I can and I have in the past. Today I gave myself the luxury (or the punishment -- I guess it depends on how you look at it) of a partial day off. I'm going to work for an hour now. I promise. Then I'm going to work outside -- we've got so much going on out there, it's a sort of constant distraction, but I won't use that as an excuse... this outside work gives me a good chance to move and stretch and sweat -- it's so hot and sunny and humid it hurts. ATL in June.

So let's say I'm going to work from 4 to 5pm -- 5:30. And then work in the yard for an hour. And then get a shower and make a salad (if Jim doesn't beat me to it) to take it to pot luck with friends tonight. By the time I get home, my overly-full head will drift onto the pillow in sleep. Tomorrow will be better.

How about you? Did you work/write today? Will you?

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44. Review of Tad and Dad

stein_tad and dadTad and Dad
by David Ezra Stein; 
illus. by the author
Preschool   Paulsen/Penguin   40 pp.
4/15   978-0-399-25671-4   $16.99   g

Poor Dad. Poor Tad. Neither frog is getting any sleep in his (lily)pad. Tad loves his dad so much that he can hardly bear to be away from him, even at night. Whether Tad is a wiggling tadpole, swimming everywhere with his dad, or a jumping frog with legs, he doesn’t want to sleep alone. “‘Why are you in my bed?’ said Dad. ‘So you won’t miss me,’ I said.” Parents everywhere, especially those with night-wandering, bed-sharing toddlers, will laugh with grim identification when Tad starts to swim and grow and jump and catch his own breakfast, just like Dad, but still crowds onto Dad’s lilypad at bedtime. And, when night comes and the growing froglet dreams and practices his new skills in his sleep (“So that’s what was kicking me…”), little ones will chuckle at Tad’s enthusiasm and Dad’s growing exhaustion. Relaxed circular and rectangular frames signal Dad’s more mature bearing, while Tad’s energy is uncontained, often filling the whole spread. Stein uses color to great effect to show the lap-listener that this little gem is both a celebration of the father-child relationship and a good-night book. See Tad and Dad snoring together on the last page? The world is blue and black, lit only by the moon. ’Night, Tad. ’Night, Dad. Like every good go-to-sleep book, this one will hold up to many repeat readings.

From the May/June 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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45. Nobody's Perfect (2015)

Nobody's Perfect. David Elliott. Illustrated by Sam Zuppardi. 2015. Candlewick Press. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "Nobody's perfect." That's what everybody says. And I guess they're right. Like Gigi. She's my sister. She's not perfect. She's loud! Really loud!

Premise/plot: While in a time-out, a young boy reflects on his life realizing that "everybody" is right after all: nobody's perfect. Readers learn about his life: his family, his friends, the good times and bad. It's a simple book, in a way. Funny and sweet too. I think the story is easy to relate to for many.

My thoughts: Did I really, really like this one? Or did I really, really love it?! That is the question. Only time can say for sure. But I definitely felt an emotional connection with this one! I think the page that won me over completely was this one, "I'm not perfect either. This is my room before I clean it." Turn the page, "This is my room after I clean it." The illustrations show that AFTER he TRIES to clean it, it is EVEN messier. And notice: HE'S NOW ON THE BED READING A BOOK. How could I not love this kid?! And that isn't the only clue that this kid loves to read! Overall, I would definitely recommend this one!!!

I loved the text. The illustrations? Well, some pages I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. And other pages, I merely "liked" them.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. London Calls (2015)

London Calls. Gabby Dawnay. Illustrated by Alex Barrow. 2015. Abrams (Tate). 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Big Ben is chiming; it's quarter to eight and London is calling, we mustn't be late...
We jump on a bus where an oyster's the fare and over the river to Parliament Square!

Premise/plot: London Calls! is a rhyming tour book, or "travel" book, for young children.  The tour guides are Granny Rose and little Pearl. These two are featured on every spread. The last few pages of this one feature a dialogue between these two. The dialogue is packed with trivia.

My thoughts: I like this little book. It has a certain charm to it.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10
© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. 48 days, day 4: a crummy draft

96 degrees in the shade at 5pm today. Gus is hanging out under the ferns.

How did I get so much done today? Remember this, sister, when you wail about the days when nothing seems to get done. Nothing is wasted. Remember that, too.

I have a really crummy, really awful, really unsellable draft of a story about Rachel Carson. I've been writing this book since 1999. I've had probably 20 drafts over the years, and maybe a dozen of them survive. Okay, a half-dozen.

If I truly believe that I'm writing even when everything is percolating, then I've been trying to get at this latest draft for about 16 years. I do believe that. Sometimes it takes TIME. And things change. You change. How you see the story changes. How picture books are written and sold changes. Editors move or age up or down or out or in -- whatever. There are so many variables. Yes?

Whatever the case, this morning I sat down and wrote from beginning to end, all of it, all over again. The story is so much a part of me by now, I knew my direction. And, after spending so much time with 4-year-old Abigail, reading so many books, and getting to know her sensibilities so very well, the way I approach a picture book reader/listener is different.

So my rhythm and tone and plot and language -- everything is different about this very same story.

At lunchtime, I read what I had to Jim, and I heard how clunky and awful it is. How many holes there are. (I actually write "DETAIL HERE" or "BLAH BLAH BLAH.") But I am just ebullient! I have a draft! A draft! I can do something with that. (Or not... I have a bunch more of these where that one came from... ha.)

I prefaced my reading by telling Jim about Rachel Carson -- setting up this particular scene/story. I felt my heart swell with such deep admiration for her, as I spoke... a sure sign that I am in the right place... you know? Write what you are passionate about, that's what I say. That's the only thing that works for me. And so... we will see.

I ordered my office a little. It's a warehouse right now. It's chock-full of all the traveling I've done since January, and that's a lot of travel. It's home to all the detritus of living out of my suitcase for six months, plus library hauls and bills to be paid and kid stuff and a dehydrator and honestly, I don't know how I do it. I plan to tackle it, a half-hour at a time this summer. It will take a while.

The rest of the day was full of watering and weed pulling and consulting with our water-management-yard-putter-back-togetherer Roger, ordering and taking possession of 13 cu. yds of hardwood mulch for the beds that are ready for it. It's so hot.

I got a shower outside. Now I'm sitting in the pink chair with my hair in a towel, drinking the last of the sweet tea (Ruby Lavender would be proud of me), and reading LEROY NINKER SADDLES UP by Kate DiCamillo. Abby and I loved MERCY WATSON so much, and this is where Mercy led me.
Dinner out with friends. Thank goodness. I'm letting that draft cool. It needs so much work. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe.


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48. Hasel, Rose, and Caroline

“Rose caught it up out of the water.”
(Click to enlarge)


Good morning, all. I’ve got some artwork today from Caroline Magerl, born in Germany but raised (mostly) in Australia. Just last year, her book Hasel and Rose was published by Penguin-Viking Australia. I’ve got a copy of the book, and it’s beautifully, eloquently told, this story of starting over and friendship found. Magerl’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations, with their relaxed lines and muted tones, contain ample charms. As I understand it, the book will be reprinted in 2016 by DoubleDay here in the U.S. — under the title Rose and the Wish Thing.

I’ve got some illustrations from Hasel and Rose today, and since I was so taken with her artwork, Caroline even shares some of her other pieces here. I thank her for sharing. You can see more illustrations from the book here. (Some of the artwork was shown at the Chris Beetles Gallery in St James, London, last November. Here’s my favorite moment in the book.)



From Hasel and Rose:


“But the wish thing had no name.”
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“But perhaps there was no such thing.”
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“It was a short ride for Hasel and Rose.”
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Other Artwork:





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* * * * * * *

HASEL AND ROSE. Copyright © 2014 by Caroline Magerl. Published by Penguin Viking, Australia. All artwork here is reproduced by permission of Caroline Magerl.

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49. Illustration Inspiration: Jennifer Gray Olson, Ninja Bunny

JENNIFER GRAY OLSON is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree in art education. She is a glassblower and sculptor. In addition to writing and illustrating ... Read the rest of this post

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50. Ask Me (2015)

Ask Me. Bernard Waber. Illustrated by Suzy Lee. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence:
Ask me what I like.
What do you like?
I like dogs.
I like cats.
I like turtles.
I like geese.
Geese in the sky? Or Geese in the water?
I like geese in the sky. No, in the water. I like both. Ask me what else I like.

Premise/plot: A father and daughter enjoy their time together in the evening. The book begins with the two together talking at the park on a lovely fall day. The book ends with him putting her to bed. The book from beginning to end is their conversation together.
Ask me if I like ice cream cones.
Do you like ice cream cones?
No. I love, love, love ice cream cones. 
My thoughts: I really enjoyed reading this one. I think I liked it even better the second or third time. The more attention I gave the illustrations, the better I liked it. The text itself is lovely. But I love, love, love, LOVE the illustrations by Suzy Lee. I am not sure I could pick a favorite spread, but, I've got two that I especially love. I love the one where the little girl is sitting on her father's shoulders and eating an ice cream cone. (They're both eating ice cream.) And I love the next page when they're both stomping or marching through the piles of leaves, and she's holding a red balloon. There is just something joyous about the whole book: the text and the illustrations.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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