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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 6,951
26. Go the BEEP to sleep!

TREND DETECTED! Insomniac robots are rolling off the assembly line.

Here they are blinking their way through bedtime in Todd Tarpley’s Beep! Beep! Go to Sleep! (Little, Brown, September 2015), illustrated by John Rocco.

tarpley_beep! beep! go to sleep

And here, one little robot takes its sweet time shutting off in Anna Staniszewski’s Power Down, Little Robot (Macmillan/Holt, March 2015), illustrated by Tim Zeltner.

staniszewski_power down little robot

Anna also recently introduced a BabyBot, so we can bet she can relate to her book’s tired Mom Unit. Here’s hoping, for her sake and the sake of Parental Units everywhere, that these bedtime books do the trick!

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The post Go the BEEP to sleep! appeared first on The Horn Book.

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27. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week

Over at Kirkus today, I write about this new picture book biography from Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad.

That link will be here soon. I’ll have some spreads from it here at 7-Imp next week.

Until Sunday …

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28. Alphabet Trains

Alphabet Trains. Samantha R. Vamos. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. 2015. Charlesbridge. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Tear the ticket. Load the freight. Sound the whistle. Raise the gate. Clank! Chug-chug! Whoosh! Alphabet trains.

Premise/plots: Alphabet Trains is a train-themed alphabet book for young readers. An author's note at the back of book provides more information on each train. A few trains are just types of trains, but other trains are specific trains. I like learning which trains are real, and where each train is located.  For example, "K is for Komet, traveling through the night. L is for Leonardo Express--a trip to Rome postflight." The note reveals, "The Komet runs overnight between Germany and Switzerland. Like a comet in the sky, the train travels at high speed. The Leonardo Express travels back and forth from the airport in Rome, Italy, to the central train station in the city. The trip is just 30 minutes."

My thoughts: I like this one. I like reading and reviewing train books, because I think train books will always have an audience. Little ones like trains. Some really, really, really love trains. Do you have a favorite train book?

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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29. Poppy's Best Paper

Poppy's Best Paper. Susan Eaddy. Illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet. 2015. Charlesbridge. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Poppy loved books. "I might be a writer when I grow up," she told her best friend, Lavender.

Premise/plot: Poppy loves to read and write. She has even almost decided to be a writer when she grows up. So when Mrs. Rose, her teacher, assigns a few writing assignments to the class, Poppy is super-excited. She KNOWS that whatever the assignment, she'll be the best at it because it involves writing. She KNOWS that her teacher will praise her work and read her writing as an example for the class. So Poppy is disappointed and frustrated and ANGRY when other students' work is picked instead. Will Poppy have a chance to shine?

My thoughts: I really liked this one. I liked Poppy. She's a character easy to relate to. We see her at school and at home. We see her "doing" her homework. We see the writing process. This one is easily about writing and school. But it is also about emotions and feelings and learning to deal with them appropriately.

Text: 3.5 out of 5
Illustrations 4.5 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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30. A Moment with the Art of Ted & Betsy Lewin


“We saw magnificent Masai warriors, called Marons,
and women mantled in beautiful beadwork.”

(Click to enlarge)


 

Last week at Kirkus, I chatted with Betsy and Ted Lewin about their new book, How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories from Our Travels Across Six Continents (Neal Porter/Roaring Brook, June 2015). That Q&A is here.

Today, I follow up with a bit of artwork from the book.

Enjoy.



 


“At last we stopped for lunch at a small hotel above Kasese. Sitting at a table on an open patio, and still keeping a wary eye on the mountains, we heard the screech of brakes, slamming car doors, and gruff, muffled voices. We jumped up and ran to the steps where I nearly collided with a soldier the size of a refrigerator in camouflage, a green beret, and green jungle boots. He glared at me, stone-faced. …”
–Ted and Betsy in Kasanai, Uganda, December 1997


 


“She was as sleek and graceful as a ballerina as she tiptoed along the branch of a huge jackalberry tree. Then she lay down, back legs straddling the branch.
She peeked demurely at us through the leaves. …”
–Ted and Betsy in Xakanaxa Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana, May 2007

(Click to enlarge)


 


South America
(Click to enlarge)


 



 

* * * * * * *

HOW TO BABYSIT A LEOPARD: AND OTHER TRUE STORIES FROM OUR TRAVELS ACROSS SIX CONTINENTS. Copyright © 2014 by Ted and Betsy Lewin. Illustrations used by permission of the publisher, Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press, New York.

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31. Top 5 meta books to teach print concepts

As a Pre-K teacher, one of the things I am focused on is helping children learn concepts of print. These concepts include that books are read from left to right and top to bottom (in English at least); the role of punctuation; that print has meaning; the relationship between print and speech; that books have a beginning, middle, and end; and more. One of the fun ways to teach these concepts is using a meta book. Essentially, these are self-referential books that teach children concepts of print and how books work through their plot line and design. Below, are my top 5 favorite meta books:

It's a BookIt’s a Book by Lane Smith
I have seen children not old enough to crawl who know how to operate an iPad. This fact has inspired countless think pieces and studies regarding the benefits and drawbacks of both traditional books and books on tablets and computers. Lane Smith’s It’s A Book plays off of this divide between traditionalists and digital book readers in a way that will amuse both children and adults. In the story, we get one character pestering the other with persistent questions about the book he is reading such as “Can it text? Tweet? Blog?” Since many five year olds are already familiar with tablets and smart phones, this book can inspire discussions regarding the differences between digital books and traditional print books, and how those books work. (Note to educators and parents: the end of the book refers to the Donkey as a “Jackass.”)

We Are in a Book!We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems
Most readers of Lolly’s Classroom are most likely already familiar with Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie series. One of my class’s favorites in the series is the meta book We Are In A Book! In this book, Elephant and Piggie discover that they are in fact in a book and go on to explain how books work in a myriad of funny scenes. For example, Piggie informs Elephant that “a reader is reading us” which leads to the two characters trying to get the reader to say random silly words like “banana.” Concepts like page numbers and that all books end are also learned via the plot line.

novak_bookwithnopixThe Book With No Pictures by B. J. Novak
Most got to know Newton native B. J. Novak when he played Ryan Howard on the TV show The Office. Since the completion of the show, Novak has expanded his artistic oeuvre to include writing a children’s book called The Book With No Pictures. As you probably guessed from the title, this book contains no pictures. Instead, the book forces the adult who is reading the story to say ridiculous things like “blork,” “Bluurf,” and “I am a monkey who taught myself to read.” This is a great book to teach children that text can have meaning without pictures and can inspire a fun lesson plan for emerging writers by having the children try to author their own book with no pictures.

Grover_MonsterThe Monster At The End Of This Book by Jon Stone
In this book staring the iconic Sesame Street character, Grover sees the title and is fearful of the monster at the end of the book. As the reader turns the book, Grover gets increasingly scared and angry at the reader who, by turning the pages, is bringing him ever closer to the monster at the end of the book. (I won’t spoil the ending, but you can probably guess who the monster turns out to be)

! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Punctuation can be confusing to young children; fortunately, Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld teamed up to create this great book simply titled !. In the story, the characters themselves are punctuation marks. At the beginning, we find the exclamation mark upset because he does not fit in with the periods. Eventually, the exclamation marks sets off and meets a question mark who can’t stop asking him questions, which leads to the exclamation mark finding his voice and purpose. This is a great book to read to set up a lesson plan about how different punctuation can change the tone and meaning of a sentence.

Finally, I will leave you with a simple lesson plan to create a “meta book” called “I Am In a Book” Get some small pieces of poster board and onto each piece of poster board attached a self-adhesive mirror tile (they are pretty cheap to buy). Use a hole-punch and book ring to turn it into a book. On the cover write “I am in a book”. On each subsequent page write phrases like “this is my happy face,” “this is my mad face,” “this is my sad face,” “this is my silly face,” and so on. As the children read the book they will make the face that goes along whatever is written underneath the mirror on that page.

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32. Some I Likes Before Breakfast


“Ask me some more I likes.
How about some more
I likes?
I like the color red. I like red everything.”

(Click to enlarge)



 

Here’s a quick post to share a bit of artwork from Suzy Lee. On shelves now is a new picture book from Bernard Waber (published posthumously), called Ask Me (Houghton Mifflin, July 2015), and Suzy has provided the beautiful colored pencil illustrations.

In this book, a father and his daughter walk through a neighborhood, discussing what they see and what they like the best. “Ask me what I like,” says the girl. “Ask me what else I like,” she says later. “Ask me some more I likes,” she insists further. The girl talks about mostly the natural world—the colors she loves and the best things about being outside (birds and their nests, splishing in the rain, dragonflies, and much more), but she makes sure to include things like ice cream cones, words (she particularly likes “rain words”), and next Thursday. Next Thursday, you see, is her birthday. Her father tells her he’d never forget her birthday — “not even in a billion years.”

 


“And I like beetles, and bumblebees, and dragonflies. And I like flowers. No, I love flowers. Bees love flowers too. Right? Right. And bees make honey. Right? Right.”
(Click to enlarge)



 

The text is this back-and-forth dialogue—the father’s words in a light purple font, and the girl’s in a black one, though it is sometimes challenging to discern the differences in font color—and Lee’s illustrations are relaxed and warm and colorful. (These are predominantly autumn colors; it’s interesting it’s seeing a summer release. After all, the girl likes “the color red. I like red everything.”) The girl’s world is one of love and reassurance; her day ends in her bed, her father kissing her goodnight:

Wait. Ask me something else.

What?

Ask me if I want another good night kiss.

Would you like another good night kiss?

Yes, I would like another good night kiss.

Good night.

Good night.

It’s a vibrantly-illustrated story about the father-daughter bond. Lovely.

 


(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge cover)


 

* * * * * * *

ASK ME. Copyright © 2015 by Bernard Waber. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Suzy Lee. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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33. Review: The Promise by Nicola Davies and Laura Carlin

The Promise, written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (Walker Books, 2013)

The Promise
written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
(Walker Books, 2013)

 

Set in a grim, grey, arid urban landscape where ‘Nothing grew. Everything was broken. … Continue reading ...

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34. Comic: What NOT to say to a picture book writer on a first date

0 Comments on Comic: What NOT to say to a picture book writer on a first date as of 7/13/2015 11:46:00 AM
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35. Picture Book Monday with a review of Song for a summer night: A lullaby

When night falls in summer, something remarkable happens. The heat of the day starts to dissipate and new nighttime-only sights and sounds drift across lawns and streets. Today's picture book perfectly captures that special time when stars start to twinkle in the summer night, and when children and creatures come out of their homes to experience the magic of a summer night.

Song for a Summer Night: A LullabySong for a summer night: A lullaby
Robert Heidbreder
Illustrations by Qin Leng
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Groundwood Books, 2015, 978-1-55498-493-0
The day has “left the stage” and now the night is waiting “in the wings” for the summer evening show to begin. As the last of the sun’s glow leaves the sky, children gather in the windows overlooking the park, waiting for the special daily gift to begin.
   As the first stars appear in the sky, fireflies drift up from the grass and trees and fill the air with their “glint – glint” lights. Soon after, raccoons appear on the scene, waltzing onto the park stage in “tra-la-la time.” Owls add their hoots to the song of the night, as do the crickets. Even the local cats, with their “tails held high,” get into the spirits of things, adding their purrs to the “rhythmic refrain” as the light fades from the sky.
   Dogs too “bounce” onto the grass of the park, where they are joined by some of the children who are “spellbound” by the night “music” that is swelling all around them.
   In this beautiful book a lyrical rhyming lines of verse are paired with gorgeous illustrations to take us into a nighttime world that is full of magic and beauty. We see how precious the simple gifts of nature are on a summer night, and how the magic continues to resonate with children long after the sun has risen and a new day has begun.
   Children and their grownups are going to love sharing this very special picture book.


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36. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #440: Featuring Mordicai Gerstein



 

I’ve got a review over at BookPage of Mordicai Gerstein’s newest picture book, The Night World (Little, Brown, June 2015). That is here if you want to read all about the book.

I’ve got some art today here at 7-Imp from the book, and Mordicai also sent some early roughs from the book. “As you will see,” he tells me, “the ruffs are very close to the final art.”

They roughs are, indeed, similar to the final art, but if you’re an illustration fan like me, you love to see these kinds of comparisons, so I’m going to post Mordicai’s roughs and follow each one with the final art as seen in the book.

I thank him for sharing.



 


Rough
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “‘Meow?’
‘It’s too late to go out, Sylvie … or it is too early?'”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Rough
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “Everyone is sleeping, even the goldfish.
Everyone except for Sylvie and me.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Rough
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “That shadow is a deer. Is this one a rabbit?
A porcupine looks up and whispers, ‘It’s almost here.’
‘It’s coming,’ murmur all the animals. ‘It’s almost here!'”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Rough
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “Here and there, shadows start to slip away.
‘Where’s everybody going?’ I ask.
‘This is our bedtime,’ says the porcupine. ‘Sweet dreams!’ say I.
The glow flares above the trees. Clouds turn pink and orange.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Rough
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “The grass turns green. The roses turn pink and red.
The lilies and sunflowers turn yellow. ‘It’s here!’ says Sylvie.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Rough
(Click to enlarge)


 


Final art: “And the great, glowing golden disk of the sun
bursts from the tops of the trees.
‘Good morning, sun,’ says Sylvie. ‘Good morning!’ sing all the birds.
‘It’s going to be a beautiful day!’ I sing, too. ‘Good morning, sun!'”

(Click to enlarge)


 


Author’s Note


 



 

THE NIGHT WORLD. Copyright © 2015 by Mordicai Gerstein. Published by Little, Brown and Company, New York. All roughs and final art reproduced by permission Mordicai Gerstein.

* * *

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 * * *

Forgive me as I forgo seven, separate kicks (band name — I call it!), but the girls and I are reading a galley of this …

… and I’m really curious to know how it ends, so my kicks are this book and that I’m going to go read some more with them. (We’re close to being done!)

How about you all? What are YOUR kicks this week?

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37. Building Your Home Library When You Have Kids

The Early Childhood Years

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.” —Italo Calvino, The Uses of Literature

My daughter is moving to a new school opening up in our area that focuses on a classical, liberal arts curriculum. Classics books are at the core of this education, and the school emphasizes on the tradition for students to build a personal library of books that they mark in, keep, and return to over the years to treasure. They call this collection “Classics To Keep.”

This is good practice for obvious reasons, but research proves just how good it is. According to the Oxford Journals, test scores from 42 nations provide evidence of the benefits of having a home library. But did the study mention which books were included in the homes? Are they all stocked with just classics?

In browsing my own collection, my personal library is an eclectic mix of classics, professional women memoirs, YA novels, anthologies, science and history textbooks, as well as books on pedagogy. Naturally, my choices for building Zoe’s early childhood books have followed the wide-ranging style of “Let’s get whatever we’re in the mood for…”

Today, Zoe and I hand-picked what we call “Our Classics.” Our classics list had very little to do with the classical liberal arts philosophy but more to do with Italo Calvino’s The Uses of Literature definition.

When it comes to stocking your child’s bookshelf, there is method in the madness. Not all pieces need to be classics - nor should they be. Our bookshelves represent something meaningful for us that help us bring back some wonderful memories. That’s what all great books should do. High test scores as a result of this ongoing project would simply be icing on the cake.

Here’s our list of Favorite Books in Early Childhood For ALL AGES:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault. Illustrated by Lois Ehlert - This rhyming alphabet book will burn into your memory. The colorful paper-cut pictures are easy to emulate. So if you’re an early childhood teacher, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom would be one of the most fun DIY decor for your classroom bulletin boards. If you’re a kindergartener, the tempo will keep you dancing, and before you know it, you’ll be the cool kid saying, “Look who’s coming! It’s black-eyed P...Q, R, S, and loose-tooth T!"
I’m Zoe! I Can Do It Myself (Little Blessings) by Melody Carlson. Illustrated by Elena Kucharik. The Little Blessings series is known for addressing Christian concepts, but the four character books (I’m Kaitlyn! I’m Jack! I’m Zoe! I’m Parker!) focus on skills and social development. In I’m Zoe, young readers meet a little girl taking small steps towards gaining independence: making her bed, getting dressed, brushing her teeth, and playing with her friends. My daughter still adores this one because she gets a kick out of seeing her name in print (like mother, like daughter). An added bonus is the girl in the book is Asian and looks like her. Super cute.
Blue Dragonfly by Pia Villanueva-Pulido. Illustrated by Rene Espinosa. Speaking of getting a kick out of seeing my name in print, this book holds many special meanings for us. Michael and I planned a series of children’s books for emerging readers called River of Imagination years before she was born, and Blue Dragonfly was the first one. Before she learned how to read (age 3 or 4), Zoe could already tell the story with sound effects! In his search for new adventures, curious little Blue Dragonfly embarks on a journey of self-discovery, but his temptations soon lead to trouble. The soothing voice-over narration and accompanying music make the story engaging, along with the colorful detailed pictures illustrated by a comic book artist turned tattoo artist/rock band lead guitarist in L.A.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney. Illustrated by Anita Jeram. The ever-romanticized quote “I love you to the moon and back” isn’t so cheesy or eye-roll inducing in this sweet book at all. The tenderness between Little Nutbrown Hare and his father Big Nutbrown Hare show just the right amount of reassurance for the young ones (ages 0-2) who need to feel safe and loved. The illustrations complement the text well for the emerging readers (ages 4-7) who need clues to read aloud the short phrases and simple vocabulary.
Your Own Keepsake Journal Baby Book - I can’t stress enough just how much I have treasured my keepsake baby book I made for Zoe’s first year. There are so many selections available in Amazon alone that you’re bound to find one that suits you whether you’re a first time mom or a busy working mother with multiple children. Zoe and I love to flip through the pages of her book together - a scrapbook with journal entries. Her sonogram pictures, first day at home, and monthly updates recorded in my own handwriting. I love writing, so I wrote letters to her before she was born. When she was old enough to read and understand, she asked me to continue writing to her. Even if you’re not a writer, I would highly encourage getting a journal with your child together and interact with each other through the written word. There are no rules. Just fun.
Next time you get a chance to browse your bookshelf, do yourself a favor and pick up of those books that bring back memories. Think about the specific time in your life that compelled you to buy that book and find meaning behind them. And do the same for your kids.

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38. Seuss on Saturday #28

I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today And Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1969. HarperCollins. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today: I can lick thirty tigers today! Well... Maybe twenty-nine. You! Down there! With the curly hair. Will you please step out of the line. I can lick twenty-nine tigers today...

Premise/plot: Another Seuss title about boasting. The narrator of this one boasts that he can 'lick' thirty tigers? Can he actually lick even one? Probably not. The illustrations reveal just how intimidated he becomes as the tigers come closer and closer. It's not so easy to keep a big ego when you're face to face with a couple of tigers!

My thoughts: I liked this one fine.  How does it compare to The Big Brag or Scrambled Eggs Super other Seuss stories with bragging or boasting? I probably like this one more.

First sentence of King Looie Katz: Way back in the olden, golden days (In the Year One Thirty-Nine) A fancy cat named Looie Was the King of Katzen-stein. King Looie was a proud cat, Mighty proud of his royal tail. He had it washed every morning in a ten-gallen golden pail.

Premise/plot: This story is so silly and oh-so-predictable. Looie has to have someone start carrying his tail, and then his tail-carrier has to have someone carry his tail, and then his tail-carrier has to have someone carry his tail, and on and on it goes. It's a relief when one cat says NO and stops the nonsense.

My thoughts: I wasn't a big fan of this story. But it was okay.

First sentence of The Glunk That Got Thunk: A thing my sister likes to do Some evenings after supper, Is sit upstairs in her small room And use her Thinker-Upper. She turns her Thinker-Upper on. She lets it softly purr. It thinks up friendly little things With smiles and fuzzy fur. 

Premise/plot: The sister gets in BIG, BIG trouble when her Thinker-Upper thinks up a Glunk. This Glunk is TROUBLE and then some. She really tries to un-think him, but, she learns you can't unthunk a glunk.

My thoughts: I liked this story the best of the three. It was silly and over-the-top, but I really liked it.

Have you read I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! And Other Stories? 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 Mr. Brown Can Moo.


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Happy Birthday, Cupcake! by Terry Border

Ever since I read Bread and Jam for Frances (you can read my review/tribute of this book here) as a small child, I have been drawn to picture books with food themes - or characters. In light of this, I have no idea how I missed  Terry Border's first book last year, Peanut Butter and Cupcake. Happily, I got the chance to read Happy Birthday, Cupcake, which combines one of my favorite

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40. Globe-Hopping with the Lewins

As children we were both fascinated by a book called I Married Adventure by Osa Johnson. It’s about her and her husband Martin’s travels to wild places around the world. We both aspired to their kind of life, and our childhood dreams came true. Our book is the culmination of all our travels. … We wanted to make this a true representation of what it felt like to be in these places. It would be less than honest if we made all our adventures look like a piece of cake.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to Betsy and Ted Lewin, pictured here, about their new book, How to Babysit a Leopard: And Other True Stories from Our Travel Across Six Continents (Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook, June 2015). That link will be here soon.

Next week, I’ll have a few of the watercolors from the book.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of the Lewins used by their permission.

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41. If You Happen To Have A Dinosaur, by Linda Bailey | Book Review

This book offers an imaginative twist on children’s abiding love of dinosaurs.

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42. Review of the Day: Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

boatsforpapaBoats for Papa
By Jessixa Bagley
Roaring Brook Press (an imprint of Macmillan)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-1626720398
Ages 4-7
On shelves now

So I’m a snob. A children’s literature snob. I accept this about myself. I do not embrace it, but I can at least acknowledge it and, at times, fight against it as much as I am able. Truth be told, it’s a weird thing to get all snobby about. People are more inclined to understand your point of view when you’re a snob about fine china or wines or bone structure. They are somewhat confused when you scoff at their copy of Another Monster at the End of This Book since it is clearly a sad sequel of the original Jon Stone classic (and do NOT even try to convince me that he was the author of that Elmo-related monstrosity because I think better of him than that). Like I say. Kid book snobbery won’t get you all that far in this life. And that’s too bad because I’ve got LOADS of the stuff swimming between my corpuscles. Just take my initial reaction to Jessixa Bagley’s Boats for Papa. I took one glance at the cover and dismissed it, just like that. I’ll explain precisely why I did so in a minute, but right there it was my gut reaction at work. I have pretty good gut reactions and 99% of the time they’re on target. Not in this case, though. Because once I sat down and read it and watched other people read it, I realized that I had something very special on my hands. Free of overblown sentiment and crass pandering, this book’s the real deal. Simultaneously wrenching and healing.

Buckley and his mama are just two little beavers squeaking out an existence in a small wooden house by the sea. Buckley loves working with his hands (paws?) and is particularly good at turning driftwood into boats. One day it occurs to him to send his best boats off into the sea with little notes that read, “For Papa. Love, Buckley”. Buckley misses his papa, you see, and this is the closest he can get to sending him some kind of a message. As Buckley gets better, the boats get more elaborate. Finally, one day a year later, he runs into his house to write a note for papa, when he notices that his mother has left her desk open. Inside is every single boat he ever sent to his papa. Realizing what has happened, Buckley makes a significant choice with this latest seagoing vessel. One that his mama is sure to see and understand.

The danger with this book is determining whether or not it slips into Love You Forever territory. Which is to say, does it speak more to adults than to kids. You get a fair number of picture books with varying degrees of sentimentality out there every year. On the low end of the spectrum is Love You Forever, on the high end Blueberry Girl and somewhere in the middle are books like Someday by Alison McGhee. Some of these can be great books, but they’re so clearly not for kids. And when I realized that Boats for Papa was a weeper my alarm bells went off. If adults are falling over themselves to grab handkerchiefs when they get to the story’s end, surely children would be distinctly uninterested. Yet Bagley isn’t addressing adults with this story. The focus is on how one deals with life after someone beloved is gone. Adults get this instantly because they know precisely what it is to lose someone (or they can guess). Kids, on the other hand, may sometimes have that understanding but a lot of the time it’s foreign to them. And so Buckley’s hobbies are just the marks of a good story. I suspect few kids would walk away from this saying the book was uninteresting to them. It seems to strike just the right chord.

It is also a book that meets multiple needs. For some adult readers, this is a dead daddy book. But upon closer inspection you realize that it’s far broader than that. This could be a book about a father serving his time overseas. It could be about divorced parents (it mentions that mama misses papa, and that’s not an untrue sentiment in some family divorce situations). It could have said outright that Buckley’s father had passed away (ala Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas which this keeps reminding me of) but by keeping it purposefully vague we are allowed to read far more into the book’s message than we could have if it was just another dead parent title.

Finally, it is Bagley’s writing that wins the reader over. Look at how ecumenical she is with her wordplay. The very first sentences in the book reads, “Buckley and his mama lived in a small wooden house by the sea. They didn’t have much, but they always had each other.” There’s not a syllable wasted there. Not a letter out of place. That succinct quality carries throughout the rest of the book. There is one moment late in the game where Buckley says, “And thank you for making every day so wonderful too” that strains against the bonds of sentimentality, but it never quite topples over. That’s Bagley’s secret. We get the most emotionally involved in those picture books that give us space to fill in our own lives, backgrounds, understandings and baggage. The single note reading, “For Mama / Love, Buckley” works because those are the only words on the page. We don’t need anything else after that.

As I age I’ve grown very interested in picture books that touch on the nature of grace. “Grace” is, in this case, defined as a state of being that forgives absolutely. Picture books capable of conjuring up very real feelings of resentment in their young readers only to diffuse the issue with a moment of pure forgiveness are, needless to say, rare. Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan was one of the few I could mention off the top of my head. I shall now add Boats for Papa to that enormously short list. You see, (and here I’m going to call out “SPOILER ALERT” for those of you who care about that sort of thing) for me the moment when Buckley finds his boats in his mother’s desk and realizes that she has kept this secret from him is a moment of truth. Bagley is setting you up to assume that there will be a reckoning of some sort when she writes, “They had never reached Papa”. And it is here that the young reader can stop and pause and consider how they would react in this case. I’d wager quite a few of them would be incensed. I mean, this is a clear-cut case of an adult lying to a child, right? But Bagley has placed Buckley on a precipice and given him a bit of perspective. Maybe I read too much into this scene, but I think that if Buckley had discovered these boats when he was first launching them, almost a full year before, then yes he would have been angry. But after a year of sending them to his Papa, he has grown. He realizes that his mother has been taking care of him all this time. For once, he has a chance to take care of her, even if it is in a very childlike manner. He’s telling her point blank that he knows that she’s been trying to protect him and that he loves her. Grace.

Now my adult friends pointed out that one could read Buckley’s note as a sting. That he sent it to say “GOTCHA!” They say that once a book is outside of an author’s hands, it can be interpreted by the readership in any number of ways never intended by the original writer. For my part, I think that kind of a reading is very adult. I could be wrong but I think kids will read the ending with the loving feel that was intended from the start.

When I showed this book to a friend who was a recent Seattle transplant, he pointed out to me that the coastline appearing in this book is entirely Pacific Northwest based. I think that was the moment I realized that I had done a 180 on the art. Remember when I mentioned that I didn’t much care for the cover when I first saw it? Well, fortunately I have instituted a system whereby I read every single picture book I am sent on my lunch breaks. Once I got past the cover I realized that it was the book jacket that was the entire problem. There’s something about it that looks oddly cheap. Inside, Bagley’s watercolors take on a life of their own. Notice how the driftwood on the front endpapers mirrors the image of Buckley displaying his driftwood boats on the back endpapers. See how Buckley manages to use her watercolors to their best advantage, from the tide hungry sand on the beach to the slate colored sky to the waves breaking repeatedly onto the shore. Perspective shifts constantly. You might be staring at a beach covered in the detritus of the waves on one two-page spread, only to have the images scale back and exist in a sea of white space on the next. The best image, by far, is the last though. That’s when Bagley makes the calculated step of turning YOU, the reader, into Mama. You are holding the boat. You are holding the note. And you know. You know.

I like it when a picture book wins me over. When I can get past my own personal bugaboos and see it for what it really is. Emotional resonance in literature for little kids is difficult to attain. It requires a certain amount of talent, both on the part of the author and their editor. In Boats for Papa we’ve a picture book that doesn’t go for the cheap emotional tug. It comes by its tears honestly. There’s some kind of deep and abiding truth to it. Give me a couple more years and maybe I’ll get to the bottom of what’s really going on here. But before that occurs, I’m going to read it with my kids. Even children who have never experienced the loss of a parent will understand what’s going on in this story on some level. Uncomplicated and wholly original, this is one debut that shoots out of the starting gate full throttle, never looking back. A winner.

On shelves now.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Misc: Be sure to check out this profile of Jessixa Bagley over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

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43. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Michael Emberley



 

Well, dear readers, it’s been a while since I’ve done a breakfast interview. Since I’ve been teaching this summer, it takes me longer to get to these more time-intensive Q&As. My visitor today, illustrator Michael Emberley, deserves an award (or a free breakfast perhaps) for his patience with me. We started talking last year about doing this interview.

And I’m really glad we got around to it. I enjoy seeing his illustration work, and I really enjoyed chatting with him and hearing his responses to these questions. Emberley, the son of legendary illustrator Ed Emberley, has been illustrating since 1979. He was born and raised in Massachusetts but now makes his home in Ireland, near Dublin. (I highly recommend taking time to read this page of his site, where he talks about why he started illustrating and why he decided to stick with it: “I began illustrating because I needed money, but now I truly appreciate what I do. I can keep myself from being bored by doing a variety of book projects and using different techniques. This is more difficult than mastering one style but it is the only way for me.”)

His work has been described as “an unassuming wonder” and “a playful masterclass in using the page.” His vivid characters leap off the page, and his loose-line watercolors communicate a spontaneity and energy that is infectious. His artwork also communicates the great warmth of family and friends; pictured at the top of this post is but one example of this, an illustration from 2008’s Mail Harry to the Moon, written by Robie Harris. And Emberley’s never been one to let gender stereotypes get in the way of his boy and girl protagonists; he had that covered well before it became PC to let such a thing happen.

When I asked him about breakfast, I got a hearty response:

Hey! My favorite meal of the day! Okay. If writing early morning, good coffee and pastry in a café. If heading off cycling, add granola yoghurt and fruit or a ‘fry,’ if I need something extra. (A “fry” here in Ireland means [vegetarians, read no further]: sausage, rashers (thick bacon), eggs, black and white pudding (blood sausage), grilled tomato (pronounced toe-mah-toe), and a farl (potatoe pancake) if you’re up north. All on the same plate.)

A fry it is then. (Hey! If I don’t like it, well … it’s only a pretend cyber-breakfast.) And lots of coffee, of course.

Oh, and guess what? Michael shares below something he’s been thinking about doing for a while — a complete, single-scrolling image of all the sketches for one book. They are from Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, published last year. “I didn’t dare count them,” he told me. “Hundreds. It’s never been on any of my blogs or Facebook.” That is at the very bottom of this post.

I thank him for visiting 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Michael: Definitely both. I’m an illustrator first, but I’m trying to get better at writing more “books without pictures.” But even when writing a novel, my mind is full of images — a theatre with sets and scenes, costumes and colored lights, players and performances. As I draw a picture book character, I hear them speaking. As I write about a middle grade character, I see their eyes. They’re real to me.

Pictured below: Sketch pages of different early ideas for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (Knopf, 2014). See even more sketches in this 2014 7-Imp post.

 





Pictured below: More sketches for Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, followed by a piece of final art. These were Michael’s “wish for a gruesome end to Billy by a Missy-conjured snake. None were accepted for final art. Notice even the final composition in the scene of the snake confronting Billy. I played around with different morphs of Missy into her imaginary snake. My idea of her turning into her creation can be seen in the sequential scene in the final book art where a close-up of her face/eyes is clearly becoming reptile, and then the snake becomes more a morph of her scarf (look at the color stripes and tail), but my original idea—using a half-Missy, half-snake head, though a more logical extension of the “snake eyes” sequence—was ultimately rejected. It’s all subjective in fantasy.”





” … which is exasperating boys like YOU.”
(Click to enlarge)


 

Pictured below: “Development of another hard-to-visualize concept of Billy being a yoke on Missy’s neck. Some things come out first draft with very little change in final art.”

 



Pictured below: An unused concept for the neighbor’s basement:

 



 

Pictured below: Lion sketches:

 



 

Pictured below: Ideas for Missy in her raincoat. Not used. “Note the skull pattern, expressing her less than stereotypical ‘girlie’ nature.”

 




 

Pictured below: Some final art from the book:

 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 



(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


 

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date? (If there are too many books to list here, please list your five most recent illustrated titles or the ones that are most prominent in your mind, for whatever reason.)

Michael: Yikes. Lots. I could list them, but it’s not nearly as impressive a list compared to what others have done. You can look at my website.

Unfortunately, I like to live life rather than spend it all in the studio. This will ultimately limit the number of books I finish, I guess. You can only do so much. I try not to be too hard on myself, but I usually feel I’m not working hard enough. The question is: What do I want to do with the finite time I’ve got?

 






 

Jules: What is your usual medium?

Michael: Line, as I said, first and foremost. Preferably pencil. Sometimes pen. Occasionally brush and ink. [As for] color: Mostly liquid watercolor, but also dry pastel. If I could get away with just a pencil, I’d be happy. I’m experimenting with using digital color.

 





(Click each to enlarge)


 

Jules: If you have illustrated for various age ranges (such as, both picture books and early reader books OR, say, picture books and chapter books), can you briefly discuss the differences, if any, in illustrating for one age group to another?

Michael: I’ve illustrated for young and old. Fiction and non-fiction. I love all ages. I wish I could draw for everyone. I do as much drawing making cards and notes for adults as I do for kids. I do a comic strip for my local coffee shop. It’s fun seeing people smile. I rarely get that from the book industry. I work so remotely from that whole world.

 


(Click to enlarge)


 

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Michael I’ve lived on the east coast and west coast of the USA (Boston, Oakland, San Diego) but now live in a small village on the east coast of Ireland, near the Irish Sea. We’re just south of Dublin, so we’re in the city a lot, too. It’s a beautiful spot for cycling (my other life) and close to trains and an airport shuttle. It’s getting too pricey, though, so my lovely Irish wife Mel and I may be forced to move soon. An artist is always being chased away by gentrification. My life has been pretty nomadic — at least 20 pillows so far.

 






(Click each to enlarge)


 

Jules: Can you briefly tell me about your road to publication?

Michael: Short story: My father was/is in the biz (Ed Emberley). He worked at home. I did odd stuff for him when I still lived there. A series of sketches I did for a drawing book he was working on was a failure, because it looked less like his work than he wanted, but instead of throwing it out, he suggested I take it away and make it into a stand-alone book for myself. Clever way of getting me to pay my way I took it in to my father’s editor, the kindly John Keller, and he said, “Let’s go!” I was 19 and never looked back. [That was] Dinosaurs! A Drawing Book, 1979.

 



 

Jules: Can you please point readers to your web site and/or blog?

Michael: http://www.michaelemberley.com/.

 



(Click each to enlarge)


 

Jules: If you do school visits, tell me what they’re like.

Dan: They’re less about me and all about the prep that the school, teachers, librarians, and parents put into the visit. The more they put in, the better the kids are prepared, and the better it goes for everyone. I’m pretty good with the kids. I’m a kid myself. I can be very silly. I draw a lot. Most people like that.

But if they have no idea who you are or why you’re there, it’s like climbing Everest. Everyone loses. I should do more visits. But no one knows me here in Ireland. Very few of my books are sold here. My publishers claim the Irish don’t want my books. What can you do? I enjoyed visiting a tiny school in Co. Mayo recently. I got them rapping with me to one “You Read to Me” book. They’re so funny.

One thing I can say is I stopped prepping for specific audiences long ago, because I was blind-sided so many times with either a completely different age group or topic than I was told. Or it’s teens and five-year0olds in the same room. You have to think on your feet and read the vibe going on. I’ve done some seriously bad talks — and great ones. Worst was an ALA author breakfast years ago. I bombed. Best was my last U.S. gig – in Rhode Island, I think. The kids were great and, therefore, so was I. We all won.

 






Illustrations from Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks Loves Books!
(and I don’t)
(Knopf, 2010)


 

Jules: Any new titles/projects you might be working on now that you can tell me about?

Michael: Oh boy. Tons of stuff. I’ve taken time out this past year, making a big lunge back towards writing after mainly illustrating for several years. I’m writing for all ages. I have stuff for YA down to picture books. I have at least 15 manuscripts on the go. Yikes! I know: Focus on one, right? I’m working on that. But I’m too excited. I have so many books I want to do.

And I love all my new characters! Does that sound silly? I sincerely hope I can learn to write well enough so others will “meet” them and enjoy their company as much as I do. That sounds trite, but who cares? It’s true.

 






Michael: “These are Mom sketches from a book I’m doing now. These were nixed for publication. Only the [Mom at the doorframe] is in the current dummy.”


 

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, we’ve got more coffee, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Michael again for visiting 7-Imp.

1. Jules: What exactly is your process when you are illustrating a book? You can start wherever you’d like when answering: getting initial ideas, starting to illustrate, or even what it’s like under deadline, etc. Do you outline a great deal of the book before you illustrate or just let your muse lead you on and see where you end up?

Michael

: Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of sketching. I seem to do more and more as years go by. Loads of it done in coffee shops. I’ll use pencil, but since it smudges if you draw on the opposite page, I only use the right-hand pages. When I get to the end, I turn the sketchbook upside down and draw on those pages in pen. Hey, paper is expensive.

I do quite a bit of direct sketching on type layouts too. Impulsive ideas first — inventing the characters, their clothing, hairdos, and expressions. You know, the cast and performance of the play. I might add a few backgrounds. I only explore color in the finals, unless there is a color idea that dominates the scene.

I did this alphabet book with Barbara Bottner with 26 different kids and one teacher. I created 27 distinct individuals that moved through the book. Then I played them out. That was work. Lots of sketchbooks were filled on that one.

 






(Click each to enlarge)


 

2. Jules: Describe your studio or usual work space.

Michael

: My workspace is wherever I am. I worked in a classic sixth floor factory building loft studio in Boston for ten years; in second bedrooms; in my own bedroom; in a closet-like space, like the one I’m renting at the moment. I make do. I get on with it.

My fantasy would be a bigger, well-lit, more open space to lay things out. A picture book is a whole, not discrete pieces. It’s great to see it all at once. But I can’t afford that kind of space right now. You make do. I’m writing this interview in my local pub. But maybe that’s an Irish thing.

 




(Click each to enlarge)


 

3. Jules: As a book-lover, it interests me: What books or authors and/or illustrators influenced you as an early reader?

Michael

: My influences are few as a reader. I did not read much fiction as a kid, sorry to say. Mrs. Bowman read us Dahl in 3rd grade, and I loved it. I was forced to read things beyond my age and hated them, like Melville’s Billy Budd in 5th grade. That said, I loved all of Richard Scarry, Charles Shulz comics, and Charles Harper books.

 



(Click each to enlarge)


 

4. Jules: If you could have three (living) authors or illustrators—whom you have not yet met—over for coffee or a glass of rich, red wine, whom would you choose? (Some people cheat and list deceased authors/illustrators. I won’t tell.)

Michael: I like lots of people’s work. But it’s hard to know who would be a good dinner guest if I haven’t met them. A lousy artist might be great craic, and a brilliant one might only be good for, as a friend once described, “a couple of grim pints.” But it is nice to sit down with a fellow book person and not have to explain what you do the whole night.

I admire many people’s work and do occasionally wonder if they are anywhere near as interesting as their art/writing. “My authors” are all good craic. I met author Barbara Bottner at a gig once, and whether she believed me or not, I was a huge fan of her book, Bootsie Barker Bites. And I can tell you, she ain’t boring. It’s great to be doing books with her. Mary Ann Hoberman and her husband Norm are great dinner partners. My friends Robie Harris and her husband Bill are always great around the table.

[Pictured below: Art from Mary Ann Hoberman’s Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart

(Little, Brown, 2012). Read more about it here.]

 


– From Theodore Roethke’s “Dinky”


 


“Nancy Hanks” by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét


 


“Mary Middling” by Rose Fyleman, “A Frog in a Well Explains the World”
by Alice Schertle, and “Bat Patrol” by Georgia Heard

(Click to enlarge spread and read poems)


 


If-ing” by Langston Hughes and “Things” by Eloise Greenfield
(Click to enlarge spread and read poems)


 



 

I like work I don’t imagine non-artists can truly appreciate to the same degree as another illustrator would. Brian Karas is a quiet genius. Ditto Ana Juan; Frida is a fantastic. I love Raúl Colón, Marla Frazee, and Jon Klasssen’s stuff is gorgeous. That tree house book — wow. Ed Young, the Dillons. Jim Kay’s work in A Monster Calls is one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

I love stuff I’ve seen from Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and eastern Europe. I’m in love with stuff that won’t sell in the U.S. I would love to publish in Poland or someplace like that. France would be impossible to break into, but they have amazing children’s book illustrators. Japan too. Gorgeous stuff. The U.S. book-buyer can be too, uh, American, sometimes. Too limited in their tastes. There is a big world out there beyond the bright lights.

I love the comic/graphic novelists coming out of Europe and the U.S. They might be good for a laugh over a glass.

I want to talk to someone who sees no boundaries between art, science, religion, and philosophy. I like thinkers and dreamers. I like smart — but not at the expense of wonder. I like talking to people who teach me things but don’t lecture. I like people who can skip between genres and genders, fact and fiction, pain and persuasion. Someone who can stay off their phone. Someone funny and kind. If they are an artist, so much the better. But the creative arts is no secret passport to the land of interesting company. (Sounds like a personal ad!)

Writers? Hmmm. Too many. Short list:

Okay. That’s more than three, isn’t it?

 


(Click to enlarge)


 

5. Jules: What is currently in rotation on your iPod or loaded in your CD player? Do you listen to music while you create books?

Michael: Tons of stuff. I listen all the time. All styles. Mostly when doing art. Writing is problematic with most music. But I write in noisy coffee shops with background music, so it’s possible. For example, West African is okay, since I don’t speak the lingo. Mainstream stuff — Salif Keita, Youssou N’Dour, etc. Puccini is nice, too, sometimes.

Random thoughts on music that’s sticking in my head recently:

Gillian Welch, “Everything’s Free.” Haunting song. And what better lament for the world of pre-internet/free content. I’m paraphrasing her lyrics here:

Everything is free now / That’s what they say / Everything I’ve ever done, They’re gonna give it away. … If there’s something that you wanna hear / you can sing it yourself.

I also keep listening to this acoustic version of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” I never listened to him before, and I’m not a groupie. But these lyrics, though, won’t go away. Paraphrasing again:

… it’s a looong walk from your front porch to my front seat / the door’s open, but the ride, it ain’t free.

I can see that grey wooden porch floor, feel the chasm between the screen door and the open car door. The gulf between what she knows and what could be waiting for her. The tremendous courage it takes to cross that porch, to imagine another future for herself. It kills me every time.

Eddi Reader. Check out the video “What You Do With What You’ve Got”. Amazing. Try to see this Scottish original live, singing her version of Robby Burns’ “Ae Fond Kiss.” And try not to feel it. This verse:

Had we ne’er loved so kindly
Had we ne’er loved so blindly,
Nor ne’er met, Nor ne’er parted,
We would ne’er been so broken-hearted.

Ah, as a Czech friend of mine once said, “Melancholy is best emotion.”

I admit I love Elvis Costello’s lyrics. Random lines I remember (some may be off):

“She threw her hands up, like a tulip…”
“They’re mopping up all the stubborn ones who just refuse to be saved.”
“He’s planting a paperback book for accidental purchase, containing all the secrets of life, and other useless things.”

Canadian Holly Cole has this amazing album of Tom Waits covers. Another great writer. Love the “doorknob” lyric in “Falling Down”:

Everyone knew that old hotel was a goner. … They broke all the windows, and took all the doorknobs, and they hauled it away in a couple of days. …

Also Cole’s other cover album with this song-lyric by Patty Larkin:

He said: ‘I read the Bible every day,
Just to keep the demons at bay,
Thank God when the sun goes down,
I don’t blow away.’

And one more: Lori McKenna‘s “Stealing Kisses.” Poignant “housewife drama”:

I was stealing kisses from a boy,
And now I’m begging affection from a man…
Don’t you know who I am?
I’m standing in your kitchen.


 




Illustration and covers for two of Emberley’s books
with Robie Harris (read more here)


 

6. Jules: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Michael: Well, most people who know me know this, but I am a competitive athlete when I’m not at the desk. Cycle racing has been my ‘thing’ since the late ’70s. It’s unusual in my experience for artists or writers to be athletic or competitive, and vice versa. I actually know no one who is in both worlds. A lot of artists/writers live in their heads all the time, come out at night, and they’re pretty neglectful or out of touch with their bodies.

The racing is a good balance for me. You can think out there. Mostly it’s training on back roads, wandering around, wind in your ears, a Zen thing, shutting down your “busy mind.” But racing itself is different. Aggressive, intense, clawing up hills, screaming down, diving into a sharp bend with people at each elbow. The pain, the exhaustion, the fear. Moving at high speed is an entirely different way of seeing the world than being in a chair.

 


Michael: “This is the kind of thing I do for books, as well as cards and letters. These self-portraits were done really fast one after the other on the holiday card envelopes of friends, family, etc. (I used to draw the recipient, but that gets you into a lot of trouble. Easier to pan yourself.) This shows how different each take can be. I do this for book characters as well, until I see the one I like. If this were a book,
I have two favorites here. The rest are trash.”


 

7. Jules: Is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do? Feel free to ask and respond here.

Dan: How does the way artists are perceived in society inform your decision to become an artist? Or: Why are you really doing this? No, I mean, really?

I grew up in a household with a professional artist. That’s my perspective. I saw the great Oz from the back first. Great artists seem to come from both great resistance and great encouragement. But it’s something you learn and earn, not get by faith or are born with. I think there’s too much mystery, awe, and romance surrounding artists and writers that they haven’t earned and, frankly, isn’t good for them. It does us no favors. It sets us apart, instead of bringing us together. Creatives all too often either marginalized or put on a pedestal by society.

Here in Ireland, the attitude is pretty balanced: You’re given a comfortable chair, but no pedestal. That’s good. Pedestals are to knock people off of.

My pet peeve on the topic of the “artist’s life” is people who are writing or drawing so they can just “be the thing,” wrap themselves in the label Artist or Writer. Being an artist is just a name, a part of creating art, not the other way round. The goal is the work, not the label.

There are people who hold onto this thing they imagine an artist to be — some adolescent fantasy born from years of too much dreamy misinformation, like wanting to be a princess as a little child. To be famous—a celebrity—with the added thrill of being photographed, signing a hardbound book with your name on it. Jaysus feck. That’s the pinnacle of an adolescent dream, imagining being asked for their autograph.

Okay, I’d like to see art and writing and creative expression in general as something more acceptable and more readily available to a broader segment of the population. It’s a means of self-exploration and consolation — and generally enhances your life.

But that’s not professional art. There’s a difference. Professional art is work. You need to train for it, learn it, and hopefully get paid for it. It’s not something you do “if you only had the time.”

You wouldn’t expect anyone who likes to spin around in circles and likes how they look in a tutu to join the Bolshoi Ballet.

I think people should be asked more often why are they honestly doing it.

Pictured below: Thumbnails and early sketches from Barbara Bottner’s An Annoying ABC (Knopf, 2011).

 



Jacket thumbnails


 


Final sketch for book jacket


 


(Click to enlarge)


 








Above: Sketches
(Click each to enlarge)



 



Color sketches


 



 

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Michael: “Balance.”

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Michael: “Hate.”

Jules: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Michael: Kindness.

Jules: What turns you off?

Michael: Bullies.

7-Imp: What is your favorite curse word? (optional)

Dan: “Me bollocks!”

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Michael: An Irish accent.

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Michael: Loud, mechanical things at 7 a.m.

Jules: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Michael: Theatre.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Michael: Foreclosure.

Jules: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Dan: “Forgive yourself.”

 

Reminder: Below is a complete, single-scrolling image of all the sketches for Barbara Bottner’s Miss Brooks’ Story Nook, published last year.

 



 

All images are used by permission of Michael Emberley.

AN ANNOYING ABC. Copyright © 2011 by Barbara Bottner. Illustration © 2011 Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Images reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

FORGET-ME-NOTS: POEMS TO LEARN BY HEART. Copyright 2012 by Mary Ann Hoberman. Illustrations copyright 2012 by Michael Emberley. Spreads reproduced with permission of the publisher, Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Co., New York.

MISS BROOKS LOVES BOOKS! (AND I DON’T) Text copyright © 2010 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2010 by Michael Emberley. Spread reproduced by permission of the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY.

MISS BROOKS’ STORY NOOK (WHERE TALES ARE TOLD AND OGRES ARE WELCOME!). Text copyright © 2014 by Barbara Bottner. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Michael Emberley. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. Images reproduced by permission of Michael Emberley.

The spiffy and slightly sinister gentleman introducing the Pivot Questionnaire is Alfred, copyright © 2009 Matt Phelan.

7 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Michael Emberley, last added: 7/10/2015
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44. Picture of Grace, by Josh Armstrong | Dedicated Review

Picture of Grace, by Josh Armstrong, is certainly moving and will be well received by families who are suffering or have suffered from loss.

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45. A Walk in Paris by Salvatore Rubbino

If, like me, you and your family are enjoying a stay-cation yet again this summer, you might enjoy a little armchair traveling, which is what A Walk in Paris by Salvatore Rubbino is perfect for. Of course,  A Walk in Paris is also a superb book to read to any little listeners who just might be visiting the City of Lights themselves. If your travels take you elsewhere, Rubbino is also

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46. Out and About (2015)

Out and About: A First Book of Poems. Shirley Hughes. 1988/2015. Candlewick Press. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really enjoyed reading Shirley Hughes Out and About: A First Book of Poems. These poems reminded me that I do like poetry, good children's poetry, about subjects that are easy to relate to. These poems celebrating living life in all four seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. These poems celebrate spending time outdoors. Best of all, these poems are kid-friendly.

For example, "Mudlarks"

I like mud.
The slippy, sloppy, squelchy kind,
The slap-it-into-pies kind.
Stir it up in puddles,
Slither and slide.
I do like mud.
and "Water"
I like water.
The shallow, splashy, paddly kind,
The hold-on-tight-it's-deep-kind.
Shlosh it out of buckets,
Spray it all around.
I do like water.
I like this poetry collection because it's joyful. These poems capture joyous moments. Well, for the most part! I suppose the poem about being stuck in bed SICK isn't capturing joy, it's capturing frustration. But still. These poems are easy to relate to. 


© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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47. Seuss on Saturday #27

The Foot Book. Dr. Seuss. 1968. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Left foot
Left foot
Right foot
Right
Feet in the morning
Feet at night
Left foot
Left foot
Left foot
Right
Premise/plot: Does The Foot Book have an actual plot? Probably not. It's a rhyming celebration of all sorts of feet, I suppose.

My thoughts: Probably not my favorite Seuss title. Not that I actively dislike it, mind you. It's just not going to make my top thirty.

Have you read The Foot Book? 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 I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today and Other Stories.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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48. Gingerbread for Liberty (2015)

Gingerbread for Liberty: How A German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Everyone in Philadelphia knew the gingerbread baker. His honest face...his booming laugh...And, of course, his gingerbread--the best in all the thirteen colonies. His big, floury hands turned out castles and queens, horses and cows and hens--each detail drawn in sweet, buttery icing with the greatest skill and care. And yet, despite his care, there always seemed to be some broken pieces for the hungry children who followed their noses to the spicy-smelling shop. "No empty bellies here!" the baker bellowed. "Not in my America!"

Premise/plot: Gingerbread for Liberty is the untold, near-forgotten story of Christopher Ludwick, a German-born American who loved and served his country during the American Revolution in the best way he knew how: by baking.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED this one. I loved the end papers which feature a recipe for "Simple Gingerbread." I loved the illustrations. Never has a book's illustrations gone so perfectly-perfectly well with the text. The illustration style is very gingerbread-y. It works more than you think it might. At least in my opinion! I loved the author's note. I did. I loved learning a few more facts about Christopher Ludwick. It left me wanting to know even more. Which I think is a good thing. The book highlights his generosity and compassion as well as his baking talents.

But most of all, I loved the text itself, the writing style. The narrative voice in this one is super-strong. And I love the refrain: Not in MY America!  

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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49. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #439: Featuring Akiko Miyakoshi


It just so happens that my very favorite medium in picture book illustration is charcoal. I get all googly-eyed when I see it done well. But that’s not the only reason I love this book from author-illustrator Akiko Miyakoshi, The Tea Party in the Woods, coming in August from Kids Can Press and originally published in Japan back in 2010. The visuals here are pure magic and filled with intriguing details, and the story is one of mystery and friendship.

A young girl, named Kikko, awakes to a “winter wonderland.” She heads out to deliver a pie to her Grandma, the one that her father, who has already set out for Grandma’s house, left behind. This is all slightly reminiscent of the classic tale “Little Red Riding Hood” in that the girl’s destination involves her grandmother, and her skirt and winter hat are bright reds (much like Red’s cape) in a sea of white snow and dark charcoals. But that’s where the similarities end: There’s no menacing wolf here.

Instead, she is fairly sure after heading out that she spots her father ahead, and in an effort to catch up to him, she falls in snow drifts and the pie box is crushed. She follows her father anyway to “a strange house. Has it always been here? Kikko wondered.”

 


“Kikko followed her father all the way to a strange house. Has it always been here? Kikko wondered. She couldn’t remember having seen it before.
She watched as her father went inside.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Her father enters the house, and when she peeks in the window, she is surprised to see, not her father, but a great big bear. A kind lamb asks Kikko, still outside, if she is there for the tea party. She goes inside with the lamb, and here is where the magic and mystery amp up. There is a fabulous spread where all the creatures at this party—forest creatures of every stripe—turn to stare at her. But Miyakoshi places readers right with Kikko, so it’s the reader who gets a stare-down too. It’s a wonderful, rather spine-tingling moment.

 


“‘Are you here for the tea party?’ asked a kind voice. Kikko turned to see a little lamb standing nearby. ‘This way,’ said the lamb,
gently taking Kikko’s hand and leading her inside.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Despite their stares, they welcome her. And the feasting begins, Kikko’s yellow hair the only spot of color in this sea of charcoals. (Later, we see a bit more color when we pan out to see the group as a whole.) I love to see happy feasts in picture books, one reason I’m a John Burningham fan. The book closes with a lovely surprise from the tea party members, one that benefits both Kikko and her grandmother. (It’s hinted at in the illustration opening this post.)

Was it all a dream or did she really feast with forest creatures? It doesn’t really matter. The adventure was worth it, either way.

 


“The woods were filled with joyful sounds as everyone paraded to Grandma’s house, singing and laughing and playing music as they went. ‘This way!’ the animals called. Kikko held the pie box tightly and walked on.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Here’s the splendid cover one more time, a little bit bigger:

 



 

THE TEA PARTY IN THE WOODS. Copyright © 2010 by Akiko Miyakoshi. English translation © 2015 by Kids Can Press. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kids Can Press, Toronto.

* * *

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) Did I mention I love to see charcoal illustrations like this?

2) Being thanked by name by Dan Santat in his Caldecott acceptance speech last weekend. It was tremendously thoughtful of him to thank bloggers.

3) Lots of great new music to explore.

4) Alabama Shakes’ new CD really is extraordinary.

5) Brian Selznick’s drawings.

6) Sparklers.

7) Pie.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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50. Picture Book Monday with a review of Beach House

When I was a child, at the beginning of May, I would start looking forward to our first beach vacation of the year. We used to camp on a beach for two weeks or so in July, and those sun-filled days brought me some of the best memories of my childhood, which I still cherish today. Today's picture book perfectly captures the anticipation that a family of children experience when they set off for their summer beach vacation, and the joys that they share when they get there.


Beach HouseBeach House
Deanna Caswell
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Chronicle Books, 2015, 978-1-4521-2408-7
They have been waiting for a whole year, and now, at last, summer is here and they are going to the beach house. The van is loaded down with beach gear, suitcases, bikes, golf clubs, a surf board and who knows what else, and when the family arrives at the house, all that stuff has to be unloaded and put away. The ocean is calling as the children make beds and empty suitcases, as they look out of the window at the sand and the waves.
   Then, at last, everyone heads for the beach. Carrying bags, pulling wagons, scampering and running, the two adults, three children, and the little dog begin their vacation. Games of Marco Polo are played, boogie boards are tried out, and castles with moats are built and washed away. As the sun sets they gather around a fire pit to roast hotdogs and toast faces. As the moon rises they wash off the sand and salt and fall into bed with “Rosy noses” knowing that outside the ocean and beach await them for another day of adventure.
   With wonderfully lush watercolor illustrations and a magical rhyming text, this picture book perfectly captures the simple pleasures of a summer beach vacation. The excitement that the family members feel is almost palpable, and readers will probably start wishing, as the narrative unfolds and blooms, that they too could splash in waves, build castles, and soak up salty air and warm sun.

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