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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 5,640
26. Five 2014 Picture Books

The Very Cranky Bear. Nick Bland. 2008/2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In the Jingle Jangle Jungle on a cold and rainy day, four little friends found a perfect place to play. Moose had marvelous antlers, and Lion, a golden mane. Zebra had fantastic stripes, and Sheep…well, Sheep was plain. None of them had noticed that someone else was there. Sleeping in the cave was a very cranky…BEAR!

I liked The Very Cranky Bear. I really liked some things about it. I liked the rhyming text. I liked the story of it. I liked how Sheep, who was, after all, so very plain…was the hero who made a friend of the "cranky" bear. Sheep's friends were a bit vain and very silly. As if adding antlers or stripes to a bear would make him less cranky?! I was less fond perhaps of the illustrations. While I certainly enjoyed it, it remains an almost book (an almost-love).

This story was originally published in Australia.

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

Mighty Dads. Joan Holub. Illustrated by James Dean. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Mighty Dads, strong and tall, help their children young and small. They keep them safe and bolted tight and show them how to build things right. Excavator Big helps little Vator dig. They go scoop, scoop, scoop.

I liked Mighty Dads. I think there will be a definite audience for this one. I think little ones who are truck-obsessed (construction-obsessed) will enjoy this very playful and active rhyming story that celebrates fatherhood. I thought it was interesting to see the pairs at work and play. To see what the little vehicles were called. My personal favorite was the pairing of "Backhoe Steady" and "Hoe-Hoe." I enjoyed the illustrations by James Dean. (Yes, the same James Dean who created Pete the Cat.)

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

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons. Jon J. Muth. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

are you dreaming
of new clothes?

these leaves
fall forever
my Broom awaits

in my Coat pocket a missing button
the wind's surprise

Dance through the cold rain
then go home
to hot soup

Eating warm cookies
on a cold day
is easy

Jon J. Muth's newest picture book celebrates the four seasons through haiku. Each season has its fair share of poems. These poems celebrate nature, life, and friendship. Many spreads star a panda that will be recognizable to Muth's fans. I enjoyed this one. I didn't love, love, love it. Poetry tends to be hit or miss with me. But I would still recommend it. These poems are, I believe, accessible to young readers.

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

Hot Rod Hamster Monster Truck Mania. Cynthia Lord. Illustrated by Derek Anderson. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Truck day, treat day, cotton-candy sweet day, fun day, fair day, music in the air day.
The monster truck show starts at there o'clock. We have some time to wait. What should we do? Rides!

I was surprised by how much I really did enjoy this one. I found myself really loving the rhythm and rhyme of it. It's a book that deserves to be read aloud again and again. It's just one of those books that reads oh-so-easily. You don't have to over-think it. It just works. For example, "Sailboat, rowboat, pirates long ago boat. Sub boat, tug boat, chugga-chugga-chug boat. Which would you choose?" Anyway, this book is about friends spending the day together at the fair. They are super-excited about the monster truck show, but, they're going to have as much fun as they can BEFORE the show starts. They are on a quest to find the best ride ever, and they will not leave disappointed!

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

The End (Almost) Jim Benton. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Once there was a bear named Donut.
That's me.
And he burped.
The end.
Excuse me.
I said, that's the end.
Really? One burp?
Yes. The story is over.
No way.
This can't be right.
Sorry, it's the end. I mean it. I'm sending you home.

Someone does NOT want his story to be over. Donut the bear is sure that there is more to his story than just one not-so-tiny burp. What kind of story is that after all?! Donut gets in a very, very long argument with the narrator. He tries EVERYTHING to stay in the book. He's determined and sneaky. But will he actually win the day? You be the judge.

I didn't love this one or hate it. It reminds me, for better or worse, of an Elephant and Piggie book. And since I love, love, love, love the Elephant and Piggie book (We Are In A Book), this one ended up disappointing me. I can see why it would probably appeal to other readers.

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

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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27. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #376: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Christine Allen


It’s the first Sunday of the month, which means I welcome a student or new illustrator. Today, Christine Allen visits. Christine, who lives in Colorado, studied painting and is transitioning into illustration. She tells us more about herself below, so let’s get right to it.

I thank her for visiting …

* * *


My Schooling/Training and
Transition into Illustration:

I received my BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where I studied painting. I also studied at Parson’s The New School for Design and Yale School of Art and Music. All exceptional experiences, all challenging and fulfilling. Following all of this study, I had a bit of a crisis, a loss of excitement and energy when it came to painting. I began to realize that, despite identifying as a creative person, I was at that time very rigid in my thinking. It was painting or nothing. As I began to lift the walls, so to speak, and go (not to sound hokey) where the energy took me, I came to children’s books. And as often happens when one looks back, it seemed exceedingly obvious that this connection had walked with me all along the windy road and back to where I began.


What I Am Working on Now:

I am currently playing around with circus images. The imagery is rich. The animals are unsettled and haunted by distant memories of life in the wild. I am also painting animal gods that look to be from somewhere in China.



Illustrators and writers I greatly admire are David Lucas, Jon Agee, Tove Jansson, David Small, John Burningham, and of course all things William Steig, James Thurber, and Virginia Lee Burton. I am in complete awe of Rob Dunlavey, Blexbolex, Laurent Moreau, Astrid Lindgren, Maira Kalman, Quentin Blake, Sophie Blackall, Kevin Waldron, Marjorie Priceman, Mo Willems. Honestly, it’s just too many to name here, but it’s hard to stop. I want to just keep naming them. So much incredibly wonderful work out there.


What I Am Reading Now and Love:

Unless I am deeply absorbed in a novel, I usually have two or three books going at once and another 20 due back to the library. Currently, it is Design as Art by Bruno Munari, The Bat Poet by Randall Jarrell/Maurice Sendak, and The Owl in the Attic and Other Perplexities by James Thurber. Since the day I became a parent, in addition to pleasure reading came the desperate reading of books by experts on child-rearing and of self-help books.


From the Sketchbooks:


All images here are used by permission of Christine Allen.

* * * * * * *

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 * * *

I’m going to keep it short today, since I’m going out of town later this week for work and have my work cut out for me (for before I leave).

I’m grateful Christine visited today, as I enjoy seeing her artwork.

My big kick is that I finished Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings, such a great novel.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

9 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #376: FeaturingUp-and-Coming Illustrator, Christine Allen, last added: 4/6/2014
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28. Illstrator Saturday – Gideon Kendall

gideonpictureGideon Kendall was born in Austin, Texas and spent his childhood on a commune deep in the backwoods of West Virginia. He attended high school in Philadelphia, PA and moved to New York City to attend art school. Since receiving his BFA from The Cooper Union in New York City (1989) he has been working as an illustrator, animation, designer, and musician in Brooklyn, NY.

Gideon was the production designer (backgrounds) on “Pepper Ann”, a Saturday morning cartoon show on ABC.   For five years (the duration of the series), he was the production designer (backgrounds) on “CODENAME: Kids Next Door” on the Cartoon Network.  He has also designed backgrounds, props and characters for many other television shows, including Robotomy, Stroker & Hoop, Chuggington and Word World.

Gideon has illustrated articles and record covers for companies such as The New York Times, Puma, Children’s Television Workshop, Scholastic, Geffen, and College Music Journal. He has exhibited his artwork at a variety of galleries including Ethan Cohen Fine Arts and PS122 in New York City.

Gideon has been involved in many musical/performance art projects, and has toured the country with his band, Fake Brain. The band also wrote and performed the theme song for “The Kids Next Door” on Cartoon Network. Most recently he wrote, performed in, and created sets and animation for a multimedia comedic performance entitled “Dr. Wei-Wei & The Fake Brain” which was performed at The Bowery Poetry Club in New York City in 2006. His current project, The Ditty Committee, performs regulary in and around New York City.

Here is Gideon showing and discussing his process on his book cover, ELLIOTT and the LAST UNDERWORLD WAR:


The image is entirely digital. It took probably about 3 days total, but of course it was spread out over weeks of approvals, edits, etc.


This is the rough, obviously. Just trying to sell the editor on the basic idea and work out for myself the composition and lighting. I always use tone on my sketches because I need to get a sense of the lighting. Light and shadow are essential for both clarity, focus, and drama. In the story, Elliot, the main character uses a magic glowing broom at a crucial point in the story. This was a great device for lighting this scene.


Here is where I set aside the lighting for the most part and focus on delineating the image. Although I love getting carried away with details and hidden jokes I try not to loose focus on the characters. Sometimes this comes easy. Other times not so much. The peripheral characters fell into place with little effort but I really struggled with aspects of Elliot. Finding that sweet spot of anger and determination while still keeping him cute was a challenge and I also had a hard time with getting his hands and arms right. I had my wife take pictures of me in the pose to help get it right and I still struggled.


Now I introduce the lighting. This layer may or may not be used in the final art, but either way it helps me to finalize the composition.


At this point I change the line drawing into a multiply layer and put it on top. I hide the tone layer and work up the color to a near-final state.


Then I add a layer of highlights on top of the line layer.


I kept the image of the pixie as its own element so that I could control her luminosity separately. I do her line work, color, and rendering and then balance her against the glow of the broom.


I wasn’t pleased with the way the broom was looking so I made a new drawing of it and colored it in a way to give it bit more 3-dimensionality. I refined the highlights and played around with the luminosity of the broom, and then I was done.


Early on in the process I played around with having the demon’s claws in the picture, thinking it might heighten the sense of confrontation. The editor thought it complicated things unnecessarily and I don’t disagree.


Just for kicks, an earlier cover sketch. This snow monster was removed from the story so I had to start over. Probably for the best.


Here’s a detail shot just for the hell of it.


My favorite illustration in this book.


When did you first know that you were good at art and wanted that for your future?

My mom says that she put pens in my crib when I was a baby and I drew cars and cities all over my sheets. so I guess it was decided pretty early on. My early loves were Dr. Seuss and Marvel Comics.


Did you study art at The Cooper Union in New York City?

Yes. I have a BFA from Cooper.


What made you think of putting little Goblins in the big Goblin?

I was just trying to think of how to make him as creepy as possible. It’s an idea similar to themes in some of my “grown up” art.

gideonelliott2cover bw

gideonfairy on head

What were you favorite classes?

Painting and drawing. I also enjoyed printmaking, particularly intaglio etching.


What was the first thing you illustrated and got paid for doing?

I got hired by a local paper in high school to do some courtroom illustration. First and last time I ever did that kind of work. Judging from your next question I think you mean post-collegiate…Hmm. The thing is I went to a strictly “fine art” school. They frowned on illustration, so I had to bury my love of such things.


What was your main painting technique back then?

Oils. I did a semester abroad in Italy my junior year and learned the basics of old-fashioned glaze techniques. I’ve loosened up a little since then but my painting technique has always been pretty formal.


Have the materials you used changed over the years?

Completely. I work almost entirely digitally now. Oil painting is reserved for my personal enjoyment or for the rare occasion when budgets and schedules are generous.



Has the style of your illustration change or evolved into a new style?

I have developed a few distinct styles for the different kinds of work that I enjoy doing. traditional children’s book illustration is at this point only a small part of what I do. among other things I also do black and white chapter book illustrations, puzzle pictures for highlight’s Magazine, maps and diagrams for books, posters, advertisements, etc. I also do “whiteboard” animations as well as graphic novels and comics. Unless you’re hugely successful at one thing, you gotta be a jack of all trades to survive. If one of the things I do really took off I’d be happy to focus more, but in the meantime I do enjoy the challenge.


Since you graduated right as the Internet and computers were taking hold. Did you jump into experimenting with digital art at that time?

No, the computer was primarily a word processor and mailing label machine for me for many years. It wasn’t until the late “90′s that I began doing some digital color on my drawings and then the big leap was when I got my first Cintiq in ’06.


Do you own and use graphic tablet? If so, which one?

A few months ago I got the Cintiq 24HD touch and I’m in love with it.


What was your first job after your graduated?

I tried to do the art gallery thing; working as an installer and packer/shipper. It was awful. The people were vain and pretentious and I felt alienated and bored. I got laid off. Freed from the shackles of fine art education/employment, I went back to my early loves: kids books and comics.


What kind of creature is Elliott going to fight?

Those guys are goblins. The big red/pink creature is the demon Kovol, Elliot’s main nemesis.



I see you do a lot of black and white illustration. Is that because there is more available work for that?

I wouldn’t say there’s more of it, its just that I’m well-suited for it and I’ve found that I like doing work for older kids (less cutesy stuff, more monsters and weird stuff) and I guess there is more B&W work in that market.


Have most of your comic book art been done for magazines?

No. I haven’t done much comics work for paying clients. I wouldn’t mind it, though. I’m having a great time working on my graphic novel and it would be fun if it led to other opportunities.


How did you hook up with Ronnie Herman Agency? How long has she represented you?

Way back in the early ’90′s my friend Ian Schoenherr set up a meeting for me with Ronnie when she was an editor at Penguin. At the time my “portfolio” was a mess, consisting of a hodgepodge of different styles, none of them particularly well-executed. Ronnie kept one sample from my portfolio: a painting of a daddy rabbit reading a bedtime story to a baby rabbit. I never got a call from Penguin, but several years later when Ronnie retired from Penguin and started her agency, she remembered that image and called me. She took me on and was very patient with me and helped me develop a cohesive portfolio.


How did you get your first book contract?

Ronnie showed my samples around for a couple years before she got anyone to give me a book project. Eventually Albert Whitman hired me to illustrate Littlebat’s Halloween Story. Not sure what samples got that gig. Interestingly, it was a little painting of a hamster driving a sportscar that got me the Dino Pets gig. That one’s a mystery to me but I’m glad it worked out.


Was Littlebat’s Halloween Story the only picture you have illustrated?

No, I’ve done three. Littlebat, Dino Pets, & Dino Pets Go To School.

gideoninterior art

I see you have two books published with Sterling. How did those contracts come about?

Charlie Nix, An old friend from college contacted me about doing the cartoons for those books. He designed the books.


Did you know that it was a two-book deal at the time?

We were pretty sure, but it wasn’t guaranteed.


How did you get to do The Seems series?

Oh boy that’s a long story! Here goes: I was introduced to the authors by a mutual friend who thought we’d make a good creative team. We discussed making a bedtime themed picture book and threw around ideas for a while. We eventually decided on a pillow fort theme and put together a pitch. No one bit on it and I forgot about it but Mike and John didn’t give up and over the next few years they expanded the idea into what eventually became The Seems. Bloomsbury bought it and the authors pushed hard to have me brought in as the artist. They eventually went with someone else for the covers which pissed me off, but I had a great time collaborating with Mike and John and making those pictures. I put a lot into those images. We actually got a movie deal out of it which was a nice windfall but as usual that never went anywhere.


gideonSeems3_500Did you know it was going to be a series when you illustrated the first book?

The author’s plan was for it to be at least a 3-book series. Of course we all hoped it would go far beyond that….


gideonblack and white500

Do you expect there will be more books to that series?

I doubt it. I think it would have had to sell much better for that to happen. The overall concept is certainly deep enough to warrant more stories though.

You illustrated four books that came out in 2007. Were you under a lot of pressure to get four books done during that time?

Yeah, but I was happy to have so much work.


How long do you normally have to work on the illustrations for a book? Shortest? Longest?

There’s no real “normal”. Every job is different. I’d say in general, schedules just get shorter and shorter as everyone expects work to be done digitally.


How many black and white illustrations are usually required for a middle grade book?

Anywhere from 8-30. The Elliot books had lots of illustrations, some full page, some spot. Those books were so much fun to illustrate.


Have worked with any educational publishers?

Yeah, these days that’s where a lot of my work comes from. The money is almost always terrible and of course there are no royalties but its the kind of work you can feel good about doing.


Do you ever see yourself writing one of your own books? Oh yes, believe me! I have numerous unpublished book projects on file, and they’re all awesome, so all you editors and publishers out there, give me or Ronnie a call.


Have you done illustrations for any children’s magazines?

As mentioned, Highlights. They are keeping me very busy these days. I do a monthly hidden picture for one of their magazines and I’m also doing several of the books for their Which Way USA series.


Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Yes. It’s also wasted a lot of my time.


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

I don’t really seek it out anymore. It comes in through Ronnie or from previous clients or referrals.


What do you feel was your greatest success?

I don’t think I’ve had it yet. I’m proud of the painting in “Dino Pets Go To School” but that book is going out of print I think. I’m also proud of the work I did on the Elliot series and the Seems but neither of those series sold well. Sigh. I’m still waiting I guess.


How did you get involved in TV cartoons, backgrounds, production design, and props.?
In ’94 I was broke and my attempts at being an illustrator were mostly failing. A friend introduced me to J.J. Sedelmier (of Beavis and Butthead & SNL TV Funhouse fame) and he took me on as an intern. I knew nothing about animation but I could draw and paint so I found a role as a background painter (this was pre-digital). I made a short film with Tom Warburton which was seen by some folks at Disney and they hired us to be the designers of a new show for ABC called Pepper Ann. We worked together on that for several years and then Tom created Codename: Kids Next Door for Cartoon Network and I served as his background designer on that show too (a guy named Mo Willems just so happened to be the head writer on the show. Ever heard of him? Even if I never have a hit children’s book I can say that I have played touch football with Mo Willems). After that the bottom fell out of the NYC series animation industry. Most of my colleagues in the industry moved to California. I decided to stay on the east coast and recommit to illustration.


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

I work in the upstairs back room of my house. I’ve got a nice sliding glass door leading out onto a deck with a view of some ugly apartment buildings. I love my Cintiq, and all of my reference books, but the thing I really couldn’t live without is the espresso machine in the kitchen.


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

Every job is a chance to improve some aspect of my skill set. I just did a story for an educational publisher in which the main character was a 10-year old Asian boy. I took the job mostly because I’m not very good at drawing Asian kids. I just finished the job today and I think I got a little better at it…


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




Are you open to doing any illustrations for a writer who wants to self-publish?

If they can pay me and I like the project.


Have you ever thought of self-publishing a book of your own?

Sure. It’s getting easier and more practical to do so. I am self-publishing my graphic novel and selling it and my other comics and prints at various events such as MOCCAfest (happening this weekend in NYC).


Do you use Photoshop or Corel Painter with your illustrations?

I keep meaning to learn Painter at this point I’m strictly a Photoshop guy.gideonWHATZIT_3_3_1

Have you used or plan to use your comic illustrations in a graphic novel?

Yes, I’m working on a graphic novel now. It is definitely not for kids, however. It’s called WHATZIT and you can buy it, along with a lot of my other not-for-kids stuff at http://www.WHATZITCOMIC.COM


It sounds like you are not only a talented illustrator, but an accomplished musician. Could you tell us a little bit about that side of your life, and how you got interested in music?

Acccomplished??? Ha! No, I just love writing songs. I am not particularly skilled as a musician but I enjoy performing and writing, as well as the collaborative nature of music. ITs a nice antidote to sitting alone in my underwear all day drawing pictures.


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

I want to get some of my own children’s books published.


What are you working on now?

Issue #2 of WHATZIT, some whiteboard projects for Idea Rocket, the next issue of Which Way USA for Hightlights, a serious of fine art prints depicting surreal animals and plants in various states of decay, a revision of one my book pitches (it’s called “The Last Story”. Its awesome. Somebody publish it for god’s sake!). I’m busy.




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

Work your ass of and then get very lucky? I dunno, let me call Mo Willems and get back to you. I do however have some advice on how to function and survive as an unsuccessful illustrator: Love your work. Never be satisfied. Get some exercise. Punk rock and espresso are great for tight deadlines.


Gideon thank you for sharing your wonderful illustrations, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please keep in touch and let us know of all your future successes. We would love to hear about them.

You can visit Gideon at his Illustration website:  http://www.gideonkendall.com
Graphic Novel Website: WHATZIT : http://activatecomix.com/152.comic

Please take a minute and leave Gideon a comment. It is always appreciated. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, demystify, How to, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Cartoon Network, Gideon Kendall

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

“With flyers stacked high, Bear set off.”


I know I shouldn’t use the word “nerd” to describe someone who merely has a deep and abiding passion for something—it’s not entirely fair—but there’s just no two ways about it: My column over at Kirkus today is for fellow picture book nerds. As in, you’d have to seriously geek out over illustration to appreciate it.

That link will be here later.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Salina Yoon’s Found. Today, I’m sharing some of her art from the book.


“One day, Bear found something in the forest.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

“Bear posted flyers on every tree.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


* * * * * * * *

FOUND. Copyright © 2014 by Salina Yoon. Published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury, New York. Spreads here reproduced by permission of Salina Yoon and the publisher.

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30. Batter Up…Baseball Is Here!

Knuckleball Ned

By R. A. Dickey with Michael Karounos; illustrated by Tim Bowers


Ah, the opening of the 2014 Major League Baseball season has officially begun on March 30th. The crack of the bat, fielders sliding to catch fly balls to avoid errors and precise pitchers throwing in a series of multiple configurations of style are all bent on confounding opposition batters for a new season. And the games can be viewed on TV or live, while played on lush green fields from now until October.

If you have a young one who is a Little Leaguer or just revels in the all American game of baseball, R. A. Dickey, the starting pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and the first “knuckleball pitcher” to win the famous and coveted Cy Young Award has put his new picture book squarely in the strike zone.

Meet Dickey’s “Knuckleball Ned” on his first day of school, uncertain as to where he fits in. He doesn’t want to “strike out” with his classmate, that’s for sure! But just where and how can Ned fit in? He is unlike anyone else with his “wiggling wobbling ways” that are unlike anyone else and is dubbed “Knucklehead Ned” Awww. He wants to belong, but darn it, he’s quite unlike Sammy the Softball, Connie Curveball, or Fiona and Fletcher Fastball or any of his other friends.

His mom’s advice to “Just be yourself” at the same time that the local bullies, aptly called the “Foul Ball Gang”, begin making life difficult for Ned. They make fun of his every move and mom’s advice is getting pretty hard to remember. Mom DOES know best. Trust me, Ned!

How can he get in the strike zone and silence this laughing, backslapping bunch?

When Connie Curveball’s shoes wind up wound around a tree branch, can the prowess and talents of the others come to the rescue? Nope! But Ned’s non-spinning ball can and does. AND it teaches the Foul Ball Gang who he is AND just what he does best.

I loved meeting the teacher named Miss Pitch, natch, who opens up classroom discussion on what each ball in her class does in his or her spare time. Just that part of the picture book alone was a primer on pitching change up styles and all done in a way highly relatable to small kids.

But the greater message that Mr. Dickey wisely imparts in this readable baseball picture book is the advice he imparts to his own four children in the dedication to Knuckleball Ned:


May you always celebrate what makes you unique.


So, as the umps say, “Play ball!” – with Knuckleball Ned!




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31. Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell

Rufus is a little pig, and his greatest wish in the world is to go to school. After all, he has a backpack, he has a lunchbox, he has a blanket. What more could he need? He explains this to Principal Lipid, but he just keeps insisting that there are no pigs allowed in school! His reasons are many – pigs track mud in the halls, they turn their drawings into airplanes, they start food fights in the cafeteria, and the list goes on and on. Well Rufus is not about to give up – he finally pulls out all the stops and brings his favorite book to school and announces that he wants to learn to read. THAT does make a difference, and even strict old Principal Lipid cannot say no to this request. Of course the children are delighted when Rufus joins their class; and of course Rufus LOVES everything about school . . . and storytime most of all. This story is delightful and has an old-fashioned quality that will appeal to young and old alike.

Posted by: Mary

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32. Matilda's Cat by Emily Gravett

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - MATILDA'S CAT -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} A longtime fan of Emily Gravett, this is only my third review of her books. While Gravett is a master of interactive narratives like The Rabbit Problem, Meerkat Mail, Little Mouse's Big

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33. Educational Publisher Looking for Submissions

Huge opportunity for writers and Illustrators – published, unpublished, self-published.

Susan Tierney, longtime Editor in Chief of Children’s Writer and the Institute of Children’s Literature’s Writer’s Guide and the market directories, has now become Acquisitions Editor at Schoolwide, Inc. 

This educational publisher of reading, writing, and grammar curriculum products, and professional development resources, is looking for submissions of books, stories, and articles that support reading and writing for children from kindergarten to grade eight for a digital classroom library.

Of interest are fiction and nonfiction picture books, concept books, early readers, chapter books, middle-grade and early YA books, articles, essays, short stories, poetry, poetry collections, and plays.

Fiction may be contemporary, realistic, historical, multicultural, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, adventure, fairy or folk tales, verse novels, or rhyming books.

Nonfiction sought includes informational/expository, biography/profile, narrative procedure (how-to), creative nonfiction, personal narratives or memoir, essays, opinion pieces, primary sources/reference books.

Subject categories include: Science, history, social studies, language and literature—and any subject that is age-appropriate and would encourage independent reading.

Not interested in preK or older YA.

Email only to submissions@schoolwide.com, with:


Schoolwide will accept:

(1) previously published materials for which the author holds rights. For these book, story, or article submissions, please also indicate the publisher, date of publication, and if applicable, whether an illustrator holds rights to the artwork (illustrators would receive the same royalty arrangements, if interested).

(2) completed manuscripts of original, unpublished work.

Royalty. Responds in six months, if interested.

Schoolwide, Inc.
4250 Veterans Memorial Highway, Suite 2000W,
Holbrook, NY 11741

Don’t miss this opportunity!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Middle Grade Novels, opportunity, picture books, Places to sumit, poetry, publishers, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Call for Submissions, Educational Publisher, Schoolwide Inc., Susan Tierney

7 Comments on Educational Publisher Looking for Submissions, last added: 4/4/2014
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34. Happy Book Birthday to The Grudge Keeper by Mara Rockliff

Ahoy! I've been a bit off the grid for a couple of weeks because I was traveling for the Bologna Book Fair and a mini-Vacay (followed immediately by being ridiculously ill - Boo!) -- but I'm pretty much back at my desk, at least MOST of my brain present now. And so I can bring you the latest from the New Release files:

THE GRUDGE KEEPER by Mara Rockliff, illustrations by Eliza Wheeler, new from Peachtree!

Cornelius the Grudge Keeper is a little old man who collects all the peeves, snits, huffs and imbroglios the people of his village stir up against one another. He stores them all in the nooks and crannies of his crooked cottage, until one day . . . . well, I'll let you read about it yourself. Suffice to say, this picture book is funny, whimsical, and has the look and feel of a modern classic. The heightened language makes it a total delight to read aloud and the beautiful images are worth taking the time to pore over.

I call the GRUDGE KEEPER "The Little Picture Book that Could." It had a long, long path to publication. How long? Let's put it this way, it was originally submitted to publishers before I was even an agent. It sold in Summer of 2010, which I remember distinctly because I negotiated the contract in the passenger seat of my car, driving through Nebraska on a road-trip move from SF to NY. We finally got lucky enough to get the PERFECT illustrator in another ABLA client, Eliza Wheeler, in 2012 (which was JUST before her picture book MISS MAPLE'S SEEDS debut'ed on the NYT bestseller list and she rocketed to fame with the illustrations to Holly Black's Newbery Honor book DOLL BONES -- so great timing, Peachtree!) -- and now, here we are, at long last, I can brag about it to the world!

You can get your own copy at your local independent bookstore, at MY local independent bookstore, at Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, Amazon, or wherever fine picture books are sold. :-)

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35. Best Selling Picture Books | April 2014

Spring is here, the season of regeneration that brings plenty of flowers with nectar which worker bees gather and convert into honey. The Children's Book Review's best selling picture book for this month is full of information on the wonderful and very much under-appreciated honeybees, The Life and Times of the Honeybee by Charles Micucci.

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36. KidLit Events April 1-8…and Beyond

Spring is moving fast, and the big events for readers and writers of children’s and YA literature are speeding toward us. If you haven’t yet signed up for at least one of the two big conferences, do not delay! On April 12, at the Houston Writers’ Guild Conference, Nikki Loftin—author of NIGHTINGALE’S NEST and THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY—will be delivering the keynote address. Other Houston children’s or YA writers who will be on the staff are Joy Preble, Jessica Cappelle, Sharon Morse and Elizabeth White, as well as literary agents Pooja Menon and Eddie Schneider.

SCBWI Houston Conference (art by Diandra Mae)The biggest event in Texas this year for children’s and young adult writers is the Houston Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 25th Anniversary Conference, taking place April 26-27. If you write or illustrate for young readers or have ever dreamed of doing so, register now! We will have agents from three agencies:

Stephen BarrWriters House
Stephen Fraser—Jennifer DeChiara Literacy Agency
Natalie LakosilBradford Literary Agency

Plus three editors from closed houses (this means they do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries to submit manuscripts) who will accept submissions from attendees of the Houston SCBWI Conference:

Kendra Levin—Viking Books for Children
Jocelyn Davies—HarperCollins
Julie Ham—Charlesbridge

PLUS, Jim Hoover, Associate Art Director at Viking Children’s Books.

And to top it off, two-time Newbery Honor winning author Gary Schmidt of THE WEDNESDAY WARS, OKAY FOR NOW and LIZZIE BRIGHT AND THE BUCKMINSTER BOY will be delivering our keynote address! If you love youth literature, you will love this conference! Register now!

If for some reason you can’t make it to the Houston SCBWI Conference (say, for instance you are under eighteen), there is another fantastic event that day that will make you roll out of bed before noon—the Greater HoustonTeen Book Convention. Too many fabulous authors will be attending for me to mention here, but go to their website and check it out!

Now for this week’s events—the first event is not strictly a children’s author/illustrator event, but it is an event for some very special children who illustrate, so I wanted to share this news with you.

April 2, Wednesday, 10:00 a.m. MD Anderson Children's Art Project
Cornelius Nursery, Voss Rd.
Fundraiser Event for MD Anderson Children’s Art Project

Cornelius Nursery on Voss Rd is holding a painting party for pediatric patients of the MD Anderson Cancer Center. Please come by and join in the fun, enjoy the artwork, and be inspired, plus view wonderful new designs from The Children’s Art Project that are perfect for your garden. The newest collaboration is between Children’s Art Project and the Round Top Collection, which produces unique metal artwork for the garden based on the artwork from children in the Children’s Art Project. Shannon A. Murray, ED of Children’s Art Project and Jeff Krause the founder of Round Top will be on hand to celebrate and highlight this newest collection.

April 4, Friday, 6:30 p.m. KNIGHTLY AND SON by Rohan Gavin
Murder By The Book
Rohan Gavin, YA Author

In author/screenwriter Rohan Gavin’s new YA novel KNIGHTLY AND SON, the once highly in-demand detective Alan Knightley has just woken up after an unexplained incident kept him asleep for four years. While he was out cold, his son, Darkus, took it upon himself to read of all his dad’s old cases, and he’s learned “a lot” about the art of detection. It’s a good thing too–because suddenly the duo find themselves caught up in a crazy conspiracy that involves a group of villainous masterminds (who keep appearing and then vanishing), some high-speed car chases (that will have everyone fastening their seat belts), and a national, bestselling book with the power to make people do terrible, terrible things. But because Alan is still suffering the effects of his coma, he tends to, well, fall asleep at the worst possible moments, Meaning that young Darkus might just have to solve this mystery . . . by himself.

April 5, Saturday, 2:00 p.m.  SUGAR BUG ON THE TOOTH by Dr. Linda Sturrup
Barnes & Noble, Vanderbilt Square
Dr. Linda Sturrup, Dentist/Author

Dr. Linda Sturrup presents A SUGAR BUG ON MY TOOTH, a great read for that first dentist visit for little ones. Natalie Jean’s visit to the dentist seems a little scary, but with help from Dr. Cork, she learns that a dentist checkup can actually be fun! Kirkus  says it’s “An approachable tale of a first dental visit with pictures and a tone that will provide a reassuring beginning lesson to preschool-aged readers.”

April 5, Saturday, 2:00 THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE by Jonathan Stroud
Blue Willow Bookshop
Jonathan Stroud, MG Author

Jonathan Stroud, author of the New York Times best-selling Bartimaeus Trilogy, visits to introduce his new series for middle grade readers. If you like ghost stories that are scary but not too scary, this is for you!  A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see—and eradicate—these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?

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37. Announcing The First Ever Illustrators Contest!!!

Whoopeee!  Yahooo!

I'm excited!

Can you tell I'm excited?

It's because I'm about to launch a new hare-brained scheme and you guys are all going to get to be part of it!

(And no, just because it's April 1st and we just had a contest, this is NOT an April Fool.  I just couldn't add this to yesterday's Winner Celebration Post or tomorrow's WYRI!)

I've been thinking for a while that children's authors get all the fun.  Contests and prizes and being able to claim top finishes in Pretty Much World Famous Writing Contests. . .

It isn't entirely fair.

In the world of picture books, authors are only half the story.

We couldn't do what we do without our illustrators!

I think it's high time to let the illustrators have some fun and a contest and prizes and be able to claim top finishes in a Pretty Much World Famous Illustration Contest!

So that's what we're going to do!

Are you ready?


The First Ever Pretty-Much-World-Famous Illustration Contest!!!
the fact that this particular illustrator resembles a female
is in no way meant to deter any male illustrators! :)

The ContestDraw/Paint a children's picture book cover illustration (no text required - art only) for one of the following stories (which you will recognize as the top finishers in the March Madness Fractured Fairy Tale Writing Contest :)):

 - The Three Wiggly Worms Bluff by Wendy Greenley
 - Goldilockup by Mike Allegra
 - Goldibawks And The Three Pairs by Dawn Young
 - The Sweetie Witch by Pen Avey
 - The Princess And The Stinky Cheese by Lauri Meyers
 - Mongoose's Holi Party by Darshana Khiani
 - The "Princess" And The Pete by Jennifer Caritas
 - The Jackrabbit Who Cried Gila Monster by Elliah Terry

Illustrations should be 8x10, horizontal or vertical, any medium, posted in jpg at least 72 px
All stories can be read on the March Madness Finalist Post HERE so you will know what to illustrate :)

Post:  Your entry should be posted on your blog between Thursday April 24 at 7 AM EDT and Monday April 28 at 9 PM EDT, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on my Thursday April 24 post which will remain up through Tuesday April 29 so that people can come visit and enjoy your gorgeous artwork!  (No PPBF on Friday April 25, no new post on Monday April 28, but there will be a brief interruption for WYRI on Wednesday April 30 because I forgot to leave it open for the contest :)).  If you don't have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments of my April 24 post.  (If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, you may email me and I'll post your entry for you!  Also, since this is the first time we've done an illustration contest, I'm not sure if you actually CAN paste your entry into the comments.  If this turns out to be the case, email them to me and I'll add them directly to my April 24 post.)

Judging:  entries will be judged by multi-talented, award-winning author/illustrators Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of over 20 gorgeous picture books, and Lisa Thiesing, author and illustrator of at least 16 beautiful and fun picture books and early readers!   Judging criteria to include:

 - is the picture readable to a young audience,
 - how well does it show the character(s) and
 - is the character(s) appealing (character development),
 - does it make you want to read the story,
 - originality
 - skill.

They will narrow down the entrants to 6 finalists (or possibly a couple more or less depending on the number of entries :)) which will be posted here on Thursday May 1 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed at 5PM EST on Sunday May 4 and the winner will be announced on Monday May 5.  (No PPBF on Friday May 2.)

The Prizes!:  There will definitely be a 1st prize.  Whether we give prizes for 1st only, 1st-3rd, or 1st-6th will depend on how many entries we get.

First Prize is absolutely amazing!  A portfolio critique by celebrated author/illustrator Michael Garland, who has over 20 picture books to his credit!!!

 - Second Prize - a $50 gift certificate to Dick Blick Art Materials
 - Third, Fourth & Fifth Prize will be winner's choice of one of the following books:
      - Writing With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz

 - Sixth Prize - sketch pads/pencils

Illustrators, we can't wait to see what you've got in store for us!

Everyone else (authors, parents, teachers, librarians, farm equipment retailers, etc. :)) think how much fun it's going to be so see what the illustrators come up with!

You've got three weeks, illustrators!

On your mark, get set, GO!!! :)

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38. Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Petr Horáček

The Bologna Children’s Book Fair may be over, but I’m still on an international kick here at 7-Imp. Today, I welcome author-illustrator Petr Horáček, born in Czechoslovakia and currently living in England.

Horáček has been making picture books for over ten years now, one reviewer even describing his vibrant and textured mixed-media paintings and collages as “strangely beautiful.” It may not be surprising to many to read below that Petr gets great inspiration from the work of Eric Carle. In fact, he describes having first seen Carle’s work as a life-changing moment, indeed. Both illustrators work in bright colors and craft stories that are gentle and reassuring to the youngest of readers. In fact, as you’ll also see below, Petr has many a board book under his belt, including some new ones coming from Candlewick this Fall — and he has passionate opinions about the role of board books in children’s lives.

It turns out that breakfast is Petr’s favourite meal of the day and always has been. “Both my parents worked,” he tells me. “They had already gone when our neighbour woke me up. The large lady pushed her head around the door, said ‘good morning,’ and disappeared. I had to wake up, get washed, and go to the kitchen, where on the table was hot cocoa and bread, spread with butter, honey, or jam. The radio was playing music approved by the communist government, and a voice coming from the radio was telling us that it was nearly 7 a.m. and, therefore, time to go to school.”

Petr’s favorite breakfast was always these spreads with hot cocoa and Czech rolls with butter. But “I rarely have cocoa and bread for breakfast these days,” he says. “I have muesli with bran flakes, cinnamon, and cold milk. It is my second choice. It is a healthier option.”

I think today we should have some cocoa and rolls, though. I’m thinking we should be decadent. I’ll set the table while getting the basics from Petr before our seven questions over breakfast. I thank him for visiting and sharing lots of art.

* * * * * * *

Jules: Are you an illustrator or author/illustrator?

Petr: I consider myself both.

I studied fine art and, therefore, working on the pictures is what I like best. I also like making up stories, but getting it right and making it work so that I can make a nice picture book out of it is a different story.

I’m very lucky to work with my editors, Denise and Louise, at Walker Books. They make my life much easier.

Spread and cover from What is Black and White?

(Candlewick, 2001)

I occasionally illustrate for some other authors. I don’t do it very often, and I find it very challenging. In my books I always start with a picture. The text is the last thing. Working on somebody else’s text is working the other way around. Starting with the text — for me, it is definitely harder.

Jules: Can you list your books-to-date?





Jules: What is your usual medium?

Petr: Colours and texture are important in my work. The materials I use inspire me, and I’m always ready to try something new.

I use pencils, coloured pencils, wax crayons, watercolours, pastels, and acrylics.

I also use collage in my work. I paint and print patterns on papers, which I then cut and use in my illustrations.

Pencil and acrylic are probably my favourite materials.

Spreads and cover from Animal Opposites

(Candlewick, 2013)
(Click spreads 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?

Petr: I do board books, novelty and pop-up books, picture books — and I have also illustrated some early readers.

Board books are something I’m quite proud of. You hardly ever hear about authors who illustrate board books. In fact, you hardly see good board books in the shops. Board books are thought to be something too small to be taken seriously.

People think that board books are for babies; therefore, it doesn’t mater what you show them, as long there are some pictures. It’s rubbish, of course, and it makes me very cross when I hear that bookshops don’t want to keep board books, because they take too much space on the shelves and make little profit.

I take my board books seriously. A board book is often a child’s very first contact with visual art and literature.

Children may not have as many experiences as adults, but it doesn’t mean that they are stupid. They definitely deserve more than just a squeaky washable book with an image of a flower and dolphin. To this day, I have published about twelve board books and I’m working on more as we speak.

All of these books have some novelty aspects. Pages build up to a final picture as you turn the page. The pages have holes and cut-outs so that you can chase the mouse through the book and so on.

Spreads and cover from Run, Mouse, Run!

(Candlewick, 2005)
(Click second spread to enlarge)

I also like working on picture books. I like thinking and developing new ideas. The format of a picture book gives me the chance to paint more and play with the pictures.

I like to think that the difference between a board book and a picture book is similar to the difference between a poem and a novel. With board books, you have to think simple, trying to fit a story or message in to a very limited format. A picture book gives you more space.

Spreads and cover from Puffin Peter (Candlewick, 2013)

(Click spreads to enlarge)

Novelty books with holes and cut-outs are fun. You have to think about the book as a complete object, where every cut-out and detail has its place. So what you see through the hole of one page makes sense even when you turn the page and look back.

It takes time and lots of sketching. It’s almost a mathematical task sometimes. I enjoy it, which always surprises me, since at school I didn’t like maths and difficult logical exercises. Too much thinking always hurt me.

Spread and cover from Butterfly Butterfly

(Candlewick, 2007)
(Click spread to enlarge)

A very different experience for me is working on early reader chapter books. I don’t write these kinds of books, so I have to follow the text written by somebody else. My imagination is working but is usually preoccupied with too many details, and I find it quite hard to simplify the pictures. I like the challenge, but it can be hard work sometimes.

Spreads and cover from My Elephant

(Candlewick, 2009)
(Click spreads to enlarge)

Jules: Where are your stompin’ grounds?

Petr: I was born and lived most of my life in the capital city of the Czech Republic Prague. Prague is beautiful but also quite busy, as you can imagine.

Now I live in Worcester in the middle of England. It’s a rather pretty and quiet city. I like that. It’s easy to travel anywhere from here. I cycle to the city, and it takes no time to go to the countryside if you wish to do so.

Spread and cover from Look Out, Suzy Goose
(Candlewick, 2008)

(Click spread to enlarge)

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

Petr: I started to write and illustrate books around the time when my first daughter was born. At the time, I was working as an art technician in a high school.

The mother of one of the students had written a book and was looking for somebody who could draw. I had no idea about the publishing world, and neither did she, but we worked together. The books were self-published and, therefore, never reached a shop. I realised that I loved working on these books, and it inspired me to write my own stories.

Spread and cover from Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star

(Candlewick, 2010)
(Click spread to enlarge)

Probably the final point was when I saw the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The book was given to my daughter, when she was born, by my friend. Coming from a different country, I didn’t know about the existence of this book. I didn’t know how well-known it was. I thought it was a true masterpiece, and I wished I could do something like this myself.

Over the next couple of years, I made some mock-ups and sent them to agents and publishers.

Spread and cover from The Fly
(Walker Books, 2010)

(Click spread to enlarge)

I must say I’m very grateful to my wife, who didn’t try to explain to me that I was naive to think that I could be published. She would have had a case, though. I didn’t have an agent, and my English was almost non-existent. Instead, she gave me all the support I needed. She helped me with my texts and letters to publishers.

I got a few nicely-written rejection letters, but one day I got a phone call from Random House. On the line was a very kind editor who liked my books. He gave me some tips and said that, once I re-worked some of my ideas, we could meet up for a chat. I was thrilled. The next day I received another phone call. This time it was Walker Books. They asked me to come to see them, and this is how I ended up with one of the best publishers of children’s books in England.

It was at just the right time, since I had already signed myself up for stacking shelves in a supermarket. Times were hard.

My first books were Strawberries Are Red and What is Black and White? I got my first award for these two books, “Newcomer 2001,” from Books for Children.

Spread and cover from Strawberries Are Red

(Candlewick, 2001)

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

Petr: My website is at www.petrhoracek.co.uk. I do write a blog. It’s accessible from my website.

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

Petr: I do quite a few school visits every year. Those are well-organised for me by Speaking of Books.

I usually do one or two talks in the morning. I show lots of images and pictures, using a slide show. I talk about my work and about the books. I try to explain how the idea for a book develops, showing all the sketches and pictures which didn’t make it to the book. I try to inspire the children by showing them that is okay to mess up or not finish a story — and that we all have to go through the learning process. What is important is not to give up and start again, if necessary.

Some of Petr’s small canvases
(Click each to enlarge)

7-Imp: If you teach illustration, by chance, tell me how that influences your work as an illustrator.

Petr: I don’t teach. I’m still in the learning process myself.

Occasionally, I do talks for students or a panel with other authors. It’s always inspiring for me, and I always leave with the feeling that I still have much to learn.

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

Petr: I’m always thinking about new board books.

I have finished a picture book, which is going to be called The Mouse Who Ate the Moon [to be published by Candlewick in the Fall]. It’s a sequel to A New House for Mouse.

Recently, I headed out to the Czech Republic, where in the countryside by the woods I wrote down some new ideas.

Spreads and cover from A New House for Mouse

(Candlewick, 2004)
(Click spreads to enlarge)

Mmm. Coffee.Okay, our coffee is ready, and it’s time to get a bit more detailed with seven questions over breakfast. I thank Petr 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?


: I studied fine art, and things I see around inspire me. It could be an abstract painting in a gallery, a drawing done by a child, or an interesting photo in a magazine.

A Bit of Light

A Meeting Point

About a House

From the Garden

Funny Beetle

Home with Garden

In Layers

In the Clouds


Midnight Garden

Petr: “[These are] samples of my paintings. I originally studied fine art,
and I still paint when I can.”

(Click each one to enlarge)

I start sketching the story first on separate sheets of papers. I draw twelve windows that represent twelve double spreads. Then I try to fit the story into those frames. I often have to draw a few more, because I can’t fit the story in. I edit the length of the story later. I keep changing and editing the story. Each time, my doodle drawings get better and more precise.

As I’m sketching, I’m thinking about how to do the illustrations and what materials I’ll use. I also start to write the text under the thumbnails.

Petr: “[This is] a sample of a storyboard and of how I sketch a book.
This one is
The Fly.”
(Click to enlarge)

I choose one of the spreads I want to illustrate first. At this point, I get quite excited about the book. The way that I paint the first picture is usually how I will deal with the rest of the book.

I use collage in my artwork. It gives me a chance to loosen up. I like shifting the images on the paper and finding something “extra.” I do each picture at least twice, sometimes more. I choose the best one for the book.

I’m lucky to work with two very good editors. I always listen to what they have to say, and I’m quite happy to do as many changes as necessary.

Petr: “This [is from] a book, which I’ve started many times
but never finished.”

(Click sketch to enlarge)

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


: I work at home. I have my studio in the attic. I built it mostly myself. It’s not very big, so I have to be organized. I have a sky-light window, which faces south, and from my window I can see our garden and the gardens of our neighbours. I can also see the Malvern Hills, if I stretch a bit.

(Click to enlarge)

I work at the table, which has toughened glass on it. It’s rather practical and easy to keep clean. I have another table on my right side. It’s a table for the computer and printer. It’s always partly covered with things that belong to my children, such as bits of paper and printed homework that they don’t want anymore.

In front of me and behind the desk are steps downstairs and a wall with pictures and prints done by my favorite Czech illustrator, Jiří Šalamoun. There are also pictures and drawings done by my children. Under these pictures, you can see shelves in the length of the house, full of CDs.

Behind me is a hi-fi, speakers, and books. On the side where the window is are shelves and storage, where I keep papers and drawings.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

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


: As a child, I never was a great reader. When I was little, nobody talked about dyslexia. I preferred to listen to stories on the radio — or somebody reading to me.

I liked books for the illustrations. I could look at a book with nice pictures for ages, but it still didn’t make me want to read it.

The books I grew up with were, of course, very different from books you know. I liked stories about a robber called Rumcajs. He was a nice guy who lived in the woods with his wife Manka and little boy Cipisek.

One character from Czech books people may know was Krteček, a little mole, whose friend was a little mouse. The author/illustrator was Zdeněk Miler.

We had lots of very talented people, such as Jiří Trnka. In fact he was a great puppet-maker, animator, illustrator, and writer.

I love very old, half-animated and half-acted films done by Karel Zeman.

Two of my favourite Czech illustrators are Jiří Šalamoun and, of course, Josef Lada.

Petr: “These are pages from my sketchbooks. I collage into the sketchbooks left-over drawings, bits of papers, drawings done by children, and so on. I look at them from time to time to get myself in a creative mood.”
(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.)

Petr: This is a tricky question, since the creator of interesting art could be a quite boring person to talk to, but I would take a risk and love to witness a conversation between Josef Lada, Jiří Trnka, and Eric Carle. I know that you may not know Josef Lada and Jiri Trnka, but I’ve read their autobiographies, and—trust me—they were very interesting guys with very interesting things to say. And Eric Carle? Well he is one of the best, and I’m sure he would fit well.

(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?

Petr: Oh, don’t get me started. I’ve been always working with music, and I listen to almost everything, except perhaps pop music and jazz.

My wife comes from a musical family, she is a very good cello and viola de gamba player, and she is responsible for my likes and taste in classical music. I like renaissance and baroque music. I also like Stravinsky and some of the classical contemporary music. From Stravinsky, it is just a step to Frank Zappa and from there … well, everything.

When I need to think or relax, I can listen to Monteverdi, Buxtehude, or Glenn Gould playing Bach. When I’m working on the pictures, it could be anything from Pink Floyd, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Jimmy Hendrix

, Laurie Anderson, or My Bloody Valentine. When I’m preparing papers or printing, I need to work fast and then I play something more energetic. Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, or The Mars Volta would do the job.

In my CD player at the moment are Patti Smith and Nick Cave.

(Click to enlarge)

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

Petr: I did mention my dyslexia. I can’t spell very well. In English or in Czech.

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

Petr: I have no problem answering any questions people ask me, but at the same time I don’t consider myself to be so interesting that I need to shout outloud everything about myself.

Also, next to my table I keep little sketchbooks. When I have enough of working or when I feel like it, I do a little drawing into them. I fill them up with cut-outs from papers and with little collages. I also make little pictures about what I just heard on the radio or what I remember from my dreams. I like these drawings, since they are a kind of diary. I look at them from time to time for inspiration.

(Click each to enlarge)

* * * The Pivot Questionnaire * * *

Jules: What is your favorite word?

Petr: I’ve seen this question before, and I found it very strange that I can’t really answer it. I don’t really have a favourite word. Maybe the word “right” is the one I like to use.

Jules: What is your least favorite word?

Petr: Same as above, but there is one phrase I truly hate: “What are you on about?” This drives me mad.

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

Petr: A walk in the woods, being in the countryside, or a good art exhibition.

Jules: What turns you off?

Petr: A day by the computer, answering emails or writing explanations to something that should be obvious.

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

Petr: “Do prdele” in Czech. (It means “Bugger.”)

In English, “fuckity fuck!” (It means … oh, well …)

Jules: What sound or noise do you love?

Petr: I love sounds — the sound of a dog barking in distance, the sound of a train coming from far away, the sound of cockerel in the morning, a gentle knock on the door, the sound of an ironing board when somebody is ironing …

Jules: What sound or noise do you hate?

Petr: Anything too noisy. Who likes the sound of a dentist’s drill?

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

Petr: I would like to work with wood. Being a carpenter would be nice.

Jules: What profession would you not like to do?

Petr: Accounting would be a nightmare.

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

Petr: “Hi, mate. Come in. It’s nice to meet you finally. I love what you do.”

I would say:

“Taa. I like your work, too.”

Him: “Coffee?”

Me: “Yes, please. Strong with milk. No sugar.”

* * * * * * *

All artwork and images are used with permission of Petr Horáček.

The black-and-white photos of Petr were taken by Anthony Pearson.

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

4 Comments on Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Petr Horáček, last added: 4/4/2014
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39. A GIft for Mama: Linda Ravin Lodding and Alison Jay

Book: A Git for Mama
Author: Linda Ravin Lodding
Illustrator: Alison Jay
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

When A Gift for Mama arrived, my daughter took one look at the cover and said: "We have another book about that boy." She wasn't strictly correct, but she did recognize that the boy on the cover of this book looks a lot like the boy from The Cloud Spinner, by Michael Catchpool. Both books are illustrated by Alison Jay, and she has a very distinctive illustration style. This works well, because of the tone of the two stories is similar.

In A Gift for Mama, a young boy in old-time Vienna buys a gorgeous yellow rose as a gift for his mother's birthday. Oskar thinks that the flower is "the perfect present" until an artist offers to trade a paint brush for the flower. Oskar decides that if he paints a picture for his Mama, that will be "the perfect present." But then a conductor needs the paintbrush as a temporary baton, and offers Oskar something else in return. And so on. Oskar's mood fluctuates as these trade keep occurring, some without his consent at all, but his innate optimism keeps him thinking that each thing is "the perfect present." 

An author's note at the end of the book gives brief historical context to the Viennese figures that Oskar has encountered, including the Empress Sisi and the artist Gustav Klimt. Understanding who these figures are transforms Oskar's story into a tour of Vienna in 1894. This information isn't really necessary to appreciate the book, but it does add another layer. 

In truth, my almost four year old was a bit baffled by this book, asking "Why does everyone keep taking the boy's things?". But this didn't stop her from wanting to read it again. Oskar is an appealing character, with his up and down moods, and his clear love for his mother. There's a scene in which Oskar experiences a particular disappointment, and my daughter could absolutely relate to his hunched posture (exactly the same way she hunches over sometimes when things don't go her way). 

Lodding's text is full of exclamations and drama, and uses relatively advanced vocabulary. Like this:

"With a tug on the reins, the carriage lurched to a roll.
"Mama's book!" cried Oskar. "It's ruined."

But as Oskar looked up, there was the Empress herself!
She held out a box. "Candied violets," she said kindly. "To say sorry for your book.""

Oskar bower. "Thank you Your Highness!"
The dainty, delicious sweets were the perfect gift for Mama!"

Here Oskar's words as he declares the book ruined, as well as "the perfect gift for Mama" are in slightly larger text, encouraging the adult reader to emphasize those sections. I like books that give cues like this for read-aloud. 

But what I love are Jay's sepia-toned illustrations. They have faint jigsaw lines across each image, like one would see on a very old painting. The people are a bit rounded, wide in their waists, and the use of perspective emphasizes Oskar's powerlessness as the large (and famous) adults manipulate him. 

A Gift for Mama is going on our "keep" shelf. Next to The Cloud Spinner, of course. The conbination of story and pictures leaves readers with a warm feeling. And the fact that there is a bit of historical knowledge hidden in the book adds a special bonus. Recommended for ages four and up for home or library use. 

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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GALAPAGOS GEORGE is the story of the famous Lonesome George, a giant tortoise who was the last of his species, lived to be one hundred years old, and became known as the rarest creature in the world. This incredible evolution story by renowned naturalist and Newbery Medal winner Jean Craighead George gives readers a glimpse of the amazing creatures inhabiting the ever-fascinating Galápagos Islands, complete with back matter that features key terms, a timeline, and further resources for research.

Galapagos George

Here are some Common Core objectives that GALAPAGOS GEORGE can help meet:

Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe. Use information gained from the illustrations and words in a book to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot. Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action.

And you can use the following questions to help start a specific discussion about this book or a general discussion about informational texts and/or literature:

  1. How does a reader determine the genre of a particular book? What characteristics apply to GALAPAGOS GEORGE? RI.2.5, RL.2.3
  2. What elements of a book help the reader determine the main idea? What details support the main idea? RI.2.2, RL.2.2
  3. How do the illustrations contribute to the text (characters, setting, and plot)? RI.2.7, RL.2.7

GALAPAGOS GEORGE will be available next week!


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41. Celebrate Poetry Month in April!

Little Poems for Tiny Ears

Poems by Lin Oliver; illustrations by Tomie de Paola


After a long harsh winter, spring beckons with an invitation to warmer days and newness in nature and it’s all on the cusp of a special delivery by Mother Nature. So why not celebrate spring AND National Poetry Month come April, with some great introductory books to rhythm and rhyme for your young readers.

Little Poems for Tiny Ears is a great place to start, presenting poems by Lin Oliver, New York Times bestselling author of some twenty-five books and co-founder of the Society of Children’s Book Writers. And the book’s illustrations dovetail charmingly and fittingly with the lively material and are rendered by none other than that “living treasure” of picture book fame, one Tomie de Paola.  He is the recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his contributions to children’s literature, the Regina Medal, the Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian AND the 2012 Original Art Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators. How could you go awry with a picture book “curriculum vitae” from headliners of such imagination as these two?  Both poems and art deliver the goods.

And speaking of deliveries, these poems are designed to deliver the wonder of poetry to the newest picture book devotees in the neighborhood – tiny tots. The titles and subject matter for the poems are perfect for the experience of joy found in the everyday awaiting the youngest among us. We, adults tend to forget as we are distanced from childhood, that everyday becomes not so commonplace when experienced for the first time or remembered from our own childhoods. When set to rhyme those experiences become even more immediate and memorable. And, we get a chance to experience some of the firsts all over with, and through the eyes and voice of a child in these poems.  

In the story hour that I have weekly with three, four and five year olds, I am introducing them to many Mother Goose rhymes. Last week we did The Three Little Kittens. Remember those kitties that lost their mittens? These tots loved the rhythm and energetically acted out the story of finding, washing and drying those lost and dirtied mittens so they may partake of the pie. I remember lots of nursery rhymes from my own childhood and I do believe that they fire up the imagination early to begin fueling it for a lifetime of reading. Isn’t it sad that so many of these early introductions to poetry have been lost in the race to the chapter book?

But never fear; there are still many Mother Goose rhymes to be shared if you are so inclined, and also new entry vehicle books for sharing and seeding the love of poetry with a young reader. Small Poems for Tiny Ears is a good place to start this April!

Here are but a few of the titles of the poems within this book for the tiny-eared set. Even for a slightly older reader, they can be used to reminisce about their younger days when things like My High Chair, Peekaboo, and Belly Button loomed large in their world.  The poems include titles of time honored tot-relatable subjects such as Blankie, My Mobile and In My Stroller.

Tomie de Paola’s softly hued borders for the poems add the perfect poetic punch to his calming and comforting illustrations. Great job, Tomie!

If you want a book that has wonderfully imaginative poetry, complemented by illustrations brimming with the discovery of  “tot-topia”, all spoken through the tiny voices of its discoverers, Little Poems for Tiny Ears is EAR RESISTIBLE! Here’s a sample.



My High Chair


I like to drop food from my chair.

It lands kerplop, but I don’t care.

I watch it fall down to the floor.

It’s so much fun, I toss some more.



My mom says no, my dad says please

Stop launching bits of toast and cheese.

They’re right – I will try hard to stop.

But first….just one more small kerplop!



And this book provides the PERFECT gift, too, as the back flap, covered with sensational complementary designs by Tomie de Paola, wraps around the front, and when sealed with the included stickers, your gift is good to go! Gift your own young reader or a young friend you may know with Little Poems for Tiny Ears this April!


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42. Picture Book Monday with a review of Busy Bunny Days

I love picture book that have pages full of  detail-rich scenes. Richard Scarry's books, which I looked at over and over again when I was little, are like this. Now many other illustrators are creating wonderful books full of artwork that readers can explore. What is wonderful about these books is that one does not need to be able to read to see and follow the stories in the artwork. Today's picture book is a wonderful example of just such a book.

Busy Bunny Days: In the Town, On the Farm & At the PortBusy Bunny Days: In the town, On the Farm and At the Port
Britta Teckentrup
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 7
Chronicle Books, 2014, 978-1-4521-1700-3
The Bunny family members have busy lives and we are going to spend a little time with them, getting to know them and getting to know their world. We are going to begin by visiting them in their hometown.
   Here we are and it is six o’clock in the morning. The day is just beginning, and yet there are a few folks out and about. One gentleman is walking his dog and we see that the garbage collectors are hard at work. Unfortunately, they have dropped a banana peel and someone has stepped on it and slipped. In their house the Bunny family members are beginning their day. Bethany Bunny is eating her breakfast and Baxter Bunny is just getting out of bed. Dr. Bunny is shaving in the bathroom.
   By nine o’clock the streets are full and busy. An ambulance is picking up the animal who slipped on that pesky banana peel, and the children from the neighborhood are walking to school or getting on the school bus.
   At midday rain starts to fall on the town. Dr. Bunny is busy taking care of his patients and Bethany and her kindergarten classmates are getting ready to go for a walk. Grandma Bunny has done some shopping and she is on her way to the Bunny home. She will be there to give Bethany her snack when the little girl gets home from kindergarten.
   Later on in the afternoon there is a little drama when a small fire breaks out in the attic apartment in the Bunny’s building. Benny Badger gets up to his old tricks when everyone is distracted by the fire.
   After visiting the Bunny’s hometown we go to a farm with them and then we visit a port. In each case we share a whole day in their company, seeing the little events that make daily life interesting. We also get to watch the little adventures that the characters in the book have.
   Children are going to love exploring the artwork in this wonderful picture book. They will see days unfold before their eyes, and watch as the small joys and woes of everyday life are played out on the pages. They will have fun looking for Benny Badger, who is always getting into trouble, and will enjoy answering the questions that appear on every spread.

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of Busy Bunny Days as of 3/31/2014 9:43:00 AM
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43. Hello, Poetry Month!

First of all, I'd like to add my "WELCOME, Laura!" I’m so happy you’re here. Happy, too, about all the poetry you and April and JoAnn have been posting. That has me itching get back to writing more of my own (I was going to say you all were infectious, but that didn’t sound quite right).

Since we’re headed into conference season, I thought I'd post a relevant poem I wrote a few years back. Just before a fall conference, my SCBWI regional advisor called and asked if I’d get up on opening night and give sort of a “what not to do” talk regarding conference etiquette. (We’ve all heard horror stories of writers following visiting editors into bathrooms to talk about their manuscripts, right?) Then she added, “Make it funny. And how about writing it in rhyme?” Ack!

So, using a method very similar to Laura’s when she writes nonfiction poetry, I sat down and jotted a list of do’s and don’ts, then began tweaking and taking everything way over the top. Here’s the final product:

How to Impress an Editor

It’s my first time at a conference.
This? My brand new picture book.
Let me hold your glass of wine so you can take a better look.
See? It’s bound and fully laminated.
Here’s the copyright.
Just look at how the silver glitter sparkles in the light!
My nephew did the illustrations for me.
Aren’t they great?
I’m developing a series. This is number one. Of eight.
Yes, you are a little peaked.
Let’s go over there and sit.
What? You have to do the schmoozy thing and “work the room” a bit?
I’ll come with – and show you photos of Chief Kitchy-coo, my dog.
He’s the hero of my story (written all in dialogue).
See, he flies around Chicago with his mother, solving crimes.
It’s a shoe-in for that Printz Award.
And check this out … it rhymes.
There’s a song at the beginning.
There’s a moral at the end,
and a note reminding children that the story’s just pretend.
I’ve already got endorsements from the ASPCA,
and I’ve sent one to the Oprah show. I wonder … do they pay?
Oh, you have to hit the ladies’ room?
No problem. I’ll come, too.
While you’re taking care of business, I can read aloud to you.
Hon, is everything OK in there?
You need a helping hand?
What? You have a splitting headache?
Sure, of course I understand.
You can take my little story to your room and read it there.
No, it’s quite all right. Yes, I insist. I want you to, I swear.
Let me walk you to your suite.
Oh, it’s no trouble, none at all.
Well, for goodness sake, we lucked out. Look! 
My room’s just down the hall!
Here’s an Advil for that headache.
Here’s my card. Know what? Take two.
Now, remind me of your name, hon, and … you edit books for who?
Take a hot bath.
Take it easy.
Don’t you let the bedbugs bite.
Ow, ow, ow! My foot was in there.
We’ll talk soon, then.

After I read the poem to the group, one editor took me aside and said that, sadly, the fictional writer of my poem wasn’t far off the mark. Yikes. Jane Yolen, who was one of our speakers, told me to send it to The Writer (which was still in business at the time). I did, and they published it in their April 2008 issue.

If you write rhyming picture books and haven’t yet signed up for Angie Karcher’s brand spankin’ new RhyPiBoMo, head on over and register:  http://angiekarcher.wordpress.com

You can sign up until April 16th – and remember to enter the RhyPiBoMo Golden Quill Poetry Contest. Even if you don’t officially join in, you can follow along daily. Angie has lots of rhyming picture book authors lined up to post each day with tidbits of wisdom to help you improve your own rhyming picture books. See all the details on Angie’s site.

Jill Esbaum

P.S.  If you haven’t yet entered for a chance to win Laura’s Water Can Be…, hurry! You only have a little more time!

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44. Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania!: Cynthia Lord and Derek Anderson

Book: Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania
Author: Cynthia Lord
Illustrator: Derek Anderson
Pages: 40
Age Range: 4-8

Cynthia Lord and Derek Anderson's lovable Hot Rod Hamster is back for a new adventure in Hot Rod Hamster: Monster Truck Mania!. When Hamster and his friend Dog attend the Monster Truck Rally and carnival, the speed-loving Hamster wants to try everything. His goal is figure out which is the BEST attraction. The one that turns out to be the winner is a surprise for everyone, especially Dog. 

As with the other books in the series, the beauty of this book lies in Hamster's enthusiasm. On the very first page spread, when Dog says that they have a bit of time, and asks Hamster what he wants to do, Hamster cries: "RIDES!". The big letters, the bold font, and the image of Hamster leaping up from the ground, arms in the air, all combine to show young readers how Hamster feels. When Hamster has a choice of boats on one ride, we already KNOW that he's going to want the pirate boat. And if the bumper cars include a race car option, well... He's like an excited preschooler, but round and furry. 

Dog, meanwhile is the perfect sensible counterpart, and the character that parents will relate to. He weaves coming off of the teacups, and keeps track of how much time is left. He heads into the stadium early, to make sure they get good seats, and then laments when he thinks that his friend is missing the show. The mice make an appearance also, and, as in the other books, play a silent but pivotal helper role. 

Cynthia Lord's bouncy, rhyming text makes for a fun read-aloud:

"Truck day, treat day, cotton-candy sweet day.
Fun day, fair day, music in the air day."


"Sports car, race car, fun in outer space car.
Cop car, mail car, make the siren wail car.
Which would you choose?"

Interspersed between the rhymes are bursts of punchy dialog, with Hamster's words dramatized by color and fonts. Derek Anderson's illustrations are colorful and chaotic, and capture the feel of a fair perfectly. The actual monster truck scenes are vibrant enough to almost make this adult reader a tiny bit motion sick. 

My daughter and I both greeted the arrival of this book like an old friend had come to visit. Monster Truck Mania did not disappoint. A must-read for Hamster fans, and a sure winner with carnival and/or car-loving kids. I hope that we'll see Hamster back in the future for many more adventures. Vroom! Vroom!

Publisher: Scholastic (@Scholastic
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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45. Talking Fish

I  just stumbled upon this great bit of information: Santiago Cohen, who did the cover and illustrations for my very first book, My Life Among the Aliens, as well as its sequel, Club Earth, has a picture book coming out this November, The Yiddish Fish. Terrific news. 

Bless S.C.'s heart, he still maintains my book covers at his website.

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46. Free Fall Friday – Results

susan-dobinickSusan Dobinick, Assistant Editor at Farrar, Straus and Giroux is our Guest Critiquer  for March. Read the four winners and read Susan critique below:

Susan assists two children’s trade imprints. She works with fiction and nonfiction, ranging from picture to young adult books. Her specialties include children’s trade publishing, picture books, chapter books, middle-grade books, young adult books, educational publishing, textbooks, and teacher editions. She holds a B.A. in English from Chicago Goucher College.

Susan is Edith Cohn’s editor for Spirits Key, which is coming out in September. Edith has a nice interview with Susan on her blog. Here is the link:



ELLIE AND THE KING by Anita Nolan MG Novel

“I’m adopted. It’s the only possible explanation.”

The Piercing Pagoda kiosk at the mall provides excellent cover for my friend Lindsey and me while a group of kids from school—the popular ones—stroll past, but I duck lower anyway. I don’t know why I worry. I’m one of the more invisible people at school. But if anyone connects me with the man dressed as Elvis standing across the way, my name will be texted to every student in Cranford Middle School, and possible the entire state of Pennsylvania.

Lindsey glances at the older ladies—it’s always older ladies—lined up to meet my dad, and shakes her head. “There’s only one problem with the adoption theory, Ellie. How do you explain your eyes?”

That is the problem. I’ve tried to convince myself that I look nothing like my father—and I don’t—except for my dark green eyes, complete with little blue flecks. I guess the adoption theory can’t be right, but as Dad bursts into song, I wish it were.

The kids from school hang at the edge of the crowd, pointing at Dad and laughing. My faces flushes. I have a hard time swallowing. I wish he would keep the Elvis stuff out of the mall and away from anyone I know.

Gram says I shouldn’t be embarrassed. Everyone has a few skeletons in their closets. Unfortunately, my skeleton is the one dressed in gold lame singing Love Me Tender in front of the Cinnabon.

All Lindsey and I wanted to do was buy a few yards of silky white polyester. It wasn’t our idea to turn a trip to the mall into a media event. But apparently Dad decided to promote the upcoming Philly Salutes Elvis Tribute, so here he stands, dressed like Elvis, talking like Elvis, and acting like Elvis. Dad’s best friend, Norm, who is also Lindsey’s father, pretends to be Dad’s bodyguard—as if he needs one. But Elvis always had a bodyguard, so Dad does too.


Ellie and the King

I like the voice in this—the writing feels very authentically middle grade girl to me. I am not sure the author is choosing the right place to focus this energy, though, especially at the beginning of the book. Ellie is the one who I am interested in, but her dad is stealing the show (as, of course, an Elvis impersonator is apt to do). I think it is common for kids to be embarrassed by parents and there is certainly room for books that talk about navigating these relationships, but I want the child protagonist to be at the forefront here. More Ellie and Lindsey, please! What are they going to do with that fabric? Then, once we know and love Ellie, we can see more about the relationship with her father and relate more to her embarrassment. I also would caution against leaning too heavily on Elvis as a joke throughout the whole book—I am not sure that kids would love that joke as much as adults—so be sure to keep the ways in which Dad embarrasses Ellie relatable to people who don’t know much about Elvis.



HALF-TRUTHS by Carol Baldwin                    Young Adult/Historical Fiction

Women can’t be scientists. At least that’s what Daddy always tells me.

But now I have proof he’s wrong.

I pick at the frayed edges of The Story-Lives of Great Scientists and stare out the kitchen window. If Marie Curie could make exciting scientific discoveries, why can’t I?

But I know better. Only a few colored kids make it to college. And if they do, it’s just to colored schools to become teachers. Not to big universities where important scientists get their start.

Science has always been my favorite subject. My best friend Darla rolls her eyes when I say the PTA should buy more microscopes for chemistry and biology. She thinks the money should go towards a gym. We can’t ever agree on that one.

I look at the clock above the kitchen sink. It’s four already. Any minute my big brother Sam will push through the screen door wondering what’s for supper. Momma, Daddy, and Big Momma will come in talking about work and expecting to smell dinner cooking.

“Gloria!” I yell out the window to my younger sister. “Get yourself in here and wash up the breakfast dishes!”

She looks up from the tea party she’s having with her Shirley Temple doll. “Let me finish pouring tea. I’ll be in soon!” She waves away a chicken that’s wandered over.

I doubt that’s going to happen. It’ll be me, not Gloria, catching heck if Big Momma comes home to a sink full of dishes. Sometimes I feel like everyone’s maid—something I swear I’ll never be. I wish I could spread a pair of wings and fly away.



Well, this has a lot of interesting premises that drew me in right away. I’m a sucker for a strong female protagonist. I especially love books with characters who overcome societal expectations to succeed—and you just know that this character is going to find a way to succeed. I do think the author is putting all of her cards on the table right away, and I would like to see some of this develop more slowly—so, for example, she thinks that she can prove her father wrong that women can’t be scientists, but then shoots herself down quickly because people of color can’t even go to college. What would it be like to see her keep with the Marie Curie excitement a little longer, and then feel her disappointment when she comes to this second realization?

My caution with YA historical fiction is that it can be a bit of a tricky sell—when I am looking at these submissions, I am looking for historical plus a big hook; day to day life is a bit harder to reach a wide audience.



MRS. HENNESSEY’S HENS     by Susan E. Harris     Picture Book

Mrs. Hennessey had six speckled Sussex hens. They were cheerful and chubby. Curious and cuddly. Feathery and friendly. So friendly they were more like dogs than hens.

When Mrs. Hennessey ate breakfast on the patio, the hens ran to greet her.

When she enjoyed a cup of tea under the stars, they nestled at her feet.

And when Mrs. Hennessey took her daily walk, they always wanted to walk with her.

But Mrs. Hennessey worried. “You may think you’re dogs but you’re not. You are hens! And it isn’t safe for hens to take a walk.”

One day, Mrs. Hennessey left for her walk. “My, what a windy day,” she said and headed down town. <Gate stays open and hens follow>

At the post office the wind blew hard. “Goodness,” said Mrs. Hennessey, “there goes all the mail! I must go help the mailman. Never mind. Those little dogs fetched his mail. But I’m glad my girls are home. I’m sure those dogs would’ve chased them.” She started her walk once more.

At the library Mrs. Hennessey stopped. The librarians were hanging a banner. The wind blew harder still and pulled the banner from their hands.

“My, how I wish I could help them,” said Mrs. Hennessey. “Never mind. Those little dogs caught the banner! And look how they’re hanging it on the library. But I’m glad my girls are home. I wouldn’t want them flying so high.”

She bought an apple-tart from the bakery and went to sit in the park.

In the park some children were flying a kite. The wind blew it’s hardest yet and sent the kite into a tree.

“I’m sure those little dogs will help the children. After all, they can fly.” Mrs. Hennessey thought about what she’d said. “Wait a minute! Dogs can’t fly!”


Mrs. Hennessey’s Hens

You know, it’s funny—my colleagues and I were just talking about liking chicken books the other day. I think the sentence length here is really spot on for picture books, and the author has a good sense of how to move the story along. I am having a logic problem, though—is Mrs. Henessey actually mistaking her hens for dogs? I just don’t know that a pet owner, especially one who clearly loves her pets so much, would make that mistake, even if she is absent-minded—and though picture books are fun places for fantastical adventures, I am a stickler for logic, so I would rather see a story that really embraces hens being hens. (Of course, I suppose the hens could dress in dog costumes—but I still am not sure that the costumes would be that believable to hide that the dogs were really hens…)



THE THREE WIGGLY WORMS BLUFF by Wendy Greenley     383 word Picture Book

“Melting snow is swamping the soil! Time to head to higher ground,” said Papa Worm.

Papa, Mama and Baby Worm squirmed to the surface and wiggled up the grassy slope to face—the dreaded sidewalk.

“Ow! It’s rough,” said Baby.

“Go as fast as you can.” Mama gave him a pat. “And keep a lookout for birds.”

Baby wiggled as fast as he could.

But he was only halfway across when a robin swooped down.

“I’m going to slurp you up and take you to my babies!” the robin squawked.

“I’m a baby myself. Barely a bite, and not worth your flight. Mama is coming, she’s more than a morsel. Why don’t you wait for her?” said Baby.

The robin thanked Baby and sent him on his way.

When the coast looked clear, Mama wiggled as fast as she could.

But she was barely halfway across when the robin hopped out from a bush.

“I’m going to slurp you up and take you to my babies!” the robin squawked.

“I’d make an adequate dinner, but if you want to treat your babies to a feast you might want to wait for Papa worm. He’s coming next,” said Mama.

The robin thanked Mama and sent her on her way.

Papa did calisthenics, warming up his wiggle. Between the birds and the pavement heating up, He needed to be fast!

Papa wasn’t halfway across when the robin landed in his path.


The Three Wiggly Worms Bluff

I like that this has a good seasonal hook—I could imagine a class of kids reading it right at the end of winter or the beginning of spring. I also think it builds in a satisfying way—it’s an old and simple trick, but using patterns of threes (three characters, three problems, etc.) tends to work well, especially in picture books. I am not sure why the family keeps throwing each other to the mercy of the bird, though—the baby can’t actually want the mama to be eaten, or the mama for the papa to be eaten, right? I think you could get rid of the worms suggesting the bird eats the others and still have each worm outsmart the bird in a different way.


I want to thank Susan for sharing her time and expertise with us. These type of critiques can help all of us improve our writing skills. We really appreciate you helping take us to the next level. Thanks again!

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: Advice, Editors, inspiration, Middle Grade Novels, picture books, revisions, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Farrar Straus and Giroux, Free Fall Friday, March First Page Critiques, Susan Dobinick

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47. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Kady MacDonald Denton and Rosemary Wells

One of Kady MacDonald Denton’s early sketches for
Liz Garton Scanlon’s
The Good-Pie Party

An illustration from Rosemary Wells’s Stella’s Starliner


This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Salina Yoon’s Found. That link will be here later.

* * *

Last week, I wrote (here) about Liz Garton Scanlon’s The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton (Scholastic, April 2014), and Rosemary Wells’s Stella’s Starliner (Candlewick, March 2014).

Today, I’ve got a bit of art from each book, as well as some early sketches from Kady.


Kady’s early sketches

“… and pie upon pie upon pie.”
Final spread from the book
(Click to enlarge)


* * *


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)

* * * * * * *

THE GOOD-PIE PARTY. Copyright © 2014 by Liz Garton Scanlon. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Kady MacDonald Denton. Spread reproduced by permission of the publisher, Scholastic, New York. Sketches reproduced by permission of Kady MacDonald Denton.

STELLA’S STARLINER. Copyright © 2014 by Rosemary Wells. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

4 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week,Featuring Kady MacDonald Denton and Rosemary Wells, last added: 3/31/2014
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48. Breathe by Scott Magoon

I have been a fan of Scott Magoon's illustrations for several years now and I was excited by the title of his newest book, Breathe, and especially by the fact that he is both author and illustrator. When I finally had the book in my hands I had to take a moment to breathe myself. Breathe has to be the loveliest, most peaceful, beautiful, quiet book I have read in quite a while. It is also a

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49. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #375: Featuring Manuel Monroy

“‘Why are you doing that?’ asked Chepito as his mother stood at the stove, cooking eggs and frying beans. … ‘These eggs and beans will make you really strong.’ …”
(Click to enlarge spread)

Today’s featured book won’t be out till June. Yes, June! Sorry to be posting about it so early — I try not to make a habit of this.

Why Are You Doing That? (Groundwood Books) is a picture book for very young readers, written by Elisa Amado and illustrated by Manuel Monroy. Elisa is an author and translator, born in Guatemala. Manuel is one of Mexico’s most celebrated illustrators. It’s a companion to their first picture book, What Are You Doing? (2011).

In this book, a young boy, named Chepito, explores his environment one morning—from his mother, cooking breakfast, to his neighbors, flattening dough and milking cows and feeding chickens—all the while asking in his sing-song way (as if he’s a bird), “Why are you doing that … What for? What for?” All the patient, accommodating adults answer him; this is a gentle read about curiosity and rural communities and not only where food comes from, but also how we nurture our bodies and the animals that feed us. It even closes with a short glossary.

Monroy evidently started out with color pencil and watercolor drawings, and then he went the digital route from there. The illustrations are warm and affectionate. Please note, however, that they appear a bit brighter here on the screen than they do in the book.

Here are a couple more spreads. Enjoy.

“There was his neighbor, Manuel, digging in the ground. … ‘Look at this nice elote,’ Manuel said as he peeled back the husk.”
(Click to enlarge spread)

“Chepito ran around the corner. He saw Doña Ana throwing corn to some chickens. … ‘What for? What for?’ sang Chepito. ‘So that they can grow strong and lay good eggs like the ones you just had for breakfast.’”
(Click to enlarge spread)

WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT? Copyright © 2014 by Elisa Amado. Illustrations © 2014 by Manuel Monroy. Published by Groundwood Books, Toronto. All images here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

* * * * * * *

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) Hands down, my biggest kick of the week was an opportunity to chat with Barry Moser about Appalachian children’s literature, as a favor for some friends at UT in Knoxville, who are planning an upcoming exhibit about that very topic. I got a picture afterwards. It was a pleasure to chat with him.

2) And the night before, I heard him and author Ann Patchett speak at Vanderbilt about writing and typography and design and illustrations and books and such.

3) And that reminded me to pick up Ann’s latest book, which I’ve been wanting to read for a while now.

4) I’m mildly to moderately obsessed with Rufus Wainwright’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel,” which I only listened to about 77 times this week. Not this particular rendition below, but still …


“Well, never mind / we are ugly, but we have the music” …

5) This CD is now on my Want List.

6) Planetariums.

7) Sean Lennon! New sound! (It’s the first song there, called “Too Deep.”) Well, it’s Sean Lennon with Charlotte Kemp Muhl, and they call themselves The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.

Did you all see that the Hans Christian Andersen Award was given this week — as well as the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award?

What are YOUR kicks this week?

11 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #375: Featuring Manuel Monroy, last added: 3/31/2014
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50. The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran, by Rita Jahanforuz | Book Review

Set in Tehran, Iran, this quite original tale is a reminder that story themes are universal. At times it has the feel of Cinderella with a cultural twist. Other times, it is reminiscent of Charles Perrault’s tale of the kindly sister and the bad-tempered sister, whose deeds have different outcomes.

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