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<<May 2015>>
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26. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Alexis Dormal and Olof Landström

– From Lena and Olof Landström’s Where Is Pim?


– From Dominique Roques’ Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion,
illustrated by Alexis Dormal


This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got a round-up of new picture books. That will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Lena and Olof Landström’s Where Is Pim? (Gecko Press, April 2015), originally released overseas a couple years ago, as well as Dominique Roques’ Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion!, illustrated by Alexis Dormal and coming to shelves in June from First Second.

I’ve got a bit of art from each book today. Enjoy.



* * *


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)



* * * * * * *

ANNA BANANA AND THE CHOCOLATE EXPLOSION. First American Edition 2015. Text and illustrations © 2012 by Alexis Dormal and Dominique Roques. English translation copyright © 2015 by the publisher, First Second, New York. Spreads here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

WHERE IS PIM? First American Edition 2015 from Gecko Press. Text and illustrations © 2013 by Lena and Olof Landström. Spreads here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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27. Everybody wants to be Press Here

When Hervé Tullet‘s Press Here came out in 2011, reviewer Lolly Robinson wrote that its ingenious interactivity “gives the iPad a licking.” Following a similar no-screen-needed interactive model is this lovely pair of books:

matheson_tap the magic tree    matheson_touch the brightest star
Susan Dove Lempke wrote of Tap the Magic Tree in the January/February 2014 Horn Book Magazine, “Perhaps inspired by the very popular Press Here, this is winsome in its own right and stylishly designed.” Its more bedtime-oriented companion book, Touch the Brightest Star, is reviewed in our May/June issue.

Here are a few brand-new arrivals with Press Here–like directions to tap, shake, rub, and blow on the pages:

yoon_tap to play

glass_do you want to build a snowman

bird_there's a mouse hiding in this book
What’s that saying about “the sincerest form of flattery?” 😉


The post Everybody wants to be Press Here appeared first on The Horn Book.

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28. Matthew Cordell – Illustrator Interview

I was reading Matthew’s latest book, WISH, a few weeks back and remembering how much I had also loved his mini technology-bash in  HELLO! HELLO! and it dawned on me I should invite him on the blog. It is such … Continue reading

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29. KidLit Author Events May 12-18


We have three big events in Houston this week, including one HUGE event for the whole family! The Houston Public Library is having their 6th Annual Books Alive! Event, and this year the featured author is Jon Scieszka! Scroll down for lots of exciting details, but don’t miss all the fun stuff happening before then!

A TALE OF TWO BESTIES by Sophia RossiMay 14, Thursday, 7:00 pm
Outreach Center of West Houston, 725 Bateswood, Houston

Sophia Rossi, HelloGiggles co-founder, will meet and greet fans as she discusses her new book, A TALE OF TWO BESTIES.

Whatever you want to call them, Harper and Lily were born to be besties. Casual-cool Cali girl Harper and awkward, always-costumed Lily are in constant contact, whether they are sharing after school fro-yos or swapping emojis. Not even the threat of different high schools could throw this BFFship off-course, even if Lily begs her parents not to send her to the “dreaded Pathways,” a special school for creative types, while effortlessly-popular Harper attends Beverly High with the rest of their class. But in a city like L.A., where fitting in means standing out and there’s nothing more uncool than being cool, it’s the naturally charismatic Harper who finds herself fighting the tide of American Apparel’d teens who rule the school. Meanwhile, it’s the perpetually “gawkward” Lily–who accessorizes every ensemble with a pair of tattered fairy wings–who finds herself flying alongside the queen bees of Pathways. Can BFF-ship survive the tidal wave of HS drama, or does growing up mean leaving some friends behind?

Admission: In order to go through the signing line and meet Sophia Rossi for book personalization, please purchase TALE OF TWO BESTIES from Blue Willow Bookshop. At the time of your purchase, we will issue a signing line ticket that indicates your place in line. Your book and signing line ticket can be picked up at the event. Each person who purchases a copy of TALE OF TWO BESTIES from Blue Willow Bookshop will receive a gift bag.

May 15, Friday, 7:00 PMNIL UNLOCKED by Lynne Matson
Blue Willow Bookshop
Fierce Reads 2015 Tour: Four YA Authors

Four YA authors will appear together at Blue Willow Bookshop, talking about their books and anything else.

Lynne Matson: NIL UNLOCKED: On the island of Nil, the rules are set. You have exactly 365 days to escape–or you die. Rives is now the undisputed Leader of Nil City, but keeping the City united is tougher than ever. Raiders have grown bolder, supplies are dwindling, and non-human inhabitants have taken a turn toward the deadly. New arrivals cause rifts within the City, putting the Search system at risk, and calling everything Rives knows into question. Desperate for answers, he teams up with the only other person searching for them: Skye, a new arrival with a mysterious past of her own. Soon the duo find themselves locked in a desperate race to save all the residents of Nil–and possibly destroy the island forever. But at what cost? And who will pay the price?


After the humiliating events on the 4th of July, Gemma’s trying to grapple with the fact that Hallie knew her true identity all summer, and that she was the one who stole Teddy from her. Gemma vows revenge, but things immediately get more complicated than she planned. Her dad forces her to get a job, and the only one she can find involves scooping ice cream all day. Ford, Gemma’s longtime crush, has arrived in the Hamptons, and is cuter than ever. Josh is refusing to speak to her after finding out she lied to him. And to top it all off, Teddy is back in the picture, and closer to home than Gemma would like. Gemma and Hallie find themselves locked in an escalating revenge cycle involving everything from strawberry syrup to stolen identities. But just when Gemma thinks she has the upper hand, the biggest bombshell of all is dropped. And it’s one that threatens to change her life forever.

THE WINNER'S CRIME by Maria RutkoskiMarie Rutkoski: THE WINNER’S CRIME: A royal wedding is what most girls dream about. It means one celebration after another: balls, fireworks, and revelry until dawn. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement: that she agreed to marry the crown prince in exchange for Arin’s freedom. But can Kestrel trust Arin? Can she even trust herself? For Kestrel is becoming very good at deception. She’s working as a spy in the court. If caught, she’ll be exposed as a traitor to her country. Yet she can’t help searching for a way to change her ruthless world . . . and she is close to uncovering a shocking secret.

SKANDAL by Lindsey SmithLindsay Smith: SKANDAL: The dramatic sequel to SEKRET, this psychic Cold War espionage thriller follows Yulia to Washington, DC, where she fights to discover the truth about her family without losing control of her mind. My mind is mine alone. Life in Washington, D.C., is not the safe haven Yulia hoped for when she risked everything to flee communist Russia. Her father is reckless and aloof, and Valentin is distant and haunted by his past. Her mother is being targeted by the CIA and the US government is suspicious of Yulia’s allegiance. And when super-psychics start turning up in the US capitol, it seems that even Rostov is still a threat. Ultimately, Yulia must keep control of her own mind to save the people she loves and avoid an international SKANDAL.

Admission: In order to go through the signing line and meet the authors for book personalization, please purchase one of the author’s books from Blue Willow Bookshop. At the time of your purchase, you will receive a signing line ticket that indicates your place in line.

Central Library 500 McKinney St., Houston
Books Alive! 6th Annual Children’s Book Celebration

The celebration at Houston Public Library kicks off at 12:15 on the fourth floor as Main Street Theater young ambassadors present selections from THE STINKY CHEESE MAN AND OTHER FAIRLY STUPID TALES and FRANK EINSTEIN AND THE ANTIMATTER MOTOR. At 12:45, Author Jon Scieszka will address the crowd and sign his books. Starting at 1:30, there will be music and entertainment by AndyRoo and the AndyRooniverse! Arts & Crafts, Mad Science of Houston, PhotoMoto photo booth, Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Children’s Museum of Houston.

Come dressed to impress as your favorite Jon Scieszka–inspired book character! 
Prizes will be awarded for best costumes!

Take a peek at some of the fun in store: Music video from AndyRoo, Mad Science of Houston’s video from The Houston International Festival, and fun with PhotoMoto!

May 16, Saturday, 3:00 PMTHE BOOK OF ETHAN by Russell J. Sanders
River Oaks Bookstore
Russell J. Sanders, YA Author

Houston YA Author Russell J. Sanders presents his new novel THE BOOK OF ETHAN. Ethan Harker is the son of The Prophet, the stern, demanding leader of a small Southwestern polygamous community. Ethan has been groomed to one day take his place as the leader of this isolated cult. But things happen that compel Ethan to flee his stifling community and find his way in the world beyond it. Totally out of his depth, he is sheltered by a remarkable group of people from a loving and accepting church. From them, he learns what family truly means and begins to construct a life free from the restrictions he’s grown up with. Little by little he dismisses the assumptions he was taught about the evil people in the outside world. Amid all this, Ethan realizes something about himself when he meets rapper Kyan, a boy his age. Although he’s been brought up to fear and hate members of Kyan’s race, he can’t help falling in love with Kyan. Fueled by a new understanding and new friends, Ethan gains the strength and courage to conquer the confusing world he has been thrust into.

Now through June 30Houston Writers Guild Press
Houston Writers Guild
Short Story Contest
Entry fee: $25 HWG members / $35 non-members / $20 students or seniors over 65
Multiple entries: $15 for subsequent entries for members / $25 for nonmembers / $10 for students and seniors over 65.

HWG is looking for original unpublished mystery short stories; stand-alone adaptations from a longer manuscript are welcome. Authors may submit up to 3 short stories for consideration in the contest. Please see their website for more information.



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30. A Visit with Ovi Nedelcu

From the sketchbooks


You may have seen this recent Horn Book article by Betsy Bird on illustrators who come from an animation background. Today’s visiting illustrator, Ovi Nedelcu, is one of those, and he’s here today to share artwork and talk about his experiences.

Ovi, a character designer and story artist who lives in Portland, has been working in animation full-time for the past fifteen years for various studios, such as WB, Disney, Cartoon Network, and Sony — but mostly at LAIKA, working on both Coraline and The Boxtrolls. He’s not new to publication—his first published work was for DC comics back in 1998, and since then he’s published a comic book series and has illustrated a couple of picture books—but Just like Daddy (POW! Kids Books), out on shelves now, is his debut as an author-illustrator. It’s the story of one preschooler’s grand perceptions of his father’s day, juxtaposed with the everyday reality of his 9-to-5 job. It’s a warm story propelled by Ovi’s expressive cartoon art.

Ovi also talks about the book below, so let’s get right to it. I thank him for visiting.


On Just Like Daddy:


The book is basically about the relationship between a boy and his father. It’s a boy’s perception of what it’s like to be a grown-up — and the reality thereof. This is one book I really feel gives both the child and the adult something to enjoy and smile about while reading it. There is a take-away for both.

The idea came to me by just observing things my kids would mimic throughout the day. They would copy things I would do, like fold my legs, push-ups, put on my shoes, etc. My wife would point out how cute it was that they were trying to do things “just like daddy,” and that’s when it hit me as a good idea for a picture book.


(Click each to enlarge)


On How Animation Influences his Work:


It affects it in a couple of ways, I think.

One of them is speed. You have to get things done “yesterday,” so you don’t really have too much time to sit around and second-guess yourself too much. You have to go with your gut and just get the work done.

The second thing I learned in animation (from doing storyboards, particularly) is to not be too precious about my drawings initially. I draw probably thousands of storyboards on any given film, and you have to be willing to throw away something you just drew in order to draw a better idea. The whole point is to get the film up in storyboards as fast as you can so you can get it wrong as fast you can and change/fix it. If we spent all our time rendering our storyboards so that they look pretty but don’t really tell the best story in the animation reel (rough cut of the film in storyboards), then we just wasted all that time polishing storyboards we now have to throw out and re-draw.


(Click each to enlarge)


So, to apply that to book-making is great, because I can rough out a book in a day or less and then take a look at it and fix the story structure before I even worry about tones or useless details that will change as the story evolves and gets better. If you spend a lot of time on rendering your sketches or drawings, then you start to become attached to them and it will be harder to toss them out and start over to get a better idea and story across. Remember, story is king. Focus on the story, not the rendering. If the story doesn’t work, the rendering won’t make it better.

I try and focus on the visual story structure, character development, staging, compositions, pacing, and word play — and then add the details and rendering later. If it doesn’t work in a sketch, it won’t work in an illustration. It might look pretty, but there will always be something “wrong” with it. You can’t cover up a story with fancy words the same way you can’t cover up a bad illustration with fancy details.


Portfolio pieces


On Comics and Picture Books:


The biggest difference is the complexity and intensity of the story. With a comic book, you get to elaborate on stories and really build things with characters, plot lines, subplots, and story arcs, like you would in a film. With picture books, you basically have to focus on one main theme or story point/issue and try and resolve it by the end. It’s hard to tell complex stories in picture books, because you are only allowed so much room to do so. You have to keep the audience in mind as well, which are kids and then adults. That’s not to say stories can’t have multiple layers of meaning; it’s just you have to really stay focused on that one issue.



On Medium:


I like using traditional mediums, like pencil, pen, paint, and such. I use acrylic, watercolor, oils, gouache, pastel, and color pencils — but I mostly paint digital, due to time and schedule. I have created a library of digital brushes that reflect the look of traditional media. I also try and paint digitally the same way I would if I was using real brushes, meaning I try not to use too many layers or manipulate the digital painting with effects or filters. I try and respect the process and use the same techniques and steps as I would if I were painting it traditionally, because I never want to lose that hand-crafted look or process to my work. I want to be connected to it as much as possible.



I also sketch in my sketchbook all the time. I always try and have it with me. I like using just a rich ballpoint pen.


On Process:


The process of illustrating a book is really similar to storyboarding for a film. Once I’m done writing/outlining the book or if I’m illustrating a book someone else wrote, I start to do small thumbnails of the pages. I try and do them as simple (shapes and lines) as possible and not focus on details or rendering. I’m just laying down the basic composition and “feeling” of the illustration and trying to figure out what is the best way to capture the story point and the feeling of the piece. I ask myself questions like:

  • What’s the story point/theme?
  • What am I trying to communicate to the audience?
  • How do I want them to feel?
  • What is the feeling of the moment/illustration?
  • What are the characters thinking/feeling?
  • Why do they feel that way?
  • What do the characters want/desire?
  • What’s stopping them?
  • What’s the conflict/problem/antagonist?
  • What does the character learn?
  • How do they change/grow?


(Click to enlarge)

Just Like Daddy roughs


Those are the type of questions I ask that inform what I put down on paper.

I try and use compositions and body language/gesture/silhouette, etc. to communicate the story point visually.

Speaking of, I also do my thumbnails in my sketchbook or on paper. I try and stay away from the computer as long as possible.


(Click to enlarge)

After I have my pages roughed out, I enlarge them to print size on the computer and digitally I go back and do a second pass over them and clean things up a bit. This is essentially my under drawing and what I paint over once I finish cleaning it up a bit. I try not to clean the drawing up too much, because I want there to be a bit of play and back and forth between the drawing and the painting so that the process still feels organic and hand-crafted as much as possible. I want the under drawing to be “clear” but not “clean,” meaning I want the pose or gesture to clearly read and communicate the idea — but I don’t want the drawing to be cleaned up to the point where it’s stiff and lifeless.

Once I start painting, I like to block in my BG, MG, FG with my color scheme. Then I go back in and paint BG to FG using only a few brushes. I don’t do any black and white value studies, I just go right into color and try and do the values with the color. Once I have all the basic shapes and forms painted in, I go back in and do a final detail pass over the illustration and try and emphasize the focal points.


(Click each to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

JUST LIKE DADDY. Copyright © 2015 by Ovi Nedelcu. Published by POW! Kids Books, Brooklyn. All images here reproduced by permission of Ovi Nedelcu.

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31. Plant a seed of kindness

If You Plant a Seed

By Kadir Nelson


My husband and I are on a new and unique journey – at least for us. For more than forty years we have both been involved in some way in the feeding of people with information and the ability to imagine, through books.

Now with our vineyard/orchard/farm, we are literally feeding them. We have short circuited the joy of our former jobs, just a tad, to the elementals that make the rest possible. In a word: food. For that, too, is one essential thing that nourishes us.

There are many forms of nourishing. I guess that’s because in my time at the farm, it’s taught me that we humans need a lot of different kinds. Our entire mind, body and spirit needs nourishing – constantly.

And that is a long way round to this picture book I have come to love called, “If You Plant a Seed” by Kadir Nelson. Seeds grow things, and ideas are sort of in the same realm of reality. But how can you simply convey “the value of a value” to a child?

Kadir Nelson has done it beautifully with his deceptively simple story of the initial planting of seeds by a hare and a mouse.

Don’t know whether his choice of a rodent and a rabbit are significant at all, but they are endearing as they plant their seeds of cabbages, carrots, and tomatoes, watch them grow, and then gobble up their grown goodies.

Life is good. Life is great. Until several pair of staring eyes greet them. A dove, chickadee, cardinal, blue jay and crow enter their domain. Hmmm. What to do?

Share or defend?

Kadir Nelson’s art of these animals and avians fill the pages of his picture book in a huge way that seems to signify both they, and the choices they are about to make, are BIG. As big as the hearts they have or should have.

       “If you plant a seed of selfishness,

       it will grow.”


It’s a simple choice or maybe not so simple, when rabbit and rodent refuse to share.

Chaos ensues and a food fight of epic proportions begins and ends with no winners. Destruction of the bounty is the result. It’s both funny and fitting.

The small mouse is the first of the two to “Plant a seed of kindness.” He shyly proffers a small tomato to the crow.

In no time at all, the “fruits of kindness” descend on rabbit and rodent from the skies, via the birds, in new seedlings as a gift because of the former’s late seeded sharing and kindness.

The new seeds, showered by the birds, produce, not over night, but in time, luscious corn, watermelons, sunflowers and more. And this time, everyone participated in the planting!

Through sharing the literal and figurative “seeds of kindness”, the animals have instituted their own farm co operative that provides a bounty for all.

Mr. Nelson’s art is as bold and bright as the veggies and fruits his animal anticipators are growing. But his book, as entertaining and delightfully artistic as it is, offers some seeds that are a whole lot more nourishing than mere food.

He has found a tale to teach compassion, generosity and kindness to kids in a unique and appealing way.

Whatever we choose to feed in our child’s life will grow. As parents we want them to grow healthy and strong, sometimes with organically grown goodness from a non pesticide use farm, if what I read and see more and more on store shelves is reflective of what we consumers believe to be true. Non GMO is the order of the day, and “gluten free” is prominently featured on food products. We want healthy children assuredly.

Kadir Nelson’s, “If You Plant a Seed”, is a potent portent of whatever else they are fed, bears a harvest just as important as a food related one – and maybe even more life changing!

Hey, we’re planting plum cots today! They’re a cross between a plum and an apricot. They are fleshy, sweet and delicious. And we do share with anyone that comes our way.


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32. Picture Book Monday with a review of Rainstorm

RainstormWe live in a more-is-better world, a world where people often forget that sometimes less is more. In today's wordless picture book a magical story unfolds that readers of all ages will be able to appreciate. The artwork is simple without any frills or embellishments, and it is perfect.

Barbara Lehman
Picture Book
For ages 3 to 5
Houghton Mifflin, 2007, 978-0618756391
It is a rainy grey day and a lonely little boy looks out of the window. He then kicks a red and white ball across the floor and its rolls away and down the stairs. The boy goes after the ball, and when he reaches under a chair to retrieve the ball his hand touches a key. Now the boy tries to find the key hole which matches the key.
   After many tries, the boy discovers that the key unlocks a trunk. When he opens the lid of the trunk he sees a ladder, and being a normally curious sort of boy, he climbs down the ladder. At the bottom of the ladder the boy sees a tunnel which he proceeds to follow. Where does the tunnel go and what lies at the end of it?
   Any child who has found him or herself wishing something, anything, would happen on a dull and lonely rainy day will be able to identify with the main character in this story. Indeed, most children will be intrigued as they watch the events unfold in the wordless book. They will be delighted to see that the magic which occurs on that first rainy day can be repeated, and therefore there is a strong message of hope on the pages.
   Beautifully illustrated in bold and bright colors, this picture book is a celebration of magical places, the imagination, and much more.

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33. What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virján

Being an elementary school librarian has changed how I think (and feel) about books in really positive ways. During the decades that I was a children's bookseller, I had the luxury of being selective and critical with my tastes. Now, of course I am still critical and selective, but I am also more open minded in how I think about a book. What This Book Needs is a Pig in a Wig by Emma Virján is

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34. Courage to Be Yourself: 3 new favorite picture books (ages 3-9)

As kids enter school, their peer groups start having a strong influence over them--with that comes pressure to fit in. So that's why I love books that give the message that we want lots of different types of friends, that we all need the courage to be ourselves. Here are three new favorite picture books that sing that song.

Wild About Us
by Karen Beaumont
illustrated by Janet Stevens
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Your local library
ages 3-7
Warty Warthog has warts, Rhino has wrinkly skin, and Crocodile sports a toothy grin--but they all love who they are. With snappy rhythm and rhymes that are a joy to read aloud, Beaumont celebrates what makes each animal unique.
"Elephant is confident that nothing is wrong.
He knows that his nose is supposed to be long."
Janet Stevens is one of my favorite illustrators of animals--I adore her Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Here, her animals are full of personality and pizzazz. Kids will love the cartoony appeal, but also connect to how each proudly declares how they love themselves just the way they are.
Tommy Can't Stop
by Tim Federle
illustrated by Mark Fearing
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
Young Tommy is in perpetual motion, bouncing like a pogo-stick, hollering while he hurdles and clomping like an elephant. He's driving his family crazy ("'He's an animal,' his sister pouts to their parents.") but you can tell from the illustrations that this is a little guy who's just got to move. When his mom drags him to tap class, he's really not sure it's for him. But when the teacher begins bouncing, he's hooked!
"The tap teacher begins bouncing. (Wait! She twirls like... Tommy!)
'You're a ... pogo stick!' he whispers as he watches.
'I call this a hop'"
I love the way this book shows Tommy discovering a joyful, positive way to channel his energy. When the tap teacher kicks, he's amazed that she kicks like a bulldozer -- but she says, "I call this a brush! (Everyone brushes, but Tommy brushes boldest.)" Kids--quiet ones and rambunctious ones--will feel this joy coming through both the illustrations and the words, as Tommy discovers how being true to himself helps him be a star.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
by Margarita Engle
illustrated by Rafael López
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Your local library
ages 6-9
*best new book*
Cuba is an island full of wonderful music, but this beautiful picture book shows how hard one girl had to work to be true to her musical self. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, who was of Chinese, African, and Cuban descent, dreamed of "pounding tall conga drums / tapping small bongó drums, and boom boom booming / with long loud sticks." But in 1930s Cuba, drumming was taboo for girls.
“But everyone / on the island of music / in the city of drumbeats /
believed that only boys / should play drums …”
Millo was not deterred, playing her drums every chance she can, even if it was in her own head. Finally, her father softened and brought a teacher to listen to Millo's drumming--a teacher who was so impressed that he allowed her father to have courage to break the social taboo. I just love how Millo's joy comes through in the illustrations. López captures a visual rhythm, the way that Engle does in her poetic text.
“When she walked under / wind-wavy palm trees / in a flower-bright park / she heard the whir of parrot wings ...
the dancing tap / of her own footsteps / and the comforting pat / of her own heartbeat.”
This beautiful, poetic picture book will inspire children today to follow their own dreams, even if society around them scorns them. To see more of these wonderful illustrations, head over to Seven Impossible Things; to learn more about Engle and Lopez's creative process, definitely read Julie Danielson's article in Kirkus: Beating the Drum for Women's Rights.

I hope you enjoy these new picture books. Whether it's humorous animals, bouncing little boys or girls who feel music thrumming in their souls, these stories can speak to kids, helping them have the courage to be themselves.

Illustrations ©2015 by Janet Stevens, Mark Fearing and Rafael López; used with permission from the publishers. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Disney Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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35. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #431: Featuring JiHyeon Lee

(Click to enlarge)


I’ve got a review over at BookPage of JiHyeon Lee’s debut picture book, Pool, released by Chronicle this past week and originally published in South Korea in 2013.

Here’s the review if you want to read all about the book, and below is a bit more art.


(Click to enlarge)


(Click to enlarge)



POOL. Copyright © 2013 by JiHyeon Lee. English translation copyright © 2015 by Chronicle Books LLC. 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) My stomach flu is gone.

2) I had a birthday this week, and people I love spoiled me.

3) People I love.

4) I’m actually in Wyoming as you read this for a children’s lit event. Maybe next week I can tell you about my trip. It’s my first time in Wyoming. You can maybe assume right now at this very moment that my view is spectacular.

5) Crises averted.

6) Reading a great novel (for grown-ups) I bummed from my husband. (Good timing, since I’m seeing airports this weekend.)

7) The countdown-to-end-of-school has begun.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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36. Seuss on Saturday #19

The Sneetches and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1961. Random House. 65 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of The Sneetches:
Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had Bellies with stars.
The Plain-belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.
First sentence of The Zax
One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.
First sentence of Too Many Daves
Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
First sentence of What Was I Scared Of?
I was walking in the night
And I saw nothing scary.
For I have never been afraid
Of anything. Not very.
Plot/Premise of The Sneetches: Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches have trouble playing and working together. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are envious of the Stars on the Star-Belly Sneetches. And the Star-Belly Sneetches look down on the Plain Belly sort. Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the whole situation with his "Star On" and "Star Off" machine. He makes a LOT of money in the process. Will the Sneeches ever learn?

Plot/Premise of The Zax: A North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax meet. Neither Zax will budge because, of course, the North-Going Zax will only go North, and the South-Going Zax will only go South. Take a step in the wrong direction?! Never! How long will these two be stubborn?

Plot/Premise of Too Many Daves: The premise of this one is simple and clearly stated in the first sentence: The McCave family has too many sons named Dave. The joy in this one comes from reading it aloud. All the names she wished she'd chosen. Names like "Hoos-Foos" "Putt-Putt" and "Oliver Boliver Butt." 

Plot/Premise of What Was I Scared Of? The narrator of this one claims he's not scared of anything. But one night when he sees a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them...he becomes very frightened indeed. Will he ever overcome his fear? Should he overcome his fear?

My thoughts on The Sneeches: This is a fun story. And it's so very quotable! This is a great start to a great story collection.

My thoughts on The Zax: Another fun story, and very true to life. Sometimes people are really that stubborn.

My thoughts on Too Many Daves: This one is shorter than the others perhaps, but, it's quite enjoyable! Some of the names are quite memorable too.

My thoughts on What Was I Scared Of? This one is probably my most favorite of all. I love, love, love this one. I had the record of this book, but, it is the audio narration of this one that has stayed with me the most. It is just a wonderful little story. And so quotable!!!
After that, a week went by.
Then one dark night in Grin-itch
(I had to do an errand there
And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)...
Well, I had fetched the spinach.
I was starting back through town
When those pants raced round a corner
And they almost knocked me down!
I ran and found a Brickel bush.
I hid myself away.
I got brickels in my britches
But I stayed there anyway. 
I said, "I do not fear those pants
With nobody inside them."
I said, and said, and said those words.
I said them. But I lied them. 
Have you read The Sneetches and Other Stories? What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is 10 Apples Up on Top.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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37. 8 An Animal Alphabet (2015)

8: An Animal Alphabet. Elisha Cooper. 2015 [July] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Find the one animal on each page that is pictured 8 times--8 ants, 8 badgers, 8 chickens. Find all the other animals too. Some may be familiar, such as a cat, and some not, such as a muskrat. (For help, see the "Did you know?" section in the back.)

Premise/Plot. Each alphabet page features lots of animals. Only one animal, however, is pictured 8 times. All animals for each page are listed in small print at the bottom of the page. The book concludes with a "Did You Know?" page sharing facts about all the animals.

My thoughts: I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. I liked it well enough. If you're looking for a counting-to-eight concept book, an alphabet concept book, or, a book about animals, then this one may prove satisfying.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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38. What I Saw in the Teachers' Lounge (2015)

What I Saw In the Teachers' Lounge. Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Howard McWilliam. 2015. [June] 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I saw the sign on the door at school every day. It wasn't fair. Why couldn't students go in there? Oops--the door was open. I thought I'd take a peek. The first time I looked, I saw my teacher. She was surfing. Another teacher was in full hiking gear. She was climbing a rugged mountain.

Premise/plot: A young boy with a BIG imagination keeps peeking into the teacher's lounge. Each time he peeks, he sees something different, something strange and wonderful all at the same time. He tells everyone, but, few believe him.

My thoughts: It's certainly creative storytelling. Perhaps not as memorable as And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, but, along those same lines. It was a nice read.

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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39. Wolfie The Bunny – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Wolfie The Bunny Written by: Ame Dyckman Illustrated by: Zachariah OHora Published by: Hatchette Book Group Inc, 2015 Themes/Topics: wolves, bunnies, sibling rivalry Suitable for ages: 4-8 Opening: The bunny family came home to find a                 … Continue reading

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40. What I’m Doing at Kirkus and Chapter 16 This Week

Today over at Kirkus, I write about the welcome return of the characters in two new picture book imports. One of those characters is pictured above. That link will be here soon.

Also, over at Chapter 16, I’ve got a write-up about the wonderful Children’s Festival of Reading that Knoxville, Tennessee’s Knox County Public Library puts on every year. There’s a great line-up of authors and illustrators who will be there next Saturday. And I’ll be moderating a picture book panel, which I’m looking forward to. That write-up is here.

Until Sunday …

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41. The Bus is for Us! by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Gillian Tyler

The Bus is for Us! is a jubilant declaration byMichael Rosen, former British Children's Laureate and illustrated by the marvelous  Gillian Tyler. Anyone who has spent the day with a small child knows how much they love all forms of transportation. Rosen's rhyming text pays tribute to all kinds of rides, from a bike ride to a train ride to a sleigh ride - and even a ride on a fish, a kite

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42. KidLit Author Events May 5-12


The end of the school year is upon us, and I want to wish good luck to all our dedicated high schoolers who are suffering through their OWLs (AP tests) and preparing for their finals.

We’ve got several events happening this week, mostly on Saturday. I hope you’ll be able to get out and enjoy a few. As always, please verify the event information with the sponsoring bookstore or organization.

Now through June 30Houston Writers Guild Press
Houston Writers Guild
Short Story Contest
Entry fee: $25 HWG members / $35 non-members / $20 students or seniors over 65
Multiple entries: $15 for subsequent entries for members / $25 for nonmembers / $10 for students and seniors over 65. Authors may submit up to 3 short stories for consideration in the contest.
Please see their website for more information.

DIVE INTO MYSTERY Short Story Mystery Contest:
The Contest is open for submission through June 30 to both members and nonmembers. The Houston Writers’ Guild ise looking for original unpublished mystery short stories; stand-alone adaptations from a longer manuscript are welcome.

May 7, Thursday, 5:00 PMHOW TO SURPRISE A DAD by Jean Reagan; Illustrated by Lee Wildish
Blue Willow Bookshop
Jean Reagan, PB AUTHOR

Jean Reagan will discuss and sign her picture book, HOW TO SURPRISE A DAD. Author of the New York Times bestsellers HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDPA and HOW TO BABYSIT A GRANDMA introduces her charming new how-to book about surprising dear old Dad!

So you want to surprise your dad? You’re in luck! The pages of this book are full of tips on how to become a super dad surpriser, including tips for things you can make, do, or find—just for your dad.

Be sure to read up on:
·      Yummy treats and presents for a dad
·      What to do if he starts getting suspicious
·      How to prepare for the big moment (where to hide everyone, and how to practice whispering “Surprise!”)

Illustrated by NYT bestseller Lee Wildish.

May 9, Saturday, 11:00 AMA NEST IS NOISY By Dianna Hutts Aston; Illustrated by Sylvia Long
Blue Willow Bookshop
Dianna Aston, PB Author

Dianna Aston will discuss and sign her picture book, A NEST IS NOISY. From tiny bee hummingbird nests to orangutan nests high in the rainforest canopy, an incredible variety of nests are showcased here in all their splendor. Poetic in voice and elegant in design, this carefully researched book introduces children to a captivating array of nest facts and will spark the imaginations of children whether in a classroom reading circle or on a parent’s lap. Illustrated by Sylvia Long.

May 9, Saturday, 1:00
Mathew Salses, Novel Workshop
Cost: $30-$45

STARTING YOUR NOVEL: Have a great idea for a novel but don’t know how to start? Stuck in the middle of novel-drafting and don’t know why? Much of writing a novel through to its end is about what is set up by its premise. Bring your novel ideas or incomplete novels to this workshop on novel premises. We will discuss the novel form and do some exercises on character and plot. Plan to leave with ideas of how to go forward with your draft.

May 9, Saturday, 1:00-3:00 PMA TRIP TO THE BARBERSHOP by Shirley Jordan-Bellamy
River Oaks Bookstore
Shirley Jordan-Bellamy, PB Author

Shirley Jordan-Bellamy presents A TRIP TO THE BARBER SHOP. This darkly funny debut picture book celebrates imagination and bravery while addressing the dilemma: taking a trip to the barber shop.

May 9, Saturday, 2:00 PM
Blue Willow Bookshop
Tricia Barr, NF Author

ULTIMATE STAR WARS By Ryder Windham, Anthony DanielsAuthor Tricia Barr will celebrate the release of ULTIMATE STAR WARS (Co-authored with Anthony Daniels). There is no other guide that visually explores characters, vehicles, locations, and technology from the entire Star Wars galaxy. An excellent primer to prepare for the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens, ULTIMATE STAR WARS® is the ideal go­to resource for fans who wish to brush ­up on their Star Wars knowledge, and for a new generation of children eager to start their journey into a galaxy far, far away….



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43. Spots in a Box by Helen Ward

I had no idea that Helen Ward, author of two of my favorite picture books: The Tin Forest & The Dragon Machine is also an illustrator! These books, along with two others, Finding Christmas, which is a very sweet sibling story, and Little Moon Dog, are illustrated by the magnificent Wayne Anderson. I am so happy to make this discovery, especially with Ward's newest book, Spots

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44. Seuss on Saturday #18

Green Eggs and Ham. Dr. Seuss. 1960. Random House. 62 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
I am Sam
Sam I am
That Sam-I-am!
That Sam-I-am!
I do not like that Sam-I-am!
Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them,
I do not like
green eggs and ham.
Plot/Premise: Sam-I-am tries to convince the narrator to try something new: green eggs and ham. Sam I am is definitely persistent! He stays calm while the narrator doesn't! Who will prove more stubborn?!

My thoughts: Green Eggs and Ham is one I've read dozens of times. It's fun and playful. It's repetitive. What's not to love?!

Have you read Green Eggs and Ham? What did you think of it? Did you like it? love it? hate it? Is it one you grew up reading?

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is The Sneetches and Other Stories. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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45. Ice Cream Summer (2015)

Ice Cream Summer. Peter Sis. 2015. [May] Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Dear Grandpa, Thank you for your letter. So far, it's been a delicious summer. I am very busy. But don't worry, I am not forgetting about school. I read every day. I am conquering big words like tornado and explosion!

Premise/Plot: A young boy assures his grandpa--via letter--that his summer is going well, and that he's still hard at work learning many things (math, history, cartography, to name just a few). Readers see that all relates back to ice cream in one way or another making Ice Cream Summer a fitting title for the book. This young boy LOVES his ice cream.

My thoughts: I like this one very much! Though I can't enjoy ice cream, I am glad that others can. And the hero of Ice Cream Summer certainly ADORES ice cream. I imagine that every day of his summer involves ice cream. The word play was cute and fun, for the most part. For example, "As you can see, Grandpa, I've been working hard all summer (though I always take a break on sundaes)."

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

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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46. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #430: Featuring Frank Viva (sorta)

Dear kickers, I’m battling an ugly stomach bug this weekend, and since it’s best to be horizontal, I’ve got a short post today. I was going to feature the work of another illustrator, but I’ll have to do that later this week, since it was a much longer post.

I reviewed Frank Viva’s Outstanding in the Rain (Little, Brown, April 2015) over at BookPage (that is here), and I had planned on securing some of the beautiful spreads from the book to show you all. But again … you know, dastardly bug.

Instead, to keep things short so that I can lie back down, I’ll point you to these recent and quite wonderful posts at other places, posts all about the book — and with lots of art.

* Post at 32 Pages
* Post at Brain Pickings
* Write-up at the New York Times

Please do tell me: What are YOUR kicks this week?

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47. RhyPiBoMo Week 5

My reading material from this week:

My favorite for the week is WHEREVER YOU GO by Pat Zietlow Miller illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. Love, love the illustrations!

Here is my poem for the Golden Quill Poetry contest:

I must sneak out, I must sneak out,
this kitty wants a walk about.
I’ll duck out when Dog comes in –
if I fail, I’ll try again.

Now I’m out, now I’m free!
I’m scared – it’s way too much for me!
I should be glad ... to my chagrin,
now I want to sneak back in!

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48. Celebrating all types of families: 3 new picture books (ages 3-9)

Three new picture books celebrate all types of families with joy and love. Share these with preschoolers or kindergartners, especially as Mother's Day approaches--helping kids recognize that families take many shapes and forms.

Families, Families, Families
by Suzanne Lang
illustrated by Max Lang
Random House, 2015
Your local library
ages 3-6
This book is sure to bring giggles as you read it with young children. Lang shares a medley of silly cartoon animal families showing all kinds of nontraditional families.  Each cartoon portrait is framed, hanging on a wall -- the realistic elements adding to the humor.
"Some children have lots of siblings"
"Some children have none."
Gently rhyming lines accompany the family portraits: "Some children live with their grandparents/ and some live with an aunt./ Some children have many pets/ and some just have a plant." As the SLJ review clearly states, "The loud-and-clear message is that 'if you love each other, then you are a family.' And imagine the many children who will be reassured because they have found a portrait of a family they will recognize as their own." A delightful celebration of diversity, treated with loving humor.
My Family Tree and Me
by Dušan Petričić
Kids Can Press, 2015
Book trailer
Your local library
ages 4-9
Beginning with his great-great-grandparents on his father’s side, a young boy introduces his family, leading to a current family portrait at the book's center. This provides a wonderful way to help children really understand and visualize what a family tree means. The second-half traces his mother’s family, back to his great-great-grandparents on her side. A delightful celebration of multicultural, multigenerational family.
The back cover of My Family Tree and Me
I especially love how easily Petričić integrates diversity into this picture book. The young boy's family is biracial, and each side of his family tree celebrates different heritage. Careful readers will notice how family traits carry on from one generation to the next. Best of all, I think this will help children start wondering about their own extended families.
Stella Brings the Family
by Miriam B. Schiffer
illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Chronicle, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
When Stella’s teacher announces their class is going to have a celebration for Mother’s day, everyone is excited, everyone except for Stella. What should she do? She has two dads and no mom.
"We're going to have a celebration for Mother's Day"
"Stella would be the only one without a mother at the Mother's Day party."
Schiffer tells the story through Stella’s eyes, perfectly capturing a child’s perspective -- sharing her worries, her classmates’ questions and the solution that Stella and her family come up with. This helps kids connect to Stella, empathizing with how she feels. When the big day arrives, Stella brings her whole extended family and feels surrounded by love and happiness.

I hope you enjoy seeking out these books as you celebrate all kinds of families with children. Picture books are both mirrors of our own worlds, helping us see ourselves a little more clearly, and windows into other people's worlds.

Illustrations ©2015 by Max Lang and Holly Clifton-Brown; used with permission from the publishers. The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Random House, Kids Can Press and Chronicle Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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49. Review of It’s Only Stanley

agee_it's only stanleystar2 It’s Only Stanley
by Jon Agee; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Dial   32 pp.
3/15   978-0-8037-3907-9   $17.99

The Wimbledon family can’t sleep due to one noise (“HOWOOO!”) after another (“CLANK CLANK CLANK”). In each case, it’s the fault of their dog Stanley, whose onomatopoeic disturbances interrupt — hilariously — not just the sleep but the perfectly cadenced rhyming account of the increasingly bothered Wimbledons: “The Wimbledons were sleeping. / It was late beyond belief, / When Wylie heard a splashy sound / That made him say: ‘Good grief!’” As the night wears on, more and more family members are awakened, and Stanley shows himself to be one clever beagle (and over-the-moon in love). The thick lines and subdued colors in the illustrations bring out the story’s considerable humor and focus readers’ attention on the ever-more-fantastical situations. Agee understands the drama of the page turn better than anyone, with vignettes of the increasingly crowded Wimbledon family bed giving way to full-bleed double-page spreads of Stanley’s machinations until it all comes together (“KAPOW!”) to make everybody jump. Make sure your listeners have their seatbelts fastened.

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


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50. Picture Book Monday with a review of By Mouse and Frog

When I was a little child my best friend, Raff, and I used to make up games to play together. All too often one of us would come up with an idea, which the other would then try to take over. An argument would ensue. I saw this happen many times with my own child and her friends, and it was always interesting to see how they settled their differences.

Today's picture book is about a mouse who wants to write a story, and a frog who wants to be a part of the story writing process. The frog, alas, does not know how to respect his friend's creative process, and a situation arises that is rather uncomfortable for both the mouse and the frog.

By Mouse and Frog
By Mouse and Frog
Deborah Freedman
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Penguin, 2015, 978-0-670-78490-5
One morning Mouse wakes up and he starts writing “a brand-new story.” Carefully he tells his story in which a mouse wakes up early and sets a table. He then draws what he describes, a table with tea things on it. The next minute Frog jumps into the story. Frog contributes a cake to the story, which Mouse reluctantly agrees can be added to the tea table. Frog then rapidly goes on to add a king, and ice cream, and the next thing you know a dragon and fairy appear and poor Mouse’s story has been completely taken over. Mouse yells “STOP!” His poor story “is a mess!”
   Frog is rather upset that Mouse says this, but Mouse is even more upset because Frog took over his story without so much as a how do you do! Frog explains that he was just trying to help and the two animals start over. The problem is that Frog, who is a very excitable fellow, isn’t very good at letting Mouse have a say in how the story is going to go.
   In this deliciously clever and frequently funny book we see how friends often have to work hard if they want to collaborate on a project. They have to make compromises and be sensitive to each other’s wishes. Children are going to love seeing how Mouse and Frog draw their story and how, in the end, they create something that is uniquely theirs. 

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