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1. Mem Fox and Allyn Johnston: Let's Talk Picture Books... Q&A and Some Read Aloud Fun!

Mem and Allyn
Beach Lane editor Allyn Johnston and author Mem Fox are available for questions! Here are a few of their answers:

Someone asks about Mem's process, she tells us the manuscript can continue to change and be edited after Allyn's acquired it, and Mem is well known for having tremendously tiny word counts (powerful but tiny!) Mem says an easy trick for reducing your word count is to cover up the first paragraph of your story with your hand... You can probably live without it. Now do the same thing to the second paragraph, your story can probably live without that, too. She tells us we spend so much time setting up our stories and rarely do we (or the story) need that.

Someone asks Allyn whether or not an author should submit their manuscript with pagebreaks? And Allyn reiterates that your submission manuscript should not mark out pagination, but if you want to be a picturebook author, YOU do have to spend a lot of time figuring out pagination and building your own text-only dummies and understanding page breaks. Mem doesn't think about page breaks until after she's written a draft. And then she makes a dummy. The most important page turn, to Mem, is the page turn between 31 and 32. Mem says, therefore, you should start backwards when paginating.

Some of the books Mem read us and it was magical:







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2. Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann: Seven Simple Fixes for the Picturebook Text



The room is packed tighter than even a polyamorous sardine would be comfortable with, but for good reason! We are soooooooooo lucky to have both Eric Rohmann and Candace Fleming here! They are sharing seven simple fixes for the picture book text, here are a few:
1. With picture books you are limited to 32 pages, so get to the problem of your story as soon as you can. You can have a few pages of set up, but if your story doesn't start by page 10, you're in trouble.
As an example, go read Clever Jack, there are a few pages of set up, but the problem is introduce by fourth spread.






Whereas in Oh No! the problem is introduced on page 1.




Read your story draft and mark out page by page, which text goes on what page to help remind you of the structure of your story as you write. (Candace reminds: when you send your manuscript to the editor, don't paginate, send a clean, unpaginated version for submission)


2. Something that helps Eric and Candace in their writing of picture books is they think in terms of small scenes, not just sentences per page. Each scene should move your story forward, not just words and sentences. Eric and Candace recommend looking at your manuscript and marking off the scenes, where the beginning and end of them are. Then count them—if you only have 4 scenes and they are very similar in length, rethink your pacing.

Clever Jack has about 9 scenes, Oh No! has about 12.

Finally, take a look at the first and last words of your scene, they should be really good and interesting words.

3. Eric does an exercise on his manuscripts, he takes out all the adjective and adverbs. Candace says then ask yourself, which ones do I miss? Because some do improve the language and rhythm of the book, but for many, you'll find those words will be taken care of by the illustrations.

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3. Seuss on Saturday #31

Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 36 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: The time has come. The time has come. The time is now. Just go. Go. GO! I don't care how. You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!

Premise/plot: The narrator REALLY, REALLY, wants Marvin K. Mooney to GO. But will Marvin K. Mooney be so obliging?

My thoughts: I liked it. It is definitely one of the catchier Seuss books. (Though not as fun or as silly as say Fox in Socks or Green Eggs and Ham. Still. There's something pleasant about it.) It's just FUN to say phrases like "You can go by foot. You can go by cow. Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now!" It just is.

Have you read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! Did you like it? love it? hate it? I'd love to know what you thought of it!

If you'd like to join me in reading or rereading Dr. Seuss (chronologically) I'd love to have you join me! The next book I'll be reviewing is In A People House. 

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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4. ALL HAIL THE WORLD'S BEST DAN AND CALDECOTT WINNER, DAN SANTAT! Keynote

Dan as Daenerys Targaryen, he is a fan of GoT
Lin says it is a wonderfully satisfying and emotional moment to introduce Dan Santat and I agree, he's the super best.

Dan came here in 2001, this Summer Conference is the first SCBWI conference he ever attended. He worried it was too expensive, but that worry was soon put to rest when his portfolio got noticed by editor Arthur Levine, and because of attending the conference,Dan got his first book contract.

In the many years of attending SCBWI events and conferences, Dan's noticed success stories of authors and illustrators, and some stories of people who are still finding there way. Dan says:

Your time will come, it's not a race to the top of the mountain, everyone finds their time. 

One way to ease your trek on the road to publication is to improve your taste: Do you know if you have good taste? Do you know if what you're writing is good? Dan reads us this Ira Glass quote:



Dan lists some of the stories and genres he likes, and thinks improving your work and taste is due to understanding why you like things, don't censor or bias yourself. Dan likes:

Batman and Akira comics. Movies and TV shows like Moneyball, Game of Thrones, Lost, and Breaking Bad. Podcasts like This American Life and Serial. From all of these he is learning story style and technique, observing different points of view. Immerse yourself in life and culture, take these references, says Dan, and come up with a unique spin on things.

You must do a critical review of your work. Dan reads us some 1 star and 5 star Goodreads reviews for Where the Wild Things Are (which has an overall rating of 4.2, by the way). Compare your opinions with others, there are crazy reviewers and there are good reviewers, the good reviews are useful pieces of critical information that can make your work better.

Study the fundamentals, but don't be rigid.

Learn by imitation, but don't become a clone. In art school, Dan copied Wyeth paintings in class because when you paint the strokes a master painter painted, your hands learn what your head doesn't quite understand yet. But be sure to make your art your own, Dan says, try to make work that is original to yourself once you begin to trust your inner instincts.

The exploration comes by doing: You have to make a lot of lousy paintings before you find one you want to put in your portfolio. Dan was working a full-time job when he decided he wanted to be published, so he started working from 10 pm to 3 am on his illustration work and after weeks and weeks of working like this and honing his craft, he'd made himself an illustration portfolio he could be proud of.

Form follows function. Dan shows us how good stories have things happening for a reason, you see it in everything from Back to the Future to his very own Beekle.


A few of Dan's final thoughts: Do what you love, and the work will find you. Don't think about the money, think about the craft, and working on your craft is the only way to improve. And don't give up!

Thanks, Danders!!!

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5. Peppa's Windy Fall Day (2015)

Peppa's Windy Fall Day. Adapted by Barbara Winthrop. 2015. Scholastic. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It is a windy fall day. Peppa and her family are going to the park. "Let's put on our warm clothes," says Mummy Pig. When it is cold outside, Peppa and her family wear their hats, scarves, and coats. 

Premise/plot: An adaptation of an episode of the television show Peppa Pig. Peppa and her family go to the park on a windy fall day. They talk about the leaves on the tree, play ball, and jump in leaves.

My thoughts: I do love the show. I really do. I enjoy the book adaptations of the show. I adore Peppa, George, Mummy Pig, and Daddy Pig.

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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6. Life in the Meadow with Madie: Mr. Earl’s Missing Eyeglasses, by Patty Luhovey | Dedicated Review

Participating in the rich tradition of parables that illustrate moral and religious teachings through animal tales, Life in the Meadow with Madie: Mr. Earl's Missing Eyeglasses presents the story of a community coming together to help out someone in need.

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7. Lori Nichols: Success Story Panel

Isn't Lori cute? And so is whoever
is photobombing her.
Lori Nichols, author/illustrator, is asked what was it that broke her through to the other (published) side:

"If I had to break it down to two things, it would definitely be SCBWI, I went to my first conference in 2002, I left two small children at home with the flu and drove five hours to a regional conference (where I then got the flu) but I learned so much. I met my agent at a SCBWI conference, and she's the other thing that's broken me through,  my amazing agent Joanna Volpe."

Lee asks Lori about some craft tips: Lori quotes Kelly Light, "Writing is like punching myself in the face."

Lori says, "That quote really spoke to me, for me, I have to show up every day, and sometimes what I write is going to stink. It's the showing up every day and not waiting for perfection. I think part of what makes a beautiful book are the imperfections, maybe a line is too scratchy, so what! Show up to your paper, your easel, your computer, and stay there, do it daily. Study other writers and illustrators, too."





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8. Rotem Moscovich: The Road to Acquisitions

Rotem shares a few acquisition stories, here is one:



She reads us To the Sea by Cale Atkinson. It's important to be able for an author/illustrator to describe their story in a nutshell because Rotem does the same thing when she's doing a presentation for acquistions.

She asks us how we would position To the Sea, what its key note would be, the audience throws out:

  • friendship story
  • problem solving
  • summer
  • adorable characters
  • bold illustrations with limited palette
  • being seen

From that we get this nutshell: "A touching friendship story with stunning art about finding someone who really sees you."

Rotem then helps the audience hone their nutshells!

At Hyperion, marketing approval is integral to an acquisition. If Rotem thinks marketing might not "get" a potential book, she will do rounds of work on something before it goes to acquisition (that's a big deal given her time demands at work are for acquired books, which means Rotem does this additional

Rotem talks a little bit about the profit and loss statement, the P&L. Which is roughly: The quantity that they think they can sell in the first year + what they think they should pay the author + what the royalties look like ÷ if the book can go into board book eventually and/or ebooks x how other comparable books are doing in the market + the square root of π...

If Rotem is bringing a manuscript to an acquisition meeting, she will also bring her choices for who will illustrate to help the meeting attendees envision the project more fully.

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9. Patti Ann Harris: Playing with Page Turns

Patti encourages both authors and illustrators to think of their picture books in terms of music and cinema, there should be flow and rhythm to the book, and you can play with easing the readers along with repetition and then surprising them with something wholly different.

Patti shares Me... Jane which has a very steady rhythm of illustration on one side of a page spread and text on the other, so when we get to a climactic moment in the book, we also see something different on the page—an actual photograph of Jane Goodall out in the wild.



When Patti works on a book, she understands the author/illustrator is focused on the tiny details of every page, but she tries very hard to see things globally and offer guidance there. She encourages the audience to take a step back and get allll of your pages on one page so you can see how everything is working together. She likes CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER Dan Santat's practice of storyboarding out something successfully cinematic like a Hitchcock movie to understand storyboarding better.






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10. The World's Most Wonderful Rotem Moscovich: Editors Panel

<3 rotemmers="" td="">
Rotem is a senior editor at Disney Hyperion and the bee's knees.

Her answer to the question, what makes a compelling book is: "Emotional connection, whether picture book or novel. And how is this book different? A new voice, or point of view? Does it impress me?

Dream project? Rotem says: Really want to find a middle grade novel that makes you cry... and is happy, like Anne of Green Gables. For picture books it has to be AWESOME.

Wendy asks if there was a book that hooked you from the beginning and went on to do well in the market/critically?

Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz is the book that comes to mind first for Rotem, and she's happy to announce the sequel will be out in September.


What's the difference to you in a project where you acquire it, but it needs a lot of work, vs. a project you don't accept?

"It's having the vision of how to help the author make a book sing. The book has to go to the right editor and the right house, it's an alchemy."

A book you wish you could have worked on? Rotem says, Dory Fantasmagory, it's hilarious.



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11. Mem Fox Keynote: Inside the Writer's Head: The Writerly Thoughts that Lead to Success

Lovely Mem, the best
readalouder in the Universe!
Mem Fox is here! If you haven't read her wonderful picture books, you are missing out, and you ALSO must read her fantastic book, Reading Magic.

Lin calls her, "the best, single creator in the picture book world."

"In any good story, there's a beginning, a middle, and an end, and only one of two themes: either a quest; or a stranger comes to town. This morning, I am the stranger."

Mem acknowledges the illustrators in the room, she says we all know a successful picture book is a half and half affair. But she says the rest of the morning is all about Mem.

Mem reads Hattie and the Fox, and the audience plays the part of the cow. We are really good at it.


Instead of a mic drop, Mem has perfected the book drop

Mem tells us a little bit of her origin story, it's very similar to Wonder Woman's, but includes taking children's literature courses.

"I know far too much about children's books now to write with any comfort."

Mem knows she will have to read the whole book out loud, over and over again to check for any number of literary sins she has committed.

Mem knows whatever picturebook story warms the hearts of adults will probably be the same picturebook story that makes children want to throw up.


Mem talks about how a good picture book that has a subject that resonates for a child has to be something the author has felt or experienced first. Mem reads Wilfred Gordon MacDonald Partridge for us, something that came out of her first visit to her 90-year-old grandfather. She then reads The Magic Hat for us.

When Mem writes a book, she keeps four different children in mind:
"One is on my lap, a tiny kid. One is sitting by me on a couch. One is snuggled up in bed, the last is in a crowd of children, listening to a teacher read my story aloud."

"I am aware in my position as a children's book creator that I am a
brain developer and a developer of speech, an artist who paints with words, a musician who makes words sing. I can kindle an interest in reading, or kill it.

The responsibility is so overwhelming that I can walk away from a draft for months."

Word choice: Don't choose an interesting or difficult word just to be different, choose the right word, and don't dumb down your word choice to patronize to children, Mem mentions Tomi Ungerer's The Beast of Monsieur Racine. 

Mem is going to talk about rhythm! The audience can't wait. If you aren't here, do yourself a favor and grab Reading Magic and read that, and watch or listen to Mem reading:


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12. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week, Plus What I DidLast Week, Featuring Marianne Dubuc and Olivier Tallec


“Who is in disguise?”
– From Olivier Tallec’s
Who Done It?
(Click to enlarge)


 


“Ambassadors from far and wide would also
travel long distances to pay tribute to him, king of the sheep.”
– From Olivier Tallec’s
Louis I: King of the Sheep
(Click to enlarge)


 


“It’s Monday, and Mr. Postmouse is starting his rounds. …”
– From Marianne Dubuc’s
Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds
(Click to enlarge)


 

Today over at Kirkus, I write about two new picture books about the 50th anniversary of the historic Voting Rights Acts of 1965. That link is here.

* * *

Today here at 7-Imp, I have some art from the three French imports I wrote about last week (here): Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds (Kids Can Press, August 2015), written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc, as well as Louis I: King of the Sheep (Enchanted Lion, September 2015) and Who Done It? (Chronicle, October 2015), each written and illustrated by Olivier Tallec.

Enjoy the art. …



 

Art from Louis I, King of the Sheep:


 


(Click to enlarge)


 


“The first thing Louis I thought was that
to govern, a king should have a scepter.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“Other than that, he would spend his time hunting,
chasing after deer, wild boards and, above all, lions.
But since there were no lions in his kingdom,
he would have them brought to him for his pleasure.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


(Click to enlarge cover)


 

Art from Mr. Postmouse’s Rounds:


 


“… Then it’s time for lunch. Mr. Postmouse stops at his friend
Mr. Dragon’s for some barbecue.”

(Click to enlarge)


 


“Mr. Postmouse lets nothing stand in the way of his deliveries.”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“… At the Penguins’ place, it’s winter all year long. Brrrrr!”


(Click to enlarge)

 



 

Art from Who Done It?:


 


“Who played with that mean cat?”
(Click to enlarge)


 


“Who ate all the jam?”
(Click to enlarge)


 



 

* * * * * * *

LOUIS I, KING OF THE SHEEP. First American edition published in 2015 by Enchanted Lion Books, Brooklyn. Translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

MR. POSTMOUSE’S ROUNDS. English translation © 2015 Kids Can Press. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kids Can Press, Toronto.

WHO DONE IT? Copyright © 2014 by Actes Sud, Paris. First published in the United States of America in 2015 by Chronicle Books, San Francisco. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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13. Liz’s Summer Reading Pick

Squish Rabbit

by Katherine Battersby

            Squish Rabbit is a book that is a perfect read for the youngest in your family because sometimes as adults, I guess we forget how big the world can seem when we were young and small. In mind of that, I recently drove slowly down the street where I grew up. It was a revelation. As an adult everything seemed so small. Driveways I roller-skated down as a child seemed unbelievably wide and steep. But as I looked at them that day through adult eyes, the driveways seemed narrow. And as for steepness, there was barely any elevation at all!

            Well here in Katherine Battersby’s Squish Rabbit, Squish is decidedly at that same stage of life when being small and hard to see makes it seem as if life is passing you by. Everyone is busy with grown up things, so even Squish’s stories are ignored. Being lonely, Squish sews a friend literally out of blue plaid cloth but quickly finds this pretend friendship can only fill half the gap. Trees are nice too as potential friends but somehow fall short of expectations.

            How Squish in a moment of pique kicks an apple and finds a friend echoes the moment of discovery for each child when he or she finds someone to share and play with. And when the friendship starts with a rescue, so much the better. Squish is a gentle book for the shy child who longs to join the group but may have trouble getting his feet wet or making the first awkward moves towards, “Wanna be friends?” Squish can definitely help your child bridge the gap.

 

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14. If You Were Me and Lived in … China: A Child’s Introduction to Culture Around the World | Dedicated Review

If You Were Me and Lived In … China is an easy read and a fun way to introduce the People’s Republic of China to children.

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15. A Lisbeth-Zwerger Moment


“Every afternoon, as they were coming from school,
the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden.
It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. …”


 

Because Lisbeth Zwerger has always been one of my favorite illustrators, including one of the artists who made me want to study children’s literature, and because seeing her artwork improves the very quality of my day (and yours, I hope), I have a bit of art today from Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant, as illustrated by Zwerger.

Zwerger originally illustrated this story back in 1984, but Minedition has released a new edition (April of this year). In fact, it’s called a “mini-Minedition,” because the book has a tiny trim size.

“The Selfish Giant” is Oscar Wilde’s classic short story, first published in 1888 in Wilde’s own collection of original fairy tales, The Happy Prince and Other Tales. The story itself is a heavily didactic Christian allegory, all about a giant whose garden is visited by neighboring children, while the giant is away. The children play in the garden, unbeknownst to the stingy man (depicted as a very tall man in Zwerger’s version), and when he discovers them, he shoos them away — only to discover afterwards that his garden is dying. It’s a curious little fairy tale, and now I can’t help but think of Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming every time I read it. In her memoir, Woodson she writes about the impact this story made on her as a girl:

The first time my teacher reads the story to the class
I cry all afternoon, and am still crying
when my mother gets home from work that evening. …

(I hope that quote is accurate, as I loaned my copy of the book to a dear friend, but I am fairly certain, thanks to the internet, that the above is correct.)

Zwerger’s illustrations are restrained and lyrical and, as always, graceful. Here are a few more.


“The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. ‘Spring has forgotten this garden,’ they cried,’ so we will live here all the year round.’ The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the tree silver.
Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. …”


 


“And when the people were going to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen. …”


 


“And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘You let me play once in your garden, today you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.’
And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead
under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.”


 



 

* * * * * * *

THE SELFISH GIANT. Illustrations copyright © 1984 by Lisbeth Zwerger. English edition published 2015 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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16. A Dr. Seuss Celebration for What Pet Should I Get?

It is the release day for the newer-than-new new book from Dr. Seuss, What Pet Should I Get?

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17. Picture Books for Stubborn Kids

In typical toddler fashion, my youngest daughter (aged two and a half) has developed the “NO! I don’t like it!”, and the “Don’t want it!” approach to almost everything offered, much to the delight of her parents (that’s me). If you’re a parent or teacher of children anywhere between two and five years old, and […]

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18. Review of Playful Pigs from A to Z

lobel_playful pigsstar2 Playful Pigs from A to Z
by Anita Lobel; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary     Knopf     40 pp.
7/15     978-0-553-50832-1     $16.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-50833-8     $19.99
e-book ed. 978-0-553-50834-5     $10.99

Twenty-six pigs wake up in their pen and decide to explore the countryside, running down the road and finding a field of “magical surprises”: brightly colored, freestanding letters of the alphabet. Lobel’s soft early-morning watercolors give way to bolder pages on which each pig is now clothed and standing upright. The entire alphabet, set in a distinctive condensed typeface, runs along the top and bottom borders while each pig interacts happily with a single tall, thin letterform (all are upper-case but i). Lobel uses a name-verb-letter structure (“Amanda Pig admired an A. Billy Pig balanced on a B”), with rolling hills below and plenty of white space behind the pig and letter. Repeat readers will spot an extra object beginning with the letter in question tucked into a lower corner. Gender roles are satisfyingly relaxed: Greta, a female soldier, guards the G, while on the  opposite page Hugo tenderly hugs an H. By the time Yolanda yawns and Zeke zzzs, evening has arrived and the pigs return to their pen in a mirror image of the opening spreads, once again unclothed and running on all fours. Dinner is followed by bedtime, with all twenty-six snuggled together cozily. This playful treatment creates a humorous, easygoing book that should relieve any anxiety about learning the alphabet.

From the July/August 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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19. Abby and the Really Truly Good Book

I pick up my kids every day from the school bus at 2:45, so within an already tight production schedule, I have a limited time each day to work. But that also means I have limited time to worry. When I’m working, I focus on making the best book possible for myself, my kids, and my editor. Beyond that, I don’t allow myself to think too much about how the book is going to be received, because those thoughts are so counter-productive to creative work.”

* * *

Over at Kirkus today, I talk to author-illustrator Abby Hanlon, pictured here, about her newest book, Dory and the Real True Friend (Dial, July 2015), which sees the return of one of my favorite characters. (Dory, of course.) That link will be here soon.

Last October (here), Abby and I talked about the first book, Dory Fantasmagory. It’s an art-filled post, my favorite kind of post.

Both of these books are the kind of funny that makes your sides hurt from all the laughing.

Next week, I’ll have some art from the new book, as well as some early sketches.

Until tomorrow …

* * * * * * *

Photo of Abby taken by Sophie Elbrick and used by her permission.

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20. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Julie Morstad


“…Finally, she steps onto the stage alone … and sprouts white wings, a swan.
She weaves the notes, the very air into a story. All those sitting see.
They stare—Anna is a bird in flight, a whim of wind and water.
Quiet feathers in a big loud world. Anna
is the swan.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I’ve got some French picture book imports. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week, I wrote here about Laurel Snyder’s Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, illustrated by Julie Morstad (Chronicle), coming to shelves in August 2015. Today, I’ve got some spreads from it.

Enjoy.



“…The story unfolds. A sleeping beauty opens her eyes…”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“…and so does Anna. Her feet wake up!
Her skin prickles. There is a song, suddenly, inside her.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


(Click to enlarge cover)


 

* * * * * * *

SWAN: THE LIFE AND DANCE OF ANNA PAVLOVA. Copyright © 2015 by Laurel Snyder. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Julie Morstad. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco.

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21. Seuss on Saturday #30

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. 1971. Random House. 72 pages. [Library]

First sentence: At the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows and the wind smells slow-and-sour when it blows and no birds ever sing excepting old crows...is the Street of the Lifted Lorax. 

Premise/Plot: Readers hear about the Lorax from the Once-ler. It's a story of lessons not learned in time, a story of an environment abused and wasted. It is a heavy tale for a picture book. Perhaps the heaviest of Seuss' picture books.
UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.
 My thoughts: The Lorax is my least favorite Seuss book. I won't lie and say it is the only Seuss novel with a moral or lesson, it's not. Many of Seuss's books have a moral in them. Some are subtle. Some are in-your-face obvious. I prefer the subtler moral. I do.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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22. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #442: Featuring Beatrice Alemagna


“This morning I heard my sister says these words:
‘birthday—Mommy—fuzzy—little—squishy.’
‘Oh, no!’ I thought. ‘She’s going to give Mom the most amazing present!’
I had to do something too. But what?”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 

Today I’ve got some illustrations from Beatrice Alemagna’s The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy. Originally published in France last year, it’s coming to American shelves in September from Enchanted Lion Books.

Look closely on the title page spread, and you’ll see a quote from Fifi Brindacier (a.k.a. Pippi Longstocking, as she’s known in France):

It’s best for young children to live an orderly life. Especially if they order it themselves.

I love this, and it’s the perfect fit for this story, in which a five-and-a-half-year-old girl named Edith (but her friends call her Eddie) sets out to find a fuzzy little squishy.



 


(Click to enlarge cover)


 

Eddie has overheard her sister talking about their mother’s birthday, while using the words “fuzzy—little—squishy.” Not to be outdone, Eddie heads out to find a spectacular present. She asks the baker for help — and then she heads to the florist, Mimi’s clothing shop, the antique dealer, and the butcher shop. After all, each of these friends (even the very grouchy butcher) has fluffy and/or little and/or squishy items in their shops. Just when she’s about to give up, she sees it — “an adorable little creature! … A true FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY, at last!” She’s found the present for her mother, and as it turns out, a fluffy little squishy has “a thousand uses.” (Anyone other librarians thinking how great it would be to pair this book with Charlotte Zolotow’s Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by Sendak?)

There’s a lot to like here, including Alemagna’s vivid mixed-media illustrations (or what appear to be mixed-media to me), as well as the cast of characters in Eddie’s community that she visits on her quest. Eddie leaps off the page in her neon pink jacket, and she brims with character. Best of all, she manages to find precisely what she’s looking for—rather, she manages to create just the gift she wants—-and this is especially triumphant, given that she says on the book’s first spread, “I don’t know how to do anything.” This is one girl’s journey of self-discovery — and along the way she picks up a bit of self-confidence to boot.

Here are some more of the colorful illustrations to pore over. …





 


“So off I ran to Mr. John the baker.
With all of his wonderful squishy things, he had to be able to help me.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


“I went to every shop in the neighborhood, but nobody knew anything.
In the center of town was Theo’s butcher shop. The big grump was my last hope.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 




 

THE WONDERFUL FLUFFY LITTLE SQUISHY. Copyright © 2015 by Enchanted Lion for the English-language translation. Illustrations reproduced by permission Enchanted Lion, Brooklyn.

* * *

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) Picture book imports like this one.

2) Invitations.

3) A bit of home decluttering that really needed to happen.

4) New tracks from Laura Marling.

5) I got a late start to the show Veep, but my God, it’s funny.

6) A crisis averted and …

7) … the kindness of strangers.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

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23. Mom School (2015)

Mom School. Rebecca Van Slyke. Illustrated by Priscilla Burris. 2015. Random House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

 First sentence: When I go to school, I learn how to cut and glue paper, count to 100, and sing silly songs. My mom says she went to school, too. I think she went to Mom School.

Premise/plot: A little girl is convinced that her Mom went to Mom School to learn how to be the BEST BEST mom in the whole world. She imagines all the things her Mom might have learned at Mom School. Things such as:
  • learning how to go grocery shopping without losing any kids
  • learning how to pitch a ball slowly so a kid can actually hit it
  • learning how to go on scary rides
  • learning how to talk on the phone and do hair at the same time
  • learning how to cook and listen to silly made-up songs at the same time
  • learning how to make forts out of couch cushions
And that's just a small sampling of one little girl's imagination.

My thoughts: This one was super-sweet and adorable. Predictably so, yes. But it's irresistibly charming in some ways. If you're looking for a sweet mom-and-daughter read that celebrates family life. I really love the little girl's pigtails. I do.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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24. Monday Mishmash 7/27/15


Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. I'm the New Acquisitions Editor For Leap Books Seek  In case you missed my announcement last week, I'm the new acquisitions editor for Leap Books' middle grade line, Seek. I'm so happy about this. I've also decided to open to unagented submissions for a brief time in August, so stay tuned for that announcement.
  2. Our Little Secret Has a Cover  I got to see the cover for Our Little Secret (releasing September 15 through Limitless Publishing). I'm SO happy with it. Can't wait to share it soon.
  3. Pepe Maurice Pierre, Poodle Extraordinaire is Now Available!  You can grab your copy of my newest picture book here
  4. Falling For You is Available and FREE!  My secret Ashelyn Drake title isn't a secret anymore, and it's doing really well on Amazon. Check this out. 
  5. Signing at Books-A-Million  I want to thank everyone who came out to see me this past Saturday for my book signing. I had an amazing time and got to see returning fans, which is always great.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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25. Picture Book Monday with a review of Stick and Stone

Stick and Stone
Friendship is a funny thing because it is unpredictable and sometimes it can develop between two people (or characters) who really are nothing alike; on the outside that is. That's the thing though, isn't it? Two characters may seem very different on the outside, but deep down a connection forms that is special. This is what happens between the characters in today's picture book.

Stick and Stone
Beth Ferry
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Picture Book
For ages 4 to 6
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, 978-0-544-03256-9
Stick and Stone are both alone and lonely, and for both of them being alone is just “no fun. Then one day they are both at the park playing on the swings when Pinecone comes along and he makes fun of Stone when Stone falls off his swing. Stick cannot just stand by and let this just happen, so he steps in and tells Pinecone to “Vanish!”
   Pinecone walks off in a huff, and Stone is really touched that Stick “stuck up” for him. Stick explains that that is what Sticks do. It is also what friends do, and that is what Stick and Stone become: the best of friends. Together they have a grand time playing, wandering and exploring. They “laze by the shore” enjoying the sun and the sea air and watch dolphins frolicking in the water. What they never expect is that in the very near future they will be ripped apart and once again they will be alone.
   In this wonderful picture book we meet two characters who discover the joys of friendship, and who stand side by side through good times and bad. With its delightfully expressive illustrations and a minimal rhyming text, this book will charm children and their grownups and it serves as a tribute to the power of friendship.

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