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1. Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat

Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. (Henry and Mudge #8) Cynthia Rylant. Sucie Stevenson. 1990. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]

One night Henry and Henry's father and Henry's big dog Mudge were watching TV.

I enjoyed reading Henry and Mudge and the Happy Cat. I don't remember ever having read any titles in the Henry and Mudge series. So this was my first. My first impressions of the series are good, I think.

Henry's family takes in a stray cat; this stray cat is unique looking: it looks like mashed prunes. The family is happy to take the cat in--for a few days, a few weeks. But because having Mudge is like having five dogs--that they can't take the cat into their home permanently.

The first chapter is about taking the stray cat into their home. The second chapter is about how happy the cat is in her new home, and, how much Mudge loves being mothered by the cat. Essentially the family does come to like the cat. The third chapter is "bittersweet" I suppose. The cat's original owner is found, and the two are reunited. But Henry's family misses the cat.
In one week the shabby cat had become Mudge's mother. It washed Mudge all the time. It washed Mudge's ears. It washed Mudge's eyes. It even washed Mudge's dirty feet.
Have you read the Henry and Mudge series? Do you have a favorite title?

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Space Cat Portraits

Today I drew people as Space Cats, as part of the Galactic Fete at Creation Space London.
I especially enjoyed drawing families - I asked them to do a space pose. 







I managed to forget my drawing pen, so I had to hack a writing pen by adding a pipette I happened to have in my brush roll as a reservoir for drawing ink. I also cut a nib from a beer can and used some correction fluid and a toothbrush for stars.


Well, that was fun.

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3. Twins

I'm having a lot of fun doing portrait commissions.
Here is a matching set of twin girls.

Get a treat for someone while I still have the time to draw these! Once I'm getting into the next big picture book project I'll be too busy...

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4. GET A PORTRAIT!

You can now commission me for portraits, as long as you're happy to be an animal in it.



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5. How To Catch A Mouse (2015)

How To Catch a Mouse. Philippa Leathers. 2015. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is Clemmie. Clemmie is a brave, fearsome mouse catcher. She is excellent at stalking and chasing. She is patient and alert. She knows everything about how to catch a mouse. In fact, Clemmie is such a fearsome mouse catcher that she has never even seen a mouse. All the mice are afraid of me, thinks Clemmie. 

Premise/plot: Clemmie is confident that she knows everything about how to catch a mouse. But does she know as much as she thinks she does? Could a mouse be right in plain sight and Clemmie not know about it? Perhaps! Hint: The illustrations are EVERYTHING to the story.

My thoughts: I loved the story. I did. I thought it was wonderful. I loved how the illustrations tell so much of the story. The illustrations communicate a lot to the reader. In addition, the illustrations are just so precious and adorable. I loved Clemmie as a character as well. And I loved the "new trick" that she learned towards the end of the book.

Definitely recommended to cat lovers!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 11 and 12

Dharma words and stamps from our monastery stay.

Here we are at the end of our trip. I've been dragging these posts out in the hope I'd never reach this point. But, yes, all good things must come to an end (I've never really known why) and we were sure to cram as much fun into the last two days as possible. Starting with breakfast at The One and these coffee cups. I loved them so much I had to buy a set for home:




I don't think my husband is as impressed with them as I am, but I thought they were cute. And they're definitely a fine example of "splash ink" technique.

After leaving The One, we headed back up toward Taipei and a village famed for its ceramic work. We were running a bit behind schedule so we decided to forgo a sit-down lunch in favor of exploring what the street vendors had to offer. They were especially plentiful thanks to the ongoing national holiday. My choices included a steamed spinach-green onion-and-cheese bun, a fried doughnut, and a huge cup of iced lemon tea that lasted me most of the day.



Loved this tunnel kiln! I need one at home.

Bought chopsticks for home, too. 
Finally learned how to use them, LOL!

The afternoon took us further into Taipei:


Taiwan's "White House."

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
(unfortunately covered with
scaffolding.)

. . . and the National History Museum. I thought this little pagoda was perfect painting material:


Before studying any artwork we needed afternoon tea in the museum cafe:


The view from the cafe windows:

Someone actually gets to live in this building.

These beads date from 403-221 BC.
Still so modern. I'd buy them!

After the museum we found ourselves in a busy part of downtown where I had the opportunity to investigate some of the backstreet shops. Thanks to having bought the pig teacups I needed a larger carry-on. I found just what I wanted in a small suitcase store: bright pink canvas and made in Taiwan. A great souvenir for future travels.


Which store first??



Dinner that night was once again "family style" when we met up with some of Ming Franz's cousins, former high school classmates, and teachers in a downtown restaurant. It was a genuine reunion for them all, and wonderful for us to be part of such a special evening.

Then we were back to The Grand Hotel for our final night. By now we had traveled in a huge circle, seeing three coastlines and parts of the interior too. We also arrived back in time for  the start of "frog season." Right outside our windows: croak, croak, croak all night. As I noted in my journal: "These frogs are VERY disagreeable!"

A grand entrance, indeed.

Accompanied by the frog serenade, our packing lasted well into the early morning hours. We had become so spoiled in our big bus, a vehicle designed to sit 30-40 passengers when there were only 10 of us, that our daily habit was to load up the empty seats with our purchases from each stop and then forget about them. Now was the night of reckoning and everything had to find its place or get left behind. First to be discarded were all the beautiful shopping bags--so lovely but way too bulky. 

The next morning, packed and ready for our night-time flight, we still had a full day to spend in Taipei. First stop was a visit with Welsh paper artist, Tim Budden, now a Taiwan resident, who led us to his studio through this interesting neighborhood:

Hot spring water flows right through town.



Mr. Budden explaining the
intricacies of paper art.

Following our studio tour, we were off to Taipei 101, regarded to be the world's highest completed building. We were booked for lunch on the ground floor at an Anthony Bourdain-recommended restaurant specializing in xiao long bao, steamed soup dumplings. Yum.





Before lunch we had 30 minutes to ride up to the 89th-floor. 






Next and final stop: The Eslite Book Store. The best bookstore in the whole world. Several stories high, filled with treasures I'll never see here in the USA, I could have moved in permanently. I bought more brush pens (black, forest green, gray, and rust red), a book on painting cats in the Chinese style, and a book on French shabby chic. In Chinese. Don't judge.

And then we were off to the airport. Our superb and talented tour guide gifted us all with special little items to remember our trip. For me it was a wooden key-ring carved into the shape of horse complete with saddle, bridle, and tons of intricate detail. She told me she had chosen a horse so that I "may keep traveling, and go far." She also gave me a postcard of a Taiwanese kitten, "Because you love cats!" 

On the way to the airport . . .

After dinner on the plane I think I slept more soundly than I did at the monastery. I don't remember much about the flight home except for the movie I watched before falling asleep: The Crossing--a recent film set in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. It was excellent, and a real tear-jerker, but then it suddenly ended with the words 'To be continued." Apparently Part II comes out this summer, but I wanted to keep watching!

Along with two of my travel companions, I had decided earlier to stopover in San Francisco before going home to Albuquerque, and I'm glad I did, but it sure seemed strange (and lonely) to be on our own without the group or my roommate.

A room of my own.
New pink Taiwan travel bag in the back there.

My version of my cat postcard:
"This kitty is sad to leave Taiwan."

And then we flew into Albuquerque, and . . .  that's all, folks, 12 unforgettable days of Taiwan. I hope you've enjoyed reading my trip diary; I certainly enjoyed sharing it with you. May you one day travel far and wide, too!

(Next post: A review of my travel sketch supplies, what worked, what didn't. Stay tuned.)

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7. ELCAF: Catifying The Public!

I did portraits of people coming to ELCAF today.
Here are some cool cats who turned up:










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8. Bath Kids Literature Festival Fundraiser



I just sent off my artwork to be auctioned off for this excellent fundraiser in aid of Bath Festivals:

This is your chance to own a unique piece of original art by one of the UK’s best and most popular illustrators. Come along on the night to bid on one of several framed pieces of art – each depicting the famous Bath Children’s Literature Red Chair.
Amazing artists including including Chris Riddell (Goth Girl), Ben Cort(Aliens love Underpants), Nick Sharratt (The Story of Tracey Beaker),  Korky Paul (Winnie the Witch), Alison Jay (Welcome to the Zoo), Michael Foreman (War Game) and Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) have all donated pieces featuring their own, entertaining interpretation of the Festivals’ iconic red storytelling chair.
Help secure the future of the Bath Festivals internationally renowned programme of popular Festivals and be in with a chance of acquiring a piece of artwork to treasure for your family, school or business.
An Online Auction of many more Artworks will be launched on the night.
My picture is painted using all materials I have picked for the art lessons and workshops I'll be giving soon via The Kraken Studio - all cheap stuff but really nice.

Go and admire the rest, there are some Mighty Fine Red Chairs to be had.

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9. Good Morning to ME! – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: Good Morning to ME! Written and illustrated by: Lita Judge Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015 Themes/Topics: exuberance, indoor voices, pets, parrots Suitable for ages: 3-6 Opening: Early one morning in a little cottage, Beatrix was wide AWAKE. She knew it was … Continue reading

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10. Picture Book Roundup - June 2015 edition

Enjoy a slide show version of this month's picture book roundup - a sampling of my new favorites!
 If the slide show doesn't work for you, I've listed the books below with links to my reviews on LibraryThing.

 

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11. My Furry Companion is Back!


No, I don't mean John (who is actually getting less furry every year, though don't tell him I said that), but Maddy, my friend's cat. We have been 'babysitting' her for years, including on the occasion of my friend's honeymoon, when Maddy nearly plunged to her death by trying to jump out of the velux in the studio. I only just grabbed her back legs in time.

These days she is a very old lady, so is far less trouble. She is not above stealing my chair as soon as I get up to make a cuppa though:


Even though she just sleeps all day, it's kind of nice to have her in the room with me. I do miss having an animal, but John and I are too keen on gadding about, so it wouldn't be fair. 

Our friends all know we are a soft touch with pets though, so don't need much persuading to act as kennels. One friend got stuck in temporary accommodation some years back, so we had her two cats for months. That turned into quite a challenge: poor Clyde expressed his disorientation in pee, on almost every carpet in the house. I expressed my feelings about this in an illustration:


We did have our own cat once. We stole Smudge from a neighbour. Well, not quite literally, but she came into our house more and more, so we put a collar on her with a message, asking who owned her. The man round the corner turned out to be allergic to cats (Smudge had been his wife's, who had moved to Ireland), so he was very pleased to officially hand Smudge over.

Unfortunately she wasn't an ideal addition to the studio. She once nearly ruined one of my pastel illustrations, by jumping up on my desk. I think Maddy's days of leaping across the room are behind her, so that's reassuring.

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12. Feline Friday: "The Difference Between Dog's And Cats"




Happy Feline Friday! Feline Friday is fun meme my friend Sandee at Comedy Plus posts every Friday. The meme was created by Sandee's buddy Steve, at Burnt Food Dude because he wanted his friends and readers to know he likes cats. I'm not sure why everyone thought Steve disliked cats, but it's been my experience that you have to own a cat to understand them. I've always been a dog lover, and never expected to own a cat, not because I disliked them, I just preferred dogs, and had never raised a cat. If you have never owned a cat this video will give you an idea about how cats and dogs love and learn to trust in their own way, plus it's fun to watch.


Thank you for visiting, and feel free to leave a comment, or check your "Reaction" in one of the boxes below this post.  To participate in this meme, just read Sandee's post at Comedy Plus  for more information and fun.

Oh, and if you have time, let me know "What Song Is In Your Head Today," the song in my head is posted on the sidebar.

Have a terrific day! Follow your bliss- :)



Special thanks to YouTube  and Arnabkacakstudio for the "Cat Versus Dog" video.


Ann Clemmons







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13. #693 – When I Grow Up I Want to be . . . a Veterinarian by WIGU Publishing

cover.
.
When I Grow Up I Want To Be…a Veterinarian!: Sofia’s Dream Comes True!

Series: When I Grow Up
Written and illustrated by WIGU Publishing
WIGU Publishing        12/08/2014
978-1-93997314-6
56 pages            Age 7—12
.
.
“Sofia wants to care for all the animals in the world. But Mom does not think Sofia is ready for the responsibility of even one pet. Ready or not, when a hungry and sick-looking cat appears at the family’s back doorstep, Sofia takes action. When Sofia is found feeding the cat, Mom gives in and agrees that a trip to the vet will tell them if the cat is healthy and not someone’s lost pet. As the veterinarian introduces Sofia and readers to the important and wide-ranging work of animal doctors, Sofia learns how she might help all kinds of animals, including a little stray cat!” [back cover]

Review
Like every kid, at some time in his or her life, Sofia desperately wants a pet. Mom sternly responds, “No,” after every plea. I suspect many kids will relate to this situation. Dad tells Sofia gets her love of animals from Mom, which made mom’s stern and resolute rejections surprising to me,

WIGU_VET_FINAL_page32_image8

“. . . the answer was always ‘No. And I mean it, Sofia!’ . . . and she meant it.”

Mom’s reluctance must be due to something she went through as she has some definite opinions about caring for pets. While looking outside at the soaking wet cat, mom says:

WIGU_VET_FINAL_page32_image14

“People should be more responsible about animals.”
“There are too many unwanted animals running around.”

Veterinarian does not delve into the reasons behind the above statements; instead letting Sofia remark that she cannot believe any pet could be unwanted. I agree with Mom and Sofia. Bringing a pet into the family is a big decision, and includes much more than housing and feeding. But Veterinarian is about the career, not the social issues. Continuing with the story, mom finally tells Sofia her reasons for saying no: she does not think the family is ready for a pet. But then it rained.

“It rained cats and dogs.”

WIGU_VET_FINAL_page32_image18

That night it really did rain cats . . . one little, hungry, “sorry-looking,” water-soaked cat. To Sofia’s amazement, her mother was also upset and concerned about the cat. With dad taking the lead, mom agrees to take the cat—now called Samantha—to Dr. Helen, a veterinarian.

Dr. Helen looks for a microchip, listens to Samantha’s heart, weighs her, and then tells Sofia, there are an estimated 10 million different kinds of animal species on Earth . . . that we know of. Much of our planet is unexplored—mostly underwater—and there are animals we have not seen, and some we never will. I did not know this, which is why I love the WIGU series—I learn something with each edition.

WIGU_VET_FINAL_page32_image490

Dr. Helen gives a short history of cats and dogs. Cats first became household “pets” 3,000 years ago in Egypt, where they were worship (cats kept rodents out of the grain and hunted dangerous snakes, including cobras). Dogs, as pets, began roughly 33,000 years ago. Dogs were valued for their companionship and keen senses—hearing, sight, smell—that helped protect humans. Dr. Helen told Sofia cats are the most popular pet (2:1 dogs), yet veterinarians treat more dogs than they do cats. No explanations are given.

combo

As with the other When I Grow Up editions, Veterinarian is loaded with useful information kids will enjoy reading, can use as a reference, or when exploring possible careers. Teachers can use this series as adjunct texts. In Veterinarian, Dr. Helen describes many areas of specialization and the road to becoming a veterinarian. The illustrations are a combination of actual photographs and digital images. On the cover, I adore Samantha’s contented look on her face as Sofia hugs her.

contented cat samantha

In the end, Sofia decides she wants to become a veterinarian. The family decides to keep Samantha, even with the funny, unexpected twist. Veterinarian’s tone is positive and it highlights the best about being a vet. This is my favorite edition thus far. Wigu Publishing is planning to explore more careers for the When I Grow Up series and is working on Spanish versions. Every school should have this series, keeping room for new editions. The When I Grow Up series might go on forever.

WIGU_VET_FINAL_page32_image24

WHEN I GROW UP I WANT TO BE A . . . VETERINARIAN. Text copyright © 2014 by Wigu Publishing. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Wigu Publishing. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Wigu Publishing, Sun Valley, ID.

lg span vet

Purchase WIGU I Want to be a . . . Veterinarian at AmazonBook DepositoryWIGU Publishing.

Learn more about WIGU I Want to be a . . . Veterinarian HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Wigu Publishing, at their website:  http://bit.ly/WIGUTeam
Find more picture books at the Wigu Publishing website:  http://whenigrowupbooks.com/

.Spanish Edition
[Amazon]
sS

When I Grow Up . . . Books

army

span army

.

.

in the U. S. Army [review here]

.

teacher.

.

a Teacher [review here]

.

firfighter..

.

a Firefighter  [review here]

 

.navy

.

in the U. S. Navy  [review here]

.

nurse.

.

a Nurse  [reviewed soon]

.

Review Section: word count = 543

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved

WIGU- VET


Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, Series Tagged: adopting pets, animals, care of animals, cats, dogs, relationships, When I Grow Up I Want to be . . . a Veterinarian, WIGU, Wigu Publishing, wildlife vets

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14. Space Dog by Mini Grey: Out of this world playfulness!

spacedogcoverOut in the depths of the Spooniverse Space Dog is getting read to return home following a long mission sorting out planetary problems in the Dairy Quadrant. Just as he starts to unwind a distress call comes through on his Laser Display Screen. Without a moment’s hesitation our super hero, Space Dog, jumps to and rescues the occupant of a flying saucer drowning in an thick ocean of cream on a nearby planet. But what’s this?

It turns out he’s saved his sworn enemy: Astrocat.

Uh-Oh.

Will they be able to put aside their differences as another cry for help comes in over the space ship tannoy? Will teamwork triumph as they face terror together?

Space Dog by Mini Grey is an anarchic, adrenalin-packed adventure of The Highest Order. Utterly and joyously playful, wildly and lavishly imaginative, this dynamic and delightful journey exploring space and friendship is sublime.

Grey’s witty language, from the hilarious exclamations made by Space Dog (“Thundering milkswamps!”, “Shivering Stilton!”) to the deliciously outlandish names of rare alien life forms (the Cruets of West Cutlery, the Fruitons of Crumble Major) has had us all giggling time and again, even on the 15th reading of Space Dog. Her pacing is timed to perfection, with dramatic stretches interspersed with moments of great relief and humour, drawing readers, listeners, grown-ups, children ever more closely in to Grey’s fantastic, phenomenal universe Spooniverse.

spacedoginsid0

Grey’s illustrations are equally packed with panache. From the detailing given to brand labels and packaging (whether on space food or game boxes) to her powerful use of suggestion (look out for what is almost missing off the page on the spread immediately before Space Dog and Astrocat land on Cheesoid 12, or the shadow redolent with threat as they turn to leave the Cheesy planet), Grey’s illustrations richly illuminate the world she has built to share with us, giving enormous pleasure every time they are returned to.

spacedoginsid2

Although there are echoes of super hero comic strips and silent movies with their intertitles, dramatic soundtracks and expressive emotions theatrically mimed, Mini Grey’s visual and verbal style is truly unique. Spirited and inventive, Space Dog is an outstanding book and fortunately you can find it right here right now in our very own universe.

spacedoginsid3

Every single page turn of Space Dog was met with “Mummy, can we do that??!!”, whether it was making a planet out of cereal packets, coming up with a recipe for supper based on the Spaghetti Entity in the Pastaroid Belt, designing our own version of Dogopoly, rustling up Astrocat’s cake, making spewing tomato ketchup volcanoes, or playing with fondue. In the end we settled for making spaceships for the characters in the book, and flying them over our patio.

spaceships1

Using this fantastic tutorial from one of my favourite library blogs as a starting point, we created spaceships using paperplates, plastic cups and stickers. Where Pop Goes the Page used toilet cardboard rolls, we used yoghurt pots instead, and aliens were replaced by Space Dog and other astonauts cut out from print-offs of these drawing pages created by Mini Grey.

spaceships2

We dressed up as astronauts ourselves, making space suits from disposable painting overalls, decorated with electrical tape and completed with control panels from cardboard.

spaceships4

Once appropriately attired we were ready to launch our space ships. Unlike Pop Goes the Page we used nylon bead thread rather than wire to make a zip line, partly because this is what we had to hand, but also because it’s extremely smooth and there are no issues with kinking. One end was tied to the bathroom window, the other to the end of the washing line in the garden.

spaceships3

Soon spaceships were zooming all over our patio…

Later we turned our hand to making hats for a fruit and vegetable parade, inspired by the hat competition which Space Dog has to judge:

spacedoginsid1

hatcompetition

We used origami hat tutorials to come up with these millinery masterpieces, including this army cap and samurai helmet with plenty more hat ideas here.

Whilst making our spaceships and competition-winning hats we listened to:

  • The bilingual song Los Planetas by Nathalia
  • Cheese Please by Chris Stapleton – essential listening for any cheese lover :-)
  • Sputniks and Mutniks by Ray Anderson & The Home Folks. I discovered this thanks to this interesting NPR article, Sputniks in Space.

    Other activities you could try inspired by Space Dog include:

  • Making space ships big enough for kids (and their grownups?) to fit in. A large cardboard box, a roll of tin foil and some plastic lids or moulded plastic from biscuit boxes is all you need to get you started. (Here’s one we made earlier).
  • Playing with your food. Mini is just so inventive when it comes to playing with food, but if you want even more ideas, you could take a look at Carl Warner’s A World of Food or The Art of Clean Up by Ursus Wehrli. Both of these books are massive hits with my kids.
  • Reading the extraordinary graphic novel Laika by Nick Abadzis. This is more for us grown ups than the kids (though my 10 year old has read it) but I can’t resist recommending it whilst I’ve got a chance.
  • Would you like to go into space if you had the chance?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Space Dog by the book’s publisher.

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    15. An Interview with Marta Altés

    thekingcatBarcelona-born Marta Altés is a graduate of one of the most fertile courses in the UK when it comes to producing fabulous illustrators – the MA Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. She originally trained and worked in Spain as a graphic designer before taking the plunge to follow her childhood dreams, move country and retrain as an illustrator. “I think it was the BEST decision I have ever made,” says Marta, and with nine books already to her name and more following later this year (noting Marta graduated only four years ago) her success speaks for itself. Her latest book in English is The King Cat, a lovely story about friendship, negotiations and adjusting to change, especially in families welcoming a new arrival.

    I recently caught up with Marta and asked her about The King Cat, her love of dogs, chocolate and more. Here’s how our conversation went:

    Playing by the book: I know you sometimes include secret details in your illustrations – images of friends and family for example. Can you share a secret about your new book, ‘The King Cat’ – something we should look out for in the illustrations?

    Marta Altés: Yes I do that! But I don’t always do it on purpose… It just happens. I start drawing a character and it ends up looking like somebody I know. In this case, I think, somehow I ended up illustrating the house that I would like to live in. Walls full of different sized frames (not with cat photos!), old and nice furniture, a sofa full of cushions with different patterns…

    Also… Even though the story was VERY different when I started it, now it is the story of any person who has a young sibling (including me). My brother is 4 years younger than me, so I guess I was “king cat”. Although I don’t think I had his strong personality (a part from the times he broke my toys… of course)

    altes1

    Another thing that you can look out for in the illustrations is the little joke on the endpapers. On the first one we see a little basket full of wool balls and knitting needles on a table. Check out what’s on the last endpaper :) Both cat and dog don’t know yet, but they are about to deal with the arrival of a new member to this family.

    altes2

    altes3

    Playing by the book: I’m guessing you’re quite a dog person given your very funny book No! and your new book – what dog books (for kids) have made you laugh or nod in recognition of your life with dogs?

    Marta Altés: You got me! Yes I am! I dogs make me laugh… My mum is taking care of my dog in Barcelona, and I miss him very much. Dog books that have made me laugh recently are:

  • Plumdog by Emma Chichester Clark
  • Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton
  • Time for Bed, Fred by Yasmeen Ismail
  • dogs

    Also, not a book, but a blog: Mike Smith’s diary is great. He draws lovely everyday life sequences about him and his family, including very funny situations with his dog. Here are a few examples:

  • http://blogshank.com/2013/02/280113/
  • http://blogshank.com/2011/06/160511/
  • http://blogshank.com/2011/06/130611/
  • Playing by the book: What aspects of being a graphic designer (in an earlier life) have helped in your career as an illustrator?

    Marta Altés: I think having been a graphic designer has definitely influenced the way I work as an illustrator. Mostly in the way I use colour (always a very limited palette), the use of white space, the compositions of the illustrations on the page and knowing how to use some software like Photoshop.

    I also enjoy hand-lettering quite a lot, and the importance I give to the fonts is probably because of my graphic design background.

    I suffered a lot when it came the time to write our final dissertation in the MA, my English wasn’t the best, and it was a big effort. But I learned a lot. I wrote about Graphic Design in Picture Books, and since then, I try to take all the elements that you have in a book to communicate the main idea (Cover, endpapers, title page, font, colour, where the text is placed…).

    Playing by the book: What was hard to “unlearn” when moving from graphic design to illustration?

    Marta Altés: It was difficult but at the same time one of the most exciting things was to try not to use the computer too much. And another thing was to not be afraid of trying new things, like – for example – watercolours! I hadn’t used them before joining the MA, and I’m so glad our tutors were always encouraging us to try new techniques.

    Playing by the book: Do you see differences in illustration styles favoured in the UK as compared to in Spain? If so, what are they?

    Marta Altés: I don’t like to generalize and I think each illustrator has a different way of seeing life and working, no matter where they live. There are English illustrators working for Spanish publishers and vice versa.

    A couple of years ago at the Bologna Book Fair, I started talking to a Spanish art director that was there seeking talent at the MA Children’s Book illustration stand. And she pointed out how the main characters of many English picture books were animals, and that it is something that usually doesn’t happen there. I thought that it was a very interesting thing!

    Playing by the book: What Catalan children’s books do you wish were translated into English so a wider audience could enjoy them?

    Marta Altés: Probably all the ones I use to read when I was a kid (although I’ve just checked and many of them have already been translated!). One of my favourite ones is “El Patufet” a very surreal story about a little boy that was veeeeery tiny (and I won’t spoil the ending because is one of the most surreal endings ever!)

    There are also many small Spanish publishers doing very interesting things.

    Playing by the book: Could you share some of the illustrations you made for the Catalan/Spanish/Galician chapter books/poetry you’ve illustrated?

    Marta Altés: I really enjoy working on different projects at the same time as working on picture books. It gives me the opportunity to experiment with new techniques. Illustrating a text that is not yours is lots of fun because you can give your vision of the story through your drawings. But is a completely different approach to when you illustrate your own text. In the latter case, you keep editing text and image to make them work together, almost until the day you send the files to print!

    A very challenging project I’ve just illustrated is this Catalan Poetry book for kids (‘Tan Petita i ja saps‘ written by Maria Mercè Marçal). I hadn’t illustrated poetry before, and it was quite difficult. Also, I was told there had to be something that graphically linked together all the pages of the book. That made me go and do some research on the symbology of the author and I ended up using the night, stars and sea as the main elements of the book. The idea of the darkness of the night sky made me try to use brush and black ink. And I coloured things digitally.

    altes4

    The chapter book I’ve just illustrated for a Spanish publisher talks about the story of a little mouse meeting a girl who has just moved into a new house. I thought it would be fun to play with shadows and lights. Something that I’m not very good at but I wanted to give it a try. So I did try, and it was lots of fun. Again it was a mix between digital colouring, pencil and millions of layers of photoshop.

    altes5

    Playing by the book: I believe you work as a part time lecturer in the MA in Children’s Book Illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. What’s your role on the course?

    Marta Altés: Studying in the MA was one of the best experiences ever! I met so many nice people and it was very sad when it was over. So I felt over the moon when Martin Salisbury offered me the opportunity to go back and work there.

    What I enjoy the most is working with the students on the sequences, storyboards and story lines of their projects. Each project is very different from the other so going there is very challenging but also very exciting!

    I’m so happy to still be involved with the MA. I get to meet lots of lovely people and I’m super lucky to be working there along with amazing illustrators like James Mayhew, David Hughes, Pam Smy, Alexis Deacon, Paula Metcalf and Hannah Webb!

    Playing by the book: If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you like to be?

    Marta Altés: I’ve been a full time illustrator just for the past 4 years, so this is a difficult question to answer… 5 years ago I was a graphic designer that wanted to be an illustrator (my dream came true). Now… If I weren’t an illustrator, I guess I would like to be a dancer (I know it’s WAY too late). I’ve danced since I was little and it’s something that I love doing.

    Playing by the book: I hear you like chocolate. What sort of chocolate is your favourite?

    Marta Altés: I loooove chocolate. All sorts of chocolate… But if I had to pick one it would be dark chocolate. Or triple chocolate covered with a layer of double chocolate with chocolate sprinkles to top.

    chocolate

    Playing by the book: Many thanks Marta – it’s been great fun interviewing you. I hope you enjoy the virtual chocolate I’ve found for you :-)

    marta_altes_author picMarta Altés’s website: http://www.martaltes.com/
    Marta Altés on Facebook
    Marta Altés on Twitter
    Marta Altés on Instagram

    1 Comments on An Interview with Marta Altés, last added: 4/2/2015
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    16. The Maine Coon's Haiku (2015)

    The Maine Coon's Haiku and Other Poems for Cat Lovers. Michael J. Rosen. Illustrated by Lee White. 2015. Candlewick. 56 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    If you love cats and poetry, this one may prove quite satisfying. If you merely like cats and poetry, you still might find something to make the book worth your time.

    All of the poems are haiku. Each haiku is titled after a particular breed of cat: twenty in all. The book also provides readers with an opportunity to learn a little bit about each of the breeds featured in the book. I liked this back matter.

    Which cat breeds are included?
    • Maine Coon
    • Ragdoll
    • Turkish Angora
    • Siamese
    • Russian Blue
    • Bombay
    • Norwegian Forest Cat
    • British Shorthair
    • American Shorthair
    • Burmese
    • Birman
    • Balinese
    • Himalayan
    • Japanese Bobtail
    • Abyssinian
    • Persian
    • Havana Brown
    • Scottish Fold
    • Bengal
    • Manx
    I enjoyed this one. I can't say I loved it. I certainly found two or three poems which I LOVED. But I didn't love each and every poem.
    Bombay
    paired shadows prowling
    in nightfall, but just two lights
    pierce that darkness
    Balinese
    on the windowsill's
    balance beam, the cat pirouettes
    as the kipple pings
    Abyssinian
    curled up on your book
    cat won't care what happens next
    now's the only page
    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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    17. Happy Easter!

    Happy Easter, everyone! (or Passover) (or lazy Sunday) Enjoy the day and enjoy this video:

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    18. When a Cat Lover Writes Dog Haiku Poems

    Lee Wardlaw is the author of 30 books for young readers, including Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, and the Purina/Fancy Feast “Love Story” Award.

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    19. Interview: Andrew MacLean and the Savage World of Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the Endtimes

    Over the Emerald City Comic Con weekend, Andrew MacLean was kind enough to take some time out of his schedule to chat with Comics Beat about his new graphic novel, Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the Endtimes.

    ApocalypiGirl_10

    Comics Beat: So give us the rundown on your book. What can readers expect?

    Andrew MacLean: Sure, but I’m terrible at talking about it! Basically we follow this girl Aria and her cat, and they’re on a mission to find this ancient relic that used to be a power source for the world before it kind of collapsed. So now the world is city ruins covered in trees and undergrowth and all that stuff, and the humans of the area are all really savage. So while Aria is searching for this, she’s constantly hindered by the savages, and then other groups come in… It’s tough to talk about it without spoiling anything, but that’s the jist of it. Robot fights and savage fights.

    CB: So what gave you the idea for this story?

    AM: Most of the things I do usually start out with a single drawing. I did a drawing as a sort of collaboration with my buddy Toby Cypress, and we did a print. It was just a girl sitting on a motorcycle with a spiked bat and a bunch of cats. So I have a character and then I wonder what world they’re in, and it starts coming to me. Once I realized what kind of world she was in, I kind of tapped into my love for Akira and Tekkon Kinkreet and the manga style.

    CB: The art is beautiful – full of texture and grain. Did you use traditional tools for this?

    AM: Yeah, I used ink and black watercolor for tones, on watercolor paper and then simple colors underneath that are digital. It was my first time coloring a book, so I did a lot of trial runs.

    CB: You’ve crafted a pretty interesting mythos here. Were you influenced by anything in particular?

    AM: I started out with a couple things I wanted this character to do, a string of events and stuff. It’s hard to say because the pieces just fall into place on their own. I like contrasting ideas, so it’s the future, but it’s a collapsed world, so I kind of wanted the old residents to feel savage. The characters kind of tell me what to do.

    ApocalypiGirl_1

    CB: The story is very heavy on narrative and light on dialogue. Is that just symptomatic of having a main character with only a cat to talk to, or do you naturally gravitate to the narrative style?

    AM: I’m kind of like an artist who writes rather than a writer who draws. I have a lot of respect for people than can carry a story with minimal dialogue, and so I like to attempt that. I don’t even have the cat meow that much, so it’s really just Aria carrying the story – thoughts she has or just talking to the cat. It’s more the nature of the solitude of the character than anything else.

    CB: There are these striking panels littered throughout the comic that are just eyes, colored with blues and reds. It sort of reminded me of the eyes in The Great Gatsby, which in the book is a pretty dismal symbol. Anything meaning in those panels?

    AM: It’s not so much The Great Gatsby… The savage boy in the comic – there wasn’t really enough dialogue in the book for me to name him – but to me he was always “Little Dead Eyes,” so the idea was that you look at him and think he’s a little nuts, even before you see his actions. So I like that Aria only had to see him once and she was kind of already haunted by him, and so his eyes always come up again and again. The two characters are head to head, so it seems only right that we could see that through her eyes meeting his on the page. It’s a little more subtle than my other stuff.

    CB: There’s definitely a musical undercurrent to this work. Could you tell us a little more about your choice to have Aria sing opera throughout the book?

    AM: Mostly I just chose them so I could have something that was public domain, first and foremost. The songs I wanted to sing were more like Three Stooges songs, because that’s more in line with the personality. I went to college for music, so I just have an affinity for it. I didn’t go into it thinking I wanted to use music, but the dots just kind of connect on these things. I don’t have a map. There’s no rhyme or reason to half the stuff I do, haha.

    Apocalyptigirl: An Aria for the Endtimes will be released by Dark Horse Comics on June 2, 2015.

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    20. Dick Whittington and His Cat (1950)

    Dick Whittington and His Cat. Told and cut in linoleum by Marcia Brown. 1950. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Bought]

    First sentence: Long ago in England there lived a little boy named Dick Whittington. Dick's father and mother died when he was very young, and as he was too small to work, he had a hard time of it.

    Premise/plot: Dick Whittington, an orphan, goes to London to seek his fortune--or at least a somewhat better life. It won't be easily come by that's for sure! He eventually finds work in the home of a merchant as a cook's assistant. With his one penny, he happens to buy a cat who is an excellent mouser. The cat will be the key to it all: his eventual success.
    Not long after this, Mr. Fitzwarren had a ship ready to sail. He called all his servants into the parlor and asked them what they chose to send to trade. All the servants brought something but poor Dick. Since he had neither money nor goods, he couldn't think of sending anything. "I'll put some money down for him," offered Miss Alice, and she called Dick into the parlor. But the merchant said, "That will not do. It must be something of his own." "I have nothing but a cat," said Dick. "Fetch your cat, boy," said the merchant, "and let her go!" 
    My thoughts: Loved the story. Dick Whittington and His Cat received a Caldecott Honor in 1951. I can't say that I particularly "liked" the illustrations. (But I didn't dislike them either.) I enjoyed the story more though.

    Have you read Dick Whittington and His Cat? What did you think? Do you have a favorite Caldecott or Caldecott Honor book? 


    © 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

    0 Comments on Dick Whittington and His Cat (1950) as of 4/19/2015 11:03:00 AM
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    21. She's ALIVE!

    So let me see... what has happened since Easter?

    Hmmmm


    Well, first of all, we made fabulous ravioli for Easter.  Like, handmade, beautiful ravioli.  Like, check out Treskie's blog to see HOW beautiful this ravioli really was. (And you can enjoy the overall post, anyhoozle.  If you want.  Don't feel pressured or anything.)
    Intense Glare


    Then....

                                  Theeeeeennnn.....

    Thhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn.............
    Source


    I apparently have a boring life, because I can't recall much of what has happened between then and now.

    Well, I take that back.  I had a jury summons, for which I HAD to appear (which, by the way, is one of the few things that can put me into a state of hysterical panic), and then, for 1-1/2 days, I got to sit in court while the judge and attorneys made up their minds who they really wanted as their jurors and alternates.

    Just CHOOSE someone! Not me, but SOMEONE!


    They didn't even choose jurors the first day.  The first day, all of us potential jurors got to complete a hardship form if we wanted to (Like, if you miss three out of five days of work for five weeks, can you survive on what little pittance of money you WILL be making?).  Then we got to fill out a 30+ page questionnaire of random questions, like WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW?  HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HEALTHCARE?
    Source

    The second day, by 10:30 a.m., eighteen people were chose for jurors plus six alternates, and I WASN'T ONE OF THEM! Praise God.   But then none of the rest of us could leave, and we had to sit in the courtroom while the attorneys took turns asking jurors "pertinent questions" from their questionnaires, and the judge told us to make sure and pay attention because they would be "winnowing" their jurors and choosing new people to take their place.

    Joy.
    Source

    We had to adjourn for lunch, and we came back to the courtroom at 1:30, at which point eight people were excused from the jury box and eight more people from the audience were chosen to take their place.  Again, I was not one of them.  Praise God.

    After endless questioning, three people were excused and three more chosen (none of them me).

    Then SEVEN people were excused and seven more chosen! (Thankfully, again not me.)

    Then three more people were excused and three more chosen.  (At this point, I'm still safe.)

    Then two were excused and two more chosen. (I'm still not a juror.)

    Then two more people were excused, and THIS time my name was called.  At this point, it was 4:00 in the afternoon and I had been in a state of constant panic that my name WOULD be called.
    Source


    But God had not abandoned me, because over the course of the loooooong day and the questions, questions, questions, I had realized my job as a medical transcriptionist would conflict with some of the rules regarding the case, and when I pointed this out to the attorneys they seemed to agree with me and I was excused from jury duty.

    PRAISE GOD.

    So THAT wasn't the most fun I've ever had, but I survived.

    On a happy note, prom for the high school was last night, so this week at the flower shop was busy making corsages and boutonnieres, so I had tons of fun doing those.
    I was just about this giddy, too.

    Also, I signed up for singing class.  Hollah! I haven't gone to singing class in something like 2-1/2 years, so I'm super excited.  I've missed it so much!
    Da Da Da Da DAAAAAA!

    Speaking of the Phantom of the opera, we've also been binging quite a lot on musicals - Phantom of the Opera, Pirates of Penzance,  H.M.S. Pinafore, and sometime in the near future we are going to watch Oklahoma!  We are also listening to a lot of musicals - the best parts of Jekyll and Hyde... the Anthony Warlow version; Phantom (Duh); and we will be listening to Jane Eyre (tolerated because of Mr. Rochester. Amazing voice!); Secret Garden, and Tale of Two Cities.


    A lady I know, the Amazing Jan Fields (better known as the Ghost in the Machine and Administrator of the Institute of Children's Literature chat boards, the Writer's Retreat) is having a drawing to win an autographed copy of her two books, The Wellspring of Magic and The Emerald Dragon.  Plus, you can also win a super cute doll who represents a character in the book, and she is holding a bear.  Check it out here.  Isn't that fantastic?
    Source

    I haz also been drawing a little.

    First, I did dis dragon for my brother, who requested it:

    Then I did these two character sketches for the two characters in a book I'm actively/passively working on:

    Aliry Thyme

    Dragon

    And I KNOW there has been other stuff happening, but for the life of me I cannot think of them.  So, until la'ers, I shall leave you with this thought:
    There is that.

    Bye!
     
    Gigglygigglygiggly


    ~Cat

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    22. PICTURE BOOK MAKERS BLOG - There are Cats in these books.

    I did a rather big guest blog over at Picture Book Makers about my series of interactive books featuring cats.

    I’ve been working as a picture book writer and artist for about fifteen years now – that is, as a published one. I’ve been making books all my life, pretty much. Before I could write, I drew and dictated them. My mother pierced bundles of my stories with a cast iron hole punch, and she said: “Behold the strength of your mother’s arms.” My father gave me binders to keep them in and said: “What are you going to make next?”
    A page from Viviane Schwarz's diary
    A page from my diary.
    I was surrounded by books about everything that anyone in the family had ever wanted to know. Our walls were lined with bookshelves. My parents took me to the library weekly to take out as many as we could carry. It was awesome. I taught myself to read very early, because I had the notion that I could find anything I would ever need in books.
    I was sure that I needed a cat.
    Read the rest at Picture Book Makers.

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    23. Comic: Mystery Solved

    0 Comments on Comic: Mystery Solved as of 4/23/2015 9:39:00 AM
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    24. Won Ton and Chopstick – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    Title: Won Ton and Chopstick – A Cat and Dog tale Told in Haiku Written by: Lee Wardlaw Illustrated by: Eugene Yelchin Published by: Henry Holt and Company, LLC, 2015 Themes/Topics: cats, dogs, haiku, pets, friends Suitable for ages: 7-11 Hardcover, 40 pages Opening: It’s … Continue reading

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    25. Jungle Jaguars at Scribble Kids!

    We had the fiercest artists around today at Peninsula Art Academy!

    IMG_5564

    By Marymaking

    I got my jungle jaguar inspiration from Mary Making.  She created her own jungle jaguar using paper collage and colored pencils. I love the mixed media approach, but we didn’t have time for watercolors to dry today.
    I decided to go a step further and teach the kids how to create a foreground, middle and background using collage elements. But first, we created our jaguar close-ups with a guided drawing that explored blending and shading. So proud of how much the kids absorbed!

     

    jaguar sketch

    Maura’s jaguar drawing

    Next the kids cut out their jaguars, and I gave them big construction paper to create their ‘background’ rain forest.

    We used oil pastels and colored pencils to draw our jungle scene. Then we added the ‘middle ground’ or the middle of our scene, by collaging paper leaves and water. Finally we added the ‘foreground’ of our pictures, and glued our super-big jaguars and leaves in front.

    The kids used their imaginations with the rain forest scenery, but we also had reference images for inspiration!

    sk4

    Dexter’s jungle jaguars are fighting!

    Thatcher's Jungle Jaguar

    By Thatcher, age 7

    Jungle Jaguar

    By Maura, age 6

    Jungle Jaguars

    By Dexter, age 10

    The post Jungle Jaguars at Scribble Kids! appeared first on Scribble Kids.

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