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1. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 30 – Wonderful 2016 Children’s Novels

31daysNo excuses!  These are just the books that I read in 2016 that I thought knocked it out of the park.  These aren’t the “best of the year”.  These are just the books that were particularly good and that somehow crossed my radar.  I read a lot more than what you’ll see here, but I loved these the best.  For your consideration:

Wonderful 2016 Children’s Novels

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet


My dark horse Newbery front runner.  I found it because Roger Sutton mentioned it off-handedly on his podcast, but it was Monica Edinger’s Horn Book review that got the most attention from the folks at Heavy Medal.  It’s just the most delightful little Cold War, East Germany, book you could name.  I’m gaga over it.  If your kids read it, they will be too.

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders


Again with the book recommendations from Monica!  This time a couple years ago, when she found the English edition of this book.  It came out this year with surprisingly little fanfare, but I just adored it.  The question is whether or not kids unfamiliar with the works of E. Nesbit will get anything out of it.  The eternal optimist, I vote yes!  I mean, it’s about a tyrant finding its (his) soul.  There’s something to that.

Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm


Funny that I never reviewed this one, but with Jenni Holm you sort of don’t have to.  The woman’s masterful.  To read her book is to marvel at how seemingly effortlessly she pulls various elements together.  I will say that though this book is a prequel, you will not need to have read its predecessor to get anything out of it.  It is, in a nutshell, sort of perfect.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi


To ask anyone to craft a wholly original fantasy novel for kids is just setting that person up for a fall.  If Mafi succeeds in any way here it is in her writing rather than her ideas.  Not that her ideas aren’t interesting.  They are, but it’s the characters, their interactions, and their personalities that sold it for me.  It is infinitely readable and a lot of fun to boot.  I like fun.  I liked this book.  I don’t hold it against it that it’s a New York Times bestseller either.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds


Years ago (three?) I said this Jason Reynolds guy was gonna be a star.  I had a chance to hear him speak for the NYPL librarians after the publication of his first solo YA novel.  In 2016 he started publishing middle grade in earnest and if he doesn’t win any major awards this year it’s simply a matter of time before he does in the future.  I don’t know if Ghost is gonna take home a Newbery in any way, shape, or form.  I just know that it was incredibly fun to read.  One of my favorites of the year.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill


It’s anyone’s guess as to why it took me 8 months or so to finally pick this book up.  When I saw Kelly speak at BookExpo here in Chicago this year I knew she was on to something.  But to be perfectly frank, I’ve loved her work since she wrote The Mostly True Story of Jack (a book that I would contend still doesn’t get the attention and respect it deserves).  I liked this one a lot.  It’s a thick one, no question, but it also compelled me skip ahead a little just so that I could make sure that the villain wouldn’t win.  There’s only one other book on this list this year that made me do that.  I’ll let you guess what it was.

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen


I include this book not because it’s some deep, insightful, heavily meaningful book fraught with consequence and award-worthy pain.  No, this is just the kind of book I would have LOVED as a kid.  I was the one who checked out all the Apple paperbacks that involved ghosts from my Scholastic Book Fair orders.  So, naturally, this would have appealed.  I mean, the back flap copy calls it “The Shining meets Hotel California” and that ain’t wrong.  You’d never know it from the cutesy cover, though, would you?  Someone needs a cover do-over.

The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz


It doesn’t need my help.  It never needed my help.  But it’s wonderful and winning.  Smarter than almost every other book on here by half.  Gutsy.  Challenging.  And I can’t wait for the movie.  I call dibs on Tom Hiddleston to play the King of France.

The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King and a Pickpocket Squirrel by Susan Hill Long


Poor little book.  You were the first novel I read in 2016 and I came dangerously close to forgetting you here today.  I liked this one very much, going so far as to say in my review that it was similar in tone to The Princess Bride.  It actually makes a rather good pairing with THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, come to think of it.  If you’ve a kid looking for light, frothy fantasy, this is the one to pick up.

Makoons by Louise Erdrich


Does anyone ever point out how funny these books are?  Yes, we all know Louise Erdrich to be a master writer, but she’s also incredibly hilarious when she wants to be.  The latest book in the Birchbark House series did not disappoint and even gave us a few new characters.  My favorite is the character done in by vanity, brought low, and ultimately redeemed.  I’m a sucker for that kind of tale.

The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow


If you could have any superpower, would you choose the normal one or the weird one?  If you chose the weird one then this book is for you.  I think we’ve seen the outcasts-with-superpowers motif a lot (Spiderman, arguably, was one of the first) but I like Ignatow’s style so much that this is one of my current favs.  How much do I love it?  I actually bought a copy for my niece and I almost never ever buy books.  What can I say?  It was just that good.

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson


Not usually my kind of book but I liked Anderson’s Sidekicked years ago and figured that in spite of the description it might work for me.  And it did!  Granted, there’s more than a touch of Dead Poet’s Society to it, but all I cared was that it had an honest ending.  An honest earned ending.  This title doesn’t pander and I appreciate that.  Worth discovering.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker


Can you believe this book came out in 2016?  I feel as if we’ve been talking about it for two years.  It’s still one of the strongest of the year, no matter what anybody says.  When I was a child, I had a thing for foxes.  Clearly I missed my era.  If you’ve somehow managed to avoid reading this title, you have time to get your hands on it before award season.  Do that thing.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo


While I would repeat that this book would be Because of Winn-Dixie if you dipped that book in a vat of sadness, that doesn’t mean it isn’t remarkable.  I found it breathtakingly sad, but also smart.  I didn’t care two bits for the main character (she’s remarkably forgettable) but the other characters just popped off the page.  Quite a book.

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino


Poor action/adventure fans.  What do I even have for you here today?  Well, I have a fantasy novel coming from one of the co-creators of the Avatar: The Last Airbender television series, and that ain’t peanuts.  Though it does come across as a slightly less scholarly His Dark Materials, I enjoyed the premise of Rebel Genius (a great title, if ever there was one).  The big bad villain never makes an appearance but plenty of other baddies do.  It’s compelling to its core.

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin


I just finished reading my daughter Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and wanted to just skip directly to this one, but Starry River of the Sky is next on our list and we shall not go out of order.  Of the three books in the series, this is by far my favorite, and you certainly don’t have to have read the other books to enjoy it.  Lin gets better and better with every book she writes.  Annoying for her fellow authors, I’m sure, but great for the rest of us!

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown


This marked Peter Brown’s debut as a novelist.  Doesn’t seem quite fair that he should be able to write AND draw.  Leave a little talent for the rest of us, won’t you, Peter?  In any case, I’m all about the strong female heroines.  So often in robot books the de facto pronoun is “he”.  Brown made it “she” and it works for her.  Better still, it works for us.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk


Remember earlier when I mentioned that there was one other book on this list that made me so tense I had to skip to the back to know precisely who would live, who would die, and what would become of the villain?  Because the villain in this book does meet a terrible fate, but even so remains a cussed little wretch to the end.  She is, without a doubt, the best villain I’ve encountered in a children’s book in years.  A true blue psychopath.  Best you know now.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


2 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 30 – Wonderful 2016 Children’s Novels, last added: 12/30/2016
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2. 2016 and Beyond

So how was your Christmas?   Ours was quieter than last yearbut very enjoyable. We spent Christmas day with our two grandsons and Terry’s parents. We laughed a lot, played games, ate too much and had a great time

The following two photos are a little blurry, which might be a good thing considering we are all wearing silly hats!

Terry with his mum and dad

Me with our grandsons Tris (on the left as you look at the photo) and Kip 

During the rest of the holidays we walked, read and caught up on films missed earlier in the year. The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin was the perfect holiday read. Wouldn’t you work in a bookshop in Paris if you had the chance? I certainly would. Days spent surrounded by books while snow falls on the Champs-Élysées – what’s not to like?  

A little more serious reading is in order for the New Year starting with two books received as gifts this Christmas. East West Street weaves together historical, legal and familial narratives to reveal the origins of international law, beginning and ending with the last day of the Nuremberg trial. I’m excited to read this recent winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction. I think I’m in for a treat.  

I’m also excited to read the complete edition of the Wipers Times, the famed trench newspaper of the First World War. It contains a unique record of life on the wartime frontline, together with an extraordinary mix of black humour, fake entertainment programmes and pastiche articles.

My favourite film of the year, watched just a few days before Christmas is:  Sully. 
On Jan. 15, 2009, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger (Tom Hanks) tries to make an emergency landing in New York's Hudson River after US Airways Flight 1549 strikes a flock of geese. Miraculously, all of the 155 passengers and crew survive the harrowing ordeal, and Sullenberger becomes a national hero in the eyes of the public and the media. 

Before saying goodbye to 2016, I thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on my blog last year. I also want to take a moment to thank you.  It is your visits, comments and shares that keep this blog alive. I am so very grateful to you all. Thank you!  

Now for the top five: 

Coming in at Number One is the wonderful Finnigan The Circus Cat: A Guest Post by Mary T. Wagner.

Mary shared her post with us in August and in October Finnigan was awarded a first-place finish at the Royal Palm Literary Awards in Florida. Congratulations Mary I can’t think of a more worthy winner.

Mary T Wagner at the Royal Palm Literary Awards

In Second Place is a book which occupies a special place in my heart and on my bookshelf. When found it was in a very dilapidated state but an excellent book restorer sprinkled a little magic book dust, and saved it from the clutches of the evil book pulping machine! This is just one of the beautiful images from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales - see others here

In Third Place is our visit to the Titanic Museum in Belfast. The museum kindly shared the post on their social media streams, which certainly increased the number of visitors to my blog. 

In Fourth Place: British Eccentricity on Show at: The Chelsea Flower Show.

Diarmuid Gavin creator of the above flower show garden has indicated he will be taking a break from Chelsea in 2017.  Such a shame as I really love his designs as do a lot of people. 

In July, we visited Krakow and Auschwitz, and that post comes fifth and last on the list.  

It’s almost time to wish you a very Happy New Year. I hope 2017 brings you all your heart desires. 

Next week I will be sharing five of my favourite blogs from around the web. I would love to hear about the ones you enjoy so thinking caps on please.  

22 Comments on 2016 and Beyond, last added: 12/30/2016
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3. Coloring Page Tuesday - Happy New Years 2017

     IThank you to all of you for your kind emails and loyal support throughout 2016. I'm so grateful for every one of you and I wish you all a new year filled with hope, wisdom, peace and joy. CLICK HERE for more coloring pages!
     CLICK HERE to sign up to receive alerts when a new coloring page is posted each week and... Please check out my books! Especially...
my debut novel, A BIRD ON WATER STREET - winner of over a dozen literary awards, including Georgia Author of the Year. Click the cover to learn more!
     When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing? A miner's strike allows green and growing things to return to the Red Hills, but that same strike may force residents to seek new homes and livelihoods elsewhere. Follow the story of Jack Hicks as he struggles to hold onto everything he loves most.
     I create my coloring pages for teachers, librarians, booksellers, and parents to enjoy for free with their children, but you can also purchase rights to an image for commercial use, please contact me. If you have questions about usage, please visit my Angel Policy page.

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4. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 26 – 2016 Unique Biographies for Kids

31daysDuring the 2016 Boston Globe-Horn Book Colloquium Carol Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes spoke together about the art of writing about other people.  During the speech they mentioned how part of their job is to break down “the canonical boundaries of biography.”  Too often kids read the same biographies about the same people over and over again.  The canon, such as it is.  There were a bunch of perfectly good biographies out about those folks this year.  I prefer the more obscure figures and the people who don’t usually get studied.

On that note, here are the folks from 2016 that got some stellar bios.  The ones you probably shouldn’t miss:

 2016 Unique Biographies for Kids

Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley, ill. Jessie Hartland


Ada’s Ideas: The Story of Ada Lovelace, the World’s First Computer Programmer by Fiona Robinson


It’s a twofer!  Ask for one Ada Lovelace biography, get two!  Which one do I like better?  According to my notes  . . . my notes say I liked both of them equally.  We had some in 2015 as well, it occurs to me.  Does that mean we’ll get even more in 2017?  Stranger things have happened.

By the way, I heard the most amusing complaint the other day that Ada gets all the bios for kids and Babbage gets none.  I’ll just let you process that one in your brain yourself.

Anything But Ordinary: The True Story of Adelaide Herman, Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, ill. Iacopo Bruno


Lots of reason to love this. Rockliff did a lot of original research to learn about this early female magician and her most magnificent and infamous trick.  Iacopo Brunos’ art just add to the lustre, since he produces gorgeous art and gets very little public appreciation for it.  Luscious.

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi


How many other lists can I get this on?  At least one more, I think . . .

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, ill. Isabelle Arsenault


You might remember Cloth Lullaby from such previous lists as 2016 Calde-nots (solely because the illustrator doesn’t reside here).  It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly I like it so much, apart from the art.  Maybe it’s the fact that it shows that art springs from inside you and comes out in all kinds of original, eclectic, interesting ways.

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock, ill. Gerard DuBois


Photographers do get pic bios, but I’m still holding out for Weegee.  Dorothea Lange will do in a pinch, though.

Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood, ill. Duncan Tonatiuh


I love that I live in a world where a picture biography of a lounge music composer can even exist.

Fancy Party Gowns: The Story of Ann Cole Lowe by Deborah Blumenthal, ill. Laura Freeman


I had this sitting on my desk and someone walked past, saw the dresses, and then started cooing about the ones they knew.  Very cool.

The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman, ill. E.B. Lewis


A biography of a kid!  Once in a while a child will be assigned such a thing.  Ruby Bridges can only be discussed by so many children.  Nice to have some (much earlier) alternatives.

Gabe: A Story of Me, My Dog, and the 1970s by Shelley Gill, ill. Marc Scheff


Technically this is an autobiography and not a biography but the psychedelic, nutty, dog-loving nature of this (which is to say, its awesomeness) compels me to include it.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, ill. Elizabeth Baddeley


The first, I am sure, of many such biographies to exist.

Indian Boyhood: The True Story of a Sioux Upbringing by Charles Eastman, ill. Heidi M. Rasch


A new edition of a title that was released more than a hundred years ago.  Debbie Reese included an earlier republication on her list of Recommended Children’s/YA/Reference/Resource Books, FYI.

The Kid from Diamond Street: The Extraordinary Story of Baseball Legend Edith Houghton by Audrey Vernick, ill. Steven Salerno


Poor sports books.  They just don’t really come out all that often.  Particularly if they’re about women.  This one was fun and light-hearted, something we could all read once in a while.

Martin Luther “Here I Stand” by Geraldine Elschner, translated by Kathryn Bishop


2017 will mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  If you’ve any kind of an older kid who wants to know more about that, start here.

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service by Annette Bay Pimentel, ill. Rich Lo


A rather fascinating story of the Chinese-American chef who worked in what many might consider impossible circumstances.  We do not HAVE a huge number of older Chinese-American biographies on our shelves.  But we have this now, and that is good.

The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue by Suzanne Slade, ill. Stacy Innerst


Very fun and peppy.  I would have loved an accompanying CD but I suppose it’s not too hard to find the titular song if you really look.

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, ill. Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson


A lovely ode to a lovely man.

Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West by Candace Fleming


I still think the Newbery committee needs to seriously consider this book.  Distinguished hardly even covers it.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child

And speaking of major literary awards, oh, Caaaaaaaldecott committee . . .

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story by Caren Stelson


Nominated for a National Book Award, it’s amazing.  And, very unfortunately, very timely at this precise moment in history.

She Stood for Freedom: The Untold Story of a Civil Rights Hero, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland by Loki Mulholland & Angela Fairwell, ill. Charlotta Janssen


A Civil Rights activist has her story told, and published, by her own children.  And what did YOU get your mom this holiday season, hmmmm?

A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne Rockwell, ill. Floyd Cooper


Basically, you hand this book to the kids currently obsessed with Hamilton.  LOTS of Lafayette for them to enjoy, and a hero worth remembering.

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman, ill. Daniel Minter


I wish I had reviewed this book this year.  I’m not a horsey girl, and even I thik this is an amazing story.  Basically it challenges our ideas of what an animal can and cannot learn while celebrating a pretty fascinating man as well.

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller, ill. David C. Gardner


When I was a kid I had to memorize a song about Benjamin Banneker.  These kids no one ever seems to study him.  I’m just pleased that there’s a new bio of him out now.  Let’s get more!

What Milly Did by Elise Moser, ill. Scot Ritchie


What did she do?  Basically made it possible for you to recycle your plastic.  You’re welcome.

When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike by Michelle Houts, ill. Erica Magnus


And in other elderly woman news, Gatewood became famous for hiking more than any other person in the country.  Crazy inspiring story, this.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, ill. Don Tate


Geez, I loved this book.  I love books that celebrate real inventors and Barton makes the guy sound so approachable.  You’ll love him by the time you get to the end.

The William Hoy Story by Nancy Churnin, ill. Jez Tuya


Not the first Hoy bio I’ve ever seen, but I’m happy we’ve a variety to choose from now.

You Never Heard of Casey Stengel?! by Jonah Winter, ill. Barry Blitt


How crazy is it that this is the first picture book biography of the guy I’ve ever encountered?  Winter has a blast with the subject matter.  I wonder if he’ll ever consider doing one of Yogi Berra . . .


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


3 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 26 – 2016 Unique Biographies for Kids, last added: 12/27/2016
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5. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 24 – 2016 Science and Nature Books for Kids

31daysThere were no science books on the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for 2016.  Nor in 2015.  Nor 2014.  Bomb in 2013 was sort of a science book, so we’ll count that.  And Moonbird that year certainly was.  Yet it’s often surprising how consistently science and nature get overlooked when they’re handing out awards for nonfiction.  According to my sources, science writers are complaining about this fact, and with good reason.  When you create an award for nonfiction and then hand it consistently to biographies, you are, however unintentionally, sending a message.

On the children’s side of things the Robert F. Sibert Medal fares a bit better. In 2016 none of the books were science or nature related, but in 2015 we had Neighborhood Sharks and in 2014 Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore actually took home the Medal itself with Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate getting an Honor.  You go, Sibert committees!

In their honor, I dedicate today’s list to the lovely science and nonfiction books that were published in 2016 with a hat tip to Melissa Stewart for inspiring me to do this list in the first place.

2016 Science and Nature Books for Kids


Honoring those books willing to add a little science and nature in their mix.  Extra points for backmatter.

Ada Twist: Scientist by Andrea Beaty


Unless I’m much mistaken, she’s still topping the New York Times bestseller list in the picture book category.  I’ll give you some moments to take in the vast implications of this.  Pairs particularly well with the upcoming film Hidden Figures.

Baby Loves: Aerospace Engineering!/Quarks! by Ruth Spiro, ill. Irene Chan



I defended this to you when I put it on the board book list, and I’d willingly do so now.  Don’t just assume that due to their format these are meant solely for babies.  It’s a kitchy idea that yields a lot of plum rewards.  Big concepts are broken down for young people.  I can get behind that.

Because of an Acorn by Lola M. Schaefer & Adam Schaefer, ill. Frann Preston-Gannon


It’s the ciiiiiiircle of liiiiiife . . . and it mooooooves us alllllllll . . .

Coyote Moon by Maria Gianferrari, ill. Bagram Ibatoulline


Apparently coyotes roam my own neighborhood’s streets in the summer.  I’ve never seen them, but I’m willing to believe it.  Jaw-droppingly gorgeous with a surprisingly gripping text, this is sort of like a more fictionalized version of the aforementioned Neighborhood Sharks, only this time with coyotes.  In hindsight, I should have put this on the readaloud list too.  GREAT readalouding.

Faraway Fox by Jolene Thompson, ill. Justin K. Thompson


The book follows a single fox blocked off from its fellows by a highway.  Humans construct a tunnel under the road for wildlife and the fox is reunited with its kind.  Information appears at the end about the real world tunnels, how they are constructed, and some of the challenges they fact.  The art, for the record, is also a real draw here.  Luscious.

Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau & Deborah Hopkinson, ill. Meilo So


The only Meilo So book out this year?  Nope, there’s one coming up later (see if you can guess what it is).  Here, a girl attempts to save loggerhead sea turtle babies from man-made light, which means she has to engage in some pretty serious activism.  A very cool story, and one I’ve not seen told before.

From Wolf to Woof!: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott


This pairs particularly well with . . .

Grandmother Fish: A Child’s First Book of Evolution by Jonathan Tweet, ill. Karen Lewis


. . . this book.  Both cover evolution to a certain extent.  This scrappy little Kickstarter title covers ground that few books have on evolution.

Mad Scientist Academy: The Weather Disaster by Matthew McElligott


Not a lot of good weather books out this year.  This one’s filling a 2016 gap.

Octopus Escapes Again by Laurie Ellen Angus


I’m oddly partial to this adorable book and the creature behind it.  Always makes me think of this stranger still video, of course.

Olinguito, from A to Z! / Olinguito, de la A a la Z! by Lulu Delacre


Sure, it’s an alphabet book.  Sure it’s bilingual.  But it’s actually a really delightful trip into the cloud forest to talk about “discovering” a new animal.  Drills home to kids the fact that this is still being done today, barring the destruction of said cloud forest.

Otters Love to Play by Jonathan London, ill. Meilo So


It’s the second Meilo So title on this list today!  Hooray!  And otters basically just sell themselves.  In writing this part of today’s list I just wasted a lot of time watching otters on YouTube for inspiration (have you seen the one of the baby sleeping on its mommy?).  In any case, this lives up to its subject matter.


Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Infographics by Steve Jenkins


I just recommended this book to a colleague looking for a book to give to a 7-year-old who loves facts and figures and animals too.  Couldn’t have come up with anything better!  Plus, it’s where I learned that the peregrine falcons that nest on my library every year are the fastest birds in the world.

A Beetle Is Shy by Dianna Hutts Aston, ill. Sylvia Long


This is a long-standing series but it doesn’t appear to be slowing down in any way, shape, or form.  Distinctly fabulous.

The Deadliest Creature in the World by Brena Z. Guiberson, ill. Gennady Spirin


I’m a sucker for a Guiberson/Spirin combo any day of the week.  Actually, I’m a sucker for Spirin, period, but his work with Guiberson over the years has never produced a melon.  Plus, how do you top that title?  Answer: You don’t.

Deep Roots: How Trees Sustain Our Planet by Nikki Tate


I was blown away with this book.  Seriously floored.  You go into it thinking it’s just another gee-aren’t-trees-great title and what you get instead is this enormously in-depth, serious consideration of how they contribute to the earth.  We’ve all heard the statistics on how much oxygen in the atmosphere they produce, but this was the first children’s book I’ve ever read that attempted to explain precisely how their root system works.  I’d listened to a RadioLab episode (From Tree to Shining Tree) that explained this and I’m still shocked by the implications.  Well done Ms. Tate for filling this book with such pertinent, incredibly up-to-date information!

Dining With Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching by Hannah Bonner


I’m not just sticking this on here because I need a dino title.  Trust me, my library shelves are good in that area.  But this took a distinctly deep and delightful look at a topic I would have told you had already been covered.  Turns out, not so much.  A must-add.

Does a Fiddler Crab Fiddle? by Corinne Demas & Artemis Roehrig, ill. John Sandford


I honestly thought the book was just going to start with fiddler crab and then move on to other animals with evocative names.  Nope.  Demas and Roehrig are in it for the long haul.  The long fiddler crab haul.  Good on them!

Feathered Dinosaurs by Brenda Z. Guiberson, ill. William Low


Because you can’t have enough dinosaurs.  Or enough Guiberson, for that matter.

Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page


I’d cut that title way way down, but that’s the only thing I’d cut from this highly engaging title (plus it’s always great to see Jenkins and Page working together again).

How Much Does a Ladybug Weigh? by Alison Limentani


I put this on the math list not too long ago, but it’s also a really interesting, very young, science title.  When you consider how much each animal weighs, you find yourself having your assumptions consistently challenged.  Math and science = best buds.

I Am NOT a Dinosaur by Will Lach, ill. Jonny Lambert


My college, for whatever reason, owned the skeleton of a giant sloth.  I remember seeing it for the first time on display, just utterly baffled by what I was looking at.  Sloths were giants once?  If you’ve a kid, hand them this book and they’ll be able to know this information far sooner than my sad college-aged self.

If You Are a Kaka, You Eat Doo Doo: And Other Poop Tales from Nature by Sara Martel, ill. Sara Lynn Cramb


That title’s gonna turn off a bunch of folks right from the start.  Maybe that’s not the worst thing, since it really is a book entirely about poop.  That said, it’s not gross about it.  I mean, there are gross things in it (one word: smearing) but they’re presented in a very matter-of-fact way.  If you buy only one poop book this year . . .

My Book of Birds by Geraldo Valerio


Shockingly lovely from start to finish.  A science picture book coffee table book, if you take my meaning.

Natumi Takes the Lead: The True Story of an Orphan Elephant Who Finds Family by Gerry Ellis with Amy Novesky


Such a good story, and a good readaloud too.  I’d normally avoid any book that traipses this close to anthropomorphism but Gerry and Amy are very careful to place everything in terms true to a baby elephant.  Could actually work as a graduation gift picture book as well, come to think of it.

Pink Is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating, ill. David DeGrand


Not solely about the blobfish, alas, but still worth your time thanks to the sheer number of facts packed into these pages.

Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca E. Hirsch, ill. Mia Posada


A cute premise.  Shows all the different ways that plants get up and go go go!

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond


Though it’s not sourced properly (no backmatter to speak of) this is still a truly gorgeous book.  It’s the kind of title you can use to either sate the polar bear needs of a true fans, or lure other readers into adoring.

Prairie Dog Song: The Key to Saving North America’s Grasslands by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore


The prairie, its life, its history, and its possible future are all discussed in this beautifully rendered little book.

The Toad by Elise Gravel


I’m a big fan of all the Gravel series titles.  Of the titles out this year, the toad stole my heart.  Maybe because I used to catch them in my backyard as a kid.  Maybe just because this book’s the funniest.

The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill


I’m a little ashamed to admit that I had no idea what a Great Auk even was before I read this book.  Or, for that matter, that they were gone.  Sometimes it feels like the passenger pigeon and the dodo get all the press.  Poor auks.

Under Earth / Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski


Leave it to the Polish to do something this cool.  My kids just dive into this book (no pun intended) since there are so many tiny elements to adore.  Again, no backmatter to speak of (European nonfiction titles have that in common) but still awesome.  And huge!

What Milly Did: The Remarkable Pioneer of Plastics Recycling by Elise Moser, ill. Scot Ritchie


Ever stop to consider the fact that recycling plastics is a relatively new idea?  How did it get officially started by vast numbers of cities around the country?  A little old woman figured it all out.  I love unexpected heroines.

Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, ill. Don Tate


I’m keen on unexpected heroes too.  This book is great because it shows that you don’t have to come up with polio vaccine to be considered an inventor.  Plus this guy (A) made something cool and (B) is still alive!  Once in a while you get a kid in your library who has to check out a bio on someone still alive.  Now you’ve an ace in your back pocket.

Whose Eye Am I? by Shelley Rotner


Look them in the eye and tell them you’re not interested in this book.  Go on. Tell them.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


5 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 24 – 2016 Science and Nature Books for Kids, last added: 12/25/2016
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6. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 21: 2016 Poetry Books for Kids

31daysFun Fact: The American Library Association does not currently give an award specifically to great works of children’s book poetry.  Is not that strange?  When I first discovered this to be true, I was perplexed.  I’ve always been a bit of a rube when it comes to the poetic form.  Placing stresses on syllables and knowing what constitutes a sestina and all that.  Of course even without its own award specifically, poetry can win the Newbery or the Caldecott.  Yet too often when it happens it’s in the form of a verse novel or its sort of pooh-poohed for its win.  Remember when Last Stop on Market Street won the Newbery and folks were arguing that it was the first picture book to do so since A Visit to William’s Blake’s Inn couldn’t possibly be considered a picture book because it was poetry?  None of this is to say that poetry doesn’t win Newberys (as recently as 2011 Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman won an Honor) but aside from the month of April (Poetry Month a.k.a. the only time the 811 section of the public library is sucked dry) poetry doesn’t get a lot of attention.

So rather than relegate all poetry discussions to April, let us today celebrate some of the lovelier works of poetry out for kids this year.  Because we lucked out, folks.  2016 was a great year for verse:

 2016 Poetry Books for Kids

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi


No surprises here.  If you know me then you know I’m gaga for this title.  For the purposes of today’s list, however, let’s just zero in on Kaneko’s own poetry.  Cynical beast that I am, I would sooner eat my own tongue than use a tired phrase like “childlike wonder” to describe something.  And yet . . . I’m stuck.  Honestly there’s no other way to adequately convey to you what Kaneko has done so perfectly with this book.  Come for the biography and history lesson.  Stay for the incomparable poems.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan


I’m not entirely certain that I can express in words how deeply satisfying it’s been to see this book get as much love and attention as it has, so far.  Already its appeared on Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, its been a Kirkus Prize Finalist, it was on the NCTE Notable Poetry List, and New York Public Library listed it on their Best Books for Kids.  I would have liked to add an Image Award nomination in there as well, but you don’t always get what you want.  Regardless, I maintain my position that this is a serious Newbery contender.  Even if it misses out during the January award season, there is comfort in knowing that folks are finding it.  Very satisfying.

Grumbles From the Town: Mother-Goose Voices With a Twist by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich, ill. Angela Matteson


Its been promoted as a writing prompt book, but I’d argue that the poetry in this collection stands on its own two feet as well.  Yolen and Dotlich take classic nursery rhymes and twist them.  We’ve all seen that kind of thing before, but I like how they’ve twisted them.  A passing familiarity with the original poetry a good idea, though they’ve covered their bases and included that information in the back of the book as well.  Good original fun all around.

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill, ill. Francis Vallejo


So far it’s won the only major award (aside from the Kirkus prize) to be released so far for a 2016 title.  Jazz Day took home the gold when it won in the picture book category of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards.  And, granted, I was on that committee, but I wasn’t the only one there.  It’s such an amazing book, and aside from poetry its hard to slot it into any one category.  Fiction or nonfiction?  You be the judge.

Miss Muffet, Or What Came After by Marilyn Singer, ill. David Litchfield


It’s sort of epic.  From one single short little nursery rhyme, Singer spins out this grandiose tale of crushed hopes, impossible dreams, and overcoming arachnophobia.  Since it’s a story told in rhyme I’m sort of cheating, putting it on this poetry list.  Maybe it’s more school play than poetry book.  I say, why not be both?


Now this book has been nominated for an NAACP Image Award, so there is some justice in this world.  When I first read the description I wasn’t entirely certain how it would work.  Imagine the daunting task of telling Ezra Jack Keats’ story using his own illustration style.  Imagine too the difficulty that comes with using poetry and verse to tell the details of his story.  Pinkney’s done poetry of one sort or another before, but I dare say this is her strongest work to date in that style.

Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks by Skila Brown, ill. Bob Kolar


From the start I liked the poems (they were smart) but since it was about real sharks I pondered that question every children’s librarian knows so well: how would it fly with kids?  Well, I donated a copy to my kid’s daycare and found, to my infinite delight, that the kids in that class were CRAZY about it.  Every day when I went to pick my daughter up, she and the other kids would start telling me shark facts.  You’ve gotta understand that these were four-year-olds telling me this stuff.  If they get such a kick out of the book (and they do) imagine how the older kids might feel!

A Toucan Can, Can You? by Danny Adlerman, ill. Various


It’s baaaaack.  Yeah, this little self-published gem keeps cropping up on my lists.  Someone recently asked me where they could purchase it, since it’s not available through the usual streams.  I think you can get it here, in case you’re curious.  And why should you be curious?  Because it takes that old How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck, expands it, and then gets seriously great illustrators to contribute.  A lovely book.

Somo Como Las Nubes / We Are Like the Clouds by Jorge Argueta, ill. Elisa Amado


Because to be perfectly frank, your shelves aren’t exactly exploding with books about refugee children from South America.  That said, it’s easy to include books on lists of this sort because their intentions are good.  It’s another thing entirely when the book itself actually is good.  Argueta is an old hand at this.  You can trust him to do a fantastic job, and this book is simultaneously necessary and expertly done.  There’s a reason I put it on my bilingual book list as well.

Spinach Dip Pancakes by Kevin Kammeraad, ill. Danny Adlerman, Kim Adlerman, Chris Fox, Alynn Guerra, Justin Haveman, Ryan Hipp, Stephanie Kammeraad, Carlos Kammeraad, Maria Kammeraad, Steve Kammeraad, Linda Kammeraad, Laurie Keller, Scott Mack, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Carolyn Stich, Joel Tanis, Corey Van Duinen, Aaron Zenz, & Rachel Zylstra


This book bears not a small number of similarities to the aforementioned Toucan Can book.  The difference, however, is that these are all original little tiny poems put into a book illustrated by a huge range of different illustrators.  The poems are funny and original and the art eclectic, weird, wise and wonderful.  It even comes with a CD of performances of the poems.  Want a taste?  Then I am happy to premiere a video that is accompanying this book.  The video cleverly brings to life the poem “Game”.  I think you’ll get a kick out of it.  And then be unable to remove it from your brain (good earworm, this).

If you liked that, check out the book’s book trailer and behind-the-scenes peek as well.

Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems by Bob Raczka


My year is not complete unless I am able to work a Raczka poetry collection onto a list.  I’m very partial to this one.  It’s a bit graphic design-y and a bit clever as all get out.  Here’s my favorite poem of the lot:

Poetry is about taking away the words you don’t need
poetry is taking away words you don’t need
poetry is words you need
poetry is words

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, ill. Julie Morstad


I think I broke more than a few hearts when I told people that Morstad’s Canadian status meant the book was ineligible for a Caldecott.  At least you can take comfort in the fact that the poetry is sublime.  I think we’ve all seen our fair share of seasonal poems.  They’re not an original idea, yet Fogliano makes them seem new.  This collection actually bears much in common with the poetry of the aforementioned Misuzu Kaneko.  I think she would have liked it.

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen by Carole Boston Weatherford, ill. Jeffery Boston Weatherford


It’s poetry and a kind of verse novel as well.  I figured I should include one in today’s list, though I’d argue that the verse here serves the poems better than the storyline.  There is a storyline, of course, but I like the poetry for its own sake.  My favorite in the book?  The one about Lena Horne.  I had no idea the personal sacrifices she made during WWII.  There’s a picture book bio coming out about her in 2017, by the way.  Looks like I’ll need to know more.

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


4 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 21: 2016 Poetry Books for Kids, last added: 12/21/2016
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7. The Cartoon Brew 2016-17 Animation Award Winners Tracker

Stay up-to-date on which animation and vfx films are winning end-of-year honors.

The post The Cartoon Brew 2016-17 Animation Award Winners Tracker appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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8. ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ Among Nine Films That Advances in Foreign Oscar Shortlist

Animation is doing well everywhere this year, including the foreign-language category of the Oscars.

The post ‘My Life as a Zucchini’ Among Nine Films That Advances in Foreign Oscar Shortlist appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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9. VFX Oscar Race is Narrowed Down To 10 Films

The vfx shortlist includes the expected ("Doctor Strange," "The Jungle Book") and the unexpected ("Kubo and the Two Strings," "Arrival")

The post VFX Oscar Race is Narrowed Down To 10 Films appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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10. Cynsational News

By Cynthia Leitich Smith
for Cynsations

I Wasn't Dreaming of a White Christmas: Representation in YA Holiday Books by Tirzah Price. Peek: "...this year I noticed something that does bother me: The authors of my favorites are predominantly white. In fact, the authors of most of the available YA holiday reads are white."

Rushing Through Revision by Mary Kole from Kidlit.com. Peek: "I’ve been discussing submission strategies with several clients and I’m recommending that they fire work off to agents and editors in mid-January at the very earliest."

Sibert Children's-YA Nonfiction Smackdown by Melissa Stewart from Celebrate Science.

Recommendation: The Wool of Jonesy by Jonathan Nelson from Debbie Reese at American Indians in Children's Literature. Peek: "...a wordless comic. Readers use the images to create the story, themselves."

Six Editors Remember Their First YA Manuscript Acquisitions by Sarah Hannah Gomez from Barnes & Noble. Peek: "YA editors play a pivotal role in making manuscripts into amazing books we all get to read, so I decided to ask some of the most interesting, successful people I know (or follow on Twitter) about their memories from their days as baby editors."

National Latino Children's Literature Conference: Connecting Cultures & Celebrating Cuentos: "co-sponsored by The University of Alabama School of Library and Information Studies and The University of Texas at San Antonio. The next conference will take place in San Antonio, Texas on March 23rd-25th, 2017. If you are interested in sponsoring authors or events...."

Give Your Book a Second Life: Get It Into Foreign Markets by Marleen Seegers from Writers Helping Writers. Peek: "...in Poland a smashing 46% of books published are works in translation, in Germany over 12%, in Spain around 24%, and in France about 15%."

19 books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times: A librarian’s list by Karen MacPherson from The Washington Post. Peek: "My idea was to choose books for younger readers that focus on kindness, peace and feeling good — and proud — about who you are. For older readers, I looked for books about diverse people, including kids who have overcome sometimes overwhelming odds to make a difference in the world."

Little, Brown Emerging Artist Award: "The award will be given to the entrant who submits the most accomplished picture book submission in the form of a mock-up. One prize is available and consists of American Express® gift cards totaling $2,500, round trip travel to New York City, and the honor of a one-day mentorship with Little, Brown Books for Young Readers' professional children’s book design and editorial team, and distinguished Artist Mentor Jerry Pinkney."

How to Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters by Jeff Gerke from Jane Friedman. Peek: "The Greek philosopher Aristotle said the definition of a friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies. When it comes to fiction, we’re shooting for that sort of relationship between the reader and the hero."

An Author's Survival Kit for Tough Times by Broadside PR at LitHub. Peek: "...we suggest flipping the question to ask: How can I support literature, reading, and authors universally?"

Educators' Roundtable, compiled by Allie Jane Bruce from We Need Diverse Books. See also part 2. Peek from Kara Stewart: "I have not met a single teacher who is hostile or disagrees with my intent. They are enthusiastic and genuinely want to do the right thing. So why had they taught into the tsunami of harmful stereotypes?"

Link of the Week

Finding Yourself in a Book: Why I Wrote Blind Spot by Laura Ellen from Disability in Kidlit. Peek:

"...with an acquired disability will tell you, you go through a process similar to the grieving process ...experience denial and anger and depression long before you ever reach self-awareness and are able to accept yourself...push away the right people while clinging to the wrong ones.... In a nutshell, having a disability can mess you up emotionally – so where were all the books about that?"

This Week at Cynsations

More Personally

Many blessings of the season!

I've finished critiquing for fall 2016 and sent in the end-of-semester materials to the VCFA office.

This weekend, I begin translating my editorial letter into revision notes and preparing for the January residency.

What else? Look for me and Rain Is Not My Indian Name in the We Need Diverse Books insert of this month's Scholastic Reading Fair!

Check out NPR's Book Concierge Best Books of 2016, including my recommendation for Thunder Boy, Jr., by Sherman Alexie & Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown), and congratulations to the NAACP Children's-YA Literature Awards nominees!

Personal Links

AICL Recommended!

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11. The Truth about Roadblocks and Quicksand

We're excited for Carol Lynch Williams, author of The Messenger, to join us today to shed some light on two popular writing myths. 

"I don't believe in writer's block...I also don't believe in the muse."

What a pleasure to write something for Adventures in YA Publishing! I love young adult novels. 
Aren't we lucky to be able to go to a library or a bookstore and have thousands of choices at our fingertips?

I also love to write (I mean, once my project is finished I love to write. Or when I'm thinking of the next novel I'm going to work on and haven't put anything down on paper yet.). And I love to share about writing. Lucky me! :)

There are lots of things I could say that other writers might disagree with. Like . . .
I don't believe in writer's block. The truth is, writing is just hard work. And that means pushing through the tough times of your novel. Perhaps you made a wrong turn somewhere and now you feel stuck. 

It's like when you get caught in quicksand.

My mother said when I was little: Stop running around the woods with your cousins.
Mom: You'll step in quicksand.
Me: We have quicksand here in Florida?
Mom: (Solemn head nodding) Yes. And then what will you do?
Me: Die?
Mom: Exactly.

Now I know, after a recent google search, if I get caught in quicksand I shouldn't struggle.
It's the same with writing. If you feel you've hit a roadblock in your novel, back up. Reread. Do you know the direction you should be going? Have you run off the path and into quicksand? If so, don't struggle. Take a breath and find where you took the wrong turn. Trust yourself. Trust your story.

I also don't believe in the muse. I don't sit around waiting for some idea to bonk me on the head. I think, remember people I knew (or know), read the news, wonder at odd things, look into history, listen to people talk, read other books etc then settle on a character and write.

This leads me to some of the best advise I've been given.
My dear friend, Rick Walton, just died. (He had a brain tumor, and I'm pretty sure he felt, toward the end of his life, he was caught in quicksand and he couldn't get out.)
Rick was a prolific writer, publishing more than a 100 books (mostly picture books). He went after ideas. He never sat around waiting for them.
His best advise to me? Don't give up. No matter what, go after what you want as a writer.

We met when my first novel was coming out.
He had a few joke books out with Lerner publishing and was awaiting the publication of his first picture book.

"Keep writing," he told everyone he met who had the dream of holding a book of their own. "Keep writing. It will happen."

That's the key to it all. Keep writing. Keep trying. Get past the roadblocks. Stay away from the quicksand. Put the words on paper. Work.

You will succeed.


The Messenger
by Carol Lynch Williams
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman BooksReleased 10/18/2016

From PEN Award–winning author Carol Lynch Williams comes an eerie and atmospheric coming-of-age tale about a girl who can talk to the dead—even if she would rather not.

Evie Messenger knows that her family is different from other families. But it isn’t until her fifteenth birthday that the Messenger gift is revealed to her. Evie has the family’s gift—a special power. Soon she realizes she is able to see and talk to the dead—ghosts—often with no idea who the person was. Or as Evie says: “I see Dead People. It’s a Messenger gift.” That doesn’t mean she wants the Messenger gift. So Evie tries to ignore it but soon she finds she cannot. Can Evie find a way to live her life without letting her power take over?And what if the dead person is someone close to Evie’s family?


Carol Lynch Williams, who grew up in Florida and now lives in Utah, is an award-winning novelist with seven children of her own, including six daughters. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College, and won the prestigious PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. The Chosen One was named one of the ALA’s Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers and Best Books for Young Adult Readers; it won the Whitney and the Association of Mormon Letters awards for the best young adult novel of the year; and was featured on numerous lists of recommended YA fiction. Carol’s other novels include Glimpse, Miles From Ordinary, The Haven, Waiting, Signed, Skye Harper, and the Just in Time series.

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12. Current Scratch: Join Us, (Mostly) Annual Conference, Local Events, 2016 Best Children's Books, Market Your Book

Join Us! 

Our next regular meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25th at 10 a.m. in the College Station Barnes & Noble (if you'd like to see us before then come to the holiday party - see info in next section). Topic: Make 2017 Goals. We'll also discuss news and provide encouragement. Gentle critique begins at 9:30 a.m. Bring copies of 5 double-spaced pages of your work in progress. Those who have time may go to lunch at a local restaurant. Members and friends welcome.

Annual Conference

Brazos Valley Blooms -- SCBWI-BV 25th Annual Conference!

REGISTRATION BEGINS December 15, 2017.  You will want to jump in early for this one. Prepare for keynotes, manuscript consultations, portfolio showcase, box lunch, dinner(pay your own way)...

Date:  March 4, 2017
Time: 8 a.m. (registration) to 5 p.m.
Place: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 220 Rock Prairie Road, College Station, TX 77845


Kathi Appelt, award-winning author

Kathi's books have won numerous national and state awards, including the Irma and Simon Black Award, Children’s Choice Award, Teacher’s Choice Award, the Oppenheimer Gold Award, Parent’s Choice Award, Storytelling World Award, Growing Good Kids Award, Texas Writer’s League Award for Children’s Literature, the Texas Institute of Letters Award, Best Books for Young Adults, VOYA Top of the Shelf Award, and a host of others. Kathi is a founding member of SCBWI Brazos Valley

Her first novel, The Underneath, was a National Book Award Finalist and a Newbery Honor Book. It also received the Pen USA Award, and was a finalist for the Heart of Hawick Children’s Book Award.  www.kathiappelt.com

Associate Editor: Karen Boss, Charlesbridge Publishing

"Karen is an associate editor at Charlesbridge where she works on fiction and nonfiction picture books and middle-grade novels. She holds a MA in Children’s Literature from Simmons College and regularly acts as a mentor for their Writing for Children MFA program. Karen also has an MA in higher education administration and worked at colleges and in the nonprofit sector for the first 15 years of her career. She still works part-time in development at Hyde Square Task Force, a nonprofit that works with at-risk youth in Jamaica Plain. Some authors she’s currently working with are David L. Harrison, Jane Yolen, Nancy Bo Flood, Rich Michelson, and debut author Tami Charles. Her favorite children’s book is The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White, and she thinks that Holes by Louis Sachar is quite possibly the best thing ever written."

excerpt from www.highlights foundation.org. 
Hornbook Interview-podcast

Donna Cooner, award-winning author

Donna, a Texas native, is a three-time graduate of Texas A&M University. A former teacher and school administrator, she now teaches teachers and principals at Colorado State University where she is the director of the School of Teacher Education and Principal Preparation. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her two labs and a cat named Stu. She's a big fan of chocolate and laughing (not necessarily in that order).

Donna is the author of over twenty picture books and was a founding member of the Brazos Valley Society of Children's Bookwriters and Illustrators. She has also written children's television shows for PBS and textbooks for future teachers. SKINNY was her debut novel for young adults, followed by CAN'T LOOK AWAY. www.donnacooner.com

E.B. Lewis, award winning-Artistrator

E.B. has illustrated over seventy books for children, including Nikki Grimes’ Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman, the 2003 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Winner; Alice Schertle’s Down the Road, an ALA Notable Book; Tolowa M. Mollel’s My Rows and Piles of Coins, an ALA Notable Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book; Bat Boy and His Violin by Garvin Curtis a Coretta Scott King Honor Book, and Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side, a 2002 Notable Book for the Language Arts.  www.eblewis.com

Associate Literary Agent: Jennifer March Soloway, Andrea Brown Agency

Jennifer works closely with Executive Agent Laura Rennert. She enjoys all genres and categories, such as laugh-out-loud picture books and middle-grade adventures, but her sweet spot is young adult.

Jennifer is a suspense junkie. She adores action-packed thrillers and mysteries, full of unexpected twists. Throw in a dash of romance, and she’s hooked! She’s a sucker for conspiracy plots where anyone might be a double agent, even the kid next door. She is a huge fan of psychological horror that blurs the lines between the real and the imagined. But as much as she loves a good thriller, she finds her favorite novels are literary stories about ordinary teens, especially those focused on family, relationships, sexuality, mental illness, or addiction. In such stories, she is particularly drawn to a close, confiding first-person narrative.

Nearby Lodging:

La Quinta Inn & Suites College Station South
1838 Graham Rd, College Station, TX 77845
Phone:(979) 704-6100

Sleep Inn & Suites
Address: 1846 Graham Rd, College Station, TX 77845
Phone:(800) 424-6423

Courtyard Bryan and College Station
3939 Texas 6 Frontage Rd, College Station, TX 77845
(979) 695-8111


2016 Best Children's Books

Market Your Book

Manuscript Wish List   --  The official website. 

Hope you are ready for a fabulous new year!!!!

 Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own, and not necessarily those of the SCBWI.

1 Comments on Current Scratch: Join Us, (Mostly) Annual Conference, Local Events, 2016 Best Children's Books, Market Your Book, last added: 12/29/2016
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13. Not recommended: INDEH: A STORY OF THE APACHE WARS by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth

I've received several questions about Indeh: A Story of the Apache Wars by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth.

Published by Hachette Book Group in 2016, this graphic novel wasn't published for, or marketed to, children or young adults. That said, we know that teens read a lot of things that wasn't necessarily meant for them. There are awards, too (like the American Library Association's Alex Award) for books regarded as "crossover" ones--which cross over from the adult to the teen market.

Teachers and librarians are asking if Indeh can be used in high school classrooms. Short answer? No.

Generally, reviews on American Indians in Children's Literature are specific to accuracy of content which, in my view, makes them suitable for teachers to use when they develop lessons or select books to read aloud in their classrooms.

The questions I'm getting suggest that teachers wonder if there's enough accuracy in Indeh to use it to teach about the Apache wars. It may also be coming from teachers who know that graphic novels are a hit with teens and that Indeh may work well with teens who are reluctant readers.

Again--my answer is no. It isn't accurate (more on that, later). There's another interesting factor to consider.

As I started reading Indeh, I pulled out the resources I use when doing book reviews. I had Indeh in one window (I use a Kindle app on my computer) and in another window, I had a copy of Geronimo's Story of His Life which was "taken down and edited by S. M. Barrett." He was the Superintendent of Education in Lawton, Oklahoma and the contents of this book were told to him by Geronimo. The first pages in it are devoted to copies of letters that went back and forth between several people involved in authorizing Geronimo to tell his story. It was published in 1906 by Duffield & Company in New York.

Right away, I hit the pause button in my reading. Here's a screen cap comparing the opening lines of Hawke's book (on top), and Barrett's (on the bottom):

This paraphrasing happens in several places in the book. In the afterword, Hawke tells us that Once They Moved Like the Wind by David Roberts inspired him to write Indeh. Though Hawke includes Barrett's book in the "for further reading" section, I think he should have written about Barrett's book in that afterword because of passages like that shown above. This happens later, too. A big deal? Or not?

I'm noting it because--in the afterword--Hawke talks about appropriation (p. 228):
The Apache Wars are a vital part of our American history that needs to be told in a way that honestly appreciates and integrates, rather than appropriates, Native American history.
Hawke's use of the word is odd. What does he mean? I could say that, in using Barrett like he did, he's appropriating Geronimo's words. Is that a form of appropriation?

That said, my primary concern is with the accuracy. First, let's look at what Hawke sets out to do with Indeh.

In his Afterword, Hawke recounts a story from his childhood. His parents had divorced, and his dad took him on a camping trip. They were somewhere near the Arizona/New Mexico border when (p. 227):
An old man waved us down from the center of the two-lane road--the only living thing as far as my eyes could see. I heard him say in an unfamiliar cadence, "You are not supposed to be here."
The old man told them they're lucky it was him that found them (he looked directly at 8-year-old Hawke when he said that, and that old man's eyes stayed with Hawke). Hawke's dad turned the car around. Hawke asked his dad what happened.
My father explained what an Indian reservation was, what an Apache was, how we really shouldn't have been there at all, and how lucky he was not to have gotten his ass kicked.
Hawke asked what the old man meant about them being lucky he's the one who had found them.
My father told me, "Many of the Indians are very angry. And they damn well should be." 
Hawke asks if they're mad at him (he doesn't tell us if his dad responded to that question). From then on, he started buying and reading books about Geronimo, Cochise, Victorio, and Lozen. From those books, he says he saw that
...the cowboy movies I'd always loved took on a different hue. They were full of lies. Those gunfights weren't cool, heroic frays--they were slaughters.
All that made me pause. Hawke was born in 1970. So, he was out there on that two-lane road in 1978. My guess is that they were on either the Fort Apache Reservation, or, on the San Carlos Reservation. Though the reservations are under the jurisdiction of their respective governments, they aren't closed to others. There are times when we close off the roads to outsiders, but that doesn't sound like what happened to Hawke. Who was that old guy?! The "should not have been there" portion of Hawke's story sounds... dramatic. I'm not saying it didn't happen; I'm just wondering who the old guy was. Part of me thinks Hawke and his dad got punked! On the other hand, it is possible that the man was home after having spent time with the Native activists doing activist work at Alcatraz in 1969, at the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices in Washington DC in 1972, or Wounded Knee in 1973.

Anyway, Hawke goes on to talk about his adulthood... working in Alaska with Native actors, and watching Smoke Signals and Powwow Highway, and reading one of Sherman Alexie's books. Hawke writes that (p. 228):
The story [of the Apache wars] needs to be told again and again until the names of Geronimo and Cochise are as familiar to young American ears as Washington and Lincoln.
Can I do a "well, actually" here? I think Geronimo IS one of names Americans -- young and old -- are familiar with. Do you remember that "Geronimo" was the code name the US military used for Bin Laden? Do your kids yell "Geronimo!" when they are doing something they think is courageous?

He, I think, is far more visible than Hawke suggests.

I did a search in WorldCat, using Geronimo, and found 26,964 items in the nonfiction category, which is a lot more than the 9,028 items for Sitting Bull and the 4,669 items for Crazy Horse.  (Note: There are 413,469 items for Washington, and 80,501 items for Lincoln.) In its We Shall Remain series (consisting of 5 episodes), PBS did an entire segment on Geronimo. There are more movies with or about Geronimo than any other Native person. I think he's the most well-known Native person.

Hawke's afterword suggests that his goal, with Indeh, is to tell a story that counters the biased stories and movies he saw as a child. Does he succeed?

Short answer: No. In plain text below are summaries from Indeh. My comments are in italics.

Part One of Hawke's book is called "A Blessing and a Curse." The story opens with Cochise recounting the Apache creation story to his son, Naiches and to Goyahkla (who will later be known by the name, Geronimo), both of whom are young boys. The blessing and curse is Cochise's power to see the future. Cochise tells the boys that their lives will be hard... and then there's an abrupt shift forward in time, to Goyahkla, seventeen years later. He sits in the midst of a massacre. While he and most of the other men were away, trading, Mexican soldiers attacked their camp. Amongst the dead are Goyahkla's mother, his wife (Alope), and their three children. Naiches--who is narrating the story--tells him they can't stay to bury the dead, but Goyahkla doesn't listen to Naiches.

Debbie's comments: Hawke's telling suggests that Naiches is in charge. Barrett says that it is Mangus-Colorado who was in charge and that it was he who said that they had to leave the dead on the field, unburied. Roberts (Hawke's primary source) says it was Mangas. 

In his grief, he remembers when he went to Alope's father to ask if he could marry her. Alope's father asked him for "one hundred ponies" (p. 11). One hundred ponies sounds cool, but I think the "one hundred" is Hawk's flourish. Historians note that Alope's father asked for ponies, but nobody says "one hundred". A small point of inaccuracy? No. When there's such a body of misinformation about someone, it does nobody any good to add to that body of misinformation.

Goyahkla carries Alope's body to their wickiup (in Indeh, the word Hawke uses is "wikiup" which is incorrect). He remembers telling his son a story, and carries his son's body to the wickiup. He remembers his daughter's first menstrual period, and carries her body to the wickiup, too. He lights the wickiup on fire.

Debbie's comments: That is not accurate. They left the bodies and returned to their settlement. There, Goyahkla burned their tipi and all their belongings. That is when he "vowed vengeance upon the Mexican troopers who had wronged me" (Barrett, p. 76).  

Then, Hawke tells us, an eagle appears on top of the wickiup. It tells him that bullets will never hurt him.

Debbie's comments: That did not happen at their camp. 

Naiches and others are on horses, waiting. Goyahkla approaches them, the burning wickiup behind him. His words to them hint at the vengeance he will seek. He tells them he will visit other Apache tribes to ask them to join him in avenging their families. He carries out the visits and gathers others who will fight with them. Naiches hopes that the upcoming battle will give Goyahkla peace.

Debbie's comments: That decision to strike back was made--not by Goyahkla--but by Mangus-Colorado. Goyahkla was appointed to go to the other Apaches and ask them to join them in this battle against Mexico.

In the next panels, Goyahkla leads the others in an attack on a Mexican town. There is one small box of text: "There would be no peace" (p. 34-35) that captures what Naiches thinks their future will be. In the foreground is a young girl falling over, with a spear that has been thrust through her chest. On all fours, a few feet away, is a little boy, with a spear in his back. Naiches looks on Goyahkla and thinks his face tells of a new time for the Apaches. In Goyahkla's face there is no pity as he kills the people of the Mexican village. There are no tears, or regret, or joy. In one panel, a sign reads (p. 38-39):
HOMBRES 5 pesos
MUJERES 3 pesos
NINOS 1 peso

Debbie's comments: That horrific scene is not accurate. I'll say more about that shortly. Regarding the sign, I think "caballeras" is meant to mean warrior. The figures on the sign aren't accurate. Roberts (Hawke's main source) says that the bounty on Apache scalps was 200 pesos for a man, and 150 for a woman or child. Because the sign is an illustration, perhaps the error is Ruth's, not Hawke's. 
The sign is thrust into the chest of a man, lying prone, presumably killed by Goyahkla. Beside his body, Goyahkla is scalping a woman who cries out (p. 38-39):

 "Por favor. Dios me libre!" 

Debbie's comments: Hawke's depiction of this battle, overall, raises many questions. Barrett, Debo, and Roberts (Hawke's primary source) do not write about it the way Hawke does. They write that the attack was against Mexican soldiers (two companies of cavalry and one of infantry)--outside of a Mexican city called Arispe (or Arizpe). 

There was no attack of the kind that Hawke depicts. Rather than bring honesty to this story, Hawke has created violent, brutal, misinformation that he is, in effect, adding to that already huge body of misinformation! At that point in Indeh, I am able to say that teachers cannot---indeed, teachers must not---use this book in a classroom to teach history of the Apache people. 

As Naiches watches Goyahkla in the village, he learns what Goyahkla's new name will be: Geronimo. In the village is a banner that reads "LA FIESTA DE SAN JERONIMO." As Goyahkla moves through the village violently killing Mexicans (he beheads one), some Mexicans call out to San Jeronimo. One of the Apache's calls out to Goyahkla "Santo Geronimo" - and, Hawke tells us, that is how Goyahkla came to be known as Geronimo.

Debbie's comments: In a footnote, Barrett writes that the Mexicans at the battle called him Geronimo but does not offer an explanation. In her book, Debo writes that the Mexicans in that battle may have been trying to say his given name (Goyahkla) and that it came out sounding as if they were saying "Geronimo" or that they were calling out to St. Jerome.   

My primary concern is about accuracy. 

There's some small problems with inaccurate information in Part I of Hawke's graphic novel. Of utmost significance, however, is his misrepresentation of the fight that took place after his family was murdered by Mexican soldiers. Hawke's depiction is inaccurate, and it flies in the face of what I understand of Hawke's goal. It seems to me he wanted to correct the narrative of Apache's as blood thirsty savages (my words, not his), but he does the opposite. He affirms existing stereotypes and misinformation, and adds to the image of Geronimo as a savage. The information he passes along is not in his primary source, or in those that are more widely read (some are on his list of further readings). Why did Hawke do this?! 

Bottom line? 
I do not recommend Indeh for use in classrooms. 

A colleague, Dr. Laura Jimenez, reviewed Indeh, too. She studies graphic novels. See her review

Sources I used include:

Barrett, S. M. (1906). Geronimo's Story of His Life. New York: Duffield & Co.
Debo, Angie. (1976). Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place. University of Oklahoma Press.
Roberts, David. (1994). Once They Moved Like the Wind: Cochise, Geronimo, and the Apache Wars. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Utley, Robert M. (2012). Geronimo. New Haven: Yale University Press. 

1 Comments on Not recommended: INDEH: A STORY OF THE APACHE WARS by Ethan Hawke and Greg Ruth, last added: 12/29/2016
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14. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 13 – 2016 Books with a Message


Awkward title on today’s post. “Books With a Message”. Be a lot cleaner if I just said “Didactic Books” or “Books That Try to Teach You Something.” No . . . no . . . that’s worse. I think you get the general gist of what I’m going for, though. Today we’re highlighting books that do something inordinately difficult, and do it well.  There are few things worse to read than preachy children’s books that thwap young readers over the heads with whatever message it is that they’re trying to impart.  Picture books teach and inspire, but to do so they must be smart and subtle and, above all, well-written.  All the more reason to highlight and celebrate those 2016 books that have done just that.  Done poorly and these books would be unreadable.  As it stands, I consider them important works.  Some would be considered bibliotherapy.  Others just help parents walk their kids through tough concepts.  All are of note.

2016 Message Books

Beautiful by Stacy McAnulty, ill. Joanne Lew-Vriethoff


Topic: Self-esteem, feminism, gender norms

You ever pick up a book and then find yourself uttering a sigh of relief midway through when it turns out it’s actually really good?  That was my experience with McAnulty and Lew-Vriethoff’s latest.  It sets up expectations by stating the stereotypical definition of what makes a girl “beautiful” and then uses its art to rend that assumption asunder.  It’s a lot of fun and far better than a lot of those tired “girl power” books we used to drown in.  Truly a beautiful book.

Big Bob, Little Bob by James Howe, ill. Laura Ellen Anderson


Topic: Gender norms

Man.  I love this book.  In fact, when someone was asking me for a readalike to something like William’s Doll I was quick to mention it.  And talk about upsetting expectations!  In this book a boy who loves stereotypical boy things (Big Bob) moves next door to a boy who likes things like dolls and dressing up (Little Bob).  In a nice twist, Big Bob never berates Little Bob for his choices.  No, that job goes to a girl who also moves in nearby and who sees it as her job to reinforce gender norms.  I know that girl.  I’ve seen her at work at my kids’ daycares (and believe me, it is 80% of the time a girl and not a boy doing this).  The happy ending of this book is satisfying.  Little wonder.  In case you missed it that’s author James Howe at the helm.

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts, ill. Noah Z. Jones


Topic: Economic disparity

Because books about kids that have less money than their classmates tend to be overly simplified, it’s hard to find any that present their problems realistically.  This book is one of the very few.  Ruben doesn’t have a bike.  Sergio does.  And, as a result, Sergio really and truly doesn’t understand why Ruben’s parents don’t just buy a bike for him for his upcoming birthday.  When Ruben sees a woman drop some money he has a bit of a crises of conscience.  Boelts does a fine and dandy job with this.  It would have been so easy to reward Ruben at the end of the book with his own bike after all, but that’s not how the world works, kiddos.  It’s hard to end a book on an upbeat note when your characters don’t attain their hearts’ desires, but somehow Boelts manages it.

Bingo Did It by Amber Harris, ill. Ard Hoyt


Topic: Lying, taking responsibility for your actions

To my mind, you can never have enough books on your shelves about taking responsibility for your own actions.  I wasn’t so sure about this one when I picked it up, but it won me over.

Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, ill. Charlotte Pardi


Topic: Death

We may have mentioned this in passing when we were talking about notable imports in 2016.  Death has a tendency to be presented with a great deal of serenity when Europeans talk about it.  It’s a natural part of life, but the U.S. market isn’t quite ready to deal with it quite as regularly as other places.

Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham


Topic: Death

And speaking of death, welcome to one of my favorite books of 2016.  My sole regret is that I wasn’t alerted to its existence until much later in the year.  No matter!  I would go so far as to say that of all the books on this list, this is the one that every single library out there should own.  It smashes weak explanations and eviscerates the hemming and hawing that accompanies a death in the family.  And it’s funny.  So, pretty much, the whole package.

Elliot by Julie Pearson, ill. Manon Gauthier


Topic: Foster homes, adoption, autism spectrum

Earlier in the year I reviewed this book.  Since it’s unlike any other on your shelves, it can be difficult figuring out where to put it.  In my library, we cataloged it in the parenting section of the children’s room.  There it will remain, until it is checked out to help some child realize why their siblings might have multiple issues to work out (and that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel).

French Toast by Kari-Lynn Winters, ill. Francois Thisdale


Topic: Racism, self-esteem

Picture books rarely confront racism straight on, but when they do the result is often impressive.  Here, a bi-racial girl takes a name thrown at her and makes it a point of pride.  With the help of someone older and wise, of course.  Naturally.

Home at Last by Vera B. Williams, ill. Chris Raschka


Topic: Same-sex families, abandonment, adoption

My God.  What a good book.  We’ve come a long long ways since the days of Heather Has Two Mommies.  For a long time we’ve had books with same sex parents where the two of them are perfect parents.  Well, say goodbye to that idea!  The dads in this book are deeply caring individuals who would do anything to make their new son, Lester, happy.  Unfortunately he has a tendency to get up in the middle of the night.  The moment when one of his dad’s just breaks down and yells was so real I felt I knew these guys.  It’s one of the reasons that, in terms of the writing, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read, daring to turn a gay couple into real human beings on the page.

I Have Cerebral Palsy by Mary Beth Springer


Topic: Cerebral palsy

When you are a children’s librarian and you have absolutely nothing on your shelves on a given topic, you find yourself grasping at straws.  You’ll buy any schlock, just so long as it fills those gaps.  That’s why it can be a real relief when you get a book like this one.  Sydney’s story is told in simple language that’s easy for kids to understand.  It’s straightforward, fun, and not a topic we hear a lot about in a given day/month/year.  Highly recommended.

I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail


Topic: Gender norms, feminism

This girl is continually called a boy because she likes to do many of the things that boys do.  Does she accept that?  She does NOT!  A good book if you want your kid to follow her example.

Jenny & Her Dog Both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring by Jewel Kats, ill. Claudia Marie Lenart


Topic: Cancer

I’ve seen a lot of books about what to do when a parent or grandparent has cancer.  Not a ton about kids with cancer.  Lenart’s art in this book is the true showstopper, though Kats’s writing does a good job as well.  You know me.  You know I have a low tolerance for books that don’t live up to their highest potential, and I tell you now that this book is worth owning in your library.

Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana, ill. Francisco Javier Olea


Topic: Moving

It strikes me as a little odd that I didn’t see more books about moving this year.  Without being depressing, this book adeptly captures the sorrow a kid can feel when their best friend goes away.

Little Brother Pumpkin Head by Lucia Panzieri, ill. Samantha Enria


Topic: New baby

Sure, we’ve long since left Halloween behind.  But this fun story of a boy coming to terms with his new little brother, and then doing what he can to make the kid happy, is lovely.

Luis Paints the World by Terry Farish, ill. Oliver Dominguez


Topic: Military families, urban renewal

I can be forgiven for occasionally getting this mixed up with Maybe Something Beautiful.  That said, the book is an excellent choice for military brats.  Here you have a kid carrying on as well as possible when his brother leaves to serve in the armed forces.  Considering how many military families visit libraries these days, it would be nice to have something they can relate to.

Manners Are Not for Monkeys by Heather Tekavec, ill. David Huyck


Topic: Manners

Hope you like surprise endings, cause this one’s clearly a doozy.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, ill. Rafael Lopez


Topic: Urban renewal

With the extra added perk of being based (to some extent) on a true story.

My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison


Topic: Bullying

At some point here Hannah E. Harrison is going to start coming into her own.  Few artists are quite so adept at animal feelings.  This is a very realistic bullying situation too.  Just a remarkable book through and through.

Newspaper Hats by Phil Cummings, ill. Owen Swan


Topic: Dementia

I was going to say the topic was “Alzheimers” but that’s never made explicit in the text.  For kids who have to visit older relatives that have “good” and “bad” days, this is a perfect book.  It begins with the kid asking if her grandfather will recognize her that day.  And he never does.  Do you know how much guts it takes to write something like that.  You go, Phil Cummings!

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, ill. Christian Robinson


Topic: First day of school

I’m calling it: My favorite first day of school book of all time.  Throw in that towel now.

Somebody Cares: A Guide for Kids Who Have Experienced Neglect by Susan Farber Straus, ill. Claire Keay


Topic: Child abuse/neglect

A typical children’s librarian will see a lot of these books in a given year.  How many of them are actually good, though?  I can say with certainty that this is the first I’ve seen to pinpoint neglect.  And while it’ll never win any lofty literary awards, it does a truly excellent job at confronting a very big problem.  This book could be a real help to a child.  It does its job.

Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy, ill. Wing Young Huie


Topic: Immigration

Did you ever see that episode of “Master of None” where Aziz Ansari and his friend complain about their immigrant parents and then find out what they’ve been through in the past?  I love that episode.  It reminded me a lot of this book.  Too often kids are taught that immigration is historical.  They have no clue that immigrants come to this country every single day.  This book makes it clear and the photographs are fantastic.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, ill. Mike Curato


Topic: Gender fluid

Boy, this could have gone any number of different ways.  In this story, two worms that doesn’t identify with one gender or another fall in love.  When they attempt to marry a bunch of other critters try to slot the into preexisting norms.  Which, I might add, they reject with a great deal of style.  Beloved for a reason.


Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


4 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day 13 – 2016 Books with a Message, last added: 12/14/2016
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15. Music and Songs From ‘Moana’ Getting Heavy Push Online

Several songs from "Moana" can now be re-lived online, as part of the Disney's strategy to promote the film and boost visibility during awards season.

The post Music and Songs From ‘Moana’ Getting Heavy Push Online appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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16. Two Big Surprises And One Big Snub In The Golden Globes Animation Nominees

The Golden Globes animation category is much more interesting than we thought it would be!

The post Two Big Surprises And One Big Snub In The Golden Globes Animation Nominees appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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17. TwoPoints.Net

Two Points

Founded by Lupi Asensio and Martin Lorenz, TwoPoints.Net is a design studio known for their flexible visual identities (FVI). Rather than being static and repetitive, the studio believes that an identity system should be adaptable. This can easily be seen in their work for ADI’s Delta Awards. Using a series of icons, they created a versatile system that could be incorporated into the event’s branding, typeface, and awards.

Two Points’ appreciation for the efficiency of FVIs also fueled the studio to develop a program that helps their clients create designs on their own. While working with Tonangeber, a website for sharing playlists, Two Points created “supertool” — a program that guides DJs through the design process while maintaining the constraints of Tonangeber’s identity system.







Also worth viewing:

Michael Spitz
Studio Beige
Anymade Studio

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18. 31 Days, 31 Lists: 2013 International Imports for Kids

31daysI know it gets confusing but this list is a bit different from the Calde-not list from a couple days ago.  The reason is simple.  While the Calde-not list looks primarily at books with illustrations so distinguished they could easily win major illustration awards if given half a chance, this is list is more for those books that may not blow you away on a first glance, but that make our publishing landscape richer for their very existence.  I was inordinately pleased after I read each and every one of these books.  They’re a little peculiar, distinctly different from what you’ll find in the American market, and altogether remarkable.


2016 International Imports for Kids

Picture Books

Chirri & Chirra by Yuki Kaneko


Sweet and dreamlike, this Japanese import has a light and sweetness to it that will simultaneously make it deeply beloved in a few select homes, while also not drawing so much attention to itself that it ever becomes much more than a cult hit in the States.  Do yourself a favor and discover it.  It’s the kind of book you want to influence the dreams of your children with.

Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, ill. By Charlotte Pardi


This Danish import just reminds us that when it comes to poetic picture books about death, American just don’t deal very well.  Our death books tend to either be straightforward guides (here’s what to expect, etc.) or complete and utter fanciful metaphors.  This book feels like it’s both fable and straightforward talk.  A rare thing.

The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, ill. Guridi


Kirkus didn’t get it. SLJ did.  In this story a boy falls in love with a bird-loving girl.  To get her attention he constructs an elaborate bird costume.  Make of that what you will.

Don’t Cross the Line! by Bernardo P. Caravalho, ill. Isavel Martins


Portugal!  And an interesting book at that.  This one combines the interactive qualities of something like Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus or Press Here with a political statement about thwarting unjust authority.  This book may get a bit more play in the coming years.

Look Up by Jung Jin-Ho


I love this one since it confronts and rearranges the reading experience and expectations of children.  Add in the fact that it stars a girl in a wheelchair (who is not solely defined as a person from that chair) and you’ve got a golden book on your hands.

My Baby Crocodile by Gaetan Doremus


Funny story. I cannot read this book without setting it to the tune of “My Funny Valentine”. I suspect that this is because the two phrases share the same number of syllables more than anything else, but maybe it also has to do with the strange nature of love celebrated in this book.  The story is between a near-sighted crocodile that “adopts” a knight, thinking he’s a baby croc.  It’s odd and sweet and strange and funny.  Memorable too.

A Promise Is a Promise by Knister, ill. Eve Tharlet


I found this one interesting perhaps because of the deep-seated feeling of betrayal our hero suffers in the course of things.  It’s a very childlike understanding of an impossible promise and I like how it’s handled.  A book that belies its cutesy cover.

Undercover by Bastien Contraire


I absolutely adore this book.  It’s a story where you have to spot the thing that doesn’t match.  Contraire, living up to his name, doesn’t make it easy on you, though.  The cover alone should be enough to prove that to you.

What Color Is the Wind? By Anne Herbauts


I’ve already reviewed it but if you somehow missed mention of this marvelous books about blindness and tactile response, now’s the time.  You won’t find anything else like it on the market today.

Why Am I Here? by Constance Orbeck-Nilssen, ill. Akin Duzakin


Big questions for little brains.  I like this one a lot.  Lemur or not lemur.

Middle Grade

The Birth of Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki


Honestly the backmatter explaining the entire history of the yokai in Japanese history and literature is some of the most fascinating stuff here.  In a way, this book reads like what would have happened if Quasimodo turned into a superhero rather than a bell fantastic.  I loved the peculiar (to me) nature of the storylines, the characters, and particularly the creatures.

The Heartless Troll by Oyvind Torseter


The troll is, without a doubt, one of the most horrific renderings I’ve seen in a children’s book in a long time.  Which is to say – it’s awesome!  Definitely hand this to older kids, but appreciate it on your own when you get a chance.  As graphic novels go, there are few things to compare it to.

Under Earth / Under Water by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski


This Polish import is fantastic.  There was a book of maps that came out from this couple previously.  I’m not as big a fan of those, but what I am a fan of is learning about all that goes on below.  Good times.


And just a quick shout-out to the Candied Plums titles that aren’t online yet.  These are the real deal.  I just adore them:

  • Little Rabbit’s Questions by Dayong Gan, translated by Helen Wang (978194529270 – www.candiedplums.com)
  • Picking Turnips by Xu Zhou, translated by Adam Lanphier (9781945295263 – www.candiedplums.com)
  • Who Wants Candied Hawberries? by Dongni Bao, ill. Di Wu, translated by Adam Lanphier

Interested in the other lists of the month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


0 Comments on 31 Days, 31 Lists: 2013 International Imports for Kids as of 12/14/2016 5:14:00 AM
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19. ‘The Jungle Book’ Wins Best VFX, ‘Zootopia’ Best Animated Feature At Critics’ Choice Awards

"The Jungle Book" and "Zootopia" were recognized tonight by the Critics' Choice Awards.

The post ‘The Jungle Book’ Wins Best VFX, ‘Zootopia’ Best Animated Feature At Critics’ Choice Awards appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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20. ‘My Life As A Zucchini’ Wins Best Animated Feature at European Film Awards

A big win for one of the finest animated features of 2016.

The post ‘My Life As A Zucchini’ Wins Best Animated Feature at European Film Awards appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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21. 2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Design & Illustration Books

Grain Edit's 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Here it is! Our annual Design Book Gift Guide! In this list, we’ve compiled our favorite titles from the past year. We hope this helps you find the perfect gift for your loved ones this holiday season.



Graphic Stamps book

Graphic Stamps book

Graphic Stamps book

Graphic Stamps book

Graphic Stamps: The miniature beauty of postage stamps
Editors: Tony Brook & Adrian Shaughnessy
Stamps selected by Iain Follet & Blair Thomson
Essay: Mark Sinclair
Published by Unit Editions
328 Pages

The Archive Series is a bibliographic celebration of graphic design archives and collections. The first title in the new series is devoted to the design of postage stamps. Sourced from the collections of stamp design experts Iain Follett and Blair Thomson, the book celebrates the brilliance of postage stamp design from around the world.

Available at Unit Editions

Karel Martens

By Karel Martens
Published by Roma Publications
48 pages

This artist publication contains a sequence of unique letterpress monoprints, made by Karel Martens between 2014 and 2016, reproduced at actual size (except for two larger prints). It is available in two different cover versions which is the result of a printing experiment by printing all the content of the book in 3 layers on one print sheet, which was cut and folded into two different covers.

Available at Roma Publications, Amazon, and your local bookshop.

Hall of Femmes Barbara Stauffacher Solomon

Hall of Femmes: Barbara Stauffacher Solomon
By Hall of Femmes AKA Samira Bouabana and Angela Tillman Sperandio
Published by Hall of Femmes

A Hall of Femmes book about Californian Supergraphics pioneer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon was the first to create what came to be known as Supergraphics: monumental graphics designed in harmony with architecture. Her iconic style – mixing Swiss Modernism and West Coast Pop – pioneered the look of California Cool, an important moment in graphic design history.

In addition to an impressive portfolio, she boasts a fascinating life story. Ranging from being a teenage flamenco dancer, to marrying a well-known film director, to suddenly finding herself a young widow with a child to support. At a crossroads, she moves to Switzerland to study under the influential modernist designer Armin Hofmann, before returning to the U.S and creating influential designs that were bigger and bolder than her Swiss counterparts.

Coming Soon.

Official Symbol of The American Revolution Bicentennial: Guidelines for Authorized Usage; Official Graphics Standards Manual

Official Symbol of The American Revolution Bicentennial: Guidelines for Authorized Usage; Official Graphics Standards Manual
Designed By Bruce Blackburn
Published by Standards Manual
52 pages + 8 panel jacket

The 1976 American Revolution Bicentennial symbol was the logo for America’s 200th birthday party and a precursor to the NASA logo that Bruce Blackburn would design in 1974.

This edition is a perfect facsimile of the original, wrapped in a black jacket with a foil stamped foreword from Bruce Blackburn and an essay from Christopher Bonanos. The first 1,976 copies are limited edition, featuring a hand-placed original bicentennial post stamp from ’76.

Available at Standards Manual and your local bookshop.

Design by WangZhiHong.com

Design By Wangzhihong.com
By Wang Zhi-Hong
Published by Faces Publications and Cité Publishing
504 pages

Design By Wangzhihong.com is a collection of the work of one of Taiwan’s top book designers, Wang Zhi-Hong. From typography manuals to Albert Einstein’s Ideas and Opinions, Wang has tackled a range of translated volumes for Asia’s book market. Often employing geometric illustrations and minimal layouts, his work is clean, bold, and intriguing. His approach has earned him international recognition including six of Taiwan’s Golden Butterfly Awards, Kasai Kaoru’s Choice Award, and Excellent Works from the Tokyo Type Directors Club.

Available at Cité Publishing and your local bookshop.

The Brutal World

This Brutal World
By Peter Chadwick
Published by Phaidon Press
224 pages

A curated collection of some of the most powerful and awe-inspiring Brutalist architecture ever built. This Brutal World is a global survey of this compelling and much-admired style of architecture. It brings to light virtually unknown Brutalist architectural treasures from across the former eastern bloc and other far flung parts of the world.

Available at Amazon and your local bookshop.

Mapping Graphic Design History In Switzerland 470

Mapping Graphic Design History in Switzerland
Edited By Rober Lzicar and Davide Fornari
Published by Triest Verlag für Architektur
328 pages

This volume presents eleven original essays on the production, mediation and consumption of graphic design artifacts and processes, as well as their respective discourses, by authors from the German, French and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland.

Mapping Graphic Design History in Switzerland discusses theoretical and methodological approaches for historical research on graphic design; helps to establish graphic design history as an academic field in Switzerland; and aims to make this discourse accessible to researchers and professional graphic designers in Switzerland and abroad.

The texts are illustrated with around 100 color and largely unpublished images. In addition to the academic texts, the publications contains three visual essays on the history of graphic design in Switzerland, as well as an extensive list of literature and other references.

Includes an epilogue and prologue by the editors and contributions by Constance Delamadeleine, Davide Fornari, Roland Früh, Invar-Torre Hollaus, Barbara Junod, Leslie Kennedy, Robert Lzicar, Corina Neuenschwander, Franziska Nyffenegger, François Rappo, Michael Renner, Bettina Richter, Teal Triggs, Amanda Unger, Peter Vetter. With visual essays designed by Diana Iennaco, Marina Prado and Leonardo Signori

Available at Draw DownAmazon, and your local bookshop.

Alain Grée

Alain Grée: Works by the French Illustrator from the 1960s-70s
By Alain Grée
Published by PIE International
224 pages

This is the very first art collection title introducing his beautiful illustrations selected mainly from his work during the 1960s and 1970s. More than 200 art works are showcased, some of which are only available today in antique books. In addition, this title features Grée’s original paintings, rough sketches and interviews. This is a treasured collection for adults who have grown up with Grée’s books, who will recall their own childhood days, as well as a good reference for those studying illustration.

Available at Counter-PrintAmazon, and your local bookshop.

Explorations in Typography

Explorations in Typography (Second Edition)
By Carolina de Bartolo with Stephen Coles and Erik Spiekermann
Published by 101 Editions

A brand new edition of Explorations in Typography is now available. It has been revised and expanded to include more typesetting examples and more typefaces as well as a visual index of page layouts and grids. Along with the same excerpt from Erik Spiekermann used in the first edition, this edition also features the writing of Stephen Coles who composed all new typeface descriptions and an index of alternates for each that are low-cost or free for educational use.

Available at 101 Editions and your local bookshop.

British Rail Corporate Identity Manual

The British Rail Corporate Identity Manual
Created and edited by Wallace Henning
Published by Henning Limited
472 pages

Leaves on the lines, the wrong kind of snow, and soggy stale sandwiches never really helped British Rail become a brand that was truly loved by the nation. Yet, in 2011 the readers of Creative Review voted British Rail’s ‘double arrow’ as their sixth favourite logo.

This book celebrates the British Rail Corporate Identity in its entirety – not only it’s distinctive symbol but it’s full graphic design programme, from detailed specimens of the famous Rail Alphabet typeface to the livery of the Inter-City 125. With full agreement from the Department of Transport – this iconic manual initially created in 1965 have been published as a new, high specification book.

The nature of the ring binder system used to hold the individual Sheets of the original Manual has meant most, or quite possibly all sets of the Manual were never complete. This publication is the only printed full collection of the British Rail Corporate Identity Manual. Outside of museums, archives and private collections, this is only physical form of the Manual.
Foreword by Michael C Place, Creative Director and Founder of Build. Introduction by Tony Howard, former Head of Design at British Rail.

Available at British Rail Manual and your local bookshop.

Oldrich Hlavsa

Jde o To Aby O Neco Slo Oldrich Hlavsa

Jde o To Aby O Neco Slo Oldrich Hlavsa

Jde O To, Aby O Něco Šlo
Typograf Oldřich Hlavsa

By Barbora Toman Tylová
Published in 2015 by Akropolis Publishing House in cooperation with Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague
592 pages

For the first time, a publication summarizes the extensive graphic works of an author, whose work is an important chapter in the history of Czech graphic design of the late 20th century.

In his works, Oldrich Hlavsa (1909 – 1995) focuses especially on the typographic design of books. With the number of designed books, amounting nearly two thousand, he significantly formed the view on creation, function, and purpose of books. He is a follower of Czech avantgarde, works of Karel Teige and Ladislav Sutnar, but through his typographic work the constructional and functional elements get a new meaning.

He left a deep imprint on the history of graphic design with his four publications about fonts, illustration, and books.

His Typograficka pisma latinkova was published in 1957, followed by its English translation A Book of Type and Design published three years later. Three volumes of Typographie were published in 1976, 1981 and 1986. Oldrich Hlavsa was a member of a number of international applied graphic art institutions and committees, he took an active part in work of various international book culture and typography juries; he presented his work both at home and abroad. The quality of his work repeatedly received many local and international awards. For many years, he would take the top places at the competition for the most beautiful Czechoslovak book, and in 1991, he received the prestigious Gutenberg prize of Leipzig, as recognition of his extraordinary lifetime work in book art.

The extensive monograph starts with studies of Barbora Toman Tylova, Jan Rous, and Iva Knoblochova. The following pictorial part describes the essential milestones of Hlavsa’s innovative and unique art work, which is relatively and comprehensively described in the bibliography of Hlavsa’s book and magazine work. The publication is accompanied by a summary of Hlavsa’s theoretical articles, interviews, and reviews of his work, and Hlavsa’s correspondence with reputable Czech and foreign figures in the 20th century design (L. Sutnar, A. Frutiger, H. Zapf).

Available at OldrichHalvasa.ch and your local bookshop.

Postage Stamp Designs – From Kafka to Loriot

Postage Stamp Designs – From Kafka to Loriot
By Hans Günter Schmitz
Published by Niggli Verlag
160 pages

The world’s first official postage stamp was issued in May 1840: the legendary “One Penny Black” with the profile of the Queen of England. The new payment system in the field of logistics by Sir Rowland Hill quickly gained hold all around the world. For the first time, this publication discusses the significance and functions of postage stamps as prominently visible elements of communication design.

The expressiveness inherent in the small-sized images and the very peculiar and heterogeneous mage vocabulary of this medium of mass culture is analyzed based on more than 40 designs by Hans Günter Schmitz. The book also presents concepts that were not implemented, in addition to sketches, studies, and variations – from Adenauer to the film festival Berlinale, from a mathematicians’ congress to the famous Wuppertal suspension railway.

Available at Niggli VerlagAmazon, and your local bookshop.


Draplin Design Co.: Pretty Much Everything
By Aaron James Draplin
Published by Harry N. Abrams
256 pages

Esquire. Ford Motors. Burton Snowboards. The Obama Administration. While all of these brands are vastly different, they share at least one thing in com­mon: a teeny, little bit of Aaron James Draplin. Draplin is one of the new school of influential graphic designers who combine the power of design, social media, entrepreneurship, and DIY aesthetic to create a successful business and way of life.

Pretty Much Everything is a mid-career survey of work, case studies, inspiration, road stories, lists, maps, how-tos, and advice. It includes examples of his work—posters, record covers, logos—and presents the process behind his design with projects like Field Notes and the “Things We Love” State Posters. Draplin also offers valuable advice and hilarious commentary that illustrates how much more goes into design than just what appears on the page. With Draplin’s humor and pointed observations on the contemporary design scene, Draplin Design Co. is the complete package for the new generation of designers.

Available at Amazon and your local bookshop.

NASA Graphics Manual

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Graphics Standards Manual
Designed by Richard Danne & Bruce Blackburn
Published by Standards Manual
220 Pages

The NASA Graphics Standards Manual by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn is a futuristic vision for an agency at the cutting edge of science and exploration.

The book features a foreword by Richard Danne, an essay by Christopher Bonanos, scans of the original manual (from Danne’s personal copy), reproductions of the original NASA 35mm slide presentation, and scans of the ‘Managers Guide’, a follow up booklet distributed by NASA.

Available at Standards Manual, Counter-Print, and your local bookshop.

Ghost Book illustratus

Ghost Book

Ghost Book

Ghost Book

Written by Blaise Hemingway and Jesse Reffsin and illustrated by Chris Sasaki and Jeff Turley
Published by Illustratus

Ghost is a chilling new collection of short stories from a team of writers and illustrators with roots at Pixar, Disney and Paramount. Produced by Illustratus, Ghost marks the studio’s first foray into publishing. If the book is indicative of future releases, then they are off to a very good start. Sizing in at 9.25” x 12”, this mighty tome (or should I say tomb?) contains 13 hair-raising vignettes told through the voice of a reclusive groundskeeper. In each tale, the author meticulously summons the spirit of campfire nights of a youthful past through vivid storytelling that is equally engaging as it is terrifying. Interacting with and shaping the words are a series of dense and haunting visuals. Employing snow-bleached landscapes, speckled textures and muted tones, the images take on an ephemeral and otherworldly quality. The end result is aesthetically stunning and will serve as a worthy benchmark for a new generation of ghost stories.

Available at Illustratus and your local bookshop.


Ben Bos book

Ben Bos book

Ben Bos book

Ben Bos book

Ben Bos book

Ben Bos book

Ben Bos book

TD 63-73: Total Design and its pioneering role in graphic design (Expanded Edition) 
By Ben Bos / Edited by Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy / Design by Spin
Published by Unit Editions
520 Pages

Total Design began in Amsterdam in 1963. Ben Bos joined the founders (Wim Crouwel, Benno Wissing, Friso Kramar and the Schwarz Brothers) from the outset. Together and individually, they set new benchmarks for typography, identity design, cultural design, exhibition design and product design. These benchmarks have rarely, if ever, been surpassed.

The expanded edition of TD 63-73 is a unique insider’s account of Total Design’s golden period. It contains hundreds of images from the TD archive, and in Ben Bos’s text the reader is given a personal history of a design group that remains as important today as it did when it launched in 1963.

Expanding on this original edition, this new edition features an updated and extended text by Ben Bos that looks beyond 1973, as well as many previously unseen images from his personal archive.

Available at Unit Editions

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic - Polish Designers

Very Graphic: Polish Designers of the 20th Century
Edited with introduction by Jacek Mrowczyk. Preface by Piotr Rypson, Krzysztof Lenk, Agata Szydowska.
Published by Culture PL
448 Pages

VeryGraphic: Polish Designers of the 20th Century is the first comprehensive history of Polish graphic design. The book showcases its immense and diverse legacy, from the world-renowned Polish Poster school to the lesser-known achievements of artists in the field of applied graphic design, including books and covers, typography and lettering, logos and visual identification as well as packaging. Chronologically detailing the work of over 60 of the most prominent Polish designers, the volume offers a review of Polish graphic design unprecedented in its scope. The cover of each copy is hand-painted, rendering it a truly one-of-a-kind object.

Available at Amazon, artbook.com and your local book shop.

The Music Library records

The Music Library records

The Music Library records

The Music Library records

The Music Library: Revised and Expanded Edition
By Jonny Trunk / Published by Fuel
248 Pages

This new and expanded edition of The Music Library contains twice the content of the original book, featuring 625 rare sleeves from 230 music library companies of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s. The amazing cover designs of over 100 newly discovered library albums are beautifully reproduced (alongside all the sleeves contained in the first book) and accompanied by exhaustive, updated captions.

Available at Amazon, artbook.com and your local book shop.

The ABC of Custom Lettering

The ABC of Custom Lettering

The ABC of Custom Lettering

The ABC of Custom Lettering:A Practical Guide to Drawing Letters
By Ivan Castro / Introduction by Ken Barber of House Industries
Published by Korero
140 Pages

This practical and inspirational workbook features easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for hand drawing a range of letterforms, from Modern Roman and Gothic through to Latin, Script, and Interlocked. Offering traditional instruction methods with a modern twist, this reference also comes with gallery sections for inspiration and accompanying projects to practice your technique.

Available at Amazon and your local book shop.

Design for People - Scott Stowell

Design for People - Scott Stowell

Design for People – Stories About How (and Why) We All Can Work Together to Make Things Better
Edited by Chappell Ellison, Bryn Smith, Scott Stowell. Introduction by Karrie Jacobs. Foreword by Douglass G.A. Scott. Text by Wynton Marsalis.
Published by Metropolis Books
256 Pages

Most design books focus on outcome rather than on process. Scott Stowell’s Design for People is groundbreaking in its approach to design literature. Focusing on 12 design projects by Stowell’s design firm, Open, the volume offers a sort of oral history as told by those involved with each project–designers, clients, interns, collaborators and those who interact with the finished product on a daily basis.

Available at Amazon, artbook.com and your local book shop.




Min: The New Simplicity in Graphic Design
By Stuart Tolley
Published by Thames & Hudson
288 Pages

As creatives take contemporary design in fresh and exciting directions, they are also waving goodbye to the ornate patterns that have saturated our visual culture for the past decade.

MIN is the first thorough look at this rebirth of simplicity in graphic design. It showcases around 150 outstanding minimalist designers working across a wide range of formats and media – from independent magazines and album covers to corporate identity and branding.

Available at Amazon, Thames & Hudson and your local book shop






Max Bill
Published by Fundacion Juan March
Edited by Manuel Fontán del Junco, María Toledo.
Text by Karin Gimmi, Jakob Bill, Manuel Fontán del Junco, Neus Moyano, Fernando Marzá, María Amalia García, Gillermo Zuaznabar.
352 Pages

This gorgeously designed, hefty volume—the most thorough Bill overview ever published in English, and the only monograph in print—presents Bill’s oeuvre both chronologically and thematically, across every facet of his multifaceted oeuvre: painting, graphic art, sculpture, architecture, book and magazine design, industrial and furniture design, graphic design and advertising typography—from large-format posters to small inserts in periodicals—as well as his designs for exhibition spaces.

Available at Amazon and artbook.com








Herb Lubalin: Typographer
Editors: Adrian Shaughnessy & Tony Brook
Published by Unit Editions
208 Pages

Herb Lubalin claimed not to be a great typographer. ‘In fact,’ he said, ‘I’m terrible, because I don’t follow the rules.’ This new book proves the opposite. On every page it features Lubalin’s typographic genius (logos, layouts, lettering and typefaces), and places him at the forefront of 20th century typographic innovation.

Available at Unit Editions and your local bookshop.








Alexander Girard: A Designer’s Universe
Published by Vitra Design Museum
Edited by Mateo Kries, Jochen Eisenbrand.
Text by Susan Brown, Jochen Eisenbrand, Barbara Hauss, Alexandra Lange, Monica Obniski, Jonathan Olivares.
512 Pages

Alexander Girard was one of the most important modern textile artists and interior designers of the 20th century. He combined Pop and Folk art influences to create a colorfully opulent aesthetic language whose impact continues to be felt today. This richly illustrated catalogue draws on the vast holdings in Girard’s private estate, which were exhaustively investigated for the first time at the Vitra Design Museum. The book presents the oeuvre of the multitalented designer in all its facets, while offering the first scholarly, critical examination of his work.

Available at Amazon, artbook.com and your local book shop.

justin kerr - how to write an email

How to Write an Email
By Justin Kerr
Published by Extracurricular Press
109 Pages

The biggest mistake new employees make in the corporate world is thinking that hard work is what leads to success. The reality is that some basic and often overlooked behaviors are the real keys to thriving in the workplace. Part survival guide, part corporate myth-buster, How to write an email shows you how to raise your profile and make the most of your time in any organization.

Available at Amazon, Extracurricular Press and your local book shop.

Action Time Vision

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22. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Nine – 2016 Picture Book Reprints

31daysSometimes I talk about how books with illustrators from countries other than America get a bum rap because there are so few awards that they can win.  And this isn’t untrue, but there are a couple lists that give them their due.  There’s the New York Times Best Illustrated list, and the Society of Illustrators show with all the awards inherent therein.  There’s the Batchelder Award (sorta) and all those Best of the Year lists the review journals put out.

Pity then the picture book reprint.  There is no award for a reprint.  No best of list will tend to display such books.  They are often lovely, but they rarely go viral.  Perhaps there will be a crew of stalwart fans that cheer such a book’s reappearance, but no one ever gets rich off of picture book reprints.

Today, I sing the praises of those reprints.  I’ve seen a lot of them this year, and these are the standouts.  A truly lovely creation, each and every one.  Your bookshelves will be richer for having them.

2016 Picture Book Reprints

The Brownstone by Paula Scher, ill. Stan Mack


I’m so pleased that this book comes first alphabetically on today’s list.  I was completely unaware of the existence of this book, to say nothing of Paula Scher or Stan Mack, until it was reprinted.  It’s marvelous!  Each denizen of an apartment bugs another one, so they keep switching apartments around like mad.  It’s basically a lower stakes version of the old fox/chicken/bag of grain riddle.  Did I mention it was charming?  It’s charming.

Colors by John J. Reiss


I’m switching it up.  I put one of the Reiss reprints in the reprinted board book selection.  Now I’m putting this one into the reprinted picture book section.  Fair’s fair, and all the books in this series are lovely and deserving of praise.

Do You Hear What I Hear? by Helen Borten


Add this one to your collection of picture books about the five senses.  Borten tackles sound in this book through a variety of creative methods.  Though this book came out in the 1960s, it still feels pretty darn fresh when you read it through.

Fletcher and Zenobia by Victoria Chess and Edward Gorey, ill. Victoria Chess


No, your eyes do not deceive you.  That’s Victoria Chess pairing with Edward Gorey.  What a duo!  I was a huge fan of Chess back in the day.  Remember Slugs?  No.  Wait.  Don’t remember Slugs.  That thing was unnerving.  Remember the piranha one instead.  I love her work and to see her with a Gorey plot (and a sweet one at that) is just icing on the cake.

The Happy Hunter by Roger Duvoisin


I guess it’s fairly safe to say that we don’t see quite as much bandying about of guns in picture book these days.  Fortunately, this particular hunter is more enamored of the act of having a gun than actually using it in any way.  This was a good Duvoisin that I never really saw.  Nice to see him coming back in print.

The Marzipan Pig by Russell Hoban


I think I actually physically squealed with delight when I saw that this was coming out this year.  Way back in 2004 I would run film strips (yep, FILM strips) in the Jefferson Market Branch of NYPL.  I could request these films from the Performing Arts Library of NYPL (by typing little carbons on a typewriter, but that’s another story) and my favorite one to request was The Marzipan Pig.  You can’t find it on YouTube but you can see some of it on Fandor, so enjoy.  I tended to play it around Valentine’s Day, thereby ensuring that a bunch of young adults are now wandering this Earth wondering why they have this strange memory of a film with a pig and an owl and a taxicab.  So happy to see the book, at least, is back in print.

The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffman, ill. Lisbeth Zwerger


It’s a lovely one, really.  I had to have at least one Zwerger on my list this year and I decided to go with this one because besides the Maurice Sendak one it’s the only illustrated version I’ve seen of the original story by E.T.A. Hoffman.  Tis the season.

Roland the Minstrel Pig by William Steig


A good year for pigs, no?  It’s hard to believe that this was William Steig’s first picture book.  Harder still to believe that he wrote it when he was sixty-one.

Sam and Emma by Donald Nelsen, ill. Edward Gorey


What’s better than one reprinted Edward Gorey?  TWO reprinted Edward Goreys!  I knew that this particular book was a bit of a cult hit and that Sam and Emma fans abound.  What I didn’t know was that it would feel quite so much like the Houndsley and Catina series by James Howe.  It’s actually a rather remarkable little book in that it attempts to show that our perceptions and expectations may not always be accurate when dealing with other people.

Tomi Ungerer: A Treasury of Eight Books by Tomi Ungerer


Though I was a little surprised to find that The Beast of Monsieur Racine was not included in this collection, all told I was happy with the selection.  You’ve got a nice mix of old classics and newer works.  They all have this feeling peculiar to Ungerer and no one else.  It’s nice to see him having his Renaissance while he’s still alive.

The Toy Brother by William Steig


This one had a lot of similarities to Steig’s later work Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.  Spells going awry and the possibility that you’ll now be stuck in the form you’ve accidentally just made for yourself for all eternity.  It’s a mighty interesting book.  There’s a reason I have multiple Steigs on this list.

What Can I Be? by Ann Rand, ill. Ingrid Fiksdahl King


The cover.  Need I say more?

Interested in the other upcoming lists of this month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books


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23. 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Eight – 2016 Calde-nots

31daysA list based entirely on what a book is not?  And what precisely is a Calde-not?  Well, we’re getting into semantics and rules today, so buckle up.  First and foremost, I direct your attention to the illustrious Caldecott Award.  The most famous award given to the most distinguished examples of American illustration for children.  Note that I said “American”.  A Caldecott Award has terms and criteria.  Here are two of them:


  • The Medal shall be awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published by an American publisher in the United States in English during the preceding year. There are no limitations as to the character of the picture book except that the illustrations be original work. Honor books may be named. These shall be books that are also truly distinguished.
  • The award is restricted to artists who are citizens or residents of the United States.  Books published in a U.S. territory or U.S. commonwealth are eligible.


The reason for these rules dates back to the Caldecott’s inception.  Created to accompany the already popular Newbery Medal, the award was meant to focus attention on American artists of children’s books.  And in a nation besotted with Beatrix Potter (alongside other European creators), it was a good idea.  These days, however, we have no difficulty finding delightful American creators.  In the end, a lot of magnificent books fall by the wayside, unable to earn worthy awards.

Well, no longer!  Today we celebrate books that would be definite Caldecott contenders, if they just weren’t so doggone un-American.  In the literal sense, naturally.


2016 Calde-nots

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by David Jacobson, ill. Toshikado Hajiri, translations by Sally Ito and Michiko Tsuboi


You’ve heard me wax eloquent (or at least long) about the work of Toshikado Hajiri before, but I’ll just mention one more time that the nature scenes in this book, whether it’s a rising sun or sea alongside mountains and sky, are spectacular.  The whole book is a wonder.  Hopefully it’ll find its audience.

Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann


German to its core, though I’ve been surprisingly gratified by the increase in Kuhlmann-love over the past year.  Though he never gets attention from folks like the New York Times Best Illustrated list, at least his star is rising.  This book is just as lovely as its predecessor (Lindbergh) if less of a surprise.

The Bear Who Wasn’t There and the Fabulous Forest by Oren Lavie, ill. Wolf Erlbruch


It’s such a strange but lovely little import than I can’t help but think that if it was American we’d be discussing it all over the place.

The Blue Bird’s Palace by Orianne Lallemand, ill. Carole Henaff, translated by Tessa Strickland


An original folktale with a French illustrator.  This story was surprisingly lovely to read.  I suppose looking at the cover I shouldn’t have been too shocked, but I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

Circle by Jeanne Baker


If I had my way Ms. Baker would have all the awards in the world.  Her art is unparalleled.  That cover image you’re looking at here?  Yeah.  That’s clay.  Now look me in the eye and tell me she isn’t one of the cleverest, smartest artists working in the picture book field today.

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, ill. Isabelle Arsenault


To mention Arsenault in any kind of a context is a bit of a cheat.  She’s more accessible than similar artists, and by all appearances she has impeccable taste.  I’ve yet to see her take on a dud of a project.  This peculiar but lovely little bio certainly fits the bill as well.

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, ill. Christian Robinson


But wait, you say!  Christian Robinson’s American.  Why wouldn’t this work?  To answer I direct you to the “original work” stipulation of the Caldecott terms and conditions.  This re-illustrated version of Brown’s classic is lovely, but the book is technically by no means new.

Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Alessandro Sanna


Okay.  So it’s weeeeeeeird.  But if you’ve read the Pinocchio story at all it makes a strange bit of sense.  I already used the word “dreamlike” in a previous book list, so I can’t play that card again.  Let’s just say it’s gently surreal instead.  Beautiful, sad, odd, and ultimately uplifting.

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs, ill. Nizar Badr


The Syrian refugee crisis explained with rock sand stones?  The art in this book is only slightly more fascinating than the story of how the author tracked down the Syrian illustrator in the first place.

What Can I Be? by Ann Rand, ill. Ingrid Fiksdahl King


Another reprint, and couldn’t you tell?  Gorgeous through and through, that’s for certain.

What Color Is the Wind? by Anne Herbauts


Not only is the art interesting to look at in this book but it feels different on every page.  Could have had a tactile leg up.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, ill. Julie Morstad


I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Ms. Morstad is Canadian.  Doggone neighbor to the north.  If she ever moves south we’ll be waiting, awards in hand.

You Belong Here by M.H. Clark, ill. Isabelle Arsenault


Again with the Arsenault but that’s okay.  To my mind you can never have enough Isabelle Arsenault on a list.  Never, truly.

And now, because I can, the official Randolph Caldecott music video as recorded by the Effin’ G’s.


Interested in the other upcoming lists of this month? Here’s the schedule so that you can keep checking back:

December 1 – Board Books

December 2 – Board Book Adaptations

December 3 – Nursery Rhymes

December 4 – Picture Book Readalouds

December 5 – Rhyming Picture Books

December 6 – Alphabet Books

December 7 – Funny Picture Books

December 8 – Calde-Nots

December 9 – Picture Book Reprints

December 10 – Math Picture Books

December 11 – Bilingual Books

December 12 – International Imports

December 13 – Books with a Message

December 14 – Fabulous Photography

December 15 – Fairy Tales / Folktales

December 16 – Oddest Books of the Year

December 17 – Older Picture Books

December 18 – Easy Books

December 19 – Early Chapter Books

December 20 – Graphic Novels

December 21 – Poetry

December 22 – Fictionalized Nonfiction

December 23 – American History

December 24 – Science & Nature Books

December 25 – Transcendent Holiday Titles

December 26 – Unique Biographies

December 27 – Nonfiction Picture Books

December 28 – Nonfiction Chapter Books

December 29 – Novel Reprints

December 30 – Novels

December 31 – Picture Books



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24. Who’s Winning All the Accolades This Year? Check Out Our Award Tracker

A handy tracker to keep up with who's winning all the feature animation accolades in 2016.

The post Who’s Winning All the Accolades This Year? Check Out Our Award Tracker appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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25. L.A. Film Critics Pick ‘Your Name’ Best Animated Film, ‘Red Turtle’ As Runner-Up

Makoto Shinkai's "Your Name" wins its first significant American honor.

The post L.A. Film Critics Pick ‘Your Name’ Best Animated Film, ‘Red Turtle’ As Runner-Up appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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