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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Aaron Zenz, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 16 of 16
1. Monster Mash: Aaron Zenz Goes On Tour

Blog tours.  Generally speaking I don’t really do them.  Nothing against them personally, they just don’t always speak to the tenor and distinctive tone of individual blogs.  It takes a particularly keen one to get me out of my hidey-hole so that I’ll participate.  It takes, in short, Aaron Zenz.

But first . . . BACKSTORY!!!!

It was at least 10 years ago.  I was a young struggling blogger (“struggling” in this case meaning doing just fine with a nice steady job).  A fellow by the name of Aaron Zenz contacted me not long after I’d started and asked if I’d take a gander at his book, The Hiccupotamus.  It was coming out with a very small publisher, but there was something to it.  It was nice looking. Nicer than the average fare, so I took a gamble and said I’d give it a gander.  Not only was it nice, but it held together beautifully.   It also seems to be one of the longest lived books I’ve ever encountered, traveling as it has from Dogs in Hats Children’s Publishing to Marshall Cavendish to Two Lions.  If you look on Amazon you’ll see my May 16, 2006 review of the book there.

And I remembered that Zenz guy.  How could I not?  First off, his name was “Zenz”.  That’s just cool.  Second, he had this crazy cool blog he did with his kids called Bookie Woogie (not to be confused with the also amazing but different kid art site Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty).  For years I’d recommend it as what may be the most successful kids book review site written in large part by kids.  He’d also come up with these crazy amazing blog posts .  And in the interest of complete and utter honesty, they even reviewed Giant Dance Party and made fan art.  Like so:


But wait.  That’s not all.  Because on top of his art, his blog with his kids, and his kids’ kinda of freakishly good art (seriously, they should Pinterest this stuff) they also are responsible for a slew of some of the best 90-Second Newbery videos you’ve ever seen in your life.  I think if you keep watching this, the first four are by the Zenzes (Zenzi?).

None of this even touches on all the other stuff Aaron’s done over the years.  Nor, you will note, have I even gotten to his books.  As you can see, I save the best for last.

Starting with Hiccupotamus, I just kept on enjoying Aaron’s books for years.  From his art for Five Little Puppies Jumping on the Bed to Chuckling Ducklings to Hug a Bull, the man makes good literature for the small fry.  And now, the best one of all.

MonstersGoNightNow as I mentioned before, I don’t tend to do blog tours, and part of the reason why is because more than half the time I’m completely impartial (or worse) to the book that author is promoting.  Monsters Go Night-Night is different.  In one book you get the following:

  • A good bedtime book.
  • A story that is great for a range of ages (my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old get different things out of the book but both think it’s hilarious)
  • Writing that is actually funny for adults too (it may have one of the greatest potty gags I’ve seen in a long time)
  • Art that pops
  • The ability to be read to a large group (hard for any book to do, let alone well)

The whole premise is based on setting up expectations and then knocking them to the floor in a way that’s completely appropriate for very young ages.  Example:



Perfect for pajama storytimes everywhere.

But where did Aaron get the idea for this book?  Well, if you’re still up for some video viewing today, this completely adorable video (could someone PLEASE publish a book of Aaron’s literary monsters since I want to see his Gurgi?) explains all:

So here’s where it gets crazy good.  Did you see how Aaron turned his son’s art into monsters?  Well, he’s been doing the same for other people as well.  Aaron asked if my daughter (who is the five-year-old I mentioned earlier) would like to make a monster.  He, in turn, would turn it into a piece of art.  And the results?  Behold:


This was my daughter’s . . . .


. . . and this was Aaron’s.

Side by side . . .


Absolutely love that.

Long story short, this book good.  Get book.  Read book.

Still don’t believe me?  Then check out everyone else on this blog tour.  Lotta heavy hitters there.  Maybe if you don’t believe me you’ll believe them:

Mon Aug 15  :  Watch. Connect. Read.
Tues Aug 16  :  100 Scope Notes
Wed Aug 17  :  Nerdy Book Club
Thu Aug 18  :  Sharpread
Fri Aug 19  :  All the Wonders
Sat Aug 20  :  Playing by the Book
Sun Aug 21  :  Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
Mon Aug 22  :  A Fuse #8 Production

And if you’d like to see the children’s art his did for these other bloggers’ kids collected for you in one place, just go to the Blog Tour Hub right here.

Thanks to Aaron for looping me into this tour.



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2. #782 – The Runaway Santa by Anne Margaret Lewis & Aaron Zenz

The Runaway Santa: A Christmas Adventure Story Written by Anne Margaret Lewis Illustrated by Aaron Zenz Sky Pony Press     11/03/2015 978-1-63450-589-1 32 pages     Ages 3—6 “Once there was a jolly Santa who wanted to leave the North Pole on an adventure before Christmas! Mrs. Claus, ever watchful of her sweet Mr. …

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3. Fusenews: Properly vicious

MinistryofMagic 318x500 Fusenews: Properly viciousThere comes a time when I have so much news for a Fusenews that it paralyzes me and rather than write one up I just let my files accrue more and more schtoof until the vicious circle ends with a massive deletion.  Today some of this stuff will strike you as a bit out of date, but the bulk is pretty darn fun.

  • Anytime I write a post that involves race in some way I gird my loins and prepare for the worst.  The worst did not occur yesterday, however, when I wrote about moments of surprising racism in classic children’s books.  Perhaps everyone was distracted by Jonathan Hunt’s post on The Present Tense.  Now THAT is a hot and heavy discussion!
  • Oh, Cotsen Children’s Library.  Is there anything you can’t do?  Because, to be perfectly frank, I think even the prospect of interviewing Philip Pullman would render me effectively mute.  And then there was that AMAZING piece on the woman who makes Harry Potter miniatures.  Seriously, this is your required reading of the day.
  • Because I love Kalamazoo in all its myriad forms, this caught my eye.  For you Michiganders out there:

In February 2014, 95 youth librarians, youth library workers, and students gathered at Clinton-Macomb Public Library for a truly excellent day of professional development, idea-sharing, networking, and learning, unconference style. In 2015, we’ll gather April 24th at Kalamazoo Public Library. Hosted by Lisa Mulvenna (Clinton-Macomb PL), Anne Clark (Alice and Jack Wirt PL, Bay City), and Andrea Vernola (Kalamazoo PL), the MI KidLib Unconference will feature relevant and engaging sessions decided on by participants at the conference. And as is typical of an Unconference, it’s FREE to attend. Registration begins in January 2015.

Here are the session notes from last year in case you want to see what we learned together. We hope you’ll join us and spread the word to anyone who’s interested in youth services in libraries!

  • If you had told me even two years ago that I would be the de facto mathematics librarian, ideal for moderating events like the Science & Mathematics Panel of Jordan Ellenberg, “Science Bob” Pflugfelder, and Benedict Carey at the Penguin Random House Author Event for NYC Educators, I would have been utterly baffled.  And yet here we are.  Know any teachers in the NYC area?  Because the whole kerschmozzle appears to be free.
  • Things That I Didn’t Know Existed Until Recently: Apparently the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center created a site called BookDragon that seeks to create a site for multicultural children’s literature.  And not just of the Asian Pacific nature either.  It’s a true multicultural site and a fun one to scroll through.  Check it!
  • This came out a while ago so I’m sure you already saw it, but just in case you didn’t, the Marc Tyler Nobleman Kidlit Mashups are nothing short of inspired.

TonyStark 300x216 Fusenews: Properly viciousOh man. Iron Man as a goodnight picture book done in a homemade cut paper style.  Not a real book.  Should be though.  Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link.

One of my favorite illustrators, Aaron Zenz, wrote me the following message you would be very wise to read it, oh those amongst ye with an artistic bent.  This art gives light and life and meaning to my day:

We play this game on our second blog every three years or so, and I believe you’ve made note of it in the past.  So I thought I’d let you know this time around also that we’re letting professional illustrators and artists dip into the 8 year archive at Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty to reimagine Z-Kid art once again:http://www.isaacgracelily.blogspot.com/2014/08/8yearcelebration.html

There have been some great kid lit contributors in the past like Nathan Hale, Charise Harper, Jarrett Krosoczka, Renata Liwska, Adam Rex…   And even though the call just went out for this new round, kid lit folks Julie Phillipps and Doug Jones have already hopped on board (both of them have also played all three times!)

Go!  Play!

  • My sister wrote me the other day to ask for a recommendation of a great children’s book about a jellyfish.  I complied then found out why she wanted to know.  I love it when she succeeds in her crazy plans on her blog but truth be told she’s awfully hilarious when she fails.  It’s a Jellyfish in a bottle [FAIL].
  • Daily Image:

It’s nice to have friends who know boats.  Particularly when they start critiquing classic works of children’s literature.  My friend Stefan Driesbach-Williams recently posted this familiar illustration:

MaxBoat 500x373 Fusenews: Properly vicious

Then he wrote, “I’m seeing a cutter with a loose-footed staysail and a boomkin.”

But it was the response from his nautical friends that made my day.  One Levi Austin White responded with the following:

“Aye! Captain Max has only got his smallest storm stays’l aloft like a prudent mariner, although his main looks really drafty and dangerously powered up.

He seems to have his main trimmed in all the way, but headed dead downwind. That seems like a disastrous combination considering his mains’l tuning. I don’t see any reef points on his main though, so perhaps he’s outta luck.

Any news on his journey? Did he survive the storm? The way the seafoam is scudding across the wave tops, I’d say that he’s on the lee shore of a low lying island, with 50-70 kts windspeed. Looks properly vicious.

Best of luck, Captain Max. May the seas be forever in your favor.”

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2 Comments on Fusenews: Properly vicious, last added: 9/28/2014
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4. PiBoIdMo Day 28: Aaron Zenz and “Friends”

by Aaron Zenz

Kids are an amazing source of inspiration.  They haven’t yet learned the conventions and “rules” that so often inhibit our own grown-up imaginations.  My kiddos constantly astound me with the creativity that pours forth from their pencils.

My kids have a couple of blogs where I showcase their art and ideas.   Two years ago I set up a challenge for professional illustrators to use a drawing from the kids’ blog to fuel a piece of “Fan Art.”

For example, this is a drawing my daughter Lily made:

And here’s my interpretation:

Here’s a drawing from my son Isaac:

And here’s my take:

I expected that perhaps a handful of people would join me in participating. Instead, over 70 pieces of amazing art poured in from people all over the world.  You can see the full results of the celebration HERE.

It was so much fun, we just had to do all over again two years later.  One of the illustrators who contributed both years is J.C. Phillipps of “Wink the Ninja” fame.  This year she chose to recreate an image by my daughter Gracie:

And here’s J.C. Phillipps’ version:

But then, something else happened…  Here’s what Mrs. Phillipps had to say:

“I decided to give the rabbit a girl.  As I was making the girl, she started to speak to me.  Turns out, her name is Esmerelda and she loves it when things go wrong.  As I was putting this collage together, all these little story ideas started weaving their way into my mind and I now think I have a new idea to write up.  Time can only tell where it all leads—but I think little Esmerelda and I are going to have a lot of fun together.”

Awesome!  And that gets me to thinking of a particular picture book idea that I’ve had rattling around in my brain for years, sparked by one of the kid’s pictures.  I’ve yet to work it up.  Perhaps PiBoIdMo 2011 is just the time to do it!

So here’s your challenge for the day.  Write up a story idea based on the random wonderfulness of a kid drawing.  If you don’t have a kid close at hand, here are a few drawings for inspiration:

11 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 28: Aaron Zenz and “Friends”, last added: 11/28/2011
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5. Re-Seussification Project: The Results

It was kind of a kooky idea, I admit it.  I’ve seen plenty of sites where artists will reinterpret someone like Maurice Sendak in their own styles.  What I wanted was something a little different.  I wanted to see what would happen if great children’s book illustrators illustrated one another.  If a Lobel illustrated a Bemelmans.  If a Carle illustrated a Silverstein.  Trouble is, famous folk have a way of not bothering to illustrate one another (to say nothing of the fact that a bunch of them are dead as doornails).  The solution?  To offer a silly fun challenge.  And so the Re-Seussification Project was offered: To re-illustrate any Dr. Seuss book in the style of another illustrator.

Now there was some question at first about revealing the identities of the people making the mash-ups.  Some folks thought this fun contest was unfortunate because I wasn’t celebrating the great talents of up-and-coming artists.  So as a compromise, I’ll present the art first and then the names of the artists at the bottom of the page.  Makes it a little more streamlined anyway.

And now . . . the moment you’ve all been waiting for . . . in the order of the faux artists, here’s the lot!

So, we’re all friends here, right?  Right off the bat I’m going to make a confession.  In offering this contest all I really wanted was for someone somewhere to do an Eric Carle.  It was a lot to ask since we’re talking about an artist dealing in the medium of cut paper.  It looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  Then, last night, the final submission was sent in and it was . . .


A brilliant way to start us off!

Next up, I’ve fond memories of this book.  As a child of Kalamazoo I was slightly obsessed with any and every mention of my hometown, no matter where it might be.  Dr. Seuss was one of the few authors to understand the true glory of my hometown’s name and for that I shall forever be grateful.  It lifts my heart a little then to see him memorialized in the form of . . .


I particularly like how worried Babar appears.  One thing’s for certain.  That elephant bird is gonna be one snappy dresser.

This next image didn’t go the easy route, no sir.  Some illustrators have styles that are easier to imitate than others.  For this next one I was incredibly impressed by the sheer details at work.  From the border to the font to the colors to the fact that this looks like an honest-to-gosh watercolor.  Hold onto your hats folks, for you are now in the presence of . . .


The best part is that his name is signed with dePaola’s customary little heart.  THAT is the attention to detail I crave.

10 Comments on Re-Seussification Project: The Results, last added: 3/1/2012
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6. Fusenews: At the sign of the big yellow fuse

  • Ain’t he just the sweetest thing?  Author/illustrator Aaron Zenz recently wrote just the loveliest ode to his four top favorite children’s literary blogs, and then went and created original art for each.  In my case he created this little Fuse guy (or possibly Fuse gal) based on the bright yellow Fuse you see at the beginnings of each of my posts (I put it there in lieu of my face because I can only look at myself so often before going stark raving mad).  This, I should point out, is not the first time a little Fuse person has been created for this blog.  Katherine Tillotson, an artist of outstanding ability (I’m biased but it also happens to be true) created not one but TWO little Fusemen in the past, both for separate birthdays.

I’m a fan.  So thank you Aaron and, once again, thank you Katherine.  Fusemen of the world unite!

  • *sniff sniff*  Smell that?  That’s the distinctive odor of a brouhaha brewing.  Sort of a combination of burnt hair, dead goldfish and patchouli.  And you wonder why I don’t cover YA books.  Sheesh!  One word: drama.  Seems that a YA blog called Story Siren plagiarized the work of others for her own blog posts.  Folks noticed and suddenly the internet was was heaping helpful of flames, burns, accusations, and other forms of tomfoolery.  For a sane and rational recap we turn to our own Liz Burns who gives us the run down in Today’s Blog Blow Up.  Ugly stuff.
  • And while we’re on the subject of YA (which I just said I don’t cover, and yet here we are), I thought we were done with whitewashing, folks.  So what’s up with this?  Harlequin Teen, you got some explaining to do.
  • In other news, book banning: It’s what’s for dinner.  Take a trip with me to The Annville-Cleona School District where a picture book fondly nicknamed by some as Where’s the Penis? is getting some heat.  If you’ve ever seen The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex, then you know that calling it “pornographic” works only if you are unaware of what the word “pornography” actually means.  I would like to offer a shout-out to librarian Anita Mentzer who has handled the whole situation with class and dignity.  You, madam, are the kind of children’s librarian others should aspire to be.  Well done.  And thanks to Erica Sevetson for the link.
  • We may not yet have an ALA accredited poetry award for a work of children’s literature but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a Poet Laureate or two instead.  Rich Michelson, gallery owner and

    0 Comments on Fusenews: At the sign of the big yellow fuse as of 4/25/2012 10:57:00 PM
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7. Fusenews: Paddington V. Pooh (supporters could call themselves marmalites and hunnies)

You folks have been awfully good about my recent shoddy blogging, so I tip my hat in your general direction.  Jules of 7-Imp and I are putting the final touches on our book for Candlewick editing-wise and, as you might imagine, it eats up large swaths of time like an irate and hungry badger.  There is no situation in which a badger cannot be used as an example.  True fact.

In other news, there’s an author/illustrator out there that I happen to like very much.  His name is Aaron Zenz and over the years he has startled me time and again with the relative brilliance of his creativity.  If he wasn’t making multiple inspired pieces for the Re-Seussification Project then his kids were contributing to the stellar Boogie Woogie blog.  Well, Aaron and Co. are some of my favorite folks so when I saw the Friends of Zenz page asking to help ‘em out in the midst of some pretty upsetting surgery, you can bet I jumped on board.  If you’ve a minute, you can too.  They’re swell folks.

So I got to meet J.K. Rowling the other day.  Yup.  The woman who basically set me on the path of children’s librarianship in the first place via her books and I up and met her.  You see the good Dan Blank had tickets and one of those tickets happened to have my name on it.  So I got to see her speak with Ann Patchett about this adult novel of hers The Casual Vacancy (a title I’m certain she stole from the notes of Lemony Snicket) and then I stood in a long line and got my copy signed.  The conversation between us is as follows:

J.K. Rowling: Thanks for coming.

Betsy Bird:  Guh.

Many thanks to Dan for the opportunity.  He’s blogged about the experience here and just so you writer folks know, he’s doing another session of his author platform course starting Oct 31, with a free webinar. The course features Jane Friedman, Richard Nash, Colleen Lindsay, Kathleen Schmidt, Joanna Penn and Jeff Goins as guest speakers.  Info on the session is here and the webinar is here.

COMIC LEGEND: There was a Winnie the Pooh comic strip where the characters acted a lot more aggressively than most Winnie the Pooh fans are used to.


Thus we find the strangest and maybe most engaging link of the day.  Apparently there was a Winnie-the-Pooh syndicated comic strip out there for a while that contained the Disneyfied Pooh and friends.  And apparently it was written by some seriously odd souls.  How else to explain some of these downright weird inclusions?  Comic Book Legends Revealed explains more (you’ll have to scroll down a little but they’re worth finding).  This one’s my favorite:


And speaking of bears . . . how do you get kids interested in the political process?  Have ‘em vote for bears, of course!  The West Linn Public Library had an inspired idea.  They’re holding a bear election through election day on November 6 and, as they explained it to me:

“inviting kids (and adults) to vote for their favorite bear from children’s literature: Pooh, Paddington, Mama Berenstain, or Corduroy. We have also gotten staff involved by asking them to volunteer to be bear campaign managers. The response from staff and patrons has been tremendous! Our campaign managers have embraced their roles beyond my wildest dreams by designing posters, stickers, bookmarks, and games to support their bear.We are having so much fun that I thought I would share with other libraries. I have even created a campaign video for my candidate, Mama Bear—here is that link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=vb.153513568034372&type=2“  Love it!  I suppose I’m a staunch Pooh supporter thanks to my job, but it’s tough.  Paddington comes in at a close second in my heart.

Okay, let’s do the Me Stuff all in one fell swoop today.  First off, I made a reading list for NYC’s New Victory Theater to accompany their upcoming shows.  Check it out here.  I never properly thanked Miss Kathleen at Mental Floss for including me in the 24 Library-Centric Sites We Love round-up, to say nothing of the compliments regarding my video with Travis Jonker. Thanks to Maureen Petry for the links!  I’m speaking at a Joan Aiken event tonight so enjoy this piece written by Lizza Aiken, Joan’s daughter, entitled Voices: The magical mysteries of children’s literature.  I was interviewed at the blog The Children’s Book Review as part of their ongoing librarian series.  And the Children’s Media Association blog gave me what could well be the most flattering spotlight I’ve received in my long internet life. Whew!

There was a Bibliography-Off between Judy Blume and one of my favorite comics Patton Oswalt not long ago.  As Jezebel described it, “The only thing that could really be better than this (for a Sunday, anyway) is if Calvin and Hobbes were real and they spoke at a TED Talk about the vividness of a small child’s imagination.” I just wish S.E. Hinton had heeded Patton’s call to give him a hand.  She’s on Twitter all the time, y’know.  Thanks to Marjorie Ingall for the link!

Maybe you can’t see Phil Nel speaking in my library tomorrow about Crockett Johnson.  If not, here’s the next best thing.

All right.  Enough with the books.  Let’s look at some up-to-date movie news directly from Cynopsis Kids.  First up:

Nickelodeon begins production this month on its new original comedy/caper TV movie, Swindle, which will star a bevy of the network’s stars including Jennette McCurdy (iCarly), Noah Crawford (How to Rock, You Gotta See This), Noah Munck (iCarly), Ariana Grande (Victorious), Chris O’Neal (How to Rock, You Gotta See This) and Ciara Bravo (Big Time Rush). Based on the popular kids book of the same name by Gordon Korman, the movie will be shot in Vancouver Canada. The movie is set to begin airing in 2014 on Nickelodeon’s 40+ international channels across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia. The story begins when an evil collector cons Griffin (Crawford) out of a million dollar baseball card that could have saved his best friend’s (O’Neal) home, he teams a ragtag group of his classmates (Grande, McCurdy, Munck and Bravo) to take down the swindler. Directed by Jonathan Judge (Big Time Rush, Fred 3), Swindle is written by Bill Motz (Brandy & Mr. Whiskers) & Bob Roth (Lion King 2), Eric Freiser (Road to Ruin) and Adam Rifkin (Small Soliders, Mousehunt). Marjorie Cohn (Big Time Movie, Rags), Lauren Levine (Bridge to Terabithia, Best Player), Loris Lunsford, Karen Glass and Paul Barry serve as executive producers. Scott McAboy’s Pacific Bay Entertainment is producing.”

Second up:

“Toronto-based Radical Sheep Productions (Stella and Sam, Yub Yubs, The Big Comfy Couch) acquires the rights to the graphic novel series Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, by author/illustrator Michael Rex (Goodnight Goon, The Runaway Mummy). Under the deal Radical Sheep will develop a K6-11 aimed animated series based on Fangbone! The story revolves around Fangbone, a nine-year-old barbarian warrior from Skullbania who winds up in third grade at Eastwood Elementary in order to save his native land from the evildoer Venomous Drool. With the help of his new pal Bill, a lovable, average, goofy kid, Fangbone outwits his enemies while discovering the modern world.”

Sometimes the title sells it alone: Children’s Author Illustrator Elisha Cooper Gives Lecture on “Inappropriate” Children’s Books.

New Blog Alert: The election’s coming up and everyone’s getting ready.  With that in mind, did you know that there’s a blog out there solely dedicated to talking about political children’s books?  Kid Lit About Politics it’s called.  One for the radar.

New Blog Alert II: For that matter did you know there was a mother-son blog out there (adult mother and son!) called crossreferencing: a hereditary blog?  Yep.  There you can find Sarah and Mark Flowers as they, “discuss YA Literature and Librarianship from our dual perspectives.”  It’s pretty cool.

New Blog Alert III: Tis the season.  This third new blog is actual that of The Junior Library Guild called Shelf Life.  It’s currently doing a wonderful job of discussing current issues and hot books.  Of particular note is the post Save [Books of Wonder] and Save Your Soul.  Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Have you ever watched the movie Matilda and thought to yourself, Whatever happened to child actress Mara Wilson?  Thank god for the internet, eh?  Thanks to Brita for the link.

On a serious note there is a lovely memory of Peter Sieruta up at the blog Archives and Special Collections.  It happens to include what may be the first picture of Peter to ever make it to the world wide web.  God, I miss that guy.

The Onion’s A.V. Club has been a bit lazy in their looks at children’s and YA literature but this recent post on 2012 graphic novels is well worth reading. Many thanks to Eric Carpenter for the link!

Daily Image:

Just knowing that Gabi Swiatkowska has a blog where she displays art like the pieces below is enough to make my life complete.

Thanks to Jane Curley for the link.

5 Comments on Fusenews: Paddington V. Pooh (supporters could call themselves marmalites and hunnies), last added: 10/27/2012
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8. Double Cover Reveal for Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (plus a caption contest!)

Sudipta_Nov_2012-008 small (640x429)by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

Next year—2014—is going to be a hectic year for me. In January, I’ve got a new book called DUCK DUCK MOOSE releasing, illustrated by the fabulous Noah Z. Jones and published by Hyperion. But that isn’t it for the year! No, I’ve actually got THREE more picture books and a couple novels in the pipeline. It’s going to be quite a year!

I can’t share all the upcoming books with you, but I am thrilled to be able to do this:


That’s right, folks, not just one gorgeous cover, but TWO!

orangutangled cover

Two orangutans reach for some mangoes, fall, and land in a gooey, gummy mess. Other animals join the fray until there’s a big ball of mango-juice-covered animals rolling down a long hill to the ocean—will they be okay? Or will they make a gooey-gummy tiger treat?
Illustrated by Aaron Zenz

snor beauty cover

Tucked in his little bed inside the castle walls, Mouse is eager to get a good night’s sleep before his wedding tomorrow. But just as he begins to drift off, he’s awoken by a tremendous roar. SNOOOOGA-SNOOOOOM! KER-SCHUPPP! Sleeping Beauty is snoring . . . again! When the handsome Prince Max arrives, Mouse thinks he’s found the perfect scheme: He’ll convince the prince to kiss Beauty and wake her up! But when Prince Max learns that Beauty is the one making such monstrous noises, will he still want to kiss her . . . or will he run away from the noisy princess, leaving her snoring for another hundred years?
Illustrated by Jane Manning

Now, these covers are in no way alike at all. BUT…what strikes me about both of them is that they are screaming to be captioned!

What are those tangled Orangutans saying?

What is the Princess thinking as the prince gets closer? Like this:

captioncontest captioncontest2


IN HONOR OF THE DOUBLE REVEAL, I’m happy to announce a new giveaway. Here’s what you have to do—just write a caption for one of these covers and put it into a comment below. We’ll keep it open for 7 days and then I will pick my favorite one. The winner will receive a signed book of his or her choice as soon as the books become available!

Good luck, and I’m looking forward to reading your captions!

10 Comments on Double Cover Reveal for Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen (plus a caption contest!), last added: 10/21/2013
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9. Video Sunday: At the speed of light, she arrives just in time . . .

Some weeks can go by without a single solitary interesting video in sight.  Other weeks, you drown in brilliance.  This week inclines far more towards the latter than the former.

I could not lead off today with anything other than the latest bit of Bookie Woogie brilliance.  You keened to their 90-second rendition of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.  You hooted to their Black Cauldron encapsulation.  And you had to rewire your jaw after it smashed to the floor after seeing their Frog and Toad Together video.  Now behold the wonder that is . . . Charlotte’s Web!!!

Charlotte’s Web / Spider-Man Mashup (Bookie Woogie) from Z-Dad on Vimeo.

Naturally this was created for James Kennedy’s 90-Second Newbery Film Festival.  Those of you in the Chicago area will want to reserve your (free) seats for the February 1st screening here.  If nothing else I urge you to check out the posters that Aaron Zenz created in conjunction with this.

Aw, shoot.  I know for a fact I never put THIS 90-Second Newbery video up either (you see what happens when you try to post just one?).  This is my favorite, bar none, version of The Giver. If I were a producer on a comedy show I would hire this kid NOW NOW NOW.

From this awesomeness we now turn to the ultimate delight.  Self-deprecation.  Marc Tyler Nobleman had a brilliant notion.  He was watching Jimmy Kimmel Live! and saw the bit where celebrities read insulting tweets about themselves.  It gave him an idea – what if children’s authors did the same with bad Amazon reviews?  Though my temptation is to post all three videos here, I’m going to be a good pooky and only post one.  If you would like to see the other two (which are just as good and feature just loads of famous folks) go to Marc’s blog right here.  Here’s part one:

In book trailer news, or rather live-action book trailer news, Lorie Ann Grover’s YA novel Firstborn is coming out and the trailer looks pretty darn strong.  To the point, well shot, the works.  Love the brevity of it.  Well played, folks.

If you like your trailers a little more nonfiction picture booky, try on for size this one for Patricia Hruby Powell’s Josephine about you-know-who:

And in this corner, stealing prodigiously from fellow SLJ blogger Travis Jonker (if you read his Morning Notes you’ll do wonders for my conscience), here is Kate DiCamillo fresh outta National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature-ship, on the PBS Newshour.
NationalAmbassadorDiCamillo Video Sunday: At the speed of light, she arrives just in time . . .

The only cool video I could NOT find this week was something appropriately off-topic.  So here’s a cat failing a jump.  The internet, if nothing else, is good for a couple of these.  Plus the cat’s clearly okay at the end.

share save 171 16 Video Sunday: At the speed of light, she arrives just in time . . .

3 Comments on Video Sunday: At the speed of light, she arrives just in time . . ., last added: 1/13/2014
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10. Contagious Wordplaygious: The HICCUPotamus

The HICCUPotamusAuthor: Aaron Zenz (on JOMB)
Illustrator: Aaron Zenz
Published: 2005 Dogs in Hats Publishing
ISBN: 1594450331

Chapters.ca Amazon.com

Frantic antics and logically nonsensical rhyme make this hiccup-halting tactic extravaganza an addictive pick for preschoolers and poets alike.

Be sure to enjoy all of the amazing artwork in our Love of Reading Gallery.

Pop over to A Year of Reading for today’s full menu of poetry offerings. Poetry Fridays are brought to us by Kelly Herold of Big A, Little A.

2 Comments on Contagious Wordplaygious: The HICCUPotamus, last added: 7/26/2008
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11. Aaron Zenz: Inside the Creative Mind of a Rising Author/Illustrator

aaronzenzAaron Zenz is the author/illustrator of Hiccupotamus and he’s the hip, groovy dad behind Bookie Woogie, a blog where he and his eldest three children review books and share their fan art. It’s obvious the Z-Family loves kidlit.

Aaron, have you always wanted to be an author/illustrator?


Hip and groovy! Lands sakes alive, I’ve never been called either of those before… I’m going to have to look up their definitions.


I’ve been writing and illustrating my own stories ever since I was a wee bitty guy. In fact the last time we were over at my folks’ house, the kids and I were looking at the little books my mom has saved that I made when I was as young as three. The creative drive has always been in me, but it wasn’t until later on in life that I thought about it vocationally. Storytelling was just so fun, I think I never really associated it with the “work” world.

It wasn’t even until part way through college that it dawned on me that I wanted a career in art. Later my attention became even more focused when I realized how much I loved the narrative aspect of illustration. I had already begun collecting picture books, long before I dreamed I’d have a chance to participate in that world.

Writing has been interesting. All through life I’d received more comments and recognition for my writing than for my art. I think people simply already knew me as the “art guy,” so my writing came as a surprise. But for me, writing and illustrating are very comparable. They’re both forms of storytelling, and the process for both seems very similar to me.


Speaking of collecting picture books, you’ve amassed nearly 3,000 of them. Who are some of your favorite author/illustrators? Whose work has inspired you?


cindereyedThe picture book that changed everything for me was Eric Rohmann’s The Cinder-Eyed Cats. From the moment I saw those golden felines staring out at me from the cover, I knew — “I want to do that.” Something inside me leapt from mere interest to passionate longing. I wanted to make images that had the power to summon emotions, be it a sense of mystery… or a belly laugh… or tears. Pictures are powerful. So I’ll always have a soft spot for Eric Rohmann’s work, particularly that book. 

Another person whose work I find consistently engaging is Adam Rex. Whenever I catch wind of his next new project, I find myself waiting with the kind of anticipation people usually reserve for Hollywood’s summer blockbusters.

Many apologies for slipping into name-listing mode, but I’m also greatly inspired by the work of animator Glen Keane and the art of folks like PJ Lynch, Scott Gustafson, and Peter deSeve. Winsor McCay is amazing. And so is NC Wyeth…but for illustrators, loving Wyeth is a requirement.

On the writing side, I read a lot of Beverly Cleary growing up. I also loved HG Wells and Sir AC Doyle. But I think it was Lloyd Alexander who influenced me the most. I lived in his Chronicles of Prydain as a kid.

Your website features two picture book dummies for Hiccupotamus, one from 1996 and another from 2000. Your book was published in 2005. What kept you driving toward the goal of publication year after year?

In 1996 I took a college class on Children’s Literature. It was actually geared toward teachers — how to use books in the classroom kind of stuff. At the end of the course the teacher had everyone try their hand at writing a picture book. That’s where the first dummy came from — worked up over a weekend for that class.

hiccupotamus1Over the years I continued to write and draw. I came up with scores of picture book ideas that I personally found way more exciting than Hiccupotamus. But when I shared things with people, they tended to gravitate to that first story. In fact people would randomly ask me years after seeing it — “Did you ever do anything with that hippo book?” I dinked around with it off and on over the years, pulling it out, working on the tricky rhyme, developing the characters further.

Eventually (and you’re not going to want to hear this…) out of the blue, it was a publisher who approached me. A friend of mine was participating in building a new publishing company. He had seen that first dummy years earlier when we worked together and wondered if I would “let” them publish it as their debut trade book. I had to think about that for all of three seconds! 

So sadly, I don’t have a story about thousands of rejection letters and years of knocking on doors. I invested lots of time into it over those years, but had never yet tried submitting it anywhere. 

The sad part of my story comes later when, after the book’s astonishing sales and whirlwind success, the company folded shortly after the release of Hiccupotamus due to the underhanded dealings of my friend’s partner. But from my understanding, it sold 17,000 copies in its first 4 months, and it continues to do well via a version in Scholastic’s book clubs.

And Marshall Cavendish plans to put it back in print this fall. Woo hoo! Hopefully sales pick up for them just as strong as where they left off. Be watching for it!

I will! And why wouldn’t I want to hear that? It’s an amazing story.

You’ve also illustrated the work of other writers. Can you tell us about the process of interpreting someone else’s words into pictures? How do you get started?

howiemodelsheetFor stories that are character-based, like with Howie, I’ll spend my first energies doing character development. This is my very favorite part of the whole process. I love all the pre-production work… designing the people and critters, trying to infuse them with life and personality. Sara Henderson had described such an energetic ball of fun when writing about Howie. I set two personal goals for myself on the visual side: attempt to make him the cutest little dog you ever saw, and to fill him bursting with life. Hopefully I came close. So before even thinking about the stories themselves, I spent a few days with a tottering stack of library reference books, filling a sketchbook with page after page of Bichon Frise doodles.

leaf21After all the doodling, I make model sheets of the characters with different poses and expressions. Then I’ll finally turn my attention to the actual story and create quick thumbnail sketches of the story, trying to achieve good variety in the compositions. Sometimes this is a challenge. I recently illustrated a story about three leaves, fastened into place on their branch throughout the entire 32 pages. Lots of work went into finding ways to make each page a fun surprise - through coloring and vantage point and framing devices.

The last step, actually making the final art, is the least fun for me — then it becomes work. The subject matter and timetable often dictate the medium. I like working in colored pencil and do it whenever I can, but sometimes I’ll create everything on the computer. For example, with my two Nascar books, it was so much better for me to create mechanical objects digitally - cars and trucks and racetracks. Other times when deadlines are tight, I work on the computer because it’s much faster. The way I use colored pencil is a very timely process.

What is your best advice for new author/illustrators just starting in the business? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

Well, I’m still among those just starting out, so I myself am listening for anyone who’s got advice!

createheart1createheart2I suggest making sure that you keep your creative endeavors fun. Don’t get caught up in checking off x-number of items on a list in order to obtain a successful career. Create what you love because you love it.

I also know that networking is just as important as what we produce. So try to find creative ways to cross paths with lots of other people. Blogging can be a great way to grow a circle of influence. Like hosting a month long “Love a Kidlit Author” celebration — perfect example of a creative way to strengthen contacts and increase a presence! Good thinkin’! Eventually, the right person will make an offer at the right time, so have a stack of things ready to go when that happens.

Aaron, it’s been a pleasure learning about your creative process. One last question…what’s your favorite kind of chocolate?

I’ll never be a coffee drinker, but I Love a big mug of hot chocolate.  Oooo… I’m going to need one now.

howie1Me, too!

Aaron is generously giving away a signed four-book set of the Howie I Can Read series. Leave a comment to enter the drawing!

Blog or Twitter about Aaron’s interview and receive another two entries.

I’ll announce the winner one week from today!

And stop by again soon…Aaron will share his thoughts on sharing books as a family.

10 Comments on Aaron Zenz: Inside the Creative Mind of a Rising Author/Illustrator, last added: 2/12/2009
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12. Love of Reading Gallery – Aaron Zenz

As part of the second anniversary celebrations of the Just One More Book!! children’s book podcast, we invited illustrators to submit artwork that promotes a love of reading. Now, well into our fourth year, we’re still conducting short interviews with contributors to our Love of Reading Gallery.

On this edition, Mark speaks with author/artist Aaron Zenz about The Big One (his contribution to our Love of Reading Gallery), reading with his children and pencil technique.

Be sure to enjoy all of the amazing artwork in our Love of Reading Gallery.

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13. Daddy tag-team: the fabulous Zenz brothers

Brothers Andy and Aaron Zenz read to four of their nine (total) children. In math, I believe that’s called a subset. The other five children are, I presume, simonizing and buffing the family automobiles. Turtle wax on, turtle wax off; turtle wax on . . .

Aaron Zenz has illustrated many books for children, and he’s penned a pair of philosophical treatises, too: HICCUPotamus and Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends.


Aaron also blogs at Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty and Bookie Wookie.

No one seems to know what Andy does, frankly.

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14. Video Sunday: Hey, you like Turkish Delight as much as I do

Oh, wow.  Just . . . wow.  Some of you may already be aware of the Boogie Woogie blog, run by author/illustrator Aaron Zenz and his three kids.  The fact that it may be the best blog out there in which kids participate in the discussion of children’s literature is evidenced by nothing so much as today’s video.  I hope you stayed for the credits.  This is their contribution to the James Kennedy 9o-Second Newbery Film Festival (to be held in my library in November) and if it doesn’t rock your socks off, nothing will.  Failing that, James received some more submissions on his blog the other day, including this magnificent take on The Witch of Blackbird Pond from Mrs. Mrs. Powell’s 5th grade class at Laurelhurst School in Portland Oregon.

Remember, folks, to get you kids’ classes involved!  Have them make a video of their own and submit!  I admit that the bar is high, but there’s a lot of great stuff going down.  We’d love more submissions.  Keep ‘em coming!!!

Speaking of contests, I was tipped off about this fantastic video contest the Ottawa Public Library held for its teens.  The Teen Tech Video Contest may sound like it’s YA fare, but many of the videos submitted were definitely of children’s books.  And of the children’s books they covered, my favorite (hands down) was this take on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

It came it second to The Outsiders which, this being Ottawa, says that they are on the “outside” of society in a delightfully Canadian way.  Be sure to check out some of the other videos going on there.  These Ottawa teens have some mad talent.  Big time thanks to Jane Venus for bringing these to my attention.

Picture book trailer time.  I think the genius behind this take on the Katie Davis book Kindergarten Rocks is the first child featured here.  Methinks the the child doth protest too much.  In any case, if your cute kid quotient is low for the day, here is the perfect cure:

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15. Review of the Day: Chuckling Ducklings by Aaron Zenz

Chuckling Ducklings and Baby Animal Friends
By Aaron Zenz
Walker & Company
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2191-4
Ages 4-8
On shelves now

They say that humor is subjective. They might as well just go and say the same thing for what folks find cute. What positively reduces one person to a pile of babbling goo might strike another as abominably saccharine. There is no accounting for taste. Personally, I have a low “awww” threshold. Cute, for me, has to go beyond long eyelashes and oversized heads. You’ve gotta have some substance to your adorableness or you’ll just disappear in the midst of all the ootsy-cutesy picture book fare churned out each and every season. Aaron Zenz, I suspect, knows this. He can wrassle up a cutie pie baby animal with his colored pencils better than most folks I know, but he also knows that you need a reason for displaying those balls of big-eyed fluff. Enter, Chuckling Ducklings. Part catchy rhyme, part baby animal nomenclature, part roly-poly balls of fur, Zenz deftly hones a book that could reasonably be called a triple threat. It’s cute imbued with purpose.

It starts off innocuously enough. “Here’s a puppy. There’s a kitten. A baby bunny is what I am. A yawning fawn and chuckling ducklings. Cub, cub, cub, cub, piglet, lamb.” By this point you’ve seen a fair number of baby animals cavorting about the place, but it’s possible you haven’t quite gotten the gist of the book yet. That’s when Zenz tightens the screws. Suddenly we’re looking at colts, fillies, and caterpillars. The book, it turns out, is a clever rhyming scheme of the names we give different kinds of baby animals. From poults to porcupettes the animals are named, interact, and at the end we are presented with a guide to all the animals and what their grown-up names will be.

The book reminded me a bit of that supremely hip Matthew Porter title Calling All Animals that came out a year or so ago. Like Zenz, Porter found that a good way of displaying animals with a common purpose is to find something informative that will intrigue both parents and kids. In Porter’s case, he decided to go for collective names (a pride of lions, a charm of goldfinches, etc.). To my surprise I discovered that there really isn’t a term for baby animal names. Or, if there is, it is relatively unknown to the gawking public folks like myself. Whatever it may be called, Zenz is sneaky with revealing that this is what the book’s all about. You think you’re just reading some everyday baby animal book and then WHAMMO! He hits you upside the head with a “Cub, Cub, Cub, Cub” sequence of raccoon, bear, panda, and tiger. Even then, you would be forgiven for thinking that he’s just going to stick with the usual. That is, until you start reading about a “cygnet”, an “eyas”, a “poult”, and a “squab”

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16. Kids’ Halloween Books: Cats, Bats, & Skeletons

By Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review
Published: September 21, 2011

It’s time to start prepping for the holiday season. First stop: Halloween. No tricks here—only treats!

When witches go riding,
and black cats are seen,
the moon laughs and whispers,
‘tis near Halloween.
~Author Unknown

Our 2011 Halloween book list spotlights everything from growing pumpkins; overcoming fears (a great topic for youngsters that tend to get a little surprised when they no longer recognize their family and friends due to colorful costumes and scary masks); witches; skeletons; cats and bats; and plain-old, creepy stories that beg to be read on a dark night with a flashlight. From babies to beginning readers to middle graders to young adults, TCBR has you covered.

Board Books

Spooky Boo! A Halloween Adventure

by Lily Karr (Author), Kyle Poling (Illustrator)

Reading level: Baby-Preschool

Board book: 12 pages

Publisher: Cartwheel Books; Brdbk edition (July 1, 2011)

Source: Publisher

Publisher’s synopsis: What’s Halloween without a haunted house? Come inside SPOOKY BOO! A HALLOWEEN ADVENTURE – it’s filled with tons of Halloween fun! With spooky lift-the-flaps, icky touch-and-feels, and outrageous mirrors throughout, this is one haunted house that trick-or-treaters will want to visit again and again!

Add this book to your collection: Spooky Boo! A Halloween Adventure


Little Black Book

by Renee Khatami

Reading level: Baby-Preschool

Board book: 14 pages

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (July 26, 2011)

Source: Publisher

Publisher’s synopsis: Black is the new black in this darkly tantalizing touch-and-feel extravaganza for the senses! Now babies can enjoy this daring color in a novelty board book chock-full of gorgeous, full-color photographs. There are textures to touch, a flap surprise, and the scratch ‘n’ sniff scent of sweet licorice that you can almost taste!

Add this book to your collection: Little Black Book


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