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Open Worlds, Open Minds

2 Feb

A picture book is a magical thing. It can entertain, educate, and persuade. It can make you to think, feel, and imagine.

Every year the writing community gets together and chooses the best of the best. These are the ones which are adorned with shiny stickers. These are the coveted titles. This year is no exception. Let’s take a look at the Caldecott winners of 2017.

Randolph Caldecott Medal Winner

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

Written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe (son of John Steptoe, author of 1988’s Caldecott Honor winning Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters).

Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Art and story work together to inspire and delight readers.

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Caldecott Honor Books

27414464Leave Me Alone!

Written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol

Roaring Brook Press

Pure entertainment. Family relationships, wild animals, and space travel are knit into a rollicking story.

28250952Du Iz Tak?

Written and illustrated by Carson Ellis

Candlewick Press

A story of homes and relationships all told in a strange inventive language. Here, the artwork does the heavy lifting. Discovery and imagination blend with a healthy dose of nonsense.

28101612They All Saw A Cat

Written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Chronicle Books

Questions what you see and what you think you see. It’s all about perception and understanding truth from individual viewpoints.

25785628Freedom in Congo Square

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie

Illustrated by Freddie Williams Evans

Little Bee Books

Historically accurate account of slave and free blacks in New Orleans told in lyrical language depicting the soul of humanity.

Author, Author!

20 Oct

This has been an exceptional month in author visits for me. In the past four weeks I have met and learned from three of the best in the industry. Conventional wisdom dictates that that aspiring authors read, study, and write in the genre they want to learn. For me, one of the best ways to learn has always been to go directly to the source, in this case the authors.

Lisa Yee visited the Joseph Beth Bookstore on September 21st. Lisa writes primarily in the Middle Grade/Young Adult genres. She is funny, witty, and full of life lessons. And her books mirror that. Although MG/YA is on the older end of the kidlit spectrum, there are many crossover skills for the picture book writer as well. Know your audience. Immerse yourself in their language, struggles, and joys. Identify what makes them tick. Give them what they need. Lisa’s new DC Super Hero series does all of that and more. Personally, my favorite things about her are her past Disney life and her huge Winnie-the-Pooh collection.

 

 

Pat Zietlow Miller was in Cincinnati for school visits on October 4th sponsored by The Blue Manatee BookstoreI was lucky enough to meet up with her and bookseller, Alia Jonesfor dinner downtown on Fountain Square the night before her school events. We had a great time together. We introduced her to Graeter’s Ice Cream and I got my squash signed, so win-win! Pat is the author of five picture books. I met Pat last spring at an SCBWI conference in Chicago. She is a wonderful speaker and an amazing person. Her first book, SOPHIE’S SQUASH, has a sequel which just came out this fall SOPHIE’S SQUASH GOES TO SCHOOL. Pat knows what it takes to be a friend and her children’s books resound with the message of friendship and dreams. Another one of my favorite Pat Z. Miller books is WHEREVER YOU GO. The positive message is so Pat!

 

Jacqueline Woodson is an author, poet, and winner of a the Caldecott Medal, a Newbery Honor Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, and an ALA Notable Award  in addition to many others. I was lucky enough to meet Jacqueline at Joseph-Beth this week on the 18th where she was talking about last year’s award winning BROWN GIRL DREAMING and her newest book ANOTHER BROOKLYN. Jacqueline is also the author of several picture books which I adore, one of my favorite being THE OTHER SIDE. Listening to her read and speak is such a joy. If you haven’t had the chance to hear her, you really need to treat yourself to a copy of her audiobook. The biggest piece of advice I took away from Jacqueline’s presentation is to empower yourself. 

 

So, off I go. With Lisa’s Supergirl, Pat’s Squash, and Jacqueline’s Brown Girl Dreaming I am fortified to take on my challenges and write, write, write. See you soon!

 

Celebrating Freedom

10 Feb

I’m always on the look out for new picture books. And today I read three you must add to your list. All five star books, each unique and beautifully written. Each one discusses a different aspect of freedom in different formats, non-fiction informational, first person historical fiction, and poetry with a historical perspective.

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Which Way to Freedom? written by Mary Kay Carson (Sterling Children’s Books, 2015)

A must read to understand the institution of slavery and the Underground Railroad in the United States. People, events, and ideas are presented in full with color illustrations, maps, and diagrams to help the young reader grasp this part of our nation’s history. The final pages are dedicated to learning more about present day slavery still practiced in parts of the world including South Asia and West Africa.

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Freedom on the Menu written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue (Dial Books, 2004)

Another wonderful picture book to share our rich, if not sometimes unpleasant, history. Written from the first person point of view of a young girl learning about civil rights through the actions of her brother, sister, parents, and historical figures in Greensboro, North Carolina. She has the innocence of a child as she learns tough lessons and finds true heroes in her hometown.

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Freedom in Congo Square written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Little Bee Books, 2016)

Young readers spend a virtual week following the lives of the slaves in and around the plantations of New Orleans. Monday through Saturday they experience the hardships and hopefulness of the people as they slop the hogs, plow the fields, shine the silver, scrub the floors, pick the crops, can the beans, and so much more from sunrise to sunset. But on Sundays they commune at Congo Square. Freemen and slaves play the music of their motherland, dance, sing, and share their news.

I wrote a review for another book by Carole Boston Weatherford, Voice of Freedom (Candlewick Press, 2015) earlier this year. You can read it HERE. 22747807

 

 

Outside the Box

12 Jan

When the American Library Association thinks outside the box,open empty cardboard box 3d illustration

this is what happens…

A picture book is awarded the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature, the John Newbery Medal winner is https://julianaleewriter.com/books-alive/l/last-stop-on-market-street/ by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson.22521973

A 56 page story is awarded the most distinguished American picture book for children, the Randolph Caldecott Medal winner is https://julianaleewriter.com/books-alive/f/finding-winnie/ by Lindsay Mattcik and Sophie Blackall.24819508

An autobiography and ‘celebrity’ picture book is awarded The Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award. The winner is https://julianaleewriter.com/books-alive/t/trombone-shorty/ by Troy Andrews and Brian Collier.23167689

This is the first time in the history of the ALA Youth Media Awards that the same person won both the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award and the Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievment in the same year. Congratulations to Jerry Pinkney! Pinkney’s newest picture book this year was https://julianaleewriter.com/books-alive/g/the-grasshopper-and-the-ants/20839547

Other picture books taking home ALA awards this year are….

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Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls  won the Schneider Family Book Award for books that embody an artistic expression of the disability experience.

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The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy by Beatrice Alemagna won the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for an outstanding children’s book translated from a foreign language and subsequently published in the United States.

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Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle and Rafael Lopez won the Pura Belpré (Illustrator) Award honoring a Latino writer and illustrator whose children’s books best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience.

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Funny Bones by Duncan Tonatiuh won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children.

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https://julianaleewriter.com/the-cybils-2015/easy-readers/dont-throw-it-to-mo/ by David A. Adler and  Sam Ricks won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book.

Picture Book Art

14 May

Admit it, we’re drawn to the art of picture books. It’s okay, we’re supposed to be! The artwork sets the stage for the story. It reflects the mood of the story. It provides another layer to the story. Based on those three things alone, it’s okay to judge a book by its cover. And once you open the cover, you will be amazed that such art is within its pages.

Another lovely reason to love picture book covers, is the immediate recognition we have when we see a book we know and love. When I taught emergent readers many years ago, we began the school year with a bulletin board of words they could ‘read’ by picture/logo association. These included words from traffic signs, chain stores, restaurants, product trademarks, etc. Advertising people know the power of visual memory. As soon as they started bringing in cereal boxes and magazine ads for our bulletin board, I started showing them book covers. Yes, they could ‘read’ titles based on the artwork. Wow! What a revelation for them… they were readers! They could read caterpillar and moon long before they could read sight words like is, the, and a.

I wish I could afford original kidlit artwork. But like any masterpiece, they are well outside my budget. What I have done, however, is the second best thing for me. I frame the paper covers of my books. I only wish I had thought of doing this earlier, because most of my covers are now tattered or discarded. This is an inexpensive way for me to surround myself with the masters. I have a few Caldecott Medal Winners and some classics. I started with the two or three which survived the many years of love and handling. Then I picked up a few more at Half Price Bookstore. Now, I’m raiding my grandchildren’s shelves. My collection is growing and I love how this is turning out. Can’t wait to pick up and frame more favorite friends.

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Having picture book covers on my wall is inspirational for me as a writer as well. I can imagine what my own words will look like to an illustrator, and how readers will be drawn to my stories. I can’t wait for the surprises that an illustrator will bring to my stories. And more than anything, I can’t wait for a child to identify my book by its cover!

Locomotive

10 May

17334578Locomotive

written and illustrated by Brian Floca

Caldecott Medal winner (2014)

 This year’s Caldecott Medal winner was Locomotive by Brian Floca. This picture book takes the reader on a realistic adventure on a train from Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento, California in 1869 at the completion of the transcontinental railroad. The end pages of this masterpiece are educational bits of history and engineering. The story within the end pages is factual and engaging. It begins with the building of the railroad then quickly has the reader standing on a platform looking for the train that will take a small family west to see their father. The artwork transports the reader into the mid 1800’s. Even the text becomes art incorporated onto each page. Readers are treated to a close-up look at the workings of a train as they huff and puff along the tracks. Looking out a window, the reader see the landscape changes as the train chugs full steam ahead. But you might not want to look when the train is crossing the trestle over Dale Creek! The reader experiences train stops in different cities and gets a taste of the menu offered at the railway stations. Not a single detail is left out, sleeping cars are explored for those who could afford it, the 1000 mile tree marks the distance traveled, and there is even a view of the toilet used on the trip. Just before the train arrives at the halfway point in its trip, it goes through dark mountain tunnels blasted away by black powder and nitroglycerin. From there it’s all downhill to the end of the line.

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