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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!

 

Paying It Forward, Starting In My Own Community

12 Feb

Author, Lauri Fortino is paying it forward with proceeds from her debut picture book. Check out her blog and support her mission or your own community in your own way.

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Little Man Asleep_Peddlers Bed Scene from The Peddler’s Bed illustrated by Bong Redila (Ripple Grove Press, 2015)

RM Logo

Even before my first children’s picture book, The Peddler’s Bed, was published, I knew I wanted to help people. But how? After the book was released, I began to research non-profit organizations that might be a good match. And although there are many extremely worthy causes out there, it didn’t take long to realize that the best match was right here in my own community: The Syracuse Rescue Mission.

Since 1887, the Syracuse Rescue Mission has been helping people in need by providing food, clothing, and shelter. Though they have evolved over the years, adding more services, programs, and locations, the values of faith, hope and love continue to form the foundation of their mission.

This is what the SRM is all about: Putting an end to hunger and homelessness for men, women, and children in…

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Groundhog’s Dilemma

19 Jan

25508197 Groundhog’s Dilemma

written by Kristen Remenar

illustrated by Matt Faulker

Charlesbridge, 2015

 

Groundhog has one job. And he does it well. Every year on his special day, Groundhog leaves his home and checks the weather. If he sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter, if he doesn’t there will be an early spring. Every year Groundhog’s friends gather around to hear his weather prediction. Every year, half of them are happy and the other half are not. But Groundhog calls it like he sees it.  Then one year his friends each decide to try to influence his prediction with gifts and bribes.

No celebration of Groundhog’s Day would be complete without Groundhog’s prediction. Every kid (around here at least) wants to know if he should trade in his sled for a skateboard or if he should leave out his hats and mittens for another six weeks.

Can the groundhog really predict the weather? How will Groundhog keep all his friends happy. A little dose of honesty goes a long way, and Groundhog learns that calling it like he sees it has its advantages.

This is Kristen Remenar’s first picture book and her husband, Matt Faulker’s thirty-ninth picture book. Together they have produced a pretty good one here. Like Groundhog says, “I just call it like I see it”!

In Like a Lion

5 Mar

UnknownTrue to its reputation, March is coming in like a lion. But right around the corner, spring is ready to pounce. This weekend we will move forward one hour. Next week we are looking forward to warmer temperatures and melting snow. The following week we will look for four leaf clovers, leprechauns, and pots of gold at the end of the rainbow. And before you know it, we’ll celebrate the official first day of spring with singing, dancing, and frolicking in the streets. Let’s look back just a few short months. What good has come out of this past winter? Has being homebound brought you closer to loved ones? Helped you organize your closet or deep clean at least one room? Given you the time to focus on your craft? Forced you to eat home-cooked meals? Provided solitude for meaningful meditation? Inspired you to learn something new? Offered a creative outlet? For myself, I’ve polished two manuscripts and sent them out to five industry professionals. I organized another critique group. I’ve started a number of new writing projects, one which is very promising. I’ve been invited to be one of the administrators on the Debut Picture Book Study group on Facebook. I completed last year’s picture book review challenge, Celebrate Every Day with a Picture Book.  And I embarked on this year’s challenge to keep up with new picture book publications, which includes reviewing picture books and offering some fun kid-friendly activities for each one on my new page, 2015 Books Alive!

 Check out some of these titles on my new page.

Little Elliot, Big City

30 Dec

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Little Elliot, Big City written and illustrated by Mike Curato (2014)

Little Elliot was an elephant who was different from everybody else. He lived in a big city, where he had to be careful because he was so little. The one thing Elliot wanted more than anything, was a cupcake. But he was too small to reach over the top of the counter and so he was never even noticed. Then one day, Elliot found someone who was even smaller than he was, a mouse. And the mouse had even bigger problems than Elliot because of his size. Elliot was able to help the mouse by lifting him up. And the mouse was able to help Elliot when he was lifted up over the top of the counter at the bakery. Now Elliot finally got a cupcake… and something even better, a friend.

Mike Curato first picture book is treat for the eye and ear. His artwork has the perfect balance between vintage and modern. And his story has mass appeal for children and adults alike.

Little Elliot’s sweet innocence and sweet tooth will capture your heart. It has mine!

Wimbley the Wonder Boy

2 Nov

One of the best things about having a blog is making friends and connections from around the blogsphere. One friend I have made this year is having her first book published in less than two days! She sent me an advance reader copy to preview before its release date. And, I am honored to share it with you today…

Wimbley the Wonder Boy

wimbley-cover

written by Angela Hawkins and illustrated by Holly Blackman (2014)

Wimbley has an active imagination. He wonders about so many things. He wonders about everything from where do crayons go after you flush them down the potty to what really happens when you call 911. But his biggest wonder is how long his mother will love him. ‘Now and Forever’ she assures him!

Angela has captured the questioning mind of a child. She also set this story in one week’s time so that while children wonder about things like Wimbley does, they also follow the progression from Monday to Tuesday and so on to Sunday. She voices the same worries many children have, but through this format also leaves room for children to discuss things they wonder about as they read this story with their parents or caregivers.

Holly Blackman uses simple drawings that look like crayon drawings of a child to portray the childlike innocence of these questions. Wimbley’s world is easily identifiable to a young child, making the transition from his world to their own seamless.

 I like the connections between real-life questions young children have and the pages of this book. It is fun to read and share with a child, especially as a springboard for discussing their own worldly questions.

Wimbley the Wonder Boy will be available on Amazon starting Monday, November 3, 2014.

If you would like to follow Angela on wordpress. You can find thislittlebirdie HERE.

Imani’s Moon

21 Oct

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Imani’s Moon written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (2014)

Imani was the smallest child in her village. The other children teased her, but her mama told her stories at night which lifted her spirits. One night Mama told her the story of Olapa, the goddess of the moon who won a mighty battle against the god of the sun. That night Imani dreamed that she fought with Olapa and protected the people of the earth. The next day, Imani was determined to touch the moon but she fell from a tree. The following day, Imani built a pair of wings but she crashed into a tree on her first flight. The day after that, Imani watched warriors jump and decided to jump to the moon herself. She jumped all day and into the night, and with one final jump she landed on the moon. Olapa praised her and gave her a moon rock to take home with her. That night, Imani told her mother a story, her story, about a girl who believed she could touch the moon.

JaNay Brown-Wood tells the story of a little girl with big dreams. Set in Africa, in Kenya, in a village of the Maasai people, Imani’s story is told. Rich in language and culture of the people, Imani learns that you must believe in yourself if you want to accomplish something as wonderful as touching the moon. And JaNay Brown-Wood, believed she could write a book for children, and she did! This is her first picture book.

Hazel Mitchell brings Imani’s world to life through her beautiful illustrations. The innocence of Imani’s spirit, the faith of her mother, and the doubt of the unbelievers feel as real as if they were standing in front of you. Hazel Mitchell gives even the animals, human qualities and gives the readers rich details in each scene.

I love this new picture book! It speaks so gently and eloquently to the young reader. It gives children a story in which faith and determination are equally important in reaching one’s goals.

Goodnight, Ark

12 Sep

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Goodnight, Ark written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman (2014)

Opening rhyme: “Beds are ready, Food is stored. Noah hollers, ‘All Aboard!'” Two by two the creatures of the land and air board the ark. Then Noah announces ‘time for bed’ and the animals all buddy up in their spots. The rain starts quietly at first and then grows into a storm with thunder and lightening, waking all the animal pairs. And two by two they all clamber into bed with Noah! They wiggle, slither, jump, and pounce to join Noah until at last the bed breaks. When the skunks let out their stinky fumes, everyone scrambles back to their own bunks. Noah tucks them all in safe and snug singing a bedtime lullaby. Last rhyme: “Noah smiles in the dark. ‘Goodnight,friends. Goodnight, Ark.'”

Laura Sassi gives a delightful twist to the popular bible story of Noah and the Ark. Without losing the essence of the original story, she weaves humor and rhyme into the first bedtime routine on the ark.

Jane Chapman’s illustrations are childlike, bright and playful all while expertly lulling little eyes to sleep… zzzzz. Whisper now, what more could a parent want?

What a beautiful story! So much fun to read and share with little ones. Feel the calm before the storm, frolic with the frightened animals, rest assured that you are never alone. Goodnight sweet ones….

Just found this lovely YouTube picture book trailer for Goodnight, Ark. Take a look, I’m sure you’ll love it! 

Sleepyheads

4 Sep

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Sleepyheads written by Sandra J. Howatt and illustrated by Joyce Wan (2014)

 All the sleepyheads have snuggled in for the night, each in their own little bed. One is in a nest, one is in a hole, one is in a cave. In the trees, lake, and barn all the sleepyheads are sound asleep. (Except the owl who slept all day!) Then with one more place to look for sleepyheads, the reader goes inside the house and finds one beside the fireplace and another in a dark space, but when we get to the bedroom someone is missing from his bed. Where is he? In his Mama’s arms!  Goodnight sleepyheads.

Sandra J. Howatt’s first picture book is soft and sweet and sleepy. The quiet movement from the woods, to the lake, to the barn, and then to the house is perfectly paced. Like a lullaby, this book is written in sleep-enducing rhyme and rhythm.

Joyce Wan adds the beautiful illustrations to the text. The pictures are also soft and sweet and sleepy. Starting with the crescent moon and stars in the dark sky, the reader is immediately transported into that pre-sleep state of consciousness which ends in Mama’s arms while fireflies light the dandelions.

What a perfect bedtime story! I love everything about it. The text and illustrations dance together in the evening music, lulling tired little eyes to close and sweet little heads to nod.

Too Much Glue

18 Aug

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Too Much Glue written by Jason Lefebvre and illustrated by Zac Retz (2013)

Matty is a creative genius when it comes to glue. He and his dad love to make glue creations at home, with mom’s approval of course. But at school, his teacher warns about using too much glue. In class Matty decides to make the biggest glue puddle ever and lay in it. He gets yarn, plastic bricks, goggly eyes, and colorful paper stuck to himself. The problem is that he can’t get up, he’s stuck to the worktable! The more his friends try to release him, the more decorations he gets stuck to himself. Neither the teacher nor the principal can unstick him. Finally, his dad comes in and saves the day. Dad pries him off the table and congratulates him on making a masterpiece. Dad takes him home and unpeels the glue from his body and re-glues it together in the kitchen. They take a magnet and stick it on the back of the Matty-shaped masterpiece and hang it on the refrigerator. Taking the principal’s suggestion seriously, Matty and his parents experiment with tape after dinner… oh no!

Jason Lefebvre has written his first picture book and glue masterpiece. Although I wonder if he has ever been an art teacher, I bet he was once a kid like Matty! His creativity and over-the-top antics make a hilarious picture book. It’s certainly a story that will ‘stick with you’… ba da dum!

Zac Retz captures the spirit of Matty and glue-lovers everywhere. The illustrations are so real, you might be afraid to touch the pages for fear of sticking everything together into one globby glue mess.

I love this story, but I would hide the glue bottles from anyone who has read it! What a crazy, hysterical, post-reading disaster this could be! Share at your own risk!(Did I emphasize this enough with unnecessary exclamation marks?)

The Monstore

18 Jul

15945853The Monstore written by Tara Lazar and illustrated by James Burks (2013)

The Monstore is a secret place where you can buy a monster to do almost anything you want… Zack only wanted one monster to do one thing – to frighten his pesky little sister away. So Zack bought Manfred the monster. But Manfred didn’t do his job. In fact he taught Zack’s little sister, Gracie, where the best hiding places were and together Manfred and Gracie scared Zack. Now Zack had a bigger problem, a pesky little sister, a monster who isn’t doing his job, and a strict ‘no returns’ policy at The Monstore. So Zack bought Mookie, who didn’t do the job either. Neither did Mojo. As a matter of fact, none of the monsters Zack bought could frighten his little sister away.  The monsters all became Gracie’s friends and The Monstore refused returns or exchanges. Finally Zack gave up and went to the basement to sleep. But there was one thing Zach didn’t count on… Gracie needed him! Only Zach could help Gracie sleep at night when she (and all the monsters) were afraid of a dark shadow in the middle of the night. It was a sparkly glittery tiara, and Zack was the only one brave enough to remove it from the room.  In appreciation of Zack’s heroism, Gracie and the monsters cleaned up Zack’s bedroom and moved out. Then Gracie opened her own Monstore in the shed behind the house!

Tara Lazar has created a place like no other, a Monstore! She expertly takes the reader into a world of goofy, crazy, monsters and has you believing such a place actually exists. (And who’s to say it doesn’t?) In this kooky, wacky world, two siblings learn to love and appreciate each other.

James Burks has the ability to bring this place to life, one monster at a time. In the dark foreboding rooms, he gives the reader silly, quirky monsters to brighten up the night. Who could possibly be afraid of the dark with these colorful characters for friends?

This story is sure to turn any monster-loving fiend into a monsterly mass of giggles. I love the antics and individuality of each of the monsters, but what I really love is the bond that Zack and Gracie finally form when they see each other in a new light. Readers with siblings will surely love this story.  But whether or not you have a sibling – or two – or three – or more, you will be swept up in the fun-filled possibility of The Monstore.  Just remember, No Refunds, No Returns, No Exchanges!

Hooray For Hat!

9 Jul

18222766Hooray For Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won (2014)

Elephant woke up grumpy. He stomped down the stairs yelling “Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” To his surprise there was a huge box on the doorstep. Inside the box, Elephant found a wide assortment of hats. There’s no way he could be grumpy with all these hats. Elephant cheered, “Hooray for Hat!” and stacked all the hats on his head and went to see his friend Zebra. But Zebra woke up grumpy too, and yelled “Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” So Elephant shared one of his hats with Zebra. Now Zebra wasn’t grumpy any more and they both shouted “Hooray for Hat!” And they went off to show their friend Turtle, and guess what… he was grumpy too, until he got a hat. And so was Owl, until he got a hat as well. By the time the friends reached Lion’s house they were all out of hats, which was really too bad because Lion was grumpy too. He was grumpy because his friend Giraffe was not feeling well. Everyone got together and decided that they should put all the hats back in the box and surprise Giraffe. Now Giraffe had all the hats, he did feel better, and everyone was happy!  “Hooray for Friends!”

This is Brian Won’s first picture book. He wrote a happy tale about being grumpy, and what preschooler has never been grumpy before? The illustrations are clean and simple. And the text is sincere and easy to understand.

I read this book to my toddler granddaughter who squealed with delight at each turn of the page. After reading it twice, we had a parade through the house wearing hats and giving them to our stuffed animal friends. This is a great feel-good story. I love any book which can bring so much joy seemingly effortlessly. HOORAY FOR HAT!

Ninja!

8 Jul

18490605Ninja! written and illustrated by Arree Chung (2014)

Maxwell is a ninja! He ties one of his father’s neckties around his head and gets silent ninja footwear, a ninja stick (pool stick), sticky ninja gloves (rubber dishpan gloves), a ninja rope (jumprope) and a ninja paddle (toy paddleball). Properly dressed, Maxwell sneaks out find his target (napping father) and executes a perfect ninja surprise! His next mission is to capture cookies and milk from his little sister. But he is dishonored when his little sister tries leaping from the chair to the countertop and falls on her bottom releasing a blood curdling scream that only little sister can manage. His only recourse is to teach his baby sister the way of the ninja!

Arree Chung delivers a ninja perfect picture book. There is action, comedy, and suspense in the antics of Maxwell the ninja. His illustrations draw the reader directly into the story with detailed sub-blocks of ninja activity.

I can totally see any ninja-wannabe falling head over heels for this book. Its fast-paced imaginative play makes the reader feel like they are right there with Maxwell, sharing in his triumphs, defeat, and ultimate resurgence.

Here is a little book trailer for your enjoyment… tell me you can watch this and not want to rush right out and get the book!

Early Bird

20 May

18005275Early Bird written and illustrated by Toni Yuly (2014)

This is Toni Yuly’s first picture book. It is a very simple story for preschool readers with a funny and heartwarming twist at the end. Early Bird gets up early. She hurries on her way to find the Early Worm. After her long journey, picks him up with her beak and lays him across the top of a big ripe strawberry so they can have breakfast together!

The story and the illustrations are pure and clean. Bright colors follow the Early Bird as she begins her day, and lead the reader into a wonderful expression of friendship.

Toni Yuly is an artist who must have the heart of a child. I hope to see more of her work to share with my grandchildren.

Maple

20 May

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Maple written and illustrated by Lori Nichols (2014)

This story is quiet and funny and honors children and their families. Maple’s parents planted a tree ‘while she was still a whisper’. And as Maple grew so did her tree. She played with her tree, she pretended to be a tree, and she took care of her tree. But sometimes Maple wished she had someone else to play with and she wondered if her tree felt the same way. Then one day Maple notices a seedling growing near her tree and soon she became a big sister to Willow. Maple and Willow played together under the shade of their trees.

Lori Nichols tells a story of growing families with the natural analogy of growing trees. The text is short and simple, but the ideas are deep and powerful. And like her text, her illustrations are also pure and simple. The innocence of the child is a wonder!

This is Lori Nichols first picture book, and I hope she has many more to come. I would love to see Maple and Willow grow up and experience lots of life’s little ups and downs.

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