Tag Archives: author/illustrator

Sketchy Lives

5 Oct

I recently read two sketchy books. Sketchy not for content, but for the style of the illustrations.

The first is Jane, the fox and me written by Fanny Britt and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault.


The target audience of this book seems to be middle/high school aged girls. Not the traditional demographic of graphic novels.

Helene is the victim of bullies at her school so she dreads an upcoming  school camping trip. The popular girls, who used to be her friends,  tease her about her weight and her lack of friends so Helene’s world is pretty grim and her self-esteem is very low. Helene’s world is illustrated in black and white.


She begins to believe all of the awful lies the girls spread about her and only takes solace in the book Jane Eyre as she identifies with the main character. Jane’s story is told in full color.


Going off to camp with her classmates ends up being a transformative experience in which Helene encounters a fox and finally gains a best friend and her world becomes a bit brighter.


I’m not a huge fan of Shaun Tan, but I really enjoyed learning about his thought process in The Bird King: an artist’s notebook. 


The book is divided into three sections: untold stories


book, theater, and film


drawings from life


and notebooks.


These are two really worthwhile books to take a look at.

Be yourself: Standing out or blending in

4 Oct

Tigers. They are significant features in two new picture books about being yourself. They both remind me a little of Mo Willems’ Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, which is my favorite Mo Willems book.

In Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, by Peter Brown, the situation is quite the opposite of Naked Mole Rat’s dilemma.


All the animals wear clothes, walk on their hind legs, mind their manners and act, well, civilized. Mr. Tiger feels the need to cut loose a little.  He takes baby steps at first.


Then he really runs wild.


Well, haven’t we all felt a little constrained sometimes? Maybe you’ve never wanted to run naked on all fours, but I bet you get tired and just want to ROAR once in a while. I do.

And then we have the strange case of Maude Shrimpton in Lauren Child’s Maude The Not-So-Noticeable-Shrimpton.


She is a quiet soul, surrounded by a flamboyant family. Can you see her? Second from the end.


Instead of getting her the quiet, calm goldfish she wanted for her birthday, her family got her a tiger. Oh my!


Let’s just say, it doesn’t go well for her flamboyant family members. Maude ends up OK because “Sometimes. Just sometimes, not being noticeable is the very best talent of all.”

It would be fun to read these to your class, then have them write a story about a person who ran wild or didn’t stand out.

A little friendly competition

26 Sep

When I was taught to outline, there was a protocol using for numbers, Roman numerals and letters. In word, when bulleting, you get the same three choices if you want something other than an actual bullet or arrow. But which is best? How do you chose?

In Mike Boldt’s 123 versus ABC   numbers and letters both want to be the stars of the book.


Their debate escalates when funny animals and props start arriving: 1 alligator, 2 bears, 3 cars. You can see where this is going. Each grouping of new animals and objects are highlighted in the text and I found myself wanting to count each monkey or lion to make sure there were, in fact, that exact number.  This is not a number/alphabet book for beginners. Some of the humor is a little sophisticated for early readers, but made me laugh, like the page on which A states that “today is Bring Your Lowercase to Work Day. Here is little a.” Of course I loved the fact that 25 balls of yarn were needed to knit sweaters for 26 zebras. I always enjoy a good knitting reference.

This book would be a fun read aloud, as 1 and A both have very strong voices.


Knitting, Audiobooks and a Giveaway by some cool authors

23 Sep

Here’s another fun picture book about knitting:


in Little Owl’s Orange Scarf,  by Tatyana Feeney, Little Owl’s mom has knit him a scarf. Unfortunately, it is scratchy and orange. he tries to lose it, but has little success until he goes to the zoo. Later, Mom knit him a new one, but let’s him choose the yarn.

Choosing yarn for a project is a knitter’s dilemma. You have to get the color & fibre just right for a recipient. You also have to think if expensive yarn is worth it if the recipient isn’t going to hand wash the item. I generally try to knit with washable yarn for others and save the fancy stuff for me.

I read 2 books this weekend consequently I did not knit. This is OK because I am between projects right now. Reading & knitting are mutually exclusive activities, unless you knit & listen to an audiobook, which I’ve been known to do. I always have an audiobook in the car. Right now I;m listening to Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World.


About the giveaway:

One of my new favorite blogs, cccblogheader is giveaway tons of stuff to celebrate their first anniversary. Check out the blog and enter to win. Click HERE to enter the raffle.

Thrills and Chills

18 Sep

One night, when she was in her early teens, my niece rebecca stayed up with my twin sister and I to watch Psycho. It was an exciting and terrifying evening in which we screamed and had some good laughs.

Have you ever wondered what people did for this kind of fun before the advent of horror movies?

Rob Harrell offers an answer to this question in his graphic novel Monster on the Hill.


In a fantastical 1860s England, every quiet little township is terrorized by a ferocious monster–much to the townsfolk’s delight! Each town’s unique monster is a source of local pride, not to mention tourism. Each town, that is– except for one. Unfortunately, for the people of Stoker-on-Avon, their monster isn’t quite as impressive. In fact, he’s a little down in the dumps. Can the morose Rayburn get a monstrous makeover and become a proper horror? It’s up to the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and plucky street urchin Timothy to get him up to snuff, before a greater threat turns the whole town to kindling.

This is fun romp with monsters and sure to be a favorite even with kids who don;t often read graphic novels.

Happy New Year

2 Sep

It has been many years since I’ve stayed up late on December 31st. I think of that as the day we change the calendar. To me, as to many groups throughout history, the New Year comes in the Fall. A new calendar year feels the same as the day before.  A new school year is full of excitement, anticipation, a little anxiety and hope. Each new school year is like a journey into a new world; the curriculum stays more or less the same, but the kids make it an adventure. There are things I can’t control, and things I can.

It is the same in the wordless picture book  Journey by Aaron Becker.


A lonely girl picks up her red crayon, begins drawing on her bedroom wall and escapes to a world of enchantment. She begins simply at first, drawing a door, then boat, a balloon. When, after an act of courage,  she is captured by evil people, an act of friendship saves her and enables her to return home to find a true friend.

Each school year is like the arc of this story. We will begin tentatively tomorrow, take some risks, encounter some bums along the way, but will arrive at the end of the journey better people for having made it.

Candy can save the world

22 Aug

Growing up, my dad used to eat beets and tell my sister and I we should try them because they’d put hair on our chests. My dad had a very hairy chest and we would squeal. When one of my nieces was about 3, he’d tell her beets tasted like candy.  My niece would say, “Do you like candy? I don;t like candy.”

Several years ago, at the Hollywood Farmers Market, and I noticed all sorts of people walking about with gorgeous beets.  Alas, I didn’t eat beets. I thought I didn’t like them. I decided to be brave and find out what all the buzz was about, so I bought some and, it turns out, beets are earthy and delicious!

As an adult, I have learned to eat a lot of things I didn’t really enjoy as a child. And that is the underlying theme of  The Great Lollipop Caper by Dan Krall.


Instead of beets as the nasty food, we have capers. I still don’t really enjoy capers, but I really enjoyed this book.

Sour Mr. Caper is popular with adults, but longs to be loved by kids in the way Mr. Lollipop is. He sneaks into the lollipop factory and pours caper flavor into the vats of lollipop batter. The result is a disaster. Fortunately, Lollipop comes up with a win-win solution.

In first grade, I wrote a tory about a story called “The Pea Family and the Yellow Beans”. Maybe, after reading this, kids could write about other foodstuffs and the difficult problems they have to solve.

Why I’m glad I have basset hounds

15 Aug

Bassets are lazy. Here’s what it looks like at my house most of the time.




Lucy is the most energetic, but she will only play fetch for 5-10 minutes, before it is nap time again. In the summer, the three of us often go take 2 hour naps. I sometimes put my pajamas on & get under the covers.  Going back to work after having the summer off can be difficult for all of us.

In her nearly wordless book, Ball,  Mary Sullivan shows what it is like at the opposite end of the dog spectrum.


It is nearly wordless, because one word appears on almost every page:


This is a fun book and would be great as a read aloud to show kids to teach them about voice in writing. The one word of text  is repeated forty-four times in various sizes, upper and lower case, with varying punctuation and by different speakers with equally varied visual interpretation. The size and boldness of the letters in the panel above convey a message very different from the panel below.


There are other things I like about this book. The pictures and colors make it look like an older book and help the reader read between the lines and decipher the dog’s  emotional state.

So glad my girls are not this ball obsessed.

Up in the air, Junior Birdmen!

12 Aug

Sometimes my personal reading crosses paths with my professional reading. In all honesty, the line is often a blur, but there I was reading a decidedly adult book not at all related to kid lit and WHAM, a bunch of library holds arrived that dovetailed with my adult book. Maybe this is more a testament to my library search techniques than coincidence.

I am currently reading A Higher Call  by Adam Makos.


It is a WWII story about the pilots of a damaged American B-17 bomber on it’s way home from a  mission and a German Me-109 fighter, who meet in the skies above Europe.  I had a little trouble getting started because I don’t especially like Makos’ writing style. Either he;s getting better as the book moves along, or I’m getting used to him. He tells the stories of both pilots, their encounter and what happened afterwards. I wish Makos had included a bibliography and index, but, if you like non-fiction, you should give this one a try.

Interestingly, i just got a pile of picture books about planes from the library. They range from wordless to factual.

The Boy and the Airplane  by Mark Pett is wordless. It reminds me a little of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree,  but it is a lot happier.


A little boy os playing with his airplane and it gets stuck on the roof. When his ladder doesn’t reach, and all his other efforts to retrieve the plane fail, he plants a tree. We see his patience as he waits. Finally the tree is tall enough and the old man plays with his airplane again. I love the sepia tones  and the simple illustrations.

Next up is Planes Fly! written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Mick Wiggins, a rhyming book about planes that


introduces young readers to different types of planes, their parts and their many uses.

Daredevil: The Daring Life of Betty Skelton by Meghan McCarthy is a picture book biography of an aviation and auto racing pioneer.


Here is a tale to inspire any radar, but especially young girls.  The simple text is approachable in this book about a little known record breaker from Pensacola, Florida. . The acrylic illustrations are bold and fun at the same time.Unlike   A Higher Call,  the endpapers are full of  notes, quotes, timeline, and bibliography that make this title a starting point for research on Betty Skelton, or other on other women pioneer.

Finally, we have Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared into America’s Heart  by Julie Cummins and illustrated by Malene R Laugesen.


We all know about Amelia Earhart, but who has heard of Ruth Elder? She attempted to cross the Atlantic before Earhart. The lively prose of this biography capture Elder’s adventures and the can-do spirit of the time. I like that this book moves kids beyond Amelia Earhart and the resources at the end help readers delve a little deeper into early women aviators.

I hope you’ll find something in this list that catches your fancy.

Nature’s little helpers

5 Aug

When my niece was little, she believed a little character named Pip lived in the forest around their house.  Here are two books that Pip would really appreciate.

First up we have the wordless Hank Finds and Egg  by Rebecca Dudley.


Hank is out walking one day and encounters an egg on the forest floor. Realizing it belongs in the nest above him, he tries to put it back, but can’t. Finally, he meets someone who can help him. It is a simple story. What makes the book amazing is the art. Dudley makes everything. She creates all the items that go into each photograph, and her attention to detail is impressive. Hank is an endearing character, with only eyes and a nose, yet he manages to evoke great emotion. We have a nature park behind out school and I wonder what to be like to walk through there with young kids pretending to be Hank. I look forward to seeing more for Rebecca Dudley.

On a similar nature theme is Miss Maple’s Seeds, written and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler.


Miss Maple spends the summer collecting orphan seeds and caring for them through the winter. She celebrates the potential that each seed has and, when Spring arrives, she sends them off to find their place in the world. It is a beautiful quiet story about nurturing the potential in others and caring for nature.

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