The Baby Tree

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackallby Sophie Blackall

published 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books, at Penguin KidsThe Baby Tree by Sophie BlackallAbout a year ago, I heard Sophie Blackall give a keynote at SCBWI Western Washington. She wears great tights and shoes and is a total riot. She had this effervescent spirit that had the whole room in stitches. It felt like watching one of her illustrations bounce right off the page and into the room.

See, I’m a big fan. Ivy and Bean are soul sisters. I gushed about The Crows of Pearblossom and The Mighty Lalouche over at Design Mom, and still stand by this tweet from the end of 2013.

Her work has sprinkles of fairy dust or something in it – something enchanting and mysterious and compelling and darn beautiful.

And this, her latest offering, is both calming and humorous, sweet and sassy. It’s a bound and beautiful answer to the dreaded where do babies come from?

breaker She’s so in tune with the vast (and sometimes creepy!) imagination of a youngster, and look at how that plays out in this art. Real life is a spot illustration, surrounded by white space and unknowns. But the what if bleeds to the edge of the page, filling every millimeter with color and wonder and possibility. Not only is it stunning to see, it’s intentional storytelling. The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall The Baby Tree by Sophie BlackallHat tip, always, to Jules at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for the interview that revealed that delicious tidbit. Check out her interview (and more art!) with Sophie here.

Sophie works in Brooklyn with other illustrators Brian Floca, Ed Hemingway, John Bemelmans Marciano, and Sergio Ruzzier. Can you even imagine spending an hour in that studio, soaking it all up and trying not to faint and fall in it? Dream field trip, for sure. Their kinship and support of one another has always been so apparent. Look here, and here, and here to see what I mean.

But also, look inside The Baby Tree for a glimpse at their love and support of one another. What’s our pajama-clad wonderer reading with Mom and Dad, all cozied up in bed? I won’t spoil it for you, cause it was a gasp-moment for me. If you’ll bust without knowing, check out Danielle’s post over at This Picture Book Life about allusions in picture books. (And stay there a while even once you see what I’m talking about, cause how brilliant is that?!)

You’d like a copy, right? Penguin has two to give away to you! (And you!) Just leave a comment on this post by Monday at noon PST, June 2nd. I’ll pick two, and have the stork deliver The Baby Tree right to your doorstep. Good luck!

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Review copy provided by the publisher, all thoughts and love my own.

 

Presto Change-o! A Book of Animal Magic

Presto Change-o!by Édouard Manceau

published March 2014 (tomorrow!) by Twirl Books, distributed in America by Chronicle Books

What a treat to give the new Twirl books a whirl! (They are doing something right when a thirtysomething-ed lady squeals over a box of board books, right?)

This one is perfect for grabby hands and curious minds. Check it out in action.

breaker Presto Change-o!This is a board book that’s been on a steady regimen of spinach and milk. It’s big and beefy. That’s a great thing, because there’s a lot to experience on these pages.

Here’s how it works. The left page shows two seemingly unrelated nouns, loosely connected by a narrative. Sometimes it’s lilting and sometimes a bit labored, but since it’s a translation, all text-clunk is forgiven. Besides, the real treat is in the visual and tactile experience. Presto Change-o!Swinging a shape or two or three around transforms one picture to another. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated. And just plain fun to see and do. Swinging a shape or two or three around transforms one picture to another. It’s simultaneously simple and sophisticated. And just plain fun to see and do. Presto Change-o! Presto Change-o!Some standard fare lives here: Rabbit, Teapot, Owl. And then there’s Bowl of Salad. Bowl of Salad! Thank goodness for the French. What a delight! Some standard fare lives here: Rabbit, Teapot, Owl. And then there’s Bowl of Salad. Bowl of Salad! Thank goodness for the French. What a delight! Presto Change-o! Presto Change-o!I’m teaching an introductory Photoshop and graphic design class this summer. To 3rd – 6th graders. My brain exploded with ideas for projects when I saw this book. You better believe we will be creating our own Presto Change-os! 

Stay tuned.Presto Change-o!Here’s a bit more about Twirl Books.

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Review copy provided by the publisher.

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown

published 2014 by McSweeney’s/McMullens

29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown Do you know Because of Winn-Dixie? (Have I told you about the time I told Kate DiCamillo I wrote because of Winn-Dixie and obviously meant because of Because of Winn-Dixie but she cackled and my heart soared?)

Anyway. There’s a thing called a Littmus Lozenge. It’s a candy that makes you taste your sorrow and your sad and your sweet, all at once. Maybe it’s the thought of a lozenge sounding like something medicinal, or maybe it’s cause this pharmacy gave me both comfort and the heebie-jeebies, but reading this book felt a little like tasting a Littmus Lozenge. 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown Something unsettling hovers around this place, but it beckons me, too. And I’m not alone in that: those two myth-collectors/busters are at once intrigued and terrified.

It’s weird and charming and confusing and a head-scratcher all at once.

I think that’s exactly what makes it a successful story for kids. Everything doesn’t have to make sense. Offbeat is okay.

Because let’s face it: kid are weird and charming and confusing. They teeter in that fuzzy place between wonder and reality. This is a book that honors this and celebrates that.  29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown Is it suspicious, a lady going in and coming out in the same outfit? No. Not necessarily. But see: you are an adult. You are past your prime of delighting in the bizarre and making sense or screwballs out of it. When you read this, rest in it. Let it catapult you from being a grownup. It’s good for you. And then share it with a kid. They’ll get it. 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown Physically, I love the compact trim size because it feels like a manual, like a notebook, like some peculiar pamphlet to some oddball prescription in the pharmacy. It’s like a secret. A hush. 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa BrownThen! The cover unfolds to show the depths of the Swinster Pharmacy. When you flip it over, there’s a map of the town. Don’t ask me why I didn’t show you that. Just trust me. (If you dare.)29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy by Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brownch

P.S. – Another numbered book I loved recently is How to Bicycle to the Moon to Plant Sunflowers, by Mordecai Gerstein. A total must read if you love quirk and lists like me.

The publisher provided a review copy of 29 Myths on the Swinster Pharmacy, but thoughts and love are my own.

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend written and illustrated by Karen Stanton

published 2014 by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan

When I first saw the art for this book, a teeny jolt of whoa hit me right in the heart. I mean, look at the endpapers! The calendars sprinkled throughout! The swirls of smells and thoughts and words! Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen StantonThen I read the story and the teeny turned into titanic. This is a tender tale of love and home and broken families.

Henry Cooper lives in two houses. So does Pomegranate, his dog. Mama and Papa are two and a half blocks and worlds away. At Mama’s they dance, and at Papa’s they sing. In both, there is love and warmth and safety. Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen StantonWhen Pomegranate goes missing, Henry Cooper knows exactly where he is – right at the big yellow house where the family once lived together. Home.

And then Henry becomes the hero, leading Pomegranate back to where the love lives. There’s a lovely ambiguity of which house it is. Because really, does it matter?Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen StantonKaren Stanton’s art is layered, rich, and colorful. And is there a better art choice for brokenness than collage? I doubt it. Thank you, Karen, for sharing these spreads with us! Click any image to enlarge. Enjoy!

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The Tiny King

The Tiny King by Taro Muiraby Taro Miura

first U.S. edition published 2013, by Candlewick Press

Here’s a sweet and funny story. Candlewick sent me a review copy of The Tiny King in the waning weeks of 2013. My eye was already eager for it thanks to this Calling Caldecott post about international illustrators, so it was a bit of postal perfection. (Speaking of, are you counting down the days to January 27th?)

And then for Christmas, my mom sent me a spectacular selection of picture books – including The Tiny King! She always says I’m tough to buy books for, like “purchasing jewelry for a jeweler.” Maybe that’s true, but I think she did a pretty darn good job. (The others were a Poky Little Puppy Christmas edition and an autographed Jon Scieszka, so. And all came from bbgb in Richmond, VA. Shop indie!)

There’s no moral to this story. Just an extra copy of The Tiny King for you! Stay tuned for how to snag it.

So, this book. It’s this crazy mashup of charming fairy tale and quirky collage. The result is exquisite and mesmerizing, and you get a taste of that from the cover alone.

A sword-gripping hand is strong and fierce but nothing more than a circle. His distinguished white hairdo dripping out from under his crown – a small stack of white, curved lines. A leg made up of newsprint, which on careful inspection is a snippet of the tiny King’s wedding announcement. Foreshadowing. Spoiler. Clever and adorable.

Did you see the mini-note at the bottom of the cover, too? (This is the actual size of the Tiny King.) What a little delight! DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing Now that you’ve met him on the cover where you’ve seen him smash end to end, flip open to the first page and see that stature in context. This split in scale made me laugh out loud and drop my jaw. It’s so stunning, and so easy to fall in love with this little dude – small and alone and swimming in it.

He has a massive colorful castle, an army of tall soldiers with spears, and a feast fit for a bigger king. The spreads that introduce the reader to his lavish and lonely lifestyle are dark and looming, despite his kooky, whimsical posessions. DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing2 And then one day, a big princess shows up. The light! The expanse of bright space! The Q on her triangled gown! I went all out gaga and giddy for our tiny hero.

Everything changes in tone and in mood. The story takes place on washes of pink, blue, and yellow. The babies arrive, the soldiers are sent home to their families, and the empty castle is filled up with a bunch of love. DPB_Stack_TheTinyKing3 Happily and beautifully ever after.

I’d love to send a copy from my castle to yours. Just comment here by Thursday night at midnight PST. I’ll announce winners for this giveaway (and The Mischievians!) on Friday, and head to the royal post office this weekend.

Good luck!

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Review copy provided by Candlewick Press.

 

 

Alphablock

Alphablock by Christopher Franceschelli, art by Peskimo

published 2013, by Abrams Appleseed

Alphablock Alphablock This book. Swoon city. Hefty chunk of graphic design. Just as fascinating and fantastic for adults as well as the stubby fingers of the littles. “You’re never too old for picture books” is my constant battle cry at school. Let’s amend that a bit to “you’re never too old for board books.”

Because wow. Alphablock Alphablock Can you see what’s happening here? Each letter of the alphabet is given two thick spreads for the hint and the reveal. It’s a visual puzzle, linked by a die-cut of the hero letter. For real. Alphablock Alphablock Figuring it out is a satisfying read, and physically flipping the letterform for the answer is brilliant. Alphablock Alphablock Not only does the design feel fresh, but the alphabet choices are newfangled, too. I love S is for SCISSORS and the cut-out arts and crafts that accompany it. P is for PENCILS gets the lined paper treatment, scattered with sharpened pencil shavings. And thank goodness F is for FISH gives us a glimpse into an aquarium with its kooky accoutrements, and not the obvious deep blue sea scene. Alphablock

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

Image courtesy of Abrams Appleseed

(And any book that uses U is for UNDERWEAR is obviously a hands down favorite, too.)

Add this to your gift-list. Perfect for babes and art buffs alike. (And pretty much anyone who loves the alphabet.)

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Review copy provided by Abrams Appleseed.

Leonardo the Terrible Monster

Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Here’s something.

By Mo Willems. Published 2005, by Hyperion Books for Children. (Which I believe is now Disney-Hyperion.)

An old favorite, a forgotten gem. I was plotting a read-aloud for fourth graders, hunting for a picture book about meanness and bragging and being friends with someone different than you. In true Mo Willems style, this thing jumped right off the shelf when I ran my fingers across the spines. True story.

So I ignored my achy-creaky knees, and hovered over this on the floor of the library. It was one of the last purchases I made for the library before I left Virginia for California, but I haven’t given it two shakes of a nod since.

Not surprisingly, it’s brilliant.

It’s sheer size is in direct opposition to how terrible of a monster Leonardo is. I mean, he’s so big that he can’t even be contained to the cover. All we see is a peek of meek eyes and teensy-tiny horns. But we already know he’s pretty bad at being a monster. That juxtaposition is beyond hilarious, right? Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems So, he’s terrible. And terribly alone. Look at all of the white space on this spread, highlighting just how terrible and terribly alone Leonardo is. It makes his sad face even more pathetic. Awful. Awesome.Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Adults laugh at him. He doesn’t have Tony’s outrageous stack of teeth. And then there’s Eleanor, whose purple pedicure and anklet only hint at what kind of monstrous mug she may have. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems But Leonardo has an idea  – a fantastic, scare-the-tuna-salad-out-of-a-scaredy-cat-kid idea. His plot gives him some bounces of confidence. And there’s less white space. More text, more oomph, more pizzazz from his plan. He’s not so alone.

Enter: Sam. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems The reader knows right away that Sam and Leonardo are cut from the same cloth of lonely. Sam has even more nothing around him. Sam isn’t even facing forward. Sam has the saddest pit of despair behind those wire rims. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo WillemsSo when Leonardo blaggle-blaggles, grrrrs, and roooaarrrs, Sam cries.

But. It’s not because he’s scared. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Now. Here’s where I did a combo of a laugh/snort/cackle/snot/wimper thing. Sam’s white space is filled to the brim with all of the awful things that were bouncing around under his bowl cut. A mean big brother! A stubbed toe! On the same foot that he hurt last month! Bird poo! A hurt tummy!

All of Sam’s insides just tumble out and stun that gruff old Leonardo. Look at how he’s clutching his chest! Swoon.

That’s why. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems And then – an epic page turn. Leonardo’s smart, caring, friend-brain fills up all of that white space. It’s like the part where the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes. By seeing his whole face, his thought process, and those very un-monster eyes, we watch his heart change. Just like that. Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems Leonardo the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems The way Mo Willems uses space and size in this book shows us so much about Leonardo, Sam, and ourselves.

Friends. Flipping you forward since about forever.

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P.S. – For those fourth graders? Ended up going with Each Kindness, which is lovely beyond measure, and the moment was just shy of heart stopping. It was a perfect picture book morning. 

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Open This Little Book

OpenThisLittleBook_coverwritten by Jesse Klausmeier, illustrated by Suzy Lee

{published 2013, by Chronicle Books}Did you see that teensy update on my bio over there? I took out the former, cause I’m back to the library, y’all. It’s such a dream. My natural habitat. I see students for the first time next week, and have been anxious to share this with the littlest. I want it to be our signature story, the one that represents what we do together – opening book after book after book.

I’m also trying to figure out how to recreate this thing as a bulletin board. The engineering and the math and the genius and whoa. Stay tuned.

Check it out in action:

breaker Jesse Klausmeier dedicated this to Levar Burton, which is especially sweet given that this little book is a real love letter to books everywhere. Color distinguishes each character’s little book. Distinct and vibrant, belonging to each reader.Shape and scale do, too, and not in the most obvious way. The first character we meet is Ladybug. She’s in a red book, reading a green book. And inside the green book is Frog, who opens an orange book.

So, the bigger the character, the smaller the book!And that’s what causes a bit of sticky situation when it’s time for a Giant to join the fun.Oh, and the texture! There’s a vintage and well-loved appearance to the pages. It feels like a book that’s already been well-loved and flipped through so many times. Such a small choice, such big heart behind it.

This book’s design is a frame that allows the connectedness of story and readers to shine. I bet you won’t be able to stop opening and closing this little book. It’s addicting.ch

Frog & Friends, Owl & Friends

 by Joyce Wan

{published 2013, by Penguin Young Readers Group}

Here’s the thing. I adore Joyce Wan! I wrote about her here! And here.

She’s a brilliant artist and a fun friend and I hope to be raising a glass with her at the SCBWI conference in LA in August! (Are you going?!)

 And just look at her newest delightful duo of board books! They are on shelves TOMORROW, June 27th!

I’m just giddy over this sneak peek. And giddy is exactly how I am, too, over the design of these books.   I had a few questions for her about their striking look, and am thrilled to introduce her to you! {You’ll love her.}  I had a few questions for her about their striking look, and am thrilled to introduce her to you! {You’ll love her.}  {ME}

Joyce! I’m mostly curious about how you used texture in these, because that natural, wood grain feel is different for you, right? (Apart from the sleek, glistening, rub-me graphics of YOU ARE MY CUPCAKE and WE BELONG TOGETHER.) I feel like there’s a story there, either artist-wise or art-wise. Is that true?

{JOYCE}

Although I do love sparkly and shiny (what girl doesn’t?), there is something about wood that I’ve always found to be warm and inviting. I’ve always loved wood textures and even offer a line of cards printed on actual birch wood veneer from sustainably harvested trees. My business card is also printed on wood too.

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I wanted to incorporate wood textures into illustrations for my next book which naturally led to the idea of some sort of tree book. The original manuscript was written as a picture book about a tree (very close to what Owl & Friends is like) which the publisher broke down into two board books when it was acquired. The textures were created by scanning actual wood and then incorporated into the art using Photoshop.

 {ME}

And the form – the foldout! It’s so clever. How did you dream up that novelty?!

{JOYCE}

I love surprise endings in books (and movies for that matter). Ones that beg a another reading or watching and make sense when you go back over the entire book/movie. These books offers a surprise ending and done in such a way for the wee’est of readers. I wanted the ending to be BIG (size-wise) and I wanted readers to smile when they see the ending! So an ending that opened up somehow seemed liked the way to go and it makes it more interactive and fun!

Isn’t she spectacular?! I didn’t show you that big surprise ending, because some things are extra magical on a first read, and this is one of them. I can’t wait to give these to some teeny twinsies that I know!

Thanks, Joyce! Big fan!

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Joyce Wan designed her first greeting card when she was in first grade for a city-wide greeting card design contest. The design won first place and was subsequently sold through a major department store chain. Twenty years later that design would inspire a design studio called Wanart whose products featuring Joyce’s designs are now sold world wide. Joyce also teaches courses on greeting card design and art licensing at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Joyce is inspired by Japanese pop culture, modern architecture, and things that make her smile. Joyce is the author and illustrator of Greetings from Kiwi and Pear (Blue Apple Books, 2009), You Are My Cupcake (Cartwheel, 2011), and We Belong Together (Cartwheel, 2011), Frog & Friends (PSS!, 2013), Owl & Friends (PSS!, 2013) and several forthcoming titles including: Hug You, Kiss You, Love You (Cartwheel, 2013), Mama, Mama (Cartwheel, 2014), My Lucky Little Dragon (Cartwheel, 2014), Whale in My Swimming Pool(FSG, 2015) and will be illustrating Sleepyheads by Sandra Howatt (Beach Lane, 2014). Joyce hails from Boston, Massachusetts and currently lives in New York City. Through all her work, Joyce hopes to inspire people to embrace the spirit of childhood and follow their dreams. Visit her online at www.wanart.com.

Design is a Dandelion

by Janice Lovoos

{published 1966, by Golden Gate Junior Books}

I was in Seattle a few weeks ago. You remember the library, right?

I went to Pike Place Market, because of course, but also because flying fish and dudes in galoshes are a spectacle worth checking out. And I also wanted to get up close and personal with some bluefin tuna eyeballs.

There’s a real reason for that, trust me. But they didn’t have any tuna, so this happened:  Screen Shot 2013-05-17 at 11.51.46 AM

There’s not a real point to that story except that I adore that tweet (and those two Favoriters) and it’s what I did just before I wandered into Lamplight Books.

It’s like I stole something. Fifteen dollars? Sixty quarters? It still has that magical, musty smell of hidden secrets. And it was mine in a fraction of a split second. That fast.

Because…behold:

 I’m in love. From the texture of a porcupine, to the form of mountains and weeds, to the repetition inside a squash, design is everywhere.

Design is a Dandelion ends like this, with truth and a charge:

Design is everywhere. It is for everyone. All you have to do is to learn to see it. Open your eyes and take a big, long look.

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