Baby Journal: The Story of…

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by Yasmin Smail

{published 2013, by Cicada Books}

A small departure from picture books on this blog, making room for a book celebrating tiny arrivals! If you visit the online home of Cicada Books, you might have to do some jaw-lifting. Their eye towards the visual is a unique voice, and their books reflect that.

And please. Stop a while at the Discovering Kings Cross pop-up book, cause whoa.

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But this one! In this world of pinning and Instagramming and having cameras on our darn eyeglasses, do you think the physical art of baby book-making is dying?

I don’t know. But if I had a baby, this is how I would want to scrapbook all of their bitty things. Tangible! Messy! Lovely and dear.

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Baby Journal is just that. A compact home for all of your firsts with a little love.

There are pages for filling in, pages with recipes and lullabies, and pages with pockets for anything you want to add. It’s bound with an elastic strap, so all of the special things stay tucked inside.

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For handwriting? Or mini-pictures? Or thumbprints? It’s up to you.

BabyJournal_300113-25Yasmin Smail’s gorgeous colors and textures will beautifully frame the story of yours. Such a treasure!

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(I know. Adorable.) BabyJournal_300113-53 BabyJournal_300113-45       BabyJournal_300113-5

Baby shower coming up? Pair this with one of my favorite board books and you’ve got a fantastic gift for a new mama. Adorable analog memories!

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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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Pinwheel

{published 2013, by LB Kids/Little Brown Books for Young Readers}

Remember Salina Yoon and her heart-tangle-upper Penguin and Pinecone? Well, she’s back in a big way this week. Tomorrow, April 16th, she has two brand new books out in the world, and trust me: they are spectacular. Penguin’s back in a new adventure, Penguin on Vacation. He’s sick of all the snowy cold, and sets off on a beach adventure. Don’t miss it!

And then there’s this one. I got a sneak peek of Pinwheel and let me show you this thing!

Die cut cover, in the shape of a pinwheel. A hint at the ingenious things to come!

What you might not know about Salina is that she is a master of novelty board books. The engineering to make these books tactile and animated on top of just utter gorgeousness? Her brain. Her artistry. Brilliant.

Pinwheel’s pages have a dial on the edge of the page. Those bright triangles lead you in a twirling direction, and when you do, the magic happens. On this particular page, those scales shimmer and change colors as if you were under the sea with them, swimming into a different beam of light with each flick of your tail.

So here, the train’s lights alert you to its journey. And see her words? Simple, lyrical, and beautiful.

But then. Just when you think you understand how this book works, this happens. A carousel horse! Pops his head out of the page and bobs up and down, up and down, up and down – until you are ready to turn the page …

…where there’s a kite dancing in the wind. Of course there is!

Pinwheel is a knockout. {And no, I didn’t really mean that to be a die-cut pun, but hey why not?! It’s kinda a good one!}

Its design is the story. Pinwheel asks you to interact, discover, and enjoy – and it’s a pleasure from the first spin to the last.

And if you are like me, and can’t get enough of this little treat, check out Salina’s Kaleidoscope. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a novelty book, I’m sure of it.

And! Just so you don’t have to only take my word for it, huge hot-off-the-presses congratulations to Kaleidoscope, first place winner of the novelty category for the Book Industry Guild of New York’s 27th Annual New York Book Show.

And with that, I leave you to it. You have lots of reading to do.

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Carpe Read’em

PiBoIdMo is coming up, and you know what that means, right?

A BRAND NEW WARDROBE!

Well, and a brilliant brainstorm of 30-ish brand spanking new picture book ideas. But you definitely need a new tshirt to go with your empty notebook.

Thank you, 2012. We may not have hoverboards, but we do live in a world where Facebook statuses (statii?) can become tshirt designs.

And no, Tara and I are not making money on these shirts. If you purchase one (or a million) from CafePress, $3.00 will go directly to Reading Is Fundamental (RIF).

More styles and colors are available on CafePress, so, you know…CARPE READ’EM!

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

written by Emily Haynes, pictures by Sanjay Patel

{Please, please, please…if you live in San Francisco, GO SEE THEM at the Cartoon Art Musuem on October 4th. Please! For me.}

Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth is based on a legend in Hindu mythology, but this version has jawbreakers! And a mouse pal! And SPECTACULAR illustrations!

Spectacular is really an understatement. I don’t think I know a word that can contain how spectacfantasterrificawesome these pictures are.

Endpapers that look like blueprints and sketches set the tone for a fresh story, enhanced so beautifully by shape and line.

From the title page on, this book will knock you out graphically. You will see stars (shape!) and vibrating birdies (movement!) flitting around your brain.

Ok. Let me back up a minute. Do you know Darshana Khiani? You should. She reviews books on her blog and always shares gems. And SHE is a gem. We met at the LA SCBWI conference in 2011, but what we didn’t know is that we would bump into each other over and over again online this year and become fast friends. So cool. Darshana emailed me a couple of weeks ago and told me I had to stop, drop, and roll myself to this book ASAP.

I love that she thought I would love it. I love that she was right. And I love that she suggested doing a joint review on it today.

That’s right! More book bang for your buck! So be sure to head over to her place for more of Ganesha and Mr. Mouse.

So much hops off the pages of Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth that my brain hurts to know where to begin. From the title page up a few pictures, to the repeated circles on the illustration above, shape dominates the pages. It’s a smorgasbord of circles, squares, and triangles.

Oh, this page. After every handful of illustrations, your eyes land on a picture like this one. The bright colors quiet for a moment, and these particular pages are striking in their stark contrast. White text, white graphic elements, and one bold, rich color. There’s something about pacing here, and I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that happens, but aesthetically, the balance is just outstanding.

A story about a sweet tooth begs for a decadent color palette, and these hues are just plain tasty and delightful.

Get this book. (Listen to Darshana, even if you think I am bonkers. She has good taste.)

Good News Bad News

by Jeff Mack

THIS BOOK HAS THREE WORDS.

Sorry for shouting, but I am in awe. Good, bad, and news. That’s it. But the story wrapped up in those three little words is hysterical, endearing, frustrating, and satisfying. Kudos to Jeff Mack, this is some serious storytelling.

{And truly, there are four words, but I don’t want to give away the ending. Still. That’s not a lot.}

If you loved Remy Charlip’s Fortunately, you will adore Good News Bad News.

{And if you are unfamiliar with Remy Charlip’s Fortunately, stop reading and RUN to your nearest library. We’ll be here.}

The illustrations are so lively they almost buzz with animation. And Mouse’s eyeballs are beyond expressive. His reactions are laugh out loud hilarious.

But something I especially love about the design of this book is its shape. Square.

Squares are solid, grounded, and balanced. The square is the perfect frame for this equilibrium of good and bad fortune. The tension between the good news and the bad news is net force is zero (fancy math terms, what?! Or physics?)

Even. Symmetrical. Square.

A seemingly subtle consideration, but I would wager that it was important in the design of this book.

AND!

I have my own good and bad news!

Remember that giveaway from last week?

The bad news: I haven’t mailed your Pantone Colors yet, Danny. Womp womp. {YET!}

BUT!

The good news: Since I haven’t been to the post office yet, how about some more winners?!

So…good news, TARA LAZAR and CARRIE FINISON!

{And even better, both of you said I get to pick! More good news. Send me an email with your addresses!}

A Thank You and a Congratulations!

Danny! Email me your address, and I’ll send PANTONE COLORS your way!

And everyone else? Thank you for reading. It’s been fun. How about another year?

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku

Written by Lee Wardlaw {winner of the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for California/Hawaii!} and illustrated by Eugene Yelchin {winner of a 2012 Newbery Honor Award for Breaking Stalin’s Nose}

In other words, the people who created this book are no joke.

Lee Wardlaw tells a full and sweet tale of an adopted cat entirely in haiku. The language is sparse, yet rich. Each word of each haiku is perfectly placed which yields an expertly paced read, despite its unconventional storytelling.

In design, contrast highlights the differences in two items. Varying color, shape, or size, can call your attention to any one visual element due to its difference from another.

In Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told In Haiku, most of the illustrated spreads contrast colors on either side of the gutter.

With so few words peppering each page, it would be easy to breeze through each page, not giving the words the attention they deserve. {Although this may not be true for every reader, but I confess this is a huge flaw in my reading: too fast, too furious.}

However, the contrasting colors cause your eye to slow down a bit, to hop from one side of the gutter to the other, and to really savor the book slowly. Contrast here helps to create a very strong and symmetrical sense of balance to each illustrated spread.

And of course, it just looks so much prettier that way. {That’s some serious art criticism right there, I know.} Haikus have so few words, but because each one packs such a tight little punch, it only makes sense that the illustrations carry on the same sense of oomph. {Again with the fancy art critic words…}

Read this haiku out loud. Seriously. Lee Wardlaw really knows how to whip her words into shape! Just as she says ‘mice snap‘ I love the way the sounds snap, the and the syllables sing. {And I seriously love the bright yellow cover that wraps around just a bit to abruptly meet the red dust jacket. Contrast. So cool.}

Freight Train Trip!

Susanna Leonard Hill crafted this little romp of a book, illustrated by Ana Martin Larrañaga. Susanna is a kind, giving, and hilarious part of my online writing community, and her books are just as sweet. I’m a bunch of months late for Phyllis’ World Tour, but Freight Train Trip! caught my eye…

…For two big reasons:

 

Without being an outright concept book for either color or shape, Freight Train Trip! manages to explore both while spilling a thunderous story along its tracks.   This is a sturdy, bigger board book, and it’s cut in the shape of a train. Already cool. When you open it, it’s a long skinny rectangle, also mimicking the snaking lengths of a train. It’s not such an extreme design that little ones won’t be able to maneuver the book, but the subtle nod to its content is smart.

I’m a grown woman, getting older by the nanosecond, but I went through each page and lifted the flaps. I hope this type of interactivity outlasts the iThings. The flaps reveal reactions, animations, or just fun surprises. Each one is a really nice use of shape to add physical dimension to the pages.

And the colors in Freight Train Trip! are buzzing and alive with saturation. I love how Ana Martin Larrañaga sparingly uses texture to allow the full, solid colors to stand alone.

The pages remind me of that fresh, smelly, brand new 8-pack of sharp Crayolas on the first day of school…before the paper rips and the nubs wear down and they break in two from coloring too much.

Pure hues and punchy flaps breathe vibrancy into this book. Know a little one? Know a little one who loves trains? Or colors? Or has little fingers to play with shapes? Freight Train Trip! is a fine tour.

And! If you are a writer or just love words, check out this post on Susanna’s blog revealing some edits she made in creating this book. It’s a master class in revision, pace, and pulse. And plus, her blog is just plain fun to poke.

Under Construction

Over the next week-ish {which just got autocorrected to weakfish-ha!} I’m going to play around with a new theme for this blog. Bear with me for a bit if something doesn’t click correctly or goes wonky, because I am a complete WordPress amateur.

Case in point:

I created this, thinking I was gonna have a bold and sassy new header. But then I uploaded it and it was squishy, because I used the wrong pixel aspect ratio. Womp womp. This is the kind of stuff I have to get absolutely right in my day job, so I’m chalking this up to a lazy Saturday mistake. I figured by at least posting it, I could prevent this design’s digital death?!

Crossing my fingers for better luck next time around. Until then…pardon my dust!