Chloe, Instead

When I saw this trailer for Chloe, Instead by Micah Player, forget about it. I had to have this book.


So when my friends Alethea and Aly held a massive and amazing story time event called Picture This!, AND Micah Player was there, well, then…duh. So what if I was a little taller than most of the participants?!

Micah hosted a table with a really fun and graphic craft. Think glue sticks, patterned papers in squares and triangles, construction paper, and Sharpies. I made this masterpiece while chatting with him about libraries and graphic design and trailers and his awesome kids:

(Yeah, I don’t know how those shapes exploded from a closed box, but just go with it.)

His two boys were the inspiration for this tale of adjusting to a new sibling. Molly likes crayons and books, but for coloring and reading. Her whirlwind of a sister Chloe on the other hand…how about for eating and ripping to shreds. Chloe is nothing like Molly expected, (or even wanted) but just  maybe that’s ok.

The cover itself is a striking use of line. I love those blocky bold stripes.

And, because we all know I love a good endpaper:

More lines, diagonal this time.

Micah’s use of color is so brilliant and fresh, and where one color meets another, a strong line emerges. These choices are visually interesting, sure, but they also serve to guide your eye through the illustrations.

Sometimes these lines represent physical objects, like this bookshelf:

(I would love to read The Daydream Sunbeam by the way. Good choice, Molly.)

And sometimes line divides moments in time and space, like two very different emotions on Molly on this spread:

Can’t you tell she is growing and changing, just in one spread, with one word?

Sometimes line is just a strong graphic element on the page, like the diagonal line of the background here:

I love how the same line marks shadow from light on Molly’s face. And notice how it’s not directly through the center of the page? That opens up the space in which Chloe can dance and just be Chloe. She’s not boxed in by such a strong, dynamic line.

And line to create a balanced layout:

I especially love the flapping arms on this page. If that’s not a static line to imply motion, I’m not sure what it is.

Chloe, Instead is sharp, sassy fun. It’s well designed, both in its clever words and pictures. If you have ever had a little brother or sister, you will surely identify with Molly and hold this book dear.

The Loud Book

words by Deborah Underwood, pictures by Renata Liwska

A fun companion to The Quiet Book, The Loud Book celebrates all things NOISY.

Such a straightforward book calls for fairly straightforward type layout.

Belly Flop Loud

Thunderstorm Loud

Candy Wrapper Loud

Spilling Your Marbles In The Library Loud

And so on.

Enter: the title page.

And the copyright page.

Words spring out like sound waves; their layout amplifies the information.

Even the jacket flap gets in on this typography party:

Onomatopeia in bold and distinguished from the rest of the party.

So as a reader, you’ve seen and experienced the cover, the jacket flap, the title and copyright pages, all with nods to INCREASED VOLUME.

And now you’re ready to read.

I will even SHHH for you. Carry on.

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?

by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

This is one of those books that was constantly checked out of my little library in Virginia. How can you blame the kids? The cover is both creepy-crawly and funny, and the guts of this book are filled to the brim with pictures and facts about animals and their body parts. {And, any book that has something called a blue-footed booby inside is sure to be a winner. Trust me.} Not to mention that pretty silver Caldecott Honor Medal on the front…I wonder if Steve Jenkins willed himself a Caldecott by mimicking a circle in that scaly tail? A stretch? Maybe, but all those circles sure do look nice.

I know better, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to read this book without wanting to touch the pages and feel the roughness and texture of the collaged paper. The texture of the animals creates enormous contrast with the stark white of the rest of the page. These animals will absolutely jump off the page if you’re not careful. Their texture gives them such vibrance and life.

And just like in Actual Size, Steve Jenkins uses size (duh…) masterfully to create contrast. This makes for incredibly exciting page turns. On each question page, the animals’ body part is seen up close, and on the page where the answers are explained, we have zoomed out to see each entire animal. The playfulness in using size both furthers the story and provides great visual interest. Caldecott well deserved, I’d say.

But. One of his layout choices makes reading this book extra fun, and that element is Line.

The text is connected to its appropriate animal in a meaningful (and sometimes especially cute) way. It could have been easy to lay down the text in a center justified block next to each animal. The same information would get into the brain of the reader, sure. Instead though, the text exists in a space that is relevant to its particular animal. The horned lizard who squirts blood out of his eyes has, well, text squirting out of his eyes. And the skunk, who lifts his tail to spray his stink, sprays out text instead.

And that’s the beauty of this book! The pictures are gorgeous, the space left behind is intentional, and the information in the text is visually relevant to its accompanying image.

Bruno Munari’s ABC

If I believed in ripping out book pages {gasp} and destroying the portable bundled art {shock}, and had children of my own {awe…aww//get it?!}, I would demolish the living daylights out of this book and plaster the walls with the pictures.

<Collecting myself. I am a composed and responsible adult. I am a composed and responsible adult. I am a composed and responsible adult.>

See…that black cat’s yellow eyes look slightly afraid of me. Keep calm and just read my book like a normal person, lady.

This is Bruno Munari’s ABC, a masterpiece from 1960. 1960! According to the dust jacket copy, Bruno Munari was an artist, graphic designer, art director and children’s book creator and “exhibited with the second Futurist movement.” The what? Futurism’s origins were in Italy in the early 20th century, and the art themes that emerged celebrated modern technology. Futurism largely influenced the Art Deco movement, of which there are glimpses even in this ‘simple’ picture book.

Bruno Munari’s body of work is a perfect example of the art of the picture book being legitimate and renowned. They may not hang in The Louvre, or the Met, or the Getty, or even on my own walls {hmmph}, but they are truly relevant works of art.


Fakeout. Typography is not so much an element of design; rather, it is a discipline all its own. Not to mention typography comes with an entire lexicon of unfamiliar descriptors. For example:

from this crazy beautiful book: THE TYPOGRAPHIC DESK REFERENCE

Mind boggling and overwhelming? Yes. Wheeze-inducing and squeal-worthy for the typophile? Yes.

But we will start at the very beginning. Because typography gives a voice to words, the design of the letters on a page is as important as the meaning that they represent.

Throughout his ABC book, Bruno Munari’s letters act as graphic illustrations, becoming an intentional part of the layout in addition to just their function as the next letter in line.

Perhaps in future posts we can explore more of the typography nitty gritty. For now, just appreciate the letter as an art form itself. That alone is the ultimate purpose of typography.

Press Here

Press Here at Chronicle Books

And check out Herve Tullet’s website here. You might be slightly more successful if you can read French, but everyone can read pretty pictures, and you’ll see plenty. He’s an art agency director and magazine illustrator, and has some very interesting and beautiful work over there.

Ready?  Press here and turn the page.

I picked up this book at my very last Borders trip. I kinda feel sorry for the suckers that didn’t know such a gem was still on the picked over shelves. My win. But I first heard about this book at the SCBWI conference in LA this summer, and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  See, that’s funny, because this is an interactive book that is so cleverly crafted.  It’s a bit of a sarcastic nod to the app-crazy-device-central-constantly-multitouching world in which we live.  And beyond that, it’s just a quirky book that celebrates imagination and exploration.  It all begins with a yellow dot.  Your job is to press it, tap it, shake the book, and see what happens.  Every page turn reveals the result of your pressing, tapping, and shaking.  So brilliant.


A visual harmony is created when identical images are repeated. Repetition can create focus, enforce a theme, or purely act as a structured or whimsical motif.  In Press Here, the dot multiplies with various actions, and is repeated on each page throughout the book.  They are always in visual agreement with each other, and become the story themselves. The dots’ color and size echo the repetition. They are always red, yellow, and blue, and they are always relatively the same size.  Yet always, on each page, the layout is dynamic and engaging.

This is such a fun book!  So fresh and magical and you should probably go get your hands on it.  Like now.

Art & Max

David Wiesner

Well…you could paint me.

David Wiesner has won THREE Caldecott Medals.  THREE!  I think I won three dollars once from a scratch off lotto ticket.  My all time favorite of his books is June 29, 1999. And confession:  when I was a librarian, I took it home for a week so no kids could check it out and I could have it all to myself.  Scandalous, I know.

But in this one, Art and Max are both lizards.  Duh.  The cover told me that.  Art begrudgingly allows Max to paint with him, and accidentally becomes the subject. Art is the art.  Max’s messy ways cause some slight problems for Art, and he has to figure out a way to paint him back together.  Very clever, a tad confusing, but definitely beautiful.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is not really a rule at all.  And you don’t have to do a lot of math.  It’s a guideline for compositions used by photographers, designers, and artists.

When you divide your composition into 9 equal parts, you should place important elements along the lines or at the points where they intersect. (side note:  Your family vacation beach photos are more interesting when the horizon is along one of those lines rather than dead center.  Try it!) These lines and points drive the eye to look around and through the composition, rather than get stuck dead center.  Take a look at this very first spread from Art & Max.

{This photo is from here, where you can see a series of sketches leading up to the final illustration.}

And the rule of thirds applied:

Even across two pages of his book, David Wiesner set this scene according to the rule of thirds.  The easel is lined up right along one of the verticals.  Art and Max themselves are not perfectly aligned to the vertical, but they are close enough and it feels right.  Max is even lunging across the intersecting point there, which is curiously enough sometimes called a crash point.  See how the megaphone and the little lizard’s eyes are looking right up towards the crash point highlighted in blue. Art is also gazing to that point.  This is how the rule of thirds allows for flow and movement when you are reading an image.  We are never stuck in the middle of this art, but instead get to actively be involved in the scene…

…which is how I found out here that either Art or Max is a Pink Floyd fan.  (See that?!)