Posted in awards, nonfiction, picture books, reader's advisory, travel

SLJ’s Day of Dialog, 2017

Photos & tweets from Day of Dialog, with a few comments and observations in between. Moderated my very first panel of picture book creators – -What an amazing day!


Posted in @ the library, art, library programs, picture books

Into the Woods we go! Picture This 2015

schenkerThis year’s Picture This program (an annual summer program on the art of children’s books) focuses on fairy tales. We began with Nick Sharratt’s The Foggy Foggy Forest, which allows children to guess what fairy tale characters are in the shadows. Then we took a closer look at  German illustrator Sybille Schenker‘s magnificent cut paper illustrations.schenker2


To help the children think of a fairy tale, but distill it down to one illustration, we looked at mimimalist fairy tale posters — without the title and they tried to guess the story. I think they enjoyed the guessing aspect and also the different fairy tells helped them to pick one of their own, instead of having 20 images of Red Riding Hood.

We did suggest beginning with cutouts of trees or a forest, as these are relatively easy to make (fold a piece of black cardstock in half, cut rectangular shapes out — irregular is better — can make fatter or thinner, etc.). The results were really striking.

Can you guess what this one is?

dwarves1(Hint: count the number of hats)


Does anyone feel the wind changing?


Here is “The Little Old Lady who was not afraid of anything” (by an artist with an October birthday — she tried to think of a story that went with that time of year.)

collage1Another was inspired by Frozen:


while another stuck with a classic favorite:

IMG_7085and this one reflects the minimalist mindset:


and I like how this artist added branches to her trees:


Posted in awards, Caldecott, picture books

Caldecott Musings 2014


A small but enthusiastic group met this afternoon to discuss potential 2014 Caldecott honorees. We read and shared what we liked about the twelve books pictured before voting, with Journey the unanimous winner. Honor books were The Mighty Lalouche and A Splash of Red. In online voting on the library website, Journey and Mr. Tiger tied! And paper votes over the last week at the library gave the nod to Mr. Wuffles.

More than potential winners, the time for sharing and close examination revealed so many things that we appreciated about each individual book. We peered under book jackets to look at covers, and discovered a few additional surprises in addition to Locomotive‘s different, and moving, artwork. Have you discovered the bold orange tiger stripes on Mr. Tiger Goes Wild? Or the starry sky and galaxies that seem like an inside joke once you have poured over Mr. Wuffles? Look at the endpapers of The Mighty Lalouche and those of Nino Wrestles the World? I didn’t expect to like books about boxing and wrestling so much, but there is so much going on in both of these. Though very different, they do have some interesting parallels — touches of humor, phrases in foreign languages, sports.ninoendlaloucheend

Have someone hold up Flora and the Flamingo and read it to you — wow! what a difference a change in perspective can make. I felt like I finally *got* this one.  And we listened to Daniel Beaty reading his poem on which Knock Knock is based: So very powerful and moving. And we are all looking forward to Monday morning at 8 am! Tune into the ALA Youth Media awards announcements here:

Posted in Book reviews, picture books

Building Our House

By Jonathan Beanbuilding

Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013

Words and pictures work together to tell the story of how a family (“a strong crew of four”) build their house. Based on the true story of how the author/illustrator’s family did build their house . . . over a period of 5 years with very young children (amazing!)

This is an excellent picture book in the true sense of words and pictures working together. The text is matter of fact, yet with touches of humor (as above) and even poetic moments:

“One wall will face north to ward off the wind, one east to welcome the morning, one south to soak in the sun, and one west to see out the day.”

The pictures illustrate all the details of the work that goes into building a house, from the rocks and laying of the foundation to marking the beams. I love the additional details of how the children are helping (with measuring, etc.) or being entertained (swimming as the parents work on a hot summer day, bringing a flower to a grandmother (?) on a day with the whole extended family plus neighbors and others from the community gather to raise the frame of the house.)

Altogether a very fine picture book.

Posted in art, biography, picture books

Review: A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A completely wonderful book. Interestingly written, rhythmic text, detailed collage illustrations with vivid quotes from Pippin himself incorporated into the drawings, and meticulously documented research (hurrah!).

Examples of the rhythm of the narrative:
“Horace put his big hands to work. He fetched . . . He sorted . . . He played . .. He piled . . . and arranged. . . he drew . . .”

“Horace loved to draw. He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive in front of him.”

And Pippin’s story is so compelling. A self-taught artist from a strong family but not a privileged background (his father leaves and Horace quits school after 8th grade to help support his family.) The transformative, harrowing experience of WWI in the trenches . . . he survives, but is changed forever and an injury to his right shoulder leaves his arm so weak that he cannot draw. Or work. But he marries and keeps busy, organizing a scout troop, taking kids fishing, delivering laundry for his wife’s business. He misses painting and finally tries again, using his left hand to support his right. And painting helps him to heal.

Sweet’s illustrations depict Horace’s tools as a child (the art supplies he won in a contest) and as an adult. Like Pippin’s own paintings, she uses muted colors . . . with a splash of red. The have a folk art quality well suited to the subject matter. The two page spread of the WWI injury is appropriately dramatically dark, just one example of the very effective use of color. And the hand lettered quotations clearly sets these words off as quotes and allows Horace to tell his own story. And what a story it is!

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Posted in art, biography, picture books

Review: The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This captivating picture book biography of Rousseau is illustrated in a style very reminiscent of Rosseau’s art work, with flat, bright colors and often lush, dreamlike settings. There was so much I did not know: that Rousseau did not start painting until around age 40 (it’s never too late to follow your dreams!), was self-taught as he could not afford art classes, and critics really did not like/appreciate his work. Around the critics Rousseau is a very small figure — they tower over him, and include two animal-like humans in their midst (a dog and a cat.) Happily, a younger group of artists DID recognize Rousseau’s talent later in his life.

I love how historical figures are included in the illustrations; in the notes the illustrator provides a diagram of “who’s who” — including Picasso, Gertrude & Leo Stein, Alice B. Tolkas, among others. I appreciated the carefully chosen, evocative language as well. For example, in answer to “why” Rousseau began painting:
“Because he loves nature. Because when he strolls through the parks of Paris, it’s like the flowers open their hearts, the trees spread their arms, and the sun is a blushing ruby, all for him.”

The facing page is filled with brilliant orange & red flowers, a round orange sun, and purple hued leaves . . . an interesting color combination. Amanda Hall’s illustrations are watercolor and acrylics. A great introduction to Rousseau for elementary age children.

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Posted in art, picture books

Magritte and the art of seeing


Magritte is one of my favorite artists. When I discovered D. B. Johnson’s new book on Magritte a few weeks ago, I was very excited. I remembered Johnson’s picture books about Henry David Thoreau — Henry Builds a Cabin and Henry Hikes to Fitchburg. Magritte’s Marvelous Hat (Houghton Mifflin, 2012) can be used in so many ways . . . to introduce children to Magritte and to get them to look closer at Magritte’s paintings, as Johnson’s illustrations are full of references to Magritte’s works. It would be great for Picture This! our library program that introduces art and illustration to children and has them create books in that style. But first up was a book talk for third graders, so I thought I’d try it. I always include a variety of books, as third graders read at such a wide variety of levels: picture books, non-fiction, short chapter books and longer chapter books. Poetry and informational books.


So I read part of this book aloud, and they loved the clear pages. There are several see-through type pages that are used extremely effectively here (not gimmicky!) The children gasped when the painting lands on Magritte’s face as the egg-shaped artwork “unpaints” itself. I showed them Mike Venezia’s biography of Magritte,magritte

and gave a brief description of the Surrealist movement. We talked about how realistic the objects looked, yet something was wrong (size, location, etc.) One of my favorite comments was in regard to the painting of the man with the apple in place of his face, “It looks like he used Photoshop.” Then I showed them L’Empire des Lumieres (The Dominion of Lights), 1954 and asked them whether it was daytime or nighttime. More lively discussion followed.


I was thrilled that they were actually looking closely!

Later that afternoon I was walking through the library by the art prints — yes, we circulate art prints! And there on the wall was this image. Surely I have seen it before — I walk this way several times a day. But today, this afternoon, I saw. How many things in life are like this . . .  right there in front of you . . . you just have to be able to see them.

Posted in Caldecott, picture books

Review: Sleep Like a Tiger

Sleep Like a Tiger
Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Really fine text (and how do you make a bedtime book, a theme so common in children’s books, still seem fresh and new?) and imaginative, compelling illustrations make this picture a complete package. Zagarenski, illustrator of Red Sings from the Treetops, which was one of my favorites, has just the right touch here — a bit of magical realism, with the pictures becoming more dreamlike as the girl falls asleep. I love how the parents don’t argue about her not being sleepy, but just say okay, and give her a bedtime task (putting pj’s on, brushing teeth). I love the patterns of the illustrations (in the wallpaper, the clothing), the stuffed tiger among the animals she sleeps with, the allusions to familiar and not so familiar animals sleeping patterns; the dog is “curled up in a ball on the couch, where he’s not supposed to be” and later she “right where she was supposed to be.” Most of the illustrations have an angular quality, yet the dog and the tiger seem wonderfully soft and textured. Much to appreciate here!

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Posted in picture books

Mazza Fall Weekend Conference Lineup

This weekend is the Fall Conference at the Mazza Museum (International Art from Picture Books) in Findlay, Ohio. I’m very excited to be attending! And here is why:

David Macaulay

Erin Stead

Philip Stead

Erin & Philip Stead

David Ezra Stein

Gary D. Schmidt

cover of What Came from the Stars

Jon J. Muth

Mo Willems

How amazing is this???!!!

Posted in Caldecott, picture books

November is Picture Book Month!

Here is the display I created for picture book month:

Yes, it’s heavily focused on Caldecott winners, since I have Caldecott on the brain as I’m planning my first mock Caldecott discussion this January. And Chris Raschka’s A Ball for Daisy is right up on top as he led off the discussion of why picture books are important on the Picture Book month website.  Living in Ohio (or Swing State Hell, as Jon Stewart puts it), it’s hard to keep the election off my mind, hence So You Want to be President? is right up there too!