Review: The Polar Pack, The Safari Set and The Jungle Crew (Mibo®) 

The Polar Pack, The Safari Set and The Jungle Crew (Mibo®) 

by Madeleine Rogers (Author & Illustrator) Publisher: Button Books

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If you are looking for board books, I found a great set! The Mibo® series, written and illustrated by Madeleine Rogers, is exquisite! The bright colors, fun geometric prints and educational rhyming are sure to be a hit. While the board format makes them sturdy and accessible to little hands, the vocabulary and fun animal facts will delight older children as well. The Jungle Crew takes us through the rainforest highlighting birds, chimpanzees, tigers and frogs. The Polar Pack introduces penguins, walrus, polar bear, reindeer and owls. The Safari Set focuses on lions, giraffe, elephant, zebras and hippos. The books are individually gorgeous but together they make a great gift. Also Available by Rodgers are The Sky Guys, The Marine Team and more! Good to know if you have a kiddo like mine that falls in love and wants the whole collection!

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Review: Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet 

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and Mexico’s Folkloric Ballet 

by Duncan Tonatiuh (Author) Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

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Multi-award winning (including the Pura Belpré Award, the Robert F. Sibert Award, and the New York Times Best Illustrated Book Award) Danza! will take your breath away! Duncan Tonatiuh is truly inspiring, his passion for the real-life story of Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de Mexico comes through in the story’s build up of events and amazing visual detail. The life and accomplishments of Amalia Hernández, the dancer and choreographer, are captured in spirit and execution perfectly matched to the authenticity of the dance she had worked to express. A wonderful discovery for anyone interested in the amazing cultural contributions and traditions of Mexico or dance fanatics looking to dive deeper into history. The illustration style is  mesmerizing, a layering of 3-D photographic textures and two dimensional ancient – almost pictographic – representational shapes. Hard to explain, beautiful to behold. An absolute gem!

Review: Travel Activity Book 

Travel Activity Book 

by Charlie BrandonKing (Author) Publisher: Button Books

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So much to do! Word puzzles, coloring, item searches, lists, flags, time, uniforms, art, food, spot the difference, complete the picture, design a skateboard, tear outs, postcard creation, and so much more! This book is a parent’s dream come true for any family vacation! The ultimate travel companion but infinitely more educational than the usual buys and – the best part – no batteries! Engaging and smart, Charlie Brandon-King takes the cake for stuff to pack for holiday travel.

Review: Hidden Wildlife: How Animals Hide in Plain Sight 

Hidden Wildlife: How Animals Hide in Plain Sight 

by Jim Arnosky (Author) Publisher: Sterling Children’s Books

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Award-winning author, illustrator and naturalist Jim Arnosky takes us through his beautiful world. Hidden Wildlife is an experience of wonder, enveloping the reader in marvelous gatefold inserts that let us feel surrounded by his artwork and explanations. Hopping from animal education to art appreciation through the visual engagement of scattered factoids, your young reader will be enthralled.

If your child is a visual learner or too young for the text itself, they will immediately “get” the information by the illustrative story telling on each page. But if readers are wildlife fans at a grade one reading level (or above), they are in for a real treat. Personal stories and observations bring the reader right out into the field, certainly bound to inspire a deeper connection with nature and the outdoors. Wonderful addition to any science, art or reading room!

Review: Peanut Butter & Aliens: A Zombie Culinary Tale

Peanut Butter & Aliens: A Zombie Culinary Tale by Joe McGee (Author), Charles Santoso (Illustrator) Publisher: Harry N. Abrams

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Joe McGee and Charles Santoso are at it again! If you liked their 2015 story Peanut Butter & Brains: A Zombie Culinary Tale, you will love this! The town of Quirkville is up to its eyeballs in another widespread menace – and this time it’s on a planetary scale! Aliens have landed! And they want…well, I won’t spoil it, but I will say that Abigail Zink will have quite the sticky situation to solve! Fun, fast and certainly giggle-worthy, this installment of the Zombie Culinary Tales will be a staple at story time.

Book Review – Welcome to London

Welcome to London by Marcos Farina (Author)

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Marcos Farina walks us through the sights and sounds of London with funky retro-postcard-style flair. Unusual geometric graphics keep the eye feasting on the information as the book explores architectural highlights, amusements, and points of interest. The reader gets a hefty dose of history delivered in bite size chunks so as to not overwhelm. The West End, the Tower of London, Hyde Park and so much more, are folded in gently, making this a wonderful way to teach an overview of the city or explain an upcoming London trip to a child. Welcome to London makes a formidable reference guide, calling out specifics like the types of trees in Hyde Park or a directory of London Bridges without clutter or complication. Full of surprises and unusual twists, it makes for endless exploration! Cheers!

Interview: Deborah Diesen

[Text from my Q&A column in Story Monsters Ink Magazine, Feb 2018, check out SMI here!]

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Q & A with Deborah Diesen, author of The Pout-Pout Fish series!

Deborah, thank you so much for taking the time to answer a few questions for all our Story Monsters! The Pout-Pout books have been a staple in our house since my daughter was born, and we recently added The Not Very Merry Pop-Pout Fish as a holiday treat this year!

Pout-Pout fanatics know how our favorite lovable and grumpy fish turns it all around in the end for a happy ending. What was the inspiration for your Pout-Pout character? Where did our unlikely yet utterly-relatable champ come from?

Many years ago, my elder son, who was a toddler at the time, was having a pouty day. I tried to cheer him up by making an exaggerated pouty face at him. He smiled, and then he made a pouty face back at me. We both started laughing and I said, “We look like fish. Like pout-pout fish!” And just like that, the idea appeared. Mr. Fish has been swimming around in my head ever since!

The illustrations (by the fabulous Dan Hanna) are so captivating – how much art direction did you have on the original project and how on earth did you ever explain your idea for the sulky yet adorable fish?

Dan’s art is amazing, and the series wouldn’t exist without his talent and vision. As we began work on the first book, I provided no art direction to Dan. I wasn’t actually sure what Mr. Fish looked like! But as soon as I saw Dan’s illustrations? I said, “That’s it, exactly!”

At events and book signings, I’m sure you hear “I’ve always wanted to write a children’s book…” Any words of advice you’d like to give our readers?

I typically give four pieces of advice to would-be authors (and I regularly repeat the same advice to myself).

  1. Writing grows from reading. The more you read, the more you understand about story structure, plot, character development, and use of language.
  2. Meet with other writers to receive feedback on your work. Writing starts as a solitary activity, but it develops from the input and encouragement of others.
  3. All aspects of the writing process, from first drafts to revision to finding a publisher, require doses of hard work, and you’ll occasionally be doused by discouragement along the way. So commitment to your craft is crucial.
  4. Have fun! Enjoy what you’re doing. That will always improve your writing.

Your latest release, The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark just came out this fall! Any behind the scenes tidbits or interesting facts on this new addition to the Pout-Pout family that our Story Monsters might love to know?

When I was writing The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully-Bully Shark, I felt a little stuck for a while, because I wasn’t entirely sure how I wanted the story to unfold. So I just skipped ahead and wrote the ending first! That made it easier to go back to the beginning and see where I was headed. The writing got easier after that.

“We are kind. We are fair. We are all potential friends. So we speak up when we need to – that’s how bullying ends.” 

With the full and mini versions of his adventures available, our favorite gloomy hero has a dozen books out now – as well as an adorable stuffed animal – since that first release in 2008! How has Pout-Pout evolved through you? What would you like to see Pout-Pout swim towards as he celebrates his tenth birthday?

As I’ve written Mr. Fish’s stories, I’ve learned something new with each adventure. I look forward to continuing to learn as I write, exploring topics such as how to fall asleep, what to do with good advice, how to handle anger, and how to clean up the ocean. I’m delighted and grateful that so many children, families, teachers, librarians, and more have welcomed The Pout-Pout Fish books into their lives. A writer and an illustrator may create a book, but it takes readers to bring books to life!

 

Deborah Diesen is the author of many children’s beautiful picture books, including the favorite Pout-Pout series kicked off by the NYT-bestselling The Pout-Pout Fish. Connect with amazing Deborah Diesen through her website www.deborahdiesen.com!

 

Julianne Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. She is an internationally recognized graphic artist, fine artist and author. She can be reached at www.julianneblack.com

Interview: Stacy McAnuity

[ This is the text from the interview that was published in the December 2017 issue of Story Monsters Ink Magazine, check out the magazine here! ]

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Stacy McAnuity is BRAVE. Not just “brave” (as in the regular old lowercase version) but really BRAVE. The kind of BRAVE that leads the team! The BRAVE that never gives up! The BRAVE that fights the toughest battles, and faces – gasp – kindergarten school groups! She’s also the author of Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, Beautiful, Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, as well as The Dino Files and the Goldie Blox series.

I reached out to her after reading her latest release BRAVE (didn’t see that coming did you?) and I had to ask how it all came about. And also, how does one have “2.5 dogs”? These are the burning questions that keep me up a night, you know!

  • Stacy, I loved BRAVE! It is just the kind of book you want to share with all the kids of all the world! On your website you mention you are a mom of three, was there an incident or event that sparked the idea for BRAVE?

Thank you! I love sharing my book with readers. I can’t say that there was one specific incident that sparked Brave. But as a mom of three, I get to see almost daily how bravery is different for every kid. My one daughter gets very nervous speaking in front of the class. My other daughter hates heights. I wanted to show how being brave is different for each of us but also kind of the same. We will all be faced with challenges and choices. No one is exempt.

  • BRAVE is so beautifully distilled into bitesize concepts of kindness and self esteem, what was your process in creating your BRAVE recipe?

Brave is a follow up to my 2016 title, Beautiful. The editor for Beautiful asked me to create my own definition of beauty. So when we started working on Brave, I wanted to do the same thing. Now my definition is not of Merriam-Webster caliber. This is simply what it means to me, and what I was trying to show in the book.  Brave: listening to your heart and doing the right thing, especially when nervous or afraid. I used this definition along with super-hero language to create the text.

  • The text and illustration go together like cake and ice-cream- how much say did you have in choosing the scene for each page?

What a yummy analogy! Joanne’s art is delicious. She’s done a fabulous job bringing Brave and Beautiful to life. In the manuscript, I did make a suggestion for every page. I had to do this for me, to help me visualize the book. I’m not certain how many of my illustration notes were shared with Joanne. Some scenes match what I’d pictured, and some are completely different (and better!) than I imagined. Brave is a collaboration of writer, illustrator, editor, and art director.

  • I noticed you worked with the same illustrator (Joanne Lew-Vriethoff) on Beautiful, are there additional collaborations in the works?

The final book is this definition series is Love. That will be out in late 2018. In Beautiful, the text sounds like an old-fashion etiquette guide for girls, then we twist it to give it a modern meaning. Brave uses super-hero lingo but shows kids stepping up.  In Love, we tap into Valentine’s-Day language and redefine what love means.

  • Your website does a great job of showcasing your work as well as providing resources, but I have to admit I got tripped up. Do you have 2.5 dogs (as mentioned in your bio) or 3 dogs (as mentioned in your “About Me”)? Might one have been halved in some hopefully painless fashion or is just half the size of the other two? Is the dog ok? Your fans need to know!

You’re right! Readers do want to know. When I go to schools, I’m always asked what I mean by 2.5 dogs. The half refers to our new puppy. When Munchkin joined the family in January, and she was only four pounds. Now, she’s twenty-two pounds, but since my other two dogs are over seventy pounds, she’s still half a dog by our household standard. Rest assured, each dog has a head, four legs, and a tail. And each is ridiculously spoiled.

  • What kinds of reactions are you getting from schools about BRAVE? It is so perfectly timed with the anti-bullying movement gaining awareness.

It is fun and interesting to talk about Brave with students. I share the book and my definition, and then we dig deep into what it all means. Because each art spread stands alone, I ask the students, what they think is happening. How are the kids in the art being brave? What choices are being made? How do we think that kid is feeling? There’s so much to discuss and think about. There is one scene that deals directly with bullying, and it has several kids in it. We can dissect this picture and look at the roles each character is playing. It can bring up many tough questions.

  • Your school visits look like so much fun – do you have any favorite questions you have been asked by students?

There are two questions students always ask me. How old are you? (Answer: 42) Which is your favorite book that you wrote? (Answer: I don’t have a favorite. Read Mr. Fuzzbuster for more on that issue.)

Then I get the funny questions. Did you know my grandmother writes books? (Answer: No, I didn’t know your grandmother writes books.) Why are your teeth so big? (Answer: Ummm… the better to eat you with. Kidding! I’ve never threatened to eat a student.)

But the best question was asked last this month, and it was posed by a kindergartner. Do you ever get frustrated with your job? (Answer: YES! But I wouldn’t want any other job. Being an author of kids’ books is simply the best!)

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Stacy McAnulty is the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats Book New Writer Honor Recipient for her picture book Excellent Ed and lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 2.5 dogs, and 1 husband. She can be reached through www.stacymcanulty.com

 

 

Julianne Black has written and illustrated several books, including Sleep Sweet the multi-award winning Augmented Reality picture book. She is an internationally recognized graphic artist, fine artist and author. She can be reached at www.julianneblack.com

 

Book Review: Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt

Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt (Author),‎ Vin Vogel (Illustrator)

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Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt is a beautiful story of friendship centered around a hardship too many children face today–not having enough food. The two friends hold the secret that Maddi’s family doesn’t have enough to eat, while Sofia makes well-meaning attempts to bring her food each day.

It’s a topic difficult to talk about, especially to this age group, but Brandt spoons in just the right amount of lighthearted humor to make a typical ‘bringing awareness’ style book into a classic feel-good story about the bond between two friends.

Perfect for libraries, but better for story time, Maddi’s Fridge is a wonderful conversation opener and has the potential for some serious healing. Adorable illustrations by Vin Vogel round out the work and give it an extra dose of approachability. Certainly a keeper and magnificent grade school resource.