Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Miss Bianca

The bookshelves in my childhood home are filled with memories. And they're absolutely filled with books illustrated by Garth Williams: Miss Bianca, Bedtime for Frances, Charlotte's Web, The Little House on the Prarie books, Stuart Little, Over and Over, The Rescuers, Little Fur Family, Home for a Bunny, Golden Books Treasury of Elves and Fairies, The Cricket in Times Square among others.

A quick google search brought up limited edition prints by Mr. Williams like this one from Miss Bianca. Look at that proud mamma mouse in the forefront and those expressive little creatures. No doubt the books he illustrated are classics, Stuart Little in 1945 and Charlotte's Web in 1952.

Many contemporary illustrators have been influenced by his work. Have you visited Emily Gravett's site, author of Cyblis nominee Orange Pear Apple Bear? Take a look at Rosie's Roses illustrated by Henry Cole. And you can't tell me Maurice Sendak hasn't been influenced by Garth Williams.

As I'm writing this post, I've given my kids modeling clay, pastels (washable) and glitter glue to keep them busy- I know you're imagining the mess. OK back to my quickie attempt at drawing parallels and linking illustration references. Here is a resource: KidSpace@InternetPublicLibrary. Many children's authors are also illustrators, you can find links to their websites and browse both the new and nostalgic.

Christmas afternoon we left the girls with their grandparents and went to see Atonement. Ha! a new movie to add to my list of good cry movies/novels. On par with The English Patient or Titanic the screenplay and cinematography are top rate. I really do have to get to the movie theater more than once a year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lauren's Pippi

OK Christmas shopping is a litt.... lot nuts with a toddler in tow. However, I made it to Moon News Books and I'll rattle off the selections I made in record time before meltdown city. Firstly, I do have to say I got some awesome gift suggestions from the December Carnival of Children's Literature hosted at Big A little a. If you haven't been over there reading and clicking you still have four more shopping days! One of the 63 ways I gifted was, Poetry Speaks to Children (Book and CD) with the hot chocolate and coupon for reading it together. Thanks MotherReader!

Crossing off Santa's book list so far:
For Dad: Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm in the Great Depression by Mildred Armstrong Kalish- This book is likely to bring back fond memories of his early childhood and a good dose of new family stories.

For Mom: After This by Alice McDermott- Reading it should alleviate some of the guilt about her own children's wayward days.

For Brother: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer- My brother's an adventurer, although not quite that extreme. I heard Sean Penn waited nearly ten years to get the rights to this story from the family and it's now a movie.

For My four-year-old: Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems- Love it, love it love it.

For My two-year-old: Someday by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds- There are 69 customer reviews of this book over at Amazon to tell you how wonderful it is- tears me up every time.

And you can't escape a little holiday shopping without picking up something for yourself right? For some women it's earrings for me it's Pippi! Lauren Child illustrated a collection of Pippi Longstocking stories by Astrid Lindgren. I adore both Astrid Lindgren and Lauren Child and this hardcover book is perfect for chapter reading. It's a nice size to hold on my lap and has large print for enthusiastic read-alouds.

Those smart shop owners at Moon News have a little basket of toys and rumpled books to keep my toddler busy while I buy. I have to go back because I skipped over the cool Karma Checks at the register counter. Meltdown avoided.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

For Love of Barbapapa

In Summer 2006 we travelled to Iceland and while wandering around downtown Reykjavik, I discovered Barbapapa!

Written in the '70s by Annette Tison and Talus Taylor, the Barbapapa characters were created as a book series and made into a TV program. Where were you Barbapapa in my childhood? These loving, shape changing blobs, Barbapapa and Barbamama, have seven children. Each amorphous child has a distinct persona, Meet the Barbapapas.

The Barbapapa flagship series books are available in French. I found Barbapapa Babysitter at a Belgian, children's book store, Tropismes, located next to chocolate shops- I was in heaven. You can order internationally and they speak English. Many wonderful children's books are never translated, so I always enjoy the diversity of foreign language books.

I don't believe Barbapapa had widespread distribution in the US market. I found some English copies on ebay and Amazon, but I think they came by way of Canada. Nevertheless, the pictures open up unlimited stories about emotions, ecology, family, space, music and manners. And on the official Barbapapa site you will find well designed games for young children. We also like Peepandthebigwideworld for educational games.
Here is a little entertainment for a rainy day- like today in San Francisco.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wrap 'em Up

I always give books as gifts because besides loving beautiful books, they're easy to wrap- or done for you. And, if you've ever struggled with odd shaped packages in a hurry you'll get this.

Following the theme for the December Carnival, I made a list of a few terrific books.
Ten in the Bed by Jane Cabrera was given to my two-year-old from a teacher friend, and we've read it at least twice a week for the past year. This is one of the best takes on the well known sing-song rhyme I've seen. The hardcover edition is the perfect bedtime book and definitely worth giving.

For that special, cynical, world traveler in your life,
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik is a treat. I'll give you a taste, Gopnik is describing the real reason he and his wife moved from New York to Paris when his first child was born, Barney. "We had seen one after another of our friends' children- charming children of parents who parse Greek texts or write long metafictions set in the eighteenth century- sunk dumbly in front of a television set watching a man in a cheap purple dinosaur suit sing doggerel in an adenoidal voice with a chorus of overregimented eight-year-old ham actors." I gave this book to a friend who just returned from Paris and told me stories of Euro-Disney princess adventures with a four-year-old, a good match I think.

And for those dog lovers celebrating baby's first holiday season of joy and good cheer, here is an old favorite.
Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day is a picture book showing what happens when the family pet is entrusted to watch the baby. I plan to give this in the hardcover edition with the board book, Carl's Christmas to my sleep-deprived, dog-barks-too-much neighbors. BTW Carl has a website at Good Dog Carl.
Happy Wrapping.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Toolkit for New Authors/Illustrators

Let's be frank, the children's book market is a tough nut to crack, however even the most seasoned editor can not always predict the ever changing tastes of her reading public. We've all seen brilliant books, and a lot of mediocre books in print. I have read well over a thousand picture books. I love to write, but the true beauty of creating books for children is our limitless imagination and joy of reading with and to children.

Consider the following websites a mini toolkit.







If you're looking for a memorable gift, Reading is Fundamental is celebrating its 4oth anniversary with the book, The Art of Reading. "It's a book about the ability of children's literature to change lives and open hearts."- RIF

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

'Tis the Season

As the stresses and joys of the season start to mount, I find a good cathartic cry quite necessary. That said, here's my top 5 list of movies that will make any parent weep. Notice that all of these movies were novels first- and very well adapted I might add. If you have a favorite good cry movie or favorites be sure to post them in the comments.

Tis the time to snuggle on the sofa with hot chocolate or a bottle of wine and get lost in the movies for a couple of hours. BTW I believe these movies are rated R so make sure the kids are sleeping. Can you tell I haven't been to the movie theater in a while? Well, some of them are old enough, you may not have seen one or two. And, if you prefer to snuggle in and read, a real luxury for me, try paperbackswap.com. I joined this book club about six months ago and it's been great to trade my old novels for books I intend to read. The library only lets me renew them twice as you know.

1. Sophie's Choice (Meryl Streep)

2. Cold Mountain (Nicole Kidman and Jude Law)

3. A River Runs Through It (Brad Pitt)

4. The World According to Garp (Robin Williams)

5. The Ice Storm (Sigorney Weaver)

And switching the subject from movies back to books and blogs-
the blog, Uncommon Grace, is so beautiful I'm in awe. Grace includes lists and links to favorite picture books and parenting books. It's full of lovely photographs of flowers, family, art crafts, poetry.... Really, you must check it out from one picture book lover to another.

I got the Sundance catalogue in the mail last week (I really need to get off those catalog lists. I recycle but the waste and byproduct... discussion for another time.) and I saw they're selling one of my favorite Christmastime books, Snowmen at Night. "Snuggle in, wee one and grown up alike, for a spirited read." Proof again that picture books are not just for kids! I also love Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner. There are just some books I can't wait to read over and over at bedtime.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


One for each night,

they will shed a sweet light,

to remind us of days long ago.
_Chanukah, Oh Chanukah

Today I called my sister in California to ask her if I could contribute a blog on Chanukah. It's funny, because as children we were both raised Catholic but now we are both moms and our husbands come from very different cultural backgrounds, so our children are growing up with different traditions. My husband's grandfather was Jewish and came to Ellis Island from Russia. Although my father in-law is Jewish, my husband was not raised in the traditions and did not attend Temple.

Last year we decided to learn and teach our 3 year old son, Donovan about the meaning of Chanukah. We have an heirloom menorah which came from my father in-law's family. It is very beautiful and special. Since I did not have a clue about what to cook and how the menorah should be lit each night, I went to the library in search of a book that could help me.

There are many books about Chanukah at the library (even in the South!) but I came across one that is perfect for parents who would like to teach their children. It is a book for families to share, filled with wonderful stories and amazing recipes, called "One For Each Night" Chanukah Tales and Recipes, by Marilyn Kallet, with beautiful translucent color illustrations by Heather Seratt.
This book came to be when the author, Marilyn Kallet wanted to celebrate the 8 nights of Chanukah with her daughter and husband, but had no money to buy gifts. So, using her talents as an English major, she decided to create homemade presents and write a new story for each night. The stories were about food and she would cook up tasty dishes to accompany the tales. This wonderful book is made of 8 of her original tales and the recipes were passed down from her mother in-law. You can find this book online at http://www.celticcatpublishing.com/
Chanukah is only a few days away.........December 5th at sundown. This year we have a new baby daughter to celebrate with us. I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Now and Here

No longer forward nor behind
I look in hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find,
The best of now and here.
-John Greenleaf Whittier

Going into the Christmas giving season. I like to get a jump start on all the gift buying frenzy. By not waiting until the last minute I avoid the malls and find something a bit more personal and thoughtful. I'm thinking Etsy this year. But, I know this is easier said than done, and truthfully I go to the bookstore to buy gift cards on the 23rd. I don't get too many gifts for the kids because I don't want Christmas to be all about, "What is Santa going to get me!" Think about it, we're creating their future Christmas nostalgia now.

As a child, some of my fondest memories are the smell of the tree and placing the ornaments in just the right spot, baking lots and lots of Christmas cookies, imagining I lived in the story book pages of Tasha Tudor's Vermont country farm.

And yet the Tudor family farm was so far from my reality. We grew up in LA with the Hollywood Christmas parade and many a warm, barefoot Christmas. It was all a bit surreal now that I think of it. Gazing agape at those houses with yes, excessive but amazing decorations, flashing light displays, candycanes, snow people, and Santas galore. I don't know how to reconcile those two different Christmas visions, the white country Christmas I dreamed about or the green tinseltown one I experienced. So, today I'll share a bit of both. You can find signed Tasha Tudor books and prints at tashatudorandfamily.com, they're truly heartwarming. And, you can watch this video that, well... it's dancing Disney snowflakes on parade.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Books for Transition

Teach that all feelings are acceptable, and choosing books that relate to what is happening in your family's life can ease transitions and open up discussions about fears or upcoming events. Here is a list of some of my favorites for just those times.

Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi- A classic for potty training and beyond.
Feel Better Earnest by Gabrielle Vincent- The title speaks for itself, well so does Everyone Poops doesn't it?
Mommy in My Pocket by Carol Hunt Sunderak, pictures by Hiroe Nakata- This is for that first day of school separation anxiety.
Aldo by John Burningham- A useful book to open up dialogue about feelings of loneliness, or being bullied.
Would You Rather by John Burningham- I like to use this book to prep my kids for upcoming unpleasant events.
Too Many Monsters by Eve Bunting and James Bernardin- This is a great book for bedtime fears.

Just a bit of trivia, John Burningham illustrated Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1964.
Speaking of John Burninghm. Have you read Harvey Slumfenberger's Christmas Present?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kid Picks Adults Like

When I write about picture books and writing/illustration for young children, I mean pre-K through around grade 3. I think some picture books are so well done that any age, yes adults will enjoy them tremendously. For example, Swiss author/illustrator Irene Schoch has this very clever book, The Cat's Vacation. You can likely find it at your library or Amazon has a few copies. I'd love to find her German book Chiara und der Banhof.

A book I know you've seen at your library is Robert Neubecker's, WOW CITY, and WOW SCHOOL. All I can say is Wow! you'll have to see for yourself.

Here's a blog I really like, ecochildsplay.blogspot.com. The creator reviews a favorite book in Great Children's Literature and the most current title is, Fire Race. She's previously reviewed, Spiders Spin Webs. Check her archives for more recommendations.

For a more extensive list of recommended books go to Kid Picks, a library list of great books for kids of all ages. Bookmark this very handy reference guide.

Follow these tips to raise a reader.
Read out loud with your child at least once a day. Get your child a library card and visit the library often. Attend story times and other programs for children. Read! Your children will do what you do.

I would suggest that when you read to your child you go way beyond text, which is why good picture books are an asset. Do a picture walk through the story, better yet let your child tell you what is happening. Point out elements in the story and elaborate on those she is already aware of. Ask thoughtful questions related to the story and relevant to her life experiences.

As Peter Kline argues in,
Why America's Children Can't Think: Creating Independent Minds for the 21st Century, "The Information Age requires that we not only comprehend what we read but can interpret and apply it to our personal experience, or we will become a nation of followers and not independent thinkers. As the Internet pervades all aspects of our lives, we will be required to exercise reading and interpretative skills at an unprecedented level, or be left behind in the new global economy. By 2010, the volume of available information will be growing at a rate 10 billion times faster than in 1950. It’s interpretation, not comprehension, that is needed." Sit with that for a while : )

More Mo

I'm a big fan of Mo Willems, Sesame Street writer, author/illustrator, ....more MO. Love Knuffle Bunny. I was even more excited to see Knuffle Bunny Too on the bookstore shelf than my 4-year-old. And What could be more clear to a toddler then Time to Pee or Time to say Please?

If you're not familiar with his work visit mowillems.com. He has a dvd out with 6 stories. OK I'm not a big advocate of watching TV media for young children, but I do let my kids watch dvds like Clifford, Little Bear, Angelina Ballerina, Kipper, and Reading Rainbow. My kids make the text to TV connection, and I know the characters and story lines are appropriate for young children.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mom Is the Best!

I know it's not officially Mother's Day but given all we do during the holiday season to make sure everyone feels special, and continue traditions or create new ones, I would like to share a few mom-centered links.

If you haven't heard about Scream Free Parenting you might like to check it out. I've found Hal's parenting directives useful and supportive. You can sign-up for the Scream Free Daily, quick and inspiring tips on correcting ...I mean adjusting my attitude.

With all of the political campaigning in-motion you should be aware of Mom's Rising. This is an online "grassroots" organization bringing mom's issues to the forefront of the country's political agenda. By mom's issues I mean healthcare, flexible work options, paid family leave, childcare, and living wages among others. It's time moms had a collective voice in instituting family-friendly legislation.

You may find this site helpful on a local level, Mommasource is a bulletin board for moms to share information advice etc... If you're not already involved in a local Mother's club or are looking for more resources you can sign on.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'm hoping for another crisp, sunny, Fall day. In giving thanks I want to include some links to sites that give back to the community.

laptopgiving.org is an amazing program that gives a laptop to a child in another country, currently Africa, when you buy one for yourself.

papertigers.org has a great article about recognizing the good in our lives and all we have to be thankful for. If Thanksgiving prompts you to give to those less fortunate, they've included a list of books that keep on giving- where the publisher donates some or all of the profits to a charitable cause. Many of these books have wonderfully multicultural stories.

cafegratitude.com is a Bay Area restaurant and "... a school in transformation." Check it out, especially if you like healthy, delicious, vegetarian food.

And here's one that may not be so new to you but it's one of my favorites donorschoose.org. Having spent a lot of time in the classroom I'm always looking for ways to support fellow teachers and students.

And lastly, I have to include this sweet blog by Marytree. It resonates with me because it's really about the day to day simple joys of parenting. Her most recent post is titled, Today I am Thankful. BTW She make little e-books of her children's artwork using photobucket and dropshots.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


About two years ago I wrote the manuscript for a toddler book titled, You Are Joy. Intending to get it published, I sought out contacts I knew in the publishing industry. Although I received some good feedback about where my book would fit in, it wasn't the vision I had for the book. So I set out to self-publish and collaborated on the book with my sister, Kim, who came up with some terrific collage images and we finished the book. Well, that's what we thought until we came across a lot of formatting, quality and pricing issues particularly when it came to publishing a picture book.

Do not let these issues keep you from publishing your project! Remember we're here to support not discourage. Mistakes are often the cornerstones on which we build success. Now we're publishing our second book, Moon is Awake, and we're blogging about the process. I've had so many busy moms tell me, Oh , I have an idea, or I've always wanted to do that but don't know where to get started. And then there's the dynamic duo that can halt anything, time & money. You can publish your book idea for no money using print on demand, companies. There are limitations but hey, for no money up front they're a great way to get started and organize your book ideas. The POD company you choose will depend largely on your project, tech savvy, and marketing ideas.

Time, well that's another story. I often write on little pieces of paper that I find scattered all over the house. I write on the back of my daughter's artwork, grocery receipts...you get the idea. Then I schedule in a few late nights to put all those incongruent sentences together and get them into a document file on my desktop. My kids may have a grumpy mom the next day but it's worth it to see my projects move forward. My sister scans her original artwork and saves it as a png. If you don't get that ask at Kinkos or a techie friend is usually willing to show you how.

Before you start your publishing venture you will want to consider:

Is your project a full color picture book or a novel, fiction or instructional book? What will be the format eg: book size, number of pages, text and illustration layout? When using POD companies it's a good idea to order a book similar to the one you are planning. You will want to check out the print and paper quality.

How much initial capital do you want to put into your project, if any?

Do you want an ISBN number for larger distribution (online book sellers including Amazon, Barnes and Noble) as well as your local book stores? Be sure to check out the booksellers guidelines. Who are you selling your book to?

Are you going to need editing, illustration, book formatting services and representation with a publishing agent? And, how soon would you like to complete your project?