Monday, July 28, 2008


The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin and illustrated by Rosana Faria is a very, very special book. Have you seen it? Our county libraries had three copies in Spanish and yet all copies are missing. I've requested they get copies in both Spanish, which is the language it was originally written, and English because this book is like a window into the experience of a blind child. Here is a review with an excerpt which I 've included below for anyone who doesn't have time to check out the link.

Thomas likes all the colors because he can hear them and smell them and touch them and taste them.

But black is the king of all the colors. It is as soft as silk when his mother hugs him and her hair falls in his face.

The pages in The Black Book of Colors are black with text in braille as well as script, and illustrations that are raised on the page. It's a sensory experience- conceptually profound and poetic.

Kim and I picked up some books at ALA and on the table at the Boyds Mills Press booth was a thick book with the illustrations cut out in textured fabric and also written in braille. I was told a few of these books are manufactured in India for the blind. The title was I feel a Foot! by Maranke Rinck & Martijn van der Linden.

Luckily, I got a copy of the print version. I would love to see the original illustrations because there is so much detail to the whimsical patterns painted on the animals. And wow what a palette! Imagine a turtle, bat, octopus, bird and goat asleep in their hammock. Turtle hears a noise. They all go to investigate in the pitch black. What each animal bumps into and what each believes he's found weaves a tale about perspective and sensory experience.

Now that I've written, perspective and experience, I have to mention that I braved going to the SF Moma with a friend and four young children to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. I was a bit concerned that some of the paintings were too bloody, but the kids didn't focus on the entrails, third eye, pain or death imagery. I think they especially liked her eyebrows and the monkeys she painted. I was in awe of these great paintings which I had only before seen in printed publications. Well worth shuffling through the crowded rooms and seeing before it leaves SF.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

What's Wrong Little Pookie?

Today was a 'What's Wrong Little Pookie?" day. Teething? Sleepy? Gas? Thirsty? Hungry?.....

Sandra Boynton's Pookie is a sweet little piglet with 'the agita' whose mama is determined to find out why.

She begins by asking him simply if he's cold, hungry, tired..... Then the book turns silly as she asks things like "Did tiny green elephants with wings oh-so-blue fly off with the cookies and leave none for you?"

In this way, Pookie's mama succeeds in cheering him up and he forgets why he was being such a fusser! ( Parents should take notes from this mama.)

I found this youtube video of a mom sharing exactly this book!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

M is for Mischief

Tonight I was reminded, yet another night, why so many picture books end with the characters going to sleep. We read Go to Bed, Monster! twice and at least six more books before tuck in BUT here comes segundo, Miss- I Never Get Tired, Charlie!, out of bed. I had to tell her, after another last, last book, that her bed was the safest place in the house from bears. Somehow that worked for tonight.

I was hoping to get started on this post earlier as M is for Mischief An A to Z of Naughty Children by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter (whose digital collage illustrations I recognized immediately from the wonderful, 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore) has been patiently waiting for me to write about it.

This is not your ordinary ABC book of childhood verse. No, this is a hilarious read-aloud written in rhyme with a ton of alliteration and word play. Each of the 26 naughty children's names corresponds to a letter. My favorite is Doodling Daphne, or is it Experimenting Xavier, or Untidy Ursula, or Offensive Oscar? There is even a disclaimer on the front cover, "WARNING This book contains obnoxious children. Read at your own risk!" Linda Ashman's website includes a terrific page on teaching ideas for this book. Isn't it interesting that two of my daughter's favorite books, No, David! and When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry are on the list of A Few More Books with Naughty Children? Books help us learn a little more about ourselves, even when you're only three. I like to keep this book handy when I need a pick-me-up good belly laugh. This one is really worth giving to your friend with a Nagging Nora, a Zany Zelda, a Mischievous Martin or ...

Monday, July 21, 2008


Marije Tolman's illustrations for Cute are so right on. Just look at this picture of the cozy couple relaxing in their Herman Miller/eames rocker, enjoying each other's company amongst the strewn about children's paint brushes, toys, crumbs, board games and paper cut-outs. This is how I hope to spend my evening, unaware of the clutter.

Written by Lida Djikstra from the Netherlands, Cute is the story of a bunny who, tired of being called "cute" searches to find a new identity. In the end, he sheds his new tough guy image as he realizes that he is happiest being who he is and with who he loves even if it's just "cute."

Thursday, July 17, 2008


When I was a little girl, I carried this tiny Steiff hedgehog around with me everywhere. He traveled in my pocket and lived in a shoebox house. I was crazy about hedgehogs and still am. I even recently considered getting one to keep as a pet but as they are mostly nocturnal, I think the poor fella wouldn't be able to sleep at all in this house!

For my birthday, N sent me Hedgehog, Pig, and the Sweet Little Friend by Lena Anderson. It's the sweet story about a little piglet named Fia who is lost. She knocks on the door of Mama Hedgehog who takes her inside, feeds her soup and makes up a bed. In the morning, Pig (a good friend of Mama Hedgehog) helps her find her Mama who owns the village Bakery. Mama pig rewards him with 100 sweet rolls. And Ooh La la! Pig falls in love with Fia and they walk down a cupcake aisle into a heart shaped sunset. Did I mention how Sweet this story is?! And it rhymes too.

Lena Anderson's cozy watercolor illustrations make me want to relocate my family to a little village like this one somewhere in Europe. One with a great bakery on the corner. Now it's time for a cup of tea and a sweet roll dream........

You'll Drive Me Wild

"Harriet Harris was a pesky child. She didn't mean to be. She just was."

Yes, yes! Those are the opening lines to Mem Fox's, Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild! The illustrator Marla Frazee (who also illustrated The Seven Silly Eaters and the Boston Horn Honor book, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever) has a wonderful dedication in the front of that book. It reads: To my sister, Janel- transplendent amidst the Legos. It made me think of you Kim, and our last conversation.

Speaking of transplendent and silly,
Jim Averbeck and Maria van Lieshout had a lot of fun at ALA! You can see their author and illustrator interviews here. My favorite is Mo Willems*****************

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another Yellow Balloon

This is one of my favorite pictures Nancy took of my C on our vacation in California. It's so summery. I wonder what that is floating in the blue sky above her head....a flying saucer, a kite, or.... a balloon!

I have to write about Emily's Balloon by Komako Sakai because it reminds me of the Caldecott Honor book Play With Me from 1955, the classic French film, The Red Balloon from 1956 by Albert Lamorisse and of course The Yellow Balloon in Nancy's last post.

It's funny because I had been telling N about this book and how the art reminds me so much of Play With Me (which we both adore from childhood) and then, there it was at the ALA Chronicle Books booth for her to see. I took this lovely action shot of the Chronicle Books booth on my way to grab a coffee. Everything was so rush, rush for us but I'm really glad we made it. (Next year: Chicago ALA, here we come!)
Emily's Balloon is the innocent, sweet story of a little girl who gets a balloon and as she plays with it, she forms an attachment to it and the balloon becomes her friend. When the yellow balloon gets stuck in a tree and her mother can't reach it, Emily misses it as she had plans to feed it dinner, dress it in her pajama cap and tuck it into bed with her. Her mother promises to get a ladder in the morning. But still, Emily can't sleep. She looks out the window and sees her yellow balloon nestled in the tree. She imagines it is the moon and finally goes to sleep.

Komako Sakai won the Japanese Picture Book Prize for Emily's Balloon. It's a simple 3 color print with soft, loose pastel lines, perhaps reminiscent of a calmer, more innocent time. Following is a trailer from Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge inspired by the classic Lamorisse film.

The Yellow Balloon

One game we play in the car when the girls start to, whine, pick on eachother, or start in with the Why???? questions is, I Spy. And let me tell you playing I Spy while you're traveling South on I-5 is a challenge if for no other reason then limited objects. Ummm I spy a tree, a red truck, a freeway sign....

If only we had the perspective of The Yellow Balloon by Charlotte Dematons to play with! This large picture book with no text is a treasure trove of recognizable images mixing contemporary and historical references in the same scenes. And it's an around the world adventure!

The book opens to endpapers showing a blue truck leaving home and traveling down a quiet road, but what a road trip! If you look closely (and you have to look closely) you will see a little yellow balloon flying out the window of the truck. Turn the page and the balloon is released. Now we have to find it on all full spread pages.
OK don't expect the images to be historically, culturally or regionally correct. Does it matter that a totem pole is in a Plains Indians camp or that the highway and ferry boat are just across the river from knights fighting in a medieval village, or that you can find little red riding hood all in the same scene?

Here is a link to a 1st grade school project using the Yellow Balloon for a lit trip. This book will be most exciting for children who have the schema for for this around the world adventure, magic carpet rides, angels and alien spaceships included : )

Friday, July 11, 2008

Singing to the Sun

When I first flipped through this book, I'll admit I was a bit skeptical, unsure if I could get into the strange boho/hippie-esque art style (as an artist I can sometimes be way too critical). Now that I have actually sat down and read this book to my son on his insistance 4x over in the last 2 days, I see how the story and art become mystically entwined and this book has definately melted and won my heart. Thank you again Sondra at Kane/Miller for this wonderful book!

Singing to the Sun by Vivian French is like no other fairy tale as the ending is completely unexpected and profound. It is a wonderful story and lesson for children to see that the king's power and the queen's riches mean nothing to a child if there is no love and happiness in life. The ending twist is a positive one, where the jester(not the prince) wins the princesse's love, sending the lead character, Prince Thorfin out into the world to live, learn and seek his own love and happiness.

My favorite Jackie Morris image in this book is of the jester gently cupping the 3 princesses in the palm of his hand like a soft cloud . Jackie is definately a master of watercolor as she uses a rainbow of colors in her shading......not your typical grays. I also love her wolves, they are amazing!

My son always asks about the jester's cap and so I found this adorable hand made one that I plan to get him for the cooler weather days as he will start kindergarten in the fall.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

My Ultra Bright Orange ALA Tote Bag

I'm posting this entry for Kim who, (suffering from jetlag and travelling with small children) ran into a tech glitch : )

We just got back from our fabulous 2 week vacation in Very Sunny So Cal. Ahhhhhhhh....and now for the jet lag and unpacking. It started out with 2 small bags and we came home with 3 overstuffed 50 lb. suitcases. My ultra-bright orange ALA tote bag filled with books and catalogs is definitely the one to blame!

After taking an accidental graffiti tour of downtown LA with my sister at the wheel, we finally made it to the big ALA convention in Anaheim. Nancy insisted on mapping out which booths to go to since we were on borrowed car/babysitting time and thanks to her, we covered lots of precious ground in just a couple of hours. The first booth, Chronicle Books was right in front. They were very nice and helpful and I walked away with the cutest Ivy and Bean (by Annie Barrows) magnetic bookmark freebie. I didn't know Paul Frank kids books existed. I am looking forward to getting a copy of Only in Dreams.
Kane Miller was our favorite booth hands down. It was big, colorful and well organized. We got to meet and chat with Sondra from She gave us each a copy of Singing to the Sun by Vivian French which I will be reviewing soon, and I had a chocolate earth ball pick me up. Sondra told us all about There's No such Thing As Ghosts and I know I'll have to get a copy when it's available in September for my son who is always saying just that!

Lee and Low Books Booth was full of children's books focusing on culture and diversity with exciting biographies. I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of their 2008 fall release of HONDA The Boy Who dreamed of Cars. It's the life story of Soichiro Honda in a children's book. I especially love the old photo of him on the back cover at age 5 sporting the racing goggles he invented!
Before bedtime tonight I asked my son to pick out a book from my ultra-orange tote and he picked Brave Ben by Mathilde Stein and Mies Van Haut. This is one of the Lemniscaat picture books which is a division of Boyds Mill Press. The Boyds Mill booth had a great promo of 6 hardcover Lemniscaat books for $40 which we split and will each review 3. A real score as they are all wonderful.

Brave Ben is about a little boy who is scared of everything. He's afraid of the little girl who cuts in front of him at the bakery and especially of the spook underneath his bed. He searches for "Help for Cowards" in the yellow pages and with his orange dial up telephone he makes an appointment with the Magic Tree who guarantees success. Ben must walk through a wild dark forest where he meets a dragon,witch, spider, and skeletons. He is so determined to make his appointment that he is unaware that he has already solved his own problem. The Magic Tree tells him that he is "truly brave'. I love Mies Van Haut's artwork and the character of Ben reminds me of our childhood Max und Moritz story book characters....could it be the nose? The ending is sweet with Ben buying 2 cupcakes, one for himself and one for the spook under his bed!
Sweet Dreams.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Yes, I read picture books to my children. But sometimes I savor them alone. Pink by Nan Gregory and illustrated by Luc Melanson is such a book. Written by a master storyteller in poetic language, Pink is about a little girl named Vivi who lives in a big brown building and she wants so much to be perfect pink like her classmates. "Vivi imagines where the Pinks live- in houses,
pink inside like shells, their dads home every night."

This story is about wanting, about having and not having, about family and what perfect pink really means. Vivi's truck-driving, harmonica-playing father has a central influence on Vivi's development. "Vivi flops down beside her dad to catch her breath. He knocks the spit out of his harmonica and gives her a little grin. She leans against him and watches the neighborhood rock back to level."

And I don't want to forget Vivi's mom! She thought up a pink day with raspberry jam sandwiches, cranberry tea, petits fours with pink icing, cherry blossom trees, baby mice ears (not to eat) and Vivi's baby blanket to spread out for their "pinkanic."

Together Nan Gregory and Luc Melanson have created a picture book that is bold, colorful, and delivers a poignant message for children and adults alike. You can read another review of Pink over at pixie stix kids pix. I also have yet to read Nan Gregory's other picture book, Amber Waiting, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton which was published in 2003. Please let me know if any bloggers out there in the kidlitosphere have reviewed it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Childcare at ALA

Our Monday morning visit to the ALA conference in Anaheim was a zippy two hours, but we made it to many of our favorite picture book publishers: Chronicle Books, Kane/Miller, Boyds Mill Press (who acquired Front St. and has the Belgian imprint Lemniscaat), Lee & Low Books and their imprint Bebop books,Tricycle Press, Independent Publishers Group, August House, Albert Whitman & Company, Kid's Can Press.

We didn't know about the Child Care offered at the ALA conference this year until we saw the sign at the entrance or we would have worked it out to bring the kids and talked more : )

The Fall 2008 catalogs include some wonderful new titles and some old favorites which we'll be blogging about in the next couple of weeks. Kim took photos of the Kane/Miller and Chronicle Books booths and I believe she'll also be posting about some of her favorites.

The family reunion was a blast and the kids enjoyed swimming and popsicles in the 100 degree heat. We don't have that kind of heat here in Half Moon Bay. Thanks again to Mom and Dad for putting up with our mess and for watching the kids while we were out (something else I don't have much of at home... time to go out I mean, we have plenty of mess.)

And this was the first time I've been to Disneyland with children of my own. What a different perspective to go with a child on your shoulders. Somehow Sleeping Beauty's Castle was not as far down Main Street as I remembered. And the Pirates! I think we took this photo shortly after the ride. Do they look a little disoriented? We spared them the Haunted Mansion until perhaps next year. For anyone curious about the Nemo submarine ride- don't bother unless the line is less than 30 minutes long.

Lastly, we took a movie clip of the pirates singing Yo Ho A Pirate's Life for Me out on Tom Sawyer's Island (which I think is now called Treasure island or Jack Sparrow's Island.. another literary reference lost. But the clip didn't turn out so well so I'll post one similar from a previous year. Of course, this song is now stuck in my head for the evening!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Surf's Up for Kimo

Yeesh! I didn't intend for this lengthy blog hiatus, but with back to back guests before and after the trip to LA ... well, I'm back now. Aside from the family reunion and Disneyland, Kim and I did make it to the ALA conference exhibits! We'll have a post on that and some of the terrific books we read next week.

I found a signed copy of Surf's Up for Kimo by Kerry Germain with illustrations by Keoni Montes on the dining table last night when we returned. It was a gift from a relative who spent a few days in Hawaii and then house sat while we were out. Tonight I read it to my tired girls and they were thoroughly engaged in this book. The vibrant illustrations and story about a five-year-old boy who is learning to surf from his older brothers was the only ONE book I read before tuck in. It helped that the pages are bordered with illustrations of Hawaiian foliage and includes a glossary explaining the many uses of a variety of regional flora. You can read more about Kerry Germain and preview her books at The two follow up books released by Island Paradise Publishing are Kimo's Summer Vacation and Kimo's Surfing Lesson. Aloha and Happy July 4th!