Sunday, November 30, 2008

Have You Ever Seen a Moose?

Have you ever, ever, ever, ever seen a moose? And really, really, really, really want to see one?

We've been having so much fun this week with, Looking for a Moose, by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Randy Cecil. Of all the books in our library haul this week the girls have chosen, Looking for a Moose, every evening. And sometimes we reread it twice in a row. It has all the elements young children love. Sing-song rhyming verse, adventure, and hide-and-seek.

Randy Cecil's humorous illustrations are painted in the warm colors of fall and his figures are rounded and bulgy-nosed. We love the picture of children wading one after the other through a swamp, "squeech squooch!" And we talk about whether they got wet. We talk about when the children pull on their boots, roll down their pants, button up their sleeves, take off their hats and tighten up their packs. Will they ever see a "branchy-antler moose?"

Moose are on my mind as I've been working with Keith Patterson's wonderful illustrations for Maybelle, Bunny of the North. He sent me some new images to include in the book which will be released in spring. I love this watercolor painting of a shivering moose. Often I dream of what it must be like to have a white winter. There are a few Christmas tree farms here in town but everything is green, green, green. It's all relative though isn't it? I wonder if people who live in Australia and Brazil romanticize about a white Christmas too. And then again, I would probably look like this little guy after a couple of hours outside in the cold searching for moose.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

On Thanksgiving I wanted a quote to read and reflect before we raise our forks and knives to feast, so I chose one by Annabelle Woodard. I hope you like it. I had to post this picture of my little Indian Maiden. She wore her seagull feather headdress all day.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Father-Mother of the Universe, in the beauty of Your Presence we give thanks for family and friends and for the clan of man. Nourish our bodies with these gifts of the earth and our minds with the thoughts sparkling among us. We will that our personal will be in atonement with the Divine as our Spirits bow in awe and wonder of the great Unseen.

These Things

Rivers and ocean

Clear nights to roam,

The seas ceaseless motion,

White churning foam.

Tall trees and boulders

New, spring-green leaves,

Days growing colder

I have loved these.

Bird's song at daybreak,

Heavy dewed lawns

Hour of sun-wake

Listening fawns.

Twinkly, starry eyes

Fall fire's ember

Gulls in gray ocean sky

Mine to remember.

-Annabelle Woodard

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Little Yellow Leaf

If you love the crisp fall weather and glorious falling leaves all around, you must read The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. This book with its aesthetically modern mixed media collage and lyrical verse is like the best pumpkin pie recipe you've ever tried. You can taste each organic ingredient in just the right proportion.

The story tells us of a little leaf that is not yet ready to fall from the tree. It holds fast as "A chill filled the air... and the sun sank slow." Many leaves had fallen and were swirling in the wind, yet the little, lone, yellow leaf just couldn't let go. Until... it spied a lone scarlet leaf and together, they floated away. I'm hearing Dione Warwick and Stevie Wonder singing, That's What Friends Are For in my head right now. OK my short summary of the story sounds hokey, but trust me this book is lovely.

Now about that pumkin pie! My friend Amy has a recipe she swears is fool proof and she is sharing it with those of us culinary challenged folks at And as a, falling leaves, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving-time tie-in, I will include this photo of two adorable Thanksgiving Pilgrims. Kim got my previous year's Halloween costume and April's mom loved it so much she made one for her little girl. Mind you the year was probably 1976? But Pilgrims probably didn't look that different over 300 years earlier. Hah!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cowboy Andy

While my son is fast asleep in his flannel cowboy pajamas with the covers kicked off, he won't notice that I am sneeking into his room to snatch Cowboy Andy from his nightstand. I'll be sure to replace it before he wakes up!

This is a vintage book published in 1959 that his Dad likes to read to him. Only his Dad can read it because he knows how to do the cowboy voices just right. Whenever they read this one, I always hear roaring laughter coming from his room and I wonder if he'll ever settle down enough to fall asleep.

Warning! : the first page show's Andy's father smoking a pipe while he plays with toy guns.......

but don't let this stop you from reading further. Andy's father sends him to Cowboy Sam's ranch for the summer. When Cowboy Sam sees Andy's toy guns he says, "There are no guns on my ranch, we are cowboys, not bad men!"

Andy soon finds out that Cowboy Sam does not watch TV and that life on the ranch is much different than life in the city. Through trial and error, he learns to ride a horse and a calf. All of his hard work and perseverance pay off when he wins a prize at the rodeo.

This is an early reader book with 6 chapters and reads much like the Dick and Jane series. There are gorgeous vintage 3-color illustrations by E. Raymond Kinstler on each page.

The author, Edna Walker Chandler has written several cowboy books for children but Cowboy Andy is the best!

While researching this book, I discovered Vintage Books My Kid Loves , a mommy blogger who gives away vintage books she reviews! She also sells them here. I'm sorry I just missed the entry deadline on her last vintage cowboy book giveaway.

Yayyy! This post was just named the Nov. 19th Best Childrens Lit Blog Post of the Day by The Children's Writing Web Journal. You can see a review clip here:

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Good Little Girl and Barbie

When I had my girls I decided to take a break from my job and go back when they went to Kindergarten. Well since then, I've become self-employed and I've been busy with deadlines, especially this past week. Consequently, I've unleashed a demon. BARBIE DVDS. (I don't know how to make those words look like they're dripping in blood or I would to show you how terrible I think they are.)

It started innocently enough... a rushed trip to the video store... and there they were, a rack full of Barbie video's like this one:

These stick thin computer animatrons are just so far from anything real and good in this world. Despite the gooey princess fairy sparkle rainbow evil merchandising to children, my girls have been literally crying to see more Barbie movies.

What Pandora's Box have I opened ????????

However, for every parenting dilemma there's a picture book to tell us something important and I've found answers in The Good Little Girl by Lawrence David with illustrations by Clement Oubrerie. This book just might fit into MotherReader's WAPB (Weird- Ass Picture Book) category. Oubrerie's pictures painted in acrylics are vibrant and super silly.

The good little girl, Miranda, decides she will be patient no more. She's tired of worn out promises. Her parents come home from work late and fall asleep on the sofa. Miranda has to put herself to sleep without a story. In the morning it's not Miranda who wakes up but Lucretia, a green monster who has captured Miranda and demands her parents do what she wills or they will never see their sweet daughter again. It's very funny because Lucretia takes it to the extreme even punishing her parents for their past neglect by making Dad shave his head and Mom dye her hair blue. In the end Lucretia gets smaller and smaller until she is just a little green, mean monster inside Miranda's head.

"We're just glad she's gone, " Dad said. "We certainly are," Mom said. "It's awful having such a bossy, tough child when we're used to having such a good little girl." Miranda put her hands on her hips. "Sometimes a good little girl might have to be a little bossy and tough," she said. "Or she might not get what she really needs." ... One hour later, Mom, Dad and Miranda sat on the porch swing. Mom and Dad read Miranda a story, taking turns with the voices. Lucretia sat up inside Miranda's head. She peered out through Miranda's eyes to see the pictures in the book.

So lessons here are two-fold. Parents, make time for your children! Good Little Girls, find the courage to express yourself and get what you need. And I'm needing to ban the Barbie videos!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holidays and Family Stories

Originally, I picked out Aunt Claire's Yellow Beehive Hair for the fun title and cover-art, but after reading it I thought it would be the perfect book to share for the holiday season. Many families will gather together this season and swap stories about the past and those family members who came before us. This wonderful picture book celebrates family history with warmth, humor and a fondness for those who have passed.
Grandma Marilyn and Great Aunt Ray take Annie on a hunt for old photos, letters and trinkets and tell her the stories which tie them all together, sustaining the family tree.

I had to laugh because the description of Aunt Claire from her photograph reminded me of you, Nancy. Aunt Claire sold face creams and lipsticks that she cooked up in silver pots in her kitchen. She swore that her magic flower creams would make women so beautiful, no one would recognize them! I remember all the times you made me try concocted face masks of avocado or yogurt, herbal steams, healing oils and tinctures...and all the great make-up/make-over tips!
The author, Deborah Blumenthal has actually written several books and articles on beauty and fitness and quite a few books for young readers as well. Her writing in this book is magical and brilliant, like a dream.
The art for this book reminded me of Inside The Slidy Diner, with its vibrant, expressive illustrations of colorful and unique characters. Then I recognized the name Mary Grand Pre of Harry Potter fame!

Here is one of her amazing illustrations of Grandma holding a photo that "she can't look at for too long." It shows "men whose faces make her eyes turn sad." "They left home to fight a war," she says, "but they never came back and saw their families again."

This is a reminder of how important it is to keep the family history alive for our children.

Now I'm inspired to start my own family scrapbook.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Little Peace

Now that the elections are over, we can all use: All it takes is....

Dover, Ohio, USA A four-year-old girl expresses herself. Freedom of speech was guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Barbara Kerley has written another exceptional book with a great message and photos that touch my heart. I found a wonderful author interview of her at Becky's Book Reviews.

The text within A Little Peace is simple, yet rich and the back pages of this book are informative with a world map and caption of where each photo was taken. Under each caption a tidbit of historical/cultural information is added. It's perfect for little ones and photo buffs too!

We're nearing the end of 2008 with the holidays coming and families getting together. Let's all hope for a little peace around the world.
Oh... and Mom, if your're reading this, do you think you can knit me a little hat like the one in this post?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Barack Obama

"Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shamed about, memories more accessible than those of ancient Egypt, memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild.

...I also felt for the first time how that spirit carried within it, nascent, incomplete, the possibility of moving beyond our narrow dreams. The audacity of hope! I still remember my grandmother singing in the house, 'There's a bright side somewhere... don't rest till you find it...' "

- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, p. 294

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Amadi's Snowman: Interview with Author Katia Novet Saint-Lot and Artist Dimitrea Tokunbo

Bees Knees Reads is thrilled to host the first online global virtual book-tour interview with author of Amadi's Snowman, Katia Novet Saint-Lot and Artist Dimitrea Tokunbo. A review of their book can be found here on our September 10th post.

Interview with Katia Novet Saint-Lot:
Please tell us about your childhood. What was it like? Where were you raised? Do you have any siblings?
I was raised in Paris, France. But we spent most summers in Spain, with my mother's family. And yes, I have one sister and one brother. I'm the oldest. I don't honestly remember that much from my childhood. More like flashes. Piano lessons. Reading. Going to school, sometimes liking it, other times hating it. Getting into fights with my sister. I was rather shy, and often felt "different". My mother didn't speak French very well, children with diverse backgrounds like me were not many.

As a child did you read a lot? Tell us some of your favorite picture books.
Yes, I was a voracious reader from the moment I could read. But I don't remember reading picture books. We didn't have a lot of money, and there were no books at home. And when I started borrowing books at the library, they were novels. I read practically all the books from the Comtesse de Segur, Alexandre Dumas, and Enyd Blyton. Later on, Nancy Drew.

I read that you travel a lot with your family as your husband works with UNICEF. Please tell us some of the exciting places you’ve lived and tell us a little bit about where you are living now.
Frankly, the most exciting place I've lived in, for me, has been Brooklyn, in New York. I loved it there. I loved that I could do anything : African dance, one evening, opera, the next, salsa dancing another, restaurants from all over the world, people from all over the world, and it was affordable. I adored my life in New York. India has been great, too, it is such a rich place in terms of culture, colors, architecture... One is constantly on sensory overload here. And there is always something intriguing and interesting happening.

Do you have children? Yes, I have two daughters, 8 and 4 years old.
Where in Africa was your family living when you wrote the story Amadi’s Snowman? Please tell us in detail about the culture there, traditions, language…
We lived in Enugu, Nigeria. Enugu was the capital of the short-lived Biafra Republic. The language spoken there is Igbo. One thing I loved - even though I think it's important to stay clear from the tendency to view Africa as one country, as opposed to a continent with many different countries - is the joy of the people. I'm talking about West Africa, here. I have not been to East Africa, and I'm told it's very different. But I found that in spite of all the hardships, there is a spirit of joy, in the places I visited in West Africa. I loved it, when I drove to fetch my daughter at school, in Enugu, that I would pass by small sheds that had African music blaring out. I loved the way women walk, their back very straight, balancing their hips. Asia is very different in that respect.

Was it difficult for your family to adjust?
Honestly, yes, for me, most of all. There were security issues, supplies were scarce, and there wasn't much to do. My husband worked a lot, and I was very much alone with our first daughter, who was only 7 months old when we landed there, so it wasn't easy. She started walking there, and she loved it. Obviously, as long as she had adults taking care of her, food on her plate, and a place to play, she had no reason not to be happy. We lived in a big hotel compound that had ten villas, and a huge park with a lake, and she ran around all day, trying to catch lizards or birds.

What gave you the inspiration to tell this story? Is the character Amadi a boy that you know or have met?
My husband came back from work, one evening, complaining about the boys who dropped out of school to earn a little money doing street business. It's a common problem there. I just used this as the premise for the story, but Amadi is entirely my creation.

Is this your first published book? Yes, it is.
Are you interested in speaking to teacher/librarian groups or to kids via school visits? If so, how can interested parties contact you?
I'm very much interested in speaking to teacher/librarian groups or to visit schools. I love interacting with children, and talking to them about reading and about Nigeria, and anything else they come up with, really. Of course, I currently live in India, but we are bound to move elsewhere sooner than later, and I also travel quite a lot, to Europe and to the US. I can be reached through my website,

What are your goals for the future? Do you have another story in the works?
Continue to write, work on my craft. I have several stories in the works, some are completed, others still need a few revisions, and I also want to write novels. So, lots of projects, yes.

Dimitrea Tokunbo’s art is the perfect match for Amadi’s Snowman. How did you find/meet Dimitrea?
The publisher and editor found Dimitrea. Her father is Nigerian, and her mother is from Maine, and that's where Tilbury House is located, so the connexion seemed rather serendipitous. I was very eager to meet Dimitrea, and this finally happened over the summer, when we did two readings together in New York City. She's delightful.
Thank you very much, Kim, for your questions and for your interest.

Dimitrea and Katia (center) with the Igbo,Nigerian family who helped pose for the book's imagery and Dimitrea's daughters who helped as well.

Interview with Artist Dimitrea Tokunbo:
Please tell us about where you grew up. What was it like? Tell us about your family history. Where are your mother and father from? Do you have siblings?
I was born in California but moved to upstate New York when I was five. My Parents divorced when I was three. I liked visiting my dad when he lived in Harlem. I never dreamed that I would actually live in the city myself. I am now divorced and have two daughters and we live in the city. We love it. We love Brooklyn (where we live) and we love Manhattan (where they attend performing arts school and I work my day job). My mom had three more kids after me (two boys and a girl). My Dad had four kids after (three boys and one girl). I am the child from their first marriage. I was an only child until I was 6 years old.

Did you read picture books as a child? Please tell us some of your favorites.
I loved picture books and still do. I liked Corduroy and Where the Wild Things Are.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist? Did any one person influence you? My mother used to ask me the story that went with the drawings I would make, even before I was two years old. So words and art always went together for me. Also my mom allowed me to draw on anything that belonged to me which included my bedroom walls. My mom is an artist, although she went to school to be a teacher, she always found ways to use her creativity. I think she was the first artist I wanted to be like.

Who is your favorite artist? Now I love the illustration work of Leo & Diane Dillon, Brian Pinkney, Kadir Nelson, Trina Schart Hyman and Patricia Pollacco. (Gustav Klimt, Alphonze Mucha, Jacob Lawrence and VanGogh)

I read that you are an author as well. How many published books do you have as an author/illustrator and how many others have you illustrated for? So far I have three books published as an illustrator and two books published as an author. It’s still a dream that my editor will hire me to illustrate my own books…I’m a believer (o:

How did you prepare for the Amadi’s Snowman illustrations? Tell us about the research that you did and why? Well, it’s been about 15 years since I’ve visited Nigeria (although I'm excited to report my daughters and I going there for 3 weeks this December) so I contacted relatives who still live there, my sister and my uncle. I emailed them descriptions of what I was looking for and they emailed me photos. I also have a cousin who lives in Queens who grew up in Nigeria, so I would have lunch with her to show her my sketches to check for accuracy.

Are your illustrations based on real children and people that you know? The author was very concerned that the family in the illustrations look Igbo and not Yoruba (my family is Yoruba) A friend of mine, in my neighborhood knew an Igbo family in Long Island. She introduced us over the phone and we made arrangements to do a photo shoot at their home. The whole family got involved. The parents, the three sons, the grandmother and even my two daughters helped out with poses.

Can you tell us about the painting process you used for this book, is it acrylic paint on wood panels, oil on canvas?…etc. Why did you choose this style? I did this book with Acrylic paints on Bristol board. I’d wanted to use a more fluid style. I like that acrylic paints give bright, vibrant colors immediately. My favorite part was mixing my color palette.

What new works are you working on for the future? I am working on texts for historical picture books featuring powerful women I want to introduce my own daughters to.

I also heard that you have a new book coming out soon. Please tell us about it and when it will be available. I have a book coming out Fall of 2009 with Scholastic Inc. titled, The Sound of Kwanzaa, illustrated by Lisa Cohen. This book lays out the 7 principles of Kwanzaa in simple yet poetic terms for young children. I also included one of my favorite brownie recipes that children can make for their Karamu or Kwanzaa feast day.

Do you sometimes make school and library visits? If so, how can we contact you? I do and I love to. I can be reached through the Publicity Manager at Tilbury House Publishers, Sarah McGinnis.
Thank you Katia and Dimitrea for visiting us. We hope children all over the world will have the opportunity to read Amadi's Snowman. Best wishes on your global tour!