Monday, June 24, 2013

Too Complex for Adults

"There are some themes, some subjects, too large for adult fiction; they can only be dealt with adequately in a children's book."
-Philip Pullman

Bookplate of Vivienne MacKenzie Webb

Don't forget to follow this blog and comment here to be entered in the pirate giveaway!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Artist Mardi Speth

Peet and Buttercup, Courtesy Mardi Speth
Mardi Speth is a talented artist and designer based in California. She posts regularly to Illustration Friday. On her blog, MardiArt, she showcases the adventures of her characters Peet and Buttercup.

I love the finished quality of her watercolors. Watercolor is a challenging medium. It is a balance between what you want to paint and what the paint wants to do. Mardi's work is refreshing because it isn't overworked. She has lovely areas of dark, washy areas, and often adds detail without ink or pencil line. Look carefully, and you'll see she rarely paints areas of flat color. The variety in tone, hue, and texture is the element that takes these whimsical paintings to a more professional level.

I admire the storytelling aspect of each Peet and Buttercup piece. It is easy for me to focus on characterization in my personal work and forget to build in a story aspect which makes the viewer want to linger in the illustration and keeps them thinking about the piece long after they've turned the page.

At El Pollo Del Mar, courtesy Mardi Speth

I hope the depth and variety in Mardi's work inspires you. Let that creative spirit loose!

Cultivate, by Mardi Speth


Don't forget to enter my first official picture book giveaway!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Journey That You Dream Of

“ sing,to dream, to smile, to walk, to be alone, be free,
with a voice that stirs and an eye that still can see!
To cock your hat to one side, when you please
at a yes, a no, to fight, or- make poetry!
To work without a thought of fame or fortune,
on that journey, that you dream of, to the moon!
Never to write a line that's not your own...”
-Edmond_Rostand, Cyrano De Bergerac

Courtesy Ex Libris Jacques Leget sic

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pirate Giveaway!

Win a hardcover edition of this book!
Okay, I'm not giving away a pirate, but I am giving away a copy of The Pirate Meets the Queen, an adventure-filled picture book by Matt Faulkner. Here's my review for PPBF.

1. Become a follower of my blog, Bookish Ambition (Hint: you're already here!)
2. Leave a comment on this post. Anything pirate-y will do!
3. If you'd like a second chance to win, follow Bookish Ambition on Twitter, or let me know that you're already a follower.
4. I'll put your name into the drawing a third time if you tweet about my contest.

That's it! So this is a shameless ploy to reach more followers, but it is also a chance to win a book. And who doesn't need more books?

Entries will be accepted from June 16-June 30. One winner will be randomly chosen and announced here and via Twitter on July 2, 2013.

Thank-you and Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Renne Benoit, Illustrator

From Lily and the Paper Man, by Rebecca Upjohn,
illustrations by Renne Benoit
Okay, I've cheated again. Renne Benoit is no new talent on the picture book scene. But most of her books are published by Canadian houses, so I thought it would be a good idea to feature her here.
From Fraser Bear,
by Maggie de Vries,
art by Renne Benoit
The truth is, I found one of her books through Perfect Picture Book Friday, and was so blown away by her striking colors and technique, that I needed an excuse to shout about her work.
In fact, I'm going to let her work speak for itself. Enjoy!

Tea Party, courtesy Renne Benoit

From Proud as a Peacock, Brave as a Lion, by Jane Barclay and Renne Benoit

Friday, June 14, 2013

PPBF: The Pirate Meets the Queen

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

The Pirate Meets the Queen, by Matt Faulkner

The Pirate Meets the Queen
Written and illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Philomel, 2005, Fiction,
ages 6-10

Adventure, Pirates, Historical fiction, Irish legend, Strong female characters (but not a role model!)

"Tis very odd, you know, the things they say about you after you've been dead awhile. I've heard the tales they tell. Some call me a pirate."

The Pirate Meets the Queen is the slightly embellished, but nonetheless fascinating tale of 16th century Irish pirate, Grace "Granny" O'Malley. Faulkner chronicles Granny from her unorthodox youth, through her days of motherhood, culminating in her historic meeting with Queen Elizabeth.

What I Love:
Who doesn't love a good pirate story? This one has the added bonuses of being about a female pirate, and being based on a true story. The main character is hardly sympathetic, though the author spins the tale a bit in her favor. Matt Faulkner's energetic illustrations are just fantastic enough to be legend, and just realistic enough to be historical. His attention to detail breathes life into the Elizabethan world.

Stephanie Block on Broadway in The Pirate Queen,
2007, from the creators of Les Miserables
1. For more on the creation of this book, check Matt's blog, where he also features sketches from Jack London to Dungeons and Dragons.
2. There's much more to know about the real Grace O'Malley. You can visit her landmark in Ireland, read Granuaile, by Anne Chambers, or listen to the Broadway version of her story, The Pirate Queen by Boublil and Shonberg.
3. There are over 30 crafty piratey ideas collected on Nurturestore.
4. A pirate book is an excellent excuse to play dress-up. Gird on your pool noodle sword. Turn your couch into a sailing ship. Draw your own map and have a treasure hunt.
5. While sherbet ships might be more fun to eat, here's an eye-opening list of real pirate foods including a recipe for hardtack.

The statue of Grace O'Malley,
by Michael Cooper
at Westport House
EXTRA! EXTRA! I'm giving away a copy of The Pirate Meets the Queen at the end of the month. The giveaway runs from June 16-30, 2013. Check this blog on Sunday (6-16-13) for details, or follow me on Twitter to receive the notice to enter!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday for June 14, 2013.
Thanks to Susanna Leonard Hill.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sendak's Writing Advice

"You cannot write for children ... They're much too complicated. You can only write books that are of interest to them."
-Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak's bookplate

Don't miss today's excellent animated Google Doodle for Maurice Sendak's birthday.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Illustrator Aurelie Neyret

Aurelie is a well published illustrator, but you probably aren't familiar with her work. Most of her illustrations are published in French, from trading cards to textbooks. Her work in conceptual design is highly regarded.

The Wish Tree, courtesy Aurelie Neyret
Visit her website, Clochette, or her blog, to see the latest of her creations. You used to be able to buy a DVD of her character design process, but I'm not sure it's still available (and it's in French.)
You'll find an excellent interview on about her digital technique.

Les Carnets de Cerise
 by Joris Chamblain
 and Aurelie Neyret 

I first fell in love with Les Carnets de Cerise (Cherry's Notebooks) when I chanced to see it on Pinterest, though I didn't know much about the artist then.

Her work for Histoire Junior and Toboggan magazine is consistently a treat.

In addition, I highly recommend you look up her ink illustrations for Tristan and Isolde and basically anything else of hers which you can find. You won't be disappointed.

Bedtime is Cancelled, by Cece Meng
 and Aurelie Neyret
Most people now know her from Bedtime is Cancelled, written by Cece Meng and published by Clarion late last year. Hooray!

Farewell Lucille, courtesy Aurelie Neyret

Friday, June 7, 2013

PPBF: Growing Vegetable Soup

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Growing Vegetable Soup, by Lois Ehlert

Growing Vegetable Soup
Written and illustrated by Lois Ehlert

Scholastic, 1987, Fiction, ages 3-5

Gardening, Vegetables, Cooking, Nature

"Dad says we are going to grow vegetable soup.
We're ready to work, and our tools are ready, too."

This colorful book for very young readers uses the theme of vegetable soup to introduce children to the concept of a garden, including related vocabulary.

Courtesy Lois Ehlert

What I Love:
I confess, if Lois Ehlert's name is on the cover, I buy the book, sight unseen. This particular book deserves perfect picture book status because it does it all. Typical Ehlert collage blooms in neon colors, introducing readers to the names of vegetables and gardening tools. The simple text describes the steps from planting to reaping and beyond. A recipe is included in the back to invite even more interaction.

This item was created by
Fun Felt Stories.
1.  Use it as a resource to combat picky eaters. Work your way through the ingredients in the book one week at a time, if need be. Experiment with each vegetable and incorporate it into your family's regular diet!
2.  Support your local farmer's market. Go on a scavenger hunt to identify all the vegetables at the market. Play I Spy. Talk to farmer's about planting. And be sure to bring home some veggies to munch.
Here's a tote from
Teachers' Bags, Books, and Beyond
3.  Lois Ehlert's illustrations invite creativity. Encourage your kids make a veggie or garden collage out of tissue paper, cardstock, or felt.
4.  If you are crafty, you can make a tote bag for a favorite teacher using paint or applique. Be sure to include a copy of the book for the class library.
5. For a change of pace, here is a link to a nice loaded baked potato soup and a fresh vegetable soup recipe for the slow cooker.

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday for June 7, 2013.
Special thanks to Susanna Leonard Hill.

This book is the perfect companion to Eating the Alphabet and Planting a Rainbow, also by Lois Ehlert.

Monday, June 3, 2013