Monday, December 28, 2015

Writers's Potential

Winston Churchill once said, “Continuous effort–not strength or intelligence–is the key to unlocking our potential.” I believe he’s right. Over the years, the writers I’ve seen succeed were the ones who refused to give up.

-Kristi Holl

Dandelion bookplate,
Courtesy the Bilingual Librarian

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Merry Christmas Wishes

May your days be merry and bright.

Illustration by Doris Ettlinger, available from Etsy

May you enjoy the blessings of Christmas all year long.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

#illo_advent 4 Calling Birds

Christmas Countdown

Four Calling Birds, by Joanne Roberts

Thanks to Linda Silvestri for HoHoDooDa inspiration.

Monday, December 21, 2015

#Illo_Advent 5 Golden Rings

Christmas Countdown

Five Golden Rings, by Joanne Roberts

Five Golden Rings

#illo_advent and HoHoDooDa

Combat Writer's Block

"When I get writer’s block, I think it’s my subconscious telling me there’s a horrible problem somewhere in the story and I have to fix it before I can go on. So I start by asking myself where it was that I stopped enjoying the story."

Bookplate of  C. C. Ralph,
discovered on Pinterest

Friday, December 18, 2015

Monday, December 14, 2015

Picture Books Contain Power

"We know each reader brings to a book their own personal experiences, but I don’t think we can ever fully predict how they will react to a story. Therein lies the power [of picture books]."

Thursday, December 10, 2015

IF: Wet

Better late than never. Illustration Friday, HoHoDooDa, and #illo_advent

Illustration Friday theme WET,
graphite on paper by Joanne Roberts

Elf revenge. Wondering why he has a punch bowl on his head? Take a peek at last week's Illustration Friday offering.

Thanks again to Linda Silvestri and the other HoHoDooDa participants.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

HoHoDooDa 4 & 5

Woefully behind for #illo_advent and HoHoDooDa. So I cheated. I drew the little giggly elf on Wednesday to practice his expression. But I like him so much more than the one in the final drawing I posted on Thursday night, that I decided to give him his own spot at no. 5.

Bring Out the Christmas Decorations
Graphite on paper, by Joanne Roberts

Thanks for looking.

Elf with the giggles, by Joanne Roberts

Don't forget to visit the other sketchers making merry for HoHoDooDa.

Special thanks to Linda Silvestri for designing this challenge.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Powerful Plot Twists

"Look for events, developments, and twists that work in two or more ways at once, or that have multiple implications, meanings, or consequences. These can be among the most powerful elements in any piece of fiction."

Bookplate courtesy Model's Own

*Via D Biswas, Amlokiblogs

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Kittens Beneath The Tree

Napped all day instead of drawing. These kittens ought to be napping. I have a feeling this is what will happen to our gifts this year.

HoHoDooDa 3
Graphite on paper, by Joanne Roberts

I am keeping up on HoHoDooDa, but when will I catch up on the missed days? How are you faring? 

Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?

HoHoDooDa 2

A lumpy snowman for HoHoDooDa and #Illo_advent. Check them out. I am seeing some amazing art in my feed. Who are your favorites?

Friday, December 4, 2015

PPBF: Santa Claus, #1 Toy Expert

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Santa Claus,
The World's Number One Toy Expert,

text and art by Marla Frazee
Santa Claus, The World's Number One Toy Expert
Written and illustrated by Marla Frazee
Scholastic, 2005
Ages 4-7

Christmas, Humor

"No one knows more about kids than Santa Claus. He is the number one kid expert."

Santa knows kids. Santa knows toys. Santa knows wrapping, and planning, and playing. He loves his job. Santa Claus, The World's Number One Toy Expert gives a humorous peek into Santa's world. But there are no elves or gingerbread villages here. This book is a light-hearted look at a hard-working guy who knows when to take a break. It follows Santa through the process of choosing the perfect gift for each child. Then there's just one more important gift to discover. This isn't a typical three-act picture book. Nor will you find an insurmountable problem. After all, Santa tackles this problem every year!

What I Love:
Well, Marla Frazee! But there's more. I love Marla's fresh imagining of Santa Claus. I love the subtle message of play in your work and sacrifice for others' happiness. To me, that captures much of the gift-giving part of the holiday. Page after page of lively, lovely art will make this a traditional read in your home. My favorite touches include the thoroughly diverse children, the illustration of Santa reading to his stuffed animals, the child who wasn't quite happy with his gift . . . yet, and the wrapping paper endpapers. Why not slip a copy of this charming picture book into someone's stocking this year?

Find these toy-themed cookies and more
courtesy The Adventures of Sweet Sugarbelle
1. For a Toyland Christmas, try the Playmobil advent calendar.
2. Rather make your own advent? Wrap picture books and read one a day like these from Striped Armchair, or get creative and stack books as a Christmas tree, like the one from My Little Bookcase.
3. Build Santa's village with the annual Lego winter sets. Include a toy workshop like the one in the book.
4. Check out these amazing toy themed cookies by Sweet Sugarbelle. She even gives you directions to make your own, if you are adventurous. Wouldn't Santa eat these up on Christmas eve?
5. Visit a local toy museum like The Strong, National Museum of Play, The Marx Toy Museum, or The Classic Toy Museum in California.
6. Learn the history and evolution of Santa Claus on The History Channel.
7. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Penny
Reviewed by Joanne and Beth

Reviewed by Julie
Reviewed by Laura

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Erik

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for December 4, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

IF: Punch

It has been awhile since I posted to Illustration Friday. In keeping with the holiday season, I envisioned some elves with a bit of punch. This grog is spiked with Tabasco instead of spirits.

Graphite drawing for IF: PUNCH,
by Joanne Roberts

Linda Silvestri usually runs an informal drawing challenge in December called HoHoDooDa. What's a crazy-busy holiday season without a drawing challenge, right? So I've decided to throw my pencil into the ring. And for extra stress, I plan to tweet the drawings for #illo_advent, too. Sound like fun? Why not join us!

Leave your URL or Username in the comments so I can follow along on your creative journey. Don't forget to stop by Linda's blog to "register". Follow her with #HoHoDooDa. And keep an eye out here and @BookishAmbition on Twitter. S'cuse me. I have some catching up to do.

Thanks. Happy December!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Feeling Stuck?

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
- Mason Cooley*

Friday, November 27, 2015

PPBF: Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

I had this review ready, but didn't realize Beth Stillborn had already done a lovely Perfect Picture Book Friday review on her blog. Thanks, Beth.

However, in case you missed this book, I hope you'll take a peek at the gorgeous art and poetry within. Enjoy your weekend.

Winter Bees, By Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

Winter Bees
& Other Poems of the Cold

Written by Joyce Sidman
Illustrated by Rick Allen
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Kindergarten - 4th grade

Poetry, Animals, Winter

From "Dream of the Tundra Swan"

Dusk fell
and the cold came creeping,
came prickling into our hearts

Winter Bees is a beautiful collection of twelve poems focusing on animals and their behaviors during the winter months. The poems and illustrations are arranged from autumn's first snow to spring thaw, from "Dream of the Tundra Swan" to " Triolet for Skunk Cabbage." Poems appear on the left-hand page, while a short informative paragraph appears on the right of each spread, feeding the mind as well as the soul. The author adds a glossary to help explain not only naturalistic terms, but poetic ones as well. The linocut prints are detailed enough to satisfy young scientists, yet artistic enough to keep the pages turning. All in all, a tremendously perfect picture book.

What I Love:
Aside from the sheer beauty of the illustrations and the poems, Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold is full of fascinating facts. Did you know there's a bug called a snow flea that can spring high by flicking it's "tail"? Did you know there's a swan which flies north for the winter? Do you know the meanings of "subnivean", "brumale", or "pantoum"? Pick up a copy and find out.

My favorite poem has to be "Vole in Winter" and just listen to these lines from "What Do The Trees Know?"

What do the trees know?
       To bend when all the wild winds blow.
       Roots are deep and time is slow.
       All we grasp we must let go.

1. Giclées of the prints in this book and many more are available from Kenspeckle Letterpress. Gorgeous.
2.Kenn Nesbitt offers some lessons for kids on writing poetry at Poetry4Kids.
3. Sing Winter Wonderland and try some of the 50 winter family activities compiled by Today'sParent.
4. You'll find winter pre-school activities and crafts on MCPL, artic animal learning activities on GiftofCuriosity, and a science project about hibernation on HomeScienceTools.
5. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Cathy

Reviewed by Barbara
Reviewed by Joanne

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the Perfect Picture Book Friday titles available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Turkey Surprise

This isn't the turkey most of you will be seeing today, but they are among the many blessings we experience on a daily basis. The local flock numbers about twenty turkeys, though there were only thirteen in the front yard this morning. I guess they were sleeping in on the holiday.

Wild Pennsylvania turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

"Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with His glory; Amen, and Amen."

Psalm 72:18,19

Saturday, November 21, 2015

International Games Day

Thanks to the American Library Association!
Support your local library. Join in the fun. Celebrate International Games Day.

In honor of International Games Day, we are blowing off weekend chores and celebrating the holiday with family members. If you're not a gaming family, then may I make some suggestions?

Z-Man Games
For Everyone
Try Carcassonne. Perfect for mixed skill levels. Layers of strategy, or not. Straightforward play with minimal rules. Play cutthroat or mind-your-own-business style. Plenty of expansion sets for hard core gamers.

Fireside Games
For Families
Castle Panic. A fun and frantic co-operative game. Either everyone saves the castle from the invading hoards of monsters, or everyone is defeated as the castle is destroyed. Easy for all ages. Easy to learn. Easy to lose. The game that always ends with, "Let's play again."

Only Available through TICG site
For Card Sharks
The Totally Insane Card Game. Like Uno on steroids. Not for the faint of heart. Dozens of cards with confusing effects, but well worth the effort. Absolutely a must for barrels of laughs. Includes "This hand is dead" which immediately ends the hand, "Zombie" cards which reduce your hand total to zero if the hand should be declared dead, and "Resurrection" which obviously resurrects the hand and play continues. My favorite card? "This is not my card!" When you pick this card, you immediately give it away.

R&R Games
For parties
We love Qwirkle or Sketchy for the family. Time's Up for adults.

Dig out your old copies of Dutch Blitz, Trivial Pursuit, Password, or Apples to Apples and get your game on.

For Board Gamers
Have you tried 7 Wonders? It's my current obsession. Also always up for a game of Galaxy Trucker. In the mood to be defeated? How about Shadows Over Camelot or Forbidden Island? Recently played Machi Koro for the first time. Light but fun. Guillotine anyone?

For Video Gamers
Star Wars Battlefront, of course, and Mario Kart or Gauntlet for a little retro action.

Please visit The Games Keep [561 E Gay St, West Chester, PA 19380, Phone:(484) 905-5533]
or your local games store. They need your support. Can't find one? Try the Steve Jackson Games store finder or this one from Fireside Games, or Rio Grande's locator for a retailer near you. Online, I like Funagain Games. What are you waiting for?

Happy International Games Day!

Please leave your family's favorite past time in the comments. 
We love to try new games.

Friday, November 20, 2015

PPBF: Snow

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Snow, by Uri Shulevitz
Written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Scholastic, 1998
Grade K-2, word count 707

Winter, Imagination

The Skies are gray.
The rooftops are gray.
The whole city is gray.

Snow is a simple picture book about a boy traveling through the town trying to convince the passers-by to look up and see the snow flakes beginning to fall. It perfectly captures a child's excitement as the first flake drifts down. He begins to count them, one, two, three. The bustling townsfolk can't be bothered or don't believe him. When the town is finally blanketed in white, magical things begin to happen. The boy dances with nursery rhyme characters from the local bookstore and off into the night.

What I Love:
I love how Snow is so simple, yet so complex. At the heart of the story is childlike wonder at simple miracles like snow. The town is transformed from gray to white. The buildings take on a fairy tale quality, which is emphasized by the magic of the storybook characters coming to life. I love the grumpy, goofy, ridiculous members of the town, too absorbed in themselves to notice or to care about the first snowfall. Uri Shulevitz is a master at telling the story through subtle color change. He evokes emotion through placement of the illustrations on the page. At first the pictures are confined to small squares with lots of white space on the page, then gradually, the illustrations go to full bleed (off the edges of the page) as the town is buried in snow. This book is a lovely example of how illustration transforms text into something more, though in this case, the illustrator / author planned the visuals as a storytelling element right from the inception.

via Craftionary
1. You can purchase a lovely signed poster from Snow on Books of Wonder.
2. Read Uri Shulevitz's book Writing With Pictures. (Review by Harold Underdown) I promise, you'll look at creating picture books in a whole new way.
3. Craft a collection of paper snowflakes gathered by Decornos or try the app from Flash and Math to understand the geometry involved using virtual paper snowflakes.
4. Make a variety of snowglobes from
5. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Beth
Reviewed by Susanna

Reviewed by Joanna
Reviewed by Joanne

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for November 20, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Understanding Ourselves Through Books

"Why are picture books important? Because they show us the world. . . . We learn what it’s like to be someone other than ourselves, and in the process, come to understand ourselves better."
-Sophie Blackall*

Bookplate courtesy the Bilingual Librarian

*Via Picture Book Month

Friday, November 13, 2015

PPBF: Compost Stew

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Compost Stew:
An A to Z Recipe for the Earth
Compost Stew
An A to Z Recipe For the Earth

Written by Mary McKenna Siddals
Illustrated by Ashley Wolff
Tricycle Press, 2010
Grade K-2

Gardening, Environment, How-to

Environmental chefs
here's a recipe for you
to fix from scratch
to mix a batch
of compost stew.

Compost Stew is part alphabet book, part science how to. Told in rhyme, the text goes from A to Z, adding suggestions of unlikely items you can actually add to your compost heap. Apple cores, bananas, and coffee grounds, of course, but also quarry dust and laundry lint. The book includes links to composting instructions and community garden tips. Perfect to get kids involved in community service, environmentalism, and outdoor activity.

What I Love:
The author has set herself quite a challenge, to inform and instruct in rhyme. Even the disclaimer and end note are in rhyme. The finished product is charming and fun to read aloud. I was excited to learn a few unusual ingredients which will benefit my garden. And who can resist Ashley Wolff's paint and collage illustrations? She creates a colorful cast of characters from magazines, fabric, and newsprint, kids of all kinds in polka dots and floral hats. These illustrations are perfect for the recycling theme, from the endpapers to the endnotes and everything in between.

DIY compost tumbler by Ian and Kristina Urquhart
1. Download a PDF for starting a community compost. Check out these articles on composting with kids from Gardening KnowHow or Green Mom Guide.
2. Build your own rotating compost barrel: Bucket-sized from Urban Farm Online or one that's barrel-sized from OneHundredDollarsAMonth.
3. Get a head start on next years garden. Redwood City Seed Company offers free seeds to kids with an adult order.
4. Learn more about the science of earth worms from National Geographic Kids, then build a worm farm with PlanetKidz.
5. Mary Siddals has included a bucketful of links and lesson plans which are a perfect compliment to the book.
6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Sue

Reviewed by Stacy

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Kirsten

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for November 13, 2015 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Cat Complications

Sometimes I procrastinate. Sometimes it's something else.

Hey, I'm workin' here!

Sometimes it's kittens sleeping on your drawing table.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Enjoyment Like Reading

"I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of anything than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library."
-Jane Austen*

Bookplate by Fernand Chalandre,
Courtesy The British Museum

*Miss Bingley, Pride and Prejudice, via The Literature Page