Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Step One

"Writing is the first step of the journey. Rewriting completes it."
—Mike Rich*

Bike and biplane bookplate by Kamil Lhoták

*Via Scholastic, The Writing Process

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Writing Apprenticeship

"I never have found out all I want to know about writing and realize I never will."
Lloyd Alexander*

Cannon with bird's nest bookplate
by Belgian-Canadian artist André Linglet
Courtesy Frederikshavn Art Museum

*Via Kidsreads

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Lilt of Your Voice

"Voice is like an accent. You never hear your own. But that doesn't mean you don't have one." 
S.P. Bowers

Color landscape bookplate by Peter Dietzsch
Courtesy Frederikshavn Museum

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Artistic Gap

"It's only by actually going through a volume of work that...the work you are making will be as good as your ambitions."
Ira Glass*

Bookplate from the British Museum,
via Pinterest

*Brain Pickings

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Who's Stealing Your Joy?

 "The only writer to whom I should be comparing myself is the writer I was yesterday." 
Emma Dryden

Art Nouveau style bookplate by Ludwig Hohlwein
Courtesy Iparmuveszéti Múzeum

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Portfolio Perspective

“If you can look at your earlier work and cringe a little, that means you’ve improved.”
Dan Santat*

Library Trees bookplate by Melanie Amaral

*Via SCBWI: The Blog

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Narration Is About Gesture*

"You really can accomplish a lot if you are willing to get up out of your chair, change your environment, and act out scenes in your book."
Will Terry**

The Dance Teacher, bookplate by Elita Viliama
Via Pinterest

*also a quote from Will.
**Via Tara Lazar

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Cultivate Your Artistic Pursuits

"Courage...[is]...making choices that move you toward your goal despite the fear. As an artist, I have to cultivate practices that create fear that fear doesn't paralyze me."

Technically not a bookplate, but a great motif to make your own.
Ancient Tree from

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Big Plans, Small Steps

"Dream big and make plans to move toward them, but appreciate the journey along the way."

—Jennifer Chambliss Bertman*

Girl looking out to sea bookplate
Can anyone identify this artist's signature?

Friday, June 8, 2018

PPBF: Carousel Cat

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Carousel Cat, by Robert J. Blake
Carousel Cat

Written  and illustrated by Robert J. Blake

Philomel, 2005
Ages 4-8, 40 pp

Cats, Summer, The Jersey Shore!

I want to tell you a story about a cat.
Just an ordinary cat, until the day it did an extraordinary thing.

The Carousel Cat centers around a stray orange cat and a carousel operator for a shabby merry-go-round on a forgotten stretch of boardwalk. The operator, named Dan, and his friends, the strong man and the fortune teller, meet every day to have lunch and ride the carousel until the boardwalk attractions are forced to close. When the cat disappears and a fire breaks out, Dan and his friends rush to the rescue, but it may be the cat who is the hero of the day.

What I Love:
I was initially attracted to this book because it was immediately clear the illustrations were based on Asbury Park, New Jersey, less than a half mile walk down the boardwalk from my cousin's place. But the detailed illustration style drew me in and the fun adventure story kept me coming back. You don't have to be familiar with the surroundings to enjoy the summer vibe and the colorful charaters in this story.

Blake's normally realistic painterly style is replaced with a different approach: highly detailed illustrations paired with black and white drawings which appear ripped right from the artist's sketchbook. The mix of detail and energy draws readers into the story to pore over every page.

Perfect to kickstart your summer reading.

Download and color a Jersey postcard from USA Printables

1. Imagine yourself in the story: visit the revitalized boardwalk at Asbury Park or stroll through the quaint Victorian streets of neighboring Ocean Grove, New Jersey.

2. If you aren't on the east coast to ride ten of the oldest merry-go-rounds in the US, you can check the interactive map of registered rides on for a carousel near you.

3. Instructions for a preschool-level paper carousel craft can be found on Pinterested Parent or try the more complicated spinning merry-go-round centerpiece on Oh Happy Day!

4. Shindigz offers suggestions for boardwalk themed games, food, and decorations to host a spectacular summer party, or for a simpler carnival theme, view the party pics on Hostess With the Mostess.

5. Check out these and other Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Laura

Reviewed by Wendy
Reviewed by Jarm
Reviewed by Maria

Reviewed by Julie
Reviewed by Joanne

Hilarious emergency preparedness
with Scaredy Squirrel

More boardwalk adventures in
Mira Forecasts the Future

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 Friday, June 8, 2018 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Cure For Artists' Block

"Make a mark on the page. And then make another one. And another one. And another one. That's the way you start."
Chris Riddell*

Violin ex-music bookplate by C. Gladys Muñoz

*Via Your Creative Push

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Resistance Is Fertile

"Just because you meet resistance doesn’t mean you should quit. It just means you need to update your plan."*

Book and flower vase bookplate by Max von Esterle
Via The Museum of Applied Arts

*Via WritersVillage

Friday, May 25, 2018

PPBF: Pocket Full of Colors

Today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick

Pocket Full of Colors,
a picture book biography of Disney artist Mary Blair
Pocket Full of Colors
The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire 

Written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville
Illustrated byBrigette Barrager

Atheneum Books For Young Readers, 2017
Ages 4-8, 48 pp, ATOS 4.3

Art, Biography

Under a wide blue sky,
on a red dirt road,
in a lemon-yellow house,
there lived a girl named Mary.

Other children collected marbles or dolls,
but Mary collected colors
of every shade and every hue.

This streamlined biography introduces readers to Mary, a little girl who loved to paint and collect colors in her heart. It follows her to California and a short stint at the Walt Disney Studios, where she was misunderstood and restricted. It briefly notes she worked as a successful artist in New York. Then culminates with her creation of the It's A Small World attraction for the 1964 World's Fair.  An author's note is included.

What I Love:
I have long wanted to write a picture book biography of Mary Blair. Naturally, someone else's doesn't match the vision and scope I imagined for my own book. Regardless, I bought this sight unseen when it was released, knowing the admiration the creators had for Blair's legacy.

While the illustrations certainly reflect the vivid, midcentury style of the subject, the text is straightforward, flooding the prose with a multitude of color names and almost treating the colors as a character, yet not quite as original as Mary Blair herself. The story hits the tips of a few icebergs in Blair's life, like her transformative trip to South America and her marriage to watercolorist Lee Blair.

I think this is an important biography which may lead readers on a journey of discovery to find the whole story and will, I hope, inspire female creators to persevere in marketplaces where they are underestimated.

1. Discover more about Mary Blair's art, influence, and merchandise on her official website and on Oh My Disney. You can also catch film of Mary herself sketching and painting in the Disney film Saludos Amigos. See also the post on Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.

2. Mary Blair has been featured in a beautiful short film, "Mary," by the students and staff of Gobelins, was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1991,  and even received her own Google doodle.

3. The Art of Education has compiled a half dozen ways to teach color theory to kids, a perfect compliment to the subject of this biography.

4. I love this School of Decorating article on helping kids choose a color scheme. I think some of the advice goes for any kind of kid-centric decision-making.

5. PinupGirl Clothing has exclusive use of Mary Blair fabrics. I am sure there are plenty of mom's who would love to get ahold of these prints for kids, too.

6. The artist's most enduring legacies may be the original It's A Small World attraction at Disneyland or the seven-story mural at the Contemporary Resort outside the Magic Kingdom. Read about the history and creation of It's A Small World on Designing Disney and at The Enchanted ManorDesign Observer and Cheapskate Princess have posted beautiful images of the mural. Just one more excuse to visit the Happiest Place on Earth if you're in Anaheim or The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando.

7. After a hard day of play, treat the kids to a viewing of Disney's Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, or Cinderella. See if they can spot Mary's name in the credits and have crayons  and colored papers handy to duplicate her crazy, color-saturated backgrounds and designs. It's like a museum visit in your living room.

Concept art for Peter Pan
Concept art for Alice in Wonderland
Concept art for Cinderella

8. For further reading, check out the reprint collection of Mary's work for Little Golden Books or The Art and Flair of Mary Blair, by John Canemaker.

9. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Pat
Reviewed by Leslie
Reviewed by Kirsten
Reviewed by Joanna

Reviewed by Julie
Reviewed by Joanne

And two more reviews from Wander, Ponder, Write:
The Flying Girl,
Aida de Aeosta biography 
Miguel and the Grand Harmony,
A Coco story

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 Friday, May 25, 2018 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A New Tactic

"Procrastination does not mean you're broken. It means you're trying to force something through willpower alone that takes a plan and structure to achieve."
—Jessica Abel*

Kangaroo bookplate by Geoffrey Ricardo
Courtesy Museums Victoria

*Via Growing Gills

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Willing To Work?

"Creation, whatever its form, is not an act of will, but an act of faith."
Lloyd Alexander*

Man and mammoth bookplate by Kurt Leyde

*Via The Story Within, by Laura Oliver

Friday, May 11, 2018

PPBF: Adrift At Sea

And now on to today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick*

The true story of Tuan Ho,
told by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and Brian Deines
Adrift At Sea
A Vietnamese Boy's Story of Survival

Written Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch and Tuan Ho
Illustrated by Brian Deines, bio

Pajama Press, 2017
Ages 6-9, 40 pp

Immigrants, Cultural Diversity, Vietnam

When I come home from school today, a jug of water and bags of dried food sit by the door.
Ma gathers me in her arms. "Are you leaving me now too?" I ask.

The Ho family live in Vietnam in the 1980's. This is the story of how Tuan and his sisters made a daring escape from that country, were lost at sea, and survived. The book includes photographs and details to inform the reader about Tuan Ho's family members, making the journey very personal. The author's note gives facts about the Vietnam War and the subsequent struggles of refugees.

What I Love:
This book is a beautifully written account of a harsh emigration from a young boy's perspective. The author includes sensory details to heighten the experience. The fine art paintings are beautiful, evoking a strong sense of realism.

I did think the book needed a bit more context for young readers. The enormous cast introduced in the first few pages was also a bit confusing. The solid back matter could be used by adults to provide a framework and summary before reading the story to children. There were places where I wished the art was more illustrative. I think the artist could have used some spreads to heighten the tension, reinforcing what was unsaid in the text. Yet the art was breathtaking, definitely creating a sense of mood on every spread.

Overall, this book is a much needed and honest picture of something many immigrants experience. Despite its shortcomings, I recommend Adrift at Sea for use in homes and classrooms.

Culture map from Kids Press Magazine
1. Try kid-friendly recipes for fried rice, noodles, or summer rolls from A Week in the Life of the World.

2. Duolingo is my favorite app for learning languages. Try a few minutes of Vietnamese for free, and you'll be hooked.

3. Fluent in Three Months adds language games to get your kids moving and articulate.

4. Print and color Vietnamese paper dolls from

5. In case you missed the other CYBILS Award finalist reviews, I've included the links below:
Hatching Chicks in Room 6
Once Upon A Jungle
Shark Lady
Dazzle Ships
What Makes A Monster?

6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

A Different Pond, family life
of Vietnamese immigrants
Vietnamese Children's Favorite Stories,
Folk Tales

The Little Refugee,
Vietnamese Emigration
Maya Lin, Vietnamese architect
When Jesse Came Across the Sea,
Jewish immigrant story
The Wall, German escape story
Light in the Darkness,
African Escape story
The Name Jar,
Korean-American story

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 Friday, May 11, 2018 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

*As a CYBILS second round judge, I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Managing Your Next Project

"The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small, manageable tasks, and then starting on that first one."
—Probably not Mark Twain*

Village bookplate by Hubert Wilm
Via Europeana Collections

*Via Brainy Quotes. See The Quote Investigator

Friday, May 4, 2018

PPBF: What Makes A Monster?

And now on to today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick*

What Makes A Monster?, by Jess Keating
What Makes A Monster?
Discovering the World's Scariest Creatures

Written Jess Keating
Illustrated by David DeGrand

Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, 2017
Ages 6-9, 48 pp

Animals, Science, Fears

Don't high-five the AYE-AYE. Also known as "the demon primate," the aye-aye has a dangerous tool on hand. Or rather, its hand is a dangerous too.

Like its predecessor, Pink Is For Blobfish, this book highlights animals by theme, with large photos, detailed scientific facts, and light-hearted trivia. What Makes A Monster? examines dangerous and scary creatures, from Komodo dragons to prairie dogs. The author carefully chooses animals we think of as scary and others we think of as cute or harmless. She includes varied back matter to make her points that we are usually afraid of what we don't understand and many of our animal-related fears are unfounded.

What I Love:
While not as clever as the previous book, I think WMAM? will engage readers because of the sensational nature of both the material and the format. Non-fiction books which present scientific facts in a humorous way are always popular. While I was disappointed by the lack of variety in the animals and thought the message was sometimes heavy-handed, I learned plenty of new things and "remembered" some animal facts I had forgotten. And kids will love this. That's what counts, after all.

You could buy actual edible Jellyfish,
but I prefer this pita version from JDaniel'sMom
1. For more than you ever thought you could know about the author AND artist behind What Makes a Monster, visit Design of the Picture Book's entertaining interview. And for more zaniness, read Colby Sharp's 5, 4, 3, 2, 1-sentence interview with Jess Keating about Pink Is For Blobfish.

2. CelebratePicture Books has done a beautiful Q & A with the author an and in-depth look at her books and process.

3. Layers of Learning posted a bird anatomy worksheet, and Enchanted Learning has one for ant parts: perfect to go along with the Greater Honeyglide and the Zombie Ant found in the book.

4. You'll find all the picture book nominees for the CYBILS Award on Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Here's what you may have missed so far:
Hatching Chicks in Room 6
Once Upon A Jungle
Shark Lady
Dazzle Ships

5. I'm always disappointed when the photographers whose work goes into a picture book are forgotten. Get inspired by 13 year-old Josiah Launstein, nature photographer on Shutterbug. Then take these tips from Mother Nature Network and try your hand and capturing some critters on film.

6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Andrea
Reviewed by Joanne

Reviewed by Julie
Reviewed by Joanna

Reviewed by Andrea
Reviewed by Sue

Reviewed by Stacy
Reviewed by Joanna

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 Friday, May 4, 2018 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

*As a CYBILS second round judge, I was asked to review a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.