Posted tagged ‘Illustrators’

Salute to Teachers and Books

May 7, 2015

The love of books was instilled in me by my parents. They were avid readers, and they made the public library a regular part of my life. Books have always put a smile on my face – especially my collection of children’s books.

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As a former teacher/librarian, it was important for me to introduce my students not only to new ideas, but also to a variety of book genres. One of my favorite times of the day was when we gathered together for a read aloud. Finding just the right book to keep students asking for more was an exciting challenge. Thought provoking books resulted in some incredible teaching moments and discussions.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week and Children’s Book Week. I am reminded of all the hard-working teachers and talented authors and illustrators who have made a difference in my life and continue to make a difference in the lives of our children.

Reading opens up a world of new ideas and understanding. Children need ready access to books so they can discover the magic of words and pictures. Let them take wing and fly to places they’ve never been before.

Kudos to teachers and to those who create wonderful books for all to enjoy.

Looking for some good picture books? Check these out.

SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books    http://tinyurl.com/qbsgket

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” ~ Alexandra K. Trenfor

Caldecott Hopefuls

January 15, 2015

Each year, there are many fabulous picture books written and illustrated by some very talented people. Choosing the best illustrated book among all those that qualify must be next to impossible. On February second, the Association for Library Service to Children will award the Caldecott Medal to one very lucky illustrator and Honor Medals to several others.

There are certain picture books that have created a buzz in blogs and articles I’ve read in recent months. Below is a list of books that have popped up in many different places as contenders for the Caldecott Medal.

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson

The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall

Bad Bye, Good Bye written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Johnathan Bean

Blizzard by John Rocco

Draw! by Raúl Colón

Emily’s Blue Period written by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems written by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Flora and the Penguin by Molly Idle

Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino

Gaston written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Grandfather Gandhi written by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus and illustrated by Evan Turk

Gravity by Jason Chin

Have You Heard the Nesting Bird? written by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse written by Patricia MacLaclan and illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads written by Bob Shea and illustrated by Lane Smith

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown

Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo

Quest by Aaron Becker

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Sparky! written by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Chris Appelhans

Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman

The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo

Viva Frida written by Yuyi Morales and illustrated/photographed by Tim O’Meara

Where’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio and illustrated by Barbara McClintock

This is quite a list of books. Who do you think will win?

 

 

 

A Book Lover

December 11, 2014

Have I told you about my good friend, Mary Petersen? She’s the ultimate book lover. As a former elementary school teacher and a school librarian, she’s a pro at book talks and continues to inspire and promote reading at all levels.

Visiting Mary’s home is delight. It’s like walking into a cozy library. Books! Books! Books! They’re everywhere.

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Charming knickknacks, pictures, and pillows related to reading adorn shelves, walls, and tables.

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Although Mary enjoys a wide variety of genres, picture books make up most of her collection. If you walk into Mary’s yard, you’ll find a Little Free Library filled with books and a bench nearby to relax and read.

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Mary’s home is a place where you want to curl up on one of her comfy chairs and read to your heart’s content.

I asked Mary to share a bit more about herself and her book choices.

What made you such a book lover?

Public libraries and particularly the librarians in the children’s rooms. No matter where my family moved there were always friendly librarians with great books to recommend.

Your family is very lucky that you’ve made books such a priority in their lives. Why do you think books are so important?

Books introduce one to new ideas, new cultures, new ways of thinking, and new relationships.

What types of illustrations speak to you?

Woodcuts, collage, and realistic paintings

Favorite woodcut illustrators are Mary Azarian, Betsy Bowen, Michael McCurdy, and Ashley Wolff.

Favorite collage artists are Eric Carle, Leo Lionni, Lois Ehlert, Melissa Sweet, and Carin Berger.

Favorite realistic paintings artists are Jerry and Brian Pinkney, Wendy Halperin, and Jane Dyer.

I notice your shelves are filled with picture books. Why do you choose them over middle-grade or young adult?

The artwork! It’s like having a personal art gallery in my home. I like being surrounded by fine art. I like introducing children to the art as well.

Other favorite artists:

Leo & Diane Dillon

Floyd Copper

Steven Kellogg

Cynthia Rylant

Wendell Minor

Steve Jenkins

Kevin Henkes

Douglas Wood

Donald Crews

Anno

Demi

Robert Sabuda

Helen Oxenbury

Ernest Shepard

Keiko Kasza

If you’re looking for a great picture book experience, you can’t go wrong with any of Mary’s suggestions!

A Classic Book of Poems

April 10, 2014

If you want to put some pop in your poetry reading, try Sing a Song of Popcorn. It’s a collection of poems selected by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers, Eva Moore, Mary Michaels White, and Jan Carr. The book has a copyright date of 1988, but don’t let that fool you. This book has staying power. There are 128 poems written by well-known authors such as Langston Hughes, Eve Merriam, A.A. Milne, e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, Nikki Giovanni and more. To add to your enjoyment, the illustrations are done by Caldecott Medal artists. Each artist illustrates one of the themed sections of poems. Trina Schart Hyman does fun rhyming poems, Marcia Brown does weather poems and short poems, Margo Zemach does spooky poems, Maurice Sendak does story poems, Arnold Lobel does animal poems, Marc Simont does people poems, Richard Egielski does nonsense poems, and Leo and Diane Dillon do poems with emotions.

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This collection is rare chance to enjoy poems and illustrations by a diversified group of talented individuals. It has something to satisfy everyone’s taste and mood and will tickle and tantalize young and old readers. It’s a perfect choice for home and school.

Celebrate Poetry Month with Sing a Song of Popcorn!

Harvesting a Great Book with Pat Zietlow Miller

August 8, 2013

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It’s August. The garden is overflowing with ripe tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, and squash. It’s time to harvest the crop. In among those tasty treats, there might be a seed of a great story. Pat Zietlow Miller discovered a creative seed in a butternut squash and let it grow into a story beyond compare.

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Sophie’s Squash is Pat Zietlow Miller’s debut picture book. When Sophie’s mom purchases a butternut squash at the farmer’s market, it doesn’t become dinner as she expected. Sophie draws a face on the squash, names it Bernice, and the two become inseparable friends. No matter how hard her parents try, they can’t convince Sophie to give up Bernice. When the squash begins to rot, Sophie realizes Bernice will not last forever. Sophie does what she needs to do with Bernice and is rewarded with a delightful surprise come spring. Anne Wilsdorf’s charming ink and watercolor illustrations and playful end pages combine with Miller’s appealing story to produce a book worth adding to your collection.

Pat Zietlow Miller is a very talented writer and has worked diligently to achieve her goals. She was gracious enough to “Humor Me” and answer some burning questions I had for her.

Pat, Sophie’s Squash is your debut picture book. You’ve received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Booklist. Can you share some of your emotions after seeing these fabulous reviews?

I was a mixture of thrilled and stunned. Thrilled, because I’d always hoped other people would like Sophie and think she was worthy of attention. And, stunned, because it’s a way more positive response than I ever anticipated.

I’ve wanted to be an author for so long that just having the book out and looking as lovely as it does would have been enough. That was always my goal. I never really thought about what would happen after that. So getting the stars and nice comments and seeing which parts the reviewers especially liked was something happy I hadn’t expected.

It’s also been a little humbling because there are many books I adore that haven’t gotten starred reviews, so I know how subjective the process is. I feel disproportionately fortunate.

How did you come up with the idea for your book?

When my youngest daughter was small, I took her grocery shopping and put a butternut squash in the cart. By the time we got to the checkout, she was rocking it in her arms, like a baby. When we got home, she drew a face on it and carried it everywhere.

I took that idea, expanded it greatly, and there was the beginning the book.

Have you always wanted to write for children?

Yes. I wrote my first draft of a children’s story when I was in college. But I had no idea what to do with it and hung on to it for years, thinking, “Someday, I’ll pursue this.” But jobs and life got in the way, and I didn’t seriously think about writing for children again until I was 39. That’s when I realized two things:

  1. If I didn’t at least try to become a published author, I was going to regret it when I was 80.
  2. That no editor from New York was ever going to call me and ask me to write a children’s book. If I wanted to be an author, I was going to have to sit down and actually … you know … write a manuscript.

Once I realized those two things, my next steps became pretty obvious. (And, yes, I still have that manuscript draft from college.)

Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and illustrators?

There are so many that making a list could get me into trouble, but I adore picture book writers Kari Best, Dori Chaconas, Kelly DiPucchio, Jill Esbaum, Candace Fleming, Mem Fox, Kevin Henkes, Mary Lyn Ray, Jacqui Robbins, Liz Garton Scanlon and Judith Viorst. Outside the picture book realm, I also love anything by Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, John Green, David Levithan, Ellen Raskin and Gary Schmidt. Oh, and I should mention J.K. Rowling, because I am a total Harry Potter geek. And Ann Brashares, because I love The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

And, I admire all illustrators because I can’t draw at all. Anne Wilsdorf did a spectacular job bringing Sophie and Bernice to life and Jill McElmurry and Eliza Wheeler, who are working on future books of mine, are amazingly talented, as well.

Has any particular book influenced you and your writing career?

No one book has influenced me, but authors who have are Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron and Judith Viorst. That probably sounds like an odd mix, but I read them all when I was a middle schooler, and I remember just being floored by how well they used words. Sometimes I’d honestly be so overwhelmed by how well they shared a thought or turned a phrase that I’d have to put the book down for a moment and just regroup.

They showed me what was possible, and I spent lots of time trying to write like they did. And, ultimately, that helped me figure out how to sound like myself.

You have three more picture books coming out, Sharing the Bread with Schwartz & Wade in Fall of 2015, The Quickest Kid in Clarksville with Chronicle in 2015, and Wherever You Go with Little, Brown in 2015. Besides writing, you also have a full-time job, a husband, and two children. How do you balance everything?

I run after whatever fire is most out of control at the moment. Once I stomp out those flames, I move on to the next.

But really, I’m fairly good at concentrating on whatever task I’m handling at the moment. When I’m at work, I’m working. When I’m writing, I’m writing. And some things I’ve just given up on. My house is not clean, my garden is overgrown, I watch very little TV and I don’t have much of a social life. But that’s OK, because usually I’d rather be writing.

What advice would you give an aspiring writer?

  1. Dedicate time to achieving your goal. You can spend that time reading, or analyzing why books you like worked, or writing your next book. As I learned, merely wishing won’t get you anywhere.
  2. Expect your book to need a ridiculous amount of editing and revising before it’s ready to submit. Expect it to need even more once it sells. Realize that even when you think your book is absolutely, positively done, in all likelihood, it isn’t I’ve been amazed at how much better my books have gotten long after I thought they were complete.
  3. Don’t over-react to rejection. It’s just part of the process, and it’s not personal. Even my books that sold were rejected many, many times. Just hang in there, always be open to making your book better, and move forward.

What’s next for you, Pat?

I have editing to do on one my picture books that sold, and I have two others out on submission. Plus, I’m working on a very rough first draft to see if it has the potential to turn into something more. And, I have a list of new books that I can’t wait to read.

Congratulations, Pat, on your charming book and thank you for sharing your time and providing some great writing advice for all of us.

You can find Pat at her blog, READ, WRITE, REPEAT http://www.patzietlowmiller.com   and on Twitter:  @PatZMiller

If you’re in the Madison, WI area on Saturday, August 17 at 1:00 p.m., don’t miss the book launch party for Sophie’s Squash at:

Barnes and Noble

7433 Mineral Point Road

Madison, WI

(Near West Towne Mall)

There will be crafts, a prize drawing, snacks, and Pat will be reading and signing her book!

Below are some excerpts from the starred reviews Sophie’s Squash has received.

Kirkus: “From her bouncy braids to her red shoes, Sophie’s vibrant, determined nature shines forth charmingly.”

Publishers Weekly:  “Debut author Miller takes the idea of playing with one’s food to another level in this sensitive but funny story about a girl’s affection for a squash.”

School Library Journal:  “With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.”

Booklist:  “In a perfect blend of story and art, the humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations are bursting with color and energy on every page …”

Black History Month Authors and Illustrators

February 17, 2012

Black History Month is ticking away, and my library students are busy celebrating the African American experience with books. They have discovered a wide variety of genres written and illustrated by some awesome African American writers and artists.

Picture books, poetry, folktales, historical fiction, biographies, and nonfiction have been discussed, passed around, checked out, and enjoyed. It’s heartwarming to see students get excited about books they wouldn’t ordinarily choose. They’re learning to step outside of the box for a new literary experience.

What we’ve come to know during our author/illustrator study is that being exposed to different cultures and ethnic backgrounds enhances our knowledge of the world around us.

We grooved to the rhythmic words in Jazz written by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Christopher Myers. We tapped our toes to Leo & Diane Dillon’s Rap A Tap Tap Here’s Bojangles – Think Of That! We learned what it’s like if you have a passion to succeed in For the Love of the Game written by Eloise Greenfield and illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. Lessons of love and acceptance came our way in The Other Side written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis and Show Way also by Woodson and illustrated by Hudson Talbott. Richard Wright and the Library Card written by William Miller and illustrated by Gregory Christie and SitIn How Four Friend Stood Up by Sitting Down written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney demonstrated the hardships black Americans were up against in their struggle for equal rights.

We’ve looked at works by Jerry Pinkney, Virginia Hamilton, Nikki Giovanni, Bryan Collier, Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Floyd Cooper, and Rita Williams-Garcia. We’ve been wowed by their talent and impressed by their numerous literary awards.

Celebrate Black History Month. Read. Learn. Enjoy.

“We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of the world void of national bias, race hate, and religious prejudice.” ~Carter Woodson, 1926

Tips and Tidbits from the SCBWI-Iowa Conference

April 5, 2011

Iowa knows how to do it. I’m talking about the SCBWI-Iowa Conference, which I attended this past weekend – “The Career of Dreams!” From Friday afternoon until Sunday afternoon, the conference schedule was jam-packed. Attendees were awed and inspired by a group of talented presenters. Here are some tips and tidbits from the fabulous weekend.

Molly O’Neill, Associate Editor at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, spoke about book beginnings and characters.

Every story should “evoke something in us as readers and as people.” It should “stir up a reaction and make us feel something that connects us to the story.”

If you want to catch the eye of an editor, make sure you have a great story, great story telling, and memorable characters and voices.

For a memorable character, know your character through and through. “Stalk your character. Study your character from all angles.”

Candace Fleming, an award-winning picture book, middle grade, and nonfiction author and Eric Rohmann, an award-winning author and illustrator, gave a funny and informative presentation on the fundamentals of picture books.

From Candace Fleming:  A picture book has a “unique structure” – a basic framework with visual aspects and written aspects. The problem in the story should be in the first few sentences, and the most important page in a picture book is the last page. It should have a final twist or surprise – an “aha ending.”

From Eric Rohmann:  When writing a picture book, think visually. Everything written has to have a purpose. Be concise. When it comes to the ending of a picture book, “you have to earn the ending.” The “best endings solve the problem, but don’t end the story.”

Alli Brydon, an editor at Sterling Children’s Books, spoke on how to strengthen a manuscript and get it out of the slush pile.

When submitting a manuscript, know the publishing house. Be professional. Be unique. The elements editors are looking for are plot, theme, tone, setting, character, voice, and style. Your manuscript should have a solid story arc. Show that you’re committed to your craft.

Diane Muldrow, an Editorial Director at Golden Books/Random House and the editor of Little Golden Books, evoked memories of Golden Books from years past in her presentation about the history of Golden Books. As the editor for Little Golden Books, she still looks for the feel of those originals.

The fabulous Lin Oliver was also in Iowa this past weekend. She is the Executive Director of the SCBWI and one of its founders. She is also a children’s book author, writer-producer of family films, television series, and movies for children. How does she do it all? 

She talked about writing a book series and the elements involved in a book series and had some words of wisdom and “Morals of Success” to share with us.

Spread literacy.

Persist with belief in yourself.

Seek mentors.

Stay in touch with professionals who believe in you.

Stay actively engaged. All work breeds work.

Step into fear.

Do the work.

Gary D. Schmidt, an author of two Newbery Honor books and the Michael L. Printz honor award, gave a powerful speech.

He said, “Writers must engage with the world.” They must pay attention to the world and love both the beauty and tragedy of the world in order to come up with the right questions for their readers. Those questions will energize writers and be the ignition for their stories.

Stephen Fraser, a literary agent for The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, gave an inspiring talk and sent out positive vibes on how to win the publishing game.

“Dare to be quiet each day. Listen and let ideas fill you up.” Stephen reminded us that “a creative person can accomplish anything and a good book has a home.” *  

The organizers of the conference planned a full schedule. I wasn’t able to attend all of the sessions, but word had it that every session provided attendees with something valuable to take away with them. The weekend stirred our thoughts, encouraged us to keep at our writing, and motivated us to be the best that we can be!

* For more on Stephen Fraser and what he’s looking for as an agent, DON’T MISS an in-depth interview, Friday, on this blog!

Times Are Changing

May 18, 2010

Times are changing. Authors, hop aboard the technology train before you get left behind!

This past weekend I attended the New England SCBWI Conference. The theme was “Moments of Change.” Online presence and author branding were hot topics. Author websites, blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter are ways of getting your name known. You don’t have to do it all, but you must do something. Keynote speakers were Cynthia Leitich Smith, Marla Frazee, and Allyn Johnston. It was a fantastic weekend!

First up on Saturday morning was Cynthia Leitich Smith. She has it all. She does it all. She’s the author of picture books, a chapter book, a ‘tween novel, and YA Gothic fantasy books. She has a website. She blogs. She’s on MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Best of all, her YA novel, Eternal, debuted at #5 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Wow!

Cynthia Leitich Smith is a funny, down-to-earth person. She is also extremely talented. Her presentation was entertaining and filled with words of inspiration. We learned more about Cynthia during an interview conducted by Melissa Stewart on Sunday morning.

From an early age, Cynthia was a reader. She used to bring home stacks of books from the library. She recognized the “poetry and grace” of children’s literature and learned to love it. When Cynthia made the decision to become author, she did all the write things. She took the time to hone her craft. She’s a person that sets goals and achieves goals through work and determination. Her advice to authors is “write fierce and be brave.”

On Saturday afternoon, Marla Frazee, author-illustrator and Caldecott Honor Award honoree, and Allyn Johnston, VP & Publisher of Beach Lane Books. did a wonderful presentation about picture book endings. It was the same presentation they gave at the Iowa SCBWI Conference I attended, but it was well-worth hearing again. These two talented people make one great team!

In their presentation, Marla and Allyn used text and illustrations to demonstrate how to create a perfect ending to a picture book. Allyn said endings should have a strong emotional impact – even if it’s a funny book. Marla said, “Endings should disarm us.”

Both agree pacing of text and illustrations is a vital part of making a book memorable. Allyn added that an author should focus on choosing the right words because a picture book is a read aloud art form. To keep readers coming back, it’s essential to have a deep, emotional chord at the end of a book.

Stay tuned for part two on Friday:  School Visits Starring Cynthia Lord and Toni Buzzeo

Don’t Be Weird

April 27, 2010

 

Okay, a potbelly pig is a little weird, but authors and illustrators will do almost anything to get attention. You know I’m right!

I spent the weekend in Bettendorf, Iowa with a wonderful group of writers, illustrators, editors, and an agent. Secretly, I wanted to kidnap those editors and bring them home for one-on-one time with me and my manuscripts. That would be really weird, and I’d probably get arrested so I nixed that idea and took to heart some of the information I collected.

Lisa Graff made the comment:  “Don’t be weird!” When approaching editors of a publishing house, be professional. Don’t waste their time with silly stuff. They’re busy people. Lisa also said that if you’re writing a novel, begin with a good hook to grab the readers, and don’t forget to end each chapter with a hook that will keep readers turning the pages.

Ammi-Joan Paquette from the Erin Murphy Literary Agency shared eight ways to make your manuscript stand out ─ find your voice, be unique, start with a bang, get feedback, revise, make sure your manuscript flows well, raise the stakes for your main character, and set your manuscript aside before sending it out.

Allyn Johnston, VP and Publisher of Beach Lane Books and Marla Frazee, author-illustrator and recipient of a Caldecott Honor Award for All the World, talked about picture books. Pacing is extremely important in a picture book, and the ending of a picture book should surprise us and have a strong emotional impact upon us.

Along with Laura Arnold, editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, author Carol Gorman spoke about common mistakes writers make in their writing. So get out those grammar books and keep them close at hand.

Author/illustrator visits are an important part of spreading the word about your publications.

Mike Shoulders not only writes some great books, but he also gives dynamite school presentations! No time for in-school presentations? Dori Butler presented the ins and outs of visits via Skype. Now that’s a great way to put your best face forward.

The weekend was a time for meeting new people, learning new things, and sharing with one another. There was a feeling of camaraderie at this conference that made the weekend a top-notch experience. Well done Iowa SCBWI.

One last reminder:  When it comes time to send out your manuscript, make sure you’ve done everything to make it the best you possibly can, and DON’T BE WEIRD!


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