Caldecott Quick Thoughts 2015

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In this annual post, I share my thoughts on the Caldecott medal winner and honor books.

If you are as intrigued by the selection process as I am, you may be interested in the following link that I originally posted back in 2011:

http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecottcomm/caldecottcommittee.cfm. Everything you ever wanted to know and more about the Caldecott medal and the awards process can be found there at the American Library Association’s extremely comprehensive site.

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Congratulations to Dan Santat! His book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (Little, Brown and Company) is the recipient of this year’s Caldecott medal. This book proves the power of the imagination, not just because author/illustrator Dan Santat used his awesome imagination to write and illustrate it, but also because main character Beekle is imagination. He’s an imaginary friend who does extraordinary things. Instead of waiting to be imagined by a real child who will be his friend, he embarks upon a quest to find a child. And even though his travels take him far away from the island of imaginary friends, and he must face a scary, new world, he succeeds in the end. Good job Beekle!

Six, that’s right, six honor books were chosen! Looks like the Caldecott committee had an extra difficult time choosing this year.

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Nana In The City (Clarion Books) by author/illustrator Lauren Castillo has a beautiful, quiet strength, both in story and illustration. The mix of vibrant and muted watercolors perfectly depict life in a bustling city, as well as a special relationship between a boy and his grandmother. I like how Nana helps her young grandson to feel brave by fashioning him a super hero cape, and how she helps him to appreciate the sights and sounds of the city.

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One of three honor books this year that feature famous people, The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art (Alfred A. Knopf) is an interesting look at the life of abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky. Through Barb Rosenstock’s descriptive text and Mary Grandpre’s dazzling, full-page illustrations, we get a window view into what it was like to be a boy growing up with a condition called synesthesia. According to the author’s note, “In people with synesthesia, one sense triggers a different sense, allowing them, for example, to hear colors, see music, taste words, or smell numbers.” Fascinating!

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Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s book Sam & Dave Dig A Hole (Candlewick Press) is just so much fun! Designed primarily with deceptively simple text on one side and “earthy” illustrations on the other, this book stars two young boys, friends or perhaps brothers, who decide to dig a hole, and they won’t stop digging until they find something “spectacular”. But every time they get close, they decide to change directions, completely missing each successively larger gem. I totally understand why kids love this book. They are in on a secret. They know the gems are there even though our main characters do not. I can picture a classroom of children during story time pointing, yelling, and laughing, and having a great time listening to this story.

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Viva Frida (Roaring Brook Press) by Yuyi Morales is lovely. I feel as if Beekle must have edged Frida out by the narrowest of margins for the medal. This book is about well-known Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The super-colorful mixed media illustrations are gorgeous. I especially like the spread that shows a closeup of Frida’s face, along with her monkey and dog friends, peering into a chest. What wonders will she find in there? The text is quite sparse, yet surprisingly, by the end of the book, I felt like I learned a lot about this creative spirit, Frida (in less than 35 words!). But for those who want to learn more, there’s an author’s note in the back.

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I don’t talk a lot about nonfiction picture books on my blog, but that may change in the near future thanks to books like The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus (Eerdmans Books) by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet. Jen and Melissa have presented a book about the life of Peter Roget, and they did so in a manner that feels very story-like and engaging, both in interesting text and eye-catching illustration. This is the kind of book that children will learn from without even realizing they are learning, because it will capture their attention from beginning to end.

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This One Summer (First Second) by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki caught me off guard. It’s not a picture book in the traditional sense, that’s because it’s a graphic novel. Although I do occasionally read manga, I’m truly not up on what constitutes a good graphic novel. Based on the art alone, I can see that it’s nicely rendered in black ink with great details and shading. But as I read through the story, though well-written, it struck me as being for an older audience than the other books on the Caldecott list. Despite my vague thoughts on this one, I’m glad that graphic novels are being considered for prestigious awards such as the Caldecott and that they are getting the recognition they deserve. Any and all books that get kids to read are winners!

MARCH-ing Books to Kids…Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to Make a Difference to a Child in Need…

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Lauri Fortino:

I admire Picture Book Pass It On founder Michelle Eastman’s commitment to putting picture books into the hands of children in need. Check out her newest initiative!

Originally posted on Michelle Eastman Books:

According to Reading is Fundamental (RIF), Nearly two-thirds of low-income families in the U.S. DO NOT own books.  That is just plain wrong.  But, we can help fix it.

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I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have picture books read to him/her and to own their very own books.  Many of us take for granted the sacred ritual of cracking open a picture book, and cuddling together while the words and pictures collectively take us away.  You can probably recall having been read to by your parents or caregivers.  You likely hold a special picture book, from your childhood, close to your heart.  And, until now, you’ve probably not given much thought to how profound that experience can be.

Imagine, never having that.

I CAN imagine a child, growing up, never knowing the power of a picture book.  I…

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3 Beautiful Books by Justin Drazin

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Title: Grandma and the Groundhog

Author: Justin Drazin

Illustrator: Genn Lotish

Publisher/Year: Justin Drazin Publishing/2014

Grandma’s garden has attracted an unwanted guest. At first, Grandma is amused by the groundhog’s antics. But then, as more and more of her delicious vegetables disappear, Grandma decides enough is enough. We don’t know exactly what she has in mind, but we do know she wants her garden back. But just when she decides to give the groundhog a piece of her mind, the rascal disappears. The groundhog emerges a few weeks later with four hungry little ones. Told in rollicking rhyme and beaming with lively color, Grandma and the Groundhog is an enjoyable read-aloud that is sure to elicit smiles from young and old alike. Be prepared to read this one over and over; your kids will request it. 

Title: It’s Raining Paint

Author: Justin Drazin

Illustrator: Vladimir Ilievski

Publisher/Year: Justin Drazin Publishing/2014

Young Laney has only one speed: fast. She doesn’t notice the beauty that’s all around her. It’s only when, on one very unusual day, paint droplets fall from the sky and cover everything in glorious color, that she finally slows down to look. She is amazed until everything turns to gloomy black and white. But her disappointment is replaced by joyful surprise the next day, after clear rain washed everything clean again during the night. Now Laney sees the world with new eyes; she appreciates the beauty of nature. This rhyming story is gorgeously illustrated in dazzling dabs of paint. I’ve never seen another book illustrated in quite this way. It’s Raining Paint is definitely worth a look. 

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Title: Albert and the Amazing Pillow Monsters

Author: Justin Drazin

Illustrator: Anita Lester

Publisher/Year: Gorham Publishing/2012

Albert is a young boy who has an amazing dream. He dreams about a land where friendly pillow monsters roam, where he’s always welcome, and where “imagination is the brightest night light”. At first he is confused, but soon realizes there is nothing to fear. The Pillow Monsters, who thrive on sweet dreams, have planned a party for Albert to celebrate his strength and courage. And Albert will no longer be afraid of the dark as long as he uses his powerful imagination. A whimsical, rhyming tale with dreamy illustrations, Albert and the Amazing Pillow Monsters is a perfect bedtime pick.

Getting the goods

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Lauri Fortino:

I’m spreading library love by reblogging Leslie Zampetti’s post. Yay for libraries and librarians!

Originally posted on Z is for Zampetti:

The delivery of my library’s book order is like Christmas all over again – only better. Because the box is always full of books! Glorious new books!

Sometimes I’m not sure who’s more excited – me or the students. After all, they LOVE seeing new titles on the shelves, especially when those titles are ones they suggested I buy. But I LOVE handing new titles to my students and watching them get excited – sometimes about the author, sometimes about the story or the topic, and sometimes, just because they’re the first person to check out that book. EVER.

I used to put many of the new titles out on the displays. Not anymore. Plenty of students grabbed them up, but they were just in it because the book was new. Now I put a few out and I leave the rest to be discovered like gems in a dark…

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Go Fast, Goo by Todd Murphy

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Title: Go Fast, Goo

Author: Todd Murphy

Illustrator: Rebecca Riffey

Publisher/Year: Tate Publishing/2012

Summary: Goo is a snail on a mission. Tired of taking life at a snail’s pace, he enlists his friends to help him go faster and farther than he ever imagined. It’s every snail’s dream come true. Join Goo as he learns that while fast is fine, slow is the way to go.

Goo the snail longs to be something different from what he is. He wants to fly, jump, and swing like his friends Dart, Skippy, and Iris. He doesn’t like being slow. He wants to be fast. His friends are happy to help him, but nothing works out and Goo is left feeling defeated. It’s only when tragedy strikes and Goo saves the day that he finally realizes that what he perceived as a flaw is really his greatest strength.

I enjoyed this sweet story of friendship and self-acceptance. It’s well-written and moves along at a nice pace, and it employs a level of repetition that kids will like. Children will especially love the cute, colorful insect characters with their expressive faces. Though the message of self-acceptance is clear, it’s also subtle enough not to overpower a fun read-aloud story.

My favorite line from the book: And while going slow gives Goo time to stop, smell, and eat the roses, he has always dreamed of going faster and farther.

Picture Books At The Library

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In my position as a technical processing assistant at the DeWitt Community Library, I catalog a lot of new picture books. Unfortunately, I cannot review them all, but I do read them all and have assigned a :) to my favorites. Below are a few I've cataloged recently. (Whenever possible, summaries have been taken directly from the books.)

In my position as a technical processing assistant at the DeWitt Community Library, I catalog a lot of new picture books. Unfortunately, I cannot review them all, but I do read them all and have assigned a :) to my favorites. Below are a few I’ve cataloged recently. (Whenever possible, summaries have been taken directly from the books.)

:) A tall, strong and well-trained police horse, Bunny is sent overseas at the beginning of World War I.

:) Sometimes when you’re most in need of friends, they will flock to you–or at least to your hat.

:) It’s time for therapy dog Lola’s annual checkup. Can she be big and brave for her examination?

Change isn’t easy for young boys and girls. And when change means moving to a new school, a new house, and away from friends, well that can be downright complicated!

:) A hilarious Scottish twist on a much-loved rhyme.

:) Snowman and his friends are in for an adventure–and then, a surprise.

Bob wanted a dog for his birthday. Instead he got a ghost, and he calls it Fluffy.

Sam has a new pet. It’s a TEMPER, and he found it on the playground.

When Arlo reads about Paris and the one the French call La Dame de Fer, Or Iron Lady, he decides it’s time to strike out on his first adventure.

Join Max in his dreams of being a world-class athlete–and see if he and his friends can win a real tournament too!

When Hana announces that she’ll be playing violin in the school talent show, her brothers laugh so hard they nearly fall out of a tree.

:) This playful farmyard caper about a shortsighted but well-meaning little dog is sure to become a read-aloud favorite.

Hoppy Book Birthday to MOMMA DON’T YOU WORRY by Louie Lawent

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Hoppy Book Birthday!

Hoppy Book Birthday!

Hoppy Book Birthday to Momma Don’t You Worry, written by Louie Lawent and illustrated by Rick Radliff!

The Momma Don’t You Worry Baby Book

  • Full Name (Title): Momma Don’t You Worry
  • Parent (Author): Louie Lawent
  • Parent (Illustrator): Rick Radliff
  • Obstetrician (Publisher): LadyBee Publishing
  • Birthdate (Release Date): January 27, 2015
  • Baby Photo and Vitals (Cover and More Information): http://www.amazon.com/Momma-Dont-Worry-Louie-Lawent-ebook
  • Physical Characteristics (Format and Summary): Picture eBook/A boy who’s soon to be 6 years old feels he’s too old to have his mom hold his hand in public.

Hoppy Book Birthday to JUST A DUCK? by Carin Bramsen!

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Hoppy Book Birthday!

Hoppy Book Birthday!

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Please join me in wishing a Hoppy Book Birthday to Just a Duck?, written and illustrated by Carin Bramsen! Just a Duck? was “born” on January 27, 2015 and is a sequel to Carin’s lovable picture book Hey, Duck!. 

I did an interview with Carin in 2013. Read it here.

The Just a Duck? Baby Book

  • Full Name (Title): Just a Duck?
  • Parent (Author): Carin Bramsen
  • Parent (Illustrator): Carin Bramsen
  • Obstetrician (Publisher): Random House
  • Birthdate (Release Date): January 27, 2015
  • Baby Photo and Vitals (Cover and More Information): http://www.randomhouse.com/book/235350/just-a-duck-by-carin-bramsen
  • Physical Characteristics (Format and Summary): Traditional hardcover picture book/Carin Bramsen’s beloved Hey, Duck! characters return in this humorous and heartwarming picture book about friendship. Now that Cat has learned to play games that Duck enjoys, it’s Duck’s turn to try things that Cat likes. However, climbing trees and swatting at leaves prove to be a bit tricky for flat-footed Duck. What’s an unlikely pair of friends to do?

Incredible Covers: Winter Is For Snow by Robert Neubecker

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Bow WOW! That’s an INCREDIBLE COVER!

Bow WOW! That’s an INCREDIBLE COVER!

We’ve all heard the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, and that’s good advice, but there’s no denying that it is often the cover that grabs our attention first. That’s why it’s important to have a great cover and nowhere in the publishing industry is this more true than in the realm of picture books. The cover represents the book and it needs to say, “Hey, look at me.” The cover makes a promise to the reader: Inside you will find something magical.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an Incredible Covers feature. And today seemed like a good day to do one. I’m not a design expert or an illustrator, but once in a while, a cover really wows me. And I want to share it with everyone and attempt to explain why I think it’s incredible. Looking at a picture of the cover is not even close to seeing how wonderful it is in person, but I hope you can visualize at least a little bit of what I’ve described in the beautiful cover below.

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Interview Alert: Deirdre Gill

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Author/Illustrator Deirdre Gill

I am excited to welcome author/illustrator Deirdre Gill to Frog on a Blog. Her beautiful debut picture book Outside is one of those magical, wintertime books I adore so much. The story is about a small boy whose imagination soars when he goes to play outside in the snow. The text is sparse, but the pacing in perfect and the oil paint illustrations are stunning. After coming across Outside at my local library, I knew I would soon own my own copy. And I knew I wanted to learn more about its creator, Deirdre Gill. Please enjoy the interview!

Q. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got your start in children’s books.

DG. I majored in illustration in college and knew that I wanted to illustrate books for children when I graduated. I started off doing illustrations for children’s magazines and textbooks. I also worked at Books of Wonder in New York City right out of college. Many of my co-workers were people who were very passionate about children’s books and also went on to be authors and illustrators, including my husband, Jason Chin.

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Q. I am so captivated by your picture book Outside. Please tell us a bit about your process, both writing and illustrating, when you created Outside.

DG. From initial idea to publication, Outside was five years in the making. I was actively working on the book for about 2.5 of those years. It started with first a written draft, that very sparse text. Then I created the images and put together the first dummy.  When I was offered a contract for the book, I set about revising the story and of course the pictures as well. The story evolved quite a bit, and went through some 30 or so drafts. (I stopped counting after 27.) I estimate that I drew well over 5,000 sketches while working out the story and pictures. Once my editor and I were settled on the story and sketches, I drew more detailed and full-size finished sketches. I then transferred these sketches to my painting paper. I then begin to paint and cross my fingers that it comes out okay! I work in water-mixable oils. 

Character Sketches from Outside

Character Sketches from Outside

Q. Your vivid imagination really shines through in your artwork. How would you describe your artistic style?

DG. I would say that I aim to create images that are representational, but I try to never be a slave to reference photos. I search for a ton of images to inspire me then I mostly draw from my own imagination. I love color and try to imbue my paintings with both vibrant colors as well as more subtle tones. I am heavily inspired by illustrators who achieve a sort of dreamy “sfumato” look in their art. Peter McCarty, Chris Sheban, Renata Liwska and Quint Buchholz are among a few of my favorites. Although I don’t come close to achieving that in my oil paintings, I always aim to create a similar mysterious and dreamy sort of feeling.

Q. I love picture books that are set in winter; there’s just something magical about them. How did you decide to set Outside in winter rather than another season?

DG. My initial idea for Outside was not exactly a story, but rather a vague series of images I had in my mind of a child going outside to play in the snow, and becoming totally engrossed in the magic of playing outside. This idea was inspired by my own love of being outdoors, especially on a perfect, snowy winter’s day, and how wonderful it is to sink deeper and deeper into one’s own imagination. There is a kind of magic that comes over us when we are outside in the snow. We become our best, happiest selves. Those of us who are lucky enough to live in a place where there is snow know what it feels like to wake up and look out the window to see a pristine blanket of freshly fallen snow covering the ground. And to feel that sense of anticipation that coaxes us from our warm cozy homes outside into the cold. We feel the deep, fluffy snow crunch under our boots and know that our adventure has begun. Our heads clear, our senses sharpen, we become more open to all the beauty and wonder that is around us. Being outside in the snow sparks our creativity; suddenly we have a million ideas of what to make, and our ideas multiply as we go, each new idea more awesome than the one before. Our resilience strengthened, we trudge on through the cold with frozen toes and wet mittens because we are aware of the temporary nature of that just right, snowball-making snow and we know this moment, right now, is our chance to create the perfect snowman or snow castle. We are cooperative with our fellow snow explorers because there is so much snow to move and sculpt and we must work together to make our visions come to life. And when our efforts fail, for we are building with the imperfect medium of snow, after all, we find another way or allow new ideas to spring to life. I think that this magic can happen in any season, but there is just something to special about how the world seems transformed when it snows.

Spread from Outside

Spread from Outside

Q. What projects are you currently working on?

DG. Currently I am illustrating a rhyming picture book about trains. It’s a lovely text, written by Andria Rosenbaum. I am very excited about it, as the mother to one four-year old train fanatic and another blossoming 1-year old train enthusiast.

Q. Why do you think picture books are important?

DG. Oh, let me count the ways! Picture books are so important because they are a child’s first introduction to stories. And stories are our greatest tool in processing the world around us. Not only do they teach children a healthy vocabulary, they also help them make important associations, give them words to go with their emotions, and introduce them to the world outside of their own home. Just as important as the words and pictures in a story, are all the words and pictures that are necessarily left out of a 32-page book. Unlike a movie that does all the work for you of showing every action scene by scene, the picture book makes the brain do a lot of the work in filling in the missing pieces. I also love that a book allows readers to go at their own pace, and will often reward readers who return over and over to their favorite books with little details that they might have missed during the first read. And, of course, there is nothing better than curling up on the couch with someone who loves you and sharing a book. 

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work?

DG. They can go to my website: www.deirdregill.com, visit me on Facebook at Deirdre Gill Studio, or follow me on Twitter @deirdrekgill.

Q. Any closing thoughts?

DG. Thanks so much for allowing me to share Outside with you and your readers!

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