Picture Books At The Library 155

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.


While Harry and his baby brother are getting ready for bed, their father is starting work as a conductor on the overnight train from London to Penzance.


Prankster Kaylee tries to trick the tooth fairy with disastrous results.


Elephant wants to build something as tall as he is, but can he keep it from toppling over?


You’re invited to a glorious Fourth of July picnic, where you’ll learn all about sharing. Lovely!


After LaRue, a handy bunny, grows a giant carrot he figures out a way to use it to help his friends. Cute!


A shy and anxious boy feels sick the day he’s supposed to wear his starfish costume for the parade at school. Great illustrations!


A dog looking for a home sends letters to prospective owners on Butternut Street. This one made me sad. Thank goodness for happy endings!

Interview Alert: Airlie Anderson


Multi-published author/illustrator Airlie Anderson’s latest picture book NEITHER is filled with sweet, adorable characters and lots of glorious color. Is the book super cute? Absolutely! But the story is so much more than that.

Diversity. Acceptance. Belonging. These are the messages, both timeless and timely, shared with readers in this fabulous new book. I love it! And since I’m a fan of Airlie’s other books as well (I especially like CAT’S COLORS), I thought it was the perfect time to feature her here on the Frog. I’m so glad she agreed to an interview! Enjoy!

Q. How did you get your start as a picture book author and illustrator?

A.A. As a child, my favorite activity was drawing. I thought of myself as an artist and was encouraged to keep making art. I had lots of picture books to read, and we thought of them as an important and very special art form. I never stopped reading and collecting picture books. I always knew I wanted to be an author-illustrator, among other things — my middle school yearbook says that I wanted to be a “cartoonist and animal trainer.” I’m not sure what kind of animals I had in mind!

Once I got to art school, I knew right away that the illustration department was my home. I loved the work coming out of there, and the fact that the program included traditional art training. I focused in on children’s books and learned about the publishing business.

After graduating, I worked for a little children’s book packaging company in San Francisco and got some illustration work through them somehow. Looking back on this, I don’t know how that was possible! Two clients seemed to just “discover” me. I realize now how lucky this was. Some years later, after a dry spell, I moved to New York City in search of an agent. I got a job at HarperCollins as a freelance designer and assistant, and saw a little desktop calendar produced by an agency that I just loved. I took note of their contact info and cold emailed them. They signed me on, and I eventually got some sweet book deals that way. There was a lot of zig-zagging (and soul searching) in my progress as an author-illustrator, but my agents and editors along the way have been hugely helpful and inspiring.


Q. NEITHER is about diversity, fitting in, and accepting—even celebrating—each other’s differences. Why was it important to you to write this story?

A.A. The idea for NEITHER started with the desire to draw a combo-creature. I was teaching middle school art at the time, and we had been working on a combo-animal lesson, which was super fun. I had a dream about a creature like Neither, and the process went from there. One of my students from that middle school class is transgender, and his journey had a lot to do with the tone and meaning of this story. His classmates and everyone at school were open-minded and supportive, and the whole experience affected me more deeply than I realized at the time. After the book came out, I reflected on all this and understood where the idea really came from. If someone had tasked me with making a picture book about diversity and acceptance, I would have been overwhelmed! But NEITHER happened in an organic way, starting with that little character (and lots of coffee).

Q. Your use of color is fabulous in all of your books, but I especially love the colors in NEITHER. How did you choose the color palette?

A.A. Oh, thank you! I’m very happy with the way it turned out, too. I usually choose the colors of the main characters first, and then figure out how to make them stand out from the background. I’m very fond of saturated colors (obviously!) and my first tries at these illustrations just looked so busy and…BRIGHT. It was too much. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, until the designer I was working with, Jen Keenan, said “maybe the backgrounds don’t have to be so saturated.” She also suggested that I use a more lemony yellow for the ground, while the birds are a golden hue. Brilliant! It was a real a-ha moment for me. I could keep my candy-colored palette without sacrificing clarity. Thank you, Jen!


Q. Can you tell us a little about some of the other adorable creatures that appear in the book, such as the Whatnot, the Sort of, and the Either?

A.A. Yes! Whatnot and Sort Of came seemingly out of nowhere, like stream of consciousness beasts. Whatnot is a hippo-corn, I think? And Sort Of is a catbird-o-saur. For some reason, I think of Sort Of as myself. If you look on the page where it says “And all were welcome!” you can see Sort Of with a paintbrush, palette, and pencil behind her ear. I thought about making Neither, the main character, into a catterfly. But Neither just worked better as a bunny-bird, so the catterfly became Either. I love Either and so does my editor Deirdre, who has claimed her as her favorite character in the book!

Q. What do you like best about creating picture books?

A.A. My favorite part of the process is painting. That’s when I feel that all the tough work is done and I have a solid stack of sketches to work from. I just let myself enjoy choosing all the colors and feeling the paintbrush move across the paper. Overall though, I love the idea of creating a whole world inside a picture book. As a child I loved just living inside those pages, and drawing from the characters. I hope I can do the same for other children (and adults!). 

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

A.A. Please visit my website: www.airlieanderson.com. You can find links to my instagram, facebook, and twitter accounts there. I’m proud to say that I’m represented by Kathleen Rushall at Andrea Brown Literary Agency — you can find me there, too.

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A.AI am probably preaching to the picture book choir here, but I’m a firm believer that picture books are for every age. It makes me sad to think that kids are not allowed to keep their picture books around because they are “for younger kids.” Of course, as we get older we hope to add big old tomes to our library. (I love big old tomes.) But can’t we keep the picture books, too? I think so. Thank you so much for featuring NEITHER on Frog on a Blog, it’s been fun answering questions!

Thank you, Airlie! It was so great getting to know you!

Airlie Anderson

Hi, Airlie here! I’m the author and illustrator of Neither, Cat’s Colors, Momo and Snap Are Not Friends, and many other children’s books. Feathers in my cap: the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, the Independent Publisher Book Award, and the Practical Pre-School Award. I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and now live in New Jersey. ​

I create my illustrations using gouache (opaque watercolor) on hot press watercolor paper (the smooth kind). I also doodle aimlessly in my sketchbook whenever I can.

Photo from Amazon. Bio from Airlie Anderson’s website: https://www.airlieanderson.com/

Random Pic Of Cuteness: Writing Prompt #4

Just for fun, I’m sharing–at random–cute photos to inspire your picture book writing. Perhaps a picture will spark an idea for a character, setting, or even an entire story. Have fun!


*All photos are available in the public domain or were taken by me, and are free to use and share.

Picture Books At The Library 154

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.



An otter named Randal leaves home to become an elephant. Sweet, funny, and love the art!


Career Day is approaching, and Annie can’t wait to show the school and her family what she wants to be when she grows up.


When Bif finds a big red rock blocking his path, he enlists the help of his friends to move it.


When an ice cream cone lands on Keith the cat’s head and his friends laugh at him, he pretends it’s a magic hat. Cute and colorful!


Follow the growth of a tree through the seasons.


Two ducks gaze into the clear water of their pond and discover other ducks. Sweet!


Follow Kalayaan, an eagle shot by a hunter, as he is rescued by kind villagers and eventually released back into the wild.


Tired of being teased about her hair, MacKenzie seeks the help of her neighbor Miss Tillie who compares hair care to tending a garden.


Frank the French bulldog is lost. Important evidence and maps will help track his steps and find him. Clever!


Artist Emma scolds her dog, Muse, for changing one of her paintings, but when he leaves, so does her creativity. Perfect for those of us inspired by our dogs!


When the night grows stormy, only Mama Elephant can reassure the baby animals that they are safe. Unusual and interesting art for a picture book!


Charlotte has a talent for anything technological, but when she receives a doll for a gift, she’s not quite sure what to do with it. Fantastic art!


Jack the horse escapes his stall and gets into all sorts of trouble on the farm. Cute!

Interview Alert: Leah Gilbert


I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw the cover. I mean, just look at that llama perched precariously, yet comfortably, on the arm of that sofa. Love!!!

I flipped through the pages and was treated to more gorgeous illustrations featuring that lovable llama. After I read the text, I knew I wanted to learn more about Leah Gilbert the author/illustrator of A COUCH FOR LLAMA, a wonderfully sweet and majorly funny picture book about a caring family, a curious llama, and a brand new couch.

I’m excited to share Leah Gilbert’s interview with you today!

Q. What inspired you to create your hilarious debut picture book A COUCH FOR LLAMA?

L.G. I got the idea for A COUCH FOR LLAMA driving to work one day! I would sometimes see a few llamas grazing in a field that I used to drive by on my way to work. I thought they were fun (and I really like cute, fluffy animals) so I usually looked to see if I could see them out there, and was always excited when I did. One day, the llamas weren’t out, but there was a couch sitting on the side of the road near where I would see the llamas, and the story idea was born!

Q. What came first, the words or the pictures?

L.G. Both! I almost always think of words and images together. The first thumbnail sketches I did for this book have the words written on the pages in my sketchbook.

Q. Llama is so full of personality! As a dog lover, I can’t help but notice a few canine traits in him. Am I right?

L.G. Ha, yes! Good eye! I did take some inspiration for Llama’s silly poses from the silly ways my Cavapoo, Camden, sits around the house sometimes… mostly in the illustrations on the endpapers. Inspiration can come from many places, including pups!

Q. Have you always been an artistic person? Besides writing and illustrating children’s books, in what ways have you used your creative skills?

L.G. It has always been my dream since I was a kid to write and especially illustrate children’s books. I have always LOVED drawing, and was always doodling and creating things throughout my entire childhood. In high school, I spent as much time as I could in the art room and taking art classes, and majored in Illustration and Graphic Design in college. For the past 10 years, I have worked at a greeting card company as an artist and designer illustrating and designing cards, calendars, bookmarks, and other gift products.

Q. Who are your favorite picture book authors or illustrators?

L.G. Wow, so many… it’s hard to choose favorites! I have too many current favorites to list, but some lifelong favorites of mine are Peter Spier, Jack Kent, Frank Muir, David Wiesner, and Beatrix Potter. I think these have probably had the most influence on me and my style as an author and illustrator, especially Peter Spier—I have always just loved his illustrations and the way he told so much of the story through the art—and Beatrix Potter’s personal story of being a female author and illustrator has always been an inspiration to me.

Q. Why do you believe picture books are important?

L.G. Lots of reasons! Reading to kids at an early age is so important, and picture books are some of the first exposure kids have to books—either being read to by an adult or paging through by themselves, “reading” the story through pictures before they can read words. I also think picture books can be so important for kids even after they’re reading chapter books. You don’t need to outgrow picture books at a certain age just because your reading level goes up—they are a powerful storytelling medium for all ages! The combination of the words and illustrations in picture books is such a unique and great way to bring joy as well as communicate things that words alone can’t do as well, and picture books do that in a way that no other medium does quite the same.

Q. Where can fans go to connect with you?

L.G. I’m on Twitter (@lalaleeeah), Instagram (@leahgilbertbooks), and my website is www.leah-gilbert.com!


Leah’s Studio

Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

L.G. My husband and I recently replaced our well-loved couch with a new one, and writing this book made me look at that experience in a whole new way! I felt like I should go find a llama who would like our old one 😉

Thank you so much, Leah, it was a pleasure getting to know you! I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books from you in the near future.

Leah Gilbert Leah grew up just blocks from Lake Michigan in a small Wisconsin town, with a deep love of art, books, and The Lake. After earning her bachelor’s degree in illustration and graphic design, she moved to Colorado where she has worked as an illustrator and designer at a greeting card company for the past nine years. She currently lives in the Denver area with her husband and a fluffy puppy, and still has a deep love of art, books, and The Lake… and the mountains, too.

Picture and bio from Leah Gilbert’s website: http://www.leah-gilbert.com/

Picture Books At The Library 153

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.


A group of children say goodbye to a beloved pet turtle who has died.


Olive needs some time away from her little brother Will.


Celebrates the milestones and accomplishments of childhood from first birthday to graduation. Sweet!


Get ready for some wild dancing and find out what really happens at the zoo after dark. Fun!


Fox and Chick are good friends who don’t always get along. Cute!


When Albert the bear’s favorite tree won’t stop crying, Albert tries everything he can think of to cheer it up.


Four chickens flee the coop, roam the world, and return home just in time to roost.


A celebration of friendship that focuses on what makes a person special.


A little girl and her brother imagine all the things that will grow if they plant the sand they brought home from the beach. Darling story and pictures!


Chaos spreads around the world as Petronilla transfers color to everything she touches. Interesting art!

Picture Books At The Library 152

PB at the library 2

I catalog hundreds of new picture books each year, and I read as many of them as I can. Unfortunately, I can’t review them all. But I can share them! Below are a few recent titles. (Summaries have been taken directly from the books whenever possible.) Check your local library or bookstore for availability.


Thief Jack enlists the help of a duck to break into a safe.


Vincent the cat lives on a cargo ship, but he has never had a real home.


A page turns every time you blink, bringing you closer to the end of the book–and bedtime.


The perfect gift of all is the world itself in its natural beauty through every season.


When a dragon catches a cold, setting off fires with its sneezes, a wizard comes to the rescue with a magic potion.


Rupert the rhino becomes flustered when Levi the tickbird lands on him one day and won’t go away. Great art!


People use their teeth to bite all sorts of things, but not other people. Fun!

A Lemur In The Library: Part Six (Conclusion)

Part Six
by Lauri Fortino


After the failed attempt to trap the lemur, the librarian, along with the page, still clutching his net, followed the clever creature to the public computers.
The lemur was already crouched in front of a monitor, tapping on the keyboard. It chirped excitedly every time a new image appeared on the screen.
The frazzled library staff watched for a moment, trying to decide what to do.
The clanging of the front door sent the lemur sprinting off again, this time, in the direction of the children’s room.
“Hello? We’re from animal control. Is anyone here?”
“It’s heading toward the back!” the librarian yelled.
“We never warned the folks at story hour!” said the page, as he and the librarian hurried after the lemur.
The two animal control officers joined them in the chase.
The lemur, realizing it was being pursued, cut through the teen area like a tornado.
It bumped a Carl Hiaasen display, sending copies of Scat, Chomp, and Flush raining down on an unsuspecting tutor and his student, engrossed in a lesson.
Then it made a beeline for the children’s room.
By the time the librarian, page, and animal control officers caught up, the lemur was sitting on the shoulder of a young woman from the Rosamond Gifford Zoo, who was speaking to a group of kids.
The kids laughed and squealed as the lemur stole the zookeeper’s glasses and put them on.
The librarian, out of breath, managed to say, “Is it your lemur?”
“Yes,” she answered. “This is Donny. He wasn’t any trouble was he?”
The librarian and the page looked at one another.
“No trouble at all,” said the librarian, as she collapsed into a beanbag chair.

I hope you enjoyed this small tale!

*This story originally appeared in the newsletter of the Community Library of DeWitt and Jamesville.

Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two

Click here for Part Three

Click here for Part Four

Click here for Part Five

Interview Alert: Children’s Librarians Jenny and Emily


Children’s Librarians (from left to right) Emily and Jennifer

Two of the busiest staff members at the Community Library of DeWitt & Jamesville are the children’s librarians, Jenny Burke and Emily Wormuth. They’re gearing up for the craziest time of the year, summer, when the Library draws in hundreds of kids for the Summer Reading Program. Right now, Jenny and Emily are in the midst of visiting local schools, telling the kids all about the myriad of events and activities the Library has lined up–all summer long–from the end of June until the end of August. School visits are also a great time to introduce the kids to some of the cool things the Library has to offer everyday.

Of course, Jenny and Emily are busy the rest of the year too, presenting daily story times, special themed events, and lots of opportunities for kids to engage in reading, learning, crafting, dancing, and having fun. They also help patrons find just the right books.

Aside from all of that, they make purchasing decisions, choosing books and media that they believe will be good additions to the Library’s children’s collection. Picture books make up a large portion of the items that they order. Lucky for us, Jenny and Emily found some time to answer a few questions about picture books!


Q. How do you decide whether or not to purchase a particular picture book for the library’s collection? What criteria do you use?

Jenny: I follow my library’s collection development policy in choosing books to purchase for the Children’s Collection. I want to ensure our collection meets the needs of our community, is well rounded, and appeals to a variety of people. I focus on books I know will be popular with kids, whether it’s because of a subject area, popular author or series.

Q. How important are reviews, such as those found in Kirkus Reviews or School Library Journal, in making a purchasing decision?

Jenny: Pretty important. I’d say the majority of my book selections come from reviews in Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal. Like most public libraries, I have a set budget for the year that I need to adhere to, so I want to focus monies on books that are well-reviewed or that I know our patrons will want. But, the review journals are just a guiding point. I will purchase books that kids ask for, or I know are popular series.


Q. How do you use picture books in story-time settings? And for different age groups?

Jenny: No matter how old they are, kids love being read aloud to! At the library, I do story time for ages 0-5 and one for preschoolers ages 3-5. For these ages, I choose picture books with a rhyming quality, or sing-along books – they love those! Basically, you want less text and engaging illustrations, so you can talk about what is going on in the story. For older age groups, I still use that model, but will pick picture books that may be longer. You can’t lose with a funny story, I’ve found!

Emily: The best picture books for story time are the ones with big, beautiful pictures and an easy-to-follow story. Our story times are organized by age, so we choose books that are appropriate for that particular age. I present the Babies and Books story time, so I’m looking for books with fewer words, bolder pictures and repetitive language. I love it when the kids can read the book along with me.

Q. How do you choose your story-time themes? Do you always have a theme?

Jenny: Themes are a guiding point for me. I pick them based upon the season, what I’ve done in the past that’s successful, or sometimes I’ll find books and base a theme upon the book. I don’t always have a theme, but when I do, it helps me plan my songs, rhymes, and crafts. That being said, I don’t let the theme dictate what I’m doing in story time. Sometimes I find books that I just want to read aloud and I go with it!

Emily: I find it easier to put a story time together if I’m working with a theme. I can then choose books, music and activities that follow that theme. I think it’s easier for the children to actively participate if there’s a theme. “What animal are we going to sing about today?” “Elephants!” shout the toddlers. After doing this for a few years, Jenny and I both have a pretty good idea of what books and materials we have to support a theme, so that helps when we’re choosing themes. It’s best not to get too complicated; animal, trucks and seasonal themes all work well. For example, we always do an Apple Picking story time in the fall because that’s an activity many kids are doing.


Q. Is there anything you’d like to see more of in picture books published today-either fiction or nonfiction (e.g. subject matter, characters, settings, themes, concepts, etc.)?

Jenny: With the We Need Diverse Books campaign, I’ve seen some great books – both fiction and nonfiction – that have been published in the past couple of years. Keep ‘em coming! We need their stories, now more than ever.

Emily: I love books about girls doing things we (traditionally, unfairly) associate with boys. Bring on the books about women truck drivers and construction workers. And kids love books about misbehaving children, but they’re often too often boys. 

Thank you, Jenny and Emily, for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk picture books! Hooray for children’s librarians and all that they do for kids in our communities!