Title:An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z
Publisher/Year: The School of Life/2021
I admit it, I don’t post about poetry very often here on the Frog. But, April is Poetry Month, and what better way to celebrate than by sharing a children’s picture book filled with fun poems?And lovely illustrations, featuring adorable animals?
ButAn Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Zby The School of Life, with amazing art by Rachael Saunders, is more than a fun read. It features 26 emotions from anger to melancholy to zeal, each one encompassing a two-page spread with a new animal and setting.The goal of the book is to help children develop emotional literacy. Some of the featured emotions are more straight forward, such as boredom, fear, or happiness. And some are more complex, such as embarrassment, insecurity, or vulnerability.
Sample from L is for Loneliness:
If Loneliness was an animal,
It would glide throughout the deep:
No ears to hear its lonely song,
No company to keep.
Children experience many different emotions, and some have difficulty expressing them properly or even articulating what they’re feeling, leaving them with another feeling–confusion. An Emotional Menagerie aims to help children understand and deal with their feelings and emotions in a healthy way.
Though the rhyme isn’t perfect in every stanza, children will still likely be engaged listeners as an adult reads them each poem. And they will definitely enjoy viewing the charming animal pictures while they listen.
My favorite spread: T is for Tranquility
During these extra-trying days, I can’t think of a better time to share a book about emotions with our kids.
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, one young water protector takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
When I first read this beautiful picture book last summer, I knew it would be a contender to win this year’s Caldecott Medal, a medal awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
“Michaela Goade’s vivid, swirling watercolors capture the sacredness of water and amplify Carole Lindstrom’s passionate call to action and celebration of Indigenous ancestry and community.”
We Are Water Protectorsis a special book.Congratulations illustrator Michaela Goade, as well as author Carole Lindstrom, and publisher Roaring Brook Presson a well-deserved win!
“Michaela Goade’s semi-translucent color palette beautifully bathes every page with powerful illustrations,” said Caldecott Medal Committee Chair Annisha Jeffries.
Please welcome multi-published picture book illustrator/author Holly Hatam to Frog on a Blog! If you’veread the New York Times Bestselling picture book Dear Girl, A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, then you’ve seen Holly’s amazing art. Holly, who’s been creating art since she was a little girl, is also a greeting card designer, and a textile engineer.Her latest book, Dear Baby, A Love Letter to Little Ones by Paris Rosenthal was published this past September.Let’s hear more from Holly!
Please tell us a little about your background and how you got started in children’s book illustration. Have you always been interested in creating art?
H.H. My first year of college was a one year course studying every art medium. My professor saw that I showed skill in graphic design and suggested I study that after this course. So, instead of listening to my own heart, I followed the professor’s suggestion. After three years, I had my BA in graphic design. I had two jobs out of college working for design firms. I hated every minute of it. After being fired from both jobs, struggling for years as a freelancer designer and running my own wedding invitation company for 9 years, I finally listened to my heart and followed my dreams of becoming a children’s book author/illustrator.
I have been interested in art since I was a little girl. My parents tell me I was always drawing and would often hold gallery openings in my room. With taped drawings on the wall, I would charge my parents a 25 cent admission fee. As a little girl, my biggest dream was to become a children’s book illustrator and work in animation. Both of those dreams have come true.
What is your preferred medium to work with when illustrating children’s books?
H.H. I create all my art digitally. It makes it easier to make changes when editors and creative directors ask for massive revisions.
How important do you consider diversity to be in children’s books and how do you support diversity in your own work?
H.H. Diversity in children’s books is so important to me. Growing up in the 80’s as a person of colour, I felt invisible. I felt different. I never saw a character on tv or in books that looked like me. It made me feel so unimportant. It made me hate my culture and being different. And now as a mom, I still see the same thing happening with my son. My son is biracial, so it’s that much harder to find books with characters that look like him. I don’t want him to grow up feeling invisible like I did. I try whenever I can, to make the hero of my books a person of colour. It is my goal to shine the spotlight on every kid who has felt invisible or unheard. It’s time for them to be the heroes.
Dear Baby, A Love Letter to Little Ones by Paris Rosenthal, and illustrated by you, was just published in September. Please tell us more about this beautiful book.
H.H. Dear Baby is the third book in the Dear series. It’s a sweet book, filled with loving advice and encouragement for the little humans of the world. It reminds the little ones that there is no limit to what they can be, where they can go or what they can do!
Can you share a bit about projects you’re working on right now?
H.H. I have so many exciting projects on the go right now! I wrote and illustrated two more board books about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I’m working on the fourth book in the Dear series; Dear Teacher. And I’m working on a chapter book series with the amazing Megan McDonald. I have several other projects as well, but I can’t share quite yet! 😉
As a bestselling picture book illustrator who has illustrated several books, do you have any advice for illustrators who are just beginning their journey?
H.H. My advice for illustrators is to always be true to who THEY are. Don’t compare yourself to other illustrators. Certainly be inspired by other artist’s work, but don’t try to emulate or copy them. You are a unique individual with your own unique story. If you illustrate what you love and what inspires you, it will shine through your work.
Where can fans go to connect or learn more about you?
Holly Hatam is the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Dear Girl, and Dear Boy, which she had the pleasure of creating with Amy, Paris, and Jason Rosenthal. Some of her other books include Made by Maxine, written by Ruth Spiro, and Jack (Not Jackie), written by Erica Silverman. Holly lives in Waterloo, Ontario, with her wacky husband and even wackier son.
I’m so grateful for every one of my blog followers. Thank you for your numerous comments, likes, and shares over this past year, a year that has been, well, difficult in so many ways. Your support has encouraged me to keep blogging and keep sharing the many wonderful picture books the world has to offer.Cheers to you, and best wishes for a spectacular 2021 for all! 🙂
Now, you may remember that I usually post the top circulating print picture books. That is, the picture books that were checked out most often from theCommunity Library of DeWitt and Jamesvillein a given year. But this year, due to the pandemic, I’m going to do things a bit differently. The library was completely closed for a couple of months, and for about six months, we’ve been offering curbside pickup. I share all this just to say that circulation of print picture books has been down this year, though it has picked up.
But checkouts of digital picture books have gone up, up, up. So I’ll share the top 3 circulating print picture book of 2020 for my library. And then I’ll list the top 15 digital picture books for my library’s entire system, consisting of 31 county libraries.
Top 3 Circulating Print Picture Books:
Top 15 Digital Picture Book Checkouts:
Jory John’s picture books dominated the digital list, taking the first three spots!
All of these books have bold covers with big illustrations, which would help them stand out on a digital screen. It’s no surprise that kids would have chosen these outstanding titles from the 100s of digital picture books available.
What were the most checked out picture books at your local library in 2020?
Please welcome picture book author, teacher, and eternal optimist Donna Paul to Frog on a Blog. Donna’s book Carl The Cantankerous Cat was published earlier this year. It features an engaging story, 70 vocabulary words, a glossary, and post-reading follow-up activities. Donna is a Montessori elementary teacher with over ten years of classroom experience. She’s stopped by today to share 5 principles that she keeps in mind when choosing picture books for her classroom. Let’s hear from Donna!
A Montessori Teachers Approach to Picture Books in the Elementary Classroom
by Donna Paul
Picture books are my jam! I love everything about them. So much so that I self-published my own,Carl the Cantankerous Cat.Crazy, I know! As an elementary Montessori teacher, I find it helpful to supplement lessons with picture books whenever possible. Why? Picture books are inviting, uplifting, thought-provoking, and heartwarming. Images and illustrations are powerful! The right picture book can not only imprint positive life morals but also spark the curious imagination within a reader. You know what I’m talking about. For me, it was anything with spectacularly illustrated pets. Those books spoke to me. And later I would speak them to my stepdaughter, Taylor, and share their magic with her. Now she’s going on twenty years of age (where did the time go?), and we still enjoy reminiscing about her childhood, what she grew up doing, saying, and reading. I tell you this – memories are made with picture books.
Did you know that a carefully selected read aloud can be a powerful teaching tool for learners of all ages? Picture books can captivate a class of fidgety first graders, bring jaw-dropping wonder to the early elementary years, and spark intellectual discussions with upper grades. Combining pictures and illustrations can benefit a student’s literacy skills, promote reading, improve observation skills, and encourage creativity. They encourage all types of learners to engage and explore. Amazing!
But not all picture books are created equally. When considering picture books for my Upper Elementary classroom, I always keep Dr. Montessori’s ideas about young children and their development in mind. Remember these important principles on your next library trip!
1 – Keep It Real – Choose books that are based in reality. Children are naturally interested in the world around them. They should be exposed to books that cover real-life scenarios. Try to find books with stories of real experiences, such as daily life activities, and that show pictures of real objects, such as vehicles, rather than fantasy.
2 – Choose Beauty – Select books with alluring illustrations. Model to children how delicately you hold a picture book as if it is a piece of art. Children love beautiful things. Aesthetically pleasing books are known to grasp a reader’s attention and admiration.
3 – Rich Language – Children want to learn new words. They want to understand unfamiliar vocabulary terms. They want to know how to pronounce long words. Words intrigue children. So, look for picture books that offer descriptive words, accurate language, and a vast vocabulary. While the illustrations take the reader on a journey, including extra description in sentences allows readers to experience the story much better.
4 – Educate Yourselves – Look for books that provide a deep, thought-provoking lesson. Expose children to the world around them via the comfort of a picture book. The reader should walk away knowing something new.
5 – Readability – Read a few pages. How does it sound? Does the language flow smoothly or is it awkward and flat? Text that flows rhythmically and naturally is most appealing. Soothing sounds that vary in pitch and tone are effective in holding a listener’s attention. Find books that allow the reader to explore a range of emotions through the text.
Picture books are excellent supplementary teaching tools. I love using them in my classroom. Illustrations help children understand what they are reading. Pictures guide readers to analyze the story. If children are having difficulty with the words, illustrations can help them figure out the narrative, which leads to an increase in their comprehension. Equipped with picture books that follow the guidelines above, readers are sure to flourish in and out of the classroom.
A Montessori elementary teacher by trade with over ten years of experience in the classroom,Donna Paulis a self-published author and co-creator of engaging and educational activities for young learners, as well as an online ESL teacher. If she’s not working, she’s probably working out. Donna strives to live a healthy and adventure-filled life. Family, learning, writing, health and wellness, compassion, plant-based food, tiny living, loving animals, and travel are topics that make her soul smile.
An eternal optimist and fueled by the power of patience (and plants!), Donna is a believer in the good of all beings. Driven to make herself a better person and always striving to lead by example. You canfind her picture book,Carl the Cantankerous Cat, on Amazon.
Summary: A polar bear cub wakes in his den to the snowy world outside after a long slumber. There’s no one around, not even his mom and he can’t remember what she looks like! The little cub journeys out to find her and along the way he meets many arctic creatures that are not like him. Follow this brave cub as he goes on a journey to see if he finds someone out there just like him!
Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.
It’s my pleasure to share an interview today with Kitty O’Meara, author of the lovely picture book And The People Stayed Home.
Just published, the book And The People Stayed Home began as a heartfelt poem posted on social media, which was shared over one million times, and earned Kitty the title “poet laureate of the pandemic.”It’s a testament to the resilience of people during uncertain times, as it paints a picture of life in lockdown and hope for a brighter tomorrow.Let’s hear more from Kitty!
Congratulations on the recent release of your picture book And the People Stayed Home! Please tell us what inspired you to write this special book and about its journey to publication.
KO: Thank you; that’s very kind of you!
For most of my life, writing and other creative arts have been my way to explore and process the experiences and emotions of life, so I wrote these words at the beginning of our lockdown last March, and shared them with my Facebook friends. One friend asked to share the post, and it quite quickly went viral.
I re-posted the poem to my blog and, among the thousands of comments, calls, messages, and texts I received, was one from the Managing Editor of Tra Publishing, who asked, at the kind request of Tra’s founder, if I would be interested in developing a children’s picture book based on the poem. I was overjoyed, and we began the work of co-creating this amazing book in early April. It has been a complete blessing and joy to work with these talented artists, and I’m very proud of the finished creation.
In what ways do you hope your book will touch readers, especially those most affected by the pandemic?
KO: I hope it will offer comfort, peace, and delight as a work of art, and I hope it will inspire readers to discover ways their own artistic and emotional gifts can help them cope and heal through this time of sacrifice and hardship. We’re all in this together, everyone on the planet, and I think we need to encourage each other, express gratitude to our essential workers, keep ourselves and others safe, and look for ways this experience can help us listen more deeply to our hearts and to those we love, looking for ways we can make the world a better place for all of our gifts to unfold.
I imagine teachers and parents sharing And the People Stayed Home with children, exploring their feelings and their responses to this time, naming their gifts, making art…it’s a sensitive and touching book, but also one that encourages and evokes joy.
And the People Stayed Home is beautifully illustrated. How excited were you when you finally held the finished product in your hands?
KO: I cried! A lot! I agree; it’s beautiful. I kept holding it, setting it down, reading and rereading it, marveling at the artwork…And I have such lovely memories of our video meetings, notes, and calls, sharing ideas, changing our minds, adjusting, evolving and growing this book, and ourselves, together. I named myself as a writer when I was 6, and of course worked as one in advertising and all through my career, but to be holding this gorgeous book in my hands…well, it’s been a pure blessing.
Were you expecting the poem that is the essence of your book to become so popular?
KO: Well no, not at all. I don’t think I’ve ever posted on Facebook with expectations of any kind except to share with my close friends how I’m feeling. This was a complete mystery-fluke-surprise-blessing, that’s for sure.
You are also a chaplain and spiritual director. How do those vocations affect or inform your writing? And what writing projects are you working on now?
KO: Well, I started with Theater and English degrees, and I worked in advertising, then went back for a teaching degree and taught middle school literature and language arts for many years before leaving to write full time. That was quickly curtailed by the need to care for our parents, who seemed to all experience health failures and end-of-life crises at the same time.
And after those years of journeying with death, loss, and grief, I went back to school again and trained for chaplaincy and spiritual direction, so I’ve had many careers and experiences in offering my gifts to the world, and they’ve all been enlarging and rewarding. I’ve been writing since I was very young, and I guess, have always explored themes revealed by love and loss, nature, family, joy, memory, and, increasingly, the understanding that we’re all gifted differently, and need to honor and develop those gifts to serve one another and the Earth…traveling with my parents’ friends’ and in-laws’ end-of-life journeys led me to the deep exploration of healing…not just physical diseases, but the emotional and psychic wounds that hinder the development and sharing of gift. I worked with my patients and those who have come for spiritual direction to meet those wounds and heal them, and have seen how we can heal all the way through our last breath…Because of chaplaincy and spiritual direction, the mystery, and gift, and hard work of healing (always connected to our capacity to love ourselves and others) have all become integral to my writing and my understanding of our gifts.
I think these ideas will always influence my work, including the children’s stories I’m working on now. And I think that’s because picture books take us so beautifully to symbol, silence, and mystery: they touch us deeply and trigger responses that are both very simple and very profound. And, in my case, they require co-creation, because I do not have the gift of creating visual art through illustration, and I love that, since I think healing itself, like loving, is an ongoing co-creation. Life is all about relationship.
How do you feel about being called the “poet laureate of the pandemic”, and where did the name originate?
KO: I think it was a very kind compliment, but there are many poets gifting us, always, and certainly through this time, uniquely and profoundly and in a variety of voices and styles that are absolutely necessary. We need art more than laureates, and I’m not in need of being recognized beyond the fact that my voice matters, too, and this poem touched people deeply when it had to in ways far beyond imagining.
I’ve always taken my education seriously and worked diligently to use and deepen my gifts. Writing has been a constant practice, as I said, for integration and reflection, and as a creative outlet; so, the fact that something I wrote affected others is not at all a new experience; I’ve shared my writing and received positive feedback all my life. That it affected others in such numbers is both mystery, timing, and a function of social media, a good reminder of the internet’s power. Elena Nicolaou, a wonderful writer in her own right, used the term “poet laureate of the pandemic” in her article for the Oprah Magazine Online, as a reference to the poem’s having gone viral, more than as a recognition of my lifetime achievement. 🙂
Can you tell us about the upcoming animated film based on And the People Stayed Home?
KO: I think you’re referring to the Vooks.com animation of the picture book? That has been produced and is available now on the Vooks.com site. They are a wonderful company! I love how they honor the original artwork, tweak and extend it with amazing animation, provide a narrated voiceover, and enhance everything about the original book in doing so. And the People Stayed Home was beautifully narrated for Vooks by Kate Winslet, and yikes, what an honor that is! I wish Vooks had been around when I was a child, and when I was a teacher; it’s a marvelous wonder for parents to investigate and consider joining, too. I love the creativity and myriad ways it invites children’s interaction with story; it really compliments books so magically.
Where can fans go to connect and learn more about you and your book?
KO: Thank you for your interest and wonderful questions! I hope that your readers will love this book as much as I do; it’s such a finely-crafted treasure, and one that I think could be a lifelong favorite, reminding children and their parents of a time that was both challenging and deeply precious.
And I hope you, and your readers, will be safe and well in the days to come. Keep reading; keep creating. 🙂 Gentle peace.
Kitty O’Mearalives near Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, Phillip Hagedorn, their five rescue dogs, three cats, gardens, and books. A former teacher of middle school writing and literature and a hospital and hospice chaplain and currently a spiritual director, O’Meara has been a lifelong writer and artist. And the People Stayed Home is her first print book.
There’s a lot going on right now. A lot. And your head is probably swirling. And maybe you haven’t been thinking about Christmas just yet.
But I think we could all use a little cheer, don’t you? With that in mind, I’m happy to share a new Christmas picture bookthat recently received the Mom’s Choice Award.
Combine one arrogant reindeer in training, one friendly Krampus, and one skeptical elf. Add a broken camera and a disappointed boy. Mix in a terrible blizzard on Christmas Eve and a sleighful of determination. And what do you get? A recipe for merriment, Randolph the Reindeer, a Christmas tale like no other.
Randolph dreams of pulling Santa’s sleigh. But when he fails miserably and is humiliated during tryouts, despite bragging that he’s the fastest reindeer and is sure to be chosen to pull Santa’s sleigh that very night, Christmas Eve, he decides to leave town.
In North Pole, Alaska, Randolph makes a new friend, a boy named Jamie. Jamie says Randolph can pull his sleigh. Randolph wants to show Jamie just how fast he can go, but Jamie just wants to take pictures. Randolph doesn’t listen, however, and crashes the sleigh, breaking Jamie’s special camera.
Jamie is heartbroken and Randolph feels terrible. He sets off through a blizzard to make things right. And with a little help from Nikita Von Krampus, Mrs. Clause, and Jeremy the elf, Randolph saves Christmas for Jamie just in the (Saint) nick of time. 😉
With a fun, engaging story by Arcana Studio founder Sean Patrick O’Reilly, and bright, cheerful illustrations by Warner Brothers, Walt Disney, and Nickelodeon artist David Alvarez, you and your children will delight in reading Randolph the Reindeer together this holiday season.And it may just take your mind off of other things for a bit.Happy Holidays!
Please welcome back picture book author Lisa Gammon Olson to Frog on a Blog! Lisa is the author of the American HerstorySeries and a huge proponent of spreading kindness and preserving nature. Lisa last visited in April of 2019 to talk about her bookAnd the Trees Began to Move. Today, on October 12th, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an alternative to Columbus Day, Lisa’s stopped by to tell us about her latest book, Remembering Green: An Ojibwe Girl’s Tale. And Lisa has an important message for us all at the end.
Good morning! My American HerStory Series, with Eifrig Publishing, features a snapshot in American History as seen through the eyes of one young girl.
My newest picture book, Remembering Green, is the 4th book in this series and features an Ojibwe heroine named Wenonah and her struggles to keep her native identity during the forced attendance of Indigenous children at residential schools.
In the late 19th century, the United States Government began establishing Indian Residential Schools with the intent of forcibly assimilating Native American children into Euro-American culture. In order to “Christianize” and “civilize” them, Indigenous children were taken from their families and housed in boarding schools where they were to be “educated” and stripped of their culture.
Children arriving at the schools had their long hair cut and their native clothing exchanged for a regimented school uniform and were not even allowed to keep their native names. They were forbidden to speak their native languages and were often beaten and treated harshly when they were caught doing so. Overcrowding, disease and abusive discipline were present in these children’s daily lives changing the very core of who they were.
In Remembering Green, my Wenonah is one such girl from the Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe in northern Wisconsin. She runs away from the boarding school where she seeks out her great grandfather, Nimishoomis and his wisdom. Together, using their five senses, he will help Wenonah think of ways she can retain her culture and remember their customs to pass down to future generations. Even as she is learning chimookoman ways, Grandfather reminds her it is not the learning that will change her but the forgetting of her heritage that will change who she is.
I worked extensively with the Lac Du Flambeau tribal members on this book to be sure every detail was true to history even using Ojibwe words in the story to authenticate the setting.
My personal research discovered a beautiful culture with people who revere the earth and live in harmony with the changing seasons. Our Native Americans were brutalized, persecuted and killed in horrifyingly vast numbers for their differences and for their land. I often wonder how corporate America would look now had the roles been reversed and we had all learned to live in harmony with the natural world as our Native friends did. I know which world I personally would choose to live in.
Writing historical fiction has opened my eyes to the suffering and hardships our ancestors endured in our past and I am amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and how people have coped during really tough times.
It’s important we bring to light the untold history of these strong, spiritual people and help them heal. A first good step has been the national movement to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12th in lieu of Columbus Day.
I work in an elementary school as the secretary and I want our kids to know “there is always something positive you can do to impact others in every situation.” As a child, it’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever possibly make a difference.
In my first book, Dust Flowers…set in the midst of the Dust Bowl…a little girl can do nothing about the weather but she CAN grow one tiny flower and bring a smile to her mother’s face. That’s what I like ALL my books to say. What you do, DOES make a difference! YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!
Every human being on this planet has made an individual journey…has a rich past and story to tell. Listen to each other in a respectful, responsible & kind manner and together we will learn all the wondrous secrets this world has to tell…Cover your ears and we will be destined to repeat these shameful failings at humanity’s peril.
First and foremost, Lisa Gammon Olson is a mom of three amazing young men; Grant, Kyle & Jay. She lives with her husband Bruce in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores! She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.” Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life. Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities. Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.
You can learn more about Lisa’s books and the history behind the story by clicking Here or on the images below:
Please welcome Regan Macaulay! Regan is the author of several children’s picture books. Her latest Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana is officially out today! Isn’t that cover adorable?!Happy Book Birthday Regan and Libby!
“This childrenʼs picture book is about Libby, a lonely cactus plant who has trouble believing in herself. However, when lovely, confident Violet moves in next to her on the windowsill, Libby learns that the things that make her different also make her special.”
I really like how this book features a cactus and a violet plant. Growing up, we had tons of plants on our windowsills. My grandma had a cactus that lived for years and years, and my mom always had violet plants.It makes me smile to think the plants may have been friends like Libby and Violet. 🙂
But enough about me; I want to hear from Regan. She’s stopped by today to talk a little about the collaborative partnership she’s had with each of her illustrators. Take it away, Regan!
I love what I do, which is writing. In particular, writing for children as it brings with it specific rewards for which I am so grateful.
Working on picture storybooks over many years and now starting to see those works published in the last five, it got me thinking about what’s special about writing these short, most concise stories, where the text shares the storytelling effort with the images on each page.
What’s stimulating for me about working in the picture book category is that, since I do not have the patience to do the artwork myself, I always have a partner helping me tell the tale. So far, I’ve had the privilege of working with four gifted illustrators on five – soon to be six, then next year, seven – picture books.
Alex Zgud worked her magic through water colour on Beverlee Beaz the Brown Burmese, Sloth the Lazy Dragon, and Merry Myrrh, the Christmas Bat. We traded my storyboards for scanned sketches and paintings via email over many months on each work.
Wei Lu works digitally, but her styles for Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast (a sort of anime look) and upcoming picture book Dog Band (water colour, but via computer) are strikingly different, though always brilliantly colourful in the life she brings to my characters.
I’ve actually never met Javier Duarte, who works as a freelancer through Mirror Publishing. I merely sent my storyboard ideas for each page of Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far and he sent back the fully formed illustrations (black and white first, then colour once confirmed or tweaked if I had notes), ready for the next step in the publishing process!
Now, with Libby the Lobivia Jajoiana, released by Mirror World Publishing (note that this is a different publisher than Mirror Publishing), I have been blessed with a truly unique collaborative experience I will never forget. For many reasons – the search for the right publisher, then a change in publishers, as well as the technically involved artistic process of our new illustrator, Gordon Bagshaw – Libby has been years in the making. I worked with a co-writer, my husband, Kevin Risk. Our publisher, Justine Alley Dowsett, was even more closely involved than she usually is with the completion of the book over the last year or more. And Gord constructed a 360 degree digital “set” – the kitchen, in which most of the story takes place – in minute detail and with breathtaking art that straddles the line between photorealistic and fantastical illustration with digital painting.
Once Kevin and I had the manuscript vetted over several years by several different sources, including editors, publishers, educators, and parents and their children…after revisions galore…we were able to watch and participate in Gord’s step-by-step illustrating process, as if we were leaning over his shoulder. Yet Gord, though Canadian, lives in Sao Paolo and Kevin and I are both in Toronto, Ontario, and when Justine joined the process, she did so from Windsor, Ontario.
What a fabulous age to live in if you are creative, even in these uncertain and often scary times. We can reach across the miles and work with anyone anywhere in the world! And with this recent book project, Libby, it often felt a little bit like shooting a film (and filmmaking is a part of my background as well). Gord carefully chose angles for each “shot” or page from any vantage point in that kitchen set, and was able to place the characters in their performance space and let them catch their light. Then he was able to show us every stage – from rough and unrendered to the final version ready for printing.
It seems to me there are many ways to tackle putting together a picture storybook, but one constant for me is the need to work collaboratively, even more so than you would on a typical novel. This is something I recommend writers of children’s literature become accustomed to, but I also think most writers will find it a fun, supportive and inspiring process.
Regan W. H. Macaulay writes novels, short stories, children’s literature, and scripts. Writing is her passion, but she’s also a producer and director of theatre, film, and television. She is an animal-enthusiast as well, which led her to become a Certified Canine and Feline Massage Therapist. Other picture storybooks include Sloth the Lazy Dragon, Tamara Turtle’s Life So Far, Mixter Twizzle’s Breakfast, Merry Myrrh the Christmas Bat, and Beverlee Beaz the Brown Burmese. She is also the author of The Trilogy of Horrifically Half-baked Ham, which includes Space Zombies! (based on her film, Space Zombies: 13 Months of Brain-Spinning Mayhem!—available on iTunes and on DVD), They Suck, and Horror at Terror Creek.