Please welcome graphic designer and author/illustrator Morissa Rubin to Frog on a Blog. I absolutely love her clever new board book Dot, Dot, Polka Dot, which features colorful and fun patterns from around the world. Her eye-catching style is so unique, and the illustrations in this book are super engaging and are sure to delight your little ones as they explore 12 different patterns, from the familiar diamond shapes of argyle to the fish-like triangles of Uroko. I wanted to learn how Dot, Dot, Polka Dot was created, so I invited Morissa to give us a close-up look at her process when she designed the book.Let’s take a look!
Dot, Dot, Polka Dot is a concept board book that explores all the different types of fabric patterns found in the patchwork of a child’s quilt. Unlike narrative books that have a built-in storyline, concept books often rely on word and visual structure to carry the story forward.
Dot, Dot, Polka Dot literally came about as I aimlessly dabbed my brush on a page. As multiple dots appeared I mused to myself “dot, dot” and then “dot, dot, polka dot”. From there I thought about making other patterns with loosely painted brush strokes: stripes, plaid, calico, paisley and argyle. It was a then editor at POW! Kids Books, Jordan Nielson, who later encouraged me to explore additional patterns from around the world. Kente cloth, Molas, Batiks and Uroko triangles along with tie-dye were added in a later round of revisions.
The short phrase-like description of the first couple of patterns became the structure for the words throughout the book. The idea that these different patterns could come together to form a quilt only came after I had spent time making and looking at the different patterns. Once I had the quilt idea, I realized that as each pattern was introduced, it’s swatch could be displayed on the next spread, alongside the previously introduced pattern swatches. The repeated swatches helped connect the separate patterns and serve as an inventory of all of the patterns introduced. They help to introduce the moment when the swatches come together to make a quilt. I used a mix of gauche paint and digital tools to create the patterns, assemble pieces, and layer and mix the images.
Thanks for sharing, Morissa! I really like the clever way you were able to “join” all of the different patterns together from page to page, leading so beautifully to the incredible quilt, featuring every pattern, at the end.Folks, this book would make a great gift at holiday time or any time!
Morissa is generously offering a copy of her book Dot, Dot, Polka Dot to one lucky person! All you have to do for a chance to win is leave a comment on this post by December 10th. I’ll choose a winner at random and connect them with Morissa. This giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
Morissa Rubin is a graphic designer. Her work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sacramento Advertising Club, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and Graphic Design USA. She received her BFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design and her MS from MIT’s Visible Language Workshop. She lives in Sacramento, California where she teaches typography and other design courses at UC Davis and Sacramento State University. You can follow her work on Instagram at @morissa.s.childrensbooks.
Today is Children’s Grief Awareness Day, which is more than just a day, it’s a movement dedicated to helping support grieving children. (For more information and ways that you can help, click HERE.)
One way that we can all help grieving children is by reading comforting picture books with them, which brings me to today’s guest.
Please welcome Jayne Pillemer to Frog on a Blog! Jayne turned from editing children’s books to writing them! Her touching debut picture book Still Mine, featuring soft and lovely illustrations by Sheryl Murray, came out earlier this year from HarperCollins. Congratulations, Jayne! Still Mine introduces the topic of death in a gentle and sensitive way. Jayne’s stopped by to tell us more about her book and share her top recommended picture books for grieving families.
Let’s hear from Jayne.
Grief is incredibility difficult for anyone to navigate, young or old. Helping your child process death and work through grief may feel even more overwhelming. There can be a lot of questions that you may or may not feel you know the answer to. Sometimes, a loss just puts us at a loss for words, and we don’t know what to say or how to say it.
Books can give us adults the words, to help us open conversations with our children in a natural way. For the child, books are an equally important resource. They give children the opportunity to see their circumstances and emotions reflected back to them and help them gain deeper understanding of what they may be feeling, thinking or seeing. For children experiencing grief for the first time, books can help them to realize that they are not alone.
My picture book, STILL MINE, was created out of a need to tell my own young children about the death of my grandmother. I wanted to gently introduce the concept of death, and my way to do that was to juxtapose loss with something that gets to stay: Love. I knew the way I felt about my grandmother would never change, and that the special activities we did together would be memories I would not only hold in my heart forever, but would also be things I could share with my children. STILL MINE depicts several kinds of losses—a parent, a grandparent, and a friend—and carries hope for the peace that can come by embracing the permanence of love. These other picture books honor the journey of grief and support this same message that love never goes away:
One Wave at a Time by Holly Thompson, Pictures by Ashley Crowley
This beautiful story follows a boy in the wake of his father’s death and delves deeper into the emotions that come with grief: sadness, madness, fear, and hollowness. These tough feelings come in big waves, and Kai doesn’t always know which wave will tumble him. With the help of a support group, his family, and memories, Kai and his family learn together how to ride these waves as they roll in. A gentle author’s note and grief support resources round out the backmatter.
Ida, Always by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso
This gorgeously illustrated book introduces us to two adorable best friends: Ida and Gus, who live in a city zoo. Their days would not be complete without playing with one another, but one day, Ida gets sick, and the zookeeper tells Gus that Ida will die soon. Together, Ida and Gus go on a journey of preparing to be apart. “There were growling days and laughing days and days that mixed them up.” If sickness is something you are experiencing or loss is something you are preparing for, this moving story reminds us that you don’t have to see love to feel it.
Saturdays are for Stella by Candy Wellins, illustrated by Charlie Eve Ryan
Saturdays are the best days because George spends them with Grandma Stella. But when Grandma Stella suddenly dies, George doesn’t want there to be any more Saturdays. Ever. Just when George thinks he can’t take another Saturday, his sister Stella is born, and suddenly Saturdays with Stella have renewed meaning. This touching story is a beautiful way to remember that you have the power to give love, just as you once received it, and that can be healing in so many ways.
The Treasure Box by Dave Keane and Rahele Jomepour Bell
Grandpa and his granddaughter love to look for treasures. On their weekly walks, they discover all sorts of interesting things and store them in a secret box. When Grandpa gets sick, he can’t go on anymore walks, so his granddaughter brings the treasures to him. But when Grandpa dies, the girl is too sad to open the secret treasure box. It takes a long time for Grandma to come back over, but when she does, hugging and crying together help them both. So does looking for treasures that Grandpa would love. A poignant text and rich, textured illustrations make for a beautiful package and a tender story.
Molly’s Rosebushby Janice Cohn, illustrated by Gail Owens
This is an older title that can still be found at your local library or second-hand. Molly’s mother has a late-term miscarriage, and the whole family is grieving the baby that they wanted to come home. When I experienced pregnancy loss, this book was a favorite of my two older children, and inspired us to plant our own memory tree in our backyard, just like Molly’s family planted a rosebush in honor of their baby. While most books for young children deal with the death of a pet or a grandparent, this book addresses the loss of someone you are only looking forward to meeting, which is a different kind of love that is just as powerful as a love for someone you’ve already gotten to know. This book will hold a special place on our bookshelf forever, just as our tree does in our backyard.
A Kids Book About Death by Taryn Schuelke
A Kids Book About Grief by Brennan C. Wood, in partnership with Dougy Center
As a kid growing up, it felt like there were “child topics” and there were “adult topics,” and anything perceived to be an adult topic wasn’t usually discussed with kids. The A Kids Book About collection is changing that. My oldest son in particular has TONS of questions about everything and anything, especially about big words that he overhears. When I don’t know the right way to answer, I look for A Kids Book About. These books have been incredibly helpful in providing developmentally-appropriate (ages 5+) definitions and explanations on everything from Adoption to Boredom to Sexual Abuse. Reading these books has led to rich discussions and have opened the lines of communication between parent and child because these books tell children that we are allowed to talk about hard things. A Kids Book About Death clearly and directly explains what it means to be alive and what it means to be dead. It explores the various ways to die and the feelings that may come with it. It addresses why it is important to talk about death, why life is important, and how love is an element of life that continues even after death. A Kids Book About Grief is an excellent follow-up to this title, diving deeper into the emotions that arise following a death and reassuring readers that grief is normal. Just a note: the books in this series have no pictures, but the words are truly all you need!
Jayne Pillemer is a former children’s book editor who now spends her days raising her children and writing! Her debut picture book, STILL MINE, was inspired by her Grandma Helen’s special love and was called “tender and touching” by Kirkus Reviews. Jayne lives in Harrison, New York with her husband and their three sons, who all love it when she makes Grandma Helen’s old recipes.
You can alpha-bet that I’m P-U-M-P-E-D to be a stop on the ALPHABEDTIME Blog Tour! As a matter of fact, Frog on a Blog is the final stop of the tour, and we couldn’t be more excited to welcome author Susanna Hill and illustrator Betsy Snyder here to wrap things up in a super enjoyable way!
Make sure you read the whole post because there’re lots of goodies to explore, including Susanna and Betsy’s fun, informal interview; an adorable, printable craft project for use at home or school; an awesome example of one of Betsy’s sketches with the finished illustration; Susanna’s very first book ever; and, last but not least, a giveaway of their fabulous new book Alphabedtime!Let’s go!
This is the last stop on the ALPHABLOGTIME tour! If you’re just tuning in and want to know any of the “Creation of the Book” details about Susanna’s inspiration for the book, or how Betsy approached the monumental task of creating the art, please check back to some of the earlier stops on the tour, several of which covered those topics. If you’d like to know who instigated the Alpha-Mayhem, then By Word Of Beth is the stop for you! If you are looking for activities to go with the book, they can be found at Maria Marshall’s and Laura Sassi’s. For some delicious Alphabet Cookie recipes, Little Red Story Shed with Julie Abery is the place you want to go. All the links can be found at https://linktr.ee/alphabedtime.
But here and now we’re going to get down to the nitty-gritty, the bare bones, the essential inner-workings, and give you a sneak peek at the up-close-and-personal! Just who are Susanna and Betsy?
Are you ready?Yes!
Betsy:Blue—the color that makes me think of the ocean, my happy place.
Susanna:Cornflower blue – so pretty!
What was the first book you ever wrote/illustrated and how old were you?
Betsy:I don’t remember the first “book”, but the first piece of art I remember illustrating as a child was one I titled The Invisible Lady With One Orange Leg (orange marker scribble on cardboard, age unknown). Clearly I was destined for greatness, ha!
Susanna:The Girl And The Witch (can you guess what it’s about? 🙂 ) I wrote it in 2nd grade.The decorative cover should make it clear why I do not illustrate my own books!
Favorite (bedtime) snack?
Susanna:I’m not a bedtime snacker, but for a regular snack, my favorite is a Snickers bar and Diet Coke (I know! Dreadful! But favorite means special occasion – not something I do often. Er, not too often…)
Favorite quote from a children’s book?
Betsy:“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” – The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Susanna:“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” – E.B. White, last line of Charlotte’s Web
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Betsy:Either a dolphin trainer at SeaWorld, a soap opera writer, or an artist.
Susanna: I wanted to drive a steam roller and put my baby on the seat next to me.
What are 3 things people might not know about you? (or people might be surprised to learn?)
1. I was born in North Carolina.
2. I love to ice skate.
3. My name fits perfectly into the Itsy Bity Spider song (sing it—the itsy Betsy Snyder went up the water spout…)
1. I come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee (if Alabama means New York City and banjo means piano…but I’d have to be Pippi Longstocking to actually have a piano on my knee…)
2. I know all the words to the 1970s Big Red chewing gum commercial. Also, to the Oscar Mayer jingle. . . and the Dial jingle. . . As well as the theme songs to The Love Boat, Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch. . . I could go on, but I don’t want to scare you TOO much! And I wasn’t even allowed to watch TV, except for PBS! (Of course, ask me for my ATM pin number and I have to look it up – there’s only so much real estate in the brain and mine is full of meaningless nonsense!)
3. I am a lot more comfortable with dogs and horses and cats than I am with people. I’m pretty sure I was one of those three animals in a past life because I love to bask in sun puddles. 🙂
Which characters in ALPHABEDTIME remind you most of your own children?
Betsy:S’s affinity for sharks and U running around in his underwear remind me of my spirited 5 year-old son—he has a way of making bedtime wild.
M’s magic makes me think of my 8 year-old daughter—she went through a phase where she practiced her tricks and put on magic shows.
And T’s T-Rex stuffy and Triceratops helmet are a nod to both of my dinosaur-loving kids.
Susanna:Okay. In the interest of maintaining positive relationships with my now grown children, I will not attribute names or genders to any of my choices. 🙂 But I’d say D (the noisy musician), K (the entertaining clown-around), F (the feather-boa-wearing reader), W (the quiet, serious, nonfiction reader), and Z (the dog-loving baby) grew up in my house!
Favorite stuffy/lovey as a child?
Betsy:Mr. Bear, a big stuffed polar bear that my grandma gave me. He definitely became REAL to me.
Do you have a pet, or is there a pet you wish you had?
Betsy:My family and I have a 5-month-old golden retriever puppy-monster named Penny—we adore her fluffy cuteness but fear her puppy teeth. My kids also have 2 goldfish named Golden Sun and Strawberry that are surprisingly still alive since being won at Home Days in August.
Susanna:I have two rambunctious young rescue dogs who came from bad beginnings and are still learning that the world doesn’t have to be a scary place. Their names are Finn and Violet, and if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ve seen way more of them than you probably ever wanted to! I also have a spotted pony named Hoops who technically belongs to my daughter, but I have inherited her. Lucky me! 🙂
Betsy:“You do you.” I adopted this phrase after I first heard a close friend use it years ago (thanks Melissa Wolf!). It’s great advice for kids, but also for artists and writers, don’t you think?
Susanna:If you stir coconut oil into your kale, it makes it easier to scrape into the trash… 🙂 Oh. Did you mean a writing tip or advice? How about this: the joy of being a writer is that you can do anything. The story is yours. You are in charge. You can write happy or sad, quiet or exciting, mysterious or funny. Whatever mood you’re in, whatever you need in the moment, you can make it happen. And if it’s doing something good for you, it will do something good for someone who reads it.
On a more book-related note, we thought it would be fun to show you one of Betsy’s sketches together with the finished art so you could see how it transformed.
And Betsy also made a craft to go with the book, which you can use at home or in the classroom. You saw it here first, folks!
Was this a fabulous post or what? That’s a rhetorical question because of course it was fabulous! Thank you, Susanna and Betsy! But, just when you thought you couldn’t take any more fabulousness, you’ll have to hold onto something because we have a giveaway too!! The publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, has generously offered a copy of Alphabedtime to one lucky person. To win a copy of Alphabedtime, leave a comment on this post. A winner will be chosen at random on Wednesday, November 30. Susanna will send a personalized signed bookplate to go with it if the winner desires. This giveaway is open to US residents only.
Susanna L. Hill is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, including Moon’s First Friends: One Giant Leap for Friendship, and the award-winning author of over twenty-five more books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis, Can’t Sleep Without Sheep, and the popular When Your Lion Needs a Bath series. Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai.
She does frequent school and library visits, teaches picture book writing, and has a popular picture book blog. Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley where she practices the alphabet with her children and two rescue dogs. Find Susanna online at https://susannahill.com.
Author-illustrator Betsy Snyder’s smile-inducing art can be found on everything from social expressions products, board games, plush, decor, fabric, wallpaper, and of course—books!
Since making her publishing debut, Betsy has illustrated and/or authored over twenty books, earning recognition from groups including the Society of Illustrators, The New York Times, Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine, Indie Next List, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center and Please Touch Museum. Betsy lives in northeast Ohio, where she enjoys cozying up to doodle with her art-loving family, and venturing out to schools and libraries to encourage kids (and even grown-ups) to share their stories and chase their dreams. Learn more about Betsy and her books at www.betsysnyder.com.
Today’s guest is multi-published illustrator Phyllis Harris. Over the years, Phyllis has illustrated many books for children, but she always dreamed of writing and illustrating her own books. Last year, at age 59, her dream came true with the publication of her beautiful Christmas picture book The Gift Shop Bear. This darling book features a magical holiday story with illustrations to match. Phyllis stopped by to remind us that it’s never too late to go after your dreams.That’s a reminder we could all use, don’t you think?
My road to publication as an author has not been a typical one.
I have worked as an illustrator in traditional children’s publishing since 1999 and have created the art for over 30 children’s books, but my debut as author-illustrator was just released last year.
Although I had written lots of first drafts of picture books through the years, I was so invested in the illustration side of publishing that I didn’t take the time needed to go after my life-long dream of creating my own books as author-illustrator. Until one day it occurred to me, I am not getting any younger so I had better get busy.
Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House series, was first published at 65 years old, and I was already in my fifties. So, I made the decision to take a sabbatical from my illustration career to focus solely on the writing side.
I worked really hard on honing my craft of writing. Some might say, I became obsessed, and, as we all know, kid’s publishing is about passion and persistence.
After lots of writing and re-writing and revising, I had finally created some projects that I believed were ready to submit. I was able to get an amazing agent and a year after signing on with her, my debut picture book as author-illustrator was acquired by a publisher. THE GIFT SHOP BEAR was born into the world October, 2021. What a thrill it was to hold that book in my hands!
C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” I truly believe that no matter our age, if we persevere, it will happen.
Phyllis Harris first started her career in graphic design at a newspaper while also freelancing at Hallmark Cards. She then shifted to illustration full time where she has happily continued for the past 20 years, creating the art for over 30 children’s books. In recent years, she has focused more on her writing as well as illustrating picture books. Her debut author/illustrator picture book, THE GIFT SHOP BEAR which released on October 26, 2021.
Discover the power of friendship in this nostalgic Christmas tale of a young girl and her furry friend—perfect for fans of The Velveteen Rabbit, Corduroy, and The Polar Express.
All year long, Bear watches from his spot in the attic as the seasons change, waiting for the first snowflakes that signify Christmas is coming. You see, at Christmastime, Bear gets to join his special friend, Annie, in the festivities in her grandma’s gift shop. But this year is different–the gift shop is closing and Bear’s future seems uncertain. Will Bear see Annie and Nana again? The heartwarming conclusion will make this story a family favorite at Christmastime each year. Author-illustrator Phyllis Harris brings a warmth and coziness to her art and storytelling that give the book the timeless feel of a Christmas classic.
I’m thrilled to welcome multi-published children’s book author Laura Sassi back to Frog on a Blog! Laura first appeared here in 2018 when we were a stop on her blog tour for her beautiful picture book Love is Kind, when she introduced us to Little Owl, her story time puppet. Read about how Laura uses puppets to engage young readers HERE. Laura’s returned today to share a bit about herself and her darling new board book Happy Birthday, Christmas Child!: A Counting Nativity Book, which published on October 4, just in time for Christmas shopping.I had the pleasure of viewing the digital arc, and this book is so, so special. Let’s hear more about it from Laura!
Q. You were a teacher before becoming a children’s author. Do you think your experience as a teacher has helped you in your writing career?
L.S.: Absolutely! There’s nothing quite like teaching elementary school to immerse a future author into the world of writing for children. As a teacher, I pored over each text so I could engagingly teach my kids about the many wonders of storytelling including setting, mood, plot, character development, theme and more. I also decided early on that, just like my students, I would keep a daily writer’s journal. For fun, I often assigned myself the same writing projects I gave them. All this helped to lay a great foundation to the daily discipline and nitty-gritty of writing, revising and polishing my own work.
Q. What do you love most about picture books?
L.S.: The storyteller in me loves the magical way picture books use both words and images to tell a complete story. Neither is complete without the other and the result, when well done, is vibrant and interactive because readers must engage with both for the full reading experience. I also love the size and feel of picture books. They are just perfect for reading with a little one by your side or in your lap, and there’s nothing more magical than that.
Q. Your books often feature feel-good messages of kindness, friendship, hope, and love. How important are those themes to you? And what inspires your writing?
L.S.: When I look over all the stories, poems and articles I’ve written over the last twenty years, I do see common messages of kindness, friendship, hope and love. Other themes that have woven their way in include perseverance, forgiveness, and telling the truth even when it’s difficult. I consider these to be important seeds of good living that were planted in me by my parents. They are themes that I hope to pass on to my own children – as well as the children I write for. I’m delighted to say that I see these seeds blossoming in young children everywhere, and that inspires me to keep writing.
Q. Tell us about your beautiful new book Happy Birthday, Christmas Child!. Why did you decide to make it a counting book? And was it always intended to be a board book?
L.S.: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS CHILD! invites children and their families to join Mary and Joseph as they wait for Jesus to be born. It’s inspired by a favorite Christmas verse from Luke 2:19 that describes Mary’s wonder as she pondered the events surrounding the birth of Christ. Similarly, I hope that by infusing counting into HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CHRISTMAS CHILD!, littlest readers and their caregivers will slow down, explore, count and marvel with Mary and Joseph as they await this special birth. And, yes, I envisioned it from the beginning as a board book, perfect for even the tiniest hands to hold.
Q. Gabi Murphy’s illustrations are so bright and cheery and complement your joyful, rhyming text so perfectly. How did you feel when you saw the completed book for the first time?
L.S.: I have been blessed with wonderful illustrators for each of my books and Gabi Murphy just continues that blessing! I love her bright and joyful rendering to the text and love each and every spread. I felt JOY when I saw the completed book for the very first time, JOY and ANTICIPATION, not just for the book’s release, but also for Christmas, which is one of my favorite times of year.
Q. Where can fans connect with you online?
L.S.: I would love for readers to check out my newly renovated website and blog – Laura Sassi Tales – and follow me there for weekly fun in your inbox. I also love connecting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @LauraSassitales! (Same handle for all three.)
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers? What’s next for Laura Sassi?
L.S.: Well, in the fun planting seeds category, I’m delighted to share that I have two dear-to-my-heart books releasing in 2023. The first, MY TENDER HEART BIBLE, is a rhyming board book that includes 12 of my favorite bible stories that point to God’s love, releasing with Paraclete Press in February. Then in Fall 2023, I’m looking forward to the release of MY TENDER HEART PRAYER BOOK, a collection of 24 short rhyming prayers to take a child through the day and foster conversations with God. And beyond that? Hmm… good things, I hope.
Congratulations, Laura! We can’t wait to see your new books and the many more to follow!
Laura Sassi has a passion for telling stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of multiple books for young children including the best-selling Goodnight, Ark, which was a 2015 Christian Book Award Finalist; Goodnight, Manger; Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse, which is a 2021-2022 Iowa Goldfinch Award Nominee; Love Is Kind, which was a 2020 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor Book; Little Ewe: The Story of One Lost Sheep, Bunny Finds Easter, and Happy Birthday, Christmas Child!, her new counting board book. Laura’s Tender Heart Bible and Tender Heart Prayer Book are both forthcoming in 2023 from Paraclete Press.
Laura had a successful teaching career before becoming a children’s author. She’s been a homeschool mom, children’s ministry director, historic museum interpreter, and more. She writes daily from her home in New Jersey and finds special joy in pointing kids to God and to good through story and sharing her love of reading and writing at school visits, church gatherings and other events.
I’m excited to welcome fellow literacy supporter and animal lover Lisa Rogers to Frog on a Blog today! Lisa is a children’s librarian turned children’s book author and has published several books with several more on the way. It’s no surprise that she loves books and reading and writing “from the shores of a pond outside of Boston, Massachusetts (and sometimes from on the pond itself, where I kayak almost every day in summer).” Lisa stopped by today to share 11 beautiful recent social-emotional learning picture books that are perfect for back-to-school time.This is a must-read post!
Back to school is an excellent time to introduce children to books that support their social-emotional learning. During this transition to the school year, that support can help children as they develop routines, negotiate new friendships, adapt to new environments, and understand expectations.
It’s not simply a matter of putting on a backpack and being ready to learn. Each part of the day – waking up on time, gathering school materials, getting out the door, lining up at school, unpacking that backpack, finding one’s cubby, choosing a seat on the bus or at the lunch table, working with new partners, having a different teacher – can be filled with ups and downs that challenge a child’s sense of self and equilibrium.
Picture books give children an opportunity to see, understand, and respect themselves and others during what can be a vulnerable time. Here are 11 books to share at home and school with suggestions for related activities.
Every year on the first day of school, I sat, fraught with worry, anticipating that the teacher would mispronounce my name and that my classmates would laugh. Saying someone’s name correctly shows caring, respect and affirmation, and that models that for everyone. Hearing a child’s name mispronounced inspired educator Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow to write YOUR NAME IS A SONG, illustrated by Luisa Uribe and published by The Innovation Press in 2020. “Names are songs. Sing your name,” says Kora-Jalimuso’s momma. And so she sings her classmates’ names, her teacher’s name, and her own in this book of affirmation and respect. Children will enjoy singing their own names and those of their classmates!
Children’s multifaceted personalities are met with understanding in WHAT I AM written and illustrated by Divya Srinivasan (Viking, 2021). Her main character might be shy at first, then reluctant to leave a party, have dark skin compared to some friends and light compared to others, is sometimes mean and selfish, other times kind and generous.” We must take care never to doubt our own worth,” the author says in a note. “Each of us is a unique, priceless, vital part of this world.” To extend the experience of reading this book, young readers might draw or write about facets of their personalities.
At age 3, my daughter put together her own dollhouse using Allen wrenches. Upending gender stereotypes and celebrating individual preferences is the theme of EXCEPT WHEN THEY DON’T by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Joshua Heinsz (Little Bee Books, 2019). The takeaway: “Be exactly who you are.” Children might discuss their own preferences in dress, in work, and in play.
Taking pride in one’s heritage and understanding that love is what connects us is the focus of WHERE ARE YOU FROM? by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jaime Kim (Harper, 2019). When other children ask the main character where she’s from, she asks her abuelo to help her answer, because “like me, he looks like he doesn’t belong.” Abuelo’s answer will surprise readers and inspire them to talk about their own loved ones. Teachers might also use the text as a model for a whole classroom poem or individual poems about families.
Lots of family moves take place over the summer, so it’s natural for children to feel sad at not seeing those friends when they go back to school. GOODBYE FRIEND, HELLO FRIEND, written and illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld (Dial, 2019), shows the many losses that children experience can be balanced with some very joyful hellos. This book could be used as a wonderful model for a group-generated poem on goodbyes and hellos.
A little support and love helps Magnolia thrive in APPLE AND MAGNOLIA by Laura Gehl, illustrated by Patricia Metola (Flyaway Books, 2022). Though sometimes making an extra effort to reach out might not seem worth the trouble, this lovely book validates the importance of caring and kindness. In a short author’s note, Gehl notes the ways in which trees actually do help each other. Young readers will be able to note the parallels between Apple and Magnolia and themselves.
With the change of pace, new experiences, and full schedules that back-to-school brings, HURRY UP! A BOOK ABOUT SLOWING DOWN by Kate Dopirak, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal (Beach Lane, 2020) is a reminder that taking time to enjoy the world around us can bring calm and delight. Children can follow the main character’s lead in slowing down, paying attention to the big and small worlds around them, and finding a peaceful end to each day. Children might brainstorm ways to make their lives less stressful or add beauty through observation.
Everyone learns differently. In Jamilah Thompson-Bigelow’s ABDUL’S STORY, illustrated by Tiffany Rose (Salaam Reads, 2022), Abdul loves to tell stories but has difficulty with forming letters and with spelling. Encouraged by a visiting writer who shows Abdul his own mistake-filled writing, Abdul perseveres and writes a story of which he’s proud. This book is a natural conversation starter about understanding learning differences and the importance of compassion, encouragement, and not giving up.
Hugs are a great way to show affection (or were until the pandemic hit) but not everyone likes them. The main character in DON’T HUG DOUG by Carrie Finison, illustrated by Daniel Wiseman (Putnam, 2021) good-naturedly explains that he doesn’t like hugs. This book models ways to politely but firmly decline unwanted shows of affection. Children could discuss their likes and dislikes and share their preferences with their friends and classmates and try out the myriad of fun high-fives depicted in the book.
Learning how to handle one’s emotions is important at home and at school. The premise of HOW TO TRAIN YOUR PET BRAIN by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Amy Jindra (Beaming Books, 2022) is that your brain is like a pet: it can get into some tough situations, but with some planning and practice, you can teach your brain to acknowledge the feeling, balance your emotions, and find calm. A fun and practical approach that can be modeled in the classroom and at home.
In BE KIND by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill (Roaring Brook Press, 2018), a child considers what it means to reach out with and support others, how difficult that can be, and the ways that small acts of kindness can make a difference. Children would enjoy thinking of ways they could be kind, and recounting the ways in which others’ kindnesses have made a difference in their own lives.
Lisa Rogersis a Boston-area longtime elementary school library teacher who now writes full-time. Her debut picture book, 16 WORDS: WILLIAM CARLOS AND “THE RED WHEELBARROW,” illustrated by Chuck Groenink (Schwartz & Wade, 2019), received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly, is a Bank Street Best Children’s Book, a Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choice, a Junior Library Guild selection, an ALSC Notable Books shortlist book, and winner of the Boston Authors Club Julia Ward Howe Award and the Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award.
HOUND WON’T GO, a rhyming picture book illustrated by Meg Ishihara (Albert Whitman, 2020), is a 2021Massachusetts Must-Read book. She has two poems in FRIENDS AND ANEMONES: OCEAN POEMS FOR CHILDREN (Writers’ Loft Press, 2020) and a poem in the forthcoming IF THIS PUDDLE COULD TALK (Candlewick, 2024) edited by Irene Latham and Charles Waters. DISCOVER HER ART: WOMEN ARTISTS AND THEIR MASTERPIECES, coauthored with Jean Leibowitz, (Chicago Review Press, 2022) features the lives and paintings of 24 women artists. Five forthcoming picture book biographies are to be announced. Find her at lisarogerswrites.com or @LisaLJRogers on Twitter and Instagram.
Summary: When it’s time to write in class, one child feels like she has absolutely nothing to say. But suddenly—ker-plink!—one drop, one tiny thought, hits her. Before long, she’s caught in a shower of funny phrases, a whirlwind of adjectives and verbs, and a downpour of huge ideas. BOOM, CRASH! It’s a gigantic brainstorm of creativity for her to soak up and play in!
BRAINSTORM! is targeted to children in grades K-3, who are beginning to learn how to shape and sharpen their idea-generation and storytelling skills. It includes writing prompts and a glossary to help parents, teachers, and librarians encourage kids to have fun playing with new ideas.
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.
I’m happy to welcome children’s book author Debra Westgate-Silva to Frog on a Blog! Debra’s delightful picture book Bethlehem Barn published just last year. She’s worked in public education for many years, as well as in child advocacy and welfare. Debra’s stopped by today with a fabulous list of some of her favorite sibling-themed picture books. I love this list! Let’s hear more from Debra!
Debra Westgate-Silva is a middle child and the mother of twins. She is the author of Bethlehem Barn, a picture book retelling of the Christmas nativity story from a new point of view–the animals themselves! Her work has been published in Highlights Children’s Magazine and Teaching Tolerance. She’d love to hear about your favorite sibling books. Connect with Deb on Facebook, Instagram, or through her website www.debrawestgatesilva.com.
I’m thrilled to feature children’s book author Jennifer Buchet on Frog on a Blog today! Her book Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma is just so clever and is gorgeously illustrated by Cassie Chancy. When I spoke with Jennifer about writing a guest post, she suggested sharing how she was able to turn a notorious villain into a funny character, and I absolutely loved that idea. If you’re a picture book writer, you’re sure to find her story illuminating. Be sure to read to the end for information about winning a picture book manuscript or query critique. Take it away, Jennifer!
When I drafted my first picture book, Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I faced a huge challenge, Not just acing the pacing, not just perfecting the word count, but how do I NOT scare away my audience when writing about one of the most famous villains in history!
The answer: I try to make them laugh!
Let’s face it. Kids dig humor. Adults dig humor, too! People love to laugh and bonus, it’s good for you!
When it comes to writing picture books, humor can be a key element both for your intended audience (the littles) and their readers (the adults—after all, you want them to enjoy reading your book again and again and again!) And when kids laugh, we all laugh!
The original Medusa is known for being a hideous, horrendous villain, turning everyone to stone. I wanted my readers to laugh, not exactly cry with each page turn! So I had to turn my story ideas around and look at different angles and possibilities.
Right away I decided to make my main character, Little Medusa, a descendant of the original mythological meanie. This allowed me a lot more wriggle—and giggle—room.
Since I’m not a natural at writing humor, I read a lot of humorous mentor texts. I also researched how to craft funny kidlit. There are so many varieties of funny, it’s like trying to choose one flavor of ice cream out of forty drool-worthy flavors! There’s fun with fear, gross funny, sarcasm and wit, visual humor, parodies, and etc. But which way was right for me?
I also had to choose what role humor would play in my story. A well-timed laugh? An insightful character glimpse? Moving the arc forward? I wanted my audience to root for Little Medusa, to laugh with her, not always at her.
So I placed her in situations that not only revealed humorous physical challenges (the outer loop of the story), but also situations that exposed emotional conflicts (the inner tale).
The result of all this hard work? I gave Little Medusa a massive pythonic problem! A Gorgon girl who loves snakes, but can’t stand having them slither through her hair. Once she receives her very first serpentine friend, she begins questioning if she really wants to turn people to stone with a stare! Using her imagination, heart and smarts, Little Medusa does her very best to please her family, her snake and herself.
Bringing humor into your writing isn’t always easy, nor is it always fun at first! It’s actually a lot of hard work. But if you do your research and try different styles, you just may find that perfect punchline!
Awesome! Thanks so much, Jennifer!Folks, if you haven’t yet read Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemma, I encourage you to look for it. You won’t be disappointed.
Jennifer is kindly offering a free picture book manuscript critique up to 600 words (non-rhyming) or a query critique. To be eligible to win, please comment below, and share this blog on social media, tagging both Jennifer and myself, to earn extra chances. I will choose a winner at random on July 31. Good luck!
Jennifer Buchetis an award-winning author and pre-kindergarten educator. She is a feature contributor for Faces magazine while also creating new picture books and chapter books.
An easy way to support an author is to leave Book Reviews and ask your Local Library to carry their books! Little Medusa’s Hair Do-Lemmais available for purchase at: Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.
Summary: Patience and kindness are important when you want to make new friends, but it’s hard not to consider what it would be like to have a gangly giraffe or chilled-out polar bear as a pal. A friendship mission prompts two boys to regard would-be companions of many shapes and sizes, and their imaginative adventures hatch brand new, unexpected buddies.
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.
Kids across the globe love bikes. Kids also love stories. So what could be better than books about bicycles? Here today to share “Five Amazing Picture Books About Bicycles That Your Kids Will Love” is author Maria Monte, just in time for World Bicycle Day on June 3.
Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage for many kids—we all remember the wobbly starts and stops, the falls, bumps, and collisions, and those wonky training wheels that always seemed to get stuck in every little crevice along your path. Then, one day, it all changes – the wheels come off, your riding skills sharpen – and you’re off enjoying all kinds of adventures with your two-wheeled companion. Even after we grow up, bicycles remain a constant in our lives: we use them for recreation, commuting, and exercise, and we watch sporting events that include them. Let’s face it, bikes are everywhere – as of the early 21st century, more than 1 billion bicycles have been manufactured worldwide. In 2018, the United Nations officially designated June 3 as World Bicycle Day, following a three-year campaign by Leszek Sibilski, a sociology professor and cycling and physical education activist, to recognise the significance of bicycles in our lives. Given our collective love affair with bicycles, it’s no surprise that many gorgeous picture books pay homage to the bicycle. To mark World Bicycle Day, I’ll share my top five amazing picture books about bikes that your kids will love.
The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle by Jude Isabella
This picture book is a moving tribute to the life of Big Red, a bike cherished by a young boy in America. When the boy outgrows the bicycle, he donates it to a charity that ships bicycles to Africa. Big Red then becomes an indispensable part of two women’s lives. The first uses it to take her goods to market. Later, the second uses it to deliver medicine and bring the sick and injured to a medical clinic from neighbouring villages. Big Red’s journey will inspire kids ages 8–12 to be better global citizens; the story gently encourages important values like altruism, gratitude, and cultural awareness. Simone Shin’s rustic illustrations underscore Jude Isabella’s realistic depiction of life in Africa. The author also includes a note on how to donate bicycles to charity – given that 15 million bikes are discarded each year, this is a worthwhile cause. This book would make an excellent resource for cultural studies, social responsibility classes, or parents who want to instill a broader worldview in their children.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson & Sean Qualls
Emmanuel’s true story is about triumph over adversity. Born into poverty in Ghana with a deformed leg, Emmanuel’s kind and wise mother, Comfort, teaches him to be independent and never give up. Emmanuel refuses to become a beggar, often the fate of disabled people, and instead earns a living to feed his family. Ultimately, he becomes a national hero by riding nearly four hundred miles in just ten days whilst championing the rights of the disabled. This feat’s powerful message is echoed in this book: being disabled does not mean being unable. Emmanuel used the humble bicycle to make a meaningful difference in many lives; his story also reminds young readers ages 4–8 that they can draw on their strength, ingenuity, and courage to overcome challenges and make a difference. Laurie Ann Thompson’s emotionally eloquent narrative is beautifully complemented by Sean Qualls’ bold and distinctive illustrations. Educators, librarians, and parents can use this book along with the documentary Emmanuel’s Gift (2005), narrated by Oprah Winfrey, as tools to explore resilience and inclusivity.
Duck On a Bike by David Shannon
This popular picture book tells the light-hearted, humorous tale of a curious duck who takes a ride on a bike that he has found on the farm. The duck greets each animal as he passes by, and as he continues his journey, the duck grows bolder and shows off his newfound riding skills. Each animal responds to the duck’s greeting with their unique animal noise – moo, baa, squeak etc. But what the duck doesn’t know is that each animal harbours a different opinion of the duck’s antics, including seeing him as silly, brave, lucky, clever, or even showy. Suddenly, a group of kids ride into the barnyard and leave their bikes outside; the story ends with each animal enjoying a ride on a bike just like the duck. The plucky duck is a wonderfully likeable creature, and his moxie will endear him to young readers ages 2–5. Kids will find this story laugh-out-loud funny and get a buzz from the gorgeous illustrations by David Shannon, who is an acclaimed creator of more than 30 children’s books. This one is a teacher’s favourite because its entertaining prose encourages kids to take an interest in reading.
Gracie Goat’s Big Bike Race by Erin Mirabella
Gracie Goat’s journey from being unable to ride a bike to participating in a bike race makes this story relatable and inspiring. A professional cyclist wrote this book – author Erin Mirabella represented the United States at two Summer Olympics and won six national championships. This story is the author’s love letter to cycling, and kids ages 4–8 will root for Gracie as she gains confidence. Lisa Horstman’s illustrations are charming, sweetly depicting the animals as they ride and interact. The story also reinforces a few vital life lessons: setbacks can occur when trying to learn something new and that practice is needed to learn a new skill. The story also tells of the touching relationship between Gracie and her grandmother as they encourage each other to face their fears – this book would make a nice gift for grandmothers and granddaughters to share. At the end, the author offers some facts about cycling, which parents and educators can draw upon to foster an interest in cycling as a hobby or sport.
Ellery’s Magic Bicycle by Maria Monte
Inspired by my childhood adventures, this heartfelt tale will take readers on a whimsical journey through Ellery’s childhood with her magical bicycle in tow. Ellery and her bicycle share many wonderful new experiences; Ellery finds adventure, love, friendship, and also weathers sorrow and loss. The bike is Ellery’s teacher, protector, friend, and solace. When Ellery grows up, she forgets her special bond with the bicycle, but she rediscovers their bond years later. A story of redemption, Ellery’s struggles, hopes, and triumph serve as an uplifting reminder to parents of their childhood bonds – some may even find this story an emotional experience. Young readers ages 4–7 will grow to love Ellery’s strong and kind spirit and see their cherished bicycle in a new light. Zoe Saunder’s delightful, captivating, and vibrant illustrations subtly draw readers into the story’s magical realism. Educators and librarians can draw on Ellery’s journey to explore important personal qualities like kindness, courage, and compassion.
The theme of World Bicycle Day is to appreciate the bicycle’s uniqueness, longevity, and diversity – this appreciation has been beautifully woven into each book’s story. I hope you enjoy these books – and cycling – as much as I do.
About Maria Monte
Maria Monte lives in Melbourne with her young son. Her time is divided between family, a fulfilling role in communications, and publishing her children’s books. She enjoys mochas, watching comedies, and losing herself in wiki rabbit holes. Maria’s latest heartwarming picture bookEllery’s Magic Bicycle, illustrated by Zoe Saunders, was released in May 2022 through Bonny Books. Her debut picture book, Eve’s Ducklings, illustrated by Emelie Wiklund, was released in July 2021. Connect with Maria on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or you can enjoy her musings on parenthood on her blog.
Summary: This rollicking showcase of daddies celebrates the incredible diversity of modern fathers. The inclusive cast of characters–including a two-dad family, a single dad, and a stay-at-home dad–highlights the bond between daddy and child as they play, learn, comfort, and laugh their way through everyday life. This open-hearted ode to fatherhood will give readers new appreciation for how their own fathers and father-figures shine in their own unique ways.
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.
Happy Earth Day everyone! I’m excited to welcome children’s book author/illustrator Brian Russo to Frog on a Blog! Brian’s book A Friend for Yoga Bunny was published on February 22, and is a follow-up to Yoga Bunny, a book that features an adorable little bunny in yoga poses, and encourages kids to wind down and relax. Brian is passionate about helping animals and the environment through his art, which I think is fantastic and something I can really get behind. Let’s hear from Brian!
Hi! My name is Brian Russo. I run a little shop on Threadless.com where I sell t-shirts featuring Yoga Bunny, a character I created back in 2010 during my Yoga Teacher Training. Yoga Bunny now has two children’s books available from HarperCollins. Making these books has been such a joy, because it’s given me the chance to work with a small creative team. At the same time, I love running my own online shop because I have the opportunity to come up with designs on my own and then put them online as soon as they’re ready. Each t-shirt design feels like a little story that I get to tell all on my own.
In addition to bringing in a little extra income, the Threadless Shop gives me a chance to build a personal brand, based on my beliefs. As a Children’s Book Artist, I believe I must have some responsibility to the animals I represent in my stories. Based on this, I had the idea that a portion of my earnings from the Threadless could go to support Rabbit Rescue Houses. Although this wasn’t an option on the Threadless list of charities, the ASPCA was. So, for now, I’m donating 5% of my earnings from five of my first designs to that organization.
Then, with Earth Day coming up, I wanted to create a design that reflected my beliefs about the environment and contributed a small amount of my earnings to an environmental cause. One of the options on Threadless was the Eden Reforestation Project, which combats deforestation. I only learned about the organization through Threadless, but as you can see on their website and by searching their charity score, it seems that they do good work.
I don’t consider the way I live to be especially green, and I’m not an activist by any means. Yet, I do believe that the Earth is alive, and full of actual magic that I’ve witnessed firsthand. I’m very interested in, and believe in the existence of, animal spirits. I was recently reading about the Rabbit’s symbolism and mythology, and learned that in many cultures, the Rabbit is heavily associated with the moon. So, I recreated another version of my Earth Day design where Yoga Bunny represents the moon, as contrasted with the sun, behind him. I’ll also be giving 5% of my earnings from this design to the Eden Reforestation Project in honor of Earth Day. I read somewhere that the rabbit symbolizes humans’ connection to the Earth, and I believe that to be true. I’m grateful to both the Rabbit Spirit, and to Mother Earth on this day.
Happy Earth Day to everyone, and thank you for reading!
Brian Russo has been drawing since he can remember. He grew up in Short Hills, New Jersey, then moved to New York, where he earned a degree from NYU. Afterwards, he discovered something he loves just as much as drawing: doing yoga. He earned a teaching certificate from Yoga to the People in 2010, during which time he developed the Yoga Bunny illustrations. He now lives in Lehi, Utah (the setting of the film Footloose) with his beautiful wife, Emily, adorable son, Quill, and loyal dog, Spike. His favorite film is Spirited Away, and the celebrity he’d most like to meet is ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic.
I am elated and incredibly honored to share that my story, JINPA AND THE DUST CLOUD DOG, has been chosen as the 2022 winner of the Kate Dopirak Craft and Community Award!
In late January, with no expectations, I entered a story in the Kate Dopirak Craft & Community Award contest. The award is offered in celebration of Kate Dopirak, an amazing picture book author.Two days ago, I received an email from the Kate Dopirak Award Committee congratulating me. I had won the award for my picture book manuscript JINPA AND THE DUST CLOUD DOG, a story that is truly dear to me!From the bottom of my heart, thank you judges. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to the family of Kate Dopirak for seeing value in my story. Kate’s books are so lovely, and I encourage everyone to look for them.
Please welcome children’s book author/illustrator Gabe Jensen to Frog on a Blog! Gabe stopped by to talk a bit about the art process he used when he created his book Neverwoof, which was just published this past September by Familius. This rollicking read-aloud has already garnered several positive reviews.I don’t know about you, but I love hearing about how artists create their art and why they choose the style that they do. Let’s hear from Gabe!
For NEVERWOOF, I wanted to return to a simpler time in kids’ books when you could only print in two colors. And often those colors were clashing. I don’t remember as a kid ever thinking, “Great story, but the color theory was off” 🙂 . It also gave me a ready activity to do with classes: kids color with their two favorite crayons. I love the resulting images.
Normal 4-color printing has limits on certain colors — especially orange. So we printed this book with spot color where they can mix up any Pantone. It’s more expensive, but it means the book has an orange you won’t see in most titles. I don’t know if people pick up on that, but maybe subconsciously.
When I was writing the book, my dad — the science fiction writer Terry Bisson — helped me with the text. My mom is a quilter with a wonderful sense of color, and we sat together to choose the exact orange and green.
Working with the people at Familius was really great. They gave me a lot of creative latitude, and my editor/book designer Brooke Jorden contributed the debossing of the cover, which gives it that great tactile feel.
Thank you, Gabe! That was truly fascinating.
Gabe has generously offered-to one lucky winner-a picture book manuscript critique! Just leave a comment on this blog post by April 15th for your chance to win. I’ll choose a winner at random and contact you with information on how to connect with Gabe. Share this blog post on any social media site and earn one extra entry per site, just let me know where you shared.Good luck!
Gabe first tried to publish a kids book at age 19 (Nightbringers is still looking for a home — anyone? 🙂 ). Since then, he’s worked on kid’s digital projects, like Jeff Kinney’s (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) site Poptropica, as a puzzle designer (Castlemouse, Lumosity), and an ad creative for clients like Coca-Cola. He has three kids, and lives in Berkeley, CA with a two-eyed Cyclops (false) and a one-eyed cat (true).
He’s currently working on his second book NOCTURNAL NICO, about a kid who tries to convince his parents he’s nocturnal so he can stay up late. Hmmm, how about purple and yellow?
Gabe says, “I love pics of pups reading Neverwoof! Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post on social media.”
Summary: Sally is usually the happiest kid. She wakes up every morning with a bright sun shining over her bed, and she knows it’s going to be a good day. One day she wakes up feeling different and with a gloomy cloud hanging over her instead. She doesn’t know why it’s there, but she doesn’t want anyone to see it—not her parents, not her teacher, and not her friends—so she hides it away. But as the day goes on, the cloud grows too big and heavy for her to carry, and Sally must find the courage to let it out. With gentle reassurance, this book reminds us that everyone feels sad sometimes, and that’s okay.
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.
Hello, all you lovely people out there. It’s the holiday season, and to help me–and you–get into the spirit, I’m giving away a signed copy of my book The Peddler’s Bed to one blog follower who comments on this post. Just say hi, hello, how’s it going, or any other greeting that strikes your fancy.
The Peddler’s Bed is all about giving, caring, generosity, and kindness, and is perfect for the holidays or any day.Can’t we all use a bit more kindness in our lives?
Just leave your comment by Sunday, December 5. A winner will be chosen at random. I’ll contact the winner for a U.S. mailing address and to whom they’d like the book signed.
Henry Herz’s latest picture book I Am Smoke is already receiving a lot of praise, including a starred review from Kirkus! Travis Jonker, an elementary school librarian and book reviewer for School Library Journal, included I Am Smoke on his 2021 list ofThe Most Astonishingly Unconventional Children’s Books. And Matthew Cordell, author/illustrator of the Caldecott Medal-winning book Wolf in the Snow, said, “I’ll never look at smoke the same way again!” With so much buzz about I Am Smoke floating around, I’m super thrilled that Henry stopped by to tell us a little about how the idea for his creative nonfiction picture book was formed.Take it away, Henry!
I find the employment of fictional elements to convey facts a great way to engage with young readers and teach them without them realizing it. Fiction can be the melted cheese we pour on top of the broccoli of nonfiction. Now, there are some picture books with anthropomorphic characters, but I’d never seen smoke treated as a character. And who better to explain the various ways in which people have employed smoke than smoke itself? But I needed an overarching structure. I considered the chemistry of smoke. It turns out that wood smoke is primarily carbon dioxide, ash, and water vapor. Water vapor got me thinking about the water cycle—water evaporates from rivers, lakes, and oceans to form clouds. Eventually, the water precipitates as rain or snow. Rinse and repeat.
Then I considered the carbon dioxide given off by wood smoke. Two oxygen atoms and one carbon atom. Carbon… Inspiration struck like lightning splitting a tree. Plants are the lungs of the Earth. They breathe in carbon dioxide through their stomata. They drink up water through their roots. Sunlight provides energy to split those molecules. The plant forms cellulose from carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen, sequestering more and more carbon as they grow. Conversely, burning tree branches releases the stored carbon. Eureka! Smoke has a “cycle” too.
Wow! That’s pretty fascinating! Thanks, Henry. I have a feeling that you’re not just blowing smoke. 😉
Readers, go out and find this book ASAP!
Henry Herzauthored 11 traditionally published children’s titles: MONSTER GOOSE NURSERY RHYMES (Pelican, 2015), WHEN YOU GIVE AN IMP A PENNY (Pelican, 2016), MABEL & THE QUEEN OF DREAMS (Schiffer, 2016), LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH (Pelican, 2016), CAP’N REX & HIS CLEVER CREW (Sterling, 2017), HOW THE SQUID GOT TWO LONG ARMS (Pelican, 2018), ALICE’S MAGIC GARDEN (Familius, 2018), GOOD EGG AND BAD APPLE (Schiffer, 2018), 2 PIRATES + 1 ROBOT (Kane Miller, 2019), I AM SMOKE (Tilbury House, 2021), and THE MAGIC SPATULA (Month9 Books, 2022).
Henry is an editor at Running Wild Press. He’s an SCBWI member and moderates author panels yearly at San Diego Comic-Con. He earned a BS in Engineering from Cornell U., an MS in Engineering from George Washington U., and an MA in Political Science from Georgetown U.
Please welcome author and artist Amanda Leemis to Frog on a Blog. Amanda and I share a passion for literacy and picture books! Amanda stopped by with an awesome list of her top ten picture book picks for the preschool classroom. With schools all over the U.S. opening up again, her post couldn’t be more timely. Let’s take a look!
The Top 10 Picture Books You Need for Your Preschool Classroom includes wonderful indie authors and illustrators you absolutely must discover along with some classic picture book favorites! Each book on this list has amazing illustrations that will captivate early readers and bring them into an exciting story. It can be difficult for our earliest readers to sit through a long book, so each pick on this list has about 2-3 sentences per page. Now, let’s get reading!
Written and illustrated by Cat Min
Can a tiny bunny make a big difference? Come along with Willow as she ventures outside of her mailbox home for the first time! It’s a very scary big world out there and she faces many obstacles. She goes on a journey to deliver a very important note to the moon. Willow uses her creative mind and brave heart to conquer her fears and deliver a very important message. The water color illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and you will be instantly transported into a beautiful story. It will be a hard time picking your favorite illustration.
Going to school for the first time can be a lot of things: scary, confusing, exciting, adventurous. This is what the Moose learns as he heads to school! Follow along with this amazing character as he paints a picture with his hooves, blows stuff up in science class, and plays the drums. The end of the book has a great message too! If you accidentally take the wrong bus after school, it’s ok! The bus driver is there to help you and make sure you get home safely. Never be afraid to ask for help. If you like this book, then get excited, there are 19 more! See the review for “The Moose Goes to a Farm”.
Written by M. Drew and illustrated by Margherita Grasso
This book is packed full of whimsy, captivating illustrations, and furry best friends! Have you ever seen cats and dogs literally raining from the sky? No? Well then, you must check out this amazing picture book. If you’ve ever had a kid who has had a bad day and they just need to escape into a world that’s packed full of goodness, this book is a must! Follow along a little girl’s rainy day as she catches puppies and kitties falling from the sky. Don’t these animals need homes? I guess she’ll just have to make some extra room.
Written by Carly Simon and illustrated by Margot Datz
Going to bed isn’t any fun, especially when there is ballet to do! Amy the Bear wants to dance. She wants to dance in her bedroom, and do pirouettes and beautiful leaps. Her mother tells her several times that it’s bedtime, but Amy’s excitement is so infectious that her mother lets her dance on! This book’s illustrations are amazing! You will immediately want to join Amy and dance around her beautiful leafy house and look at the sunset out the large windows. While this book is great for bedtime, it is also great to read before nap time at school. It’s calming tone and peaceful images will bring everyone’s mind to rest.
When we get mad sometimes we want to shout, sometimes we want to cry, or sometimes we want to hurt other people. The little boy in this story just needs someone to listen. After Taylor’s amazing creation falls to the ground different animals come by to tell him what to do to feel better. Roaring doesn’t work, talking doesn’t work, and laughing doesn’t work. When a rabbit comes along he sits patiently and listens to the boy’s story. He hears about all the animals who tried to make him feel better, but never listened to his feelings. You will fall in love with rabbit, and be encouraged to persevere when things are difficult. The illustrations in this book are so cute and you will love the patient, listening rabbit.
Penelope the T-Rex is excited for her first day of school, but when she arrives she discovers that all of her classmates are humans! How will she be able to resist eating them? Penelope has such a hard time making friends, and by the end of the day she feels very lonely. The illustrations in this book are so unique and captivating. At the end of the book, Penelope sees what it’s like to get a taste of her own medicine (she gets bitten by a fish!) and she changes her ways. This book is great for the classroom and has a great message about how to treat one another in a kind way.
Ghosts aren’t real, or are they? Follow along on a little girl’s journey as she is called through the forest by a mystical creature. Could this be the legendary ghost horse? Perfect for Halloween, this book has bright and colorful illustrations that will usher you into a perfect preschool spooky adventure. In the end, we see that things are never as scary as they seem. Good news! There are 3 more books in the cowgirl series! These are wonderful books for little ones who love horses. See “Cowgirl Lessons” for more horse fun.
Do you love colors, counting, and dogs? Then this book is for you! Dog has 1 black dot on his left ear, but as the day moves along he finds more and more colorful spots on his coat. A splat of red jam leaves a red spot, a splish of blue paints leaves a blue spot, and a splosh of pink ice-cream leaves a pink spot. Count all of his 10 dots and name all of the 10 colors. What a messy dog! After his bath at the end of the day, he gets nice and clean in the bathtub. The illustrations are great for pre-K! With big shapes and bright colors, there is so much to talk about!
Written by Karma Wilson and illustrated by Jane Chapman
When a rustling in the trees attracts Bear’s attention, he goes to find out who is making the sound. What kind of animal is it? Could it be a new friend? His friends join him as he looks high and low to see where the sound is coming from. This book is great for learning about how to make new friends, and what to do if someone is a bit shy. Come check out tons of different animals and find out who is hiding from Bear.
Come discover how little Trixie says her very first words, “Knuffle Bunny”. On the way back home from a trip to the laundromat with her dad, Trixie begins to wail and sob. What could she be crying about? Oh no! She left her stuffed animal at the laundromat! Explore New York in these super unique illustrations and follow the family as they traverse the city to retrieve their lovable plush!
Amanda Leemisis a model, artist, and creator ofThe Hollydog Blog!She is passionate about encouraging our littlest humans to read! With two books published in the “My Hollydog” series, she loves illustration and uses her skills to create printable worksheets for ages 2-5. Creating resources that build fine motor skills and boost creativity is her passion.
It is my pleasure to welcome children’s book author Michelle Vattula to Frog on a Blog. Michelle’s debut picture book, The Stalking Seagulls, was published earlier this year. Once upon a time, Michelle and I were in a critique group together, and I had the privilege of seeing an early draft of this story. I’m so excited that her hilarious boy vs. seagulls book is now out in the world! Let’s hear from Michelle.Be sure to read all the way to the end for information about a giveaway!
Congratulations on the publication of your debut children’s picture book The Stalking Seagulls! Please tell us a bit about the book and what inspired the story.
M.V.Hi Lauri and thank you so much. The Stalking Seagulls is a day at the beach that everyone has experienced at one time or another. A little boy gets a sandwich and the seagulls descend. The fun part of the book is what the main character, Alec, does to try to thwart the seagulls advances. My family visits my snowbird parents each year in Florida and one year the seagulls were quite relentless, which is where I got my inspiration.
The Stalking Seagulls was printed in a special font called dyslexie. Can you tell us a little about that? And is it common for your publisher, Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing, to print books this way?
M.V.According towww.dyslexiefont.com, Dyslexie font is a typeface – specially designed for people with dyslexia – which enhances the ease of reading, learning and working. The dyslexic font has subtle differences with the letter, such as being thicker on the bottom and slight slants to certain letters. This in turn assists the dyslexic reader. My publisher MacLaren-Cochrane only prints their books in dyslexie.
How long have you been writing with an eye toward being published?
M.V. Even though I have been writing for a long time, it has only been in the past six years that I have truly focused on being published and ultimately learning as much as I can about the publishing world.
What is your favorite thing about picture books?
M.V. Hmmm….that is a great question. There are so many areas to address, but overall, I love how they make me feel. When a picture book has a great and satisfying ending, I then feel good. Picture books can elicit many different emotions and having a writer creative and talented enough to evoke them is quite a special talent.
You have a degree in Speech-Language Pathology. How does your knowledge of speech pathology affect or inform your writing?
M. V. My main focus in Speech-Language Pathology was within the geriatric population, so I dealt with a lot of Aphasia (an acquired language disorder due to a brain injury, such as a stroke) and Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). That being said, the use of language was vital, making sure words and thoughts were clear and that words and phrases helped elicit language and communication. It’s complicated to explain, but my background has allowed me to use language that is fun and creative.
You are a member of at least one writer’s critique group. How important is it to you to be involved in groups like this?
M.V. Being part of a critique group is everything! I have three different critique groups and they all bring something different to the table. I am blessed and thankful for their expertise and opinions. They have all made me a better writer and critiquer.
What’s next for Michelle Vattula? What are you currently working on?
M.V. I have a great agent, T.J. Kirsch, from JCH Literary, who believes in my writing and is working hard to find it the right home. I have multiple completed manuscripts, Yay! I am doing a lot of revisions on others. I just started working on a sequel to a complete MS. Lots of pokers in the fire, that’s for sure.
Instagram @michelleciampavattula and Twitter @Mmvattula
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
M.V.I hope you enjoy The Stalking Seagulls. If you are a writer and frustrated with the process, stay strong and keep going. The publishing world is a hard business, but with perseverance and heart, anything is possible. Best of luck and may the seagulls never get your sandwich!
Thanks so much, Michelle! I’m sure everyone will enjoy your wonderful debut book.
Folks, if you haven’t yet picked up a copy of The Stalking Seagulls, here’s a chance to get your hands on one. Michelle has generously offered to give away a signed copy of her book to one person who comments on this blog post by August 23. A winner will be chosen at random.
Giveaway open to U.S. residents only.
Michelle Vattula was born in Boston but grew up most of her life in Erie, PA. After she received her Bachelor’s degree from Miami University of Ohio, she ventured back to Boston for her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Northeastern University. Michelle Currently lives in the beautiful rolling hills of North Pittsburgh with her Finnish husband, her two rescue Golden Retrievers (one who is a therapy dog), and two beautiful boys who are her true inspiration for writing.
Michelle’s debut picture book, THE STALKING SEAGULLS, was released by MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing on April 20, 2021. Michelle is part of the Western Pennsylvania SCBWI leadership team as their New Member and Critique Group Coordinator. She is also a proud member of the Twitter group #Newin19. Michelle is represented by T.J. Kirsch from JCH Literary, and is open for interviews, story times/readings and visits (virtual and in-person).