Interview with Molly Idle

Last Friday, I shared the newest addition to the Flora series, FLORA AND THE PEACOCKS. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with the talented author/illustrator Molly Idle.

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What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?
I think, captured in the books I make, are my feelings from childhood. Love and belonging, anxiety, anger, wonder… those feelings are what I try to connect with when I work.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?
Oh, so many! Visually, I am hugely influenced by classic films. If it’s a 1940s musical, filmed in Technicolor- I’ve seen it, and most likely, love it! Lovely lines are what draw me to certain artists. I never tire of watching Disney’s early animated films, and the work of the Nine Old Men, like Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, and Marc Davis.

And I could stare at drawings by Daumier and Degas forever.

What advice would you give to beginning authors and illustrators?
To authors, I would say: Read and write every day. To illustrators, I would say: Draw every day. Nothing will do so much good for you as consistent practice will.

Since you are an author and an illustrator, what comes first for you when creating a book?
It’s different for every book. Sometimes, an image pops into my head, and I start working from there. Other times, a name, or phrase comes to mind, and that becomes my starting point for a story. Beyond that initial “lightbulb” moment though, there’s a back and forth in the way I work between imagery and writing (if there are words in the book). Sometimes, a picture tells me what needs to be said, or more importantly, what doesn’t need to be said. And other times, it’s the text that directs my visual compositions.

The FLORA books were groundbreaking in their storytelling structure. I love how the flaps help move the story along. How did the use of flaps in that manner come about?
Prior to making picture books, I used to work in animation. When I started playing with the idea of creating a wordless picture book about friendship, told through dance, I knew it was a story that was all about movement. And I wondered if there was a way that I could bring the illusion of movement created in an animated scene, into a book. Making moveable flaps that acted as animated “key frames” was the answer!

What challenges did you face in creating a book with flaps?
The first challenge finding a publisher that was up for trying something new. Fortunately , Chronicle Books took a look at my original dummy of the book, saw what I was trying to do, and took a chance on it, and me! Not for nothing is their corporate motto “See things differently.” Once they has acquired the book, I worked in tandem with my editor, art director, and designer to figure out how the flaps would work in printing and production, and what they would cost. We also had to figure out a way to make the flaps as durable as possible!

I love how the flaps do different things in each of the books. In FLAMINGO – the flaps were showing the next scene. In PENGUIN – the flaps were showing movement along the ice. In PEACOCK – the rise and fall of the plume flaps were showing an intensified emotion of happy or sad. What things did you do to keep pushing the creative boundaries?
The stories themselves present challenges that keep me pushing my creative boundaries. Each story needs to be told in the way that best suits it. In Flamingo, the flaps needed to be such that they would allow the reader to change the characters interactions with one another. In Penguin, the characters were skating, and I needed to find a way to move them physically closer and farther apart as they skated through the book, in the same way that their relationship moved closer together, and father apart, emotionally. Hence the horizontal flaps. But in Peacocks, the story was about the push and pull of attention within a trio of friends. I wanted the reader to be an active part of that push and pull between the characters. The best way I could think of to do that, was to make the flaps part of the characters themselves. Making the tails of the Peacocks into the flaps was the ideal means of doing just that.

Your FLORA books have a beautiful movement and choreography to them. What were your influences?
The answer to this question takes us back to my love of old musicals. I could watch Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, dance all day!

Here is a clip from Singing In The Rain that makes me smile every time…

Any future tales in-store for Flora?
Yes! Coming out in 2017 are two new Flora board books: Flora and the Chicks, and Flora and the Ostrich!

Board books, cool! What aspects of friendship you are exploring? Will the books have your signature flaps?
As to the board books…
Flora and the Chicks is a counting book, and Flora and the Ostrich is a book of opposites.

florachicks

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Some rapid fire questions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator?
I might go back to making movies… or maybe I’d try my hand at something completely different, like gardening.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
Espresso!

What book is on your bedside table?
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
www.idleillustration.com
Facebook: Idle Illustration
Instagram: @mollyidle
Twitter: @mollyidle

Thank you Molly for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes.

Flora and the Peacocks

Welcome! Previously I reviewed Flora and the Penguins. It is my pleasure to bring to you Flora and the Peacocks, the latest addition in the Flora series, from the talented picture book author/illustrator Molly Idle. The Flora books explore the different aspects of friendship through innovative flaps in a wordless format.

Check-out my interview with Molly. Learn about her creative influences, approach to using flaps in storytelling, and her next two FLORA books!

Flora-and-the-PeacocksTitle: Flora and the Peacocks
Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2016
Editor: Kelli Chipponeri
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-6
Themes: Friendship

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
The darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time she’s found two new friends: a pair of peacocks! But amidst the fanning feathers and mirrored movements, Flora realizes that the push and pull between three friends can be a delicate dance. Will this trio find a way to get back in step? In the third book featuring Flora and her feathered friends, Molly Idle’s gorgeous art combines with clever flaps to reveal that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance, leap, and soar—together.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:
I love the Flora books for their artistry, innovation in storytelling via the use flaps, and for their exploration of the different aspects of friendship. Ms. Idle blends these three components like a maestro understanding how each one can help heighten the other to create a symphonic work of art. Kids can relate to the tug-of-war that happens in this three’s a crowd situation.

Flora befriends a pair of peacocks starting the merry-go-around of who is friends with whom, leaving at least one person unhappy until the very end.

  • I love the use of the flaps which heighten the emotion. My favorite is on spread five, where the peacock trains flap up in what I call happy –> very happy for the peacock next to Flora and miffed –> very miffed for the peacock standing away from the pair.
  • Who knew a wordless book could have so much tension. Loved the climax where the peacocks are fighting with Flora stuck in the middle. Love the movement through these spreads and the use of the right-left flap.
  • The use of green color and peacocks are perfect for this tale. Green the color of envy. Peacocks tend to be self-centered, at least in children’s books.
  • The finale consisting of an oversized gate-fold of the trio as friends is magnific.

Another beautiful addition to the Flora family.

Enjoy the gorgeous trailer.

Find Flora and the Peacocks at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452138168
ISBN-13: 978-1452138169

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

Interview with Julie Falatko and Snappsy

Yesterday I shared the humorous SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK). Today I am excited to share with you my interview with debut author Julie Falatko and her sidekick Snappsy!

Julie_02Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? Ups/Down/Anything in Between
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve loved books and writing my whole life. The problem was that I didn’t realize that “writer” is an actual real job that people still do. I loved writing, but it didn’t occur to me that living humans could be writers. So I got an English degree, and very briefly tried teaching, and got a library degree, and worked as a technical writer and a copywriter. Those are the only types of writers I thought I could be: writers who wrote bank brochures. I was in my mid-30s when it suddenly dawned on me that the people writing the books that came out every year were a) alive and b) human.

What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your writing?
So much of being a kid is being an intrepid explorer of a new and wondrous world. Kids go out and find giant flowers and blimps and sweaters with dolman sleeves and it’s all like, “WHAT IS THIS STUFF?” and the grownups are cynical and tired and shrug and say, “You know. Stuff.” I like to capture that thread of the world being a magical, cool place.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?
For picture books: William Steig, Russell Hoban, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Bob Shea. Gosh, that’s so many dudes. That’s embarrassing, but those guys are absolutely huge influences on my writing.

For creative living (how to navigate a creative life with humor and grace and hopefully not starve in the process): Carter Higgins, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, Melissa Guion, Jen Corace, Lucy Ruth Cummins, Tim Miller, Greg Pizzoli, Ame Dyckman, Jory John, Russ Cox, Tina Kugler, Dasha Tolstikova, Sage Blackwood, Zachariah OHora, Diandra Mae, Josh Nash, Dev Petty, Lauren Eldridge, Isabel Roxas, Anne Ursu. They are my friends but more than that I feel like the internet has allowed me to create a happy little biosphere that I can populate with this magical room full of amazing, hilarious, creative, wonderpeople. If I make a stack of their books on the floor, it practically glows at me in encouragement. They are the people I look to when I’m feeling unmoored or uninspired, and they inspire me with their view of the world.

I listen to podcasts a lot and sometimes the process of hearing someone else tell a kind of story out loud helps to shake my story loose. At the top of the list are Can I Pet Your Dog, One Bad Mother, Let’s Get Busy, Mystery Show, Dear Sugar, and The Yarn.

The book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert has become a constant touchstone for creative inspiration.

Also Paul Simon’s eponymous first album is jam-packed with story songs, and I put that on while I’m making dinner and sing along loudly and it’s a quick reminder of how story structure works.

Can you share your writing process with us? Panster/plotter, paper/pen. Specific habits or tips that have served you well?
For picture books I’m always a pantser. I may have some idea of where the story is going to go, but usually not. I’ve written stories where I write one sentence and walk away for a while – hours or a day – until I figure out what the next sentence is going to be.

For longer books (chapter books, MG, YA) I do come up with some sort of outline. I don’t do anything formal. I make chapters or scenes in Scrivener to get a sense of the structure. I tend to write those books out of order, so it’s helpful to know where to put the random scene I wrote that day.

I write a lot in pencil in notebooks. I keep notebooks all over the place. I love the sensory aspects (and the lack of distraction) when writing something out in pencil. Then I revise it as I type it in. And then I usually have to print it out again at some point and write more on it in pencil to figure out where it’s going.

The habit that has served me well came about by accident – I had to wake up early to write because that’s the only time my house was quiet. But now it’s a habit and I love waking up and getting started on writing first thing.

Snappsy and “the Narrator” are so cleverly written. I love both their voices. Anything in particular that helped to bring their distinctive personalities out?
It helped to come up with exaggerated versions of the characters when I was thinking about how they might react to any situation. The narrator might be Marty Stouffer or David Attenborough. He likes hearing himself talk, and he likes narrating. Once I described Snappsy as John McClane (from “Die Hard”) because he’s this regular guy that got thrust into a crazy situation. Although Snappsy doesn’t know how to shoot a gun, and instead of a dirty tank top, he wears a tie. Snappsy is also sort of like Ron Swanson. He wants to be alone, in his house, doing his things. He wants everyone to mind their own beeswax.

Would you like to tell us a little about your upcoming titles?
The Society for Underrepresented Animals is about a bunch of offbeat animals who start a support group because they’re not in any of the picture books. They’re thinking of writing their own book. Then a bunny shows up, and they’re all offended because of course the bunny has been in so many books. That one is going to be illustrated by Charles Santoso. I’m so excited to work with Charles! He’s amazing.

Help Wanted: One Rooster is about a cow who has to interview rooster candidates because the farm’s rooster ran off. Everyone she interviews is worse than the last. Some of them aren’t even roosters.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Writing and getting published are such a slow process, and that’s fine. It’s what makes for better books. Don’t let yourself feel rushed. The process is going to be slow no matter what, so you might as well embrace it and take the time to make the best book you can, and to write more books and better books all the time.

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Now some rapid fire questions for Snappsy.

Who is your best friend?
My what? Oh. Uh. Huh. I guess it’s this chicken who keeps bringing cheese plates to my house.

What is your snack of choice?
Pretzels dipped in peanut butter.

What is your favorite vacation spot?
My own comfy chair.

If you weren’t an alligator what animal would you like to be?
A bear. That hibernation thing sounds fun.

What’s it like working with Ms. Falatko?
She followed me around a lot. She’s nice and all, but she’s almost as pesky as that chicken.

Where can we follow you and Ms. Falatko?
Julie’s website is juliefalatko.com, and she’s on Twitter @JulieFalatko and on Facebook at JulieFalatkoAuthor.

Thank you Julie and Snappsy for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes (and Chicken too).

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)

I am thrilled to bring you today’s book review. I first ‘met’ Julie Falatko over the Internet back in 2012. She had just started doing book reviews on the Brain Burps podcast when I recommended Mathew Cordell’s ANOTHER BROTHER to her, hoping she would love it. I am so excited to see her witty, quirky humor getting out into the world.

My fun-filled interview with Julie Falatko and Snappsy.

Title: Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book)Snappsy
Author:
 Julie Falatko (awesome interview of Julie, Tim, and Joanna at 7’Imp)

Illustrator: Tim Miller
Publisher: Viking Books, 2016
Editor: Joanna Cardenas
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Friendship

Opening:
Snappsy the alligator wasn’t feeling like himself.
His feet felt draggy.
His skin felt baggy.
His tail wouldn’t swish this way and that.
And, worst of all, his big jaw wouldn’t SNAP.
“This is terrible! I’m just hungry! Why is this rude narrator trying to make it seem like I need a nap?”

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
Snappsy the alligator is having a normal day when a pesky narrator steps in to spice up the story. Is Snappsy reading a book … or is he making CRAFTY plans? Is Snappsy on his way to the grocery store … or is he PROWLING the forest for defenseless birds and fuzzy bunnies? Is Snappsy innocently shopping for a party … or is he OBSESSED with snack foods that start with the letter P? What’s the truth?

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:
A fusion of meta-fiction and unreliable narrator with a dose of heart. A book that can be simply enjoyed for the witty humor or dissected in classroms for its clever storytelling.

Right away from the book cover you know something is awry with the first part of the title in bold maroon letters, and the second part in a Snappsy dialogue bubble. This is the basic jist of the story, overbearing narrator vs humble Snappsy. I love the interplay between what the narrator says about Snappsy versus what Snappsy is actually doing – Snappsy hunting for animals to eat (false) vs Snappsy on his way to the grocery store (truth). I think Kirkus Review said it best by likening the narrator to Rita Skeeter. No wonder Snappsy is snappy. But he does humor the narrator by throwing a party to spice up the book. The reveal of the narrator was an unexpected pleasant surprise.

I love the narrator’s authoritative voice. (Come back tomorrow to find out the author’s influences on this.) I also really enjoyed Snappy’s dialogue when retorting back. Who actually says “You are really cheesing me off.” So original. It is sophisticated storytelling to pull-off essentially two characterizations of a single character, and in a picture book format.

Ms. Falatko provided the skeleton and framework which Mr. Miller filled out with his unique artistic vision. A perfect marriage of text and art.

The retro-cartoony art are simple drawings but full of charm and depth. I loved all the little tidbits that the illustrator added to Snappsy’s character such as the tie and fez. I also enjoyed the interpretive license. Text says “forest” but the art shows a bamboo forest. Snappsy visits a grocery store but it’s actually and ABC Grocery store where the aisles are letters not numbers. The art enrichs the story taking it to another level.

This is a fun read and one I can see kids going back too for more. For a special Snappsy treat take of the dust jacket.

Check-out this awesome book trailer. Enjoy!

Find Snappsy the Alligator at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0451469453
ISBN-13: 978-0451469458Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

Celebrating 2015 and Looking Forward

happy-new-year-resolutions-2016

Hope you all had a relaxing holiday break. Many wishes for you in 2016.

In setting my goals for 2016, I am first following Julie Hedlund’s anti-resolution revolution and writing down my successes. In the past, I didn’t even make resolutions. Seemed pointless since they came from a place of what wasn’t achieved, a place of negativity. With Julie’s approach, you celebrate successes from the previous year and use it as a base to build upon. I did this last year and faired better in making forward progress. My next thing is to figure out what happens at mid-year when the plan starts to unravel. It’s possible I should make only 6-month goals in order to remain flexible with my changing needs. Without further adieu, here is my recap of my successes big and small for 2015.

  • Rejoined my in-person picture book critique group. Love being back with my peeps.
  • Got an accountability partner. Just sort of happened and it’s been great.
  • Three month picture book mentorship with Kathi Appelt.
  • Winner of the 12×12 Diversity Scholarship!!
  • Attended three SCBWI conferences (Asilomar, Spring Spirit, and Oakland) and Kidlit Summer School.
  • Took an excellent on-line class on Character Building in Picture Books.
  • Grew in my picture book writing skills.
    • Realized I love writing with lyrical language.
    • Started using storyboarding during the revision process and loving it. Really helps with pacing and being able “to see” the full story.  (Got the idea after seeing this terrific post.)
  • Volunteer PB application reader for We Need Diverse Books
  • Positive feedback on my stories from a few agents.
  • I read 212 books! Checkout my post where I break down the numbers and list some favorite titles (Adult thru PB)
  • Seeing myself continuing to grow as a writer. Taking joy in the process without getting too consumed by the agent search.

This past year turned out to be a year of “revision”, due to my three-month picture book mentorship, professional critiques, and an R&R (request and resubmit) I received from an agent. As a result, I only wrote 1 new PB draft. So my word for 2016 is CREATE. My over-arching goal is to create new material. Whether they be drafts of new picture books stories, or background material/character sketches/free-writes for my YA novel idea.
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Goals for 2016

  • Finish latest round of revisions for prospective agents.
  • Take Nonfiction Archaelogy and start a new PB story which will be a NF Biography. (So excited to be finally taking this class.)
  • Attend 1-2 writing conferences. (maybe NJ-SCBWI ??)
  • Finish reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole – excellent craft book.
  • Write 12 new sh***y first draft PB stories.  (This will be my biggest challenge. I dread first & second drafts. I have a strong internal editor. Thanks to Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas group I’m gonna shoot for the stars!)
  • Read/listen to 25 novels. (I love audiobooks! No way I would be able to get through this many novels without it.)
  • Restart research efforts for my novel.
  • Add two more polished stories to my portfolio.
  • Blog at least once a month. (I do miss conversing with all of you. 🙂 )
  • Write/think about stories/Study Craft EVERYDAY – even if only for 5 minutes. (Up till now I work in spurts which is okay, but when I fall off the bandwagon I lose momentum.)
  • BELIEVE

Wishing you the very best. What are some of your goals for 2016? 

My Book Reading Report for 2015

It’s that time of the year to tally up. Here are my stats according to GoodReads.

TOTAL BOOKS READ IN 2015 = 212
4 Adult; 9 YA; 5 MG; 1 CB/ER; 1 Graphic Novel; 192 PB

Listed below are my favorite reads from this year. This list contains titles published in 2015 and past years.
2015 Reads
ADULT: Year of Wonders (Geraldine Brooks)

YA: I’ll Give You the Sun (Jandy Nelson), An Ember in the Ashes (Sabaa Tahir), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

MG: The War that Saved My Life (Kimberly Bradley)

PB:

  • Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (Alicia Potter & Birgitta Sif)
  • The Iridescense of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse (Patricia MacLachlan & Hadley Hooper)
  • Snoozefest (Samantha Berger & Kristyna Litten)
  • Last Stop on Market Street (Matt de la Pena & Christian Robinson)
  • Water is Water (Miranda Paul & Jason Chin)
  • Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Kate Messner & Christopher Neal)
  • What do You Do With an Idea(Kobi Yamada & Mae Besom)
  • Miss Brooks Loves Books! (Barbara Bottner & Ed Emberley)
  • Seven Blind Mice (Ed Young)
  • The Princess and the Pony (Kate Beaton)
  • Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match (Monica Brown & Sara Palacios)
  • Peek-a-Who? (Nina Laden)

What were some of your favorite reads? Always looking for excellent titles for my 2016 to-read list.

Reading to Babies plus book recommendations

Recently I received the following question from a friend and thought I would share my response as it might be helpful to other new parents.

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Q: My daughter is five months old and I haven’t been able read her much except book that you gifted. Can you help me with what kind of book should I read to her now?  Also I am not good at storytelling to such a small baby. So any pointers would be very helpful.
First I am so happy to hear that you are reading to your daughter that is wonderful. Just the act of your baby hearing your voice for periods of time will help with her development. An NPR article about early childhood reading states:

“Early exposure to language, whether through reading, talking or even singing, has a profound influence on children’s learning through life, research has found. Hearing language from a TV isn’t the same, studies have found. For young children, the words have to come from a real live human.”

So don’t worry about whether you are good at storytelling or not. You are doing just fine. If you do want to make reading more entertaining consider speaking in funny, exaggerated voices. Or take on the deep voice of a hearty pirate or a high-pitched fairy voice. Your baby will love you reading with any voice you take on. Another way of making the reading more interactive is to have the child find things on the page. Ask “Where is the cow?” or “Where is the mouse?” while reading the book and her point to it. (I can’t remember at what age I did this with them. You might have to wait until they are a little older.)

There is no mandatory amount of time that you need to read. Some babies will sit still and get through three books others may start squirming after half a book. It’s okay. It’s more important to make it a part of your daily routine. When my kids were babies I would read a few books right before nap time and then again at bedtime. I would also keep a basket of board books near their toys in the family room and upstairs in their bedroom, that way they could reach them once they were mobile. My oldest loved books so much that I would place her favorite book away from her to encourage crawling and later walking.

As for what type of books to get, I would recommend board books because babies find many uses for books with the most popular being a chewing toy. Babies also love lift-the-flap books, books with textures, and books with photographs of other babies and young kids. Here is a Pinterest search link for finding the best board books for babies.

Here is a list of our favorites:

Baby Faces Board Book (Smile, Sleep, Eat, Hugs & Kisses)
Bear on Bike, Bear at Home – Stella Blackstone
One Moose, Twenty Mice – Clare Beaton
Goodnight MoonThe Big Red Barn – Margaret Wise Brown
B is for Bear – Roger Priddy
What Makes a Rainbow – Betty Ann Schwartz and Dona Turner
Pajama Time – Sandra Boynton (actually any Sandra Boynton book)
Where is Baby’s Bellybutton – Karen Katz
Peekaboo Zoo: Lift the Flap Book – Susan Hood
Brown Bear, Brown Bear – Eric Carle
Tails – Matthew Van Fleet
A Children’s Treasury of Songs – Illustrations by Linda Beck
Violet’s House – Julie Aigner-Clark
Peek-a-Who? – Nina Laden
Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site – Sherri Rinker
Dear Zoo – Rod Campbell
We’re Going On a Bear Hunt – Helen Oxenbury
Little Blue Truck – Alice Shertle
Tons of Trucks – Sue Fliess

If you have a favorite board book let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle

Hope your summer has been relaxing and enjoyable. Can’t believe kids’ school starts in less than three weeks. In light of that I will be reviewing fiction and non-fiction books this month that can be used in classrooms. Enjoy!

water_is_water Title: Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
Author: Miranda Paul (interview)
Illustrator: Jason Chin (interview)
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press, 2015
Book Type: Non-Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Water Cycle, Seasons, Weather

Opening Lines:
Drip. Sip.
Pour me a cup.
Water is water unless…
it heats up.
Whirl. Swirl.
Watch it curl by.
Steam is steam unless…
it cools high.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):
This spare, poetic picture book follows a group of kids as they move through all the different phases of the water cycle. From rain to fog to snow to mist, talented author Miranda Paul and the always remarkable Jason Chin (Redwoods, Coral Reefs, Island, Gravity) combine to create a beautiful and informative journey in this innovative nonfiction picture book that will leave you thirsty for more.

Activities:

  • The Classroom Bookshelf – Lessons on written responses, visual narratives, finding rhymes, the hydrologic cycle, drama, and more are available for grades PreK-5.
  • Sally’s Bookshelf – Questions and Water Mapping activity for kids / STEM Friday

Why I Like It:
I love this book for oh so many reasons. This is a MUST HAVE for any home or school library. I predict this book will become a mainstay. Here are my reasons why.

  • It’s creative non-fiction book about the water cycle!!
  • And it’s in rhyme with great page-turns. Picture book writers pay attention, the “unless …” is a great cliff-hanger to get the reader to turn the page.
  • The watercolor and gouche illustrations are gorgeous and beautifully capture the wholesome and simplicity of kids playing outdoors. (see more inside pages here) The art reminds me of growing up in rural Pennsylvania. I can almost smell the fresh air of spring or the icy chill of winter as I look at the illustrations.
  • Aurally pleasing rhyme with kid engaging visuals – a perfect combination to enrapture young minds.
  • Extensive backmatter to complement lesson plans on the water cycle.

Find WATER IS WATER at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 159643984X
ISBN-13: 978-1609055301

Disclosure: I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher Roaring Brook Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own honest opinion about the book.

Blog Tour: I’M MY OWN DOG by David Ezra Stein

dogblogtour
Last week I reviewed the hilarious new book I’M MY OWN DOG. Checkout the review and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! Today I am excited to share my interview with David Ezra Stein. The first book we read in our house by him was INTERRUPTING CHICKEN which was a constant request by my toddlers at that time. A few years ago I feel in love with his book BECAUSE AMELIA SMILED. I am constantly amazed my Mr. Stein’s talent in crafting engaging pictures books which are beautiful inside and out.

Q1) What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?
Hi Darshana! That is a lovely question. I guess I like to capture the storm of emotions that a kid feels every day. Frustration, elation, sadness. They all run so close to the surface for a child. Humor seems to come from these strong feelings. If you portray them in earnest, they can be hilarious. But that is not to say that they should be the butt of a joke, but rather, an example of a life lived to the fullest degree of passion. I like to create characters that CARE about something very much. It could be something that is not a big deal in the grownup world. But then, the grownup world has its fair share of trivia that one can get worked up about.

Q2) Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?
Oh, this is such a hard question. It’s kind of like: List the many, many foods that have ever nourished you. Anything that is strong, and funny, and touching, and colorful. So this includes textiles, Matisse, TV commercials, funny ‘80s movies, P.G. Wodehouse novels, Calvin & Hobbes comics, Tintin comics, Klaes Oldenburg sculptures, East African sculpture, Robert McCloskey, Uri Shulevitz, Sondheim, Gilbert & Sullivan—the list is different each time I write it!

Q3) As a beginning writer, I often hear write the story that drives you and not to worry about market trends. What advice do you have for beginning writers in finding that balance between what resonates with the writer and what is marketable?
Try to do something you’re fascinated by, or think is hilarious, or very scary, or whatever you are trying to evoke in the reader; try to come from that place yourself. What’s marketable is something people really want to read. And I think people want to see familiar things in a new way, and laugh. That’s what I try to do in my own work.

Q4) Your story “I’m My Own Dog” is so clever and witty. I love his personality. Can you tell us what inspired this independent character?
Thanks! He occurred to me as a voice in my head, speaking about himself. This is often how characters come to me. He told me the first few lines of the story: I’m my own dog. No one owns me, I own myself…. I was as attentive to this as possible, and tried to get it all down on paper as it was happening. Then I began the work of expanding him and his world. Anyway, I think he came from a desire to really master myself and my career. And to choose the way I respond to the challenges of life. That is true mastery, to me.

Q5) How is the dog handling his celebrity status? Is he begging for more stories?
Ha, ha! I have been knocking around a story where the man gets a cat as well. So far so good, but we’ll have to see if this book does quite well enough to warrant a sequel. It’s sort of up to the publisher.

David Ezra Stein is the creator of many award-winning picture books, including Interrupting Chicken, which was awarded a Caldecott Honor, Because Amelia Smiled, and Dinosaur Kisses. He lives with his family in Kew Gardens, New York. You can learn more about him at his website, or keep up with him on Facebook.  

Be sure to checkout other stops on the blog tour:
11/3/2014 Smart Books for Smart Kid
11/4/2014 Read Now, Sleep Late
11/5/2014 Cracking the Cover
11/6/2014 Elizabeth Dulemba’s blog
11/7/2014 The Fourth Musketeer
11/8/2014 Picture Book Palooza
11/9/2014 Randomly Reading
11/10/2014 Children’s Corner
11/11/2014 Flowering Minds
11/12/2014 Teach Mentor Texts
11/13/2014 KidLit Frenzy
11/14/2014 Literacy Toolbox

I’m My Own Dog plus a Giveaway

owndog
Title: I’m My Own Dog
Author & Illustrator: David Ezra Stein
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2014
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Friendship, Humor

Opening Lines:
“I’m my own dog.
Nobody owns me.
I own myself.
I work like a dog all day.
When I get home, I fetch my own slippers.”

Synopsis:
Many dogs have human owners. Not this dog. He fetches his own slippers, curls up at his own feet, and gives himself a good scratch. But there is one spot, in the middle of his back, that he just can’t reach. So one day, he lets a human scratch it. And the poor little fella follows him home. What can the dog do but get a leash to lead the guy around with? Dog lovers of all ages will revel in the humorous role-reversal as this dog teaches his human all the skills he needs to be a faithful companion.

Activities:

  •  Check-out the Story-Hour Kit from Candlewick. Contains discussion questions, drawing exercise, and a connect the dots page. Pages 4,9, and 10.
  • Dog related crafts.
  • Checkout this list of great kids books about dogs from Pragmatic Mom.

Why I Like This Book:
This is one HILARIOUS book about an overly independent dog getting a human for a pet. The two things that stole my heart about this book were the great hook and the amazing voice of the dog. This is a wonderful book to study how the text and art work for irony and humorous effect. One of my favorite spreads reads “And you always have to clean up after them”, while the art shows the dog licking up the spilled ice-cream on the ground. Priceless. In the scenes below, we see how the dog is training the human.
dog1dog2
The dog’s attitude of “I can do it myself” will appeal to young kids, who long to control the happenings of their day and make their own decisions.
The artwork was created using a mix of watercolor, pen, and a hint of crayon. The looseness of watercolor is perfect for mimicking how kids paint – neither filling the space completely of running over the lines. I like how the shirt sleeve isn’t colored in all the way or the colors bleed over the outline.
Good book for preschoolers, story-time, and dog lovers.

Checkout my interview with the author, David Ezra Stein.

Giveaway: 
For a chance to win this book, leave a comment stating what name you would give the dog. Deadline to enter is Thursday, November 13th at 9pm PST.

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

I’M MY OWN DOG. Copyright © 2014 by David Ezra Stein. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher Candlewick Press. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.