Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +

building a bilingual library: a guest post from Chiara Arroyo of la librería

Today, I’m so pleased to have Chiara Arroyo here with a guest post! She’s co-owner of the wonderful L.A. bookstore, LA librería, which carries Spanish-language children’s books (and has a terrific online store). She’ll be sharing 11 Spanish-language books from small presses to help you build your bilingual library.


Over to Chiara! So happy to have her!


I don’t recall seeing so many beautiful books as a child as there are now.  As a book-lover and bookseller who travels seeking quality children’s books in the Spanish-language, I have noticed lately the flourishing of independent publishers in Latin America and Spain. These small presses offer a diverse and refreshing perspective into the children’s literature panorama. They opt for new authors and illustrators with unique voices and experimental styles. They seek to connect with children’s experiences and taste.

It is also encouraging to see how these small presses understand the book as a uniquely crafted and valuable object, made with care, and worthy of being part of a private collection. The visual art within these books is so powerful that they break the boundaries of language such that it has even drawn the attention of adults who are not parents or Spanish speakers.

As the Spanish-speaking population of the United States grows, as you probably already know, the offer of books originally written in Spanish, also called “authentic” literature, is finally expanding. Although LA librería is devoted to exactly that, what I find especially interesting is that several of these stories have been translated and are now available in English, reaching many more readers.

Surrounded by all of these beautiful books, I invite you to observe, get intrigued and finally delve into the magical world of children’s literature from the Spanish speaking world, as everything else around you disappears and becomes silent.


Todas las cosas / So many things. By Maya Hanisch. Published by Amanuta.

Amanuta is a renowned independent publishing house from Chile that combines traditional with contemporary literature and has an exquisite taste for illustration. This bilingual book is a clear example. Created by one of our favorite authors, Maya Hanisch, also from Chile, it invites us to explore this marvelous inventory of everyday objects represented with collage technique and a striking color treatment. Let yourself enjoy every single detail and also note the Chilean regionalisms  found throughout the book.









. By Blanca Lacasa and Gómez. Published by Nube Ocho.
This charming and funny story has a dog called Fabio as a main character. But Fabio does not want to do what other dogs do. “This is a story about being yourself and understanding others. I started Nube Ocho to give children the opportunity to talk and think about specific and important topics such as the equality of girls and boys, diversity, inclusion and self-esteem,” Luis Amavisca explains as editor and co-founder. This young and small press house from Spain is one of the few publishers that took the brave decision to offer a catalog of titles in Spanish, English and Italian, with great success so far.





Barcelona. By David Pintor. Published by Kalandraka.

This wonderful picture book captures the magic of the city where I was raised. The book takes the reader on an illustrative journey from the streets, to the balconies and rooftops in which the author discovers life behind colorful mosaics, Gaudi’s dazzling buildings, the blue Mediterranean Sea, the Gothic Quarter and calm coffee shops. As I look at the pages, I can picture clearly David Pintor on a bike, stopping time to time to draw in his dear Moleskine notebook. His travels are the inspiration of his work and this book is an invitation to encounter this unique city.




Lo que hay antes de que haya algo / What there is before there is anything there: a scary story. By Liniers. Published by Pequeño Editor.

In this story, a boy’s imagination comes to life at night when he is taken over by his fear of the dark. Creatures begin to form and surround his bed. However, the creature that scares him the most has no shape at all. The illustrations go hand in hand with the text as words and language transform into creatures of the imagination and build suspense until the very end. A story that connects with many children and adults too.




La composición/ The composition. By Antonio Skármeta and Alfonso Ruano. Published by Ekaré.

This powerful story set in Chile has a boy called Pedro as the main character. Pedro loves to play soccer and is the best amongst the other kids. Every night, when he goes home, he sits with his parents to listen to the news on the radio. One day when he is playing soccer, he scores! But, wait. Instead of being rushed at by the other kids, everyone observes how the soldiers come and take his friend Daniel’s father away. That night Pedro asks his dad, “Am I against the dictatorship?” The next day at school, Pedro and his classmates are asked to write an essay about: “What do your parents do every night?”

This timely picture book by Chilean writer Antonio Skármeta presents a situation all too familiar to children around the world. It also provides readers with food for thought about freedom, moral choices and personal responsibilities.



El día en que me convertí en pájaro/ They day I became a bird
. By Ingrid Chabbert and Guridi. Published by Tres Tigres Tristes.

The main character of this delicate story falls in love with Candela the day he starts school. Candela loves birds. So, in order to gain her attention, the little boy decides to construct a costume that would transform himself into a bird. He endures the stares and giggles of his classmates, and a great deal of discomfort, but the boy doesn’t care. What wouldn’t we all do to be noticed by the person we love? French author Ingrid Chabbert perfectly captures the emotional essence of a child’s first love. And the minimalist black and white drawings of Spanish artist Guridi picture the voices and tender emotions of this sweet and universal discovery.




Las mujeres y los hombres / Women and Men. By Equipo Plantel & Lucy Gutierrez. Published by Media Vaca.

This is a book that hasn’t been published in English yet but its powerful illustrations speak for themselves. The editors of Media Vaca decided to republish a series of 4 titles published in Spain in 1978, a few years after the dictatorship of Francisco Franco was over and the year the Spanish Constitution was in place. They thought this title would be the most outdated since many changes have taken place in almost forty years and fortunately always for the better. However, I invite you to verify how much things have really changed. Lucy Gutierrez’s sharp and questioning illustrations make this picture book a perfect vehicle to prompt discussion about gender equality.




Dos conejos blancos / Two White Rabbits. By Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng. Published by Groundwood Books.

Together, Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yocktheng, both from Colombia, combined their talent once again to create a sensitive story that gives voice to the most vulnerable: the children.

In this moving and timely story, a young child describes what it is like to be a migrant as she and her father travel north toward the US border on the roof of a train known as The Beast. The little girl doesn’t know where they are going. She counts the animals by the road, the clouds in the sky, the stars. It is through her eyes readers will understand the arduous journey thousands of people take in search of a better life.





Soy un artista /I am an artist. By Marta Altes. Published by Blackie Books.

This is the hilarious story about an innocent little boy who can’t stop creating art and his mother who isn’t quite so enthusiastic. In fact, she seems a little cross! But this boy has a plan to make his mum smile. He’s about to create his finest piece yet and on a very grand scale … I love the sharp and expressive illustration of Marta Altes and the truly inspirational message of this story that appeals to children and parents. Art is EVERYWHERE!





El monstruo de colores. The color monster. By Anna Llenas. Published by Flamboyant.

This cute monster is confused. He does not know what is going on. Fortunately, his smarty friend will teach him how to deal with emotions. Anna Llenas’ colorful and joyful illustrations help children recognize when they feel happy, angry, sad, scared and calm by equating it with a color. A final emotion is left unnamed for readers to identify, but pink hearts give it away. Don’t forget to take a picture of your child when you open the pop-up version!






Abecedario a mano / A Daytime Visions. An Alphabet. By Isol. Published by FCE.

This unique and unconventional alphabet was made from the joy of tracing letters on a paper and playing with their shapes. Every letter of the alphabet is connected to the graphically strong and intelligent illustrations by short sentences. Renown Argentinian artist Isol invites readers to think out of the box and complete the meaning of every situation with their imagination. In her acceptance speech of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2013, Isol declared: “What reader could be more demanding than a child? Children have a lot of things to discover and I’d better be on their high level in order to satisfy their huge capacity for curiosity. I get my inspiration from what’s wild, from what’s ridiculous, from that independence of culture that children enjoy.”

Chiara Arroyo has a Master’s Degree in Journalism and is the cofounder of LA librería, a Los Angeles-based bookstore and distributor specialized in children’s literature in Spanish-language. Five years ago, she and her partner Celene Navarrete decided to start this adventure to fulfill the lack and need of quality books from Latin America and Spain among families raising bilingual and multicultural children in the USA.

(photo of Chiara—on the right—and her business partner Celene Navarrete.)



Visit LA librería at 4732 ½ W Washington Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90016 or online at







Finally, you might also be interested in my first collaboration with LA librería, ISOL’s picture book life!





cover reveal! Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet by Sanae Ishida

There’s going to be a second installment in Sanae Ishida’s Little Kunoichi the Ninja Girl series! (I posted about the first book here.)

Sanae Ishida‘s watercolors are enchanting—sweet, colorful, and full of humor and whimsy. In the first book, Little Kunoichi meets Chibi Samurai while they’re both in training at ninja school and samurai school respectively. In the end, they wow the crowd at The Island Festival because they practice—not to be perfect but to have fun.

In Chibi Samurai wants a Pet, Kunoichi’s best friend Chibi Samurai indeed wants a pet, one as sweet and super-duper as Kunoichi’s pet ninja bunny. So he sets off on a quest around the island to find a companion, encountering creatures both real and mythical. He meets a giant salamander, serow, cloth-weaving crane, magical tanuki, and mythical Kappa—but none is quite right! Until he realizes his perfect pet has been close at hand the whole time, just like other things we might seek that have—sometimes—been there all along.

The ending is absolutely charming, but I won’t spoil it!

This book delights with creativity and surprise. Plus, there’s a visual glossary at the back with all the elements of Japanese culture and folklore the story mentions.


Here’s the cover!!

Chibi Samurai Wants a Pet will be out August 8, 2017!

Here’s what Sanae Ishida says about the process of creating the cover:


For the cover, I wanted to show Chibi (as I affectionately call him in my mind, a slang word for “little” or “short” in Japanese) in search mode. I presented several cover ideas, but this swamp version was my favorite because the greenery felt mysterious and dramatic and allowed me to partially hide Little Kunoichi and her pet bunny in there. The swamp is also one of the areas that Chibi actually searches in the book, so I loved the tie-in with the story too. I’m so glad that the publisher liked this version!

My general illustration process starts by painting every element by hand with watercolor and gouache paint. I don’t do a whole lot of sketching or pencil renderings and just dive in with paint. For example, I painted the helmet, the armor, body, outfit, hair, face, and expression of Chibi all separately. I then scan everything in and assemble the elements collage-style with Photoshop. Sometimes I’ll modify the colors in Photoshop or amp up the saturation or add transparency. I often have to clean up smudges and mistakes or alter the scale of different elements. Working this way has been great for me because it makes incorporating changes when I get feedback from the editors and art department so much easier.

Everything about the first Little Kunoichi book was magical for me and I will love it to pieces forever, but this time around Chibi has stolen my heart and this story resonates with me on a whole different level. I hope kids (and adults reading it to them) enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it!


And a couple of sneak peeks inside the book:

(click image(s) to enlarge)

Big thanks to Sasquatch Books for images!


Sanae Ishida grew up drawing princesses, reading Japanese comic books, and writing stories she never shared with anyone. She enjoyed stints in wide-ranging fields including illustration, education, technology, retail, and theater arts. When not creating on the page, she sews, frequents coffee shops, and overly shares stories on She lives in Seattle with her wonderful husband and fabulous daughter—inspiration for Little Kunoichi.


You can check out my feature of Kunoichi, The Ninja Girl, the first in the series as well!










the uncorker of ocean bottles + ocean bottle valentine necklace


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, written by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead (2016).

The main character from the title is a mail carrier, only he delivers letters he finds floating in bottles found at sea.

What a fanciful idea for a picture book!

(According to press materials I received, Michelle Cuevas got the idea when she read: “Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I had created a formal role of the ‘Uncorker of Ocean Bottles’ to make sure that naval secrets sent via bottle did not fall into the wrong hands.”)





The illustrations alternate between and sometimes combine the green-blue of the sea and the rusty yellow rays of the sun. I can almost smell the seaweed and salty air. And the language is full of poetry.



The main character is a man who delivers ocean bottle-mail, but believes he will never receive any himself. But how he wants to! The Uncorker doesn’t even have a name. He is lonely.


“…for a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.”


One day, The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles collects a letter from the sea with no recipient named. It’s a party invitation, for tomorrow evening at the seaside—and so The Uncorker’s quest begins!




This is a story of kindness repaid, of connection made, of community convening.  Of a heart, once empty, now “a glass vessel filled to the brim.” Everyone deserves some music and a seaside dance, don’t you think?


Big thanks to Dial Books for images!



I’m delighted to be hosting crafter and author, Margaret Bloom—her son was her assistant and you’ll see his hands in the photos! Margaret’s come up with a sweet, enchanting ocean bottle necklace craft.

Over to her!


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles celebrates not only the joy of sending and receiving letters, but also the joy of acceptance within a community. This is a perfect story to share with children in anticipation of Valentine’s Day when all are encouraged to create and deliver their own messages of friendship and love.

There are many beautiful lines in this book, but one of the sweetest reminds us that “a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.” And so in each little necklace-bottle created by my son, he placed a pearl… a tiny treasure hidden among the glittering ocean within each bottle. And when he offers these necklaces on Valentine’s Day, they will be accompanied by small, hand-written messages of his own, expressing friendship and love.




img_5574What you need:

Tiny glass bottles, 2 cm tall (we used these)

Thin cord or ribbon

Glitter or tiny confetti

Pearl beads

Adhesive tape

Paper scrap, approx. 3 cm x 6 cm

Glue (optional)



First, curl the paper scrap around the tip of your finger and secure with adhesive tape in the shape of a small funnel. Then hold the tip of your funnel in the mouth of the bottle and pour in a small bit of glitter (or tiny, iridescent/metallic confetti). Drop in a pearl bead. Insert cork into top of bottle (glueing the cork in place is optional), and seal with a wish.


Then measure a length of ribbon long enough to loop over a person’s head, plus extra for tying knots (we cut our ribbons approx. 40 cm long). Wrap the mid-point of the ribbon 2-3 times around the neck of the bottle and knot tightly. Then knot the ends of the ribbon together.

Last, write a note to accompany your gift, and delight a friend by giving them a magical necklace on Valentine’s Day (or any other day!).




Margaret Bloom has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and is the author of two books: Making Peg Dolls (Hawthorn Press UK, 2013), and Making Peg Dolls & More (Hawthorn Press UK, 2015). She lives with her husband & children in a small cottage beneath the great oak trees of Northern California, and when she is not busy reading, buttering toast, and searching for lost socks, she spends her time working on a third book.  You can visit her at We Bloom Here to read about more things which bring her joy and inspiration.




Many thanks, Margaret! 




cover reveal! Rosie & Crayon by Deborah Marcero

You might remember my post on Deborah Marcero‘s first picture book, Ursa’s Light, a shining debut. (There were Ursa cookies from Kellie at The Kaleidoscope!)

I’m a big fan of Deborah’s textured illustrations and the insight with which she tells and talks about stories.

Today, I’m delighted to present you with a first glimpse of the cover of her next picture book, Rosie & Crayon!


Through rich illustrations and language to match, this story of love and loss explores the way a dear pet can add every color of the seasons to your life. The way everything can seem to turn gray if you lose that pet. The way a heart, with time and just the right nudge, can open again to something new, something different but just as dear.

Look for the book’s release in early April! Just wait ’til you see the spreads inside!


Here’s what Deborah Marcero had to say about creating that sweet cover:

The idea for the cover came initially from an interior sketch. I wanted to showcase Rosie and Crayon embracing to highlight the love and connection between them. I also wanted to include a part of the setting important to the story, and decided to use the forest in the background. “R + C” carved into one of the trees also symbolizes how love can make its mark on our lives in a way that endures. The message of this story is meant to show children how when a loved one or pet is no longer with us, our lives are changed, bigger and more beautiful because of having known them. In coloring Rosie’s life, Crayon becomes part of her story. In this way, the ones we lose live on in us because of how they touched our lives and helped make us who we are.

My process initially involved lots of pencil work. I would draw and re-draw to get the proportions, scale, type, character designs, and emotional expressions just right. After those were set, I used a light table and inked over the lines with a brush and India ink onto a fresh piece of paper. I then chose a color palette using my two favorite media: watercolor and gouache. Since this book in many ways is also about color and the seasons, for the cover I wanted to focus on a spring palette – not only because the book is a spring release – but also in the end, I hope the reader is left with a renewed sense of hope and resilience.


Deborah Marcero grew up in Michigan where from a very young age drawing, writing, and reading filled her time. After teaching in Chicago Public Schools as a Literacy Specialist, Deborah realized that writing and creating books for kids was how she wanted to spend her life. So far Deborah has worked with Peter Pauper Press, Greenwillow (HarperCollins), and G.P. Putnam’s Sons (Penguin).

To see more of what Deborah is up to, find her on Twitter or Instagram.



You might want to check out This Picture Book Life’s earlier post on Ursa’s Light by Deborah Marcero too!








picture book wish tree craft

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham (2016) is a wonderful book about a boy named Charles looking for a wish tree in the woods while accompanied by his sled, Boggan. It’s a book about journeying, about wishing, and about kindness.


61e5scea94l-_sx258_bo1204203200_I’ve been fond of wish trees for a long while, so I thought it would be nice to make one for the new year and, inspired by The Wish Tree, one that adds in picture books that touch on the idea of wishing or hoping in some way.

Each of these 25 picture books contains a wish—a hope or dream or undertaking. So, in this craft, there’s a prompt for a wish to write inside each book that hangs on the tree, one that goes along with each story, something in line with its spirit.





You and your kids or classroom could read one or a few of these books every day, or once a week, or just sometimes.

To see what I mean, here’s the PDF template of book covers with wish-activity instructions I made so you’ve got everything in one place:





The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear and Chris Turnham (a wish to find a wish tree): write something kind you would like to do.

Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats (a wish to learn to whistle): write something new you want to learn.

Wish by Emma Dodd (a wolf parent’s wishes for their pup): write a wish you have for someone else.

Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Rafael López (a wish to create a vibrant and connected neighborhood): draw something to make a space more beautiful and hang it up.


Hug Time by Patrick McDonnell (a wish to give hugs): write the names of someones you’d like to hug (and hug them!)

Tokyo Digs a Garden by Jon-Erik Lappano and Kellen Hatanaka (a wish for nature): write down a seed you want to plant this year (a literal seed or a different kind of seed).

Ursa’s Light by Deborah Marcero (a wish to fly): write down something you’d really like to do someday.

Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Rafael López (a wish to be courageous, and to overcome boundaries): write down something you wish to have courage about.

Let Me Finish! by Minh Lê, illustrated by Isabel Roxas (a wish to read): write the name of a book you’re excited to read.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (a wish for a name of one’s own while not losing connection to one’s family): make a wish on behalf of someone in your family.

Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (a wish for a granddaughter and grandmother to connect): write down a way you wish to connect with someone else this year. (Or else a pet you wish to own!)

Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton (a wish for something extraordinary): write down something you want to see that’s “extraordinary.”


Follow the Moon Home by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Meilo So (a wish to help turtles find their way home): write down a way you can help animals this year.

The Ugly Duckling, illustrated by Rachel Isadora (a wish to belong): write down your favorite place to be.

Anna Carries Water by Olive Senior, illustrations by Laura James (a wish to learn to do something new): write down a goal.

The Storm Whale by Benji Davies (a wish to help): write down a story you want to tell someone. (Then tell them.)

Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBlox, illustrated by Stephanie Graegin (a wish for peace in the smallest ways): write down an action you can take to help create peace.

The Promise by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin (a wish to keep a promise): write down a promise you wish to make to someone or to yourself.

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato (a wish to be noticed): write down something you wish to be noticed for—a talent or hard-try.

A Dance Like Starlight by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (a wish, a dream, a hope to dance): write down a dream you wish to come true.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Sprite of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (a wish—and lots of brave, brave action—for voting rights): write down a way you wish to speak out about something important.

The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi (a wish for a storm to pass): write down something you wish to happen in the future.

Where’s the Party? by Ruth Chan (a wish to have a party with friends): write down a wish for cake (what kind?).

Brave Girl by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (a wish for and action toward fairness for workers): write down a wish for justice (and perhaps a way you can make the world more fair).

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett (a wish for a bicycle): write down something you have that you’d like to give away.



What you need:

Washi tape

Poster board

2 pieces of foam board as backing

Push pins



The printable PDF with book covers and wish prompts:


A pencil/pen


First, make your tree by placing washi tape on a poster board in a tree shape. I used a double layer for the trunk and then embellished single-layer branches with clear, patterned tape (a bit like snow). But the sky’s the limit for how you design your wish tree! Next, tape together two foam boards (using clear/regular tape) and tape the poster board with the tree to those. (The double layer behind the tree is so the push pins don’t poke through the back when you attach them to the tree—be careful about that!)



Print the PDF template. Then, cut around the rectangles so you have mini books with front covers and back covers that contain the instructions. Then fold the papers in half so you have miniature books with a cover, a back cover with instructions, and space in the middle of the “book” to write.

Finally, pin the books to the tree and tape or prop the tree up somewhere. Ideally, you’ll have access to the book/books you’re reading that day and can read the book and then follow with discussion of the wish or hope or undertaking aspect before writing in the mini books.




Enjoy reading and wishing!

(If you end up doing this activity, I’d love to see photos! You can find/tag me on Twitter or Instagram for that.)