Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +

4 years of this picture book life giveaway!

I want to celebrate four years of This Picture Book Life by giving away picture books! (Of course!)

I receive a lot of wonderful review copies in a year from generous publishers, so I want to share some of them with you.

There will be FOUR winners of a pair of picture books on a theme!

And there will be one winner of FOUR titles I really liked!

Away we go!

A pair of books about children around the world:

The Barefoot Book of Children by Tessa Strickland, Kate DePalama, and David Dean (2016) &

This Is How We Do It  by Matt Lamothe (2017).


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A pair of books with super surprise endings:

Polar Bear’s Underwear by tupera tupera (2015) &

Don’t Wake Up the Tiger  by Britta Teckentrup (2016).


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A pair of two of my favorite picture books of 2017:

Love Is  by Diane Adams, illustrated by Claire Keane (2017) &

Professional Crocodile   by Giovanna Zoboli and Mariachiara Di Giorgio (coming August 2017).


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A pair of playful picture books:

Play With Me by Michelle Lee (2017) &

It’s Great Being a Dad  by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry.


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BONUS GIVEAWAY: four wonderful picture books!!

Adrift at Sea by Marsha Forchuk Dkrypuch with Tuan Ho, art by Brian Deines (2016).

The Girl Who Ran by Frances Polette and Kristina Yee, illustrated by Susanna Chapman (2017).

I Know Numbers! by Taro Gomi (September, 2017).

Lily’s Cat Mask  by Julie Fortenberry (2017).


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Cheers to another year of picture books!







Casey Lyall is the author of the wonderfully narrated middle grade detective novel, Howard Wallace, P.I. And her first picture book is coming out November 7th, 2017: Inky’s Great Escape. It’s illustrated by Sebastià Serra, and I’m delighted to be able to share the cover with you today!

“Based on a true story, this tale follows a daring, Houdini-esque octopus as he performs his greatest escape act yet.”

“In April 2016, The New York Times published an article about an octopus named Inky who escaped from the National Aquarium of New Zealand through a drainpipe and into the sea. In this charming fictionalized account, Inky, worn out from his exciting life in the ocean, has retired to the aquarium. There he quietly plays cards, makes faces at the visitors, and regales his tankmate Blotchy with tales of his past adventures. Then Blotchy dares Inky to make one more great escape: out of their tank. Will Inky succeed?”



Here’s the colorful, dynamic cover! (I especially like the block print quality of the title and sea surroundings and the energy that seems to emanate to and from Inky.)


  In honor of the cover reveal, Casey and Sebastià did a little Q & A about the design of the octopus characters:

“Sebastià, how did you come up with the design for the characters of Inky and Blotchy?”

Sebastià: The first sketches show a more naturalized version of Inky and Blotchy, with the head back like it is in a true octopus. I knew this wouldn’t be the final version because the characters were really fun and lovely and, bit by bit, the curves softened, the eyes grew and moved up the head, and the head gained importance in relation to the tentacles. All these changes were made with the intent of getting a more expressive face because this was a main point in Casey’s text – full of expressive nuances in the characters. Really it was a surprise for me to discover how expressive an octopus can be.

“Casey, what was your first reaction when you saw the artwork for Inky’s Great Escape?”
Casey: Total and utter delight! When I work on characters, I think more about the voice – how they think and talk so I really had no preconceived notions about how Blotchy and Inky would look. And I’m so glad I didn’t because what Sebastià came up with was better than anything I could have imagined. First of all, I loved the colours – everything was so bright and vibrant. But Inky and Blotchy are my favourite part because I think Sebastià captured them perfectly. The different facial expressions and body language are all spot on and totally in sync with the text. He brought them to life in the best way possible. 

Casey is giving away one copy of Inky’s Great Escape! Since it’s not out yet, this will be a pre-order, shipping in November. Something to look forward to!

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10 picture book gems a bookseller recommends

I have a treat for you today. Jen Pino from Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California has ten picture book gems she recommends! Jen is a passionate bookseller and a delightful person, and I thought it would be neat to find out what picture books are on her radar right now, and have her pass them along to you!


Over to Jen!


The World of Work by Silvie Sanža, illustrated by Milan Stary (2017).


I love that this book features ALL TYPES of jobs. When you are little, I feel like you only get exposed to the jobs your parents do, firefighters, doctors, police, and teachers. This book has so many more. This includes working for the Mountain Rescue Service, being an Operational Planner or even….a Bookseller!!









How Things Are Made by Olderich Reueziecka, illustrated by Alexandra Hetmerovaa (2016).

This is another amazing non-fiction title! Each page features a different way an object is made. Some examples are: a spoon, bread, and a t-shirt! The pages have basic summaries at first, then you can lift the flaps to get even more details!












One Word From Sophia by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeed Ismail (2015).

This book is charming. I instantly fell in love with Sophia and her quest to own a giraffe. Several family members stand in the way of her desire, but Sophia, not one to be easily dissuaded, provides multiple arguments, complete with presentations, pie charts and stellar vocabulary, as she makes her case. Colorful, engaging pictures enhance the book’s delight. Additionally, this book serves as a tremendous resource of SAT worthy vocabulary.







That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares (2017).

Daniel Miyares has been one of my favorite illustrators for a while. Whenever he has something new coming out, I am eager to see what it’s going to be. In this, budding curiosity turns into a beautiful friendship. When the colors on the page go from black and white to warm shades, I get chills. So so good.











 Rory the Dinosaur Wants a Pet by Liz Climo (2016).

This is seriously the sweetest book and Rory is endearing as he searches for a pet to love. Liz Climo causes your heart to soar as you witness childhood imagination and innocence in its purest form.











Dylan the Villain by K.G. Campbell (2016).

This is a super funny book for all the little super villains in your life. Dylan strives to be the “very best and cleverest super-villain in the whole wide world.” But will Addison Van Malice and some purple parsnip preserves stand in the way of that?












When Jackie Saved Grand Central by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger (2017).

This is another book that gives me chills each time I read it. I never knew what Grand Central had to go through to be the station it is today. Furthermore, I had no idea how much work Jackie Kennedy did, over the course of 3 years, in order to save it from being demolished. I loved learning about how much Americans cared about Grand Central and how it started a movement to save other landmarks across the states.











Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, illustrated by Sydney Hanson ( 2016).

Baby Panda wants pants. When his father doesn’t understand why a Panda would need pants, baby Panda illustrates exactly why they would come in handy. However, even if on the surface this could be a book about choosing an outfit for the day, it’s underlying themes could be used to go even deeper. I could see Teachers and Parents using this book as a way to help children own who they are and who they want to be.










The Airport Book by Lisa Brown (2016).

I was thrilled to see that this book features characters as diverse as an airport actually is. In calm, but informative text, this book narrates exactly the kinds of things a child might face when traveling to, entering an airport, or boarding a plane. Everything that a child might have a question about (regarding airports), is in this book.











Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio, pictures by Greg Pizzoli (2016).

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kelly DiPucchio. I think everything she touches turns to gold. This book is about a terrible dragon who cannot be tamed. However, turns out our dragon has a soft side for stories! Dragon’s face cracks me up as he “pretends not to listen” to the hero and friend he could be. This is for troublemakers and softies alike.











Jen Pino works at the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California, Vroman’s Bookstore. She’s worked there for almost 7 years and loves all things related to children’s books. Check out her blog: Confessions of a Starstruck Bookseller, where she shares what’s new at Vroman’s Bookstore, reviews books, features gift guides, and showcases booksellers!




Thank you, Jen, for sharing these picture book gems with us! 













10 awesome activity books + giveaway

In anticipation of warmer weather and time off from school, I give you 10 awesome activity books for a variety of ages.


Art Play by Marion Deuchars. This is an incredible resource for artists 7 and up to play and learn and make art. Exploration is the name of the game.

(I’ve featured Deuchars before, with a Bob the Artist craft!)



DIY ABC by Eleonora Marton. This is for the younger set—so much DIY and drawing fun while exploring the alphabet.








Bigger, also by Eleonora Marton. A super inventive foldout poster kind of book that’s also a ruler. It’s totally hands on and encourages guessing and measuring all kinds of stuff. You kind of have to see this one to understand it—but it’s great!







Me: A Compendium from Wee Society. This is a visual diary that inspires thinking, drawing, and recording.



Journal Sparks by Emily Neuburger. Emily has such a knack for bringing art and ideas to life for kids. This book is no different. It’s full of activities for noticing, for creating, for contemplating.


(Emily stopped by last summer to make potato prints with another activity book!)







Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers by Andrea Beaty, illustrations by David Roberts. A perfect companion to Rosie Revere Engineer or on its own (it reprints the story of Rosie at the start). It’s a journal, sketchbook, and manual for designing and engineering projects while helping kids persevere.







Who What Where? by Olivier Tallec. This one is mind-bendingly brilliant and great for practicing observation skills.





Read All About It by Alice Bowsher. This one’s really unusual: a pamphlet that gives you everything you need to write and design your own newspaper pages! Plus, stickers. What fun (and perfect for budding journalists).








The Lost House by B.B. Cronin. A sophisticated seek and find book with electric colors on every spread.










Eric Carle Animal Masks. 15 animal masks to punch out and put on—yes!










I’m giving away three of these activity books! Read All About It, Bigger, and Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers (pictured below) are all going to one lucky winer. Simply leave a comment below to be entered to win. (North America only; ends midnight PST Saturday, June 3rd.)






You might also like my post from a couple of years ago on 15 Fabulously Interactive Books for Kids.

eight surprise endings

Endings are crucial in picture books. They can be sweet. They can be silly. They can be…surprising!

Here are eight recent picture books that pack wonderful surprise endings. (But I won’t give them away here, except in one case and I’ll give you a spoiler alert for that!)



Polar Bear’s Underwear by tupera tupera (2015).

I adore this book! A mouse is helping Polar Bear find his lost underwear. Each page has a cut-out that shows somebody’s underwear on the next page and the reader can guess whose it is. But it’s usually not Polar Bear’s! Not until the surprising end, which feels like a magic trick. (Also, underwear is inherently funny.)



Poor Little Guy by Elanna Allen (2016).

This book has a wonderful sense of scale and color as well as inventive typeface. Plus, an underdog to root for. And then, a delightful reversal I didn’t see coming on a first read. Captivating in every way.








Toto’s Apple by  Mathieu Lavoie (2016).

I adore this inventive, quirky story so much. It’s all about Toto the worm trying to get a hard to reach apple in a nearby tree. Toto “gets busy” with a few different creative tricks to get closer to the apple. But the ending, well, you probably won’t see it coming, and that’s why it’s so very satisfying.








It’s Great Being a Dad by Dan Bar-el, illustrated by Gina Perry (2017).

[spoiler alert!]

The image below kind of gives away the surprise. Essentially, you’re following all these wonderful creatures talking about what’s great and not so great about being a unicorn or Bigfoot or robot, but then it turns out the creatures were really kids, playing in their imaginations. And then, there’s a final spread that’s a pretty fun surprise for the dad in the book too.



Don’t Wake Up the Tiger by Britta Teckentrup (2016).

A bunch of animals are trying to step over the tiger to avoid waking the big cat. They even enlist the use of balloons in order to float to safety! But, in the end they do wake him up. And you might not expect what happens next.











Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, illustrated by Samantha Coterill (2017).

Charlotte wants a pet so very badly. So badly that even a large pet rock will do. Charlotte becomes quite attached to the rock, but it can’t love her back. Until the surprise end of course.








A Hungry Lion by Lucy Ruth Cummins (2016).

Remember the lion cake craft my guy and I made for this one? Possibly my favorite craft ever. This mischievous, clever book is full of numerous twists and turns!







Life on Mars by Jon Agee (2017).

Yet another book I completely adore and admire. The main character experiences a few surprises along the way, but the ending is one for the reader right along with him.










And finally, a few other books with terrific endings!

Extra Yarn, of course! A Brave Bear ends beautifully and Swan’s close is unusual and sad and bittersweet. I also love Friend or Foe‘s ending for its ambiguity.

Any surprise or otherwise satisfying endings that come to mind for you? Please share in the comments!