Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +

5 years of this picture book life + giveaway!

5 years! So many picture book posts!

To celebrate, I’d like to give away 5 sets of picture books on different themes.

Each one has its own Rafflecopter—enter one or two or all five! (North America only.)

 

Set #1: SUMMERTIME!

Saffron Ice Cream; The Manic Panic; Surf’s Up (board book); The Lost Picnic.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Set #2: BIOGRAPHY!

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black HistoryPreaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis; Miguel y su valiente caballero: El joven Cervantes sueña a don Quijote; Little Guides to Great Lives: Amelia Earhart; Dangerous Jane; A Boy and a Jaguar.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Set #3: BEING YOURSELF!

Julián Is a Mermaid; Alma and How She Got Her Name; Always Anjali.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Set #4: SCIENCE!

How to Code a Sandcastle; The Brilliant Deep; Bonkers About Beetles; Follow the Moon Home; Over and Under the Pond.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Set #5: READING, STORY, LANGUAGE, AND IMAGINATION

How to Read a Story; Nimesh the Adventurer; Read the Book, Lemmings; The Word Collector; A Child of Books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

picture book gems a librarian recommends: alia from read it real good

I’m thrilled to have Alia from Read it Real Good here to share picture book gems she recommends as a librarian, former bookseller, and blogger! You can learn more about her here and check out her list of resources on diverse children’s literature from her blog as well. Get ready to go to the bookstore or have your library card ready because she’s sharing some of her favorite recent and backlist picture books with us!

 

Over to Alia!

 

 

 Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Browne/Jess X. Snow

 

This illustrated poem begins with “This book is for you.” And yes it is. It is unabashedly black, young and full of truth and positive affirmations for young black women. Perfect for ages 7 – tween, Black Girl Magic is raw and honest. Snow’s illustrations beautifully accompany Browne’s powerful poetry. Yes, black girls, you are magic. You are strong and let NO ONE tell you any different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim

 

It’s hard to believe that this is Julie Kim’s debut picture book. Well, it’s more of a picture book/graphic novel hybrid. Korean-American kids Joon and his Noona (big sister) visit their grandmother’s house to find that she’s gone, the house is a mess and huge cat-prints are everywhere! >_< Kim takes readers on a journey to a land of trickster rabbits, hungry goblins and angry tigers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 El Primer Corte de Mesita de Furqan – Furqan’s First Flat Top by Robert Liu-Trujillo & translated by Cinthya Muñoz

Ten year old Furqan takes a trip to the barbershop for his first cut. He wants to try a new flat top for his thick, curly hair, but he’s a little scared of change. His dad lovingly reassures him that his hair is gonna come out fresh, no matter what. We get a peek into Furqan’s daily life. This bilingual story features loving parents and a supportive community. Liu-Trujillo’s watercolor & ink illustrations portray so much joy and love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up! How Families Around the World Carry Their Little Ones  by Susan Hughes/Ashley Barron

 

I love picture books that use non-traditional mediums like paper, cloth, string, etc. Barron’s illustrations for Up! are gorgeous and unique. They invite you to stare at them for long moments. We learn a bit about how different people around the world carry & transport their little ones. I love the inclusiveness of the illustrations and the bouncy rhythm of the text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Around Us  by Xelena González/Adriana M. Garcia

 

It’s special whenever our elders share knowledge with us; it’s something not to be taken for granted. All Around Us is about a little girl and the lessons she learns from her grandfather. They have such a beautiful relationship! He teaches her about circles, continuity and how people are a part of the earth. The illustrations are so beautifully TRIPPY. I appreciate how this book celebrates family, indigeneity and tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Are Brothers by Yves Nadon/Jean Claverie

 

Black brotherly love. Strength. Growing up. This quiet picture book explores the relationship between two brothers and how love, support and encouragement are so important. Climbing up and jumping off the top of a cliff into a lake sure is scary but…you’ll never know how much fun it is until you try. I love the soft illustrations in this book and the scenes of transformation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backlist Favorites:

 

Where Do We Go When We Disappear?  by Isabel Minhós Martins/Madalena Matoso

 

This is a reflective and thought-provoking picture book about death, loss, or the simple act of someone/something being gone. When I was a bookseller, it was hard to find good books to give to parents to help their kids grieve. This is a great one because it helps begin a discussion about CHANGE. Matoso’s illustrations are bold and colorful and Martins is such a thoughtful writer.

 

 

 

 

 

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson/Sydney Smith

 

A young girl and her father take a walk through their neighborhood. Though he’s on his phone for most of the journey, he is present. He is there. She’s on a mission to find flowers and share them as gifts. Smith’s use of color is exquisite in this wordless picture book. We see color when we need to. We watch it bloom. We watch their love as they walk together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Nine Eight  by Molly Bang

 

Wow, what a throwback this one is. I remember it from my childhood. Can I tell you how special it is to see a little black girl sitting with her daddy, eyes sleepy, getting ready for bed? With its soft, warm illustrations, this book reminds me of the love I shared with my father. Ten, Nine, Eight is a counting book that also celebrates Black Family. It’s also available as a board book! How perfect. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alia Jones is a Sr. Library Services Assistant with The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. She is also a former indie children’s bookseller and English teacher in South Korea. She blogs about diverse books & children’s literature at www.readitrealgood.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @readitrealgood. Alia believes that we are truly in a Picture Book Renaissance; there is so much talent out there.

 

 

 

 

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the field: an interview with baptiste paul and jacqueline alcántara

The Field by Baptiste Paul, pictures by Jacqueline Alcántara (March 2018).

I love how this picture book begins the way it ends, with “Vini!” (Come!)—the field itself beckoning. Indeed, The Field calls out to both its characters and its readers: come, be part of play and life and friends and home.

Chronicling one day spent joyfully playing futbol despite obstacles, it’s full of dynamic action and camaraderie. Both the text with English and Saint Lucian Creole words, as well as beautifully vibrant, varied illustrations, make this fantastic story truly move. It’s a standout.

 

 

 

And I’m so lucky to be able to share an interview with the author, Baptiste Paul, and illustrator, Jacqueline Alcántara with you today so you can hear more about them and their process! They both answered the same set of questions, so in a true treat, we get to hear both their perspectives.

(click image(s) to enlarge)

 

This Picture Book Life: What is your own experience with futbol/soccer and how did it inform THE FIELD?

Baptiste Paul: As a child, I played futbol/soccer a lot. I always played barefoot — not by choice but by circumstance. Soccer was my escape from my reality — the poverty I faced as a child. It was my safe space. It was a place where my friends and I learned to navigate and solve problems. Sometimes, we got into a few scuffles but always found a way to solve our differences before the game ended. It was the place where I was the happiest — the place where the hardships magically disappeared and where Creole came to life. I am a believer in you write what you know and writing about futbol while speaking my native language was a natural fit.

Jacqueline Alcántara: While I didn’t play a lot of soccer growing up, I did play some pick-up games with friends throughout high school and in my backyard, with my dad when I was younger. But I love the universality of the game and it’s one of the only sports I can tolerate watching on TV! (go Barça!) One of my favorite memories from visiting family in Honduras is a nighttime soccer game in the mountains with a few cousins and some little kids from the neighborhood. We played in cowboy boots with a beat up old ball, on a field, just like the one in this book and under a huge night sky with stars so big it felt like you could pull one down. I definitely reached back into that memory to remember what that place and time felt like, and just the humor and excitement that goes along with any impromptu game.

 

TPBL: This story is so full of joyful action. How did you go about creating that kind of action? Baptiste, how did you develop and craft the story to be so active and Jacqueline, how did you accomplish that dynamic movement through the illustrations?

Baptiste Paul: The game I played as a child was jam packed with fun. We made the most out of every game — even on rainy days — we were unstoppable. We played for hours. The use of Creole words, adds that joyfulness and makes the story complete. When we played, these were the words we yelled out and being authentic to the story meant I had to use creole words. The Creole words in the text might look simple but they are alive and they have emotions.

Jacqueline Alcántara: Well, I absolutely love illustrating action / movement sequences. I did a lot of figure sketching to start – gathering imagery from movies, photos, youtube videos, etc., of people playing soccer around the world, then deciding which movements worked for each character. I tried exaggerating some of those movements to create an even more dynamic composition. I think it feels joyful as well because the nature of a pick-up game is so different than something organized – there’s more unity and camaraderie amongst the players and I tried to portray that through everyone working together, helping each other, and celebrating each other’s victories regardless of the team they were on. 

 

TPBL: What was it like seeing the artwork or text for the first time?

Baptiste Paul: I was very emotional. My world, the one I envisioned and the one I wanted to share with the world was now a reality. As I flipped through each page, I kept stopping to wipe the tears and to revisit my childhood. I saw myself chasing the animals off the field and that brought back special memories.

Jacqueline Alcántara: As I read through the manuscript the first time, I had a strong vision of the whole story – character setting, colors, everything! I instantly loved the language Baptiste used and after a few more readings, I realized there was a real beauty in the specific words and phrases he chose that allowed me a very clear direction of his vision, but it also left a lot open to my interpretation – which made it such a fun and gratifying process. 

 

TPBL: Please tell us about your process from concept to finished product. Where did you start? How did the project come to be? How were you paired and did you collaborate at all?

Baptiste Paul: I always start with a memory or an idea. The Field as a children’s book came on a day that I was playing outside in the rain with my kids. Realizing the importance of a moment or an idea and applying universal themes is powerful. I realized that the moments I spent playing in the rain (and mud) brought back happy memories. My process involves, a pencil, memo book, asking lots of questions like who, what, why where, when and how and pacing back and forth talking to myself.

Pairing was completely coincidental and yes we collaborated only once during the entire process. In fact, I included only one illustrator’s note in the text.  

Jacqueline Alcántara: Once I got the green light, I started by writing out some really rough ideas for the narrative of the illustration and sketching quick compositions. I knew I wanted the illustrations to embrace that super fulfilling feeling you get after having the best-day-ever playing with friends.  So, I decided I wanted the illustrations to go from one character playing alone, to seeking out friends, to ending with that feeling of friendship, love and exhaustion! And I knew I wanted the cast of characters to be somewhat diverse in age and appearance – after all that’s the fun of pick-up!

I then worked on sketching out ideas for characters; pulling ideas from stories my dad told me about people he grew up playing soccer with in Honduras, and incorporating random personal memories of people or outfits or attitudes that popped up while sketching. It wasn’t until I spoke with my mentor, Carolyn Dee Flores, that I starting really thinking about the storm and the field as key characters themselves! It felt so obvious after she mentioned it to me – after all “The Field” is the title of the book and therefore the main character right?!

After sketches, I played a lot with color, even though I had really clear ideas of the colors I wanted to use, I experimented with which medium (usually I use a combination of marker, gouache and photoshop) would be best suited for the different elements. I experimented a lot while creating the final illustrations to get the feel of the setting, the lighting, and the relationships as they all looked in my imagination. I think I got close!

TPBL: How would you sum up the spirit or theme of the book?

Baptiste Paul: It’s a celebration of friendship and play.

Jacqueline Alcántara: The book reminds me to never let anything get in the way of having fun, always being open to making new friends, and to jump over, slide under or dive straight into any obstacles! 

 

Big thanks to both Baptiste Paul and Jacqueline Alcántara for speaking with me, and to Nicole Banholzer for images! 

 

 

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16 picture books with knitting and yarn

Because my middle grade novel, Zinnia and the Bees, features a main character who’s a knitter and yarn bomber, I always notice picture books with knitting and yarn (and have great admiration for knitters and crocheters in real life!). So, since I’ve got yarn on the brain, I thought it would be fun to round up a bunch of great picture books featuring yarn and knitting—perfectly cozy reads for winter and good fits for crafters of all kinds.

Plus, because knitting a gift for someone is often a sign of love and friendship, many of these are perfect for Valentine’s Day too. As you’ll see, knitting is often synonymous in story with showing kindness and the connections characters make.

 

Penguin and Pinecone by Salina Yoon (2012).

One of the sweetest books ever with a scarf-wearing penguin who finds a pinecone, knits it a scarf, and then finds its new friend’s proper home.

 

Knit Together by Angela Dominguez (2015).

A story of a mother and daughter, one who knits, one who draws, and how they combine talents in an artistic collaboration that connects them—so sweet!

 

 

Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius by Katie Harnett (2016).

I adore all the humans in this book, and the way the community comes together over this neighborhood cat. And I adore Mrs. Murray, who knits, and who shares a kinship with Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius that is meant to be.

 

Last Stop on Market Street, words by Matt De LA Peña, pictures by Christian Robinson (2015).

This wonderful book’s beating heart is Nana and a bus ride she takes with her grandson. Nana demonstrates generosity to CJ, as well as the ability to see beauty. Also, she spends part of the bus ride with needles and yarn.

 

Bertolt by Jaques Golstyn (2017).

The way knitting figures into this one at the close is kind of a surprise, so I’ll leave it at that. (Hint: yarn bombing!)

 

 

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards and G. Brian Karas (2016).

A girl who wants to do a kindness for the kindest person (and knitter) she knows. A super sweet story, plus pom poms!

 

 

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2012)

A knitter-yarn bomber is at the center of this fairy-tale-esque book with a surprise ending. If you like the idea of covering anything and everything with colorful yarn and a bit of magic, you’ll like this book.

 

 

Red Knit Cap Girl by Naoko Stoop (2012).

The main character here doesn’t knit, but is known for her signature knit cap as her name. It’s a quiet, meditative quest story of looking to connect with others and the moon.

 

 

 

Edmund Unravels by Andrew Kolb (2015).

This one stars an actual bundle of yarn (and joy) who longs to explore. The only thing is, exploring can mean needing to return home in order to feel whole again.

 

 

Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranza and Margaeet Chamberlain (2014).

A creative main character  discovers knitting and eventually completes a fantastic project for the school play. A positive portrayal of being yourself and pursuing your passions.

 

 

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol (2016).

The wildly unexpected story of someone who wants to knit sweaters in peace, and is wiling to go as far away as possible to find it.

 


Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead (2014).

Sebastian, in a balloon made of quilts and blankets, goes on an adventure to avoid boredom in this story of encounters and twists and turns. And, of course, three knitting sisters!

 

 

 

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant (2016).

Cat is good friends with Yarn, but not so sure about that when Yarn becomes Sweater.

 

The Story Blanket by Ferida Wolff and Harriet May Savitz, illustrated by Elena Odriozola (2008).

A story about story, and kindness—the story blanket is a precious place, but is soon needed for its yarn in order to give warm gifts to the community.

 

Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always by Tao Nyeu (2012).

A set of four stories about sea creature friends, one of whom—Squid—is a knitter. Complete with socks, mittens, tea, and cake, this one delights! Author-illustrator Tao Nyeu even came up with a knitting pattern to go along with the book!

 

Three Balls of Wool by Henriqueta Cristina and Yarn Kono (2017).

A family must flee their home country and the new place they live feels bleak and uniform—people wear sweaters in only one of three solid colors. A resourceful mother unravels the sweaters in order to make new sweaters, patterned ones that express joy and individuality, and she starts a kind of revolution come spring. This is “…based on the story of a Portuguese family that fled the dictatorship in the late 1960s and lived in exile in Algeria, Romania, and finally Czechoslovakia.”

 

Please add any titles I missed to the comments! 

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cover reveal! the diamond and the boy

The Diamond and the Boy: The Creation of Diamonds and the Life of H. Tracy Hall written by Hannah Holt, illustrated by Jay Fleck, will be out October 2nd, 2018, and today we’re sharing the cover with you!

I met the author, Hannah Holt, at the wonderful Green Bean Books in Portland, and that’s when I first heard about and was intrigued by this project featuring the inventor of human-made diamonds.

“The Diamond & The Boy is a two-tale picture book—a side-by-side telling of the story of natural diamond creation and the life of inventor Tracy Hall [who invented a machine to create human-made diamonds for manufacturing]. This book shows how journeys can triumph over beginnings and how one person can rock the world.”

Yes, this is the biography of the person who invented lab-created diamonds, the kind first used for industrial cutting uses. It’s simultaneously the biography of a natural diamond and its formation.

Told inventively and lyrically, each page is split into two sides, one about the boy, and one about the diamond. Their sections parallel in that they both start with the same word or phrase, and they continue to mirror one another thematically in how both the graphite and the boy experience “heat,” “pressure,” “waiting,” and other concepts in different ways as their journeys progress, together. You’ll just have to read it to see how stunning and smart it is!

There’s also back matter with not only more about Tracy Hall‘s life, but about the history of lab-made diamonds as well as natural diamonds including, briefly, the colonization and conflict surrounding them, which is important to be informed of in any discussion of those precious rocks.

And Hannah’s going to tell us a little more about it!

But first, here’s the cover! I love the bold, graphic illustration and the emanating quality of those shining lines. Plus, the pencils in the boy’s pocket—an essential for an inventor!

 

This Picture Book Life: What is your particular connection to the subject matter of THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY?

Hannah Holt: The boy in this story, Tracy Hall, is my grandfather. I first heard his story as a small child in my mother’s arms. Whenever I visited Grandpa Hall’s home, I loved looking at the models of diamond presses. This story has been beating in my heart for as long as I can remember.

 

TPBL: Please tell us about your reaction to seeing the cover for the first time, and the illustrations throughout. What’s a detail that surprised or delighted you to see?

HH: When I first saw the cover, my heart just sang. The bold lines, the way the colors popped—I loved everything about it.

Seeing this story illustrated was an amazing experience. Jay’s work is stunning. In addition to the beauty of the work, I was delighted to see he had illustrated some of Tracy’s childhood inventions and made them scientifically accurate. An attentive visual reader could possibly recreate them as DIY projects!

 

TPBL: What was the process of deciding to tell the story by way of parallels—the diamond’s journey and the boy’s side by side?

HH: A couple of years ago, I received a particularly lengthy rejection letter. It went above and beyond listing the deficiencies of my work and launched right into my obvious personal flaws as well.

A few days later, I stood in the children’s section at Powell’s Books when the words of this rejection letter started ringing in my head. I thought, “What am I doing? I’m a nobody. What could I possibly add to all this?”

At that moment, it felt like all the air was being sucked out of the room, and I had to sit in one of the children’s chairs. After I finally caught my breath, I left the store and decided to leave writing, too.

For the next month, I didn’t write a thing. Instead, I did a lot of soul searching. In the end, I came to the following conclusions:

1.) I liked writing and missed it.

2.) I couldn’t control whether or not anyone else liked my writing.

3.) I could improve my craft.

4.) I could become smarter about how and where I submitted my work.

This story, THE DIAMOND AND THE BOY, was one of the first stories I revised after my writing break. Previously, I had tried writing the story about Tracy’s cleverness or rocks that sparkle, but those ideas no longer seemed important.

Instead, I saw the need for…resilience.

Graphite needed to become resilient…

Tracy had to become resilient…

And I needed to get over myself, too, if I wanted to write this story well. So I threw out all my old drafts and started from scratch. Writing a story in parallel about change and resilience seemed natural because it was the journey I was on myself.

I set a goal that year to get 100 rejections. I didn’t make that goal. However, that’s only because I signed with my fabulous agent first, and we had the good fortune to start selling books shortly thereafter. Embracing rejection led me to so much more success than resisting it. This story—this experience—fundamentally changed how I view challenges.

 

 

TPBL: I’ve read the manuscript and those side-by-side spreads are like beautiful poetry. Will you describe the process of pairing non-fiction subject matter with poetic text and how that developed?

HH: I’ve always liked poetry and playing with words, but Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming had the biggest influence on this revision. Her lyrical narrative, purposeful line breaks, and masterful storytelling inspired me to push my own writing further.

Initially I wrote one stanza of rock, and then one stanza of Tracy. Rock, Tracy, Rock, Tracy… I didn’t map it out ahead of time. They lined up naturally. Of course, I had to do many revisions—tightening the language, refining the storyline, and making sure I had enough page breaks—but my first side-by-side draft flowed easily.

 

TPBL: What’s something fascinating you learned while researching this book?

HH: Oh, so many fun little things! I learned new scientific tidbits, like you need as much pressure to make diamonds as a hippo balancing on the head of a pin.

But for me the most fun was getting to know my grandfather better. For example, I learned he was once smitten with a girl named Catherine. Catherine is not my grandmother’s name.It was also interesting to read about the poverty he experienced in his matter-of-fact terms. Like, he joined the ROTC so he would have something free to wear. Two meals a day was enough to survive. Underwear was mostly optional clothing.

Reading about his life in his own words, before he became “Tracy Hall the famous scientist” was one of my favorite experiences. I would encourage children and teens to keep a journal. Someday the present will be the past, and personal histories are a way to keep time ever-fresh.

 

 

Big thanks to Hannah, for sharing about her writing process and the book with us, and to Balzer & Bray for the cover image!

 

 

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