Category Archives: PICTURE BOOKS +

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!



stack the cats + clay cat craft

Stack the Cats! by Susie Ghahremani (2017).

One look and I was smitten with this one. Cats! That vibrant color palette! But there’s more. Stacking cats to do math—yes!





This picture book counts cats. And stacks cats. And adds cats. And then subtracts them from the big stack they’ve tumbled out of when they do cat-like things: napping, climbing, and playing hide and seek.

Full of the cutest cats and and tons of playfulness, this one charmed me with its style, simplicity, and STEAM education applications.

BoyGirlParty is the home of Susie Ghahremani’s adorable shop full of pins and onesies and more. She’s also got a great portfolio of art and illustration as well. And now, her very own picture book.
(You can even buy a onesie with a stack of cats by Susie!)



Images above are from Buy Olympia.


Stack the Cats has craft written all over it. And math craft at that! Plus, the last line is: “How will you stack the cats?” That calls for clay cats to stack in order to answer.

Stack them, add them, subtract them, try to make the biggest stack you can without it toppling over—so much fun stuff to do with these clay cats, including crafting them to start.

What you need:

Clay! I used the kind that doesn’t need to harden in the oven—plastalina modeling clay.

Wax paper to make sure the surface you work on doesn’t get messy.

A butter knife (I used it to portion out the clay; take care with kids.)

That’s it!

There are no set instructions here. I typically started by sculpting the body. I took a portion of the clay in the size I wanted and rolled it into a ball, then squashed it flatter and kind of squared off the head a bit.

Next, the tail! Take a smaller portion of clay and roll it into a cylinder shape. Then affix it to the tail end of the body.

Next, ears. I took a small bit of clay and pinched one end to make the triangle shape, flattening out the whole piece. Time for eyes. I rolled tiny balls of clay in my hand and then pushed each onto the cat’s face until it was a disk. You can make whiskers or little noses or add embellishments to the ears and body or tail, too.

One cool effect I liked was combining two clay colors by rolling them together, then making the cat from that clay mixture (see the cat on the top of the middle stack and the middle of the far right stack).


You might also be interested in this clay Your Alien craft I made for All The Wonders a while back!

picture books that bring imagination to life

My favorite picture book as a child was Benjamin Dilley’s Thirsty Camel. Benjamin Dilley had a “wonderful imagination.” So wonderful he could dream up anything, including a thirsty camel to drink up the flood in his parent’s basement.

I’ve noticed some recent picture books that follow that inclination, affirming a child’s imagination, making it manifest and palpable. Here are a number that bring imagination to life:


The Storm by Akiko Miyakoshi.

A child worries a storm will cancel a trip to the beach, so he makes a wish for a ship to drive the storm away. And in the morning after a fantastic dream—or wish come true—the sun shines again in this quietly captivating picture book.


Akiko Miyakoshi is especially good at making the imaginative feel (or be) real, and the next book in this list is hers as well.


The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi.

A girl walks through the woods to deliver a pie. It sounds like a set up for Little Red Riding Hood, but while there are surprises that await, there is no danger. A gentle fairy tale about a tea party with animals (and lots of pie), something a child might easily imagine and want to be as real as it feels in this story.










A River by Marc Martin.

“There is a river outside my window,” a girl says from her drawing table. She imagines herself traveling that river in a boat. Out of the city, through the fields, down a waterfall and into a jungle. It is a wonderful voyage and the illustrations transport the reader right along with the character.



Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho.

This is a wordless and intriguing story. A man. A boy. Drawings sent across the ocean. A spectacular journey and a dream come true.




Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski.

This gorgeous book demonstrates how real a favorite stuffed animal (friend) can feel, and goes so far as to make that real. Pamela Zagarenski always captures the stuff of childhood magic.








Good Night Tiger by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Laura Hughes.

Emma’s wallpaper has animals on it, and they’re making a lot of noise. So Emma enters the world of the wallpaper and helps the animals quiet down and go to sleep.







Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson, illustrations by Michael Robertson.

In this one, Winifred Schnitzel isn’t afraid of monsters, but they are ruining her sleep every night. So this fearless, creative main character figures out an inventive way to make them go away. This story assumes that the monsters are real, and why wouldn’t they be?





Poppy Pickle by Emma Yartlett.

One day, Poppy’s imagination comes to life. For real. And it gets her into a bit of a pickle. This one is pretty hilarious to boot.

Poppy feels like a direct descendant of Benjamin Dilley, except that in the end, her parents do believe that the stuff she dreams up is real! Yes.










The Only Child by Guojing.

A lost child follows a stag into a magical world with kind animals and fluffy clouds, and is eventually delivered home. The expressive drawings in this wordless story make it feel that much more tangible.






First Snow by Bomi Park.

This book is enchanting! At first snowfall, a little girl sneaks outside to make a snowball. Her snowball gets bigger and bigger, and she travels farther and farther. Until! A whole field of little kids making snow people in their own magical world.






Yokki and the Parno Gry by Richard O’Neill and Katharine Quarmby, illustrated by Marieke Nelissen.

This is a traditional Romani tale. In a family of Travelers, a boy named Yokki tells stories every night around the fire. When times are tough for his and other families, he tells a story from his dreams of a Parno Gry, a giant horse who can carry them to a place where they can thrive. And that is exactly what happens. His story of the horse comes true.

“To this day, generations of Yokki’s family believe that as long as they value children’s imaginations, the Parno Gry will inspire them with new ideas and possibilities—even in their darkest hours, just when they need them most.”


The Highest Mountain of Books in the World by Rocio Bonilla.

Not only does the boy in this story, Lucas, learn that he can fly in a sense through story, he also builds the highest mountain of books in the world by doing so. And when he needs to come down, all it takes is his imagination, of course!








Lenny & Lucy written by Philip C. Stead, illustrated by Erin E. Stead.

A book about facing fear, and loneliness, and how to comfort both through friendship. It’s the visual story in this one that shows Peter’s imagination coming to life.

The image below and a wonderful feature of Lenny & Lucy can be found at the always wonderful site, Brain Pickings.





Pool by JiHyeon Lee.

In this stunner, two swimmers find a fantastic world of fish underneath the surface of a crowded pool. Whimsical and full of what might be.







The Fox Wish by Kimiko Man, illustrated by Komako Sakai.

Two children come upon a clearing of foxes playing with the jump rope they’d left there. Children and foxes jump rope together in this imaginative story of wishes and friendship.


Never Follow a Dinosaur by Alex Latimer.

A couple of kids follow footsteps, trying to piece together the mystery of who left them. They assume it’s a dinosaur. Readers might assume it’s not a dinosaur because dinosaurs are extinct. But in this case, well, let’s just say that all the facets of the footstep-leaving dinosaur these kids invent in their minds come true.






Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler.

A pond becomes a portal to an exceptional world on the other side.

My friend Carter at Design of the Picture Book did a lovely interview with Joseph Kuefler.






Please let me know in the comments if you have any books that make the imaginary feel real to add to the list!