Tag Archives: kidlit

back to school with to make!

It’s back to school, and this time around I’ve got a new book to share!

 

That’s where author visits come in! One of my favorite things is spending time with children while helping them tap into their unique voices and imaginations, inspiring them to read, write, create, and make! You’ll find all the info about my offerings in one place right here.

If you’re part of a school or library community, I hope you’ll get in touch if you’d like to arrange one!

 

And whether or not I visit your students, I have something special to share with you for the school year ahead! 

 

(Photo by Jenna Rothberg.)

 

Jenna Rothberg, PhD (KidlitBrain) and JD Smithson, MLIS created “Everyone is a Maker”: A Classroom and Library Companion Guide for To Make! You can download it in either color or black and white for easy printing too!

 

This treasure of a curriculum guide is meant to support teachers, librarians, and caregivers as you support the makers in your classrooms, libraries, and homes too. A resource that’s a myriad of making and TO MAKE resources all in one place, like an online community booklist for us all to create together and so much else for children to make: conversation, games, a change with their community, a plant press, an invitation, and at its heart and throughout, a maker’s journal where every child can reflect on, record, and reinvigorate their identity and process as maker through each creative endeavor.

So much gratitude to the two makers who poured their hearts and talents into this to make a gift for educators to use and witness little makers grow and bloom. And it is certainly a gift for me as well.

 

Wishing every educator everything they need for the year ahead, with much appreciation for making a difference!

 

 

 

the bad chair + hide & seek game craft!

The Bad Chair by Dasha Tolstikova (October 27, 2020).

This picture book is pure genius. First of all, it’s narrated by a chair!

Funny, inventive, and super kid-centric, The Bad Chair is a story for anyone who’s ever felt lonely and left out and maybe gone about trying to be part of things in not-the-best way.

 

 

You see, “More than anything, Chair wanted to be in on the game.” And while it’s never stated, the game is hide-and-seek. Vivi plays hide-and-seek every night. Only she plays it with Monkey, not with Chair.

 

Each character is illustrated for us as though they are real, they are animate. They have eyes and expressions. But still, this is Vivi’s world, the world of a child’s imagination. She (may have been!) orchestrating this whole thing—it’s up to you to decide. Vivi arranges objects in a certain way. She leads investigations with about where Monkey is with the objects. She dances with her stuffed monkey. She reminds me of myself when I was a kid. She might also remind you of you.

But still, it is Chair we really feel for. Feeling left out, left behind, left in the dark. And then, when Chair handles their feelings by doing something not so great, we get to experience Chair’s desperation and despair, and then, regret. But really, The Bad Chair isn’t bad. We understand that Chair wants to be in on the game. We all get that.

Setting is a big deal here, of course, seeing as Chair is part of the setting. The whole book takes place essentially in the living room of Vivi’s home, with all of its objects. Dasha’s artwork is perfect for this: bright, cheerful, some sketched, some painted, cloudy washes of color, so many fun, colorful patterns. Every item is thoughtfully crafted: Vivi’s sleuthing hat,  the cat’s blank, white silhouette and long eyelashes, kettle’s upturned nose, all the different plants.

 

Huge thanks to Groundwoods Books for the review copy and images! 

 

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The cover of this book alone hinted it might beckon for a craft. And it did! So I invited Meg of Finding Stuff Club to make a super special craft for The Bad Chair that could also be a game. She delivered big time!

 

Over to Meg!

In The Bad Chair – all Chair wants to do is play a game of hide-and-seek. This craft gives The Bad Chair an opportunity to do exactly that! Follow the simple instructions below to make your very own The Bad Chair: Hide & Seek Game Craft. Hide the chairs around your home and see if a friend or family member can find them all!

 

What you’ll need:

6 pieces of 8.5 x 11 construction paper or colored cardstock

Glue stick

Crayons and paint

Step 1: Make your envelope.

Place your paper down horizontally. Make a 4″x 5″ rectangle in the middle of your sheet of paper. Draw two rectangles on either side of the square, 2.5″ wide. Draw a 1″ flap at the top of the rectangle, about 1″ flap at the bottom of the square. Cut out your shape and fold along the edges of the square. Glue the side and bottom flaps together to create an envelope. Is that too much of a mouthful? Take an envelope apart and see how it is constructed to help.

Step 2: Decorate your paper

Pick out pieces of paper that match colors you see in the book. Be inspired by the different patterns! Draw stars, dots, and stripes that mimic what you see. The patterns should cover the entire sheet of paper.

 

Step 3: Make your chair template

Draw a flat chair template that fits within the 4″x 5″ rectangle of the envelope. The chair should be a square with 4 legs of equal size and a back. When you cut it out and fold it, it should stand up straight (like a chair!).

Step 5: Trace your chair

Flatten your chair template. Trace the chair shape on each piece of patterned paper.

Step 6: Cut out your chairs

Cut out your chairs and fold them to make sure they can stand up.

Step 7: Play the game!

Hide the chairs around your house. Play with one person to see if they can find them all or play with a group to see who can find the most. Store in your envelope when done!

 

 

 


Thanks so much, Meg!

Meg Eplett is a Creative Director and Illustrator living in Brooklyn. She loves working on kid projects, kid brands, kid anything (because kids stuff is way more fun). You can see her work at eplettdesign.com or visit @findingstuff.club—a kids’ resource she founded with her friend to help parents during COVID and beyond.

 

I’ve featured Dasha’s work before, in this post from 2015 on A Year Without Mom, her middle grade graphic novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And you might also like Count on Me math quest cards!

 

 

 

 

 

new picture books for now

I’ve got another roundup for you! Last time, it was 15 picture books for comfort. This time, it’s new and forthcoming picture books for the singular, uncertain time that is now.

New picture books I recommend for now come in two categories: picture books that nourish readers and picture books that focus on nature, both things we need.

 

You Matter by Christian Robinson (out June 2, 2020).

This picture book! It’s a new forever favorite. Super inventive in storytelling, scope, and style, You Matter says exactly that: you matter. Old, young, first, last, stuff too small to see.

Why now? All kids need to know they matter in the middle of big, scary stuff. 

 

Why do We Cry? by Fran Pintadera and Ana Sender (2020).

An exploration of the many reasons we cry with acceptance and understanding of them all.

Why now? All the feelings and ups and downs. 

 

I Am Brown by Ashok Banker, illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat (2020).

A celebration of brown-skinned kids—the wide scope of their play and food and languages and aspirations and pastimes and possibilities. This picture book brims with vibrance and joy.

Why now? We always need to celebrate kids, their experiences, their moments, their futures, and to show kids themselves in books. 

 

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow (out August 2020).

This gorgeous book centers Haenyeo or women divers in South Korea who can hold their breath for up to two minutes, a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. The purple and orange sunset illustrations are breathtaking and the experience of Dayeon going diving with her grandmother captures the fear and relatable false starts of trying anything new.

Why now? Kids and all of us are facing new things, diving new depths. 

 

Taking Time by Jo Loring-Fisher (2020).

An invitation to take time to notice the moments and beauty all around us featuring children from all over the world.

Why now? Now is a time to remember awareness and stillness and small connections. 

 

Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby (2020).

Another gorgeous picture book that invites the outside in, that shows us how it’s always with us, whose brush strokes and speckles capture its wonder, light, and magic.

Why now? We are more attuned to the outside as we spend time inside and alone—this book reminds that outside is always with us.

 


A New Green Day by Antoinette Portis (2020).

A guessing game of natural elements—original and playful like all of Portis’s work!

Why now? Playfulness and nature are bright spots in the gloom.

 

Hike by Pete Oswald (2020).

A day spent hiking, a son and a father who is a supportive, nurturing companion and safety net. Mostly wordless, refreshing, buoying, sweet.

Why now? Hikes with family are a-okay right now, they are healing, they are one way we can connect and grow. 

 

 

The Big Bang Book by Asa Stahl, illustrated by Carly Allen-Fletcher (2020).

This picture book explores the big bang by an astrophysics student—what we know, what we don’t know, and the possibility of what we might know someday—with epic illustrations of how our galaxy and planet came to be.

Why now? Absorbing the massiveness of the universe might help with taking the long view of time and circumstance.

 

 

 

akiko miyakoshi’s picture book life + giveaway


That’s right—today I’m sharing Akiko Miyakoshi’s picture book life! She’s had three picture books published as author-illustrator in English so far, and I’m looking forward to more! Her work is absolutely infused with imagination and her charcoal and pencil drawings allow her to alternate beautifully between spare and substantial, depending on the tone of the moment she’s portraying.

 

Miyakoshi’s work is infused with stillness, curiosity, connection, comfort, hope, imagination, and a little bit of magic. Her books, for me, quietly captivate and make the world slow down.

 

 

The Tea Party in the Woods (2015).

This one feels like a fairy tale without the scary bits. A girl in a red cap, a pie, a grandmother, a bear. When her father forgets the pie he’s bringing to Kikko’s grandmother, Kikko sets off to find him. She thinks she’s following his footsteps, but instead she’s led to an unfamiliar house in the woods. But no scary bits here, remember? The figure in the coat and hat Kikko followed was actually a bear, the house the setting for a wonderful tea party with other forest animals and pie.

Instead of the woods being a place to fear, this story portrays it as a place of wonderful surprises and generous, welcoming spirits.

 

 

“You’re never alone in the woods,” Kikko answered, smiling. 

 

While the woods were once empty, full of white space and leafless tress, the animals fill it in a sort of parade. Her use of color is so effective too, little spots of brightness and then that sweet, colorful pie. The illustrations convey the feeling that though the world may seem lonely, it’s full of wonder and community and magic. And the details make it feel truly real.


This book has surprise and joy and fond feelings shared by all kinds of creatures. And, it’s a story that affirms a child’s imagination, something I’m always a fan of and something Akiko Miyakoshi does exceptionally well.


 

 

 


The Storm (2016).

A boy planning a beach day with his family worries the coming storm will cancel his trip. There is fear in this story, fear of weather and fear of having joyful plans disrupted. The black and white drawings add to the ominous feelings of worry. After wishing for a ship to conquer the storm, that night he dreams of one, and he is at the helm. Here too, a child’s imagination is a powerful, palpable thing and the next day, the storm is gone.

“I wish I had a ship with big propellers that would spin stronger winds to drive the storm away.”

 

Finally, the lift and break and joy of brilliantly light blue skies that match the remaining puddles from the rain, a child’s wish fulfilled telling readers that despite the darkness of worry, there is hope. Despite fear, there is courage.

 

 


The Way Home in the Night (2017).

The bunny in this book is walking home with their mother, looking at the windows they pass. Once again, this story captures imagination and wonder so effectively as bunny imagines what each neighbor might be doing inside their home. Bunny pictures these domestic scenes, each rendered simply, yet with so much resonance. We glimpse each character through Bunny’s wonderings, each evening they’re having in that tender, liminal time of night before going to bed.

 

“But every night, we all go home to bed.”

 

The yellow glow in this picture book about night is one special thing about it. It’s dark, it’s night, but it’s always comforting, illuminated. Perhaps there is a comfort in imagining others around us even when we can’t see them. If we can envision the experience of others, then we know we are all the same under the same moon in the same dark and glow of evening.

 

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Enter to win one copy of all three of Akiko Miyakoshi’s picture books from Kids Can Press!

Simply comment below!

 

(Giveaway ends Tuesday, March 20 at midnight PST; North America only.)

 

 

Big thanks to Kids Can Press for interior images and the generous giveaway!

 

 

You might also be interested in ISOL’s picture book life.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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