Tag Archives: picture books

this picture book life turns 9

For This Picture Book Life’s 9th anniversary, I’m giving away two bundles of new, some summery and some fall-feeling, picture books with this theme: people and places. Summer adventures, special relatives, trips, swimming, biographies, first days of school, belonging, identity, siblings, pizza, and more!

 

 

The giveaway for Bundle One will be right here! (Rafflecopter below.)

The one for Bundle Two will be on Instagram—here instead!

 

 

The First Bundle:

Climb on! Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara, written by Baptiste Paul (2022).

Ready for the Spotlight! by Jaime Kim (2022).

Clementine and the Lion by Zoey Abbott (2022).

I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca, illustrated by Sara Palacios (2022).

Black Girl Rising by Brynne Barnes, illustrations by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (2022).

Pizza: A Slice of History by Greg Pizzoli (2022).

The Fossil Whisperer by Helaine Becker and Sandra Dumais (2022).

This is a School words by John Schu, illustrations by Veronica Miller Jamison (2022).

 

The Second Bundle:

The Big Bath House by Kyo Maclear & Gracey Zhang (2021).

My Town Mi Pueblo by Nicholas Solis, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (2022).

A Mermaid Girl by Sana Rafi, illustrated by Olivia Aserr (2022).

The Queen of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton (2022).

Cycle City by Alison Farrell (2018).

Everything in Its Place: A Story of Books and Belonging by Pauline David-Sax, illustrated by Charnel Pinkney Barlow (2022).

Strong written by Rob Kearney & Eric Rosewood, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani (2022).

One Boy Watching by Grant Snider (2022).

 

Okay, enter to win below for the first bundle or on IG for the second! And many thanks for following along with This Picture Book Life.

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

16 creativity-packed picture books

I give you 16 creativity-packed picture books that inspire me.  I’ve chosen them specifically from my own life as a writer because they have spoken to me, either years ago or else become recent favorites. I hope you’ll add one of your favorite picture books on the topic in the comments!

Here’s to creativity and the picture books that inspire more of it!

 

Show the World! written by Angela Dalton illustrated by Daria Peoples (2022).

Picked because it’s super packed with self-expression of all different kinds and centers Black children shining as they show the world what they love and do.

 

Off-Limits by Helen Yoon (2021).

Picked because this new favorite playfully shows us that following our curiosity, breaking the rules, and getting messy are part of any artistic process. Plus, Mayel Creates made a wonderful office supply garland craft to match it!

 

 

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe (2016).

Picked because this Basquiat picture book biography is incredible and captures not only his story, but how his story exemplifies that art is infused in place and culture. “Art is the street games of little children, in our style and the words that we speak. It is how the messy patchwork of the city creates new meaning for ordinary things.”

 

 

Lines by Suzy Lee (2017).

Picked because this is one of my favorite books about creativity, and I’ve never posted it on  my blog! Wordless and meta too, it’s filled with joy, surprise, and creative camaraderie.

 

 

Studio by Emily Arrow and The Little Friends of Printmaking (2019).

Picked because it’s an ode to being you and finding your singular expression and space to cultivate it before sharing that with the world. It’s exuberant, and I’ll also disclose: dedicated to me by Emily Arrow! It’s a special book and that detail makes it incredibly special on my personal bookshelf as well.

 

 

WallPaper by Thao Lam (2019).

Picked because I love all of Thao Lam‘s work, and this wordless because contains a whole world that imagination makes possible. A world in which a shy girl gains just the courage she needs through her own creativity and resourcefulness. Plus, I made a corresponding fun paper creature craft for it a couple of years back!

 

 

Little People, Big Dreams: Louise Bourgeois written by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara illustrated by Helena Pérez García (2020).

Picked because Louise Bourgeois is one of my very favorite non-living artists and this is a handy little compendium of her inspiring life. A fond memory of mine is seeing her giant spider sculpture, “Maman,” in Tokyo a few years go. The meaning of it, for me, is very different than for her, but I found it powerful and haunting and moving. “By using art to confront her fears, little Louise became one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and the grandmother of modern art.”

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois words by Amy Novensky pictures by Isabelle Arsenault (2016).

Picked because: more Louise Bourgeois and because it’s exquisite in depicting a life woven together with the threads of her childhood, her mother, their family tapestry business, Parisian fabrics, memory, and stitching itself.

 

 

Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu (2008).

Picked because I’ve admired this wordless story and its art for a long time, and actually got to see Tao Nyeu‘s art show exhibit of this book back in the day. It’s about children who plant seeds that grow into something wildly magical—an embodiment of creativity.

 

 

Aaron Slater, Illustrator by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts (2021).

Picked because this team is truly brilliant and this story truly speaks to kids, especially those who are dyslexic (and because my partner downloaded the font the text was printed in because he’s dyslexic and an artist like Aaron Slater too).  “…beauty and kindness and loving and art lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.”

 

 

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken (2017).

Picked because this gorgeously illustrated book tells a poetic story of mistakes leading to magic, as they often do in the creative process.

 

 

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (2014).

Picked because it captures getting frustrated and getting fed up on a project, part of creativity too. And how often a walk (or any break) is just the thing to see things anew.

 

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall illustrated by Benji Davies (2016).

Picked because the phrase “little bit of nothing” for what every story starts with is fantastic. And this book about storytelling is fantastic and fantastical and too.

 

 

Julia, Child words by Kyo Maclear pictures by Julie Morstad (2013).

Picked because this one (written by a favorite author, Kyo Maclear), is creative in its very concept: a fictional tale of a kitchen-loving child who bears some resemblance to Julia Child. It’s ingredients: friendship, slow-down, sweetness, wonder, and imagination. Oh and Coco Cakeland made chocolate almond cupcakes to celebrate it with me a few years back!

 

 

 

Field Trip to the Moon by John Hare (2019).

Picked because this one is tons of fun with crayons and creativity as a conduit to friendship–on the MOON!

 

What Do You Do With An Idea? by Kobi Yamada illustrated by Mae Besom (2014).

Picked because it’s a magical yet relatable allegory for having and nurturing an idea: curious and strange and wonderful.

 

 

You might want to check out TPBL craft posts on Off-Limits, Wallpaper, and Julia, Child, mentioned above!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

abc of feelings and more picture books for exploring emotions

ABC of Feelings written and illustrated by Bonnie Lui (2020).

This picture book is, as the title suggests, an alphabet depicting 26 different feelings, from anxious to zany with delightful illustrations. It’s a useful compendium for kids to learn the names of specific emotions and to understand the breadth of theirs—and how that spectrum of feelings is totally okay, expected, important to name and know and explore.

In a few instances of Bonnie Lui’s book, the two sides of a spread serve as question and answer or are related in some way—and those are most effective and engaging. For example, kids who are SCARED on their own at a campout experience the feeling of being TRUSTING on the opposite side when they join a parent, snuggly in bed together.

 

My favorite spread is the pairing of WISHFUL and XENIAL, the second a word I didn’t know, because it tells a complete story that is unexpected, sweet, and magical.

Overall, ABC of Feelings shows kids that feelings come in all kinds and that they’re part of life—to be noticed, celebrated, expressed, and sometimes soothed.

 

Big thanks to Penguin Random House for the review copy and images!

 

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And ABC of Feelings is also a good jumping off point to explore more books and feelings with kids!

 

Here are 20 picture books that explore feelings of all kinds either directly or embedded in the story: longing, grief, disappointment, love, hurt, pride, sadness, loss, uncertainty, fear, worry, misery, hope, inspiration, happiness, curiosity, and joy.  These titles (and others) may be useful for discussions with kids about how they’re feeling.

You might ask a child: “What is the character feeling? How do you know? Do you ever feel like that? What are you feeling today, right now? Would you like to draw your feeling? To write about it? To sing a song? To tell me how it feels or why it might be here? I will share my feelings too.”

In a recent Washington Post article by Lakshmi Gandhi, “Books Can Be An Entry to Talking About Sadness with Your Child,” the writer interviews Erin Entrada Kelly, Tracy Subisak (creator of Jenny Mei Is Sad from this list), and Christine Day about their children’s books and the difficult feelings they explore with authenticity and compassion.

Books, indeed, are conduits of connection to the internal lives of characters that reflect the internal lives of us all. 

Here’s the list:

I Wish You Knew written by Jackie Azúa Kramer illustrated by Magdalena Mora (2021).

The Longest Letsgoboy written by Derick Wilder illustrated by Cátia Chien (2021).

When I See Red by Britta Teckentrup (2021).

Jenny Mei Is Sad by Tracy Subisak (2021).

Wounded Falcons by Jairo Buitrago and Rafael Yockteng (2021).

 Saturday by Oge Mora (2019).

My Love for You Is Always written by Gillian Sze, illustrated by Michelle Lee (2021).

Laxmi’s Mooch by Shelley Anand, illustrated by Nabi H. Ali (2020)

Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and  David Litchfield (2020).

Bindu’s Bindi’s by Supriya Kelkar, illustrated by Parvati Pillai (2021).

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld (2018).

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali, art by Hatem Aly (2019).

Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna (2018).

Birdsong by Julie Flett (2019).

Don’t Worry, Little Crab by Chris Haughton (2020).

The Happiness of a Dog with a Ball in Its Mouth by Bruce Handy and Hyewon Yum (2021).

Great Big Feelings series.

Boogie, Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza (2021).

 

I hope you’ll share some feelings-related books in the comments too! What is a picture book you know and love that explores emotions?

 

 

 

to make…a cover! + interview with illustrator Mags DeRoma

This is a special post. A cover reveal! In fact, I get the great honor of sharing the cover of my and illustrator Mags DeRoma‘s picture book, To Make, with her cover art! This picture book will be out in summer 2022 from Harper/Katherine Tegen Books. But let’s get to today’s main event:

Here is the cover of To Make, made by Mags DeRoma!

 

It is truly every children’s book writer’s dream to behold a cover like this, one they truly love, that feels right, that makes them dance when they see it. That all happened when I saw this stunner. Most importantly, it captures the spirit of To Make.

Because at its heart, our picture book is a manual to inspire kids to make. It celebrates the process and perseverance of creativity and encourages every reader to “keep making.”

And the book’s cover feels to me like those three kids joyfully embarking in that direction. It feels like an invitation, full of possibility.

Lucky for us, Mags DeRoma, artist behind it, is going to answer some questions about the cover and her process of making the art for To Make. She’ll also share about her craft and convictions when creating picture books for kids.

 

This Picture Book Life: I relate the child on the far right of the cover to you as an artist, with a bundle of art supplies. Will you tell us about your materials for making?

Mags DeRomaHa! Yes, I can often be seen with an armful of art supplies and a trail behind me! I simply love to make things, things of all kinds, wherever I find myself, whether it is in my studio, in the kitchen, at the beach, camping, even laying in bed helping my kiddos fall asleep (there, I use words to paint pictures). I am delighted by art supplies both classic and found (old books make for fun collage elements, for instance), so I could make lists for days!

 

“For this book, I used Blackwing pencils (my fave), graphite, charcoal, soft pastels, newsprint, flea-market found paper, acrylic paint and gouache, sandpaper, and lots and lots of glue.”

 

 

TPBL: How did you approach the illustrations for To Make—what was your vision for bringing this story to life?

MagsDeRoma: When I first read the manuscript that you wrote, Danielle, I was so touched by the gentleness, care, and patience of the making process as expressed (among many other things!). I wanted to echo that feeling in the art. It only seemed right to make the “story arc” of the pictures actually “illustrate” the process of making the art of the book.

 

“At the beginning of the book, the images are rendered in graphite and pencil, and as the pages turn, more materials, colors, and layers are added. There is a sense of building and layering and becoming over the course of the book. Which is what happens when you make.”

 

 

The story that must be told here is of a conversation we had over dinner one night, just before you sent me the manuscript. We first connected (gushed) over our mutual reverence for Gyo Fujikawa and her picture books. I have a tattered copy of Come Follow Me from my own childhood that I frequently open for inspiration (and a warm hug).

Gyo is a mentor and a guide, even though I never knew her, and I have so much admiration for the art, and the woman—a bold, talented, and fearless, and huge-hearted woman artist. She could see kids. You can see that in her work. She showed kids from every walk of life, and in the most charming and heartfelt way. So anyone could pick up her books and see themselves in them. And she made everything with an element of magic and whimsy. Pure gold.

 

 

“So, the art in To Make is very much inspired by, and an ode to my love of Gyo Fujikawa.”


 

TPBL: What’s a favorite detail or two about the cover, something meaningful to you?  What’s a word or couple of words you’d use to describe it?

MagsDeRoma: I make everything with curious, observant little minds in mind. So I love to put in little details—like random hearts—or even “waves” to my kids in the art. I will tell you one…there is a little graphic on the hat of the third kiddo that is a little “wave” to my son.

“A few words to describe [the cover]—impetus or the birth of an idea, a commencement,

a joyful celebration, an awakening.”

 

TPBL: “Gather, make, wait” is the main refrain of the text. How do those instructions reflect your own process for To Make or in general as an artist?

MagsDeRoma: I think that refrain was the hook that perfectly harmonized with my feelings on making, and yes, in particular, this book. I grow through art-making, and this book was very much a growth moment for me. I lived by this mantra of ‘gather, make wait’ for several months, gathering ideas and scraps and making sketches and marks and mistakes, and then the funny thing with art, for me, is that you do have to let it steep for a bit. There were several pieces I completely changed or redid after letting them rest a little tucked away on a shelf. And also some that got better with age. 🙂

 

TPBL: What do you hope to convey to children through the voice of the work you create?

MagsDeRoma:I believe that picture book art is a conversation between the reader and the illustrator. So I hope that kids feel the warm hug that I try to put into all of my art, first. Then, that they receive the permission to make a mess or be gloriously creative, and to be totally present and lost in a project.

I hope they see themselves reflected in the art, whatever that means to them.

 

“I hope they can feel a glimmer of understanding, the way I did when I first read it. The ‘someone just GETS me’ feeling. Or, they forget everything altogether and just start making things, wonderful things.”

 

And I hope they feel that their creative pursuits matter, greatly.

 

TPBL: Please share your path to becoming an illustrator. What are your reflections or even advice as you look back at it from where you are now on the journey?

MagsDeRomaThe path of every creative I know (of allll kinds) has one thing in common—they are all completely unique and different. I have always made art and things and I wrote and illustrated loads of stories growing up. I went to school for sculpture and photography, and then got a job at a photo studio at an ad agency in Chicago. That path led to an unexpected career as a Creative Director in advertising. I left that path several years later when I created Silly Street, a board game for preschoolers. In the process of designing the game, I ended up illustrating a million little animals. I had a 5-year-old at the time, and so this animal-drawing skill came in very handy (I can also now draw all of the Avengers, Pokemon, and dinosaurs, or whatever the whim of the day happened to be…but I digress).

The creation of Silly Street led to a more dedicated and intentional art practice, which lead to a portfolio, then an SCBWI portfolio showcase, which led to an agent (Hannah Mann, Writer’s House), and finally a book deal (Awake, Roaring Brook Press, out Oct 19!).

That is the most hyper-simplified encapsulation of this journey! There were a lot of late nights, coffees, scrambles, piles of discarded attempts, missteps, a hilarious snafu with a portfolio presentation involving 17 hotel sewing kits, and other happy accidents along the way. I wrote my first picture book manuscript/thumbnails on the pages of the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss when I was in a hotel on a work trip, longing for a more art-driven path (and without paper to draw on!).

The secret for me was consistency and diligence. I just had to make something, every day. I found the #100days community to be super supportive, and a great accountability buddy. I also have a small critique group of picture book makers that has been an invaluable source of support and fun over the years.

Last, I have found it helpful to do my best to employ a student mindset. Everyone is a teacher, especially the little ones entrusting their childhoods to those making picture books! I plan to keep learning and growing forever, in service of them.

 

Thank you, Mags for this window into your making process, and for the most wondrous and meaningful cover for To Make!

 

We both are also full of thanks for:

Mabel Hsu, our incredible and truly dream editor at Katherine Tegen Books; Hannah Mann, who boldly and affectionately agented this book for us both; Amy Ryan, ace art director at Harper; Molly Fehr, gifted designer at Harper. This team has worked diligently on and cared deeply for this book from the jump. Thank you.

 

All photos courtesy Mags DeRoma

 

 

picture books that feel like a party

Picture books can be slow and still, loving lullabies for nighttime routines. But they can also be containers of boisterous merry-making. Spirited, energetic, gleeful affairs! These ten picture books are like that. To me, they feel like parties. And I hope they make the little readers in your life want to dance, parade, bike, include others, celebrate themselves and everyone, and generally throw confetti.


Boogie Boogie, Y’all by C.G. Esperanza (2021). Community and art are a party.

This picture book gave me the idea for this party picture books roundup post! It’s truly special and pulses with art, energy, and celebration! A stunning tribute to graffiti and murals in Brooklyn that turns into a magical block party all because one child notices the “art on the wall” and everywhere.

 

Whole Whale words by Karen Yin & art by Nelleke Verhoeff (2021). A party is for everyone!

Will an entire blue whale fit? That’s the main question of this book-menagerie. Gathering and acceptance ensue in the answer “when everybody makes some space.”

 

Bisa’s Carnaval by Joana Pastro, illustrated by Carolina Coroa (coming December 2021). Carnaval and music and costumes and, of course, Bisa, is a party!

Clara’s great-grandmother is the secret ingredient to her Carnaval preparations, especially her fabulous fantasia (costume) for parade day. But it turns out, Bisa is also the secret ingredient for the parade itself. This picture book is a sweet joy! “Confete showers enchant and serpentine spirals bedazzle. We mingle with beauty queens, super heroes, fairies, harlequins, and people from all over the world. Different accents, cultures, beliefs.”

 

Bodies Are cool by Tyler Feder (2021). Loving ours and the variance of bodies is a party!

Yes, this book celebrates all kinds of bodies!! Because they’re cool! And that feels like a joyful party too.

 

Bicycle Bash by Alison Farrell (2020). Biking together is a party!

This picture book is a delightful seek and find of animals on wheels in fun and fact-filled museum rooms of discovery and details and, of course, momentum!


Family Reunion by Chad & Dad Richardson and Ashleigh Corrin (2021). A family reunion is a party!

While the main character is initially reluctant to join the shindig, in they end, they’re totally won over. How could they not be? This family get-together is tops with a cook-off, dance-off, cousins, family history, and loving PopPop there too.

 

Pride Puppy! by Robin Stevenson and Julie McLaughlin (2021). Community, acceptance and pride are a party!

Vibrant art and an alphabet-story to accompany puppy’s first pride parade are sure to make any reader smile in this celebratory picture book.

 

How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder (2019). Dancing is always a party!

A brilliant, bobbing, boogie-ing, body-loving book.

 

Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani (2017). Eye-catching design and playful arithmetic with cats are a party!

This is one of my all-time favorites—so much so that I made a cat clay craft on this blog a few years back in its honor! It’s about cats. It’s about stacks of cats. It’s about math. And it is pure pure playful fun!

 

How to Have a Birthday by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Cindy Derby (2021). A day that’s all yours is a party!

A slower kind of party awaits readers in this beautiful picture book that encapsulates the childhood magic and love and hope I wish everyone had. A birthday doesn’t always mean a party, but it’s always a day to celebrate in your own way.

 

 

You might also enjoy my craft for the delightful crowd-pleaser Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani found here.