Archive for the ‘All ages’ Category


The Middle Passage: White Ships / Black Cargo, Tom Feelings. Dial, 2017, c1995.

You may know Tom Feelings’ The Middle Passage: White Ships / Black Cargo, as it was originally published in 1995. Now there is a newly published edition (released January, 2018), with introductions by Kadir Nelson and Kamili Feelings, and historical note by Dr. Sylviane A. Diouf. The introduction by Tom Feelings from the original 1995 edition remains, where he explains the inspiration and process– more than the art– of creating this wordless book that defies assigning an age level, although it is often recommended for teens. The verso of the title page states the “artwork was rendered using pen and ink and tempra on rice paper,” and “It was printed in tritone using 2 black and one gray, plus a neutral press varnish.” Feelings received the 1996 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for this stunning and powerful series of illustrations. Find a video of this book online, created by Luke Dupuis using cinematic techniques to create a sense of movement, with music (Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, performed by the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein) at The Middle Passage.




My Two Blankets, by Irena Kobald, illustrated by Freya Blackwood. HMH, 2015.

Originally published in Australia, this picture storybook is for all ages. A young person is introduced as happy in her country, a place pictured in warm tones of yellows, oranges, and soft browns. But she and her Auntie move to a new country in order to be safe. This country is shown in cool tones of blues, browns, grays, and greens. Everything is different and strange in the new country, including the language. “When I was at home,” she says, “I wrapped myself in a blanket of my own words and sounds.” She creates a metaphor for her original language–her old blanket, which is warm, soft, and comfortable– and the new language, which she calls a “cold waterfall.”  Yet she meets a friend, and begins to learn to the new language, “weaving a new blanket.”  She adds new words, so the new language is comfortable, too. “And now,” she states, “no matter which blanket I use, I will always be me.”

Use this book with anyone who is learning or teaching a new language.




The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home, by Jennifer Huget; illustrated by Red Nose Studio. Schwartz & Wade, 2013.

The creative genius who is “Red Nose Studio” is illustrator Chris Sickels. Do I love Red Nose Studio because of the fabulous handmade 3-D illustrations, or because Chris rides a 1965 Harley Pacer?  Well, maybe both.

Chris has illustrated books for children, and a personal fav is The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away from Home, written by Jennifer Huget (Schwartz & Wade, 2013).

Chris uses all manner of widgets, cloth, wire, sprockets, you-name-it to create his art.  Check out this Vimeo to see Chris, his Pacer, and a tour of his Greenfield, Indiana, studio.

Also check out the Red Nose Studio website here.  Be sure to open the Creosote tab! What is creosote?  Chris will school you. Creosote is also the title of his short award-winning film that you can view on the site (age level?– you decide). Added bonus! There are FREE high-res images from the film that you can print, cut out, assemble, and use for your own scenes.


The Beatles

Posted: February 15, 2014 in All ages, Biography, Graphic novels
The Beatles, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström              (Frances Lincoln, 2014)

The Beatles, by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
(Frances Lincoln, 2014)

The Beatles are receiving much attention recently as the “Fab Four” just received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the group is being highlighted in children’s literature as well. Mick Manning and Brita Grandström have created a FABulous informational picture book using elements of the graphic novel format. Chronicling the history of The Beatles from John’s birth in 1940, to 1970 when John, Paul, George, and Ringo went their own ways in the music world, each page turn is a new dated “chapter” with a short description of the band’s events in that year/years and additional fascinating anecdotes. Who knew that John received his first harmonica as a kid when a bus driver gave him a professional harmonica because John had been playing a harmonica on the bus constantly from Liverpool to Edinburgh? The book explains this was the same harmonica used in Love Me Do.

Mick Manning & Brita Grandström at the Frances Lincoln tea in Philadelphia, January 2014

Mick Manning & Brita Grandström at the Frances Lincoln tea in Philadelphia, January 2014

I caught up with Mick and Brita at a Frances Lincoln tea in Philadelphia (they live in England; Mick’s from Yorkshire, and Brita is from Sweden). They have been writing and illustrating for 20 years, and during this time they have received numerous awards for their information books, and are currently shortlisted for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award — a major international award established by the Swedish government in 2002 and bestowed by the Swedish Arts Council. Watch for the announcement of the 2014 winner on March 25, and keep rooting for Mick and Brita!

1962-1963 "Goodbye Pete, Hello Ringo" from The Beatles

1962-63 “Goodbye Pete, Hello Ringo” from The Beatles

Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

Little Bird, by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

It looks like a picture book for very young children, but don’t be fooled! Little Bird speaks to all ages. Embedded here is a quiet message about the little things that make life valuable. To appreciate the book most, take your time perusing the pages. Especially if you are feeling frazzled, this is the antidote to the “must do more” sense that drives us to exhaustion. The story is presented in spare text by Germano Zullo, and expressive but minimalist art by his wife, Albertine. Treat yourself to this emotional uplift.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with artwork by Yayoi Kusama

The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, originally published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Dodgson himself sketched some illustrations for a manuscript of the story, and the first published edition was illustrated by John Tenniel. This tale has been selected by several artists over the years as a book to illustrate, such as Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali, and many others, including a recent pop-up edition by Robert Sabuda.

Now there is yet another stunning edition of this classic work, illustrated by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s work as an artist is defined by polka dots, and these are evident on almost every page in the book, including the cover, endpapers, table of contents . . . everywhere. Full page illustrations, full-bleed double-page spreads, and spot art displaying Kusama’s repetitive patterns and dots also fill this children’s book/art book.

I recently saw a segment about Kusama–who became famous as an artist in New York in the late 1950s until 1973, and who influenced Andy Warhol–on the CBS Sunday Morning program (I saw this on September 16, 2012– you can see a gallery of images from Sunday Morning here). Kusama left New York in 1973, and now lives in her native Japan.

View images from Kusama’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland below, and also scroll down to find out more about her on YouTube (note: some of Kusama’s art as shown on the YouTube video might be considered “mature”).