Archive for the ‘Picture storybooks’ Category

Julián Is a Mermaid

Posted: May 28, 2018 in Picture storybooks



Julián Is a Mermaid, written and illustrated by Jessica Love. Candlewick, 2018

Julián sees mermaids, and he is mesmerized. He enters a fishy, fantasy world, and transforms to a mermaid. Julián’s abuela recognizes how Julián sees himself, and takes him to where there are others who are — mermaids.
Begin this standout journey with Julián on the endpapers, where he is in a pool with his abuela and women who may be of a similar age. The careful observer will notice a fish tail on the page of the open book Julián is reading in the subway on the way home, which leads to the aquatic fantasy. His abuela’s face seems to not change throughout the story– is she tired? stern? disapproving? thoughtful? Or, accepting and supportive. Motifs throughout the book add to the watery settings — fish with tropical colorations and patterns, a splashing fire hydrant, a seagull outside of Julián’s window, and finally, the beach.
The back jacket flap states the author-illustrator, Jessica Love, is an actor and an illustrator, and the understated drama in the softly saturated illustrations work in tandem in this generational and unquestioning story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.


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.



Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Journey, by Aaron Becker

Journey, by Aaron Becker

Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson

I was lucky to be invited to help as a facilitator today for the Mock Caldecott co-sponsored by The Lane Libraries (Butler County, Ohio) and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. What’s a Mock Caldecott, you ask? It’s a lively and exciting discussion of books, resulting in a vote among participants as they predict the upcoming Caldecott Medal and Honor books. Many libraries, schools, bookstores, and other venues hold Mock Caldecotts– with varied predictions!

We were a group of maybe 80 librarians and educators, and we had received a list of 24 titles ahead of time so we could read and examine the art in preparation for today’s festivities (thanks to Gratia Banta, former Caldecott Committee Chair, and also to Sam Bloom of PLCH for selecting and organizing).  The Caldecott Medal is awarded for the best illustrated book of the year, and you can read more about terms and criteria for this award here.

We were divided into small groups, and we quickly discussed the artistic qualities of the books, one at a time. Each group voted for their three top choices, the votes were tallied, and the results are above! We decided Aaron Becker’s wordless fantasy Journey would receive the Caldecott Medal, with Kadir Nelson’s Nelson Mandela and Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild receiving Honor designations.

Will these books actually receive the awards we predicted? Only the actual Caldecott Committee will determine that, and the results will be announced on the morning of January 27. If you can’t go to the ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia for this event, find a link for the live streaming here.

Here is a real treat for you . . . go to this link to watch a series of video clips of illustrators discussing some of the books that might be currently under consideration by the 2014 Caldecott Committee (books published in 2013). It is possible one or more of these books could be selected for recognition, but that’s all hush-hush for now. We’ll just have to wait until January 27 to learn more.

What are your picks for the Caldecott?

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.

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown

You are probably aware that Creepy Carrots! was named as one of the five 2013 Caldecott Honor books. For Jasper, the main character in this picture storybook noir, carrots are everywhere . . . he can’t get enough of his favorite orange vegetable . . . but then they seem to be following him . . .
Illustrator Peter Brown created an insightful and informative Vimeo about the research and influences into his art for this faux-frightening tale. Be warned that you must have knowledge of Rod Serling’s 1950s-60s science fiction television series, The Twilight Zone, to fully appreciate Brown’s research– and the book Creepy Carrots! as well. Check out some full episodes of The Twilight Zone on your favorite Internet television/film provider, or go to a feature about The Twilight Zone on NPR here. Then, check out this Vimeo of Brown discussing how he made some of his decisions for this story of petrifying plants. And for the faint of heart, keep the lights on.


Nightsong, by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long

‘Tis the season . . . for BATS! I was fortunate to catch up with illustrator Loren Long at Books by the Banks in Cincinnati this past weekend where he was signing his new Nightsong, a picture storybook written by Ari Berk. The book is black from beginning to end–except for less dark nighttime scenes–however this bat book is endearing rather the scary. The stereotype of the bat is of a totally black creature, but they can be other colors, too. Moonlight washes over Chiro and his mother to give them dappled butterscotchy-golden hues, as the mother encourages Chiro to leave the cave and go out into the world on his own for the first time to seek his breakfast. “Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you,” she invokes. The term echolocation is never mentioned, but of course this is Chiro’s song as he makes his journey to the edge of the ocean, singing his song and hearing “the music of the land.” When the sky begins to turn light he returns to his mother, who sings him to sleep.

Loren Long, with two of his books: Nightsong, and Otis.

Loren Longs’s graphite darkness and image of the young bat with wings entwined with his mother’s adds safety and warmth to the dark cave. A brief author’s note at the end explains the name Chiro is “inspired” from the “Greek, cheir, ‘hand’ and pteron, ‘wing’ which is “the order name for bats, the only mammals capable of true flight.” A perfect book for fall . . . or anytime.