Hello In There!  by Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey

Hello In There! By Jo Witek and illustrated by Christine Roussey

Sometimes it seems like waiting for babies to be born takes forever, so the big sister in this lift-the-flap book creates a connection with her new little sister while she’s still inside mama’s belly. She talks to the baby, and sings to her. She reassures the baby, explaining she will “chase away shadows” and that “surprises are waiting.” For each statement from the big sister, the reader can lift the flap to see the baby as big sister imagines her, complete with background such as wallpaper, nature, or whatever the big sister visualizes inside the expanding belly. Finally the big sister invites the baby to come out and play, the belly is conspicuously absent, and at the next page turn Big Sister is happily holding Baby.
This is a comforting book that will be chosen over and over by big sisters anticipating little sisters. Now we need a similar tale for big brothers waiting for their little brothers!

Happy, written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout

Happy, written and illustrated by Mies Van Hout

If you are having a dreary spring, Happy will provide a cure. This is a concept book of emotions, with 20 additional emotions from “curious” to “delighted,” and everything in between including “loving,” “proud,” “brave,” “afraid,” and yes, even “furious.”
The fishes exhibiting the emotions make this book engaging for all ages, beyond the pre-K audience for which it is intended. Each fish appears to be drawn in chalk on a black background, like the “happy” fish, providing a mesmerizing neon-like quality. Opposite each fish is the one-word emotion, also chalked, and perhaps on an appropriately-colored page; “sad” is on a blue page, “shocked” on fuschia, and so on.
Get happy with Happy, and then look for the next book by Mies Van Hout, the hot-off-the-press Friends in the same format, only this time with monsters.

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache, by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache, by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

April is National Poetry Month! If you haven’t observed National Poetry Month, there’s still time! I recommend you start with poems by J. Patrick Lewis, current Children’s Poet Laureate. Pat has written numerous poetry books for children, and one of his most recent is If You Were a Chocolate Mustache. There are numerous poems in this collection, all illustrated with line drawing by the talented Matthew Cordell. Some of the poems are short, such as “One Lost Sock.” Here it is: “Quandry?/Laundry./Try yer/Dryer.” Others are longer, such as “Bear One, Bear Two,” composed of four four-line rhyming stanzas. There are concrete poems, such as “The Longest Watermelon Seed Spit,” and other forms of poetry as well.

After you read this book, you will be on a poetry high, so find out more about Pat and children’s poetry by clicking on The Poetry Foundation website.

J. Patrick Lewis with his chocolate mustache.

J. Patrick Lewis with his chocolate mustache.


And since today is Earth Day, here’s Pat reading one of his poems most appropriate for today!

Show Me a Story!  Why Picture Books Matter:  Conversations with 21 of the World's Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus

Read interviews conducted with some of your favorite children’s book illustrators in the recent Show Me a Story! Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus. If you have read Marcus’ earlier Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book, you will recognize some of the interviews, such as interviews with Mitsumasa Anno, Robert McCloskey, Helen Oxenbury, Jerry Pinkney, and Rosemary Wells, among others (not all of the interviews from Ways of Telling have been included in Show Me a Story!). New interviews include Lois Ehlert, Yumi Heo, Chris Raschka, Peter Sís, Mo Williams, Lizbeth Zwerger, among others. Some of the previously published interviews have been updated, and there may be some slight edits in the previously-published interviews. Special features include bibliographies of the illustrators’ books, and a section of color plates in the center of the book.
Marcus is an established researcher and writer in the field of children’s literature, and the interviews in Show Me a Story! provide insight into the lives and artistic perspectives of the subjects, in their own voices. Each interview is unique; for example in the interview with Peter Sís, one learns of his early life in the former Czechoslovakia and how his art was encouraged by his family, to how he began illustrating books for children, discussion of symbols and fantasy structures in his pictures, and insight into his work with his editor, the remarkable Frances Foster.
Marcus has written several books about authors, illustrators, and topics in children’s literature, but I first became a fan of his work when I read Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon. Not only is this book an intriguing biography of one of the creators of classic children’s books, it is also a primer in the history of children’s literature during Margaret Wise Brown’s lifetime. The book is currently out of print, but searching for it will be worth the effort.

Margaret Wise Brown:  Awakened by the Moon, by Leonard S. Marcus

Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon, by Leonard S. Marcus

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.

 

The House Baba Built:  An Artist's Childhood in China, written and illustrated by Ed Young

The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China, written and illustrated by Ed Young

Ed Young was the inaugural speaker for the Butler Lecture at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science on February 22, and I was lucky enough to be there!

Young, widely known for his Caldecott Award winning book Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China and many other books, spoke about his recent The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China. He showed slides and related how he went back to Shanghai to find that house, and while it took some looking because the street had been built up, he finally did pinpoint the four-family home his father built and where he grew up. His stories about the history of the house were engaging, such as how he was gracious to the current owner and was thus invited inside, why his father included a swimming pool inside the home, how a worker died building the home, and other childhood memories of a family haven during wartime. The book itself is a biography, a family history, a glimpse into this historical period in China, and is stunning with fold-out pages, drawings, collage art, and photos. The paper itself is a tactile treat, and the book encourages lingering.

Ed Young signs my books after the Butler Lecture at Dominican University

Ed Young signs my books after the Butler Lecture at Dominican University

Thank you Susan Roman, Thom Barthelmess, and others at Dominican for this delightful evening with Ed Young. I can’t wait until next year’s Butler Lecture when Jane Yolen is scheduled to be the speaker!

Live from the Youth Media Awards announcements!

Live from the Youth Media Awards announcements!

I’m at the American Library Association’s 2013 ALA Youth Media Awards meeting in Seattle — the “premier event” in children’s book awards. Throngs of librarians and other children’s book aficionados arrived early and stood in a very long line (many with cups of Starbucks, since this is Seattle after all) to be at the announcements of the awards. This one is particularly noteworthy as it is the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Award.
The orange glow from the swirling liquid-like images on the curved screens in the front of the room creates a warm ambience to complement the excitement. The podium is vacant until the last minute, while the 2013 ALA Youth Media Awards committee members call the winners with the news.
To get some of the news out fast, I’m only announcing the Caldecott and the Newbery here. For more details, consult the American Library Association website at http://www.ala.org, or see my “Resources” link on this site.
AND THE WINNERS ARE:
2013 Randolph Caldecott Award – This Is Not My Hat, written and illustrated by Jon Klassen (Candlewick).
2013 John Newbery Award – The One and Only Ivan, written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by Patricia Castelao (HarperCollins).
Congratulations!