May 26, 2016

Quackers

quackersTitle: Quackers

Author/Illustrator: Liz Wong
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books, 2016
Editor:  Nancy Siscoe
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 3-7
Themes: Identity, Fitting In, Friendships, Family

Opening:

“Meow.”
Quackers is a duck.
He knows he is a duck because he lives at the duck pond with all the other ducks.

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

Quackers is a duck. Sure, he may have paws and whiskers. And his quacks might sound more like…well, meows, but he lives among ducks, everyone he knows is a duck, and he’s happy.
Then Quackers meets another duck who looks like him (& talks like him, too!)—but he calls himself a cat. So silly!

Quackers loves being among his new friends the cats, but he also misses his duck friends, and so he finds a way to combine the best of both worlds. Part cat, part duck, all Quackers!

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

My list of lovelies:

  • Opening page – juxtaposition of a cat saying “meow” with the text reading “Quackers is a duck.” You know it’s going to be a good story right from the beginning because that question WHY has popped up  along with a billion other questions which the author skillfully navigates.
  • Theme – finding your place and that it doesn’t have to be with just Group A or Group B but can be something in-between of your own choosing.
  • Art – so adorable and simple. Lovely and perfect for young kids.
    • I love the shades of green with muted red barn and blue-green water. The white ducks and orange cat just POP in this spread.quackers_2
    • This spread packs an emotional punch of what it’s like to feel different.quackers-interior-2

Grab a kid and read this book together at home or use it for story time in a classroom.

Find QUACKERS at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 0553511548
ISBN-13: 978-0553511543

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received an F&G of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

May 2, 2016

Interview with Molly Idle

Last Friday, I shared the newest addition to the Flora series, FLORA AND THE PEACOCKS. Today I am excited to share with you my interview with the talented author/illustrator Molly Idle.

molly

What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your art and writing?

I think, captured in the books I make, are my feelings from childhood. Love and belonging, anxiety, anger, wonder… those feelings are what I try to connect with when I work.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Oh, so many! Visually, I am hugely influenced by classic films. If it’s a 1940s musical, filmed in Technicolor- I’ve seen it, and most likely, love it! Lovely lines are what draw me to certain artists. I never tire of watching Disney’s early animated films, and the work of the Nine Old Men, like Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnson, and Marc Davis.
And I could stare at drawings by Daumier and Degas forever.

What advice would you give to beginning authors and illustrators?

To authors, I would say: Read and write every day. To illustrators, I would say: Draw every day. Nothing will do so much good for you as consistent practice will.

Since you are an author and an illustrator, what comes first for you when creating a book?

It’s different for every book. Sometimes, an image pops into my head, and I start working from there. Other times, a name, or phrase comes to mind, and that becomes my starting point for a story. Beyond that initial “lightbulb” moment though, there’s a back and forth in the way I work between imagery and writing (if there are words in the book). Sometimes, a picture tells me what needs to be said, or more importantly, what doesn’t need to be said. And other times, it’s the text that directs my visual compositions.

The FLORA books were groundbreaking in their storytelling structure. I love how the flaps help move the story along. How did the use of flaps in that manner come about?

Prior to making picture books, I used to work in animation. When I started playing with the idea of creating a wordless picture book about friendship, told through dance, I knew it was a story that was all about movement. And I wondered if there was a way that I could bring the illusion of movement created in an animated scene, into a book. Making moveable flaps that acted as animated “key frames” was the answer!

What challenges did you face in creating a book with flaps?

The first challenge finding a publisher that was up for trying something new. Fortunately , Chronicle Books took a look at my original dummy of the book, saw what I was trying to do, and took a chance on it, and me! Not for nothing is their corporate motto “See things differently.” Once they has acquired the book, I worked in tandem with my editor, art director, and designer to figure out how the flaps would work in printing and production, and what they would cost. We also had to figure out a way to make the flaps as durable as possible!

I love how the flaps do different things in each of the books. In FLAMINGO – the flaps were showing the next scene. In PENGUIN – the flaps were showing movement along the ice. In PEACOCK – the rise and fall of the plume flaps were showing an intensified emotion of happy or sad. What things did you do to keep pushing the creative boundaries?

The stories themselves present challenges that keep me pushing my creative boundaries. Each story needs to be told in the way that best suits it. In Flamingo, the flaps needed to be such that they would allow the reader to change the characters interactions with one another. In Penguin, the characters were skating, and I needed to find a way to move them physically closer and farther apart as they skated through the book, in the same way that their relationship moved closer together, and father apart, emotionally. Hence the horizontal flaps. But in Peacocks, the story was about the push and pull of attention within a trio of friends. I wanted the reader to be an active part of that push and pull between the characters. The best way I could think of to do that, was to make the flaps part of the characters themselves. Making the tails of the Peacocks into the flaps was the ideal means of doing just that.

Your FLORA books have a beautiful movement and choreography to them. What were your influences?

The answer to this question takes us back to my love of old musicals. I could watch Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, dance all day!
Here is a clip from Singing In The Rain that makes me smile every time…

Any future tales in-store for Flora?

Yes! Coming out in 2017 are two new Flora board books:
Flora and the Chicks, and Flora and the Ostrich!

Board books, cool! What aspects of friendship you are exploring? Will the books have your signature flaps?

As to the board books…
Flora and the Chicks is a counting book, and Flora and the Ostrich is a book of opposites.

florachicks

**********************************
Some rapid fire questions.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an author/illustrator?

I might go back to making movies… or maybe I’d try my hand at something completely different, like gardening.

Favorite pick me up snack/drink?
Espresso!

What book is on your bedside table?

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne

Where can readers find you on the Internet?
www.idleillustration.com
Facebook: Idle Illustration
Instagram: @mollyidle
Twitter: @mollyidle

Thank you Molly for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes.

April 29, 2016

Flora and the Peacocks

Welcome! Previously I reviewed Flora and the Penguins. It is my pleasure to bring to you Flora and the Peacocks, the latest addition in the Flora series, from the talented picture book author/illustrator Molly Idle. The Flora books explore the different aspects of friendship through innovative flaps in a wordless format.

Check-out my interview with Molly. Learn about her creative influences, approach to using flaps in storytelling, and her next two FLORA books!

Flora-and-the-PeacocksTitle: Flora and the Peacocks

Author/Illustrator: Molly Idle
Publisher: Chronicle Books, 2016
Editor: Kelli Chipponeri
Book Type: Fiction
Ages: 2-6
Themes: Friendship

Synopsis (from Amazon’s website):

The darling, dancing Flora is back, and this time she’s found two new friends: a pair of peacocks! But amidst the fanning feathers and mirrored movements, Flora realizes that the push and pull between three friends can be a delicate dance. Will this trio find a way to get back in step? In the third book featuring Flora and her feathered friends, Molly Idle’s gorgeous art combines with clever flaps to reveal that no matter the challenges, true friends will always find a way to dance, leap, and soar—together.

Activities:

Why I Like This Book:

I love the Flora books for their artistry, innovation in storytelling via the use flaps, and for their exploration of the different aspects of friendship. Ms. Idle blends these three components like a maestro understanding how each one can help heighten the other to create a symphonic work of art. Kids can relate to the tug-of-war that happens in this three’s a crowd situation.

Flora befriends a pair of peacocks starting the merry-go-around of who is friends with whom, leaving at least one person unhappy until the very end.

  • I love the use of the flaps which heighten the emotion. My favorite is on spread five, where the peacock trains flap up in what I call happy –> very happy for the peacock next to Flora and miffed –> very miffed for the peacock standing away from the pair.
  • Who knew a wordless book could have so much tension. Loved the climax where the peacocks are fighting with Flora stuck in the middle. Love the movement through these spreads and the use of the right-left flap.
  • The use of green color and peacocks are perfect for this tale. Green the color of envy. Peacocks tend to be self-centered, at least in children’s books.
  • The finale consisting of an oversized gate-fold of the trio as friends is magnific.

Another beautiful addition to the Flora family.

Enjoy the gorgeous trailer.

Find Flora and the Peacocks at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
ISBN-10: 1452138168
ISBN-13: 978-1452138169

This review is part of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book series. Visit her site to see the other books recommended.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

March 18, 2016

Calling All Cars Spotlight Tour & Giveaway

Today I am participating in the Calling All Cars Spotlight Tour! Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post.

I am a fan of Sue Fliess’s rhyming, engaging books which are perfect for the youngest readers. This new book CALLING ALL CARS reminded me a bit of her previous book TONS OF TRUCKS which I reviewed in 2012. I love the colorful, adorable illustrations in this new book. I also liked some of the innovative car names  such as “rainbow-bug” cars. This book is good for playing the “finding” game where the older reader asks the younger reader to find a particular type of car based on visual clues.

Calling All CarsTitle: Calling All Cars
Author: Sue Fliess
Illustrator: Sarah Beise
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2016
Editor: Aubrey Poole
Book Type: Fiction – Concept
Ages: 0-4
Theme: Cars
Activity Guide: click here to download

Opening Lines:

Big cars, small cars
let’s call all cars

Beach cars, town cars
tops-go-down cars

 

About the Book:

Big cars, small cars, let’s call ALL cars! This bouncy text explores the wonderful world of cars zipping up, down, fast, and slow. A perfect basic concept books for eager young learners from the author of Tons of Trucks. Then cruise into bedtime!

Rest cars, Hush cars

No more rush, cars.

Cars pull in, turn off the light.

Sweet dreams, sleepy cars…goodnight!

Filled with vibrant art, adorable animal characters, and cars of all kinds from love bugs to the demolition derby, Calling All Cars is for every child who loves to read about things that go! Surprise bonus—follow one long road throughout this vividly imagined world and don’t miss the hidden clues in the artwork!

Calling All Cars spread

Check out the book trailer:

Praise for Calling All Cars

“Each double-page spread offers a surplus of amusing sights: three pigs in a convertible, a kitten chauffeuring a royal pair of lions, love-struck snakes hugging and tugging their cars too close together. Beise’s digital illustrations pop with vivid colors…. [Fliess’] rhyming couplets bounce off the page.” —Kirkus Reviews

“This successful collaboration combines brisk and spirited writing with bold, effervescent pictures and will have wide appeal to young readers. Fliess’s punchy rhymes mimic the speed and energy of the cars being described, making for a lively read-aloud… Young car enthusiasts will enjoy the ride through this zippy, robust picture book.” —School Library Journal

Find Calling All Cars at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Goodreads
10×10 Hardcover, ISBN 9781492618812
8×8 Hardcover, ISBN 9781492638353

Sue Fliess photoAbout the Author
Sue Fliess is the author of more than a dozen children’s books, including the popular Tons of Trucks and Robots, Robots Everywhere! Her background is in copywriting, PR, and marketing, and her articles have appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine; Huffington Post; Writer’s Digest; and more. Her article from O, the Oprah Magazine was chosen for inclusion in O’s Little Book of Happiness (March 2015). Sue lives with her family and a Lab named Charlie in Northern Virginia. Visit her online at www.suefliess.com.

Connect with Sue Fliess

Connect with Sue Fliess

Website: http://www.suefliess.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sue.Fliess.Author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/suefliess
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/suefliess/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4484623.Sue_Fliess

About the Illustrator

Sarah Beise, a graduate of Minneapolis College of Art and Design, is an innovative illustrator and designer who loves to create fun and unique characters that help tell stories. Originally from Matthews, NC she now makes Kansas City her home along with her two dogs, Maxwell and Mazzie May. For more info visit www.SarahBeise.com.

Connect with Sarah Beise

Website: http://www.colordotstudio.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sarah-Beise-Art-Design-LLC-233477983374912/

Calling All Cars Giveaway

Runs March 1-31 (US and Canada only)
Click HERE to enter!

Disclosure: I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher. This review nevertheless reflects my own and honest opinion about the book.

March 2, 2016

Interview with Julie Falatko and Snappsy

Yesterday I shared the humorous SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK). Today I am excited to share with you my interview with debut author Julie Falatko and her sidekick Snappsy!

Julie_02Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? Ups/Down/Anything in Between

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I’ve loved books and writing my whole life. The problem was that I didn’t realize that “writer” is an actual real job that people still do. I loved writing, but it didn’t occur to me that living humans could be writers. So I got an English degree, and very briefly tried teaching, and got a library degree, and worked as a technical writer and a copywriter. Those are the only types of writers I thought I could be: writers who wrote bank brochures. I was in my mid-30s when it suddenly dawned on me that the people writing the books that came out every year were a) alive and b) human.

What aspects of childhood do you like to capture in your writing?

So much of being a kid is being an intrepid explorer of a new and wondrous world. Kids go out and find giant flowers and blimps and sweaters with dolman sleeves and it’s all like, “WHAT IS THIS STUFF?” and the grownups are cynical and tired and shrug and say, “You know. Stuff.” I like to capture that thread of the world being a magical, cool place.

Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

For picture books: William Steig, Russell Hoban, Arnold Lobel, James Marshall, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Bob Shea. Gosh, that’s so many dudes. That’s embarrassing, but those guys are absolutely huge influences on my writing.

For creative living (how to navigate a creative life with humor and grace and hopefully not starve in the process): Carter Higgins, Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, Melissa Guion, Jen Corace, Lucy Ruth Cummins, Tim Miller, Greg Pizzoli, Ame Dyckman, Jory John, Russ Cox, Tina Kugler, Dasha Tolstikova, Sage Blackwood, Zachariah OHora, Diandra Mae, Josh Nash, Dev Petty, Lauren Eldridge, Isabel Roxas, Anne Ursu. They are my friends but more than that I feel like the internet has allowed me to create a happy little biosphere that I can populate with this magical room full of amazing, hilarious, creative, wonderpeople. If I make a stack of their books on the floor, it practically glows at me in encouragement. They are the people I look to when I’m feeling unmoored or uninspired, and they inspire me with their view of the world.

I listen to podcasts a lot and sometimes the process of hearing someone else tell a kind of story out loud helps to shake my story loose. At the top of the list are Can I Pet Your Dog, One Bad Mother, Let’s Get Busy, Mystery Show, Dear Sugar, and The Yarn.

The book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert has become a constant touchstone for creative inspiration.

Also Paul Simon’s eponymous first album is jam-packed with story songs, and I put that on while I’m making dinner and sing along loudly and it’s a quick reminder of how story structure works.

Can you share your writing process with us? Panster/plotter, paper/pen. Specific habits or tips that have served you well?

For picture books I’m always a pantser. I may have some idea of where the story is going to go, but usually not. I’ve written stories where I write one sentence and walk away for a while – hours or a day – until I figure out what the next sentence is going to be.

For longer books (chapter books, MG, YA) I do come up with some sort of outline. I don’t do anything formal. I make chapters or scenes in Scrivener to get a sense of the structure. I tend to write those books out of order, so it’s helpful to know where to put the random scene I wrote that day.

I write a lot in pencil in notebooks. I keep notebooks all over the place. I love the sensory aspects (and the lack of distraction) when writing something out in pencil. Then I revise it as I type it in. And then I usually have to print it out again at some point and write more on it in pencil to figure out where it’s going.

The habit that has served me well came about by accident – I had to wake up early to write because that’s the only time my house was quiet. But now it’s a habit and I love waking up and getting started on writing first thing.

Snappsy and “the Narrator” are so cleverly written. I love both their voices. Anything in particular that helped to bring their distinctive personalities out?

It helped to come up with exaggerated versions of the characters when I was thinking about how they might react to any situation. The narrator might be Marty Stouffer or David Attenborough. He likes hearing himself talk, and he likes narrating. Once I described Snappsy as John McClane (from “Die Hard”) because he’s this regular guy that got thrust into a crazy situation. Although Snappsy doesn’t know how to shoot a gun, and instead of a dirty tank top, he wears a tie. Snappsy is also sort of like Ron Swanson. He wants to be alone, in his house, doing his things. He wants everyone to mind their own beeswax.

Would you like to tell us a little about your upcoming titles?

The Society for Underrepresented Animals is about a bunch of offbeat animals who start a support group because they’re not in any of the picture books. They’re thinking of writing their own book. Then a bunny shows up, and they’re all offended because of course the bunny has been in so many books. That one is going to be illustrated by Charles Santoso. I’m so excited to work with Charles! He’s amazing.

Help Wanted: One Rooster is about a cow who has to interview rooster candidates because the farm’s rooster ran off. Everyone she interviews is worse than the last. Some of them aren’t even roosters.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Writing and getting published are such a slow process, and that’s fine. It’s what makes for better books. Don’t let yourself feel rushed. The process is going to be slow no matter what, so you might as well embrace it and take the time to make the best book you can, and to write more books and better books all the time.

************************************************

Now some rapid fire questions for Snappsy.

Who is your best friend?

My what? Oh. Uh. Huh. I guess it’s this chicken who keeps bringing cheese plates to my house.

What is your snack of choice?

Pretzels dipped in peanut butter.

What is your favorite vacation spot?

My own comfy chair.

If you weren’t an alligator what animal would you like to be?

A bear. That hibernation thing sounds fun.

What’s it like working with Ms. Falatko?

She followed me around a lot. She’s nice and all, but she’s almost as pesky as that chicken.

Where can we follow you and Ms. Falatko?

Julie’s website is juliefalatko.com, and she’s on Twitter @JulieFalatko and on Facebook at JulieFalatkoAuthor.

 

Thank you Julie and Snappsy for stopping by today and sharing a bit about yourself. Wishing you many future successes (and Chicken too).

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