Monthly Archives: July 2016

Jarrett Krosoczka Drops By

Hello, Mr. Krosoczka, thanks for joining me here to talk about what’s new with you!

Thanks for having me, Dylan!

Tell us a little bit about book number four of the Platypus Police Squad book that came out earlier this spring. Is this the end of the series?

Never Say Narwhal is the final book in the Platypus Police Squad series. I always envisioned these books as having a finite end to them, with the characters growing over the course of the series in a significant way. This is the book with the highest stakes for our monotreme heroes. All of the secrets that I’ve been building up over the series get spilled—some you’ve seen coming, some will be very unexpected. I turned up the volume on the action in this one, too. Plus…there is a narwhal!

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And, you just celebrated a book birthday with a new Jedi Academy book. Tell us about that.

Scholastic has signed me on the create new volumes in their Jedi Academy series. I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Brown’s, so I’m entering into this with a reverence for what he started. There are elements from those first three books (journal and comics pages), but I also am adding my own elements. I can’t wait for you to meet my cast of Padawans. I created the final art for this book while listening to John Williams’s score of the movies.

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Are you surprised with all of the different ways people are celebrating School Lunch Hero  Day?

It is incredibly gratifying to see how widely School Lunch Hero Day is celebrated. It has far exceeded my hopes and dreams for the initiative. This was only our fourth year, and I saw things that blew my mind! My favorite things to see will always be the art projects that young artists make. This day is about gratitude and literacy, but it’s also about fostering creativity. That being said, this year I saw that one school brought in masseuses for the lunch staff! Another brought in an ice-cream truck for them! They work so hard with so little recognition, they so deserve this day.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

If I drink too much coffee, my hand gets shaky and it ruins my ability to draw a clean line. However, sometimes I accidentally make some beautiful, messy lines when I’m over-caffeinated.

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If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

That’s an easy question. I’d be teaching. I taught at art centers and an art college for several years as I was getting my literary career going. I also worked at a camp for a decade’s worth of summers.

How did your career as an author/illustrator start?

I began submitting work to publishers in my junior year of college. I was eager. I was rejected around every corner, and that was a great education in the world of publishing. Two years later, I had my first contract for a picture book that I wrote and illustrated. That came six months after graduating Rhode Island School of Design. When the book was eventually published, I was twenty-three years old. Good Night, Monkey Boy will celebrate fifteen years in print on June 15, 2016!

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What can readers expect from you in the future?

A lot of stories told in words and pictures.

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

Dylan Teut is an outstanding person, and you are very wise to be reading his blog.

Thank you, Jarrett , for joining me here!

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Cover Reveal: Go Sleep In Your Own Bed!

I remember a time when I was in elementary school and I crept from my bedroom downstairs to mom and dad. I wasn’t feeling good. I was tired. I was cranky. And I just wanted to go to sleep. Dad brought me upstairs, turned on my light, and pulled back the covers. There, to my surprise…

lay my sister!

When you’re tired, cranky, and ready to collapse, there’s nothing better than falling into your own bed. To find an intruder there puts your hopes of snuggling in to a halt until they leave.

Candace Fleming and Lori Nichols, together, have woven together a tale of a chain of animals sleeping in the wrong bed. Using humor, plays on words, and the natural charm that flows from the work of these fine ladies, we have a great new picture book to which we can look forward.

I’m happy to share the cover of this new book here…

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Available Spring 2017 from Random House Kids.

From bestselling, award-winning author Fleming and beloved illustrator of the Maple books Nichols comes a giggle-inducing read-aloud starring a cast of comically grumpy barnyard animals. Sure to become a bedtime favorite. 
 
This funny and irresistible picture book feels like a classic in the making. When Pig plops into his sty at bedtime, he finds Cow fast asleep in his spot. “Go sleep in your own bed!” he squeals, and sends her packing. But when Cow finally snuggles down into her stall, she finds Hen sleeping there. So begins a chain reaction of snoozing barnyard animals being awakened and sent off to their own beds, until every last one is in just the right place. Young children will delight in repeating the refrain “Go sleep in your own bed!” and laugh at the antics of these hilarious—and very sleepy—farm animals.

Life Needs a Little Glam: Review of Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer. PLUS A GIVEAWAY.

Mary had a little glam
that grew into a LOT.
And everywhere that Mary went,
she wasn’t hard to spot.

It’s not hard to notice that Tammi Sauer and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s Mary Had a Little Glam is a spin off of a favorite nursery rhyme. There are a lot of these types of books on the market these days, but Tammi and Vanessa have created a spin off that does it quite well.

When it’s time to start school, little Mary literally puts on everything but the kitchen sink- including her curtain, and a bird nest in her hair.

And Mary wears it quite well. When she walks into her classroom, she notices that her classmates are missing something. From pink, to beads, to shine. Mary’s got a job, and she won’t sit still until everyone has a little glitter and glam.

But our characters reach a dilemma- recess time arrives and everyone realizes they’re dressed all wrong for such an activity.

It’s here readers learn that there’s a place for glam, and a place where you can kick off your shoes, strip off your fancy garments, and just have fun.

Because there’s glam, and then there’s taking a situation and making it glamorous and fun. And Mary does that.

Vanessa Brantley Newton’s delightful, multicultural illustrations pair well with the fun rhyming text written by Sauer.

This book is surely a must have for your library!

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GIVEAWAY DETAILS: Running through Tuesday, July 26 at midnight. To be entered to win, simply leave a comment on this blog post, or RT the blog post with the hashtag #MHGLAM . Be sure to tag Tammi in your tweets, too!

The Marvelous Thing: Interview with Gilbert Ford

Hey Gilbert! Thanks for joining me here to talk about your upcoming 2016 title!

Thank you for having me on your blog. 🙂 

Tell us a little bit about The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring.

The book is a non-fiction picture book about the invention of the Slinky. Although Richard James invented the toy, his wife, Betty came up with the name and was the marketing genius behind its success.

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What made you want to tell this story?

I still play with the Slinky as an adult. Whenever I’m stuck on an idea I pick it up and strum the coils. One day while I was doing just that, I was trying to think of a non-fiction picture book that hadn’t been done, and I was holding the answer right in my hands.

I was blown away by the illustrations in this book. Tell us a little about your process.

Thank you, that’s kind of you to say.

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I drew everything on the computer for this one. Then I designed parts of it like a paper toy: to be printed, cut out, and assembled into a diorama. I incorporated vintage toys, since the book is about a toy, and wanted to show that the models were real. But it was hard to guess the size of the art from the photo, so I included recognizable, found objects in the dioramas. I transformed a washcloth into grass, a cool whip cap into a trashcan, a pipe cleaner into steam, and a chalkboard into a starry night sky. I thought that by changing an everyday thing into something new, I would be teaching a child how to invent like Richard James, who turned an ordinary spring into a marvelous thing.

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Watch a video about Gilbert’s process for this book here. 

I see you have Soldier Song: A True Story of the Civil War coming in 2017. Tell us about that.

Soldier Song (written by the wonderful Debbie Levy) is very different from Slinky. With Slinky I could be clever and imaginative with the art. With Soldier Song, I was illustrating a very serious story where there was much sadness, but also some joy. I had to make myself really emotional for this book, jumping from highs to lows quickly to create the art. So I woke up at 5 Am in the dead of winter when I knew I wouldn’t be disturbed. I listened to Joanna Newsom’s YS album while I sketched because the songs were long and had emotional depth. I hoped it would rub off on paper. I also looked at propaganda illustration for symbols to represent war without showing blood.  I decided that the final art would be in complementary warm and cool colors, since the book dealt with the dualities of North vs. South, destruction vs. creation, and life vs. death. The medium, although digital, is designed to resemble old woodblock and silkscreen techniques. I’ll be talking more about this in December/January of next year.

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Have you always been into writing and illustrating?

I started out as a drawer when I was old enough to pick up a crayon and continued to draw my whole life. I was a storyteller as soon as I could talk, but I didn’t really begin writing until 2nd grade. By high school, I was winning awards in poetry and editing the school literary journal. Then I went to Pratt, but they only offered one creative writing class as an elective. (Now they have a creative writing department)  I would write friends long letters when I was first out of school, but discovered people were too busy to read them.

So I stopped writing.

I didn’t compose another story until I started illustrating books for kids. I enrolled in grad school at VCFA, and that reignited my love for writing all types of stories. Now I’m able to channel my efforts to a better audience! 🙂 

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

I like the part where I get to think up the stories. I often pace when I brainstorm, so if I’m walking in circles like a caged animal in my apartment, I’ll plug in my headphones and walk to Fort Greene Park, playing the story out in my head. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for 20 years, so of course everyone waves to me, but I never see them because I’m working.  I only see the story in front of me.

What inspires your creativity?

Pretty much everything! The people I meet. The artwork I see. The books I read. The music I hear. Theflea market a block away from me. I’m constantly rummaging.

What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

I’m not sure I can draw a straight line. I also can’t spell. But those setbacks haven’t stopped me from trying to draw and write.

If you weren’t writing books, what do you think you’d be doing?

I also enjoy new technology and teaching. If only I could do all three!

What can readers expect from you in the future, after Soldier Song?

The next book out is called How the Cookie Crumbled, about Ruth Wakefield and her invention of the chocolate chip cookie. It’s another non-fiction I’ve authored, but where Slinky was told in a straightforward manner, the writing in this book is more playful. The story has an intrusive narrator with the voice of someone telling a tall tale. He gives the readers three versions of the story circulating and asks them to decide what really happened. I hope people like it!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

I’ll be promoting The Marvelous Thing That Came from a Spring this fall. If you’re in the NYC area please stop by one of the book events and say hi! When I’m not lost in thought, I’m actually quite social. 🙂 

Thanks for having me!

Please Be Nice to Sharks Tour: Guest Post by Matt Weiss

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I absolutely love my job. I am doing exactly what I said I wanted to do when I was a kid and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up.  An underwater photographer is definitely not a normal job, but it has taken me all over the world and allowed me to earn a living doing what I love most.  The best part of my job, though, is when I am leading a trip and I get to show people the places and animals I derive so much pleasure from.   When you’re on a great dive with a group, and something unexpected shows up, like a sea turtle ascending from the depths of the ocean and looking you right in the face, you can feel the excitement of the group underwater. There’s nothing better than seeing a big smile on a guest’s face when we surface.

One recent memory comes to mind.  I was leading small group in Mexico and one my best friends from college was able to join the trip. She had seen my photographs, but had never experienced the underwater world herself.  It was a perfect day — 80 degrees both in and out of the water, a hundred foot visibility, and completely flat seas. After a quick snorkeling lesson on the boat, we hoped in. For about 30 minutes, we floated around and didn’t see anything, and then out of nowhere, completely silently, a 15-foot manta ray swam right next to us.  It’s a unique feeling, one that makes you feel very tiny, swimming next to a giant fish like that in the middle of the open ocean. I could tell by the smile my friend had on her face when we surface that she was hooked.  This was her first marine wildlife experience, but it wouldn’t be her last.

I tell this story because I hope that Please Be Nice To Sharks will give people a similar feeling that my friend had when she saw her first manta ray. I love sharks, and I think that if people see them, have fun with them and learn more about them, they will love them too.  I hope that if children understand that sharks are actually pretty cool and not monsters, they will care about them enough to be upset by the fact that they are being hunted to extinction. After all, we protect what we love.

Get your copy of Please Be Nice to Sharks! (Sterling) today!

A Tiger Tail: Mike Boldt Interview

Hello, Mike, thanks for joining me here to talk about what’s new with you!

Hi Dylan, I’m excited for being here, thanks for having me. There’s a LOT new right now around my studio in various stages of development that I’m looking forward to sharing with you and your readers.

Tell us a little bit about The Dino Files books written by Stacy McAnulty that you’ve been illustrating.

This is a wonderful series that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed illustrating. The series revolves around Frank and Sam, who discover Peanut, a real LIVE baby dinosaur. They go through different adventures trying to keep their dino discovery a secret all while learning that maybe they’re not the only ones to have ever seen a real live dinosaur. They’re a great step-into-reading series that I think kids and dino lovers will enjoy.

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And today, A Tiger Tail, is officially released from Simon and Schuster. Tell us about that!

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YES! A TIGER TAIL is the next book that I’ve written and illustrated. It’s about a little girl named Anya, and how she wakes up one morning to discover that she now has a Tiger Tail – which is very different from pony tails and pig tails that girls normally have. The anxiety amps up to even higher levels because it’s also Anya’s first day of school and she figures she can’t possibly go to school with a real tiger tail attached to her back end. So she tries all sorts of things to figure her “situation” out. It’s a story that I’m quite proud of and I hope readers of all ages will really enjoy relating to – even if they’ve never had a tiger tail themselves.

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It’s a busy year, because you also did the illustrations for Dev Petty’s sequel to I Don’t Want to Be a Frog. Did you anticipate a sequel?

When you enjoy working on a story as much as I did with FROG, you finish it wishing it went on a bit more. So while I never anticipated a sequel, I was so happy to learn that there would be a second. The excitement only grew as I heard rumors of what Dev was cooking up – her writing just kills me.

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What is one thing that readers don’t know about you, that only you could tell us?

Hmmm, well, despite my love for ice cream and milkshakes, I’ve never had a cavity before. I even had an ongoing challenge with my brother since we were young to see who would be the first to get one, and I’m happy to say I’ve recently won (he claims it’s only a small cavity though).

If you weren’t writing/illustrating books, what do you think you’d be doing?

That’s a hard question – to think of doing something else other than what you dream about doing! When I was younger, I wanted to be a marine biologist, or more specifically, Jacques Cousteau. I loved watching that and always thought it would be a fascinating job. Being a National Geographic photographer was also on that list. Not that I’d actually be doing those things if I couldn’t be writing or illustrating books, if I wasn’t trying to make it in animation I’d probably be doing some form of carpentry or trade. I really enjoy building things – in fact, I’m finishing up a bed project as soon as this interview is over!

How did your career as an author/illustrator start?

Ha! I think it really started when I was young enough to order Calvin and Hobbes from my Scholastic Book club flyers. I loved drawing and writing comics and stories. I didn’t ever really put Author/Illustrator into my “reality job list” though. Even working in animation seemed very far off for someone growing up in the Alberta prairies – the internet hadn’t shrunk the world down yet! However, I was extremely fortunate right out of high school with a job illustrating speech therapy products and then with an in-house small local publisher. It was there that I learned how much I loved making books and more importantly, that it could be a career option! So when our first child was born, I left my job to pursue a freelance career. I ended up self-publishing my first book (The Gophers in Farmer Burrows’ Field) and then moving on to the traditional publishing route, after I signed with my wonderful agent, Jennifer Rofé. It was her along with the help and guidance of a few really great friends I met in publishing (Dan Santat and James Burks), some incredible editors and ADs, who all really helped me in my craft. It’s been a really incredible journey and I owe thanks to a lot of folks for all the support, wisdom and opportunities I’ve been given.

What can readers expect from you in the future?

Later this year there’s going to be that second FROG book with Dev (I DON’T WANT TO BE BIG), and I think the same day the third DINO FILES will also be released. Currently I’m finishing another third followup book with a certain character that I may have just mentioned having a sequel to, as well as a new book with Jill Esbaum that’s very fun! Finally, I am writing more stories, and hope to have my second book with Simon and Schuster finished in the next year. I consider every single day I get to do this as a privilege that I hope will continue the rest of my life!

Anything else you’d like to share with readers of this blog?

This is typically one of those moments when the author types I aspire to, drop those life-changing wisdoms and thoughts that stick with you for years to come. Please just pretend I did the same.

Thank you, Mike , for joining me here!

Thank you, Dylan, for having me. Also, thank you and all parents, teachers, and librarians, for being champions for our next generation and equipping them with the desire to read and dream.

Bruce is Back… and in Business: A Review of Hotel Bruce by Ryan Higgins

It didn’t take long for the world to fall in love with Mother Bruce- it won the hearts of many kids, teachers, and parents, and also collected many awards over the past year.

And now, it’s clear, that Bruce’s journey is far from over, as we see in the hilarious escapades of Hotel Bruce, by Ryan Higgins, from Disney Hyperion.

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When we last left Bruce, he was soaking up the sun in the south with his geese.

Now, they’re on their way back. And Bruce is tired and grumpy, because instead of getting to hibernate, he’s been taking care of his geese.

When Bruce opens the door to his home, he is greeted not by a warm, comfy chair; instead, he found that mice had moved in and turned his house into… a hotel.

There are all kinds of problems that ensue: Bruce’s house is all in sorts; his bed is full of woodland creatures,and the animals are just plain noisy.

In one word, Bruce’s home has been upturned into total chaos.

Ryan Higgins is able to so perfectly convey the facial expressions on all of the animals, and especially on Bruce, who keeps his emotions in tact until a bad batch of turtle stew has all but destroyed his kitchen.

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Just when you think things can’t get any worse, a van full of very obnoxious (and large) animals show up.

And finally, Bruce loses his cool. He hollers and throws his hands in the air before pointing to the door. “OUT!” he demands.

But the softer side of Bruce that we saw in Mother Bruce comes back at the end, which leaves readers with a satisfying conclusion.

Ryan Higgins has done it again- from the art, the dialogue, the storyline- Bruce is back, and I have a feeling that readers will welcome him back with open arms this fall.

Be sure you have Hotel Bruce from Disney Hyperion pre-ordered from your local bookstore.

Time to Come Back: Review of Return Plus GIVEAWAY

Many people- young and old alike, have been patiently waiting for the final piece of Aaron Becker’s Journey trilogy. The first two books were a treat:

Journey

Book #1 in the Journey trilogy

by Aaron Becker

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Interview video with Aaron Becker

Journey Book Trailer

Q&A with Illustrator

Journey Trilogy Activity Kit

A 2014 Caldecott Honor Book

Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

Quest

Book #2 in the Journey Trilogy

by Aaron Becker

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Quest Book Trailer
Q&A with Illustrator

Guide to reading a Wordless Book

Aaron Becker, creator of Journey, a Caldecott Honor book, presents the next chapter in his stunning wordless fantasy.

A king emerges from a hidden door in a city park, startling two children sheltering from the rain. No sooner does he push a map and some strange objects into their hands than he is captured by hostile forces that whisk him back through the enchanted door. Just like that, the children are caught up in a quest to rescue the king and his kingdom from darkness, while illuminating the farthest reaches of their imagination. Colored markers in hand, they make their own way through the portal, under the sea, through a tropical paradise, over a perilous bridge, and high in the air with the help of a winged friend. Journey lovers will be thrilled to follow its characters on a new adventure threaded with familiar elements, while new fans will be swept into a visually captivating story that is even richer and more exhilarating than the first.

And now, in early August, it’s time to come back- with Return.

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Return is everything you imagined it would be. The girl’s father finds the door where the girl escapes and follows her in.

Can you imagine the possibilities?

I couldn’t- but I was pleasantly surprised by all this story contained.

And I don’t want to spoil it for any of you.

A satisfying ending to the trilogy, indeed.

Here’s the good news- I’m hosting a giveaway! (US and Canada Only)

Giveaway details
1 prize pack includes:
1 hardcover copy of Journey by Aaron Becker
1 hardcover copy of Quest by Aaron Becker

How do you win? Simply retweet a link to this blog post with the hashtag #MHJOURNEY. At midnight on July 9th, I’ll randomly select a winner from all of the tweets.

I hope you have Return pre-ordered from your local bookstore!

Imagine What You’d See: Review of They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Cats are animals I have known and loved since I was a small child.

My family has had all kinds of cats- big fat ones, little ones, males, females, babies, and older ones. Cats seemed to be drawn to the home of my parents.

Nevertheless, we loved them and nurtured them.

It was not until I read Brendan Wenzel’s upcoming Chronicle title, They All Saw a Cat, that I was able to see cats in different ways and imagine them from different perspectives.

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The book begins with a beautiful brown striped cat, marked with a red collar and a bell.

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws…

And the following spread, we see the cat up close- big eyed, lovable, squeezable, and most importantly, pet-able. What a nice cat.

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But things take a spin on the following page when we get to see the dog’s view of the cat- the cat the child saw as lovable and squeezable is now frail, droopy, and down to the bone. To a dog, a cat must look that way.

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Wenzel takes us on a journey throughout the book where we get to see how a cat looks from the perspective of a fox, a fish, a mouse, a bee, a bird, a flea, a snake, a skunk, a worm, a bat, and finally, the cat sees himself.

Brendan Wenzel nails the art in this one. He uses almost everything imaginable, according to the back matter: “The illustrations in this book were rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook.”

The illustrations are spot on and in all honesty, breathtaking.

It is apparent that Brendan did his research on how animals see the world to try and imagine what a cat must look like from the eyes of all of these different animals.

A natural pairing for this book in the classroom is Steve Jenkins’ Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World. 

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It’s rare to find a book like Brendan’s – that has such a unique concept that has been so brilliantly executed. Make sure you pre-order your copy today.

See the trailer for they all saw a cat here.

See my interview with Brendan Wenzel here.