Thank You Bob Shea — #inspiredwriter

Not pictured but also owned: I'm a Shark!

Not pictured but also owned: I’m a Shark!

I’m going to take a moment to be serious about picture books.

The thing is, picture books are amazing. And it’s funny because I kind of forgot that along the way. In my experience, the love of reading that picture books initially fostered meant that I quickly left those books behind and moved into the world of Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley High and V.C. Andrews (am I dating myself with those references?). Other than a break when I was practicing law (nothing ruins reading for pleasure like practicing law), I have loved reading from those initial moments spent learning to read.

I have also always loved to write. As a child, after reading Harriet the Spy, I carried around a notebook where I wrote down my observations and feelings (everyone did that after reading that book, right?). I stumbled across those notebooks recently and wow, what a trip down memory lane. In any case, I continued to write: stories in high school, creative writing in college, on and on. But it wasn’t until I had my son that I rediscovered picture books and decided I wanted to write them.

Now, I have to imagine that there are a lot of people who look at picture books and think: wow, these must be incredibly easy to write. Look how short they are! I can do that! And so they write some stories and send them out to agents and expect to be the next big picture book author.

Then there are the Type-A people like me, who research the industry, join the SCBWI, write, go to conferences, join critique groups, revise, and maybe finally work up the nerve to submit. And then never get anywhere. Maybe a form rejection comes your way, maybe not. But in any case, you’re rejected. Over and over and over.

This relates to Bob Shea, I swear… Read More…

The Pigeon Needs A Bath

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Author: Mo Willems

Illustrator: Mo Willems

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Purchased: N/A – Library Check Out

Why: Figured it was time to try another one of these books – the first time was a while ago and my son just wasn’t that interested in them. The library was a safe bet in case it wasn’t a hit but boy, what a change this time around!

Pros: This book is hilarious. Parents will certainly enjoy reading this one as “inspiration” to get their little ones to bathe. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but yeah, this book is awesome. I mean check out this spread:

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Now, one element that I thought was different was the use of small panels on a few pages to add to the story. See partial example here:

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I didn’t want to give away all of the details – just a little hint!

My husband and I both love this one – definitely worth adding to your collection!

 

 

Red Truck (…yes, another truck book)

I know, ANOTHER truck book!

I know, ANOTHER truck book!

Author: Kersten Hamilton

Illustrator: Valeria Petrone

Publisher: Viking Juvenile

Purchased: Barnes & Noble

Why: Now that we’re down in Texas I’ve needed to find indoor places where you won’t get the stink eye for letting your toddler run around. The Barnes & Noble kids section is one such safe place – and since we’re taking advantage of their space, I figure I can at least buy a book every so often. This one caught my attention with the bright fun cover. The easy rhyme inside sold me.

Read More…

TBT: Hiram’s Red Shirt

By: Mabel Watts
Illustrator: Aurelius Battaglia

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We’re back for another TBT post!

This was another one of my favorite books growing up…and in rereading it, I’m a little mystified as to why. I mean it’s still a great story and all, don’t get me wrong, but I know I read it thousands of times and in retrospect that seems a bit overkill.

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So Hiram (interesting name, right?), has his beloved red shirt but he toys the elbows which he then tries patching from fabric elsewhere in the shirt, thus resulting in new problems. So the story goes until he does the only reasonable thing left…

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TBT: Doctor De Soto

It’s time for our first Throwback Thursday (TBT) Post! Thanks to some recent detective work, I located an entire box of books from my childhood. I cannot convey how I felt when I read some of these books for the first time in at least 20 years. It was like taking a time machine back to 1980-something (like the Goldberg’s reference there? Great show, by the way, and yes, I thought it looked stupid before I started watching it too.)

Note: Obviously, since these are TBT posts, I have no idea where the books were purchased or why, and I can’t really rate their durability given the amount of time that’s passed since they were being read with any sort of frequency. So I will forgo those categories on these posts.

And now, without further ado, here we go:

I was obsessed with this book as a child. Obsessed.

I was obsessed with this book as a child. Obsessed.

Author: William Steig
Illustrator: William Steig

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The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend

This is what the book looks like without the cover…because I have a toddler and all book covers are immediately removed.

This is what the book looks like without the cover…because I have a toddler and all book covers are immediately removed.

Author: Dan Santat
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Purchased: McNally Jackson

Why: It is almost impossible for me to go into a bookstore and NOT buy something. Now that I have a child, that is magnified by 1000. This book in particular captured my attention because of the cover, beautiful illustrations, and the size (it was taller than almost everything else on the shelf).

Pros: This.book.is.gorgeous. I cannot get over the illustrations, they are so beautifully done. When I picked up the book, I could tell from the first page that I wanted to add it to our collection.

Could you resist this first page? I don't think so.

Could you resist this first page? I don’t think so.

The illustrations continue to captivate throughout. On one of the more spare pages, where our hero is doubting whether he will find the friend he has searched so long for, I still find myself admiring the leaves on the tree, each one of which is a star.

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And I haven’t even touched on the story yet! It’s a great story, about an imaginary friend who goes out searching for his friend instead of continuing to wait around for his friend to imagine him. He faces danger and a strange new place (the real world) on his quest, which of course ends happily. I also liked that although Beekle seemed to think his friend would be a boy (at least based on the illustrations at the start of the book), his friend ends up being a little girl, Alice.

This book is a keeper. My son was enthralled with it from the first read-through, which almost never happens. Go get this one – you won’t regret it.

Durability: 4 out of 5 bite marks. Since it’s bigger, it’s tougher to carry around, and thus has less of a chance of being eaten.

Pete the Cat (I Love My White Shoes)

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Creator/Illustrator: James Dean
Story by: Eric Litwin
Publisher: HarperCollins
Purchased: Received as a gift

Pros: I have to be honest here. On my first read of this book I was like “um, what is this?”. The illustrations were messier than I was used to, for one. But, as this was a gift from a friend with a toddler, I gave it the benefit of the doubt and continued to read it to my little guy. And what do you know – it grew on me! Pete the Cat is now a favorite in our household – though I will refrain here from getting into a discussion about the books written by Eric Litwin vs those written by James Dean (the creator). I also have to admit that I’ve never actually gone online to listen to the tune – instead I’ve just made my own tunes up to sing along with the words. I kind of like it better that way – it’s ours.

For an interesting interview with James Dean on how Pete the Cat was created, you can check out this article here.

Side note: Does it bother anyone else that if Pete’s shoes were red and he stepped in blueberries, his shoes would in fact be PURPLE, not blue? Oh, the fun of reading picture books too many times and picking up on things you should never, in fact, think of.

Durability: 4 bite marks. Holding up pretty well for a regular picture book (i.e., not a board book).

Belly Button Book

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Author: Sandra Boynton
Illustrator: Sandra Boynton
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Purchased: This one was a gift

Pros: What can you say about Boynton books that hasn’t been said a million times before? The illustrations are adorable, and the expressions she manages to convey are just fantastic (and even more impressive when your realize she manages to do so with just two dots for eyes, for example). They’re simple, perfect for young readers, and yet they still manage to capture attention a thousand reads later.

Now, one thing I will mention is that this book uses a “baby talk” phrase for belly button throughout (while still using the phrase “belly button” as well). See example here:

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I only mention this because some folks seem to want to stay away from all baby talk.

On another note, I love the little bits of humor that Boynton books typically include. It’s like stumbling across an inside joke every time you read them. My favorite example from this book is here:

Check out the hippo's shirt. Haha, get it?!

Check out the hippo’s shirt. Haha, get it?!

Durability: 3 bite marks. Holding up pretty well, standard wear.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

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Author: Bill Martin Jr., John Archambault
Illustrator: Lois Ehlert
Publisher: Beach Lane Books
Purchased: TJ Maxx

Why: My sister had this book and it seemed fun. Plus, ABCs, duh!

Pros: What’s not to like about this book? You get your ABCs, you get a catchy rhythm, and you get bright fun font. No brainer. I also really like how the borders rotate between yellow with pink dots and pink with yellow dots. It’s a small thing but I notice it every time.

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Funny Story: My husband thinks this book was written by “hippies”. I have no idea why. But here’s another picture from the book. You decide.

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Durability: 4 bite marks. It’s slightly heavier than your typical board book so less carrying around/chewing.

Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You

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Author: Nancy Tillman
Illustrator: Nancy Tillman
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Purchased: Wal-Mart

Why: I was feeling super sentimental and this book seemed to capture the moment.

Pros: Beautiful prose, beautiful pictures. The sentiments are those that you want your child to hear everyday – that no matter what, your love will always be there. I will say, it did take a while for my son to warm up to this book. I think that’s partly due to the pictures. They’re gorgeous, but they have small details that probably weren’t easy for him to pick up on at the ripe old age of 6 months! There was one page that always stood out to him though:

He always loved the blue on this page

He always loved the blue on this page

Since then though, he has really come to love this book. With the maturity he now has at 14 months, he really seems to appreciate the small details. And of course I love reading this one to him because it says everything I want to say – and in rhyme! Perfect!

Finally, I also like that it’s a “quiet” book – and by that I mean, it’s one of the books I like to read to him when we’re winding him down. So many books are busy and loud and fun – and those are all great for different times – but I find it harder to find the good quiet books and this is one of them.

Durability: 3 bite marks. Holding up pretty well other than along the spine (as usual!).