Monday, December 29, 2008

New Year Circles in the Sand

Here we are. Two more days left of 2008 and on to 2009. This perhaps has been the fastest year of my life so far. It seems we were just celebrating the good fortune of 2008 with friends and family and now we'll be back to celebrate another round of seasons. I've posted this image of Jim Denevan's, sand art, Surfers in Circles to remind me that time is a construct. Denevan brings an appreciation for nature and the ephemeral passage of time to his art. This was made not far from my home where he often draws in the sand with a stick at low tide in Santa Cruz. He uses a rake to make the designs but it's really all about perspective, whether you view the design from the cliff top or on the shoreline. Is one perspective more awesome than the other? "People always ask how it feels to have them wash away," says Denevan, "but who wouldn't want it to wash away."

When I think about all the little things throughout the year that I get stressy about, I think I'm just going to let them wash away because when 2010 comes around all the edges will have softened.

But what about the bigger stresses in life? There's a picture book titled, Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears by Emily Gravett that I've been thinking of lately. Besides being a little treasure of a book for it's innovative design (fold-out maps included), it lightly describes phobias on every page starting with arachnophobia. Little mouse has all these phobias, and he is certainly afraid of cats with good reason. But this clever book ends with musophobia, the fear of mice. Yes little mouse, there are people afraid of you! I will keep this book in mind when I feel timid or procrastinate in work due to fear of big cats.

As I'm not inclined to keep a lot of New Year's Resolutions, I don't make them. But I do believe in writing down everything I would like to do in 2009. It's always fun at the end of the year to see how many of them have happened. And keep in mind, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives." -Annie Dillard

Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Creche and Blog Award

Viewing the creche has always been a magical Christmas event for children... the baby Jesus lying in a manger, Mary and Joseph attend to him followed by angels, shepherds, animals and then the wise kings bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. All are bathed in golden light.
This picture is from and old Tasha Tudor Christmas card and shows the way children experience the creche, with awe, wonder and serenity. Another way children may experience the nativity is at a Christmas play. I know we all see this every year... but the scene from Charlie Brown Christmas where Linus tells Charlie Brown what Christmas is really all about gets me smiling every time. Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Holidays Everyone!!!

And in the spirit of the season which we hope will last all year, we thank you Holly and Cari at BookScoops for this lovely Butterfly Blog Award award that recognizes some of the coolest blogs I know. We get to pass it on to some really cool blogs (which of course there are soooo many cool blogs, but here are some goodies.) *because not only does she post and sell cool vintage picture books but she also gives them away for free! *always has great picture book reviews and other fun ideas for kids.... and they sell books too. *has the most amazing and unusual book finds, not too many kids picture books but more art, illustration and design which I love. *What Do We Do All Day is funny and I always need new ideas for entertaining little ones with books- great links on this blog too. *wonderful and interesting book choices and resources from a librarian who writes this delightful journal * organized blog with ideas for things to do with your kids ...* good books, links, resources and good opinions!

Congratulations and here's how it works.

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Award up to 10 other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on yours.
5. Leave a message for your awardees on their blogs.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukkah begins today at sundown. I'm planning a nice quiet evening with my family. We will light the menorrah, eat yummy potato latkes for dinner, play dreidel and open the first gift.

There were quite a few different Hanukkah books to choose from at our library. I chose A Picture Book of Hanukkah by David A. Adler because of the wonderful illustrations.

Most of this book is like a history lesson. It tells a very accurate story behind the holiday, about the thousands of people who were killed before and after the Maccabeen war. It celebrates the small band of Jewish soldiers who fought and won the right to worship freely. Because of the war, death and detail, I think it's best read to the 5 and over age group. The last three pages tell more about the holiday traditions; the lighting of the candles, potato latkes, gelt and dreidel games.

When I first saw these illustrations by Linda Heller, I immediately thought this was a vintage 60's era book, mostly because of the sepia tones, but it was actually published in 1982 by Holiday House. Linda's illustrations fill more than half of the book and her beautiful shapes and fine pointilist ink detail have me wondering if she is also a printmaker. I wish I could find a website for her so I could gaze at more of her work. Click on the library book image for a closer look.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Honda for Christmas

As much as Icould use a new Honda for Christmas the Honda I'm talking about is Honda The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston, illustrated by Katie Yamasaki. So although I won't be getting a new car, my nephew will love this little mini accompanied by Mark Weston's picture book biography published by Lee & Low Books this year. (BTW is having a big sale this month 25% off their titles with free shipping!) There's still time...

Weston says that the idea for his book about Soichiro Honda grew out of the research he did for his adult book Giants of Japan: The lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women. The story describes how young Mr. Honda worked in a mechanic shop sweeping and cleaning the tools. He was a dedicated worker and quickly trained as a mechanic and opened his own garage in 1928. By 1936 he designed, built and drove the fastest race car in Japan. He was an inspirational inventor and businessman. Katie Yamaski's paintings are beautifully matched to the text, making this hardcover an asset to a child's library and a book they will not outgrow too soon.

Honda the Boy Who Dreamed of Cars, chronicles Mr. Honda's successes and includes quotes such as, "I have always had a stronger interest in the work than money." And you will learn Japanese phrases such as, "Domo arigato gozaimasu." If you're looking for a meaningful gift for a child between seven to twelve years old, this book with a model car would be a lot of fun- and educational too. I've also seen models of Honda cars that can be assembled and glued together for older children.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


In our family, comic books rule. Steve has his childhood collection of Tin Tin, I have my Tank Girl posters and D loves his Lego Bionicle comics. But when Toon Books sent me a copy of Stinky, D quickly set aside his Lego comics and snatched it up.

Husband and wife team, Francoise Mouly (New Yorker art editor) and Art Spiegelman (creator of 1980's RAW comics) have started making comic books for kids again! It seems for a long time that comics were geared more for teens and adult collectors, so I'm very happy that these two had the genius idea to bring back the comic book as a way to teach little ones to read.

RAW JUNIOR books are a sturdier hardcover variety of comic. Out of their first three books, Mo and Jo and Jack and the Box, Stinky is my favorite. It is an easy reader (K-2) with a charming story about a super stinky swamp monster who ends up making friends with the same little boy he had been trying to scare away. The dialog is fun and colorful:

"Kids don't like mucky mud, slimy slugs or smelly monsters like me!" "They eat cake and apples." "Yuck!"

Eleanor Davis is the very talented artist and author of this comic and she's only 25 years old! She keeps a fun art blog and will be featured in the Giant Robot Post It group show in LA from December 13th- January 14th. More than 95 artists will have their sticky note illustrations stuck on the wall. I wish I could be there to see and purchase some of my favorite artists works.

I love Eleanor's style and soft color palette choice for this book and I'm really hoping to catch her for an interview soon.

This is one of my favorite illustrations I scanned from page 6. Look at the lower right hand corner and you'll see a little hedgehog greeting Stinky with a clothes pin clamped to his nose!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, The Day Before Christmas

Years ago I met an aged musician who played with the San Francisco Symphony. He dreaded the holiday season because he had to play The Nutcracker endlessly over. How could you ever tire of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker?!!!! I've been waiting until the girls are old enough to truly enjoy the performance. In Eve Bunting's precious story, The Day Before Christmas, the best age for the first Nutcracker is seven. This is a delicate, old-fashioned sort of picture book and not necessarily one very young children will like. (One alternate is The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers) But, older children and adults will find this relatively sad story comforting at Christmastime.

Beth Peck's oil paintings remind me of my grandmother who was also a painter. I remember her working with a wooden palette and little tubes of rich colors, all of which were mixed with white at some point either on the palette or on the canvas. And I remember the smell- that strong turpentine-like smell.

Getting back to the story... Eve Bunting is a writer who can tell a sad tale to warm your heart. In, The Day Before Christmas, seven-year-old Allie has a special day alone with her grandfather. They take the train to the city to see The Nutcracker. Allie's mother died when she was three and she is aware that her grandfather may feel sad on this day because he used to take her mother to see the Nutcracker when she was a girl. This excerpt is one of my favorites. I find the sparse dialog profound in its simplicity. Who was the mother she never knew?

"Grandpa?" I ask. "Can you tell me about the special day you had with Mom?" Grandpa closes his eyes. "It was Christmas Eve, all those years ago. Your mom was seven, same as you. She loved The Nutcracker too." "What was her favorite part?" "The snow fairies."

Somehow we're with this little girl and her grandfather on the train in this moment. This is a book I treasure whether my kids like it or not. In fact, this is a book I savor for myself. And how can anyone tire of The Nutcracker?!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I just received the newly released Love, Splat by Rob Scotton in the mail from Harper Collins Children's Books. It's a sequel to the popular Splat the Cat. Diane Chen, had a wonderful review of Splat at School Library Journal which had me looking forward to receiving Love, Splat. Thanks Elyse and Diane!

When I first pulled the book out of the padded yellow mailer, I immediately noticed the feel of the raised lettering on the book jacket and its 10x10 size. The print quality is wonderful. You can see all the super fine cat hair.

Rob Scotton of Russel the Sheep fame is both the author and artist. I always admire those who are talented and able to do both and Rob does it well. This is my favorite illustration of some of the funny cat characters in Splat's classroom. Braces and coke bottle glasses on a cat?!!!

The story is as sweet as can be and it's actually a Valentines Day love story. It's an easy read for ages 3-7. My five year old son has read it 3 times today. I asked him what his favoite part about the book is and he said it's the ending. So I'll just leave the ending as a surprise for you to read and find out what happens with Splat and Kitty.
Another fun element about Love, Splat is that there are rubber ducks hidden throughout the book. We played a game of counting the hidden ducks before bed and even the baby joined in. We love rubber ducks too Rob!

Below is a little animation from Splat the Cat.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Have You Ever Seen a Moose?

Have you ever, ever, ever, ever seen a moose? And really, really, really, really want to see one?

We've been having so much fun this week with, Looking for a Moose, by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Randy Cecil. Of all the books in our library haul this week the girls have chosen, Looking for a Moose, every evening. And sometimes we reread it twice in a row. It has all the elements young children love. Sing-song rhyming verse, adventure, and hide-and-seek.

Randy Cecil's humorous illustrations are painted in the warm colors of fall and his figures are rounded and bulgy-nosed. We love the picture of children wading one after the other through a swamp, "squeech squooch!" And we talk about whether they got wet. We talk about when the children pull on their boots, roll down their pants, button up their sleeves, take off their hats and tighten up their packs. Will they ever see a "branchy-antler moose?"

Moose are on my mind as I've been working with Keith Patterson's wonderful illustrations for Maybelle, Bunny of the North. He sent me some new images to include in the book which will be released in spring. I love this watercolor painting of a shivering moose. Often I dream of what it must be like to have a white winter. There are a few Christmas tree farms here in town but everything is green, green, green. It's all relative though isn't it? I wonder if people who live in Australia and Brazil romanticize about a white Christmas too. And then again, I would probably look like this little guy after a couple of hours outside in the cold searching for moose.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Thanks

On Thanksgiving I wanted a quote to read and reflect before we raise our forks and knives to feast, so I chose one by Annabelle Woodard. I hope you like it. I had to post this picture of my little Indian Maiden. She wore her seagull feather headdress all day.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Father-Mother of the Universe, in the beauty of Your Presence we give thanks for family and friends and for the clan of man. Nourish our bodies with these gifts of the earth and our minds with the thoughts sparkling among us. We will that our personal will be in atonement with the Divine as our Spirits bow in awe and wonder of the great Unseen.

These Things

Rivers and ocean

Clear nights to roam,

The seas ceaseless motion,

White churning foam.

Tall trees and boulders

New, spring-green leaves,

Days growing colder

I have loved these.

Bird's song at daybreak,

Heavy dewed lawns

Hour of sun-wake

Listening fawns.

Twinkly, starry eyes

Fall fire's ember

Gulls in gray ocean sky

Mine to remember.

-Annabelle Woodard

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Little Yellow Leaf

If you love the crisp fall weather and glorious falling leaves all around, you must read The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger. This book with its aesthetically modern mixed media collage and lyrical verse is like the best pumpkin pie recipe you've ever tried. You can taste each organic ingredient in just the right proportion.

The story tells us of a little leaf that is not yet ready to fall from the tree. It holds fast as "A chill filled the air... and the sun sank slow." Many leaves had fallen and were swirling in the wind, yet the little, lone, yellow leaf just couldn't let go. Until... it spied a lone scarlet leaf and together, they floated away. I'm hearing Dione Warwick and Stevie Wonder singing, That's What Friends Are For in my head right now. OK my short summary of the story sounds hokey, but trust me this book is lovely.

Now about that pumkin pie! My friend Amy has a recipe she swears is fool proof and she is sharing it with those of us culinary challenged folks at And as a, falling leaves, pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving-time tie-in, I will include this photo of two adorable Thanksgiving Pilgrims. Kim got my previous year's Halloween costume and April's mom loved it so much she made one for her little girl. Mind you the year was probably 1976? But Pilgrims probably didn't look that different over 300 years earlier. Hah!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cowboy Andy

While my son is fast asleep in his flannel cowboy pajamas with the covers kicked off, he won't notice that I am sneeking into his room to snatch Cowboy Andy from his nightstand. I'll be sure to replace it before he wakes up!

This is a vintage book published in 1959 that his Dad likes to read to him. Only his Dad can read it because he knows how to do the cowboy voices just right. Whenever they read this one, I always hear roaring laughter coming from his room and I wonder if he'll ever settle down enough to fall asleep.

Warning! : the first page show's Andy's father smoking a pipe while he plays with toy guns.......

but don't let this stop you from reading further. Andy's father sends him to Cowboy Sam's ranch for the summer. When Cowboy Sam sees Andy's toy guns he says, "There are no guns on my ranch, we are cowboys, not bad men!"

Andy soon finds out that Cowboy Sam does not watch TV and that life on the ranch is much different than life in the city. Through trial and error, he learns to ride a horse and a calf. All of his hard work and perseverance pay off when he wins a prize at the rodeo.

This is an early reader book with 6 chapters and reads much like the Dick and Jane series. There are gorgeous vintage 3-color illustrations by E. Raymond Kinstler on each page.

The author, Edna Walker Chandler has written several cowboy books for children but Cowboy Andy is the best!

While researching this book, I discovered Vintage Books My Kid Loves , a mommy blogger who gives away vintage books she reviews! She also sells them here. I'm sorry I just missed the entry deadline on her last vintage cowboy book giveaway.

Yayyy! This post was just named the Nov. 19th Best Childrens Lit Blog Post of the Day by The Children's Writing Web Journal. You can see a review clip here:

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Good Little Girl and Barbie

When I had my girls I decided to take a break from my job and go back when they went to Kindergarten. Well since then, I've become self-employed and I've been busy with deadlines, especially this past week. Consequently, I've unleashed a demon. BARBIE DVDS. (I don't know how to make those words look like they're dripping in blood or I would to show you how terrible I think they are.)

It started innocently enough... a rushed trip to the video store... and there they were, a rack full of Barbie video's like this one:

These stick thin computer animatrons are just so far from anything real and good in this world. Despite the gooey princess fairy sparkle rainbow evil merchandising to children, my girls have been literally crying to see more Barbie movies.

What Pandora's Box have I opened ????????

However, for every parenting dilemma there's a picture book to tell us something important and I've found answers in The Good Little Girl by Lawrence David with illustrations by Clement Oubrerie. This book just might fit into MotherReader's WAPB (Weird- Ass Picture Book) category. Oubrerie's pictures painted in acrylics are vibrant and super silly.

The good little girl, Miranda, decides she will be patient no more. She's tired of worn out promises. Her parents come home from work late and fall asleep on the sofa. Miranda has to put herself to sleep without a story. In the morning it's not Miranda who wakes up but Lucretia, a green monster who has captured Miranda and demands her parents do what she wills or they will never see their sweet daughter again. It's very funny because Lucretia takes it to the extreme even punishing her parents for their past neglect by making Dad shave his head and Mom dye her hair blue. In the end Lucretia gets smaller and smaller until she is just a little green, mean monster inside Miranda's head.

"We're just glad she's gone, " Dad said. "We certainly are," Mom said. "It's awful having such a bossy, tough child when we're used to having such a good little girl." Miranda put her hands on her hips. "Sometimes a good little girl might have to be a little bossy and tough," she said. "Or she might not get what she really needs." ... One hour later, Mom, Dad and Miranda sat on the porch swing. Mom and Dad read Miranda a story, taking turns with the voices. Lucretia sat up inside Miranda's head. She peered out through Miranda's eyes to see the pictures in the book.

So lessons here are two-fold. Parents, make time for your children! Good Little Girls, find the courage to express yourself and get what you need. And I'm needing to ban the Barbie videos!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Holidays and Family Stories

Originally, I picked out Aunt Claire's Yellow Beehive Hair for the fun title and cover-art, but after reading it I thought it would be the perfect book to share for the holiday season. Many families will gather together this season and swap stories about the past and those family members who came before us. This wonderful picture book celebrates family history with warmth, humor and a fondness for those who have passed.
Grandma Marilyn and Great Aunt Ray take Annie on a hunt for old photos, letters and trinkets and tell her the stories which tie them all together, sustaining the family tree.

I had to laugh because the description of Aunt Claire from her photograph reminded me of you, Nancy. Aunt Claire sold face creams and lipsticks that she cooked up in silver pots in her kitchen. She swore that her magic flower creams would make women so beautiful, no one would recognize them! I remember all the times you made me try concocted face masks of avocado or yogurt, herbal steams, healing oils and tinctures...and all the great make-up/make-over tips!
The author, Deborah Blumenthal has actually written several books and articles on beauty and fitness and quite a few books for young readers as well. Her writing in this book is magical and brilliant, like a dream.
The art for this book reminded me of Inside The Slidy Diner, with its vibrant, expressive illustrations of colorful and unique characters. Then I recognized the name Mary Grand Pre of Harry Potter fame!

Here is one of her amazing illustrations of Grandma holding a photo that "she can't look at for too long." It shows "men whose faces make her eyes turn sad." "They left home to fight a war," she says, "but they never came back and saw their families again."

This is a reminder of how important it is to keep the family history alive for our children.

Now I'm inspired to start my own family scrapbook.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Little Peace

Now that the elections are over, we can all use: All it takes is....

Dover, Ohio, USA A four-year-old girl expresses herself. Freedom of speech was guaranteed by the Bill of Rights in 1791.

Barbara Kerley has written another exceptional book with a great message and photos that touch my heart. I found a wonderful author interview of her at Becky's Book Reviews.

The text within A Little Peace is simple, yet rich and the back pages of this book are informative with a world map and caption of where each photo was taken. Under each caption a tidbit of historical/cultural information is added. It's perfect for little ones and photo buffs too!

We're nearing the end of 2008 with the holidays coming and families getting together. Let's all hope for a little peace around the world.
Oh... and Mom, if your're reading this, do you think you can knit me a little hat like the one in this post?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Barack Obama

"Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shamed about, memories more accessible than those of ancient Egypt, memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild.

...I also felt for the first time how that spirit carried within it, nascent, incomplete, the possibility of moving beyond our narrow dreams. The audacity of hope! I still remember my grandmother singing in the house, 'There's a bright side somewhere... don't rest till you find it...' "

- Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, p. 294

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Amadi's Snowman: Interview with Author Katia Novet Saint-Lot and Artist Dimitrea Tokunbo

Bees Knees Reads is thrilled to host the first online global virtual book-tour interview with author of Amadi's Snowman, Katia Novet Saint-Lot and Artist Dimitrea Tokunbo. A review of their book can be found here on our September 10th post.

Interview with Katia Novet Saint-Lot:
Please tell us about your childhood. What was it like? Where were you raised? Do you have any siblings?
I was raised in Paris, France. But we spent most summers in Spain, with my mother's family. And yes, I have one sister and one brother. I'm the oldest. I don't honestly remember that much from my childhood. More like flashes. Piano lessons. Reading. Going to school, sometimes liking it, other times hating it. Getting into fights with my sister. I was rather shy, and often felt "different". My mother didn't speak French very well, children with diverse backgrounds like me were not many.

As a child did you read a lot? Tell us some of your favorite picture books.
Yes, I was a voracious reader from the moment I could read. But I don't remember reading picture books. We didn't have a lot of money, and there were no books at home. And when I started borrowing books at the library, they were novels. I read practically all the books from the Comtesse de Segur, Alexandre Dumas, and Enyd Blyton. Later on, Nancy Drew.

I read that you travel a lot with your family as your husband works with UNICEF. Please tell us some of the exciting places you’ve lived and tell us a little bit about where you are living now.
Frankly, the most exciting place I've lived in, for me, has been Brooklyn, in New York. I loved it there. I loved that I could do anything : African dance, one evening, opera, the next, salsa dancing another, restaurants from all over the world, people from all over the world, and it was affordable. I adored my life in New York. India has been great, too, it is such a rich place in terms of culture, colors, architecture... One is constantly on sensory overload here. And there is always something intriguing and interesting happening.

Do you have children? Yes, I have two daughters, 8 and 4 years old.
Where in Africa was your family living when you wrote the story Amadi’s Snowman? Please tell us in detail about the culture there, traditions, language…
We lived in Enugu, Nigeria. Enugu was the capital of the short-lived Biafra Republic. The language spoken there is Igbo. One thing I loved - even though I think it's important to stay clear from the tendency to view Africa as one country, as opposed to a continent with many different countries - is the joy of the people. I'm talking about West Africa, here. I have not been to East Africa, and I'm told it's very different. But I found that in spite of all the hardships, there is a spirit of joy, in the places I visited in West Africa. I loved it, when I drove to fetch my daughter at school, in Enugu, that I would pass by small sheds that had African music blaring out. I loved the way women walk, their back very straight, balancing their hips. Asia is very different in that respect.

Was it difficult for your family to adjust?
Honestly, yes, for me, most of all. There were security issues, supplies were scarce, and there wasn't much to do. My husband worked a lot, and I was very much alone with our first daughter, who was only 7 months old when we landed there, so it wasn't easy. She started walking there, and she loved it. Obviously, as long as she had adults taking care of her, food on her plate, and a place to play, she had no reason not to be happy. We lived in a big hotel compound that had ten villas, and a huge park with a lake, and she ran around all day, trying to catch lizards or birds.

What gave you the inspiration to tell this story? Is the character Amadi a boy that you know or have met?
My husband came back from work, one evening, complaining about the boys who dropped out of school to earn a little money doing street business. It's a common problem there. I just used this as the premise for the story, but Amadi is entirely my creation.

Is this your first published book? Yes, it is.
Are you interested in speaking to teacher/librarian groups or to kids via school visits? If so, how can interested parties contact you?
I'm very much interested in speaking to teacher/librarian groups or to visit schools. I love interacting with children, and talking to them about reading and about Nigeria, and anything else they come up with, really. Of course, I currently live in India, but we are bound to move elsewhere sooner than later, and I also travel quite a lot, to Europe and to the US. I can be reached through my website,

What are your goals for the future? Do you have another story in the works?
Continue to write, work on my craft. I have several stories in the works, some are completed, others still need a few revisions, and I also want to write novels. So, lots of projects, yes.

Dimitrea Tokunbo’s art is the perfect match for Amadi’s Snowman. How did you find/meet Dimitrea?
The publisher and editor found Dimitrea. Her father is Nigerian, and her mother is from Maine, and that's where Tilbury House is located, so the connexion seemed rather serendipitous. I was very eager to meet Dimitrea, and this finally happened over the summer, when we did two readings together in New York City. She's delightful.
Thank you very much, Kim, for your questions and for your interest.

Dimitrea and Katia (center) with the Igbo,Nigerian family who helped pose for the book's imagery and Dimitrea's daughters who helped as well.

Interview with Artist Dimitrea Tokunbo:
Please tell us about where you grew up. What was it like? Tell us about your family history. Where are your mother and father from? Do you have siblings?
I was born in California but moved to upstate New York when I was five. My Parents divorced when I was three. I liked visiting my dad when he lived in Harlem. I never dreamed that I would actually live in the city myself. I am now divorced and have two daughters and we live in the city. We love it. We love Brooklyn (where we live) and we love Manhattan (where they attend performing arts school and I work my day job). My mom had three more kids after me (two boys and a girl). My Dad had four kids after (three boys and one girl). I am the child from their first marriage. I was an only child until I was 6 years old.

Did you read picture books as a child? Please tell us some of your favorites.
I loved picture books and still do. I liked Corduroy and Where the Wild Things Are.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist? Did any one person influence you? My mother used to ask me the story that went with the drawings I would make, even before I was two years old. So words and art always went together for me. Also my mom allowed me to draw on anything that belonged to me which included my bedroom walls. My mom is an artist, although she went to school to be a teacher, she always found ways to use her creativity. I think she was the first artist I wanted to be like.

Who is your favorite artist? Now I love the illustration work of Leo & Diane Dillon, Brian Pinkney, Kadir Nelson, Trina Schart Hyman and Patricia Pollacco. (Gustav Klimt, Alphonze Mucha, Jacob Lawrence and VanGogh)

I read that you are an author as well. How many published books do you have as an author/illustrator and how many others have you illustrated for? So far I have three books published as an illustrator and two books published as an author. It’s still a dream that my editor will hire me to illustrate my own books…I’m a believer (o:

How did you prepare for the Amadi’s Snowman illustrations? Tell us about the research that you did and why? Well, it’s been about 15 years since I’ve visited Nigeria (although I'm excited to report my daughters and I going there for 3 weeks this December) so I contacted relatives who still live there, my sister and my uncle. I emailed them descriptions of what I was looking for and they emailed me photos. I also have a cousin who lives in Queens who grew up in Nigeria, so I would have lunch with her to show her my sketches to check for accuracy.

Are your illustrations based on real children and people that you know? The author was very concerned that the family in the illustrations look Igbo and not Yoruba (my family is Yoruba) A friend of mine, in my neighborhood knew an Igbo family in Long Island. She introduced us over the phone and we made arrangements to do a photo shoot at their home. The whole family got involved. The parents, the three sons, the grandmother and even my two daughters helped out with poses.

Can you tell us about the painting process you used for this book, is it acrylic paint on wood panels, oil on canvas?…etc. Why did you choose this style? I did this book with Acrylic paints on Bristol board. I’d wanted to use a more fluid style. I like that acrylic paints give bright, vibrant colors immediately. My favorite part was mixing my color palette.

What new works are you working on for the future? I am working on texts for historical picture books featuring powerful women I want to introduce my own daughters to.

I also heard that you have a new book coming out soon. Please tell us about it and when it will be available. I have a book coming out Fall of 2009 with Scholastic Inc. titled, The Sound of Kwanzaa, illustrated by Lisa Cohen. This book lays out the 7 principles of Kwanzaa in simple yet poetic terms for young children. I also included one of my favorite brownie recipes that children can make for their Karamu or Kwanzaa feast day.

Do you sometimes make school and library visits? If so, how can we contact you? I do and I love to. I can be reached through the Publicity Manager at Tilbury House Publishers, Sarah McGinnis.
Thank you Katia and Dimitrea for visiting us. We hope children all over the world will have the opportunity to read Amadi's Snowman. Best wishes on your global tour!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blog the Vote and Nikki McClure

I like to keep a jump on deadlines so I submitted my ballot by mail two weeks ago. For any of you out there reading this, I know you will not forget or be too busy to VOTE! I've been inspired by Mother Reader and her rally to change the status quo***** Note there will be a Blog the Vote roundup on November 3rd at Chasing Ray. I'm also inspired by artist Nikki McClure. She has a traveling show titled, Vote for Survival. It's only up for another week here in San Francisco so I better get on over to needles and pens to see it.

Yes, I know there are a lot of links in this post already, but I'll leave you with yet one more. This one you can listen to on NPR.ORG. As you know I'm a big advocate of reading aloud to children as long as they will let you. And this program in Harlem, as discussed on NPR, is more proof that literacy starts with infancy. More than wealth, more than nutrition, literacy is predictive of a healthy, happy life. VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE !!!VOTE!!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Johnny Appleseed

T'is the season for apples and the story of Johnny Appleseed. We love this version by husband and wife team Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet. It's actually a wonderful poem that was written in 1933 for A Book of Americans.
Here's a sample:
Of Jonathan Chapman
Two things are known
That he loved apples,
That he walked alone.
At seventy-odd
He was gnarled as could be,
But ruddy and sound
As a good apple tree.
S.D. Schindler did an amazing job illustrating this book. His work is intricate, warm and sweet. He has illustrated over 100 books and although I was unable to find his website to see more of his art, I did find this cute image, Catwings from an exhibit of his work that runs now through January 18, 2009 at the Kenosha Museum in Wisconsin. Now I want to get these!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Los Gatos Black on Halloween

If you're a fan of Yuyi Morales author/ illustrator of Little Night, you may like Los Gatos Black on Halloween written by Marisa Montes and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. This rhyming Halloween book includes recognizable Spanish words scattered throughout the poem.

I think older children will appreciate this book as some of the illustrations are quite scary (no blood and guts but lots of skeletons and creepy zombies.) My little ones didn't want to read it more than once. Nevertheless, Yuyi's illustrations are splendidly scary and her palette is deep, rich and velvety. Mexican cultural heritage is depicted by glorious esqueletos in traditional dress. So this book is a crossover to both U.S. Halloween and Dias de los Muertos traditions.

Kim and our mom dipped into the archives to find this '70's Halloween Photo. Yes Kim, it proves you were a cute witch. And do you think those costumes are a little too puritan for kids today?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ghosts in the House!

After reading Nancy's blog (about home-made tinfoil Halloween costumes), I was reminded of this photo of my friend, the mother alien. I love her home-made costume and especially the tin foil antennae.

I think I will dress up for Halloween this year. My son insists that I dress as a witch. Only if I can be a cute witch like the one in Kazuno Kohara's Ghosts in the House!

This is one of the books I brought home from the fabulous Powell's in Portland. I really admire Kazuno Kohara's linocuts and was hoping to find a website which had more information on her and more of her art to view. I found out here that she grew up in Japan and is now studying for her MA in Printmaking in Cambridge, England.

This is her first book which was released in August 2008 as, Ghosts in the House. A paperback version was released in October 2008 titled, The Haunted House.

Here is one of one my favorite images in the book where the little witch decides to wash the ghosts she caught. It appears that Ms. Kohara uses rice paper for the ghosts which have been overlayed in the printing process as chine colle, a perfect combination as the ghosts become nearly transparent when overlapping the black ink.

The story of a little girl-witch and her sweet, black kitty who catch happy ghosts in the house and put them to work as tablecloths, blankets and curtains is not at all scary and is perfect for reading to little ones this season.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ghost Wings and Los Dias de los Muertos

In our little pumpkin town, Halloween festivities start the first week of October. Pumpkins are carefully scattered around our front walk. And this year we've grown a few of our own. The girls want to be princesses yet again on Halloween, but I'm hoping at least one of them will change her mind at the last minute. The little one suggested she could be a carrot, but they mostly laughed about it. I really miss all the homemade costumes I remember from my trick-or-treat days. You don't see too many cardboard box- tin foil robots around anymore.

I better put in an order for candy tomorrow. I want to get some naturally sweet lollys this year. I just can't have all those bite sized snickers around and they're not so great for kids' tummys either. A couple of years ago I gave out Halloween stickers, but they didn't go over so well with the older kids. The neighborhood parents probably weren't too keen on scraping stickers off walls either.

So in keeping with my theme about wanting a Halloween celebration that is a little off the mainstream this year, I've been reading the girls books about the Days of the Dead, or Los Dias de los Muertos fiesta, which is celebrated between October 31 and November 2. It is a Mexican holiday that is both noisy and fun but also pays respect to loved ones that have passed on... passed over... and are still with us in spirit.

Ghost Wings by Barbara M. Joose is about a young girl and the bond she shares with her grandmother. Every autumn they visit the Magic Circle, a place in the Mexican forest where the Monarch butterflies arrive by the thousands. One year the grandmother is thin and frail and she asks the little girl if she can still feel the butterfly that has just flown away from her arm. Her grandmother tells her that the butterflies, "carry the souls of the old ones, and the old ones never really leave." The symbolism of death and spirit is so beautifully rooted in the butterfly imagery. While the girl grieves her grandmother's death, she celebrates her memory with the Days of the Dead festivities and her return to the Magic Circle. Giselle Potter's illustrations were done in ink, watercolor and colored pencil and they are gorgeous. One of my favorite illustrations is of the girl choosing a chocolate and sugar skull from a stand in the Mexican outdoor market.

I will write about two other similarly themed books in the next few days. I like to talk about both Los Dias de los Muertos and Halloween traditions at home. Perhaps we'll go to the Oakland Museum this year. For the past 15 years they've installed a Dias de los Muertos exhibit and I'm told it's worth the trip across the bay. The girls will probably ask me, "Why are there skeleton princesses?"

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Military Mom (Interview)

Last week we visited the Pretlow Library in Ocean View near our old house. When we came home, I discovered a book in the diaper bag that I did not check out. Love, Lizzie (Letters to a Military Mom) by Lisa Tucker McElroy. I'm not sure if C or D put it in there....but when I opened it and saw this image, I knew it was a sign. It looks just like my friend Mari and her little daughter M and it tells a very similar story of their lives.

I first met Mari at the Soap and Suds Laundromat in Ocean View five years ago. Both armed with new babies and loads of laundry we vowed to meet every Tuesday at 9 as the laundromat manager was a mean lady who disliked crying babies. Power in numbers, we stuck together as best friends do and our kids grew up close like brother and sister.

This summer Mari (who is enlisted in the Navy) was deployed overseas. She has been gone for a few months now and M's Daddy and Grandma are taking good care of her. It was almost ironic that the day after I found this book I got an email from Mari. I emailed her back a few short interview questions and these are her answers:

Tell us a little about how things are in Iraq, the landscape, culture, people.
Very dusty and brown. Hot. Wide open spaces....

I know that you miss your home. how do you keep in touch with M and Dan?
Her teacher helps her to email me from school and I call when I get a chance. With the 7 hour time difference and my work schedule, sometimes it is hard. I try to write letters, but don't always have time.

What things do you miss most, special foods, places that they don't have there?I miss my daughter and my best friend (you!). I miss freedom. I miss Azteca (Mexican Restaurant). I miss my own bed and my own house and privacy and long showers. And I miss cooking for myself. I miss feeling clean. I miss my cell phone and texting.

Do you ever get to roam around outside of your domain, shopping, eating cultural foods...etc? No.

What percentage of women to men would you say exists in your camp? Are there other moms to talk to? Ok. 10 males to 1 female. There are other moms here.

How many months will you be deployed? All together about 9 to 10 months.

Do you have any thoughts "words of wisdom" you'd like to share with other moms in the military who are preparing for deployment? Enjoy what you have. It can always be worse!

Love, Lizzie is one of the best books published for young children on the tricky subject of how to handle the separation of overseas deployment for families. There are many children in America like Lizzie, whose parents are posted overseas. In her letters to her Mother, Lizzie speaks to all those kids,offering hope and asking important questions about war and her mother's service to America.

Each page is fully illustrated by Diane Patterson with wonderful drawn out letters and colorful maps of Lizzie's stories. On one page she draws a map of the stars and tells her mother to look up at night and "make a wish on the bright North star." "Use the Big Dipper to help you find it, like you showed me, and look for the Little Dipper too" "Hey! They're sort of like you and me!"
Diane's website is interactive with lots of fun things for kids to do and I just found out by visiting that she is the illustrator for several books and my most treasured childhood book "Fiona's Bee."
The very last page of this book gives tips to help kids through what can be a difficult time. Tips like planning ahead, physical reminders of the parent who is departing, keeping up with routine, being straightforward when talking about safety, connecting with other military families and to take advantage of the programs the military has to offer.

So Mari, we'll miss you while you are away.....especially on Halloween, but we'll see M on Saturday at the pumpkin patch and I'll be sure to take lots of pictures for you!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

C is for California

Tomorrow I will have the good fortune of meeting with Marjolein Varekamp who is visiting California and staying in Monterey only a couple of hours from my home! Marjolein and Bees Knees Books are working together on a redesign and Fall 2009 release of her book, A Wonderful Week. Here is her interview from last February.

I'm sure I will have updates after our visit. She had a recent exhibition of her illustrations near her home in the Netherlands and sent us photos.

So, I've been thinking what might she like to take back from California? And I found C is for California. This little board book, written by kids with the organization California Poets in the Schools was published by WestWinds Press who has published similar titles for other states. C is for California but A is for Alcatraz!

The photography, design and simple text make these little geographically informative books worth having in a child's library. Or perhaps a great gift for a visiting children's book illustrator.

So, we're off to the Monterey Bay Aquarium to meet Marjolein tomorrow. Oh! and she's bringing boterbabbelaars candy : ) Don't you love the spelling of that word, boterbabbelaars? And I'm bringing my camera!
Here is another photo of Marjolein's exhibit.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Yom Kippur For Kids

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement falls on the eve of the tenth day after Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). That's when the fast begins too. It's a big one.......twenty-five + hours! This year, 2008 Yom Kippur starts at sundown, Wednesday October 8th and ends Thursday evening, October 9th with the sound of the shofar (ram's horn trumpet).

I found Sound the Shofar! A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at the library today. It's written by Leslie Kimmelman and geared for children ages 3-6 with simple and colorful illustrations by John Himmelman. You can click the link above to view/read the book.

Yom Kippur is the holiest and most solemn day of the year, a day of fasting and prayers. On this day, Jews refrain from work. It is also customary to wear white, no washing, bathing or cosmetics and no leather shoes.
The day before Yom Kippur is devoted to eating traditional foods like potato kreplach, chicken soup with matzo balls and especially sweet foods like round challah bread and apples dipped in honey, sweet potato soup, pumpkin kugel and ice cream, to symbolize the "sweetness and good fortune" of the new year ahead. My mother gave me a wonderful cookbook with over 100 Jewish family recipes called At Oma's Table by Doris Schechter. It has the BEST menus for all the Jewish holidays and every day life intertwined with sweet little family stories.

Here's a sweet and messy clip of Yom Kippur for Kids. Sound the shofar!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Bailout and Hubert Horatio BB-T

We've been talking a lot at home about, greed, corruption, government scandals- the AIG Bailout.
Remember what happened less than a month ago:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Key Republicans on Capitol Hill blasted the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve on Wednesday for orchestrating an $85 billion bailout of insurance giant American International Group, and the White House for not informing them of the plan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- who also complained that he didn't know a bailout of AIG was in the works -- said Congress won't change laws immediately to address the rapidly unfolding financial crisis because "no one knows what to do."

"We are in new territory here," Reid added. "You could ask [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke, you could ask [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson. They don't know what to do, but they are trying to come up with ideas."

Well, you know what I think? They should have called Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent and his best friend Stanton Harcourt III to Washington. After some 5.33 minutes of calculations those boy geniuses would have found a solution! Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent was first published in the US in 2005. Hmmmmm that's the same year AIG was in hot water for accounting fraud. Hey! that should have been a tip-off. Is Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent the only one who knows... "money, indeed, does not grow on trees?"

Lauren Child's characters are brilliant which is common knowledge by now. And this is a brilliantly executed book. A simple review does not do it justice. You must find it in your library or bookstore. I will share one of my favorite page spreads. The "frightfully, frightfully rich" Mrs. Bobton-Trent is in the bath with two-year-old Hubert sleeping near the tub. She doesn't have a blanket and tucks him under a copy of one of her favorite gossip magazines.

"Upon waking, Hubert read the magazine twice front to back and once back to front. This was when Hubert found out he was a pretty good reader."

Sometimes I really, really like a book and my girls aren't as enthused. But Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent had us all engaged well after I finished reading it through.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Monsters on Machines

A whole week has passed since I brought this book home from the Kidlit'08 Conference in Portland and it hasn't gone a day without being read. I suspect my 5 year old has it memorized already and his favorite food this week (Surprise) ....... it's elbow macaroni/ AKA Monsteroni in our house!

Here's an excerpt from Deb Lund's new book,

From her basket she pulls out a black iron pot. It smells really good-like it's starting to rot."Mama, tell us what's in there!" they cry. "Pretty please?" "It's your favorite," she says. "Monsteroni and cheese! Remember your manners. Sit up now and eat." So they shovel it in with their hands and their feet.
Deb sure has a way with words and knows just how to evoke laughter from kids of all ages.

The illustrator, Robert Neubecker keeps a super busy schedule. Not only is he a fabulous and well-known childrens book illustrator but he also draws for Bill Gates' online zine SLATE twice a week (note the latest is a comic of VP candidate Palin!)

With Halloween quickly approaching, I've been searching for costumes for the kids and I think I just found the perfect one from rozzissweetpeas for my little monster.