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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Picture Book List for 2011!

Seeing as it is post Thanksgiving, and holiday shopping is in full effect I thought this week's post should be about picture books :) In particular, some recommendations for the holiday season. I have selected five of my favorite 2011 books and five oldies (but goodies!) that some of you may not have seen before. So whether you have an adventurer, a dreamer, or princess to buy for this year, this list has it all...

George and Martha by James Marshall
Houghton Mifflin Co., 1972

For your best friend: One of my favorite books of all time. "Five stories about two great friends." These five stories are short and sweet and oh so funny. My particular favorite is about split pea soup. Great read aloud and essential for any picture book library.

The Great Pie Robbery and Other Mysteries by Richard Scarry's
Random House, 1969-75

For the detective: Originally published in three volumes between 1969 and 1975, later reprinted into one storybook containing all three mysteries by Sterling Publishing in 2008. These stories are wonderfully silly, featuring the sleuthing duo Sam Cat and Dudley Pig, who run all over town looking for pie thieves, disappearing food, and Mrs. Pig's fabulous
pearl necklace. No picture book library is complete without at least one Richard Scarry book.

Press Here by Herve Tullet
Chronicle Books, 2011

For the reluctant reader: Have you walked into a bookstore recently and noticed someone shaking or flipping upside down the book they were holding, if so they were probably looking at Press Here. This book is wonderfully interactive and gets everyone to participate upon opening its cover. Truly this book is for everyone, but especially a reluctant reader. There is no story, just instructions for what to do. Tullet brilliantly turns a book into a toy.

Grandpa Green by Lane Smith
Roaring Brook Press, 2011

For the gardener: This book was recently named one of the NYT best illustrated books of 2011. A beautifully illustrated story of old and new, past and present, love and loss all told through topiaries created by one boy's grandfather. I am a sucker for gatefolds in picture books and this one has a double gatefold that is simply lovely. This is a great book for young and old. One of my favorites for 2011.

Be Nice to Spiders by Margaret Bloy Graham
HarperCollins, 1967

For the bug lover: This is one of my favorite books of all time! Spiders always get such a bad wrap. Now I'm not saying I want to let a hairy tarantula crawl up my arm, but I am one to let a daddy long leg live if only to get rid of the occasional bug in my house. We all have our purpose, which is exactly what this book is about. Even if you're a bit squeamish around spiders I promise you will enjoy this book.

The Princess and the Pea by Lauren Child, Captured by Polly Borland
Hyperion, 2006

For the princess: Lauren Child is one of my favorite illustrators of all time. She has this amazing ability to capture all that it means to be a child in her illustrations. This edition of The Princess and the Pea was fabulously done using 3D miniatures created by Lauren and photographed by Polly. Each spread is like looking into a dollhouse window, pouring over and discovering every minute detail Lauren has added. I find new things every time I read it. This is an amazing book that not every princess will already have.

King Jack and the Dragon, Written by Peter Bently, Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011

For the adventurer: I love love love all things Helen Oxenbury. Her illustrations are wonderful! So of course her new book is on my list. Peter Bently's imaginative story about Jack, Zack, and Caspar is an adventurous romp into the wild, facing dragons and beasts, and conquering the backyard! A great suspenseful read aloud before bed.

Amanda & Her Alligator! by Mo Willems
Balzer + Bray, 2011

For the animal lover: I like to think of this as a modern day George and Martha because it is a picture book of short stories, six in all. Meet Amanda and her lovable, sometimes persnickety alligator, named Alligator. Alligator has a lot of opinions, which is why I love the character so much. This book has the charm of Willem's Leonardo the Terrible Monster and the humor of the Pigeon books. A perfect book for any child, boy or girl.

Time to Get Out of the Bath, Shirley by John Burningham
Random House, 1978

For the dreamer: As you can see I love British illustrators. John Burningham is no exception. He also happens to be married to Helen Oxenbury which makes me love him more. This book is one of my favorites of his. The entire book is about Shirley who goes to take a bath one night and slips down the drain on her rubber ducky only to encounter knights, a king and queen, and a jousting competition. On every spread the right side of the page shows Shirley on her adventure and on the left we see Shirley's mother waiting for Shirley to finish her bath. The perfect bath time book, well maybe after Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon ;)

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin, 2011

For the artist: This book involves three of my favorite things: Melissa Sweet illustrations, Thanksgiving, and the Macy's Day Parade. Another 2011 NYT Best Illustrated Book, Melissa Sweet's newest book tells the true story of Tony Sarg, the man who became the puppeteer behind the Macy's Day Parade. The artwork is absolutely stunning! A great non-fiction picture book for any creative child on your list.

I hope you enjoyed my list and maybe you'll pick up some of these books for those on your list this year. Remember, pictures books stay with you always, even when you finish growing up. I know I still remember ones I received as a kid.

Happy Holidays!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Pre-Turkey Day

Good morning and Happy Pre-Turkey Day!!

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday (mainly because of stuffing and pie). This year I am going to make a recipe from the Flour Bakery cookbook (my favorite Boston bakery). Blueberry Lemon Pie. Doesn't that sound tasty and fantastic?! I know it is a bit summery for Thanksgiving, but sometimes you need a little variety to go with all the pumpkin pies. I love this holiday because it is the one time of year where sweatpants (elastic waistband included) is appropriate attire. When it comes to Thanksgiving I have one motto: Go Big or Go Home! Needless to say, I will be eating a lot tomorrow.

But my favorite part, oddly enough isn't the big dinner, it's the part before hand, the preparation. I love spending the morning in the kitchen baking and cooking, tasting bits here and there, spending time with friends and family. Those are the best parts. Unfortunately, I can't even remember the last time I was home for Thanksgiving. In college it was too far/expensive to fly from Syracuse, New York to San Jose, California in such a short amount of time, so I was adopted by various friends and brought home to eat their traditional dinners and meet their families. I'm lucky to have amazing friends, who happen to have really good food at Thanksgiving.

In college, I usually went home to Schenectady, New York with one of my dearest friends, Kait, whose mom makes everything from scratch, even the butter. The whole family would alternate shaking the mason jar with heavy cream inside throughout the day until it became butter. Kait's mom's menu also included two key items: mashed potatoes with cream cheese (you just have to try them to experience the gloriousness) and stuffed artichokes, the family favorite. Let me preface this by saying how rare it is to come across people who make artichokes on the East Coast. It is definitely more of a West Coast thing, so you can understand how me, the California girl, felt right at home at Kait's house for Thanksgiving. Plus the stuffed artichokes are absolutely outstanding! But it wasn't just the food that I loved about Kait's, it was her family and the feel of their house, so cozy and welcoming. The house creaks when you walk down the hall and when you wake up in the morning the first sound you hear is Kait's brother playing the piano. And not just fooling around playing, but like "I'm a music major and amazing" playing, it was wonderful (although after years of this I'm sure Kait and her family felt differently some mornings). I loved that house because it had so much character. It was the perfect place to spend Thanksgiving when I couldn't be with my own family.

When I moved to Boston, I was adopted by the Gil Family. My roommate Lindsey, who is from a very large Irish Catholic family in New Jersey, brought me home for my first large scale Thanksgiving event. And let me tell you, when the Gils do Thanksgiving, they go all out! Which of course fit in well with my Thanksgiving motto. They rent a hall and have around 60 people. Most of which are all immediate family, her father is one of ten! It was overwhelming and crazy, and in the beginning I probably looked like a deer caught in the headlights, but it was great. I loved that they had this tradition of a huge family get together. It was so welcoming and wonderful. My dad's family, which is where I used to spend Thanksgiving when I was home in California is also a big Irish Catholic family, so for me it was a little like coming home, minus the Jersey accents of course ;)

Now, I spend my Thanksgivings with my boyfriend Frank's family here in Ohio. Lucky for me Frank's mom is one of the best cooks I know. Her food is AMAZING! We usually end up over at his aunt's house for dinner after I spend the morning cooking and baking with his mom. And it is perfect, my favorite part of the day. I doesn't hurt that she is one who makes the stuffing too (which I get to taste test in the morning).

After all my visits to different Thanksgivings, I found I had two very useful things to offer:
1. I love to chop, peel, and mash, which means all those time consuming tasks that no one wants to do I will. I assume this has something to do with the fact that I like to do painstaking tasks like cutting tiny bits of paper out.

2. I don't cry when I cut onions. It's my superpower.

So as someone who has spent most of her Thanksgivings with other people's families, I have a few tips:

Always be grateful
Say please and thank you
Help the cook
Offer to taste test ;)

Happy Turkey Day everyone!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Chicken & Bear Books and the Perfect Library

I have been collecting random antique children's books here and there over the past couple years and realized I just don't have space for them, thus creating Chicken & Bear Books, my new Etsy shop for vintage children's books.

As noted in my previous post my studio is very small, which you can imagine reflects the size of my house as well. Most of my books (some 30 boxes mostly adult, YA, and middle grade) went into storage when I moved into this house. It was very hard to part with them. All I have left in the house are the library books I am currently reading and my collection of children's picture books. Upon moving I pleaded that those were the ones I needed the most and therefore could not live without, needless to say I won my case. I am now accountable for moving all the boxes full of books every time we move, but to me it's definitely worth it.

After posting my new shop yesterday, I got to thinking about home libraries and what people do with all their books, especially in small spaces. I have a tenancy to let books just pile up around my nightstand, creating rather treacherous mountains to skirt around while crawling out of bed in the morning...leading to many stubbed toes and tumbles. But yet I won't move them. There is comfort in their surrounding. When I lived in Boston, the piles where everywhere, spilling off of shelves, drawers, and stacked high against the wall. Thankfully for my feet I have scaled back a bit.

I recently read an article about the twenty best home libraries, most of which were owned by celebrities of course. Because who else has the money to have a whole room devoted to their books with those amazing ladders you see at Strand Books? It made me wonder about other book lover's libraries. What do they look like? Do they sort them alphabetically like I do? Do they break them down in to sections: picture book, YA, adult, middle grade, non-ficition and so on? Or are the books just piled together at random? Are their comfy chairs to sit in? I have friends who live in New York who say that if they buy a new book they have to get rid of an old one to make room. Space is obviously a very precious thing in New York so this is understandable however tragic it may sound to me.

Hopefully, Chicken & Bear Books will help find the perfect home for all of my vintage books that need one. Perhaps some fabulous home library somewhere...

To visit Chicken & Bear Books click on the link below:

Anyone out there with a library they have created in some corner of their home? I would love to hear about it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Alice in Wonderland Studio

One of my favorite things about reading about other illustrators is finding out what their work space looks like. When the book Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk About Their Work, published by the Eric Carle Museum, came out I think I was one of the first people to purchase a copy. I was so excited to see what the work space of some of the illustrators I have always admired such as Robert Sabuda, Quentin Blake, and Leo Lionni, looked like. (If you don't own this book, I highly suggest you pick up a copy today!)

I have been thinking a lot about my studio space lately, mainly because I am about to start a new book, and every time I begin a new project I go into 'Scary Type-A Dinosaur Mode.' I want everything to have its perfect place, with a label of course, and maintain a neat and tidy appearance. I have determined that the only reason that I go into this mode is because of my medium, cut paper and mixed media. For someone who is as much of an organizational freak as I am, you would think I would pick something like colored pencils or pen and ink: minimal clean-up and an overall tidy work space. But no, when I start a book, I begin to hoard paper. A lot of paper. So much paper that by the time the book is finished it looks like a paper bomb went off. There are scraps everywhere! In fact, I distinctly remember going to dinner one night while I was in the midst of finishing A Garden for Pig, and a friend of mine removed a scrap of paper from my hair, which is curly, but still paper should not be nesting inside of it! Needless to say, my studio space is filled with lots of paper in all shapes and sizes.

When I moved in May, to the house I currently live in, I acquired very small studio space upstairs. In fact if you are over 5'7" you will not fit in it. This can behelpful when I need to get work done and therefore physically excludes people from being a distraction. I like to think of it as my Alice in Wonderland studio. Every time I go in it I think of the scene when Alice grows so rapidly her arms and legs go flying out the window as she can no longer fit inside the house. So I thought I would include some photos of my very tiny, Carroll-esque studio space.

This is the very small entry way to my studio :) Notice the hobbit size requirement in order to get in.

My ever growing collection of children's picture books, all of which I love dearly.

My color-coded paper bins (the result of 'Scary Type-A Dinosaur Mode'). In a perfect world my studio would include those amazing print drawers that they have in printmaking studios. Some day...

And of course, a place for Pelly.

A studio motto.

Although my studio is very small, and I hope to have a larger space in the future, I love how cozy it is. And most importantly, I have been extremely productive in it since I moved, so here's to small spaces and being creative.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Is It Really November Already?!

It has been shameful how long it has been since the last time I posted on here! I am definitely one of those people who started my blog as a way to keep being creative and discussing the creative process, but of course have the horrible habit of forgetting to maintain my blog. Well I'm back, sorry it took two months!

Things have been a little hectic around here in Peninsula. Within the last two months: my agent came to town, my parents drove cross country for a visit, I had my first gallery show, a new book sold, and the holiday season to prepare for (more on this later). Whew! Just typing all that was exhausting! It has been a little busy to say the least. So if I were a major TV network I would say: "Here's what you missed last week (or should I say last two months...)

My wonderful agent Mary Kole came to town for a SCBWI conference here in Cleveland. It was so great to see her! One of the things that no one ever tells you when you get involved in the business of children's books is that you don't get to meet most of the people you work with on a regular basis, especially if you don't live in NYC and aren't able to go to conferences. Mary has represented me for just over 2 years and that was the third time I have ever seen her. So needless to say it is a treat to see her in person! I also had the opportunity to meet Andrew Harwell, who now works at HarperCollins as an Associate Editor, but when I met him (via email of course) he was still working at Dial Books for Young Readers at Penguin. When I sent in some of the final artwork for Blue, it was temporarily misplaced, which you can imagine gave me a mild heart attack! Andrew tracked it down and made sure it arrived safely to Penguin. For that I will always be thankful. Andrew was absolutely lovely and it was so wonderful to meet him in person!

Next, my mom and step-dad drove 2,700 miles from San Jose, California to Peninsula, Ohio. They are crazy for driving that far!! I don't think I could ever be in the car that long. But it was so great to see them and spend some time together. My mom, who I have posted about before because of her gallery of tattoos that feature my book characters, finally got to see the F&G for When Blue Met Egg. I dedicated the book to her, which she didn't know, so it was really special to be able to show it to her in person.

My first gallery show! So cool! There is this amazing gallery here in Peninsula, The Log Cabin Gallery, that does seasonal shows with all local artists. They have a winter show opening next week which I highly recommend checking out if you are in the area. I did not feature any originals from my books, but I did have four original pieces hang, one of which sold, as well as a bunch of books. When I brought my framed originals in, Diane (who owns the gallery) asked me why I didn't sign the pieces before I framed them. I just looked at her and said "I'm an children's book illustrator, we don't sign the originals." It never even occurred to me! Shows how much of a fine arts newby I am! It was so much fun to be a part of and to meet all the other artists who work in the area. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to show there again in the future.

I had a new book sell! I posted about this after the Publisher's Market Place announcement, but I have been working on revisions with my editor this last month, so that has kept me a little busy. More than likely we will be changing the title, which I will share when we decide on it, but for the time being we can just keep calling it The Balloon Thieves. More to come on this process in future posts...

And finally, the holiday season. For those of you who don't know I have a side business, Borrowed & Blue Handmade Paper Creations, creating stationary, wedding invitations, and just about everything else on paper. I know it's a stretch for me right...working with paper. I seriously think I have more paper in my house than a recycling center or a paper mill. Anyways, it is that time of year when I have to get my life together and design new holiday cards, invitations, and stationary sets. So that has kept me incredibly busy lately:

Okay, so that pretty much wraps up all the excuses I had lined up for not posting anything on my blog. If I think of anything else, I'll let you know :)