Wednesday, October 31, 2012


This Giveway is now closed.  The winner will be announced on Monday!
Thank you to all who participated!

I can't believe how fast these 31 days have flown by.  I would love to continue this conversation in books with all my new 31 Days friends.  So, to extend the fun, I'm doing a BOOK CRUSH GIVEAWAY.

One lucky winner will receive a book of their choosing!  Up for grabs, any of the books I've mentioned during this series.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Anything Oliver Jeffers.

And anything Mac Barnett -- especially Extra Yarn and Mustache!

To refresh your memory, here are the links to 31 Days of sappy children's book crushes:

Any of these are up for grabs!  I can't wait to see which one the winner chooses.  

How do I enter? you ask:

Step 1:  Go over to my sidebar and subscribe for free to receive The Book Diaries Blog posts in your inbox.  You'll be entered in the random drawing, plus you won't miss out on all the new booklists and awesome book recommendations coming down the pipe!

Step 2:  Comment on this post with the words: "PICK ME!", and for fun, tell me your favorite picture book of all time.  Or the one you'd most like to own.

Step 3:  For additional entries, link to or mention this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, then come back and tell me in the comments.  Or like The Book Diaries new Facebook page {here}.  One additional entry per social media post.

Step 4:  Come back often -- it's been nice to have you here!

The Book Diaries Book Crush Giveaway will close on Wednesday, November 7th at 8:00 p.m. EST.  The winner will be announced on Friday, November 9th!  Spread the word and good luck!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 30: Groovin' with Pete the Cat

Pete the Cat is our newest family crush.  The boys are thoroughly in love -- both with Pete and his music.

I love the simplicity of the artwork, as well as the story.  It's full of repetition and song, and child participation.  A fail-proof combination.

The boys even dragged out their guitars this afternoon.  They had a Pete the Cat jam session.  Eric Litwin would be proud.

Here's the jist of storyline:  Pete the Cat loves his new white shoes so much, that he can't help singing about them.  As he walks along, singing his song, his shoes get a little dirty and don't remain white.

But does Pete cry?  Goodness, no!
(The kids love this part)

Pete just goes with the flow.  Whatever life throws at him, it's all good.

You've gotta hear Eric Litwin do it, to get the full groovy, mellow effect:

You can also download the song and audio story for free from Harper Collins {here}.

Thank you so much for joining me here all month!  Don't forget to come back tomorrow, because I'm going to announce a book GIVEAWAY that you won't want to miss!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29: Apparently I have a thing for graph paper

There's just something about graph paper that makes me weak in the knees.  Especially when it's juxtaposed with a loose sketchy illustration.  I'm sure my architectural background plays in, but whatever the reason, I'm helpless to its pull.

Exhibit A:  The Chicken Problem  
by Jennifer Oxley (of Wonder Pet fame) and Billy Aronson

Nolan and I just found The Chicken Problem today at the bookstore, when I became acutely aware of my propensity toward gridded paper.  

Peg just wants to have a nice little picnic with her pals.  When they have one extra slice of cake, she feels the need to find someone else to join in their feast, to keep things even.  All goes awry when the chicken coop gets left open while trying to invite a baby chick to join them for cake.

It become a numbers game to get all the chicks back where they belong.  I love books that incorporate math.  Especially ones that manage to do so with such hilarious abandon.  

I read a rumor that a related show may be coming to Nickelodeon with math themes and Peg as the main character.  I think we'd watch.

Exhibit B:  Iggy Peck, Architect
by Andrea Beatty and David Roberts

I first discovered Iggy Peck, Architect while I was vetting out a book idea I had.  Mine was, Ollie Quidd, Architect Kid.  While I was severely bummed out to find Iggy with such a similar title, the quality of my rival soon soothed my disappointment.  This rhyme-y tale of creative genius Iggy Peck is clever, funny and wonderfully absurd.  And then there's the graph paper.  Maybe it's cliche, but I can't help but love it.  (Since the actual story lines, and writing styles, are quite different, maybe I'll luck out and Ollie Quidd will be more than just an idea one day.  Iggy can be his architectural mentor or something.) 


Exhibit C:  Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit  
by Catherine Raynor

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't Fit  is filled with artwork that I wish was my own. Catherine Rayner's illustrations are loose, textural, and endearing. She inspires me to loosen up and have fun.

Ernest is the story of a "rather large" moose who just can't seem to fit into the format of the book. He and his cute little chipmunk friend work and work and finally come up with a solution. A wonderful scrappy solution that I won't give away here.

If I wasn't already enamored, the whole book is laid out on fabulous robin's egg blue graph paper. (It's difficult to detect in these images - but it's there and awesome, trust me).  I love the juxtaposition of the whimsical drawings within structure of the graph paper; I love the obvious nod to scale and fit; I love almost anything robin's egg blue.

If a simple, artistic problem-solving story sounds like a fit for your family, I highly recommend making the acquaintance of Ernest the Moose and his little rodent friend.

(Now that I think about it, there is a strong possibility that I might also have a crush on moose in general.  I'm in love with Looking for a Moose If You Give a Moose a Muffin , and This Moose Belongs to Me .  But the graph paper certainly doesn't hurt).  

For what it's worth as my series winds down this week, if I had more time, I'd devote a whole post to the awesome art of Catherine Raynor.

Check these images out:

Is she children's book perfection or what?

Day 28: My crush on Alice Ozma, her amazing dad, and reading with my boys

Have you heard of Alice Ozma?  If not, please do yourself a favor and meet her.  And her dad.  They are a delightful and inspiring pair.

My friend Amy (who happens to be the most thoughtful person I know) bought me this book for my birthday last year.  There's no better gift than a book.  Especially one this good.  Amy thought it seemed like me.  She was so right.

I love everything about this book.  At 23, this is Alice's memoir.  When she was in fourth grade, her father (a school librarian) feared that she would stop wanting to read books with him when she could read on her own.  To combat this catastrophe, he proposed a reading streak.  Initially they promised to read together for 100 consecutive nights.  Once they successfully fulfilled their goal, they got even more gutsy and lengthened it.  As time passed, the streak became so important to them that they kept it going --at all costs-- for over 3,000 consecutive nights.  Her dad read his last page to her on the day he dropped her off at college.

When I cried my eyes out.

In The Reading Promise, Alice tells the story of her life, through the story of their reading streak.  There was a lot going on in their home that could have been debilitating to a young girl and her father.  Mainly the suicidal tendencies and abandonment of Alice's mother.  The streak was her father's promise to be there for his daughter, without fail, every night.  In an unspoken way, The Streak provided constancy, faithfulness, intimacy and hope.  He was going to be there.  They had a promise.

If I understand correctly, her father is a bit awkward, socially and relationally.  What I love about him is that he didn't let that keep him from being what his daughter needed.  He worked with what he had and who he is and played to his strengths.

I work from home.  Lately I have far too much on my plate.  At times it's really hard to connect with my cute kiddos the way that I long to.  Especially as they grow older, it can be hard to find that vehicle that allows intimacy and deep relationship to continue.  Reading together is our magic way to connect.  I cherish my reading time with my boys more than any other moment in my day.  We snuggle close and jump into fabulous worlds together.  We get to know all the same characters and have endless inside jokes.  Reading together allows us to speak the same language.  And plotting out all the books we'll read next and stacking them by the bed, sends them the same message that Alice's dad sent her:  I'm going to be here for you.  We're going to share this life together.

I promise.

Alice currently has one of the coolest gigs in town, in my opinion.  A recent college grad, she has joined forces with Scholastic, motivating kids to be readers.  (Smart move on Scholastic's end.)  She also travels to schools to talk about her book, and to spur other families on to create their own reading streaks.  If I was on the PTO at my school, I'd be all over that.   Instead I follow her on Facebook and get all teary-eyed when I read stories of dads who travel starting streaks with their kids via telephone and how much it's strengthened their relationship. 

Have you read Alice Ozma's book?  What'd you think?  Do you have a formal or informal reading streak or promise with your kids?   I'm chronicling my informal streak with Matthew {here}, if you're interested.  If you haven't read The Reading Promise yet -- I highly recommend it.  And don't let my comment above mislead you.  It's not a total should know that I laughed as much as I cried.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Day 27: More, because I can't help it... (and a little bit about where I came from).

I apologize, but I still have David Small on the brain.  At least you know my crush is for real.  

I feel the need to mention one specific thing that made me fall in love with his children's book art.  But, first, a little bit about me.  I began my career as an architectural designer.  After ten years I began to dabble in architectural illustration so that I could work from home.  Eventually I stumbled very happily into the world of children's book illustration.  I consider myself very blessed to have worked in the creative industry all my life.  

From David Small's sketchbook...

Enter why I first fell in love with the work of David Small:
His loose pen and his affinity for architecture.  

In him I see a way that I could bridge all my worlds.  So far in my children's book career I haven't been able to merge my architectural background and the wonderful sketchyness that used to characterize my work with children's books.  But I plan to get there.   

The quality of David Small's linework makes my insides rejoice.  Call me weird, but there it is.


One of my architectural sketches....

Click {here} to read my 
from the beginning.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Day 26: In case your curiosity was piqued...

Yesterday I wrote about David Small and his graphic memoir, Stitches.  If your curiosity was piqued like mine was, here he is discussing his book at the Kalamazoo Public Library during his book tour in 2009.  I find him fascinating.

The Introduction

Interview - Part 1

Interview - Part 2

Interview - Part 3

Interview - Part 4

Day 25: David Small - the story behind the art, and the art of redemption

Like a rite of passage of boyhood, both of my boys went through a dinosaur phase.  During Dinosaur Phase 1.0 my mom bought us When Dinosaurs Came with Everything by Elise Broach.  It's a fabulously funny read aloud.  One Friday, a young boy and his mom are running errands, and at each stop, a dinosaur is thrown in for free with purchase.  With the presentation of each dinosaur, the boy is overjoyed and incredulous, while his mom is completely horrified.  The writing is perfect, but what really makes the book memorable are the illustrations of David Small.

His witty illustrations also steal the show in So You Want to Be President? and One Cool Friend by Tony Buzzeo.

When I stumbled across David Small's artwork in Jane Yolen's Elsie's Bird...

then in the Caldecott-winning The Gardener, and The Library, and The Quiet Place, the content surprised me.  These beautiful books come from a different place; a place of pain, loss or loneliness.   In my mind, I had him pegged as the funny guy, with an awesomely humorous illustration style.  But the underlying sadness of his other books gave me pause.  How could the same illustration style be hilarious one minute and filled with emotion, sadness and hope in the next?

I noticed that most of his more serious books were written by the same author -- Sarah Stewart.  Which made me ask more questions, like:  Why is he making all of these melancholy (but wonderful) books with this Sarah Stewart?  What's the draw to him?  And what in the world is this guy's story anyway?

It may be the first time I've asked myself that about an illustrator.  I'm always curious about an author's back story, but David Small made me need to know the man behind the artwork.

A quick search revealed that he is a fellow Michigander who grew up in Detroit.  I love discovering other Michigan artists in the children's book industry.  I always imagine that I could meet up with them and garner some wisdom.  Though that will never happen, I like to imagine it nonetheless.

My curiosity soon led me to an unexpected discovery.  David Small had a rather traumatic childhood, and has actually created a graphic novel called Stitches telling his story.  I devoured it in about an hour.  The memoir is dark and disturbing, but certainly answers my questions.  Click {here} to read more about it.  His art was his rabbit hole.  There is also a small note of triumph running through the darkness of his youth.  He came out on the other side, scarred but living.  A creator of beautiful things.

And Sarah Stewart?  She's his wife.  I didn't see that coming and it made me smile.  They found each other while teaching at the same university and recognized in each other a familiar past.

I fear that I probably haven't done his story justice.  You'll have to investigate both his artwork and his graphic novel for yourself.  Most good art comes from an honest place of connection and personal experience.  It is that authenticity of sorrow, hope and resilience that makes his work with Sarah Stewart so powerfully moving.

I see even his funny work in a different light now.  While reading his memoir, I wished for a more redemptive conclusion.  More light.  More healing.  But, perhaps, the redemption I was routing for is right there, on the pages of books like When Dinosaurs Came with Everything.  The brightness is in every humorous line and every over-the-top expression that captures the lightness and joy of childhood.

If your curiosity about David Small has been piqued, click {here} to read Day 26 of my 31 Days of Children's Book Crushes, which features David speaking about his book, Stitches, at the Kalamazoo Public Library in October of 2009.