A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Amos McGee loves visiting his friends at the zoo while he works. But one day the zookeeper wakes up sick and his friends the elephant, the tortoise, the penguin, the rhinoceros, and the owl decide to visit him instead.

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The Stead’s work brings you a wonderful story with a great friendship, splendid pacing, cute animals, and the charming Amos McGee all rolled into one. With Philip C. Stead’s wonderfully written work and Erin E. Stead’s beautifully illustrated woodblock printings and pencil, you have a timeless work of art here.

Now I’m going to be steering a bit from my usual review formula because it is the month of STORYSTORM. These are the books I love and cherish.

I would like to start off with looking at the great characters, the main character being an elderly man instead of a child and IT WORKS. There are tons of children’s books out there that have animal and child characters that work but not many with an elderly old man who is sick for a day. During the thousand times I’ve heard or read that I need only children and animals (that’s it!!!) in my illustration portfolio, I always think back to Amos McGee and remember there are exceptions.

Aside from great characters (hey the animals are great too) the pacing is wonderful. I’m talking mainly about the images below…UGGGGG 7.jpegUGGGGG 8.jpegUGGGGG 9.jpegUGGGGG 10.jpeg

Only nine words here and that is eight pages worth of story and it is the best thing these creators could have done. Sometimes when there is a turning point in a story, the best thing is to allow the illustrations take control to set the mood. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen, also does something similar with their turing point. I will show that later.

And to wrap up, the Steads’ work really is a timeless story. Most people who do read pictures books (teachers, parents, kids, book lovers, creators…) have read this book. And if you haven’t and you are interested in writing and/or illustrating picture books I highly recommend it.

The good list:

  • GREAT bedtime story
  •  Short, sweet, to the point
  • Illustrations are marvelous
  • Good story time material as well I would think
  • Lovable characters
  • Pacing is good enough for taking notes on a way to pace a story
  • The story is simply about a good friendship.

That’s it for today! Hopefully these images remind or inspire anyone who is reading this and is doing the STORYSTORM challenge. They most certainly inspire me!

Oh! Philip Stead’s website


Line Up Reads for Inspiration

This month is the month of STORYSTORM, a whirlwind of idea generating madness.

To try to gain some inspiration for the next month, I will be adding a list of favorite picture books  and reviewing them. Some old, some new, but all good stuff.

Writing reviews for my favorite picture books will give me a closer look into how they make me love them and will hopefully inspire new ideas. Unfortunately I’ve already reviewed Pete the Cat and Dragons Love Tacos, because they would totally be on my list, but I still have plenty to go!

Here is the lineup:

  1. A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead, ill. by Erin E. Stead (2010)
  2. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, ill. by Jon Klassen (2012)
  3. Ramble of one of childhood favorite Author/illustrator Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, because I have to. (I have the 50th anniversary copy 2013)
  4. The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, ill. by Mary Grandpre (2014)
  5. The Bear Ate your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach (2015)
  6. Thank you, Octopus by Darren Farrell (2014)
  7. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, ill. by Jon Klassen (2013)
  8. Bloom by Doreen Cronin, ill. David Small (2016)
  9. One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, ill. by David Small
  10. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, ill. by Brendan Kearney
  11. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen, ill. by Mark Teague (2000)
  12. Firefly Mountain by Patricia Thomas, ill. by Peter Sylvada (2007)
  13. Ramble about another childhood favorite The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs! by Jon Scieszka, ill. by Lane Smith and more (25th anniversary addition)
  14. Please, Louise by Toni Morrison and Slade Morrison, ill. by Shadra Strickland (2014)
  15. There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, ill. by Ben Mantle (2015)
  16. Ramble about Wanda Gag’s Millions of Cats and why she inspired me to illustrate/write children’s books in the first place.
  17. Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light (2014)
  18. Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, ill. by David Roberts (2013)
  19. The Grudge Keeper  by Mara Rockliff, ill. by Eliza Wheeler
  20. I Don’t Want to be a Frog by Dev Petty, ill. by Mike Boldt (2015)
  21. Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (but more just Shaun Tan work in general)

Okay! That’s a pretty big line up, but I’m ready to get to writing~


Hillary Rodham Clinton

In the 1950’s the world thought that only a man could gain a powerful position with his career. Only a man could have the strength, intelligence, and ambition to make his mark in history… or so the world thought.


And then, along came Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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Balzer & Bray/ Harper Collins Publishers, Ages 4 to 8, 2016,  $17.99($13.49 on amazon)

With her wit and love for public service, Clinton was pulled into politics at a young age. Throughout her years she fought for social justice and continues to do so today. With Pham’s charming and fairly accurate illustrations, Markel tells a story of an ambitious women to inspire girls everywhere with the message that some girls really are born to lead. A time line is included for more information on Clinton’s achievements  near the end for research material. Though Markel’s work could potentially be used as a research tool for a beginning look at important people in history, Clinton’s tale might be a little too long to keep the younger readers attentive. Markel’s work is labeled for ages 4 to 8, however with the political tone and length, the age range of 6 to 8 might be more accurate. If the reader wanted more early research picture books on Hillary Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton: Dreams Taking Flight by Kathleen Krull might be a good option.

The Good/Bad List!

  • Good: The illustrations seem fairly accurate and are charming enough to continue to the next page.
  • Good: The illustration in the back of the book of other powerful women makes this seem like it could potentially be apart of a series. However at this time I couldn’t find any other book related to this one.
  • Bad: Too long. 42 pages of text that I’m really not sure will keep the attention of a 4 or 5 year old.
  • Bad: Political tone close to propaganda. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is, but some reviews on amazon say it is. As you can see the reviews are clearly split between the 5 stars and the 1 stars haha. Some on there are saying they received this book as a political gag gift and I must admit that I did as well, along with a Make America Great Again hat.
  • Bad: The focus on this book being for girls is a negative. Boys need to learn about powerful women too without being excluded which I thought Markel unfortunately did. If the book was for both boys and girls I would recommend it.
  • Good: Can be a fairly good early research book.

And that’s all for today! Good night~



Shape Shift (Yes, More shapes, I Love Them)

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Just look! Shapes are all around you. You can just observe them or you can shift them, change them, rearrange them anyway you’d like! You could make a crescent and a trapezoid look like a fish. You could turn a rectangle and a circle into a car. You could even make a clown upside down, if you wanted, it just takes some looking and a bit of creativity. With Hesselberth’s fun, simple, and colorful illustrations, the reader will learn about the many shapes around them and how to see them differently. Each page provides questions that reach for answers and participation from the audience. This concept of participation and learning is great for school circle time or can simply be for fun. Hesselberth’s work is recommended for ages 4 to 7.

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Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Hold and Company, Ages 4 to 7, $16.99


The Good/Bad List (and a story!):

  • Good: Love abstract, simple, colorful, and textured illustrations. Love the layout/design of the book. The illustrations made me (and the parents I showed Hesselberth’s work to) want to turn the page and see what the shapes created.
  • Good: There are many questions, sounds, and little bits that call for participation.
  • Bad: In the manuscript, there were certain parts that vaguely rhymed (or at least had a rhythm) that I enjoyed a lot, but it wasn’t consistent enough for me personally (though the parents didn’t seem to be affected in anyway, I’m probably just picky)
  • Bad: Story time! So one lady who has a grandchild  with a speech impediment says he has a problem pronouncing S and F. She told me that the first thing she thought about Shape Shift was how her grandchild would not be able to pronounce that correctly… meaning that he would accidentally say a curse word instead of the word “shift.” I did not think of this AT ALL when I saw this book, but when that was mentioned, the two other parents nodded in agreement. O_O this is probably not that bad, but it is worth mentioning.
  • Good: It think this has some re-readability. I don’t think this has the ability like Pete the Cat does or Dragons Love Tacos but for a shape learning book, I think it’s fun enough to read again.

That’s all Folks! If you would like to look at Hesselberth’s work, go here.





Things Everywhere! Shapes

WEDNESDAY REVIEW! (Well, maybe I really should just move to Fridays…)

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Lizelot Versteeg, Board Book,  978-1-60537-241-9

SHAPES! They’re everywhere.

Arcs, rectangles, circles, squares, triangles, all of the many different shapes are found everywhere everyday, one only needs to look to find them. Each page has lots of shapes relating to different situations one goes through in daily life such as getting dressed in the morning, supplies at school, bath time shapes, playthings, and kitchen things. As the reader goes through each page, they must find the specified shape. Versteeg also created a little more challenging side activity that encourages the reader to find the different colored clocks throughout the pages as well. First published in Belgium titled Allemaal Dingen; Vormen and translated from Dutch to English, Versteeg’s cute, simple, and colorful illustrations directly interacts with the reader by asking questions about the daily activities involving the different shapes. This playful board book is designed to help the language development toddlers ages 30 months and up and is recommended.


OKAY, I reviewed a board book, technically not a picture book. BUT it has pictures and words right? So it’s a picture book, right? (wrong haha)

I had this review lined up and after talking a little to author/illustrator Joyce Hesselberth at the Baltimore Book Festival  this past weekend along with award winning  Jan Spivey Gilchrist (both fantastic illustrators, both very different in styles of illustrating) I realized I needed to get back to reviewing books for kids.

I hope (or will, I WILLL) write reviews for books created by both illustrator/authors. I bought a copy of Shape Shift from Hesselberth (so this is what’s up with the shape board book!) and WILL write up a review on here Shape Shift. 

Until next time~ (Friday maybe? Friday. FRIDAY)



So, Let’s Go!

Lately I’ve been stumped on the many projects I’ve buried myself under (what else is new, eh?) and created what is known as a “writer’s block” or “creative block.” Some authors and creatives debate on wether this “creative block” exists. In these SCBWI conference notes, one author, Pam Muñoz Ryan, says there is no such thing as a writers block. On the other hand, Neal Shusterman on the same note page says writers block is very real. 

Is this creative block real? How does one overcome this wall blocking the way to the land of creativity and success? 

Well I for sure don’t know… BUT…

Here’s what I’ve been up to to help me through it, even if I’m doing everything to procrastinate:

  • Read some topic related books to get my mind reeling. Favorites at the moment: Pete the Cat series, Where the Wild Things Are, Millions of Cats, How do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, and Dragons Love Tacos. 
  • Yeah, I read articles about Picture books too… Tara Lazar always has some good stuff. 
  • Jot down ideas even if they’re lame. This can also apply to the PiBoIdMo challenge as well as NaNoWriMo.
  • Work on something other than my stories, like this postcard contest piece!
  • Work on one Picture book at a time. WORK ON ONE PICTURE BOOK AT A TIME. Should I say it again. ONE PB A TIME. ❤ This is probably the most important one of all haha.
  • And, since I’m working on Nightlander continuously, I’ve decided to focus on character building until November for NaNoWriMo. ONE CHARACTER AT A TIME.

And that’s it! Personally, I don’t believe in a creative block necessarily. I do however believe in a creative meltdown, consisting of a list of procrastinations/reasons why the creative force should pause because of “real life worries” (day job, bills, health, dealing with the “real world”) Indecisiveness can also pause the creative force (what project will be more successful? Which project won’t waste my time?)

The only way is to power through. So, let’s go!

Dragons Love Tacos!

Hey you!

Have you ever wanted to host your very own party for dragons? Well there’s something that you need to know, and that is dragons LOVE tacos!


They like beef tacos and chicken tacos. Big tacos and small tacos, even itty bitty tacos. Make sure you bring all the tacos and extra backup tacos just in case. BUT , make sure to NEVER EVER give a dragon a spicy taco! In Rubin’s quirky, awkward and hilariously illustrated picture  book, the readers will find out exactly why one should never give a dragon spicy taco toppings. There are no big moral or teaching topics here, just pure entertainment! Recommended for ages 4 to 8.


The Good/Bad List:

  • Good- the illustrations are that awkward funny type and suits the informercial “you” tone of the manuscript perfectly. Good match! 
  • Good-definitly re-readable! I even got a 23 year old to buy this PB at the store with some other kinds (haha) Dragons are a popular topic!
  • Bad- I can’t see Rubin’s PB as a bedtime story. It’s too exciting! I feel like if I was read this as a kid before bed, I’d be bouncing around. I also can’t see this being for school either, but I could be wrong! (twice!)
  • Bad- okay, this is just a preference, but the little specks that are in the background just reminded me of a speckled bird egg and I’m not sure if that was intentional or not.
  • Good- Awesome pacing and page flips! This PB is great at wanting the reading to turn to the next page! 


Until next time! Perhaps I’ll make a review for wednesday or friday or…whenever! haha.




Monday Review! My Wild Family

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2015, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 3 to 5, $17.99

Laurent Moreau

What would it be like to have a fierce and hairy lion for a father? Or a shy and beautiful giraffe for a mother? A dreamer bird brother, or what about a hungry uncle bear? This young narrator has many unique family members to admire and to share. Originally published in France in 2013 titled Ma Famille Sauvage, Moreau’s intricately active illustrations painted brightly in flat color blends well with the short and sweet storyline that invites the reader into a very special family of a young human girl. The large size of Moreau’s full spread pages help draw the readers into this colorful, flat world of wild individuals and would make a perfect show and tell or preschool class story time book. Each member of this wild family has something special about them, leaving the question for all recommended readers of ages 3 to 5 at the end, “What makes you special?” 


The Good/Bad List:

  • Good-Illustrations=love. Every page is so big and brightly colored and intricate  it draws the eyes immediately. I look at this and think back to the illustrations I loved as a kid (I was a Dr. Seuss/Goodnight Moon/anything colorful or has dinosaurs or animals kid) and think, kids would like this. Of course I could be wrong! Oi!
  • Good- The theme is of Moreau’s work asks an important question; “What makes you special?”
  • Good-writing is quirky and fun. Introduction to metaphors!
  • Bad(ish)- I’m not sure how much of a re-readability there is. Sometimes the illustrations can outshine the writing in PBs and I think this is one of those cases. The times I’ve gone through the book, I took much longer gazing at the illustrations that paying attention to the writing. However, most kids will be looking at the pictures and I might just be children’s illustration lover. (hey, it is what it is)
  • Bad- I say this about every large picture book, this books is big. It will probably get ruined/torn. On the other hand though, good show and tell/story time size.

And that’s it! Hey, I might do another one this week (maybe.) I really want to write a review on Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.


Monday Review; Seeds of Freedom

In Huntsville Alabama, 1962, peace between German scientists and American engineers bring about prosperity and happiness to scientific significance. Happiness, however, isn’t found everywhere.

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Happiness can’t be found on a little girl’s face as she carries a picture of her feet. She is not allowed to try on shoes because she is black. Happiness isn’t found on the signs black protesters carry or in the eyes of the young black men and women who aren’t being served at a restaurant. In this beautifully and realistically illustrated picture book, Bass tells just a piece of African-American history during the Civil Rights Movement. Each section of the story is labeled with the month and year as a time guide through this journey to happiness, the planting of the seeds freedom. Though Bass’ picture book is a little too long for maybe a bedtime story, the historical topic of solving segregation is recommended for ages 5 to 8 and makes a wonderful library addition.

And to simplify that a bit, the good/bad list:

  1. Good-E.B. Lewis uses watercolors wonderfully! I definitely was that person who opened this book because of the cover image. (I also had a portfolio review by him back in 2015. I was terrified because I basically did everything WRONG and was so nervous I didn’t really know my name or what medium I worked in. In the end, I got a signed copy of this book. I guess the meeting wasn’t a total catastrophe!)
  2. Good- Hester Bass has an author’s note in the back for more information on the abolishments of slavery and the time, patience, and justice it took for the abolishment. Interesting read. Also has a selected bibliography on the last page.
  3. Bad- Too long. I personally wouldn’t recommend this as a quick bedtime story, or one to read over and over and over again (though really, it’s the child who is the decision maker there haha.)
  4. Good- The theme of “planting the seed of freedom” is done nicely throughout book

And on to next monday! (night of course…or maybe tuesday)



Reviewing Rosie Revere, Engineer

This story’s about Rosie Revere, who dreams of becoming a great engineer. With her hot dog dispenser and helium pants, for her uncle and aunts,  she chose a fine career! But one failure lead to an uncle’s laughter and tears, “all to the horror of Rosie Revere.” She promised herself “never again!” that day and hid all her inventions away, along with her dreams of becoming a great engineer…

but failure you need, indeed, to succeed.


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ABRAMS Books for Young Readers/ABRAMs, $16.95, 2013 


With lovable rhyme and Roberts’ uniquely designed illustrations, Beaty tells a tale about failure and why it should be celebrated. Because Beaty’s work is in rhyme and is fairy short, the work has that re-readability that some books don’t have and may also have a good bed time story quality as well. Recommended for ages 4 to 8 and to anyone that loved Iggy Peck, Architect. 

The good/bad list (or in this case, pretty much just the good list):

  • Good-love the rhyme! (if you couldn’t tell already, I butchered that first paragraph, at least I had fun!)
  • Good-Re-readability
  • Good- Illustrations are cute, uniquely designed, and match well with the manuscript.
  • Good-The overall package is very silly in nature with the kooky inventions and funny characters. I can see a child trying to make a cheese hat of some sort!( or at least playing with spray cheese haha)
  • Good (maybe bad?)- The topic is a practical one as the story is about something the child will eventually have to decide on when they become an adult, however with the never giving up moral and the story’s silliness, I don’t think this practical topic is necessarily bad.

End Note: maybe I should just write Tuesday reviews?