2019 Maryland Conference

It’s that time again! Yes, the annual conference. 

For my own sanity, I’m making another list of things that I’ll need in order to be completely prepared so let’s see if I can gather everything!

 

Updated Portfolio

Every year my goal is to update the portfolio. I ALWAYS try to make some FANTASTIC piece each year right before the conference.

This year? Well I’ve made quite a few new pieces that I deem portfolio worthy, but are they really enough? I don’t think I’ll ever know…

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Two Manuscripts for Official Review 

That’s right, I have TWO manuscript critiques this year. I’ll also be bringing two more for walk in critiques so I want to make sure all four manuscripts are the best they can be. 

 

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Completed Book Dummy

This year I want to bring the completed Remember Me Emily book dummy. I tried to do this last year with Hello Robot, but I’m afraid Hello Robot wont work quite yet so I didn’t get to bring a dummy last year. I will this year though!

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My Handy Dandy Notebook (or sketchbook)

Yep, this is actually one of the most important item to bring! This is where I take all my notes the critiquers give me and the information on the panels. I have to make sure I’ve got a fresh one, easy to carry (small) and flexible so I can abuse it haha.

 

New Postcards and Business Cards? 

Last year I really liked my digital bee that I made. However, I’ve been creating a lot of water color pieces this year so I think I need to use a watercolor image. Should I create new ones or use ones I already have? Hmm… maybe one of these will work.

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And Finally, My “Professional” Self

 

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Okay ignore that picture. That is NOT professional AT ALL.

Anyway, some nice semi informal clothing seems to be the trend at these conferences so cardigan, black jeans, small cute boots, clean shirt. That seems to work every time!

 

Pretty sure I need to bring more things but here are the most important, well these and a positive attitude.

Oh yeah and a side note, I’ve started doing reviews again yay! Time to get to posting on this blog again for my own research and lists.

 

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Review: Princesses Wear Pants

Sure, Princess Penelope Pineapple loves her closet full of tiaras and dazzling dresses but she has things to do! She can’t be bothered with beauty when planting her beats. Her lab coat suits her just fine for science fairs and she likes to unwind with comfy old jeans, the patched-up kind. And princesses certainly can’t save the day with frilly frills that get in the way! Guthrie and Oppenheim’s rhyming picture book for ages 4 to 8, along with Eva Bryne’s sparkling illustrations, says that girls can be fashionable and functional. 

Unfortunately this concept is pretty outdated. 

There are plenty of other “girl power” picture books out there. Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts are just two books that immediately come to mind. Here you can find more girl empowering picture books and with just a quick google search you’ll find even more.

Guthrie and Oppenheim’s book is NOT recommended and here is why with the good/bad list:

  • Bad. Obviously a little behind the times. I shouldn’t have to say more…except maybe if it was a book about how boys can wear dresses it would be better.
  • Bad. Everything in the book is layered with PINK, a popular gendered color, not to mention Penelope’s brother is in BLUE, another popular gendered color.IMG_4313.jpg
  • Bad. The illustrations fall short due to the bad anatomy. Here are some examples…Unknown.jpeg
  • Bad. The main character’s alliteration name makes me cringe, probably makes Ann Whitford Paul, the author of Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide  from Story Creation to Publication, cringe as well.  
  • Only a little bad… Rhyming is only so-so.
  • Good. I like the styles of clothes in the book.

 

If your child likes sparkly glitter and fashionable clothes, then maybe Guthrie and Oppenheim’s work is for them. However I do not feel that this is an accurate “activistic” book that I think the authors are trying to go for. I didn’t buy Princesses Wears Pants personally, it was a gag gift.

And last, here is just a short list of picture books of mine and that I recommend over Princesses Wear pants:

  1. Ada Twist Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts.
  2. Seeds of Change by Jen Johnson, illustrated by Sonia Sadler
  3. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
  4. Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim, illustrated by Sophie Blackwell
  5. I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddelley
  6. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoet

The Sound of a Picture Book

The noise, the sound. What do I mean by the sound of a picture book?

I think I’m more questioning myself.

But really, what do I mean? Is it the noise, the volume, tone, rhythm, or dialogue when reading a picture book?

Is the sound of a picture book the interaction between the reader, the listener, and the story? There seem to be many different ways to have some kind of lively interaction.

The first obvious sound of a picture would be rhyme. A good rhyming picture book has a way of guiding the reader through the tale with it’s rhythm.

The book that immediately pops up in my mind when I think of great rhyming is There Once Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight by Penny Parker Klostermann, illustrated by Ben Mantle. Through rhyme, Klostermann tells a story about a dragon who, yes, swallows a knight, and a steed, and a squire, and a few other things too. Try reading that picture book without a rhythm and a bob to your head! If you’re like me, it’s hard to do.

Hey prose can have a rhythm too! Just look at Pete the Cat; I Love My White Shoes, it has only one repeating sentence that rhymes throughout the entire book, but the rest of the story doesn’t rhyme at all. The big rhythm making sentence here is singing the song, “I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes” or whatever color shoes he happens to have at the time.

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While I’m thinking about non-ryhming rhythm, I can’t help but point out one page in particular of The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Nathaniel Stookey.

 

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There is this lovely back and forth action between the names listed of the deceased composers and the word “dead,” and if you can pronounce all those names correctly, good for you because I can’t! I can still feel a rhythm here that I haven’t really seen anywhere else, and this particular page really brings out the peak of the story, the reveal of who killed the composer. Was it the strings, the brass, the woodwinds, or the percussion? You won’t know until you read!

Another sound of a picture book can be dialogue, or I’ve referred picture books written only in dialogue secretly as scripts.

Books like I Don’t Want To Be A Frog, written by Dev Petty, illustrated by Mike Boldt, or Thank You, Octopus , by Darren Farrell need some kind of acting involved because the reader is not just the narrator speaking for the character in the story. The reading IS the character speaking as the character. There is no narrator here that separates character and reader anymore. Now I’m not saying there is no “acting” involved in a normal picture reading during story time, it’s just when I read dialogue I think more in mind of the character.

Could just be me!

Perhaps I could go a little bit further and say that the sound of a picture book is a type of reader manipulation. A good picture book, or story in general,  seems to manipulate the reader into doing what the story wants them to do, either by feeling what the story wants the reader to feel, or make the reader read the story a certain way.

Manipulation from a picture book? Sounds kind of obscure.

It’s like when I’m reading Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Every page shows the bull getting bigger and BIGGER and every page I’m reading louder and LOUDER until everything deflates and you return to normal speech, maybe even quieter as the bull main character is feeling the ashamed by how much of a bully he has been towards his friends.

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I wanted to focus of these stories because they made me realize what I enjoy about the interaction of reading a story aloud.

So, what is the sound of a picture book?

Eh I still don’t really know, but I think it’s the auditory interaction between story, reader, and listener.

And it was phrase I thought just sounded good at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pause

The Pause is personally one of my favorite techniques an illustrator could use. Please pause that writing, let the illustrations take over in the silence. Let me as the reader understand, realize the moral of the story the writer and illustrator has worked so hard to bring together.

I’ve written about how A Sick Day for Amos McGee creates the pause in it’s pages. A story about an elderly zoo keeper visits his animal friends at the zoo, but then he becomes sick! So what do the animal friends do? They visit him. The turnaround in the story is shown with four page spreads, two of those pages lacking words and altogether only nine words on the eight pages of content. 

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is only one example of the pause. Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen is another. 

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Throughout Barnett’s work, the play between color verses black and white sets the concept of adding a little color with creativity into the world where color and creativity may be lacking. Each page spread has text all except the second image above. 

To shorten the story, the main character finds this box of never-ending colorful yearn and uses it to change her grey environment. A Duke learns of this never-ending colorful yarn and steals the box. However, when he opens the box for himself, it is empty and he throws it away. The box eventually comes back to our main character and again it is full of the colorful yarn. 

The pause here only uses the word “But” and then silence as the reader knows that box is going to end up back where it began, to the creative individual who has never-ending creativity, finding value in the “empty” box. If that pause wasn’t here the ending wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as it was. Perfect example of show, not tell. 

So there are pauses like the two examples above, and then you have a pause like in Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. 

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In this entire story, the narrator constantly reminds the reader that while dragons love tacos, never ever EVER give them spicy ones. This pause here is to simply give the reader a comedic, complete and utter visual effect of just why you should never give a dragon a spicy taco. 

Even Maurice Sendak used the pause in Where the Wild Things Are.

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This pause lasts for three page spreads of Max and the wild things romping around and being…wild. Another example of show not tell until the last image shown above where Max is beginning to miss home. 

The moral of the story? There is no place like home. One may wander away from a familiar setting, get lost in day dreams and adventures, however they always return.

I think these four page spreads really dig this theme in deep. The wild fun, the lost in time adventure that Max has becomes stale and his reaction is illustrated in that sitting pose and home sick face.

The last one I want to look at is very different from the four mentioned above. The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Jon Klassen pauses the illustration, not the text. 

 

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Above you have three images that represent pretty much what the entire story looks like. Abstract illustration compositions, lots of space, little text throughout the entire story…except for one page.

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Space, space, space and then…BAM! Wall of text, a pause in the illustration and design! What? Who does this? Is this acceptable within the picture book world nowadays to have a a wall of text like this? 

This wall of text symbolizes confrontation. The main character is confronting his fear of the emptiness, the darkness. The wall of text is confronting the reading, interrupting that abstract, design based flow. The main character realizes the dark isn’t all that bad and this text makes the reader realize this as well. 

I’m still not sure if this text would be appropriate to some readers. Text ultimately should be evenly spaced throughout the book, not forced in on a single page. However, without this pause in illustration, I don’t think the point of not fearing the dark would have come across as well as it did. 

So that’s it folks! The pause is a technique that I’ve tried using as well. I may not have it down as masterfully as the creators did mentioned above, but I might make a great pause one day.

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~