October 23 – Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day

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About the Holiday

For generations the cliff swallows of San Juan Capistrano, California have been famous for their annual autumn migration that takes place near the Day of San Juan, celebrated on October 23. This swirling, soaring cloud of birds inspires those lucky enough to witness it with its power and beauty. The swallows are headed for their winter home 6,000 miles south in Goya, Corrientes, Argentina. Their return around St. Joseph’s Day on March 19th is typically celebrated with a parade and festivities.

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight

By Philip Waechter

 

You may find this hard to believe, but Jacob could fly. The first time Jacob flew, he soared right out of this stroller. Jacob skipped the whole crawling stage and the first step thing. “He just few off instead.” Although at first his parents were concerned, “they soon got used to him flying and figured, ‘So be it—he’s our son, and he’s perfect just the way he is!’” One winter his parents decided to take a vacation to the Mediterranean. His mom and dad booked airplane tickets, but Jacob was going to fly there himself.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Jacob filled his backpack, waved goodbye to his parents and took off. Along the way, Jacob counted animals down below. He even shared his sandwiches with a group of squirrels. It was then that he saw “eighty-three birds on their way to Africa.” Jacob decided to go with them. Their route took them over mountains and valleys, past lakes and fields of wheat and wildflowers.

Jacob loved dipping, swooping, and soaring through urban obstacle courses, taking breaks in the birds’ favorite rest stops, and having “lots of pleasant conversations.” It was a wonderful trip. But then one of their flock was captured in Mr. Mortar’s net. Mr. Mortar was a birdcatcher, and his home was filled with the birds he’d caught just so he could hear their chirping.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

When Jacob and the birds stopped for lunch, they immediately noticed that Hubert was missing. It didn’t take long for them to find out where he was. Jacob knew just what to do. With some feathers from his friends and a beak made from paper in his backpack, Jacob fashioned a costume and then flew in front of Mr. Mortar’s window where he was sure to see him.

Jacob was just the “rare specimen” Mr. Mortar had been looking for. He rushed out with his net, leaving the front door wide open. The flock swarmed in and removed not just Hubert but all of the caged birds. They met up in the woods at a cool pond. Birds from all over soon heard of how “the birdcatcher had finally be bamboozled” and flew in to celebrate. It was time for Jacob to meet up with his parents, so he waved goodbye.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Except for little Hubert who wanted to take a vacation too. Jacob found his parents on a golden beach. They hugged and kissed and then spent the time “the way a vacation is supposed to be.” When it was time to leave, Jacob went home with his parents on the plane—and Hubert got the window seat.

Quirky in the very best way, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight soars with themes of individuality and independence, friendship and family. Philip Waechter’s buoyant storytelling shines with acceptance born from love and understanding by both Jacob’s parents and the birds, and Jacob’s parents’ trust in their son’s abilities and judgement is a highlight. As a natural flyer, Jacob is part of two worlds, and children will recognize his joy in joining and learning from the flock of birds, just as they experience when discovering their own world.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Perfectly paced, Waechter’s story benefits from the bird’s and Jacob’s quickly devised plan to rescue Hubert. Today’s kids are incredibly smart, and they’ll happily see themselves in this turn of events too. Jacob’s reunion with his parents is sweet and uplifting; every vacation should be like theirs. As Jacob accompanies his parents on the plane, kids will feel that reassurance that no matter where they roam, they will always find open hearts and arms at home.

Waechter’s delicate line drawings enhance the sense of freedom and lightheartedness inherent in his story. Jacob is first introduced as a regular kid, surrounded by toys, snacks, and posters that any child might have. It is only on the second page that readers notice his singular talent. Images of Jacob flying from his stroller in front of his astonished parents and then helping out by picking apples from the top of a tree show how quickly his parents accepted his ability.

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Copyright Philip Waechter, 2020, courtesy of Blue Dot Press.

Spreads of Jacob flying with the flock over a field and a city are lovely, and what child wouldn’t love to sit on a park statue with the happy birds? Mr. Mortar (an inspired name), hiding in the bushes with his net while dressed in green and sporting a leafy hat, reminds kids that there are always obstacles to watch out for. The two-page spread of the celebratory bird party will awe readers, and with the verve of all kids on vacation or in the car, readers will love counting the birds and squirrels Jacob meets on his way.

Supportive and uplifting, Jacob’s Fantastic Flight will inspire children to take wing and is a must-have for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages 3 – 8

Blue Dot Kids Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1733121262

If you and your kids love birds, you can download this  Crazy About Birds Citizen Science Resource Guide from Blue Dot Press to learn how you can get involved in helping birds!

You can also find a detailed Teacher’s Guide on the Blue Dot Press website that will get students at school and at home excited to learn about close reading and interact with the story to discuss themes, cause-and-effect relationships, character, illustration, and do some writing of their own.

Swallows Depart from San Juan Capistrano Day Activity

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Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

 

Celebrate birds with this beautiful printable coloring page perfect for kids and adults!

Jacob’s Fantastic Flight Coloring Page

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You can find Jacob’s Fantastic Flight at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 20 – Celebrating the Book Birthday of Love Can Come in Many Ways

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About the Holiday

Today I’m celebrating the book birthday of a tender board book that when shared between an adult and a child can help build strong loving bonds that can lead little ones to become happy and self-confident children. These are qualities that are also honored today during National Youth Confidence Day, which encourages us to connect with and inspire today’s youth to succeed tomorrow. National Youth Confidence Day celebrates the energy, spirit, and potential of young people. The day is an acknowledgment of all they will accomplish, and kids can accomplish anything when they know they’re loved.

Thanks go to Chronicle Books for sending me a copy of Love Can Come in Many Ways for review consideration. All opinions about the book are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Chronicle in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

Love Can Come in Many Ways

Written by Terry Pierce | Illustrated by Suzy Ultman

 

How do you share your love for your little one; young grandchild, niece, nephew, or cousin; student; or other child of your heart? With a kiss, a hug, a smile? Or maybe you have a secret signal that only the two of you know. In this adorable board book, animal families of all kinds reveal that “nose to nose or gaze to gaze. / Love can come in many ways.”

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Image copyright Suzy Ultman, 2020, text copyright Terry Pierce, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle.

Elephants snuggle their kids behind an ear or hug them with their trunk. Swans hold them close with their wings, and froggies feel love “through lively songs that Mama sings.”  Whether their held tight in paws or jaws, panda cubs know their loved. Some babies ride on Mama’s back or within her furry coat. While penguin chicks are warmed with love “atop a papa’s sturdy feet.”

Each animal—and person—has a special way to say that “you are loved.” But no matter if it’s a “helpful hand” or “a gentle squeeze. / Love is kindness, comfort, peace.”

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Image copyright Suzy Ultman, 2020, text copyright Terry Pierce, 2020. Courtesy of Chronicle.

Terry Pierce’s lilting verses, as gentle as a lullaby, will warm a little one’s heart as they cuddle up with an adult to hear—and see—how various animals embrace their own babies. Pierce wraps readers in cozy, comforting words and a soothing rhythm that are perfect for naptime, bedtime, or when a little extra snuggle is needed. Little ones will be surprised, delighted, and full of giggles as they learn about the ingenuity of nature.

With stylish flair and softly rounded shapes, Suzy Ultman creates original and eye-catching pages that will charm little readers and adults. Whimsical touches, such as jaunty hats, round eyeglasses, and potted plants, go hand-in-paw with Ultman’s lovely color palette to make pages that are as adorable as they are enchanting. And no little fingers will be able to resist lifting the vibrant felt flaps to take a peek at the sweet baby animals snuggling with their mom or dad.

Endearing to the max, Love Can Come in Many Ways is a board book will be a treasured gift for baby showers and new babies, and is a must for home, school, and public libraries.

Ages Birth – 3

Chronicle Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1452172606

Discover more about Terry Pierce and her books on her website.

To learn more about Suzy Ultman, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Love Comes in Many Ways Giveaway

I’m thrilled to be teaming up with Chronicle Books in a giveaway for two lucky winners. Each winner will win

  • One (1) copy of Love Can Come in Many Ways, written by Terry Pierce | illustrated by Suzy Ultman

To enter:

  • Follow Celebrate Picture Books
  • Retweet a giveaway tweet
  • Bonus: Reply with your child’s favorite animal for extra entry. Each reply earns you one extra entry

This giveaway is open from October 20 to October 26 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on October 27. 

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | Prizing provided by Chronicle Books

Love Can Come in Many Ways Book Birthday Activity

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Elephant Handprint Painting

 

This easy craft is fun for adults and kids to do together and can make a nice decoration for a child’s room and reminder of a parent’s, grandparent’s, or caregiver’s love.

Supplies

  • Craft paint in two colors of the children’s choice
  • Yellow craft paint
  • Black fin-tip marker
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils to make a background
  • Paper
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint one child’s hand and press it on the paper. The thumb is the truck and the fingers the legs.
  2. Paint the second child’s hand and press it on the paper near the other “elephant.” A couple of examples are: the elephants standing trunk to trunk or trunk to tail 
  3. After the paint has dried, draw on ears and an eye
  4. Add a sun with the yellow paint
  5. Add grass, trees, or other background features

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You can find Love Can Come in Many Ways at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 8 – National Family Month

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About the Holiday

Established by KidsPeace, a private, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families since 1882, National Family Month is observed during the five-week period between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June. It coincides with the usual end of the school year, and raises awareness of the important role mothers and fathers play as a support system for their children. To observe the holiday spend time talking with your kids about topics of importance to them and plan activities  for fun and to help them achieve their goals.

Made for Me

Written by Zack Bush | Illustrated by Gregorio De Lauretis

 

A man sits in a hospital corridor in the baby ward, squeezing his baseball cap in his hands. Soon, he opens the door and an ear-to-ear smile lights up his face. He says, “On the day you were born, I beamed with pride. / My eyes filled with tears, I joyfully cried.” With just one look at his child, he knew that his life was changed forever. With enthusiasm he took to his new role as a dad—feeding, diapering, rocking, and, of course, making his baby giggle.

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Images copyright Gregorio De Lauretis, 2018, text copyright Zack Bush, 2018. Courtesy of Familius.

This dad loved each tiny toe, every finger, each grin and knew: “Of all the children that ever could be, / you are the one made just for me.” Soon his baby was crawling and exploring, babbling and “always so curious.” When his child fell or was scared, he was always there, and he looked forward to each new morning that would bring new adventures.

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Images copyright Gregorio De Lauretis, 2018, text copyright Zack Bush, 2018. Courtesy of Familius.

In the blink of an eye, his little one was walking and talking and enjoying the park. They turned boxes into cars and mounds of sand into castles. There were lots of new “firsts”—first haircut, first big bed, first pitch, first swing—and Dad says, “From the day you were born, so cute and so clever, / you’re one-of-a-kind, and I’ll love you forever!” Now his child’s growing up, more and more every day. It’s time for preschool, and hand-in-hand Dad leads the way with this loving reminder: “Of all the children that ever could be, / you are the one made just for me.”

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Images copyright Gregorio De Lauretis, 2018, text copyright Zack Bush, 2018. Courtesy of Familius.

Lyrical and emotionally pitch-perfect, Zack Bush’s tribute to a father’s love for his child or children from the very first moment will tug at the heart. Bush’s story is one dads will want to read with their kids over and over as they grow up to share those moments of pride, joy, play, discovery, and comfort that have built their own strong father and child bond. The repeated phrase reinforces the unique relationship each adult reader has with their child, creating a poignant experience with every reading that will resonate far longer.

With his bulky size, beefy arms, and ever-present grin, Gregorio De Lauretis’s new dad will endear himself to readers from the first page. The newborn, taking a bottle or swaddled up tight, looks like a tiny (and happy) peanut in the crook of one of those arms, and giggles abound as Dad tickles toes and a chubby little belly. Adults will recognize many firsts and daily routines that give them an opportunity to expand on the story to include their own favorite memories of their child.

Sweet, relatable, and heartwarming, Made for Me would make a perfect Father’s Day gift for new and soon-to-be dads as well as for those of older children. It would be a favorite read aloud on home, school, and public library bookshelves.

Ages Birth – 5

Familius, 2018 | ISBN 978-1945547690 (Hardcover) | ISBN 978-1641702003 (Board Book, 2019)

Family Month Activity

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Child’s Sensory Board

 

A sensory board provides many opportunities for experimentation and observation, stimulating a baby and young child to learn while having fun. You can make a sensory board for your child using household items and that have a variety of textures, sizes, shapes, and movement. When you create your own sensory board, you can personalize it for your child by adding their name, pictures of family members, and other special items.

While you play with your child, take time to talk about all of the objects on the board, what they do, and how they work. Count the objects. If you include words or your child’s name, spell them out loud and say them. There are so many ways to use a sensory board. Even if children can’t yet talk, they are listening and soaking in the rich learning you are providing!

**When making your board always ensure that you use items that are not a choking hazard or a danger to catch tiny fingers. Make sure that items are firmly attached to the board. Never leave a baby unattended while playing.**

Supplies

  • A board large enough to hold the items you want to attach. Boards that can be used include: those found at hardware stores or craft stores; large cutting boards; shelves; old table tops; etc.
  • Paint in various bright colors
  • Paint brushes
  • Scissors
  • Screws
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Velcro
  • Super glue

Sample items for your sensory board can be age appropriate and include:

  • Large swatches of various textured material. (I used fur, a scrubbing sheet, and a piece of carpeting)
  • Wooden or thick cardboard letters and numbers, painted in a variety of colors. Letters can be used to add a child’s name to the board.
  • Figures cut from sheets of foam or wooden figures found at craft stores in a variety of numbers that you can count with your child (I used sets of 1, 2, and 3 fish cut from foam to go along with the numbers 1, 2, and 3)
  • Mirror
  • Push button light
  • Chalk board to write on
  • Castor or other wheel
  • Door latches
  • Mop heads
  • Paint rollers
  • Cranks
  • Drawer handles
  • Hinges (I attached a tennis ball to a hinge that children can push back and forth)
  • Pulleys

Directions

  1. Assemble your items
  2. Paint wooden or cardboard items
  3. Arrange item on the board so that your baby or child can easily reach or manipulate each one
  4. Attach items with screws, nuts and bolts, or super glue
  5. Push button lights or other objects that take batteries can be attached with strong Velcro. Ensure items attached with Velcro are large and not a choking hazard.
  6. Set up board where you and your baby or child can enjoy playing with it together

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You can find Made for Me at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

June 2 – It’s National Family Month and Interview with Illustrator Petra Brown

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About the Holiday

The weeks between Mother’s Day in May and Father’s Day in June have been designated as National Family Month. This time gives us the opportunity to honor everything that makes a group of people a family. Shared experiences and memories—and especially love—create that unique feeling in the heart that defines family. This spring’s stay-at-home orders have given most people an opportunity to get to know their family members in a whole new way. To celebrate today’s holiday, share a word, a hug, or even a special note to let your kids know how much you love them.

I received a copy of Daddy Loves You from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. All opinions of the book are my own. 

Daddy Loves You

Written by Helen Foster James | Illustrated by Petra Brown

 

A daddy rabbit, cradling his bunny in his paws, gazes lovingly into his little one’s eyes and says, “You are your daddy’s sunshine. / I’ll love you every day.” He promises that he will always be by his bunny’s side, teaching, protecting, and playing with them. They take a walk, and as the curious bunny points out things along the way, Daddy names them all.

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2020, text copyright Helen Foster James. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Daddy and his little one spin and twirl, hold hopping contests, and fall in a heap giggling and laughing. Next it’s on to a special swing-making project where they “build and fix together” then have fun as Daddy pushes his “lovey-bug” on the ivy-covered swing. Daddy makes his child a cape of leaves and flies his eager bunny through the air as he reveals some advice—and an admission felt by all parents: “Do your best. Be bold and kind. / Be all you want to be. / You’ll be a superhero / …especially to me.”

Night falls and the two snuggle up as Daddy tells a story to his adoring child. Then nestling his baby into a soft, straw bed, he gives a kiss and says goodnight with the assurance that “you are my little angel, / and, moonbeam…I love you.”

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Image copyright Petra Brown, 2020, text copyright Helen Foster James. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The unique relationship that fathers have with their children is tenderly shared in the newest addition to this lovely and loving series of family member relationship books. Helen Foster James’ lyrical language—sprinkled with endearments—is part lullaby, part hug, and completely charming as a father takes his little one by the paw and reveals the depth of his feelings. Little ones will love snuggling up with their dad to spend some one-on-one time reveling in memories and promises of fun spent together.

A highlight of this series is Petra Brown’s glowing illustrations of the natural world this family of rabbits calls home. Here, the rabbits wake to a pastel dawn shining on a springtime green and yellow field, where butterflies flit among tall grasses and puffs of dandelions. The adoring looks shared by Daddy and his bunny portray a love as new and glorious as the day itself. Adorable images of this proud father teaching, protecting, and exploring with his child, are enchanting and give adults and kids an opportunity to share more than a few “remember when we did…?” or “remember when we went…?” moments of their own. The sweet ending is one that little ones will want to hear—and do—again and again.

A perfect pick for Father’s Day or as a new dad gift, Daddy Loves You will be a heartwarming favorite for any child.

Ages 3 – 5

Sleeping Bear Press, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534110595

To learn more about Petra Brown, her books, and her art, visit her website

Meet Petra Brown

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Petra Brown has been a children’s book illustrator since 2006 when her first picture bookIf Big Can…I Can, was shortlisted for the Booktrust Early Years Awards for Best Emerging Illustrator. Since then she has been illustrating for a range of publishers in the United Kingdom and abroad. Petra comments, “I love drawing animals with human expressions. I find it such fun creating, for example, a thoughtful fox, a happy hippo, a shy sheep, or a caring bear! The other thing I like is creating landscapes, places where my characters can run about and have adventures. Living in a magnificent place like Snowdonia helps a great deal.” Petra lives with her partner in Wales.

I’m so thrilled to have the opportunity to talk with Petra Brown today about her early love of children’s illustration, her photography in and around her hometown of Snowdonia, Wales, and a ghost-filled house…. Jakki’s boys, Steve and Jack, also had a couple of questions for Petra.

Steve would like to know: Do you have a pet rabbit? 

Hi Steve! I don’t have a rabbit. I once lived with seven cats, but that’s another story. I always say hello to the rabbits that live in the wild near our house, but they never stop for a chat. I think they’re a little shy.

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Jack was wondering: We like to work outside with our dad. What do you like to do with your dad?

Hello Jack! My dad is very, very old and he likes to sit in his chair and read and doze.  But when I was very young my dad made a model railway in our garden and he let me help sometimes… that was fun.

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Illustration from The Hyde Park Squirrels series written by Nick Croydon.

Daddy Loves You is part of a series of sweet books about family love. I love reviewing these books. Can you talk a little about how these books came to be and how you approach the illustrations?

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The first book in the ‘Loves You!’ series was ‘Grandma Loves You!’ written by Helen Foster James. Sleeping Bear Press offered me the illustration project back in 2013… and so it began!  Five love-packed books were born! The cast list so far: Grandma, Grandpa, Mommy, Daddy and Auntie. Rabbits galore! I’m not sure who came up with the bunny idea, but it worked. There’s another book starring two members of the same rabbit family: Grandma’s Christmas Wish.

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The Rabbit family is semi-wild… no clothes, they live in burrows without furniture, but they can make things. Grandpa made Little Bunny a kite using leaves, twigs and grasses. Daddy made a swing, using ivy vines. Auntie makes herself a daisy-chain crown and collects seashells to decorate Little Bunny’s bed. And in ‘Grandma’s Christmas Wish’ Granny has a Christmas tree, complete with decorations in her burrow. I like the idea that they use the natural things around them to have fun.

There are lots of side characters in the books too. A jolly mole pops up in a few of the books and smiles avuncularly at the rabbits’ antics. There’s also a recurring hedgehog.

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There are never any rabbits in the title pages, instead there’s always an assortment of other little wild critters, all eagerly checking out the name of the book to see who’s up next.

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The endpapers are always decorated with things from the rabbits’ world. My favourite endpaper is the one in Auntie’s book. She’s a lop-eared rabbit who lives near the sea and so the endpapers in her book show a rock pool and rabbit footprints in the shell-littered sand.

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The ‘Love You Series’ are all ‘Keepsake Editions’—each book has a frontispiece designed for a gift inscription and date, and at the back there is a space for a personalised “Special Letter to My Favorite Bunny” and a space for a photograph. These pages are decorated with little creatures, flowers, leaves, berries, and various pretty things from the rabbits’ environment. I always have huge fun creating the rabbits’ environment with all its little details.

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You say that even as a child you were fascinated by the illustrations in books and copied them. Who were your favorite illustrators and how did they influence you?

The first book I actually chose to read for myself was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. There was something about Tenniel’s illustrations that really intrigued me. I tried to copy them over and over. I guess the idea of my illustrating books was born from this. One of my favourite books was The Children’s Treasury of Literature in Colour published by Hamlyn in 1966. It was jam-packed full with the work of fabulous illustrators! Favourites were Robert J Lee, Gordon Laite, Richard Scarry, J P Miller, William Dugan, Adrienne Segur, Lilian Obligado, Grace Dalles Clarke, Hilary Knight, W T Mars, and The Provensens.

My other favourite book to lose myself in was The Illustrated Treasury of Children’s Literature published by Grosset and Dunlap 1955. That was also crammed full of tasty illustrations! There were many books filled with inspiring illustrations that I studied again and again. The list of illustrators that inspire me is very, very long. I feel both excited and frustrated by their brilliance.

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Did you always want to work as an illustrator for children’s books? Would you talk a bit about your journey to publication?

From quite an early age there was never any doubt in my mind that illustrating was what I wanted to do. At school the careers advisor advised me to think about an alternative career, just in case the whole artsy thing crashed and burned. But I folded my arms and told him, “There is no plan B!” Looking back, that guy was right, really. It took me a long time to fulfill my dreams. I had to work in a shop for years, whilst attempting to lure a publisher to take interest in my work.

In 2005 I had almost given up hope of ever being published. Sick of sending off portfolios and collecting rejection letters, I took courage and joined the internet, (ah, the days of dial-up!). I made myself a website showcasing my art and I sent out an introduction/invitation to view my work in the form of an email to absolutely every children’s book publisher on the planet… hundreds! I say hundreds, I’m not sure how many, but it was a very long list. Out of all those emails sent, I received back just two interested publishers, one was Gomer, a welsh publisher, and the other was Meadowside. At that time Meadowside’s art director was the wonderful Mark Mills, who went on to found his agency ‘Plum Pudding’ and I’m really proud to say that I was among the first plums in that fabulous punnet! At the grand age of 40, my life as an illustrator began!

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Illustration from If Big Can, I Can, written by Beth Shoshan, published by Meadowside Children’s Books June, 2006. Shortlisted for The Book Trust Early Years Award for Best Emerging Illustrator.

I added up how many books I’ve done since then and it shocked me! It’s fifty two! Amongst all those books there is a very special one for me… the one that I wrote myself: When the Wind Blew published by Sleeping Bear Press in 2017. It’s always been my deepest wish to actually write and illustrate a book. Thank you, Sleeping Bear Press!

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Illustration from When the Wind Blew.

Your portfolio is full of adorable animals and scenes that can’t help but make a person smile. Two of my favorites are an illustration of a pig getting a shave and one of a crocodile getting his teeth brushed. Your style is very distinctive, with gorgeous colors, lush, detailed backgrounds, and characters who are so expressive. How did you develop your style? What mediums do you work in?

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Barber, barber, shave a pig! Artwork for a greeting card made conventionally.

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Illustration from Bwch. Drawing made on the iPad in Procreate and colouring in Photoshop on my PC.

All my work up until the end of 2013 was done conventionally, usually colour pencils, watercolour paints on thick watercolour paper. But after that date everything I did was made solely in Photoshop. But on my latest project I’m working slightly differently. I’m drawing in detail onto paper, scanning that image, keeping it on a separate layer set to ‘multiply’ and working the colour underneath, with a few tweaks on a top layer.

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Piece from my latest project.

I use Derwent studio pencils when drawing conventionally. I start off with a ‘French Grey 70’ to work out the rough shape, and then work over the top with the darker ‘Chocolate 66’. Just lately I’ve been working on Daler – Rowney Smooth-Heavyweight paper, it has just enough tooth for happy pencil-work, but smooth enough to scan cleanly. Once I’ve finished the sketch I scan it into the computer to work the colour up in Photoshop. I absolutely love making Photoshop brushes, and often I spend hours fiddling about making the perfect brush for the finish that I want.

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Drawing made with a Derwent studio pencil.

You live in Snowdonia, Wales which, with its mountains and beaches, is as pretty and magical as its name. Can you describe one or two of your favorite places and why you love them?

My partner Iain and I love to explore the hidden places in our area, the quiet mysterious places where most people never go. Landscapes woven with tales from the Mabinogion. The lonely hills marked with abandoned quarries, dripping damp mines; remote ruined homesteads… cold hearths, empty barns, and rusted relics. ​Haunted, lichen coated, and weather worn. They are the places I love. I always take my camera with me and try to capture that special atmosphere that fills my cup.

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The picture above shows Llwyn-y-betws. The sort of house you might find in a welsh village, or perhaps at the end of a bumpy farm track. A house of fair proportions, a two up, two down. But Llwyn-y-betws sits in the middle of a moorland hill, with no road running to it or near it. It’s as if one night it had decided it’d had enough of man and his noisy roads and had, like Baba Yaga’s house, stood  up on two strong legs and marched itself up into the hills to sit quietly amongst the reeds and the sheep and slowly rot away.

Perhaps the fabulous view of the Nantlle ridge reflected in it’s windows gave the house a sense of deep satisfaction. It could settle here. It had brought Hawthorn Tree with it, they had been friends forever, and they would murmur to each other in low voices of their past life in the village and how this was what they had always dreamed of for their retirement together and wasn’t it fine!

You can see some of my photos on my photography website ‘Hinterlands’.

I can’t let you get away without asking about the house you moved into when you were ten. I’m sure most kids would be envious that you got to live with “ghosts and draughts” as you say in your bio.

Ooo, that house! Never before or since have I felt so spooked! It was a large, granite block-built hospital for the local quarry. It had a mouldy, damp, creepy morgue, where you could still make out the marks on the wall from the old slate shelves where they stored the bodies. There was the grey ghost of an old man who used to care for the hospital grounds. You could hear his wheelbarrow squeak on cold, dark early mornings. The ghostly nurse who would stand over you, should you fall asleep in the east wing. And the ghostly footsteps echoing across the wooden floorboards in the abandoned cottage in the hospital grounds. Bumps and knocks and shivery feelings… it was thrilling but… I’m so glad we moved!

What’s up next for you?

I’m currently working on a picture book written by the ‘Loves You’ series author, Helen Foster James, to be published by Sleeping Bear Press. No rabbits, this time it’s squirrels.

Also, I’ve recently signed a contract with Sleeping Bear Press to work on another book that I’ve written myself, and I’m so excited for that!

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Illustration from my latest project.

You can connect with Petra Brown on

Her website | PinterestTumblr | YouTube

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You can find Daddy Loves You at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore

Bookshop | IndieBound

 

April 29 – It’s National Month of Hope

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About the Holiday

Founded in 1991, National Month of Hope encourages people to bring hope to those in need both emotionally and physically. Reaching out to let a friend know you’re there for them, volunteering to help out in the community or on a personal level, and simply sharing a smile with those around you are all ways to show others you care. These days, staying in touch online and checking up on family and friends spreads happiness and hope for when we can all be together again. 

Little Mole Finds Hope

Written by Glenys Nellist | Illustrated by Sally Garland

 

Little Mole felt sad. He didn’t know why he felt bad inside, he just did. His mama told him he needed to find hope. Little Mole wondered where. As she took his paw, Mama said, “‘Sometimes, hope is hiding in the darkness. Sometimes it’s hard to see. But it’s always there.'” Mama led her son out of the tunnel, but on the way she pointed out a “brown, wrinkled” bulb hanging from the ceiling. Little Mole thought it was dead.

But Mama explained that that bulb would someday soon become a lovely daffodil. She asked her son to picture it swaying with the breeze, and when he said he could see it, she told him “That is hope.'” When they crawled out of the burrow, Little Mole saw trees without leaves. “They stretched out like skeleton bones silhouetted against the sky.” Little Mole thought they were dead. But Mama explained that buds and then leaves would soon appear. She asked Little Mole to imagine it. With excitement he told her he could see it. Again, Mama said, “‘That is hope.'”

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Image copyright Sally Garland, 2020, text copyright Glenys Nellist, 2020. Courtesy of Beaming Books.

Mama and her little one continued on past Mr. Rabbit’s garden, where they saw another example of hope hiding in an unexpected place. When they got home, Little Mole was happy.He said he’d had a wonderful day and understood that “there was always hope, even in the darkest places.” Mama tucked her son into bed with a kiss, and Little Mole fell asleep dreaming of the colorful spring to come.

Back matter includes a Discussion Guide for Caretakers that gives them tools for talking about the story, tips on helping a child who feels sad, and how to share their own experiences and where hope can be found.

Glenys Nellist’s uplifting story could not have come at a better time. With children at home and their normal lives disrupted, many may be feeling sad and unusually stressed. While many things have changed, there are still those aspects of life that remain constant. A parent or caregiver’s love is one; signs of spring and summer are another. Nellist’s honest and straightforward storytelling, acknowledges feelings of sadness and the fact that they are often unattributable to any concrete cause. Mama’s gentle acceptance of her son’s emotions and her actions in showing him signs of renewal will resonate with children familiar with the cycles of winter and spring and give adults models for conversations with their own children. Perfectly paced, Nellist’s book provides opportunities for adults and kids to look for other constants in their lives and to reaffirm their love for one another––now and always.

Sally Garland’s textured illustrations, rendered in warm tones that reveal the coziness of the Mole’s home and vibrant, sunny colors as Little Mole imagines springtime, will delight children and draw them into the meaning of the story. As Mama clearly points out the bulb, the bare trees, and a sleepy chrysalis, children will enjoy guessing what each will become and how they represent hope. Readers will also like finding other symbols of hope and signs of Mama’s and Little Mole’s love throughout the story.

Lovely in every way and highly recommended for talking with children about their feelings, Little Mole Finds Hope is a book kids will enjoy for its storytelling and its heart again and again.

Ages 3 – 6

Beaming Books, 2020 | ISBN 978-1506448749

Discover more about Glenys Nellist and her books on her website.

You can learn more about Sally Garland, her books, and her art here.

Month of Hope Activity

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Little Mole Finds Hope Activity Pack

 

You can find lots of fun in this printable activity pack found on the Beaming Books website.

Little Mole Finds Hope Activity Pack

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You can find Little Mole Finds Hope at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

 

March 13 – National Reading Month

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About the Holiday

Reading with your child every day gives you time to relax, giggle, talk, and enjoy some precious moments together. In fact, that’s what National Reading Month is all about! So grab some old favorites and new finds – like today’s book – and make treasured family memories.

In My Heart

Written by Mackenzie Porter | Illustrated by Jenny Løvlie

 

A little girl tiptoes into her mom’s room, giggling as she jumps on the bed and wakes her up. They have breakfast together and get ready for their day. Buckled into her car seat, the girl says, “‘Mama, I will miss you. What do you do all day?’” With loving words, her mom takes her through her day. She says, “First, before I go, my love, I give you a good-bye kiss. / Then as I am leaving, I remind myself of this: / Though we’re not together, / we’re never truly apart / because you’re always on my mind / and you’re always in my heart.”

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Her daughter learns that her mom starts thinking about her as soon as she drops her off to spend the day with other kids. Driving to work, Mama listens to her little one’s favorite song and thinks about how she sings along. While participating in meetings, she wonders if her little girl is learning new things too. And at lunchtime she feels especially close as she thinks of them eating the same meal. As she doodles, she’s reminded of the drawings taped up around their house.

But while the day brings joy and sweet memories, this mom reassures her wondering child that her favorite part of the day is picking her up so they can spend the evening and nighttime together. “Once I hear your voice again / the whole world melts away. / The moment you say ‘Mama’ is what I’ve waited for all day.”  

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

For little ones missing Mom during the day, Mackenzie Porter’s lyrical story simply and beautifully connects a child’s experiences at daycare or school with their mother’s day at work. Examples familiar to all kids reassure them that throughout the day their mom is thinking about them and looking forward to being together again. Porter’s sweet repeated verse gives kids an easy-to-memorize reminder of their mother’s love to comfort them when they experience those pangs of separation. For working moms, In My Heart lets them share that they too feel those pangs but are always and forever bonded with their child.

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Image copyright Jenny Løvlie, 2020, text copyright Mackenzie Porter, 2020. Courtesy of Little Simon.

Jenny Løvlie’s soothing colors and joyful scenes of mother-and-child togetherness create a tranquil reading experience that moms and their little ones will love to share. Hugs, hand-holding, gentle caresses, and mirrored smiles demonstrate the strong and caring relationship between the two. Facing pages portraying mom at the office and the little girl at daycare or school show that they are each independent yet connected by thoughts and their mutual love.

A delightful and poignant book that is sure to become a daily read, In My Heart would be a favorite addition to home bookshelves and school and library collections.

Ages Baby and Up

Little Simon, 2020 | ISBN 978-1534454330

To learn more about Jenny Løvlie, her books, and her art, visit her website.

National Reading Month Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

With this easy-to-make craft your child can see the love that’s in your heart. Whether you fill it up right away or add to it a day at a time, just looking at this jar will make your child happy. 

Supplies

  • A clear jar with a lid—you can use a recyclable plastic or glass jar or buy a mason jar or other decorative jar at a craft store
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Add hearts to the jar in a way that’s meaningful to you and your child. Here are some ideas:

  • Fill the jar all the way to the top to show your child how your heart overflows with love for them
  • Add one heart every day. As you and your child put it in the jar, talk about a time during the day that you thought about each other.
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child, Write one trait on each heart
  • Add a heart each time you do something fun together

3. Display the jar in your child’s room or somewhere else they can see it

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You can find In My Heart at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

November 23 – National Adoption Day

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About the Holiday

National Adoption Day is a national collective initiative to raise awareness of the more than 125,000 children in foster care who are waiting to find permanent families. Sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights, and Children’s Action Network, National Adoption Day was instituted in 2000, and since then has made the wishes of nearly 75,000 children come true. To learn more, visit the National Adoption Day website.

I received a copy of A Crazy-Much Love from Two Lions for review consideration. All opinions are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions in a giveaway of the book. See details below. 

A Crazy-Much Love

Written by Joy Jordan-Lake | Illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

 

A mom and her daughter walk along, gazing at each other. “You are the one, precious child—did you know?” she says, starting the story the little girl knows by heart but wants to hear as much as the mother wants to tell it. Long before the little one had joined their family, her mom and dad dreamed about her and prepared for her, waiting and waiting. “It was you,” her mom says, that they loved before they even saw or hugged or held her.

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

The future mom and dad “counted the hours and struck off the days” until they could bring their baby home and let her know she was “safe and warm and so crazy-much loved.” Finally, the day came and they traveled by plane and train, never stopping, until they held their child in their arms and told her that they’d love her “forever and ever and far beyond that.” And the baby responded with a look like she “felt it right down to [her] toes.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

At home, the little girl’s new extended family was waiting to welcome her—even the dog, who licked her toes and made her laugh. That’s when they knew, her mom tells her, that “our crazy-much love for you would grow and grow more and spill out the windows and bust down the doors.” And there were all those “firsts” that filled their hearts: first bath, first steps, first word, and first sentence, in which she echoed back all the love she had received—”“I love you much!’”

As she grew, there were more firsts to come: riding her bike and going to school. These milestones brought her parents such joy for how “crazy-well [she] had grown.” And now, when they all snuggle together, the little girl asks the questions she already knows the answers to but loves to hear them always. “‘How much is the crazy-much love?’” and “‘How long does it last, the crazy-much love?’” They all shout the answers as one, while Mom and Dad hold their daughter tight so that she knows she is “the greatest of crazy-much gifts.”

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Image copyright Sonia Sánchez, 2019, text copyright Joy Jordan-Lake, 2019. Courtesy of Two Lions.

That heart-swelling love parents have for their child or children bursts from every page of Joy Jordan-Lake’s shimmering ode to adopted children. While there are mentions of waiting for a phone call and long travel, and the parents are shown looking at photographs (these are shown from the back and could also represent ultrasound images), the feelings of anticipation and joy this mom and dad express are familiar to all parents. Jordan-Lake’s long, lyrical sentences echo the excited rush of emotions that bubble up inside at unexpected moments.

The repeated phrase “It was you”—changing to “It is you” on the final page—will raise a lump in parents’ throats as it embodies that totality of history, the present, the future, and the endless awe that parents hold in their hearts for their one or for each of their children individually. Hearing these words while cuddled on a lap or snuggled up in bed, children will absorb the tender outpouring of love and embrace their place in the family and the world.

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Sonia Sánchez fills her eye-catching pages with motion and light, mirroring the effervescent love between parents and child that is returned to them as well. Star lights twinkle above the baby’s crib, a brilliant sun sends the plane carrying the couple on its way around the world, and feelings, depicted with colorful floating circles and hearts, flow from mother, father, and child and fill the air. This family’s special bond is celebrated with smiles, laughter, hugs, and snuggles on every page, reinforcing their “crazy-much love.”

A Crazy-Much Love is a book all parents or caregivers will want to share with their child or children. It makes a fabulous gift for new parents and will be a favorite on home, school, and public library shelves.

Ages 3 – 7

Two Lions, 2019 | ISBN 978-1542043267

Joy Jordan-Lake is the author of multiple books for adults, including A Tangled Mercy, a Goodreads Hot Reads Selection and Kindle bestseller, and Blue Hole Back Home, winner of the Christy Award in 2009 for Best First Novel. A Crazy-Much Love is her debut picture book. She holds a PhD in English and has taught literature and writing at several universities. She is a mother to two biological children and one child adopted from China, and her experiences inspired this book. She lives outside Nashville with her family, including two fluffy dogs. You can learn more about Joy Jordan-Lake at www.joyjordanlake.com.

Sonia Sánchez is an award-winning Spanish illustrator. Her debut picture book, Here I Am, written by Patti Kim, received two starred reviews and was nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Painter. Her artwork has been selected for the prestigious Society of Illustrators Original Art Show twice, and her books have been named a CBC NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year. She lives with her husband, her son, and a sleepyhead cat in a blue house near the Mediterranean Sea.

A Crazy-Much Love Giveaway

I’m excited to partner with Two Lions in a Twitter giveaway of:

One (1) copy of A Crazy-Much Love written by Joy Jordan-Lake | illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

To enter:

  • Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.
  • Bonus: Reply with something you crazy-much love about your kid(s) for an extra entry. Each reply gives you one more entry.

This giveaway is open from November 23 through November 29 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on November 30.

Prizing provided by Two Lions

Giveaway open to U.S. addresses only. | No Giveaway Accounts 

National Adoption Day Activity

CPB - Heart Jar

Jar Full of Love

 

Do you wish there was a way to remind your child or children how much you love them and how your love grows even when you’re not with them? With this jar just a quick glimpse shows them what is in your heart.

Supplies

  • A clear, plastic jar with a lid
  • Red felt
  • Scissors

Directions

1. Cut red hearts from the felt

2. Whenever you feel that tug of love for your child, add a heart to their jar. In no time it will start filling up, just as your heart is full of them. Here are some ideas for when to add a heart or two:

  • Add the same number of hearts as your child’s age
  • Add one heart for each thing you love about your child (write those traits on the hearts)
  • Give a new heart whenever your child does something nice for someone
  • Add hearts for milestones and accomplishments
  • Encourage your child to pass the love along! Tell them they can give a heart from the jar to other family members or friends

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You can find A Crazy-Much Love at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review