July 14 – Shark Awareness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nugget-and-fang-coverAbout the Holiday

Today we take a moment to consider the benefits sharks provide to the marine ecosystem. Every year thousands of sharks die and their species threatened due to misconceptions and misuse. As a predator at the top of the food chain, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining balance within the ocean. Protecting this often-misunderstood species is an important goal.

Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time?

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

Deep in the ocean two friends do everything together and life is almost perfect as they swim over ship wrecks, under reefs, and all around. Nugget and Fang are as close as two friend can be—there’s just one thing: Nugget is a minnow while Fang is a shark. Neither of them consider their friendship unusual—until Nugget goes to school. There during Reading, Nugget hears the story of The Three Little Minnows and the Big, Bad Shark. “‘Ha!’” says Nugget. “‘Impossible!’”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2013, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2013. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

During Math class the students solve a word problem: “What if there were ten minnows and a shark came along and ate four of them? How many minnows are left?” Nugget is scandalized. “‘A shark would never do that!’” he says. But Science period reveals the facts of the Marine Food Chain. Nugget protests that sharks aren’t scary. “‘My best friend is a shark!’” he announces. His classmates are shocked. “Have you lost your gills?” one asks. Another snarks, “Hello—sharks eat minnows!” Nugget can’t believe it.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Back home Nugget gives Fang the bad news. “‘Sounds fishy to me,’” says Fang. Nugget assures him it’s true before swimming far away. “Fang’s heart sank.” He can’t help if he’s “toothy,” he thinks, and he knows he doesn’t mean to be scary. He wants his best friend back. To prove it Fang tries different tactics. On Tuesday he dresses like a mermaid, but Nugget and the other fish see through his disguise. “‘Oh, my algae!’” exclaims Nugget. On Wednesday Fang sends a beautiful sea plant arrangement with a note—“Dear Nugget, I’d love to have you over for dinner.”—which is misinterpreted in the worst possible way. On Thursday Fang pulls out all the stops. He gets a “Nugget” tattoo, sends a special message and gift, and performs an original song and dance, but nothing works.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2013, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2013. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

On Friday Fang is sadly resigned to being alone. While he mopes and cries, he doesn’t see that a fishing net has been lowered to the ocean floor, capturing Nugget and the other minnows. “Help!” shouts Nugget as the net is slowly lifted. Fang wrings his fins, uncertain of what to do. Suddenly, he has an idea. With his big sharp teeth he chomps and chews and tears the net to pieces. Nugget and the minnows swim to safety. They all stare at Fang wide-eyed.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Fang dejectedly begins to swim away. “‘I know, I know,’” he says, “‘I’m toothy. Too scary. Too…shark.’” “Wait!” calls Nugget and uses a little math of his own. “‘There were ten minnows, and a very special shark came along. How many friends are there altogether?’” Now eleven friends live happily deep in the ocean, and everyone—especially Fang—are all smiles.

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Image copyright Michael Slack, 2013, text copyright Tammi Sauer, 2013. Courtesy of HMH Books for Young Readers.

Tammi Sauer’s tribute to true friendship reveals the danger when “facts” take precedence over what you know in your heart to be true. Her reminder to listen to your inner voice is approached with humor and the honest types of doubts that can niggle and cloud judgement. Throughout the story, her language is accessible and kid-conversational, including puns that will elicit giggles. Sauer’s use of a math word problem to both highlight contrary thinking and provide a solution underscores the influence of education. Nugget & Fang is a wonderful book for kids navigating the school and activities environment while making new—and keeping old—friendships.

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Michael Slack immediately sets kids in the right mindset with his bright, cartoon-inspired illustrations. Tiny, colorful Nugget and bold, blue Fang, his “toothiness” on display through his big grin, make a happy, nonchalant pair. They play together through vibrant green, yellow, and purple reefs unaware of marine stereotypes. When Nugget gets “schooled,” his astounded expressions and those of his classmates, humorously depict their predicament. The ocean environment gives Slack an opportunity for plenty of visual jokes and innovation. The Reading teacher holds a clamshell-shaped book, a piece of shipwrecked board serves as a Math blackboard, and the Science food chain poster is appropriately scary. Kids will laugh at Fang’s attempts at reconciliation, and cheer when he becomes a hero.

Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time? is sure to be a favorite story time read and would be an often-asked-for addition to home and classroom bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013 ISBN 978-0544481718 | Lap Board Book, 2018 ISBN 978-1328768391

To learn more about Tammi Sauer and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of work by Michael Slack on his website!

Visit the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Nugget & Fang page for more goodies!

Will everything go swimmingly for Nugget and Fang? Watch the trailer and see!

Shark Awareness Day Activity

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Shark Organizer Jar

 

Are some of your favorite things scattered here and there? Would you like to be able to get a good clamp on them? Then here’s a craft you can really sink your teeth into! This shark organizer jar is easy and fun to make and a fin-tastic way to keep your stuff tidy!

Supplies

  • Wide-mouth plastic jar, like a peanut-butter jar
  • Gray craft paint
  • White craft paint
  • Black craft paint
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Find a point in the middle of the jar on opposite sides of the jar
  2. Mid-way between these points on the other sides of the jar, find a point about 1 1/2 inches above the first points
  3. From the first point draw an angled line up to the higher point and down again to the lower point to make the shark’s upper jaw
  4. Repeat Direction Number 3 to make the shark’s lower jaw
  5. With the gray paint fill in the jar below these lines to make the shark’s head
  6. Along the jawline, paint jagged teeth with the white paint
  7. Add black dots for eyes on either side of the shark’s head
  8. Let dry

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nugget-and-fang-cover

You can find Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time? at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

 

January 23 – National Pie Day

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About the Holiday

National Pie day is perfect for…well…pie! Whether you love fruity pies or meat pies, pies with lattice tops or crumble crusts this day is for you! There’s only one true way to celebrate—make or buy your favorite kind of pie and enjoy! 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems

Written by J. Patrick Lewis | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s something about poetry with its iambic pentameters, feet, meter, sonnets, couplets, and more countable qualities that just seems to lend itself to math. J. Patrick Lewis must have thought so too because he penned a clever volume of poems inspired by well-known verses. First up is Edgar Allan Poe’s Apple Pie, which is inspired by “The Raven” and begins: “Once upon a midnight rotten, / Cold, and rainy, I’d forgotten / All about the apple pie / Still cooling from the hour before.” But now, even though there is a “knocking, knocking…” at the door, the narrator takes up a knife and slices the night with a cutting question, only to hear the stranger’s mysterious clue “‘Never four!’”

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Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

All the narrator of Emily Dickenson’s Telephone Book, inspired by “My Life Closed Twice Before its Close,” wants to do after napping is to find a certain phone number in her directory, but where is it? She knew where it was before she went to bed—in fact its “two opposing pages / that added up to 113— / Were smudged around the edges—” but now she’s so confused…. Can you help?

Those who think that “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” has no link to underwear possibly are not aware of Robert Frost’s Boxer Shorts, in which the lilt and the rhythm of the original are perfectly matched in a priceless, pricey puzzle that ends “My tightie whities look so sad. / My tightie whities look so sad.” How can you resist?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-apple-pie-hippo

Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

You may know about William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow and where it stood, but what if that handy implement was replaced by a… “fifteen-inch square pizza” that is missing “nineteen and a half pieces”?! Well, there may not be any rainwater glaze, but it sure does make for a delicious arithmetic conundrum in William Carlos Williams’s Pizza.

You’re eating up these poems, aren’t you? Well, next come three poems in which termites, sharks, and a “hippo-po-tah-tum” do a bit of nibbling of their own. The fun multiplies in Ogden Nash’s Buggy Rugs, where 313 little wood chompers hide; in John Ciardi’s Shark Dentist, in which you’ll want to brace yourself for the ending; and in Shel Silverstein’s Hippo-po-tah-tum, which is fractionally frightening.

These seven poems are added to seven more, plus two pages full of “prose about the poets,” to equal one smart, tantalizing poetic brainteaser of a book!

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-apple-pie-shark

Image copyright Michael Slack, text copyright J. Patrick Lewis. Courtesty slackart.com

Patrick Lewis, who served as the US Children’s Poet Lauriat from 2011 to 2013, has honored 16 of the world’s most beloved poets the way kids love best—with humor. Adapting the original poem’s rhythm, rhyme scheme, and length with a dash of the ridiculous and a dose of numerical heft, Lewis has created poems that will have kids giggling while they ponder the answers to the lyrical math problems the verses pose. While arithmetic aficionados will gobble these poems up, there’s plenty for language arts lovers to sink their teeth into too. Each witty poem just begs to be compared to the original, which would make for a fun afternoon at home or lesson in the classroom. Admit it—aren’t you just the tiniest bit curious what Edward Lear’s “There was an Old Man with a Beard” has to do with an 80-foot hotdog?

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-edgar-allan-poe's-pie-train

Image copyright Michael Slack Lewis, courtesty slackart.com

Michael Slack gets things off and running on the first spread, where a sharp-taloned blackbird stands over a knife that’s plunged into the center of a pie. While readers of Walt Whitman’s Web-Covered Shoe may wonder exactly how long the boot has been untouched, they’ll be more distracted by the number of eyes on two very fierce-looking spiders. And there may be nothing more diverting than the potbellied cowboy wearing only his tightie whities as he waits for his snowflake, flame, spaceship, and other uniquely decorated boxers to dry. Slack illustrates each poem with distinctive, vibrant images that ramp up the humor and give every page an individual look.

Answers to the math problems proposed are included with every poem, and brief biographies accompanied by tiny portraits, reveal information about the poets represented and their work.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie is a fantastic way to get kids interested in math and poetry. The brain ticklers, as well as the wonderful wordplay and illustrations, make this a book that should be on classroom shelves and would be welcome in home libraries too.

Ages 6 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2015 (paperback) | ISBN 978-0544456129

To learn more about J. Patrick Lewis, his books, and resources for kids and teachers, visit his website!

View a gallery of books, illustration, and other art by Michael Slack on his website!

National Pie Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-cherry-pie-match

Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle

 

Each winner of a poetry contest were supposed to get two identical pies, but they got mixed up! Can you find the matching pies in this printable Mixed Up Cherry Pies Puzzle and save the day?

Picture Book Review

September 19 – Talk Like a Pirate Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirasaurs!-cover

About the Holiday

Shiver me timbers! Avast, ye mateys! Today it be arrgh-uably the best day of the year for all us swashbuckling swabbies that sail the ocean blue a-lookin’ for treasure! Talk Like a Pirate Day, ironically got started in the walled confines of a racquetball court, where a group of guys were doing…well what a group of guys do to encourage each other—toss around pirate phrases. They decided the idea was too good to keep on the court, so they designated September 19th as Talk Like a Pirate Day. They then alerted Dave Barry, comedic writer extraordinaire, who spread word of this day far and wide. Now it’s a favorite of young and old alike. So get out there and do some plunderin’ ye scalliwags!

Pirasaurs!

Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

There’s a new brigand sailing the bounding main with a crew more rag-tag and wild than any seen before. They roar their chanteys as they set the rigging with their “spiky tails” and play watery pranks on the newbie recruit Who are they? They’ll be happy to tell you themselves—“We’re Pirasaurs! We’re Pirasaurs! We rule the open seas! / We’ll cannon-blast you to the past! We do just what we please!”

All this commotion can be a bit intimidating to the newest matey who knows just what he’s up against: “With lots to learn, I’ve got to earn the crew’s respect and trust. / I’ll rise in rank or walk the plank…I hope I can adjust!” At the point of Captain Rex’s “fabled sword” this little guy—who has yet to cut his sharp teeth—swabs the deck, scrubbing and brushing so fast he ends up in the plesiosaur-infested deep.

Brontobeard steers the ship over the briny waves while “with handy hook, Triceracook / prepares Jurassic feasts!” which leads them all to “…slurp and belch and burp / with buccaneering beasts!” Of course these pirasaurs are after more than fun times—they want treasure! Velocimate navigates by using the stars while our seapuppy reveals that he uses his “smarts to map the charts. / But still we’re led astray!”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-pirasaurs!-fight

Image copyright Michael Slace, courtesy of slackart.com

Land ho! The pirasaurs come ashore on a distant island. Can treasure be nearby? The crew fans out looking for the X, but no matter how hard they search, they can’t find it. “The crew begins to search within / The frayed and tattered map, / a shadow looms, the water fumes / revealing—It’s a trap!” It seems the pirasaurs had a spy onboard, and now that they’ve found the right spot, he’s alerted his true mates.

They come brandishing swords, sizzling cannon balls, knives, oars, and sneering looks. But Captain Rex’s troop is ready for them. While “a mighty clash erupts upon the sand,” the littlest buccaneer notices a very interesting development. Clutched in the claws of a saur enemy, he sees a fragment of a map. “Ahoy! Avast!” He shouts above the fray. “We’ve got to stop these duels! / Let’s share the scraps of each our maps / To find the gold and jewels!”  The pirasaurs stop fighting and they carefully connect the two shards of paper. Lo and behold! The X is clearly visible! Together the two pirasaur crews uncover the treasure—and what a treasure it is! Not only are there gems, and gold, and silver—the chests contain the nugget of friendship! Now the pirasaurs want readers to join up and join in! “Through battles, brawls and fireballs, / Plus prehistoric roars, / The salty deep is ours to keep— / Come join the Pirasaurs!”

Like rolling waves on the high seas, Josh Funk takes readers on a boisterous journey full of twists, turns, and tricks with the rowdiest group of pirates ever to set sail! Funk’s rhymes flow as fast and smooth as a sloop on a fair-weather day. The new recruit is understandably intimidated by the Jurassic giants, but while these pirates may be dinosaurs, they are modern in their thinking. When the little guy suggests they share, they’re all for it, leading to the best discovery of all—friendship!

Michael Slack signed up all the faves—brontosaurs, triceratops, stegosaurus, spinosaurus, velociraptor, pterodactyl, of course T-rex, and some dinos that haven’t even been discovered yet—in this cross-epoch epic! And these aren’t the scurvy dogs you’re used to from science class. They’ve got eye patches, peg legs, hooks, earrings, and some pretty rad hats and jaggedy shorts. And oh, yes, did I mention they’re super colorful? Purple, orange, green, blue, mauve…. Readers can almost smell the sea air in Slack’s detailed, full-bleed pages of rowdy pirasaurs, tangled rigging, gross cooking, brave swashbuckling, and, ultimately, found treasure.

Pirasaurs! is definitely treasure for your bookshelves, as kids will want to read it again and again. Savvy?

Ages 3 – 9

Scholastic, 2016 | ISBN 978-0545750493

Josh Funk’s website has information on his books, fun activities for kids, book trailers, and much more!

You know Michael Slack’s awesome books! Find them as well as a gallery of illustrations and more on his website!

Ahoy, me Hearties! You be watchin’ this Pirasaurs! book trailer!

Talk Like a Pirate Day Activity

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-avast!-pirate-game-board

Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Avast! Board Game

 

Ahoy, Mateys! Avast! Somewhere on the island is buried treasure! Test your skills against rotten food, stormy seas, and even the Kraken (don’t worry, there are good days too!) as you traverse the forbidding landscape in search of jewels and gold!

Supplies

Printable Avast! Game Board and Game Pieces

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-avast!-pirate-game-tokens

Original artwork copyright Conor Carroll and Celebrate Picture Books, 2016

Directions

  1. Print the Avast! Board Game pages on white paper or parchment-colored paper or on card stock.
  2. To make regular white paper appear old – as in the picture – paint with a tea wash before taping together. (See directions for tea wash below)
  3. Cut out the Avast! Pirate Loot Tokens
  4. Cut out the Avast! Game Cards
  5. Tape together the 4 pieces of the map. Option: map pages printed on regular paper can be  glued to a piece of poster board to make the game board more sturdy. 

To use a tea bag to make the map look old:

  1. Steep a black tea tea bag in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3 minutes
  2. Squeeze the tea bag dry over the cup and discard
  3. With the paint brush, paint the 4 pages of the map with the tea before taping them together
  4. Let dry or dry with a hair drier set on Low.

To Play the Game

  1. Each player chooses a Pirate Loot Token as their playing piece to move along the board
  2. Shuffle and stack the Game Cards
  3. Choose which player will go first
  4. Players choose the top card from the pile and follow the directions to move spaces on the game board.
  5. After moving, players should put their game card in a discard pile
  6. If game cards run out before the end, flip over the discard pile and use the cards again
  7. The first player to arrive at the X on the map finds the treasure and is the winner!

 

Q & A with Author Josh Funk

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Today Josh Funk, author of Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, and Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast drops by to talk about his work, his influences, upcoming books, and a very special ironing board!

What were some of the books you enjoyed most as a child?

Hmm. I hate starting this interview off negatively, but I find this question a bit problematic as it’s in the past tense. In many (most?) ways I’m still very much a child. Hee hee (wink).

I had a lot of the standard favorite picture books: CorduroySylvester and the Magic PebbleCaps for SaleThe LoraxLyle, Lyle, Crocodile.

But one of my more underrated favorites is The Adventures of the S.S. Happiness Crew: The First Adventure: Cap’n Joshua’s Dangerous Dilemma. The illustrations probably look familiar as it’s Eric Hill of the Spot series. My Aunt Betty gave me this book on the day my younger brother was born (I was three). I think it was the first book that I encountered where I shared a name with a character—which I certainly found thrilling as a three year old.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-josh-funk-s.s.-happiness-crew

Your rhymes are so inspired—have you always wanted to be a writer? How did you come to be a picture book author?

Actually, I wouldn’t say I’ve always wanted to be a writer. When I was a child, maybe 3rd grade, I wrote a rhyming poem about Larry Bird and another about Roger Clemens (I grew up a Celtics and Red Sox fan in the Boston suburbs). My parents were pretty impressed with the poems (and still have copies of them), but I didn’t really do too much writing after that as a child.

Until late high school and college when I learned how to play guitar. I wrote a bunch of songs, but I was always more of the clever & quirky type of songwriter, not the smooth and poetic type. It might have something to do with being a huge fan of They Might Be Giants for most of my life. When I had kids, any time I broke out the guitar, the kids just saw it as a toy, and I’d be halfway through a song before they started telling me, ‘My Turn!’

But around the same time, I was reading a lot of great picture books to my kids, and that’s when I decided to try writing my own. Some of my favorites included Iggy Peck, ArchitectThe Curious GardenThe Gardener, and Vunce Upon a Time. I was inspired, and it turns out that my rhyming songwriting skills actually paid off when it came to writing rhyming picture books.

I was quickly introduced to The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and went to the annual New England spring conference in 2012 – and I learned a ton. At the same spring conference in 2013, I met Heather Kelly who had just founded The Writer’s Loft  in another Boston suburb and immediately jumped on board. Both SCBWI and The Writers’ Loft have been extremely influential in my writing life, both in regards to the craft and the business. Fast forward to 2016, and I co-coordinated this past spring’s New England SCBWI conference (along with Heather Kelly) and I’m a member of the board of The Writers’ Loft.

And I can still use the guitar a little bit. I recorded the music for both the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book trailer and the Pirasaurs! book trailer. 

Your books are so varied. What sparks an idea for a book in general, or what was the spark for any of your books in particular?

I often think about what I’d like to see illustrated. I can’t draw particularly well, but I sure thought it would be fun to see what a Pirate-Dinosaur looked like, so I wrote Pirasaurs! I thought it might cool to see a boy and a dragon as pen pals, so I wrote Dear Dragon. I was entertained by the idea of breakfast foods causing catastrophic culinary chaos in the fridge. So I wrote Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast.

I think the varied styles are mostly due to the fact that each of the books is published by a different publisher and illustrated by a different illustrator. But I couldn’t be happier with the look of all three.

Your books contain such rollicking rhymes—can you describe your writing process?

Well it took some time to discover and then implement the following tidbit, but the most important thing about a rhyming picture book is not the rhyme … or the rhythm. Most important is a good story. So figuring out the story has to come first.

I’ll spend some time getting to know the characters, their goals, conflicts, and making sure I’ve got a satisfying ending in mind. Once I’m through the brainstorming process, I’ll usually hammer out a first draft over the course of a few days to a week. Then I’ll revise. I share the manuscript with critique partners and groups over the next few days/weeks/months. If it ever gets to the point where I think it’s good enough, I’ll send it to my agent.

I’ve refined my process over the last five years, and my first drafts are better now than they were then. I know better which ideas to pursue and which aren’t as marketable. I’ve made lots of valuable mistakes along the way. But I still have lots to learn. I can always improve my process.

What is the best part of writing picture books?

Probably when a parent says to me that they’ve read a book I wrote 5 times because their child kept requesting it over and over again. And that the parent was happy to oblige.

Can you describe your work space a little?

I mostly write (like I am now, answering these questions) on my laptop while laying in bed. Sometimes there’s music or a movie on in the background (often it’s Scott Pilgrim vs the World). Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and have an idea or a line or a scene that I just can’t get out of my head, so I write it on my phone … again, while in bed.

So, as far as work space, I guess it’s mostly a digital one. I do most of my writing in google docs in a chrome browser, often with thesaurus.com open in one tab and possibly rhymezone.com open in another.

My office mates are authors Jess Keating, Tara Lazar, and Anna Staniszewski who I ‘speak’ with in google chat, while I converse with my editors and agent via email.

What is the favorite object in your work space and why?

Probably my puffalump, Monkey Dude, who you can see in my head shot above

You have two more books scheduled for release in 2017: a sequel to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk. Can you give readers a sneak peek? Are there any other books on the horizon?

In LP&SFT: The Case of the Stinky Stench, there’s something foul in the fridge and Inspector Croissant (Sir French Toast’s nephew) asks our main characters to help him find the source of a terrible odor. They search everywhere from Onion Ring Cave to Corn Chowder Lake, confident that the culprit is right under their noses… but I won’t spoil any more of it for you – you’ll just have to wait until next spring. Brendan Kearney is back as the illustrator and I kinda think it might be better than the first one.

It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk is my first story not written in rhyme. It was supposed to be the tale of Jack … and the beanstalk, but really … it’s not. All the narrator wants to do is tell the traditional tale properly. But Jack just won’t do what he’s supposed to! Jack constantly questions why he should sell his cow (Bessie’s my best friend) or climb the beanstalk (but it’s soooo tall) or enter the castle (there’s probably a giant in there). This one is illustrated by Edwardian Taylor – and he’s so talented! Follow him on Instagram to see his greatness!

And yes, there are certainly more books on the horizon. But … I can’t talk about them yet. Stay tuned.

I can’t properly call my blog holiday themed without asking you a few related questions, so…

What is your favorite holiday?

Halloween. Can’t beat candy corn and costumes.

Do you have an anecdote from any holiday you’d like to share?

A few years back I needed to wrap some holiday presents in private. So I went to the basement bathroom and stacked them up on an old ironing board. Over the next few days, the kids noticed the wrapped gifts and asked why they were in there, so I jokingly said that I was storing them on the ‘Winter Solstice Ironing Board.’

And now, every year around the holidays, we put all the family’s presents on that same ironing board during the holiday season … but we now keep the ‘Winter Solstice Ironing Board’ in the living room. Luckily, I haven’t needed to iron anything in the month of December since then.

Has a holiday ever influenced your work?

Nothing I can report on yet … but hopefully I’ll have news on that soon!

Well, Josh, I can’t wait to find out—and I’m sure readers can’t either! Thanks so much for sharing more about your work and influences! I wish you all the best with Pirasaurs! and all of your other books!

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books – such as the Award-Winning LADY PANCAKE & SIR FRENCH TOAST (Sterling), PIRASAURS! (Scholastic), DEAR DRAGON (Viking/Penguin), LP&SFT: THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH (Sterling, 2017), IT’S NOT JACK AND THE BEANSTALK (Two Lions, 2017), and more.

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more about Josh Funk at www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Pirasaurs! and Josh Funk’s other books can be found at:

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

Connect with Josh on:

joshfunkbooks.com | Facebook | Twitter

Picture Book Review

 

July 14 – Shark Awareness Day

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nugget-and-fang-coverAbout the Holiday

Today we take a moment to consider the benefits sharks provide to the marine ecosystem. Every year thousands of sharks die and their species threatened due to misconceptions and misuse. As a predator at the top of the food chain, sharks play a crucial role in maintaining balance within the ocean. Protecting this often-misunderstood species is an important goal.

Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time?

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Michael Slack

 

Deep in the ocean two friends do everything together and life is almost perfect as they swim over ship wrecks, under reefs, and all around. Nugget and Fang are as close as two friend can be—there’s just one thing: Nugget is a minnow while Fang is a shark. Neither of them consider their friendship unusual—until Nugget goes to school. There during Reading, Nugget hears the story of The Three Little Minnows and the Big, Bad Shark. “‘Ha!’” says Nugget. “‘Impossible!’”

During Math class the students solve a word problem: “What if there were ten minnows and a shark came along and ate four of them? How many minnows are left?” Nugget is scandalized. “‘A shark would never do that!’” he says. But Science period reveals the facts of the Marine Food Chain. Nugget protests that sharks aren’t scary. “‘My best friend is a shark!’” he announces. His classmates are shocked. “Have you lost your gills?” one asks. Another snarks, “Hello—sharks eat minnows!” Nugget can’t believe it.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nugget-and-fang

Image copyright Michael Slack, courtesy of hmhbooks.com/nuggetandfang

Back home Nugget gives Fang the bad news. “‘Sounds fishy to me,’” says Fang. Nugget assures him it’s true before swimming far away. “Fang’s heart sank.” He can’t help if he’s “toothy,” he thinks, and he knows he doesn’t mean to be scary. He wants his best friend back. To prove it Fang tries different tactics. On Tuesday he dresses like a mermaid, but Nugget and the other fish see through his disguise. “‘Oh, my algae!’” exclaims Nugget. On Wednesday Fang sends a beautiful sea plant arrangement with a note—“Dear Nugget, I’d love to have you over for dinner.”—which is misinterpreted in the worst possible way. On Thursday Fang pulls out all the stops. He gets a “Nugget” tattoo, sends a special message and gift, and performs an original song and dance, but nothing works.

On Friday Fang is sadly resigned to being alone. While he mopes and cries, he doesn’t see that a fishing net has been lowered to the ocean floor, capturing Nugget and the other minnows. “Help!” shouts Nugget as the net is slowly lifted. Fang wrings his fins, uncertain of what to do. Suddenly, he has an idea. With his big sharp teeth he chomps and chews and tears the net to pieces. Nugget and the minnows swim to safety. They all stare at Fang wide-eyed.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-nugget-and-fang

Image copyright Michael Slack, courtesy of hmhbooks.com/nuggetandfang

Fang dejectedly begins to swim away. “‘I know, I know,’” he says, “‘I’m toothy. Too scary. Too…shark.’” “Wait!” calls Nugget and uses a little math of his own. “‘There were ten minnows, and a very special shark came along. How many friends are there altogether?’” Now eleven friends live happily deep in the ocean, and everyone—especially Fang—are all smiles.

Tammi Sauer’s tribute to true friendship reveals the danger when “facts” take precedence over what you know in your heart to be true. Her reminder to listen to your inner voice is approached with humor and the honest types of doubts that can niggle and cloud judgement. Throughout the story, her language is accessible and kid-conversational, including puns that will elicit giggles. Sauer’s use of a math word problem to both highlight contrary thinking and provide a solution underscores the influence of education. Nugget & Fang is a wonderful book for kids navigating the school and activities environment while making new—and keeping old—friendships.

Michael Slack immediately sets kids in the right mindset with his bright, cartoon-inspired illustrations. Tiny, colorful Nugget and bold, blue Fang, his “toothiness” on display through his big grin, make a happy, nonchalant pair. They play together through vibrant green, yellow, and purple reefs unaware of marine stereotypes. When Nugget gets “schooled”, his astounded expressions and those of his classmates, humorously depict their predicament. The ocean environment gives Slack an opportunity for plenty of visual jokes and innovation. The Reading teacher holds a clamshell-shaped book, a piece of shipwrecked board serves as a Math blackboard, and the Science food chain poster is appropriately scary. Kids will laugh at Fang’s attempts at reconciliation, and cheer when he becomes a hero.

Nugget & Fang: Friends Forever—or Snack Time? is sure to be a favorite story time read!

Ages 4 – 9

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013 | ISBN 978-0544481718

Will everything go swimmingly for Nugget and Fang? Watch the trailer and see!

To learn more about Tammi Sauer and her books, visit her website!

View a gallery of work by Michael Slack on his website!

Visit the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Nugget & Fang page for more goodies!

Shark Awareness Day Activity

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Looking Sharp, Sharks! Coloring Page

 

Sharks are some of the most fascinating creatures in the sea. Have fun decorating this printable Looking Sharp, Sharks! Coloring Page—get creative with textures, colors, and materials!