March 25 – It’s National Reading Month and Interview with Illustrator Scott Brundage

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About the Holiday

No matter whether you live in a house or an apartment, in a city, in a small town, or on a farm, but you can travel anywhere through books. The magic of reading lies in its ability to transport readers through history, into emotional landscapes, and to far-away places – even into outer space as today’s book shows!

Sleeping Bear Press sent me a copy of The First Men Who Went to the Moon to check out. All opinions are my own. I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The First Men Who Went to the Moon

Written by Rhonda Gowler Greene | Illustrated by Scott Brundage

 

As Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin enter the spacecraft, they wear excited smiles and wave. “These are the first men who went to the Moon.” Panning back to where the enthralled crowd watches from across the water, watch as a rocket roars skyward, trailing flames. “This is the spacecraft, Apollo 11, that lifted off and soared through the heavens / and carried the first men who went to the Moon.”

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gowler Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

The astronauts get a view of Earth as they reach for the blackness of space. The Lunar Module Eagle touches down on the surface of the Moon in “…the Sea of Tranquility / where the astronauts made history….” First Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin descended onto the Moon carrying an American flag. “This is their mark, a ‘leap for mankind.’ / And this is the flag they left behind / there in the Sea of Tranquility.”

In a spectacular show of human achievement, the Command Module Columbia returned in a “…splashdown that brought them home, / safe and sound from a vast unknown, / where they made their mark, a ‘leap for mankind.’” With ticker tape parades attended by thousands of people, the astronauts were celebrated in New York City and Chicago.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gowler Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

In addition to Rhonda Gowler Green’s poem, many of the double-spread illustration contain facts about the mission, features of the Moon, the astronauts’ work, and splashdown.

Back matter includes information on where the Eagle and Columbia are now; more facts about the mission, the astronauts, and the equipment; resources; and a list of other books for young readers.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gowler Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

Mirroring the circular mission that took the astronauts to the Moon and back, Rhonda Gowler Greene’s lyrical verses build on each other, overlapping to create depth in her storytelling and awe in the scientific achievement of NASA in 1969. As the poem reverses, readers engage in the feeling of pride and relief that Americans and people all around the world experienced as they watched Columbia splash down safely into the Pacific Ocean. Greene peppers the story with beautiful images take readers from “swirls of clouds” to a  “desolate land” to “the dust of lunar ground” and helps them recapture the mystery and amazement of those days 50 years ago.

Scott Brundage’s illustrations are remarkable for their detail and ability to transport readers to the heart of the Apollo 11 mission. Today’s children, familiar with satellite images and feeds from space and who have grown up with the International Space Station, cannot fully appreciate with what wonder and trepidation the world watched the mission on television. Choosing a variety of perspectives, Brundage allows kids to watch the rocket launch from the pad in Florida, look out of the spacecraft’s window as the astronauts leave Earth behind, see the Eagle light up the Moon’s surface as it lands, and view Neil Armstrong take that first step onto the Moon. Space lovers will want to linger over every two-page spread to take in all of the minute details as well as the inspiration that space stirs in the dreams of many.

A lyrical and gorgeous tribute to the Apollo 11 mission for its 50th anniversary, The First Men Who Went to the Moon would make a lovely addition to home, classroom, and public library collections for science and space lovers, STEM lessons, and story time.

Ages 6 – 9

Sleeping Bear Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1585364121

Discover more about Rhonda Gowler Greene and her books on her website.

To learn more about Scott Brundage, his books, his art, and more, visit his website.

You can download and print a fun The First Men Who Went to the Moon Activity Sheet!

Meet Illustrator Scott Brundage

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Scott Brundage’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, the Washington Post, and many others. He is the illustrator of A is for Astronaut: Blasting Through the Alphabet. He lives in New York City.

Today I’m happy to be talking with Scott Brundage about capturing the beauty and mystery of space, his talent for humor, and the surprising start to his art career.

The First Men Who Went to the Moon, written by Rhonda Gowler Greene, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Your illustrations are astounding for their perspective and sense of action that captures the thrill and wonderment of the time. Can you talk about the research you did, how you approached creating these images, and your process?

Well thank you for those generous words about my work. I’m happy people have responded to the illustrations so positively. 

When researching this book, I was lucky enough to have A is for Astronaut fresh in my mind. The Apollo 11 mission is a bit more specific than A is for Astronaut, being a specific time and year, but I’d already learned a lot about how to find good NASA references. 

I faced the same challenge as last time: since NASA’s photography is public domain and already gorgeous, what could I bring to this book that hasn’t been seen already? I couldn’t riff as much as last time, but I could at least try to capture what it might have been like to be in the Apollo 11 crew’s shoes (space boots?). Some illustrations  also were simply trying to capture the emotion that Rhonda Gowler Greene was expressing with her words. The moon is beautiful, but distant, cold and still. I wanted to show all of that if I could.

Which illustration in the book is your favorite and why?

I think the spread on pages 22-23 is my favorite, the one depicting all the footprints in the shadow of the planted flag. I like when I can get away with not quite showing the subject of a painting, but the audience knows what they’re seeing. And without getting too

artsy, I thought it was a good metaphor for the book itself. We went to the moon, left our mark, and came back. The footprints are still there on the cold surface in the shadow of our flag.

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Image copyright Scott Brundage, 2019, text copyright Rhonda Gower Greene, 2019. Courtesy of Sleeping Bear Press.

What were your favorite books as a child and whose art or illustration work did you admire growing up?

I had to ask my mom for this answer. I don’t remember having a favorite, all I could think of are cool picture books I appreciate now as an adult. Turns out, according to my mom, I much preferred to just look through our encyclopedia and then report dinosaur facts to whoever would listen. 

How did you get into illustrating children’s books and what do you enjoy most about the work?

I got into picture books relatively organically, having touched on almost every other type of illustration market first. I started out doing small illustrations for magazines and newspapers. That slowly led me to book covers and middle grade chapter books that had a lot of interior black and white illustration. Along the way, I would help a couple independent authors with their self-published picture books. After a while, I just had a stack of children’s picture book illustrations in my portfolio. So when my agent asked if I was interested in doing a picture book with a real publisher, I was more than ready to jump in. 

Picture books are great because you can really chew on a subject or set of characters way longer than you can for a book cover or spot illustration. I know way more about how space suits work, I’m familiar with a weird number of features on the International Space Station, and know exactly what color suits the Apollo 11 crew were wearing in their ticker tape parade. It’s really fun to get that deep for a book. 

Is it true you got your start professionally by designing a bicycle helmet? How did that come about? What was your design?

This is true. My first paying gig was a Bell Helmet’s kid’s helmet design. My art school instructor, the great children’s book illustrator Brian Biggs, had a contact with the designer at Bell Helmets and set up a contest among his students to submit designs for a possible helmet. They’d pick the winner and see if it could get produced. I send in two designs, one of happy robots on an alien landscape, another of cute little lizards attacking a city. Somehow both designs won the contest  The timing, however, was a little unfortunate for the lizards attacking the city since it was just after 9/11, but the robots ended up adorning the heads of dozens of kids nationwide.

I was fortunate enough to review A is for Astronaut: Blasting through the Alphabet—your picture book with author and former astronaut Clayton Anderson. I was blown away by the stunning details—including spacecraft, the NASA control room, and space itself—on every page. What kinds of choices did you make in creating the illustrations to make the information come alive for kids? 

A is for Astronaut was a blast to work on. I had a bit of freedom in interpreting each chapter, so a lot of it was figuring out I could make an image portray the idea of each letter clearly. For the more straightforward words like galaxy or blastoff, showing how it is to be a kid experiencing those awe-inspiring event/sights for the first time. And, when possible, if I could find a way to blend two words/ideas into a single spread, that was even more fun. 

Your editorial illustrations have appeared in magazines, newspapers, and other publications, and you’re now working as an animator for the Showtime series Our Cartoon President. Do you have a natural knack for humor and infusing it into your art or how did that develop? 

When I was in school, I was really into dark scary artwork and literature. Loved creepy drawings and painting, reading horror stories, listening to dark music. I tried my hand at doing some moody paintings in oil about serious subjects. But, my personality is that of a very silly man. And if you looked at my sketchbooks at the same time, it was all goofy drawings to make myself and others laugh. Eventually I realized I should just lean into what came naturally, and that was the funnier whimsical stuff. I’m definitely much more suited to making a weird face, taking a photo of myself, then applying that face to a character than I am at trying to scare someone.

What’s up next for you?

I’m just starting up a new picture book about a guy and his dog. No astronauts this time around.  

And I’m also working on the second season of Our Cartoon President. 

Thanks, Scott! It’s been so great chatting with you! I wish you all the best with The First Men Who Went to the Moon and all of your work!

You can connect with Scott Brundage on

His website | Twitter | Instagram

The First Men Who Went to the Moon Giveaway

I’m excited to be teaming with Sleeping Bear Press in a giveaway of

  • One (1) copy of The First Men Who Went to the Moon written by Rhonda Gower Greene | illustrated by Scott Brundage

To enter Follow me @CelebratePicBks on Twitter and Retweet a giveaway tweet.

This giveaway is open from March 25 through March 31 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Prizing provided by Sleeping Bear Press.

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

National Reading Month Activity

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Rocket to the Moon! Maze

 

Help the rocket find its way through space and land on the moon in this printable puzzle!

Rocket to the Moon! Puzzle | Rocket to the Moon! Solution

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You can find The First Men Who Went to the Moon at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

 

September 12 – National Day of Encouragement and Q&A with Author Kate Louise & Illustrator Grace Sandford

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About the Holiday

Instituted in 2007 by the Encouragement Foundation at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, today’s holiday entreats us to cheer on our friends, coworkers, and even those we don’t know as they attempt to reach goals or start new endeavors. A pat on the back, a simple “you can do it!,” or a reassuring “great job!” boosts people’s self-confidence and makes the world a happier place.

Tough Cookie

Written by Kate Louise | Illustrated by Grace Sandford

 

Although one gingerbread man in the bakery looks like all the others, there is one important difference. Yes, the batter had “eggs and cinnamon and flour and butter and sugar—but wait! The baker forgot to add the ginger!” Without this signature ingredient the gingerbread man just doesn’t feel like a gingerbread man at all. In fact his whole life has been turned upside down. He’s different from his friends, and what’s worse, he can’t be sold. Instead, he lives in the back of the bakery  and in his sadness makes all kinds of mischief.

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

The gingerbread man chases the cat, splatters icing on other cookies, and squirts icing on the walls. “‘I need that for my cupcakes!’” the baker yells, but the gingerbread man just laughs. He moves on to the decorative candies, stuffing them in his mouth as fast as he can even though the baker needs them for his other treats and stands by tapping his foot. Next the gingerbread man scatters sprinkles all over the counter and slips and slides along on his belly—“‘woohoo!’” But the baker is not amused. “‘I need those for the donuts!’” he shouts.

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

Finally, the baker has had enough. Not only is the gingerbread man upsetting the other gingerbread men and women, he is ruining the business. The baker orders the gingerbread man to leave the store. But this is one gingerbread man that does not want to run away. “‘I don’t want to leave!’” he cries. The baker relents. He takes the little cookie in hand and teaches him that even though he is missing an ingredient he can still be kind. The baker shows him by being nice he can become one of the group. 

Now, the little gingerbread man is happy. Instead of gobbling up all the candy, he helps create the other cookies. He no longer shoots icing on the walls or flings sprinkles around the kitchen. Rather, he helps the baker decorate the cupcakes and the donuts. He’s even learned how to sift flour and roll out dough, and he uses the cookie cutter to make new friends. And he never forgets to add the ginger!

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Image copyright Grace Sandford, text copyright Kate Louise, courtesy of Sky Pony Press

In her sweet story, Kate Louise reminds readers that true happiness comes from within and that each person can decide for themselves how to perceive the world around them. While each of us is human, we all have different ingredients that make us unique. We can use those qualities to be kind and make positive changes in the world. Kids will recognize and giggle at the mischief the little gingerbread man makes with icing and sprinkles, but will also realize that friendships are built by using that same energy to help others. Sometimes tough cookies are actually softies at heart.

Grace Sandford’s bakery gleams with the golden hues of fresh-baked bread, the festive colors of sprinkles and icing, and the sparkle of sugar. Kids will love the vibrant pictures of cupcakes; lollypops; stacks of cakes, donuts, and candy; and decorated gingerbread houses surrounded by cookie forests. Her expressive gingerbread men and women register dismay at the wayward gingerbread man’s shenanigans and joy at his kindness. And the hero of the story? When he leaves behind his impish pranks he becomes a charming baker’s companion, sifting clouds of flour, running on the rolling pin to flatten dough, and passing out sugar-shiny gumdrop buttons to his new friends.

Young children will ask for this fun and funny read over and over. Tough Cookie makes an especially delicious accompaniment to an afternoon of baking or decorating gingerbread houses!

Ages 3 – 6

Sky Pony Press, 2015 | ISBN 978-1634501972

Discover more of Kate Louise’s books for kids and young adults as well as Tough Cookie Coloring Pages on her website!

View the colorful world and signature style of Grace Sandford’s artwork on her website!

Gobble up this Tough Cookie book Trailer!

National Day of Encouragement Activity

CPB - Random Acts of Kindness cards

Kindness Cards

Encourage your friends – and even strangers with these printable Kindness Cards! You can hand them to people and tell them how much they mean to you or slip them into a lunch bag, locker, shelf, backpack or other place and let the person discover a secret day brightener!

Q&A with Author Kate Louise & Illustrator Grace Sandford

Today I am happy to include a double Q & A with both author Kate Louise and illustrator Grace Sandford in which they share their inspirations, their other work, and the joys of creating picture books as well as reveal a favorite place for tea and cake and a ghostly pastime!

Meet Kate Louise

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

I loved Funny Bones and Winnie the Witch! And I was a big fan of Roald Dahl (especially Matlida) – I still am! 

What influenced you to write Tough Cookie?

I had the idea at Christmastime. I was measuring ingredients for a batch of gingerbread cookies and wondered what a cookie character without sugar would do because they’d be unable to fulfill their cookie purpose without an important ingredient! I later changed the missing sugar to missing ginger, which is the most important ingredient of all for a gingerbread man.

You write picture books as well as young adult novels. Which came first? What is the biggest challenge in writing each? What is the biggest joy?

When I started writing, I knew I wanted to write young-adult fiction. So that came first. Writing picture books kind of felt like starting over again. It was scary, but exciting, too. And I could learn a lot from both and apply new skills to different projects.

Both have their charms and their tough moments. Writing novels can be really hard going at times when I get the feeling that I’m never going to make it to the end, or if I get myself tangled up somewhere along the way. I don’t get that feeling quite as much with picture books, though I would say they’re harder to write! To tell a story with a much, much smaller word count and to get used to letting the illustrations tell it too.

The biggest joy for me is always seeing the finished work. After putting so much into each project, getting it back as something I can hold in my hands and feel proud of is a great feeling.

Can you describe your writing space a little?

I can answer with a photo! Though, it depends when you catch me and how busy I am. Sometimes it can be piled up with books or notepads or pieces of paper and mugs of tea! My screen desktop (as you can see) can get pretty hectic sometimes too.

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Since Tough Cookie is set in a bakery, I’m wondering if you have a favorite bakery and if so what is special about it?

Oh, nice question! My fave place to visit for tea and cake is a little farm shop tea room, where the cake is made by my friend Bethany at Picture Frame Puds and is seriously delicious! It has a lovely vibe and I can take my dog!

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What are you working on next?

I’m working on The Pack, which is the sequel to my YA shape-shifter circus novel The Wanderers that came out last year.

Since this is a holiday-themed blog, I can’t let you get away without asking you a few holiday-related questions, so…

What is your favorite holiday?

It would have to be Christmas. But Halloween is a very close second.

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

I like to make a big deal about Halloween with movies, decorating, pumpkin carving, and themed baking. We’ve just started going to a pumpkin farm to pick the pumpkins ourselves too. There’s a corn maze and little wheelbarrows and the field stretches on forever. It’s a new tradition and a fun extra activity for us at Halloween.

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Meet Grace Sandford

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What inspired you to become an illustrator and a picture book illustrator specifically?

Growing up, I loved drawing and creating characters from my imagination. I believe a lot of that stemmed from picture books and animated film and television. I love Disney and Pixar and as a teenager I was fascinated with the concept art from Pixar films. I always knew that I wanted a career in art of some form but it’s hard discovering what jobs are out there when you’re at school! I did some studying in Graphic Design and eventually went to university to study Illustration, which is where I got truly passionate about picture books. I always admired the art of picture books and they have been a huge part of my life but having a reason to dissect them and create your own really made me want to be a children’s illustrator.

What were some of the books and/or artists you liked most as a child?

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle, I am a Bunny illustrated by Richard Scarry and when I was 16 I stumbled across Catherine Rayner’s debut Augustus and his Smile. I think that book was a huge influence in wanting to be a children’s book illustrator, both the writing and illustrations are perfect! 

Can you describe your process when illustrating a picture book?

It usually begins with the editor sending you the story/text. Then I start to do lots of sketches of the main character, the secondary characters and the environment around them. Pinterest is a godsend during this bit as you can flick through and look at photos of certain animals or buildings for reference to make sure you’re creating characters that will look believable (even if it is a walking, talking gingerbread man!) 

Then I create roughs for each spread showing how the pages will look and which parts I have chosen to illustrate. This gives the editor a rough idea of how the final artwork is going to look and this is where most of the edits happen until it’s approved. Once all edits are approved I can create the final artwork which is my favourite part seeing all the hard work come together! 

Can you describe your work space a little?

I now have a studio where I live, but when I worked on Tough Cookie I lived in a one bed apartment with my boyfriend straight after university and I had to work on the kitchen table! I’m so glad I have my own room to work in now (and I’m sure my boyfriend is too!)

My work space now involves a desk, my iMac, an A3 scanner, a windowsill with lots of pens and paints (and most importantly plants!) and I have a space that alternates between a lightbox and a graphics tablet. I also have a bad habit of putting all projects I’m working on into separate piles around the room until they are done! 

You say in your bio that you like ghost hunting. How did you get involved in that? What is your favorite place to hunt ghosts?

Haha, this is the best question! I love Ghost Hunting although it’s been a while since I’ve been on a walk. It started off when I was a teenager living in a small village in England, being bored with friends and wandering around abandoned churches at night, hunting for things that go bump in the night, and it grew over time into a huge interest. When I went to University in Lincoln, a historical city, I got very interested in the social history of the place. Ghost stories are ultimately another fantastic way of storytelling. There are some very scary but interesting stories about Lincolnshire if you’re ever interested! Fun fact, Tom Hank’s bodyguard tripped over a phantom ghost head rolling down Steep Hill in Lincoln during a Professional Ghost Tour!

What are you working on next?

This year I’ve been working on a four book series based on Minecraft which has been a complete joy to be a part of! It’s been hard work as I knew very little about the franchise before this and knowing how loyal the fans are, I’ve wanted to draw everything right whilst staying faithful to my style! I just finished some more colouring books for a Spanish publisher and I have also been writing a picture book that I have a good feeling about (fingers crossed!)

What is your favorite holiday?

I personally love Christmas just because I get to spend time with my family and chill out but I love Mexico’s Day of the Dead holiday too. It is such a vibrant and beautiful celebration of something that we all sadly experience in life. 

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

Every Christmas it’s become a tradition to be at home with my family playing Jigsaws, watching films and eating a little bit too much! 

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Thanks, Kate and Grace, for sharing about your work and your favorite places and pursuits! I wish you all the best with Tough Cookie and your other projects!

Tough Cookie can be found at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound | Sky Pony Press