December 21 – It’s the Winter Solstice

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About the Holiday

At exactly 5:02 a.m. today winter arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. This also means that today offers those living there the least amount of sunshine—only 9 hours, 15 minutes, and 6 seconds. While the earth’s tilt in relation to the sun at this time of year brings cold and snowy weather to the World’s northern half, the Southern Hemisphere is basking in longer days and warm temperatures. This year also brings a spectacular celestial event – the “great conjunction” of Jupiter and Saturn. Not since March 4, 1226 will Jupiter and Saturn have appeared so close in the nighttime sky. Tonight, the two planets will appear to be separated by only the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length, creating a bright show for stargazers. For those of us just beginning to enjoy another winter’s chill, the onset of snow brings special beauty, outdoor adventure, and the fun explored in today’s book!

Thanks go to Two Lions and Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy of The Snow Dancer for review consideration. All opinions on the book are my own. I’m happy to be teaming with them in a giveaway of the book. See details below.

The Snow Dancer

Written by Addie Boswell | Illustrated by Mercè López

 

All night long while Sophia slept the snow drifted down, “frosting the rooftops, fluffing the sidewalks, laying fuzzy hats on the fire hydrants.” Sophia woke to that most wonderful of things—a snow day. She put on her coat, boots, and gloves and opened the door. The world was silent.

Sophia stepped out her door and slipped down the “hidden steps” with some graceful moves. “She hopscotched down the invisible sidewalk” and “skated across the frozen street” all the way to the park and the gleaming white, untouched soccer field. Sophia leaped in. “She twirled, made tracks and patterns and created a snow ballet across the silent white stage.

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Image copyright Mercè López, 2020, text copyright Addie Boswell, 2020 Courtesy of Two Lions.

But then the neighborhood children descended in a wild running, tumbling, shouting mass. One little girl with delicate wings attached to her coat thought Sophia was a snow fairy. Amid all of the kids, the little girl found Sophia and asked if she was indeed a snow fairy. “‘I’m not a fairy,’” Sophia told her. “‘I’m just a dancer.’” The little girl was intrigued and Sophia showed her what a Snow Dancer could do.

Sophia took her by the hand and they swirled and slid and leaped over, around, and in between the other kids until… Sophia was hit by a snowball. Everything stopped. Sophia and her new friend shared a “secret Snow Dancer smile” then it was on—a huge, crazy snowball fight. At last, exhausted, the children flopped into the snow and listened as the snow plows got working, traffic resumed, and their parents came looking for them to come home. After saying goodbye to her friend, Sophia headed home, retracing her ballet. At home, Sophia sipped a steaming mug of cocoa. It was a perfect snow day.

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Image copyright Mercè López, 2020, text copyright Addie Boswell, 2020 Courtesy of Two Lions.

Lyrical and infused with evocative verbs and fun-to-read-aloud slish slussss, crinch crunch, sploosh whoomph onomatopoeia, Addie Boswell’s story of a surprise snow day will delight children with its joyful spontaneity—both Sophia’s impromptu ballet enacted from her doorstep to the park and across the pristine soccer field and the other children’s freewheeling play that leads to a spirited snowball fight. Add in the littlest girl’s fanciful belief in fairies, and the story becomes an imaginative ode to unexpected friendships, sharing, and companionship as well.

Mercè López’s gorgeous illustrations capture the grace and freedom of Sophia’s ballet steps set against the pure white snow with the hazy, blue-shrouded city as her backdrop. Sleekly elegant as she stretches tall or twirls on tiptoe with her arms and hands reaching outward or towards the sky, Sophia makes a bright and willowy contrast to the other kids who stampede down the hill, bundled into puffy coats (one of which makes its wearer look like a cactus). When their wide grins and sly looks turn wary after Sophia is hit by the snowball, López’s page offers a momentary suspenseful break in the action before the snowball fight—in all it’s glorious mayhem—breaks out. In her final image of Sophia tucked into an oversized chair with a large mug of cocoa, López creates that homey, cozy feeling we all look forward to after a day in the snow.

Exhilarating, original storytelling and spectacular imagery make The Snow Dancer a book kids and adults will love sharing on snow days and whenever the wish for a snow day strikes. The book is highly recommended for home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 3 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542093170

Discover more about Addie Boswell and her books on her website.

To learn more about Mercè López, her books, and her art, visit her website.

The Snow Dancer Giveaway

I’m happy to be teaming with Two Lions and Blue Slip Media in a giveaway of:

  • One (1) copy of The Snow Dancer written by Addie Boswell | illustrated by Mercè López

To enter:

This giveaway is open from December 21 to December 27 and ends at 8:00 p.m. EST.

A winner will be chosen on December 28. 

Prizing provided by Two Lions and Blue Slip Media

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

Winter Solstice Activity

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Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze

 

You can’t play in the snow without wearing something to keep your ears warm! While you’re dreaming of a snow day, enjoy this this printable earmuffs-shaped maze!

 Here’s to Warm Ears! Maze | Here’s to Warm Ears! Solution 

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You can find The Snow Dancer at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 9 – Super Rooster Saves the Day Book Tour Stop

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About the Holiday

I’m always excited to join in on the book tour for a just-released picture book. There’s nothing like the sparkle in a child’s eyes when they discover a new favorite at the bookstore or library. Today, I’m happy to be featuring a book that will definitely bring on the giggles and have kids kicking up their heels!

Thanks to Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for sending me Super Rooster Saves the Day for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Super Rooster Saves the Day

Written by Maureen Wright | Illustrated by Rob McClurkan

 

Superheroes were Ralph the rooster’s…well…heroes, and he wanted to be just like them. He already had many of the prerequisites. He could make the sun rise (on nice days), he had a cape (one he shared with the farmer), he could fly (sort of), and “he could make himself invisible…if he pretended he was a weather vane.” But the other animals on the farm were skeptical. All except his best friend Rosie the pig.

There was one major problem. Life on the farm was pretty boring, and no superhero was ever needed. That is until one day when Ralph heard the chicken dance blasting from the radio. He immediately got to his feet with a “cheep-cheep-cheep! / flap-flap-flap! / wiggle-wiggle-wiggle, / and a clap-clap-clap!” Suddenly, he was surging with super powers that helped him leap off the barn roof and “‘fly faster than a speeding pullet.’”

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Image copyright Rob McClurkan, 2020, text copyright Maureen Wright, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

He and Rosie were ready to be heroes. It didn’t take long for them to find a tree ablaze in yellow and orange. Ralph summoned his powers with a “cheep-cheep-cheep! / flap-flap-flap! / wiggle-wiggle-wiggle, / and a clap-clap-clap!” grabbed buckets of water and…helped that autumn tree grow? Next, they saw some confused geese flying south when they should have been flying north. It was going to be winter, after all. He leaped into the air and turned them around. It was only when he came back to earth that Ralph learned his mistake.

In search of another task, Ralph noticed large green balls falling from a tree. Once again he cheeped, flapped, wiggled, and clapped, and with a baseball bat sent those balls flying. But what would the squirrels do now that Ralph had sent their winter food far away? the animals asked. Ralph thought it was good that he’d “‘shared those walnuts with the hungry squirrels who live far away from here.’” All this saving-the-day stuff had left Ralph and Rosie hungry. They rushed over to the corn field only to find a flock of crows nibbling to their hearts’ content.

Ralph did his dance and “zoomed around the cornfield, but there were just too many crows to chase away.” The other animals realized that Ralph needed help. At Rosie’s urging, they all did the chicken dance. The crows were so “shocked to see the dancing animals” that Ralph had no trouble scaring them away. That night the animals celebrated Ralph’s awesome powers with a dance party in the barn while Ralph thanked his friends for their help—especially his sidekick, Rosie.

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Image copyright Rob McClurkan, 2020, text copyright Maureen Wright, 2020. Courtesy of Two Lions.

Maureen Wright’s super silly story is just the antidote for these indoor days. Full of puns and plays on superhero tropes, the story’s highlighted chicken dance—prefaced with a trippingly fun-to-say phrase—will have kids on their feet, cheeping, flapping, wiggling, and clapping during each rollicking read aloud. Ralph’s well-meaning rescues will have kids giggling as they, like Ralph’s farm-animal friends, will be in on the joke of each mistake from the beginning. The triumphant ending shows what true friendship is all about—and will spark a dance party with the whole family.

As Ralph the rooster finds his superpower muse in the chicken dance, kids will laugh out loud at Rob McClurkan’s depictions of Ralph wiggling his tail feathers in time with the music and instantly being zapped with “POW! WOW!” powers. As Ralph blithely goes about “saving the day,” the facial expressions and reactions of the other animals heightens the humor. Bold comic book-style panels accentuate each step of the chicken dance whenever Ralph calls upon his superpower, giving kids a bit more encouragement to join in.

A super fun book to share for boisterous, let-loose story times at home or during virtual or in-person read alouds, Super Rooster Saves the Day is a lighthearted story with lots of heart that would be a often-asked-for addition to home, school, and public library collections.

Ages 4 – 8

Two Lions, 2020 | ISBN 978-1542007788

Maureen Wright is the author of a number of popular picture books, including Sleep, Big Bear, Sleep!, Sneeze, Big Bear, Sneeze!, and Share, Big Bear, Share!, all illustrated by Will Hillenbrand; the Amazon bestseller Sneezy the Snowman, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin; and Anna and the Tooth Fairy, illustrated by Anna Chernyshova. She lives with her husband, Don, in Athens, Pennsylvania. Learn more about Maureen Wright on her website. 

Rob McClurkan is the author and illustrator of Aw, Nuts! and Playdates Rule! and has also illustrated a number of books, including Tough Tug by Margaret Read MacDonald and Sloth to the Rescue by Leanne Shirtliffe. He grew up in Tennessee, where his grandparents’ farm, Saturday morning cartoons, and the Sunday funnies fueled his imagination. Now he lives with family near Atlanta, Georgia.

You can connect with Rob on

His Website| Instagram | Twitter 

Super Rooster Saves the Day Book Tour Activity

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A Super Chicken

 

A long-handled wooden turner makes a super decoration for your room or kitchen—and a great partner for all of your chicken-dance fun!

Supplies

  • Printable Comb and Scarf Template
  • Long-handled wooded turner, available in kitchen supply stores
  • Red felt
  • Yellow bake-able clay
  • Fabric, 12 inches square
  • A small piece of white felt or fleece (optional)
  • White paint (or any color you would like)
  • Black marker
  • Fabric glue
  • Glue gun
  • Paint brush

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Directions

  1. Paint the wooden turner, let dry
  2. Cut the scarf from the piece of fabric
  3. Make a beak from the yellow clay and bake it according to package directions

To make the comb

  1. Cut out the comb from the red felt
  2. Fold the felt in half and glue the end together with the fabric glue
  3. Cut short strips from the folded top of the felt, about ½-inch to ¾ -inch in length
  4. Round the corners of the strips slightly

To make the scarf

  1. Fold the fabric in half
  2. With the long, straight edge of the scarf template along the fold, cut out the scarf
  3. With the fabric glue, glue the two sides of the scarf together so that you have two “right” sides
  4. Let dry

To assemble the chicken

  1. Pinch the bottom of the comb together so that the strips open and the felt pleats a little
  2. With the glue gun attach the comb to the back of the painted turner, keeping the bottom pinched together
  3. Attach the beak to the front of the turner
  4. Draw eyes on the chicken with the black marker
  5. Tie the scarf around the neck of the handle, hold in place with a drop of glue in the back if necessary
  6. To make tail feathers in a turner with a hole in the handle, pinch together a small folded piece of white felt or fleece and push it through the hole in the handle of the turner.
  7. Cut or arrange to look like feathers

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You can find Super Rooster Saves the Day at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million

To support your local independent bookstore, order from

Bookshop | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

April 23 – It’s National Dance Week and Interview with Author/Illustrator Anne Lambelet

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About the Holiday

The National Dance Federation wants everyone to fall in love with dance, and National Dance Week is just the time to do it! With so many types of dance, there are ways to enjoy this activity throughout one’s life. This week has been established to introduce the fun and benefits of dance in schools, community centers, dance studios, and through special performances. If you—or your kids—feel your toes tapping or a desire to get up and move as soon as the music starts, why not check out the opportunities for learning your favorite dance styles in your community?

Maria the Matador

By Anne Lambelet

 

Even more than “tea parties and dancing and wearing her hair in pigtails…Maria loved churros.” So when she saw that a lifetime supply of churros went to the matador who could remain in the arena with the bull the longest, she knew she had to enter the contest. But as “one of the smallest girls in all of Spain,” could Maria pull it off? She knew she couldn’t outrun the bull, intimidate him, or overpower him. So, what could she do?

Maria wandered through the streets of town, gazing at the posters on the walls advertising the brave matadors who would challenge the bull as well as the Feria de Mayo, with its beautiful dance performances, looking for inspiration. When the big day came and Maria walked into the room where the other matadors had gathered, they burst out laughing. “‘You should just give up now,’ they all agreed. ‘There is no way such a little girl could ever fight such an enormous bull.’”

Maria kept her mind on the grand prize even though she was growing worried. Soon the bullfight began. The fastest matador was quickly run out of the arena, the strongest matador was soon lying on the ground, and the biggest matador was nothing but a plaything for the big bull. At last it was Maria’s turn.

She entered the ring and saw “the most ferocious-looking bull she had ever seen, but she marched up to him anyway…and asked the bull to dance.” The bull was charmed by the little girl’s kind request and offered his hoof to her outstretched hand. The bull, it turned out, was a very good dancer. Around and around the ring they danced, and when the men carrying trays of churros entered the arena, “the crowd burst into thunderous applause.” And Maria and the bull? They enjoyed a churros tea party!

Anne Lambelet’s highly original story shows young readers that with motivation, confidence, and creative thinking they can accomplish their heart’s desires. With a pragmatic take on her situation, Maria realizes she’s not fast enough, strong enough, or big enough to best the bull the usual way, and lacking anyone to ask for advice, she comes up with her own solution. Lambelet’s storytelling is rich with examples of Maria’s courage in the face of adversity and her own misgivings, allowing kids to see that bravery comes in many forms. And Lambelet’s clever solution to Maria’s dilemma demonstrates that kindness wins out. The humorous frame of Maria’s churros obsession will resonate with kids, who all seem to have their own favorite motivators to rely on.

Lambelet’s stylized illustrations combine the texture of wood etchings with the colors and feeling of a small Spanish village. The brown, maroon, and purple palette sprinkled with bits of blue is striking and lends depth, light, and shadow to the tale. Kids will love the expressive crowd as they “ooh,” “ahh,” and gasp at the formidable bull. (One mother even shields her son’s eyes with her hand.) When tiny Maria marches out into the ring the crowd’s disbelief brings pointing and shocked faces, but cheers and celebration erupt as Maria and the bull take their bows.

Maria the Matador is a story that kids will embrace as it sparks ideas for creative problem solving with more than a dash of kindness thrown in. The book will be asked for again and again and would be a welcome addition to home, classroom, and public library bookshelves.

Ages 4 – 8

Page Street Kids, 2019 | ISBN 978-1624146565

To learn more about Anne Lambelet, her books, and her art, visit her website.

Meet Anne Lambelet

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I’m excited to be chatting with Anne Lambelet about art, influences, inspiration and what she might do to get her favorite treat!

What was the inspiration behind Maria the Matador?

Maria the Matador, as crazy as it might sound, actually started out as a dream I had about having to fight a bull! I woke up and instantly felt like that was the sort of silly idea that could, just possibly, be perfect for a children’s book. From there though, it had to go through a lot of development. I had to return to my roots and really examine my original picture book influences…The Story of Ferdinand, World-famous Muriel, Madeline, etc. Using those as inspiration, I figured out what it was that had made me love them as a child (silliness, whimsy, problem-solving, getting paid in food), and tried to combine that with what made them stick with me now that I’m an adult…(peaceful, fun solutions in situations where it seems like violence is the only answer, indictments of toxic masculinity, female empowerment, culturally immersive settings). Maria was a long road of editing and re-writing to try and get my favorite elements to co-exist in the same story.

You’ve enjoyed success as an illustrator since your college days. Can you talk a little about how you developed your style and how it’s changed over the years?

In high school I’d say my artistic style leaned more towards photo-realism. Like most high school students, I accepted a sort of un-original, generic idea of what it means to make a “good drawing,” and, although I wasn’t terrible at hitting that mark, I wasn’t making anything very special either. Without a real sense of artistic individuality and purpose, I shied away from going to college for art and instead chose to major in computer science after graduating. I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, miserable during most of those four years, and I ended up pouring all my free time into discovering new artistic outlets to assuage that misery. What I discovered (online t-shirt design competitions, lowbrow pop surrealism, street art, artists like Gris Grimly, Brandi Milne, Lori Early, Mark Ryden, etc.) gave me a new, darkly humorous and whimsical artistic voice as well as newfound confidence in my skills. 

So, I put together a portfolio of monsters and creepy, big-eyed women and returned to college to give illustration an honest shot. The classes I took at the University of the Arts exposed me to so many new influences. Each one opened my mind to new, fascinating approaches to illustration, and my style fluctuated dramatically in relation to whatever artist was my latest craze. As a result, most of my sophomore/junior work just looks like one bad rip-off after another. The more influences I accumulated though, the more I began to figure out what about each “rip-off” had worked with my own identity and what didn’t. I started cherry-picking little bits of each style I’d loved and mushing them together into an amalgam of aesthetics and techniques that could begin to be called a “unique style.” Instead of stealing everything from one artist I liked, I stole one thing from every artist I liked, and, by the end of my senior year, that resulted in basically what you see now!  Style takes a lot of failing and soul-searching and figuring yourself out. I feel like I’m still evolving and changing to this day, but the increments of change get smaller and smaller every time. 

What were your favorite books growing up? Who were your artistic influences when you were a child and now?

Oh wow, picking favorite books is so hard. There are so many to love, and it’s a struggle to narrow them down! I’ll try though! For picture books some favorites were World Famous Muriel by Sue Alexander, The Jolly Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, Santa Calls by William Joyce, and The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base.  I also adored almost all Dr. Seuss books, but especially McElligot’s Pool and Happy Birthday to You. I liked picture books that were whimsical and imaginative while being infused with a sense of humor as well as emotional poignancy. Interactive elements like the letters in The Jolly Postman or the hidden picture puzzles in The Eleventh Hour were always great too.  

Then, as I grew out of picture books, I began a love affair with middle grade fantasy that has persisted to this day. Favorites then became Harry Potter, Brian Jacque’s Redwall series, Dinotopia by James Gurney, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and The Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce.  Also, although it’s not fantasy per se, I think Holes by Louis Sachar is one of the greatest kid’s books of all time. 

Because of my love for fantasy, I spent most of my childhood drawing dragons and fairies and other mythical creatures. As such, major artistic influences back then were Brian Froud, John Howe, Jan Brett and James C. Christensen. I also loved looking at my older brother’s Magic: The Gathering cards and watching Jim Henson movies like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, I lost sight of that important self-defining nerdy-ness in my high school art. I guess I was trying to be “too cool” or something, haha.  I re-discovered them again later, though, and incorporated them into new influences I’d found that also dealt with whimsy and nostalgia. My current greatest influences are Eyvind Earl, Carson Ellis, Julia Sarda, Rankin/Bass’s The Last Unicorn and Cartoon Saloon’s Song of the Sea

In Maria the Matador, Maria will do anything—even get in the ring with a bull—for lifetime supply of churros. What’s your favorite treat and what would you do for an endless supply?

I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I think my greatest food weakness is doughnuts. If a doughnut enters my field of vision, I just can’t not be immediately hungry for doughnuts. I don’t know what I would do for them. Right now, I feel like the struggle is to stop myself from eating them, not to get more. I do really dislike public speaking and cleaning the toilet, but I think I’d probably clean the toilet while reciting the Gettysburg Address in front of a very large audience if I was promised a bunch of doughnuts afterwards! 

When did you become interested in writing and illustrating picture books? Can you describe your journey to publication?

Since before I can remember, I’ve always been making up stories and characters and illustrating them, but, like I said, I didn’t always believe in my ability to leverage those skills into a viable career. I think what really changed my mind was being introduced to online t-shirt design competitions where I got hooked on having to design around certain prompts and parameters, meet deadlines, and then sometimes (miraculously) even get paid for my work! I realized the potential to build a career on doing that professionally and that’s when I officially decided to go back to school for illustration.  

Then, throughout all that soul-searching for style I previously mentioned, I discovered that a key, defining aspect of my art is nostalgia. I realized that, all along, every drawing had been an attempt to re-open the floodgates of imagination that had flown so freely in my childhood games of pretend. At some point in my time at the University of the Arts, I figured that if childhood was where my heart was, then the people that I should make illustrations for were children!

After that I joined SCBWI which provided me with a ton of essential resources for embarking on the journey to publication. I got an agent through a local SCBWI pitch day and we workshopped Maria a little bit but ultimately made the mutual decision to go our separate ways. I regrouped after that setback, used the SCBWI handbook to create a small list of dream agents, and sent my portfolio out to all of them. A little while later, I got an email from Stephanie Fretwell-Hill at Red Fox Literary and immediately felt like she was a great fit. Stephanie helped me re-visit Maria and while we were polishing that up together, I attended the SCBWI winter conference in New York where I went to a breakout session hosted by Kristen Nobles of Page Street Kids.  She said she was on the hunt for new manuscripts so almost as soon as I got back, Stephanie and I made sure to get Maria in front of her. Luckily, she liked it, and within a few months, we’d signed a contract for my very first author-illustrated picture book!

You have another book coming soon from Page Street called Dogs and Their People. Can you give readers a sneak peek? In your bio you mention that you have a dog Eevee (that’s such a cute name!). What kind of dog is she, and is she like you or anyone in your family? If so, how?

Dogs and Their People is basically an anthology of different types of people-dog relationships tied together by who the narrator sees on her walk home from school. There are small people with tall dogs, people and dogs who share ice cream, and even pairs with matching mustachios. Some people are just like their dogs and some are very different, but no matter what, each person and each dog is clearly with their very best friend.  When the girl finally makes it home, the best friend that she has waiting for her provides a surprising comedic twist to the story’s end.

My dog, Eevee is a chowbrador (a mix between a labrador and a chow-chow). I definitely think she and I have a lot in common. She’s a little aloof for a dog, and it takes her a little while to warm up to new places and new people. However, once you’re “in” her enthusiasm to hang out with you will verge on embarrassing. She’s completely comfortable spending time alone, but she’s still very excited when she gets to have all her favorite people in one place. And lastly, like me (and Maria for that matter), she is highly food motivated and loves her snacks!

What advice would you give a young person who would like to pursue art as a career?

Never be ashamed of what you love even if—actually especially if—it’s something that you feel like no one else loves. Your personal combination of unique interests is going to be what makes your artistic style something the world has never seen before. Also, understanding why you love that thing that no one else loves will be a big clue to figuring out your ultimate purpose as an illustrator and/or author and the types of messages you want to convey. 

What’s up next for you?

After Dogs and their People, I illustrated another picture book called The Traveler’s Gift by Danielle Davison. That’s set to hit shelves in October of this year. I’ve also just begun work on two new picture books, How to Build an Insect by Roberta Gibson for Millbrook Press and The Poisoned Apple, my third author/illustrated book with Page Street Kids. Both of those are set to come out fall of 2020. I’m super excited about both of them!

What’s your favorite holiday

Oh boy…another hard choice to make.  It might be cliché, but I’ve always loved Christmas. I love the decorations and the lights and the food, and I love spending time with my family and re-visiting all the good memories and traditions we’ve built since I was small. I also consider myself a champion gift-giver and getting to see other people open gifts from me is way more fun (in my opinion), than getting to open my own.

A close second, though, would be Halloween. Once I’ve thought of a costume idea I really like, I feel giddy anticipation about it for weeks to months in advance. 

Do you have any anecdote from a holiday that you’d like to share? (Alternately, has a holiday ever influenced your work?)

I remember one Christmas Eve when I was very little, my mom was reading me a bedtime story. Meanwhile, my dad went outside, stood under my bedroom window and shook a set of sleigh bells. My mom convinced me that it was the sound of Santa’s sleigh flying by overhead.  It was probably one of the most magical moments of my life, and I love that my parents were so enthusiastic about making the magic of Christmas seem real for me. One of my favorite things about both Christmas and Halloween is that, as a kid, they made me feel like there was actually magic tucked away in the unseen corners of the world…whether that be toy-making elves at the North Pole or a ghost in an old, abandoned house or just the promise that if you put on a mask, you can become whoever you want. I think the best children’s books bring that same promise of magic to the world, and that will always be something that motivates what I create.

Thanks, Anne for this amazing talk and the reminder that people should always embrace their uniqueness and be true to themselves. I wish you all the best with Maria the Matador and all of your upcoming projects!

National Dance Week Activity

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Get up and Dance! Word Search Puzzle

 

There are so many different kinds of dances to learn and enjoy! Can you find the sixteen styles in this printable puzzle?

Get up and Dance! Word Search Puzzle | Get up and Dance! Word Search Solution

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You can find Maria the Matador at these booksellers

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

Picture Book Review

April 29 – International Dance Day

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About the Holiday

International Dance Day was founded in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theater Institute. This date was chosen to commemorate the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre, who was born in 1727 and is credited with creating modern ballet. Today’s holiday encourages people to celebrate dance and “revel in the universality of this art form.” There are so many styles of dance to watch and participate in. Today, enjoy a performance or find a venue where you can kick up your heals in your favorite kind of dance!

Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing

Written by Marilyn Singer | Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

 

The rhythms of dance and the cadence of poetry create a natural pairing as these seventeen poems that celebrate the moves, music, and thrill of dances from around the world demonstrate with toe-tapping joy.

In Cha-Cha a boy attending his Uncle Nate’s birthday party learns the cha-cha from his grandma. At first he says “I don’t / know these moves. / My fee / feel like hooves.” But then “something clicks! / Okay, it’s old school. / I say, / cha-cha’s cool!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

While the kids at school brag about their parents’ jobs, one boy has them beat in Hip-Hop: “No fumbling, no bumbling, / my pops is tops at tumbling. / He’s elastic, so fantastic. / Papa’s so gymnastic!” But while Dad “will swipe and windmill” and “slide on his knees, / do lots of flares and coin-drops” and “boomerang and freeze,” the boy adds “…wait / until you see my mom!”

Is it meringue or Merengue? Maybe a bit of both…because doing it right means “Moving sideways, / turning wrists, / while we do / our pretzel twists. / We sway our hips, we shift our legs, like we’re whipping / lots of eggs.”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, text courtesy of Marilyn Singer. Courtesy of kristivaliant.com

It’s fun to let go when learning the Salsa. All you need is to “Feel the beat / in your feet, / in your heart. / Then you start.” So “Don’t be shy. / Come on try. / In this class, / show some sass.” If only shopping could be so entertaining…. But, wait! Maybe Conga is the solution. “We’re at the MALL. / I’m very BORED. / I hate the STORES, / I hate the HORDE…. / ‘Just one more SHOP’ / turns into FOUR. / I’m gonna SCREAM, / I’m gonna ROAR.” Then music starts and a line grows long—“Uh uh uh, KICK! / You cannot WHINE / when you are ON / a conga LINE! / Uh uh uh, KICK! / A flash mob BALL! / Keep shopping, MOM! / I love the MALL!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

The library may be a quiet, staid place most of the time, but Swing Dance takes over one special library. “On the plaza in July, / underneath the summer sky / where you can get to hear good bands, / kick your feet, wave your hands, / we’re gonna swing. / That’s our new thing / We’re gonna swing!” A boy and his mom have joined lots of other dancers having fun on the square— “We step…step… / rock step. / we’re full… / of pep. / We Lindy hop. / Bibbidy-bop! / We Lindy hop!”

And for those kids who look at the Square Dance unit in PE with trepidation, this girl feels the same: “Got a partner, lost my shoe. / Allemande left? I haven’t a clue….Did that caller give a cue? / Don’t promenade me. Shoo, boy, shoo!…Bow to Francisco, bow to Sue. / One more swing. It’s over! Whew! / I tried real hard, but alas, it’s true. / I’m flunking out of square dance!”

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Image copyright Kristi Valiant, 2017, courtesy of kristivaliant.com

Other poems introduce the Foxtrot, Hora, Samba, Two-Step, Argentine Tango, Waltz, Bhangra, and Polka. Notes about each dance, giving a description, a bit of history, and basic rhythms and steps, follow the text. A CD of dance music is also included.

Marilyn Singer begins her exuberant celebration of dances from around the world with a pair of the reverso poems for which she is well known: All Over the World, Dancing is Joy and Joy is Dancing All Over the World. With this start, Singer invites readers to put on their dancing shoes and enter ballrooms, classrooms, and outdoor spaces filled with music. From birthdays to bar mitzvahs to weddings to spontaneous parties, Singer imbues each experience with the beats, steps, and sometimes missteps of dance with expressive vocabulary and humorous asides. Reading the poems aloud offers its own special treat as the meter of each poem reflects the rhythm of the dance described.

Kristi Valiant’s vibrant two-page spreads put kids in the center of the action where individuals, couples, and groups enjoy groovin’ to the music in their own style. Dancers swirl, stomp, hop, twirl, sway, dip, and kick up their heels on sunny days and under glowing nighttime light. So join in—no experience or partner necessary!

For kids who love music and dance and for those who love poetry of all kinds, Feel the Beat; Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing is a fun addition to home libraries—and may spark an interest in learning how to perform these dances.

Ages 5 – 9

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017 | ISBN 978-0803740211

Discover more about Marilyn Singer and her books on her website!

View a portfolio of artwork by Kristi Valiant on her website!

International Dance Day Activity

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Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle

 

People all around the world love to dance! Can you find the names of twenty types of dances in this printable Toe-Tapping Word Search Puzzle? Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review