Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Get It While You Can (Or Not)

What's a father to do when he wishes his lawn would look like a fairway at Pebble Beach in California?  He arms his two daughters with special diggers and their sand buckets for the beach.  Their task is to uproot fifty dandelions each before they can stop.  This goes on during spring and summer, day after day, year after year until they are saved by attending college.

Now you would think after spending your childhood and teen years battling the infamous yellow weeds, as an adult other measures for eliminating the menace would be taken. Nope.  To preserve the quality of water and protect her furry friend, this sister can be seen during spring and summer with digger and bucket in hand.  (Some lessons last a lifetime.)  For this reason, Dandy (Little, Brown And Company, April 1, 2019) written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Charles Santoso is a witty and gleeful take on the timeless battle with dandelions and of the enduring love of a father for his daughter.

Daddy spied something scary
on his perfect lawn.

He ran for his clippers.

Daddy was not fast enough.  Sweetie, his precious daughter, was already watering the dandelion.  She named it Charlotte.  Charlotte was her new best friend.  Daddy was worried, very worried, his neighborhood friends would notice the intruder growing in his otherwise flawless lawn.  They noticed.  He had to get rid of it.

As sneaky as a father can be, Daddy tried to slip away undetected during Sweetie's special times like book time and nap time.  Guess who was reading aloud to her best friend?  Guess who set up a tent in the yard next to her best friend?  The neighbors demanded action.  Daddy did his best, but his precious daughter was always there.

Soon Daddy had the ideal opportunity.  Sweetie was leaving for swimming lessons.  Goodbye Charlotte! The neighbors cheered as Daddy raced to eliminate that pesky pest.  WAIT!

Next to the dandelion was something that could not be ignored.  In the next moment an unplanned incident caused panic throughout the neighborhood.  The eternal conflict between consequences and choices must be resolved.  Take a deep breath.

Author Ame Dyckman is an absolute master of comic timing.  In her first sentence she sets us up for the charming and hilarious contrast between Daddy and Sweetie with three words:  scary, perfect and clippers.  He sees a weed.  She sees a flower.  When she names it and says it's her best friend, I dare you not to burst out laughing. 

With the continued conversations between Daddy and Sweetie and the comments of the neighborhood dads, the laughter factor continues to climb.  By repeating the utterly endearing greeting of

"Hi, Daddy!"

Ame Dyckman supplies readers with a wonderful cadence and heightens the difference between the perspective of a parent and their child.  Here is a passage.

He tried during snack time.
But Sweetie was there.
"Hi, Daddy!
We saved you a spot!"

Once again, Daddy hoped his friends wouldn't notice.

[I'm working with an F & G and can't wait to hold a finished copy in my hands.]

On the front of the dust jacket the pristine white background is a superb canvas for the portion of lawn shown, Daddy, Sweetie and the dandelion.  You immediately know there will be laughter because of the different looks on their faces; delight versus disgust.  Using grass and dandelions to form the title text is design genius.  There is a hint at the resolution.  Do you notice the clippers separating the author and illustrator names?

To the left, on the back, Daddy is zooming toward what he hopes is victory in conquering the dastardly dandelion when Sweetie is at her swimming lesson.  I won't say what tactic he's selecting, but it does take lawn tractors to a whole new level.  (Okay, I can't stop laughing . . . again.)

On the opening and closing endpapers illustrator Charles Santoso features a quiet, two-lane street curving through a neighborhood of neat-as-a-pin lawns and landscaping. Animal dads are hard at work maintaining the perfection.  There are distinct differences on the closing endpapers disclosing the conclusion. 

Rendered digitally with handmade pencil textures on top these illustrations elevate the comedy sky-high.  One of the first things readers notice are the facial expression on Daddy, Sweetie and the neighbors.  The eyes are brimming with emotion.  The body postures and movements are loaded with animation. 

Depending on the narrative Charles Santoso alters his images from double-page pictures to single-page visuals.  To show a series of actions in a short amount of time, he groups several smaller illustrations on a single page.  This builds tension and leads to the inevitable response from Sweetie.  For maximum impact the background and perspective changes. 

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Daddy is trying to destroy Charlotte during Sweetie's snack time.  After crawling away as she scoops out some chocolate chip cookies, he races into the yard with a goat gobbling up grass.  When he arrives at Charlotte, Sweetie is there.  For this scene Charles switches to a purple background with lines of frustration in yellow zigzagging out from the center.  Daddy is gritting his teeth with his hand to his head.  In his other hand he holds the rope attached to the goat.  The goat is seated next to Sweetie holding a tea cup as Sweetie pours.  Another tea cup for Daddy is placed next to a plate with the cookies on it.  One of Charlotte's leaves is through the handle of another cup.

It is guaranteed readers will ask to read or listen to Dandy written by Ame Dyckman with illustrations by Charles Santoso over and over and over again.  And no matter how many times it is read, they (everyone) will laugh; the combination of text and art connects with readers as it addresses the age-old discrepancies between parents' and children's points of view.  It also reminds us love wins . . . always.  You will want to read the author's note.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional book collections.

To learn more about Ame Dyckman and Charles Santoso and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Ame Dyckman has an account on Twitter.  Charles Santoso has an account with Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.  Ame is interviewed at Writers' Rumpus.  Charles is interviewed at Kathleen Temean Writing and Illustrating.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Fly Me To The . . . The First Men Who Went To The Moon Blog Tour

There will come a day when no one alive will remember a time when humans have not walked on the moon.  Now there are two groups; those who watched the news excitedly during July 1969 as the Apollo 11 spaceflight flew to the moon and back and those who were too young to remember or were not born yet.  With the moon being 238, 900 miles away from our planet, this was an enormous feat fifty years ago.

It's still hard to comprehend humans walked on that glowing globe we watch shift and change in size and shape over the course of 29.5 days each cycle. With the anniversary approaching this summer, The First Men Who Went To The Moon (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2019) written by Rhonda Gowler Greene with illustrations by Scott Brundage is a commemoration of the space program's commitment and accomplishments and human perseverance.  Using verse, facts and stunning watercolor paintings, these collaborators recreate all the wonder of this monumental event.

These are the first men who went to the Moon.

Lunar Module Pilot
Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin

Command Module Pilot
Michael Collins

Neil Armstrong

On July 16, 1969 the Saturn V launch vehicle lifted off at Cape Kennedy, Florida carrying Apollo 11 to the moon.  With large portions of Earth covered by water, the astronauts saw it as a blue planet.  In four days, the moon was reached.  The moon is unable to sustain life.

On July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left Columbia traveling in the Lunar Module Eagle.  Once they reached the surface of the moon, Commander Armstrong uttered the now famous words,

the Eagle has landed.

First Neil Armstrong and then Buzz Aldrin stepped into the Sea of Tranquility.  Many years earlier astronomers thought this area looked like water, hence the name it has today.  Together the men performed scientific tasks and gathered specimens.  They planted an American flag there.

Rest, the release of the Eagle to land back on the moon (unmanned) and the return flight home allowed the three astronauts in Columbia to splash down in the Pacific Ocean on July 24, 1969.  They were picked up and flown by helicopter to the USS Hornet.  By the middle of August thousands gathered in parades in New York City and Chicago to cheer these brave men and their achievements.

Using a premise like the cumulative nursery rhyme This Is the House That Jack Built, author Rhonda Gowler Greene introduces us to the astronauts just prior to lift-off.  During each portion of the narrative she only refers to the most recent statement until the end.  She then joins all her poetic lines together bringing us back to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.  It is a pleasing, rhythmic, rhyming cadence capturing the wonder of those days when the entire world was watching.  Facts, in smaller text, accompany each poetic portion.  Here are two poetic passages.

This is Earth with oceans blue
and swirls of clouds, a breathtaking view,
seen from the spacecraft, Apollo 11.

This is the Moon, a mysterious place,
a desolate land in the darkness of space,
far from Earth with oceans blue.

A rich, deep black provides a canvas for the matching and open dust jacket and book case.  On the front of the two, Neil Armstrong is planting the American flag as Buzz Aldrin works near the Eagle.  The angle of this scene with Earth in the upper right-hand corner gives readers a feel for how it was to be there.  Notice the reflection in the glass of Armstrong's helmet.  It's interesting to see the size of the footprints increase as they move to the lower edge.  To the left, on the back, commentary about the book is given by Harrison H. Schmitt, PhD, Apollo 17 Astronaut and Geologist.

The opening and closing endpapers are a crisp, clean white.  On the title page artist Scott Brundage gives us a view of the moon after the astronauts have left.  The flag is placed next to the Eagle.  Each image, rendered in watercolor, across two pages is so realistic you expect the scene to come to life.

Scott Brundage alters his point of view to accentuate the lyrical lines.  We are given a panoramic view of the lift-off, people in the foreground and the entire setting framed by palm trees.  Billowing clouds of smoke and glowing flames are seen as the Saturn V launch vehicle blazes into the sky.  With a page turn, it's as if we are inside the capsule, close and intimate, and looking out the window at the blue planet.  The views of space throughout are breathtaking.

One of my many favorite illustrations is toward the end.  We have zoomed in to the surface of the moon.  Footprints moving from left to right fashion a pattern.  In the center of this pattern on the far right, the lower portion of the flag pole is shown.  It enhances this line:

when they stepped from the Eagle that set men down
to walk the dust of lunar ground 

The blend of poetry, information and watercolor images in The First Men Who Went To The Moon written by Rhonda Gowler Greene with illustrations by Scott Brundage gives readers a wondrous introduction to this unprecedented happening.  President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge in 1961 and it was met.  At the close of the book are two pages of further facts, photographs, sources and other books for readers.  This would be a welcome addition to your professional shelves and your personal collection if you are a space enthusiast.

To learn more about Rhonda Gowler Greene and Scott Brundage and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Rhonda Gowler Greene maintains accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Scott Brundage has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior pages.  Rhonda Gowler Greene is interviewed at The Mitten, The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Michigan Chapter Blog.

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the books selected this week by others participating in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

RING! RING! Mr. Penguin And The Lost Treasure Blog Tour

Most of us are familiar with the saying be careful what you wish for.  In other words, it's wise to prudently weigh all the consequences attached to our heart's desire.  While we can never anticipate all the possible outcomes, we can at least be prepared for some of them. 

In the world of children's literature, a new character has entered the realm.  His greatest desire is for adventure.  In fact, he recently placed an advertisement in The Cityville Times claiming:

All Adventures
No mystery too big
or too small!
Competitive prices!

Mr. Penguin And The Lost Treasure (Peachtree, April 1, 2019) written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith (Little Red And The Hungry Lion) is the first title in what promises to be a rip-roaring, laugh-out-loud, non-stop action series for those who crave mystery and adventure just like Mr. Penguin.  Grab your favorite hat, your trusty backpack and don't forget a tasty fish finger sandwich. 



It was 10:32 on a Monday morning, and Mr. Penguin was twirling about slowly on his swizzly office chair and flipping the end of his beak with a crabstick.

He was bored.

On the verge of despair at the lack of interest in his advertisement, the ringing of his phone startles Mr. Penguin so much he, through a series of unbelievable events, ends with his bottom stuck in his waste basket.  It makes taking his first real job a tad bit uncomfortable, but it is Boudicca Bones from the Museum of Extraordinary Objects.  When he hears the words toilet plunging through the ceiling, stuffed walrus and buried treasure, he nearly explodes with joy.

Within minutes Mr. Penguin and his trusty associate Colin, a bowler-hat-wearing spider with the strength of a ninja master, are standing in front of the museum.  (As they make their way to the building, they encounter a friend, Edith Hedge who lives in the park.  She wears fifteen raincoats and a pigeon named Gordon is usually on her head.)

In short order, Mr. Penguin, Colin, Boudicca Bones and her odd brother, Montague are searching every nook and cranny of the museum floor by floor.  (Montague is odd because he is at least seven feet tall and has hands the size of frying pans in contrast to short, round-as-a beach-ball Mrs. Bones.)  Using a copy of A History of the Museum of Extraordinary Objects and a clue of x marks the spot the searchers are stumped until Mr. Penguin brilliantly solves the puzzle of finding the x.  During their explorations Colin hears strange sounds and feels as though someone or something is watching them.

After traversing a darkened staircase leading them under the museum, the foursome encounters a hot steamy rainforest, a cryptic note, unscrupulous thieves, a raging river, a thunderous waterfall and gigantic hungry beasts, not necessarily in that order.  It seems as if everything is conspiring to keep them from locating the buried treasure. To make matters even worse, Mr. Penguin and Colin find themselves in serious, life or death trouble.

With twists and turns as frequent as those on the underground trail, the story keeps you guessing. You will gasp at the surprises and cheer for the cleverness. And just when you think it can't get any better, it does.

Twenty-three short chapters combine descriptive narrative and snappy conversations penned by Alex T. Smith.  The chapter titles along with the final sentence in each chapter invite, sometimes demand, that you continue.  The pacing is fast, and humor is found in abundance.  Here is a passage.

Monty cracked his knuckles (which sounded like a wooden fence breaking in a tornado) and knelt down next to the X.  He pressed the button.  Then he pressed it again.
He smacked it with his fist, stamped on it with his shoe, grunted, and hurried off to the nearby janitor's cupboard to grab a sledgehammer.
He was just raising the hammer above his head when Colin tapped him politely on the ankle and held up his notepad.
It said ALLOW ME. (Note: Colin does not talk but uses a notepad to voice his thoughts which adds to the hilarity.)
Everyone stepped back and watched as Colin took the floor.  He scuttled over to the button and carefully observed it for a few seconds.  Then he pressed four of his feet together and bowed respectfully.  He took a deep breath, narrowed his eyes, and . . .


Readers get their first glimpse of Mr. Penguin and Colin on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case.  The adventurer's hat, satchel and magnifying glass are essential to Mr. Penguin's pursuits.  On the opening and closing endpapers in hues of orange, we are privy to lush rainforest flora.  At the beginning and end of the book, a front page from The Cityville Times gives readers a peek into the community and shows how the status of Mr. Penguin and Colin as adventurers changes. 

The highly detailed, fine-lined drawings done in black, orange and white by Alex T. Smith appear on almost every page turn in a variety of sizes depending on the narrative and pacing.  At times in order to enhance the text the canvas of white shifts to orange and even black with white lettering.

One of my many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It shows Mr. Penguin and Colin on the left speeding through the exotic plants and trees they discover under the museum.  Mr. Penguin's body shape trudging along on his tiny legs is funnier than funny.  Adding to the comedy is his hat with the arrow through it, and the magnifying glass held in one of his flippers as if he hopes to spy something important. 

Readers will hardly be able to stop reading Mr. Penguin And The Lost Treasure written and illustrated by Alex T. Smith once they start.  Who can resist mystery, adventure and giggles and grins?  I believe this would be a fun read aloud or book club selection.  Be sure to place a copy on your professional shelves and in your personal collections.  (Book two has already been released in the UK and book three is set to be released there this autumn.)

To learn more about Alex T. Smith and his other work, please visit his website by following the link attached to his name.  Alex T. Smith maintains an account on Twitter.  At the publisher's website there is a link to Activity Sheets.  You can get a peek at the first few pages, including the first newspaper front page, here.

Be sure to stop at the other sites on the blog tour.

March 25---Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
March 26---Librarian's Quest
March 28---The Library Voice
March 29---Mom Read It

Monday, March 25, 2019


It is everywhere, except rarely when it isn't.  When it is completely gone, it is used to describe that absence.  It's found in songs, nursery rhymes and poems, common phrases, children's games and religious scripture.  Perhaps you've heard You Light Up My Life (a 1978 Best Original Song Oscar winner sung by Debby Boone), Star Light, Star Bright, to see things in a different light, Red Light, Green Light or don't hide your light under a bushel.

Our eyes and minds take light and translate it into color.  Depending on the season and time of day, those colors can range from subdued to radiant.  In his newest title, You Are Light (Candlewick Studio, an imprint of Candlewick Press, March 26, 2019), Aaron Becker, Caldecott Honor winner for Journey, first in a trilogy followed by Quest and Return, takes a single word, die-cuts, an original poem and frosted acetate to fashion a book glowing through combinations of twelve hues and resplendent words.

This is the light

that brings the dawn

As the light rises and spreads, all it touches feels its heat and comfort.  When it reaches seas and oceans a familiar pattern begins. It is a circle of rising and falling.  We need the rain to promote growth; the growth of foods we and other lives need to survive.

When this necessary light strikes plants, they turn to accept it.  It gives them life.  They give us oxygen and more in return.

Buds and bulbs open or push forth eager bursts of color when light warms and touches them.  At day's end, when the sun dips beneath the horizon and the moon rises, it shines from the same light.  Like the land, seas and oceans, the falling rain, the food consumed, leaves, flowers and our moon, light is a part of who we are.

This four stanza poem, the first in free verse and the following three with the second and fourth phrases rhyming, speaks simple truths but author Aaron Becker leaves each thought open to interpretation.  It is meant to be shared as each portion presents the opportunity to ask questions and promote discussions.  Although the gentle cadence supplied by the words is soothing, this light, the sun, generates action.  Some of the activities are straightforward; others are more figures of speech.

to warm the sky
and hug the land.

The trim size for this book, 8 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches, is perfect for any age.  The sun on the front and first page is the only intricate die-cut in addition to the twelve circles.  The sturdy board and more durable frosted acetate guarantee this book will be loved for a long time.  The crisp white used for all the pages, except for the moon in black, is a wonderful canvas for the colors.

With each page turn, a series of circles are removed from the original set we see on the front.  For the first one, it's five yellow circles which alter their hues depending on the kind of light shining through them from their back.  Readers will be fascinated to see how many circles are moved each time.  Will they see a pattern?  Based on the narrative, Aaron Becker has carefully determined which color scheme will be on the left and what will remain on the right.

On the right, in the center of the circles, original cut shapes are painted in delicate watercolor hues.  These match the colors of circles moved from right to left.  The text is placed in the center of the circles on the left except for the beginning and the end; when it is placed on the right.  This makes the entire poem and the images a circle.

There is not a page turn or an image in which readers, me included, will not be enchanted.  Without taking away the joy of reading it yourself, the blend of words and images when Aaron Becker is speaking about the sea and a blossom are two of my favorite pairs.  In each of these a different type of figure of speech is used.  The companion artwork makes you want to reach out and cup it in your hands.

Whether you use natural light or artificial light or the light in your heart, be sure to shine it through You Are Light written and illustrated by Aaron Becker.  It is guaranteed there will be multiple readings.  I highly recommend this title for any and all collections, professional and personal.

To learn more about Aaron Becker and his other work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  Aaron maintains an account on Instagram, TumblrTwitter and Vimeo.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  At author, reviewer and blogger, Julie Danielson's website, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, Aaron talks about his process art.  You will enjoy seeing all the artwork.

UPDATE:  Aaron Becker talks about this book on public radio on August 30, 2019.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Maybe A Mermaid Blog Tour

There is no better way to welcome those first days of spring than to highlight a debut author.  Today Josephine Cameron is stopping by Librarian's Quest as a guest to chat with us about her book, Maybe a Mermaid.   She shares with us the inspiration for seeking a True Blue Friend.  Welcome, Josephine.

What inspired the idea for a "true-blue" friend?

When I started writing Maybe a Mermaid, I knew I wanted to write about a lonely girl who is looking for a friend.  As I developed the character of 11-year-old Anthoni Gillis, who has had a hard time finding friends because she is constantly the new girl, I thought a lot about the types of friendship we look for in our lives.

When I was a kid, I longed for a certain kind of friendship.  The Anne and Diana (or Emily and Ilse), Frog/Toad, Wilbur/Charlotte kind.  I knew from an early age that there's a difference between a friend (someone you like and hang out with) and a kindred spirit (someone who sees the inner strengths that no one else sees, and who understands your deepest flaws and loves you anyway).  A true friend was a friend for life, no matter what ups and downs, fights, or distance got in the way.  

I remember being Anthoni's age and realizing that some friends I'd thought were true were only true on the surface.  And that others were truer than I'd known---only I wasn't looking in the right direction.  I think sometimes we can try so hard to fit people into our idea of who we think they are or who we want them to be, that we're willing to go to great lengths to change our own perceptions of reality.

In Maybe a Mermaid, Anthoni struggles with all of this.  More important than finding a True Blue Friend, she has to figure out how to BE one.  Because ultimately, for all of us, that is what opens us up to so many hopeful, magical possibilities.

Thank you, Josephine, for this insightful glimpse into your writing.  Readers can find out more about Anthoni Gillis when Maybe a Mermaid releases on March 26, 2019.  It is published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

You can discover more about Josephine Cameron at her website.  Josephine maintains an account on TwitterJosephine chats with another author about her writing and this book at Book Q&As with Deborah Kalb. At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

One Musical Moment

There are two, among many, things of which we can never be sure.  Unless we have the ability to fast forward in time, we are never quite certain how we may favorably influence another contemporary or someone in the future.  We also can't truly imagine the consequences of a seemingly unimportant situation.  Our lives are filled with "what-if" this or that did or did not happen.

Whether we realize it or not, music surrounds us.  It is in the clicking of a dog's toenails on a hardwood floor, the sound of a spoon stirring in a stainless steel pot, the hum of heat moving through duct work, garden wind chimes ringing in a soft breeze, the crack of melting ice, the hoot of a nearby owl or the howl of a coyote in the distance as darkness gathers.  Composers gather those sounds enveloping our world making their own music, music longing to be heard and played.  BECAUSE (Hyperion Books For Children, March 5, 2019) score by Mo Willems and performance by Amber Ren explores the influence of composers, musicians, symphonic performances and the elements of serendipity and perseverance.

This is how it happened:

Two composers, Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert, contemporaries, lived in the same city, centuries ago; the former influencing the latter.  Franz's rich and harmonious Symphony no. 8 in B-minor in turn, years and years later, brought a group of musicians together, forming an orchestra.  One member after another were asked to join because of their love of music and their dedication to perfecting the playing of their instruments.

A concert was planned.  Individuals outside the orchestra contributed to the event's success; a poster maker, a train engineer, an orchestra librarian and the musical conductor each assisted.  The score was polished through practice.  Concert hall workers applied finishing touches to the venue and ushers welcomed the audience.

An illness, a cold, resulted in a niece taking her uncle's seat at the concert and that . . . shifted . . . something in the child's soul.  Year after year her interest in music grew.  She studied.  She practiced.  She wrote.  She was heard.

Like those original members of the orchestra who played Franz Schubert's Symphony no 8 in B-minor, she was asked and given an opportunity.  As a tribute to a single unplanned event her notes wove through an audience.  And BECAUSE . . .

Gentle, searching like a lively, uplifting melody, Mo Willems takes a single word using it as a common theme for connecting events and people over centuries, years, months, weeks, days and hours.  Each sentence and phrase begin with Because followed by the actions of individuals pursuing that which they love to do.  Mo Willems also uses two repetitive thoughts to excellent effect creating a full circle.  What will amaze and thrill readers is how these all work to form a series of changes.  Here are two of the sentences.

Because the usher helped the aunt
and her special guest---
they found their seats.

Because everyone was there to hear beautiful music---
it was quiet. 

In her debut as a picture book illustrator Amber Ren glows like the lovely refrain of words she enhances.  Using the stage of the concert hall as a focal point on the front of the dust jacket, she alludes to the possibilities, before and after, this single event.  The line of music swirling about the child and off the right edge is a part of nearly all the images within the body of the book, changing in color as the story progresses.  The title text is varnished.

To the left, on the back, beneath the words

an unexpected note
can change a life.

an interior illustration is placed within a circle.  It's the child after the concert conducting music to an audience of toys.  The darkened color at the edge of the stage supplies a canvas here and on the book case.  Within an elegant gold frame on the front of the book case, the girl writes music, perhaps remembering why she attended the concert that evening.  The music moves to the left and appears again on the other side of the spine weaving upward as another child is caught in its spell.

On the opening and closing endpapers a music stand is placed from left to right.  On each a different musical score has been placed; two pages in length, one on the left and the other on the right.  Around the outside of the opening music stand is a golden yellow.  On the closing endpapers the framing color is a spring green, indicative of the transformation.  On the title page the little girl is featured bowing to an imaginary audience as music winds around her.

Alternating between double-page pictures and single-page visuals Amber Ren takes us on a journey through time.  She presents a variety of diverse people, with different ages and with a common interest---music. Her fine lines are filled with soft hues of color on matte-finished paper.  Readers will be fascinated with her attention to detail; the portrait of Franz on the sick uncle's wall, a large musical staff being used as a bookcase and framed records on a wall.  Careful readers will spot guest appearances by the book's creators.

One of my many favorite pictures is that highlighted on the book case and in the interior of the book.  On a single page we are looking at the child's bedroom.  It's an upper story room with the roof peak making a "v" behind her.  On that wall hangs pictures of her favorite things.  To the right is her keyboard.  On a large oval rug in pale green sitting in a half circle are seven toys, their backs to us.  Eyes closed and an arm raised holding her baton the child presents her music.  From her baton a shining vine extends, traveling over the gutter to the next series of illustrations.

Radiating warmth and creative potential BECAUSE written by Mo Willems with illustrations by Amber Ren is a sensory symphony to treasure.  This is a glorious example of the ripple effect.  We can never know how our lives will alter other lives.  We can never know how a single event can fashion a future.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mo Willems and Amber Ren and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Mo Willems has another site here, a blog and an account on Twitter.  Amber Ren also has an account on Twitter.  For your enjoyment I've included the book trailer and a video of Franz Schubert's Symphony no. 8 in B-minor.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Breathe Deep . . . And Take In The Splendor

More nighttime moments than can be recalled are spent in gazing up and looking at the starry array spread across the sky.  Depending on the time of year and the phrase of the moon, shapes formed by connecting lines are familiar companions, reminding us some things remain the same.  There is a comfort in knowing how old and vast the universe is.  To be a part, a very tiny part, of this majesty is rather like being a part, a very tiny part, of a wondrous mystery with clues being slowly revealed.

The more we learn about the universe in which we live, the more it astounds us.  The Day The Universe Exploded My Head: Poems To Take You Into Space And Back Again (Candlewick Press, March 5, 2019) written by Allan Wolf with illustrations by Anna Raff is a melodic, meticulous and merry trek into outer space.  Through rhythmic words and playful images, we are entertained and informed.

A Solar Sunnet, er, Sonnet

Born four and one half billion years ago,
I'm ninety-nine point eight percent the mass
of everything the solar system knows.
My gravity holds all within its grasp.

In this portion of the first of twenty-nine literary compositions we are given a glimpse of the facts found within each one.  We travel from the sun to the farthest reaches of our solar system.  We make stops to learn about the Earth spinning on its axis, the names of moons (and their gastronomical make-up), the Perseid Meteor Shower, a famous meteorite, Planet X, the power of stars, how distances in space are measured, eclipses, black holes, space exploration, famous astronomers, and rockets.  Not only do we gain an understanding of these wondrous places, people (and animals), objects and events but we do so through a variety of poetic styles.

To give readers a sense of watching the stars shoot across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower, it's written to be read in three voices, alternating lines and combining as a chorus for emphasis.  Even though the lines are short, like the time we see these stars, we are told when they arrive, how they are formed and what they are.  The real, frightening fall of the meteorite in Chelyabinsk in 2013 is brimming with exaggerated humor, yet readers will be able to glean a verifiable fact.

Venus, named for a Roman goddess, is the opposite of its namesake, a dangerous enchantress.  Thankfully our Blue Planet is next in line offering sanctuary, if we care for her.  Did you know Jupiter has a magnetosphere greater than that of the sun?  Neptune's news is written in a blues format which is understandable considering it's always dark there; a perpetual night.

A star, using the tune and beat of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, advises a human exactly what to expect if they meet face to face.  A quirky rap spoken by DJ Energy and MC Square tell us about astronomical units and the speed of light.  A concrete poem, aptly circular in shape, relates the density and desire of consumption of a black hole.  Did you ever hear of Ivan Ivanovich?  The concluding poem, taking the title of this book, in three voices, brain, heart and human, builds up tension verse by verse until every fiber of your being wants to celebrate.

While poetry read in silence by a single reader is powerful, these poems penned by Allan Wolf ask us to read them aloud; these poems welcome an audience.  Each one has a distinctive beat as distinguishing as the subject it highlights.  Cleverness prevails when moons become gourmet delights.  First person voices demand our attention as planets disclose personalities.  Metaphors wrap around readers like comforting cloaks.  Beneath most of the poem titles is a subtitle.  Here is a portion of a poem.


I'm one part theoretical.
I'm one part hypothetical.
I'm one part mathematical.
They call me Planet X.

I'm one part supercilious.
Another part mysterious.
One part you-can't-be-serious.
They call me Planet X.

The black matte finish on the front of the dust jacket is sheer perfection for the blast of varnished color.  Each item in the scene is referenced within the body of the book.  You can also see the lively, humorous characteristics given to the subjects.  To the left, on the back, the darkness continues.  The sun, clad in dark glasses, has orbits spinning around and out with other known planets and stars (and a monkey) spinning.  A happy portion of a constellation appears in the upper, left-hand corner.

On the book case a galaxy of stars spreads across the universe.  In the upper, left-hand corner of the opened case and in the lower, right-hand corner are two constellations.  They are familiar but also not known.  (That's all I'm going to say.)

The matching opening and closing endpapers are done in several shades of turquoise.  They feature the sun and the eight orbiting planets.  On the title page the text is constructed, letter by letter, as if they are constellations.  For the "o" in exploded our planet, Earth, is placed there.

Each image,

digitally assembled color collages made from sumi ink washes, salt, pen, and pencil

by artist Anna Raff, is a joyful adventure.  They span two pages, and a few single pages.  They reflect the pacing of the text and take it to the next level.  Perspectives shift to take us close to the subject or give us a panoramic view as in the poem for the Perseid Meteor Shower.  The animated facial expressions and body postures add to the overall emotion, usually happiness.  Readers will pause to find all the extra details.  The dark starry background is wonderful for the bright color palette.  (There are some of these science fans will want to frame.)

One of my many favorite illustrations is when the planet Neptune's poem is highlighted.  On the left Neptune is given a cowboy hat and a guitar to strum out his lonely woes.  A microphone on a stand is etched in stars in front of him like a constellation. A musical stanza stretches from his guitar sparkling with stars and notes across the gutter to the right side.  His arms are wearing a plaid-shirt pattern.  The poetic text is expertly placed under the image on both pages.

After you read The Day The Universe Exploded My Head: Poems To Take You Into Space And Back Again written by Allan Wolf with illustrations by Anna Raff you won't be able to read it once.  You'll have to read it again and again and again.  You'll want to share it with as many people as possible.  AND you'll be looking to the stars armed with new knowledge.  After the poems, there are two pages of Notes On The Poems.  These give further information about the topics and explain the style for some of the poems.  This is followed by a Glossary Of Selected Space Terms, Internet Resources and Acknowledgments.  I highly recommend this for your professional and personal collections.  It's a super selection for National Poetry Month in April.

To learn more about Allan Wolf and Anna Raff and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Allan Wolf has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Anna Raff also has accounts on both Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  They have also developed a Teacher Tip Card.  At Penguin Random House you can view the title page and the first several poems.  Allan Wolf recently wrote a guest post at the Nerdy Book Club.  Enjoy the book trailer!

Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to view the other titles selected this week by participants in the 2019 Nonfiction Picture Challenge.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Out Of The Mouths Of Dogs

You've read it here before, but it can never be said enough.  Some of life's greatest lessons are taught by our canine companions.  There is not a moment during a day when they don't know exactly what to do.  Year after year, according to their age, they savor what should be savored and ignore that which should be ignored.  For this reason, they experience joy, contentment and peace in equal measure. 

If a dog is sharing your home multiple treks are a daily event.  If you want to see a dog smile, say walk or outside.  Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, March 5, 2019) written by Jacky Davis with illustrations by Giselle Potter gives us a pooch's point of view during four outings.  Their personalities quickly emerge, reinforcing the notion of opposites do attract.

Walk One
Olive and Pekoe
Take a Walk in the Woods

Pekoe is a bouncy puppy who loves to run.  

Long-legged and loaded with energy Pekoe wishes his friend Olive would move a bit faster.  Olive is an elder dog with short legs.  She wishes Pekoe would walk with less exuberance.  As a puppy, Pekoe puts just about everything in his mouth.  Olive is completely satisfied to wait on the sidelines.  At the end of the walk they agree on one thing.  Can you guess what it is?

One day the duo is caught out-of-doors when a thunderstorm rumbles into their neighborhood.  Pekoe gives a bark and Olive wonders why she ever left home.  Pekoe hides from this unwelcome weather.  Olive is getting sadder and sadder.  With a shake Pekoe gets rid of a lot of water and says goodbye to Olive.  He knows what she wants.  She can already feel herself snuggling into

her cozy pillow.

Watching a mix of chipmunks and dogs can entertain you as long as the stripped, furry nuisances decide to stay.  Olive could care less about chipmunks.  Pekoe is thrilled beyond belief to see one.  Olive sits.  Pekoe goes nuts.  When the critter vanishes each dog has a thought?  They are as different as the two pals.

Going to the dog park is confusing for Pekoe but Olive takes it in stride until she realizes Pekoe needs help.  As an experienced user of this area, she knows to support her friend during a confrontation.  Pekoe, although at the opposite end of life as Olive, welcomes her advice.  This is friendship in its truest form.

When thinking about the writing presented by author Jacky Davis, three things come immediately to mind. The first element is the voice used to present the story.  This narrator speaks in short, descriptive, and conversational sentences.  Readers will notice, secondly, the author has a clear understanding of the behavior of dogs and the shifts in their personalities as they age.  Finally, whether they are reading this silently to themselves or listening to it read aloud, they will feel the pull of the cadence created by the alternating voices which leads to a pleasing conclusion at the end of each of the four chapters.  Here is a passage.

Walk Three
Olive and Pekoe
Meet a Chipmunk

Olive is not impressed to see
a chipmunk darting through the leaves.

Pekoe can't believe how great it is
that the world has chipmunks in it!

Rendered in watercolor, ink and color pencils illustrator Giselle Potter gives us our first hint of her color palette and the singular characteristics of Olive and Pekoe on the dust jacket.  With the focus on their walks, we are taken into a natural setting.  By the attention they show each other, we understand the bond these two unlikely canines share. The image on the front extends to the spine. 

To the left, on the back, on the rich creamy background a large oval illustration rests.  Within this frame Pekoe and Olive are sitting and looking at each other, nearly nose to nose.  On the book case, on the same rich creamy canvas, a single photograph is framed in wood on the front and the back.  It's a forest scene.  The real-life, big Pekoe puppy is sniffing in the grass off the trail.   Walking down the path and a bit behind is the real-life Olive.  Her face is wonderfully aged with gray fur.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a dark steel blue, previously used on the jacket.  Opposite the title page, a single-page picture shows Pekoe sitting and looking at Olive, who is also sitting.  It is a different setting from the previous visual which lets readers know, this position is a familiar one.  Pekoe is shown on the verso page.  Olive makes an appearance on the contents page.

Throughout the title single-page pictures, small insets, and text framed in sticks, storm clouds, oak branches with acorns, and leashes accentuate the text.  Each image based upon the facial looks and body actions supports and enhances the pacing.  There is never a doubt as to the mood of the moment for either of the dogs.

One of my many favorite illustrations is during the chipmunk caper.  Oak tree trunks, five in total, supply a background and a border on the left.  Oak leaves tinted in autumn colors dangle from branches and fall on the ground.  Behind Pekoe who is jumping against a tree, scampers the chipmunk.  In the foreground Olive sits looking at us.  If she could talk, she would be saying, "Look at that crazy guy!"

The pure fun of Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks written by Jacky Davis with illustrations by Giselle Potter is being able to participate in the lively animated time these two dogs share.  This book invites us to be observers of dogs and other animals around us.  Could readers imagine other walks these two dogs would take?  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections. 

If you desire to learn more about Jacky Davis and Giselle Potter and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.   Jacky Davis has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Giselle Potter has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior pages at the beginning of the book.  John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, hosted the book trailer premiere for this title along with interviews with Jacky and Giselle on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Frank And Bean Cover Reveal

For many residents of the United States, especially those experiencing blizzards less than a week ago, it’s hard to think of the arrival of the vernal equinox.  Regardless of the mounds of snow observed around our homes, a shift in seasons is coming in two days. This means winter’s rest is ending, albeit slowly.

It’s a time of fresh new beginnings.  Birdsong swells as many return to their seasonal homes.  Tiny bumps of fuzz pop out on pussy willow branches. Once the snow completely recedes bulbs nestled in the cool, dark earth push shoots upward revealing their brilliant greenness.  To further herald spring it’s a distinct pleasure to host children’s literature creators Jamie Michalak and Bob Kolar at Librarian’s Quest. They are collaborating on a new early reader title, Frank & Bean.  We are excited to reveal the cover but first let’s get to know Jamie and Bob and their work on this book a little bit better.

It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jamie and Bob.

From your previous titles, Jamie, I know humor plays a big part in your books.  How did you decide on these characters and their names? Would you tell us a little bit about their personalities?

I didn’t have to look far for inspiration when it came to the characters — I live with them! My youngest is chatty, like Bean, and obsessed with donuts, drums, and anything loud. My oldest is more like the quiet, outdoorsy, oatmeal-loving Frank. I’d wanted to write a book starring food, and once I hit on the names, Frank and Bean popped into my head.

As keen observers of life, I realize author’s glean ideas for their books just about anywhere. How was the focus of this story formed? Did a single incident supply the spark?

I was inspired to write this book after seeing many children, including my own, on phones and other devices. I wondered how they’d cultivate their imagination and create when they’re never bored. At its heart, Frank and Bean is about sparking creativity by carving out the quiet space needed to hear the stories within. I hope this book will inspire kids to write their own story, poem, or maybe even a song like Frank and Bean’s!

Reading the title, Bob, without any images, readers initially will have no idea of the physical characteristics of Frank and Bean.  Would you tell us how they developed? Which one did you visualize first, Frank or Bean?

Frank came first. A walking talking hotdog seemed pretty normal in my world. I had to decide whether he would have a bun or not.  He just seemed naked without it. Bean was a little more difficult. The size relationship was throwing me. A bean is usually much smaller than a hotdog. I guess a bean doesn’t usually go camping, ride a motorcycle, eat donut holes, and play the trumpet either. He ended up being a really huge bean.

Did the manuscript dictate the setting shown on the cover?  

Yes, it’s a camping in the woods adventure story.

What medium did you use for the cover and the artwork within the book, Bob?

Artwork was created digitally. I do most of my stuff on the computer now. I spent most of my childhood watching cartoons. Maybe working on the computer just reminds me of watching TV.

Are you more like Frank or Bean, Bob?

Oh, I’m totally a Bean. I’m loud and annoying. I spend most of my time having fun or thinking about how to have more fun. I have a short attention.... hey look, a squirrel!! What was the question?

Which character resembles you, Jaime?

Frank. I have a secret notebook and love the outdoors and quiet time, too. But my good friends are wild and crazy Beans, and I never pass up karaoke.

Just for fun, what is your favorite comfort food, Jamie?

Like Mercy Watson, I love hot toast with a great deal of butter on it. Some of my all-time favorite memories are of eating freshly baked bread. (Oh my gosh, I really am a Frank!)


I really like food.  I like almost all of it.  Breakfast foods are all definitely in my comfort category. If I had to pick one, it would be a piece of sourdough toast. (only because I just had one and I have that short attention span)

Thank you, Jamie and Bob, for taking the time to chat with me about this brand-new book you are making together.  I have been waiting to reveal this cover so I can hear peals of laughter resonating around the planet. I can’t even think about it without laughing.

Here’s to the arrival of spring in two days.

Here’s to Jamie Michalak and Bob Kolar and
Frank and Bean

This title published by Candlewick Press is set to be released on October 8, 2019.

To learn more about Jamie Michalak and Bob Kolar and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Jamie Michalak has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Bob Kolar has an account on Instagram.

Jamie Michalak is the author of many children's books, including the highly acclaimed Joe and Sparky early readers series: Joe and Sparky, Party Animals!, Joe and Sparky Get New Wheels; Joe and Sparky Go to School; and Joe and Sparky, Superstars!, which Kirkus Reviews called a "little treasure" in a starred review. All are illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Jamie Michalak lives in Rhode Island.

Bob Kolar is from Cleveland, and now lives in Kansas City with his wife Lisa. As a kid, his big dream was to be a jungle guide, astronaut, or a farmer. So, naturally he went to art school and became an illustrator, designer, and writer. He did a corporate job there for a while, but now he just creates books, toys and fun stuff for kids. Bob also teaches a little bit at the Kansas City Art Institute.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Badger's Perfect Garden Blog Tour

 Although the twenty-four inches still on the ground next to four-foot piles of snow are no prelude to the official arrival of spring five days away, the appearance of garden catalogs in my mailbox are.  The colorful displays of flowers, shrubs, trees and vegetables are filled with promise. To think that every seed, bulb or root will supply vibrant splendor is nothing short of a miracle.

It’s hard not to put pen to paper and design layouts for potential plots housing an array of beauty.  In Badger’s Perfect Garden (Sleeping Bear Press, March 15, 2019) written by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Ramona Kaulitzki Badger inspires his animal friends with his dream of a flawless presentation of his gathered seeds.  Badger and his friends discover and remind us, plans gone astray may yield glorious unexpected results.

One spring morning, Red Squirrel found Badger
Surrounded by dozens of jars.
The jars were filled with seeds.  The seeds looked
Hopeful, just like Badger.

Curious as to what Badger was doing with all those jars of seeds, Red Squirrel was told they had been collected last summer in order to plant a flawless formation of botanical beauty.  When the squirrel saw all the varieties of seeds and the amounts, he knew his friend would need help. Soon Weasel, Dormouse and Red Squirrel along with Badger were hard at work preparing the soil, laying out straight rows according to Badger’s plan, and finally, planting the seeds.

Muffins and mulberry juice were consumed in celebration of a successful session of gardening.  As necessary the next day, rain fell. On the following day heavier rain fell. By day three the showers were torrential.  Badger went outside trying to save his now less than perfect garden.

Nothing Red Squirrel, Weasel or Dormouse said could calm the defeated badger.  Days passes inside with Badger trying to occupy his time until one day in summer a knock on his door woke him up.  Three friends could hardly wait to show Badger the work of a master gardener, Mother Nature.

Author Marsha Diane Arnold fills this narrative with endearing characters, charming, descriptive phrases and delightful word play.  A little bit of information about where to find seeds is woven into the story. As the friends work, readers come to understand how gardens are groomed.  With each step we feel Badger’s desire for precision. This is why we keenly feel every emotion, all the ups and downs and ups, in this tale of four forest friends. Here is a passage.

When the earth was as smooth as the forest pond in winter,
Badger pushed big sticks into the dirt.  Red Squirrel and
Dormouse stretched string between the sticks to mark rows.

“Be sure the rows are perfectly straight,” said Badger.  

 When you open the matching dust jacket and book case several single words come to mind; serenity, companionship and community.  It’s easy to imagine a windy spring day with friends working together for a common good. It’s also easy to feel as though any one of us could step right in and join them.  The natural soft colors and delicate lines are an open invitation.

To the left, on the back, the double-page image travels over the spine to reveal Badger’s cozy home in a hollow tree trunk.  A tiny lamp hangs from a branch next to his arched doorway. Next to it is a circular window. A path of stones extends from his stone porch steps.  Early spring flowers bloom in the front.

Crisp white covers the opening and closing endpapers.  Badger, wearing a backpack and garden gloves, is holding a magnifying glass as he gathers seeds in a swirl of blooms on the title page. Each illustration, regardless of the size, contributes and enhances the pacing and emotional impact.

Artist Ramona Kaulitzki alters the perspective for further impact.  To depict Badger’s increasing worry, she brings us close to the window in his home, rain streaking diagonally across the glass as he gazes sadly outside.  Careful readers will pause to notice all the extra details. Will they notice a little worm lifting its head to look at the seed jars, the tiny boots Dormouse wears, tulip petals falling from a bouquet in Badger’s home, and Badger’s bunny rabbit stuffed toy for snuggling and napping?

One of my many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  On the left in front of his home Badger is placing sticks in the cleared garden patch.  Behind him on the stones is his rolled-up garden plan. A small bucket in front of him holds more sticks.  Seed jars and rakes are leaning against a stone fence. Red Squirrel and Dormouse are unrolling string and tangling it up around themselves, too.  A small bird is perched on a nearby house. Weasel is running through a field in the back carrying a forked stick.

Readers will learn about the rewards of helping a friend.  They will understand how to make a garden grow. Most importantly Badger’s Perfect Garden written by Marsha Diane Arnold with illustrations by Ramona Kaulitzki brings to us the peace we find when letting go of a plan.  This would make a wonderful addition to your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Marsha Diane Arnold and Ramona Kaulitzki and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Marsha Diane Arnold has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Ramona Kaulitzki has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  At the publisher’s website you can view interior pages.

As a showcase of this blog tour, Marsha Diane Arnold is visiting Librarian’s Quest again to chat with me about this new title. I am grateful for this opportunity.

I have an idea from reading this book that gardening is important to you, Marsha.  Did you come from a family of gardeners?  Is this connection to the earth something you have instilled in your family and you wish to pass on to your readers?

You would be right, Margie. I love gardens and gardening, but even more I love Mother Nature, which you noted so beautifully in your review – “Three friends could hardly wait to show Badger the work of a master gardener, Mother Nature.”

And yes, behind me, I have a whole history of farming, gardening, and deep connection to the soil.

Once upon a time there was a people, long known for their superior farming abilities – my ancestors, Swiss-German Amish/Mennonites. Due to religious persecution, they eventually migrated to Volhynia, Russia, invited, largely due to their farming skills, by Catherine the Great. In 1874, they migrated again, this time to America. My great-grandfather Peter made his home in Pretty Prairie, Kansas, and was known as a “man of the soil.” My aunt tells me he was also a “story teller”.J

Peter’s daughter, my grandmother Emma, had a huge garden to feed her family of 8 children. But she also loved her flower gardens, which surrounded the farm house. Beauty amidst the dust. These were not small flower gardens, but long sweeps of flowers – iris, lilacs, petunias, and many more. One of my fondest memories is of my grandmother sitting in her rocking chair looking through the seed catalogs, planning her next garden.

My father was a wheat and dairy farmer, but like his mother before him, he loved flower gardens too and always planted flowers around our home. He also drew them.

I like to think I’ve instilled a love of nature and gardening in my son, daughter, and grandchildren. My daughter enjoys planting whenever she has an opportunity. My son, though he works in NYC, has a 150-year-old farm house in Connecticut so his family can get away to the country. And my granddaughter, as you see, is quite enamored by milkweed.

 Is there any one reason or incident which planted the seed which grew into this book?

I have a suspicion that I wrote this story because my husband and I were starting to prepare for a move from our home of 35 years in Sebastopol, California to Florida. I was very sad to be leaving my half-acre flower and fruit garden that had taken me….35 years to create! I’d also be leaving my woodland friends – fox, raccoon, deer, quail. Though none of these animals made it into Badger’s Perfect Garden, I think they inspired my writing about beautiful forest creatures.

I really enjoyed the blend of narrative and dialogue in this title.  Is there anything you changed considerably from your original draft?

This is one of those stories that felt like a walk in the garden. J  The text changed very little from first draft to last. I really enjoy using dialogue in my stories.

I loved Ramona’s illustrations when I first saw them. However, I did need to change a few phrases of my original text. For example, I imagined Red Squirrel and Badger being in the same room on the first spread, so I had written, “What are you doing with all these seeds?” When I saw Ramona’s lovely illustration of Red Squirrel in the tree, I changed that phrase to “those seeds.” It was much easier to change the text than the art and besides, Ramona was absolutely right to have Red Squirrel high in a tree looking down on all those jars full of seeds. It’s a wonderful perspective.

I believe these illustrations match the story . . .well . . . perfectly.  What did you think when you first saw them?

I credit Sleeping Bear Press with finding wonderful matches for my SBP books, both May I Come In? and Badger’s Perfect Garden. When I first saw Ramona’s illustrations, I adored them. I was raised a long time ago and grew up in the country. To me, Badger’s story and the lovely art Ramona created for it are what children’s books should be. Delicate, fun, filled with kindness, celebratory!

Thank you Marsha for your perfect answers and this most excellent book for spring, gardening and the wonder of friendship.

Marsha Diane Arnold's award-winning picture books have sold over one million copies and been called, "whimsical" and "uplifting." Described as a "born storyteller" by the media, her books have garnered such honors as Best First Book by a New Author, Smithsonian Notable, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and state Children's Choice awards. Recent books include Galapagos Girl, a bilingual book about a young girl growing up on the Galapagos Islands and Lost. Found., a Junior Library Guild book illustrated by Caldecott winner Matthew Cordell.
Marsha was born and raised in Kansas, lived most of her life in Sonoma County, California, and now lives with her husband, near her family, in Alva, Florida. She still loves nature and nothing makes her happier than standing in her backyard in the midst of dragonflies or purple martins swooping for insects.