Monday, February 27, 2012

The Princess and the Pig

One fun aspect of being a Cybils judge was that I was introduced to books that I had never heard of before - one being The Princess and the Pig written by Jonathan Emmett and illustrated by Poly Bernatene.  I think the premise of the book is quite clever - it is a spoof on fairy tales.  

Pigmella the pig and Priscilla the princess are swapped as infants and the princess becomes known as Pigmella and grows up a farmer's daughter while Priscilla, the pig, is thought to be the princess under a spell - "it's the sort of thing that happens all the time in books." This line is repeated throughout the text and the illustrations feature a fairy tale where that sort of thing did happen.  While reading this, I found myself wishing I had the fairy tales sitting next to me to reference.  My children kept asking me "What happens in . . . .Thumbelina, Puss in Boots, The Prince and the Pauper?"  I think this a very fun and creative way to reference, and hopefully reintroduce, children to original texts that they may not know or only know the Disney-fied version.  

The illustrations in this book are bright and bold.  They match the tone of the story and add to the fun. I especially love the visual references to the fairy tales. I love the cleverness of this book and a princess story that promotes finding your own "happily ever after." 

This is a very fun book.  Definitely check it out at your local library or bookstore!

Monday, February 20, 2012


One of the finalists for the Cybils award in the fiction picture book category was Blackout by John Rocco. This is a fantastic picture book.  It tells the story of a little girl whose family is too busy to play a board game and what happens when all the lights in the city go out.

I love the colors of this book.  There is a stark visual contrast between the opening spread with the city lights all on and the fronts of the houses and stores lit up and the darkness that descends on the city.   I enjoyed the comic book paneling and thought it had a cinematic feel to it as well.  I love the simplicity of the text and how it leaves most of the storytelling to the illustrations.  This is definitely a picture book where reading the illustrations gives the reader most of the story.   

I love the premise of the book.   In a society where everything is constantly at our fingertips via smartphones we are certainly busy and preoccupied.  I think this book really captures the child's view of the excitement of slowing down and spending time together - making shadow puppets, climbing the roof to the city being lit only by stars (a true sight to behold for an urban child) and going down to the street to play in the fire hydrants and eat free ice cream.  This is a child's paradise - and I think this book captures that.  Two winters ago we had our power go out for several days, and one of the nights we set up a tent in our friends' front room and slept it in with our kids, cooked pancakes on a camp stove via head lamps and had instant oatmeal for breakfast.  My kids loved it and now every time it snows they tell us how they hope the power goes out so we can do it again.  I remember it being cold; they remember it being an adventure.  I love that this book captures the adventure point of view of the child and empowers the child to re-create that action on their own time frame - rather than the weather's.  Because surely playing games via candlelight (or sleeping in a tent in the living room) is even more fun in a comfortable temperature.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Winner of All Kinds of Kisses Giveaway

And the winner of the book is . . . #3 - Rachel!  Email me at with your address!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cybils Announced

The Cybils awards were announced this morning!  Check out their website to find out the winners in every genre of children's literature.  I was lucky to be one of the final judges for the fiction picture book genre and the winner for that category is Me . . . Jane by Patrick McDonnell.

This is such a fantastic picture book.  Here is the write up found on the Cybils blog:

Me...Jane is a touching glimpse into the life of a young Jane Goodall as a curious girl with a love of nature, and books, and a stuffed chimpanzee named Jubilee. A unique combination of dreamy watercolor vignettes and nature-inspired vintage engravings complement a simple and evocative text. Every element of the book's design, from its album-like cover and heavy yellowed pages to the inclusion of photographs and Goodall's own childhood drawings, helps create a picture book that feels like a relative's cherished scrapbook. Readers of all ages will take inspiration from a young girl who so fully follows her dreams.

One interesting thing to note about this book is that even though it is about Jane Goodall it is classified as fiction, rather than non-fiction.  It is a book that somehow straddles the line of fiction and non-fiction and tells the story of a young Jane Goodall in a very accessible manner to all ages.  Find this book - you will not be disappointed.  

Also, today is International Book Giving Day - read more about it here - and give a book to a child today!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Interview with Nancy Tafuri and Giveaway

I have had a hard time getting back in the swing of things after my vacation! But I think I am back to regular life and ready to start blogging again. I am really excited about this post today. I recently reviewed All Kinds of Kisses, and today I have an interview with the author Nancy Tafuri to share. And in conjunction with the interview, I am giving away one copy of All Kinds of Kisses! 

Nancy Tafuri has authored over 45 books, including 1985 Caldecott Honor book Have You Seen My Duckling?

Meet Nancy:

What books did you love as a child?
Every week my mother and I would go grocery shopping and a new picture book
would make this event a winner...
I am a product of the Classic Golden Book era:

The Pokey Little Puppy
The Little Red Hen
The Animals of Farmer Jones

and then there was:
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
I-Think-I-Can, I-Think-I-Can!
Which has been my motto throughout my life!

What illustrators or artists have been influential to you?
Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak and the early twentieth century children’s book
illustrators like Mary Louise Spoor.

Describe your path to publication. 
My path was rocky. The illustrations I drew were for very young children and they were large and bold and picture book illustration in the late 1970’s was mostly aimed at five-, six-, and seven-year-olds. My images were considered “too graphic” for children that age. “The pictures are too big,” I was told over and over about the large, colorful shapes I drew. Finally, I was recognized at Greenwillow Books, Harper Collins Publishers.

What medium do you use most frequently? 
I’m happy the days of pre-separation are over, many of my first books had countless acetate overlays and and color percentages were involved in choosing the right shades. Now my favorite colors come from watercolors, inks, colored pencils and waterproof black pen lines.

Describe your work space. 
My studio is in an old converted chicken shed. It’s filled with bright light and looks out on an apple orchard and HAVE YOU SEEN MY DUCKLING?’s pond.

A lot of your work is in someway connected to nature, what draws you to illustrate nature? 
Since I’m surrounded by nature it’s always auditioning. Bluebirds, squirrels, ducks they all want to be in a book!

What do you like to do in your free time? 
I love to read, walk, antique, work in the garden, visit my daughter and eat my husbands fabulous food!

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be? 
I have visited my special place Hilltop Farm, Near Sawrey, England which was the home of Beatrix  Potter.

Thanks to Nancy for giving us a glimpse into her life as an artist.  I love the idea of an old chicken shed turned art studio - and looking over a pond, nonetheless!

Today, one lucky reader will receive a copy of Nancy Tafuri's latest book All Kinds of Kisses.  To enter the giveaway you must be a US resident.

You get one entry for commenting.
You can get an extra entry for posting about the giveaway on Facebook.
And a third for pinning it on Pinterest.

Make sure to leave a way for me to contact you if you are the winner!  The giveaway will close Saturday morning, the 18th.

And since only one of you can win, and Valentine's is tomorrow - I think this would be a very fun, non-Valentinesy, Valentine book to give to children!

Friday, February 3, 2012


I belong to a book group that reads an assortment of books - mostly adult, some fiction, some non-fiction with the occasional ya novel.  This past month we read Keeper by Mal Peet. I had never heard of it before, but it was a very fun read.

Keeper tells the fictional story of El Gato, the world reknowned goal-keeper who has just helped his team win the world cup.  The story is told through the means of an interview.  El Gato is telling his story to the top sports journalist, Paul Faustino.  El Gato grew up in the jungle in South America playing soccer on the dirt.  However, he was not any good.  He was nicknamed El Ciguena - the stork and eventually stopped playing altogether.  With his afternoons now free he began to explore the jungle that stood at the edge of his town. The jungle was thick and deep but one day El Gato came upon a huge clearing in the middle of the jungle - a soccer field.  And thus El Gato's relationship with The Keeper - a mysterious figure, living in the midst of the jungle, begins.

The story is very well written and is a fun coming of age novel.  It begins at the near end of the story - with El Gato having already won the World Cup, and being about 30 years old.  While reading it I did find myself wishing that it started at the beginning and left the end unknown until the end, however, the journalist definitely adds a healthy skepticism to the story and leaves the reader wondering who this Keeper could really be.

I think this a great read for any soccer loving child and especially would invite in any reluctant readers who are sports fans.  Apparently there are a few "Paul Faustino" books by Mal Peet - featuring the journalist found in Keeper.  Paul Faustino even has his own website found here.