by: Sarah Momo Romero
It’s the new year and for many of us, it’s the start of new projects or adventures! This time around, it was a bit of a struggle for me to return to the swing of things after the holidays. It was so nice and comforting to settle into spending time with family and friends, it’s taken a bit of a push to get myself back into creativity. And this post was a great start! This month, I’m highlighting books that sparked a new excitement for me, with words, poetry and illustrations that are completely different from ones I’ve written about before. Here I have The Stuff of Stars and Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, both coincidentally illustrated by the amazing Ekua Holmes.
The Stuff of Stars is written by award-winning author, Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by artist Ekua Holmes. This picture book beautifully blends the mystery and ethereal quality of the universe, the formation of the stars and all beings on Earth through words and artwork that starts of dark and quiet, and explodes off the page with a great life force and energy.
As a long-time lover of handmade paper, the cover for this picture book mesmerized me and drew me right in with its swirls of color and bursts of energy. Holmes created the illustrations with hand-marbled paper and collage and assembled it digitally, crafting images to compliment Bauer’s vivid words perfectly. The textural quality of the artwork across each page captures movement in an abstract way that invites the reader to look closer and really take in each moment on every page.
Readers of all ages will enjoy reading Bauer’s lyrical telling of the creation of our world, as well as looking deeper into each illustration for the hidden images within.
Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets written by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, also illustrated by Ekua Holmes, pays tribute to twenty well-known poets from around the world and across centuries with original poems by the authors.
Out of Wonder is a great introduction for readers of all ages to the many different poets and their styles through the eyes of the authors of the book. Poems honoring and in the styles of Emily Dickenson, e.e. Cummings, Pablo Neruda, just to name a few, come alive and dance through Holmes’ eclectic style for each poem, illustrations created in collage on paper.
I hope you all have had a great start to the new year, and are on a roll with your creative projects! And if you’re like me, and need a little extra push, hopefully checking out these distinctive picture books will spark a little creativity for you as well!
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was a chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Her debut picture book, "Wake Up, Little Bat!" is out now through Clear Fork Publishing!
by Bryan Patrick Avery
I’m posting this on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the United States. The past few years have been a fairly turbulent time in the U.S. and around. As we take to the streets to celebrate the life of Dr. King, and his impact on peace and freedom in our world, I wanted to look at three books which explore his life and legacy, all in very different, but engaging ways.
“As Good As Anybody”, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Raul Colón, tells the story of two civil rights leaders: Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. The story is told in two parts. The first part follows King from the time he is a young boy in Georgia, angry over the mistreatment of Blacks due to Jim Crow laws. As he grows older, he begins to take an active role in fighting discrimination. This leads to him leading a march from Selma to Montgomery. Along the way, the march is nearly stopped by authorities who assault the marchers. Unwilling to give up, King puts out a call for people to join the march. This is the start of the second part of the book: the story of Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Heschel’s story begins in Poland. The son of a rabbi, Heschel learned at a young age to treat everyone fairly, especially those most in need of help. He followed in his father’s footsteps and became a rabbi and moved to Germany. When Hitler came to power, Heschel was forced to leave Germany and returned to Poland. Even in Poland, he found that Jews were treated unfairly. Before long, he decided to travel to America in search of freedom. Once there, Heschel spoke out against discrimination and prejudice and, eventually, found himself marching shoulder to shoulder with Martin Luther King, Jr. through Selma, Alabama. Together, they worked tirelessly to bring down the walls of oppression.
“As Good As Anybody” tells a wonderful story of two civil rights heroes. The language makes it accessible for both older and younger readers. Colón’s illustrations are captivating and evoke emotions with every page turn. If you’re looking for a good example of a creative way to tell a biography, check this one out.
It’s no secret that editors are looking for stories that go beyond the traditional biography. If you’re looking for a book that just does that, check out Eve Bunting’s “The Cart that Carried Martin”. Wonderfully illustrated by Don Tate, this book tells the story of the cart that mourners used to carry the body Martin Luther King, Jr. on the day of his funeral. But it doesn’t stop there.
The story begins with “borrowing” the cart from in front of Cook’s Antiques and Stuff. Next, the reader is taken inside Ebenezer Baptist Church to experience the emotion of his funeral service. Then, the cart is hitched to a pair a mules for the journey across Atlanta and we are invited to join in the solemn march. Finally, after the service at Morehouse College ends, we return the cart to Cook’s. This journey helps give meaning to Kings life and work and “The Cart That Carried Martin” should be a treasured item on any bookshelf.
Another creative approach to biography is using a special or unique connection to the subject. This allows an author to create a book that provides special or otherwise unknown information. “My Brother Martin” was written by Christine King Farris, the sister of Martin Luther King, Jr., and illustrated by Chris Soentpiet. “My Brother Martin” won the NAACP Image Award and was named a Best Book of the Year by A Child Magazine. What is so special about this book is the closeness we feel with Dr. King through the words of his sister. From pranks they pulled as young kids to difficult discussions they had with their parents about bigotry and hatred. This book gives us a glimpse inside life with the King family, and a hint of the experiences, and teachings which helped King become the man who helped lead a nation forward in civility. You may not personally know someone as famed as Martin Luther King, Jr. but there are still many stories that only you can tell.
Well, that’s all for this month. Have a magical, and peaceful, month.
by Melissa Stoller
CHEERS TO 2019!
In my December 2018 Blogfish post, I suggested 5 tips for staying motivated during the busy holiday season: picking one project to work on, setting up an accountability check in, carrying a journal, continuing to read, and mapping out a calendar. Click here for that post.
Now in January, it’s a new year. I recommend focusing on the following 5 strategies to jump-start your 2019 writing life:
1) Think – Focus on ideas. Observe the world around you. Listen to conversations kids have at the park, the library, and on the playground. Watch animal antics. Pay attention to nature. Scroll through online videos. Revisit the photos on your phone or in old photo albums. Read the newspaper for noteworthy stories. Ideas and inspiration are everywhere, so stop, grab them, and make them your own.
2) Read – Focus on reading widely, and also specifically in your genre. Read magazines, newspapers, novels, comic books, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, and anything else that interests you. And also read in the area that you write in, so perhaps decide to read as many new picture book releases as you can. Study these books, write out the text, think about what makes them special and unique. Determine how you can apply what you study to help inform your own writing.
3) Write – Focus on getting words down on the page. Write those first drafts. Try not to edit yourself too much as you write. Just let the ideas and the words flow without judgement. Then put the draft away for some period of time until you are ready to revise.
4) Revise – Focus on next steps in the writing process. Most authors will tell you that the magic happens in the revision stage. Take those first drafts and pull them apart. Perhaps change the main character, the point of view, or the setting of the story. Maybe the main character is really an animal, not a child. Try first person point of view. Maybe the story should take place in outer space, not in school. Play with your story to make it the best it can be. Focus on big picture and small picture revisions. Work with trusted critique partners. Polish your manuscript until it shines.
5) Connect – Focus on connecting to the KidLit community. Join SCBWI and volunteer with your local chapter. Attend online or in-person courses, workshops, and conferences. Join a critique group. Participate in writing challenges. Become active in the social media forum that you feel comfortable with. Find and cultivate your tribe. Connecting with other writers and illustrators will enable you to be an engaged part of the wonderful children’s literature community.
Wishing you all the best for a creative 2019 as you jump into the New Year!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018), and Return of the Magic Paintbrush and Sadie’s Shabbat Stories (Clear Fork, 2019). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at CBA, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays feature funny Aussie author Sharon Giltrow sharing awesome Aussie books.
And 5th Mondays will feature Libyan American author Koloud Tarapolsi sharing wonderful diverse books.