Every year, I find that the holiday season seems to creep up on me faster each year. I want to slow down and savor the moments, and the amazing food! I am now home after a week long Northern California road trip up to Santa Cruz, a trip we make every year to feast and celebrate Thanksgiving with my husband’s family. With the delicious meal fresh in my memory, I couldn’t help but pick up Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament for this month’s blog post.
Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament is a fun fictional picture book, written by Anne Renaud and illustrated by Felicita Sala, based on the real cook, George Crum, who is believed to have made the first potato chip for a very finicky customer.
Renaud’s expressive text, the cracking and snapping of the crispy potato chip will create a craving for the tasty snack. Sala’s detailed illustrations of Mr. Crum’s kitchen and her delightful characters captured in the energy of the restaurant really stir up an appetite!
In keeping with the theme of real life people in picture books, I also chose to showcase The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Hadley Cooper.
A picture book told in only a couple of lyrical sentences weaving throughout the book, The Iridescence of Birds beautifully portrays the inspiration for the famous artist’s work, beginning with a boy’s introduction to color and patterns to brighten up his dreary childhood home in a gray town in Northern France.
The illustrations, created with a “combination of relief printmaking and digital techniques”, not only bring focus to young Matisse’s world full of color, but also closely resembles the artist’s own stylistic form of expression. The young boy’s view and the grown artist’s work in the end ties together beautifully to show the connection of inspiration throughout the artist’s life.
I hope you check out these picture books, and enjoy learning a little bit more about a couple of real-life interesting characters. I also hope you have a chance to slow down and enjoy this season amid the whirlwind of the holidays!
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!
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Long ago, Magician Bill Malone created a magnificent cups and balls routine based on the nursery rhyme “Rub a Dub Dub”. The humorous poem and eye-popping illusions combine to create a routine that has become a classic of magic, enjoyable by all ages. This same outcome is possible in books, when we combine visual imagery with lyrical text. The result can be a story that captivates both young and old readers. This month, we’ll take a look at three of my favorite poetic or lyrical books. First, we’ll take a look at a book about one of my favorite historical figures, written by one of my favorite authors.
“Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive”, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Eric Velasquez tells they story of Olympian Jesse Owens, focusing on his incredible experience at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Told through a series of poems that highlight moments along Jesse’s journey, this book provides a glimpse into both the sports competition at the Games, as well as the political climate at the time.
Two of my favorites are Beyond Berlin, which speaks to the Germany that was hidden from (or ignored by) visitors to the games, and On the Victory Stand, which celebrated Jesse Owens first appearance on the medal podium and highlighted the steps Hitler took to avoid having to shake his hand. Weatherford’s poems are both emotionally connective and informative, and Velasquez’s artwork matches the poems in beauty and intensity. With many agents and editors pleading with authors to create biographies that are told in unique ways, this is a shining example of an inventive way to tell an important story in our history.
Candace Fleming’s “Giant Squid”, illustrated by Eric Rohmann, introduces readers to one of nature’s most elusive creatures. The combination of Rohmann’s dramatic illustrations and Fleming’s lyrical text creates an atmosphere worthy of a deep-sea adventure. As we learn what scientists have discovered about the giant squid (and what has yet to be discovered) we are taken on a journey into the depths of the ocean.
Our encounter with the squid gets us up close and personal, takes us on a hunt for food, and gives us a ring side seat for a dramatic escape. “Giant Squid” is a wonderful introduction to this fascinating creature and is a terrific mentor text for anyone looking to make their prose more lyrical.
One of my favorite recent additions to my library is “One Last Word” by Nikki Grimes. This incredible book of poetry highlights the work of Harlem Renaissance poets using the Golden Shovel poetry form. If you’re not familiar with it, the Golden Shovel form starts with a line from a poem, or the whole poem in its entirety. The words from the line are used as the last word in each line of a new poem. The form is challenging but, in the hands a master like Nikki Grimes, the results can be incredible.
“One Last Word” includes poems from the Harlem Renaissance, paired with Golden Shovel poems from Grimes. She has built a bridge that transports the reader back to Harlem. I’m particularly enamored with this collection because my earliest introduction to poetry was through the works of Harlem Renaissance poets like Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Jean Toomer. Anybody interested in poetry, or improving their writing, should check out “One Last Word”.
Well, that’s all for this month. Have a magical, and lyrical, month.
by Melissa Stoller
Ideas for children’s books are all around. Sometimes you find and harness them. Other times you may need to kick start the idea avalanche. Being open and receptive to thoughts, visuals, snippets of conversation, children's antics, pets, nature and science, current events, music, art, and just the world around you can often lead to a wonderful idea discovery.
Here’s the genesis of the ideas behind my three children’s books, inspired by my grandparents, a trip to a museum, and an observation on a walk around New York City:
THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND:
The first book in my chapter book series is based on the story of how my grandparents met on the Coney Island trolley in the 1920s. My grandmother told this story many times and it was part of our family lore. I had wanted to tell the story for many years, and finally took a leap and started to write. Mining your family history can be a wonderful way to discover ideas and to memorialize treasured parts of your family legend.
SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH:
One day, I was standing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, gazing at paintings by one of my favorite Impressionists, Monet. I wondered what it would be like to have a magic paintbrush and paint like Monet. From there, a series of “what if” questions entered my imagination. What if I could paint perfect paintings with a magic paintbrush? What if the magic brush was lost? What if it was found again? Ideas swirled around, and now my debut picture book with illustrator Sandie Sonke is out in the world! My love of art history and a little sprinkling of magic helped me catch this idea.
READY, SET, GORILLA!:
I happened to be walking along a New York City street and saw a huge billboard overhead that read, “Ready, Set, Go.” For some reason, the words, “Ready, Set, Gorilla” popped into my mind. I imagined a little gorilla racing, and shouting “Ready, Set, GOrilla!” to all his friends. A bit later, I imagined a little GOpher joining in the fun. I love puns and wordplay and enjoyed creating some fun in this story. I’m glad I was receptive and had an open mind when I saw that billboard. I’m so excited that this idea led to my newly releasing picture book with illustrator Sandy Steen Bartholomew!
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As you go about your daily routines, stop and consider that moments from your everyday world can lead to your next great children’s book idea. Happy creating!
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 Spring 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla!(Clear Fork, Fall 2018). 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, an Admin 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. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections.
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.