Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September Recommendations

Here are some great books I have enjoyed recently—what are you reading now?


Brian Selznick’s new hybrid novel, THE MARVELS, is another jaw-dropingly beautiful, poignant story from the creator of Caldecott-winning, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Beginning on a ship in 1766 and following a theatrical dynasty through the years, this story begins with wordless illustrations, continues with text-only pages, and brings us back around to illustrations for the ending. The Marvels doesn’t feel like a repeat of what Selznick has done before. It’s lovely—don’t miss it! (MG)

GOODBYE STRANGER, by Rebecca Stead (Newbery winner for When You Reach Me), is so wonderful that I immediately reread it just as soon as I had finished it the first time. In fact, each of her books, including Liar & Spy, are so intricately plotted and satisfying, I have done this for all of them. Bridge, Tabitha, and Emily have been great friends for years but now, in seventh grade, so many things are changing. While Goodbye Stranger is an examination of the benefits and boundaries of friendship, there is also much more going on. Along with the narrative of the three friends, and also new-to-the-group Sherm Russo, there is a mysterious thread, told by an unnamed character who is experiencing something of a crisis. Stead is a master at pulling the strings of her plot together into a satisfying novel that feels a cut above the usual middle grade fare. (MG)

And I have just read the second and third books in THE MAGIC THIEF series, by Sarah Prineas. I have previously talked about Book One. Books Two and Three do not disappoint! The main character, Connwaer, reminds me very much of the narrator in The False Prince—he’s a charming guttersnipe recently elevated to a better state of affairs, he’s a bit of a scoundrel, and he’s thoroughly in control of his own destiny. Much fun, and I believe that the series extends even after the trilogy has been concluded—I intend to find out. (MG)

Picture Books:

IT’S ONLY STANLEY, by Jon Agee, is a perfectly-paced rhyming picture book by master-of-the-genre Jon Agee, who most recently gave us Little Santa (also not to be missed). In It’s Only Stanley, the dog is making lots of nighttime noise, but he’s also getting things done. After howling at the moon, Stanley proceeds to fix the oil tank, make catfish stew, fix the old TV, etc. The book culminates in a silly and surprising ending. It’s tons of fun! And if you want a lesson in how to use page turns effectively, study this one.

LENNY & LUCY, written by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin Stead, the folks who gave us Caldecott winner A Sick Day for Amos McGee, are back with another distinctive, graceful, and exceptional offering. When Peter and his dog Harold move to a new house, they find that it’s not nearly as nice as their old one. There are terrible things hiding in the trees, but thank goodness for Lenny and Lucy! Subtle and magical, this book is truly a gem.

And ONE WORD FROM SOPHIA, by Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail, is also magical in its own way. Sophia has One True Desire, which is to get a giraffe for her birthday, but she also has four problems standing in her way: her Mother, Father, Uncle Conrad, and her Grand-mama, who is very strict. After arguing her way through them all, Sophia discovers a simple solution. The ending is both unexpected and obvious.


Sunday, September 13, 2015


I'm just back from the Working Writer's Retreat, put on by the Los Angeles region of the SCBWI. Such an amazing time--terrific faculty, plenty of talk about craft, and even a karaoke party (luckily for everyone, I did not sing)!

Here's a photo with my esteemed group, the Bestsellers 2:

I hope we stay in touch.

I'll be revising and submitting my work in the coming months. This time, I'm even making a business plan!!


Wednesday, September 9, 2015

New Illustration

I recently finished a new painting for the back cover of my Little Owl dummy!

Friday, September 4, 2015

September's Book of the Month--The Right Word

September’s Book Pick is the gem of a picture book, THE RIGHT WORD: ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. The text of this nonfiction book is clear and concise. It’s packed with information, and will easily support multiple readings by kids of all ages. But, beyond a doubt, the text is helped immensely by the brilliant design and illustrations that make THE RIGHT WORD very special.

Sweet’s art is made from watercolor paintings, embellished and collaged into layers and layers on each page, with each element supporting and furthering the text. Sometimes the story is laid out as a list, sometimes a list will support the story. The use of color is brilliant:

  1. a brilliant student: bright, intelligent, clever, smart, astute, intellectual; gifted, talented, able, adept, skillful; elite, superior, first-class, first-rate, excellent; informal brainy. ANTONYMS  stupid.
  2. his brilliant career: superb, glorious, illustrious, impressive, remarkable, exceptional. ANTONYMS  unremarkable. 
  3. a shaft of brilliant light: bright, shining, blazing, dazzling, vivid, intense, gleaming, glaring, luminous, radiant; literary irradiant, coruscating. ANTONYMS  obscure, dark.
  4. brilliant green: vivid, intense, bright, bold, dazzling. ANTONYMS  dull, dark.
There is so much information packed into these 32 pages plus back matter, but not once does if feel heavy or didactic.
If you have not yet read THE RIGHT WORD: ROGET AND HIS THESAURUS, run—don’t walk—to your nearest library or bookstore and find yourself a copy!!