Category Archives: NEWS – Children’s Book

What’s on Your Curious Child’s SUMMER READING LIST?

Keep your child’s reading skills up!  Too many children fall behind when they are not encouraged to read during the summer.  Encourage your child to join your local library’s summer reading program.

Explore new titles to keep your child interested and challenged.  Find new places for them to visit, new history to learn—in a fun way—and new poetry to expand their ear and inspire their heart.

What new titles have you found that are “must reads”?   Send me your favorite titles and I’ll send mid-summer updates! 

Summer Reading List 2015 k-2              Summer Reading List 2015 9-12


Four Reasons Picture Books Are Important!

three boys1) Pictures Books Engage Readers
A good picture book speaks to the heart and imagination of the child.  The best are those that empower the child to think on their own; that encourage relationships with family, friends, and neighbors; and that inspire and encourage them to want to read another.   The true joy for a child is when they can find themselves in the story, whether the character be a puppy, a space creature, or a human child.  A young developing mind can learn much more from a picture and the voice of a reader in addition to written words only.

enticing2) Picture Books Expand Vocabulary
Worried parents, pushing their child to pass mandated education tests, are demanding early chapter books and leaving behind the picture books, but have the parents read early chapter books?  Have they compared picture book and chapter book vocabularies?  Written in grade-appropriate vocabularies, chapter books are much less challenging to read and, often deal with everyday problems, rather than addressing more complex issues covered in well-written picture books. A child reading a picture book meant to be read by adults, will stretch their mind and imagination much further than by reading a standard chapter book.

engaged girl3) Picture Books Enhance Learning
Removing art from reading is like removing art education from the schools, when studies have shown art educations improves test scores and leads to better grades in college. There’s much more in those pictures, than entertainment.  If the old adage is true, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” I’m not sure removing them from books is a move in the right direction.

boy enticing4) Picture Books Speak to Different Learning Styles
Studies have shown people learn through a dozen learning styles, one of which is through words.  The trend towards earlier chapter books leaves behind readers who learn in ways other than words.  Pictures develop the inner abilities and right brain thinking portions of our mind.  They speak to many readers in ways that words cannot and help those readers enjoy the written word.  This trend towards early chapter books leaves behind huge numbers of children.  Some learners will always benefit from an accompaniment of pictures, for that’s who they are.

Research books, check your book stores, and scour your libraries for books that best stimulate your child to read.   Find the stories with depth, find the stories that expand their understanding of the world, find the stories that develop their acceptance of differences, and find the stories that ‘speak’ to your child.  These books will help lay in a foundation that will carry them through their adult life.  Start with meaningful picture books, and enrich their heart and mind with their beauty.


I support the claim that “Kids Need Monstrous Words!”

I cheered when reading “Kids Need Monstrous Words!” an April 15 blog by Paul Czajak.  He promotes the use of ‘monstrous’ words in picture books and I concur.  How else is a child to expand their vocabulary?  I think writers need to be cognizant that complex words need to be used sparingly and, used where the content sheds light on what it means.  As picture books are designed to be read by an adult, kids have an immediate resource for a definition—or a suggestion to look it up in the dictionary.

As a child, I don’t remember looking up words in the dictionary, but when I started writing, words I didn’t use verbally appeared on my page.  I looked them up and was surprised I was using them appropriately.   We absorb what we are exposed to.

Let there be “Monstrous” words in picture books!

Read the entire blog: Kids Need Monstrous Words


Can Picture Books Change the Way We Think About Mental Health?!

It appears Australians allow for discussions of depression and death, unlike mainstream Americans.  Cheers, that they bravely publish picture books for the young to open doors to these life experiences.    Read reviews on The Red Tree and Duck, Death and the Tulip and change your perspectives on depression and death during May is National Mental Health Month.

The Red Tree 
Shaun Tan
Simply Read Books, 2003 (Canada)
Originally published in Australia

If a child experiences depression, or observes a friend or family member with depression, this book can, perhaps, help them understand it on an intuitive level.

A true picture book, half the story is told through its exquisite illustrations.  The opening line, “sometimes the day begins with nothing to look forward to” shows a girl sitting in bed in a rather drab room.  The next line “darkness overcomes you” shows a girl walking down the sidewalk in a large, faceless city, with a giant fish hovering above her, diminishing her in size.The Red Tree 200x301

Anyone who has experienced depression, understands these words and pictures.  If a child knows someone who has depression, it can give them insights into that person’s experience. Quiet and reflective, the story goes on to describe the feelings one typically has with depression.  At the end of her day, the girl returns to her room to find a small red leaf standing in the middle of her room.  And as she enters, it transforms into a bright, brilliant red leafed tree, with the words, “just as you imagined it would be,” reassuring the reader that a depressed person’s thoughts of hope will come true, in time.  This book is more appropriate for the older reader, ages 6-12.

Duck, Death and the Tulip
By Wolf Erlbruch
Gecko Press, 2011
Originally published in New Zealand and Australia

Another picture book where the illustrations tell at least half the story, we meet the duck and a hollow-eyed character who introduces himself as death.

Duck Death 200x283After Duck and Death meet, the duck decides Death is a really ‘quite nice’.  When Duck suggests they go to the pond, we learn, “Death had been dreading that.”  The reader quietly learns something is about to happen.  They swim for a while, and Duck offers to cover and warm Death, as water for Death is not agreeable.  When they wake the next morning, Duck is surprised she is not dead.  Duck discusses Angels and a place in earth where ducks could be roasted, but Death makes no comments on her chatter.  They choose to spend their day in a tree, and Duck thinks, “That’s what it will be like when I’m dead.  The pond alone, without me.”  As we get closer to the time, the reader is gently told death is coming.  They spend the summer together, but when cold starts coming in, death lies down, and that is the end for her.  Death carries her to the water and watches her float away.  Death is a part of life.

Read more reviews on Amazon: The Red Tree and Duck, Death, and the Tulip

Reading 350 picture books and writing 80 reviews transformed my writing skills!

Reading 350 picture books and writing 80 reviews transformed my writing skills!

In launching my blog, I feel like I’ve completed a three-month intensive.  I read more than 350 picture books and wrote more than 80 reviews.  I read the best sellers, award winners, and classics—the best of the best—and chose my favorites from those.children-s-book-clip-art-Childrens-Books (1)

Writing the reviews forced me to identify—in words—what appealed to me.  Was it the art?  The poetry?  The cleverness?  The originality? The voice?  And how—exactly—did the words or art express its outstanding qualities?

Needless to say I did very little creative writing during the marathon.  Returning to my manuscripts after the launch, I wondered if I would see what needed improving—and did I see plenty!  What “needed to go” jumped out at me.  Words counts reduced, point of views jumped to attention, and my stories began to sound like the ones I had been reading.  Lean.  Focused.  Poetic.  Publishable!

Starting the blog was the best writing training I’ve ever undertaken.  I would recommend anyone serious about picture book writing to challenge themselves to marathon-read 20-25 award-winning books a week and write 4-6 reviews a week for a month.  It’s worth it!

Wherever You Go

Wherever You Go
By Pat Zietlow Miller, Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
Little Brown and Company, 2015

An award winning writer and illustrator invite adventurers to take to the road and follow their dreams.

Using the road as a metaphor, author Pat Zietlow Miller invites us to follow our dreams and embark upon life’s adventure.  Whether we choose roads through country sides, rivers, bays, forests, mountains, or cities, all roads offer sites to explore.  Along the way we will encounter detours, choices, and unexpected connections that provide new people to meet and things to explore.  And, at the end of our adventure, when we think of home, the road returns us to where we belong.

Wherever You Go’s warm illustrations call to be enjoyed.  From the cover where we can almost feel the warm breeze on our face, to the behind-the-scene stories not told in the text, artist Eliza Wheeler enriches the adventure.  We follow rabbit and owl helping others along the way, carrying a boat and travelers for a short distance,  and packing their bike and belongings and joining others in their van, sharing in life’s joys. With trees on the move, bustling winds, and streaming waters there’s something to enjoy on every page.

Want to know more about how a picture book comes to be?
After a manuscript has been accepted by a publisher, a typical picture book takes “two years” to be published.  It’s a complex—creative—process often telling two’ stories, one in words and one in illustrations.  When you read Wherever You Go, it all seems like one beautiful  story, but when you start comparing the words against the illustrations, you’ll soon see the illustrations tell their own story.  Rabbit and Owl are never mentioned in the words.  Picking up others on their journey and joining others in the van are not written, but pulling the two stories into one provides an enriching story that communicates to readers through many senses, addresses many needs, and—in  this book—inspires many dreams.

Take a peek at the fascinating road Eliza Wheeler took to create her illustrations and the inspiring road Pat Zietlow Miller followed to write her story.

Read more reviews on Amazon.