Friday, November 29, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 29

Today, I had a chance to just hang with my family.  My sister and aunt went out for tea in the morning at a little Tea Room in my hometown. Yes, I was surprised that my small hometown has a Tea Room.  Pasadena has about six or eight of them, so, I am spoiled.  I am not sure that there are even that many in the whole state of Connecticut (trust me, we googled them and couldn't find that many), and one of them is in our tiny town.

I, also, had a chance to go out for pizza with everyone to my favorite place (Ernie's in New Haven).  I tried to get there back in July but they are a small family business and were closed for the two weeks I was home.  I decided tonight that I could literally give up pizza if I could have it every time I cam home. California doesn't know what it is missing.

So, I am thankful for family even if at times they drive you crazy.  I am thankful for the burnt roof of my mouth from that oh too hot first bite of pizza.  I am thankful for the chance to extend my trip east to hang with my family even for a few days. 

..and in honor of Picture Book Month, here is my recommendation:

by Melissa Stewart; Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
Peachtree Publishers (2009)

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 28

Thanksgiving is an emotional time for many.  Most of our lives do not look like a Norman Rockwell painting or play out like a Hallmark movie.  Our families and relationships are often complicated and messy.  Some people are missing the presence of a special family member who died over the past year.  Others have loved ones in the military or living too far away to come home for the holiday.

This was my first Thanksgiving with my parents in 22 years. I knew going into it there would be emotions for me for many reasons that I won't go into here.  However, I worked hard to stay in the moment and to appreciate my family and too recognize that much can change all too quickly if I do not take the time to celebrate what I have.  And for all of that, I do celebrate and show my appreciation.

While I was playing on-line, I came across some quotes about gratitude and thought I would share them with you.  Click on the link below to read them all.

...and in honor of Picture Book Month, here is my Thanksgiving Day recommendation:

Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving
by Laurie Halse Anderson; Illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Simon & Schuster (2005)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Days 24, 25, 26, and 27

It appears that I have gotten really, really behind with these posts but I have good excuses.  And I am very thankful for so much.

On Sunday, November 24th (Day 24), I met up with several former roommates, their husbands, and a few other friends from when I lived in Amherst.  We met in Waltham, Massachusetts for dinner.  It was so nice to see them.  Some I haven't seen in 10 or 12 years, and a few others I haven't seen in 20 years.  Those friends will always hold a very special place in my heart no matter how infrequent we see each other. 

On Monday, November 25th (Day 25), I enjoyed the first day of ALAN.  Hanging with Nerdy Book Club friends and listening to authors - how much better can life get.  I wrapped up the day having dinner with Beth Shaum and Kellie Celia from Walden Pond Press.  I am thankful for how books have brought me into contact with some very wonderful people.

On Tuesday, November 26th (Day 26),  I celebrated my final day at NCTE/ALAN.  It was sad to say bye to all those wonderful people, but I was excited to move on to my next leg of the journey.  After renting a car, I spent 5+ hours on the road driving from Boston to my parents' home in Connecticut. Traffic was extremely slow, and the weather wasn't great, but I was thankful for safe travel, a good audiobook, rain and not ice and snow.

And that brings us to today, Wednesday, November 27th (Day 27), I spent the day with my family and preparing for Thanksgiving.

And for all of these things, I am very grateful.

...and in honor of Picture Book Month, here is my recommendation:

by  Diane Mayr; Illustrations by Laura Rader
Walker Books for Young Children (2007)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 23

When I was in my undergraduate teacher training program, years ago, at Keene State College in New Hampshire, I really had no sense at how many wonderful educators were coming out of New England.  Individuals who would go on to influence generations of teachers with their work.  On Friday morning, I attended a breakfast hosted by Heinemann Publishers which paid tribute to the work of Donald Graves, and his influence in the area of teaching children to write.  Penny Kittle, Tom Newkirk, and Lucy Caulkins were a few of the individuals who spoke about Graves' influence on them as teachers. 

Today, I had a chance to attend a session presented by Nancie Atwell, and Linda Rief.  As I listened to these two powerful educators, I sat in awe at how truly a rich history New England has of producing phenomenal educators.  I am feeling very grateful to have had a chance these past few days to listen to just a few who have made a significant impact on the teaching of reading and writing in the past 30+ years.

...and in honor of Picture Book Month and children's writing, here is my recommendation:

by Abby Hanlon
Marshall Cavendish (August 2012)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Days 20, 21 and 22

Yes, I have gotten behind.  I will blame travel and NCTE.  So here is what I am thankful for... travels from Los Angeles to Boston.

...opportunities to be re-energized by all of the great conversations here at NCTE. presentation that went well and we received positive feedback. 

...the Heinemann Breakfast that was a tribute to Don Graves.

...making new friends, meeting tweeps for the first time (Cathy Mere, Deb Frazier, Gigi McAllister, Holly Mueller, and so many more), reconnecting with tweeps I have met before (Jen Vincent, Beth S., Donalyn, Paul, Colby, Katherine, Cindi, Teresa, Cynthia and so many more), .

...meeting so many wonderful authors and illustrators - some I have known (Dan Santat, Jenni Holms, Kirby Larson, Peter Brown, Beck McDowell, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Mitali Perkins) and some that I met for the very first time (Matt de la Peña, Louise Borden, Gae Polisner, Lynda Mullay Hunt, Martha Brockenbrough, Erin Downing Soderberg, and I am certain I am missing more).

And for all of this and more, I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Words by Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books (January 14, 2014)
Biography * Jazz Age * Women's History

"I shall dance all my life...I would like to die, breathless, spent, at the end of the dance." 
- Josephine Baker, 1927

Description from GoodReads:
In exuberant verse and stirring pictures, Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson create an extraordinary portrait of the passionate performer and civil rights advocate Josephine Baker, the woman who worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine's powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

My thoughts on this book:
For Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesdays, I usually try to review only books that are current year releases.  It's just the way I set up the challenge.  However, when this book arrived in the mail from Chronicle Books, I just had to share it.

I first learned of Josephine Baker when I was exploring different African American writers, artists, and musicians that were part of the Harlem Renaissance for a project.  However, I wish I had had this book when I was working on that project.

Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson make a dynamic duo with this book.  Powell moves through Josephine's life beginning in St. Louis and traveling through her life as she journeyed from St. Louis to New Orleans to Philadelphia to New York and eventually Paris.  Josephine found a home and place where she felt accepted in Paris.  Throughout the book, readers discover Josephine as an entertainer and also some of the other aspects of  her life which included being a spy for France and her tendency to live in excess.  The story is told through quotes, poems, and verse in a manner that captures the essence that was Josephine. Robinson meticulously matches Powell's text with vibrant illustrations that perfectly captures Josephine's personality.

At the end, both Powell and Robinson include notes about their research, inspiration, and process in creating this beautiful tribute to Josephine Baker. 

This book is a must add to your classroom or school library biography collection for middle graders. Look for it at your local independent bookstore when it comes out in January.      

Pair it up with:

by Jonah Winters; Illustrated by Marjorie Priceman
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (January 2012)

Link up your nonfiction reviews:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 19

Today I am a bit frazzled.  It's normally that way as I am about to leave town.  I love going somewhere new but I don't really love the pre-travel prep or the actual traveling.  I am really hoping that they develop some form of instant transportation or teleportation in the future.  And  I am always surprised that I don't leave more things that I need at home especially since I am usually packing at the last minute.  However, I am checked in for my flight.  Somehow, I will be packed and ready to leave when my friend picks me up to go to the airport.  I still have to decide which books that I am going to take with me across country. And I am trying not to look at my presentation any more because if I do, I will likely change something again.

Regardless of the pre-travel anxiety, I am really thankful to have this opportunity to travel across the country and attend the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention.  And if you are at NCTE '13, please say "hi".

....and since this is also picture book month, and with an eye towards Thanksgiving, here is my daily picture book recommendation:

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving
by Dav Pilkey 
Scholastic, 1990

The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour Spotlights - Caroline Carlson and A.B. Westrick

For the next several days, I will be highlighting the amazing authors on The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour.  Today I feature - Caroline Carlson....

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

Caroline answered: If Dodie Smith wrote about my middle grade self, I hope she would let me live in a fantastic ruin like Cassandra Mortmain does in I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, rather than in the suburbs. I know for sure that she would write about my quirks, confusions, and awkward moments in a way that would make me seem much cooler and more interesting than I was in real life!

Check out Caroline's debut book:

For more information about Caroline Carlson: website | facebook | twitter

Next up is A.B. Westrick....

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

A.B. answered: Jack Gantos would write this sarcasm-filled tale about me, the pigeon-toed, too-eager-to-please teacher's pet-wannabe who thinks boys are oh, so much more interesting than girls, and who wishes the boys would include her in all of their escapades. But being included and participating in their shenanigans means shedding her goody-goody exterior -- a high price to pay. Still, she reasons it's better than yet another boring sleepover, painting nails and talking about hair and clothes and on and on when everyone knows that what matters are the transistors and walkie-talkies and gadgets and gizmos that preoccupy the boys. She schemes to do whatever it takes to get the boys to acknowledge her existence, but they want nothing to do with her.

Check out A.B.'s debut book:

For more information about A.B. Westrick: website | facebook | twitter

Don't forget that there is a giveaway happening too:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 18

Late this afternoon, I had the opportunity to reconnect with many of my staff from San Rafael Elementary School as we came together to celebrate the retirement of our Community Assistant, Elizabeth Roman.  Mrs. Roman worked at the school for 29 years. Amazing when you think about it.  With some families, she influenced three generations. What a compassionate and strong and caring woman and I am thankful that our lives intersected. 

I am also thankful for the lives of the teachers, and instructional assistants and other staff who were there this evening.  I was reminded at how thankful I am for all the staff at the school.  I miss the community that we had created.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation, I am giving a shout out to Salina Yoon's new book:

Penguin in Love
by Salina Yoon
Walker Childrens (December 3, 2013)

The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Spotlights Jennifer Mann and Melanie Crowder

For the next several days, I will be highlighting the amazing authors on The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour.  Today I feature - Jennifer Mann....

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

Jennifer answered: I would have Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking) write my story and it would be an adventure in space! I would like to be saving several worlds, ours and a couple of others. I don't need a love interest but would really want an alien best friend.

Check out Jennifer's debut book:

For more information about Jennifer Mann: website | blog | facebook | twitter

Next up is Melanie Crowder....

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

Melanie answered: Beverly Cleary would write about middle grade me. It would be a heartwarming story about a girl trying to step out of the shadow of her brilliant older sister, and making a hilarious mess of it along the way.

Check out Melanie's debut book:

For more information about Melanie Crowder: website | facebook | twitter

Don't forget that there is a giveaway happening too:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 17

How bad would it be if I shared that I was thankful for Holiday Movies on Hallmark? HaHa! Yep, I am.  Today, while I worked on the computer, I probably watched four of them.

Other things that I was thankful for today...

...hanging out with a group of fifth graders that meet monthly to talk about ARC's (Advanced Readers Copies).  We meet at a local bookstore and the kids read the books and give us their thoughts on what is coming out.  It is fun to hear what they think and see what they like. They are better than professional reviewers, and they really know what they like and don't like.

...leftovers and good friends.  As you can imagine, we had leftovers from yesterday's birthday party. Lots and lots of leftovers.  A few of us joined together tonight to hang out in front of an outside fire (yes, I live in Southern California and we can do this in November), talk, laugh, and eat a lot of leftovers.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation:

by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel (2005)

The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour Spotlights Kit Grindstaff

For the next several days, I will be highlighting the amazing authors on The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour.  Today I feature - Kit Grindstaff.

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

Kit answered: A girl (11), tomboy, self-conscious bookworm, in weird family with departed (but not dead) dad, escapes into adventure/mystery books, and then gets kidnapped by the characters! I’d have Claire Legrand (The Year of Shadows) write it because she’d make it appropriately whacky but with a lot of heart (which I needed as a kid). I think she’d come up with a great ending to get the main character (me) out of that book and back into the real world, having learned the confidence and courage to deal with it.

Check out Kit's debut book:

For more information about Kit Grindstaff: website | blog | facebook | twitter

Don't forget that there is a giveaway happening too:

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 16 (a morning late)

I have been doing my Thanksgiving posts at night.  Well last night, I was so tired I couldn't even finish the last 30 minutes on an audiobook.  So, I am doing last night's post this morning.

Yesterday, I was thankful for a number of things...

...for my presentation, at the Association of Mexican American Educators Conference, which went well.  It was a great trial run for my NCTE presentation.

...for the birthday party for my dear friend who was in serious condition in the hospital a month ago.  He has come so far and his family and friends were excited to celebrate with him.

...for Matt de la Peña writing books that resonate with teens.  My godson, Jay, has not been convinced that books have meaning.  After looking at Jay's choices for school required reading this summer, I suggested he read Matt's book Mexican White Boy.  I thought if any of the books would resonate with Jay, then this one would.  Yesterday, I asked Jay what he wanted me to tell Matt about the book.  I don't have exact quotes but I was excited to hear him praise Matt for writing in a way that sounds like teens would talk.  As a biracial teen, Jay also resonated with this aspect of the story.  And for all of this, I am super thankful.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation in honor of books that deal with being a biracial child:

by Monica Brown; Illustrated by Sara Palacios
Lee & Low Books (September 2011)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Adventures & Misadventures Middle Grade Tour Spotlights Kristen Kittscher

For the next several days, I will be highlighting the amazing authors on The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour.  Today I feature - Kristen Kittscher.

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

Kristen answered: Lizzie K. Foley (REMARKABLE, Penguin, 2012) would write my story. Not unlike Foley’s remarkable (and remarkably funny) debut novel, it’d be about a seemingly normal girl who frequently finds herself amidst absurd situations and mysteries, which she solves with the help of her magical yet overenthusiastic dog.

Check out Kristen's debut book:

For more information about Kristen: website | facebook | twitter

Don't forget that there is a giveaway happening too:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thirty Days of Thanksgiving - Day 15

I almost skipped this  post today.  In three plus years of blogging, I have never done four posts in the same day. Two maybe but never four.  However, I just couldn't see combining gratitude posts. So this will be short.

Today I am thankful for practical things... the coat and boots that arrived in time for my trip to Boston.

...several things at work finally came together.

....and since this is also picture book month, here is my daily picture book recommendation:

by Birgitta Sif
Candlewick Press (October 2012)


The Book Thief - Release Day

Check out our coverage of the movie release of The Book Thief! This is part of a series by my friend David Yenoki, who also blogs at He had the opportunity to meet the lead actors, the director, and the author of the book on which the movie was based.

EDIT: While November 15 is the official release day in the US, some theaters will not get the film until the week of Thanksgiving. It will be showing on up to 400-500 screens by then, so be patient if you don't see it listed at your local theater yet :)

In my younger and more vulnerable years I had wanted to be an actor. At my father’s advice, and this might be unfair to completely suggest that he was the only one who discussed this with me, I didn’t pursue acting as I matured, giving up on these dreams without ever looking at myself and trying to figure out if I had talent, potential or a future. I am quite certain after watching the film adaptation of The Book Thief that I was a mere amateur hobbyist. The film cast is so talented that their performances are so effortless and never asked me to try and suspend my sense of disbelief.

I was invited to a press event of The Book Thief with a group of bloggers including Alethea Allarey from Read Now Sleep Later, Katie from BookYurt and a collection of “Mommy Bloggers” whom I had not the pleasure of meeting previously. One of the highlights of this event was an opportunity to sit and talk with two of the stars of the film, the young Sophie Nélisse who stars as Liesel Meminger, and the acclaimed Geoffrey Rush who plays her Papa Hans.

Sophie Nélisse turned thirteen years old during the production of The Book Thief film. She previously won awards for her role in a French Canadian film, Monsieur Lazhar, an academy award nominated foreign film. She made Monsieur Lazhar when she was just ten years old. Her performance in that film is amazing and her emotional range left me convinced that is what a real child actor can do. Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief saw Monsieur Lazhar and suggested it to the film adaptation production staff who were already considering her. They had seen over a thousand audition tapes before they got to Sophie. Sophie’s mom recorded her audition tape in the backyard using an iPhone. Film director Brian Percival says that Sophie had a presence that he liked to Madonna.

Sophie being so young it should not be a great surprise that she didn’t know about the events of World War II and what happened in those times. Brian gave her a list of things to watch and read including Hana’s Suitcase, a book about the suitcase of Hana Brady, a Jewish orphan who was killed during the Holocaust.

Sophie had no idea whom Geoffrey Rush was and when she was told that she was also going to be in a movie with Emily Watson, Sophie had thought they had said Emma Watson, famous for her role as Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films. When Sophie told her friends that she was in a movie with Geoffrey Rush, their response was “Who’s that?” which reflects her personal unfamiliarity with him. She was told that he could act and then she watched his Oscar award winning performance in Shine and was afraid that he might be crazy like his portrayal of piano prodigy David Helfgott.

At the U.S. premiere of The Book Thief at the Mill Valley Film Festival the presenters played tribute clips from Geoffrey’s performance in the movie Quills as the Marquis de Sade. He was naked in the clip and in an interview afterwards apologized “Sorry, Soph.” (That is the only part of the movie Quills she’s seen!)

On and off set Sophie and Geoffrey had a lovely time together. Sophie says they had dinner together – but she doesn’t remember it. This was possibly an inside joke between the two of them as there seemed to be many fits of laughter. Sometimes on set Geoffrey might forget a line and she would remind him because she has an excellent memory. But as an actor she found that he had quite a lot to teach her, including his preparations for the role with his copy of the book filled with post-it notes. Sophie hadn’t read the book but instead to get in character she tried to steal some books from a nearby bookstore. She did take the books but this was a conspiracy between Sophie’s mother, who had warned the bookstore staff and paid for the books, and Geoffrey, who encouraged Sophie to do it. Geoffrey did admit that in his younger and poorer days he stole a book himself. Or rather he didn’t return a book from the library. It was a big volume of the lyrics of Cole Porter.

Markus Zusak confessed to being moved to tears at a scene in the movie where Liesel hugs Papa after he discovers that she has stolen a book from a book burning. The onscreen chemistry between them is very tender and moving. This is perhaps assisted by the contrast between Liesel and Emily Watson’s Mama character. Geoffrey and Emily decided to play the roles like characters from the Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Papa is the “happy woodcutter” and Mama is the “mean stepmother.”

I didn’t get a chance to meet Emily Watson, but I would like to mention the strength of her performance as well. She plays a hard working German mother. She curses loudly and frequently, often berating her loved ones to do better and be better and informing them that their inability to be better is because they are lazy pigs. But this gruff attitude makes her vulnerable moments that much more moving because it is then that the audience realizes that she truly cares deeply for Papa and Liesel. I was very fond of her performance in the film because I had no idea that she was an English actress. I would have thought she was German!

The Book Thief opens in wide release today. You should go see it. And if you see me at the theatre, you can ask me for some tissues. You’ll probably need them.

For more information, check out the official website
Like the movie on Facebook
Follow @thebookthiefmovie on Twitter
Use the hashtag #TheBookThief on Twitter and Instagram

Based on the beloved bestselling book, THE BOOK THIEF tells the inspirational story of a spirited and courageous young girl who transforms the lives of everyone around her when she is sent to live with a new family in World War II Germany. It stars Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Ben Schnetzer, and Nico Liersch. It was directed by Brian Percival (Downton Abbey), with a screenplay by Michael Petroni, based upon the novel by Markus Zusak. The film was produced by Karen Rosenfelt and Ken Blancato for Fox 2000.

The Adventures & Misadventures Middle Grade Tour Spotlights Elisabeth Dahl

For the next several days, I will be highlighting the amazing authors on The Adventures and Misadventures Middle Grade Tour.  Today I feature - Elisabeth Dahl.

My question for all the authors:
A fictionalized character of you (as a middle grader) will be the main character in a book.  What author would write the book and what would it be about?

Elisabeth answered:
I was a kid living in the seventies and eighties and moving a lot (both on my own and with friends) around my city neighborhood. Although that neighborhood was in Baltimore and not New York and there were more mail carriers than time travelers around, I'd have to say Rebecca Stead would write my story.

Check out Elisabeth's debut book:

For more information about Elisabeth: website | blog | facebook | twitter

Don't forget that there is a giveaway happening too:
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FOSSIL Blog Tour & Special Guest Post with Bill Thomson

At the beginning of November, I had a chance to meet up with the amazing, Bill Thomson in person.  He emailed me to say he would be in town and did I want to get together.  Well, I didn't need to think about it.  Of course, I wanted to meet up.  I picked Bill up at a local artist's studio and we headed over to Kidspace Children's Museum in Pasadena.   It's a great space to hang and I wanted to introduce Bill to one of the staff at the museum.  As we walked around the museum, we talked about Bill's newest book, FOSSIL and about children and imagination and science and more.

After leaving Kidspace, we headed over to Montrose and stopped by Once Upon a Time Bookstore.  We were lucky that owner Maureen Palacios was in and I had a chance to introduce Bill to her.  I must have done a pretty fabulous job book talking Gris Grimly's Frankenstein because Bill picked up a copy while we were there.

We then headed to a small barbeque place for dinner where we managed to talk books and creative process for a couple more hours.

Here's a few things you need to learn about me...I will never make a great reporter.  I managed to not take a single picture or take notes throughout my whole time with Bill.  It just felt wrong somehow.  It would have completely messed up the tone of the afternoon/evening.  Another thing about me, I was plotting the whole time about how I might be able to create several events around Bill and his books.  Did you notice that I was taking him to places that could be potential event spots? *smile*

Now, here is the fun stuff.  During our dinner, Bill was talking to me about how he sometimes makes creative decisions with his art so that it will work better for children who are viewing his books.  I was fascinated with what he was sharing.  He then offered to share some images with the readers of my blog.  If you haven't figured this out yet, Bill is one of the nicest people I have ever met, and I am very blessed to have had the chance to spend so much time with him.  

This is what Bill shared with the readers of my blog about creating the Pteranodon in the book.

From Bill - Here are the steps used to create the illustration:

My initial thumbnail sketch establishes the basic idea.

Then I take the reference photos so I can make the details looks as convincing as possible. I shot photos from higher vantage point matching my thumbnail sketch, but I thought a lower perspective worked better. I shot over 10,000 reference photos for this book, and usually take multiple vantages for each illustration to see what works best. I have a very skinny nephew named Sam and used his back as the basis for my pteranodon. The pteranodon was a mix of a figure that I painted, Sam’s back, lizard photos, ptranodon research, and stuff I made up. I was originally going to make him brownish, but then opted for a reddish color so he would stand out from the other colored fossils and also to add more color to the book.

Looking at the reference photos, I make a tight pencil drawing.

Then I paint a light coat of yellow acrylic paint over my entire pencil drawing, and add black acrylic paint on top to establish the darkest areas.

I paint over the entire illustration with a light coat of purple oil paint and remove the areas of sunlight with an eraser. This creates a yellow and purple under painting, establishing base colors for light and shadow.

I always paint backgrounds first. The flat blue color of the sky was painted with an airbrush to keep it smooth, and the ground painted with a sponge to create texture. Many of the illustrations in the book had actual rock mixed in with the paint, but the ground in this illustration was from a farther vantage point.

Then I create a tight acrylic painting on top of the under painting. This is the most time consuming part of the process.  And finally, I go over the entire illustration with colored pencil to refine the illustration. This final step is also quite time consuming, but brings the illustration to life with subtle details and textures.

Other illustrations with closer views of the ground included actual volcanic rock in the paint:

To create texture in ground on the closer scenes, I mixed rock in with my paint and dabbed it on with a sea sponge.

While the printing process can’t reproduce the three dimensional aspects of the rock, it does capture how the paint reacts to it. I liked including actual rocks in the paint for the illustrations of a book about fossils.

And then you have this amazing book trailer:

For more information about Bill Thomson:

Bill Thomson has been called “a master at visual storytelling.” He is the illustrator of several children’s books, including Chalk (Two Lions/Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2010), which received many accolades. Thomson is also Professor of Illustration at the University of Hartford. He lives with his family in Connecticut. Visit Bill at

To download a copy of the educator guide or student activity guide click on the images:

To check out all of the stops for the FOSSIL Blog Tour:

Sat, Nov 9
Booking Mama
Mon, Nov 11
NC Teacher Stuff
Tues, Nov 12
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Nov 13
There's a Book
Thurs, Nov 14
Fri, Nov 15
Kid Lit Frenzy
Mon, Nov 18
Once Upon a Story
Tues, Nov 19
The Children's Book Review
Wed, Nov 20
5 Minutes for Books
Thurs, Nov 21
Geo Librarian
Fri, Nov 22
Growing with Science

For a chance to win a copy of FOSSIL, complete the form below.  Winner must be 13 or older and have a US mailing address.

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