Friday, January 31, 2014

YALSA 2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

Check out YALSA's 2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults

In addition to the complete 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list, the BFYA committee selected the following titles as a top ten:

Berry, Julie. All the Truth That’s in Me. Penguin/Viking Juvenile, 2013.

Clark, Kristin Elizabeth. Freakboy. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2013. 

Federle, Tim. Better Nate Than Ever. Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. 

McNeal, Tom. Far Far Away. Random House/Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013. 

Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013

Sedgwick, Marcus. Midwinterblood. Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press, 2013. 

Sepetys, Ruta. Out of the Easy. Penguin/Philomel, 2013. 

Smith, Andrew. Winger. Illustrated by Sam Bosma. Simon & Schuster/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2013. 

Sullivan, Tara. Golden Boy. Penguin/Putnam Juvenile, 2013. 

Wein, Elizabeth. Rose Under Fire. Disney-Hyperion, 2013.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Congratulations to the 2014 Sibert Winners

On Monday morning,  the American Library Association announced their 2014 Youth Media Award Winners. Below is the Press Release issued by ALA, and can be found here.  It was wonderful to listen to the awards be announced.  To know individuals who served on the 2014 Sibert Award Committee and to discover that the Schneider Family Book Award Jury honored one of the same books.  If you want to read Horn Books' reviews by Roger Sutton of each of these magnificent books, click here.

For those of you who participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday, how many of the books below were your picks to win? 
Philadelphia – Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore and illustrator Susan L. Roth of “Parrots over Puerto Rico,” were named the winners of the 2014 Robert F. Sibert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for children published in 2013. The award was announced today by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), during the ALA Midwinter Meeting held Jan. 24 – 28 in Philadelphia.

Parrots over Puerto Rico,” published by LEE & LOW BOOKS Inc., is the story of the rescue and return of the Puerto Rican parrot, a species once so abundant it blotted out the sun.  Through the efforts of a valiant, dedicated and committed team of scientists and island residents the fate of this native bird is now inching out of extinction.        

“The Sibert committee was swept into the lush collages and unique layout of the exciting efforts to rescue the iridescent Puerto Rican Parrot,” said Sibert Medal Committee Chair Cecilia P. McGowan.

Susan L. Roth resides in New York and has written and illustrated numerous children’s books. Cindy Trumbore lives in New Jersey and is a former children’s book editor and has written several children’s books. Roth and Trumbore co-wrote “The Mangrove Tree,” featuring collage illustrations by Roth, which was a 2012 ALA Notable Book and Orbis Pictus Honor Book.

The Sibert Medal Committee selected four Honor Book(s).

A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

Readers will be inspired by the passion and perseverance of artist Horace Pippin in this engaging picture book biography. The tightly woven narrative coupled with mixed media collage, watercolor and gouache illustrations capture the essence of Pippin's life and work.

Jen Bryant lives in Pennsylvania. She has written dozens of fiction, nonfiction and poetry books for children. Melissa Sweet lives in Maine. She is the winner of the 2012 Sibert Medal for “Balloons Over Broadway.” Bryant and Sweet collaborated on "A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams,” for which Sweet won a 2009 Caldecott Honor.

Look Up! Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard,” written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate and published by Candlewick Press.

This spirited, accessible introduction to the art and science of birding features immersive, fact-filled cartoon art punctuated with tongue-in-beak bird commentary via word bubbles and humorous asides. Cate's can-do tone empowers children and reminds them that they too can be citizen scientists if they only, "Look Up!"

Annette LeBlanc Cate, a graduate of the Art Institute of Boston, is the author/illustrator of "The Magic Rabbit."  She resides in Massachusetts.

Locomotive,” written and illustrated by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

CHUG-CHUG!  HUFF-HUFF! Brian Floca invites us back in time to experience the excitement and danger of a family’s 1869 transcontinental rail journey. Flowing, detailed blank verse text and warm, thoroughly researched illustrations fuel the adventure. ALL ABOARD! for this stunning aural and visual celebration of early rail travel. WHOO-WHOO!

This is author and illustrator Brian Floca’s fourth Sibert Honor Book. Floca lives and works in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius,” written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan and published by Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership.

Greenberg and Jordan provide a fascinating account of the life and work of the eccentric and inventive ceramic artist, George E. Ohr. The text is enhanced by photographs and information about where to see his art today. He was, in his own words, “The Greatest Art Potter on Earth. You prove the contrary.”

Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan have been award winning collaborators since the 1990s. Greenberg lives in St. Louis and Jordan lives in New York.

The award was established by ALSC and named to commemorate Mr. Robert F. Sibert, founder of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc., of Jacksonville, Ill. Sibert is known for his early work in establishing standards of bookbinding.

Members of the 2014 Sibert Medal Committee are:  Chair Cecilia P. McGowan, King County Library System, Issaquah, Wash.; Barbara A. Genco, BAGenco Consulting, Brooklyn, N.Y.;
Christine A. Jenkins, University of Illinois, Champaign; Dr. Allison G. Kaplan  University of Wisconsin SLIS, Madison; Sally L. Miculek, Austin (Texas) Public Library;
Catharine Potter, Falmouth (Maine) Elementary School; Victor Lynn Schill, Fairbanks Branch,  Houston; Letitia A. Wilson, Dayton (Ohio) Metro Library; and Terrence E. Young, Jr., Metaire, La.

ALSC is the world’s largest organization dedicated to the support and enhancement of library service to children. With a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educational faculty, ALSC is committed to creating a better future for children through libraries. To learn more about ALSC, visit their website at
For information on the Robert F. Sibert Medal and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit


Macey Morales
ALA Media Relations
Public Information Office (PIO)

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews below and to check out and comment on some of the reviews:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Congratulations to the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award Winners

This morning, in a packed room of 800 people with more watching from an overflow room or at home, the American Library Association announced their 2014 Youth Media Award Winners. Below is the Press Release issued by ALA, and can be found here.  It was an honor to serve as this year's chair of the committee.  Thank you everyone for your support and enthusiasm for this award.

PHILADELPHIA – The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2014 Schneider Family Book Awards, which honor an author or illustrator for the artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. The award was announced today during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia, Jan.24 - 28.

Recipients are selected in three categories: birth through grade school (age 0–8), middle school (age 9–13) and teens (age 14–18). Winners will receive $5,000 and a framed plaque, which will be presented in Las Vegas during the ALA Annual Conference in June.

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin,” written by Jen Bryant illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by Alfred A.Knopf, an Imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.won the award for young children.

“This picture book biography of self-taught African American folk artist Horace Pippin demonstrates the dogged determination of a wounded soldier to paint again. After a WWI injury threatened to end his potential artistic career, he trained himself to paint by supporting his injured arm with the other hand.”

“Bryant and Sweet’s stunning picture book biography effectively depicts that perseverance and courage are essential ingredients of living with a disability and realizing your dreams.” said Award Chair Alyson Beecher.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers” written by Merrie Haskell and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers won the award for best middle school title.

“Reluctant Princess Tilda, sheltered due to her deformed foot, longs to escape her destiny. A thwarted kidnapping sends Tilda, Lord Parzifal and her handmaiden Judith on a dragon-hunting quest. Supported by friends and dragons, Tilda realizes her physical limitations do not define her.”

“Ms. Haskell presents a high-spirited fantasy in which an endearing heroine’s perception of what her life can be is altered by her adventure.” said Beecher.

The teen award winner is “Rose Under Fire” written by Elizabeth Wein and published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group.

After a daring flight maneuver, young pilot Rose Justice is captured by Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Assigned to a high security unit, Rose survives under the wing of the “Rabbits,” Polish political prisoners, subjected to medical experimentation by Nazi doctors.

“Through Ms. Wein’s searing portrayal, readers experience the physical and emotional consequences of Nazi torture.” said Beecher.

Members of the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award committee are: Chair Alyson Beecher, Pasadena Unified School District, Pasadena, Calif.; Jill Garcia, National Library Service For The Blind & Physically Handicapped, Beltsville, Md.; Peg Glisson, Pittsford, N.Y.; Marilyn M. Irwin, Indiana University-Indianapolis, Bloomington, Ind.;Judy T. Nelson, Pierce County Library System, Tacoma, Wash.; Susan Person, Mamie Doud Eisenhower Public Library, Broomfield, Colo.; and Caroline Ward, The Ferguson Library, Stamford, Conn.

The American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world with approximately 60,000 members. Its mission is to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

For more information on the Schneider Family Book Award and other ALA Youth Media Awards, please visit

Macey Morales
ALA Media Relations
Public Information Office (PIO)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

American Library Association 2014 Youth Media Award - January 27, 2014

One of the biggest days of the year in Children’s Literature is the day when the Youth Media Awards are announced.  Most people are familiar with two awards – The Newbery Medal (the most distinguished American children's books) and the Caldecott Medal (artist of the most distinguished American Picture Book for Children).  However, did you know that there are actually 18 awards?  Here is a list of all of the awards:

This year, the 2014 Youth Media Awards will be announced on Monday, January 27, 2014 at 8 a.m. (ET) in Philadelphia.  If you are an early riser, you can watch the livestream of the awards at 5 a.m. (PT).

The recorded video will be available on YouTube at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT if teachers would like to watch it with students.

Additional ways of catching the announcements:
·       Follow @alayma or with the hashtag #alayma
·       Like ALA Youth Media Awards on Facebook

For the past two years, I have had the privilege and honor to serve on the Schneider Family Book Award committee.  It is an incredible experience to read through more than a hundred books (some committees read several hundred books) looking for the ones that best meet the intentions of the award.  I may not always understand why a previous committee selected the books that they did, but I can say that I know each committee takes seriously the task of choosing these books. As a result, I am learning to appreciate and respect the decisions each committee makes in regards to their book choices.  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Winner of the 2014 Mock Sibert Award

Mock Sibert Button 

It is just days until we learn what book takes home the coveted Sibert Award, but today is the day here on Kid Lit Frenzy and over on Unleashing Readers where we find out who won our Mock Sibert Award!!!

*drum roll*



What a phenomenal choice! Now we just have to wait until Monday to find out if the Sibert committee agrees.

We are also happy to announce our giveaway winner. Congratulations to LYNNE EICHEL who chose Brave Girl as her prize.

I had such a blast hosting the Mock Sibert with Kellee at Unleashing Readers! Thank you to all who participated and cannot wait to see who wins on Monday!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Ordinary People Change the World Series - 1/22/14

Thank you everyone for signing up for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014.  It is going to be an amazing year of sharing nonfiction books with one another.

Tomorrow I leave for Philadelphia to attend ALA Midwinter.  I am so excited.  I am looking forward to hearing the Youth Media Award announcements and since the purpose of this challenge is nonfiction I am of course excited about the Robert F. Sibert Medal Award and Honor Books. Don't forget to check out my Mock-Sibert picks, here.

This week I am sharing with you a new biographical series for young readers created by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos.

Ordinary People Change the World Series by Brad Meltzer

"We can all be heroes. That's the inspiring message of this lively, collectible picture book biography series from New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer.
"Kids always search for heroes, so we might as well have a say in it," Brad Meltzer realized, and so he envisioned this friendly, fun approach to biography— for his own kids, and for yours.
This engaging series is the perfect way to bring American history to life for young children, and to inspire them to strive and dream." - Brad Meltzer

I am Abraham Lincoln by Brad Meltzer, Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial, January 14, 2014)

I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer; Illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos (Dial, January 14, 2014)

My thoughts about the series:
This new biographical series for young readers features important historical figures, ordinary people, who did some extraordinary things. In a small picture book format, the first two books feature Abraham Lincoln and Amelia Earhart.  The stories are simply told with a touch of humor in the dialogue. There are few black and white photographs in the back of each book. 

The one thing I was sad about was that aside from some black and white photographs there were no additional end notes, or resources. Despite the small book size and the picture book format, the narrative aspect of the text presents a bigger than life example of two American heroes. 

This new children's biography series introduces young readers to a way of looking at important historical figures, and hopefully sparking them to read more on the character that they just met.

About the author:
Brad Meltzer is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of adult thrillers (including The Inner Circle and its recent sequel, The Fifth Assassin). His two nonfiction gift books, Heroes for My Son and Heroes for My Daughter were New York Times Bestsellers as well, and he has won the prestigious Eisner Award for his comic book work, Justice League of America. Brad is also the host of the History Channel TV show Brad Meltzer's Decoded. For more information, visit:

About the illustrator:
Christopher Eliopoulos ( and began his illustration career as a letterer for Marvel, and has worked on literally thousands of comics. But along with that, he is also the author/artist of many comics, including the popular series Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers and Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius, for which he was nominated for multiple Eisner Awards and received a Harvey Award. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and their identical twin sons.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews below:

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA - 1/20/14

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey.  Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers have adapted it to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

Last week, I did not get a chance to post my What are you reading? post.  This post looks at some of what I was reading over the last couple of weeks.  

Here is what jumped out of the pile...

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessings by Joyce Sidman; Illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski (HMH Books for Young Readers, October 8, 2013) - A beautiful book of poetry.

What's Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle (Henry Hold and Co., Janaury 21, 2014)- This is an adorable book.  It is comprised of various illustrators answering the question "What's Your Favorite Animal?" This will make a great gift book.

The Big Wet Balloon: Toon Books by Liniers (Toon Books, September 10, 2013) - I love Toon Books early readers/graphic novels.  This one is about two sisters and a balloon.

Urgency Emergency! Big Bad Wolf by Dosh Archer (Albert Whitman & Co., September 1, 2013) - This early reader series is a lot of fun. A great read for 1st and 2nd graders.

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson  (Henry Holt and Co., January 21, 2014) - A little along the lines of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie"...and would make a fun read aloud to preschool and kindergarteners.

One Word that Will Change Your Life, Expanded Edition by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, Jimmy Page (Wiley, October 16, 2013) - I have noticed a number of Slice of Life Posts talking about One Word and wanted to check it out.  I enjoyed reading this and having been pondering what my "one word" would be.

So, what are you reading?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Celebrate This Week - 1/17/14

As part of my focus for the new year (I am refusing to say resolutions since I always break those), I would like to increase my attention to the many good things that happen, which are frequently overlooked by me.  To help me, I am joining Ruth Ayres' Celebrate This Week.


Do you ever wonder if children who grow up in homes that find ways to express joy, and gratitude, and optimism become adults who are much more positive in their overall outlook, or if we our more prone to having a certain nature that leans in one direction or the other regardless of our families?  Sometimes, I wonder if it is a chicken or an egg dilemma.  Are children predisposed one way or the other but depending on their surroundings able to change?

Despite coming from the same parents, I do believe that siblings can and do have very unique personalities right from birth.  Some may favor one parent or the other, as well.  However, I suspect that nature vs. nurture applies to this area as well.  Children raised in an environment that values gratitude and expressing joy will create those habits even if they may have a bit more contrary personality.  I am envious of those who both lean more towards a sunny disposition and grew up in homes that modeled what it means to surround yourself with thankfulness. 

In looking back over my week, I recognize that there were a few incidents that can really overshadow how I perceive the week.  If I use those situations as my lens in which to reflect, I would say the week was terrible.  I am thankful for a lens to identify the positive.

Here is what I am thankful for this week...

Community - I am a big believer in community.  Over twenty years ago, I read Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Life Together.  It was probably one of several factors that influenced my commitment to creating and building community.  Throughout my life, I have sought to live and work in community.  Sometimes it is easier to foster than at other times. I am thankful for the community of friends that I am surrounded by.  They are quality people who make my life better because they are in it.  The time this past week spent either sharing a meal, or going to a movie, or lending a hand, or chatting is truly what inspires me.  Community, also, provides me with a sense of belonging to something greater than just me. 

Doing What Gives Me Energy - When I think back over the week, there are definitely moments or times when there is no need to fake excitement or enthusiasm.  This week, I had an opportunity to present to a group of student teachers and to talk about how to help children develop a love of reading.  It is in that moment, when I am both teaching and sharing my love of literacy that my personal energy reserve is being filled up despite whatever energy output is happening.  I am and will always be a teacher.   Sometimes that sense of calling and purpose gets muddled in lots of other things, but when I am teaching something that I love, and I can tell that the class has dialed in, the high is like nothing else.

Hitting the Submit Button on my NCTE '14 proposal - Last week, and the first half of this week seemed to be filled with writing and re-writing my proposal for NCTE '14. Fortunately, I had help from Cynthia Alaniz. We spent hours on the phone and also on our google doc chat hashing out what we would submit. Regardless of whether the proposal is accepted or not, I am thankful for collaboration opportunities such as this. 

What are you thankful for this week?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers 2014 Mock Sibert Award Picks

Over the past two years, Alyson has hosted, and Kellee has participated in, a book challenge pushing ourselves to read more nonfiction picture books. This year, after reading many of the best nonfiction picture books published in 2013, we decided that it would be fun to do a Mock Sibert Award post together.

The Sibert Award is given annually to the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year. Although the Sibert Award is not just for picture books, we are going to focus on the nonfiction picture books we feel would be honored or win this year. To be honored/win the Sibert award, the book must include these important elements and qualities:
  • Excellent, engaging, and distinctive use of language. 
  • Excellent, engaging, and distinctive visual presentation. 
  • Appropriate organization and documentation. 
  • Clear, accurate, and stimulating presentation of facts, concepts, and ideas. 
  • Appropriate style of presentation for subject and for intended audience. 
  • Supportive features (index, table of contents, maps, timelines, etc). 
  • Respectful and of interest to children. 
After reviewing the qualities and elements needed to win the Sibert Award, I agonized over all of the wonderful books that I had read.  It wasn't easy to narrow it down to only six books from 2013.  Finally, I decided on six titles that I hope will win or be honored on January 27th.

Check out Unleashing Readers, as well, to see what Kellee chose as her picks.

Alyson's Six Picks for the 2014 Sibert Award:

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel; Illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Balzer & Bray, January 22, 2013) - This was on of the first nonfiction picture books I read in 2013.  I loved it in the beginning of the year and I still adored it at the end.  Markel's storytelling combined with Sweet's mixed media illustrations brought to life Clara and her fight for better working conditions for those working in factories (particularly the seamstresses).  An amazing and inspirational story and one that I will remember for a long time.  Click on the title of the book to go to my full review.

No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young; Illustrated by Nicole Wang (Charlesbridge Publishing, September 1, 2013) - I truly wish that more writers of nonfiction for children would take some tips from Melissa Stewart.  She created an book that was both entertaining and very informative with a dash of humor thrown in.  This book addresses how many factors influence one another in the environment and make each small thing central to the survival of other living plants and animals.  Clicking on the title takes you to my review.

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman; Illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Roaring Brook Press, June 25, 2013)- I very much love nonfiction picture books and there are some that are good stories and then there are others that move into the category of wonderful.  The Boy Who Loved Math was charming and entertaining but Pham's ability to bring the math alive in this story helps to move it into a very special category.  Clicking on the title takes you to my review.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth; Illustrated by Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low Books, September 15, 2013) - I noticed this book showing up on a number of notable lists in the fall. However, it took me awhile to finally track this one down.  I was fascinated by the design layout of the book and the textured cuttings that Trumbore uses to create each page of illustrations.  I can wager that this took some time to create.  In addition to the incredible illustrations, I discovered that I knew little of the history of parrots in Puerto Rico.  I was fascinated to learn about the history, and also about how they almost went extinct.  The story about how scientists have been working to save these beautiful birds was fascinating.

The Tapir Scientist by Sy Montgomery; Photographs by Nic Bishop (HMH Books for Young Readers, July 23, 2013) - I am seriously too much of a girly-girl to ever trek around a rainforest or some forest or jungle studying wild animals. Therefore, I am thankful to Sy Montgomery for documenting her time spent with Pati Medici in Brazil learning about Tapirs. Do you know about Tapirs? I had no clue until I read this book.  Montgomery does an awesome job capturing what it is like to study these amazing creatures out in the wild.  Nic Bishop brings it all to life with his incredible photographs.  If you are not familiar with The Scientists in the Field series, I suggest starting with this one and then checking out all of the other ones.

Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles America's First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone (Candlewick Press, January 22, 2013) - On my way from Boston to Connecticut after NCTE '13, I listened to Courage Has No Color. While I sat in my car in pre-holiday traffic, I was transported back to World War II and the lives of the men who were the first Black Paratroopers.  The narrator of the audiobook helped to bring another level to this story.  Tanya Lee Stone is one of my go to authors for nonfiction and she doesn't seem to ever disappoint.  

We would also love your input! Which of our ten titles do you think will win the Sibert? Enter our Rafflecopter below to not only enter to win a copy of one of our picks (your choice!) as well as vote for which book you think will win.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Baby Penguins Love Their Mama Blog Tour - Interview & Giveaway

Today on Kid Lit Frenzy, I have the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Guion, the author and illustrator of BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA.

I have noticed that many books for toddlers and preschoolers/kinders often show a mama penguin and baby penguins. Why do you think young children seem to connect so well with penguins? Was there a reason for creating the story - Baby Penguins Love Their Mama - using penguins rather than other animals? 

I honestly went with penguins because I like to draw them. But you’re right, kids love them, probably for the same reasons I do. They’re cute! They’re silly! They’re always slipping and falling down, and waving their useless, comical wings. Then they jump in the water and transform like Clark Kent into Superman, rocketing around with amazing speed and skill. It’s fantastic. Also, penguins spend a lot of time with their parents, which children get. I remember thinking as a child how sad it would be to be a salmon. Never even meeting your parents. And then there’s Happy Feet. Everyone loves Happy Feet. That’s a lot of reasons.

When you are working on a picture book, what comes first - pictures or text? Do you create an outline?

My books are so short that I don’t outline. I just write. When I have a text I start making thumbnail sketches to figure out the basic pacing across the 32 pages I have to work with. Then I make a dummy. Eventually the art picks up momentum, and what’s going on there can dictate changes in the text. It’s a fluid process.

What is your creative process in drawing your illustrations? 

The world of this book was already established in BABY PENGUINS EVERYWHERE, so I was able to dive into the art pretty fast once I had my story. I made the artwork on 300lb watercolor paper with a graphite bar and watercolors. (I filmed a little of the process and posted it on YouTube. See below.) I make a few rudimentary marks on the paper from a sketch, using a lightbox, so I know generally where things are supposed to be on the page. But I don’t flesh it out much because I want a feeling of live drawing in the final art. With the toothy paper and dark graphite I use, it’s hard to make changes, so I work with whatever happens. If it’s truly horrible I start over.

Who most influenced your art and writing? 

I’ve looked a lot at William Steig and Alexander Calder. I love Steig’s line quality and his soulfulness. I admire Calder’s playfulness and the variety of his work. And I’ve said this before, I really admire the way James Marshall wrote. His stories are tight and funny and full of feeling. He made it seem so simple: George did this. Martha said that. The End. But it’s so, so funny. His artwork always filled in the blanks. The spread in GEORGE AND MARTHA where George is sitting in the balloon basket is one of the funniest pages of any book anywhere.

What is the one book that you read over and over again as a child? What book did you never return to the library because you loved it so much and couldn’t let it go?

I pored over Richard Scarry’s books. I only had one. When I went to a friend’s house who had the others I would grab them and go in a corner and obsess over every page. As far as real reading, I don’t think I was a huge re-reader. I remember re-reading THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE a few times. There were other books I loved very much that you can’t really re-read, like TUCK EVERLASTING. Once you read it, you’re done. It has happened to you.

What question do you wish I had asked?

These were terrific questions. I don’t know, how about what’s that great yellow you used for the penguins’ beaks? It’s called Gamboge. I do love yellow.

Photo Credit John Trotter

About the author/illustrator:
Melissa Guion's first picture book, Baby Penguins Everywhere!, was selected for The Original Art 2012, an exhibition of the year's best illustrated children's books. Melissa swears she could draw baby penguins all day, but she may take a hiatus to do a book about her daughter's guinea pigs. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. For more information, visit her website:

Be sure to follow the adorable mama and baby penguins on Melissa Guion’s blog tour!

Monday, Jan 13
Susan Heim on Parenting
Tues, Jan 14
The Children's Book Review
Wed, Jan 15
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, Jan 16
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 17
Momma Drama
Sat, Jan 18
Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 20
5 Minutes for Books
Tues, Jan 21
Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Jan 22
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Thurs, Jan 23
Geo Librarian
Fri, Jan 24
As They Grow Up
Sat, Jan 25
Obsessive Mommy

And don't forget to check out this awesome giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a deliciously-scented mama and baby penguin goat's milk soap (for preening practice, of course!) and a signed copy of BABY PENGUINS LOVE THEIR MAMA.


 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - What am I reading?

Thank you everyone for signing up for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2014.  It is going to be an amazing year of sharing nonfiction books with one another.

In just a little more than a week, I am heading to Philadelphia to attend the American Library Association's Midwinter Convention.  I very much look forward to this trip and the opportunity to connect with other book lovers.  Additionally, I am very thrilled to be able to attend the Youth Media Awards.  One award that I look forward to is the Robert F. Sibert Medal Award and Honor Books.  I just had to squeeze in a few more nonfiction titles this week just in case one of them wins a medal or an honor medal.

Here are the last of 2013 nonfiction and historical fiction that I will probably be able to squeeze in before my trip east...

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch; Illustrated by Oliver Dominguez (Candlewick Press, September 10, 2013).  My first encounters with Nikola Tesla came from television shows with the first one being a sci-fi show.  I realized that I really had no clue who this Serbian-American inventor was and I needed to find out more. When I saw that Rusch had written a picture book biography about Tesla, I knew I had to read it.  Rusch does a solid job in introducing children to the famous inventor.  The scientific end notes are also informative and provide children with places to further explore both the inventor and his inventions.

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan (Roaring Brook Press, October 1, 2013) - Until I picked up this book, I had never heard of George Ohr.  Apparently, this potter from Mississippi was flamboyant and possessed a bigger than life personality, in addition to being a very talented artist.  This picture book biography is geared for upper elementary and middle school students and will fascinate readers.  The book is filled with sepia toned photographs of Ohr and his family, a few illustrations, and many photographs of his pottery. 

A Single Pebble: A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen (Roaring Brook Press, October 15, 2013) - This is a beautifully illustrated story about the Silk Road.  Though this is technically historical fiction, I included it in this post because it does have some wonderful end notes including an author's note, maps, useful websites and bibliography on the Silk Road.  I am looking forward to sharing this one with students.   

Stop by the blog on Friday for a special nonfiction joint collaboration from Kid Lit Frenzy and Unleashing Readers. You will not want to miss it.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews below.  Also stop by and visit the other blogs participating in the #nfpb2014 challenge.  I love getting more suggestions for titles to read.