Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

American Desi

Perfect Picture Book Friday

I loved American Desi (Little, Brown and Company, 2022) by Jyoti Rajan Gopal and illustrated by Supriya Kelkar. And whether one is dealing with multiple cultures or not, we all wonder where we fit in and could find this story reassuring.

In the picture book, the main character wonders “which is the color of me?” Does she fit on the Indian side or the American side? As we go through the story we realize with her she doesn’t have to pick one or the other–she can just be who she is.

Told in subtle rhyme, the left page shows Desi events and the right page American ones. My favorite spread says,

“One foot here, one foot there
Straddling, bridging worlds apart.
Searching deep within my heart
The different colors of me.”

The art is fabric, paper, mixed media, and digital collage which I think is perfect to represent this story.

The book has garnered attention:

Read about the author Jyoti here. Her next book is ready for pre-order here. And she’s sold four more, which you can read more about here. She’s been busy! Jyoti also has a lovely page of inspiration.

Supriya illustrated this book, but is also an author–see more here. You can find all her books here and see all the notice about them here. And finally check out Supriya’s wonderful portfolio.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Escape Goat

Often celebrity books irritate me. Many are published because of WHO the author is–not the quality of the writing. Some break basic rules that would normally get a picture book rejected. But celebrity names sell, so editors often don’t get much editorial control. That said, I recently enjoyed a book published by a celebrity. Probably helps she’s a writer. *smiles*

Escape Goat (Harper, 2020) by Ann Patchett and illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser is definitely more than a book with a punny title.

A little goat decide to escape to the see the great world. He samples a cabbage from the garden, and then starts getting blamed for all kinds of mishaps on the farm. Mr. Farmer raises the fence on the goat pen. Goat still escapes and is blamed again. Mr. Farmer raises the fence more so goat can’t jump over. But he can scoot under. Again, he’s blamed. Until the farmer’s daughter speaks up.

At first, I was taken aback by all the lying in this book, but then I realized how it could create such great discussions between adults and children reading the book. Probably most of us have at one point tried to blame our actions on someone else–this story takes it to the ridiculous. That makes it easy to talk about the subject.

Ann Patchett is a well-published author of many adult books. This is her second children’s book. Read more about her here.

Robin Glasser may be a familiar name as she illustrated the Fancy Nancy books. Before she was an illustrator she was a ballet dancer and you can see influence from dance in some of the illustrations in this story. Read more about her here.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

People Are Wild

Perfect Picture Book Friday

I love a story that turns a concept upside down. And that’s what People Are Wild (Alfred A. Knopf, 2022) by Margaux Meganck does. Instead of the story being told from a child looking at animals, the animals are looking at people.

Words and art are a great match. It’s hard to choose a favorite spread because I loved them so much. I also like the variety of animals and how there is more information about them after the story ends. It’s nice to see diversity in the human characters too.

This is Margaux’s first picture book she has illustrated and written. Previously, she illustrated Kathy Wolff’s All We Need.

Read more about the author/illustrator here.

Posted in Craft, PB, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

Creative Picture Book Formats

The other day I was helping a friend edit a fiction picture book and we were talking about how layout of the language can give a different feel.

To demonstrate I opened up my quote file and found this one by Tana French, “Don’t get discouraged if you’re hammering away at a sentence or a paragraph or a chapter, and it keeps coming out wrong. You’re allowed to get it wrong, as many times as you need to; you only need to get it right once.”

Look at it written as a poem:

“Don’t get discouraged
if you’re hammering away
at a sentence
or a paragraph
or a chapter,
and it keeps
coming
out wrong.
You’re allowed
to get it wrong,
as many times
as you need to;
you only need
to get it right
once.”

– Tana French

I loved the quote in the first place, but I love it as poetry even more.

Let’s think about this specifically in regard to picture books. Will a poetic format add to your story? (I’m not talking about rhythm and rhyme particularly, although that is a possibility.) Or is there another format that will benefit your story?

One that comes to mind is Gretchen McLellan’s No Party Poopers! where the story is only written in dialogue with no tag lines, beats, or description.

Or an oldie Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School by Mark Teague. The opening has a newspaper clipping, then come the hilarious letters. These books are called epistolary.

Author Doreen Chronin has a series of bug diaries. Will journal format work for your story?

I was stunned when I read Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer where you read the poems one way and then the opposite.

Then there’s the cumulative story where each line builds from the line before. The poem “This Is the House that Jack Built” may have inspired this type of tale.

You might find Karin Lefranc’s list of picture book genres interesting.

I like stretching my mind about how stories can be written. If you know of different picture book formats, please share in the comments.

Posted in PB, So Many Good Books

Swashby and the Sea

Perfect Picture Book Friday

Swashby and the Sea (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020) by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal is a delightfully warm story that can be read over and over. This story has such a sweet ending.

I love what it says about the sea and Swashby, “She knew him in and out, up and down, and better than anyone.” And I love the adorable illustrations.

Captain Swashby, now retired, is happy living by the sea. Until…neighbors show up. He keeps writing messages to them like “no trespassing” and the sea fiddles with each a bit like “sing.” Will Swashby learn to accept these intruders?

Beth Ferry is the author of Caveman Crush and has quite a number of other books–see them here. I need to check out some more. I like the unusual facts and the box format of her about page.

Author/illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal was born in Peru. You may have heard about her debut picture book, Alma and How She Got Her Name which was a 2019 Caldecott honor book. She’s also a 2018 Pura Belpré Medalist. Read her other awards here.