Puffy: People Whose Hair Defies Gravity

Puffy

Image Credit: CreateSpace, Aya de León

Black hair texture varies and because many of us are blended, it comes in every form imaginable. People of African origin naturally have a coarser hair type and our hair is often seen as unkempt, not beautiful and unprofessional. We can also be the toughest critics of our natural hair and therefore it’s SO important that children with “puffy” hair see positive images of themselves.

This picture book is a celebration of puffy hair in every magnificent form on various shades of skin. While reading Aya de León’s rhyming text and seeing the joyful photographs, readers will delight in the diversity of natural hair. Puffy isn’t just about hair, it’s about vibrancy and pride in oneself.

Representation matters and I would’ve loved this book as a child. My peers had a lot to say about my dreadlocks (“Are you a boy or a girl??”) and reading a book with people who looked like me in it would’ve been empowering! This unabashedly happy book is needed; it’s already difficult enough to find shining brown faces on book covers and this one is a welcome addition to every library.

I hope you’ll enjoy Puffy: people whose hair defies gravity! #CareFreeBlackKids

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Pride, Hair, Black Hair, Empowerment, Diversity, Black Girls Rock, Identity, Encouragement, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Puffy: people whose hair defies gravity by Aya de León, 2013 CreateSpace, ISBN: 9781494436773

Conflicted

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child releases soon and the world is once again engulfed in Harry Potter Mania. People are starting to freak out, my bookstore is preparing for a Midnight Release, we have a cute display up and fans are getting that magical feeling again. This is the excitement that J.K. Rowling so brilliantly created for us; we’re anxious to return to the world of Harry Potter and see where she takes us next.

Except…I can’t get over how J.K. Rowling continues to ignore Native voices.

These voices are speaking up about her cultural appropriation in Magic in North America. I wrote a bit about it here, around the time the first chapter was released on Pottermore, and though it’s been months, Rowling has been silent. No engagement and no dialogue. Her only response so far to this problematic piece of writing has been to block a Native person on Twitter.

There’s a very bitter taste in my mouth. I’ve been trying to re-read the series in anticipation of the new book and I just…can’t right now.

One great thing about the internet and social media is that it’s a powerful platform; Native authors and academics are discussing J.K. Rowling’s work and major news outlets have amplified their voices. This is a big deal.

I’ve also been thinking about the lines between respect, fandom and criticism of authors/illustrators. Sam Bloom wrote a really good piece about Lane Smith’s book A Tribe of Kids, “playing indian” and critically examining an author’s work. Authors make mistakes and they can also learn from them. Especially in children’s literature, it’s important to listen to criticism because THIS IS ABOUT THE KIDS. When you’re writing about/alluding to cultures that aren’t your own, you have the responsibility to be respectful.

With great power comes great responsibility, J.K. Right?

Have You Seen Elephant?

HaveYouSeenElephant

Image Credit: Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), David Barrow

I finally got my hands on this book, y’all!  I spotted it on Twitter months ago and it’s finally available in the US. *victory*

Do you know how refreshing it is to open a picture book that’s obviously about an interracial family…but doesn’t focus on it? We’re starting to see more books like this (The Airport Book) in children’s literature. Don’t get me wrong; books that focus on race are necessary but it’s also important to have ones that present multiculturalism as norm. The endpapers & first page of the book show a wall of family photographs that tell us a bit about the family’s genealogy.

In Have You Seen Elephant?, a boy is invited to play a thrilling game of hide and seek. Elephant kindly warns him that he’s very good. He’s up for the challenge though and it turns out that Elephant is rather good. My goodness, Elephant is in the most obvious places but no one sees him.😉 After they finish their game, Turtle asks if they want to play tag…he’s quite speedy.

HaveYouSeenElephantExtra

Image Credit: Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), David Barrow

I like this book very much. Not only is it very sweet, it’s playful, hopeful and kind. They’re all very good friends and care about each other. The text is sparse but it allows the illustrations to speak loudly. Children can fill in the gaps and decide for themselves whether Elephant is really good at hiding or if the boy and his family are very generous. Barrow’s illustrations are heartwarming; he uses lots of warm browns, golds, oranges and reds. There’s a lot of texture in his technique; spirals radiate out from light sources and scratches, splotches and drips are on every page.

I think you’re going to really enjoy this book. I can’t wait to see what’s next from David Barrow!

P.S. Pay attention to the endpapers for laughs.😀

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Animals, Love, Diversity, Multiculturalism, Discussion, Read-Aloud, Humor
Book Info: Have You Seen Elephant? by David Barrow, 2016 Gecko Press USA (Gecko Press Ltd), ISBN: 9781776570089

What Can You Do With a Paleta?

WhatCanYouDoWith

Image Credit: Tricycle Press (Ten Speed Press), Carmen Tafolla/Magaly Morales

What Can You Do With a Paleta? is a joyful celebration of summer and community. The little girl’s barrio is rich, vibrant and full of juicy paletas!  Summertime isn’t complete without a cold sweet treat to cool you down and in this book we learn all the things that can be done with a paleta…

Food is community; it brings people together. In the girl’s barrio, the tinkling bell of the paleta wagon mixed with the smell of fresh buttery tortillas is distinct and welcoming. We follow her as she shows us how a paleta can help make new friends, how an icy blue one leaves a big blue mustache and how giving someone a paleta can make their day! I love how Carmen Tafolla opens the book with a lyrical, visual description of the barrio and ends with the same words. This creates the feeling of being invited to the barrio and as we leave, we’re reminded of the sweet smells, flavors and sights of our visit. It’s lovely!

Magaly Morales’ illustrations are bold, rich and earthy. Her style reminds me of Yuyi Morales’ older work (Sand Sister). We get to peek through the windows of the houses in the community and Morales’ use of pink, orange and yellow acrylics washes the pages in warmth. Brown faces are smiling, laughing and enjoying the hot summer! The paletas, in all their vibrant colors, look refreshing and delicious.

I hope you’ll enjoy What Can You Do With a Paleta? It’s the perfect summer read-aloud.:)

 

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Community, Love, Mexican Culture, Food Culture, Summertime, Friendship, Fun, Happiness, Diversity, Siblings, Read-Aloud
Book Info: What Can You Do With a Paleta? by Carmen Tafolla/Illustrated by Magaly Morales, 2009 Tricycle Press (Ten Speed Press), ISBN: 9781582462219

Apple Pie 4th of July

ApplePieJuly

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Janet S. Wong/Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I found this book by happy accident while shopping in one of my local indie bookstores. The cover drew me in and the content impressed me too. Can’t you tell from the cover that the little girl has some sass? Ha!

The Fourth of July is a very straight-forward holiday for some and complicated for others so I couldn’t pass up a book that features diverse perspectives. In Apple Pie 4th of July, a girl doesn’t understand why her family’s Chinese restaurant/corner store HAS to be open on the 4th of July; no one wants Chinese food on the holiday and she’s missing the parade! Her immigrant parents simply don’t get it. But maybe her parents know something (fireworks ARE from China by the way…) and maybe her holiday will turn out fun in the end!

There’s a lot packed into this book. Though she thinks she knows exactly what it means to be American and she underestimates her parents’ understanding of American culture, she learns that their Chinese-ness fits perfectly in. She’s growing up and finding her way. I really enjoyed the writing; I like the way Wong breaks up sentences and spreads them across the pages. The illustrations are beautiful; Chodos-Irvine’s linocuts are dynamic, with strong shapes and lines. She’s also excellent at characterization. Wong and Chodos-Irvine know how to use space effectively to tell a great story.

AHH how refreshing; of course I had to find something a little different for my 4th of July post!😉

Happy Fourth! Now I’m ready for a slice of apple pie…

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Fourth of July, Holidays, Asian American, Chinese American, Diversity, Immigrants, Perspective, Restaurant Life, Discussion, Community, Chinese Food, Lessons, Celebration
Book Info: Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong/Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine, 2006 Voyager Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), ISBN: 9780152057084

Real Sisters Pretend

RealSistersPretend

Image Credit: Tilbury House Publishers, Megan Dowd Lambert/Nicole Tadgell

What makes a relationship real? Is it blood? Dedication? Love? As the little girls in this book know, real sisters never have to pretend.

In Real Sisters Pretend, two sisters play a game of pretend princesses. The younger sister Mia says to her big sister Tayja “Let’s pretend we are sisters” and Tayja quickly corrects & reassures her that they are already sisters, real sisters, and there’s no need to pretend that! As they play, they discuss adoption and a confused stranger they met at the grocery store.

I like the way Megan Dowd Lambert and Nicole Tadgell craft the story and illustrations to create a conversation. Like real life, serious & important moments are blended into the silly ones. Tayja and Mia (climbing princesses) play, take a snack break and continue to play until their other mommy comes home. Readers will enjoy Tadgell’s beautiful watercolor illustrations; she brings these girls, their sweet relationship and loving family to life. When I first saw the cover of this book months ago, I was drawn to the image of two brown girls embracing; it’s powerful!

Real Sisters Pretend is a lovely and important book that can help adopted children make sense of people who “just don’t get” what they naturally understand. I think any child with siblings or cousins will connect to Mia and Tayja. I highly recommend checking out this article from the author about her family & the experience that inspired this story and also this post from the illustrator about her process creating the illustrations! I hope you’ll add this one to your collection.:)

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Love, Siblings, Blended Families, Adoption, Relationships, Humor, Diversity, Compassion, Forever Families
Book Info: Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert/Illustrated by Nicole Tadgell, 2016 Tilbury House Publishers, ISBN: 9780884484417

 

Brown Girl Writer & Dreamer at My Local Library

BrownGirlDreaming

Image Credit: Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin Random), Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson strode into Cincinnati’s Main Library on June 18th to talk to us about her book Brown Girl Dreaming. Her walk is confident, she wears a nose ring and wore a shirt that said “Black is Beautiful.” She began with a quiet bang by reading from her book Each Kindness and then kept it very real. Not long ago, the Cincinnati Library board unanimously decided not to change their insurance to cover gender confirmation surgery for long time employee, Rachel Dovel. Woodson was honest with us, she said it was difficult for her to be in the space as a gay, out, woman of color who cares about equality. Though she was happy to talk to us, she was also frustrated that the library didn’t support Rachel & equality.

“I stand with Rachel” she said.

I respect and admire her strength in supporting another woman who continues to be strong in the face of opposition.

The next hour was her reading from Brown Girl Dreaming, anecdotes about her two kids and their short attention span, comments about living in Brooklyn, reflections on parenting and her confusion about how to pronounce Chillicothe, Ohio. >_< The mood was comfortable; the crowd wasn’t as big as I hoped it would be but the people in attendance were engaged. I was very happy to see young brown girls in the audience. In the very front row sat a few young white girls who followed along in their copies of Brown Girl Dreaming while Jacqueline read aloud to us (she’d announce what page she was on) and two of the girls had really great questions at the end.

It was a really nice event; I even asked a question about diverse books and her hopes for the future (how could I resist??) and when she signed my book, I got to talk to her a little more. She’s such a cool person!

I wish you the best Jacqueline! Thanks for stopping by Cincinnati, speaking to us and sharing your light.

 

P.S. If you haven’t read Brown Girl Dreaming yet…get on it!😉

SomethingExtraordinary

Ben Clanton is Awesomerific!

Ben Clanton is one of the coolest author/illustrators in children’s literature right now. I found his book Rex Wrecks It! by chance in the picture book stacks of my bookstore and it quickly became one of my favorites. Lucky for us, he’s been very prolific in a very short period of time, so we have many great books to read from him!

We had a great time chatting for this interview. I hope you’ll enjoy it! You won’t be RAWRY you stopped by to read.😉

 

AliaQ1. What are three words to describe yourself?

Ben: Kind, creative, and ambitious. That last one is always what gets me sorted into either Gryffindor or Slytherin even though I feel like a Hufflepuff.

Alia: Haha. Nice. Yeah I’ve been sorted as a Ravenclaw or a Gryffindor. I think I feel more like a Gryffindor but I’m not quite sure.

Ben: Hooray for a fellow Harry Potter fan! I’m far too fond of those quizzes. I take a new one almost every year.

Alia: Have you done the “Official” Pottermore one yet?

Ben: Yes, both the one from the previous Pottermore site and the revamped one. I was a Gryffindor the first time and am now a Slytherin (as much as that pains me to say).

Alia: Yeah I heard that happened to a lot of people and they’re kinda upset, lol. It’s totally understandable though. Identity crisis kind of situation.

Ben: I take some solace in that apparently Merlin was a Slytherin and he wasn’t such a bad guy.

Alia: True, true. I know some great Slytherins. Okay, next question, lol.

Ben: Haha! No promises I won’t steer the conversation back to HP.

Alia: HAHA! Well let’s see how you answer question 2. I feel like HP might have some influence. This is a big question…

Q2. Why picture books? Your art style is very approachable; you could illustrate really anything for kids…

Ben: Great question! And thanks! I do have an interest in exploring & making other sorts of books and content, but picture books are particularly dear to me for a number of reasons. For a start, the format allows for a great range of creative exploration. There are so many options with what you can do with the words and pictures in a picture book that other formats don’t provide. I feel like in chapter books, for example, the illustrations usually parallel the text. But in picture books, the illustrations augment the text or even contradict it. Also, with the picture book there is much less of an expectation that it will follow particular narrative conventions. So that out-of-the-box potential that picture books welcome is a big part of why I love them.

Also, I was a reluctant reader of words as a kid. Chapter books were hard; I didn’t read my first on my own until 4th grade. But picture books I could spend ages with. I loved reading the pictures. Still do! I’m a highly visual thinker.

I also love the general brevity of picture books. They are poetic in many ways. So much can be said in a picture book and of the format.

Alia: Yeah it’s obvious that picture books are what you enjoy creating. You put your heart into each one and it shows.

I’m also a very visual thinker so I’m drawn to the magic of picture books. I agree with you. Their brevity also leaves a lot for your imagination to fill in. A lot of people might say that chapter books do that (obviously they do) but picture books also have room for exploration. Kids know this magic immediately (and some adults).😉

Ben: Just so! They welcome creativity, interaction, and the really good ones become like a friend that you want to spend every night with just before you go to bed. Something special about that time just before dreams and how you choose to spend those last waking hours. Some kids will form such a bond with a particular picture book that it might even see hundreds of readings or viewings.

Alia: Exactly. It’s a pretty special thing to find a book that you connect to!

Okay next question?:)

Ben: Sure thing! I could easily get stuck talking and thinking about the picture book format all day.

Alia: Oh man, me too! But onward!

Q3. Do you like ice cream and if so, what’s your favorite flavor and topping?

Ben: ‘Like’ is not a strong enough word. I don’t like ice cream, I love it!

Alia: Haha!

Ben: Caramel ice cream with hot fudge sauce is my favorite.

Alia: Oooh nice choice.

Ben: I spend so much time in ice cream lines I’ve come up with a few of my books while waiting in ice cream lines.😉

Alia: Haha really?

Narwhal

Image Credit: Tundra Books, Ben Clanton

Ben: True story! My Narwhal and Jelly series for a start. And both of those characters have a love for waffles which I think might have been a result of the smell of freshly made waffle cones while I was standing in line.

Alia: LOL the smell went right to the creative side of your brain.

Ben: And stuck! Narwhal and Jelly both have a borderline obsession with waffles!

Your favorite flavor?

Alia: I mean, that’s a pretty awesome obsession if you ask me. So many possibilities.

My go-to ice cream flavor is probably chocolate chip cookie dough. I’m not big on sauces or toppings. Just give me the scoops.

Ben: Fair enough! And classic choice! I approve.

Alia: lol Thanks!

Q4. Congrats on your new baby boy, by the way. :) Are you already thinking up stories to tell him?

Ben: Thank you! Lots of stories in the works but none that have been inspired by Theo as of yet. I’m sure there will be many, though! I can’t wait until he is old enough for me to share my stories with him and my favorite books.

Alia: Yeah that’s going to be fun. Some babies are so attracted to color and faces and books.

Ben: Adds a whole new level of specialness to making stories!

Alia: For sure! “My dad makes books” I mean…your coolness factor…

Ben: I wish I had been working on more board books now that I have a baby. But Mo’s Mustache will be coming out as a board book. Rex Wrecks It! too!

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Alia: OMG!!! I’m excited!

Ben: Haha! I’ve heard from other authors with kids that their kids aren’t overly impressed because it is just part of their lives. That’s okay with me as it is pretty great to have books be a part of everyday life.

Alia: That makes sense. Right! Your kid is going to grow up with so much richness. All the creativity and that’s great!

Q5. You REALLY like jokes and puns, don’t you?

Ben: I do! I so dearly do! Which, funnily enough, if you just met me on the street and had no idea what my job was, you wouldn’t begin to expect it. I’m generally a fairly serious person. But I do love to play with words and am overly fond of puns (both the bad ones and the good ones).

This is the point where I’m supposed to make a clever joke, but they tend to come to me at the most inopportune times.

Alia: Haha the best ones come organically. I really love how you integrate them into your stories. It’s really fun. I love corny jokes anyway so it’s perfect.

Ben: Haha! Yay! Kindred spirit!

Alia: Yay! I also read that you studied Anthropology? Me too!

Ben: I’m not surprised! I read that open letter you wrote to J.K. Rowling about her new writings involving magic and Native American peoples and it seemed to me you had a solid foundation in anthropological thinking. Told you I might steer things back to HP!

Alia: Ah yes!

Ben: But perhaps that is a conversation for another time as I’m sure we could both get stuck on that particular subject.

Alia: Well, thank you. I really enjoyed studying Anthropology and Native studies. Really enjoyed.

Haha you weren’t lying.:)

Yes, for sure.

Ben: I see in your profile photo that you’re holding a copy of Thunder Boy Jr.! Great book! J.K. should have consulted someone(s) like Sherman Alexie!

Alia: Yes! Such a good book. I love that book. I anticipated it for over a year before it came out and both Yuyi Morales and Sherman Alexie came through (of course). Sherman is amazing and yes, she definitely could’ve and should’ve!

Let’s talk a bit about your art, if you don’t mind.

Ben: Much less interesting of a topic.😉

Alia: Haha! I mean, it’s a hot (and important) topic BUT I do really enjoy your art.

Q6. For Mo’s Mustache, did you really use a mustache as a brush to make the art??

VoteForMe

Image Credit: Kids Can Press, Ben Clanton

Ben: Haha! Yes, and according to my bio for Vote for Me! I’m nine feet tall and am President of the Universe. What is for sure true, though, is I used elephant poop paper for Vote for Me!. The mustache is admittedly a fib.

Alia: Oh man, I’m too naive, lol.

Ben: Hey, knowing me I might have actually done it!

Alia: Ah, so that’s why the art in Vote for Me! looks speckled but unlike your paint splatters. That’s neat. Yeah I could see you taking a mustache and crafting your own paintbrush. Cause why not?

Ben: Exactly! When I remake that book someday I promise to look into that!

Alia: Yes, please, lol. Or a sequel? *wink wink*

Ben: Haha! Perhaps! I’m finishing a sequel to Rex Wrecks It! called Boo Who? currently and I wasn’t sure that would come about. Wouldn’t say ‘no’ to another with Mo!

In regards to the materials/art question, I do like to use techniques and media that fit with the content of the book. For example, with It Came in the Mail (my latest picture book) mail ephemera plays a big role in the art.

Alia: Oh yeah! I’m really excited about that! Rex Wrecks It! is my favorite of yours.

That’s really cool and probably makes it more interesting for you.

I noticed that with the mail! I have some questions about it later for you! I have a few things I want to mention about your art, if you don’t mind.

Ben: Please! Have you noticed I can’t draw backgrounds? 😉

Alia: lol. You like to splatter paint and draw squiggles and stars?

But it’s actually pretty cool, I think. Some picture books can get too busy and I like how you focus in on what we need to see. In general, I love how your style is so simple but not really; it’s pretty complex. Just a few lines and a pop of color go a long way. You create really cool stories about relationships that are fun to look at.:)

Ben: Thanks Alia! Definitely some Mo Willems influence there for me. I like to focus on the characters and story and let the reader fill in the white space. To me this goes back to the question regarding the picture book format . . . less can often be more. That’s what I strive for! And the reader really does bring a lot to the book. It’s a collaboration. I’m not making the book alone.

Alia: Ah yeah I can see that! Definitely. It’s a conversation you’re sending out to people to continue.

Ben: And splatter paint is just too much fun! Also, as I can get somewhat tight when doing final art, it forces me to loosen up and go with it.

Alia: Oh man, it is! I just did a workshop with Hervé Tullet and one of the best parts was when he told us to lift the brush and DROP it on the paper. So fun!

Ben: I’m jealous! Hervé Tullet’s work is amazing! I’ve got to try that!

Alia: It really is! He’s so kind too and you should. It’s very freeing.

Q7. Would you rather have a dinosaur best friend who’s a master chef or a monster best friend who’s slightly better than you at basketball?

Ben: Haha! Tough one! This one requires some serious thought as both are great options. I think I’ve got to go with the monster best friend who is slightly better than me at basketball. I like a challenge! Even more than food! Which is saying something.

Alia: Yeah I agree this is a tough question, lol. Good choice though. You’d probably have more laughs with your monster best friend too (and maybe a few arguments).

Ben: Yes! I think so! Can you make this happen for me?

Alia: Umm I wasn’t expecting that question. Let me see who I can call…I’ll get back to you.

Ben: Figures!😉

Alia: Haha! Okay Q8. I’m all about stories and characters that reflect our world. How do you feel about the push in the publishing industry to get more diverse characters, stories and authors out there?

Ben: I think it is hugely important! It has been great to see the increasing rhetoric and push to have more diverse books, authors, and industry people.

Alia: I think so too!

Ben: In addition to writing and illustrating books, I’ve been working as an editor-at-large for Sasquatch Books (their Little Bigfoot imprint) for about a year. We’ve had a number of conversations about this!

Alia: Oh wow.

Ben: And whenever I’m with fellow authors and illustrators it has come up a lot recently. We’ve all got to keep at it! Keep moving forward!

Alia: Definitely. It’s important for our children to see themselves in books and to learn about others (and each other). It’s how we build community. Books are important parts of development, yeah?

Ben: I was just trying to formulate something coherent along those lines!

Alia: Haha

Ben: Yes, way important! Books are such a great space for exploration!

Alia: Definitely. It’s the only space for exploration for some children.

Ben: True! For new topics and familiar ones and subjects that are uncomfortable.

Alia: Exactly. We need it all.

Ben: Yes.

AliaQ9. Seems like you’re pretty busy (yet amazingly organized). Any non kid-lit books you’re currently reading or strongly recommend?

Ben: Haha! There was a time I wouldn’t have had any recommendations outside kid-lit, but now I listen to a lot of books while illustrating. I’m big into science fiction and fantasy in particular. Recently I’ve been enjoying (?) or at least captivated by the Game of Thrones books. I’m finishing the fifth and will be impatiently awaiting the sixth and seventh. Haven’t watched any of the TV series yet! Red Rising series by Pierce Brown is gripping. And I’ve been listening to a lot of Brandon Sanderson lately.

Alia: Very cool. Oh man, I’m sure you’ll have strong feelings about the series. :) I’m always meaning to listen to audio books but I never do…

Ben: I love audio books! I usually go through 2 or 3 books a week. It’s lovely!

Alia: I think I’m gonna have to try them soon.

Ben: But it has got to be the right voice actor. The wrong voice actor can totally ruin the experience.

Alia: Yeah I’ve heard that. There’s a science to it! Has to feel right.

ItCameIntheMail

Image Credit: Simon & Schuster, Ben Clanton

Q10. Your next book, It Came in the Mail, comes out June 21st (Yay!). Do you mind talking about it a bit? I’ve read it and it’s very sweet. Also what do you hope children take from it?

Ben: Thanks!! It Came in the Mail is particularly special to me. I’ve been working on that one for a long time. Since 2011 I believe. Might have even been 2010. I love mail! I love to get it and I love to send it! And I love the experience of opening a mailbox . . . there is always that ‘what if’ possibility. Perhaps there will be something special in the mailbox. Perhaps something extraordinary and life changing! I’m very good at coming up with elaborate daydreams involving mailboxes. It Came in the Mail is pretty much a love letter to mail! The story itself has evolved a lot since I first had the idea for it. My first take focused a lot on the dragon and became more or less about the pitfalls of having a dragon as a pet. Which was actually quite a fun take, but that wasn’t what I wanted the core of this book to be about. I wanted it to be about the mail and reciprocation. But I didn’t really have a specific message I was setting out to impart.

But I suppose what I hope is that children will be inspired by it to dream big dreams. And send mail! And, perhaps even pay it forward!

Alia: There’s something special about knowing that someone took the time to send you something, isn’t there? Waiting, anticipating or being surprised. I think children will enjoy it; there’s a lot packed in there for them to experience, learn and reflect on!

Ben: Thanks! I hope so!

TableSetsItself

Image Credit: Walker Childrens (Bloomsbury Publishing), Ben Clanton

Alia: You said that you’ve been working on It Came in the Mail for a while…and that you love mail. I think we can see that in your book The Table Sets Itself! It’s obvious that you lovingly spent time on those spreads with the postage stamps and envelopes and letters.

Ben: Haha! Yes! I have a feeling this won’t be the last time mail plays a big part in a book of mine. Even in Mo’s Mustache it all starts with receiving a package in the mail!

Alia: Oh yeah! “Huzzah!” He’s so cute (and frustrated). >_<

Ben: It can be tough being a little monster thing!

Alia: It really can. I’m sure your monster friend will tell you that during a game of pick up, lol.

Ben: Haha! He better not if he is beating me!

Alia: Haha!:)

You touched on it earlier and I’m wondering…(Q11.) Did you actually collect the old postcards & envelopes featured in It Came in the Mail and then draw on them?

Ben: Not all of them. Some of those were ones I found online free for commercial use, but many are ones I collected. I would frequent antique stores and thrift stores and seek them out. My wife’s grandmother has a treasure trove of old love letters sent in those classic airmail envelopes! And because of the history of the ephemera (and because drawing on them was a bit daunting) I actually drew on blank paper and scanned the images and combined them with the ephemera in Photoshop. Same for the burned paper in the book. Actually, I got in trouble with my wife over that. I work late and was inspired at two in the morning one night to burn the edges of paper for the dragon illustrations.

Apparently the smell of burned paper is enough to wake someone up in the other room! My bad!

Alia: Ah, I see. I guess that’s the cool thing about technology; you can use it to make so many great effects and art. I love those classic airmail envelopes! They’re lovely.

Haha well I’m glad you decided to do the burned paper. It adds something special to the story and design. I’m a night owl too so I understand completely.

Also, I like the bolder line you use in It Came in the Mail! It looks good and I feel like this book story-wise and art-wise is showing off how much you’ve grown as an author and illustrator.

Ben: Thanks! That is so good to hear! I feel like a bolder and more expressive line is working much better for me than my previous line work. With each new book I’m learning new things. Which can make it hard to look back at books I’ve done. So many things I feel I could do better now! But I suppose it will likely always be that way. Growing pains!

Alia: Yeah, we always look back and think about how we could’ve improved. But I think it looks great!

Q12. Is there any cool place in Seattle that you recommend and like to escape to to relax?

Ben: Seattle has a lot of great places! But I really love to be by the water. The Bainbridge Ferry or Vashon Ferry or really any of the ferry rides around here I find to be particularly relaxing and enjoyable. Great for being inspired too! Oh, and Molly Moon’s Ice Cream is pretty great. Grab some of that and head to the park. Maybe stop by Elliot Bay Books first or University Book Store.

 

 

Thanks Ben for taking time to chat with me! It was fun and I wish you the best of luck with promotions for It Came in the Mail! I can’t wait to see it on bookshelves!:)

If you’d like to learn more about Ben Clanton, check out his:

Website, http://www.benclanton.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Clantoons

Twitter, https://twitter.com/Clantoons

 

 

It’s Ramadan, Curious George

Curious George 1

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hena Khan/Mary O’Keefe

It’s the month of Ramadan, a time for Muslims around the world to pray, reflect, and fast with loved ones. Last night at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, at least fifty people were killed and the shooter seems to be Muslim.  In this time of sadness, this tragedy has already resulted in increased Islamophobia and racism towards Muslims in our country.

I want to take a moment to say that we MUST love and understand each other. Hatred has no place here.

Now we have a new children’s book about Ramadan. It’s Ramadan, Curious George is an important and sweet addition to the Curious George series. We need more books that are mirrors for Muslim children and this is one more to add to your shelf. There’s already a Happy Hanukkah, Curious George and many Christmas books, so why not Ramadan? I’m glad that it exists and I hope it makes it into the hands of Muslim children who need it and any child curious about Ramadan and Islam. Parents, this is how we teach love.

Curious George 2

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hena Khan/Mary O’Keefe

It’s Ramadan, Curious George is a tabbed board book; its sturdy size and format is perfect for little hands to grasp. Each tab highlights a chapter of the story with a small illustration. The story follows Curious George, The Man with the Yellow Hat and their new friend, Kareem. Kareem is going to try fasting for Ramadan for the first time and Curious George is actually…helpful!  ;)  He cooks delicious food with Kareem’s family and helps Kareem make it through his tough first day of fasting. The book also discusses the importance of sharing with others; Curious George helps with a food drive at the mosque and even inspires a new tradition! At the end of Ramadan, they happily celebrate Eid together and Curious George is glad to have experienced it all.

Hena Khan (Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns) did another great job with this one. Her informative rhyming text with Mary O’Keefe Young’s sweet illustrations is perfect. This book is a treasure to keep on your shelf not only for Ramadan, but for all year long. Books like this are not only important for children who need them but are also important for fostering respect and understanding of difference at an early age. I hope you’ll enjoy it with your family!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Family, Friendship, Community, Ramadan, Religion, Relationships, Love, Respect, Diversity, Cultural Diversity, Cultural Relativism, Cultures, Understanding, Discussion, Animals, Read-Aloud
Book Info: It’s Ramadan, Curious George by Hena Khan/Illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young, 2016 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544652262

Teeny Tiny Toady

TeenyTinyToady

Image Credit: Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), Jill Esbaum/Keika Yamaguchi

Can you say “Modern Classic?” The story and art feel old in the best way. This book feels warm and happy, like sitting snuggled on Grandma’s lap as she reads you The Three Little Pigs and a slice of her chicken pot pie sits comfortably in your belly. Yup, Teeny Tiny Toady feels familiar…and EPIC.

The story starts in a super dramatic way; a big bad human picks Mama Toad up and traps her in a bucket! Cute little Teeny Toady rushes to get her seven big, burly, body-building older brothers to help her but they insist they can handle the situation themselves. The Toady Bros struggle to rescue their mother; every one of their attempts fail and of course they’re too busy to listen to their teeny sister’s suggestions! Before they know it, they’re in trouble too and Teeny must find courage & strength to become a Teeny Hero. There’s something to be said for brains over brawn and her Mama believes in her from the very beginning.😉

TeenyTinyToady2

Image Credit: Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), Jill Esbaum/Keika Yamaguchi

Esbaum’s rhyming text is delightful and sounds great when read aloud. She’s a very good storyteller; the pacing, drama, humor and characters are perfect. This story teaches an important lesson for little ones; have faith in yourself and even if you’re little, you can do big things! Yamaguchi’s digital illustrations are magical; lush greens, soft colors and warty chubby toad bodies fill the pages. The toads ARE.SO.CUTE. My goodness. I love how she illustrates and characterizes them; their expressions and personalities are great and feel inspired by Disney and/or anime (especially their eyes!).

One of my favorite spreads is when Teeny thinks up her plan; Esbaum’s text floats and curls from left to right alongside the swirls of leaves and color straight to Teeny’s brain! What a great story! You will fall in love with this family. Teeny Tiny Toady deserves a spot near your favorite fairy tales and fables.

 

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Fables, Lessons, Inner Strength, Creative Thinking, Determination, Rhyme, Family, Relationships, Siblings, Girl Power, Read-Aloud, Animals, Love
Book Info: Teeny Tiny Toady by Jill Esbaum/Illustrated by Keika Yamaguchi, 2016 Sterling Children’s Books (Sterling Publishing), ISBN: 9781454914549