A picture book is born!

Dec 18, 2013 by

Looks like this lab just had its first successful experiment! I’m so excited to announce the release of my first picture book — Minu and her Hair  —  published by the wonderful Tulika Books. Activity has been low-ish around here because I’ve been busy with this the past couple of months and I was torn between posting about it, or keeping it a surprise. I finally (stupidly) chose to do the latter; it’s been pure torture. Now I can finally stop holding my breath. Phew. Moving onto the book…     Did you write and illustrate it? Yes, and yes. A more accurate explanation is I worked, worked, re-worked, and re-re-worked it.   So, what is Minu and her Hair about?  What? No! Seriously, it’s worth the surprise! Fine, I’ll give you a clue. There’s a girl...

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Painting unique portraits: 3 noteworthy picture book biographies on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr....

Oct 13, 2013 by

The picture book is a form that lends itself very well to re-telling stories– even those of famous historical figures we know so much about, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With different perspectives and visual narratives, these picture book biographies will offer you new ways to understand, discuss and celebrate this iconic activist. Martin’s Big Words is a visually stunning picture book biography published in 2001  by author  Doreen Rappaport and illustrator Bryan Collier. This book focuses on the inspiring influence of words on Dr. Martin Luther King as a child,  and how he grew up to harness and develop a powerful rhetoric that spear-headed a social revolution. Bryan Collier’s innovative pastiche of watercolour and collage art beautifully mimic Dr. King’s evolution as a man of words, adding depth and meaning to his journey.   At the...

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Concept picture books: a much-needed multicultural spin...

Oct 7, 2013 by

Round is a Tortilla has a refreshing take on the common concept picture book about shapes. Usually these kind of books target very young readers, and hence there isn’t a narrative; there are typically words with accompanying pictures. What I really loved about this book was how Roseanne Greenfield Thong‘s charming text and John Parra‘s gorgeous illustrations transport you into a distinctly Hispanic cultural space with a wonderful Latino flavor to it. Even though at its core it is still a ‘list’ book (where there isn’t really a plot), both the written and visual narrative elevate it to something more meaningful and creative than your standard concept book.   Spanish words pepper the rhyming English narration, and make for a great read-aloud experience. I’m not usually a big fan of rhyming text, but it’s quite effective...

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New picture books, old stories: folktales and fables...

Jul 7, 2013 by

The danger in re-telling old stories is that if they don’t bring a fresh perspective, they can seem tired and uninteresting. Especially because folktales are  more ‘moralistic’,  re-working them in a way that makes them more creative and engaging is important. Making picture books out of traditional stories is a great way of adding fresh visual appeal, and if the text is written well, it can give new life to an old story.  When looking at folktale re-tellings, I think keeping in mind how the text flows is crucial. Traditionally all these stories were told orally, and they had a certain rhythm and lilt to them because the storyteller would be narrating them to his/her audience. Two picture books I found recently were  good attempts at re-telling popular folktales. I don’t know how much...

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3 picture books deal with 2 complex issues: death and domestic violence...

May 31, 2013 by

What could be more difficult that dealing with the loss of a parent?  It’s a subject that most people have a hard time even comprehending, forget making it a subject of a book for children. But picture books aren’t meant to shield children. That’s my opinion, at least. There are people in the other camp who believe that hard subjects like death, loss, violence and abuse should be left out of books for children. But they’re all a reality of life, unfortunately. Isn’t it inevitable that they will have to deal with a whole host of issues as they grow up? Two beautiful picture books that I read recently reflect that if it’s done in the right way, they can be very valuable and effective.  My Father’s Arms Are A Boat  (written by Stein Erik...

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Ezra Keats and multicultural picture books...

Mar 11, 2013 by

Today is a very special children’s book icon’s birthday: Ezra Jack Keats‘s. He  is widely credited with introducing multiculturalism into mainstream children’s publishing in the US. For over 25 years the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation has given an annual award to the best new author and illustrator that represents the “universal qualities of childhood… and the multicultural nature of our world.” In fact, this year’s winners were announced just a few days ago.  So today  seems especially apt to look back at this wonderful author and illustrator, because what he contributed and represents are the most important elements to me as a reader, lover, and creator of picture books — inclusion and diversity.   The book that brought  widespread recognition to Keats was The Snowy Day. It is a delightful picture book with an endearing African-American boy (Peter) as its protagonist,...

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