Friday, January 29, 2010

Poetry Friday: An Acorn, a Japanese Song

amigurumi acorns by planetjune

Isn't this the cutest? It's an original from PlanetJune and I thought it went well with today's rhyme. You can get the pattern over at her site!

Thanks to Mama Lisa for this song from Japan. Now, introduce your totz to an unusual acorn.

An Acorn

An acorn rolled down and down,
He suddenly fell into a pond.
Then came the loaches*,
Hi boy! Come play with us!

The acorn enjoyed playing with them.
But he soon began to cry,
I want to go back to the mountain.
The loaches didn't know what to do.

*A loach is a freshwater carp!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! Dr. Seuss

This week I am reviewing Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! Random House has released Bright and Early Board Books with a few adaptations of favorite readers. I find this is a success!

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! introduces imagination to your totz. Mix your thoughts, join the peculiar, combine what you know with what could be:

"You can think about Night,
a night in Na-Nupp.
The birds are asleep
and the three moons are up."

Or think of what you know in an unusual setting:

Think of Light.
Think of Bright.
Think of
Stairs in the Night.

Of course, all the wonderful rhyme and nonsense is guaranteed from the brilliant mind of Theodor Geisel.

As well as the gorgeous line and flat areas of bright color. So explore imaginary food, animals, and places, and then think some more.

Bravo, Random House, for a new format for a classic. Your totz will love this early introduction to Dr. Seuss!

Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!
Dr. Seuss
Random House, 2009

Friday, January 22, 2010

Poetry Friday: There was an Old Man with a Beard

I pulled this from Smart Central, today. So cute! Rock it, Edward and Leonardo!

There was an Old Man with a Beard

Edward Lear 1812-1888

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

For the Older Sibling: A Walk in New York, Salvatore Rubbino

Dia Calhoun
and I recently were in New York City as our totz sister site, readergirlz was honored by the National Book Foundation with the first Innovations in Reading Prize.

We were thrilled to attend the celebrations. This was my first trip to the city, and I wish I had Salvatore Rubbino's picture book with me: A Walk in New York. Seriously! Dia and I would have been right on target finding those lions in front of the New York Public Library. And we would have known there are 10,000 new books each week and 88 miles of shelves!

I chose this work for the older sibling of your totz because it is retro, beautiful, and so helpful! The mixed media capturing textures, flat shapes of color, and predominantly a pencil line represent the beauty and abundant life of New York City. Interspersed are facts about each sightseeing location.

"The library lions are called
Patience and Fortitude.
They're made of pink marble
from Tennessee."

The smaller font amidst the very hip MkLang Bold typeset does not detract from the main story of a father showing his son Manhattan for the first time.

With A Walk in New York, I would have known:

"The only way you can catch a New York cab is if you hail it."

Not by asking the concierge to call one. I would have known to go up to the ground level at Grand Central to see the clock and night sky ceiling. And I would have realized there are 67 tracks with 125,000 people traveling.

I would have known where to stand to see the Statue of Liberty. *sigh* Even the end pages which are simple maps would have been helpful. So here's to my next visit. In the meantime, I'll enjoy this beautiful Candlewick Press book from Salvatore. It's a gem that is worthy of award recognition.

A Walk in New York
by Salvatore Rubbino
Candlewick Press, 2009

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Grasshopper Hopped! Elizabeth Alexander

The grasshopper is looking for home and is unfortunate enough to explore the possibilities of a soup pot, a refrigerator, and more! With each effort, your totz will be delighted by the funny circumstance caught in rhyme by Elizabeth Alexander.

" The grasshopper hopped into the sea.
'The sea is too wet and salty for me!'
The grasshopper hopped out of the sea.
The sea was no place for that fool bug to be!
Hippity-hop, hippity-hop..."

It's refreshing to follow a plot in our beloved toddler/board book genre. Your totz will feel the journey of grasshopper from start to finish.

What also really strikes me about this new work from Golden Books, is Joung Un Kim's illustrations. While maintaining child appeal, the illustrations are sophisticated layers of various patterns. A bit of random text even makes its way into a few spreads. The clean sharp edges, and negative spaces make the layout crisp and accessible. The tabs to make grasshopper hop are an added delight.

Be sure The Grasshopper Hopped! hops into your lap with your totz!

The Grasshopper Hopped!

by Elizabeth Alexander
illustrated by Joung Un Kim
Golden Books, 2010

Friday, January 15, 2010

Poetry Friday: Can You Make a Rabbit?

Along with Durer, I found this sweet rabbit rhyme at Gayle's Preschool Rainbow. Hop, hop, hop!

Can you make a rabbit
With two ears, so very long
hold up fingers
And let him hop, hop, hop about
On legs so small and strong?
He nibbles, nibbles carrots
act out
For his dinner every day;
As soon as he has had enough
He scampers fast away!

How lovely to learn with your totz, right? Happy Poetry Friday!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bibs and Boots: Alison Lester

A darling set of books by Alison Lester from Allen & Unwin are available to engage your totz. The charming small board books have a retro 80s feel with spot illustrations, borders, and delicate watercolors. Bibs and Boots, Happy and Sad, and Crashing and Splashing make the full collection. Bibs and Boots is my favorite of the three.

What do we wear for different activities? Your bib for "nibbles and dribbles," your best clothes for a party, and a hat for a hot day. Of course, we need our pajamas to end the book and the day itself.

The light illustrations remind me of Helen Oxenbury in a smaller format with a broader setting. Alison Lester has created over 25 picture books. The copyright on these is 1989, however, the first printing in this format was 2008. Hailing from Austraila, we tip our hat to Alison and all she's contributed to children's lit for totz!

Bibs and Boots

Alison Lester
Allen & UnwinPty Ltd, Sydney, 2008

Friday, January 8, 2010

Poetry Friday: Elsie Marley

Oh, let's get up and get going with our totz this new year!

Elsie Marley's grown so fine,
She won't get up to feed the swine,
But lies in bed 'till eight or nine!
Lazy Elsie Marley.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

An interview with Groundhog Weather School illustrator Kristin Sorra

I'm excited to feature Kristin Sorra, illustrator of the new picture book, Groundhog Weather School. Hi Kristin, and welcome to readertotz! Could you tell us about your illustration technique?

I use Photoshop and I paint with my stylus pen, or entirely digitally, but I also create hand-painted textures and place them in a layer as well as a few photographic elements. My technique is not that different from my actual hand painting (when I used to render in oils), its just less messy. While it takes almost the same amount of time, I can really play with color and composition more freely than if I were painting by hand. Still, I strive to make the end result look like a hand-painted piece. This book in particular was a great vehicle for me to play with media and patterns. It's a jumping point for much of my future work.

I had no idea it was primarily digital because it looks hand-painted.

Do you have a favorite spread?

Its tough to pick just one, but I would have to say its the sequential spread where the different animals are checking off qualifications for Groundhog Weather School. I love the different environments and the use of the newspaper and pattern designs, not to mention the fun side characters (some of whom make other appearances in the book). I also love the format of the sequential storytelling. It makes reading it more fun.

Which was the last illustration you painted for the book?

The final piece was the cover. That was quite a challenge since I had to please the marketing people. I probably had 5 to 7 sketches and 3 to 4 rounds of changes on the final art. We wanted the cover to reflect the crazy amount of information in the book and the fun that you would find when you open it up, yet still be clear enough to pop off the shelves. The bold type does that and in the back you can see the groundhogs actually burrowing, ironically the only time you actually see this happen in the whole book.

The cover looks so effortless! And it does pop. I've done experiments, where I look at the picture book shelf in bookstores from a distance to see which catch my eye, and this one does, particularly because of the color use and shapes. I particularly like the title type you created. Thanks for a gorgeous cover.

I'm always fascinated with artists' sketches. Would you share one of yours?

Sure! Im including a few character sketches since I got a chance to play with some personalities. I had the most fun with that. I love the ballerina and the intellectual groundhogs. You'll also see the layout sketch of the groundhogs and skunk onstage, which won our editor over pretty easily so it isnt too different from the finish.

Do you have any groundhogs? How about other pets?

We have a couple neighborhood groundhogs! One actually took the time to visit my front stoop the same day I got feedback from Cecilia, the Art Director. It was such a funny coincidence and perhaps a very good sign if you believe in such things! I do have a rescued black lab mix as a pet, but I have to separate him from the groundhogs since they dont play nicely together. Oh, and my dog makes a cameo in the book! He's in the bottom right of the illustration below:

What's your studio like?

I have two computers, a Mac Pro tower and Mac Pro laptop (you can never have too much power), an 11 x 17 flatbed scanner and archival printer. Lots of tech. But my studio is full of inspiration, magazines, art and other childrens books of course. I have a literal reminder hanging on my wall of what I need to do everyday.

Any websites or blogs to share, so everyone can see more of your work? Any upcoming books or other projects?

Im currently working on a picture book with Sterling Publishing. Don't think I can give away the title yet, but it's one of those books where the pictures tell the whole story. It's quite a challenge. You can see my work at

Please check my website for news on appearances related to Groundhog Weather School. My blog gives some insight into my creative inner workings in and around kids books, and anything else that inspires. I hope you'll feel free to leave feedback. Thank you, Joan for the artistic challenge that was Groundhog Weather School!

You're welcome, Kristin! Your art made this book shine. Thank YOU!

Groundhog Weather School
illustrator: Kristin Sorra

author: Joan Holub

publisher: Putnam, 2010

~ Joan Holub

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Artists See Jr. Babies: Colleen Carroll

What a wonderful way to start the new year: celebrating the most excellent literature for your totz. I'm happy to review How Artists See Jr. Babies.

Open this work to enjoy a variety of way artists have depicted babies throughout time. From Keith Haring to Vincent Van Gogh, this work is a delight and treasure. Aside from introducing your totz to great art, you can discuss the paintings with suggested questions provided at the opening of the book.

* Is the baby outside or inside? Asleep or awake?
* Which baby looks biggest/smallest? Oldest/youngest?

Mary Cassatt, Kikugawa Eizan and others show babies at play, babies laughing, and babies sleeping. Maybe my own favorite is Gustav Klimt's Baby (Cradle) from 1917/18. Which might be your favorite?

Abbeville Press has produced this wonderful work with Colleen Carroll. Look for all the titles in the How Artists See Jr. series. Each will be based on a theme. Click here to read my review of Dogs. I strongly suggest you acquire all the titles for your family. These are mini museums ready to be explored!

How Artists See Jr. Babies

Colleen Carroll
Abbeville Press, 2008

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010: Things are Always Changing

Happy new year! I came across this inspiring vintage Sesame Street clip. Perfect to sing and talk about with your totz. "Things are always changing..."