Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The Little Crooked Bookshelf on #ReviewsDay

by Cale Atkinson

(This week’s #ReviewsDay pick is from cottager Jamie Michalak.)

What it’s all about …
Jo lives on an island with her dad, who delivers every message in a bottle to its right home. But when he comes down with a severe sea cold, Jo must face her fear of the sea and cast off by herself to get the job done!

Why I love it …
The detailed, energetic illustrations alternate between warm, humorous, and just the right amount of scary that kids love. 

Sample illustration …
From OFF & AWAY. Illustration copyright 2018 by Cale Atkinson.

Why will kids love it?
Sure to elicit both giggles and gasps, this picture book adventure is a thrilling ride of a read-aloud.

Why will grown-ups love it?
Grown-ups can share this picture book about overcoming fears with their favorite littles who might need a boost of courage.

Where to find/buy …

Or at a school or library near you!

Author-Illustrator bio
Cale Atkinson is an author, illustrator, and animator whose picture books include To the Sea and Explorers of the Wild. He lives and works in Kelowna, British Columbia. Visit him online at www.cale.ca or on Twitter @2dCale.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

BLOG STOP! If You Want To Fall Asleep

We are thrilled to celebrate the release of IF YOU WANT TO FALL ASLEEP by friend of the cottage Jackie Azúa Kramer! And guess who's back? NINA from MAMABELLY LUNCHES WITH LOVE! Scroll down to the link below to view Nina's special Literary Lunch for Little Mouse.

by Jackie Azúa Kramer
illustrated by Lisa Brandenburg

What it's all about...
It's bedtime and Little Mouse isn't sleepy. Mama makes suggestion after suggestion of helpful things Little Mouse can do to fall asleep—but nothing is working.

Why we love it...
It's a classic, clever, imaginative, cumulative tale, perfect for reading sweet little mice to sleep.

Some of our favorite lines...
If you want to fall asleep
and you're staring at the ceiling. . .
Count stars in the sky.
Not one or two or three,
but each star, near and far.
And when you float among the stars,
remember wishes:
birthday wishes, secret wishes,
dream wishes.

And wait for dozing.

A few of our fave illustrations...

All images (c) Lisa Brandenburg 2018

What's the kid-appeal?
Kids will relate to Little Mouse's dilemma, enjoy all of Mama's imaginative solutions, and pore over the oh-so-darling illustrations in this book.

What's the grownup appeal?
Every parent has heard the words, "but I'm not sleepy," from their kiddos at bedtime. This lyrical bedtime book is a classic way to calm down, giggle, snuggle, and invite kids to let their imaginations carry them off to sweet slumber.

Where to find/ buy If You Want to Fall Asleep
Indie Booksellers
Barnes & Noble
Or at a school or library near you!

Many lives ago Jackie Azúa Kramer was an actor, singer and school counselor. Now Jackie wiles away her time writing children's picture books. What ties these all together and remains a constant are her dreams and imagination. Jackie's picture books, THE GREEN UMBRELLA (NorthSouth Books) illustrated by Maral Sassouni chosen by CBC Bank Street College - 'Best Children's Books of the Year' and 2017 Parents' Choice Award Silver Medal. Coming soon: THE BOY AND THE EIGHT HUNDRED POUND GORILLA (Candlewick 2020), THAT'S FOR BABIES (Clavis, TBD) and MILES WON'T SMILE (Clavis, TBD). She loves to read all kinds of books. But she has a sweet spot for stories that remind her that there’s a big world to go and explore. Jackie hopes one day her books will make someone feel that way, too. Learn more at http://www.jackieazuakramer.com.

Lisa Brandenburg is a Dutch illustrator who graduated from the Willem de Kooning Academy of Arts, Rotterdam, the Netherlands in 2000. Lisa has a wide range of artistic interests and she seizes the chances and challenges that come along with a new project. She generally uses a mix of techniques and plays with colors and composition. Her work can be slightly melancholic, is both child- & adult-friendly and has a touch of humor. She lives with her husband, son and daughter in Amstelveen, the Netherlands. Learn more at http://www.lisabrandenburg.nl/


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Little Crooked Bookshelf on ReviewsDay!

by Maria Gianferrari
illustrated by Jia Liu

(This week's #ReviewsDay pick is from cottager Anika Denise.)

What it's all about...
A nonfiction ode to tongues! From woodpeckers to frogs to bats — who knew animal tongues could be so much fun? Readers can imagine what it would be like to have a tongue like a sword, a straw, and party blower, among other cool comparisons.

Why I love it...
Because it's packed full of great info but is not bogged down by its facts. Terrific Tongues moves along lickety-split! It's funny, interesting, and the illustrations are marvelous.

Favorite lines...
If you had a 
tongue like a washcloth.
you might be an. . .


An okapi's tongue is like a 
washcloth. Okapi tongues 
are so long that okapis can use them to 
wash their eyes and ears.

A few of my fave illustrations...

What's the kid-appeal?
Little kids love learning weird and interesting facts. Facts about tongues? Fascinating! In an easy-to-digest, playfully-illustrated format, readers can discover all sorts of tasty tongue tidbits such as: a giant anteater flicks its tongue 160 times a minute.

What's the grownup appeal?
It works beautifully as a read-aloud, and it's also a great choice for kids who like their STEM lessons served up silly.

Where to find/ buy Terrific Tongues
Indie Booksellers
Barnes & Noble
Or at a school or library near you!

MARIA GIANFERRARI is the author of both fiction and nonfiction picture books, including the Penny and Jelly books, Coyote Moon, and Hello Goodbye Dog. She lives in Virginia. Visit mariagianferrari.com.

JIA LIU received her MFA in Illustration Practice from Maryland Institute College of Art. Terrific Tongues! is her debut picture book. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Visit jia-liu-t7ay.squarespace.com.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Little Crooked Bookshelf on #ReviewsDay

Hello Lighthouse
by Sophie Blackall

(This week's #ReviewsDay pick is from cottager Kara LaReau.)

What it's all about...
On the highest rock of a tiny island at the edge of the world stands a lighthouse, which withstands the elements and the passage of time as it beams its light out to sea. All the while, its keeper works and writes, and changes await.

Why I love it...
Being a New England gal, I have a thing for lighthouses, and Sophie Blackall's latest masterpiece is the ultimate tribute.

Sample illustration...

What's the kid-appeal?
Fascinating illustrations and a detailed narrative reveal the inner workings of the lighthouse and the ins and outs of its keeper's daily life.

What's the grownup appeal?
Like a certain lighthouse, this story's classic, comforting feel offers a steadfast refuge and a happy, hopeful beacon.

Where to find/buy Hello Lighthouse
Indie Booksellers
Barnes & Noble

Or at a school or library near you!

Sophie Blackall is the illustrator of many picture books, including Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear, winner of the Caldecott Medal. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Little Crooked Bookshelf on #ReviewsDay

by Carter Higgins
Illustrated by Emily Hughes

(This week’s #ReviewsDay pick is from cottager Jamie Michalak.)

What it’s all about …

This beautifully illustrated story gives whimsical instructions on how to build a treehouse and what to do once you have.

Why I love it …
This book had me at "treehouse." But then it went and included ALL KINDS OF TREEHOUSES! Like garden treehouses and pirate ship treehouses and high-up-in-the-sky treehouses and (gasp) library treehouses!

Favorite lines ...

You can spill secrets and

whispers in a treehouse

cause the wind keeps them

snug with a rustle

which is a hush you can feel

in your bones

that's how you know it's safe.

Sample illustration …
From WHAT YOU NEED FOR A TREEHOUSE by Carter Higgins. Illustration copyright 2018 by Emily Hughes.

Why will kids love it?

Kids can imagine trying out the different treehouses and choosing their favorite.

Why will grown-ups love it?
Treehouses are for everyone. Even grown-ups dream about escaping the real world and creating a space all their own. Also, some might enjoy how this book calls to mind Andrew Henry's Meadow and the art of Gyo Fujikawa.


Indie Booksellers
Barnes & Noble

Or at a school or library near you!

Carter Higgins is the author of This Is Not a Valentine and A Rambler Steals Home. She has worked as both a motion graphics designer and a librarian. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Emily Hughes is an internationally recognized author and illustrator. She is the author-illustrator of The Little Gardener and Wild, and the illustrator of Charlie & Mouse. Emily was born in Hawaii and now lives and works in the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Little Crooked Bookshelf on #ReviewsDay

The Great Dictionary Caper
by Judy Sierra
illustrated by Eric Comstock

(This week's #ReviewsDay pick is from cottager Kara LaReau.)

What it's all about...
The words have escaped the dictionary! Before Noah Webster and Peter Mark Roget set things straight, check out the onomatopoeia marching band, the showy action verbs, the tangoing homophones, and more!

Why I love it...
In my house, we're big fans of irreverent books that shake up the order of things, and of course, WORDS — so we think Judy Sierra's playful text and Eric Comstock's graphic, lively illustrations are, dare we say, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Sample illustration...

What's the kid-appeal?
Kids will love knowing that words need to break for recess sometimes, just like they do!

What's the grownup appeal?
Great examples of homonyms, antonyms, rhyming words, propositions, and other parts of speech (also defined in a handy glossary at the back) allow for some learning amidst the wonderful wordplay.

Where to find/buy The Great Dictionary Caper
Indie Booksellers
Barnes & Noble

Or at a school or library near you!

Judy Sierra is the author of many award-winning books for children including the bestsellers Antarctic Antics, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey; Wild About Books, illustrated by Marc Brown; and The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School, illustrated by Stephen Gammell. Her books have received seven Children's Choice Award from the International Reading Association, two Aesop awards from the American Folklore Society, and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Prize from the Association of Booksellers for Children. She lives with her husband in Portland, Oregon. Visit her online at JudySierra.net.

Eric Comstock's first picture book was the debut Charlie Piechart adventure, Charlie Piechart and the Case of the Missing Pizza Slice by Marilyn Sadler. He lives with his family in Austin, Texas. Visit him online at ericcomstock.us. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

#KidLitWomen: Best Books of the Year

We're celebrating Women’s History month with 31 days of posts focused on improving the climate for social and gender equality in the children’s and teens’ industry. Join in the conversation here or Twitter #kidlitwomen and access all the #KidLitWomen posts this month on our FaceBook page https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen/


Every year in and around November and December, our feeds begin to fill up with "best of" posts: round ups of books deemed THE best, most notable, most worthy of our attention and praise.

But how do the books on these lists get chosen? It’s a subjective business to be sure. Why then, do the lists often seem so similar, featuring the same books again and again?

The easy answer is: certain books are so outstanding they rise to the top and connect with readers, librarians and influencers.

The more complex and nuanced answer? Yes, these titles are often wonderful and deserving — but the playing field isn’t necessarily a level one. Books with greater visibility stand a better chance of landing on a list; and there are many variables that affect visibility: from the arbitrary (trends, timing, luck), to the deliberate (advertising, publicity, book tours, headline conference appearances).

When good books with high visibility are anointed “the best” by key influencers across multiple platforms, it creates an echo chamber. The same titles reverberate through the kid lit universe, and we, the readers, miss out on lesser-known gems flying under the radar.

And then there’s bias.

Recent posts for #kidlitwomen have shined a harsh but much needed light on gender inequity in the Caldecott and Coretta Scott King illustrator awards. Numbers don’t lie. Men win more honors and medals than women. Women of color are left out entirely in the Caldecott equation. The lack of gender parity in the CSK awards is even more pronounced.

What’s more disturbing about the award disparity is it doesn’t reflect the gender breakdown of the children’s book industry at large. In the picture book segment for instance, many more women are publishing than men, and yet, awards go to men in higher numbers.

Image courtesy of Jeanette Bradley
* This is a sample of 490 picture books published in 2016 & 2017
It is not a count of all books published in those years.

When bias enters the echo chamber — it expands. This can lead to lists by key influencers that skew male (and white). Buzzed-about books become best books of the year, and best books on balance have a clearer path to award consideration.

Where does the bias begin? Is it at the front-end with publishers? At the middle point with influencers and gatekeepers? Are readers fed messages that lead them to value books by male authors and illustrators over those by women? Anecdotally, it seems the answer is all of the above. The problem is cyclical: a perpetual disparity loop that results in the appalling numbers we see in award statistics. Not to mention the very practical fact that visibility often translates to book sales. Yes, we do this job because we love it and love our readers, but this is also a business, and gender inequity in kid lit means women's businesses are taking a hit.

Finally, yes, it is about the readers. Highlighting the same books again and again at the expense of other diverse voices limits what they see and read. Period. Our readers deserve better.

So, what can we do? One simple but effective way to help is to AMPLIFY the voices of women that have been drowned out in the echo chamber, not just in March during Women's History Month, or in November before awards season, but ALL YEAR LONG.

In that spirit, here's a round up of some of our favorite under-the-radar picture books and chapter books by women, published in 2017. Many of the titles selected have themes of female empowerment. All are AMAZING BOOKS you should consider buying, reading, discussing, recommending, championing.

2018 is off to an incredible start for books by women kid lit creators. We promise to continue to use our voices — and this blog — to celebrate them.

Please tell us in the comments which books by women creators YOU are reading, sharing and spotlighting!

Picture Books 

Bear and Chicken by Jannie Ho
When Bear finds a chicken frozen in the winter snow, he brings it home to try to defrost it. As Chicken thaws-um, awakens-he fears that Bear is actually prepping to eat him. A sweet and hilarious tale of friendship with a delicious twist. And a soup recipe! Yum!

Dear Girl, A Celebration of Wonderful, Smart, Beautiful You!
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam
A bestseller featured on the Today show, this one technically isn't an under-the radar title, but it wasn't mentioned much in best of the year round-ups. And we think it should have been. Dear Girl is the picture book version of comfort food. It’s also a cheerleader, shoulder to cry on, and favorite tree trunk for “quiet thoughts to be thunk.” Open it to any page to find witty advice, encouragement, or inspiration. An essential read for dear girls of any age.

Escargot by Dashka Slater, illustrated by Sydney Hanson
This book is an ideal read-aloud, thanks to its brilliant female author-illustrator team, and a certain salad-loving snail with the most charming French je-ne-sais-quoi.

Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Mary is a fierce fashionista who exudes confidence. The rhymes in this book are delightful, the illustrations are exuberant, the main character is diverse, and the message that little girls and boys can be glam and still get their recess on is a great one.

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sims
Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed he’s a narwhal like the rest of his clan. But he’s always looked and felt a little different. It isn’t until the current sweeps Kelp to the surface that he discovers he’s not quite narwhal, after all — he’s a unicorn! An adorably illustrated picture book about what it means to be a family.

SMALL by Gina Perry
A little girl feels overwhelmed by the world around her — until she realizes that while she may be small, she can still live large.

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon 
A lushly painted and engaging picture book biography about performer and civil rights activist Lena Horne. What we love most about this book is how deftly it handles the difficulties of Horne's stardom — in a way kids can digest, but without glossing over the tough stuff.

The Princess and The Peas by Rachel Himes
Ma Sally, famous for her delectable black-eyed peas, plans a cooking contest to find a wife for her son John. A young lady named Princess wins, but she's not quite sure just yet if she and John are two peas in pod. A clever reimagining of a classic, lusciously illustrated, with descriptions of food that made us want to plunk ourselves right down in Ma Sally's kitchen. 

This is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins
A little boy gives his friend a series of small gifts — a lucky rock, a ring from the gumball machine, and more. But make no mistake: these are NOT Valentines. Or are they? This ode to a best friend is full of love, but in the most un-cornball of ways.

Chapter Books & Middle Grade Novels

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes
A new chapter-book series with an endearing and unconventional heroine — in this story, Beatrice must face some changes in her relationship with her best friend, Lenny. We can’t wait for the next installment!

Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Rosie is proud, prickly, rude — and absolutely endearing. She’s on a mission to find her beloved dog, Augustus, who’s missing. Along the way, Rosie must learn how to open her heart to become unsinkable. Even the minor characters will pull at your heartstrings in Kimberly Newton Fusco’s warm tale of grit and compassion.

Cilla Lee-Jenkins, Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte
The first book in a warm, funny chapter-book series about Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins, who hopes to become a best-selling author before her baby sister is born. (Look out for the sequel, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book is a Classic, later this month!)

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls 2 by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Ravioli
Encourage rebel girls and boys to dream big with this collection of inspiring bedtime stories about 100 extraordinary women from the past and present.

The Jasmine Toguchi series by Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi challenges cultural traditions and gender norms in this delightful new chapter-book series. In Mochi Queen, she yearns to pound mochi with the males in her family. In Super Sleuth, she celebrates Girls Day and does some detective work. Two more stories (Drummer Girl and Flamingo Keeper) are on the way, and we can’t wait to see what Jasmine is up to next!

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gómez
A dark, fantastical, gorgeously illustrated graphic novel from the talented Lorena Alvarez Gómez. Every night, tiny lights appear out of the darkness in Sandy's bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning she brings them back to life in her whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy's drawings are noticed for the first time...but Morfie's fascination with Sandy's talent soon turns into something far more sinister. Perfect for readers who enjoy a dark mystery.

The Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro, illustrated by Marion Lindsay
Another fabulous new chapter book series, this one includes five books so far: Dragons and Marshmallows, Merhorses and Bubbles, Monsters and Mold, Caterflies and Ice, and The Pod and The Bog. Magical animals, science, and mystery mix in these super-fun STEM-inspired chapter books. It's the scientific method wrapped in an adventure featuring a curious little girl, her feline friend, and a cast of fantastical beasts. What's not to love?

The #KidLitWomen project is a solutions-oriented forum, focused on improving the climate for gender equality in the children’s and teen literature industry. While high emotions are a natural part of this ongoing dialogue, the hope is that we can always return to a spirit of problem-solving and remain a celebration of the many women who make up such a large portion of this community. Discussion should be respectful, constructive, and tightly related to our goal. We reserve the right to delete comments that are abusive, inappropriate and/or fall outside the scope of this initiative.