Review & Giveaway! Vampirina At The Beach By Pace & Pham

What a crazy couple weeks of spring we have had. So much sickness and completely missing school and Easter and friends and possibly spring too. But I’m thankful to have a constant pile of new books to look through. Last week I received this book from Disney-Hyperion in hopes that I could review it, and they also offered a really amazing giveaway to one of my readers. How could I turn that down? Thankfully, we liked the story. So let’s take a look at a fun, summery, ballerina beach book, with a crazy unique twist. Here is Vampirina at the Beach by Ann Marie Pace, picture by LeUyen Pham, 2017. (And stay tuned in the post for the fantastic giveaway!) Read the full post…

Review & Giveaway! Happy Dreamer By Peter H. Reynolds

Over a decade ago, I was an illustration and graphic design major, struggling to decide if I could really make it as an artist. I’m not talking about making it as in being successful or even just making a living at it. No, I was and have always struggled with feelings of inadequacy as an artist. I’m the apparently typical, overly critical, self-loathing type of artist who never really loves anything that I create. Why am I telling you this? Well, around that time, I was also extremely obsessed with picture books. I would frequently drive 45 minutes to the nearest big town from my school and get lost in the Barnes & Noble children’s department. It had this amazing forest decoration with benches built into the trees that you could sit with books for hours. I would wander around, grabbing a handful of new books and then hole up to get lost in the picture book world. On one of those trips, I crossed paths with Peter H. Reynolds most recent book, The Dot (2003). The first time I read it, I cried. I was awestruck. It moved me and spoke to me and about me in a way that no other book really has done. I bought it then and there with my limited book purchasing funds. It has traveled with me through design jobs, art jobs, marriage, two kids, three homes, multiple art spaces, and still sits on display above my desk in my tiny art studio in NYC. Every time I look at it, I am reminded to simply create. (But perhaps that is a longer story for another, much deserved post.) But this is where my deep love and admiration for the work of Peter H. Reynolds began.

So today, I am extremely thrilled to not only get to show Peter’s newest book; but also to gift it to someone else! There is something magical about Peter’s books. They don’t just entertain, or educate, or even just tell a story. His books inspire, and encourage, and invite readers to be. This newest book is the epitome of that. It does not hide or disguise its mission. It is bold. This book is Peter and is his invitation to everyone else who is like him, a happy dreamer. Come take a look at Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds, 2017 (and stay tuned for the giveaway!). Read the full post…

Research: Picture Book Bedrooms

An eclectic stack of picture books all chosen for one specific reason: bedroom illustrations!

I have seriously missed blogging! I’m sorry for my consistent absence lately, but all free time is being poured into my book. Yay! The past couple weeks I have been working on background brainstorming for my characters and I needed some serious picture book bedroom inspiration. I filled Pinterest with some ideas, both illustrated and real, and then I realized… this is an excellent thing to post about. It gets the jumbled thoughts and observations from my head into written form and serves for a fun research project. This is in no way exhaustive, (though reading this post will be!) but simply includes every book I currently have on hand that I could immediately think of a bedroom that I liked for some reason or another. So here we go: great illustrated picture book bedrooms! Read the full post…

Book Review: La Madre Goose By Elya & Martinez-Neal

Happy New Year everyone! I’m still continuing my sporadic posting thanks to my book project; but as I still have piles upon piles of books that I am loving and hoping to share, I want to pop in with one today. I grabbed this one at a book festival in Brooklyn and we are in love with it! Breathtaking illustrations, vibrant colors, and delightful bilingual nursery rhymes – this book is a must-add to your bookshelf. Come delight in La Madre Goose: Nursery Rhymes for Los Niños by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, 2016. Read the full post…

Big Illustration News

Pardon the post interruption—I have some big news. I have recently signed to illustrate my first picture book!

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I am so thrilled and honored to get this project! It is written by Shelley Kinder and due to arrive September of 2017 with Clear Fork Publishing. I’ve got a lot of work set out before me, so bear with me as posts will likely be even more intermittent than usual. Thanks for your support and encouragement as I work towards this goal! If you miss me and want to see what I’m working on in my sketchbook, check out smellingoranges.blogspot.com.

Stay tuned for a revised version of my yearly picture book Christmas countdown!

Book Review: Each Kindness By Woodson & Lewis

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Friday has finally arrived in a week that has seemed extremely long and exhausting emotionally. Kindness is something our family talks about on a daily basis, but these past few days, it has become an even stronger topic. Defining it. Giving examples. Complimenting on kind actions. And gently pointing out missed chances to show kindness. It is not a surprise that this book has been weighing heavily on my thoughts. When I pulled it off the shelf again this morning, a lump began to form in my throat. This is a heavy book, but not in size. It is a hard book. It does not have a tidy ending. It is deep and challenging. And it is beautiful in story and in pictures. Please come talk about Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis, 2012. Read the full post…

Book Review: The Journey By Francesca Sanna

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It has been too long since a review here, and my review pile is dangerously tall as always. This book has been calling my attention for months and today feels like the perfect day to remind us about empathy. To read books that are challenging and, most likely, a window about something we may hopefully never experience ourselves. This book is beautiful, heartbreaking, hopeful, and necessary. Join me in admiring and pondering The Journey by Francesca Sanna, 2016. Read the full post…

Book Review: Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn By Kenard Pak

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Happy fall everyone! (at least for those of us in the Western Hemisphere.) I was hoping to get this book up yesterday, for the actual first day of fall, but time escaped me. Regardless, it still feels incredibly appropriate as the weather around here hasn’t decided to move completely into cooler fall days quite yet. Summer is trying to give a last, weak hurrah while fall begins to show its colors. This book is lovely and a perfect fit for closing out the summer season and stepping into autumn. Take a walk from summer to fall with this inviting conversation between a little child and the participants of nature. Here’s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak, 2016. Read the full post…