Marcia Strykowski

More 2017 Picture Books!

It’s that time again and I’m happy to share another baker’s dozen of 2017 picture books. These are all recent releases from a wide variety of publishing houses. My brief first impressions are jotted down beside each cover, but I’m sure you’ll agree these thirteen books are all worth a look. Here they are in alphabetical order.

The Antlered Ship was written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan; published by Beach Lane Books. How can you miss with a philosophical fox named Marco who is in search of answers to life’s big questions? No one else seems to share his intellectual inquisitiveness, but in the end he finds what he needs most, friendship. The Fan brothers’ dreamy illustrations are exquisitely detailed with a mix of pen and pencil and then colored digitally. You’ll definitely want to be onboard for this ship’s voyage!

Arturo and the Bienvenido Feast was written by Anne Broyles and illustrated by K. E. Lewis; published by Pelican Press. This is a lovely follow up to the first award-winning Arturo book. The complete story is told in English as well as in Spanish. I love Arturo’s determination and resourcefulness in creating a surprise for his family. His wonderful connection with his grandmother is believable and enviable. Bright cheerful illustrations bring warmth and charm to the well-written text. Illustrated recipes and glossary are a bonus!
Dogosaurus Rex was written by Anna Staniszewski and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; published by Henry Holt & Co. At first glance this seemed like a long overdue mashup of two popular books from days gone by: Danny and the Dinosaur and Clifford the Big Red Dog. Nevertheless, this fresh take is well written with wonderful illustrations and makes a humorous read aloud. Sure to be a favorite with dinosaur fans!

Grandmother Thorn was written by Katey Howes and illustrated by Rebecca Hahn; published by Ripple Grove Press. This folktale style story is a great reminder of how unexpected beauty can sometimes rise out of a controlled situation when you let down your guard. The stunning pictures were painted, sewn, and crafted by hand with wonderful details. The main character meticulously tends her property until she finally meets her match in her battle with a stubborn root. The pages of this gorgeous book are worth studying again and again.

I Have a Balloon was written by newcomer Ariel Bernstein and illustrated by Scott Magoon; published by Paula Wiseman Books. The humorous back and forth dialogue between Owl and Monkey is reminiscent of Willems’ popular Elephant & Piggy books. I got a kick out of the inside flap which says Spoiler Alert: This is NOT a book about sharing. The expressive digitally rendered illustrations are adorable and the surprise ending to this tightly paced book of few words is surely worth a look!

The Mermaid was written and illustrated by Jan Brett; published by G. P. Putnam. This fun twist on Goldilocks and the Three bears (except this time around, a mermaid and three octopuses) will be very popular with fans of this talented author/illustrator. As always, Brett’s decorative storytelling fills up the borders of each page adding more layers to the tale. Long before I had any of my own work published I used to exchange letters with Jan (regarding her work, as did many others) and I’ll never forget her generous nature in personalizing her responses. It’s always a treat to see a new book of hers released. Paintings are done in watercolor and gouache with airbrushed backgrounds.

Not Friends is written and illustrated by Rebecca Bender; published by Pajama Press. This latest Bender book is a wonderful addition to her previous work. The delightful illustrations were created with acrylic paint on texturized illustration board and add a lot of visual pizzazz to the short text. Because of the inclusion of many funny words and situations, this is a perfect read aloud book for library story times. Check it out!

The Old Mainer and the Sea was written by Jean M. Flahive and illustrated by Mari Dieumegard; published by Islandport Press. I love this gentle tale of persistence, routine, and an unexpected exchange of gifts of kindness. Set in the late 1800s, this story honors all the fishermen who brave the deep dark sea to earn their livings. Dieumegard uses a combination of acrylic and oil pastels to create her paintings which are awash with vibrant swirling colors.

Pup and Bear was written by Kate Banks and illustrated by Naoko Stoop; published by Schwartz & Wade. Both this book and Winter Dance (reviewed below) have a similar earthy quality about their pages. Pup and Bear is a lovely story about a polar bear who takes care of an abandoned wolf pup who later pays this kindness forward. Great message of accepting those unlike yourself. Stoop’s illustrations are rendered in acrylic paint, ink, pencils, and pastels on plywood, and then digitally finished.

Red & Lulu was written and illustrated by Matt Tavares; published by Candlewick. This is a heartwarming story about a pair of cardinals who get separated when their home—a giant Norway spruce—is taken down for a special purpose. Red searches high and low for Lulu who was inside the tree’s branches at the time it was taken away by truck. Fans of New York and Christmas will especially enjoy the details of this tale. The beautiful paintings were created using watercolor and gouache.

Shelter was written by Celine Claire and illustrated by Qin Leng; published by Kids Can Press. It’s a wonderful thing to see so many new books for children that cater to the theme of generosity and kindness. Like several others on this list, this poignant story takes place in the animal world and shows how reaching out to welcome newcomers in their time of need may not only save their lives, but yours, as well. The beautiful soft artwork is rendered in pen and ink and watercolor.

Winter Dance was written by Marion Dane Bauer and illustrated by Richard Jones; published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. With a single snowflake, a fine red fox realizes winter is coming and wonders what he should do. His forest friends all tell him what they will be doing but nothing seems right for the fox until a special someone reminds him of his role. The lyrical text is accompanied by absolutely gorgeous paintings.

You Know What was written by Carol Gordon Ekster and illustrated by Nynke Mare Talsma; published by Clavis. This colorful book about a curious little boy makes a fun bedtime story. Like many children, Oliver has a lot of interesting questions, especially when asking those questions delays bedtime. His sleepy mother does her best to keep up the conversation and is rewarded by his last words. Children will enjoy finding the comical bunny in each double spread of this sweet story.So there you have it. As always, I’m sure I missed many well deserving new titles, but there’s only so much space and time. Because I’m a stickler for details, I was a little disappointed to notice a blatant typo in three different books—one a scrambled word, one a repeated word, and one with a word missing. There are only so many words in these new mostly shorter-styled picture books. Is it really that difficult a task to quickly proofread before printing?

To those who live on this side of the pond, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And to the rest of you who pop in from various faraway locations, I wish you the best of the season, as well. Thanks for reading!

John James Audubon

John James Audubon (April 26, 1785 — Jan. 27, 1851) became interested in drawing birds and nature during his childhood in France. When he was 18, he moved to America where he began an in-depth study of North American birds. By the time he was 41 years old, his portfolio had become quite impressive. Audubon set sail for Europe in hopes of finding a publisher.

The American Woodsman, shown above in this famous 1826 painting, found success quickly in Edinburgh and then in London (especially after the king himself subscribed to his forthcoming books). And so, The Birds of America was published between 1827 and 1838. The four volume set included 435 hand-colored plates.
Audubon later settled in New York City and completed smaller editions of his Birds of America (7 volumes–1840-1844) and also Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (3 volumes–1846-1853). Many years ago, my library inherited a set of these original volumes and you can imagine the excitement when we recently unveiled them for people to come and see them up close. And yes, touch them, too! Apparently, white gloves have been discovered to lead to more harm than good when handling antique materials.We also brought in a speaker from the local Audubon Society. A longtime fan and researcher of John James, she gave an interesting talk about his life and work.Even today, years later, his skill in illustrating realistic-looking wildlife in its natural habitat is still highly regarded. For more posts about famous artists and authors of long ago, please click on the Author & Artist Spotlights menu tab.

One Lovely Blog Award

Many thanks to Dtills fromInvisible-No-More” for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. Be sure to take a trip over to her place for gorgeous pictures, food, and inspiration.

Here are the rules for accepting this award:

1. Each nominee must thank the person who nominated them and link their blog in their post.
2. They must include the rules and add the blog award badge as an image.
3. Must add 7 facts about themselves.
4. Nominate 15 people to do the award

I was really stumped to come up with 7 things about myself (part of my excuse for the delay in posting) so I decided to turn it into a list of my favorite things. Here we go.

My favorite weather is 73 degrees, blue skies, not too breezy, with plenty of puffy white clouds.When I think of favorite foods, apple pie à la mode quickly pops into mind even though I haven’t had a slice in quite some time. I usually eat pretty healthy, but today it seems I’m thinking about junk food. Some of my favorites:A few of my favorite recording artists from the old days are Van, Willie, Norah, and Neil. I enjoy all kinds of music from classical to contemporary.Since I’m looking back a few years, here are a few of my favorite classic novels: My favorite jobs, past and present, include working at a public library, a long ago job in publishing as a textbook art editor, and writing and illustrating stories for children. You’ll find a slaphappy librarian on the job, at right.

Thinking of my favorite animals usually brings to mind the same ones that sneak into my writing—marine animals—harbor seals, puffins, orcas, and then a moose or two thrown in for good measure.

I’ve saved the best for last. The most important aspects of my life always come down to family and friends.

And now for my nominees! I’ve seen the rules stated two different ways, sometimes nominating 10 people and sometimes 15, so I’m going with ten. There are so many wonderful blogs out there, but it’s not easy coming up with names I haven’t already nominated in the past, therefore some of these are rather new, to me.

As always, there is absolutely no pressure to play along, completely optional, just wanted to give a shoutout to your lovely blogs!

A Voice From Iran
Tea is a Wish Your Heart Makes
Little Lilly Meets the World
Annika Perry
The Dire-Diarist
In Diane’s Kitchen
Watching the Daisies
Agatha Rodi
The Orangutan Librarian


How to Use Goodreads

           I’ve never reblogged before, but since this post on the fabulous Writers’ Rumpus Blog was written by me, I thought I’d give it a try.


Goodreads is the best method I’ve found to keep track of my reading. This site can also help you discover new books to read. There’ll always be a few naysayers for any online program, and yes, sometimes a few bad apples spoil the fun, but overall I feel Goodreads (ages 13 & up) is the most user-friendly way to log books whether you’re an avid reader or an author yourself (or both!). I only check in every other week or so, therefore I’m not an expert by any means, but here are a few basic steps for those of you who are ready to join the crowd. First, it’s very easy to sign up for Goodreads, just type in your name (or a nickname if you’d like to remain private), add in your email (this will also be kept private), and lastly, make up a password.
To start your book…

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The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss

My last post was about a visit to Emily Dickinson’s house in Amherst, Massachusetts. Well, during that same trip, we also visited The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum in nearby Springfield. Since The Cat in the Hat is celebrating its 60th year in print, it seemed a good time to check it out. 

Theodor Seuss Geisel (March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991)Rather than go into a lot of detail, I’ll mostly let these colorful pictures show you some of the highlights of my visit.I love this elevator–perfect! It was interesting to see the casting process for one of the outdoor sculptures.Unlike some museums, just about everything on display was  actually used by Ted and then donated by his family.I think my favorite part was seeing this setup of his drawing studio.
I also enjoyed studying this family tree mural.

“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.”—Dr. Seuss

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss is a brand new museum adjacent to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden. Not only is there a lot to see at this museum, but with one ticket (Adults $25, Seniors & Students: $16.50, Youth 3-17: $13, Residents & kids under 3: Free) you get into all five museums in the impressive Springfield museum complex. The sculpture garden is a pleasant park and always free.

Time to go back outside and into the garden.

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”—Dr. Seuss

A Visit with Emily Dickinson

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886).
A few months back I was able to visit Amherst, Mass., where Emily lived and wrote most of her amazing poetry. Only a handful of her poems were published during her lifetime, but she left behind hundreds for future generations to enjoy. Her first collection was published in 1890 after being heavily edited by friends (hmmm….). BUT, many years later, in 1955, a complete and mostly unedited collection was published by scholar Thomas H. Johnson.

Here’s a view of her home from just beyond her side yard. Her brother’s house was right next door and is also usually open to the public (when it’s not being renovated). Many of the Dickinson heirlooms are displayed within this other property. Let’s walk up closer to Emily’s house.

We can stroll around back and then go inside.

We had a lovely tour. I should write about these visits right after I experience them, when my mind is fresh. I’m pretty sure indoor pictures were not allowed (or else I’d have a bunch). I remember it feeling quite special to stand alone in her bedroom where she wrote the majority of her work. And to look out the window through which she sent baskets of gingerbread down to visiting children was a treat, as well.
Another feature that stands out in my memory was that our tour guide was wonderful. Although soft-spoken and humble, you could tell he was a poet. One of the final rooms was set up like a little classroom and he walked us through a lesson on Emily’s poems. There were big interactive charts showing how many versions she went through to find the perfect words for each line. Often it was the last word that had several variations.

Our tour guide also showed us a picture they believe might be of Emily since the other woman in the c.1859 daguerreotype is thought to be one of her close acquaintances (recently widowed Kate Scott Turner). After always only seeing the one picture I have at the top of this post from when she was sixteen in 1847, I was excited to learn of it. And then I found a public domain copy online, too. Emily would be on the left. It was discovered in Amherst five years ago and much measuring of facial features and hunting for dress scraps has been done to attempt authentication. Emily is 12 years older here than in the earlier picture and I suppose I can see some resemblance. Upon further hunting, I came across yet another picture online (also unconfirmed). I feel this one also looks like her, although more at some times than at others (this can get baffling!). I can’t find too much information on this picture (which has her name written on the back) so I’m pretty sure ‘they’ have already decided against it being of Emily.Because so many of Emily’s poems were printed after her death and/or edited long after that, it was tricky to find public domain poems to include in this post. But the following one is available and rather nice.

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest sea,
Yet never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Here are a few more photographs of her beautiful estate where she lived for 41 years.

There’s something about a light showing through a curtained window. It always seems to draw me in, lets me imagine the poet hunched over her latest creation. Perhaps she is working on this one.There were beautiful gardens (and a scarecrow!) around the back of her home.

So, what do YOU think. Do you feel the second (or maybe even the third) picture is a good likeness of Emily? I would have included two more portraits: a drawing and a painting, but they are from childhood and I’m not sure how accurate either artist was in portraying her. 🙂

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