Julie Paschkis’ new book looks fabulous. Here’s her story on how it came into being:

Books Around The Table

Just out: VIVID- Poems and Notes about Color.

The spark for this book came in April of 2015 when I listened to a Radio Lab show about color. I already thought about color all the time. What a pleasure  it is to put one color next to another when I paint! But the podcast opened my eyes to the science of color. I painted this picture then.

Over the next 6-8 months I began writing poems about colors and squirreling away facts.When I had enough for a book I submitted with the manuscript with the sample illustration for RED. Laura Godwin at Henry Holt accepted it – hooray!

In the fall of 2016 I began to paint. But I had a bicycle accident and lost the use of my arm for 6 months. I was able to paint again in early 2017 and I struggled to find my way…

View original post 182 more words

The Journey by Francesca Sanna Review

I was so pleased to see that The Journey, by Francesca Sanna, made the Publisher’s Weekly list of Best Children’s Books of 2016.  It’s a gorgeous, deeply moving book.  I found myself wishing that it could be mandatory reading for everyone since it presents the plight of war refugees with such clarity and insight.

In this past year, we’ve been subjected to so much political simplification about this matter, it’s brilliant to see a picture book restore the humanity and complexity to the story.  It looks at the situation through the eyes of a child.

The book’s author’s note says:


Published by Flying Eye Books, The Journey is beautifully bound and presented.


I appreciate Flying Eye for taking a risk on this book, since it’s not a happy children’s story.  And it doesn’t offer solid closure.  In fact, it reads like a poem to what is lost when war tears a country apart.  The illustrations are both simple and complex, and very moving.


I’ve shared this book with more adults than children.  The children I do share it with are over 10, watching the news, and listening to what is being said about refugees, immigrants, and the disenfranchised.

It’s been hard for me to see so much hatred and distrust rise up in the upcoming presidential elections.  It’s particularly hard to see the children I work with exposed to this kind of fearmongering for the first time.

The discussions The Journey has inspired haven’t been easy.  What causes a war?  What is a border?  Why don’t people help each other more?

The children I work with haven’t had sheltered lives.  Since most of them have been in the foster care system, they know exactly what it means to lose everything.  Their journey has been harrowing but none of us has seen actual war in our country in our life time.

One of my 11 year old friends said, when he gets big, he’s going to try to make it easier for people to find a place where they will be safe.

I hope one day he gets that big.  I hope we all do.

Sanna’s use of migratory birds as a metaphor for refugees brings hope into the story.

I know for now that The Journey is book that will make our hearts bigger, even if that growth feels painful.

Blessed are the peacemakers.




Rilla Alexander and Her Idea

I got the opportunity to meet the children’s book maker Rilla Alexander at Green Bean Books recently.  She was there to read her book Her Idea, (from Flying Eye Books) a lively picture book about how to work on all those wonderful ideas we have.

I went with two boys from my neighborhood, Bridge Meadows, Tomas and Noah Tanatchangsang, ages 5 and 9, respectively — though they look much older with their mustaches bought for $1. at the Green Bean mustache vending machine.

Rilla engaged the boys immediately and talked with them about their own art.  They talked about dragons, dinosaurs and making books.  She showed them a recent sketch of an alligator of hers on her cell phone.   
The book she was going to share with us came from ideas about a book with eyes, a book about ideas, and a book that is a book about books.  All merged together in Her Idea

It stars her alter ego, Sozi, a little masked girl, who has lots of ideas.   
Her Ideahas a die cut cover for the ideas to jump in and out of.

Karishma stopped by earlier and enjoyed the interactive elements of the cover

Take off the book cover, and you see its personality.

Sozi has boatloads of ideas.

She’s all gung-ho to work on those ideas.

But working  proves more difficult than Sozi realized.

She dissolves into lethargy with so many wadded up pieces of paper they become a big beast.  But a book brings her hope and a way her capture her ideas.

And other stuff, too!

I love that Rilla writes books that honor books.  Her first book, The Best Book in the World, was about the way a book can pull you in, even in the midst of the busiest of days.

For Her Idea, Rilla designed little idea toys.

She brough squillions of ideas

She also brought a big book for us to fill with ideas.

Noah’s idea was to go to the moon to see the stars

Tomas’s idea was for a yellow tricerotops named Banana

Her Idea is a fun read for kids and former kids alike, because we all have great ideas up to the point when we have to work on them.  Rilla has a great video on the creative process and this book on Vimeo, which you can see here:
We had such a good time with Rilla’s presentation, Tomas asked me if we could go back next week-end to see that cool lady again.  Unfortunately, we don’t get to see Rilla right away, but we can always go to the programs at Green Bean, an independent children’s bookstore here in Portland, Oregon.

You can find out more about them and their events here;

It’s easy to get lost in a great book

And a great book gets a good laugh!
Rilla is from Australia, has lived in Berlin and is now a resident of Portland, Oregon.  She’s a designer and graphic artist whose work has appeared on everything from “toys to teacup to busses and buildings.”  Her website is here:  
Thanks for reading my blog.  You can subscribe by email in the upper right hand corner of this page. Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. 

From the Good Mountain Review

<!–[if !mso]>st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

Someone asked me a few days ago, why I read juvenile literature.  The only answer I could think of is, “Why not?”
I did stop reading such books in my teens, but when I had kids, I started again.  I was reminded of what great art is published in children’s picture books and what fine coming of age stories, historical novels, and great fiction are written for the juvenile market.  There is always a bit of poetry, magic realism and hopefulness in the books I read – I’ve kind of skipped over the whole dystopian young adult phenomena, just as I’ve try to choose “adult” literature that doesn’t leave me feeling bereft about humanity.
Children’s books are written by adults and most are purchased by adults, so the writers and illustrators keep that in mind.  These writers are adults who have kept their sense of play and wonder. 
My latest favorite in juvenile literature is the picture book From the Good Mountain, How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford, published recently by Roaring Brook Press.  
It’s illustrated like an illuminated book from 1450.  The book begins, “It was made of rags and bones, soot and seeds.  It wore a dark brown coat and was filled with gold.  It took lead and tin, strong oak and a mountain to make it.  What was it?”
The whole process of the first book is then told, from how the paper was made, to how the printing press was constructed, and how the pages were sewn together.  You really get a sense of the time and energy it took to make a book.  Although it was not a simple process, it did make books easier to publish and eventually made reading a skill available to even the poorest of people.
Rumford is an award winning author who spent over 2 years writing and illustrating this book.  He is also a papermaker, letterpress printer and binder.  His love of the book form is evident on every page.  But unlike many who fear the loss of the form, Rumford is excited about the way technology is leading to new kinds of books.  I love how the golden flora in the borders of the illustrations transform at the end into the circuits of a computer chip.
Each two page spread is illuminated like a 15thcentury incunabula, the term for the first printed books, which means “cloth in which you wrap a newborn baby.”  I found this out in the informative epilogue that gives a history of books, as well as some insight into why he chose to portray Gutenberg in an elegant red turban.  
The book begins with a portrait of the city of Mainz, Germany, where the first book was printed, and ends with the same scene lit by a rosy dawn.  The watercolor painting is gorgeous.
Much of the action takes place in margins.  The characters are beautifully painted anonymous workers all contributing to the production of the mysterious book.  On every page there is something surprising to learn about how a book is made. 
People are busily boiling rags and bones, processing ink, pressing paper.  Medieval times come to life with  dirt and glory.  Children work along side their mothers, ladies hold their noses against the smell of the tannery.  There is a lovely vignette of an African boy panning for gold for the gilding process.  Another scene shows children begging as workers troop by with printing supplies. The overall feel is active excitement as people work together to make this marvelous new thing.
The illustrations were done in pen and ink and painted with watercolor and gouache.  On his website, Rumford says:
“I would make the look of the book as old-fashioned as it could be so that kids today could feel what it was like to hold a richly ornamented book in their hands. On each two-page spread I decided to show how each step in the bookmaking process was done—from paper making to gilding to typecasting and press-building. I would end the book by showing graphically how the old technology was being transformed into the new as I changed the gilded designs of the illuminated pages gradually into the circuits of a modern computer. To emphasize this, I painted a portrait of Gutenberg in the style of fifteenth-century illuminators on the front cover while on the back cover I digitally transformed the same picture into a portrait of a computerized man….Since the illustrations were to be like the miniatures done in medieval manuscripts, I decided from the start to rely heavily on the computer. This gave me the freedom to break up the image and work on each element separately….Thanks to the computerI was able to approximate the unique work of fifteenth-century illuminators.”
It’s an absolutely delightful book and a visual treat for anyone who loves art, books or a history.  The writing is crisp and rhythmic, and is fun to read out loud. I enjoyed the way each new page spread answered a question from the previous page.   It held the attention of my 5-8 year old audience, and the illustrations were great for prompting questions.  But I think I liked it best.  
James Rumford lives in Honolulu and runs Manoa Press, which makes handmade books.  He is the author of the award winning Silent Music, and Tiger and Turtle, both of which I hope to read soon.  James Rumford website is here:
And the website for his press is here:
As a side note, From the Good Mountain, reminded me of another children’s book that I love, Marguerite Makes a Book, by Bruce Robertson and illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt, published by J. Paul Getty Museum in 1999.  This is also done in the illuminated style of the 1400s.  A young girl helps her father make inks and illustrate prayer books for the nobility.  She journeys all over Paris gathering supplies from goose eggs, to vellum, to the minerals needed to make paint.   Kathryn Hewitt recreates the ornate luxury of a prayerbook.  It was inspired by a book in the Getty collection.  This book is still in print and widely available.    
So, literature had it’s beginning in conjunction with illustrations.  So don’t limit yourself.  Even if you are an adult with no kids in sight, let the magic of picture books back into your life.