December 9, 2013


So as these posts often start, this one began with me purchasing two books about moons in the same week, Emma Yarlett's Sidney, Stella and the Moon and Larry Phifer and Danny Popovici's World on a String. There are a few others out there I'll mention in this post, but not surprisingly the art of these books is very rounded rather than angular and each of the books heavily features circles and rounded objects. These curves, of course, are reminiscent of the moon itself and serve to draw attention to the titular character, the moon.

Yarlett's book features two siblings, Sidney and Stella, who do everything together except share. One day they're fighting over a ball, and they lose control as it bounces out the window...and smashes the moon! Together, they have to find a way to replace what they broke. Take a look:

November 25, 2013

Messy Picturebooks

So there are some picturebooks out there that almost look like journals or scrapbooks created by kids. They look less finished than most picturebooks, almost like someone cut and glued the images and then scanned them really quickly. I'm writing about these books because I've had been collecting them over time, and they're beautiful...but I had no idea what category to put them in until now. After scanning my collection I realized I'd collected enough of them to finally write a post about them, so here it is!

Let's begin with the first one I purchased, The Sun Is Yellow by Kveta Pacovská. An Alice in Wonderland-esque adventure, the book follows a frog and the eclectic friends he meets. I totally found this book by accident, and I have to say it's one of the best purchases I've made. Take a look!

November 11, 2013

Illustrator Spotlight: Albertine

Have you guys heard of Albertine? She's one of the most fantastic artists EVER (here's the link to her site). She and Germano Zullo (author) are an amazing team and they have come out with some of the most innovative and beautiful picturebooks I've ever seen, and I'm so happy to be talking about them today!

First, a little information on both. Albertine regularly illustrates many French newspapers in Switzerland and teaches at the School of Visual Arts in Geneva. Zullo is a writer and poet who lives in Geneva and writes for children and adults alike. Together, this duo has written several amazing picturebooks that really engage readers and push them to think beyond the limits of the picturebook's borders. Allow me to demonstrate.

Starting with my absolute favorite, Sky High is by far one of my top picturebooks. It details the story of two rivals who insist on building their houses higher than the other person's, causing all sorts of craziness. The two homeowners go to great lengths to outdo each other, bringing in the most expensive architects, furniture, Bengal tigers (oh yes), buttresses, and anything else you can think of. Here's the cover:

October 28, 2013

Tri-Color Goodness!

Hello party people! Today we discuss...primary colors! There are so many picturebooks that utilize the primary colors, and all of them seem to stand out in their own, unique ways. Using the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow) so heavily is an excellent way to drive the eye all around the page, and an equally excellent way to draw attention to special areas whenever two of the colors are combined on the page (forming secondary colors purple, green, and orange). A-divin' in we go!

The first on the list is the amazing, incomparable A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka. This beautiful, wordless picturebook recently won a Caldecott Medal in 2012 and even from the cover heavily features primary colors. Take a look!

(note how much the couch stands out since it's a combination of two of the primary colors used, blue and yellow)

Frank Vivas' picturebooks so far almost always use the three primary colors, plus black and white. Along a Long Road, A Trip to the Bottom of the World, and his most recent book A Long Way Away are all perfect examples of just how much the primary colors stand out and draw readers in. You can take a look at all three covers here:

The insides of each book match the primary color look of the covers, and the strong aesthetic similarities between all three give the books a sense of connectedness.

Finally, we have Red Cat, Blue Cat by Jenni Desmond. I'm the first to admit that the story for this picturebook isn't my favorite, but the illustrations are very fun and, like the rest of this post, feature strong primary coloring.

Other lovely books that fall into this category and have been previously discussed are Press Here by Hervé Tullet (click here), The Conquerors by David McKee (here). Another is Little Bird by Germano Zullo and Albertine, but I don't want to say too much since an Albertine post is definitely forthcoming...yay for things to look forward to!

As a side note, with things picking up so much in other aspects of my life, I fear I must resort to posting every other week rather than every week. Hopefully this doesn't drastically alter your week.

See you in two weeks!!

Primarily yours,

October 14, 2013

This Week and Next Week

So this weekend I was in a wedding, and next weekend I'm going to Seattle, so there's really just no time for awesome picturebook posting. But I will see you all two weeks from today with a super awesome post just to make up for it.

Have a great two weeks!


September 30, 2013

Say Cheese!

So I was actually going to post on something totally different this week, but I pushed the post back because I came across a few books this past weekend that must be discussed immediately.

I stopped by The Blue Bunny in Dedham, MA to grab a book for a girl turning 4, and naturally I came across some amazing books. As luck would have it, two of the books I bought were both of a similar aesthetic style, and thus comes this week's topic of photograph illustrations. The depth the illustrations create because of their style really makes you believe you're in the illustration with the characters, making the character's world and story that much more magical.

The first on the list (and possibly my new favorite book ever) is Rebecca Dudley's picturebook debut Hank Finds an Egg. This book took my breath away, and the moment I was done reading I flipped it to the front to read it again. This wordless picturebook follows Hank, a bear-like creature, who finds an egg on the ground. Despite multiple attempts to place the egg back in its nest, he is too short to reach and ends up caring for the egg until it can be returned to its mom. It's a lovely story with breathtaking illustrations that Dudley created by staging the entire story and photographing it. Check it out:

September 23, 2013

Catch-Up Time!

This week has totally flown by! Unfortunately, I'm totally behind in my posts, and I didn't manage to finish one in time for this week. But guess what that means...

It's catch-up time!

Take a look at some of the past posts and leave a comment below on what topics YOU'D like to hear about!

Enjoy the week!


September 16, 2013

Illustrator Spotlight: Peter Brown

I can't imagine there's anyone out there who doesn't know about Peter Brown. He has quite the menagerie of amazing books out, and his most recent one Mr. Tiger Goes Wild is so fabulous that I'd definitely peg it as a future Caldecott winner. He has a unique geometric style to his illustrations that's incredibly engaging, and his compositions and use of color make his illustrations pop right off the page. Check out some spreads!

September 9, 2013

Tapping and Pressing

Good morning, my fellow picturebook lovers! This post is going to be a wee short, but that's because there's such a small selection of books that actually fit into today's topic of books that you "press" and "tap."

It started in 2011 with Press Here by Hervé Tullet, and just this past August Christine Matheson published Tap the Magic Tree. These two books ask readers to tap illustrations, shake the book, clap, and blow kisses at the book, among other gestures, in order for the story to move forward. It's a really unique idea that hasn't been experimented with too much yet, so it's very fresh and fun. Press Here begins with a simple yellow dot and a set of instructions to press the yellow dot and turn the page, turning the one dot into two. As the book goes on and the instructions continue, the dot multiplies, changes direction, grows, shrinks, and overlaps with other colored dots to create a beautiful menagerie of overlapping colors.

September 2, 2013


Welcome to September, web-o-sphere! Today's we are discussing picturebook anthologies.

One of the most notable anthologies is Shaun Tan's Tales From Outer Suburbia. It's a lovely compilation of tales written and illustrated by Tan that have an outlying theme of enigmatic suburbia--what goes on behind closed doors, how outsiders might view suburban culture--and an underlying feeling of nostalgia and sadness. Tan also has an anthology called The Lost Thing (with "The Red Tree," "The Lost Thing," and "The Rabbits"), and he recently came out with an illustrated anthology of his drawings called The Bird King. Both are equally beautiful and imaginative as Tales, and do an amazing job of capturing and portraying an outsider's view on foreign culture. Here are a couple spreads from each:

August 26, 2013


Hello web followers! I'm super excited about today's post, nonsense picturebooks, so I'm just going to dive right in.

The first book on today's agenda is The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine: Or the Hithering Thithering Djinn by Donald Barthelme, a National Book Award-winning picturebook about an adventure on par with Alice in Wonderland. From the back cover:

"One morning in 1887, Mathilda went out into the back yard and discovered that a mysterious Chinese house had planted itself there overnight. She had wanted a fire engine, but the mysterious Chinese house was intriguing too. From inside came strange sounds: growls, howls, whispering, trumpeting."

I found this picturebook at The World's Only Curious George Store down in Harvard Square about a year ago, and I was totally enthralled by its quirkiness and nostalgic imagery. Here are some spreads (please forgive the terrible picture quality):

August 19, 2013

What Happens Next?

So I went over to the Harvard Book Store the other day, and normally I only allow myself to go downstairs to the bargain section, but somehow I allowed myself to go the the children's book section in the back. Needless to say I left the store with more books than I can probably afford. On the bright side, though, the books actually happened to fit a very similar theme, thus giving us this week's topic...

What happens next?

One of these books is Where Do We Go When We Disappear? by established duo Isabel Minhós Martins and Madalena Matoso. It came out at the beginning of this month, and it's no surprise that it's been getting good reviews: the book explores the question of what happens when a person, the sun, and even socks or snow disappears. As explained by the author to Publisher's Weekly:

"Most of the time we don't go very far. We are just around the corner. Lying hidden, with our eyes wide open, waiting to be found...We say without thinking, 'Oh look, the sun is rising.' But to the sun it's us that disappears and then rises again."

"What happens next?" is a fascinating concept a lot of picturebooks authors are timid to address. And it's no wonder, it's a heavy topic. Martins and Matoso handle the question beautifully, though, and while the text asks the big questions, the illustrations pull at the borders of the pages as though trying to pull the unknown closer.

August 12, 2013

Illustrator Spotlight: Poly Bernatene

I hope everyone had a good two weeks! I'm proud to say that after moving all of my possessions, two cats, one dog, and hundreds of picturebooks I'm finally settled (well, as settled as someone like me can be) in my new place. It was grueling, but one awesome part was that in moving all of those crates full of books I naturally came across a few that I totally forgot I had. Which brings me to how I rediscovered and re-fell-in-love-with Poly Bernatene. His versatility is quite impressive: he has illustrated a handful of picturebooks with a wide range of artistic style, from lighter illustrations with almost cartoonish characters, to darker ones with eerier, sketchier characteristics. Again, quite an impressive range.

The first book of his that I ever bought was The Princess and the Pig. The book tells the story of Priscilla and Pigmella, a princess and pig, respectively, who are accidentally switched at birth. It's a great fairy tale picturebook with a comical edge to both the text and the illustrations.

August 5, 2013

Where's the Post?

As much as it pains me, I must skip this week's post. I know it's terrible, but please try to control yourself.

This past weekend I moved to a new house (two cats, one dog, and one roommate in tow) AND threw an amazing bridal shower for my best friend. Needless to say I'm EXHAUSTED, and I haven't even had time to unpack my books yet. So sad.

Check back next week for an all-new post, and Happy August!


July 29, 2013

Picturebooks For Adults

Let's face it: there are some picturebooks out there that really just aren't for kids. I'm talking about the picturebooks that have profanity, feature grotesquely gory deaths, and have an air of sarcasm to them that almost pokes fun at picturebooks altogether. I think one of the most well-known is probably Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortés. The book mimics the tone, rhythm, and imagery of a nursery book, but it's doubtful you would want your child to read it. It features some heavy profanity, and the illustrations are jarring and dark despite the fact that they evoke the mainstream appearance of a "go to bed" book. Even the endpapers are black. So if this book isn't for children, who's it for? Parents, of course. As a quote on the back of the book says, this picturebook" is the secret anthem of tired parents everywhere." Here are some interiors:

July 22, 2013

Flaps, Layers, and Movable Parts

How was everyone's weekend?? It's pretty crazy that we're almost done with feels like the months are going by so fast!

Today's oh-so-fun motif is [drumroll, please...] flaps! So many books utilize flaps, layered pages, and movable parts to enhance the reading experience and further engage readers: in order to get the most out of the narrative, the reader must lift flaps, peel apart layers, and move pieces of the illustrations. Let's dive in with a definite Caldecott contender (and a book everyone has been talking about since it came out in February), Flora and the Flamingo. Molly Idle takes the idea of showing movement through illustration to a whole new level, utilizing layers rather than multiple illustrations on one page. Here's a perfect example:

Before the flaps are folded down
And after the flaps are folded

July 15, 2013

Exceptional Pets

I can safely say that this post is going to be one of that hardest to narrow down. There are so many picturebooks out there these days about exceptional pets. My stack of books is so large even Toothless is at a loss:

July 8, 2013

Non-Traditional Families

So I had heard wonderful things about both the narrative and the illustrations in Justin Richardson's and Peter Parnell's And Tango Makes Three. Although it's been around a while, I finally got my hands on it a few days ago, and it definitely didn't disappoint. Based on the true story of two male penguins who partner with each other instead of finding female mates, And Tango Makes Three is the story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins who end up raising a baby penguin together. A zookeeper notices that two of the male penguins are acting as though they are a couple--they sleep together, cuddle, and spend most of their time with each other. When other penguin couples' eggs start hatching the two male penguins "adopt" a rock with the hope of it hatching a baby for them. The zookeeper notes Roy and Silo's dedication to the rock, and ends up giving the couple an egg to nurture. And thus a non-traditional family is born. It's a wonderful and heartwarming story, and the illustrations are just as touching:

June 24, 2013

The ABC's of the Alphabet

Hi everyone! I'm going to admit right off the bat that this post is probably a bit less cohesive than the rest--I'm in the midst of traveling up and down the east coast trying to get things done, and I'm writing this post a little later than usual. But fear not, blogosphere, it'll still rock your world...

So originally I was going to do a combo alphabet/counting post, but when I started pulling out all of my alphabet books I realized that was the craziest idea I’ve ever had. There are just too many! Therefore, this post will be exclusively alphabet books. And (like always) there are sooooo many good ones out there!

When I was a wee one my mom bought me Anita Lobel’s Alison’s Zinnia, and I immediately fell in love with it. Each spread features a girl who gives a flower to another girl, but the catch is that the giver always gives a flower to a girl whose name begins with the next letter of the alphabet, and the flowers go alphabetically, too. For example, Alison gives an amaryllis to Beryl (lovely name, no?) and Beryl passes on the love by giving a Begonia to Crystal until eventually it makes it down the alphabet and Zena brings it full circle by giving Alison a zinnia. At the time, it really made me think about the alphabet not letter-by-letter, but as a concept that can be taught in a creative, colorful, and floral way. 

June 17, 2013

Venice Beach

So today I’m going to break away from tradition and talk about a group of books that don’t really have a common theme. These are the books I bought in Venice Beach when I was in LA a couple of weeks ago, and I think they’re all so lovely and unique that I couldn’t wait to write about them later. The store, Small World Books (and I even got to meet the cat pictured there--so sweet!), had a fabulous children’s department that was filled with lots of surprises and books I’d never heard of before. It’s a great store to visit if you’re ever in LA (especially because it's right on the beach!).

First let's chat about Stephen and the Beetle by Jorge Luján and Chiara Carrer. From the moment I picked up the book I knew it was special. The book tells the story of Stephen, a young boy who comes across a beetle and decides that he should kill it. But as he raises his shoe he studies the beetle, who is going about its day, completely unaware of what is about to happen, and a major question pops into his mind: where is the beetle going and why? This prompts young Stephen to contemplate the meaning of life, realizing that if he kills the beetle it won't really affect his own day-to-day life, but he still will have taken a life away from the world. Stephen ultimately puts the shoe away and watches the beetle go about its routine. A seemingly innocuous story, it's a wonderful tale that begs the question how much is a life worth? It also makes me feel terrible for killing that gross spider the other day...

June 10, 2013

The Royal Treatment

Hello blogosphere! So the book that sparked this post is King Hugo's Ego by Chris Van Dusen. Hugo tells the story of a very tiny but very egotistical king who mistreats the wrong person, a sorceress in disguise. The consequence for his behavior? A swollen head to match his swollen ego, of course. And the more egotistical he acts, the bigger his head gets until it finally falls off his body and rolls out of the castle. Eventually the king sees the error of his ways, and, after a long discussion with the sorceress, he lives happily ever after with her.

June 3, 2013

Illustrator Spotlight: Emily Gravett

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend! I just got back from LA so it's been very whirlwindy for me...

Having been a fan of Emily Gravett for many years, I've decided to spotlight her here! Have you seen her work? It’s incredible. The texture, the funny storylines, the unique book designs…she’s fabulous. No joke, I own eleven of her books. Eleven. And I'm waiting for a twelfth in the mail. How many illustrators can you say that about?

May 20, 2013

The Ambiguous Ending

Happy Monday everyone!

I read the most fascinating book today. I accidentally bought a book I already owned at the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge so I hastily returned it and grabbed the first awesomely-illustrated book I saw, Bluebird, written and illustrated by Bob Staake, and left the store without reading it. And I’m so happy I did.

May 13, 2013

Children's Book Week

Children's Book Week has arrived! Check out the site here. From their site:

"Established in 1919, Children's Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the country. Every year, commemorative events are held nationwide at schools, libraries, bookstores, homes -- wherever young readers and books connect! 
Children's Book Week is administered by Every Child A Reader, a 501(c)(3) literacy organization dedicated to instilling a lifelong love of reading in children. The Children's Book Council, the national non-profit trade association for children's book publishers, is an anchor sponsor."

Read more here and enjoy the week!

Illustrator Spotlight: Isol

Now that I’ve graduated from a dual-masters degree at Simmons College I have a lot of free time on my hands. I’ve been emailing back and forth with an awesome blogger lately who blogs about picturebook design and she’s inspired me to start writing here again. So naturally I’ve decided to move, reformat, and rename my blog. I've copy-and-pasted the past posts from the other site here and tagged them as best I can so I can finally say...

Welcome to Let’s Talk Picturebooks!

In honor of this grand re-opening, I’ve decided to post something a bit different. Usually I like to pick a theme or concept and discuss a few books that strongly encompass those themes/concepts, but today I want to break from the usual and focus on one illustrator in particular, Isol.

I’ve chosen her because she was recently chosen to win 2013’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The Swedish government awards the £500,000 prize annually to an individual or organization working "in the spirit of Astrid Lindgren [to] safeguard democratic values.” A jury of twelve picked her out of 207 candidates, praising her ability to create picturebooks “from the eye level of the child," and the award will be presented later this month. I’ve long been in love with her illustrations, and I’m so excited to see her earning the praise she deserves.

My personal favorite is Nocturne: Dream Recipes, an anthology of sorts that provides dream “recipes” for its readers just before bed time. Suffice it to say there’s a lot of glow-in-the-dark ink. 

NYT Best Illustrated

Hey everyone!
If you’re interested, check out the NEW YORK TIMES Best Illustrated Children’s Books Winners 2012. The judges were Caldecott winner Chris Raschka, VANITY FAIR‘S Bruce Handy, and Cathryn Mercier, the director of the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College and ten books were chosen. CLICK HERE to see the ten winners!
Humbly yours,

Spooky, Scary...

Okay, I have to warn you, this one is going to be long. Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday of the year (and I say that without putting quotes around holiday intentionally) and there are just too many books with too many Halloweeny undertones. So let’s divide up the Halloween vibes, shall we?

Mel on Auntie Karen's Book Pile!

Check me out on Auntie Karen’s Book Pile this week!

Take My Breath Away

So I’m stuck in bed with the flu and thought that this would be an appropriate time to write about wordless picturebooks. Probably not the best reason I’ve ever had but bear with me…I have the flu.

Love Is in the Air...

I know, I know…I’m terrible. It’s been forever. But in my defense at least I didn’t completely forget…right? On the bright side, the blog has a new look so at least I’m keeping things fresh…
So what to write about for my first post in waaay too many months? Well in the spirit of February 14th (and because I’m in a super good mood these days) how about picturebooks about love? Or about zombies and love? They seem to intersect more that usual these days…

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

I hope everyone had a successful Halloween! My house actually hosted a party this year with the theme “fractured fairy tales.” Of course, the problem with concentrating so deeply on fairy tale-themed decorations for the two months prior to Halloween is the withdrawal you experience when the party is over.
So naturally I purchased eight new fairy tale picture books and decided to blog about them. Yay!

Monster Books!

In the spirit of Halloween I’m going to talk about monster picturebooks. My new favorites for this year are ZOMBIE IN LOVE and MOSTLY MONSTERLY, both tales of creatures who don’t quite fit in with their surroundings. Written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Scott Campbell, ZOMBIE IN LOVE features Mortimer, a zombie looking for love in all the wrong places. DiPucchio and Campbell work together beautifully to fill in the comical gaps in the text and together they create a fun story about holding out for true love. Tammi Sauer and Scott Magoon take a slightly different route to self-fulfillment in MOSTLY MONSTERLY, the tale of a girl who is the only monster at her school who has interests in things other growling and lurching (like petting kittens and picking flowers). She struggles to reconcile these two parts of herself in a way that is comical and relatable, teaching readers the ideas of compromises and group hugs.


So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide which excuse works best for why I haven’t written in almost a month and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

Preachy Picturebooks

So I’m about to set sail for Mexico but I found this great post that I think all pb writers can benefit from on preachy picturebooks–even kids know when someone is talking down to them and NO one likes it.
See you in 5 days! And hopefully I’ll be bringing back some Spanish books…
Con cariño,

Tiny Books For Tiny Hands

So I have officially packed up all my books into milk crates and no longer have access to them until I move into my new place in September, therefore making this post waaaay shorter than usual. But last night the phrase “tiny books for tiny hands” kept rolling around in my head. It’s a concept I learned in my picturebook class last year and (apparently) it really stuck with me. In case it isn’t glaringly obvious, “tiny books for tiny hands” is the notion that books should be small enough to fit in the hands of a young child so as to make them more accessible and engaging–the child becomes more important to the story because s/he is the one in charge of turning the page. Boardbooks tend to be much smaller because babies tend to have the tiniest hands and many books (Eric Carle’s come to mind) are often reproduced in smaller versions to appeal to younger audiences.


One of the series I grew up reading was Mike Venezia’s GETTING TO KNOW THE WORLD’S GREATEST ARTISTS series. I only ended up owning two of them, Van Gogh and Monet, but they’ve stuck with me for almost twenty years now—that must mean something, right? So today I want to talk about nonfiction picturebooks because they are a great way to mix information and original artwork and (apparently) make a lasting impression.

Fourth Walls and Existentialsm

So I’m super excited about today’s topic because if I ever do a thesis it’s going to be on the ideas of breaking the fourth wall and existentialism in picturebooks.
First, there’s the concept of breaking the fourth wall. This happens a lot in plays, where the actors talk directly to the audience, but there are a lot of great picturebooks that do it too. THERE ARE CATS IN THIS BOOK by Viviane Schwarz is a great book where the characters address the reader and encourage them to turn the page, engaging the reader more full because s/he becomes a part of the experience of furthering the story.YOU’RE FINALLY HERE! by Mélanie Watt is another good example of a book that breaks the fourth wall, featuring a bunny who scolds the reader for having taken so long in reading the story, only to turn around and talk on his cell phone (there are also some examples of existentialism in it but I’ll get to that in a minute). Finally, Mo Willems’ Pigeon books also break the fourth wall, with the Pigeon asking if he can drive the bus, have a puppy, eat a hotdog. All three are examples of how effective engaging the reader can be and makes the book interactive for all audiences.

Picturebooks for Travel

Hi again!
So I’m leaving for the west coast in less than two weeks and I thought that good picturebooks for travel would make an interesting topic. I’ve never really seen myself as the kind of person to take along a stack of picturebooks on a long flight, but the last time I flew I decided to try it out. During a 6 hour-long trip across the continental United States I brought along two picturebooks (and, okay, one novel just in case it didn’t work out): Nick Bantock’s THE EGYPTIAN JUKEBOX: A CONUNDRUMand THE CLOCK WITHOUT A FACE, written by Eli Horowitz and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Scott Teplin (and John Green’s AN ABUNDANCE OF KATHERINES which I unsuccessfully struggled to get through, yet, a second time).


Hello blogosphere!
So, after almost 36 hours of children’s literature-related activities this past weekend I decided it was time to finally get this thing up and running. I spent Thursday through Sunday at the Body Electric Institute hosted by the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College.