Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Elephant Love

© Super Jane Smith • Elephant Love!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Love

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara ChowJoan CharlesSharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.




LOVE
By Matt de la Peña • Illustrated by Loren Long
Picture Book (ages 4-8) • 40 pages
Published 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Reader  • 2018
ISBN 978-1-524-74091-8


This beautifully crafted picture book celebrates love as a constant, beginning with the moment we come into the world, through times both good and bad, until we’re ready to set out on our own.

Matt de la Peña’s quietly lyrical prose poem shows that love helps us find hope, even in the darkest of times, as in the moment when a young girl is comforted by an old lady after a fire. “Stars shine long after they’ve flamed out,” she tells you, “and the shine they shine with is love.”

Love helps us find joy, in simple things like the rustling of leaves or in the family stories told by relatives.

Love brings us comfort, through something as simple as a hug and words of reassurance that everything will be okay.

Loren Long’s lovingly crafted illustrations of children and families are rendered in warm hues that subtly support the message of love in it’s many forms.

We need a book like this at a time like this, when love seems in short supply. Older children will find themselves drawn to the book again and again, sometimes for joy, sometimes for comfort, sometimes for reassurance, but always for love.

Buy this book:



Reviewed by: Joan Charles

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Super Hero Girl

© Super Jane Smith • Super Hero Girl To The Rescue!!!

Super Jane Luggage Tags for Mpix

Shop my fabulous, customizable metal luggage tags from Mpix! Perfect for summer travel!

© Super Jane Smith • Customizable Metal Luggage Tags for Mpix

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Lynn Brunelle & Anna-Maria Jung

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

This month I’m buzzing with excitement to be chatting it up with the fabulous Writer, Lynn Brunelle, and Illustrator, Anna-Maria Jung, who are the team behind the super fun NEW non-fiction activity book, Turn This Book Into A Beehive! (which is a total hit in my house! The super kiddo is all about bees and our book cover beehive is hanging in the backyard! And we discovered some carpenter bees nesting in our deck while hanging it! So awesome!) Lynn is a four-time Emmy Award–winning writer for Bill Nye the Science Guy and author of over 45 books, including the bestselling Pop Bottle Science and Camp Out! She is a regular contributor to KING-TV’s New Day Northwest as a family science guru and NPR’s Science Friday. And Anna-Maria is the author/illustrator of three stand-alone graphic novels. She illustrates for the editorial market, children’s books, graphic novels, and apparel. 

How cool is this cover?! You totally know you want to build this book cover beehive!!

Q: Your NEW non-fiction activity book Turn This Book Into A Beehive! has released! Congratulations!!! (You can buy it here!) Give us the full scoop on this title from each of your individual perspectives—how you came to the project, how it developed, you know, ALL the good stuff!

(Lynn): I had read an article about the demise of the honeybee and the hive collapse disorder. It was eye opening! So much of our food comes to us thanks to the pollination of bees. If the bees go, so does our food supply. The article was a real downer and didn’t offer any solutions so I went digging for a way for people, especially kids, to make a difference with things they have around the house. This is the book that came from all that research and amazement I discovered about bees. When I learned that mason bees liked hollow tubes, I looked into rolling up paper. Then I thought maybe there could be a book that includes paper to make a hive. I was so pleased to be able to come up with a book that delivered information in a fun way and also offered an actual project that helps solve the problem! It’s like a transformer—a book that transforms into a way to save the world!

(Anna-Maria): I had previously worked on a book with Workman Publishing, and thankfully, they asked me to illustrate another one—Yay! They sent me the manuscript and I was very excited. I thought it was an amazing idea that the book could be turned into a bee-hotel. 


This was the biggest project I had ever worked on, and sometimes it was pretty stressful. But after nailing the style and character design for the bees, things became easier. My favorite part was how much I learned about bees—I actually annoy all my friends with bee facts now. Oh, and my publisher and I started developing many silly bee-puns when communicating during the job.

Be a bee superhero! 

Q: Writing quality non-fiction requires extensive research, organization and editing. Dish with us a bit about your approach to writing non-fiction—from initial concepts to research to writing to revisions.

(Lynn): I always read everything I can find on whatever subject I am thinking about. Then I track down experts. I look at museums, universities, and zoos, and find out who is doing the cutting edge work—who knows the answers. Then I talk to them.

While researching this project, I learned that honeybees and social bees only made up 2% of the bees in the world. 98% of the bees are solitary wild bees that do amazing work as pollinators. Then I went online and did some more digging. All honeybees are domesticated and were brought here by colonists. In fact, honeybees have been domesticated for a loooooooong time! There are images of beekeepers carved into caves, chiseled into Egyptian art, painted on Greek pottery, and minted into Roman coins.

I went to garden stores to watch for bees and to ask plant experts what they knew about bees. It turns out that the solitary bees like mason bees are native bees and they’re amazing pollinators. I saw some of the houses these garden centers were selling to attract these bees. I contacted experts at the Museum of Natural History and I called zoos. I found the USDA mason bee lab in Utah and spoke with bee people from around the country.

Then I made a prototype of my paper hive and stuck it out in my garden. Mason bees came! It worked! And my garden has never been so productive.

My favorite thing is to make big concepts accessible to people of all ages. Especially kids. And I think using laughter and hands-on fun is a great way for kids to learn. So when I was writing, I kept thinking about what kind of activities I could include to help kids really absorb the content. The fact that bees are positively charged and flowers are negatively charged, which makes pollen leap to a bee, is FANTASTIC! And you can show that with a balloon and confetti. The fact that bees are amazing smellers is a perfect lead in for getting kids to tune into their own sense of smell. I test the experiments and activities myself and then I make my kids do them. Then I go into classrooms and have a bunch of kids test them so I know they really work.

I made an outline, sample pages, proposal, and prototype and pitched that to Workman. When they said yes, I created my first draft and bounced it off the experts to make sure I was using correct information. I polished it up and passed it to my editor.

Then I got edits, some of which I took and love—because they made the book stronger—and some of which pointed to what I didn’t explain well enough in the first draft. It’s a wonderful collaborative process. Combine that with great illustrations and a great book design, and the end product is so fun! There’s a lot of revision between idea and concept and finished product. It’s a long and hard but rewarding journey!

Aren't these cutie bees totally adorbs?!

Q: I love your fun, sassy & detailed illustrations! Illustrating for non-fiction has the challenge of not only requiring this level of fabulousness, but it also requires an extensive number of illustrations, including ones that accurately display non-fiction details. Chat with us a bit about you approach illustrating non-fiction books—from research to sketches to organization to color.

(Anna-Maria): Well, when I first read the manuscript I usually feel extremely overwhelmed (which should get better with each job) and try to avoid a panic attack. Then I put descriptions for required illustrations into a color-coded excel-table along with a time-line. I need a high level of organization in order to function, so this is the super-boring part of the job. I sent Workman my list and asked them to mark the illustrations they want to be done in a more scientifically accurate way.

Sometimes the publisher provides me with images, but I usually do additional research and collect images, read articles, and watch documentaries on the topic on YouTube.

After the research is done, I do first sketches—if the art doesn’t need to be realistic, I try to think about how I can make it funny, put in little references and jokes, tell an additional story—that’s coming from my background as a cartoonist and my humor was very much influenced by the Monty Python. I love adding some secret nerdy humor as well. The feedback process is very important, so I send those sketches to the publisher and wait for approval. After that: Inking and coloring—all digital.

Q: Dish with us about your typical workday as creative professionals—routines, rituals, inspiration & practical practices. Set the scene for us, too—what does your creative workspace look & feel like?

(Lynn): I wear a lot of hats. During the school year I wear the mama hat in the morning—I get the animals walked, fed and settled, then the boys up, fed, and on the bus.

Then I put on the writer hat. I make a pot of tea and settle in to write. My home office is upstairs and I have a big wraparound desk in the corner where I can gaze outside at the yard, the street corner, and the woods beyond. Books and art line the shelves. There’s a dog bed under the desk and a cat bed on the desk so I can be surrounded by happy satellite furballs. There’s a lot of action out the window, from deer and coyote crossings to people walking their dogs, kids on bikes, and the occasional eagle soaring by. I live on an island in the Pacific Northwest and it is dreamy.

First, I make my list of what I need to get done, check e-mails, and organize the desk. Then I jump in. I always make sure I have plenty of water so that forces me back to reality to take bathroom breaks. Otherwise, I would get lost in thought and find that I had been sitting all day! For breaks, I walk the dogs and ride the stationary bike for five minutes and do a little circuit of exercise and then plunk down for another stint.

My husband shares the office with me and when he’s home we make lunch dates and break the day up that way. We work well together and it’s fun to have the company. Plus he’s a great sounding board if I come up with an idea or write something I need feedback on.

(Anna-Maria): My workday is quite organized considering I’m a cartoonist. Typically, I work from 9am – 5pm (depending on the workload). I work from an office, which has become super important to me after working from home for over 10 years (I highly recommend an office to all freelancers). As I mentioned before, I REALLY need organization. I use Google calendar with color-coded tasks for the day depending on what needs to be done.

My workspace is a standing/sitting desk (I can switch working positions) with a Cintiq and a second computer screen. Next to that is my drawing desk and behind me are bookshelves with plenty of art books to check out should I need to. 


I like to switch from digital to analog and back all the time, but in the end I finish everything digitally. My important weekend ritual is going hiking to get my head clear. 

Just one of the fabulously fun activities in Turn This Book Into A Beehive!

Q: What is your MOST favorite activity from Turn This Book Into A Beehive!?

(Lynn): It’s the actual making of the mason bee home that I love—turning the book into a hive, then watching as things unfold in the garden.

With Mason Bees, every girl’s a queen. She finds the house—usually a hollow reed or stem or a tube, even paper tubes in an inside-out book cover! She gathers and piles food, lays an egg on top of the food pile, and then gathers mud to spackle a wall. In a good hollow tube, she can make 6-10 little rooms with an egg and a food supply in each one.

Aside from the actual turning the book into a beehive, I am a fan of the Cheetos pollination experiment. It’s funny and it shows the point very well.

(Anna-Maria): I think it’s actually building the beehive with the parts of book—I just think it’s such a cool idea to provide a home for solitary bees.

Q: If you were a bee, what kind of bee would you be? And why?

(Lynn): Hmm. The temptation is to say Queen bee, of course. But honestly having babies all day for your whole life sounds like a lot of work even if people are feeding you honey and fanning the air to keep you cool all day. So I would have to say a mason bee. Probably the Blue Orchard bee. They have such a beautiful color—a jewel-tone blue and green, which flashes in the sun. They live near each other but they have their own space. They’re friendly. They don’t sting. They’re crafty—they make mud walls!—and they’re good moms, making sure their babies have a room of their own and a supply of food. Plus they spend their days flopping on flowers. That sounds fun. On top of that, they do a lot of good for the world.

(Anna-Maria): I would definitely be some sort of solitary bee – I would enjoy my time alone, but visit the honey bees from time to time to get my “social fix”. I’d get some honey from them, chat a bit, maybe party with them, but then I’d return into my comfy little hole somewhere.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

(Lynn): I like being the first one up. The dogs usually wake me around 6:00. I get up and walk them and feed them (and the cat). I do a little yoga routine. Then I make tea and snuggle in on the couch with my book. (If it’s warm enough, I will snuggle up with my favorite blanket outside on my favorite chair. The animals always come, too.) I have a couple of hours to read and think and dream and meditate before the happy chaos of family erupts. We’ll make pancakes and coffee and have a good breakfast and a lazy start to the day. Then we putter—outside in the garden, or in the garage making stuff. My husband and sons like to work with wood and I make fused glass. Lately my older son and I have been experimenting with silk-screening. My younger son and husband are building a ukulele. If it’s warm and sunny we may all go out for a kayak paddle, a bike ride, or a hike. (We live across the street from The Grand Forest—an old growth forest in the temperate rainforest zone with fir and spruce and maple trees in delicious, velvet coverings of moss.) In the evening we’ll have friends over to cook outside and sit around the fire pit under the stars.

(Anna-Maria): Get enough sleep, get a good breakfast, and go on a nice little hike in the mountains with some friends. Exhaust myself during that hike, see a lot of interesting animals on the way, and then have Schnitzel in some restaurant. After that, have a nap and maybe later see some friends again for a nerdy activity like gaming or a movie, or just a drink in my favorite bar in Graz.

Thank you so much, Lynn & Anna-Maria, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love bees and your NEW book Turn This Book Into A Beehive!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Mockingbird

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.



MOCKINGBIRD
By Kathryn Erskine
Middle Grade (ages 10 & up), • 235 pages
Published by Puffin Books • 2010
ISBN 978-0-14-241775-1


Ten year old Caitlyn and her community must cope with the aftermath of a school shooting, which claimed the life of Caitlyn’s older brother, Devon, and two others at Devon’s school. Before the shooting, Caitlyn had depended on Devon to navigate her social world, an opaque labyrinth for Caitlyn, who is on the autism spectrum. Now, bereft of her brother and her mother, who had succumbed to cancer years earlier, Caitlyn has only her dad at home, but he is drowning in his own grief.

With the support of the school community, Caitlyn befriends a first grader who lost his mother in the shooting. She also learns to be a friend to an unlikely schoolmate: the cousin of the shooter. Caitlyn convinces her father to work with her to complete a special project begun by Devon. In the process, Caitlyn learns about empathy, friendship, and the most elusive of all concepts, closure.

Mockingbird is the most poignant, exquisite, and moving first person narrative I have encountered since reading Flowers for Algernon. Every scene in this story aches with the incongruity between Caitlyn’s perspective and that of the other characters, not to mention the reader. At times, this mismatch is hilarious; at other times, it is heartbreaking. As the mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I deeply appreciate Erskine’s portrayal of the school community and the rich complexity of its characters as they cope with trauma and with children who are different. I first read this book two years ago and fell in love with it. Reading it again now, after so many more school shootings, it feels even more relevant and urgent.

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Cara Chow



Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Rebecca Petruck

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators, designers and creative professionals I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

I’m excited to be chatting it up with the super star Writer, Rebecca Petruck! When I moved from Los Angeles to Wilmington, North Carolina not that long ago, I looked to connect with other NC creatives, also working in children’s publishing, and was kindly welcomed by Rebecca. She is the author of BOY BITES BUG (May 2018) and STEERING TOWARD NORMAL (2014), both with ABRAMS/Amulet. BUG received a starred review from ABA Booklist, who said it’s "...funny, perceptive, and topical in more ways than one." SLJ called it "a sure bet for reluctant readers." She has an MFA in Creative Writing from UNC Wilmington, and is a mentor for Pitch Wars, Writing in the Margins, and SCBWI Carolinas. She is represented by Kate Testerman of kt literary. You can follow her on Twitter here and you can check out her books here! 



Isn't Rebecca totally adorbs?!

Q: Your NEW middle grade novel BOY BITES BUG releases on May 8th! Congratulations!!! Give us the full scoop on this title—ALL the juicy details! 

A: We change a lot between kindergarten and middle school. I used to eat mud pies and smoke candy cigarettes like the other cool kids, then graduated to unicorns, softball, and Mathcounts. I also changed schools three times, moving from Minnesota to Louisiana to Mississippi. I sometimes wonder who I’d be if I’d grown up with the same group of kids since kindergarten.

Will Nolan has been friends with Darryl that long and thinks he knows all there is to know about him—until Darryl calls Eloy Herrera a racial slur.

The moment is a crossroad. Will knows it. He doesn’t like it and pretends it isn’t, but he knows, and now he has to decide what kind of person he wants to be. While he feels loyalty to an old friend, even a boneheaded one, his new friendship with Eloy grows more important to him each day.

Changing friendships has long been a theme of middle grade, though I think it may be seen more frequently in stories about girls. Here’s one for the boys.

What does any of this have to do with eating bugs? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Bug appétit! (Psst! You can read an excerpt here!!!)

Q: How did BOY BITES BUG come to be? Tell us all about the process of submitting and selling the manuscript as well as the back-and-forth process of developing the project with your editor.

A: Because this is a second book with the same publisher, BUG sold on proposal rather than as a finished manuscript. Sometimes, what seems as if it will work, doesn’t. The version of BUG you will read is so wildly different from the synopsis, you wouldn’t recognize it if it didn’t still have the bug eating. The thing about the bug eating, entomophagy, is that it’s cool, but it’s not a story. Why do the characters eat bugs? How does it affect the characters’ decision making and the story as a whole? I’m lucky my editor was able to give me time to figure it out, even if some of the “time” was because he rejected the version I thought would be “the one.” That stung! But he was right. I love BUG now. I genuinely have moments of not really believing I wrote it. 


How fun is this cover?! You know you totally wanna read this!!

Q: Dish with us about your writing process—routines, rituals, inspiration & practical practices. Set the scene for us, too—what does your writing space look & feel like?

A: I have a small desk against an oversized window that looks out on the mountains of northwest North Carolina. In addition to my laptop, I always have a lined, yellow writing pad, Pilot G-2 1.0 mm pens (seriously, I buy these in bulk), Post-It Notes, and usually a craft book, most often Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. When I’m stuck, I’ll either walk around or open Wired for Story as if it’s a tarot deck, and whatever page I land on has the thing I need to hear right then—and it always does. Lately, I’ve also been helped by Donald Maass’s exercises in The Emotional Craft of Fiction.

I don’t have a routine other than I write in the mornings and in timed, 30-minute stretches. If I’m struggling with focus, I listen to a guided meditation that’s on YouTube. You can search by length or issue, like, “Five-minute meditation for focus,” and a bunch of great options pop up. My favorites are Jason Stephenson and Sarah Hall.

Q: An author’s job doesn’t end with publication—this is when promotion kicks in! What plans are in place for promoting Boy Bites Boy—both by your publisher and on your own? What advice would you give fellow authors on book promotion?

A: My professional background is in PR and marketing, so I have many thoughts of, “I could do this! And that! And this other thing!” But I’d have to be Doctor Manhattan of the Watchmen comics to accomplish everything. It’s easy to feel like that means I’m failing my book.

My advice to others is to list all the things you could do, then list the time/energy/money/enthusiasm you have and get real with yourself. Starting as early as you can (many conferences schedule six months to a year out), make a plan, break it down into smaller tasks with due dates, then let go—don’t “should” on yourself for things you’re not doing. Be excited and focused on the things you are.

For BUG, I’ve offered free visits to schools in my area, created a promotion with my local indie bookstore (Hi, Foggy Pine Books! You can pre-order from them here!), and contacted companies in the entomophagy community to request discount codes for people who want to try insects. I also applied for a grant from my local arts council to attend the American Library Association’s summer conference, and last year submitted a proposal to present at the North Carolina School Library Media Association (which I did in the fall). It may seem like a lot, but there are a dozen area conferences I could have submitted proposals to, several more national conferences I could have traveled to, dozens of bookstores in my region I could have contacted about in-store events, and don’t even get me started on all the insect treats and promotional items I could have bought.

What I have to remind myself is what others have said: My number one marketing tool is my book. It’s the single most important thing I can do to market myself. So, while there are things I can do to help the book, my focus is best spent on the quality of the book itself—and on writing the next one. 


Ooo!! Tasty! Yummy! Delish!

Q: You are a plot super star extraordinaire and even teach a workshop on plotting novels! What are your top 3 tips for fellow writers on developing plot?

A: 1) Know it’s all about Character. Plot is the soil your characters need in order to grow, but no one cares about a book that is only dirt. (To be fair, I would totally read about dirt, and this made me do a Google search, and now Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery is in my TBR.)

2) Have a tool to see the big picture. At some point, even pantsers need a way to see everything they have in order to know what to cut, keep, develop, or re-think. It doesn’t matter what the tool is as long as it truly helps you pull back for a very wide-angle view.

3) Ask different people with different experiences for feedback. I geek out for plot, so I’m always happy to talk with mentees and clients, and personally I brainstorm everything with my critique partners. We each approach potential plot knots in different ways, and often my CPs help me see where the real story is versus whatever shiny thing has caught my eye.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday. (And what tasty bug recipe would you eat at the end of it?!)

A: Swimming beneath a waterfall then lying in the shade beside a friendly dragon on soft grass with a book, bottle of Champagne, and Brie sprinkled with black ants.

Thank you so much, Rebecca, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! And congrats on your fabulous new book!!!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Celebrate Children's Book Week

© Jane Smith • Which book would you like to read next?!

Wishing You A Llama Joy


Llama Joy: New collection available for licensing from Super Jane!!! • © Jane Smith



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Sparkle Boy

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara ChowJoan CharlesSharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.

              

SPARKLE BOY
By Lesléa Newman • Illustrated By Maria Mola
Picture book (ages 4-8) • 32 pages
Published by Lee & Low Books • 2017
ISBN 978-1-62014-285-1


Sparkle Boy is a sweet sibling story about respect and the freedom to be yourself, both within your own family and well as out in the world.

Sparkle Boy is Casey, a little brother who like all little siblings, is interested in everything his older sister, Jessie, does and wears. Especially all her shimmery, glittery, sparkly clothes and accessories! But Jessie is sure that these things are just for girls, even though all the grown-ups in her family assure her that Casey can wear whatever he likes and that it won’t hurt anyone. That is, until she finds herself having to choose whether or not to stand up for her little brother and his freedom to be himself while out on a visit to the library.

Mola’s muted palette in Sparkle Boy makes the subject very accessible, and her art is accented with super fun, sparkly touches, including spot glitter on the cover. The smart juxtaposition of Casey’s shimmery skirt, nails and bracelet with his toy trucks and his red train t-shirt visually reinforce the positive message that our individual interests can cover more than just what is considered traditional for our individual genders.

All in all, a wonderful read that will leave you feeling shimmery, glittery, sparkly inside!

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Super Jane Loves Mermaids

Don't you just love my NEW mermaid illustration set?! It is now available as wall art from Gango Editions—shop it here! So fun, summery & fabulous!! Yay!




Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Cathi Mingus

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month. 

I’m thrilled to be chatting it up with the super star Illustrator, Cathi Mingus! I am a longtime fangirl of her hip, fun, fabulous artwork! Cathi graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and has been illustrating professionally for over 20 years. She started out doing acrylic-painted editorial pieces and then moved on to illustrating greeting cards, children's magazines and products. She still uses pencil and tracing paper to for sketches, but now finishes them in Photoshop. Her style has changed quite a bit from those early days. And she still loves to paint in her free time. You can view more of her artwork here! 


Oh, no! Friend drama rama!!

Q: You are the absolute queen of fun & fabulous tween & teen artwork for kids! Tell us a bit about what your favorite parts of illustrating for this unique market are? And what are the biggest challenges?

A: Thank you, Jane, for the compliment! I think it’s fun for me, because I get to tap into my inner 8-12 year old self—Ha! I would say that pretty much all my illustration work falls into that age range these days. I love creating characters (mainly girls) and tapping into who they are, their expressions and feelings, etc. It’s also important to look at current styles and trends for kids that age. So, I do a lot of online research looking at fashions and hairstyles, etc. I use Pinterest and clothing sites that cater to that specific group.

I guess the challenges are making sure the kids are looking a certain age. Also, keeping it fresh & hip enough for kids that age to be interested in the characters.


Forever Friends is totally forever fabulous!!

Q: Your NEW book series, Forever Friends, with American Girl & Scholastic debuts this month! (Congratulations! You’re a total rock star!) Give us the scoop on this series: how it came to be, how it developed and your process for creating the artwork—you know, all the good stuff!

A: I had been speaking with a friend of mine who is a writer and we came up with an idea for a book series based on three best friends who get involved with animal rescue and have all kinds of adventures. I did some character sketches and a quick mock-up cover of what I envisioned the kids and our book might look like. I put it up on my website. An art director who I’ve worked with on other projects at Scholastic (and I send regular emails of my work to) saw the piece on my site and contacted me. It just so happens they were working with American Girl on a new series that had a very similar theme and she thought the look of my cover was the perfect style for the series.

I was then asked to do some sketches of the girls in the series and a mock-up cover for her to pitch to American Girl to see if they would want to use my art. After a lot of rounds of sketches and tweaks to the cover comp, I was given the series! I had been handed character descriptions from the beginning of what each girl looked like and their unique personalities. After that it’s just a lot of sketching and revising until I feel I’ve nailed it. Above all, the characters and the cover need to really connect with the kids who will—hopefully—pick it up at the bookstore and want to read the series.

My process is pretty simple—I hand sketch first using tracing paper, so I can quickly rework an image. Then I scan and color in Photoshop. I’m not an expert in that program at all. I’m sure there are a lot of short cuts, etc., but I manage to make it work for me.

Q: Let’s talk inspiration—who, what, where inspires you most as an illustrator?

A: I’d say I’m inspired by going into bookstores and looking at great books & beautiful illustrations. I really love looking at the middle grade/early reader type of books. I also get inspiration from looking at other artists on Instagram, etc., but it can be overwhelming sometimes. I can also get caught up in the comparison game…and no one wants to go there! Taking classes and trying new techniques and processes helps to keep me inspired overall to do better work and to not get stuck in a rut. I think I was inspired to get into the tween/teen girl market initially, because I raised a daughter. I loved the books and materials I used to buy her when she was that age. 

Ooo! Super goth cool!

Q: Dish with us about your MOST favorite illustration project: one from your past and one from your present.

A: I don’t really think that there is any one project that stands out above the rest. I’ve been illustrating for over 20 yrs. and I’ve had a lot of fun assignments. I really loved working on the “Girls Guide to Middle School” with American Girl. I also illustrated a “Guide to Manners”, which has since been re-done by another artist. I did some really fun and “slightly edgier” covers for Scholastic a few years ago. They were part of their “Poison Apple and Rotten Apple” books for 4th to 6th graders. It was nice to get away from the color pink for a while!

Currently, I’m working on a children’s book about a mischievous fairy and her little dog companion. It’s challenging and fun to do a larger body of work like that. So, I am enjoying working on that right now. Any project where I’m given guidelines, but also lots of freedom to do my thing, is always my favorite. I still threaten to write my own story and create my own book series one day—Ha! 

Everything is better with glitter—don't you agree?!

Q: You’ve worked with all of the big four children’s book publishers (HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster). What advice would you give fellow illustrators about promoting to and landing big fish clients like the big four?

A: First I would say, do good work! In this industry, with so much competition, it’s important to stand out somehow. Doing really interesting pieces, good characters, great compositions, etc. is first and foremost.

Pick a marketing strategy and be consistent with it. Don’t be fearful in contacting art directors via email or promotional materials. If you are interested in illustrating a book series, create a mock book cover and send it out as a promotion and put it on your website and/or Instagram, etc. You never know who might see it or the assignments that might come from it.

If you can do great hand-lettering and show that with illustrations, even better! I’m still tackling my hand-lettering.

Figure out who would really be your top dream clients and market to the top 10 or so. Connect with art directors via LinkedIn and other social media sites, if you can. Do specifically tailored illustrations to send that will land you the type of jobs you want. When I first started out as an illustrator, I think I wasted a lot of time sending postcards out to 250-300 companies off of a random list. I get better results now sending emails with a few jpegs of my work to a few carefully selected art directors at the companies I really want to work with. 

Is there anything more fun than a fairy-ballerina-girlie?!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Wake up, drink coffee, take my dogs out for a walk (a Shih Tzu and a Boston Terrier). Weekends are a great time to catch up with my now-grown daughter. A leisurely breakfast followed by shopping and pedicures is always fun. There’s a great farmer’s market in my area that I like to walk to. I love taking home fresh flowers and jam. On rainy Sundays, I like to make some tea, put on some music and paint on canvas.

Thanks Jane for the interview :D

Thank YOU, Cathi, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We are definitely big fans!!

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hoppy Easter from Super Jane

Hoppy Easter!! • © Super Jane Smith • All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Super Star Children's Book Review: Maybe Something Beautiful

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.



MAYBE SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL

By F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell • Illustrated by‎ Rafael López
Picture Book  (ages 4-7) • 40 pages
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  • 2016
ISBN 978-0-544-35769-3


Maybe Something Beautiful is a story about art, community, and transformation.

This brightly illustrated picture book opens with Mira, a young girl “with joy in her heart” who walks through her grey city passing out colorful, homemade art. Along the way, she greets a variety of neighbors from diverse backgrounds.

Mira meets a muralist, who encourages her to envision the city she wants to live in. She helps him transform the drab city walls into a series of colorful murals.

Inspired by this duo, the whole community soon joins in and it becomes a creative block party to the soundtrack of salsa, merengue, and bebop. Citizens from all walks of life and cultural backgrounds are united by one common cause. “Together they created something more beautiful then they had ever imagined.”

This picture book speaks to any child (or adult) who ever hoped for change. It inspires us to connect with others of all colors, races, and creeds who share our vision. Whether that vision is to beautify a neighborhood, stomp out bullying, or save open space…with power in numbers we can accomplish great things.

All families will benefit from having this gorgeous book in their collection. Children will learn about the ability of art to improve quality of life and inspire future generations of dreamers.


Buy this book:



Reviewed by: Sharon Calle

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Super Star Interviews: Katie Turner

Welcome to my monthly interview feature! I’m so excited to be interviewing all the fabulous artists, illustrators and designers I’ve meet over the years (both personally and virtually!) and sharing their artwork and experiences here on Bird Meets Worm. Look for a new interview on the first Tuesday of every month.

I’m pleased as pink strawberry lemonade to be chatting it up with the rockstar Artist/Illustrator, Katie Turner! I absolutely love her graphic style and her sweet & spicy sense of humor! Katie is a fellow T2 artist, and I’ve been a fan of her artwork for quite a long time. Katie is from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She got her BFA in illustration from Parsons School of Design and lived in New York for nine years until moving south to Nashville, Tennessee in 2015. She started her career in editorial, working for clients like The New York Times, The New Yorker & The Walrus and now specializes in children's illustration and licensing. She is represented by Tugeau2 for children’s work and Pink Light Design for licensing. You can view more of her artwork here!

Quick! Snap a pic of those butterflies before they flutter off, Bun Bun!!

Q: Your artwork is full of bold color, graphic shapes and fun characters! Dish with us about your creative process—concept to sketches to finished art—and how it all comes together.

A: Thank you! I actually don’t spend as much time sketching and concepting as some illustrators I know, especially a few that I work with at our shared studio here in East Nashville. I got an iPad last summer, and since then I’ve used it and the Procreate app for pretty much every illustration I’ve made. It really simplifies my process!

I will sometimes do a few thumbnail sketches before starting a piece, but sometimes I dive right in and do a really rough sketch directly into the app. Once I’m satisfied with the general composition, I’ll do a tighter sketch in another layer on top of that, and once I’m happy with that I’ll move on to the actual drawing.

I’ve found a way of working that I really enjoy - it’s almost a screenprinting style (or at least that’s how I think of it). I’ll choose 2-4 colors that contrast each other (at the most basic, usually a warm and a cool color) and then use those colors on multiply layers to build my piece. The way the colors mix together gives me about 7 colors to work with! Kind of hard to explain, but I hope this makes sense! The best part is when all the layers are almost finished and I can delete the sketch layer and put in all the finishing details and textures.

Gimme gimme ice cream ice cream!!

Q: You grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, went to art school in New York City and now live in Nashville, Tennessee. How have each of these places influenced and inspired you as an artist?

A: Growing up in Tulsa, I always knew I wanted to be an artist. I’m really lucky in that my parents always supported me in this goal, and that I went to a high school that had a good art program. I had an art teacher in high school that really let us work on the things we wanted to create, rather than having to follow a specific set curriculum.

Moving to New York and attending Parsons opened me up to a new world of experiences and people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I had awesome teachers that I still admire and look up to to this day. I also got to meet working illustrators and learn what it was like to be a professional artist.

My house in Nashville is right next a park that has a lot of wooded trails, filled with deer and birds and other animals. I really feel like being able to go outside and be in nature regularly is awesome not only for my mental health but also my creativity! I love drawing flowers, plants and bugs most of all so it’s great. I also work at a studio in East Nashville (where two other T2 artists also work - Kayla Stark and Rebecca Green), and I love having a community of other illustrators to talk to and bounce ideas off of.

Hello, Butterfly! It's lovely to meet you!

Q: Your fresh, bright illustrations have found a crossover between editorial work and surface design as well as children’s publishing work. Chat with us a bit about how you balance servicing these 3 very different markets while staying true to your own artistic voice.

A: I’ve been told before that my work has a somewhat more commercial feel, which honestly I don’t mind. I think that is one reason that I’ve been able to go between these these different markets. Obviously I’m often drawing very different things when it comes to editorial, licensing, and children’s work, but I think my style stays relatively consistent whether I’m illustrating a short story, a pattern or a newspaper article. I also tend to use the same general color palette a lot (hello pink and turquoise, my favorite colors!), which helps to tie all my work together.

Q: Give us the full scoop on your MOST favorite projects: one from your past & one from your present.

A: In the past, even when I was doing more traditional editorial work for newspapers and magazines, some of my favorite jobs were the illustrations I got to do for Cricket Magazine, which is a magazine for children. I think part of the reason I realized I wanted to work in children’s illustration more was from getting those jobs! My favorite current project is the children’s books I’m writing and illustrating myself. As a control freak, I love having full control of everything and really getting to go wild with my ideas and illustration.

Right now I’m working on a book about a gnome who loses her home and has to find a new one, traveling through the woods and meeting adventures along the way. It’s super fun!

Just straight up chillin'!

Q: What would be your absolutely DREAM illustration project?

A: My dream illustration project would be to have my own books published! I really want to write a book about bugs — they’re one of my favorite subjects and favorite things to draw. A book filled with butterflies, ladybugs, snails and caterpillars sounds pretty perfect to me!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My ideal Sunday would be a beautiful sunny day in the summer. It would start with an awesome diner breakfast with my husband, followed by a leisurely long walk through the woods, checking out all the cute little bugs, flowers and animals along the way. Since this is my ideal Sunday I’d also have some time to read on my porch, drink some iced tea, and then have ramen for dinner. Then we’d end the night at the movies where we’d gorge ourselves on popcorn and candy!

Thank you so much, Katie, for dishing about all things art & illustration with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! We think you’re the cat’s meow!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine's Day from Super Jane

© Super Jane Smith • Bear Hug

Super Star Children's Book Review: El Deafo

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Cara Chow, Denise Holmes, Joan Charles, Sharon Calle—and I are so excited to be championing books celebrating everything from gender diversity, people of color, the LGBTQ community to ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, people with disabilities and developmental challenges to controversial topics, unique family situations and anything and everything I did not include. It is to say we take a rightfully board view of diversity! We aim to shine a light on books that bring both familiar experiences to those who do not often see themselves represented in books and new experiences to those looking to expand their worldview. Here at Bird Meets Worm we believe in the power of story to build empathy and thus a better world for you and me and everyone. Look for a new review on the second Wednesday of every month.



EL DEAFO
By Cece Bell
Graphic Novel/Memoir (8-12) • 248 pages
Published by Harry N. Abrams • 2014
ISBN 978-1-41-971217-3


My mother has a pretty sever hearing impairment. Growing up I couldn’t tell you how many times I heard her say “what” or how often she would mix up words like house and mouse. I was young and I didn’t understand why I had to repeat everything I said to her. I couldn’t put myself in her shoes, because I could hear. I learned to speak slower, mouth my words a little more dramatically and talk to her face to face. After reading El Deafo, I now have a better understanding of what she went through and I can sympathize with the frustration of never quite knowing what people are saying.

El Deafo is a witty and heartwarming graphic novel about the life of Cece Bell. It tells the story of Cece growing up in the 1970’s. She has to deal with going to a new school, making new friends (and sometimes frenemies!), awkward misread situations, first crushes—all while being the only deaf kid in her class.

Through Cece’s story we are given a glimpse into how she dealt with her impairment—from learning to be a detective of words, wearing hearing aids (the one she uses is called The Phonic Ear and it is enormous!), and how she handled the way people treated her. One way she coped was by seeing herself as a superhero—El Deafo.

El Deafo
is a very entertaining read with a great message for teaching children about empathy as well promoting awareness for people with disabilities. “Our differences are our superpowers.”

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Denise Holmes