Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Super Star Children's Book Review: Ira Crumb Makes A Pretty Good Friend

Welcome to the monthly children’s book review feature with a focus on diverse books here at Bird Meets Worm! My team of reviewers—Joan Charles, Laurie Young, Sarah Orgill—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 broad 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.

And this month I'm pleased to introduce our second new reviewer of the new year, Sarah Orgill! Sarah teaches English at Santa Monica High School in Southern California. Originally from Canada, Sarah has traveled widely, having lived and worked in Europe and Asia. In her free time, she loves to sail the coast of California with her husband, Jeff, and her two beautiful daughters, Josie and LouLou. This is her first book review!

Written by Naseem Hrab • Illustrated by Josh Holinaty
Picture Book (ages 5-8) • 32 pages
Published by Owlkids • 2017
ISBN: 978-1-7714-7171-8

Ira Crumb is the about to be the new kid at school. He knows that he makes a pretty good friend. He’s funny, he’s kind, and he’s even an awesome dancer. But Ira knows that the new kid always ends up alone, eating lunch by themselves and walking home solo after school. The week before school starts, Ira schemes, hoping to make some friends before the first day. From running for “Friendsident,” to holding a dance off, to playing it cool, Ira desperately tries to make a friend before the dreaded first day. He does end up trudging to school alone the first day, but fortunately meets Malcolm, who was new the year before. The two become fast friends.

With Ira Crumb, Naseem Hrab tackles real issues like loneliness and rejection that children of all ages face when in a new environment. Ira proves to be a plucky and honest character, a role model for kids in similar situations. Hrab has an ear for kid-speak, from “booger in your nose cave, pal” to “can’t stop, won’t stop!” She shows a true understanding of the fears a young child might have preparing to face a new school.

Josh Holinaty’s illustrations capture Ira’s unique character with a comic-strip style quality. His combination of human and animal characters show the real diversity in Ira’s, and our own, world.

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Sarah Orgill

Saturday, March 9, 2019


This kidlit Author/Illustrator stands with kids against climate change! • © Super Jane Smith

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Pieces: Children's Music Album

It is my absolute pleasure to share the children's music album, PIECES, for which I created the artwork! PIECES is a collection of songs for kids that benefits the Music Therapy program for children and teens on the autism spectrum at the Bridgeway Academy in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio. For every sale, $5 is being donated to the Bridgeway Academy.

This project is extra special, because PIECES was created by my childhood friend, Jordan Lynch, who is an accomplished professional musician, and I was so flattered to be asked to contribute to the project. Jordan's inspiration for PIECES is his son who has thrived at the Bridgeway Academy. What a wonderful way to celebrate & give back!!

PIECES is available now on iTunes, CDBaby, and through the PiecesCD Facebook store!

Super Star Interviews: Janee Trasler

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 thrilled to be chatting it up with supa-dupa-star Author/Illustrator, Janee Trasler! I'm a total fan of Janee's hilarious art & silly stories! Janee writes and illustrates funny books for kids. Including the popular Chickies board book series with HarperCollins. Whether she’s writing books, drawing pictures, singing songs, or putting on puppet shows, she’s all about the laughs. You can view more of her artwork here & share a giggle or two! 

Ooo! Those chickies are too cute! Time to rise & shine, cow!  

Q: You just signed a 3-book deal with Scholastic for a new illustrated early reader series titled, Frog and Dog! Congratulations!!! Give us the scoop about this new project and how it developed from initial inspiration to the present.

A: I’m so excited about this project! ACORN is the new younger-sibling of the Scholastic BRANCHES line, and I couldn’t be happier to have Frog and Dog be a part of it.

This is one of those freaky, wonderful projects that happened fast. The first book was inspired by something one of my critique partners said (waves madly at Kim Norman).

What did she say?

FROG. She said the word FROG, and my mind took off. Within 48 hours, I had the first book written, sketched, critiqued by another critique partner (waves madly at Tammi Sauer), revised and in my agent’s inbox.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes, right? One word.

(Okay, one more quick wave at my third critique partner, Jessica Young, and then I’ll quit waving for a bit. My arm is tired.) 

Don't cha wanna play with us, sheep?! Cheep, cheep!

Q: As an author/illustrator you are known for your hilarious children’s books, like the Chickies board book series. Dish with us a bit about creating FUNNY books and who/what/where inspires your sense of humor.

A: To me, one of the biggest keys to humor is timing. Picture book writers and illustrators are lucky because the format offers us great opportunities to control timing. Every page turn is a chance for a punchline. (I’m not recommending you USE a punchline after every page of course – less is more.)

Growing up, we always had MAD Magazine in our house. Sergio Aragones and Don Martin were my childhood writing, illustrating, and comedic mentors. You can’t study Aragones without learning economy of words, and you can’t read as many Don Martin cartoons as I have without soaking up some timing skills.

I love making kids laugh, but I also like to make that emotional connection. I don’t just want the ha-ha; I striving for the ha-ha-awe. 

Hmmm...wouldn't be funny if someone fell in this mud puddle?!

Q: In addition to being an author/illustrator, you are a songwriter, performer and puppeteer. In what ways does your musical and performance talents inform and enhance your children’s bookwork?

A: I used to struggle with what to call myself. My interests are so varied. Then I realized that what all these things boiled down to is storytelling. I’m a storyteller. Once I made that connection, I noticed that everything I love to do feeds everything else I love to do.

One of the best things about performing is seeing first-hand how an audience reacts to a story. What makes them laugh? What makes them interact with the story? What engages and holds their attention versus what has them wandering off and trying to peel the posters off the wall?

Even if you don’t perform yourself, I encourage anyone who writes or illustrates for children to go to their public library and attend a few story times. The intel you pick up there is pure gold. 

Yep! Falling IS funny!

Q: You have always been humorously open about the wild ups and downs of your (maybe everyone else’s, too? certainly mine!) creative process, the swings from genius to sucking it. Chat with us a bit about how you ride these waves out and what you do to tip the balance in favor of the genius moments.

A: Ah yes, the roller coaster ride of emotions that is the creative’s lot in life.

Sometimes, when you hit those lows—those times when you’re convinced a baboon with a crayon could do better work—you just have to ride it out. As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

When I find myself in those times though, I find it helpful to:

1. Talk to someone in my tribe. It doesn’t even have to be about what I’m going through. Sometimes just talking to someone* about the business of books or art can reenergize me.

2. Do something else creative, but not related to books. I paint, sing, or build miniatures.

3. Remind myself that I have felt this way before and always come out the other side.

4. Go to the bookstore and read new picture books for inspiration.

It’s also helpful to remember that you’re not alone; even your heroes go through low spots.

One of my critique partners routinely calls me and informs me that she “forgot how to write” and “will never have another good idea as long as she lives.” This phone call usually comes about ten minutes after she just sold a book and about five minutes before she comes up with another brilliant idea.

*Note: Spouses (unless they are also in a creative business) are not usually the best people to talk to about your creative worries. Bless their hearts, they’ll try, but they’ll probably just manage to hurt your feelings or make you mad. (Waves madly at long-suffering husband.) 

Gasp! Hope this little guy is ok!!

Q: You are currently represented by Jamie Weiss Chilton at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Tell us a bit about your experiences being represented as an author/illustrator—how you collaborate, how you work as a team and what is most rewarding versus what is most challenging.

A: Jamie is awesome. There’s just no other word for her. Oh wait, yes there is—she’s fantastic, wonderful, smart, talented, and everything else that sparkles and glitters! (waves madly at Jamie!)

As an editorial-style agent, she will make suggestions on how to improve something. She’s generally right with her input, too. And since the agents at Andrea Brown Literary can share projects with each other, I often benefit from input from several agents.

I can’t say there are any challenges to working with Jamie. I’ve always felt that we have the same goals in mind for my work and career, and I think that’s the most important part of a client/agent relationship. 

Ooo! Isn't Janee's studio fabulous?! I totally wanna hang out!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Ooooh, I feel so lucky, because I basically get to live my most perfect Sunday every week! I sing in a Cowboy Church band, I have coffee and book talk with a writing friend, then I drive the 66 miles to my studio and work on creative projects into the wee hours. I spend Sunday night at my studio and wake up Monday morning and pick up where I left off. Perfect end to one week and start to a new one.

Jane, thanks for letting me visit your blog and for asking such great questions! (waves madly at new friend, Super Jane Smith)

My pleasure, Janee!! We loved having you here at Bird Meets Worm! Thanks so much for chatting with us & congrats on Frog and Dog!!