Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Super Star Children's Book Review: Twinchantment

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.

               

TWINCHANTMENT

By Elise Allen
Middle Grade (ages 8-12) • 336 pages
Published by Disney-Hyperion • 2019
ISBN 9781368008624


Twinchantment by Elise Allen is a delightful fantasy that is sure to engage young fantasy enthusiasts thirsty for magical realms. Allen creates a rich world filled with diverse characters and intriguing settings.

The “Magic Eradication Act” begins the book, making clear that magic will NOT be tolerated in the Kingdom of Kaloon. This includes polydactyly (extra fingers or toes), left-handedness and twin-hood, setting the stage for the story of the twins, Princesses Sara and Flissa, who are known to the kingdom as one person, Princess Flissara.

When Sara and Flissa’s mother, Queen Latonya, is cursed and only has 48 hours to live, the twins must travel into the terrifying land known as The Twists to help save her and the king. The plot continues at a rapid pace, keeping readers turning pages, eager for more.

An exciting and highly readable story full of crushes, horses, gossip, and rivalries, Twinchantment is a perfect choice for the preteen reader. This is definitely a welcome addition to the middle-grade fantasy market, particularly for its portrayal of people of color. Thankfully, it is the first in the series, and the second installment, UnTwisted, has already been released! 

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Bookshop

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Sarah Orgill

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Super Star Interviews: Debbie Ridpath Ohi

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 pieces to be chatting it up with super star children's book author-illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi! Like so many other lucky duckies, I've had the pleasure of hearing Debbie speak at various SCBWI events and even have a lovely signed copy of her picture book, Sam & Eva, to prove it! I love her bright, playful style—it's irresistible! Debbie is also the author-illustrator of the picture book Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers). Her illustrations appear in books by Judy Blume and Michael Ian Black, among others. Her newest picture book, Gurple and Preen: A Broken Crayon Cosmic Adventurelaunches next month from Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers on 
on August 25th. You can view more of Debbie's artwork and books here.

How totally fun!

Q: Your adorable NEW picture book for Simon & Schuster, Gurple and Preen, releases this August! (It’s so fun! Congratulations!) Give us the full scoop on Gurple and Preen: how you came to be illustrating it, your working relationship with your publisher & what you love best about your new book!

A: Thank you for the kind words about Gurple And Preen! I'm super-excited to be illustrating not only a story written by Linda Sue Park (I am a longtime fan) but also a story that Linda Sue wrote specifically for me to illustrate.

I've been posting "you never know what will come out of a broken crayon" found object art for years now, and I was thrilled when Linda Sue contacted me out of the blue to find out if one of my pieces (the one with a grey robot crawling out of a broken crayon) was available for sale as a print. Although I had none available, I created one and mailed it to her, refusing to take any payment.

A while later, we found ourselves sitting beside each other at the faculty dinner at SCBWI Northern Ohio regional conference. I had never had a real conversation with Linda Sue before, so was a wee bit star-struck! But we started chatting about my broken crayon art, and when she asked about the story I was working on, I confessed that I was finding it a challenge to write a story that I wanted to illustrate. I know that sounds odd, but I'm experienced enough in picture book illustration to have an idea about when my illustration style would be the right fit for the text, and also to only take on picture book illustration projects in which I'm super-excited about the story.

I was thrilled when Linda Sue agreed to try writing a story for me! Together, we pitched the idea to my editor at Simon & Schuster Children's, Justin Chanda, and he loved it, too—hurray! After we signed the contract, Linda Sue worked with Justin on polishing the manuscript, and then Laurent Linn and I worked on the art.

I am super-happy with how the book turned out. One of the things I'm most excited about: looking forward to seeing what Gurple and Preen might inspire in young creators. You never know what will come out of a broken crayon.

(Psst! Pre-order your copy of Gurple and Preen here:)
Barnes & Noble

Hello, Mr. Robot!

Q: Your sweet style is a delightful mix of expressive line and bright color. Dish with us a bit about your creative process—inspiration to sketches to color artwork—and how you incorporated new photographic elements into your latest book.

A: Thank you! It took a LOT of experimentation and preliminary sketches to nail down the photography as well as the illustration style. The photography was something I had to work out on my own. I've always enjoyed photography, but I did start ramping up my photography knowledge as well as gear as I began to play around more with found object art. I had also gotten some experience creating and importing real-life textures I created with traditional media when I was illustrating Sea Monkey & Bob written by Aaron Reynolds.

I also did many, many characters sketches and rough sketches, trying to figure out what would best service Linda Sue Park's story. It helped so much to have feedback along the way from Laurent and Justin. At some point when I thought I was nearly finished, we decided that the style wasn't working and I had to pretty much start again. I was somewhat disheartened at the time BUT I knew it was the right decision.

One of my challenges was that for my regular broken crayon art, there was a blank background. With Gurple & Preen, there were lots of things in the background, from outer space to the planet/asteroid to piles of crayons, which made it a challenge in terms of layout since I wanted readers to be able to clearly see what was coming out of the crayons.

Even though I may go through difficult stages, I have found that these creative challenges are good for me in so many ways. They mean I'm stepping out of my comfort zone, learning something new. I've reached the point in my career where, if I don't feel panicked and out of my depth at some point, then I know I'm not pushing myself hard enough.

Oh, no! What are Gurple & Preen going to do?!

Q: Over the course of your career, you’ve illustrated picture books (both those you’ve written & those written by others!), chapter books and book covers. Chat with us a bit about how creating artwork for each of these types of projects is both similar and different and what must uniquely be considered for each.

A: My experience is mainly with Simon & Schuster Children's, so I can't really speak for other publishers. Here are some of the differences I've found between illustrating picture books, chapter books and book covers:

Chapter Books: I've only illustrated the interiors for some of Judy Blume's chapter books, so I'm not sure how it would work with chapter books written by an author who is not as well known. What I did: read through the books over and over (I love that I got to read Judy Blume books for WORK) and then come up with sketches for some key scenes, sent them to S&S art director Lauren Rille. Lauren would then send me a mock-up of the text layout for each book, leaving spaces for where my illustrations would go. Another difference for chapter books: the illustrations are all black and white.

Book Covers: I'm not a book designer, so I leave it up to the art director to do the design. Laurent Linn always invites me to brainstorm some rough cover ideas, and I have fun with that. He looks at my ideas as well as coming up with his own, then he'll come up with a mock-up and ask me for more polished elements. With Gurple and Preen, for example, the mockup used bits and pieces from the interiors. Once I see the mockup, then I can see what he needs from me. With the Judy Blume covers, I was part of the brainstorming process but then worked with Lauren Rille, who did the awesome cover design revamps. Just like Laurent, she asked me to send her specific elements that she could play around with in the covers.

Picture Books:
Illustrating picture books are very different from illustrating chapter books and book covers. Much more challenging in many ways but also much more satisfying as an illustrator, at least for me. Chapter books could probably be enjoyed by readers to some extent without illustrations, but picture books need illustrations. I feel much more a part of the creative collaboration when illustrating picture books.

The behind-the-scenes-MAGIC!

Q: Tell us about your typical workday as an author-illustrator—routines, rituals & practical practices. Set the scene for us, too—what does your creative workspace look & feel like?

A: My office is very full of stuff, especially these days when I'm doing a lot of live-streaming. Half of my small basement office is my desk area with shelves of books, computer monitors, lots of wires, traditional media supplies, my sewing machine, pencils and pens and lots and LOTS of crayons. The other half of my office has more shelves of books, stationery, camera gear, green screen gear, my found object photography table with large soft-box lights.

My routine tends to vary a lot, depending on what's going on, but these days I've settled into doing creative writing first thing in the morning (someday I hope to get my middle grade novels published). I try not to schedule any meetings or virtual events before 11am, though sometimes it's unavoidable.

I take a break late morning to catch up with admin, sometimes Zoom with my dad (who is in semi-lockdown at his senior home because of the pandemic), get some exercise and have lunch. In the afternoons I either do book work, admin, promo, virtual events, or sometimes all of the above. I try to avoid working in the evenings.

Since the pandemic began, I have found myself doing more and more virtual events, both work-related and personal. Like many others, I sometimes get screen fatigue! But so much has moved online now, including schools.

Realistically, I won't be able to really answer your "typical workday" question until after the pandemic is over.

Quail drama is the cutest drama!

Q: You are a self-marketing superstar! What are your best top 3 tips for fellow author-illustrators on how to promote their children’s books?

A: I don't consider myself a superstar, but thank you. I think it's more that I've been online for far longer than most people. I was using social media before the term existed. I've made a lot of mistakes along the way. Here are three things I've learned, in case it helps anyone else:

1) Rather than waiting until just before your book launches to promote, embrace the children's book community far in advance. Get to know others, share advice and info. Be generous. Be grateful. Don't think of it as a direct exchange of favors ("if I promote her book then she has to promote mine"). I think of it as sending good karma out into the world and trusting that it will come back to you in some form.

2) You need to find what works for you. You don't have to be on all social media platforms. I advise choosing one or two that you enjoy using, and focusing on those. Be authentic. If you're not, it's going to eventually catch up with you.

3) Don't get so caught up in promotion that you forget about the rest of your life. Take time to refill your well. Also, don't forget that you need to finish the work. All the great marketing and promo in the world won't help you if you don't finish creating your book.

What would you make with a broken crayon?

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Reading a good book all in one sitting. Tea and finger sandwiches with their crusts cut off. And at some point, cupcakes.

Oh, yes! Cupcakes for me, too, please! Thank you so much, Debbie, for catching up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, and congratulations on Gurple and Preen! Hooray!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mer-MAY

I know it's June, but I'm still swooning for Mer-MAY! Is there anything more summery than mermaids, the ocean and sunshine? Check out my island girl mermaids in the latest newsletter for the SCBWI Carolinas region and read the wonderful little feature about me and my book work here! Cheers!

© Jane Smith • www.superjane.com


Super Star Children's Book Review: Efrén Divided

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.



EFRÉN DIVIDED
By Ernesto Cisneros • Jacket art by Jay Bendt • Jacket Design by David DeWitt
Middle Grade (ages 8-12) • 272 pages
Published by Harper: An imprint of HarperCollins Publishers • 2020
ISBN 9780062881687

A beautiful, important book that is already making the long lists of 2020 Newbery contenders.

Efr
én’s hard-working parents can’t provide much in the way of material comforts in their tiny, studio apartment—but he and his younger twin siblings, Max and Mia, always have nutritious food, clean, pressed clothes, and abundant love. Efrén is an A-student and star athlete who has never been late to school. Up until now, his biggest problem was finding a quiet place to read.

But all that changes when his mother is caught up in an ICE raid and deported to Mexico. Now his father has to work two jobs to raise money to try and bring her back, and twelve-year-old Efrén becomes the main caretaker of his five-year-old siblings. In Ama’s absence, Efrén has to make sure they are all fed, dressed and get to and from school each day, all while dealing with the fear that his undocumented father may also become a target of ICE.

This is a heartbreaking and very timely story about what happens to a family when a parent is deported, and the new normal their American-born children must face. The writing is simple and direct, but the emotional punch is profound and lasting.

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Bookshop

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Laurie Young

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Super Star Interviews: Denise Holmes

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 pleased as pink lemonade punch to be chatting it up with one of my most favorite people EVER—children's book illustrator Denise Holmes! I've had the pleasure of being friends & illustration buddies with Denise for many years and am excited to get to share her latest children's book! (Fun fact: Denise is one of only 2 artists to be interviewed twice on Bird Meets Worm!) She is an award-winning illustrator and designer with numerous children's books, greeting cards, wall art prints and more to her credit. You can view more of her artwork here!

This look like just what the doctor ordered!
                             
Q: Your NEW gorgeous and extremely timely children’s book, Mindfulness for Little Ones, released last month! (Congratulations!!! Very exciting!) Tell us everything little thing about it—how it came to be, your working relationship with the in-house creative team and what you love best about it!

A: Thank you so much for having me back on Bird Meets Worm, Jane! Mindfulness for Little Ones is the newest book that I have worked on and I’m excited to share a little bit more info about it! On December 18th, I received an email from my agents at the Bright Agency asking if I would be interested in a new project called, Mindfulness for Little Ones. The publisher requested 2 things - to have watercolor like textures throughout the book and to have the final illustrations done by Feb 19th (super fast turnaround)!!

So, I bought a bunch of watercolor brushes for Illustrator and Procreate and then scrapped them all because I didn’t like the way any of them looked! Then I tried to create my own watercolor texture and I failed miserably. After going back into Procreate and trying every single, I finally figured out a texture that I was happy with. And that is how I ended up doing my first book project in the Procreate App!

The team at Callisto Media was amazing and so kind! It was a really fast turnaround time, so it was go go go from the start. I had weekly deadlines with the book cover, chapter openers and interior spot illustrations. Even with the fast deadline and the nervousness about my “watercolor” textures, I am so excited how the book turned out.

(Psst! You can shop Mindfulness for Little Ones here:)
Independent Bookstores

Jelly belly bear buddy!
                                       
Q: Your newest teaching endeavor, Let’s Make Picture Books, recently launched. Yay! Dish with us all about it! And what do you enjoy most about teaching?

A: This has been one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I have done! My friend Steph Fizer Coleman and I are co-creators of a new picture book community that is all about helping people develop work for their children’s picture book portfolio. We take turns each month coming up with a workbook that is based off of a theme. For example May’s theme was Best Friends. We create a workbook that has 3 exercises and 4 assignments, that will help you to create a really great portfolio piece. Each month we also create a webinar, a podcast, bonus material and a final critique all based of the theme and needs of the people in the group. It’s really an open and friendly space to be in! We share everything that we know about the industry and help those that want to be picture book illustrators!

The one thing we wanted was to not create another on-line class. So, we went into this just wanting everyone to be part of a welcoming community to share and create work - and that is what it is!

My favorite part about the group is getting to know everyone and seeing their work progress throughout the month. Every piece has been so incredible and it’s great to see everyone really push themselves to create something spectacular.

Sounds fun! Are you going to check it out?!


Q: You are the illustrator of over 17 children’s books! Very super star!!! What are your top 3 tips for illustrators translating a text to pictures?

A: I was actually just thinking about this and I do have 3 tips:

1. Get comfortable drawing characters consistently.

2. Read and look at lots of picture books to see what other people are doing and how they illustrated the text.

3. Don’t worry so much about your technique, it’s more about your ability to tell a story with your illustrations.

Hearts! Rainbows! Oy! Penny for your thoughts!

Q: Tell us about your typical workday as a freelance Illustrator—routines, rituals & practical practices. Set the scene for us, too—what does your creative workspace look & feel like?

A: Before the coronavirus, I was lucky to spend the weekdays from 9am-4pm in my studio working uninterrupted. These days, I wake up at 7am, eat breakfast, check email and get in a little workout. I get my daughter up around 8 for breakfast then she reads me a chapter from one of her chapter books. School starts at 9am for her and here is where I lucked out, my teacher husband is home and he teachers her a full day of school! While she is at “school", I get to work in my studio until lunch. After we go for a walk around the neighborhood. The afternoons usually consist of a little bit more school work. I usually pop over to the Let’s Make Picture Book membership group to make sure I have caught up on feedback for the day and then I get in an hour or so of work before I start dinner. Then evening routine is usually another neighborhood walk, exercise, and lots of reading. Once my kid goes to bed around 8, we watch TV for an hour or so and here is where I’m really exciting...I’m in bed by 10pm. I love it! I feel very lucky and grateful for everything!

Sleep, eat, walk, make art, repeat!

Q: Describe your most perfect summer vacation.

A: Three summers ago, my family and I took a summer trip to Montreal and we fell in love with the city. We are a city going vacation family and we love to just walk around with no destination in mind and eat lots of food. The afternoon requires a little nap and then some coffee. The evenings more walking and more eating! We love exploring unique neighborhoods in cities, going out to eat and looking for unique art and Montreal was the perfect place for that! I’d go back in a heartbeat!

Thanks so much for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm, Denise! Hang in there! #stayhomeandread



Friday, May 22, 2020

Hello New House Picture Book Trailer


I'm absolutely thrilled to pieces to share the book trailer for HELLO NEW HOUSE, my new picture book releasing in October 2020 with publisher Albert Whitman & Company!!! Pre-order today at your favorite bookstore! XO


Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: The Girl Who Speaks Bear

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.

                          


THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR
Written by Sophie Anderson
Middle Grade (ages 8-12) • 304 pages
Published by Scholastic Press • 2020
ISBN: 9781338580839


Twelve-year-old Yanka is frightened by the disturbing changes she’s experiencing. Always a bit strange, and seen as an outsider in her small Russian village, she has grown freakishly large almost overnight. She’s even convinced that birds are talking to her! Yanka keeps her fears locked inside, not even confiding in her best friend, Sasha, or her loving foster mother, Mamochka.

After being injured in an accident during the winter festival, Yanka wakens to a nightmare world where she is no longer completely herself. She can’t help thinking that her present troubles are rooted in her strange past. She knows the answers to her problems lie buried deep in the Snow Forest and despite Mamochka’s warnings, she must venture into the wild in search of her true self.

Along the way she encounters a rich cast of characters who help in her battle to learn the truth about her origins. Yanka’s adventure turns into an epic quest that tests her strength, her beliefs and her ideas of family.

Sophie Anderson has written a wonderful, engaging fairy tale filled with magic and whimsy, laced with profound truths about acceptance, embracing our true selves, and the everlasting importance of family and friendships.

Buy this book:



Reviewed by: Joan Charles

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Read, Dream, Share: Celebrate Children's Book Week

Celebrate Children's Book Week with Chloe Zoe, Mary Margaret, George & their families!
Read together & enjoy free, printable Chloe Zoe activity pages available here!


Super Star Interviews: Sam Wedelich

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 tickled spring sun-shiny yellow to be chatting it up with cartoonist/illustrator/designer Sam Wedelich! Sam's fabulously stylish and very relevant debut picture book, which she wrote & illustrated, is releasing next month and we are talking all about it! Sam enjoys painting, drawing, reading, knitting, sewing, biking, dancing and seeking beauty, while raising two kids with her husband in the Bronx, New York. You can view more of her artwork hereAnd you can follow her on Instagram here!


Ooo! Chicken Little is the cutest!

Q: Your brand NEW picture book, Chicken Little: The Real & Totally True Tale, releases next month in June! (Congratulations! That’s VERY super star!) Give us the full scoop on this title: how you came to be writing & illustrating it, your working relationship with your publisher & your process for creating the project.

A: I am the luckiest person, in that I got this opportunity, when a different project fell through and my editor and art director at Scholastic still wanted to work together! They gave me a chance to take on an author/illustrator project and Chicken Little was born! We had a great brainstorm session and talked a lot about retelling classic tales...Chicken Little felt ripe for a freshen-up.

In a world of fast-paced news cycles, opinions-presented-as-truth and fear, it felt so current...and that’s just thinking about the grown-ups! For kids, it’s a classic tale about fear, panic and rumor...and teaches an important lesson about pausing and gathering information before reacting. Add a dash of humor to keep it fun and fast moving, and you get a rollicking barnyard romp with important themes at the core.


(Psst! You can shop Chicken Little: The Real & Totally True Tale here & here:)


Ahh, the mind of a creative! I recommend drawing more of Chicken Little! ;D

Q: I absolutely love your expressive, graphic art style and dynamic hand-lettering! Dish with us a bit about your creative influences & inspirations: the who/what/where.

A: Thank you! I’ve been drawing and doodling for years, often in times/places when I really shouldn’t have. I love mid-century illustration so much. Advertisements, Better Homes and Garden Guides, the sketches and storyboarding of Disney greats like Mary Blair and Eyvind Earle. I love the color and shape play of Alexander Girard. The line work of Ben Shahn has always captivated me. Oh, and Barry McGee. As a kid, I always had a Calvin and Hobbes on hand.

I’m also crazy lucky to live in NYC. When it’s not on shutdown with a global pandemic, it’s a literal gold-mine of inspiration—from street art to museums there’s always something to get the juices flowing.

Oh, no! That's gotta hurt! Poor Chicken Little!

Q: As a cartoonist, author-illustrator and window display designer, you’ve worked on a wide variety of unique and exciting projects! Chat with us a bit about your MOST favorite creative projects: one from the past and one from the present.

A: Opening the flagship Free People store in Rockefeller Center was a huge personal accomplishment. I worked with a design team at our home office, and spent months preparing displays for every aspect of the store, from large-scale installation pieces that had that WOW-factor to intimate signage that had a bespoke feel.

More recently, working on the Chicken Little books (YES, there’s another title coming in 2021!) has been an incredible journey and artistic challenge. I’ve combined skills from various parts of my life and gained new skills in learning the picture book form. Perhaps the MOST fun part was getting to be funny—something I’d kept on a back burner vocationally.

Any guesses? You'll have to read it to find out!

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

A: Well, everything is a bit topsy-turvy right now, as I’m sure everyone reading this can relate to. I have two young children and a husband working from home. We are on day 50 of staying in our apartment to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus.


My current routine involves getting up before everyone to have a few minutes to myself to journal/draw. (Big fan of Julia Cameron’s daily artist pages!) After that, I help my children with remote learning. On good days, we are done with school before lunch and they have free time in the afternoon, when I get to work. Sometimes, I can tackle odds and ends between school things in the morning, but I save anything that needs a deep-dive for this afternoon time.

Lastly, I try and sweat almost daily. Before quarantine, I walked a LOT and movement is a big part of my mental health balance. If I’m feeling foggy, a workout of some sort usually helps.

Ooo! This is where is magic happens!

Q: To celebrate Chicken Little, you’ve made activity pages and videos available on your new site to engage & entertain all of Chicken Little’s new friends sheltering at home. Tell us all about them! And what overriding message during these unusual times would you like to send out to kids and their families?

A: I wanted to find a way to introduce Chicken Little to everyone while we are stuck inside, so I thought some different types of activities would help. I was thankful to be invited to do a read aloud and branched out from there! I added some “how-to” drawing videos and a “feelings check” activity sheet.

Chicken Little experiences a range of emotions in the book and offering kids (and grown ups!) a chance to do a feelings check activity felt like the perfect play on parts of the book, while providing a platform for families to share how they’re coping and feeling in this unprecedented time of global pandemic.

Aww! You're welcome! Yay!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Ah… well, I’d start by sleeping in a bit and then a good breakfast with my family. We’d do something fun outdoors, like the Zoo or Botanical Gardens. After that, I’d have some alone time in my studio to work. In the evening, I’d get to sing gospel music at the Episcopal church I attend with my family in NYC. When we got home, we’d order food from one of our favorite restaurants and tuck in for the night.


Thanks so much, Sam, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm!! Congrats on your fabulous new book! Hooray!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Hello, New House: Pre-Order

I'm absolutely thrilled to share that my NEW picture with publisher Albert Whitman & Company, HELLO, NEW HOUSE, is now available for pre-order from your favorite bookstores:




Saturday, April 11, 2020

Shooting Heart

It's a shooting heart—make a wish! • © Jane Smith

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Future President

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.



FUTURE PRESIDENT
Written By Lori Alexander • Illustrated by Allison Black
Board Book (ages 0-3) • 20 pages
Published by Scholastic • 2020
ISBN 978-1-338-31224-9


The latest title in the Future Careers board book series, Future President, is a playful first look at the powerful career of being President of the United States. A surprisingly timely board book, Future President compares the life and behavior of baby to that of the President with delightful insight. By the end, it is easy to see that every baby has the foundational skills to get the job done.

Black’s artwork is a win with a presidential palette of red, blue and gold. The bright, clean, graphic images are an easy read for babies and the pleasingly modern design will attract parents. The artwork also features a wonderfully diverse cast of varying babies and Presidents that will allow anyone to see themselves in the Oval Office.

Additional bonus: a final non-fiction spread full of fun facts that are beautifully illustrated and easy to digest.

Let start the year off right—vote for Future President!

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Rainbow Hello from Me to You

©Jane Smith • A Rainbow Hello from Me to You

Super Star Interviews: Eunice & Sabrina Moyle of Hello!Lucky

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 pleased as pink lemonade punch to be chatting it up with the talented dynamic duo, Eunice & Sabrina Moyle of the award-winning design studio, Hello!Lucky! I’m a big, long-time fan of their of bright, bold designs and cheerful aesthetic! The sister team produced their first collection of letterpress-printed greeting cards in 2003. Since then, they have expanded to design bedding, ceramics, socks, stationery, custom photo albums, bestselling children's books and more. Eunice lives in France, and Sabrina lives in San Francisco. You can view more of their artwork here.

The dynamic sister duo!

Q: Your two brand NEW, fabulously bright & funny board books, ABC Dance! and Good Night, Baboon!, just released this Spring from Workman Publishing! Congratulations! Give us the full scoop on these new titles—including how they came to be & your process for creating them.

A: Thank you so much! We are super excited about these titles. ABC Dance! is a fun, rhyming romp through the alphabet featuring a dazzling array of dancing animals. Goodnight, Baboon! is a light-hearted and silly countdown to sleep in which a cheeky little baboon wants to do everything BUT go to sleep; the book counts down from 10 big baboons to 1 big hug!

The original idea for these two titles came from our editor at Workman Publishing, Traci Todd. She felt like there was a need in the marketplace for a countdown to sleep book, as well as a fresh alphabet book. We loved her ideas and dove right in!

For our ABC book, we decided it would be funny to show animals engaged in over-the-top activities, and eventually landed on dance as a unifying focus, because it could build from aardvarks arriving to a full-on dance party! Sabrina wrote the manuscript and consulted with Eunice on which animals would be most fun and funny to illustrate. Then, Eunice went to town on the illustrations!

We first imagined Goodnight, Baboon! as a story about magical creatures dreamily counting down to sleep. As we wrote, though, we realized that it just wasn’t funny! So we went back to the drawing board with a focus on humor and arrived at Goodnight, Baboon!

NEW board book super stars!

Q: Your gorgeous work— ABC Dance! and Good Night, Baboon! included—is consistently characterized by 1) amazing color, 2) humor and 3) delightful character design. Dish with us about each of these distinctive characteristics and how you develop them in your work.

A: Aw, thanks for your kind words! We agree that these are three elements that are very important to us. We think that humor is the number-one way to connect with kids, so we always lead with that. We also love bright, on-trend colors to make them appealing to both kids and adults and to further amplify our positive messages and humor.

The character designs are inspired by our own kids, our memories from childhood, and the comic genius of illustrators like Bill Watterson of Calvin & Hobbes and writers like Roald Dahl and David Walliams. Typically, we start with a funny setup. Then, we imagine the characters’ personalities, and Eunice brings them to life in specific comic scenarios with her signature flair. She sometimes starts by doing online research for poses and expressions, but once she sketches a character, it takes on a life of its own!

Go, Gorillas! Go, Gorillas! Work it, Hedgehogs!

Q: You are a unique sister team, collaborating on a wide variety of projects from books to greeting cards to gift products under your studio name of Hello!Lucky. Tell us a bit about both the challenges and rewards of being in business together.

A: We love working together! We feel lucky to have such complementary skills and a lifetime of shared experiences. We can often read each other’s minds and see the world in the same way. This makes it incredibly easy and efficient to collaborate—this year alone, we are publishing seven books!

In terms of challenges, early on in the life of our business, we both had to grow out of our traditional sibling roles. For example, Eunice realized that in addition to being an artist, she could be a savvy business person. Sabrina realized that in addition to being a business person, she could be an art director and writer. Any fixed roles we used to play as sisters have been completely transformed by 17 years of running a creative business together!

Seven bright, bold & hilarious books to enjoy!

Q: As sisters, you grew up together in Asia and now live in San Francisco. How have each of these distinct places influenced and shaped your artwork and business?

A: Asia—especially Taiwanese and Japanese pop culture and exaggerated and silly Chinese humor—definitely influenced our cute yet absurd and funny aesthetic. Growing up outside of the US, we also idolized American 80's pop culture—hence our love of neon! Our humor comes in large part from our Midwestern Dad, who is very dry and funny, as well as the many absurd situations, misunderstandings, and faux-pas that often came with living in a cross-cultural environment. 
We also grew up in very international communities and traveled all over the world, so we have a wide range of influences—we especially appreciate British humor and Eunice became a Francophile early on and takes a lot of inspiration from French design and fashion. 

Living in San Francisco for the past 20 years, we’ve been influenced by the hipster culture and trends here—minimalism, hand-lettering and hand-drawn illustrations, pastels and neons, and European influences. 

Sweet dreams! Sleep tight! Don't let the bedbugs bite!

Q: Service as both action and product is a meaningful part of your business. Dish with us about what you are doing now and what aspirations you have for this side of Hello!Lucky.


Currently, in response to COVID-19, we’ve been using Instagram to disseminate PSAs and to read nightly bedtime stories (7:30pm PST for anyone who is interested) on our Instagram story to help give parents a break and help keep kids entertained. We’re also doing a spoof of ABC Dance! called ABC Distance!, in which we are writing and illustrating ABCs in quarantine times with our online community to help us all find humor and connection in this extremely challenging time. 
We’ve also been offering free printables inspired by our books as a resource for parents. Finally, we’ve teamed up with other small businesses to create Together (Apart), a small-business alliance of businesses supporting businesses, giving customers 20% off and giving 5% to Feeding America.

Our future aspirations are to continue to inspire people through our children’s books, greeting cards, and products and to use our writing and design skills to amplify social messages and causes we believe in. We hope to continue our collaboration with Boon Supply, which offers family-friendly products that give back 40% to the charity of your choice—our current products include Family Conversation Cards and a Chore Chart that encourages financial responsibility, kindness, giving to charity—both are useful while staying at home! We also hope to inspire and support kids and families through the children’s TV show we are developing with The Jim Henson Company, called Hello Magic!

Cutie pie chameleons!

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: Eunice—Baking or cooking a leisurely meal, working on a craft or sewing project, and going for a walk with my kids.

Sabrina—Sitting by a pool reading a great book or writing in my journal, while my kids swim and play, while sipping a cool drink and eating chips and salsa. And, a long afternoon nap!

Thank you SO much, Eunice & Sabrina, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We think you two are rock stars!

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Sing with Me / Canta conmigo

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.



SING WITH ME / CANTA CONMIGO: SIX CLASSIC SONGS IN ENGLISH AND SPANISH
By José-Luis Orozco • Illustrated by Sara Palacios
Picture Book (ages 4-8 years) • 32 pages
Published by Scholastic Press • 2020
ISBN 978-1-338-12118-6



Sing With Me / Canta Conmigo, is a delightful collection of classic children’s songs in both Spanish and English. The six featured songs, including such favorites as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald,” and “Wheels on the Bus,” are introduced through a light-handed narrative as the main characters move throughout their day. Children will delight in the side-by-side translations, seeing “Old MacDonald” translated to “Juancho Pancho” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to “Estrellita”. Parents and children alike will enjoy singing, dancing and playing along on this musical adventure.

Illustrator Sara Palacios’s artwork is bright and vibrant. Each page is filled with the rich diversity that makes up America today. The pictures reveal the imagery in the songs with a contemporary feel.

Orozco wisely points out in the Author’s Note that “recent studies on the brain have discovered the benefits of using two or more languages and the importance of music in the intellectual development of children.” Sing With Me / Canta Conmigo is a book in service to this dual goal of bilingual and musical education. It will be a welcome addition to any school or home library!


Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Sarah Orgill

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Late Valentines & Interview Break

It's been a busy month over here at Bird Meets Worm, and therefore, we're taking a little break from our interview feature for the month of March. But don't worry! We have some FABULOUS artists lined up for April and May this spring—you won't want to miss it! In the meantime, here's a little late valentine from Kangaroo and her joey! XO

Happy Valentine's Day from Kangaroo & her joey! • © Jane Smith

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Spy On History


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.





A SPY ON HISTORY BOOK SERIES:

Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring
Written by Enigma Alberti • Illustrated by Tony Cliff

ISBN 978-1-523-50771-9

Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring
Written by Enigma Alberti • Illustrated by Laura Terry
ISBN 978-1-523-50216-5

Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army
Written by Enigma Alberti • Illustrated by Scott Wegener
ISBN 978-1-523-50770-2
Middle Grade (ages 8-14) • 96 pages
Workman Publishing Company • 2017-2019



A former slave rewrites documents from memory to pass to the North, while working undercover as a maid for the Confederate President in Virginia.

A wife and mother sends signals to the Patriots, enabling them to get messages safely to General Washington, right under the noses of the British redcoats.

An artist helps create elaborate and convincing illusions to fool the German army into thinking the Allied forces are larger and closer than they actually are.

If you’ve ever wondered whether one person can truly make a difference, these riveting, true-life stories will keep you turning the pages to find out how each brave hero risked their life to spy for the winning side in the Civil War, Revolutionary War and World War II.

Mary Bowser was taught to read and write by the owner who freed her. When she is asked to spy on President Davis while working as a maid in his home, she agrees in order to help the North win and put an end to slavery. Using her photographic memory, her quick thinking, and her ability to sew, Mary helped change the course of the Civil War, assuring the North’s victory.

Anna Strong hated the presence of British soldiers occupying her small Long Island town. When her husband is taken prisoner under false charges, she welcomes the opportunity to spy for the Patriots by signaling them when a message is ready to be smuggled to George Washington’s army. Anna’s cleverness helped turn the tide and gave Washington the advantage he needed to push back the British and win the Revolutionary War.

Victor Dowd was recruited to be part of an elite crew of artists, sound effect engineers and actors to form the “Ghost Army,” a top-secret project designed to create a highly detailed illusion that fooled the German army. Through careful artistic renderings of each actual unit’s specific characteristics, they utilized graphics, sound effects, wire signals, and inflatable tanks and artillery in order to spy on the Germans and trick them into believing that the Allied forces were a more immediate threat than they actually were. Victor’s artwork helped give cover to the Allies so they could advance and win World War II.

Additionally, these interactive stories come with clues and tools to help amateur sleuths solve the mystery of how they did it. Included in each book is a cipher wheel to decode encrypted messages, red acetate to reveal hidden clues in the text, a map to follow the action and a vellum sheet with cutouts exposing just the right words to complete a secret message. There’s also an answer key to check your work, a historical note from the author and a bibliography to encourage further reading.

This series is not just for kids interested in history, but anyone who loves a good mystery and wants to try their hand at being a spy!


Buy this book: