Wednesday, June 10, 2020


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 •

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.

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.

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


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