Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Back-to-School Playground

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fun-filled school year! • © Jane Smith


Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Super Star Children's Book Reviews: Lala's Words

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 L. 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.


Written & Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
Picture Book (ages 4-8) • 32 pages
Published by Orchard Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. • 2021
ISBN: 978-1-338-64823-2

Lala is a bright, compassionate little girl rendered in vivid, sunshine yellow. Her favorite way to spend the day is among the lush, green plants in her special neighborhood hideaway. Lala nurtures her plant friends with water, attention and words of love and encouragement. And even when a heatwave in the city keeps her home and away from her plant friends, Lala still manages to speak them across the cityscape.

Zhang’s limited palette of yellow and green pops off the expressive black and white ink drawings, brightly drawing the reader’s attention to Lala, her plant friends and the way the city is transformed by their lively presence.

Lala’s Words is an enchanting picture book about the power of the words we speak to each other, and how, when they are kind, loving and caring, they can inspire growth—even growth that we never before would have imagined possible!

Buy this book:

Barnes & Noble

Bird Meets Worm Bookshop

Independent Bookstores

Reviewed by: Jane Smith

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Super Star Interviews: Michelle Romo

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 cupcake sprinkle pink to be chatting it up with the rockstar illustrator Michelle Romo! I'm a huge fan girl for Michelle's quirky characters and happy designs! Michelle is an illustrator and product designer who has designed under the name Crowded Teeth for the past 15 years. Crowded Teeth has had ongoing success in creating children’s products with Crate&Kids, Petit Monkey and FAO Schwarz. Inspired by the need to make somebody’s favorite something, Michelle is on an endless pursuit of drawing blobs with faces, cats in sweaters and monsters who would really like to hug you. Michelle is based in Chicago, Illinois. You can view more of her fun artwork here.

How totally adorbs are these two?!

Q: Your two brand NEW, fabulously bright & bold die-cut board books, Good Night, Spencer and Spencer Loves You, just released this summer with Workman Publishing, launching a new series! Congratulations! Chat with us about these adorable new titles—including how they came to be & your process for creating them.

A: Thank you! Spencer has been an idea in my head for a while now. I originally came up with him back in 2014 when I was first thinking of book ideas. I wanted to make a book with a cat as the main character because I'm obsessed with kitties. Nothing happened with Spencer for a few years, and then in 2017 a shaped book idea came from my editor. I thought Spencer would be perfect for that! Here we are today with the first 2 books in the series launched, and 2 more in the works!!

(Psst! You can order your own copy of the adorable Spencer books here:)

Can I come to the dance party, too?!

Q: Your incredibly happy artwork—Good Night Spencer and Spencer Loves You included—is consistently characterized by 1) bold, graphic design, 2) humor and 3) quirky character design. Dish with us about each of these distinctive characteristics and how you develop them in your work.

A: I think the graphic look comes from me being a product and graphic designer for many years. Overall my illustration style has been influenced by 80's and 90's kawaii and anime cuteness (think Hello Kitty and Sailor Moon), and mid century modern design (everyone's fave: Mary Blair!). My work has always been really color driven so that's an important part of the process too. I think of my art as blobs that are a delivery system for a palette that makes you feel nice things.

The humor comes from me just being a total weirdo. I like to sneak funny details in - not that I'm trying to pull a fast one on anybody - but more that I like when I find little details and jokes in other people's work so I want people to have that experience with my work too.

Character design has been something I've loved doing for almost 20 years now. When I was a teenager and just starting to learn how to design I was really into Paul Frank and Sanrio. I wanted to make characters that people could connect with. I've always wanted to make someone's favorite something.

Spencer's stories are the purr-fect bedtime stories!

Q: Your artwork appears on a wide range of fabulous products from children’s books to toys to bedding & home d├ęcor products to fine art to clothing & accessories. How do you adapt to the varied challenges and unique demands of such a wide variety of client needs?

A: I've been a product designer for 18 years now and I've worked with a lot of licensed artwork. I started in juniors accessories and apparel, then moved over kids home decor and toys, and now I'm doing craft kits! I like to take varied freelance projects (illustration for magazines, product design for products I've never developed before) so that I can figure out how to apply art to new things.

For example—if I've been given a limitation by a client (price, size, etc.) it becomes my job to figure out the best and coolest way to construct the product with that limitation. That becomes a fun problem to solve! I think the practice of that in my day job has made me more adaptable with my own work. There's definitely a balance of not losing the integrity of what your artwork is and being adaptable though!

Sibling playdates are the best! Yay!

Q: Give us the scoop on your MOST favorite illustration project: one from the past and one from the present.

A: My most favorite present illustration project is Spencer! I just wrapped up the fourth book and the whole series has been super fun to work on. I actually cried when I saw the first physical samples. It's just a surreal thing to be working on something for so long and see it as a real thing.

A past fave was a spread I did for Kazoo Magazine. I got to do a fantastical "I spy" page for their magazine and it was super fun and turned out awesome.

The rockstar herself: Michelle!

Q: What is a typical workday in the studio like for you? Set the scene (workspace, materials, accessories) and describe your creative flow (rituals, inspiration, process).

A: Every day starts out as being a servant to my cats! I do whatever they need first and then I sit at my computer and get to work. I have a full time gig being a product designer for Kid Made Modern so during the week that's how I start my day. On my off days when I work on my own projects it still starts with tending to cats, and then it can be sketching in my sketchbook, working through an illustration, or researching what new product I want to make, or artist or brand I might want to collaborate with!

I used to work myself endlessly, but over the past few years I feel like I've slowed down. There are days that I think that's a good thing and days that I think it's a bad thing, but ultimately I think rest is good and I take naps as often as I can.

Q: Describe your most perfect Sunday.

A: My most perfect Sunday involves watching good/bad movies with my fella, hanging out with my cats, and eating something delightful. I'm an easy going lady.

Thank you so much, Michelle, for chatting it up with us here at Bird Meets Worm! We love Spencer—he's the cutest! Hooray!

Artwork excerpted from Good Night, Spencer and Spencer Loves You by Michelle Romo (Workman) © 2021.