Adorable Guinea Pig Chooses Book Winner

Inspired by Cynthia Lord, whose sweet guinea pig Cookie selects her book giveaway winners, we proudly present the results for Maria Gianferrari’s debut picture book giveaway Penny & Jelly: The School Show as chosen by Storm!

Names were written on slips of paper and mixed in a bowl.
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Storm faced his options…
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And after bring fortified with a basil leaf…
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nibbled selected the lucky winner!
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Congratulations Lisa Robinson!

2015 July D 054Please forward your mailing address to and a brand, spanking, sparkling new copy of Penny & Jelly: The School Show will be mailed to you!

Thank you everyone for your comments sharing your terrific school show talent ideas.

Congratulations again Maria!

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Meet PENNY & JELLY, and Maria Gianferrari too!

penny-jellycover_lresI am thrilled to welcome Maria Gianferrari to Bildebok as her charming debut picture book Penny & Jelly: The School Show  illustrated by Thyra Heder  launches into the world!

Amazon* raves about Maria’s adorable debut: This young and funny picture book introduces the soon-to-be star of her school talent show: Penny. Despite her desire to knock everyone’s socks off, Penny’s having a tough time deciding on what talent she might have.  Readers of Pinkalicious and Ladybug Girl will swoon over the talent of Penny & Jelly.  *Don’t miss the sneak peek at this Amazon link showing Thyra’s fascinating creative process for illustrating Penny & Jelly!

Kirkus says, Penny and Jelly are sure to warm the hearts of both future talent-show contestants and readers who have similarly close canine friends.

Through email, Maria and I discovered that we grew up less than thirty miles apart from one another! We had fun imagining all the spots where we might have met once upon a time in rural New England.  Since Maria describes herself as a list-maker just like her character Penny,  I dreamed up a few list-related questions for this talented, creative and prolific author.

Think back to when you were six years old. Imagine you are planning your birthday party. What three games are we going to play?

1. Hide & Seek
2. Clue
3. Sorry

Maria got a nifty pair of binoculars as a birthday gift! What three things will she go outside and look for?

1. Birds
2. Birds
3. Birds (I’m a complete bird nerd). But if I have to pick a different one, it would be the moon.

Your website features two clever animated scrolls detailing your likes and dislikes. That’s how I discovered that we both love nocciola gelato! Can you share three of your favorite snacks to munch while writing?

1. Not really a snack, but a huge mug of hot tea. My favorite is a tea that I buy in Germany, Nizze Sahne Tee (Cream tea from Nice—it’s an aromatic black tea).
2. Lime chips with guacamole (but I need a few napkins for this one!)
3. Almonds & craisins

Let’s pretend you’ve finished the book launches and promotions for your first three books. Now it’s time to unwind and rejuvenate your writing soul. Name three places that you would like to go on vacation.

1. To Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Finland to stay in a glass igloo and watch auroras
2. Australia to explore its cool flora, fauna and the Great Barrier Reef (but not swim with sharks)
3. To the Galapagos Islands to see Darwin’s finches, among other unusual creatures

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Author photo courtesy of Monogram Arts

Repped by Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency.

Look for many more books from Maria titles being released in 2016 and 2017, including:

Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars, illustrated by Thyra Heder (HMH Books for Young Readers/June 2016)
• Coyote Moon, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline (Roaring Brook Press/July 2016)
• Officer Katz & Houndini: A Tale of Two Tails, illustrated by Danny Chatzikonstantinou (Aladdin Books for Young Readers/October 2016)
• Hello Goodbye Dog, illustrated by Patrice Barton (Roaring Brook Press/winter 2017)
• Highway Hawks, illustrated by Brian Floca (Roaring Brook Press/summer 2017)
• Terrific Tongues (Boyds Mills Press—illustrator & release date to be determined)

My daughter and I were so excited to attend Maria’s book launch party at the Toadstool Bookshop in Keene NH on Saturday morning.  Surrounded by family, friends and lots of eager young readers the Toadstool SOLD OUT of Maria’s books! Here is a photo from the long line for inscribed copies of Penny & Jelly, and a fun photo booth shot that Maria and I took together. Flamingo sunglasses, a palette, boa and tutu!

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To enter a drawing for your very own copy of Penny & Jelly: The School Show, leave a comment with your name and the talent that you would perform in your school show. The lucky winner’s name will be pulled from a hat and announced here in two weeks.

If you have missed any stops on the Penny & Jelly blog tour, please visit these amazing kid lit sites:

June 26th: Kidlit411/Sylvia Liu & Elaine Kiely Kearns

 June 29th: Miss Marple’s Musings/Joanna Marple

June 30th: Pragmatic Mom/Mia Wenjen

 July 1st: Watch Connect Read/Mr. Schu

July 2nd: Kidlitfrenzy/Alyson Beecher

July 3rd: Writing for Kids While Raising Them/Tara Lazar

 July 6th – Friday, July 10th: Emu’s Debuts virtual book week launch

July 14th: HMH Picture Book Parade


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“Timely” Post at Laura Sassi Tales

2015 June 009 (7)I am thrilled to be a guest blogger today at one of my favorite blogs, Laura Sassi Tales. Follow the link below for some thoughts on the power of patience from Jennifer Roberts and John Singleton Copley!

Link: Laura Sassi Tales


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Pondering Picture Book Re-Readability

refoBook challenges – as a rule I cannot resist them!

March featured a spectacular event called ReFoRevMo, the brain-child of Carrie Charley Brown.

Carrie was inspired to start ReFoReMo, the Reading for Research Month Challenge, to help picture book writers enrich and reform their writing by reading and researching mentor texts, both fiction and nonfiction.

Every  jam-packed expert post had me jotting notes and adding more titles to my maxed out library reserve list. A terrific post on re-readability from Susanna Leonard Hill really stuck in my brain. It was filled with “truthiness” about the magical qualities that cause certain books to stand out and become cherished favorites. As Susanna noted, that intangible factor that is different for every writer, every story, and every reader. 

Well worn personal copy of The Bundle Book

Well worn personal copy of The Bundle Book

But why do we choose to re-read certain books? When I was little, my mother insisted that my favorite title was The Bundle Book by Ruth Krauss. I asked her to read it over and over, but did that mean it was my favorite? No! I just didn’t “get” the story. I was worried about the mystified mother who did not recognize that the “bundle” in the bed was obviously her own child. I continued to ask for re-readings, hoping eventually I’d figure out what it was all about.

Thankfully, it is much easier to identify the reasons I choose to re-read books today. Susanna’s excellent post names them all! Today when I close the cover of a picture book, I stop and think:

 What was my favorite line?
What was my favorite image?

With some books the answers leap forward. They persist long after my last re-reading. For example:

Favorite Line  From Sophie’s Squash: “We did hope she would love vegetables.”
Favorite Image The cover of Wolfie the Bunny


Image courtesy of Schwartz & Wade



Image courtesy of Hachette







And sometimes my favorite line and illustration are paired together.

From Sparky: “I reached over and tagged him on his claw. You’re it, Sparky,” I said. And for a long, long time he was.”

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Image from personal copy of “Sparky!”

I’d love to hear what some of your favorite picture book  lines and images are.

And just for fun, here’s a link to a recent Kirkus  article called Picture Books Parents Will Actually Want to Read Over and Over.

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PPBF: Over and Under the Snow


Image courtesy of Chronicle Bks

 Over and Under the Snow

Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Chronicle Books, $16.99,  Ages 4 and up

Do you think you know all about snow?  In New England this winter we have certainly had many, many opportunities to watch the fine flakes fall, to slide and glide, to shovel and plow. But I guarantee that even if you feel a little weary of the ice and cold, Kate Messner’s delightful book Over and Under the Snow will restore your appreciation for the magic that takes place in nature’s secret subnivean kingdom.

A girl enjoying a day of cross-country skiing with her father narrates the story, describing where she goes and what she sees.  “Over the snow I glide.  Into woods, frosted fresh and white.  Over the snow, a flash of fur – a red squirrel disappears down a crack. ‘Where did he go?’ ‘Under the snow,’ Dad says.

As they proceed through the woods, they discover many signs of animal life, lyrically described and simply outlined. Beautiful pale blue, brown and icy gray illustrations reveal tunnels and caves below the snow surface.  Messner’s menagerie includes shrews, snow hares, bullfrogs, bears and even bumblebees, all munching, scratching, snoring or snoozing above and below the snow.  An informative author’s note profiles each animal in depth, and gives additional information about their homes, diets and behavior.

Neal’s minimalist illustrations are simple in tone and slightly retro in feel. The quality of this book is enhanced by its thick unvarnished paper, offering a satisfying heft to the feel and turn of each page.  The final image features animal constellations gleaming in the cold night sky while our heroine curls up in her snug warm bed, tying it all cozily and perfectly together.

Follow animal tracks in the snow, or mud!
Try cross country skiing on a sunny snowy day.
Bundle up and look at the stars on a cold winter night.

Image courtesy Chronicle Bks

Image courtesy Chronicle Bks

In the mood for a warmer, greener tale? Messner and Neal have just released the springy sequel Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (Chronicle Books, March 3, 2015)

I can’t wait to dig into this new book, and into the dirt!

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

Portions of this review first appeared in North Shore Children & Families, March 2015. Read your issue online here.

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Put Your Characters in the Zone!

Image from Kuypers: The Zones of Regulation

Image from Kuypers: The Zones of Regulation

From time to time, our local school district offers an evening presentation for parents to keep us informed about the things our children are learning in the classroom.

Our last meeting focused on The Zones of Regulation, a behavioral awareness curriculum designed by Leah Kuypers, an occupational therapist and autism specialist.

The program is intended to help children recognize how variable states of alertness may impact their behaviors, and teach them skills to promote self-control and problem solving abilities.

Sound like a mouthful? I’ll translate.

Recognize anger, elation, or terror? Those out-of-control states describe people in the Red Zone.

Frustrated, anxious, excited and silly feelings run rampant in the Yellow Zone.

In the Green Zone, people are likely to be happy, focused, content and ready to learn.

If you are sad, tired, sick or bored, you are in the Blue Zone.

While life in the Green Zone is ideal, in reality we all fluctuate between these states for various reasons and for variable amounts of time each day. Finding suitable strategies to keep green for as often and as long as possible is the name of the game.

What does any of this have to do with writing? As I listened to the presentation, I found myself  in a Blue Zone mood – it was late, the room was warm, and the pasta I had eaten for dinner was lulling me into daydreams. I began thinking about my picture book characters, and how I could ensure they were zipping from zone to zone in my stories, just like a “real” kid.

Let’s look at the way one pro has done it:

Pigeon in the Red Zone

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Pigeon in the Yellow Zone

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Pigeon in the Green Zone

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Pigeon in the Blue Zone

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Images from Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Disney-Hyperion, 2003)

Next time you are writing or revising your picture books, try thinking about your character’s zone, and whether the words and images you’ve chosen will ring true throughout a range of physical and emotional states. I’m no expert at actually managing my own zone awareness, but teaching little ones how to practice self- awareness and self control is definitely au courant. Check it out – even Cookie Monster is on board with the trend in his latest video!

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PPBF: Penguin and Pinecone

Penguin and Pinecone
Written and illustrated by Salina Yoon
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, $12.99, Ages 3 and up penguinBrief Synopsis: When a tiny penguin in a vast snowy flatland discovers an unfamiliar object, he investigates it thoroughly.  It is too brown to be a snowball, too crunchy to be food, and too prickly to be an egg.  When it shivers and utters “Brrr!” the tenderhearted Penguin quickly knits up a cozy orange scarf just like his own to keep his new friend warm.

Penguin and Pinecone become the best of friends, sledding (“Whoosh!”) and playing (“Wheee!”) and swimming (“Achoo!”).  The sneeze worries Penguin. Is Pinecone sick? When Penguin learns that his bristly buddy belongs in a forest, they embark on an journey to bring Pinecone home.  Penguin builds a soft pine needle nest for his friend, encircles him in a heart-shaped ring of stones, and spells out a special message in branches before saying goodbye.

As the years pass, Penguin thinks of Pinecone often, wondering if his friend has indeed grown big and strong.  In my favorite passage from the book, Penguin imagines being engulfed in the strong embrace of an enormous, larger than life Pinecone.

Yoon’s illustrations are thickly outlined yet crisp, and her simple but deep color palette works beautifully.  A nice mix of single plane, double spread and montage images pace the storyline perfectly through an interesting mix of perspectives. I especially love a full page spread of a  scarf-swathed pinecone,  as contrasted with a tiny Penguin approaching the large evergreen forest. Best of all, the simple yet precise text rings true with child-like emotion.  “Penguin and Pinecone may have been far apart, but they always stayed in each other’s hearts.”

Links To Resources:
Make an origami penguin

Try this fun penguin balloon craft

Stage a penguin and pinecone puppet show after creating paper bag penguin puppets

Don’t miss Joanna Marple’s marvelous interview with Salina Yoon here

Perfect Picture Book Fridays are the creation of the children’s book author Susanna Leonard Hill. Susanna maintains a complete list (alphabetically and by theme) of all reviews with new books being added every Friday. It’s a wonderful resource if you’re looking for book activities or books with a particular theme.

Portions of this review first appeared in the February 2015 issue of North Shore Children & Families. Read your copy online here!

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