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USA Election – The Graphic Novel

9 Nov

This is the United States of America:


This was the USA during the presidential campaign:

51518137 - broken heart icon. flat design vector illustration with long shadow. happy valentine day and love symbol.

This is the USA today:

52854194 - broken red heart isolated on white background

This is my dream for the USA:

To get there, this needs to happen:

And then we’ve got to stop doing this:

And start doing this:


Parts and Even More Parts – Perfect Picture Book Friday

22 Apr

So you’re looking for a couple of books from a brilliant author/illustrator? Ones that will make kids say “ewwww” page after page, all while laughing uproariously? Ones that kids will want to read again and again and again because each little twist is ingenious?

Tedd Arnold’s will do the trick:

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For the most part, his rhyme is spot on,

“I just don’t know what’s going on

or why it has to be.

But every day it’s something worse.

What’s happening to me?”


but purists will note that the rhyme on the second spread is—inverted! **!!Gasp!!**

“I think it was three days ago

I first became aware—

That in my comb were caught a couple

pieces of my hair.”


Now, one could argue that this book was published in 1997 and the rhyme police have gotten much more strict in recent years. But I will tell you that if you’re an author-illustrator and you come up with something as original as:


“Then later on (I don’t recall

exactly when it was)

I lifted up my shirt and found

this little piece of fuzz.”


“I stared at it, amazed, and wondered,

What’s this all about?

But then I understood. It was

my stuffing coming out!”

Editors may give you a “Get Out of Rhyme Jail Free” pass. Page after page of inspired body part distress.

Not content with one body part book, Arnold published a second called “More Parts” (not reviewed here), and a third called “Even More Parts” in 2004. Originally published under the “Dial Books for Young Readers Imprint,” they are now published by Puffin.

“Even More Parts” takes a literal look at body part idioms and their horrifying consequences.


Tongue-tied, anyone?

Although each page includes small comics of several idioms for each body part, Arnold selects the funniest to fill the spreads. The end papers include mini illustrations of many more. Bonus: All of these books should engage even the most reluctant readers AND PARENTS.  

“Even More Parts” could also be used to support Common Core Curriculum in kindergarten through second grade.

Check them out!

Titles: “Parts” & “And Even More Parts”

Author/Illustrator: Tedd Arnold

Publisher: Puffin

Ages: preschool-second grade

This post is in conjunction with Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday.

Illustrator Influence

17 Apr

My 11-yr-old son has discovered Russ Cox, a wonderful illustrator. You can see his work at Smiling Otis Studio. 

[Yes, Mike Allegra (HeyLookAWriterFellow), Otis was one of Russ’s cats. They’re everywhere! And BTW, a mouse snuck into our pantry and tore into the brown sugar, dried beans, and pancake mix. I’m thinking we’ve got a diabetic mouse on our hands. Otis, where are you? We need you! Seriously, we’ll be getting out the live-trapper to capture this critter and let him loose in a neighborhood park.]

Anyway, I digress. My son wasn’t consciously thinking about one of Russ’s drawings  when he drew this on a paper tablecloth at a restaurant last week:


Organic meets inorganic

If you look at Russ’s black and white work, you may find something that looks a bit like this guy. 

Happy Illustrator Day! (just thought I’d make up a new holiday)


Josephine Baker Rocks!

11 Jun

A fabulous illustrator, Christian Robinson, recently held our school’s “itchy-britches-is-it-summer-yet” children spellbound.

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Christian Robinson

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Drawing activities

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“Draw my voice”

If you aren’t familiar with Christian’s work, you should check out his website and marvel at his range. 

And if you happened to “Google” anything on this past Martin Luther King Day, you most likely noticed Christian’s “Google Doodle,” honoring Dr. King.

But I digress. I want to highlight a post from an indie book blogger, The Picture Book Life, that shines the spotlight on Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (recent recipient of a Horn Book Honor).

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The Picture Book Life justifies the claim that many picture books are not “just” for kids.

I’d had a conversation with the Chronicle Books Children’s Editor, Melissa Manlove, earlier this year at an SCBWI event. She said that if someone had told her she’d fall in love with and want to publish an 4,000 word children’s picture book about a woman who was famous for dancing without her clothes—well, you already know the end of what she was going to say.

Josephine Baker was ever so much more than that. Josephine is lyrically written and fabulously illustrated and should be a “must read” addition to everyone’s shelves. Check out a detailed review of the book, complete with illustrations, at The Picture Book Life

Celebrate Dueling Doodlers!

8 Apr


My 10-yr-old son, the cat lover


Mike Allegra (HeyLookAWriterFellow), the rodent lover


Mike posted the “naughty kitten” doodle he drew (reluctantly) for my son, and in return, Mike received a tribute to furry creatures with front teeth that never stop growing.


Celebrate Mice!

Celebrate Mice! (Watch Your Tail!!)

My iPhone photo of a copy of the original turned the cheese a bit green, but I’m sure the mouse doesn’t care.

Mike is still waiting to tear into the chocolate I sent him for winning the What Do David Shannon and My Son Have in Common?  competition, because he gave up chocolate for Lent, poor guy.

Sniff, sniff, as the mouse says….Better check your cupboards, Mike, to make sure the chocolate hasn’t been nibbled away by those nefarious critters! (Or your son)

What do David Shannon and My Son Have in Common?

19 Feb

According to my 10-year-old son, the American Revolution can be distilled to four panels (click photo to enlarge):


History of the American Revolution

He loved drawing this cartoon and spent a couple of joyful hours completely absorbed in his work. Note that the Loyalist character’s voice comes from off the page, showing how the Loyalists either operated under cover, “lost their shirts,” or returned to England.

But it wasn’t until much later that he noticed that the British musket in the second panel doesn’t match the musket shown in the fourth. He asked if this was a big mistake. In his case, I said “no,” but then I went on to describe a recent case taken from the adult world:

David Shannon gave a keynote talk this past weekend at the Golden Gate SCBWI conference where he showed his book, Duck on a Bike (2006), to the audience. Continue reading


16 Apr

When HeyLookAWriterFellow (Mike Allegra) sent my son a “Celebrate” stamp (see post “Celebrate Cats!”),

And it has come to this.

he didn’t know what he was getting himself into—or maybe he did. 

My son thanked Mike for the stamp by creating a new stamp, “Celebrate Falling!”

Celebrate Falling

and a comic book (see post “Alien Invasion – A Graphic Novel” and sending them as gifts.

So I was surprised when he received a new stamp from Mike in the mail last week:

Credit: Mike Allegra

Credit: Mike Allegra

and a lovely note, encouraging him to keep drawing and creating. So now young Master Hoffmann is sending a thank-you note with the following stamps to add to Mike’s “collection”:

credit: Young Master Hoffmann

Celebrate Brick Walls!! credit: Young Master Hoffmann

credit: Young Master Hoffmann

Celebrate Stunt Guys!! credit: Young Master Hoffmann

credit: Young Master Hoffmann

Celebrate Cash!! credit: Young Master Hoffmann

This last one is a “twofer,” celebrating stamps and cash (although this particular combo hasn’t worked for the always bankrupt postal service).

I don’t think my son believes that being an illustrator is a quick way to earn cash, but he plans to “make millions” by selling everything from lemonade to cookies to comic books at a stand he’s setting up with friends in a local park. We’ll see how that shakes out.

Instead, I think his “cashing out” dreams are right in line with the other tongue-in-cheek stamps he’s created to celebrate falling, diving into concrete swimming pools or crashing into brick walls. Any artist can identify with all of those calamities. There’s a certain Three Stooges meets Wile E. Coyote & Road Runner sensibility at work. 

So I would like to take this time to honor and celebrate all the great illustrators we know and love, including HeyLookAWriterFellow (who WILL one day–in the not to distant future, right Mike??– give the world a book filled with his fabulous illustrations).

Here are a handful of a few favorite illustrators:

Judy Schachner (author/illustrator) Skippyjon Jones series

David Macaulay (illustrator)  The (New) Way Things Work (author – Neil Ardley), architecture, etc. (one of my son’s favorites)

Way things work.jpg

Nina Laden – (author/illustrator) The Night I Followed the Dog

Graeme Base – (author/illustrator) Uno’s Garden

David Gardner (illustrator) Sarah Gives Thanks (Mike Allegra -author) 


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For those wanting to delve deeper into the pool of illustrators, spend a few hours at these Web sites:

Caldecott Winners List

Illustrators Online

SCBWI Illustrator’s Gallery

Happy Viewing!! 

And when you’re done with that, 101BOOKS just posted a phenomenal video-illustration of The Old Man and the Sea.

Oh, and Mike, please don’t feel pressured to continue the “Stamps Arms Race.” :o)

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