We Love Fishing! by Ariel Bernstein

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Ariel Bernsteins’s newest picture book, We Love Fishing!, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal, debuted on February 23, 2021.

Perfect for fans of Mo Willems, this hilarious picture book explores feeling like the odd one out with bright and engaging art by New York Times bestselling illustrator Marc Rosenthal.

It’s a beautiful day, and a group of friends are excited to spend it together. The woodland creatures can’t wait to pile into their boat and go fishing! Or, at least, Bear, Porcupine, and Otter can’t wait. They love fishing. Squirrel…does not.

Squirrel tags along with his enthusiastic friends, but is there anything they all love? Or is this fishing trip already sunk? 

Goodreads

Check out Interview With Author Ariel Bernstein on Ellwyn Autumn’s Blog to find out what she finds most challenging about writing picture and chapter books, a common theme in her stories, and what she’d do if approached by an elf.

Other books by Ariel are I Have a Balloon, Where Is My Balloon, and Warren & Dragon chapter books. @ArielBBooks

Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt! by Robin Newman

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Robin Newman’s newest picture book, Don’t Call Me Fuzzybutt!, illustrated by Susan Batori, debuted on March 15, 2021.

Bear is tired. It is time for his long winter nap. He will sleep for 243.5 days. But Bear is a very light sleeper. The slightest thing will disturb him, so he knits ear muffs and posts signs and even chops down trees to make a sturdy front door for his den, and then he goes to sleep. Meanwhile, Woodpecker is working on the houses he builds, but he notices several of the houses have disappeared. He sees bits of them scattered on the ground and follows the trail of bits to the new front door Bear built for his den. That is where the houses went. Woodpecker tap-tap-taps on the door. Bear wakes up and is not happy about having his nap disturbed. The two get into a shouting, name-calling match. Can they resolve their differences?

Robin Newman has written a laugh-out-loud story that little ones will want to hear over and over. It is funny, sweet, and hopeful. The illustrations by Susan Batori are so much fun and filled with details that will keep little eyes on the pages. This is a real winner. Don’t miss it.

San Francisco Book Review

Check out “Interview Alert: Robin Newman” on Lauri Fortino’s Frog On A (B)Log to find out how she started writing for kids, where she finds inspiration, and why she believes picture books are important.

Other books by Robin are The Case of the Bad Apples, No Peacocks! A Feathered Tale of Three Mischievous Foodies, Sesame Street: Breathe, Think, Do with Elmo: Problem Solving for Little Monsters, and more. @robinnewmanbook

Dylan’s Dragon by Annie Silvestro

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Annie Silvestro’s newest picture book, Dylan’s Dragon, illustrated by Ben Whitehouse, debuted on April 1, 2021.

Dylan loves playing, drawing, dreaming, and, best of all, dragons! But his days and weeks are so full–with piano lessons, science club, baseball practice, karate class, and more–that when the dragon of his daydreams shows up, there’s never any time to play. How can Dylan let his family know that his busy schedule needs room for dragon time? 

Goodreads

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz–Interview with Annie Silvestro” by Maria Marshall to find out a common theme in her picture books, what she advice she’d give children, and insight into her journey as an author.

Other picture books by Annie are Mice Skating, Bunny’s Book Club, The Christmas Tree Who Loved Trains, and more. @anniesilvestro

Let Liberty Rise, How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save The Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Chana Stiefel’s newest picture book, Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, debuted on March 2, 2021.

On America’s 100th birthday, the people of France built a giant gift! It was one of the largest statues the world had ever seen — and she weighed as much as 40 elephants! And when she arrived on our shores in 250 pieces, she needed a pedestal to hold her up. Few of America’s millionaires were willing to foot the bill.

Then, Joseph Pulitzer (a poor Hungarian immigrant-cum-newspaper mogul) appealed to his fellow citizens. He invited them to contribute whatever they could, no matter how small an amount, to raise funds to mount this statue. The next day, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters poured in. Soon, Pulitzer’s campaign raised enough money to construct the pedestal. And with the help of everyday Americans (including many thousands of schoolchildren!) the Statue of Liberty rose skyward, torch ablaze, to welcome new immigrants for a life of freedom and opportunity!

Chana Stiefel’s charming and immediate writing style is perfectly paired with Chuck Groenink’s beautiful, slyly humorous illustrations. Back matter with photographs included.

Scholastic

Check out “The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Chana Stiefel” by Maria Marshall to find out what inspired Chana to write this book, where she did research, what she wants kids to take away from the story, and which illustration contains a surprise historical coincidence.

Chana is an author of over 25 books for kids, including My Name Is Wakawakaloch!, Animal Zombies…& Other Real-Life Monsters, and Daddy Depot. @chanastiefel

Rissy No Kissies by Katey Howes

Happy Book Birthday to a bunch of NJ SCBWI writer-friends!

Hon, you know how much I love Kidlit, especially picture books, so congrats to authors whose picture books have just debuted!

Katey Howes’ newest picture book, Rissy No Kissies, illustrated by Jess Engle, debuted on March 2, 2021.

A lovebird who doesn’t like kisses?!

Rissy’s friends and family wonder if she’s sick, confused, or rude. But kisses make Rissy uncomfortable. Can one little lovebird show everyone that there’s no one right way to show you care?

Rissy No Kissies carries the message that “your body and your heart are yours, and you choose how to share.” A note at the end provides further information for kids, parents, and educators about body autonomy, consent, and different ways to show affection.

“This is an artistic gem for consent discussions, sensory-processing contexts, and anyone who champions children’s agency and bodily autonomy. Radiant.”―starred, Kirkus Reviews

Amazon.com

Want to know why Katey chose to address the important topic of consent? More about her writing process? See a printable lesson plan that pairs with her book? Like the sound of Sunflower Love Cookies?

Check out an interview by Darlene Beck-Jacobson, “Katey Howes Talks About Bodily Autonomy and Consent in Her New PB: Rissy No Kissies.”

Other picture books by Katey are Grandmother Thorn, Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe, and Be a Maker.

Independent Book Store Day

Independent Book Store Day, April 24, 2021, is billed as “One Day. Hundreds Of Bookstores. Fifty States. Join The Celebration!” My two favorite Indie bookstores are The Book House and Words. Both have great selections, calm, welcoming atmospheres, special events, and the personal touch and help that you can only get at small stores.

I hope to one day, very soon (fingers crossed, wish on a dandelion, Flying Wish Paper and more), enter one or both of these stores as a Kidlit author, not just a customer.

Hon, what’s your favorite Indie book store?

The Book House in Millburn, NJ

Words in Maplewood, NJ

Image c/o the bookstores’ websites.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Movie Review

Have you heard of the movie "Portrait of a Lady on Fire?" I hadn't either until one of my daughters recommended it. This French movie with English subtitles is stunning visually, thought-provoking in its examination of themes, fascinating in its setting and time period, and unforgettable in emotions explored. 

The most striking thing about Céline Sciamma’s fourth feature—in French with English subtitles—is its sumptuousness. Close your eyes, listen to the spare dialogue and you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Open them and you’re confronted by colors of a purity and subtlety that not only befit a story of art and portraiture (among other things) but carry much of the drama’s emotional content. Cinematographers used to be called lighting cameramen. This production’s lighting camerawoman, Claire Mathon, conjures with light as if it were palpable, and as spreadable as pigment on canvas. Many scenes evoke the creaminess of Vermeer, although the action is set not in 17th-century Holland but on an island off the Brittany coast at the end of the 18th century.

Before taking us there, Ms. Sciamma introduces us to her heroine, Marianne (Noémie Merlant), a portrait painter and teacher who is doing double duty in her art class by serving as a model for her students, all of them young women. (Men figure only as incidental, unnamed characters.) “Take time to look at me,” she tells them.

This could be the film’s motto. It’s about looking long and carefully enough at a subject to see, then seeing deeply enough to feel. That’s what Marianne does on the island. She has been commissioned to paint a wedding portrait. The bride-to-be, Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), is as lovely a subject as a portraitist could ask for, but melancholy and withdrawn, with good reason. Caught up in an arranged marriage, Héloïse has been promised to a man she has never met. She doesn’t want to pose for the portrait, which will symbolize her loss of freedom, so Marianne, representing herself as a walking companion, must observe Héloïse surreptitiously and paint her from memory, using her brush as a kind of candid camera.

The writer-director, Ms. Sciamma, uses her film to cast a slow-release spell; it’s a daring approach that doesn’t seem like a strategy, let alone a choice. At first the pace is lulling. Our involvement depends on our willingness to watch and wait, and we’re ever more willing. We watch the artist watching her subject closely. We wait to see if Marianne, who has set up a small, secret studio in her living quarters, gets caught at what amounts to a betrayal of trust. (My only quarrel with the film is why Héloïse can’t smell Marianne’s solvents or paints.) That’s the first source of tension in the plot, but the prime mover is sexual tension, which grows inexorably as the women learn the contours of each other’s lives. “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”—the fire is figurative, but also real—goes beyond painterly beauty. It sees into souls.

Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal

Trailer

Images c/o Slant Magazine and IMDB

Sorbet for the Soul, Hope

HOPE sculpture in Manhattan by Robert Indiana

This is the last of the “Sorbet for the Soul Series,” at least for now. I hope to get back to the MOMA, the MET or any other place where creativity, inspiration and peace of mind resides. Shout out to Lyn Sirota who shared a September 13, 2019 program on TED Radio Hour NPR called “How Art Changes Us.”

Marc Chagall, The Lovers, Oil on canvas.

Gustav Klimt, Hope II, Oil, gold, and platinum on canvas.

Pablo Picasso, Guitar and Clarinet on a Mantelpiece, Oil, sand, and paper on canvas.

Sorbet for the Soul, Modern Art

Big Blue Man statue by French artist Xavier Veilhan.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done was volunteer to teach Art Appreciation in my children’s elementary school. Before I entered kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms, I thoroughly researched artists. I learned so much about Modern Art, and came to appreciate work I hadn’t understood before. The students and I discussed artists, examined paintings and sculptures, and worked on related projects. Fun? Being called “The Art Lady.” Fantastic? Getting a call from a mom who said that when her family visited a Chicago museum, her son remembered learning about Rene Magritte from an Art Appreciation class.

Stanley Whitney, Fly the Wild, Oil on linen canvas

Helen Frankenthaler, Western Dream, Oil on canvas

Piet Mondrian, Composition, Oil on canvas

Sorbet for the Soul, Henri Matisse

Taking in The Swimming Pool by Matisse, MOMA.

Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists. His paintings and cut-outs, along with French Impressionism, were among the first pieces which stirred my emotions. I love how he played with two and three dimensions, placed his own artwork in scenes, and used lines and shapes to create movement. And the colors! His vivid colors create backgrounds that both emphasize the main subject and give my eyes and mind a place to rest while taking in the whole scene. You can view his work at the MOMA and the MET. Want to know more about his cut-outs? Click here.

Henri Matisse, Nasturtiums with the Painting “Dance”, Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse, Lilacs, Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse, The Cut-Outs, paper and gouache