Monday, October 24, 2016

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

Birdie's Happiest Halloween
by Sujean Rim

This week's pick is from Cottager, Anika Denise

What it's all about . . .
Birdie, a feisty fashionista, searches for the just-right Halloween costume. Will it be one of the historical figures she sees in the museum: Albert Einstein, Sandra Day O'Connor, or Eleanor Roosevelt? The suspense builds, until Birdie's choice (spoiler alert) is revealed. Her friends think she's dressed up as the First Lady, but Birdie corrects them—she's the first lady president of the United States!

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf . . .
Rim's Birdie is as charming and modern as ever in this latest installment of the popular series. Plus, it has a lovely message of empowerment for girls, which feels especially timely in this election year. 

My favorite line(s) . . .
"Over the next few days,
Birdie enjoyed the colorful fallen leaves, 
ate candy apples
and even scored the winning touchdown!
But she never stopped thinking about Halloween."

Most scrumptious illustration . . .

From Birdie's Happiest Halloween © 2016 Sujean Rim

Why kids will love it . . .
Kids will love the warm collage illustrations of Birdie, her dog Monster, and all of their friends frolicking in fall leaves, wearing fuzzy sweaters, munching Halloween candy and donning adorable costumes.

Why grown-ups will love it . . .
The book's "you can be anything you want to be" message is positive and affirming.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mr. Pig Visits . . . Liza Woodruff!

Heigh ho, friends! Mr. Pig here. I'm on the road today, enjoying a gorgeous area of Vermont, nestled between the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Author-illustrator Liza Woodruff invited me to visit her studio today! Care to come along?

Liza has illustrated some of my favorite picture books, and has just finished her first authored book, EMERSON BARKS, published by Christy Ottaviano Books in August, 2016.

And look, there she is now! Hello, Liza! Who's your furry friend?

Liza: Welcome, Mr. Pig! This is my dog Emerson, inspiration for my book EMERSON BARKS.

Mr. Pig: What an honor! I brought my book for you to sign. Maybe Emerson could add his paw print, too?

From EMERSON BARKS. Illustration copyright 2016 by Liza Woodruff.

Liz: Come inside! This is where I work.

Mr. Pig: Cozy! Why do you have two desks in your studio

Liza: Well, I paint and draw with traditional media on this one:

And I write and create digital art on this side. 

Mr. Pig: You sure have a lot of books! Which ones are your favorites?

Liza: Here are two of my new favorites:

And two of my old favorites:

Mr. Pig: Ah, yes! Fun fact: my second cousin appeared in The Year at Maple Hill Farm. Speaking of family, tell me about your pets here. 

Liza: I work mostly when my family is out of the house, but I am never alone.
Emerson keeps me company. 

So does Angus. Our bunny, Pepper, lives in a cage in my studio. Sometimes I take him out to play too. 

I keep this dog angel on the wall in my studio. I got it at gallery of the late artist, Stephen Huneck. It reminds me of our sweet old dog, Ilse, who used to keep me company too. 

Mr. Pig: Sweet! And what's this other art on your wall?

Liza: I keep these two old postcards illustrated by Molly Brett on my bulletin board. I love anthropomorphic illustrations. It’s fun to imagine animals in their little worlds. 

I keep the little mouse house that I made on a shelf in my studio:

Liza: I love to draw animals and children. Right now I am working on an illustration for my portfolio. I have some story ideas to go with it as well. 

Illustration copyright 2016 by Liza Woodruff.

Mr. Pig: Oooh! Will you share them with me? Perhaps over a snack? Or two? (Hint, hint.)

Liza: Of course, Mr. Pig. And thanks for visiting me in my studio!


Liza Woodruff has loved to make art for as long as she can remember. Her interest in children’s literature developed while working at The Horn Book Magazine during art school. The beautiful, funny and creative picture books that filled the offices of the book review magazine inspired her to focus her studies on children’s book illustration.
After receiving her BFA, she dove into children’s books and has since illustrated twenty-three of them. It had long been a goal of hers to write her own stories to illustrate. Her debut picture book, Emerson Barks, was published in 2016 by Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt.
Liza lives with her husband, two teenage children, and their various pets in an old farmhouse in Northern Vermont.
To learn more about her, visit her website:
Bird, squirrels, the mailman--Emerson can't help but bark his loudest when he gets excited. But when his bark scares one of his neighborhood friends into hiding, Emerson's girl Eva must forbid him from barking altogether. Can Emerson adjust to a life in silence? Or will he find a way to put his powerful bark to good use?
Emerson Barks is a charming dog story that shows how good intentions can triumph over mistakes.

“A story that may especially stand out for those who know or own—or are—a small barker." 
The Horn Book

"VERDICT: Emerson’s enthusiasm and good intentions will have readers rooting for him. A fun read-aloud for storytimes and small group sharing." 
School Library Journal

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

by Elise Gravel 

This week's pick is from Cottager Jamie Michalak.

What it's all about . . .
Ballet makes Ada cranky. No matter how hard she tries, she's the worst in Miss Pointy's class. But Ada discovers her awful moves in ballet are awesome in Mr. Chop's School of Karate.

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf . . .
Subversive and sassy, THE CRANKY BALLERINA reassures kids that even if they're horrible at one activity, they might excel at another. 

My favorite line . . .
"Arabesques are grotesque."

My favorite illustration . . .

From THE CRANKY BALLERINA. Illustration copyright 2016 by Elise Gravel.

Why kids will love it . . .
THE CRANKY BALLERINA is a funny story about real feelings. Kids will relate to Ada and love her stuffed animal sidekick, who steals the show. 

Why grown-ups will love it . . .
For the same reason kids will. Every kid -- and grown-up -- has had their Ada moments. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

What's an Apple?

by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

This week's pick is from cottager Kara LaReau.

What it's all about
You can pick it, you can kick it. You can bob for it — don't sob for it! This story celebrates the apple and its many uses and entertainments.

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf…
With a crisp, buoyant text from Marilyn Singer and Greg Pizzoli's sweet, graphic illustrations, this book is the perfect way to ring in the fall season with very young readers.

My favorite lines…
You can wash it,
try to squash it,
or pretend that it's a ball.
You can drink it.
You can sink it.
Give your teacher one this fall!

My favorite illustration…

Why kids will love it…

Kids will be delighted to learn the many ways one might enjoy apples — and will surely be encouraged to try a few of these examples themselves. (FYI, there's a companion book, called What's a Banana?, which promises similar a-peel.)

Why grown-ups will love it…

It's a fruitful exercise in using one's imagination, and in seeing the remarkable in something simple.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Behind the Book...with Jennifer Thermes! (Plus, Giveaway Winners!)

Today in the Cottage, we're thrilled to welcome author/illustratorJennifer Thermes. Her latest book is Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure, a gorgeous picture book biography about Darwin's voyage on the Beagle.

Hello, Jennifer! Tell us a little bit about your own voyage in creating Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure!

The idea to write about Charles Darwin’s five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle came to me a few years ago while on vacation at the shore. I was supposed to be relaxing, but like most of the writers and illustrators I know, it’s nearly impossible to stop thinking about art, and words, and stories!

I was between projects at the time, and looking for something new and challenging to take on. Picture book biographies piqued my interest. I’d also been a map illustrator for many years, and was searching for a way to incorporate the maps into a story. Maybe it had something to do with sitting on beach and watching the water, but I thought– how about Charles Darwin’s trip around the world on the Beagle?

Other than time he spent in the Gal├ípagos Islands and his theory of evolution, I really didn’t know much about the voyage, or Darwin, himself. Wasn’t he that gruff and grizzly-looking old man in all those black and white photos? But then I began my research, and read The Voyage of the Beagle, written in Darwin’s own words about his experiences. The Charles Darwin I thought I knew turned out to be a vibrant, curious, and very likeable young person. Also, as a map illustrator, I couldn’t help but picture details about the places he had been on an imaginary globe in my head. So, there was my goal: tell the story of where he traveled, what he saw, and how what he learned led to his ideas about evolution later in life.

Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes

One of the first challenges of this book was a design problem. We read picture books from left to right, so in general, the illustrations should lead your eye in the direction of the page turn. But Darwin sailed from east to west– the opposite direction. I spent a lot of time in the thumbnail stage trying to figure out how to make the illustrations move forward through the book, even though in many scenes the ship is pointing westward.

Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes

Also, as with any picture book, another challenge was figuring out which part of the story to tell through words and which through pictures. The maps were an added puzzle piece– how to incorporate them without interrupting the flow of the story. And even though it was non-fiction, the story needed an arc to keep it interesting, while sticking to the facts.  Darwin is such a rich subject, and there was so much information in the original dummy, but some of the spreads were quite cluttered. I remember my editor saying something to the effect of– it was like being in a candy store– all good stuff, but maybe TOO much good!
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes
So, with the suggestions of my amazing editor and art director at Abrams, who both understood the complexities of the book right from the start, we simplified many of the scenes to be more kid-friendly. (Making a book is completely a team project, by the way!) The funny thing is, all along I worried more about what information was being left out than what was included, but most of the original content is still there, it’s just better organized. I find it helpful to think about all the different elements of a picture book as a giant design puzzle. It’s overwhelming in the beginning, but you just need to keep playing with all the pieces until they fit together as best they can.
Copyright 2016 Jennifer Thermes
So, after three-plus years of thinking about him almost every day, Charles and I are now on a first name basis. One tip for anyone writing non-fiction (or any book, really): fall in love with your subject, because you’re going to be living with him (or her, or it) for a long, long time. Find something about it that you admire and connect to on a personal level. For me, it was Charles Darwin’s endless curiosity, kind nature, and passion for his work. (We should all be like Charles!)

Thanks so much for taking us Behind the Book, Jennifer!

About the Book

by Jennifer Thermes
Abrams (October 2016)
ISBN 978-1419721205

In 1831, Charles Darwin embarked on his first voyage. Though he was a scientist by profession, he was an explorer at heart. While journeying around South America for the first time aboard a ninety-foot-long ship named the Beagle, Charles collected insets, dug up bones, galloped with gauchos, encountered volcanoes and earthquakes, and even ate armadillo for breakfast! The discoveries he made during this adventure would later inspire ideas that changed how we see the world.
Complete with mesmerizing map work that charts Darwin's thrilling five-year voyage, as well as "Fun Facts" and more, Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure captures the beauty and mystery of nature with wide-eyed wonder.

About the Author

Jennifer Thermes is a children’s book author/illustrator and map illustrator. When not making art, she loves to read and work in her garden. She lives with her family, two cats, one dog, and an assortment of uninvited mice in an 18th-century farmhouse in Connecticut. Learn more about her work at

(Please email with your mailing info!)

The winner of a SIGNED LUCY'S LOVEY is…. 

Congrats, Katie! 

The winner of Henry Herz's LITTLE RED CUTTLEFISH is… 

Congrats, Bernadette!

And there'ss  till time to enter our WE ALL SAW A CAT giveaway!
Leave a comment on this Bookshelf post  or tweet it to enter!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016


Greetings, race fans! Today on MR. PIG LIVE! we have a very special guest. Put your giant foam hands together for...


<<Whistles>> <<Applause>>

She's the star of the all-new high octane Halloween picture book, MONSTER TRUCKS, from Anika Denise and Nate Wragg!

Before we begin, let's play the trailer. . .

MP: Wow! I'm on the edge of my seat!  
LBB: Yup. That's how I roll.

MP: Let's get right to it. What is your full name? 
LBB: Little. Blue. Bus.

MP: What one word best describes you?
LBB: I've been told I'm quite perky.

MP: Do you have a belly button?
LBB: No, but I have a round hood ornament, does that count? It's an audi. *snort*

MP: What is the best thing about being you?
LBB: 0 to 60 in 7.1 seconds

MP: What is the worst thing about being you?
LBB: My turning radius leaves a little to be desired.

MP: If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring?
LBB: Four spare tires and a trunk full of gas cans.

MP: What is your idea of the perfect day?
LBB: Can I say my perfect night? (I'm a bit of a night-bus.) Alone… on the speedway… with the wind at my taillights.

MP: If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
LBB: Hmm, I was going to pick invisibility, but then no one would see me cross the finish line. So I'll go with flying. I'd be unstoppable with some wings and a jet engine!

MP: What are you reading right now?
LBB: Winning by Jack Welch.

MP: What's your favorite sound?
LBB: Crowds cheering!

MP: What's your least favorite sound?
LBB: Werewolf Truck's howl. *shiver*

MP: Share one thing that most of our readers don’t know about you.
LBB: Well, I do have this one big secret… but if I told you, it would be a spoiler.

MP: Fair enough. If you could dine with three characters from other books, who would they be?
LBB: That Little Blue Truck seems nice. I've heard the garbage truck from I Stink is a barrel of laughs. And I bet I'd have loads in common with the race car in Race Car Dreams.

MP: If you have a pocket, what's in it right now? 
LBB: No pockets, but there are some mints in my glovebox. Help yourself.

MP: Don't mind if I do. What is your most embarrassing moment?
LBB: The time I tooted in line for gasoline.

MP: Do you have a pet peeve?
LBB: Peeve? Is he here? That's Ghost Truck's third cousin. He's always hanging around.

MP: What was it like working with Anika Denise?
LBB: She's a little like a mad scientist. But I mean that in the best possible way.

MP: Well, that's a wrap, as they say. Read more about MONSTER TRUCKS and its mad scientist creators below. Then join us for a scrumptious MONSTER TRUCKS Literary Lunch, made by Nina from Mamabelly! 


by Anika Denise
illustrated by Nate Wragg
(Harper, 2016) 

“Full-throttle Halloween fun.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In the energetic rhyming text…the action never stops." —The Horn Book

“Sure to get cheering children on the edges of their fans won’t want to miss this Halloween showdown.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Bright, bold illustrations bring characters like Zombie Truck, Frankentruck, and Werewolf Truck to life....with lots of movement in the text and on the pages, this is a quick seasonal storytime selection that is sure to be popular around Halloween. Monstrous fun!” —School Library Journal

Anika Denise is the author of several critically acclaimed books for young readers including her latest, MONSTER TRUCKS, which Publisher’s Weekly pronounced, “a mash up made in heaven (or maybe hell)” in a recent starred review. When not writing tales of vroom and doom, Anika can be found zipping around her hometown of Barrington, Rhode Island in her monster minivan, or reading not-so-scary stories with her husband and three kids. Visit her online at or on Twitter @AnikaDenise.

Nate Wragg is the illustrator of TOO MANY COOKS by Margaret McNamara, GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Beth Coulton, and AT THE OLD HAUNTED HOUSE by Helen Ketteman, among other titles. He’s an art director, an illustrator, and now a monster truck expert. Nate lives in Southern California with his beautiful wife and their wonderful daughter. To learn more about Nate's work visit


prepared by Mamabelly Lunches with Love!

Meet Little Blue Bus from MONSTER TRUCKS, written by Anika Denise and illustrated by Nate Wragg. Little Blue Bus is "perky and cute" so what is she doing in the Monster Truck Race? Find out in this delightful kids' book with a surprising twist!

Nina from Mamabelly made a frightful lunch to match:
  • MONSTER TRUCKS vanilla yogurt with chocolate decoration
  • frightful mac'n'cheese puff creatures of the night
  • a Little Blue Bus sandwich with jelly, (s)cream cheese and chocolate
Want more fun literary lunch ideas? Follow Mamabelly here:

* twitter: @LunchesWithLove