Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Little Crooked Bookshelf

The Storm Whale in Winter

by Benji Davies 

This week's pick is from cottager Kara LaReau.

What it's all about
When Noi's father doesn't come home on an icy winter night, Noi goes out looking for him, and finds himself stranded. Who will save him? Might he find himself reunited with a familiar friend?

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf…
The Storm Whale (the prequel to this book) is an all-time fave in our house (as is anything by Benji Davies, tbh), and this lovely new story does not disappoint!

A sample illustration…

Why kids will love it…
It features an intrepid boy, a daring rescue, and of course, whales.

Why grown-ups will love it…
It's a beautiful tribute to friendship and family, and a perfect bedtime story for these cold winter nights.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mr. Pig Live . . . with the Bland Sisters! Plus a non-bland LITERARY LUNCH!

Ahoy, mateys! Welcome to my hit talk show, Mr. Pig Live! Today I'm interviewing the reluctant stars of THE UNINTENTIONAL ADVENTURES OF THE BLAND SISTERS, a three book middle-grade series written by my roomie Kara LaReau and illustrated by Jen Hill. The first book, The Jolly Regina, is out this month! 

These two firecrackers have just returned home after being kidnapped by an all-female band of pirates. They were unwillingly swept into a high-seas romp that might have lead them one step closer to solving the mystery of what happened to their parents. Let's find out more!

Welcome to the show and thanks for leaving your house to visit me! What are your full names? 
J: Jaundice Bland.
K: Kale Bland.
From The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. Illustration copyright 2016 by Jen Hill.

What three words best describe you?
J: Serious. Resourceful. Almost-always-right.
K: Tidy. Reluctant. [Consults dictionary.] Articulate.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring?
J: My smock. As long as it contained at least one cheese sandwich, preferably on day-old bread.
K: My trusted dictionary and loyal companion, Dr. Snoote.
From The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina. Illustration copyright 2016 by Jen Hill.
Would you rather be able to fly or be invisible? (Or can you already fly or be invisible?)
J: Neither.
K: Frankly, they both sound exhausting.

What is your favorite sound?
J: The delicate plink-plink-plink of our ficus tree dropping its leaves. We’re not terribly good with plants, I’m afraid.
K: My sister reading the dictionary to me. In the evenings, we read the dictionary to each other, then we stare at the wallpaper until we fall asleep. 
J: It’s really quite tranquilizing.

What is your least favorite sound?
J & K: A knock at the door.
If a genie gave you one wish, what would you wish for?
J: To never have to leave our house.
K: To know where our parents are and when they’ll be coming home.
J: Right. That, too.
If you have a pocket, what is in it right now? 
J: I have innumerable pockets in this handy smock, which I made myself [models proudly]. Right now, I am carrying
-a teabag, only slightly used
-a roll of masking tape
-a small ball of tin foil
-a shoelace with several knots tied in it
K: I don’t have any pockets, but I do have a backpack. That’s where I keep Dr. Snoote.

What is your pet peeve?
K: Mine is when Jaundice forgets to empty her smock-pockets. I’m the one who has to do the laundry, after all.
J: Mine is when anyone or anything touches my toes.
K: She really is quite sensitive about them. All in good fun, I once brushed her big toe with the tip of a feather, and she wouldn’t speak to me for days.
J: I’m still not sure I’ve forgiven you for that.

What was it like working with Kara LaReau?
J: You might say she’s breathed new life into us. Honestly, I just don’t feel like myself when she isn’t here, tap-tap-tapping away at that funny little machine she calls a “laptop.”
K:: [Nodding] And she wears muted colors, which is nice, since bright colors hurt our eyes. She drinks too much coffee, though.
J: Any coffee is too much, in my opinion. [Holds up slightly-used teabag] She’d be much better off with a nice cup of weak, tepid tea. 
K: True. Jaundice is almost always right.


by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Jen Hill
Published by Abrams, January 2017
Meet Jaundice and Kale Bland, two sisters who avoid excitement at any cost. Together, they patiently wait the return of their parents, who left on an errand years ago and have never returned.
One day, the Bland sisters are kidnapped by an all-female band of pirates. They're unwillingly swept into a high-seas romp that might just lead to solving the mystery of what happened to their parents. 
With whimsical illustrations and Roald Dahl-esque wit, The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters is the visually stunning, laugh-out loud funny start to a new series for readers who are looking for anything but a bland adventure. 
"LaReau servers her humor dry, adding some serious swashbuckling for good measure ... Meanwhile Hill's pen-and-ink cartoons give the book precisely the right strange and silly tone." --Kirkus

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and at Scholastic Press. She is the author of picture books such as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and NO SLURPING, NO BURPING! A Tale of Table Manners, illustrated by Lorelay Bové; an award-winning chapter book series called The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated by Matt Myers; and the middle-grade trilogy THE UNINTENTIONAL ADVENTURES OF THE BLAND SISTERS, illustrated by Jen Hill.  

Kara lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.

Jen Hill is the illustrator of DIANA'S WHITE HOUSE GARDEN by Elisa Carbone, DOING HER BIT: A STORY ABOUT THE WOMAN'S LAND ARMY OF AMERICA by Erin Hagar, SPRING FOR SOPHIE by Yael Werber, and BE KIND by Pat Zietlow Miller. She is also the author and illustrator of PERCY AND TUMTUM: A TALE OF TWO DOGS, a book she wrote about a Pomeranian and a Dachshund, two dogs she one day hopes to own.
Jen is a graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design. You can find her in Brooklyn, NY, where she's either doodling away at her studio in the Pencil Factory, or at home in Cobble Hill with her husband and her cat.


Nina from Mamabelly made this non-bland lunch:

Jaundice and Kale Bland are the careful heroines of Cottager Kara LaReau's new book THE UNINTENTIONAL ADVENTURES OF THE BLAND SISTERS. The two sisters avoid excitement at all cost and stick to their routine. One day, a knock on the door changes their boring, bland lives forever. Having been kidnapped by an all-female band of pirates, the Bland sisters are off on unintentional adventures!

Nina from Mamabelly.com made a bland pirate lunch to match:
  • bland white pirate yogurt with a pirate skull
  • kale and strawberries with Jaundice and Kale's initials
  • bland crackers with the Jolly Regina planks
  • and two Kale and Jaundice sandwiches
Want more fun literary lunch ideas? Follow Mamabelly here:
* web: www.mamabelly.com
* facebook: www.facebook.com/MamabellysLunchesWithLove
* twitter: @LunchesWithLove

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Little Crooked Bookshelf -- AND A GIVEAWAY!**

by Liz Garton Scanlon
illustrated by Matthew Cordell

This week's pick is from Cottager Jamie Michalak.

What it's all about ...
Little Louie has the worst cold ever. All he wants is his mom, but every time he calls for her, slobbery Bob the dog comes running instead!

Why it's on The Little Crooked Bookshelf …
Because of the clever, funny, I-wish-I-thought-of-it concept: read this story as though you have the worst cold ever.

Favorite line(s) ...
"I doan wan by bedicine. I doan wanda bubba bat. And I doan wanda dap." *

Favorite illustration ...
From BOB, NOT BOB! by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick. Illustration copyright 2016 by Matthew Cordell. 

Why kids will love it …
Hearing the name "Bob" will get them every time.

Why grown-ups will love it …
BOB, NOT BOB! is the go-to book for any time children with a cold need a little comfort and giggles through the sniffles. And parents will surely relate to how realistically the doting, but tired, "Bob" is portrayed.

* (I don't want my medicine. I don't want a bubble bath. And I don't want a nap.)

** WIN YOUR OWN COPY OF BOB, NOT BOB! Leave a comment below to enter to win. The winner will be announced on Monday, Feb. 6th. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Behind the Book with Jackie Azúa Kramer + a Literary Lunch!

Jackie Azúa Kramer's debut, The Green Umbrella, is a fantastical flight-of-fancy told in lush language, and brought vividly to life by Maral Sassouni's dazzling dream-like illustrations. The whole book, in fact, feels like dipping into a dream, where anything is possible.

Today, we go behind the book with Jackie, who was kind enough to give us a tour through her imagination and inspiration. How does this author find her muse and create beautiful, evocative stories like The Green Umbrella? By accessing what she calls, her Inspiration Station.

Tell us more, Jackie!

When I write, I imagine my brain appears like Monet’s ‘Water Lillies’…serene, clear and calm.

However, often my ideas are best expressed by a Jackson Pollack painting; a mad splatter, non-linear, jumble.

There’s so much beauty in the world that inspires me. Imagine a virtual radio with only five stations -sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. Each turn of the dial helps to transport me to a place, time, a feeling or memory. Here’s a glimpse into my ‘Inspiration Station.'

On this cold and grey day, here in NY, I want to hear music like Susheela Raman singing ‘Ya Meera Divanapan Hai.” Growing up, I travelled a lot with my family. The people of India, food, colors, landscapes, and music have stayed with me.

They say athletes, creators, public speakers, are in the ‘zone’ when they perform at their best. Nature is my ‘zone’ and where some of my best story ideas begin. Time and again, I return to the beach. That first sniff of salty air sends signals to my brain, which I’d best describe as ‘freedom’. The warm sand melting under my feet, the blue sky that goes on forever, and rhythmic waves, unfetters my imagination.


I’m a romantic and the poem that touches my heart each time I read it, is e.e. cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled…” The last line slays me…it’s so visceral.
“…nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands.”

Since childhood food has always been a focal point in my life. Friends would often want to come over after school for dinner, and have my grandmother’s savory rice and beans with spicy chicken or my mother’s saffron scented and colorful paella. My addition, to my family’s culinary history is, ‘Egg in a Basket.' A simple dish I started to make since my kids were little. It’s the perfect, tasty, sunshiny breakfast.

Recipe for Egg in a Basket:
Cut a medium slice of your favorite round bread. I like a good sour dough. Take out most of the center of the bread. Place in a hot pan with butter and crack two eggs in the center. Flip once and cook eggs to your preference. I love the eggs over easy which compliments the crispy bread. Tip: In the last 30 seconds, add a slice of cooked bacon on top. Bacon makes everything special.

And my favorite station that always keeps me singing and dancing…my family.

Jackie Azúa Kramer earned her Masters of Education from Queens College. She is a member of SCBWI and has written for the SCBWI Bulletin. In 2014, she was invited to be a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, Bank Street College. In 2015 Jackie was a presenter at the 1st nErDCamp Long Island.  Her picture book, The Green Umbrella (North South Books) debuts February 2017. The Boy and the Eight Hundred Pound Gorilla (Candlewick Press, TBD) and If You Want to Fall Asleep (Clavis Books, Spring 2018). Visit her at: jackieazuakramer.com.

Praise for The Green Umbrella - (January 31, 2017 — North South Books)

* The lesson about sharing and generosity is elegantly wrapped around lovely language. (Kirkus Reviews)

* Kramer’s storytelling passages sustain their lofty tone with no off notes—no easy task. (Publishers Weekly)

* A sweet story of a blossoming friendship between five lovable and imaginative characters, united by one special green umbrella. I want to jump right in to the lush paintings and join in their fun! (Lauren Castillo, Author/ Illustrator of Caldecott Honor Book "Nana in the City")


The Green Umbrella Literary Lunch

When Elephant takes a peaceful walk with his green umbrella, he’s interrupted by Hedgehog, Cat, Bear, and Rabbit—all claiming that they’ve had exciting adventures with his umbrella. After all, it is an umbrella, and it certainly hasn’t been on any adventures more exciting than a walk in the rain. Or has it? 

Nina from Mamabelly.com made a lunch for any umbrella adventure:
  • The Green Umbrella cold cut sandwich covered in spinach
  • Elephant sandwich cheese sandwich surrounded by cat in a tea cup, bear and old rabbit
  • night clouds of popcorn and blueberries and 
  • a cheese moon to light the way into their next adventur

* For more of Nina's Literary Lunch creations, visit:
--instagram: @Mamabelly
--twitter: @LunchesWithLove

* View The Green Umbrella book trailer on Mr. Schu's blog.
* For more about Jackie Azúa Kramer, visit: jackieazuakramer.com
* To explore more of Maral Sassouni's work, go to: http://maralsassouni.com
* Buy The Green Umbrella at an indie bookstore near you.