The Christmas and Reindeer Wish

by Lori Evert

photos by Per Breiehagen

It’s that time of year again, when the magical holiday picture books start coming out. I never get tired of sweet little holiday books. Many people do the picture book countdown for advent and if you do than these are 2 books you need to include. The Christmas Wish and The Reindeer Wish are created by the same theme so the quality of the story and pictures are the same and they are truly wonderful. The author does a great job at telling an enchanting set of stories that while are lengthy they will captivate the reader and listener and will be read again and again. The pictures by the photographer are so pretty, ones I wish I could frame. They are just like an illustrated picture books however they used real life people and animals to recreate the story.

The Christmas Wish

The Christmas Wish

In The Christmas Wish you follow Anja’s journey to become one of Santa’s elves. She has always dreamed of that and decided that this was the year to do just that. With the help of a red cardinal they go about a long journey to the North Pole. Along the way she meets many beautiful animals that help her from a horse, musk ox to a polar bear ending with a reindeer. She finally gets her wish to meet Santa and he tells her she has already helped in so many ways with her kindness. Anja’s journey ends maybe not how she envisioned but always with a bit of magic.

The Reindeer Wish

The Reindeer Wish

In The Reindeer Wish you follow Anja through the 4 seasons, starting and ending with winter. Anja like most has always wanted a puppy but never has gotten one. She is chosen to care for a orphaned reindeer and together they grow and provide a friendship that each needs. However the reindeer Odin misses his reindeer upbringing and wants to play with other reindeer’s. So Anja while it makes her very sad to set him free she decides she needs help in making the right decision. She uses the magical bell that Santa gave her in The Christmas Wish and together they each get something they need and want.

 

thank you Random House Kids Lori Evert, Per Breiehagen and Anja for allowing us into the magical wish world. We will treasure these books. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free books.

Once Upon A Northern Light

by Jean E Pendziwol

illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

once upon a northern night

This picture book is a beautiful work of art! From the poem like story to the magical pictures it captures all the beauty that winter holds! It is told like a story of winter to a child while they were sleeping. I know we still love waking up to a winter sparkly wonderland. I love winter and watching it snow is just so beautiful, there is like a hush that comes with snow and the way it sparkles like glitter. Once Upon A Northern Light captures all the awe and wonder a child has about snow and put it into a  picture book that you will treasure. This is one of those books that you keep and pass down from generation to generation! Perfect for story time, bed time, classes and home, grab a copy of Once Upon A Northern Light and explore and enjoy the beauty within this book!

summary: While a child is sleeping, the beauty and wonder of a northern winter night unfold.

 

The Only Child

by Guojing

The Only Child by Guojing

 

Oh My I can’t even begin to describe the beauty in this book. The Only Child is such a beautiful story. It is a wordless picture book so of course the story is written in illustrations. The illustrations are out of this world. I love pencil sketches the shading can say so much. I’m not sure if Guojing used pencils or charcoal or a mixture, maybe they used something all together different from what I’m thinking. The illustrations remind me of pencils with shading and maybe some charcoal mixed in. The Only Child is based on the authors own experiences growing up in China. They grew up in China in the 80’s during the one child policy. The parents worked hard and usually the grandma would be there but at times Guojing was home all alone and lonely. The illustrations in this book are frame worth, that along with the heartwarming story makes this a must get and gift picture book!

The Only Child 1

summary: A little girl – lost and alone – follows a mysterious stag deep into the woods, and like Alice down the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a strange and wondrous world. But home and family are very far away. How will she get back?

The Only Child 2

In this extraordinary wordless picture book, Goujing brilliantly captures the rich and deeply felt emotional life of a child- filled with loneliness and longing as well as the love and joy. 

Thank you so much Random House Kids and Guojing for allowing me to review The Only Child.  All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book. This book is amazing and I think it needs to be on all bookshelves at home and schools!

Toys Meet Snow

Being the Wintertime Adventures of a Curious Stuffed Buffalo, a Sensitive Plush Stingray, and a Book-loving Rubber Ball

by Emily Jenkins

illustrated by Paul O. Zelinksky

Give the Gift of Reading 2015

toys meet snow 1

 

Many of you might not know but Emily Jenkins a whole series of beginning chapter books based on the lovable Buffalo, Stingray and Book Loving Rubber Ball. They are great for read aloud to young preschool aged kids to even elementary ages. They contain short chapters and lots of colorful pictures. Toys Meet Snow is a bit of a departure from that since it is a picture book. However Emily Jenkins keeps up with their adorable fun adventures.

toys meet snow 2

Toys Meet Snow captures childhood wonder of the first snow fall. Buffalo,  Stingray, Book Loving Rubber Ball (whose name is Plastic) enjoy all the wonder and excitement with the way the world looks under a blanket of snow. Buffalo is just like young toddlers and preschooler’s full of questions.  Stingray are more whimsical with its thoughts, ideas and observations of the falling snow. From it being “It’s a blanket of peace over the world” said Stingray to ” A snowflake is a tiny ballerina” says Stingray “If you look closely, you can see it dance.” Book Loving Rubber Ball has read all about snow and snowflakes in books and gives the real book answers, it is the voice of reason among the friends. My favorite part is the sunset page. Grab the book and find out the perfect description of a sunset I’ve ever read, thank you Stingray for your thoughts!

This book would be great for a snow day box full of fun goodies to get out each year on the first snow fall. You could do so much with Toys Meet Snow as well as all her other books in the Toy’s series. Get a copy for your bookshelf, classroom or as a teacher/class gift.

thank you Random House, Emily Jenkins and Paul O Zelinksky for allowing us to review this magical picture book. All thoughts and opinions are my own and were not influenced by the free book.

Big Mo

by Megan Padalecki

Buy the book on Amazon

Every holiday season I always showcase great books from picture book to chapter books for all ages. I think at least 1 gift during the holidays should be a book. So today kicks of the Give the Gift of a book season. I found this quote and think it is very fitting: “A book is a gift you can open again and again” – Garrison Keillor

Now on to the first book I’m featuring:

Big Mo by Megan Padalecki

Big Mo is a wonderful little tale that teaches a valuable lesson without being preachy or over the reader and listener’s head. Mo is a bit greedy and suffer’s from the “Me” complex. He wants it and he wants it now, I kinda envisioned him to be a Veruca Salt of the creature world. Megan Padalecki  hit it out of the ballpark with her first picture book. The story flows well and has a great message. The illustrations are bold, bright and inviting that make the story that much more special. When you are reading a picture book the illustrations are just as important as the written word. I always say if a picture book’s illustrations can tell the story as if it were a wordless picture book than it is a winning book. Big Mo is a winning picture book combination and one that you should add to your home or classroom library.

I was so honored when Megan Padalecki agreed to an interview and My girls and I  had a lot of fun coming up with the questions. She was great and answered all of them! Thank you so much Megan for not only sending us a copy of Big Mo for review but for the interview as well.

In a children’s lit class I took in college, we had to write and illustrate a children’s picture book.  I found that it is a lot harder than it sounds, so I have much  respect for those who can do it.  Did you find it difficult to come up with Big  Mo’s story?

As with any creative process, there was plenty of internal strife!  However, that didn’t  distract too much from my goal of exploring the themes of responsible consumption  and being content with what we have. 

I was initially inspired by a Native American proverb that warns that in picking away at our natural world, we rob ourselves of a viable future.  It’s a heavy concept for sure, but I’ve tried my best to temper it for a young audience.  The medium of picture books is perfect for hinting at deeper meaning, which is why I love and value them!

How long did the process take to write and illustrate your book?

There was quite a bit more to becoming my own publisher, but the actual writing and illustration of Big Mo lasted from June to Thanksgiving of the same year.  A critical aspect of my writing process was to review the story and images at various stages with others, including friends, family, parents of young kids, and even educators of creative writing.  Outside feedback and critique are so important to refining a story!

We have seen all your sketches on your website and you’re an amazing artist!  Did you come up with the sketch of Big Mo first and build the story around it, or did you first conceive of the idea for the story?

Thank you, how kind!  I have been drawing and painting my whole life, and spent countless hours as a child simply reproducing drawings and illustrations from books, catalogs, posters – you name it.  It wasn’t until high school that I began to “draw from life” and sketch the things around me.  There is great freedom in that, because it is something anyone can do, anywhere, and it sharpens your understanding of proportion and composition.

Although the idea for an insatiable iguana came first, the drawings for Big Mo came before the written text.  I laid the story out in a sequential storyboard, using quick thumbnail sketches to organize the story arc and scale Mo’s growing size relative to his environment.  This also helped me to fall within the industry standards for proper layout and page count, which I knew would be important at press time!

My girls love all kinds of artists’ media; right now they are into creating and looking at colored pencil sketches.  What was the media you used in illustrating Big Mo?

That is great, and so important if they would like to have a career in the visual arts some day.  Of course, it is equally great if they just want to practice art and expression as a hobby!  For Big Mo, I toyed with many graphic styles, from watercolor to pencil.  I ultimately relied on digital composition to add color to my hand-drawn pencil and ink drawings.  I chose this method because you can see the artistic hand at work, while the digital coloring adds a certain crisp quality to each illustration.

Little side note: we bought our girls woodless colored pencils that they are really loving, along with some fun watercolor pencils.  Do you have suggestions for other artists’ media for two girls, ages 9 and 15?  I’m always looking for new art media ideas!

When I was their age, I did a lot of collage of magazine cutouts, and also used colored pencils extensively.  My 6th grade art teacher ran contests which were awarded with STABILO Tones, a sort of universal pencil/pastel/watercolor that was great on black paper, as I recall.  I also think it’s never too early to experiment with acrylic paint, which is an excellent medium for learning how to mix colors.  You can also get a great effect by adding water to acrylic on canvas.  Warning: it is permanent!

Picture books are so much fun, and as my girls have always said, they are magical!  What did you find the most enjoyable about creating a children’s picture book?

There can be stress and exhaustion in creating a children’s picture book; there is so much pressure to create something of quality and do right by the young reader.  But your question is a great one, because I truly do find the process to be so worthwhile, fitting of my personality, and fun! 

I get a huge thrill from taking a loose thumbnail sketch through an additive process that results in a polished and composed illustration.  I remember holding my breath as I opened the completed book for the first time, because my body literally ached for it to look and feel as I imagined.  That sort of anticipation is so exciting and rewarding, and thankfully, I was very pleased with the final result!

Now that you have published one picture book, do you plan to create more?

Yes, certainly!  Writing is a slow and delicate process for me, though I can complete an illustration in a few days.  Timing aside, I have so many ideas scrawled in my sketchbook that I would need several lifetimes to take them all to completion!  I have a feeling that the next story may bring another adventure for Mo…

Getting your foot in the door can be difficult; do you have any advice for someone who would like to write and/or illustrate picture books?

Before I left architecture to pursue children’s books, I assumed there was a natural order to becoming a writer.  I considered MFA programs in creative writing or children’s lit, fairly certain that graduate school would be an excellent “in” to the industry.  

I am sure there is some truth in that, yet when I considered the larger picture of my own experience in writing and art, I really felt that there would be no harm in just trying.  It was a tempting challenge for me to create a book worthy of shelf space at any bookstore, and I felt that it was now or never to follow my dream.

It takes tenacity to not only write a story, but also to get people to read the story!  My best advice would be to say ‘yes’ to every opportunity, however small or random it may seem.  Always, always revise and get feedback before you submit your work to anyone “official” (like an agent, awards committee or publisher).  Most importantly, let your passion guide and reassure you along the journey.

So many teachers use picture books in the classroom to extend not only the story, but also to make learning fun.  I love that you have a Big Mo teaching companion about ecosystems.  How was it to create a teaching companion for older kids?

I am so glad you’ve happened upon the Eco Teaching Companion (found on the TEACH tab on Padaleckistudio.com! )  When I wrote Big Mo, I kept the environmental themes open to interpretation, by focusing instead on the broad concepts of responsibility and contentedness.  However, at the heart of my concept, this little iguana represents the impact of humankind on our natural world.

I had always intended to supplement the picture book with a more reality-based guide.  Big Mo the book therefore serves as a roadmap to highlight a variety of distinct ecosystems described in the companion.  Like the Lorax before him, I would love to see Mo become an advocate for our planet!

Head on over to Padalecki Studios to check out more of Megan’s amazing artwork. If you’re a teacher she has a environmental curriculum unit based on Big Mo that you might be interested in buying.

Thank you Megan Padalecki for sending us a review copy of Big Mo and for participating in the interview . All thoughts and opinions are my own and  were not influenced by the free book.