Sue Todd: Bookworm and Illustrator

Sue Todd is a freelance illustrator whose work encompasses retail design and children’s books. Her images can be seen not only in books but also packaging, posters, tshirts, a tv commercial, and a bus!

Sue enjoys linocarving, which is an ancient printmaking technique. Read on for a glimpse of her process.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What memories do you have?

I have memories of being very young and poring over the pages of fairytale collections, paying special attention to the pictures, of course! I always judged a book by its cover, and my favourite gift under the Christmas tree was usually a book. I still remember the feeling of excitement at opening a new one.

My parents encouraged reading, and I spent a lot of time at the library exploring the shelves, looking for just the right picture books. My favourites were The Cat in the Hat and The Little Engine That Could. I remember the suspense of watching Thing One and Thing Two make a mess as Mom’s ankles approached the house, and the Little Engine That Could continues to be a philosophical inspiration. I loved the Narnia series, Alice in Wonderland and any fantasy and mystery stories, including Nancy Drew.

Sue’s studio bookshelf

I volunteered at the school library to get first crack at the new books, so I guess you could call me a book worm. I still remember one incident from Brownies when we had a Christmas gift exchange. I had carefully selected a book that I really wanted to read, and my gift exchange partner gave me a book of Lifesavers. Seriously, it was a selection of different flavours of Lifesaver candies inside a cardboard book! My friend and I were equally dismayed with our gifts and agreed to trade back, so I ended up with the book I wanted after all. 🙂

I wish I had kept the book series I wrote and illustrated around age twelve, The Adventures of Horace the Hippopotamus. It was just a Babar knock-off, but my younger sisters found it entertaining.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process of making art for children’s books?

Every book begins in my sketchbook where I scribble ideas and develop characters. Once I have established the look, I create a small dummy, about half size, to keep a consistency and flow throughout the story. After approval of rough sketches, I begin my final art process.

My technique is linocut, which is a form of relief printmaking similar to woodcut. The medium is linoleum just like the flooring material but without the finish. With relief printing you carve away the bits you don’t want and whatever is left will be the image that is rolled with ink and printed on paper. I have a table-top press for smaller images and use an old fashioned burnisher and lots of muscle for larger pieces. The black and white print is then scanned and coloured in Photoshop.

I like the combination of analog and digital technologies and enjoy each stage of the process for different reasons. The sketching stage is most creative and requires quiet concentration whereas the carving stage is more meditative, like knitting. The colouring stage is sheer fun and takes me back to kindergarten.

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

Although I have illustrated many things including educational picture books, my first trade book was released only last year. The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito is a wonderful play by Tomson Highway published by Fifth House/Fitzhenry & Whiteside. My second trade book was released in March. I look forward to sharing An African Alphabet with pre-schoolers. It was written by Eric Walters and published by Orca Books.

Thanks, Sue, for sharing your process with us! I wish I could read The Adventures of Horace the Hippopotamus. 

Have a look at Sue’s new books:

Sue has a new book coming out with Eric Walters in the fall of 2018. It’s called The Wild Beast. Be sure to watch for it! 

How about you? Which illustrations intrigued you as a child?

Post a comment on this blog, and your name will be entered in a draw for a personally inscribed copy of Sue’s newest book, An African Alphabet? This book will be a lovely addition to a toddler’s library. I’ll draw the winning name on September 13, 2017.

Sign up to Aimee’s newsletter below for more giveaways and to receive inside information from children’s book writers and illustrators. 


Connect with Sue: 

Website: www.suetodd.com

Facebook: SueToddIllustration

Twitter: @SueTodd20

 

Rebecca Bender on Getting Lost in Books * Plus a Giveaway!

Rebecca Bender is an art director and designer as well as an author-illustrator. Her books, Giraffe and Bird and Don’t Laugh at Giraffe, have won the Ontario Library Association’s Blue Spruce Award and Blue Spruce Honour, respectively. Rebecca’s newest book, How Do You Feel?, releases in 2017.  Be sure to comment on this post in order to be entered in the draw for a signed copy!

 

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

We were lucky that my mother read to us a lot. The way I remember it, she always wanted to read the more serious stories, like The Little Match Girl, whereas I always preferred something light that would make me laugh and think at the same time, like Dr. Seuss.

I was a child that loved to draw and get lost in make-believe worlds. Picture books were inspiration for my art, and I was drawn to ones where the illustrations hooked me and took me somewhere. I spent a lot of time with the Serendipity series and still have a few of these books today. They were beautifully illustrated and full of vivid, endearing characters. I can see why I adored them as a child.

From left: me, my mother, my sister
Some books I’ve hung onto since childhood; part of a series called Serendipity by Stephen Cosgrove, illustrated by Robin James

 

 

 

 

 

What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I’m always amazed to see how children internalize a good book and the fruits that come from it; be it my 3 year-old architect meticulously building his own home with Magformers and Lego, after reading If I Built a House by Chris Van Dusen, or my 5-year-old fashion designer creating her own line of clothing after reading Birdie’s Big-Girl Dress by Sujean Rim.

We also have fun adopting terms and phrases from stories into our way of communicating with each other, such as, are you feeling like a Boo Hoo Bird today? Or, remember Hamilton Squidlegger, stay in your own mud tonight. Or, if I’m too clean The Witches will smell me!

Me reading with my two children. (Pulling photos for this post, it struck me how similar this one looks to the earlier one of my mom reading to my sister and I!)
My daughter’s line of fashion clothing, inspired by a picture book we read together

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

When I’m sharing my books in a classroom I set up the story first by showing the cover and then asking the children what they learn from the illustrations alone. It’s a good opportunity to show them how illustrations play a big role in telling the story in a picture book. Sometimes I introduce my characters by drawing them on chart paper and talking about who and what inspired them. Before reading we also practice sound effects so they are ready to make the silly noises that happen in the story. While reading I stop to ask questions at key moments in the story. Afterwards I like to hear how they connect the story to their own lives; we discuss, for example, if Giraffe and Bird really like each other or not, and if this is similar to how siblings behave sometimes.

My daughter reading to me from my new book, How Do You Feel?

I take a similar approach at home with my kids. I focus on finding connections in their lives, and even days after we’ve read a book I will refer back to it if something comes up that relates. I try to keep drawing supplies, building supplies, and raw materials available for them to follow their whims and inspirations and suggest crafts and activities relating to the books we read.

Looking back, I’m glad my mother read the more serious books to me. I’m a believer in letting children make their own choices whenever possible, so I do let them pick their own books at story time, but I also adopted the rule that  mommy gets a pick, too!

My studio while working on art for How Do You Feel?

Close up of painting in progress on my desk

 

Thanks, Rebecca! How fun to see your illustrations in progress.

Check out Rebecca’s work:

Exciting news—my first picture book, Giraffe and Bird will be re-released with Pajama Press, in a padded, hardcover edition (April 2017)
These lively and unlikely friends are back.
Enter to win a signed copy! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about you? Which books captivated you because of their illustrations?

Post a comment on this blog, and your name will be entered in a draw for a personally inscribed copy of Rebecca’s newest book, How Do You Feel? This book will be sure to captivate young readers. I’ll draw the winning name on February 13, 2017. 

Sign up to Aimee’s newsletter below for more giveaways and to receive inside information from children’s book writers and illustrators. 


Connect with Rebecca: 

Website: http://rebeccabender.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LittleStreetStudio

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LittleStRebecca

Tumblr: http://littlestreetstudio.tumblr.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/r_bender/

Jennifer Mook-Sang Shares about Books as Companions—Plus a Giveaway!

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What a pleasure to host Jennifer Mook-Sang on Good Books to Share. Jennifer lives and writes for children in a luxurious garret in Burlington, Ontario. She is the author of multi-award-nominated SPEECHLESS, an enormously popular novel for ages 8 to 12. Her picture book CAPTAIN MONTY (who is terrified of the water. Shhh, don’t tell anyone) will set sail in the fall of 2017. In the meantime, Jennifer is working on a follow-up to SPEECHLESS while trying to ignore the siren call of the bag of Cheezies in the cupboard.

 

 

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

I grew up mostly left to my own devices. My parents worked in the shop below our living quarters and books were my constant companions. I still have some of my Enid Blyton adventures, and Girls Annuals. There was a set of books called The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls in our home, a compendium of stories ranging from nursery rhymes, to folk tales and stories from history. I devoured the nine volumes (I recently purchased a replacement set), along with hundreds of comics that my dad let my sister and me buy from the bookstore. One of my favourite memories is a rare quiet evening, sitting in bed with my parents while they read their own books. Dad loved westerns, Zane Grey and Max Brand. Mom read grown-up comics about romance. I loved the cosiness of snuggling beside them and feeling warm and peaceful.

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These are The Bookshelf for Boys and Girls. Re-reading these books has been like meeting up with a beloved old friend.

What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

From the time they could sit in our laps, my husband and I read to our boys before bedtime. Once, when it was my turn to read, my husband stopped in the doorway to ask me a question. While I answered him, our two-year-old decided that we’d spent too long chatting and hit the book in my hands with a determined fist, demanding, “Wead, wead!” We loved our reading routine. Reading books with my boys gave us lots to talk about, and our best moments were the times we laughed out loud or gasped at the unexpected. We still enjoy sharing books with each other, though I don’t read to them anymore.

Here are a few of our favorite books:

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Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

I think the best way to share good books with children is to leave books in plain view where they can be found and explored. Young children should have free access to books that they can bang with, chew on, and look at. Older ones should have lots of different books and be allowed to choose what they want to read or to have read to them. And, at least once a day, make them sit and read to them, even when they can read to themselves. Don’t stop till they push you out of the door and bar it from the inside. Talk about the stories. Ask questions. Wonder what would have happened if . . . . Reading builds language, empathy, and satisfies the wonder of curiosity.

Thanks, Jennifer!

What about you? What books did you love to read aloud?

Special offer: Comment on this post, and you could win a personally inscribed copy of Jennifer’s novel Speechless. It would make a wonderful gift for that middle-grader on your holiday list. I’ll draw a name from those who comment, and the book will be shipped to the winner’s door. 

Sign up to Aimee’s newsletter below for more giveaways and to receive inside information about the making of children’s books from the authors and illustrators themselves.   

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Connect with Jennifer:

website: http://jennifermooksang.com/

book trailer: https://vimeo.com/166207543

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifermooksang1

twitter: https://twitter.com/jennymooksang

goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26011058-speechless

 

 

Lizann Flatt on Loving the Language in Children’s Books

Lizann Flatt2smallIt’s a pleasure to welcome Lizann Flatt to Good Books to Share. When I walked in the door for my first retreat with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Lizann greeted me with a smile. Her gracious welcome set me at ease. I’m grateful for the leadership she showed in organizing that retreat and many other events for the Canada East Chapter of the SCBWI. 
 
Lizann is the author of many nonfiction books, short stories and poems for kids. Recent nonfiction picture book titles include Shaping Up Summer, Sizing Up Winter, Sorting Through Spring, Counting on Fall, and Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Here. Her work has also appeared in Ladybug, Babybug, and Highlights for Children magazines. Lizann was formerly the editor of Chickadee magazine. Today she lives in rural Muskoka, Ontario with her husband and three children.
 
Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?
My parents read to me at bedtime, and I loved that. Partly my good memories are from the together time, me tucked under a cozy blanket in bed, but it was also the way the stories sounded. I loved the language of them. I loved memorizing the stories and knowing what was coming on the next page. I loved thinking about the stories as I tried to fall asleep. Today I still keep a few of the books I had as a child on my bookshelf. I only have to open them to bring back memories of my early love of rhythm, rhyme, and story.
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What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?
 
I think my favourite thing about sharing books with kids is the way the book can spark discussion or questions or connections. When I do school visits with my Math in Nature series I hear about the squirrels kids have in their backyards, or how they saw milkweeds. When I share my Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Here kids tell me about the transportation vehicles they use or like best. One boy even told me about how he came here to Canada on a boat just like in my book. I think those connections are terrific. It shows kids that reading and books are connected with our lives.
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Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.
 
I’ve always been glad I followed the advice I’d heard and began reading to my kids when they were babies. As in as soon as they were old enough to sit up in my lap, I read them short nursery rhymes or board books. And I read them aloud with feeling and drama like I really enjoyed them—because I did. Then, as they grew, I’d let my kids touch the pages—okay gnaw on the pages sometimes—and then help me turn the pages. Even my fidgety firstborn would sit through a whole board book and then later longer stories. For all my kids, once they voiced an opinion I’d let them choose the story we’d read. If they wanted more than one, they got to choose one and I chose one. Once they wanted to read chapter books or middle grade novels, I let them take the lead on what we’d read. That’s not to say I didn’t have suggestions, but if my suggestion didn’t grab them after a couple of pages, we moved on to something else. I always wanted reading at home to be fun. Now that they’re teenagers I can say, “Mission accomplished.”

 

How about you? What childhood books contained language that you loved?

Good news! Those who comment on this post will be entered in a draw for two of Lizann’s books. First, I am giving away a copy of Counting on Fall. Also, Lizann is donating a signed copy of Let’s Go! The Story of Getting from There to Herewhich was selected by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre to be given to every Grade One student in Canada in the TD Grade One Book Giveaway. 

To be eligible for even more giveaways by wonderful children’s illustrators and authors, sign up below for Aimee’s newsletter. 

 

Check out Lizann’s books:
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Visit Lizann 

Daydreaming on Paper with Arree Chung

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Arree Chung is a children’s book illustrator and author. He has worked at Pixar and in the games industry as a designer and art director. Arree and I share an agent in Rubin Pfeffer: www.rpcontent.com. It’s my pleasure to host him on Good Books to Share today.

 

 

 

Arree, please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

My parents were new immigrants and were struggling to learn the English language themselves, so I don’t recall reading a lot of picture books when I was young. I do remember Dr. Suess’s bold colors in his books.

I was more of a late reader. I loved Shel Silverstien’s books of poems. Where the Sidewalk Ends is probably my favorite. I became an avid reader in middle school. My favorite books were James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (practically anything from Ronald Dahl) and Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. Those books engaged my imagination. I don’t think I’ve stopped dreaming ever since.

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Arree’s vibrant art

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

The best feeling I have as an artist is seeing kids’ faces light up when they see your work. You can see their imaginations kick into gear. When I present, I make sure to show them how a book just starts with an idea. I call it “daydreaming on paper.” Sharing good books is so important because it engages the imagination—and if you can imagine something, then you can make anything happen. I love this quote by Albert Einstein: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

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Some of Arree’s daydreaming on paper

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

I think a common mistake grown ups have in sharing books with kids is trying to share books that “teach a lesson.” Many books that teach a lesson do so in a heavy-handed way and are just not fun books.
 
Kids are just like adults. Or perhaps, rather, we’re a lot like kids in bigger bodies. Anyhow, we don’t like being told what to do, and we’re all different. Matching the right book to a kid is about understanding what the kid likes or what that child may be going through. Of course, there are those few books that just strike a chord with practically everyone because they are so magical.
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classic moment from Ninja!

I love the idea of daydreaming on paper. Your daydreams have produced some delightful books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today, Arree.

Good news! Arree is giving away a signed copy of Ninja to one person who comments on this blog. What a fun book to share with a child you love! I’ll draw the winning name on Saturday, July 25.

For more giveaways from top-notch authors and illustrators, sign up for Aimee’s newsletter below.

Check out Arree’s picture books:

 

ninja amazonhow to pee girlsArree how to pee

Visit Arree at his website for activity and coloring pages based on Ninja!

Website: www.arree.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/arree.chung

Twitter: www.twitter.com/arreechung

 

Shannon Hitchcock on Growing a Reader

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Shannon Hitchcock is a freelance writer specializing in stories for children and young adults.

I met Shannon while we were both attending the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s conference in Miami, Florida. Her debut novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, was inspired by her son’s eighth grade history project. It’s great to have Shannon visit Good Books to Share.

 

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

The first stories I fell in love with were fairy tales. Hansel and Gretel and Jack and the Beanstalk were my favorites. I remember hearing my mother read them in her slow southern drawl. I shivered when the mean ol’ giant chased Jack, and then clapped in delight when Jack chopped down the beanstalk.

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Shannon’s son, Alex, in second grade.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child.

I enjoyed reading to my son when he was little. Two particular favorites were The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and all of the Thomas the Tank Engine books.

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Alex’s graduation. See those honor cords hanging around his neck? Being a voracious reader pays off!

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

My son has grown up to be a voracious reader. If I look back at the reasons why, these four things stand out.

Ready access. I kept a basket full of books in the family room and a well-stocked bookshelf that he could reach in his bedroom. 

I made reading fun. Alex would be sad when his dad had to travel for business, so after dinner and bath time, I’d let him crawl into bed with me. I would read several books aloud to him and then say, “Mommy’s going to read a grown-up book now, while you read to yourself.” It was relaxing for both of us.

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Alex’s eighth grade research project was the inspiration for Shannon’s first novel.

I read what interested Alex, even if it didn’t interest me. I must have read The Pokemon Handbook at least a thousand times.

As soon as Alex was old enough, I signed him up for the summer reading programs at our public library. He loved the competition aspect and winning little prizes.

These are fabulous ideas, Shannon! Thanks for sharing them.

 Be sure to check out Shannon’s historical novel, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl.

 

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 Connect with Shannon:

Website: http://www.shannonhitchcock.com

Twitter: @ShannonHitchcock

For more great literacy tips and the inside scoop on the inspiration behind children’s books, subscribe to Aimee’s newsletter below. 

Toni Buzzeo on Libraries and Disneyland

Toni Head Shot Trimmed

It’s a treat to have the warm and talented Toni Buzzeo visit Good Books to Share. Toni and I share a love of baby elephant stories. Just as Mama’s Day with Little Gray features a warm relationship between a mama and her son, Toni’s book My Bibi Always Remembers depicts a baby elephant and grandmother. 

Toni was a high school and college writing teacher before she became a children’s librarian. Since she began to write for children in 1995, Toni has written 19 books for children and 11 books for professionals. Among these is the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book One Cool Friend.

Welcome, Toni! Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have? 

What a lucky girl I was! I was born into a family of women who loved to read. I have wonderful memories of my Grandma Mae reading to me and talking about books with me. Those conversations opened a door for a shy child like I was, as you can see in this photograph.

In addition to the pleasure of being snuggled up next to my grandmother’s side with a book opened on our laps, I had the pleasure of accompanying my mother or grandmother to the public library every week. We always returned with an enormous stack of picture books.

Toni and Grandma Mae Reading

Luckier still, when I was 8 years old, my town built a branch library just three and a half blocks from my house. For me, that was like Disneyland appearing in my neighborhood! I read my way through all of the children’s novels and the young adult alcove before graduating, at 13, to the adult books.

My life as a reader started at my grandma’s side and in my town’s libraries, and it has never flagged.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

Perhaps it was those many early experiences in libraries that led me onto my professional path, but I grew up to be a librarian! So, for me, sharing books with kids was my life’s work for many, many years. I started as a children’s librarian at a local public library and moved on to become a teaching librarian in school libraries. In both settings, I was always eager to share stories with my students.

A particular memory that still delights me is reading Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus to my students. No matter what time of day, if I student walked by my desk with that book in his or her hand, I jumped up, asked him/her to hand over the book, settled the kids around me, and launched into a raucous and lively reading of the book, complete with student-chorus.

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How special it was, then, when my own books began to be published. (I continued to work as a librarian for my first two years after publication). Sharing my OWN books with my students was such a treasure. I remember a class of fourth graders quizzing me about the decisions I made in the plot of my first book, The Sea Chest (still in print a dozen years later) and the little kindergartner who picked up the rubber-banded f&g (folded and gathered copy) of Dawdle Duckling and asked, “Mrs. Buzzeo, how many copies of this book do you have to SEW TOGETHER?”

Please give us your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

What a pleasure it is to share my books now with enormous numbers of kids at school visits and reading festivals! My favorite way to share books is through puppets. I have a full complement of puppets for all of the characters of my books: Stay Close to Mama, No T. Rex in the Library, and Little Loon and Papa. I ask adults/teachers to select the actors for me (describing for each whether they will have lines to speak or special attitudes or actions) and then I read the book to the larger group and sneak up behind each puppeteer and whisper their lines or needed actions. The kids love it, the teachers and/or parents love it, and most of all, I love the fun of bringing my stories to life on the stage!

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So whether you are a teacher, a librarian, or a parent, start building sets of puppets (even finger puppets work with small groups) to accompany the stories you share!

Thanks, Toni! How about you? What fabulous memories of libraries do you cherish?

Connect with Toni through her website: website: http://www.tonibuzzeo.com/HOME.html

Bibione cool friendLighthouse Christmas

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Deborah Underwood on Classics Old and New

With Bella 2It’s  lovely to host Deborah Underwood on Good Books to Share. Deborah is the author of many children’s books, including Here Comes Santa Cat; The Christmas Quiet Book; Bad Bye, Good ByePirate Mom; and the New York Times bestsellers Here Comes the Easter Cat; The Quiet Book; and The Loud Book. She co-wrote the Sugar Plum Ballerina chapter book series with Whoopi Goldberg, and she has written 27 nonfiction titles. She lives in Northern California with her feline muse, Bella.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

My parents were both teachers, and I grew up surrounded by books. So it’s not surprising that my parents read to me a lot when I was young. I have fond memories of using my finger to trace the tail of the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz at the end of Dr. Seuss’s ABC, and of correcting my parents if they missed reading one of the numerous beebeebobbibobbis in The Baby Beebee Bird.

But I most strongly remember connecting with the books I read in elementary school—laughing at Ramona’s mishearing of the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” being inspired (along with half of my class) to get a spy notebook after our teacher read Harriet the Spy out loud to us, and reading classics like Thimble Summer and The Good Master over and over when I was having a difficult time for one reason or another.

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In this photo, I’m reading a book called “Mary Bakes a Cake.” Early evidence of my lifelong love of both reading and cake!

I often felt out of place as a kid. I’d skipped a grade, so I was a year younger than everyone else in my class, and I was terrible at sports, and I was shy. I remember the relief I felt when I discovered that the elementary school library was open during lunch—I could go there and read rather than hanging out on the playground trying to avoid getting whacked by stray baseballs! The books I read not only helped me escape school life, but also showed me other worlds and other more inviting possibilities.

Tell us about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. What are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I don’t have my own kids, but I madly adore my two nieces who live in Scotland. They’re older now, but when they were picture-book age, I really enjoyed reading to them during our visits. One reason, of course, was that it was just wonderful to share the experience of reading with them. But I also learned things that were incredibly helpful to me in my own writing.

For example, I stumbled across Mo Willem’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! in a bookstore not long after it came out, and laughed out loud as I read it. I knew immediately that I wanted to get it for my youngest niece. I brought it out during my visit to Scotland, and was delighted that she loved it as much as I did—it validated my instincts about what kids might like.

One thing surprised me: after the first reading, she immediately wanted to read it again, but said, “You be the reader, and I’ll be the ‘no’-er.” This potential for interaction hadn’t dawned on me as I stood in the bookstore reading the book to myself, but of course that implied and repeated “No!” is obvious to a kid!

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My oldest niece several years ago, reading as she walks down the street just as I did as a child.

Another important lesson I learned from reading to them: short books are greatly appreciated, especially at bedtime. I’m sure all parents know this, but I didn’t! When my nieces went to the bookshelf to choose a bedtime story, I cringed if it was a really long one. Now I know that when I cut words in a manuscript, I’m not only tightening my story and leaving more room for the illustrator, I’m also helping a parent get to bed a little earlier!

And the last lesson that was a revelation to non-parent me: a bad book is even worse when you have to read it over and over and over. There was one book that one of my nieces inexplicably loved, and it was painful to have to reread it. I try to write books that hold up to repeated readings, not just for the child’s benefit, but for the adult’s as well.

What are your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children?

I’m sure others you’ve interviewed here have covered all the concrete ideas I’d have plus many others: varying vocal dynamics and tone, assuming voices for different characters, asking the kids what they think will happen next, giving them time to really look closely at the illustrations—kids are so much more observant than I am of the little details on the page!

For me, the important point is that kids are smart. If you’re enthusiastic about reading, and if you love a particular book, they will absolutely pick up on that. I think one of the best things you can do to encourage a love of reading is to let kids see that it’s an important part of your life. What a great excuse to curl up with a good book!

Thank you, Deborah! 

Special offer: Leave a brief comment on this post to be entered in a draw for one of Deborah’s wonderful Christmas books. You can choose which book you would like to receive, and Deborah will autograph it for you. Comments must be posted by midnight EST on December 7th, 2014.  

Another holiday offer: For a limited time, Aimee is shipping out free, personalized bookplates that can be placed inside copies of Mama’s Day with Little Gray. Click here for more information. 

Santa Cat Cover copyChristmas Quiet Book

Connect with Deborah: 

Website: DeborahUnderwoodBooks.com
Twitter: @underwoodwriter

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Hélène Boudreau on Fostering Your Family’s Love of Reading

heleneHélène Boudreau grew up on an island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean but now writes fiction and non-fiction for kids from her land-locked home in Ontario, Canada.

Her picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn, is a 2013 Parents’ Choice Award winner, a 2014 OLA Blue Spruce Award nominee, and a Crystal Kite Winner. 

Her tween novel, Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings is a 2011 Crystal Kite Member Choice Award Finalist.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have? 

I’m from a family of ten so books were kind of community property in our house, growing up. I remember, though, that my godfather sent me my very own hardcover Trixie Belden for Christmas one year. I cherished that book because it was mine. All mine! That feeling of ownership of a story, a character, a whole world, is what really influences me to write for kids.

Once I read that first Trixie book, I was hooked. We didn’t have a public library where I grew up but we did have a bookmobile bus that would come to our island every few weeks. I remember walking up and down that bus aisle, perusing the shelves looking for the latest Trixie Belden. Most of my friends were Nancy Drew fans but since receiving that book as a gift, I was Trixie all the way.

trixie belden

Please share about your experiences of being an adult and reading to a child or children. 
 
Last year, I was on vacation with my family when my picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn was released. I dearly wanted to see my book on store shelves but thought it would be a long shot to find it in the local bookstore where we were traveling, so we surreptitiously went to the bookstore to browse and, lo and behold, my book was there in the children’s section. Even better—I found out the bookstore staff was planning to read it at the children’s story hour that weekend, and they invited me to read instead.

What a happy accident that turned out to be! Being able to share my newly published book with a story time full of inquisitive, lively toddlers was such a highlight. And seeing all the children there with a dad, or a grandpa, or a mom, or a family friend, reinforced the idea that when it comes to books and children—all it takes is an interested adult to put a book in front of a child and the rest will follow.

VeroBeachReading

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

Creating a ‘library culture’ in your home is a wonderful way to foster reading in children. Library cards are free and most villages, towns, and cities have access to public libraries in North America. For me as a child it was a book mobile. For my children, we are lucky enough to have a wonderful library system in our area.

We make regular trips to the library and have taken advantage of their many library programs. Checking out lots and lots of books on a regular basis and just putting books within the reach of children and letting them choose is one of the best ways I know to foster a love of reading.

Libraries, for the win!

Thanks, Hélène. Check out Hélène’s fun picture book, I Dare You Not to Yawn, at your local library or store!

I Dare you Not to Yawn

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Connect with Hélène:

Website: http://www.heleneboudreau.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/heleneboudreaubooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/HeleneBoudreau

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2743065.Helene_Boudreau

 

 

Rachel Eugster on Books as Nourishment

Rachel10I’m happy to welcome Rachel Eugster to Good Books to Share. Both of our new books feature warm relationships between mothers and sons and were inspired by experiences we had with our own children. Rachel and I have attended writing conferences together where we commiserate and share inspiration.

Rachel Eugster wears two professional hats: one as a writer and editor, and the other as an actor, singer, and music director.

Rachel’s first picture book, The Pocket Mommy, was inspired by the day when she dropped her son off at kindergarten and he announced that he wished she was tiny enough to keep in his pocket all day. The book was released by Random House Canada (Tundra Books) in August, 2013.

Rachel is also the author of Beans and Other Pulses, Fruits, Grains and Cereals, Seeds and Nuts, and Vegetables, published by Franklin Watts as the Ingredients of a Balanced Diet series. As a magazine writer, her focus has been concentrated on food, healthy living, medical science, and interesting people. She has also written articles for children on such fascinating topics as horse communication, the Robotarium, ringtones for leopards, reawakening volcanoes, and exploding toads.

A former editor of Walking magazine, Rachel has edited nearly every form she can think of, from fiction to poetry to medical journals to architectural writings. She particularly enjoys editing the manuscripts of writers for children.

In Rachel’s parallel career, she is a founding member of the theatre company Bear & Co. (http://www.bearandcompany.ca/) and the ensemble Dragon’s Tea Trio (with cellist Joan Harrison and guitarist Andrew Mah).

Born in one national capital (Washington, D.C.), Rachel now lives in another (Ottawa, Ontario) with her husband, two sons (when they are home from university), two cats, and a greyhound.

Please share about your experience of connecting with books as a child. What positive memories do you have?

That is as difficult as describing my first taste of solid food! Who remembers the first banana they tasted as a baby?

Rachel3
What was your first taste of solid food like?

Books have been a constant, as far back as I can remember. They were companion, refuge, entertainment, distraction, sustenance.  There has always been one in my hand or within easy reach—and here is photographic evidence.

Rachel2
Nothing like a little philosophy before bed.

I don’t remember being read to, although I’m quite sure I was. But I do vividly remember being taught to read by my mother, whose hand-lettered cards and brilliantly conceived phrases rewarded decoding with a nugget of humor.

Thus, I entered kindergarten one of two children who could read. In one of my only memories from that class, Miss Bucket held up the book she was about to read aloud, and asked the two of us if we would read the title to the class. Painfully shy, I wasn’t confident enough to speak, so the other child (worse: a boy!) got all the glory, and I spent the rest of the day kicking myself for looking like a fraud. Shyness goes deep, and books were everything to me, as they are for so many shy children.

One important early gift was Bulfinch’s Mythology, from my grandmother. She, too, was a writer, and often asked what books I was reading. It took her aback when, at age of 9, I asked for Bulfinch’s. Her only condition was that I read it. Needless to say, there was a teacher behind the wish: ours had been reading from it to my class.

Rachel1
I kept my promise to my grandmother.

But I read everything and anything, and have never stopped reading children’s books. That’s less unusual for adults these days, but my mother used to say I was the only person she knew who read them “as if they were literature”!

Now that you are an adult, what are your favorite aspects of sharing good books with kids?

I don’t remember many picture books from my own childhood, and reading to my own kids as a young mother led to wonderful discoveries. Both boys are in university, now, but I still have most of the collection we accrued. How can I get rid of Goodnight Moon? Blueberries for Sal? Grandfather Twilight? Bea & Mr. Jones? Perfect the Pig?

Rachel4

As my sons grew older, I loved sharing books from my own past, as well as exploring the new things that were being published. We read everything, and even though they are very much children of the computer age, both of my sons still do.

The bedtime ritual of reading aloud that we established very early continued right up until my older son left for school. With four and a half years between the boys, it was sometimes a challenge to find things that would interest the whole family. Books from my past often came to the rescue: Randall Jarrell’s The Animal Family, Tove Jansson’s Moonintroll books, Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, L. M. Boston, Madeleine L’Engle, Susan Cooper, James Thurber.

Rachel5Rachel6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since my own book, The Pocket Mommy, came out last fall, I have also loved reading it to children in bookstores and libraries. Watching them sit entranced as I read, hearing them giggle in exactly the places that I think are funny—this is deeply fulfilling.

As an author visiting bookstores in cities far away from home, one of my best experiences so far occurred when a child who had just left the store pulled her mother back in so she could meet me—because she had recognized my book as one she loved from her school library. And this was only three months after it had been released!

Please share your thoughts on and tips for sharing good books with children.

Really, there’s only one tip to give: Read to them. Whenever you can. Wherever you can. Whatever you can.

Whenever means start reading to them when they’re really little—the earlier, the better. It also means read to them when they’re happy, when they’re fussy, when they’ve woken up or are about to go to sleep; whenever they ask, and at the drop of a hat.

Wherever means at home or away, snuggling in bed or while standing in lines, waiting in cars or sitting at the airport.

Whatever means anything and everything: Shakespeare, poetry, economics, history, mathematics, newspapers. Read them anything you love and believe in. Nothing you love will be too hard for them, as long as you are ready to answer questions.

Rachel8Rachel9

Also, be sure to read for your own pleasure, and be seen to be enjoying reading! Make sure it isn’t just newspapers and magazines, either. Let you kids know, by showing them, that you, too, like to read books, whether in print or electronic form.

Great advice! Thanks, Rachel.

Pocket Mommy

The Pocket Mommy is a perfect back-to-school choice.  What other books have you found helped to ease the transition back into the fall schedule? Share your suggestions below.

Connect with Rachel: 

Websites:

http://racheleugster.com/

http://www.randomhouse.com/book/223093/the-pocket-mommy-by-rachel-eugster

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/thepocketmommy?bookmark_t=page

https://www.facebook.com/rachel.eugster.1

Twitter: @RachelEugster

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