Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Art & Fear— Wisdom for Working Artists PLUS: Book Giveaway

 by Dorothia Rohner

Recently, I reread a book that my mother gave me years ago. Since then, I have referred to it many times on my artistic journey. 

Art and Fear–Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING. An Artist's Survival Guide. By David Bayles and Ted Orland

This book is filled with nuggets of wisdom that discuss the importance of finding your own work. The authors explore the nature of being an artist and pose questions and offer suggestions for those of us who have a passion to create.

Each time I read the book, it helps me to examine why I create, what I am trying to achieve and how I want to execute the work. Making books for children takes patience, determination, imagination, grit and patience among other traits. This books discusses why some artists keep going and some fail to find the courage to forge on. 

I have selected eight quotes to share with you here. I hope that these quotes will remind you that you are not alone on your creative journey and give you the courage to keep making books for children. 

The world needs more books made by kind and gentle people. 

Book Giveaway: 

I will be giving away a copy of Art and Fear.  Scroll down to see how you can enter to win.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Parallel Stories

 After attending Toni Buzzeo's wonderful workshop at The Writers' Loft on picture book structures, I started noticing them everywhere – Mirror, Circular, 3-tries, and Parallel stories: this is where the plot follows two characters on separate journeys through the story. Sometimes the two characters come together at the end, and sometimes they don't but their experiences echo each other. You see a lot of compositional mirroring that is frequently found in any plot where there is a lot of symmetry either between characters or between parts of the story.

Todays examples are all from author-illustrators! Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, and Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McClintock.

Toot and Puddle by Holly Hobbie: 
This story follows two friends: one who is a homebody and one who likes to go adventuring. Puddle stays home and enjoys life there, while Toot travels the world and sends back postcards. The months of the year serve as a framework, and at the end of the year Toot comes home.

A typical spread shows a scene with Toot and a postcard on the left, and a scene with Puddle on the right. The two stories progress side by side.

I personally think this is one of the most perfect parallel stories I've ever read. This story alternates the two main character's adventures: first you see Sal eating blueberries with her mother, then Little Bear follows in almost exactly the same fashion. A lot of humor comes from anticipating that what you just saw happen to Sal will now happen with Little Bear, or vice versa. The two main characters never meet, but a great amount of delight can be found in reading about their two, almost exactly the same, adventures. 

Image © Robert McCloskey
Image © Robert McCloskey
Image © Robert McCloskey

Image © Robert McCloskey

This story involves a day in the life of the two title characters: Emma, who is a little girl taking ballet lessons, and Julia, who is a professional ballerina. At the end, Emma goes to Julia's performance, which sweetly ties the characters together as well as ending the day. 
Image © Barbara McClintock
Image © Barbara McClintock

Image © Barbara McClintock

I hope you find exploring story structures to be as fun and helpful as I do! 

Jen Betton wrote and illustrated HEDGEHOG NEEDS A HUG (Penguin-Putnam) and illustrated TWILIGHT CHANT by Holly Thompson (Clarion-HMH). Her newest book, BARN AT NIGHT, written by Michelle Houts and published by Feeding Minds Press will be published in winter 2021.

You can find more of her work here:

Monday, December 7, 2020

Things that are keeping me sane during the pandemic (aka cute and useful things from Susie Ghahremani)

I wanted to do a quick post to highlight a few things made by our very own Susie Ghahremani (available from her shop, boygirlparty.com) that have been really helpful during the past 8 months.

Growth: A Journal to Welcome Personal Change

I know that during the past 8 months, I've developed a lot of bad habits. This journal is full of prompts to spur your change, allow you to reflect, and celebrate your progress. Perfect for starting a new year and keeping you motivated while making improvements in your life!

If you want to see more images of some of the interior pages, check it out here.

Send Some Mail!

I was looking around for some cute cards and wanted to support an independent artist, when I remembered Susie's shop. I've sent more snail mail this year than I've probably sent in the past 10 years. Now that my son and I can't see his grandparents in person, we have been writing them cards to keep in touch. Plus, it's always fun to get mail! 

Susie has a variety of cards available here: https://shop.boygirlparty.com/collections/all/card

Get Organized!

And finally, this weekly organizer is helping me keep my life and my kid's homework assignments organized. Not only has the passage of time seemed very confusing lately, keeping on top of online school assignments has been a huge challenge. Using this organizer has been massively helpful to see everything that is due at a glance. 

Susie also has a variety of to-do lists and some other organizer designs to keep everyone on track, available here: https://shop.boygirlparty.com/collections/all/organizer

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Our 2020 Books (Year in Review!)

What a year 2020 has been! We've been busy making books, though! Here's the year-end review of what came out this year. 

Amber Alvarez

by Diana Murray and Amber Alvarez

See lions snuggle on the savanna and groundhogs play on the prairie in Diana Murray's Wild About Dads, a heartwarming picture book that celebrates dads of all kinds--featuring illustrations by Amber Alvarez!

Lisa Anchin
by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Lisa Anchin

Learn about the importance of vaccines and the scientific process through the fascinating life of world-renowned scientist Jonas Salk, whose pioneering discoveries changed the world forever.

Brooke Boynton Hughes
by Barbara Bottner and Brooke Boynton Hughes

Help Archer find his missing turtle hiding in the pages of this picture book!

Allison Farrell
by Joan Holub and Allison Farrell

When the road signs take a vacation, chaos and hilarity ensue--
and they quickly learn how important they are.

Kimberly Gee

Bear is very, very, very GLAD today! He’s taking his first ballet class. 
But he’s a little nervous too. This sweet and silly picture book is an honest exploration 
of feelings that little ones—and grown-ups!—are sure to relate to.

Susie Ghahremani
Marcus Ewert and Susie Ghahremani

With whimsical, rhyming stanzas, She Wanted to be Haunted offers a delightful, 
lyrical twist on the ever-important question of how to be your very best self.

Susie Ghahremani
John Muir and Susie Ghahremani
August 2020

An original board book that encourages a bedtime in tune with nature.

Susie Ghahremani

A journal can be so much more than an outlet--it can also be a companion, a resource, and a place to find answers.

Jessica Lanan

 Megan Dowd Lambert and Jessica Lanan

In this fresh and funny follow-up to the Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book A Crow of His Own, rooster Clyde is forced to adjust to new roommates on the farm when Fran the goat and her kid, Rowdy, take up residence. Can Clyde handle having a new kid in town?

Maple Lam
Raffi and Maple Lam

Shake, clap, jump, and wiggle your way through this classic Raffi sing-along book!

Corinna Luyken
Kate Hoefler, Corinna Luyken

A tender and timely story of compassion and finding common ground with others, 
perfect for fans of I Walk With Vanessa and Thank You, Omu!

Juana Martinez- Neal
Beth Ferry, Juana Martinez-Neal

From New York Times best-selling author Beth Ferry and Caldecott Honor winner Juana Martinez-Neal comes a sweet-and-salty friendship story perfect for pirate-lovers learning new ways to communicate while at a distance. 

Debbie Ridpath Ohi
written by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

This wildly imaginative, crayon-inspired picture book shows that with a bit of teamwork and a universe of creativity, anything is possible!

Dorothia Rohner
Written by Dorothia Rohner, illustrated by Vanya Nastanlieva

A simple, friendly game of Duck, Duck, Goose goes off the rails in giggle-inducing 
confusion when a silly goose tries to make it all about him.

Robin Rosenthal

Count up to 10 and back down again in this picture book starring 
10 traveling dogs and one very tenacious cat!

written by Duane Armitage and Maureen Doyle, illustrated by Rosin Rosenthal

An exciting board book series that asks deep questions in a wonderfully accessible way. Even little children have big questions about life.

Molly Ruttan

Adopting an extraterrestrial leads to hilariously mixed results!

Rob Sayegh
written by Holly Berry-Byrd, illustrated by Rob Sayegh Jr

Ho, ho, ho! Join Santa as he prepares for his big day. It's Christmas eve in the North Pole, and Santa's elves are busy making toys to deliver to good little girls and boys.

K-Fai Steele

Okapi Tale, the much-anticipated sequel to Noodlephant, is about what happens when the phantastic noodler—a public good—falls into the wrong hands (a rich okapi). But to whom does the machine really belong? Just one greedy Okapi, or the whole town of Beaston?

Alexandra Thompson

A foodie French bulldog finds a forever home in this heartwarming and adorable debut 
picture book, sure to appeal to fans of Gaston, Ellie, and Little Elliot, Big City.

Heidi Woodward Sheffield

A striking debut celebrating the warm bond between a little boy and his dad as they work hard to achieve their dreams.

Heidi Woodward Sheffield
Leslie Helakoski and Heidi Sheffield

In beautiful, evocative rhyme, this lovely picture book helps children consider 
the colors of their everyday lives . . . and imagine how others around the world 
experience the very same things.

Liz Wong
Helaine Becker, Liz Wong

The most powerful pirate in history was a woman who was born into poverty in Guangzhou, China, in the late 1700s. When pirates attacked her town and the captain took a liking to her, she saw a way out. Zheng Yi Sao agreed to marry him only if she got an equal share of his business. When her husband died six years later, she took command of the fleet.

Andrea Zuill
Nelly Buchet, Andrea Zuill

Here is the oh-so-hilarious and adorable story of a blended family-- using just a few 
words in various configurations-- from the pets' point-of-view!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Interview with Jenin Mohammed- 2020 SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase Winner

©Jenin Mohammed
Hi there Jenin! Congratulations on your award! How does it feel winning SCBWI Summer Spectacular Showcase among so many other talented artists?
It’s incredibly exciting to have won one of the grand prizes of the showcase. I still need to pinch myself every now and then and ask myself “did that really happen?” I was so amazed by the amount of people that had entered and the amount of incredible work they had submitted, I was sure my small portfolio was going to be overlooked.  
Your work is too good to be overlooked! What kind of projects are you working on now?
I am illustrating a picture book for Harper Collins. I am also writing a middle grade novel about the struggles of growing up with siblings. It’s a funny, relatable book about what it’s like being the eldest. I even set the story in my hometown, Miramar, Florida, so the setting is just as personal as the main story.
Wow! That's so cool! Is there any type of illustration work that you’re hoping for in the near future?
Yes! I’d like to write and illustrate a book for older children (the middle grade to YA age group). I’d like to create a book that has illustrations woven into the reading experience, kind of like in “The Invention of Hugo Cabret.” I’d also look forward to writing and/ or illustrating speculative fiction that centers African-American children. Afro-futurism all the way! 

©Jenin Mohammed

That sounds amazing! Is there one really helpful piece of advice that you’ve gotten since pursuing illustration?  
The best piece of advice I got was through the webinar that Cecilia Yung and Laurent Linn recorded for SCBWI. I think I really had an artistic breakthrough when Laurent mentioned (and I’m paraphrasing) that children’s book art directors aren’t looking for portfolios that look like something out of a fancy artbook. They want the artist to think about how a kid sees the world. That piece of advice made me really think about how I set up the camera/ perspective in an illustration. I asked myself, “how did kid Jenin see the world?” then remembered the type of mediums I was using at that age. I ended up recreating the imperfect look of tissue-paper-cutouts that I’d make in my mother’s art room.
That's so interesting! Have you received any bad advice?

A bad piece of advice I got on creating a portfolio was “don’t do portraits.” I understand that portraits can be sort of static or boring. But I think if a portrait is done well, it can be interesting and convey a lot of story.
I agree with you on that. What was one of your favorite quotes or lessons from the SCBWI Summer Conference? 
My favorite lesson came from LeUyen Pham. She highlighted the importance of thumbnails. I learned that if you have done a composition well, your compositions can be connected through one long line.
That was helpful! What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
Oof, where do I begin? When I was starting elementary school, I liked picture books that ranged from weird and quirky like “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” and “Miss Nelson is Missing!” to beautiful books like “Aida” by Leo and Diane Dillon. When I got a little older, I was really drawn to the creepy illustrations of “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.” And eventually I got hooked on graphic novels like “The Babysitters Club” by Raina Telgemeier as well as a number of shojo manga books.

©Jenin Mohammed

Where can we find you online?

I’m active on Instagram. My name on there is @knotwritenow. You can also find me on twitter under @JeninMoham.



Interview by Meridth McKean Gimbel, a kidlit writer, artist, & champion taco cruncher who is currently building a time machine. They are also represented by Linda Pratt at Wernick & Pratt. You can follow their work at: