April Chu: On Illustration, Art, and Picture Book Success.

I had the pleasure of meeting picture book illustrator APRIL CHU at the 2015 American Library Association Convention in San Fransisco (ALA).  We shared a table and signed books for our publisher CRESTON BOOKS. Since then, April’s books have been earning recognition for the beauty and distinct quality of her illustrations.  Here she is to talk about her process and how the books came to be.

  1. Tell us a bit about your background and art training.

I studied architecture at UC Berkeley and worked as an architect for over ten years before I decided I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator. I never had any formal art training, but I don’t think I went a day in my life without doing some sort of doodling.

2. What brought you to illustration?

I’ve always loved drawing but I didn’t know how to channel that into something I can do professionally. Then in 2009 I took a children’s book illustration course at the UC Berkeley Extension and I fell in love with the whole book making process. A few years later, I decided to pursue illustration seriously.

3. Two recent books you’ve illustrated – A VILLAGE BY THE SEA, and ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE –  are with CRESTON BOOKS, which happens to be my publisher as well.  How did you end up working for Creston?

I met Marissa Moss at a book party that she was hosting. She had just started up her press, Creston Books. I brought along my portfolio and she thought I’d be a good fit for a manuscript she had just acquired called IN A VILLAGE BY THE SEA (Muon Van, author).   Village Cover (1)

I read the story and knew instantly that that was the project for me! After completing the artwork, Marissa offered me another book. This time it was an intriguing biography about the world’s first computer programmer, Ada Byron Lovelace. Working with Marissa and Creston Books has been such an amazing collaborative effort. I hope there are many more collaborations to come!


  1. The books mentioned have been earning a lot of praise and well-deserved starred reviews. How has that changed things for your career?

It has been great! I am usually working on my artwork alone and I only really get feedback from my editor and my husband. So once the book is released into the world, it’s such a relief and wonderful feeling when it’s welcomed with such warmth and positive attention. As an illustrator, the reviews and feedback definitely help me stay in the business.

5. I adore your illustration. They are so richly textured and three dimensional.  I feel like I can touch the drawings and everything will come to life.   Tell us a bit about your process.

Thank you! Before I begin sketching, I will read a manuscript many times so that I can do some initial brainstorming. For nonfiction stories like ADA BYRON LOVELACE AND THE THINKING MACHINE (Laurie Wallmark, author) there is usually some extensive research involved.    Ada Cover

After brainstorming and researching, I begin working on the thumbnail sketches, then the book dummy, and then the final sketch. This process can be quite lengthy with lots of revisions along the way. To create the final art, I scan the final pencil sketch into the computer and color the image digitally.


  1. What’s a typical work day? 

I usually wake up whenever my 6 month old wakes up, which is usually pretty early. I take care of her and then have a cup of coffee and something healthy for breakfast. I try to sneak work in while she naps which can be half an hour at a time or a few hours at time.


My husband helps out when he’s home so I can get some extra work done, but usually I am pretty exhausted by then. Basically my work day currently revolves around my daughter! I am still getting used to the new mommy routine and I don’t really have a typical work day anymore.


  1. Any words of advice for would-be illustrators?

My advice would be to have a good website with a solid portfolio. And try to get your work out there and don’t be afraid to network! You never know who you are going to meet. It could lead to your next job.

8. What’s next?

I am working on my next picture book about America’s first female detective, Kate Warne. The story is written by Marissa Moss and the book will be published by Creston Books and released Spring 2017. Then afterwards I am illustrating a sweet story about a boy going on a fly fishing trip with his grandfather. This book will be published by Abrams and released Spring 2018. When I am not illustrating, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family.

April Chu Headshot (2)Website: www.aprilchu.com

Twitter: @AprilChuART

Free Bookmarks For Library Month and Beyond…

What better way to encourage children to keep on reading throughout the summer than with free printable bookmarks they can keep, trade and share with friends?  Here is a site that has numerous bookmarks on all kinds of subjects.  They are perfect to use as rewards in the classroom or to give away at parties or read-a-thon events.


And, here is a printable version of my own bookmark for WHEELS OF CHANGE:


Celebrate Earth Day.

EARTH DAY is today.  And Arbor Day is next Friday, April 29.  You and your kids can show your appreciation for our beautiful planet in several ways.

  1. Join the movement to plant 7.8 BILLION trees by 2020 – one tree for every person on the planet.  Go to http://www.earthday.org   for complete details.

2. 50 MILLION trees have been planted by the Arbor Foundation in America’s 155 National Forests over the last 2 decades.  You can plant a tree of your own or give a seedling to someone else.  Or, donate $25.00 and Arbor Day Foundation will add 25 more trees to our landscape.  Visit  http://www.arborday.org

3.  You can check out some fun ideas for celebrating Arbor Day or Earth Day at:  http://tinyurl.com/j9fev58

4.  Go to a local park or playground and pick up litter and items that can be recycled.  Also, check out PREVIOUS POSTS on this blog for other earth-friendly ideas.    Be kind to trees.  They make life on planet Earth possible.

tree hug5.  Read some fun books about the Earth and nature.  One great title: MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS, by Kate Messner.  Also, these two classics, THE LORAX by Dr. Seuss; and THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein.

For more “Green Books” titles visit:


Irene Latham: 5 Ways to Celebrate Poetry Month!

Today’s post is a reblog of one done by Award winning Children’s Book Author and poet IRENE LATHAM.

5 Fresh Delicious Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Hello and Happy National Poetry Month! This is the time to celebrate words and love and poems and LIFE! Yes indeed the dogwoods are blooming and the bluebirds are nesting, and there has never been a more fresh delicious moment than this one. Thank you for sharing it with me!

1. Play with your fruits & veggies!

Last month I delivered to the world my latest book FRESH DELICIOUS: Poems from the Farmers’ Market. It features gorgeous, imaginative illustrations by Mique Moriuchi, and was made possible by the amazing folks at WordSong/Boyds Mills Press. I’m so grateful to be a part of this team! Watermelon-sized thanks to readers/teachers/bloggers/friends everywhere who have already shared about this book.

Jama’s Alphabet Soup – poems and art about blueberries! lettuce! bell peppers!

Today’s Little Ditty – poems and art about corn!

TeacherDance – poetry lessons about all the offerings at the farmers’ market!

The Poem Farm – read a poem that cut from the collection — and find out why!

Trade reviews:

“Food selection and preparation is rarely such a fun adventure.”
– Booklist

“The bright, pleasant illustrations, which feature cut-paper animals, work well to enhance the atmosphere and convey the actions of the verse.”
– School Library Journal

“Whimsical poems will inspire readers to play with their fruits and vegetables.”
– Kirkus

“Half a dozen recipes cap off a lighthearted celebration of food at peak freshness.”
– Publisher’s Weekly


2. Sign up to receive an artsy-poetry postcard!

For the past 5 years I have sent out postcards during National Poetry Month, and I would love to send one to YOU! Signing up is easy: just click the graphic, add your address, and soon a little bit of poetic goodness will arrive in your mailbox.

3. Follow along as the Poetry Friday blogging community creates the 4th annual Kidlitopshere Progressive Poem!

This is a traveling poem in which a different blogger adds a line each day during the month of April. There are always surprising twists and turns as the poem moves from blog to blog — we never know what’s going to happen! It’s great fun, and we’d love for you to share in it with us! Read the first line from Laura Purdie Salas here.

4. Share my 2016 ARTSPEAK! Journey!

This year I am continuing my National Poetry Month poem-a-day project called ARTSPEAK! Each day I respond to a piece of art from the National Gallery of Art’s digital collection — this year’s theme is Plant. Grow. Eat. You can find last year’s offering as well as this year’s (growing!) collection at my blog Live Your Poem. First poem: “Triolet for Planting Day,” after _The Artist’s Garden at Eragny_ by Camille Pissarro.

5. Live Your Poem!

Take a walk. Write a poem. Talk to a 3 year old or a 93 year old. Go to a museum. Take a nap. Hike. Garden. Read. Whatever it is that you love best, do it! Be open to the beauty and wonder in the world. Be a beginner. Be YOU.

Other suggestions (taken from poems) for how to live your poem can be found here.

Other April Happenings:

There’s so much loveliness going on in the world this month, I can’t possibly cover it all here. So I will just leave you with a few links:

Jama Rattigan’s post with a list of how kidlit bloggers are celebrating National Poetry Month – so much good stuff! I do hope you’ll join in the fun!

Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival – I will be presenting a session called “Reading is Delicious: Fun, Fresh Food Programming for Kids”

Texas Library Association Conference – I am honored to be part of the Poetry Roundup coordinated by Sylvia Vardell, along with these other wonderful poets: Janet Wong, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Steve Swinburne, David L Harrison,K A Holt, and Kwame Alexander

Alabama Library Association Convention – April 12-15 (I’ll be there with other authors on the 13th!)
Birmingham Arts Journal Reading and Release Party – April 28 — Y’all Come!

Alabama Book Festival – April 23 in Montgomery, AL


Did you hear? DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST: And Other Poems from the Water Hole (illus. by Anna Wadham) was named a Lee Bennett Hopkins SCBWI Poetry Award Honor Book! I’m honored, grateful and humbled. The other Honor Book was FEEDING THE FLYING FANELLI’S by Kate Hosford & Cosei Kawa and the winner was FOREST HAS A SONG by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater & Robin Gourley.

Thank you, readers! The best part of being an author is connecting with YOU. Happy National Poetry Month! May you be inspired and inspiring!


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Let in the Birds! 3 Dimensional Paper Craft

Today’s craft is inspired by all the colorful birds that are back in town thanks to spring.  It’s a simple craft that even the youngest kids can do with a bit of direction.  Everything you need is in the photo here:

Matierials for bird paper craft: colored construction paper or card stock, scissors, stapler.

Materials for bird paper craft: colored construction paper or card stock, scissors, stapler.

Cut One Inch strips of paper (11 inches or longer) from 5 assorted colors.    Place them on top of each other and staple together at one end.  This will be the birds beak.  To form the head, pull the bottom strip straight, and then gather each additional strip a bit looser than the one below it so it forms a head as shown in the photo.  Staple together.  Do the same thing to form the body, except the loops will curve downward rather than upward.  Staple together.  2015-04-11 02.07.42See photo below:  

To make the tail, cut the tail pieces into thin strips, stopping at the staple.  Curl the strips by wrapping them around the pencil.  To form feet and wings, cut one inch wide strip about 4 inches long and fringe them as shown in the photo.  Staple in place.  Roll up a small piece of paper and slide it into the head portion for an eye.  See photo below:

2015-04-11 02.13.13To hang the bird, tie sting under the mid section and under the hear portion and bring the two strings together in the middle as shown:   2015-04-11 02.17.30You can vary the materials as you like.  Try using real feathers for the wings and pipe cleaners for the feet.  Make a MOBILE of colorful birds to decorate for a party or to make a room look like spring! 

Why not bring the birds indoors and let them fly!

Choose Your Days: PB by Paula Wallace

It’s been a joy to be given an opportunity to do a post with Paula Wallace as my guest. This Author/Illustrator just released a new picture book  titled CHOOSE YOUR DAYS (Cinco Puntos Press). If you haven’t had a chance to see this unusual and exciting book, here are some reviews to whet your appetite. (My words and comments are in RED)

hi-res Choose Your Day CoverKirkus Starred Review of Choose Your Days: 

With the help of Old Bear, Corky lives her life intentionally. Old Bear is the “keeper of time and keys,” and when Corky is born, the big, pillowy-looking old ursine gives the little dark-haired, white child her days, two empty lists (one for dreams and one for things to do), her key, and a simple, whispered instruction: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” She takes it seriously. Waking up beneath a clock with an urgent reminder instead of numbers — “Get up! You have stuff to do. Get up!” — Corky grows, moving from tricycle to two-wheeler, aging and becoming stooped over the course of two double-page spreads back grounded with painterly strokes of aquamarine. Even aged, Corky still wants to pursue “work undone … play postponed … music unsung,” but eventually she must use her key to unlock the door to death, where Old Bear is waiting comfortingly. Wallace’s illustrations are metaphorical and cozy, her pointy-nosed protagonist perpetually clad in red shoes and scarf, striped stockings, and a comfy brown dress. Generous white space encompasses both protagonist and symbols of passing time (calendar pages, the stub of a pencil), giving children the emotional room to contemplate Corky’s progress. This is the kind of book that will stick with readers, a meditation that they may not understand now but that, if digested, could have magical results.

Publishers Weekly: 

Nebraska-based artist Paula Wallace quietly exhorts readers to make the most of their time on Earth as she follows a girl named Corky from her birth to the other end of her lifespan. Wallace’s language and imagery can be both playful and enigmatic—this is a story that challenges readers to think, rather than hitting them over the head with obvious messages and directives. After Corky is born, she is visited by Old Bear, “keeper of time and keys,” and a deity of sorts. He leaves her with a “calendar for all of her days,” lists to be filled with dreams and actions, and some advice: “Choose your days, make them sunny or gray.” Wispy paintings chart Corky’s growth in a lovely sequence of pages that shows her riding tricycles and bicycles as she ages into an elderly woman with a kerchief and cane. She asks Old Bear for more time, “For work undone. For play postponed. For music unsung,” and while she doesn’t appear to get any additional time, she does eke out a few last adventures. It’s never too late, Wallace suggests, until it is. Ages 3–7. (Apr.)

I had the pleasure of reading this unique book. Here’s my review:  It is a tender and hopeful picture book for adults as well as children. Wallace respectfully addresses a topic not often discussed in picture books: Death.  It’s simple message is to “make the most of the time you are given, and when the end has come, do not be afraid.  Each of us holds a key to how we live our life.”  It really resonated with me.  Anyone who fears death will find the peaceful and thoughtful message a welcome one. 

When I asked Paula to describe how she became an author/illustrator for children, here was her response:

A studio in the Hot Shops Art Center is not so much about the finished formality of art than it is about the sweat and mess of making art. It is a place of collaboration and curiosity – both of which spark my work. My own compassion and sense of wonder are tempered with humor and an earthy realism – a creative and spiritual vision informed by both childhood farm life and grown-up city dwelling.

What enriches my life and art is helping others discover their own creative gifts – be they disabled, gifted, young or old. Service work as a teaching artist with WhyArts or the Girl Scouts in the Omaha area often includes projects with those who are the underserved, hovering at the edges – the very young or the elderly, special needs, at risk, or refugee.

My work as illustrator includes fully illustrated texts, calendars, teaching materials, and many published titles. The art work has been used to illustrate musical and dramatic texts for multi-media performances. My own book, Choose Your Days, is expected in 2016 from Cinco Puntos Press.

Corky and Bear in His boat.

Corky and Old Bear in the Moon’s boat. A scene from CHOOSE YOUR DAYS.

As a fine artist there have been exhibits in such diverse settings as commercial galleries in the United States and Italy, schools, churches, the Nebraska Governor’s mansion (2015) and in public collections such as the University of Nebraska Medical Center School of Nursing and School of Public Health. There is enormous gratitude for having work in private collections throughout the United States and internationally.

I use art to help give voice to others. Art is the language of my work: to delight in beauty and to share the human experience are aspects of that language. It is the artist’s duty is to pay attention to the wonders and possibilities of the world and, in particular, to their own mistakes.

Paula Wallace is a working artist, writer and poet whose studio is located in the

Hot Shops Art Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Wallace’s compassion and sense of wonder are tempered with wry humor and earthy realism – a creative and spiritual vision informed by both childhood farm life and grown-up city dwelling.           Paul Wallace photo by Cindy Zurcher

Wallace, a graduate of the University of Iowa, enriches her life and art by helping others discover their own creative gifts – be they disabled, gifted, young or old. Her service work as a teaching artist with WhyArts in the Omaha area includes projects with Heartland Family Service, such as Youth Links and the Solomon Girls Center; special education programs through the Omaha public schools; the Intercultural Senior Center; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts; and Service Learning at the University of Nebraska.

Wallace’s work as an illustrator includes Hansel & Gretel for Opera Omaha; African American Pioneers (homesteaders) for Omaha Public Schools African American History e-book series; cover art for Varieties of Personal Theology (David Gortner); Our Journey Together and Home is Our Journey (O’Brien); Nebraska Lawyer magazine; and the 2016-17 Christian Planning Calendar (Church Publishing). Wallace’s work has been used to illustrate musical and dramatic texts for multi-media performances at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, Chicago, Illinois, and Omaha, Nebraska; churches in Nebraska, Iowa, Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas; and for unique settings such as the Josie Harper Hospice House in Omaha, Nebraska.

Because the artist uses her art to help give voice to others, her range of styles may be representational to whimsical with lush color and an evocative narrative quality. Art is the language of her work: to delight in beauty and to share the human experience are aspects of that language. Wallace believes the artist’s duty is to pay attention to the wonders and possibilities of the world and, in particular, to their own mistakes.

Choose Your Days, is due on bookshelves in 2016 from Cinco Puntos Press. paulaswallace@gmail.com   











Poetry Sites For Kids.

April is NATIONAL POETRY MONTH.  With so much focus on Reading Literacy and Math, or STEM in the curriculum, poetry often gets pushed aside.  But its lyrical language and rhyme can make children better readers and writers.  And…it’s so much fun to listen to – especially with the numerous forms it can take, such as Haiku, Limericks, etc. One of my all-time favorite poems – Jabberwocky – by Lewis Carroll has so many made-up words, yet sounds like music to the ear.  Here’s the first verse:

“Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.” 

Such whimsical nonsense that rolls off the tongue like silk!  There is so much to love about poetry.  Take a moment to introduce your kids to the fun of such poems as:

A tutor who tooted a flute

Tried to teach two younger tooters to toot.

Said the two to the tutor,

“is it harder to toot,

Or to tutor two tooters to toot?”

Here are a few poetry sites for kids of all ages.  Some even publish kids poems.






Celebrate NATIONAL POETRY MONTH  and “TOOT” a few poems of your own. What’s your favorite poem?


And The Winner Is: Free Copy of WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD.

May I have a drum roll please…The winner of the FREE signed copy of Laurie Calkhoven’s new book, WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD is…Kim Pfennigwerth!  Just in time for Women’s History Month!

Please e-mail me when you get this message and I will connect you with Laurie.  Thanks to all who commented and participated.  It was a great discussion and I, for one, am looking forward to reading Laurie’s amazing book.

One Witch, Some Noisy Neighbors, and a Real Estate Agent = Picture Book!

Today’s post is brought to you by my author friend and fellow blogger, ROBIN NEWMAN.

How did Hildie Bitterpickles Need Her Sleep come about?

The idea for Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep started with my neighbor’s wonderful witch weathervane.  HildieWeathervaneI kept staring at it from my bedroom window, and I kept thinking what if a witch had some real estate problems. (Of course, I’m sure this is what normal people think about when they see a witch weathervane. They think about real estate.) And so began the story of Hildie Bitterpickles. At first, it wasn’t just Hildie. There were three witches: Hildie, Marge, and Blanche. The three were house hunting and their real estate agent found them a cozy cottage at the tippy top of a mountain. And sure enough, during the stormy season the house along with all its furniture, books, potions, brooms, spiders, cats, dogs, and of course witches, would teeter and totter, and in spite of the chaos somehow the house would turn out to be home sweet home. But the story was dialogue heavy with three witches and I had to say goodbye to Marge and Blanche. Little by little, I turned my attention to the kind of neighbors a witch would have. Naturally, they would be noisy, inconsiderate, and of course, fairy tale characters. And what if these neighbors were so awful, that even a witch had to hire a real estate agent to find her a new home? After about a year of rewrites with the most incredible critique group in the universe and beyond, the rest is pretty much Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep picture book history.


Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep  (Creston Books) flies onto bookshelves April 12, 2016, and is currently available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local independent bookstore.      HIGH RES. 20140513_robin_newman_0051


Robin was a practicing attorney and legal editor, but she now prefers to write about witches, mice, pigs, and peacocks. She is the author of The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake, A Wilcox & Griswold Mystery, illustrated by Deborah Zemke (Creston Books 2015), about two hardboiled mouse detectives on the hunt for Miss Rabbit’s missing carrot cake. (Note the names of the animals have been changed to protect the good guys.) carrotcake_cover03

She lives in New York, among many noisy neighbors, and spends many weekends strangely obsessing about witch weathervanes.

Find Robin at:

Website: www.robinnewmanbooks.com    Twitter: @robinnewmanbook

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/RobinNewmanBooks/339179099505049

And be sure to check out the Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep book trailer!


Hildie Bitterpickles Needs Her Sleep (Illustrated by Chris Ewald) is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your local indie.

 Here are some fun pages that you and your child can print out to go with the story.






Monster Needs to Go to School: New book by Paul Czajak

Paul Czajak and Wendy Grieb have teamed up once again to create another exuberant addition to the award-winning Monster & Me™ series. The sixth book in the series, this title addresses back-to-school jitters and the difficulty of dealing with bullies—especially when they’re friends.

Monster is dreading his first day of school. But his classroom is full of new friends and so many fun things to learn that Monster forgets his fears in no time… until he catches his friends bullying. What will Monster do?     Monster School Cover_1_1

The Monster & Me™ series has sold 100,000 copies to date, and is a 2015 Silver Moonbeam Children’s Book Award winner for Best Picture Book Series. Author Paul Czajak is a Huffington Post contributor and New York Journal of Books reviewer. Illustrator Wendy Grieb is an Annie Award-winning storyboard artist, whose use of bright colors and inclusive representation in each spread has brought Monster and his world to life in a cinematic way!

This book addresses universally relatable topics for children including the first day of school, learning new skills, making friends, confronting bullies, and building self-esteem.

Monster has explored many things and taught kids much about social consciousness and confidence. To learn more about Monster’s adventures, visit monstervotes.com or mightymediapress.com/monster.

Book webpage: http://mightymediapress.com/monster-needs-to-go-to-school

Monster’s website: www.mightymediapress.com/monster                         

A ALA San Fransisco 2015: Where I had the pleasure of meeting fellow NJ author, Paul Czajac.

A ALA San Fransisco 2015: Where I had the pleasure of meeting fellow NJ author, Paul Czajac.

Author webpage: http://mightymediapress.com/author/paul-czajak

Darlene Here: I found this latest “Monster” book the perfect introduction for easing “First Time at School” jitters.  It will be a favorite long after school has begun. Join the blog tour for MONSTER NEEDS TO GO TO SCHOOL by visiting the sites below:

monster school 4_4-2