Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Who Would You Like to Have Thanksgiving Dinner With?

In the spirit of Thanksgiving I have put together a bracket of my favorite families from books, movies and tv shows to determine which family I would most want to spend Thanksgiving with. For me the winner is...the Gilbreths from the book "Cheaper By the Dozen." Who would you most want to break bread with on Thanksgiving day?



The Weirs - Freaks and Geeks
Bluths - Arrested Development
The Starks - Game of Thrones
Hills - King of the Hill
Belchers - Bob’s Burgers
Pritchetts- Modern Family
The Sopranos - Sopranos
Crawleys - Downton Abbey


Dashwoods - Sense and Sensibility
Joads - Grapes of Wrath 
Bells - The Crossover
Cratchits - A Christmas Carol
Finches - To Kill a Mockingbird
Gilbreths - Cheaper by the Dozen
The Marches - Little Women
Boatwrights - The Secret Life of Bees


Portokalos - My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Tenenbaums - The Royal Tenenbaums
Von Trapps - Sound of Music
Sycamores - You Can’t Take it With You
Hoovers - Little Miss Sunshine
Corleones - The Godfather
Grants - Nebraska
Orefice - Life is Beautiful

Childhood Favorites

Weasleys - Harry Potter
Ingalls - Little House on the Prairie
Buckets - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Darlings - Peter Pan
Incredibles - The Incredibles
Burns - Rescue Bots
Kusakabes - My Neighbor Totoro
Robinsons - Swiss Family Robinson


Friday, November 13, 2015


Today I want to talk about a very special book.

Title: Roxaboxen

Author: Alice McLerran

Illustrator: Barbara Cooney

Ages: 4-7

Opening: Marion called it Roxaboxen. (She always knew the name of everything.)

What it's About: A group of kids discover a piece of land covered in rocks, cactus, and old wooden boxes and then turn it in to their own magical world.

Why I LOVE this Book: Some of my fondest memories from when I was a little girl include exploring outside, finding a special place, and making it my own. My friends and I used to gather juniper berries, Strip bark from the trees for bacon, and create little campfire pits. We would spend full afternoons in these places, pretending to be orphans, pioneers, native americans, etc. It was bliss. So when I discovered this book that captured so well that magical world of untethered childhood play I was nearly jumping up and down with excitement. I couldn't wait to go home and read it to my own 4 year old son.

Create Your Own Roxaboxen

1. Hook up with a buddy or group of friends. These sorts of adventures are far more fun if you have a team to share them with. Each child bring new ideas to the table and it's wonderful to watch them learn to work together.

2. Find a special place, it could be in your very own back yard, or where you can immerse yourself in nature and let creativity run uninterrupted.

3. It's okay to bring supplies from your house. Empty flower pots, yarn, boxes, cloth, all these things can be useful when creating your own special place.

4. Utilize nature's resources! Gather sticks to make fences. Collect wild berries, leaves, and bark for food. Nature is full of potential tools and elements for pretend.

5. Step back and allow the kids to do the work. As parents I know it's tempting at times to take over, but it's so important to allow the kids the freedom to come up with their own ideas and carry them out themselves. Help them if they ask for it, and throw out ideas if they are having trouble coming up with their own, but let this be their place, not yours.

6. Have fun!

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Best Picture Books Of All Time!

Happy National Picture Book Month! I am so happy to discover there is a whole 30 days devoted to celebrating the world I've immersed myself in for the past 3 years. Picture books are my life! Just ask any of my co-workers at the library. They'll tell you that at the end of every shift I'm walking away with an armful of picture books. I currently have 72 checked out, and they're sitting on a shelf in my 4 year old's bedroom just waiting to be opened. Every night Samuel and I snuggle up and step into the worlds created for us by Mo Williams, James Marshall, Maurice Sendak and hundreds of other brilliant children's book authors and illustrators. I may forget to have him brush his teeth or change him in to pajamas, but I never neglect to read him his bedtime stories. It's the most important ritual of my day.

In honor of National Picture Book Month I would like to share with you our top 10 favorite picture books. These are the books that threw us into fits of giggles, or caused an unexpected burst of emotion in me as I tried to wipe away the tears before Samuel could see. These are the books that I can recite word for word. These are the books that made me want to be a children's book author/illustrator in the first place. They are my haven, inspiration, and delight. They are the best of the best, and I hope you'll enjoy them too.

Samuel's Top 10

1. Tin - Chris Judge
2. Sneeches and other short stories - Dr. Seuss
3. Rhyming Dust Bunnies - Jan Thomas
4. There are No Cats in this Book - Vivian Schwartz
5. No David! - David Shannon
6. Bedtime for Mommy - Amy Krouse Rosenthal and LeUyen Pham
7. Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site - Sherri Duskey Rinker
8. Room on the Broom - Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
9. Hooray for Hat! - Brian Won
10. Go Dog. Go! - P. D. Eastman

My Top 10 

1. A Story, A Story - Gail E. Haley
2. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
3. Julius the Baby of the World - Kevin Henkes
4. Heckedy Peg - Audrey and Don Wood
5. The Mitten - Jan Brett
6. Home - Carson Ellis
7. Are You My Mother? - P. D. Eastman
8. Ernest the Moose - Catherine Rayner
9. No Fits Nilson - Zacharia O’Hara
10. The Eleventh Hour - Graeme Base

What are your favorites? What are the books that you loved as a child? What are the books that your own kids pull off the shelves over and over again? Please share! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

When the North Wind Blows

I am very excited to announce the upcoming chapbook of Christmas poetry by the talented Catherine Valentine and cover illustration by...yours truly!  I am honored to be a part of this beautiful book.  Stay tuned because it will be available soon around Thanksgiving!  You won't want to miss it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Urbana Art Expo: A Priceless Experience

Selling my art in a little corner amidst a gigantic room full of 23 other incredibly talented artists is probably the scariest thing I've ever done in my entire life.  This is no garage sale we're talking about here.  This is my life's work!  Extensions of my heart and soul spread across a navy blue bed sheet on a little fold-out table for the assessment of total strangers.  I could not have done it if my good friend Jana had not agreed to share a booth with me.  She and her husband Thomas were my anchor through this crazy adventure.  They provided wire and hooks, extra lighting, much needed advice, a way for customers to pay with credit cards, and most important of all, moral support.

But even with their invaluable support I still felt insecure.  No insecure is an understatement.  I felt
like a candle flame getting dimmer and dimmer with each person who barely glanced at my work without a word and moved on.  Each one felt like a rejection.  I am not used to feeling ordinary.  I'm used to standing out and getting praised for it, but at the expo every artist was extraordinary, making me just a part of the crowd.  So many people would breeze through our booth not even stopping to look closely or comment on my work.  I asked Jana, "Does this make you feel invisible?"  She looked thoughtful for a moment and said, "It's funny you should say that because I always feel invisible.  For me, to feel invisible is to feel safe."  That simple statement just blew my mind.  I never realized how privileged I was to grow up in great big family and community who constantly praised and made it a point to make me feel special.  To me this was the norm.  So when I came to an event like this where I received no such special treatment it was a bit of a culture shock.  I wanted people to gush over my work.  I wanted them to purchase my overpriced originals.  I wanted to feel adored.

                                                                                                                      Photo Courtesy by 40 North
But this was not the reality.  Two full hours went by and I only sold one bookmark, a total of $1.  It was agony.  I just wanted to hide in the bathroom and cry.  My flame kept growing dimmer and dimmer with until I felt just about ready to give up.  Just as I was trying think up some kind of escape route, a co-worker of mine, Rachel Wooley, came by and purchased a print of my scarlet tanager illustration.  That simple purchase gave me the courage to stick it out for the rest of the day.

After that more and more people began flooding in and my work received a lot more attention.  One woman bought my "As Big as this World Piece" for her nephew in New Orleans.  She said, "I just have to buy it.  It's too perfect not to."  Another woman who spent a good 20 minutes looking over my work finally decided to buy prints of, "Going out on a Limb" and "Summer."  She said "I had such a hard time trying to decide!  They are all so wonderful."  The piece that got the most attention was my original "Walking the Black Dog." A woman tugged on her husband's shirt nodding toward that piece and said, "I like this one."  One boy pointed at it and said, "Daddy look at this!"  Many others walked up to it and simply looked for a long time.  Each time I swelled with pride.

The absolute highlight of the day was watching a moment between two women when they discovered
a print of my piece titled "Love Wins." One held it up for the other to see and I was awe-struck by what happened next.  They wrapped their arms around each other.  Their backs were turned to me so I could not see their faces, but their heads were tilted toward each other in such a way radiating a love so tender it took my breath away.  Then they set it down and without a word walked off together holding hands.  That tiny little interaction was worth more to me than my total earnings that day.  I even had to fight back the tears of joy as I watched them walking off together.  This is why I do art.  This is what I live for.

I earned $126 that day which was more than enough to cover the expenses for participating, but even if I made nothing the experience would have been worth it.  There is nothing that compares to watching the raw reactions people have to your work.  My mind keeps returning to the couple after they saw my piece "Love Wins".  They did not purchase or even look over at me to comment.  They simply walked off together with one resting her head on the other's shoulder and holding hands.  To me this is priceless.

Friday, September 11, 2015

3 Goddesses: Penelope, Hestia and Artemis

This is a commissioned piece for a dear friend of mine.  It is an illustration of 3 Greek Goddesses Penelope, Hestia, and Artemis.  I loved this excuse to tap in to my love for Greek mythology.  When I was a kid I loved Greek mythology so much I decided to make a family tree of all the Greek Gods and Goddesses.  It's been a delight to return to that world once more.

Saturday, August 15, 2015