Monday, November 17, 2014

Dear Parents

Dear parents of the screaming child throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store,

I know that you feel like everyone is watching and judging, and you're probably right! It has been my observation that people in today’s society are quick to judge parents and slow to understand that children can’t be perfect little angels every waking moment of their life. There are a handful of compassionate people out there who will empathize with you, and may even offer to lend a helping hand, but the cold truth of the matter is that the majority of people judge.

This is unfair. Tantrums are completely normal! All parents have experienced the horrors of their child misbehaving in public. If they say otherwise they are either lying or they have an abnormally perfect child. But the sad thing is it’s not only the people who don’t have kids that are judging. Parents are guilty of this as well. I am sorry to say that I also am guilty of passing judgment.

Earlier this week I took Sam to a children’s museum and every time we passed this mom and her 4 year-old son he seemed to be throwing a horrible fit over some minor thing. I thought, “She is letting that kid walk all over her. I’m sure glad my son never acts like that.” I left the museum feeling rather smug. I am not proud of this. That very evening I read a blog post from my cousin who is a wonderful mother to 4 adorable kids. She wrote about a truly horrific experience she had at Target where one of her girls was having a melt down and a complete stranger walked up to her and said, “I think you should take parenting classes.” This experience really shook my cousin up, and I was outraged that someone could be so blatantly cruel. I stewed over that post all evening. I think one of the reasons I was so upset was because I realized I was one of those people passing judgment. Even though I would never approach a complete stranger and criticize them out loud, I was still guilty of thinking unkind thoughts. I resolved to stop.

Perhaps it was bad karma for being judgmental, but the very next day Sam had his first horrendous tantrum in a public place. Of course he would choose the library of all places to do this. He made a little friend in the kid section and the other kid ran into another section where adults worked on computers looking very much like they did not want to be disturbed. Sam was looking like he was going to follow him so I said, “Sam don’t go in there.” But he did. I put on my stern mommy expression, stormed in after him and grabbed his arm. I began to pull him out of the room and he just flopped on the floor and started screaming “No! No! No!” Heads turned in our direction. I flushed crimson. The other little boy allowed his mom to guide him quietly of the room. Sam on the other hand continued to make a scene. Not knowing what to say I just picked up my son and walked out of the room without a word. I could feel their eyes upon me as we retreated.

Dear parents. I know what it feels like to be judged. I’ve been there. It’s not fun. We can’t change the way other people will think about us, but we can choose how to respond to the situation. We could spend the day analyzing what we did wrong, reliving the embarrassing moment, and worrying what other people think, or we could allow the moment to pass and move on with our lives. Tantrums are fleeting. They flare up, they explode, and then they’re gone. We teach are our children how their actions affect those around them. They learn to stop throwing tantrums. They grow up into decent human beings. Who cares what those uppity, snobbish strangers think? They don’t know anything about you or your child. Just hold your head high, love your child, and love yourself. In the end that’s all that matters.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Board Games Bracket

I make brackets when I'm bored. Today I am especially geeky because I made a bracket of games that most people have never even heard of before.  Even if you are a board game fanatic like me this list is by no means perfect.  I designed it specifically for my own Game Night friends and family.  Still I thought I'd throw this out there for anyone who might want to participate.  Enjoy!

If you are ever looking for board game recommendations let me know!  I am more than happy to share my knowledge.  Christmas is coming up and board games make terrific gifts.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Dare to Discover Something New

A few weeks ago I went to Barnes and Noble to buy, "Ernest the Moose Who Doesn't Fit", a picture book I discovered at our local library and fell in love with.  When I got there I was appalled to discover that they did not have the book or any book by that particular author/illustrator, Catherine Rayner (who is fantastic btw).  When I asked the nearest employee if they had the book she said no and then went through the trouble to find me another moose book, but it was vastly inferior to Ernest the Moose so I left the store without purchasing anything.

The more I learn about the children's book industry the more I realize how terribly unfair the market is.  Publishing houses and books stores, like any other business, are mostly concerned with making money so they sell the classics.  When people go to the store to buy picture books they are naturally drawn to the ones that their parents read to them as kids: Goodnight Moon, Curious George, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Generation after generation are buying the same books again and again and again, not because they are the best, but because they are familiar.  This needs to stop.  Wonderfully talented new authors and illustrators are producing absolutely stunning picture books, but they are too soon forgotten because they don't fall under the "classics" category on the bookshelves.

Don't get me wrong.  There are a great deal of many wonderful classics and they deserve to be read.  My own picture book collection includes: Ferdinand the Bull, Love You Forever, Strega Nona, and On the Night You Were Born.  These books have become classics for good reason.  Classics are great, but it's a problem that they are the only books selling.  Emerging writers and illustrators deserve some love too.  I think people would be astonished at the wealth of talent out there if they only ventured to open books they never heard of before.

Here is what I suggest.  Spend time in the picture book sections of your nearest local library or used book store where you don't feel bombarded by marketing techniques.  Pick up books that you have never heard of before.  Dare to discover something new.  Allow yourself to become lost in the picture book world.  When you find a book that you really truly love then buy it!  You may have to order them online because book stores tend to sell only what they see as marketable.  I guarantee it will be the kind of purchase you can feel proud of.  There is something wonderful about supporting the creators of a work of art you love.

Keep the forgotten picture book illustrators and authors in mind as you search for Christmas gifts this year.  They've worked hard to produce something beautiful in this world.  They deserve some recognition.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's Time to Start Taking Myself Seriously!

I decided to pursue my dream of becoming a children’s book author/illustrator approximately two years ago as a recent college graduate staying at home with my one-year old son. I was researching how I might go about publishing a little “cat in a flowerpot” story I wrote. The more I researched the more my ambitions caught fire. I joined SCBWI, was counseled for a brief time by author and illustrator Vuthy Kuon, and did a great deal submitting, writing, and illustrating.

It can be a challenge to find time for these things when you are a stay at home mom. My studio became wherever my son happened to be: on the toilet seat next to the bathtub, on a park bench, and on the living room floor amidst legos and dinosaurs. For a time I managed my mom’s business, Attic Light Studios, where I would work on my illustrations while transferring VHS’s, 8 mm reels, and audio cassette tapes to digital files and DVD’s. It really didn’t matter where I was, if I had an idea my life would suddenly go on hold until it was complete.

I learned that making it as a children’s book author/illustrator isn’t something that just happens overnight. I put the “Cat in the Flowerpot” story on the back burner and started writing newer and better stories. The children’s section in the library has become my second home. Sam and I visit there at least 3 times a week and that is not just so he can play with the library toys. I’ve poured over hundreds and hundreds of picture books. They are my research. I come home from each library visit with an armful of them. Sometimes the pile is so big I barely make it to the car without dropping them. Perhaps I should invest in a wagon.

In addition to my picture book research I have also been extremely busy with illustrating for other people. In fact I just finished illustrating a cute little picture book about a llama named Lucy for my Aunt. In the past year I have been commissioned for multiple projects including a Human’s vs. Zombies poster, a book cover for my friend Victoria’s YA novella Re'and, multiple caricatures, and my Aunt’s 32 page picture book. Guess how much I’ve earned?! Not even enough to pay one month’s rent for our apartment. Ha! It’s a good thing I love what I do.

As much as I love making other people happy with my artwork I think it’s now time for me to start thinking about myself. Now that I feel confident in my abilities it’s time to start charging more and accepting less job offers. I need to focus on becoming professional. I need to make my own projects come to life. I do not regret the work I have done for others. Each has been a terrific learning experience and helped me develop confidence in myself. I have grown an unbelievable amount as an illustrator in this past year. However, now it’s time for me to start taking myself seriously, and recognize my own worth. My time is valuable and I need to spend it wisely. I’ve learned this the hard way.

Thank you everyone who has supported me in my struggles as new artist. Even though it can be scary, frustrating, and financially straining, it is an absolute joy for me to walk down a career path I love.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Picture Book Picks of the Week

My Pick

Title:  Wag!
Author and Illustrator:  Patrick McDonnell
Review:You have all read the comic strip "Mutts" in the Sunday paper right?  Well the creator of those comics also wrote this incredibly adorable book. If you are a dog lover than this book is definitely a must read.

                       Sam's Pick

Title:  How do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?
Author:  Jane Yolen
Illustrator:  Mark Teague
Review:  This is the second book illustrated by Mark Teague to make it into our batch of favorites. The guy really is a master at what he does.  Anyway Samuel completely adores this book as well as all of the "How do Dinosaurs..." books.  I think I am seeing a trend here with his favorites.  Most of them tend to involve dinosaurs!  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Best Halloween Movie List

6 weeks before Halloween I posted a Facebook status declaring I would watch at least one new Halloween/horror film every week before Halloween. I received a wonderful variety of recommendations and tried to watch as many of them as I could. I’ve already surpassed my goal having watched 10 movies with 13 days left before Halloween, although after watching “The Orphanage” (which I now consider the most terrifying movie on the face of the earth) I had to stop watching the straight up horror films and stick more to the family friendly genre.

Anyway I have compiled a list of what I consider all the best Halloween movies (not just the ones I’ve seen in the past month.) I have highlighted my top two favorites in each genre. I hope this lists helps you all as you decide what to watch for Halloween this year. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Halloween for Kids

I have done a lot of research on this topic lately and read about 30-40 of what I consider to be Halloween picture books.  It was tough, but I narrowed them down to my top 10 favorites.

1.  Big Pumpkin - Written by Erica Silverman and illustrated by S. D. Schindler.

I am a bit nostalgic about this book since it's one of my dad's all time favorites and he read it to me many many times as a kid. Now I'm carrying on the tradition and reading it to my own son. The rhythm of this book is delightful and it's fun to read all the character's voices in different accents.  It is a most enjoyable book to read aloud.

2.  The Monster's Monster - Written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell

This author is the creator of the daily comic strip Mutts.  His comics are adorable, but not quite as adorable as this book!  I guarantee that you will not find a sweeter Halloween picture book than this one or at the very least you won't find a more adorable spin off Frankenstein.  

3.  The Hallo-Wiener - Written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

This is a terrific Halloween book if you are looking for a laugh.  It's funny for the kids plus there are a few hidden jokes for the parents to enjoy as well.

4.  The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything - Written by Linda Williams and illustrated by Megan Lloyd

I remember reading this book back in elementary school.  It has just the right amount of scariness for little kids.  It's enough to make them feel slightly uneasy, but all turns out well in the end and it leaves you with an overall good feeling. 

5.  Ghost in the House - Written by Ammi Joan Paquette and illustrated by Adam Record

Not only is this an adorable Halloween book, it's also a great counting book!  It begins with 1 ghost exploring a house and as he stumbles upon new friends the numbers in the group increase.  The characters are lovable and the rhythm and rhyming in this book is terrific.  

6.  The Ghost of Nicholas Greebe - Written by Tony Johnston and Illustrated by S. D. Schindler

 My 3 year old son is still a bit too young for this book, but I would highly recommend it to kids 5 and up.  The plot is excellent, the illustrations are awesome, and it is the perfect ghost story for kids!

7.  I'm Going to Eat You!  - Written by Matt Mitter and illustrated by Jimmy Pickering

This is definitely one of my son's favorites.  It's a  delightful pop up book full of fun Halloween monsters and an interesting twist at the end. This is one of those books Samuel asks me to read again and again and again.

8.  Vampirina Ballerina - Written by Annie Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

I was so excited when I stumbled across this book at the library because LeUyen Pham is one of my all time favorite illustrators and I was delighted to see she had done a Halloween book! The story is sweet and the illustrations are lovely.  

9.  Go Away Big Green Monster! - By Ed Emberley

I was first introduced to this book when a librarian read it to my son and I and a room full of toddlers during "Baby Time."  The book fascinated Samuel and when the librarian had finished he insisted on reading it again himself.  It is a delightful book and I think it's great in teaching kids confidence to face their fears.

10.  Room on the Broom - Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Alex Scheffler

I have saved the best book for last.  This one is my son's favorite as well as mine.  We were introduced to it when we watched short film version of it.  I liked it so much that my husband got me the book for my birthday.  Samuel often likes to play act this entire book.  He has the lines memorized and everything.  

Thanks letting me share my favorite Halloween book list with you.  Please feel free to share your favorites as well.  I'm always looking for new books to read.