Monday, August 25, 2014

Picks of the Week

My husband, son, and I have recently moved to Champaign, Illinois where my husband is pursuing his Ph.D in economics.  One thing I absolutely love about this city already is their public library!  I am certain I have never seen so many picture books in one place my entire life.  I was in heaven.  Starting with the "R" section I brought home 16 picture books for this week's reading.

I decided to do a weekly picture book review of gems I find at the library every Monday.  Each week I will feature my favorite and Sam's favorite.  I hope you'll enjoy.

 My Pick of the Week

Title:  Michael Rosen's Sad Book
Author: Michael Rosen
Illustrator: Quentin Blake (the same guy who illustrates Roald Dahl's books)
Review:  I would say this is more of a picture book for adults rather than a children's book.  The book is about the author's struggle after the death of his son.  It is so beautiful, so simple, and so incredibly sad.  I actually started crying right there in the library.  I have never known a picture book to affect me so powerfully.  When I am not the poor person I am now I will certainly be buying this book to add permanently to my collection.

Sam's Pick of the Week

Title:  Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
Author: Sherri Duskey Rinker
Illustrator: Tom Litchenheld
Review:  This is a story about trucks going to bed.  What little boy wouldn't love this book!  The illustrations are adorable and it is written in perfect rhyme.  I can certainly see why it was a #1 New York Times Bestseller. 

Thanks for reading!  I would love to form some kind of community where every Monday we share reviews of terrific picture books.  Come share your favorite picture books with me.  The more people on board the merrier!   

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Football Practice

As I waited to pick my sister Shelly up from soccer today I watched the high school football team practice, and was inspired to write this poem.

Dirt smeared jerseys the color of piss
stretch over bowling ball deltoids.
Chunky legs are packed tight into grass-stained leggings.
Let the putrid mass of sweat 
and physical colliding of bodies begin!

Photo courtesy of the Colorado Springs Gazette

Friday, August 1, 2014

Classics Picture Books: the ones I love, the one's my son loves, and the ones I could do without.

As many of you have probably noticed, I love to make lists.  I also love to read picture books.  This post is the result.  Today I will be focusing on the classics, but stay tuned because tomorrow I will be posting lists of hidden gems.

Classics I Love

  1. Chrysanthemum - Kevin Henkes
  2. The Stinky Cheese Man - Lane Smith 
  3. Bedtime for Frances - Russel Hoban
  4. Strega Nona - Tomie dePoala
  5. The Velveteen Rabbit - Margery Williams
  6. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas - Dr. Suess
  7. Blueberries for Sal - Robert McCloskey
  8. On the Night You were Born - Nancy Tillman
  9. The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
  10. The Mitten - Jan Brett

(More Importantly) Classics My Son Loves

  1. No David - David Shannon
  2. Ferdinand - Munro Leaf
  3. Go Dogs Go! - P. D. Eastman
  4. Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak
  5. The Big Red Barn - Margaret Wise Brown
  6. The Napping House - Audrey Wood
  7. Love You Forever - Robert Munsch
  8. Freight Train - Donald Crews
  9. Are You My Mother - P. D. Eastman
  10. Brown Bear, Brown Bear - Eric Carle

Before you read this next list I feel like I should apologize if you have a favorite book on here.  I realize these books have been made classics for reason, but I'm just not crazy about them.  My son doesn't seem too eager to pull them off the shelf either.

Classic I Could do Without

  1. Goodnight Moon - Margaret Wise Brown
  2. The Very Hungry Catepillar - Eric Carle
  3. The Cat in the Hat - Dr. Seuss
  4. Curious George - Margaret Rey
  5.  Jumangi - Chris Van Allsburg
  6. Caps for Sale - Esphyr Slobodkina
  7. Harold and the Purple Crayon - Crockett Johnson
  8. Corduroy - Don Freeman
  9. The Little Engine that Could - George and Doris Hauman
  10. Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel - Virginia Lee Burton

Sunday, July 20, 2014


My good friend Victoria is self publishing a young adult fantasy novel and has commissioned me to illustrate the cover!  As illustrator I got to read the book before it is released and I found it exciting, fast paced, and full of surprises.  It will be coming out this fall and if you like fantasy I highly encourage you all to read it!  If you'd like to find out more click Here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Best Literary Villains Bracket

I have the weird hobby where I like to make brackets of favorite authors, movie couples, soundtracks, etc.  I've been doing it for years, but today I am coming out publicly with one.  It is a bracket of all the best literary villains (at least in my opinion).  Feel free to print out a copy of the bracket and declare a champion.  I am interested to see who the majority of people choose, so please post your winner! Once I've collected a large sample of brackets I will declare the winning villain and post a blog entry about him or her.  If the bracket is hard to read or you can't remember what books certain characters are from I have posted all the entries below in the order they are placed on the bracket.  Have fun!

Villains from Childhood

General Woundwort - Watership
Mrs. Minchen – A Little Princess
The White Witch – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
The Warden – Holes
Cluny the Scourge - Redwall
Mrs. Coulter – The Golden Compass
Lord Voldemort – Harry Potter
IT  - A Wrinkle in Time

Two Faced Villains

Count Foscoe – The Woman in White
Jack Torrence – The Shining
Gollum – Lord of the Rings
Dorian Gray – A Picture of Dorian Gray
Amy – Gone Girl
Montressor - – Cask of Amontillado
O’Brien - 1984
Richard III – Shakespeare’s Richard III

Bad to the Bone

Assef – Kite Runner
Joffrey Baratheon – Game of Thrones
Anton Chigurh – No Country for Old Men
Martin Venger – Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Cathy – East of Eden
Serena - Serena
Professor Moriarty – Sherlock Holmes
Smaug – The Hobbit

Classic Villains

Frankenstein’s Monster – Frankenstein
General Zaroff – The Most Dangerous Game
Mrs. Danvers - Rebecca
Sikes – Oliver Twist
Mordred – The Once and Future King
Cardinal Richelieu - The Three Musketeers
Javert – Les Miserables
Chauvelin - Scarlet Pimpernel

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Utah: A Foreign Land

Utah is my homeland. It is where my grandparents and numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins live.  It is where I learned to ride a bicycle, play soccer, how to read, and become a decent human being.  I will always love Utah and the person it has allowed me to become, but after living 6 years in Kentucky, returning to Utah feels like visiting a foreign country.  I shall attempt to explain this by describing mine and Keith’s weeklong trip to Utah this summer.


            Probably the number 1 hardest thing about visiting relatives in Utah is the lack of coffee and whole milk.  Seriously, we’ve been to five different houses and every single one of them had only 1% milk on no coffee makers! Keith and I drink whole milk and coffee almost religiously so this took some adjusting.  We got by with Dr. Peppers and Coke Zeros until my Grandma Ann (who doesn’t drink coffee, but took pity on us) came to the rescue and took us Island market where we purchased some much needed instant coffee and hot cocoa to survive the remainder of our trip. 

Despite their lack of coffee and horrible taste in milk our hosts in Utah took very good care of us.  We ate like kings the entire trip.  Everything in Utah seems to be homemade.  We had homemade sushi, homemade hummus, homemade raspberry jam, homemade guacamole, homemade oatmeal pancakes, homemade chocolate chip cookies, homemade everything!  It was delicious!  The people of Utah know how to eat right!


When coming to Utah it really helps to know the Mormon language.  As someone who grew up as a Mormon you’d think it would be easy for me, but once you start talking a certain way it’s hard to go back.  Apparently I’ve developed a bit of a Kentucky accent as my Aunt Catherine likes to point out whenever we see her.  I also have a difficult time not swearing.  I don’t swear a ton, but Mormons don’t swear at all!  They especially don’t like it when people say, “Oh my God!” They call it taking the Lord’s name in vain.  I let this slip a few times, and while I was never confronted I felt the discomfort. 

When you talk movies, and TV shows with Mormons this generally means you have to keep the conversation at a PG-13 level.  They don’t watch HBO, and they don’t watch R-rated movies.  When asked what my favorite movies are, and I list off Pulp Fiction, Little Miss Sunshine, Away We Go, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, they have no idea what I’m talking about.  When asked about my favorite TV shows I am careful to say that I like Seinfeld, Firefly, and Freaks and Geeks excluding my other favorites like Game of Thrones, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and The Sopranos.  There are exceptions.  I was delighted to learn that my cousin Ashley and her husband have watched Breaking Bad and have watched several R-rated movies including one of my favorites from last year American Hustle.  Thank goodness!  It’s so nice to not put a filter on these conversations.  It shouldn’t be such a big deal to me, but it is.  Movie and TV show talk is the one things I’m good at.  It’s so frustrating not being able to show off my expertise!


Sundays in Utah are the worst.  The family members wake up and get ready for church while Keith and I bum around the entire morning in our pajamas. This last Sunday was fast Sunday which means that Mormons forgo breakfast and lunch and don’t eat until dinner.  While the rest of the family starved themselves Keith and I sheepishly ate the boxes of cold cereal left out for us on the kitchen table.

As Keith’s 12 year old cousin Landon straightened up his tie for church he looked at me in my tank top and pajama bottoms and asked, “Aren’t you guys going to church?”

I said, “No.  We’re just going to stay here.”

Landon being the inquisitive boy that he is asked, “How come?”

I hesitated for a moment before answering, “Because we don’t believe in the same things you do.”

To my relief Landon was satisfied with this and asked no further questions.

I love my family.  They have shown nothing but love, kindness, and acceptance for who I am.  The same goes for Keith’s family as well.  Just because we have cultural and religious differences does not mean we cannot find common ground.  It’s easy to pick at all the petty little differences, but life is a lot more fun when you can just let them go and just enjoy each other’s company.  Keith and I are lucky to have such wonderful families on both sides and we had a fantastic time with both of them this week.  I look forward to visiting them again next year!   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Picture Book Dummy Complete

The rough draft sketches for "Lucy and Her Friends" are now complete.  The hard part is over.  I finally get to start painting!