Sunday, January 29, 2017

Picture Book Oscars of 2017

What an excellent and wonderfully diverse year it's been for picture books! After reading hundreds of picture books from 2016 I am eager to celebrate my favorites and the favorites of my 5 year old son.

First category...

Best Child Appeal (Based off my 5 year old's favorites)

The Not So Quiet Library – Zacharia O'Hora
Dragon Was Terrible – Kelly DiPucchio and Greg Pizzoli
Super Happy Magic Forest – Matty Long
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea – Ben Clanton
Ninja: Attack of the Clan – Arree Chung

And the winner is....

Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea

Best Illustrators

There is a Tribe of Kids – Lane Smith
The Singing Bones – Shaun Tan
Return – Aaron Becker
When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons –  Julie Morstad
The Nutcracker – Niroot Puttapipat

And the Winner is...

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons – Julie Morstad

Best Humor

A Hungry Lion or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals – Lucy Ruth Cummins
Best Frints – Atoinette Portis
My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinksi’s Class – Jeanne Birdsall and Harry Bliss
We Found a Hat – Jon Klassen
The Thank You Book – Mo Willems

And the winner is...

We Found a Hat - Jon Klassen

Best Male Protagonist

Thunder Boy Jr. (Lightning) from "Thunder Boy Jr.
Inspector Flytrap from "Inspetor Flytrap"
Oskar from "The Not So Quiet Library"
Dogman from "Dogman"
Dennis from "Be a Friend"

And the Winner is...

Thunder Boy Jr. also known as Lightning!!!

Best Female Protagonist

Little Red from "Little Red and the Very Hungry Lion"
Flora from "Flora and the Peacocks"
Roz from "The Wild Robot" 
Little Dee from "Little Dee and the Penguin"
Blanche from"Blanche Hates the Night"

And the winner is...

Little Red!!!

Best Nonfiction

The Secret Subway – Shana Corey and Red Nose Studio
Beetle is Shy – Dianna Aston and Sylvia Long
Animals by the Numbers – Steve Jenkins
Are You an Echo? – The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-soaking Stream of Inventions – Chris Barton and Don Tate

And the winner is...

Animals by the Numbers – Steve Jenkins

Best Fiction

School’s First Day of School – Adam Rex and Christian Robinson
The Not So Quiet Library – Zacharia OHora
They all Saw a Cat - Brendan Wenzel
We Found a Hat – Jon Klassen
Return – Aaron Becker

And the winner is...

The NOT so Quiet Library!!!

And finally here is the list of honorable mentions...

The Hueys: What’s the Opposite – Oliver Jeffers
A Family is a Family is a Family – Sara O’Leary and Qin Leng
The Cookie Fiasco – Dan Santat
The Airport Book – Lisa Brown
Playground – Mies Van Hout
Swap – Steve Light
A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting - Michelle Robinson
Silly Wonderful You – Sherri Duskey Rinker and Patrick McDonnel

Coyote – Maria Gianferrari and Bagram Ibatoulline

So many fantastic books. If you have any other recommendations for me of books I might have missed please let me know! I would love to read them. 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Graphic Novels 
Total: 31

1. 100 Bullet Series - Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
2. Blue is the Warmest Color - Julie Maroh
3. Anya's Ghost - Vera Brosgol

Total: 9

1. Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neil Gaiman
2. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
3. Birds of Opulence - Crystal Wilkinson

Total: 7

1. Singing Bones - Shaun Tan
2. Nearly Perfect Photograph - Chris McCurry
3. When Green Becomes Tomatoes - Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

Juvenile Fiction
Total: 7

1. Winnie the Pooh - A. A. Milne
2. Sideways Stories from Wayside School - Louis Sachar
3. Coraline - Neil Gaiman

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Graphic Design is Tough Work!

Whew! I can't believe my last blog post was all the way back in March! I've been crazy busy over the past couple of months. For those of you who may not know, I joined a nonprofit organization called Grow Appalachia as an Americorps member. We're working on this terrific project called Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Our goal is to provide free meals and fun educational activities to kids in Berea all summer long.

One thing that I really appreciate about Grow Appalachia is that they value my skills as an artist. My first week on board they put me to work designing a new logo for SFSP. After several sketches I finally came up with the idea to do a silhouette of children marching in a parade since our motto for this program is "Your Summer Vacation Destination!" 

After designing the logo I jumped right in to designing flyers and banners and signs to help spread the word about SFSP. For the first time ever I feel like a legit graphic designer, and let me tell you what! It is tough work! I had to make draft after draft after draft for every task at hand. The flyer was especially difficult because it required me to condense a ton of information on a single 8x11 page format.

I've also made plenty of mistakes. For example, I accidentally sent the wrong draft of the SFSP flyer to Berea Printing Services and spent over $90 of Grow Appalachia's money to print hundreds of copies of the wrong flyer! That was a rough day.

I may have learned some hard lessons on this job, but every bit was worth it. My knowledge about graphic design and Photoshop has tripled since I started working here. I made myself learn tons of little technical quirks that I've avoided for a long time, like making transparent backgrounds and enlarging images for printing huge banners and posters. All things that will help me in the future as a free lance illustrator. 

Anyways I just wanted to give a big shout out to my fellow co-workers at Grow Appalachia. Their encouragement and constructive criticism helped make my work the best it could possibly be. I've learned so much and I am incredibly grateful for this experience. 

I'm so excited for next week when we actually start providing meals and activities to kids all throughout Berea! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bookish Romance

It's been ages since I wrote any poetry, but being surrounded by friends who write poems has inspired me to take it up again. Here's one for my husband, Keith.

Bookish Romance

You loved books about sports.
I loved books about animals.

You read Hardy Boys.
I read American Girls.

You thought you were a nerd for reading each Harry Potter book twice?
Well I read them thrice.

In your courtship letters,
Your summer reading included:
No Country for Old Men
On the Road
The Shipping News.

That was sexy. 

You loved the Great Gatsby in high school.
I did not.

You read Jane Eyre for me.
I read Slaughterhouse-Five for you.

Now I read poetry.
And you,
economic text books.

I prefer audiobooks.
You prefer paperbacks.

You read obsessively.
I read consistently.

Sitting side by side at the airport,
You reading Agatha Christie,
Me reading John Steinbeck,
I think to myself,

This is what love looks like.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Peek into the Process

Task - To draw an illustration for client's upcoming website where he will review music, movies, sports, comics, and television.

Sketch #1 - Nope! Too cool. Too in control. More chaos!

Sketch #2 - Blah! Doesn't look at all like the client and too boring!

Sketch # 3 - Bingo!

Now for the fun part. Outlining by hand with with black marker.

Finally it's time to bring it to life with colors! This is done in Photoshop.

And there you have it! Illustration complete.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Susanna Hill's Valentiny Writing Contest!

I am participating in one of Susanna Hill's fabulous writing contests. This year the theme is "Grumpy" and entries must be under 214 words. The deadline is February 12th and I strongly encourage everyone to participate or at least go and read some of the other wonderful entires. You can join in the fun by visiting here

And now without further ado I give you my story.

Walrus and Penguin (207 words)


What’s wrong Walrus?

I’m grumpy.


I just am.

Aww don’t be grumpy! I bet I can make you smile.

Bet you can’t.

Bet I can! I am a 1,000,000% sure I can make you smile.

You mean 100%. 

Nope! 1,000,000%! I'm gonna make you smile if it’s the last thing I do!


Plan A

Knock knock!

Who’s there?


Walrus who?


That’s not funny.

Plan B

Look! A puppy! Ain’t he cute? Tell me he’s not the cutest thing you’ve ever seen. 

He’s not the cutest thing I’ve ever seen.

Shhh! You'll hurt his feelings! 

Plan C

Tra la la la la! What a beautiful day! I sure hope I don’t slip on this banana peel...

Aghhh! THUD!


Plan D

Ta-da! I made you banana cream pie! 

I don't like banana cream. 

YOU DON'T LIKE BANANA CREAM?!!! Unbelievable! That's it! You'll never smile again! You're going to be grumpy FOREVER!!!


Did you just throw that banana cream pie at my face? 


You're smiling right now aren't you?


Ha Ha! I did it! You're smiling! You’re finally smiling!

Okay okay. Don’t rub it in.

Mmmm! This banana cream pie is delicious! 

Hey Penguin?


Thank you.

You’re welcome. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

4 Reasons Why EVERYONE Should Read Graphic Novels

"Oh this is the nerd section."said a mother to her 5 year-old daughter heading toward the graphic novel section in the library. She then steered her away to what she deemed more suitable reading material. This is just one of many random comments I overheard that dismiss graphic novels and comic books as a lesser form of literature. Our society seems regard them as dumbed down books full of violence, sexual objectification of women, and unrealistically buff, caucasian men running around in capes.

                                                                                         Image from Scott McCloud's "Understanding Comics"

Please do yourselves a favor and don’t fall for those stupid oversimplified labels. GRAPHIC NOVELS ARE AWESOME! They are complex, diverse, severely underrated works of art and they deserve a chance, not just from kids, but from EVERYONE! One of my biggest regrets is that I spent the first 23 years of my life snubbing graphic novels. If it wasn't my for an my friend, Mary Uhles, who introduced me to my first graphic novel, I may never have discovered the remarkable world of Scott McCloud, Craig Thompson, Jillian Tamaki, and hundreds of other brilliant authors and illustrators. I've been reading them like crazy ever since trying to make up for lost time. The world of graphic novels is bigger and better than ever and it’s time people started taking advantage of it. Here are 4 reasons why you need to get yourself to the nearest bookstore/library and start reading a graphic novel TODAY! 

1. Visuals Help you Retain Information
Just think about it. Teachers have long used pictures, graphs, maps, and visual demonstrations to help their students retain information. Not only do visuals catch people’s attention, it leaves an imprint. Graphic novels do the same thing.There are tons of informative nonfiction graphic novels out there that allow the readers to digest information on a level that text alone cannot achieve.

2. They are Fast Paced

I guarantee that you will read more if you start reading graphic novels. They are the kind of books that keep you up till 4 in the morning because you simply can’t put them down. I usually struggle to stay awake past the first two pages when reading a regular novel at night, but graphic novels are a whole different story! They pull you in. They carry you at a pace unmatched by other all genres. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

3. They Exercise the Brain in Different Ways

When reading graphic novels we learn to pay attention to detail, drawing from visual cues to deduce information not given in the text. You have to learn how to interpret pictures as well as the text. It is a highly participatory form of reading that calls both the right and the left side of your brain to action.

4. They Encourage Empathy

Pictures can be incredibly powerful tools in helping you crawl inside character’s skin and feel what they are feeling. There’s something about visually seeing a look on someone’s face or the posture in their shoulders that impact you more powerfully than words can. 

I’m not trying to say that graphic novels are better than other forms of literature. That’s not what this post is about. I’m just saying the graphic novels are a totally legitimate and can be remarkable assets to your personal library. Diversity is good. When you avoid graphic novels because they’re in “the nerd section” you are limiting yourself. You’re missing out on a wonderfully unique and magical experience. Don’t do that. Give yourself permission to try something new. Read a graphic novel. I promise you won't regret it!