Archive for the ‘Picture Book Writers/Illustrator’ Category

Here’s a short little mystery story about helping.  I wrote it for 2 reasons.

1) for my 4th of July lesson for my Jr. Church class (it’s based on actual events that took place at our Memorial Day carnival…with a little artistic license!)

2) My friend Susanna Hill is hosting a writing  contest.

I added a few quick sketches to go along (they are not  part of the contest).    The story could only be 400 words, had to be a mystery of sorts, and had to be about the 4th of July.  To read all the other stories by my very talented writer friends, and for rules and prizes click here.

The Missing Prize Bag

Everyone was busy at the church getting ready for the 4th of July parade and carnival.   The men were setting up the bounce house while the ladies set up the welcome table.  The Sunday School classes were tying streamers to theballoons back of the parade float.  Teens were blowing up balloons and the senior ladies were putting up military posters of men in uniform around their booth.

 “Mama, what can I do to help?” asked little Jilly.  She wanted to help with something important, but everyone kept telling her she was too little.

“Just sit right there and be good while I set up the bake table,” said Mama.

Jilly frowned.  That’s not really helping she thought, but she obeyed.  Then suddenly they heard a shriek and a loud “OH, NO!”

It was Mrs.DeMoss one of the senior ladies.  She was nearly crying, “The bag of prizes is gone! I’ve searched everywhere.   The whole bag of red, white, and blue necklaces and pins is missing.  They are thank you gifts for people who donate for the military Care Packages.  It’s the special part of our 4th of Mrs DeMossJuly carnival!”

People were gathering around asking questions, ‘”Where did you last have the bag?  What color is the bag?   Pastor came over and said in his big voice, “Let’s stay calm. Mrs. D last had the  bag when she was helping paint carnival signs in the gym. God will help us.  Let’s spread out and look.”

Jilly asked her mom, “Can I help?  I’m a good looker even if I’m little.”  Her mother smiled, “Yes, you can help.”

It was getting close to parade time and the prizes had not been found.  Jilly asked, “Mama, why doesn’t God just make the bag appear?”

“Sometimes God needs us to help,” Mama said as they went in the supply room. Mama looked around, and sighed, “Not in here, I guess.”


But Jilly noticed a tiny piece of blue plastic sticking out from a bottom shelf between bottles of red and blue paint.  “Mama, look!” she said as she

They moved bottles of paint and brushes aside.  There, stuck to the shelf  was the bag of prizes!   They grabbed it and went running to Mrs. DeMoss.   She hugged Jilly and said, “The littlest one found the prize bag!”

Jilly smiled and said, “No God did, I just helped!”

jilly found

#  #  #  the end

My class which ranges in age from 4 yr to 6th grade did not know much about our forefathers who wrote the Declaration of Independence.  So I gave them a little history and explained that one person could not have accomplished what they did together.

Together they shared the burden.   Galatians 6:2 says “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”  We all become stronger working together.

Read Full Post »

While I was deciding which picture book to recommend for this final week before summer break, I seemed to develop a headache between my eyes.  It was then I noticed the cat had come into the den and was sitting on the piano bench (which she never does).  She was decidedly staring at the spot between my eyes.  I tried rubbing, no good.  It was then she (the cat) seemed to communicate, ‘You’ve written about  dogs, the rabbit (multiple times-ugh), and not at all about cats!  What gives?’   More thudding between my eyes.   I could take a hint……  So this weeks pick, not at all influenced by any outside source is:

Title: Curious Kitties, A colors bookCurious Kitties: A Color Book

Author:   Sam McKendry

Illustrator:   Melanie Mitchell

Publisher: Piggy Toes Press (don’t you love that name?) 2005

Genre: fiction

Audience Age: 2-5

Themes/Topics: Colors, Kittens

Opening Sentences: “Curious kitty playing on the floor.  Do you know what the yarn is for?”

Synopsis: A litter of kittens discover different colors of yarn while playing.  A fun book to learn colors.

Why I like it:  This large board book has a delightful feature.  As you open 100_9690each page a new string of yarn appears and runs from the left to right.  Each successive page an additional  string appears in a new color (6 altogether).

The kitties have their own story about guessing what the yarn will make.  The story itself is done in rhyming couplets without mention of the colors, which is left to you to name.  The final page has a fun pop-up of all the kitties rocking in a basket with mama kitty.

The art, by Melanie Mitchell, has cute kitties with a soft fuzzy pastel appearance.  The background colors change to match the new yarn color.

This book has a place on “Grandma’s Shelf” of picture books (those special books that we want to preserve.) Curious Kitties  has been in our family for about 3 years and is now on its 4th grandchild.    The grandkids love turning the pages and touching the strings of yarn.  They  like to turn to their favorite color page and as they get older they start counting the number of yarn strings.  Myself – I’d like to take the book apart just to see how they cleverly got all the strings to work.  But I can’t do that because it goes on the ‘special shelf.’

Activities/Resources: 1)You could play I spy with your child, naming the color they need to find.   2)Name a color and see how many things you can think of that are that color.  Also here is a wonderful resource page that has multiple color lessons and even other color related books.   http://www.perfectlypreschool.com/Preschool-Lesson-Plans/Colors/index.php

Availability:   Major booksellers

(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links  on her blog.)  We will all be taking a summer break from PPBF and will be back in the fall.

Well that’s all for this week….hmmm…my cat seems satisfied–she left the room….and I think my headache is going away……

Blessings and enjoy the book!

Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »

I’ve been playing catch up all week from being gone last weekend (that’s why I couldn’t do PPBF).  If you didn’t know, my hubby received his Doctorate in Ministry from Newburgh Theological Seminary in Indiana.  We drove down to Evansville and attended the ceremonies. His mom was also able to attend with us.  Here’s a picture of Tom and I after the event.

"Dr." Tom and Me

“Dr.” Tom and Me

Tom did not announce his calling into ministry until late, he was 37. [I guess that’s customary in our family…I didn’t pursue this career until Sept of 2011 (at age 57).]  He has continually studied.  He got his bachelors in religious education, then a master’s in Divinity and then another master’s in religious education.  His studies have never stopped.  And he’s already planning, researching and praying about what comes next.

I think that’s why I love Perfect Picture Book Friday so much.  It’s like studying and research, with beautiful pictures and THERE’S NO TEST!!!  And I have all of you as fellow friends and students.  And here’s my research for this week…

Title: Dewey (There’s A Cat In The Library) Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library!

Author:   Vicki Myron and Bret Witter

Illustrator:   Steve James

Publisher: Little Brown & Co. , 2009

Genre: Fiction

Audience Age: 2-8

Themes/Topics: Cats, Library, Kindness

Opening Sentences: Every night, people left books in the return box of the library in the small town of Spencer, Iowa.  Funny books, big books, truck books, pig books – they left them all.  But one night, on the coldest night of the year, someone left a strange surprise…A tiny kitten.

Synopsis: A tiny shivering kitten left in the book drop box becomes a library cat.  He warms not only stacks of books, but the hearts of all the visitors.  But how does he adjust to the children who like to chase him, pull his tail and squeeze too tight?

Why I like it:  Having read the original “Dewey,”  a true story written for adults, I was thrilled to find this adaptation for children.  The story of an abandoned kitten who becomes the town’s library cat is wonderful at any age and better with gorgeous illustrations.  Cat lovers will appreciate his antics especially when he has to get a shy little girl to warm up to him.   Dewey also has to adapt to a few problems, like being pulled and poked and carried upside down,  which he manages to figures out on his own.   The illustrations, by Steve James,  are beautifully done in Corel Painter X.  They have the appearance of soft pastels so it looks like you can pet Dewey’s soft fluffy fur.

Activities/Resources:  Dewey has his own website, and you can find some  related activities for kids based on  Dewey.  And if you’d like another Dewey book check out my Christmas review of  Dewey’s Christmas At the Library.

Also discuss the problem of people abandoning animals.  Talk about the importance of being responsible with pets and caring for them.  Also talk about animal rescues and adopting animals like the library adopted Dewey.

Availability:  Major Book Sellers

(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links  on her blog.)

Enjoy the book and blessings on your day!

Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »



For Doodle Day May #16 our topic was SPACE.  Alison (the creator of Doodle Day May) put no constraint on our imaginations for this doodle.   I decided to doodle this in photoshop.   I’m still familiarizing myself with it’s features so this was a good practice.  Several things in this that I would change, some proportions (those tiny images were hard with the wacom).  I would probably do the skyline in pencil and paper and scan it in next time – but I was at 30 minutes – so I made myself stop.

Short funny story about comets-My husband and I love star gazing (as long as the mosquitoes aren’t too bad, or it’s not too cold.)  The last time Haley’s comet was around our youngest was an infant.  We bundled her up and drove into the country away from light pollution,  and sat for 2 hours in the middle of the night trying to see the comet.  No luck – the only thing we got was a wide awake baby when we got home.  A couple weeks later – my husband worked nights at the time – about 3 in the morning, hubby comes home,  wakes me up and says – you have to get up you can see Haley’s comet plain as day!  So bleary eyed and staggering I got dressed…socks…boots…extra layers…it was COLD…Tom kept urging me to hurry….mittens….scarf…..’C’mon, you’ll miss it’…..stiff-walked into the back yard, squinting at the sky…. “Where is it??   I don’t see it,” I said.   Several yards from me my dear, loving, considerate husband shouts, “APRIL FOOL’s!!!”

Anyway…  on to my Perfect Picture Book pick for the week.

Title: Baby Brains and RoboMom    (Note:  in the UK it is RoboMum)

Baby Brains & RoboMom by Simon James

Author/Illustrator:                        Simon James

Publisher: Candlewick Press (2008)

Genre: Fiction

Audience Age: 4-8

Themes/Topics: Problem Solving, Family

Opening Sentences: Before Baby Brains was born, Mrs. Brains ate lots of fish and nuts, which are good foods for brains.

Synopsis: The smartest baby in the world builds a robot mom to give his tired mommy a break from the chores, but things don’t go as planned.

Why I like it:  This was my introduction to ‘Baby Brains.’  which is actually the third book in the series. The others are Baby Brains: The Smartest Baby in the Whole World and Baby Brains: Superstar.    I definitely plan to find these first two to enjoy.  The Brains parents seem to be an average, loving  and hard working couple who have the smartest baby around.  They patiently hold pencils while Baby sits at the drafting board planning and creating his newest invention… like a remote-controlled, self-rocking cradle or a motorized stroller.   Baby notices how tired his mommy is so he lovingly creates RoboMom.  The busy metal mom hustles to do all the chores and then some.  However, we see Baby Brains missing the human touch and the parents perplexed at how to intervene.   When an explosion occurs (don’t worry everyone is safe–well almost everyone)  the problem resolves itself and Baby Brains learns to be a little more careful with his inventions.

Despite the difference between Baby’s extreme intelligence and his average parents you are able to discern the family’s love for one another.  The parent’s acceptance of their unique child and his desire to help give his parents a much needed rest and provide the heart of the story.  James’ illustrations are delightful sketchy, watercolor and ink.  One comment I read said they have a Quentin Blake (Big Friendly Giant) quality to them and I agree.

My granddaughters  (almost 3 and 4 1/2) liked the story and were really intrigued by Baby’s inventions, wanting to know what he was doing at the drawing board and how he could make those things.  It was also a requested re-read.

Activities/Resources:   Mr. James has an awesome website (check it out), a demonstration page on Youtube and he has colouring pages available.  There is one of Baby Brains where Mr. James leaves it to you to draw in YOUR picture of Baby’s invention. (I ran off one for myself  🙂 )

There are sooo many online resources about inventors and inventions.  Start by talking about what an ‘invention’ is.  Ask your child if they can think of something to invent that would help around your house.  Perhaps a machine to put away the toys.  What would they make it out of?   Have then draw a picture of what it would look like.  Here is a simple lesson plan  to help spark creativity using boxes, pipe cleaners, glue tape and all kinds of scrap material.

Availability: Major book sellers.

(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links  on her blog.)

Read Full Post »

The Sun

The Sun

WoW!  I can’t believe I just drew that.    This was all done in a very old version of Photoshop Elements.  It took about 30 minutes.  The hardest part was the hand, because I did not pre-draw on paper.  I’m still not very good freehanding on the wacom tablet.  I have never tried to do something like this before.  I’m usually much more restrained and traditional.  Thanks, Alison, for helping me loosen up.

I have never just doodled in Photoshop!  But there have been several people from Alison Hertz’ s Doodle Day May Challenge who have inspired me to try some new things.  A new acquaintance,   Gayle Wing O’Donnell, especially.  She is amazingly talented and awesomely creative.  Visit her facebook page and you will see what I mean.

And….Don’t forget to stop by Susanna Hill’s blog to vote on your favorite jingle promoting her e-book.  Lots of prizes for the winners.  You can check it out here.  Voting  ends Thursday, May 16th at noon EST.

Read Full Post »

Tree House

Tree House

Yesterday’s doodle got away from me….I think because it brought back so many memories.    The suggested prompt was to draw a tree.  I couldn’t help thinking about a HUGE pine tree we used to use as a tree fort.  We would climb it, get all sticky with pitch and our moms would wonder ‘what IS this all over your clothes?’

That tree became everything.  A pirate ship, a space ship, a department store (the boys never liked that one) and  refuge from dinosaurs and poisonous, rampaging monsters.  Of course the tree seemed enormously high – I’m sure proportionately it was.

Lots of fun drawing this one.

Thanks for stopping by and Blessings on your creativity.

Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »

Having so much fun with Alison Hertz’ and her daughter Erin’s Doodle Day May challenge.  Did not have time to post over the weekend (those are always full days with grandbaby sitting and church activities).  Then I misplaced one sketchbook (it was in the car trunk).  So  here are my sketches from Days 4-6.  (Remember Doodles are not completed drawings-you’ll see pencil lines and scribbles…which makes doodling fun – it doesn’t need to be perfect.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Doodling every day is loosening me up and helping me to see potential in everyday objects.  It is helping me to develop a style.  I’ve seen a wonderful change in two of my friends’ styles.  Alison’s and Charlie Eve Ryan’s sketches – are much looser and confident.  They’ve developed a strong spirit in their characters. from sketching regularly.

Thanks again, Alison.  And thank YOU for stopping by.

Blessings on your day,

Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »

Itty-bitty Bounce

Itty-bitty Bounce

Regular PPBF readers will note a short addition to today’s post.  I’m also participating with  Alison Hertz‘ (author of FLAP!) challenge to Doodle every Day in May.  Alison has created a FACEBOOK GROUP called DOODLE DAY MAY so join the challenge and the group.  It’s for ALL ages and ALL abilities.You can even still join in the fun.

Here is today’s doodle from me (you can scroll backwards to see my other doodles.)

Now on to a delightful pick for Perfect Picture Book Friday:

Title: Big Chickens Fly the Coop  Big Chickens Fly the Coop

Author:   Leslie Helakoski

Illustrator:   Henry Cole

Publisher: Penguin Books 2008

Genre: Hilarious Fiction

Audience Age: 2-8

Themes/Topics: Bravery, Chickens

Opening Sentences: Four big chickens sat on their nests and sighed.  It’s nice and safe at home in the coop said one chicken.  Yes, said the others.  We should always stay home.  We could always stay home.  We would always stay home except…we’ve always wanted to see the farmhouse.

Synopsis: This is a sequel to the cowardly Big Chickens.   Once again the fearsome feathered friends step out of their comfort zone to explore the farmyard.

Why I like it:  I have to admit that this was not a favorite when I read thru the first time by myself…but when I read it to my grandchildren  I couldn’t control my giggles and chortles and guffaws!  Right away they got the silliness of the caper and were delighted by the goofy getups the chickens wore (skirts, aprons, and even boots).   It has become a repeat request from my 3 yr old granddaughter.  She asks for ‘the big scared chickens.’   You can almost hear the squawking and flapping just by looking at the lively, bright and humorous illustrations.  The expressions are comical in their wide eyed, wide mouthed panic as they explore the farm and encounter dogs, dirty tractors, and stampeding horses.   And don’t miss what these laughable ladies use for nesting boxes.  It is a fun barnyard adventure.

Activities/Resources:  The author, Leslie Helakoski, has lots of suggested activities on her website, from songs, fingerplays, popup cards and even lesson plans for older students on modifiers and figurative language.

Availability: Major booksellers  

(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links  on her blog.)

Enjoy the read and don’t forget to take time to doodle!!

Blessings, Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »

My friend, Alison Hertz (author of FLAP!) doodles every day for inspiration and for fun.  She has created a new doodle challenge along with her daughter.  Alison says, “This morning, my 5 year old – who LOVES to draw in her sketchbook and paints every day – told me that she would like to do a “Doodle a Day”, too, so together we came up with a NEW CHALLENGE for artists, writers, parents, teachers, children, friends, friends of friends and anybody else who is ready to let their creativity shine.”


Let the REAL you out of the bag!!

Now notice there is NOT a requirement for age, ability, or professional experience.  Just doodle away and share.  When we draw we engage BOTH sides of our brain. Children become QUIET when they doodle.  And adults RELAX.  So pick up a pen or pencil or crayon or marker.  If you don’t draw people, draw trees, or make name doodles.  For instance, if you have a new character you’re trying to imagine – doodle their name, fill in the letters with what you think their character might like…polka dots, stripes, checker board, or stars….(here’s my personal name doodle).

Name Doodles 004



Alison gives us the guidelines:  “DOODLE DAY MAY:  From May 1 to May 31, create 1 or more Doodles everyday. These can take up to 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes or even an hour from start to finish but if you are spending more than an hour on a doodle, you are trying too hard. Don’t overthink it. . . For those of you who tell everyone that you are “not an artist” or “can’t draw”, I say BUNK! It is a doodle! It can be a squiggle, a tree, a flower, a rainbow, a person, a pet, a pancake or anything else you can think of. No one is grading you. No one is judging you.”

Alison has created a FACEBOOK GROUP called DOODLE DAY MAY so join the challenge and the group.
Thanks, Alison, for inviting us to be a part of the fun.
Blessings on your day and your creativity!!
Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »

While my hubby was out of town for 10 days – in the Dominican Republic on a mission trip – I spent a couple hours at the library, children’s section of course, and checked out a stack of PBs to read and review.  (Don’t tell him, but I didn’t miss him  the whole time I was at the library….I guess I should have spent more time there – because I did miss him a whole bunch otherwise.)

So off the top of the stack – this was my first favorite…you’ll see the others in coming weeks…

Title: The Wonderful BookThe Wonderful Book

Author/Illustrator:              Leonid Gore

Publisher: Scholastic Press, 2010

Genre: Fiction

Audience Age: 2 – 8

Themes/Topics:  Books, Reading, Imagination

Opening Sentences: “One sunny day, a rabbit saw something wonderful while hopping about in the forest.  ‘What is this?’ he asked.  ‘It will make a cozy little house for me!'”

Synopsis: A variety of forest animals discover a ‘thing’ in their midst.  Is it a bed, a house,  a table, maybe a hat?  No one is quite sure until a little boy comes along and reads from the ‘thing.’

Why I like it:  Of course, the picture on the cover caught my eye.  Who could resist a silly bear with a book on his head?  And out of the whole stack of books I brought home – this was the one my 4 yr old grandchild wanted first, because of the cover.  The story is delightfully simple, but imagination is the key.  Having never encountered a book before the forest animals have to imagine what it can be used for.  There is a rabbit, a bear, a fox, mice, and a worm that all discover different, humorous purposes for the book. When the little boy comes along all the animals cuddle up for a sweet read.  My grandgirls laughed and thought the animals were pretty silly.  After the story, they  tried a couple books out as a hat, like the bear.   This may be a story for a younger audience,  but the ending will encourage them to think about how they might tell their own story.  Leonid Gore’s illustrations are wonderful.  They are watercolor on heavily textured paper and almost have the feel of a collage.  (there is also a sweet little kitten on the book jacket you won’t want to miss).

Activities/Resources:  Click here to learn how to use this book  to discuss proper book care and use and for some fun activities too,   Also have fun making and  writing your own story about the forest friends by clicking here.

Availability: All  Major Book sellers,  Barnes & Noble, Amazon

(Susanna Leonard Hill is the originator of PPBF and you can find all the other PPB recommendations and links  on her blog.  Also remember, Susanna is offering an online writing course-  Click here for more info.)

Blessings on your day and enjoy the book!!

Laura (Grandmamiller)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »