If your curiosity has led you here, or you are returning for a peek, first off apologies for neglecting this blog. I founded the Picture Book Academy, now the Children's Book Academy and promptly forgot about this blog. Oy vey! We have fresh blog posts every Monday over at the Academy and I do one the first Monday of the month right here. I was going to just delete this blog but there are some sweet video reviews and cool comments so I decided to leave it. If you are up for it come on over and check out more recent posts with apologies for letting this go.
Hi everyone! Due to the holiday, the Mondays with Mira Book Review will be posted this Tuesday! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! :)
My great passions (apart from my personal relationships) are making my own children's picture books and teaching others writing and illustrating skills to make and publish theirs. I also love making art and teaching others art skills for inner/outer adventures and explorations. So I've moved my Mondays with Mira Teaching Picture Book Videos to the Picture Book Academy and am mostly going to focus on art and my personal creative adventures here. I hope this makes more sense and that you'll stay with me.
Now about the image above, which I call "Protected."
Technique-wise I drew the one penguin with peonies using acrylic markers on paper that I had primed first with acrylic matte medium. I then scanned it and brought it into Photoshop and made a duplicate by dragging that layer down in the layers palette to the icon that looks like a duplicated folder which I then flipped using Edit/Transform/Horizontal in the menu so that they were facing. This was the beginning of the relationships. I then used command (or control for PC users) e to flatten my layers into one and repeated these steps only the last step was vertical to form a kind of cross. Using the move tool I positioned these as I wanted them and then using the lasso tool selected one of the penguins and copied and pasted it. Using command (or control for PC users) t to activate the transform tool, I dragged one of the corners holding the shift key down for proportions and made it smaller and then transformed the direction it was facing to be where I wanted it. I then made another copy, flipped it with Edit/Transform etc. and did one last wee penguin in the middle.
Sometimes we do things and then understand what we do later on. This image is known as a mandala where it starts in the center and radiates out. Mandalas are extremely relaxing to both do and look at, which is partly why I enjoy doing them so much. The other thing I love is looking at the negative shapes that they form, i.e. the space around the objects. Squint your eyes and look at the center and it's almost like opening up into an icy landscape.
After I composed this image, I looked at it and realized that what it's about for me is community, and how in community we get protection and strength when we need it. Having just returned from my SCBWI children's book community in LA for our big conference, and then spending a week with Jill Littlewood in her multi generational craftsman home or compound full of filmmakers and Jill and I making art like crazy, and putting together my Craft and Business of Writing Children's Picture Books community, I see how I feel embraced and protected by this sense of strength and beauty in community that closes and opens as needed.
If you're up for it, let me know what you think : )
In the Trees Honey Bees, written by Lori Mortenson and illustrated by Chris Arbo, is a fabulously rhymed and realistically illustrated non-fiction book about how a bee hive operates. The text itself it very short and sweet, however, for the kids who are a little older, and who are possibly aspiring entomologists, there are additional paragraphs describing in further detail the jobs of the different bees in the hive. The illustrations are totally magical, because in most cases, the illustrations are from the point of view of a bee!
I hope you enjoy the video, and let me know what you think in the comments! Have a magical Monday! :)
Room on the Broom written by Julia Donaldson and equally wonderfully illustrated by Axel Sheffer is a really fun rhyming book that on the surface is about a klutzy witch who keeps dropping things but on deeper levels is about the power of friendship, generosity, and collective action.
Have a peek and enjoy. It's a little longer than usual because the book has more text and while I didn't read it all, I couldn't resist reading a bunch of it because the language was just so yummy on my tongue. Do let me know what you think in the comments.
I'm so excited that I've finally managed to combine my teaching picture book reviews and other blog content here. As you can see my website is somewhat massive as I'm a bit of an overachiever and a compulsive creative. Over time I'll go back and copy some of the choicest blog bits here. Meanwhile, I'm going to start with some of my favorite picture book teaching reviews. I intend to include both teaching reviews and art tips here so do come on back and tell your friends!
Here's the text from the old site
I've been working really hard editing videos of people like Andrea Tompa from Candlewick Press and Brett Duquette from Sterling Publishing, Ashley Wolff and Yuyi Morales, Mary Kole and other picture book experts who I interviewd with specific questions related to course content for the Picture Book Academy's writing and selling children's picture books e-course. There are still some spaces left (course starts August 27th) so if you have a picture book in you somewhere or would like to learn a ton more about picture books in a fun environment - hurry on over to....
www.picturebookacademy.com before it's too late.
And now for today's Monday's with Mira Teaching Picture Books Review of Lucy Cousins' Hooray for Fish
Lucy Cousins is brilliant at writing and illustrating for very young children. In this video we explore her book Hooray for Fish where Lucy works her magic teaching young children language skills and the delights of the imagination while entertaining them with yummy lyrical language choices and bold graphic art. I hope you like it as much as I did.
And today's picture book is from the ever wonderful Elisa Kleven. Sun Bread, as you will see, is a type of myth making or creation story and would be especially delightful to read to children on a cold wet day. Just a quick note that I didn't include in the video, although the rhymes are not perfect, the book pretty much is. The reason for this is that Elisa never loses the rhythm or flow in her language so that the words sail along like a good story should. I hope you enjoy. This book is one of my current faves.
Today's pleasurable picture book review revisits the concept of postmodernism in this terrific unusual biography of Abraham Lincoln (and his friend) written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by John Hendrix, published by Schwartz and Wade.
It's a longer story than usual story (and video - biographies usually have more text) but both the text and images are super clever in themselves and in their relationship. I hope you can put aside 15 minutes to sit back and enjoy me mangling a Southern accent with my mid Pacific neither fish nor fowl hybrid Australian/American accent as you learn about this terrific book and what this author and illustrator did to make it so good.
I also wanted to share that it's difficult to write a good publishable picture book biography. They're a hard sell in today's market unless they're done in really unusual and innovative ways as this book is.
Here are some authors who do it very well - Marissa Moss,Jeri Chase Ferris, Lori Mortenson, Kathleen Krull, Pam Muños Ryan, Nikki Giovanni, and Barbara Kerley.
If you have a passion for picture book biographies here are some tips for writing one:
Use an unconventional narrator or point of view.
Make it lyrical or full of fun idioms and vernacular language.
Focus in on one particular grand incident to create a narrative arc of how the hero of the story overcomes obstacles to achieve their greatness (see the Hero's Art Journey)
Find a fascinating character who has contemporary relevance and bring them to life e.g. Steve Jobs or Rigoberta Menchu (Nobel and other big prize winners are good but you could also write about someone really bad too like Joseph Stalin as a bully or some other deeply flawed character).
Here's the title of a Barbara Kerlin story that also acts as a primer on writing biographies - The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According To Susy)
I hope you've enjoyed today's free video review/lesson on picture book writing and illustrating, postmodernism, and biographies. Thank you Deborah and John for your wonderful book. Please share this series with anyone you know who is interested in picture books : )