Picture Book Review: Cow Says Meow by Kirsti Call | Read this one out loud!

Cow Says Meow

Author: Kirsti Call

Illustrator: Brandon James Scott

I had the pleasure of reversing Kirsti Call’s latest picture book “Cow Says Meow.” Here is the book blurb on the back cover:

Read this zany picture book full of mixed-up animal sounds out loud. Fun puns and wordplay will have readers mooing, neighing, and clucking, and even laughing with every page turn.

I feel the key phrase in that blurb is read out loud. Because it’s true, when you read it out loud, especially to a three year old and six year old, a special kind of magic happens. You will laugh, and you will have little readers joining in and telling each animal that they are not, in fact, making the correct sounds. The illustrations are absolutely hilarious and kid-friendly. My daughter especially enjoyed the ‘pig who said hi.’ These animals are definitely confused. The wordplay throughout will make the parents reading along chuckle as well. I definitely recommend this book for some, rollicking laugh out loud fun. My guess is your little readers will ask you to read it again and again.

Epic! App for Kids: The netflix for children’s books and research gold for writers

appstore_audio_480x360Raise your hand if you have young children? Now keep your hand raised if you also like to write books for children? Still have your hand in the air? Then you NEED to try Epic! An amazing app available on apple and android smart devices.

They have thousands of children’s ebook titles available, and are adding more each day including huge, mega popular titles and characters such as “Ramona”, “Peter Rabbit” and “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Here’s what my evenings look like now that we have Epic in our home. First, I set up a profile for my daughter and I to read together. Her current favorite books include “Old MacDonald’s Letter Farm”, “Duck Goes Potty”, and “Hello, How are You?” to name a few. That last one has taught her how to engage in a conversation with others. It’s very sweet!

Kids Profile_300x250After, my daughter is asleep for the evening, I switch to a second “research” profile and devour as many picture books, chapter books, and middle grade titles that I can before going to bed myself. If I find stories with structure or prose I admire, I can add those to my favorites to come back to and observe again later. I do this because, as a writer, it is difficult to write in your genre of choice without first taking the time to read many, many books in that genre! This is certainly helping me to shine up my very rusty writing skills.

lifestyle_fourkids_thousands_300x250You can try out Epic for yourself for 30 days for FREE!! Thereafter it is 4.99 a month to keep your subscription. That’s the cost of 1 board book per month, which I would likely easily be doing. (Or making special trips to the library to check out books, but who am I kidding? I’m a busy mom of a toddler … How often do I reliably make it to the library? In a perfect world we’d attend twice a week and engage in 20 minutes of uninterrupted storytime, but I digress.) Epic! makes life so much easier. We are building up a list of favorites and introducing new books here and there as well. She just loves the Beth and Bert stories from Highlights! Yup, Highlights! One of my favorite children’s literary magazines. Did I mention they have stories from Highlights?

Picture Book research at Barnes and Noble

This past sunday, I was able to get out and do something I haven’t done in quite awhile! I walked into a yummy book-scented Barnes and Noble complete with a cd section ala Blockbuster Music, and headed to read some popular picture books! Of course, whenever I pass anything that might of interest to my little one, I get distracted.

babytoysblog

I mean, come on, what 22 month old wouldn’t enjoy a soft barnyard full of chickens, ducks, cows, and pigs? Then again, maybe it delighted me just as much!

barnyard

I finally made my way to the picture book section, and pulled out these five fun stories — and devoured them! A new Enya song I’d never heard came on for my listening pleasure making the experience even more pleasurable!

booksblog

This little book, “Shh… we have a plan!” by Chris Haughton made me laugh out loud. The tiniest character on the left — That’s my daughter to a “t.”

shhblog

I left feeling refreshed, inspired and ready to write my own manuscripts. Being a children’s author certainly has its perks!

First Year Favorite Books

My daughter and I have shared many great reads this past year, but some certainly stand out. Here’s some of our favorites!

ladybug

1. Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth

When my daughter was very young, she loved staring at the bright colors, and as she grew more aware she loved rubbing her tiny fingers over the ladybug shapes and into each of the holes in the pages. This book is still one of her favorites.

groovy

2. Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by James Dean

Not exactly the typical baby book, this one my daughter loves due to the repetition, and sing-songy tone used when reading it aloud. It has sure brought about lots of baby giggles from her!

ladybugmama

3. Ladybug Girl and her Mama by Jacky Davis

Admittingly, I may have enjoyed reading this book more than my little one, but what mother wouldn’t enjoying reminiscing about their day with their babes. It was always a nice way to wind down for the evening.

hugyou

4. Hug You, Kiss You, Love You by Joyce Wan

By far our favorite this year. When my little girl was just two months old she would smile and coo at the whimsical characters created by Joyce Wan. Now, at almost twelve months it has become such an interactive story for us to enjoy together … well if she let’s me turn the pages that is. =)

Back to School Picture Book Reads

Back to school time is here! I like to start off the school year with a healthy mixture of themed picture books. “Starting school” is the obvious choice, and I always include a few books on the topic in the bunch. I also like to share picture books with other important themes such as friendship, self-esteem, manners, and also books that are just pure fun. Here are five of my favorites.

I love sharing Clifford the Big Red Dog with children, especially when he is a not-so-big puppy, just like them.

Jane Yolen’s ‘How Do Dinosaurs’ books are always delightful reads that deal with relevant concepts for 3-6 year old children. Readers will enjoy the silly dinosaur illustrations and the sing-songy refrain.

Press Here by Herve Toullet is pure, interactive fun. I love sharing this book with a new group of children, so September is the perfect time to introduce this book. Changes happen to the story based on how they interact with it. Clap and the dots get bigger. Rub and the dot changes color.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems is another highly interactive story. Readers will love trying to convince the pigeon to listen to the bus driver when he tells him not to drive the bus! A bonus with this book, an idea shared by a fellow children’s author, is that children will feel empowered after reading this book because they will be able to draw the pigeon. Satifsying, wouldn’t you say?

The Story of Fish & Snail is a beautifully illustrated friendship story. It is told mostly in dialogue and deals with the emotional ups and downs involved with friendship. Themes of resilience, trying new things, and friendship are plentiful and promote discussion.

What are your favorite back to school reads?

 

Library Days: Rancho Santa Margarita Library

My latest library visit led my to Rancho Santa Margarita Library in you guessed it — Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. This visit happened shortly after the LA13SCBWI Summer Conference, so I was really in need of a decompression day.

I started my day with a manicure at the Luxe Organic Nail & Spa and had my nails painted with my latest color obsession — mint! I love that they use organic products and natural cleaning products. Not all of their polish is organic but they do have some options that are.

PolishThen I headed for a sushi lunch at Sake Sushi. Can you see the steam rising from my lightly salted edamame?

IMG_2075Finally, I made my way to the library. Naturally, I looked at the return cart first, curious to see what the children were reading. The books were arranged in such a haphazard way it made me believe that the picture book section was being thoroughly enjoyed that day. A storyteller was there as well reading aloud several picture books to a handful of cheerful and inquisitive children.

IMG_2060I also grabbed several books to study that were recommended by Deborah Halverson at the Summer Conference as excellent examples of picture book rhythm. Her suggestions were spot on and included:

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons by Eric Litwin and James Dean

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed By Margaret Chodos-Irvine

I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont

An excerpt from my favorite, Pete The Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, a fantastic example of picture book rhythm that I could read over and over any day.

Did Pete cry? Goodness, no. Buttons come and buttons go.

 He kept on singing his song:

My buttons, my buttons, my two groovy buttons. My buttons, my buttons, my two groovy buttons.

Overall, I had a glorious outing. I have two more weeks of summer, and hopefully a few more trips to the library left. I love my summer library days.

Hats, hats, and more hats…

Today I spent a relaxing Sunday in Del Mar, CA with my sister and her fiance. We had brunch at The beautiful Brigantine situated adjacent to the Del Mar Race Tracks. They are preparing for the first horse race of the season. I spent much of my youth in San Diego and not once have I headed out to the races. That is going on my bucket list for sure!

After brunch, we made our way to the Cedros District. And we could not help but try on all the gorgeous hats! We can’t show up to the races without fabulous hats after all.

IMG_1987

IMG_1702

IMG_1988Several wonderful picture books featuring hats have been published in recent years, such as This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen and If You Have a Hat by Gerald Hawksley. Even so, after today I may just be inspired to pen one of my own!

An awesome place to read Children’s Books Online: We Give Books

I have recently discovered a wonderful resource for children’s books online called “We Give Books,” a relatively new digital initiative that allows anyone with internet access the ability to read a large, quality selection of children’s book titles. Check out there video below to find out more.

So far I have read and loved the following stories:

  1. Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd – A witty, modern day parody of a classic picture book.
  2. Start Saving, Henry  by Nancy Carlson – A fun tale that illustrates the benefits of saving vs. spending. 
  3. Dog Wants to Play  by Christine McDonnell – Sparse with words, but fun and slightly rhyming. Follows dog on a search for a ‘today’ playmate.

It’s a great way to help me research picture books to grow my writing skills as well as search for new, fun, or even classic titles that the children I work would enjoy.

Library Days: Laguna Beach Library

Today, the hubby and I spent the day in Laguna Beach. A cozy breakfast at Heidelburg Cafe followed by a casual stroll and a breezy ride on the free shuttle. I took many deep breaths of salty, fresh-sea air. And then do you know where I wanted to go? The library, of course!

We both brought our laptops and found comfy chairs to lounge in. We had a lovely ocean view. The sunscreeny smell throughout constantly reminded me that the beach was only yards away. We stayed for hours.

I explored the children’s book section and found so many amazing picture books to read.

Like these ones.
All the new picture books were displayed here.

There was even a vacant orange couch for me to relax and savor each page. I love exploring libraries in different communities. 1 part research + 1 part writing + 1 part relaxation = One very happy writer.

Pick of the Month: February 2012

I have been plugging away at my 75 Book Challenge. I have read 26 books so far.  Awesome — yes! But, I still feel behind.  Will I make it to 75 by the end of the year?  I hope so! It’s been fun so far.

Here is my favorite read from February 2012.

Picture Book:  Lost Boy: The Story of the Man who created Peter Pan by Jane Yolen

This is lovely picture book biography about the life J.M. Barrie, author of “Peter Pan.”  At 2990 words, this is probably not the best choice for a one-night bedtime story for young children.  It might work if you spread it out over several nights.  The story is primarily meant for middle grade readers, grades 4-8.  The illustrations are beautiful, whimsical, and fill the readers and listeners with ‘awe’.
As an aspiring writer, Barrie’s story struck a chord with me.  His path to becoming a successful author was not an easy as you would think.  He went through many of the same trials and tribulations in his time that we all continue to go through now.  It made me feel connected to him in an unexpected way.  I always find experiences like these make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  It’s one of many reasons I love children’s literature — the stories reach people of all ages, from 0-90.  I hope you will check it out!