Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover


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Star Bright Books: PINWHEEL DAYS and FRIENDS AT NIGHT by Ellen Tarlow and Gretal Parker

Pinwheel Days and Friends at Night

written by Ellen Tarlow

illustrated by Gretal Parker

Star Bright Books, 2021

Sending many thanks to Vivian Kirkfield and her blog and website, Vivian Kirkfield – Writer for Children, and R. Skyler Lambert, Editor and Marketing Manager at Star Bright Books, for sending me a copy of both of these adorable picture books! They have been quite successful with my learning-to-read grands.

Comments from the Peanut Gallery:

Gage (just completed first grade): Can I keep these? Can I take these in the car? (They lived in the car for weeks so he could read them on the way to and from school.)

Autumn (just completed kindergarten): Read this to me. What’s a pinwheel? It’s that flower! (giggle) They’re hiding!

Why I Love These Books:

~adorable stories, 2 per book

~just right for beginning readers

~large text which makes it easier to read

~engaging illustrations and text

~spot-on situations to capture the attention of readers

~cute animals characters!

~sturdy construction

Thank you, Vivian and Skyler! Two thumbs up from this household!


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Author Interview: OCEANS OF LOVE by Janet Lawler

OCEANS OF LOVE

Written by Janet Lawler

Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Viking Books for Young Readers, 2022

I love spending time at the beach! But a deep sea diver I am not, so I’m very happy to have Janet Lawler here today to talk about her new picture book, OCEANS OF LOVE! This new picture book is perfect for visiting underwater habitats without needing a wet suit and oxygen tank.

Welcome, Janet! You visited my blog back when Kindergarten Hat came out, which was soon to be followed by Good Night, Little Engine. Tell us a little about yourself and what you’ve been up to since then.

Wow! Time flies! Both those books released during the pandemic year 2020, a time that we all would like to put behind us. But I kept busy throughout since that is my way to handle challenging periods. And during the darkest months of the pandemic, I wrote There’s No Place Like Hope, an inspirational text to help kids get through tough spells. Optimism and hope help anyone facing uncertainty and upheaval, don’t you think?  That book, illustrated by Tamisha Anthony, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux next year.

Ooh, There’s No Place Like Hope sounds perfect! What a wonderful way to spend that closed-up time!

Congratulations on your new picture book OCEANS OF LOVE (Viking Books for Young Readers, February 1, 2022)! It is beautiful! What inspired this story?

Thanks, Angie. I am fascinated by the ocean, and that interest met up with my desire to write another story in my favorite genre—the “love poem.” My first published book, If Kisses Were Colors (Dial, 2003) compares a mother’s love to the vastness and beauty of the natural world. After that, I wrote a few more about how moms and dads show love to their little ones. But I ran out of humans! So I started musing about different animals. OCEANS OF LOVE takes a dive under the waves in an imaginary journey that ponders how sea dwellers might show maternal love.

Lol. You ran out of humans . . . I love the way you moved on to ocean animals.

What writing journey did you follow as you wrote OCEANS OF LOVE? How long did it take from idea to publication?

The journey started over 15 years ago, in 2006. I had already written A Mama Bug’s Love, taking an imaginary love tour with a bunch of bugs. Little Simon acquired and published that story in a pop-up book format. I hoped to have another book to follow and so began working on the text that became OCEANS OF LOVE. But the publisher discontinued that pop-up series and passed on the manuscript.

Over ensuing years, OCEANS OF LOVE spent a lot of time in a drawer as I worked on other stories and projects. I am not sure what caused me to revise and share it with my agent three years ago. After only a few submissions, my editor fell in love with it and acquired it in early 2020.

I’m so glad you decided to revise and share it with your agent!

The text is perfectly enriched by Holly Clifton-Brown’s illustrations. How much input did you have as your book went to Holly to be illustrated?

I was given a chance to comment on illustrators the publisher was considering, and I said yes to Holly! I made small comments on sketches along the way. But for the most part, Holly took her own creative path to where my words inspired her imagination. Her luminous illustrations add depth and detail to my text, in addition to a lovely added story layer.

I totally agree! Holly added lovely layers to your story.

Did you do anything special for the book birthday of OCEANS OF LOVE?

I did my first in-person event in over two years, in conjunction with the wonderful children’s department of my town’s public library. I wore my special fish earrings and my seaweed scarf. I shared the book and its background, and kids joined in a fun fishing activity before going home with fish stickers and a “Love Fish” coloring/craft activity (folks can download that for free off the OCEANS OF LOVE  page on my website).

Fun! Thanks for the link!

What tip(s) could you offer to picture book writers who are seeking to get their books published?

I tell beginning picture book writers to focus on the craft of writing, so that the story is the best it can be before trying to find a publisher or agent. Early on in my career, I sometimes rushed to send out what I thought was the “perfect manuscript,” and the next time I looked at it (sometimes, the following morning!), I saw ways to make it better. I also tell new writers to research markets to make thoughtful submissions. There is so much information available now online about what different publishers and editors want for their lists. Target submitting greatly increases one’s chances of finding a home for a story.

Thank you! Excellent advice.

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I am a Walrus Detective! The Walrus from Space project (co-led by the World Wildlife Foundation-UK and the British Antarctic Survey) is assisted by lay volunteers who analyze satellite images of the Arctic taken from space to see if there are any walrus visible. Anyone can do this, in spare time and with a little training! I am fascinated by this arctic mammal, which is why I wrote WALRUS SONG (Candlewick, 2021). I hope you and your readers will check out the Walrus from Space project. The information gathered and analyzed will help experts better understand the impact of climate changes on walrus habitats.

That sounds fascinating! I was once using Google Earth, just popping around way up north of Alaska and Canada and spotted a beached whale on a tiny little spit of land! It was amazing!

Thank you so much for visiting, Janet! Congratulations on OCEANS OF LOVE and best wishes on your future projects!


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Book Review: In the Garden with Flori by Sonja Danowski

In the Garden with Flori

Written and illustrated by Sonja Danowski

Translated from German by Marshall Yarbrough

NorthSouth Books Inc., 2022

Friends, we are talking gorgeous. I was initially drawn to this oversized picture book just by seeing some of the illustrations. The illustrations, plus the garden theme, put this book right on my want-to-read list. I love gardens.

After receiving In the Garden with Flori from NorthSouth Books, I was indeed enchanted with both the richly detailed illustrations and the gardening, trouble-filled story. Thank you, NorthSouth Books!

Why I like this book:

~ Gorgeous, detailed, full-page illustrations

~ Flori, the adorable sidekick, who as dogs do, causes a certain amount of trouble

~ Child-centered story

~ Friendship

~ Love the garden! Both the wild outdoor garden and the protected inside garden

~ The endpapers – check out the detail!

~ The nature theme

Congratulations, Sonja, for creating this beautiful picture book!

Amazon Blurb:

Batchelder Honor recipient Sonja Danowski has created a new story reminding us that love, patience, and a sense of humor help any garden to flower.

What a fuss! Linn’s grandfather broke his leg. Fortunately, his granddaughter Linn offers to take care of his spectacular garden. After all, Linn has helped out in the garden many times and knows a lot about plants. With Linn’s dog, Flori, and her good friend, Emi, by her side what could go wrong? But when mischievous Flori causes a mess, Linn has to learn to deal with a difficult situation. Taking responsibility for the first time is a big step. Together with Linn, we experience pride in the trust placed in us as well as self-doubts along the way. Sonja Danowski’s lovingly detailed illustrations appear almost lifelike and unfold with incomparable magic.


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Happy Book Birthday to FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE! Written by Candace Spizzirri, Art by Beverly Love Warren #bookbirthday

Fishing with Grandpa and Skye

Written by Candace Spizzirri

Illustrated by Beverly Love Warren

Spork, April 19, 2022

Congratulations, Candace and Beverly! Welcome to the world, Fishing with Grandpa and Skye!

I’m so happy for my critique partner, Beverly Love Warren! She did the art for Candace’s new picture book, and through Beverly, I connected with Candace. Have a wonderful day celebrating the arrival of Fishing with Grandpa and Skye!

About the Book:

Days on the lake are a Skye and Grandpa thing. They load up their tackle box, hop aboard their skiff, and chug out to their favorite fishing spot. Today, the sun is shining, the fish are jumping, but will Skye hook a big one? 

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE explores the rewards of patience and celebrates the love between generations.

Candace Spizzirri

Children’s Author

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, April 19, 2022
FINLEY: A MOOSE ON THE CABOOSE, Spring 2023

Beverly Love Warren

Children’s Book Author and Illustrator

FISHING WITH GRANDPA AND SKYE, April 19, 2022

Have You Seen Mouse? (Spork, 2022)


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Author Interview: TOFU TAKES TIME by Helen H. Wu

I love learning how different foods are made, so you can imagine how much I loved reading this new picture book by Helen H. Wu. TOFU TAKES TIME (Beaming Books) will make its appearance on April 19, and I can’t wait! Let’s get right to it and meet the author.

Welcome, Helen! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you so much Angie for having me! I am thrilled to share more about TOFU TAKES TIME and my publishing journey. I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, as well as a translator. I work as the associate publisher at Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publishing house which publishes picture books in Chinese and English.

I’m so excited about TOFU TAKES TIME! It makes me want to make tofu. Or at least eat some!

Congratulations on your new book! What was your inspiration for TOFU TAKES TIME?

The inspiration for this story was born of my tofu-making experience with my treasured grandma. When I was a kid, I often sat nearby and watched as she cooked—a process that sometimes involved tofu. She would wash vegetables, chop meat, stir porridge, and cook all the meals for our entire family. It was during these times that she would share stories that transported me to faraway places and other eras. After I moved to the US and had my own family, my kids would ask many questions about the process and tools we used to make tofu together: serving as a warm reminder of the sweet time I spent with my grandma in the small kitchen across the ocean. Hence, a story began to take shape.

I LOVE that this picture book is so closely tied to your family and wonderful memories. What a special treasure for your family!

What was your writing journey for this book?

A great book calls for multiple layers with varied messages readers can take away from the story. Though the idea behind the book was grounded in the tofu-making process, I knew the story must involve a bigger concept that is more relevant to kids. When I cooked with my own kids, I noted their preoccupation with imaginative play and occasional complaints about the time required to cook a proper meal: which inspired me to weave the topic of patience into the text. In examining the tofu-making process in a more imaginative way, I discovered an assortment of inherent elements that connect with nature and even the universe at large. I’m now so happy to have found a sweet spot that includes food, culture, patience, nature, and intergenerational love all tied into one story.

The way that TOFU TAKES TIME is told through the voice of a young child is pretty awesome! Learning patience is such a difficult thing for young people. I still struggle with being patient.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of TOFU TAKES TIME on April 19?

I have a book launch event planned on the book birthday, April 19th! I’m so excited to present the book launch event of TOFU TAKES TIME with Avid Bookshop, with talented illustrator and bookseller Julie Jarema! The reading and conversation will take place on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from 7pm – 8pm ET on Zoom. Preorders from Avid Bookshop will come with a special bonus: a 5”x7” print, bookmark, food stickers, and a bookplate signed by the author and illustrator created just for TOFU TAKES TIME. Don’t miss your chance. You can register here:

 https://www.avidbookshop.com/tofulaunch (Isn’t it a cute URL for the event?)

LOVE it! So much fun!

I love the heart in TOFU TAKES TIME, the relationship between grandmother and grandchild, and the connections between tofu and the ingredients/resources needed to make it. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

Thank you! Speaking of picture book writing, I didn’t have typical picture books when I was a kid growing up in China. We had black and white comic books and only in the last two decades, picture books were introduced into China. My writing career started from being part of picture book projects. Reading, especially reading all kinds of picture books, is one of the best ways for me to foster imagination, expand my knowledge, and be open to new ideas. Picture book is a magical format that I feel can perfectly encapsulate a feeling, a moment, a subject, a place and time. And as an art lover, I also find it’s very entertaining and soothing to simply enjoy the artwork of picture books.

I don’t remember reading many picture books as a child, mainly Dick and Jane readers. I do remember jumping right into chapter books. Many of them are still favorites. I’m so glad that picture books are being published for much larger audiences. And the artwork of picture books is divine!

What are you working on now?

My next picture book, LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom, will be published by Yeehoo Press in February, 2023. Inspired by my experience as a minority immigrant student, this picture book follows a Chinese dragon who struggles to breathe fire in his new Western dragon school, only to discover he must carve his own path to finding a sense of belonging. Wrapped in Eastern and Western dragon lore, this fantasy tale celebrates perseverance, self-acceptance, and cultural differences.

Oh, dragons! This sounds perfect!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Read as many books as you can in the genre you intend to write. Take picture book writing classes. Find a critique group and get feedback on your stories. Revise, revise, revise. Most importantly, keep writing and keep going.

Excellent tips. Writers, let’s get busy!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

I started writing and illustrating in 2012 and since then I’ve self-published over 20 picture books. TOFU TAKES TIME is my first traditional published book, my debut book. Good things take time!

TOFU TAKES TIME is such a lovely, heart-warming story! I’m excited to see it out in the world. Thanks so much for stopping by, Helen! And CONGRATULATIONS!

About Helen

Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author, illustrator, translator and publisher. She is the author of TOFU TAKES TIME, illustrated by Julie Jarema (Beaming Books, 2022) and LONG GOES TO DRAGON SCHOOL, illustrated by Mae Besom (Yeehoo Press, 2023). Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, an independent children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Currently, Helen lives in San Diego, California, with her family and two kids.

Learn more about Helen at:

HelenHWu.com

Twitter @HelenHWu

Instagram @HelenHWu


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Book Review: A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

Written by Karen Rostoker-Gruber

Illustrated by Kristina Swarner

Albert Whitman & Company, 2020

Hello, friends! Just look at what I call “Girl in a Tree.” Her (current) favorite thing to do is climb trees. She was more than happy to shimmy up and strike a “missing-teeth” pose with Karen Rostoker-Gruber’s traditional retelling of a Yiddish folktale, A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Thank you, Miss Autumn.

And thanks to Karen for sending me a copy of this beautiful book and Kathy Temean for hosting Karen and her picture book. You can read more about Karen on Kathy’s blog, Writing and Illustrating.

Now, as a person who lives full-time in an RV with her husband and quite hunting-crazy cat Monet, I know something about being crowded. When all the grands are over (7), there is nary a place to sit. We have to double-up AND use the floor. Inside the RV, we have also had: 2 cats, 1 dog, a fledgling goldfinch, spiders, earwigs (YUCK), flies, wasps, adults, grandchildren, 2 bunnies…I think that might be it. Thankfully, this crowd was not all at the same time. Oh, and the occasional Monet-attempted catch-and-release mouse.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale. Told both in rhyming and lyrical text, the mix was perfectly combined for a satisfying read. Not too much of either, but just right. For a fun retelling of a traditional story, you need to read about Farmer Earl and his crowded farmhouse.

What I Like About This Book:

-humor abounds, though I imagine Farmer Earl would not feel the same way

-the hugely huge family (this phrase cracks me up)

-a fun, re-imagining of a classic tale

-the animals and chaos

-perfect little rhyming couplets that young readers will pick up in no time

-the combination of both lyrical and rhyming text

-adorable and engaging illustrations filled with plenty of details to amuse readers

Amazon Blurb:

Farmer Earl has had enough―his home is too crowded! So, he visits the wise woman in town for help. She tells him to bring all his ducks in the house. And then all his horses. And all his goats too! How will there be more room with all these animals? This updated folktale uses humor to explore what it takes to gain a new perspective.

Find Karen:

Amazon

Instagram

Twitter


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50 Precious Words: My Story for Vivian Kirkfield’s #50preciouswords Writing Challenge

JUMP IN!

by Angie Quantrell (46 words)

Jump in, jump in!

The water is warm.

Carrot

Tomato

Green Bean

Potato

More friends, more friends!

Dive in the pool.

Celery

Peas

Onions

Beans

Swim, swim!

Make a whirlpool.

Salt

Pepper

Corn

Butter

Soup’s on, soup’s on!

Time for a bowl.

Stir

Blow

Sip

Glow


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Happy Book Birthday to HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?! Interview with Author-Illustrator Beverly Love Warren

Hello, dear readers! Welcome to a very important blog post featuring a special book birthday for Have You Seen Mouse? by author-illustrator Beverly Love Warren! Beverly is one of my critique partners, and I am pleased as punch (can punch be pleased?) to feature her Happy Book Birthday for her new picture book! Be sure to download and print Beverly’s free coloring page!

Let’s get right to it.

Welcome, Beverly! Tell us a little about yourself.

Thank you, for the interview, Angie.

I live with my husband in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by forested mountains, valleys with rivers, and lots of wildlife. This setting, my faith, my family, and aspects of my childhood have been the main sources of inspiration for what I write and illustrate. When I was young, I wanted to be a fashion illustrator and therefore I chose to attend The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where I got a degree in illustration and design.

Shortly thereafter I married, and we settled in the Seattle area where I taught art at a private school that my children attended. During that time, a mother of one of my students invited me to an SCBWI* meeting. Later I became a member myself, and through SCBWI I got my first job illustrating children’s educational literature. Due to the many books I had read to my children and the material I was reading for illustration purposes, a desire to also write for children began to grow.

Then in 2016 my husband and I took a trip to New Zealand where we visited the Weta Workshop in Wellington. This is where the props for the Lord of the Rings movies were made. That trip cemented my desire. After returning home I began my first writing course, Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic.

*SCBWI – Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators

Beverly, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a critique partner with you! It was so much fun to be a part of the process and to see your book come to life! And New Zealand is on my bucket list!

Happy Book Birthday! What was your inspiration for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?

My husband and I like to take road trips when time permits. In October 2019 we were traveling through northern Idaho when I gazed into the forest at a fallen tree. In my imagination I saw a bear sitting on the tree weeping. I wondered why and concluded that he lost his best friend and couldn’t find him. I happened to have my notebook with me and I immediately wrote the draft. The bear became the protagonist, but I needed to know who his friend would be. I thought back to my childhood and remembered all the mice I had as pets and decided that a little mouse would make a perfect best friend.

That’s a fun way to begin a story! I’ve jotted down ideas for several stories doing the same thing, sitting in the passenger seat while my husband drives us around on road trips.

What was your journey for this book?

In February 2019 I joined Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge. Her challenge was to write a new picture book draft each month for 12 months. HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE? was November’s draft. I went through the revision process both in the 12×12 forum and with my critique groups. (Thank you, Angie!)

In January 2020 I took Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy Illustration course. At the end of this 6-week course, the completed art of each student would be viewed by selected editors and agents. I had hoped and prayed there would be interest in my illustrations, but I needed to leave the class during the fifth week because my mother became ill. Mira entered my art in the viewing anyway and about a month later Callie Metler, publisher of Clear Fork/Spork, contacted me. She was interested in having me illustrate a picture book. After reading the manuscript she sent, I signed the contract. While working with Callie on that book, she said she liked the palette I used in Mira’s class. I told her there was a story that went with the art and asked if she would like to read it. Graciously, she agreed. Later she said the story was precious and then we signed the contract for HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?.

How exciting! 12×12 is a wonderful resource and community for picture book writers and it’s fun to run into you when we are at webinars or online for something.

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?

My husband may take me out to dinner, but he may surprise me instead.

Oh, I hope he surprises you! Surprises are fun!

I love the heart in HAVE YOU SEEN MOUSE?. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

As an example, and as I mentioned above–I remembered my mice, but I also had many hamsters. Once one of them got lose in the house. I looked everywhere, but I could not find him and concluded that he got outside. I remembered my sorrow and drew upon that for Humphry’s [the bear] feelings in MOUSE, and his search for his friend.

That’s the perfect way to build emotion into a story! I remember sitting at the dining room table with my family one day when I was in grade school. Suddenly my mom screamed. And we all jumped up to help her chase down the cat, who had our Teddy bear hamster in her mouth! Childhood memories are great ways to get picture book ideas.

As an author-illustrator, how do you both write and illustrate a picture book story?

I am primarily an illustrator, but when I begin a story I start with the text, not the illustrations. I see the main character in my mind, and I know the general premise or theme of what I want the story to be about. With pen in hand, I watch the main character in my mind move through the events toward the goal. Along the way I ask myself the “who, what, when, where, why, how, and what if” questions. This gets my rough draft on paper. Then the revisions happen with the help of my critique partners.

When the story is close to being completed, I will draw up a few character sketches and a simple dummy to see if everything is working. Once I am satisfied, I will illustrate one or two samples of full color art with watercolor and color pencils This is all done with the anticipation that I will be submitting them somewhere.

I am in awe of you as an illustrator! I draw excellent stick figures. At least my kindergarten students never complained!

Download and print this free coloring page from Beverly!

What are you working on now?

I am currently working on a middle grade novel about a boy who is fearful of growing family responsibility and goes searching for his father who has broken a promise and seems to have disappeared. I also have four picture book manuscripts I have finished or that are close to being finished along with some thumbnails and one or two pieces of final art.

Best wishes on all of your new projects!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Feedback is so important to story development. Others can see holes in a story that the author may be blind to or knows are there but cannot figure out how to fix. Feedback for illustrations is also helpful. Sometimes a page would be better illustrated with a distinct perspective, or the colors are not working, or a character needs more expression in the face or body movement. In other words, critique partners are necessary to help make stories as strong as possible before submission. Also, both authors and illustrators run into many rejections. A strong desire, perseverance and encouragement are important to overcome the rejections. Lastly, do not compare your journey as a writer or artist with others unless the comparison can make you stronger. If comparison tends to defeat you, then ignore it. We are all unique and our paths will be different. And if the story of your path to publication is strewn with obstacles and setbacks it may be the exact story that someone else needs to hear.

Thanks so much for the encouragement. Excellent tips!

Beverly, thanks so much for stopping by on your busy book birthday! Congratulations and best wishes with Have You Seen Mouse?! I can’t wait to get my own copy to read and enjoy!

Readers, remember the best way to support picture book writers and illustrators is to share the good news, purchase their books, and leave reviews. Thank you!

Find Beverly at her website.

Amazon

Amazon Blurb: When Humphry, a bear, discovers his best friend has moved away, he searches the forest to find him, only to return home alone. It is then that he discovers how much his friend loves him. Have You Seen Mouse? shows the young reader the devotion and perseverance of a true friendshi


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Illustrator Interview: The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup, Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore

Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

Yeehoo Press, 2021

Welcome back, friends! Last Wednesday, Hunter Liguore visited to share about her new book. You can hop over to read that interview here and get your name in the hat to win a copy from Yeehoo Press.

Today I am delighted to introduce Vikki Zhang, the talented illustrator of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. Vikki joins us from China. Vikki has generously shared some of her works-in-progress and completed spreads, but you really need to read this picture book in person to see the details and feel the wonder of this lovely book. The partnership between Hunter and Vikki comes to life in each page!

Character development work-in-progress

Welcome, Vikki! Tell us a little about yourself.

Hi! My name is Vikki Zhang, I came from China, Jiangsu. I received my MFA of illustration at School of Visual Arts in 2018. Then I began my career as a freelance illustrator in New York. I created art for children’s books, editorials, book covers, brands, and product surface, etc.

I am also the founder and art director of Nianyi(年衣), a kids fashion brand, based in Beijing.

Wow, I see plenty of creative opportunities for you! Congratulations on your work!

Congratulations on your new book The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup! Once you read the manuscript from Hunter, how did you get your inspiration for the illustrations you created for the book?

Thank you, Angie. I am so pleased you enjoy the reading.

Hunter’s writhing is full of love and benevolence, like the yellow lamplight emitted from the deep woods. For the protagonists are a little girl and her grandmother, I am thinking of the objects and details appeared from my experience living in the grandparents’ home. The clock, the tablecloth, the pot, the outfits and so on are directly taken from the real life.

I am a nostalgia. I also got inspiration for this book from Victorian-Edwardian era’s picture books, antique cross stitch, decor and interior design of William Morris style, Carl Larsson’s watercolor depicting family, home and farm, poem about country life, delight rhythm in guitar, etc.

Oh, that’s what your illustrations remind me of-Carl Larsson! I love his work. And I love watercolors!

Kitchen scene work-in-progress

Where do you do your illustrating work? What process do you use as you create illustrations?

I am now work at the studio in Shanghai. While this book was finished in my parents’ home during the quarantine. The process begins with sketching on iPad. Then I printed them out, traced them on light box with pencil, and colored layer by layer with watercolor. There are some pages drew directly from iPad.

How did you celebrate the book birthday of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup when it came out last August?

I called my dad and mom sharing this good news. It’s very exciting to publish it simultaneously in US and China.

Book scene work-in-progress

I love the heart in The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. The family relationships and the connections between ingredients and their sources is fascinating. It takes making soup to a deeper level. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you illustrate?

My childhood experience had a profound impact on my art career. I am very grateful for each of my family member who gave me lots of love and care during my growth. They gave me a soft heart full of imagination. I read a line which says imagination is good memory. I can’t agree more with that. Those who can create fantasy and marvel are ones who are deeper engaged in the daily life than others.

I love reading how your family gave you a soft heart filled with imagination!

What are you working on now?

I am working on packaging designs, brand collaborations, series book art for young adults about Peking opera, and a picture book I wrote. As for Nianyi, we are preparing the 22aw collection.

You are very busy!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

Don’t overthinking, let it flow, simply create things you are truly passionate about.

Be honest, be patient, focus, work hard

Thank you for the tips!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

The designers from Nianyi made the little girl’s red polka dress into the real product. The dress will be released in our 22ss collection!

When I drawing the little girl, her hair style is difficult to depict in specific angles. So I tie up my hair into the same style and took selfies modeling for myself.

I think that dress will be adorable!

I love this selfie Vikki took to help her see how to illustrate the little girl’s hairstyle!

Thank you so much, Vikki, for sharing your beautiful work!

Readers, you will want to find your own copy of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup to enjoy! And don’t forget to swing over to the Author Interview post to read more about this delicious picture book and get your name in the hat to win a copy. Thanks for stopping by!


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Author Interview: The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup by Hunter Liguore (Plus #giveaway)

“A rumination on our interconnection with others” (Hunter Liguore)

The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup

Written by Hunter Liguore

Illustrated by Vikki Zhang

Yeehoo Press, 2021

It’s World Read Aloud Day! Here’s one picture book that will make your read aloud time scrumptious.

We all know how a grandmother can make the world go round. I’m a Nana, and I join with Nan as she cares for her loved ones by feeding them. Not only is this a delicious story, but The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup is filled cover to cover with delectable illustrations and tasty tidbits of all of the work involved in providing the ingredients and growing the soup. Lovely! Thanks so much to Kathy Temean, Hunter Liguore, Vikki Zhang, and Yeehoo Press for introducing me to The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup.

I’m glad you stopped by. Keep reading to meet Hunter Liguore and learn about her picture book, The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup. See the directions at the bottom of this post to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy.

***Coming soon: Swing back by to meet meet illustrator Vikki Zhang!

Now, let’s get to our interview with Hunter!

Welcome, Hunter! Congratulations on your new book! Tell us a little about The Whole World in Nan’s Soup.

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a rumination on our ability to recognize our interconnectedness with ‘all’ people. It is wisdom passed down many generations through my own gran, who understood that in order to eat a single meal, it takes the whole world to make it.

Our dinner table doesn’t end at the four corners, but is reciprocal; it extends to all those faceless helpers involved with making sure we’re nourished—and that’s a very beautiful thing! When we take the time—through slow-cooking—to see and talk about ‘all’ people in a bowl of soup, then we can begin to notice it in other areas of our life with the same care and unity.

The more we see our oneness, the more each meal—each bowl of soup—becomes a celebration, and our struggle with each other falls away, and the harmony we experience within will be reflected back.

I love how the interconnectedness plays out in this picture book. I have so many fond memories of eating meals prepared by my grandmothers and mother. Living in an agricultural valley, I see how much work it takes to feed families.

What was your inspiration for The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup?

The inspiration for The Whole World in Nan’s Soup comes from a careful rumination on reciprocity, or the understanding that the food we eat each day is made possible through the dignity of gentle workers. Reciprocity is more than an intellectual understanding of treating others with the same respect we wish for ourselves. It goes deeper and implies, ‘Who I am on the inside is the same as what is on the inside of others,’—and if that’s true, we can experience and discover for ourselves the delicate thread that connects all people.

When we meet others, we can do so with an awareness that their suffering is our suffering, felt and experienced the same way, and through empathy—through not wanting suffering for ourselves—we will not want it for another; thus, we will seek harmony and peace in all our words, actions, and relationships.

This was the foundation of the story, which can be practiced while making soup! As our understanding of reciprocity grows, so does our empathy. The circle of life expands, as we recognize we’re not able to live without those beautiful helpers, which we can now honor with our thankfulness, our kindness, our understanding, our patience, and most of all, our self-responsibility that discerns: we are the root of others’ suffering when we set aside our interconnection. We can always take time to recognize our interconnection with others. Even in a bowl of soup!

Beautiful!

What was your journey for this book?

A very gentle one.

I love hearing that!

How did you celebrate the book birthday of THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP when it came out August 2021?

Making soup and sharing it with family and friends.

Perfect!

I love the heart in THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP. The family relationships and the connections between ingredients and their sources is fascinating. It takes making soup to a deeper level. How do imagination and your childhood experiences impact your creativity as you work on picture books?

For me, writing evolves from our wholeness with our self/others/world, a harmonized unity or intuition. It is a way of life, a practice that is occurring in each delicate moment, a sacred unfolding, one where I’m given an opportunity to bring gentle love, unity, cooperation, and perfection into my craft and art, creating for the sake of creating, while being in tune with the greater whole.

Creativity is such a gift.

What are you working on now?

A vision of our future that includes a human traffic free food chain through a farm-certification program similar to Fair Trade or organic.

That sounds fascinating!

What tip would you give to a new picture book author or illustrator?

To all writers/creatives, trust yourself. Writing will only ever be about how much someone is willing to trust their vision. We are inventor of worlds, with words, it’s an art entrusted to the one who perseveres even in doubt, even when nothing makes sense, in order to realize the creative vision as a reality—and that takes trust! It takes belief that uncertainty isn’t difficulty, but an opportunity to shape the creative fire.

Thank you for the encouragement!

Surprise us! What else would you like to share?

The Whole World in Nan’s Soup is a celebration of our interconnection to our world, so I encourage readers to find ways to celebrate life, food, family/friends, our ancestors and relationships, our Earth and the wild ones dwelling in partnership with us; our meals, our dinner table, gentle cooking without harm; celebrate our farms and the food stores you patron, and the people you meet there, who are caring for you. Plant flowers and watch the cycle of this infinite celebration of love and life. Be attentive and you’ll see how connected we truly are. Even in difficulty, we can find small ways to celebrate and contribute to the joy in the world.

Thank you, Hunter, for sharing from your heart. Thank you for visiting today and for creating this beautiful picture book!

Ready to find out how to get your name in the hat to win a copy of The Whole World Inside Nan’s Soup (US only)? A winner will be randomly chosen in one week on Wednesday, February 9.

1. Like and comment on this blog post. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win. Example: bookwinner (at) yahoo (dot) com

2. Follow this blog and tell me how you follow. Please make sure I have your email address so I can notify you if you win.

Links:

To book on Yeehoo Press: https://www.yeehoopress.com/books/the-whole-world-inside-nans-soup/

Twitter: @skytale_writer

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WarriorsWanted/

Website: www.hunterliguore.org

About me: Hunter Liguore is a gentle advocate for living in harmony with the natural world and with one another. An award-winning author, professor, and historian, her writing has appeared internationally in magazines like Spirituality & HealthIrish PagesOrion, and more. When not making soup, she is often roaming old ruins, hillsides, and cemeteries. To learn more, visit: hunterliguore.org or @skytale_writer.