Colorful Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Illustrating Children’s Books

Lois Ehlert, the well-known children’s book author and illustrator, has recently released The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life, an illustrated autobiography giving us a sneak peek into her creative process. Ehlert, whose picture books include Growing Vegetable Soup, Eating the Alphabet, and Planting a Rainbow, is known for her collage style, which mixes colored paper with everyday objects like leaves, plastic lids and even vegetables! Fans of Ehlert’s books will enjoy not only learning the stories behind some of her well-known illustrations but also hearing stories of Ehlert’s childhood and her encouraging words to future artists.

Looking for more fantastic picture-book biographies? Also check out these titles:

Balloons Over Broadway chronicles the life of Tony Sarg, the man who created the first balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

What to do about Alice? offers an energetic and insightful story about Teddy Roosevelt's oldest daughter Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

The Tree Lady tells the story of Kate Sessions, a turn-of-the-century schoolteacher who started a movement to plant trees throughout San Diego.

Renowned author P.D. James, died at 94


P.D. James was well-known for her Adam Dalgleish mysteries, but film buffs will also recognize her work from the 2006 film Children of Men, which was adapted from her novel of the same name. She passed away yesterday at age 94, and in her obituary she is hailed as a "grande dame of mystery" and as a successor to Agatha Christie's title of "Queen of Crime." Her good friend and fellow crime author Val McDermid has published a short remembrance of James.

James' detective Adam Dalgleish is a great example of a "gentleman detective" and his quiet, unassuming persona resonates with readers. Fans of Louise Penny's Armand Gamache may enjoy Dalgleish, who is similiarly thoughtful and artistically-inclined. The Dalgleish mysteries have also all been adapted into television series, and fans of Inspector Morse may find some of his appeal in the portrayal of Dalgleish.

The Best of 2014 (Suggestions to get a jumpstart on Black Friday)

Library Journal's The Best of 2014 is a mix of the Top Ten of the year and the best of this year' s genre fiction, graphic novels, business, consumer health, craft & DIY, memoirs, and science.

Titles on the LibraryReads Top Ten Favorites that public library staff most enjoyed recommending in 2014 are no strangers. They are sure bets!

I quite like the list of 30 Books You NEED To Read In 2014 posted by The Huffington Post. Some of them might have been flying under the media radar this past year but everyone of them is an exceptional read. Definitely for the adventurous literary reader.

School Library Journal's Best Books of 2014. These 70 books distinguish themselves with excellence in writing, art, design, storytelling, originality, and appeal. From picture books to nonfiction, for lap-sharing and independent readers.

For the visual readers of all ages, check out the New York Times Best Illustrated Books Awards. The 2014 winners are a feast for the senses.

Alright... you are twisting my arm. If you must (toys, I mean), here are some suggestions you can count on...

Parents Magazine rated this year's best toys for every age, starting with baby and ending with big kids! These 58 winners (at all price points, I might add) would bring you kisses and hugs. There is even a list of toys for kids with special needs.

Stunning Debut Fiction: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper, is described as “a gorgeous literary debut about an elderly woman’s last great adventure walking across Canada. A beautiful novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of a talking coyote called James, of unlikely heroes and hundreds of papier-mâché animals….”

Elderly Otto wakes up one morning to find his eighty-two-year-old wife gone from their bed. Upon walking into the kitchen of their home, he finds a carefully penned note from her saying that she has set off on a walk to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing the ocean, and that she’ll try to remember to come back home. The only problem: the ocean is 2008 miles away from the couple’s home in Saskatchewan.

Otto surprisingly doesn’t pursue his beloved wife, but instead keeps himself busy and his worries at bay by carefully crafting hundreds of papier-mâché animals and writing Etta long letters that he does not know where to send. Otto’s close friend Russell, who has loved Etta from afar for decades, insists on finding Etta, however. He leaves his farm for the first time in his life determined to pursue her and bring her home safely.

Etta, meanwhile, steadfastly continues her journey to the ocean accompanied by a friendly coyote named James, and as her trip goes on the lines between memory, illusion and reality become increasingly blurry. The book itself is a mixture of memory and reality, too; it’s not told in chronological order, but rather blends emotions and experiences in the present with those from the past.

The stunning descriptions of Canada are a wonderful backdrop to this novel that “reminds us that it’s never too late to see the things you’ve longed to see, or say the things you’ve longed to say.”

NEW Picture Book: Mix It Up!

As a fan of Hervé Tullet’s fantastic interactive picture book Press Here, I was excited to take a peek at the author’s latest interactive picture book, Mix It Up! The premise behind the book is simple but so much fun! Children are directed to mix colorful patches of paint (really just pictures of paint) in a variety of ways – from mixing it with their fingers to squishing the patches of paint together – and then turn the page to reveal the new color their mixing has created. Far less messy than traditional fingerpainting, this innovative picture book is great for young children learning all about colors.

Fans of the author may also want to check out his other brand-new picture book, 10 Times 10, a counting book coming soon to our shelves!

National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature at last night's awards ceremony. In the book the author shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South. The other finalists in this category were:

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two by Deborah Wiles

See the full 2014 National Book Award list of winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (And AADL's list of the titles in the catalog for quick hold placing!)

Troll Swap

Have you ever wanted to trade places with a troll? Here’s one way to do it:

In Troll Swap, a funny picture book, we have Timothy the troll who is very neat and polite and tidy – much the opposite of all the other messy trolls.
Somewhere else we have a young girl named Tabitha who is very loud and loopy and messy – which upsets her neat parents half the time.

Tabitha and Timothy were both having a hard time getting along with others, until one day they bumped into each other and decided to trade places! That might solve all their problems! Maybe Tabitha’s parents would prefer a well-mannered troll who is polite and tidy? And maybe the trolls would enjoy Tabitha who is loud and loopy and messy like them?

Troll Swap is a silly book with wonderfully silly illustrations, and of course a happy ending. It's a cute book about just being yourself.

Readalikes for Serial Fans


Millions of people are hooked on the new Serial podcast, in which journalist Sarah Koenig attempts to unravel the 1999 murder of Baltimore-area high schooler Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for the crime. New episodes are released each Thursday, and binge-listeners of the show are eager to listen, re-listen, and debate the findings and their suspicions.

Here are a few nonfiction titles that might help pass the time between episode releases - each title features a crime, compelling characters, and an attempt to piece together the clues to make sense of the whole picture.

Blood Will Out - Walter Kirn's examination of a con artist who posed for years as "Clark Rockefeller," an ambiguously wealthy member of the upper crust, heavily features Kirn's own multi-year friendship with the man who turned out to be not just duplicitous, but dangerous as well.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt's story of Savannah is unique in that the crime around which the book is centered almost gets lost amid the outsized personalities of his cast of characters, which includes a flamboyant antiques dealer, a voodoo priestess, and the unforgettable scene-stealer Lady Chablis.

The Monster of Florence - author Douglas Preston becomes spectacularly entangled in this investigation of a violent serial killer stalking couples in the Italian countryside. The extreme ineptitude of the police force on this case is as appalling as the dedication of journalists like co-author Mario Spezi is admirable.

People Who Eat Darkness - award-winning journalist Richard Lloyd Parry traces the disappearance of a young woman in Japan through the search and investigation phases which lead finally to her murder trial, even at the risk of his own safety.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale dissects Britain's infamous Road Hill House murder case which featured a locked room scenario, mishandled evidence, and in an unusual addition for 1860 - a detective, one of the first eight members of the newly-formed Scotland Yard.

What addictive stories have been satisfying your Serial cravings? Share them in the comments! Also - Adnan: guilty or no?

New Adult Nonfiction: A Deadly Wandering

In the brand new book A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Pulitzer Prize winning author Matt Richtel, humans’ relationship with technology is explored through the lens of a deadly car accident. Utah college student Reggie Shaw killed two scientists while weaving in and out of his lane on the highway, texting a friend. Richtel describes the accident and follows Shaw through the aftermath, including the investigation, Shaw’s prosecution and his ultimate redemption. This tragedy offers a unique backdrop for the larger issues that Richtel explores in this fascinating book. He uses recent scientific findings on human attention, evolution, and the impact of technology on our brains to explain how it embeds itself into “all aspects of our lives, plays to our deepest social instincts, and preys on parts of the brain that crave stimulation, creating loops of compulsion and even addiction” (from book jacket). Richtel also uses all this information as a jumping-off point for actionable solutions to help manage our personal and societal distractions.

Matt Richtel is a reporter for the New York Times who focuses on the impact of technology on our lives. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for a series of articles that exposed the risks of distracted driving and its root causes. His work has prompted widespread reform in promoting awareness of and creating policies against distracted driving. He is also the author of Hooked: A Thriller About Love and Other Addictions, and Devil’s Plaything: a Mystery for Idle Minds.

Vanessa and Her Sister: new fiction on the life of Virginia Woolf

Vanessa and Her Sister, by Priya Parmar, is a brand new book that offers a look at a fascinating time and place in world history. The year is 1905 and pre-war London is bustling with young artists and intellectuals. The four orphaned Stephens siblings—Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby and Adrian—decide to take a house together in fashionable Bloomsbury. All young, gifted and unmarried, they bring together a glittering circle of talented and outrageous friends that will eventually become known as the Bloomsbury Group. At the center of the circle are the sisters Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf. When the book opens, Vanessa, the painter, has never sold a piece of her work and Virginia, the writer, has just had her book review turned down. But as time passes, the sisters and the others in the circle begin to meet with success. When Vanessa falls in love, her complicated and possessive sister feels dangerously abandoned and begins a tailspin of self-destruction. With the threat of tragedy looming over the family, Vanessa must decide how to save herself and her loved ones while also protecting her own happiness.

This book is has been recommended for fans of Loving Frank, The Chaperone, and The Paris Wife and offers a fascinating and intimate viewpoint of the life of Virginia Woolf and her struggles with mental illness.

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