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Camilla Cartographer Cover Reveal!

Today I’m so happy to host the cover reveal for Camilla Cartographer! It was a pleasure interviewing Julie Dillemuth and Laura Wood about their new book, which is their third author/illustrator collaboration published by Magination Press.

From the publisher: Camilla loves maps, especially ones of her forest home. But when a huge snowstorm comes and covers all the paths and landmarks, even her maps can’t help her find her way to the creek! Camilla realizes this is the perfect opportunity to make her own maps…forging new paths and discovering her forest all over again!

Camilla Cartographer is a delightful book about finding your way, even when it’s not on any map!

I loved how the book chronicled Camilla’s transformation from a collector of maps to a creator of them. The story illustrates the beautiful moment of transition that kids go through again and again as they grow, from knowing to doing. From dreaming to being. This story is sure to appeal to kids moving toward mastery in all sorts of skills. And who doesn’t like making maps?

Questions for Julie Dillemuth

RY: After I read I wondered if you have ever had a happy realization, like Camilla, that you suddenly knew what you wanted to do… and to be?
JD: I was lucky enough to have an “a-ha!” moment of figuring out what I wanted to do with my (career) life in my mid-30s, with writing for kids. I had struggled with wanting to write creatively for a long time, but an idea for a picture book came to me one summer and something just clicked for me with that genre. Also at that time I kept running across people who had switched careers right around age 40; for example, Julia Child, who took her first cooking class in her late 30s. Those kinds of stories gave me courage, and about 4 months after writing that first story I decided to get serious about a writing career. I’m grateful that I found my passion!
RY: What is your favorite moment in the text (I know mine) and why?
JD: My favorite line comes right after Camilla realizes that when the snow melts, all the paths she made will be gone — it’s that moment we‘ve all experienced when you’re losing something and you realize your going to have to let it go. Camilla is hugging her map and Parsley is hugging Camilla, and the line is, “The snow made the silence especially quiet.” She’s being with those feelings and having a coming-to-terms moment, and the illustration captures the emotion so beautifully.
She jugged the map
But I also love the scene where she comes running out of her house all geared up for exploring and mapping — she has a vest full of pockets and they’re brimming with all kinds of supplies; she even has a pencil tucked behind her ear… I can completely relate to that!
RY: What’s your earliest (or best) map related memory?
JD: My first experience with real cartography was in college, when I was an archaeology major. In field school we learned different techniques for mapping a site — compass and tape measure, plane table and alidade, and transit. The instruments were totally cool, but it was difficult and I remember feeling very inept and doubtful. When we finally ended up with a map that looked right and that I knew was accurate, it was a great feeling of accomplishment. There’s something satisfying in all the measuring and mapping a landscape; maybe that’s because I’m kind of an organizational and control freak!
I also worked on projects that combined historical maps with satellite imagery, which was really exciting — and this was about 25 years ago, when we didn’t have anything close to the resolutions we have now in imagery. The length of a pixel represented 30 meters on the ground, and the best resolution we had was something like 10 m, and that was in black and white! GPS was around then, but there was a deliberate, built-in error that would change daily — accuracy for civilian use was purposely degraded. Can you imagine? It was so cutting-edge then, but nowhere near what we do with location services today.
GPS is pretty fundamental to surveying and mapping now, but I’m happy I got a chance to learn old-school methods. I think that experience was part of what inspired Camilla’s fascination with early explorers and cartographers.

Questions for Laura Wood

RY: You’ve made three books about maps and spatial thinking with Julie Dillemuth and I wonder what you’ve learned about maps along the way that ended up inspiring the finished art in CAMILLA?
LW: While working with Julie on three books about maps I surely had the opportunity to look at lots of different kinds of maps! And yes, I feel like I definitely learned something about them.
For example, I learned that a map doesn’t have to be a complex to be effective, the importance of a good legend and the effectiveness of symbols.
Also, some vintage maps I encountered gave me the inspiration for the colour palette of Camilla’s book which ended up being warm, limited and muted.
RY: Do you have a favorite image (I certainly do) and can you tell me about creating it?
LW: It’s hard to pick one favourite image from all the ones in the book since I usually consider a book like one single unit.

But if I have to pick one that I particularly enjoy looking at myself, it would be the opening one, where the reader is introduced to the main character, Camilla, and to her little world.

I wanted to make the image fun and engaging so that the reader could be thrown straight into the story and her world.

Here people can start getting to know her for the first time, having a sense of who she is and where she lives.

It took me a while to get this image right. Before getting to the final sketch I drew a few different versions until I was happy enough and I had the right composition to fit the story and the text.

RY: What’s your earliest (or best) map related memory?

Nowadays my maps are all on my phone, but my earliest memories go back to when maps were still on paper!

In particular, I remember when as a child I used to make maps myself about the world I was living in: a map of my room, my school, my building, etc… I was fascinated by them!

To be honest not much has changed 🙂

Thank you both for letting me ask my nosy questions! Brava, ladies!

Julie Dillemuth is a children’s author with a PhD in geography. Her books LUCY IN THE CITY: A STORY ABOUT DEVELOPING SPATIAL THINKING SKILLS (Magination Press) and MAPPING MY DAY (Magination Press) promote spatial reasoning skills by encouraging readers to tune into their surroundings, think about where they are in relation to other things and places, draw maps to tell stories, and more. Her most recent book, LOVING COMFORT: A TODDLER WEANING STORY, helps toddlers and mothers through the emotional process of weaning from breastfeeding. Julie lives in Santa Barbara, California, where the west coast faces south. To find her online, navigate to http://www.juliedillemuth.com or @JulieDillemuthBooks on Facebook.

Originally from a small town in the north of Italy, Laura Wood studied illustration in the wonderful city of Melbourne, Australia, where she started her illustration career. After a few years of seeking adventures and travelling around the world, she currently lives and works in Milan, Italy. She creates her art digitally using lots of textured brushes and a fun color palette. Visit her online at www.laurawoodillustration.com or find her on Instagram @laura_wood_illustration!

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They Just Know: Animal Instincts

It’s official–the new book is here–there were cupcakes and everything!

We all had an amazing time at the book launch party at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Thank you all for making it perfect! The snake making station was an especially big hit. Kids learned that instinctual behaviors are associated with different scale patterns and got to design their own snake species. They were all ssSssspectacularly colorful!

Willa MakeaSnake

To celebrate the book’s release there is a book giveaway running on Goodreads until October 20th. Click the book cover below to enter!



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Greg Pizzoli on TRICKY VIC

I never boo books, but over in the Nonficiton Nook I’m giving one a theatrical hisssssss. Make way for a vaudeville-worthy villain, a crook, a conman — it’s GregPizolli’s TRICKY VIC!

I’ll be picking two marks to win signed copies. So sneak on over to the Nook and read my interview with Geisel Award winner Greg Pizzoli!

GP TrickyVic

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Today I’m posting double interviews with debut picture book author Dianne White & Caldecott medal winning illustrator Beth Krommes. I’ll be giving away two copies of their new book, BLUE ON BLUE, signed by both the author and the artist over in The Nonfiction Nook–go take a look!

Dianne White BlueonBluecover beth

BLUE ON BLUE is a thing of beauty! Dianne’s graceful and spare poem of a stormy day is the like the sound of rain on a roof, rhythmic, comforting, and thrilling. Beth’s visual world is the earth on which that rain falls. The book, pictures and words together, is a house, a cozy world where family, childhood, and home are connected with the wonder of the natural world.

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Over in The Nonfiction Nook I just posted a lovely interview with Jeannie Brett about her newest book.

WILD ABOUT BEARS came out in the spring and is an adorable nonfiction selection perfect for kids interested in up-to-date information about the eight bear species alive on earth today!

sketch water

The interview is full of beautiful watercolor process images and peeks into her next book, DECORATED HORSES!


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Green is a Chile Pepper Activities

Over in The Nonfiction Nook I just posted my interview with award winning illustrator John Parra about his new color concept book, GREEN IS A CHILE PEPPER. The book is beautiful and fun and speaks to the teacher in me, so I’m posting a few activity and lesson ideas for parents and teachers below.


Last month the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommendations for early literacy to include reading aloud to babies from the first days of life! Singing, talking, and reading to your infant, baby, toddler, and big kid help prepare them for success in school. The number of words a baby hears before entering school effects how well they do. And studies show, the words that count are the words from YOU–their parent, their caregiver, their teacher–not from the radio, the TV, or electronic toys.

These are my recommendations for reading GREEN IS A CHILE PEPPER, but ANY book you both enjoy is a good book to read together.

INFANTS: before they are wiggly babies love the snuggly rhythm of rhyme and I think it is always best to read in a rocker, but anywhere will do! Read before nap, on the bus, in the waiting room, after bath, before bed—anytime is a good time to read!


BABIES & TODDLERS: Once they start wiggling babies and toddlers might not sit through a book read from front to back, or they might one day and not the next. During this stage the important things are you and the words. Point at the pictures to build vocabulary. Go on little hunts: “Where is the chicken? THERE is the chicken! Where is the bicycle? THERE is the bicycle! What’s your favorite page?” John Parra’s work is FILLED with tiny details perfect for keeping little kids interested—so let your kids grab, point, turn pages, and have fun!


PRESCHOOLERS: Most preschoolers will sit through a whole book. Some preschoolers will wander around the room while you read. Both kinds of reading are good for kids. And preschoolers are ready to understand concepts like color. After you read the book you can go on a color hunts. How many green things can we find? How many purple? Can we count them? Or if you have a class full of kids, you can have them find ONE object in their favorite color and share out. (I love muffin tins to organize found objects)


BIG KIDS: Here is the amazing thing about big kids: all that other stuff, all those other games, they STILL like those. But now they are ready to help read words (color words are great for early literacy), and to help make rhymes. If I were teaching this book in elementary school we would probably be making our own color books. I bet mine would be GREEN IS A FROG. For younger kids you could choose just a few favorite colors, and it wouldn’t have to rhyme, but it could!

You don’t need fancy toys or materials to make a good book into great fun—so get going and read!

Click here to learn about John Parra’s inspiration for the art in GREEN IS A CHILE PEPPER and you could win a personalized signed copy!



Beth Krommes, Swirl by Swirl!


Beth Krommes’ beautiful scratchboard illustrations have won her a Caldecott Medal, and today she is talking with me about her most recent book, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature, which has won her my heart!

1. Hi, Beth! When I told my daughter we could ask you ANYTHING, she quickly asked for “any tips, like for drawing really well, because I don’t.” I think she draws beautifully, but DO you have any tips for drawing really well? I was in 3rd grade when I discovered that I liked to draw. My parents bought me a drawing book of pencil sketches of horses, and a drawing pad and pencils. I spent hours laying on top of the pool table in the basement copying the drawings from the book onto my sketch pad. Copying other people’s pictures is a good way to train your eye to really look hard at something and to try to duplicate the technique that the artist used.

2. My daughter particularly noticed and liked that you use lots of overlapping.  How did you learn to do that? I don’t just draw out of my head when I have to draw a realistic picture of a certain kind of plant or animal, like in “Swirl by Swirl.” I collect reference pictures from library books and images from the internet. When I need to design a picture like the endpapers on “Swirl by Swirl”, I spread all of my reference pictures out in front of me on my drawing table and just start loosely sketching on a large sheet of paper, overlapping the plants and animals. I use my eraser A LOT to change my mind about where something should go. I also start over about three or four times. I have a very full waste-paper bastket at the end of the day. I work out all of the pictures for a book in detail in pencil before I begin the scratchboard. If you go to the homepage on my website, wwwbethkrommes.com, and read the interview “Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast”, you will learn much more about the stages of designing a picture book.

3. Do you ever make mistakes, and if you do, do you start over, or work around them? It is hard to correct mistakes on the scratchboard. If I haven’t scratched too deeply, sometimes I can re-ink over the mistakes and try scratching the picture again. But I often have to start the whole picture over. There is a big picture of a walrus and a hunter in my book “The Lamp, the Ice, and the Boat Called Fish” that I did over seven times. If I have a difficult face to draw on scratchboard, I’ll always do several trials on a small scrap piece of scratchboard first.

4. Sometimes you use lots of color, sometimes just black and white. Why? An illustrator will do what the text demands. “The House in the Night” was a story about night, so black and white was the way to go. It was the brilliant idea of my editor, Ann Rider, to add the golden highlights to give more zip to the pictures. “Swirl by Swirl” had to have full color because of all of the plants and animals. I prefer to work in black and white because of my background as a printmaker, but am becoming more comfortable with color the more I work with it.

5. Do you have a favorite swirl from the book, and do you have a favorite swirl that is not in the book? My favorite pictures in “Swirl by Swirl” are the ocean wave and the tornado. I can’t think of a favorite swirl that is not in the book.

6. Even though the book came out two years ago, do you still see swirls everywhere you look? I have always been fascinated with the spiral shape and I do see swirls everywhere! I am very proud of “Swirl by Swirl”, because I iniated the project before Joyce Sidman came on board as the author. The idea for the book came from a bunch of puzzles I was designing.  I noticed  all of the designs included spirals. I thought perhaps I could take some of those puzzle designs and turn them into a pre-school shape book about spirals. Ann Rider, my editor, wanted to see a book about spirals in nature–why things in nature are shaped like spirals. I tried to do the writing myself, but it was terrible. Joyce Sidman, also a spiral lover, heard I was working on this project and asked if we could collaborate. I said YES!!!!!! I sent her all of my sketches and notes, and she came up with the text. I had to revamp my sketches considerably, but was thrilled with the structure that her beautiful poetic text gave to the book.

7. I heard your next book, BLUE ON BLUE, is coming in fall of 2014. What kinds of beautiful blues will we get to see when it comes? It is essentially a book about a rainstorm. It is a lovely simple text, and it was fun to come up with the story told through the pictures.  You will see lots of blue in the sky and water. Thank you, Beth, for coming on the blog today! I can’t wait for BLUE ON BLUE and whatever beautiful book is coming after! ❤ Robin

swirl-cover house-in-the-night-cover butterfly-eyes-cover-thumb the-hidden-folk-cover-thumbthe-sun-in-me-cover-thumb the-lamp-cover-thumbgrandmother-winter-cover-thumb

****************A Spiral Scavenger Hunt!****************

Swirl by Swirl will send you searching for spirals everywhere. My kids and I went on a scavenger hunt and found curling horns, clasping hands, spiraling lights, grasping mammoths, reaching aloes, feathered heads, and my favorite, the swirl of two girls snuggling! Now that you’ve read Beth’s interview I know you’ll want to go on your own Spiral Scavenger Hunt! Here are mine: horn.hand.shelllight.mammoth.snuggle.sunlight.aloe.hair