Where Are the Working Moms in Picture Books?

I couldn't find any picture books that show a working mom, so I made one.

Today I revealed the cover for Bunny's Staycation, my next book, coming from Scholastic in early 2018, via this personal essay for The Bump about my own experience as a working mom. Bunny and family mean a lot to me, and I can't wait to share this very special book with moms, dads, and their little bunnies.

PAX AND BLUE in The New York Times Book Review

I am absolutely delighted that The New York Times Book Review featured my debut picture book, Pax and Blue! The review calls it a "sprightly debut," and says its "spare pages have a friendly, retro look that calls to mind Syd Hoff’s welcoming urban spaces..."  SYD HOFF, you guys. I am floored!! I did study a lot of Syd Hoff while working on this book, as well as one of my favorites by Bernard Waber, Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.

Even better was that I got to share the print edition with my boys on Mother's Day. 

Author Visit to Goosehill Primary

I had such a FUN day doing three presentations to the kindergarteners and first graders at Goosehill Primary in New York. I was greeted by two walls filled with adorable book-inspired art made by the children. And, yes, that is a finger-leg on the crazy character the kinders designed! :-O

Photo courtesy of Goosehill Primary

Photo courtesy of Goosehill Primary

Storytime at Greenlight Books (x2!)

This weekend brought two storytimes at local indie Greenlight Books. We did the crazy character design game at each location, and turned them into collaborative art projects by having the kids color the final products as a group! I love this activity because it gets kids AND grown-ups engaged and thinking super silly thoughts.

PAX AND BLUE Visit North Ridge Primary School

Today I hopped in my DeLorean, fired up the flux capacitor, and went back to 1987, the year I graduated from North Ridge Primary (then Elementary) School in Commack, NY. I met about 150 Kindergarteners throughout the day, and we read PAX AND BLUE and drew silly pictures together. It was so. much. fun.

PAX AND BLUE (and Chee-Kee!) at Powerhouse on 8th

I had the pleasure of sharing a reading with the wildly talented and absolutely lovely Sujean Rim, author-illustrator of CHEE-KEE, A PANDA IN BEARLAND. It was a really nice pairing, since both of our books are about kindness, empathy, and being a good friend. Sujean and I have so many mutual connections, it was wonderful to finally meet. Thank you to Powerhouse on 8th for packing the place with kids!

PAX AND BLUE at Books of Wonder

I'm sorry, but I have to put on my braggy pants for a moment. The very special Books of Wonder in Manhattan has been displaying my book on the end cap right as you walk in the store! When my friend Jess Townes told me she saw it, I didn't believe her. But there it is! I'm so incredibly grateful to bookseller Joel and the rest of the lovely staff at Books of Wonder for their support.

Top 5 FAQ: PAX AND BLUE

I hope readers enjoy this story about empathy and friendship. I’ve been asked a lot of questions about the book and the making of it! Here are answers to some of them:

1. Why is the book so purple?

I love the Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile books. The style, the limited colors, the city. It’s just so great! I especially love how Lyle is just this big, green, bold thing in each piece of art and he really stands out against everything else. Pax and Blue is sort of a modern version of that. I knew, from a design standpoint, that I did not want to use any realistic coloring for any of the characters or the environments. I wanted the main characters to come forward and for their surroundings to recede because the story is not about the city, but a moment between two friends. By blending the background people and scenes together in a wash of the same purple-gray color, it gives a sense of the surroundings, but visually blurs them so the reader can remain focused on the emotions between the two main characters.

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber

2. Did you name Pax after Angelina Jolie’s son? (Question courtesy of my mom)

One of Angelina’s children is named Pax, and I’m sure he is a lovely young man. But he was not the inspiration for the name. (Sorry, mom!) Because I like alliteration, the original title of the book was going to be “P___ and the Pigeon.” I knew I’d need a P name, preferably one syllable. I looked through a ton of baby name lists for inspiration, and saw that Pax means “peace.” Since the character is so calm and thoughtful, it seemed like the perfect name. Naming a picture book child is just as difficult as naming your human child.

3. Why is the book now called Pax and Blue?

My editor and I felt that using the two character names warmed it up and introduced Blue as special, and not just an ordinary pigeon.

4. Pax looks just like Cooper. Is he Cooper?

(Cooper is my older son.) Yes and no! There is definitely a physical resemblance between Cooper and Pax — the glasses give it away — but Pax’s personality is my younger son. This book is for both of my boys, so I put both of them into the character.

5. What will I find if I look under the jacket?

Gah! I LOVE my case cover and fancy spine! Paula Wiseman, my editor, was incredibly supportive of all the design details I wanted. She let me do this 3-piece binding with textured spine, which makes the book feel vintage. All these little things add to the production cost, so it’s not always easy to get them. The foil stamp was a bonus I was not expecting! Be still, my designer heart. 

Pax and Blue is available now at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and indie bookstores near you!

All The Wonders Birthday Party!

Better late than never... I just realized never posted this fun birthday image I created for the fine children's book champions at All The Wonders. Here's to another 365 days, and many more!

A HOP IS UP Lesson Plan for Students with Autism

My friend April Lesher is a teacher in Arizona. She works with ASD students and created some FREE lesson plans for ELA and ELL featuring some favorite picture books, including A HOP IS UP. It's such a joy to see our book being used in this way. (And I recently had the pleasure of surprising April's students on screen via the magic of Google Hangouts!)

Hamilton Park Montessori School Visit

Thank you to students and teachers at Hamilton Park Montessori School in Jersey City! I had the pleasure of spending the morning with all of their kindergarteners. We read A HOP IS UP and played my favorite drawing game -- I start with a prompt, and then the kids call out what we're going to add to our characters. The results are always super creative and funny!

A HOP IS UP at Powerhouse on 8th

Thank you so much to Riley at Powerhouse on 8th! This special little store in Park Slope is such a neighborhood gem. Our reading of A HOP IS UP was followed by a drawing game... which resulted in a dog with an orange (!!) mohawk drinking a pumpkin spice latte near the subway.

Love using movement during this readaloud

Love using movement during this readaloud

We shared the secret case cover art!

We shared the secret case cover art!

Orange mohawk dog

Orange mohawk dog

Doggie crafting!

Doggie crafting!

Photo courtesy of @powerhouseon8th Instagram

Photo courtesy of @powerhouseon8th Instagram

Princeton Children's Book Festival 2016

What a picture-perfect fall day in Princeton! This book fair is bustling and oh-so-much fun to attend. Every last one of our board books of A HOP IS UP went home with adorable kiddos. Thank you so much to Princeton Public Library and JaZams for a wonderful day!

On the Hinds Plaza at the beautiful Princeton Public Library

On the Hinds Plaza at the beautiful Princeton Public Library

My best helpers!

My best helpers!

Team Rodeen! The fabulous Vesper Stamper, Lauren Castillo, Lori Kilkelly, n' me

Team Rodeen! The fabulous Vesper Stamper, Lauren Castillo, Lori Kilkelly, n' me

Piles of books, ready to go home with readers

Piles of books, ready to go home with readers

A surprise visit from my triplet cousins

A surprise visit from my triplet cousins

A HOP IS UP at BookCourt

I've been going to BookCourt as a customer for the past 11 years. To be there for my own book event was so, so amazingly FUN (and mind-blowing!) Thank you to Aubrey and the rest of the BookCourt team for being such lovely hosts to me and A HOP IS UP. Friends and family, you are amazing.

Introducing A HOP IS UP (with my trusty sidekick!)

Introducing A HOP IS UP (with my trusty sidekick!)

Packed house of kiddos and grown-ups.

Packed house of kiddos and grown-ups.

We shared the secret that I hid our family in one of the drawings!

We shared the secret that I hid our family in one of the drawings!

Our interactive drawing game, where the kids and I spontaneously created a dog sporting a mohawk and sitting in a hair salon. Big laughs all around!

Our interactive drawing game, where the kids and I spontaneously created a dog sporting a mohawk and sitting in a hair salon. Big laughs all around!

Line of friends waiting to have books signed. (Whaaat?!)

Line of friends waiting to have books signed. (Whaaat?!)

My dearest former co-workers and work children. I love all of these women!

My dearest former co-workers and work children. I love all of these women!

A HOP IS UP at Books of Wonder

I had the pleasure of being part of September Picture Book Bonanza alongside Jon Agee, David Soman, and Todd Kessler at the iconic Books of Wonder in Manhattan. It was a fun surprise to top off our panel presentation with CUTE PUPPIES (!!!) from R.E.A.D., a literacy organization that uses therapy dogs to help children with reading. The kids got to share our books with these adorable, furry friends.

Even sweeter is this note that just came to my inbox: 

"My son stayed up late last night and I couldn't figure out why. This morning, I discovered he was drawing the dog from your book! He was practicing it over and over. I've never seen him do this before ... You inspired him!"

You can order signed copies of A HOP IS UP from the Books of Wonder website.

Travel Journal: San Francisco and Hawaii (A How-To)

I love making illustrated notes. This summer, I immortalized our family vacation as a visual journal in the pages of my Moleskine. People think this is hard to do, but, it's not... I promise! It IS NOT about perfection -- it IS about documenting something you want to remember. Here's a little behind-the-scenes look at how I created this travel journal:

Hawaii spread #1 is almost finished!

Hawaii spread #1 is almost finished!

Step 1

I start by quickly jotting down some notes. Very messy notes. I scribble down what we did each day, something funny that happened, quotes, objects... anything I would want to remember. Ideally, I write down the notes at the end of each day so I don't forget anything, but, that doesn't always happen, especially when traveling with kids. I didn't write any notes until day 4 of this trip... whoops.

Super quick scribbles, just to remember.

Super quick scribbles, just to remember.

Step 2

I start on a clean page and draw the title -- usually in the top left corner, and then fill in the drawing to the right and down. There's no real reason why I do it this way, it's just my preference. The title can also go in the middle, and the drawing will fill in around it.

Draw your title a bit bigger than you'll draw everything else. Hierarchy is your friend.

Draw your title a bit bigger than you'll draw everything else. Hierarchy is your friend.

Step 3

Now comes the fun part! This is like doodling on the back of your notebook in 7th grade. I refer back to the notes and start filling in the page with detail. I try to make the details as rich as possible, so that the memory will be equally rich. Documenting the littlest of moments is what makes it interesting!

I write in different lettering styles, use words for some memories, and draw objects for others. I draw things close together because I like the density, and my drawings seem to get more dense as I do them. I fill in any holes with dots, expression lines, stars, and other random doodles. I play with scale by making the drawings larger and smaller. As I go, I use markers (list of tools later in the post!) to add shading and visually separate the objects. Think of it as a visual brain dump. There's no planning... just drawing.

Sometimes I finish a page or spread in one sitting, and sometimes the drawing builds over several days.

Detail from the San Francisco spread. 

Detail from the San Francisco spread. 

Detail from Hawaii spread #1.

Detail from Hawaii spread #1.

Detail of Hawaii spread #2.

Detail of Hawaii spread #2.

....And that's it! I keep going until I fill up the entire spread all the way to the edges, and then I turn the page and begin again. Voila. I got our entire 11-day adventure into these three spreads. My kids really enjoy exploring all the details and finding their cameo appearances in the drawings!

Drawing Tools

I use pens only (no erasing allowed!) I like Microns in varying weights for line, and Faber Castell PITT markers for shading (but sometimes I use a brush.) If I make a "mistake," I just keep going and work it into the drawing. The lines will be wonky, my renderings will be imperfect, I'll forget something and have to sneak it into the drawing later... but that's why it's fun.

I always use a hardcover Moleskine notebook -- either the regular unlined drawing paper, or the books with watercolor paper (the thicker, toothy paper is really nice.) A hardcover notebook is helpful when drawing in the wild, where I may not have a good surface to lean on.

Tips and Tricks

Are you ready to make your own journal this summer? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. I feel strongly that the travel journal should be completed while traveling, and not at home. The energy of travel comes through in the drawing. I work quickly so I can finish it all in the duration of the trip. And for my fellow parents asking, "WHEN the hell do you this while traveling?!" -- I feel you. My kids are at a good age where I'm not constantly running after them. I suggest you steal time when they are asleep on a flight, late night, or early morning. Or just hide in the bathroom with your sketchbook. :)

2. Don't be afraid of the gutter (which is the middle of the book, where it folds.) Sometimes it is tricky to draw around. Don't get nervous, just pretend it's not there, and keep going! I like to draw right over it, and have my artwork extend across the entire spread.

3. If you really don't know where to begin, draw yourself a tool box of elements you can keep reusing -- different types of lines, shapes, type styles. You'll see that I often use the same shadowed hashed line element to separate the days of travel. No pressure to think of something new. Just use what you've already done!

Finishing a drawing on an overnight flight. Thanks to the husband and family paparazzo, Matthew, for capturing it! xo

Finishing a drawing on an overnight flight. Thanks to the husband and family paparazzo, Matthew, for capturing it! xo

Now, go draw! I have more illustrated live notes and journals here for inspiration.

 

PAX AND BLUE Proofs Are Here!

So exciting to find proofs of my friends PAX AND BLUE in my mailbox upon returning from vacation. It's thrilling to see the next step in the process of these two becoming a book! Holy moly... what started as a class project in 2013 will be published in Feb 2017, and is now available for pre-order!