Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

Bear-Style Picture Book

Shopkeepers BearLast Saturday, my SCBWI region had the opportunity to learn about the creative process of illustrators directly from an illustrator, Rebecca Evans. About 15 people, including Rebecca’s mother and husband and a phone-in participant, listened for nearly two hours as Rebecca described the many detailed steps she takes as an illustrator. We met at The Red Canoe Bookstore Café in Baltimore, a cozy older home converted for the purpose.

The illustrator’s first task is work with the text in determining page breaks that help the story flow. After that, she can begin to sketch her first ideas for each page of the book. From small sketches to larger, more detailed sketches. Then to full-size drawings. And on to paintings. We sweated out the entire process with her.

Rebecca did a great job holding our attention – a difficult task with any age group – and keeping it lively. And the muffins were good too.

And here is my review of the resulting book.


When a bear has a bad encounter with the residents of a very large beehive, she notices that a local shop has a safer supply of honey. The owner of the grocery has lost his glasses and can’t quite tell that he’s putting a bear to work in the store. Of course, his customers do see a bear and run for their lives. The plot has a couple of fun twists, which leave a lot of room for the reader to guess what comes next. No real guessing, though, when Mr. McFranklin gets his new glasses.

Through the illustrations, the characters come alive. Seeing Poppy lick her lips, have her behind sticking out of the tree, wearing an apron, and hugging the shop owner add so much to the fun.  This is a very nice addition to the world of picture books.

Title: The Shopkeeper’s Bear

Written by: Janie DeVos

Illustrated by: Rebecca Evans

Little Giggles Press, 2012

Paperback, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-0-9885891-0-0


April 16

MeI spent this past weekend in the company of writers and book lovers of all descriptions. If you are interested in writing and have never been to a retreat, consider going. Heck, make your own retreat. Get a hotel room somewhere and unplug the phone. I have at least one friend who literally does this occasionally.

But I digress. I attended the 21st Annual Retreat conducted by the Eastern PA region of the SCBWI. Which, in itself, is fabulous enough. But, for the first year, it was held in the new Barn at Boyds Mills, owned and operated by the Highlights Foundation. To borrow the vernacular, OMG! Not only did Highlights treat the group like royalty, but I learned so much, wrote so much, and had a great time doing it.

I participated in the workshop conducted by Darcy Pattison, for whose website I do book reviews. I’m working on a total re-write of a middle grade novel that sat in the drawer for a couple of years. Darcy really made us work, which is a good thing. Through some of the exercises, I saw a few holes in the book, so it was completely worth the six-hour trip from my house to Honesdale.

The large group sessions were wonderful for networking, etc. The weather was not great, but that enforced the idea of staying in and working. I think I will be going again.


And yes, I did find time to finish reading Son. What a great book.Son

In some ways, I believe this is the best of the four in this series. “Son” is the baby Gabe from The Giver. Son begins at approximately the same time as The Giver. The reader sees Gabe’s mother (birthmother) Claire as she struggles to come to terms with being dropped as a birthmother because Gabe’s was a difficult birth. “They” forget about her, unceremoniously moving her to the fish hatchery and not helping her to reintegrate into society. She follows Gabe’s saga by volunteering at the Nurturing Center. When Jonas leaves and sends the village into chaos, Claire also leaves and finds a much different life. She struggles to recover her former life and contact with her son, finally ending up in the same village with Gabe, Jonas, and Kira.

Again, I love Lowry’s ability to show us the world she’s created through multiple perspectives. It’s not just simple points of view. She’s showing us the wall/snake/tree trunk aspects of the old story of three blind people describing the elephant. This book ends in classic struggle of good versus evil. Do you want to know which one wins and how?

Title: Son

Written by: Lois Lowry

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

Hardcover, 393 pages

ISBN: 978-0-547-88720-3

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April 9 Musings

MessengerThis past week, I made time to read Messenger, the third book in the Giver series and started Son, the fourth and final (so far) installment. I’m struck by the very imaginative way Lois Lowry treats each of these books. In The Giver, she created a world and continues to visit that world in each volume.  But each volume gives a very different perspective and is written from its own point of view. Most series I’ve read are told more or less chronologically, but these books overlap in the telling.

Messenger focuses on the now-young-adult Matty, or Matt from Gathering Blue. Matty lives with the Seer, a blind man who also happens to be Kira’s father. Their village is known for helping others and accepting all who want to move there. Something is terribly wrong in Village and the resident s vote to build a wall to keep out newcomers. So, it’s a race to move Kira to Village and figure out what’s wrong.

As usual, I adore the characters and the themes.



Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out how to conduct my life in the midst of chaos. I know. We all live with chaos, but some periods are more chaotic than others. Last week, Edie Hemingway and I worked on getting the reins of the MD/DE/WV SCBWI region switched from her to me and Sue Peters. It’s truly amazing how many details there are just in this little task. Bank accounts. Email accounts, etc. Slow, but we’re getting there.

My brother, Tom, and some of his family were in town over the weekend. His stepdaughter, Chelsey, had been living close to us, and they are moving away. Sad for us, but happy for her mother, Renee, who misses her grandsons.  I just wish they’d lived close enough to us that we could have seen them more. So we had a very chaotic Sunday.

This coming weekend, Edie and I will be attending the 21st Annual Poconos Retreat for the Eastern PA region. I’ve run out of fingers counting why this is a good thing. I get to work on my own writing all weekend. Someone else is in charge of everything and I get to see how another region keeps from going crazy, or whether they do. This is being held at the Barn at Boyd’s Mill, Honesdale, PA, a new facility built by the Highlights Foundation. Yes, the Highlights that you read in the dentist’s office when you were eight. The facility looks absolutely gorgeous! And I get to meet some people I’ve only known on the internet. Darcy Pattison, for whose website I write many reviews, will be conducting the workshop section Edie and I will attend.

I’m going to be working on a total re-write of my first novel, Megan’s Solution. I’m determined she will find a home.

I don’t even want to talk about the IRS.


So wish me luck with all the pieces of my life, writing and otherwise.


Blue and More Blue

This week, I re-visited Gathering Blue, the second in Lois Lowry’s Giver series. I got Son, the new installation, for my birthday and wanted to Gathering Bluestart at the beginning.  I love re-reading books, especially ones I really enjoy because you bring different experiences with you each time. I’m also heavily influenced by what’s going on in my life and in the world. Gathering Blue is about a severely physically impaired woman and her unexpected worth to a village. It’s set some time in the future, presumably after a nuclear disaster or two. At this time, I heard a strong voice of the importance of not discounting individuals of helping one another. After hearing Kira’s story, I hope more people will treasure and help each other.


Here is another book I read this week.

On the Move: Mass MigrationsOn the Move

Written by Scotti Cohn

Illustrated by Susan Detwiler

Cohn and Detwiler hit another one out of the park.  Cohn chose such a variety of animals that there is no doubt the reader gets a broad view of migration – a much broader view than one gets from simply thinking about birds flying south for the winter. From caribou to bats to snakes, she touches on them all. Of course, there are also sandhill cranes and chimney swifts. The details Detwiler adds to her gorgeous illustrations make the reader believe she is part of the scene. Carefully, she depicts all parts of the story, including such items as salamander eggs. It’s hard to pick a favorite scene, but it may be a tossup between the gathering of monarch butterflies and the bald eagle finding a large salmon on the move. With the added value of four pages of creative fun, complete with links to teaching materials, this is a wonderful new source.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska

Sylvan Dell Publishing, 2013

Picture book, Animals, Nature.

Paperback, 32 pages

ISBN: 978-1-60718-6168