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Blogs I like to read: Books around the table

By September 6, 2019May 13th, 2021The Kerlan Blog

Books Around the Table

A potluck of ideas from five children’s book authors and illustrators

is one of my favorite blogs written by children’s book makers.

I had been meaning to write about them for awhile. To explore the blog go here
Books Around The Table is the blog written by these five children’s book authors and illustrators. They are:
They are a critique group of children’s book authors and illustrators who have been meeting monthly since 1994 to talk about books they are working on, books they have read, their art and their lives.
What I love the best is the their insights into the process of making children’s books and the way they describe and present the titles that they are enjoying and drawing inspiration from.
For example I recall Margaret Chodos-Irvine describing Lane Smith’s illustrations in one of my favorite books Glasses: Who Needs ’em.
In one of the most recent postings Julie Paschkis writes about what having a studio means to her and the devastating incident of a tree falling through the roof.
That posting is here

Here is a little about the members of the round table

Margaret Chodos-Irvine

A short biography from her website

  “comes from a long line of craftspeople, so she approaches her work as if tailoring a suit or cobbling a shoe. It all has to fit and look beautiful at the same time. To do so, she uses a variety of techniques to create innovative patterns, vivid colors, and uniquely textured imagery in her work. She has illustrated 13 books for children and has been recognized with starred reviews and other honors, most notably a 2004 Caldecott Honor Award for ELLA SARAH GETS DRESSED, which she both wrote and illustrated. Margaret lives in Seattle, Washington with her crafty family.”

A description of her printing techniques with visuals can be found here

Ella Sarah Gets Dressed

Anyone who has heard me present on selecting and evaluating children’s picture books has heard me read aloud Ella Sarah Gets Dressed. In addition to the pitch-perfect storytelling of a child who knows her own mind, the color, texture, line with each dramatic page turn never grows old.

Laura Kvasnosky

Known for her gentle humor both in text and illustrations, Laura McGee Kvasnosky is the author and/or illustrator of picture books such as See You Later, Alligator and Frank and Izzy Set Sail, as well as beginning readers in the “Zelda and Ivy” series. Particularly popular, her “Zelda and Ivy” books follow the adventures of two “true-to-life little fox sisters,” as Ilene Cooper described the fictional siblings in a Booklist review. (Something About the Author)

Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door

When Zelda and Ivy came out, I went nuts. The sweet spot of the transitional reader. Go ahead, off the top of your head, name even a handful of really early chapter books from 1998! I double dare you. Henry and Mudge, Pinky and Rex… yup those were tough times. Zelda and Ivy combined the humor of James Marshall with the warm realism of Cynthia Rylant. These books were a gift to librarians, teachers and kids just ready for chapter books.

Right now, I am researching dogs in children’s books  (more about that  in another post) and enjoyed revisiting Really Truly Bingo.

Really Truly Bingo


Poet Julie Larios taught for seven years on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA-Writing for Children program and recently returned full-time to her writing. She has published four books of poetry for children. See them here.  Recent poems for children have appeared in or are forthcoming in anthologies edited by Kenn Nesbitt, J .Patrick Lewis, Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, and Lee Bennett Hopkins.

And while I was browsing around the web, I sunk into another terrific blog, No Water River with a video and an interview of Julie Larios. Go here

Bright Yellow Elephant

A review for Bright Yellow Elephant (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

“The poems beautifully show how color and sound create mood and imagery.” (Booklist 2006-03-15) The poems, the theme, the colors, the animals all are the perfect poetry prompt.

Poetry is my jam. Every month is poetry month. I remember the first time I opened Yellow Elephant, it begged to be read aloud. The perfect mentor text to inspire poem writing. Chapter 11 in Writing Boxes: The Reading/Writing Connection in Libraries provides step-by-step suggestions for using mentor texts. (free download here)

For example read aloud the poems from Yellow Elephant. This poem is posted with permission on The Poetry Minute blog.

then ask the children to suggest animals and colors and write a few lines together.

Turn them loose with their writing boxes.  May I also suggest Purple Puppy by Julie Larios for its juicy language, it is a joy to read aloud and… dog.

Purple Puppy from Yellow Elephant, Illustrated by Julie Paschkis.

Julie Paschkis

Julie Paschkis is a painter and award-winning illustrator of many children’s books, including Flutter and Hum / Aleto y Zumbido, P. Zonka Lays an Egg, and Apple Cake: A Love Story. A love of pattern and of folk art shows in all her work. She lives in Seattle, Washington. Visit her online at

Speaking of Julie Paschkis (and we were) she is a visual storyteller. A person can spot a Julie Paschkis illustration across across a crowded bookstore. Bold colors, folkloric inclinations. I thought I had first fallen in love first with her illustrations of collected poems like Night Garden and Knock on Wood both by Janet Wong.

When I was a librarian starting out, children’s librarians were trained as storytellers. Listening is one part of literacy. Finding the stories to tell was often a trial. When one chose a story to tell, it meant spending hours of  memorizing and then telling it over and over to (anyone who will stand still or is sitting next you on the subway) classes, after-school programs, and assemblies. My go-to was Margaret Read McDonald.

McDonald’s selections were always developmentally appropriate AND her retellings easy to memorize. And to have illustrations by Julie Paschkis. Oh, my.

The Great Smelly Slobbery Small-Tooth Dog

and then there is Mrs. Chicken and The Hungry Crocodile.

Mrs. Chicken and the Hungry Crocodile by Won-Ldy Paye and Margaret H. Lippert.

But then I was thinking of this amazing collection of Cinderella Tales collected and retold by Paul Fleischman.

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal by Paul Fleischman

Bonny Becker

She writes on her website that:

“One of my earliest dreams—to be a writer—came true. But before I published my first book, I went to college—twice. I have a degree in Psychology and a degree in English/Creative Writing. I’ve worked picking fruit, made ski goggles, was a waitress, store clerk, substitute teacher, hotel maid, typist, photographer, journalist, editor and corporate communications manager. Along the way, I met a wonderful man in the vitamin aisle of a grocery store, got married and had two wonderful children.”

It is no surprise that A Visitor for Bear won the E.B. White Read Aloud Award. Bonny Becker is the master of rhythm, rhyme and repetition.

…Charmingly droll, watercolor, ink and gouache illustrations, excellent pacing and the contrast in the sizes of Bear and mouse are a perfect comedic mixture. Kids will giggle each time the mouse reappears and grin with satisfaction when big and little become friends.



Did you know about First Fridays? Are you in Minnesota?

First Fridays October 2019

October 4 @ 12:00 pm1:00 pm

From Jennie to Ribsy to Rocket: What the Dogs Have Taught Us

Presented by Lisa Von Drasek, Curator, Children’s Literature Research Collection

An illustration of a dog from the Children's Literature Research Collections.

Higglety Pigglety Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life (Jennie) by Maurice Sendak

Canine characters take center stage as we examine the works of significant children’s book artists and writers. We will investigate the illustrations and text from a range of titles — picture books, easy readers, and chapter books making doggish connections in literature, literacy, and community.

Free and open to the public.

Event details

What: First Fridays October 2019
When: Friday, October 4 | noon to 1:00 p.m.
Where: Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 120
University of Minnesota, 222 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55455

About the First Fridays Series

First Fridays is a series of intellectually stimulating talks made possible by a generous gift from Governor Elmer L. and Mrs. Eleanor Andersen in honor of former University Librarian Dr. Edward B. Stanford.

The 2019–2020 series theme is Roaring Good Tales: Animals in the Archives.

There may not be animals allowed in the archives, but that doesn’t mean our collections aren’t filled with them! From farm animals to beloved pets to mythical beasts, the Archives and Special Collections are teeming with creatures of all kinds. Join us for the 2019–2020 First Fridays season as we explore the wild side of history.

Writing Boxes: the Reading /Writing Connection by Lisa Von Drasek

To get the free download or buy a print copy go to





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