Today I bring to you a story that so many children can relate to. Author PJ McIlvaine brilliantly uncovered a topic felt by so many little ones, including my own.
Presenting LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE
Genre: Picture Book
Publisher: Big Belly Books
Author: Pj McIlvaine
Illustrator: Leila Nabih
Synopsis: Little Lena has her heart set to sit at the big table. But every year her family tells her she’s just not big enough. Little Lena is determined to show everyone how big she is.
This book is full of heartfelt charm and it’s simple text along with the illustrations, paint the perfect picture of the lovely, but often chaotic atmosphere at family gatherings.
LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE is a great story to have on hand, especially before family events!
My children’s favorite part is when Lena discovers how boring the adult table really is. Ganny takes out her teeth, mom shows embarrassing photos, Uncle Ron spits when he speaks—lots of humor sure to make your child laugh.
You can purchase this picture book at your local bookstore or www.bigbellybookco.com
I received a free copy from the publisher to give my honest review.
Today’s picture book review post is about creativity, passion and the power of being true to yourself.
Yevgenia Nayberg is the author and illustrator of this unique and heartwarming story based on her own experiences as a left-handed artist growing up in Russia.
Title: ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY
Genre: Picture Book
Author and Illustrator: Yevgenia Nayberg
In Russia, right-handedness is demanded–it is the right way. This cultural expectation stifles young Anya’s creativity and artistic spirit as she draws the world around her in secret.
Hiding away from family, teachers, and neighbors, Anya imagines a secret society of famous left-handed artists drawing alongside her. But once her family emigrates from Russia to America, her life becomes less clandestine, and she no longer feels she needs to conceal a piece of her identity.
Now, let’s meet the author and talented artist behind this gorgeous story!
It’s great to have you, Yevegenia!
Thanks for having me, Katie.
I’d like to jump right in with a quote that I absolutely love from your story.
“The right hand took care of the world around Anya. The left hand took care of the world inside Anya. Anything she imagined, the left hand could draw.” These are such beautiful words within your story. Where did your inspiration for this story stem from? Are you left-handed?
Yes, I am left-handed! Anya’s Secret Society is based on my childhood memories. I grew up in Russia where, at the time, lefties were quite rare. It is a story about being different, but also about creativity and secret imaginary worlds.
You include a very informative author’s note at the end of the story that shares some more about you growing up in the Soviet Union and unusualness of seeing someone left-handed. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to include this integral backmatter?
I did not plan on including the backmatter. It is still a concept that I struggle with. I prefer to explain less and leave more space for mystery.
Is this story about you?
Simply speaking, yes, because I am a left-handed immigrant artist who enjoys her imaginary worlds. Unlike my character, Anya, I moved to the US as an adult, and my immigration experience if quite different from Anya’s. Anya is an improved, more exuberant version of me.
Did you have your own ‘Secret Lefty Society’?
I still have a secret society of my own, but, of course, it must remain secret!
Not only did you write the story, but you illustrated it as well. You use a lot of textures. Can you tell us more about your process?
I used a mixed media/digital collage. A story usually dictates a technique. If I write about the old masters from the past, I want my style to reflect that. It is a technical trick, if you will, achieved through texture and lighting. In the book, when Anya moves from Russia to New York City, I make a subtle stylistic change as well, but that change is made through color and composition.
If you could share a piece of advice with writers, what would it be?
Find a story that you love- you are going to be stuck with it for a long time!
What is coming up next for you?
My next author/illustrator book, Typewriter, is coming out in 2020 from Creative Editions. It is a story told by a Russian typewriter, that (who?) immigrates to America. My latest picture book is called Mona Lisa in New York. Mona Lisa is currently looking for a publisher.
Do you have any social media channels or a website you’d like to share?
My Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/nayberg
My website is https://www.nayberg.org/
Thank you for sharing your wonderful story and for letting me interview you!
You can purchase ANYA’S SECRET SOCIETY here.
Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!
I’m super excited to share with you a new picture book that is ready for little hands and creative minds everywhere on February 19th. Along with a sneak peek of the story, author Lindsay Leslie was so nice to answer my questions about her engaging new book. So sit back, grab a cup of tea, and join me. I’m glad you’re here.
Title: THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS
Genre: Picture Book
Author: Lindsay Leslie
Illustrator: Alice Brereton
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Synopsis: Using the five-senses this wary and ‘spineless’ book tries to figure out what kind of story it might have on its pages.
Does it hear spooky wails from a ghost story?
Can it see a mysterious something peeking around a corner?
Is that the dizzy feeling of zero gravity it senses?
Might that be the stinky smell of animals in nature it detects?
Could it be tasting the saltiness of a story on the high seas?
Playful and humorous, Linsday Leslie invites the reader on an adventurous journey as the book grows braver and braver with each page until finally, it grows a spine!
The illustrations are quirky, textured, shape-oriented and colorful. They have an optical illusion effect begging the reader to take a closer look.
Now, it’s time to meet the awesome author, Lindsay Leslie.
Welcome, Lindsay! First and foremost, what was your inspiration behind this engaging title?
My inspiration was two-fold. One, I really had no control over. I remember walking into my youngest son’s room and stepping on one of his picture books because naturally, they were littering the floor. My subconscious took over. I thought things like: Did I break the book? Did I mess up its spine? What if this book were spineless? And, then, I said out loud, “This Book Is Spineless!” I immediately put the title in my notes section on my phone. I knew I had something with that title.
The second inspiration for this book is my personal experience with anxiety. I was an anxious kid and tried to hide it always. I was the kid who didn’t want to go on the roller coaster even though my mom bribed me with a puppy. I was the kid who didn’t want to learn how to swim. I was the kid who feared and feared a fair amount of things. The anxiety shifted over time and became different and not very fun as an adult, but I have developed better coping mechanisms. I was interested in looking at fears, fear of what’s inside all of us, and putting that on the page in a quirky, fun, relatable way. I also wanted the narrative to mimic the anticipation and heightening of anxious emotions and then the calming down.
You also use many sensory elements (hear, see, feel, taste, etc.). How did you come up with this unique twist to the story?
Oh, wow. How did I come up with that? Great question! I haven’t really thought about how that came to be until now. The sensory elements were not in my first awful draft, so it didn’t flow out of me in a flurry of words. They showed up in the second draft. I think with the first draft I was getting to know my character, which is the physical book, and with the second draft, I was exploring more of what the book was experiencing. I think I was trying my best to bring the book to life and to dig into its experiences. Because the book is afraid of the story on its pages, pulling on the senses became more apparent to me as I wrapped in various genres of stories that might be there.
There is a lot of fun play on words using alliteration in your story. Is the Thesaurus your go to?
The Thesaurus is my friend. Oh, yes it is. While some of these words popped into my head, I did spend a lot of time looking and searching for just the right words, like how to describe a particularly odoriferous animal or an alleyway that looks less than inviting. I love nothing more to go on a word hunt because I find some real treasures.
The illustrations are out of this world. There is very much an optical illusion element to it. Is this how you imagined them to be when writing your story?
No, not at all, which is FANTASTIC! I hold these illustrations close to my heart. Alice Brereton is a magician with her powerful, quirky, and thought-provoking art. If you can’t tell, I’m elated that what Alice created looks NOTHING like what was in my head.
How long did you work on this particular story?
I began writing this story in August of 2016. Page Street Kids offered me a contract late June of 2017. Together, my editor and I worked on it well into 2018. Word changes here and there.
If you had one piece of advice for writers, what would it be?
I’ve got so much advice that I could really annoy everyone with it. How about one piece of advice that would resonate no matter where someone is in their writing journey? That piece of advice is to enjoy. Find the work you enjoy, the topic you enjoy, whatever inspires you to start typing or scribbling on paper. Don’t chase the trends. Don’t watch what everyone else is doing. That all changes and you aren’t everyone else. When you write with joy, the reader will read with joy.
What is coming up next for you?
I’ve got some cool stuff going on that I’m excited about. I’ll be at TLA this year, so if you are attending or anywhere Austin, swing on by and do let me know! My second picture book, NOVA THE STAR EATER (illustrated by John Taesoo Kim, Page Street Kids), comes out May 21. I have a third book called DUSK RAIDERS WANTED slated for Spring 2020 with Page Street Kids, illustrated by Ellen Rooney. And, I’m on submission with other work, so fingers crossed!
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions and for sharing your amazing story with us!
Thank you for having me!
And there you have it.
To check out and purchase THIS BOOK IS SPINELESS visit here.
Want to read more of Lindsay’s picture books? Check out NOVA: THE STAR EATER here.
If you’d like to learn more about Lindsay and see what she’s up to visit her website: https://lindsayleslie.com/
Or visit her social media feeds:
Thanks for stopping by and happy reading!
Need a break from the fast-paced world we live in? Or perhaps get away to quiet your mind and return feeling re-energized and renewed? Try Forest Bathing, but please, leave your towel at home. No bath is required.
Developed in Japan by Tomohide Akiyama in 1982, Forest Bathing or Shinrin-yoku is a term that means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere.’ It’s simply being in nature with no destination in mind and allowing yourself to just be.
How Does It Work?
To achieve forest bathing to its fullest, set aside two to four hours. But if all you have is twenty minutes, allow yourself that total amount of time.
You don’t have to have a forest nearby, a park will do.
First, put the phone away or anything that will cause distractions. The focus is for you to be present.
Go for a walk or find a private spot. If you’re walking, don’t worry about your final destination. Go slowly and wander.
During this time, observe your surroundings and your breath. What do you hear? What do you smell?
See an interesting leaf? Pause and look at it.
Close your eyes. Listen to the rustling of the leaves. The sound of the birds. Try to leave the everyday stress behind.
Once your time has come to a close, reflect on how your body feels. Your mind. Let the feeling linger.
Dr. Qing Li, a researcher from Japan, is an expert on Forest Bathing. He believes trees promote health and happiness and has made it his mission to spread awareness about Japan’s age-old practice.
According to Dr. Qing Li, he believes Forest Bathing can:
- Reduce stress
- Improve sleep
- Improve mood
- Increase energy level
- Boost the immune system and more
Living in a world where screen time is at an all-time high, it’s no wonder Forest Bathing has become such a trend. In fact, there are retreats and classes dedicated to the practice. You can even become an official guide.
In the end, it sounds like nature’s calling. Perhaps we should listen and visit it more often.
From the words of John Muir, naturalist, author, and environmentalist, “The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness.”
In other words, have you had your bath yet today?
“Mom, what are those big white things?” my daughter asks while peering out the window as we drive through the grassy plains of the Midwest.
“Those are wind turbines. The wind helps make energy which gets turned into power. Like the power that turns on the lamp in your room or the lights in the house.”
Immediately following my explanation came the rounds of questions that spilled out of a curious five-year-old’s mouth after being told that a giant monster-like structure uses wind to create power. It is pretty amazing when you think about it.
Our conversation ignited a critical discussion that my husband and I felt we needed to start sharing with our kids about caring for our environment. How can we instill in them an appreciation and respect for the natural living life around them? After wrestling with this big idea, we finally realized the answer is a lot simpler than we thought: It’s about giving our kids opportunities to interact with nature starting at a young age.
What better way to explore this idea than by visiting and discovering the national parks across the United States and exploring the incredible landscapes of our country? With a map of the U.S. displayed in our family room and pins to mark our destinations, we were ready to explore the history, nature, and learn all about the preservation of our land and animals as a family.
With over fifty national parks spread across the U.S. and nearly 300 million visitors each year, these natural wonders can be a cornerstone in the way we address environmental topics with our offspring. The big question is, where do we begin?
My family and I found ourselves beginning our journey by trekking through the rough and jagged trails of the Badlands in South Dakota, witnessing the damaging yet, renewing effects of a natural forest fire that had happened near Jewel Cave National Monument. The charred, black trees were the only remains of what once existed in a dense forest. Through the chaos of fallen branches and rotting trunks, sprung new life. Peering through the now open land, flowers and grass were slowly taking the place of what was once alive. This moment sparked an organic conversation about the dangers and causes of forest fires, but also how they can stimulate new growth.
My husband and I realized the value of teaching our kids about the magnitude of our actions on the ecosystems around us. While hiking on the paths in Yellowstone National Park, our children would discover a leaf or interesting rock along the way. To a young intrigued mind, this made the perfect souvenir to bring home and show friends. However, this proved to be another teachable moment as we explained the importance of leaving nature where you found it.
Kiersten Einsweiler, blogger and fellow adventure seeker from Hiking In My Flipflops, shares how she and her husband have helped their children to develop a deeper understanding of nature’s inhabitants: “We had a recent run-in with a snake on a trail, and my daughter was absolutely terrified – screaming and crying for a good part of the hike back. On the drive home, she thought maybe the snake was actually a ‘kid just like her’ and was just as scared as she was.”
With her children making this connection, Kiersten goes on to say that she believes her children see the “parallels” between how we respect human beings and living creatures and how nature is the “…home and space of a plant or animal.”
Our kids’ favorite experience on our life-long grand adventure was taking part in the National Park’s Junior Ranger program. Over the years, this program has evolved and now includes national monuments, with many being managed by the park service.
Their motto, “Explore, Learn, and Protect,” quoted by the many children sworn in each year, couldn’t be more true. With the typical participant age being between 5 and 13, our daughter could take part. Our son, who is three, was able to participate in the Pee Wee Ranger program offered at Jewel Cave National Monument located in South Dakota’s Black Hills. We have found that regardless of age, all children are encouraged to take part in their programs.
Making our way to Glacier National Park in Montana, our kids were equipped with various tasks in their Ranger booklets and prepared to earn their badges. Marveling at the giant “monsters of ice” as our son called it, we talked about the correlation between human activity and rising temperatures leading to shrinking glaciers.
Next up? Yellowstone, the world’s first national park located in Wyoming. It is known for its geysers, mountain beauty, and hundreds of animal species. With nearly 4 million people visiting the park, there’s bound to be garbage left behind. After picking up bits of trash found tumbling along the backcountry trails, my husband and I showed our kids what the saying, “Whatever comes in, must come out” quote truly means.
Along with Yellowstone, the national park service has made a concerted effort to become more sustainable based on the changing climate, and the impact visitors have made in the parks. Putting this into perspective, Isle Royale, a remote island in Michigan only accessible by plane or boat, spends $15,000 a year removing guests’ trash. This issue is one my husband and I feel we need to bring to the forefront of our children’s minds. Being respectful of the land, which means cleaning up after ourselves so other’s can enjoy it’s beauty too.
Providing tangible dialogue relevant to our future existence, there is a wealth of information to be shared with our little ones. For example, restoration of the Redwood forest, the impact tourists have on soil erosion in Zion National Park, or how trails protect naturally growing plants. And let’s not forget the increased water and air pollution in the Great Smoky Mountains. How about the encounter of non-native species causing detrimental damage in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park? These are the real-life experiences exposing the significance as to why we must protect these precious resources.
Looking back, we’ll never forget the moment they raised their right hand and promised to preserve and protect these places so future generations can enjoy them. From exploring the third largest underground cave to hiking, observing, and identifying animal hides, our children were sworn in and declared lifelong Junior Rangers. The quest to accomplish this noble deed and earning a badge to commemorate this momentous time will forever live in our hearts.
In the words of songwriter Woody Guthrie, “From the Redwood Forest to the gulf stream waters. This land was made for you and me.” As we move into the 21st century, our world continues to change along with its environmental issues. Taking the time to search out destinations that satisfy our lust for adventure and thirst for knowledge, let’s continue to bring awareness to our children who will pass it on to future generations.