December 26


The 2017 Nerdies: Fiction Picture Books Announced by John Schu

I am overjoyed to kick of the seventh annual Nerdy Book Club Awards by celebrating fiction picture books. A BIG thank-you to everyone who nominated titles. Congratulations to this year’s winners. Happy reading!

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Mike Curato

“Usually, I work to size. That means that the drawing I make is the same size as it is printed in the book. For Havana, I chose to work really large. A double page spread from this book measures about 36” wide on average. This allowed for more looseness in my pencil stroke and allowed me to capture more movement in the drawings. These drawings rely on a thick pencil stroke, so instead of using my usual fine pointed 2B graphite mechanical pencil, I mostly used a 4B ebony pencil (and sometimes switched to the finer point for some details).” -Mike Curato | Click here to learn more about how Mike illustrated All the Way to Havana.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui

A Different Pond is my first children’s book. It’s gonna be published by Capstone, it comes out in August, and it’s really a very simple story based on — it’s loosely based on fishing trips my father would take me on when I was very young. We would fish for food, we wouldn’t usually fish for fun. In fact, I’m pretty sure — I can talk about this now, I hope — a lot of the fishing we did was probably illegal.” -Bao Phi | Click here to listen to the full interview.

After the Fall by Dan Santat

Travis Jonker and I named After the Fall the best book of 2017. Why? Because Dan Santat helped Humpty Dumpty create his own happy ending.


Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper

“The pacing throughout is slow and measured leading us into the lives of these two cats. We understand how their days are spent. We understand their togetherness. We are connected to their bond.” -Margie Myers-Culver | Click here to read her full review.

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Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus; illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Entertainment Weekly revealed the cover for Blue Sky, White Stars on December 16, 2016

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee; illustrated by Pascal Lemaître

“She comes to understand that the goodness of people, with their small acts of kindness and bravery, makes the world a better place.” –R.J. Palacio


Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Gordon C. James


“I believe, as an artist, that your primary goal should be to build an important body of work that will be here long after you’re gone. A body of work that your family can be proud of. A body of work that will make people feel good about themselves, that will make them think, laugh and cry. That’s what I’ve always tried to do. Make something meaningful.” -Derrick Barnes | Visit Derrick’s website to learn more about Crown.


Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

“Like most picture book authors, I always want to write stories that kids relate to. I so clearly remember jumping off the diving board for the first time. It is such a big moment. Working on Jabari Jumps I really got to explore the idea of facing your fears and what that feels like for a kid, but also what a supportive adult looks like in that situation. That fine line between giving your child little pushes forward, but also letting them find their own way. I hope kids read Jabari Jumps and realize you can work up to something that feels scary, or big. Just take it one step at a time and know that all those little steps are moving you forward. Which actually is a great way to tackle all sorts of big things in life, diving boards included. ” –Gaia Cornwall


Life by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

“Life is another out-of-the-blue piece of writing from me. I just sat down one day and spontaneously put the words on paper. This is how most of my picture books have been written, without any pre-thinking or pre-planning, starting back when I wrote my first picture book at age 23 (When I Was Young in the Mountains).” –Cynthia Rylant

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

“I’m lucky enough to live right next door to a library now, and I look forward to the moment when I can walk inside and find Not Quite Narwhal on the shelves. I hope some curious kids will find it (maybe pulling it off the shelf because of the interesting animal on the cover) and take a chance on what’s inside.” -Jessie Sima | From a post she wrote for this blog.

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

I interviewed Matt on June 6, 2017.

How did the cardinals who regularly visit your backyard inspire you to write and illustrate Red & Lulu?

Matt: Yes, this story began with a pair of cardinals who visited my yard countless times. When my kids were very young, it became a sort of game. If we spotted one of the cardinals out at the bird feeder, we’d go to the window to see if we could find the other one. They were almost always together. I was struck by their devotion to each other and wondered how far one of them might fly to be with the other, if they ever became separated.

What medium did you use to create the STUNNING illustrations?

Matt: Thank you! The illustrations for Red & Lulu were done in watercolor and gouache. I used a somewhat limited palate, so the red cardinal would really stand out. Originally I planned on making the illustrations black and white except for the cardinals, because I loved the idea of the bright red bird really popping against a monochromatic background.

But then I realized that this happens naturally, especially since much of the story takes place during the winter months, when the trees are bare and there aren’t a lot of bright colors. Full-color illustrations also allowed me to show the passage of time through the changing seasons.

Click here to read the full interview.


The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater; illustrated by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

“This collaboration between Dashka Slater and The Fan Brothers, The Antlered Ship, is one adventure you want to have repeatedly. Their journey of discovery, not only in finding what they initially seek, but in forming lasting friendships is a tale to hold in your heart.”  –Margie Myers-Culver


The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

“I will read this book to every group of students I teach for the rest of my career. This book is absolutely magical.”–Colby Sharp

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Adam Rex

The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way): Who Ran Away From Home and Learned His ABC’s the Hard Way by Patrick McDonnell 

“Energetic and highly engaging…A brilliant caper that young learners will want to pore over!”—School Library Journal, starred review


The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin


Listen to an interview with Carmen Agra Deedy.


The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen

Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen discuss collaboration.


This House, Once by Deborah Freedman

Emily Arrow released her This House, Once music video on June 7, 2017.

Town Is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz; illustrated by Sydney Smith

“What I learned of the history of mining made an indelible impression on me, one that has never lessened. Over the years, and recently more intensely, I took a personal reading journey deep into the pit and slowly, Town Is by the Sea emerged.” –Joanne Schwartz


When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano; illustrated by Christian Robinson

“Anyone who has kids or knows kids or WAS a kid, knows that kids are always thinking about their birthdays. I have three of them, so in my house, there’s always someone wishing and planning for their birthday. So, I started taking notes.” –Julie Fogliano 


Where’s Halmoni? by Julie Kim

“I love being able to introduce readers to another culture through folktales and fables. Also, having the Korean characters included in the book introduce students to another alphabet system and style of writing. ” –Alyson Beecher 

Windows by Julia Denos; illustrated by E.B. Goodale

Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale discuss Windows.

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

Matthew Cordell finished my sentences on November 30, 2017. 

The book trailer for Wolf in the Snow gets to, I think, much of what the heart of the book is about for me. What do we do when confronted with a difficult choice? When there is fear and suffering, do we think of ourselves, acting in our own best interests? Or do we go beyond that and think of those around us? And who are the ones around us? Are they good? Bad? Are we good? Bad? As we are confronted with so many stereotypes and prejudices—about ourselves and others—we should all always be challenging ourselves with these questions and answers. Now more than ever. Adults and children alike.


Wolf in the Snow’s cover shows the book’s two heroes. A girl and a wolf pup. The girl in this story is a very brave soul. The pup is brave to trust her. What happens when the girl reunites the pup with its pack takes incredible courage. And what happens after that takes incredible trust on behalf of everyone. To me, a wolf is a powerfully brave and loving creature. Loyal to family. And fiercely protective. I kept asking myself… is the “wolf” in this book just the wolf? Or is it the girl too?

Click here to read the full interview.