Today is National Astronomy Day, and I can’t think of a better title to celebrate with than The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell by Laura Alary and Ellen Rooney. This lovely picture book biography chronicles the life of Maria Mitchell, the first professional female astronomer in the United States.
Title: The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything: The Story of Maria Mitchell Author: Laura Alary Illustrator: Ellen Rooney Publisher: Kids Can Press Published: May 3, 2022 Format: Picture Book
Starting in her childhood in Nantucket, The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything really highlights Maria’s curiosity and determination. As a young child, she learned to use her astronomer father’s tools and begins scanning the night sky for herself. When the King of Denmark offers a prize to the first person to find a comet, Maria was determined to win it, and she did! I don’t want to spoil the fun by telling you all of her accomplishments, so I will just say this discovery opened lots of doors for Maria that were not open to women in the early 18oo’s.
The illustrations by Ellen Rooney are absolutely delightful. I love the way she captures the starry night skies, and the texture on every page is amazing.
The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything is another great picture book biography of a trailblazing woman in STEM, making it a great selection for school and classroom libraries. I love that it encourages children to wonder, and specifically to ask questions. It’s such an important part of learning and growing at any age, and I feel like we don’t encourage questions enough, especially outside of the classroom.
You can pick up your own copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Kids Can Press for sharing this inspiring picture book biography with me!
About The Author:
Laura Alary believes in writing stories that make us bigger on the inside. She is constantly reading and wondering and learning so that she can keep up with all the questions her children ask — especially about science and life on Earth. She grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and currently lives in Toronto with her three children.
About The Illustrator:
Ellen Rooney is an illustrator, designer and artist. She’s originally from Massachusetts, but now lives in the southern Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. She loves graphic shapes, textured color, printmaking, drawing outdoors, painting — and her hidden art powers are released when cutting up paper!
I’m sure many of you already know that May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. To kick off the celebrations, I am sharing I Am Able to Shine by husband and wife duo Korey Watari and Mike Wu. Inspired by Korey’s own experiences growing up as a young Asian American girl in Los Angeles, I Am Able to Shine is an empowering picture book about embracing your identity and finding your voice
Title: I Am Able to Shine Author: Korey Watari Illustrator: Mike Wu Publisher: Two Lions Published: May 1, 2022 Format: Picture Book
I Am Able to Shine follows a young girl names Keiko who wants to shine and change the world. But sometimes Keiko feels invisible. With the love and support of her family, Keiko learns that she is enough by just be being herself. Her confidence blooms and she stands tall, proud of herself and her heritage all the way into her adult life where she achieves great things.
Korey Watari wrote this inspiring picture book for her daughters, and it shows in the very best way. You can see the love on every single page.
The backmatter contains a heartfelt author’s note as well as further detail about aspects of Japanese life that are mentioned throughout the book. I love that this book is both a mirror for young Japanese American readers, and a window for young readers who are less familiar with Japanese culture.
Mike Wu’s illsutrations bring Keiko’s story to life beautifully. His artwork has been described as “reminiscent of classics like Harry the Dirty Dog and Curious George”, and I can absolutely see why. I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and I loved the nostalgia of it all.
I Am Able to Shine officially released yesterday, so you can find a copy wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Two Lions for sharing this beautiful book with me. I’m so grateful to share it with everyone today!
About the Creators:
Husband-and-wife team Korey Watari and Mike Wu live in the San Francisco Bay area in California with their two lively daughters. This is their first picture book together.
Korey is a sansei, or third-generation Japanese American, born and raised in Los Angeles. She played basketball for a Japanese American league, graduated from the University of California, Riverside, and studied at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. Korey has worked in the animation and fashion industries for companies such as Disney and the Gap. This is her first picture book. Learn more at http://www.koreywatari.com or on Twitter at @tinyteru.
Mike is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed, bestselling Ellie series, the first picture book of which was named one of NPR’s best books of the year. He is also a Pixar artist and has worked on films including The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Up, Toy Story 3, Coco, and Soul. His illustrations have been hailed as “reminiscent of classics like Harry the Dirty Dog and Curious George.” Visit him at http://www.theartofmikewu.com or on Instagram at @wudog23.
I’m so thrilled to be sharing another one of my Most Anticipated Picture Books of 2022 with you all today! I’ll Go and Come Back by Rajani LaRocca and Sara Palacios is a beautiful picture book that highlights the way love can overcome language barriers and culture differences.
Title: I’ll Go and Come Back Author: Rajani LaRocca Illustrator: Sara Palacios Publisher: Candlewick Press Published: March 29, 2022 Format: Picture Book
I’ll Go and Come Back follows a young girl named Jyoti as she visits her family in India for the first time. Jyoti feels out of place and is overwhelmed by the differences between her home and her surroundings in India. But she spends her days with her grandmother, and though they only know a few words in each other’s languages, Sita Pati helps Jyoti feel at home. When it’s time to say goodbye, Jyoti doesn’t want to. She remembers that in Tamil (her grandmother’s language), they don’t say goodbye, but “I’ll go and come back”.
When Sita Pati comes to visit America, it’s Jyoti’s turn to comfort her grandmother as she feels out of place in her new surroundings. They spend their days together and Jyoti shows Sita Pati all her favorite things. When it’s time for her grandmother to leave, Jyoti doesn’t want her to, but Sita Pati says “I’ll go and come back”.
I’m a huge fan of Rajani LaRocca’s, so I had a feeling I would love this book, and I did. The structure is genius, with each half of the story mirroring the other. There is so much love and joy in this book, it feels like a warm hug! The illustrations by Sara Palacios perfectly capture the love Jyothi and her grandmother have for one another, and bring both characters to life.
You can pick up your own copy of I’ll Go and Come Back wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Candlewick Press for providing me with a review copy of this wonderful book! I know I will be reading this one to my little one for years to come.
About the Author:
Rajani LaRocca is the author of many books for young readers, including the Newbery Honor Book Red, White, and Whole. She was born in Bangalore, India, and immigrated to the US when she was a baby. She grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, graduated from Harvard with both a BA and an MD, and has worked as a primary care physician since 2001. Rajani LaRocca lives in eastern Massachusetts with her family.
About the Illustrator:
Sara Palacios is the illustrator of many picture books, including My Day with the Panye, written by Tami Charles. She divides her time between San Francisco and Mexico City.
It’s Tuesday again, and we have lots of ne releases to talk about, so let’s dive in!
As always, these titles will have inclusive characters (think racial and cultural diversity, LGBTQ+ representation, diverse family structures, disability representation, and more), and fall into a range of genres in both fiction and nonfiction categories.
Please Note: This post contains affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission from purchases made, with no additional cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and continue bringing content to you.
The Upside Down Hat by Stephen Barr, Illustrated by Gracey Zhang
“The Little Prince meets Journey in this gorgeous, reassuring picture book fable about loss, perseverance, and finding what matters most.
What happens to a boy who has nothing but a hat?
A boy wakes up one morning and finds that everything he owns has gone missing. With nothing but a simple green hat, the boy journeys through distant landscapes, searching high and low for the things he has lost. Along the way he discovers that perhaps everything he needs has been sitting on his head all along.
Stephen Barr makes his debut in this achingly poignant and deeply profound fable of one boy’s adventure to recover his life’s treasures. With vibrant illustrations by Gracey Zhang and a subtle message about hopeful perseverance, this book is an exquisite, emotional journey through loss, persistence, and discovering what’s truly essential.”
Not a Cat: A Memoir by Winter Miller, Illustrated by Danica Novgorodoff
“A funny, expansive, affirming story with a powerful message of self-determination for young kids: No one can label us if we do not allow ourselves to be labeled. Our identities are ours to choose and to live.
Between his opening greeting and the bookend closing page on which he stalks away after taking no questions, Gato wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Although he has four legs, two ears, and a long, long tail, the word “cat” does not define him. His identity is his alone to describe and determine. With the help of Danica Novgorodoff’s laugh-out-loud illustrations, he takes us on a tour of his adventures, accomplishments, and daily activities that makes mincemeat of our first impressions. He wears a sweater and a leash, so is he a dog? He runs in pastures, so is he a horse? He likes flowers, so is he a bee? He swims, so is he a duck? He has flown in airplanes and ridden in subways, so is he a person? Maybe he’s all those things, but what he truly is, he wants us to know, is Gato.
To underline the story’s message of empowerment and self-identity, the back cover and backmatter include photos of the real Gato (Winter Miller’s cat) doing everything he claims and more. Signs on walls, headlines in newspapers, New Yorker cartoon homages, and sight gags on every page reward repeated readings and will make this book the first one that parents reach for at bedtime.”
“After missing her class costume party, a girl decides she doesn’t need an excuse to dress up in this charming, relatable school story
When a little girl is home sick for dress-up day at school, she decides there’s no need to miss out entirely: She’ll just wear her rabbit costume the next day!
But when the next day arrives and she’s the only one in costume, it doesn’t feel like such a great idea, after all. Can a little bit of confidence and an unexpected new friend turn a self-conscious moment into a wonderful one?
Funny, endearing, and relatable to any kid who’s ever felt insecure, Dress-Up Day is an ode to friendship, embracing individuality, and putting yourself out there no matter the occasion.”
All from a Walnut by Ammi-Joan Paquette, Illustrated by Felicita Sala
“A moving, multigenerational story about love, family roots, and the cycle of life
When Emilia finds a walnut one morning, Grandpa tells her the story behind it: of his journey across the ocean to a new home, with only one small bag and a nut in his pocket.
“I planted my little tree in good brown soil, so it would grow strong here forever.” “In this house? In this yard?” “Shall we go see?”
Step by step, Grandpa teaches Emilia how to cultivate her own seed. But as her little nut grows, Grandpa begins to slow down—until one sad day, Emilia has to say goodbye. Emilia’s sapling looks as droopy as she feels . . . but she knows just what to do.
From acclaimed author and illustrator Ammi-Joan Paquette and Felicita Sala, this tender story is a poignant reminder that the best things grow with time—and that even when they are no longer here, the ones we love are always a part of us.”
The Garden We Share by Zoe Tucker, Illustrated by Swaney Julianna
“To everything there is a season in this beautiful story about gardening, seasons, and treasured memories.
This inspiring picture book written by Zoë Tucker and illustrated by Julianna Swaney—the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines—celebrates the friendship between a young girl and an elderly woman as they plant seeds in a community garden alongside friends and neighbors, waiting for the seeds to flower. By mid-summer, the friends welcome a rainbow of color in the garden and picnics in the sun. At harvest, the young girl’s elderly friend is bed-ridden, but jubilant as they share baskets with red tomatoes and snap peas amid the sweet smell of lavender. When the last leaves fall, everything is different. But in the spring, hope arises anew.”
Nana the Great Comes to Visit by Lisa Tawn Bergren, Illustrated by David Hohn
“This joyous, energetic picture book from the bestselling author of the God Gave Us series celebrates the unique ways grandparents help children gain confidence.
It’s always a good time when Nana comes for a visit! Nana doesn’t mind making a mess while building forts. Nana plays checkers to win. Nana encourages climbing high, savoring dessert, and playing hopscotch. In short, everything’s more fun with Nana and her spunky outlook on life!
Nana the Great Comes to Visit celebrates the countless ways grownups help children learn to believe in themselves—and assures children that a grandparent’s love stays with them always.”
The Warrior’s Code: And How I Live It Every Day by Kate Hobbs, Illustrated by Savannah Allen
“Kai is a warrior! And as a warrior, Kai has a code to live by and share with others. This is the warrior’s code: to be peaceful, to be kind of heart, and to respect all living things.
An empowering “code of conduct” book that teaches kids age 4-8 that bravery and courage mean treating others with kindness, standing up for what’s right, and demonstrating peace and self-respect.
Inspired by the classic spiritual text, Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior, this uplifting story for children will build self-esteem, cultivate kindness, and instill values of compassion, nonviolence, and honoring. Written by a 7th degree Kajukenbo black belt, The Warrior’s Code distills the ethics of traditional martial arts into a simple and clear message that kids can memorize, embody, and understand. Kids who follow the code of the warrior can become more mindful, resilient, and confident.”
Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence by Sonja Thomas
“From the Desk of Zoe Washington meets Ways to Make Sunshine in this heartfelt middle grade novel about a determined young girl who must rely on her ingenuity and scientific know-how to save her beloved cat.
Twelve-year-old Mira’s summer is looking pretty bleak. Her best friend Thomas just moved a billion and one miles away from Florida to Washington, DC. Her dad is job searching and he’s been super down lately. Her phone screen cracked after a home science experiment gone wrong. And of all people who could have moved into Thomas’s old house down the street, Mira gets stuck with Tamika Smith, her know-it-all nemesis who’s kept Mira in second place at the school science fair four years running.
Mira’s beloved cat, Sir Fig Newton, has been the most stable thing in her life lately, but now he seems off, too. With her phone gone and no internet over the weekend at her strict Gran’s house, Mira must research Fig’s symptoms the old-fashioned way: at the library. She determines that he has “the silent cat killer” diabetes. A visit to the vet confirms her diagnosis, but that one appointment stretched family funds to the limit—they’ll never be able to afford cat insulin shots.
When Mira’s parents tell her they may have to give Fig up to people who can afford his treatment, Mira insists she can earn the $2,000 needed within a month. Armed with ingenuity, determination, and one surprising ally, can Mira save her best (four-legged) friend before it’s too late?”
“Troublemaker follows the events of the LA Riots through the eyes of 12-year-old Jordan as he navigates school and family. This book will highlight the unique Korean American perspective.
12-year-old Jordan feels like he can’t live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent’s expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present.
As tensions escalate, Jordan’s father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aide, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community.”
“Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.
Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.
Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.
Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.”
Just a Girl: A True Story of World War II by Lia Levi, Illustrated by Jess Mason
“In this award-winning memoir translated from Italian to English, a Jewish girl grows up during a difficult time of racial discrimination and war, and discovers light in unexpected places. This classic, powerful story from Lia Levi is adapted for young readers, with beautiful black-and-white illustrations, a family photo album, and a powerful author’s note to readers.
1938, Italy. Six-year-old Lia loves to build sandcastles at the beach and her biggest problem is her shyness and quiet, birdlike voice—until prime minister Mussolini joins forces with Hitler in World War II, and everything changes.
Now there are laws saying Jewish children can’t go to school, Jews can’t work, or go on vacation. It’s difficult for Lia to understand why this is happening to her family. When her father loses his job, they must give up their home and move from city to city.
As war comes closer, it becomes too dangerous to stay together, and Lia and her sisters are sent to hide at a convent. Will she ever be “just a girl” again?
The memoir is full of poignant moments of friendship and loss, dreaded tests at school, told in Lia’s captivating voice, as she grows into a young teen. Just a Girl is an important addition to the WWII Jewish canon.”
Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood & Greg Dawson
“The moving true story of how young Ukrainian Jewish piano prodigies Zhanna (alias “Anna”) and her sister Frina outplayed their pursuers while hiding in plain sight during the Holocaust. A middle grade nonfiction novel-in-verse by award-winning author Susan Hood with Greg Dawson (Zhanna’s son).
She wouldn’t be Zhanna.She’d use an alias.A for Anna.A for alive.
When the Germans invade Ukraine, Zhanna, a young Jewish girl, must leave behind her friends, her freedom, and her promising musical future at the world’s top conservatory. With no time to say goodbye, Zhanna, her sister Frina, and their entire family are removed from their home by the Nazis and forced on a long, cold, death march. When a guard turns a blind eye, Zhanna flees with nothing more than her musical talent, her beloved sheet music, and her father’s final plea: “I don’t care what you do. Just live.”
This incredible true story in-verse about sisterhood, survival, and music is perfect for fans of Lifeboat 12, Inside Out and Back Again, and Alan Gratz.
Includes extensive back matter with original letters and photographs, additional information, and materials for further reading.”
No Women’s History Month should go by without commending the brave transgender women of color who started an LGBTQ+ revolution. So for today’s Flashback Friday, I am sharing Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution by Joy Michael Ellison and Teshika Silver, a picture book that does just that.
Title: Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution Author: Joy Michael Ellison Illustrator: Teshika Silver Publisher: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Published: November 19, 2020 Format: Picture Book
Though there are many versions of the story that kicks off the Stonewall Rebellion, Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution centers around the two transgender women of color who were at the the center of the revolution: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two activists who dedicated their lives to fighting for transgender rights. In this retelling, we follow along as Marsha stands up to a police officer at her birthday party on the night of June 28, 1969, inspiring others to do the same.
But the story doesn’t end there. Unlike most stories about Marsha and Sylvia, Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution highlights the fact that the pair founded a group called STAR to house transgender girls in need of housing, making this a great book to read to encourage children to make an impact in their communities.
The illustrations by Teshika Silver are bright and fun despite the heavy themes of transphobia and police brutality, reminding readers of the joy Sylvia and Marsha brought to the community despite the hate they faced.
You can purchase a copy of Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much the Jessica Kingsley Publishers for providing me with a review copy of Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution. I’m thrilled to be able to share Sylvia and Marsha’s story for Women’s History Month.
About The Author:
Joy Michael Ellison is a queer and non-binary trans writer, whose creative writing has appeared in publications including Columbus Alive, Lunch Ticket, the Baltimore Review, Story Club Magazine. They are a PhD candidate in Women’s and Gender Studies at Ohio State University, where they are researching transgender history.
About The Illustrator:
Teshika Silver is a queer, Black illustrator and designer. She is also teaching artist and facilitator and strives to create cultural work that uplifts, heals and promotes the resilience of marginalized people. She lives in Chicago with her dog, Penny.
If you’re looking for a book to celebrate the first day of spring this weekend, I’ve got a beautiful selection for you today. All From a Walnut by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Felicita Sala is a stunning intergenerational story that tackles grief in a tender and gentle way.
Title: All From a Walnut Author: Ammi-Joan Paquette Illustrator: Felicita Sala Published: March 22, 2022 Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers Format: Picture Book
All From a Walnut tells the story of a young girl and her grandfather as he recounts his journey across an ocean to a new home. Her grandfather tells her of the walnut he brought with him and how he planted it in his backyard. He tells her about the walnut he gave her mother, and shows her the trees side by side. Together they take part in their family’s tradition of planting a walnut for the young girl to care for, which will eventually become a tree that stands with the others.
All From a Walnut touches on several heavy topics like immigration, loss of a grandparent, and grief. I didn’t find the story to be heavy, however. Each topic is handled so delicately and with so much love, that the reader arrives at the end of the story with understanding and a sense of the big picture. In a way, this is a story about the impact our lives have and the legacy we leave behind.
Felicita Sala’s watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustrations bring a sense of peace and calmness to every page. They draw the reader in, even when the story gets a bit sad.
All From a Walnut officially releases next week (March 22, 2022), but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sending me a review copy of this beautiful book.
About The Author:
Ammi-Joan Paquette is the author of many books for young readers. After living in many countries all over the world, she has now settled in the Boston area with her family and many towering piles of books. When she looks out of her back windows, all she can see are trees.
About The Illustrator:
Felicita Sala is the self-taught illustrator of several picture books, including Be a Tree! by Maria Gianferrari and The Hideout by Susanna Mattiangeli, as well as her own book of recipes for children, What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street?. She grew up between Italy and Australia and now lives in Rome, Italy, with her family.
This adorable picture book follows a young girl who is looking forward to “dress-up day” at school, but misses the celebration when she is sick on the big day. She decides to wear her rabbit costume when she returns to school anyway, but her fun day doesn’t go exactly as planned. She feels insecure being the only kid dressed up, but as the day unfolds, she finds her confidence and a new friend.
With Blanca Gómez’s perfect minimalist style, Dress-Up Day is a celebration of friendship, individuality, and stepping out of your comfort zone. The illustrations are as adorable as the story. I especially appreciated all the detail put into the children’s outfits. I mean, just look at that little penguin backpack!
Dress-Up Day officially releases next week (March 22, 2022), but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Abrams Books For Young Readers for sharing this precious book with me. I’m sure my little one will love this one just as much as he loves Bird House.
About The Author/Illustrator:
Blanca Gómez is a much sought-after picture book illustrator and the author-artist of Bird House. In a starred review, Kirkus called One Family “visually striking,” and the New York Times called her illustrations “adorable.” “Wonder-filled and delightful” were the words Kirkus used to describe City Moon in another starred review. Blanca lives in Madrid, Spain.
For today’s Author Spotlight, I am chatting with author, illustrator, and fine artist Marisa Aragón Ware about her debut picture book, Bodhi Sees The World: Thailand. This wonderful picture book follows a young girl as she travels to Thailand and experiences the world through a new culture.
Marissa, thank you so much for joining me today! I’m so excited to talk to you about Bodhi Sees The World. But before we get into it, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My love for art and my love for nature have always been interwoven, and both were sparked early in my life. Having been born and raised in Colorado, I garnered a deep appreciation of the natural world from a childhood spent enveloped in the forests of the Rocky Mountains. My family lived in a house close to miles upon miles of hiking trails, and our expansive backyard was a world of magic unto itself. I played out amidst the rocks and trees and painted wildflowers on the back deck for hours during the summer, and my mother always made sure I had art supplies on hand. My father is a scientist and he taught me the names of plants and how to gently catch and release snakes in the garden. In this way, I cultivated a sense of awe and appreciation for the world around me, and I learned how to pay attention and notice the endlessly fascinating details of nature.
These formative experiences heavily influence my work to this day, and I strive to depict the beauty of the natural world to help others connect with its abundant primordial magic. My work often explores the ephemeral and impermanent nature of life as well as the cyclical nature of death and rebirth. I work in a variety of mediums, including pen and ink, paper sculpture, and digital media, but I also occasionally work as a tattoo artist as well. I wear a lot of different hats in my career as a professional artist— I exhibit my work as a fine artist in galleries across the country, I freelance as a commercial illustrator, I write and illustrate children’s books, and I am also a professor teaching art and illustration. I even competed on (and won!) a reality tv show called “Meet Your Makers” on Discovery Plus in 2021.
When I’m not working, these days I like to spend my free time teaching myself to play piano, learning French, going for runs in the woods with my dog, taking care of my multitude of house plants, and cooking and eating delicious vegan food.
What inspired you to write about Thailand specifically?
The inspiration to write about Thailand was multilayered. I knew I wanted to write about a country that is primarily Buddhist because I wanted to share the teachings of the dharma with the young people of this world. Lessons about loving-kindness, compassion, generosity, and open-heartedness are so important for all of us, and they can be taught in such simple and accessible ways. A person is never too young or too old to have these teachings touch their heart and open their mind.
When thinking about what countries I could write about, I thought back to a month-long trip I took to Thailand in my early twenties. I traveled from the very southern tip of the country to the northernmost region, and stopped at Bangkok in between. I got to see the Emerald Buddha, the Royal Palace, the floating market, and many of the other sites that I wrote about in the book. I was so touched by the friendliness and warmth of the Thai people, and I’ll never forget the incredible flavors of the food there. Inspired by these memories, I began to explore the idea of writing about Thailand, and then the story began to take shape.
Title: Bodhi Sees The World: Thailand Author/Illustrator: Marisa Aragón Ware Publisher: Bala Kids Published: September 21, 2021 Format: Picture Book
What was the research process like for writing Bodhi See The World?
I did a lot of research about Thailand because my editors and I wanted this book to be very educational. I was extremely fortunate to have three friends help me in this process. Prang, who is from Thailand but now lives in Colorado, helped me immensely with generating ideas about where Bodhi could visit and the important aspects of Thai culture to try and communicate through the story. Min and Alan, two friends who live in Bangkok (Min is Thai and Alan is an ex-pat American) proofread the book many times and helped me with all of the translations. Without Prang, Alan, and Min, I wouldn’t have been able to have all of the Thai writing found throughout the book, so I am very grateful to them for their help.
I love the illustrations. Can you talk about the medium/techniques you use to create the images?
The illustrations were done entirely digitally, on my iPad Pro with an app called Procreate. It’s a really wonderful and versatile app. I took inspiration from illustrator Steph Fizer Coleman, who also works a lot in Procreate. I try to have my digital work still have a hand-drawn feel, so I use a lot of different textures to add to the visual richness of the imagery.
As an artist, you work with pen and ink, digital mediums, sculpture, and even tattoos. Do you ever find that your work with one medium impacts or affects your projects in another?
The mediums and styles I work in are all so distinct and different from each other that there’s not a lot of crossover, although I would say that what remains consistent throughout is my obsession with detail and precision. I would love to be the type of artist who paints with loose, bold strokes and makes expressive non-representational paintings, but my natural inclination is towards tiny details and the pursuit of perfection, whatever that might be.
What’s next for Bodhi? Can we expect to see her explore other countries?
I would love for Bodhi to have more adventures! I really enjoyed making this first book, and I learned so much about Thailand, that it would be lovely if there was a second and maybe even third. We’ll see!
And how about for yourself? Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
At the moment, I am putting most of my time into teaching, which is very exciting in its own way. I really love mentoring young artists, and I get so much inspiration from their enthusiasm. Later this year I am taking a break from being a professor, and am going to focus my time on creating work for fine art galleries. I have many ideas that I want to explore, which include making wearable paper sculptures and integrating more technology, like laser cutting and 3D printing, into my fine art production.
Anything else you’d like to share with Mutually Inclusive’s readers?
If you enjoyed Bodhi, my publisher, Bala Kids, has so many more wonderful books! Some of my favorites include “Afraid of the Light,” and “I Am Thinking My Life.” You can order them straight from the publisher or on Amazon (or check with your local bookstore).
If you’re looking for a picture book about kindness, I have the perfect pick for you today. Can Sophie Change the World? by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace and Aura Lewis is a sweet picture book that celebrates empathy, kindness, and the Jewish tradition of mitzvahs.
Title: Can Sophie Change the World? Author: Nancy Elizabeth Wallace Illustrator: Aura Lewis Published: March 8, 2022 Publisher: Chronicle Books Format: Picture Book
Can Sophie Change the World? follows a young girl named Sophie who is trying to give her Grandpop the only birthday gift he wants; for her to change the world with mitzvahs. Sophie performs a mitzvah every day, but she doesn’t feel like she has changed the world. On his birthday, Grandpop helps her see the impact every small act of kindness can have on the world.
The illustrations by Aura Lewis are wonderfully bright and cheerful. The powerful lesson of positivity make Can Sophie Change the World? a timeless read, but the pastel color palette absolutely makes it feel like the perfect pick for a quiet spring afternoon.
Can Sophie Change the World? officially releases tomorrow (March 8, 2022), but you can preorder your copy today wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you so much to Chronicle Books for sending me a review copy of Can Sophie Change the World?. I know I’ll be reading this to my little one for years to come for lessons on kindness and empathy.
About The Author:
Nancy Elizabeth Wallace is the creator of more than 20 books for children. She lives in Connecticut. To learn more about Nancy and her books, please visit www.nancyelizabethwallace.com.
About The Illustrator:
Aura Lewis is an author-illustrator of such titles as Gloria’s Voice, The Illustrated Feminist, and We the People. She lives in New York. Visit her at www.auralewis.com.
Continuing of celebration of Women’s History Month, I want to share another picture book biography with you all for Flashback Friday. Published back in 2020, Anna Strong: A Spy During The American Revolution by Sarah Glenn Marsh and Sarah Green tells the fascinating tale of Anna Strong, a woman who is strongly believed to have been one of Washington’s spies during the American Revolution.
Title: Anna Strong: A Spy During The American Revolution Author: Sarah Glenn Marsh Illustrator: Sarah Green Publisher: Abrams Books For Young Readers Published: March 3, 2020 Format: Picture Book
This slice of life picture book biography begins when George Washington and Major Benjamin Tallmadge begin recruiting a new group of spies called the Culper Ring. Being married to an American soldier, but surrounded by Loyalist relatives, Anna was perfectly positioned to be a spy for America. She and her husband, Selah, both learned Tallmadge’s secret code and began passing information to Washington. Anna continued to inform Washington after her husband was arrested and imprisoned on a ship, eventually devising her own code using clothes hanging on the clothesline.
Though Anna Strong’s identity was so well protected there is no documentation of her participation in the Culper Ring, there are many hints and nods to Anna’s true identity, which is further detailed in the back matter.
The illustrations by Sarah Green are absolutely lovely. I love the juxtaposition of the almost whimsical style of illustration paired with the drama and tension of Anna’s story.
Anna Strong: A Spy During the American Revolution would be a great selection for classrooms and school libraries, proving especially effective in highlighting the undertold stories of women creating change during a time period when they held little to no authority.
You can purchase Anna Strong: A Spy During The American Revolution wherever books are sold, including Bookshop and Amazon. (Please note: Some links provided are affiliate links. Affiliate links allow me to receive a small commission for recommendations at no cost to you. This commission is used to maintain this site and to continue bringing content to you. I always appreciate your support!)
Thank you to Abrams Books for sending me a review copy of this fascinating book. I had never heard of Anna before this book, and I’m so grateful to have learned her story.
About The Author:
Sarah Glenn Marsh obtained her master’s degree in early childhood education with a focus on literacy. She lives near Richmond, Virginia.
About The Illustrator:
Sarah Green is an illustrator and designer based in San Francisco. She illustrated Abrams’s Elizabeth Warren, among other picture books.