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Posts Tagged ‘Little Pickle Press’


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“Are you sure you want us to come over?” Marly, my old friend from college, asked. “David sometimes has a hard time playing with other kids–everything has to be just so. It really bothers him if something’s messed up. And Jamie’s a jumper.”

“A jumper?” I asked.

“He climbs up on stuff and then he jumps off. His big thing right now is climbing up on top of my filing cabinet and jumping off onto the floor.”

“Wow,” I said, looking around my house at all of the six-foot-tall bookshelves and imagining two-year-old Jamie lying crushed and broken on my concrete floor.

“Tell you what, why don’t you come over here? It’ll be easier for David, and Jamie can jump of whatever he wants to. I’ve gotten hardened.”

Actually, what she had gotten was sick. She and her sons were battling the physical fallout of a nasty black mold infestation in their dream house. When you can no longer feel your face and your kids are suddenly falling prey to all sorts of chronic ailments letting your two-year-old jump off a filing cabinet can seem like not such a big thing. You drag a mattress next to the cabinet and wish him well. But I digress.

And that’s how The Boy and I found ourselves out in a fenced meadow between Gresham, Oregon and Mount Hood. The Boy, who was around five, was delighted. David and Jamie had a slide and a climbing structure (from the top of which Jamie naturally jumped) and, once Marly had explained a few ground rules (no touching David’s toys once he had them arranged, the slide could only be gone done in one position, etc), things went well.

The boys ran and played–or, rather, David and The Boy did; poor Jamie limped not because he had sprained something with all that jumping, but because he was wearing his red cowboy boots. Red cowboy boots that had originally be purchased for him as a much, much younger child.

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“They hurt his feet,” Marly said. “His heels won’t even go all the way down inside them. But he won’t wear anything else. I’ve given up on that.”

I have to admit that as Marly and I lounged in lawn chairs in the sun on that spring day I wondered about her parenting skills. What kind of mother allows a two-year-old to leap from high places and wear shoes that clearly are painful? What kind of mother allows her four-year-old son to dictate that once his toys are set up they must remain exactly so until he decides to move them, which he never seems to do?

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Sarah Ackerley illustrates one of Connor’s less well-thought-out ideas.

A mother, it turned out, who was parenting two sons who are not only battling a number of mold-related conditions, but also have Asberger’s Syndrome.

This was all years ago. Marly took the contractor who sealed up the walls of her dream house in the middle of a rainstorm to court and won–the first time such a thing had been done in a mold case in Oregon. She moved her family to a better climate for them. She educated herself about mold and Asberger’s, and then she saw to it that her sons got the support they needed to become healthy, happy, teenagers.

Jodi looking at camera1

Author Jodi Carmichael

And that’s why, when I read Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food, written by Jodi Carmichael and illustrated by Sarah Ackerly, I found myself thinking of Marly, David, and Jamie the Jumper with new understanding and respect. Like David, Connor needs to have things just so not because he chooses to be difficult, but because he has strong, often physical responses to things that most of us take for granted. Order is important because without it there is chaos, and for children like David, Jamie, and Connor the chaos threshold is very low. A toy out of place is chaos. A girl sitting on a stool rather than on a chair is chaos. To a child with Asberger’s Syndrome, the world is a very different place. Everything matters. A lot.

Marly told me that years ago, but Spaghetti Is Not A Finger Food makes that experience real. Jodi Carmichael has given us the opportunity to experience the world as a child with Asberger’s Syndrome might, and it’s a moving and enlightening experience. Connor’s constant battle to get through his day in the midst of overwhelming distractions is by turns inspiring, hilarious, and heart-breaking. This is a book that will appeal not only to the young readers for whom it is written, but to parents as well.

So–story’s great–the book’s worth it for that alone. But I’m an illustrator and book designer, and I just can’t resist noting that Sarah Ackerley’s illustrations are absolutely pitch perfect–they’re fun and engaging without becoming caricatures. And hat’s off, too, to Little Pickle Press art director Leslie Iorillo. I know it’s not sexy to talk about font choices, but Iorillo’s design does a masterful job of keeping this story fun, approachable, and undeniably attractive. It instantly conveys the brightness and simplicity of the best elementary schools, and the handwritten subheads hint at the first-person elementary school-age speaker before a word is read. So–hat’s off to Leslie Iorillo, to Sarah Ackerley, and to Jodi Carmichael, who have created a book as fun as it is important. It’s available from Little Pickle Press, and on Amazon Kindle for a price that’s next thing to a steal. You should buy it now.

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Bits and bobs: You will no doubt not be surprised, Gentle Readers, to learn that this is a stop on Little Pickle Press’ blog book tour. I’m proud to be part of spreading the word about some of the challenges children with Asberger’s Syndrome face–and how many of these children find clever, often brilliant, ways of coping with a world that in many cases doesn’t really understand how to cope with them. If you’d like to follow the tour, feel free to visit the links for past dates, and stop in at the host blogs on upcoming days.

About Little Pickle Press: Little Pickle Press is dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people by stimulating explorations of the meaningful topics of their generation through a variety of media, technologies, and techniques.

Translated, this means that Little Pickle books are the sorts of books that entertain, amuse, and challenge young readers and the adults in their lives. Take a few minutes and browse their website. I think you’ll be as impressed as I am.

If you enjoyed learning about Spaghetti Is Not A Finger Food, you might find the following posts about Little Pickle Press books enjoyable, too:

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I have to admit, I don’t often come across a book that catches my interest the way that BIG, written by Coleen Paratore, illustrated by Clare Fennell, and published by Little Pickle Press, did. See, I have a son, Patrick. And Patrick’s BIG.

He wasn’t always that way—up until he was four months old he wore layette-size clothing. And then we went to Hawaii for six weeks, and when we came home he’d blown right through all the baby sizes to 18-months, had four teeth, and was crawling.

He never looked back. By the time he was two he was so far off the charts the doctors stopped mapping his growth. In kindergarten he had to sit at a third-grade desk because he was too big for the kindergarten tables. In elementary school sometimes I’d drive by the playground and spot him by the monkey bars, hunched over, trying to look like the other kids. Anyone who tells you that size doesn’t matter to kids is lying.

By fifth grade he was taller than his teachers. Fortunately for us, those teachers did  something for my son that BIG does for young children today—they taught him that size has its advantages—and that it’s far more than just a physical thing. His homeroom teacher encouraged my son to take up the tuba “because it takes a big, strong, kid to carry it in the marching band.” He also suggested that Patrick go out for sports like football and basketball, where being big is an enormous asset (forgive the pun).

Patrick’s math teacher saw that what previous teachers had interpreted as an unwillingness to follow “the rules” was in fact an indication that Patrick’s brain simply processes things in its own way. Like much of my family, his brain seems to function bilaterally–he is both intensely creative, and intensely analytical. “I like to have Patrick work the math problems on the board,” his math teacher said. “He comes at them from an angle I’ve never seen before—and some of my students can understand it better the way he does it. It gives everybody another way of understanding the concepts.”

Those teachers worked with school staff (and me) to help Patrick become big in other, even more important ways. Though he was offered the opportunity to move into advanced placement classes, we chose instead to keep him in the classroom with his friends and those wonderful teachers—and put him to work as an assistant to the PE teacher.  Each day, he spent some time out on the playground teaching kindergarteners through fourth-graders how to catch, leading exercises—and learning about how discipline, patience, and kindness go a long way toward a new, better kind of bigness.

Patrick is almost sixteen now, 6’5”, a lineman on the football team (that’s him up above–#77), and a wonderful tuba player (he’s just been accepted into the youth symphony). And when we go out little kids all over town run up to him to say, “hi.” Because of this small town, and particularly because of his fifth-grade teachers, my son is big in ways that Paratore and Fennell understand.

Again, #77 is the boy we watch here. Imagine facing that over a small, pointed ball!

For children, size matters. It matters a lot. BIG does for young readers what my son’s fifth-grade teachers did for him—they provide children another way of understanding something that’s central to life—that physical size is only one way of being big.

And if you, Gentle Readers (or Savage Readers–we’re equal-opportunity around here, what with the Magic Dog’s penchant for biting UPS men, gas men, Fed-ex men, mail men, cops, and random strangers) would like to read more about BIG, Little Pickle Press, and the nice people who make these things possible, you can download lesson plans at the Little Pickle Press website here. Click here for the BIG lesson plan. And of course you’ll want to buy a copy of this beautiful book, or download a Kindle version of the book by clicking here.

Size matters. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. This illustration (like the kids above) are some of Clare Fennell’s charming artwork for BIG.

BIG is printed on recycled papers with soy inks in North America (since the folks at Little Pickle Press are all Big People and Understand About Saving Our Planet).  For more of the story behind the story in BIG continue the book tour tomorrow–here’s a full set of the blog stops:

Tour Stops 2012

·  9/19 Brit Mum

·  9/20 Spoiled Yoga

· 9/21 Capability Mom

Here’s a quick reference list of helpful links for BIG, and for Little Pickle Press:

Picture Book

Kindle e-book

Video trailer

Little Pickle Press website

Little Pickle Press blog

Little Pickle Press on Facebook

Little Pickle Press on Twitter

Little Pickle Press on Pinterest

BIG Lesson Plan Only

Free lesson plans

LPP Blog Book Tour Schedule

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BIG, from Little Pickle Press, is available at the press website (http://littlepicklepress.com) and on Amazon in hardcover and Kindle versions. This is excellent news if you have a Kindle Fire (and I do).

As all of you with even a nodding acquaintance with my blog know, we’re big people around here. There’s the House Leroy, of course, whose nickname is “Big.” There’s The Boy, who is 6’4″. There were my uncles, all over six feet. And now there are my nephews–6’4″ and 6’8″–who by chance are visiting and cooking for me. Since they’re marvelous cooks, that explains why we’re big in other ways, too). We know big. We do it well.

Which is why I was particularly pleased to run across BIG, a new Little Pickle Press book written by written Coleen Paratore and illustrated by Clare Fennell. BIG that takes the idea of bigness–something about which I thought I knew just about everything there is to know–and expands it in intriguing, and thought-provoking, ways. I was even more pleased to score Clare Fennell’s email address, and have the chance to chat with her a little bit about her work style.

Being big is a subject that’s central to the lives of many children. You’re a mom. Is it something that comes up a lot at your house?
Being big is a massive issue in our house; my younger girl is quite small for her age (she was born prematurely) and other children often refer to her as “little.” She hates it and insists she’s a ‘BIG’ girl. And she is! She also hates it when her older sister gets to do stuff that she can’t, like staying up late, sleepovers or being able to ride her bike without stabilisers (training wheels) etc.

I notice that a lot of these illustrations include measuring tools–rulers, drafting paper, and so forth. Was this intentional? And if so, can you expand on that a bit? In a book that basically defines bigness in terms that have nothing to do with physical measurements, what role do those measuring tool textures fill?
Hmm, I guess you can look at them as literal measuring tools. I particularly like textures like text books, graph paper and newspapers, and use them a lot. The more textures the better!

I think we wanted to use them here to show how being “BIG” isn’t necessarily a size thing right at the beginning of the book, even though that’s what people think. Then I liked the theme running through the book.

Speaking of textures: How do you get your collage textures? I see painted paper, printed paper (the drafting paper), and paper textures that involve words and various images. Do you create those textures as well, or do you seek out already-printed paper textures for your work? And if so, where do you like to look?

I think the answer is where don’t I look! I am constantly looking and collecting stuff. I have three boxes labeled “Patterns, Textures, Colours” to keep them all in, and a cupboard full of fabrics. I love going to haberdashery departments and vintage clothing stalls! I go through all magazines before they are recycled and rip out anything I can use–be it a nice area of colour, water texture, skin texture–anything!

I also do a lot of painting colours on brown parcel paper (I like the texture it produces) and on old newspaper. I’ve used old bits of clothing–I’ve also photographed some of my old stuffed toys (for the pattern) and photographed my furniture for wood textures, photographed rocks, plants etc.

How did you find Little Pickle Press? (Or, how did they find you?)
They found me! It was so lovely to be approached like that. I think they saw my work on Children’s Illustrators.com and then on my blog. They liked the mixed media feel of my work. Hooray!!

Your work looks very traditional. How does PhotoShop factor in? Do you collage your work there, or do you develop images, print them out, and then integrate them into your collages?

Well, I don’t have any hard and fast rules, I’m always experimenting. Mainly I collage and paint the individual bits by hand on paper. For BIG, I made all the  characters first, then scanned them in and used Photoshop to finish the collage electronically. Finally I added background textures,  shadows, and so forth, also in Photoshop.

I love collage because it gives me the flexibility to change and move things around. Photoshop is just an extension of this for me. Sometimes I create a pattern in Photoshop, print it out, and then collage it, but not often.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?

When I was eighteen I wrote to Quentin Blake (it was pen and paper in those days) And he replied!!

He sent me loads of press clippings because I was doing an essay about him (no internet!) His work has always inspired me, even though it’s completely different to mine. I have always enjoyed how much movement and character he can bring to his images.

I trained in illustration at university. After I graduated I continued buying children’s books because I loved them. I stumbled into greetings card work after graduating and ended up staying there. It was an amazing grounding into art and design on a professional level, but my heart has always been in children’s books. I just didn’t have the confidence…

After I had our girls, I spent hours reading lovely children’s books with them … wishing. One day a very good friend of mine said, “Just try it; what have you got to lose?” So I dusted off my sketchbook and started! I guess it shows what you can do if you put your mind to it. It’s the best job in the world, AND I get to be here with our children after school and in the holidays too. One day I hope to write a children’s  book as well….well, that’s the plan!!

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with us, Clare.

And if you, Gentle Readers (or Savage Readers–we’re equal-opportunity around here, what with the Magic Dog’s penchant for biting UPS men, gas men, Fed-ex men, mail men, cops, and random strangers) would like to read more about BIG, Little Pickle Press, and the nice people who make these things possible, you can download lesson plans at the Little Pickle Press website here. Click here for the BIG lesson plan. And of course you’ll want to buy a copy of this beautiful book, or download a Kindle version of the book by clicking here.

BIG is printed on recycled papers with soy inks in North America (since the folks at Little Pickle Press are all Big People and Understand About Saving Our Planet).  For more of the story behind the story in BIG continue the book tour tomorrow–here’s a full set of the blog stops:

Tour Stops 2012

·  9/17 Carrots Are Orange

·  9/18 Shonell Bacon

·  9/19 Brit Mum

·  9/20 Spoiled Yoga

· 9/21 Capability Mom

Here’s a quick reference list of helpful links for BIG, and for Little Pickle Press:

Picture Book

Kindle e-book

Video trailer

Little Pickle Press website

Little Pickle Press blog

Little Pickle Press on Facebook

Little Pickle Press on Twitter

Little Pickle Press on Pinterest

BIG Lesson Plan Only

Free lesson plans

LPP Blog Book Tour Schedule

Read Full Post »


Cover, Snutt the Ift, by Helen Ward. Available from Little Pickle Press

Every once in a great while a perfect children’s book comes along. Snutt the Ift: A Small but Significant Chapter in the Life of the Universe, published in America by Little Pickle Press, is one of those books. Written and illustrated by Helen Ward and originally published in the United Kingdom as Wonderful Life, the book relates the story of a small space-traveling animal who finds himself far from home and lonely. And then something wonderful happens.

Author and illustrator Helen Ward's studio

I won’t spoil it for you, but it truly is wonderful. Ward tells her story in spare, delicate, and evocative prose, but that’s just the start. She creates a fantastical watercolor world of blossiblums, butterflings, and whishgrass in her illustrations that young children will almost recognize. That slight dissonance provides a great springboard for discussions about the single greatest unspoken question of the book: Has Snutt found us? Does the dissonance in names and images reflect earth through the eyes of a small, weaselish scientist? Or is this another planet entirely?

The book also provides a way to introduce children to the natural world–how are butterflies like butterflings? How are they different? Just what kind of animal is Snutt? What kind of flowers does he discover? Do we have any here? You and your child will have many happy hours exploring along with Snutt.

All in all this book is a happy combination of poetic art and artistic copy, the kind of thing that can happen when an enormously talented writer and an enormously talented illustrator happen to share a body. Snutt’s story is printed using soy inks on recycled paper (to keep our wonderful corner of the universe wonderful). This is a beautiful, gentle book, just right for a bedtime story.

Author and Illustrator Helen Ward

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Be sure to enter the grand prize drawing for NINE Little Pickle Press books including the two foreign-language titles. What a great gift for some lucky child. Just sign up for the newsletter at http://www.littlepicklepress.com to automatically be entered. While you’re there, look at all the award-winning books. Good luck!

Tomorrow Snutt explores the Circle of Friends blog–catch up with him there.

Writing Prompt: One of the things that Helen Ward does well is play with perspective–readers are shown Snutt’s world from a dizzying variety of angles. Conversely, Snutt’s perspective–his view of his surroundings–remains consistent. It’s one of the things that helps readers to understand his character. Choose a character you know well–it might be someone in your writing, or someone in your life–and look at the world through his or her eyes for a few minutes. In what ways is this person’s perspective consistent with yours? In what ways is it different? Why?

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