Design Mom » Picture Books The Intersection of Design & Motherhood Tue, 13 Oct 2015 17:33:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Two Halloween Books You’ll Love Mon, 05 Oct 2015 14:13:47 +0000 Design Mom


Photos and text by Gabrielle.

We have a pile of Halloween books we like to pull out in October. Some really are specifically Halloween themed, others are just sort-of Halloween-ish — like The Spider and the Fly. It’s really not Halloween focused at all, but it fits in well with the stack of other books. This year, I added two more titles to our stack.

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First up, Leo, A Ghost Story, by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Christian Robinson. This is one of those books that really isn’t Halloween, but it has a ghost, so it totally counts. Hah! It’s a terrific little story about an unwanted ghost that finds a new friend.

Not everyone can see Leo — he seems to appear for those who have especially good imaginations. Will your kids see him?


Next up, Only a Witch Can Fly, by Alison McGhee, with illustrations by Taeeun Yoo  This is a book that’s more poem than story. Beautiful illustrations, and the soft words carry you along like a song.

One brave little girl wants to fly more than anything. This book tells her tiny tale of trying and triumph.

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If you’d like more Halloween book recommendation, here’s an earlier post with 10 titles, plus more of my recommendations here and here. You’re sure to find something your kids will love!

How about you? Do you have any Halloween books your kids especially love? Please do share favorites in the comments! We’re always looking for good ones.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Thu, 27 Aug 2015 16:15:14 +0000 Design Mom

Four Picture Books24

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Today, I have four excellent books to tell you about. One is a Caldecott winner, another is a Caldecott Honor book, another is an older reprint from Italy, and another was published just this month — and is one of the prettiest books I’ve seen in ages.

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Let’s start with Swan, by Laurel Snyder, with illustrations by Julie Morstad. If you’ve got a young dancer in the house, this book is a must have. It’s the life story of Anna Pavlova, legendary prima ballerina, and her most famous role.

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The words feel like a poem, and the artwork is outstanding. It is a seriously beautiful book, and I keep finding myself studying the illustrations.

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Up next is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett, with illustrations by Jon Klassen. This book won a read-aloud award, and it’s well-deserved. I have no doubt this is a much requested bedtime story at houses everywhere. It’s very funny, and very fun to look at.

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Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are the same team that created Extra Yarn, which was my first introduction to both talents. And ever since I’ve been a big fan — they both keep knocking it out of the ballpark with their books.

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Speaking of which, Jon Klassen’s This is Not My Hat won the 2013 Caldecott! It’s a follow up to I Want My Hat Back.

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This is Not My Hat features a little fish with an little blue hat (that happens to fit him perfectly, but does not belong to him), and a little adventure. It will make you laugh!

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And one more book today, The Apple and the Butterfly by Iela and Enzo Mari. This was originally published in 1969 in Italy, with the title, The Apple and the Moth.

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It’s a wordless book, and it tells the story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and how it’s life is intimately connected to an apple tree. It’s beautiful and it’s educational. A classic for every library.

Your turn! What books are your kids requesting these days? Anything new-to-you that you’ve wanted to share?

P.S. — Here are Six Great Books about School, just in time for back-to-school season.

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Mon, 27 Jul 2015 18:59:20 +0000 Design Mom

The Treehouse - a wordless picture book

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

I think you’ll love this month’s round up of books! There are knock out illustrations, really good stories, and a non-fiction selection as well. First up, let’s talk about The Tree House, by Marije and Ronald Tolman. This is a wordless book — which means the images have to work even harder. But they totally do!

The Treehouse — a wordless picture book The Treehouse — a wordless picture book

A polar bear rides a whale to a tree that’s growing out of the water. How’s that for a magical opener? And it just gets more fabulous from there. Polar Bear isn’t alone for long — as the water recedes, more and more animals join him. Some by land, some by air. Your kids will want to study every image.

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Remember Iggy Peck, Architect? Well, today I’m happy to introduce you to Rosie Revere, Engineer. It’s written by Andrea Beaty, with gloriously detailed illustrations by David Roberts. Jessie Arora, the founder of Embark Labs, sent me this book to welcome our family to the Bay Area. Such a sweet gift!

Rosie Revere, Engineer Rosie Revere, Engineer

Though Rosie may seem a bit quiet during the day, her nights are filled with visions of inventions. Not every invention is a hit, and Rosie is tempted to give up her dream of becoming an engineer. But maybe her invention “flops” aren’t as bad as they seem.  The whole book is written in memorable rhyme, and the message of the book is so encouraging, it appeals to kids and adults alike.

The Great Brain

Next up is The Great Brain, written by John D. Fitzgerald. This is a chapter book, not a picture book (though it happens to feature some memorable illustrations by the legendary Mercer Mayer).

The Great Brain

We’ve been reading this book as a family this summer and it’s been a huge hit. Ben Blair and I read this as kids and we both remember it fondly, but I swear, it’s even more fun to read as an adult — because as a kid, I think I missed a decent chunk of the humor. I know I don’t typically feature chapter books, but if you’re looking for something fun to read as a family, this gets a big thumbs up. I should note: this is actually a series, so if you like the first, you can find the rest here.

Unusual Creatures. A witty book about real-live animals you've probably never heard of.

And then we have Unusual Creatures, written by Michael Hearst, with illustrations by Arjen Noordeman.

Unusual Creatures. A witty book about real-live animals you've probably never heard of. Unusual Creatures. A witty book about real-live animals you've probably never heard of.

My son Oscar basically loves any non-fiction book about animals, and this book is certainly on his approved list. He keeps it by his bed and references it often. The book features facts and descriptions of real live creatures most people haven’t heard of (raising my hand here), and the whole thing is written with a lot of wit, so it ends up being informational plus fun.

Your turn! What are your kids reading these days? Are there any books on your shopping list or library list that you’d like to share?

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Wed, 17 Jun 2015 17:39:31 +0000 Design Mom

June 4 Books10

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

Yay! It’s time for another roundup of fabulous picture books that I think you’ll love. All four picks are really, really beautiful and I’m delighted to add them in our family collection.

First up, let’s talk about Locomotive by Brian Floca. Ben Blair gave me this book for Mother’s Day (did I tell you I collect Caldecott books?) and I love it.

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Readers get to follow along with a family heading west, and on the way, we get to learn all about the history of trains in the U.S., and how they’ve affected our country. Plus it’s big and it has big impact!

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Next up, A Lion in Paris by Beatrice Alamagna. This is another BIG book — it fills up your whole lap in a sideways format, as if the illustrations want to be studied.

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In this book, we meet a bored lion, who leaves his grasslands for an adventure in the city of lights. If you’ve ever been to Paris, or are planning a trip there, this book is especially delightful because it hits many of the major tourist highlights — and the illustrations are fantastic! But even if Paris isn’t on your travel list, this book is also universally appealing because the story is about what it’s like to be a stranger in a new place and figuring out how you fit in.

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What Do You Do With An Idea is by Kobi Kamada, with illustrations by Mae Besom. This lovely volume was a gift from my dear friend, Audrey, and it’s another gem!

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What do you do when you have an idea that seems too big or unwieldy? Well, this book has the answer. You nuture it and care for it and as you get more confident about the idea, the idea will get better as well. This book is one of those life-lesson stories that appeals to people of all ages.

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And last but not least, we have Pool by JiHyeon Lee. This is a book with no words! It’s all about a shy boy and his visit to the busy public pool.

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So many sweet little surprises in this story! And the message is clear: don’t remain on the surface, dive deep to find the best adventures and the best friendships!

And there you have it. Some fun books to check out on your next trip to the library. Now it’s your turn! Any books that have caught your eye lately? I always love your recommendations!

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Wed, 13 May 2015 14:00:07 +0000 Design Mom

Rude Cakes

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

It’s time for another Picture Book post! I’ve got four good ones for you today. First up, Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins, a Brooklyn-based author who probably wins the prize for coolest name of a person.

I had my oldest daughter Maude read this book to see if she agreed it was a keeper. She confessed she expected to be annoyed by it, but then ended up loving it! It’s really good. It’s packed with hilarious details and grin-bringing surprises — and it works in a lovely message, too.

Rude Cakes Rude Cakes

You could use this book as a good starting point for a conversation about manners, or even bullying.

Interstellar Cinderella - a futuristic, more bad-ass version of the fairytale

Next up, Interstellar Cinderella, which sounds like it might make a good tongue-twister. It’s written by Deborah Underwood, and illustrated by Meg Hunt.

Does Cinderella really need another re-telling? Heck yes! It’s a best-loved fairytale for a reason. This version features a mechanical-minded, independent Heroine who manages to save the Prince on her way to the ball.

Interstellar Cinderella Interstellar Cinderella

This heroine is someone a modern girl can root for. Oh, and did I mention the whole thing rhymes? You’ll love it!

A Nest is Noisy - one of several in a gorgeous nature themed series

The third book I’m featuring today is A Nest is Noisy, written by Dianna Hutts Aston, with illustrations from one of my favorites, Sylvia Long. This is the next installment of a beautiful, and award-winning series of nature books including A Butterfly is Patient, A Rock is Lively, An Egg is Quiet, and A Seed is Sleepy.

A Nest is Noisy A Nest is Noisy

It’s packed with solid information — really good, captivating facts. But the best part is this book will turn your walks through the park, or through the neighborhood, into a treasure hunt. Your kids will start looking for nests everywhere!

How To Read A Story

My fourth pick for today is How to Read a Story. Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Mark Siegel.

To me this book is about teaching your kids how to fall in love with reading. It’s funny and keeps your attention, while it paints of picture of how lovely it is to immerse yourself in a text.

How To Read A Story How To Read A Story

This “how-to” book takes you through 10 steps. And with the 10th step, kids are primed to jump right into another book and start the steps all over again.

Now it’s your turn? What are your kids reading these days? Any new discoveries you’re loving? What have you picked up from the library lately?


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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Tue, 10 Mar 2015 02:05:16 +0000 Design Mom

Polar Bear's Underwear - a cute book with a surprise ending!

By Gabrielle With photo assistance by Rose Gluck.

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve done a book post, but I think today is the perfect day for some picture book recommendations! Here are four new titles that have been a hit at our house.

First up, Polar Bear’s Underwear. It was written and illustrated by Tupera Tupera, the Tokyo-based art and design firm of artists Tatsuya Kameyama and Atsuko Nakagawa. This book is perfect for the five and under set. Polar Bear can’t find his new underwear, so he starts hunting for them with the help of Mouse. Are they those pretty patterned ones? No. That tiny, colorful pair? I’m afraid not.

Polar Bear's Underwear Polar Bear's Underwear

Your little readers will encounter all sorts of creatures on the underwear hunt, and will laugh at the twist at the end!

Tricky Vic - the true story of how a swindler "sold" the Eiffel Tower

Next up, is this beautiful book about a real life con man. It’s called Tricky Vic — The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. I received this as an early review copy, but the book will be out tomorrow! This is a fun one for older kids — it has lots of history, new vocabulary, and factoids built in. If your family is a fan of heist stories, then this is sure to become a new favorite.

Tricky Vic - the true story of how a swindler "sold" the Eiffel Tower Tricky Vic - the true story of how a swindler "sold" the Eiffel Tower

It was written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli — an author, illustrator and screen printer from Philadelphia. I don’t know Greg, but based on his clever mix-media illustrations in the book, thing he must have a great sense of humor.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

Another title, I’m excited to share with you is Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. It’s by Kate Messner, with art by Christopher Silas Neal. And it makes a great companion piece to their earlier collaboration, Over & Under the Snow, which I profiled earlier here.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt

In this book, you’ll find out about all the bugs and seeds that are living their lives in the dirt, creating good soil where plants can grow. You’ll also learn about common bugs that live their lives above ground in the garden as well. It would make a really sweet addition to an Easter basket.

I loved the simple, helpful creature index at the back so you can remember which bugs are garden heroes and which ones are garden pests.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

Last but not least today is A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School, written by Davide Cali, with illustrations by Benjamin Chaud. (I’m a big fan of Benjamin Chaud’s work. You might know him from the acclaimed book, The Bear’s Song.)

Getting to school on time can be tough when there are ninjas, mysterious mole people, and time machines about. Your kids will get a kick out of all the adventures this book’s hero experiences on his “short” walk to school.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to School

But how will he prove to his teacher that his adventures really happened? You’ll have to read the book!

Now it’s your turn. Have you read any of these titles yet? Any favorites among them? And what are your kids reading these days?

P.S. — I love picture books! You can find all the children’s books I’ve featured here.

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Book of the Week: The Christmas Wish Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:44:18 +0000 Design Mom

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Images and text by Gabrielle.

What are your favorite holiday books? We have a tradition of adding a new Christmas book to our collection each year. I love this tradition because it’s easy, it’s something the whole family can enjoy (and can continue to enjoy for many years), and it’s typically under $20 to get a new book, so it’s a tradition that doesn’t break the bank.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Ben Blair found this year’s pick and it’s a good one! It’s called The Christmas Wish, and it had us reminiscing about our trips to Sweden and Norway. We’re not the only ones who like it, apparently it’s a New York Times Best Seller. And it’s no surprise. It just oozes Christmas and wintertime — her clothes, the polar bear and reindeer she meets — every little detail is delightful.

A Christmas Wish — plus 32 other Wonderful Holiday Books

Looking for more holiday books? I’ve shared tons of great picks over the years — click through for a full list. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, my apologies in advance, because my list is very-much Christmas focused. But obviously, there are lots of other winter holidays, so if you have favorite non-Christmas holiday titles to share, please do!

- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

- A Child’s Christmas in Wales (If you can find this one as an audio book, you will especially love it!)

- The Christmas Alphabet

- A Christmas Carol (You can also try the Young Readers Edition or the Picture Book Edition)

- Christmas Day in the Morning


- The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

- Corgiville Christmas

- Dream Snow

- Every Man Heart Lay Down

- The Gift of the Magi


- How the Grinch Stole Christmas

- The Night Before Christmas

- The Nutcracker

- Olive, the Other Reindeer

- The Polar Express (I’m not a fan of the movie, but I adore the book. It’s even a Caldecott winner!)


- Santa Calls

- The Little Match Girl

- The Snowy Day (Not holiday related, but a great winter time book that we like to keep with the Christmas titles!)

- The Twelve Days of Christmas

- Who is Coming to Our House?


An Orange for Frankie

Flicka, Ricka, Dicka & Their New Skates

The Birds of Bethlehem

The 12 Days of Christmas

Babar and Father Christmas


Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama

The Trees Of The Dancing Goats

My Wonderful Christmas Tree

Chanukah Lights

Stick Man


The Christmas Quiet Book

Great Joy

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Book of the Week: Meet The Artist Series Tue, 11 Nov 2014 19:50:57 +0000 Design Mom

Meet the Artist Series

Images and text by Gabrielle.

This is just a quick little post. I wanted to be sure I told you about this terrific series of books by Patricia Geis called Meet the Artist. There are 3 in the series so far: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Alexander Calder.

I think these books are just right for kids. They’re short — only a few spreads in each one, so they’re not overwhelming. And they’re packed full of interactive details. Flaps to lift, pop up pieces, and 3-D surprises. They offer lots of good basic info about each artist and show enough of the artist’s work so that it feels familiar.

I’ve started to get questions from readers about good holiday gift options, and I think these books would be lovely for any budding artist out there! Here’s an interior shot from each book so you can get an idea of what they’re like:

Meet the Artist Series Meet the Artist Series Meet the Artist Series

Any other great art books for kids you’ve seen lately? Feel free to add the titles in the comments!


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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:30:38 +0000 Design Mom

Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team.

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Last month I wrote a post about four picture books we’ve added to our library, and this month I thought it would be fun to share another four. As you may remember, I’m trying to write less posts this year, but keep them packed with content, so sharing 4 books once each month, instead of one small book post each week could be a great solution!

1)  First up, The Memory of an Elephant: An Unforgettable Journey. Written by Sophie Strady, with illustration by Jean-Francois Martin.

Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team. Book of the Week: The Memory of an Elephant — by a French author + illustrator team.

Such a cool book! And totally unusual. There’s a storyline you can follow about Marcel the Elephant as he writes and encyclopedia, but it’s also a book that packed with information — sidenotes and tidbits — so you can browse the pages without following the story at all.

And the images! So dang good.Both the author and illustrator live in Paris and the book definitely has a chic French feel. I feel like this book is a treasure.

Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree

2) The Little Pear Tree by Jenny Bowers.

Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree Book of the Week: Little Pear Tree

My friend, Annie, who owns Brimful Shop (and is a frequent commenter here — you may have seen her name), sent this book for June. It’s delightful! The book follows a pear tree over a full year, and readers watch at the tree transforms over the pages.

It’s interactive too. Each spread has lots of flaps to lift, hiding happy little discoveries. A perfect nature book for the littlest ones.

Book of the Week: Jumping Jack — by a Swiss Author Illustrator team.

3) Jumping Jack. Written by Germano Zullo, with illustrations by Albertine.

Book of the Week: Jumping Jack — by a Swiss Author Illustrator team. Book of the Week: Jumping Jack — by a Swiss Author Illustrator team.

This book is by a Swiss author-illustrator team. The outstanding cover drew me in, and the story kept me there. Jack is a championship show-jumping horse, but one day, finds he’s not doing so well competitively. Readers get to follow Jack and his rider as they try to figure out what’s going on — these two friends never give up on each other!

The whole style of this book — words and images — is fantastic. A treat to read and look at.

Book of the Week: In This Book — by a French author + illustrator team.

4) In This Book by Fani Marceau, with illustrations by Joelle Jolivet.

Book of the Week: In This Book — by a French author + illustrator team. Book of the Week: In This Book — by a French author + illustrator team.

This is another book written by author illustrator team based in Paris. The book feels like an art book that will appeal to babies and toddlers. The words are simple and introduce simple concepts — I am in the bus, said the driver. I am in the lighthouse, said the lighthouse keeper.

It has oversize pages with details to explore and discover, and the text if full of new things for little minds to think about. It’s also a really beautiful book to own.


I hope you enjoy these titles. And if you’ve seen any picture books lately that you think I’d love, let me know if the comments!

P.S. — Looking for more book stuff? You can find all of my picture book posts here. Also, I know it’s October. If you’re craving Halloween titles, here are ten great ones!

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Four Picture Books You’ll Love Thu, 18 Sep 2014 17:38:52 +0000 Design Mom

Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom

Images and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. I haven’t written a post about children’s books in months — the last post was in March! So I thought it would be fun today to share four in one post. Let’s get to it!

1) Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano. Illustrations by Laia Aguilar.

Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book: Bonjour Camille   |   Design Mom

Such a gorgeous book. You’ll meet Camille on a sunny Sunday morning. And get ready, because Camille has so many things to do! Eating cherries, jumping on the bed, talking to the wind, and on and on. The pages feel magical — like they’re lifted right out of child’s head.

Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom

2) Mix It Up by Hervé Tullet.

Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book:  Mix It Up!   |   Design Mom

Oh. This book is brilliant! It’s interactive and teaches kids about the basics of color theory. They shake the book, turn the page, and discover the colors have mixed together to make something new!

Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom

3 ) Lately Lily, The Adventures of a Traveling Girl, by Micah Player.

Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book: Lately Lily   |   Design Mom

This is a book for anyone who has caught the travel bug (or who wants to!). Join Lily as she catches her next flight, bus, train or hot air balloon! See what she packs, meet the friends she makes, and adventure with her around the world. It would be a cute book to read before a big trip.

Our daughter Betty has a special love for this book because the creator, Micah Player, once made an illustration of Betty and Lily hanging at a café in Paris!

Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom

4) The Baby Tree by Sophie Blackall.

Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom Featured Picture Book: The Baby Tree   |   Design Mom

This one is a charmer. A young boy is going to become a big brother and is wondering where the baby is going to come from. Each person he asks has a different answer and you can watch him imagine each new scenario. Happily, at the end, there are satisfying age-appropriate answers to the big question.

Yay for wonderful picture books! The library in our reading loft continues to grow. : )

P.S. — Want more book recommendations? I’ve got a ton! See all the book posts here.

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Coloring Books 2.0 Wed, 12 Mar 2014 17:57:18 +0000 Design Mom

Design Mom's 9 Favorite Modern Coloring Books. They're all super cool.

By Gabrielle.

I was doing a bit of organizing in the studio/home office last weekend and noticed we have accumulated quite the collection of really good coloring books and doodle books. Have you noticed how many awesome options are out there these days? It’s like a coloring book renaissance!

These are not the commercial character driven coloring books of my childhood, they’re created by artists and graphic designers and some of the very best publishing houses. They are really good looking! Some focus on patterns, others include prompts to spur imaginative drawing. And many of these books are designed to appeal to both children and adults. In fact, I’ve heard some people are using the mandala coloring books as a sort of soothing therapy! Coloring in the spaces seems to hit a sweet spot between mindless busy work and intense creativity.

Lately, one of our favorite go-to gifts is a coloring book paired with a new set of markers. Easy, fun, and it doesn’t break the bank. We also like to pull them out on slow afternoons for a quiet, calming activity. Taking some time to sit with my kids and color is delightful, and it provides a great space for casual, non-lecture conversation.

In case you’d like to get in on the coloring action, I’ve collected our very favorites here. If you have a favorite that’s not on this list, please feel free to share! We’re always on the lookout for new ones. And I’d love to hear if you ever get to color with your kids. Do they like to color? Do you?

1) Doodles. This one is by Taro Gomi and he has a ton of other great options as well! I think of Taro Gomi as the grandfather of all the good coloring books.

2) Zolocolor. There are several of these, all good.

3)  The Usborne Book of Drawing, Doodling and Coloring.

4)  Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny.

5) Photoplay.

6)  Outside the Lines.

7) Doodle Cook. By French artist, Hervé Tullet. And if you like it, you could also try The Coloring Book and The Scribble Book.

8)  Pattern + Design.

9)  Rosie Flo’s Coloring Book — there are at least 6 versions of these.

P.S. — We also like to use these on flights and at church, when the kids need something quiet but entertaining.

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Book of the Week: What Does It Mean To Be Global? Mon, 24 Feb 2014 14:00:31 +0000 Design Mom

What Does It Mean Books1B

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Hello from Washington D.C.! I’m here at the Power Summit. I’ll be attending policy sessions about poverty and world aid throughout the day, and then receive training on how to lobby my congressmen later this afternoon. I’m very excited about it!

The group I’m here with is ONE Moms — which is the same group I traveled with to Ethiopia. It feels like a little reunion. And I’m happy as can be to get to spend time with these wonderful women. One of the women, Rana DiOrio, runs Little Pickle Press — a small publisher “dedicated to helping parents and educators cultivate conscious, responsible little people.” A wonderful goal! And I think it aligns so well with the work that ONE Moms engages in.

If  you’re someone who spends time thinking about how to raise kids that are globally minded — eager to learn about different cultures, curious about other countries, and respectful of all races and religions — there’s a set of 4 books from Little Pickle Press that are a great way to introduce these concepts to your children:

What Does It Mean To Be Global?
What Does It Mean To Be Green?
What Does It Mean to Be Safe?
What Does It Mean To Be Present?

They’re non-fiction picture books and they make excellent conversation starters between parents and kids — or in classrooms, too. They introduce important topics in an easy to understand, comfortable way, and the illustrations work hard to offer the reader a better understanding of what’s being discussed. One thing I especially appreciate about the books is that they cover some big topics without being self-righteous or judgmental. Hooray!

I’d love to hear if you’re already familiar with these books — or if you have related books you’d recommend. Feel free to add links or titles in the comments. And wish me luck on the lobbying!

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Six Books for Valentine’s Day Mon, 10 Feb 2014 14:00:14 +0000 Design Mom

6 Books for Valentine's Day   |   Design Mom

By Gabrielle.

One of my favorite things to give on Valentine’s Day is books. You can find dozens of sweet and beautiful choices under $15 (often under $10!). A book is a treasure, but doesn’t feel extravagant, which I think is perfect — I don’t like to go over-the-top on Valentine’s Day.

These picks would be especially sweet for February 14th. Order one today and it will arrive in time — or stop by your nearest local shop.

1) You Know What I Love
We have a copy of this and June has requested it every night since it arrived. She knows it so well now that she “reads” it to us! About a doll and her girl.

2) Monday Hearts for Madalene.
Every Monday, Madalene would wake to find a heart created just for her. The sweetest token of true love.

3) Love Letters
200 letters from over the centuries. Some historical and some fictional. Who doesn’t enjoy a good love letter? For years, Ben Blair and I exchanged a hand-written love letter on Valentine’s Day, but at some point we stopped. Will this be the year we start it up again? I hope so. (Which reminds me, did any of you see the movie Her?)

4) Counting Kisses
Get this one as a board book for your toddler or baby, then read it at bedtime. “How many kisses does a tired baby need?”

5) Hearts
An offering from Toon Books, this is a good pick for a girl or a boy — and this is what Betty will be receiving this year. What happens when Penelope the Fox drops her heart into the sea? A beautiful adventure.

6) I Like You
I know. I know. I recommend this every year. But it’s still so good! I’m quite sure everyone should own a copy. A sweet gift for a teenage crush. A sweet gift for a favorite teacher. A sweet gift for a husband or wife. A sweet gift from a parent to a child. A sweet gift for a dear friend. It’s perfect every time.

Will you be giving any books for Valentine’s Day? Feel free to share your picks in the comments.

P.S. — Ten more Valentine’s Day book picks.

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Book of the Week: You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie Mon, 27 Jan 2014 14:00:46 +0000 Design Mom

You're a Rude Pig, Bertie by Claudia Boldt

Images and text by Carter.

[Note from Gabrielle: This is the last book review that Carter prepped for us last month. It's another good one! Future book posts will come from me.]

I love it when a character is so awful and his mischief so outrageous that all you want to do is reach through the pages and knock some sense into him. The redemption in a rapscallion like that brings hope to hooligans everywhere. Bertie is one of those. The entire title of his book is a slice of how awful he is – You’re a Rude Pig, Bertie, by Claudia Boldt. The first time we meet this pig, it’s only his reflection in a mirror. A mirror! Oh, the vanity. It’s delicious and disconcerting for the first page of a story, right? This is no Wilbur. He’s no Babe. And he’s definitely no Mercy Watson.

He’s the worst. His standard greetings are nasty and mean-hearted, and the other animals in town are quite adept at the stink eye. But then he meets Ruby and undergoes a stunning shift of heart, much to the surprise of the stink-eyed crew. Blinded by love and blushing cheeks, Bertie decides to throw a party. Of course! Hurt feelings linger, though, and it will take some real persistence and a splash of empathy for Bertie to right his wrongs. We’ve all been on both sides of words that sting, both collecting and speaking them, and that’s why his story is so wholly satisfying.

You're a Rude Pig, Bertie by Claudia Boldt

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Book of the Week: The Three Robbers Mon, 20 Jan 2014 14:00:39 +0000 Design Mom

The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer

Images and text by Carter.

[ Note from Design Mom: I have this post, and one more from Carter, that she kindly prepared last month. I'm going to share this one today — it's so good I don't want to to miss it! — and the other next week, before I return to my own book write-ups. ]

I tend to get a tad hyperbolic with enthusiasm about picture books. Even my youngest students have questioned the impossibility of each and every book being my favorite. Guilty. There are worse things, right? But when I say that Tomi Ungerer’s The Three Robbers is the best of the best, I hope you hear my urgency and adoration. Let me try.

It’s a cover that both intimidates and beckons. Caped in darkness, a hovering red axe, and three piercing pairs of eyes. It takes a spot of courage and trust to even open it, but the reward is great. These three robbers are no ragamuffin crew. With their blunderbuss, pepper-blower, and that red axe, they wreak havoc in the night. Ruthless. Relentless. But then one bitter night, an actual blunder. The carriage they stopped held no treasure, only an orphan named Tiffany. She wore a frilly little dress and a bow-tied bonnet, and like any good robbers would do, they took her home and put her to bed. The three baddies didn’t know this, but she was on her way to live with a wicked aunt anyway. Could they have, perhaps – saved her?

The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer

In the morning, Tiffany stumbles upon their embarrassment of riches and asks an accidentally poignant question: “What is all this for?” And the robbers’ response? They choked and sputtered. Choked and sputtered. I love those words, that sentiment, that moment when their guts are gobsmacked by this tiny blonde thing. So far, Ungerer has cloaked their world in rich blacks and blues. But when you turn the page from this revelation over the treasure chest, those dark colors yield to light and color. From then on, the robbers’ mission becomes one of rescuing other lost, unhappy, and abandoned children. Their odd crew grows into a family, a castle with three tall towers at its heart.

The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer

It’s a book to absorb and experience by letting Tomi Ungerer’s storytelling genius wash right over you. Sure, some parts are unsettling and on the verge of frightening. There’s beauty in recognizing that, and there’s hope that lives in the darkest of places. Maurice Sendak credits Ungerer for the sheer existence of Where the Wild Things Are, a celebration of the genuine, unbridled chaos of childhood. Sendak said, “I think it is unnatural to think that there is such a thing as a blue-sky, white-clouded happy childhood for anybody. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving it. Because if one thing goes wrong or anything goes wrong, and usually something goes wrong, then you are compromised as a human being. You’re going to trip over that for a good part of your life.”

I find a great deal of freedom and wisdom in Sendak’s words and Ungerer’s redemption story. What do you think?

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Book of the Week: Caterina and the Perfect Party Mon, 06 Jan 2014 14:00:27 +0000 Design Mom

Caterina and the Perfect Party by Erin Eitter Kono

Images and text by Carter.

Are you partied out yet? This holiday season has definitely been a colorful blur of glitter and gifts and sparkle and sugar. But there’s one more party. Here’s your invitation! Meet Caterina, the bitty brown bird with a flower in her hair and the sassiest blue spectacles you’ll ever see. She’s the star of Caterina and the Perfect Party, by Erin Eitter Kono. She loves lists, her friends, and throwing parties. But it has to be perfect. So Caterina spins into a party overdrive – planning, inviting, decorating, and baking.

Caterina and the Perfect Party by Erin Eitter Kono

I think Caterina’s attention to detail is her love signature. Sure, she’s particular and a bit fussy, but all of her work is driven by a deep need to care for her friends. It’s such a beautiful sentiment for budding friendships, but also reminded me of the purpose behind the revolving door of celebrations this time of year. But then the worst thing happens. Things go terribly wrong. Wind, mud, and rain have no regard for Caterina’s hard work. Thank goodness the best of friends have no regard for things going terribly wrong, right?

Caterina and the Perfect Party by Erin Eitter Kono

P.S. – Each time I read this book I swoon a bit more over this enchanting brown bird. Her story would be a sweet party favor or gift for any dear friend with a birthday. You can see more of Caterina and her friends here. Don’t miss the most darling book trailer you’ll ever see, and check out the cute crafts!

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Book of the Week: Want to Be in a Band? Mon, 30 Dec 2013 14:00:19 +0000 Design Mom

Want to Be in a Band? by Suzzy Roche and Giselle Potter

Images and text by Carter.

Giselle Potter is one of my favorite illustrators, so when I spied this new-to-me book of hers, I jumped on it. And then I found even more reasons to fall in love with this book. Want to Be in a Band?, written by Suzzy Roche, celebrates sisters, music, and fierce determination. Is that name familiar? Do you know The Roches?

Want to Be in a Band? by Suzzy Roche and Giselle Potter

The sisters’ harmonies are understated and soothing, if a bit unusual. That’s exactly why Giselle Potter’s illustrations are perfect for Suzzy Roche’s words. They are colorful, quirky, and full of life, a visual representation of the music of The Roches. Even if that particular band isn’t a favorite, could you see yourself in a story about bickering siblings? Or one about the grit of practicing and the soul of music? Want to Be in a Band? hits all the right notes, adding up to a beautiful whole.

Want to Be in a Band? by Suzzy Roche and Giselle Potter

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Book of the Week: The Day the Crayons Quit Mon, 23 Dec 2013 14:00:09 +0000 Design Mom

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Images and text by Carter.

This book’s title alone is enough to send any kid into a duo of shock and understanding belief. Try it. Show them the cover! I bet you’ll see little brows furrow with wonder and maybe a bit of guilt. There’s something hilarious and universal about their favorite tools seizing some power back from them, and I think that’s part of this story’s appeal: the kid becomes the antagonist. Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers execute The Day the Crayons Quit with massive kid appeal and playful zeal.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

All Duncan wants to do is color. The problem is, his crayons are kaput. Red is overworked from all things fire engine, strawberries, and Santa Claus. Beige is jealous of Brown’s role in bears, ponies, and puppies. And poor Pink, who just for once would love to be used as a dinosaur, monster, or cowboy. Each crayon reveals their plight through punchy voice in honest letters, and like a true friend, Duncan only wants the crayons to be happy. Can the crayons convince him to color outside the lines of creativity? This one’s for all of the Black crayons who just want to be a rainbow, and all of the Blues who’d like to see a different shade of sky.

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

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Book of the Week: No Fits, Nilson Mon, 16 Dec 2013 14:00:54 +0000 Design Mom

No Fits, Nilson by Zachariah Ohora

Images and text by Carter.

Meet Nilson and Amelia, stars of No Fits Nelson! They are inseparable. Ukelele-playing, block-stacking, and scooter-ing together until bathtime. Nilson can’t do baths because he’s afraid of the water. Sometimes, Nilson throws loud, wailing, house-shaking fits. Sound familiar? But sometimes Nilson can’t be entirely to blame.

No Fits, Nilson by Zachariah Ohora

Zachariah Ohora has captured the meltdowns of toddlerhood and the frustrating feelings of things gone wrong. Why does that other guy have a banana and I don’t? And who likes the line at the post office anyway? This book is perfect for the mama who needs to remember that Nilsons and Amelias all over the place throw fits and tantrums. It’s perfect for kids who just might see themselves in the mirror of these two. It’s charming, calming, and good for a fit of giggles, too.

Plus, all fits are forgotten when it’s time for banana pancakes. This feels like a good rule of thumb for life, wouldn’t you say?

No Fits, Nilson by Zachariah Ohora

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Illustrator Interview: Aaron Becker Thu, 12 Dec 2013 15:30:36 +0000 Design Mom

Aaron Becker

By Carter. JOURNEY. Copyright © 2013 by Aaron Becker. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

When I returned to the library this year, I did so in October – easily seven weeks into the school year. I had new-kid jitters, and felt the weight of welcoming students back to a library that had been dark for a bit. Of course, those kids changed all of that the second I met them, and we are in the process of building a vibrant community together. That notion that the space is ours, not just mine sent me searching for a keystone story for our new foundation. Aaron Becker’s Journey became that keystone, and I hope this glimpse into Journey and its brilliant creator is as thrilling for you as it has been for me and all of my new reader-friends.

1. What books grabbed you as a kid and never let you go?

All of Ed Emberley’s drawing books. They taught me that I could create the realms within my imagination with nothing but humble lines, squiggles, and circles.

2. Is there something about childhood that you try to capture in your work?

It may be a case of arrested development, but for me, it’s not a motivation to discover anything I might have once felt, but instead to express who I am now. The feelings of being a child are still very much alive and thriving inside me.

Just this morning, while playing Peter Pan to my daughter on our way to school, I heard the narrator say this: “It was then that Hook bit him. Not the pain of this but its unfairness was what dazed Peter. It made him quite helpless. He could only stare, horrified. Every child is affected thus the first time he is treated unfairly. All he thinks he has a right to when he comes to you to be yours is fairness. After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness; no one except Peter.” As it is for Peter, this idea of always being surprised by unfairness is very much true for me. It’s what makes me an optimist and forever confused around jaded, cynical adults.

Journey by Aaron Becker

3. Who are your creative influences – in books, art, or any other media?

Growing up, like most boys born in the wake of the Apollo missions, I was into Legos and Star Wars. Not very original, but the creative play those toys and stories inspired seeps into everything I do. For instance, once I came out of art school and started drawing with more facility, I found it was very natural for me to draw architecture and characters from a three-quarters, removed perspective. I realized after a while that this was the same perspective used in Lego instructions! As Camus wrote “A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those one or two great images in whose presence his heart first opened.”

4. Do you remember the first thing you ever drew? (Or painted or sketched!)

Dueling spaceships. Each drawing or painting would end in a sea of red explosions and laser blasts.

5. If you could describe your studio in three words, what would they be? (You can leave out magical, because we can all assume that one!)

In. The. Mudroom. (sigh).

Journey by Aaron Becker

6. Where did this gal’s journey come from? Tell us a bit about the journey of Journey. (And I’m super curious if she has a name in your head?!)

To me, every story begins with a sense of place. I drew this huge, fanciful castle and found that it was begging for a tale. I had a vague idea of a girl moving through these exotic environments only to eventually return home. The bird came next. And finally, the boy. All of these characters eventually earned names, but that was mostly a function of trying to write out ideas for the entire trilogy once I knew I wanted a larger mythology and story for this world (yes, there will be three Journey books!). But I won’t reveal their names – it’s best to leave that up to each reader. The openness to interpretation is what makes the wordless format simultaneously risky and wonderful. Like the girl with her caged bird, I ultimately need to let my creation go and hope for the best.

7. Journey has been a profound experience for the readers I’ve shared it with. Can you separate yourself from it enough as it’s creator to let it move you as well?

What a fantastic question. I think what’s been most fascinating for me, actually, is hearing everyone’s interpretations of this story, that at the time, did not feel necessarily profound to me as its writer. To me, it was a simple story that came straight from the heart. But as people began to assign the characters and plot their own, personal significances, I realized I had created something far more meaningful than I ever intended. A rare gift, to be sure.

8. Now what? What’s next?

Next fall, we’ll journey back through the proverbial door. Actually, the artwork is done and I’m now working on the final chapter in the series. What a ride!


I shouldn’t be surprised that the creator of such an evocative and lovely book could fill my day with snippets of inspiration. I’m stuck on those comments about Peter Pan, and hope today is not a day I stumble around with jaded adult tendencies. And also parents, even though I’ve heard the painful and dangerous I-stepped-on-a-Lego stories, look what those Legos may become! And a trilogy?! I’m so thrilled.

Need more Journey? This trailer Aaron created will captivate every cell in your soul.

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