Friday, December 04, 2009

New art...or oldie but goodie?

I'll be participating in some upcoming promotions with my agent, so of course I'm back to my fighting my nemesis: deciding which piece to put in! Do I find an older piece, maybe done for another client? Or do I create something new? So in my search of archived art, I came across these pieces which viewers may not have seen:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Coming soon!

The F&Gs for LUCKY BEANS by Becky Birtha came in yesterday! (For those se of you who don't know, F&G stands for "folds and gathers" and is an unbound copy of a book)

It's my newest book coming out this Spring from Albert Whitman & Co. As with many of the books I illustrate, I have lots of mixed feelings while I work on the art - ranging from elation to despair! This particular book takes place during the depression, so I needed to do a lot of careful research.

I also like to challenge myself, so I drew scenes with more perspective, and layering. It was very difficult! So when I was finished with this one, I really wasn't happy. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't what I saw in my head. Months later, I'm seeing it again for the first time in context - words and pictures, trimmed and folded.

It really works, and looks nice! The team at Albert Whitman was great to work with, as well. Kudos to them! Hopefully the book will receive good reviews, too. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

More reading

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

It's about finding motherly love, but it's also about forgiveness.

So why isn't Lily's forgiveness of her father addressed?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Horn tooting!

Neat! There is a book called the Encyclopedia of Writing and Illustrating Children's Books and my work is featured inside! I got my copy recently, and it looks great!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Neesha's post

I am going to need to re-read this PLUS the comments when I get home and can devote more time to this rich, thought-provoking discussion...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shelftalker Follow-up

This is an amazing follow-up to Elizabeth Bluembe's blog about diversity in children's books - wonderfully well-written, and I am so heartened by all the comments. There are a LOT of people out there who feel the same as I do!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Totally off topic...

Okay, this has nothing to do with illustration...I just needed to vent! How can I lose 10lbs and still look the same?! All that work, being hungry all the time, and my clothes only feel a LITTLE looser!

Geez... makes me want to go eat a cupcake.

On the other hand, if the scale is wrong (and I suspect it is, being 15 yrs old), this would make sense.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

More summer reading

I've also read:

THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin
IT'S LIKE THIS, CAT by Emily Cheney Neville
DRAGON'S BLOOD by Jane Yolen
HEART'S BLOOD by Jane Yolen

Monday, August 31, 2009

Digitally Created Artwork

There's a lot of buzz lately about artiss creating work in some companies now have that as a requirement. Here are some examples that I created digitally 100%. But what I'm confused about is why. What's the difference between doing a painting and scanning it, and creating it 100% in Photoshop. I'd flatten the layers anyway. Do they want the "digital" look? Do they think they have better control over color spaces? I don't actually render the same digital vs. traditional. It's not fun to try to make a digital painting look like a watercolor.

Below is an image I painted traditonally and then scanned in and modified in Photoshop with layers and filters. . Is it digital? Why or why not?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer reading

Right now I'm reading DICEY'S SONG by Cynthia Voight

Recently read books: (in no particular order)
BABY by Patricia MacLachlan
WE ARE THE SHIP by Kadir Nelson
KIRA KIRA by Cynthia Kadotada
ARCHER'S QUEST by Linda Sue Park
CRISPIN: The Cross of Lead by Avi
CRISPIN: At the Edge of the World by Avi
SHILOH by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
HOLES by Louis Sachar
RULES by Cynthia Lord

Basically, I go to the library planning on reading Newbery books, and I just sort of browse, and pick up other books that look interesting, or are by an author I know.

It SEEMS that if a book got a Newbery medal, it means somebody dies or something really tragic happens.

Here is an interesting article about this topic.

When people say that they want to "stretch a child's mind", I think they mean more emotionally and socially - not necessarily intellectually. I recall being an excellent reader at an early age - reading at levels a lot higher than my age group. I think I was reading at a college level when I was in middle school. But I didn't want to "stretch" in the emotional/social way. Intellectually, sure. Not a problem. But I could not deal with books about death (my younger sister died when I was a child) or poverty (I had already experienced being poor and it wasn't something I wanted to read about for fun) and politics weren't interesting (a lot of adults don't think they are interesting, either). Or about being black. I wasn't 100% comfortable with my race, and I didn't enjoy exploring things that made me uncomfortable.

For me, books were a way to escape what I couldn't. Children are largely powerless (can't control where they live or their financial status) so reading about faraway worlds, magical creatures, other planets, or other time periods were the most fun for me, and stayed that way well into my adulthood.

So now that I'm "grown up", I'm having fun reading these middle grade and young adult books. I love how refreshing they are. How clean the writing is. No unnecessary details going on about "how she tossed raven-black curls over her shoulders".

I can't wait to read the next book...and the next...and the next. Will I someday read "adult" level books? Perhaps. But not today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Blue Rose Girls: so, where do I go from here?

Blue Rose Girls: so, where do I go from here?

Doing your best

What is your best?

Doing your best has more to do with getting your mind, body and spirit on the same page at once.
Performers and sports players know how hard this can be. Artists, too. It might seem, on the surface, that if you're a writer or artist, you can go back and re-do, rework, repaint. With deadlines, there's a limit. Or like a student taking a test. An answer that keeps eluding you – then you know it suddenly, hours after the exam.

So when I show my work, is it the best I can do? Yes and no. It WAS the best, at that time. Sometimes I overwork or overthink the art, and the art I did in a different state of mind is actually "better". That's why a lot of art artists do for themselves (as opposed to contract work ) is "better". No one to say what the subject should be. How the character is feeling, what he is doing.


Monday, August 03, 2009

Ink and Photoshop Mice Characters

Awhile back, I did these illustrations for a local cable company. They were done in ink, and colored in Photoshop.

Saturday, August 01, 2009


The flowers are beginning to really fade now. If I deadhead them, I could get more blooms.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Reviews - Lucky Beans

Kirkus Reviews

History proves cyclical with this story of an African-American family living through the Great Depression. “Marshall didn’t feel so lucky. The elbows of his jacket were worn almost all the way through. Dad had been out of work for months, and there was no money.” The story, however, is not one of depression. The family works together to survive and finds moments of love, appreciation and sheer happiness. This moving tale not only relates a little history but also some math, as Marshall helps his mother estimate the number of beans in the furniture-store jar and ultimately wins a new sewing machine, which helps alleviate their dire financial situation. Tadgell’s watercolor illustrations move the story and stir readers’ emotions. A two-page spread of the contestants in the store teaches readers everything they need to know about the characters without a letter of text. Many children today can relate to the family’s challenges, which makes the timing of this picture book sadly relevant. (author’s note) (Picture-book. 5-12)


Math and wry comedy mix in this lively historical story based on Birtha’s grandmother’s memories of life during the Depression. Young Marshall describes his African American family’s hardship when Dad loses his job and then his relatives crowd into Marshall’s room. Worst of all are the beans Ma constantly cooks. Then a local furniture store makes an exciting offer: whoever guesses the number of beans in a huge jar on display will win a new sewing machine. If only Marshall could win the prize for Ma so that she could earn money by sewing. He works out a system to estimate (not guess) by counting the number of beans that fill a quart jar, and how many quarts fill up a crock . . . and his formula works! The expressive watercolor paintings show both the racism that Marshall and his family endure as well as his final triumph, and Tadgell folds in humor, as Marshall faces what looks like a lifetime supply of beans. An informative final note fills in more about the era’s history. Grades 1-3. --Hazel Rochman
Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children, March 27, 2010
Marshall knew that times were tough, but that did not really help him feel any more grateful to see the pot of beans cooking on the stove. After all, they ate beans just about every night. Like many households, the Great Depression had hit Marshall's family hard with the loss of his father's job, the cramped living situation after his relatives moved in, and the shortage of money for food and clothes.

Those beans, though, took on a whole different meaning when Marshall spotted a sign in a store window challenging people to guess how many beans were in the enormous pickle jar. The winner would take home a brand new sewing machine worth $23.95. Although Marshall desperately wanted to help his mother win that prize, he knew they had to overcome two obstacles. Not only did they need to make a better guess than everyone else, they also had to find out if the storeowner would even allow a woman of color to win the contest.

Based on real events in the life of the author's grandmother, this new book helps today's generation of young readers better understand the difficult economic times and the racial discrimination of the Great Depression years. With illustrations that beautifully match the text's subtle humor and grace, Lucky Beans is an ideal choice when seeking picture books that are rich in substantive content.
By D. Fowler "Dragonfly77" (Vermont)   
The streets and sidewalks were a snowy mess and the cold winds seemed to go right through Marshall Loman's old clothes and chill him to the bone. He raced up the three short steps of the family home shouting, "What's for dinner, Ma? I'm starving!" His eyes widened as his took the cover off a large pot. Beans, beans, beans . . . it was always beans. His Ma said they were lucky to have them, but every night made him want to hate them. The house was filling up with relatives and to make it worse he had to "share a room with his little brother and sister, Tommy and Patsy." Even their clothes were wearing out, but his mother had hope in President Roosevelt. Perhaps he could help everyone because he was "on the poor people's side."

The next day when Marshall and Tommy were passing by Kaplan's Furniture Store he spotted something very interesting in the window. There was a new sewing machine and a huge jar of beans. Beans, beans, beans . . . it was always beans. This time though, these beans might just help the family. Anyone who could guess how many beans in the jar would win the sewing machine. There was a lot of thinking to do and Marshall would have to think about what he learned in school. There were 333 beans in one cup, four cups equal a quart . . . with Marshall's help, would his mother guess the right number of beans in that humongous jar?

This is a heartwarming story about a young boy during the Depression years who learned that those yucky beans were really lucky beans. The scenario, loosely based on a tale relayed to the author by her grandmother, is reminiscent of many stories told by those who lived during those hard times. The story gives off an aura of hope as we see a family who is living and working together to ensure the family's welfare. Marshall, like any other boy, was portrayed very realistically and we know exactly what he likes, dislikes, and what his dreams were. The artwork was expressive and, with the little touches, brought back the good times families had during the Depression. In the back is an author's note that gives a brief overview of the Depression years.

Review - Lights Out by Angela Shelf Medearis

School Library Journal

"Just For You!" Series
MEDEARIS, Angela Shelf. Lights Out! illus. by Nicole Tadgell. ISBN
ea vol: 32p. (Just for You! Series). Scholastic. 2004. pap. $3.99. LC number
K-Gr 1-

These appealing easy readers focus on social skills, conflict
resolution, and bedtime, and feature African-American characters. The
stories are engaging, even though the language is quite simple. The
illustrations will draw young readers, as they are filled with action and
activities to which children will relate. Each title includes discussion
tips for adults. "Meet the Author" and "Meet the Artist" pages include
photographs and interesting personal notes. These books will be effective in
a classroom or library.-Corrina Austin, Locke's Public School, St. Thomas,
Ontario, Canada

Review - A Day With Daddy by Nikki Grimes

School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-These four easy readers, all of which feature African-American characters, are a bit uneven in quality. All begin with tips for adults on reading aloud and end with questions and activities that encourage youngsters to relate to the stories' themes. Daddy, in which a boy tells about his weekly visit with his father, is a sweet and gentle look at a difficult topic with watercolor illustrations that match the mood, while What Do You Know?, which relates a young girl's early-morning romp through fresh snow, is wordy with uninspired text and illustrations. Girls and Bath! are both fun stories with hit-and-miss rhyming styles and illustrations that bring the texts to life.-Catherine Callegari, San Antonio Public Library, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information

Grimes, Nikki. A Day With Daddy. Illus. by Nicole Tadgell. 2004. 32p. Scholastic, paper, $3.99 (0-439-56850-1). Gr. 1.
Upbeat without being preachy or sentimental, these titles in the new Just for You! easy-reading series tell realistic stories of African American family life with excitement and grace. In Jumping the Broom, Erin’s big sister is getting married. Everyone is happy except Erin, who can’t find the right gift––until Grandmother tells her about jumping the broom, a wedding tradition that started among slaves. The characters are beautifully defined in both words and pictures, and many kids will recognize Erin’s pride in honoring her roots. In A Day with Daddy, a boy living with his mom talks about having fun with Dad on their weekly outing. Grimes draws on personal memories of growing up in a divorced family, and her simple, poetic words describe what goes on until the boy returns home with “enough happy / to last me one week.” The separation is here as well as the joy, and Tadgell’s exuberant watercolors show the family bonds, the longing, and the love. Both books include excellent notes for adults and suggestions of things they can do with their children. ––Hazel Rochman

Reviews - Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion

Publishers Weekly
In Bulion's tender tale set in East Africa, the traditions of chai (tea) and kanga cloth contribute to a mother's gentle lesson to her daughter. Mama and Fatuma walk to market where the girl will choose kanga cloth for a dress. Tadgell's (Just Call Me Joe Joe) luminescent watercolors depict the flowing grass and vermilion flowers that line the path to town; Mama's blue and golden kanga drapes gently over her head and shoulders. "Will you sew my new kanga when we get home from the market?" the child asks. When Mama promises to make chai as well, a trio of friendly vendors each offer a special ingredient for the brew, but none makes the chai "taste sweet like [Mama's]." Fanciful patterned borders on each spread hint at what's to come when Mama and Fatuma finally meet with the cloth vendor. Beautiful colors and fabrics fill the spreads as Fatuma searches for "a kanga the color of the deep sea and the early morning sky." When she finds it, Mama reads her the words embedded in the design--"Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar"--and explains that what makes a person special is not always evident to the eye. An author's note describes East African customs and provides a recipe for chai. Tadgell's artwork highlights the glorious colors of the area's fabrics and landscapes, and demonstrates the warmth of a closely knit community in which tradition is paramount.

Christian Science Monitor
Fatuma's New Cloth, by Leslie Bulion, takes readers to a colorful East African marketplace. There, little Fatuma and her mother shop for a new kanga cloth. With loose watercolors, illustrator Nicole Tadgell captures the friendly market vendors and their wares. Pages are bordered by various kanga designs. In addition to being bright and beautiful, each piece of fabric sports a printed message. The author makes this Swahili saying part of her narrative: "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of tea is the sugar." This proverb leads little Tuma and her mother into an affectionate conversation about how the good qualities of a person are invisible, just as the sugar that sweetens tea can't be seen. Making and drinking tea figures prominently in the book; in fact, a recipe for chai is included. But this is clearly a device for sending a positive message and for giving readers a vivid picture of contemporary East African culture.

School Library Journal
Fatuma is excited about helping her mother with the marketing in her East African village because she has been promised a kanga cloth of her own and a treat of chai, or tea, afterward. Various merchants offer opinions on the secret of perfect Chai: a dark and strong color from the leaves, a light color from creamy milk, or a shiny new saucepan to boil it in. At the cloth shop, the girl chooses a kanga that is "the color of the morning sky meeting the waves of the sea." Each kanga pattern contains a Swahili saying, and Fatuma's reads, "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar," which can't be seen. Her mother uses Tuma as an analogy and the child exclaims, "What is good about me is on the inside too!" While the message is sweet, the watercolor illustrations are somewhat blurry and washed out, and the story drifts along at a dreamy pace.

H-AfrTeach (H-Net) by Gloria Creed-Dikeogu
(c) 2003 H-Net
"...The story of Fatuma's new cloth is not about chai or kanga cloth, but about a child's journey into social learning and understanding, and we enjoy that social learning experience with her."Experience the sights, colors, sounds and tastes of East Africa with Fatuma and her mother. This book is a feast to be enjoyed by readers of any age. To young readers, the story will be perceived to be simple and straight-forward, and yet it also offers them a lot to think about. The illustrations are rich and colorful and fit the main themes of the book, which focus on the social importance of kanga cloth and chai in the lives of East African communities like Fatuma's.
"This book is highly recommended and is appropriate for any age interested in learning about African culture and tradition."

Blackberry Express
(A) great (book) for Mother's Day present(s) the special relationship between moms and daughters. Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion, illus. by Nicole Tadgell is an engaging picture book set in an East African marketplace. Fatuma and her mom search for the perfect colorful fabric for a new dress but are fortunate to discover something more on this shopping trip.

Midwest Book Review
Fatuma's New Cloth is an energetic and highly recommended children's picturebook about Fatuma, a young East African girl who learns about the complexities of the marketplace. There is even a recipe for East African chai (tea) included in this highly enjoyable tale by Leslie Bulion, whose engaging text is superbly complemented by the soft, watercolor-style illustrations by Nicole Tadgell.

"Fabulous lessons! Very highly recommended"
Fatuma and her mother plan to spend their day in the market. Along the way, various merchants suggest their wares make chai (tea) taste better, but she does not see how their offerings make the chai taste differently. Then at the cloth shop, Fatuma chooses a new kanga cloth from which her mother will make her dress. Each Kanga pattern is imprinted with a Swahili saying, many of which have more than one meaning. Fatuma chooses a kanga imprinted with this message: "Don't be fooled by the color. The good flavor of chai comes from the sugar." So she learns that just as surgery dissolves becoming something we cannot not see, so are the things make us special as impossible to see.Fatuma's New Cloth provides not only an entertaining tale, but also a fascinating peek into a vastly different culture from most American children's. In America, we teach our children, "don't judge a book by its cover." In Swahili, the same lesson is expressed as "don't judge the tea by its color." Parents will welcome the message that the value of people lies on the inside where we cannot see. In addition, parents seeking to teach their children the lessons of acceptance of other people's beliefs and culture will find the story an excellent aid. In addition, authentic East African features and kanga patterns frame the pages, lending the text an extraordinary visually pleasing appearance as charming illustrations bring the text alive. An author's note at the end aids parents to further explain the nuances of the story. Also included is a recipe for chai, allowing young children to experience the story first hand. Very highly recommended.

In America we say "don't judge a book by its color", but in Swahili it's "don't judge the tea by its color" and a young East African girl learns this lesson as readers 5-9 enter a contemporary African market with Fatuma and her mother. It's a delightful introduction to another culture as they make their way around from vender to vender.

North East Independent

an exotic tale from modern-day East Africa...Writer Leslie Bulion and illustrator Nicole Tadgell take us to an African market in search of kanga cloth and the secret to good chai. In a series of delicate watercolors we travel with little Fatuma and Mama as they touch beautiful kanga fabrics, smell sweet and savory cooking spices and talk to the market vendors during a typical day. The book also comes with a recipe for East African chai.

Skipping Stones"charming"

Reviews - No Mush Today by Sally Derby

School Library Journal: August 2008.Nonie, a young African-American girl, sits at the breakfast table with her parents and a wailing baby, sulking: "Not gonna eat my mush. /Not gonna eat it! I say./Squishy, yucky, yellow stuff/mush is baby food." She puts on her shiny black shoes, and, with her chin poked out, stomps off to live with Grandma (next door), where there's "no mushy mush or bawling babies", and where "Grandma attends when I'm talkin''". Nonie feels better as she and Grandma go to church, but when Daddy passes the collection plate, he faces a still-frowning daughter. Later, at the church picnic, her mood lightens and she allows her dad to give her a paddleboat ride. Pointing out animals, he says, "Ducklings stick with their families/Lots to learn from ducks." By day's end, Nonie has decided to return home and is greeted by her baby brother's great big smile and Momma's warm welcome. The story is told in two to four short sentences per page. The spare text deftly conveys Nonie's reactions and emotions, which are clearly reflected in Tadgell's realistic, folksy watercolors sweeping across double pages. Ultimately, this gentle story addresses the universal frustration older siblings often face at having a new baby in the family.

August 2008.Nonie refuses to eat her yucky mush porridge for breakfast ("mush is baby food"), and to get away from her bawling baby brother, she runs next door to Grandma's house, where she thinks she'd like to live because she gets the attention she craves ("Grandma attends when I'm talkin'"). Then, after she goes with Grandma to church, joins the ladies' picnic, and spends time with Daddy in a boat and on the swings, she returns home to her baby brother, now smiling and reaching for her at the gate. Maybe home isn't so bad after all. True to the young kid's viewpoint, this picture book tells the displaced-sibling story with wry affection. The warm, realistic watercolor double-page spreads show Nonie's anger, jealousy, and feeling of connections with her loving African American family and in the multiracial church community. Nonie's sulks are as much fun as the final quiet embrace, when she gives the baby the little yellow duckling toy she has been clutching throughout the day.

Rutgers: September 2008.
Nonie is fed up with her baby brother’s crying and with the cornmeal mush served at breakfast. She decides she wants to leave her family and live with Grandma next door, because at least Grandma pays attention to her and prepares better food. But later that day at the church picnic when Grandma just wants to sit, Nonie cannot resist her father’s offer of a paddleboat ride and a push on the swings. Nonie and her dad see a group of ducklings swimming with their parents, and Nonie reconsiders living at home with her family.
No Mush Today may appear to have a simple premise, but underneath the surface is an important lesson about the time demands of providing care for children. Caring for a new baby is particularly time consuming, and as the older sibling, Nonie feels she is bearing the cost when her parents are less attentive to her own wants and needs. Going to live with Grandma seems appealing, but Nonie soon realizes that there are tradeoffs when she misses her family. The rich illustrations add emotional depth to this engaging story.
Yana V. Rodgers, Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children

Kirkus Reviews: September 2008.
After her baby brother’s arrival, young Nonie must cope with the reality that she is no longer her parents’ only priority. She uses another morning of mush for breakfast as an excuse to move in with Grandma, who lives next door, and Grandma gives Nonie all the attention she craves. After services at church and a following picnic that gives her a chance to reconnect with her family—“ ‘Baby’s been missin’ me some?’ I ask. / Momma nods, attendin’ now”—Nonie decides to try living with her parents once more. Using watercolors, Tadgell creates a soft dreamlike world filled with details. Nonie’s small duck is on every page; like her family, it is always with her, and by the end of the story, she learns to share it with her sibling, just as she must learn to share her parents. The text uses dialect and some grammatically incorrect English, which does not add to the story, but is simple and straightforward. Overall, a delightful book.

M. LaVora Perry: October 2008.
Sally Derby's No Mush Today will have young children smiling and some
may nod in agreement while identifying with the spunky heroine who
feels unfairly put upon on two counts: by her breakfast menu and in
her new role as big sister. Nicole Tadgell's colorful and animated
illustrations instantly drew me in.


Américas Award, 2007 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren
Presented by the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies at the Library of Congress

Growing Good Kids Award, 2007 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Named one of Bank Street College of Education's
Best Children's Books of the Year, 2007 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Named one of Eastern Washington University's
Excellent 2006 Choices of Trade Books for Grades K-9 for
Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Children's Africana Book Award, 2003 for
Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion
Presented by the African Studies Association

Bee Balm Countdown - Day 14

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Wacom sketches

I use the Wacom tablet instead of a mouse, but I really need to learn how to draw with it. Let's see about these brushes...

This one's not bad...

Looks more like ink than "chalk", though...

Social media

I'm learning more about social media, and marketing. I created a myspace page a long time ago, but deleted it because I didn't like the interface - too many ads and flashy-things. Plus I couldn't really keep my personal life separated from my professional life.

I have a Twitter account now, it's called "nicoletadgell", but I'd like to change that to look different. Like how about capital letters and a space? Or... maybe I want it to have a name like Studio NT. I wish there was a way you could edit stuff like that, but it looks like I'd have to delete the account and start a new one? I don't know. And the 140 character thing is weird for me. How do I know what I want to say is 140 characters? If it doesn't fit, I'll have to keep rewording, then it doesn't say what I wanted. And I don't think you can edit it afterwards, like you can with blogger. I'd hate to have a spelling error and not be able to fix it.

Maybe I worry too much about stuff like that - and then there's Facebook! I've heard that you'll hear from people from long ago - some you may not want to hear from!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Moving Day Surprise by Tina Stolberg

Moving Day Surprise by Tina Stolberg published by Bebop Books, an imprint of Lee and Low.

Notice the dragon and mouse poster on the wall? A little bit of fantasy. :)

This is a spread. I still really love this painting. It's loose, transparent, says what it needs to say, and a little bit more.

Read the book and find out what happens!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren

Awards and Honors:
2007 Américas Award,  and Growing Good Kids 2007 Excellence in Children's Literature Award Winner.
Rutgers University named it one of their top 5 books by concept, it was included in Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of 2007.

Maine's A Capital Read included this book in their 2007 Children's List, and it was named an Excellent 2006 Choice of Trade Books for Grades K-9 by Eastern Washington University.




Monday, June 22, 2009

Josias - REVIEWS

Gr. 1-3. Josias lives in Haiti, where the people are poor and school is not always a possibility. It's Josias' job to care for the garden where his family grows sweet potatoes and peas. On their way to school, children ask him, "Josias, when will you hold the book?" But Josias knows he has no time for schooling. When the garden begins to fail, he tries adding first water, then dung, but nothing works. Then he has an idea. Perhaps the answer is somewhere in a book. A schoolteacher helps him with a book that explains that because the soil is tired, Josias must change crops. Now, Josias' father sees school as a good idea, though the boy's attendance will be a hardship. U.S. readers will get insight into a different culture, where poverty holds people back and schooling is a privilege--one that can make all the difference. Another interesting aspect of the story is that a child is helping lead his parents into modernity. The narrative is effective, but the pale watercolors take some of the intensity from a very different sort of story. Ilene Cooper
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
On his Haitian farm, young Josias struggles to develop his bean crop that doesn't seem to want to grow this year. Seeing his friend Chrislove walk by on his way to school, Josias refuses the daily invitation to attend and "hold the book," noting his more important role, in a joint effort to earn a living as the family's vegetable gardener. Each successive day of frustration over the lack of a bean crop results in hours of thinking and trials of providing extra water and donkey dung for fertilizer. Josias finally comes to the realization that a book might provide a working solution. Now Josias must convince his father that school will serve an important purpose in the family's livelihood. Elvgren effectively portrays the dilemma faced by a majority of small agrarian families in an impoverished and predominantly illiterate rural society. Soft watercolors in muted shades of blues and greens offer the simple beauty of the countryside. Josias's well-meaning, earnest behavior comes through in several expressive facial portrayals as he thinks about solutions to his problem. Despite the difficulties, Elvgren presents a positive look at a struggling part of the world. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

School Library Journal
ELVGREN, Jennifer Riesmeyer. Josias, Hold the Book. illus. by Nicole Tadgell. unpaged. CIP. Boyds Mills. Mar. 2006. RTE $15.95. ISBN 1-59078-318-2. LC 2005024989.
Gr 1-3-When the beans in Josias's garden won't grow, he must find a solution or his family will not have enough to eat. He tries giving the plants extra water and manure, to no avail. He asks a friend who is lucky enough to "hold the book" (attend school) if the answer might be found in a book. What Josias learns convinces him to ask his parents if, in addition to tending the garden, he can go to school. Elvgren has crafted a matter-of-fact snapshot of rural Haitian life. Tadgell's muted watercolor spreads set the tone and enhance the text. Emotions are clearly depicted, giving the characters added dimension and believability. An author's note gives a detailed account of why rural Haitians often don't attend school and of a typical primary-school day.-Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH

Library Media Connection - November/December 2006
A young Haitian boy has a problem to solve and he finds the answer when he learns to read.  Josias and his family live in rural Haiti. They eke out a living by growing beans, other vegetables, and fruit. Josias is responsible for a plot of land and does not attend school. His friends pass by on their way to class chanting "Josias, when will you hold the book?" a colloquialism for "when will you go to school?" One year, the beans n Josias' garden will not grow.  He asks his friends if books could help him get his beans to grow.  His friend Chrislove returns from school with a book about gardening, but Josias cannot read it.  He convinces his father to let him go to school to learn to read so that he can understand how to make the crops grow better.  This is a delightful story with illustrations that are like fine watercolor paintings, and text that is written in a flowing, gentle, almost poetic manner.  This is a terrific book to use as a springboard for reading motivation as well as for Social Studies. The author's note at the end explains the economic and social structure of rural Haitian society.  Recommended. Karen Sebesta, Educational Reviewer, San Antonio, Texas

Heritagekonpa Magazine
By Tequila Minsky

Trying to solve two problems: beans that won’t grow and a desire to go to school in the children’s book, Josias, Hold The Book
Sixteen lush double page watercolor illustrations and accompanying text tell a boy's story of work, problem solving, and desire to go to school. Set in rural agricultural Haiti, "Josias, Hold The Book" by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren will be published in March.
Illustrator Nicole Tadgell spent 6 months doing research and rough sketches so her double page illustrations would be accurate; the luminous images are a joy. Josias works barefoot in his garden in a landscape dotted with a few banana trees and distant mountains.
The earth is red and for those familiar with Haiti it conjures images of the mountains of Kenskoff and above where vegetables are grown for Port-au-Prince but it's not site specific; it could be in many regions.
Josias waters his garden from a big white plastic bucket; his sister carries a red jug for water. The children wear shoes and colorful uniforms to school--appropriately red and blue( the color of the Haitian flag ). Laundry is draped over the line, no clothespins.
Everyone contributes to the livelihood of Josias' family who live in the agricultural countryside; Josias spends his days tending his garden. As children pass on their way to school his friend greets him and asks, "When will you join us and hold the book?"
Josias observes that this year the beans he's planted-as usual, been between rows of sweet potatoes and peas- are not growing, the problem that needs to be resolved.
Josias references his father's successful gardening techniques to solve the situation and through these attempts a picture of rural life is revealed. Josias and his sisters walk a mile to get more water; he adds extra donkey dung to the garden. As each attempt is unsuccessful Josias wracks his brain for a solution to get the beans to grow. Each day his friend passes on the way to school asking, "When will you hold the book?"
When one of the schoolchildren drops an armful of books along the road it triggers a new possible solution, "maybe books can tell me how to make my beans grow." His friend agrees to ask Teacher who sends home a book with pictures of fruits and vegetables he'd never seen. His friend explains, "The book says that the soil all over Haiti is need to plant the beans in a different spot and plant something else where the beans were."
Josias must then tell his father about the problem, possible solution, and his desire to "hold the book."
Much is revealed: the agricultural rural family as a working unit, school as a privilege not a given, environmental issues. More subtle: girls are in the background–definitely a Haitian reality. (But, there are changes even in this.)
The small details are illustrative while exploring the pictures. Trees are few. Long mounds of soil make up the garden beds. Mother cooks in a large pot on an open flame. When Josias finally goes to school he wears his shoes.
This book adds to the very small number of children's books depicting life in Haiti and can add as a jumping off point to talk about how life is in the countryside and how different it is from American life. It reveals family priorities, working together for survival and speaks to the sacrifices made to get an education. It also points to patriarchal family structure.
The main subject Josias' best friend is named Chrislove. Janine Anis, retired New York City educator and initiator of the Bilingual (Haitian-Creole/English) program in the New York schools commented that it is a good story which she would buy and would have great value for bilingual students and can help validate the experience of the emigrant. However, she did observe that the secondary character's name, Chrislove, though it exists, is not a typical Haitian name-she had never heard it before- and appears to be an English name. Furthermore, there might be issues: use of this name could be construed as having religious connotations. It is unfortunate that the author chose this name for the secondary character. Educator Lily Cerat felt more strongly that there is a religious subtext: Chrislove, the Book.
A children's librarian for the New York Public Library commented that it's usually adults who react to names and draw possible connotations, children don't. Though the book is targeted for ages 6-9, its greatest value, she believes is if an adult who can add context and explanation to the story of children whose lives are so different from their own introduces it.
Ms. Cerat also took issue when Josias says the line, "I have no use for reading and writing when there is a garden to weed." She commented, "Even poor Haitians have a great respect for education."
There are so few English children’s books about Haiti available that book professionals, educators, and the librarian agreed that a book illustrated as it is so beautifully, adds to the highly limited selection of books about this region. Its value also is as a jumping point for discussion with adults about the relationship with parents, the role of education, and how different or not are other cultures.
The author, Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren, has sponsored children in Haiti. Nicole Tadgell has illustrated a number of children’s books and won the Africana Book Award for Fatuma’s New Cloth, about a girl in Tanzania.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Josias, Hold the Book - Articles and reviews

Josias, Hold the Book by Jennifer Riesmeyer Elvgren. Published by Boyds Mills Press. Find it at your local bookstore, or order from Amazon!

Caribbean Life, 

Central Mass Magazine,

Spencer New Leader,

 Worcester Living Magazine