Posts filed under ‘Kids 4-8’

Author/Illustrator Matt Whitlock this Sunday

Matt Whitlock currently an artist for Nickelodeon TV show, “The Fairly Odd Parents.” Former Disney artist, part-time author/illustrator, full-time pop-culture junkie will be at OnceUpon a Story Sunday, December 7th at 2:00PM


Matt will talk about his book Punk’s Christmas Carol and give a drawing demonstration.

Learn more about Matt here


see all his books here

December 1, 2008 at 3:54 am Leave a comment

Agate:What Good is a Moose?

Review by Kristen McLean

Agate cover

Agate: What good is a moose? by Joy Morgan Dey, illustrated by Nikki Johnson

Lake Superior Port Cities; April 2007; 32 pp; $17.95 HC


Core Audience: Children 4-8; Anyone who has ever felt outshined

Strengths: Luminous artwork; great message

If you have been reading pixiestix for awhile you are probably aware of my feelings about marginal books that are either self-published, or that are produced by small presses that don’t quite get how to put the total package together. I receive hundreds of unsolicited pitches every year for these kinds of books, and when you combine that with the thousands of mainstream books that flow across my desk in a given year, it really takes something to make me sit up.

And this, my friends, is that something.

Meet Agate, the hero of this wonderful and unexpected picture book from a pair of artists and a small regional press from Duluth, MN. Agate is in a metaphysical quandary. “What good is a moose?” he asks when he compares himself to all of his other “birthstone” friends, like Garnet the Crocodile, Emerald the Lion, and Sapphire the Hippo.


He has a big case of the inferiors, and any child who has ever felt dull will recognize themselves here. At the back of the book, there is a nice appendix that talks about birthstone gems. The writing and rhymes here are very sweet, but what really makes this book is the incredible watercolor illustration presented on a sparkling white ground.



These are just quick scans. For the full effect, get a copy and check out how eye-popping they really are. I particularly like the way Nikki Johnson has let the natural flow of the paint create the rich texture of the animals in motion.

This book really has it all: clean uncluttered design, a nice story, a good message, a eye-catching cover, fresh art, and the element of surprise. This proves the point that a small press with no background in kid’s books really can do a great job. Amazing books can come from anywhere, which why it is SO important that people setting off to make a picture book (or indeed any book) for the first time really understand what it takes, and know the market.

Apparently the author and illustrator brought the project to the press. Bravo to Lake Superior Port Cities for recognizing that Agate really is a gem of the highest order.

agate stone



August 17, 2008 at 9:01 pm Leave a comment

Scardey Squirrel at the Beach

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach
By Melanie Watt
Kids Can Press, $15.95
32 pages, ISBN 9781554532254
Ages 4-8

Playing it safe at the beach


The title of this book says it all. As the first page explains: “Scaredy Squirrel never goes to the beach. He’d rather vacation at home alone where it’s safe than risk being surrounded by the wrong crowd.” Specifically, he fears sea monsters, pirates, seagulls, jellyfish, coconuts and lobsters.

To avoid all of this, Scaredy Squirrel decides to build his own beach, with things like an inflatable pool, a plastic flamingo and kitty litter (for sand). Once he sets it up, however, Scaredy Squirrel realizes he’s missing one crucial thing: the sound of the ocean. To remedy this, he decides to go to the beach and grab a seashell that he can listen to back home at his private beach.

The great fun of the Scaredy Squirrel books (this is the third) is Melanie Watt’s amusing text and artwork. Often the pages are in the form of a how-to manual, such as a spread showing our hero’s “Guide to Building a Safe Beach,” or another spread called “Beach Map (Mission: Operation Seashell).” Such pages are whimsically detailed, giving young readers plenty to look at and laugh at. No doubt they’ll love the diagram showing the squirrel’s “beachwear,” which includes no less than nine items—one of which is “protective headgear for falling coconuts.”

Scaredy Squirrel launches an intricate plan to reach the beach (involving a passport and a delivery truck), and once there, he is quite surprised to find that the beach is crowded, which makes him panic. He plays dead, but eventually finds the perfect seashell. What’s more, he begins to relax and enjoy himself. In the end, he discovers that he actually likes the beach—and, as a result, he decides to make one final adjustment to his beach back home.

Young readers will love this book, which brims with humor and clever diagrams and illustrations. And Scaredy Squirrel is so darn cute that kids may want to try their own hand at drawing this lovable character. With luck, they’ll also take the book’s message to heart, and learn to venture beyond their comfort zones and to overcome their fears.

July 4, 2008 at 2:15 am Leave a comment


December 2018
« Nov    

Posts by Month

Posts by Category