Book Launch: Tortoise and Hare’s Amazing Race

TortoiseHareMarianne Berkes and Cathy Morrison are not newcomers to children’s books, Tortoise and Hare’s Amazing Race is their third book together at Arbordale and individually each of these ladies has an impressive collection of stories and book awards. We are happy to release this adaptation of the classic fable and bring a bit of math into the race!

To learn more about the inspiration behind Marianne’s writing here is a sample of her interview:

CathyMorrisonWhat drew you to writing, children’s books ?

As a child our home was filled with books and music. I wrote plays that my friends and I performed in the summer, in our backyard. My dad even helped us build some of the scenery. Reading, writing, music and theater have been a constant in my life. In high school I did interviews for the school paper, and in college wrote my first picture book for a children’s lit class. But it was many years later, after I moved to Florida, that I said “I can do this!” Reading so many books to children at the library where I worked, I kept coming up with ideas of my own. Because I love kids and love “words” I started submitting my stories to publishers, and one day…

What do you hope children get out of your stories?

An appreciation of our earth and respect for nature. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child and still do. Discovering nature is a life-long adventure that I hope kids today still appreciate. Nature has so many stories to tell and is available to anybody, any place, any time. I hope kids will be entertained by my books, but also that they will want to learn more about the topic. My first book, published in 2000, was about frogs making music in the night. Hopefully after reading this book, kids will go outside in the early evening, especially after a rain, and listen for the sounds I’ve written about. I’ve followed with stories about birds, shells, creatures living in an ocean reef, rainforest animals, Arctic animals, animals that migrate, Australian animals, forest animals (like Polly Possum) and river animals. In Arbordale’s The Tree that Bear Climbed kids also learn how a tree grows, and Daisylocks is about plant life. I’ve also written a book about the planets that I hope kids enjoy. How can we ask them to save the earth, if they don’t learn to appreciate it first? My books are lyrical in verse, making it easy and fun for kids to read with lots of fact blended in. I want kids to really get inside my books, to read them more than once, each time finding something new and exciting!

Do you want to know more read the full interview here!

Leave a comment and enter to win your own copy of Tortoise and Hare’s Amazing Race! Then click below for fun math activities in the For Creative Minds section.

Pages from TortoiseHare_FCM

Book Launch Week

In case you haven’t heard Sylvan Dell is launching nine new books this week! Each of these books is a labor of love for the authors, illustrators and editors as well as the staff in the office as we prep for the day that the books finally arrive and join the others! We are excited as each season brings new lessons in habitats and exciting creatures for children to learn about. Over the course of the coming weeks we will dive into each book, and feature activities, coloring pages, author interviews and a few fun science facts! But first, just in case you have missed each of our titles here is a collage of covers!

Want more information about each book visit Connect with us via Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for giveaways and more exciting news!

A Conversation with Susan Detwiler

Illustrator: One Wolf Howls, Panda’s Earthquake Escape, Big Cat Little Kitty and coming 2013 On the Move: Seasonal Migration

You have a very creative professional background—what led you to children’s illustration?

I have loved making art from early childhood, and was always attracted to books with great illustrations. By the time I was in high school I decided that being a professional illustrator was my goal. I went to the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and studied graphic design and illustration. While I was a student I worked part-time as a sign painter. After that I got a job in the art department of a printing company, where I learned about how artwork is reproduced. Eventually, I was hired as a staff illustrator for an advertising agency and while I worked there I also began freelancing at night and on weekends. I liked freelance work so much that I decided to do it exclusively. My favorite assignments are for children’s publishing and so I seek them out, with help I have found from the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators.

What type of medium do you use for your illustrations? Any particular reason you prefer this?

Pencil is my favorite medium for drawing, but I like watercolor and gouache for painting, and I enjoy drawing in ink, either with a pen or a brush. The illustrations for One Wolf Howls were done in watercolor on Strathmore illustration board, but Pandas’ Earth-quake Escape was done entirely in soft pastel on variously colors of paper, which was a fun departure from my usual style. For Big Cat, Little Kitty, I combined the two — I applied pastel details to watercolor paintings — because I wanted the colors to be vibrant. Also, I have become more adept at digital media, and use it to augment my images.

How much research do you do when getting ready for a book?

I spend a lot of time at the beginning of a book assignment doing research at the library and online. I like to have many photographs in front of me when I work so that I can fully understand the structure, texture, and light/shadows of what I am trying to depict. It also helps to know other details about the subject, so along with gathering pictures I also read about what I am illustrating.

What is the most frequently asked question you are asked as an illustrator?

I am often asked how long it takes me to do an illustration. Each spread takes several weeks from start to finish.

Any tips for aspiring artists?

Make art often and practice different styles by mimicking your favorite artists’ work. Eventually you will have a style that is all your own. Use your ability to make images wherever possible in school, to illustrate reports, make posters for school events, etc.

What is your favorite aspect of the illustration process?

My ideas feed off the ideas of others. When I am given an exciting assignment, my head fills with images and I cannot wait to start to work in the morning. Each new job is an exciting challenge; sometimes I can hardly believe how lucky I am to get paid to do this! My new goal is that my pictures touch people in the same way that I was affected by the illustrations I saw as a child.

Pick a Classic Picture Book

Update! Update! You voted and congratulations to Little Skinks Tail, picked by Sylvan Dell Blog readers as our classic book.

Thank you to everyone one who sent in comments we love to hear your feedback!

The dog days of summer are here; across the country, cities are recording record heat waves, a perfect time for kid’s summer reading programs to hit full swing. While taking cover from the heat at a local bookstore, I perused the children’s section only to find classic picture books greet me at the end of the aisle.  Books with timeless characters and silly rhymes, that many adults learned to read with and now their children are learning to read with these same characters.

Although Sylvan Dell is a young publisher, and science and math are our favorite subjects, we hope that Sylvan Dell readers will share their favorites with their children someday. Help us pick a classic from our 70 titles, and we will feature the winner as an eBook of the month.