For the Love of Books and Baseball: Interview With Author/Illustrator Matt Tavares

tavaresauthorphotoMatt Tavares has turned his lifelong passion for baseball into a library of extraordinary picture books for the world to enjoy. And he’s illustrated a number of books on other subjects too. His latest title about baseball, Growing Up Pedro is so beautifully illustrated and well written that you don’t even have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it. After I read it several times and admired the artwork for a good, long while, my curiosity about Growing Up Pedro a masterpiece of a biography for children – left me with a list of questions I was eager to get answered. I’m sure you’ll be just as impressed as I was to discover how this incredibly talented author and artist (since toddlerhood) achieves a level of excellence in his children’s books that is difficult to match. Hint: It involves a great deal of raw talent and an incredible work ethic.

How old were you when you got hooked on baseball, and did you play yourself?

FenwayParkBaseball was a part of my life from the time I was very young. I played youth baseball, and kept playing right up through high school. For as long as I can remember, I always loved playing wiffle ball with my friends, collecting baseball cards, watching the Red Sox and drawing baseball players. I grew up near Boston and got to go to Red Sox games with my dad. That’s probably what got me hooked more than anything. Fenway Park is still one of my favorite places, and it’s pretty special for me to be able to bring my daughters there now.

Image of Fenway Park int he Public Domain

“I think I gained a lot of confidence from having this one thing that I was pretty good at, and it just made me want to draw more, which made me slowly get better at it.”

How old were you when you realized you had a talent for art?

My parents say that even when I was 2 years old, I was always drawing. By the time I was in elementary school, I started getting attention for being able to draw well. At indoor recess, kids in my class would ask me to draw different things, and I would draw pictures at home and bring them in to show my teacher. I think I gained a lot of confidence from having this one thing that I was pretty good at, and it just made me want to draw more, which made me slowly get better at it.

It sure sounds like you were destined to be an artist. Can you tell us about the strange ocean voyage several thousand copies of Growing Up Pedro went through to get to Los Angeles?

Yeah, the advance copies didn’t arrive when they were supposed to, and at first I heard it was due to some weather-related delay. But then the publication date arrived, and the books still weren’t here. Turns out they were trapped on a cargo ship off the coast of Los Angeles, unable to dock due to a labor dispute at the port. The ship had come all the way from China, but then it was stuck there for over five weeks until the dispute was over. Fortunately, the first books arrived just in time for my first book signing, a few weeks after the publication date. And at least they were here in time for baseball season.

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That must have been unnerving. yet it adds so much to the story behind your book. Can you elaborate on the extensive research process you went through before writing Growing Up Pedro, and how long did that take you?

I spent about a year working exclusively on Growing Up Pedro, but my research started about a year before that. At that point, I was still working on another book too, so I’d work on the illustrations for that book during the day, then read about Pedro at night. My first step was to read every article and interview I could find and learn everything I could about his life. I also gathered hundreds of photographs and video clips, to use as reference for my illustrations. The most rewarding part of my research for this book was my trip to the Dominican Republic. My family usually takes a trip to Florida in the winter, but last year my extremely supportive wife and kids agreed to skip Florida and travel to the Dominican Republic instead. So it was part family vacation, part research trip. We got to drive up into the countryside and visit some places where it still looks just how it did when Pedro was a kid. It was incredibly helpful to be able to experience these places in person, instead of just finding pictures online.

GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

What was the experience like traveling to the Dominican Republic, and what did you uncover about Pedro Martinez that you had not known before you went?

It was a pretty amazing experience. Most of my research in the DR wasn’t really focused on Pedro Martinez, but on the hqdefaultplace. I took hundreds of pictures of the houses, trees (especially the mango trees), and scenery, and just tried to soak it all in, so all the details in my illustrations could be as authentic as possible. It was great to get back to my studio after that trip and use all these memories that were fresh in my mind and incorporate them into my illustrations. It made the whole book feel much more personal for me.

GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

One thing I did learn about Pedro during that trip was just how beloved he is among the people there. I guess I knew that already, but I was actually surprised by how universally adored he seemed to be. People are just so proud of all he has accomplished, and all he has given back. So many people I encountered were eager to help me, once they heard I was working on a book about Pedro Martinez.

“I still think of myself more as an illustrator than as a writer, so I really appreciate it when people say nice things about my writing.”

I enjoyed the verse-style text you use in the book and was wondering if it was challenging for you in any way to write this biography for such a young audience?

Thanks! I still think of myself more as an illustrator than as a writer, so I really appreciate it when people say nice things about my writing. I guess the greatest challenge in writing this book was wading through the sea of information and trying to decide what story I wanted to tell, what information I wanted to include, and how it was all going to fit into a 40-page picture book. In a book like this, I find that I really need to narrow my focus. If I try to do too much and tell everything that’s ever happened in a person’s life, the whole thing falls flat.

My earlier drafts were way too long, and followed Pedro’s career right up until the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004. But with the help of my editor, I decided that what really made this story special was the theme of brotherhood. This wasn’t just the story of Pedro Martinez, it was a story about two brothers who both overcame so many obstacles together. Once I established that, it was easier to decide which moments in Pedro’s life to include and which ones to leave out. Winning the World Series was certainly a major moment in Pedro’s big league career, but it wasn’t really a part this story, so in the end, I only mentioned it in the afterward.

“I never really work from life when I’m working on a book, mostly because it’s a lot easier to get someone to pose for a photograph than it is to ask them to stand there for 50 hours while I paint them!”

Watch this 3-minute drawing lesson with Matt Tavares

What medium(s) did you use for the book and do you paint from photographs, real life, or a combination of both?

I used watercolor, with some gouache here and there, mostly for highlights. I use a lot of reference photos to ensure that all the details in my illustrations are historically accurate. And I often find people to pose for me as my characters, and take photos or videos, which I use to help my drawing. I never really work from life when I’m working on a book, mostly because it’s a lot easier to get someone to pose for a photograph than it is to ask them to stand there for 50 hours while I paint them!

Usually the composition of my illustration comes from my imagination, and I mostly use reference photos for historical accuracy and to help with details like folds in the fabric, or lighting.

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© Copyright image of Matt at work in his studio, courtesy of Matt Tavares

“Then I got out my tiny paintbrushes and tried to make the little adjustments I needed to make. I felt like I was heading into surgery, and I was either going to rescue my picture or destroy it.”

Your ability to recreate the likeness of Pedro and his brother Ramon is remarkable. Are there specific techniques you use to accomplish this or does it just come natural to you?

DSC_0002Really, it’s just a matter of going back and making tiny little changes until I felt like everything looked right. The first time I thought I finished my cover illustration, I snapped a picture of it and emailed it to my editor and art director to see what they thought. They both loved it, except they thought that it didn’t quite look like Pedro. So I put it away for a few days to help me see it with fresh eyes. Then I got out my tiny paintbrushes and tried to make the little adjustments I needed to make. I felt like I was heading into surgery, and I was either going to rescue my picture or destroy it. Fortunately, Mr. Martinez came out of the procedure looking much more like himself!

GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

How do you manage to capture light and accurately depict the time of day in such astonishingly beautiful ways?

Wow, thanks again. I guess it comes from careful observation, and lots of trial and error. Watercolor can be so tricky and unpredictable, so there are plenty of times when I’m trying to achieve a certain effect and it just doesn’t work. But that’s when I start over and try it a different way.

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GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

The relationship Ramon and Pedro have had all their lives is heartwarming and inspiring for kids. During your research did you ever discover any rivalry or jealousy between them at all, since they had to play against one another at times?

Amazingly, no. The only rivalry I ever came across was friendly and good-natured: seeing who could knock down the most mangoes when they were throwing rocks at the mango trees. Pedro would openly root for Ramon, even when their teams were playing against each other. Their bond was so much greater than even that of brothers. Ramon played such a large role in helping to raise Pedro, and Pedro has said many times that everything he learned in life, he learned from Ramon.

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GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Can you tell us what you learned about how Pedro has helped his family members and the people of the Dominican Republic since becoming wealthy and famous?

This is something I didn’t know about Pedro during his playing days. He has done some amazing work to help the people of the Dominican Republic, especially the children of his hometown, Manoguayabo. He has built schools, churches, and dozens of homes for families, and he’s started academic programs to ensure that the kids of Manoguayabo get a great education.

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How wonderful that he puts his wealth and fame to such great use! Have you met Pedro Martinez and has he had anything to say about your book?

I got to meet Pedro a few years ago, before I started working on the book. But he didn’t have any direct involvement with the making of Growing Up Pedro. I contacted his agent early on, but he told me that Pedro had just signed a book deal to write his memoir, so he couldn’t help me with my book. Fortunately, Pedro has done thousands of interviews over the years, so I had plenty of information to work with. I sent him a copy not too long ago, but I don’t know if he has seen it yet.

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Once he does see it, I imagine he’ll be overwhelmed by it. After reading your book, I was inspired to read more about Martinez and his success and positive press was overwhelming. I uncovered the Don Zimmer incident too and wondered what you thought of that?

Yes, I remember watching it. Pedro has said that is the one thing he regrets about his career. In his defense, it was sort of a no-win situation. Don Zimmer himself said that he wanted to “put my head in his chest and bowl him over and nail him”. Zimmer also said that Pedro “didn’t do nothing wrong.”

Watch a video about Don Zimmer discussing his fight with Pedro Martinez

Pedro had someone charging at him and had to decide in that split-second what to do. He sort of re-directed Zimmer and tossed him aside. I think they both felt really bad about it afterward. I know Yankee fans see it one way, but I guess that’s our right as sports fans, to be completely biased and unreasonable! I never condone fighting, but it’s just something that happens in baseball sometimes, unfortunately.

“Try to come up with a story that hasn’t told before. Even if you’re writing about a well-known person, try to find some different angle, something about the person that isn’t the same as what you’re finding in other books.”

I have to agree with you. Given the circumstances, I believe I would have reacted the same way Pedro did. What advice do you have for someone who wishes to write and illustrate sports figure biographies for children?

Try to come up with a story that hasn’t told before. Even if you’re writing about a well-known person, try to find some different angle, something about the person that isn’t the same as what you’re finding in other books.

Excellent advice. What book is next for you?

I just finished my next book, which is called Crossing Niagara (unless we change the title). It’s a picture book about the first person who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope. It will be published by Candlewick in Spring, 2016.

9781455617661That’s sounds like a terrific story for a picture book. For your research, I recommend you check out the awesome picture book, Barreling Over Niagara Falls by Nancy Kelly Allen, the true story of Annie Edison Taylor, the first person to ride over Niagara falls in a barrel and live to tell about it.

Matt, thanks so much for sharing your passion for baseball, books and art with us. I can’t imagine a more perfect day than reading Growing Up Pedro and taking your child to a baseball game on the same day. Without the inside stories from artists and authors like you, none of us would know just how much thought, research and work goes into educating our children with outstanding books like Growing Up Pedro; you make it look so easy, but now we know there’s a lot more to the story than the story itself.

The next time you come down to Florida with your family, perhaps you can plan ahead so you can attend a Miami Marlins vs. Boston Red Sox game. We’ve got a spectacular new state-of-the-art stadium here in Miami with a retractable roof, and honestly there are as many Red Sox fans as Marlins fans at those games.

Readers, visit Matt Tavares’ website here.

Read my review of Growing Up Pedro here.

Buy Growing Up Pedro here.

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Celebrating 10 Years of Stink Moody With a Three Book Giveaway!

Stink10We’re celebrating the 10-year Anniversary of Stink Moody with Candlewick Press!

Candlewick press has reprinted two previous Stink Moody titles in paperback form and has published a new hard cover title, and today we are giving away a copy of all three of these books to one lucky winner. There’s a brand new, interactive Stink Moody website too, that will entertain readers for hours. There’s a heck of a lot to celebrate here, so let’s get going!

Scroll to the bottom for giveaway rules.

STINK Logo used with by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

“I Stink, therefore I am.”

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In case you are unfamiliar with Stink Moody, first came the incredibly popular Judy Moody series. Stink is Judy’s younger brother, and he felt he deserved a series all of his own. . .

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Book #1

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STINK & THE SHARK SLEEPOVER. Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McDonald and illustrations copyright by Peter H. Reynolds, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Stink and the Shark Sleepover

•    Targeted Audience: Lower & Upper Elementary (Ages 6-9)
•    Genre: Fiction, Early Chapter Book
•    Author: Megan McDonald
•    Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
•    Publisher: Candlewick Press
•    Publication Date: (Reprint) February 10, 2015
•    Binding: Paperback
•    Dimensions: 5.5″ x .7″
•    Printing: Black & White
•    Length: 176 Pages
•    Retail: $4.99
•    ISBN: 978-0763676780

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STINK & THE SHARK SLEEPOVER. Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McDonald and illustrations copyright by Peter H. Reynolds, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Candlewick Press Synopsis

In this title in the Stink Series, when Stink and his friends get to sleep over at the aquarium, it’s a science freak’s dream come true. Stink loves the sea-creature scavenger hunt, the jellyfish light show, and the sand tiger sharks with razor-sharp teeth. But after some spooky stories around the virtual campfire, can he manage to fall asleep thinking about Bloody Mary, the mutant Frankensquid that’s supposed to be on the prowl?

Book #2

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JUDY MOODY & STINK: THE BIG BAD BLACKOUT. Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McDonald and illustrations copyright by Peter H. Reynolds, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Judy Moody & Stick: The Big Blackout

•    Targeted Audience: Lower & Upper Elementary (Ages 6-9)
•    Genre: Fiction, Early Chapter Book
•    Author: Megan McDonald
•    Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
•    Publisher: Candlewick Press
•    Publication Date: (Reprint) March 10, 2015
•    Binding: Paperback
•    Dimensions: 5.5″ x .7″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length: 144 Pages
•    Retail: $6.99
•    ISBN: 978-0763676650

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JUDY MOODY & STINK: THE BIG BAD BLACKOUT. Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McDonald and illustrations copyright by Peter H. Reynolds, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Candlewick Press Synopsis

The whole Moody family hunkers down with beans and batteries, ready to wait out a storm. But along with massive rain and strong winds that knock the lights O-U-T out, Hurricane Elmer throws down ghosts, squirrels, and aliens. Spooky! But musical board games, s’mores, and some good old-fashioned storytelling turn bad weather into a happy memory in Judy and Stink’s third full-color adventure.

Book #3

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STINK MOODY IN MASTER OF DISASTER. Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McDonald and illustrations copyright by Edwin Madrid, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Stink Moody in Maser of Disaster

•   Targeted Audience: Lower & Upper Elementary (Ages 6-9)
•    Genre: Fiction, Early Chapter Book
•    Author: Megan McDonald
•    Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
•    Publisher: Candlewick Press
•    Publication Date: March 10, 2015
•    Binding: Paperback
•    Dimensions: 6″ x  9″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length: 64 Pages
•    Retail: $12.99
•    ISBN: 978-0763674472

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STINK MOODY IN MASTER OF DISASTER. Text copyright © 2015 by Megan McDonald and illustrations copyright by Edwin Madrid, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Candlewick Press Synopsis

Look up! Look out! A comet is coming, a comet is coming in this brand new Judy Moody and Friends title! Stink is camped out in the backyard with his sister, Judy, and he can’t wait to lay eyes on P/2015 OZ4, also known as the Sherman-Holm Comet. But then news of an asteroid hitting Russia reaches Stink, and suddenly he’s feeling squeamish (and squash-ish) about close encounters of the outer-space kind. Will donning an aluminum-foil cape and building a bunker in the basement help keep him safe? Can this fearless Asteroid Boy save Earth from disaster?

What Stink Moody Teaches

Stink is a pretty brainy third grade kid and Judy Moody’s younger brother. He is always seeking the truth on just about every subject imaginable – like science and history –  and it’s this knowledge that saves the day. This kid reads the encyclopedia just for fun. The facts in the books are all true too!

Stink books are not only entertaining to read, but kids ages 6-9 can hone their independent reading skills with these action-packed stories. There’s so much dialog that the basics of grammar are part of the learning experience, and before long readers get to know the proper punctuation for quotations! YAHOO!!

Children not only get hooked on the Stink Series, but these stories inspire them to want to read more books on a variety of different subjects. Teachers love using Stink in their classrooms too, and now with a new, interactive website, including teachers’ guides, there are so many ways to use these books as teaching tools. Kids can even design their own comics.

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© Copyright – Image courtesy of Candlewick Press

Why not collect every book in the series?

Why You Should Buy Stink Moody Books

Judy and Stink Moody are so popular, with millions of copies sold, because the books are hilarious and Megan McDonald has done an amazing job developing the characters. They’re super smart, but yet they’re kids through and through, and readers can associate with them on so many levels. The dialog in every book is engaging, and that – along with some cool made up words – keeps the reader’s attention. Peter Reynolds’ and Edwin Madrid’s eye-catching illustrations are super entertaining and help make the smooth transition from picture books to chapter books without a hitch. Megan McDonald writes with wit and humor in a manner young readers can understand – yet they are challenged and never patronized – and the stories aren’t predictable either. There’s nothing like a young reader who can’t wait for the next book in a favorite series to come out!

Happy Ten Year Anniversary Stink!

About the Author

4397.MMcDonald.bst.med.1 Megan McDonald has penned over 60 books for children and young readers, including the critically acclaimed Judy Moody series. These hilarious books have won numerous awards, ranging from a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and an International Reading Association Children’s Choice to the first-ever Beverly Cleary Children’s Choice Award. “Judy has taken on a life of her own,” the author notes, with millions of Judy Moody books in print worldwide. Recently, Megan McDonald has recalled some of her own childhood by writing about the warmth, humor — and squabbles — of three spunky sisters in The Sisters Club trilogy, wrapping up with Cloudy With a Chance of Boys. Megan McDonald lives and writes in northern California with her husband, a frequent collaborator.

About the Illustrators

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Peter H. Reynolds and his twin brother, Paul (now his business partner) made their first foray into publishing at the age of seven, when they began producing their own newspapers and comic books on their father’s photocopier.  Peter recalls that when he was approached about illustrating Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody, he jumped at the chance. For one thing, the feisty, independent Judy reminded him of his own daughter, who was eleven years old at the time. But it was Judy’s younger “bother”, Stink, who would strike the greatest chord within Peter.  Founder of the award-winning educational media developer and publisher FableVision, where he produces award-winning children’s broadcast programming, educational videos, and multimedia applications, Peter H. Reynolds was recently honored by Verizon as Literacy Leader of the Year. The author-illustrator lives with his family in Dedham, Massachusetts.

team2Erwin Madrid was born in the Philippines and grew up in San Jose, California. He earned his BFA in Illustration from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco, CA. During college he worked for DreamWorks Animation on the movie, Shrek 2 and later, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa. He has also created conceptual art for video games and is the illustrator of The Scary Places Map Book by B. G. Hennessy, and of the four other Judy Moody & Friends titles. Erwin Madrid lives in California.

Check out the NEW Interactive Stink Moody website!

 Enter for a Chance to Win Three Stink Moody Titles!

  1. Enter the giveaway by Liking our Facebook Page (if you haven’t already).
  2. Leave a valid comment on this post on this website.
  3. Optional: Receive 10 extra entries by sharing this giveaway from our Facebook Page. Go to the Facebook page and from there, click share on the link to this giveaway. If you share it from your own Facebook status and not from the Smart Book Facebook Page, I will not know about it, so it will not count.
  4. There will be one winner for this Stink Giveaway selected at random, residing in the USA. No books will be mailed outside the USA.
  5. This giveaway starts on Monday, March 16, 2015 and ends on Monday, March 30, 2015 at 4 pm.
  6. The winner will be notified via email on March 30, 2015.
  7. Book will be mailed by March 31, 2015.
  8. Follow us on our Facebook Page to learn about more giveaways and read reviews and interviews.

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Home by Carson Ellis: It’s Anywhere You Want it to Be

0763665290

Cover image – Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Home

•   Targeted Audience: Preschool, Lower Elementary (Ages 4-8)
•    Genre: Fiction, Picture Book
•    Author/Illustrator: Carson Ellis
•    Publisher: Candlewick Press
•    Publication Date:February 24, 2015
•    Binding: Hardcover
•    Dimensions: 10″ x .12″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length:40 Pages
•    Retail: $16.99
•    ISBN: 978-0763665296

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HOME. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Carson Ellis, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

How This Book Came to Be

Carson Ellis had been illustrating other authors’ books for nearly ten years when she decided it was about time she wrote and illustrated her own book. She liked the thought of letting the illustrations tell the story rather than telling the story first and then illustrating it. The idea came to her to write Home because she loves looking at architectural styles and drawing different types of buildings. What better buildings to draw than houses? And what more variety of buildings can there be than houses?

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HOME. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Carson Ellis, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Home Sweet Home

indexHome can be a house in the country, an apartment or even a palace. It can be a clean or messy home, short or tall home, Home can be living on the road or even underwater, in a shoe or a house on the moon. Home can be wherever you want it to be – real or imagined.

HOME. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Carson Ellis, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

A Visual Wonderland of a Book

Starting with its roomy trim size, (10″ x 12″) Home makes a bold statement. The cover is so inviting that Candlewick Press chose to feature it on their Spring 2015 Catalog. Carson uses goucahe and ink on watercolor paper for her illustrations and even hand letters the simple text. The book is printed on sturdy matte paper, and with each sizable two-page spread comes an awe-inspiring reading and visual experience. Her creativity in depicting houses from real to absurd inspires readers’ imaginations to soar to new heights.

 

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HOME. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Carson Ellis, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Why You Should Buy This Book

Home teaches children that people live in many different ways and many different places. Young children love looking for little details in illustrations, and they’re sure to find them here. You’ll be smitten with the way Carson Ellis uses people and animals in her pictures. Her sheer creativity in the different structures she comes up with and the humans and animals who occupy them is extraordinary. Home is beautiful and whimsical and just a perfect, original picture book that entertains, educates and delights.

Buy Home Here

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About the Author

artistCarson Ellis previously illustrated The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket and Dillweed’s Revenge by Florence Parry Heide. She also collaborated with her husband, Colin Meloy, on the best-selling Wildwood series. Carson Ellis lives with her family outside Portland, Oregon.

Further Learning

  1. Read the Author’s Note.
  2. Learn more about different cultures on Time for Kids.
  3. Get some ideas about teaching architecture to kids from KinderArt.

Growing Up Pedro: The story of the Martinez Brothers Rise to Baseball Fame

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GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Growing Up Pedro

•        Targeted Audience: Upper Elementary & Middle School (Ages 8-12)
•        Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
•        Author/Illustrator: Matt Tavares
•        Publisher: Candlewick Press
•        Publication Date: February 10, 2015
•        Binding: Hard Cover
•        Dimensions: 10″ x 12″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 40 Pages
•        Retail: $16.99
•        ISBN: 978-0763668242

 An Improbable Rise to the Top

GrowingUpPedroInside1Growing Up Pedro tells the story of how two Martinez brothers rose to the top of their game, despite many obstacles. . .

Growing up poor in a big family in Manoguayabo in the Dominican Republic, Pedro Martinez loved baseball more than anything. As a very young boy, he watched his older brother, Ramon play with neighborhood kids, but was told he was too little to handle a hard ball. Ramon was the best child pitcher around town, and he looked out for his five younger siblings, including Pedro. On his own, Pedro practiced pitching by throwing rocks at ripe mangoes.

By the time Ramon was 16, the Los Angeles Dodgers offered him a contract paying him $5,000. For the Martinez family, that was a lot of money! Ramon could finally afford to buy Pedro his first baseball glove. Pedro tagged along with Ramon when he traveled to training camp, and kept on practicing. By the time he was sixteen, he too tried out for the Dodgers, and after 30 days, the Dodgers decided to give him a chance in the Minors. He was small and thin, so he started out as a relief pitcher, and oh what an excellent relief pitcher he was. Eventually he got traded to the Montreal Expos, and by 1997 he became the best pitcher in the National League, with a 97-MPH fast ball. He pitched to help the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004 and is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

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GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Outstanding Illustrations Bring to Life a Most Inspiring Story

Matt Tavares’ realistic watercolor and gouache paintings are outstanding in every way – from color to light and shadow – and the extra large two-page spreads make them breathtakingly beautiful; you’ll find yourself taking your time to linger on every page. The text is cleverly written in verses (non rhyming), making it easy to read and is well-crafted for the age of the audience, flowing well and keeping the reader’s attention. It’s easy to comprehend, yet is in no way condescending.

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GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

What This Book Teaches

DSC_0002Growing Up Pedro teaches children that anything is possible with hard work and unfaltering determination, no matter what their background, opportunities or socioeconomic status. The Martinez brothers grew up very poor, but they always supported one another, and it was their passion and work ethic that made them superstar athletes. Readers learn that greatness takes time, and that despite overwhelming challenges, lofty goals can indeed be achieved. Pedro was considered too small and lightweight to pitch, he had to travel far away from his family to the US where he could not understand the language, he suffered from significant injuries, yet he pressed on until he could prove he was the best of the best. I appreciate the way the book weaves culture into the story too, as it begins in the Dominican Republic and delves into the cultural adjustments the brothers had to make in America.

Be sure to read the Author’s Note and Pedro’s stats in the back of the book.

GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Why You Should Read This Book

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GROWING UP PEDRO. Text and Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Matt Tavares, Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Any child who loves baseball or a feel-good story about achievements in professional sports will thoroughly enjoy Growing Up Pedro. In fact, if you have a child who is a reluctant or struggling reader, that child will likely find this subject to be so riveting, he or she will be fascinated enough to read about it. The way it is written makes it ideal for reading out loud too. Author Matt Tavares demonstrates the closeness of the Martinez family and the generosity of Pedro and Ramon to each other, their family members and the people of their country. The story is uplifting and awe-inspiring, and it presents Ramon and Pedro Martinez as the phenomenal role models they truly are.

About the Author

tavaresauthorphotoMatt Tavares has always been interested in baseball. He is the author-illustrator of Henry Aaron’s Dream, There Goes Ted Williams, and Becoming Babe Ruth as well as Zachary’s Ball, Oliver’s Game, and Mudball. He is also the illustrator of Doreen Rappaport’s Lady Liberty and Alicia Potter’s Jubilee!, among others. Matt Tavares lives in Ogunquit, Maine.

Further Learning

1. Download the Teacher’s Guide.

2. Find Manoguayabo, Santo Domingo in the Dominical Republic on a map.

3. Watch the Growing Up Pedro Book Trailer

4. Watch Five Questions (Plus One) with Matt Tavares:

Where Oh Where is Marilyn’s Monster?

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Cover image – Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Marilyn’s Monster

•        Targeted Audience: Preschool and Lower Elementary (Ages 4-8)
•        Genre: Fiction Picture Book
•        Author: Michelle Knudsen
•        Illustrator: Matt Phelan
•        Publisher: Candlewick Press
•        Publication Date: March 10, 2015
•        Binding: Hard Cover
•        Dimensions: 9.6″ x 9.2″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 40 Pages
•        Retail: $18.99
•        ISBN: 978-0763660116

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© Copyright  –  image Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Hey, Where’s MY Monster?

Everyone in Marilyn’s class has his or her own monster, but Marilyn doesn’t have one. The problem is you can just go out and get your own monster, because you have to wait until your monster finds you. One girl discovered her monster on her bed when she woke up one morning. Other kids got their monsters at the park, on the bus, in the middle of class and even one kid got his monster while running from kids who were picking on him. Marilyn waits for her monster patiently. She even tries to dress nicer, sit straight and be polite. But still nothing. One day Marilyn decides to go out and search for her monster all over town. What do you suppose happens?

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© Copyright  –  image Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Another Book About Monsters?

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When I see the word, “monster” on the title of a book, the first thing that comes to mind is, “Oh, no! Not another book about monsters!” Because let’s face it, there are lots and lots of monster themed books out there. But there was something about this beautiful book cover that beckoned me to open it and see what’s inside. I was delighted to discover that Marilyn’s Monster is a wonderfully irresistible, original story, unlike any other monster story I’ve read. Rather than being afraid of monsters, Marilyn really wants one to call her own. What a brilliant way to make readers less afraid of monsters, because we all know every young child at one time or another is indeed afraid of them.

In addition to being original, one of the other highlights of Marilyn’s Monster is that the story is more involved than most other picture books, with more text and more sophistication than other monster stories. The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and adorable at the same time and do a wonderful job of telling a happy monster tale.

© Copyright  –  image Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Why You Should Buy This Book

DSC_0005Well, for starters, Marilyn’s Monster will charm your socks off.  The illustrations are delightful, the story is darling and there’s a lot of action. It’s obvious that author Michelle Knudsen and illustrator Matt Phelan both have incredible wit and senses of humor. Young readers will relate to Marilyn’s determination to find her own monster and not stop until she does, and perhaps they will discover that having a monster isn’t such a scary thing after all.

As for me, I’m off to go find my own monster and I hope he’s got polka dots and big teeth.

© Copyright  –  image Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Check out the Marilyn’s Monster Activity Kit

About the Author

Michelleknudsen-210Michelle Knudsen is the author of the New York Times best-selling picture book Library Lion, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes; Argus, illustrated by Andréa Wesson; and the fantasy novels The Dragon of Trelian and The Princess of Trelian. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

About the illustratorimages

Matt Phelan is the author-illustrator of the highly acclaimed graphic novel The Storm in the Barn, winner of a Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction; Around the World, a Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards nominee; and Bluffton. He lives in Philadelphia.