Three Dawn Publications: Nature Picture Books One Day Giveaway!

The giveaway is now closed.

Congratulations to Debra Getsinger of Shelby, NC for winning these three titles!

Enter for a Chance to Win Three Dawn Nature Books!


Dawn is a publisher dedicated to educating your children about nature. Their beautiful, affordable paperback books, apps and online activities offer a wide variety of subjects for teaching and learning.

Today I am giving away these three new titles which to be released on March 1, 2015, to one lucky winner. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter, and I will email the winner and announce it on my Facebook Page at 5:00 pm. today, February 24, 2015. Note: If you do not respond with your mailing address within 24 hours, you forfeit your chance to win, and I will select a new winner.

Did you enter our Nine-Book Giveaway yet?

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Book #1


Noisy Bird Sing Along

•        Targeted Audience: Preschool and Lower Elementary (Ages 3-8)
•        Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
•        Author/Illustrator: John Himmelman
•        Publisher: Dawn Publications
•        Publication Date: March 1, 2015
•        Binding: Paperback
•        Dimensions: 9.5″ x 9.5″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 32 Pages
•        Retail: $8.95
•        ISBN: 978-1584695141

“The deep voice of a barred owl seems to ask a question. Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you allll?”


© Copyright – Image courtesy of Dawn Publications

Look, Listen and Learn

Noisy Bird Sing Along is John Himmelman’s third Noisy title. Children love to bird watch and listen to birds chirping, and inside the pages of this title, they will learn about the habitats and sounds of many of the species they typically hear. Every two-page spread features a different species of bird – thirteen in all – such as a white-throated sparrow, yellow warbler, hummingbird and downy woodpecker. The text is written on curvy lines and big bold letters reveal the sound each bird makes. The illustrations are large and colorful and are fun to look at, with wonderful details showing what the birds look like. Combine reading the book with Dawn’s Activities Page, where you can listen to actual sounds many of the birds make, and you’ve got a treasure of a learning tool for the youngest readers. There’s a page of Fun Facts About Birds and another of Birdy Things to Do, with tips on feeding and watching them, plus resources to learn more.

The book is fun to read, lovely to look at and so educational. Get outside with your young child and learn all about birds together!

Listen to sounds the birds in the book make on Dawn’s Activities Page!


© Copyright – Image courtesy of Dawn Publications

About the Author/Illustrator

Himmelman-John-SMWhen John Himmelman was eight years old, he started his first “Bug Club” in a friend’s garage, and he’s been playing with insects ever since. Even now, on summer nights John is often in his wooded yard in Killingworth, Connecticut, flashlight in hand, searching for little creatures. Some of his most exciting discoveries are found just a few feet from his house! John co-founded the Connecticut Butterfly Association, is past president of the New Haven Bird Club, and both gives nature programs and makes school visits. He is an author and illustrator of over 75 books for children.

Check out these other Noisy titles too:


Book #2


Over on a Mountain: Somewhere in the World

•        Targeted Audience: Preschool and Lower Elementary (Ages 3-8)
•        Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
•        Author: Marianne Berkes
•        Illustrator: Jill Dubon
•        Publisher: Dawn Publications
•        Publication Date: March 1, 2015
•        Binding: Paperback
•        Dimensions: 9.5″ x 9.5″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 32 Pages
•        Retail: $8.95
•        ISBN: 978-1584695196

“Over in a mountain
Grazing in the morning sun,
Lived a wooly mother llama
And her little aria one.
‘Roll,’ said the mother.
‘I roll,’ said the one.
So they rolled in the dirt
Grazing in the morning sun.”


Geography and Nature, A Beautiful Combination

Author Marianne Berkes spends her days teaching children about nature – whether she’s writing a new book or visiting a classroom.

My regular readers know how I feel about geography education and the lack of it in our schools, so I get excited when I see a book that teaches geography, especially to the youngest readers. Over on a Mountain introduces children as young as three to different mountain ranges around the world and the animals who live there. There are mini maps on each two-page spread showing where the mountains are, and delightful paper collages illustrating animal families. The text is lyrical and rhyming and makes for a perfect read aloud experience. In the back of the book is a big uncluttered world map, plus facts about mountains and animals that are not so easy to see in the mountains, because they love to hide. There’s more detail about the animals in the story, activity suggestions from the author, and even tips from the illustrator who talks about how she creates her fascinating artwork. But that’s not all, there’s lyrics and music to the tune, “Over on a Mountain” too.

You’ll love the depth and texture of the paper collage illustrations the illustrations. The animals’ fur really looks like fur! There’s so much fascinating information here presented in a perfect format for readers ages three and up. What an amazing book to use in a classroom!

Check out the Dawn Publications Activities Page for more information about this book.


About the Author

Marianne_BerkesMarianne Berkes has spent much of her life with children as a teacher, children’s theater director and children’s librarian. She knows how much children enjoy brilliantly illustrated, interactive picture books with predictable text about real animals. She retired to write full time and visit schools, libraries and literary conferences. Marianne is the author of eighteen picture books about nature. The twelve books Marianne has published with Dawn Publications have won numerous awards and garnered exceptional reviews. Her verse is lyrical, reflecting the fact that music and theater have always been part of her life. Marianne lives near the ocean in Florida, where she still picks up beautiful shells to add to her collection.

About the Illustrator

DubinJill Dubin’s whimsical art has appeared in over 30 children’s books, including five Dawn Publication titles. Her cut paper illustrations reflect her interest in combining color, pattern and texture. She grew up in Yonkers, New York, and graduated from Pratt Institute. She lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia, including two dogs that do very little but with great enthusiasm.

Book #3


Pitter and Patter

•        Targeted Audience: Preschool, Lower & Upper Elementary (Ages 4-10)
•        Genre: Nonfiction Picture Book
•        Author: Martha Sullivan
•        Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
•        Publisher: Dawn Publications
•        Publication Date: March 1, 2015
•        Binding: Paperback
•        Dimensions: 9.5″ x 9.5″
•        Printing: Full Color
•        Length: 32 Pages
•        Retail: $8.95
•        ISBN: 978-1584695097

“The river poured into a wetland of tall, swaying grasses.
Hello crab.
So nice to meet you shrimp.
A happy day to you, heron.”


The Story of Two Raindrops

Pitter and Patter are two raindrops go on an extraordinary visual outdoor adventure to teach children about the cycle of water.  They drop from a cloud one day to greet a squirrel, blue jay and caterpillar in an oak tree, fall to the stream below and get carried through a maze of wondrous places. Along the way they see so many different animals and landscapes, rivers and streams. I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Cathy Morrison about her astounding artwork in The Prairie That Nature Built. Her artistic genius continues with Pitter and Patter as she takes readers on a journey above and below ground and water with her vibrant digital illustrations that are incredibly detailed. Pair those image masterpieces with the simple text by author Martha Sullivan, written as though the raindrops are greeting the creatures they meet, and you’ve got an engaging book. There are a few Explore More pages in the back of the book introducing readers to how water constantly changes and moves (something my own daughter is studying as she is working toward a PhD is Geomorphology), definition of a watershed, different states of water – solid, liquid, gas – and  activities suggestions for further learning.

What’s not to love about a geology book for young readers with extraordinary illustrations and invaluable information?

Check out the Dawn Publications Activities Page for more information about this book.

About the Author

Sullivan-Martha-350Martha Sullivan is a children’s book author with a special interest in nature and sustainability. Born and raised in the US, Martha has also lived in Belgium, Austria, the UK, and most recently, County Clare, Ireland, where she enjoys kayaking, hiking, set-dancing, and gardening. Martha is passionate about her mission—helping children to connect with the natural world so that they are primed to protect it later in life. A Master’s thesis on Education for Sustainable Development through the University of Bath was the catalyst that moved Martha from the classroom where she taught Biology for fifteen years to the writer’s desk. She now focuses on stories that help children to understand the importance of biodiversity and conservation.

About the Illustrator

Morrison1408-011 copyCathy Morrison is an award-winning illustrator who lives on a shortgrass prairie in Colorado, at the western edge of the Great Plains in view of the Rocky Mountain National Forest. She watches the grasses, the animals and their burrows, as well as floods and fire—all close up and personal. She began her career in animation and graphic design, but discovered her passion for children’s book illustration while raising her two children. After several years illustrating with traditional media, she now works digitally, which helps the publisher adapt the art into interactive book apps.

Read my interview with Cathy Morrison

Read my review of The Prairie That Nature Built


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The Green House on the Prairie: An In-Depth Interview with Children’s Book Illustrator Cathy Morrison

Morrison1408-011 copyI recently reviewed The Prairie That Nature Built (Dawn Publications), written by Marybeth Lorbiecki and illustrated by Cathy Morrison. Cathy’s digital illustrations are so incredibly detailed and her beautiful depictions of the prairie are so authentic, I asked her if she’d share some insights into her enviable artistic talents. After reading what Cathy has to say about her work and her idyllic studio in the mountains of Colorado, you’re sure to be inspired.

© Copyright – Image of Children’s Book Illustrator Cathy Morrison

Can you tell us a bit about where you live in Colorado? You must find the scenery incredibly inspiring.

I live in an area called Glacier View Meadows in the foothills northwest of Fort Collins  – elevation is about 7,600 ft. My husband, Andy Brown and I both work from home so we are able to live almost any place as long as we have access to the Internet. When our kids were young we’d come camping and hiking in this area and always enjoyed it. And being close to Ft. Collins, a college town was attractive as well.

view of sunset at cabin

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – A view of the Colorado sunset, one of Cathy’s many inspirations

I understand you built a green home too.

When we decided to buy land and build we knew sustainability and energy efficiency were important to us. We wanted to leave a small footprint and keep the land as natural as possible because the building process can really decimate the land. Our home is built from SIPs (Structurally Insulated Panels) and is passive solar with radiant heating. Living here is very comfortable and fits our lifestyle. Here are some photos of the building of our home on our contractor’s website. And since I spend so much of my time working I really wanted a well functioning and comfy studio with an amazing view.

Studio with my view (and mess on my desk)

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – The mountain view from Cathy’s studio near Fort Collins, CO.

Do you ever draw or paint outside your amazing studio?

I love to travel and have a small drawing tablet I bring with me on trips. A couple of years ago I went to the Lake District in England for a Kindling Words writing/illustrator retreat. After that I went to Bangkok where my husband was freelancing for a start-up television company. While I was there I was illustrating Nature Recycles and got to see and touch Asian elephants. Most of my research was done online but there’s nothing like being up close and personal and seeing the real thing. My daughter who was a recent film graduate from CU in Boulder went along as well and actually got a full time job with the company.

“I got a great art education, developed a strong work ethic and tough skin as well. All that comes in handy as a freelance artist because you can get a lot of rejections before landing a contract.”

That was certainly a bonus for your daughter! How old were you when you realized you had a talent for art?

I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. My family and teachers always encouraged me and nobody tried to tell me I couldn’t or shouldn’t be an artist. I went to East Texas State University in Commerce, Texas (now Texas A&M) and earned a double major in fine arts and education along with a teaching certificate for K-12. We had an amazing staff of teachers, Lee Baxter Davis, Jack Unruh, Gerard Huber, Charles McGough, others as well. They pushed hard and demanded a lot from their students. I got a great art education, developed a strong work ethic and tough skin as well. All that comes in handy as a freelance artist because you can get a lot of rejections before landing a contract.

TLIYL spread 8LR

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Inside spread from This Land is Your Land by Catherine Ciocchi (Arbordale Publishing)  

Do you think a person has to have natural talent to become an artist?

I have a lot of friends who are artists and I see them enjoying the process of creating, being very hard working and focused. It’s like anything else, the more you do something, the better you get over time. Nobody starts out being great, but you do develop, grow and find your niche. So I think that it’s really important to expose kids when they’re young to a lot of different experiences. Encourage them when they find that creative spark or whatever that “thing” is they like to do, whether it’s art, music, science, math or sports for that matter.

I like your philosophy, because many people are under the impression that you can’t develop into a good artist if you don’t have the natural ability. You started your career in animation, so what happened to change your focus on illustrating children’s books?

Right out of college I got a job with K&H Productions, an animation studio in Dallas, Texas, as an in-betweener. I interviewed with Tom Young, the head of the art department and showed him my big fine arts portfolio. I knew absolutely nothing about animation. He said as long as I could draw he could teach me everything I needed to know. I was there for five years and still stay in touch with many friends from those days. The animation field is a pretty tight knit community.

 DT spread 13 LR(flopped)© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Inside spread from Dino Tracks written by Rhonda Lucas Donald (Sylvan Dell Publishing)

While working at K&H I took a trip to Colorado Springs and fell in love with the state. That was around Thanksgiving and by the end of that year I had quit my job and moved to Colorado and started freelancing as an editorial/advertising illustrator. Looking back, I must have been very naïve but that leap of faith worked out for me. I met my husband there and eventually we moved from Colorado Springs to Denver and I started Big Chief Graphics, a small graphics design and illustration studio working with cable companies, hospitals, restaurants, advertising agencies, etc. I kept that business until I had my two children, downsized and began working from home, and became interested in illustrating children’s books.

What traditional media did you use before switching to digital illustrations?

I worked with black and white pencil and colored pencil for a lot of my early work. While living in Pennsylvania I took a watercolor class in botanical illustrations from Anna B. Francis at Longwood Gardens in Kennet Square. I mainly switched to watercolor at that point.

How long have you been creating digital illustrations?

I’ve been working digitally for about 8 years now.

Can you briefly explain how your digital illustrations are made?

I illustrate on a Wacom Cintiq, which is a graphic monitor that I draw directly on with a pressure-sensitive pen. It’s actually the same process as drawing on paper, but I use a couple of software programs, Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop which allow me to work in oils, pastel, watercolor, any art medium. It’s great because I can work in layers (actually it’s a similar process to how we worked in the animation studio with a main character isolated on an acetate cell and that would be positioned on top of a background painting. Most publishers need certain characters pulled out of the background and used for game apps, teaching guides, or marketing materials, things like that. Plus it’s much easier for revisions.

Crowley on ARCs & publishing promos copy

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Cathy’s dog, Crowly, at home in her studio

What did you use for perspective to create your illustrations? Did you go out into the prairie, use photos, etc?Prairie spread 26&27LR

I use the Internet a lot for research, plus go to the library as well. For Prairie, I needed to give my art director and editor at Dawn Publishing the names of all of the plants and animals that are in the illustrations to make sure that I was accurately showing life on the prairie. They have researchers who fact check things if there are questions. Also, I walk my dog, Crowley, twice a day and as I worked on the book I noticed things that I usually wouldn’t pay attention to during our walks; These were things like little details about the birds, wildlife, rocks, flowers, drifts of grasses and rolling hills, vistas. I just became more aware of my environment in general. So both my local surroundings and my dog, Crowley are in the book.

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison- Cathy used her own dog for inspiration for this inside spread, from The Prairie That Nature Built (Dawn Publications)

Prairie spread 20-21LRI was extremely impressed with your depictions of fire, rain and lightning in The Prairie That Nature Built. How did you achieve that level of depth?

Showing fire and lightning is difficult for me. I basically just kept working at it until I liked how it looked. I looked at a lot of reference and realized there wasn’t a right or wrong way to show fire and lightning; it’s always a different experience. I wanted to portray the feeling you get more than concern myself with realism.

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison-  Inside spread, from The Prairie That Nature Built (Dawn Publications)

“I knew absolutely nothing about prairies before seeing the manuscript. I didn’t even realize I lived on a short grass prairie before researching this book.”

The imagery is really amazing! Did you learn anything you didn’t know about prairies while illustrating the book?

I knew absolutely nothing about prairies before seeing the manuscript. I didn’t even realize I lived on a short grass prairie before researching this book. There’s a Prairie Primer in the back section of the book that goes into a lot of detail. It says that prairies are crucial habitats for the health of the planet. I hate to admit it but this was a new concept for me and a real light bulb moment.

I felt the same way when reading the book. There’s a wealth of information there not often discussed.

Think of all the attention that we’ve given to disappearing rainforests and I am seeing signs of our prairies getting that same recognition now. Only 4% of North America’s original grasslands still exist, which is shocking but I realize how easily this happens. The beauty of the prairie and the mountain views are mainly why I chose to live here, so I realize I’m also part of the problem. At least I’m aware now and can hopefully do something to help.

What was the process like making the app for the book?PRAIR_COVER

Malachi Bazan with Dawn Publications creates the app. In the artwork I tried keeping certain elements on separate layers to make his life a little easier when he needed to make an animal move. But Malachi is the one who brings the art to life, integrating animation and interactivity. This will be the first time one of my books has included a game app so I’m excited about it.

Apps are certainly becoming an important part of publishing. What advice do you have for another artist who is thinking about illustrating digitally?

So many illustrators work digitally now and personally I love it, and even in the beginning it was pretty intuitive for me. If you want to work in publishing I think that working digitally is a huge benefit; it saves time, money and potential frustrations for the illustrator and publisher.


DL spread 13 LR

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison – Inside spread from Daisylocks, written  by Marianne Berkes (Arbordale Publishing)

When you’re not illustrating what do you most like to do?

I have many hobbies. I love to garden and walk with my dog. Gardening is really cathartic and lots of artists are gardeners. I’ve always grown flowers – mostly drought-tolerant perennials and native wildflowers. And this summer I had my first vegetable garden as well.

I’m in a book group, “Text in the City” that is made up of all women artists. We meet approximately every six weeks and our book selections vary but should be related to art in one form or another. The group has been going strong for almost twelve years now. There are photographers, teachers, sculptors, painters, graphic artists, writers, etc. It’s a very fun group and we’re very supportive of each other.

P&P spread 14 & 15LR

© Copyright by Cathy Morrison- Inside spread from Pitter and Patter, written  by Martha Sullivan (to be published by Dawn Publishing)

Your lifestyle seems very conducive to the creative process.

There are hectic times too, but volunteering helps keep me sane. I volunteer at the Science and Discovery Museum in Ft Collins. Mostly I work with the education department, with school groups on field trips. Sometimes I’ll create a poster or some illustrations or activity sheets for kids. Last year I helped out coordinating with the museum and Read Aloud Colorado to develop an event for Children’s Book Week. This year I also started volunteering for Tavelli Elementary school in Ft Collins where my grandson attends kindergarten. They are a STEAM school, (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics). Being around these kids is very energizing.

Cathy all those children whose lives have been touched by  your awe-inspiring talents are so fortunate. Thank you so much for taking us inside your artistic mind and sharing with us your passions for art and nature. Your work is sure to move many who see it and inspire children to learn to draw and want to read more. I can’t wait to see your next book!

Thank you so much Debbie for reviewing The Prairie That Nature Built and doing this interview. I love your blog, Smart Books for Smart Kids and appreciate all you’re doing to bring attention to the world of children’s books.

Readers, I highly recommend you follow Cathy’s Studio With A View blog. Whether you are an artist yourself, wish to be one or just appreciate outstanding work, you’ll be inspired there. Buy a copy of The Prairie That Nature Built.

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The Prairie That Nature Built: Extraordinary Artwork and a Pop-Up App


Cover image courtesy of Dawn Publications

The Prairie That Nature Built

•    Targeted Audience: Preschool, Lower & Upper Elementary (Ages 4-10)
•    Genre: Non-Fiction
•    Author: Marybeth Lorbiecki
•    Illustrator: Cathy Morrison
•    Publisher:Dawn Publications
•    Publication Date: September 1, 2014
•    Binding: Paperback
•    Dimensions: 9″ x  11″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length: 32 Pages
•    Retail: $8.95
•    ISBN:978-1584694915

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Life on the Prairie in Cumulative Rhyme

A prairie may look like a desolate flatland from a distance, but with The Prairie That Nature Built readers discover all the life that is teaming in the trees, grasses and below the surface. The book is written with rhyming verse so kids can enjoy reading out loud as they marvel at the illustrations. They uncover animals that burrow, some that fly, others that squirm,  pollinate, graze or hunt. The impact weather patterns and fires have on the prairie and all its inhabitants are wonderfully demonstrated. The rhyme all comes together at the end with a cumulative verse.


© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Dawn Publications

A Well-Rounded Educational Experience

As with all Dawn books, in the back of this book is an Explore More section filled with fascinating facts. Here readers learn more details about prairies, where they can be found, how they thrive and how they are being threatened due to use for farming and building. Following that there’s a list of the different types of animals one would find on a prairie, some suggested activities, organizations that support prairie conservation and other books to read on the subject.


© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Dawn Publications

Vibrant Digital Illustrations with Incredible Detail and a Pop-Up App

I must confess that I used to be unimpressed with digital artwork, but Dawn books changed my mind in recent months; the detail and depth of the digital illustrations of their books is remarkable.  The Prairie That Nature Built is no exception. Illustrator Cathy Morrison captures extraordinary accuracy of the animals and plants of the prairie with her illustrations, and I’d love to know how she managed to do it! You can even see the maze of plant roots beneath the surface, intricate tunnels dug by the animals and incredibly beautiful depictions of lightning and fire. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by these vibrant, realistic depictions! To make the learning experience extra special, there’s a free pop-up app for this title that will make the already spectacular images come to life.


© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Dawn Publications

What This Book Teaches

With illustrations as intricate as these, children can see life in a prairie they would not be able to see in person, such as animals lurking in the tall grass and thriving below the surface. Add to that the pop-up experience they can have with the free app. Children often hear about conservation, but the prairie is such a disappearing habitat in North America, that they may not learn about this important landscape without books like this. Readers will sharpen their read aloud skills and learn the rhythm of reading rhyming verse. After reading the story and studying the images, they will be eager to learn more about the significance of prairies and discover the history of this habitat upon which our country was built. Let’s educate our children about our precious earth so they can be informed about how to preserve it.


© Copyright – Inside spread image courtesy of Dawn Publications

Children’s Books that Shape the Future

As a parent of a grad student at The University of Colorado at Boulder, working toward a PhD in geomorphology (the study of landforms, like rivers and glaciers, and the processes that shape them), I know how vital books like these can be to get kids interested in science. The Prairie That Nature Built is a great way to inspire many a reader to pursue an interest in the earth and even perhaps a future in a scientific field. There’s a shortage of earth scientists, and we must do all we can to change that.

About the Author

Lorbiecki-MarybethMarybeth Lorbiecki grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota, near a prairie, before she knew it was called a prairie. Instead it was simply her favorite place for exploring and hiding amid the tall grasses. She would always be spotted by meadowlarks, who saluted her with song. That prairie was built over with homes, and she no longer found her friends the larks there any more. When Marybeth moved to Hudson, Wisconsin, she became part of a group that taught the community about the amazing prairie that nature built. She brought her daughters and son to wander through the prairie grasses. Together they helped preserve prairies nearby so the meadowlarks would have a place to nest and sing. She’s written more than twenty-five books for kids, many of them about the places, plants, and animals she loves, including the prairie dog!

About the Illustrator

Cathy Morrison is an award-winning illustrator who lives on a shortgrass prairie in Colorado, at the western edge of Morrison-Cathythe Great Plains in view of the Rocky Mountain National Forest. She watches the grasses, the animals and their burrows, as well as floods and fire—all close up and personal. She began her career in animation and graphic design, but discovered her passion for children’s book illustration while raising her two children. After several years illustrating with traditional media, she now works digitally, which helps the publisher adapt the art into interactive book apps.

Further Learning

  1. Download the activities that come with this book.
  2. Visit the Dawn Pub App Page to get your free pop-up app for this title.
  3. Learn more about prairies from the State of Minnesota.
  4. Visit Dawn Publications to discover many more excellent educational titles for young readers.

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That’s Just Dandy! The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream


The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream


•    Targeted Audience: Preschool, Lower Elementary (Ages 4-7)
•    Genre: Fiction Picture Book
•    Author: Joseph Anthony
•    Illustrator: Chris Arbo
•    Publisher: Dawn Publishing
•    Publication Date: September 1, 2014
•    Binding: Paperback
•    Dimensions: 9″ x  11″
•    Printing: Full Color
•    Length: 32 Pages
•    Retail: $8.95
•    ISBN: 978-1584694977

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For the Nature Lover in All of Us

DSC_0055-374x500Here in the tropics of South Florida, winter is the time for gardening. As I’m getting ready to plant my organic tomato seeds, this is the perfect opportunity to read about the plight of a single seed finding its way out there in the great big world. (Check out my Organic Tomato Stop Motion Video).

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Photo of my heirloom organic tomatoes

 A Long and Lonely Voyage


The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream is a story about a seed that blows in the wind, from place to place, wanting so desperately to find a spot in which it can sprout and grow into a dandelion. It gets stuck in a spider web, floats through the air all over town and even gets trapped inside a styrofoam takeout container for many seasons until it finally breaks free and gets planted.


 Spectacular Illustrations

This book was written and illustrated by a husband and wife team, and the artwork of Cris Arbo is incredibly impressive. She does not use a computer for her illustrations, rather she creates all of them by hand using paints and pencils. The detail is astounding. At first I thought the illustrations were created from photographs that were painted – that’s how realistic these pictures really are.


What This Book Teaches

Children are fascinated by nature, and along with their innate curiosity are endless questions about why things are the way they are. The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream shows them what they’ve been wondering all along. How do seeds get planted in nature? In addition to the story of the lonely dandelion, in the back of the book is a two-page spread with information about the science of dandelions, what the different parts of the plant are called, where and how they grow, their uses and whether or not they’re weeds. There are even suggestions about how to go out in the field with your child and learn more about seed dispersal and the life cycle of the dandelion. There’s an environmental theme here too.

In addition to the science theme of the book, young readers may see a parallel story with their own lives. The dandelion waits patiently and perseveres, never giving up until it reaches its goal. There are factors out of its control, yet still it eventually realizes its dream.


Why You’ll Love This Book

Author Joseph Anthony writes the story of the dandelion in almost a poetic way, with appropriately, simple language even the youngest readers can understand. You love the fact that this book is not copy heavy, rather it flows along in perfect harmony with the exceptional illustrations. Your child will thoroughly enjoy studying each picture to see all the detail and discover where the seed is hiding. If this weren’t enough, check out the affordable price of this paperback book. What a fabulous addition to your home or school library this would make!

Dawn books all focus on nature and get kids interested in plant and animal biology as well as ecology from an early age. I’ve said this many times in my reviews, but it’s worth repeating. . . Books like these that are an integral part of encouraging children to one day study to become scientists – and the world desperately needs more of these! My home has always been full of books about nature, and I’m happy to tell you that my only child has just started grad school to pursue a PhD in Geomorphology (a branch of geology that combines the earth with physics, studying the movement of rocks and sediment in rivers and glaciers). She’ll tell you herself that being surrounded by nature books and then going outside to explore is what got her hooked on becoming a scientist.

Buy The Dandelion Seed’s Big Dream here

About the Author

AnthonyJoseph Anthony was born the tenth of eleven children. His family loved the mountains, so exploring with his brothers and sisters nurtured an innate love for adventure and an appreciation for the natural world. He traveled with the Navy as a trumpet player, worked in a natural food store, as a Corrections Officer, a massage therapist, and a construction supervisor, experiences that have all served to deepen his self-understanding and perspective on the human condition. Joseph’s cosmological work, “Our Multi-Tiered Universe,” grew out of a desire to help move the planet to a clean energy future.  Joseph and wife Cris live in Virginia. Together they have created three wonderful children’s books together for Dawn Publications

About the IllustratorArbo-Cris-07-14L

Cris Arbo’s art is known for intense detail and is inspired by her love and respect for nature. It has appeared in books, magazines, calendars, cards, murals, animated feature films, TV shows, and commercials. Also a gifted vocalist, she has performed with the London Symphony and London Philharmonic Choirs. She has illustrated seven nature awareness children’s books for Dawn Publications and is also a frequent presenter at schools and conferences.

Further Learning

  1. Download the activities that go with this book from the publisher.
  2. Plant a garden with your child.
  3. 3. Learn more about how seeds are planted in nature.

Be sure to read this Dawn Publications title by this husband and wife team:


Picture Books and the Digital Age of Illustration: Interview with Author and Artist Chad Wallace

Chad-PhotoChad Wallace did everything he could to educate himself about illustrating books for children – he has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in illustration, has worked in just about every artist medium and has recently transitioned to digital design and children’s book apps. After reviewing his beautiful book/app he wrote and illustrated, The Mouse and the Meadow (Dawn Publications). I was curious about how digital illustrations are created and how an artist goes about making an interactive app for a children’s title.

© Copyright – Image of Chad Wallace in his studio, courtesy of the illustrator.

You mention on your website that your parents were super supportive of your interest in art from an early age. How important was that support in shaping you into the professional artist you are today?

Very!  The attention I received through my artistic endeavors quickly shaped my identity, not just as an artist but as a person as well.  It’s more than just a career choice; it’s who I am.  They know that and support me.

Image 9

© Copyright – Inside Image from The Mouse and the Meadow, courtesy of Dawn Publications

“The attention I received through my artistic endeavors quickly shaped my identity, not just as an artist but as a person as well.”

That’s proof that parent support can make all the difference whatever a child’s passion may be. What do you feel that attending art school does for an artist’s craft vs. venturing out on his or her own?

It’s true that an artist makes a lot of artistic discovery through the act of doing it.  What a good art school offers is a forum where like-minded creative people can exchange ideas, learn new techniques, and get feedback on their work.  After graduating from Syracuse University with a BFA, I began a freelance career. At some point I felt stagnated because working alone in my studio I was more or less cut off from other artists. This was one of the main reasons for going back to school and getting my Masters at Fashion Institute of Technology.  There I was reinvigorated, and with some professional experience under my belt, was able to get the most out of it.  I made great friends and made some new contacts as well.

Do you have a favorite famous painting or artist?

Difficult question.  No particular painting comes to mind.  I think I draw inspiration from all the great masters past and present.  As far as illustrators go I have great respect for N.C Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, James Gurney, and Chris Van Allsburg.  And children’s book author/illustrators Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Maurice Sendak to name a few.

What attracts you to drawing animals in their natural environments?

MOUSE_COVERI suppose it’s because I have always spent a lot of time outdoors. Also, animals tend to be universal and I can use them to create empathy across a wide audience. I anthropomorphize my subjects slightly so people can relate to them while still respecting their true nature. Every once in a while I break free of that mold and do something more conceptual.

© Copyright – Cover Image courtesy of Dawn Publications

What resources do you use to get the proper perspective of the animals and environments you draw?

If I can observe animals/environments directly I always try to do that. I also look at photographs and video, but that will only get me so far. Camera lenses distort the image and shadow areas become flat and dark. A strong knowledge of perspective is critical to place the characters into a believable world. I take all the reference materials on a given subject and try to draw the spirit back into it.

Interesting. Is it challenging for you to depict animals that are Image 7typically scary for children, like snakes, in a way that is not too terrifying?

With The Mouse and the Meadow I needed to suggest occasional feelings of terror without making villains out of our hero’s adversaries.  The writing helps clarify that a snake, a weasel, and an owl have the same right to exist as the mouse. There is no malice, and it’s not personal. In that context I think kids understand the reality and appreciate the honesty.

© Copyright – Inside Image from The Mouse and the Meadow, courtesy of Dawn Publications

That’s a terrific explanation. What are your favorite art mediums?

My medium of choice has changed a lot over the years.  I did a lot of pen and ink work when I was in high school.  Then I started painting with acrylic, gouache, and even airbrush for a brief period.  By junior year of college I was into oil, and now I find myself doing a lot of digital work.  All have advantages and disadvantages depending on what I’m doing.

Where did you get the idea to write a book about a mouse in his natural environment?Image 10

I suppose it’s a combination of a number of things. I’ve had experience with all the animals featured (with the exception of the weasel) in Harriman State Park, near where I grew up. I also like the idea that there is so much going on just beyond our scope. At the end of the story I reveal the meadow’s proximity to a roadside.  Essentially, the railing symbolizes the border between our world and this often overlooked and under-appreciated ecosystem.

© Copyright – Inside Image from The Mouse and the Meadow, courtesy of Dawn Publications

I love that symbolism. Was The Mouse and the Meadow your first fully digitally illustrated book, and can you tell us what it was like for you to transition to this type of work?

Mouse is my second fully illustrated book.  The previous book Seahorses was the first, and before that I did a book called EARTH Feeling The Heat, which was a hybrid – part digital and part oil painting.

The transition from traditional mediums to digital art did not take place overnight.  At first I was very reluctant, fearing there would be a noticeable difference between the digitally painted illustrations and those done previously with oil.  So my first attempts involved working out the compositions and under paintings digitally, printing that out, mounting it on board, and finishing it off with paint.  Later I learned to simulate that look with the computer (with fewer steps).

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© Copyright – Inside Image from The Mouse and the Meadow, courtesy of Dawn Publications

For those of us who know nothing about digital art, can you briefly explain to us how illustrations are made digitally?

I use a drawing tablet and Photoshop to draw/paint directly on the screen. Sometimes I’ll import hand rendered sketches and “paint” over those.  I don’t use a lot of fancy brush types or shortcuts. Just like with traditional methods I concentrate on composition, values (darks and lights), and color.  If you get those things right you will have a successful image regardless of the medium. Working this way also allows for easy editing and can be delivered to editors in seconds. And can take on other forms such as animations and interactive apps/games. The drawback is I don’t have an original piece of art.

“I would say the key to good digital art is a strong foundation in traditional art.”

Creating an interactive app for children sounds incredibly daunting. I understand that you worked with Dawn Publications’ App Designer, Malachi Bazan to create the app for The Mouse and the Meadow. Can you explain your role as the artist in that process?

The plan all along was to create the illustrations in such a way that can be animated later.  So I was able to design the pages with layers in Photoshop. That means the characters, foreground, and background elements are all separate. This saved time in the long run. For each page it was necessary to render additional assets such as closed eyelids, alternate noses, ears, limbs, etc. Imagine all these assets pieced together with pins, like puppets on a stage with a backdrop. Malachi is the man pulling the strings, or in this case, programming them.

How long did it take to create that interactive app?Image 8

My focus for six months was on making sure the art worked together as a whole.  Then Malachi and I spent about three months figuring out how the animations would work and having it programmed prior to the books release.

© Copyright – Inside Image from The Mouse and the Meadow, courtesy of Dawn Publications

“…the key to good digital art is a strong foundation in traditional art.  You have to get a feel for using real mediums before attempting to recreate that on the computer.”

That is quite a time-consuming process, but well worth it! Do you have any advice for an artist who wants to venture out into digital illustrating for the first time and even providing illustrations for an interactive app?

I would say the key to good digital art is a strong foundation in traditional art.  You have to get a feel for using real mediums before attempting to recreate that on the computer.  And it’s difficult to resist using all the features digital offers just because it’s there.  You could wind up having a really disjointed looking illustration.

It’s clear that apps will continue to play a major role in the future.  I believe Illustration courses will begin to include animation and app design into their curriculum.

Chad_butterfly1When you’re not writing or illustrating books, what do you most enjoy doing?

When I’m not writing or illustrating I enjoy spending time with my wife Ewelina ( we’re newlyweds).  In the summer we spend most of our time in Bear Mountain, NY where we met.  We like walking, swimming, kayaking, and camping in the Park. I also enjoy ice hockey and play regularly in Brewster.

© Copyright – Image of Chad Wallace courtesy of the illustrator.

Chad, I can’t thank you enough for enlightening us about what inspires you as well as introducing us to the basics of digital illustration and apps. I am so impressed with your work, am inspired by your passion for art, and I’m in love with your illustration of the two mice in the moonlight! I’m so looking forward to your next book.

Readers, check out my review of The Mouse and the Meadow here. Be sure to get your copy of the book here.

Be sure to visit the Dawn Publications website for more great titles.

There’s still time to enter our giveaway to win The Mouse and the Meadow and two other Dawn Publication titles!