PPBF: The Smile Shop

Author/Illustrator: Satoshi Kitamura
Publisher: Peachtree, 2021 (orig. Scallywag Press, 2019)
Themes: pocket money, markets, smiles

Opening: see spread below.

Summary: (from my library catalog) A small boy has saved all his pocket money and visits the market with high expectations. When disaster strikes and he loses his money, he feels very devastated. But wait, what’s that? A Smile Shop? He could really do with a smile. What will happen if he goes in?

I like this book because: it’s a sweet story that may introduce to young readers that we are indeed in charge of our outlook on life. AND the illustrations: rendering, composition, gentle palette, legibility are perfect! Pretty vague? Read it!

Resources/activities! Great jumping off point for discussion questions on spending money, allowance, shopping, street markets, attitudes, and outlook on life. Make a play market in the classroom and give everyone a chance to spend as they see fit (would actually LOVE to see a classroom act it out!).

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.

PPBF: Willy and Hugh

Author/Illustrator: Anthony Browne
Publisher: Knopf, 1991
Themes: bullies, friendship, fears

Opening: (sorry! I returned the book and forgot to write it down!)

Summary: (from my library catalog) Willy the chimpanzee is lonely until he meets Hugh Jape in the park, and the two become friends. BUT read this much better one to know why decent recommendations matter: (From goodreads) It’s not easy being a chimp in a world of oversized gorillas, and in WILLY AND HUGH, our scrawny hero is lonely for a pal. Hulking Hugh seems an unlikely candidate, but as Willy discovers, the oddest couples can make the best of friends.

I like this book because: the awe inspiring illustration and design (I melt over Browne’s artwork!), but I love unexpected friendships, don’t-judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover surprises, and books that are easy to read visually. We often don’t talk about the levels of visual understanding for the youngest among us, but we should!

Resources/activities: Talk about what fears we have and reasons why we might have them, as well as strategies we can use to overcome as well as accept them. Yes, same tip from a few months ago with Don’t Worry, Little Crab/Chris Haughton – so read that book too!

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog  HERE.

WHM2020 – belated

Black History Month Portraits

Updated post: The following portraits were a daily exercise to help keep my work loose. The side effect has been unexpected and wonderful! I learned so much about each of these remarkable Americans as I searched for quotes, which have been added to each post on Instagram @jrzoch.

PPBF: Playdate + Interview!

86EBD916-ED38-433B-BBCA-A0560652D8C9Author: Maryann Macdonald
Rahele Jomepour Bell
Albert Whitman, 2019
Themes: opposites, rhyming stories
Opening: Me. You. One. Two.

Summary: (from the publishers) A picture book with minimal text and maximum impact, as portrayed through both the well-chosen words and the fun-filled, evocative illustrations.

I like this book because: this is a perfect read for storytime with a simple rhythm and delightfully engaging, bright, and cheerful illustrations. Young children love seeing familiar scenes like finding a friend to play with, and listening to the back and forth of words and concepts they already know.

4D5360BC-C144-44C9-9334-9B50F2983DF3Resources/activities: give children a musical instrument to hold while reading and allow them to add to the melodious nature of the story; read more books featuring opposites, like Karen’s Opposites, or Double Take; make a playdate, read the story, and act out the fun featured in the book! 

For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog  HERE.

5C1ACE67-37AB-4CBB-9D5C-2269C3498306Rahele was gracious enough to send me the book herself, including the promotional cards (above) AND to answer a few questions (with sketches!) for the post!

What is your favorite task in the book-making process?

For me the most exciting and favorite part of the book making is coming with the ideas for the cover! It is that moment you are sure that your book is coming together, and it feels like a real book!

For Playdate we (Me, Art director, the editor) worked on the cover before starting to make illustrations for the interior pages! It was great because it helped me to understand the story concept a little bit more. So the characters of the book came out when I made the final cover for the PLAYDATE book!

Rick DeMonico sent me the mock up for the cover and I put my sketch on it and sent it back to him! After discussing with the editor, we came with this critic that the children look a little bit older than what we want them be!

Here is the first sketch for the PLAYDATE cover (the book title still was not finalized)


Then again, I came with another sketch-idea for the book cover and it’s this one:

6A1A5AB2-03AC-4221-B25F-0B112173C51BThen Rick wrote back to me and said “ Rahele, We like the direction of the dress up sketch. Our comments are as follows. Delete the surrounding details like the banner, the car, butterfly. We want the book to be all about the kids. If they are outside the grass should be simplified. Please keep the dog though! We would like to switch out one of the girls for a boy.

So, This is what I came with these two sketches for the cover, following their comments. And BANG!!! The one with 1 boy, 1 girl and the dog which is leading the parade was confirmed and I went right to the color stage and did a little bit changes for the final and the one that now is the the cover of the PLAYDATE was approved by the publisher!

Rick is a wonderful art director and I would love to thank him for all I have learned from him!


1D131621-35D1-4CF2-906A-0F4EEF1C67A8940EC50D-EEF3-4D46-AE00-8C7D41195BD1This photo is a screen shot from @booksfordiversity page on Instagram.

One tip on keeping organized or on-task with illustration work?

For me putting the sketches up on the wall helps me to stay focused on the project and this helps me to keep also organized! And knowing what the next step is to go feels good too. I can also see how much work I have done and how many more I have to do and get them done on time!

What do you do when you feel your creativity-tank is running low?

I make ugly work when I feel I am not creative enough to make art I can show people! But the good thing about making ugly art is I always find new things in it! Like finding new texture, new color pallet or pattern I can use in my better work! So basically, making an ugly work is playing with color and texture without thinking of making something beautiful!?

Name an un-related skill you have that in some way helps with your work making picture books.

Collecting my favorite items that later on I bring them into illustrations unconsciously like seeing some specific leaves with interesting form that I had been collecting them from long time ago!

One-for-fun: a favorite scent?

I have a lot of favorite scent but one of my most favorite one is geranium and the scent coming out when the leaves are touched! It reminds me of my grandma’s house and the little fountain in the middle of the yard with geranium flowers around of it!

Thank you, Rahele for sharing a bit about your process – I especially like that geraniums remind you of your grandmother. I never got to meet either of mine, so details like these are special, even if it’s not bout my own. Discover more about Rahele’s artwork on her website – HERE; follow her on Instagram – HERE or twitter – HERE

Women’s History Month Illustration Challenge


Lois Lenski, The Little Airplane

Not sure I should be calling it a challenge, as I am the only one who participated (ha!), but it IS a challenge to replicate another person’s artwork and add a character of your own (#alligatorinserted) into the image. Every day for a month! A great exercise, but more importantly it’s been a real pleasure introducing others to the work of female illustrators in children’s literature. I am posting each of the pieces this year, including links to help you learn more about each of these fabulous creators in kidlit! Thanks for coming along for the ride! You can see them all on my instagram page, and even quicker in an album on my fb-artist-page.



Jill McElmurry, Pirate Princess


Anne Wilsdorf, Charlotte


Jan Brett, The Mitten


Elsa Beskow, Thumbelina


Trina Schart Hyman, Little Red Riding Hood


Molly Bang, Ten, Nine, Eight


Wanda Gag, Millions of Cats


Esphyr Slobodkina, Caps For Sale


Cecily Mary Barker, Flower Fairies


Margaret Bloy Graham, Harry the Dirty Dog


Barbara Lehman, The Secret Box ?


Britta Teckentrup, Little Mouse and the Red Wall


Sara Varon, Odd Duck


Sarah Bowie, We’re Going to the Zoo


Rashin Kheiriyeh, The Two Parrots


Peggy Rathmann, Bootsie Barker Bites


Judith Kerr, The Tiger Who Came to Tea


Eva Eriksson, Max’s Wagon


Cyd Moore, I Love You, Stinkyface


Yuyi Morales, Nino Wrestles the World


Églantine Ceulemans, Lasco de la grote


Molly Idle, Flora and the Flamingo


Julie Flett, We All Count


Magdalena Matoso, Clap, Clap!


Dorothée de Monfried, Shh! I’m Sleeping


Tor Freeman, Showtime for Billie and Coco


Jen Corace, Telephone


Mini Grey, Bad Bunnies’ Magic Show

More links to some of my favorite female children’s literature illustrators (slides featured on my instagram page!) to follow – just click on their name below:

Marie La France, Lillian HobanCarson Ellis, Judy Schachner, Melissa Sweet,

Wendy Wahman, Alison Friend, Iza Trapani, Sang Miao, Shadra Strickland,

Jessixa Bagley, Qin Leng, Laura James, Caitriona Sweeney, Sheena Dempsey,

Robyn Kahukiwa, Eva Muggenthaler, Briony May Smith, Esther Gomez Madrid,

Evangelina Prieto López, Maria Wernicke, Gunnella, Catherine Zarip, Helen Hancocks,

Maria Jönsson, Dorothea Warren Fox, Wendy Wahman, Anne Hunter





PPBF: Steadfast Tin Soldier

BF4E6FA6-4C03-493F-B876-7639EF42B552Author: Hans Christian Andersen/Joohee Yoon
Joohee Yoon
Enchanted Lion Books, 2016
Age: 4
Themes: Toys, fairytales
OpeningOnce there were five and twenty tin soldiers, all of them brothers, being made from the same tin spoon.

40DC6820-6B08-4358-AD9C-58B4394C3A66Summary: (from my library catalog) The perilous adventure of a toy soldier who loves a paper dancing girl culminates in tragedy for both of them.

50418E2F-E08A-4019-BA19-EFC8A307EE0CI like this book because: I love fairytales, especially around the holidays – nostalgia? – and this is such a beautiful version! The text is also more palatable for younger ears, but together with the illustrations this is a book that multiple ages can enjoy together.

F61D2F46-EC28-46A3-8466-4601A17ACBD0Resources/Activities: create art using just two colors, or one color and black; read more fairytales together! I find that winter-break was always a good time to bake, read, drink tea or hot cocoa, and just enjoy being together.

F18CF510-F6D6-44C1-B511-02C4BA7FDDF4For more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE


PPBF: Do Not Open

665553D9-D668-49FC-ABAF-68AF614A75E9Author/Illustrator: Brinton Turkle
Publisher: Penguin, 1981
Age: 4-8
Themes: cats, seashore, magic
Opening: Miss Moody lived at land’s end with Captain Kidd. Captain Kidd wasn’t the famous pirate; he was a cat.

262F8ADD-9EB8-412E-85B5-BF026A2B4163Summary: (from my library’s catalog) Following a storm Miss Moody and her cat find an intriguing bottle washed up on the beach. Should they ignore its “Do not open” warning?

300DC470-5B1F-4F67-8082-663099AD57A3I like this book because: Drawn to the illustrations on a another one of Jama Kim Rattigan’s facebook posts, I placed several of Brinton Turkle’s books on hold, and this is one I had enjoyed before with my children. It’s a His use of dramatic pencil lines and efficient yet bold compositions is food for my soul! (I would have preferred not to have the text boxes set in the middle of these lovely images though!) It’s a dramatic little story too!

8FB4948D-1FF9-486C-9B43-061FC3B2C19EResources/Activities: Brinton Turkle’s started making picture books before I was born, and one title, Thy Friend, Obadiah, won a Caldecott Honor Medal in 1970. Look for a pile of his books, ones he wrote and ones he illustrated for others, and enjoy!

DB8CD5D4-F72D-47DF-81ED-20CACF89A89DFor more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE

PPBF: Penguinaut!

D7D3E475-0EB7-4C28-B11F-9BB049AAC583Author: Marcie Collen
Emma Yarlett
Orchard, 2018
Themes: penguins, zoo, moon
OpeningOrville was small. His friends were big. And their adventures were bigger

073BC828-75E1-495C-9443-F1BC7BF6EDC9Summary: (from my library catalog) Orville is a little penguin who lives in a zoo and dreams of big adventures, like going to the Moon; the other animals are skeptical, but Orville is determined, so he builds a spaceship and sets out all by himself–and discovers that real adventures are best when they are shared with friends.

34B1586C-2709-43B4-8741-F19801D94552I like this book because: full disclosure: I am biased! This is a BA-BOING brand new picture book from one of my critique partners, and it IS fabulous! Great rhythm and readaloudablity, oodles of onomatopoeia and lots of alliteration! AND I love the mixed media illustrations and adorable KA-BOOM character designs! BLAST OFF to your library and enjoy it yourself!

Nightsky kid's artResources/Activities: create your own milk-carton rockets; make a volcano-styled blast-off with recyclable water bottles, instructions HERE; make night sky art on dark paper, like the one above which I found HERE

EE4BCBB8-FF0D-449E-95E7-8DB218F46B2CFor more Perfect Picture Book Friday picks with teacher/parent resources, check out the list on Susanna Hill’s blog HERE.