Fantasy & Sci-Fi Books for Kids

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Puzzle Book With Pages That Must Be Solved

From industrial designer Brady Whitney and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Some books are hard to read, but few are as difficult as the Codex Silenda. Why? Because it actually won’t let you read it unless you’re smart enough to unlock it.

The laser-cut, hand-crafted, five-page wooden book is created by industrial designer Brady Whitney, who’s been raising funds for the project through Kickstarter. “Each page features a unique puzzle that requires the user/reader to unlock the corresponding bolts in order to progress to the next page,” read’s the website. “As the puzzler moves through the book, a story begins to unfold, depicting the story of an apprentice in Da Vinci’s Workshop who encounters the same Codex. However in the story the Codex acts as a trap set by Da Vinci to capture any would be spies/snoopy apprentices in order to protect his work. The only way to escape is to solve each of the puzzles before the master returns from his trip.”


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Making Animal Sculptures out of Plastic Household Objects

From the talented Sayaka Ganz and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“When first encountering my art I want my viewers to see an animal in motion such as horses galloping out from a gallery wall, or dolphins swimming above, or polar bear family diving for fish. I want to share the imagination of what it might feel like to gallop like a horse and feel the wind going through my mane, or to swim like a dolphin and feel the water and sunlight against my fins.

When the viewers get up close to my sculpture, it becomes apparent that these animals are made of plastic kitchen items and other household objects. You might even have the same identical spoon or spatula in your kitchen drawer. Upon further inspection viewers may notice that many of the objects are stained or bent, because these are all second hand items bought from thrift stores and collected from friends and family.

I call my style “3D Impressionism”. I use plastic objects like brush strokes in a painting by Van Gogh. The plastic items are my collaborators, and they inform the aesthetic decisions I make as well as educate me about environmental issues.”

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Interview with picture book author Anika Denise

Anika Denise is the author of several critically acclaimed books for young readers including three illustrated by her husband Christopher Denise: BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA’S, BELLA AND STELLA COME HOME, AND PIGS LOVE POTATOES. Publishers Weekly hailed her latest picture book MONSTER TRUCKSillustrated by Nate Wragg—“a mash up made in heaven” in a recent starred review. 


For what age audience do you write?

I’m published in picture books (those are for all ages, right?) and I have a particular love for rhyming books, but I’m also at work on a picture book biography and a middle grade novel.

Tell us about your latest book.

My latest book MONSTER TRUCKS is a high octane, action-packed rhyming Halloween book about trucks who are monsters in a spooky nighttime race.

Henry: As a fan of fantasy, starting with WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, I have a special place in my heart for monster books.

What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?

Pure fun! I want them to shout, “read-it-again!” And I’d love if it were a perennial favorite for Halloween story hours, and the truck and monster-loving set.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Probably finding the hours to write every day. Juggling writing with being a mom, promoting new books, and doing school visits and appearances can be a challenge. This year (knock on wood)—with my littlest in full day school for the first time—I’m enjoying a more consistent writing schedule. We’ll see if this helps with my second greatest challenge, which is not abandoning longer works when I hit a slump. Before I chalked it up to being away from the piece for long stretches and losing the thread of the yarn. But really, it’s fear. The only way around that kind of self doubt is through it—and that means showing up.

Henry: Butt in chair!

What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?

I think that’s it, the bit about pushing through fear. Fear often shows up to the same party as creativity. Occasionally, they dance. But fear should never lead. My best work comes when I let go and dance (write) like nobody’s watching—including my own inner-critic.

Henry: If you’ve ever seen me dance, you’ll understand why fear is present.

What has been a memorable experience that you never would have had if you had not been a writer?

Sitting on a panel between Maira Kalman and Chris Raschka. I remember being star-struck, with the Talking Heads lyrics running through my mind: “How did I get here?” Bob Shea was on the panel, too. He was reading aloud from DINOSAUR VS. POTTY, declaring, “Potty wins!” in a boxing match announcer’s voice. We were asked to read only a few pages of our books, so Bob never got to the end; and Chris leaned over to me with a wry smile and whispered, “So, who won? Dinosaur or Potty?” I think part of the reason I remember this is, I’d been so nervous. And Chris totally broke the ice.

Henry: Nothing breaks the ice like a potty-trained dinosaur.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

The same advice I give myself: finish. Don’t give up.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

I’ve always liked, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

Henry: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.,

Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you work?

I wouldn’t say this is strange, necessarily, but I do occasionally burn sage in my workspace to clear the energy. And I infuse essential oils like eucalyptus and peppermint that are supposed to help with concentration and creativity. Plus they smell nice.

Henry: I infuse pie. Plus, it smells nice.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Invisibility. For sure. A writer needs to observe and listen. Invisibility would make that a whole heck of lot more convenient, am I right?

Henry: There’s a picture book right there.

If you could have three authors over for dinner, who would it be?

Maurice Sendak, Zora Neale Hurston, and Elizabeth Gilbert. Maurice and Zora because they were both fearless voices in their genres. And Elizabeth because she (literally) wrote the book on living a fearlessly creative life.

Henry: We all know of Maurce Sendak. Wikipedia helpfully offers:

Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960) was an American novelist, short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Elizabeth Gilbert is an American author, essayist, short story writer, biographer, novelist, and memoirist. She is best known for her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, which as of December 2010 has spent 199 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and which was also made into a film by the same name in 2010.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

I’d have to go with the Phoenix. I love the symbolism: rebirth from the ashes. It’s also cool that it pops up across various mythologies and cultures. Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Egyptian and Native American all have a version.

Henry: Plus, it’s a dry heat…

What do you like to do when you’re not working?

I love nesting with the fam: reading, cooking, baking, gardening—I’m a bit of a homebody at heart.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

She was funny and kind. And made the best guacamole.

Henry: Achievement unlocked

Where can readers find your work?

Pretty much wherever books are sold. (But when you can, shop indie!)

Henry: Thanks for spending time with us, Anika

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When is a Starbucks Siren not a Starbucks Siren?

KidLit authors and illustrators know well the rejuvenative power of coffee. And here is proof that the effect is almost immediate, thanks to Abe Green and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Like must of us I love coffee that dark smelly and hot thing that keep you running during the day that can only be compare whit tacos and tamales.

One day when I was waiting for a test I finish my cup of coffee and with a pen in my hand start drawing in my cup a really quick sketch that I post in my account of IG before I start my test. When I finish start looking for the messages of friends that love it and during the next days people start brining me empty cups to draw on it.

So I make a series of cups with the title of “The Secret Life of the Starbucks Siren” after that more people start asking me for special designs so that’s how the second series came out.

I believe that anything in this world is a canvas and you can use it to express yourself and in this case I use what must of the people think is garbage.”

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup 

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup

Drawing On Cup


Ten Picture Books You Should Read in 2016

I’m participating with a lovely group of authors and bloggers in a picture book review schmooze (PCJ Kidlit Faves Blog Party). We are discussing our favorite children’s books of 2016! Each of us has written about one book; my review is below, followed by a list of links to the others’ reviews. You can learn more about the participants at the bottom of this page.

Without further ado…

My favorite picture book of 2016 so far is RETURN. RETURN is the third and final installment of the JOURNEY trilogy of wordless picture books (written and) illustrated by Caldecott honoree Aaron Becker. As with all wordless picture books, the burden is completely on the artwork to tell the tale. And it should come as no surprise that Becker’s wondrous illustrations are more than up to the task.


We follow once again an adventurous girl and her magical red crayon. This time, her father follows her through the magic portal she draws. And this time, their foes brandish a device that negates the magic crayons’ ability to create. Dad and daughter can only flee. Is the solution to their dilemma contained within mysterious petroglyphs they discover?


Audiences can enjoy RETURN without having read its predecessor books. The magnificent artwork is extremely effective at building an alternate world, immersing readers into that world, and conveying a story without using a single word (perhaps the trilogy is itself an homage to petroglyphs). Unconstrained by vocabulary level, RETURN is a marvelous read for kids of any age, while the artwork makes it coffee table-worthy for adults as well.


About the authors/bloggers

Cate Berry is an author, performer, songwriter, and teacher. She’s the author of two original shows, one of which (Dish) was produced at the Long Center for Performing Arts in 2014. Cate’s debut picture book, Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime will be available in Spring 2018 (Balzar + Bray).

Charnaie Gordon, a computer programmer by trade and a Distinguished Toastmaster, is the blogger behind the popular Here Wee Read blog, where you’ll find tips and suggestions for finding the best children’s books, and be inspired to make the most of your read aloud time, however much that is.

Danna Smith is the author of many books for children, including her most recent fiction titles, Swallow the Leader and Arctic White, as well as numerous non-fiction titles, such as Balloon Trees and the forthcoming The Hawk of the Castle: A Story of Medieval Falconry (Candlewick, 2017).

Eileen Manes is a writer, an artist and the blogger behind Pickle Corn Jam, a blog about books and writing for children of all ages. She was recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award, and her current projects include picture books, a middle grade novel and a novel for adults, all in various stages of completion.

Henry L. Herz is the author of numerous books for children, including Mabel and the Queen of DreamsLittle Red Cuttlefish and the forthcoming Dinosaur Pirates (Sterling, 2017). He’s a regular panelist at conventions, including San Diego Comic-Con and WonderCon, and has been a guest blogger on several blogs, including Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo) and Angie Karcher’s Rhyming Picture Book Month (RhyPiBoMo).

Karen Santhanam is a writer, an artist, a blogger and host of the popular Storybook Spotlight podcast. Storybook Spotlight is about reading with kids, children’s books and family fun, including interviews with children’s books authors, illustrators, librarians, teachers, preschool folks and friends. She was also recently nominated as a finalist for the SCBWI-Austin Cynthia Leitich Smith Writing Mentor Award.

Kell Andrews writes novels and picture books for children and nonfiction for adults. A little bit of magic helps with both. Her first novel, Deadwood, was published in 2014 and her debut picture book, Mira Forecasts the Future, came out this year (2016, Sterling).

Keyosha Atwater is an avid reader, Instagramer and blogger. When she isn’t reading to her own kiddos or reviewing books on Instagram @weebooklovers, you’ll find her working on her brand new blog, Wee Book Lovers, where she’ll be reviewing even more books and suggesting the best of the best kid-tested, mom-approved books to try with your own family.

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of numerous beloved books for young people, including the highly-acclaimed, Caldecott-honored picture book, All the World, and her debut novel for middle grade readers, The Great Good Summer. She’s also a poet, a teacher and a frequent, popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences.

Vanessa Roeder (Nessa Dee) is an illustrator, painter and self-proclaimed crafty mess-maker. She’s worked as a muralist and made art for magazines, children’s books and homes around the world. She’s taught art, writes stories, has been featured in Highlights Magazine and on Apartment Therapy and was the grand prize winner in the Austin SCBWI 2016 portfolio contest.


Fun at the 2016 Orange County SCBWI Agents Day

I had a great time at the 2016 Orange County Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Agents Day. There were a number of terrific presentations by agents, authors, and an editor. Sorry for the poor photo quality…


Introductory remarks from author Francesca Rusackas, illustrator Priscilla Burris, and author Q.L. Pearce.


Rachel Orr (agent with The Prospect Agency) presenting Voices Carry – Developing your Picture Book Voice


Jessica Sinsheimer (agent with Sara Jane Freymann Literary) presenting how to use Twitter to research, network and become a priority for literary agents


Annie Berger (editor with Sourcebooks Fire / Jabberwocky) presenting Writing Believable Relationships in YA and Middle Grade


I missed the presentation by author Marily Cram Donahue because I was pitching picture books to editor Annie Berger.


Marlene Perez (author) presenting I’m Not Normal and Maybe You Aren’t Either


Q. L. Pearce (author) presenting on scary (but not too scary) picture books


Kelly Sonnack (agent Andrea Brown Literary) presenting Query Letters


Stephanie Fretwell-Hill (agent with Red Fox Literary) presenting straight from the Heart: Knowing Your Emotional Core in the Craft and Business of Writing