Children's & Fantasy/Sci-Fi Books


Giant Straw Animals from Japan

When someone says giant animal from Japan, my first thought is Godzilla. However, these giant straw animals, courtesy of the mad geniuses at Bored Panda, are just as cool. And they don’t trample Tokyo.

“Fall is a season of harvesting, and festivals to celebrate it are currently taking place all over the world. In Northern Japan, the Wara Art Festival recently rang in the September-October rice season, and it’s a wildly inventive and fun way to repurpose rice straw left over from the harvest.

Wara Art Festival has been taking place in Niigata City since 2008, where it began as a creative collaboration between the city’s tourism division and the Musashino Art University. Rice straw was once widely used in Japan to produce various goods, such as tatami mats, but has now been replaced by wood and plastic in most instances. The students of Musashino worked together to fill the fields of Niigata with giant animal sculptures made of bound rice straw, and they’ve been doing it every year since then.

Check out the best displays from the 2017 festival below, and definitely put a trip to Japan on your fall to-do list for next year.”

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

Image credits: Wara Art Matsuri

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Correct Names for Animals and Objects

Ever wonder who gets to select the name for animals and objects? This hilarious post by Dominyka Jurkštaitė, Mark Dempsey, and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda offers some sensible alternatives.

“Do you like to eat bagel seeds covered in cereal sauce for breakfast? Perhaps you like to quench your thirst with a nice cold glass of snowman blood? Or maybe you’ve marveled at the majestic grace of the animal known as the sea flap flap? You’re probably shaking your head right now, but the chances are that you’ve done at least one of these three things at some point in your life.

Don’t worry, we haven’t gone mad. Scroll down to see what we mean. The funny (and more than a little bizarre) descriptions of everyday things come courtesy of @CorrectNames, a hilarious twitter account by Mark Dempsey that attributes alternative names to everything from fruit and animals to clothing and body parts. Which one do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to vote for the funniest!”

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

 I’d also call this ice juice.

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

 Or doughnut seeds

Correct Name

Correct Name

Correct Name

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Amazing Balloon Animals

Thanks to Masayoshi Matsumoto and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda, we are shown how balloon animals can be taken to the next level.

“Everyone would love Japanese artist Masayoshi Matsumoto at their birthday party. This remarkable balloon artist has already made a name for himself but now he’s back with even more incredibly intricate animal and insect sculptures.

“I started making these seven years ago, I was really inspired by wildlife pictures and wanted to see if I could create realistic animals of my own,” Matsumoto told Metro. His pieces take the self-taught artist a minimum of two hours to complete and more complex project last up to six.

All of his work becomes even more stunning when you realize that Matsumoto doesn’t use markers, stickers or any other supplementary material. Ever. His multi-colored animal kingdom is made purely out of blowing and twisting balloons.”

#1 Phoenix


#2 House Fly

House Fly

#3 Chameleon


#4 Caterpillar


#5 Snake


#6 Jumping Spider

Jumping Spider

#7 Octopus


#8 Frog


#9 Jellyfish


#10 Siamang



Redesigning animal names

As a fan of good design, I’ve long thought that animal names should be more descriptive. Well, the clever folks at Sad & Useless have compiled a list for us. Enjoy!

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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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Photos of the Tiny Fae World Around Us

From Magda Wasiczek and the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

My picture book, MABEL AND THE QUEEN OF DREAMS, is inspired by Mercutio’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Mercutio describes how the tiny Fae Queen Mab travels in her flying chariot, painting people’s dreams. The photos in this post show that the Fae Queen could live in our world quite comfortably.

“My name is Magda Wasiczek, I am a flower & nature photographer based in Trzebinia, Poland. Photography to me is a tool of raising the awareness to the beauty of nature. I’ve learned to see invisible things, to enjoy million small details, which I did not pay attention to before.

I do not know who or why, what strength created the world that surrounds us. I know that it is an unusual and fascinating in every smallest detail.

Before I began photographing, I liked to draw, paint. Then I just changed the tool and instead of brushes and pencils I began to use lenses and I have learned to use their optical properties to achieve the desired effects.

I want to show the world of plants or insects in such a way that would impress an average person who has paid no attention to the world at his feet or even hated those “nasty bugs”.

When going to the meadow or the garden, I have no planned shots. I let the nature surprise me. I love the thrill when you find a theme in the open air. It’s like opening presents at Christmas.

I want to present my vision of the world, this idyllic paradise of fairy tales. I hope that looking at my pictures, a child inside of them wakes up, because the world in the eyes of a child is always more colorful, fascinating, mysterious and full of surprises.”

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Straw Dinosaurs and Giant Animals

From the mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“Niigata Prefecture, Japan, has thought of a novel way to use the straw left over from their rice harvest. A “wara” or rice-straw festival is held every August 31st, where local artists build elaborate straw sculptures over wooden frames. The frames allow the statues to be larger and let spectators interact with them.

Amy Goda, an aspiring local artist, has gained fame for her spectacular rice-straw dinosaur sculptures. Her massive creatures have made the Wara Art Festival famous online. Visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of these unique sculptures can go to Uwasekigata Park in Niigata City’s Nishikan Ward, where they will remain until the beginning of November.”

Niigata Prefecture holds its Wara Art Festival every August 31st

“Wara” means rice-straw in Japanese

Rice-straw is a by-product of the yearly rice harvest

The straw is attached to wooden frames to provide stability and allow for greater size

The results are surprising

Amy Goda studies art in Niigata Prefecture

Her incredible dinosaurs have attracted international attention

Various techniques are used to create the behemoths

The method used to build thatched cottages is similar to that used for the sculptures

This makes for stable structures that visitors can interact with



Interview with picture book author, Rebecca Gomez

Rebecca J. Gomez is an author and poet who writes for children of all ages. She lives in Nebraska with her hubby, three kids, and a few pets.


For what age audience do you write?

Very soon, my second picture book, HENSEL & GRETEL: NINJA CHICKS, comes out. My first book is a picture book for kids roughly 4-8, but I truly love to write for kids of all ages. When I’m not working on a picture book, I’m usually working on a verse novel for middle graders or young adults.

Tell us about MOOSE.

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is a labor of love that began in 2006, when Corey Rosen Schwartz and I had recently started writing together. It’s a rhyming story about a group of friends building a treehouse together. Here is the blurb from Simon and Schuster:

It takes a team to build a tree house—but what if that team includes one very bossy moose?

When Fox, Toad, Bear, Porcupine, and Skunk set out to build a tree house, they know just what to do: they’ll follow a plan and they’ll work as a team. But when bossy Moose barges in and upends their plans with some of his own, his friends become more and more frustrated…until things go hilariously awry!

This lively rhyming picture book is pure, bouncy fun even as it imparts a subtle lesson about teamwork. Young readers will love to chant along: “But what about you, Moose!”

Henry: How cool that you got to collaborate with Corey! Moose are well-known in the animal kingdom for their poor manners. No ninja porcupines?

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

Mostly just fun! It’s great to read aloud, it’s silly, and it has great illustrations with lots of fun little details. It wouldn’t hurt if readers learned a little bit from Moose on not being bossy either.

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Probably the waiting. There’s a lot of waiting in this business, but the hardest time to wait is when I’ve just finished a draft of a new manuscript and I have to ignore it for a while. It helps to have something else to work on in the mean time!

Henry: I feel the same way. We picture book writers must work on several manuscripts at once to stay sane.

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

Being an author has made me really pay attention to how people respond to books. This has shown me that no matter how brilliant I may think my work is, no matter how many awards it may win or what place it reaches on the bestseller lists, there will always be someone who isn’t impressed. Readers are different. A bad review (even lots of them) doesn’t automatically negate the value of my work.

Henry: We writers are advised to never read reviews of our books. You know the saying about it being pointless to wrestle with a pig?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Don’t get so caught up in wanting to be published that you forget to enjoy your art. Keep writing and improving your craft, and be patient. It will pay off.

Henry: It is true that beyond talent, published authors learn to be tenacious and thick-skinned. Sort of a pit bull-armadillo.

Do you have any favorite quotes?

One of my favorite writing-related quotes is from the movie Stranger Than Fiction. It is from the scene in the movie in which Karen Eiffel, an author, is telling her assistant how it is she finally figured out the ending to her book. She said, “Well, Penny, like everything worth writing, it came inexplicably and without method.”

Henry: Some other fun writing quotes include:

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” ― Douglas Adams

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” ― Ernest Hemingway

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

I prefer to write with a cup of tea in complete silence. Well, as silent as it can be with two poodles and a parrotlet in the same room.

Henry: So, not silent at all.

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

Flying, of course. I always suspect that anyone who answers differently is just trying to avoid being cliché.

Henry: While the virtues of flying are obvious, there ARE many other fun superpowers. Halting time is a popular one for authors on a deadline. Invisibility. The ability to ignore bad book reviews.

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

Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, and Sharon Creech because their books represent, in my opinion, the best qualities in children’s literature.

Henry: C.S. Lewis is best known for his NARNIA series, but he also wrote with remarkable clarity about religion. Here’s one such passage from MERE CHRISTIANITY:

“’Temperance’ referred not specially to (alcoholic) drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further… A man may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning.

There is one further point about the virtues that ought to be noticed. There is a difference between doing some particular just or temperate action and being a just or temperate man. Someone who is not a good tennis player may now and then make a good shot. What you mean by a good player is a man whose eyes and muscles and nerves have been so trained by making innumerable good shots that they can now be relied on. They have a certain tone or quality which is there even when he is not playing, just as a mathematician’s mind has a certain habit and outlook which is there even when he is not doing mathematics. In the same way, a man who perseveres in doing just actions gets in the end a certain quality of character. Now it is that quality rather than the particular actions which we mean when we talk of a ‘virtue’.”

What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?

Dragon, definitely. They are strong, they fly, they breathe fire!

Henry: Dragons are a solid choice. For some reason, I like minotaurs and centaurs too.


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

I like to read, to draw and paint, go hiking, bake, watch movies, and coercing my family into playing board games.

Henry: Nothing brings a family closer than a mandatory game of Monopoly.

What would you like it to say on your tombstone?

I am not sure, but I think it would be cool if it were in rhyme.

Henry: Here lies Rebecca, she had a full life. A beloved mother and smoking hot wife.
You’re welcome.

Where can readers find your work?

WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? is available in bookstores and pretty much any place that sells books. Visit Rebecca online at rebeccajgomez.com.

Henry: Thanks for visiting with us, Rebecca. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.


Interview with bestselling picture book author/illustrator Janell Cannon

Janell Cannon was born and raised in Minnesota. At age 18 she moved to Southern California where she currently lives. Her love of nature, science, reading and art led her on a long circuitous path from doing whatever job she could get in order to pay the rent, to a picture book writing and illustration career.


For what age audience do you write?

I write/illustrate picture books for all ages, but create text that early grade schoolers can grasp—with a few fun new words that they can pick up in the process.

Tell us about your latest book.

It has no text, is entirely visual and was recently returned to me from the publisher—one reason I think is because it lacks clear category in many respects.

Henry: However, it had no spelling or punctuation mistakes.

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

A deep compassion for how vulnerable our pets are to human whim, and to be very considerate of their long term needs if deciding to adopt an animal companion.

Henry: Right! You don’t just adopt a cute puppy – you adopt a dog for ten or more years. Thoughtful turtle and parrot owners have been known to put provisions in their will in case the animal outlives them!

What aspect of writing do you find most challenging?

Facing how mediocre my writing is, and staying focused throughout the tedious process of cleaning up a manuscript and paring it down to the essentials while fending off amusing but distracting digressions.

Henry: I hesitate to correct you, but mediocre is not a word that comes to mind when I consider your writing. 

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

Appreciating the creative efforts of others in any endeavor.

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

Many travel adventures around the world with fellow writers I have met along the way. One memory in particular is being a passenger in an old Russian van, flying across the roadless Mongolian steppes, holding a huge live golden eagle in my lap.

Henry: Flying over Mongolia in a van with an eagle in your lap sounds more like an episode of Magic School Bus! Is your maiden name Frizzle, by any chance?

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Illegitimi non carborundum!

Henry: Paraphrasing, accept that rejection is part of the process. Just keep going with your writing!

Do you have any favorite quotes?

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” —Arthur C. Clarke

Henry: We are surrounded by so much technological magic that we forget it’s there.

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

First drafts are almost always written while in the tub.

Henry: Waterproof laptop computer?

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

Have always wished to have the power to shape shift and transport anywhere on the planet at will, with the ability to move forward and backward in time, while being fluent in every language and a virtuoso of all musical instruments. These abilities would break down many barriers of being able to deeply study the workings and history of this magnificent planet and human society.

Henry: Hey, that’s more than one superpower. Don’t be greedy! Remember the moral of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

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

Take long and wandering walks while paying close attention to as much as possible.

Henry: With an eagle in your lap?

Where can readers find your work?

Libraries, book stores, and most recently in Iraqi Kurdistan!

Henry: Some of these locations are easier to reach than others… Thanks for joining us, Janell. This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.

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Animal Balaclavas

From Teya Salat and those mad geniuses at Bored Panda.

“With the winter months fast approaching, the balaclava is a key piece of kit to keep your face warm, or to rob a bank. 22-year-old Russian tattoo model Teya Salat may not be a thief, but her stylish, animal-themed balaclavas have stolen our hearts and opened our wallets!

The balaclava takes its name from the 1854 Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. British troops, lacking warm clothing, were issued these hand-knit face-masks to protect them from the bitter cold. Previously, this type of headgear was known an an Uhlan cap or a Templar cap.”