Kid Lit Odds and Ends

Here are a few odds and ends from the Kid Lit world this week:

  • First and foremost, we were sorry to hear that Ann Jonas, author and illustrator, passed away this week. Her picture book Round Trip is a favorite of ours because of its ingenious use of positive and negative space. Once you read the book, you turn it upside down and then continue reading it from back to front. It’s simply delightful and, like her other books, will continue to stretch children’s imaginations for generations to come.
  • Chip Kidd, the designer behind tons of book covers, including Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, has written a guide to graphic design for kids (ages 10 and up). It’s a great read for a budding artist or designer. To get a sense of what GO! A Kidd’s Guide To Graphic Design is all about, watch the trailer.
  • Next Tuesday marks the release date of a new book by William Joyce, who brought us The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore in both film and book form (among other great stories). The new book is titled The Mischievians. You can get a peek at it here, and pick up your own copy next week.

Do you know of anything cool that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Have a great weekend everybody!



Kid Lit Odds and Ends

Here and there we’ve collected odds and ends from the Kid Lit world that we find interesting. Here’s what this week brought us:

  • Make mischief and mayhem today! It’s Roald Dahl Day (aka Roald Dahl’s birthday)! He was one of the world’s best storytellers, so go to your library or local bookstore and pick up one of his books. Even better, read his stories aloud to the little ones in your life. We’re willing to bet they will be riveted and thoroughly entertained. On a related note, his grandson, Luke Kelly, just put out a picture book of his own, and Vogue interviewed him about it.
  • We discovered this self portrait by Eric Carle, accompanied by this Carle quote: “Ever since I was very young, as far back as I can remember, I have loved making pictures. I knew even as a child that, when I grew up, I would be an artist of some kind. The lovely feeling of my pencil touching paper, a crayon making a star shape in my sketchbook, or my brush dipping into bright and colorful paints — these things affect me as joyfully today as they did all those years ago.”
  • We already knew author/illustrator Oliver Jeffers was super cool based on his children’s books alone. Now we have another reason to like him–he has Duck Hunt ducks adorning his walls. Last week The Guardian posted a piece about interior design, and they featured Oliver Jeffers’ home in New York. Take a look at the piece; the Duck Hunt ducks aren’t the only cool things about his home/workspace.

What odds and ends have you discovered in the kid lit world this week? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo credit: Francis Marie Photography

“Mister Whistler” Dances Out of His Clothes and Into Your Heart

Margaret Mahy must have been taking a pretty big risk when she pitched her publisher on a children’s book that revolves around a grown man stripping down to his boxers, page by page. Not to mention that a crowd gathers, watches his show, and even stuffs money in his hat.

Does it sound a bit iffy? Don’t worry, it’s a charmer of a book!

Mister Whistler wakes up with a tune in his head. He dances his way into his clothes and then heads off to clean his aunt’s windows. When Mister Whistler gets to the train station he can’t find his ticket, so he begins to dance his way back out of his clothes in search of it. Item by item comes off as he checks his pockets for the ticket. All the while though, his ticket is firmly clasped between his lips. (How many of us are guilty of doing something similar?)

Mister Whistler’s little show begins to attract a crowd who loves the performance. Some drop money in his hat. And it’s a good thing they do, because even though Mister Whistler finds his ticket just in time to board the train, he accidentally swallows it as soon as he gets on.

Gavin Bishop’s nostalgic, stylized illustrations and soft color palette give Mahy’s not-so-typical story just the right tone. You can almost hear the tune whistling in Mister Whistler’s head as he shimmies, shakes, and spins.

Mister Whistler is a charmingly odd and oddly charming book, and that’s why we love it. Mahy has a knack for doing something a little different. Often times the books that some might describe as “different,” turn out to be the best ones.


The Best of 2012, Our Top 21 Favorite Children’s Books from this Past Year

Okay, the blog post title is a bit dramatic. This list is certainly not all-encompassing. There were many other books we loved in 2012, and we probably forgot a few other favorites that we should have included here. Nonetheless…

If you follow Lookio Books on Twitter, for the past few days we’ve been tweeting our 21 favorite children’s picture books from 2012. Here we’ve compiled the list and tweets (with some minor editing) into one nice, neat package. Each has a link to purchase from our favorite bookstore – Book Cellar in Chicago. If you want to buy one of these books, order from  Book Cellar and support an amazing local business.

No, of course we did not include any of our own Lookio books on this list. That would be super lame. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t proud of the work we accomplished with the launch of three books of our own in 2012. So please do check out our personalized, custom books for kids and support another small business who would greatly appreciate your patronage!

Here’s our top 21 favorite children’s books of 2012, in no particular order:

William Joyce's picture book "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" is as good as his Oscar-winning short film.

"Hang Glider & Mud Mask" from @mcsweeneys, with two covers, kept us reading in circles. Awesome!

Henry Cole's "Unspoken" doesn't need a single word to tell a powerful and touching Civil War story.

"Green" by @lauravseeger is a beautiful and cool look at a color. We're hoping for a series.

A vegetarian sasquatch seeks out a buddy in "Larf" by @ashleyspires. Lots of great wit.

Loved "The Insomniacs" by @wolfandfox and @BrothersHilts. Best work happens after midnight.

"I, Too, Am America" by Langston Hughes and Bryan Collier. Stunning art + poetic genius = a must see.

Bobo and Earl are back in Eileen and Marc Rosenthal's "I'll Save You Bobo". Gotta love poor Earl.

Being different is all good in "The Hueys in the New Sweater" by @OliverJeffers.

Color flies off the page in "Chloe, Instead" by @MicahPlayer. A sweet story with a sweet ending.

Our son is obsessed with the moon, just like the girl in Naoko Stoop's "Red Knit Cap Girl". Love this tale!

No words needed in the gorgeous "The Island" by Marije and Ronald Tolman. Do Polar bears dream?

Team Emberley is back with another little slice of sweetness in "The Ant and the Grasshopper".

Kali finds an unexpected use for his bow in "Kali's Song" by Jeanette Winters.

How great is a boy feeding applesauce to a powered-down robot? "Boy + Bot" = gem.

Another hat thieved in "This is Not My Hat" by Jon Klassen. Worthy follow-up to his 2011 gem.

Something meta and cool is going on in Kate Banks "The Bear in the Book". Read it, you'll see.

We are thankful for everything from @toddparr, including 2012's "The Thankful Book".

The limericks pop in @MargaretMahy's charming "The Man from the Land of Fandango".

A girl comforts Honest Abe's ghost in "Abe Lincoln's Dream". Another Lane Smith gem.

You can't get much better than "This Moose Belongs to Me" by @OliverJeffers. So awesome.

“Mousetronaut” Blasts Us into Space with a Heroic Little Mouse

There’s no doubt at all that NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly is an American hero. Though despite flying combat missions in the Gulf War and numerous space shuttle missions–including the last flight of the space shuttle Endeavor–most people would agree that Capt. Kelly is actually the second most heroic member of his family. This is not by any fault of his–Capt. Kelly’s wife is Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. You probably know Gabby Gifford’s story, but in case you don’t, you can google her name to read more about her truly unbelievable, equal-parts-tragic-and-heroic story.

As an astronaut, Capt. Kelly has spent cumulatively over a month of his life in space. During his first adventure on the space shuttle, Capt. Kelly was accompanied by a number of mice. Scientists wanted to see how the mice would react to spaceflight. As Capt. Kelly has mentioned in interviews, all the mice seemed pretty miserable with the whole space flight experience…except one. This plucky mouse was the inspiration for Mousestronaut.

Mousestronaut tells the tale of “Meteor”, the smallest mouse in the bunch. Because of his small stature, Meteor is afraid he’ll never get to travel to space, even though he works harder than the all the other mice. But his hard work pays off and Meteor gets to realize his dream, and much more.

Most of the art–illustrated by C.F. Payne–captures the action very nicely, but a couple spreads stand out and will really catch your eye. The lift off and space walk scenes come to mind. At the end of the book, you’ll find a great little Afterword from Capt. Kelly that discusses a bit about the book and provides some info about space travel that you can use to wow your little ones.
Mousestronaut is a great little story written by a true hero. Capt. Kelly makes us all proud, as does his little mouse, Meteor.

Catching Our Breath

Sheesh, our blog has been a bit of a ghost town for a few weeks now. We apologize for that. It’s no coincidence that the last thing we posted here was the announcement that was live and we were out of the starting gate! I think you see where this is going. The last month+ has been a bit chaotic around the Lookio offices. We’ve been filling orders, making books, tweaking things that needed to be tweaked, and basically just getting our bearings. It’s been a whirlwind, but a good one so far. We’ve already made dozens of books and have gotten some really wonderful feedback. For example, here’s Ollie talking about his Lookio book:

We could watch that video all day! But, alas, duty calls. We have to get back to work making and launching new books (more on this coming very soon!), and, yes, blogging, tweeting, facebooking (or whatever the verb is for posting on Facebook), and all the other things we’ve been meaning to do but haven’t found time for since the launch.

We’re back in the saddle. Stay tuned!

It’s ALIVE!! … Some thoughts on “commencement” and some thank yous

Lookio customizable children's books

A couple days ago we officially launched Lookio Books and Wow, what a journey.

Way back in high school I remember being confused about the word “commencement.” In relation to the ceremony at the end of senior year, I initially thought the word meant “the end.” It seemed to make sense–high school was ending and we were moving on. It was a while before I realized it actually meant “the beginning.” “Commencement” was obviously meant to signify that it’s not the end of something, but the start of everything else.

Our launch reminds me of this confusion I once felt. We’ve been toiling over Lookio, day in and day out, for well over a year. At first, the launch felt like an end–the end of a long, often treacherous road with many obstacles, some of which felt insurmountable at times. (I’m thinking of Sisyphus who was consigned to push a boulder up and down a hill for eternity.) The elation that was supposed to accompany the launch was a bit muted by the exhaustion Christine and I felt as we finally crossed the finish line, just about spent. I think we just needed a good night’s sleep and some perspective.

It wasn’t until tonight, about 36 hours after the launch, when we started to fulfill our first orders and make our first books, that the commencement really started to feel like a beginning. The emotions finally shifted from exhaustion to real, tangible excitement about what’s to come.

Lookio is very much in its infancy. We are starting small, but our hopes for the business are just the opposite. We can’t wait to keep growing, keep adding new books, keep finding ways to get better, keep improving our site, and keep thinking of new products that parents and gift-givers might want to give to little ones. So please stay tuned as we grow–via our newsletter, Twitter, and/or Facebook.

We have to extend heartfelt “thanks” to Chris Halverson ( for amazing design work, Jake Elliott for stunning web development (, the fantastic artists we’ve used to date (Sarah Sisterson, Pat Bradley, and Shawn Finley (whose book we haven’t launched yet but will soon)), and all the super-generous friends and family who supported us on Kickstarter. We also have to thank everyone who gave us ideas, shared expertise, and offered tons of encouragement. There’s no way we’d have been able to do this without all of you.

With that, please check out It’s open for business, or just general perusal. Feedback is always welcome —

Much, much love,
-Shawn and Christine