Indie Spotlight: Illustrated Books
In this month’s thematic roundup of BookLife titles, we feature illustrated books. Want to see your book featured? Check out the Indie Spotlight Calendar at booklife.com/indiespotlight.
Animals and the Environment
Valerie D. Johnson
About the book: Welcome to our farm! It is a place to learn about farm life and animals, and to celebrate family, especially grandparents. Children will love counting their way through Granddad’s farm. Pigs and chickens, cows and horses, apples, tomatoes, and plums—so many things to see and count on the farm.
Author statement: “This story was inspired by summers on my grandfather’s farm. The concept of the book is based on my work with young mathematicians as an elementary math resource teacher. And I dedicated this book to my aunt Katherine Johnson, NASA mathematician and one of the subjects of Hidden Figures, because she loved to count.”
About the book: Finding Home is about the journey of two unlikely friends, Arty the ant and Sam the snake. They lose their desert home due to a changing and warming climate, forcing the pair to set out and find a new home. Their journey takes them through rolling desert landscapes, at times beautiful and at times frightening. The story is about friendship and using teamwork to overcome obstacles, and it is seasoned with colorful insights and tips about how humans can live more sustainably with our planet.
Author statement: “The story evolved from a bedtime story I made up for my son years ago. He loved the unlikely ant and snake friendship, and their adventure in the desert. As I developed the story, I realized there was a great opportunity to introduce kids to the effects of climate change and how individual actions can make an impact. My background is in the natural sciences, energy, and climate, and I was not finding many children’s books/resources focused on climate change. I was very lucky to find and work with a truly gifted artist, the illustrator Ida Andersson, who created this magical desert world full of critters and sustainability concepts for kids to discover.”
About the book: From Amazon River dolphin to zodiac moth, get to know some spectacularly special species! Hold on to your alphabet as we travel through these excellent ecosystems! Kids of all ages will love discovering the ABCs of these jam-packed jungles.
Author statement: “This is my fourth ABC picture book about animals and nature. I love researching and illustrating diverse and little-known animals and sharing them with curious kids. The rainforests are vital places on our planet, and more people need to know about the wonders they hold.”
Empowerment and Wonder
About the book: Allie the Albino Squirrel is a book about self-acceptance for any child who has ever felt unsure about the kind of squirrel they truly are.
Author statement: “I wrote Allie the Albino Squirrel to help children understand inclusion and how to accept differences. Allie is a reminder for all children that we are not defined by just one quality.”
About the book: Alastair is a long-haired cat who struggles to fit in on his first day of kittygarten. The other kittens make fun of his differences, but the tables turn when Alastair uses one of his differences to protect the other kittens and they discover that being different is an asset.
Author statement: “This story is based on my real-life cat, Alastair McAllister, and his interactions with other cats. Alastair is an exotic-long haired, flat-faced cat. I observed my other cats treating him differently, which sparked a story for me about the way people treat each other for being different. This is a meaningful story, purrfect for children ages three to eight.”
About the book: Experience the poetic story of everything, from the beginning of our world all the way to you. For children with expanding minds and all lifelong thinkers.
Author statement: “I wasn’t sure it would be possible to tell the story of everything in a picture book, but I knew this for sure: I wanted my infant daughter to experience this expansive story, to see herself in it, and to be able to grow with it through the years. There are so many terrific stories out there for young children that highlight big ideas in a way kids can begin to comprehend. But I hadn’t seen many that told the story of everything, and in the way I wanted to present it to my daughter and the world.”
About the book: Girls Aren’t Made of Cotton Candy is a book to empower young girls to believe in themselves and not place limits on their abilities.
Author statement: “I wrote Girls Aren’t Made of Cotton Candy as a tribute to my daughters and my mother. The idea for the book came about after discovering how women are sometimes ‘boxed’ into choosing certain career fields. I want girls to know that they too can navigate and make an impact in what are currently male-dominated spaces. Additionally, this book aims to encourage girls to speak up and feel confident in their views and know that their voices do indeed matter. I want girls to know that they are valuable and can make a profound impact on this world.”
About the book: Gugulu, the Little Bear Dares is a rhyming picture book that tells readers an uplifting story of new experiences and the need to stick to your family, yet boldly face challenges.
Author statement: “I have always lived in cities close to the Western Ghats, so, I wanted to write a story featuring the beautiful animals of the region. I have tried to balance the story’s educational, moral, and entertainment elements.”
About the book: Ivy and Kem & the Seven Universal Principles teaches readers about living in harmony with yourself and the universe. Children of all ages can learn the seven Universal Laws (mentalism, cor-
respondence, vibration, polarity, rhythm, cause and effect, and gender) through illustrated short stories.
Author statement: “I wrote this book because I want young people to have this information and understand the power of their minds early. Hopefully, it will help them make more sense of the things around them and always feel supported—even when things seemingly don’t go their way.”
About the book: Marlon and the Scary Something is a cozy cat adventure full of surprises, silly songs, and lots of furry fun. Plus, it offers key social skills for building self-reliance and managing anxiety. Out for a morning romp, Marlon stumbles onto a strange creature and is caught in a full-on fear freeze. Marlon scampers home to safety but soon wraps himself in a web of worry. All day he stares out the window and frets about the “Scary Something.” Can Marlon learn to believe in himself and quiet his anxieties?
Author statement: “Anxiety is a thief. It steals your joy and plunges you into a sea of worry. Without skills to help you stay afloat, your days can be a constant struggle. I grew up with anxiety, and it runs in my family. I hope this book can tell a fun story and offer kids a few strategies to help them cope with scary feelings.”
About the book: Nelican is a happy island pelican. One morning, he stumbles upon a crate of lemons. He tries to share, but none of his neighbors want his fruit! Will Nelican find a clever solution to his load of sour lemons?
Author statement: “This picture book was inspired by the proverbial phrase, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’”
About the book: Pengwee’s Breath is the tender-hearted story of an adorable penguin who learns that his own breath gives him the power to calm his fears.
Author statement: “I am a certified meditation and mindfulness teacher for adults and trained to teach mindfulness to children. I believe that teaching mindfulness and mindful breathing to kids can serve as a solid foundation for their social-emotional development. I decided to publish Pengwee’s Breath in an attempt to teach as many kids as possible through an engaging picture book story.”
About the book: You Are Powerful helps curious children understand that every person is made in the image of God, no matter the differences they may notice between themselves and others.
Author statement: “You Are Powerful was inspired by a family member of mine. She spent the last few years of her life as a quadriplegic and lived every one of those days with strength, faith, and a smile on her face. This children’s picture book about inclusion and the love of God that shines through each of us was born from her positive outlook and will go on to do powerful things in her honor. Sales profits are donated to pediatric medical organizations.”
Humor and Play
Frances Mackay, illus. by Dotti Colvin
About the book: Baby Worries is a picture book about a baby who meets his extended family for the first time and starts to worry what he might look like when he grows up. Will he grow huge bushy eyebrows like Uncle Max and scare his friends? Will he have wild hair like cousin Fern?
Author statement: “I wrote Baby Worries after a family get-together when my nephew brought his baby son to the gathering. His son spent most of the time with a confused look on his face. It seemed that he was thinking, Who on Earth are these people? Why am I here? It was so funny that it set me thinking about creating a story, and Baby Worries was born. I wanted a lighthearted book, a story that will give readers a good giggle! And after I discovered the very talented illustrator Dotti Colvin, the book really came alive. Although the story can be enjoyed for sheer entertainment, it can also be used as a discussion starter to talk about feelings and worries. I was a teacher for 20 years, so I had the skills to create several activity packs to go with the book that can be used at home or school.”
Amy Flanagan, illus. by Jon Davis
About the book: Mrs. R. Snugglesworth is 70 pounds of low-to-the-ground “precious.” She is the best at finding “slightly-used sandwiches” and at loving ham, and now she’s looking for her next big challenge. To her surprise, she finds it at the local Bark Park, when she discovers a passion for the law—dog law, that is. In two wags of a tail, she enrolls at Wagsworth Legal Academy, eager to become a lawyer. Turns out, it’s not that easy learning to be “the best at law school.”
Author statement: “This idea for this book originated when our English lab let it be known that she was a super snuggler, by lovingly plopping onto any lap she could find. My spouse jokingly called her Mrs. Snugglesworth, and our daughter (who was eight at the time) took it further, announcing that our lab was actually Mrs. R. Snugglesworth and she was our daughter’s new lawyer. (Previously, her lawyer was a fish.) We had great fun with this—and I filed it away as something that would someday make a good story. Cue December 2020, and the start of a long pandemic winter. I decided that it was the right time to try writing a book about a dog lawyer. I wanted to make kids laugh, and I figured it’d give me a lift too. It worked.”
About the book: Find Itsy Bitsy Spider and friends in this search-and-find adventure for super-spotters. Itsy Bitsy Spider, Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, Puss-in-Boots, and a whole cast of merry Mother Goose characters enter a talent contest and embark on a world tour, from London’s West End to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. A dozen detailed search-and-find scenes with countless things to count and spot. Complete with solutions and bonus items to find.
Author statement: “The tale of Where’s Itsy Bitsy Spider? began after I saw a little spider climbing up my backyard fence. I have created several search-and-find books for different publishers in recent years and wanted to put out one of my own under my Planet Urf Entertainment imprint of self-published books. These books are fun for all ages, but Where’s Itsy Bitsy Spider? is particularly well suited for the very young. My search-and-find books are great for parents and grandparents to read together with children and instill a love and familiarity of books. The text is simple enough for children to read on their own, and there are many stories to discover in the large, busy scenes.”