Archive for Books

The Bean, The Coal, and The Straw

Here are some drawings from a project I worked on about a decade ago.

bcs 1 small

My husband and I got it into our heads that we wanted to make a book together. I can’t remember how we decided on the Grimms’ fairy tale of The Bean, The Coal, and The Straw, but I made a set of pictures to go with it.

bcs 9 small

My version of the story is pretty different from the one in that link. I seem to recall having read both it and a much more macabre variation in another book. It could also be that I rewrote the story with a little more death and sorrow (I was a pretty morbid teenager), but I really don’t remember. I was pretty happy to find them. I kind of want to do a few more of these.

bcs 4 small


A Dichotomy of Mermaids

Hans Christian Anderson told this story about a young maiden in love with a hansome prince. She determines to have him at all costs, forsaking family and all that is familiar to her, propelled by infatuation into the all-too-common assumption that if she has the right physical appearance she will win him over. Conspicuously enough, she has never spoken with him, and therefore thinks nothing of bargaining away her voice for a pair of feet so she can go after him, which in the classic story, cause her terrible pain whenever she walks. That’s where the modern Disney interpretation starts to make its departure- HCA makes it a point that she suffers pain for her new look, which turns out to be a wasted sacrifice. She’s no different to lover boy than all the other girls around him, except for her hopeless inability to contribute to the conversation and he flutters off after some other girl. After his wedding, her sisters bring her a knife. They inform her that if she kills him and his new wife, she can return to the sea and become a mermaid again. Get it? Kill off the fantasy, and go back to your roots. But she can’t; she approaches him with the knife, and runs off to fall into the sea, dissipating into foam. Thus ends the little mermaid princess. She lost the man she wanted, because she never understood him and hoped that she could get by on looks. After she failed, she wouldn’t give him up and her life dissolved into nothingness.

It’s a horrific cautionary tale to young girls everywhere. Looking good isn’t enough to keep a relationship alive, living a fantasy will never allow you to be fulfilled as an individual… the morals are numerous and obvious.

Contrast that unfortunate creature with her modern counterpart:

ariel shopping

When the Disney movie hit theaters, I adored it. I filled countless notebooks and homework papers with mermaid drawings, and practiced swimming like a mermaid (hair tossing upon breaking the surface was a must). I was aware that the story glorified selfish behavior, but it was pretty enough that pretty beat out irresponsible (and it was JUST a MOVIE). As an adult, I find myself kinda sorta battling with that in my classroom. I love the toys and books and my kids like them too, but I see much nastier messages in the story that I didn’t pick up as a child. This character puts everyone around her at risk so that she can have what she wants. She decides she loves someone although she knows nothing about him. As it happens, he is a mindless hunk-o-matic who, like any good prince, exists only to be dashing and to fall in love, but after she creates the entire relationship without any effort from him, and after she sacrifices the well-being and emotional peace of her family, and after she has gotten herself into such enormous trouble that an entire kingdom is now in danger, he suddenly becomes a participant in the story and whoops up the villain before going back to mindlessly adoring her. In the end, her father sadly admits that she was right all along, and she gets an awesome fantasy wedding complete with paternal blessing and rainbow. Yaaay! Seriously, is that anything like reality?

Am I being ridiculous?

I find it ironic that the message is the polar opposite of the original story, but is it really that bad? I’m a little bit serious about that- Ariel is super bratty and she never has to pay for her outrageous treatment of everyone around her, so should we be warning our little girls against her, or can we just be okay with a person getting away with brattiness?

A Place That’s Fun

I’m a little behind the game on this one, but it’s official! A Place That’s Fun is finished and available for purchase on!



Check out this collection of children’s poems by Ichabod Ablegoose and read it to your kids and enjoy it for yourself… After spending such a long time working on this, it feels so good to say that it is finished and ready.

cover apr 15 curved text

Tom wrote about it on his blog which you can see by clicking here. His writing has a certain sincerity and playfulness to it that lends itself very well to children’s poetry, although I enjoy reading his prose too. You can read some more of his work for yourself on his blog. I’m so glad to have met him and gotten to work with him. I hope you will enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed working on it.

The Hobbit: Legos, Movie, and Current Culture

LOTR books

My husband and I have a few books that we reread every now and then, and among these are Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series. Without going into too much, I will say that I love these books, and find them not only to be a thoroughly enchanting read, but also to have great personal value. When the Peter Jackson movies arrived, I felt generally positive about them, in spite of some screenplay irritations (Why did we need all that Arwen and Aragorn stuff? WHY did we need Frodo and Sam to have a fight?), but by and large, it’s an “adaptation,” not a “transliteration.” The two media are too different for audiences to reasonably expect perfect fidelity. That’s just my feeling. My brother disagrees on this, and his thoughts are worth reading. Anyway, I’m only trying to say that I think I have a pretty open mind about necessary book-to-screenplay adjustments. Necessary ones. They are painful, but I can accept them.

frodo elija wood

But then there was The Hobbit. For this movie, it’s actually a good thing he took such initiative to move beyond the “necessary changes” idea and just hacked away, because The Hobbit wasn’t a very good book and that’s why nobody liked it very much. Right. That’s why no one ever reads it.

hobbit movie poster

Stuff like this makes me scratch my head. How could such a good director let such a big project go so badly? Did screenwriters really think they were improving? Did everyone really think moviegoers wouldn’t mind that they all but discarded the original story? I suspect they thought neither of those things, but knew we would buy tickets anyway. It’s sad, but it happens. It’s the Citizen Kane syndrome: a small-time creator with big dreams of crushing the man makes something big happen, turns heads, becomes a force to be reckoned with, and slowly yields to the compromise that he initially spoke out against. I understand they wished to tie it in with the LOTR movie set, but the effort was really unnecessary, and the resulting final product is disappointing. I won’t detail my specific problems with it, aside from one pertinant change that my husband pointed out. The dwarves in the movie are reclaiming their home, as opposed to the ones in the book who are pursuing stolen gold. Doesn’t that make sense? Why not draw a little attention away from the pitfalls of greed? The entire movie is the child of gold mongering, and I find nothing surprising about the producers wanting to avoid the subject. Maybe they would have been better off doing so- is it better to admit you’re greedy and selfish or try to pretend you’re telling a pleasant little tale of lost orphans who want to go home and risk sounding vapid instead?
What do you think? Did you see the movie? If so, am I overreacting, or do you agree?

Anyhow, however the movie turned out, at least I got some good legos out of it. Hunny bought me Bilbo’s House a few days back as a present, and I share it below, just so that I can close this post on a positive note and also because I like talking about legos:

Bilbos House exterior

bilbos house interior

The design has a great balance of house and hill. It looks as cozy as Bag-End is supposed to be, complete with careful detail to the kitchen, of course. (There is a lot of food with this set.) This little kitchen stove and chimney are pretty cute, no?

interior detail

My favorite detail, though, is this front window.

window complete

I love lego structures that are made up of creatively arranged standard pieces.

window deconstruct 1

window deconstruct 2

window deconstruct 3

Yeah, that’s a cool window. This little bit of carefully organized plastic is altogether more appealing to me than the movie’s heart and soul, I’m sorry to say. If it weren’t for this acquisition, I would have ended my post telling you that I found virtually nothing of value in that movie. So very sad.

Exciting Times

Oh me oh my. It’s getting near the end of another little journey here, everyone, and it feels like the summit push on a trek up Mt. Everest or something-

cover apr 15 curved text

A Place That’s Fun is nearly ready for publication! I’m so happy and so excited to be talking about this project. The book is a collection of children’s poetry by Ichabod Ablegoose (aka Tom Nochera). The writing is fun and light hearted with a terrific read-aloud quality. I have read a few of them to my kids in class, and they ate them up- I mean, a Kazooing Elf? What’s not to love?

kazzoing elf

“Jik-a-loo, ick-a-loo, vegetable stew,
I’m the only elf in this world on kazoo.
My older brothers play the harp and the lute,
And elves are also well known for the flute.
I want to be known for something that’s new,
And that’s why I’ve mastered the tiny kazoo.

Click here to visit the author’s blog post about it. He has a clever and comfortable sound in his writing, that made it a genuine pleasure to illustrate, if not just to read. I’m sure you (and your kids, of course) will enjoy them as well.

feculiar plights

The book will be about 70 pages long (we’re planning to price the paper copy at around ten dollars, or if you like ebooks, it will be available for around four dollars). The poems themselves range from being short and tongue-in-cheek, to sweet and family-minded, to narrative stories to whimsical nonesense verse.

crayon box o kids

Kyle is green,
And Bobby is blue,
But I’ve never heard of the color of Sue.
She says she’s a little bit like
(Maybe she’s got a screw loose.)

Please plan to get your copy of A Place That’s Fun when it becomes available! It won’t be long now before all the work becomes a reality, and we can’t wait to share it with you.


damian wayne

AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH! So wrong. So. So, so wrong. Spoilers drive me so crazy like nothing else can. It’s probably some kind of illness, but I don’t care. Keep it to yourself, people! I wanted to be surprised. People who give away spoilers should be held legally accountable. Personally, I have the policy that if you tell me the end of a movie I wanna watch, I will spray paint your car and cut holes in all your umbrellas. But HOW can this be maintained with the internet (aside from staying off the internet, I mean- that’s obviously not an option)? My husband tells me I’m alone in my feelings here, but I don’t know about that. I’ve started a petition to the President, asking him to stamp out this antisocial behavior, or at least raise public awareness of it.

Please help my cause by clicking below:

Seriously, people. This is a social ill that has long been ignored and must be stopped. It must, and I’m not the only person who thinks so, I’m sure.

commentary on how i feel

I’m not crazy. I just think it’s a crime against humanity and possibly the cause of all human suffering to spoil a surprise ending and I’ll attack you with a dull axe if you ruin a movie for me. It’s as simple as that.

Bewitched by the Dance

A big thanks to LitLib for guest blogging yesterday. I cannot believe I haven’t posted since November!

I was done in — done in by their glance from their champion stance, and bewitched by their dance.

I was done in — done in by their glance from their champion stance, and bewitched by their dance.

I’m happy to be back on Kirinjirafa again though, and delighted to tell you about the project that has had me incommunicado for the last several weeks. If you get a chance, please go check out Tom Nochera’s blog by clicking on that link or by looking him up on my blogroll. He is a terrific writer with a knack for creative children’s poetry. He has graciously allowed me to collaborate with him in publishing a set of his poems in a book, A Place That’s Fun.

But the butterfly danced from flower to flower, happy to be alive.

But the butterfly danced from flower to flower, happy to be alive.


Hee hee hee! See what I mean? The first time I read that, I laughed out loud.

This process has been a terrific challenge, illustrating all of these poems, and I can’t wait to get the finished product in people’s hands. The title of this post is taken from “The People of Nance,” one of the nonsense stories in this collection. With their oddular glance and their champion stance and their dance of perchance… the people of Nance seem to do a lot of partying. I’m not really sure what all they do over there in Nance, actually, and I don’t want to know either. It’s more fun tumbling the silly words around and letting your imagination go places with them. That quality drew me in the first time I saw the writing for A Place That’s Fun; silly, playful, and certainly bewitching. Here’s an image from the title poem:

They jump and play all day, and eat from cake buffets.

They jump and play all day, and eat from cake buffets.

A Place That’s Fun will be available soon to purchase on Amazon either in print or as an ebook (and again, you don’t need a special device to view it- your pc or ipad or whatever will do just fine), and I hope you will pick up a copy.

Introducing the Paper Copy of our Book and a little giveaway to go along with it!

Words cannot describe. I’m so excited to say that our book is finally available for purchase, and you can get a copy of it right here. We’re both ready to burst, after all the work that went into getting it written, polished, and published, and now we are getting ready to promote it and get it into people’s hands!

The story is really adorable; for kids aged 3-7, it is the tale of a forlorn little bug who learns what it means to be special, and her adventurous discovery that her uniqueness already is special. Children will love the journey of the little red and black bug, the cheery images, and the countable bugs that match each page number. If you’d like to pick up a copy of the book for yourself, we’d be more than honored and would greatly appreciate your support of our project. You can click here to get a copy on Amazon.

If you’re into ebooks, you can download a copy for a buck right here, (and you don’t need a special ereader or anything- you can read it right on your ipad/smartphone/laptop/whatever the heck you crazy kids are into these days). That’s been available for some time now, but if you prefer a paper copy, that is new- BRAND NEW!

As a promotional effort, Caren and I are sponsering a Rafflecopter giveaway
of a little gift basket. There’s a small collection of printable coloring sheets, bookmarks and a playset (which are actually going to be available for you right here, if you’d like), but along with that, we’re offering a bunch of other goodies like refrigerator magnets, stickers printed with our images, a pair of handmade house slippers with a cute little ladybug stitched on them, some other miscellaneous ladybug paraphernalia and of course a copy of the book. I’m gonna post pictures of the stuff over the next few days on this blog.

Since self-publishing is such a crowded market, we thought this would be a good way to thank you for passing the word along to your friends that we’re doing this. If you’d like to enter the drawing for this (and earn our eternal gratitude), here’s what you can do to enter:

  • like one (or both) of our pages on Facebook (right here)
  • tweet about this
  • comment on this post

It’ll tell you just what to do. The winner will be drawn randomly in two weeks on November 26.
***This giveaway is only available to people living in the contiguous United States, so sorry for any inconvenience to anyone 😦

Good luck, and THanK yOu, ThaNk yOU, THaNK yOu!!!


My husband and I discovered a rare animal the other day (at least rare for where we live): the little hole in wall used bookshop. Anyone who has ever wandered through crowded aisles and smelled the old paper and gingerly passed precariously stacked piles of books knows what I’m talking about here… It is a delight. We’ve scoured the area for bookstores over the last ten years, and never found it somehow. We love going to bookstores so much that’s it’s kind of our shared vice. We both buy way too many books, and if your only bookstore is Barnes, well, it’s a great place, but it gets a little expensive. Not to mention that they all carry the same titles. This place is close to where we live and cozy and FULL of shelves of used books.

As a child, one of my favorite places to go was Mrs. Sell’s Used Books. It was a shop run from an old house with old siding, and the only advertisement it had was a hand-painted yellow and green sign that said “USED BOOKS” out by the road. To this day, I can’t tell you how such places make ends meet. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but I’m so glad they exist.

I am currently reading the Dashiell Hammett classic

The Maltese Falcon. It’s my first time through this book (I’ve never watched the movie, either, and by some miracle I don’t know the ending yet. If you tell me what happens, I will be forced to key your car and shave your dog, so please keep the spoilers to yourself.)

Anyway, it has gotten me wanting to read some more short mystery stories, and of course I wanted to patronize the store, so I found this

and bought it. 23 Shades of Black by k.j.a. Wishnia. I’ve never heard of the author or the book. I have no idea yet what it’s about, but with a title like (However many) Shades of (Pick a color), how could I resist?

Mudpuppy Paper School Playset

I found this cute little set of paper dolls on a clearance shelf somewhere and bought it for my kids. I made some extra pieces to give it a little ethnic diversity, and I added a few others- a mom bringing in some cupcakes and a giraffe (don’t ask why, I just thought he was cute).

You can download the little people I made, if you’d like, by clicking here. I didn’t make a downloadable school, but I’m thinking about it.

As a little aside, I’ll tell you that I reeeally want to make a little garden set for our Ladybug book, because we are building up promotional stuff to push the paper copies for Christmas. Yaaaay! I don’t want to labor this too much here and now, but the process is pretty much done, and we’re both excited to be able to present this, after all the work we put into it.

She’s asking nicely.

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