Thursday, February 24, 2011


I've been meaning to celebrate this on the blog. My upcoming picture book (April 26) with the most excellent Lauren Thompson, LEAP BACK HOME TO ME, just got a STARRED review in Publishers Weekly!! Very exciting. Here goes:

Leap Back Home to Me
Lauren Thompson, illus. by Matthew Cordell, S&S/McElderry, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4169-0664-3

Sweet and simple, lively and expressive, this picture book provides a loving template for parents who want to encourage their children to explore an ever-widening world without losing their connection to home and family. A wise mother frog encourages her child to leap away in baby steps--"Leap frog over the ladybug./ Leap frog over the bee./ Leap frog over the tickly clover,/ then leap back home to me!" Cordell's (Trouble Gum) marvelous pen and ink with watercolor illustrations showcase the small frog's increasing confidence and joy in its independence (at one point, it rockets directly toward readers with a "wheeeee!"), while its mother patiently provides crayons, food, books, and love to welcome it back home. The mother's refrain ("then leap back home to me!") changes at the end, after the frog has leapt over mountains and even into outer space ("Leap frog as high as you please.... when you leap home, here I'll be"). Thompson (the Little Quack series) offers unconditional reassurance that, even as children leapfrog into their adult lives, nothing will sever a parent's love. Ages 2–6. (Apr.)

And I say, HUZZAH!!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Top Ten (January 2011)

A new top ten. A new year.

From January, no particular order of importance.

1. FORGE. By Laurie Halse Anderson. As noted in last month's top ten, I was all about the previous LHA in this series, CHAINS. FORGE is a tremendous follow-up. I loved, immmediately, the swapping out of narrator. And the story gets richer, more intricate, more fascinating.

2. CLEVER JACK TAKES THE CAKE. I've been a fan of Candace Fleming for many years. And I've been a fan of Candace Fleming/G. Brian Karas collabs for just as long. Fine, fine picture book making here, enough said.

3. CHRIS WARE COVERS FORTUNE 500. And gets soundly rejected. Man this guy's got balls to pitch this. And I love everything about it. To get full zooms, details, and description, you MUST visit this Huffington Post link.

4. THE BEAR WITH THE SWORD. I found this book by way of internet research on Davide Cali. The illustrator, Gianluca Foli, is mad talented. I think I've been missing out big on international pic books and pic book art.

5. ARCHERS OF LOAF. This is a defunct Carolina-based rock band from my college yearz. Julie pulled out some of their old tunes and I got back into it too. Not too shabby. Weird! I just now found out they reunited at the Cat's Cradle in Carborro/Chapel Hill, NC last month. Seems like a lot of bands of this era are reuniting. Fans of mid-90's indie rock rejoice! When "indie rock" meant... well, indie.

6. TROLL 2. Julie was once (still is) a fine connoisseur of horror films and even bad horror films (maybe preferably so). She introduced me to TROLL 2, and it is so, so bad. Unbelievably bad. So-bad-it's-good bad. Then we followed that with this well-made documentary on TROLL 2 called BEST WORST MOVIE. Made by the lead child star of TROLL 2. Pure entertainment.

7. THE OFFICE. You know, I've never been one of those "I prefer the British version" guys. The American edition goes down much smoother. I did enjoy the original British incarnation, but it was just so dark. Anyways, Julie and I gave up on THE OFFICE (American) in the middle of season 5. To be fair, we gave up on TV in general because this was around the time Romy was born. Plus, I think we had a bit of OFFICE fatigue. But after I devoured PARKS AND REC on Netflix instant, I decided to give THE OFFICE another go, picking up where I left off. I was pleasantly surprised. I'd thought they were jumping the shark with the whole Jim/Pam wedding (Julie and I drifted off just before the wedding). Boy was I wrong. This show is pitch perfect. Laugh out loud great. The writing so sustains. Why do you have to leave Michael Scott? How will we do without you?

8. TRUE GRIT. Yes and yes, the Coens and Jeff Bridges have done it again. Not to mention that Hailee Steinfeld and that Matt Damon. Superb.

9. DISTRICT 9. I HIGHLY endorse this movie. Hands down, one of the best things I've seen in recent years. Flawless blend of humor, socio-political critique, sci-fi, CGI, action, fear, compassion, empathy, sadness, exhilaration. Just... WOW. Why'd it take me so long to watch it is all?

10. WHERE'S WALRUS? TRAILER. I'm a big fan of Stephen Savage's illustration. Pic books, editorial, and otherwise. His new book, WHERE'S WALRUS?, looks excellent (I've yet to see it). But this book trailer, ladies and gents, holds a new standard for how great book trailers will be measured. Well done, Walrus.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fathers Read by our old friend Preller

Pal, author, and collaborator, James Preller, (some of you may remember our modern classic MIGHTY CASEY?) has recently started a valiant project and blog called Fathers Read. There is a too short supply of boy readers out there and this is an interesting way to get the young males into books. So Preller invites and showcases DADS reading and showing interest in and talking about reading. It's a trickle down thing. And JP is doing a great job over there. Read more, in his better-worded description of the project here.

Today, I've been graciously invited to participate on Fathers Read. Please take a moment, and take a look. Go Dads!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

PICKLE CONTEST--winners revealed!

Thanks much to all who entered my little PICKLE JUICE ARC contest. I wish I had enough to give out to all entries, but I only have the three to go around.

The winners are:


Here's a look at the ARC you'll be getting in the mail.

Winners, please email me here,, your mailing address, or I'll try to hunt you down otherwise.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


More fun with the bamboo. Click for zoom.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

PICKLE JUICE is imminent! Contest!

Coming soon is LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE, a middle-grade novel (ages 8-10) written by Julie Sternberg and illustrated by yours truly. And by soon I mean it's available March 1 anywhere you can buy books. This marks my first book with Abrams/Amulet. It was a joy to work with the Abrams team and the finished book looks amazing! It's a really cool size and shape. And I love how the cover turned out. It's hard to see in the photo, but there's a sweet spot varnish that is just the icing on the cake.

Team PICKLE has been getting some early good buzz.

Publisher's Weekly says:

“Eleanor’s ingenuous free-verse monologue should strike a chord with readers, especially those who may have had to cope with the loss of a loved one.”

“Eleanor’s gradual warming to her new sitter is affectingly narrated, and Cordell’s halftone cartoons convey the story’s pathos and humor, as well as Eleanor’s changeable moods.”

“It seems certain that Eleanor’s September will be better than her August. Her fans will want to read about it.”

Booklist says:

"The phrase 'pickle juice on a cookie' is used at first to describe something tragic, and then something ridiculous, and fortunately, this title falls into neither category. It tells a simple, poignant story that will resonate with any child who has ever had to say good-bye."

"Cordell's winsome cartoon drawings complement the text without overcrowding the verse."

AND... we just found out that PICKLE has been chosen to appear on the Spring 2011 Kids' Indie Next List --- "Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers" via the good people at IndieBound!

AND... Last but not least, for more fun news, I'd like to announce a giveaway. Abrams sent me a handful of Advance Reader Copies (paperback copies of the book sent out to reviewers) of PICKLE, some of which I'll be giving away here and now on the blog. All you have to do to enter the contest is submit a comment on this blog, on this post. In one week from now, Tuesday February 8, I will draw three names and those folks will be sent a copy of PICKLE, all on my dime. Enter your name to win!