Picture Books & the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library’s most checked-out books since its beginning in 1895. Is it surprising that several are picture books?

Click here.

Did you know that the New York Public Library has 92 branches?

What Is a Story?


Writing or telling a STORY is different from relaying an incident or event in several ways. For example:

I went to the grocery store yesterday. I drove there in my little Kia. I found a parking place on the very last row. It was good exercise getting into the store. I walked up and down the aisles searching for the items on my list. I found everything but the special brand of gluten-free flour I use.

Finally, after asking several people and searching for fifteen minutes I found it.

I stood in line then paid for my items.

Then I put them in my car and drove home. Of course, I put everything away in the cupboards and fridge before I started baking.


Let’s take a look at the key elements of story for this event.

  1. There is a main character (me). But I don’t sound very interesting, do I? I didn’t show you anything about myself. Who I am. What I think. How I feel.
  2. I am going somewhere; that could be interpreted as a goal, I suppose. But I don’t show you why I’m going, or why it is important to me. Midway in the incident I tell you I searched for the gluten-free flour. But, again, there’s no motive behind it. There is no emotion attached to it. I don’t show you how much I want or need that flour, or why.
  3. There is a series of events. I do this, then this, then this. But a plot is more than a series of events.

*A plot is a series of events related by cause and effect. One thing leads to another, or, has an impact on another. Also, those events affect or change the main character.*

Have I shown the reader how driving, parking, entering, searching, finding, paying, driving home affected me? Changed me or my day?

4. This incident contains no emotional rise and fall—no dramatic arc. I just listed off the things I did on my trip to the store


Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I was baking a cake for my sister’s birthday and I had to have some flour. Gluten-free, of course. She can’t tolerate gluten. So, I grabbed my purse and hopped into my little Kia. Thank goodness I have a rear camera. I backed out of the driveway just as an SUV whizzed around the curb.

Whew! Thank goodness for brakes.

The store was packed so I had to park in the very last row. But, I have to admit, it was good exercise. Just cut into my time. That cake needed to be ready by 5:00.

I jogged up and down the aisles. Found the other stuff on my list with no problem but, where was that flour? I found the other gluten-free stuff. But I know from past mistakes that it has to be that one certain brand, or the cake could flop.

I asked for help. The guy said, “What’s gluten-free?” I found a lady putting away stock. She searched on her electronic thingy and said, “We don’t carry that brand.”

“Yes, you do. I’ve bought it here before!” I was getting a little stressed. I didn’t have time to go to another store.

Another customer overheard us. “Oh, I think I saw that at the end of a row. The package is blue, right?”


“It was over there. Aisle 6, I think.”

“Thank you!” I said and zoomed off. I circled aisle 6 like three times and didn’t see it. Then another clerk asked if he could help me. I explained the situation.

“Follow me,” he said. He walked two aisles over and bent down to the bottom shelf.

“Is this it?” He pulled a bag from way in the back of the shelf.

“Yes! Thank you!” I shouted as I gave that kid a hug.

“Uh…you’re welcomed.”

I dashed up to the check out, paid for my stuff, and drove home singing all the way. Oh, and watching out for SUVs whizzing around curves.

Way more interesting, right? Why? Let’s look at those four elements again.

  1. The main character is much more interesting. I show enough details that you can figure out a little about me and care about me.
  2. I have a mission—an urgent mission with a deadline.
  3. Things keep happening to block my mission. One thing leads to the next thing. Now you really care about that flour, don’t you?
  4. This STORY has emotion that rises and falls. The STORY is moving—going somewhere—but on a curvy, hilly road.

THIS is what makes a STORY.

2019 Picture Books

I’ve read a few dozen “lists” of the best picture books of 2019. Instead of making my own list I decided to give you a peek into some of these 2019 picture books so you can decide for yourself. Whether you are looking for books that parents, children or teachers can enjoy look no further!

I’ll share my thoughts on a few of these 2019 picture books today and then, on more of them in February and March. Next month – nonfiction picture books from 2019.

When Sadness Is at Your Door by Eva Eland was published by Random House. I like it. The art is super simple but poignant. The story personifies sadness and reassures young children by suggesting ways to cope with it. This book will open up doors for discussion.

Another by Christian Robinson was published by Atheneum. This is a highly acclaimed picture book, but I don’t like it. It is a wordless book which I usually have to read several times before I get the idea. However, I can’t find the point of Another except possibly that our perspective on things can change. Sorry.

Crab Cake-Turning the Tide Together was written by Andrea Tsurumi. It was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The book is highly illustrated with sparse text. I like it, though I couldn’t see the theme until the last few pages. Then, POW! It hit me in the face.

Just Because was written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Candlewick Press published this picture book. The illustrations are highly black and white with occasional colors. I’m not sure whether I like it or not. A child asks dozens of “Why” questions at bedtime. Her father (I presume) doesn’t give a satisfactory answer to any of the questions until she asks why we sleep. Then the man’s answer is lovely and imaginative. But it doesn’t answer any of the other questions. I’m stuck in a mindset that thinks books should provide answers for children, not just questions.

However, I found another picture book titles Just Because that was published in 2010. Rebecca Elliot wrote it. Lion Children’s Books published it. I loved it! It’s sweet and tender and says so much about love.

When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree was published by Sterling Children’s Books. Jamie L. B. Deenihan wrote the story. Lorraine Rocha illustrated it delightfully. Yes! I like it. This picture book is a warm and fuzzy story about family and love and gratitude. Share it generously with your kiddos, please.

Maria the Matador was written by Anne Lambelet and was published by Page Street Publishing. I like this little picture book a lot. Maria is one very determined little girl. That determination and her imaginative thinking enable her to accomplish something everyone else thought was impossible. It’s a great story for the little girls AND boys in your life.

Art and Children

Art Benefits Children Cognitively, Socially, and Physically

Thank you, Jean, for the opportunity to talk about how art benefits children.

Our creative and wise God has wonderfully made each child, weaving him or her into an intricate and connected whole. So not surprisingly, many studies show creative activities, such as art, music, and drama, help children do better in all subjects.

In this post I’ll…

  1. list benefits educators see from children’s participation in art.
  • share easy, fun ways you can enjoy art with children.
  • give you some helpful resources.

Benefits in cognitive, social, and physical development from art

  • Using crayons and scissors, and other art tools helps children develop fine motor skills.
  • Looking at artworks help children develop better observation skills.
  • Discussing artworks builds vocabulary and social skills.
  • Describing what they see in an artwork helps children learn to visualize, improving comprehension in reading.
  • Art activities help develop visual/spatial skills and how to understand and use visual information—important in learning to interpret photos, graphs, maps, etc.
  • When children make choices in creating art, it enhances problem-solving skills.
  • Art gives children opportunities to explore their interests and talents.

Art activities to enjoy with children

  • Enjoy creating art with your child, using markers, scissors, paint, yarn, etc. Especially fun after looking at an artwork together.
  • Looking at paintings together improves cognitive and social skills. Ask children to tell what’s going on in the painting and what tells them that. Then have them to tell what else they see.
    • Invite children to tell what they think will happen next in a painting.
    • Enhance observational and verbal skills by rephrasing words and adding new vocabulary. Help them see nuances of color such as blue greens, lime greens, etc.                  
  • Have them go on a scavenger hunt to find objects or shapes, colors, patterns, etc. in a painting.
  • Invite children to take an imaginary walk into a landscape, describing what they see, hear, smell, and touch as they travel from the foreground, through the middle ground, to the background.
  • Discuss how artists show sitters’ interests and personalities in portraits. Ask children what they’d put in their self-portraits.
  • Write similes and metaphors describing a painting’s sky, trees, buildings, etc.
  • Compare and contrast two similar paintings, such as two landscapes. Write comparing and contrasting compositions.


  • Art museums—many now have children’s guides. Keep visits short.
  • Online—large museums often have interactive sites.
  • Libraries—recent years have seen an explosion of art books for children.


Kathy loves to help children and adults understand great art and encourage them to enjoy creating their own great art! She is an educator, writer, and speaker, with many years’ experience in Christian schools, public schools, and homeschool as well as adult groups. She writes devotions for The Quiet Hour and other devotionals, as well as nonfiction articles for children’s magazines, such as Highlights. On her blog she explains how to look at great paintings, followed by a devotion to point children and adults to God. These are followed by a related art project to do with children.    




Anti-Resolution Revolution

Author and Teacher Julie Hedlund started her Anti-Resolution Revolution several years ago. I like the idea. We all know that New Year’s Resolutions never last. Read her post about it HERE.

In light of this I’m going to celebrate my 2019 successes. Here goes!

1. My first picture book was published in September by Little Lamb Books. YAY! And three more in that series are coming.

2. I survived eight weeks of school visits, a blog tour, daily social media and guest blogging for the new book God’s Blessings of Fall.

3. I wrote and submitted four articles to children’s magazines. None were bought, but I’ll keep trying.

4. I completed a 13 week Sunday school curriculum and was paid well for it.

5. I attended Mt. Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Learned a lot and made some great new friends. Also, God provided every penny of the cost through that job of writing the Sunday school curriculum.

6. I was able to share my trip to Write2Ignite with my 14 year old grandson. That was a great weekend for me.

7. I led picture book workshops at three conferences in 2019, and got positive feedback from all three.

8. I learned some valuable lessons in my spiritual life and made some life-changing decisions.

9. I moderated a Word Weavers Int’l online critique group without losing any friends in the group! Thank you, Lord.

10. I read five nonfiction books and was able to apply what I learned from them.

11. I learned a valuable lesson about plotting picture books and was able to apply it to some manuscripts.

12. I wrote six new picture book manuscripts. Don’t know whether or not they’ll succeed. I trashed one idea and am working on the other five.

13. I made a couple of great new writing relationships. Thank you, God.

So, what can you celebrate as a writer in 2019? Would you please share in the comments? Or do your own blog post and leave the link here in the comments? Thanks.

Four Gifts of Christmas


I know it’s Christmas Day. You probably won’t even read this for a few days to come.

But I’m still praying you have a blessed day enjoying your family and friends, embracing beautiful memories of Christmases past.

My gift to you today. A tiny peek at the infinite beauty that God created around us. He did it for His pleasure and glory, yes. But He also created this Universe for our pleasure, and as reminders to look beyond them to their Creator – God.

Enjoy the photos.

Book Give Away

Jump over to the Over Fifty Blog to read my post and enter the give away for a copy of God’s Blessings of Fall. Thanks, friends! Merry Christmas to you all.

Four Gifts of Christmas


I’m reading an incredible book about creativity. I recommend Images and Idols: Creativity for the Christian Life by Thomas J. Terry & J. Ryan Lister to every person who considers themselves to be creative. Whether you express that creativity through writing (like me!), visual arts, digital arts, theatre, illustration, dance, vocal music, musical instruments, or whatever you’ll gain a whole new understanding of why we humans are creative.

Long before I became an author I expressed my creative nature through sewing, making décor for my home, cooking delicious food, maximizing storage space, stretching pennies into dollars. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was using that same gift of creativity that God gave me.

This is why we humans are all creative to some degree–because God created us to be creators. He created us in His image. And God is the original Creator. The Bible repeats this message again and again.

Many Christian groups have grown skeptical of people who are labeled as “creatives.” But God Himself is a creative. And all creativity stems from Him whether we want to admit that or not.

The problem of creativity comes when we humans forget where our creativity comes from, and what purposes our creativity is to serve. When we focus on OUR expressions of our creative nature both our art and our self-concepts get skewed. We think of OUR art, OUR ideas, Our giftedness.

Whether a person is a Christian or not all creativity begins and ends with God. All expressions of our creativity are supposed to be to worship and glorify God.

God portrays Himself in Scripture as a poet, an architect, a designer, a builder, an artist, a potter. All of these are creative pursuits.

Often Christians are afraid to express their creativity through art and music. NO! To do so is to follow God’s plan for us. Our Creator God made us to create things of beauty and purpose that will honor Him. And the act of using our creative skills is in itself a way to glorify God.

So pull out your pen or laptop. Write!

Dig out those old art supplies. Paint! Draw! Sculpt!

Pull out your camera or learn how to use the one on your phone. Shoot!

Dust off your old tap shoes or tutu. Dance for God. Show Him how much you appreciate this gift He gave you.

We don’t need to be published to write for God.

We don’t need to be famous to paint or dance or sing for God.

He is pleased when we use the gifts He gave us to express our gratitude and love for Him. It’s called worship.

The Baby

The following story is my entry in a contest at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog.

Next Tuesday she will post a list of finalists. If THE BABY makes the short list I would appreciate your participation by voting for whichever story you think is the best. I’ll post info here on my blog next Wednesday. Thank you, and Merry Christmas to you.



“Wait for me!” little Eli yelled. The other shepherds raced ahead.

            Simeon turned, “We told you to stay with the sheep, boy!”

            Eli remembered the angel’s words, “You will find the baby wrapped in rags, sleeping in a manger.” He would have to find the newborn King for himself. He would search every manger in the city if he had to.

            Eli stopped at the first stable he saw. No baby there.

            He ran to the next stable, and the next. All he found were grumpy animals.

            Eli squatted to catch his breath and think. He remembered more of the angel’s words. “Today a Savior is born in Bethlehem. He is the Lord.” Eli looked around. Which way should he go?

            Eli looked up at the sky. To the east was the biggest, brightest star he had ever seen. Could this be the way?

            Eli ran toward the star to a house. He heard faint noises—sheep baaing, cows lowing, and—a baby crying. A baby!

            Eli ran faster. Behind the house he saw a stable. The star shined overhead. Eli saw the other shepherds huddled around something. They were pointing. Simeon was crying.

            Eli crept closer. He wiggled his way between Simeon and Johash. He saw—the baby!

            Eli reached out to touch him. The baby turned and stretched out his tiny hand. He wrapped his fingers around Eli’s thumb. What a treat for a dirty, smelly shepherd boy.    

            The baby. Christ the Lord!

Four Gifts of Christmas


The Bible says:

Hebrews 11:1 New International Version (NIV)

11 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Romans 10:8-13 New International Version (NIV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim

 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

John 14:6 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

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