The Bookshelf Corner

A creative space for all things books and writing….

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Picture Book: “Big Ange and the Violin” by Christina @ The Bookshelf Corner (Text Only)

“Big Ange and the Violin” by Christina @ The Bookshelf Corner © January 30, 2017

Royalty Free Image via

Big Ange loved to play the violin. She would play in the spring, in the summer, in the fall, and in the winter. She would play it if she was happy or sad or lonely or bored. She would play all the time. The sound released as the redwood bow slide up and down across the strings was so enchanting and beautiful. They were the prettiest sounds she had ever heard.

Her family loved to listen to her play the violin. They clapped wildly after each piece and cheered vigorously, “Play on, Big Ange, play on!” And she did. A little of Bach’s “Minuet” here or “Gavotte in G minor” there.

The only place Big Ange would not play her violin was at school.

Everyone at school had a talent. Carly could sing and knew every song on the radio. Terrence could climb to the top of the monkey bars without getting scared. Joanne could do a cartwheel over and over again. Matthew could draw nifty pictures of almost anything. All the kids teased Big Ange because she did not have a cool or special talent. Without some sort of talent she felt like she could not fit in, although she tried her best.

“Is this a talent?” Big Ange asked as she tied her shoes with her eyes closed.

“No way,” said Terrence. “Anyone can do that.”

Then she walked around gingerly on the tips of her toes. “Is this a talent?” Big Ange inquired.

“Not at all,” said Joanne. “That just seems strange.”

Feeling discouraged, Big Ange sulked the rest of the day. At home, she sat in her bedroom and continued to mope while playing John Barry’s “Somewhere In Time” nonstop. Sometimes the composition she chose to play reflected her mood.

Her mother poked her head into the room. “Angie, would you come downstairs, please,” her mother said. “Pop Pop surprised us with a visit. He says he’d like to hear to you play something.”

“Okay, Mom,” Big Ange replied, still feeling a little upset. But when she began to play for Pop Pop and the rest of her family, her mood began to lift.

“Play on, Big Ange, play on!” Pop Pop said.

“Play on, Big Ange, play on!” her little brother, Lenny, repeated.

At recess the next day, Big Ange tried again to find a talent. She did a tuck and roll and came up standing, arms raised proudly in the air. “Is this a talent?” Big Ange wanted to know.

“I’m afraid not,” Carly said. “There’s nothing unique about that at all.”

Then Big Ange chewed some bubble gum and blew a really big bubble. “Is this a talent?” she asked.

“Hardly,” Matthew said, shaking his head. “Getting all messy is not something to be proud of.”

Well Big Ange was certainly at a loss. She had tried everything but nothing seemed to work. Who knew it would be so hard to find a talent?

When they came back inside, Mrs. Cardigan made an announcement. “This Friday we will be having a class talent show,” she said as she passed out flyers. “Everyone will get a chance to perform. Your families and guardians are invited as well!” The room buzzed with excitement while Big Ange sat dejected. She slowly raised her hand. “Yes, Ange?” Mrs. Cardigan asked.

“Um…what if you don’t have a talent?” Her classmates giggled under their breaths.

Mrs. Cardigan gave them a stern look before answering, “Everyone has something they are good at. Something they enjoy doing above all else.” Big Ange was not so sure.

Later that night, she was playing her violin when her mom came to check on her. “How is my Angie doing?” she asked.

Big Ange put her instrument down. She quickly hid the flyer that was on her bedside table under her pillow. “I’m alright,” she responded, quietly. She did not want her mother to know just how troubled and confused she was. But mother’s always know.

Her mom walked over and took the flyer out from under her pillow. “A talent show? And family are invited? How wonderful! Why would you hide this?” her mother questioned.

“Because I don’t have a talent!” Big Ange cried. “Everyone else at school does but I don’t.”

Her mom sat down beside her child and hugged her. “Of course you have a talent, Angie,” she cooed, pointing to the instrument.

“Playing the violin is a talent?” The violin always brought her such joy. But for it to be a talent? Big Ange had never considered that.

“It is,” her mother said. “It’s something you’re good at and something you love to do. You make everyone happy when you play. I think your classmates would be happy to hear you play, too.”

The day of the talent show, Big Ange was very nervous. Even though she practiced her song all week, she worried she would look silly in front of everyone, including her family who were in attendance.

A hush fell over the room as she made her way to the front. She had done this many times before in front of her family but this was different. Well, it was now or never. Big Ange took up position and let her violin sing. The smooth cadence of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” resonated loud and true. And as the vibrato of the final note played the room erupted into applause. Big Ange could not believe how happy her classmates looked.

“What a talent!” a girl said.

“How cool!” said a boy.

It was such a surreal moment that Big Ange thought she was dreaming.

Then her dad shouted, “Play on, Big Ange, play on!” and the kids chorused, “Play on, Big Ange, play on!” So she played again, this time Shinichi Suzuki’s uplifting “Allegro.”

And that was how Big Ange discovered her talent.



Authors Note: I don’t remember where this idea came from but it seemed like a fun story for a picture book. It was inspired in part by one of my closest friends and my love for the violin. I hope you enjoyed this story even without the pictures. Let me know what you think. Any feedback is welcomed.

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(NetGalley) Book Review: Waiting for Sophie by Sarah Ellis, Illustrated Carmen Mok

Thank you to NetGalley, Pajama Press, and Myrick Marketing & Media for providing me with an e-copy (of the ARC galley) to read and review.
Waiting for Sophie was recently released April 3, 2017.
I received an e-copy of this book after its initial publication.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: 4/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes
Favorite Quote: “I want to smash it to smithereens and flush it down the toilet.”


My Summary:
Liam has been waiting a long time for his baby sister, Sophie, to arrive. He couldn’t be happier when she finally comes home. But in no time he starts to become impatient and wishes she would grow up faster so they can play and do more things together. Can Liam learn the virtue of patience?


My Review:
A cute story that teaches children about patience. It’s especially perfect for parents to read to their small (only) child when there’s another on the way.

Carmen Mok does a wonderful job with the illustrations and I love the color palette she chose.

I found myself invested in the story, anticipating how Liam would deal with his disappointment about all the things Sophie can’t do. He has a typical reaction to Sophie and I was pleasantly surprised at how adorably proactive he became.

I think my favorite thing about this book was whenever the word “smithereens” was used – it’s such a quirky, funny-sounding word to include in a children’s book. However, I’m really confused about why the grandmother is called “Nana-Downstairs.” Is it that she lives downstairs in the house? I had a hard time getting past the oddity of her name which felt so out-of-place.

Sarah Ellis has a way with words; I would read more books by her.

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Mid-Year Review: Favorite Books of 2017 (so far)

Background Image: Royalty Free Image via
Cover Images: via Goodreads and NetGalley
Music: Song Title – “Buddy” (Royalty Free Music from
Quotes: excerpts from the reviews I wrote about these books (see links below)


Read My Full Reviews Of These Books:

A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin (ARC review)

Prophecy Awakened by Tamar Sloan (NetGalley review)

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Pictures by Oliver Jeffers

Zodiac by Romina Russell

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ARC Book Review: A Pattern for Pepper by Julie Kraulis

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing me with an advance copy to read and review.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes


My Summary:
Pepper needs a special dress for a very special occasion. But will she be able to find the perfect pattern that’s just right?


My Review:
This book was so cute! Pepper is so adorable. She’s classy and sassy and knows what she wants just like any child. I got a Goldilocks and the Three Bears vibe from reading this story. I also liked learning about the different kinds of fabrics, which immersed me more into what was happening.

What I loved most about this book were the illustrations. My eyes swept over the pages, needing to take in every little wonderful detail and color. I love the way the pictures are laid out on the page and that sometimes you get a different angle/perspective of a scene. Interesting border choices are used as well that I found to be particularly complimentary to the story.

A sweet story that tells it like it is, I’d recommend it to child readers and anyone who enjoys children’s fiction. I definitely want to read more books by Julie Kraulis.

A Pattern for Pepper is set to be released August 1, 2017 by Tundra Books.

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ARC Book Review: Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, Pictures by Esmé Shapiro

Thank you to NetGalley and Tundra Books for providing me with an advance copy to read and review.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Children’s Fiction, Picture Book
Rating: 5/5
Recommend to Others?: Yes


My Summary:
Yak and Dove are best friends until their polar-opposite differences come between them. Can they learn to accept each other for who they are?


My Review:
This book was hilarious from start to finish! Yak and Dove had such a great concept and pretty illustrations.

It’s divided into three stories and is all dialogue, which I found refreshing. The font is distinguished enough between each character’s voice to easily follow along. I liked that this book was longer than the standard for picture books – I think the story would have had less of an impact if it had to be cut down.

I liked the book’s message that being friends with someone – or just interacting with someone – means accepting their differences as well because nobody is perfect. It made me think of the Maya Angelou quote, “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” Also, the use of the word “horticulturist” might be too advanced for a picture book, but that could just be me.

Great story, lovely characters, interesting structure, immersive storytelling, wonderful illustrations. Yak and Dove is absolutely a book to add to your reading list.

Mark your calendars! Yak and Dove is set to be released September 19, 2017.

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What I Learned About Writing Picture Books

A few months ago I learned about how to write and structure picture books. So much goes into picture books that I never knew before. It’s challenging and complex. Simple but very precise. The words and pictures go hand-in-hand to build a story that is relatable to its child reader, engaging, creatively artistic, and well written.

So here’s what I’ve learned so far – because there’s still a whole lot more to learn about this area of children’s literature.

  • Be creative when writing picture books (and as with any story you write)
  • Remember your readers are children ages 0 to 6 or 7
  • It doesn’t matter how good the illustrations are – if the story is bad, then so is the book
  • The Main Character must be a child (human, animal, robot, etc.) in age, behavior, thinking, and feeling
  • A subversive MC is a good, child-like quality
  • Vocabulary is simple
  • Sentences are short(-ish) and simple
  • Each page should not have a lot of words/sentences on them
  • Being very descriptive isn’t that important because that is the illustrator’s job to fill in the visual blanks when drawing images to compliment the words
  • The title and copyright pages are called front matter
  • Picture books typically follow a 32 page turn structure (not counting the hard/paper cover) that leaves the writer with about (if I remember correctly) 30 pages to fit their story on
  • Picture books are made up of 16 sheets folded in half (hence the 32 page turns)
  • A Dummy Book is like a galley – a preview/sample of what the picture book could look like that is handmade by the author or author/illustrator
  • Limit the number of characters in a story to just a few
  • A picture that goes across two pages (the book being open) is called a double spread
  • When writing a picture book it could help to think in terms of how the pages turn and what images will be on each page (if that makes sense) – this helps with pacing
  • The author has nothing to do with the illustrations/cover (final or otherwise) unless he or she is both an author and illustrator
  • Picture books come in different shapes: hardcover, paperback, vertical, horizontal, or square

These are things I could think of off the top of my head and to the best of my knowledge/memory. Since I am still a novice in this field, if any of the above is wrong, please feel free to correct me and I’ll change it.

Of course each publisher has its own methods and standards for picture books. And there are probably plenty of good websites you can look at if you’re interested in learning about how to write picture books. Like with any area of writing, if writing picture books is what interests you, then reading and studying heavily in this area will be very useful.

Based on all I’ve learned about picture books, I wouldn’t mind writing more of them. The two that I wrote were really fun to write and make but challenging nonetheless – especially since I was doing this in the role of author/illustrator. There’s so much more I need to know about writing picture books before I’d seriously consider trying to publish one. But that’s something to consider in the future.

I reviewed a few picture books on this blog: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Pictures by Oliver Jeffers, Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes, and Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. I would also recommend reading Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins, Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri, any of Kevin Henkes books, and Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems.

Have you ever written a picture book? What have you learned from your experiences? What are your thoughts on picture books in general?

As always, happy reading and happy writing!