Book birthday and a review

Sprout Street Neighbors: Five Stories is out today- happy birthday little book! To celebrate I am posting my favorite review so far. The Winnie the Pooh comparison really made my day. Thanks Booklist!

"The five stories here present a tribute to the ups and downs of friendship. Differences are the central focus of each story as characters display their very diverse personalities. Poetry-loving Henry fancies peace and quiet; vivacious Emma is always ready to party; creative Violet wants to practice her flute and knit; gardener Wilbur prefers to work with plants and dig in the dirt; and shy Fernando’s secret desire is to dance. These animal friends reside in the same apartment building, but sometimes their different lifestyles make being neighbors hard! Episodic chapters reveal how problems, such as a noisy acorn collection, leaky ceilings, and a birthday cake disaster, find resolution in a fashion reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh’s misadventures in the Hundred Acre Woods. Soft, expressive pen-and-ink illustrations provide assistance for the transitional reader. Demonstrating tolerance, politeness, and teamwork, these gentle stories help show how the world can work when challenges are approached with kindness and understanding."

— Martha Edmundson, Booklist

ps. If you would like to purchase a personalized copy of the book, my lovely local indie The Odyssey Bookshop would be happy to help! Just order the book here and note who you would like it inscribed to in the comments when checking out. I'll go in and sign it, then they'll ship it directly to you.

A lovely review of Greta from School Library Journal

"A bunny misses her photographer father when he’s gone on assignments. Sometimes she wishes she were the subject of his photo shoots. When he covers the circus, Greta imagines she is a circus performer. Then he photographs a country singer, and she plays the part in cowboy boots. When she aspires to have an important job like his, her father assures her that she already has the most important job–being his Greta. The short, sweet text offers young children reassurance as it follows the rabbit’s thoughts while she dreams of ways to be close to her dad. The acrylic paintings of an anthropomorphic rabbit family are reminiscent of those in Margaret Wise Brown’s Good Night Moon (HarperCollins, 1947) and verify the warmth of the narrative . . ."

–Carolyn Janssen, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Thanks SLJ! Read more about A Photo for Greta here.

Greta in The New York Times!

Great news: A Photo for Greta was reviewed in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review, along with Grandma's Wedding Album (they called them both "heartfelt and personal" books about family photography). Yay! An excerpt:

"Alter’s paean to paternal love, strong despite the demands of the road, is at the same time a portrait of an only child who yearns for the limelight of her father’s attention. When Greta’s dad gives his daughter her own photo shoot, 'It was the best day she could remember.'"

Curled up with a good kid's book: Desmond review

Thanks for the lovely review of Disappearing Desmond!

"By applying a little baby powder to his fur, Desmond the cat can blend in with the statues at the museum. When he wears clothes to match the color of a chalkboard or tree, Desmond can be inconspicuous in the classroom and on the school grounds. Masks and props have kept Desmond invisible for a very long time.

Desmond’s days of hiding are over, though, when Gloria the rabbit moves into town. Not only can she see him - she talks to him. As their friendship grows, so does Desmond’s self-confidence. He starts wearing brightly colored clothes, plays the part of a cactus on stage and interacts with others while at the park or in school.

Alter’s acrylic illustrations add humor to this sensitive story about shyness. Desmond is hidden in funny ways throughout most of the book, with only patches of gray fur peeking out. A double-page spread ends the book with a smile by revealing how Desmond’s transformation influences 'almost everyone.'

Anna Alter studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. She is the author and illustrator of the picture books What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? and Abigail Spells. She lives in Massachusetts."

BooksForKidsBlog review

For the full review click here.

"With intriguing patterned backgrounds among which our hero and his shy cohorts find refuge, Alter's nicely illustrated Disappearing Desmond provides a bit of visual fun spotting the elusive Desmond and his bashful mates, while providing an easy-going bit of bibliotherapy for the group gifted with the undiscovered riches of the shy classmate. As School Library Journal remarks, 'a reassuring tale of friendship that gives voice to young wallflowers and their secret desire to connect with others.'"

Desmond in Booklist

This lovely review of Disappearing Desmond came out in the fall, I am late to post it for obvious reasons. Than you Booklist!

"Whether he is talcum-powdered white to look like a statue in an art museum or dressed in green while sitting in a tree, Desmond, a shy cat, likes to blend in with his environment, much like David Lucas’ Halibut Jackson (2004). Used to being ignored, Desmond is surprised when new student Gloria, a gregarious rabbit who enjoys speaking up and standing out, notices him wherever he tries to hide. After Gloria finds Desmond in the library and they read together all morning long, the classmates become inseparable playmates. Brandishing a new attire and self-confidence to boot, Desmond can’t remember why he ever wanted to disappear and spots another camouflaged friend. The final double-page spread includes numerous hidden students for readers to find. With a nod to her own Abigail Spells (2009), Alter’s pleasing acrylic illustrations feature more of her adorable animals and geometric and patterned backdrops. A reassuring tale of friendship that gives voice to young wallflowers and their secret desire to connect with others."

— Angela Leeper, Booklist, November 15th, 2010

Desmond in The Wichita Eagle

"Disappearing Desmond," written and illustrated by Anna Alter (Knopf, ages 5-8, $17.99), is a charming look at shyness in children.

Desmond likes to disappear. Whether on the playground, in the classroom, or at the beach, he has always found a way to blend in as if he wasn't even around. Then Gloria joins his class. She loves to be noticed, and starts to notice Desmond, too. At first he is surprised, but discovers he likes being recognized.

Alter's story is warm and reassuring. Her characters don't judge each other, but find gentle ways to help each other grow. Young readers will love searching for the shy Desmond in the brightly colored acrylic illustrations and may notice other reluctant students as well.

Wallflowers and starlets alike will adore "Disappearing Desmond."

Other reviews here.

A lovely review of Disappearing Desmond by Toni Buzzeo

"In a delightfully simple story about a quirky young boy who would really rather not be noticed, author-illustrator Anna Alter offers a reassuring look at shyness and the encouragement that friendship can provide. Desmond, like all of the members of his family, is a genius at disappearing into the landscape or background of his surroundings. However, when a new extraordinarily outgoing classmate, Gloria, arrives, she not only spots Desmond in all of his disguises but invites him to join her in all manner of activities, causing Desmond to lose much of his shyness. This warm, reassuring story is the perfect book to use with groups of children as they coalesce at the beginning of a school year or a library storytime. To add to the fun, there is a lively activity guide to accompany the book with activities for both the classroom and the public library (and easily adaptable to a bookstore setting)."

~ Toni Buzzeo, MA, MLIS

Thanks Toni!

Another lovely Desmond review

"Desmond the cat blends in with his surroundings. In fact, his entire family fades into the background in their portrait. Everything changes when Gloria, a rabbit, arrives at school. Not only does she take every possible chance to get noticed herself, but she also notices Desmond no matter where he hides. To his surprise, he likes interacting with others. He even coaxes someone else from his hiding place to join the playground fun. Young viewers will enjoy spotting Desmond in his ingenious costumes and identifying others trying to stay out of sight in the schoolyard. Alter’s animal characters will be familiar to those who know her previous books, including Abigail Spells (Knopf, 2009), featured in a library poster. This low-key story of how friendship can support and encourage others will be a welcome addition for most libraries."

-School Library Journal

Winning Readings

Winning Readings named What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? one of the ten best books to teach kids about the environment. Thanks guys! Here is what they said:

"So what can you do with an old red shoe? How about transforming it into a planter? In this book, Anna Alter comes up with some very clever art activities reusing materials you can find right in your own home! Plus, she incorporates poems with each activity. Make stamps out of old flip flops or a holiday card out of used wrapping paper. With 13 different projects in all, teachers have enough material for 2 weeks! Your class can begin with the poem and finish with an activity. I highly recommend this book to experts and craft novices alike."

Desmond's Rich Inner Life or A Tale for Shrinking Violets

The first review of Disappearing Desmond is in, hurray! I love this review from Publishers Weekly, they really got Desmond's spirit.

"'How Not to Be Seen' is a famous Monty Python sketch, but it also describes the peculiar and poignant talent of shy children like Alter's (What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?) hero Desmond, an anthropomorphized cat. Desmond is so self-erasing that he can easily blend into a classroom poster: "Sometimes, even his teacher could not find him." Then one day, a vivacious and persistent rabbit named Gloria (think young Auntie Mame with long ears) arrives in class and pulls Desmond out of his shell. One good turn leads to another, and soon most of the class wallflowers are blooming--although the final image makes it clear there's still work to be done. Many of Desmond's camouflage efforts show a lot of ingenuity, which could convey to some readers that his inner life in rich enough to compensate for his lack of friends. But Alter's empathy is never in question, and with Gloria's arrival it becomes clear just how much yearning was in Desmond's heart--socially confident readers and shrinking violets alike will be won over."

-Publishers Weekly

And in honor of "not being seen", take it away Monty Python:

PS. There are some explosions and gun shooting in this video, if you're showing this blog to your students be warned!

Desmond will be in stores August 24th!

BookMoot review

Thanks for the sweet review of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?!

"Even if you do not turn an old shoe into a planter, the book should cause the reader to pause and reflect on our disposable, throw-away society.

The Great Depression is never far from my own thoughts as the economy continues to sink below the surface. These projects may come in very handy indeed in the not so distant future."

Chicken Spaghetti

...just wrote a lovely review of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, read it here!

"Hanukkah starts tomorrow night, and Christmas is just two weeks away. What to do with the leftover gift wrap? Save it to make next year's holiday cards. In What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?, Anna Alter gives clear, concise instructions for that activity and a number of other reduce-reuse-recycle projects."

Also apparently What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? is a nominee for a Cybil award in the Nonfiction/Informational Picture Book Category. Its a long list at present, but nice to be on it. Yay!

A lovely Red Shoe review

What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe? got a lovely write-up over at The Well-Read Child, check it out here!

An excerpt:

"Taking care of the Earth, reusing, and recycling is very important to me, and today you see a lot of books, cartoons, commercials, and toys that aim to teach kids how to do this. However, there are few products that actually seem as if they'd be interesting to kids.

Anna Alter's What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?: A Green Activity Book About Reuse is an exception...

...Not only is this a good book that offers fun crafts and activities for families to do together, but it shows children how to help keep 'junk' out of the landfill and how to turn old objects into useful items."

"It is a book of spelling wonderness."

Okay this has got to be one of my favorite reviews of any of my books. If you haven't seen this blog yet beware- you will get hooked! Bookie Wookie is a book review blog run by a dad and his 3 very clever kids. Their musings about various books are both hilarious and insightful. Click here to read their discussion about Abigail Spells.

Some drawings of Abigail and George by reviewers Gracie, Lily, and Isaac: