Picture Book Literacy

sailing away with books

One of the joys of writing books for children is hearing about the relationship bonding that takes place with a caregiver and child. It’s especially heartening when it’s a book you’ve written and/or illustrated.

Another reward is being part of the link between growing up with books, and later language development and success in school. In a recent New York Times article, Bedtime Stories for Young Brains, Dr. Perri Klass writes about several recent studies on what happens when you sit with a child and read to them. Magnetic imaging studies show that even when read to without pictures, children form visual associations with words through their past experiences. Investigations into language content in books reveal that reading picture books with children increases the vocabulary they hear, more so than the daily conversational words they encounter. Based on this research, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy that calls for all pediatric care givers to promote literacy starting at birth.

Combined with the inherent comfort and security of a loving ritual complete with snuggling, reading with a child can make a lasting difference. For the complete article, Bedtime Stories for Young Brains, go to: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/08/17/bedtime-stories-for-young-brains/

Seeing Red, Juried Art Exhibit

click on poster to enlarge

click on poster to enlarge

I am pleased to be part of the juried art exhibit, Seeing Red, at the Danville Village Theater Art Gallery. Join me for the opening reception, Friday, June 26 from 5-8 PM, or drop by during galleries hours from June 27 until August 20.

The gallery is located at 233 Front Street, Danville, CA  94526. Contact the gallery by phone (925) 314-3460 or email  mbleier@danville.ca.gov

Come out and see the many interpretations of this theme!

Gallery hours:

Monday and Tuesday: Appointment Only
Wednesday – Friday: 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Saturday: 11:00am – 3:00pm
Gallery is open one hour prior to all theater performances

Pete Seeger

Planting Seeds of Song, from my picture book, Rise Up, Sing Out click on image to enlarge

Planting Seeds of Song, from my picture book, Rise Up, Sing Out
click on image to enlarge

Pete Seeger devoted his life to bringing people together through music, to inspiring and empowering them through song. It’s been a year since he passed away at age 94. He lived a life of fearless integrity standing up for what he believed, including freedom of speech, civil rights, labor rights, and the environment. The artwork here is my tribute to Pete as he plants seeds of song, inviting all voices to sing along.

For more information, watch the first authorized film biography documenting Pete Seeger’s contributions to folk music and society:


The following articles are also informative, and include video interviews with this remarkable man:




Fresh Tracks

charcoal, paint, foam board print

Fresh Tracks                       click on the image to enlarge

A new year rolls out ahead, ready for us to make our mark on it. I’ve been making fresh tracks in my studio using charcoal to draw the chatty neighborhood crows, the reclusive rabbit in the hills nearby, and the acrobatic backyard squirrel who hangs artfully from our grapevine in August, his cheeks stuffed with grapes.  I made a print of each of the animals, and painted textured paper for an imaginary snowy landscape. Then I went on an adventure, mixing all these elements together. Voila! Fresh Tracks. Where are your mark making adventures taking you?


A Free Fall All

hopping twirling 150 dpi with borderclick on images to enlarge

all fall down red size 150 with borderDancing and twirling to the music of a choral octet, and then falling down with glee, the children in my illustrations got into the spirit of UC Berkeley’s Free Fall All –  musical venues around the campus free to the public. I was waiting in line to see the free concert by The Alexander Quartet.  Cal students suddenly showed up and entertained the waiting crowd by singing a cappella. These kids showed up too, and were wildly enthusiastic, getting into the music with abandon. Their “in the moment” shenanigans inspired the illustrations, which started as chunky charcoal drawings in ocher, and evolved with color and collage.

The Storybook Makers Illustration Exhibition

A wonderful exhibit of children’s book illustration is coming to the Village Theatre Art Gallery in Danville, CA. I am pleased to be part of the exhibit. The opening reception is May 1, from 5-8PM. 9x6_FRONT_storybook_makers2Other events include:

9x6_BACK_storybook_makers2Hope to see you there!

Such Fun at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore

Recently, I gave a presentation of my picture book, Smelling Sunshine, at the wonderful Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley. It’s hard not to fall under the store’s spell with quotes like this on the walls,

A peak inside Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore

and when the staff make you feel so much at home.

Anne Whaling introducing me at Mrs. Dalloway's

Anne Whaling introducing me at Mrs. Dalloway’s

Like magicians, they rearranged space, set up more chairs, and helped find just the right page to share during a reading, all while attending to customers. mes dalloways show and tell 2

The night before my presentation, I read this reflection on public speaking by Terry Tempest Williams from her book, When Women Were Birds:

“…and in those few minutes before a group of people, my instinct says, Bolt now, there is still time to escape. But then I pause, look around the room, find whose eyes are present, and orient myself like a compass, remembering that words are much stronger than I am. I take a deep breadth and sidestep my fear, and begin speaking from the place where beauty and bravery meet…within the chambers of a quivering heart.”

That insight, some preparation, support from friends, and a wonderful community audience made the talk so much fun.

mrs dalloways with kids and parents

DSC06874 copy

signing books and a craft activity

signing books and a craft activity