Graphically Inventive Children’s Books

Most modern picture books feature children as central characters or animals who retain the characteristics of children.  This, however, is not always necessary to make a successful children’s book that may appeal to kids (and adults alike).  The following are three recent picture books that I have enjoyed which do not feature children nor animals as the protagonists.  All are beautifully illustrated and unique in their own way.

Eggers, Dave, and Tucker Nichols. This Bridge Will Not Be Gray. Mcsweeneys Publishing, 2015.


This is the story of how the Golden Gate Bridge became the most famous bridge in the world.  Utilizing bold and simple cut outs, rather than photographs, was a great decision in adapting this true story to a concept that  becomes easy to relate to.  The focus here is in the fact that this bridge was designed differently than those which came before it.  The decision to have the bridge be orange was at first an unpopular and peculiar view.  With persistence from a number of creative people, the bridge became what it is today.  Like the Golden Gate Bridge itself, this picture book utilizes many design ideas that are not common for this medium.  The main character of this book is the bridge itself while the message is a celebration of innovation.

Ehlert, Lois. The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life. Beach Lane Books, 2014.


This is a condensed retrospective and autobiography of one of the most well-known children’s book illustrators of the last forty years.  Ehlert’s books really stand out because of her combined usage of cut paper, photographs and real life objects.  Because of these objects her books have a tactile feel as though they truly were built upon nature, rather than by a computer.  In the “introduction” Ehlert warns her readers DON’T READ THIS BOOK (unless you love books and art).  This book is of course a celebration of a life dedicated to art.  What makes it interesting is that Ehlert gives us a peek through this scrapbook at her creative process.  She shows evidence that she didn’t choose art but that art simply chose her.  The narration walks us through the process Ehlert used to create such classic children’s books as Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  We see sketches of her work, rough drafts of entire books, and materials/tools collected from life that she used to create her style.  If you’re fond of Ehlert’s previous books, this comes highly recommended.  If you are unfamiliar with her work , it will also provide a great introduction to a playful artist who retains an enthusiastic childlike vision of the world (without actually drawing children).

Savage, Stephen. Sign Off. Beach Lane Books, 2019.


Sign Off is a book based on the concept of what would happen if the silhouetted graphics in road signs came to life.  It is a wordless book that takes this clever idea and brings it to full fruition with subtlety and humor.  The book begins with full page spreads of before and after scenes.  For example, in one spread, a car is parked in a handicapped spot.  In the following spread, the wheelchair leaps off the sign  and does a wheelie over the parked car.  Later in the book, the iconic images march off together leaving all their blank yellow signs behind.  They then proceed to dismantle the yellow of a traffic sign which through manipulation becomes the sun, giving them new life.  Even though it has no words, this story is as much about reading signs as it is about dismantling the codes behind their meaning.  The visual story reads well and is as an intelligent primer as any on visual literacy.




Homework help and research resources is a free online resource offered through the Pinal County Library District.  You will just need your library card # to create a free account and get started.

Watch the following video to see what is offered by

With you can:

  • Get one-to-one help every day from 1:00pm to 10:00pm 
  • Submit a paper for review
  • Drop off a math question
  • Take a practice quiz
  • Watch videos for math & english
  • Practice for the SAT and other higher education exams

Direct Link to

The Link can also be found on the Research tab of our website:

Pinal County Research Resources


A video of some student testimonials:



Kids Info Bits

Kids Info Bits is designed for students in Kindergarten through grade 5.

It provides the following to help students with research and assignments:

  • Reference Content
  • Images
  • Magazines
  • News Sources

Watch this video to learn more about the database:

Direct link to Kids Info Bits

The Link can also be found on the Research tab of our website:

Pinal County Research Resources



Gale Power Search

Gale Power Search is a great way to search many databases at once.  This is an excellent source for middle school students and up.

It provides the following to help students with research and assignments:

  • Reference Content
  • Full Text Articles
  • Academic Journals
  • News Sources
  • Opposing Viewpoints essays
  • Biographies

Watch this video to learn more about the database:

Direct link to Gale Power Search

The Link can also be found on the Research tab of our website:

Pinal County Research Resources



*Download this free flyer as a reminder of our online homework resources

Picture Books – Some recent favorites

Negley, Keith. My Dad Used to Be so Cool. Flying Eye, 2016.


This book is narrated from a boy’s point of view of his father.   Simple text shows the boy contemplating what his father was like before he was born.  In this case, his father was a punk rocker who rode a motorcycle!  The boy wonders if his father is still fun.  The answers are displayed in the gorgeous illustrations, rather through the words.  An amazing foldout spread displays a wordless scenes of the boy and father having a blast playing in a park.  This is one of the books where yes, the words are simple, but the pictures are bound to provoke emotional responses and conversation.  A quick read but perfectly designed and unique.

Peña Matt de la, and Christian Robinson. Carmela Full of Wishes. Putnam Juvenile, 2018.


I love the illustrations in this book by Christian Robinson.  Think paint and cut outs akin to Eric Carle. Yet the subject of small town life in a seaside town with realistic characters set this style into a totally new context. De La Peña’s characters are working class with Spanish names and we see them in realistic setting such as the laudromat or a 99cents discount store.

It is Carmela’s birthday.  When she finds a dandelion, her older brother informs her that she can make a wish.  As she rolls through town on her scooter, Carmela ponders what her wish will be.  The wishes are displayed in a different art style, this time through bold, single color cut-outs.  The story is emotional, uplifting and displays a message of hope.  While this might not be the best choice for preschoolers, I do think this book has a lot to offer young readers.

Pizzoli, Greg. The Book Hog. Disney Hyperion, 2019.


This is a perfect read aloud book.  It is funny and promotes reading and using the library in an entertaining manner.  Pizzoli’s illustrations are cute and remind me a bit of Mo Willems.  The Book Hog loves books and the images of him sniffing them and reading them on the toilet are hilarious!  The conflict here is that even though the Book Hog loves books, he doesn’t know how to read them.  When he discovers the library he finally gets some help from some new friends.

Rissi, Anica Mrose. The Teachers Pet. Disney-Hyperion, 2017.


This is a very humorous book that would be great to read to a Kindergarten or first grade class.  Mr Stricter is an enthusiastic teacher who gets easily excited about the projects that he introduces to his class.  A typical science project of growing tadpoles into frogs goes amok when the tadpole unexpectedly turns into a hippopotamus named Bruno!

The children seem to be more aware of the inherent dangers here than their teacher.  As the hippo devours the classroom, the children decide that something must be done.  Unfortunately, before long, Bruno swallows Mr. Stricter.  The students devise a plan to free their teacher by making the hippo sneeze.  When Mr. Stricter is released through a “snot rocket”, he is not bothered and happy to have retrieved some lost homework.  The hand-painted cartoon illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to this silly story that demonstrates team work and the cleverness of kids.



Talking Book Library

Did you know that the Arizona Talking Book Library provides free services to those in need?  They serve the following individuals:

  • Arizona residents with low vision, making it difficult to read standard print
  • Those who find it hard to hold or handle a print book
  • Individuals who have a reading disability resulting from organic dysfunction

They provide:

  • Lending Library: including audio books and magazines; movies with audio descriptions; and Braille books and magazines by postage free mail
  • Loan of special equipment to play audio books
  • Audio and Braille book downloads (BARD)
  • Access to NFB-NEWSLINE® and over 300 newspapers and magazines by phone and online.

Applications are available online or at your local library.

Please visit the Arizona Talking Book Library  or the National Library Service for the Blind and Handicapped website for more information.

You may contact the Arizona Talking Book Library over the phone:

  • 602-255-5578 (Phoenix metro area)
  • 800-255-5578 (Toll Free within AZ)

*The Pinal County Library District also has two readers (see below) that can be sent out to member libraries in order to demonstrate with patrons.  If you would like to borrow one, please contact us at


Professional Development Collection

The Pinal County Library District houses an extensive professional development collection for library professionals.  These materials are available to request by staff or the public through our catalog here:

Below is a list of some recent acquisitions.  Please borrow them.


Adobe Photoshop CC Classroom in a Book
(2019 Release)

by Andrew Faulkner (Author), Conrad Chavez (Author)

This book is the perfect course to learn everything about the latest version of Adobe Photoshop. Edit photos, draw digitally and become a stellar graphic designer!
Full color throughout with step by step instructions.

Writer’s Market 2019:
The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published

by Robert Lee Brewer

Have you written a short story, novel or nonfiction book? Don’t know where to start in terms of looking for a publisher?  This excellent reference guide will give you thousands of listings for publishers, agents and more! We also have the new edition for Children’s Writers and Illustrators as well.


The Outdoor Toddler Activity Book:
100+ Fun Early Learning Activities for Outside Play

by Krissy Bonning-Gould

Get your toddlers ready for preschool and beyond with these fun and educational outdoor toddler activities.  This colorful book has over a hundred ideas to booster skills and creativity.


The Kid’s Awesome Activity Book:
Games! Puzzles! Mazes! And More!

by Mike Lowery

Pure interactive fun between two covers! This is a great workbook that teacher’s may want to use with groups or to draw inspiration from.

Simple craft for children with Cricut

Cricut is the brand-name of a product range of home die-cutting machines used for scrapbooking and various projects.  These can be useful for developing craft programs in libraries for children, especially when you need multiples of a craft element.

Below is a simple craft I did at a preschool that accompanied a storytime related to gardening.  After looking at some wild illustrations of plants in picture books, I wanted to give the children a chance to create on their own.

The machine I am using is Craft Explore Air 2.  It is widely available at many retailers.


I log into Cricut Design Space from my desktop computer via the internet.  I can also use Design Space from an app on my phone.  I can create a design on my own or I can choose from many templates or pre-made designs.  Because my topic was gardening I do a search for plant stems.


When I find an item I like, I simply import this into the Design Space.  Once it is imported I copy and paste it several times so that I can have multiples of the same element cut onto my vinyl paper.  The vinyl paper is 12″ square and come in a variety of colors.


I click on the “Make It” button in design space.  I am then prompted to load my vinyl paper using the design mat.  I connect my computer or phone to the Cricut with bluetooth.  There is also a material type knob on the machine which I set to “vinyl”.


The cricut machine cuts out multiples of my stem that I will use in the project.  The stems are then easily peeled off of the sheet.


I cut up the remaining scraps with a scissor so that the preschoolers can use these stickers creatively.


I place the sticker stems on construction paper.  Below it I cut out some cre paper to represent grass and I fasten it down with double-sided tape.  You can let the children do this step too, if you like.


I make twenty of these in various colors to bring to my preschool group.  I then supply them with the scraps and crayons in order to see what they come up with.  The finished result looks something like this:


Picture book workshop

The library is a great place to read and discover comics and graphic novels for all ages.

This summer the Pinal County Library District is hosting free cartooning classes as part of its summer reading program.  The program will be for children in grades four and up.

The four session program will be happening in June, 2019.

Participating libraries include:

  • San Manuel Library:  Thursdays in June from 2 – 3:30 pm
  • Eloy Public Library: Tuesdays in June from 1:30 – 3:00 pm

Girl drawing using pencil

Space is limited to ten participants at each library.  Kids will receive a free copy of Jason Ford’s The Superhero Comic Kit (2015, Laurence King Publishing).  Stickers, pens and other supplies will be available so that participants can create their own comic books.


Interested in making your own comics or cartoons digitally? 

Here are some fun resources to get you started:

Free online art and design tools:

Apps for cartoonists and animators:

Books on Cartooning:

  • Link to books on the topic from our catalog
  • Brunetti, Ivan. Comics: Easy as ABC: the Essential Guide to Comics for Kids. Toon Books, 2019.
  • Ford, Jason.  The Superhero Comic Kit. Laurence King Publishing, 2015.
  • Smiley, Jess Smart.  Let’s Make Comics: An Activity Book to Create, Write and Draw Your Own Cartoons.  Watson-Guptill, 2018.

Comics and Libraries:


Portrait of Indian boy drawing with colorful sketch pen


A Universe of Stories – Summer Reading Program 2019

A Universe of Stories
2019 Summer Reading Program Theme

Slogan 1

Readers of all ages will explore all things space this summer as libraries throughout Pinal County presents “A Universe of Stories” during their summer library program. Activities may include costume creation, group games, space-related crafts, art projects, science and engineering experiments, and more.

Here are some resources for an out of this world journey through our 2019 Summer Reading Program.

Reading Is a Blast!

Booklists on the themes of astronomy, science fact and fiction, and the history of space exploration:



Craft Ideas

The 2019 Summer Reading Program is open to young people, preschool through young adult, with programs, prize drawings, storytimes, a reading club, and more. Families are invited to join the Read-to-Me portion of the program.  Registration for “A Universe of Stories” begins on May 28th, 2019. All programs are free of charge.

Check out our calendar of events for all listings.


Some additional resources for Pinal County Librarians

Evaluation Forms

blood_thousand_starsignitethestarshonor_among_thievesbrightly burning


We Recommend…The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

The Girl in the Spider’s Web
by David Lagercrantz
Knopf, 2015

girl in the spider's webThe Girl in the Spider’s Web, is a Lisbeth Salander novel written by David Lagercrantz. This is the 4th book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series that began with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Lagercrantz was chosen by the family after Larsson’s death to continue the series and he does a great job.

The story follows journalist Blomkvist who has fallen out of favor, and his magazine is about to be reduced to the level of entertainment journalism. Blomkvist is looking at actually being let go, when he stumbles into a story that starts out small and then grows quite large. A Swedish scientist may have discovered how to produce an Artificial Intelligence that can grow smarter, with implications that could prove devastating for the human race. As the scientist desperately tries to keep a large company from stealing his work, he is murdered—and the only witness is his autistic son who has never spoken a word. As Blomkvist is drawn into the tale he asks Lisbeth for help, and, as usual, she comes through, saving the good guys and hurting the bad guys.

David Lagercrantz does an awesome job of continuing the series, with lots of action and adventure and hackers galore. If you enjoyed the first three books in the series, you will definitely enjoy this 4th entry.

On the Web:
David Lagercrantz
Author Interview

Book Reviews:
New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Booklist Online

Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg
The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Anders Roslund
Tana French

We Recommend…The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Keller

The Murderer’s Daughter
Jonathan Kellerman
Ballantine Books, 2015

Murderer's DaughterJonathan Kellerman’s new psychological thriller, The Murderer’s Daughter, departs from his usual protagonist, Alex Delaware. Instead, we meet Grace Blades, a psychologist who has a talent for treating patients that have experienced violent trauma. Grace is highly intelligent, and also extremely good at reading what people want from her. The author traces Grace’s life from childhood into her thirties, as she moves through the foster system and makes her way to Harvard and onward. Her life is satisfying and rewarding, until a chance encounter puts her in the crosshairs of a psychopath that she met many years ago. Grace is forced to take matters into her own hands to save herself, and in the process, she will save others. Kellerman gives us a strong and interesting new female character, and I can only hope that we meet her again.

On the Web:
Jonathan Kellerman
Book Trailer
Author Interview

Book Reviews:
Publisher’s Weekly
Washington Independent Review of Books

Before He Finds Her by Michael Kardos
Fragile by Lisa Unger