On Duck Pond Blog Tour

Welcome to Day #10 of the On Duck Pond Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Duck Pond by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall (4/11/17), blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Jane and Bob, plus 10 chances to win a set of On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond !

The Illustration Process Part 2
by Bob Marstall

My entire process for illustrating pages 22-23 of “On Duck Pond”  Jane Yolen’s text for this two-page spread:

The heron left her nest and limb,       Trout returned to quiet pools,
Turtles found new routes to swim.     Their fingerlings in careful schools.

Thumbnail (1”x2.5”) for pages 22-23 

Thumbnail sketching forces the artist to be quick and concise – no room for detail, just get the visual concept down! It’s also critical for quickly establishing the overall “flow” of the book. It’s like a 100-page storyboard for a movie – except for a 32-page picture book, it’s all on one page.  In this example, my initial response was to feature the turtle and the fish in the foreground and, in the middle-distance, show a heron flying in from the left.

1st full-size (9”x22”) sketch

By the time I got around to doing this full-size sketch (above), I had done several others – and a better sense of the “feel” of the book had emerged. This led to a number of changes to many of the thumbnails, including p22-23. There are still turtles and fish in the new version, and there is still a middle-distance – but besides adding the generic trees and the hills beyond them, the main change was moving the heron to the foreground and quadrupling its size, so that it now dominated the left page. The thumbnail version was OK but rather bland: everything was spread out pretty evenly; the new version felt more dramatic, with the heron now leading the viewer into the scene.

I became unhappy with the heron itself: it felt clunky, plus the reference was terrible (almost completely dark). Luckily, I found a couple of references that were livelier and a lot clearer, so I erased the first heron and drew this one in the same background. So far, so good…

A bit further down the road, the publisher asked for as many spreads with color as possible (for early-reviewer peeks). At that point, all the finished pencil drawings were already on good watercolor paper, ready to go, and I was able to, relatively quickly, complete four watercolor paintings. As it happened, I had a little extra time, so I decided to try to add color to one of the scanned spreads (pages 22-23) using Photoshop (which is the technique that I had used for all of “On Bird Hill”).  I began with the heron, as shown below – but, as it turned out, I didn’t have enough time to do the background.

To make the best of the situation, I added it to the pencil drawing, below, and off it went to the reviewers.

Below is the finished watercolor painting. The primary and secondary feathers had ended up being a little (ok, a lot) darker, relative to the rest of the wing and back feathers, than I (or nature) had intended, but I brilliantly rationalized that it was just a peculiarity of the early morning light. The bird experts at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology had the more righteous view, however: accuracy.

So… I could’ve conceivably fixed the problem by going back into the original painting and “lifting” the dark blue watercolor by repeatedly wetting and blotting just those areas – which took some time and might not work…

OR, given the pressing deadline, I could easily and quickly fix it by using the handy Photoshop overlay that, conveniently, already existed – and this is what ended up being used in the book:

I guess that the fix did the job, since the reviews were great and Booklist gave it a star. Off to a good start…


Today is the last day of the tour! Be sure to stop by the blogs below for more chances to win!

Blog Tour Schedule:

April 10th – Word Spelunking
April 11th – Mrs. Mommy BookNerd
April 12th Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
April 13th – Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
April 14th – Mundie Kids
April 17th – Life Naturally
April 18th – Chat with Vera
April 19th – The Kids Did It
April 20th –  Books My Kids Read
April 21st – Marianna Frances/ GrapeJobRaisinMe
From award-winning and NY Times bestselling children’s author of more than 350 books, Jane Yolen, and award-winning illustrator, Bob Marstall, On Duck Pond is the first sequel to the acclaimed On Bird Hill, which launched the children’s picture book series written for the esteemed Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the world authority on birds. 
In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog, as they stopped, looked, and noticed things along their path—ultimately discovering the miracle of the birth of a baby bird. On Duck Pond continues the journey of the boy and dog story, this time in a new place—a serene pond, filled with birds, frogs, turtles and other creatures going about their quiet business. Their intrusion stirs the pond into a cacophony of activity, reaching climactic chaos, before slowly settling back to it’s quiet equilibrium. 

This beautiful and enchanting sequel is sure to delight On Bird Hill fans and millions of readers and fans of Jane’s popular classics.

About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 350 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world.

Janes husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Hatfield, MA. Visit her online at janeyolen.com.

About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.
In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at marstallstudio.com.
About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet. birds.cornell.edu

  • One (1) winner will receive a set of both On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond — a great Earth Day gift!
  • US only

Day Out With Thomas 

So two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about the Thomas world other than my brother loved it 20+ years ago. Well it hasn’t gone away and I know more about Thomas and the Island of Sodor than I ever thought I would.

I saw that Thomas was actually visiting Florida and there was not a doubt in my mind we had to go. The closest location was in Miami so we made a plan. But you know what happens with plans? Ear infections and fevers. The little one and daddy had to stay home so we were able to invite a friend which I think honestly worked out better.

Hucklebaby’s friends actually arrived with Thomas DVD’s for the ride down. It was a great idea.

The Gold Coast Railroad Museum is actually right beside the Miami Zoo. It’s such a great place to take family pictures… not that we did, but I would love to go back there for our next session. It’s like a train graveyard, in the coolest sense.

We went on the last train ride on the last day of the event, so most of the crowds were gone. The weather was perfect and for South Florida that’s not always the case. It was beautiful and breezy. 

Sir Topem Hat is a celebrity… #nowyouknow

I don’t think I’ve ever been quite this close to a train, they are much bigger than when they are passing you on the road. 

A movie and viewing room inside a train car. 

Getting off the train was a bit scary… those steps are steep for tiny legs, but we managed. 

There were also a bunch of train tables to pass the time. I’m not thinking about train germs. Repeat…I’m not thinking about train germs. I would have loved a little train hand sanitizer… (wink, wink)

So we were at the train tables when we heard a train roll up, whistle and all… I only wished I would have had my camera out when we rounded the bend to actually see Thomas. Hucklebaby was as giddy as Christmas morning,  “This is sooooo exciting (insert jumping up and down motions)”. Completely worth the drive. 

The train went back and forth 3 times, so about 30 minutes. Not too long, but just perfect for these little guys. Just long enough for me to start wording what we would do if a bathroom was mentioned. Luckily enough they were too distracted by everything else. 

I really can’t describe these pretzels. They were fried… and almost sweet but not. I don’t know… It was different. Not good or bad, just different. 

Random miniature golf and hay maze were cool too. Since there were absolutely no crowds at the end, we sort of had the place to ourself. 

Plus a balloon for the road. This is one happy kiddo. 


We all get overwhelmed. It happens. It’s OK.

The more important part is how we deal with being overwhelmed. As adults we struggle to manage our feelings. How do you handle it when your kids get overwhelmed? It’s so important to teach them how to deal with being overwhelmed. Think about it. How have you talked to your kids about dealing with struggle. Just saying things like “figure it out” or “it happens to everyone” doesn’t help. We as parents need to teach them how to process being overwhelmed.

I have learned for myself that ‘one thing at a time’ lets me focus on the task at hand. I need to demonstrate how I get through an overwhelming task to teach my sons to get through the same thing. Talking about the process and how I’m feeling let’s them know that how they are feeling about the same task is ok.

A perfect example was this…

Yep. Overwhelming.

My four year old could say he was overwhelmed but he told me it was ‘too much’ and he didn’t know how to clean it. I get it. I let him struggle for a while and then I saw him give up.

Did I clean it for him? Absolutely not. He made the mess, he can clean it up. But instead of telling him over and over to “clean his room” and watch him become too overwhelmed to even start… I used it as a moment to teach.

How many times have you heard parents get to the point they are mad about the mess, and it creates larger problems? I’ve been there, it’s no fun for anyone. But until I teach him how work through it, I can’t assume he knows how to. Remember, he’s still only 4.

We talked about how he was feeling, and that it was the mess was OK, as long as he knew he needed to clean it up.

I sat on his bed and asked….”what’s one thing you could pick up and put away right now?”

Focus on one thing. Not the whole picture.

I had to repeat this question a few times before he could give me an answer.

“Train tracks?” – Great start. I cheered him on picking up and putting away his train tracks. Then when that was done….I asked the same question.

“What’s one thing you could pick up and put away right now?”

We continued doing this process until it was clean. I didn’t pick anything up. I only helped him through the process. I’m sure we will need to do this again, but I want him to know…he can do it. One thing at a time.

You can see it’s not perfect. There was still stuff that needed to be done, but it was a vast difference from the beginning. In case you are wondering… yep…that’s balls of random play doh. I let him vacuum it up too. The first to last picture probably took about 15 minutes.

He did it all. No yelling, no threatening to throw toys away, no early bedtime… just working through how he was feeling about the mess and teaching him how I handle those same feelings.

One thing at a time.

Clean Out Cookies 

Most times on the weekends I like to try and do some sort of “project” in the kitchen with Hucklebaby. I can’t tell you how inspired I get by Pinterest baking projects and how I want to do EVERY.SINGLE.ONE. of them. Most times I have great intentions but get tired of all the steps about half way through. I’m betting it’s because of my impatient 4 year old helper.

I honestly have no idea of the ingredients I have in my baking cabinet. So when I’m at the store I always just buy more because I don’t want to have to come out again and get something for whatever recipe we are making.

Well for this year, as I’ve said before…I’m cleaning out and organizing. Before I would have looked up a recipe on Pinterest, made a list (without really checking what we already have) and grabbed everything from the store.

Not today kiddos. Not today. This is what I call clean out cookies. Because honestly I’m using stuff I already have before I go get other things…

Yes, I could have just made the sugar cookies…but for some reason I’m not really a fan of sugar cookies. SUGAR – absolutely. Sugar cookies…not so much. I do remember loving my grandmothers Snickerdoodle Cookies so I grabbed cinnamon and sugar. Then I thought I would step it up and put the cinnamon back, and went for the Apple Pie Spice instead. It totally smelled like Christmas when we were making these. 

I don’t remember how much I spent on this Pampered Chef pan… but I know it was way toooooo much for what it is. I use it every chance I can though. Not that it’s so wonderful… just that if I spent that much money on it, I’m going to use it. Such an old person thing to do. 

We put a layer of sugar and apple pie spice on the bottom of the pan to make a nice little sweet crust on the bottom. 

Make sure to let your kiddos help do all the things they can. Spray the pan – yep. Mix the sugar and spiced together – yep. 

Roll the dough balls around like PlayDoh. Sure. Why not. 

And here they are… in a perfect world I would have made some sort of chocolate or crumb filling to put on the top to fill those pockets. I of course would never take these to a function because they do look a little odd… but for my family they totally work.

I put them back in for another 5 minutes or so after this picture. They needed a little longer than I expected.

So there you have it. Another round of Clean Out Cookies. You’ll probably see more random recipes in the future as I continue to clean things out. I love that my family is brave enough to eat them all. 

Tidying Up 

I would consider myself an organized person… but then I see what organized people do in their houses and think there is absolutely NO WAY I am organized. I’m not sure why organizing videos on YouTube are addicting… but they absolutely are to me. Honestly I enjoy watching them before I go to sleep. They are extremely relaxing to me.

You can totally judge me for this… I mean it’s super embarrassing AND it was in the guest bathroom. I’m sure every person that came for a visit and took a little sneak peak and was appalled.

I gutted the entire thing.

5 Perineal Icepacks? Seriously? For real? I haven’t used them after two kids being born… I’m never using them. To the trash.

I actually filled up the bathroom trashcan. Twice. With stuff that had seen its better days.

You don’t realize how dirty stuff gets when there are layers upon layers of stuff on top of it. This cabinet required a full scrub down and I’m still not thrilled with how dingy it looks. Billiam has talked about getting a new sink/ vanity so I didn’t go crazy on it yet. How do people have white things in their house? Is there a trick?

I grabbed these vertical organizers on Amazon after recommendations from Home Organizing by Alexandra.tv I do like how they separate everything but if you have product in tall bottles they aren’t too practical.

Once I find my label maker, I’m going to label these for easy use by guests. It’s not as embarrassing anymore. There clearly is still a lot I need to use to clean this up a bit more… but I feel much better about it. I would love to be able to store guest towels in there soon but baby steps. I am no where close to that yet. I found so many bottles of product shoved in the back that we can go for months without having to buy some things. I love that…but also hate that I let it get to that point.

This kid was super excited that he found more bath soaps he forgot he had, I forgot he had them too. I asked him to help me keep it clean…. hopefully we can work on this together. 

Happy Birthday Little Man 

I don’t have a baby anymore. That’s still and odd thought for me. How is he one already? With our oldest we of course had a party…but with the little one I wasn’t too worried because we had planned on going to Atlanta on his birthday weekend. It was going to be simple to find something fun to do there. But as with any plans, those were cancelled a week or so before we were leaving. No time to plan a party. (enter mom guilt here) There are a lot of things moms can feel guilty about. Not throwing their child a birthday party is absolutely one of them.

I’m already prepared for him to ask me about it in 20 years…

No party doesn’t mean no cake though… so the night before, I busted out all of the essentials. 

I didn’t have a deep dark blue so I used violet instead… looking back I would have skipped this color, just because it was a little too purple-y for my liking. I left it on the cake though simply because I’m last minute with everything. 

As I was mixing my colors I stabbed the toothpicks into the cake, it looked “Game of Thrones” to me so I had to snap a picture. 🙂 

I had no rhyme or reason to how I iced it, only that I wanted more of an hombre effect… but some of the techniques I saw on Pinterest were so detailed. Since I wasn’t having an actually party where anyone was going to SEE the cake… I opted for the messy “natural” cake icing effect. 

I sent a picture to my mom and her next question was… “What’s going on top?” Crap… now for something on top. Out to the garage to dig through my supplies.

A tiny cake pinnate it is. Super duper easy.  

I hate the look of the cardboard on the bottom. I also don’t like the look of aluminum foil over the cardboard on the bottom. I carefully cut it off and put it on a wooded platter I had from Target. All in all this was a $10 birthday??? Probably less.

Happy Birthday little man… ❤ ❤


I have a problem. Although I didn’t know it was a “problem” until I was told …by my husband. On repeated occasions.

Other women sneak in clothes or makeup or new pieces of jewelry when their husband isn’t around. Not me. I sneak in kids books. It’s a rush…

Picking up a new book, turning the crisp pages and meeting the characters. It’s impossible for me to understand why he doesn’t feel the same. In fact he’s the absolute opposite for him and absolutely hates books. (speechless dry mouth here) I totally don’t get it.

So as I was flipping through my son’s Scholastic Book Order, another guilty pleasure of mine, and selected a few books I wanted to order…but I knew I needed to check his collection to make sure I didn’t already get them. Yes, I have multiple copies of certain books because I don’t remember what I have already added.

Let’s just say I need a better way to organize his books.

I sat down in front of his shelves and started digging through. It was the perfect opportunity to get out all of the books I wanted to transition to my younger son’s room. Cue the Board Book pile…

Hucklebaby and I were a great team going through the books and deciding which ones he wanted to move to the baby’s room. I wanted him to make the choice on which ones he was ready to share. He was as ready for this project as I was.

I had a revelation this year when it comes to books … and that is you have to let them go!!! Get rid of them!!! Yes…YOU…book hoarder… get rid of them.

So think about it this way – you go into a thrift store packed with stuff – how much of that is actually quality? Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’s good, that you will want it or that you will ever use it. It’s just taking up space.

The same with books.

If you aren’t going to read it, it’s old (and not in a good way), or you haven’t touched it in years for whatever reason…let it GO! All of that old stuff is just getting in the way of the quality material you have.

We started small with this pile. The get rid of pile.

Yep. I remember those books from when I was a kid. Yes, these were my actual books. It’s time I let them go. I can build better memories with books that are actually of interest to my kids. I can’t force my old books on them just because they are my old books. At the end of the day they are still ratty old books.

Goodbye Old Mother Hubbard.

If this is what the spines of your books look like — get rid of them! Make room for others. These have lived a good life, it’s OK…it’s time…

I made three piles. One to donate, one that are past the point of donation and can be used for some sort of craft and books to give to Hucklebaby’s teacher.

His book shelf still has a good amount of work that needs to be done, but I made enough room to order my handful of books from Scholastic…and isn’t that the whole reason I started the clean out. (Wink, wink)

I’m on the lookout for cheap shelving for books for the baby’s room to keep this project going and organize them so they don’t look so Hoarder-esk. But in all seriousness I think the only way I can organize all of the books is to get a bigger house.

Adventure in Your Area – Get Out of The House

You know what happens when kids are out of school??? My kids run around pants-less and we veg out. It’s nice for a few days and then there is a not-so-magical moment when it switches… and the house starts to close in on us. Sometimes I think there can’t be anything out in the world near us that we haven’t already done.

…and then I make myself find something. To get out… to see the sun…

I’m sure no matter where you live, you think you’ve seen everything there is to see especially if you’ve lived there a long time. But when company comes to town you have to be creative. To dig around and see what else there is to experience.

That’s what happened to us last week. I found something that we had never done before. We went on an adventure.

Feed the Stingrays? Sure… let’s do it.

I find it odd that places like this just seem to pop up. They aren’t big, and it’s not a place people say is a “must do”…but in a tiny way it is. To experience your community and the habitats that are in your community.

“So what you are saying is I have to put this in my hands?”


His face says it all. Not sure what to think of it.

He was brave until the stingray came over and then it was mom’s job to be brave. He quickly gave me the fish. 🙂 I love the moments when he thinks I have it all together. I’m not sure how long that will last but I’ll pretend I know what’s going on as long as I can.


In case you are interested this was at the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, Florida. It is a good ‘one hour’ or so visit if you are in the area… 🙂

Salvation Army Angel Tree

The Salvation Army Angel wasn’t anything I had planned on doing. It’s one of those things I see every year, and have good intentions on doing it… but for some reason I just never have.

We went to see Santa on Friday night and I went planning on having a line out the door. I mean it’s a week before Christmas after all. I should have done it earlier in the month but with everything else going on…it’s been on the back burner. I wasn’t planning on Santa being on break when we got there…

Mom mind: start looking for distractions.

First stop… the Polar Express…

…and then there it was… The Angel Tree. It was the perfect moment. Almost like it was there for a reason… So instead of putting it off, or finding something else to do, we walked over.

We searched through the cards together looking for a boy… we also thought it would be good to find a boy that might like the same things Hucklebaby likes. That way it would be easier to pick out gifts.

They didn’t have any 4 year old boys, but they had a 3 year old boy.

I also discovered that having Hucklebaby pick out gifts for another boy showed me all of the toys that he wanted too. Of course NONE of them have been on Santa’s list…so that’s awesome, we still have a week to let Santa know. 🙂

I told him to pick out two toys and one book… I had no idea it would take such a long time. Not that we were in a rush or anything because Santa was eating dinner and getting a massage.

It was interesting just to stand back and watch him pick out toys and explain why the boy would like them…and why he would like them too. (wink, wink)

So after some serious debate over the best toys… he finally selected a police car with working siren, a construction book and a Paw Patrol Block Set.

We received a plastic bag with our number on it to use to return the gifts… so with a little time to spare before Santa’s return we headed back.


and then this happened… ❤

Coolest little gift…for real though…

OK… so I honestly had no idea what these little guys were. I see gnomes and right now I want them. Is a ‘gnome phase’ a real thing? Discuss…

Anyway, I just saw them and thought they would be a great addition to my Christmas gnomes. They are Gnoments – the mix between Gnomes and moments.

I mean seriously, how cute are these guys?

I wasn’t expecting them to come with a book…or directions… I mean, they are gnomes…

Sidenote: they hold hands!!! Like seriously, they hold hands with a magnet. Anytime they get close to each other they reach out for the other. I can’t even… 

So I’m flipping through the book expecting a cute little gnome story about the two of them. Possibly a little backstory about how they met and had a gagillion children. Nope. Not here…

What I did find, was the coolest gift idea ever. I can’t even begin to explain to you how they work… but all I know is that these are perfect for a scavenger hunt. Think about wrapping one of these guys or leaving them in the tree… for the larger gift to be hidden somewhere else. The gnomes give you hints of where you need to go or what you need to do.

Say what?  Quick little video… if you have a gnoment… (I totally laughed at that). 

They both have these adorable little rear pockets. Hide a note inside or use your phone to scan the chip that is on the inside. 

I was going to try to explain it myself… but why reinvent the wheel… 

Come find me!!! I’m sitting at a surprise restaurant waiting for you, drink in hand with stunning earrings. (hint, hint)

I can’t wait to use them with the boys too. Creating a scavenger hunt for Hucklebaby to do.The possibilities are endless.

Can you tell how excited I am about these. They are such a fun idea…especially for those people who are impossible to surprise, or for the person who already has everything.