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

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.

Toddler Busy Box – A Holiday Must Have


So it’s that time of year… when everything is busy. Nonstop places to go and things to be done. Holidays are full of excitement, but for little people it’s also a time for lots of boredom. Running store to store, random family members’ houses and road trips. None of this is necessarily stuff they enjoy.

In order to keep my sanity I’ve created a “busy box” to stay in the car, in order to beat the boredom and keep up with the holiday rush.

One of the best storage containers I’ve found is a simple Creative Options 12×12 paper holder. Most of the time this is used for scrapbook paper but it is the perfect size for lots of kid items. Plus it doubles as a writing surface in the car. Here is the one I have… 

To keep Hucklebaby off of the iPad or phone I like to put a lot of variety in the box, because as soon as he’s done with one thing it can easily switch out for another. As you can see nothing is messy too.

A few magazines that are age appropriate and that we can have conversations about, lacing shapes from the Dollar Spot, different notepads with a chunky pencil, an easy to read book that he already knows really well, a dry erase ABC book, a preschool “workbook” and a ColorWorks notepad… The items in this box will last for a while before I need to swap them out with other things. The red pencil bag keeps the ColorWorks markers as well as the large chunky crayons. I don’t take little crayons because they are easier to lose when they roll under the seats.

Everything fits in nice and neatly. You can see through the container to see what is inside and it stays clean. I’ve tried soft bags in the past and I haven’t been as happy with them.

Hucklebaby knows that the busy box is in the car most days and has learned to start looking around in that before he starts complaining about being bored. He also helps me find new things to put into the busy box. The perfect places to look are the Target Dollar Spot, The Dollar Tree or Scholastic Book Orders.

Hucklebaby Book Club – Fred Friday

Hucklebaby is really into “monsters” at the moment. So anything that looks like a monster (friendly kind) he wants to see…talk about…look at…

Another weird reason I love this book…is my grandfather’s name was Fred. It’s such a simple name, but to me it is filled with an amazing amount of love.

Fred is able to see things no one else can. His world is surrounded by creatures that help humans without them knowing. You know…the strange things that may happen that as adults we never think about. Well… we are being helped by these beings.

Isn’t that such a cool thought? That we are surrounded by creatures that help us all the time? I kinda hope I have a purple one.

Hucklebaby loved telling me about the monsters and what they were all doing. He was very concerned they were in the street though… this kid…     

No one else can see them but Fred. But like everything else…that changed as he got older. He got busy.

Oh, Fred… Oh, Fred getting old…

Have you ever had those moments where you just stop and wonder…??? This book gets deep. 🙂 OK…maybe I’m just having a moment, but honestly this book was very touching.

Fred realized that he had forgotten so many things that once made him who he was, and once he got back to himself, his friends were there again. But they had always been there helping him, he just couldn’t see it…  (insert weepy sound effect here). 

Peter Pauper Publishing is hosting a MEGA FRED FRIDAY GIVEAWAY from May 1st – May 29th for a COMPLETE SET of all TEN of thier critically acclaimed picture booksFred by Kaila Eunhye Seo, and EARLY COPY of All the Lost Things by Kelly Canby, Elephantastic by Michael Engler, The Zoo Is Closed Today! by Evelyn Beilenson, Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! by Bruce Arant, Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley, Hank Has a Dream by Rebecca Dudley, Celia by Cristelle Vallat, Not the Quitting Kind by Sarra J. Roth, and Digby Differs by Miriam Koch!


For your chance to win a copy of your own Fred by Kaila Eunhye Seo here’s a Rafflecopter giveaway. Free Fred. 🙂 Good Luck…

After Testing Fun – Peeps and Eggs

State testing…who doesn’t love it?

After the kiddos sit for hours in silence doing their absolute best on state tests (hopefully)…I like doing something fun and a little out if the ordinary with them. Last week we were gearing up for Easter and as soon as I pulled out Peeps, I had their attention. 

I found really cool S.T.E.M. challenges on Teachers Pay Teachers to use with the Peeps. I decided on the Peep Rafts and the Peep Catapults. You see those Sour Watermelon Peeps? Um…hello? Amazing.

I placed the kids in partners and made them sketch out what the catapults should look like. I absolutely loved listening to what they were coming up with. They had to sketch it out and then explain to me what each part was doing and why.   

Please forgive the bare walls and rows of desks…remember we were testing so everything had to be covered or taken down. This is what team work looks like.

When the catapults were ready, they lined up behind the carpet. Some actually went quite far, while others…um…didn’t. Some of them tried to convince me that their Peep would go further if they could eat the ears…wink, wink…

What did the winners get?? Why their own pack of Peeps. I have to brag though, because they all shared with each other. The catapults turned out much better than the rafts. 😉


The goal was to keep their Peep on the longest without getting wet. I almost feel like everyone was holding their breath watching the Peeps. There was an actual person on “Peep Patrol”. It was their job to monitor the Peeps and let us know when they hit the water. Some were quick and others had strong rafts.

These are really cute activities to do as the end of the school year rounds down too. Make sure to grab a few boxes and save them for a rainy day. Or after testing to get the kids focused on something fun.

I had the Peeps for science, but I still wanted to get a bit of math review in. For some reason my kids can’t remember to regroup until a few problems in. This should be something that is second nature to them by now, so I came up with a reverse egg search.

Each egg had a number on it. The kids had to find an egg (they weren’t really hidden) and then come back and match it with an equation. When they found the matching equation they could put the post-it and egg in their basket. Each egg had a random point number in it. So the person with the most points won, not the person with the most eggs. This encouraged my kids to take their time and make sure they were correct in their addition and subtraction. 

The post-its were easy to pull off of the board and on to the class white board for review. 

Some students solved all of the problems and then went out searching for specific numbers and some found the numbers first and used estimation to narrow down which equations to solve. It was interesting to see their mind work and how many different ways there were to place eggs with equations. 

If they matched the egg and equation correctly, they received the points inside the egg (from 1-10), if they got the egg and equation wrong…either because they were rushing and just trying to get the most eggs, or didn’t regroup….they lost the points. Yep, I’m mean like that. 🙂 

They loved it!!! I loved that my kids that took their time and used their strategies were the ones that did the best. Look how colorful the board is…I wish it always looked like that.

I’m so glad our testing is over for the year… I hope your kiddos did great on theirs too. 🙂

Getting Ready For Easter – Plus an Awesome GIVEAWAY!!! 

We decorated for Easter the day after St. Patty’s day and I have learned in the past year or so that if I want to add on to my decorations, they must be Hucklebaby friendly.

I am loving anything that uses his fine motor skills at the moment, I’m sure that won’t change…and so when I see projects we can do together, that I can store away and bring out year after year…I grab them.

Thank you Target for providing a huge blue egg that was Hucklebaby level, that he carried around the store. Honestly watching him carry two of these at the same time was quite amusing. First project – around $5.

Next project…wooden eggs. In my mind, as I’m walking down the aisle, thinking what a great thing this will be, to pull the eggs out year after year and “remember”.

Oh, how I thought painting wooden eggs would be so wonderful…

It was a wonderful 4 minutes. We discovered it is much more fun painting arms and legs and what? I’m not supposed to paint my face.

Project ended.

You see that small red spot on the egg. Yep. That’s exactly what the egg still looks like. All the other ones are still bare.  I’ll pull these out again next year and see what happens.

Next project…egg stuffing.

This is Hucklebaby’s first year that he understands what he’s doing “hunting” for eggs. His school has a rule about NO CANDY…so gummies (as they are called in this house) are the next best thing right? Plus they are the only thing I could find that would fit in the eggs.

I grabbed eggs and gummies – 12 of both to be exact. Except Target only gave me 11. In the box of 12…they only put in 11. Easter Egg crisis. Come on Target? Do I have to count the gummies now? Is this how they are saving money?? Or is someone that boxes tummies laughing at all of the parents that are probably experiencing the same thing I did. Well played Target, well played.

Dear parent of the one kid that got a left over Valentine’s Fruit by the Foot in their egg… I’m sure it’s still good. 🙂

So after the painting and egg stuffing…a Pirate Egg is just what we need…   

I am reminding myself that things don’t need to be perfect. This is his time to be creative and find his way. They need to be his artistic choices. Yes, a toddler needs artistic choices. I’m sure it’s a thing.

Hook out of the top of the head? Perfect.

So this is what the directions look like and this is what my new Easter center piece looks like. 🙂

This time of year we love reading books about spring, chicks and bunnies. Want to know what our favorite spring bunny book is?

Guess How Much I Love You…A Hucklebaby Book Club Classic!

Did you know it’s 20 years old this year? To celebrate spring and Easter and just how wonderful this book is…Hucklebaby wanted to do a giveaway!

Each of 3 lucky winners will get a copy of the 20th Anniversary “Guess How Much I Love You” as well as an Event Kit with tons of kiddo activities.

Here is a link for additional activities if you already have the book in your collection.

Make Your “Own Guess How Much I Love” You Greeting Card 

 GHMILY story time set up

On winner will be selected from the blog – simply follow and post your favorite kid activity for spring.

Two winners will be selected from Instagram – follow @mariannafrances, repost the image with the #guesshowmuch and comment with your favorite kid activity for spring.

Feel free to do both for a better chance to win. Contest ends on Friday, April 3, 2015.

I Found the Perfect Kid Gift….


That’s it. That’s the perfect gift. OK…hear me out.

Before I had Hucklebaby I really never knew about the “kid birthday circuit”. Yes, it exists and once you are in it…you have to accept it. That means there are endless amounts of birthdays for all of your “new mommy friends” kids, some months…every weekend. Let me point out, Hucklebaby is still only one. I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like as he gets older.

As I go to these parties, I see toys. Tons of toys. Toys that I’m sure will be long forgotten by the time the next birthday rolls around. That got me thinking. I don’t want to buy toys anymore. (let’s not talk about books as gifts right now)

I was thinking this exact thought when I got a party invitation to my nephew Conner’s Iron Man Birthday party. He’s turning 5. Because he lives in Maryland  I honestly have no idea what toys he has in his collection.

So as I stood looking at rows of action figures and hoping I didn’t buy one he already had, I shrugged my shoulders. The last thing I wanted to do in that moment was get into a text conversation about, “Well, does he have this? What about this? Do you think he would like…” I gave up. I walked out of the store. Just walked out. No toys, no gift.


That’s when I walked into Learning Express (I can never pass it without going in). I was looking for something pirate related, because speaking of birthday’s thats the theme of Hucklebaby’s 2nd party…but anyway….

As I was walking around I saw this. It was a display for their personalization services. Not bad…

They had a whole bunch of different sized cases that could be personalized at no extra charge. I’m liking this. (I want to say it was about $15 for the case)


My thinking is this. I can get Conner a “brief case”, that’s what the label called it and I thought it added to the cuteness. To carry his toys, or art supplies, whatever he happens to be enjoying at that moment. It can stay at home, or go in the car…he can travel with it. It can become whatever he wants it to be. He can keep his favorite things safe and hide things under his bed in it. This is better than an ol’ action figure.


Ok.Ok.OK. So the brief case isn’t the only thing I got him…I filled it with a few things from the Target Dollar spot. I mean who wants to get an empty brief case? But, they were more practical items. 3 pair of super hero socks, pencils and notepad, a Dinosaur work book and a box of rice. Rice???


Since Conner is so young, and lives so far away. Somehow he has never learned Uncle Bill. He picked up Uncle Ben somehow…and we just kinda rolled with it as a family joke. So presenting….a Box of Uncle Ben’s Rice.


So here you have it. The perfect gift… and all under $20. Not so bad.


Sidenote: if you invite me to a birthday party within the next year or so…I’ll bring a briefcase with me. 🙂

Summer is OFFICIALLY here!!! Duck and Goose Beach Party

Hucklebaby LOVES Duck and Goose. When I say love, I mean he walks around the house say Duck, Duck, Duck…when he wants to read one of Tad Hills’ books. Until now he only had the board books ‘Feelings’ and ‘1,2,3’.

But now we have ‘Duck and Goose Go To The Beach’.



I know this sounds weird to people that don’t live near the ocean but we don’t go to the beach that often…mater of fact I think it has been a year since we have been. We only go when we have visitors…and now with the Fourth of July almost here, we are gearing up to head back to the beach.

I love watching Hucklebaby sit and go through new books. Ohhh-ing and Ahhh-ing at the pictures and yelling Duck as he is pointing to his favorite character.





He wanted to make sure he waved by to the camera when he was done with the book.  He still puts up with all of my picture taking. I’m sure that will end any day now.



The friendship between Duck and Goose is adorable…I only wish their little bird wings could look like they were holding hands. I can only imagine what they are thinking as they are standing there looking out from the dune.

Hucklebaby and I were also able to talk about some animals we might see at the beach although I’m really hoping crabs aren’t on the list.



Side note: The only way I could get him to get in the car after reading this book…was to take Duck with us. We love you Tad Hills.



So if you or your little one would like a chance to have your very own copy of  Tad Hill’s ‘Duck and Goose Go To The Beach’ simply leave a comment about what your favorite part of the beach is.

For a double chance to win follow me on Instagram @mariannafrances and comment on the Duck and Goose Giveaway post.

Book Review: A Bucket of Blessings

I love anytime we get new books in the room. I don’t think that feeling will ever get old, so when I was asked to review –  A Bucket of Blessings by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Segal (mother and son) –  I absolutely said yes. I love being able to share a new book with the kids and get them excited too. I even bring it in still in the envelope from the “author” because he knows our class is so special.


Anytime we have a book with a jacket we get to discuss why it is important and how it helps protect the book. Really…jackets disappear before the book goes in the library. I’m always a bit sad about that. I used to save them and had a weird collection of book jackets in my closet. I had to have a conversation with myself about letting them go. What does everyone else do with book covers? No, honestly…I’m seriously curious. Anyway…

This came at the perfect time because we were able to compare the animals in our science unit to the animals in this book. Fiction/Non-Fiction… and something that they can always grab on to no matter how young…is if animals are talking to each other…it’s got to be FAKE. FAKE means FICTION. Yes, we are super excited about that fact.  After sharing the book with the class, we were able to talk about our favorite parts of the book. I wanted to share a few with you along with the beautiful illustrations.


“My favorite part of the book was when the water dropped down.”




“My favorite part of the book was when the peacock put up his colorful wings.”

20140513-210911.jpg“My favorite part of the book was when the monkey dropped the water and the flowers got big.”

I know you are wondering what MY favorite part of the book is… well… as I was reading, the kids were trying to warn the monkey that he was spilling the water…they seemed really concerned and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t see what he was doing. It was kinda adorable. Another great thing about this book is that the authors, Surishtha Sehgal and Kabir Sehgal, are donating a portion of the proceeds to charity: water, (www.charitywater.org ), an organization that provides clean drinking water to communities in developing nations. Something you can feel good about. 

Overall we give this high fives all around and it has found a permanent home in our class library. Aren’t the illustrations great? I wish I could draw…maybe I’ll be a book illustrator when I grow up.








I want Electric eyes…

So after flipping through my new Ulta catalog I see this Urban Decay Electric Palette. I’m in serious lust. I want it. I need it. My life won’t be complete without it. The colors are so bright and ridiculous.
I told myself no, I don’t need it. When will I wear these colors? It’s not like I’m a young sprout that can pull it off… But I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve walked by Ulta a couple of times since this obsession began and have avoided going in.

So instead of spending $50 for the other one I gave in at Walgreens and for a little over $10 grabbed these vibrant beauties.

I was hoping that they would fulfill my need for color.

Nope. Didn’t do it. I mean I will use it and the colors are OK at best. I was hoping for more pigment. In order for me to get even a good amount of color I had to layer it on and it dusted all over my cheeks. Not my favorite thing to do. So again I’m still thinking about that palette.

As for the Wet and Wild liquid eyeliner… For $2.99 I can’t complain. It’s what I should expect to get. The purple one does seem a little watery. The blue Rimmel stick I’m happy about. Very smooth and pigmented.


On a sidenote: I’m still loving my Chella blue eyeliner from my March Ipsy bag. I can’t wait to grab more of these.


I can’t avoid Ulta that much longer.