Thursday, October 16, 2014

Children's eBook Review: Chickens In Birthday Suits by Nancy Mauerman

Illustrations: 5 Stars 
Cover: 4.5 Stars
Storyline: 4.5 Stars

Total: 5 Stars

What a unique book! Told from the point of view of a chicken who is celebrating her birthday--I mean Hatch Day.

If you haven't uploaded the updated version, I recommend you do so. Mauerman has made some significant improvements, and this review is based on the most recent version.

Storyline: A hen, who loves banana moons and tasty worms, is celebrating her hatch day with her person and a couple chicken friends. They head to the park to parade around, eat cake, and open presents. People gather round the unexpected spectacle, and the chickens are surprised at the silly questions the people ask. The birthday chicken opens present after present and watches as her fellow hens STEAL (and eat!) her presents. Will she get what she wants for her birthday? Will she get to enjoy it?
4.5 Stars for an enjoyable children's picture book

Illustrations: I found these illustrations very unusual. They were brightly colored and angled in amusing ways. I very much enjoyed the style and felt they added even more creativity to a unique story.
5 stars for an artist who likes closeups

Before this post published, Mauerman let me know that one of her books, Old MacDonald Had A Haunted House   is free from today, October 16, until October 20, 2014. I have not read this particular book yet myself, but I enjoyed Mauerman's Chicken's In Birthday Suits book.

Unusually, Nancy Mauerman is both the author and the illustrator of her 12 published books, I interviewed her and this is what she said:

VH: It's unusual to write and illustrate. Why do you choose to do both?

NM: Initially I only wanted to illustrate but decided to take writing classes simply to appreciate that process.  My supervisor encouraged me to apply myself seriously to writing also, not knowing how miserably poor I was at writing.

I remember one day at Cal. State Long Beach when in the morning my illustration teacher said, ”You’d better stick to writing.” That afternoon my writing teacher said, “You’d better focus on drawing.” “But,” I told myself, “what would happen if you don’t quit. You can do it wrong but you can do it twice.” From that point made two to seven drawing instead of one for every assignment art given. 

VH: What's the most difficult part of creating a children's book?

NM: I scrape my innards out and put them in book form not to please others but when it’s done another person inside offers my books to others. It’s discouraging to not have them used.

VH: What advice to you have for other children's book authors?

NM: I suggest to others to discipline your time, dig down deep, and don’t give up.

VH: You've written/illustrated more than one book. How many have you published, and why do you keep writing?

NM: Amy runs the computer part of my business, together we’ve published twelve books (I have two ready for Amy to start on and three more close to being ready, and four are a series).

I keep writing because I’m clinically depressed.  Writing distracts me from nasty feelings and thoughts and I feel driven by God to use my energy in this direction.

VH: What are your favorite books ever (children's book or not)?

NM: I love the scriptures, C. S. Lewis’s non- fiction and Narnia series, Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos and Zen Koans.

VH: What illustrators and artists influenced your style?

NM: The brilliant artists in my life are M. Angelo, Hildegard of Bingum, Paul Jean and Herman Limbourg, Durer, Dali, Edvard Munch, Mataisse, N. C. Wyeth, O’Keeffe, Frida Kahlo, Mark Rothko and George Tooker.

VH: Your characters who are children actually speak like children. How do you get the cadence and vocabulary so right?

NM: In an education class my teacher recommended the book Ira Sleeps Over because the characters speak like real children.  When an adult reads this out loud he automatically drops the artificial cute voice. I set this as my goal. Plus I was first attracted to my husband when he was near tears because two of his frogs died. We try to find joy in small things. Plus I have multiple personality disorder with some kids inside me. This last made it hard to get through school but makes it better when making Art Brut pictures.

VH: What is your advice to children who want to create books?

NM: I ask many questions about their ideas to help them crystalize their thoughts. Then I suggest they start right away. I show them how to make their own hard bound covers so they can envision the finished product. 

If you want to learn more about Nancy Maurerman and her books, go to her website, her blog, and her Amazon Author page.

~Valerie Harmon
WantsToBe Books

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