Book Giveaway: OUR WORLD: A First Book of Geography by Sue Lowell Gallion

Sue Lowell Gallion has written a large format board book, OUR WORLD: A FIRST BOOK OF GEOGRAPHY and illustrated by Lisk Feng. It hits bookstores on July 22nd. Sue has agreed to share a copy with one lucky winner. All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know the other things you do to share the good news, so I can put in the right amount of tickets in my basket for you.

Sharing on Facebook, Twitter, reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. Thanks for helping Sue and Lisk, especially at this stressful time when authors and illustrators need to promote their books completely online.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it is delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!



A read-aloud introduction to geography for young children that, when opened and folded back, creates a freestanding globe

OUR WORLD is a large format board book introduction to geography in the shape of a globe.  The book can be folded open to create a freestanding globe, with magnetic closures embedded in the front and back cover. Children are invited to identify and experience the Earth’s amazing geography through rhyming verse and lush illustrations: from rivers, lakes, and oceans deep, to valleys, hills, and mountains steep. Secondary text printed on the globe stand offers more detailed, curriculum-focused facts and encourages readers to consider their own living environments, making the reading experience personal yet set within a global backdrop. This informative homage to Earth is sure to inspire readers to learn more about their planet – and to engage with the world around them.

OUR WORLD inspires young readers to learn more about their planet and engage with the natural world around them.

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This book represents a lot of firsts for me as an author: first novelty board book, first nonfiction book, first rhyming text. (More about that combo of nonfiction and rhyme to come!) It’s also the first time I had a book begin with an idea for its physical format instead of a character or story concept.

An SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) workshop was the starting point. I wanted to learn more about board books, especially novelty board books – those with some interactive element, such as lift-the-flaps or touch-and-feel textures. Ariel Richardson, Chronicle editor, was on the faculty of our Kansas/Missouri regional conference in 2017. One of her workshops was for author-illustrators, illustrators, and authors on board books. Ariel is an excellent speaker and she also brought lots of books we could look at and handle. This one especially caught my eye: MASHA AND HER SISTERS.  The shape of the book was directly connected to the content, which introduces each sister in the nesting doll.

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At the end of the workshop we had time to play with scissors and paper and make our own dummies, I thought of a book shaped like a globe, kind of a globe/atlas combination for young kids. Here’s the dummy I made that day.

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After the conference, I started researching, looking for comp titles, and pondering what I wanted this book to convey. I love to travel, explore the natural world, and learn about different cultures. If you look at an atlas page or a globe that shows only physical geography, you don’t see any national borders, just landforms, vegetation, and water features. A traditional globe identifies countries. But they’re separated only by flat lines on the globe. We are connected by climate issues, transportation systems, communication systems, and much more.  I wanted to share that world with a very young audience.

The original manuscript was a 56-word rhyming poem, which my agent, Liza Voges, submitted with my paper dummy. The dummy had my numerous ideas for novelty elements in addition to the globe shape, such as sand texture on a desert spread. Phaidon Press, a global creative arts publisher with a line of innovative children’s books, expressed interest early on. From that point, OUR WORLD’s journey can be summed up with one word: revision. And since the poem was written in rhyme, that meant revising rhyme. Nonfiction rhyme! Ack! I’ve always had a healthy respect and huge admiration for rhyme done well. That’s only grown as I wrestled my way through this project.

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Focus: In the first revision, Phaidon asked me to narrow the focus of the book.  I revised the poem and proposed spreads to focus on physical geography.

Content: The Phaidon team came up with the idea of adding secondary text to expand the information and also broaden the audience. The text evolved (I love using that word with this book) through a whole lot of research. The actual book offer came after this work. Then, as the illustrations were developed and finalized, the text had to be revised to match. Eventually, the manuscript went from a 56-word submission to a 967-word book!

Sequencing: As Lisk Feng, the incredible illustrator, worked on the art, and I worked on research and the secondary text, our editor, Maya Gartner, and art director, Meagan Bennett, looked at the big picture (as well as the tiny details) from Phaidon’s London office. We worked together to delete spreads and add spreads. We changed the order of spreads to make the book flow better. And all of this meant changes to rhyming text. My critique partners, Ann Ingalls and Jody Jensen Shaffer, heard from me a lot. Here’s how I revise rhyme, one legal pad at a time. I also went on many walks with my dog, who didn’t mind that at all.

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Physical format: Meanwhile, the Phaidon team figured out how to make this dream concept work. I don’t know many of these details, but I know it was a huge production puzzle. For example, for the book to open like a globe, it needed some sort of closure to connect the front and back covers. The Phaidon team tested all sorts of options and finally decided that embedding magnets in the front and back covers was the best way to accomplish this without compromising the design.

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And of course, there’s the financial side. Board books can have any number of spreads, unlike picture books that have to fit within 8-page signatures. But every spread adds cost.

Fit: Later, the nonfiction text had to be revised to fit the actual space on one side of the globe stand. I worked with print pieces as a writer back when cut and paste meant scissors and tape, so this part of the process took me way back. It’s like a puzzle.

Wording: OUR WORLD is an international edition, released throughout the U.K. as well as the U.S. So word choices had to work for these different audiences. For example, “fall” is not a synonym for “autumn” in the U.K. “Dirt” and rocks moved by a glacier needed to be “earth” instead. And we kept revising to make the secondary text interactive and appropriate for the audiences as well as accurate.

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That’s the book’s journey so far! Board books don’t usually have ARCs, I learned, so I had only seen the book in pdfs. My first copy arrived a few weeks ago. There wasn’t anyone around to film the box opening, but I couldn’t wait to hold this book in my hand. It’s more than I could ever have imagined.

The COVID pandemic pushed back the book’s release somewhat, but if there’s ever been a time when we realize the connectedness of this world, it’s now. I hope OUR WORLD showcases the variety and beauty of the natural world and inspires us to take better care of it as global citizens. Thanks, Kathy, for this opportunity to share it!

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Sue Lowell Gallion was destined to write books. As the daughter of a third-generation printer, Gallion grew up immersed in the smells of paper
and ink and the sound of the printing presses at Lowell Press in Kansas City. As a young girl, she and her sister raided the plant’s gumball machine, squirreled away paper scraps to make paper dolls, and played with type and stamp pads. When they were older, they took their place in the family business, stuffing envelopes, boxing books, and proofreading endless pages of cattle pedigrees — with breaks for gumballs, of course.

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Today, Gallion is the author of eight children’s books including two series: the Pig & Pug picture books and the Tucker and Tip early readers. Gallion’s work has also appeared in various children’s magazines such as Highlights and High Five.

Sue is the author of the award-winning PUG MEETS PIG series.  Sue has two other books releasing in 2020 in addition to OUR WORLD. Her latest picture book is ALL EXCEPT AXLE, illustrated by Lisa Manuzak Wiley, the story of a new car anxious about leaving the auto assembly plant. Aladdin/S&S releases ALL EXCEPT AXLE on Sept. 22. TIP AND TUCKER PAW PAINTERS is the third in the early reader series written with Ann Ingalls and illustrated by Andre Ceolin, published by Sleeping Bear Press and releasing Aug. 15. Missouri Library Association Building Block award winner for 2019, PUG MEETS PIG, illustrated by Joyce Wan (Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster) released in 2016. PUG & PIG TRICK-OR-TREAT released the following year. PUG & PIG AND FRIENDS will release spring 2021.

In 2013, Sue received the Most Promising Picture Book Manuscript award from SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Passionate about books and the importance of reading, Gallion’s also a frequent presenter speaking to librarians, parents and early childhood educators about literacy. She also shares her love of books with children at libraries and elementary schools — in person or via Skype. And once a week, Gallion volunteers as a reading mentor for children with low literacy skills as part of Lead to Read Kansas City.

Gallion takes her craft seriously. She’s an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and was the former regional advisor for the Kansas/Missouri region.

When she’s not writing, Gallion likes to spend time with her two preschool grandsons and her black lab mix, Tucker, who likes to hold hands. Her family includes her daughter, son and daughter-in-law, and two grandsons.  She still lives in the Kansas City area and is represented by Liza Voges of Eden Street Literary. To learn more about her, go to

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Lisk Feng is an award-winning illustrator who is initially from China, and is now a New York-based freelance illustrator. She graduated with an MFA Illustration Practice from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2014, with editorial and advertising projects for clients such as The New Yorker, Apple, Penguin, Airbnb, The New York Times, and Chanel.

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Meanwhile, her illustrations received awards and recognitions such as the Silver Medal from the Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts Excellence Award, 3X3 Silver Medal, and American Illustration winner. She has illustrated several children`s books. She was named one of the Art Directors Club 15 Young Gun Artists among all artists from all fields worldwide in 2017. She was selected for the list of Forbes 30 under 30 Art and Style in 2019 and won the Bologna Ragazzi Award with the book EVEREST in 2019.

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Thank you Sue for sharing your new book and its’ journey with us. The whole thing is very creative. What a great idea to help children learn about geography. Lisk did a wonderful job with the illustrations. Loved hearing how this all evolved. I am sure parents and teachers will want this for their children. Good luck with the book!

Talk tomorrow,


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.