Picture Books, poetry

Linda Ashman and her picture books that delight me

How is it that I haven’t heard of Linda Ashman before now? She’s been publishing books since 2001 and people have been raving about her all over the internet, but I heard of her first from a blog a few weeks ago and decided she was worth reading. What an understatement! She is amazing! Linda Ashman writes children’s books that are such great fun that I read them to my kids and to myself over and over again. I checked out four of her books, out of several that she’s written.

The first book we read was Stella, Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse, illustrated by Paul Meisel. This is a collection of poems from the viewpoint of Stella, the dog. Ashman obviously knows dogs well because you felt like you really were seeing the world the same way Stella must see it. There were some seriously funny ones in there, like when Stella meets the pretentious prize poodle, and some sweet ones, like how Stella feels about the little boy who loves her. I loved that Stella didn’t think the parents were all that smart because they didn’t understand her obvious communications. This book almost made me wish we had a dog. Then I snapped out of it.

The second was The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, which is illustrated by David Small. It’s full of poems about different creatures and monsters from around the world. I only recognized a handful of them, and that’s saying a lot. I had an obsession with all things creepy when I was in elementary school, but I never came across some of the ones in this book. I worried that it was a bit too scary for my kindergartner and preschooler, but they reassured me that it wasn’t that scary. And really, Ashman’s poetry makes it lighter than what the illustrations depict. I loved this book and I know my seven-year-old will love it (also obsessed with monsters and such), but I’d stay away if you have kiddos who aren’t as fascinated and would be frightened by it.

The third and probably my favorite was M is for Mischief: and A to Z of Naughty Children, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Ashman writes a poem describing a naughty child for each letter of the alphabet and instead of coming across as preachy, it was hilarious. I’ve seen kids like this and my own children have had their own Picky Penelope, Eavesdropping Eva, Zany Zelda, and Doodling Daphne moments. My kids read this book with me with wide eyes and I thought the poems and descriptions weren’t so over the top that they couldn’t be real. Another aspect that makes this my favorite was Carpenter’s illustrations. She brilliantly combines photos and drawings and makes these naughty children pop out from the pages.

The only book I checked out that wasn’t all poems was Desmond and the Naughty Bugs, illustrated by Anik McGrory. I couldn’t find a picture of the cover online, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Still more fun, still very entertaining to see what kind of bugs would cause poor Desmond to change from a very obedient boy to one that squirms and whines, dawdles and complains, but I think I prefer the poems. Ashman just has a way with metered rhyme that dances across my brainpan and puts a skip in my step.

In addition to her brilliant writing, Ashman has great taste in illustrators. Do authors get to pick? If so, kudos to her. David Small is one of my favorites, Nancy Carpenter is a new favorite, Anik McGrory was delightful, and even though Paul Meisel didn’t thrill me to death, my children loved it. Just now, I quizzed my five and three-year-olds on which of the four was their favorite and they both agreed that Stella, Unleashed was the best. It could be my children’s collective obsession with getting a dog, but the poems were absolutely wonderful too. The books I would buy. Not a dog. Have I mentioned I don’t want a dog?


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15 responses to "Linda Ashman and her picture books that delight me". Comments are closed for this post.
  • AnnieOfBlueGables says:

    http://www.lindaashman.com/works.htm there is a picture of the Naughty bug book here.
    Can you hold off until Christmas on buying any of her books please?

  • AnnieOfBlueGables says:

    I think she lives near you. Maybe you can meet her sometime at the Tattered Book?

  • Libby says:

    Thanks for the recommendation. I just requested two from the library: "Sailing off to sleep" and "Castles, caves & honeycombs". K is really into poetry right now, so I'm excited to share these with her.

  • princess jen says:

    We, too, loved Stella Unleashed. Now I want to check out the Naughty Kids book! (and I don’t want a dog either!)

  • Mari says:

    We will have to look for them tomorrow at the Library when we go for storytime.

  • Jenny says:

    Annie, if any of Ashman’s books appeared for Christmas, my heart would not be broken in the least. I’m also keeping my eyes peeled for signings she might be doing.

  • Rach says:

    Those look like fun books! I’ll give them a try! And if you ever start thinking dogs are cute and fun, just think about the amount of poop they produce in your yard, and the amount you’d be scraping off your kids’ shoes. That’s what I do whenever I see puppies in a box outside Target. Think about poop.

  • Caren says:

    “Ashman just has a way with metered rhyme that dances across my brainpan and puts a skip in my step.”

    That’s a great description of how I felt after a few minutes with Linda Ashman! After your recommendation, we went to the library and checked out as many of her books as we could find. They didn’t have any of these that you mentioned here, but the ones we got were really cute and my kids have been having a great time with them. Thanks!

  • Linda Ashman says:

    Hi, Jenny–
    I just came across your blog and wanted to thank you for the kind words–they made my day!

    As for your question about whether authors get to pick their illustrators, generally the editor and art director do this. Sometimes I get to weigh in on the choice, but other times I don’t have any involvement at all (naturally, I much prefer the former!). Fortunately, I’ve been lucky to get some really fabulous illustrators.

    Thanks again!

  • Jenny says:

    How very cool of you to stop by! That’s very interesting about authors and illustrators. It makes me wonder what you pictured in your mind while you wrote and how that meshed with the illustrator’s end product. Fascinating stuff.

    Well, shoot, I was a fan before today, but now I’m a turbo fan. I hope to see you at a signing in Colorado sometime soon!

  • Linda Ashman says:

    It's true–the illustrations never look like what I pictured while I was writing. Most of the time, I'm really happy with the art, and sometimes even overjoyed. I'm thrilled with Nancy Carpenter's work for "Mischief," for example–I think she's so creative and hilarious. And I still remember seeing Lauren Stringer's paintings for "Castles, Caves & Honeycombs" for the first time–they were so beautiful, I got tears in my eyes.

    Hope to see you in CO some time (are you in Denver?).

  • Jenny says:

    Okay, “Castles, Caves and Honeycombs” is now going on the request list at the library. That’s a pretty big endorsement right there.

    Yep, I’m in the Denver area. We moved here not too long ago and in the words of my husband this evening as he watched the sunset over the mountains, “I love Colorado!”

  • Caren says:

    "Castles, Caves, & Honeycombs" was one of the ones we got the other day at the library. It's delightful! Of the batch we got, probably the kids' favorite illustrations were in "Rub-a-Dub Sub." And I absolutely adored "Mama's Day." I want to get a bunch of copies and give them out to all my friends!

  • Linda Ashman says:

    Thanks for the nice words, Caren. And I’m so glad to hear your kids liked Rub-a-Dub Sub–I think Jeff Mack is terrific. By the way, I think I’m going to add Princess Bride to my “to read” list after your recent entry.

    Glad you’re enjoying Denver, Jenny!

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