Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Let Kids' Imaginations Run Wild With Books From Skyhorse Publishing and Sky Pony Press

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Disclosure: I was sent the books, pictured above, at no cost, to facilitate this review. 

 My kids love to read and I'm pretty sure, I enjoy getting to read to them even more! Since I've started my blogging adventure less than a year ago, I've had the opportunity to introduce my kids to a lot of different books. It's been one of the things I've enjoyed most! Bedtime reading is such a precious part of our day. Not only does it help quiet them for sleep, but it gives them an opportunity to sit still from the busyness of the day and let their imaginations take over. I love watching their little faces as they enter world after pretend world and join in the adventure of so many different characters. As a Mom, these bedtime moments are ones that I will treasure forever!

Skyhorse Publishing & Sky Pony Press publish so many wonderful books (for readers of all ages) and recently, Our Southern Style welcomed three of their book selections into our home. I also had the privilege of interviewing the author and illustrator for Sophie's Animal Parade who had some great advice for individuals who might want to write or illustrate their own children's books some day!

Always There Bear

By Trudi Granger
Illustrated by Gareth Llewhellin


Whether you’re at the beach or hiding inside on a rainy day; whether you’re having tea with a friend or reading a book by yourself; whether you’re happy and bouncing or grumpy or sick, it’s always nice to have an always there bear. He can play with you, cuddle you, and snuggle you to sleep. He likes birthdays and trampolines and sand castles and puddles. It doesn’t matter if you’re tired or sulky or shy or scared—you’ll never be lonely with your bear by your side. He will keep you company, he will cheer you on, and he will even make you feel braver. He always understands you, and most importantly, he promises to love you, forever and always, no matter what.- Sky Pony Press 

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We couldn't dive into Always There Bear until both Eva and Elijah grabbed their favorite furry friend. This book is absolutely adorable and the illustrations, along with the simply story is quite the peaceful tale and a great reminder to kids that with their special stuffed teddy, they will always have a faithful friend to cuddle. Growing up my comfort wasn't found in a Teddy Bear, but a very special blanket named "Bee-Bee" aka "Bee-Bee Fuzzy". No matter how old I got, he always brought me simple comfort and that's really what the story behind Always There Bear is all about.
The perfect gift for any child who has a favorite Teddy, or pick up a cuddly bear and this book for a 1st Birthday! It truly would make the perfect gift for any child!

Click HERE to order a hardcover of Always There Bear for $16.99 from Sky Pony Press.

Red Yellow Blue (and a Dash of White Too!)

Written & Illustrated by Charles George Esperanza

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Splish! Splash! Sploosh! A little girl is about to discover the wonders of mixing colors. With the sound of paint splatter, a bright blue elephant named EleBooyah enters the scene. She wants to help paint, too, and pretty soon the girl and her elephant are playing with all the colors of the rainbow. What do blue and yellow make? A funky green frog! And red and blue? An enormous purple octopus king! What other creatures are waiting for the splatter of paint on a brush to join the raucous painting party? - Sky Pony Press

 If ever a book could sing a song, this book is the one! Reading this book is like entering the world of a jazz musician and it's story is perfect for kids with big imaginations who are just learning the world of colors! The illustrations in this book are bold, bright, and vibrant. Together, this author/illustrator truly transports the reader to what feels like a night of jazz on the streets of Harlem. Exotic, musical, and creative, this book is almost like a work of art and ready for readers who have big imaginations!

 Click HERE to order a hardcover Red Yellow Blue (and a Dash of White too!) for $16.99 from Sky Pony Press.

Sophie's Animal Parade

By Amy Dixon
Illustrated by Katia Wish

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Mama calls it Sophie’s imagination, but Sophie calls it magic. Everything Sophie draws comes to life, and one day when Sophie feels lonely, she decides to draw a friend. But the polar bear cub isn’t very happy in Sophie’s room, where it is much too warm. So Sophie tries again. But the duck wants to swim in a pool full of water. And the giraffe is too tall for the tiny room! It isn’t long after the elephant shows up that things begin to get a little too wild and Sophie must demand that everyone go outside. In the backyard, with all her new friends, Sophie meets someone new—someone who happens to be an expert lion trainer. It looks like Sophie’s magic may have worked after all. - Sky Pony Press

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This spectacular book has become a favorite for Our Southern Style! All of my kids were captivated by all of the animals that came alive with the help of Sophie's pencil and her imagination. One by one new characters join the story with Katia Wish's illustrations jumping off the pages and into our hearts. I love that this story not only celebrates children using their imagination, but also encourages them with the message that no matter how different they are, you can always find a friend who is just as unique if you look hard enough.

I wish I would have had this book when my step-daughter (who I always just refer to as my oldest daughter - but I wanted to get "technical" this time so you could understand the story) came to live with us permanently 3 years ago. Moving to a new state, a new part of the country, and a new school was a lot of change and she had a hard time at first making friends. She felt like the only different one in her class. But when she opened her heart to the possibility of a new friend, she found her "best friend" and they have been inseparable since!

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Along with such a positive message, we all loved how each animal in Sophie's world came to life. In the story, Sophie draws so many animals to life that pretty soon there are too many animals in the house and she leads them outside in an animal parade. My daughter, Eva, loved this part so much, she had to pretend right along with Sophie, that she was leading her own animal parade!

Click HERE to order your own hardcover copy of Sophie's Animal Parade for $16.99 from Sky Pony Press.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I had an opportunity to ask the author, Amy Dixon, and the illustrator, Katia Wish some personal questions, from me AND the kids. Check out my interview below:

Interview with Amy Dixon, Author of Sophie's Animal Parade

Question from Eva (age 7) - What is your favorite animal in the animal parade?
Answer:  My favorite animal is the giraffe! (same as you!) That's because when I was a kid I loved playing volleyball. I always wished I was 6 feet tall so I could really hit the ball hard over that high net.

Question from Our Southern Style - Does Luke {a character in the book} represent someone from your own personal life?
Answer:  Luke represents something I absolutely adore about kids in general...they have an unwavering confidence in themselves. At some point in the growing up process, we start to lose the belief that we really can be or do anything. For me, Luke captures that confidence in ourselves that we all wish we could somehow get back to.

Question from Our Southern Style - Was drawing your own personal way of "escape" to your imagination or just Sophie's?
AnswerUnfortunately, drawing was not a talent of mine. Like most kids, I tried my best...but quickly found out that my art was with words, not pictures.
Question from Our Southern Style - -What is the greatest joy you get from writing children's books?
Answer: (Spoiler alert - I LOVE her answer!!) I adore talking to kids about books and reading. Being a children's author gives me a platform for doing just that. I am also passionate about giving kids the freedom to be creative and unshackled in their writing. That means the freedom to just tell a have the writing be sloppy, to spell things wrong, to have everything be gloriously imperfect. All of that can be fixed later, but sometimes we focus on getting everything right instead of using our imaginations. Then kids end up hating writing because they think they can't do it the "right" way. I love that being an author gives me the opportunity to talk about these things.

Question from Our Southern Style - What advice would you give to someone who has a passion and desire to write books/children's books?
AnswerYou can get an amazing education in writing for children just by accessing the right resources on the internet. Use those resources. Do your homework. Write gloriously imperfect stories and then send them to a trusted writer friend to give you feedback. Become a part of the online kidlit community. We are a supportive and generous group. And most of all, be persistent!

Interview with Katia Wish, Illustrator of Sophie's Animal Parade

Question from Elijah (age 5) - What is your favorite animal to draw?
Answer: My absolutely favorite animal to draw is a giraffe. Its neck is so flexible and fun to draw. You can show so many different emotions by drawing a giraffe’s neck: curiosity, happiness, fear, surprise, etc. Also, you can have a lot of fun with giraffe’s spots: they could be more realistic, they could be circles, ovals, etc. 

Question from Eva (age 7) - How did you learn to draw so well?
Answer: It takes  a lot of practice to draw well. So if you’d like to draw well, just start by drawing everything around you: people, animals, trees, houses. This way you you remember how things look and build your own visual library. I love imaginary things as well. So after I do some practice drawing realistic things, I love to draw imaginary things.

Question from Our Southern Style - Did you always want to illustrate children's books?
Answer: I studied illustration at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. At that time I experimented with all kinds of styles, approaches and media. While at school I was very interested in a more conceptual illustration. When I graduated, it took me few years to realize that I really love children’s books. It’s so engaging to create different characters, worlds they live in, think about characters’ emotions, their story, etc. It’s a lot of hard work (all this drawing and redrawing) and a lot of thinking and planning, but you still feel like it’s magic when the painting or the character start to emerge in front of your eyes.

Question from Our Southern Style - What is your favorite part of being a book illustrator? 
Answer: My favorite part is when I have done all the hard work of planning and sketching and I can finally jump into painting. I paint the characters exploring different outfits, hair, etc. I do some color studies for the book, deciding what colors I am going to use. Then, finally, working on the final paintings! The best part!

There are so many wonderful books to choose from at Skyhorse Publishing and Sky Pony Press! 

Click on the links below to visit their online stores and start selecting some books to take you on your own creative and fantastic journey!

Love books? Check out Skyhorse Publishing on their social media pages to hear about all of the latest releases!


  skyhorse giveaway

 One lucky reader will win their own hardcover copy of Sophie's Animal Parade.  The giveaway will end June 18, 2015 at 11:59pm. Open to residents of the US only and must be 18 years old to enter. Enter using the Giveaway Tools entry form below.  

Disclosure: I was sent the items listed above at no cost to facilitate this review. Prize fulfillment of all the above giveaways is the responsibility of Skyhorse Publishing, and not Our Southern Style or Thrifty Nifty Mommy. This giveaway is not associated with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.   


  1. Famous Phonies looks super cute and that it would be a great informative read!!

  2. The healthy smoothie bible looks good….. and yummy! :-)

  3. We,d like to read the book about Minecraft tips ( house with teenage boys as well as little ones) it'll give me a way to bond with the bigger guys :)

  4. I think dd would like to read Tara Duncan and the Spellbinders!

    1. The Bear Went Over the Mountain would be a cute book for the kids

  5. I'd love to read the Juggling Pug.. it sounds adorable!

  6. I'd like to read The Tiny Traveler/FRANCE!

  7. I think my kids would love 'Watch the Cookie!'.

  8. My New Mediterranean Cookbook looks very interesting!