Gift Ideas: The Night Circus

Valentine’s Day is approaching! And if you’re still looking for some ideas to give the book lovers in your life to celebrate this special day, check out these ideas that were inspired by the popular Loot Crate service. You can use these ideas to create a customized “Loot Crate” of your own!

For my “Valentine’s Day Loot Crate,” I chose Erin Morgenstern’s story, The Night Circus, because I loved the book as soon as I read it, and I know so many other people who also fell in love with it immediately.

First of all, I selected a bag from Café Press to store all the gifts you purchase. Personally, I would still wrap the gifts I put inside the bag, just for a little extra fun and surprise. The bag is practical as well as pretty.

night circus bag

Photo Credit: Cafe Press // Available HERE

Then, from Out of Print, I would add their great heat reactive mug. It’s magical – just like the story! Available HERE

From Teepublic, I added a long sleeve t-shirt. If you’re not into the long-sleeved style, there are other options, including short sleeve ones. Available HERE

From Society 6, I added a Night Circus Laptop sleeve. It’s another practical item, but one will remind the user, probably daily, of their favorite story. Available HERE

There are lots of things available on Etsy, but I especially liked this ornament. It’s just the sort of thing a real book lover would want to put on their Christmas tree…or perhaps display somewhere in their home all year round!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern  Novel Ornament  image 0

Photo Credit: Etsy (noveladornment) // Available HERE

And lastly, I also liked this print I found on Etsy. It really captured the feeling of the book.

The Night Circus Illustration 11x14 Print image 0

Photo Credit: Etsy (ckornacki) // Available HERE


There are plenty of other options out there, too. There are jewelry items and home décor – lots of choices to suit your particular recipient and your budget. And although I chose a favorite book of mine, this idea can be done with many books! Check out the websites I used for plenty of additional book choices.

Feel free to share your best finds in the comments below!

January 2020 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the months of January! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

Event: “Now and Then”

I recently attended a panel discussion at the opening of a new exhibition at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art titled “Now and Then: Contemporary Illustrators and Their Childhood Art”. This exhibit will be on display until May 10, 2020 and features the artwork of many artist/illustrators from their childhood to their published works.

The panel discussion was part of the opening events, with author/illustrator Grace Lin as the moderator. The panel was comprised of five artists, including Evan Turk, Barbara Lehman, Shadra Strickland, Raul the Third, and Don Tate.

The topic of discussion was “Supporting the Creativity of the Young Adult.” I’d like to share some of the highlights of the conversation with my readers. Throughout this month, I will be reviewing a book selection from each of the artists.

Note: The following conversations are paraphrased. My shorthand is rusty and I couldn’t keep up, but I did capture the essence of the responses.

Grace Lin (GL): I want to begin by sharing a quote with the panel and audience. To have a whole-hearted life, we need to be a maker of things. Tell me – Why is creativity so important?

Shadra Stickland (SS): I think it is innate. Without creativity, we become disconnected. Creativity is an energy that must come out.

Raul the First (RF): Creativity takes you to unexpected places.

Barbara Lehman (BL): I think it is wired into us. It keeps us focused and contributes to our sense of well-being. When I am creating, I have a great feeling of absorption.

Don Tate (DT): I am a person of faith. Our creativity is a gift from our Creator and I believe we should use our talents.

GL: Life is hard. Let art make it easier. Does it?

ET: Life is not easier, but art helps it be easier to make meaning of things.

BL: Art connects us to others. It expands my world.

SS: It is not easier. Every book is pain and misery! However, outside the studio, art is more magical.

RT:  Yes, I am so glad I am not doing any of the crummy jobs my parents wanted me to do! I think as artists we inspire others.

DT: I can’t imagine doing anything else. As a youth I was cripplingly shy. Art is my way to express myself and to communicate. I am beginning to love the art of the word as much as I love the art of drawing.

GL: Can you share a memory or give an example of how your books have inspired young readers?

BL: I can’t think of a single experience, but since I have been making wordless picture books I have heard from many teachers. They tell me about how they are using the books, especially when language is an issue.

ET: During school visits, I try to bring the children an understanding of the symbolism of a book. It is gratifying to see them experience the art in their own way.

SS: During my middle school visits, the students are so engaged. It’s humbling.

RF: These books really show where all our memories are. It is so nice for different people to share their experiences.

GL: I agree. You feel like saying, “This is the book I didn’t know I was waiting for.”

DT: The books also offer the opportunity to gain a different perspective. My father didn’t approve of my choice to be an artist, but the work showed him what an artist could be and he came to accept and respect it.

GL: It might be hard for parents to accept their child’s decision to be an artist. What advice can you give?

RF: Ignore your parents! My father’s philosophy was that art equaled laziness and laziness equaled art. Find people to support you.

DT: My father was not accepting of my work, but my mother covered our refrigerator with my pictures. I had an uncle who was a barber and whenever I went to his barber shop, he would tell people, “Here is the greatest artist ever.” Support your children with your words.

ET: I have family members who are also artists, so they had no issue with art as a career choice. However, I would like to point out that art takes hard work, practice, and diligence.

BL: As a kid I was not supported and I can understand the fear of choosing an unusual profession. Find people who are supportive of your choices.

SS: My mom believed in exposing me to everything. She took me to museums–even when I didn’t want to go!–so I would become aware of everything that is out there.

GL: Was there a moment in your youth when you knew you wanted to follow this path?

SS: There was no one “aha” moment. I had studied art in college. It was when I was teaching art to elementary school children that I realized that illustration could be a career. I went back to college to hone those skills.

RF: Where I grew up there was a comic book store that I used to visit all the time. The owner of the store used to draw comics and let me fill them in. Today, I draw comic book style illustrations.

DT: I was inspired by the television show “Good Times.”  The character JJ became a commercial artist at an advertising agency. I was also inspired by my aunt who was a writer.

ET: My parents were artists. I also had a high school art teacher who was an out gay man who provided a lot of inspiration to me. I did graphic design on the side and later studied graphic design in college.

GL: Do you have certain practices to keep you inspired, to keep the juices flowing?

SS: I leave my head and get into my body. I leave the studio, go to museums.

DT: I go on school visits to be around children.

ET: I go out and draw just because I love it. I go to museums. Reading is also helpful.

BL: I go to museums. You need to have a balance. I also feel you need to cultivate a connection to childhood memories. I try to remember what got my attention.

RF: I just fly by the seat of my pants!

GL: Do you have any advice for parents on ways to nurture their children’s creativity?

SS: Take them to museums. Make them see art.

RF: Give them options. Let them have the ability to choose what interests them.

DT: Pay attention to kids – and don’t forget the power of praise.

BL: Give them lots of unstructured time to explore and create. Be nonjudgmental.

ET: Be their cheerleader.

SS: As a child, I spent a great deal of time with my grandmother. She would garden, restore old furniture. You have to let kids see you being creative.

GL: Yes, you need to be in touch with your own creativity.

At this point, Grace Lin opened the questions to the audience members. Since these also provided inspiring responses, I’ll continue to share the conversation.

Q: Can you tell us something about your current work, but also about some risks that you have been taking?

ET: I am currently working on a picture book biography of Ben Shahn. As for risks – I try something new with every book. I try to find a new visual language.

BL: I am working on a longer book. I’ve had a change of direction. This book is humor-based, which is a return to a childhood interest.

SS: My risk is to switch media with each book. I am currently working on writing more poetry.

RF: I am currently trying to create my own cartoon/comic book. It will range right from picture books and the characters within the book will be recurring throughout the series. My risk? I am trying to create my own cartoon!

DT: I am working on a couple of new books, but my big risk is to be here on this stage. Public speaking is still a challenge.

Q: Talk about the joy you feel in your work.

SS: I don’t think of my work as joy. You know, the pain and misery thing. I do think of it as a privilege and a service. Drawing is fun, but it is work.

RF: It is lots of fun. I like to make people laugh.

ET: I find my work contains a mixture of excitement and anxiety. It is fun and I like the challenge, but I don’t think of it as joyful.

BL: My work often seems fear-driven. I love the feeling of accomplishment and I certainly feel that I am aligned with what I am supposed to be doing, even though there is often lots of struggle.

DT: I think that joy does come to the artist. For me, writing is pure joy; it doesn’t seem like work. Although that is not always true. I often have to redo work.

BL: I think the key is revision.  You have to have a passion to follow through.

ET: I love drawing and feel everybody should draw, but it requires practice.

SS: I am not a great drawer. What I am is a hard worker. I do the work that is behind that process; I build that muscle. Tools are very important. I like to change it up a lot.

RF: Join a gang. No! No! I don’t mean like that. I mean a gang of artists. I once belonged to an artist group. I learned so many things and it brought me so many opportunities and challenges.

Although the conversation ended here, stay tuned for more information on the work of each artist.


November 2019 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the months of November! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

September and October 2019 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the months of September and October! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

August 2019 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the month of August! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

July 2019 Round-Up

Check out my reviews for the month of July! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

June 2019 Round-Up


Check out my reviews for the month of June! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

January 2019 Round-Up


Check out my reviews for the month of January! You can find links to all of these reviews in the Index!

Let me know in the comments below what books you want me to review next!

January 2019 Update

January 2019 Update:

I hope my blog friends have been enjoying the holidays! I certainly have, but I’ve also been doing my year-end review. It helps me plan the types of books I look for in the following year and create other ideas I want to share with readers. Do I want to review more picture books? Perhaps nonfiction books haven’t had enough coverage. Maybe I had really better get over my (mostly) negative attitude about graphic novels and start reading them.

And I am thrilled to report that I have gobs and gobs of stuff to share in the upcoming months! My TBR bag has expanded and is now twice the size of the one I started with. I’ll give you just a few teasers about what you can expect to see in the coming weeks.

Look for the review of the newest book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Children of Exile trilogy. There is plenty of nonfiction, including several books that deal with science topics and several others that are history related. There’s a big range in ages levels, too. Some are picture books, some middle grade, and at least one will be YA. I have a biography, some fantasy. One book will definitely include discussion questions and two books – a picture book and a YA novel – will delve into the topic of homelessness. There is even an essay on a topic I feel is very appropriate to the winter months. You’ve heard of comfort foods? Well, I think the winter months are the perfect time for comfort reads.

So stay tuned and happy reading!