Books by Debbie Tilley

Released: Oct. 20, 2015

"Accurate, informative, and surprisingly enjoyable. (Informational picture book. 5-9)"
A picture-book history of human anatomy and physiology for a young age group—can anyone breathe life into this challenging concept? Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 1, 2009

Yet another title to add to the already oversaturated new baby brother/new baby sister market. The hook? A systematic examination of every possible fact a new sibling should know about the incoming little sib, all in a svelte 32 pages. By discussing everything from baby behavior to how a brother or sister can help parents out, the book hopes to prepare children as thoroughly as possible for the tiny newcomer on both a factual and emotional level. The author has taught "sibling preparation" classes for years and knows whereof she speaks. Yet one can't help but wonder if this is merely a more exacting version of the similarly named Babies Can't Eat Kimchee, by Nancy Patz, illustrated by Susan L. Roth (2006). There is undoubtedly a glut of new-baby books out there, and though it's perfectly nice, Danzig's prose and Tilley's serviceable illustrations just don't have enough pizazz to separate this one from the pack. Parenting tips on further sibling preparation appear at the end of the book. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: May 19, 2008

Not that it doesn't have its charms, but Weaver's story about finding a calling is pretty silly. Then again, its goofiness is its saving grace. Young Frederick loves his local state fair and nothing would make him happier than to take home a prize ribbon from one of its contests. The trouble is his mouth: It's motorized, blabbering and backfiring and sinking his ambitions. Notwithstanding his yapper, he has pluck and energy, but he still hasn't discovered a talent as the state fair nears. His mother recommends entering the Boys' Fashion Fair, and here the story gets seriously zany. Frederick duly knocks out a crazy-wild shirt, rendered particularly so by Tilley's clamorous watercolors. He is mightily discouraged when he sees the polished entries of the competition, until a slice of pure manna—a stroke of utterly wacky convenience—falls from heaven into his purview, and he makes it his own. Ribbons follow. Forget about following your dreams and cultivating innate abilities. Read this book with Frederick's brio and it will pay for itself. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 2007

Baker's inimitable Olive tackles a major childhood milestone with her usual panache. Olive may have had 17 play dates at her best friend Lizard's house, but tonight is her first-ever sleepover. Baker infuses a familiar tale with a hearty dollop of zany humor that readers have come to expect from these quirky and appealing characters. When Lizard's older sister regales the friends with a spooky tale, the inevitable occurs and Olive finds herself in Lizard's suddenly unfamiliar room, sans a night light, desperately wishing she were home. Readers need not despair, as Olive and Lizard set out to conquer their fears in a courageous scheme that goes comically awry. Tilley's ink-and-watercolor illustrations deftly capture the liveliness of the duo. While they highlight how overactive imaginations can turn even the most benign objects, such as a rubber ducky, into something sinister, she carefully maintains a comic element in her paintings. Baker's splendid tale is just the thing to share with readers approaching this major event, or for those just looking for a good giggle. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2005

The can-do star of No Ordinary Olive (2002) returns to get her pirate-themed seventh birthday party shipshape—with some unexpected help. When Olive Elizabeth Julia Jerome learns that the party's venue has to be switched from her own home to the gracious, lace-and-fine-china digs of Great Aunt Tiffany, she's sure that the whole enterprise is sunk—but her proactive nature soon reasserts itself, and she sets out to salvage what she can. Come the day, there's a surprise waiting: Genteel Aunt Tiffany comes through with a pirate costume, a treasure hunt and a huge Jolly Roger cake complete with flag and cannons. In windswept-looking watercolors, Tilley gives Olive a big, drama-queen personality, putting her and her classmates in piratical garb and lively poses and closing with a warm exchange of hugs and gifts. Budding buccaneers will give a hearty "Yo Ho!" for this high-energy tale of intergenerational connection. (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
LIZARD WALINSKY by Roberta Baker
Released: June 1, 2004

As they did in No Ordinary Olive (2002), the Baker and Tilley team introduce another engaging heroine in this amusing affirmation of friendship. Elizabeth Ann Walinsky, a.k.a. Lizard, definitely prefers dinosaurs to dolls. Lizard's playmates just don't share her obsession with giant reptiles, leaving her "sad and alone." At T-ball practice, she discovers arachnid aficionado Simon, a.k.a. Spider. Instant best friends, the reptile-loving duo build a terrarium for their model dinosaurs, scour the outfield for Pteranodon eggs, and feast on toasted marshmallows and gummy worms. But when summer ends, Lizard and Spider are sent to different schools and a desolate Lizard faces first grade on her own—until she meets Samantha, a.k.a. Salamander. Whimsical reptilian images reinforce the prehistoric theme; detailed backgrounds teeming with activity add humor and invite close examination. The expressionistic watercolor-and-ink illustrations, plus the dinosaur subtext, transform a somewhat ordinary story into a lively celebration of special friends. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
ZOO SCHOOL by Laurie Miller Hornik
Released: May 24, 2004

"Let the animals be your textbooks." That's what Zoo School's elusive principal, Ms. Font, says. Ursula, Kitty, Robin, Leo, and Drake are the only students of teachers Ms. Hummingfly and Mr. Dapple. Why have they all transferred to this new experimental school? Who knows. The obvious message is that each will conquer his or her fears or compulsions: one wants to sleep all the time, another is afraid of animals, etc. But the daily trials or lessons are far too silly to convince any reader and the zookeeper/teachers seem unsure of themselves. The job chart, with its confusing initials (SCG for Squirrel Crossing Guard, HG for Hippo Greeter), is a recurring distraction as are the ever-changing classroom and bizarre assignments. When the school inspectors from L.I.O.N.S. (Learned Inspectors of New Schools) arrive, the plot gets even more cluttered. The jokes are forced, the dialogue clunky, and there's just too much going on for the intended audience: too many characters, too little plot, and too many distractions. When Ms. Font's identity is finally revealed, it's just another detail. (Fiction. 8-12)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2003

"Lauren McGill was absolutely wild about pickles." She wears pickle-green clothes; decorates her room in pickle shades; she even rearranges the letters of her name to make pickle words. She loves everything: their pungent aroma, crunch, bite, taste, shape, and texture. Sadly her family does not share this love, nor does her class—until the day of their visit to a pickle factory. As the bus cruises down Pickle Factory Lane, vatloads of pickles rain from the sky and pound the bus; an experiment has gone awry. Pickles and brine drench everything and everyone. But Lauren saves the day—with the batches of empty jars she brought—and suddenly everybody else loves pickles too. Now Lauren doesn't feel special anymore—until she creates the world's first pickle museum. Tilly's watercolor illustrations of pickle-perfect shades of green, her use of line creating humorous expressions, and the clever pickle details in the scenes make deliciously silly fun. Kids will relish this dilly of a story without a sour note anywhere. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
SWIMMING UPSTREAM by Kristine O'Connell George
Released: Sept. 23, 2002

In simply worded verse, George (Little Dog and Duncan, not reviewed, etc.) writes of lockers and lunches, new friends and typical experiences, as she tracks a child's first year of middle school. She invites readers stepping across that (or any) threshold to embrace change: "Where do I fit? / Nothing is clear. / Can already tell / this will be / a jigsaw year" becomes, in "Long Jump," "I can do anything. / All I need / is a running start," and by "Last Day of School," "I am shining / from the inside out." Aside from a superficial poem about "the boy who's so tough / the one who scares us so much," plus a few passing anxieties, there's little sign of tears or fears here—just a growing sense of self-confidence, a promise of good things to come calculated, and apt, to buoy up young grammar school graduates. Illustrations not seen. (Poetry. 10-12)Read full book review >
FRIBBITY RIBBIT! by Suzanne C. Johnson
Released: Aug. 14, 2001

This high-octane romp with a frog will have your tongue tied in knots as the little jug-o-rum disrupts an entire household while trying to make its escape. A boy makes a leap for a frog in the backyard, but it springs away, right on to the nose of the father working on his car: "Frog in dad's garage. Fribbity-ribbit. Got him? Fribbity-rap-rap-rap! Ribbity-tap-tap-tap! Whoa!" On through the house they race, picking up family members as they chase from room to room, through Grandpa's batter, the dog's bowl ("Fribbity-ruff-ruff-ruff-ruff-ruff!"), Grandma's office, Sister's bath ("Fribbity-splish! Ribbity-splash!"), Brother's room ("Fribbity-twing-twang-toot! Ribbity-bing-bang-boom!"), into Mama's studio: "Fribbity-green! Fribbity-orange! Ribbity-red, white and blue!" By the time the frog scares the dickens out of the cat, he's got an entire conga line of folks running in his wake. Then it's some fancy footwork down a banister and back to the yard he flees. Tilley's focus is nearly always on the close-up frog and his effect on each character. This magnification adds strength to the humor, which is already pretty hilarious. Fribbity-ribbit, great fun. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
HIDE & SEEK by Brenda Shannon Yee
Released: May 1, 2001

Delicate, rickety, and very droll watercolors inject this buoyant tale with real presence. "I hide. You seek," says a little trembling mouse to a bespectacled older woman, who may well not even know of the mouse's existence. Then, in a twist on "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe," the mouse makes off to hide from the woman. "1, 2. Tiptoe shoe. 3, 4. Creep to door. 5, 6. Old door sticks. 7, 8 Spy a crate. 9, 10. Quick! Dive in!" (That quote stretches across 10 pages, text written in huge letters across the bottom of each page, numbers on one side, words on the other.) The woman, who has been trying to discern where little squeaks are coming from ("Ready or not! Here I come!"), approaches the crate just when the mouse is taking a peek over the edge. Aye carumba! Here a giant nose and eyes face the mouse who's about the size of the nose. The lady bolts and the mouse figures the game is afoot. "You leap, I shriek!" he squeaks. A slim tale, but clever and comical in how the mouse pulls the woman into the game. One can almost hear the shrieks of laughter from the audience. Tilley's artwork is an enormous plus, with fine, wobbly lines and an up-close-and-personal point of view. (Picture book. 2-4)Read full book review >
Released: May 1, 2001

A little girl responds to her mother's description of babies with an alternate point of view. "Mom said babies are as cuddly as puppies," but older sister finds that "they drool more." Even though babies have cheeks as rosy as apples, "you can't give your sister to your teacher." The illustrations are tight, close-up watercolors of roundheaded, button-eyed kids—baby sister often just in her diaper—in candy colors and expressive, lively line. The illustrations play off the text in nifty ways, too, as in: "Mom said babies smell like whipped cream"—and the reader turns to a double-paged spread of an entirely grossed-out sibling saying, "Don't count on it." Baby's little feet at the edge of the picture frame indicate just exactly which regular activity is taking place. "Mom said babies are gifts from the angels" is the caption for a picture where Baby kisses her pleased older sister, but: "I don't know where Mom gets this stuff." There's plenty of love between older and younger sister, so the effect is both funny and charming making this a great new addition. (Picture book. 3-7)Read full book review >
Released: April 23, 2001

Hornik's story seems uncertain about its intent. It demonstrates that everyone has some necessary secrets, but also indicates that secrets can be damaging. The author does not, however, clarify the difference between healthy privacy and unhealthy secrets. The story begins as a fun ride into the magical classroom of Ms. Snickle. There are no tests, and everything, including some students, is mysteriously enchanted. Eva used to be a swan until an evil sorcerer turned her into a little girl, and Dennis's mother is the tooth fairy. And there is Haley, who sneezes constantly. The one rule in the classroom is keeping secrets. Then one student, Lacey, discovers her love for tattling, divulging each secret as she learns it. The consequence of this is a very grouchy student body, except for Haley, who, readers find out, sneezes because she is allergic—to secrets. But when Lacey reveals the biggest secret of all, she discovers the downside of exposing others' privacy. With all the secrets aired, Haley is finally freed from her allergy, but Ms. Snickle's magical solution to restore peace has Haley grabbing for the Kleenex again. Written with wit and a just-this-side-of-ordinary appeal, middle readers will find this a pleasant entertainment. The object lesson of the story, however, is ambiguous as Haley's sneezing attacks disappear when all secrets are revealed, but suffers a recurrence when secrecy is restored while everyone else seems better off when their secrets stay private. The story is enhanced by Tilley's (Hide and Seek, see below, etc.) occasional, cheerful illustrations. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
NO ORDINARY OLIVE by Roberta Baker
Released: April 1, 2001

Newcomer Baker takes on an old topic: How free spirits, however peculiar, allow us to see the world in a different, often better way. Young Olive, from the moment she entered the world, had a mind of her own. Depicted by Tilley (Fribbity Ribbit, 2001, etc.) in the spidery line-and-wash style of Roz Chast, Olive steps to her own beat, though never wildly or disturbingly so. Her parents, bless them, are behind their ragamuffin 100%, start to finish (they may be the true heroes of this tale). Olive's exuberance—for that is how her imagination manifests itself—finds its first bump in the road in the shape of her teacher, Ms. Fishbone. Of course, her name should be Ms. Boneinthethroat, for a minor disturbance in her class lands Olive at the principal's office. Mr. Weepole is even more of a stick-in-the-mud than Ms. Fishbone and can't even see the joy and beauty of Olive having painted his desk in a tropical motif. Fortunately, the science, art, music, and drama teachers do see its beauty, helping convince Mr. Weepole that he ought to loosen up and cut Olive some slack. Olive is sweet enough, but more ingenious feet than Baker's have trod this ground. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
GROWING UP by Mavis Jukes
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

This informative and direct book for pre-pubescent girls discusses everything they'll want to know about—periods, bras, tampons, breasts, cramps, etc.—in an age-appropriate manner. Jukes (It's a Girl Thing, 1997, not reviewed) gives the full scoop to girls on what to expect when their bodies begin changing. Her engaging style tells girls that "just because something's private doesn't mean it's secret. It's reassuring to talk and think and read about things to do with growing up." The information is candid and comforting, with an early description of her mother's matter-of-fact approach to menstruation and sponge bathing setting the tone. Readers learn about puberty, shopping for a bra, how to send a father out to buy sanitary pads, and a host of topics to help them navigate the awkward pre-teen years. Jukes's common sense extends to many aspects of girls' health, reminding them to take good care of their bodies, eat well, and relax—there is plenty of time to think and learn about growing up. (b&w illustrations, index, not seen) (Nonfiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1996

This sequel to the highly entertaining Does God Have a Big Toe? (1989) combines retellings of Old Testament stories and invented stories about Biblical characters, mainly Adam and Moses. Gellman leavens the stories with humor and contemporary references; his style of telling (lots of exclamation points, parenthetical asides, slang, and words in italics, etc.) may mark these as intended to be read aloud with lots of hamming and mugging. Perhaps that will put them over with a very young audience, but those reading the tales will find the technique strained, smarmy, and condescending. Instead of ``modern midrashim,'' as Gellman calls them, these laborious attempts at comedy are a combination of pointless anachronisms (God explaining restaurants, television, and computers to Moses, and why there are no video games or Wrestlemania in heaven to Jacob) and a lot of nudging and winking. (b&w illustrations, not seen) (Short stories. 10+) Read full book review >
RIDDLE-ICIOUS by J. Patrick Lewis
Released: April 1, 1996

Lewis (Black Swan/White Crow, 1995, etc.) offers 28 ``poems that hide/behind disguises'' and ``tickle you with/small surprises,'' each with a funny picture clue that makes most of the riddles easily guessed by preschoolers. There's plenty going on, in both text and pictures. For example, in the last riddle of the book, it's the night before Christmas, and not only are the creatures (a mouse and 13 cats) stirring, they're having a riot, playing catch with the Christmas balls, unraveling the stockings, and climbing the boughs upon which are superimposed words in the shape of a tree: I/stand/in water/and I needle/the cat. I get/spruced up in my/angel-hat. Tomorrow/morning there will be/something for you/un-/der-/neath me. Far superior to most riddle books in merit and for the visual humor in the colorful ink-and- watercolor illustrations. (Picture book. 4-8) Read full book review >