Reviews, Articles, and Interviews
November, 2023: Review in Booklist of The Fabulous Fannie Farmer. Excerpt: “Head into the kitchen with fabulous, but maybe not famous, Fannie Farmer, who gets the picture-book biography treatment in this well-researched, lightly told, and evocatively illustrated recounting of her story… This is an excellent introduction to a woman who’s probably unknown to most but whose work has impacted all, but the real star of this show is the extensive, detailed back matter: an end note with further information on topics covered in the book, suggested reads and watch lists, and a multipage time line. This is a strong addition to library and school shelves with possible curricular tie-ins.” –Booklist
October, 2023: Review in Kirkus Reviews of The Fabulous Fannie Farmer. Excerpt: “The prose is peppered with rich cooking imagery and includes two workable, though not simple, recipes—for popovers and angel food cake. Reagan’s engaging watercolor and digital illustrations convey a sense of Fannie’s world; quotations from her writings are interspersed. Delectable!”
February, 2022: Publisher’s Weekly article!
Recent blog posts
November 2022: Review in Kirkus Reviews of Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards. Excerpt: “Without doubt, this will be a favorite for both older and younger generations alike! Make way for a wonderful tale about the creation of a classic children’s book.”
November 2022: Review of Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards in Booklist. Excerpt: “Smith’s narrative includes gentle humor, reflected in Stadtlander’s gouache-and-colored-pencil illustrations portraying McCloskey at work and the absurdity of living with ducks. A pleasing tribute to McCloskey and his work.”
November/December 2022: Review of Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards in The Horn Book. Excerpt: “Smith emphasizes her subject’s determination (respectfully referring to him throughout as “Mr. McCloskey”), with the spreads depicting the ducks’ “terrible mess” and “infernal quacking” being sure to delight young readers. Stadtlander captures it all, including the ducks’ chaos, in thickly textured gouache and colored-pencil illustrations.”
September 2022: STARRED REVIEW of Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards in School Library Journal. Excerpt: “Make way for a comical episode that offers insight into the hard work of creativity, in general and in the case of one picture book that has been admired and loved for generations.”
September 2022: Review of Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards in Publishers’ Weekly. Excerpt: “He soon discovers that the ducks make difficult roommates, but his work pays off, a success that crowns this step-by-step portrait of an artist working through to a solution.”
September 2022: Deborah Kalb’s blog Book Q&A.
August 2022: Review of How Science Saved the Eiffel Tower in School Library Journal. Except: “The book’s text clearly conveys the complex attitudes at the time. Illustrations do a wonderful job depicting 19th-century Paris. The tower is exquisitely rendered in all phases of construction, and so are the bickering citizens of Paris. Visirin’s artwork is reminiscent of David Roberts’s intricate linework.”
July 2022; Michelle Nott’s blog Imagine It.
July 2022: STARRED REVIEW of How Science Saved the Eiffel Tower in Booklist. Excerpt: “The engaging narrative builds tension as Eiffel attacks the problem of saving his tower as he would an engineering problem … One of the few picture-book biographies celebrating the work of an engineer, this volume tells the little-known story of a man who left his mark upon the world.”
June 2022: The Pig War is the winner of the 2022 Towner Award, from the Washington Library Association.
April 22, 2022: STARRED REVIEW of The Gardener of Alcatraz in Shelf Awareness. Excerpt: “Here’s the thing, see: with The Gardener of Alcatraz: A True Story, Emma Bland Smith and Jenn Ely have created this really terrific picture book biography of a crook who turned his life around. And get this: the narrator sounds like an old-movie tough guy right outta the story’s setting! As the narrator puts it after the crook goes straight, “Swell! … With The Gardener of Alcatraz, Smith (The Pig War) has produced a humane and moving story, and Ely (If You Were a Kid Building a Pyramid) captures the emotional nub of every scene.”
April 21, 2022: Review of The Gardener of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Chronicle. Excerpt: “Superb storytelling elevates a solid story line into something more… San Francisco author Emma Bland Smith gracefully plumbs deeper themes about the dignity of work and the meaning of freedom in this beautifully rendered feel-good book.”
April 2022: Mary Boone’s blog, Six Questions.
March 2022: Review of The Gardener of Alcatraz in School Library Journal. Excerpt: “Though this is the story of one man at one notorious prison, the author subtly conveys the need for more humane treatment of all prisoners given the possibility of better outcomes for their lives post-incarceration…. The small amount of text on each page and the appealing artwork make this an engaging read. VERDICT A fascinating look at a minor historical figure, sure to inspire discussion.”
February 2022: Cover reveal and interview for Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards, on Betsy Bird’s Fuse 8 blog for School Library Journey.
August 2021: The Pig War, Included in Bank Street College’s Best Books of 2020.
May 2021: Review of Pig War in The Friends Journal. Excerpt: “How that all unfolded is told in brisk and charmingly snarky prose by American writer Emma Bland Smith. (This book would definitely make for a fun read-aloud in any teacher’s classroom.) But for me, the folk-art-inspired illustration by British artist Alison Jay is what really makes the book special. The illustrations in this large-format book stretch over two pages, and the reader will definitely want to take time as each page is turned to savor all the details.”
May 2021: Review of Claude in The Friends Journal. Excerpt: “The true story differs from “The Ugly Duckling” not only in its basis in fact but in the sensitive way the author describes the other animals’ reactions to Claude. Her tone and choice of words makes it clear that their reactions to his differences arise not from anthropomorphic character flaws but from their simple attention to their own survival.”
2021: The Pig War, nominee for the Towner Award
February, 2021: Starred review of The Pig War in School Library Connect. Excerpt: “History has never been as much fun as you’ll find it represented in this cute picture book! Highly recommended.”
October, 2020: Review of Claude in The Midwest Book Review. Excerpt: “an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library Pets/Wildlife picture book collections for children ages 4-8.”
October 15, 2020: Starred review of The Pig War in Booklist. Excerpt: “A timely case study in how countries with differences can find peaceable alternatives to armed conflict.”
October 1, 2020: Kirkus review of The Pig War. Excerpt: “Colorful, stylized art against apparently distressed surfaces is an impeccable complement. Weirdly fascinating.”
September 15, 2020. Book review of Claude in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Claude’s story, so deftly captured by Smith and Potter, offers more than information about an albino alligator. As a shared read-aloud between adult and child, the book prompts discussions about adaptation, race, acceptance and the environment.”
Aug 28, 2020: Feature in Kidlit 411.
July 8, 2020: Booklist review of Claude. Excerpt: “Claude’s hopeful tale is a celebration of individuality and the joy in finding those who appreciate you for exactly who you are.”
June 1, 2020: School Library Journal review of Odin. Excerpt: “A heartwarming tale of survival against all odds… Highly recommended for all school libraries.”
May 3, 2020: Starred review of Claude in Kirkus Reviews. Excerpt: “The theme of rejection due to difference is an intrinsic part of Claude’s story, so readers develop sympathy and empathy as they also learn facts about albinism and animal behavior… Sweet and engaging.”
April 2020: Interview on Lisa Kerr’s blog.
April 2020: Kirkus review of Odin: Dog Hero of the Fires. Excerpt: “The dog relates the harrowing tale in first-person present tense, adding dramatic suspense as the plot unfolds. . . The scenes of the nighttime fire and the hazy, gray day that follows, however, project a dreamlike effect that in combination with the posed animals conveys the nightmarish quality of the wildfire and its aftermath. . . An entertaining story of a dog’s brave behavior in a devastating wildfire.”
March 2020: Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator in Red Tricycle.
January 2020: To Live on an Island reviewed in Kids Book Buzz.
June 2019: To Live on an Island in Washington Family magazine.
2/6/19: Kirkus review for To Live on an Island. Excerpts: “…reminiscent of Robert McCloskey…” “A heartfelt snapshot of a way of life.”
12/18/2017: Emma featured on Melissa Stoller’s blog, This Writing Life.
8/13/2017: Emma featured on Magnolia and Manuscripts blog.
8/8/2017: Journey named finalist for Washington State Book Award. Read list of finalists here.
5/2/2017: Journey named winner of Bank Street College’s Cook Prize.
4/22/2017: Journey named winner of Northland College’s Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award (SONWA), children’s book category.
1/4/2017: Oregon Wild interview.
1/2/2017: Feature on Robin James (Journey illustrator) on Seattle news station.
12/4/2016: Interview on A Novel Idea radio show, KRCB (Sonoma) NPR station. Emma’s part begins at minute 35.
12/2016: Alaska Beyond Magazine (December 2016 edition)
11/16/16: Lu and Bean Read Podcast interview. Excerpt: “Smith’s book captures the complex interplay between the natural world and our human interests.”
11/9/16: Washington Parent review. Excerpt: “…compelling… Illustrations by Robin James capture the strength and dignity of the wolf and the sweeping vistas and small details of the native flora and fauna that he passes.”
11/4/16: Huffington Post feature. Excerpt: “Every now and again a book comes along that moves me all over the place.”
11/4/16: Psychology Today blog feature. Excerpt: “All in all this book is outstanding and I’m sure audiences of all ages will enjoy it.”
10/12/16: Librarian in Cute shoes interview. Excerpt: “I thought this melancholy love story had the makings of a good book…”
10/12/16: Librarian’s Quest blog write-up. Excerpt: “Journey… inspires us to be better protectors and active in wildlife recovery efforts.”
9/17/16: Red Tricycle feature. Excerpt: “But if the true story of the wandering wolf doesn’t make you teary, the parallel tale of Abby, a young girl who follows his story in the news and becomes intent on helping him, will definitely tug at those heartstrings.”
School Library Journal review. Excerpt: “An informative, well-written story useful for units on wolves or nature studies.”
9/16/16: Booklist review. Excerpt: “This accessible and engaging picture book is an empowering account of a conservation success story.”
7/20/16: Kirkus review. Excerpt: “…environmental good news invitingly presented.”
5/23/16: Interview on the blog of Karlin Gray, author of Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn’t Sit Still. Excerpt: “I hung up, then put my head down on my kitchen counter and cried. After countless rejections for other books, over the years, the relief and gratification was just immense.”