We Go Together! – Starred Review

My forthcoming book We Go Together! – A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse

just received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Here’s what they had to say:

Despite its greeting-card size, Brown’s collection of 18 love and friendship poems is anything but stock. In “FBF,” two friends share memories about their “greenish phase” (“We… concocted strange juices/ with lettuce and kale./ We trained an iguana/ to get us the mail”), while later poems discuss gratitude (“My mind was in a panic,/ but you remained calm,/ ready to do battle/ with the splinter in my palm”) and laughter (“I cackle/ and you chortle./ Together we chorkle”). Brown’s bean-nosed, long-legged monsters, and eccentrically attired dogs, cats, and humans are as unusual and memorable as ever, as he pairs a heaping spoonful of nonsense with unexpected yet genuine observations about the joy of companionship. Ages 4–8. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary Agency. (Jan.)

School Library Journal also gave it a nice write-up:

Gr 2-6–This book, comprised of 18 first-person poems that are all about 10 lines each, emphasizes the importance of friendship and the little ways in which people can express their gratitude for one another. Each spread has a snappy poem and a colorful picture. The illustrations range from subtle to celebratory, and the characters depicted give deeper meaning to the selections. Different ethnicities and even species are represented (including green space aliens!), but they are not specifically addressed in the text (nor do they really need to be). The poems quietly celebrate all types of friendships, and the narrator(s) show appreciation for the small things that bring friends together, like how one bird encouraged his dog pal to become a braver roller skater, or how one friend has memorized the other’s preferences when it comes to a cup of tea, “Noticing things about me, especially, seems to be your specialty.” The cheerful, rhythmic rhymes help make this book perfect for reading aloud, and it would be an ideal choice for two friends to share.–Rita Meade, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

Here are a couple spreads from the book for your perusal:

Dragon, Robot, Gatorbunny! Now an ebook!

Dragon,  Robot, Gatorbunny


My new Drawing/Doodling/Poetry Activity Book from Chronicle Books is now available as an ebook.

The incredible digital team at Chronicle did such a fantastic job!

The book was made with Apple’s brand-new platform called iBooks Author.

It’s available for download on your iPad with iBooks or on your computer with iTunes.

Check it out at the ibookstore:  http://budurl.com/DragonRobotEbook

This is the description of the ebook from the publisher:

A book for doodling, drawing, and laughing! Featuring the inimitably humorous art of Calef Brown and a wonderful menagerie to stretch and inspire your artistic talent and imagination alike! The multi-touch format allows users to draw directly onto and alongside the designs included. Create over and over again and enjoy wildly inventive fun for artists aged 5 to 105.

The book begins with what inspired it – the drawings of snails that I do when visiting schools, and seeing the excitement of kids, some as young as 4, as they create their own spin-off snail creatures.

Some of the pages have prompts,  some are more open-ended,

and most incorporate some rhyming or short poems into the prompts or descriptions.

I hope kids will play around with language as well as art for their creations.

The reader can draw right in the ebook with his/her finger, or with a stylus.

It’s so much fun, I’ve been playing with it for the last few days. here are a few screen shots:

Check it out!


Pirateria – The Wonderful Plunderful Pirate Emporium, my new book, is Out Now from Atheneum/ Simon and Schuster. Here’s the first review from Kirkus:

One-stop shopping for all “swashbucklers and swashbucklerettes.” Offering “[s]pinnakers, jibs, and rope in hanks; / solid maple walking planks” and arrays of specialty goods from eye patches to aRRgyle socks, this “wonderful, plunderful pirate emporium” merits a stop on every budding buccaneer’s itinerary. Accompanying a hearty commentary that breaks into and out of rhyme but keeps to a rolling rhythm, Brown dishes up illustrations featuring an array of scurvy (if somewhat yuppified) shoppers of both sexes in nautical wear. They are browsing the Yo Ho Hosiery and Footwear department, sitting down in the food court with flagons and nasty-looking viands or accosting the glowering sales staff (“Where be the yardarm cozies?”). From pirate togs to treasure maps to night classes in map reading, here’s the place to pick up anything piratical. Prices? “[W]e put the ‘arg’ in ‘bargain’!” is the proud claim of this K-Mart for corsairs. Avast! This combination of nonsense verse and everything pirate is a guaranteed winner. (Picture book. 6-8)

I’m very excited to be collaborating with the world’s best actual pirate establishment– the pirate store at 826 Valencia in San Francisco.http://826valencia.org/store/

here are a few sample spreads from the book:

My Presentation at the 2011 National Book Festival

The Library of Congress website and youtube channel

has posted the video of my presentation

at the 2011 National Book Festival in Washington DC.

A highlight of my career and a lot of fun.

You can see the video here


Kirkus review of Boy Wonders

My new book Boy Wonders is coming in June, published by Atheneum/Simon & Shuster.

This is what Kirkus had to say:

BOY WONDERS (reviewed on May 1, 2011)

This boy doesn’t just wonder, he throws readers a forceful invitation: “May I ask you something? / Are you ever perplexed? / Completely vexed? / Do you have questions? / Queries? / Odd theories?” He does.

Brown’s book is in the grip of an effervescent momentum. Not that it really has anything to do with asking questions—of curiosity, of inquiry—though the boy sure does ask lots of questions. It is what, and especially how, he asks that spins the wheel. The story is shuttled along on Brown’s fine artwork: slightly jittery, slightly sinister, with blasts of color alternating with pages in shadow and clever interpretations of the boy’s increasingly loopy questions. His mind is a tinderbox to which Brown applies a match. “Do onions cry?” “Is water scared of waterfalls?” He adds some subversive wordplay as kindling: “Do clouds get jealous during storms, and steal each other’s thunder?” And “[i]f I’m too tired, am I a bike?” Soon thereafter, great logs are thrown on the fire. “Would a happy toucan / from the Yucatan / become cantankerous / up in Anchorage / or the Yukon? / What about Tucson?”

In the end, the questions and words are whole lotta fun, but it is the music the book makes that is the most arresting entertainment. (Picture book. 6 & up)

My Visit to Dyer Elementary

Last week I did a one and a half day residency at the Dyer Elementary School in South Portland Maine.

It was one of the most enjoyable and satisfying visits I’ve done, especially because I got to spend so much time

with the kids in their classrooms. We talked about poetry and stories, art and imagination.

I took requests and did lots of live drawing. So much that I can’t begin to remember everything I drew, it’s a blur.

I do recall A Panda Doing Karate on a Surfboard, and  A Two-Headed Triceratops Snail.

The student’s art work and poems were amazing. They created drawings of their own fantastical creatures

and wrote about them. Such an outpouring of imagination and art!

The 4th graders read, and had me read, some wonderful concrete poetry and odes to Maine.

Many thanks to Susan Morneault, Principal Brown, and  Eliza Cobb for making this fantastic residency happen.

Some pictures of art and poems below. Click for larger views.

His Shoes Were Far Too Tight

This project was a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to illustrate Lear, who is one of my main inspirations. Daniel Pinkwater, also a genius and nonsense master,  selected the poems and wrote a fantastic introduction.

Published by Chronicle Books and available now.


Just a few railroadian vehicles for your viewing pleasure.

Save The Tigers

This is a small piece for Travel and Leisure, about a program which automatically donates a portion of

your hotel fee to organizations like The Bodhi Tree, which among other things,  helps protect  Bengal

Tigers and their habitat.

The Exquisite Corpse Adventure

I’ve recently finished work on a project with The Library of Congress and The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance called The Exquisite Corpse Adventure. As The Library of Congress site read.gov describes it:

Our “Exquisite Corpse Adventure” works this way:

Jon Scieszka, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, has written the first episode, which is “pieced together out of so many parts that it is not possible to describe them all here, so go ahead and just start reading!” He has passed it on to a cast of celebrated writers and illustrators,who must eventually bring the story to an end.

The roster of writers is very impressive –

and aside from Jon Scieszka also includes Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, Gregory Maguire, M.T. Anderson, Nikki Grimes, and lots of others. My fellow illustrators are Chris van Dusen, Timothy Basil Ering, Steven Kellogg and James Ransome.

It’s a really wild story, check it out at read.gov

I created art for Episodes 3 ,7, 15, 19, 21 and 27. Here are my illustrations: