ROSA’S ANIMALS, by Maryann Macdonald, Plus a Little This ‘n That

I have a lot to talk about in a short post today.

First of all, I want you all to see this gorgeous picture book:

ROSA’S ANIMALS is Maryann Macdonald’s newest, from Harry N. Abrams. It’s a lush biography of French painter Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) that you really shouldn’t miss. Targeted to 3rd-7th graders, this beauty is filled with Bonheur’s art, as well as photos and sketches to help illuminate the time in which she lived — along with a captivating narrative. Here’s a sampling from the opening page:  “As a toddler, she fell in love with the strong oxen, peaceful sheep, and calm cows she saw in the French countryside. ‘You just cannot imagine how much I loved feeling some fine cow lick my head while she was being milked,’ she said.”

Now that’s a girl I can fall for. Here’s another of Rosa Bonheur’s works, just to give you a glimpse….

And here’s the publisher’s blurb for booksellers:

Painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899) led a highly nontraditional life, especially for a woman in the nineteenth century. She kept lions as pets, was awarded the Legion of Honor by Empress Eugénie, and befriended “Buffalo Bill” Cody. She became a painter at a time when women were often only reluctantly educated as artists. Her unconventional artistic work habits, including visiting slaughterhouses to sketch an animal’s anatomy and wearing men’s clothing to gain access to places like a horse fair, where women were not allowed, helped her become one of the most beloved female painters of her time. Among the artworks discussed are The Horse Fair and Ploughing in the Nivernais. Along with her life story are a list of museums that house her work, a bibliography, and an index.

Please, please find a copy. If you have a 3rd-7th grade artist you think would adore this inspiring book, let me know in the comments section. I’ll pick one of you at random and send your kiddo the copy I received from the publisher. Here’s Maryann’s website:  Check out all those books!

This ‘n that:

If you haven’t yet seen the documentary of Highlights magazine on Netflix, give it a watch. It’s called 44 PAGES, and I think writers — or ANYBODY who grew up with this sweet magazine — will find it a fascinating behind-the-scenes look.

Picture book writers/readers:  If you don’t follow Dylan Teut’s Mile High Reading blog, you should. Throughout the year, he posts bookcovers, previews of the following year’s releases, for us to ooh and ahh over. There are 103 of them in the linked post alone (Part 4 of 2019’s books)!

Picture Book Builders is coming up on our 4th anniversary — September 2nd! Sheesh! I can’t tell you how quickly those four years have flown by. Whether you’re a loyal lurker or a regular commenter, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for hanging out with us. We appreciate each and every one of you. I also want to thank my fellow PBBers, Linda Ashman, Kevan Atteberry, Pat Zietlow Miller, Jennifer Black Reinhardt, Tammi Sauer, Suzanne Slade, and Mike Boldt, as well as former PBBers (who sometimes fill in) Barb Rosenstock and Eliza Wheeler, for joining me in this endeavor. You guys are THE BEST! And look, I FINALLY got to meet Tammi earlier this month when she spoke at our SCBWI-Iowa picture book conference. Yay!!!
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Jill Esbaum

Jill Esbaum has been picture book crazy since her 3 kids were little, and especially so after her first was published in 2004 (Stink Soup). Recent titles: Stinkbird Has a Superpower, Jack Knight's Brave Flight, Where'd My Jo Go?, Frog Boots, How to Grow a Dinosaur, Frankenbunny, If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party, Elwood Bigfoot– Wanted: Birdie Friends!, Teeny Tiny Toady, I Am Cow, Hear Me Moo!, and more. Coming in 2024: Parrotfish Has a Superpower and Bird Girl: Gene Stratton-Porter Shares Her Love of Nature with the World. She's also the author of many nonfiction books for young readers, as well as an early graphic reader series, Thunder & Cluck. Learn more at


  1. What a fascinating story.

  2. I really enjoy this blog. Thanks for the last 4 years all the hard work and all the terrific info. Happy Anniversary!

  3. MG novels are the genre I write, but I loved reading picture books as a kid, and I still do. I give them as gifts to all the children in my life and watch them fall in love with words and story just as I did. Thank you for always introducing me to something new to fill that next gift bag.

  4. Rosa’s paintings are beautiful! Congratulations to Maryann, and thank you, Jill, for bringing this one to our attention. Also, congratulations on the upcoming 4-year anniversary of Picture Book Builders!!! Woohoo!

  5. Gorgeous book! I have a grandson in that age category, but it’s his 7 year-old sister who loves art. What a great artist to look up to! Congrats on the 4 years! Yay for us!

    • It really is, Angie. And this is the sort of book a budding artist will want to pore over again and again. 🙂 Thanks for being a loyal reader!

  6. Wow, 4 years??!!! Sheesh!! Thank YOU, Jill, for getting this thing rolling (and KEEPING it rolling!).

    And what a fascinating character and beautiful book!

    And, speaking of beautiful, what a lovely photo of you and Tammi! I’ll meet her in person next month here in North Carolina. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you in person some day too. Looking forward to that…

  7. Wow! Such gorgeous illustrations. Thank you for sharing this wonderful artist with the world!

  8. Rosa’s illustrations are a feast for the eyes! What a gorgeous book. I will look for it. Thank you.

  9. Thanks for the introduction. It’s on my list.

  10. Love this blog! Thanks to all of you amazing busy people for keeping it going!

  11. Happy Anniversary to you all! Love following this blog. And thanks for this rec, Jill–it looks wonderful!

  12. Congrats on your 4 year anniversary! I love your blog!

  13. I love animals and picture books. I’ve collected both since I was a kid.

  14. What a beautiful book. I’m going to get a copy for my 17-yr-old daughter who loves art and nature.

  15. Wow! The cover of Maryann’a book is mesmerizing! Such an interesting and non-traditional MC, too. I will definitely look for this one!

    • Grabs you, doesn’t it, Judy? Love seeing a picture book — sort of a coffee table book, almost — for this age range.

  16. I don’t know an aspiring young artist . . . but congratulations on your 4th anniversary. I love you guys!

  17. Wow! Tom and Lucy would love this!

  18. Oh, wow!! Carlos (my 3rd grader) would love this one. Thanks for highlighting it! Also, congratulations on four years of wonderful posts on picture books, my favorite kidlit genre. I always enjoy the posts.

  19. This looks wonderful. Congratulations on your anniversary and best wishes for many more.

  20. I skip over some book blogs but never this one. Your group’s posts are exceptional. Here’s to many more years of outstanding craft.

  21. Congrats on 4 years. Love your blog and would love to win this book.

  22. I was obsessed with the Rosa Bonheur story in my grandparents’ 1960s Childcraft book. Definitely looking up this biography!

  23. Cool! Then this one’s perfect for you, Annette! 🙂

  24. Thanks for these wonderful pieces, Jill, and how crazy it’s been 4 years since PBB started! Thank you so very much for starting it out, and having me as a part of the journey.

  25. My animal-loving, budding-artist granddaughter would LOVE this book! Awesome!

  26. Yes, I have a third grader granddaughter who lives with me…She loves art and she
    loves animals….perfect!! We will get this book one way or another…thank you:)

  27. Jill, I am so appreciative of your posts. Congratulations on four years!!! Fantastic! Thank you for all you do!

  28. Well, happy anniversary to us!

    It was such a joy to meet you in person, Jill. Someone really needs to move Oklahoma closer to Iowa.

  29. Ditto, Tammi! 🙂

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