Jean Marzollo

Children's Author and Illustrator
Author of I SPY

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Send Me Your Students’ Letter Paintings!

Last week I blogged about numbers in I SPY.

This week I’d like to blog about letters.  Similar story: In my favorite 9” x 12” hardback I SPY book, I SPY SCHOOL DAYS published in 1995, Walter Wick not only made a beautiful picture of numbers, he also made a beautiful picture of letters A to Z.  To make it, he painted big letters with a pictures that went with the letters.  For example, the T has triangles on it.  The B has balloons.  Kids are fascinated by Walter Wick’s letters and like to figure out and explain them.  
You can also find these letter pictures in I SPY LITTLE LETTERS, a 5.5” x 5” board book published in 2000 and in a 8” x 8” paperback called I SPY LETTERS, published in 2012.  Both books display Walter Wick’s letters paintings clearly, making a great guessing game for kids and inspiring them to make their own letter paintings later.  If you like, please send me some of their letter paintings to post on my website - with your permission, of course.

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Please Send Me Your 10!

In my favorite 9” x 12” hardback I SPY book, I SPY SCHOOL DAYS published in 1995, Walter Wick made a beautiful picture of the numbers 1-12.  To make it, he painted 12 shallow boxes green, yellow, red, or blue.  He filled each box with a number and objects that related to that number.  For example, the 4 box had a plastic fork with 4 tines, a tiny cake with 4 candles, a toy chair with 4 legs, etc.  Kids love this page and like to make their own number boxes.  So I ask you for a little help because when Scholastic published the board book I SPY LITTLE NUMBERS in 1999, I suggested that we only go up to 9 because seeing another 1 and a 0 in a box might confuse babies and toddlers.  In 2012 the board book was published as a lovely 8” x 8” paperback called I SPY NUMBERS, perfect for preschoolers and kindergartners.  However, as a teacher recently wrote me, “Where is the 10?”  She’s right.  Any counting book that stops at 9 for children 3 and up should go to 10!  What I suggest is that you ask kids to make their own 10 boxes and display them in the classroom or at home.  This is a fun mathematical and artistic project.  Here are some of the 10 objects that Walter Wick put in his 10 box:  a piece of colored paper with 10 holes punched in it, a toy clown holding up 10 fingers, a number 10 playing card, and a 10 domino.  I would love to see photos of your 10 pictures.  I will post them on my website if you give me permission.  I thank you ahead of time!

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In 1776

I wrote In 1776 in 1992. Here’s how I started: “In seventeen hundred and seventy-five, da da da da da da.” Eventually, I replaced the “da’s” with “A long, long time ago,” which worked perfectly. Fitting words to rhythm and rhyme is fun. I learned through experience not to stretch words and not to jam them in. I like the puzzle. I like getting the right words to fit just right.

To write In 1776 I also read a lot about the United States at that time and eventually boiled it down to what I thought was appropriate for ages 4-8.

I love Steve Björkman’s detailed illustrations. He also illustrated In 1492 about Christopher Columbus.

This book is now available as an ebook:

Happy 4th of July!

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Happy Father’s Day!

This was one of my favorite poems that my father said when I was a child.   When I was in high school, I painted this for him.  I made the letters and flowers look old-fashioned - like they were embroidered on cloth.  I have the painting in my office now and still love the poem.


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I SPY A to Z

When I wrote I SPY A TO Z, I focused on phonics - the sound of letters. Each page features a riddle that has one special letter printed in red within words.  To play the I SPY game, children don’t have to focus on the sound of the red letters, but they can if they want to.


Recently, I discovered another special value of I SPY A TO Z.  It is great for teaching young children vocabulary words.  My 3 1/2-year-old grandson loves this book because he can use the rebus pictures within the riddles to find hidden objects.  As he does, he naturally says their names if he knows them.  If he doesn’t know the names, it’s easy for me to say them aloud.  Thus, his vocabulary grows easily and naturally while enjoying the game of I SPY A TO Z.

This vocabulary enrichment feature of I SPY A TO Z is perfect for preschools.


Filed under Jean Marzollo I SPY I SPY A to Z PreK preschool preschools

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If You Want to Write Children’s Books

When I was young, I loved books that fed my imagination with startling new images.  My favorites were The Golden Egg Book by Margaret Wise BrownThe Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyward, Many Moons by James Thurber, and Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky.

Of these authors, the one who most inspires me in my writing today is Margaret Wise Brown, author of many books, including Good Night Moon.  In the 1930s she studied young children in classroom settings under the guidance of Lucy Sprague Mitchell at the early Bank Street School.  Her study of children inspired her ideas and her poetry.  If you are interested in writing for children and, particularly if you are a teacher interested in writing for children, I strongly recommend Awakened by the Moon by the wonderful children’s book historian Leonard S. Marcus.  In this book he tells the story of the brilliant Margaret Wise Brown.

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a somber day to honor Americans who died in military service, while Veterans Day on November 11 honors all veterans.  Parades are common on Memorial Day but not so much on Veterans Day.

How could I explain what a veteran is to young children?  Well, I thought, young children like to feel safe, they like to say thank you, and they like parades.  So I wrote this little chant.  Maybe you could invite veterans to visit your class.  The children could make a little parade for them as they chant:

May 26 is Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is a thank you day.
We march and hear the bagpipes play.
On the special day called Memorial Day.

Filed under Memorial Day

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The Importance of Early Chidhood Education

Another great question I am often asked is: “How did your early education lead to your success in life?”

I grew up before TV! We didn’t get TV until I was in 5th grade. So if you were not playing with friends or making something, you read books. We didn’t have a bookstore. We went to the library. I can still picture the big children’s room in our town’s library. We went there every week as a family and got books to bring home. Books were where it was at. No TV, computers, Game Boy, Nintendo, IPads. I don’t tell that to kids anymore when I visit schools because once a boy raised his hand and asked me if we had electricity when I was little.  HA!

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My favorite I SPY books

I am often asked: “Of all the different I SPY books, which is your favorite? Why?”

I have three favorites: the first book I SPY: A Book of Picture Riddles because it was the first one, a miracle. We knew young kids would like it but we didn’t know all ages would like it! My second favorite is I SPY Spooky Night because it was the hardest to make and yet it turned out so well.  The third favorite is I SPY School Days because it’s the most intellectual. I love the sorting and classification game. I love Levers, Ramps, and Pulleys, too.  Those two pictures make kids think. Just because kids may not yet be able to read doesn’t mean they can’t think. They can.


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My 5 favorite kids’ books

I am often asked to name my favorite kids’ books.

My favorite books when I was a child were: Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne; Many Moons by James Thurber; The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Du Bose Heyward; A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Margaret Wise Brown’s Wonderful Story Book, a Big Golden Book. I still have all of these, and I still love to read them.