Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Recently Noted

I've been remiss in rounding up the notices lately, but I do enjoy seeing these books still finding appreciative readers.

One of the loveliest responses to the books so far? Miniature pavlovas perfect for a Dot-sized repast at the new blog A Dainty Feast

A nice notice from the beautiful Smallish Magazine.

Beautiful write up on When I Was Small at the wonderful LEITMOTIF.
The little boy’s mother begins to tell him the most beautiful fictions of her youth – exaggerations of the word “small” that allow her to imaginatively enter another world. The book is not about a literal relationship between our own childhoods and our children – it is about communicating on their level. Imagining, dreaming, playing, and thinking like they do.

I really love the way this little girl’s identity unfolds within these pages. Throughout the book, her gestures and presence exude warmth, an ease with nature and solitude, and a strong sense of self. In a world of children’s literature that rarely shows girls in this light, this story reveals the inner life of a unique and magical creature – the precious & precocious child at heart.

When You Were Small featured on the very lovely Illustrated Forest.
We’ve all been there, a small child asks us the simplest of questions: what was I like when I was small?  And searching through the infinity of answers, or having exhausted them all, we hit upon something so wondrous that the child is immediately mesmerised in disbelief.  Children love to hear stories about themselves and the more fantastical the better.  When You Were Small is a collection of some of the finest.

 Each left hand page features Sara O’Leary’s simple, imaginative and super sweet text, whilst the right has an accompanying illustration by the wonderful Julie Morstad.  O’Leary and Morstad compliment each other beautifully, neither one vying for attention, and this is perhaps why they work together so often: because they work so well together.  The text, which could have felt flippant and dismissive in the wrong hands, feels caring and warm: it is affectionate and perfectly encapsulates the loving relationship between adult and child.

A lovely write up by Helen Spitzer over at Bunch.
Most children, after all, are trying to wrap their heads around how big or how small they are exactly. As parents we really confuse the issue – “Oh, what a big girl you are!” we tell our two-year-old who has mastered some skill but, “Aww, you’re my sweet little baby!” as we nuzzle a four-year-old on the verge of losing his baby-plump cheeks.
O’Leary and Morstad’s much-cherished first book When You Were Small taps into the absurdity and wonder of never knowing that you’re growing or just how big or how small you are exactly. It also captures the wistful magic, the “pre-nostalgia” as O’Leary puts it, of being a parent.

Very nice to see When I Was Small featured on a list of Nurturing Adults in Kids Books over at Book People.

When You Were Small is a book of the week at Library Mice.
Delightfully retro in its design, When You Were Small marries Sara O’Leary’s eccentric and comical tale of a modern-day Tom Thumb with Julie Morstad’s exquisitely delicate and muted artwork. Text and artwork work  in perfect harmony to create an unusual, sweet little book full of wit and brimming with love and comfort. There is a certain serenity oozing out of this book, and though little readers will be delighted by the wackiness and absurdity of some of the scenes, When You Were Small will spur tranquil bedtime reading.

Nerdy Book Club says they use When You Were Small as a writing prompt.

Julie Morstad's work featured at 49th Shelf with special notice given to the Henry books. Big thanks to Kerry Clare who also included us in her Books for Literacy Day list.

You can buy the books at BuyOlympia. They do have the loveliest listings.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Adoring the Reviews

Seems like time to do a little rounding up of reviews.  Kirkus has called When I Was Small adorable, while Publisher's Weekly says that adorable is a word to be used advisedly (and then goes ahead and uses it!)

I was very pleased to see the Henry books included on uber-blogger Design Mom's Gift List  and to see the kindly mention by Say Yes to Hoboken's Liz Stanley on the lovely Small Fry.

Publishers Weekly:  In earlier offerings by this team, When You Were Small and Where You Came From, Henry's parents told their son about life when he was "literally" small, walking his pet ant and sleeping in his father's slipper (this duo has Marcel the Shell beat by several years). "Tell me about when you were small, too," Henry now asks his mother. "When I was small," she begins, "my name was Dorothea. But because the name was too big for me, everyone called me Dot." Twentysome solemn primary-school students appear opposite in a class photo; one is a girl in a red dress no bigger than a potted plant. Readers might miss the tiny figure, but they'll catch on within pages: "I went swimming in the birdbath," Henry's mother continues. "I played jump rope with a piece of yarn." The humor in Morstad's pen-and-ink drawings lies in their seriousness; she draws the cocktail umbrella Henry's mother stands under and the mitten she sleeps in with the care of a botanical illustrator. "Adorable" is a word to be used advisedly, but it's applicable in this case.

Kirkus:  The third of the Henry books (When You Were Small, 2006; Where You Came From, 2008) continues the adorable journey but doesn’t veer from the path.
  Henry wants to know about when his mother was small. She responds by telling him her name was Dorothea, but “because the name was too big for me, everyone called me Dot.” The picture on the facing page shows a class of really cute children inked in black and white, an equally cute teacher and Henry’s doll-sized mom in bright red. She went swimming in the birdbath, could “feast on a single raspberry” and wore a daisy for a sunhat. The text for each spread floats on a pure white page, and on the opposite page Morstad’s beautiful, clear drawings characterized by the spot use of color float on the same white space. The endpapers are full of similarly fanciful images of tiny Dot standing under a toadstool, leaping over a daisy or sporting butterflies as headgear. “In stories we can be small together,” his mother says, ending this quiet mother-and-son idyll.The third of the Henry books (When You Were Small, 2006; Where You Came From, 2008) continues the adorable journey but doesn’t veer from the path.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the blogosphere, AmoXcalli says:  There is something about children’s literature that just oozes joy and wonder when a book is done well. Simple illustrations and spare but eloquent writing can convey so much. When I Was Small does this beautifully.  And Books my Boys Love writes:  I like it how they have interpreted “small” as in ‘tiny’. The mother’s fantastical stories about sleeping in a mitten, swimming in a bird bath, feasting on a single raspberry, and wearing the same size shoes as her doll are fun and whimsical and pique children’s curiosity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Small Book Wins Prize

When I Was Small has won the Christie Harris Illustrated Literature Prize.

The book came out in Canada at the very tail end of last year and will be released in the US this fall.  I'm awfully fond of it and happy to see it out in the world and making friends!

Friday, March 09, 2012


Here is the short list for the Christie Harris Illustrated Children’s Literature Prize (via Quill & Quire):

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

What's Next

A very nice little write up at Sal's Fiction Addiction.
There is something so gentle and lovely about this series of books that allow me to enjoy being with Henry and his relentless questions. The first two, When You Were Small and Where You Came From remain some of my favorites for sharing with young readers. This time Henry is more interested in his mother's early life than his own. 
He asks for a story about her childhood and she gently obliges. Her series of short snippets of earlier times are as wild and weird as previous stories about Henry. Each one of her when I was small starters is shown on a single page that faces an accompanying illustration by Julie Morstad. It is a great partnership and makes me eager to see what they will do next. 
Stay tuned - we may have news soon!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Notices noticed

So nice to see our little book out making friends in the world....

"A beautiful book, and perfect companion to Where You Came From and When You Were Small," says Bernie Gooedhart at The Montreal Gazette

Consider my day made!  Carrie McBride has some very nice things to say about the new book over at Apartment Therapy:
If I was writing a cheesy movie trailer I would declare this, "The Most Anticipated Book of the Year." My most anticipated book anyhow. Story by Sara O'Leary, pictures by Julie Morstad, I adore both of their previous collaborations, When I Was Small and Where You Came From.   
The book has also recently received nice notices from The Calgary Herald and The Toronto Star.

The wonderful Steph Aulenback is giving away a free copy of the book this week.  Visit Crooked House for more details.

And I was pleased to receive a nice note from a former student now working at Côte Saint-Luc Library on their Children's Department blog.    Nice to see graduates out in the world and doing well.

Saturday, December 03, 2011


Where You Came From is in some very nice company on a Favourite Books of 2011 list over at Say Yes to Hoboken.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Little Literati

I did a little Q & A over at Heather Bergman's Little Literati blog the other day.

Among other things, I talked about one of my favourite books from when I was small:  Look Out the Window by Joan Walsh Anglund.

You can see it here and if you read on it is followed by one with the wonderful Shaun Tan.  He quite eloquently answers a question I tried to address with a class a few weeks ago:

WHERE do you think technology is taking the picture book?

I'm not sure. I think the traditional picture book will remain relatively unchanged, but you'll have new narrative forms growing up around it, not unlike the relationship between theatre and film, radio and TV, painting and photography. While I could see e-books potentially eclipsing paper-back novels, the same is not true for picture books, because they are already carefully made objects, where format, printing, physical design and texture are inherently critical elements, and not easily substituted. What you'll find is that those stories and concepts better suited to a digital medium will move across. It may even mean more attention to the production quality of paper books, given they have to 'justify' their non-digital form.
Yeah!  What he said.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


There's an interview with Julie Morstad up at VM where she talks about her work, her work-life balance and her influences:
I have always been inspired by the illustrations in children’s books. Some of my favorites are Mary Blair, Gyo Fujikawa, Alice and Martin Provensen, Barbara Cooney, Tove Jannson, Bruno Munari, and of course, Maurice Sendak. My daughter is named after his character, Ida, in Outside Over There.

That's where the darling Ida got her name!  Of course!

I'd love to hear about other babies named for picture book characters.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vancouver Launch

We had an early celebration for the new book in Vancouver this month and those who came out were able to score advance copies of the book (expected to hit stores soon).  It was a fabulous time and I want to say thanks to all who came out and especially to all those who made it possible.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Quill & Quire

Review for the new book, When I Was Small up at Quill & Quire.

The dreamy quality of both text and image gives the book a slightly low-energy feel, but it may be the perfect thing for a kid who is just a little quiet, a little shy, but still inquisitive – a child not unlike Henry. The result is a perfect antidote for parents whose retinas have been scorched by too much Dora the Explorer.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Birds, Bees, Bloggers

Rounding up some of the blog reviews for Where You Came From.

Isn't Say Yes to Hoboken a great name for a blog?

And here's what blog creator, Liz Stanley has to say about Where You Came From:
I'd highly recommend it for a young child or toddler whose too young for the real birds and bees talk. A friend recommended it to us a year ago and I still can't get through it without tearing up a little bit. It's so sweet. 

Chapter Forty out of South Australia has this to say:

We are really loving the book 'Where you came from' by Sara O'Leary. It deals with that dreaded childhood question "Where did I come from?' with imagination, humour, and poignancy. The illustrations are also very engaging and delicate.

And Julie Sparrow Carson wrote on her Bundle blog:
Hmmmm…such a persistant question and such an awkward one to answer. This fanciful book makes a great big-brother big-sister gift.
Bundle is a cloth diaper service in Boulder, Colarado.  I do love the interwebs.

Scout Magazine (out of my one-time hometown of Vancouver) writes:
The second collaborative work from the author/illustrator team of Montreal based Sara O’Leary and Vancouver artist Julie Morstad, Where You Came From adopts a playful approach to answering the inevitable question: Where did I come from? Rather than glossing over the question with a hopeful “Well, um… er… hey, lets see what’s on t.v., shall we?” Henry’s parents come up with a myriad of beautiful and entertaining alternatives to the too graphic, and likely premature, truth. Julie Morstad (one of my absolute favourite Vancouver artists) provides amazing artwork for this sweet story. 

Also pleased to note that Babble names the book one of their top ten picks for toddlers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Praise from the marvellous Dooce:

Many readers have sent me books to help with explaining to Leta how the baby got inside my tummy, and this book, Where You Came From by Sara O'Leary, is one of my favorites. Inside there are no cows humping other cows or pictures of sperm swimming toward a woman's ovaries, and instead there are playful illustrations depicting possible explanations, like a baby in a sale bin at the grocery store or parachuting from a spaceship. I love the answer at the end, and I won't give it away, but I think it's perfect for beginning the discussion with a four-year-old.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Librarian's Pick

When You Were Small is a librarian's pick at the Homeschool Co-op.

It’s just the right amount of silly.  ”When you were small, we used to give you baths in the teapot.”  ”When you were small, we let you sleep in one of my slippers. The left one.”
It’s lyrical.  Each page starts the same way, and has the same lovely cadence and rhythm.  ”When you were small…”
It’s beautiful.  The binding is lovely.  The book has a matte finish, with lovely muted colours.  It could be on display in a fancy home.  It could live on your coffee table.
It has a great ending.  ”Don’t you remember?”  Henry’s father replies.
It doesn’t belong on a coffee table.  It belongs on a bedside table.  Kid’s or parent’s.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bloggers Know Best

Rounding up some of the more recent blog reviews of When You Were Small...

Irene Hoofs at  Bloesem Kids writes:
Sara O'Leary's witty text would stand well on its own, however the beautiful illustrations by Julie Morstad compliment the book terribly well and take the writing to a whole new level.  A perfect marriage of minimal text and delicate image, both so simple and yet so good, this books warms my heart and puts a smile on my face every time I read it!
And here's a write-up that has me walking on sunshine, by Katie at My Mama's Goodnight:
Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad may be the finest writer/illustrator team since Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. Their utterly lovely book, “When You Were Small”, is a feast of words and pictures the likes of which I have not seen in some time. Henry is a little boy who, like most children, likes to hear about when he was small. So, his loving father, with a penchant for exaggeration and wit, spins tales of Henry’s infancy when he could sleep in his father’s left slipper and bathe in a teapot. The whimsy with which O’Leary’s words spill forth is perfectly matched by Morstad’s gorgeous drawings. This is a match (and a book) made in Heaven. I would recommend reading it every night…right after your warm and fragrant teapot bath. 
The book was also recipient of a very nice shout out from talented (and very discerning) writer/illustrator Carin Berger at Bird and Little Bird.

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Blog

Waiting for the new book ~ Where You Came From ~ and now blogging over at 123oleary. Feel free to drop in.

Sunday, December 09, 2007


The Atelier Gallery is pleased to announce a special event featuring Julie Morstad’s artwork from the award winning children’s book “When You Were Small”

On Saturday December 15th, from 2-4 , artwork from this novel will be featured in the gallery and available for sale. Julie Morstad will be in attendance and signing books. There are only thirteen images in this collection - each one a treasure and a testament to Morstad’s reputation as one of Canada’s most interesting illustrators.

“When You Were Small” was illustrated by Morstad and written by Sara O’Leary. This enchanting children’s book has recently been awarded both the prestigious Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award and the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada.

A best selling Canadian book, it has now been translated into three languages including Korean. Heralded by the ‘Association of Booksellers for Children’, as one of the best books of 2006, this is an exciting opportunity to view and acquire an original artwork from this publication. The works will be on view in the gallery until December 22nd.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I can't wait to hold this baby!

The cover for the sequel (prequel?) to When You Were Small is now on Amazon. The book is called Where You Came From and is about Henry asking his parents that question and receiving a series of preposterous answers about what happened when the stork had the day off.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Crooked House

I was interviewed by the wonderful Stephany Aulenback at Crooked House.
She writes:
The other day when I was posting about books featuring little people I forgot all about Sara O'Leary's When You Were Small, a spare, beautifully designed picture book that usually occupies a place of honour on my mantelpiece. When I found it in Munro's Books in Victoria, it made me feel simultaneously delighted and envious. Delighted, because this is the perfect idea for a picture book, perfectly executed. And envious, of course, because, well, why didn't I think of it first?

A boy called Henry asks his father to tell him about when he was small. His father proceeds to narrate a series of tall (small?) tales about the things that happened to Henry back then. Stuff like: "When you were small your mother once lost you in the bottom of her purse. When she found you again, you were clinging to an earring she'd lost three years before." And: "When you were small we used you as a chess piece, because our chess board was missing one of the knights and you were the perfect size."

This sweet, hilarious text is accompanied by pen-and-ink illustrations by Julie Morstad, whose work manages to be charming, surreal, and retro all at once. This book is a work of art, one that deserves to become a bedtime classic.

The very gracious Sara O'Leary has agreed to do an interview about this book and the next one, which is called Where You Came From. Sara says "it is also full of lies."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When You Were Small named winner of the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award


Sarah Ellis, Jan Thornhill, Eva Wiseman, and author-illustrator team 
Sara O’Leary and Julie Morstad receive top honours.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Toronto (October 16, 2007) ― The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is thrilled to announce the winners of the four major children’s book awards it administers. The winners were announced last night at a gala event at the Design Exchange in Toronto.

Sponsored by A. Charles Baillie
When You Were Small 

Written by Sara O'Leary of Hampstead, QC

Illustrated by Julie Morstad of Vancouver, BC

Simply Read Books

“Beautifully illustrated and timeless… O’Leary takes the reader on a whimsical tour of the imagination and captures the essence of what it is like to be a child... Simply amazing!”

JURY MEMBERS: Jeffrey Canton, Faculty of Arts, York University and children’s book reviewer; Myra Junyk, literacy advocate and author; and Janis Nostbakken, writer, producer, broadcaster and founding editor of ChickaDEE magazine.

Friday, September 21, 2007


When You Were Small has been shortlisted for
in the Canadian Children's Book Centre Awards

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC) is pleased to announce the finalists for the four major children’s book awards it administers. The winners will be announced at a by invitation-only gala event at Toronto’s Design Exchange on October 15, 2007.

The Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award honours excellence in the illustrated picture book format, for children aged 3 to 6. Charles Baillie, retired Chairman and CEO of the TD Bank Financial Group, is delighted to give the prize in his wife Marilyn’s name. As an award-winning children’s book author and an early learning specialist, Marilyn is involved in and passionate about children’s literature. The winning book receives $10,000.

WYWS chosen as a CanWest Raise a Reader Beginning Reader Pick

We're all for raising readers.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


When You Were Small
Sara O’Leary, Julie Morstad
Henry a little boy asks his father to tell him about when he was small in this sweet children’s book. His father pretends Henry was once very tiny- small enough to fit in a pocket, wear a thimble as a helmet, walk his pet ant and other imaginative fun things kid’s would have a blast thinking about. When Henry asks his father if any of it’s true his father asnwers- Don’t you remember? The illustrations by Julie Morstad that accompany the story are so cute. Henry has such a simple clean white face but everything else has color and tiny hatch marks. The end pages are my favorite. They are of all different frames hanging on a wall with pictures of “small” Henry in them. I was just working on a project for a client where they wanted a pattern of framed paintings on a wall so you could imagine how excited I was to find this for inspiration.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Reading in beautiful St. Martin's

I will be doing a reading and signing on Thursday, July 19th as part of St. Martins Book Fair, an inaugural event of the St. Martins Booktown Initiative.

If you are going to be in the area, then please do stop by.

And if you aren't going to be in the area, then why not? St. Martins is a lovely little seaside village on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy and has much to recommend it ... including lots of books for sale at the Book Fair, which runs from July 13-21st, 2007.