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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Picture Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1,326 - 1,350 of 6,760
1326. An Interesting Comfort Book

I've had The Dark by Daniel Handler writing as Lemony Snicket, with illustrations by Jon Klassen. floating around the house for a little while because, quite honestly, I didn't quite get the first volume of A Series of Unfortunate Incidents by L.Snicket. Life is short, time is limited. Should I spend any of it reading another Snicket book?

Why, yes, I should.
What I particularly liked about The Dark was its coherence. It both seems to lead you astray, suggesting this is going to be a creepy piece of fluff or a clever joke, and then with that same material makes clear that all this time this was a very straight story. Anthropomorphizing the dark could mean turning it into a monster or it could mean turning it into a logical, calming follow.

Which way did Handler/Snicket go?

The Dark is a Cybils nominee this year in the fiction picture book category.

0 Comments on An Interesting Comfort Book as of 11/18/2013 4:23:00 PM
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1327. Xander’s Panda Party by Linda Sue Park

Xander's Panda PartyAs the holidays approach, young children are swept up by their parent’s party planning. Xander’s Panda Party is a perfect story to share about how important it is to be inclusive when creating guest lists and planning get togethers.

Xander begins by planning a Panda Party, but realizes he is the only panda at the Zoo and so he expands his guest list to include all bears including Black Bear, Brown Bear, Polar Bears and Koala Bears. But, when Xander delivers the invitation to Koala, Koala points out that he is not a bear, he is a marsupial. After some hard thinking and bamboo chewing, Xander decides to invite all mammals to the party. However, Rhinoceros says he will not attend without his bird. Xander eventually decides to invite everyone at the Zoo and a wonderful time is had by all.

In addition to containing wonderful lessons about inclusiveness, this story also is a thoughtful introduction to animal taxonomic classification with wonderful end notes about classifications and pandas. The author, Linda Sue Park, clearly researched carefully when creating this book. Park has a number of picture books, poems and novels for children, including the Newbery Award winner A Single Shard. Her meticulous research and impeccable prose have been carried to her newest offering. Xander’s Panda Party is told in delightful rhymes that will keep preschoolers hanging on every word. The illustrations are soft ink and watercolor and create adorable animals that children will love to look at. There are almost too many good reasons to read this picture book! Please do not miss it!

Posted by: Kelly

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1328. PiBoIdMo Day 18: Dorina Lazo Gilmore Feeds Her Imagination (plus a prize!)

Bio photo 2012by Dorina Lazo Gilmore

I grew up in the kitchen with my mama and grandmas and aunties. When I was a little girl my mama sprinkled flour across the counter and let me draw pictures in it while she baked. As I got older, I got to do more grown-up jobs. She taught me how to read recipes, measure ingredients and decipher spices.

I loved being in the kitchen because that’s where I found the greatest samples of food and the best stories cooking.

When I sat at the table with my grandma rolling lumpia, she would tell me about her childhood growing up in the Philippines and Hawaii. Grandma would giggle about the days when my grandpa would dedicate songs to her on the radio. She would share techniques for Filipino cooking, which is as much about the process as it is about the ingredients.

When I would pull up a stool to the counter, my mama would tell me about her adventures in the kitchen with her dad. I learned about our Italian-American heritage. I discovered the secret pasta sauce recipe. My mama unraveled the stories of her dreams, failures and the roots of her faith.

We bonded right there in the kitchen.

Christmas family photo 2012

As a mama of three girls, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen today. We create, we taste, we dream up stories. One day I heard that familiar scrape of the stool across the kitchen tile. My middle daughter, who is named after an Italian chef, wanted to help mama. I happened to be making a Flourless Chocolate Truffle Torte. When she saw the chocolate swirling in the mixing bowl, she looked up at me very earnestly and said, “When does the licking begin?”

A classic line that will go down in history in our family. I am sure it’s also a line that will climb into one of my manuscripts one day.

And that’s just what happens in the kitchen: stories are born. My latest book, CORA COOKS PANCIT, details the story of a Filipino girl who learns to cook her family’s favorite noodle dish with her mama and uncovers some family history in the process. The story came out of my own experience cooking with my grandma Cora.

I happen to have a hand-scrawled copy of my grandma’s pancit recipe. I believe recipes are also a kind of story, a narrative of ingredients and traditions. That’s why we decided to include the recipe for the dish in the back of my book. When I do school visits, I talk about the ingredients with the kids and we cook pancit together.

I also included some details in the book from a Filipino friend who grew up in California’s Central San Joaquin Valley. One day when we were cooking together she told me about her dad who cooked for the hundreds of farmworkers who picked strawberries and grapes in the fields. This added another layer to my original manuscript because I could share a piece of California history as well.

Moise & Dorina gaze at roof

The kitchen can also be a place to test out a lot more than just recipes. If your writer’s brain is blocked, droopy, stuck or uninspired, go feed it. Throw open the cupboards, dig in the refrigerator, turn up the burner and make something. I call it cooking therapy. Sometimes just the act of making myself a snack or cooking up a meal gets my creative juices flowing. While I’m cooking, I’m working out the kinks in my plot or adding nuances to my characters – sometimes consciously, sometimes subconsciously.

Julia Child said, “This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook. Try new recipes. Learn from your mistakes. Be fearless, and above all, have fun.”

Sounds like great advice for writers too.

Bon appétit!


  1. Describe the most delicious meal you can imagine. What are the smells, the colors, the tastes that inspire you there?
  2. Sketch a scene in words or pictures from your childhood that involved food. Was there a traditional dish or meal you often made with your family?
  3. If you were inviting a famous chef to dinner, what you would you serve? Invite your own children or perhaps your inner child to be a part of that story.
  4. What food makes your stomach turn or your nose turn up? Write a story about a child avoiding or facing that food.
  5. Go in the kitchen. Make yourself a snack. Dig in. Then imagine what would happen if that tantalizing snack came alive.


CoraCooksPancitCoverDorina is the author of three books for children, including CORA COOKS PANCIT which won the Asian Pacific American Librarian Association’s “Picture Book of the Year.” Her poetry has also been published in Cricket magazine.

Dorina loves creating healthy recipes for her family and friends. To balance all that eating, she runs half marathons with her hubby and knits. When Dorina is not writing or stirring up stories in the kitchen, she is the director of The Haitian Bead Project. The project features upcycled jewelry made by Haitian artisans who are rising out of poverty. Dorina loves working with the Haitian women and sharing their stories in the U.S.

Visit Dorina online at DorinaGilmore.com, Twitter @DorinaGilmore or check out some of her recipes on the Health-full blog at MissionFitness.com.


Dorina is giving away a signed copy of CORA COOKS PANCIT!

This prize  will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

14 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 18: Dorina Lazo Gilmore Feeds Her Imagination (plus a prize!), last added: 11/18/2013
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1329. Next Year's Master Class On Picture Books

The Falling Leaves Master Class Retreat sponsored by SCBWI Eastern New York alternates its topics among novels, nonfiction, and picture books. Next year it will be time for another picture book retreat.

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1330. PiBoIdMo Day 17: The Jenneweins Collaborate (plus a prize!)

DJLA for Chickby Lenore Appelhans Jennewein

Daniel and I started developing picture books as a team back in 2004. Our earliest picture books were practice vehicles, helping us learn how to create a picture book as well as how best to work together. Our third collaboration landed us an agent and our fourth got us a book deal. Along the way, Daniel and I have discovered a few best practices for successful creative partnerships.

1. Give each other space.

When we started out, we thought we had to muddle through every detail of the development process together—from idea to execution. Soon enough, we felt suffocated by the project, and frustrated with each other. So we changed it up. We’d ruminate on our current task independently and then come to each discussion meeting with solid recommendations on hand.

chick summary rebus2. Check your ego at the door.

Even giving each other ample space, our discussions can become quite heated. Naturally, each of us is convinced our approach is the right one. We’ve learned that we can’t hash things out immediately. It’s most harmonious if we present our recommendations with minimal commentary, and then each go back in our respective caves to consider all angles. After some reflection, I often realize that Daniel’s proposed solutions for the story are better than mine, or something he brought up leads me to rethink and rewrite for the better.

3. Try to have fun!

Sometimes we make the mistake of approaching our sessions with too much seriousness. Yes, publishing is a business, but the ideas flow best when we relax and let our creative sides go off on tangents. One of those tangents could be exactly what we need.


Lenore and Daniel Jennewein live and work together in Frankfurt, Germany. CHICK-O-SAURUS REX is their debut picture book as a team. Daniel is also the illustrator of IS YOUR BUFFALO READY FOR KINDERGARTEN? and TEACH YOUR BUFFALO TO PLAY TO DRUMS, both by Audrey Vernick. Lenore also writes novels for teens under the name Lenore Appelhans, including THE MEMORY OF AFTER and CHASING BEFORE.

Visit them at LenoreAppelhans.com and DanielJennewein.com.


chick coverThe Jenneweins are giving away a signed copy of CHICK-O-SAURUS REX plus a personalized illustration by Daniel.

This prize bundle will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!


10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 17: The Jenneweins Collaborate (plus a prize!), last added: 11/17/2013
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1331. PiBoIdMo Day 16: Anne Marie Pace’s Hope, Deadlines and Kids

annemariepaceby Anne Marie Pace

Bad news for me: Tara asked me to write about inspiration. I’m not sure if it’s the dreary November weather or my travel-fried brain, but I feel neither inspired nor inspiring.

Good news for you: You don’t need me, not when you’ve got the collective human experience at your fingertips. When I type the word “inspiration” into Google, I get over 130,000,000 hits. Everything you could possibly want is there: dictionary definitions, memorable quotations from Eleanor Roosevelt and the Dalai Lama, Scripture verses, YouTube videos of TED talks, and, last but certainly not least, Kid President.

Lest you think I’m making excuses to avoid writing about inspiration, I’m not. I am going to write. It’s just that I’ve decided to tell you that it’s okay not to feel inspired.

I’ve learned that for me, writing has little to do with inspiration and everything to do with hard work. Don’t get me wrong–there IS inspiration, if you define inspiration as the source of those ideas that seem to come out of nowhere, and I’m happy when those moments come. But that kind of inspiration comes in fits and snatches, and flits away as quickly as it comes.

That word Inspiration is a tricky one. Define it too narrowly, in the sense that Inspiration conjures up Muses and magic and sparkly things, and you might be setting yourself up to wait far too long between productive writing times.

Of course, there’s another way to see inspiration other than as the occasional blessing from a capricious Muse. Let’s define “inspiration” as “something that makes you put your butt in the chair.” (Butt In Chair, or BIC, as you probably know, is from Jane Yolen.)

Here are some things that make me sit my writerly butt down:

When I started writing, almost all submissions and responses were handled via the U.S. Postal Service. More days than not, nothing came in the mail. Nevertheless, that moment of reaching for the mailbox door every day and pulling it open always felt happy and hopeful. And sometimes there was something lovely in there! I like that hopeful feeling (even though these days I get it when I check CallerID to see if it’s my agent) and I don’t get to have it if I don’t do the work first.

My 18-year-old daughter, faced with a looming deadline the other night for one of her college applications, whipped out an essay in about forty-five minutes, and it was actually quite good. Deadlines mean you don’t have the luxury of feeling inspired; you just have to do the work.


The Ticking Clock
I’m not old-old; I’m not even sure I’m quite in the middle-aged category. But I probably have fewer days ahead of me than I have behind me. As Rabbi Hillel said, “If not now, when?” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t referring to me finishing my hippo manuscript, but it works for me.

My Kids
My four teenagers may think they’re too old for picture books (though they respectfully read mine when I ask them) but they definitely are not too old to see me setting and reaching new goals. When I feel like quitting (generally because I’m depending on a visit from a Muse who has taken off on a one-way trip to Tahiti) I remember I don’t want my kids to see me quit. They can see me struggle, and they can see me change my direction, but I don’t want them to see me quit.

Kid Readers
This. Yes. More addictive—and more important—than chocolate to my writerly soul.


This list is incomplete, of course. I didn’t list the embarrassing ones or the ones I should probably save for a therapist. (I own those; I just don’t think you need or want to read about them.) I’m curious—what’s on your list? What inspires you to sit down and write when your Muse is on Mars?


vampirinaDespite the oft-quoted adage to write what you know, Anne Marie Pace has never been a bear, a vampire, or a ballerina. She is the author of NEVER EVER TALK TO STRANGERS and A TEACHER FOR BEAR, both published by Scholastic Book Clubs; and the VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, published by Disney-Hyperion. Someday, she hopes to write books about what she does know: whistling, baking blue-ribbon-winning chocolate chip cookies, and schlepping teenagers around in a minivan, if she can find a way to make any of that interesting. She lives with her family in Virginia. Visit Anne Marie online at AnneMariePace.com or the Vampirina Ballerina Facebook page at Facebook.com/VampirinaBallerina.

15 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 16: Anne Marie Pace’s Hope, Deadlines and Kids, last added: 11/16/2013
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1332. PiBoIdMo Quote of the Day #4


And that’s why we have PiBoIdMo!

You’re halfway through the month. How are you doing with the challenge? Check in by commenting below!

13 Comments on PiBoIdMo Quote of the Day #4, last added: 11/16/2013
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1333. PiBoIdMo Day 15: Adam Lehrhaupt Jump-Starts His Brain

adamlehrhauptby Adam Lehrhaupt

Recently, I had a bout of writer’s block. It didn’t last horribly long, but as any writer who has been through it will tell you, any amount of time spent struggling to write can be extremely frustrating. Yeah, yeah. I know. What does this have to do with inspiration? I’m glad you asked. Or, more to the point, I’m glad I pretended that you asked. I thought I would talk a little about the lack of inspiration.

Why? Because I like to do things differently, but also because it is something that we all deal with at some point in our writing career. Every writer has a day when they sit down at their desk and stare at the blank page, the computer screen, the tablet and think, “Oh, god! What am I going to write?” Well, I’ll tell you. Anything.


There can be a lot of reasons that inspiration goes missing for a while. It is important in times like these not to lose sight of the smaller goal as we strive for the larger. In this case, we aren’t trying to complete the project. We are looking for inspiration, so that we can get writing again.

How do we do this? We get back to the basics. An artist may spend 5-10 minutes drawing quick sketches to get their creative juices going. We, as writers, can do the same. They don’t have to be good, or interesting. We don’t need to keep them around, or show them to anyone. We need to write them.


So, to that end, here are my 10 ideas for jump-starting your brain.

  1. Describe a photo. What happened just before it? Just after?
  2. Draw a picture. It doesn’t matter if you are an artist or not. Draw something you see. Remember we don’t need to show this to anyone.
  3. Describe yourself without using the pronoun I.
  4. Write down 10 questions about your project.
  5. Describe your writing area using only adjectives.
  6. Look up the lyrics to a favorite song. Try to write the story it tells.
  7. Describe what you ate for your last meal.
  8. Take a favorite story and change the ending. Happily ever after? Not any more. (Insert maniacal laugh here)
  9. Create a list of your favorite heroes from film, TV, or literature and describe them. If you’re not into the hero thing, make a list of villains.
  10. Change your perspective. If you write at home, go to a coffee shop or library. If you write inside, go outside. If you write via computer, try writing on a notepad, or vice-versa. Try writing while in a closet or under a bed. Remember: you never know when inspiration will strike.

Most importantly, keep writing. Don’t worry about what comes out. Ten minutes of writing today could lead to that brilliant story tomorrow. Happy writing!


warningAdam has traveled to six continents, performed on Broadway, and lived on a communal farm. He firmly believes that opening a book is a good thing, even if there are monkeys in it. Adam currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two sons. In his spare time, Adam does a bit of writing. His writing spans multiple styles, from poetry to fiction to nonfiction, and is primarily geared towards children. Adam’s first book, Warning: Do Not Open This Book!, is available now anywhere books are sold. View the book trailer here.

Visit him online at AdamLehrhaupt.com, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @Lehrhaupt.

12 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 15: Adam Lehrhaupt Jump-Starts His Brain, last added: 11/15/2013
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1334. Rethinking Richard Scarry And Those Animals Who Drive Trucks

Last month's Carnival of Children's Literature included Playing by the Book's post on a new edition of Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. I'd been planning to share that this month, anyway, but a quick conversation with a family member earlier this week made me decide to blog about it sooner rather than later. The family member didn't remember Richard Scarry, possibly because his mother didn't care for the author and moved him out of those books as fast as she could.

What was my...er...her objection to the Scarry books? No narrative. She was a story person and needed something happening to somebody with her reading.

No harm was done, but in thinking about Richard Scarry recently, I realized that this is another situation in which adult gatekeepers and children aren't necessarily going to be interested in the same things. And do adult interests have to trump every time?

Sometimes, I decided, when you're sitting with a two- or three-year-old, you just have to suck it up and look at random pictures of bears dressed in clothes and riding around in vehicles. There are worse things you can be doing.

2 Comments on Rethinking Richard Scarry And Those Animals Who Drive Trucks, last added: 11/15/2013
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1335. Pi-Rat! by Maxine Lee

Pi-RatRight on the cover next to a skull and crossbones, this book asks “Who’s the most rascally rat to sail the seas?”  Of course the answer is none but Pi-Rat. 

Once you open the book you’ll know why.  Maxine Lee has created a graphic tour de force that should hook any 4 -6 year old boy worth his salt.  Bright colors, bold shapes and “fearsome” dialog—“There are no rules on my mighty ship—we do whatever we like!” speak volumes to little guys—and girls– who are testing the limits of hard fought independence from toddlerhood.

Starting right on the cover there’s a cutout that makes it look as though a larger than life Pi-Rat menacing a sword is crawling through a porthole and into the readers lap.  And what a Pi-Rat he is; half swash-buckling and half endearingly goofy as he explains to his “crew” and the reader that he’s not afraid of anything.  Crocodiles, sharks, even—gasp–the dark are just trivial nuisances to this gang of ruffians.

There’s only one thing that can cause these buccaneers to quake in their boots.  It’s big and bold and bossy.

If you can’t guess what powerful being it might be that can put real terror into the soul of Pi-Rat and his mutinous mob, sail right over to the picture book shelves and prepare to walk the plank to merriment.

Posted by: Eileen

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1336. Anyone Remember Rabbit Ears?

Okay, so you remember a few days ago I said I was going to do a blog post about a discussion I had with David Johnson at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair? And you've been waiting and waiting for me to get around to that? Well, wait no longer.

David pointed out that his book, The Boy Who Drew Cats, was published by Rabbit Ears Entertainment, a Connecticut company. Rabbit Ears, Rabbit Ears, I thought. I started accessing my memory files. David is telling me that Rabbit Ears made children's videos with narrators such as Meryl Streep. Rabbit Ears...Rabbit Ears...goes the google search  in my mind.

"Theater?" I may have said out loud.

David had done the art work for some of the Rabbit Ear videos, The Boy Who Drew Cats being one of them. And now Rabbit Ears had published the story as a picturebook with the art David had done for the video and perhaps more. I was busily going Rabbit Ears? Rabbit Ears? and wasn't as mindful with my listening as I should have been.

You all know I am just obsessive enough not to have left this alone. And after seeking out the Rabbit Ears website, I found what I was trying to remember, not Rabbit Ears Theater but Rabbit Ears Radio, a program on public radio distributed by Public Radio International in the 1990s. It sounds as if the radio productions were the audio of the video productions. Rabbit Ears Radio brought a marvelous and really different angle to public radio, which is news and arts for adults.

Rabbit Ears Entertainment appears to be publishing picture book versions of its videos, which is interesting because usually it goes the other way--the book comes first and then a film version.

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1337. PiBoIdMo Day 13: Jane Yolen Does the Work She Was Meant To Do

janeyolen© 2013 by Jane Yolen

I have a Muse who works overtime, or at least that’s how it looks from the outside. But I think about something my late husband once said. An ardent birder and, in his retirement, a bird recordist whose tapes now reside in both the Cornell Library of Natural Sounds and the British Natural History Museum, he was known in the birding community as “a lucky birder.” That meant he seemed to find more rarities and more hard-to-see birds than anyone else. But his response was, “I show up.” And that’s what I think the Muse actually is: the writer showing up every day and doing the hard work of writing.

If you write FOR a particular market or FOR a particular editor you will often miss the mark. But if you write because your fingers have danced across the keyboard, because a character has tapped you on the shoulder, because a story has settled in your heart, then even if you never sell it you have done the work you were meant to do. And sometime, dear readers, real magic happens.

Let me tell you about a picture book I recently wrote because of a haunting photograph I saw on line. If I had stopped to think about its saleability, I wouldn’t have started it. But I plunged in.

parisangelThe photograph was of an apartment house in Paris on which a three story, three-dimensional angel with widespread wings had been carved on the facade. There was a newspaper story about how the angel had been built and survived World War II.

I knew there was a story there, and three things leaped out at me: angel, Paris, World War II.

Before I knew it, I was beginning to write a picture book (40 page picture book at first which I eventually got down to the more ordinary 32 page format), called “The Stone Angel.” It was about a Jewish family and the daughter about six or seven narrates. The Nazis come in, the yellow stars, escape to the forest where they live with Partisans, and then their escape across the mountains to Spain and then to Britain where they stay in the country till war’s end. And on their return, the father’s job is reinstated and he finds an apartment in, yes, the angel building.

A picture book? Really? Not a novel? It sounds like the plot of a novel. Yeah, I kept hearing that in my head and I kept dismissing the idea. I finished the picture book, sent it editor Jill Santopolo who was doing my fairy tale novels. It was not her kind of thing at all.

And in two weeks, she’d bought the book, found an illustrator, helped me shrink the text to a 32 pager (saying, “I love this as a 40 page book and if we can’t make it work at 32 pages with the same power, I can make the case for the longer picture book.”).

But sometimes the magic works.


owlmoonJane Yolen is an author of children’s books, fantasy, and science fiction, including Owl MoonThe Devil’s Arithmetic, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

She is also a poet, a teacher of writing and literature, and a reviewer of children’s literature. She has been called the Hans Christian Andersen of America and the Aesop of the twentieth century.

Jane Yolen’s books and stories have won the Caldecott Medal, two Nebula Awards, two Christopher Medals, the World Fantasy Award, three Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards, the Golden Kite Award, the Jewish Book Award, the World Fantasy Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Association of Jewish Libraries Award among many others.

Her website JaneYolen.com presents information about her over three hundred books for children. It also contains essays, poems, answers to frequently asked questions, a brief biography, her travel schedule, and links to resources for teachers and writers. It is intended for children, teachers, writers, storytellers, and lovers of children’s literature.

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 13: Jane Yolen Does the Work She Was Meant To Do, last added: 11/13/2013
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1338. Can This Picture Book Be Saved?

My library is running a little project in which the staff is asking the public's opinion about culling some picture books from the collection. We get to vote on specific titles, one of them being George Shrinks by William Joyce. I am a Joyce fan, so I expected to vote to keep it just on principle. Come on. Joyce.

It turns out, though, that George Shrinks is better than I remember, mainly because I remembered nothing about it. It's a Kafkaesque tale about a child who wakes up, not a bug, but tiny. And he manages just fine on his own, thank you very much.

Though why is he on his own? Merely an adult question, or is it significant here?

In addition to being a good book, George Shrinks inspired a PBS series that's still running. I'm a big believer in connecting series like that to their print versions. It seems like a golden opportunity to encourage a littlie with reading.

So you can guess how I'm voting.

0 Comments on Can This Picture Book Be Saved? as of 11/12/2013 10:08:00 PM
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1339. PiBoIdMo Day 12: Elizabeth Rose Stanton Procrastidoodles

by Elizabeth Rose Stanton

The best part of the whole picture book making process, for me, is that moment when the idea comes—that SPARK happens—and there’s ignition!

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It’s mystical, it’s mysterious, it’s magical, it’s COSMIC!

But how do we get to that point where this happens—where “channel D” opens and the idea pops?

For me, it’s just one of those things that can’t be forced. I’m guaranteed not to think up any ideas when I tell myself I have to come up with an idea.

So how do I get primed for the muses to start singing? If I knew a sure-fire secret formula, I would certainly share it with you. But I do know two powerful “tools” that seem to work for me: procrastination and doodling. . . and the beauty of it is, you don’t have to be an artist or illustrator to do either one!

Each one works in it’s own way. There’s research showing that procrastination can lead to creativity, and that doodling can help us think. Combine the two and you set yourself up for some creative thinking!

Certainly, there are merits to doing both independently, but I’ve found when I combine the two, my ideas—always in the form of characters—begin to appear. I call it procrastidoodling, and it’s what I was doing when I came up with the star of my picture book, HENNY.


A few years ago, I was assiduously avoiding an assignment for a class I was taking by drawing all sorts of birds. As I doodled along, I found myself thinking about how silly it is that some birds have wings that are relatively useless—birds like dodos and ostritches and chickens. . .


. . .when out popped a doodle of a chicken with arms! Much more useful, I thought. So I started thinking about all the things a chicken with arms could do…and Henny was born!

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Since then, all sorts of characters have popped into my life—and all of them started out as procrastidoodles.

EPSON scanner image

So try this: First, do something you think is frivilous. Waste some time watching a funny video, go for a walk, get relaxed. Then start doodling. Maybe listen to some favorite music while you do it. The trick is not to have any expectations about what you doodle. Trust me, it will free you up to get those ideas flowing. See how many Piboidmo ideas you get.

Who knows, maybe one of them will lead you, like the White Rabbit did Alice, down the rabbit hole to a whole new world—where your picture book will come alive!

Oh—and here’s a great TED talk on doodling. Why not procrastinate for a bit and watch it?

Thank you ! And thank you, Tara, for this opportunity to participate in PiBoIdMo. Have fun everyone!


ElizabethRoseStanton_Bio_PicElizabeth grew up in Western New York State, studied art history in college, and went on to graduate school to earn a professional degree in architecture. While raising her kids, she kept herself sane by drawing portraits—mostly of other people’s kids—and did some fine art and scientific illustration. Upon completion of her maternal duties, she discovered that all of her architect- brain-cells had died, so she turned to drawing and painting full-time—FOR other people’s kids—and hasn’t looked back since.

Her debut picture book, HENNY (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books), will be released in early January. She recently signed a contract for a new picture book, due out in 2015, about a little pig named Peddles, also with Simon & Schuster.

Elizabeth is represented by Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media in New York, and is a member of SCBWI International, and SCBWI Western Washington.

Visit her at PensPaperStudio.com, her blog, or follow her on Twitter @penspaperstudio.

11 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 12: Elizabeth Rose Stanton Procrastidoodles, last added: 11/12/2013
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1340. PiBoIdMo Day 11: Todd McQueen, Ships and Harbors (plus prizes!)

ToddMcQueen_headshotby Todd McQueen

Two weeks ago, I delivered the final art and text of my first picture book, BOB AND ROB AND CORN ON THE COB, to my publisher. What a great feeling that is; years and years of hard work—and a lot of frustration—finally coming that much closer to fruition. Looking back, I see that the trouble comes not from where to find inspiration, or how to get inspired, or even whether an idea is good or bad—but from knowing whether an idea is ready yet, and if I get into it, will it float?

After all, an idea is like a boat we intend to take to sea on a long journey. That boat should be sturdy, because the conditions can get rough, and sometimes the progress won’t be easy, and we’ll have to fight just to stay upright. There’s a lot riding in that boat, and we have to know (or at least believe) it won’t fall apart in the middle of the ocean at the first sign of adversity.


Now, I wish I could tell you that I had this image in mind all along, and my journey to publication was smooth and quick because I had spent the time developing that idea to its fullest potential. But no, I learn lessons the hard way, and equipped with only a title, I started swimming, figuring that the boat would get built as we went along. But it’s hard to build a boat while you try to sail it, so I had lots of problems, and things would fall apart, and I’d have to stop and rebuild, then sail a little further until things fell apart again… and again and again.

But because of these setbacks, I have a better perspective now. I see the creative mind as a shipyard and a harbor, and both should be a busy place. There should always be ships being built, (and built well, regardless of how long it takes), and the harbor should be full of them, ready for assignment, worthy of the challenge that lies ahead. And maybe, if I can get into the mindset that it is always picture book idea month, that today is the day for ideas, if I can learn from the mistakes I made during the journey of this first project, then I just might get to make a few more books before I die. And that, dear friends, would make for a very happy ending.


LR_BobandRob_cvr1Todd McQueen is a graphic designer and illustrator living in Phoenix, Arizona… which is strange if you consider the maritime theme of this article. His first picture book, BOB AND ROB AND CORN ON THE COB, will be released in May 2014 with Sky Pony Press. You can visit Todd, and meet some of his friends on his Facebook page, or on his website McQueenBros.com.



Todd will give away one copy of the collaborative schedule planner book he had a hand in creating, BE IN CHARGE see BeInChargeofYou.com). For every 50 comments after the first 50, he’ll add another book. Todd will give away up to 5 books, if he gets at least 250 comments.

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 11: Todd McQueen, Ships and Harbors (plus prizes!), last added: 11/11/2013
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1341. PiBoIdMo Day 10: Drew Daywalt’s Writer Cave

by Drew Daywaltdrewdaywalt

My muse can be a capricious, nasty little thing. A strangely seductive homunculus, she will appear one day for no reason at all, like a rush of air. She’ll fill my head with a zoo-full of creative thoughts, sometimes stay for another day or two so that I can express the idea into the acorn of a manuscript or an outline, and then disappear before I wake the next morning without so much as a note on my pillow.

It’s okay that she does this, because like all forms of inspiration, she’s fleeting. And once the inspiration is gone, then begins the hard work of building, letter by letter, sentence by sentence, a creative construct that, when done, hopefully recreates the same rush of excitement that I originally felt at the moment of inspiration.

It’s a hard dragon to chase, this moment of inspiration. I’ve given up to the fact that I can’t control it any more than I can control the wind. It comes, it breezes through, and it’s gone again. To continue the metaphor, the only thing I can do is put myself in a place where I know the wind blows.

That’s why, years ago, I created a sort of man-cave-writing room, almost Victorian in it’s styling, but with a fantasy twist, because I love fantasy and horror and really any form of escapist delights. I blame this love on Friday night monster movies from my childhood and all those Dr. Seuss and Sendak and Dahl books I read as a kid. Those other worlds were always so much more interesting than mine. I wanted to be a world builder.

And this writer’s cave has all manner of masks, talismans, tokens and souvenirs from my travels. I love travel. Travel inspires me, and little reminders of travel inspire me just as much. These things I would collect were items that I’d picked up around the world that inspired me at the moment I found them – a goddess idol in Bolivia, a handmade wooden toy from Tuscany, a tribal mask from the Pacific Islands, even a beer stein from Cologne. Worldly trophies and artifacts, representing other peoples’ moments of creative inspiration. I would find these things in some market or stall in some faraway land, I’d pick them up and hold them, and I’d feel the inspiration from the creator, and I’d take it home. I’d store that inspiration in this room, this writer’s cave. As years went by, I even began adding fascinating props and creatures from my films to this bizarre menagerie. I’d fill the room with amazing, strange little curios that would give me the same rush that I felt when I’d first encountered them.

And more often than not, sitting in my cave, waiting for the muse to strike, staring at these strange little items, I would feel the rush of an idea. Like a small breeze. A wind through my mind.

And I would close my eyes and know that my muse had arrived.


daycrayonsquitDrew Daywalt is the author of THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers and named an Amazon Best Children’s Book of 2013. Find him on Twitter @DrewDaywalt.

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 10: Drew Daywalt’s Writer Cave, last added: 11/10/2013
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1342. Narrative In Pictures

I'm sure that Journey by Aaron Becker is probably viewed as being about creativity because it involves a young girl using a red marker to create the devices she needs--a door, a boat, etc.--to function in a world she has found. What I like about it is that, like Bluebird by Bob Staake, it's really all about narrative even though the story is told without words, just images. I think that narratives are almost stronger in these silent picture books.

Becker says at his beautiful website, "My debut children’s book, Journey, follows the adventures of a young girl who escapes the boredom of home to find a magical realm – in which she can control her destiny with her imagination." The question of whether or not we can control our worlds has become a favorite theme of mine in my own writing. I love seeing it in a picture book.

Aaron Becker was one of the authors and illustrators at the Connecticut Children's Book Fair today. I'll be posting about my journey there tomorrow.

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1343. PiBoIdMo Day 9: Paul Schmid Doesn’t Think

Paul Schmid, author and illustrator. Photo by Linda Wallace.by Paul Schmid

I think, therefore I am stuck.
Or, how I tell my brain to shut up so I can be creative.

Joseph Conrad once asserted that thinking is “…a destructive process, a reckoning of the cost. It is not the clear-sighted who lead the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm mental fog.”

In my 30 years experience as a conceptual artist, I too have observed that more ideas come to me seemingly as a gift from my intuition rather than directly from mental effort.

In fact, I often think thinking to be a hindrance to creating.

I am fond of my brain, and it serves me well for most things, but it does have the habit of quickly pointing out the problems and inconsistencies in my ideas. It also asks annoying questions, and is quick to doubt. It often unfairly compares my efforts to others, sometimes telling me rather bluntly that I am stupid and have no business doing what I am doing.


When I am beginning to search for fresh ideas, the last thing I need to hear are problems and limits (however correct my brain may be). Problems can be solved creatively, but first you must allow yourself to create the problem.

Creating is yearning, hoping, dreaming. Thinking is grounded, practical. When I am using my intuition, I am not listening to my rational head, but it’s more clever brother, the impulsive gut.

While the head doubts, the gut is eager to believe.

Brains like rules and order. Rules are dull. Obeying rules will not cause my manuscript to leap off the slush pile. As Susan Sontag remarked: “The only interesting ideas are heresies.”

My brain also tends to grasp at solutions, with a lazy preference for the first solution that shows up. But as a reader myself, I find surprises more deeply satisfying than solutions.


While creating stories I am often confronted with the power struggle between my gut and my brain. Since I use my brain most of the time, and am rational much of the day, it jumps first in line to help. It likes to be helpful. So, over the years I’ve acquired some tricks to lull my rational brain to passivity whilst inspiring my intuition to flow.

Have some pie and take a nap.
Thomas Edison was said to have sat in an armchair with two pie tins placed directly below the arms. In his hand he held two ball bearings. While keeping whatever project he was working on in his mind, he endeavored to nap. As he drifted into a relaxed state, his mind would begin to wander and flow in non-linear directions. Then as he became drowsy enough, his hands would relax their grip on the ball bearings, which dropped, clattering on the pie tins and rousing Edison. He would then immediately write down whatever thoughts he had at that time. It was his sneaky way of accessing his subconscious. It actually has a name: Hypnagogia.


I will sometimes set a timer for 20 minutes, lay on my couch and drift off thinking of any current project’s roadblocks. My thoughts will gradually begin to get wacky and unrestrained. Sometimes quite unexpected solutions will just flow by.

Deny you have a problem.
When ideas aren’t flowing like… umm… whatever flows really well… the frustration can cause flow to stop. The mind gets involved because I am having problems and the mind loves to solve problems.

I then persuade myself that what I am really doing is simply waiting for an idea to show up. I find my intuition is rather demure. It does not flow smoothly, but resists order and regularity. I must have patience, then pounce when it ventures out. The following are some ways I do that.

Sneak up on it.
When I’m feeling stuck, I will put a project aside and move on to another. After a while, and when I am mentally involved in this new set of problems, I will suddenly go back to thinking of my original problem. A fresh idea will often present itself, as if it was really there all the time, but wearing an invisibility cloak.

Take a hike.
I am certain that physical activity confounds linear thinking. My own train of thought will get befuddled while I am moving about, apparently unable to walk and chew ideas at the same time.

Twos Day

So when stuck, I get away from my desk and take a walk. Or make tea. Or fold laundry. And while my poor logical brain is overburdened and struggling, my intuition begins to frolic. Archimedes may have gotten his eureka’s in his bath, but most of mine arrive during a stroll in the neighborhood.

Loosen up.
John Cleese declares: “The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode (of thinking) quicker than anything else.” Just don’t spend too much time watching YouTube videos.

Try to fail.
Perhaps the most radical approach I use to thwart my logical mind set is to deliberately do something reckless so I can sit back smugly and see how bad it is. But many times I find myself putting down the bold solution I somehow knew it needed, but had been too afraid to attempt.

Let it be.
Similar to a flower, ideas can take time to blossom. Be a good gardener: get the dirt on the subject, lightly fertilize with inspirational work by others, firmly plant the seed, and then let things happen in their own sweet time.

I have become convinced that creative thinking is very like a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it will be. Which allows me to end with Picasso’s words of caution: “Inspiration exists, but must find you working.”

oliverPaul Schmid is an author and award winning illustrator of children’s books, including OLIVER AND HIS ALLIGATOR, A PET FOR PETUNIA, HUGS FROM PEARL and PERFECTLY PERCY.

In the fall of 2010 Paul was awarded a month-long fellowship with Maurice Sendak.

He lives in Seattle with his wife, Linda, and their daughter Anna.

You can visit him online at PaulSchmidBooks.com.

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 9: Paul Schmid Doesn’t Think, last added: 11/9/2013
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1344. An Illustrator Talks About Voice

Facebook Friend Hazel Mitchell recently did an interesting guest post at Cynsations. She wrote about illustrators finding their style and at one point used the word "voice," something writers look for.

Hazel also mentioned having been in the Royal Navy. There's something I don't see every day.

1 Comments on An Illustrator Talks About Voice, last added: 11/12/2013
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1345. PiBoIdMo Day 6: Michael Garland Goes with His Heart (plus prizes!)

michaelgarlandby Michael Garland

Thank you Tara, for inviting me to participate in PiBoldMo.

Picture book ideas…I never seem to have a problem coming up with ideas for picture books. The problem is finding a home for even some of them, in an ever-contracting marketplace. I don’t really expect to find a place for everything I write. I have folders upon folders stuffed with picture book concepts in varying forms of completion, from a title only, to a brief outline, to complete texts, to fully sketched out dummies.

When it comes to developing a concept, I always go with my heart instead of my head. By that I mean, I rarely try and calculate what the marketplace is looking for at the moment, I just begin by developing a concept for a book that I would love to illustrate and love to read if I were a child.


My mind is flooded with ideas for stories. However, I know not all of them are worthy of further consideration. Real creativity comes from keeping an open mind. Perhaps I should, but I never say “Oh no, they won’t like that.” After the first spark of inspiration, I write down in a brief outline of my new story concept. Sometimes, that’s as far as that idea ever gets. Other times the story just flows out in a rough first draft, beginning, middle and end in thirty-two pages. More often than not, the first concept is like a seed that gets planted and slowly grows. I use this metaphor in my school author visits and lectures to aspiring professionals when I’m asked, ”Where do get your ideas?”

Disappointment is part of the publishing game. I’m fortunate to have written thirty published picture books, but for every one that makes it to the bookstore, there are more than a few others imprisoned in those reject folders forever. I try and analyze my rejection letters for clues to my proposal’s shortcomings. I listen carefully to the advice, but in the end I still believe most of them would have made good books. I never take one editor’s rejection as the final word. A number of my books were published after being previously rejected. Editors and publishers are guided by their own experience. If they were all-knowing, every one of their books would be a best seller. In today’s world of publishing, a committee made up of the publisher, sales people, editors, art directors and even interns manages the proposal acceptance process. This “don’t rock the boat” climate makes an offbeat, more creative concept, harder to sell; it’s easier to publish sequels than a new idea. Yes, I’m guilty as charged.

Back to where my ideas come from. They come from anywhere and everywhere. I try not to have a severe critical filter initially, but a good idea will reoccur to me until I feel compelled to write it down.

I have two new picture books coming out next year: TUGBOAT from Holiday House and WHERE’S MY HOMEWORK? from Scholastic. The idea for TUGBOAT struck me like a thunderbolt while I was driving north along Manhattan’s FDR drive. It was late in the afternoon and a tugboat was chugging south. I felt like I could reach out of the car touch the bright red vessel as it sailed south, bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun. I realized how much I had loved tugboats since the days of my childhood growing up in Manhattan and Staten Island. The story became a reality-based book about all the different jobs a tugboat can do around New York Harbor. It should fit the “Core Curriculum”, but best of all, the pictures are illustrations that I loved creating.


tugboat endpapers

The other new book came about in a different way. Two years ago I was invited by two local colleges (Marist and Mount Saint Mary) to teach graphic design. I enjoy teaching, but not every student is as dedicated as I was in art school. I give pretty easy homework assignments, but there are always a number of students who contrive inventive reasons why they were unable to complete their given tasks. I started mentally filing their lame excuses in the “The Dog Ate My Homework” draw. The title continued to rattle around in my head until I came up with a story where the dog really does eat a little boy’s homework. The pressure builds because he has to leave for school. He begins to speculate in a series of outlandish fantasies about what really happened to his homework. He never suspects the dog that is present in every illustration, until the very end, when he discovers his beloved pet gobbling up the last bit of his homework. There’s more to the story, but when I had a coherent beginning, middle and end plot in a sketch dummy, I sent it off to my editor at Scholastic. He loved it, but suggested we think of a new title “The Dog Ate My Homework” gives away the surprise ending. He was right, of course, so I came up with “Where’s My Homework?”


A bizarre postscript to this story: my students are supposed to archive their assignments on flash-drives. At the mid-term, one student handed me a dysfunctional flash drive covered in dog teeth marks, explaining that her work on the drive was lost, because the dog ate her homework (I’m paraphrasing).

After so many picture books, a new challenge has inspired me. I am currently writing my first YA novel. I’m about three quarters done and happily enjoying the process.

Open your mind to inspiration and it will come.


Award-winning author and illustrator Michael Garland has been out on the New York Times Best Seller list four times.

Michael Garland’s greatest success has been for writing and illustrating children’s picture books. Garland’s Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook recently won the California and Delaware State Reading Awards. He is currently working on his thirtieth book as author and illustrator.

Michael Garland has illustrated for celebrity authors like James Patterson and Gloria Estefan. His illustrations for Patterson’s SantaKid were the inspiration for Sak’s Fifth’s Avenue’s Christmas holiday window display in New York City. Garland’s Christmas Magic has become a season classic and is currently being developed for a for a TV special.

His work has won many honors and is frequently included in the Society of Illustrators and the Original Art of Children’s book show as well annuals from Print, Graphis and Communications Arts magazines. Recently, Michael Garland was included on the list of the top one hundred Irish Americans by Irish American Magazine.

Michael Garland is frequently asked to speak at schools, literary conferences and festivals across the country.

Visit him at GarlandPictureBooks.com.


Michael is generously giving away signed copies of his MISS SMITH books.

These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!


17 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 6: Michael Garland Goes with His Heart (plus prizes!), last added: 11/6/2013
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1346. Science Fiction For The Picture Book Set

What Do We All Do All Day carried a neat post on science fiction picture books back in August. My favorite, and not just because it's the only book on the list that I've read, is Company's Coming by Arthur Yorinks with illustrations by David Small.

I read Company's Coming to my sons the day before I got the idea for my first book, My Life Among the Aliens. It was the jumping off point for that book.

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1347. PiBoIdMo Day 7: Pat Zietlow Miller Finds Inspiration in the Air and in Other Books

patzmillerby Pat Zietlow Miller

I’ve heard some authors talk about how they are inspired to write their stories.

They say their characters talk to them. They have whole conversations with those characters, interviewing them about their name, background, problems and motives.

They also share stories of times these characters high-jacked the story, taking it in an entirely different direction than the author planned. Sometimes that works out, and other times the authors have had to cut uncooperative characters to get their story back on track.

I think that all sounds awesome.

But it’s never happened to me.

I’ve also talked to authors who see pictures in their heads. Their stories unfold in their brains like a movie on the screen.

That’s also very cool.

But it’s never happened to me either.

So where do I get my inspiration?

Ideas for my picture books usually come one of two ways:

1. Snippets of words.
My two upcoming rhyming picture books started when I was busy at my day job and some words popped into my head.

For SHARING THE BREAD: AN OLD-FASHIONED THANKSGIVING STORY (coming in 2015 from Schwartz & Wade), the words I heard were “Mama be a cooking pot, cooking pot.” That was it. I think my initial reaction was “What?”

For WHEREVER YOU GO (coming in 2015 from Little, Brown) I heard “Over a hill, under a bridge, deep in a dale, high on a ridge.” And I had a very similar reaction. “What am I supposed to do with this?”

In both cases, I wrote the words down and emailed them to myself at home where they sat for quite a while. Then, I started playing with them. And working. Because the rest of the books did NOT just pop into my head.

I had no idea SHARING THE BREAD was going to end up as a Thanksgiving story—and it didn’t become that until a late revision. And, I had no idea WHEREVER YOU GO would end up being a story about how the choices we make determine our destination.

But those lines got me writing, which was inspiration enough. And I’ll always be grateful for whatever made them dance through my head.

2. Admiration.
thenewgirlandmeSometimes, I read a picture book I just adore. One that makes me stare in awe and wish I could produce something even remotely close to its perfection.

And often, I’ll try to do just that. I’m not trying to copy the book I love. But I am trying to capture some part of its essence in another form. THE QUICKEST KID IN CLARKSVILLE (coming from Chronicle) came about after I read Jacqui Robbins’ and Matt Phelan’s THE NEW GIRL… AND ME.

The final books are nothing alike. Jacqui and Matt’s is a modern-day story about a new girl at school who owns an iguana. Mine is set in 1960 and features two girls who idolize Olympic sprinter Wilma Rudolph. But I was inspired by the way Jacqui captured friendship in her book and wanted to see if I could do something similar.

starsAnd WHEREVER YOU GO’s style was inspired by the lyricism of Mary Lyn Ray’s and Marla Frazee’s so-wonderful-I-can’t-even-stand-it picture book, STARS.

When I fall in love with a picture book, I’ll spend a lot of time reading and re-reading it. First for fun, then for structure, then for language and plot and pacing and page turns. I may even buy an extra copy to write on. All this soaks into my head and helps my future picture books be better.

It’s kind of like golfers studying a professional’s swing by playing the video in freeze frames and slow motion so they can see every last movement.

I also have to mention my current picture book SOPHIE’S SQUASH (Schwartz & Wade, 2013). It was inspired by a few extremely cute things my daughter did. Then, I added a bunch of stuff that never happened to turn a cute moment into a fully realized story.

Both my methods of inspiration have one thing in common. There’s something that I hear or see that captivates me enough where I want to put in the work to come up with something wonderful of my own.

But I’m going to keep listening for my characters, just in case they decide to get chatty.



Pat started out as a newspaper reporter and wrote about everything from dartball and deer-hunting to diets and decoupage. Then, she joined an insurance company and edited its newsletter and magazine.

Now, she writes insurance information by day and children’s books by night. Her newest release is SOPHIE’S SQUASH, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf.

Pat has one wonderful husband, two delightful daughters and two pampered cats. She doesn’t watch much TV, but she does love “Glee” and “Chopped.”

You can learn more about Pat by visiting her website at PatZietlowMiller.com or following her on Twitter at @PatZMiller.

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 7: Pat Zietlow Miller Finds Inspiration in the Air and in Other Books, last added: 11/7/2013
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1348. Ann and Nan Are Anagrams: Mark Shulman & Adam McCauley

Book: Ann and Nan Are Anagrams: A Mixed-Up Word Dilemma
Author: Mark Shulman
Illustrator: Adam McCauley
Pages: 36
Age Range: 5-8

Word-loving kids often go through a phase of appreciating anagrams. Many word-loving adults (present company included) never leave that phase. And so it is that I quite appreciate Ann and Nan Are Anagrams by Mark Shulman. This book is just one extended celebration of all things anagram. The narrative is a bit madcap, but at least there is one. Mostly, though, this book defines anagrams, and then gives pages and pages of examples. They start out pretty simple, and get a bit more complex throughout the course of the book. Like this:

"Anagrams are easy to SPOT
but hard to STOP."


what I SAW WAS ... a DINER, IN RED. 

The publisher uses fonts and text colors to highlight the anagram pairs, which is necessary, because some of them are relatively subtle. (In the last example above, there are three anagram pairs). There are, in fact, tiny anagrams sprinkled everywhere throughout the book. The aforementioned diner serves "CURLY FRIES" and "FLY CURRIES" as well as "LEMONS" and "MELONS". The pantry of the Grandma in the story is filled with things like "RAIN VEG VINEGAR". There are occasional quiet conversational exchanges like "AYE?" "YEA!". 

Mark Shulman also wrote one of my favorites, Gorilla Garage, which has a similar sense of playful fun. And I have to conclude that he got a bit carried away with the anagrams in the book, and couldn't stop himself, either. This is a book that will encourage kids to see anagrams everwhere, too. 

Adam McCauley's mixed media illustrations add to the fun, ranging from icon-like (tops and pots, a spot and a stop sign) to quirky ("She's A NUT" is illustrated by an acorn with clearly feminine features). Everything is rendered in bold primary colors, and with energetic, varied fonts and words at interesting angles. The red-headed, blue-eyed narrator has an odd, flag-like head of hair, but this helps him to stand out, even in silhouette. 

Ann and Nan Are Anagrams is not a picture book that you'll want to read aloud to your two year old before bed. Too much of following the book is visual for it to be a great read-aloud. Rather, it's a book that your new young reader will want to pore over (with you or on her own), giggling at the silliness of the examples, but also making connection after connection. If I were, say, homeschooling a first grader, or just trying to keep an early reader engaged and entertained, Ann and Nan Are Anagrams is a book that I would definitely want to add to my collection. Anagrams are hard to resist, and so is this book. 

Publisher: Chronicle (@ChronicleKids
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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1349. PiBoIdMo Day 8: For Mike Allegra, The Play’s the Thing

mikeallegraby Mike Allegra

My mom has a habit of mixing bad news in with the good.

“Happy anniversary,” she joyously sang into the phone. “Ten years! Congratulations!”

Before I could thank her, Mom followed up her salutation with words that were far less joyous:

“I think it’s high time you got your crap out of my house.”

Ugh. In an instant, my plan to use my parents’ home as a storage locker for the rest of my life was dashed to bits.

It was under these circumstances I found myself alone in my old room facing my childhood closet, mustering up the strength to take a reluctant trip down memory lane.

Inside were stacks of sketch pads filled with primitive drawings; old machines I, once upon a time, had a penchant for hoarding; and lousy souvenirs from equally lousy vacations. Then there were the toys—lots of them.

There was so much stuff to sift through, I was confident the job was gonna be a complete nightmare.

But it wasn’t. Quite the opposite, really.

I both smiled and winced at my homemade comic books. After reading a few, I decided that, with a little bit of tweaking (OK, maybe quite a lot to tweaking), the storylines weren’t a bad jumping off point for a new story.

I marveled at the bigger-than-a-bread-basket adding machine I got from my Great Uncle Bill. By force of habit, I removed the machine’s olive green Bakelite cover to reveal its steampunky guts. It was almost comical just how many moving parts it had. I punched a few numbers and watched the thing spring to life. In that moment, my mind filled with ideas about a kid inventor.

Then I spied my Erector set.


Shortly after this discovery, Mom strolled into the room to check on my progress. What she found was her 30-something-year-old son lying on the floor constructing a racecar of his own design.

She didn’t even blink.

“Good,” Mom said with a sharp nod. “You’re taking that home.”

Indeed I was. The Erector set, the other toys, the machines, and my primitive doodles. I was taking all of it. I had barely begun working on my closet and my brain was already swimming with new ideas.

Toys facilitate play. Play is an essential component of the creative process. There is a reason why social scientists say that The Creative Spirit flourishes in kindergarteners and begins to sputter once those same children head off to middle school. As we grow up, we voluntarily—eagerly—purge the fun stuff from our lives.

That was certainly the case with me. I still remember being a 12-year-old who desperately wanted to be an adult. I gave away most of the stuff that had once given me pleasure and shoved the rest into the far corner of my closet. I thought these actions would speed the growing up process; instead, they just made me a sullen teen with an un-fun room.

With age comes a sort of wisdom, however. Almost in tandem with the launch of my professional writing career, I began to rekindle my interest in toys. I soon noticed that my best ideas occurred when I was horsing around with a hand puppet or had a box of 64 Crayolas within arm’s reach.

Unrestrained, unselfconscious play moves my mind in new directions; moving my mind in new directions helps me to discover new ideas.

I am well aware that a lot of grownups don’t feel comfortable playing with an erector set without a grownup reason for doing so. Fortunately, many of us have children—or if we don’t, we can easily borrow some. Kids need Quality Time, and Quality Times gives us the justification we need to build with Legos, squish Play-Doh, and color Snoopy green.


You couldn’t ask for a better situation. You’re being a good parent and you’re mining for inspiration. You’re multitasking! Well done.

That kind of multitasking was exactly what I had in mind when I loaded up the trunk of my car outside of Mom’s house. I’ll bring this stuff home to my young son, I thought. We’ll play with it together. We’ll pretend together. And, in so doing, my little guy will become my unwitting picture book collaborator.

It doesn’t get more inspiring—or wonderful—than that.


sarah-gives-thanks-cover1Mike Allegra has earned his living as a writer and editor for the past 17 years. His first picture book, SARAH GIVES THANKS, was released in September 2012 by Albert Whitman & Company. The book has earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, is an Amelia Bloomer List selection, and is now in its second printing.

As a playwright, Mike has had his work read and performed around the U.S. and was the recipient of a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Individual Artist Fellowship. he is also the editor of The Lawrentian, the alumni magazine of The Lawrenceville School (Lawrenceville, NJ). During his tenure, The Lawrentian has won a dozen regional and national awards, including Gold and Silver honors from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Mike also likes waffles.

Visit him at MikeAllegra.com.

10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 8: For Mike Allegra, The Play’s the Thing, last added: 11/8/2013
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1350. A Picture Book From The North

Today I'm directing your attention to Loula is Leaving for Africa by Anne Villeneuve by way of Julie Danielson's review at Kirkus. Quite honestly, what caught my attention here is the author's name, Villeneuve. I have Villeneuve cousins in Ottawa. No connection whatsoever, but I thought, what the heck, this is an opportunity to recognize a writer and a picture book from outside the United States as well as Julie, who has been showcasing children's book illustrators, and therefore picture books, at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast for around seven years.

1 Comments on A Picture Book From The North, last added: 11/9/2013
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