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1326. My Writing and Reading Life: Anna Kang

Children notice and point out differences all the time, and it’s natural. But hopefully as we mature, we learn that all individuals are unique and that everyone is “different.”

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Enrollment is now open for my online fall course, INTERMEDIATE PICTURE BOOK WRITING, through the UCLA Extension Writers' Program. This is one of my favorite courses to teach! We'll dive into the world of picture books, going beyond the basic craft issues as we investigate this fascinating genre of children's books. Students will have the multiple opportunities for feedback on their work. The end goal is a completed draft of a picture book.

For more information, click HERE.

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Need a little dose of positivity and acceptance today? We’re here to help you out!

Watch this trailer for PETE THE CAT AND THE NEW GUY, which is on sale today. We guarantee it’ll make you feel groovy!

And here’s another little bit of grooviness to take with you into the coming school year: a Common Core-aligned teaching guide to all of Pete the Cat’s picture books and I Can Read titles!

“Keep walking along and singing your song. Because it’s all good.”

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1329. If You Want a Picture Book Deal, Write Picture Books, Not for Magazines

Is your goal to get a picture book published?

Yes? Awesome!

So I’m here to tell you, write a picture book.

Ha! That seems like DUH advice, doesn’t it?


But I don’t want you to waste your time, like I did, writing for magazines, trying to build publishing credits, if magazine writing isn’t your ultimate goal. Magazine writing is a completely different skill, and while credits are nice, they are not going to make or break you. Magazine credits prove you’re a professional and that you’ve been through the editing process, but they won’t convince anyone to buy your manuscript if it’s a sub-par story. You need to hone your picture book skills, and that only comes with writing dozens of picture books.

Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette takes clients based on their submission, first and foremost. “For me, the number one focus is on the writing: the voice, the story, the way the language sparkles and draws me in. If you’ve got that, I’ll follow you just about anywhere. All the writing credits, awards, and fancy degrees in the world—on their own—won’t make me take on an author. It’s about the writing, pure and simple.”

I received some misguided (but well-intended) advice when I began writing for children. I was told to place fiction in magazines in order to build my writing resume. So I gave it a shot. Then I found out how difficult it was to place stories. Not any less difficult than getting a book published! (I don’t know why I thought it would be.)

Your story must fit the theme of the magazine issue, which means you’re better off reviewing editorial calendars first, then writing to fill that need. Instead, I wrote what I wanted to write and then found it was only appropriate for a single issue, to be published in three years’ time! Magazines are often booked far in advance. Back in 2008, if I were to place that story, it would have been  printed in 2011. Yikes!


Now that’s probably an extreme example, but it’s an important lesson I learned. I was veering off my intended path to publication.

A magazine story has to be more descriptive than the language in a picture book because there are far fewer illustrations to accompany the text. You’re often writing for a single spread with no page turns, and page turns are crucial to picture book pacing, humor and reader anticipation. So I was writing for a wildly different format and not for the goal I desired: to get a picture book published.

Some will argue that writing for credits is necessary prior to getting a book deal, but I say that is incorrect. As long as you have a professional-looking, easily found web presence and membership in a professional writing organization like SCBWI, that’s all you need in your bio to prove that you’re “serious”. The thing you need most of all? You know—a winning manuscript! I had zero children’s publishing credits prior to getting my agent and a book deal. I’m definitely not alone in this.

Children’s magazines are wonderful, but if they’re not your goal, don’t use your precious writing time in this manner. Want a picture book deal? Write picture books! (I say books, plural, because if an agent is interested in your manuscript, that agent will ask for more of your work.)

And I hope that’s not DUH advice!

Do you agree or disagree? Share your opinion in the comments!

10 Comments on If You Want a Picture Book Deal, Write Picture Books, Not for Magazines, last added: 8/5/2014
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1330. Little Jimmy Says, “Same is Lame,” by Jimmy Vee | Dedicated Review

As a children’s entertainer, Jimmy Vee has combined his love for kids and passion of children’s books in his rhyming picture book by using his “Same Is Lame” philosophy—a philosophy that is all about self-­‐acceptance and knowing it’s okay to be different, as well as embracing the differences of others.

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1331. Jimmy Vee’s New Book Focuses on Self-Acceptance & Differences

Jimmy Vee has dedicated his life to helping people discover what makes them unique and showing them how to capitalize on it.

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1332. Because I Want Even More of Julia …

Hey, my blog’s still working! It probably just needed a vacation, which is precisely what I did last week. So. Well, that worked out. We are both relatively well-rested.

I’m playing a bit of catch-up this week, and today here is how I will start:

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Ben Hatke’s latest book, Julia’s House for Lost Creatures (First Second), which will be out in early September. That was here.

So, today I have some art from the book, as well as (in no particular order) what Ben describes as “some of the preparatory/mock-up/notebook stuff.” (Also, over at Facebook, Matthew Winner of the Let’s Get Busy Podcast described this book as “Miyazaki-esque,” which I love. He also wrote about it here.)

I don’t know about you, but I could look at even just Ben’s sketches all day.

Enjoy …



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Some Final Art:


“That evening there was a warm fire and toast and tea.”
(Click to enlarge)


(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


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* * * * * * *


JULIA’S HOUSE FOR LOST CREATURES. Copyright © 2014 by Ben Hatke. Published by First Second, New York. Illustration reproduced by permission of the publisher.

4 Comments on Because I Want Even More of Julia …, last added: 8/6/2014
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1333. Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano, illustrations by Laia Aguilar

Bonjour Camille by Felipe Cano, illustrated by Laia Aguilar, was originally published in Spain, where the creators hail from. Like scores of picture books here today, Bonjour Camille features a feisty, girl with lots of imagination. While Camille does wear a tutu (and a top hat, which she refers to as her "battledress") unlike so many of the pink-soccer-playing-cowboy boot wearing-princesses

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1334. Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall

Dog vs. CatOn the very day that Mr. Button goes to the animal shelter to pick out a dog, Mrs. Button goes to a pet store to buy a cat. The two pets will have to share a room in their new home. At first it seems they will get along well; Dog lives on one side of the room and Cat lives on the other side. But dogs and cats are not the same and they quickly discover that they have very different interests, habits and living styles. It’s not very long at all before they begin to go out of their way to make life miserable for each other. They even resort to trying to get one another one in trouble with Mr. and Mrs. Button. Finally, Dog and Cat decide to build a wall to totally separate their room.

Now life has become nice and quiet for Dog and Cat – and boring. They realize that they miss each other. Just as they are finding new ways to get along they hear a strange howling outside their door. OH NO! Could it be that Mr. and Mrs. Button have brought home yet another pet? Sure enough, Dog and Cat have to share their room some with someone new. This just will not do and they come up with a perfect solution. Dogs and cats most definitely can get along!

Posted by: Wendy

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1335. Picture Book Monday with a review of Imagine a Day

The great thing about having an imagination is that it allows us to make things up, and sometimes the things we make up are weird, magical, wonderful, or some combination of all of these elements. In today's picture book the author takes us on a fanciful journey into the imagination, and the places she takes us really are special.

Imagine a DayImagine a Day
Sarah L. Thomson
Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Picture Book
Ages 5 and up
Simon and Schuster, 2005, 0-689-85219-3
   The imagination can take anything from the everyday world and turn it in to something wonderful, something exciting. On a cloudy grey day the imagination can imagine a way to bring back a blue sky by filling the heavens with thousands of blue balloons. With the imagination a walk on the fence can turn into a daring walk between high rise buildings. Our imagination can make it possible for us to lay water down in slabs, much in the same way that one would tile a floor; and the coppery leaves of fall can be turned into a road that can be ridden on, high above the ground.
   In this wonderful book Sarah Thomson takes our imaginations on a journey. As we explore the pages we celebrate the imagination and all the wonderful things that it can do. It can make the dreary interesting, the commonplace remarkable, it can add spice to one’s life, and it can give one peace.  Rob Gonsalves has taken the simple text and has created paintings which make the mind stretch and wonder. The art is beautiful and intriguing, and it challenges one to look at the world though eyes that can see not just what is really there but what could be there. 

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1336. And the hits keep on a-comin'!

A writer puts her/his heart and soul into crafting a picture book story. Over a period of weeks or months, she sweats and strains to get every little element exactly right. Finally, it's ready. The main character is enormously appealing. The language sings. The storyline crackles. Not one word is unnecessary or out of place.

She sends it off, and ... an editor agrees. Woo-hoo! Break out the bubbly!

A fabulous illustrator brings the story to exquisite life. The writer can't believe her luck. Flash forward two or three (or five) years, and she's holding her story – this perfect story – in her hands, a picture book at last.

Then ... more good news. Glowing reviews. STARS. Additional printings. Big sales. Her book soon grows more popular than she dared to dream it could, and then ...

Her editor asks for a sequel. I imagine this request elicits astonishment and elation (and perhaps the eensiest shiver of terror).

I can only imagine, since it hasn't happened to me yet. But I have been asked (not contracted) to write a picture book sequel. For me, the toughest part was beginning. How much should I refer back to the first book? SHOULD I refer back to the first book at all? Well, I figured it out. But it made me wonder what other authors consider the toughest thing about writing a sequel.

To find out, I asked three of them I admire. Here's what they had to say.

Jennifer Berne, on writing Calvin, Look Out! (illustrated by Keith Bendis, coming Aug. 5th, 2014 – eek, that's tomorrow!), sequel to Calvin Can't Fly (Sterling Publishing, 2010):

"I think my biggest challenge in writing the Calvin sequel was making it as good, as interesting, as compelling and entertaining as the first Calvin book. Of course, isn't that the same challenge in writing any book following a previous book, sequel or not?

"Writing the sequel was easier because I had come to know Calvin, his way of thinking, his way of talking, his passions and frailties. But the sequel was harder because I didn't want it to be too imitative of the original, yet it did need to feel connected and like a natural next adventure.

"I hope I succeed in meeting all my goals for Calvin, Look Out! Only time and my wonderful young readers will tell."

Bonny Becker, on writing A Birthday for Bear (illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton) and other sequels to A Visitor for Bear (Candlewick Press, 2008):

"The biggest challenge without question is the problem of keeping the stories fresh. It's easy to think of situations that will frustrate Bear, but I don't want the escalation of the problem or the resolution to be too predictable. And I've tried to subtly move Bear's story along. His friendship with Mouse deepens and he's slowly coming out of his shell--in a way. At least, in the latest book, A LIBRARY BOOK FOR BEAR, Bear finally gets out of his house and there are actually other creatures in his world that he interacts with.

"Each sequel is easier in some ways and harder in others. I know these characters and their world better with each story, but, as mentioned, coming up with fresh situations and reactions doesn't get easier! It's also tempting to get lazy about it all--not work as hard for fresh language and gestures and such. So I work hard to reference back to earlier books--for example, Bear uses the skates he got in A BIRTHDAY FOR BEAR to get to the library and the humor works better if you know that Bear always ends up shouting--but I also want each book to be strong on its own.”

Pat Zietlow Miller, on writing Sophie's Seeds (currently in the pipeline), sequel to Sophie's Squash (Schwartz & Wade, 2013):

"My biggest challenge was that I had never imagined Sophie having a sequel. So I really had to start from scratch and ponder what she might do next.

"Plus, Sophie's Squash had been so well received that I felt a certain amount of pressure to do an equally good job. I hadn't ever felt that pressure before because I'd always written without anyone expecting it and waiting to see what I'd done.

"So writing Sophie's Seeds took longer and was a bit more painful, but I'm very happy with where we ended up and that Sophie got to have another adventure."


Count me among the biggest fans of Calvin, Bear & Mouse, and Sophie. Here's to their continuing stories. *clink*

Jill Esbaum
P.S.  You can now find me on Twitter @JEsbaum

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1337. Nine 2014 Picture Books

Clifford Visits the Zoo. Norman Bridwell. 2014. Scholastic. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm Emily Elizabeth and this is my dog. His name is Clifford. Today we are going to the zoo. The people at the zoo have never seen anything like Clifford. So I tell them, Clifford is my dog. And he is very friendly. The first animals we see are penguins. The penguins are small. And Clifford is very, very big!

There are many, many books in the Clifford series. In this latest book, Norman Bridwell has Clifford visiting the zoo with Emily Elizabeth. The focus is on opposites. Readers observe one thing about an animal (the penguins are small) and note how Clifford is the exact opposite (he is very very big). This pattern continues through the entire book: animal by animal. The opposites include small and big, sleeping and awake, light and heavy, dirty and clean, noisy and quiet, slowly and quickly, hard and soft, up and down, curly and straight, wet and dry. The book concludes with a few facts about each of the animals visited at the zoo: penguins, koalas, monarch butterflies, hippopotamuses, howler monkeys, sloths, tortoises, birds, chameleons, and seals.

I liked this one. I'm not a big fan of Clifford in general, with a series this big, it would be hard to have each book in the series be of equal quality. But this one was a nice book.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Dreidel. Caryn Yacowitz. Illustrated by David Slonim. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I know an old lady who swallowed a dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel...
Perhaps it's fatal.
I know an old lady who swallowed some oil--
A pitcher of oil, 'bout ready to boil.
She swallowed the oil to wash down the dreidel,
A Chanukah dreidel she thought was a bagel…
Perhaps it's fatal.

I have read a handful of "Old Lady Who Swallowed A…" books in the past. This one fits the pattern, but with an obvious Jewish theme. Items swallowed include a dreidel, oil, latkes, sauce, brisket, gelt, menorah, and candles.

For readers of all ages who enjoy those kinds of books, then this one will prove an interesting addition. For more impatient readers who tired of the "Old Lady" books after the first or second imitation, this one is not extraordinary enough to make it a must read. At least the text alone isn't extraordinary enough. However. I must say that the illustrations are quite wonderful.

David Slonim chose classic art masterpieces to parody in his illustrations. Each spread pays unique tribute to a masterpiece while matching perfectly the text of the story. The masterpieces: Mona Lisa, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicholaes Tulp, American Gothic, The Milkmaid, The scream, Nighthawks, Campbell's Soup Cans, Spectrum II, Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (Whistler's Mother), The Thinker, Doctor and Doll, Christina's World, The Starry Night, and Dance I. The illustrators note includes the name of each piece, the date, and the museum location of the original.

I definitely enjoyed this one; I enjoyed it mostly because of the illustrations. But I don't think that is a bad thing. Illustrations are very important to storytelling and reading.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

If Kids Ran the World. Leo and Diane Dillon. 2014. Scholastic. 32 Pages. [Source: Review copy]

If kids ran the world, we would make it a kinder, better place.
Maybe we'd run the world in a big tree house, and everybody would be welcome.
We'd take care of the most important things.
We know people are hungry, so all over the world, everyone would have enough to eat.

If Kids Ran The World is saturated in lessons. It's just dripping with moral messages. It's not that the message of peace and love and joy and harmony are bad. But as the Peppa Pig episode, "International Day" CLEARLY shows, "Peace and harmony in all the world," is not easily achieved even among children, or especially among children.

The book's premise is that children are more mature than adults. That somehow children are more innocent, more kind, more forgiving, more loving, more sensitive, more compassionate, more generous than adults. The premise is that children could solve problems like health care, the environment, bullying, world hunger, poverty, etc. just by being their little lovable selves. (Of course kids NEVER are selfish, ALWAYS willing to share, NEVER tell lies, ALWAYS speak kindly. NEVER exclude anyone or call names ALWAYS include everybody no matter their age or gender.)

Is that premise true? Each reader will have to decide that for themselves. Some readers may embrace the optimism and positiveness of this one. Others may question it from cover to cover.

I found this one to be very message-heavy. And the illustrations in my opinion were strange and quirky. It was little things really. Like all the slanted eyes. Like all the rosy cheeks. But there were a few big things as well that made this one, well, creepy. Like on the title page. The illustration has a globe of the Earth for a head on a body. This "person" also has wings. This globe-head character also shows up towards the end in a two-page spread that features two other creepy additions. A child's body with a lion's head and a child's body with a lamb's head. 

Perhaps the illustrations are supposed to "represent" children from around the globe? But if this is the case, it has a very "It's A Small World" feel to it.

Text: 1 out of 5
Illustrations 1 out of 5
Total: 2 out of 10

My Grandfather's Coat. Jim Aylesworth. Illustrated by Barbara McClintock. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

My grandfather came to America when he was very young. He came alone and with little more than nothing at all. The years passed, and he became a tailor. He worked very hard. And then, on the luckiest day of his life, he met my grandmother, and they fell in love. When she agreed to marry him, my grandfather went right to work. He snipped, and he clipped, and he stitched, and he sewed, and he made for himself a handsome coat…that he wore on his wedding day.

This is a retelling of a story based on the Yiddish folksong "I Had A Little Overcoat." It is a sweet story spanning the generations. The beloved coat transforms from coat to jacket to vest to tie to toy to material for a mouse's nest, to nothing but a story. It's a family-oriented story which makes it a gem in my opinion.

I loved the illustrations. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the illustrations. I love seeing the story come to life. I love watching his family grow. From his own wedding to his daughter's wedding to his playing with his own grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was just so much sweet going on. I loved it!!!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

The Night Parade. Lily Roscoe. Illustrated by David Walker. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Have you ever wondered what happens at night while mothers and fathers lie sleeping? Children wake up. They clamp out of their beds, some crawling, some running, some leaping. As the moon shines down they escape into town. To the night parade they go sneaking…

The Night Parade is a silly, imaginative book. Roscoe has created a "secret world" of sorts where children nightly sneak out of their houses and do amazing things with other children. Things like make cakes for the moon, turn somersaults in the park, dress up in costumes, tell mermaid stories, etc. They also read LOTS AND LOTS of books. By morning, all children will be safely back in their beds.

This one was okay. I didn't love it. I didn't hate it. The children are super-active, super-creative. The illustrations match the playfulness of the text. My favorite page was probably of the children marching by in their costumes. Even the moon is dressed up. Then again, I also liked the idea of all those cakes and all that frosting.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10

Noodle Magic. Roseanne Greenfield Thong. Illustrated by Meilo So. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The emperor's birthday was coming, and excitement filled the air. Every day, Mei watched Grandpa Tu make magic with his hands and a bit of dough. She loved the powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light. Every evening, Grandpa slapped the dough on the table, kneaded it with his hands, and stretched it into coils. Everyone oohed and aahed over Grandpa Tu's noodles--even the Moon Goddess, who brightened the night sky.

Mei loves, loves, loves to watch her Grandpa Tu make noodles. She thinks--the whole village in fact--thinks that there is something magical about Grandpa Tu's noodles. So everyone--Mei included--is shocked that Grandpa Tu chooses NOT to make noodles to celebrate the emperor's birthday. Instead he chooses Mei for the job. He wants her to find the magic within herself, he wants her to see that she too can do it. Readers watch as Mei tries and tries her best to make noodles special enough, magical enough, for the occasion. At times, it seems Grandpa Tu has more confidence in his granddaughter than she does in herself. Even the moon goddess thinks Mei can do it!

I liked this one. I really liked some aspects of it. I liked the writing, the language. I liked the imagery. For example, "powdery flakes that hung in the air and freckled the morning light." There were places this one worked really well for me. I also liked the focus on the grandfather-granddaughter relationship. I definitely liked the ending!

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma. Diane and Christyan Fox. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Cat, The Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma celebrates storytelling. To be precise, this book celebrates interruptions at story time. The cat is trying very, very hard to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood to the dog. By the end, this cat is VERY frustrated. The dog, you might say, has trouble focusing his attention on the actual story. Dog imagines the story a bit differently. For one, he gets the wrong impression from the very beginning. The dog hears about the red cape and instantly thinks SUPER HERO, SUPER POWERS. The cat has to veto all the dog's changes to the story, which is where the EXPLODING EGGS come into it. The dog does ask some good, solid questions. For example, if the wolf wanted to eat the little girl--as he clearly does when he's dressed up as Grandma--WHY didn't he eat her in the woods to begin with?

This book was fun and playful. I liked the focus on storytelling, liked the questioning of it too.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 7 out of 10

Thanksgiving for Emily Ann. Teresa Johnston. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Emily Ann just had to say, she was not very thankful on Thanksgiving Day.
Her brother was mean. Her sister, a bore.
And with Grandpa in town she slept on the floor.
There was food to be cooked and chores to be done.
With everyone busy there was no time for fun.

Well, it is what it is. It's a Thanksgiving-themed story in rhyme. Emily Ann goes from ungrateful to grateful in 32 pages. The story includes all the things you'd expect: an emphasis on food, and an emphasis on family. The rhyming. Well. Some pages worked better than others. I liked the illustrations better than the text.

Text: 2 out of 5
Illustration: 3 out of 5
Total: 5 out of 10

Fly Guy #14 Fly Guy's Amazing Tricks. Tedd Arnold. 2014. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A boy had a pet fly. He named him Fly Guy. And Fly Guy could say the boy's name--Buzz!
Chapter 1: Buzz's friends came to see The Amazing Fly Guy Circus. Buzz said, "Get ready for Fly Guy's amazing new tricks!" "Now," said Buzz, "The Backstroke." "Now," said Buzz, "The Dizzy Doozie!" "And now," said Buzz, "The Big Booger!" "Time for supper, said Mom. Buzz's friends all went home.

I liked this one. Fly Guy has learned some "amazing" new tricks. The tricks went over well with his friends for their circus. The tricks do not go over well with his parents when Fly Guy performs at the dinner table. Of course that wasn't the end of Fly Guy. But. He did have to learn when NOT to perform. The last chapter is perhaps the funnest. Someone starts teasing Buzz, and, Fly Guy "saves" the day by driving the bully away.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1338. Aaron Becker: Some Adjustments Were Made Along the Way: One Artist's Journey

Author/illustrator Aaron Becker has the whole audience standing up and singing a variety of refrains. They are NOT from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but I AM having an out of body experience. . . .


OOOOOOH HOLY HELL, we all just sang JOURNEY!

Aaron shares this video of the Journey trailer:

As a kid, Aaron was always drawing, he shows us some of his drawings from 1978 of a few X-Wing fighters. AND he was always making books! He made his own Ed Emberley-ish how-to-draw books complete with bio photos and flap copy, but at the time, he thought this was just fun play and when he became an adult he'd have to give it all up, no more making books with pictures.

But in high school, though he never took an art class, he got an internship with a local commercial illustrator and realized you could get paid to make art. In college Aaron finally got into some art classes and Post-College Aaron started working in the fields of graphic design, and though he was getting paid to draw, it wasn't quite what he thought it would be. At an elderly 23,  he felt like his days were slipping away, being filled with unfulfilling work and that maybe he did not need the security of his day job if it meant his life wasn't really worth living.

And so he did a web search and found:

Except it wasn't until eight years later, after initial children's book publisher rejections at some SCBWI events, time in art school studying illustration, working for various film and animation companies, and finally being laid off by an animation company, that Aaron found himself at a critical juncture. Now, with a new baby and no job, Aaron turned down a film industry job offer and followed his dream of making books with pictures and this is where Journey's journey begins:

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1339. Aaron Becker's Wordless Keynote

Caldecott Honor winner Aaron Becker's keynote was entirely wordless!

Here are a few choice images from his talk and how we interpreted them:

Writing and illustrating a wordless picture book means you spend a lot of time sitting. So much drawing and painting!

Ugh, revising a painting can be tough! But the book comes first, so you do it.

When I got the call from the Caldecott Committee I was thrilled!

I have met so many other wordless picture book makers in the past year that we've formed a gang.

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1340. Neta Rabin: Elements of Cover Art

Neta has only been at her new job for one week and three days! So welcome her to Klutz, where she is now the Vice President of Product Development. If you were never a child, then you missed out on all of the great Klutz cooking, drawing, gardening, joke, activity, craft and magic books.

Two of the four things Neta says you want a cover to do:

"Ha, made you look!": If you see it on a shelf with lots of other face out covers, does your eye stray to your cover first?

Clarity of content: Who is the buyer? Can you tell from the cover if the book is for three-year-olds or eight-year-olds? Boys and girls, or just girls? Just lawyers?

Neta walks us through the evolution of the cover of HOW DO YOU FEED A HUNGRY GIANT?

The first sketches were very similar to what you see above, but with a tighter crop in, with no sign, just the legs of the giant... which meant the only actual blank space for the title was between the giant's legs... Neta went back and forth with the artist over how to incorporate the title into the cover image (adding a little more of the giant's body, putting the title on a sign that the giant could hold, which nicely echoes action happening in the book).

ILLUSTRATOR TIP! Neta says being able to do hand lettering is a great thing for an illustrator to have in their back pocket.  Neta roughed in the sizes of the words for the title, and Shaw used that as a guide to handletter the title to its final style.

Remember when Neta told us that the cover should make it clear from the get-go what sort of a book it is, what sort of buyer will know this is the book for them? WELL, How Do you Feed a Hungry Giant? is a POP-UP BOOK! Yeah, I know! And the brilliant thing is that the cover has a pop-up element, look at this cool piece that you can pull out of the top of the cover:


Neta shared more cover tips, some examples of favorite covers and what they have in common, and took time for Q&A, good stuff, guys!

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1341. Best Selling Picture Books | August 2014

Every single book on this list is purely entertaining, each in their own special way. Like all good picture books, the illustrations are winning. As per usual, we've shared our hand selected list of the most popular picture books from the nationwide best selling picture books, as listed by The New York Times.

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1342. Illustrator Saturday – Sharon Lane Holm


Sharon Lane Holms is a published children’s book author/ illustrator with over 20 years of experience. She has illustrated over 65 children’s books; trade, mass market, board books, workbooks, school/library, craft books, fiction and non fiction, and recently released 2 Itunes Apps which she wrote and illustrated- “Kids Counting Kitties 10-1″, and “Kids Counting Kitties 1-10″ (available in English and Spanish). She wrote and illustrated “Zoe’s Hats” (a color concept book)- published by Boyds Mills Press.

Sharon graduated with honors from The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale with a degree in Visual Communication- ie: Advertising Design. She says, “I have always wanted to be an artist, I have always just wanted to spend my life drawing pictures. Advertising Design offered the most illustration classes at that time. Upon graduation I was offered a job at Hallmark but turned it down.”

sharoninterview 2She was an art director in S. Florida for 4 years winning several advertising awards for advertising design work. As much as she loved design work, Sharon still missed drawing pictures.

Sharon says, “With a move to Connecticut and a child on the way, it was perfect timing to transition into children’s illustration. I was fortunate to acquire a children’s artist representative my first time out.”

Her client roster includes but not limited to- Boyds Mills Press, High Five, Dutton, ABDO, Twin Sisters, Harcourt educational, Child’s World, Kids Can Press, Lerner, Flowerpot Press. She is also, a licensed artist of greeting cards, puzzles and calendars.

She teaches a literacy/art course for grades 3 through 5 for the local school system’s PTO and just earned/received a black belt in TaeKwonDo, martial arts.

Here is Sharon explaining her process:


Initial concept or idea, very loosely sketched.


Overlays of tracing paper refining, tweaking original concept.

sharonprocess5 (1)

Refining the art till I have it to the degree of “tightness” I want to take the art to


Transfered the sketch onto 140lb. Arches HP brite white watercolor paper. I traced the art using a #2 Ticondergo pencil for this piece. Sometimes I will outline with a pigma micron marker, for a more graphic approach. This time I wanted a softer pencil line.



I sprayed workable fix over the pencil lines. And painted a light ochre wash over entire art. The ochre base color adds a slightly different “dimension” to the paint colors.

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Final painted piece. I paint using Golden fluid acrylics, gouache, even acrylic craft paint. I then add some highlights with Prisma color pencils.


How long have you been illustrating?

Professionally for over 20 years. I have illustrated everything from trade books, mass market books, board books, educational books and readers, science/nature, craft books, workbooks , lift the flaps -even cloth and bath books! I have been drawing pictures all of my life, I won a Scholastic Art Award in High School. Drawing has always been the only thing I have ever wanted to do with my life.


What made you choose to attend the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale?

I lived in South Florida at the time. Art school was a highly intense 2 yr. art program and college was 4 yrs, I was also in a bit of a hurry to get started in the art field.


What made you choose to go for a degree in Visual Communication- ie: Advertising Design?

It offered the most drawing/design classes – while its very important to draw well, I feel it is equally important to know how to design the art to work on a page. Where will the art go, how well will it work with the type treatment, will my art tell the same story as the words?


What were you favorite classes?

All the illustration courses, advertising design and hand lettering.


Did the School help you get work?

Yes and no. They did not help with job placement, but I feel the education I received from the Art Institute helped me get to where I am today.


What was the first painting or illustration that you did where someone paid you for your artwork?

In art school I did some illustrated logo designs for which I was paid.


What type of job did you do right after you graduated?

Working in advertising agencies, started out doing paste up and mechanicals. I learned even more as to how to design a page. How to grab your attention. I went on to become an art director/creative director winning several awards for advertising design along the way.


Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

Maybe to a degree. I believe we all have our own sense of style which develops over the years. I have been told I have a bold graphic approach style of illustrating which may have evolved from the years of illustrating for advertisements, brochures, logos. I can look back at art school illustrations and see the same graphic like approach I have now. Only over time my illustrations have gotten much better!

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When did you do your the first illustration for children?

Aprox. 25 years ago. It was a baby wrapped in a quilt.


How did that come about?

We moved from Southern Florida to Ct when my son was born. I interviewed with an art representative when he was 2 who wanted to take me on. But my comfort zone was still in advertising so I started my own advertising studio. I was fortunate that a few years later they called and asked if I might be ready at that time to get into children’s art. By then I was more than ready. I was with them for 13 years.


When did you decide you wanted to illustrate books?

I have always wanted to illustrate books. The opportunity arose while doing educational artwork.

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What was the title of your first picture book that you illustrated?

Trucks all Around, Dutton and Playskool were the publishers.

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How did that contract come your way?

Through my agent.

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I see that you wrote and illustrated It’s Silly Time (Read and Sing Along). Did you do the singing, too, on the CD?

Unfortunately, I did not write Silly Time-that credit belongs to Kim Thompson of Twin Sisters. I did the illustrations. We are also fortunate that it wasn’t my singing either!


How did you get the idea and contract with Twin Sisters Productions?

I got my contact with Twin Sisters Productions through my second agent. I have had the pleasure of working with Twin Sisters for many years, illustrating more than 7 board books, readers and puzzles.

In 2009 “Five Trick or Treaters”, which I illustrated, for Twin Sisters was awarded the National Parenting Seal of Approval.

sharon13 (1)

How and when did you get involved in licensed art?

I illustrated a “color pencil by numbers” for Dimensions crafts. I have done some greeting card designs on and off for few years. I recently did advent calendars for Vermont Christmas Company. I would love to do more licensing of my artwork.


How many children’s books have you illustrated?

Over 65. That includes many educational readers, trade books, mass market books, board books, craft books ,workbooks.


How many books have you written and illustrated?

I wrote and illustrated “Zoe’s Hats”- a color concept book, published by Boyds Mills Press.

In 2012 “Zoe’s Hats” was recognized by Libraries Unlimited ABC-CLIO as a Best Book to Enhance Content Area Curriculum for grades Pre K- 2. I also have two Apple/Itunes Apps which I wrote and illustrated that were released in 2013- “Kids Counting Kitties 10 to 1, and Kids Counting Kitties 1-10.”


Did you always want to write?

Always. I still have my first book, written and illustrated in 3rd grade.


How did you end up working with Boyd’s Mill Press? Did you attend Chautauqua? How many books have you done with them?

I did attend Chautauqua. That was quite a wonderful experience! I had met the president of Boyds Mills Press (at that time) at an adult education class-who insisted I submit something to them. I had taken the class to meet him and find out how I might be able to illustrate for Boyds Mills Press. I ended up getting a scholarship to Chautauqua and they accepted “Zoe’s Hats.”

Sharon23 (1)

Have you worked with educational publishers?

many many many


Have you done any illustrating for children’s magazines?

Yes, Highlights and Highlights High Five

sharon30 (1)

Do you have an artist rep.? If so, who? And how did you connect with them? If not, would you like to have one?

Right now I am networking myself on my own although I am being brokered by Janet De Carlo of StoryBookArts Inc. She was in a partnership with my last agency PortfolioSolutions. I left Portfolio Solutions a few years ago to be on my own .I often think a literary/art agent might be the way to go in the future.

sharon28 (1)

What types of things did you do to market your work?

I do postcard mailings on a regular basis. I have my own webpage-www.sharoholm.com, I have online portfolio pieces/pages on CBIG, PictureBookArtists,ThatsMyFolio and Jacketflap. I also have a blog that I wish I kept more current- sharonlaneholm.blogspot.com.


What is your favorite medium to use?

I’m still “old school”. I love the feel and touch of paper and pencil. I love the look of pencil on tracing paper. I still paint traditionally and send the art digitally. I paint with Goldens fluid acrylics, qouache, prismacolor colored pencils, pigma microns(for black line art), even craft project acrylics.


Has that changed over time?

I like to think my style is evolving- I’m trying to draw looser, not so tight. The process of sending art has changed- now its scanned into Photoshop, clean it up, tweak it and out it goes.


Do you have a studio in your house?



What is the one thing in your studio that you could not live without?

Mechanical pencil and tracing paper.

sharonJune illokathy temean art

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I try to create or work on art and/or writing every day.


Do you take pictures or do any types of research before you start a project?

Yes, my family have been posed as models numerous times. Google and Yahoo are a good way to find reference material.



Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely. Besides being able to digitally send art to my clients, its a great source for online portfolios, networking with other artists / illustrators, and writers. I met you, Kathy online and I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your time and consideration in interviewing me.

sharoncake for relay

What do you feel was your biggest success?

Zoe’s Hats was a great success for me. It was the first book I ever submitted. But success to me is measured in many ways- my biggest success is having had the opportunity to have a successful career doing what I love the most. Drawing pictures and writing stories.



Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop mostly at this point to scan, clean up and tweak my traditional paintings. I am taking Photoshop lessons at the moment. I can do art in Photoshop but feel much more comfortable with traditional paints, for right now.


Do you own or have you used a Graphic Drawing Tablet in your illustrating?

I do own a cintiq.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

I would love to have more of my own stories published. I have several stories/dummies in varying degrees of “ready” to submit. But I get the elephant in the closet syndrome, where I’ll submit to a few places , even get a positive rejection, and back in the drawer it goes.

Sharon25 (1)

What are you working on now?

Currently I am illustrating religious craft book. I have 1 dummy circulating and several more stories/dummies started.

And I am continually trying to update my portfolio.


Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I love working on Arches 140 lb HP for painting. I order all my supplies through Dick Blick.One method I learned which I don’t use often enough- scan your tissues/tracings into Photoshop, and then print them out directly onto your WC paper. Saves you a step in transferring your art. You must run the paper through a printer that accommodates archival inks and the weight of WC paper. I have an older Epson Stylus photo printer which handles this.


Any words of wisdom on how to become a successful writer or illustrator?

Draw and try to create your art every chance you can. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you cant be what you want to be. With patience, persistence and passion you can make your dreams come true. I did.


Thank you Sharon for taking the time to share your process and journey with us. We look forward to hearing about your future successes.

To see more of Sharon’s illustrations you can visit her at: Website: http://www.sharonholm.com Blog: http://www.sharonlaneholm.blogspot.com

Please take a minute to leave a comment for Sharon, I know she would love to heard from you and I always appreciate it. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: Sharon Lane Holm, The Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, Zoe's Hats

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1343. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca (ages 4-8)

Wow-oh-wow. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca, is absolutely brilliant -- perfect for young speed racers (and their parents, too!). Kids will be drawn in by his dynamic illustrations, but they'll come back again and again for the layers of information they discover with each reading.

The Racecar Alphabet
by Brian Floca
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2003
Your local library
ages 4-8
You can just about feel the wind and hear the roar as you see the 1934 Mercedes-Benz thundering across the cover, can't you? But this is no ordinary alphabet book. Floca combines alliteration, rhythm and rhymes to pull readers right in. Here are the opening stanzas:
machines on wheels.//

Belts turning,
  fuel burning,
the buzz and bark of engines.
   The flap of a flag--
     a race begins!
But there's more! Look closely at the endpapers as you open the book, and you'll notice that the cars are arranged in chronological order. Read the text again and you'll notice that each letter of the alphabet progresses through automobile history, from the 1906 Renault (emblazoned with a number 1, because it's on the A page) to a 1934 Mercedes-Benz (number 9, "instruments / indicating speed") to a 2001 Ferrari F1 (number 26, "zipping, zigzagging, with zeal and zing").
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Brian Floca, winner of this year's Caldecott Award for the mightily impressive Locamotive, brings readers right into the race, shifting perspective at each turn. Just look above as the BMW barrels down on you, or below as you sit in the driver's seat:
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Floca writes in his blog about his inspiration for writing The Racecar Alphabet:
When I came across an image of one of those cars a few years ago, a switch went off in my head. I had never been much of a racing fan, but suddenly I appreciated how extraordinarily beautiful these cars could be. Here was sculpture, nothing less. It just happened to be sculpture you could drive through scenic European settings at extraordinary speeds.
I truly believe that picture books are an essential way we can introduce our children to art. I'm guessing many parents will never take their children to a museum. But here, they can get a feel for the importance of perspective, colors, lines, and composition. And make tons of zooming, churning, speeding noises at the same time!

The review copy came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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1344. What Writers Can Learn from Illustrators

By Candy Gourlay Writing novels is an honourable way to make a living, but sometimes you can feel like you're so deep in the cave of your imagination there is no such thing as real life. To stop my brain turning into a cow-pat from spending too much time in the writer's cave, I've been trying to diversify a little bit. Last year, I attended a graphic novel course where I made comics. That was

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1345. A Perfect Place for Ted by Leila Rudge

A Perfect Place for Ted is Leila Rudge's delightfuldebut as a picture book author and illustrator. She has worked, wonderfully, with Meg McKinlay on the fantastic No Bears and two illustrated chapter books (see below for links to my reviews.)On her own, Rudge's book exhibits a sense of humor and illustration style that reminds me of a favorite, Emily Gravett. Ted is a "smart dog with

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1346. Growing Bookworms Newsletter: July 30

JRBPlogo-smallToday I will be sending out a new issue of the Growing Bookworms email newsletter. (If you would like to subscribe, you can find a sign-up form here.) The Growing Bookworms newsletter contains content from my blog focused on children's and young adult books and raising readers. I currenty send the newsletter out every two weeks.

Newsletter Update: In this issue I have four book reviews (picture book to adult), two posts with links that I shared on Twitter recently, and an summary post about the status of KidLitCon planning

Reading Update: In the last three weeks I read four middle grade books and one adult book. I read:

I'm currently reading Rose and the Lost Princess by Holly Webb on Kindle, and Memory Maze (The Hypnotists, Book 2) by Gordon Korman in print. I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I am quite enjoying listening to the Harry Potter series (for the first time). 

As always, you can see the list of books that we've been reading to Baby Bookworm here. She has been developing more of an appreciation for humor lately. She especially likes Plants vs. Zombies: Brains and the Beanstalk and Wedgieman: A Hero Is Born. She also likes to peruse the back covers of the Berenstain Bears books, where they display some 20 or so pictures of other books in the series, and make requests. 

What are you and your family reading these days? Thanks for reading the newsletter, and for growing bookworms. 

© 2014 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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1347. Red Panda's Candy Apples by Ruth Paul

New Zealander Ruth Paul's first two books to be published in the US just happen to feature my two favorite animals! Last year I reviewed Hedgehog's Magic Tricks and, aside from the presence of a winsome hedgehog, I was charmed by Paul's gentle sense of humor,  sunny palette and sweet story. Red Panda's Candy Apples delivers all of these wonderful qualities and more! When Red Panda

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1348. The Scarecrows' Wedding: Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler

Book: The Scarecrows' Wedding
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8

The Scarecrows' Wedding is the latest picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axle Scheffler, the team that created the beloved book The Gruffalo. The Gruffalo is one of my husband's favorite books to read aloud to our four-year-old daughter. They like the rhythm of the text, combined with the every-so-slight scariness of "the deep dark woods." The Scarecrows' Wedding has a similar rhythmic feel. It is a book that begs to be read aloud. The subject matter is a bit lighter, though there is a risk of death near the end of the book.

In The Scarecrows' Wedding, scarecrows Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay decide to get married. Betty draws up a short list of her expectations for the wedding. Their farmyard friends help with some of these, but Harry ends up gong off on a quest to find "lots of pink flowers." While he's gone, a slick new scarecrow attempts to make time with Betty. But, of course, it all works out in the end. 

Here's an example of Donaldson's bouncy text:

"They hadn't gone far when some cows gathered round,
And the bells round their necks made a wonderful sound.
Ring-a-ding ding! Ring-a-ding ding!
"Oh, cows, will you please come and make your bells ring
For our wonderful wedding, the best wedding yet,
The wedding that no one will ever forget?"

That last bit, about the wonderful wedding that no one will ever forget, is repeated at intervals throughout the book, giving young readers a chance to chime in. There's subtle humor for adult readers, too, like the fact that the scarecrow who intervenes is called "Reginald Rake." He looks like a rake, too. 

Scheffler's illustrations are kid-friendly, with wide-eyed people and animals. The affection between the two scarecrows is conveyed via their companionable proximity and pink-cheeked smiles. The scarecrows move about as awkwardly as you would expect scarecrows to move, and there are tons of different types of animals to name and count sprinkled throughout the book. 

I believe that The Scarecrows' Wedding is going to make an immediate entry into my family's go-to bedtime reading list. It is a sure-fire hit, and must-purchase for libraries. This will be a great title to read to kids, alone or in groups, come fall. Highly recommended. 

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (@Scholastic)
Publication Date: July 29, 2014
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).

© 2014 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. Character-Driven: Extraordinary Warren by the Extraordinary Sarah Dillard (plus a giveaway!)

I know what you’re thinking—where has Tara been all July? (Well, maybe you’re not thinking that. Maybe you’re daydreaming about a fro-yo fix. And who could blame you?)

Well, it’s August and I’m back with an extraordinary interview. The talented author-illustrator Sarah Dillard turned what she thought was a picture book into an adorable early-reader chapter book. What did it take to get EXTRAORDINARY WARREN published? Let’s find out while we devour our fro-yo…

warrencoverSarah, what exactly made you realize that WARREN was destined for more than a picture book?

When I started working on Warren, I intended it to be a picture book but I felt that the story and ideas that I wanted to tell with him were a little more complex than the picture book format would comfortably allow. This is not to say that there are not complex picture books because there certainly are. But with Warren, it just seemed like he needed a little room to spread his wings. I didn’t worry about chapters though until a few drafts in. At that point it felt like there were natural breaks in the story for chapters. I have to say, when I am working on something I don’t automatically think “I am writing a picture book or this is going to be a chapter book.” I focus on the character and the story and let it unfold and then see what fits it best.

That’s great advice, to focus on character.

Thanks, Tara. I also wanted to add, that as picture books seem to be skewering younger, there is a great opportunity for illustrated early readers and chapter books to fill the gap for the beginning reader.

So what inspired Warren’s creation? How did he hatch?

Warren began as a doodle of a chicken looking at an egg. He looked curious to me and felt like a character who was looking for life’s answers. Did I draw the egg first or the chicken? I’ll never tell!

ExtraordinaryWarren Oeuf

My favorite spread in WARREN is the one with the hill in separate panels. How did you come up with that unique visual concept?

ExtraordinaryWarren bonk

That is one of my favorite spreads too! When I started thinking about how I would do the art for this book, my art director suggested a limited palette—with three colors plus black and white. I was hesitant at first but when I realized that I could use black as more than just an outline, the art took a fun graphic turn. I felt the use of black for the hill added just the right drama for this spread. I also liked the idea of having basically one hill but several panels that show Warren’s progression up and over that hill. I think it works both literally and figuratively for this part of the story.


How different is it to write/illustrate your own book as opposed to just being an illustrator on a project?

I think it is quite different to illustrate my own book than illustrating someone else’s work. Illustrating someone else’s story is a huge responsibility. It is kind of like having someone say here is my beautiful child, please raise it. I am very conscious of wanting to do justice to the story as the author might have envisioned it while also bringing my own sensibility to the story.

When I am illustrating my own work having the art serve the story becomes the primary focus. I thinking of the images and what part they will have in telling the story as I write, so the art and the words feel inseparable to me. I think when I am working on my own books I have a stronger intuitive sense of what the story will need and am more willing to take risks to give it that. For instance, WARREN is done digitally and in a style quite different than I any I have worked in, but I think it was the best approach for the book.

We’re hearing a lot about how editors want character-driven stories. What about Warren’s character makes him especially appealing?

That is a great question, and I’m glad that you find WARREN appealing! In creating WARREN, I tried to think about things that I thought about as a child, and probably still think about; the big questions—Who am I? What is my place in this world? I think we all want be special in some way but worry that maybe we are not. WARREN taps into that and hopefully it makes him someone that the reader can relate to and cheer on.


EW Savest the dayAnd…are there more WARREN books planned for the future?

I’m happy to say YES! EXTRAORDINARY WARREN SAVES THE DAY will be published in October. I don’t want to give too much away, but I can say that this book will deal with another of life’s big questions. Finally, we will learn, once and for all, why the chicken crossed the road.

Thanks, Sarah!

I’ll let my blog readers know that you’re giving away a signed copy of EXTRAORDINARY WARREN: A SUPER CHICKEN—they just have to leave a comment by August 8th. Hey, that’s even better than fro-yo!

Sarah Dillard studied art at Wheaton College and illustration at Rhode Island School of Design. She lives with her husband in Waitsfield, Vermont. For more about Sarah and her books, visit SarahDillard.com.


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1350. Judy Schachner: Thinking in Pictures: My Storytelling Process

Judy Schachner is the #1 New York Times best-selling author/illustrator of over twenty-three books for children including Bits & Pieces, the modern classic Skippyjon Jones series, Yo Vikings, The Grannyman and Willy and May. She has won many awards including the first E.B. White Read Aloud Award.

"When I create a character, I commit to that character."

The charming and funny, Judy Schachner, has the room cracking up, especially since she's being a bit of a rule breaker and doing everything Lin Oliver asked her not to. And we're loving it!

Judy will talk about thinking in pictures.

Judy got her start in illustration. Her first book was by Donna Jo Napoli and she illustrated a story about frogs. It was followed by What Shall I Dream? written by Laura McGee Kvasnosky. Then her publisher asked, "Judy, do you write?" After saying yes, she worried she'd be exposed as a liar.

Willy May was the first book she wrote and illustrated. After receiving some starred reviews, she started to believe she could write too.

If you asked her Judy what her favorite book was, she would say, Yo Vikings. It brought back childhood. One of the Judy's daughters wanted a viking ship, and believe it or not, her family ended up buying one.

Judy creates character bibles, getting to know her characters through images, ones she both finds and draws. Collaging and collecting, she has these books going all the time. It's all done intuitively, with no rhyme or reason. Judy shares with us a slide show of many of the pages that come from her character bibles. So very cool.

Character and dialogue comes first for Judy. Plot is more challenging. But doing the bibles helps her to solve all the problems with plot and place.

It's really amazing to see how Judy allows images and ideas to come to her, how she so freely allows herself to put them all together in interesting way. She gets them down on paper (in her character bible), and doesn't sensor herself, then let's it all go to work for her. It helps to inform her stories and clearly creates strong characters that feel original and charming.

Her process is fascinating and is even one writers could take to inform their stories and characters. Judy even suggests this process for those writing novels. "It can work for everybody."

What a treat to see pages from the character bible of her latest story about an OCD raccoon. Just wonderful.

The pages she creates become placeholders. If they don't end up in the book she's working on now, they might end up in another book.

"Become a collector of not just things but of experiences too."

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