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Results 1,326 - 1,350 of 7,693
1326. A Letter for Leo – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: A Letter for Leo Written and illustrated by: Sergio Ruzzier Published By: Clarion Books, New York, 2014 Themes/Topics: postmen, friendship, letters, birds, weasels Suitable for ages: 3-5 Fiction, 32 pages Opening: Leo is the mailman of a little old town Synopsis: Postman Leo … Continue reading

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1327. Up & Down: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Britta Teckentrup

Britta Teckentrup is one of my new (to me) favorite picture book illustrator/authors. Her work in Busy Bunny Days  and The Odd One Out, which I reviewed earlier this year call to mind the work of Richard Scary and the brightly patterned fabrics of Marimekko. In her newest book (in the U.S.) Teckentrup, who is German but lived in London for almost 20 years, uses her way with patterns and

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1328. The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty by Karla Strambini

Honestly, Karla Strambini could have created an entirely wordless picture book that didn't even have  a plot and I would have turned the pages just as eagerly - her illustrations are that compelling, that filled with stories of their own. That said, The Extraordinary Mr. Qwerty has a wonderful story threaded with themes of creativity, community and creative diversity. I especially love her

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1329. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Eva Eriksson

“Grump the tomte lived in the grounds of an empty cottage and every day, he slipped into the cottage through the cat flap. That’s how small he was. Real house tomtes are like that. They are small and quick and grumpy and they are always dressed in grey, apart from a pointy red hat. You hardly ever see them.”


This morning over at Kirkus, I spotlight Pat Mora’s Water Rolls, Water Rises, illustrated by Meilo So. That link will be here soon.

* * *

Last week I wrote here about Ulf Stark’s The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits (Floris Books), illustrated by Eva Eriksson and first published in Sweden in 2012. I’ve got some art from it today.


“Grump picked up the bee and ran back to his own house to light the first candle in the Advent candlestick. Tomtes always light the first candle on the first of December, whatever day of the week it falls on.”

“He got out his best book. It was the only one he had. It was called
In Praise of Solitude. The he started to read:
‘What could be better than enjoying silence all alone…’”

“Quite some way away, under an enormous oak tree in a big forest,
was a rabbit burrow. The burrow was full of life.”

“‘What is winter?’ asked Binny. None of the rabbit children knew what winter was. They had never experienced a winter. ‘It’s when the cold gets so cold it pinches your nose and everything turns as white as a cauliflower,’ said Grandfather.
‘The white stuff is called snow.’”

“‘What’s this?’ Binny wondered. ‘Perhaps it’s winter?’ guessed Barty. ‘It is quite white.’ ‘Yes,’ said Binny, ‘but it is mostly grey. And it is not pinching our noses.’”

“After a lot of work, the Christmas tree was ready. … Oh, how beautiful it was! And what fun it would be to dance around it and sing songs. But they couldn’t do that until the Yule Tomte arrived. ‘He is in no particular hurry, that one,’ said Uncle Nubbin.”

“But it really was the Yule Tomte! With a sock on his head.
He had Binny and Barty with him too. And the bee in its little box.”



* * * * * * *

THE YULE TOMTE AND THE LITTLE RABBITS. First published in Sweden in 2012. First published in English in 2014 by Floris Books. Copyright © 2012 Rabén & Sjögren. English version © 2014 Floris Books. Illustrations here are reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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1330. Some Haiku Before Breakfast …

I love the fact that a haiku is designed to capture a moment in time. It allows the reader, and the writer, to savor that moment.

These days, we are bombarded with so much information that sometimes we forget to stop and appreciate the little things.

I also love the challenge of presenting these small moments in just seventeen syllables, with a little twist to make them memorable.”

* * *

Today over at Kirkus, I chat with children’s book author and poet Bob Raczka, pictured above, about writing poetry for children; Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole, his beautiful new picture book, illustrated by Chuck Groenink; and what’s next on his plate.

That link will be here soon, and next week I’ll have some art from the book here at 7-Imp.

* * * * * * *

Photo of Bob Raczka used by his permission.

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1331. Is there a dog in this book? by Viviane Schwarz

Viviane Schwarz has long been a favorite of mine. Back in 2008 she introduced us to Moonpie, André and Tiny, a pack of cats in a brilliant lift-the-flap book who, when not hiding invited readers to toss them balls of wool,  open boxes for them to hide in and to blow on the page to try them off after being caught up in a fishy "floodwave" to hilarious ends in There are cats in this book.  In

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1332. Tiptop Cat by C. Roger Mader

I love a good cat story, and by that I mean a story in which a cat is behaving (although not necessarily always realistically illustrated) like a real cat, and Tiptop Cat by C. Roger Mader is definitely that!  Tiptop Cat begins, quite simply, "Of all the gifts she got that day, the best on was the cat." Right away, we know that this story is about the cat - people are irrelevant, or at

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1333. Catch That Cookie! by Hallie Durand and David Small -- a fun twist on a classic tale (ages 4-8)

Every year, our kindergarten classes read different variations of the Gingerbread Man folktale. This year, we're adding in a new twist to our collection: Catch That Cookie! by Hallie Durand and David Small. Our students loved the humor, twists and turns of this take on one of their favorite stories.
Catch That Cookie!
by Hallie Durand
illustrations by David Small
Dial Books / Penguin, 2014
Your local library
ages 4-8
Marshall's class has been reading Gingerbread Man stories all week, and he's sure these stories are just made up. Those gingerbread men can't run away--they're just cookies, after all. But when his class opens the oven to take out their gingerbread men, they've disappeared!
"But when they looked in the oven... there was nothing inside!"
The gingerbread men leave behind clues for the students to follow, and my students loved the suspense that these twists added to the story. Each clue is crafted with a rhyme, so that kids can take part in figuring out where the gingerbread men have gone.
"Too bad you didn't catch us,
'Cause we taste like candy.
Now we're on vacation
On a beach that's _________."
"Sandy!" my students shouted. While the rest of his class runs off to follow the clues, Marshall notices small details that his classmates don't see. He spots a raisin that might be from his gingerbread man's eye, and later notices a silver ball that was from the gingerbread man's belt.

"He turned the pot over and ... felt something soft and small. A raisin!"
My students definitely liked the way this story was more of a mystery than the traditional gingerbread man story -- they talked about how the original story is more a fun chase story, and here Marshall has to figure out what's happening. They also loved the ending, as Marshall discovers where the cookies are hiding.

This story will work best if kids know the gingerbread man story. I started by looking at Eric Kimmel's The Gingerbread Man, and asking students to retell the story just from the pictures. For more versions, check out the Padlet that terrific librarian Margie Culver put together.

Add some extra fun with your own gingerbread party or scavenger hunt! I'll be giving a bundle of gingerbread man stories to my nephews, along with some cookie cutters of their own.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group. 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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1334. Illustrator Interview – Yuyi Morales

In keeping with my blog’s strong support of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, for a while I have wanted to interview illustrator Yuyi Morales. I think from the words and photos YuYi shares today, you will see the important stories and influences … Continue reading

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1335. Shooting at the Stars: the Christmas Truce of 1914 by John Hendrix

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914 is the newest book from a longtime favorite of mine, John Hendrix, and the second that Hendrix illustrated and authored himself. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of World War I, Herndrix turns his thoughtful eye to a humane moment in the midst of an inhumane period of history, telling the story of the incredible Christmas Truce between

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1336. Post-PiBoIdMo Final Day 9: Deb Lund Works Her “Fiction Magic”

by Deb Lund

Amplify the Longing

“Amplify the Longing!” That was the first card I randomly pulled from my Fiction Magic card deck for writers on the first day of November. Jan O’Neil and I were hosting about a dozen writers for a PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo kickoff at the Diamond Knot Brewery next to the Whidbey Island ferry.

Diamond Knot

Good thing I pulled that card before everyone got there. It didn’t take long for Jan and I to discover the afternoon would be more of a social event than an idea-gathering one. Fortunately, using the Fiction Magic cards got us half way through our 30 ideas in record time so we could be social along with the rest of them!

When Tara asked me to write about using Fiction Magic for a Post-PiBoIdMo post, I said yes, because I always say yes to Tara’s challenges. In this case, though, I knew the cards would work well for generating picture book ideas, but following up on those ideas? My first thought was that it would be challenging. That’s good and bad.

It’s difficult for me to resist a challenge.

Fast forward to the last day of November, with my unfinished PiBoIdMo list. How could I write a Post-PiBoIdMo post if I didn’t complete the challenge myself? With my crazy schedule (and clothes-dryer mind), I hadn’t touched that list since our gathering. There’s nothing like a deadline to make a challenge even more exciting!

I pulled out my cards and completed my list in one short sitting. (Should I be admitting that to Tara?)

And then I heard from Jan:

“I had 30 ideas done in 28 days, with the last 11 ideas coming on day 28. That’s the day I was sitting in line for a ferry, pulled out your cards, and whipped out those last puppies.”

cards and card set

All that is great, but I still had the new challenge from Tara ahead of me.

I did say I like challenges, right?

I decided to keep going with the unknown (always a good thing to do when creating) and randomly drew a different Fiction Magic card to apply to each of the original ideas.

Remember the “Amplify the Longing” card? My PiBoIdMo lists in past years were a few words at the most. Not this year! The original idea from that card was:

Kid is never satisfied, wants more, more, more. Parents get run down, tired of trying to keep up with his demands, and when they can’t give any more, he gives them more and more love.

Jan revealed another similar experience:

“In the previous three Novembers, I finished all of the challenges by the skin of my teeth and came to understand that I am not one of those people for whom ideas come fully formed. Most of my ideas fit on one line of my journal paper. Later they may have notes written in the margins, but not at the time the idea first comes. This year, using the Fiction Magic Cards, my ideas are way more fleshed out. I mean, some even take six lines in my journal!”

So I held my breath, reminded myself that I love challenges, and drew a card as a follow-up to “Amplify the Longing.”


Yes! I could revolt and pick a different card, right? No? But the guidebook has creativity coaching tips following each craft suggestion! Couldn’t “Revolt” be a coaching tip?

Okay, okay…

My first thought was to have the parents go on a strike, but I didn’t want them to have any direct part in solving the problem, so I decided my main character needed to revolt. Maybe he’ll throw a tantrum until he’s all tired out, too. Then he can relate to how they feel and figure out that they all need love.

Don’t we all?

Here are a couple more examples of my PiBoIdMo ideas and how I used Fiction Magic cards to flesh them out:

“Speak the Unspeakable”

Original Idea: This little girl can only say no.

This little girl can only say no. When it’s time to go? No!
This little girl can never say yes. Clean up your mess? No!
This little girl can only say no. Would you like ice cream? No!
This little girl would like to say yes. Does she? No!
Can she still have ice cream? No!

The additional card I selected for this idea was “Take a Break.” I thought the girl could insist that she can’t say yes, but when she gets tired of all the no’s, of not getting all she wants, she stops talking instead of saying yes, and later, when she finally says yes, she saves face by saying the change was because her tongue needed a break. I also decided that I needed to take a break from all the “This little girl…” lines—and maybe a good long break from this idea!

Are you getting the idea that you have to come up with a lot of bad ideas in order to get a good one? Good! That’s one of the reasons Tara does all this work.

Okay, one more…

Risk it All 

Baby learning to walk. It’s a risk for the baby, and the artwork could show the determination and obstacles to walking.

I thought this would be a story from the Baby’s point of view, but then I knew it had to be a sibling watching the baby learn to walk. The sibling, of course, is not happy about the baby getting all the attention until the baby chooses to walk to the sibling.

Well, there might be a little hope for that idea.

The card I chose to follow up on that one was “Provoke a Response.” That’s exactly what the baby does. Naturally, there would have been a response from the sibling, but because of the second card, I’ll make sure it’s big enough. And maybe the baby will even say the sibling’s name as the first word. Hmmm… And that means I will work in a little bit at the beginning about how the baby “can’t even talk” and just “makes noise.”

See how this works? Fiction Magic isn’t magic. It just feels that way because it triggers new ways of seeing and deepens the concept and plot by combining ideas to create what Tara and I call “High Concept Picture Books.”

Will I work on any of these stories? Maybe. Will any of them be published? It doesn’t matter. It’s all practice. You have to mine a lot of rock to get at the gems.

Keep adding to your ideas, keep writing badly (you have to reach your quota!), and go where your magic leads you.


Deb Lund may be best known as the author of All Aboard the Dinotrain and other picture books, but she has taught writing (the focus of her master’s project) to teachers and writers of all ages for 25 years. Deb is also a creativity coach whose mission is to get everyone claiming their creativity. Visit her at DebLund.com and follow her on Twitter @DebLund.

Creativity Deb

Fiction Magic: Card Tricks & Tips for Writers is a 3.5” x 5” boxed set of 54 cards with a 60-page guidebook. Fiction Magic card “tricks” help writers raise the stakes in their writing with phrases like “Alienate an Ally” and “Remove the Moral Compass.” The guidebook provides possible interpretations for each of the 54 cards, followed by creativity coaching “tips” to help writers apply the cards’ messages to their writing lives. It’s like having two decks in one!

For a limited time, Fiction Magic is 50% off.



10 Comments on Post-PiBoIdMo Final Day 9: Deb Lund Works Her “Fiction Magic”, last added: 12/9/2014
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1337. One Impossibly Large Apple Before Breakfast

“It stuffed and stuffed and stuffed itself,
and had not even eaten half when it choked on it and fell down dead!”

(Click to enlarge spread)


It’s challenging to write about new picture books at this time of year, given that it’s the end of a calendar year and most Fall books are well past initial release. Instead of looking at newer titles, everyone’s talkin’ Caldecott. (This is something I enjoy reading about, to be sure. If you’re not already reading Calling Caldecott, I’d recommend it.)

Today I’m going to jump way back, though, to 1965; if we don’t have as many new books to explore, let’s look at this one, originally published in Switzerland and created by a German author-illustrator. Just One Apple comes from Horst Eckert, whose pen name is Janosch. NorthSouth re-released this here in the States in September of this year.

In this be-careful-what-you-wish-for tale, a poor man named Walter longs for an apple tree with a blossom. He makes a wish one night, and not only is it granted, but he eventually ends up with a monstrously large apple. He figures that everyone in the kingdom is now his friend, but then he becomes paranoid, believing thieves will take it. “He trusted no one — and even his friends deserted him.” He can’t even sell the fruit when he takes it to market. (And in my favorite line of the book, he has to admit he doesn’t even like apples.)

Turns out, though, that a giant green dragon descends upon the town and taunts the kingdom. In the end, the king’s “detectives” feed the apple to the dragon, who chokes and dies on it. (See above.) The kingdom is saved. Walter was happy again — and this time only wishes for two small, basket-sized apples.

Jonosch’s art is new to me. This is one thing I love about publishers like NorthSouth — that they give us a window into illustrators from overseas with much different sensibilities. I’m struck by how Janosch’s art reminds me of John Burningham’s art (British) in more than one way.

Here are a couple more illustrations. Enjoy.

“As autumn came, the apple grew and grew. But when it was fruit-picking time,
Walter decided to wait. With each passing day, the apple grew bigger and bigger. …”

(Click to enlarge spread and to see full text)


“But in the market everyone scoffed at him: ‘You’re a liar and a braggart!
No one has ever seen such a huge apple. It can’t possibly be real.’”

(Click to enlarge spread and to see full text)


* * * * * * *

JUST ONE APPLE. Copyright © 1965 by NordSüd Verlag AG, CH-8005 Zürich, Switzerland. English translation cpyright © 1989 by NorthSouth Books, Inc., New York. This edition published in September 2014. Illustrations here reproduced by permission of the publisher.

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1338. George Can! (And You Can Too!), by Maria Stuckey-Leach | Dedicated Review

George Can! (And You Can Too) is an affirming picture book about the wonderful powers of positive thinking. It offers young readers a playful nudge toward an optimistic attitude by utilizing the mantra “I can! I will! I believe!”

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1339. Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold

sidman winter bees 300x259 Winter Bees and Other Poems of the ColdBaby, it’s cold outside. Time to look at this very wintry book.

Taking it from the top…

We notice the arresting cover: the leaping fox; the contrast between the fox’s red coat /dark paws and the white, snowy background; the overlay of snow in the air.

Open the book to see endpapers the color of a winter twilight.

Right off the bat there’s an attempt to involve the audience, visually: that fox on the cover (what is it about to pounce on, we wonder); the moose looking straight at us from out of the title page; even the vole on the front flap seems to be looking at us. (I imagine this was a calculated decision, given the nature of the subject: winter being the least active season of the year. All this pulls the audience in before the majestic double-page spreads begin.)

Immediately we notice the sense of texture on the page; the overlay of falling or swirling or even just imminent snow. You can almost breathe this book; you can feel the frozen air in your lungs. There’s a lot of accomplishment on evidence in this book, but the palpable air in this book may be its most remarkable quality.

Then we are presented with one double-page spread after another of majestically composed winter scenes featuring a range of animals, large and small. We notice the care taken to present scenes from an animal’s-eye view, the arresting perspectives, the palette that somehow communicates the sense of cold and yet uses warm colors in spots — and sometimes more than that. Particularly the orange-red of the fox, the bees’ hive, the beavers’ lodge, the chickadees’ breasts. (The cover -and title-page type presages this constant contrast between cold and warm, with the word winter in a chilly blue-purple and the word bees in that orange-red.)

My favorite two spreads in the book, however, feature no animals at all. (I will not be able to be eloquent enough about them, so be sure to take a look for yourself.) A closeup of a single branch opens the book (coming directly after the title page and before the table of contents). On the left hand page, we see the branch as it would look in autumn; as our eye travels toward the right, that same branch gradually morphs into what it would look like in winter. At book’s close (just before the final glossary page), the left-hand page shows the branch in winter, and now as our eyes move to the right, the branch morphs into spring, with the snow disappearing and small buds beginning to appear. And on the tip of the branch? Green. A bud just flowering into leaf. Taken together, those two spreads are the most elegant depiction of the changing seasons I think I’ve ever seen.

About his process for creating the illustrations for Winter Bees, Rick Allen writes (on the copyright page): “The images for this book were made through the unlikely marriage of some very old and almost new art mediums. The individual elements of each picture (the animals, trees, snowflakes, etc.) were cut, inked, and printed from linoleum blocks (nearly two hundred of them), and then hand-colored. Those prints were then digitally scanned, composed, and layered to create the illustrations for the poems. The somewhat surprising (and oddly pleasing) result was learning that the slow and backwards art of relief printmaking could bring modern technology down to its level, making everything even more complex and time-consuming.”

Does this matter? Would a knowledge of the laboriousness and complexity of the artist’s process influence the Caldecott committee? Is the committee even allowed to take such information into consideration? or must they ignore it and simply consider the finished product?

Your thoughts are welcome.



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1340. Liniers on What There Is Before There Is Anything There

liniers what there is before there is anything there Liniers on What There Is Before There Is Anything ThereIn the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine, editor Martha Parravano asked Argentinian cartoonist Liniers about the inspiration for his “deeply unsettling” but “bravely existential” new picture book, What There Is Before There Is Anything There: A Scary Story. Read the full review here.

Martha V. Parravano: What made you decide to make such a realistic — and thus dark — picture book on this topic for children?

Liniers: I don’t like children’s books that treat them as tiny ignorant human beings. 
They are smart, and as Mr. Sendak used to say, you can “tell them anything you want.” 
I remember enjoying being scared by movies and books when I was a child. Witches and vampires! Also, the story I decided to tell actually used to happen to me. I must have been three or four because I have a very vague memory of this. When my parents would turn out the lights I thought the ceiling disappeared, and I recall imagining — almost seeing — a tiger coming down in a spiral downfall. A very weird kid I was. Or not.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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1341. Review of What There Is Before There Is Anything There: A Scary Story

liniers what there is before there is anything there Review of What There Is Before There Is Anything There: A Scary StoryWhat There Is Before There Is Anything There:
A Scary Story

by Liniers; illus. by the author; trans. from the Spanish by Elisa Amado
Primary    Groundwood    24 pp.
9/14    978-1-55498-385-8    $18.95

Argentinian cartoonist Liniers’s (The Big Wet Balloon, rev. 9/13) bravely existential picture book eschews cute monsters in closets to capture the true reality of night terrors — the relentless, all-consuming, staring-into-the-void kind. “It’s the same every night”: a small boy’s parents tuck him into bed and turn off the light, and then “where there was a ceiling, now there is nothing…Now there’s only a black hole…black and infinite.” Down from that blackness floats a succession of bizarre creatures who perch at the bottom of the boy’s bed and stare at him. Finally — as happens every night the ceiling disappears — comes something dark and shapeless, “blacker than blackest darkness,” announcing, “I am what there is before there is anything there.” At this point the terrified boy hightails it to his parents’ room; they groan, “Not again,” but allow him to get into bed with them. A more conventional picture book would end here, but Liniers provides a more realistic if deeply unsettling conclusion: as the boy lies safely between his sleeping parents, another creature floats down from the ceiling. This is a scary story indeed — and the crosshatched ink and wash illustrations are as unflinching as the text, effectively interweaving the banal with the nightmarish — but for those kids who suffer through similar tortured bedtimes, it may provide validation. And though there is no happy ending, some young readers may find comfort in the mother’s reassurance — “It’s just your imagination…It’s good to be able to make things up” — suggesting they may grow up, like Liniers, to use their imaginative powers for good.

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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1342. PiBoIdMo 2014 Grand Prize Winners!

It’s the moment you’ve all been anticipating!


Monty, show ‘em what’s behind door number one!


Why, good golly, it’s a Broyhill bedroom set!

What better place to read a picture book, right?

OK, sorry, just kidding. That is not your grand prize.

You know what the grand prizes are all about—you win a review of your best five PiBoIdMo ideas by a picture book agent! So much better than a stained oak nightstand!

How were the PiBoIdMo 2014 GRAND PRIZE WINNERS selected?

Every participant who signed the PiBoIdMo Winner’s Pledge was assigned a number based upon the order in which they commented. I then used Random.org to generate 10 random numbers. The numbers were checked to their corresponding name, then I ensured that name was on the PiBoIdMo registration post. If the name had been registered, then I double checked to make sure they had not commented on the winner’s pledge multiple times (thus giving them extra chances to win). If all checked out, the winner was verified. (And they all checked out!)

Without further ado, here they are! Please congratulate them!











I will pair each of you with a PiBoIdMo agent and contact you via email.

If you are a grand prize winner, please read the following carefully:

You will have one week (from the date of my email) to contact your agent with your FIVE best ideas. I suggest you flesh them out into a paragraph each, like an elevator pitch. Something short and snappy. The agent will then provide feedback on which idea(s) may be the best to pursue as manuscripts. The agent may provide short and sweet feedback like a simple “Go for it!” or more lengthy feedback providing suggestions. I don’t know what’s in store for you–but there’s one thing for certain–their feedback will help you determine what to begin writing!

Thank you all for participating this year!

Remember there are PLENTY more prizes to come throughout this week—everything you saw during the event plus even a few more!

Maybe even a Broyhill living room!


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1343. Rex Wrecks It! By Ben Clanton

Rex Wrecks It!If you have anyone in your life that enjoys knocking down towers or destroying things, Rex Wrecks It! is the story for you. Gizmo the robot, Sprinkles the bunny, and Wild the monster love to build things, but Rex always wrecks them. From block towers to rockets and magical hearts, Rex wrecks it all. After he wrecks their awesomerific block tower, they finally realize that the solution is to build something as a team and knock it down together. They discover that it really is more fun to work as a team. Kids will enjoy shouting the refrain and you can’t help but not like Rex. I love his apologetic “rawry” after knocking down the block tower. This is a story that will be read again and again. It’s also a great story to share with older siblings with a little one in the family that likes to destroy things. On a side note, depending on your kids, I’d recommend skipping the blockhead comment in the story. We didn’t when we read it, and now my kids have a new name to call each other.

Posted by: Liz

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1344. Post-PiBoIdMo Day 6: Carol Gordon Ekster Goes for PiBoIdMoS (plus a prize!)

Carol's professional photo for booksby Carol Gordon Ekster

Whew! You finished your 30 PiBoIdMo ideas.

Now what?

Stare at them. Admire them! Write them all at once?

Good luck with that! One of the great things about being a writer is that you are your own boss and you can do as you like!

Don’t tell anyone…I cheat a bit with this PiBoIdMo concept. For me it’s morePiBoIdMoS. The minute I hear the first whisper that PiBoIdMo is coming, whether through Tara’s tweets, Facebook page, or her blog, I start a document on my desk: “PIBOIDMO 2014.”

Yes, technically I start before November 1st, and I keep going! It gets me on a roll…deeper listening, inspiration from all the posts, and a mind more opened to all those picture book possibilities. Every new idea that follows will get listed on that sheet, maybe through February, maybe until I open the “PIBOIDMO 2015” document. Then when I’m finished working on a manuscript, revision, or submission and I’m ready to start a new story, I’ll glance through those ideas. (I have a document for ’12 and ’13 that I still revisit.)

I’ve never deleted any of the less than fabulous story concepts, but I have highlighted a few that I thought had potential. Sometimes, right under a numbered idea, I start the story’s beginning. It just flows from my finger tips. I don’t have an organized plan. I go with my gut.

When I start a separate document for a numbered idea, I know I’m serious about it. I never forced the beginning of one of those ideas. I waited until the idea grabbed me and said, “It’s time. Start the draft!” I have to feel it. I’ve developed quite a few of those ideas from the past years into manuscripts. I drafted, rewrote, revised and brought them to critique groups. None of those stories have yet to be acquired. But I have faith that some will…when the time is right. Though I have gotten “the call” on one…but no contract in hand as yet.

This year there was mention of PiBoIdMo kick-off parties. A fabulous gathering spot for writers, The Writer’s Loft, had one. And though I couldn’t make it, I was there in spirit. But I think we also need AFTER-PARTIES, as a way to celebrate all that thinking, all those brilliant ideas. Perhaps gather other PiBoIdMo’ers and plan a few peer critique sit-ins—where large groups gather and break into smaller groups to share their manuscripts. (Of course, bring snacks and allow time for socializing, too!)

If you can’t do that, find another way to get other writers’ eyes on your story. This step is imperative. Once those critiques are in, it is time to polish and revise and incorporate all that you have learned about craft and about picture books. This is where it counts. This is where we water and love those seeds of ideas until they sprout into the best possible work we can create. For every story idea you develop into a manuscript, make a “sentence” document for that title. This way you can brainstorm many different ways to word each thought until you get the perfect line up of words, until each sentence sings. Don’t be lazy. Get it right. Someday, you’ll be touching a life with that story. Don’t settle for less than the best you are capable of.

Before you know it, we’ll be preparing for “PIBOIDMO 2015”. Don’t let all this creativity be forgotten. Continue to glance back at your ideas. You never know when that gem of a manuscript is ready to emerge and start its route to publication.


Carol Gordon Ekster was a passionate elementary school teacher for 35 years. Her first book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? — A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, was an About.com Readers’ Choice 2012 finalist for Best Children’s Book for Single Parents. “The Library Is The Perfect Place”, was in Library Sparks magazine, 2010. A picture book, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, on Character Publishing’s debut list, 2011, was awarded the Children’s Literary Classics Seal of Approval. Before I Sleep: I Say Thank You, comes out January 1, 2015 with Pauline Books & Media. Her first e-book, Hip Hopping Books, will be out with Schoolwide Inc.’s digital library, winter 2015. Retired from teaching, Carol now spends time in critique groups, doing exercise and yoga, and working on her books. She’s grateful that her writing allows her to continue communicating with children. Find out more at CarolGordonEkster.com and follow her on Twitter @cekster.


Carol is giving away a signed copy of BEFORE I SLEEP!

Front Cover - Before I Sleep  copy

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.

Good luck, everyone!

10 Comments on Post-PiBoIdMo Day 6: Carol Gordon Ekster Goes for PiBoIdMoS (plus a prize!), last added: 12/6/2014
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1345. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #409: Featuring Roger Duvoisin

“‘Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid!
On, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away, all!’”


I’m going vintage today, you all.

Want to know one of my favorite things about this holiday season? Back in September, Knopf re-released Caldecott Medalist Roger Duvoisin’s very tall The Night Before Christmas, which was originally published in 1954.

Duvoisin’s take on the classic Christmas poem includes his vivid colors, robust line, and elegant shapes. Know what I just read in the Publishers Weekly review, too? “The illustrator’s fans may notice that the stuffed yellow lion among Santa’s gifts bears a notable resemblance to Louise Fatio’s The Happy Lion, which Duvoisin illustrated the same year.” Well, huh. That hadn’t occurred to me.

That same review also notes the use of primary colors in Duvoisin’s illustrations here, which you can see for yourself in the images featured here today.

This is one of many Christmas stories Duvoisin illustrated. In the classic American Picturebooks from Noah’s Ark to the Beast Within, Barbara Bader writes, “Nobody celebrates Christmas like Duvoisin — except children.”

Here’s some more art (without the text). Enjoy.

“The children were nestled all snugs in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”


“As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.”


THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Originally published in 1954. Illustrations copyright © 1954 by Roger Duvoisin. New edition published September 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

I have a big ‘ol writing assignment I’m working on now, and I’m holed up today, working on that. Please do tell me your cheery kicks so that, during my breaks, I can come read them. You can even DOUBLE them, if you’re so inclined, to make up for my lack of them this week. (Not that I didn’t have any; I just gotta write write write!)

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1346. Becoming an Author Means Embracing a Life of Crime

Before I became a writer, I had no idea being one also meant embracing a life of crime. I don’t know why. All the signs were there – the saying “every great lie has an element of truth”, T.S. Eliot’s immortal “Good authors borrow, great authors steal”, and the infamous Faulkner adage, “Kill your darlings” (Faulkner actually stole that saying from Arthur Quiller-Couch).

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1347. Ten Christmas Picture Books

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Robert Lewis May. Illustrated by Denver Gillen. 1939/1990. Applewood Books. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would. This is the original story by Robert L. May with the original illustrations by Denver Gillen. It is so different from the song and the stop-motion animated special. And I think it was the fact that it was different that made me appreciate it more.

The story is told in rhyme. It's essentially one long (perhaps poorly punctuated) poem. Here's how it begins:
Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the hills
The reindeer were playing…enjoying the spills
Of skating and coasting, and climbing the willows…
And hop-scotch and leap-frog (protected by pillows!)
While every so often they'd stop to call names
At one little deer not allowed in their games:--
"Ha ha! Look at Rudolph! His nose is a sight!"
"It's red as a beet!" "Twice as big!" "Twice as bright!"
While Rudolph just wept.
What else could he do?
He knew that the things
they were saying were true!
Readers first meet Rudolph, a young deer who is teased by his peers. He does NOT live at the North Pole. And he's not one of Santa's own reindeer.
What we do learn is that he's a very good, very obedient deer who is expecting Santa to leave him some lovely presents because he's been so very, very good.

Readers then meet Santa and learn of the horrible weather conditions that prove most challenging. Santa starts out on his trip, it isn't until he's delivering presents to Rudolph's house that he notices the brilliant light of his nose.

Santa then decides to wake him up and ask for his help. The rest of the journey goes much easier for Santa!

The book concludes with Santa returning Rudolph to his family, to his hometown. He is now a hero, of course.

I liked this one. I liked some of the rhymes more than others. There are definitely some quirky lines!
Come Dasher! Come Dancer! Come Prancer and Vixen!
Come Comet! Come Cupid! Come Donner and Blitzen!
Be quick with your suppers! Get hitched in a hurry!
You, too, will find fog a delay and a worry!"
And Santa was right. (As he usually is!)
The fog was as thick as a soda's white fizz.
The book is definitely text-heavy. So a longer attention span would be needed for little ones to enjoy this one.

The copy I read was a facsimile edition. A 75th Anniversary edition with new illustrations was released in September 2014.

On Christmas Eve. Margaret Wise Brown. Illustrated by Nancy Edwards Calder. 1938/1961/1996. HarperCollins. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

It was the middle of the night. And night of all  nights it was Christmas.

I enjoyed Margaret Wise Brown's On Christmas Eve. It is a descriptive look at what Christmas--at what Christmas Eve--is like for children. It focuses on simple things: what your eyes see, what your ears hear, what your nose smells, what your hands and feet touch. It seeks to capture the emotion of the holiday: the excitement, the waiting, the longing.

Lots of details, lots of adjectives. It's rich in imagery and description. There is also a bit of repetition. The text is lyrical in places.

I can't say that I loved it. But it was very enjoyable. I was also glad to see that one of the presents under the tree was a train. The children are just in awe of the magic of Christmas, of the stockings and packages, of the snow falling outside, of the carolers outside.

It was a sweet story about three siblings.

Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet. 1987. Scholastic. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Silver Packages is a picture book for older readers most likely. I wouldn't say it is for an exclusively adult audience. But I think readers need some perspective in order to appreciate the book fully. I think it can resonate with readers, it has the potential. But I don't think the emotional reaction would be--or even should be--automatic. One can't assume that every reader will respond with tears and "this is the best book I've ever read!!!"

Silver Packages is about giving back to the community. In this instance, one very specific community--Appalachia. The book is about the Christmas Train. It starts with one man who wants to show his appreciation for the community that helped him when he needed it. He was injured in an accident, the community took in this stranger and nursed him back to health without asking for anything in return. He decides that he will come every year--by train--and hand out packages to the children who meet the train. These packages are wrapped in silver paper. Every story needs a protagonist. Silver Packages introduces us to Frankie. Readers first meet Frankie as a boy. He's a boy with a dream. He wants to be a doctor. And he really, really, really wants a doctor kit for Christmas. But each year, he's slightly disappointed. He receives a handful of silver packages through the years. Every gift seems to have a toy--something a boy or girl might want--and something a boy or girl might need. The practical gifts include: socks, mittens, hats, scarves, etc. Readers later see Frankie all grown up. He is a doctor. He reflects on his life, on his past Christmases, he has a light-bulb moment. He decides it is his turn to give back to the community in his own special way. It's a book about kindness and gratefulness and community awareness.

The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll. Patricia C. McKissack. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2007. Schwartz & Wade. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

Christmas always came to our house, but Santy Claus only once in a while.

I haven't read The All-I'll-Ever Want-Christmas Doll in years. It was just as good as I remembered. The book is set during the Depression. A little girl, Nella, knows that her family is poor, that Santy may not come this year at all. Yet, she can't resist writing to him all the same begging for a Baby Betty doll. Her two sisters perhaps think a little less of Nella for her dreaming so big. She shouldn't expect so much from Christmas. But on Christmas morning, there are a few surprises. Each girl gets a Christmas sack filled with walnuts, peppermint candy, an orange, and a box of raisins. But there is one present, one special present remaining: a doll. Nella thinks the doll should be HERS and hers alone. After all, her sisters haven't gone around talking about the doll nonstop, her sisters didn't write Santa a letter begging for the doll. Why should she have to share the doll with them? But does the doll make her happy? Is the doll truly all she'll ever want? She has a few lessons to learn for sure!

I really enjoyed the story and the message.

The Bells of Christmas. Virginia Hamilton. Illustrated by Lambert Davis. 1989/1997. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 64 pages. [Source: Library]

I didn't dislike Virginia Hamilton's The Bells of Christmas. But I didn't love, love, love it either. I think it depends on what exactly you're expecting from a Christmas book. The Bells of Christmas is very much a celebration of a Christmas long ago. Christmas 1890. Readers meet a young boy, Jason Bell, and experience the holiday through his perspective. We learn about his mom and dad, his brothers and sisters, his cousins, his aunt and uncle, his friend, Matthew. The book is set over a period of several days. Among the things readers learn that Jason's dad is a carpenter, that he wants his sons to join him in his business one day, his dad has only one leg, that his dad wears a peg leg part of the time and is in his wheel chair the rest of the time. Readers also learn that Jason is just a wee bit obsessed with wheels--mainly trains, but, also wagons, etc. The book has plenty of detail and characterization which is a good thing. Jason is waiting for quite a few things: 1) he can't wait for Christmas morning and presents! 2) he can't wait for the Bells to arrive--his uncle and aunt and cousins, 3) he is excited about church, most everyone is performing and participating in some way. (Jason is singing a solo.) The book perhaps seeks to capture one Christmas for one extended family. It is a pleasant, enjoyable book. It isn't quite a chapter book or novel. It isn't quite a picture book.
The Gift of the Magi. O. Henry. Illustrated by Lisbeth Zwerger. 1905/2006. Simon & Schuster. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

I've seen adaptations of The Gift of the Magi--who hasn't? (My favorite is Bert and Ernie and Mr. Hooper.) But this is the first time I've read the actual short story. I haven't decided how I feel about it. Is this couple wise or foolish? Or are they at times foolish and at times wise?

The wife, Della, takes extraordinary pride in her long hair. She doesn't seem the vain sort except for when it comes to her hair. And even if she is vain about it, there's no indication it's anything besides a private vanity. The wife apparently has been coveting expensive hair combs as well. The husband, Jim, takes extraordinary pride in the family watch. The narrator uses exaggeration when discussing the woman's long hair and the man's gold watch. I didn't love the narrator. In fact, I think the narrator is a distraction. He won't let the reader forget for a moment that this is a precious story.
Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.
The wife can't afford a gift for her husband. The husband can't afford a gift the wife. The wife knows this--or should know this. The husband knows this--or should know this. The wife has saved $1.87. The husband might have saved a small sum as well. Readers don't know one way or the other. Both husband and wife will have something to offer the other, however. Something more than love. For both have decided--quite independently--to give sacrificially. To give up what they supposedly value most: her hair, his watch. And this giving up wasn't to support the family, but, to support the other's vanity.

I think actions can speak more than words. I think the narration took away some of my enjoyment of this one. It felt odd at times. There were sentences that were eloquent and refined and then it would slip into something else.
"It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"
I think I like the adaptations better.

The Tailor of Gloucester. Beatrix Potter. 1903. 58 pages. [Source: Library] 
In the time of swords and periwigs and full-skirted coats with flowered lappets—when gentlemen wore ruffles, and gold-laced waistcoats of paduasoy and taffeta—there lived a tailor in Gloucester.
He sat in the window of a little shop in Westgate Street, cross-legged on a table, from morning till dark.
All day long while the light lasted he sewed and snippeted, piecing out his satin and pompadour, and lutestring; stuffs had strange names, and were very expensive in the days of the Tailor of Gloucester.
I enjoyed rereading Beatrix Potter's The Tailor of Glouchester. In this delightful Christmas tale, readers meet a tailor, a cat named Simpkin, and some lovely mice. It is several days before Christmas. He's working hard to finish a coat and waistcoat for the Mayor of Glouchester. The Mayor is getting married on Christmas day. The tailor has just enough money to finish the coat. Not a penny to spare. He sends his cat, Simpkin, with his money to buy what he needs: a little for himself (food: bread, sausage, milk) a little for his work (one twist of cherry-coloured silk). It is only after the fact that he questions whether he should have sent the cat or gone himself. The cat returns, but, in a mood. The cat is upset for he's discovered that the tailor freed the mice he had captured and hid under the teacups. The cat hides the twist. The man is upset, of course, and sick. He takes to his bed unable to work. The oh-so-thankful mice go to his shop and finish his work for him. But since they are one twist short, they are unable to finish completely. Still, they do what they can, and they do a wonderful job. The cat who spies them at work, I believe, has a change of heart and gives the twist to the old man on Christmas morning. He has just enough time to finish. The Mayor is very, very pleased. And the tailor's luck changes for the better, and his business is much improved. This one is a lovely, delightful read from start to finish.

Lucy's Christmas. Donald Hall. Illustrated by Michael McCurdy. 1998. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Lucy's Christmas by Donald Hall. Lucy's Christmas is a picture book set in 1909 in New Hampshire. In the fall of 1909, Lucy and her family start preparing for Christmas. For Lucy, this means starting to make her own gifts for her family and friends. It pays to plan ahead since so many gifts take time, and thought must be placed into each gift. She's not the only one thinking ahead. This year the family is ordering a new stove for the kitchen. The family has spent a lot of time browsing in the Sears catalog. Lucy's choice is the one the family decides upon: the Glenwood Kitchen Range. The focus is not just on gifts: planning, making, giving, receiving. The focus is also on family life and community life. Readers get glimpses of the school and church. Both places are very busy! I enjoyed this glimpse into the past! It was interesting to see the family prepare for the new year--1910. The enthusiasm in the story is sweet. The author's note reveals that this picture book is based on family history.

I really liked this one very much. I liked Lucy and her family. I liked the fact that the church plays such a HUGE role in the Christmas celebrations. There are gifts, it's true. But it's not commercialized and selfish.

Baboushka and the Three Kings. Ruth Robbins. Illustrated by Nicholas Sidjakov. 1960/1986. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

Long ago and far away, on a winter's evening, the wind blew hard and cold around a small hut.

Baboushka and the Three Kings won the Caldecott Medal in 1961. It is Russian folktale with a Christmas setting. The three kings--wise men--come to Baboushka's hut. They only stay a few minutes. Long enough to extend an invitation to the old woman. Will she join them in their procession, in their quest, to find the Babe, the Child? She'd love to join them, she'd love to bring gifts to the Child. But she is not ready to go just yet. Couldn't they all wait until morning? Couldn't they wait for her to finish up a few small, tiny chores first? Couldn't they wait for the storm to clear? Their answer was firm. Their journey to the Child was too important to postpone. They couldn't linger longer. She watched them depart. But they were not easy men to forget. The next morning, she begins a journey of her own. A journey that will take her far. But will her journey lead her to where she wants to go?

It's a simple story, nicely written. "It is no ordinary Babe they seek. Yes! I must go and follow them! To find the new Babe, to offer Him her gift, was now her one yearning. This thought burned in her mind like a candle in the dark." It is also nicely illustrated. The illustrations complement the text well. Both illustrations and text have a different flavor, an authentic flavor, but not exactly American. After several readings, I came to appreciate both a bit more.

In case you're unfamiliar with the story, the book is bittersweet at best. While it is true that Russian children everywhere look forward to Baboushka's gifts each year as her journey continues, it is also true that Baboushka's journey has no happy ending. She never finds the Child. She is never able to give Him her gifts.

Polar Express. Chris Van Allsburg. 1985/2009. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

The Polar Express is one of my favorite Christmas books. It is. The book is a thousand times better than the movie. (Though the soundtrack of the movie isn't bad.) So if you've only seen the movie, you might want to give the book a try to. You might have a different response to it.

The Polar Express is about belief and doubt--in Santa. It's told in the first person, so we never learn the protagonist's name, but it is a little boy with a younger sister named Sarah. One Christmas Eve, the little boy is awakened by The Polar Express. He goes to the North Pole on the Polar Express train, there are other passengers too. All presumably boys and girls on the verge of not-believing. At the North Pole, he sees Santa, reindeer, and elves. He happens to be chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas. He asks for a bell from Santa's reindeer. This gift is not in his possession for long, however, because he has a hole in his pocket. On Christmas day, he receives a special gift under the tree: the bell he had lost. He can hear it. His sister can hear it. But his parents do not. The book ends wonderfully with a message for "all those who truly believe."

I loved this one cover to cover, though I love the ending most of all.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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1348. Post-PiBoIdMo Day 7: Elizabeth O. Dulemba Lets it Simmer

Elizabeth_Dulemba-den-250by Elizabeth O. Dulemba

Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a picture book that I know is a winner! I scramble to write the key lines, the story’s premise, its arc…and then, something goes wrong. There’s a piece that’s missing, or elements that aren’t quite gelling. Maybe the ending isn’t satisfying enough. But, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. So I save it.

I have a “Pre-pubbed Books” file in which I keep folders brimming with ideas. In these folders I’ll put sketches, various story versions, images of books I think might be similar, or reference photos that fit the story. You name it.

Of course, not all ideas come in whole. Some arrive as only a title or simple phrase. For those I have an “Other ideas” file. Inside are the years: 2004—2014. In those folders, I just save Word documents. Sometimes it can be one phrase or a character idea, but it was something that made my brain light up, so I keep it too.

And then there’s my dummies wall. Sometimes a story is so strong, I’m dying to illustrate it. Maybe I just do character sketches, or a few spreads. Sometimes I sketch out the entire dummy and even take a few pieces to final. This can lead to a lot of paperwork with no place to put it. This is when bulldog clips become my friends. I collect everything together, clip it, and hang it on the wall on a pushpin.


I’ll often sit back to look at these works-in-progress hanging on my wall and wonder if I have a new seed or tweak that might help them along.

Some of these folders, documents and dummies have been around for a while, but that doesn’t mean they’re dead. Sometimes it takes combining ideas, or swiping a phrase from one story to make another story stronger. So, I keep them organized so that I can mine them whenever I want to.


I also firmly believe some of them are ready to be published, but for whatever reason, the publishing world isn’t ready for them yet. Because of trends, word counts, a hit book that is too similar… whatever the reason, I’ll let them wait until trends circle back around and they become relevant again.

The irony is, with all these attempts at creating stories I’ve trained my storytelling muscles. I tell kids that writing is like lifting weights. The more bicep curls you do, the stronger you get. The more you write, the more those writerly muscles seem to know what to do. I’ve written so many picture book manuscripts that now, when I write, it seems stories come out of me in just the right word count and just the right number of page breaks. I’ve trained my brain to the structure of picture books.

But that still doesn’t mean they all work, hence, my folders and files and dummy wall. Sometimes a story will sit for a day, sometimes for years before I figure out the key that unlocks whatever was wrong and makes the story work. But I’ve learned to be patient with myself. Some stories, even the simplest (seeming) ones, need more time.

So, if you know deep down inside that your story isn’t there yet (don’t ignore that little voice), put the manuscript aside. Put it somewhere where you won’t forget about it, and let your brain work on it—while you sleep, or garden, or take a shower, or just get on with life. It doesn’t have to be perfect straight out of the box, few stories are.


I call it putting the clay on the wheel. You’ve got the idea down, you know its missing or lacking something. So knead it in the back of your mind, for however long it takes, until you get your story just right. You’ll know when.

And then, then you send it off to a publisher or to your agent. And maybe that manuscript that you struggled over, that you let simmer, will finally be so perfect, so right, they will buy it and publish it and you will get to share it with the world!


Elizabeth O. Dulemba is an award-winning children’s book author/illustrator with two-dozen titles to her credit. She is a Board Member for the Georgia Center for the Book, and Visiting Associate Professor at Hollins University in the MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating program. Her latest picture books are a series of books for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and LULA’S BREW. Elizabeth gives away free coloring pages and hosts interviews, guest posts, and giveaways on her website each week. Sign up for her weekly newsletter and learn more at Dulemba.com.






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1349. Picture Book Monday with a review of The Sheep go on Strike

Many of us tend to think that sheep are not very bright animals. They are followers rather than thinkers. In today's picture book you will meet some sheep who are intelligent and opinionated. In fact, they take a stand on an issue that is dear to them.

The Sheep Go on StrikeJean-Francois Dumont
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Eerdmans, 2014, 978-0-8028-5470-4
Every year the sheep are sheared and every fall they feel pretty chilly without their woolly fleeces. Some of them even get colds, and then they have to be seen by the vet, and we all know what happens when the vet comes; the sheep have to “swallow disgusting medicine and get shots.” After years of putting up with this state of affairs, the sheep have decided that they have had enough. None of the other farm animals get sheared for their fur, so why should the sheep put up with this treatment? There is only one thing to do: the sheep go on strike. 
   The sheepdog, Ralph, tries to round up the sheep and ends up having to run for it. The sheep are in no mood to be pushed around. On the farm some of the animals sympathize with the sheep, while others think that the sheep should stick to “tradition” because “that was how it was supposed to be.”
   The next day the sheep get ready to march on the road that runs from the end of the meadow to the goose pond. The farm animals watch as the sheepdogs from the neighboring farms gather for a meeting at Ralph’s doghouse. Afraid that they will lose their jobs, the dogs are determined to do what they can to stop the strike. No one imagines that the march and the kerfuffle that follows will cause a terrible schism to develop between the farm animals.
   We live in a world where people are often all too willing to resort to violence when things are not going their way. In this picture book we see how animals on a farm find themselves following this all too familiar human pattern until good sense prevails and they discover that there is always another way to solve a problem. A compromise offers them a solution that is clever, and for us readers, deliciously funny.

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1350. Post-PiBoIdMo Day 8: Laura Zarrin Begins (plus a prize!)

LauraZarrin-in-pinkby Laura Zarrin

Picture Book Idea Month is over. You have ideas waiting to be developed. Now what?

As a kid and all the way through college, writing came easily. Essays or essay questions? No problem. I loved to really pad those answers. Fast forward to now and that ease is completely gone. Sometimes I have no words, not even a decent name for the file I’m writing in. What happened to the free flow of words? Maybe they shriveled up and died from lack of use. Maybe I spend so much time drawing that the words have gone to sleep? I’m sure it’s a lot of things, but one thing that’s different is that while the more words the better method worked in school, it’s the wrong approach to writing picture books where brevity rules. As a mom and an illustrator, I appreciate brevity. Short books were my favorite since I’d have to read the same book over and over and over again.

As an illustrator, I approach my stories through pictures first. I ‘see’ them before I write them. I’ll sketch out the character or a scene and see where it leads. Sometimes I’ll be so inspired that I’ll write a quick first draft. It’ll be horrible, but that’s ok. The point is to get something written out. To begin. I can always go back and edit it or completely rewrite it. Mostly, I have to let the ideas marinate in my head for awhile, sometimes years, to figure out what the real story is. I turn it around, hold it up to the light, add and subtract characters, try various what ifs, and grill it with questions until it feels solid. I really wish I could just snap my fingers to create the book dummies, but it just doesn’t work that way. Even though picture books are ‘simple’, they’re anything but easy. It’s like saying it’s so easy to draw in a simple and childlike way when it’s anything but. It takes a ton of work to get to the point where one can pull off ‘childlike’ effectively. One has to have a solid grasp of anatomy, technique and design to make it work. The same can be said of writing. It takes some serious chops to write a story in it’s simplest form.





I wish I could give you a formula. Heck, I wish I could give me a formula, but as it stands, my formula is to scribble, sketch, make lists, make notes, outline, research, work on character design, write then delete, draw, and draw, and draw, cry, give up, try again, and eventually there’s this thing that actually becomes a story.

My suggestion to you is to just begin. That’s often the hardest part of any project. Draw your character or a scene that’s calling out to you. Write the character’s bio, outline your plot or write a synopsis. Whatever feels like the easiest entry point to begin. Good luck!


Illustrator of four­teen children’s books, Laura Zarrin, is branch­ing out into writing them too. Laura’s warm and whim­si­cal col­lage paint­ings have graced many prod­ucts from stick­ers to bul­letin boards to books. Her paint­ings are cre­ated in lay­ers tra­di­tion­ally, then scanned, assem­bled, and enhanced in Photoshop and Manga Studio, so that the art can be refor­mat­ted for a vari­ety of prod­ucts and apps.

Laura’s Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design and Illustration paired with her years of expe­ri­ence work­ing as a designer and art direc­tor have given her many great oppor­tu­ni­ties to work with other design­ers, edi­tors, sales peo­ple, and mar­ket­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion on many projects, from incep­tion to com­ple­tion. Fluent in the Adobe Creative Suite.

She lives and works in San Jose, Ca with her hus­band and two end­lessly cre­ative sons.

Visit her at LauraZarrin.com and follow her on Twitter @LauraZarrin. She blogs at Creative Whimsies and Simply Messing About.


Laura is giving away an 8×10 print of “Winter Dancing”.


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.

Good luck, everyone!


10 Comments on Post-PiBoIdMo Day 8: Laura Zarrin Begins (plus a prize!), last added: 12/8/2014
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