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More PiBoIdMo success stories! Many thanks to Mindy Alyse Weiss for pulling these stories together.
I hope when YOU have a success to share, you’ll contact me. I love to hear how your ideas went from pencil-scribble to published! And I don’t define “success” just as being pubbed. Win a grant, a contest, secure an agent–anything goes. So here goes…
1. Amy Dixon
Being married to a relentless distance runner means that every November, there is a marathon on the schedule. Lucky for me, November is also Picture Book Idea Month, and I had long been lamenting the lack of picture books about running. Looking back at my spreadsheet for 2010, the entry for November 5th says, “Marathon Mouse. Story of a mouse who lives in NYC right under the start line (Verrazano bridge) and decides that it is his life’s dream to particpate in the NYC marathon.” That’s it. The beginnings of a story. Flash forward to August 2011, where I received one of the best e-mails of my life. A lovely editor at Sky Pony Press likes Marathon Mouse and wants to publish it! The story could end there, and would still be a dream-come-true. But I decided to contact an agent I had recently queried with a different story and tell her of my offer. After a flurry of e-mails and phone calls, I signed with Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary. In the course of one day, I had gone from struggling picture book writer, to agented and soon-to-be-published! So keep your eyes peeled in Fall 2012 for a picture book titled, MARATHON MOUSE. It’s by me. And it happened in part because I took on the challenge of coming up with 30 ideas in 30 days!
I also have a longer version of the story on my blog, but it doesn’t mention PiBoIdMo:
2. Diana Murray
Diana Murray was thrilled to receive the 2010 SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant for her rhyming picture book manuscript about a witch. She came up with a few different versions of the idea during the first PiBoIdMo. You can read more about her experience here:http://taralazar.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/piboidmo-success-story/. Diana will always be grateful to Tara for starting an event that helped her streamline her writing process. And now, she’s ready for another month of fun and inspiration!
Diana’s website: http://www.dianamurray.com
3. Rebecca Colby
This year, Rebecca participated in her third PiBoIdMo. Following a picture book workshop last year that challenged her to alter a well-known fairytale, she decided to generate a few ideas for fractured fairy tales. She found the inspiration she needed from Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s guest post on Day 29 that recommended participants do just that–transform “something old into something new.”
The result was an idea for a Cinderella story with monsters entitled MONSTERELLA.
Rebecca says, “I fell in love with the idea of a fairy godmonster who magics a spider into a monster truck.” Rebecca wrote the manuscript soon after and it went on to win the 2011 SCBWI Barbara Karlin grant.
Before writing for children, Rebecca inspected pantyhose,worked for a Russian comedian, taught English in Taiwan, and traveled the world as a tour director. She currently works as a librarian. Born in America, Rebecca now lives in England with her husband and two daughters. More information about Rebecca and her writing can be found at her website: www.
When you are a young child, it is hard not to feel rather small at times. You cannot see over counters, you cannot reach items that are on tall shelves, and you cannot open a car door by yourself. On the whole, the world is a place that is full of hugeness and huge things. It is easy to believe that you are too small to make a difference.
In today's picture book you will meet a character who is very small, but who discovers that being small does not preclude one from doing big things.
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
For ages 5 to 7
Penguin, 2003, 0-14-240580-9
There once was a sea snail who lived on a rock near the sea. More than anything, the sea snail, who had “an itchy foot,” wanted to see the world. The other snails on the rock told the little sea snail to “Sit still! Stay put!” but the snail couldn’t bear to spend her entire life on that rock.
Being a clever creature, the snail wrote a message on her rock asking someone to give her a ride “around the world,” and not long after, a whale came along who was happy to take the snail to “far-off lands.” Off went the whale, with the snail on his tail, and together they saw icebergs, tropical islands, huge waves, and underwater caves. Seeing such wonders made the snail feel very small.
Then one day the whale accidentally got beached. If he didn’t get some help soon he would die, and the only living creature who knew of his plight was the snail. What could a tiny sea snail do to help a whale?
With its wonderful rhyming text and its delightful story about an unusual friendship, this picture book will surely resonate with young children who think that they, like the snail, are too small to make a difference. Children who long to have grand adventures in distant lands will enjoy swimming in the world’s oceans with the whale who carries a snail on his tail.
Oh my, how I love Alice Melvin's newest picture book, The Hight Street! I suppose, if you have skimmed through enough of my raving reviews of certain picture books, you will have learned that I adore almost any book that has to do with food and/or domestic comforts. I love the book even more if if reminds me of a favorite from my childhood. The Hight Street manages to score a double here as it
I don't know how I missed John Rocco's superb new picture book Blackout, but it came into my life at just the right time! While Rocco's book is set in Brooklyn and inspired by the blackout of 2003 that affected the city and beyond, his story finds a way to be both delightfully specific and universal at the same time. In September of this year a blackout affected my neighborhood as well as all of
“As the children finished the song, they opened their bags and threw handfuls of white feathers up into the air, as high as they could. The congregation burst into applause.”
(Click to enlarge spread)
This week at Kirkus, I take a look at Inga Moore’s A House in the Woods. That link will be here this morning.
If you missed last week’s column, I wrote about Lita Judge’s Red Sled. My breakfast interview with Lita was yesterday, and it includes several spreads from this beautiful picture book.
* * * * * * *
In keeping with my promise this month to post some 2011 holiday illustrations, this morning I’ve got my favorite spread (above) from John Harris’s Jingle Bells: How the Holiday Classic Came to Be (Peachtree, October 2011), illustrated by Adam Gustavson. This fictionalized picture book tells the story of James Lord Pierpont, a Unitarian music director in Savannah, Georgia, in the 1850s, whose church was being harassed for allowing former slaves to attend services. Pierpont, originally from Boston and also struggling with the sweltering Georgia heat, composed the song for his daughter, Lillie, who had never seen snow. (more…)
By: Brimful Curiosities,
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If I were to write up a list of my very favorite Christmas picture books, Trinka Hakes Noble's Apple Tree Christmas would appear near the top. I found her picture book quite by accident at the library last week while searching for books with a "holiday" sticker, though I'm beginning to think that it was rather not by circumstance but by providence.
As each year passes I desire more and more for my family to escape the commercialism surrounding Christmas and focus on family, traditions and meaningful gifts including the true gift of Christmas, Jesus. While Apple Tree Christmas is not a religious book, it is a work of historical fiction that harkens back to simpler times, modest gifts from the heart and family togetherness.
Apple Tree Christmas by Trinka Hakes Noble. Dial Books for Young Readers (October 1984); ISBN 0803701020; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from our public library
Noble's story is set in the late 1800's. The Ansterburgs, a close-knit family, reside in one side of an old barn and live a simple, rural life. They cherish their beloved apple tree -- the tree provides a bountiful crop of apples every fall, and the family uses the apples to make applesauce, cider, apple butter and Christmas tree decorations. The tree also serves a special play space for the two Ansterburg kids, Katrina and Josie.
"Now that all the apples were picked, Katrina and Josie could climb the tree as much as they wanted. The snowy weather didn't stop them. Every day after school they would play in its branches.
On one side Papa had pulled a thick vine down low enough to make a swing for Josie.
The other side of the tree belonged to Katrina. One limb made the perfect drawing board."
Unfortunately, a blizzard comes in with a vengeance and a terrible ice storm knocks down the apple tree. The whole family feels awful about losing the tree. Katrina especially morns the loss of her favorite tree and her drawing perch. Christmas day arrives, but to Katrina "it just didn't feel like Christmas." However, her parents have a surprise in store. The apple tree, though in different form, continues to spread warmth and joy in a new way.
The lovely watercolor paintings in Noble's book provide children with a glimpse into a rural 1880s life, and this emotion-filled family story is similar to those found in Laura Ingalls Wilder's much-loved books. The story also provides a great example of how to craft thoughtful, handmade gifts with determined resourcefulness and shows how to make
Erin Murphy (l.) and Liz Garton Scanlon at the 2010 Newbery-Caldecott Award Banquet, where Marla Frazee, illustrator of Liz's All the World (Beach Lane/S&S), was awarded a Caldecott Honor.
by Erin Murphy
So, you’ve got 30 picture book ideas. Now what do you do?
Keep them. All of them. Do you have an idea file of some kind? You should. It’s obvious that you might turn to the idea file when you’re casting about for something new to write, but it also can do wonders for unlocking writers block. You never know when some seemingly unrelated idea will be just the thing to add the missing layer to another piece. Sometimes it’s less direct than that; just reading through ideas is a way of getting you out of a stuck place, much like taking a walk or strolling through a gallery can knock you out of a creative rut.
Sort through them to find the most promising ideas to spend more time with. Laura Purdie Salas had some great suggestions about how to evaluate your ideas last week.
Budget time to work on each of those most promising ideas. Not just once, but two or three times per idea before you decide if they’re worth pursuing further. Even if you schedule 20 minutes of writing time a day, you can spend 10 on a new idea, and 10 on an idea you’ve already worked on some, and by the new year, you’ll most likely have a couple of solid ideas that are coming together into a real picture book manuscript.
Some ideas seem to have promise, but they resist any time and attention you give them. This is a sign that they need to sit in your subconscious for awhile. They will most likely kick and scream when they’re ready.
After a concentrated creative period like PiBoIdMo, you’ve got a great opportunity to take stock of where and when you do your most creative thinking. Did you get your best ideas in the car while waiting for your kid to come out of your piano lesson? Well then, perhaps a copy of your promising idea list needs to stay in the car so you can keep using that time for best results.
SORT AND EVALUATE.
I’m not talking about evaluating the idea; you’ve already done that. I’m talking about general trends. Try putting all 30 ideas into categories (character-driven, concept-driven, voice-driven, plot-driven; lyrical, funny, quiet; spontaneous-feeling or intellectual…). Are you heavily weighted towards one type of story? Is that your strength? (Or, conversely, are you limiting yourself unnecessarily?) What research can you do about that type of story to help you grow in your picture book writing craft?
Don’t forget to go back to that full list of ideas now and then. Who knows what discarded idea ends up turning out to have legs! Kathy Duval’s I Think I See a UFO, forthcoming from Disney-Hyperion, to be illustrated by the wonderful Adam McCauley, was a nearly discarded idea that found a home at the first publisher we sent it to!
Erin Murphy was born and raised in Arizona, and founded EMLA
My kids aren't little anymore and our taste in holiday picture books has changed. These are my favorite books for the season even when it seems like everyone is too old for picture books. Never, my friends, never.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming.
by Lemony Snicket
Just hysterical. A latke runs screaming from the frying pan, and encounters various Christmas icons along its path. As the latke explains what it is and its significance in the celebration of Hanukkah, it keeps getting compared to Christmas. And so it keeps screaming. Lemony Snicket actually gets in a fair bit about the meaning of Hanukkah, while keeping a wry tone throughout. For instance as the latke explains in a long paragraph about being fried in oil as a reference to the oil that was used to rededicate the temple and the miracle that made the oil last for eight nights, the answer it receives is par for the course:
“So you’re basically hash browns,” said the flashing colored lights. “Maybe you can be served alongside a Christmas ham.”
“I’m not hash browns!” cried the latke. “I’m something completely different!”
And then it runs screaming, “AAAHHHHHHHHH!” for two pages. As my kids have grown past the traditional - and too often schmaltzy - Hannukkah stories, this one is our new family classic.The Lump of Coal
by Lemony Snicket
On the same note, we've turned to this title to replace the cute Christmas stories that absorbed us in the past. It contains perhaps one of the most perfect opening sentences of all times:
The holiday season is a time for storytelling, and whether you are hearing the story of a candelabra staying lit for more than a week, or a baby born in a barn without proper medical supervision, these stories often feature miracles.
A humble lump of coal longs to be something more and visits an art gallery and Korean barbecue in hopes of fulfilling his search for meaning. Instead a drugstore Santa decides he'll be the perfect thing for his stepson's stocking as punishment. But this ill intent goes right as the coal finds his purpose in an artist's hand. Wry, funy and odd, this book ends on just the right note for the holidays, and in echoing the first sentence, with miracles.Robert's Snowflakes
by Grace Lin
So many of the world's problems seem to arise because people are suspicious of other people who are not like them. They are taught or conditioned to distrust people who look different, who speak a different language, or who come from a different country.
In this picture book, the authors address this issue with humor and sensitivity. Children will see that being different is not a bad thing, and that the first step to understanding others is to be open minded and non-judgmental.
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah and Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by Tricia Tusa
For ages 5 to 8
Hyperion, 2010, 978-142312484-9
Lily and Salma are the best of friends. At school, they draw together, play together, and eat lunch together. The girls are so much alike, except that they eat very different foods for lunch. Salma has a hummus and pita sandwich, and Lily has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Salma thinks Lily’s lunch looks “strange and gross,” and Lily thinks Salma’s lunch looks “weird and yucky,” but both girls keep their feelings to themselves.
Then one day Lily can no longer keep her opinion to herself, and she tells Salma what that she thinks Salma’s food looks “yucky.” Not surprisingly, Salma’s feelings are hurt and she gets angry, and she responds by saying that Lily’s food “looks gross, and it smells bad too!”
That afternoon the girls avoid one another, and the next day they don’t have lunch together. Worse still, some of the kids in school are supporting Lily, while others are supporting Salma, and a state of war reigns in the lunchroom. Then, to Lily and Salma’s horror, a food fight breaks out. How did their silly disagreement create such an unfortunate situation?
It is all too easy to negatively judge people who are different simply because they are different. With their wonderful story, Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan and Kelly DiPucchio explore the idea that the first step towards tolerance and understanding is to have an open mind and to be willing try new things. All too often, people decide that something is “yucky” without even trying it. They decide that a person is “weird” because they look and sound different.
One hopes that many children and their families will read this picture book, and take in the important message it contains.
A classic Christmas tale is THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, first published in 1972 by Barbara Robinson. Not only was it made into a TV movie, but it is produced annually as a play in theaters, schools and churches all over the world.
Now, Robinson is introducing us to the latest picture book version of THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER, illustrated by Laura Cornell.
We're introduced to the Herdmans, who just happen to be the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie, steal and play with matches and everyone stays away from them. However, one day they show up in Sunday school. Not only do they steal all the money out of the collection plate, but they draw mustaches on everybody in the Bible and take over the annual Christmas pageant (acting out the story of Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus). Everybody knows the story, except the Herdmans. In fact, everyone's convinced this is going to be the worst pageant ever, but when the pageant takes place and every wrong thing the Herdmans do seems right and natural, it might possibly be the best Christmas pageant ever.
The thought of six very unruly children teaching a whole church about the true meaning of the birth of Christ is what makes this a wonderful Christmas picture book to share with children and teach them the true meaning of Christmas. Cornell has updated the story with lively and vibrant illustrations, but the powerful message remains the same. A wonderful addition to your Christmas collection.Additional Information:
Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (September 27, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0060890742Source of review copy: Publisher
Disclosure: Some of the books I review are received from publishers , PR agencies, and authors, but it does not sway my opinion of the book.
In her career as an author/illustrator—not her first, by any means, since she once dug dinosaur bones, as well as worked as a geologist for the Forest Service—Lita Judge (pictured above, making curtains with help from her cat, Pu) has brought readers a handful of insightful nonfiction picture books. A visit to the web site devoted to her debut title proves her devotion to high-quality nonfiction for children, not to mention I’ve seen an early copy of her upcoming Spring 2012 Roaring Brook Press title, Bird Talk: What Birds Are Saying and Why, which is beautiful. (No doubt she was inspired by her ornithologist grandparents, as well as her parents who were, as she notes below, wildlife photographers.)
But her latest title, released this November by Atheneum, is a work of fiction. Red Sled (my thoughts on it are over at last week’s Kirkus column) has been met with starred reviews across the board, the official Kirkus review even calling it nothing less than “pure genius.” There are so many well-crafted 2011 picture books for the current Caldecott committee to pore over and discuss, and who knows … perhaps this one is at the top of their stack. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me at all if it were.
This isn’t Lita’s first visit to 7-Imp (see here and here), but it’s a treat to have her sit down at the breakfast table today. I do quite a few of these cyber-breakfast interviews, but I have to say this one was a particular pleasure to format, given Lita’s thoughtful answers, the artwork and images she shares, and her obvious passion for illustration and picture books. I am also struck by how much of her life is so truly entrenched in the natural world — not mostly separate from it, as it is for so many of us. (Well, I guess I should speak for myself here.)
by Janee Trasler
Generating ideas comes easily for me. I am participating in my own private PiBoIdMo every day of the year. I jot down ideas on napkins; I write them on my hand; I email them to myself; I leave myself idea voice mails. I’ve got no problem with ideas.
It’s getting those ideas out of my head and onto paper I struggle with.
You’ve probably met people who get an idea on Monday and by Wednesday, have a polished, publishable, picture book manuscript ready to send, right? I’m in a critique group with those people.
I am not one of them.
My process looks something like this.
- Get brilliant idea.
- Decide that I am a genius.
- Jot down a few notes.
- Let idea brew.
- Critique way too early in process.
- Decide that I am not a genius.
- Decide, in fact, that I suck.
- Stuff notes in deepest, darkest corner of drawer.
- Get sudden inspiration while washing dishes.
- Pull notes out of drawer.
- Reread notes.
- Decide that I am genius after all.
- Jot down new inspiration.
- Let brew.
- Make storyboard.
- Revise storyboard 42 times.
- Write first draft.
- Send to critique group.
- Wait for them to confirm genius.
- Get feedback from critique group.
- Decide that critique group doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
- Decide that critique group is genius after all.
- Send to agent.
- Wait for her to confirm genius.
I could probably trim a lot of self bashing and praising from my process, but the other parts, the brewing, story boarding, and revising are really important for me. I get an idea and actively brainstorm it for a bit, but then I need to put it away and let my subconscious work on it.
It gives my idea time to grow. It allows me to make connections I might not have otherwise made.
I used to think of this as a bad thing. I compared myself to the idea-on-Monday-polished-draft-on-Wednesday people and felt lesser, but then realized it’s just the way I work. The time I spend brewing my idea, they often spend looking for one.
The other part of my process that I’d be loath to lose is the storyboarding phase. I get a lot of the kinks worked out here before it ever goes to draft form. I number a piece of paper 1 through 15 to represent picture book spreads. I tentatively write the exposition on the first line and the resolution on line 14. I pace out the major plot points on lines 2 through 13 and the wrap up on line 15.
As I’m playing with the storyboard, I know I’ve got the half-title spread to steal if I really need an extra spread to complete my arc.
I find it so much easier to revise the storyboard than a draft, that I will try things here that I might not try if I went straight from notes to writing. There’s a lot less risk to trying something at this stage.
I congratulate you all for participating in PiBoIdMo, and whether it’s ready next Wednesday or three years from now, I look forward to adding your picture books to my collection!
Janee Trasler has illustrated 19 books and written/illustrated four of her own. Her latest book,
Rating: 4/5 StarsGenre: Short StoriesRelease Date: 9/27/2011Add to GoodreadsAbout the Book:
Seven lost stories from the masterful Dr. Seuss compiled and published together for the first time in a new collection. From cautionary, lesson tales, to humor and fantastical new creatures, this is a must have for Dr. Seuss fans young and old!
GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I think this book is best enjoyed on audio with wonderful narrators!! I'm always a bit nervous about "lost" stories, but I enjoyed this collection for the most part, especially after hearing about how they were short works originally published in magazines and newspapers. I thought I'd share a breakdown of what I liked or disliked about each story:
The Bippolo Seed narrated by Neil Patrick Harris-I loved this story and I really thought it was the strongest of the book. It had the classic Seuss feel to it of silliness and a lesson in the end. I also liked the rhymes and felt they all worked well in this story. Plus, add in Neil Patrick Harris's fabulous narration and you've got a great read/listen. (Really, he needs to narrate more audiobooks! Please-more NPH on audio!)
The Rabbit, The Bear, and the Zinniga-Zanniga-narrated by Angelica Houston-This one was just OK. I think part of it was the narration-it was good, but not great. I also felt the story was a bit weak. It's still fun, but wasn't a stand out for me.
Gustav the Goldfish-narrated by Jason Lee-Jason Lee, I like you, I really do! But I disliked your narration of this story! Just because you're reading for kids doesn't mean you have to be overly excited all the time! I wasn't a fan of this story, mostly because I felt the ending fell flat and the narration was annoying. When I got the book, I liked the illustrations for this story, so maybe I would have liked it better if I had read it with the pictures instead of listening to it.
Tadd and Todd narrated by Joan Cusack-I liked this story and the narration is good. I did feel a bit sad in the end though. I felt like Tadd and Todd wanted to be unique and instead resigned to the fact that they were twins and had to be like each other. I would have liked to see them be able to embrace their originality instead of accepting they are the same. Maybe this was me projecting my adult-self onto the story. I think kids will find it fun and maybe find comfort in the fact that siblings are there with you as "peas in a pod".
Steak for Supper narrated by Edward Hermann-This story made me laugh and it was another strong classic Dr. Seuss. Filled with a menagerie of Seuss creatures, this one has lots of humor and silliness. It also has a nice twist to add to the humor. The narration helped make this one of the stand out stories of the book for me.
The Strange Shirt Spot narrated by William H. Macy-A great story with great narration! This is somewhat of an adventure story as a young boy can't get a dirty spot off anything! The trials of cleaning make for some laugh out loud fun and the end is sure to have parents and kids giggling with it's "oh so true" statement. This was another favorite story.
The Great Henry McBride narrated by Peter Dinklage-I enjoyed this story of a dreamer. The narration is fantastic and makes it a l
One of the things that I like about living in my town is that I have a circle of friends who are there for me in good times and in bad. They celebrate with me when something good happens, and they help me out when I am struggling. These friends are truly priceless.
In today's picture book you will meet a wonderful person whose kindness and compassion earns him the love and friendship of all kinds of people, people who are there for him in good times and in bad.
Illustrated by Wayne Harris
For ages 5 to 7
Allen and Unwin, 2006, 1-74114-252-0
Charlie is a wonderful postman who is loved by the people he visits every day because he takes the time to talk to them, helps them with their chores, and pat their dogs. He is “the most well loved and well licked postman” in town, and he loves his job.
One day Charlie’s wife dies, and poor Charlie is so lonely and full of grief that he isn’t a cheerful postman anymore. All the people he has befriended are worried about him, and the people who have dogs are all sure that what Charlie needs is a dog of his own.
Encouraged by his friends, Charlie goes to the pound and he gets a dog; a nice calm and quiet little dog called Lucy. All of Charlie’s friends love Lucy, and soon Charlie starts to feel alive again. Then Charlie puts on his postman’s uniform and he discovers something very upsetting. Lucy “hates postmen.”
In this charming and heartwarming picture book, Lisa Shanahan explores the ways in which relationships can enrich our lives. We see how the Charlie’s kindness to others is appreciated and returned, and we see how the love a dog changes Charlie’s life for the better. This feel-good celebration of friendship is a delight to share with children.
I usually work Saturdays, but when I have the day off I make sure to listen to Weekend Edition on NPR where children's (and adult) author Daniel Pinkwater joins Scott Simon to read a picture book. Back in February of 2000, they read DB Johnson's Henry Hikes to Fitchburg and I knew I had to have it. Johnson's art work is amazing but, even better than that is his bear, Henry. Henry is none other
I first discovered Inga Moore by way of the illustrations she did for Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden and Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, which she abridged as well as illustrated. I read and loved The Wind in the Willows as a child and was entranced and transported by it and in turn read it (and the quartet of books byWilliam Horwood that continues the stories of the
by Kat Yeh
I have just finished my second year of PiBoIdMo and I can’t stop thinking about how much I love what I do. I love the blank page that is suddenly no longer blank. I love that for a living, I get to be a picture book author. Because when you write picture books, you get to Make Things Up. You get to take something that never existed in real life and make it real. And if you’re lucky, one day it becomes a book you can hold in your hands.
In 2003, I took a class at Columbia’s Teachers College. Let me clarify. I took an amazing class entirely devoted to the Art of the Picture Book. Taught by Professor Barbara Kiefer, former chair of the Caldecott Committee. The previous years between 1999 and 2003 had been a blur. In a short span of time, my first child was getting ready to go to school, I had a second child, and my father passed away. I had always wanted to write children’s books and had a pretty big stack of manuscripts and scribbled ideas piled up in my office. In the midst of everything that was going on, I somehow decided that it was time to take a chance.
The class was wonderful. We held a Mock Caldecott Award and pitched our personal nominees. We experimented with making hand-bound books. We were given lists of museums and galleries to visit for inspiration. And one day, the list included an exhibition of Chinese Calligraphy.
I went early one morning. I remember how still the rooms were. I remember standing alone before a wall of parchment paper and stunning brushwork and being overwhelmed with memories of my father. How he loved spending time with my daughter. How he shouted with joy when he heard I was pregnant with my son. How along with his many artistic pursuits, he loved working with his brush and ink. That day, I began to write the story of how my father introduced my children to the art of Chinese Calligraphy.
Flash forward 5 years. The kids were a little older. There was a little more breathing room. I now had a somewhat daunting stack of manuscripts and scribbled ideas and I decided it was time to take another chance and actually try to get published.
My first picture book, YOU’RE LOVABLE TO ME (Random House, December, 2009) came out shortly after that. Through the SCBWI, I was introduced to the amazing New Jersey chapter, run by Kathy Temean. One of my first events was a Mentor Workshop with the opportunity to have a manuscript critique. I brushed off my Chinese calligraphy story. Looked at it with fresh eyes and made changes. Then took a deep breath and brought it to my meeting with editor Stacy Cantor from Walker Books.
It was a good meeting.
Stacy teamed me up with illustrator Huy Voun Lee and two years later, THE MAGIC BRUSH: A story of love, family, and Chinese characters (Walker Books, January, 2011) was on the shelves.
I will never forget the first time I sat with my children to read it. How my daughter looked at the pages showing the first Chinese characters my father ever taught her. How my son reached out to touch the opening spread—a beautiful illustration of him and his sister, laughing with my father in a garden. How they listened to the story of that special time they were lucky enough to share with my father.
Time that only ever existed in that book.
Because only few weeks after I had told my father that I was expecting another child, he had a stroke. He lay in a coma when my son was born and never opened his eyes again. He never got the chance to meet my son or teach my dau
There must be literally thousands of parents out there whose children have told them that they want a pet. How many hours of negotiation have taken place in homes around the world, as parents and children try to come to an understanding about what kind of pet they should get, and who will take care of it. The mind boggles just thinking about it. Or at least mine does.
In today's picture book you will meet a little girl who wants a pet, and her parents who don't want anything that will shed fur, dirty the house, or eat the child.
For ages 4 to 6
Frances Lincoln, 1999, 978-1-84780-289-7
A little girl wants a pet, so she asks her mother if she can have one. Though her mother doesn’t exactly say no, she does say that the pet will have to be something “with not too much fur.” Dad wouldn’t mind a pet who“lives outside.” The pet shop lady says that goldfish can be fun pets, but the little girl is not convinced. She would like something with a little more pizzazz.
Like a lion perhaps. Though, of course, a lion might decide that the little girl would make a great snack. A sheep would be a nice pet, except that sheep are notorious “copy-cats.” The little girl suggests that perhaps a bat would be the pet for her. She and her bat could “dangle upside-down in the closet.” The little girl’s mother makes it clear that a bat in the closet would not work for her. In fact, she says that even suggesting such a thing could mean that there will be no chocolate éclairs. Imagine life without any chocolate éclairs! What is a little girl to do if none of her ideal pets pass muster with her family.
Young children and their grownups will laugh out loud as they look through this clever and deliciously funny picture book. The ending is perfect, because we are left wondering, speculating, and knowing that what happens next is probably going to be the best surprise of all.
by Nick Bruel
A Bad Kitty Christmas caused me to break three promises I had made to myself.
First, I had promised myself that I would NEVER create another Bad Kitty picture book. It’s not that I didn’t like making them or that I wasn’t proud of the first two: Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy. It’s just that the multiple alphabet format was just too daunting to continue. It’s one reason I came up with the idea to adapt Kitty into a chapter book character. I knew there was much more for this character to do, and having her grow up along with her reader seemed like both a good idea and the perfect escape from the picture book format for her.
The second promise I broke wasn’t so much of a promise as a mindful warning I had made to myself after I completed Little Red Bird. Rhyming books are hard to write. Make that INCREDIBLY hard to write. Make that incredibly FRUSTRATING to write. Plus, all too often authors have been known to rhyme their text because the text itself was not strong enough to hold up on its own as a picture book. Or at least that is the perception by many. After Little Red Bird, which I am quite proud of, I decided that it would a very long time before I even considered writing another rhyming book again.
But the third promise I broke was absolutely the one I thought I would take with me to the grave. I never wanted to do a holiday book.
Not that I had anything against holiday books. Some of the most classic works in the history of children’s books are, of course, holiday books like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Polar Express. But so many more have come in time for one holiday season and disappeared forever by the time the next holiday season comes around. Having worked for so many years in a children’s bookstore I had seen first hand how publishers would collectively carpet bomb our shelves with brand new Christmas books, and how all of those books that had done so well for us just one year beforehand would become all but completely forgotten. Knowing how difficult it was for me to dedicate as much as nine months of my life to giving birth to each of my books, knowing they would see the light of day on bookstore shelves for only a couple of months at most was just too much to bear.
But break my promises I did, and I broke all three of them at the same time.
Neal Porter and Simon Boughton were both insistent that I still had it in me to create another Bad Kitty picture book. Clearly they had more confidence in my abilities than I did. They also tried to convince me that it was unnecessary for me to maintain the multiple alphabet format, knowing how difficult it was for me. But how could I not? If I had used it for the first two books, it would feel disloyal for me not to do it again for future books. The best I could promise them would be that I would go home and think about it. And I did.
The truth is, I had already given serious consideration to making a Bad Kitty Christmas book. My original concept, one I had contemplated several years ago would be that Kitty would run away from home, bitter that she had not received the presents she wanted, and while wandering through the neighborhood would look through the
Oh, my poor neglected blog. I think it’s time to make amends.
I’ve been busy with writing-related tech stuff that involved learning some new technology. I don’t have a finished product to show off yet, so I’m afraid the news will have to wait for another time. Sorry to be dropping vague hints, but I like to have something concrete to show off before I make any kind of announcement.
I’ve been neglecting plenty of stuff including writing new material, my critique groups and my website. I still had Halloween references there, yeesh!
Catching up has been a little like playing Whack-A-Mole. All these little things kept popping up, but I’m almost there.
Anyway, I would like to take this opportunity to share another nice review by children’s author, Lori Calabrese, for my latest picture book, My Brother the Frog. Ms. Calabrese has this to say.
MY BROTHER THE FROG is a humorous read that dives into a little sibling rivalry. As I said before, we've all probably imagined turning our brother or sister into a frog, but MY BROTHER THE FROG takes it one step further and really examines what would happen if it actually came to fruition. Kids will get a kick out of the illustrations and parents will enjoy the hidden message that a sibling can actually be your best friend.
To see the full review and other book info, please click on link below.http://www.amazon.com/review/R2IPXLPVCJT00I
Pretty cool feedback if I do say so myself. :-)
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“Tonight, the sixth night of Chanukah, our seven candles call out like vendors’ chants, like parents’ voices, echoing among the tenements
where faith burns bright amid a new generation.”
(Click to enlarge)
I’m sticking to my original rules today and only featuring one illustration from today’s featured holiday book. Above is one of the fold-out pop-up spreads from Michael J. Rosen’s Chanukah Lights (Candlewick, September 2011), illustrated/paper-engineered by Robert Sabuda.
Dedicating an entire three-dimensional spread to each of the eight days of Hanukkah, author and illustrator pay tribute to the Jewish holiday with much grace. Rosen lays out eight scenes showing various celebrations of Jewish freedom—a kibbutz, the first Jewish settlement in the New World, a boat with refugees, a temporary home for those wandering in the desert, and more—and Sabuda’s all-white pop-up scenes, springing forth from brightly-colored backgrounds, are intricate and detailed. Each pop-up structure includes Chanukah lights somewhere in the spread — for observant eyes.
Publishers Weekly describes this one as a “stunning achievement,” while Kirkus calls it a “grand display item, undeniably fragile but capable of surviving—and rewarding—multiple careful readings.”
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CHANUKAH LIGHTS. Text copyright © 2011 by Michael J. Rosen. Illustrations copyright © 2011 by Robert Sabuda. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.