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1. The Picture Book in 2016: Social Themes and Lessons

I recently received a very interesting, if puzzling, question.  A friend of mine needed to know, for professional reasons, what I would consider the top themes in picture books these days.  By “themes” I don’t mean trends but rather emotional or social lessons for young readers.  You might even go so far as to call them the morals we’re trying to impart upon our 21st century offspring.

This is not as easy a question. While I attempt to take meticulous notes on every picture book I read, it’s far easier to keep track of, say, movie cameos in 2016 books than overarching societal anxieties.  Still, I managed to whip up a list and then thought, why not share it widely?

Here then are the top themes I’m detecting in picture books this year.


  • It’s Okay to Make Mistakes – Particularly as it applies to girls in science or math, but also to how kids do their own art.  I’ve seen a lot of books where a kid is making art, messes it up in some way, and then learns how to turn it into something new.  By the same token, a lot of books are about how you have to make mistakes to get better at something.  And it’s not about failing once or twice but a LOT.  Not mention asking as many questions as possible!  Hopefully those books where someone tries something three times and gets it done perfectly on the third will be a thing of the past soon.

A Good Example Would Be:

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, ill. David Roberts


Though you might just as easily apply this to Ada’s predecessor Rosie Revere, Engineer.


  • Gender Roles – Most notably when it comes to boys in dresses (though no girls identifying as boys) as well as just how kids interact with one another.  Kids learn gender roles VERY early and enforce those roles with one another.  There’s a great book call NutureShock for adults that talks a lot about this.  Picture books have always liked this theme (William’s Doll came out in the 1970s, after all) but now it’s ramping up again.

A Good Example Would Be:

I’m a Girl by Yasmeen Ismail


I was initially going to go with the new James Howe picture book Big Bob, Little Bob, but I already mentioned that one in an earlier post.  There are remarkably few books where gender stereotypes for girls are as thoroughly knocked to the floor and trampled upon than what you’ll find here.  It even saves space to kick to the curb some male gender stereotypes as well at the end.  I’m a fan.


  • Economic Disparity – We’re finally seeing some books that acknowledge that not all kids have the same resources at home.  Some kids have parents who lose their jobs.  Others have single family homes.  And not every kid you know has parents who can afford to buy them a bike.

A Good Example Would Be:

A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts, ill. Noa Z. Jones


I think what I love so much about this is the easy breezy ignorance of Sergio.  He simply cannot conceive of a world where a boy’s parents wouldn’t be able to buy their son a bike if they wanted to.  Meanwhile the character of Ruben is placed in the awkward position of having to hide his family’s economic situation from his best friend.  And this is a picture book!  We’re finally seeing this topic handled in something other than a Charlie Bucket kind of way.  I’m very pleased.


  • Unplug – Possibly the MOST popular theme in the past three to four years.  Very Willy Wonka in the moralizing sometimes (imagine what Mike TeeVee could have done with a personal device), but important to adults. Many is the picture book where someone turns off all their devices and discovers the wide and wonderful world.

A Good Example Would Be:

Tek, the Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell


What I like about this book is that since you’ve got a caveperson with a cell phone, adding dinos to the mix really isn’t going to upset anyone.  You’ve already gone beyond the pale.


  • Try to See It Their Way (or, Everyone’s a Person – Even Mean People) – Picture books where you have to see it from another person’s point of view are becoming very sophisticated these days.  Some of them will also show that bullies sometimes have problems at home or at school that cause them to act out.  Though, if we’re going to get technical about it, even The Berenstain Bears and the Bully discussed this decades ago.

A Good Example Would Be:

Eddie the Bully by Henry Cole


Bully books aren’t going away anytime soon.  Nuanced bully books?  That might mark the second wave of titles.


  • Apologize When You’re Wrong – Oddly popular as a theme.  Owning up to your own mistakes is hard.  Books are making that infinitely clear, but also show the right way to do it.

A Good Example Would Be:

What’s Up, Chuck? by Leo Landry


I think this might fall more into the “early reader” category vs. “picture books” but I care not.  The interesting thing about this storyline is that when our main character has acted like a spoiled brat for not winning a contest’s first prize medal for the first time in three years, the person who does win gives Chuck (our hero) an out.  But Chuck doesn’t take it, and apologizes like a pro.  It’s really well executed in a book this simple.  Check it out sometime.


  • Try Something New – Whether it’s food or school or new friends or whatever, trying something new is a big time theme.

A Good Example Would Be:

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, ill. Christian Robinson


So my daughter started Kindergarten this week and I figured this book might make a good gift to her Kindergarten teacher.  Turns out, it’s been a HUGE hit in the school, with other teacher vying to borrow it.  What I like about it, though, is that it takes time to acknowledge that when you try something new it isn’t instantaneously fantastic.  Things go wrong.  It takes time to enjoy something you’ve never done before.

And yes, you could argue that these are themes every year, but I feel like they’re particularly prevalent in 2016.  What are you seeing that I’ve missed?


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2. August excerpt: Science, Conservation, and National Parks


“Parks, Biodiversity, and Education” by Edward O. Wilson*

This is a very important meeting and book, and I’m grateful to be part of it. First, I’ll summarize what scientists have learned about biodiversity and extinction, especially during the past 20 years. Then I’ll suggest what I believe is the only viable solution to stanch the continuing high and growing rate of species extinction. Then, finally, I’ll make the point already obvious to many of you, that our national parks are logical centers for both scientific research and education for many domains of science, but especially and critically biodiversity and conservation of the living part of the environment.

The world is turning green, albeit pastel green, but humanity’s focus remains on the physical environment—on pollution, the shortage of fresh water, the shrinkage of arable land, and on that great, wrathful demon, climate change. In contrast, Earth’s biodiversity, and the wildlands on which biodiversity is concentrated, have continued to receive relatively little attention. This is a huge strategic mistake. Consider the following rule of our environmental responsibility: If we save the living environment of Earth, we will also save the physical nonliving environment, because each depends intimately on the other. But if we save only the physical environment, as we seem bent on doing, we will lose them both.

So, what is the condition of the living environment, in particular its diversity and stability? How are we handling this critical element of Earth’s sustainability? Let me summarize the basic information that scientists have assembled up to the present time, most of it during the last decade.

First, what is biodiversity? It’s the collectivity of all inherited variation in any given place, whether a vacant lot in a city, an island in the Pacific, or the entire planet. Biodiversity consists of three levels: an ecosystem such as a pond, a forest patch, or coral reef; then the species composing the ecosystem; and finally at the base, the genes that prescribe the traits that distinguish the species that compose the living part of the ecosystem.

How many species are known in the whole world? At the present time, almost exactly two million. How many are there actually, both known and unknown? Excluding bacteria and the archaea, which I like to call the dark matter of biology because so little is known of their biodiversity, the best estimate of the diversity of the remainder (that is, the fungi, algae, plants, and animals) is nine million, give or take a million. Except for the big animals, the vertebrates, comprising 63,000 known species collectively of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, and 270,000 species of flowering plants, very little to nothing is known of the remaining millions of kinds of fungi and invertebrates. These are the foundation of the biosphere, the mostly neglected little things that run the planet.

To put the whole matter in a nutshell, we live on a little-known planet. At the present rate of elementary exploration, in which about 18,000 additional new species are described and given a Latinized name each year, biologists will complete a census of Earth’s biodiversity only sometime in the 23rd century.

I’m aware of only three national parks in the world at the present time in which complete censuses have been undertaken: the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Boston Harbor National Park and Recreation Area, and the Gorongosa National Park of Mozambique. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most advanced, with 50,000 hours of fieldwork by experts and assistants completed, about 18,000 species recorded, and a rough estimate of 40,000 to 60,000 species considered likely when all transient, rare, or undescribed species have been registered. Fewer than 1%, let me repeat, 1%, of the species have been studied beyond this first roll call. (Incidentally, the largest biodiversity in a North American park would be the one under consideration for the Mobile Alabama Delta and Red Hills immediately to its north.)

Next, what is the extinction rate? With the data sets of the best-known vertebrate animal species, and additional information from paleontology and genetics, we can put the extinction rate, to the closest power of 10, at 1,000 times greater than the extinction rate that existed before the coming of humans. For example, from 1895 to 2006, 57 species and distinct geographic subspecies of freshwater fishes were driven to extinction in the United States by human activity. These losses have removed roughly 10% of the total previously alive. The extinction rate is estimated to be just under 900 times the level thought to have existed before the coming of humans.

This brings us to the effectiveness of the global conservation moment, a contribution to world culture pioneered by the United States. It has raised public awareness and stimulated a great deal of research. But what has it accomplished in saving species, hence biodiversity? The answer is that it has slowed the rate of species extinction but is still nowhere close to stopping it. A study made by experts on different groups of land vertebrates, species by species, found that the rate in these most favored groups has been cut by about 20% worldwide. Furthermore, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, by focusing on recognized endangered vertebrates in the United States, with legal process and processes designed for each species in turn, has brought 10 times more species back to health than have been lost to extinction.

Nevertheless, the species, and with them the whole of biodiversity, thus continue to hemorrhage. The prospects for the rest of the century are grim. All have heard of the 2C threshold, 2°C (or 3.6°F), the increase in the ground average temperature above which the planet will enter a regime of dangerous climate changes. A parallel circumstance exists in the living world.

Earth is at or approaching an extinction rate of 1,000 times above prehuman levels, and the rate is accelerating. Somewhere between a rate of 1,000 times and 10,000 times, Earth’s natural ecosystems will reach the equivalent of the 2C global warming threshold and begin to disintegrate as half or more of the species pass into extinction.

We’re in the situation of surgeons in an emergency room who’ve brilliantly slowed the bleeding of an accident patient to 50%. You can say, “Congratulations! The patient will be dead by morning.”

There is a momentous moral decision confronting us here today. It can be put in the form of a question: What kind of a species, what kind of an entity, are we to treat the rest of life so cheaply? What will future generations think of those now alive who are making an irreversible decision of this magnitude so carelessly? The five previous such mass extinctions, the last one 65 million years ago that ended the Age of Reptiles, required variously 5–40 million years to recover.

Does any serious person really believe that we can just let the other eight million species drain away, and our descendants will be smart enough to take over the planet and ride it like the crew of a real space ship? That they will find the way to equilibrate the land, sea, and air in the biosphere, on which we absolutely depend, in the absence of most of the biosphere?

Many of us, I believe, here present understand that only by taking global conservation to a new level can the hemorrhaging of species be brought down to near the original baseline rate, which in prehuman times was one species extinction per 1–10 million species per year. Loss of natural habitat is the primary cause of biodiversity extinction—ecosystem, species, and genes, all of it. Only by the preservation of much more natural habitat than hitherto envisioned can extinction be brought close to a sustainable level. The number of species sustainable in a habitat increases somewhere between the third and fifth root of the area of the habitat, in most cases close to the fourth root. At the fourth root, a 90% loss in area, which has frequently occurred in present-day practice, will be accompanied by an automatic loss of one-half of the number of species.

At the present time, about 15% of the global land surface and 3% of the global ocean surface are protected in nature reserves. Not only will most of them continue to suffer diminishment of their faunas and floras, but extinction will accelerate overall as the remaining wildlands and marine habitats shrink because of human activity.

The only way to save the rest of life is to increase the area of protected, inviolable habitat to a safe level. The safe level that can be managed with a stabilized global population of about 10 billion people is approximately half of Earth’s land surface plus half of the surface of the sea. Before you start making a list of why it can’t be done, that half can’t be set aside for the other 10 million or so species sharing the planet with us, let me explain why I believe it most certainly can be done—if enough people wish it to be so.

Think of humanity in this century, if you will, as passing through a bottleneck of overpopulation and environmental destruction. At the other end, if we pass through safely and take most of the rest of the life forms with us, human existence could be a paradise compared to today, and virtual immortality of our species could be ensured—again, if enough wish it to be.

The reason for using the metaphor of a bottleneck instead of a precipice is that four unintended consequences of human behavior provide an opening for the rest of the century. The first unintended consequence is the dramatic drop in fertility at or below zero population growth whenever women gain a modicum of social and economic independence. Population growth is slowing worldwide, and the world population has been predicted most recently by the United Nations to reach between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by the end of the century. This assumes that the peoples of sub-Saharan Africa will pass through the demographic transition and fertility rates there will drop to levels consistent with the rest of the world.

The second unintended consequence is from the ongoing abandonment of rural, primitive agricultural economies by the implosion of people into cities, freeing land for both better agriculture and the conservation of natural environments by restoration. It’s worth noting also that the present daily production of food globally is 2,800 calories per person. The problem is not food production but transportation and the poor quality of artisanal agriculture. We can fix that. Present-day agriculture is still primitive, with a lot of wriggle room.

The third unintended consequence is the reduction of the human ecological footprint by the evolution of the economy itself. The ecological footprint is the amount of space required for all the needs of each person on average. The idea that the planet can safely support only two to three billion people overlooks the circumstance that the global economy is evolving during the digital revolution, and at a fast rate. The trend is overwhelmingly toward manufacture of products that use less materials and energy, and require less to use and repair. Information technology is improving at almost warp speed. The result is a shrinkage of the ecological footprint. We need an analysis of the trend and its impact. If economists have thought of analyzing this effect and its meaning for the environment, instead of stumbling around in the fever-swamp parameters of the early 21st century, I haven’t seen it.

The fourth unintended consequence is the easing of demand on the natural environment inherent in the evolutionary shift now occurring from an extensive economy to an intensive economy, one that focuses—in the manner of Moore’s law—on improvements of existing classes of products instead of acquisition of new and bigger projects, expanding physical development, and promotion of capital growth based on land acquisition. Humanity may be shifting toward a nongrowth economy focused on quality of life instead of capital and economic power as the premier measure of success.

This brings me to the focal issue of the conference. Inevitably, biodiversity and ecosystem science will move toward parity with molecular, cell, and brain science among the biological disciplines. They have equal challenges. They have equal importance to our daily lives. As this expansion occurs, national parks and other reserves will be the logical centers for fundamental research. They are our ready-made laboratories, in which the experiments have been largely performed. They will also be among the best places to introduce students at all levels to science. We already know that is the case for geology, earth chemistry, and water systems studies. Soon it will be obviously true also for studies of the living environment. Students and teachers alike will have the advantage of hands-on science at all levels. Even at the most elementary level, they are soon caught up in original discoveries of citizen science. After 42 years of teaching experience at Harvard, I believe that natural ecosystems are by far the most open and effective door to science education.

*This excerpt has been adapted (without endnotes) from Science, Conservation, and National Parks (edited by Steven R. Beissinger, David D. Ackerly, Holly Doremus, and Gary E. Machlis; 2016).


To read more about Science, Conservation, and National Parks, click here.

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3. The Five Building Blocks You Need to Make Great Art

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - illustration@manelleoliphant.com

Periodic Table of The Elements

What’s that called? That image up there… yes, I know this is a blog for artists but humor me.

It’s the periodic table, right? Right. To be even more precise it’s the Periodic Table of the Elements.

What are elements? Elements are things that help you build other things. The elements on the periodic table build pretty much everything. We can’t break them down smaller, and when you put them together, they make new things. For example, when the elements of hydrogen and oxygen combine they make water.

Ok, I’m done talking about science, but there is a point. Just like elements make the world around us, We also use elements to make pictures. They are the Elements of design.

The Elements of Design Are:

Line, Shape, Value, Texture, and Color.

Take a moment to think about any art you’ve ever seen. If you can think of a piece that doesn’t use one or more of these elements, I would think you were crazy. Because as far as I know, it’s not possible to make art without the Elements of Design.

Let’s talk about them now.


Leonardo Da Vinci used line to create this sketch.

Leonardo Da Vinci used line to create this sketch.

I’m pretty sure you know what a line is. We use them all the time. Lots of times we use lines to make shapes. Lines can be hesitant, beautiful, bold, straight, curved, sketchy, and much more. Read more about line by clicking here.


As I said, lines can make shapes, but you can make them in other ways. Take a paint brush and blob it on your paper. You’ve just made a shape. Lots of times we think the shapes with names, triangle, circle, square, oval, etc. But there are also shapes that don’t have names. These shapes are part of the elements of design too.

The way you choose to design your shapes can have a huge impact on how your art looks. Let’s face it; some shapes are just more interesting than others.


Value is how light or dark something is. Think of a black and white movie or a grayscale image. The reason you can still tell what is going on is because of the values. Values tell us a lot of stuff, where the light is coming from, where forms change direction, if it’s a sunny or overcast day, and lots of other things.

When I see paintings that aren’t working, it’s usually because there is a problem with the values. I’ve written some other articles about value. Read this oneor this one. 


Monet used Heavy Brush Strokes created paintings with Real Texture.

Monet used Heavy Brush Strokes created paintings with Real Texture.

Texture is how something feels, rough, smooth, furry, slimy, etc. and texture can be real, or implied.

Real texture is really there. Like the texture of the paper, or the ridges and bumps created from brush strokes.

Implied texture is texture you only show in your picture.  For example, if you paint a tree trunk, and it looks rough but actually isn’t if you touch it, that is implied texture.

You can learn more about texture in this article on chrisoatley.com 


Red, Yellow, Blue, etc. Right? Right… The thing is it doesn’t just stop there. Every color has a value, temperature, and saturation.

I’ve created a worksheet to walk you through the different aspects of color and show you ways to use them. You can download it free when you sign up for my mailing list.  Click here to sign up and Get The Color Worksheet.

The Elements as building blocks

By now you I hope you see how the Elements of Design make up the pictures, sculptures, and other art we see. If you want to work more with them, I’ve created a downloadable worksheet so you can get to know them a little better. You know, make friends and stuff. I hope you enjoy it.

Download Elements of Design Worksheet (0)

The post The Five Building Blocks You Need to Make Great Art appeared first on Manelle Oliphant Illustration.

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4. 10 Reasons to Celebrate Bilingual Books

Last year, we gave our 10 favorite reasons to read diversely. One reason being that we live in a diverse world, so why not the books that we read? Books help us see the world through someone else’s eyes, and in the case of bilingual books, through another language.

Here are our ten favorite reasons to read bilingual books!

Bilingual books…

  1. Teach us how to read in two languages.
  2. Celebrate the 22% of students who speak a language other than English at home.
  3. Develop strong critical thinking skills
  4. Keep our brains young, healthy, and sharp.
  5. Expose us to new ways of communicating.
  6. Make reading an inclusive activity for all students.
  7. Highlight the achievement of knowing more than one language.
  8. Encourage interest in other cultures and languages.
  9. Expand our vocabulary and lexicon.
  10. Bring readers together.

Lee and Low Bilingual Books Poster

Tell us why you read bilingual books!

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5. When Celebrity Picture Books Go Kuh-kuh-kuh-KRAZY!

Celebrity picture books.  The gift that just keeps on giving.

Now in the past I’ve had my say about CPB ah-plenty.  Heck, there was an entire chapter devoted to them in Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature. Today, we’ll switch tactics and tackle a topic that no one ever discusses.

Weeeeeeeeeeird celebrity picture books.

Specifically, the ones based on pop songs.

Here is how I imagine how the process usually goes.

Big publisher with lots of money sits down with the people of big famous celebrity singer.  Big publishers offers to get a top notch illustrator (who really needs the cash) to illustrate it.  Celebrity singer is keen on the idea, a deal is struck, and the book is made.  This happens time and again and usually the results are very normal.

But then . . . once in a very great while . . . the impossible happens.  The artist is allowed to be  . . . artistic.

What do I mean like that?  Okay.  Let’s start with the pop novelty song turned picture book.  And in keeping with the sheer number of foxes in picture books these days (Travis! You need to add the new version of The Dead Bird by Zolotow & Robinson to your list!) I am showing you this:


Remember that little post-Gangnam Style hit on the interwebs?  Currently cresting at 616 million views on YouTube (nope, I’m not kidding) someone at Simon & Schuster decided it could be worth it to give the lyrics book form.  After all, it sounds like a children’s song in a lot of ways (right down to the elephant going “toot”).  And usually when a YouTube sensation gets turned into a picture book you get something like a Golden Book Grumpy Cat or a Tiny Hamster or a talking shell, and that’s fine.

Then there’s this:



FoxSay3I had to wonder how this happened.  Did Ylvis insist on having his own illustrator?  How did they get Norwegian artist Svein Nyhus in the first place?  How could something this . . this . . this cool be based on a YouTube video?  It was Debbie Ohi’s blog post My WHAT DOES THE FOX SAY? obsession, solving a mystery AND the new picture book from Simon & Schuster BFYR that answered all my questions.  Turns out, Art Director Laurent Linn may have had a hand in the works.  Makes sense.  The man has fine taste.

And if you’re saying to yourself, “Fine and all, but clearly this is an aberration” you’d be half right.  Certainly it would take an act of God for another Svein Nyhus picture book to appear on our shores (our Norwegian picture book illustrators available here in the States are a bit, uh, lacking, shall we say).  But odd adaptations of songs into picture book formats don’t stop there.  Consider this:


Yep.  That’s a Sting song.  Now note the name of the illustrator: Sven Völker.  We’re with a German this time around.  Of course, the interiors might have given that away . . .




I’m sorry but I kind of love this.  Obviously the song isn’t really meant to be for kids, but at least they didn’t cutesy it up.  It would have been easy to go the Shel Silverstein route and follow the adventures of a chipper little spot as he traverses the world.  Instead we get . . . actually, I’m not sure what we get.  Something weird, that’s for sure.

These first two books I’ve mentioned work because the publishers decided to get European artists to do the interiors.  So how often do you find a song adaptation that’s a bit on the peculiar side and that’s illustrated by an American?  Hardly ever.  Of course there are some exceptions:


Dylan gets adapted into picture books on a frequent basis.  And he usually gets some perfectly good artists like Paul Rogers or David Walker or Jim Arnosky (that one was a surprise).  One time he got Jon J. Muth and I got really excited.  But the art was pretty standard stuff.  There was a paper airplane motif.  Ho hum.

But Scott Campbell?  He’s different.  This guy has a whole life dedicated to his adult cartoons, which are delightful.  Ever see this book?


If not, I think I’m helping you out with your holiday gift giving already.  That book is a hoot.

In the case of the Dylan book, Campbell appears at first glance to be doing everything straight.  Dogs are running free.  That’s really all there is to it.  But there’s this undercurrent that’s hard to ignore.  See if you feel it too:



It just doesn’t feel like other celebrity song books.  There’s a wildness reigned in here.  The song isn’t one of Dylan’s better ones, so there’s that as well, but at least the pictures are interesting to look at.  The downside is that I haven’t seen Mr. Campbell do any picture books since this and Hug Machine.  Boo-urns, sez I.  More Campbell, please.

I welcome any other suggestions of odd song-adaptation picture books, though I know they’re not easy to come up with.  A goodly chunk of them are dull as dishwater.  Very straightforward.  Artists doing something rote for a nice sized check.  But if you do hear of a case where the artist was allowed to be, y’know, artistic, you just let me know.  This is the kind of stuff I really dig.  And if you can’t think of anything then just sit back and enjoy this fake picture book adaptation of David Bowie’s Major Tom.



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6. Monster Mash: Aaron Zenz Goes On Tour

Blog tours.  Generally speaking I don’t really do them.  Nothing against them personally, they just don’t always speak to the tenor and distinctive tone of individual blogs.  It takes a particularly keen one to get me out of my hidey-hole so that I’ll participate.  It takes, in short, Aaron Zenz.

But first . . . BACKSTORY!!!!

It was at least 10 years ago.  I was a young struggling blogger (“struggling” in this case meaning doing just fine with a nice steady job).  A fellow by the name of Aaron Zenz contacted me not long after I’d started and asked if I’d take a gander at his book, The Hiccupotamus.  It was coming out with a very small publisher, but there was something to it.  It was nice looking. Nicer than the average fare, so I took a gamble and said I’d give it a gander.  Not only was it nice, but it held together beautifully.   It also seems to be one of the longest lived books I’ve ever encountered, traveling as it has from Dogs in Hats Children’s Publishing to Marshall Cavendish to Two Lions.  If you look on Amazon you’ll see my May 16, 2006 review of the book there.

And I remembered that Zenz guy.  How could I not?  First off, his name was “Zenz”.  That’s just cool.  Second, he had this crazy cool blog he did with his kids called Bookie Woogie (not to be confused with the also amazing but different kid art site Chicken Nugget Lemon Tooty).  For years I’d recommend it as what may be the most successful kids book review site written in large part by kids.  He’d also come up with these crazy amazing blog posts .  And in the interest of complete and utter honesty, they even reviewed Giant Dance Party and made fan art.  Like so:


But wait.  That’s not all.  Because on top of his art, his blog with his kids, and his kids’ kinda of freakishly good art (seriously, they should Pinterest this stuff) they also are responsible for a slew of some of the best 90-Second Newbery videos you’ve ever seen in your life.  I think if you keep watching this, the first four are by the Zenzes (Zenzi?).

None of this even touches on all the other stuff Aaron’s done over the years.  Nor, you will note, have I even gotten to his books.  As you can see, I save the best for last.

Starting with Hiccupotamus, I just kept on enjoying Aaron’s books for years.  From his art for Five Little Puppies Jumping on the Bed to Chuckling Ducklings to Hug a Bull, the man makes good literature for the small fry.  And now, the best one of all.

MonstersGoNightNow as I mentioned before, I don’t tend to do blog tours, and part of the reason why is because more than half the time I’m completely impartial (or worse) to the book that author is promoting.  Monsters Go Night-Night is different.  In one book you get the following:

  • A good bedtime book.
  • A story that is great for a range of ages (my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old get different things out of the book but both think it’s hilarious)
  • Writing that is actually funny for adults too (it may have one of the greatest potty gags I’ve seen in a long time)
  • Art that pops
  • The ability to be read to a large group (hard for any book to do, let alone well)

The whole premise is based on setting up expectations and then knocking them to the floor in a way that’s completely appropriate for very young ages.  Example:



Perfect for pajama storytimes everywhere.

But where did Aaron get the idea for this book?  Well, if you’re still up for some video viewing today, this completely adorable video (could someone PLEASE publish a book of Aaron’s literary monsters since I want to see his Gurgi?) explains all:

So here’s where it gets crazy good.  Did you see how Aaron turned his son’s art into monsters?  Well, he’s been doing the same for other people as well.  Aaron asked if my daughter (who is the five-year-old I mentioned earlier) would like to make a monster.  He, in turn, would turn it into a piece of art.  And the results?  Behold:


This was my daughter’s . . . .


. . . and this was Aaron’s.

Side by side . . .


Absolutely love that.

Long story short, this book good.  Get book.  Read book.

Still don’t believe me?  Then check out everyone else on this blog tour.  Lotta heavy hitters there.  Maybe if you don’t believe me you’ll believe them:

Mon Aug 15  :  Watch. Connect. Read.
Tues Aug 16  :  100 Scope Notes
Wed Aug 17  :  Nerdy Book Club
Thu Aug 18  :  Sharpread
Fri Aug 19  :  All the Wonders
Sat Aug 20  :  Playing by the Book
Sun Aug 21  :  Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)
Mon Aug 22  :  A Fuse #8 Production

And if you’d like to see the children’s art his did for these other bloggers’ kids collected for you in one place, just go to the Blog Tour Hub right here.

Thanks to Aaron for looping me into this tour.



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7. Stranger Things Booklist: This One’s for the Kids


It’s a booklist kind of week.

Like many children of the 80s I’ve been just delighted by the Netflix 8-part horror fest Stranger Things.  I may not get most of the Stephen King and John Carpenter references but the E.T., Aliens, and Akira stuff hits home hard.  For work I decided to put up a Stranger Things recommended book display for adult type folks.  When I looked online I could only find about two or three such lists already in existence.  Odd.  But of course, then I started thinking about children’s books.  Creeeeeepy children’s books.

When I was a kid, lots of children saw Gremlins, Nightmare on Elm Street, and any number of other horror films.  Kids today would get a huge kick out of Stranger Things if they managed to see it.  So for those kids who like their books a little eerie, a little creepy, and chock full of monsters and evil scientists, here’s a Stranger Things reading list.  Hold onto it for Halloween if you so choose.  Just don’t read it if you don’t want things spoiled for you.  I may give a couple things away.

Stranger Things Booklist

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste


Seems appropriate to start with this one.  There’s something creepy in the forests stealing the children.  Enterprising kids have to outsmart an otherworldly being.  Plants and nature play a big part in everything.  And it has this nice off-putting vibe to it as well.  It would make excellent children’s horror film, if it came to that.

The Inn Between by Marina Cohen


Have you read this one yet?  It came out in March and was advertised as “The Shining meets Hotel California” which is one of the more enticing blurbs I’ve come across in a long time.  I finished it recently and was quite taken with it.  Like Stranger Things, family members disappear unexpectedly and other family members’ voices are heard without being seen.  Add in the monster in the basement (monsters?) and you’ve got yourself a VERY misleadingly cutesy cover for what turns out to be a good frightening read.  Think of it as Wait Till Helen Comes for the 21st century.

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi


Grab this one if the thing you liked about Stranger Things was the group of boys uncovering an insidious plot created by evil (local) scientists.  Granted, there are more zombie cows in this book than there were in Stranger Things, but there are also good jump-out-of-your-seat scare moments too.

The Flinkwater Factor by Pete Hautman


Of course, when I remembered the evil scientists in Bacigalupi’s books, that naturally led to a reminder about the evil scientists in Hautman’s.  And as an extra added bonus, Hautman’s book has someone of superior abilities escaping from the scientists’ lab.  In this case it’s a dog, not a girl, but it probably says a lot more words in one page than El does in the whole series.

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel


The monster of this piece is a bit more talkative (not to mention seductive) than the monster of Stranger Things. But we’ve got creepy messages through telephones, blurred lines between fantasy and reality, and that horrific moment when you open a door in your house and discover a horror show waiting just for you.

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar


Again with the crazy local scientists.  This one’s effective at making you want to wash your hands repeatedly as you read it.  It also reminds me of that moment when Eleven finds out what happened to Barb.  The fuzzy mud here would be right at home in that setting.

The Cabinet of Curiosities by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, Emma Trevayne


Your kids may never sleep again.  Lots of similarities in these stories with some of the Stranger Things tales.  People getting sucked into plants.  People getting trapped in other dimensions.  And worse.

The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberly Griffiths Little


What is it with books about girls always getting cutesy covers, even when the content is on the darker side?  Since this is more of a time travel book, it doesn’t have that many similarities to Stranger Things . . . except at the beginning with the disconnected phones that ring and the creepy messages spoken on the other end.  *shiver*

Dreamwood by Heather Mackey


I was trying to find a bad guy equivalent to the tentacled plantlike THING that haunts Stranger Things.  Not the monster, but the more insidious system the monster feeds.  I considered The Lie Tree, but that doesn’t quite do it.  That’s when I remembered Dreamwood and its hellish forest landscape.  Oh yeah.  Try getting to sleep after reading some of these passages.  It’ll definitely curb your desire to hug a tree.

Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner


None of the scientists in these other books really did it for me in terms of the coy friendliness of “Papa”.  That is, until I met the scientists in Messner’s book.  It’s all happy happy joy joy until you start to dig a little deeper and see what’s really going on.  Nature plays a big part in this one too.

The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill


I really enjoyed this one when it came out. Very mysterious. Very eerie.  You have a house that isn’t all that it seems, something trying to escape, creepy plants (always with the creepy plants), and a big bad villain.  Oh.  And children go missing.  That’s important.

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth


A boy goes missing in a small town.  Plants are out of control in the woods.  Your greatest enemy might be yourself (or is that more of a Season Two plotline for Stranger Things, do you think?).  Kids have to face down terrifying monsters to uncover the truth.  Oh yeah.  This graphic novel is right at home on this list.

What would you add?  Extra bonus points if the book you recommend was published between 1980-89.


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8. Creating Rey and Bb8 Fan Art

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - illustration@manelleoliphant.com

Rey and BB8 FInished

I was sitting in artist alley at salt lake comic con fanX surrounded by fan art when I had the idea for this painting. Well, not this painting exactly but it was the beginning of an idea that led to this painting. Let me tell you how it happened.

I’ve never been able to pull off fan art. When I try to draw an established character, it always ends up looking exactly like the character already looked. So, you know, what was the point? For some reason, I thought of fan art only as an established character drawn in a different style or turned into a cat, which made it hard for me to want to create my own.

At conventions like Salt Lake Comic Con, I do alright. People like my stuff and they buy it, but not as much as people like and buy fan art.

Another Way To Draw Fan Art

But as I sat there behind my little table last March I realized that was silly. I needed to forget about drawing characters in my own way, and think in stories. I like stories and although I’ve tried to branch out recently, drawing narrative illustrations is my favorite thing.

So, in my head, I made up a story about what Rey and BB8 did the morning after they met. I sketched, and sketched and eventually got this. I think the image could have told the story better, but overall I feel good about it.

I’ll try selling prints of it at Salt Lake Comic Con in a few weeks, and we’ll see if it makes a difference in sales. If you’d like to buy one look for me in Artist Alley Purple 19. Or follow this link to buy one from the shop. 




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9. The Most Neglected Resource for Reviews: YouTube

As authors, we’re constantly looking for more and better ways to gain visibility for our books. This is why I was so excited when Andy Peloquin contacted us about a review possibility that I didn’t know existed. Because it might be news for you, too, I’ve asked him to our blog today to give us the particulars.

For most authors, the majority of our time is spent trying to find ways to sell more books. Author interviews, promo blitzes, and Facebook Party takeovers—there are so many ways to get the word out. But we all know that when it comes to gaining new readers and getting them to buy our books, one of the most important factors is the reviews.


Courtesy: Thad Zajdowicz @ Creative Commons

Book reviews are key because they tell readers and potential buyers what to expect. They’re the unofficial rating that serves as the thumbs up or down. Because of their importance, there are literally THOUSANDS of book review websites, directories, and blogs out there—many of which are flooded with requests from authors. Reviewers often can’t keep up with all the requests they receive, so they’re stuck choosing only books that grab their interest, meaning other books (possibly YOUR book) are going to be sent to the “hopefully sometime in the future” or the “I just don’t have time” piles.

But I’m here to tell you about a review resource that few authors know exists: YouTube. Here are some stats you might not know:

  • 1 billion people use YouTube
  • There are 4 billion video views on YouTube per day7584894382_66a177ebce_m
  • 6 billion hours of video are watched every month
  • 300 new hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • People will spend an average of 40 minutes on YouTube

But here’s the real kicker: less than 9% of small businesses (yes, authors fall into that mix) use this platform for marketing. Which is sad, since YouTube has a great marketing tool for authors that most aren’t aware of in the form of Book Reviewers.

YouTube book reviewers aren’t as common as book bloggers or review websites; the reason for this is that it’s hard to make book reviews interesting when they’re being filmed on video, so it takes a special type of person to do this well. There are a handful of YouTube channels dedicated specifically to book reviews, and while they receive plenty of requests, they get nowhere near as many as the more popular review sites. This means your book has a much higher chance of getting accepted for review.

How do you pick a book review channel? The best option is to visit the channels (see the list at the end of this post) and scroll through each reviewer’s videos to see if they read books like yours; this will narrow down your options to the most likely candidates. You also should check out their submission guidelines to make sure they accept your type of book. You can submit to as many review sites as possible, but if your time is limited and you only want to try the higher profile channels, check out their subscription stats and number of views; this data is often listed on the About page.

How should you submit your books for review? Each channel has its own guidelines on the kinds of books they accept, how to submit, etc. For example, Mercy at Mercy’s Bookish Musings asks you to simply email her with your book details. You can do this for Ariel Bissett, too, but only if your book is traditionally published.

To find out how to submit and what is/isn’t accepted for a given reviewer, simply visit that YouTube channel’s About page. There, you’ll find the submission email address and other necessary information—similar to the way you’d submit to any website or book blog.

What if your book is accepted? How can you capitalize on a good YouTube review? You can tell the world about it. Link to it on all your social media sites, blog about the review, embed it on your personal bookstore page, post it on your Goodreads author profile or Amazon Author Central page—there are so many ways to let existing and potential buyers know that your book has been well received. And the good news is that nearly every site is compatible with YouTube, so the process is fairly simple.

Where do I find these channels? I’m so glad you asked! Here’s a sample listing of book review channels that can be found on YouTube:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/user/MercysBookishMusings/about
  2. https://www.youtube.com/c/arielbissett/about
  3. https://www.youtube.com/c/bazpierce/about
  4. https://www.youtube.com/user/abookutopia/about
  5. https://www.youtube.com/c/hailsheartsnyc/about
  6. https://www.youtube.com/user/booksbetterthanfood/about
  7. https://www.youtube.com/c/booksandquills/about
  8. https://www.youtube.com/user/missloopylouful/about
  9. https://www.youtube.com/c/peruseproject/about
  10. https://www.youtube.com/c/jessethereader/about
  11. https://www.youtube.com/c/polandbananasbooks/about (likes Throne of Glass–ergo, dark fantasy)
  12. https://www.youtube.com/c/jeanmbt/about
  13. https://www.youtube.com/c/impressionblendofficial/about
  14. https://www.youtube.com/c/chapterstackss/about
  15. https://www.youtube.com/c/ashleybbooks/about
  16. https://www.youtube.com/c/pimpbookreviews/about
  17. https://www.youtube.com/c/lovingdembooks/about
  18. https://www.youtube.com/c/thereadables/about
  19. https://www.youtube.com/c/unboundbookreviews/feed
  20. https://www.youtube.com/user/bookwormstalk/about

These are just 20 of the channels that do reviews, but there are many more (I’ve found close to 50). You can find them for yourself by searching for “Book Reviews” on YouTube, or drop me a line at andy.peloquin@gmail.com and I’d be happy to send over the rest of my list. Best of luck!

00-headshotAndy Peloquin–a third culture kid to the core–has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child. When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn’t looked back since. Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.

His website is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings–along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet. He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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10. The Hamilton Reading List: For Those Kids That Just Can’t Get Enough

HamiltonFeltThis summer I was walking about the Printer’s Row Book Festival in lovely Chicago, IL, passing a group of about twelve 16-year-old girls.  All of whom were singing “Satisfied” from the musical Hamilton.  It reminded me of similar past experiences walking by large groups of 8-year-olds singing Frozen two years ago.  Now Hamilton is slated to open in Chicago in November and I’ve been putting together various booklists for my adult library patrons.  And that’s when it hit me.  I know 6-year-olds who have Hamilton memorized.  I know 10-year-olds who can explain what the Federalist Papers are in minute detail.  So why not make a booklist for the #Hamilkids as well?

But surely it had been done before and done well.  To the internets!  I did a quick search of anyone who might have put together a Hamilton booklist for kids before and lo and behold the site The Card Catalog did exactly that back in October of 2015.  Their post Books for Kids Who Love Hamilton is good, but it occurred to me that since there are only four books there, it could be expanded a tad.

Today then, let’s look at some great books.  How many books, you ask?  A Hamil-TON!

I’m sorry  . . . I don’t know what came over me.

To the list!

Alexander Hamilton (Picture Books)

Aaron and Alexander: The Most Famous Duel in American History by Don Brown


I wonder at the timing of this one.  This book published in October of 2015, just as Hamilton: The Musical started to peak in popularity.  Did Brown get the idea for the book prior to the musical’s creation?  Was he already working on it and, when it became clear that this was A Very Big Deal did his publisher (Roaring Brook) encourage him to put all other projects on the backburner and get this one done faster?  No idea.  What I do know is that it’s one of the finer depictions of the duel and the events leading up to it in picture book form.

Colonial Voices: Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters, ill. Larry Day


While this book doesn’t speak about Hamilton directly to the best of my knowledge, if you’re looking for rhyming Colonial fare, you’ve come to the right place.  It takes place on the day of the Boston Tea Party and is told through a variety of voices and professions in the city.  It’s also one of those rare books to acknowledge and give voice to slaves in Boston at that time.

Duel! Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words by Dennis Brindell Fradin, illustrated by Larry Day


Out-of-print (Walker Books, you’ve got a gold mine here!) so better mosey on over to your nearest public library if you want to read it.  A lot of hometown pride with this title, since both Fradin and Day were in the Evanston, IL area when this was written.  Larry Day, by the way, is also the fellow who illustrated that Kay Winters book I mentioned earlier, so clearly he taps into Colonial America books better than most.

The Founding Fathers!: Those Horse-Ridin’, Fiddle-Playin’, Book-Readin’, Gun-Totin’ Gentlemen Who Started America by Jonah Winter, ill. Barry Blitt


Truthfully I couldn’t remember whether or not Hamilton was in this book, so I had to look it up.  Turns out, he is!  Like all the other guys here, he gets his own page with his “statistics” and notable qualities, baseball card style.  My favorite quote?  Alexander Hamilton’s “Stance on France: Not a fan.”

Alexander Hamilton (Older Readers)

Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution by Gretchen Woelfle, ill. R. Gregory Christie


So long, Johnny Tremain.  You had a good run, but the days of depicting Colonial America and the American Revolution as affecting only white colonists are long gone.  Hamilton mentions slavery repeatedly and this book (which is out in October) goes further to follow thirteen black men and women alive during the war.

Alexander Hamilton: The Outsider by Jean Fritz


Back in the day (by which I mean the 80s and early 90s) if you wanted a picture book about a Founding Father, Fritz was your best bet.  She was one-stop shopping in that respect.  Still, she never did a book on Hamilton during that time.  Then, in 2011 (which makes one suspect that she might be a bit on the clairvoyant side of things) she wrote this book for kids 10 and up.  As extensive biographies for kids go, it’s almost the only game in town.

The Duel: The Parallel Lives of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr by Judith St. George


This one came out in 2009 and was written with a YA audience in mind.  In this book you’ll see the similarities between Burr and Hamilton, over and over again.  I was particularly interested in the part of the Kirkus review that said, “The author’s ability to lucidly explain the political intricacies of the time is impressive, revealing to readers that politics were as ugly, if not uglier, in the nation’s earliest days as they are now.”  Oh, sweet Kirkus.  Clearly you failed to fortell 2016.

Which is not to say there aren’t lots more books out there that would fit this topic.  Be sure to also check out the similar young Hamil-fan blog posts Hamilton and the Children’s Library from ALSC (which contains more books about Hamilton’s close contemporaries like Washington) and Six Picture Books for #Hamilkids from NYPL (which has the additional bonus of books about hip-hop for young people).  Also take a gander at the SLJ article Teaching with “Hamilton”, with a particular eye to the resources at the end.

And there are more books on the horizon!  In a recent press release from Random House we learned the following:

“Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, has announced plans to publish a picture book biography on the wife of Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. Margaret McNamara will serve as the writer for Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Phillipa Soo, the actress who played Eliza Hamilton in the Broadway production of Hamilton: An American Musical, has agreed to write a foreword for this project. The release date has been set for Fall 2017. (Playbill)”

If you happen to be in NYC between now and December 31st, please be sure to stop by the main location of New York Public Library.  They’ve an exhibit up right now called Alexander Hamilton: Striver, Statesman, Scoundrel.  Lots of goodies are on display, including Alexander Hamilton’s Draft of President George Washington’s Farewell Address, August 10, 1796.  Sounds fun!

By the way, those of you curious about the little felted Lin-Manuel Miranda at the beginning of this post, it’s by Jack and Holman Wang.  You can get more info about it at the Chronicle Books post here.

And in conclusion, be so good as to check out Minh Lê’s tribute to Hamilton in Elephant & Piggie style.



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11. 25 Books from 25 Years: First Day in Grapes

25th anniversary posterLEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year! To recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today and hear from the authors and illustrators.

Today, we are celebrating First Day in Grapes, an inspirational story for children of all backgrounds. Chico’s story of personal triumph and bravery in the face of bullying is a testament to the inner strength in us all.

Featured title: First Day in Grapes

Author: L. King Perez

Illustrator: Robert Casilla

First Day in Grapes cover imageSynopsis: All year long Chico and his family move up and down the state of California picking fruits and vegetables. Every September they pick grapes and Chico starts at a new school again. Often other children pick on him — maybe because he is always new or maybe because he speaks Spanish sometimes.

Chico’s first day in third grade turns out to be different. His teacher likes him right away, and she and his classmates are quick to recognize his excellent math skills. He may even get to go to the math fair! When the fourth-grade bullies confront Chico in the lunchroom, he responds wisely with strengths of his own.

Awards and Honors:

  • Pura Belpré Illustrator Award Honor, ALSC/REFORMA
  • Notable Children’s Book, Smithsonian
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)

From the Illustrator:

“Stories that help kids become familiar with kids of other cultures or others in different situations are books that I like to illustrate. I appreciate the way the author put the main character in situations that kids deal with daily in real life and how the boy used his wits to get out of tough situations.

I related to the kid in this story in a wacky way when it came to avoiding bullies. When I was about nine years old there was a boy who picked on me daily, until one day I came up with an idea. I thought that if I walked by him making a face that he wouldn’t recognize me and leave me alone. The plan worked, but now that I think of it, I doubt it was because he didn’t recognize me.”

Purchase a copy of First Day in Grapes here.

Other Editions: Did you know that First Day in Grapes also comes in a Spanish edition?

Primer día en las uvas

First Day in Grapes Spanish edition cover

Resources for teaching with First Day in Grapes: First Day in Grapes Teacher’s Guide

For more titles about different experiences with bullying and peer pressure, check out our Bullying/Anti-Bullying Collection here.

Have you used First Day in Grapes? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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12. Emotional Wound Entry: Being So Beautiful It’s All People See

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

beauty1Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

Being So Beautiful It’s All People See

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • my only worth is in my looks
  • I will never be respected for my hard work, brains, or skills
  • people only want to be close because of how I look and what my beauty can do for them
  • no one really cares what I think or believe in
  • everyone believes my life is wonderful no matter what I tell them
  • being beautiful is what matters; without it I am nothing
  • no one knows (or cares) who I really am
  • I can only be what others want me to be, not live for myself
  • I must choose a career in the beauty industry because it’s expected
  • Many of my (same-sex) friends secretly hate me
  • I can’t have deep friendships with members of the opposite sex because I am only a sex object to them
  • I have to keep personal pain/hardships to myself because people will just believe I’m attention-seeking or narcissistic

Positive Attributes That May Result: cautious, charming, courteous, cooperative, disciplined, easygoing, extroverted, flirtatious, friendly, generous, gentle. honorable, idealistic, introverted, loyal, kind, mature, obedient, organized, perceptive, persuasive, playful, private, proactive, protective, sensual, sophisticated, uninhibited, unselfish, whimsical

Negative Traits That May Result: abrasive, addictive, catty, childish, cocky, cynical, defensive, dishonest, extravagant, flaky, frivolous, gossipy, haughty, hypocritical, impatient, impulsive, inhibited, insecure, jealous, judgemental, lazy, macho, manipulative, materialistic, melodramatic, pretentious, promiscuous, rebellious, reckless, self-destructive, self-indulgent, spoiled, subservient, temperamental, vain, withdrawn, workaholic

Resulting Fears:

  • fear of stalking, violence, and sexual assault (especially women)
  • fear of being taken advantage of
  • fear of being trapped by one’s own beauty (life choices, career, opportunities)
  • fear of aging or losing one’s beauty
  • fear of illness and disease
  • trust issues–fear of trusting the wrong person
  • fear of retribution or sabotage via a jealous peer

Possible Habits That May Emerge:

  • meticulous health and beauty regimes
  • dieting and working out
  • questioning and second guessing one’s choices (a deep need for approval or fitting in)
  • people-pleasing
  • avoiding close relationships (over doubt as to if they are “real” or not)
  • not complaining because people will react with a lack of empathy
  • seeking out activities where beauty doesn’t matter (working at an animal shelter, getting out in nature, sport activities, volunteering for a specific cause)
  • acting the way people expect to make life easier
  • being very safety conscious; avoiding dangerous places
  • working hard to be likeable to negate “primal” resentful feelings with the same-sex
  • fighting or hiding low self-esteem issues behind smiles/forced confidence
  • keeping secrets, rarely divulging one’s deepest feelings and desires
  • depression and engaging in behavior to cope with it (medicating, withdrawing from relationships, choosing to be alone, cutting in areas that won’t been seen, etc.)

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

Image: Alexas_fotos @ Pixabay


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13. The Heart of Writing: The Revision Process

New Voices Award sealIt’s August and with the New Voices Award deadline approaching in just seven weeks, participating writers may be starting to feel the heat. No sweat! The New Voices Award blog post series has got you covered from the summer sun of stress.

At this stage, you’ve probably got your cover letter and story written down. You’ve also read July’s post on the importance of voice in a story and made your narrative even more engaging to readers. Congrats! That’s two essential checks on the New Voices To-do list –but don’t seal the envelope just yet! Now that your story is down it’s time to begin the revision process.

Revision is an important part of the writing experience. It’s about revisiting what you’ve written, identifying what needs to be strengthened, and rewriting to improve your story. Every writer’s revision process is different so to provide some guidance we interviewed two New Voices Award Winners, Linda Boyden (The Blue Roses) and Jennifer Torres (Finding the Music/ En pos de la musica), about how their revision processes helped them prepare their stories for the New Voices Award.

What inspired you to write your story? Did you write it specifically for the New Voices Award, or was it something you were working on already?

 Linda Boyden: In 1978 my maternal grandfather, Edward Dargis, passed away. I was about to have my last baby and couldn’t attend his funeral 3,000 miles away. Until I went to college, we had lived in the same neighborhood and were very close. He worked at a factory but was happiest in his garden. A few nights after he passed, he came to me in a dream. He stood in a beautiful flower garden, and like Rosalie’s Papa his face was “smooth, not wrinkled.” In the dream he told me to stop grieving because he was happy. From that point on I knew I needed to write this story as a gentle way to broach a tough topic.

from The Blue Roses
from The Blue Roses

Many years later when my husband’s company moved us to Maui, I left teaching and decided to follow my dream of becoming a writer. I enrolled in a community college writing course. The instructor assigned us the task of writing 1,000 words a week so the first draft of The Blue Roses was actually homework! When he returned it he commented, “I wanted to like Rosalie more, but I couldn’t.” That hurt so I put the manuscript away. Months later I rethought and revisited. By the time I learned of Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, the manuscript had been through a few revisions. After winning, it went through a few more with my careful editors, Laura Atkins and Louise May.

Jennifer Torres: Finding the Music was inspired by my own childhood—growing up in a noisy family, being close to my grandparents and their stories, hearing mariachi music playing in the background of weddings, birthday parties and other special celebrations. It was also inspired by stories I covered as a newspaper reporter: one, an obituary for a farm worker who gave free mariachi lessons to neighborhood kids on his time off, and another about the sense of community that grew around the mariachi program at Cesar Chavez High School in Stockton, California. I started working on the book long before I learned about the New Voices Award. After researching publishers, I knew I wanted to submit my manuscript to Lee & Low. I went to the website to learn more about the company and to review submission guidelines—that’s when I discovered the award.

What does your revision process look like? At what point in your writing process do you begin making changes?

LB: I write at a certain time every day. When working on a picture book, I rough it out on paper and revisit the next morning. I revise the previous work then create new. Next day, repeat. When it’s almost “good” I print it, read it aloud, and revise more. I love the process: revision is the heart of writing.

JT: I always catch myself wanting to revise as I go, making changes today on what I wrote yesterday. But I try to resist! It’s too easy for me to get hung up on small details that way. I think I do much better work when I’m revising a finished draft. I can step back with a sense of the story’s full scope. The problems stand out more clearly, and, often, so do the solutions.

How often do you share your works-in-progress with other people? Are you part of a critique group or is there someone specific you rely on for feedback?

from Finding the Music
from Finding the Music

LB: I’ve been part of many critique groups over the years. Now, I share with trusted individuals only and generally online. I read most rough drafts aloud to my husband who hears the mistakes. I also share all my picture book manuscripts with one young granddaughter who also has remarkable insights.

JT: I’m not part of a critique group-I think it could be good though! I do have a few friends who I ask to read drafts after I’ve finished a couple of rounds of revision on my own. They’re talented writers—whose styles and voices are nothing like mine—and they give thoughtful and honest feedback. It’s super helpful to me to see my work from someone else’s perspective, especially when the story has been all alone in my head until then.

What is something surprising you learned while preparing your story for publication?

LB: The most surprising part was discovering that authors and illustrators seldom meet, or even have contact. My Lee & Low editors had no problem with illustrator, Amy Cordova, and me communicating. Not only did this collaboration strengthen our book, Amy and I have remained friends.

JT: During the publication process, my editor let me know that Finding the Music would be bilingual (It was initially English-only). This meant some extra editing and paring down, but I was really excited about the decision! What was surprising to me, though, was how adding the Spanish text added so much dimension to the book as a whole. I can’t imagine it any other way now, and it’s a good reminder of how the collaborative nature of the process can do so much to enrich storytelling.

How has winning New Voices Award changed the way you write or revise stories?

LB: Winning the first New Voices Award gave me something I lacked as a writer: self-confidence. Though I understood picture books, I had no training in becoming a writer other than the one community college course mentioned above. Winning also gave me the opportunity to learn from the wonderful editorial staff at Lee & Low Books.

 JT: Coming from a newspaper background, I already had big appreciation for editing and revising as part of the writing process. But at a newspaper, it happens so fast. Winning the New Voices Award and preparing Finding the Music for publication helped me realize how valuable it can be to step back from a project, and approach it again weeks (or even months) later with fresh eyes and perspective.

The Blue Roses by Linda Boyden is available now!

The Blue Roses cover image

Finding the Music/ En pos de la musica by Jennifer Torres is available now!

Finding the Music cover image

For more details about submitting to the New Voices Award please visit the New Voices Award page.

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14. Pimp My Nursery (Kidlit Style)

So I’m sitting at the reader’s advisory desk today (it’s a small library so I do 2-4 hours a week) with a co-worker and we get to talking about nurseries.  She has a friend who turned theirs into a paean to hunting.  We’re talking arrow theme, faux bearskin rug, and antlers antlers antlers.  This leads to a discussion of nurseries that are based on pop culture themes (for your daily shot of wonder/horror see the Buzzfeed post 20 DIY Pop Culture Themes For Your Baby’s Nursery).

My babies, for the record, did not have “themed nurseries”.  My sense of design is so lacking that basically all I’ve ever done is slap some art into frames, stick ’em on the wall, and call that a job well done.  Yet like a lot of non-crafty / non-designy folks, I have great respect for people who have an idea and see it through.

So what happens when people take nursery inspiration from different works of children’s literature?  Behold the following!

Harry Potter




Oh, take your pick.  This is hardly a new idea.  The article Parents Create ‘Harry Potter’ Nursey for Their Muggle-Born Little Wizard or 27 Ways to Create the Perfect Harry Potter Nursery will guide you in the right (or wrong, depending on how you look at it) direction.

Dr. Seuss





For this one, you may need to know how to stencil.  Stencil reeeeeally well.  Seuss lends himself to the nursery setting, though.  Check out the post Bryson’s Baby Seuss Nursery for an explanation on how it can be done.  These images are just the tip of the iceberg.

Where the Wild Things Are




The ferns in picture #2 were a nice touch.  I like how for Wild Things, the general feeling was that a mural was imperative.  Only photo #3 thought to make Max’s tree filled room the mural for the baby’s room, though.

Goodnight Moon



This one should have been easy.  After all, it’s actually set in a nursery.  But finding folks willing to work with that color scheme isn’t quite as easy as you might think.  These were the only two GNM nurseries I was able to find.

Now here’s the secret to this post.  Pretty much, just type in any famous children’s book and add the word “nursery” and you’ll find something online.  Watch:

Type in “Giving Tree Nursery”:


Type in “Rainbow Fish Nursery”:


But why stop with picture books?

Type in “Hunger Games Nursery”:


Type in “Twilight Nursery”:


Now let’s get silly.

Type in “I Want My Hat Back Nursery”:


Type in “Winnie-the-Pooh Dr. Who Nursery”:


Shoot.  I didn’t think that would work.

Type in “Struwwelpeter Nursery”  . . . .

. . . .

. . . .


Whew!  That was a close one.


6 Comments on Pimp My Nursery (Kidlit Style), last added: 8/23/2016
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15. Marisol Celebration: Lee & Low Staff Share Their Fears

Marisol McDonald and the Monster coverIn the latest installment of the Marisol McDonald series, Marisol McDonald and the Monster/Marisol McDonald y el monstruo, Marisol McDonald is confronted with her greatest fear: monsters! In celebration of Marisol McDonald and the Monster/Marisol McDonald y el monstruo, released last month, Lee & Low Staff share the scary things that keep them up at night.

Louise May, Editorial Director

“Having to sing in public. I don’t have a great voice and I can’t carry a tune.”

Kandace Coston, Editorial Assistant

“I’m arachnophobic.”

Pia Ceres, Marketing & Publicity Intern

“Not having the courage to speak up when it counts. Also, since I was a kid, I’ve had this fear that someone living in the mirror would reach through the threshold and grab me while I’m brushing my teeth, which is a very vulnerable position if you think about it.”

Randy Eng, Operations Coordinator

“Stage fright.”

 Keilin Huang, Marketing & Publicity Associate

“I have a huge fear of clowns. I think it’s because I watched Stephen King’s “It” when I was young with my cousins and it scarred me for life.”

Marisol McDonald and the Monster spread
from Marisol McDonald and the Monster

Jalissa Corrie, Marketing & Publicity Assistant

“I have a fear of ghosts. I think there is one (or more) that lives in my parent’s house in the Hudson Valley. They tend to make themselves known when I’m home by myself.”

 Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing & Publicity

“I actually had a very strange phobia when I was growing up: I was afraid of buttons. I would not let my parents dress me in any clothes with buttons, did not like to touch buttons myself, hated sitting on chairs with buttons, and even avoided hugging people who were wearing button-down shirts. For most of my childhood, I thought it was just a weird thing that only I had. But thanks to the Internet, I’ve actually learned that there is a name for this phobia: Koumpounophobia. It’s pretty rare, but it’s estimated that nearly one in every 75,000 people experiences it. Most famously, Steve Jobs admitted that he has koumpounophobia and some speculate that his fear of buttons may have led to the invention of the iPhone and other buttonless devices. My phobia is fairly mild now but I still hate wearing button-down shirts, avoid button-up duvet covers, and prefer not to touch buttons (especially the small plastic ones) if I don’t have to!”

Hsu Hnin, Operations Assistant

“My greatest fear is the darkness; especially when I have to sleep in a place where there’s absolutely no light.”

John Man, Director of Operations

“My biggest fear is running out of poke balls during a hunt.”

You can purchase a copy of Marisol McDonald and the Monster/Marisol McDonald y el monstruo here.

Don’t miss the first two books in the Marisol McDonald series:

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash

Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash / Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual

Share with us in the comments! What’s your biggest fear? You can win a chance to win signed copies of our Marisol McDonald series!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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16. Critiques 4 U!

Can you believe it’s August already?? Some of you, I know, are getting ready for the new school year while some of us in the north have a little more summer left. I admit that after living in Florida most of my life, it’s a little weird to not go back to school until September. Not that I’m complaining; my family and I put together a summer bucket list, and we’ve been having a blast doing things like going to a chocolate factory,



visiting the grandparents in Alabama,


and picking our own berries.


I’m not sure we’re going to finish everything in the next few weeks, but we’ll do our best. My kids made up most of the list, and for some reason, critiques didn’t make the cut. But they’re on my own personal list, so

It’s Critiques 4 U Time! 

If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)


Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!

The post Critiques 4 U! appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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17. 25 Books from 25 Years: DESHAWN DAYS

Lee_Low_25th_Anniversary_Poster_2_LEE & LOW BOOKS celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and to recognize how far the company has come, we are featuring one title a week to see how it is being used in classrooms today!

Today we’re featuring DeShawn Days by Tony Medina and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, released in 2003 by LEE & LOW BOOKS:

deshawn daysAbout the Book: DeShawn Days introduces us to ten-year-old DeShawn’s world, where we meet his family, friends, and learn about his hopes and dreams. Author Tony Medina draws from his own experiences growing up in the projects to create this dynamic character. From neighborhood barbecues to building snowmen in the winter to experiencing the loss of DeShawn’s grandmother, readers from all backgrounds will be charmed by this upbeat, compassionate, and creative young boy.

Awards and Honors:

  • Starred reviewSchool Library Journal
  • Children’s Literature Choice List, Children’s Literature
  • Choices, Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC)
  • Parents’ Guide to Children’s Media Award, Parents’ Choice Foundation
  • Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, The Poetry Center at Passaic County Community College

Resources for Teaching With DeShawn Days:

  • Our extensive Teacher’s Guide offers a wide range of teaching ideas.
  • Watch author Tony Medina read to a third grade class in Dorchester, MA.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Teacher Tip:
Tell students that poets often use what is called “poetic license.” Poets may write in dialect or nonstandard English to achieve a certain effect as Medina does in poems such as “My Cousin Tiffany.” Sometimes poets do not use capital letters or standard punctuation. Point out that Medina’s poems are not punctuated, except for the occasional exclamation point.

Other Books by Tony Medina: 

Purchase DeShawn Days here.

Other Recommended Picture Books That Celebrate Community:

bein with you this way

Bein’ With You This Way by W. Nikola-Lisa, illus. by Michael Bryant

quinito's neighborhood

Quinito’s Neighborhood/El vecindario de Quinito by Ina Cumpiano, illus. by José Ramírez

saturday at the new you

Saturday at the New You by Barbara E. Barber, illus. by Anna Rich

Have you used DeShawn Days? Let us know!

Celebrate with us! Check out our 25 Years Anniversary Collection.

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18. Beyond a Snowy Day: Out-of-Print African-American Children’s Book Classics

Recently Slate decided to create a “pop-up blog” of sorts with a concentration on children’s literature. They’ve called it nightlight.  A good name.  We would have also accepted “flashlight under the sheets”.  In any case, I was initially worried that this would be another case of writers who have just found themselves to be parents writing the same articles we’ve seen a million times before about the usual.  And while their writers aren’t children’s literature experts, they’ve surprised me with the quality of their pieces.  There was one defending Anne Carroll Moore in a very balanced manner, one on branded children’s books, and one on the rise of LGBTQ stories for families.  Yet the one getting the most attention so far is We Don’t Only Need Diverse Books. We Need More Diverse Books Like the Snowy Day.

Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas was the person who raised some concerns about the piece in a series of posts the fell under the title Should *The Snowy Day* Be the Example for Diverse Children’s Books?

In the piece Ms. Thomas discusses something that’s always sort of struck me as difficult when we discuss the Keats classic.  A classic that I should say I adore, mind you.  But consider a situation I encountered about a year and a half ago.  From December 10, 2014 through February 7, 2015, the Grolier Club hosted the exhibit One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature.  It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Collectors from all over the country donated their most precious pieces, bringing together titles never seen together before (and probably never to be seen again).  I was floored by some of the offerings.  It was only as I looked through them that I began to get a nagging sensation that it was awfully awfully awfully white.  In fact, the sole dark face I saw (aside from Uncle Remus on a cover) was Peter’s on The Snowy Day.  Coward that I am, I didn’t bring this up at the time.  Had I, I suspect the answer would have been similar to the justification given for the inclusion of Harry Potter.  Mainly, that the exhibit was only covering “books famous”.  And after all, how many diverse children’s books are overwhelmingly famous?

Well . . . quite a few, but let’s first consider why it is that The Snowy Day was included.  It was a groundbreaking work during its day (and if you haven’t read the K.T. Horning story of its history or heard about Andrea Davis Pinkney’s upcoming and eerily lovely bio of Keats A Poem for Peter then do so now).  Often I hear people say that it was the “first” picture book featuring a black protagonist on the cover.  Or that it was the “first” picture book where the color of his skin was incidental.  I am not a scholar in the field, but this sounds sketchy to me.  Let us consider something else that Ebony Elizabeth wrote in that recent post:

“Where has the mainstream media covered Black authors & illustrators of books for children published in the 60s & 70s that are out of print?”

That got to me.  She’s dead right.  Because Keats was wonderful but he was by no means the only guy making books about African-Americans out there.  A lot of Black authors and illustrators books were out there at the time (paging Langston Hughes).  Consider the 2014 Walter Dean Myers article in the New York Times Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? Actually, no.  Scratch that.  Go back further.  Look at the 1986 Walter Dean Myers article in the New York Times I Actually Thought We Would Revolutionize the Industry.  He writes:

“By the end of the 60’s the publishing industry was talking seriously about the need for books for blacks. Publishers quickly signed up books on Africa, city living and black heroes. Most were written by white writers. In 1966 a group of concerned writers, teachers, editors, illustrators and parents formed what was to be called the Council on Interracial Books for Children. The council demanded that the publishing industry publish more material by black authors. The industry claimed that there were simply no black authors interested in writing for children. To counter this claim the council sponsored a contest, offering a prize of $500, for black writers. The response was overwhelming . . .

. . . In 1974 there were more than 900 children’s books in print on the black experience. This is a small number of books considering that more than 2,000 children’s books are published annually. But by 1984 this number was cut in half. For every 100 books published this year there will be one published on the black experience.”

Now let’s double back to Ebony Elizabeth’s question.  I repeat, “Where has the mainstream media covered Black authors & illustrators of books for children published in the 60s & 70s that are out of print?”

Well, shoot. I’m mainstream media, right? And out-of-print titles are a delight to me.  And yet I have never seriously considered just how many Black penned and illustrated children’s books have disappeared from the public consciousness.

Here’s something else I realized.  There are publishers out there that reprint out-of-print titles.  Folks like New York Review of Books and Phaidon and such.  Yet even in the era of We Need Diverse Books, not a single publisher has ever created an imprint specifically designed to reprint classic and older multicultural children’s literature.  Correct me if I’m wrong about this.  I’d love to be wrong.  But at this moment in time, I haven’t seen a publisher fully commit.  Which is to say, there is a gap in the marketplace.

Today then, let’s conjure up a list.  Since we began with The Snowy Day, let’s limit it today to picture books by and about African-Americans.  I want you to tell me your favorite out-of-print titles.  The stipulation is that they have to have been published by a major publisher, they have to feature Black characters, and they have to have been written and/or illustrated by someone African-American.  To do this list properly I wish I still had access to New York Public Library’s lists of The Black Experience in Children’s Books dating back decades.  In lieu of that, I’ll just start with my own personal favorites.

Here are the books that should be reprinted and reprinted right now.

Baby Says by John Steptoe


I’m beginning with the most egregious of the errors.  There are a lot of out-of-print Steptoe books to choose from, but this is the one that’s the weirdest.  I mean, Harper Collins itself basically acknowledged that this book was a classic when they included it in their Harper Collins Treasury of Picture Books Classics (<—see? In the title and everything!) That book contains everything from Goodnight Moon and Harold and the Purple Crayon to If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and, you guessed it, Baby Says.  So I decided to do some checking.  Are any of the other stories in this book out-of-print?  Yes.  One other – George Shrinks.  Be that as it may be, I’d argue that Steptoe’s book is board book perfection.  My son, who is two, specifically asks for the “baby book” in that collection and I have read it over and over and over again.  So what exactly is going on here?  Why is it out-of-print?

My Aunt Came Back by Pat Cummings


This one also makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in fury.  A brilliant book.  A fun, catchy, magnificent board book that’s so colorful and delightful that you’ll be happy to read it over and over again.  So why exactly is it out of print?  Again it’s a Harper Collins title.  So, uh, hey, HC.  You guys are big.  You have a back catalog that’s immense and impressive.  Why not start that out-of-print diverse imprint I was just talking about?  You clearly have the stock.

The Everett Anderson book series


Had to do some research on this one.  As it happens, Everett Anderson’s Goodbye is still in print, but all the other books in the series are long gone.  Why?  I used to get parents and teachers in my library asking for the other books in the series.  Particularly One of the Problems of Everett Anderson which discusses the incredibly difficult topic of what to do when you’re a kid and one of your friends at school is being abused at home.  And after all, if you can find another book that covers the same topic with half the skill, all power to you.  Until then, reprint these books.  Re-illustrate them even, if you like.  I wouldn’t mind, as long as the text was available again.

Blast Off by Linda C. Cain and Susan Rosenbaum,

ill. Leo and Diane Dillon


I’ve written about this one before and admittedly I haven’t read it myself.  However, it looks beautiful and features an African-American girl dreaming of becoming an astronaut.

This is just to start.  Your turn now.  Which titles would you add to this list?  Tell me and I’ll do my best to add them.



18 Comments on Beyond a Snowy Day: Out-of-Print African-American Children’s Book Classics, last added: 8/23/2016
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19. Three Up-and-Coming Writers of Color to Watch Out For

New Visions Award sealThe New Visions Award, given annually by our Tu Books imprint, honors a middle grade or young adult novel for young readers by an author of color who has not previously published a novel for that age group. It was established to encourage new talent and to offer authors of color a chance to break into a tough and predominantly white market.

In addition to our New Visions Award Winner and Honor, this year there were three New Visions Award finalists: Alex Brown (Hate Crime), Hilda Burgos (The Castle of Kings), and Elizabeth Stephens (The Rougarou). Below, they share their writing experience, what inspires them, and what they hope readers will take away from their stories. We are thrilled to introduce readers to these talented writers and can’t wait to see how their careers take shape!

Could you tell us about your story?

Elizabeth Stephens headshotElizabeth Stephens: The Rougarou has been a work in progress for several years now. I drafted the first version of this manuscript my freshman year of college, though it has taken on a life of its own since! In particular, my study abroad experience in Paris, France in 2012 helped shape the details of this novel as did later work experience in Geneva, Switzerland. Whenever I reread my own book, it provides me with a sense of nostalgia – a straight shot of Paris. The infusion of Cajun folklore into the story, I adopted only very recently. I am a native French speaker because I grew up in West Africa and knew that I wanted my main character’s roots to be francophone. At the same time, I have been deeply interested in Louisiana culture since I was thirteen years old and first read Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire.

Hilda Burgos headshotHilda Burgos: The eleven year-old protagonist of my story, Ana Maria Reyes (Anamay), has a few things in common with me: she has three sisters, her parents are from the Dominican Republic, and she is growing up in the New York City neighborhood of Washington Heights. I first created Anamay about twenty years ago when I drafted a picture book manuscript about a six year-old girl who was nervous about the impending birth of a new sibling. Then I learned about a chapter book contest, and decided that Anamay’s story could be expanded to include the culture shock I experienced when I was ten years old and first visited the Dominican Republic.

Alex Brown Headshot Alex Brown: My mother immigrated to the US from the Philippines in the 1980s. She left an entire country behind in order to come here and be a nurse. The US has a long history of recruiting nurses from the Philippines, and from what I can tell, it started after the Spanish-American War, with the Pensionado Act of 1903 (wherein certain Filipino citizens came to the US to study). I took a little bit of what she experienced when she first arrived here, and built upon some of the obstacles she faced (including how incredibly badass she is for raising two kids as a single parent in a new country). I also drew from my own experiences growing up – the discord that happens between my main character and her parents when she chooses not to believe the legitimate folktales they tell her – reflects a lot of my feelings as a kid.

Is there anything in particular you hope readers take away from this story?

ES: I certainly hope that readers enjoy the elements of the story that I had most fun crafting: the romance between Chandelle and Reno, the setting in modern day Paris, and the fantastical elements reminiscent of Southern lore never forgotten.

HB: When I was a child there weren’t many books about kids like me: kids who lived in apartment buildings in a city, who spoke one language at home and another one in school, who had frizzy hair and dark complexions. I always looked for something familiar in the books I read. I hope that readers learn something new and expand their worlds when they read about Anamay, and that this knowledge helps them as they meet new people in their lives. I also hope that readers who share some of Anamay’s experiences find comfort in the familiarity of some of the scenes. Most importantly, I hope that readers enjoy the story and are inspired to read more and more books.

AB: I hope that people will start to think about the impact they can have on others. We live in this society where certain things – stereotypes, prejudices, hatred – are way more insidious than they have any right to be. But, with all of the bad, there’s still the possibility that anyone, anywhere, can stand up for what’s right. I’d also feel quite accomplished if people took a moment to pause and think about all of the obstacles and daily struggles that await anyone who immigrates to America. There’s something to be said about the unquantifiable amount of bravery, hope, and grit that it takes to leave one’s whole world behind, all to start a new life in an unfamiliar (and, at times, unfriendly) place.

Is there anything about your writing experience that you’d like to share?

ES: I wrote my first book at the age of eleven. It was a science fiction saga about a young girl picked up by a ragtag group of bandits and transported to other worlds. Since then, I’ve had the privilege of publishing several short works of horror in a number of online magazines and last year, I published my first fiction novel.

HB: I fell in love with language and literature when I first learned how to read.   A well-written book is a work of art. In college I majored in French and Spanish literatures, and I also took English literature and creative writing classes. I wrote stories for pleasure during college and law school, and I took my first class on writing for children after law school. I draw ideas from my life experiences and observations, from stories that I have heard, and from historical accounts and current events.

AB: When I first started to seriously consider writing, I was a co-winner of the Windy City Chapter of the Romance Writers of America’s Four Seasons YA award. A few months after that, I was one of the inaugural winners of SCBWI’s Emerging Voices award. The manuscript that received these cool distinctions was my second, and since then I’ve gone on to write several more, and have quite a few other ideas for new books!

Last year, books by authors of color comprised less than eleven percent of the total number of books published for young readers, according to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The annual New Visions Award is a step toward the day when all young readers can see themselves in books.

The New Visions Award is open for submissions through October 31, 2016! Please see the full submissions guidelines here.

If you’d like more news regarding the New Visions Award, author interviews, and more, sign up for our newsletter here.

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20. The Emotional Wound Thesaurus Is Retiring Soon

Becca and I have been profiling Emotional Wounds for quite a while now, and it’s getting to the point where we need to retire this thesaurus and start a new one.

I know some of you might be upset. The Emotional Wound Thesaurus is truly one-of-a-kind, tackling a topic that is difficult to master in writing.

The good news is this: while we’re retiring the thesaurus, it’s for a good reason…so we can develop it further into a full-fledged book.

So, think of this thesaurus as merely being “on hold.” Down the road we’ll have a new resource for you that will be unlike anything else in your writing toolkit. 🙂

Before we wrap things up, we want to give everyone an opportunity to let us know what wounds they wish we would cover. This is your chance to let us know what wounds you want to see in the book!

Here’s another reason to leave us a wishlist of Emotional Wounds in the comment section:

Becca and I are going to create a short list from the ones left in the comment section and let you vote on the final entries we profile on the blog before we retire the thesaurus.

So, release the hounds! Er, the Emotional Wounds.

Tell us which wounds you would like to see us tackle, which wounds are difficult for you to portray on the page. Maybe we can help!





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21. Wanted for Big Cash Prizes: American History Books

GratefulAmericanI think I need a new hobby.  I should collect, and place on a website somewhere a listing of all the high cash, little known book awards for children’s books out there.  Perhaps this already exists somewhere.  Hm.

In any case, it wasn’t long ago that a friend alerted me to the Grateful American Book Prize.  It’s an odd name, no question, but a fascinating award.  First off, its description says of it:

“The new literary award is his way of recognizing authors who pen illustrated works for children that are focused on historical American events and personalities . . .

The Prize will be awarded to the authors of books for children in grades seven through nine dealing with important moments and people in America’s history. The books can be works of fiction or non-fiction and will include illustrations to help bring the author’s words to life. “We are looking for excellence in writing, storytelling and illustration”  . . .

In addition to the fact that it will be among the richest prizes for literary accomplishment, $13,000 – thirteen for the number of original colonies…”

Oh ho, say the masses.  But what kinds of history are we talking here?  There’s a lot of talk about the Founding Fathers on the website.  Are they looking for books that are just along those lines?  Well, honestly, the requirements say that they want American history (no specific kind) in general in books for middle schoolers. Though, looking at why it was created, I do suspect the arbitrators of this award came up with it before the huge masses of middle school kids across the country started memorizing the Hamilton soundtrack.  But who could have predicted that you’d have 7th graders everywhere talking about The Federalist Papers?  I mean, honestly?

Since it’s a new award there’s only one previous winner that I can find, and that’s Like a River by Kathy Cannon Wiechman.

Interested in submitting your book?  Well, I’m letting you know about it too late if you’ve a 2015/16 title.  The deadline just passed.  However, if you’ve a historical book for 7th – 9th graders published between July 2016 and June 2017, keep an eye on this website and wait for the green light to submit.  After all, what may happen here is that because the award is too little known, they might not get a wide variety of different types of history.  So I call upon those of you with a diverse range of historical topics and subjects to submit (if your publisher can send the 8 copies they require).  Inject some new blood here!

NYHSCBPBy the way, this award does make one mistake on its website.  Of the award it says, “it will also stand alone, among the nearly six dozen literary awards presented each year for children’s books. The Grateful American Prize is the only one that recognizes works dealing with American history.”  Not so.  I myself have served on the New York Historical Society’s Children’s History Book Prize, which only looks at American middle grade historical fiction and that award comes with a $10,000 prize.  So you see, my good sweet children’s authors, there are plenty of monetary awards out there if you just know how to look for them.



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22. What’s One Of The Best Ways To Reach Your Readers?

Hi Everyone!

I know, it’s summer and you guys are all taking a bit of a break, enjoying family, friends, sunshine and possibly the occasional adult beverage. That’s awesome!  🙂

But, while you’re on this writing hiatus, it’s also a great time to think a bit about things that there’s never enough time for…like how to better reach readers and sell more books!

One of the best things you can do to boost your success is market to your exact reading audience

AND, one of the really terrific ways to do THIS is to determine who your influencers are (the people who already have great relationships with your readers) and build a relationship with them.

That’s why I’m over at Jane Friedman’s blog today, discussing Authors, Do You Know Who Your Influencers Are?

So stop in and find out what an influencer is, what you can learn from them, and how to reach out to then and build a genuine relationship that will benefit you both.

(Please feel free to pass the link on to any other authors you know who might also need help reaching their readers, too!)

Cast Your Vote & Choose The Final Entries Emotional Wound Thesaurus Entries

sad2As I mentioned in the last post, we’re going to retire the Emotional Wounds Thesaurus soon on the blog so that in a month or two, we can begin turning it into a book. Now the word “retired” caused a bit of panic, so let me be clear that the entries will remain here on the blog for the foreseeable future–you’ll have access to them. We just won’t be “adding” to the entries each week here on the blog, make sense? All new entries we write will be added to One Stop For Writers first, and then turned into a book.

So, hopefully that eases some concern. 🙂

We do want to put up a few last entries before we retire the thesaurus, and thought it would be fun to have you vote on which ones we do. So based on all the terrific suggestions the last few days, Becca and I have narrowed it down to 10 choices:

  1. Being bullied
  2. Being the victim of a toxic relationship
  3. Being rejected by one’s peers
  4. Unrequited love
  5. Growing up with a sibling with a complicated medical condition/chronic illness
  6. Growing up with parents who fought constantly
  7. Losing one of the five senses
  8. Growing up with a parent who is a pariah (is reviled in the community)
  9. Being so beautiful it’s all people see
  10. Living with mental illness

So, give us your top 3 choices in the comments (by number please), and starting this Saturday, we’ll profile the ones with the most votes!

Image 2 via Adam McGuire @ Pixabay




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23. Interview: Gwendolyn Hooks on the Unsung Hero of Medicine, Vivien Thomas

Tiny Stitches cover imageTiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas is the compelling story of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician who developed the first procedure used to perform open-heart surgery on children. In this interview, author Gwendolyn Hooks discusses the legacy of this medical pioneer and what inspired her to write about a man whose research helped to save countless lives.

What inspired you to write about Vivien Thomas?

A friend’s grandson was diagnosed with tetralogy of Follet. She watched the movie Something the Lord Made which is the story of Vivien Thomas. She loaned me the movie and the rest is history! He is a hero. He did so much and so few know his name. I saw his portrait at Johns Hopkins Hospital and felt him saying “Tell my story.”

In what way is Vivien Thomas a relevant role model for young A door closed, but he opened another. I think one of his messages to young people would be to find that other door.readers today?

Vivien is a strong role model for young people even after all these years. Sure he was disappointed and mad after he lost his money when his bank closed during the Great Depression. Vivien was tough and resilient. He put aside his college dreams and found a way to support himself. A door closed, but he opened another. I think one of his messages to young people would be to find that other door.

What did you find most surprising in your research of Thomas’s life?

Even as a young boy of 13, his mind was on his future. He worked afterschool and summers with his father. Other boys were playing sandlot baseball and I’m sure Vivien did on occasion, but he was passionate about earning money and putting it to good use. He bought his school clothes and deposited the rest in a savings account.

Is there a fact about Thomas that you didn’t get to put in the book?

Before Vivien found the job at Vanderbilt, he worked for a contractor. One time he had to repair a wooden floor. He repaired it, but it wasn’t his best work. His boss could tell where he laid the new wood and told him it wasn’t acceptable. Vivien did it over and the second time, it was seamless. He learned a lesson that day that he never forgot. Do your best work the first time. In medicine there might not be a second time.

Interior spread of Tiny Stitches

The most painful parts of Tiny Stitches, for us, were the scenes in which Thomas encounters the injustices of racism in spite of his achievements. Why was it important for you to write about these realities, and what do you think young readers can learn from them? 

I wanted readers to know he didn’t lead an easy and carefree life. Despite your intelligence and achievements, there are some who will never give you credit for it. It’s important to know who you are, what you are capable of and never let anyone tell you otherwise.

Vivien Thomas was not given the credit he deserved for his leadership in “blue baby” operations until 1971, how do you think Thomas must have felt once he received recognition?

He was overjoyed that the Old Hands Club asked him to sit for his formal portrait (the one in Johns Hopkins Hospital) and planned a formal recognition ceremony. That and the honorary degree, the faculty appointment were all appreciated by Vivien. He had such a generous spirit. I’ve talked with a former surgical resident who remembers his generous spirit even after his contributions were ignored. I think it’s only human to feel discouraged, but those feelings did not deflate his love of research.

What advice would you have for young readers about following their dreams in spite of obstacles?

If an obstacle is placed in your path, veer left or right, but keep going. Keep stretching and moving forward. Read books, especially biographies, and learn how others did it. Vivien prepared himself for his dream. He was an excellent student. Study. Join organizations in your school or community. This is a perfect way to learn about careers you never knew existed and perhaps find a mentor.

What do you hope readers will take away from Vivien Thomas’ story?

I hope readers and especially young ones will remember that dreams and goals can change, but your life won’t if you don’t go after new ones. If Vivien did it with all that was set against him, you can do it now.

Learn more about Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas here.

Author Gwendolyn Hooks

Gwendolyn Hudson Hooks was born in Savannah, Georgia. Her father was in the Air Force, so Gwen and her family moved a lot when she was a child. Her first stop in every new city was the local library where she got her new library card. Gwendolyn is the author of many books, including Bebop Books’ Can I Have a Pet? and Lee & Low’s Tiny Stitches. Gwen now lives in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, with her husband and their three children. Visit her online at gwendolynhooks.com.

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24. Emotional Wound Thesaurus Entry: Growing up with a Sibling’s Chronic or Complicated Illness

When you’re writing a character, it’s important to know why she is the way she is. Knowing her backstory is important to achieving this end, and one of the most impactful pieces of a character’s backstory is her emotional wound. This negative experience from the past is so intense that a character will go to great lengths to avoid experiencing that kind of pain and negative emotion again. As a result, certain behaviors, beliefs, and character traits will emerge.

Characters, like real people, are unique, and will respond to wounding events differently. The vast array of possible emotional wounds combined with each character’s personality gives you many options in terms of how your character will turn out. With the right amount of exploration, you should be able to come up with a character whose past appropriately affects her present, resulting in a realistic character that will ring true with readers. Understanding what wounds a protagonist bears will also help you plot out her arc, creating a compelling journey of change that will satisfy readers.

NOTE: We realize that sometimes a wound we profile may have personal meaning, stirring up the past for some of our readers. It is not our intent to create emotional turmoil. Please know that we research each wounding topic carefully to treat it with the utmost respect. 


Courtesy: Pixabay

Examples: Getting through childhood can be difficult enough when life isn’t overly complicated. But having a sibling with chronic, long-term, or complex medical or emotional issues that require a lot of financial and physical attention from caregivers can have an impact on other children in the family. Some examples of these issues include

  • a traumatic brain injury
  • an undiagnosed illness
  • a failing organ in need of a transplant
  • congenital heart problems
  • seizure disorders
  • cancer
  • AIDS
  • cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, and other long-term illnesses
  • life-threatening eating disorders
  • mental retardation
  • a physical disfigurement (loss of a limb, visible scarring, skin disorders, abnormal growths, etc.)
  • blindness, deafness, or muteness
  • mental disorders (OCD, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder)

Basic Needs Often Compromised By This Wound: safety and security, love and belonging, esteem and recognition, self-actualization

False Beliefs That May Be Embraced As a Result of This Wound:

  • Someone (oneself, the sick child, a parent) must have done something wrong and is being punished.
  • It would have been better if he/she had never been born.
  • My parents love him/her more than me.
  • It doesn’t matter what I do; he/she will always be more important than me.
  • This (losing one’s home, parents divorcing, being unable to do something one loves) is all his/her fault.
  • I’m a horrible person for feeling anger/resentment/frustration about the situation.
  • It should have been me.

Positive Attributes That May Result: adaptable, appreciative, calm, curious, diplomatic, easygoing, empathetic, generous, gentle, honorable, idealistic, independent, kind, loyal, mature, nurturing, passionate, patient, pensive, philosophical, protective, responsible, sentimental, socially aware, supportive, tolerant

Negative Traits That May Result: apathetic, callous, catty, childish, cynical, dishonest, disloyal, frivolous, grumpy, humorless, impatient, insecure, manipulative, martyr, melodramatic, morbid, needy, nervous, oversensitive, perfectionist, pessimistic, rebellious, reckless, resentful, self-destructive, selfish, spoiled, subservient, temperamental, uncooperative, ungrateful, vindictive, volatile, withdrawn

Resulting Fears:

  • The same thing is going to happen to me.
  • My sibling is going to die.
  • My life is going to be like this forever.
  • I’ll never be able to do what I want to do.
  • My parents will never love me as much as him/her.

Possible Habits That May Emerge: 

  • Avoiding the sibling when in public
  • Acting out as a way of getting a parent’s attention
  • Overachieving as a means of earning a parent’s love
  • Becoming independent out of necessity
  • Maturing early emotionally
  • Taking on adult responsibilities to care for one’s sibling
  • Empathizing with others who are ill
  • Engaging in social activism to raise awareness for the sibling’s illness
  • Becoming overly subservient so as not to overburden one’s parents
  • Hiding one’s true feelings because one feels guilty (about being angry, impatient, etc.)
  • Getting upset over little things
  • Distancing oneself from the family unit
  • Becoming anxious about oneself or a parent falling ill, too
  • Exhibiting hypochondriac tendencies (in an effort to get attention or out of the fear of oneself getting sick)
  • Rebelling against authority; becoming defiant
  • Difficulties at school
  • Difficulties focusing and concentrating
  • Acting out whenever the sibling’s circumstances interfere with one’s plans (when one has to stay with a relative, when a party or playdate has to be cancelled, etc.)
  • Shyness
  • Blaming all of one’s misfortunes on the sibling’s illness
  • Looking to others for love and affection
  • Self-medicating

TIP: If you need help understanding the impact of these factors, please read our introductory post on the Emotional Wound Thesaurus. For our current list of Emotional Wound Entries, go here.

For other Descriptive Thesaurus Collections, go here.

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