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1. Suzanne Bloom Is A Foolish Optimist

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne's Newest Book

Suzanne’s Newest Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom for the final post of our four-part series. If you are a new or aspiring children’s picture book author (or illustrator), I hope you have found some inspiration and encouragement in the last three posts, and I hope that continues today. This week I ask Suzanne about quiet stories, writer’s block, and how to keep from getting discouraged.

I discovered I have something in common with Suzanne, besides our love for picture books. We have both been told by editors that our work is quiet. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant the first time I heard it. Is that good? Bad? What? Since the editor who told me that my story was quiet didn’t seem interested in acquiring it, I surmised that quiet must be bad. And if that’s the case, then my story must be bad, and my writing style must be bad, and maybe I’m not cut out to be a picture book writer. See how easily that self-doubt creeps in?      

What I have learned since then is that quiet doesn’t equal bad. It is a certain style of writing, and a lot of my work is written in that style, but it’s not bad, it’s just harder to sell to today’s publishers, who seem to want quirky, funny, quick-paced, action-packed, stories. That being said, quiet books are still being published, just not as much. And if you truly want to, you can rework your story into something a little less quiet.

Suzanne, what does an editor mean when he/she says a story is quiet? And how do you feel about quiet stories?

Is it quiet because nothing happens? Do your characters have a problem to solve? Is there a beginning, middle and ending? Have you left space for the reader to make discoveries? What distinguishes your story from the mile-high pile of other manuscripts?

A formidable editor said, in a tone I couldn’t pin down, “You write quiet stories.” Was she kindly dismissing me? Maybe. But, being the foolish optimist, I chose to interpret it as a definition. Yes, indeed! I write quiet stories. My stories are about the little bumps on the road of friendship. They are about friends working things out. They hold moments of emotional truth for the listener and the reader. Think about The Quiet Book (by Deborah Underwood). Deborah Underwood’s “list” text coupled with Renata Liwska’s illustrations is absolutely delicious. It’s sly and tender and true. As visual learners, children look at books more carefully than adults do. This is a boon for illustrators who can amp up the level of detail suggested by the text.

Thank goodness for editors. We need them as surely as they need us. A manuscript needs a champion to shepherd it though the gauntlet of financial decisions, list requirements and the multitude of other manuscripts.

Yay, there is a place for quiet picture books in the world. Now, for those of you who get writer’s block, you’re not alone. We will all be afflicted with it from time to time. And we all deal with it in our own ways. Personally, I tend to wait it out for a while. I will often read and reread everything I have written for that story up to that point over and over again until I get unstuck. If that doesn’t work, then I’m usually done for the day. Let’s see what Suzanne recommends.

Suzanne, how do you combat writer’s (or illustrator’s) block? 

Is it inertia or page fright? No matter. Cook something, clean something, completely reorganize your kitchen cupboards, wax the car, weed the garden, walk the dog, conduct a search for the best carrot cake in a four state area, read every writer’s blog you can find, think about starting a blog, open the fridge 8 or 9 times to see if anyone made you something yummy.
Fill your days with Productive Procrastination Projects until you can no longer stand the avoidance, and think maybe that little opus on your desk or PC looks like a better option. Write around the block – scribble, doodle, sketch until that shaky, snaky line looks like an idea.
Alas, that idea may have a mind of its own. More than once the story I started gets elbowed aside by one that’s more insistent or fully formed. In the schoolyard that is my brain, my stories do not stand in a straight line. Oh no, they jostle and shove and argue over who is the line leader, except for that pouty one in the back who refuses to say a word.

Great advice, Suzanne! Now, how do you keep from getting discouraged in the highly competitive world of children’s picture book publishing?

On this emotional and professional roller coaster, there’s a nasty twist called the Spiral of Second Guessing followed by the Plummet of Self Worth. It seems to last forever but is over pretty quickly. Ride it out.
At the beginning of every project and sometimes again in the middle it becomes clear that I’ve forgotten how to draw and write. This story stinks and why would anyone ever read it? And it doesn’t even matter because who cares, anyway!
We are so hard on ourselves.
When I get discouraged, I call someone who loves my work and is not a family member. I call a treasured writer friend. We commiserate and whinge a little but then as good friends do, we remind each other of our successes, dedication, and how we are so much more suited to this than being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or any other of many, many options.

If you are a writer, illustrator, or both, thank you for working to put something beautiful into the hands of children.

Thank you, Suzanne, that last line sums it up perfectly. That’s really what it all comes down to, if writing children’s picture books is in your blood, if it’s a part of you that you can’t imagine being without, and you long to put something beautiful into the hands of children (and there’s nothing more beautiful than a picture book), then don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t get discouraged, your dream can come true. You can be published. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep improving, and keep the faith. Believe me, I know! 

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com.

{Suzanne’s First Drawing, Age 3} I confess. It’s true. Before I wrote, I drew! An artist at three, marking the page – my dad and I were circles with little circle eyes. We looked like a jellyfish family. We all are artists, first. Little by little other activities catch our interest and we move on. But not always. I found more success drawing and painting than adding and multiplying, or dancing or playing sports. According to report cards from elementary school, I was a pleasure to have in class, though not working up to potential. Indeed, who among us works up to potential? I remember learning to read. Sprawled out on the ugly rug in the living room, looking at the funny papers spread before me, I watched in amazement as the squiggly lines shaped up into a word. The word was “Scamp”, son of Lady and the Tramp. And with that, the funny papers became my magic carpet. My gateway books were Goldens. So Big!, Animal Babies, and Mr. Dog still sit and stay on my book shelf to remind me that my collection began even before I was reading on my own.


2 Comments on Suzanne Bloom Is A Foolish Optimist, last added: 10/30/2014
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2. Interview Alert: Harriet Muncaster

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I recently interviewed author/illustrator Harriet Muncaster to learn more about her debut picture book I Am A Witch’s Cat, which was published this summer, but is perfect for Halloween. Her book contains fascinating scenes filled with incredibly detailed miniatures. I was an instant fan from page one. And the story is clever and sweet. It’s about a child who claims her mother is a witch (a good witch) and she is a witch’s cat, and she goes on to show the reader all the reasons why she knows her mother is a witch. But more than that, the story is about a special relationship between a child and a parent. Please read the interview and get to know rising star Harriet Muncaster.

Q. Please tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in children’s books.

HM. Hi Lauri, I am so glad you like my book and thank you for having me on your blog! I have always loved making, drawing, reading and writing so I always knew I wanted to do something visually creative. However it wasn’t until we went on a school trip to an exhibition of James Mayhew’s work that I realized I could channel my creativity into children’s books. The thought had never actually occurred to me before and I had never been told that it was possible to do an illustration course at university as opposed to just a general art course. I think I was about 16 or 17 at the time. I absolutely loved James Mayhew’s work at the exhibition and it opened my eyes to the possibility of becoming a children’s book illustrator myself. I did a foundation course in art and design after school and that made me more certain that illustration was the right path for me to take. After that I did a degree in illustration and then an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Anglia Ruskin in Cambridge. We were given some good exposure on my MA course – our work got taken out to Bologna Book Fair and that is where my Witch’s Cat book was spotted! In fact, it was a project I did on that course.

Q. You have a unique artistic style, which is evident in your picture book I Am A Witch’s Cat (which is gorgeous, by the way). How would you describe your style?

HM. Thank you! I am not really sure how I would describe my style to be honest. I kind of feel like I fell into it without meaning to. I was on my MA course and thought I would try out a book by making work in 3D out of paper and photographing it. I had done something similar before on my degree course where I made a paper model of a Snow Queen’s room. It was just the room though, I hadn’t taken it as far as putting characters in at that point. I guess that was my first ever foray into 3D illustration! So I thought I would try a similar technique to illustrate a book on my MA course. It went down quite well, I actually got highly commended for it in the Macmillan prize so my tutor suggested I do my next project in the same way. That project turned out to be Witch’s Cat, and it went from there. I enjoyed doing it because I absolutely LOVE making tiny things and I enjoy playing with lighting to get different atmospheres. (I actually think I prefer making physical things to drawing, it feels more natural to me.) I wanted it to be a warm book with an autumnal feel but also a bit magical. I watched a lot of the old Bewitched episodes while I was creating it.
So overall, to answer the question, if I were to describe my style in Witch’s Cat it would be: paper and fabric room sets with cut out characters, photographed with (hopefully!) warm lighting to give an autumnal feel. 

Q. Can you tell us a bit about your process from beginning to end when you created I Am A Witch’s Cat?

HM. Well, I think I went about it in a pretty ordered fashion. Even though I am a messy person in real life, when it comes to work I find I have to be very ordered and focused. Firstly I thought of the story. Then I thumbnailed the whole book, did a dummy book and then started making the final art! To make the final art I made miniature scenes- about dollhouse sort of size, out of paper and card and bits of fabric and then photographed them. 

These are some of the very first sketches of Witch’s Cat from my sketchbook. 

harriet muncaster 5 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some work in progress shots when I was making the 3D scenes. 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

These are all the food boxes and tins for the supermarket scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first finished version of Witch’s Cat (the one I created on my MA course) had more of a scrapbook feel to it but that got changed for publication.

Q. Photography plays a large part in your artwork.Would you consider yourself a photographer too?

HM. I’m not sure actually… I suppose I am in a way! I don’t feel as though I am worthy of the title ‘professional photographer’ though as I don’t feel I know enough of the technical stuff. Also I don’t own all the equipment!

Q. Do you personally create all of the miniatures you use in your artwork? (I especially love the tiny books I saw on your website!)

HM. I try to make as many of the miniatures as I can out of card, but I think sometimes it adds interest to put an actual miniature in there like a real dollhouse lamp or something. Sometimes, if I want to make something look properly 3D I will make it out of Fimo. Or sew it! Like these little soft toy cats in Witch’s Cat.

Q. I Am A Witch’s Cat is a perfect pick for Halloween. Was that your intention when you created it? 

HM. No, I didn’t specifically think of Halloween funnily enough! But I was intending it to have an autumnal feel. I can see now though that it works well as a Halloween book!

Q. And how popular is Halloween in your part of the world?

HM. Halloween was never a big thing at all for me growing up. We weren’t even allowed to go trick or treating in my family! Halloween was a bit of a non-event in my house. It wasn’t until I went to university that I discovered that some people do like to celebrate Halloween. I’ve been to a few Halloween parties since. It’s definitely not as big a deal in the UK as it is in America though – Nowhere near!

Q. What projects are you working on right now?

HM. I have been working on a range of books about a princess called ‘Glitterbelle’ with Parragon publishing. I think they are coming out in January – or sometime round then anyway! I have just illustrated them, not written them and some of them are activity books. They are all done in my 3D style. I have also been working on a second Witch’s cat book called Happy Halloween Witch’s Cat which will come out next July. And then there are some other picture books I have been working on too but I can’t say much about those yet!

Q. Why do you believe picture books are important?

HM. I cannot imagine a world without picture books! Well, I can, but it would be a very boring world. I absolutely adore them because they are like little worlds you can just escape into. My absolutely favourite picture books are the Dorrie books by Patricia Coombs. I love the atmospheres they evoke. Of course there are other reasons why picture books are so important – like the use of them for teaching to read, introducing children to ideas, addressing important issues in a way children can relate to, provoking exploration and questions, bonding over bedtime reading etc… but that is my reason for loving them, the escapism and inspiration they provide. Also, writing and illustrating picture books is like being the director of a mini play/film. You have complete control to create a whole new world.

Q. Where can fans go to learn more about you and your work or to simply connect with you?

HM. I have a blog: www.victoriastitch.blogspot.com

Q. Any closing thoughts or words of wisdom?

HM. I don’t think I actually have any words of wisdom! I have just always done what I love and luckily it has led me to being able to do it as my full-time job. Maybe I would say: listen to criticism, use it to help you become a better illustrator/writer/artist/(insert word here) but ultimately do what inspires you and what you believe in. Don’t let anyone change that. 

Oh my goodness, I love the tiny orange and yellow quilt on the bed, and the tiny food boxes, and the tiny plush kitties! Thanks for sharing, Harriet, and much success with all of your books!


2 Comments on Interview Alert: Harriet Muncaster, last added: 10/24/2014
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3. Suzanne Bloom Loves Fab Goo Taffy

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Suzanne's Newest Book

Suzanne’s Newest Book

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please welcome back author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom for week three of what will be a four-part series designed to encourage new and aspiring picture book authors as they navigate the perilous path to publication. 

Today’s topic is Rejection, with a capital “R”. If you’ve already been sending out submissions and have received rejection letters (or e-mails) back, it’s a major letdown. I’ve been there. I’m still there. But as cold as the rejection feels, you must try try try not to take it personally. I know you poured your heart and soul into your story. But always keep in mind that publishing is a business and publishers are companies. And just like any company, publishers must make money in order to stay in business. Since publishing companies receive hundreds of submissions each month and thousands per year, and they cannot publish them all, they are very selective and choose what they believe has the potential to make money. That doesn’t mean your story wasn’t good. It just means that it wasn’t right for that publisher. Even veteran authors still get rejections.

Several years ago, when I was feeling particularly bummed over yet another rejection, I asked an anonymous editor if editors realized they hold authors’ dreams in their hands. I don’t remember what the response was, but I have since come to realize that it is not the responsibility of editors or agents to make my dreams come true. So don’t get mad, get motivated. And above all, don’t give up. If you’ve made your story the absolute best is can be, send it out again. I wonder what Suzanne does when she receives a rejection letter? Let’s ask. 

Suzanne, how do you handle a rejection letter? How about 5, 15, or 25?

It’s really hard to believe that 15 someones don’t love your story as much as you do, isn’t it? Is it time to put that story away for a while or forever? Let it rest and get to work on something else. After a month or so look at it again with fresh eyes. This also applies to harsh critiques. Several of my stories (which are brilliant, according to me) shall never see the light of day. I came across a mock “rejection” letter which said, “We’re sorry to say that due to the number of similar rejection letters we have received, we cannot accept your rejection letter at this time. Good luck placing your rejection letter elsewhere.” Alas, I have paraphrased and I don’t know the source.

Love the mock rejection letter and the advice! Listen to Suzanne, picture book writers, she knows what she’s talking about. 

Of course, sometimes the feeling of rejection comes in the form of a harsh critique from an agent, editor, or even a critique group member. Again, it’s hard not to take the criticism personally, especially when we’re proud of the work we’ve done. I can tell you that I am always surprised when I get a harsh critique. How could they possibly find fault in my story. But now I understand that there’s always room for improvement. Remember too, that you don’t have to make changes to your story based on critiques. You don’t have to agree with every thing that’s said. But keep in mind that agents and editors are professionals and usually know their stuff, and if you should happen to get a critique from one, I recommend you at least consider their suggestions to improve your work. 

And let me add, that I would be lost without the help of my critique group, Picture Me Published (PMP). It is invaluable. My stories have improved astronomically thanks to the thoughtful suggestions of my three groupmates, Sarah, Jess, and Brooks. I highly recommend joining a group. Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel right, you can always politely drop out and search for another. My first group didn’t work out (not for lack of trying), but it’s okay because PMP is a perfect fit for me. 

Suzanne, how should we handle a harsh critique?

In the privacy of your own space, dance like Rumpelstiltskin: stomp, gnash, holler and fume. Whew, take a breath and revisit the story and the critique…not necessarily at that moment – when you’re ready to hear and evaluate the suggestions. What rings true? What holds back the story? I thought “Fab Goo Taffy” was the best name ever for the candy that was traded for a time machine. My wise editor said it wasn’t insect-centric enough for my ant eating characters (A Mighty Fine Time Machine). Certain that there was no substitute, I stewed and fumed, until I came up with Buggy Bon-Bons. It’s so hard to defend an idea without sounding defensive. And even when we’re certain each of our words is precious and perfect, there is always room for rumination and possibly improvement. But here’s the biggest question: Are you willing to make changes for the good of the story?

Please come back next week for the fourth and final installment of my “Suzanne Bloom” series, in which I ask Suzanne how to combat writer’s block, what an editor means when he/she tells you your story is too quiet, and how to keep from getting discouraged. I can’t wait!

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com


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4. Suzanne Bloom Has A Lot Of Towels

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello future (traditionally) published picture book authors. As promised, I have author/illustrator Suzanne Bloom back this week to help me help you along your path to publication. If you are an aspiring picture book author, you may feel as if you will never be published. I know, I’ve felt the same way. And as a new picture book author (yes, I still consider myself new because even though I have been writing for nine years, I just signed my first contract last year and my book is not yet out), I wonder if I will ever publish another. So I understand your frustration. You may be wondering if there’s something you could be doing to move you further along. I wonder what Suzanne thinks? Let’s find out.

Suzanne, what could an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) do to help them break in?

Are you attending conferences or workshops? This is a good way to meet authors, illustrators, editors, art directors, and agents. There may be an opportunity to have a manuscript or portfolio reviewed. Do you have a critique group? Have you thought about trying a different genre, or submitting to children’s magazines? Have you visited the book store and studied the current crop of picture books, chapter books or novels to see what is being published now?  

Great advice! And I would add that there are a lot of fairly recent books on writing, illustrating, and publishing children’s books that offer tons of useful information. Check your local library. Also, I recommend joining professional organizations such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the CBI Clubhouse. And don’t forget the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market book. It contains helpful articles, as well as listings of publishers, agents, contests, conferences, and more.    

Suzanne, how long should an aspiring picture book author (or illustrator) keep trying before they throw in the towel?

How many towels do you have? It was 10 years between my second and third book. I would drive by a fast food restaurant with a NOW HIRING sign out front and wonder if that was meant for me. A sensible person would have sought gainful employment; with benefits and a retirement plan. I opted to become a visiting author instead. I found a balance between the solitude of the studio and the lively exchange of ideas with young students. Many suggestions from grade-schoolers have shown up in my illustrations, like the volcano and the snake in My Special Day at Third Street School by Eve Bunting. I decided that if I couldn’t make a living writing, I could make a living talking about writing.  

And in between talking about writing, Suzanne kept on writing and submitting and writing some more. And I’m so glad she never “came to her senses” because now there are nearly twenty fabulous picture books with her name on them, and I’m positive she hasn’t thrown in her last towel yet. So don’t give up, aspiring authors. You can be published too! It just takes time, patience, and following good advice from those who have been in your shoes.

Come back next week when I ask Suzanne how she handles rejection letters and harsh critiques.

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

{Suzanne Bloom At Work In Her Studio}

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh! What A Surprise!, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com


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5. Picture Books At The Library

You may know, I work at the DeWitt Community Library. I’m a Library Assistant, or more specifically, I’m a Technical Processing Assistant. I do cataloging, acquisitions, and circulation. One of my favorite things to do at work is catalog all the new picture books. 

I enjoy seeing all the new picture books so much that I want to share the joy with you. So periodically, here on Frog, I will showcase some of the wonderful new picture books that patiently wait their turn on my desk to be cataloged and then sent off to the children’s room to be picked up and read by children and caregivers (who will love the books so much they must take them home and read them again). 

As always, stay tuned!


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6. Suzanne Bloom Is “Dancing With A Phantom In The Dark”.

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

Author/Illustrator Suzanne Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing I really love to do here at Frog on a Blog is help other picture book writers, especially those who are new or aspiring authors. That’s why I’ve enlisted one of my favorite authors and illustrators (and friend), Suzanne Bloom, to help me offer words of encouragement and wisdom to all of you who may be feeling discouraged. We’ll hear from Suzanne in a moment. First, allow me to tell you a bit of my own publishing story. 

After eight years of trying, I was finally offered a contract last year for one of my picture book stories, and I have a second story soon to be published in digital format. Depending upon how you look at it, you are either thinking Wow, that was a really long time or Hey, that’s great. Both thoughts are technically right. But believe me when I tell you that those eight years of waiting and hoping, and collecting rejection letters, were also discouraging. I considered giving up many times. I questioned my writing ability and even my worthiness to be published. But I didn’t quit because I love writing picture book stories and my dream was to be published. And now, I am so glad I didn’t give up.

And I don’t want you to give up either. That’s why, once a week for the next seven weeks, I will pose questions to Suzanne about how to handle rejection, how to combat writer’s block, how to keep from getting discouraged, and more. My hope is that you will find encouragement to continue on your own personal path to picture book publication. 

I will post the first question next week. Now, let’s hear from Suzanne:

139 words, 300 words.  So few words.  How do you make them count?  How do you make us care about a character?  It may be that all the ideas have been used, but not all the stories have been told.  Borne of your observation and experience, what will you bring to the page? 

Whether we are wordless or wordy, scribbling or sketching, we face similar challenges and frustrations.  My own creative process feels like dancing with a phantom, in the dark.  I’m not sure where it will lead but I’ve decided to trust and follow.  My stories are small, but their emotional truth is big.

Thank you, Suzanne! I can’t wait to hear more from you!

Suzanne Bloom was born mid-century in Portland, Oregon, which accounts for her love of overcast days. She moved to Queens, New York in time to finish kindergarten. Her first book We Keep a Pig in the Parlor was published in 1988. She has authored and illustrated many more books since then including The Bus for Us (2000) and the popular Goose & Bear series, which includes A Splendid Friend Indeed, Treasure, What About Bear, Oh What A Surprise, Fox Forgets, and her latest, Alone Together. She has been given a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award and has been selected for the Texas 2×2 list of 20 best picture books (twice). She currently lives in upstate, New York with her husband in the house they built 34 years ago, down a dirt road and on a hillside. She has two grown sons, one cat, and one dog. To learn more about Suzanne, please read the interview I did with her back in 2010, or check out her website: www.suzannebloom.com


2 Comments on Suzanne Bloom Is “Dancing With A Phantom In The Dark”., last added: 10/9/2014
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7. The Peddler’s Bed Is Coming Fall 2015!

 

 

(Illustrator Bong Redila…

...Hard At Work...

…Hard At Work…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

...On The Cover Of The Peddler's Bed)

…On The Cover Of The Peddler’s Bed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m so excited to share the “unofficial” cover of The Peddler’s Bed with my blog fans, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends! It is unofficial because changes are still possible, but publisher Ripple Grove Press was super kind to permit me to post it now. And how could I pass up the opportunity to share something so beautiful! Illustrator Bong Redila is fantastic and has a style all his own! I’m extremely pleased to have my name on a book cover next to his.   

Title: The Peddler’s Bed

Author: Lauri Fortino

Illustrator: Bong Redila

Publisher: Ripple Grove Press

Genre: Picture Book

Release Date: Fall 2015

See what happens when a peddler tries to sell a fine, handcrafted bed to a poor man who has no bed at all.


9 Comments on The Peddler’s Bed Is Coming Fall 2015!, last added: 10/5/2014
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8. I Wanna Happy Birthday!

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Happy Book Birthday to Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow’s newest “I Wanna” picture book I Wanna Go Home! Fans of I Wanna Iguana and I Wanna New Room will be thrilled that a third book in the series has finally been “born”. Can you believe it’s been ten years since I Wanna Iguana, the first book!? It was one of my nephew’s favorite picture books. He was six at the time; now he’s sixteen!

I Wanna Iguana was one of the very first book reviews I did on Frog on a Blog back in 2009. Read my review. I loved the book so much that I contacted Karen to do an interview for me and she agreed. Her interview was the very first interview I did on Frog on a Blog! Read the interview.    

Personally, I can’t wait to read I Wanna Go Home and see what clever Alex is up to this time around. I wanna bet it will be hilarious. Read the summary and Kirkus review below.

SUMMARY OF “I WANNA GO HOME”, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons: Alex is not happy about being sent to his grandparents’ retirement community while his parents go on a fabulous vacation. What could be worse than tagging along to Grandma’s boring bridge game or enduring the sight of Grandpa’s dentures?

But as the week goes on, Alex’s desperate emails to his parents turn into
stories about ice cream before dinner and stickball with Grandpa. Before
he knows it, Alex has made a surprising discovery: grandparents are way
cooler than he thought!

KIRKUS REVIEW
A child’s skepticism takes a header when a vacation with Grandma and
Grandpa proves more wild than mild.
After getting his iguana (I Wanna Iguana, 2004) and failing to
successfully petition for his own space (I Wanna New Room, 2010), Alex
returns for a third time, and now the situation’s truly dire. His parents
are taking off for Bora Bora, which means he and his siblings are slated
to stay with their grandparents for the duration. Broccoli lasagna and the
absence of both video games and computers are bound to lead to a terrible
time. In his initial desperate letters and emails written to his
vacationing parents, Alex pleads with them to return ASAP. Yet soon, Alex
is singing a different tune, as he discovers square dancing, bingo,
stickball and other wonderful aspects of old-folk living. Turns out that
two weeks just isn’t enough time. The epistolary picture book is hardly a
new genre, but it can prove a difficult one. Orloff handles the format as
well as the subject with grace and aplomb. Alex’s gradual acceptance of
his doting ancestors plays out believably, pairing beautifully with
Catrow’s controlled craziness. The pencils, watercolors and inks find the
funny in almost every single spread.
A clever conceit ably rendered; this is bound to prove popular with loving
grandparents and caustic kids alike. (Picture book. 4-7)

**AND NEW THIS YEAR, FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS — A WEBSITE GEARED JUST FOR THEM, OFFERING IDEAS AND TEACHING MATERIALS FOR USING THE “I WANNA” BOOKS IN THE CLASSROOM***
Visit www.iwannabooks.com. The site offers lesson plans, printable
activities and games for students, testimonials from teachers, teacher
resources, and more.


2 Comments on I Wanna Happy Birthday!, last added: 9/25/2014
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9. Looking for a Fantastic Critique Service?: Picture Book Critiques from Danielle Davis

Click The Logo For More Information.

Have you written a picture book story? Are you looking for a professional critique of your manuscript? Have you considered a critique service, but were reluctant to give it a try?

If you answered “yes” to the three questions above, then you’ve come to the right post. I have also hesitated to send my work to a critique service: What if I don’t agree with what they say? What if they think my story is awful? It costs money.

What you need is a person you can trust to offer suggestions based on her expertise in the picture book market, in a nonjudgmental, positive, and gentle way, and is worth every penny. You need Danielle Davis. 

I recently had a critique done by Danielle. I was more than pleased with her very comprehensive and detailed review of my latest picture book story, Cloud, The Monastery Dog. Not only did she go through my manuscript line by line, leaving comments and suggestions, she also wrote a personal letter with more feedback and advice.

I chose Danielle’s service because (and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her) she says, “It’s not about my style or preferences at all—it’s about making the work sing!” I really appreciate that and I would definitely use Danielle Davis’ Picture Book Critique service again.


4 Comments on Looking for a Fantastic Critique Service?: Picture Book Critiques from Danielle Davis, last added: 9/13/2014
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10. Plant a Pocket of Prairie

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Title: Plant a Pocket of Prairie

Author: Phyllis Root

Illustrator: Betsy Bowen

Publisher/Year: University of Minnesota Press/2014

 

Hurrah for nonfiction picture books! If authors and illustrators of nonfiction picture books accomplish their goals to create top-notch books on subjects they are passionate about, then children will learn about captivating people, places, and things in a fun and engaging way. Nonfiction picture books must, just like fictional stories, grab and keep the attention of young readers. Often this is done through story-like text and eye-catching illustrations.

In Plant a Pocket of Prairie, author Phyllis Root and illustrator Betsy Bowen introduce us to an endangered ecosystem, the native prairie of the United States, and many of the plants and animals that can be found there. Through sparse, flowing text that connects each page to the next and large, beautiful pictures, Root and Bowen succeed in capturing prairie life and conveying to readers the importance of not only cherishing it but helping it continue on. Plant a Pocket of Prairie is a fascinating look at native species that may be in our own backyards and yet we take them for granted.

Did you know that native prairie once covered almost forty percent of the U.S.? But now less than one percent remains! Due to the encroachment of people (farming, grazing, building, etc.), prairie is one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. And unfortunately, as it says in the back of the book, “We can’t bring back the prairie as it once was.” But there is hope for at least some of the native prairie plants and animals. All you have to do is “plant a pocket of prairie”.

Planting prairie plants and attracting prairie animals, especially various species of birds and butterflies, as suggested by this book, would be a perfect outdoor project for parents or teachers to work on with their kids or students.


2 Comments on Plant a Pocket of Prairie, last added: 9/12/2014
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11. Children's Book -

Announcing publishing success of fellow authors gives me great joy. I'm pleased to announce fellow Guardian Angel Publishing award-winning author (GAP Angel), Mary Esparza-Vela has published a bi-lingual children's book… 



Category: Spanish Editions
Author: Mary Esparza-Vela 
Artist: Kevin Collier
Print ISBN: 9781616335335; 1616335335
eBook ISBN: 9781616335342; 1616335343



Un gallo llamado Rooty ignora a un nuevo pollito porque lo encuentra aterrador y asqueroso. El pollito, un BUITRE, se esfuerza por ganarse el corazón de Rooty y una vez que lo consigue, Rooty lo invita a acompañarlo en una sesión de canto en el techo del granero.



Category: Animals & Pets
Author: Mary Esparza Vela
Artist: Kevin Scott Collier
Print ISBN: 9781616332532;1616332530
eBook ISBN: 9781616332549; 1616332549

Rooty Rooster ignores a new chick because he finds him both scary and disgusting. The new chick, a baby VULTURE, struggles to win Rooty’s heart and once he does, Rooty invites him to join him in a crowing session on top of the barn roof.

Purchase: 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Best wishes,
Donna M. McDine
Multi Award-winning Children's Author

Ignite curiosity in your child through reading!

Connect with

A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Story Monster Approved and Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review

The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist

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12. Author Challenge: Uncovering “The Dinosaur Tag Survival Guide” — by Lauri Fortino

Lauri Fortino:

Big cover reveal today at MeeGenius! I love it!

Originally posted on MeeGenius Blog:

There’s no better way to get an adrenaline rush than by playing tag with dinosaurs. But before you play Dinosaur Tag, there are a few VERY important rules you have to follow. Are you ready to play?

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13. Gordon

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Title: Gordon (A tale of a baby American bison)

Author/Illustrator: Martha Mans

Publisher/Year: WinterBird Press/2014

 

Children’s picture books are works of art. Gordon, written and illustrated by the incredibly talented Martha Mans, is proof. Hold it in your hands. Look at the front cover. Turn is over and look at the back cover. Open it up and flip through the pages. Let your eyes take in all the majestic beauty of life on a Colorado ranch.

Then start at the beginning and read about Gordon, a young American bison, and his animal friends. Follow along as he is rescued from a creek, meets new friends, and finally discovers what he is and where he belongs. Gordon is an endearing story based on true events and it really brings to life, especially through Martha Mans’ amazing watercolor paintings, a part of America that many people may not be familiar with.

I really like how this story introduces readers, young and old, to the animals and wildlife that can be found in the gorgeous state of Colorado, particularly the bison. Did you know that back in the 1800’s, bison were on the brink of extinction? But thanks to the efforts of many, bison are no longer in danger of disappearing, at least for now. And thanks to Martha Mans and Gordon, the majestic bison will not soon be forgotten.   


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14. The Toothless Tooth Fairy

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Title: The Toothless Tooth Fairy

Author: Shanelle Hicks

Illustrator: Anca Delia Budeanu

Publisher/Year: Mirror Publishing/2014

 

Author Shanelle Hicks and illustrator Anca Delia Budeanu have created a dazzling fairy story, in their picture book The Toothless Tooth Fairy, that could easily rival any fairy book on the market today. Their book is filled with brilliant illustrations that depict seven lovely and ethnically diverse young tooth fairies who have come together to take part in the Miss Tooth Fairy Smile Contest. For fairies who place much importance on teeth, a smile contest certainly seems fitting.

One tooth fairy in particular, Bella, was known for her beauty and her kindness. All of the other fairies thought for sure that she would win. But one jealous fairy, Zelda, maliciously causes Bella to lose a tooth. With a missing tooth, Bella no longer feels beautiful, so she sets off to find a tooth. Her three attempts to borrow a child’s tooth fail and Bella returns to Cloud Nine defeated and depressed where she meets Zelda who brags about what she’s done and how she will win the contest. But instead of being angry or being upset that she won’t win the contest, Bella feels sad for Zelda and because she is a kind fairy, gives Zelda a hug. Her magical hug transforms Zelda’s heart and she becomes beautiful too, on the inside and the outside.

What I like best about The Toothless Tooth Fairy is the message that true beauty comes from a kind heart. The message is not preached, but rather it is woven into a sweet and entertaining story that kids (especially young girls) will enjoy.


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15. Artfully Yours – Connecting with Picture Book art

Today officially heralds the start of the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Week 2014. This year’s theme: Connect to Reading – Reading to Connect can be interpreted in many ways just as ones connection with art can take place on several levels. I have long purported that the humble picture book is one […]

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16. Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

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Title: Alphabet Wildlife A To Z

Author/Illustrator: Nata Romeo

Year: 2014

Nata Romeo’s stunning children’s concept book, Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, introduces young readers to the 26 letters of the alphabet accompanied by corresponding animals.

I’m truly impressed by Nata’s watercolor and pen and ink illustrations, which are visual feasts for the eye. Some are bursting with color while others are wholly black and white. Most are a mix of both color and black and white, but all of them are unique, lively, and beautiful to look at. My favorites include the bird on the “B is for Bird” page and the cat that sneaks its way in at the very end of the book. Nata’s choice to use the image of the lion for the front cover was a good one. It’s attention grabbing and gorgeous.

While Alphabet Wildlife A To Z will help children learn the alphabet, I believe the book will stimulate artistic creativity in children as well. Kids are going to want to draw their own animals surrounded by fun and dramatic backgrounds, just as Nata has done, and I think that’s awesome!


4 Comments on Alphabet Wildlife A To Z, last added: 8/17/2014
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17. Meet the Finalists: Lauri Fortino

Lauri Fortino:

I was featured today on the MeeGenius blog!

Originally posted on MeeGenius Blog:

Lauri Fortino

Meet Lauri Fortino, author of “Dinosaur Tag”

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18. The Gentleman Bat

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Title: The Gentleman Bat

Author: Abraham Schroeder

Illustrator: Piotr Parda

Publisher/Year: Ripple Grove Press/2014

 

The Gentleman Bat is a spectacular debut for picture book publisher Ripple Grove Press. From the amazing front cover all the way to the satisfying conclusion, I was completely mesmerized and drawn into a bygone era filled not with people, but with gentleman and lady bats. The text is fluid, fun, and fantastic to read, and is complemented by beautiful watercolor and ink illustrations. 

Join the gentleman bat as he takes a stroll along cobblestone streets dressed in his finest attire and ready for a night on the town.

The gentleman bat, with his gentleman’s cane,

went out for a walk one night in the rain.

He meets his lady friend and the two head to the town square where a band is playing. She accepts his offer to dance.

He spun her around and dipped her down low;

she giggled and laughed and kicked up her toe.

Could there be a romance brewing?

Their hearts fluttered wistfully as he departed,

and made his way back to his house where he started.

The Gentleman Bat is a lovely story that will entrance both children and adults. And if you are not a fan of bats, this picture book just may change the way you feel about the oft-misunderstood creature of the night. The Gentleman Bat is available for pre-order now and is due out October 1. Congratulations Ripple Grove Press!


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19. Why I Self-Published & What Works by Tabitha Grace Smith

If you are curious about self publishing, then you will find author Tabitha Grace Smith’s article fascinating. She has some excellent advice for authors who are considering self publishing. She also explains why she chose the self-publishing path over traditional publishing, what’s involved, and how she makes it work.

Why I Self-Published & What Works
by Tabitha Grace Smith

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 9 years old. I chose my college, my career (I work in social media marketing), and my hobbies because of this passion for writing. Mostly I had a desire to write adult novels, but when my first niece was born I desperately wanted to write kid’s books. Books had a huge impact on me and I wanted to share that with my nieces (who are now 6 and 7). The idea for my first book came from my cats, who seemed to love sitting on the edge of my bathtub, but never wanted to go in. I wrote Jack the Kitten is Very Brave, a book about a cat who loved being a pirate, but was afraid of water.

I read a lot about the book publishing industry. From my research I knew that picture books are incredibly hard to break into as a first-time writer. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time trying to get published and miss the years where my book would be perfect for my nieces. That sense of a deadline was a huge deciding factor in self-publishing.

Self-publishing has become less of a stigma in the past couple years, but there still is a stigma and anyone who wants to self-publish needs to understand that. I had a lot of questions when I first went about publishing Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and several people immediately assumed that it wouldn’t be a good book if I did it myself.

When it came to choosing how to self-publish I did a lot of research. I wanted a POD (Print on Demand) service so I didn’t get stuck with boxes and boxes of books. I also have a lot of friends who live all over the world so I wanted a service where they could order without paying a TON of money. CreateSpace (which is part of Amazon) wound up being the perfect solution. Just a note here: you shouldn’t need to shell out thousands of dollars to a self-print book service. Beware, there are a lot of scams out there. You’ll never make that money back.

There are four HUGE skills you need to self-publish:
1. Design Skills
2. Art Skills
3. Editing Skills
4. Marketing Skills

Design Skills. Thankfully, I have some design skills. My first job was doing graphics and layout. A big part of doing a book yourself is understanding how to format and set up a layout. You’ll need to understand things like pixels, dpi, how to create a multi-page PDF, page bleeds, etc. If you don’t know these things there are a ton of free classes online to get the skills. Another option is to hire someone. Please make sure to pay for the service. Formatting and layout for a book is a lot of work and it takes a good amount of time.

Art Skills. I have zero art skills. I can draw some pretty awesome stick figures, but that is not good enough for most picture books (Okay, one of my books I drew myself, but it’s pretty doodle-y). For the artwork I had a dear friend, Mindy Lou Hagan, who I had seen a ton of art from. I loved her style and we worked together on the layout and images. I have to be completely honest here, a lot of the unsuccessful self-published children’s books I’ve seen have terrible artwork. Do yourself a favor and search for a good artist. If you have no artistic talent yourself or you have no artistic friends, search sites like Deviantart.com. Again, pay your artist. It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when artists don’t get paid. Artwork is at least 50% of the selling point of a children’s book. Mindy and I agreed on payment before we started the project. Have that all in writing.

Editing Skills. Picture books need as much (if not more) editing as a novel. Have as many people as you can read your book before you publish it. I found out early on that people will catch different things, so multiple editors really helps. Also, try and have at least a couple friends who will be 100% honest with you (i.e. don’t just have your mom read it). Have the editors edit the text, have them edit the text placement, and have them edit the story. Read the story out loud to kids and check their enthusiasm level (if you have no kids, ask a local school librarian if you can come in and read your book). Edit. Edit. Edit. A lot of first-time writers are way too attached to their writing. As a result, they’re not open to edits and changes. Don’t be that person. Listen to what your editors say and take it to heart if they’re right.

Marketing Skills. So you have a book. It’s uploaded. Fantastic! No one is going to buy it. This is the huge con for self-publishing. There are no sales without your marketing. Absolutely none. There are thousands of books out there that someone can buy for their child. If they don’t know about your book, they will not buy it. You’re going to need to sharpen your marketing skills. Learn how to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) effectively, learn how to publicize without being spammy (check the authors that you love and see how they do it), offer a print copy of your book to some bloggers (check to see how much interaction they have on their blog), pitch yourself to local schools and offer a free author visit, ask folks for help to get the word out, and find places you can sell your book (local fairs, garage sales, charity events, etc.). Cross-promotion with other blogs and authors is your big friend here. I think 90% of the time people usually buy self-published books because they love the author.

There are a couple other things you need to learn like self-employment taxes, keeping track of expenses, etc. Find a tax accountant who can help you with that if you start making some good money off your book.

{From Tabitha Grace Smith’s book Machu the Cat is Very Hungry}

Another option for publishing and getting the funds you need to publish is crowdfunding. My latest book, Jack the Kitten is Very Sleepy, I am funding through Kickstarter. This is a great way to get fans in on helping make the book and pay for the artwork. If you’d like to check it out, it’s here: bit.ly/SleepyJack. If you like pirates and cats, it may be the perfect book for you!

Kickstarter is a huge commitment; I often tell people it’s like a full-time job. So if you’re thinking about crowdfunding, I really suggest backing a couple projects first to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’ve been very happy with how well my books have done so far. I’m no Stephen King of picture books, but I’ve sold a good amount. Copies of my books are all over the world. I get awesome letters from kids who have read my books. Best of all, my nieces love my books and I get to read them to them whenever I visit. School visits are probably my favorite. Once, I was walking the hall of one school as the kids were going home, one of the little first graders got all excited when she saw me and waved like mad and said, “Hi, Author!”. It was a really fun feeling.

My big take away from the whole experience is that self-publishing and doing it well is a lot of work, but it’s a ton of fun too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and give help to others whenever you can. Another thing that really helped me was giving my book away. A lot. Ultimately, I wanted kids to read it, not to become rich. One time I was at a car wash fundraiser and I saw a very sad little boy. I happened to have copies of my book in my bag and I gave him one. His face lit up like it was Christmas. That was well worth buying the book myself and giving it away. After all, what good is a book if no one reads it?

Well said, Tabitha!

Tabitha Grace Smith is a professional geek, blogger, writer, web designer, podcaster, social media expert, and strategist. She holds a B.A. in Communications from Moody Bible Institute and an M.A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She’s written five children’s books including, Jack the Kitten is Very Brave and Machu the Cat is Very Hungry, which were based on her real life cats. You can find them on Amazon or over at MachuandJack.com. She also wrote a book for reluctant readers called Mary Lou Wants to Be A Big Star and a book about dealing with bullies called Everyone’s Mean, Except When They’re Not. Both are available on Amazon. Her latest book, Jack the Kitten is Very Sleepy is currently being funded through a Kickstarter campaign.

Find her on Goodreads or online at tabithagracesmith.com.

{The real Jack and Machu with their books}

{Tabitha Grace Smith's latest picture book}

{Tabitha Grace Smith’s latest picture book}


4 Comments on Why I Self-Published & What Works by Tabitha Grace Smith, last added: 6/27/2014
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20. Double Dipping – Living with Dodos and Alice – Picture book reviews

In a world of dwindling attention spans and narrowing fields of vision, it may be argued that the gaps between past and present are so expansive there is no reason to traverse them anymore let alone acknowledge past discoveries or other people’s situations.

New Frontier Publishing ignores this argument, offering two new courageous storylines within two beautifully presented picture books both worthy of much discussion and fawning over.

Adorable AliceThe first is Adorable Alice by Cassandra Webb and Michaela Blassnig. At first glance this picture book feels and looks too pink and perfect to be promising then I noticed Alice, plucky and bright, striding confidently across the cover into her story. So I followed her.

Like many young children, Alice lives in the here and now moments of life. She likes doing ‘something different every day’. What makes the week in question so special is her self-appointed mission of sensory-deprivation. Almost without conscience thought, Alice explores her home each day in a different way; with her eyes closed, her arms tied, her nose blocked and so on. Deprivation of one sense sharpens her others, which she discovers increases her understanding and enjoyment of the world around her, in spite of her familiarity with it.

Evocative narrative descriptions reinforce comfortable associations so that the reader is able to link the sound of grandma chopping with the smell of peaches for instance. Spatial awareness is enhanced for the reader as Alice makes her way to Grandpa by ‘listening, feeling and smelling’.

The coupling of Blassnig’s bright and bouncy illustrations with Webb’s sensory-laden sentence structure introduces young readers to their five senses and the importance of empathy in a sympathetically simple and tactile way.

May 2014

Edward and the Great DiscoveryFollowing New Frontier Publishing’s penchant for picture books with little pre-amble but plenty of thought provoking action and consequence is the stimulating, Edward and the Great Discovery. This is Rebecca McRitchie’s and Celeste Hulme’s first foray into picture books and it seems they have hit pay dirt. It could have something to do with my Indiana Jones obsession or my fasRebecca McRitchiecination with Dodos or maybe it is just the kid in me still hoping to make that marvellous discovery in my own backyard someday, but I was thoroughly entranced by Edward’s tale.

Despite an impressive family pedigree of archaeology, Edward has never discovered a single thing of greatness. Until one night, after filling his backyard with craters chance bestows him with not only a wondrous scientific discovery but also a deeper understanding of true friendship.

McRitche writes with understated sincerity giving children just enough hope and daring to intrigue them whilst at the same time gently exposing them to the wonders of natural history. It is a story that is both exciting and touching.

Hulme’s expressive illustrations , pleasantly reminiscent of Terry Whidborne’s work, feature spade-loads of sensitive detail; cushions for Edward’s bird to land on, real red-knit scarf to share warmth and love with, minute gems hidden deep within reality.

Edward and his EggIt is these kinds of treasures that children adore discovering in picture books for themselves and is why this proposed picture book series is a priceless find for expanding the attention spans of 4 – 6 + year-olds. I for one cannot wait to see what new adventures Edward uses his extensive kit on. Then again, I’ve always been drawn to archaeologists…

June 2014

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21. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

I’ve been wanting to visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for quite some time. I finally got the chance to go this past weekend. So, with my sister Linda acting as navigator, I drove over 200 miles and 3 1/2 hours along the New York State Thruway to Amherst, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day Sunday, perfect for a road trip. And though we were on a highway, we passed through some very scenic areas with rolling tree-covered hills and picturesque valleys. We even crossed the Hudson River. 

After many miles, two rest stops, and two toll booths, we finally reached the museum with no trouble. Although, I almost drove right past it until I spotted this gorgeous sign marking the entrance.

The building and grounds are beautiful. But you really have to go inside to experience the wonder of the museum. They have three lovely galleries exhibiting artwork from several picture book artists. For our visit, they showcased the art of Simms Taback, Harriet the Spy (the book turns 50 this year), and What’s Your Favorite Animal (a book featuring art from many well-known illustrators, including Eric Carle himself). 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No photography was allowed inside the galleries, of course, but the museum offered other opportunities for picture-taking.

 

The museum also has a wonderful library filled with picture books (they also do story times there), an auditorium (for films, lectures, plays, author/illustrator visits), an art studio (where all ages can be creative and crafty), and a bookshop/gift shop (I was like a kid in a candy store). All that was missing was a full-service cafe, though they do have a vending machine and plenty of places to sit and eat inside and outside (in a lovely orchard) if you choose to bring a picnic lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My sister and I had such a good time. I hope to visit again sometime in the near future. If you are a picture book lover, I highly recommend it. And while you’re there, don’t forget to use the restroom; you won’t regret it!

Yes, this is a bathroom stall!


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22. All our books are now on Kindle Unlimited

beecover

Just announced today Amazon has a new subscription service for e-books called Kindle Unlimited.  For a flat monthly fee of $9.99 you can enroll and download up to ten e-books at one time.  When you are done, just return them and then you can download more.  We know young children can be voracious readers and we are excited about the opportunity to reach new readers with this program.  Now parents can download books for themselves and load up on some quality children’s books too for one low price.  There are over 600,000 titles currently available and they can be loaded onto any device.  What a bargain!

 

Try the new Kindle Unlimited FREE for 30 days HERE

 

MonstersHaveMommies


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23. Review – Once a Creepy Crocodile

Once a Creepy CrocodilePicture books featuring native Australian flora and fauna aren’t new. Picture books including natty little extras like accompanying CDs aren’t exactly ground breaking either. However, picture books told with the kind of original verve and swagger like Once a Creepy Crocodile is will have you and the kids laughing and applauding with fresh wild abandon.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is the debut picture book for Queensland author Peter Taylor, a gifted calligrapher and just as skilful picture book creator. His partnership with illustrator Nina Rycroft Peter Taylorhas produced a corker of a picture book teaming with exuberant Australiana and bouncing rhyme. It is set to the rhyming metre of the well-loved song, Waltzing Matilda and once you recognise this, it is virtually impossible not to read it (aloud) along to the melody.

It all starts one dreamy afternoon by the riverbank, as creepy old Croc approaches baby Brolga with an invitation to join him for afternoon tea. Brolga, being prone to a bit of a party, is very tempted but is repeatedly dissuaded by his bushland buddies who fear Crocodile’s intentions are deceptively malign.

Croc persists with a seduction of scrumptious sweeties and sly smiles. Once again, Brolga’s friends intervene until Spotty Snake slithers in with an offer of his own. Will Brolga ever learn?

Croc eventually hosts his magnificent afternoon tea but you will have to sing your way through this yourself to find out just who survived to enjoy it with him.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is an entertaining Aussie mash-up of The Gruffalo meets the best of billabong bush lore. Taylor’s attention to metre makes each verse a cinch to read even if you are not ‘singing’ the tune, although I prefer the latter. He also gives plenty of airplay to some of the less well-known bush critters including the boo book owl and blossom bat, creating a large but colourful and endearing cast of characters.

Nina Rycroft Nina Rycroft’s full page, smack-in-you-in-the-face illustrations are a pure joy to behold. They trace the insidious attempts of both Creepy Croc and Spotty Snake to lure in naïve Brolga with bright, bold abandon, which younger readers will swoon over. Teabags splish and cupcakes hurtle across placid watercolour backdrops, which feature vivid pops of accentuating colour; the bright green bumps of Croc, the indigo waters of the creek, and Spotty’s deep amethyst coils for example.

Once a Creepy Crocodile is a feast for the eyes and a treat for your soul and above all, plain good old fashioned fun.

Creepy Croc illoI have just returned from the National Conference of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) 2014 in Sydney where Peter Taylor launched his new book. Like all fine things, the project was a long labour of love, taking him many moons to perfect. Thankfully, it won’t take you as long to read, but once you do reach the end, you will want to read it again and again and again. A book with sustained readability that sounds good and has lots of Aussie heart. What more could you ask for. Tea anyone?

The Five Mile Press Out now and available here soon!

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24. Swooning Over Swag (or Christmas in July)

I count myself lucky to know some really terrific people. And one such person is my colleague and friend Brian Abbott. Brian is the coworker who went to the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference back in January and brought me back several ARCs. (Read more about that by clicking Here.) A few weeks ago, he attended the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas and he came back bearing swag, and lots of it! From posters, to prints, to magnets, and even CDs, they were giving it all away at ALA. And Brian gave a bunch to me! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But his generosity didn’t end there. He waited in line and managed to grab me a signed copy, yes, a signed copy of Caldecott Medal winner Brian Floca’s book Locomotive! (Read my review of Locomotive Here.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, that’s definitely sweet, but the most unique item Brian brought back was a seven-page, full-color booklet that was given out to attendees of the Newbery Caldecott Awards Banquet. Brian was invited to attend! (Okay, push down the author envy.) The booklet is so cool; it even has a pop-up in it! Swoon.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Brian, you’re awesome! To learn more about adult mystery novelist Brian Abbott, check out his site, The Poisoned Martini, and look for his debut novel Death On Stoneridge, coming soon.


2 Comments on Swooning Over Swag (or Christmas in July), last added: 7/25/2014
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25. The MeeGenius Author Challenge

 

 

I am thrilled to be a finalist in the 2014 MeeGenius Author Challenge! MeeGenius is a digital children’s book publisher that offers hundreds of picture eBooks via the MeeGenius app which is available for download to all the major operating systems and devices. MeeGenius creates enhanced eBooks that captivate young readers by sporting “read-along word highlighting, rich illustrations, and engaging story narration”.

I am one of ten finalists. In September, a winner will be selected who will receive a cash prize. Regardless of who wins, all of the finalists stories will be published in digital format and available at www.meegenius.com. Click on the MeeGenius logo at the top to see all of the finalists. And stay tuned to find out when my story Dinosaur Tag will be available and if I win the contest!


2 Comments on The MeeGenius Author Challenge, last added: 8/2/2014
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