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1. Celebrate Thanksgiving with a Picture Book And Not a Pocketbook

Thanksgiving Is a Time of Giving Thanks

 

Turkey Day is just around the corner and families are already making plans to gather.

Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks for the many blessings we enjoy – our homes, our harvests and the time we spend with our families. In our current culture, that time seems increasingly to be disappearing with the rapidity of cranberry, turkey and stuffing off a Thanksgiving platter.

Many stores today are impinging on that ever closing window of family time, even on traditional family holidays such as Thanksgiving. They are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself to get a jump on the traditional kick-off of the holiday shopping season, termed by retailers as “Black Friday.” I often wondered why that particular term was adopted, but I guess it’s because retailers have a grand opportunity to get into “the black” or plus side of the profit ledger on THAT day, if they haven’t been all year. I am certainly NOT against retailers, profits by any means, nor a vigorous economy, but can we hold the cash register “ka ching” till AFTER the turkey has at least cooled?

Stores are starting to try and outdo themselves with earlier and earlier opening times on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s may have been one of the first to kick it off following its grand daddy of all Thanksgiving Day Parades, with the air barely let out of those lofty balloons of Superman and Snoopy, than the doors of Macy’s swing open at 6pm, two hours earlier than last year, to shoppers jamming their store for bargains!

ToysRUs is opening at 5pm not to be outdone. Best Buy will open also at 6pm on Thanksgiving Day and here’s one I had to blink to believe was true. Kmart shoppers attention: IT will open at 8am! That’s right, they will open in the morning, in case you would like to pop the bird in and then get a little shopping done BEFORE the guests arrive.

Maybe I am sounding just a mite peevish over this, but sometimes BIG changes in a culture happen so gradually, we rarely take issue until it’s a done deal. All right maybe this might be an over reaction on my part, and people should have the right to shop when they want to, even at the cost of family time. BUT, those stores must be staffed with OTHER people that might not have had the option to work on a day they might have preferred to lie on the couch after the turkey, and be lulled with tryptophan from the bird – with a good book. Great idea! and here’s a thought: maybe that shopping time could be better spent reading to a captive audience of small children gathered, and now sated at the feast, that famous six stanza poem by Lydia Maria Child, “Over the River And Through the Wood”. Plus, here are a great selection of others to choose from:

 

The Night Before Thanksgiving – Natasha Wing

In Every Tiny Grain of Sand – Reeve Lindbergh

Balloons Over Broadway – Melissa Sweet

Turkey Riddles – Katy Hall

I Know An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie – Alison Jackson

One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims – B.G. Hennessy

The First Thanksgiving Day: A Counting Book – Lauren Kraus Melmed; illus. Mark Buehner

Thank You Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving – Laurie Halse Anderson

The Firefighters’ Thanksgiving – Maribeth Bolts; illus. by Terry Widener

 

And so, as Dickens’ Bob Cratchit intoned to his family on another holiday, “To the founder of the feast!”, and as far as I’m concerned, those founders would probably agree with me, and ask us to put off our shopping for just one more day!!

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2. Picture Book Month: Kids Sheriff and the Terrible Toads

Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, illustrated by Lane Smith

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About the Book: The Terrible Toads are causing havoc all over Drywater Gulch. They are in need of a hero to solve their toad problem. Enter Sheriff Ryan, riding into town on his turtle. He might not know a lot about robbery and roping, but he sure knows a lot about dinosaurs. And that has to come in handy when catching criminals.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: This is a perfect picture book pairing bringing together a hilarious duo. Lane Smith captures the Western-style wonderfully with brown and beige hues makes the reader feel as though they've landed in Drywater Gulch. Bob Shea's text is written to be read aloud. This book just begs to be read aloud with various accents and voices.

The reader will laugh along as the oblivious (or is he really?) Sheriff Ryan makes many observations about dinosaurs along the way. The humor comes from the Toads wanting the credit for their crimes and Sheriff Ryan and the Toads each outdoing each other with what really caused each incident.

Is Sheriff Ryan a smart sheriff who knew who to catch the criminals all along? Or does he just love dinosaurs? The book has such a hilarious twist that readers will be laughing and talking about it long after the book is finished. This is the perfect read aloud for school visits!

Full Disclosure: Reviewed from advanced copy sent by publisher for review

0 Comments on Picture Book Month: Kids Sheriff and the Terrible Toads as of 11/26/2014 8:56:00 AM
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3. PiBoIdMo Day 26: Ruth McNally Barshaw Makes Affirmations (plus a prize!)

by Ruth McNally Barshaw

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RuthMcNallyBarshawcolor72dpiRuth McNally Barshaw grew up in the Detroit area. When she was little she wanted to be an artist. She thought books were written by companies, not real people, so she didn’t want to write books. She changed her mind in 2002, and three years later connected with a fabulous agent who sold the first Ellie McDoodle book to Bloomsbury Children’s Books. Then it became a series.

She is the author-illustrator of the six Ellie McDoodle Diaries (often compared to Diary of a Wimpy Kid). She’s the illustrator of Leopold is Lost, by Denise Brennan-Nelson, due out in 2015 with Sleeping Bear Press. And she is author-illustrator of several other picture books currently in various stages of development.

She and her writer-husband Charlie frequently take their story creation workshop on the road to schools, libraries and conferences. Otherwise you can find them at home or at a local bookstore, writing.

View Ruth’s artwork, books, and workshop details at RuthExpress.com and connect with her on Twitter @ruthexpress.
prizedetails2014

You can win a signed-and-doodled copy of Ruth’s latest Ellie McDoodle book! It’s not a picture book, but it does have art on every page.

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This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!

 


10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 26: Ruth McNally Barshaw Makes Affirmations (plus a prize!), last added: 11/26/2014
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4. Comic: Being Thankful

 

I've decided that the girl's name is Keiko.  Haven't come up with a name for the baby yet, though.

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5. A Moment with the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger



 

I’ve got some art here at 7-Imp today from Austrian illustrator Lisbeth Zwerger.

First up are Zwerger’s illustrations—originally created in 2009, I believe—from The Pied Piper of Hamelin, an edition of the story retold by Renate Raecke and translated by Anthea Bell. This was just released in September by Michael Neugebauer Publishing, a.k.a. Minedition. The Kirkus review writes: “This strange and unsettling tale is made all the stranger and more unsettling by Zwerger’s spare, isolated figures in their pale interiors and landscapes.” Today feels like a good day to share such a story, as it seems the entirety of the U.S. feels unsettled — given the news, that is, leaving us heavy-hearted.

Also from Minedition is Zwerger’s vision of The Night Before Christmas. This was released last month, a book with a small, cozy trim size and Zwerger’s take on Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem, first published in the 1800s. Zwerger’s illustrations were originally created in 2005. Pictured above are Dasher, Dancer, and part of the rest of St. Nick’s crew. Pictured right is the man himself, trying to cheer us up.

I’m glad, in both cases, that Minedition has released these new editions. I’m always pleased to see Zwerger’s artwork. She’s one of those illustrators who made me want to study children’s literature. In fact, if you’re a fan too, you may be happy to know this has been released. The copy I ordered finally arrived. In the Foreword, Peter Sís writes: “Her art flows and shines.” Yes, what he said.

Enjoy.

 

From The Pied Piper of Hamelin:


 


“At first only a few rats came, enticed by all the delicious things to eat in the houses
of Hamelin, but soon there were more and more of them.”


“One day in the year 1284—so the old legend says—a strange man appeared in Hamelin. He was a striking figure, wearing a parti-colored or ‘pied’ robe
such as the townspeople had never seen before.”


“All over town he went, up streets and down alleys, and wherever his music was heard the rats came scurrying out of kitchen and cellars, storerooms and stables,
to follow the Pied Piper.”


“The sorrowful parents hurried out of town to search for their lost children.
All the mothers and fathers were weeping and wailing. …”



 

From The Night Before Christmas:


 


“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow /
Gave a luster of mid-day to objects below …”


“He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot …”


“He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work …”


 



 

* * * * * * *

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. North American edition published 2014 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN. North American edition published 2014 by Michael Neugebauer Publishing Ltd., Hong Kong. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher.

5 Comments on A Moment with the Art of Lisbeth Zwerger, last added: 11/25/2014
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6. PiBoIdMo Day 25: Liz Garton Scanlon Loafes (and offers GOOD PIES as prizes!)

LizPortait2013_0001-(ZF-0850-58463-1-006)by Liz Garton Scanlon

Recently, while discussing poetry with a bunch of 5th graders, I discovered a word that’s pretty much left our daily vernacular: loafe.

Whitman used it in SONG OF MYSELF…

I loafe and invite my soul
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass

…but not a single student knew what the word meant. There were jokes about loaves of bread, and one girl thought she had it, but it turns out she’d gotten it mixed up with loathe. Which, you’ll agree, is another thing entirely.

Image via http://becuo.com

Image via becuo.com

Once I defined the word for them, they loved it. I said, “Pretty great, right? To be given permission–even encouragement–to loafe about?!” and everybody laughed with relief. (Except for one boy who said, “I try to loafe about a LOT, but my mom won’t let me.” :-) )

So I stepped away from the session with kind of a two-part reminder to myself, and since it’s fresh on my mind, I’ll remind you, too:

  1. Loafe about. Seriously. Creativity can’t be rushed. You need to absorb before you can express. You need to walk and garden and bathe and dream and breathe. These things are the stuff that art is made of, the places ideas come from, the source of a sustained head and heart. Really, loafing about isn’t just important when making picture books–it’s important when living life. Professor Omid Safi asked, in a recent column called The Disease of Being Busy, “When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?” We know this, right? Right. This is just a reminder.
    .
  2. And here’s the other one. Let’s not let really great words like loafe go by the by. Let’s use them. I snuck the word kin into my book ALL THE WORLD, and strut into NOODLE & LOU. I used crimp in THE GOOD-PIE PARTY and hue in THINK BIG. These words are evocative and specific and rich and onomatopoeic–they’re too good to let go! And, as writers, it’s our duty to make sure that we’re not just left with a bunch of OMGs and LOLs on judgment day.

How about you make a list of words you used to hear and use, but never do anymore? What if you wrote down all the phrases your granddad used to say? And what if one of them gave you an idea? Picture books aren’t designed to dumb down; they’re meant to open up and out.  clicktotweet They’re meant to expand the words and the world that a child has at hand. Lucky us to be a part of all that.

So go ahead, make that list.

And then, what the heck, loafe about for a bit.

guestbloggerbio2014

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of the highly-acclaimed Caldecott-honored children’s book All the World, illustrated by Marla Frazee, as well as this year’s The Good-Pie Party, illustrated by Kady McDonald Denton. Other books include Happy Birthday, Bunny; Think Big, A Sock is a Pocket for Your Toes, and more. Her next picture book (called In The Canyon) and her first novel for young readers, The Great Good Summer, are both due in 2015. Ms. Scanlon is also a poet, teacher and a frequent and popular presenter at schools, libraries and conferences. To learn more, visit her web site at LizGartonScanlon.com.

prizedetails2014

Liz is giving away two copies of her latest picture book, THE GOOD-PIE PARTY! (YUMMY!)

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These prizes will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for these prizes if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!


10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 25: Liz Garton Scanlon Loafes (and offers GOOD PIES as prizes!), last added: 11/25/2014
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7. Picture Book Month: Picture Book Biographies

This year we've seen lots of picture book biographies! Here are a few of my favorites:


A Boy and A Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz, illustrated by Catia Chein

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About the Book: A shy boy who stutters find comfort in talking to animals.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Oh how I have my fingers crossed for a Schneider Award win for this book! (If you don't know about the Schneider Award, it is given to a book that "embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience." I believe that A Boy and A Jaguar does that perfectly. It's a powerful story told in a simple way. Alan Rabinowitz describes how he always had trouble speaking, that no one knew what to do about his stuttering and how he felt most at home when he was with animals. He talked to animals at the zoo and he practiced speaking to his pets at home. His love of animals combines with his desire to give animals a voice. As he studies jaguars and remembers the jaguar he saw and spoke to at the zoo, he becomes a powerful advocate for saving the jaguar. What I love most about this book is that it isn't a story about growing up and getting over a disability. It's a story of living with a disability and not letting it stop you from your dreams. 


Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson


About the Book: The fascinating story of entertainer Josephine Baker.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I was vaguely aware of Josephine Baker before reading this book, but only as someone who was a performer. I learned so much from this book and I was dazzled by the text and the art. It is the perfect tribute to such an eccentric and fabulous star. The text is told in a verse, poetic format that makes you feel the jazz and rhythm of Josephine. The illustrations match this perfectly adding the perfect amount of spark and energy. The illustrations jump off the page and dance before the readers eyes. It's a dazzling picture book biography that is absolutely stunning. I would have put this on my library's Mock Caldecott list if I didn't think the length would deter some of the younger readers (it's a longer picture book biography, coming in at just over 100 pages). But maybe Josephine will surprise us all with an award win this Winter!

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

About the Book: The story of Peter Roget, who created Roget's Thesaurus, the most widely used and continuously published thesaurus. 

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: I feel like the theme of picture book biographies is sometimes "here's a quirky person and some facts that make them stand out and show that quirky is special." That's not a bad thing at all, but it sometimes gives picture book biographies a feel of simplicity and sameness (which I am sure Roget could have thought of better words!) And while that might be part of the message of The Right Word (Roget prefers to be alone, is shy, and loves to make lists of words), it feels different. The combination of text and illustrations blend together perfectly. Melissa Sweet uses letters, book pages, and a scrapbook style to create a visually stunning biography. Jen Bryant's text give insight into Roget's life without sounding too easy or simplistic. It's the perfect balance of fact and heart and brings readers into Roget's life. The Right Word was a book I finished and immediatly wanted to give to someone else to pour over, read, and enjoy all the illustrations. It's a beautiful package.

Full Disclosure: All titles reviewed from library copies

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8. Comic: A Quality Picture Book

A comic in celebration of Picture Book Month. Do check PictureBookMonth.com, where you can find daily inspirational essays by children's book authors and illustrators about the importance of picture books.

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9. PiBoIdMo Day 24 Part Two: Vesper Stamper Chooses a Reality

vesperstamperby Vesper Stamper

When I was growing up as a latch key kid in New York, two things formed my sense of place and identity in the world: my grandfather’s freckled arms and my picture books. There is something about visualizing a chosen reality that is so vital for kids as they transition from the Waldorf educational concept of the childhood dream-world to the brass-tacks world of adults. In a picture book, the world is presented as navigable, even through challenge. Whether the challenge is fear of closing one’s eyes to sleep, or losing a favorite bunny, or getting through the classic Grimms’ three-challenge arc, kids need to know that on the other side of something insurmountable is a green valley brimming with potential.

I am currently in the MFA program in Illustration as Visual Essay at School of Visual Arts, and most of the work I’m doing is a departure from my usual picture book work that you see here. I’m exploring my grandmother’s aging in one book project, and writing a love story set in post-Holocaust Germany which I will be illustrating this spring. I had a bit of a crisis about this, especially since I just signed with Rodeen Literary Management this summer and we’re just about to send one of my picture books out. But I realized that much of my work, even for kids, has to do with thriving after trauma, and that by exploring these more “adult” themes in my MFA, my picture book work will become more nuanced.

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Far from being just about cute stories, picture books are the vehicle for survival for many kids as they were for me. That is why they are so, so
important. And…they’re gorgeous to look at!

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bwaygirls

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Hopelessly lost among the wintry wardrobes of Pauline Baynes’ Narnia, Shaun Tan’s mysterious foreign lands, and the watery open spaces in Lisbeth Zwerger’s illustrations, Vesper Stamper’s calling as an illustrator began when she cracked open Hilary Knight’s Cinderella and spent the rest of her childhood meticulously copying each graceful page.

Vesper has a BFA degree in Illustration with Honors from Parsons School of Design. Her career has spanned fifteen years, dozens of album covers, four picture books and countless other exciting projects. Vesper brings a refined style and emotional depth to her work that pays homage to the rich illustrative tradition from which she comes.

Vesper was named the 2013 People’s Choice Finalist in the Lilla Rogers Global Talent Search and is the recipient of the 2012 Lincoln City Fellowship for her graphic novel, The Sea-King’s Children. She lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, filmmaker Ben Stamper, and their two children. She is the winner of both the 2014 NJ SCBWI Juried Show and People’s Choice awards, and is an MFA candidate in the Illustration as Visual Essay at School of Visual Arts, NYC.

Vesper is represented by Lori Kilkelly at Rodeen Literary Management, Inc.


10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 24 Part Two: Vesper Stamper Chooses a Reality, last added: 11/24/2014
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10. Thanks for Thanksgiving by Markes

Thanks for ThanksgivingThanksgiving is quickly approaching. One of my favorite Thanksgiving stories to share is Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes. This simple story is told in rhyme and features a boy and a girl sharing the things that they are grateful for. It is a great book to read before talking to little ones about the things they are thankful for in their lives. Preschoolers will enjoy looking at the beautiful, detailed illustrations and can relate to the children in the story.

Posted by: Liz


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11. Picture Book Month: Mac Barnett

Mac Barnett is having a very good 2014! He has three picture book releases this year, all of which are delightful! Be sure to check them out!


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole

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About the Book: Sam and Dave are digging a hole and they won't give up until they find something spectacular.

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Mac Barnett teams up with Jon Klassen for another winner. Klassen's illustrations match the text perfectly and gives the feel of an outdoor adventure. Readers will spot the spectacular treasure that is hiding just out of Sam and Dave's reach and are sure to laugh when the get so close but then change directions. They'll also be sure to notice the dog is the only one who seems to have a nose for treasure hunting. A fun tale that is sure to inspire some digging of your own.

President Taft is Stuck in the Bath

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About the Book: President Taft is stuck in the bath! How will he get out?

GreenBeanTeenQueen Says: Mac Barnett takes on a presidential tall tale with humorous results. The president is stuck in the bath and everyone has an idea of how to help. The ideas get more and more ridiculous, from butter to explosions. There are also plenty of textual humor from the secretary of the treasury who responds with "throw money at the problem" to "the answer is inside you" from the secretary of the interior.  Chris Van Dusen's illustrations are cartoonish and add to the humor of the tale. The end of the book provides some historical facts about President Taft and his bathtub. This would pair with King Bidgood's in the Bathtub for a silly bathtime storytime.

Telephone

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About the Book: It's time for Peter to fly home, but his message about dinner gets scrambled along the telephone line.

GreenBeanTeenQueen: Remember the game telephone? Where what you start out saying ends up completely different? Mac Barnett and Jen Corace re-imagine the telephone game with a flock of birds on a telephone wire with hilarious results. Each new message gets more and more mixed up which is sure to leave young readers howling with delight. Each bird hears something new that makes sense to them and matches their own interests and hobbies. The illustrations reflect the each birds interests and helps the reader find clues as to why each bird heard what they did. A hilarious take on a the game of telephone perfect for reading aloud.

Full Disclosure: Sam and Dave Dig a Hole and President Taft is Stuck in the Bath reviewed from finished copies sent by the publishers. Telephone reviewed from library copy.


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12. PiBoIdMo Day 24: Agents Love Picture Books

I asked the kidlit agents participating in PiBoIdMo as your “grand prizes” to tell us why they love picture books. Their answers are sure to inspire!


Heather Alexander, Pippin Properties
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Picture books are easy to love because they are tiny little windows that offer beautiful glimpses out into the whole, wide, wonderful world, and into hearts like and unlike our own.

 

 

 

 

Stephen Fraser, Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency
stephenfraser
I do love picture books! There is nothing more satisfying that to find a picture book manuscript which has been carefully crafted to share a story with the youngest readers.  The Impressionist painter Pierre Auguste Renoir said that painting is “making love visible” and I can’t help thinking that is why some picture books are so endearing and everlasting. They make the love we feel for our children, our grandchildren, and the children within us very visible. It is a true craft which needs to be learned and practiced. And I honor those who learn this craft and honor children.

 

Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency
Kirsten Hall
Picture books pretty much have me wrapped around their finger. I’m obsessed by the story-telling opportunities offered by this highly-visual genre! Picture books (as a format) seem simple at first blush, but they are often in fact quite layered and even poetic, displaying an elegant interplay between text and art. Best of all, picture books are accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be able to read in order to love them. They can be savored for what they offer visually, and when read aloud, until a reader has command over the written word. Simply, what format is better than the first one that takes children by the hand and turns them into book-lovers?

 

Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency
susanhawk
The best part of picture books, for me, is way words and illustration marry together to create a sum greater than its parts.  I love the way art builds meaning in the story, and how the simplest of texts can be full of emotion and heart.  I remember so well the picture books that I poured over as a child — mystified and delighted to be invited into the world of reading and books.  For me, it’s an honor to represent picture books!

 

 

Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency

trishagentI love picture books because they celebrate a time in our life we all look back on so fondly. I love being a part of helping to create them because we’re creating books for kids who will look back on them for the rest of their lives.

 

 

 

Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
erinmurphy
I became a reader because of picture books, and I became an agent because of picture books. They are one of the richest and most influential forms of literature. So much feeling, so many laughs, in so few pages, meant to be read over and over again!

 

 

 

 

Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
joanagent
I love picture books because they speak to the quintessential child in each of us. They reach across the gaps of age and culture and language and bring us under their spell. A perfectly-crafted picture book is a full-senses experience that can last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Rachel Orr, Prospect Agency
rachel_orr
I love the breadth of story and emotion—from clever and comical, to poetic and pondering—that can be found within the framework of a 32-page picture book.  I love the right prose, the visual subplots, the rhythm and rhyme and repetition (and repetition, and repetition).  But, most of all, I love them because they’re short.

 

 

 

Kathleen Rushall, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

kathleenrushallI love working with picture books because they remind me that the earliest literature we read in life can be some of the most memorable (and the most fun!).

 

 

 

 

Joanna Volpe, New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
joannavolpe
I love picture books because they’re fun to read aloud, and they’re meant to be read with someone else.They can’t not be shared! Even now, I don’t have kids, but when I read a good picturebook, my husband gets to be the audience. He’s very understanding. :-)

 

 

 

 


10 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 24: Agents Love Picture Books, last added: 11/24/2014
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13. Picture Book Monday with a review of Any Questions?


Many children's book authors and illustrators visit schools, and when they do the eager students often ask a lot of questions. One of the most commonly asked questions is some version of "Where do your stories come from?" In today's picture book this question is answered in a clever and often amusing way.

Any Questions?
Any Questions?Marie-Louise Gay
Picture Book
For ages 7 and up
Groundwood, 2014, 978-1554983827
Marie-Louise Gay is a much loved author whose books have delighted children (and adults) for many years. When Marie-Louise goes to talk to children in schools and libraries, they do what all children do. They ask questions. A lot of questions. Often the children want to know about Marie-Louise and her life, and then there are the questions that pertain to her stories and how she creates them. One of those questions that is often asked is, “Where does a story start?”
   A story always starts with a blank page. If you stare at the page long enough, “anything can happen.” You might think that a blank piece of white paper cannot possibly inspire anything, but this is not true. For example, it can give birth to a scene that is full of a snowstorm. If you start with a piece of paper that is old looking and has a yellow tinge to it then you might end up telling a story about a time when dinosaurs walked the earth. Blue paper can lead to an underwater adventure and green paper can be the backdrop for a story about a jungle.
   Sometimes stories don’t start with a color at all. Instead, “words or ideas” come “floating out of nowhere.” Bit by bit pieces of paper with words and thoughts written on them are collected and sorted, and then they are joined by “little scribbles and doodles,” which is when the kernel of a story starts to grow. Of course, sometimes an idea pops up on the page that simply does not work at all. When this happens an author has to search around for something that does work, which can take a little (or even a lot) of time to happen. These things cannot be rushed though, and eventually the right piece of story comes along and the author is off and running.
   In this wonderful picture book, Marie-Louise Gay explores the writing process, answering questions that children have asked her over the years. She shows us how a story is built, how it unfolds, and we see, right there on the pages, how she creates a magical story out of doddles, scraps of ideas, and tidbits of inspiration. The little children and animals characters who appear on the pages interact with the story, questioning, advising, and offering up ideas.
   This is a book that writers of all ages will love. It is funny, cleverly presented, and it gives writers encouragement and support.

0 Comments on Picture Book Monday with a review of Any Questions? as of 11/24/2014 7:22:00 AM
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14. Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3: An Interview with Ripley Publishing

In this interview, we discuss Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3, the third title in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not® successful Fun Facts and Silly Stories series.

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15. Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories 3 | Dedicated Review

The third title in the Ripley’s Believe It or Not® successful Fun Facts and Silly Stories series is here: Ripley’s Fun Facts and Silly Stories 3.

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16. Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One!: An Interview with Ripley Publishing

As the world authority on all that is unbelievable, we're supper excited to chat with Ripley Publishing, an arm of Ripley Entertainment Inc. and the owner of the internationally famous trademark Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

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17. Ripley’s Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One! | Dedicated Review

Fun Facts & Silly Stories: The Big One! is the newest addition to Ripley’s successful Fun Facts and Silly Stories series. Each of the pages in this massive new collection of bizarre truths is loaded with information primed to capture the attention of every child out there.

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18. PiBoIdMo Day 23: Ammi-Joan Paquette Chases the Magic

by Ammi-Joan Paquette

Let me say one thing straight out: My picture book, GHOST IN THE HOUSE, is very close to my heart. Of my published picture books, it’s the one that’s gotten the most visibility so far, including a fabulous review in the New York Times, several “Best of the Year” roundups, and a pickup by the Scholastic Clubs and Fairs. Needless to say, these small joys absolutely thrilled me.

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But also? I have to be honest: They surprised me a little. Those of you who have heard me speak about GHOST IN THE HOUSE will have heard how it came about: Following the rejection of another Halloween manuscript, an editor asked if I “had any other spooky rhyming picture books.” At that moment, I did not. Several weeks, much brainstorming, and a torrent of writing later, I did.

Don’t get me wrong. I worked hard on GHOST IN THE HOUSE. But compared to many of my picture book texts, over which I toiled ad infinitum, this text came relatively easy. The end result also felt, well, simple. It was a sweet, zippy rhyming story. Short and to the point. Fun characters, neat twist. But when lined up against my other laboriously crafted stories—and, in particular, the one it had originally supplanted—it felt uncomfortably ordinary.

Still, someone wanted to publish my picture book! Joy!

In the months following publication, I gained more respect for my modest little manuscript. But it took one final thing to bring me fully around. And that was this: One day I received an email from my editor at Candlewick, asking what I would think about writing a companion book. It might, she suggested, be called ELF IN THE HOUSE.

Well! Ask no further—I was on it. GHOST was just a simple, puny little story, right? I could crank out another one of those in a flash. No worries!

Instead? I hit the blank page. Hard.

Frustrated at my false starts, I sat down and listed the elements that made up GHOST IN THE HOUSE, so I could attempt to replicate them (in a perfectly organic, all-new-and-fresh way, with a Christmas spin) in the sequel. Here’s what I needed:

  • recognizable creatures
  • a reason for the creatures to accumulate
  • tension—what’s keeping the reader turning the pages?
  • perfect fit to the rhyming scheme
  • surprising twist
  • satisfying, feel-good ending

Let’s just say (if that list wasn’t clear enough), that this exercise made me look at GHOST in a whole new light. Short? Yes. Simple-easy-basic-ordinary? Not so much.

Astute readers will likely have seen this coming, but ELF IN THE HOUSE did not come in a flash. More than once I doubted if I could pull it off at all. It took writing, and rewriting, and re-rewriting. Forget inspiration: This was deliberate, backbreaking effort: Lists and brainstorming and trial-and-error and throw-it-all-out-and-start-over. Time after time after time. I’d almost have it… but not quite. This angle might work… only not.

It did not come easy. Not even close.

But finally, in the end, it did come. And great was my delight when my editor received my final manuscript, and made a publication offer. (Woohoo!)

Once ELF IN THE HOUSE is published, I imagine most readers won’t see much difference in tone between the two stories. From the outside, it’s likely that they’ll both appear effortless and breezy. But what this experience crystalized for me was that stories can be born in all sorts of ways. Some arrive on the magical wings of inspiration, landing lightly on your shoulder and seeping onto the screen with the greatest of ease. Others bare their bloody fangs and force you to wrestle them into submission.

One method, one origin, one final story is not necessarily greater than any other. We are authors: we take what we can get, and we make it our own. It’s the making—however long or short, easy or gut-hard—that brings the magic.

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Ammi-Joan Paquette is an author and a literary agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She’s a mother, friend, reader, traveler, food-lover, chocolate connoisseur. She is not especially tidy, a fan of mushy vegetables, or good at coming up with spur-of-the-moment self-portraits.

Learn more about Joan and her books at ajpaquette.com and follow her on Twitter @JoanPaq.


15 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 23: Ammi-Joan Paquette Chases the Magic, last added: 11/23/2014
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19. What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Alexis Deacon


(Click to enlarge)


 

This morning over at Kirkus, I write about Bárður Oskarsson’s The Flat Rabbit, released by Owlkids Books in September. That link is here.

Last week, I wrote about Russell Hoban’s Jim’s Lion, which has been re-imagined as a graphic novel (Candlewick, November 2014) with the illustrations of Alexis Deacon. That link is here, and above and below are some spreads from the book, as well as the cover of the 2001 picture book with art from Ian Andrew.

Enjoy.



(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)


 


* * * * * * *

JIM’S LION. Text copyright © 2014 by Russell Hoban. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Alexis Deacon. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books London.

3 Comments on What I’m Doing at Kirkus This Week,Plus What I Did Last Week, Featuring Alexis Deacon, last added: 11/23/2014
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20. Alex Field’s ‘Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding’ is a Real Treat

Alex Field‘s talents as an author, publisher and speaker, her love of Christmas pudding, and her overt enthusiasm for Jane Austen all cleverly amalgamate in the latest of her series, Mr Darcy and the Christmas Pudding. Having previously featured her beloved Pride and Prejudice characters in Mr Darcy and Mr Darcy the Dancing Duck, Alex […]

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21. Illustrator Saturday – Leeza Hernandez

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Leeza Hernandez is an award-winning illustrator and children’s book author, hails from the south of England, but has been living in New Jersey since 1999. In 2004 she switched from newspaper and magazine design to children’s books, and hasn’t looked back. With a few books now under her belt, she’s currently working on three new projects: a follow up to Dog Gone! called Cat Napped; a sequel to Eat Your Math Homework called Eat Your Science Homework, other released this year. In 2013 she illustrated a picture book written by acclaimed actor and author John Lithgow. Follow Leeza on Twitter @leezaworks. She also took over my place as the Regional Advisor for the New Jersey SCBWI chapter and is doing a great job.

Below is Leeza at six years old with her cat Minnie Weasle!

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Here is Leeza explaining her process:

The cover of Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo took a fair amount of working out—between not giving too much away and showing to little that it looked too vague. The images show a handful of the different covers that were sketched up, then the progression of the final color cover.

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These are the thumbnail sketches for the book layout.

Adobe Photoshop PDF

Because there were so many animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo, I kept all my research pictures organized in a jumbo ring binder.

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But, no matter how hard I looked, I just couldn’t find an image of a yak playing a sax so had to use some creative license!

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Below you can see the process of the cover art.

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Below is an up close look at the final cover.

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What caused you to move from the UK to the US?

Work. I took an art director position at a newspaper in the late 90s which was the field I worked in back then.

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When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?

It wasn’t a conscious decision really, but in the early 2000s I discovered Illustration Friday (www.illustrationfriday.com)—a great source of inspiration but also a way to help you create illustrations for yourself based upon a weekly word prompt. Browsing through the site, one link led to another and I eventually landed at SCBWI (www.scbwi.org) and that was that!

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This image was created for the Illustration Friday prompt “Wisdom” and received an American Illustration selection back in the early 2000s. I added it to my portfolio among a handful of painted images and it was what art directors responded to the most. I was encouraged to create more!

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What was the first picture book that you illustrated? And how did that contract come your way?

Eat Your Math Homework was the first trade picture book I was hired to illustrate, which came about after attending a Rutgers One-on-One Plus conference (ruccl.org). I met an editor at the luncheon who took my promo postcard away with her and about six months later the designer reached out to my agent asking if I was available-yay!

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How did you connect with John Lithgow to illustrate his book, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo ?

I was asked to do some samples (along with some other illustrators) for a book written by a ‘high-profile’ author but I didn’t know who it was until I found out I was picked for the project. It was all very mysterious and exciting!

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Have you met John Lithgow?

Yes, he’s lovely. We launched the book together in New York, it was so much fun. He sang his songs. I spared the audience and did not sing!

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How long did you have to illustrate Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo?

This was one of the quickest turnaround books I have worked on and it was 40 pages. From initial sketches, through revisions and to final art was a little less than eight months total.

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I see you illustrated a second book with Ann McCallum this year, titled Eat Your Science Homework. Did you sign a two-book deal when you illustrated Eat Your Math Homework in 2011?

No two-book deal. It was simply an organic progression. Ann had an idea and submitted her proposal for the science book and a few months after they acquired the manuscript, Charlesbridge asked if I’d
illustrate it.

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Will there be a third book with Ann?

Yes! Eat Your U.S. History Homework is due to release in late 2015.

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I am assuming that Cat Napped! published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons came about due to the previous book you wrote and illustrated titled, Dog Gone! Can you tell us the story behind these two books?

Back in 2009 I won the Tomie de Paola portfolio award at the New York SCBWI conference—which was amazing. As a result, I was invited in to the Penguin offices to meet with an editor, publisher and art director and they looked at my work as well as a sample and manuscript for Dog Gone! and they took it. I was beyond thrilled and so, so grateful for the opportunity.

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During the time I worked on Dog Gone! I had this idea that I wanted to create a cat book in the same vein and I already had the title Cat Napped! noodling around in my head, but it took a while to flesh out the story. I remember having submitted the story along with a couple of other ideas to the editor and right after Dog Gone! released they took it.

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Have any of the books you worked on won any awards?

Eat Your Science Homework was awarded a 2014 Junior Library Guild selection—awesomesauce!

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Do you have plans to write and illustrate another book?

Hahaha, yes of course! I hope I never stop.

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What do you consider your first big success?

Wow, that’s a tough question. I’m not sure I can measure one big success that easily. Having a book published is amazing, but I also consider the ever-evolving process as a series of successful stepping-
stones and I do a little happy dance each time I move to the next one—because they all teach me something about myself and/or my work. Creative folks are such sensitive creatures and it can be
intimidating to put our work out there in front of people, so each time we are brave and face our fears head on, that’s a success. Actually, when I attended a SCBWI conference for the first time, I was so overwhelmed I almost didn’t go back the next day—so I’d say not giving up right off the bat was my first big success!

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For pencil work, I use 2H, HB, 2B and 5 or 6B pencils on Arches hotpress 140lb paper.

PencilOnArches2What is on the drawing board now?

My schedule has been a little nuts lately so I am taking a rest-of-the-year break and finally getting around to updating my website, which has been somewhat neglected.

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Do you ever use Corel Painter or Photoshop when illustrating?

I ‘collage’ in Photoshop. I take all the pieces that I create by hand, scan them in, then slice ‘n’ dice them into a final illustration. I think of Photoshop as my digital scissors and glue, but I don’t actually illustrate with Photoshop if that makes sense, like, I’m not drawing or painting digitally using brushes and filters.

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Do you own a graphic tablet?

No. If you mean a Cintiq or Wacom, that is. I’ve seen them in action though, wow!

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Is there one thing that you did or happened that you feel really pushed your career to the next level?

I joined SCBWI. So far, this has been an amazing journey of education, connections, opportunities, projects and rewards, but it all started with this incredible organization that continues to play a role—LOVE SCBWI!

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Do you take pictures or other research before you start a project?

Before and during—yes. Having reference material gives me a much better understanding of what I am drawing than simply imagining. I like to begin by drawing realistically before I think about characterizing for a book because it gives me an accurate sense of anatomy, behavior, body language, etc., even though they’re very loose drawings. There were a number of animals in Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo that I hadn’t drawn before, so I filled a ring binder with reference just for that project.

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The original pick-up truck for Cat Napped! was a struggle, but after sharing with my editor, we realized it was too square and modern, so I went back and researched vintage trucks from the 40s and 50s. The end result was a bit of a hybrid but its softer, curvier edges suited the tone of the book far better than the angular truck I had originally drawn.

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The internet is a powerful tool—National Geographic (nationalgeographic.com), Nat Geo Kids (kids.nationalgeographic.com), NASA (nasa.gov), and Pinterest (pinterest.com) are some of my favorites but discipline is key. The amount of research I do depends upon the project but I have to be careful with the amount of time I spend researching versus creating the art.

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I use a timer to stay on top of it. And even if I am not researching for a particular project, I carry a sketchbook with me and either have my phone or camera for taking any pictures. Inspiration strikes when I least expect it so I like to be as prepared as possible.

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Have you found most art directors and editors give you a lot of freedom when illustrating a book? Do they want to be involved all the way through the process?

Once, I was given very specific art notes for an educational book but the turnaround time was tight, so the notes were helpful for me to jump right in. I’ve received minimal notes for nonfiction projects if there was a point that needed to be demonstrated visually for some specific text. For example: the Homework books sometimes have charts.

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For the fictional projects, I’m pretty much left to it for the first round of sketches, then the art director and/or editor and I discuss together. Sometimes, I’ll offer up additional sketch options for a handful of spreads if I have lots of ideas and can’t decide which direction to go. There can be a lot of back and forth on the cover, though.

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

My art materials—pencils, brushes, paper, inks, sketchbooks—I’d be kinda lost without them!

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

Yes, even if it’s only for ten minutes, that’s my rule.

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

To travel, keep making art, and continue creating books for young readers—that would be lovely!

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Thank you Leeza haring your journey and process with us. Can’t wait to see your career go forward. You can visit Leeza at her website: http://www.leezaworks.com to see more of her work.

If you have a moment I am sure Leeza would love to read your comments. I enjoy them too. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Filed under: Advice, authors and illustrators, How to, illustrating, Illustrator's Saturday, inspiration, Interview, picture books, Process Tagged: John Lithgow, Leeza Hernandez, Never Play Music Right Next to the Zoo

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22. Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis, by Carole P. Roman | Dedicated Review

In the latest installment to Carole P. Roman’s award-wining series, Captain No Beard and his crew are heading in the direction of the North Star. This time they’re on a journey that the captain’s team is not so keen on joining—Captain No Beard has plans to take something without asking permission.

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23. PiBoIdMo Day 22: Diana Murray Brews Up a Character-Driven Story (plus a prize!)

DianaMurrayBioPhotoby Diana Murray

Picture books are as varied as the potions in a witch’s cupboard. Some are spicy and bubbly, while others are mellow and sweet. So which kinds of stories are editors and agents clamoring for? Well, their tastes are just as varied. But one thing that seems to be on everyone’s wish list is this: character-driven stories. A few examples include FANCY NANCY by Jane O’Connor, LLAMA LLAMA RED PAJAMA by Anna Dewdney, PINKALICIOUS by Elizabeth Kann, RUSSELL THE SHEEP by Rob Scotton, SKIPPYJON JONES by Judy Schachner, PETE THE CAT by Eric Litwin, LADYBUG GIRL by David Soman and Jacky Davis, MAX AND RUBY by Rosemary Wells, and SCAREDY SQUIRREL by Mélanie Watt. As you can see, character-driven books have great series potential and overall marketing potential. When readers fall in love with a character, they want to read more about him/her, and it’s fun to visualize what other sorts of situations the character may get into.

This doesn’t mean that character-driven stories are the only kinds that sell or do well in the marketplace. Nor does it mean that writers should focus primarily on pleasing editors or following trends. The best writing comes from the heart! But with that in mind, if you want to explore the possibilities of a character-driven story, here is one quick and easy recipe for brewing up a strong concept. Two ingredients are all you need!

  • Personality Trait
  • Conflicting Goal

I recommend you start off with a list of your own personality traits. This will make it easy for you to feel an emotional connection with (and understanding of) the trait.

My list might look something like this:

  • introverted
  • joker
  • nerdy
  • perfectionist
  • quiet
  • creative
  • analytical
  • messy
  • quirky
  • worrier

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Pick one trait (or several, if you’re feeling bold!). Next, choose a goal. Not just any goal, but specifically a goal that is in opposition to the trait you selected. When I wrote GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH, I chose the trait of being “messy” and made the goal “to find an item the character desperately wants/needs.” Or let’s say, for example, I choose “quiet”, then perhaps the goal would be to sing on stage, or speak out against something, or win an international yodeling contest. Sprinkle the goal in with your trait and–POOF! Instant conflict. And the conflict is intrinsically related to the essence of the main character. Adding conflict to a story is one way of encouraging readers to keep turning the pages. They’ll want to find out what happens next! Now, how will your character attempt to reach that goal or face that problem in his/her own unique way?

Feel that story bubbling to life? Now all you have to do is write (and revise, and revise) the rest. Of course, that’s the hard part. But a little inspiration magic can go a long way!

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Diana Murray is the author of several forthcoming picture books including, CITY SHAPES (Little, Brown, Spring 2016), NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: A SALTY YARN (Roaring Brook Press, Winter 2016), and GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH, plus a sequel (Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins, Summer 2016, 2017). Diana is the recipient of two SCBWI Magazine Merit Awards (2013 and 2014) and an Honor (2013) for poetry. She also won the 2010 SCBWI Barbara Karlin Work-In-Progress Grant for a picture book text. Diana is represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. She was raised in New York City and currently lives in a nearby suburb with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. Diana’s character GRIMELDA was brewed up during the first official PiBoIdMo, back in 2009! You can read more about that experience here.

For more information and news, you can visit DianaMurray.com or follow Diana on twitter: @DianaMWrites.

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Diana is giving away a picture book critique!

This prize will be given away at the conclusion of PiBoIdMo. You are eligible for this prize if:

  1. You have registered for PiBoIdMo.
  2. You have commented ONCE ONLY on today’s post.
  3. You have completed the PiBoIdMo challenge. (You will have to sign the PiBoIdMo Pledge at the end of the event.)

Good luck, everyone!


14 Comments on PiBoIdMo Day 22: Diana Murray Brews Up a Character-Driven Story (plus a prize!), last added: 11/22/2014
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24. 7 Underwear Books for Kids: Including One Big Pair of Underwear

Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which released in September. There are a number of underwear books for kids... Read the rest of this post

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25. 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #407: Featuring August Hall


“Foxes, wolves, deer nest too. Forest knows waking, opening up.”
(Click to enlarge spread)


 

I always look forward to new picture book releases from Kentucky novelist and poet, George Ella Lyon. I reviewed her newest picture book, What Forest Knows (Atheneum, November 2014), illustrated by August Hall, for BookPage. That link is here, if you’d like to read more about it. And today I’m sharing some spreads from it.

While we’re on the subject of Lyon, I’m also currently reading this wonderful book, which she wrote with J. Patrick Lewis and which was released by WordSong last month:

There’s more about the book here, including several starred reviews, and here’s an interview with Lyon at Sylvia Vardell’s site.

Here are two more spreads from What Forest Knows:

 


“Then forest knows snow. While Earth travels round the sun
Forest knows each season, each creature, needs the others.”

(Click to enlarge spread)


 


Sniff. Forest knows everything belongs.”
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WHAT FOREST KNOWS. Copyright © 2014 by George Ella Lyon. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by August Hall. Illustrations reproduced by permission of the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York.

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

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Naomi Shihab Nye. One of my favorite writers, and this interview from this week is wonderful. Also, I’m excited to start her new book, which I just got.

2) While we’re discussing Naomi, she wrote my favorite poem.

3) This made me laugh:

4) Gantos has a Tumblr!

5) I have ordered this book and am really eager to see it.

6) Ditto for this one.

7) My 9-year-old’s second-ever piano recital.

BONUS: A friend told me to check out Gravity Falls. It’s a hoot and makes everyone in the family laugh. Also, I love Mabel.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

8 Comments on 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #407: Featuring August Hall, last added: 11/23/2014
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