Thursday, December 31, 2009


It's Real Kids Thursday. When you're little, and bravely facing an ordeal, it helps to have some things to hold on to. Like a couple of stuffed animals and a pacifier. And it's nice to have a treat afterwards.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sales Numbers

It's Writing Wednesday. If we have a lemonade stand, we know how many glasses we're selling. If we get a book published, and it's out in the marketplace, we may know how many books are sold by the royalty statement, but how good are the sales? What does the publisher consider strong sales or weak sales? How will it affect their decision to buy the next manuscript from us? Check out an interesting recent blog post from Editorial Anonymous about this topic here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

David Wiesner

It's Illustration Tuesday. David Wiesner has won the Caldecott medal three times. Read about him here. Watch him talk about his work, and then look at a trailer for Flotsam, below.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Fairy Tales

It's Monday--Picture Books Past. What seems more typical of books for children from yesteryear than fairy tales? Sure, we all know what they are, but maybe we might enjoy reflecting a little more deeply on this type of story. Reading the Wikipedia article here might be a good start.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Picture Book Party is on vacation this week. I wish for you a lovely winter week, holiday goodies, and sharing with others.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thomas Nelson

It's Book Business Friday. Thomas Nelson is a large publishing company with a long history and a Christian focus. The first video describe the company's history. The second video shows how they can give a strong Christian slant to popular subject matter in children's books. Check their books here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It's Thursday, Real Kids Day. Kids really love bouncing. And dogs!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Picture Book Biographies

It's Writing Wednesday. Today seems like a good day to think about picture books which tell the true story of an interesting, noteworthy person. How to pick the subject? How to slant the story? What to leave out? Who will read the book and why? Writing a biography can be an entertaining exploration for the author. Let's hear from a couple of people with experience in the field. There's an interesting blog entry by Mark Tyler Nobleman here (read the comments at the bottom of the post, too.) And below, Kathleen Krull reflects on her process of creating biographies for young readers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Chris Raschka

It's Illustration Tuesday. Caldecott Medal winner Chris Raschka has illustrated many books with varying styles. Scroll through some of his titles on Barnes and Noble here to see some examples. There's a brief biographical introduction to him here. When you hear him talk about how his work evolves through the process of making dummies, it's possible to get a glimpse of his creative approach.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ludwig Bemelmans

It's Monday, Picture Books Past. Ludwig Bemelmans created the beloved character, Madeline, who lives in his colorful and energetic paintings set in Paris. The first book, Madeline, was recognized as a Caldecott Honor book in 1940. He won the Caldecott medal for Madeline's Rescue in 1954. Who was he? There's a bio on the "official" Madeline site here. Another version of his life story is here on Wikipedia. On the Barnes and Noble site, here, there's a readable first chapter from a biography of Bemelmans, written by his grandson (who has continued the Madeline books.) This interesting excerpt describes the turmoil of his childhood in Europe and life in America as a young man. Check out how the B&N site lets one browse the chapter--click on the "see inside" icon.

Friday, December 11, 2009


It's Book Business Friday. Production in the book business means the preparation for actually making the physical book. In the Random House career video, below, an employee tells a little about his job doing this in the children's book division. The second video is another employee taking about her job in marketing at Random House's Bantam Dell. They seem to be really enthusiastic about working in the book business. That's a good thing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mickey and Minnie

It's Thursday--Real Kids Day.
Meeting Minnie Mouse or Mickey Mouse is quite an event! Everybody's smiling and parents are hurrying to get the camera going.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jane Yolen

It's Writing Wednesday. Jane Yolen knows so much about writing children's books. She's published in numerous genres, over numerous years. She's won many awards and enjoys many readers. Take a look here to see what advice she has for writers. Look especially at what she has to say about rejections and moving on. It's comforting to know that we can handle it, just like she does.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winding Paths

It's Illustration Tuesday. Often our career paths are not a straight line. There may be slow starts and turns and detours. In the video below, Helen Craig, illustrator of Angelina Ballerina, describes hers. Read here more about her background, and about Angelina's author, Kathering Holabird. She did some other things, too, before writing. All those experiences enrich us. Then look at where being in a book has taken Angelina--right to the real ballet!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Golden Books

It's Monday--Picture Books Past. Most American children born since World War II have grown up with books published by Golden Books (now part of Random House.) Many fine writers and illustrators produced the best of these inexpensive books. Read the brief "Story of Little Golden Books" here. Consider getting Golden Legacy, an entertaining book by Leonard Marcus which tells the history of the company and much about the publishing business of the mid-century period. Take a look at the book here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

National Book Festival

It's Book Business Friday. One lively public component of the book business is the book festival. There are book festivals in many cities. In Washington, D.C., the National Book Festival, put on by the Library of Congress, takes place in September. Lots of authors, illustrators, and readers attend. Check the website here. Look at the YouTube channel of the Library of Congress, with lots of videos from the National Book Festival, here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


It's Thursday--Real Kids Day. It must be nice to have a twin. Someone with the same sense of humor? Someone with the same taste in reading material, perhaps?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mem's Advice

It's Writing Wednesday. A little while back we had a post on Australian writer Mem Fox (here.) Let's look at some advice she's got for writers. It's a page on her website called "So you want to write a picture book..." After the introduction (more for those really new to writing,) it's full of excellent, thoughtful ideas from a pro. Check it out here. We can take a little of her magic and make it our own.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


It's Illustration Tuesday. Pop-up books have been around for a long time and continue to develop and amaze. Read a recent article about Waldo Hunt, an influential entrepreneur, who helped revive this art form. The website of artist Robert Sabuda has lots of info and examples to explore here. And here's an article about the history of these movable books.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Sesame Street's in Brooklyn

It's Monday--Picture Books Past. Well, recent past--40 years, to be exact. Sesame Street has had a huge impact on children's media. Just think of the countless books it has spawned over the years. The Brooklyn Public Library is having an exhibit celebrating Sesame Street's 40th. Look at some pictures of the exhibit here. Check the news coverage below.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Blog, Blog, Blog

It's Book Business Friday. One aspect of the book business is blogging--voila--Picture Book Party, for instance. Here is list on Kidlitosphere Central which gives a sampling of blogs. One of the most popular is Fuse #8, which also has lots of good suggestions for other blogs to visit. Check this recent Fuse #8 post, and its video, to see how far blogging can take us into the world of children's books.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thursday--Real Kids Day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


It's Writing Wednesday.
Reminder: Shorter posts this Thanksgiving week. As writers, we want to avoid cliches, but it may be fun to steep ourselves in them a bit, if only as a reminder not to use them. They can be sneaky--it's so easy to reach for a familiar phrase. Check them out here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


It's Illustration Tuesday.
Reminder: Shorter posts this Thanksgiving week. Check out the entertaining and illuminating blog called Drawn! which has multiple contributors posting about cartoon and illustration art. There's always something interesting there. See it here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Historical Collections Links

It's Monday--Picture Books Past.
This Thanksgiving week Picture Book Party is partying, so the posts may be a bit shorter. The website of the American Book Collectors of Children's Literature has a page with links to notable collections. Check it out here and explore some of these sites to get an overview on the historical side of children's book collections.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Small Screens

It's Book Business Friday. There's continuing coverage on the new ways to read electronic books. One way is on smartphones, like Apple's iPhone. They may be small for reading on, but they are very convenient. No wonder these phones are growing in popularity. There's so much they can do--there are over one hundred thousand "apps," or application software items, available to use on them. Reading on a phone is a feature that some people are going to enjoy. There's a very good article about it here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It's Thursday, Real Kids Day. Different kids, different interests. Different cultures, different expectations. Ballet is something so many little girls crave and dabble in. For some kids, especially in some other countries, it's serious business. There are so many, many ways a child may be explore and develop his or her unique potential, aren't there?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Film Storyboards

It's Writing Wednesday. A fundamental part of the process of making a film is storyboarding. As writers and illustrators of picture books, we can think in these terms, too, to help visual our end product, the book. By storyboarding we get deeper into the storytelling. Though the writer may not be able to create the art for the book, the story can benefit from the writer understanding what the pictures could be. Check out these introductory videos on film storyboards.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

English Pictures

It's Illustration Tuesday. English children's picture books, and their illustrations, have a little different history and background than American picture books. Lots of lovely countryside and all that. Take a look here at a slide show of some contemporary English illustrators doing new pictures for classic English children's books. See what you think. Below is an illustrator working in that same tradition--sort of a high tech Beatrix Potter, as you'll see.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Robert McCloskey

It's Monday--Picture Books Past. Robert McCloskey is a giant in picture books. His beloved Make Way For Ducklings is a true classic. Below, try a high tech experience of where those famous ducks flew. Below that, a quick look at the sculpture honoring the book in the Boston Public Gardens. Then some real quackers. Read about Robert McCloskey here and here. Listen to him speak about his work as he's interviewed for the Horn Book many years ago here. Check all his books out of the library for a treat and a learning experience.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Books in the News(paper)

It's Book Business Friday. Of media sources which are not especially focused on books, the New York Times is probably the most important place for reviews of children's books. Their Children's Book Special Section is interesting to look at here. Check out the accompanying slide show of their Best Illustrated Children's Books of 2009 here. It's good to be aware those books which are picked out as being top notch. And below is a video about some books that made it on the Times best seller list--another important feature of the book/newspaper business.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


It's Real Kids Thursday. Driving a car is so grown-up and so fun. Kids love all kinds of riding vehicles, but it's a good thing they can't get a real driver's license. Maybe more sensible dogs should be driving, though.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


It's Writing Wednesday. In previous posts, we covered basic plot types. Here's another way of looking at plotting a picture book. Author Shutta Crum has info about picture book plot structures on the Reading Rockets website. The slant is on teaching children to write, but the material is really meant for an adult to grasp. There is a lot to think about here. Understanding and using plotting give us a roadmap for our stories so that the end result is more satisfying. Check out her website, too. She has lots of resources and links.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quentin Blake

It's Illustration Tuesday. We are so darn lucky with the material available in the way of interviews and clips. Take Quentin Blake, for instance. He was the first Children's Laureate in the UK and is well known in the U.S. for his work with Roald Dahl. First, check out an excellent video on the Quentin Blake website here. Then, the first video below shows some teaching he was doing in which he demo's using different tools. In the second video below (kind of an amateur video, but quite well done) he's telling us about what it's like to do his work as an illustrator. Enjoy.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Marjorie Flack

It's Monday, Picture Books Past. Marjorie Flack (1897-1958) illustrated the classic, The Story of Ping. She also wrote and illustrated books about the terrier, Angus, like Angus and the Ducks. Another favorite book of hers is The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes. She won a Caldecott Honor for Boats on the Water. Many of her books are still enjoyed today because of her solid storytelling and gentle humor. Order up a bunch from the library to enjoy and to study their lasting strengths.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Star Power

It's Book Business Friday. When children's books take the leap to the movies, it's sometimes a big success, but certainly not always. In a recent article in Forbes, the top ten most successful characters from children's books (books for ages 12 and under, that is) are discussed here. Read the article, then look at the related slide show here. These films sell tickets, sell books, and sell merchandise. The trailer below seems like an oldie but goodie now. Smell the popcorn?

Thursday, November 5, 2009


It's Thursday, Real Kids Day. What's sweeter than affection between young children? Even if the parents set up that "Kodak moment," it's still nice. Sometimes we just want to see the world through a hazy lens and enjoy it. Some picture books capture that impulse, too.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Writers on Writing

It's Writing Wednesday. Below are three short videos on writing. The first has many authors' brief insights about getting the job done. The second is Steven King's advice to would be writers. The third is writer Martin Amis on avoiding cliches and being original. These folks (most anyway) may not be writing picture books, but they know writing and it all applies.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mark Teague

It's Illustration Tuesday. Mark Teague is a very popular illustrator. What makes him so appealing? Maybe his humor, his lively scenes, and his charming use of color? Learn more about his background and career here. Read an interview with him and Jane Yolen here. Publisher's Weekly interviewed him here. Or below, watch him talk about his work. Then head to the library to enjoy some of his books!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bank Street

It's Monday, Picture Books Past. There are several reasons to know about the Bank Street College of Education. 1) Its history--it was founded in 1916 to explore ideas of progressive education and it has been influential in theories and practice concerning children and their education. Check out their history here. 2) It's role in the "here and now" concept of picture book writing. Read about this movement in the mid-20th century here and here. 3) Its influential list of recommended books, "The Best Children's Books of the Year." See about it here and here. It's good to know these things, to round out our picture book knowledge, don't you think?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ups and (Under)Downs

It's Book Business Friday. Harold Underdown has been in the book business for years. His website, The Purple Crayon, is a very helpful resource. Here is an article he wrote, "Working in Children's Books and the Recession of 2008-09" about the state of the children's book business now and what it may be in the future. He takes the long view. (He also wrote The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Best Friends

It's Thursday, Real Kids Day. Friendship is so important to children. Best friends understand you, they like to do the same stuff, they think the same things are funny, and sometimes, they're just great to nuzzle and run around with in circles. Books about friends are something friends can share, too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Amelia Bloomer Project

It's Writing Wednesday. Heard of the Amelia Bloomer Project? It is an offshoot of the American Library Association, through its Feminist Task Force. Since 2002 it has been highlighting "exemplary books for girls and young women that celebrate their strengths and nourish their potential" through its annual list. The books "show girls and women-past and present, real and fictional-breaking stereotypes to follow their dreams and pursue their goals, challenging cultural and familial stereotypes to gain an education, taking charge and making plans for community, regional, national, and world change." See the list here. Below is a video about one of this year's books, A Girl Named Dan. The books we write can potentially have a powerful effect on the child who reads them by shaping her view of the world and her place in it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dick Bruna

It's Illustration Tuesday. Let's go European today. Clean, simple design. Beautiful and fun. Dutch picture book creator Dick Bruna is profiled in the first video below. In the second (more informal) video, he describes creating a particular book. Enjoy seeing the care and happiness he puts into his work. But first, get oriented on Wikipedia here. After watching the videos, see his artistic celebrity in Utrecht by visiting the Dick Bruna Huis here. Check out the website about his work here. It looks like he's having fun making books. And people around the world have been enjoying them for years.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Great or Terrible?

It's Monday, Picture Books Past. When children's books come up in the media, what aspects get talked about? Maybe sales figures of mega-hits, maybe reading and school success/failure, maybe bookstore/online/ebook futures. Here's something a bit different. It's a good old-fashioned discussion of the question: are these classic books great or terrible? It's entertaining to listen to the back and forth. Also, it's a reminder that the message in a book matters. Check it out here on the Los Angeles Times website.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Association of American Publishers

It's Book Business Friday. As picture book writers, some aspects of the publishing business are more important to us than others. But sometimes it's good to take the broad view the industry. That's why today we're taking a little look at the trade organization for publishers, the Association of American Publishers. This industry group focuses on the concerns of the companies who publish our books. They deal especially with intellectual property, technology, freedom to publish and read issues, and laws. We should take a few minutes to acquaint ourselves with the AAP through their website here. It's a business and we're in it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bath Time

It's Thursday--Real Kids Day. Sometimes, all it takes is a little bath water and a couple of bros to have a great time. Lots of picture books deal with sibling rivalry, but sometimes little siblings can be best friends, too. Being silly together makes for a great bond, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Important Middle

It's Writing Wednesday. Without a plot, what have you got? (Repeat three times aloud.) Not a story, that's for sure. The result may be a good concept book, or a bad musing. Nothing beats a solid story with a beginning, middle, and end. Often, right smack in the middle of a picture book something important happens--an accident, a discovery, a loss, a storm, a wild rumpus--something important. Not every picture book is structured this way, but many are. Read some picture books and analyze the tales with this in mind. What's happening right at the midpoint of your story? Is it something that will make the child eager to keep listening?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fancy Illustrating

It's Illustration Tuesday. Borders has some video interviews with book people on their website. There's a great one with Jane O'Connor and Robin Preiss Glasser in which they describe how the Fancy Nancy books began and are developed now. They especially talk about the illustrations. There's been more collaboration between the two of them than is typical in the creation of a picture book. It's fun to hear about the process.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

It's Monday, Picture Books Past. Isn't it great that since 2002 the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has been open? There, great books of the past are celebrated and wonderful contemporary books are recognized. The mission of the museum is "to inspire, especially in children and their families, an appreciation for and an understanding of the art of the picture book." Watch the virtual tour here. And see what some of their past exhibits have been here. We can look all around the website while we're dreaming of our real trip there. It's a great way to glimpse some picture book history that's alive today.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Children's Lit Movie

It's Book Business Friday. In the book business, children's literature is often respected, but not fully respected, since, of course, it's for children. Lots of grown-ups have forgotten how wise they were when they were young. But there are people who remember, and who really love and understand children's books. Some good souls are involved in making a movie about children's literature and they're interviewing children's book folks. Check out some of the many short clips they've posted on the "Childrenslitproject" blog here. Just cruise around and watch. It's fun to hear our kind of people talk. Try a little sample below.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Early Reading

Today is Real Kids Thursday. Isn't it wonderful how a good picture book captivates a child? Girls and boys may be full of energy, or mischief, or play, but get them listening to the first couple of pages of an interesting book, and an amazing transformation takes place as they sit still, concentrate, and listen. That is, unless they are really little. Then their concentration is so intense that their little legs kick in response. Check it out in the video below, a follow up on Monday's post on Ezra Jack Keats. Watch the intensity on her face as she studies the pictures. Early exposure to books is such a gift.