Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Kevin Henkes

It's always interesting to see how an illustrator creates a picture book. Below is a nice look over the shoulder of Caldecott winner Kevin Henkes and a chance to hear him talk about some of the books he has created.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


There's a good article by Anna Grossnickle Hines on how to write a picture book. A picture book app, that is. See it here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The App Lowdown

If you want to know about the business of children's book apps, hear it from the expert, Michel Kripalani of Oceanhouse Media, below. (Oceanhouse's website) He was speaking at the Dust or Magic App Camp. (That website is here)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


How can you not like this guy? Dallas Clayton was interviewed for Reading Rockets (their website is here) and he kind of challenges all of us to be more open and creative. Rad!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Toys And More Toys

Walter Wick is the photographer for the I Spy books, and more. There are lots of interesting pictures of the sets being created under the heading of "Features" there on his website. Check it out!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Game Story

Story. That's what entertainment is all about. Watch the video here to see how some game developers knew that story was at the heart of the experience they were creating, too.

Story is what a fiction picture book is all about, too. And story comes from character and plot. Do you have an interesting character? Is the plot solid?

The picture book cover is There Are Cats In This Book by Viviane Schwartz.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Babar at 80

Babar inspires love and respect. Read some of the earlier stories, especially, and notice the drama. Here's some background on the de Brunhoffs and their creations. The Babar books have characters we want to spend time with who are doing interesting things--a good place to start.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Lovely letters! Whether we are writers or illustrators of picture books, we should be thinking about picture books as a designer does. We should try to have a feeling for the entire book as a multi-paged object so we can understand and visualize how our part fits in with the whole. Writers, especially, should imagine the pages and how the text would flow. It's amazing how laying out a manuscript into a simple dummy can prompt greater insight and editing. Try it!

One important design aspect of picture books is the typography.

The picture book cover is Paul Thurlby's Alphabet by Paul Thurlby from Candlewick.

"Words have meaning and type has spirit." So says the following video.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I want a pony! (But not an ostrich.)

Kids, especially girls, are drawn to horses. Little ones love a pony ride. Got any ideas for a picture book with a pony in it?

The book is The Lost and Found Pony by Tracy Dockray.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


Children delight in popcorn. Me too. And dogs (though he's hard to see.)
The picture book Popcorn! is written by Elaine Landau and illustrated by Brian Lies.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


"Scared of his own shadow" is a common problem with little folks (And the adults, always chuckling!)

The picture book cover is Shadow by writer/illustrator Suzy Lee.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


For picture book makers, keeping in touch with kids is smart.
Seeing what they see is interesting.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


One of my favorite categories here at the Picture Book Party has been "Real Kids," which includes all kinds of video of children. It's great to see real kids, since we're making books for them. Here's the bygone star of all kid stars, singing in a fantasy sequence.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Las Palmas

Sure, it doesn't have anything directly to do with children's books. That's okay.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Highlights Foundation

Over the years, I've heard good things about the Writer's Workshop at Chautauqua. It's put on by the Highlights Foundation. The folks at the Foundation would like to get the word out about what they do and offer. You can find out all about it here. Learn more about the Highlights Magazine's history here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mary Poppins

Prepare to be happy!
A children's book can grow and change, but the original is still there to enjoy, also.
1. Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers is a great children's book.
2. Disney made a classic kids' movie out of it with delightful songs by the Sherman brothers.
3. Cameron Mackintosh and Disney made a wonderful musical out of it, too. I saw it in New York this week.
4. A scene from it was recorded at Disney World which is exuberant and ridiculous and fun. Watch it on YouTube here (where you can see it larger) or see it below.
5. What a lot of joy and talent! It all started with a children's book.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Brag Time

Well, it's time to toot my horn a little. I always say that you really know you are getting a book published when you are holding it in your hands.

Yesterday, my new book arrived in the mail! It's called Eliza's Cherry Trees: Japan's Gift To America. This is really a good example of believing in your project, and persistence, paying off. I was determined to get Eliza's story told, and it worked.

I'm going to be in Washington, D.C. for the National Cherry Blossom Festival April 7th-10th. I'll be at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (that's the glorious place that has things like Dorothy's Wizard of Oz ruby slippers and George Washington's actual Revolutionary War tent) signing books, as well as several other places. Whoopee!

Learn more about Eliza on the website I made for the book, here. She's a great model of persistence.

Monday, March 7, 2011

E-Book Royalties

We all need to know more about contract terms, which, of course, can be a little dizzying. There's an article from the Author's Guild, here, about e-book rights to help us understand this important area. A sample:

"E-book royalty rates for major trade publishers have coalesced, for the moment, at 25% of the publisher’s receipts. As we’ve pointed out previously, this is contrary to longstanding tradition in trade book publishing, in which authors and publishers effectively split the net proceeds of book sales..."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

TV Time

As the book business swirls into new forms like apps and games, and more alliances develop within media companies, maybe it would be a good idea to glance more frequently at what's happening on TV. Kids certainly do.
We should be aware of the broad range of choices those kids have and keep tabs on what the rest of the "creators for kids" are doing. A couple of articles in the LA Times here and here give a little food for thought.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Planet App

There is an excellent article called, "Planet App: Kids' book apps are everywhere. But are they any good?" on what apps should be and how they should be judged here. Betsy Bird gives us a list of questions to ask. This is definitely a worthwhile article to read on the world of apps.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Did you ever put something you wrote in a drawer, then after a while, bring it out again? How about 40 years later? Below are legends Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer, who created The Phantom Tollbooth, speaking at the National Book Festival last fall. Sample the book they did together most recently here.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Coming On Strong

Just imagine how common these things are gonna be. (E-readers, that is.) See more about that here. Watch the extra features on picture book apps being used below.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Berenstain Bears

Let's have an appreciation of the Berenstain Bears. At our house we certainly bought plenty of those books because the kids really liked them. Each book had a solid story and interesting characters. Read about how the work of making these books carries on here and see one of their sites here. Scroll down to see how much they did in 2010 here--lots! For a few years they've even done religious slanted books with Zondervan here. The Berenstain Bears are a heck of a brand. And good, too.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Time To Think

There's a nice interview with the author and editor of The Quiet Book here. Author Deborah Underwood talks about taking some time to recharge. Here's a quote.
"And sometimes you need to give yourself permission to take time off, even if it's just a few hours, and give your unconscious a chance to work. I find that the latter can be even more challenging than the former. We're conditioned to feel guilty if we're not actively working, yet sometimes the best ideas come when we're not sitting at our desks. I nearly skipped the guitar concert that inspired The Quiet Book because I was really busy and didn't feel I should take the time off. I only went because my dad had already purchased a ticket for me. If I hadn't gone, The Quiet Book might not exist now."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Digital Book World

The Digital Book World conference in New York just wrapped up. There was a panel on children's book apps covered here. "And all the publishers were quick to emphasize storytelling and quality in a digital marketplace..." That's where we continue to come in.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

ALA In San Diego

This weekend we are happy to be the host city for the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting. It's been great to walk around the exhibit hall seeing so many new books and so many book loving people. On Monday they'll be announcing all the big awards. In the picture, fellow writer Denise and I are thoroughly enjoying the scene.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The "Best" Advice

Yesterday and today I am giving my two best pieces of advice. Today's involves a little story.

Many years ago, David and I went to a small event at the Pasadena Library. There we met Taro Yashima, whose work we admired greatly. Mr. Yashima was a three time Caldecott Honor winner, know for his sensitive stories and vibrant illustrations. We had read and enjoyed his books. Still in our twenties, he seemed like a very dignified old man to us and we were honored to speak with him. Being at the beginning stages of learning to write and illustrate for children, we asked his advice on getting published. He spoke briefly and I have thought about what he said many, many times. It has served as a challenge and a comfort. He said, "When yours is the best, they will publish it."

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year!
I'm going to give my two best (and possibly only) pieces of advice for this year on the blog today and tomorrow.
The first thing is:
Whatever you write, the story should be about love.