Saturday, December 14, 2013

Playing with Words

My Takeaway: When rewriting, try out alternative word choices to enrich the story. 

A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston, Illustrated by Sylvia Long
A Seed Is Sleepy, published by Chronicle, is used below. You can visit the website of author Dianna Hutts Aston and the website of illustrator Sylvia Long.

Reading Rockets shows how a teacher uses "semantic gradients" to expand vocabulary and enrich the reading and writing of kids. It's an interesting lesson to see how a teacher uses a picture book as a jumping off place.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Trailer Treats--Here I Am

Here I Am is a wordless picture book that has a lovely trailer. Notice how effectively sounds are used in the video. Capstone, a publisher in Minnesota, published the book. Patti Kim is the author and Sonia Sanchez is the illustrator. If you don't see the trailer below, click here.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

7 Things

Apple Cake by Julie Paschkis
On the Writer's Digest website, a regular contributor is Chuck Sambuchino. His column often focuses on information about agents and interviews with them. But he also has "7 Things I've Learned So Far" in which writers tell some of the stand-out lessons they've learned about the craft and the business of writing. Though this doesn't focus on picture books in particular (an example that does is here from writer Audrey Vernick) these are universal to all of us who tell stories and make books. There are some great lessons learned from a wide variety of writers! Perhaps you'll recognize lessons you've learned, too?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bad Kitty

What happens when a book takes off and turns into a series? Nick Bruel is the cartoonist who has created the very popular Bad Kitty series. Here's what Macmillan, the publisher, says about the character on their website, "Bad Kitty is bad. Very bad. But she doesn't always mean to be. Whether she is trying to be a good little kitty and eat her vegetables or be a quiet little kitty and behave at a birthday party, it seems that trouble finds a way to her. " That says a lot about a character who has the potential to carry a bunch of books--picture books and chapter books. Nick Bruel's website here. The Bad Kitty site is here. There are teacher resources and games and more, but possibly the most interesting of all is that on the Bad Kitty website there's a link (in case you're having a school, library, or bookstore event) to borrow (shipping cost of $140 not included) the Bad Kitty costume! I always wondered how that worked. Check it out here

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Trailer Treats--Tap the Magic Tree

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson is an "interactive" book in the simplest way. You read it and do what it says, turning the page to see how the illustration has "reacted" to what you did. (Can the app be far behind?) This lovely trailer is simple, too. It clearly demonstrates what it will be like for a child to read the book. At two minutes it's a bit long, showing the whole book, but it's charming and done with excellent filming and audio. If you don't see the video on your device, click here.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Serious Subjects

How do picture books deal with serious subjects? With respect and hope. Sometimes directly, but sometimes indirectly. Read how this book, Snowflakes Fall, came together here at Publishers Weekly. If you can't see the trailer below on your device, go here.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Trailer Treats--Abe Lincoln's Dream

Here's the first in the series called "Trailer Treats" showcasing well done picture book trailers. Watch Abe Lincoln's Dream by Lane Smith below. The trailer is effective in the way that it makes the book look intriguing, uses music to create mood, and has simple but interesting motion to bring the pages to life. In case you can't see the video below, go here to see it on the publisher's website.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Emma Chichester Clark

How about a little chat with Emma? It's worth it just to see the completely groovy studio she has! Plus the dog. And, of course, the beautiful illustrations. She talks a little about illustrating Alice Through the Looking Glass. Check out her other books on her website here.
If you don't see the video below, click here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Agent Hunting

It used to be that most writers didn't have a literary agent. Now, it seems like everyone either has one, or is looking for one, or is thinking about looking for one. There's an interesting feature on the blog of Julie Hedlund called "How I Got My Agent" in which several writers tell their tale on the topic. Check it out here.

And for fun, here's a trailer for the recently published book, I See Kitty by Yasmine Surovec. If you don't see it below, click on the book above or check it out on the Macmillan site here.

SLJ Favorite Picture Books

School Library Journal picks their favorite picture books for 2013 here. On the list there are several books starring things such as a pencil, some crayons, a punctuation mark, and a squash. So much for old rules about not making an inanimate object be the main character!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Podcast Interviews

It's interesting to listen to interviews with authors, don't you think? Hearing about how they work as well as their struggles and successes? While big name adult writers are often promoting their books on radio or TV, it's not so easy to find audio interviews of children's book people. Publishers Weekly has podcasts you may enjoy here with picture book to YA creators talking. (You can also find these podcasts on iTunes under "Publishers Weekly.") Take a listen!

Sunday, November 10, 2013


How do authors feel when they win an award like the Newbery? Listen to some share the feelings they've had when that big call came, as well as some thoughts about their writing process, in this Random House video.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Publishers and Common Core

Does Common Core make your head spin a bit? Wonder how publishing companies are dealing with this? They want teachers to be able to see how their books fit with Common Core. There's an interesting article here on some of the approaches publishers are taking to market their books with this in mind.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Older Women

Part One: I was just thinking yesterday about older women. It occurred to me that they are some of the most sensible, interesting, and reliable people around. But how often are they spotlighted or particularly valued?
Part Two: Being creative in the arts, like making picture books, means letting go, as well as being disciplined. Experimenting. Boldly exploring. Shaping.
Part One and Part Two come together below in a video from the Tate in London on Rose Wylie:

Friday, August 2, 2013

Spring 2014 Books

Want to see a handy list of the different children's book publisher imprints? And what books they are publishing? The Sneak Preview is a great resource on the Publishers Weekly's website. It gives us an overview of new books. What are you writing? Where would it fit in this list?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Children's Book Trends

Sure, we're not supposed to try to follow trends with our writing. But it doesn't hurt to be aware of them! Below is a look at what's growing in popularity according to David Allender, editorial director of Scholastic Book Clubs.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Next Big Thing

A friend of mine, Joy Chu, tagged me in The Next Big Thing, a blog hop in which children's book bloggers answer ten questions about what they are working on. So this post is about me and "The Warthog Smoked." I have tagged my excellent writer friends Sarah Tomp and Melissa Wiley so they will be answering the same ten questions on their blogs in the near future! Here goes...

1. What is the title of your work-in-progress? 
"The Warthog Smoked."
2. Where did the idea come from? 
I've wanted to do an anti-smoking story for a long time.
3. What genre does your book come under? 
It will be a picture book app.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?  
Justin Bieber as Bo the Warthog and Selena Gomez as the mouse named Bijou. I'm going for box office here!
5. One sentence synopsis for your book? 
While out looking for butterflies, Bo the warthog finds a pack of cigarettes and decides to try smoking.
6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?
I'm working on "The Warthog Smoked" with my son Alex, a software engineer and we are creating it for Liddery, my new app enterprise. If all goes well, it will be appearing in the App Store this summer.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? 
Weeks. The initial writing of a picture book manuscript may just take a day, but the rewriting can be over a period of weeks or months.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? 
It is a patterned story so I could compare it to my own book, The Cow Buzzed, illustrated by Paul Meisel, because in that book one farm animal after another catches a cold. In this story, one wild animal after another tries smoking.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book? 
As my own children grew up I saw some of their young friends turn into smokers. I think more can be done to put anti-smoking ideas in the minds of very young children. As a picture book creator, I wanted to do something about that.
10.What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
There is almost nothing out there in the way of books for the very young with an anti-smoking theme. It is a big challenge to teach without being didactic and preachy. I'm making the story fun as well as leaving kids thinking that smoking is a lousy idea!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Graphic Novel

I know that a graphic novel isn't a picture book but...the two forms share some things like storytelling and illustration, so it's close enough, since I want to show a blog post by Raina Telgemeier. She explains how she makes her books. I just love seeing that sort of thing! (I really enjoyed her book, Smile.) Check out her process here.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Enlisting Others

We all know that writing can be a lonely business. But it doesn't have to be and it probably shouldn't be. In an article on the Purple Crayon website one writer describes how help from family, critique groups, SCBWI, and editors moved her story along. As she says, "...the author has to try to make the story even better than their first, best try, and being better than your best is almost impossible without help." Read about it here.  More about the book itself, The Dirty Cowboy here. The author's website here.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Story Time

To create a picture that works as a good read aloud story try thinking like a librarian. Story time is coming up--what books are you going to share with your squirmy little patrons? The books you'd choose probably need to be short and attention grabbing because crowd control is part of the job. Want to see inside the mind of a real librarian? Check out this and this because they can give you insight into what works in books for little children. And how you might write one that would be delightful in the hands of a librarian.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

PB Love-In: Story

The Picture Book Love-In starts now!
This is the first of a series of thoughts reflecting on why we love picture books so darn much.  I think the number one reason I love picture books is story.  We humans have an innate longing for story-- seen from our earliest scratchings on cave walls to the winners at the Oscars.  Picture books are a place for all kinds of stories to be lovingly passed along to the newest members of our human family.  Yep, I think picture books are wonderful because of the stories they hold.
Why do you love picture books?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ed Emberley

Ed Emberley is well know for his numerous drawing books and classic picture books, including the Caldecott Award winning, "Drummer Hoff." Meet him and learn about his career in the video below. Visit his website here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Endings and Lots More

At the last meeting of the "Writing Children's Picture Books" I teach, someone asked if writing endings is hard for other people, too, or just for her? Check out #7 on this great list of short, pithy writer tips here. Then study the rest of them because there's a lot of good stuff. Like #4, a little fill in the blank story starter : Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___. 
What's your story going to be?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


To me, it's endlessly interesting to hear how someone else creates a picture book. It's personal and unique each time. I think an especially engaging description of that process is written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger on the TeachingBook site here. (And if you read the article before Jan. 22, 2013, notice that there is a contest at the end of the post!)
See the pages turn here.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Virtual Visits

Virtual school visits have been around for a while. It seems that they are now reaching a level of popularity and usefulness that everybody is benefitting from them.  There's a great article about them here.