I’m lucky to be good friends with several very important book reviewers.

Like my neighbor, Ashley.

At 3:47 PM each Monday through Friday, as we wait at the bus stop for the big kids to come home, six-year-old Ashley recounts the books read aloud in her first grade classroom that day.

Don’t let the pigtails fool you. You thought Kirkus was tough? You haven’t heard Ashley.

But last month, Ashley bestowed her first starred review:


“And it was really, really good!”

My mouth hung open.

I knew that book.

I loved that book—back when I had pigtails.

Thumbs clumsy with excitement, I fumbled my way through an Alibris search on my phone.

“That’s it!” said Ashley. “Order it!”

I did. And the waiting (and whining) began.

For days, cries of “But why isn’t it here yet?” echoed around our neighborhood.

“Be patient,” said Ashley.

“No,” I pouted.

But finally, the package arrived.

I ran to the bus stop.

I tore open the padded mailer.

And there it was:

MORE SPAGHETTI, I SAY! by Rita Golden Gelman, illustrated by Jack Kent (Scholastic, 1977).

“Read!” commanded Ashley.

We plunked down on the curb. I opened the cover—and two wires in my brain connected.

It had been *mumble mumble mumble* years since I’d held a copy of this book, but suddenly, I remembered the words before I read them.

I remembered the pictures before I saw them.

And I remembered how they worked together.

Humor. Friendship. Rhythm. Repetition. Brevity. The power of the page turn. The fun satisfaction of a mirror story.

All the elements I try to use in my own writing.

And this was one of the places I’d learned it first.

“Wow,” I whispered.

I couldn’t wait to write that night.

Ashley smiled. “Told you it was good,” she said.

So, awesome writers, as you seek inspiration this month while creating the books of the future, don’t forget to revisit the books of your past, too!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to get a little writing done before making dinner.

We’re having spaghetti.

Ame Dyckman LOVES picture books. Sometimes she’ll even put them down long enough to write one of her own: BOY + BOT, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino (Knopf; 2012); TEA PARTY RULES, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (Viking; Fall, 2013), WOLFIE AND DOT (working title), illustrator TBD (Little, Brown; TBD).

Ame lives in New Jersey with her family, pets (including a demanding-but-adorable squirrel named Willie) and book collection. Visit Ame at amedyckman.com, or on Twitter @AmeDyckman, where she Tweets “PB book reviews and random goofy thoughts.”

Ame is giving away a signed copy of BOY + BOT plus SWAG—bookmark, sticker, “Affirmative!” bracelet and mini Frisbee! Comment on this post AND complete the challenge to be entered (you’ll be asked to take the “PiBo Pledge” on December 1st to verify you have 30 ideas). A winner will be randomly selected in early December. Good luck!