Doing anything tonight?

Now you are!

It’s the annual Carle Honor Awards, virtually. Reserve your spot now!

The Carle is the international champion for picture books. They collect, preserve, and present picture books and picture-book illustrations for audiences passionate about children’s literature.

Every year before this prestigious event, I ask the Honorees a question about picture books and their influence on our lives and world. This year, the question came to me immediately:

In this challenging time, how can picture books and children’s literature provide a sense of normalcy to young readers?


Carl Lennertz, Every Child a Reader
Angel Honoree

“During these times, young people—and adults—need a place for quiet and escape, and what better place than on the pages of children’s books filled with beautiful pictures and intriguing words. What happier thing than to see kids playing together in a picture book, if they can’t otherwise, or to see a delicious strawberry and a hungry caterpillar? I do feel, however, that kids are much wiser than we give them credit for, and they know something big and scary is going on, and that they don’t always want to be treated like, what?, children. This is also a time to keep their minds open and engaged, not withdrawn. As a society, we need to keep moving forward with all forms of knowledge about history, current events, and, yes, how things need to change. We need the children to lead us, as we haven’t done a job at all about social injustices, hunger and health, the state of the planet and so much more.”

 


Justin Schiller and Dennis David
Bridge Honorees

“With picture books we experience a doorway to the imagination and the ability for children’s literature to guide the reader beyond the physicality of words where images take over to generate one’s own creative expression within the actual storyline. Maurice Sendak once told me that his artwork expands the text a hundredfold and the reader can interpret the story well beyond the actual meaning of the individual words. This also cultivates and enriches the experience beyond the physical pages of a book.”

 


Patricia Aldana
Mentor Honoree

“Picture books, especially when read aloud, talked about, reread, and available for picking up at will, and finding over and over again, are one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. [International Board on Books for Young People] IBBY’s work with children in crisis all over the world has shown us what a remarkably helpful thing it is for a child to have a caring adult sharing wonderful books with [them].”

 


Raúl Colón

Artist Honoree

“Picture books take the readers to another world. Or at least through some sort of journey. Especially wordless picture books, which make the mind enjoy the trip a little more. Now the observers have to decipher what they see in front of them. Bring some sort of coherence to all the visuals that remain in a certain order in their eyes. Once they’re lost in that visual adventure, they leave the physical space they find themselves in, and fly away to another place—the difficult times left behind, if only for a moment. However, the lingering effects of a good story may last for hours—or even a lifetime.”

 

Congratulations to the Honorees and thank you for sharing your wisdom!

Visit CarleMuseum.org for more about the museum and tonight’s event!

The Carle Honors Honorees are selected each year by a committee chaired by children’s literature historian and critic Leonard S. Marcus, who was central to the founding of the Honors. The committee recognizes four distinct awards: Artist, for lifelong innovation in the field; Angel, whose generous resources are crucial to making illustrated children’s book art exhibitions, education programs, and related projects a reality; Mentor, editors, designers, and educators who champion the art form; and Bridge, individuals or organizations who have found inspired ways to bring the art of the picture book to larger audiences through work in other fields.

♬ ♪ “Our house is a very, very, very fine house…” ♬ ♪

Good thing you can’t hear me singing. It’s not as fine as the house.

And it’s certainly not as fine as the house in A HOME AGAIN, coming in November from Two Lions!

A HOME AGAIN is a beautiful story told from a unique perspective—the home’s point of view! A family once roamed its cozy, lively rooms, but then they move out. How does the house feel? What will happen next?

Colleen, this blog is all about story ideas. How did you get this one?

I got the idea for my story when my husband and I became empty-nesters. I thought maybe we should downsize to a smaller house. When I mentioned it to the kids they were upset—which I didn’t expect. One of my sons said, “I can’t imagine driving by and not being able to visit our childhood home.” So I scratched my plans and started renovating their old bedrooms. As I thought about our conversations, I wondered if a house had feelings, how would it feel about us moving. That thought was the catalyst for the story. Once I started writing the words just flowed. In fact, I wrote the first draft on a return flight from New Orleans. While writing I tried to imagine the new family who would bring love back to the house. We had been on vacation with our friends, Michael and Walter, who had recently bought a new house. They were my inspiration for the new family in my fictional house.

The illustrations by Valeria Docampo positively glow with warmth! How did you feel when you first saw them?

I was over the moon when I saw the illustrations. Being an illustrator myself, I worried someone else’s work wouldn’t capture my vision. But they were more than I could have imagined. Valeria Docampo’s work is gorgeous and the feeling she portrayed through her imagery really elevated the story. I feel so lucky that my editor found such a talented person to partner with us on this project.

This book can certainly help children who are moving to a new home. How can other children relate to this  story?

I think of the house as a child learning about the world. Children can experience all types of loss—divorce, the introduction of a step parent, or even the loss of one or both parents. The story shows that even though situations may change, love in still possible.

I also wanted the story to speak to diversity and non-traditional families. The second family has two dads, but it is not the focus of the story. Children should see all types of families in picture books and accept them as normal.

Colleen, thank you for such a heart-warming story!

Blog readers, Colleen is giving away a copy of her book, which will be released with Two Lions on November 1st.

Leave one comment below to enter. A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!


Colleen Rowan Kosinski writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her picture books include LILLA’S SUUNFLOWERS, A HOME AGAIN, and LOVE MADE ME MORE (2022). Her middle grade novel is titled A PROMISE STITCHED IN TIME. For the last year she has been working as an editor at Reedsy.com and teaching classes on picture book writing. She is also involved in her local chapter of the SCBWI, and the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. Colleen is a graduate of Rutgers University, as are her husband and sons. Her daughter followed the bright lights to work in the film industry in LA. Colleen works from her Cherry Hill, NJ studio with her canine assistant, Sage. Visit her online at ColleenRowanKosinski.com and follow her on Twitter @ColleenKosinski.

by Shannon Stocker

Mega thanks to my mentor and friend, Tara Lazar, for hosting the cover reveal of my upcoming non-fiction picture book, LISTEN: HOW EVEYLN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION (April 12, 2022, from Dial Books).

About three years ago, after listening to an SCBWI speaker talk about the importance of writing what you know and the #OwnVoices movement, I felt moved to write a book about a musician who’d overcome something huge. A musician who’d beaten the odds, defying the expectations of the world around them.

I, myself, am a pianist, a guitarist, and a vocalist. Music has fed my soul since the day I was born. But I also spent two years in a wheelchair due to a chronic illness called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. For seven years, I fought for my life. Countless physicians told me I would not survive, my condition would not improve, I would never have children, and that my husband should put me in permanent care. Countless people gave up on me, insisting I should accept my fate.

But my husband never gave up on me. And, more importantly, I never gave up on me.

Shortly after that conference, I started doing Google searches for potential subjects. The very first person who popped up was Evelyn Glennie. She is the first person to ever have a full-time career as a solo percussionist. She’s won two Grammy Awards, and been knighted by the Queen of England. And she is deaf.

I continued looking for other potential artists, thinking Evelyn would be too big, too famous, too difficult to reach, but her story kept calling me back. It felt like home. So finally, on February 9, 2019, I wrote to her team to ask if she might have an interest in speaking with me about a potential non-fiction picture book. Only two days later, they replied in the affirmative.

Within a month, Evelyn and I had our first Skype. Although she had a translator attend, Evelyn’s lip-reading abilities and speech made communication simple and clear (she lost her hearing as an older child). Not only was she talented, determined, and kind, but she was also one of the most humble people I’ve ever met. Her story poured from my fingers like the most familiar piano concerto, and within two months it was written, revised, and had its first offer for publication.

Shortly after the book sold to Dial, my editor wrote to tell me Devon Holzwarth would be illustrating. It took me all of three seconds to fall in love with Devon’s work, which I often describe as “music on the page.” I contacted Devon, who currently lives in Germany, and she told me that Evelyn was scheduled to play in the “September Special” classical music event close to her home only two days later! I wrote to Evelyn, who provided Devon with tickets and later met her during a break at the concert.

The entire process felt magical.

At this time, LISTEN will also be published by Penguin UK, and I just recently learned that it’s been selected by the Junior Library Guild as a book club pick. I’m immensely proud to have been a part of this book’s creation. I’m grateful to Evelyn for trusting me with her story. I’m grateful to my agent Allison for seeing something in me beyond this story. I’m grateful to Jess, my brilliant editor, for her insights. And I’m grateful to Devon…who gave my words life and emotion beyond anything I could’ve dreamed.

How beautiful, Shannon! I love the movement of the music depicted in florals, streaming from the drum. It’s lovely; congratulations!

LISTEN: HOW EVELYN GLENNIE, A DEAF GIRL, CHANGED PERCUSSION will be published by Dial on April 12, 2022.

Shannon is giving away a non-rhyming picture book critique in celebration. Leave one comment below and a random winner will be selected next week. Good luck!


Shannon Stocker is an award-winning author and proud word nerd who lives in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Greg, and their children, Cassidy and Tye. Her debut picture book, CAN U SAVE THE DAY (Sleeping Bear Press), released in 2019, her nonfiction PB bio about Evelyn Glennie comes out with Dial (Penguin/Random House) in 2022, and several of Shannon’s nonfiction essays have been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Shannon currently serves as SCBWI social co-director for Louisville, a judge for Rate Your Story, and she created the blog series, Pivotal Moments: inHERview, highlighting transitional life stories of female picture book authors. Cool facts: Currently writing her memoir, Shannon is a medical school graduate, a coma survivor, an RSD/CRPS patient and advocate, and a singer/songwriter who once performed two songs, including one original, as part of an opening act for Blake Shelton. Shannon is represented by Allison Remcheck of Stimola Literary Studio.

Visit Shannon at shannonstocker.comFacebook, or follow her on Twitter @iwriteforkidz and Instagram @iwriteforkidz.

by Abi Cushman

Do you have a really cool idea for a novelty book but don’t know where to start? Well, the truth is, when I got the idea for ANIMALS GO VROOM!, my picture book with die-cut windows, I had lots of experience reading novelty books but absolutely no experience making them. So I’m going to share with you what I learned along the way so you can turn YOUR idea into a real novelty book just like I did.

Here’s how to get started:

1.     Evaluate the Concept

The first step is to evaluate the concept. Is your idea kid-relatable? Unfortunately, small children may not be interested in your pull-the-tab book about tax preparation. I mean, I’d be clapping in delight to pull a tab to find out if I needed Form 8606 when filling out Line 4B on my 1040, but it may be a tough sell to a 2-year-old.

Make sure your idea is marketable. You might take an evergreen topic that kids and parents always look for, such as dinosaurs, transportation, or bedtime, but present it in a unique, appealing way.

Finally, does your book really need a novelty element? Don’t just add feathers because you think they’re pretty. You should be able to justify why a novelty element is central to the story or idea. Novelty elements cost a lot to produce, and publishers want to feel confident in their investment.

For example, in ANIMALS GO VROOM!, I combined two evergreen topics in a fresh way: animal sounds + transportation. I had thought about how words like Roar, Honk, or Screech could be used for both an animal sound and a vehicle sound, and how it might be fun to make a book where the reader had to guess who or what was making the sound. Die-cut holes that peeked through to the next spread and offered clues seemed like a fun, but intentional way to use a novelty element.

2.     Look at Mentor Texts

The next step is to see what novelty books are already out there. Make sure your concept really is fresh and not just new-to-you.

When you find books with novelty elements similar to yours, examine how the novelty element was incorporated into them. Look at how they set up and designed the pages. You may have to dismantle the book to see how things like pull tabs and spinners work.

When I was making ANIMALS GO VROOM!, I studied novelty picture books like Tupera Tupera’s POLAR BEAR’S UNDERWEAR and Simms Taback’s THERE WAS AN OLD LADY WHO SWALLOWED A FLY, to get a better idea of how thick the paper was and how large the die-cuts were.

The other thing I looked at was page count. Typically, novelty board books are 5-10 spreads. They often do not have a title page, so you jump right into the action. The copyright info is on the back cover, and they’re usually smaller than picture books. Novelty picture books are usually 32 pages and you end up with about 12 spreads of main story content.

3.     Make a Rough Dummy

This is the step where you get to experiment and have fun! If you’re wondering, “Do I need to make a dummy if I’m not an illustrator?”, the answer is yes, absolutely. This is an important step not only so you can see for yourself if your idea actually works, but also to show other people your idea in action. Don’t worry about being messy or making ugly drawings at the beginning. You’re just trying to work out the functionality.

For ANIMALS GO VROOM!, I started with a few thumbnail drawings.

After that, I cut some printer paper in half and folded it to make a mini book. I cut some holes in the pages to see if the die-cuts would work. And truth-be-told, they did NOT line up at first. I had to make the rectangles larger sometimes or tape in little patches to make everything line up properly.

But it was fun to play and experiment and start to see it all come together. My initial dummy was full of tape, wite-out and messy drawings, but it was good enough to show a critique group and get feedback on it. And since it was so loose and messy, it made it easier to go back and make revisions to it because I wasn’t feeling precious about the art.

4.     Polish the Dummy and Submit!

If you’re not an illustrator, you don’t have to worry about wowing anyone with the caliber of your illustrations, but you should try to make the dummy as neat and legible as possible. You want editors and agents to see how the novelty element works and why it’s integral to the book. You can use an app on your phone like Genius Scan to take photos of the pages and it will convert it into a PDF.

If you do plan to illustrate the book, you’ll need to polish up the illustrations as well. Here is a sample from my larger, 9×9” dummy with neater drawings to show my agent (and eventually my editor and art director at Viking).

When I worked on the final art with Jim Hoover, the art director at Viking, we played around with different shapes for the die-cuts. I added a little wiggle room around the sound words and animal faces in the die-cut shapes to allow for any discrepancies in the cutting process. Once we got proofs back from the printer, we only needed to adjust the spacing and measurements on a couple of die-cuts. Here are the final tiger spreads:

So if you feel passionate about a novelty book idea, go for it! I can’t wait to see all your fun, inventive book concepts come to life. Even that Tax Prep for Toddlers book.

Thanks for the novel novelty tips, Abi! (I couldn’t resist.)

Blog readers, Penguin Random House is giving away a copy of ANIMALS GO VROOM!

Leave one comment to enter. A random winner will be selected in one week.

Good luck!


Abi Cushman is the author-illustrator of ANIMALS GO VROOM! and SOAKED!, which was a Kids’ Indie Next Top Ten Pick for Summer 2020. She has also worked as a web designer for over 15 years, and runs two popular websites of her own: MyHouseRabbit.com, a pet rabbit care resource, and AnimalFactGuide.com, which was named a Great Website for Kids by the American Library Association. In her spare time, Abi enjoys running, playing tennis, and eating nachos. (Yes, at the same time.) She lives on the Connecticut shoreline with her husband and two kids.

To learn more about Abi and her books, visit her website at AbiCushman.com. If you like secrets, exclusive sneak peeks, wombats, and special giveaways, subscribe to her newsletter.

I remember when I was 8 years old and I learned there was a children’s author who was just 12 (Ally Sheedy). That meant I could be a kid-author, too! Unfortunately, I didn’t make it. But look who did: Sammie Vance!

Sammie Vance is a 12-year-old dynamo who saw both a need and a solution, to not one issue, but a few. She’s the wunderkind behind recycled Buddy Benches, installed in schools, parks, and wherever anyone might need a friend.

You see, to make Buddy Benches, Sammie found a recycling company who could mold them out of plastic bottle caps and tops. When Sammie realized she needed help collecting enough caps, she asked for it. It became not only a school project, but a community one…but it didn’t stop there…

Sammie’s kindness, generosity and innovation has made an impact around the world. Her new book, releasing this Tuesday, is both the story of her journey and an illustrated how-to guide for kids who want to inspire social action in their own schools and communities…and even on the global stage.

Sammie, what’s the most surprising result to come from the Sammie’s Buddy Benches project?

In all honesty, how much my Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project had spread throughout the world, was and still is unexpected. I never expected it to get as big as it is today. Another surprising factor is the fact that I have gotten to meet so many amazing people through my project. I have been inspired by so many people, and I hope I am doing the same to them.

But, another surprise element is the other projects that have sprouted from my main project, Sammie’s Buddy Bench Project. I have started my own podcast and other small projects as well such as Sending Smiles and Cap Art Murals.

Can you tell us a little about those two projects?

I started Sending Smiles during quarantine, seeing that everyone needed a smile. So I would send an encouraging letter to someone everyday in hopes to make them smile. I also included a laminated smile. Sammie Smiles podcast is similar to Sending Smiles. It is basically where I interview people who make me smile, in hopes to make others smile as well.

For The Cap Murals, I helped the parks department lead a class on making art murals out of recycled caps. We created the art and then they were turned into murals with help of recycling and the community. A major help to this local project was when I was on the TV show Operation Awesome and they helped me create multiple Murals.

Wow, “Operation Awesome” sounds like it could be your middle name! You’ve already accomplished so much, so what do you see ahead in your future? Do you have any long-term plans for yourself?

Since I am only 12 I am not sure what I see for my future. Right now I am focusing on school and getting to do some neat things with spreading kindness.  I do know whatever I choose it will involve helping people. I have gotten to have an inside look at a lot of neat professions over the past few years and there are some really neat aspects to lots of jobs.  An astronaut once gave me the call sign “Prez” saying I should run for President someday. Who knows?!

Indeed, who knows?! You have enthusiastic support from your mom, who helped coordinate this interview. With family guidance and love, plus your gusto and determination, the world is your Buddy Bench!

Thanks for the interview, Sammie!

Blog readers! I’ve got a copy of INSPIRE THE WORLD for you! Just leave one comment below to enter. I’ll pick a winner on the book’s release date, August 24th!

Good luck!

Now go INSPIRE!

It’s no secret that I love fun words, so when I saw Kathy Doherty’s THE THINGITY-JIG, I had to take a closer look!

Bear is bored one night, so he wanders into people town and finds a discarded couch. But, to Bear, it’s not a couch at all—it’s a THINGITY-JIG—and he uses it not to sit, but to bounce and play.

Kathy has given her main character, Bear, the perspective of a child. The child reading the story can immediately understand the mindset of Bear—it’s exactly how a kid sees a plump, springy couch! (Much to Mom’s chagrin.)

This childlike perspective is echoed in the illustrations by Kristyna Litten. The huge moon lingers over bear, and he looks small yet determined to experience adventure in people-town.

Besides the wide-eyed wonder of Bear, the story uses onomatopoeia as a repetitive refrain. It’s not only fun to say “smack, wallop, whack,” but it signals to the reader new action in the story. Something big is about to happen.

Onomatopoeia is a delight to read aloud (which is what we do with picture books), bringing the action of the story to life.

When Bear endeavors to bring the couch home, he invents contraptions to do the work his tired friends are too snoozy to do. Kathy continues in the vein of THINGITY-JIG to introduce a…

ROLLY-RUMPITY,

LIFTY-UPPITY, and

PUSHY-POPPITY.

It’s a rolly-rockity group of Rube-Goldberg-like machines! What kid doesn’t love to invent and build? Bear keeps his curiosity alive throughout the tale.

And the ending—well, it’s both surprising and inevitable, which is how a good conclusion should be.

Put it all together and you get THE THINGITY-JIG, by Kathy Doherty and Kristyna Litten, released by Peachtree in April 2021.

Since I’m an idea person (you know Storystorm if you’ve spent any time on this blog), I asked Kathy how she arrived on her story concept.

When I’m asked where I get my story ideas, I say, “From reading piles of picture books…from everyday life…and from childhood memories.”

The idea for THE THINGITY-JIG sparked one day while I was walking in my neighborhood. I spotted a discarded couch. I thought back to my childhood when I’d jump on the couch when my parents weren’t looking. I could envision its gray nubby fabric and bullion fringe.

As I walked along, I played “what if?” What if a cub couldn’t sleep one night and wandered off into people town? What if he found a couch and had never seen one before? What would the cub do with it? What would he name it? What if he wanted to keep it? The more I played “what if?” the more the story took shape.

Thank you, Kathy! It’s such a fun book!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of THE THINGITY-JIG right here (if you don’t rush out to buy it immediaely).

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected soon.

(In fact, when I get back from vacation, I have a whole long list of winners to announce…)

Good luck!


Kathleen loves bringing kids and quality literature together. She’s a reading specialist and an educational specialist in curriculum and instruction. She’s written standardized test items for Pearson Inc. in alignment with the Common Core Standards. Her love of learning has led her to graduate from four different universities.

Nothing scares her. Kathleen has taught elementary school for over 30 years. A student once told her she’d make a great vampire because she’s tall and her teeth are sharp.

Kathleen was first published in TIME Magazine with a letter to the editor about Charles Schulz. Her work has also appeared in The Mailbox, Spider Magazine, Highlights Hello, Highlights High Five, and Highlights for Children. She’s won the Highlights Pewter Plate Award, the Highlights Celebrate National Poetry contest, and a letter of merit from SCBWI’s Magazine Merit Competition.

THE THINGITY-JIG received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and Foreword Reviews. Visit her online at kathleendohertyauthor.com.

by KT Johnston

Tara, thank you so much for having me on your blog to reveal the cover of my upcoming narrative nonfiction picture book, JUBILEE: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream! (February 1, 2022, from Capstone).

JUBILEE recounts the true story of Danish dressage competitor Lis Hartel, who was determined not to let polio keep her from riding again. She found that an inexperienced horse named Jubilee was just the partner she needed to develop a new way of riding—all the way to the 1952 Olympics!

I ran across Jubilee and Lis’s stirring story when researching my first book, RAILWAY JACK: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon (Capstone, 2020), which Amazon Editors have labeled “Best Nonfiction for Kids”. Jubilee hit all the notes for me: an animal who’d had a remarkable impact on an everyday person’s life, in a way that left ripples in society today. No widely-known celebrities; no heroic animal feats; just a life that any of us could be living.

Olympic dressage was not open to women in Lis’s day, but she didn’t let that deter her from aiming for the stars. I won’t say too much about the story, but here’s an awesome fact: the back of a horse will get you three feet closer to the stars.

Inspired by the horse who’d lifted her up, Lis pioneered the world’s first therapeutic riding center. Also inspired by Jubilee and Lis, riding as therapy was quickly endorsed by the medical field, and within a decade, centers sprang up around the globe. And there I saw the crowning element of their story, and knew I had to tell it: Jubilee’s ripples in society.

And now, I’m excited to reveal to you the cover of JUBILEE: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream!

In this tender illustration, artist Anabella Ortiz captured the partnership between Jubilee and Lis nicely. Lis’s hand is loose on the rein because her hands remained weak throughout her life, though gentle Jubilee didn’t need a firm grip regardless. Lis’s outfit and Jubilee’s braided mane and warm-up blanket indicate they’ve just finished in the ring. You can tell it has gone well by the calm look in Jubilee’s eyes, and the happiness and admiration in Lis’s. One of Jubilee’s ears is forward, alert to Lis, as always. Jubilee’s face is contoured nicely and you can visually feel the velvety softness of her muzzle. The twinkles in the title evoke the stars the pair reached for. …And wrapping the scene in ethereal warmth, “the summer sun beam[s] down like a spotlight on a stage.”

You can see a photo of an actual horseshoe Jubilee wore in the pair’s most famous performance at www.ktjohnston.com/Jubilee!

Any day now, JUBILEE: The First Therapy Horse and an Olympic Dream can be preordered through your favorite bookseller and added to your To-Read shelf in Goodreads.

Thanks for showing off your horse and rider, KT!

Blog readers, KT is giving away a copy of her first book, RAILWAY JACK: The True Story of an Amazing Baboon to a lucky commenter.

Leave one comment below. 

A random winner will be selected soon.

Good luck!


KT Johnston writes historical narrative nonfiction about ordinary animals from the dusty past who had an extraordinary impact on a person’s life, and in the process, left a mark on humanity itself. She aims her writing from accelerated younger readers through reluctant older readers, though her stories are for any age because true stories belong to us all. KT earned a degree in biology and conducted wildlife studies before settling into a more stationary corporate career. She and her husband live in Minneapolis and have two grown children. KT hopes to inspire children to be curious about our world and to find greatness in the humblest of its creatures, one true story at a time.

Follow KT on Twitter @KTDidz, Facebook,  and Pinterest @ktjohnstonauthor.

You can see more of Anabella’s work at anabellaortiz.com.

by Wendi Silvano & Lee Harper

Thanks Tara, for hosting us on your blog! We are excited to have our 5th book in the TURKEY TROUBLE series releasing August 1st from Two Lions Press (TURKEY GOES TO SCHOOL).

We thought it might be interesting to chronicle a little bit about how this series has evolved and how an author and an illustrator each have equally important roles in creating a picture book.

Wendi:

The series started with TURKEY TROUBLE (2009). Lee Harper was chosen to be the illustrator. I had never heard of Lee, and (as is common in picture book publishing) had no contact with him regarding the book. The editor and art director worked directly with Lee. In fact, I never met Lee in person (or talked to him) until after TURKEY CLAUS (the 2nd book) was out, and, by chance, we ended up doing a joint book signing in Salt Lake City while Lee was visiting schools in the area.

We have met one other time for a joint signing in Pennsylvania (after the 3rd book, TURKEY TRICK OR TREAT, came out) when I was presenting at the SCBWI Conference in New Jersey. Now we are Facebook friends and occasionally communicate by email (but never so I can tell him how to illustrate the TURKEY books).

People often ask if it bothers me not to have input on the illustrations, but I LOVE what artists can add to my stories if they have the freedom to work their own magic. The very best picture books are those where the text and the illustrations masterfully combine and interact to form something completely unique and magical. What would the TURKEY books be without the delightful and hilarious illustrations that Lee provides?! As an author, I must trust that the illustrator will stay true to the story, while bringing his or her own brilliance to the work.

I always work hard to leave room for the illustrator to use his or her own creativity to add to the story. What are some ways I do that?

I leave things unsaid: I don’t add details that will be in the art—no descriptions! (Just look at this delightful illustration Lee did with no suggestions on my part!)

I allow the art to advance the plot. (All I say in the text is “Then, he found it…” and I let Lee show what that idea is in the illustrations).

I use words and phrases that create room for the art to take over. (“Until…”, “but then…”, “And just when everything was good…”, “There was just one little problem…”, etc.)

I use sparse text that leaves opportunities for the illustrator to interpret and expand the idea. (How the animals “went” was Lee’s choice).

Those are just a few of the ways I leave room for the art. I hope they give you a few ideas of how you might do the same.

Even now, as we work on our 6th Turkey book together (TURKEY-TINE… due out in December, 2022), I just sit back and watch Lee work his magic. It’s delightfully fun!

Lee:

Thank you, Wendi. Though my primary goal as an illustrator is to stay true to your story, I love that you write in a way that leaves lots of room for creativity in the illustrations. This approach is a key ingredient to the special sauce that makes our collaborations work so well. Leaving room for me to add a layer of my own also makes it more fun, which I think comes through in the results.

When I begin thinking about illustrating your words, I ask myself which elements of a particular scene are necessary to propel the story forward. And, in the same way you leave things unwritten and let me ‘show’ the story in the illustrations alone, I leave things unillustrated and let your words stand alone to ‘tell’ the story. Your words and my illustrations share the work.

As an example of how that works, I’ll use the page in our new book Turkey Goes to School that reads:

Pig pilfered a cart filled with food. Turkey pushed it right into the serving line and began to parcel out pizza.

There’s a lot of action in these two sentences. I could illustrate Pig pilfering a cart with food, or Turkey pushing it into the serving line. But I decided to let your words alone do the work of telling that part of this sequence, and concentrate my illustration on the moment Pig and Turkey are parceling out the pizza.

So, I drew the main elements first: Pig and Turkey parceling out pizza. Next, I drew the lunch lady to show what Turkey was attempting to impersonate. (This is a recurring visual joke that permeates the series, which might be one of my added layers.) Lastly, I drew the children in the lunch line and a hint of the cafeteria serving station to set the location.

In this case I didn’t add any extra silliness because I thought the humor was in how thoroughly Turkey believes he looks like the lunch lady.

Wendi:

Something that has been especially fun with the Turkey books is seeing how the characters have evolved over the series. And it’s crazy, but it has happened pretty organically. In the first two books, Turkey’s farm friends are just there mostly in the background, but by the third book they have a much larger role, helping Turkey figure out his disguises and what to do with each failure. Their personalities have blossomed and each has their own individualities. This has happened a good deal in the art. If you get a chance, look at the Turkey books in order and notice how each character has developed over time. I will let Lee tell you more about that evolution (as it was a good deal his doing).

Lee:

I agree that the development of Turkey’s farm friends has been a process that has occurred very organically, and it is a little crazy.

After I’ve drawn everything essential to the story, I always ask myself, ‘how can I pump this up and make this even funnier?’ That’s when the little quirks of character that aren’t written into the story usually reveal themselves. Over time, these little quirks of character build up, and the character becomes more real to me.  Soon I can hear their voices in my head. Maybe it’s more than a little crazy.

In the original TURKEY TROUBLE, Turkey has a lot of personality as an individual, but the sheep all behave as sheep, the pigs all behave as pigs. I was still getting to know everybody.

In TURKEY CLAUS, the farm animals weren’t featured until the last three pages, when Turkey returned to the farm from the North Pole. But unlike the first book, there is now only one representative from each different type of farm animal which I think is the beginning of the farm animals all developing distinct personalities.

The farm animals evolved further in TURKEY TRICK OR TREAT when they become more anthropomorphized.  This is the first time we see them sometimes walking around on two legs. I began doing this simply because it looked funny. (One of the fun things about the entire series is we’ve been allowed to play very loose and easy with the reality rules.) Sometimes I actually do laugh out loud when I’m working. That’s when I know a drawing’s a keeper.

In TURKEY’S EGGCELLENT EASTER the farm animals become active participants in helping Turkey design and construct his costumes. I think this might be an example of something not written into the story that I added, but I never really know for sure. Wendi and I might have been thinking the same thing.

In our latest collaboration, TURKEY GOES TO SCHOOL, the animals are even more in on the plot and at one point Pig (who in my imagination is now Turkey’s best friend) and Turkey team up to appear to be a child with a backpack.

In our forthcoming book TURKEY-TINE, I’m thinking about showing the various animal’s houses as a fun way to reveal more of the farm animal’s individual personalities and pump up the humor. Another example of things growing organically.

OUR BEST ADVICE:

Wendi:
If you’re an author, try to leave as much room as you can for the illustrator to help tell your story, and trust his or her talents.

Lee:
If you’re an illustrator, stay true to the story, but don’t be afraid to take off and run with it.

Thank you, Wendi and Lee!

Blog readers, Wendi and Lee are each donating a copy of TURKEY GOES TO SCHOOL. Lee is also donating a sketch, and Wendi is donating a picture book critique (chosen at random from anyone who subscribes to her website in this next week).

To enter the giveaways, comment once below.

Random winners will be chosen soon.

Good luck!


WENDI SILVANO has always loved children’s literature, and is now delighted to take part in creating books like those she loved as a child. She is the award-winning author of 9 picture books, a dozen early readers, numerous magazine stories and a variety of educational materials. Her picture books TURKEY TROUBLE and JUST ONE MORE both won the IRA’s Children’s Choice Award, while TURKEY CLAUS was named one of the ‘TEN BEST PICTURE BOOKS OF 2012’ by YABC. She is the mother of 5, a former teacher and the owner of a menagerie of assorted pets. Her next picture book (Turkey-Tine) is due out in late 2022 from Two Lions Press. She lives and writes in Grand Junction, Colorado, where she is the Western Slope Local Area Coordinator for the Rocky Mountain Region of SCBWI. She is represented by agent Marie Lamba of the Jennifer de Chiara Literary Agency. You can find her online at wendisilvano.com.  Subscribe to Wendi’s website (find the button on the bottom of any page of the site) and be entered to win a picture book critique by Wendi. Winner will be notified by email.)

Follow her on Twitter: @WendiSilvano and Facebook.


Lee received his formal art training at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was the recipient of the Louis S. Ware European Traveling Scholarship.

Lee’s picture books have achieved many honors, including the Michigan Reads Award, a Book Sense Hot Pick, Great Lake Book Award, The Gift of Literacy Oregon Book Choice, Amazon Charts Top 20, International Reading Association-Children’s Book Council Children’s Choice title, and YABC Top Ten Picture Book.

His books have also been nominated for state book awards in Vermont, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Nevada, Florida (Honor Book), South Carolina, North Carolina, Nebraska, Arizona, and Washington.

Artwork from several of his books is included in the permanent collection of The Mazza Museum of International Art from Picture Books.

Lee has four children and lives on a small farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania with his wife Krista, four sheep, eleven chickens, two dogs, two cats, two ducks, two pigs, and a family of barn swallows. (At last count) His favorite hobbies are bicycling, hiking, woodworking, and creating short films for his YouTube channel Stella’s Farm.

You can visit him online at Leeharperart.com.

by Deb Adamson

A CHRISTMAS EVE WISH FOR SANTA is the product of my love of all things Christmas, especially Santa. Just to illustrate, I carry a keychain that reads, Keep Christmas in your heart all through the year. I know the merry-making seed was planted by my mom who went all out during the holiday season. She created magical memories and traditions that stuck with me, and I hopefully have done the same with my own son!

A CHRISTMAS EVE WISH FOR SANTA wrote itself. And for me, that is rare. I am known to simmer with a manuscript, ruminating for weeks or sometimes months until I feel I have what I need to sit at the keyboard and see where the idea goes. But this book came to me in rhyme and rhyming ideas, for me, are oftentimes more intuitive.  I also have another Santa picture book manuscript ready for submission. And that one, written in prose most certainly did not write itself! I came at it from a completely different angle—a super, silly spin on Santa.

Ok, so all that said, I guess I must have a thing for holidays in general because in 2022 my newest board book, A THANKFUL THANKSGIVING, will be published by Cottage Door Press. And I’ve also got another fun witch/Halloween manuscript that I’m just polishing up.

Holiday manuscripts are often said to be a difficult sell to editors because these books have a shorter window during the year to make their splash. There are also so many great seasonal backlist titles to compete with. But it has been my experience through working with my agent, that there are editors who are always open to something new and some specifically request holiday stories. With A CHRISTMAS EVE WISH FOR SANTA, Amy Dean, the editor at Blue Manatee Press, loved the manuscript at first sight! She immediately took to the international flavor of the text. She specifically liked paying homage and offering well wishes to Santa on his annual journey as he heads out to treat children from different cultures all across the globe. She, like me, envisions this book as a keepsake—one that will be read during the Christmas season and especially at bedtime on Christmas Eve, year after year.

I can’t say enough about Anne Zimanski’s cover and her illustrations for this book. In fact, I can’t say enough about Anne Zimanski’s children’s book illustrations! I’m fortunate and proud to say this is my third book-pairing with Anne. She illustrated a nonfiction picture book biography I wrote as a pet-project—a fundraiser for The Florence Griswold Museum, my favorite local museum in Old Lyme, Connecticut. FLORENCE GRISWOLD: THE KEEPER OF THE ARTISTS was traditionally published in 2019. Anne also illustrated my recent board book, I MISS YOUR SUNNY SMILE, published by Blue Manatee Press in March of this year. Although I offer some illustration notes, she instinctively knows what I am envisioning, so when I see her initial sketches I am blown away by how she meets and exceeds my expectations. For A CHRISTMAS EVE WISH FOR SANTA, Anne created mixed media, watercolor and line, illustrations that depict a traditional looking Santa. The interior spreads show him zipping across the world on a snowy Christmas Eve in the glow of star and moonlight. Several spreads offer a glimpse of how families, draw from their own culture to prepare and welcome Santa on his big night.

Here’s the cover reveal! And I’m adding one interior spread because I just can’t help myself.

Isn’t Anne amazing?!

GIVEAWAY ALERT! Deb is giving away a virtual school visit for the holidays! It can be for your child/grandchild’s class, or your own class if you’re a teacher.

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected soon!

Good luck!


Deb Adamson has two books out this year by Blue Manatee Press—I MISS YOUR SUNNY SMILE (March 2021) and A CHRISTMAS EVE WISH FOR SANTA, (December 2021.) She has another picture book BING, BANG, PLING coming out with Blue Manatee Press (spring 2022). A THANKFUL THANKSGIVING will be published by Cottage Door Press (fall 2022), and more to come!

Deb also writes personal essay. Her homeschooling column was syndicated by Gatehouse News and her essays have appeared in various magazines. For a decade she has been teaching weekly, adult memoir classes. When Deb isn’t focused on writing, she’s happiest hanging out with her family, gardening and pretending to be a visual artist, capturing her flowers in a watercolor-sketchbook-journal that she shares with no one but her trusted- cat, Lumpy. Visit her at debadamson.com or on Twitter @DebAdamsonBooks.

Thank you, everyone, for your outstanding doggo photos! If we had to choose based on appearance alone, it would be a tough call. We loved Bear’s homemade floofers and Library Dog’s regal aura. But we picked our two winners randomly with random.org, and we are pleased to announce them: KENDALL and WILLOW!

Kendall (Jyn Hall)

Willow (Lyn Jekowsky)

Mike Boldt will BLOOPIFY them both! Congratuations to owners Jyn Hall and Lyn Jekowsky! I will touch base with you on Twitter!

And now, here’s a gallery of all the BLOOP-lovin’ doggos! What good boys and girls!!!

Ellie

Chili & Layla

Hank

Rosie

Library Dog

Maylo

George

CuzO

Bear

 

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
January 2, 2022

TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 2022

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