I met the talented author-illustrator Roxie Munro several years ago while appearing at the Princeton Children’s Book Festival. Our tables were next to each other, and knowing she had been well-published for over thirty years, I sidled up to ask her about the business. She was gracious with the advice—when she wasn’t busy signing books! Her table was a popular destination, and I made sure to pick up a couple of her books for my daughters as well.

One of those titles, MAZEWAYS: A to Z, became a steady favorite in our house. Imagine “Where’s Waldo” meets a maze activity book crossed with an alphabet book. What a concept! The intricate illustrations and planning that had to go into the book mesmerized my imagination. How did she do it???

So when I saw Roxie again this spring for the Chesapeake Children’s Book Festival, I zoomed toward her table. And I spotted it—her next great concept—MASTERPIECE MIX.

Once again, Roxie was gracious enough to answer my questions about this new book—her 45th—which hits shelves TODAY from Holiday House!

Roxie, your maze books astound me because such meticulous planning must go into every spread. Likewise, MASTERPIECE MIX must have required much planning to fit 37 art masterpieces into the final spread. Can you give us a glimpse into the process for this book?

The maze books are harder, actually (I remember once a solution to a complex maze came while I was asleep, dreaming about it). I had the idea for MASTERPIECE MIX more than 15 years ago. I did a complete dummy, but it was rejected by my publisher at the time, and I just put it into my flat files. A couple years ago, I showed the dummy to Mary Cash at Holiday House. She really liked it, but thought the middle section, where I showed perspective, color wheels, volume and shadows, and other art techniques, was too confusing. Grace Maccarone, another editor there, suggested genres, like still life, landscapes, portraits and so forth… that was the creative “click” it needed.

We were concerned about getting permissions to use images, but I discovered that the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC had just instituted an Open Access policy, so I used those images for the art in the book. The grand finale actually came easy—I just had fun figuring how to incorporate those mostly historic images into a contemporary city. Fragonard’s “Girl Reading” is a banner above the town library, Bellow’s boxers are used in a gym’s sign, Cassatt’s mother and child advertise a day care center.

[Click any image to get a closer view.]

Did any of the masterpieces in the book inspire you to become an artist?

I remember the Winslow Homer painting, “Breezing Up,” shown in the book, from my childhood—we had a print of it on our dining room wall in our home, and it fascinated me. Van Gogh became my favorite painter as I saw more of his work…I love his fresh, sensuous brushstrokes, his use of “participatory” (somewhat distorted) space, and wonderful awareness of pattern. And I adore Daumier’s dynamic lines and Hopper’s melancholy city.

Is the main character in the book really you?

Yep.

Ha, I knew it! 

My family loved art (my sister Ann Munro Wood is a professional artist also), and encouraged us to draw and paint. My parents made a special family trip to Washington DC just to see “Young Girl Reading” by Fragonard when it was acquired by the National Gallery of Art in the early 1960s—it felt like seeing the Mona Lisa—excited press reports announcing the purchase, and lots of visitors to the Gallery.

I visited Arles, France, in a pilgrimage to my beloved Van Gogh. Of course have visited the Louvre, D’Orsay etc in Paris; the Rembrandt and Van Gogh museums in Amsterdam; the Uffizzi in Florence; the National Gallery in London; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Prado in Madrid; Munch Gallery in Oslo; MOMA, the Met, and the Hopper shows at the Whitney here in NYC. And many other museums in the USA and the world, although not all in research for this book. Even visited Gauguin’s grave in the Marquesas Islands.

I’ve also been to the Honolulu Museum of Art, San Francisco Art Institute, Chicago Gallery of Art, Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth; Baltimore Museum of Art; National Portrait Gallery and Phillips Collection in Washington DC; Victoria and Albert in London; National Museum in Stockholm; National Gallery in Edinburgh; the Frick and Guggenheim in NYC; etc., etc.

What do you hope readers (and search-and-finders) will take away from MASTERPIECE MIX?

I hope that readers will understand that creativity requires education, and references to those who have gone before you, but also your own personal experience and insight. You need both. Creativity is often combining the old and the new in fresh ways.

And practicing—a knowledge of craft and process—is helpful. It is useful in getting your point across in an accessible clear competent way. Paraphrasing the cliche: Art is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

But the creative inspiration lifts the work, and gives it wings…it delights.

Wow, thank you, Roxie. This was a fascinating look into your artwork and process.

Blog readers, you can be sure that this book delights—and you can find out for yourself by going out to get MASTERPIECE MIX, and/or winning this giveaway.

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected in about two weeks.

Good luck…and keep creating

In the midst of her first Storystorm in 2015, Sarah Lynne Reul was picking up her daughter from French lessons (her husband is French with family in France) when she began receiving a slew of text messages from friends checking in to say they were safe. She had no idea what was going on. Turning on the radio, she heard scant details about the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“I walked into the after-school building full of people with family in France, and it seemed nobody else was yet aware of the attacks.  I couldn’t decide if it was helpful or harmful for me to tell them about it, since I had so little information on what had happened.”

She recalled how everyone was glued to the TV during September 11, even though the news anchors kept repeating themselves, trying to reach conclusions before the mesmerized, worried audience.

While she was driving home, Sarah could tell that her daughter knew something was going on, even though the radio was off. “She told me she’d make a forcefield to protect everyone we knew, and it made my heart ache. I jotted that down when we got home as the idea of the day. I kept coming back to the concept, and a few weeks later created the first draft.”

The result is THE BREAKING NEWS, her debut picture book as author-illustrator. And today Sarah is revealing the cover with the story behind its evolution.

Thanks for hosting my cover reveal, Tara.

We went through a bunch of different iterations for the cover—my editor, Claire Dorsett, and my art director, Anne Diebel, provided lots of guidance and feedback throughout the process.

I began the process for the cover after I had finished all of the interior art. The original working title had been “THE BAD NEWS”, which felt a bit too negative, and for a while, we were playing with the title “ONE SMALL THING”, so you’ll see those names in some of the early sketches below. We eventually settled on “THE BREAKING NEWS” as a final title, which we all felt works best for the book.

Here are some of my earliest sketches for the cover.

I liked the one that I had circled here—I felt like it showed a problem for the main character to solve, but ultimately it didn’t show a connection to the actual news media, which plays a pretty big role in the book.

So I tried a few options that put the focus on newspapers and/or TV, as well as the reaction of the family.

We ended up going with a variation of the middle option, and then we went back and forth on the framing. Here’s a sample mockup from Anne:

Finally, I worked on softening the expressions and exploring options for the colors and the hand lettered title to find the right combination for the final.

Fascinating glimpse into the process for this book, Sarah, thank you! And having been lucky enough to read it, I can say that it sums up the story beautifully.

THE BREAKING NEWS by Sarah Lynne Reul makes it debut April 10, 2018 from Roaring Brook Press. Mark your calendars, eager readers!

by Maria Gianferrari

To know me is to know that I love dogs. LOVE them! In fact, all of my fiction picture books currently under contract contain dogs as main characters (and I have several WIPs with dog characters too ☺).

So, to celebrate the release of HELLO GOODBYE DOG, it’s time to say “hello” to some of my favorite dogs, both real and literary:

It all begins with … Becca, the best dog in the universe. She’s a rescue dog from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and she’s the inspiration for many, most, OK ALL of the dog characters in my books. We adopted her when she was six months old. This photo taken by her rescuers, stole my heart.

Now she’s 11 ½, and the perfect writing companion.

Before Becca, there was quirky Elvis, our junk-yard dog, literally adopted from an auto-body shop:

And this is Mac, short for MacTavish, my parents’ dog (more accurately, my brother Michael’s dog):

Apparently, I was infatuated with dogs, even as a young baby. This was my Nonno’s beagle, Socco, and some random pup I was playing with:

Now it’s time to say “hello” to some of my favorite literary dogs…

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate: Bob. LOVE his voice—he’s hilarious!

The Penderwick “tails” by Jeanne Birdsall:
Loyal and loving, Hound.

Kate DiCamillo’s Winn Dixie from the eponymous, Because of Winn Dixie, because whose dog doesn’t smile? In our household, we call it the “happy Hund” syndrome. (Hund is German for dog).

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron:
Tried and true, HMS Beagle.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor
Sweet stray, Wishbone.

Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins:
Rontu/Rontu-Aru—I so wanted to live on an island with my dog, BFF, an introvert’s dream-come-true!

Dismay from the heartbreakingly lovely Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles.

A few other favorites:
Ragweed

Gaston

Daisy

Of course, this doggone good post would not be complete without …
Thyra Heder’s adorable, Jelly:

The Great Houndini, by Danny Chatzikonstantinou:

And last, but not least, Moose, lovingly rendered by Patrice Barton!

And, you guessed it! There’s a new dog in my next fiction book, Operation Rescue Dog, coming from Little Bee in 2018: Lulu! It will be illustrated by Luisa Uribe. Here are two dogs from her book, Un Día, to give you an idea of her style:

Now it’s your turn to say “hello.” Who are your favorite literary dogs?

Leave a comment below, and you’ll be in the running for your very own copy of HELLO GOODBYE DOG! I’m sure that you’ll love Patrice Barton’s illustrations just as much as I do!

Thanks for letting me gush about all these pawsome dogs, Tara!!

HELLO GOODBYE DOG BLOG TOUR
GIVEAWAYS EVERY DAY!!

*Monday, July 24th: Pragmatic Mom + THREE book giveaway!
*Two for Tuesday, July 25th: Librarian’s Quest & Reading for Research
*Wednesday, July 26th: Homemade City
*Thursday, July 27th: Kid Lit Frenzy
*Friday, July 28th: Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
*Monday, July 31st: Picture Books Help Kids Soar
*Tuesday, August 1st: Bildebok
*Wednesday, August 2nd: The Loud Library Lady
*Thursday, August 3rd: DEBtastic Reads!
*Friday, August 4th: Mamabelly’s Lunches with Love

EXTRA: August 25th: Kidlit411—Interview with Patrice Barton

 

Being a children’s book author means you are a perpetual child. So…what kidlit writer can resist the Lego store, with its massive wall of colorful interlocking bricks? NOT THIS ONE!

So I whistled Pink Floyd, picked me a bucket of Legos and went home to play.

The result: a Lego Fidget Spinner!

Now, I know what you’re thinking–it doesn’t have the same heft or speed as the real thing (did I just call fidget spinners “real”?). And you would be right.

BUT…

It’s a fun activity for littler kids (3 to 6) and doesn’t require any messy hot glue or complicated directions. You can be creative with the color and design, too. And it only takes 24 pieces you can find on the WALL OF BRICKS.

The spinners come in two pieces that you snap together. Here’s what they look like:

Assembly is E-Z.

First, make a cross with your 2×8 pieces.

Snap your spinners together, then place one in the middle on the front and one on the back.

 

Decorate the ends of each bar with four 1×1 pieces in your desired colors and pattern. For extra pizzazz, give it a couple of googly eyes.

I was debating putting a dot of oil in the Lego spinner hole before snapping them together, to see if that improved the spinability. (Is that a word?) But I didn’t. (Womp, womp.)

Remember folks, after you’re done playing, your inner child will be recharged and you can get right back to WRITING.

Hope everyone is having a super summer!

by Jess Keating

I can’t remember the exact time that Eugenie popped into my life. It feels like she’s always been there, alongside Jane Goodall, and other amazing scientists who changed the world, as well as my own heart. Back when I was studying zoology in university, I also knew that she was still kicking butt and contributing to science well into her eighties.

The road to SHARK LADY was a twisty one, for sure. One of my goals as an author is to always keep adapting and diversifying, learning new formats and picking up strengths here and there that play off my interests. When I first started writing for publication, I wrote nonfiction for magazines. After branching out into fiction with my middle grade series, I wanted to revisit my first loves and get more into nonfiction again. I’d started a funny expository series about animals, and I knew it was time to branch out. I wanted to create something different that still fit with my overall arc as an author and what I value.

Eugenie Clark

It was at that point that Eugenie crept back onto my radar. I recall reading an article online about her, and how she was still actively diving and sharing her love of sharks with students. Instantly, all of her work I’d read about in university came flooding back, and I knew in my gut that I was onto something. Genie was just one of those woman who inks an impression right on your heart with her passion, especially if you are a young, science-loving kid who wants to change the world.

As an author, I knew Eugenie’s story was perfect for this format, because of the strong, meaningful parallel between herself and the sharks she studied. She was underestimated, and so were her sharks! That’s a feeling that we can all relate to. As a scientist, I also can’t think of a better example of perseverance and the incredible role that curiosity can play in our lives. I wanted readers to be inspired by her story like I was, so I knew I’d have to tell it in such a way that really captured the wonder and excitement she carried for animals her whole life.

Fast forward a few months and dozens of revisions later, and SHARK LADY found it’s home with the same publishing house that gave me my first ever book deal! I’m thrilled with how it turned out, and every time I get sent a message or photo of a young reader enjoying the book, poring over the sharks on the page, I’m grateful that the path of my life overlapped even just a tiny bit with Eugenie’s. I hope it inspires young scientists out there to follow their curiosity wherever it leads. As for writers, nonfiction can be such a powerful force, and I’d love for this book to give you a little boost toward your dreams.

If you’d like to take a swing at nonfiction, I made a video sharing how I approach a new book or idea. It’s part pep talk, part how-to, and I hope it sparks something wonderful with your writing!

Thank you for sharing these valuable tips with us, Jess!

As a zoologist turned middle grade and picture book author, Jess Keating has been sprayed by skunks, bitten by crocodiles, and been a victim to the dreaded paper cut. Her MY LIFE IS A ZOO series earned two Kirkus stars, a Red Maple nomination, a Rocky Mountain Book Award nomination, and a spot on the LA Times Summer Book Pick List.

Her quirky nonfiction picture book series kicks off with PINK IS FOR BLOBFISH, with sequels to follow in 2017.

Jess is also the creator, writer and host of Animals for Smart People, a Youtube series about animals, science, and nature.

You can also check out her ‘Write with Jess Keating’ video series, geared towards inspiring young writers in the classroom.

Jess lives in Ontario, Canada, where she loves nerdy documentaries, hiking, and writing books for adventurous and funny kids. Visit her at jesskeating.com.

Jess is giving away a copy of SHARK LADY to one lucky blog reader. Leave a comment below and a winner will be randomly selected in a few weeks.

Good luck…and happy swimming in non-fiction waters! I hope you’re bitten by inspiration and your readers will gobble it up!

by Sue Fliess

One of the most popular questions I get from people is, “What inspired you to write this book?” I always hesitate a little because I wish I could say that everything I’ve produced has been a product of sublime inspiration. The truth is, many times, the end product has strayed quite a bit from the original inspired idea. That’s not a bad thing. It’s called editing. And often those edits lead you down unexplored, unexpected, paths to the story that will actually appeal to readers. What I’m saying is, it’s all good. It’s just not always what your original intention was.

Tara has invited me to elaborate here on one such project, RACE!, which COMES OUT TODAY! and of which I’m very excited—and also very proud. Thanks, Tara! As short as this story is, it has a looong history.

Back in 2007 or 2008, I wrote a character-based story about cars, in which a boy was obsessed with toy cars. I had it critiqued by Elizabeth Law, and while she liked it, she had very good pointers on making it stronger. But she called out one scene in particular, where the boy was crashing his cars. She said, “You should think about also writing a story about crashing cars. But you’ll need to find just the right house.”

So, in 2009, I started a new project called CRASH!, which was exactly that: a smashing, crashing, shaking, braking story, set at a demolition derby. My agent, Jennifer Unter, started submitting it (in 2010) and we got a lot of interest! But it was getting rejected because there was ‘too much crashing’ or it was ‘a little too violent’. Well, yes, I wanted to say, have you ever been to a demolition derby? Alas, one editor asked for a revision to inject a main character car. And ‘small car’ was born. He won the whole derby, against all the odds. It was perfect! It was just what she wanted! And then they turned it down.

Jennifer and I agreed to put it aside for a while, which was fine with me.

Fast forward to 2015. As is my style, I pull this manuscript out again and try to rethink it. Maybe I just needed to take out some of the ‘more violent’ crashing language? I softened it up a little, (still called CRASH!) but I stayed true to the story arc of a small car ending victorious, just fewer bumps and bruises along the way. Jennifer started submitting it again and one editor (Sonali Fry at little bee THANK YOU SONALI) asked if I wouldn’t mind changing the theme from a demolition derby to something else.

As I always say, I’ll try! We talked about it, and both agreed that making it about a race instead, had great appeal. It didn’t change the story theme, just the setting, and I was able to keep so much of the text as-is because there’s still a lot of squealing and screeching, vrooming and swerving, and even conking and bonking that goes on in a race. And during this revision, I added a layer. In the end, (spoiler alert!) it’s revealed that a young boy is actually playing with his toy cars in his homemade backyard racecourse. So RACE! is now a real book—woot! My critique group still refers to this story as CRASH!, as do I sometimes, but RACE! is proof that in publishing, you can’t always rush to the finish line.

Maybe the sequel should be Slow and Steady?

Wow, what a long and winding road for RACE! Thanks for sharing the story behind the story, Sue. Also thanks for providing a copy for a giveaway!

To enter the giveaway, please leave one comment below. A winner will be randomly selected in a few weeks!

Good luck, RACING FANS!

And Happy 4th of July!

Does the cliché belief “women aren’t funny” still exist? Unfortunately, yes. I read a lot of social and psychological mumbo-jumbo to explain why it survives, but it wasn’t witty enough to reblog here. So let’s just do something about it instead.

Share your favorite funny females of kidlit with this hashtag: #FunnyFemalesofKidlit. There are tons of hysterical ladies, so let’s give them the shout-out they deserve.

I’m also giving a shout-out to winners of recent giveaways. (Nice segue, huh?)

(Ooh, that GIF is also apropos for the holiday weekend.)

WAY PAST BEDTIME PRE-ORDER PRIZE PACK
Darcie Durr

TAMMI SAUER’S CARING FOR YOUR LION
Gregory E. Bray

COURTNEY PIPPIN-MATHUR’S DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL
Hannah Holt

LAURIE WALLMARK’S GRACE HOPPER, QUEEN OF CODE
Elizabeth Curry

BEN CLANTON’S NARWHAL & JELLY
Marilyn U.

JOSH FUNK’S THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH
S.E. Schipper

Congratulations, winners. Watch for an email from me.

Didn’t win this time? Don’t fret. More giveaways coming soon…

 

Hey, Tara! Thanks for letting me share about my Stinky Stench!

(Umm, P.U., but OK…?)

Over the last year and a half—ever since first book LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST was released—a small handful of bookstores around the country reached out to me asking if I’d be interested in visiting to do readings and signings.

For those in and around New England (my home), I tried to make it happen. But occasionally, a store far out of driving distance asked. And while I was honored, I didn’t have any imminent plans to travel to New Orleans or St. Louis or Los Angeles*.

Well, word got back to my amazing publicity and marketing team at Sterling Publishing. In preparation for the release of the sequel, they offered to send me on a short tour to celebrate THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH and they even worked it out that I could visit a bunch of those stores that had contacted me!

So for the first two weeks of May I traveled from Boston to Allentown, PA to Asheville, NC to New Orleans to Kalamazoo, MI taking a detoured route through Indiana and Illinois to St. Louis, then finishing up in Baltimore.

I had seven bookstore events: The Novel Neighbor, Octavia Books, Spellbound Children’s Bookshop, Bookbug, The Ivy Bookshop, and two Barnes & Nobles (Allentown, PA and Portage, MI).

At Bookbug they made these cupcakes:

And I got to hang out with a bunch of nErDcampMI friends.

At the Novel Neighbor, they ordered special Flapjacks Lip Gloss:

At The Ivy Bookshop, it was standing room only!

But the best part was that I got to visit 19 schools in those ten school days.

Some days I visited three different schools. Other days I’d stay at a single school all day and do multiple presentations.

Sometimes I’d be reading to a single class or grade at a time. Other times I presented to entire elementary schools—from 600 students in the gym to 200 students in the auditorium to 150 students in the library to 20 preschoolers in the art room—I tried it all.

One school got creative with life-size minecraft and Pirasaurs!

Sometimes I had slides and a microphone.

Other times I had neither. Luckily I’m not a diva …yet (traveling with a personal masseuse is totally acceptable, right?).

One school that I had Skyped with previously got me to read my poem about my cat that poops all over the house.

So I’d like to thank Sterling for everything! From the tour all the way back to taking a risk on the slush pile submission in 2013 that was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (yes, it was a slush pile submission – Sterling accepts unsolicited submissions via snail mail – see guidelines here).

*Don’t worry, Los Angeles. I promise I’ll get out to you eventually!

Josh is giving away YOUR CHOICE:

  • EITHER a personalized signed copy of THE CASE OF THE STINKY STENCH
  • OR a written critique of your picture book manuscript (Josh values this at an estimated $1 billion)

Leave one comment below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected soon!

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as picture books – such as Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and its sequel The Case of the Stinky Stench along with Pirasaurs!, Dear Dragon, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk (9.19.17), Albie Newton (Spring 2018), Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (2018), and more coming soon!

Josh is a board member of The Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences. He’s written a free 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books available on his website here.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes picture book manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

Find out more about Josh at his website joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Narwhals are fascinatingly cool, and lucky us, there’s a whole buncha new books that feature these unicorns of the sea. One such hilarious take is Ben Clanton’s new _____ book series NARWHAL AND JELLY. I asked Ben to share the backstory of his most awesome underwater adventure…

Ahoy Tara,

I’m thrilled you like NARWHAL AND JELLY! Thank you!

NARWHAL: UNICORN OF THE SEA! started out as a PB, or actually a series of picture books. There have been a number of iterations, but ever since NARWHAL first swam into my brain I knew one book wouldn’t be enough for me.

I first got it into my head that I wanted to make a book featuring a narwhal after seeing the book POLAR OBSESSION by Paul Nicklen several years ago. The book has some absolutely stunning photographs of narwhals in it and my mind was o-fish-ally blown. I must confess before seeing Nicklen’s book I didn’t really know about narwhals. That such a creature which seems so fantastic actually exists caught my imagination. I started doodling little narwhals even more than monsters, dragons, robots, or my other usual favorite subjects.

However, my first attempts at writing a story about one of these little narwhals didn’t turn out so great. Most of my initial ideas centered around a narwhal getting lost at sea and separated from its pod. I finally realized I was trying to force too serious of a story on this narwhal when standing in line for ice cream (Molly Moon’s in Seattle). Something about the smell of newly made waffle cones in the air and thinking about how they look like horns (or perhaps a narwhal tooth?) flipped a switch in my head and it suddenly clicked for me that Narwhal is the sort of character that is as sweet and awesome as waffles and ice cream AND that Narwhal’s story should be too.

Jelly, who is a bit of a worrier and skeptic, wasn’t so sure about this new approach for a narwhal story, but that night I came up with three stories (“Narwhal,” “Narwhal’s BEST WEEKEND EVER,” and “Narwhal’s Pod of Awesomeness”) and made quick storyboards and even a mock-up. By the next day I had several more book ideas featuring Narwhal and Jelly. And then a flood of new story ideas by the day after that.

At the time, I just assumed that these stories would/should be picture books. That was the format I was most familiar and comfortable with, but after submitting to several publishers the feedback I received from pretty much everyone was more or less the same . . . the characters are great but the stories seem slight. It was Tara Walker (Tundra Books) that mentioned the stories when viewed together seemed to add up to more than the individual parts. She encouraged me to consider exploring the format and page count. I resisted this idea at first. I didn’t mind the books being light on plot. Actually, that was a part of the appeal to me and one of the reasons I felt they worked well. But as is usual for me with any suggestion Tara gives me that I don’t agree with (which is rare) . . . I eventually came to see she was right. So I tried combining a couple of the stories into a long picture book. It felt forced. It wasn’t until I started to add panels and bonus materials that i found a way to make three 32 page “picture books” into a 64 page ______ book.

This process took years in which I kept revisiting the format and what I ended up with . . . it doesn’t exactly neatly fit into the typical designations of “picture book” or “chapter book” or “early reader” or even “graphic novel.” I suppose “graphic novel for early readers” is the closest. Yet it is really a bit of a hybrid.

Somewhat ironically, even though Tara and Tundra Books had encouraged me to explore the format they weren’t entirely sure about the unusual one I had come up with, but I had been fully converted. I was sure this was the way to go. It took awhile but Tara and Tundra finally decided to take a chance on it.

And aren’t we lucky that they did!

Thanks, Ben and Tundra!

Tundra is giving away a copy of the first NARWHAL AND JELLY book, so leave ONE COMMENT below to enter. A winner will be randomly selected soon!

Five years ago I was reading Joanne Levy’s SMALL MEDIUM AT LARGE—such a clever title and a fun read. I thought to myself…what elementary school joke’s punchline could I turn into a picture book title?

And then…

BAM!

I got whacked upside the head…

Why is 6 afraid of 7?

Because…7 ATE 9!

I felt a powerful surge of muse awaken all my senses, sorta like this…

When I get smacked so soundly, I immediate go research my idea. Surely someone already had to have published a 7 ATE 9 book, right?

Well, I should have searched on worldcat.org, but instead I went somewhere else. You can probably guess where.

And somehow I did not find a picture book with that name. I found other items, like a card game, but no picture book. But it turns out, there were picture books with that title—I was just so frantic with inspiration that I missed them. I could have been searching on a typewriter for all the attention I paid the results.

But guess what? That was a good thing. Because if I had found other 7 ATE 9 picture books, I would have immediately deflated…

And sometimes, you just have to go with your gut.

The first thing I imagined was an intrepid Private “I” being hired by a nervous and trembling number 6. The puns just started flying out, I couldn’t even stop them if I tried. I tested them on my kids. After a while, they got sick of me.

And that’s pretty much how I knew I had a good idea. Thanks, girls!

Then, shortly after Disney-Hyperion bought the manuscript, my acquiring editor extraordinaire Kevin Lewis left to pursue writing full-time.

Kevin had known exactly who should illustrate, and the two of us had already had brainstorming sessions to determine the look and feel of the book.

Thankfully, when editor extraordinaire TWO took over, Tracey Keevan hired Ross MacDonald like Kevin and I had envisioned.

I am so thankful to everyone who helped get this book into the world—my family, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Maria Elias, Kevin, Tracey, Ross, and the entire team at Disney-Hyperion. Today 7 ATE 9 debuts and I hope you will check it out.

Here’s the trailer…

It took four years to go from manuscript to book, and it was one heckuva good ride!

 

 

 

 

 

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Summer/Fall 2018

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