by Salina Yoon

Toys, toys, toys! I love toys! They are often the inspiration to my novelty books—board books with interactive features. They are designed to be touched, pulled, squeezed and played with, so my books and toys are like cousins.

Colored stacking rings, the Connect Four game, wooden puzzles, rubber duckies, and even a football has inspired a book idea! And sometimes, it’s not even a toy at all. Random objects will inspire me. My husband’s toolbox, kitchen utensils, scrap fabric, a greeting card, and even a funny jack-o-lantern on Halloween! I can’t get away from ideas creeping into my head because I’m surrounded by objects. Needless to say, I develop a ton of ideas every year. About a dozen are usually good enough to publish. And the others crawl back into my deep, dark dummy closet of doom. (See photo!)

My books are concept- and format-driven, so I’m not looking for story ideas. I look for fun concepts that allow a child to interact in a meaningful way from the physical design of the book. Rock & Roll COLORS is an excellent example. The book has a hidden track within each narrow page that allow a shiny disk to roll back and forth when the book is tilted. It makes a nice, satisfying clunking sound when the disk hits the edge. Each side of the page has an image with die-cuts, so the foil comes shining through. Each spread focuses on one color, and both images on the page are that same color. It’s so simple, but effective!

So how does this help you if you’re not developing novelty books? I say keep an open mind! Even simple objects can inspire, if you let them. For the PiBoIdMo challenge, all you need are concepts.

Surrender to your imagination! I don’t actively try to create ideas as much as allowing ideas to come into my head. Allow your mind to be free! Relax. Smile. Enjoy the process. Like the Chinese finger trap, the harder you pull, the stronger it resists. Don’t stress too much about trying to think up great ideas. When they come a-knockin’, just invite them in!

Salina Yoon is the creator of over 150 innovative books for young children. She has been named a finalist for the CBC’s Children’s Choice Book Awards for K-2nd Best Book of the Year, for Opposnakes (S&S/Little Simon), received the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Seal awards for Little Scholastic TOYS (Scholastic/Cartwheel) and Rock & Roll COLORS (Scholastic/Cartwheel), and the Nick Jr. Family Magazine Best Book of the Year award for My First Menorah (S&S). An author search on B&N, Amazon or IndieBound is the best way to track Salina’s books down. There are lots and lots of new titles releasing soon! (And Salina promises to have an updated website in Spring, 2011.)