Behold a summer escape in a picture book!

Releasing on August 1st from Flashlight Press, GIANT ISLAND reveals an astonishing secret as a grandfather and his two grandchildren embark upon a common, everyday fishing trip…or so they think…

Jane, this blog emphasizes the importance of brainstorming story ideas often to get to the book-worthy ones. Where did you get the idea for GIANT ISLAND?

Not in the usual way.

I was contacted by an editor I didn’t know, Shari Dash Greenspan, at a publishing company I hadn’t yet worked with, to help rewrite/edit the text of a book by an amazing illustrator, Doug Keith. Doug had the idea for a book about an island that is actually a giant, and what happens when a family visits it. The publisher already had the book dummy and about half of the paintings were done, but there wasn’t a working text because the story was all told visually by the illustrator. The pictures were fantastic, but they needed some assist with an actual story.

In other words, they needed a writer. And that’s where I came in.

I studied the pictures until I knew them by heart. I knew I had to give the book a text/story that matched its lyrical and yet humorous visual telling. The characters were a given—a grandfather, a grandson and granddaughter, a dog…and a giant…  I couldn’t change them, I had to make them live.

I wrote, rewrote, invented, re-invented. Editor Shari edited and illustrator Doug occasionally re-drew, and the book became what you see now. So, NOT your usual way of creating a picture book.

Shari has become a dear friend and I am still trying to sell her something else!!! Or maybe I can convince her to do a RETURN TO GIANT ISLAND where the kids help save the island from becoming someone’s home. Doug could have a grand time with that.

Aha! It was the illustrator’s idea! There are many wordless PBs, though. Why did Shari want to add words?

Because while the pictures were beautiful, the story’s subtleties were not clear enough without words. The book had never been meant to be a wordless book. But the marvelous Doug was not more artist than wordsmith. So we each brought our A games to make the book—artist, editor, art director, and author in that order. Not the usual order, but this time it worked. Whew!!!

Click on spreads to enlarge

What were your concerns as you were writing and wanting to stay true to Doug’s story? Did you communicate with him during the process?

I tried to stay close to what Doug had already done, at least as close as possible. I had my fierce (and funny) editor to keep me on track. We all wanted it to seem seamless. And I think (hope) that is true.

Was it harder than just writing the piece from the start and letting an illustrator go at it?

A bit.

But isn’t that just a reversal of roles? Because that is what artists do all the time—take the words and turn them into pictures!

Also, I have done this before, once with a picture book retelling of Sleeping Beauty with artist Ruth Sanderson. And in about twelve books of poetry in which I wrote poems to go with my son Jason’s photographs of animals on sea, land, and in the sky.

What do you hope readers will take away after reading GIANT ISLAND?

GIANT ISLAND is a book about magic and imagination that spans a family’s generations and ages, from children to grandfather. And it is also about storytelling, though that is subtext. And for me, it had another meaning because I got to meet and befriend both editor Shari and illustrator Doug.

What is it about magic and secrets that children love so much?

I am not sure. I know that from childhood, magic stories sustained me.

But I also remember a young Scottish boy, son of a friend, to whom I gave a witch book I had written, and he handed it back solemnly saying, “Boys like books about real things.” (Of course I know a computer scientist who creates fantasy board games. Go figure!)

This story involves a grandfather and his grandchildren—do you have any secret family stories?

As a grandmother, I often tell the story of MY grandmother and grandfather their eight children living in “the old country” (Ukraine). When the Russian Cossacks came to raid Jewish villages and set houses on fire, my five-foot-nothing, red-headed grandmother would gather her children and her neighbors’ children, put them into a large horse-drawn cart, and cover them with hey and grains. She would drive them out of the village and into the safety of the forest, waving at the Cossacks who thought, with her red hair, that she was probably Polish (and not Jewish). So they left her alone.

I hope I have inherited some of her tough magic, her courage. The family left their big house in the early 1900s and migrated to America. Last month the Russians bombed the house, but we lucky Yolens are safe here. It’s a story that my children and their children will be able to tell forever.

What a beautiful story, Jane! Or I should say, two beautiful stories!

GIANT ISLAND is a gorgeous book, and Jane brings GIANT ISLAND to life with subtlety, to let the majestic illustrations by Doug Keith speak with their wonder. Jane tells the reader only what they need to know—and the rest can be left up to the imagination. Who is this giant? How did he get here? What other adventures await the children?

GIANT ISLAND releases next week from Flashlight Press!

Blog readers, I am giving away a copy of GIANT ISLAND.

Just leave one comment below.

A random winner will be selected in two weeks.

Good luck!

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for a BLOOP plush by MerryMakers!

The three winners are:

  • Donna Rossman
  • Janelle Stigall
  • Ashley Sierra

Congratulations! I will be in touch to get your shipping details!

FYI, there is a coupon on the MerryMakers website, plus BLOOP the book is on sale at HarperCollins.com.

Happy reading and happy writing!

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen this last week:

So today’s the day! I’m going to give away 3 adorable BLOOP plush dolls by Merrymakers! I’ll choose the 3 winners randomly in two weeks on Monday, July 11 (because we all need something good on a Monday).

Here’s how to enter:

  • Review the picture book BLOOP anywhere online
  • Post anything about #BLOOP on social media (← using hashtag)

You receive one giveaway entry for each social media post or review. Just leave ONE COMMENT PER ENTRY METHOD below. All you have to do is say, “Shared BLOOP on Facebook” or “Reviewed BLOOP on Goodreads”. Remember, make one comment below per entry method. So if you did two things, that’s two comments and thus two entries.

You can share anything you’d like about the book. Post the cover, a brief endorsement, the premise, your favorite doggo from the story, a photo of your doggo reading the book—anything.

(This is Kendall, Jyn Hall’s sweet pupper.)

Make sense? Fabulous!

Bloop is wagging his tail just for you!

(Look at how curlicue cute it is!)

Also, the Bloop plush is SAFE FOR ALL AGES—there are no small buttons or anything that a young child could remove and choke on. All details are sewn.

Good luck!

Thanks to Merrymakers, Inc. for the plushies!

Ahh, don’t you just love cover reveals? There’s nothing better as an author, to finally see your creation in all its beautiful bookshelf glory. The story that began as a little seed and grew into a manuscript has finally taken root and it’s ready to soar.

Speaking of soar, I’ve got Annie Silvestro here today to welcome her newest picture book to the world.

BRAVO, LITTLE BIRD!

(That’s the title of the book, not my nickname for Annie.)

Since I’m fascinated by ideas and how they leap into our minds, I asked Annie to share a backstory of the story.

For years my son took piano lessons at his teacher’s home. She had a beautiful front lawn and the piano sat in her living room with windows facing out to the yard. As I would listen to the lesson, occasionally a deer or a rabbit would pop up in the grass and I imagined they were listening to and enjoying the music, too.

Sitting there, I also had plenty of time to think! Of course birds also came to the piano teacher’s window, and being that many birds are musical creatures, a bird seemed like a good match for the story I wanted to tell.

At some point as the idea percolated, I scribbled down the first line into my nightstand notebook and the story began to take shape in my mind.

At heart, BRAVO, LITTLE BIRD!, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki, is a friendship story between an old man and a bird, and about how the power of music affects us and unites us in ways we don’t even realize. I look forward to sharing it with you!

For now, I am grateful to Tara for revealing the truly beautiful cover illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki. Thank you, Tara!

It’s gorgeous, Annie! I can feel both the music and the bird taking flight!

BRAVO, LITTLE BIRD! will be published by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books on February 21, 2023. Watch for it to flutter into your bookstore window!


Annie Silvestro is a lover of books who can often be found shuffling piles of them around so she has a place to sit or someplace to put her teacup. She is the author of the forthcoming BRAVO, LITTLE BIRD as well as DYLAN’S DRAGON, SUGAR AND SPICE AND EVERYTHING MICE, BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB GOES TO SCHOOL, BUTTERFLIES ON THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL, THE CHRISTMAS TREE WHO LOVED TRAINS, MICE SKATING, and BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, named a Kids’ Indie Next List Pick, an Amazon best book of the year for 2017, and a 2018 pick for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Annie lives with her sons by the beach in New Jersey where she laughs loudly and often. Visit her at AnnieSilvestro.com and follow her on Twitter @AnnieSilvestro.

Some of you may already be familiar with my crazy cat, Phoebe.

She meowed at my back door one night, I opened the sliders, and she sashayed in, looked around and said, “Isn’t this great?”, just like Damone from Fast Times at Ridgemont High—anywhere you are, that’s the place to be! (Especially if it has a fireplace and tuna.)

So when Maria Gianferarri asked if I’d do a cover reveal for her companion book to BEING A DOG, Phoebe stepped up to ask the questions about BEING A CAT: A TAIL OF CURIOSITY.

(For ease of reading, I’ve translated from Phoebe’s native Feline tongue.)

Maria,  I’m curious, where is Cat’s favorite place to nap?

Cat’s favorite place to nap is dog’s bed.

Surely that can’t be the ONLY place to take a snooze?

Atop a radiator, or in a slice of sun.

Ahh, I know all about sun slices.

Anything else Cat wants to impart to the readers? 

Yes. Curiosity did NOT kill the cat.

Thanks, Maria! Now without further meow, the BEING A CAT cover by illustrator Pete Oswald!

Sittin’ pretty!

Blog readers, the prolific Maria is giving away a PB critique with this reveal.

Just leave one comment below.

A random winner will be selected at the end of the month.

Good luck!


Maria Gianferrari wonders and is in awe of the natural world and its inhabitants, domestic and wild cats included. She lives in Massachusetts with her inquisitive scientist husband and Maple the dog, a watcher who’s curious about anything that moves, especially if she can chase it! Curiously, though an unabashed dog lover, this is Maria’s third book featuring cats as main characters, most recently Bobcat Prowling, as well as Officer Katz and Houndini. You can learn more about Maria at her website, MariaGianferrari.com.


Pete Oswald is a #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator and an Annie Award-nominated animation production designer best known for The Angry Birds Movie film franchise and Oscar® Nominated ParaNorman, in addition to multiple animated studio films. He is also known for his work as a children’s book author and illustrator, and painter. Pete lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife and three sons.

by Judy Bradbury

Thanks, Tara, for inviting me to your blog space to offer a few tips on writing chapter books! I’m honored to be here.

A bit of background: THE CAYUGA ISLAND KIDS is chapter books series is contemporary fiction featuring five diverse friends who embark on backyard adventures, solve mysteries, and grow as a result of their experiences. The kids are resourceful, kind-hearted “fact detectives” who use their varied interests, their smarts, kindness, and humor to overcome hurdles and solve problems. Above all, these are kids who value friendship and community. The stories feature history, community service, respect for the environment, brainstorming, teamwork, misinformation, disinformation, and the importance of gathering all the facts—from more than one source—when tackling a problem, seeking a solution, and before landing on an opinion or drawing a conclusion.

The first book in the series, THE MYSTERY OF THE BARKING BRANCHES AND THE SUNKEN SHIP, is based on real events involving a found cannonball believed to be from the Griffon, a treasure ship that sank somewhere in the Great Lakes in 1679 on the return from its maiden voyage. The ship has never been recovered, though over a million dollars has been spent trying. There’s even a Discovery Channel episode about it. When I first read a newspaper story about a cannonball found in a backyard on Cayuga Island, I was immediately intrigued. After all, the ship was built on the residential island a few miles upstream from Niagara Falls where I grew up. Heck, the street I lived on was Griffon Avenue. It was named after the ship!

I knew I wanted to write a children’s book centered on the found cannonball. But it took months to land on the genre and the format.

  • Nonfiction or fiction?
  • Historical or contemporary?
  • Which format: picture book, chapter book, or middle grade?

Eventually, I formed the idea for a contemporary fiction story based on the true events. I chose to write a chapter book because the topic and the level of detail I wanted to include seemed best suited for the age and interest level of the chapter book audience, and the characteristics of the chapter book format.

Chapter books are vital stepping stones for newly independent readers. Smaller in cover size than picture books, they look and feel more grown up. But they are slimmer than middle grade novels so as not to intimidate or overwhelm the young reader. Building confidence in growing readers is a critical aspect of a successful chapter book.

Targeting 6-10 year-olds, chapter books span from easy first readers that are generally 48-64 pages with a couple of words per page, to more involved stories (80-130 pages) that naturally lead growing readers to middle grade novels. THE CAYUGA ISLAND KIDS chapter books intended for 7-10 year-olds fall into this upper range. For the purposes of our discussion, those are the level of chapter books I’ll offer writing tips for here.

Key elements form the bedrock to writing a winning chapter book—one that will cement an interest in reading and lead to a lifelong love of books:

  • Short sentences and brief chapters—less text density than middle grade books. More white space keeps the reader turning pages, which reinforces a feeling of success in reading.
  • Limited cast of characters; introduce few sub-plots and minor characters
  • Fast-paced plots with minimal narration and plenty of action keep readers engaged
  • Appropriate grade level reading vocabulary
  • Age-level interests and experiences
  • Well-placed and well-spaced illustrations aid comprehension and keep interest high

If you are interested in trying your hand at writing a chapter book, begin by reading widely in the format, particularly in the genre of your intended book. Read new releases as well as classics. Become familiar with grade-level reading vocabulary for the age range your book targets. Check reading level using a readability measure, such as Lexile levels. Is it within range? Young readers’ listening, speaking, and reading vocabularies vary, with their reading vocabulary being the least developed, and thus the biggest challenge—to the reader and the writer. Introduce new vocabulary or tougher, multisyllabic words by using the word in context, or providing a definition within the text, either within the sentence, or immediately before or after. Repeat new and unfamiliar words to foster recognition. The more often a word is encountered in print, the more comfortable the reader becomes with it. Reinforce unfamiliar words with illustrations details.

Illustrations in the best of picture books expand and enrich the text—and often offer a parallel story line. However, this isn’t the goal of illustrations in chapter books. Here, pictures are meant to support comprehension. Usually chapter books feature partial page or spot illustrations with occasional full-page art; black-and-white pen and ink drawings are common.

Engaging, high-interest topics, accessible language, and visual appeal are essential. Chapter book plots center on experiential knowledge and curiosity about the world around us. Friendships, family, school, and growing independence are common themes for chapter books. Humor is always appreciated, from gentle wittiness to raucous roll-on-the-floor hijinks. Children in this age group are curious, accepting, eager, and willing to be engaged. As they explore and embark on adventures in their own corner of the world, they are eager to broaden understanding of the larger world and acquire knowledge, tools, and skills. Book 2 in the Cayuga Island Kids series, THE ADVENTURE OF THE BIG FISH BY THE SMALL CREEK, focuses on a community project for recycling. The kids come to realize that though we are each just one person, together we can make a big difference. It recently was awarded the Ben Franklin Silver Award for Young Reader Fiction, 8-12.

Don’t underestimate the 7-10 year-old reader. In Book 3 of the Cayuga Island Kids series, released just a couple of weeks ago, misinformation and disinformation are introduced through events that take place in the story. These are big words, big concepts. But they are also a big part of our world today. THE CASE OF THE MESSY MESSAGE AND THE MISSING FACTS centers on the importance of getting all the facts and not just a fraction of the truth before forming on an opinion or drawing a conclusion. Readers encounter flour bugs, missing glitter pens, wonky websites, a Little Free Library, chocolate chip cookies, and more.

Finding meaningful, accessible, and entertaining ways to approach important concepts and mindsets is both a challenge and a reward for the chapter book author hoping to provide a sturdy bridge for the young independent reader’s journey to becoming a lifelong reader.

Thank you for the tips, Judy! I know plenty of PB writers who would like to try the challenge of writing Chapter Books.

And blog readers, you can win a copy of Book 3 in the Cayuga Island Kids collection, THE CASE OF THE MESSY MESSAGE AND THE MISSING FACTS!

Just leave a comment below about what you’ve learned about writing CBs. A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!


Photo by Peter Scumaci

Judy Bradbury is an award-winning author and literacy educator who has taught students from preschool through college. Judy’s children’s books include the Cayuga Island Kids chapter book series and the Christopher Counts! picture book series. Judy is also the author of a number of resources for educators and host of the popular Children’s Book Corner blog featuring interviews with authors and illustrators and suggestions for using their books to enhance curriculum while boosting social-emotional learning. For more information, visit Judy’s website. Connect with Judy on Instagram @judy_bradbury; Twitter @JudyBWrites; and LinkedIn.

It’s almost summer! Get ready to take a dip!

A dip in the debut waters, that is! I’ve been following Kaz Windness for years now and I have long admired her quirky artwork. So when she emailed me about her first picture book, you know I had to jump right in!

Kaz, you know I love to talk about picture book ideas—where did this one come from?

The idea for SWIM, JIM! came from the news.

A man in Key Largo, Florida saw a crocodile crossing a canal floating on top of a pool noodle and snapped a picture.

I saw the photo and drew a picture of my version of that crocodile. When I showed the drawing to my agent, he said there was a story there and encouraged me to write the book.

I failed swimming lessons as a child and know what it’s like to be afraid of the water. In fact, I still need floaties in the pool, so Jim and I have a lot in common. It took me a couple of weeks to work out the story and a few more to draw the dummy book, and then we were out on submission!

OMG! I love getting ideas from “weird news”!

Since I’m just an author, I’ve always been curious if when an author-illustrator comes up with ideas for stories, do you limit yourself by what you think you can illustrate?

I limit myself by what I want to illustrate, not by what I think I can illustrate. I don’t mind a challenge and will figure out a way to draw something if it’s part of my brief. I am definitely a character-driven artist and storyteller, so if you give me a good character, I am happy to provide that character with whatever they need. Usually, my environments are more implied more than highly rendered, but I have a lot of tools in my toolbox to get around complicated illustrations.

And those tools include pool tubes! (Say that 10 times fast!)

Now Kaz, a little croc told me you had a traumatic swimming experience as a child…?

My swimming teachers threw me off the high dive when I was 4. My mom pulled me from swim lessons that same day. On reflection, those swimming teachers were probably mid-teens, but it did wreck me for swimming. I like the water, but I don’t swim.

I have a traumatic swim story, too! I took lessons at the local YMCA and at the end of the class, we had to paddle across the length of the pool with a kick board. For some reason, 3-year-old me thought I didn’t need no stinkin’ kick board, so I pushed it away. I can still see it skipping across the water. Then I don’t remember anything until I was grabbing my mother’s leg by the side of the pool.

OK, so are you therefore Jim in this book?

Yes! SWIM JIM is autobiographical! As are all my books in some way. Even “If UR Stabby” is all about my edgy introvert side that just wants to be left alone with my dog and listen to podcasts and write children’s books. Not all unicorns are rainbows and kittens, you know!

Next year, I have a new book called BITSY BAT, SCHOOL STAR, created by the same team and imprint that brought you SWIM JIM! Bitsy talks about my experiences of trying to fit in as an autistic kid. Bitsy Bat finds herself at a school for nocturnal animals and as hard as she tries to do things like everyone else, she can’t be anyone except her true self.

You have quite a few books coming out in the next few years! What advice do you have for PB creators hoping to do the same?

Be ready! My picture book break was a long time coming (20 years!), but once you have a relationship with an editor, they’ll ask you what else you’re working on and even recommend you to other editors. Having some WIPs on hand is a big plus. I keep a Google document called “Random Book Ideas” and sometimes the random ideas become books. I also strongly recommend having a critique group. My work is a million times better because I receive regular feedback. My critique mates are also friends that understand the bumpy journey that is publishing. We lift each other up through the lows, celebrate the highs, and buy each other tacos and art supplies just because.

SWIM, JIM! was on submission for a year and received 50 rejections before going into the auction, so the whole “don’t give up” advice is something I stand by. Being tenacious pays off in publishing, and if you can enjoy the journey in the meantime, all the better.

We had our SWIM, JIM! launch party at The Wandering Jellyfish on Saturday, and seeing the way kids responded with laughter, sympathy, and curiosity—and even dressed up like the character? It made all those years of hard work worth it!

Kaz, so your debut picture book IS autobiographical! It’s all about your publishing journey! You just kept getting back in that water! 

Thank you so much for sharing SWIM, JIM! with us!

Blog readers, Kaz is giving away a whole kit and caboodle of swim noodle swag! Just enter via this Rafflecopter!

Kazgratulations, again Kaz! (I know, I’m corny.)


Kaz Windness is an autistic author-illustrator specializing in inclusive stories featuring cute and quirky animals for younger children and spooky and edgy humor for older kids and teens.

Kaz studied children’s book illustration at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design (RMCAD) where she was a valedictorian graduate in 2002. Kaz volunteered as the SCBWI Rocky Mountain Chapter Illustrator Coordinator from 2009-2021 and continues to mentor and advocate for illustrators. She is passionate about helping artists succeed and believes education is key. She is a professor of illustration and curriculum author at RMCAD (2013-present).

Kaz is obsessed with squishy-faced dogs, waffles, thrifting, and all things spooky and witchy-woo-woo. She loves working in watercolor, gouache, acrylic, collage, and pencil, but mostly Photoshop. There’s not much she won’t turn into an art supply. 

Kaz lives in Colorado with her English teacher husband, two children, and a bunny-obsessed Boston Terrier named Remy. Visit her at linktr.ee/kazwindness.

The world is a complicated place, even on this blog where I’m struggling to find the right words to introduce debut author Ty Chapman and his groundbreaking new book, SARAH RISING. Thankfully, Ty explains his thought process behind the book and its focus on social justice, told in a way a young person can appreciate and comprehend.

Ty, this blog talks a lot about story ideas. How did this one arise?

The idea for SARAH RISING came about in the midst of the racial uprising here in Minneapolis. At the time, there was so much misinformation around what was going on, and what the protests actually looked like. As I saw inaccuracy after inaccuracy being shared widely by “reputable” news sources, I began thinking a lot about access to information and who gets to write history. I also thought a lot about what historical events I had experienced as a child, and what my relationship to them was.

Arguably, the biggest historical event of my childhood was 9/11. I was in kindergarten at the time, and my primary memories from that day were my teacher inexplicably crying, and all of the children gathering in a circle to watch the news shortly thereafter. I knew I wanted to write a book about the uprising because I didn’t want it to be some foggy memory in the minds of our young people with very little context as to what actually happened and why. I also knew that if I was going to speak to such a heavy topic, I needed to do so with care and in a way that inspired hope and future activism. I threw a few ideas at the wall before finally stumbling upon the concept for SARAH RISING.

It’s wonderful that you seek to give children the context and understanding you did not have. How did you distill such a heavy topic in a way that’s accessible to a child?

My approach truly begins with the belief that children are capable of understanding much more than we give them credit for. While I certainly don’t show the full details of police brutality in this picture book, the language in the book is pretty direct throughout. I think it’s impossible to speak on these issues in a meaningful way without being very honest and direct. That said, the use of metaphor is very helpful in striking that balance. Using Sarah’s monarch butterfly as the climax of the story allowed me to show the nature of police brutality without traumatizing the youth. It’s also helpful with these heavier topics to ultimately end on themes of hope—to remind the young reader that they can be a big part of making a better future by standing up for what they believe in.

What kind of edits did you make after the book was acquired?

Once the work was acquired, much of the edits were focused on illustrator notes. We focused in particular on representing the wide array of racial/ethnic groups present in the Twin Cities. We wanted to be sure that the Twin Cities’ diversity was represented in the pages. There was also some nitty gritty editing of word choice, but honestly not very much. Because my agent, Savannah Brooks, and I had already gone through a couple rounds of edits, there wasn’t too much that needed to be tweaked once the work was acquired.

Did anything about the process of bringing the story to print surprise you?

The biggest surprise for me was probably the illustrations. I knew the illustrator, DeAnn Wiley, was incredibly talented, but nothing could have prepared me for some of the gorgeous spreads in the book. She did a terrific job capturing the essence of the Twin Cities, and crafting stunning spreads that took my breath away. It’s one thing to loosely imagine a couple of visuals—it’s another thing entirely to have a talented illustrator take your concepts and breathe greater life into them.

Ty, thank you for sharing SARAH RISING with us and congratulations on its publication. 

Blog readers, you can win a copy of SARAH RISING just by leaving a comment below.

A winner will be randomly selected later this month.

Good luck!


Ty Chapman is the author of SARAH RISING (Beaming 2022); LOOKING FOR HAPPY (Beaming 2023); A DOOR MADE FOR ME, written with Tyler Merritt (WorthyKids 2022); TARTARUS (Button Poetry 2024); as well as multiple forthcoming children’s books through various publishers. Ty was a finalist for Tin House’s 2022 Fall Residency, Button Poetry’s 2020 Chapbook Contest, and Frontier Magazine’s New Voices Contest. He is currently an MFA candidate in creative writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts and was recently named a Loft Literary Center Mirrors & Windows fellow and Mentor Series fellow. Visit him at TyChapman.org.

by Salina Yoon

In the spring of 2021, my editor reached out to see if I’d be interested in writing and illustrating another Penguin book to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Penguin’s first book, PENGUIN AND PINECONE, a friendship story. It was an incredible opportunity to bring the series back to the forefront with a new book!

BUT, it was also a daunting task because in my mind, the series was complete with the 6 published books. The last Penguin book I wrote was in 2016, with PENGUIN’S CHRISTMAS WISH (Bloomsbury/2017). I had written one book after the next at the time, so I wondered if I could go back to the place of Penguin’s world and create a new story that was not only authentic to Penguin, but also something new and fresh, and deserving to be published.

Penguin’s 7th book began with thinking of a new character for Penguin to meet. I wanted this character to be different from all his previous friends—like Crab, Polar Bear, and Pinecone—while also being very different from Penguin. He has an eclectic taste in friends, and they often take him on new and surprising adventures.

I chose an elephant, and named her Penelope.

The elephant was different from a penguin in many ways; large body vs. small body, 4 feet vs. 2 feet, trunk vs. beak, rough skin vs. smooth feathers, large ears vs. no ears, tropical habitat vs. cold habitat, just to name a few contrasting elements. The goal I had was to find something unique that connects them despite their obvious differences. Once I found that piece in the story, I knew I had something to work with! The cover gives you a clue to what they share in common—they can both swim!

Penguin’s books show the importance of friendship and the value of kindness through a heartwarming journey like no other. In Penguin and Penelope, Penguin finds Penelope stuck in mud, and he helps her find her way back home through a journey of friendship, growth, and self-discovery.

Salina, what a delightful problem to have—envisioning a 7th book in an established series!

Congratulations on PENGUIN AND PENELOPE, which releases on September 6, 2022. The special anniversary edition of PENGUIN AND PINECONE will come out on November 1.

Blog readers, Salina is giving away one set of the first 6 PENGUIN BOOKS! 

Leave one comment to enter.

A random winner will be selected in June.

Good luck!


Salina Yoon is a Geisel Honor-winning author/illustrator of a dozen picture books and early readers and nearly 200 innovative novelty books, with over 5 million books sold worldwide, including KIKI AND JAX, the life-changing magic of friendship, a picture book she co-authored and illustrated with international tidying superstar and bestselling author, Marie Kondo. Visit her online at SalinaYoon.com.
 

 

 

 

 

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome Patricia Storms with her newest book, SUN WISHES. I caught a glimpse of the cover online and I was immediately captivated by the bold colors. I was so drawn to the book, I had to ask her about it!

Patricia, this blog focuses on story ideas, so please tell us how you got the concept for SUN WISHES?

It’s interesting how SUN WISHES came to be.

SUN WISHES would not have happened without MOON WISHES, which came into the world in 2019.

MOON WISHES came about as a conversation with my husband Guy. The response from MOON WISHES was so kind and positive. I wasn’t sure what the response would be, because it was a different kind of picture book—soft, dreamy, poetic. I was pleased that people enjoyed MOON WISHES, but it really did not occur to me to write a sequel, or follow-up. But I was at a Christmas party in 2019 (a party full of children’s authors & illustrators, by the way), and I had brought a copy of Moon Wishes with me. One of the guests turned to me after reading Moon Wishes and said, “Well, when are you going to write SUN WISHES?” My jaw dropped. I had never considered that! So then I could not get that title out of my head, and within the next few days, the words poured out of me so easily, like a gift from the heavens.

You are an illustrator yourself, but Milan Pavlović is the illustrator for both books. How did that come about?

Yes, I did receive a lot of questions/confusion when MOON WISHES came out—why was I letting someone else illustrate my text, if I can illustrate my own books? Well, it’s like this: before MOON WISHES came out, I had illustrated a couple of books under a very tight deadline, and I was mentally exhausted. Illustrating a picture book is a lot of hard work. But the main reason why Milan illustrated MOON WISHES and SUN WISHES is that he was the perfect person to illustrate my words.

I agree! His style is perfect for this book. The colors are so rich and vivid, and I love the way certain pages have an overall color theme based on the time of day or location. You can’t stop marveling at it.

For most of my creative career I have focused on cartooning, so all the books I have illustrated have been cute and funny. But all of a sudden I was getting all these soft and gentle words coming out of me. I can draw/paint in a soft manner, but I wasn’t sure I could suddenly change styles and create gentle art under a tight deadline. Plus I was really excited at the thought of having someone else illustrate my words. I’d never had that experience, professionally.

It’s scary to try new things when you are not sure of the end result, and trust me, I was a tad nervous (giving creative control over to another artist) but the end results were way beyond my expectations (this also includes my other book, THE DOG’S GARDENER, which was illustrated by the amazing Nathalie Dion). I do want to grow as an artist, so since the beginning of the pandemic I started painting using gouache, trying to stretch my skills. My dream is to illustrate a picture book using gouache instead of coloring digitally. We will see what transpires…

The last three books you have written have a very low word count, and even your earlier picture book, NEVER LET YOU GO has just over 100 words. Is there a reason behind that?

Yes, I do seem to have a penchant for short, short fiction. I’m not exactly sure what to say other than I think that’s how my creative brain works when it comes to writing. Even when I was very young, I wrote short works. I still have my kindergarten report card and my teacher wrote, “Patricia’s stories, though brief, are very imaginative.” I loved reading all the clever one-panel gag cartoons I found within New Yorker cartoon collection—short, clever jokes really rocked my world. I wrote lots of short poems back then, and then I eventually graduated to magazine gag cartoons and greeting cards. The next logical step seemed to be picture books. It’s not easy to write a story with a limited amount of text, but I really enjoy the challenge. I have read the criticisms of my works—some folks don’t quite get my approach to writing picture books; they think there is no ‘story’ within my words. I’ve read comments like “nothing happens” in some of the book reviews (I know, I shouldn’t read the negative reviews!). Well I would argue that lots happens—it’s just beneath the surface, and the approach is very quiet. I like picture books with lots of energy and highs and lows, but there is a place for quiet stories that make you think, and get to the heart of the matter.

Thank you for sharing SUN WISHES with us, Patricia! It’s a gorgeous, captivating book!

Blog readers, you can win a copy of SUN WISHES. Just leave one comment below.

A random commenter will be selected at the end of this month.

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Ever since Patricia Storms can remember, she has loved to draw, paint, write, read, and sing. She was 12 years old when my first cartoon was published in a Toronto newspaper. She got paid five dollars for that cartoon, so she figured that maybe she should keep drawing. She’s been writing, drawing and painting ever since, publishing dozens of books which you can find here.

Visit her online at patriciastorms.com and follow her on Twitter @stormsy.

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My Books

Coming soon:


TIME FLIES
"7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I" BOOK #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
April 26, 2022

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