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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.

by Susan Macartney

Tara, thank you! I’m so happy to share my success story. Spoiler alert: It’s never too late to embark on this journey!

“Winding” doesn’t quite do justice to my meandering, zigg-zagging road to publication as an author-illustrator. I’ve always been drawn to both the arts and the sciences. So maybe I could have saved some time if I’d made a beeline for narrative nonfiction! Didn’t happen… First I studied zoology and anthropology and then ended up working in graphic design for 20 years. No question—a convoluted, interesting path, and along the way I continued to tinker with writing and illustrating children’s stories.

I joined SCBWI in 2012, was full of enthusiam about joining a writing “community”… and then my partner and I moved overseas. Temporary hold on my writing while all of “life’s dust” settled… Fast-forward to 2015, my desire to write and illustrate was still strong and I reached out again to the wide world of kidlit.

To give you an idea of how far I had to reach: I’m Canadian. I was living in Sweden. And Tara’s picture book webinar was being hosted by SCBWI… out of France! The host gave us the link to Tara’s blog and told us we should really try the November PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month) challenge—and the rest is Storystorm history.

Well, not quite… I moved again! But now the Storystorm challenge with all its amazing writing and illustrating advice was waiting for me wherever I landed. On January 5, 2018, I looked at my blank Storystorm entry page, armed only with the goal of gently exploring the theme of self-awareness. And oh yes, I knew I wanted an animal main character and for envirornmental issues to figure in the subplot. I first learned about the Galapagos Islands when I was seven. And it wasn’t long before the engaging Blue-footed booby waddled into my mind as a potential candidate—what’s not to love?

Two years later after many drafts, CP reviews and edits my debut picture book, BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET: Pajama Press, was published.

Yay Storystorm! The discipline of a defined daily challenge enhanced by professional advice for ONE creative month, worked for me on so many levels.  I’m goal-oriented and an early riser and embraced the habit of piggybacking my Storystorm entry with my morning coffee. Take note! Having that pen and dedicated notebook within easy reach also helped to minimize all the usual self-inflicted roadblocks to being creative.

Now my story ideas weren’t loose bits of inspiration scrawled on scraps of paper anymore, or worse, those “best” ideas that never even got recorded.  They’re all there in black and white – no excuses, no delusions (about how great that idea actually was) – just lots of ideas to return to, mull over and mine!

It is never too late to set forth on this journey. Remember that there is a WIDE world of like-minded people out there – learn to reach out, relish the small joys along the way and PERSEVERE!

Blog readers, Sue is giving away a signed copy of BENJAMIN’S BLUE FEET!

Leave one comment below to enter.

A random winner will be selected soon!

Good luck!


Sue has taught art to children around the world and currently works as a nature sketch artist at The Bateman Foundation in Victoria, BC. You can find Sue online at suemacartney.com and on Twitter @suesumac and Instagram @suemacartney.

by Sarah Kurpiel

Thank you, Tara, for hosting the cover reveal for my latest picture book, ORIGINAL CAT, COPY CAT (Greenwillow/HarperCollins), which “pounces” onto shelves this August!

Pineapple loves his comfortable life as the one and only cat. But when new kitten Kiwi comes along, Pineapple’s sweet life turns sour—until he sees the world from a new point of view.

Without further ado, here is the cover:

The story got its start back in 2018 with a title (which, amazingly, never changed), a loose concept, and the encouragement of my agents, Allie Levick and Rebecca Sherman. I set the idea aside while I finished my debut picture book, LONE WOLF. When I picked it up again a few months later, I jumped right into my favorite part: designing the characters. I sketched cat after cat after cat until I finally found a pair that just felt right. One day, the name “Pineapple” popped into my head. Not only did the cat I’d been sketching slightly resemble a pineapple, but also, personality-wise, he was prickly at times but sweet on the inside. It was one of those special “aha!” moments—a rather “fruitful” one! Suddenly, my head was filled with ideas for names, colors, words, and patterns. Of course, it took a while for all the pieces to come together. But, looking back, the book title and main character’s name really helped the story take shape.

While the title didn’t change, the jacket certainly did. Below are a couple of jacket concepts the wonderful team at Greenwillow considered:

As every cat person knows, cats are naturally funny. This story celebrates their everyday humor. I had a blast drawing the many antics of Kiwi, who is inspired by my own cat, Cad, pictured here getting in on an F&G photo shoot:

ORIGINAL CAT, COPY CAT will be published by Greenwillow/HarperCollins August 3, 2021 and is currently available for pre-order.

Sarah is giving away a signed copy of ORIGINAL CAT, COPY CAT to be sent your way when it releases in August 2021.

Leave one comment below to be entered into the random drawing.

Good luck!


Sarah Kurpiel is the author and illustrator of LONE WOLF, which was named an Indie Next Pick. She is a librarian and a self-taught illustrator, inspired by animals, nature, and everyday life. She uses a power wheelchair and considers her disability an important part of her identity. Sarah lives with a cat as loud and as fast as Kiwi in Downers Grove, Illinois. View her portfolio at sarahkurpiel.com and follow her on Instagram at @sarah.kurpiel.

 

by Vicky Fang

Every single one of my books came from a mix-up of ideas. So here are some exercises to help you mix it up, mash it up, and make something new.

Exercise 1: The Content Mix-up

I keep a running list of ideas on my phone. Just little snippets of words to remind me of things I’ve thought about. Every once in a while, I’ll browse through the ideas and boom! Two ideas will mix together like peanut butter and chocolate and I’ll savor my delicious new story idea. I often find that mixing two different book ideas gives a story the depth it needed to make it stand up. My debut picture book INVENT-A-PET came from these two separate idea snippets smushed together: “Magnificent mixing machine” and “Mixed-up animals.”

So try it out!

  • Find your list of ideas or spend a few minutes brainstorming a new one (these could be character ideas, story ideas, title ideas, etc.)
  • Read through the list and let your brain spark at combination possibilities.
  • For even more ideas, try picking two at random and sit with the combination for a moment to spark new ideas!

Exercise 2: The Format Mix-up

This is perhaps the more unusual mix-up approach, and yet one that has been very fruitful for me. I started out writing picture books, but as I learned more about other formats, those formats mixed with my existing picture book ideas and grew into new stories. After writing and selling Invent-a-Pet, I wrote a chapter book series, a board book series, and a graphic novel series—all based on ideas that were originally picture books!

Here’s how I recommend doing a format mix-up:

  • Start with a new-to-you format that’s fairly close to your comfort zone. (You can always expand from there!) Research and read several books in this category.
  • Notice the differences in story and theme from picture books. What are the advantages of the format? What types of stories work well in the format? What kind of voice works well?
  • Mix it up with your list of picture book ideas! Think about how those format differences might make a lackluster picture book idea shine.

For example, when my agent suggested I try out an early chapter book format, I read a number of Scholastic Branches books to familiarize myself. This new-to-me fully illustrated format allowed for a slightly longer word count, allowing for a more complex plot and cast of characters—which was just what I needed to evolve an old picture book idea about collaborative robots. With a little format mixing, the idea became the LAYLA AND THE BOTS series!

I can share similar stories for my I CAN CODE board books (a picture book concept turned board book by an SCBWI workshop and a wonderful critique partner) and my upcoming early graphic novel FRIENDBOTS (a picture book concept turned comic book sparked by books like Ben Clanton’s NARWHAL AND JELLY.)

So I hope you’ll try some mixing and mashing of content and formats, and find yourself some new stories in the mix!

Vicky Fang is a product designer who spent 5 years designing kids’ technology experiences for both Google and Intel, often to inspire and empower kids in coding and technology. She started writing to support the growing need for early coding education, particularly for girls and kids of color. She is the author of nine new and upcoming STEAM books for kids, including INVENT-A-PET, I CAN CODE, LAYLA AND THE BOTS, and her author-illustrator debut, FRIENDBOTS.

Find out more about Vicky by following her on Twitter at @fangmous and if you’d like to stay up to date on Vicky’s book news, giveaways, and activities, sign up for her newsletter at vickyfang.com/newsletter.

Vicky is giving away a copy of INVENT-A-PET and a copy of LAYLA AND THE BOTS: HAPPY PAWS.

Two separate winners will be randomly selected.

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

by Cindy Derby

Today your Storystorm inspiration is in the form of a video!

Cindy Derby is the author and illustrator of How to Walk an Ant, Two Many Birds, and Blurp’s Book of Manners (Roaring Brook Press 2022). She is the illustrator of Outside In by Deborah Underwood, The Boy and the Gorilla by Jackie Azua Kramer, and How to Have a Birthday by Mary Lyn Ray.  Cindy’s background is in puppetry and she has performed all over the world. She enjoys building apartments for insects and has a beagle named Banjo who she takes on road trips in her camper van. For more info visit: cindyderby.com and on Twitter @cindyderby and Instagram @cindyderby.

Cindy is giving away two signed copies of TWO MANY BIRDS.

Two separate winners will be randomly selected.

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

by Ashley Belote

Once upon a slime…I couldn’t resist! Slime! Something so seemingly simple has had a profound effect on my art and outlook on inspiration. When my art director sent me the manuscript for FRANKENSLIME, I was blown away by Joy Keller’s ability to turn the act of making slime into an adventurous, mysterious, and scientific narrative. Using slime as my inspiration, I set out on my own scientific adventure to create a body of artwork inspired by this unique substance categorized as a non-Newtonian fluid (how’s that for some science talk?!).

Inspiration constantly exists around us; we must be willing to recognize it or even create it. When I began thinking about how to illustrate this book, the first step was to completely immerse myself in my inspiration, literally! I made slime! Glitter slime. Fluffy slime. Ghost slime. Butter slime. Crunchy slime. You get it, I made a lot of slime. Being able to touch and feel and observe slime firsthand allowed me to learn about it through play. I had to think of myself as the main character, Victoria Franken, and interact with this substance. A lot of the funny scenes I drew were a result of my Pinterest slime fails and inability to admit defeat. I had a blast! As adults, we tend to look at things analytically and can sometimes forget to have fun.

Now, I realize that not all inspiration can be easily accessed physically, and there are times when we must look inward and rely on our imaginations. But this isn’t always as simple as it sounds; some days we feel like we don’t even have imaginations! No more of that! When I’m stuck, I complete the following drawing exercise to get my mind thinking in a different way. This trick is great for illustrators AND writers, so, if you’re one of those people who say drawing is impossible, now is the slime to put those thoughts away and get ready to play! (Did you like that one?!)

Step 1: Take out some blank paper.
TIP! If you can get your hands on a large-scale piece of paper, like 22” x 16”, DO IT! Trust me, there is something freeing about drawing on a big surface. You feel limitless. I am blessed with a creative mom and when I was a kid, she would bring home pieces of unused billboard paper for me to draw on. They were huge! They took up our entire living room floor, so the whole room was my canvas! Obviously, that isn’t something you can get from Amazon (at least I don’t think so…) but just try to get your hands on something a bit bigger than printer paper. Again, we are focusing on fun!

Step 2: ART SUPPLIES!
You can use pencils, markers, colored pencils…whatever you want! Just find something to draw with that feels good to you.

Step 3: Hold your drawing utensil in your NON-dominant hand.
For me, that is my left hand as I usually draw with my right. Close your eyes, place your pencil to paper, and make a sweeping, continuous mark for 3 seconds.

Step 4: Voila!
Open your eyes and see your masterpiece! Just kidding, haha. It probably will not be a masterpiece quite yet. Look at the shape you have created. What does it look like? Turn your paper to get a look at your shape upside down and keep turning until you see something. A moose? Maybe a river? An elegant three-story Victorian home with a walkway and koi pond? Wonderful! Now, once you “see” something or visualize the potential of your shape, start drawing it out. Add color, details, manipulate it to create what your mind’s eye is seeing.

Step 5: Use your inspiration!
Have you designed a landscape that can act as a setting for a story? Did you create a character? How exciting to be able to take this creation in any direction you’d like.

I love this stuff!! I hope you can use this technique to help find the fun in your inspiration and jumpstart your imagination going forward. Have the slime of your life! I had to sneak in one more 😊 As for me, I am proud to show the cover of FRANKENSLIME, coming to shelves near you on July 13th and followed shortly thereafter by its sequel, VALENSLIME, on November 16th!

Ashley Belote is the illustrator of FRANKENSLIME (2021), VALENSLIME (2021), and the author-illustrator of her solo debut picture book, LISTEN UP, LOUELLA (2022). She studied traditional animation under the direction of Don Bluth. Ashley earned her BA from Alderson Broaddus University and her MA in Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky. Her graduate study included a children’s literature and illustration course through Simmons College. Ashley lives and works in North Carolina where she creates artwork that she hopes brings lots of laughs to others. Visit her at AshleyBelote.com and and follow her on Instagram @AshleyBeloteIllustration and Twitter @AshleyBelote1.

Ashley is giving away a virtual visit—either for a classroom or a writer/illustrator consultation.

Leave one comment below to enter.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

If you’ve been paying attention to the picture book scene the last few years, you’re sure to recognize this fella…

No, not that fella! He’s new!

I mean this fella…

…drawn by this fella…

…Mike Boldt!

So you’ve no doubt heard of him…he’s got several hit books under his pencil and now I can introduce that OTHER fella, because he’s the star of Mike’s brand-new book!

Say hello to Fergus!

Mike, how did Fergus first find his way into your head?

My ideas come from all sorts of places. The idea of Find Fergus literally came out of a conversation that I was having with my friend, Dan Santat. In jest, I said I was going to do a knock off of Where’s Waldo?, but where Waldo was terrible at hiding. We laughed, and then Dan told me that was a really good idea, and I should make it. I thought about it, and decided he was right! So I did!

Was Fergus always a bear? 

Yes! It was very quickly decided that Fergus was going to be a bear, since actually doing Waldo in my own story wasn’t really an option. I thought a large bear would be funny, and then I tried to give him a Waldo flair with the glasses to pay tribute to the “original”.

Let’s talk about the color scheme. Why bright yellow?

I found the bright yellow background for Fergus right away. Originally, when I was working on the pitch, I did up a couple samples of a finished cover and a finished spread, and I used yellow in the background as a placeholder. But I instantly liked it so much it just stuck. There was one option where we tried a different color background, but it definitely was not right for this book.

Why do you think Fergus likes to hide so much? What’s going on beneath that big ball of fur?

Well, I believe Fergus is a character who has a rather childlike care-free approach to things in life. So whether he knows how to hide or not, he’s a bear who is going to have fun doing it. I really wanted to not only make sure that the theme wasn’t “Practice makes perfect” but rather “Practice makes progress”. I think with that approach we can have a lot more fun, like Fergus, even if we aren’t very good at something and enjoy the process. Besides, who doesn’t love a good game of hide and seek?!

No one doesn’t love hide and seek! 

Mike, can you give us any hints about your upcoming projects?

Funny you should ask, Tara! I actually have two books coming out next year. A wonderful and silly book called GOOD NIGHT, ALLIGATOR by Rebecca Van Slyke, and another hilarious picture book called BLOOP (by YOU!) about a hilarious space invader. That’s about it for now.

Well, it’s a good thing we have a Mike Boldt book now to tide us over!

And blog readers, you can win a copy!

I’ll count while you go hide! 10, 9, 8…

Kidding! Just leave a comment below to enter and a random winner will be selected soon.

Good luck!

And follow Fergus’ Indie bookstore tour:

I love watching illustrators at work. Sketching, painting, snipping paper for collage…seeing a blank page sprout something beautiful is miraculous. Plus, isn’t it a soothing way to spend some time? We all need it these days!

So it was with pleasure I watched illustrator Larissa Marantz paint CLYDE THE HIPPO, the character from her new series with husband Keith, published by Penguin Workshop.

Larissa, your video is mesmerizing!

How did you decide on the look and style for Clyde the Hippo?

Clyde was designed to fit in with a cast of characters called The Fuzz Budz which were a group of characters in our first self-published book. Those characters came about from a simple shaped art lesson that I taught my elementary school students. The idea was to use a rectangle shape as the basis for a bunch of animal characters. Clyde is made from a shape I call a “circ-tangle” which is basically a rounded rectangle.

Our first Clyde book was a self-published title called “Clyde Likes to Hide.” The style of that book is very different from the Clyde the Hippo series with Penguin Workshop because I started working digitally and wanted to use pastel brushes. I love the texture and richness in colors that you can get from working in pastels, but the mess is unreal. Being able to duplicate that look digitally was very satisfying. Keith and I also wanted the aesthetic of the book to be bright and graphic with elements of mid-century modern design thrown in, since we are fans of that era. I used a lot of pattern reference and strong shape language to keep things simple in my background illustrations.

 

No wonder I love the Clyde style, I’m a fan of mid-century modern, too!

How did you and Keith take Clyde from self-published to traditionally-published with Penguin?

We initially wrote and self-published the first Clyde book but didn’t put very much effort into selling it. We knew that in order to succeed in self publishing it takes a lot of hustle, and we just wanted to write and illustrate stories. We had created a second story, Clyde Likes to Slide, with a completed dummy. We sent that to our agent who we had just recently connected with. She loved it and thought it had great potential.  She shopped it to different publishers, one of which thought it would make a great series so they asked us to submit a series package. Ultimately they turned it down but Penguin saw something special in it and picked up the series.

Yes, I totally understand wanting to just make stories. Marketing and promotion is tough work (and not nearly as fun)!

Let’s jump back in time a little more…when did you and Keith decide you wanted to be children’s book creators?

Well, there’s a bit of a story behind that. I had been working in animation as a character designer for the Rugrats and Rocket Power. While I was there, I started illustrating picture books for Nickelodeon. When I left the studio to become a

 stay at home mom, I illustrated more picture books for Nickelodeon. Keith had always wanted to write and actually wrote some spec scripts for the animated shows I was working on. He had been writing a screenplay as well. Our first picture book together was inspired by our oldest daughter who was 9 years old at the time. She was drawing these adorable animal characters based on the lessons she was learning in my art classes. Based on her drawings, we came up with a cast of characters and Keith wrote some fun rhyming poems about the kinds of food they’d love to eat. That was our first book together and it’s called Dream-O-Licious.

The idea for adding Clyde came about when our youngest daughter asked for a pet and my husband joked with her that we already had a hippo hiding in the backyard. After I designed Clyde, I fell in love with him and we knew we had to make stories for him. Keith loves to come up with a good title and he loves to rhyme, so we came up with Clyde Likes to Hide as our first story. He’s a very large hippo who loves to hide, but he’s not very good at it. Next came Clyde Likes to Slide and Clyde Likes to Ride. I came up with the idea for Clyde Lied and Keith wrote a really great story for that concept. Clyde Goes To School does not rhyme but we wanted to introduce Clyde and his world, so that became the first title in the series.

What a creative couple! Well, a creative family!

Did you always know you wanted to work in illustration?

I didn’t realize I wanted to until later on. I knew I wanted to be an artist, but I studied fine art in college. When choosing a major, I didn’t understand that illustration was basically painting and drawing but for a different purpose. I switched from fine arts to animation and then made a pivot into illustration when I became a stay at home mom. Once I started reading all those children’s books to my kids, I realized that I wanted to illustrate my own characters, not just Nickelodeon’s characters. That’s when I started working on creating my own style and trying to get an agent . It was harder than I thought it would be. I figured that since I had already illustrated a dozen books, it’d be simple enough. But my style was very steeped in animation, and I didn’t understand that just because I could draw animated characters well that I couldn’t just draw for picture book illustration. I had to learn a little more about style and narrative illustration. I had to develop my own voice. And Keith had to develop his voice in writing, too. We both worked on it and were able to connect with a wonderful agent who saw our potential and now represents both of us as a creative team. Keith is my author and I am his illustrator.

 

I love it!

Can you tell us what’s coming next for the Marantzes?

We are hard at work on a middle grade graphic novel entitled BLAKE LASER that will be published with HarperCollins in 2022.

Set in the  24th century, the book features a 12-year old inventor who, along with her parents and annoying brother,  must stop aliens from stealing the sun’s energy. I’ve designed spaceships, aliens, and robots, which is very different from the cute stuff I’m used to drawing. One of my favorite things about this project is that we’ve written a story about a family that looks like us. Creating diverse characters for picture books is so important, along with developing heroes and heroines in stories who multiracial kids and children of color can identify with. There is no doubt that making a graphic novel is a tremendous amount of work but it’s something we both feel we’re suited for, given Keith’s love for cinema and screenplays and my experience working as an animation artist. We’re very interested in depicting epic stories with vast worlds for the remainder of our publishing career, so we are working nonstop at developing those types of stories for readers.

Thanks for chatting with me, Larissa. It’s wonderful to get to know you and CLYDE (and Keith)!

You can get to know them all better at ClydetheHippo.com.

We’re also giving away a CLYDE book: CLYDE LIKES TO SLIDE!

Slide in a comment below for a chance to win it.

A random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!

Ready…set…

Yes, it’s time to GO!

Where, you ask?

To the Pen and Ink Brigade’s STAND UP Art Auction! Going on NOW!

But first, author-illustrator Carin Berger is here to tell us a little about it. Carin, what is the Pen and Ink Brigade and how did you get started?

The Pen and Ink Brigade is a group of women artists/activists who have joined forces to use our art to create progressive change. Many of us are well known picture book creators and illustrators.

The 2016 election really galvanized us. We gave ourselves the name, the Pen and Ink Brigade, and marched together in the women’s march. We began to realize that, collectively, we had a vast pool of talent and shared political beliefs. And, kind of on the fly, we organized a fundraiser, the BLUE WAVE project, which was an art show and an art sale that benefitted a get out the vote [GOTV] group, VoteRiders just in time for the 2018 midterm elections. Somehow, in a matter of weeks, we pulled the project together. Each artist created a blue wave, which, when they were put together, made a great blue tsunami.  We held the show at the Diana Kane Boutique in Brooklyn, and managed to sell all the art. It was empowering and exhilarating. And we haven’t stopped!

Wow! What project did you tackle next?

After the BLUE WAVE project the women of the Pen and Ink Brigade worked together on a number of projects. We created a mural proposal for AOC’s office in Jackson Heights, NYC. We made a backdrop for a fundraising event, Persisticon, and we put together a bi-coastal art show, PINK NYC + PINK SF, with 80 artists, all women, who created work that reclaimed and re-defined the color pink. We raised over $20,000 for Stacey Abrams’s voting rights initiative, FAIR FIGHT ACTION, to help ensure people’s right to vote in the upcoming 2020 election. It was super inspiring to see the art come in, and for the color PINK to be reclaimed as something fierce and provocative and powerful.

What is this week’s STAND UP! Auction all about?

And now, in time for November, we have yet another project. STAND UP! is a fundraising auction. 100% of the proceeds will go to EMILY’s List to help diverse, progressive women candidates get elected. We came to this theme after watching people bravely working together to confront the many difficult challenges that we are facing as a country right now. The pandemic, the importance of BLM, the economic hardship so many of us are experiencing, the inequities that affect schooling and health for people. Climate change. These are tough times. But it has been heartening to see our communities coming together and standing up for what is right. We structure the call for entries to be flexible and open ended, allowing each artist to create a piece that addresses a specific issue that the artist was standing up for.

Please tell us what your piece for the auction is about!

My piece is titled STAND UP for ALL OF US!

I was thinking about what our country and world needs to move forward, and on that list was diversity, inclusion, connection and community. That is my hope for this moment, that broadly, we will find a way to STAND UP and join forces and find the beauty in the wild diversity that we each offer, but also that deep need for connection that we all have.

These ideas also thread through many of my books like The Little Yellow Leaf and Forever Friends. And explicitly in All of Us, which I wrote in response to the 2016 election. I deeply believe in the power of love and community, and in these dark divisive times, I have been heartened by the way people have come together to STAND UP!

The STAND UP! Auction is going on today through August 28th! See all the artwork available at penandinkbrigade.com/standup.

Also, you can tune into an interview with author-illustrator LeUyen Pham tonight on Instagram Live:

It’s the age-old question: what’s for dinner? Pizza? Or Tacos?

Tough decision! Pizza could have anything ON it, but then a taco could have anything IN it. Limitless possibilities! So who’s the best?

Luckily, author-illustrator Stephen Shaskan has settled the debate with his newly released chapter book:

This is the first in a delicious new illustrated series!

I like to interview folks about their books, and luckily, both Pizza and Taco were available to take a seat, and they didn’t even leave melted cheese on my couch! Not a chunk of cheddar or a morsel of mozzarella! What polite guests.

What? Don’t you like tunafish sandwiches?

Guys, come back!!! I’ve got pickles, too!

OH WELL.

Maybe you want to figure out who’s best. (Do so quickly, because you don’t want to be late for their BEST PARTY EVER in the Spring!)

Stephen is giving away a signed copy of PIZZA AND TACO: WHO’S THE BEST? to a lucky winner.

Just leave one comment below to enter.

Winner will be randomly selected in July.

(Sorry, actual pizza and taco not included. They don’t travel well.)

 

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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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