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UPDATE: I’m now live streaming on Instagram and putting the video in my IG Story so you can view it for up to 24 hours afterwards.

Find me here:

instagram.com/taralaser


Yesterday I had the most wonderful idea—if I can’t visit schools because everyone is at home, then everyone can visit me at my home—virtually! Wouldn’t it be great if authors collectively broadcast themselves reading books so kids everywhere could tune in?

Well, I wasn’t alone in this idea. Author Olivia Van Ledtje started a list of all the authors providing live readings, illustrators giving how-to-draw lessons, and other fun stuff from your favorite creators! See the list here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MrM7Ypu3uoEEwbyLQ6sxkx8d-sePrP2J64WQrb6dNfI

I have decided to broadcast LIVE at NOON Eastern daily on my YouTube channel…starting today.

MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL

See you online!

You can search social media with the hashtag #kidlitquarantine for other authors and illustrators who are joining in!


UPDATE March 16: today I read THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN! Here are the how-to pages for building your own trap!

by Sue Fliess

Now, I know what you’re thinking. The last time I blogged about picture book ideas here, I talked about how I got the idea for my new book Flash and Gleam: Light in Our World through a conversation I had with my handyman…this is different. Sort of.

I was in Laguna Beach on a ladies weekend years ago. Sigh. It was a gorgeous spot. Perfect weather for drinking wine on the beach with good gal pals and taking in the views. Sitting on our hotel deck watching the sun set on the ocean, my sister Christine asked me about my book stuff. I told her that I’d just finished a mermaid book to go with my fairy book (A Fairy Friend), but I was trying to think of another mythical, fantastical creature to write about, so that I’d have 3. She almost immediately suggested unicorns. My eyes lit up, but then my logical brain kicked in. “But I have to write it in rhyme,” I said. “And unicorn is going to be a tough one.”

But I went home after a soul-enriching weekend and decided to at least try to write it. I mean, who doesn’t love a unicorn? And to write about the chance to meet one was too tempting. So I wrote it—and it was good and sweet and magical. My agent sent both the mermaid and unicorn stories to my editor. She loved them. Then she held on to both for a long, long, long time. Did I mention it was a long time? As you know, or soon will know, there’s no such thing as a sure thing in publishing. She eventually turned them down and released them back to me. Huge bummer. Now what? Had the window for mermaids and unicorns passed? My agent and I were beginning to think so.

In the meantime, I’d published some books in my Magical Creatures and Crafts series with Sky Pony Press: How to Trap a Leprechaun, How to Track an Easter Bunny and had How to Trick a Christmas Elf queued up. And I got the idea that maybe this publisher would like my mermaid and unicorn stories from long ago…but when I pulled them out, I knew I was in for big rewrites. But the stories themselves were still compelling. I added a craft element to both (not easy when you have to work it in in rhyme!), and before too long I had How to Meet a Mermaid and How to Find a Unicorn. We sent them to my Sky Pony editor and hit a home run. This was where these stories were meant to land, I just didn’t see it at the time. (maybe it was the wine?)

I think my point is, that often I will have an idea, or have it gifted to me when I’m not even looking for it. When I least expect it. A handyman, a perfect setting with great people, a couple three glasses of vino… Also, aren’t sisters grand? She is my unicorn in the mist.

And now…the trailer premiere for HOW TO FIND A UNICORN!

Sue is giving away TWO copies of HOW TO FIND A UNICORN, illustrated by Simona Sanfilippo, upon its release (March 3, 2020).

Leave one comment below to enter.

A winner will be randomly selected in March!


Sue Fliess is the author of dozens of children’s books, including How to Trap a Leprechaun, How to Track an Easter Bunny, How to Trick a Christmas Elf (all Sky Pony Press titles), Mary Had a Little Lab, Flash and Gleam, Ninja Camp, and more. She’s also written for Walt Disney. Sue lives with her family and two dogs in Northern Virginia. Visit her at suefliess.com.

 

Today we’re revealing the cover for ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME, illustrated in bright, bold colors and soft edges by Andrés F. Landazábal. It immediately takes me back to another time in picture books! The tale, co-written by Charles Ghigna (a.k.a. Father Goose) and Matt Forrest Esenwine, came to be via a blog post and a subsequent comment. Let’s have the authors share the story behind the story…

CHARLES: The genesis for this book began when I posted the first 9 pages of the manuscript on my Father Goose blog, along with a summary of the entire picture book. Here’s a link to my original blog post. Matt responded with 4 stanzas and some great ideas for the narrative. I was surprised how compatible our styles were and how easily our ideas fit together. I began submitting the finished manuscript about the same time Matt did. I submitted it to Beaming Books via Submittable and he submitted it via #PBPitch, a Twitter event that connects picture book authors with editors and agents. And it worked! Beaming Books picked it up! Matt and I were thrilled with our editor’s choice of illustrator, Andrés F. Landazábal, whose colorful style perfectly captures the lyricism of the text.

MATT: Bouncing manuscripts back and forth was actually very educational for both of us, seeing what each other thought of the other’s writing, as well as discovering new perspectives and ways of describing things. And by the way, tenacity was the name of the game with this book: the manuscript went through nearly 15 revisions and more than 25 different publishing houses before our editor at Beaming Books told us she loved it and wanted to buy it! Even with Father Goose’s name attached to the project, it took an awful lot of persistence and positive energy to get our book to this point! I’m not only thrilled about the illustrations, I’m also thrilled that I got to write a book with my friend, Father Goose himself, the inimitable Charles Ghigna! Seeing our names together on the cover is a real treat.

The illustrations are a real treat, too! Thanks, Charles, Matt and Andrés!

ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME will be released by Beaming Books on August 18, 2020.


Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a tree house in the middle of Alabama. He is the author of more than 100 award-winning books from Random House, Disney, Hyperion, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Abrams, Charlesbridge, Capstone and Orca. His poems appear in magazines from The New Yorker and Harper’s to Cricket and Highlights for Children. For more information, please visit: FatherGoose.com.

Matt Forrest Esenwine has published nearly 30 children’s poems in anthologies like The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (N.G. Children’s Books, 2015) and Construction People (Wordsong, 2020), as well as Highlights for Children magazine. His nationally-acclaimed picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Picture Books of 2017. More information is at MattForrest.com.

Andrés F. Landazábal is an illustrator and art director based in Colombia. His work has appeared in animation films, tv shows and print companies. Andrés’ love for drawing and painting was instilled at a young age reading classic illustrated children’s books. He is represented by The Bright Agency.

by Joan Holub

The Goddess Girls series is up to #25 with CLOTHO THE FATE! I can hardly believe it. (Thank you, thank you, Simon and Schuster!) The Greek myth about the Three Fates, who decide, well, human fates, has been one of my faves since fifth grade.

THE GODDESS GIRLS series (ages 8-12) happened because I met Suzanne Williams at an SCBWI meeting and asked if she’d consider co-writing a series. We both pitched ideas and Goddess Girls wound up the front-runner. Book #1 Athena the Brain, in which Athena discovers she’s a goddess and is summoned by her dad Zeus to attend Mount Olympus Academy, pubbed in 2010. The GG books are each a riff on an actual Greek myth and star smart, adventurous girl goddesses. Quirky grown-ups include Mr. Cyclops teaching classes such as Hero-ology. Suzanne and I have since spun off two other series: LITTLE GODDESS GIRLS (ages 6-8) and HEROES-IN-TRAINING (ages 7-10).

Recently, I read an instagram from a favorite author, Julie Falatko, regarding the difficulties of balancing art, life, and income. I’m prolific with about 170 children’s books by now, and I realized that series writing has helped me maintain that balance Julie mentions. With a schedule of enjoyable series work on my desk, I can fit in picture books, board books, etc. as I have time and think of ideas. My creativity isn’t encumbered by angst regarding my publishing future. Still, it’s not fair (or helpful) to me or my editors if I were to have, say, two board books pub in the same season for different publishers. A bookstore might choose only to stock one of those two Joan Holub offerings. Instead, if I pub a board book, along with either a picture book or a middle grade book in the same season, I haven’t set up sales competition between two of my own books. They’ll be shelved in different areas of a store and browsed by parents and kids in different age groups.

Some of my books have become a series unexpectedly. I read every biography (starting with the girl ones) in my school library as a kid. So a few years ago, I wanted to write some simple board books bios. First came THIS LITTLE PRESIDENT (Little Simon). The format includes 10 spreads with 10 of the better-known presidents, plus a final spread mentioning numerous more and a call for kids to become part of the presidential group in future. It sold well enough to spin into a series: THIS LITTLE ARTIST, THIS LITTLE TRAILBLAZER: A Girl Power Primer, etc. Much of the series success is owed to my editor and the illustrator. I mean, who could not pick up these books after seeing Daniel Roode’s covers? I’ve also been lucky enough to also write for the Penguin Workshop’s bestselling WHO WAS series (WHO WAS BABE RUTH?). They’re the books with the big heads on the covers, and it seems like every kid has read at least one. I know I have. They’re addictive.

Thank you, Tara, so much for letting me visit today.

I’d love to give away three autographed copies of GODDESS GIRLS: CLOTHO THE FATE. They won’t arrive until 2020, but there’s always Valentine’s Day and birthday gifts! Thanks for reading!

You heard Joan!

Leave one comment below to enter the random giveaway. Three random winners will be chosen soon.

Good luck!

 

Ring, ring! Ring, ring!

Who can that be?

Oh, it’s Laurie Keller and Adam Rex calling to talk about their new book PLUTO GETS THE CALL!

And making a surprise guest hosting appearance is none other than…PLUTO! (It’s kind of like how Brie Larson is filling in for Jimmy Kimmel. Yeah, just like that. Wait, does that make me Jimmy?)

Anyway…Pluto will be interviewing this dynamic picture book duo! Take it away, Pluto!

Now Adam, how did you get the idea to write about little old me?

Well, usually my books come out of totally unexpected ideation but this time it began with an editor asking if I might like to write something about our solar system. She was hoping if I wrote something like that, Laurie might want to illustrate it. It was the first time I’d ever written anything with another, specific artist in mind.

I’m not known for nonfiction. You don’t call me if you want 50 Facts About the Planets or whatever. So I started looking for the fiction that would underpin all the nonfiction, and your reclassification still feels like the biggest story to come out of the solar system in my lifetime. When I was a kid every list of planets ended with Pluto, but now my son learns something different. That seems like a big deal to me.

Thank you, Adam! I really am a big deal!

Laurie, do you want to draw any comparisons between me and your other round hero, Arnie the Doughnut?

Well, Pluto, that’s a very good question and the answer is yes! You and Arnie both have an infectious zest for life and a genuine excitement for whatever you do. You’re both seen as the “underdog” (or the under-doughnut-dog in Arnie’s case) but you never let the hard knocks crush your spirit. I’m inspired by you both!

And even though you don’t look anything alike, other than being round, you each have distinguishing features that you’re very proud of—you, with your big heart birthmark and Arnie, with his chocolate frosting and sprinkles! You’re a lot easier to paint than Arnie though—he always makes sure that I draw all 135 sprinkles and it takes a long time!

Adam, did Laurie contribute any clever asides to the story or do anything you didn’t expect? Just like I was not expecting to be de-planetized?

YES. I set out to write what I thought was a Laurie Keller picture book (you can ask her what SHE thinks about that), but it wouldn’t really be a Keller book without a lot of asides and marginal visual gags, and she wrote and invented nearly all of those. Including a line about smoothies that I’m sorry to say gets a bigger laugh than anything I wrote myself.

Well, c’mon Adam, everyone loves smoothies!!! Even an intergalactic comet!

So Laurie, what do you think about that?

Adam, you’re a great writer no matter what or who influences you at any given time. Just keep doing that Adam thang no matter how you do it! I was just happy to get the chance to illustrate one of your stories!

Adam, this book is PLUTO GETS THE CALL. Why didn’t I get a text instead?

I agree, the call was a mistake. Big-time roaming charges. But you don’t break up via text.

You sure fit in a lot of facts about me and the solar system. Did you count how many? (There’s more facts about me than anyone else, right?)

I fit in as many facts as I could while keeping the whole thing breezy and natural. I didn’t want anyone to zone out. I wanted them to feel like an affable new friend was giving them a house tour.

A house tour like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Awesome! My house tour is really SPACIOUS! (Get it???)

Well, thanks to the two of you for making me a star! You know, like Brie Larson, not like the Sun. No one can steal Sun’s spotlight.

And blog readers, you can GET THE CALL, too!

Just leave a comment below to win a copy of PLUTO GETS THE CALL!

One random winner will be selected soon. And notified via email. So you won’t really GET THE CALL, but close enough!

A little theme GIF first…

Well, this post is long overdue!

Here are all the random winners of various giveaways since…I don’t even remember when! If your name is here, please be on the lookout for an email from me. Hopefully your prize will arrive in time for Christmas, but unfortunately, I can’t guarantee it. What I do guarantee is that you’ll be charmed and delighted when it lands on your doorstep!

(Hey, I never noticed before…is that girl in green Vogue-ing?)

OK, and away we go…

HOW TO TRICK A CHRISTMAS ELF by Sue Fliess
Rachel (rbkrackeler)

LONE WOLF by Sarah Kurpiel
Carrie Williford

KIKI & JAX by Marie Kondo & Salina Yoon
Rose Capelli

FRANK & BEAN by Jamie Michalak
Annette Pimental

AMY WU AND THE PERFECT BAO by Kat Zhang & Charlene Chua
Cheryl Johnson

PORCUPINE’S PIE by Laura Renauld
Sheila Wipperman

HALLOWEEN KITTY by Salina Yoon
Katie Giorgio
Joy Pitcairn
Rebecca Herzog
Carol Gwin Nelson
Denita Johnson

KARATE KID by Rosanne Kurstedt
Mary York

WHERE DOES A PIRATE GO POTTY? or A CRITIQUE by Dawn Prochovnik
Karin Larson

ANNIE LYNN’S MUSIC CD: SONGS FOR SCHOOLS
Natasha Wing

THE ARTIST WHO PAINTED A BLUE HORSE by Eric Carle
Jerianne Hayslett

TWO DOGS ON A TRIKE (when it releases in May 2020) by Gabi Snyder & Robin Rosenthal
Tania Hebert

YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL by me & Melissa Crowton
Amy Benoit
Jacqueline Adams
Latasha Vernon

DUCKWORTH THE DIFFICULT CHILD by Michael Sussman
Kaylynn Johnsen
Aimee Satterlee

SMALL WORLD by Ishta Mercurio
Christina Shawn

WHY? by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Kim Campbell

NUGGET & FANG GO TO SCHOOL by Tammi Sauer
Christine Pinto

SKYPES WITH ME (FOR TEACHERS/CLASSES OR WRITERS)
Marlene Farrell
Michelle Helsel
Joan Longstaff
loelmu
Susan Twiggs
Emily Patriquin
Amanda Sincavage

PAPER MICE by Megan Wagner Lloyd
Suzanne Lewis

Whoa, baby.

That was A LOT of giveaways I fell behind on. In the future I promise to be more timely! Maybe I should get a robot assistant?

(It looked like that robot assistant was gonna take the husband out with a frying pan! I think I’ll wait for the upgrade.)

Before you go, I’d like to let you know my next book is out soon…January 7th! Of course, it’s available for pre-order.

Wow, that snuck up on me! Finn the Leprechaun will sneak up on you, too.

by Sue Fliess

Let’s talk elves!

My book HOW TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN is doing really well (yay!), so my publisher approached me to write more like it. They wanted one for Easter and Christmas. But they asked me if I would write more ‘trap’ books. When you put trapping with bunnies and elves, well, you can see the issue with that right away. So I came back to them with the titles: HOW TO TRACK AN EASTER BUNNY and HOW TO TRICK A CHRISTMAS ELF.

Great! But now I had to create a story for both of those. And come up with a craft written into each book as well! (Between you and me, trying to write craft instructions in rhyme requires a little humor and a lot of wine). But I said Yes, I’ll do it! and off to the library I went!

Researching Easter, bunnies, Christmas elves, mythical elves, Christmas crafts, that particular elf that hangs out on shelves, Santa, naughty and nice lists…whew! And with the help of my amazing critique group, I was able to come up with a story around both titles.

For HOW TO TRICK A CHRISTMAS ELF, I wanted to avoid having the children trick their elf into getting what they wanted for Christmas because that would be very bad! So I thought if they could trick or distract the elf, simply to peek at his naughty or nice list, then they would know where they stood with Santa and would have a chance to make things right, if need be, before the jolly man in red delivered (or not) their gifts.

So they decide to make the elf his very own miniature sleigh. To their surprise, he is over the moon! Because elves usually make the gifts, this sleigh is the first gift he’s ever received. He’s so delighted that he automatically puts the children on the nice list…and he flies back to Santa’s workshop in style. Now, the series, Magical Creatures and Crafts, is taking on a life of its own! It’s grown to include HOW TO FIND A UNICORN, HOW TO MEET A MERMAID, and even HOW TO HIDE A TURKEY, which are set to publish in 2020. Thanks for inviting me divulge the magic behind my elf book, Tara!

Thanks, Sue!

The elves have a gift for you, blog readers! A copy of the book!

You know the drill…leave a comment and I’ll pick a random winner soon!

Actually, I have a lot of winners to announce, and I had previously promised that post…but life has a way of interfering with the blog, so it’s been far too delayed. Next week we’ll have lots of winners just in time for the holidays!

by Sarah Kurpiel

Thank you, Tara, for hosting the cover reveal for my debut picture book, LONE WOLF (Greenwillow/HarperCollins), which I both wrote and illustrated.

Maple the husky loves being the Parker family’s dog, but strangers always seem to think she’s a wolf! It’s true: Maple can hunt, she can howl, and she can dig, just like wolves can. Oh, no! What if she is a wolf and doesn’t belong with her family after all?

LONE WOLF hits the shelves in May 2020.

Without further ado, here is the cover:

The main character in LONE WOLF, Maple, is inspired by my childhood dog, a Siberian husky with loads of personality. Like Maple, my husky was playful and goofy and stubborn in all the best ways. She liked to hunker down on the couch, pull us on long walks, and chew up action figures and video game controllers. I kid you not, she once stole an unlit candle by the wick from a spindly glass candleholder without knocking it over. She had skills!

I also remember how people often compared her to a wolf. This last memory got me thinking. I imagined my husky wondering if maybe, just maybe, she was a wolf. And that’s where the story got its start. I think a lot of kids (and people of all ages, really) can relate to the way Maple feels when she starts questioning her identity. I know I can. This story is about family, self-acceptance, and belonging—plus, it’s pretty funny!

As for the cover, I knew what I wanted to do with it from fairly early on. Colors and details changed with the help of my editor and art director, but the concept remained the same: Maple peeking out, staring squarely at the reader, a look of confusion, surprise, or worry in her eyes. Here are two early sketches:

Elements on the final cover design, like the dotted line and hand lettered text, appear throughout the book. I can picture young readers tracing the dotted lines with their fingers as the lines meander and loop across the page. I initially hand lettered the title simply so I could visualize the cover as a whole for myself. It wasn’t until later in the process that I learned that my editor and art director were going to use it (at which point I cleaned it up a bit). I’d love to do more hand letting in the future.

And first and foremost on the cover is, of course, Maple herself. I never get tired of drawing stylized huskies, which is fortunate since I had to draw Maple so very many times. If you scroll back in my Instagram feed, you’ll see a few of my earliest husky doodles. Drawing dogs in general is such a pleasure for me. (If you need further evidence, be sure to check out the endpapers when the book comes out.)

I’m happy with how everything came together in the end, which is in large part thanks to my editor, Martha Mihalick; art director, Sylvie Le Floc’h; and agents, Rebecca Sherman and Allie Levick. As a publishing newbie, I learned a lot over these past few months. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed making it.

LONE WOLF will be published by Greenwillow/HarperCollins in May 2020. It’s currently available for pre-order.

Thanks, Sarah! Love your style!

Sarah is giving away a signed copy of LONE WOLF to be sent your way when it releases in May 2020.

Leave one comment below to be entered into the random drawing. A winner will be selected on January 1, 2020.

Good luck!


Sarah Kurpiel is a librarian and author/illustrator from the Midwest. Her stories are inspired by animals, nature, and everyday life. Sarah has been doodling in the margins of notebooks for as long as she can remember. She started drawing digitally in 2016 and never stopped. Sarah uses a power wheelchair and considers her disability an important part of her identity. LONE WOLF is her first book. Visit her at sarahkurpiel.com and follow her on Instagram @sarah.kurpiel.

I have something today that will spark joy in book-loving hearts—a picture book collaboration between de-clutter queen Marie Kondo and prolific author-illustrator Salina Yoon!

Introducing KIKI & JAX…

Salina, how did you feel when you were offered the co-writing and illustration gig on Marie Kondo’s first children’s book?

At first, it didn’t quite register. I’d heard of Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” because it was a bestseller for months on the NY Times list, but I had not read it. My agent was overjoyed with the idea of collaborating with her, so I knew it was something to be excited about! I started to research articles about Marie, and found that she was an international superstar—and this was BEFORE we knew anything about the upcoming series on Netflix, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo!” I happened to read about the Netflix series on the Washington Post while on vacation when our project was already in progress. My jaw dropped to the floor!

Mine would have dropped, too! (Until I realized I had to clean it up!)

How did you decide on the style of the illustrations?

I wanted to make this book extra special, so I actually tried many different styles before deciding to do the one I used. I even sketched out human girls as characters before deciding to do the animal ones in the style of Penguin and Pinecone. What ultimately made me choose this style is because I was told that Marie’s favorite book was PENGUIN AND PINECONE. If she loved that book, then I knew she also loved that art style, and my stylization of animal characters. So I reigned myself in and stayed with the Penguin art style for the Kiki and Jax book—and she loved it!

What do you hope young children (and their parents) will take away after reading this book?

I hope that both children and adults will reflect on what matters most to them in their lives-—and consider letting go of the things that get in the way of it. By letting go of the clutter that doesn’t spark joy for us, we’ll find a greater appreciation for the things we do have. Finding joy from what we already have is the best joy of all.

How adorable! The characters and colors really pop!

OK, confession time! Have you let some things go after working on this book?

You know, I’ve always been pretty tidy because my mom is EXTREMELY tidy. But it turns out I could be much tidier when I looked at my things with a different filter—the Marie Kondo filter! There was one week earlier this year that I thought Marie would be coming over to my house (this visit had to be cancelled), but the thought that Marie was going to see my home made me tidy in a hurry! I unshelved ALL of my books in my office, and filled many boxes for book donations. I kept about one third by using her method of holding each book and seeing if it sparks joy for me. Another motivation was that now, I have room to buy new books to spark even MORE joy!

I also let go of many pairs of shoes that never fit right, but felt too guilty to let go of because I hadn’t worn them enough. The KonMari method taught me that I shouldn’t hold on to things because of guilt. I should only hold on to things that spark joy! I thanked my old pairs of unfitting shoes, and donated them to Goodwill. If you’re a size 6, go look for some nearly-new pairs of shoes at Goodwill’s in San Diego! 🙂 Unfortunately, I’m a size 5.

So I do practice what I preach in this book with Marie Kondo. I wholeheartedly believe in her method of tidying!

Thank you, Salina! Happy tidying! (Will you come do my house next???)

OK, one thing I know folks will never part with is one of the 3 copies of KIKI & JAX signed by Marie Kondo and Salina Yoon that Salina is giving away!

Leave one comment below to enter. Three random winners will be chosen next Tuesday, November 20th.

And yes, all the winners of previous giveaways I haven’t yet announced will also be up next Tuesday.

So get your entry in now!

Good luck!

It’s Halloween! A perfect day to introduce you to a book for year-round fun: THE ITTY BITTY WITCH by Trisha Speed Shaskan and Xindi Yan. I interviewed both creators for a sweet blog post today!

Trisha, what inspired you to write The Itty-Bitty Witch? How did the story evolve?

When I was a child, I lived in a neighborhood full of kids. We played ditch, Sardines, and baseball at the nearby park. Halloween was magical because the kids took over the streets at night, in costumes! Because of my love for Halloween, the first picture book I chose at a RIF event was Tilly Witch by Don Freeman, a story about a witch who feels happy instead of wicked on Halloween! Drat! That story inspired me to write and read witch stories as a child. As an adult, I thought: What if I wrote a story about a witch who is the smallest witch in her class? I was always one of the smallest and/or shortest children in my class. In the early drafts of The Itty-Bitty Witch, Betty Ann Batsworth (the itty-bitty witch) tries to take part in all the activities at school–spells, phys ed, and flying, but falls short. Literally! But the story needed focus, so I centered around one event: The Halloween Dash, a race on brooms. From there, the story took shape.

Trisha, this book isn’t just a Halloween story. What can readers gain from this book any time of the year?

As a child, I played nearly every sport from flag football to basketball. I was often the one girl athlete on a team of boys. Kids called me “short” and “Tommy” since I was seen as a tomboy. I didn’t like being labeled because it set me apart from other kids. Although my height and ability to play on any team was often an asset, I often didn’t see it that way. Betty is similarly given a nickname she doesn’t like (“Itty-Bitty”) but learns that being small can be a strength. Readers can learn the magic of believing in one’s self. Since Betty’s broom is shorter than the other witch’s brooms, she tries different methods to gain speed, but fails. Yet she never gives up. She uses critical thinking and demonstrates perseverance, both traits readers can fly away with!

Xindi, which aspects of Betty Ann’s personality did you want to showcase in your illustrations for The Itty-Bitty Witch? How did you accomplish that?

Betty Ann is a friendly, lovable, little witch. Her small stature is the focus of the story, so the character design process started there. Since she’s innocent and unreserved, I gave her expressive, bright eyes. I also believe she’s a confident girl, even though she experiences temporary defeat in the story. On the first day of school, she rocks her floppy hat, messy, carefree hairdo and a small broom, completely oblivious to others’ stares. Believing in herself is what pushes her to work harder and eventually win the race. The details of her outfit are different than her more “polished” classmates. I chose yellow for her top because it’s the contrasting color to the purple uniforms. Visually she pops out of any composition. Yellow also represents her warm, friendly personality and relentless energy. I was so inspired by the story, I did more than 20 variations on the initial character sketches of Betty Ann. The final design is based on bits and pieces from a lot of them.

How did you choose the illustration style of The Itty-Bitty Witch?

The style of the book was inspired by one personal piece I did of a little witch.

This is a Halloween story with witches and magic, so obviously dramatic lighting, colors and spooky elements are a must! And nighttime is the best setting to show these off.

While creating the scenes where Betty’s trying to fly faster on her broom, I was inspired by comic books and LeUyen Pham’s work. I alternated from full-spread illustrations to spot illustrations to create visual breaks and change the pacing of the story.

Thank you for taking a break from Trick-or-Treating to chat with me about THE ITTY-BITTY WITCH! 

I have a copy to give away!

Leave one comment below to enter. A random winner will be selected very soon.

GOOD LUCK!

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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 eXplore
2021

BLOOP!
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2021

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