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.

Good luck!


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.

Thank you so much, Tara, for hosting the cover reveal of THE CORGI AND THE QUEEN (January 2023, from Godwin Books/Macmillan).

The Queen is synonymous with the Pembroke Welsh corgi, and I’ve often wondered what sparked the monarch’s life-long devotion to the breed. It was this curiosity that led me to start work on my manuscript.

I’ve been a journalist for more than half of my life and I’ve also worked in documentary production, so I take a “full immersion” approach to research. I eat, breathe and sleep a story until I find its heart!

When I learned about Susan, the corgi puppy that Elizabeth received as an 18th birthday gift, I was utterly enchanted. Susan was the teenage princess’s constant companion, comforting her during the dark days of World War II, and accompanying Elizabeth and Prince Philip in their wedding carriage (and on their honeymoon)! Susan was also by Elizabeth’s side when she became Queen at the age of 25 after her beloved ‘Papa,’ King George VI, died suddenly.

Even though my life could not be more different from Queen Elizabeth’s, I felt very connected with this story. I went through some challenging times in my childhood, and my pets helped me in ways that people often couldn’t.

The more I found out about Elizabeth and Susan’s bond, the more it became apparent that it was a love story, and one that highlights the universal need for connection. Their special friendship resulted in a regal dog dynasty: fourteen generations of royal corgis were directly descended from Susan!

My agent took THE CORGI AND THE QUEEN out on sub in 2020, and I was lucky enough to get an offer from a dream editor who had the perfect vision for the book. When I was shown samples of illustrator Lydia Corry’s work, it took me less than thirty seconds to respond with a resounding “YES”. I adore Lydia’s art, and she has done a truly incredible job with our book. I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear or two when I saw this cover for the first time!

The Queen is celebrating her Platinum Jubilee this year, after a remarkable (and record-breaking) 70 years on the British throne. During the course of Elizabeth’s reign she has met 13 US Presidents, and while the world has changed immensely since she was crowned in 1953, her love of corgis has endured. She was gifted two corgi puppies during the pandemic, and they now keep her company in her apartments at Windsor Castle.

It’s been more than three years since I started work on THE CORGI AND THE QUEEN and I’m still pinching myself. I cannot wait to see this book in kids’ hands, and I hope that Queen Elizabeth herself gets to read it!

What an adorable cover by Lydia Corry! Thanks for sharing it with us, Caroline!

Blog readers, Caroline is giving away a non-rhyming picture book critique (up to 700 words) in celebration.

Leave one comment below and a random winner will be selected at the end of the month.

Good luck!


Caroline L. Perry is a British children’s book author, journalist and documentary producer currently residing in California. She’s been writing for a living for over twenty years, and she’s passionate about children’s literature. As an entertainment correspondent she has interviewed stars from across the celebrity spectrum, but she’s happiest when tinkering with a kids’ manuscript, whether it be a picture book biography or a whimsical rhyming text. Visit her online at Carolineperryauthor.com and follow her on Twitter @Caro_Perry.

Amalia, congratulations on your new book, MY HANDS MAKE THE WORLD! 

You’re familiar with how this blog deals with story ideas, so I always want to know: what was the genesis of this book?

I was always fascinated with the story of the creation as it is told in the book of Genesis. Wow! A whole world created in 6 days! God had to work really hard to do that!

Creating a book for young children, I wondered how to explain this abstract concept. How did God do that? And what is God? I struggled with the idea for a while, until I stumbled upon the finger paint jars that I use while working with young children. They love to dip their hands in finger paints and smear them on any surface they could. In the biblical text, in the beginning the world was “Tohu va vohu” which, in Hebrew, means “Without form.” That gave me the idea of taking another approach to telling the story from children’s point of view. In MY HANDS MAKE THE WORLD, the first spread starts with, “In the beginning… My left hand dabbed. My right hand doodled.”  The image shows blotches and markings of paint, similar to what children do when they start using finger paints. The creation now is not in the hand of God, but rather in the hands of the creative young child.

Yes, children need something concrete and relatable to help them understand abstract concepts. And your images are so colorful and fun—it draws a child right in.

How do you hope young readers will respond to your book?

My hope is that a child reader will respond by enjoying the colorful yet simple illustrations that are created by finger paints, a medium that is mostly used by young children as they delve into making art.

I hope that MY HANDS MAKE THE WORLD will inspire readers to realize how wonderful and powerful their art is and how wonderful our World is.

I understand you traveled to Israel for your book launch!

I traveled to this place, called Beit Yanai, on the Mediterranean, where I spent my summers as a child. To me, it was the perfect place to launch this book.

Congratulations, Amalia, and thank you for stopping by!

Blog readers, a copy of MY HANDS MAKE THE WORLD will be awarded to one lucky person.

Leave a comment below and a random winner will be selected later this month.

Good luck!


Amalia grew up in Jerusalem, Israel. Her first drawing was black crayon smeared over the entire page. Her mom asked what it was and she said, “a chicken coop.”

“Where are the chickens?” her mother asked.

Amalia answered, “They are all asleep and it’s dark.”

Since then she has been drawing, painting, sculpting and cutting paper constructions. After graduating from Pratt Institute and NYU, she began showing my artwork in galleries and museums. Gene Moore, display director for Tiffany & Co., loved her paper constructions and invited Amalia to create displays for all his windows in New York.

Writing and illustrating children’s books is a window into a child’s fantasy and imagination. It’s also a wonderful way for Amalia to connect with her own childhood and early memories like the chicken coop drawing.

For more on her books, awards, accolades and storytelling, please visit amaliahoffman.com.

Today, TIME FLIES, the 3rd book in the 7 ATE 9/PRIVATE I saga, releases from Little, Brown. You can find it here.

Private I thinks all is copacetic in Capital City, but he soon gets up to his latte in a new conundrum. (Did I just write that crazy sentence? Seems that I did.)

Happy Earth Day! Let’s talk mushrooms!

My good friends forage for mushrooms. I went to their house around Halloween one year and saw a huge skull on their dining room table…what a perfectly spooky decoration…except…it wasn’t a skull at all! It was a giant puffball mushroom, and it was good eats! They sliced it up, seasoned and pan-fried it, and we fork-and-knifed it like a steak. It tasted divine. Since then, we’ve had all kinds of foraged dishes, including pasta in a creamy chanterelle sauce. What about morels, you ask? They’ve found them, too. (And I’ve eaten them!)

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I received this beauty, MUSHROOM RAIN by Laura K. Zimmermann, illustrated by Jamie Green.

I had to ask Laura about it!

Laura, my blog is all about brainstorming ideas for writing books—so where did the idea for MUSHROOM RAIN originate?

Storystorm (technically, when it was PiBoldMo)!

Ooh, a Storystorm Success story!

I was looking for information on female scientists to add to my ideas for the month and came across a story about Beatrix Potter’s research with mushrooms. Sadly, that manuscript didn’t sell but it did help me see mushrooms in a new way. So when I came across a story about mushroom spores helping to create rain, I had to read it. And when I did, two words popped into my mind. Well, technically 6. “That is so cool…Mushroom Rain!”

That is cool! Speaking of cool, have you ever gone mushroom foraging?

So far I have only foraged for pictures. My nieces and I found a ton of different varieties in South Carolina and I have come across quite a few at the Arboretum near where I live. I joined the Mycological Association of Washington DC but haven’t had time in my schedule to drive out to the locations they have been foraging. I’m hoping to later in the summer or fall. Given that I thought a white mushroom I saw was a cute innocent thing—I later learned it was a destroying angel—I think it is best that my first true forage be with people who know more than me.

When I’m with my mushroom friends, they do all sorts of things to ID the mushrooms, like put them on a sheet of paper to check spore prints. Spores do so much (wink, wink)!

The illustrations by Jamie Green are gorgeous, and I love the unique choice of the black background, which really makes the mushrooms pop.

It’s an interesting and brilliant choice. One might expect greenery or blue sky considering the subject matter. How did you feel when you first saw the illustrations?

I was both surprised and thrilled when I saw Jamie’s art for the book. It’s not an approach I ever imagined, but now I can’t picture it any other way. The wonderland feel captures the kingdom of mushrooms perfectly!

Yes, it feels rather regal and majestic! 

You have two spreads of fascinating back matter in this book. What is your approach to back matter?

As a scientist and nonfiction picture book writer, research rabbit holes are one of my virtual homes. I deep dive into any topic of interest and collect my favorite bits. Anything that doesn’t make it into the book, tries to find a home there.

What tips do you have for other non-fiction picture book writers?

Follow topics that won’t let go wherever they may lead. Straight or winding the path will take you where you want to go—even if you don’t know where that is at the start. Then double and triple check your facts. Find everything you can and reach out to those who know more than you. Many wonderful and patient experts helped make Mushroom Rain what it is today. And I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it bears repeating. Join SCBWI. Use Storystorm and other challenges to push your writing forward. I am the writer I am today because of them and my amazing critique partners that I met, you guessed it, through SCBWI.

Laura, thank you for stopping by on Earth Day and sharing this enchanting story of mushrooms.

Blog readers, Laura is giving away a non-fiction picture book critique (plus a signed bookplate and SWAG) to one lucky winner.

Comment once below with your favorite mushroom.

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!


College professor by day and children’s writer by night, Laura K. Zimmermann has published numerous academic articles on human development as well as nonfiction stories in AppleSeeds, Ask, Muse, Odyssey, and Root & Star magazines. Her debut picture book, MUSHROOM RAIN, is here now from Sleeping Bear Press.

When she’s not writing, you’ll find her teaching classes and conducting research at Shenandoah University or wandering through nature with Junior Explorer Tivy.

Online you can find her at LauraKZimmermann.com, @LauraK_PBwriter on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest

by Chiêu Anh Urban

What better way to celebrate a book birthday than with a creative, passionate and supportive book-loving community. Thank you Tara for hosting this book launch, with 123 ZOOM zooming into the world. Hooray!

Want to hear a secret?  I’m not “into” cars and planes, like my husband, per se. My girly girls’ childhoods were dazzled with princesses, unicorns, fairies and pretty colors like purple and pink. It’s surprising to me that this is my second concept book featuring modes of transportation. Interestingly, what I do enjoy is drawing them.

The truth is, I’m very art-driven and I focus on design and format first when brainstorming ideas. My goal was to develop a playful, interactive book for exploring numbers and counting. So why planes, motorcycles, and ships? They can fly, swim and zoom at amazing speeds, make loud, interesting sounds, and be bright and colorful. That was the inspiration I needed to dive into a format where little ones can adventure into their imagination and become powerful vehicles that journey through water, land, and sky. Number characters represent the scenes, from the deep sea to the big galaxy. How I present the art is key; highlighting different perspectives of the same vehicles in aerial and front views.

Where’s the novelty—the interactive features?  This was the road maze that led to many dummies and production challenges. It’s been quite the journey, as novelty books go. I appreciate every speed bump, detour, and success along the way. My original idea consisted of cut-out vehicles on tracks that slide along the numbers, to encourage tracing and writing. This ultimately was cost prohibitive. I had to rethink the concept, and design a novelty that offered a similar experience, but was cost effective and inviting to touch. There was turbulence along the way, but also guidance and support from my amazing editor and agent. 123 ZOOM evolved with each spread featuring die-cut scooped out numerals and glossy, slick paths down the middle for tracing numbers, and discovering the many things-that-go. The dummy page pictured here was a work-in-progress, but the idea was to convey the novelty elements. There’s a seek-and-find element of surprise towards the end of the book, designed to encourage little ones to count backwards.

Its companion book, ABC ROAR, releases this July.  This hands-on novelty introduces the alphabet and animals in their habitats.  Thank you for letting me share my process and 123 ZOOM’s book birthday with you.

Enjoy a virtual no calorie treat and cheers to all ideas taking off!

Blog readers, to celebrate her book launch, Chiêu is giving away a copy of 123 ZOOM!

Comment once below to enter.

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!


Chiêu Anh Urban is an author/illustrator, and format designer who specializes in developing interactive, playful books that provide fun learning and exploration for the youngest readers.

Chiêu’s novelty titles include 123 ZOOM and ABC ROAR (2022) with Little Simon/S&S, and board book series ILLUSIONS IN ART (2023) with Candlewick Press. She is the creator of Color Wonder Hooray for Spring!, Color Wonder Winter is Here!, Quiet as a Mouse: And Other Animal Idioms, Away We Go! and Raindrops. Chiêu holds a BFA in Communications Art and Design.  Visit her website at ChieuUrban.com to learn more about her children’s books, follow her on Facebook, Twitter @ChieuAnhUrban and Instagram @chieu.anh.urban.

Ahhh, relax, it’s finally Monday!

What, don’t like Mondays?

You will once you read BEING A DOG: A TAIL OF MINDFULNESS by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Pete Oswald. This pupper knows how to just BE.

Maria, I know you’re an animal lover, as your books always feature them. Tell us, why a dog for this book?

This book was inspired by my late rescue dog, Becca. We had a very special bond, and she inspired many a book, including this one.

After she died I was deeply depressed for a couple of months and unable to do much of anything. When I was finally ready to write again, I thought of the ways that dogs are present and how they live in the moment. I wanted to feel the joy and calmness I felt being with Becca, and as I wrote, the moments and memories came alive and the words flowed out. I like to think of this book as Becca’s gift to me.

Aww, Maria, that is such a sweet story! 

We have all been through a rough time lately and need some uplifting reads. What is your hope for children who read this book?

Great question, Tara! That they can find moments of joy, and try to be present as much as they can. This comes naturally to kids, but the pandemic has brought so much stress and fear and sadness and isolation to us all. When we play, experiment, do art, play or listen to music/dance and explore nature, these moments come more easily to us all—we immerse ourselves in what’s in front of us, or in the process. There’s a mindfulness breathing exercise in the book, and my hope is that kids can use this whenever they feel sad or scared or stressed to self soothe and find some calm to help them cope.

A little birdie told me there’s another book in this series. I’m as curious as a cat! What can you tell us about that?

Yes! It’s called BEING A CAT: A TAIL OF CURIOSITY and it will release next April. The final art just came in this week and Pete worked his magic again—it’s sweet, adorable and very funny. To counter the idea of “curiosity kills the cat,” let’s instead inspire curiosity and wonder in kids—they are already wowed and curious about so many things in the world, and I’m hoping this book will also encourage them to ask questions, experiment and play. It’s dedicated to our editor, cat-lover Nancy Inteli and her trio of kitties, Jerry, Lulu & Keiko.

One last question—I thought this dog might be named Becca, but I see the dog doesn’t have a name! Is there a reason why?

I intentionally left the dog unnamed—that way it leaves things more open for readers. Kids can imagine it’s their very own pooch, or it invites them to imagine one who might be their furry friend.

Excellent!

Thank you for stopping by, Maria!

Blog readers, BEING A DOG: A TAIL OF MINDFULNESS was released last week from HarperCollins.

You can win a copy here just by commenting. (Tell us about your pet if you have one!)

A random winner will be selected next month.

Good luck!

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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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