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by Winsome Bingham

“Abrams sets the table for SOUL FOOD SUNDAY by Winsome Bingham,
illus. by Charles G. Esperanza, which finds a boy helping Granny
prepare the dishes for a family feast.”
~ Publishers Weekly

You are all invited. To sit with us. And share with us. And eat with us. And CHEER with us. We will be in the same place, at the same time—sitting, sharing, eating, cheering. Every SUNDAY, Our virtual table welcomes you for SOUL FOOD.

I grew up in a family where on Sundays, everyone gathers at my aunt’s house for dinner and dominoes, wrestling and conversations, and fun. It was like a weekly family reunion where you get to see everybody you didn’t see through the week. Those were my childhood summer Sundays. My Brooklyn Sundays. My Bed-Stuy Sundays.

SOUL FOOD SUNDAY was written in 2013 and sold in 2018. This book went to auction and I’m so grateful to all the wonderful editors who saw the importance of showcasing #BlackBoyJoy. My attempt to show families getting together celebrating every day. Black folks living and passing on traditions and recipes. Cooking. Talking. Playing. FUNNING!

Here you have a beautiful Granny teaching her grandson what she knows. She knows how to cook. My Granny always said, “Everybody—boy or girl—should know how to cook. ‘Cause everybody have to eat. Learning to cook and wash your own clothes is independence.” I couldn’t agree more.

On September 14, 2021, this book will be ready to be on your book table. It will be paired with other side-dished booky meals. RIBS! CHICKEN! MAC-N-CHEESE! COLLARD GREENS! TURNIP GREENS! MUSTARD GREENS! HOT & SPICY SAUSAGE LINKS! They are all part of the main course and a delicious delight on this SOUL FOOD SUNDAY.

You can place a pre-order today to reserve your seat at the table.

Without further ado, THE. COVER. REVEAL:

Granny teaches her grandson to cook the family meal in this loving celebration of food, traditions, and gathering together at the table.

On Sundays, everyone gathers at Granny’s for Soul Food.
But today, I don’t go to the backyard or the great room.
I follow Granny instead.
“You’re a big boy now,” Granny says.
“Time for you to learn.”

At Granny’s, Sunday isn’t Sunday without a big family gathering over a lovingly prepared meal. Old enough now, our narrator is finally invited to help cook the dishes for the first time: He joins Granny in grating the cheese, cleaning the greens, and priming the meat for Roscoe Ray’s grill. But just when Granny says they’re finished, her grandson makes his own contribution, sweetening this Sunday gathering—and the many more to come.

Evocatively written and vividly illustrated, this mouthwatering story is a warm celebration of tradition and coming together at a table filled with love and delicious food.

Thank you, Winsome! This is a gorgeous book!

Blog readers, you can win a signed copy of SOUL FOOD SUNDAY! Winsome has three copies to give away!

Leave one comment below to enter.

Winners will be randomly selected later this month.

Good luck!


Winsome Bingham is a soul food connoisseur, master cook, and a US Army war and disabled veteran. She received both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education and has more than 15 years of teaching experience. You can find her writing on a deck while waiting patiently with a camera to capture a submarine shooting out of the water. She lives in Groton, Connecticut. 


Charles G. Esperanza is the second of six cool kids. The South Bronx is where he first opened his eyelids. A dope land shrouded in bright-colored decay, the home of graffiti and hip-hop DJs! He paints funky elephants! Bodegas, too! Mixed with this wonder is some whimsical truth. Esperanza has a voice that is seldom heard. A fusion of jazz, distorted guitars, and chirping birds. Esperanza is also the author-illustrator of Red, Yellow, Blue (and a Dash of White, Too!). He lives in the Bronx.

by Brian Gehrlein

To begin, THE BOOK OF RULES was never supposed to happen. It was just a silly book I wrote in 2017 that was never queried and never shared with my agent because I thought it was dead. However, we wanted to find another project to go on submission with so I took a dive into the dusty corners of my Google drive. And there it was. Lifeless and forgotten…THE BOOK OF RULES. Recalling concepts from The Princess Bride, I wondered if it was all dead or just mostly dead. I decided to find out. Through the magic of revision, several amazing critique buddies, and 10,000 volts of figurative electricity, we brought this “dead” story to life. Ta-da! A once thought dead manuscript Frankensteined to a multi-house offer debut book deal. Moral of the story? Keep an open mind and doubt your conclusions—what if your “worst” story is actually your best?!

So far what I’ve observed about the kidlit industry is that it feels like nothing is happening and then everything is happening. And then nothing is happening. And then EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING! Soon art was happening. Soon a monster was happening. Soon Dennis was happening. Yes, Dennis. Because what’s a good name for a monster that eats children who don’t follow the rules? Obviously Dennis.

Throughout the process, Tom Knight confirmed himself to be the kidlit illustration wizard I knew he was. His stuff is amazing and I couldn’t be more pleased to share this book with him! The first time I saw the cover, I remember shouting, “IT’S DENNIS! HE’S PURPLE! MY NAME IS ON A BOOK!” Crazytown. Bonkersville. A rush of blood to the head with two parts sugar and one part imposter syndrome. Because this book was never supposed to happen…and then it was.

THE BOOK OF RULES is a meta, interactive story that playfully introduces the idea of following rules (lest you be eaten) while weaving in a subtle thread of mindfulness. Due to its meta nature, I love that Dennis is eating the book on the cover—a bit of foreshadowing for one of my favorite parts at the end! I also think Tom really captures the playful tone I was going for with the color scheme and design of Dennis. Look how hungry he is! He’s adorably awful. Marvelously monstrous. I can’t wait for him to break out of this cover and munch his way into your hearts…and also eat your children (unless of course, they follow the rules).

From the publisher: 

An interactive picture book with dynamic illustrations, in which readers have to follow the rules or risk a run-in with a monster—with a gentle approach to mindfulness along the way.

Beware! This book has rules. You must follow all the rules. If you break the rules . . . Dennis the monster will eat you. And you don’t want to be Dennis-food—do you?

With a laugh-out-loud, interactive style, The Book of Rules invites you to get your sillies out before it’s time to focus and listen to directions. And you better get started, because Dennis can’t wait to eat—or, um—meet you!

THE BOOK OF RULES (FSG/BYR) comes out October 19th and is available for preorder.

Thanks for stopping by, kidlit fam! And thanks for hosting this cover reveal, Tara!

Brian is giving away a picture book manuscript plus query critique to a lucky commenter!

Leave one comment below.

A winner will be randomly selected in two weeks.

Good luck!


Brian Gehrlein is the author of dozens of award-winning children’s books that you haven’t read because they don’t exist yet. If only you had a time machine to fact check this absurd claim. Alas, you do not so you’ll just have to take his word for it. Brian enjoys writing snarky pretend-bios at the end of his posts which you can read at pbspotlight.com. Brian thanks you for reading this post. He thanks you for reading this unhelpful non-bio. He especially thanks you for reading this sentence. It was a really good sentence. However, he does not thank you for reading this sentence. You were not supposed to read that one. It was a secret and you’ve gone and compromised the entire mission. What mission you ask? Well, if you even have to ask then you don’t have a high enough security clearance and probably aren’t that cool. For more snark, follow Brian on Twitter @BrianGehrlein.


Tom Knight grew up on Mersea Island on the Essex coast, where he returned to live after having children of his own. Having grown up on a small farm, Tom spent most of his time using his imagination to create new worlds from the hedgerows and haystacks.

After an enjoyable stint as a graphic designer, Tom is now proud to be using his imagination as a full time career. Drawing on a long and abiding love of imagery from childrens literature, Tom has worked for a diverse range of publishers, including Little Tiger Press, Templar, Simon and Schuster, Scholastic and Macmillan. He has also turned his hand to authoring his own titles and is the author and illustrator for the ‘Good Knight, Bad Knight’ books and ‘Jimmy Finnigan’s Wild Wood Band’.

He does all this from a poorly temperature-controlled studio in the garden, where he is constantly distracted by the greedy birds that hang out by the feeder outside his window.

Learn more at Tom’s website tomknightillustration.co.uk and follow him on Twitter @tombabylon.

by Ashley Franklin

Remember NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE? Now we finally get to see Tameika in all of her royal glory! My publisher received such a positive response from readers who fell in love with Tameika’s story that it was decided that she deserved more time to shine. She does just that in BETTER TOGETHER, CINDERELLA.

The NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE cover does an amazing job of capturing the gist of the book: Tameika wonders if she can be Snow White. The cover of BETTER TOGETHER, CINDERELLA does an equally amazing job of doing the same. Tameika is Cinderella, but she’s sharing her space with her siblings.

There are so many things that I love about this cover by illustrator Ebony Glenn! Purple and blue were essential to the cover, and I had a lot of fun adding my input. Of course, we wanted blue for the Cinderella vibe, but purple is associated with royalty. Blue cover or purple cover? As you can see, we went with purple. If I had to pick my absolute favorite thing about the cover, it would be the stars. I often sign NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE with some rendition of “Always shine like the star you are.” This sentiment resonates in BETTER TOGETHER, CINDERELLA too; so to me, the stars are perfect.

What makes this book particularly special to me is that this was a completely different experience from my debut. This title was not something that came easily. I really wanted the perfect rhyme like we had with “quite” and “white” again, but it is not much you can do for a Cinderella rhyme. One of my sons suggested that we use mozzarella and be done with it. Clearly, that would have been a different story altogether.

I can’t wait until kids can see how Tameika adjusts to sharing the spotlight.

BETTER TOGETHER, CINDERELLA will release from HarperCollins on September 7, 2021. Pre-order a copy online today or through your local independent bookstore.

Ashley will be giving away a signed copy of the book once it’s released!

Leave one comment below to enter. A random winner will be chosen next month.

Good luck!


Ashley Franklin is the author of NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE (2019), “Creative Fixes” from the anthology ONCE UPON AN EID (2020), “Situationally Broke” from the anthology WHAT WE DIDN’T EXPECT (2020), BETTER TOGETHER, CINDERELLA (2021) and more. Ashley received her master’s degree in English literature from the University of Delaware. She is an adjunct college instructor, freelance writer, and proud mom. Ashley currently resides in Arkansas with her family.

Ashley is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Visit Ashley’s at ashleyfranklinwrites.com, on Twitter @differentashley, Facebook at Ashley Franklin, or Instagram @ashleyfranklinwrites.

Today we’re revealing the cover of Jocelyn Rish’s debut BATTLE OF THE BUTTS, illustrated by David Creighton-Pester.

Did you know manatees swim using farts? Or that herrings communicate by passing gas?

Butts are used for breathing, eating, swimming, talking, and even killing in the animal kingdom. Focusing on ten different animals and their derrières, and offering fun facts about their origin, habitat, and “posterior power,” this hilarious book captures the wonder of our ecosystem. Which animal has the coolest butt power? That’s up to you to decide!

Jocelyn, what inspired you to write about animal butts?

I was doom-scrolling Twitter very, very late one night, which is a bad habit I indulge in way too often, but this time it was a good thing! I ran across a tweet with this meme, which says manatees can control their buoyancy through an endless cycle of farting.

I giggled and thought that can’t possibly true. So I Googled it. And it is true! And as a delightful bonus of my search, Google told me about other animals that do weird things with their butts. I don’t think I slept that night as I went down a research rabbit hole of bizarre booties.

I tutor elementary school students who struggle with reading through a program called Reading Partners, so I’ve always wanted to write a book that would appeal to reluctant readers. After hours of reading about these fantastic fannies, I knew this was IT!

Did I ever imaging my debut would be about animal butts, farts, and poop? No.

Am I over-the-moon excited about it? Heck yeah!

And I hope even reluctant readers will be unable to resist a book with animal butts on the cover. Check out these delightful derrières!

What were your thoughts when you first saw the cover?

First of all, I have to say that David is both clever and hilarious (and of course super talented). I can’t wait for y’all to see all the little funny moments in the illustrations.

Anyway, my editor (Allison Cohen) sent me his sketches of several potential versions of the cover. They were all great—one was even set on a stage like the animals were competing, which is how I first envisioned the butt battle—but we all agreed the trophy version was the winner. I just loved the concept of the title on the trophy with our names on the stand—too perfect!

Once I saw the final version, not going to lie, I cried. I never imagined that a cover featuring animal rear ends would be so pretty! The bright colors. The way the greens and blues blend together (half the animals live on land, the other half in the water). The whole thing makes my eyes and my heart happy.

And I’ve never asked David if this is on purpose or if it’s my posterior preoccupation reading too much into things, but the trophy has butts on it! The top of both handles, the bottom of the cup, and the bottom of the stand have light reflections that are butt silhouettes. And even the handles themselves are booty shaped! Or maybe I’m taking this tushie theme too far.

Regardless, I’m thrilled our cover is now out in the world, and I can’t wait for kids to start reading the book!

BATTLE OF THE BUTTS will release from Running Press Kids on September 28, 2021. Pre-order a copy online today or through your local independent bookstore.

Jocelyn will give away one copy of BATTLE OF THE BUTTS to a lucky commenter (to be sent your way when it releases in September 2021!

Leave on comment to enter.

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

Good luck!


Jocelyn Rish is a writer and filmmaker who never imagined her cheeky sense of humor would lead to a book about animal butts. When she’s not researching fanny facts, she tutors kids to help them discover the magic of reading. Jocelyn has won numerous awards for her short stories, screenplays, short films, and novels and lives in South Carolina with her booty-ful dogs. Visit her website jocelynrish.com.

 

 


David Creighton-Pester is an illustrator and designer from Hamilton, New Zealand. Inspired as a child by picture books, animation, and all things arty, he spent endless hours drawing crazy characters and coming up with silly stories. And still does now! David is also the owner of Scorch Design, a graphic design company he started in 2009. You can see more of his illustration work at davidcp.com.

 

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.

 

I’m wowed by many covers, but I’m especially jazzed about this one for Megan Hoyt’s picture book BARTALI’S BICYCLE, about an athlete who quietly saved Jewish families during the second World War.

It’s got this retro yet modern vibe, thanks to Italian illustrator Iacopo Bruno.

1938 Tour de France winner Gino Bartali was an international sports sensation! Then soldiers marched into Italy. Tanks rolled down the cobbled streets of Florence. And powerful leaders declared that Jewish people should be arrested. To the entire world, Gino Bartali was merely a champion cyclist. But his greatest achievement was something he never told a soul—that he was working with the Italian resistance to save hundreds of Jewish men, women, and children, and others, from certain death, using the one thing no authority would question: his bicycle.

Megan! Congratulations on your beautiful book!

How did you feel when you first saw the cover? 

It was beyond my wildest expectations! The colors were so rich and the expression on Gino’s face was so serious and determined. And the fact that he included the medal Gino Bartali was awarded for being “righteous among the nations” after saving so many Jewish families—you’ll find out more about that when you read the book—made it extra special to me as a Jewish author. It’s on the back cover.

I love Bartali’s expression of quiet determination in the illustration. Iacopo took the original photo and transformed it to reveal so much about what’s inside the man and the book.

What feelings do you want the cover to evoke in your readers?

Mystery! Intensity! I hope a child picking up my book for the first time will want to find out what secrets this award-winning cyclist is keeping. I hope it makes them curious! I also hope, after they read it, that Bartali’s Bicycle will inspire children growing up today in such a hostile political climate to become adults of integrity and courage and generosity. I have big dreams and high hopes for the coming generation! Kids today have been through a lot, and I hope when they read Bartali’s Bicycle they will be excited to learn what true heroism is all about.

Why is his story so special to you?

When I first heard about Gino Bartali’s success as a Tour de France winner just before World War II began, I thought, oh, that’s nice. He rides bicycles really fast. Good for him. Then when he died in 2000, suddenly people began coming forward to share their stories. He had secretly saved more than 800 Jewish Italians from certain death, and he never told anyone! When the story broke in Italy, elderly women ran out into the streets weeping. It was unbelievable. I knew I had to tell the story to American children, too. May we never forget. And during this particular time, at this moment when we are facing down racism and staring anti-semitism in the eye and saying no more, I hope our book will boost those efforts. I know in time we humans will learn the hard lessons we need to learn. And Gino Bartali’s story will, I hope, help us get there just a wee bit sooner!

I understand you went to Italy and had a chance to meet with the illustrator Iacopo Bruno!

Yes! When I scored a $300 flight to Italy, I asked if he wanted to meet since he lives in Milan. Just name the place, I said. And he chose (of course) a bicycle cafe! There were bicycles hanging all over the restaurant, and they sold racing gear, too. It was the perfect spot! Thank goodness he brought his wife Francesca because he does not speak a lot of English, and I don’t speak much Italian. We went to his studio after lunch and I got to see sketches from his latest work in progress and final sketches of our beautiful book! And he gave me a gift! I didn’t think to get him a gift. Is that an Italian thing or is he just the nicest illustrator ever? And so talented—he created art for the book that makes you feel like you fell into a 1940s movie or something. It’s so retro and cool!

My husband and I also went to the Gino Bartali Museum in Florence and the Museum of Memory in Assisi. Everywhere we traveled, people wanted to talk to us about how wonderful Gino Bartali was. They told us the same stories over and over, but we never got tired of listening to his fans talk about him. And I interviewed his granddaughter, Lisa Bartali, who wrote a note for the back of the book. We messaged back and forth on Facebook, and she shared screen shots of books written about her grandfather in Italian. I typed each page, first in Italian, then put them through Google Translate to see what in the world I was typing. It was wonderful to find Italian sources. Writing non-fiction is no joke. This was difficult research! In the end, so worth it!

Amazing! So few authors have the opportunity to meet our illustrators in person. What a thrill!

And blog readers will also have a thrill…because Megan is giving away an F&G of BARTALI’S BICYCLE before it’s released on February 23, 2021 from HarperCollins/Quill Tree.

Leave a comment below to enter.

A random winner will be chosen in October.

Good luck!

 

Today I’m welcoming author-illustrator Leah Hong to reveal the cover for her debut picture book, HAPPY DREAMS, LITTLE BUNNY from Little, Brown! (Are you ready to go “awww”? Because here it is…)

Leah, I’m struck by the light, airy softness of your illustrations. It looks like I could cuddle with this pillow of a cover! Can you tell me a bit about how you developed your unique style?

Lots and lots of experimenting! For this book I knew I wanted the artwork to have a classical feel and color palette, a kind of a throwback to the Little Golden Books I had as a child. The first test pieces I did were in gouache and although I was happy with them, I wasn’t achieving the depth of detail that I wanted and was feeling frustrated. Then I remembered one of the best pieces of picture book illustration advice I’ve ever been given; it was from an instructor who said, “You’ll be spending many hours, even months, on the final artwork so you have to choose a style that you enjoy working in”. She had also recommended that I try colored pencils and although I was initially resistant, I found that I really enjoyed the careful layering I needed to do in order to mix my colors. But I quickly realized that it would take forever to complete the artwork and decided I could still achieve the look I wanted by laying down a quick background in soft pastel and working overtop with colored pencils. As soon as I gave myself permission to go in a different direction, my style seemed to develop on it’s own. In the end my instructor was right, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of making the art for this book.

Besides the softness of the art, your characters are floating (and boating) among the clouds. What secrets about the story inside does this scene reveal? (P.S. But don’t give it all away!)

The story is about a little bunny who can’t fall asleep because he has too much on his mind. But with a little help from his mother, he finds he’s able to channel his whirling thoughts into plans for that night’s dreams. The book explores the fantastical space between storytelling and dreaming and many of the images in the book are quite surreal. The scene on the cover hints at the soothing dream-like quality of the imagery in the book, and the special relationship between Little Bunny and his stuffed elephant, without (I hope!) giving away any of the adventures that await these two friends.

I’d love to see more of your work. Can we get some sneak peeks of the book?

This is a spread in process…

And this is a peek at the final art proofs.

Oh, and I can’t forget the back cover…

Awww! What a sweet cuddle bunny!

I’m going to tiptoe quietly out (shhh!), but not before telling my blog readers that they can win an F&G of HAPPY DREAMS, LITTLE BUNNY before Little, Brown releases it in February 2021.

Leave one [quiet] comment below to enter.

A winner will be chosen in a few weeks.

Good luck! And HAPPY DREAMS!


Photo credit: Makito Inomata

Leah Hong spent many of her childhood hours drawing stories, but it wasn’t until she had children of her own that she became re-immersed in the world of picture books, and fell in love with them all over again. A graduate of Emily Carr University of Art + Design with a visual arts degree in painting and drawing, she has worked both as an illustrator and graphic designer. Her lifelong love of drawing and storytelling led her to create her picture book debut, HAPPY DREAMS, LITTLE BUNNY (Little, Brown Young Readers, February 2021). She lives with her family in Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit her online at leahhong.com.

Today we have a gorgeous cover reveal from Rajani LaRocca and Chaaya Prabhat. (Yes, all cover reveals are beautiful, but this one struck me!)

Wow, the cover is so bright and colorful! It reminds me of Indian holidays and celebrations I’ve attended. Can you explain why color is so important in Indian culture?

In India, colors have spiritual and political significance. For example, the color saffron—the bright orange found on the Indian flag, the color that comes from the most expensive spice in the world—stands for fire and purity. Speaking as someone who has grown up in the U.S. but who has visited India every few years since I was a kid, I can say that the exuberance of colors in India, especially in clothing, is just incredible. Clothes tend to feature vibrant combinations that aren’t common here in the U.S., and as a kid and now, I’ve always felt very special wearing bright, celebratory colors. Chaaya captured this energy in her illustrations for BRACELETS FOR BINA’S BROTHERS: every single page is filled with glorious colors that combine to make the characters and home in the story feel exciting and cozy, all at the same time.

There’s more Indian culture in the book, like the holiday for which Bina is making bracelets. What is Raksha Bandhan?

Raksha Bhandhan, also known as Rakhi, is a South Asian holiday that celebrates the love between sisters and brothers. Sisters tie bracelets or amulets on their brothers’ wrists as a symbol of protection, and brothers give their sisters small gifts in return. I love this holiday, as it commemorates sibling bonds that last through time and distance. I don’t have any brothers, but I was inspired by the wonderful relationship between my daughter and son, and between other sisters and brothers in my family. In BRACELETS FOR BINA’S BROTHERS, the first lines sum up the relationship: “Bina had three big brothers: Vijay, Siddharth, and Arjun. They sometimes annoyed her, but she loved them anyway.”

That’s exactly how I felt about my brother when we were kids.

I love that there’s a holiday for siblings! 

Indian children will enjoy seeing themselves and their family traditions in this book. What do you want children from other races and cultures to take away?

I hope they enjoy learning about a different tradition and holiday! I also hope they see themselves in Bina and her brothers, who sometimes bother each other, but whose love shines through, especially when they spend time together and make gifts for each other.

I think it’s a beautiful holiday and one that we all should celebrate. (Maybe I would have appreciated my brother more instead of sitting on him.)

I noticed “storytelling math” on the cover. How did you incorporate math concepts into this picture book?

I’ve always loved math—I love its logic and precision, and I love the satisfaction of getting a “right” answer. When I attended a workshop on early childhood math hosted by Charlesbridge and TERC, the STEM education nonprofit, I’d never thought about pattern making as a math concept. But that experience opened my eyes to the ways that even very little kids learn and use math, and I’m grateful to be able to write a story that reflects my culture and family and explores an early mathematical concept for children.

Last but not least, I want to thank you for putting me in the book. I am honored.

Umm, “Tara” is the family DOG in the story. In Sanskrit the beginning is pronounced like the word “tar” so it’s TAR-a and it means “star.”

Yes, I am a star, thanks. And so is this book! 

Thank you for sharing it with us!

BRACELETS FOR BINA’S BROTHERS will release from Charlesbridge on April 20, 2021!

 

Charlotte Offsay is celebrating her picture book debut with a cover reveal of THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP, illustrated by Katie Rewse, publishing in March 2021 with Albert Whitman. This book also happens to be a Storystorm Success Story!

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP is about Cora, a young girl who joins hands with her local community to clean up plastic litter along the seashore and save the local sandcastle competition.

Congratulations on your debut picture book, Charlotte! Do you have a fun story about the making of the book you’d like to share?

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP was the result of a few Storystorm ideas colliding. (As many of you reading this already know, for the month of January Tara Lazar runs Storystorm, where a number of kidlit creators help the writing community get their creative juices flowing and develop picture book ideas, which many of us then use to fuel our picture book writing for the rest of the year.)

During Storystorm I write down anything and everything that inspires me. My three-year-old son had just begun his superhero phase (which two years later is still going strong—maybe not a phase?) and I wanted him to clean up his toys before school. I attempted to motivate him by pretending we were superheroes who needed to clean up to save the world (whatever works right?!). Unfortunately, he saw right through my plot and responded with “I don’t feel like being a superhero today.” My first thought was “yea, I don’t feel much like a superhero today, either.” This thought stuck with me as I had to jog with the stroller uphill to get him and his five-year-old sister to pre-school on time. I added “I don’t feel like a superhero today” to my Storystorm list.

Later that month on one of our walks back from pre-school (which were always more leisurely that our walks to pre-school), as we paused to inspect whatever flower/leaf/bug my kids had spotted, I casually picked up a piece of trash and tossed it into a nearby garbage can. My kids immediately wanted to know what I was doing. Why was there trash outside? Who had put it there? Why was it important to throw it away? Their inquisitive nature lead to a series of environmental discussions, which resulted in their relentlessly pointing out garbage everywhere we went and “doing our part” eventually made its way onto my list.

Stay with me—this is the final puzzle piece, I promise. As part of my Storystorm process, I also look back to my lists from previous years for ideas that I still wanted to pursue. For a couple of years in a row I had written “how many hands.” This stemmed from my passionate belief that if we can convince enough hands to join together, we can change the world. I hadn’t found a path forward for this idea so I added it to my 2019 list.

These three Storystorm ideas…

  • not feeling like a superhero
  • doing our part to clean up after ourselves
  • and small hands joining together to change the world

…collided and I wrote what will be my debut picture book: THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP.

Tell us more about the story!

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP is about Cora, a young girl who plans to be a sandcastle-building champion. When the contest is canceled due to litter at the beach, Cora’s plans come to a halt. Cora and her Mama pull on gloves and get to work, but soon Cora realizes it will take more than two pairs of hands to solve a big problem.

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP introduces young readers to the impact of human trash on the environment. With practical solutions for tackling the plastic problem, this heartfelt story demonstrates that a person doesn’t have to be a superhero to make big change. By joining hands with those around them and doing their part, they can change the world.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will be donated to Heal the Bay.

How did you find your publisher?

THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP is being published by Albert Whitman. I was fortunate to connect with my editor, Christina Pulles, during an Inked Voices workshop. My agent, the wonderful Nicole Geiger at Full Circle Literary then submitted THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP to Christina when it went out on submission last summer.

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring PB authors?

The journey to publication is a rollercoaster—don’t get off the ride before you get your yes!

Charlotte is giving back to the PB community by offering a critique to one lucky blog commenter.

Leave a comment below to enter.

A random winner will be chosen next month.

Good luck!


When Charlotte Offsay isn’t busy building sandcastles with her husband and two small children, she can be found dreaming up and writing picture book manuscripts at home in Los Angeles, California. She passionately believes in the power of small hands joining together to make big change and wrote this book with the hopes of empowering young readers to follow in Cora’s footsteps. Her second picture book HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER is publishing in Fall 2021 with Beaming Books. Read more about Charlotte and her books at charlotteoffsay.com or follow her on Twitter @COffsay and Instagram @picturebookrecommendations. Her debut picture book THE BIG BEACH CLEANUP from Albert Whitman can be pre-ordered at BAM.

 

Author Chana Stiefel is here today to release the cover of her upcoming nonfiction book, illustrated by Chuck Groenink: LET LIBERTY RISE! HOW AMERICA’S SCHOOLCHILDREN HELPED SAVE THE STATUE OF LIBERTY. This book will be released on March 2, 2021 with Scholastic…

But first, Chana shares a few things she’s learned in the process of creating this nonfiction book:

1. Listen to your friends for book ideas!
A few years ago, when humans still ate meals together, I invited my author friends Sue Macy and Jackie Glasthal over to my house for Friday night dinner. Jackie mentioned that she had published a middle grade novel based on the true story of the building of the Statue of Liberty.* Many of us know that the French sent the statue to America as a symbol of friendship. But did you know that America didn’t want it? And New York’s richest millionaires refused to contribute $100,000 to build the pedestal! Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the World newspaper, was outraged. He insisted that the statue stand in New York harbor, the gateway to America. Pulitzer said he would print the name of every person who donated to the pedestal fund—no matter how small the sum or how small the person. Guess who donated their pennies to America’s first crowd-sourcing campaign? KIDS, of course! Right then and there, I knew this story had to become a picture book! Jackie gave me her blessing and offered to help.

2. Do the research!
Researching this book took years. Back when humans could take ferries and visit libraries, Jackie and I met at the Bob Hope Memorial Library on Ellis Island. We pored over archives and took pictures. I also time traveled in the map room of the New York Public Library, scrolling through microfilm of the World newspaper from the 1870s. I read through stacks of books and shared every exciting fact with my family. (You’re welcome, kids!)

3. Practice patience!
Even after you’ve received multiple critiques and edited your manuscript a bazillion times, publishing takes time—enough time to turn copper green. But waiting for a great book deal and the perfect illustrator is worth it! Illustrator Chuck Groenink captured 1870s America oh-so-beautifully, down to the adorable knickers on the newspaper boy. My editor at Scholastic Dianne Hess and I fact checked every single word. (Fab facts: How many stars were on the U.S. flag in 1876? In how many pieces was Liberty shipped to America? Answers below**!)

4. Take nothing for granted.
Publishing a book is an incredible gift and for that I will always be grateful. I hold my torch high for Dianne, Chuck, my family, my critique partners, the kidlit community (thank you Tara!), and my former agent John Cusick. Most of all, I am grateful to Jackie for giving me the gift of this story. Sadly, Jackie passed away three years ago. She stood for liberty, freedom, and friendship and this book is dedicated to her memory. On that bittersweet note, presenting the cover of LET LIBERTY RISE!

*Liberty on 23rd Street by Jacqueline Glasthal, illus. by Alan Reingold, Silver Moon Press, 2006.
**Answers: 38 stars; 350 pieces


Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for kids. In addition to LET LIBERTY RISE! (Scholastic, 3-2-21), Chana’s books include MY NAME IS WAKAWAKALOCH, illustrated by Mary Sullivan (HMH), ANIMAL ZOMBIES…& OTHER REAL-LIFE MONSTERS (NatGeoKids), and DADDY DEPOT, illustrated by Andy Snair (Feiwel & Friends). She is represented by Miranda Paul at Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Learn more at chanastiefel.com. Follow @ChanaStiefel on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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