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by Courtney Pippin-Mathur

First off, thank you to Tara for hosting my cover reveal on her blog!

HAPPY DIWALI is my most personal book, yet it has been a first for me in a lot of ways.

It will be my third picture book, but it is the first one that I wrote with someone else. The story is about a small girl celebrating Diwali with her family and how she overcomes her initial shyness. It was inspired by my daughter Kiran, and her love of family celebrations but her nervousness of large groups of people.

Diwali is the Hindu celebration of good over evil, light over darkness. This book follows how my sister-in-law Sanyukta brings the joys of Diwali to our culturally- and racially-mixed family in the US.  Sanyukta has been involved every step, from writing the first draft (on the phone) to revisions, cultural notes, tips on how to draw a sari, or what should be on the endpapers. When we couldn’t meet in person, we would meet on Zoom. It has been an amazing experience to create a book with her! The photo below is our author photo in the book. It is from long ago but is our favorite picture together.

It is the first book in which every character except one (the main character) is an actual member of our family. I emailed or messaged each parent and asked for photos and tried to include every child in the family. Some might resemble the actual child more than others, and I did age down most of them, but it was a lot of fun!

Here you can see my daughter in her favorite lehenga, and how I drew it in the book.

Below is one of my favorite images from the book. In in, the kids are painting diyas. Every year Sanyukta creates a craft, my favorite is painting clay diyas because I can re-use them every year.

It is the first book where the (amazing) editor who acquired the book moved to a new publishing house during the illustration process. Thankfully, the book was left to another wonderful editor. The publisher and art director also moved to new publishing houses, but we were very lucky in that our new editor kept everything chugging along.

It is also the first book I worked on during the pandemic. It took me a few months after Covid first hit the US and everything shut down before I could draw again. Thankfully I had been allocated plenty of time.

Because it had been so long since I have seen many members of the family in the book, I keenly felt the loss of family gatherings as I worked and really look forward to them again soon.

I hope this book can be a thank you from me to my husband’s family for making me feel so welcome in their homes and for always including me in and teaching me about their traditions and culture.

The designer pulled an image from the interior of the book to make the cover.

Here is the color sketch:

And here’s the final cover!

On the front is my sister-in-law Sanyukta and her daughter Priya drawing rangoli. They do that every year to welcome the guests. On the back cover is a group image of the kids eating, which is one of my favorite things to do at Diwali!

Courtney, thank you for sharing this beautiful book and your family traditions.

HAPPY DIWALI will be released September 28, 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

Blog readers, you can win an original sketch of a character (Rajini) from Courtney’s book!

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

Good luck!


Sanyukta Mathur is a social scientist and studies how to improve the health and well-being of young people around the world. She is the author of various research publications; HAPPY DIWALI! is her first children’s book. She lives in Maryland with her family. 

Courtney Pippin-Mathur is the author-illustrator of MAYA WAS GRUMPY and DRAGONS RULE, PRINCESSES DROOL!. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia with her husband, three kids and one very energetic dog. She is hugely grateful to be part of a diverse and welcoming family who work hard to bring their traditions to the United States and to pass them to new generations. You can find more of her work at pippinmathur.com or on Instagram @pippinmathur

by Refe & Susan Tuma

When we set out to design the cover of our new picture book, we knew we were in for a unique challenge.

For our first picture book, WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID LAST NIGHT, we worked with our designer at Little Brown to create a cover that was simple, colorful, and bold, and that put the dinosaurs and their mischievous personalities front and center. The cover of WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID AT SCHOOL uses a similar format, swapping out the blank wall and crayon scribblings for a classic green chalkboard.

We spent a lot of time going back and forth between the two of us, with Mary-Kate our editor, and with our design team at Little Brown trying to come up with a way to use that same format for the cover of WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Maybe the title is scribbled across the gift tag of a giant present, or on the surface of an ornament hanging on the tree. These options were fun and Christmas-y, but they didn’t do a very good job of conveying the scope of the story and, more importantly, they didn’t give the dinosaurs much to do.

So, we abandoned the format of the previous books and began exploring other ideas.

Our biggest source of inspiration ended up being movie posters for classic Christmas movies. Nightmare Before Christmas, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, even Ernest Saves Christmas. (Our riff on Nightmare Before Christmas was a lot of fun, with the tip of the tree bending down in front of the moon instead of the curled cliff of the original, but it a bit too abstract.)

We landed on the rooftop scene for a few reasons. First, getting the dinosaurs outside the house was a great way to highlight the magical, moonlit nighttime vibe that threads throughout the interior art. It also gave the dinosaurs the opportunity to explore somewhere they’ve never been in any of our previous books, which was fun. If you look closely, you’ll see we even got to sneak a nod to one of those classic Christmas movie posters…

With the concept set and the design sketched out, we got to work on the actual composition. And it was a lot of work!

Photographing an idyllic snowy rooftop under a moonlit sky is challenging enough under the best of circumstances. Doing it in the middle of the summer (after months of pandemic-related production delays) happens to be just about impossible. As a result, the final cover art is a composite of more than 17 individual photographs and effects, including the rooftop, lights, sky, snow, and of course the dinosaurs themselves.

This required some practical trickery. For example, to match the angle of the rooftop, we photographed the dinosaurs on piece of white posterboard tilted to roughly the same degree. We did something similar when photographing the string of lights to ensure they’d wrap naturally around the chimney.

The title treatment is our biggest link to the rest of the series, since it appears in about the same spot as on the other two covers. This time, instead of purely hand-lettered type, we pair it with something a bit fancier. We loved the way the swooshes on this font resembled dinosaur tails, as if it were created by splicing traditional Christmas type with just a hint of reptilian DNA. Better yet, the gold lettering on the dust jacket will be embossed in gold foil.

All in all, we’re thrilled with how this cover turned out and we can’t wait to share the rest of the book with the world!

WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is available for preorder now anywhere books are sold.

And blog readers! Refe and Susan are giving away a picture book critique!

Just leave one comment below to be entered.

A random winner will be selected soon!

Good luck!


Refe and Susan Tuma are a husband and wife team whose previous books include WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID LAST NIGHT, WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID LAST NIGHT: A Very Messy Adventure, and WHAT THE DINOSAURS DID AT SCHOOL. They live in Kansas City with their kids and a dog named Boris. Visit them online at dinovember.com, on Twitter @refeup and @sutuma and on Facebook at Dinovember.

with author Charlotte Offsay

Hi Tara! Thank you for having me on your blog today and for hosting the cover reveal of my upcoming picture book HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER!

Charlotte, please tell us about the book!

If your grown-ups bring home a small monster, er, baby, don’t panic. Just send it back!

HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER is a humorous how to story about a child who can’t believe it when her parents bring home a fussy, stinky, parent-stealing monster. She hatches a plan to send it back to where it came from… and along the way, she learns that maybe siblings aren’t so bad after all.

Do you have a fun behind-the-scenes story about creating the book that you’d like to share?

I tend to get my story ideas from the things in my life that are taking up the most room in my heart. When I first began writing what would eventually become HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER, I was consumed with second-time mom guilt about no longer being able to give my daughter the same amount of attention. She was just starting pre-school and I felt terrible separating from her for the first time and spending that time with her baby brother.

I had also heard countless stories from friends of how older siblings were reacting to having a new baby at home. I heard everything from ignoring to harming, and while it was clear these children loved their new siblings, one overarching theme prevailed—it was a hard adjustment for the older sibling to no longer be the sole focus of their parents’ attention.

My worries about my daughter made their way to the written page and I began writing a story about an older sibling feeling replaced by a new baby. ​I first wrote a traditional narrative arc story about a train feeling replaced by a shiny new train, but the story felt too much like a sad twist on Toy Story. ​

I wanted to capture and normalize the emotions around feeling replaced, but I also wanted to write a fun and entertaining story that kids would be able to connect to in a positive way. After one long brainstorming (venting) session with my husband, I realized that in order for the story to work it needed humor. I kept re-envisioning characters and story structure and eventually arrived at a humorous how-to story about a child who tries to return her sibling in the mail. This is the manuscript that is being illustrated by the talented Rea Zhai and will be published this September by Beaming Books.

How did you find your publisher?

I first connected with Beaming Books during #PBPITCH on Twitter.

I was querying at the time and had just been asked for more work by my now agent, the wonderful Nicole Geiger at Full Circle Literary. I signed with Nicole and we accepted the offer from Beaming Books!

Any words of advice for aspiring PB authors?

Don’t be scared to take the core concept/heart of your manuscript and start over. Play with structure, try an entirely different narrator, change the setting – you may just discover the key to unlocking that stubborn work-in-progress! Happy writing!

Blog readers, Beaming Books is giving away a copy of HOW TO RETURN A MONSTER when it’s released! Just leave one comment to enter.

A random winner will be selected.

Good luck!


Credit: NataliaL Photography

CHARLOTTE OFFSAY was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. Through her work, Charlotte hopes to make children laugh, to inspire curiosity, and to create a magical world her readers can lose themselves in time and time again. She is the author of, The Big Beach Cleanup, (Albert Whitman 2021). How to Return a Monster is publishing this September from Beaming Books, followed by A Grandma’s Magic, publishing in March 2022 from Doubleday Books for Young Readers. 

Learn more about Charlotte’s work at charlotteoffsay.com and follow her on Twitter at @COffsay and on  Instagram at @picturebookrecommendations.

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.

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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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