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A few weeks ago, I teased the cover to my upcoming book YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL on Twitter. You may have seen some garbled gobbledygook like this:

You can see a little hint of what’s to come in the lower right corner…

Or you can see the entire thing by following the cover evolution below…

The illustrator is Melissa Crowton, winner of SCBWI’s 2017 Winter NYC Conference portfolio showcase. Yeah, I am one lucky ducky to be paired with Melissa’s whimsical art.

She’s the star of this cover reveal, so let’s ask her some questions.

Melissa, what was your approach to the cover design for YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL?

The cover for this book was such a delight to work on. Covers in general are always a challenge—a lot of questions go through my mind.

  • What type of mood do I want the cover to convey?
  • Should it tell a story? 
  • Should it be simple, or more complex?

Because this book features a circus school, I knew that I wanted the cover to reference vintage circus memorabilia in some way—a nod to the past, but with a modern update.

I love collecting images for any project, and luckily for this book there was a gold mine of photos and poster designs available in books and online. The first sketches I worked on for the book were more simple in nature—a cast of characters against a backdrop of the stripes of the tent.

There are so many fun children and adults who show up in the book, and the publisher and I thought it might be fun to have a group on the cover, almost like a school photo. But the more we worked on it, the more it didn’t quite fit. So I went back to the drawing table and I decided to take a more decorative approach.

One thing I noticed in my research was a consistent use of graphic patterns and simple shapes. I had saved some images of old poster designs that used borders and shapes to highlight parts of the circus, so I thought that using a device like that show off the main characters, while also alluding to the busy school setting might be a good solution. I was also able to squeeze in a few animals friends on the cover as well which is always fun.

Once the publisher approved of my second attempt, everything was pretty easy at that point—I arranged the elements around the central focus, the blackboard, and passed my artwork off to the folks at Tundra after I was finished for them to add the title.

Although covers generally go through a lot of back and forth, I am so happy with where it ended up. I wanted the end result to hint at the exciting nature of the story inside, so hopefully it does just that!

How did you decide upon the color palette?

I looooove color, so choosing to make a book with a limited palette was a challenge, but also really fun! I didn’t realize how much I would love trying out different combinations.

I knew I wanted the interior to use a lot of black and white elements, so that was easy to nail down. As for the other colors, that was a bit more difficult, especially considering how many different animals and people were going to be in this book. I had originally chosen a yellow and blue color, but we decided to add pink into the mix to round it out—basically the primary colors but with a twist. I love that the colors play well off of each other but have their own personality, just like the characters in this book.

Did you go to the circus as a kid? What was your favorite part of the circus?

I went to the circus once as a kid with my mother and three sisters. I remember being really excited to see the performances, but my favorite part was actually the costumes. I loved that everyone looked different, but at the same time they were all part of a big family. There were a lot of patterns and colors in interesting combinations which is always something I have tried to incorporate into my own illustration work. I still love looking at old images of the circus for inspiration, there is a lot of great design that was used to promote the circus during those early years.

Melissa, you did a stupendous job on the cover! Thanks for showing us your process to get there!

YOUR FIRST DAY OF CIRCUS SCHOOL will be released by Tundra Books on June 4, 2019.

You can pre-order now…online or via your local indie…and if you do, leave a comment telling me so.

Everyone who pre-orders will be entered to win a PRIZE PACK of circus school goodies, including a signed F&G, poster, SKYPE call/visit, and whatever other good stuff I can stuff in the package.

Thank you, Melissa and Tundra Books!


Melissa Crowton is an illustrator and designer who has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Creative Quarterly, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators as the Portfolio Showcase winner at their Winter 2017 Conference. She earned her BFA in Illustration at BYU in 2012 and an MFA in the Illustration Practice Program at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore in 2016. Melissa originally hails from Utah, but she now lives in the East Bay of Northern California. Visit her at melissacrowton.com and follow her on Instagram @mcrowton.

 

by Lori Alexander

Last October, I headed into our pediatrician’s office with my 12-year-old who could not shake a deep, rattling cough. While we waited in a small, astronaut-themed room I wondered if my son might have pneumonia. While we waited some more, I wondered about this picture hanging on the wall.

As a seasoned Storystormer, I knew inspiration could strike just about anywhere. The image of the baby got me thinking about board books. I knew science-themed board books were selling well. But I didn’t have much interest in writing a book of facts for toddlers. What about a book that showed a baby’s current skills and how they might tie-in with a future career? I made a few notes in my phone, snapped the picture, and got back to checking my son’s temperature with the back of my hand.

One year later, I’m excited to share FUTURE ASTRONAUT (Cartwheel/Scholastic), illustrated by the amazing Allison Black. Part of the “Future Babies” board book series, upcoming titles include FUTURE ENGINEER, FUTURE CEO, and FUTURE PRESIDENT. And because I’m such a fan of Allison’s, here’s a peek inside Book #1 and a few words from the illustrator herself:

Allison, your style is so perfect for the youngest “readers.” Is this your first time illustrating board books?

Thank you! This is not my first time working on board books.  I currently have three published, but I think this series is really special and I can’t wait for them to be released! I love making board books because I have a one-and-a-half-year-old son and it’s nice to be able to read to him without worrying that he’s going to rip, eat or destroy them!

How did you get your start in children’s publishing?

I’ve always been interested in children’s publishing, but I didn’t get really involved in it until 2016. That year I was approached by a couple of publishers who had discovered my art through my stationery line and my work with Target. I enjoyed making those books so much that I decided to get an agent and leave my job to be able to focus on this type of work – and I’m so happy I did!

What else are you working on, if you’re able to share?

Right now I’m working on a few books (which is all I can say about those), as well as developing some new items for my shop. I just released my Fall line a couple weeks ago so now I’m focusing on holiday products. I’ve also started to write some children’s book manuscripts. There’s a lot more work to be done on those (authors really are amazing!), but it’s exciting to try something new!

Plan for the future and pre-order a copy of FUTURE ASTRONAUT today.

Lori will give away one copy of FUTURE ASTRONAUT to a lucky commenter (in the future, release date is June 2019)!

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

Good luck.


Lori Alexander is the author of picture books BACKHOE JOE (Harper, 2014) and FAMOUSLY PHOEBE (Sterling, 2017) as well as the FUTURE BABY board book series (Scholastic, 2019). She also writes non-fiction for older readers. ALL IN A DROP, a chapter book biography of scientist Antony van Leuwenhoek releases in fall 2019 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, followed by A SPORTING CHANCE, a biography of Ludwig Guttmann, the founder of the Paralympic Games, in 2020, also from HMH. Visit her at lorialexanderbooks.com and follow her on Twitter @LoriJAlexander.

Allison Black is an illustrator and designer specializing in cute and colorful creations. Originally from Upstate New York, Allison now lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, son and four pets. Allison’s career started as a designer for Target where she developed items ranging from Christmas ornaments and Easter baskets to party décor and apparel. In 2017 Allison left Target to focus on children’s book illustration and to work on her own line of products. She now has six published books and has another ten in progress! You can find Allison’s books, stationery and more in her online shop, Hip-Hip. In addition to making art around the clock, Allison has a particular love for goats, guinea pigs and gummy bears. Visit her at allisonblackillustration.com, shop for art at hip-hip.com and follow her on Instagram @allisonblackillustration and @hello.hip.hip.

by Nancy Viau

Hey there, readers of this wonderful blog!

Betcha can’t wait for hot, hot summer days, right? I know I’m looking forward to lots of sunshine and NO SNOW!

WAIT.

A.

MINUTE!

I canNOT say that because I am all about snow these days. The reason? In September, my fourth picture book makes its way into the world, and it’s called FIRST SNOW (Albert Whitman & Co.). So, put on your clunky boots and funky hats, think chilly thoughts … instead of OMG, it’s summer and it’s ridiculously hot, and please check out:

What does this cover reveal about the book? Simple. Snow. Is. Fun! If you’re an adult, do you remember the hours spent building igloos, having snowball fights, sledding, and that feeling of cozy warmth from a cup of hot chocolate? (Yeah, I know, dear grown-ups, you’ve gotta put aside the snow shoveling, buried cars, bad roads, etc. for a minute. I haven’t forgotten about you. When the book comes out, look at my funny dedication!)

As with my other picture books, this story is written in rhyme. Before I even thought about being a writer, I loved to read rhyming books. The words seemed to roll off my tongue, yet I never really understood why until I tried my hand at rhyme. It was much harder than I ever imagined! With rhyme, there is so much to consider—the rhyming words, internal rhyme, meter, length of phrases, length of stanzas, vocabulary, and more. Still, I love it. I love that every single word counts. It often takes me weeks to find that perfect word—the one that fits for all the right reasons. When that happens, it’s magical, trust me. If you write in rhyme, you know exactly what I’m talking about!

As far as finding a topic for a rhyming picture book, nature has always been my inspiration. I enjoy every season and the weather that comes with each one—warm, breezy, rainy, super-hot and humid, or freezing cold. While some may grumble, growl, and complain about a pending snowstorm, I’m a little kid again. There is something about the crunch of snow under my feet; its clean smell; that blanket of white; the cheery voices of children playing; and at night, the quiet peacefulness it brings.

Puffy jackets. Scarves in place.

Extra mittens, just in case.

In FIRST SNOW, you’ll see the kids scramble to see those first snowflakes, then head outside for adventure. Illustrator Talitha Shipman has done an amazing job of showing how beautiful snow is. (It’s not easy to paint white snow on white paper, right?) The colors she has chosen are varied and bright, and the expressions on the kids’ faces are priceless. Seeing how an illustrator works with my words is one of my favorite things about writing picture books.

So, next winter when meteorologists predict a big winter storm, I hope you’ll curl up with a copy of FIRST SNOW and think back to a time when snow meant serious, crazy fun. Then bundle up and go out and play!


Nancy Viau is the author of five picture books: PRUETT AND SOO (Two Lions, TBA), FIRST SNOW (Albert Whitman), CITY STREET BEAT (Albert Whitman), LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! (Abrams Books), and STORM SONG (Two Lions). She also writes middle grade and has several published with more forthcoming. Look for her latest, BEAUTY AND BERNICE, at the end of August! During the summer Nancy works as a librarian assistant at a public library and is the first to check out the travel books, searching for adventures out-of-state and out of the country. It’s in nature where she finds inspiration and whether it’s navigating mountain trails or riding her bike, she’s always writing stories in her head. Visit her at NancyViau.com.

Nancy is giving away a signed copy of FIRST SNOW in September. Comment now to be entered into the random drawing. A winner will be selected…on the first day of summer…? (Oh, the irony.)

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

In the midst of her first Storystorm in 2015, Sarah Lynne Reul was picking up her daughter from French lessons (her husband is French with family in France) when she began receiving a slew of text messages from friends checking in to say they were safe. She had no idea what was going on. Turning on the radio, she heard scant details about the terrorist attacks in Paris.

“I walked into the after-school building full of people with family in France, and it seemed nobody else was yet aware of the attacks.  I couldn’t decide if it was helpful or harmful for me to tell them about it, since I had so little information on what had happened.”

She recalled how everyone was glued to the TV during September 11, even though the news anchors kept repeating themselves, trying to reach conclusions before the mesmerized, worried audience.

While she was driving home, Sarah could tell that her daughter knew something was going on, even though the radio was off. “She told me she’d make a forcefield to protect everyone we knew, and it made my heart ache. I jotted that down when we got home as the idea of the day. I kept coming back to the concept, and a few weeks later created the first draft.”

The result is THE BREAKING NEWS, her debut picture book as author-illustrator. And today Sarah is revealing the cover with the story behind its evolution.

Thanks for hosting my cover reveal, Tara.

We went through a bunch of different iterations for the cover—my editor, Claire Dorsett, and my art director, Anne Diebel, provided lots of guidance and feedback throughout the process.

I began the process for the cover after I had finished all of the interior art. The original working title had been “THE BAD NEWS”, which felt a bit too negative, and for a while, we were playing with the title “ONE SMALL THING”, so you’ll see those names in some of the early sketches below. We eventually settled on “THE BREAKING NEWS” as a final title, which we all felt works best for the book.

Here are some of my earliest sketches for the cover.

I liked the one that I had circled here—I felt like it showed a problem for the main character to solve, but ultimately it didn’t show a connection to the actual news media, which plays a pretty big role in the book.

So I tried a few options that put the focus on newspapers and/or TV, as well as the reaction of the family.

We ended up going with a variation of the middle option, and then we went back and forth on the framing. Here’s a sample mockup from Anne:

Finally, I worked on softening the expressions and exploring options for the colors and the hand lettered title to find the right combination for the final.

Fascinating glimpse into the process for this book, Sarah, thank you! And having been lucky enough to read it, I can say that it sums up the story beautifully.

THE BREAKING NEWS by Sarah Lynne Reul makes it debut April 10, 2018 from Roaring Brook Press. Mark your calendars, eager readers!

I’m thrilled to host the cover reveal for a story I have longed to see in print. The lovely Marcie Colleen is here to show it to you and tell the tale of her own literary love triangle…on Valentine’s Day no less!!!

by Marcie Colleen

When I first set out to write a picture book titled LOVE, TRIANGLE (see the origin of the idea for the book here) I just wanted to tell a punny story that hopefully someone would want to publish someday. But my meager expectations were highly exceeded. In fact, the entire journey of this book has been unlike anything I could have ever imagined and I have my very own “triangle of amazing-ness” to thank.

First, my agent, Susan Hawk, who first realized the potential in this story when it was simply a concept pitched to her during our courting phase. And although it took me almost two years after signing with her to write it, she remained a cheerleader the entire time, bubbling with excitement when she spoke of the work-in-progress to editors. Eventually, the manuscript was completed and we found ourselves in a five-house auction situation! Now for those of you who don’t know what that means, an auction is when more than one publishing house wants the story and are willing to try and bid for it. (Sorry to say, book auctions do not include paddles, large hats, or a gavel, in case you were wondering.)

auction

For about a week I met with the interested editors on the phone. We discussed what each house envisioned for the book and how they intended to market it. We discussed potential illustrators and possible design. They even asked for my ideas. It was so surreal.

Finally, the day of the auction came (again, no paddles or giant hats but I did have a mimosa-fueled auction party with some of my closest girlfriends).

After everything was said and done, I signed a two-book deal with Alessandra Balzer, Publisher at Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. I had always admired Alessandra’s work and had heard her speak once at a conference. As I told her during our pre-auction conversation, I was a “first time caller, longtime fan.” She was the perfect choice for the Apex of this literary love triangle.

But, our team did not become complete until Bob Shea signed on to illustrate.

Bob. Shea. (Now do you know why I call this a literary love triangle?! I mean, this team is the best of the best!)

Now, I love Bob’s work. Funny thing is, several years prior I had heard Bob speak on a panel at Books of Wonder in New York City. It was there that I first met him and he signed a book for me. I was only an aspiring writer at the time and Bob wrote “Good luck with the writing.” Thanks for the luck, Bob! I think it worked!

The story of book-smart Square and sporty Circle who are best friends until a dynamic Triangle shows up releases on October 3, 2017.

In the meantime, take a look at this freakin’ awesome cover!

frontcoverlovetriangle

Hey, we even have the BACK cover…so we cover all the angles…

backlovetriangle

Marcie is giving away a signed F&G (folded & gathered proof) of LOVE, TRIANGLE to one lucky commenter. Leave a comment below to enter. If you SHARE this cover reveal, you receive another entry. Just comment again telling us where you shared the LOVE.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

by Catherine Bailey & Meg Walters

Thank you, Tara, for allowing Meg and I to reveal the super duper, mega official, cover of our book, LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony Press, 2017)! It’s very kind of you to host us, (and we didn’t even have to hypnotize you!). We’d like to share a behind the scenes sneak-peak of how our cover came to life. Meg will kick it off with her amazing illustrator insights,

An Illustrator’s Eye…
In March of 2015 I was contacted by Julie Matysik, then a senior editor at Sky Pony Press (SSP), the children’s imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. Julie and SSP editor Nicole Frail, had acquired a wonderful picture book text written by Catherine Bailey, called LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. Julie had kept a promotional postcard of mine that she had picked up from a NJ-SCBWI Fall Workshop and thought, based on the postcard artwork, my illustrative style might be a good fit for this new project. Although I have been an illustrator and designer for a long time, and attended SCBWI events for years, this was the first picture book I have illustrated. I was beyond thrilled, and couldn’t wait to illustrate Catherine Bailey’s fun characters and bring her wacky story to life.

Julie sent me the LLS manuscript and I began creating sketches of Lucy and Sherman and thumbnails of the story. Lucy loves polka dots, and loves that Sherman also “wears” polka dots. So I wanted to incorporate dot graphics on the cover, as well as Lucy’s clothes. I also liked that the polka dots resembled water/bubbles. Blub, blub!

The final cover artwork was due to SPP January 2016.

lls_cover_a

But—as so often happens in publishing—there was a change after the deadline.

In March of 2016 the SPP Marketing Department wanted to move the book release date to coincide with Valentine’s Day to play up the LOVE in LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. They asked me to recreate the cover with more red and add hearts. Marketing also asked that I move an illustration that was on the title page onto the cover. The illustration showed Lucy and Sherman hugging. Here is previous title page art:

lls_titlepage_b

I created several new looks for the cover and after a few rounds of edits, here is new Valentines-ish cover March 2016.

lls_valentines_c

Then the publication date was switched to March of 2017. Since the focus was no longer a Valentine’s day release, we were able to go back to the original blue/turquoise background. SPP only asked that I still keep the characters hugging on the cover. And so, here she is – the final, final cover:

lls_final_d

Sky Pony Press’s Nicole Frail and Julie Matysik, and Catherine, have been fantastic to work with throughout this whole process. I am thrilled for the March 2017 launch of LUCY LOVES SHERMAN!

The Author’s Note…
I am so glad to talk about the cover design of this book, largely because people always ask me if I draw my own pictures. After a resounding “Nope,” I get the follow-up question about how much input that I—as the author—have in the book’s artwork. That answer is usually “Not a whole heck of a lot.” And that’s fine with me! I love that talented artists like Meg add new layers and depth my stories.

However, the wonderful Sky Pony folks invited my feedback on early drafts of LUCY LOVES SHERMAN. I was super flattered and excited. I poured over the images for days. Seriously. At one point my husband threatened to lock my laptop in the trunk of his car. But I couldn’t help myself. Meg did such a great job!

lucy-sketch-1

lucy-sketch-2

Then, as Meg mentioned, there was a big shift towards a more “Valentine’s” feel during the cover design process. My editor, Nicole, emailed me the revamped design. It was very red, very adorable, and very perfect for the holiday. But. (Oh yes, there’s a but!) I worried that Sherman’s red shell would get lost against the scarlet background. So I very carefully and very politely voiced my concerns. Nicole really took them to heart, but her hands were tied. The red had to stay but there was talk about adjusting the shade, which I thought was a great compromise. And then—lo and behold—the publication date was pushed back and the problem solved itself. The cover went back to primarily turquoise.

So there you have it. A blow-by-blow of our mini-rollercoaster ride towards the final cover for LUCY LOVES SHERMAN, which splashes out from Sky Pony Press this March. I think Meg and Nicole and Julie totally nailed it. And I hope you to do too!

Pssst! It wouldn’t be a cover reveal without a free giveaway (Free! Everybody loves free!).

Just leave one message in the comments below and you will be entered to win a 20-minute Skype visit with author Catherine Bailey. The visit can be used either by a teacher/media specialist as a school visit, or by aspiring authors who’d like to chat about writing and publishing.

I find it fascinating when kidlit authors can hop into other genres. My mind is perpetually caught in 2nd grade so I could never envision writing young adult novels. But as my agent reminds me, never say never. Clever, Joan, ever clever.

vbartlesVeronica Bartles is one of those age-group-jumping frogs. Err, I mean authors. Sorry, I’ve got froggies on the brain because today she’s revealing the cover of her upcoming picture book THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS (Balzer + Bray), illustrated by Sara Palacios. And GET THIS–the idea for the book came from her participation in PiBoIdMo. It’s another success story!

Veronica, you write YA novels! And now, a picture book! How difficult was it for you to write for a much younger age group?

Well, I’ve been accused of being very young at heart, so luckily it’s not too difficult for me to slip into a younger voice. But there’s definitely a shift between writing YA novels and picture books. I wouldn’t say one is harder to write than the other, but writing a picture book is definitely not easier than writing a full-length novel, just because it’s shorter. You’d think (at least, I used to think) that it would be a lot harder to write a 50,000-word novel than a 500-word picture book, because the novel has 100 times more words. But with a picture book, every single word counts. When you have only 500-700 words (or less!) to tell a story, with fully-developed characters, plenty of conflict, and a plot that keeps an audience’s attention through multiple re-readings, even the smallest word choice questions make a difference.

Although I can usually jot down a picture book first draft in a few days, while it takes a month or more to finish a YA novel’s first draft, I discovered that the revision process is so much more intense for my picture books. When all is said and done, writing and revising a picture book takes as long as it takes to write and revise a full YA novel. (Maybe even longer.) That was definitely something that took some getting used to.

OK, now I’m really going to test your YA loyalty! How is writing a PB “better” than writing a novel?

Tough question!

I think the best part about writing a picture book is that I can be surprised by the final story too. Writing YA is really fun, and I absolutely make friends with my characters by the time we reach the end of the story together. But since I write all the words, there isn’t anything in the final novel to surprise me. With THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS, my words only tell half of the story. The rest is the work of my fabulous illustrator, Sara Palacios. I love the way her pictures and my words fit together to tell a story better than either of us could do on our own.

What was it like when you first saw Sara’s illustrations?

Way back before Sara was officially signed on as my illustrator, my editor sent me some sample artwork with the most adorable frogs you’ve ever seen, and I was immediately smitten. When I got the word that Sara had agreed to illustrate THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS, I saved those frog pictures as the background wallpaper on my phone, so I could look at them several times a day. Of course, this made waiting for the official illustrations just a teensy bit harder, because I knew something absolutely fabulous was coming.

So I started following Sara’s Facebook page, watching for any hints of frogs and princesses in her artwork.

One day, she posted a picture of her desk with several sketches for the book she was currently working on, and up in the corner of the picture, there was a pencil sketch of the most adorable little girl I’ve ever seen. I remember thinking, “I want Princess Cassandra to look just like that.” And I’ll admit, I was kind of sad to see this perfect princess in a pile of sketches for someone else’s book. But a couple of days later, my editor, Kristin Rens, emailed me some rough, preliminary sketches of Sara’s concept art for Princess Cassandra … and it was the sketch I had fallen in love with from her Facebook post!!! I sent my daughter outside to do lots of cartwheels for me in celebration. (I’ve never had good enough balance to pull off a proper cartwheel, so I always have to designate a proxy cartwheel performer when celebrations call for one.)

What suggestions do you have for MG or YA authors who want to take on a PB?

Read lots and lots of different kinds of picture books to familiarize yourself with the PB voice. Read them aloud, so you can hear the rhythm of the narrative, even in the books that don’t rhyme. Read them to small children (if you don’t have small children of your own, you can always volunteer to read for story time at your local library), and pay attention to the way they interact with the books. And don’t be afraid to use big words. Kids love creative vocabulary choices!

Also, if possible, make friends with some illustrators. Their critique is invaluable when you’re trying to write a book that’s both fun to read and still leaves enough room for the illustrator to tell her part of the story.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROGS sounds like an adorable fractured fairy tale, where a princess loves frogs so much, she can’t help kissing them. What was your inspiration for this one?

Well, in November of 2010, I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’d written my first YA manuscript during NaNoWriMo in 2008, and I’d attempted to write another one (but failed miserably) in 2009, so I felt like I had to “win” again in 2010 to redeem myself. But I was querying that first YA manuscript, knee-deep in revisions on other YA manuscripts, and I didn’t have any great ideas for the next big thing. The thought of subjecting myself to NaNoWriMo made me want to curl up under my desk and sob. So when one of my friends posted a link to something called PiBoIdMo (Picture Book IDEA Month!), I decided I would do that instead. Come up with 30 ideas in 30 days? How hard could it be?

I didn’t actually intend to write picture books, but I wanted an easy way to give myself a writing win, and I told myself that coming up with thirty PB ideas was sure to spark my brain and give me plenty of ideas for YA manuscripts as well. But ideas don’t always come just because you want them to!

Suddenly, it was almost the end of the month, and I still had a nearly-empty PiBoIdMo idea notebook. But I had started collecting query rejections on my YA manuscript, KISSING FROGS, and I desperately needed some kind of validation. I was NOT going to let this challenge beat me, so I started looking everywhere for the slightest glimmer of an idea. And as I thought about my “failed” novel (I had almost TEN whole rejections!!) I started to wonder, “Well, what if the princess didn’t WANT that clichéd Happily Ever After? What if she wasn’t looking for a prince? What if she really just wanted a frog? But what if she loved frogs so much she couldn’t help kissing them goodnight? What if the poor princess had a castle full of princes, all proposing marriage, but really just wanted a pet to love? By the end of the week, my PiBoIdMo idea book was brimming with ideas for fractured fairy tales, including two or three ideas for YA novels.

And I fell in love with a spunky Princess Cassandra, who wanted a frog, not a prince.

So let’s meet Princess Cassandra and her beloved froggies!

PrincessAndFrogs c

You know I’ll be first on line to buy this one. I’m a frog fanatic. (Which I tend not to reveal because everyone starts buying me frog-themed gifts. I’ve got a big box of ugly porcelain frogs, hidden away. Maybe I’ll try smooching them into royalty!)

Thanks, Veronica, for revealing your cover here today. Congratulations!

Princess Cassandra and frogs are coming via Balzer + Bray on November 15, right smack dab in the middle of PiBoIdMo 2016. Be sure to hop back here then to win a copy!

Cat Nap cover TARA

Ha, ha! Don’t you just glance at this cover and laugh?! With bold strokes and subtle humor, author-illustrator Toni Yuly draws you into her world.

The brand-spanking-new cover of CAT NAP is so expressive with earnest simplicity. We see wide-eyed Cat in his bed with energetic Kitten climbing on his back. It’s a fun romp with sleepy Cat and exuberant Kitten playing hide-and-seek. Small children will especially enjoy looking for the curious mouse who follows the two. (Heck, big children will, too! I know I do!)

CAT NAP is the third in a series of companion books for the very young published by Feiwel and Friends. EARLY BIRD (2014) and NIGHT OWL (2015) complete the adorable trio.

EARLY BIRD cover TARA

NIGHT OWL cover TARA

Although the books stand alone, they are a perfect threesome for morning, noon and nighttime reading. EARLY BIRD loves to wake up early, NIGHT OWL loves to stay up late (just like Tara), and CAT just wants to take a nap (again, just like Tara). All three books are the same size, (8″ x 8 1/2″) and style, using simple, colorful illustrations.

CAT NAP 2

Toni, how did you first get the idea for this trio of books?

The idea for the threesome was not hatched from the beginning. It was a kind of spontaneous happening of sorts and I ended up selling all three books in the same year! Since the books are all based on idioms it was almost impossible not to think of NIGHT OWL and CAT NAP after EARLY BIRD. Although the character and story for EARLY BIRD came first, it was the opposite for NIGHT OWL and CAT NAP. For those two the titles came first, and then the story.

CAT NAP 3

I see Mousie! Yes, I do! Hooray!

OK, I know it’s difficult to choose…but do you have a favorite of the three?

My favorite will always be EARLY BIRD because it was my debut book as an author-illustrator. But, I have learned so much since then, and grown in so many ways that I am really, really happy with CAT NAP! Of the three books it is the funniest and I like the color scheme the best too.

What did you learn through the process of creating this series?

I learned SO much!  After getting over the tremendous panic of not knowing what I was doing, I relaxed and learned to trust my fabulous editor Liz Szabla and the creative team at Feiwel and Friends. I enjoy the collaborative process and working with others to make the best possible book. I also gained confidence and learned to trust myself.

CAT NAP 1

Why do you think picture books for the wee ones are so important?

I think that picture books for the youngest readers are important for so many reasons! To begin with, the physical book is such a magical thing…a small child can carry it around or bring it to you…just having books around feels a certain way which is hard to explain, but they become like friends…

When you open up a picture book you immediately begin to interact with that book together, but also individually. It isn’t a passive thing, like watching a movie, your mind is engaged differently I think maybe because the pacing etc. is slower…

So to me, a picture book is magical on so many levels!  It stimulates, engages and inspires a young child’s mind and imagination!  And it can be a wonderful shared experience for the adult and the child and lead in all kinds of creative directions.

And what I love about CAT NAP for the youngin’s is that the faces are so expressive! You hear more and more about how tweens, teens and even young adults are having trouble communicating through gesture just because of technology. Books like CAT NAP teach and reinforce the subtle cues of non-verbal communication.

toniyulyThank you for joining me today, Toni!

CAT NAP releases on January 26, 2016 and is available for pre-order. You can visit Toni’s studio at ToniYuly.com.

Toni is giving away three signed art prints from CAT NAP, plus a greeting card from all three books, EARLY BIRD, NIGHT OWL and CAT NAP, just for visiting her cover reveal today!

Leave a comment below; one comment per person, please. Three random winners will  be selected in two weeks.

Good luck!

(And now, Tara will go take a nap!)

Releasing on January 5, 2016 is Salina Yoon’s 158th book, BE A FRIEND. (Yes, it really is her 158th book. Salina is the most prolific author-illustrator on the planet!)

The delightful cover is being revealed by Bloomsbury exclusively here today!

Isn’t it sweet?

beafriendcover

Salina, I know with my books the cover has come at the end of the book-making process…but I recently spoke with Matthew Cordell and his latest book’s cover idea came to him early on. When did you create this cover and what about the story did you want to convey through the images?

The cover was the first thing I designed and illustrated when I conceived of the idea to prepare it for submission. But since then, the cover’s changed a few times, even its title, and only recently was everything finalized. The book itself was completed much earlier.

Conveying the story with just one image and one title is so challenging with any book. In BE A FRIEND, it was important to show the two main characters having a deep connection to one another. It’s a unique kind of friendship because one child is silent, and he lives in a world of his own imagination. But here, we see the girl looking straight into his eyes, accepting the gift he dreamed up in his mind. She accepts him, just the way he is, and that’s a strong theme in the book. Like a mother who blows a kiss across a room and the child snatching it up, even gifts of the imagination are felt if the heart is in them.

Could you tell us a little more about the book?

BE A FRIEND is about a boy named Dennis who expresses himself through the silent art of mime, which alienates him from the other kids. No one seems to notice him, except one girl. Her name is Joy. Even without words, they can laugh and play. And most importantly, they can be friends. Joy shows Dennis that he can still be himself while including others—that his world needn’t be solitary.

beafriendspread1

This book is for any child (or adult) who has ever felt different that made them feel alone, and the importance of reaching out and making connections.

beafriendspread

BE A FRIEND is a heartwarming celebration of individuality, imagination, and the power of friendship. (Bloomsbury/January 2016)

Salina is giving away three signed, framed art prints from BE A FRIEND just for visiting her cover reveal today.

Leave a comment below; one comment per person, please. Three random winners will  be drawn on May 18th. Good luck!

Happy Mother’s Day to my mama-writer friends. What you do every day is amazing! You created kids…and now you create stories!

And what I just did is amazing, too. I gave birth to a new book cover!

(Well, really, Benji Davies did.)

I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK releases in August 2015 from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster. But you can catch a glimpse of the alien-bear mayhem right here, right now:

Bear Book final cover

Many thanks to my very cool editor, Alyson Heller, and art director, Karin Paprocki, at Aladdin. And of course, none of this would be possible without über-agent Ammi-Joan Paquette.

More sneak peeks to come soon. I promise you a cute bear tushy.

Have a great day, Mama Bears!

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
black kite

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019

THE UPPER CASE:
TROUBLE IN CAPITAL CITY
illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
Fall 2019

FOUR WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Spring 2020

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