It may be Back-to-School season, but kids store buyers are shopping for Holiday and Spring. I spent the last three days at the Manhattan trade show, Playtime New York, combining my love of picture books with my experience selling kids clothes. (Shout out to Linda, prior owner of The Red Balloon, for connecting me to Louise of The Showroom!)
I got to talk picture books while selling the now-Hatley-owned Books to Bed, a line of pj’s printed to match picture books. Not only did boutique owners stop by the booth, but Chris, one of Hatley’s owners, along with reps Adam and Daisy flew in from Canada. I met Random House licensers and Carol, the woman who thought up and started Books to Bed.
Repping the line was a chance to do three things: hear what store owners and their customers are looking for; think about kids businesses; and read books I hadn’t read before. Oh, and I sent tweets out to Kidlit peeps saying, “Hey, check this out!” How much would I love to have one of my books available with matching pajamas?!
Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for Love, a new picture book written by Matt De La Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. Although this exquisite book is for children, it resonates with all ages. I had the opportunity to see Matt and Loren at Words Bookstore in Maplewood, NJ on the second day of their book tour. When they read Love, I choked up. It’s that beautiful.
Matt De La Pena talked about how the book started as a poem.
Loren Long talked about interpreting Matt’s text.
An illustration from the book.
Loren explained how he illustrated this scene.
During the talk, Loren re-created the book cover.
“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.
A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”
In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age. (Goodreads)
Interestingly, the book has a controversial scene. In it, a child and his dog hide under a piano while the boy’s parents fight. In an interview, Matt said he and Loren were told this scene was too raw and should take it out. Matt and Loren insisted the scene stay. Matt said that a child going through something similar might recognize himself in the picture. If not, where better to explore scary emotions than in the lap of a caregiver? As a response to the controversy, he wrote an excellent article, “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness,” in Time magazine.
Click here to see a beautiful 4 minute video where Matt and Loren talk about their book. Hon, have you read it? Do you have a favorite scene?
Last week, on World Read Aloud Day, I shared my love of Kidlit by reading and acting out scenes with Kindergarteners. Not only did I read Ninja by Arree Chung and Twenty-Six Pirates by David Horowitz, I read my own picture book manuscript to three classes.
Since the topic of my picture book is superheroes, I created a handout where the kids could write their superhero name and power and illustrate their super people. The five and six year-olds then shared their creations with each other. Fun!
Shout out to Wyoming Elementary School’s Kindergarten teachers. When I thanked them for allowing me to visit their classrooms, one teacher sent me this: “Thanks goes to you, Mrs. Gruer, for continuing to be a reading inspiration to the children at Wyoming School!!” Wasn’t that nice?
Super Kids’ Quotes:
To the question, “If you were a superhero, what would your power be?”
A boy answered: “Ocean! I’d save everything that lives in the ocean, even sharks, and all the sea creatures would love me.”
A girl answered: “My superpower is fire and fly!”
Another girl answered:“I am strong and speed!”
To the question, “If you were a superhero, what would your name be?”
One boy asked, “How do you spell “Estaban the Magnificent?'”
In honor ofWorld Read Aloud Day, Litworld asks,”What stories make you feel confident and proud to be you?” It must be the kid in me and my love of kidlit that makes picture books the natural place to find confidence. Here are my picks for the…
Top Five Confidence Boosting Picture Books
Yoko by Rosemary Wells. Yoko has the confidence to bring her unique lunch to school. She doesn’t “yuck anyone else’s yum” even when other kids call her lunch icky.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein. Little Red Chicken knows what he knows. Fairytales are dangerous.
Zoomer by Ned Young. Zoomer isn’t afraid to let his imagination run wild.
Ninja by Arree Chung. Maxwell is ready to face any obstacles as a true ninja.
The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. If you need the confidence–and permission–to be silly, you get both in this book.
Hon, do you think I’m confident or crazy to take lessons on the flying trapeze?
Thanks to Laura Sibson, I am participating in a “My Writing Process” Blog Hop. I added the Bunny Hop part as a nod to Easter, Spring, and my own beautiful Tween Bunny who is my first reader.
Laura earned her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts after discovering a passion for writing novels geared toward teens. Laura’s a fellow runner (she runs much longer distances than me), dog-walker, coffee-drinker, “ingester-of-pop culture,” and mom of teens. She lives in suburban Philadelphia and has impressed me with her knowledge of “Bawlmor” accents.
Laura describes the paranormal young adult novel she’s writing on her blog, Laura Sibson,A journey toward writing dangerously. Her novel sounds spooky and fascinating, and it involves the Black Aggie, a real statue that used to reside a stone’s throw away from my parents’ house, in Druid Ridge Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland.
Do you think its a coincidence that Laura connected with a Bmore girl? I don’t know, hon. You’ll have to ask her!
My Writing Process Questions and Answers:
What are you working on?
Coco, the main character in my chapter book is based on a true story and a real dog. An article describing how a dog ended up on a NJ Transit train headed to Manhattan appeared in my local paper. We had recently adopted a puppy. A story was born! Coco’s inherent doggie abilities and desire to find bones will, hopefully, lead him on many adventures (meaning more chapter books).
In the picture book series I’m writing, my five year-old main character wanted to become a superhero just like his big brother. In the first book, he did it! Now he’s off to conquer the world (and his fears) as the fastest superhero ever. I’m working on books about the day he thought his mommy was a zombie and about the time he battled deep sea creatures at the town pool.
How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Guess what one of my goals is? Hint: it’s in the name of my blog. ENERGY!
I hope my writing grabs readers from the get-go! My manuscripts are populated by relatable characters, alliteration, funny phrases, and a dash of silliness. The universal theme underlying all of my manuscripts is family. Whether the action revolves around siblings or parents and their children, the action happens between the humor and heart.
In my chapter book, Coco stays true to his doggie characteristics, but his impulsivity takes him to unexpected places. He meets a zany cast of characters along the way and, inadvertently, saves the day while on the search for the perfect bone. This chapter book (and the others I plan to write), will fill the gap for elementary school kids who are one step beyond First Readers but not yet ready for longer chapter books.
Logan, my latest picture book‘s main character, is just like real little boys. How do I know? Because he’s a compilation of my “superhero” nephew, my son, and the boys I teach at pre-school and at the elementary school. My nephew says, “Activate! Pshht! Pow!” So does Logan. My nephew says things are “mega.” So does Logan. Sibling rivalry amongst my triplets plus one more was rampant. My hope is that kids will love Logan and his brother’s vivid imaginations while parents will appreciate the heart of the story.
Why do you write what you do?
I write because ideas pop into my head, words and phrases tumble off my tongue, and characters stand in front of me, tail wagging and arms crossed, begging to be brought to life.
I write because the child inside of me connects to children from toddlers to teenagers. I still love playing in a sandbox, climbing to the top of the swingset, and sledding down a hill at lightning speed.
I write because I believe stories are magical.
How does your writing process work?
An idea or a character or a turn of phrase will start off as a wisp of thought. The ideas, characters and turns of phrases that stay in my head like a song-on-the-radio-you-can’t-stop-singing must be written down. If scenes start appearing in my mind’s eye, while I’m driving, running errands, walking Lucy and, always, when I try to go to sleep, then I have to get my thoughts on paper. The process has begun.
First drafts go to my wonderful critique group. I revise. Second drafts are critiqued. I revise. Etc!
My most important revision tools are a thesaurus, dictionary, rhyming dictionary and critiques from my group (or an editor or agent, if I’m lucky). More importantly, I take my watch off, don’t answer the phone, concentrateon listening to how my characters would speak and inhabit the world I’ve created.
Last November, I signed up for Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge to come up with a new picture book idea for a month. Thirty new ideas are now residing in my Idea Box.
Joining the My Writing Process Blog Hop, I’d like to introduce you to (drumroll, please):
Michelle and I connected on Twitter (Michelle on Twitter, me on Twitter). Michelle not only has a blog called Michelle Karéne, Children’s Author, is a member of SCBWI and an aspiring children’s writer, she earned her doctorate in Biomedical Engineering, works for a biotechnology company, and has published fifteen articles in various scientific journals. Michelle’s short story, “Magnolia Fall,” will be published in the 14th Annual Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition Collection. Michelle, who lives in North Carolina with her family, blogs about her chapter book and young adult works-in-progress, funny things her three daughters say, nature photographs and dinner ideas. I hope you’ll check out her blog.
Meet Linda Bozzo. Linda tagged me on her blog, Writerlinda.blogspot.com. She is the author of over 50 non-fiction books for the school and library market. She enjoys writing fiction as well as non-fiction for children. Many of her fiction stories are inspired by her love of dance. Linda is member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She enjoys presenting her writing journey to both children and adults. Linda lives in New Jersey with her family where she can visit the Jersey shore and enjoy the culture of New York City. You can find Linda online at http://www.lindabozzo.com.
I’m participating in PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month, which means every day in November I think of a new picture book idea. My brain is like a window and once I open it, the ideas flow through like fresh air! My newest manuscript is about two brothers, sibling rivalry and superheroes.
How does it differ from other works in the genre?
My story grabs you from the first line! It’s different because it gives boys ages 3-6 a story filled with supereheroes, spaceships, tests of will wrapped around funny and realistic brothers, and comic book action words. Lightening Logan and his big brother Hawk are poised to take on the world. “Pshht! Pow! Activtate!”
Why do you do what you do?
Story ideas, rhyming phrases, settings and characters pop in my head constantly. I write to give them a place to grow. To me, picture books are magical. Picture books have resonance each time they’re read, the words are musical, and adults and children build bonds while reading together. I strive to create that magic when I write.
What is the hardest part about writing?
When I write, I am transported to another world where I exist with my characters. The hardest thing is finding a publisher who sees the potential for them to come alive, and is willing to take a chance on a new author. I continue writing because I truly believe in my characters, stories and the magic that is ready to spring off the page and into the imagination of a child.
Linda Vitale is an award-winning advertising copywriter and creative director who has worked at top New York City agencies. She has created TV and radio spots, ads and promotions for Chase bank, Max Factor, Campbell’s Soups, American Airlines, Volkswagen/Porsche-Audi, to name a few. The only thing she didn’t write is Mad Men. And she should have, because this was and is her world. In addition to advertising, Linda has written articles for New Jersey parenting publications. Currently she writes children’s books and humorous dog stories for her blog, firstname.lastname@example.org. Linda lives in Convent Station, New Jersey, and can be found pounding the keys of her laptop at her local Starbucks.
I’m excited to introduce you to French children’s book author, Nicole Snitselaar. We met through PiBoIdMo. Here’s what Nicole says about her writing journey.
Writing, I’ve always loved writing!
But writing is so more rewarding when it can be shared.
I am lucky to have had many picture-books published these last years.
Most of my books are in French.
But you will never guess how happy I was when Top That published two of my English stories!
Why do I write in English?
In fact, English was my first language as a little girl, and it just rings so familiar to my ear. My parents read to us many picture books who came from Great Britain. I would even say, they only read English books!
It was so much easier for my mother! She is Scottish. She married a Dutch man (my father) and they lived in Belgium, and later in France. And my first language was English… It took time for my mother to learn French !
And I got to speak French once I went to school at the age of 4.
Today I am the mother of five young adults.
I have been wririn songs and nursery rhymes for… as far as I can remember! I have several CD’s released. (one about English nursery rhymes in French and English )
One day, I decided it was time for me to start writing more than just songs.
I really enjoy this activity and hope that you will enjoy discovering my stories!
If you want to learn more about me, my life, my books, you may visit my English blog or French blog.
Kim Beck and I went to college together and, along with four other girls, lived together in a house junior year. We go a lonnng way back. Who would have guessed that her oldest daughter and my youngest daughter would be born just three months apart, that I would live in her hometown and that we would both be bitten by the writing bug? (Speaking of bugs, check out the newly released picture book Bug Patrol by Denise Dowling Mortensen or what non-fiction author Lyn Sirota says is her secret.)
Back to Kim. In her “The Next Big Thing–Blog Hop” post, she provides a link to the first chapter of her young adult dystopian novel, The Interpreters. Love it! (and not just because I’m biased).
Hon, I now end my cover letters and queries to publishers with “Hope Springs Eternal” because WE are the Next Big Things.
Which children’s book authors have made an impression on you?
The Next Big Thing Hop: the traveling blog that asks authors whom they consider the NEXT BIG THING, and then has them pass along the questions for those authors to answer in their blogs.
Rules: Answer ten questions about your current Work In Progress on your blog. Tag one to five writers / bloggers and add links to their pages so we can hop along to them next.
Thank you, L.A. Byrne for tagging me! Click on L.A. Byrne to learn more about this amazing writer for young adults.
What is the working title of your book?
Cora Gets Carried Away
Where did the idea come from for the book?
From ages three to five, my children “read” by turning pages and memorizing words. But they needed mom and dad to read a book to the end. Most of the time we did. Sometimes, we were too busy (or tired). Learning to read is huge. I was inspired by the frustration my children felt when they could recognize letters but couldn’t yet put them together to form words or sentences.
What genre does your book fall under?
What actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Since Cora is a kitten, she would be illustrated. Here are some illustrators who could bring Cora to life:
Although Cora has memorized the first page of her book, she can’t read andshe and her doll, Pixie, have to know how who stole the princesses’ crown, but in Cora’s attempt to get her mother, father andbrotherto read to her she gets carried away—and then is in the way when she acts out scenes from the book. Who will read to her now?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I truly hope Cora will be represented by an agency. I am actively searching for an editor and agent who are acquiring new authors and open to picture books.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The idea for Cora popped in my head when my youngest daughter was three years old. Now she’s eleven! In the original version, Cora wasn’t a kitten and she had a different name. I worked on that version for years, then put it away for awhile. I was so taken by Little Red Chicken in Interrupting Chicken that I decided to give the main character a make over. I came back to the manuscript a year ago ready to take it in a new direction.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan–because Betty Bunny and Cora the Kitten are both spunky, energetic girls.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein–because despite Little Red Chicken and Cora trying their parents’ patience, they are very loved.
Zoomer by Ned Young–because Zoomer and Cora have vivid imaginations.
Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells—because children see themselves in the realistic but funny sibling relationships.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
When my youngest daughter was Cora’s age, she wanted to read “a hundred” books every night. She has piles of books by her bed so her room is Cora’s room.
When one of my older daughters was Cora’s age, she believed her invisible friend was real. She inspired me create Pixie, the doll who is very real to Cora.
I have been driving around in my car for years repeating the rhythmic first two lines of A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. I worked hard to create a similar rhythm to the first two lines of my book.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
In Cora Gets Carried Away, the subversive humor means the story is humorous on two levels.
There is a parallel between Cora’s own life and the story-within-the-story, an original fairy tale.
The story-within-the-story’s first and last stanzas anchor the beginning and end of Cora Gets Carried Away, compel the reader to want to find out, like Cora, how who stole the princesses’ crown, and has the potential to become its own book, an add-on to the main story.
Tag! You’re it. Next up on “The Next Big Thing–Blog Hop”: