Perfect Picture Book Friday – Mother’s Day Special

Welcome to the Mother’s Day Edition of Perfect Picture Book Friday! 😊

I regret to inform you that “Mother’s Day Special” does not mean pancakes! Sorry if the post title got your hopes up!

But, you know, it IS practically Mother’s Day so what the heck? Some pancakes are the least I can do for you.

Let me just bustle around in the kitchen for a sec. . .

There you go!

Better now?

I have an unorthodox post today – breaking some of my own rules for what Perfect Picture Books should be and how they should be presented – because these are Mother’s Day books (which is very timely 😊) and because there is some back story that writers might find interesting.

In 2018 and 2020, I was asked to take some books that had been written for adults and turn them into picture books for children. The original books were filled with all the reasons why sons and daughters need moms and dads. The text of the originals, written by Gregory Lang, was spare and straightforward (i.e. “A daughter needs a mom to give her the courage to stand up for herself“) and was accompanied by photographs.

My job was to take these texts and turn them into rhyming picture books that would be illustrated. I did this by taking general ideas from the original text and making them into child-centric rhymes that are essentially love letters from parents to children.

Now, here’s the shocker: over the past four years, three of these four books (so far – I’m still waiting to see if the last one finally makes it next week 😊) have made the New York Times Bestseller List and the Publisher’s Weekly Bestsellers List, two of them multiple times! Who’d have thought that would happen?!

This simply amazes me.

I have written many other books that have failed to earn this kind of recognition – books that are fully my own, books of my heart – and it’s very hard to know what it is that sets these books on a higher level.

It is both gratifying (because I did write them) and bittersweet because the New York Times does not list my name as author (although Publisher’s Weekly does list me as co-author) and because, as a group, they are my biggest-selling titles, but I do not receive royalties for them because they were work-for-hire, and as such they do not feel like mine in the same way that my other books do.

I mention this only because I think it’s an interesting (and to me, somewhat unexpected) position to find yourself in as a writer. I think my own, not-for-hire books are a little jealous 😊

Anyway, they are sweet books, and as evidenced by sales and weeks on bestseller lists, they appear to be fairly popular for Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day), and I’m very glad if people like them!

Title: Why A Daughter Needs A Mom/Why A Son Needs A Mom

Written By: Gregory E. Lang and Susanna Leonard Hill

Illustrated By: Sydney Hanson (daughter) and Gail Yerrill (son)

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland, April 2019 (daughter), April 2021 (son)

Suitable For Ages: baby to 4 years

Themes/Topics: mother/child relationships

“From the first time I held you, so perfect and new,
I promised to do everything I could do
To help you become your most wonderful YOU,
my darling, my daughter, my girl.”

text copyright Gregory E. Lang 2004, 2019, text adapted for picture book Susanna Leonard Hill, illustration copyright Sydney Hanson 2019, Sourcebooks

And that is all I have to say, hence my unorthodox, rule-breaking post!

For the complete list of books with resources, please visit Perfect Picture Books.

PPBF folks, please add your titles and post-specific blog links (and any other info you feel like filling out 😊) to the form below so we can all come see what fabulous picture books you’ve chosen to share this week!

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊 Happy Mother’s Day! πŸ’πŸ’•πŸ’

27 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday – Mother’s Day Special

  1. viviankirkfield says:

    Oh Susanna…I love all of these books. And you are so kind to share the back story and the situation regarding royalties (or lack thereof) and credit for having written them (or lack thereof). I think it is helpful for all of us to realize that this publishing industry can be frustrating and rewarding – both at the same time. And even someone as awesome as you is not always recognized appropriately. WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOU, DEAR SUSANNA.
    Happy Mother’s Day, my friend!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Thank you, Vivian. I didn’t really mean it for the recognition so much. *I* know I wrote the books 😊 But it’s kind of interesting when a book you wrote on demand turns out to do better than books you wrote completely on your own! Happy Mother’s Day to you, too! ❀️

  2. Maria Marshall says:

    These are great books! And – your list, your rules! Was “Moon’s First Friends” WFH? (It was also a NY Times & Wall Street Journal Best Seller.) A Toast to you, our dear friend, mentor, teacher, and amazing writer – Happy Mother’s Day!

  3. Norah says:

    I hear you, Susanna. I understand that while you are pleased with the books’ success, you may be slightly peeved to go unacknowledged and royalty-free. It would have been nice to share in their success. Your own heart stories, however, will continue to give you the greatest joy. While some of my in-house/work-for-hire writing has been successful, I’d dearly love to have a heart story published one day so they too, could be a little jealous. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜…
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      I didn’t even know you had in-house/work-for-hire books, Norah! (The problem of not knowing last names 😊) But I am sure you WILL have a heart story published some day and it will make your work-for-hires jealous!

      • Norah says:

        Thanks for your confidence, Susanna. My work-for-hire books are not in the same category as yours (they’re educational) but they work on the same principle. I’m trying desperately to make the transition from education to trade. I’m not there yet. πŸ™‚

  4. robincurrie1 says:

    I did a work for hire board book that went on to sell 1M copies! It’s where I had to start but sometimes, I wish the publisher would send a potted plant or something! On to brighter things!

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      Hahaha! A potted plant! 🀣 I mean, from my point of view, if anything you write sells 1M copies, you’re doing something right! I feel that way about my WFHs too. I just wonder why my own ideas seem to fall short of that!

  5. Ellen Warach Leventhal says:

    What an amazing story! I’m so glad you shared that with us, Susanna. Wishing you the happiest Mother’s Day and all the wonderful things you deserve. Thank you so much for doing so much for us!

  6. Laura Wippell says:

    Thank you for those delicious pancakes, Susanna! Happy Mother’s Day! I can understand how this would generate mixed feelings, so thank you so much for sharing this with us. Such a good example of the constant ups and downs of this industry.

    • Susanna Leonard Hill says:

      It’s not like you go into it expecting anything else. If you do WFH, you know the conditions. It’s more that I didn’t expect them to do so well 😊 I am happy they did! But perhaps it is their very success that makes me wish for a potted plant or something, as Robin suggested above! 😊

  7. palpbkids says:

    I’ve enjoyed these books but never knew you authored them as children’s picture books. They are beautiful! Simply beautiful! I’m sorry that your name is not included. That hurts. But thank you for feeling comfortable sharing this with us. Happy Mother’s Day, Susanna.

  8. CJ Penko says:

    You are so awesome, Susanna. I’m certain you’ll never get the credit you deserve for how much you give to children’s literature- and I’m not just talking about your books. You help so many people just like me every day and you don’t even know it. So, thank you. And thank you for being brave enough to talk about this. Your books rock. You rock. We love you.❀️❀️❀️

  9. marty bellis says:

    Susanna, I can’t believe you didn’t get your name on the cover anywhere. What a bummer. It does go to show you never know what books will garner the greatest interest. But yay, for having three on the NYT Best Seller list and yay for all your other books as well, which I think are outstanding πŸ™‚ You’re the best in my book, no matter what the lists say or don’t say. Happy Mother’s Day!

  10. seschipper says:

    Wow! It is so true, the publishing industry can be brutal! Thank you so much for all you do for all of us.
    Your MPBM class is outstanding. πŸ™‚ Thank you!
    Happy Mother’s Day! Looking forward to enjoying time with family on Mother’s Day and maybe some pancakes! πŸ™‚

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