Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Color Collector

It’s another beautiful (I’m ignoring the mid-April snow!) Perfect Picture Book Friday, and I have a wonderful book to share with you today!

I was lucky enough to get to “talk” briefly with the author, Nicholas Solis, and he kindly shared his inspiration for the book which I think you’ll all be interested in hearing. I have added his thoughts below in the “Links To Resources” section.

But let’s start by having a look at this gorgeous book!

Title: The Color Collector

Written By: Nicholas Solis

Illustrated By: Renia Metallinou

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press, fiction, April 15, 2021

Suitable For Ages: 6-9 years

Themes/Topics: friendship, kindness, empathy

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

Opening: “She was new.
She was quiet.
I think she was lonely.

That was the day I met Violet.

I was new once.
I said hello.

She smiled a little, I think.
But she was quiet.”

Brief Synopsis: A boy offers a kind word to a lonely new girl, and as the days pass and they walk home together, he notices all the colorful things she picks up and wonders why. She shares a little of her life with him, and their friendship blossoms, a wonderful thing for both of them.

Links To Resources: activities provided by author Nick Solis:

I asked Nick about his inspiration for writing this beautiful book and this was his reply:

“I was inspired by a piece of art by Graham Franciouse. The painting is of a little girl collecting leaves, and she had the saddest eyes I had ever seen. 

This story speaks to me in so many ways, but the main impact is that idea that even a kind word from one person can change another person’s entire life. My parents divorced when I was young and we moved around a lot. In the middle of 7th grade, I had to start a new school. Middle school is tough for anyone, but an overweight, shy kid starting in the middle of the year didn’t have a chance. The rest of that year was tough for me, and I was determined to go live with my father after 8th grade. But at the beginning of the school year one kid said hi to me. He invited me into his conversation with him and his friends and it changed my life. I became more open, funny, and creative. I made a ton of friends that year and stayed with my mom throughout middle school and high school. Most of the kids I met in high school are still my closest friends 25 years later. So all it takes is just one person to show a little kindness and their world can change. That’s what I hope to share with this book.” 

Why I Like This Book: This poignant story of friendship, beautifully told with an economy of words but with a real depth of emotion, shows just how much power we all have to make a difference in someone’s life with nothing more than a kind word or gesture. You can never know how much a kindness might mean to someone. The story is simple and lovely, and the art is gorgeous and complements it perfectly. I love how the opening spread is all shades of gray (please see above) and the last spread with both children in it (which is the second to last in the book) has come to life with color.

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

In between, at the moment when their friendship really begins to take shape, Violet shows the boy the color and beauty of the life she left behind, which is how he begins to understand her.

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

And the very last page shows how he has taken her words and experience to heart and begun to see how he can find the colors in his own world.

text copyright Nicholas Solis 2021, illustration copyright Renia Metallinou 2021, Sleeping Bear Press

It is a touching story of kindness and friendship that all young readers will relate to, an absolutely lovely book, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday #385 – Looking For Scorpions (PB)

Good Wednesday to you all!

Here on Blueberry Hill, the flowers are finally making an appearance

and Violet’s fence is coming along – not something I really wanted to have to install, but she’s getting a little too adventurous and baby animal season is upon us! The baby animals of Blueberry Hill must be protected from my bad baby!

Don’t worry – it’s not done! Gaps that wide would obviously be completely ineffective! 😊

What with it being April and all (really, anything will do as a reason 😊) I think it’s past time for Something Chocolate. How about some Fudgy Oreo Brownies? Because what’s better than a brownie? A fudgy oreo brownie!

Fudgy Oreo Brownies

How good do those look?! I recommend a little scoop of vanilla, chocolate, or coffee ice cream to go along with. You know, just to add to the nutritional value (already high with all the vegetable goodness of the cocoa bean) with some calcium and protein 😊

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Marta who says, “I’m a copywriter and Creative Director who has spent her entire career in advertising. I’ve ALWAYS loved children’s books and am an ardent collector. Having my own child was just an excuse to add even more.”

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Looking For Scorpions

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5-8)

The Pitch: The minute Roz and her Mom arrive in Mexico she just knows it’s going to be the Best Most Special Mom-Daughter Holiday Ever—until the Hotel Manager tells them they have scorpions. Convinced they could be hiding anywhere Roz starts seeing them everywhere!! Will Roz be able to have fun? Will her Mom? Or will this turn out to be the Worst Most Awful Mom-Daughter Holiday Ever!

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Marta improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings on April 28 and in May, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Marta is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to a little bit of birthday cake later…which I will probably be baking myself, but at least I have a good excuse 😊 It’s not every day you turn 29. . . for the 27th time 😊 🧁🧁🧁

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – In A Garden

It’s a perfect Perfect Picture Book Friday, and I hope everyone has been enjoying the kind of perfect beautiful spring weather we’ve been having on Blueberry Hill this week! It makes the heart sing! 😊

Before we get to today’s Perfect Picture Book, I’d like to announce that the lucky winner of the giveaway copy of last week’s Perfect Picture Book, LISTENING TO THE STARS, is Carole Calladine! Congratulations, Carole! I know you’ll love Jodie’s wonderful book! Please contact me and let me know your snail mail address so the publisher can send you your book!

Spring has sprung, so today I have a delightful rhyming picture book about nature and gardening, just perfect for picture book aged gardeners and their families at this time of year!

Title: In A Garden

Written By: Tim McCanna

Illustrated By: Aimee Sicuro

Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, February 2020, fact-based fiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: gardening, nature, community garden, seasonal cycle

text copyright Tim McCanna 2020, illustration copyright Aimee Sicura 2020, Paula Wiseman Books

Opening: “In a garden
on a hill
sparrows chirp
and crickets trill.”

Brief Synopsis: In a community garden surrounded by apartment buildings, life is busy as seeds sprout, plants and flowers grow, and a wide variety of insect and animal life flourish.

text copyright Tim McCanna 2020, illustration copyright Aimee Sicura 2020, Paula Wiseman Books

Links To Resources: the book itself is a resource, detailing the wonder of life and growth in a garden; the end of the book includes back matter about how a garden grows, cool facts about ecosystems and the mutually beneficial interaction between plants and insects; grow a seed in a cup on your windowsill, or plant a little garden of your own and watch nature in action!

text copyright Tim McCanna 2020, illustration copyright Aimee Sicura 2020, Paula Wiseman Books

Why I Like This Book: written in Tim McCanna’s spot-on, lively, such fun to read-aloud rhyme, this delightful book will make anyone want to try growing something 😊 I love that it is set in a community garden in the city, encouraging all kids to experiment with gardening, not just those who live in the country. The garden cycles through the seasons – a robin digging for worms in spring, summer fireflies, cool autumn breezes, and a blanket of snow – showing how life goes around and around. The illustrations are colorful and appealing and show a wide variety of insects, animals, plants, and children. All in all a lovely book!

text copyright Tim McCanna 2020, illustration copyright Aimee Sicura 2020, Paula Wiseman Books

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday #384 – Princess Lucille’s Castle (PB)

Howdy, Friends!

It’s once again time to answer that all important question: Would You Read It?

Because at the end of the day, that’s what writers, agents, and editors need to know, and what kids, parents, teachers, and librarians want to answer!

I think we should start by fueling up with Something Chocolate. After all, it’s important that our brains be firing on all cylinders 😊 How do you feel about No Bake Oreo Cheesecake (that manages to look like a milkshake!) for breakfast, coffee break, second breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon pick-me-up, tea time, dinner. . . or whatever coincides with your arrival time here?

No Bake Oreo Cheesecake

YUM! I knew you’d be in favor! It is impossible to resist anything with Oreos 😊

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Carol who says, “My passion is writing for children. I love to entertain, amuse, and inspire them.”

Find her on the web at http://caroliverson.net

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Princess Lucille’s Castle

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-5)

The Pitch: Princess Lucille gives you a tour of her castle beginning at the moat and drawbridge and takes you through each room to the exit where you can buy princesses souvenirs.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Carol improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in April so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Carol is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to getting started on fencing part of my yard (not that I really want to…) because some people (ahem…Violet!) cannot be trusted now that baby animal season is fast upon us. Also, she has exhibited a proclivity for taking herself nearly 1/4 mile down the road to help herself to the neighbor’s trash. She brought back a 1/2 gallon of chocolate milk in a plastic jug on Friday. The time has come to rein this bad baby in!

Don’t let the sweet innocent look fool you! 😊

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Sita Singh!

Do you know what time it is?

Of course you do! 😊

It’s time for another exciting episode of Tuesday Debut!!!

Today we have a lovely book with an important and heartwarming message from debut author Sita Singh. I hope you’ll love it and enjoy hearing about her journey to publication!

Birds of a Feather
Written by Sita Singh
Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman
Published by Philomel Books
March 2, 2021
Fiction Picture Book (ages 4-8)

A story of the colorless peacock who learns to love himself in a jungle full of color, Birds of a Feather is about finding strength in the things that make us different, and beauty in all its forms.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Sita! So thrilled that you could join us today! Where did the idea for this book come from?

SITA: This book came about from a fusion of ideas. I was working on a story with peacocks at the front and center of it, and at the same time, I was working on another story about a little girl feeling different because of her ethnicity. Neither of the two were coming together until one day, it just clicked. What if I combined the two ideas? And that’s how BIRDS OF A FEATHER came to be.

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

SITA: It took me less than six months from the idea to the first draft that I was somewhat happy with. But then, there was revising, and more revising for almost two years before I signed the contract.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

SITA: I did go through a lot of revisions. Since I make a new draft with even slightest of a change, there are hundreds of drafts sitting in my folder. I also start out with writing long sentences and paragraphs, without any inhibitions of word count. It’s more like a story I’m telling myself and/or figuring out for myself. So, my revision process ends up being quite long. Although recently, I’ve become faster and the last manuscript I wrote, which is out on submission right now, was in less than a year.

Sita’s writing buddy, Solo 😊

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?


SITA: First, when my critique partners felt just as strongly about the story, and second, after it won the Rising Kite Award at Florida SCBWI.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

SITA: After the award, I started to look for representation. I already had a long list of agents, whom I was following on twitter, and also from the vast search I had been doing over many months. I sent the manuscript to most of them along with a query letter, properly drafted according to the industry standards.

SUSANNA: How long after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”? When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”? 

SITA: As soon as the agent came on board, we submitted the story to various publishing houses. Over the period of twelve months, we got so many rejections that at one point my agent and I decided it’ll be best for me to not get regular updates from her. Thankfully, none of those rejections mentioned any loopholes in the story and my agent too felt strongly about it, so I didn’t revise the manuscript at all. Every now and then, she would also give me a pep-talk which I think helped keep up the hope.

Since I had no idea it was submitted to Philomel Books, “the call” actually was a shock! I remember being in the Indian grocery store and screaming so loudly that the owners had to run to check on me! 😊

SUSANNA: How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

SITA: We signed the contract after three months of accepting the offer. Within that time, I made a few changes to the story as suggested by my amazing editor, Liza Kaplan.

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?


SITA: We celebrated by having wine and going out to eat! It seems so weird to think about eating out in these times as we haven’t been to a restaurant in over a year. I also celebrated with my critique partners, and called my parents, brother, and close friends.

SUSANNA: Was the contract what you expected in terms of advance, royalty percentage, publication timeline, author copies etc.?

SITA: This being my debut, I had no idea about the numbers/royalties/fees and what to expect. I followed my agent’s advice, and she did negotiate the advance and author copies. Rest, everything was standard as in most picture book contracts.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

SITA: After the very first call with my editor, I knew she had a wonderful vision for my story which was extremely important to me. We went through some minor revisions and one major revision, but at no point was I worried that the story was going off track. Our visions were very much in sync and the editorial process was very smooth.

SUSANNA: What was your experience of the illustration process like?

SITA: Again, as a debut author, I had no idea what to expect once Stephanie came on board. I was surprised when I got to see the first set of illustrations—the rough pencil sketches. Thereafter, every stage of the illustration process was shared with me and it was such a thrill to see the artwork evolve. From the rough sketches to the final artwork, there were about four stages that I got to see and also give inputs. Although, I didn’t have many suggestions to make, since Stephanie just nailed the illustrations. Her vision not only matched mine, but she took the story to a visual level that was beyond my imagination.

text copyright Sita Singh 2021, illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2021, Philomel Books


I did have a few art notes where the text was to go either on a banner or on a sign post. As you can see in the spread below, art notes were necessary to convey my vision for this particular scene.

text copyright Sita Singh 2021, illustration copyright Stephanie Fizer Coleman 2021, Philomel Books


SUSANNA: How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

SITA: It took two years from the offer to having the copy in my hands. When I signed the contract, two years seemed a lot, but having gone through the process, I now understand why it can take that long to publish a picture book.

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

SITA: The first best step I took was to join the promotion group The Picture Book Scribblers! We’re like a family of debut and experienced authors, and everyone’s suggestions and experiences really helped me navigate through the marketing stage. I got a book trailer made by Cynthia Nugent, and teacher’s guide made by Marcie Colleen. I also created bookmarks, stickers, and a handful of coloring activities. Last but not the least, I did a blog tour with some wonderful KidLit bloggers!



SUSANNA: (A side note – Marcie Colleen has done a number of teachers guides for me as well – not all of them up on my website yet – and she does terrific work!) How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

SITA: I started to write seriously in 2014, and five years later, I sold my first book.

SUSANNA: What is your most helpful piece of advice for up and coming writers?

SITA: I’d say, write what comes from your heart, and revise, revise, revise! There’s always room for revision. Although my debut picture book just published, there’re places I feel could’ve used more revision. Also, believe in your stories! It helps with being patient and persistent, the two important things needed to stay on course of this turbulent journey to publication.

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Sita! We so appreciate the opportunity to learn from your experience! And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best with this and future titles!

SITA: Thank you, Susanna, for having me on your wonderful blog! Making Picture Book Magic was one of first courses I took (thanks to author Darshana Khiani, who suggested it way back in 2015 when I had just begun to write 😊) I still go back to those lessons and I’m so grateful to you, Susanna, for this opportunity to give back to the writing community.

Author Sita Singh

www.singhsita.com
Twitter: @sitawrites
Instagram: @sitawrites
Facebook: Sita Singh

Readers, if you have questions for Sita, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Sita’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out!

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Moni Ritchie Hadley – The Star Festival

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars PLUS Author Q&A, Special Activities, AND A Giveaway!

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

Today I have a special treat for you!

I’m going to share the book first, so you can see what we’re talking about, and then I have a little Q&A with the author that I think writers, teachers, parents, and all readers will find very interesting as well as some activities that she prepared especially for us to do with our children and students! So please see below in the “Links to Resources” section for all that bonus material! (It includes a recipe for Disappearing Crunch Cookies and I know you won’t want to miss that! 😊)

As if all that weren’t enough, the publisher, Albert Whitman, is offering a copy! So if you leave a comment on this post between now and Thursday April 8, you will be eligible for the random drawing that could make you a winner!

Title: Listening To The Stars: Jocelyn Bell Burnell Discovers Pulsars

Written By: Jodie Parachini

Illustrated By: Alexandra Badiu

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2021, Nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: biography, astrophysics, astronomy, girl power

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Opening: “Does the galaxy have a sound?

Is it loud and full of thunderous booms?
Soft murmurings, whooshing whispers?
Blips and bloops, like laughter and hiccups?

Silent?

When Jocelyn Bell was young,
she never dreamed that she would spend
her life listening to the stars.

But sometimes, if you open your mind,
you can hear the universe.”

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Brief Synopsis: A biography of astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who helped build a radio telescope that contributed to her discovery of pulsars, which some scientists consider to be the greatest astronomical discovery of the twentieth century.

Links To Resources: the back of the book includes a glossary and an author’s note; and I have a special treat for you – some activities from author Jodie Parachini!

Welcome, Jodie! Thank you for joining us!

What drew you to this subject?

The first question people ask when I tell them I wrote a book about Jocelyn Bell Burnell, is

“who’s that?”

When I explain that she’s an astrophysicist who discovered an astronomical marvel called pulsars, they ask,

“Why haven’t I heard of her?”

Exactly. Then when I mention that she wasn’t awarded a Nobel Prize for it (it went to her male colleagues), they stare in wonder and say,

“Haven’t I heard this story before?”

Yes, sadly. Women such as Rosalind Franklin (who worked on the structure of DNA with Watson and Crick), Chien-Shiung Wu (who worked on the Manhattan Project), and Lise Meitner (who helped discover nuclear fission), were rarely acknowledged for the incredible contributions they made to science. But one of the reasons I love writing picture books is to get these stories out there. Jocelyn Bell Burnell’s story, like those of so many women who work in the STEM fields, should be read, discussed, treasured, and celebrated.

Which do you prefer writing, fiction or nonfiction?

Great question! But I can’t answer it—it’s like choosing which child is my favorite.

I’m drawn to telling stories and I tend to pounce on whatever idea strikes me at the moment. Which means I usually have a few picture book ideas in progress at once. Sometimes I can’t get a rhyme out of my head and other times I hear a story on the news and think I MUST research it further. I let my haphazard brain lead the way!

The nonfiction appeals to my inquisitive and curious nature, the fiction to my creative side. I’m sure there’s a right brain/left brain comment that could be made about this! Hmmm, Righty wants to go to the Library while Lefty wants to pick daisies… I sense a new picture book idea percolating!

I have four more nonfiction and three fiction books coming out in the next two years, so luckily I don’t have to choose between Righty and Lefty!

Do you have any advice for other writers on getting published?

I do not have a traditional publishing story. Like many writers, I spent years getting rejections (I still do). I’ve never had an agent (ahem, see what I mean about rejections?) but I’ve been persistent about following up every opportunity possible when it comes to my manuscripts. Sometimes that means:

1. Pursuing every lead with editors or publishers you meet (for example, I met an art director at a conference. He didn’t think the first story I pitched was right for his publishing house, but I followed up with another in an email, and that one will be published in 2022. I could have just licked my wounds and retreated after the first rejection but sometimes perseverance is key.)

2. Believe in your work, but be flexible enough to alter it. Editors often know the market better than writers. Sometimes it takes (what feels like) hundreds of rewrites to get to the final product. Why start out with a fixed, single-minded vision when collaboration (with awesome editors and amazing illustrators!) is so much fun!?

3. Most writers jump into querying agents/publishers too quickly. The dream of being published is powerful, but I have found that taking classes or joining writing groups and listening to the advice of teachers and peers when it comes to how to improve my work is invaluable. Learn to tell the difference between a first draft and a polished draft by getting the manuscript in front of readers. Their opinions or critiques can open up a whole world of ideas, and, eventually, make you a better writer.

Thanks for listening, kidlit folks, and I wish all of you success of your own writing journeys!

And now for the activities!!!

I have two artsy-fartsy (my mom’s term) crafts for today—the first is a spinning star…perfect to represent the pulsars that Jocelyn Bell Burnell discovered (pulsars are neutron stars that spin and send off radiation, but luckily these ones are just made out of paper). I have to admit, origami and I have never gotten along. I’m more of a modernist, throw-paint-at-the-canvas type of artist so I find folding paper in a structured, precise way quite difficult. That’s why I added the second paper star video, which is much easier and although it’s supposedly a Christmas star, I see no reason why it can’t be made for Easter too! Just grab some pastel paper, scissors, and glue!

Origami Spinning Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dq9_tNCGnSA

Here’s the easier “Easter” Star https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NqFYzHDQyg

Double plus, I have to leave you with an amazing recipe for Disappearing Crunch Bars. (So named because as soon as you make them, they disappear completely. Trust me.)

Only 4 Ingredients:

Saltines (a column or two)
Butter (2 sticks)
Light Brown Sugar (1 cup)
Chocolate chips (12 oz semi-sweet, milk/dark/white, whatever you like)

Method:

Preheat the over to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking pan with foil. Place 1 layer of saltines on the foil. Boil the butter and sugar for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, then pour the caramelly mixture directly over the saltines and use a baking brush to cover the saltines in the caramel. Place in oven for 7 minutes, then remove and immediately pour the chocolate chips over the pan. Spread the chocolate with a brush as it melts, to coat. Cool in the fridge or preferably freezer. Peel from the foil and break into bite size (or larger J ) bits and keep in the freezer. YUM.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, JODIE!!!

text copyright Jodie Parachini 2021, illustration copyright Alexandra Badiu 2021, Albert Whitman

Why I Like This Book: I love learning about interesting people I previously knew nothing about! Jocelyn Bell Burnell has been a groundbreaker in astrophysics as well as a voice for gender equality in science. When I read about how what should have been her Nobel Prize (at least partly if not completely!) went to two male colleagues I was incensed on her behalf! Jocelyn’s dedication to her research is amazing. She worked her way through 3 miles of paper printout from the radio telescope to discover patterns that would lead her to neutron stars and pulsars. At age 77 she is still contributing to the field of astrophysics and leading the way for girls and women to achieve their scientific goals. She has truly been a pioneer. An inspirational read for all young readers!

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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! Go out and look at the stars! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday #383 – Goldilocks: A Very Tired Tale (PB)

Howdy, Friends!

I don’t know where the days disappear to, but somehow here we’ve rolled around to another Would You Read It Wednesday AND it’s the last day of March!

Seeing as how tomorrow is April Fools’ Day, may I suggest (at the risk of promoting my own book 🙃) a little reading material for anyone who is looking?

I’ll make it teeny so it’s less self-promotional 😊
Ok, forget teeny 😊 And forgive me for getting Ain’t She Sweet stuck in your head for the rest of the day 😊

Now, as a reward for putting up with my shameless self-promotion, may I offer you Something Chocolate? Death By Chocolate Eclair Cake sounds like a perfect choice!

Death By Chocolate Eclair Cake

Yumyumyum! Creamy and chocolate-y and scrumptiously delicious! Feel free to take an extra slice for later. You never know when you might need a quick pick-me-up!

Now then, onto today’s pitch which comes to us from Jamie who says, “I’ve been working on picture books for a few years. In terms of style, they are all over the place: lyrical, humorous, and now a fractured fairy tale. I have entered a few editions of your fabulous contests and enjoy the community you’ve created.  People can find/follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/jmdonahoe or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/jamiedonahoe/

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Goldilocks: A Very Tired Tale

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)

The Pitch: Goldilocks is exhausted and knows deep down there is a solution, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. Mares? Pears? Stairs? Hijinks ensue as Goldilocks puts her quest for rest to the test in this fractured fairy tale.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Jamie improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in April, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Jamie is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to APRIL which, in addition to having a realistic chance at a little spring weather, is a month which boasts 6 family birthdays PLUS jelly beans and chocolate easter eggs! Eggsellent!

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Moni Ritchie Hadley!

Welcome to Tuesday Debut, Everyone!

Today I am thrilled to introduce debut author Moni Ritchie Hadley and show off her gorgeous book about the Japanese Star Festival which releases Thursday (April 1st) (no fooling 😊). Just look at that cover!

Title, THE STAR FESTIVAL
Author Moni Ritchie Hadley
Illustrator Mizuho Fujisawa
Publishing House – Albert Whitman & Co.
Date of Publication 4-1-21
Fiction, age range 4-7

When Keiko, Mama, and Oba attend the Japanese Festival of Tanabata Matsuri, Keiko saves the day by reliving the events of the folktale it celebrates.


SUSANNA: Welcome, Moni! Thank you so much for joining us today. We are looking forward to hearing all about how The Star Festival was born. Where did the idea for this book come from?

MONI: THE STAR FESTIVAL began as a multigenerational concept book about the similarities between caring for toddlers and caring for my mom. It remained in that state for a few months. Letting go of that first idea took some time. Eventually, I changed the perspective and the setting to the Japanese Tanabata Festival (The Star Festival). I celebrated many festivals in Japan as a child, but it wasn’t until I wrote this story that I discovered the origins and distinctions between each celebration. The research opened up a whole new world of ideas, and that is when the story blossomed.

SUSANNA: How long did it take you to write this book?

MONI: The initial draft to submission took about five months, but I continued to revise until the signing of the contract, which put it at nine months. I edited for another month after the signing.

Moni’s (extremely tidy!) writing area (Although she also has workstations in the dining room, bedroom, and outside! A girl needs choices, right? 😊)


SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions? 

MONI: Yes! It amazes me that other writers can count them. I’m continually fiddling and reworking manuscripts, and I forget to create new documents. So, I’ll give a ballpark figure, 20-30, including rewrites with the editor.  

For a long while, I couldn’t let go of what I wanted the story to be. When I allowed it the freedom to go where it needed to go, the story turned a corner. The bond between the main character and her grandmother, remained, but the details changed completely. 

One technique that I used was to put the story on a plot hill diagram on my wall. I assigned three stickies to each scene, one color for the setting, another color for the plot, and another for the emotion. I then went through and asked myself questions about the stakes and reactions of my character. This visual strategy was very effective. Sometimes when I’m stuck in the mucky middle, I cut apart my story and tape it sideways to my wall, and like magic, I see the areas that aren’t working. Changing the perspective and moving the pieces around helped me see the story’s flow more clearly. I’ve recently started to create dummies for some of my stories. Putting my ideas into a visual format, no matter how rough the drawings are, helps me address issues. Another strategy that works for me is to deformat the text. I find that I play more with structure when I do this. I hesitate to change blocks of text if I leave it in its original structure.

Moni’s writing buddies: Dogs in order – Patti, Rusy, Smiley; Cat – Numnums

SUSANNA: When did you know your manuscript was ready for submission?

MONI: There was an energy I felt when I finally grasped the story, I was meant to tell. I banged it out in the last couple of weeks of the class I was taking. The deadline really motivated me to get it submission-ready. And all my critique partners rallied and helped me get it into shape.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

MONI: In the fall of 2019, I took an online class with Mira Reisberg at the Children’s Book Academy, The Craft and Business of Writing Picture Books. In the end, I was able to submit a pitch for the participating editors and agents. Editor, Christina Pulles, liked my pitch and invited me to submit the manuscript.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”?  (Best moment ever! ☺)

MONI: I didn’t get a call!😆 My email submission was answered with a request for changes, which I agreed to. The editor liked the changes, and it quickly escalated from there, all through email! It was a month from the time I submitted to the time I heard back from the editor, late November to late December, around the holidays. We passed the manuscript back and forth for about another month. From there, I continued to make changes with the editor. It was intense, but it was a pleasure working with Christina. She had a gentle communication style and always considered my opinion and what was best for the book.

SUSANNA: Can you tell us about your experience of the illustration process?

MONI: I had read that authors rarely get to see the sketches in progress. So it came as a surprise that Christina involved me at every major step. She sent me initial sketches and near-finished art for review. Since she asked, I gave honest opinions. 

She considered everything I said and then let me know which changes she agreed with and which she didn’t. It was nice to know that she valued my opinion. And if she felt strongly about something, I trusted her.

I was fortunate to be paired with illustrator Mizuho Fujisawa. She is Japanese as well and gave such nuanced details to every spread. I was blown away when I saw the cover for the first time. The colors on the cover were bold and vibrant. She brought the setting and character to life. Mizuho exceeded my expectations, and the illustration process proceeded very quickly. 

Up until writing this story, I rarely used art notes. Some editors do not like them. But for this manuscript, I decided to include them. Japanese words and customs needed notes, and I wanted my story to be understood in the way that I intended. Here some examples of notes that I thought were necessary and would make the reading clearer.

Keiko slips on her summer kimono. [incorrectly]  [image below]

text copyright Moni Ritchie Hadley 2021, illustration copyright Mizuho Fujisawa 2021, Albert Whitman

The skies explode. [fireworks]  [image below]

text copyright Moni Ritchie Hadley 2021, illustration copyright Mizuho Fujisawa 2021, Albert Whitman

“And look who helped me, the Emperor of the Heavens.” [security guard]  [no image supplied]

SUSANNA: Did you get to see advance reviews from Kirkus, SLJ, etc? What was that like?

MONI: Christina shared a positive review from Kirkus privately about a week before it was available online. I was thrilled. I floated through that day! And the very next day, she shared a starred review from the School Library Journal! In all the time that lead up to that moment, I hadn’t thought about professional reviews, so it was a pleasant surprise to get those!

SUSANNA: Congratulations! How wonderful to get such great reviews! How long did it take from offer to having the first copy in your hand?

MONI: 14 months.

SUSANNA: Describe any marketing/promotion you did for this book.

MONI: I sent letters to schools, held giveaways, and made stickers and bookmarks. I have done many blog interviews and activities for the story. I also made a short gif and had a book trailer made for the book.


SUSANNA: How long was it between the time you started writing seriously and the time you sold your first picture book?

MONI: That’s a difficult question to answer. Define seriously? I feel like every story, revision, critique, submission is an effort to be a serious writer. 

When I was working full time, I struggled to balance writing with work and my home life. I think that the time I spent working on stories, critiquing, and learning in those thirteen years attributed to getting published. 

When I retired from teaching, it took me less than a year to get a contract. I feel strongly that it would not have been offered if I waited to start writing when I “had the time.” 

All the minutes here-and-there add up. All the failures, stories that went nowhere, and writing practice add up. It gets you ready for the right moment. It prepares you to get “lucky.”

SUSANNA: What is the most important/helpful thing you learned on your way to publication? (Or what is your most helpful piece of advice for up-and-coming writers?)

MONI: Don’t get stuck on your early manuscripts. They will always hold a special place in your writer’s heart, but continue to evolve, discover other stories, and challenge yourself.

SUSANNA: Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

MONI: I tried not to make getting published my everyday goal. I changed my mindset and was grateful to be writing every day. Whether I was published or not, I figured I’d be doing the same thing anyway, working on my craft.

Author Moni Ritchie Hadley

Website: moniritchie.com
Twitter & Instagram: @bookthreader
Illustrator Instagram: @mizuhofujisawa

SUSANNA: So much wonderful advice, and so much helpful information! Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers, Moni! We all really appreciate it. And I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the very best with this and future titles!

Readers, if you have questions for Moni, please post them in the comments below and if she has time I’m sure she’ll respond!

You may purchase Moni’s book at:
(all links below are book-specific)

Indiebound
Amazon
Barnes&Noble

We can help our debut authors successfully launch their careers by:

– purchasing their books

– recommending their books to friends and family

– recommending their books to our children’s teachers and librarians

– recommending their books to our local libraries and bookstores

– suggesting them as visiting authors at our children’s schools and our local libraries

– sharing their books on social media

– reviewing their books on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and other sites where people go to learn about books.

Thank you all for stopping by to read today!  Have a lovely, inspiration-filled Tuesday!  Maybe today is the day you’ll write your debut picture book 😊

Missed any previous Tuesday Debuts?  Check them out! (There are nearly 70, so lots to learn from !)

Christy Mihaly – Hey! Hey! Hay! A Tale of Bales And The Machines That Make Them

Jessie Oliveros – The Remember Balloons

Beth Anderson – An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin And Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution

Hannah Holt – The Diamond And The Boy

Laura Renauld – Porcupine’s Pie

Annie Romano – Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book Of Gratitude

Melissa Stoller – Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush

Sherry Howard – Rock And Roll Woods

Kate Narita – 100 Bugs! A Counting Book

Vivian Kirkfield – Pippa’s Passover Plate

Laura Roettiger – Aliana Reaches For The Moon

Matthew Lasley – Pedro’s Pan: A Gold Rush Story

Natalee Creech – When Day Is Done

Margaret Chiu Greanias – Maximillian Villainous

Wendy Greenley – Lola Shapes The Sky

Danielle Dufayet – You Are Your Strong

B.J. Lee – There Was An Old Gator Who Swallowed A Moth

Cathy Ballou Mealey – When A Tree Grows

Pippa Chorley – Counting Sheep

Sandra Sutter – The Real Farmer In The Dell

June Smalls – Odd Animals ABC

Jill Mangel Weisfeld – Riley The Retriever Wants A New Job (self pub)

Kathleen Cornell Berman – The Birth Of Cool: How Jazz Great Miles Davis Found His Sound

Eleanor Ann Peterson – Jurassic Rat

Sarah Hoppe – Who Will? Will You?

Marla LeSage – Pirate Year Round

Stacey Corrigan – The Pencil Eater

Shannon Stocker – Can U Save The Day?

Nadine Poper – Randall And Randall

Christine Evans – Evelyn The Adventurous Entomologist

Karen Kiefer – Drawing God (religious market)

Susan Richmond – Bird Count

Dawn Young – The Night Baafore Christmas

Heather Gale – Ho’onani: Hula Warrior

Ciara O’Neal – Flamingo Hugs Aren’t For Everyone (self pub)

Theresa Kiser – A Little Catholic’s Book Of Liturgical Colors (religious market)

Lindsey Hobson – Blossom’s Wish (self pub)

Kirsten Larson – Wood, Wire, Wings: Emma Lilian Todd Invents An Airplane

Valerie Bolling – Let’s Dance!

Janet Johnson – Help Wanted: Must Love Books

Susi Schaefer – Cat Ladies

Heather Kinser – Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen

Kelly Carey – How Long Is Forever?

Mary Wagley Copp – Wherever I Go

Nell Cross Beckerman – Down Under The Pier

Claire Noland – Evie’s Field Day: More Than One Way To Win

Sharon Giltrow – Bedtime, Daddy!

Gabi Snyder – Two Dogs On A Trike

Sarah Kurpiel – Lone Wolf

Vicky Fang – Invent-a-Pet

Lisa Katzenberger – National Regular Average Ordinary Day

Pam Webb – Someday We Will

Abi Cushman – Soaked!

Teresa Krager – Before Your Birth Day

Lindsay H. Metcalf – Beatrix Potter, Scientist

Nancy Roe Pimm – Fly, Girl, Fly! Shaesta Waiz Soars Around The World

Jolene Gutiérrez – Mac And Cheese And The Personal Space Invader

Julie Rowan-Zoch – Louis (picture book illustration debut!)

Janie Emaus – Latkes For Santa

Amy Mucha – A Girl’s Bill Of Rights

Hope Lim – I Am A Bird

Melanie Ellsworth – Hip,Hip…Beret!

Rebecca Kraft Rector – Squish Squash Squished

Gnome Road Publishing (publishing house debut)

Sue Heavenrich – 13 Ways To Eat A Fly

Julie Rowan-Zoch – I’m A Hare So There (author/illustrator debut)

Nancy Derey Riley – Curiosity’s Discovery (author/illustrator self-published debut)

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Saturday Evening Back Seat Drivers Edition

Hi Everyone!

So sorry I missed PPBF yesterday!

Busy days of moving my youngest into her new home.

After much time on the road, here is a picture of my backseat drivers to entertain you in lieu of an actual book review 😊

(Don’t worry – I did not take this photo while I was driving – my daughter did 😊)

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do 😊

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 great rest of the weekend, everyone! 😊

Would You Read It Wednesday #382 – Wait For Cate (PB)

Howdy, friends!

Did you know that today is National Chocolate-Covered Raisin Day?

Raisins, being very tiny, are perhaps not the best vehicle for maximizing one’s chocolate experience, but still, chocolate is chocolate and raisins do happen to go well with it! And clearly they make an excellent writing snack. I knew you would want to celebrate accordingly 😊

Close-up they look bigger! 😊

But that was just a bonus because it happens to be a National Holiday!

Since it’s Wednesday, we still get to treat ourselves to Something (else) Chocolate. I picked cake, because…well… it’s cake! 😊, and cherry because it’s pink and spring-like and makes me think of cherry blossoms 🌸 Dig in!

Cherry Dr. Pepper Chocolate Cake

Now that we are extra-specially supplied with chocolate, let’s get to today’s pitch which comes to us from Diana. Diana Gibson is a pre-published author with 30 years teaching Special Ed and El-Ed children. She has a Masters Degree in Reading Diagnostics and Remedial Reading. She’s also spent 22 years in the Army and worked weekends as a Pyrotechnician all over the world.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Wait For Cate

Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 5-8)

The Pitch: Cate promised her team she’d finally be on time for the championship kickball game. But when she encounters the new girl in her class, stuck in the sand on the playground in her wheelchair, she has to make a BIG decision. Should she help or hurry on by? The clock’s ticking.

So what do you think?  Would You Read It?  YES, MAYBE or NO?

If your answer is YES, please feel free to tell us what you particularly liked and why the pitch piqued your interest.  If your answer is MAYBE or NO, please feel free to tell us what you think could be better in the spirit of helping Diana improve her pitch.  Helpful examples of possible alternate wordings are welcome.  (However I must ask that comments be constructive and respectful.  I reserve the right not to publish comments that are mean because that is not what this is about.)

Please send YOUR pitches for the coming weeks!  For rules and where to submit, click on this link Would You Read It or on Would You Read it in the dropdown under For Writers in the bar above.  There are openings in April, so you could get your pitch up pretty soon for helpful feedback and a chance to have it read and commented on by editor Erin Molta!

Diana is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!  I am looking forward to getting to see 2 of my daughters, whom I have not seen in way too many months! (Because they work in priority fields they are both fully vaccinated now – hurray! 😊)

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!!! 😊