Tuesday Debut – Presenting Rebecca Gardyn Levington!

Hello, my friends!

I hope you’re all well and enjoying everything summer has to offer!

It’s been quite a while since we had a Tuesday Debut, but, HURRAY! We have one today!

I’m thrilled to introduce Rebecca Gardyn Levington, a graduate of Making Picture Book Magic and a frequent participant in the writing contests on this blog over the years, here today with her debut picture book, BRAINSTORM!, which I just love the whole concept of and I think you will, too!

Title: BRAINSTORM!
Author: Rebecca Gardyn Levington
Illustrator: Kate Kronreif
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Date of publication: August 3, 2022
Fiction, Age 4-8

BRAINSTORM! is a rhyming concept picture book that begins with a girl sitting at her desk at school, frustrated because she can’t think of anything to write about. As the girl stares at the storm brewing outside – kerplink! – a tiny thought falls from the sky. Soon the girl finds herself surrounded by a whirlwind of words, pictures, and ideas swirling all around her, and eventually gets caught in a happy downpour of her own creativity.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Rebecca! Thank you so much for joining us today! We can’t wait to hear all about how Brainstorm! came to be! Where did the idea for this book come from?

REBECCA: First of all, Susanna, Thank YOU so much for having me on the Tuesday Debut! I have been following this blog for YEARS and it’s such an honor to share my story with you and your readers. Thank you for all you do to help inspire and encourage us! 

As for where the idea for BRAINSTORM! came from….One rainy late October day in 2019, much like the little girl in my story, I had a terrible case of writer’s block. I was doing my best to keep my Butt In Chair, but my brain felt like the weather — cloudy, gloomy and gray. Instead of staring at the blank page, I found myself staring at the rain outside my window when I felt the drop of an idea…

What if…IDEAS poured down from the sky?… Like a…rain storm?…No! Wait! Like a….

                                    BRAINstorm!

I immediately began writing what I originally thought would remain a short little poem.

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

REBECCA: It honestly didn’t take long. Once I had the idea, the main core of the poem just poured out of me (pun intended!) It took a few more months of tinkering before it became a “real” picture book draft.

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

REBECCA: As I said, BRAINSTORM! began as a poem. A pretty short poem– Just six couplets. I really thought that’s all it would be. It sat on my computer for a couple of months, but it kept calling to me, so I began tinkering. I wondered: what if it wasn’t just IDEAS that fell from the sky, but WORDS, like VERBS and NOUNS, and PHRASES and SENTENCES and CHARACTERS and PLOTS…. Suddenly, I found myself deluged in this amazing world where stories drizzled down and swirled all around us. I loved watching my MC play in the puddles! In the end, I saved 15 drafts of this story, so it definitely changed and grew over the months, but those initial six couplets (with some minor tweaks) are all still in the final version.

Rebecca’s work space

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

REBECCA: I have several critique groups and partners. I generally send a manuscript to one group at time, make changes, then send it to the next group and repeat. Once all my critique partners had seen it and no one had any major changes or suggestions, I felt it was ready.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

REBECCA: In summer 2019, Lori Degman chose me as one of her three #PBChat Mentees. Lori is an all-around amazing person (now good friend) and at the end of the 3-month-long mentorship she very generously offered to ask a few of the editors with whom she’d worked if they’d be willing to look at a submission from me. One of those editors was Sarah Rockett at Sleeping Bear Press.

So, in December, with Lori’s blessing and encouragement, I sent off my favorite manuscript at the time (not this one). Sarah ultimately passed, but said: “It’s really well done and I love your writing and rhythm…if you have anything else that is submission-ready, please feel free to send it my way.” I immediately sent her two more manuscripts (not this one) and heard NOTHING for months. Meanwhile, I had just polished up BRAINSTORM! and felt it was pretty strong. I wasn’t sure if I should send her a third manuscript, but I wasn’t agented at the time so my opportunities to submit were few and far between. I knew Sarah liked my writing, so I said “what the heck?!”

On March 6, 2020 (yup, just one week before we all went into quarantine!) I sent her an email, following up on the two previous manuscripts I’d sent and added, “Oh, by the way, I also have this new one called BRAINSTORM!…”  I attached it. And waited.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

REBECCA: So, as I mentioned, I sent BRAINSTORM! to Sleeping Bear in March 2020, just a week before the world shut down, so I didn’t expect to hear back for a while…and I didn’t. Two months later, in May, I followed up again and Sarah kindly responded that, thanks to the quarantine, Sleeping Bear had fallen behind with everything. However, she did chat with her editorial team and they were, unfortunately, passing on the two other manuscripts I’d sent. (whomp. whomp). BUT, she added, she loved BRAINSTORM! and wanted to bring it to their next acquisitions meeting. (WHOOHOO!)

Thanks to the ongoing pandemic — yada, yada, yada — that meeting didn’t happen until August and then finally, on August 27, 2020, I got the email that Sleeping Bear wanted to acquire it for their 2022 list! (So, to answer your question, it was about 6 months after submission, and 3 months after being told it was going to acquisitions, before I got the official “yes”!)

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! ☺)

REBECCA: Oops, sorry. I think I answered this in the previous question! I got the email on August 27, 2020! I remember standing in my kitchen with my phone in my hand and I just went mute and started shaking. My kids were at the table, obliviously eating lunch, and I think my husband asked me something, but I couldn’t hear him. I couldn’t stop staring at the email! Finally, one of my kids asked: “Mom, are you okay?” And I told them the news! I just couldn’t believe one of my stories was FINALLY going to be a book!

SUSANNA: Such an amazing feeling! How long was it between getting your offer and getting your contract to sign?

REBECCA: Exactly one month. I was at a Highlights retreat with one of my critique buddies, Kelly Conroy, and I had been complaining all weekend how long it was taking for them to send the contract. Turns out, it had been sitting in my SPAM folder for an entire day! Since I was unagented at the time, I hired a lawyer to help me look through it. After a very brief negotiation, I received my final executed contract another month later, at the end of October. It seemed like it took forever to get the contract, but now that I’ve sold more books, I realize that two months from offer to executed contract is actually LIGHTNING FAST!

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

REBECCA: I don’t remember celebrating signing the contract. I think by the time I’d signed it, I had already finished off all the champagne!  😊

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

REBECCA: My advance was lower than I’d expected, but because this was my first sale and because I didn’t have an agent at the time (and because I HATE confrontation) I was terrified of pushing back. The only thing I asked for was more author copies and a few changes to some of the wording. There was a part of me that believed that if I asked for too much the publisher would change their mind about the offer. Now that I’ve sold more books, I realize that was ridiculous. By the time you receive an offer, it has had to jump through SO many hoops that the publisher isn’t about to say “Oh, never mind then” if you respectfully ask for a little more. Publishers EXPECT to negotiate. I’ve learned now that it never hurts to ask. The absolutely WORST that will happen is that they will say “no” to that specific term. Since signing this contract, I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable with negotiation. (Although I definitely prefer having my agent do it for me!)

Oh, and one quick thing about royalties that may be helpful. I didn’t know this at the time, but some publishers pay royalties based upon the “suggested retail price” of the book and others pay based upon “net receipts,” so read your contract carefully! A 5% royalty is standard but ONLY if it’s based on “suggested retail price.” If you are getting royalties based on “net receipts” you want to be sure your royalties are much higher, or around 10%. Also, if you are unagented, I HIGHLY recommend all the incredible information available for FREE at The Author’s Guild. They have a “model contract” you can look at that is extremely helpful for understanding what is “normal” and what is a “red flag:” https://www.authorsguild.org/member-services/legal-services/model-book-contract/

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

REBECCA: Amazingly, there were very, very few changes to my original text. I think the biggest edit was changing the word “boots” to “shoes” because we weren’t sure what type of footwear the illustrator would choose for the MC. Ultimately Kate did end up having the MC wear boots, so we changed it back! There might have been another word or two that changed, but that was all.

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

REBECCA: I was thrilled when I heard that Kate Kronreif would be illustrating! I was sent initial character sketches for review and my editor, Sarah, and I had a Zoom call to discuss the initial black and white sketches, as well as the color sketches once they were available. Sarah asked for my feedback on the cover as well. I felt very included in the process and that my opinion mattered, and Sarah was always open and willing to answer all my questions along the way. Now that I see the final product, I realize how difficult this story must’ve been to illustrate! I mean, how does someone illustrate “An easy breeze becomes a blast/of funny phrases flying past?” Thank goodness both Sarah and Kate totally understood my vision and took it to the next level!

text copyright Rebecca Gardyn Levington 2022, illustration copyright Kate Kronreif 2022, Sleeping Bear Press
text copyright Rebecca Gardyn Levington 2022, illustration copyright Kate Kronreif 2022, Sleeping Bear Press

I didn’t include any art notes in this manuscript, but I had a few ideas in my head about how I thought an illustrator might interpret this story. For instance, I was imagining a sort of “Wizard of Oz” scenario – where things started off super gloomy and gray and ended up in a whirlwind of color. So, I was a little surprised initially when I saw all the color Kate put into the book from the very first spread. BUT, it is PERFECT! And I absolutely LOVE everything she did and now I can’t imagine it any other way! The book is vibrant, exciting and playful, which is exact want kids to feel when they are stomping around in their idea puddles!  The only part of the illustration process that I was directly involved with was, at Sarah’s request, providing Kate with lists of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, titles, sentences, “funny phrases,” “wacky plots,” etc. that she could use as inspiration and to weave throughout the illustrations.

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

REBECCA: Yes! I received a Kirkus review — and it’s a good one! You can read the full review here: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/rebecca-gardyn-levington/brainstorm-levington/ and here’s the condensed blurb:

“…The metaphor nicely captures the creative process—from the frustration of waiting for inspiration to the anticipation of something gathering in the distance to the sought-after deluge of ideas […] Entertaining reassurance and lighthearted encouragement for those tough first moments of putting pencil to paper.” 

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

REBECCA: I still haven’t received my author copies! Unfortunately, due to supply chain issues, my book birthday was bumped from July 15th to August 3rd! I was told I’ll be getting my copies at the same time as everyone else, so if that’s true, it will be almost exactly 2 years from book offer book in hand!

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

REBECCA: My publisher sent a digital F&G of the book to all the major advanced reviewers and put it up on Edelweiss. They also organized a pre-order campaign with a local bookstore and designed a bookmark for me to use, as well as activity sheets and a teacher’s guide. They also created an adorable trailer that they posted on social media. I also discovered that the Association of School Librarians in my state (NJ) is holding a conference in December and they agreed to cover a good portion of my costs to attend.

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

REBECCA: I reached out to a bunch of podcasters and bloggers (like you!) about a year in advance to set up my #BrainstormBlogTour (I realize now, I started a bit too early – I probably only needed to start about 3-ish months in advance!) Once I received the digital review copy, I sent it to fellow authors to post early reviews on GoodReads and Barnes & Noble (Amazon doesn’t allow reviews to be posted until the release date). I also applied to have a table at several in-person book festivals in my area this fall, and I have been hosting giveaways on social media.

In addition, I hired a professional web designer to re-vamp my website, RebeccaGardynLevington.com. I used Jenny Medford at WebsyDaisy and she did an INCREDIBLE job. I can’t recommend her enough.

Lastly, I am part of a wonderful debut group called KidLit Caravan (www.kidlitcaravan.com). We are 13 picture book authors and author/illustrators who support each other’s journey, promoting cover reveals, pre-order announcements, and book birthdays/launches on social media. We review each other’s books and request that our local libraries order them. One of our members, Carrie Tillotson (author of the adorable Counting To Bananas), is a whiz when it comes to graphic design and I hired her to create a “sell sheet” for BRAINSTORM! that I could take with me to bookstores and libraries when I introduce myself so that they can have all the relevant information at hand and (hopefully!) place an order for the book.

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

REBECCA: About four years. In my life B.C. (“Before Kids”) I was a magazine editor and then a freelance journalist so I’d already had hundreds of articles published in various magazines and newspapers. I stopped writing once I started having kids but, after almost a decade of full time Mommy-ing, I realized how much I missed playing with words. I discovered SCBWI and attended my first regional NJ conference in the summer of 2016. I was blown away. I finally felt at home. I knew writing picture books and poems for kids was what I was meant to do.

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?)

REBECCA: Two things:

1) Put yourself and your work out into the world as much as you can. Enter ALL the contests (Like Susanna’s amazing Halloweensie, Valentiny, and Holiday contests, Vivian Kirkfield’s #50PreciousWords, Madness!Poetry, etc.), enter ALL the mentorships (like the #PBChat Mentorship Program), do ALL the Twitter parties (like #PBPitch, #PitMad and #PBParty), go to as many conferences and webinars as you can and join ALL the groups. Take advantage of professional critiques, if possible. If you don’t have an agent and have an opportunity to send your work to an editor, DO IT! (I sold my second book to HarperCollins via a submission opportunity after a conference and that helped me land my agent as well!). Be as active as you can in the KidLit community and always, ALWAYS be kind, respectful and supportive. The connections you make along the way will lead you to opportunities you can’t even imagine!

2) While you should, of course, write stories that come from your heart, it is crucial to remember that children’s book publishing is a BUSINESS. An editor may think your story is “cute” or “funny” or “heartfelt,” but before she can acquire it, she has to prove to all the financial and marketing people that your story will SELL. So you MUST think about “hooks.” Who is buying your book and WHY? Can your book be sold during a holiday? Can teachers use your book in a classroom (if so, consider adding back matter!). Does it have social-emotional themes that make it easy to explain a difficult subject matter? Etc. One thing I always do now is, once I’ve created my first draft, I stop everything, write my pitch and logline and research comp titles. As I continue to revise, I have a very clear idea of what the book is really about, what the hooks are, and how I will sell the idea to an editor.

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

REBECCA: So, this may sound completely counterintuitive to what I just said about “hooks” and marketability, BUT… When you have an idea that you feel you need to write about, do not pass go, do not collect $200, just GO WITH IT! Don’t stop to think too hard about marketability and hooks (yet!). Write what is in your heart. Get it down. BRAINSTORM! came to me in what felt like a rush of creativity. I couldn’t stop it. I had to write it! At the time I didn’t think at all about marketability. I was just having fun writing a poem. It wasn’t until after that I went back and said: “You know…I think if I add more of X,Y,Z, I bet teachers could use this in their classrooms….”  Once I realized that not only was this a FUN book for kids to read, but that it also had an educational “hook,” I knew I was on to something. 

Author Rebecca Gardyn Levington (photo credit Joy Yagid)

Website: http://www.RebeccaGardynLevington
Twitter: @WriterRebeccaGL
Facebook: @WriterRebeccaGL
Instagram: @RebeccaGardynLevington

SUSANNA: Thank you so much for joining us today, Rebecca, and for sharing your journey and answering our questions and giving us so much to think about! We so appreciate it! I know I speak for everyone when I wish you the best of luck with this and future titles!

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

To pre-order a personalized signed copy of BRAINSTORM!, visit Rebecca’s local indie: https://store.wordsbookstore.com/preorder-signed-copy-brainstorm

You may also purchase Rebecca’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

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Patrice Gopo – All The Places We Call Home

Perfect Picture Book Friday – How You Came To Be

So… I’m a little behind today… Let’s just pretend it’s Friday morning, shall we? 😊

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday (where it is not 8:33 PM 😊)!

First off, I am thrilled and excited to announce the winner of the Starry Forest giveaway last week!

Congratulations to Andi Chitty! You get to have a 20 minute Zoom meeting with Robert Agis, the president of the publishing company, to ask anything you want about publishing and even have a chance to share some of your own pitches! Thank you so much to Starry Forest Books, Robert Agis, and Amy Dixon for visiting us last week and offering such a wonderful opportunity!

And now, I have such a beautiful book to show you!

Title: How You Came To Be

Written By: Carole Gerber

Illustrated By: Sawsan Chalabi

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop, an imprint of Penguin Random House, nonfiction

Suitable For Ages: 2-4 years

Themes/Topics: prenatal development, nonfiction

Opening: “Before you were born,
a wiggly little cell from another
joined with a little round cell from me.
That’s how you came to be.

Together, these two tiny cells formed
one brand-new cell
that would become YOU.”

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: “A mother lovingly describes the sizes and stages of her baby’s month-by-month development inside the womb, and the amazement of experiencing it from the outside.”

text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022, illustration copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, Rise x Penguin Workshop

Links To Resources: there is some very nice back matter in the book with “Helpful Words To Know”, “What Unborn Babies Do”, and “How Babies Are Born”, as well as a Selected Bibliography. The book itself is a wonderful resource.

text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022, illustration copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, Rise x Penguin Workshop

Why I Like This Book: I love this book. It is so beautifully and lovingly written, in a way that is so perfectly accessible to young readers. Instead of focusing on any of the mechanics of conception, which I think would be pretty hard to make appropriate for very young readers, it shows children, in concrete images they can easily envision, how big they were at 1 month, 2 months, etc. By personalizing growth and development, almost in the form of a love letter to the child, it feels immediate and relatable.
Every day you doubled in size.
Soon, you were as big as a pea.
Your heart began to develop
and to beat very quickly.

Children will be captivated by imagining themselves that small, and if they have a sibling on the way, it may help them to feel their soon-to-be-brother-or-sister is more real. If you’re looking for a book that will answer questions about babies without going into the kinds of details you’d like to hold off on until your children are a little older, or if you just want a lovely book that explains a lot about babies in simple, highly appropriate, easy-to-understand words and pictures, this is the perfect choice!

text copyright Carole Gerber, 2022, illustration copyright Sawsan Chalabi, 2022, Rise x Penguin Workshop

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! 😊

Tuesday Debut – Presenting Patrice Gopo! PLUS A Giveaway!

My goodness! It’s been some time since we had a Tuesday Debut, hasn’t it?!

I have missed getting to showcase new authors! Please remember (and spread the word) that if you have a debut picture book coming out I’d be delighted to feature you. Just email me (contact form in the menu bar) and we’ll choose a date!

Today I am thrilled to introduce a talented writer whose early publication was as an essayist, but who recently came to picture book writing. I had the opportunity to read this book before it was even submitted and I loved it from the beginning, so I encourage all of you to get your hands on a copy and enjoy it! In fact, one of you could win a copy from Patrice! Leave a comment below by Sunday June 19 at 9PM Eastern and you will be entered in a random drawing for your very own copy! (USA addresses only, sorry!) Please join me in welcoming Patrice Gopo as she shares her journey to publication with her lovely picture book, ALL THE PLACES WE CALL HOME!

Title: All the Places We Call Home
Author: Patrice Gopo
Illustrator: Jenin Mohammed
Publishing House: WorthyKids/Hachette Book Group
Date of Publication: 14 June 2022
Fiction or Nonfiction: Fiction
Age Range: 4-8

In her first picture book, author Patrice Gopo illuminates how family stories help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with the broader world. Her lyrical language, paired with Jenin Mohammed’s richly textured artwork, creates a beautiful, stirring portrait of a child’s deep ties to cultures and communities beyond where she lays her head to sleep.

SUSANNA: Welcome, Patrice! Thank you so much for joining us today! We’re very excited to hear all about your journey to publication with this beautiful, lyrical book! Where did the idea come from?

PATRICE: Years ago, my oldest daughter took a nap on her great-grandmother’s bed in rural Zimbabwe. That day I remembered a childhood nap I had once taken on my grandmother’s bed in rural Jamaica. I recognized how my daughter’s story would, in many ways, mirror my story: a child who lives in one place but has cultural ties to other parts of the world.

I shaped that experience into an essay called “Before” (part of my first collection of essays, All the Colors We Will See). One day, as a friend was telling me about her picture book project, I had one of those moments when a lucid idea showed up, saying, “Here I am. Pay attention to me.” The idea: the essay “Before” would make a great picture book!

Honestly, I love how this idea came into being. There is so much space for us to re-imagine our creative pursuits in other forms such that new creations spring forth.

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

PATRICE: This idea to turn the essay into a picture book manuscript came to me in the summer of 2019. The challenge for me, though, was that beyond having read tons and tons of picture books to my children, I didn’t know much about the craft of writing picture books. I knew quite a bit about the craft of writing, but not specifically picture books. So, I needed to learn. I began studying craft books and eventually signing up for Susanna’s MAKING PICTURE BOOK MAGIC course.

I came to the page with a desire to illuminate how family stories of far-off lands help shape children, help form their identity, and help connect them with their broader world. However, up until taking Susanna’s course, I was struggling with how to use the ideas from my essay and transform that into a picture book. Susanna’s daily lessons gave me tools and empowered me with ways to bring forth a gorgeous manuscript! After several rounds of revisions, I completed my manuscript in the summer of 2020.

No matter how long we’ve been writing, I think there is always space to learn something more!

SUSANNA: Did you go through many revisions?

PATRICE: I did go through multiple revisions. Probably 6-8 before my agent sent my manuscript out on submission. And then a few more revisions with my editor. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a personal essayist as well. When I write essays, one of my favorite parts is revision. I find the generation process/the blank page a little frightening at times. But with revision, you already have the words there.

A technique I love to use in the revision process is cutting the essay apart into paragraphs so that I can physically rearrange as I sit on the floor. I brought that revision technique to revising All the Places We Call Home (and additional manuscripts I’ve written since then). There is something wonderful about cutting apart paper, moving sections around, and seeing what that will do to your story.

Ultimately, each round of revision gets us closer to what a story wants to be.

Patrice’s office

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

PATRICE: My agent told me that it was ready for us to go out on submission. Honestly, I wasn’t sure myself, so I appreciated the outside opinion. As writers, we can get so caught up in the number of times we’ve read a manuscript, and it can be helpful to receive input from someone with more distance. I should mention that I had a pre-existing agent because of my work for adults, my essay collection, etc.

SUSANNA: When and how did you submit?

PATRICE: My agent submitted my manuscript to a handful of editors.

SUSANNA: How long after you found out about your book going to acquisitions (if you did) or after you submitted were you told it was a “yes”?

PATRICE: I actually didn’t find out that my book was going to acquisitions. My agent did let me know that we had interest in the manuscript. And about five weeks later, I received an offer. That was an excruciating time of waiting, knowing that someone was interested and then not knowing.

SUSANNA: When did you get “the call”, which these days is more likely to be “the email”?  (Best moment ever! 😊)

PATRICE: I did have to wait a bit as I mentioned above. However, I know this manuscript was picked up quickly when I compare to other stories I’ve heard.

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

PATRICE: This did take a while. About 5-6 months (this included several rounds of contract revision before I received the version to sign)

SUSANNA: How did you celebrate signing your contract?

PATRICE: Ice cream!!!

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

PATRICE: I found Hannah Holt’s “Writing Picture Books: A Look at the Numbers” blog post extremely helpful (hannahholt.com/blog/2017/9/25/writing-picture-books-a-look-at-the-number-part-2). WorthyKids is an imprint of Hachette Book Group, so a large press. According to Hannah’s statistics, my advance fit right within the average and aligned with what I expected. Same with the royalty rates. I will mention that I asked for additional author copies beyond what the initial contract offered. I think that’s a wonderful place to negotiate, particularly if you plan to use copies of the book in your marketing and promotion efforts.

SUSANNA: I agree, that can be ver helpful! Great tip! Can you tell us a little about the editorial process?

PATRICE: I decided to sign with my editor because she had both a passion for the story and a sense of what else it needed. We went through a couple of rounds of revisions, and I was thrilled to consider her input. One of the big elements I added was a third moment of “travel” in the book. Originally there were two, and that just felt incomplete (hello, rule of 3!!).

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

PATRICE: I have been so pleased with the illustration process!!! Jenin Mohammed is fabulous. While I did not have much input about the actual art (and I didn’t expect to have input), my editor and the art director cared about matching the right illustrator with this project. Since this book is based on a personal story rooted in my cultural experience, the editor and the art director were committed to choosing an illustrator who also had some connection to the story. Jenin Mohammed was the perfect choice. And her illustrations brought this story to life in ways I could have never imagined. I had an opportunity to see sketches along the way; those were such special moments, seeing your words become something more. The first time my editor showed me an image of the mother and daughter, I started to cry.

I don’t think Jenin’s vision departed from mine. Instead, I think Jenin could imagine so much more than I could. I just love the sense of color and movement I see in the spreads. I could never have dreamed of that, but they are exquisite.

text copyright Patrice Gopo 2022, illustration copyright Jenin Mohammed, 2022, WorthyKIds

I didn’t include any art notes. One thing, though, is that I asked for my contract to include a specification that the illustrations would be of a Black mother and daughter.

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

PATRICE: At this point, I have not seen any advance reviews.

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

PATRICE: The offer came in July 2020, and my editor sent me an early printed copy in February 2022. Such a special moment, opening that copy, sitting with my daughters, and reading this story to them!!

SUSANNA: What kind of marketing and promotion has your publisher done for this book?

PATRICE: My marketing team has been amazing. I’ll share some of what they’ve been doing, but I know that they’ve been doing even more that I’m not even aware of. (If you want to know more about marketing, I watched this great SCBWI webinar that was so helpful: www.scbwi.org/digital-workshops-video-archive/ | the video for April 21st | I believe you need to be a member to watch)

Some things they have done:

  • Creating shareable graphics (and a timeline for when I should share)
  • Sending out targeted email blasts
  • Placing targeted ads for the book (along with other titles from their catalogue)
  • Creating an Amazon keyword ad campaign
  • Working with a publicist to pitch the book, etc.
  • Creating gifts for the pre-order campaign
  • Giving away influencer copies of the book
  • Developing an educator guide for the book
  • Just being kind, friendly, wonderful, supportive and clearly loving this book!! I’m so grateful for my marketing team!!

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

PATRICE: I’ve also been working hard promoting this book. Many of these ideas came from either my marketing team’s suggestions or what I did when I promoted my previously published essay collection.

  • Reaching out to podcasts I’ve previously been on and pitching me/the book as a return guest
  • Writing guest blog posts for places I have connections
  • Reaching out to my network and letting them know about the book, encouraging pre-orders, etc. (I primarily utilize my newsletter for this, but I also post on Facebook)
  • Reaching out to indie bookstores where I have connections (and some where I don’t) to let them know about the book
  • Asking my network to suggest that their library system purchase the book
  • Teaching classes
  • Regularly posting about the book on Facebook
  • Booking several local events
  • Booking a couple of summer camp visits
  • Ordering stickers to distribute during events
  • Developing a downloadable simple activity for children (separate from the educator’s guide)

I know stepping into marketing can have its challenges for us authors who might feel more comfortable writing the stories. However, I believe that our words can impact a child’s life. Participating in marketing and promotion is one of the beautiful ways of connecting our stories with children.

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

PATRICE: 11 years (I started writing in 2009 and sold my first PB in 2020; however, it is important to note that I didn’t seriously start writing picture books until 2019)

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?)

PATRICE: Know yourself and know the story you are meant to tell/trying to tell. Over the past couple of years, I’ve received helpful feedback on this manuscript and other manuscripts. One thing, however, that stands out to me is the truth that people have subjective opinions. What someone doesn’t like, another person might love. Honestly, I find this somewhat confusing as I process feedback. Because of this, I think it matters that we have a deep sense of what the story is that we’re trying to tell. This deep knowing will help us weed through feedback, particularly if someone suggests a complete overhaul of our story. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a complete overhaul might not be the right thing at some point. However, I think if we know the purpose for why we are writing a story, we are better able to sift through feedback and determine what we let stick and what we should release.

SUSANNA: That is very good advice. Anything else you’d like to share about your book’s journey from inspiration to publication?

PATRICE: Recently, I came across a note I had jotted down many years ago—back when I was pregnant with my first child and before I knew that I would one day become a writer. I had written, “Write a children’s book about my child exploring their cultural background.”

I didn’t stick this note in a prominent place to guide my goals and return to, letting the idea imprint deeply upon my brain. Instead, a couple of scrawled words, almost throwaway words, and certainly long-forgotten words. However, I know All the Places We Call Home truly began as far back as there—and maybe even earlier. Whether or not my conscious mind knew this book would come to pass, something deep within was always aware. 

I believe the stories we want to tell are within, taking root, waiting for just the right time to join the world!

SUSANNA:Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this series and paying it forward to other writers! We so appreciate your time and expertise, and wish you all the best with this and future titles!

PATRICE: Thank you so much for inviting me to take part, Susanna. It’s been a real privilege sharing a bit of my journey. Thank you for all the ways you support picture book writers!!

Author Patrice Gopo

Please visit my website: www.patricegopo.com

You can also find me on my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/patricegopowrites

You can subscribe to my newsletter here: www.patricegopo.com/subscribe

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

You may purchase Patrice’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

Sita Singh – Birds Of A Feather

Ann Magee – Branches Of Hope: The 9/11 Survivor Tree

Amanda Davis – 30,000 Stitches: The Inspiring Story of the National 9/11 Flag (nonfiction)

Jennifer Buchet – Little Medusa’s Hair Do-lemma

Michelle Vattula – The Stalking Seagulls

Christine Van Zandt – A Brief History Of Underpants (nonfiction)

Candice Marley Conner – Sassafras And Her Teeny Tiny Tail

Ashley Belote – Frankenslime

Becky Scharnhorst – My School Stinks!

Darshana Khiani – How To Wear A Sari

Ana Siqueira – Bella’s Recipe For Success

Kate Allen Fox – Pando: A Living Wonder Of Trees (nonfiction)

Jenna Waldman – Sharkbot Shalom

Karen A. Wyle – You Can’t Kiss A Bubble

Rebecca Mullin – One Tomato (board book)

Cynthia Argentine – Night Becomes Day: Changes In Nature (illustrated with photographs)

Karen Greenwald – Vote For Susanna: The First Woman Mayor (nonfiction)

Anne Appert – Blob (author/illustrator)

Patti Richards – Mrs. Noah

Dianna Wilson-Sirkovsky – James’ Reading Rescue

Karen Condit – Turtle On The Track (hybrid publishing)

Renee LaTulippe – The Crab Ballet (picture book poem)

Amy Duchene – Pool Party (collaboration/co-writing)

Kimberly Wilson – A Penny’s Worth

Candace Spizzirri – Fishing With Grandpa And Skye

Carrie Tillotson – Counting To Bananas

Perfect Picture Book Friday Special! – Starry Forest Books – A Perfect Picture Book Publisher PLUS A Fantastic Opportunity Giveaway!!!

Break out the fancy coffee mugs and some celebratory chocolate cake for breakfast, my friends! We have a very special edition of Perfect Picture Books today!

In lieu of a book, I have an interview with a publisher who is actively looking to acquire picture books. This is a unique opportunity to get an inside look at a publisher you might not have known about, along with insight into what they’re looking for. In addition, one lucky winner will get to have a 20-minute Zoom call with Robert Agis, President of Starry Forest Books, where you can talk to him about anything in publishing! This is an amazing opportunity to get some insider info on all the things you’ve been wondering about in the publishing world. And don’t forget to practice your pitches, because he’ll definitely ask to hear about what you write and what you’re working on! This giveaway starts today and runs through Wednesday, June 15th! (Details and entry info at the bottom of this post!)

(Also, the Perfect Picture Book List for this week will be down at the bottom as usual, too. I may not be sharing an actual book today, but everyone else is!)

I want to thank Amy Dixon, Editor at Starry Forest books, for taking the time to join us today and give us this wonderful glimpse into an up-and-coming publisher! Thank you, Amy! In addition, she was able to get some responses from the other two acquiring editors, so you get to hear from all three!

First, some general info about Starry Forest Books!

Tell us a little bit about Starry Forest Books and how it came to be.

In 2016, Robert Agis, then an editor at Union Square & Co., collaborated with Barnes & Noble buyers to develop new series and title ideas. Starry Forest Books was a boutique publisher commissioned with actualizing these ideas for Sterling and Barnes & Noble. With creative direction from Robert Agis, Starry Forest developed several series including Baby’s Big World and Classic Stories which immediately proved successful. 

Inspired by Starry Forest’s potential, and with the vision to create distinctive children’s books and media, Robert took over Starry Forest in 2019. He negotiated worldwide distribution through Ingram, started a foreign rights business that includes growing sales in China, Russia, Spain, and elsewhere, and expanded the Starry Forest creative team and support roles to a team of ten. From three modest series sold through one retailer in 2019, the company has expanded to worldwide sales with more than 120 titles published or in development. 

Looking at your website, we can see you’ve done a lot of board book series and classics in the past. What does the trajectory of Starry Forest look like moving forward?

Our vision statement is “Make Something Beautiful” and we plan to continue pursuing that vision with the 20-30 titles we’ll publish each year. This includes the development and growth of our existing brands, like our Baby’s Classics and Gamer Baby series, as well as stand-alone picture books. We will also be expanding into categories such as chapter books and eventually, middle grade fiction! We’re thrilled that our first two stand-alone picture books will be entering the world in August, and we’ll be sharing more about them below!

For the next few questions, we asked the Starry Forest Editorial Team to chime in and give some inside scoop! They are Allison Hunter Hill, Anna Lazowski, and Amy Dixon—ALL both published authors and acquiring editors at Starry Forest Books.

You are here on Perfect Picture Book Friday! We’d love to hear what you look for when evaluating a picture book manuscript.

Anna Lazowski:

A fresh concept, or unique take on something familiar will always make a manuscript stand out. So many manuscripts start out strong but falter partway through. I love it when I get pulled in by the opening lines and the author is able to hold me there as the narrative unfolds. I also look for authors who know how to use emotion to connect with the reader, and understand that half of their story will, ultimately, be told by illustrations. 

Can you tell us about a Perfect Picture Book on your list? What drew you to this story?

Allison Hunter-Hill:

Being an editor is a little like being a parent– I can’t pick a favorite book-child! But I can tell you what I look for in picture books and what drew me to this one. Perfect Picture Books have a “spark” in them that sets them apart. It could be dialogue that makes you giggle and begs to be read out loud like “Not A Book About Bunnies” by Amanda Henke (coming in 2023!). Or a clever text that turns your world upside-down like “The End” by John Bray. Or maybe it’s an old tale that suddenly feels new again, like Valerie Tripp’s lushly re-imagined Greek myths, “Goddesses and Gardens.”

What drew me to Judy Roth’s “Cadence and Kittenfish” was the character of Cadence, herself– a bright, spunky little mermaid who does dance class with dolphins, Tai Chi with the lighthouse keeper, and wants a kitten SO BADLY that she can’t see what’s right under her adorable nose. Judy writes with such a unique, lyrical understanding. Her words are always fresh, surprising, and just begging to be read out loud! As a former librarian, I’m always on the lookout for a great storytime pick!

Illustrations play such a big role in creating a Perfect Picture Book, and there is so much talent to choose from! What did you love about this illustrator, and what made her right for this project?

Allison Hunter-Hill:

Jaclyn Sinquett is such a dream! I had three big requirements in mind when I started looking through illustrator portfolios: enchanting underwater scenes (no flat blues, please!), charming, lifelike girl characters, and the most absolutely irresistible kittens.

I knew Jaclyn was perfect for Cadence when I saw her art for “Sincerely, Emerson” by Emerson Webber. I could just tell that Jaclyn remembered what it was like to be an 8 or 9-year-old little girl– wistful, optimistic, and real. Top that off with her warm, painterly style and delicate detail work, and I was confident she would knock it out of the park. And she did!

The word that comes to mind when I think of Jaclyn is “generous.” Whatever you give her, she multiplies and gives back in abundance. I asked for a rough idea on a color scheme and she pitched a palette based on seaside blown glass and salt-water taffy. I sent her a boring copyright page and she draped it in delicate doodles of sea fronds. I mentioned it would be neat to see Cadence’s room, and what came back was something out of an enchanted mermaid dream: driftwood and coral bunkbeds with sea sponge pillows, a found-anchor nightstand, a delicate seashell tea set, and a literal Saltwater Guitar. 

Follow Jaclyn Sinquett @jsinquett on Instagram for close-ups, art process videos and more!

To me, a Perfect Picture Book illustrator is one who loves the story just as much as you do. Remember being a kid and finding a friend who would 1000% commit to pretending that the floor was molten lava? Or that your lego castle was under seige by giant Barbies? Or that you were both majestic horses with elaborate names like “Moonfire” or “Chestnut Lighting” or “Princess Starhorn”? (Someone please say yes. I’m begging you.) Finding a perfect illustrator is like finding that friend. They aren’t just willing to immerse themselves in a new world with you… they really want to play, too!

What kind of experience can an author or illustrator expect to have with Starry Forest Books?

Amy Dixon:

As a creator myself, I can say that I’ve been quite impressed by the sincere desire that the Starry Forest Team has to connect authentically with creators. Often, when there is interest in a manuscript, we have a Zoom call with creators, agents, editors, and our president, to meet and chat about the story. These have been some of the most enjoyable conversations, because they are about so much more than just a sale. We get to learn about the creators; where they are from, and what inspired them to write this story. We get to hear about what other projects they are working on. We become invested in the creator’s journey and get to explore the potential for us to be part of their growth, both with the existing project, and their overall craft.  And we get to see if there’s chemistry—we have a positive culture at Starry Forest and want that positivity to extend to the creators, and then pour out from our books to the consumer too. The hope is that everyone who crosses paths with Starry Forest Books is better for it. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that a creator that chooses to work with Starry Forest will feel seen, heard, and valued. The passion that our company has to “Make Something Beautiful” is not just about producing a gorgeous book, but also about creating a beautiful experience for the writers and artists we work with.  

Do you have a wish list you can share with us? What types of stories are you looking to publish next? 

Amy Dixon: 

Right now, I am EAGERLY reading submissions! Hint, hint, it’s a great time to submit to me! My team will tell you that I am really loving creative non-fiction right now—teach me something without making me feel like you’re teaching me something! I adore stories about real events that inspire me to be a better human, especially ones featuring kick-ass women. I also would love to see more manuscripts that make me laugh, and where the illustrations tell a whole part of the story that isn’t in the text.  You can see more about the things I love and our submission guidelines on my manuscript wish list.

Anna Lazowski:

I absolutely love reading submissions, because when you find a gem in your inbox, it’s a truly incredible feeling. I’m always looking for a diversity of voices and experiences, and stories that help us understand each other. I love things that are a bit quirky, am a big fan of a well-placed surprise, and have a soft spot for creative use of language. You can find out more about what I’m looking for and check out our submission guidelines on my manuscript wish list

Where can we find you online? 

Website: www.starryforestbooks.com

Twitter: @starryforestbks

Instagram: @starryforestbks

Giveaway! 

We are giving away a 20-minute Zoom call with Robert Agis, President of Starry Forest Books, where you can talk to him about anything in publishing! This is an amazing opportunity to get some insider info on all the things you’ve been wondering about in the publishing world. And don’t forget to practice your pitches, because he’ll definitely ask to hear about what you write and what you’re working on! This giveaway starts today and runs through Wednesday, June 15th!

Enter the Starry Forest Books Giveaway Here!
Use the link to follow @starryforestbks on Twitter and Instagram, retweet the “Giveaway Time” tweet, and tag a fellow Picture Book Enthusiast by commenting on the “Giveaway Time” Instagram post. (You can find links to these posts at linktr.ee/starryforestbks)

Thank you again, Amy, for all this wonderful information and for taking the time to visit with us today! We all so appreciate it!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. . . 😊

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! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Butterfly Inn

Welcome to today’s edition of Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I have the most gorgeous book to share!

I love butterflies, and although I’m not nearly as informed and well-organized as the wildlife biologist author of this book or the people in it, I do plant several of the flowers butterflies like, and I am careful never to cut down milkweed!

This book is wonderful both for its showcasing of beautiful butterflies and flowers and for its modeling of what kids can do to encourage butterflies to frequent their yards or windowsills and take care of butterflies so they’ll be around for future generations.

(And I apologize in advance for the picture quality of the interior shots – they look better in real life!😊)

Title: Butterfly Inn

Written & Illustrated By: Nancy Derey Riley

Publisher: Rolling Prairie Publishing, LLC, May 25, 2022

Suitable For Ages: 4-8, though there is a lot of informational back matter that older children will find interesting!

Themes/Topics: butterflies, nature, species protection

Opening: “We hop off the bus, then
we file through the door,
and enter the world
that we’ve come to explore.”

text and illustration copyright Nancy Derey Riley, 2022

Brief Synopsis: From the publisher: “When the class discovers that butterflies need help, they build a butterfly garden at their school. As the butterflies come to the BUTTERFLY INN, the children watch the life cycle of the butterfly from hungry caterpillars through metamorphosis into adults.”

Links To Resources: the book itself is a tremendous resource. The back matter includes a glossary, the sheet music for a song made up of all the text in the book, “Butterfly Basics”, “Butterfly or Moth?”, “Caterpillar Chow”, “Nectar Needs”, “What Makes A Home”, “Do I Stay Or Do I Go?”, “Threats”, “What Can You Do?”, and a selected bibliography and additional resources. If sheet music isn’t your strong suit and you’d like to learn the tune to the song, Nancy has a clip of the first verse on her website HERE!

text and illustration copyright Nancy Derey Riley, 2022

Why I Like This Book: A class field trip to a butterfly pavilion is the impetus behind the class planning and planting their own butterfly garden to help the sustain the butterflies in their part of the world. Extensive back matter gives a wealth of further information for kids who are interested in learning and doing more. The story does a lovely job of introducing young readers to many kinds of butterflies and the plants they need to flourish, the life cycle of the butterfly, and ways to help these beautiful, important creatures who are threatened by pesticides and habitat loss. Written in enjoyable rhyme which is fun to read aloud (and sing to the supplied music!), the text is both informational and entertaining. Much of it is also lovely, for example: “A shimmer of gold/and a glimmer of blue,/a splatter of spots/in a silvery hue.” The art is friendly and beautiful, and the class is nicely diverse. A great choice for home, classroom, and library!

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! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Spellbound

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday!

I know I should probably have a Memorial Day book to share today in recognition of this weekend, but as many of you know, I am living in New Baby Land, so I have a magical new sibling story instead 😊

Title: Spellbound

Written By: Jess Townes

Illustrated By: Jennifer Harney

Publisher: Union Square Kids, June 21, 2022, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: new sibling

text copyright Jess Townes 2022, illustration copyright Jennifer Harney 2022, Union Square Kids

Opening: “Willow loved magic.
And in her home, magic was all around.
It resided in the roots. It lingered in the leaves.
It blossomed on the branches.
And when it was ready, the magic wandered
on warm breezes in search of an apprentice.
Because magic, after all, is meant to be shared.”

Brief Synopsis: (From the publisher): “Willow’s world is perfectly magical, until Rowan is born. When her new baby brother seems to enchant everyone he meets, Willow becomes convinced he is an actual, real-life wizard. Can Willow put a stop to his hocus pocus, or is Rowan’s magic too powerful to resist?”

text copyright Jess Townes 2022, illustration copyright Jennifer Harney 2022, Union Square Kids

Links To Resources: Peek-a-boo, finger play rhymes like Itsy Bitsy Spider and Patty Cake, playing with rattles or musical instruments, singing songs, making funny faces or using silly voices to get baby to laugh – these are all things that children can do with new siblings to engage with them and help build a bond, making the older sibling feel valued, important, and included.

text copyright Jess Townes 2022, illustration copyright Jennifer Harney 2022, Union Square Kids

Why I Like This Book: Willow’s world is full of magic and she is the center of it. She mesmerizes her mom, dazzles her dad, and charms her bunny. But along comes Rowan and suddenly everyone is mesmerized, dazzled, and charmed by him! What kind of magic is this?! Every child who has gotten a new sibling knows the worry of being displaced, the jealousy when parents pay attention to the baby, the fear that maybe now that the newcomer is here, they don’t matter any more. Willow is determined that even if everyone else falls under Rowan’s spell, she won’t! But though she casts a spell on her ears so she won’t hear his laughter, and a charm over her eyes so she won’t see how cute he is, even she can’t resist him when he calls his big sister by her name. A lovely, lively, magical twist on a new sibling story with beautiful art that feels magical, too. A great choice for new big brothers and sisters, and a fun story for anyone 😊

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!

Happy Memorial Day, with gratitude to all who serve and have served! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Some Daddies

I’m not quite sure how this week flew by so fast (oh, wait… maybe it was partly because I posted so late last week 😊) but here we are at Perfect Picture Book Friday again!

With Father’s Day just a month away, I have a wonderful, brand new book about Dads of every kind to share with you this week! I think it’s a great book for anytime, but it’s especially appropriate at this time of year.

Title: Some Daddies

Written By: Carol Gordon Ekster

Illustrated By: Javiera Maclean Alvarez

Publisher: Beaming Books, May 17, 2022

Suitable For Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: fathers/families

Opening: “Every daddy is different.
Some daddies wake up whistling.
Others need time before they talk.
Some joke around and tell stories.
Others like to listen.”

text copyright Carol Gordon Ekster 2022, illustration copyright Javiera Maclean Alvarez 2022, Beaming Books

Brief Synopsis: a celebration of the incredible diversity of modern fathers with an inclusive cast of characters and a wide array of fathers that will allow readers to catch glimpses of, and feel new appreciation for, their own fathers and father-figures and how they shine in their own unique ways.

Links To Resources: Father’s Day Activities For Kids; Father’s Day Crafts, Activities, Games and Printables

text copyright Carol Gordon Ekster 2022, illustration copyright Javiera Maclean Alvarez 2022, Beaming Books

Why I Like This Book: I love that such a broad view of fatherhood is taken in this book. Fathers of many races, cultures, occupations, and interests, as well as a two-dad family, a single dad, and a stay-at-home dad are pictured so that every child will likely find some representation of their own father or father-figure. I think it’s wonderful for young readers to be introduced to the many kinds of things fathers can do, be like, and participate in so they can understand that not everyone’s father/father-figure is exactly like their own, and get a sense of the possibilities that exist for them someday. This is a lovely book to read around Father’s Day, or any time 😊

text copyright Carol Gordon Ekster 2022, illustration copyright Javiera Maclean Alvarez 2022, Beaming 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! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Pigeon & Cat

Welcome to Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

I have such a beautiful book about friendship, community, and learning to open your heart and trust the world around you. It was written and illustrated by Edward Hemingway, youngest grandson of Ernest, (and is a far cry from my 9th grade reading of A Farewell To Arms 😊) It is due out on June 21 and I think it’s a book classrooms and libraries can benefit from as well as home libraries. Have a look!

Title: Pigeon & Cat

Written & Illustrated By: Edward Hemingway

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books/Little Brown & Co, June 21, 2022

Suitable For Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: friendship, community, creativity, personal growth

Opening: “In an abandoned city lot there sits a cardboard box. Inside the box lives Cat.”

text & illustration copyright Edward Hemingway 2022, Christy Ottaviano Books

Brief Synopsis: from the publisher: “In an abandoned city lot, Cat lives alone in a cardboard box. He leaves only to find food. One day, Cat discovers an unbroken egg too beautiful to eat. Soon, out pecks Pigeon, and they become fast friends. Cat is happy to share his box with Pigeon. But when Pigeon flies far away from where they live, Cat must brave the city in order to rescue his friend. This journey will forever transform his understanding of home.

This heartwarming story explores unlikely friendships, the creative spark within us, and how to give comfort and kindness in small, impactful gestures. It is also a celebration of urban community.”

text & illustration copyright Edward Hemingway 2022, Christy Ottaviano Books

Links To Resources: as a parent or teacher, encourage your kids to be part of their communities – family, school, neighborhood. Look at family photos so kids learn who family members are and how important they are to you. Make a family storybook using photos, including birthdays and addresses and relationships so kids gain a solid understanding of their family community. Participate in school activities beyond the classroom – book fairs, sports events, school plays. Get out in the local community with your kids. Are there opportunities for helping with recycling, planting trees or flowers, making cards for seniors at holidays? If not, maybe you can start one 😊

text & illustration copyright Edward Hemingway 2022, Christy Ottaviano Books

Why I Like This Book: It can be easy for anyone who has faced hardship, hurt, or disappointment to wall themselves off from the world as a measure of self protection. So Cat lives his life, staying where he feels safe, never venturing forth, and threatening all he encounters with hisses, teeth, and claws because the world is frightening to him. But along comes Pigeon who has never known anything but love – Cat’s love for her and hers for him – and over the course of the story Cat opens his heart and his mind and comes to realize that the world can be a good and beautiful place to which he has a lot to offer, and maybe, just maybe, it has something to offer him. This book is a sweet and lovely celebration of friendship and community, taking something rough and making it better for everyone. The art is engaging, full of details. I love the places where Cat and Pigeon talk, because Pigeon has her own way of communicating, all in pictures 😊 I can’t imagine anyone not loving this book!

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! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Little Tiger

Okay.

So, in my mind I had this plan that I was going to post a Perfect Picture Book (on time!) today.

In reality, I am spending my days helping out with my new granddaughter.

“Helping out” (in case you’re unfamiliar with the term) in addition to actually helping out with baby care and laundry and grocery shopping etc. involves a lot of gazing at the baby and looking at each other and saying, “Isn’t she perfect?” and “Can you believe how perfect she is?”

SO…. not a lot of non-baby related work getting done around here at the moment! 😊

So instead of sharing a new book on time, I am sharing an old book late 😊

I chose Little Tiger because Charlotte, having been born in the Year of the Tiger, is a little tiger, and because I love this whole series by Julie Abery – perfect little books for youngest readers!

Little Tiger Cover

Title: Little Tiger

Written By: Julie Abery

Illustrated By: Suzie Mason

Amicus Ink, March 12 2019, fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-5

Themes/Topics: baby jungle adventure, mother/child love, language fun (rhyme)

Opening:
Little Tiger
waking,
shaking,
in the morning sun.”

Brief Synopsis: a “day-in-the-life” adventure in which Little Tiger romps and plays and experiments… but mama is always close by to watch over and keep him safe.

Links To Resources: Special Resource straight from the author!!!

Hi Susanna.

Thank you so much for inviting Little Tiger to Blueberry Hill. We have been looking forward to visiting you on Perfect Picture Book Friday for such a long time!

We are so happy that you and your granddaughters loved our book sooo much! How about a little painting fun to go with the book.

Little Tiger handprints…

tigerhand

TIGER-ific!

Fun and easy to make, just don’t forget to have a bowl of soapy water to wash those paint-covered hands.

We hope that you enjoyed the Little Tiger craft time.

Thank you so much for taking time to stop by and share these wonderful activities with us, Julie!!!

Why I Like This Books: the story is sweet, engaging, and accessible to youngest readers/listeners.  The rhyme is fun to read aloud, with perfect rhythm and fun internal rhyme as well as end-of-line-rhyme. The story lets us play and explore along with the baby animal, always feeling the safety of mama’s watchful eye and the warmth of her love. A lovely, gentle read, perfect for bedtime or any time!!!

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 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!!! 😊

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Brand New ❤️

My perfect picture book for this week is the most special kind of story of all. A brand new one that is just beginning, surrounded by love, and with wonder, hope, light, and every kind of beautiful possibility shining from it.

Welcome, Charlotte Susanna! We’re so very glad you’re here ❤️❤️❤️

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! 😊