Perfect Picture Book Friday – Lost In The Woods, and The Birthday Contest Winners!

Last Saturday we had dinner with our daughter, son-in-law, and little granddaughter.  On our way home through a lovely late May twilight, just before we turned into our road, we saw a doe grazing right at the edge of the tall meadow grass.  The car startled her.  She lifted her head from the grass and with one graceful leap disappeared into the sheltering trees.  And oh!  Right behind her out of that tall grass came the first little fawn we’ve seen this year!  So tiny.  So delicate.  So earnestly intent on staying with his mama 🙂

So for today’s Perfect Picture Book, I had to share one of my favorites.  I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do!

Lost In The Woods: A Photographic Fantasy
Written By & Photographed By: Carl R. Sams II & Jean Stoick
Published By: Carl R. Sams II Photography, June, 2004, Reality Based Fiction

Suitable For: ages 5 and up

Themes/Topics: Animals, Patience, Seasons (Spring), Trust

Opening: “The Spring frogs sing-singing with a thousand trilling voices were silenced by the rising sun.  New life came into the woods before the sun touched the tops of the trees.  He slept quietly in the tall grass on the north edge of the meadow where the trees start the forest.”

Brief Synopsis:  The woodland creatures are worried that a newborn fawn might be lost.  “Mama said to wait right here,” the fawn whispers.  “She will come back.”  But the other animals aren’t convinced and offer their advice and help.  Does the doe come back?  What do you think? 🙂

Links To Resources:  The book itself is a resource.  Page after page of gorgeous photographs of woodland creatures will introduce children to animals and birds they may never have seen, especially if they live in the city.  The very last page of the book challenges readers to look back through the pictures and see if they can find a number of hidden animals.  Activity pages, Lesson Plan.  If you’re lucky enough to live in a rural area, go for a “deer drive” in the evening, cruising slowly along back roads, and see how many different animals and birds you can spot 🙂

Why I Like This Book:  I love this story!  It’s simple and sweet.  On the first page where the fawn appears, he is a tangle of fragile limbs.  His spotted fur helps him blend into the forest floor.  By the last page, he has mastered those rascally legs and can be seen bounding through the meadow grass with such joy you can’t help but smile at his airs above the ground.  But the best part is the photography.  It’s breathtaking.  Absolutely stunning!  The fawn’s fur looks like you could reach out and touch it.  You can see his eyelashes!  And there are so many other animals pictured – chipmunk, goslings, a tree frog whose camouflage is amazing!, cardinal, red-winged blackbird, raccoon, and many others.  I know I’m an animal lover (and therefore biased :)) but I think this book is exquisitely beautiful and one that anyone would enjoy!

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

Now.

I know you’ve all been anxiously waiting for the moment when I announce the winners of the Birthday Contest.

Thank you for your patience.

And I am definitely going to tell you just as soon as I recite The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer.

In Middle English.

(deep breath)

Whan that Aprill with his shoures sote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendered is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes…”

Sorry 🙂  I’m just fooling’ with you – can’t seem to help myself 🙂  But I won’t really put you through a recitation of all 900 billion stanzas (or however many there are – it seemed like at least 900 billion when we were in 9th grade) and besides, I can only remember about 16 lines of the General Prologue 🙂

So anyway.  The Birthday Contest!

We had so many talented writers, and so many wonderful entries!  It was incredibly hard, but we narrowed them down to 6:

#1 A Gift Of Love by Delores
#2 A Present For A Pirate by Cathy
#3 Not Another Birthday! by Erik
#4 Birthday At The Beach by Carrie
#5 Dan’s Birthday Plan by Stacy
#6 The Biggest And The Best by Anthony

96 voters weighed in with their opinions and the winners are…

duhn-duhn-duhn-duhn!!!

Third Place:  CATHY with A Present For A Pirate

Second Place:  CARRIE with Birthday At The Beach

and last but not least….

First Place and Big Winner 🙂  ANTHONY with The Biggest And The Best!!!

Congratulations to all of you, and to all who entered!  You were all superb and I think I speak for everyone when I say we thoroughly enjoyed all the entries and admire your hard work and bravery in entering!  Thank you all!

Anthony, Carrie, and Cathy, please contact me using that handy Email Me button on the right or, if you prefer manual labor, by emailing to susanna [at] susannahill [dot] com.  Anthony will get first choice of the prizes, Carrie will get second choice, and Cathy will get third.

Once again, the prizes on offer are:

#1- a PB ms critique by me
#2 – a 3 pack of Perfect Picture Books including ChloeMy Side Of The Car, and Z Is For Moose
#4 – a $15 gift certificate to Merritt Bookstore.

Two last things before we go:

First, the lovely Jen invited me to be part of her fabulous Let’s Ask series yesterday.  If you haven’t had a chance, please pop over and visit her 🙂

Second, remember Randy’s Contest over at Author In Training, and also Delores is running a lovely Words Of June Contest which I meant to mention Wednesday, so do hop over and check them both out!

So now we can all recover from the excitement by making the Perfect Picture Book rounds 🙂  PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific link to the list below.
Have a great weekend, everyone, and please tune in Monday for Oh Susanna and some exciting announcements 🙂

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 42nd Pitch

Happy Wednesday Everyone!

Grab your donut (or any member of the donut family that suits your fancy this morning – bagel (donut’s less exciting sister), cruller, danish, croissant, preferably chocolate, actually, I suppose even funnel cake qualifies, with all that lovely powdered sugar on top… wait… what was I saying?)

Oh yes.  I want you to know that it may be a small miracle if this post actually appears.  We are in the path of severe thunderstorms (which I would know even without the weather report and the exceedingly menacing dark sky and high winds because Jemma has glued her shaking little self to my side – poor Baby J!)…

this is Baby J when she’s not being scared by thunder – I wouldn’t
want to show you her distress!

…which means that our internet, always temperamental, has become downright moody and is threatening to quit altogether.

So it will be like a little surprise to see if this post shows up or not.

Talk about living on the edge! 🙂  We laugh in the face of danger up here on Blueberry Hill! 🙂

Anyway, before we get to Would You Read It, I wanted to mention for all you contest junkies out there that Randy is having one over on his blog Author In Training.  So hop on over and check it out!

Also, if you haven’t had a chance to vote for who you think should win the Birthday Contest, you still have until midnight!  You can vote HERE.  And it is quite a heated competition, so your vote could be a deciding factor!

Now then.

Today’s pitch comes to us from the amazing Tina.  Here are a few words about her that I lifted off her blog (since apparently I forgot to ask her what she wanted me to say about her – oops! – :))

Tina M. Cho is a freelance writer for education and children’s stories and a former elementary teacher of eleven years. She wrote 16 books for Lakeshore Learning and 4 guided readers for Compass Media. Her nonfiction book for girls from Legacy Press will be out in 2013, and she’s working on another contracted book for girls with them. She has written stories for a private school’s reading curriculum, books reviews for the Christian Library Journal, educational activities for education.com,and stories for magazines and e-zines. She is the mom of two kids, a fourth grader and a first grader. She and her husband Jackey recently moved from Southern California to South Korea.

Here is her pitch:

(and BTW, Tina lives on the other side of the globe from many of us, and will be going to bed when the rest of us are getting up and reading this, so please be patient for her responses to your comments!)

Working Title:  Dewey Bookworm Takes The Stage
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  What if a bookworm doesn’t like books?  Tree leaves taste better than book leaves.  Dewey Bookworm wants to join the circus.  Will other book-eating creatures change his mind?

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 Tina 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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in August, so you have time to polish 🙂 for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Tina is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!
Tune in Friday for Perfect Picture Books – I have such a perfect one for this week! you’re going to love it! – and for the announcement of the Birthday Contest winners!!!  Ooh, the excitement!  How will you ever wait for Friday?
Have another donut 🙂

The Birthday Contest Finalists! – Vote For Your Favorite!

Oh.  My.  Goodness!

I have hemmed and hawed, gone backwards and forwards and sideways, compared notes with my assistant judge, eaten some cookies, chosen, second-guessed, re-chosen, further consulted with my assistant judge (which may or may not have involved more cookies…), third-guessed, hemmed and hawed some more…

Would you just look at me this morning?!

Man this was tough!  So many terrific entries!  How to choose?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Criteria number one was tied between child-friendliness and creativity (since the contest was for a children’s story about a very creative or unique birthday.)  Several entries ended up not being chosen because either the topic seemed more appealing to adults, or the writing felt a little too adult, and several others ended up not being chosen because they just didn’t feel quite unique enough.  Criteria number two was quality of writing.  A couple of entries had mistakes in basic grammar, word usage etc, and a couple others needed a bit more work on rhyme/rhythm/meter.  Although there were MANY other entries we could have chosen for one reason or another, we tried to pick the ones that really did the best overall job with all three criteria.

So.  Without further ado, here are the 6 finalists, listed by number and title only in case that helps you be objective 🙂

#1  A Gift Of Love

Kayla sat by her twin sister Kenya’s side and held her hand.  It was their tenth birthday and the celebration was going to be very low key.  Kenya couldn’t take too much excitement.  She was very weak from the chemo treatments.  Her head was covered with a soft, knitted hat because her glorious mane of red hair had fallen out.  She was as pale as her hospital sheets.
Weak and sick as she was, Kenya was able to dredge up a fit of blazing anger directed at her sister.  “What have you done?  Why have you had your hair cut off?” she spluttered.  She was simply furious.  The twins crowning glory was their hair and they took care every day to style it identically.  Kayla now had a short pixie style hair cut.
Kayla  just smiled, offered no explanation, and simply handed her sister a gaily wrapped birthday gift.  “Happy birthday Ken.”  She said and slipped quietly out of her sisters hospital room.
Kenya, puzzled, opened her gift and then broke down in tears of joy and shame over having spoken to her twin so harshly.
When Kayla came back in the room Kenya was propped up in bed and her hairdo was the mirror image of her sisters.  “Thank you.” She said softly.  “This is the best birthday gift I have ever had or will likely ever have again.  I love you.”

#2 A Present For A Pirate

Lundy the hound and Captain Saltsam
Were pirates aboard the vast ship Crusty Clam.
On Saltsam’s big birthday, he had one desire:
A colorful bird for his pirate attire.
Lundy decided to cast out their net
And catch Saltsam’s present, the best ever yet.
After sailing around, Lundy pulled in the haul:
Some driftwood, a buoy, a flattened beach ball.
Snared in the net lay a sopping sea bird,
“A parrot?” asked Lundy. “Now don’t be absurd!
I’m a puffin! Release me!” the cranky bird snapped.
“I’ve no place on a ship, and I won’t be bird-napped!”
“Hush up, pesky puffin! Behave and pipe down.
You’re a pirate’s bird now. Eat crackers and frown!
Happy birthday dear Captain!” said the gift-bearing hound,
“A bird for your shoulder! Here – wear him around!”
The bird thrashed his feet and swung with his beak,
He flapped his strong wings, smacking Sam on the cheek.
He wiggled and wobbled and shrieked in alarm,
Then lifting his tail, pooped down Saltsam’s arm.
“Yuck!” yelled the captain. “Get off me! Goodbye!”
The puffin leaned over and nipped Saltsam’s eye.
Lundy was crushed, gave a low mournful howl.
“I’m sorry I gave you that terrible fowl.”
“Oh well!” said the captain. “I don’t need a bird.
I can see now quite clearly my wish was absurd.
The present I want isn’t one we can catch.
With this nifty new boo-boo, I want an eye patch!”

#3  Not Another Birthday!

Billy hated his birthdays, every single one of them. The day was always a complete disaster. One time, on Billy’s seventh birthday, most of his party guests ended up in the emergency room! In fact, none of Billy’s friends will come to his parties anymore. Only Billy’s relatives show up because they have to. 
Things usually start off pretty well. The guests arrive with smiles on their faces, carrying presents in colorful paper. There’s lots of ”Hi’s”, hugs and  “How are you’s?” Everyone puts their party hats on. There’s pizza for dinner, and games like guess the wizard, and pin the drawbridge on the castle.
Then comes the cake. Billy’s dad carries it in. This year it has twelve candles on it, brightly lit with flames dancing in the air. Billy notices it is an ice cream cake, “UGH!” He says to himself. “Even WORSE!”
The cake is placed on the table in front of Billy; all the guests cower behind their chairs and under the table as they nervously sing “Happy Birthday to You” in hushed voices. As Billy listened to the song, getting ready to blow out the candles, he thought to himself, “This makes no sense for a fire-breathing dragon.”

#4 Birthday At The Beach

Mom hung up the phone just as Kara finished dinner.
“Grab your jacket,” Mom said, grinning. “We’re going to a birthday party.”
“Whose birthday? We don’t know anyone here,” said Kara. She searched for her jacket among the moving boxes that had arrived, like they had, only three days ago.
“It’s a surprise,” said Mom.
“Where’s the party?” asked Kara, climbing into the car.
“At the beach,” said Mom. “I told you it would be great to live near the beach.”
“But it’s almost dark!”
Mom smiled.
“Will there be cake?”
“Nope.”
A birthday party at the beach, in the dark, with no cake?
At the beach, a small crowd had gathered. Coming closer, Kara saw that the crowd surrounded a rope-marked path from the dunes toward the water. For a birthday party, it sure was quiet.
“Watch that patch of sand,” whispered Mom, pointing. Kara stared through the growing darkness. She thought she saw the sand shift. Then it shifted again, slowly, and then more rapidly. To Kara, it looked like a pot of water beginning to simmer. A small black head appeared, then another, then a flipper, and suddenly the sand boiled over with tiny creatures struggling toward the surface.
“Turtles!” Mom whispered, squeezing Kara’s hand. Dozens of baby sea turtles flip-flopped their way across the sand toward the waves. A woman with a clipboard counted them. The crowd remained still, but once in a while someone stooped to gently guide a wandering baby turtle back to the path.
They’re brave, Kara thought, watching the tiny creatures make their way into the vast ocean, a place they had never been and could know nothing about.
“Happy birthday,” Kara whispered, then smiled at Mom. “I think I’m going to like living near the beach,” she said.

#5 Dan’s Birthday Plan

Dan had to stop Christmas. It was the only way his birthday would be normal. Every year, he celebrated Christmas one day and on the next his birthday.
As Mom announced time for dinner, Dan jumped in.
“We can’t have Christmas. If we do, my birthday will be ruined.”
Dan knew the reason for the season, but his Christmas and birthday presents always had a part missing.
“Christmas always splits my birthday,” Dan said. 
“It doesn’t,” Mom said. “That’s your special day. This is another one.”
“Why did I get arrows on Christmas Day and a bow on my birthday?” Dan asked.
“They were two separate gifts,” his sister Sue said. 
“One year, I got multi-colored pencils for Christmas. I had nothing to write on until paper arrived on my birthday,” Dan said.
“You had to sharpen the pencils,” cousin Bobby said reaching for a roll.
“The leather baseball glove,” Dan said.
“What was wrong with that?” Dad asked.
“I couldn’t play catch until my birthday. That’s when you gave me a baseball.”
Grandma put her arms around Dan.
“We don’t need to cancel Christmas or your birthday. We’ll celebrate both with no missing parts — right Mom and Dad?”
His parents agreed and they all sat down to eat.
During the gift exchange, Dan tore the Christmas paper and opened the box to find one tennis shoes.
“Oops,” Mom said. She left and returned with a birthday package. Dan opened the box. He beamed holding the shoes. “A pair of shoes for Christmas!“
“Everything worked out,” Grandma said. “Now are you ready for your birthday?”
“Yes,” Dan said and noticed a jar of jelly in his stocking. “Who knows what I’ll get for my birthday.”

#6 The Biggest And The Best

Scott only wanted the biggest and best.  For his fourth birthday, Scott’s parents rented a pony.
Scott asked, “No elephant?”
For his fifth birthday, his grandmother baked a five layer cake.
Scott said, “I wanted ten layers.”
For his sixth birthday, his brother bought him the all the Super-Robo-Thunder-Teamfigurines.
Scott asked, “Where’s the Super-Robo-Volcano–Lair play set?”
So Scott figured his seventh birthday was going to be just like all his other ones—just okay.
To his surprise, dad said, “We decided to get you something bigger and better than anything you have ever gotten!”
“What is it?”
Dad said, “You’ll find out tomorrow.”
Scott thought of all the big, best things he wanted.  “They know I want an airplane, but where to put it?
“Maybe it will be my own personal movie theater.
“Maybe a submarine!  I told my mom this week I wanted one!”
Scott was nearly unable to sleep.  Tomorrow was going to be better than Christmas and 4th of July combined.
At the party, he passed on the games.  He devoured dinner in two bites.  Scott blew out the cake candles before the singing was over.
“Alright! Where are my presents?”
Dad gave him a card.  “Open it, son.  Congratulations.”
Inside was a certificate:
Scott,
A heavenly gift from The Star Registry Society. 
Your Star’s Coordinates: GSC 4628:237
                                                                love,
                                                                Your family
“WHAT!?!”
“It’s something big,” said grandfather.
“The star we picked is twice as massive as the sun,” said mother.
“WHAT!?!”
“And you wanted the best,” said uncle.
“There’s not much better than something  that spews fire and is billions of years old,” said aunt.
“But…
“I see you are speechless.  So let me also show you your new telescope.  It’s outside, ready to find your star,” said dad.
They went out to see the biggest and the best.

And I just have to say we had a particularly hard time finally laying aside Bailey Bear’s Birthday Band (by Laura), Happy Birthday Seahorse (by Wendy), Mouse Du Jour (by Penny), The Birthday Giving (by Sabrina), and No Brother For My Birthday (by Vivian).

But really, all the entries were terrific, there were things we really liked about all of them, and you all did such a fantastic job.  You are all winners by virtue of the fact that you wrote stories that met the guidelines and entered the contest.  They say 90% of success is showing up (or something like that :)) – well, you all showed up!  And I know I speak for everyone when I say how much we all enjoyed your work!

And now, if you could all please vote for your favorite between now and 11:59 PM EDT Wednesday May 30 (I extended it a little because I want to make sure everyone has time to vote!) I will announce the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place Winners on Friday after the Perfect Picture Book!

I really cannot wait to see how the voting shapes up!

Would You Read It Wednesday – The 41st Pitch, and Straight From The Editor #7

Well, MY GOODNESS!  Apparently I am a glutton for punishment!

Have you read the entries in the Birthday Contest?  (If you haven’t, you should,  They’re really amazing!  So much creativity!)

But they’re all so good!  And somehow my assistant judge and I have to choose finalists!  We certainly have our work cut out for us.  (Thank goodness we have a very large tray of donuts!)

The contest is now closed, but never fear.  The finalists will be posted on Monday May 28 and I hope you will all come back and vote!

Meanwhile, we have Straight From The Editor, where everybody’s favorite editor, Erin Molta, comments on the winning pitch from last month.

You will recall that Rebecca won April’s Pitch Pick with her pitch for Broomstick Rodeo:

Working Title:  Broomstick Rodeo
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (4-7)
The Pitch:  The Thistlegulch Sisters have thirteen trophies between them and they’re determined to win another. They practice for the rodeo until they’re chapped under their chaps and have calluses on their warts. But when a buckin’ broomstick charges towards their youngest sister, Myrna, they realize there are more important things in life than winning trophies.

Here are Erin’s comments, so that we can all learn!

This sounds like it could be very cute! But I think the pitch would work better if, rather than saying how hard they practiced, you mentioned what they neglected because they wanted to win so badly—like perhaps Myrna. That way it makes sense that suddenly they would care about Myrna.

Interesting.  And encouraging, I think 🙂

Now then, I’m in the mood for some of those lovely cider donuts today.  How about you?

Would you like one (or three?)  Help yourselves!  There’s coffee and tea, too.

Then get comfy for today’s pitch which comes to us from our very own Banana Peelin’ Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Stevens Omlor loves slipping on banana peels. She has at least one slip a day, physically or verbally. She loves writing for children, although she has recently discovered she is a delusional rhymer. When she isn’t writing for children, you can find her having a kitchen dance party with her husband and two young children or drinking a large glass of milk. She loves milk. Yum.  Especially when it’s in chocolate. She blogs about all of this on Banana Peelin’: The Ups and Downs of Becoming a Children’s Writer.

Here is her pitch:

Working Title: Magnificent
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  When the synchronized swimming Savanna Belles lose their watering hole to drought, the troop of elephant calves decide ballet is the perfect way to make them feel magnificent once again. Facing the challenges of trunk-tickling ants, loss of weightlessness, and the scarcity of tutus, can the girls tame the doubtful roars, hisses and cackles of the their wild friends, proving that they really can be magnificent ballerinas? Follow the tutued journey of these silly mammals as they sashay, leap and plié their way into even the wildest of hearts.

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 Elizabeth 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 the Would You Read It tab in the bar above.  There are openings in August, so you have time to polish 🙂 for a chance for it to be read by editor Erin Molta!
Elizabeth is looking forward to your thoughts on her pitch!

See you all on Friday for Perfect Picture Books (assuming I haven’t run off to Outer Mongolia to avoid having to pick finalists in the contest! :))


Birthday Contest For Children’s Writers!!!

Monday May 21 – The contest is going strong!  11 links so far, plus 4 or 5 entries in the comment section below!  Read!  Enjoy!  Enter 🙂

Woo-hoo!  It’s finally here!  The Birthday Contest!  Although, due to the busy-ness of April we had to push the contest back to a month that is no longer my birthday, surely someone is celebrating! 🙂  Let the games begin!

For anyone who hasn’t seen the rules, here they are:

The contest is to write a children’s story about a very creative and/or unique birthday celebration in 300 words or less.  Poetry or prose, your choice.
Entries must be posted on your blog (or in the comment section of this post if you don’t have a blog) between right now this very minute and 11:59 PM EDT Tuesday May 22.  Please add your entry-specific link to the list below (or, as mentioned, if you don’t have a blog and want to enter, just copy and paste your entry in the comment section below.)
If there are fewer than 20 entries there will be one prize.  If there are more than 20 entries there will be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes!  Finalists will be chosen by me and my assistant judge and will be posted for you to vote on Monday May 28.  (I’m trying not to skip Would You Read It or Perfect Picture Books, or overload you with extra posts, hence the wait til Monday the 28th, which I realize is Memorial Day so the voting will stay up throughout Tuesday May 29!)
If there are fewer than 20 entries, and therefore one winner, the winner may have his or her choice of the following 4 options.  If there are more than 20 entries, and therefore a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, 1st place will get 1st choice, 2nd place will get 2nd choice, and 3rd place will get 3rd choice of the following 4 options:
#1- a PB ms critique by me
#2 – a 3 pack of Perfect Picture Books including Chloe, My Side Of The Car, and Z Is For Moose
#4 – a $15 gift certificate to Merritt Bookstore.
So now, to get the party started, I will share a sample entry.  As I mentioned yesterday, my original idea did not pan out and I was VERY pressed for time this week, so don’t expect literary brilliance.  And what I mean by that is please don’t throw rotten tomatoes at me!

Hoppy Birthday!
(206 words)
Joey said, “My birthday’s coming!  I can hardly wait!
Here’s an invitation.  I sure hope you’ll save the date!
We’ll have silly hats, and blowers that make noise like a kazoo!
Balloons – at least a hundred! – orange, yellow, red and blue!
We’ll play games like Duck Duck Moose and Pin The Tail On Cousin Fred.
We’ll have contests to see who can stand the longest on their head!
If you happen to like water we’ve got lots of room to swim!
But if you’d rather climb and hang then try the jungle (gym).
I’m just hopping with excitement for my party – how ’bout you?
After all it isn’t every day that you turn 2!
Mom will make a birthday cake like you have never seen!
Seven luscious layers filled with icing in between!
All my friends will sing the Happy Birthday song to me.
I’ll make a wish and blow out all my candles – one, two, three!
We’ll serve up cake and ice cream by the gallon and the ton.
We’re going to need a LOT to have enough for everyone!
So won’t you please come join your little friend the kangaroo
For my Hoppy Birthday Party at the San Diego Zoo?
So now that you’re filled with confidence about how good your entry is compared to that! 🙂 please add your entry-specific post link to the list below, or copy and paste your entry into the comments.  I can’t wait to read them!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Chloe

I LOVE school visits.  Almost without fail, someone, at some point, makes me laugh!

Yesterday I visited with about 100 first graders.  They were a lively crew and we had tons of fun.

photo credit Pam Lawrence

Somewhere along in the proceedings, one alert audience member piped up with, “How old are you?” (a favorite question!)  “How old do you think I am?” I asked him.  Now, usually the answer to this question ranges from 20 to I-don’t-know, but this boy tipped his head to one side, considering, and then guessed – I kid you not! – “80?”

So apparently I look nearly twice my actual age 🙂

I think these kids thought 80 was a wild guess too 🙂
photo credit Pam Lawrence

I am so excited to share today’s book with you!  It is by one of my favorite author/illustrators and it was just released on Tuesday so it’s only 4 days old!  (Nowhere near 80 :))

If any of you have had the pleasure of reading Henry In Love, you will recognize young Chloe as the object of Henry’s affection and the recipient of the coveted blueberry muffin 🙂

Chloe
Written & Illustrated By: Peter McCarty
Balzer & Bray, May 15, 2012, Fiction
Suitable For: ages 2-8

Themes/Topics: family, imagination, love

Opening:  “Chloe loved the end of the day, when her whole family was together.  She called it family fun time.

Brief Synopsis:  Chloe has 10 older brothers and sisters and 10 younger brothers and sisters.  She loves being in the middle.  But one night Dad brings home a surprise – a new TV! – and Chloe finds that she is no longer in the middle as everyone gathers around the TV instead.  Luckily it doesn’t take Chloe long to get everyone back on the right track!

Links To Resources:  The Five Best Toys Of All Time (so funny that it’s worth it just to read :)) puts “Box” at number 2.  Give your kids any of the items on this list and watch their imaginations soar as they come up with innumerable ways to play with these simple things.  In this day and age of specialty toys and electronic gadgets, there is nothing better than letting your kids (or students) take a box and turn it into a rocket ship, a castle, or a fort, and themselves into astronauts, princesses, or cowboys!

Why I Like This Book:  First of all, is it even possible to look at this art without feeling happy?  There is such exuberance in these bunnies, each with his or her own special details!  I think it’s something about the ears 🙂  But I also love the story.  I love that the rest of the family initially succumbs to the lure of the new TV, but Chloe and baby Bridget have no use for it.  Instead, they discover the bubble wrap in the box, and pretty soon the other kids are losing interest in the TV and coming over to Pop! Bip! Pap!  Next thing you know, they’ve found an entertaining use for the box, putting on their own TV show.  The message that family fun time can be family fun time without a TV is refreshing 🙂  I won’t give away the very last page, but it’s a hoot and you should get a copy of the book and see it for yourself! 🙂

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

Before we all head off to read all the other PPBs, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that the Birthday Contest is just hours away!!!  (I’m feeling a mite panicky, actually, because I don’t yet have a sample entry prepared.  I thought I had an idea, but it didn’t pan out.  In the midst of this hectic week, I haven’t had time to work on a new one, so I’m seriously down to the wire and not hopeful for anything brilliant!)

Anyhoo, even though Saturday is not a usual posting day, please come on over tomorrow to start the Birthday Contest fun.  The link list will be up so that as people’s entries are ready they can put in their post specific links or, if you want to enter and don’t have your own blog, you can copy and paste your entry in the comment section.  That post will stay up until midnight Tuesday night (no new post Monday) so everyone can add their links and come back and read everyone else’s.  It will be a party 🙂  (Just make sure you’re linking on Saturday’s Birthday Contest post.  I don’t want anyone to get confused and link on PPBF – we’ll miss it!)

If you have any questions because I’m not being clear in my current fog of fatigue, please email or ask in the comments! 🙂

PPBF bloggers, please add your post-specific links to today’s link list so we can all come visit!

Looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow, and starting in on reading what I’m sure will be fantastic contest entries!  Happy Weekend, Everyone!

Oh Susanna – Are There Taboo Subjects In Picture Books?

OK.  Twitter?

Here’s the problem:

I could spend ALL DAY there!!!

Seriously!

Everybody posts all these awesome links to fascinating, must-read articles and blogs and photos and etc. etc. etc. and no sooner am I done with one there are 20 more I’m dying to check out.

How do y’all get any work done?

Twitter is the Anti-Work!

Clearly there are going to have to be some strict ground rules or there’s going to be some world-class time-frittering going on over here 🙂

So which one of you self-disciplined types is going to lay the rules out for me?

And enforce them?! 🙂

Alrighty then.  Now that that’s out of the way, I hope you all had wonderful Mother’s Days however you may have celebrated!  I spent mine like this:

(Well, not really, but I would have if I could have :))

I hope you’re all as excited as I am about the Birthday Contest coming up at the end of this week!!!

And I must apologize in advance if I’m a little behind in visiting you all this week.  I have three days of back-to-back school visits, so my time will be limited.  But be assured that even if I don’t have time to comment I will be reading!  (I am abysmal at trying to comment from my phone… whilst driving… and trying to listen to my GPS… also the police frown on such multitasking and it is of course illegal so I would never do it… even if I was coordinated enough. :))

So stop encouraging me to break the law and let’s get onto today’s Oh Susanna question.

I have actually chosen two questions which I will address together because I think they are related.

First is Saba’s question:  Are there any subjects that are considered taboo in the picture book industry that children’s writers should stay away from?

And second is Catherine’s question (which I’m paraphrasing slightly): [In my story] Cheeku the Cheeky Chinese Chicken… I took out the chef because someone said kids can’t think about chickens going to be killed… The motivation for Cheeku to run away was so as not to be eaten. I had to change it to he didn’t want to be cooped up forever, but although it’s fun, it has no story as such. Do you think i should put the chef stuff back in?

These are interesting and related questions, I think.

Saba, I’m sure you aren’t referring to things like graphic violence, murder, torture, what I will refer to as “adult topics”, and things of that nature.  I don’t think any of us would ever consider writing a picture book about a subject that was so obviously inappropriate for children.  I think what you might mean is what I would call sensitive topics.  For example, is it appropriate to write a picture book about a family with same sex parents, or a picture book about war, death, or serious illness?

And that is a question that I think different people might give you different answers for.  Some would say those topics should be avoided – that they’re not appropriate.

But I think most would say that picture books are badly needed on those topics, because children who are experiencing those situations have just as much need (possibly more) to explore their feelings and feel validated, understood, comforted, and reassured as children who read books about being scared of the dark or getting a new sibling.

One glance at the Perfect Picture Book list will show you that there ARE picture books about war, poverty, illiteracy, death, illness, disability, non-traditional families, slavery, and a host of other sensitive and difficult topics.

To a large degree, I don’t think it’s the topic that is the issue, but more how it’s addressed.  Pretty much any topic – even a story about bears – can be written so it’s not appropriate for the picture book audience.  But by the same token, pretty much any topic can be written about in a sensitive and careful way so that it is not only appropriate, but valuable for this age.  For example, a book like Beatrice’s Goat most certainly addresses poverty, but in a way that is very palatable to children and filled with hope.

It all depends on how it’s written.

This is not to say that every book is appropriate for every child.  What’s right for one family may not be right for another.  Parents, teachers, and librarians must use their discretion.  While a book about a child losing his mother (as a very powerful example, I would cite the picture book The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic) might be terribly upsetting to many children, it might be just exactly what a boy or girl who has just lost a parent might need to hear to feel that they are understood in their grief and loneliness, that others have gone through this, and to help give voice to their emotions.  And while some families might welcome a book that addresses where babies come from in a very exact way (for example, Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle) others families might prefer to preserve the mystery a little 🙂

As writers, we want to reach all children, the ones that struggle with the hard things as well as the “every day” things (and I put “every day” in quotes because nothing feels every day to a person who is going through it, but as adults we know that there are some experiences that are normal and common for childhood and others you hope no child will ever have to bear, yet some of them do.)

Catherine’s question about her manuscript I think ties into this discussion.  Is it appropriate to write about a chicken who is afraid of being eaten?  I think it can be if it’s done right.  If there is humor, if the emphasis is more on the escape then the reality of being eaten, if it ends happily, and if there is a level at which it relates to common childhood experience – perhaps having to do something you don’t want to do, or needing to find a better way to do something, or finding your place in the world – then I think it can work.  There are certainly a host of fairy tales where some pretty scary stuff goes down if you think about it too carefully (Red Riding Hood, anyone?!) but that hasn’t stopped parents from reading them or children from enjoying them.  And anyone who has seen Disney’s Little Mermaid has seen the chef singing “les poissons, les poissons” merrily preparing to cook Sebastian the crab and I think most kids find that scene deliciously fun 🙂  So again, I think it’s all about how it’s written.  And again, depending on how it comes out, it might be a story that is not be appropriate for every child (perhaps more sensitive children would be better steering clear) and that parents, teachers and librarians might want to be selective about.

Saba and Catherine, I hope that answers your questions.  If not, please feel free to clarify or ask follow-ups in the comments!

Everyone else, Saba, Catherine and I are all VERY interested in your thoughts on this matter.  Are there subjects that are taboo in picture books?  Or that should be?  Should a writer stay away from the topic of a chicken who is afraid of being eaten?

I will look forward to your thoughts!  Especially if you have first-hand experience with having a story turned down by traditional publishers only because of topic.

Have a wonderful day! 🙂

Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Way Home

Wow!  What a week it has been!

Joanna’s book Snow Games was published, as was Miranda’s book Fly With Kai.  Ruth has an agent – woo-hoo! – and I have joined twitter!

(OK.  So maybe that last part isn’t in quite the same category of awesomeness.  But it gave me a good excuse to mention how happy I am for my friends 🙂  Feel free to hop over and do the happy dance with them and buy their books but then please come back for PPBF! :))

(And please stay tuned for a few important announcements after the picture book, including the April Pitch Winner!)

Now, at first glance, this book might not seem to have anything to do with spring or Mother’s Day.  That is because it is about geese migrating in the fall.  But Canada Geese mate for life, which is kind of peripherally related to Mother’s Day, and although they fly south in the fall, they come back in the spring.  And although I usually like to tease you about the endings so you’ll read the book, I’m going to tell this one so you get it 🙂

The Way Home
Written & Illustrated By: Nan Parson Rossiter
Dutton Children’s Books, 1999
Suitable For: ages 5-9

Themes/Topics: animals, seasons, migration, helping others, kindness, responsibility

Opening: “It was late in the October afternoon when Samuel and his father finished the day’s chores at the farm and set out for a walk with Ben, their yellow Lab. The sun was already behind the hills, but they had just enough time to walk around the pond before it got dark.”

Brief Synopsis:  On their walk, Samuel finds an injured goose, and he and his father take her back to the farm, hoping she will heal.  But even if she does, will she be strong enough to make the long flight south for the winter?  And will she and her mate make it in time?

Links To Resources:  National Geographic Creature Feature: Canada Geese, Kidzone – Canada Geese, Kid Video – Canada Geese, Canada Goose Coloring Page.  This story is a nice opening to discussion about disposing of trash responsibly, caring for animals, and allowing wild animals to be free.

Why I Like This Book:  Although this isn’t a true story, it almost could be.  An animal injured because of human carelessness is helped back to health by a kind, responsible family.  But they don’t try to keep her. When she’s well, they let her go back to her wild life, even though they are sad to see her go and will miss her.  Although the book’s ending would most probably not happen in real life, it is a lovely ending that brings the story full circle for child readers and will leave them feeling happy and satisfied.  The geese return to the pond in the spring, and Ben finds them, complete with a brand new family of goslings (that’s the marginally Mother’s Day part :))  The art is painted in the warm reds and golds of autumn – very appealing.  And the longer text makes it a satisfying read for older children or children with a longer attention span.

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

And now, I am pleased to announce that the winner of the April Pitch Pick, whose pitch will be sent to editor Erin Molta for review and comment, is none other than the fabulous Rebecca with her pitch for Broomstick Rodeo!  Congratulations, Rebecca!  And congratulations and thank you to all our brave pitchers – I wish you could all win!

Before we all go off to read all the other PPBs and cruise on into the weekend, let me remind you that the Birthday Contest is just over a week away (which I hope means everyone is writing busily!)

Also!!!  Phyllis terrorized had a fabulous visit to Italy, and if you haven’t had a chance to see it, it’s a must read!  Hop on over to Renee’s at NoWaterRiver!  You haven’t lived until you’ve seen Phyllis as Juliet 🙂

PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific links below.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms, grandmoms, step-moms, new moms, moms-to-be, like-moms, etc. out there.  These are for you 🙂

because you make the world a better place 🙂