Perfect Picture Book Friday – The Runaway Pumpkin

What a perfect day for Perfect Picture Books!

It’s gray and rainy out, still pretty with all the fall foliage, but a nice to day to curl up with a good picture book 🙂

Since it’s October and I’ve got pumpkins on the brain, today’s choice is a tons-of-fun pumpkin real-aloud!

Title: The Runaway Pumpkin
Written By: Kevin Lewis
Illustrated By: S.D. Schindler
Orchard Books, 2003, Fiction

Suitable For Ages: 3-6

Themes/Topics: thinking ahead, consequences, language fun

Opening: “Once upon a hill,
when the wind blew with a chill
wandered Buck and Billy Baxter
with their baby sister, Lil.
And there, upon that hillside, 
growing orange, fat, and fine,
the budding Baxters found a pumpkin
on a twisty, twirly vine.”

Brief Synopsis: One Halloween, Buck, Billy and Lil Baxter find an enormous pumpkin.  The boys take one look and have to have it.  Without thinking about how they’ll get it home safely, they cut the pumpkin from its vine.  Off it goes, gathering speed, busting through fences, scattering farm animals, with the Baxters right behind it.  How will they stop it, and what will they do with all that pumpkin?

Links To Resources: plant a pumpkin seed and grow a pumpkin of your own!, bake pumpkin seeds, take a trip to a pumpkin patch, try out some pumpkin recipes – pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, Creative Kid-Friendly Pumpkin Recipes, Healthy Pumpkin Dessert Recipes, Classroom Activities for The Runaway Pumpkin, draw a picture or make a collage of a jack-o-lantern, make up a story about another over-sized vegetable or fruit that gets away.

Why I Like This Book: This story does carry a message about the consequences of not thinking ahead, but mostly I like it because it’s flat out fun 🙂  Haven’t we all been captivated by something which causes us to leap before we look? 🙂  The pumpkin is impressively gigantic.  It takes off down the hill with the little Baxters in its wake.  As it wreaks havoc on the countryside, the text bounces along in fun rhyme that kids love to join in on: “‘Round and ’round/across the ground/makin’ a thumpin’ bumpin’ sound/came that thumpety/bumpety/thumpin’/bumpin’/round and roll-y/RUNAWAY PUMPKIN!”  See?  Fun! 🙂  Also a good pick for Halloween 🙂

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

Have a great weekend, everyone!  And PPBF bloggers, please leave your post-specific links in the list below so we can all come visit you! 🙂

Miscellaneous Monday

Good Monday, Everyone!

I hope you all had lovely weekends!

Remember on Friday when I was being so amazingly brief?  And I told you that I wanted to wax poetic about something but didn’t have time?

Well, lucky you!  Now I have time!

(But not too much, so don’t panic and run away :))

I am of the firm opinion, at least when it comes to my own writing, that there is always room for learning and improvement.  So I’ve always got my eye out for books and classes and such-like that might help me in my quest to be a better writer.  And it just so happens that I have discovered a gem!

And because you are my peeps I will share it with you 🙂

This gem of which I speak is Linda Ashman’s new Nuts And Bolts Guide To Writing Picture Books.  I’m sure you all know Linda – author of the fabulous No Dogs Allowed and 30 or so other wonderful picture books.  Well, I read her guide last weekend and loved it.  Tina Cho did a wonderful write up of it HERE along with an interview with Linda, so rather than reinvent the wheel I’ll just direct you over there if you want an in-depth review.

But if you’re interested in purchasing this excellent how-to book, which I highly recommend, it’s available in e-pub format ($15) or PDF ($20) and you can get copies at

I am happy to say that Linda has kindly offered a copy as a prize in an upcoming writing contest on this blog.  I think it will be for the Halloweensie Contest… but I’m still deciding… 🙂  So some talented writer will be able to win one here! 🙂

(And as long as we’re on the subject of Linda, I have more great news which is that she will be offering a Rhyme Clinic here on Monday December 2.  Full details will be provided in a future post, but mark your calendars for the day and all you rhymers get out your troublesome stanzas and get ready to send them in! :))

And now, given that it’s only about 3 weeks until the Halloweensie Contest and I’m sure you’re all anxious to have the guidelines so you can get started working on your stories, let’s have a chat about Halloween words, shall we?  Everyone please share one or more of your favorite Halloween-related words in the comments below!  And I was thinking I’d post the guidelines next Monday, which would give you just over 2 weeks to write your stories, but feel free to let me know in the comments if you think you need more time.  I can always post them in an extra special post somewhere 🙂

Have a marvelous Monday, everyone!  And don’t forget – Halloween words!!!

Now, I’m off to talk to a class of college students about a career in writing picture books.  Wish me luck (as having to stand up and talk to people over the age of 9 turns my knees to jelly!)

Meet Charlotte Gunnufson – Author Of Halloween Hustle!

Happy Monday, Everyone!

I’m sure you all realize what day this is…

The last day of September!!!

And I’m sure you all realize what that means…

Halloween is only 31 days away!!!!!

Of course we will be celebrating with the 3rd Annual Halloweensie Contest, guidelines to be posted very soon (which means when I get around to making them up :)), but to get us in the mood we have an interview with debut author Charlotte Gunnufson today and she will tell us about her picture book,  Halloween Hustle!  A copy of the book will be one of the prizes in the Halloweensie contest, so you’ll want to know all about it.

First, let me introduce you to Charlotte who says:

Charlotte Gunnufson

I grew up in Minnesota and suffered all the things a middle child normally suffers: my older sister tricked me into eating a worm (You mean spaghetti doesn’t grow in the ground?), my little brother blew out the candles on my birthday cake, and they called me Miss Prissy—which, I have to admit, was true when I was a kid. Clearly, I’m trying to make up for lost time.
I live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, with my husband Scott and Isaac and Ellen. Perry is all grown up and living in Minnesota. Besides writing, dancing, and Halloween-ing, I love crossword puzzles and playing board games and charades with family and friends.
I’m happy to be a member of SCBWI-Iowa!

Welcome, Charlotte!  Thank you so much for joining us today!  We’re all delighted you’re here!  Can you start by telling us a little about how you came to writing and what your typical writing day is like?

CG:  I actually came back to writing. My first poem was published when I was in elementary school (in an Archie’s comic book). I wrote in my teens and early twenties and then stopped writing for 15 years. As crazy as it sounds, I was inspired to start writing again by a movie, The Pursuit of Happyness. (Yep, that’s how it’s spelled and watching it made me feel like I’d been wasting time.) I started writing again the next day. I write for kids because I love their earnestness and exuberance! I like writing humorous stories with word play, rhyme, and lots of exclamation points!!!
I try to write every weekday and protect my writing time like a mama bear protects her cub. I don’t wait for inspiration because that time can be spent writing. Bonus: a (mostly) consistent schedule helps me be ready to write and knowing I’m going to write keeps my mind open to stories ideas (which are lurking everywhere!). I usually do my best writing in the morning. I try to hold my internal editor at bay for a few hours because she can work long into the afternoon and evening.
SLH:  What inspired Halloween Hustle?

Isaac’s project – the inspiration for Halloween Hustle

CG:  I had been writing for kids for a little over a year and relentlessly trolling for story ideas. I opened a bin of Halloween decorations and an art project my son Isaac made way back in 2nd grade caught my attention. (I keep as much of my kids’ artwork as space permits. Okay. Perhaps a bit more than space permits.) I began writing a poem about a dancing skeleton, thinking I’d submit it to a children’s magazine. But then Skeleton discovered he wasn’t just dancing; he was dancing his way to a Halloween party. And, hey, there’s his buddy Frankenstein, and why don’t they just hop on that bus…and the poem stretched into a story.

SLH:  Is Halloween Hustle your first published book?  What was the road to publication like?

CG:  Halloween Hustle is my first book, though I’ve been lucky enough to have my work appear in Highlights, Highlights High Five and Hello, Cricket, Ladybug and other children’s magazines. I submitted the manuscript to several publishers and either received rejections or [Cue crickets].I hadn’t given up on Halloween Hustle, but I’d moved on to other stories.
Illustration copyright Kevan J. Atteberry

I didn’t receive the proverbial call. More than a year after I’d sent out the manuscript, I received a package from a marvelous and multi-talented editor at Marshall Cavendish, with abundant notes, whole pages crossed out, and a letter saying the story had potential for their list. I revised (and re-revised), and the manuscript was acquired by Marshall Cavendish, which was subsequently acquired by Amazon Children’s Publishing.
Writing other stuff
Still writing
During this same time period…
My daughter Ellen grew from kindergartener to fifth grader.
My son Isaac grew from fifth grader to high school junior.
My son Perry grew from college freshman to having a real job and a house.
A grain of advice humbly offered to fellow writers: Don’t waste a nanosecond waiting. Be brave, be fierce, and keep writing.
Illustration copyright Kevan J. Atteberry

SLH:  Do you have an agent?
CG:  I do not have an agent but believe that having an agent the way to go. I’ve queried about a dozen agents with various manuscripts. I’ve received a few requests for additional material (which, of course, I happily obliged!) but haven’t received an invitation to sign with an agent. I’m working to develop a body of publishable manuscripts. It’s a WIP (Work In Progress).
SLH:  What have been your marketing strategies so far?
CG:  Since Halloween Hustle is my first book, I’ve invested oodles of time and not inconsequential funds in promoting it. I developed fun, free, kid-friendly stuff for my website: a giggle-inducing book trailer and dance-along video as well as Halloween-themed crossword puzzles, word searches, and mazes. Illustrator Kevan Atteberry created cool coloring pages and graciously shared his work so that visitors to the website can send Halloween e-postcards to their friends. I hired Taylor Ridling to design the website. Alisabeth Von Presley created the book trailer and dance video, including the music, vocals, and voice over. My son Isaac designed bookmarks for the small price of not having to clean his room.
Illustration copyright Kevan J. Atteberry 2013

DIY (Do It Yourself) Tour: I’m hosting Halloween Hustle dance parties at schools, libraries, and bookstores throughout the Midwest. Kids craft Batty Hats and Bookmark Buddies, listen to the story, participate in original action rhymes, and then do the Halloween Hustle (Yes! Literally!) and boogie to Halloween classics like “Monster Mash” and “Purple People Eater.” The events are fun (Fun!) for the kids and for me. (Setting up events and promoting them are time-consuming.)  I’m also appearing at the Sheboygan Children’s Book Festival along with Betsy Lewin (Click, Clack, Moo), Bob Raczka (Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word), and Paul O. Zelinsky (Z is for Moose). Seriously? I know. That’s how I feel. Did the Festival contact me? I wish. Actually, no one contacted me. (Fortune cookie message for fellow writers: Don’t wait. Do!)

SLH:  What is YOUR favorite kind of dancing? 🙂
CG:  I am a dancing fool and could never choose a favorite! I teach Zumba Fitness® which is Latin based with a dash of Bollywood, African dance, hip hop and more. I get to see students trade in stress for Samba!
It makes my heart happy to see kids dance at the Halloween Hustle parties because they really get into it. It’s so good for them to move, and when they “get the steps,” they gain confidence. They cheer and always ask to do “Purple People Eater” again.

Well, Charlotte, it has made us happy to have you visit today! Thank you so much for coming!

Folks, you can find Charlotte at the following places online:

You can view her book trailer HERE
You can purchase Halloween Hustle at the following online retailers:

And don’t forget! One fabulous writer will win a copy of Charlotte’s delightful book for writing a great entry in the Halloweensie Contest coming soon to a blog near you.

(Uh, that would be this one. :))

Have a hip-hoppin’, Hustlin’, Halloween’s-comin’-soon Monday, everyone! 🙂

(And if you have any questions for Charlotte, it’s possible she can be prevailed upon to swing by and answer them if you leave them in the comments :))