Perfect Picture Book Friday – Leah’s Pony

Happy Perfect Picture Book Friday, Everyone!

There’s nothing like Friday, is there? ¬†Especially before a long weekend ūüôā

And Perfect Picture Books just make Fridays even better – tons of great new reading material for your weekend, be it regular or long ūüôā

This was one of those odd weeks when my pile of picture books failed to wow me. ¬†I read book after book thinking, “meh” – not what you want in a perfect picture book! ¬†I’m always a little depressed when this happens. ¬†I wonder if I’m missing something, since clearly a whole team of people thought these books were great enough to publish. ¬†But whatever the reason, there was no perfect picture book in this week’s collection, so instead of one of the newer titles from my pile of meh, I went with an older title from my bookshelf (signed to my daughter by Michael Garland :)) a book I have loved for years. ¬†I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Title: Leah’s Pony
Written By: Elizabeth Friedrich
Illustrated By: Michael Garland
Boyds Mills Press, February 1996, Fiction (historical)

Suitable For Ages: 6-9

Themes/Topics: historical fiction (1930s Dust Bowl), family, love, sacrifice

Opening: ¬†“The year the corn grew tall and straight, Leah’s papa bought her a pony. ¬†The pony was strong and swift and sturdy, with just a snip of white at the end of his soft black nose. ¬†Papa taught Leah to place her new saddle right in the middle of his back and tighten the girth around his belly, just so.

Brief Synopsis: Leah’s pony was swift and strong. ¬†She loved him dearly, and together they raced across the fields under summer skies. ¬†But then came a year when the corn didn’t grow, locusts blackened the sky, and the earth turned to dust, the beginning of the great drought (the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.) ¬†Leah’s family is faced with losing their farm and their livelihood. ¬†It takes Leah’s strength and courage to save them.

Links To Resources: Facts about the Dust Bowl with links to further resources; Lesson Plan for the Dust Bowl (aimed at 5th grade but can be altered); Dust Bowl info and lesson plans for grades 2-5; Photo Gallery – The Dust Bowl; Dust Bowl Facts & Summary

Why I Like This Book: ¬†This is historical fiction at its best, bringing a slice of history to life in a way that is not only accessible but irresistible for young readers. ¬†The story is simply told with all the right details, and so emotionally compelling I dare anyone not to get choked up at the end! ¬†Michael Garland’s art is absolutely stunning and a perfect fit for the story. ¬†With slightly longer text as well as the historical context, this is a wonderful choice for older picture book readers.

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

PPBF bloggers please be sure to leave your post-specific link in the list below so we can all come visit you!

Have a wonderful long weekend, everyone, and Happy Columbus Day! ¬†I’m hoping to post the guidelines for the Halloweensie Contest…soon-ish…so stay tuned!!!

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The First Ever Pretty Much World Famous Illustration Contest for Children’s Illustrators!!!

Fasten your seat belts and prepare for take off! ¬†It’s finally here!

The First Ever PrettyMuchWorldFamous Illustration Contest!!!
the fact that this particular illustrator resembles a female
is in no way meant to deter any male illustrators! ūüôā

The Contest:¬†Draw/Paint/Create a children’s picture book cover illustration (no text required – art only) for one of the following stories (which you will recognize as the top finishers in the March Madness Fractured Fairy Tale Writing Contest – a little extra surprise for those authors :)):

 РThe Three Wiggly Worms Bluff by Wendy Greenley
 РGoldilockup by Mike Allegra
 РGoldibawks And The Three Pairs by Dawn Young
 РThe Sweetie Witch by Pen Avey
 РThe Princess And The Stinky Cheese by Lauri Meyers
¬†– Mongoose’s Holi Party by Darshana Khiani
¬†– The “Princess” And The Pete by Jennifer Caritas
 РThe Jackrabbit Who Cried Gila Monster by Elliah Terry

Illustrations should be 8×10, horizontal or vertical, any medium, posted in jpg at least 72 px
All stories can be read on the March Madness Finalist Post¬†HERE¬†so you will know what to illustrate ūüôā ¬†Illustrators may enter more than one entry if they’re feeling ambitious enough to illustrate more than one book title ūüôā
Post: ¬†Your entry should be posted on your blog between right now this very second and Monday April 28 at 9 PM EDT¬†(contest deadline!), and your post-specific link should be added to the link list below. ¬†This post with the link list will remain up through Tuesday April 29 so that people can come visit and enjoy your gorgeous artwork!¬† (For regular blog followers, there will be no PPBF on Friday April 25, no new post on Monday April 28, but there will be a brief interruption for WYRI on Wednesday April 30 because I forgot to leave it open for the contest :)). ¬†If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments below. ¬†(If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, you may¬†email me¬†and I’ll post your entry for you! ¬†Also, since this is the first time we’ve done an illustration contest, I’m not sure if you actually CAN paste your entry into the comments. ¬†If this turns out to be a problem, email them to me and I’ll add them directly to this post.)

Judging:  entries will be judged by multi-talented, award-winning author/illustrators Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of over 20 gorgeous picture books, and Lisa Thiesing, author and illustrator of at least 16 beautiful and fun picture books and early readers!   Judging criteria to include:


 Рis the picture readable to a young audience,
 Рhow well does it show the character(s) and
 Рis the character(s) appealing (character development),
 Рdoes it make you want to read the story,
 Рoriginality
 Рskill.


They will narrow down the entrants to 6 finalists (or possibly a couple more or less depending on the number of entries :)) which will be posted here on Thursday May 1 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed at 5PM EST on Sunday May 4 and the winner will be announced on Monday May 5.  (No PPBF on Friday May 2.)


The Prizes!:  There will definitely be a 1st prize.  Whether we give prizes for 1st only, 1st-3rd, or 1st-6th will depend on how many entries we get.  We need at least 12 entries to place through 3rd, and at least 20 to place through 6th.

    First Prize is absolutely amazing!  A portfolio critique by celebrated author/illustrator Michael Garland, who has over 20 picture books to his credit!!!

 РSecond Prize Рa $50 gift certificate to Dick Blick Art Materials (which is online)
¬†– Third, Fourth & Fifth Prize will be winner’s choice of¬†one¬†of the following books:
¬† ¬† ¬† –¬†Writing With Pictures¬†by Uri Shulevitz
¬† ¬† ¬† –¬†2014 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market¬†by Chuck Sambuchino

 РSixth Prize Рa Canson sketch pad and a small set of Derwent or Faber Castell colored pencils

I’m so excited to see what everyone comes up with! ¬†As a person whose artistic ability is limited to stick figures,¬†scribbling and relatively easy coloring books, I am in awe of anyone who can draw/paint/cause anything recognizable to appear on paper/canvas/computer screen ūüôā ¬†I hope we’ll get plenty of entries, and that there will be at least one attempt at every title!

Tweet: Enjoy the art! Enter yourself! Children’s Book Cover Illustration Contest @SusannaLHill http://ctt.ec/58ZUb+ #kidart #illustration

Let the artistic fun begin!!! ¬†ūüôā

Don’t miss Laura’s entry for The Three Wiggly Worms Bluff in the comment section! (click HERE and be a little patient :))

And here’s Katie’s entry for Goldibawks And The Three Pairs! (click HERE and be a little patient :))

And here’s Laura’s entry for The Sweetie Witch! (click HERE and be a little patient :))

And here’s Angela’s entry for The Three Wiggly Worms Bluff! (click HERE and be a little patient :))

and here’s Suzy’s entry for The Three Wiggly Worms Bluff! (click HERE and be a little patient :))

Entry from Hilary Swann for The “Princess” And The Pete

Hilary Swann – The “Princess” And The Pete

Announcing The First Ever Illustrators Contest!!!

Whoopeee!  Yahooo!

I’m excited!

Can you tell I’m excited?

It’s because I’m about to launch a new hare-brained scheme and you guys are all going to get to be part of it!

(And no, just because it’s April 1st and we just had a contest, this is NOT an April Fool. ¬†I just couldn’t add this to yesterday’s Winner Celebration Post or tomorrow’s WYRI!)

I’ve been thinking for a while that children’s authors get all the fun. ¬†Contests and prizes and being able to claim top finishes in Pretty Much World Famous Writing Contests. . .

It isn’t entirely fair.

In the world of picture books, authors are only half the story.

We couldn’t do what we do without our illustrators!

I think it’s high time to let the illustrators have some fun and a contest and prizes and be able to claim top finishes in a Pretty Much World Famous Illustration Contest!

So that’s what we’re going to do!

Are you ready?

Announcing

The First Ever PrettyMuchWorldFamous Illustration Contest!!!
the fact that this particular illustrator resembles a female
is in no way meant to deter any male illustrators! ūüôā

The Contest:¬†Draw/Paint a children’s picture book cover illustration (no text required – art only) for one of the following stories (which you will recognize as the top finishers in the March Madness Fractured Fairy Tale Writing Contest – a little extra surprise for those authors :)):

 РThe Three Wiggly Worms Bluff by Wendy Greenley
 РGoldilockup by Mike Allegra
 РGoldibawks And The Three Pairs by Dawn Young
 РThe Sweetie Witch by Pen Avey
 РThe Princess And The Stinky Cheese by Lauri Meyers
¬†– Mongoose’s Holi Party by Darshana Khiani
¬†– The “Princess” And The Pete by Jennifer Caritas
 РThe Jackrabbit Who Cried Gila Monster by Elliah Terry

Illustrations should be 8×10, horizontal or vertical, any medium, posted in jpg at least 72 px
All stories can be read on the March Madness Finalist Post HERE¬†so you will know what to illustrate ūüôā
Post: ¬†Your entry should be posted on your blog between Thursday April 24 at 5 AM EDT and Monday April 28 at 9 PM EDT, and your post-specific link should be added to the link list on my Thursday April 24 post which will remain up through Tuesday April 29 so that people can come visit and enjoy your gorgeous artwork!¬† (No PPBF on Friday April 25, no new post on Monday April 28, but there will be a brief interruption for WYRI on Wednesday April 30 because I forgot to leave it open for the contest :)). ¬†If you don’t have a blog but would like to enter, please copy and paste your entry into the comments of my April 24 post. ¬†(If anyone has trouble commenting, which unfortunately happens, you may¬†email me¬†and I’ll post your entry for you! ¬†Also, since this is the first time we’ve done an illustration contest, I’m not sure if you actually CAN paste your entry into the comments. ¬†If this turns out to be the case, email them to me and I’ll add them directly to my April 24 post.)

Judging:  entries will be judged by multi-talented, award-winning author/illustrators Iza Trapani, author and illustrator of over 20 gorgeous picture books, and Lisa Thiesing, author and illustrator of at least 16 beautiful and fun picture books and early readers!   Judging criteria to include:


 Рis the picture readable to a young audience,
 Рhow well does it show the character(s) and
 Рis the character(s) appealing (character development),
 Рdoes it make you want to read the story,
 Рoriginality
 Рskill.


They will narrow down the entrants to 6 finalists (or possibly a couple more or less depending on the number of entries :)) which will be posted here on Thursday May 1 for you to vote on for a winner.  The vote will be closed at 5PM EST on Sunday May 4 and the winner will be announced on Monday May 5.  (No PPBF on Friday May 2.)


The Prizes!:  There will definitely be a 1st prize.  Whether we give prizes for 1st only, 1st-3rd, or 1st-6th will depend on how many entries we get.

First Prize is absolutely amazing!  A portfolio critique by celebrated author/illustrator Michael Garland, who has over 20 picture books to his credit!!!

 РSecond Prize Рa $50 gift certificate to Dick Blick Art Materials
¬†– Third, Fourth & Fifth Prize will be winner’s choice of one of the following books:
      РWriting With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz
¬† ¬† ¬† – 2014 Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market¬†by Chuck Sambuchino

¬†– Sixth Prize –¬†sketch pads/pencils

Illustrators, we can’t wait to see what you’ve got in store for us!

Everyone else (authors, parents, teachers, librarians, farm equipment retailers, etc. :)) think how much fun it’s going to be so see what the illustrators come up with!

You’ve got three weeks, illustrators!

On your mark, get set, GO!!! ūüôā

Author/Illustrator Interview: Meet Michael Garland (And There’s A Giveaway!)

Happy Monday Everyone ūüôā

I’m delighted to be reinstating this feature as a monthly special on my blog. ¬†I love having the opportunity to talk with talented, creative people who are making a go of it in this very competitive field. ¬†It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn – about what works and what doesn’t, what the particular challenges and rewards are, what is hard and what comes easy, and how different people go about accomplishing their work.

These interviews will usually take place on either the third Saturday or the third Sunday of the month (I haven’t decided yet :)), but since January started on a Sunday and there’s so much going on as the new year kicks off, I bent the rules by a week. ¬†Then, due to the squirrelly internet out here in the boondocks, the art for the post didn’t come through in time, so I couldn’t post yesterday. ¬†So here it is today instead, bumping Oh, Susanna into next week. ¬†Such is the way of things sometimes ūüôā ¬†But well worth it for today’s interview!

It is my very great pleasure to present this month’s Author/Illustrator, Michael Garland!

Michael Garland

SLH: ¬†Michael, thank you so much for joining us today. ¬†We’re thrilled to have you! ¬†Let’s start with some just-for-fun quick warm-up questions ūüôā

Agented or Not?  Not
Traditionally or Self-Published? Traditionally
Traditional or Digital Format? All books so far started in traditional format, but some have been converted to digital.
Apps or Not? ¬†3 apps:¬†Icarus Swinebuckle,¬†Henry’s Parade, and¬†Angel Cat.
Plotter or Pantser? Plontser ūüôā
Laptop or Desk top?  Desk top
Mac or PC?  Mac
Day, Afternoon or Night Worker?  Writing Рbrain freshest in AM; drawing Рsecond nature and can do any time.
Coffee or Tea?  Coffee
Quiet or Music?  Writing Рcomplete silence; painting/drawing Рany noise is fine but usually choose CNN, the Golf Channel or the History Channel.
Currently Reading?  In The Garden Of The Beasts by Eric Larson

SLH:  Now for the more involved stuff!  When did you first become interested in writing/illustrating?

MG: ¬†I began drawing as a very young child. ¬†I drew to entertain myself. ¬†I even made little books, although I didn’t really think of them that way at the time. ¬†My parents were lavish with their praise and encouraged me. ¬†When I reached Kindergarten, the teacher was equally enthusiastic about my work. ¬†It was quickly and readily apparent that I could draw better than the other kids. ¬†My teachers would hold up everything I drew to show the other students… which was never true of my math tests ūüôā ¬†I went to a Catholic boys high school where there was no real art curriculum. ¬†But afterwards I attended the Pratt Institute.

(Here are a few samples of Michael’s recent book covers to give you a sense of his talent!)

SLH:  So illustrating really came first for you.  When did you begin writing as well?

MG: ¬†It was a leap for me to finally write a story myself. ¬†I had always thought of myself as an illustrator, not a writer. ¬†But after I had illustrated a number of books for other people, I began to think how much fun it would be to tell my own stories. ¬†The first book that I both wrote and illustrated was called My Cousin Katie and was based on my own daughter. ¬†Having written about one child, I wanted to wrote about the others, so My Cousin Katie was followed by Circus Girl and Dinner At Magritte’s for my other children. ¬†These three titles remain among my favorites, along with Leah’s Pony, the house for which was modeled on a house near me even though it takes place in Texas; The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, which has remained in print for a long time;¬†Santa Kid, which I illustrated for James Patterson; and The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle The Bulldog and Noelle’s Treaure Tale which I illustrated for Gloria Estefan.

SLH:  How many books have you published?

MG: ¬†I have published about 40 books that I illustrated but didn’t write, and about 30 where I did both.

SLH: ¬†Wow! ¬†That is impressive! ¬†Have you ever written anything that didn’t sell?

MG: ¬†Oh, sure! ¬†I have about 5 or 6 projects that don’t sell for every one that does.

SLH: ¬†You’re ahead of the curve, then ūüôā ¬†Most people say they have 10 unsold mss for every one that sells! ¬†Do you consider yourself an author or an illustrator first, or are the two inseparable?

MG:  As I mentioned, I originally thought of myself as an illustrator.  But now the two are really inseparable.

SLH:  You were really a pioneer in digital art Рone of the first to use that medium.  Can you tell us a little about that?

MG: ¬†The first time I used digital art was for The Mouse Before Christmas which was published in 1997. ¬†It was hard to get folks to accept back then, but interestingly enough, it was an older editor – in her seventies – who was willing to give it a try. ¬†Editors quickly saw how much easier it was to work with digital art. ¬†Changes that were time-consuming and difficult to pull off with traditional painting could often be fixed in matter of minutes in the digital format. ¬†The equipment was expensive, and the disks were huge, cost about $60 each, and could only hold about 2 paintings each, so I would hand over a stack of disks for a single book, which I then, usually didn’t get back to reuse. ¬†But it turned out to be worth it!

SLH:  This leads into your new book РFish Had A Wish Рdue out from Holiday House in February 2012 Рjust a couple weeks away.  You have pioneered another new art form with this.  Can you tell us about the book and the new art?

MG: ¬†Fish Had A Wish (originally titled Fish Wishing, then Fish Wish, and finally Fish Had A Wish) was inspired because I love nature books and I wanted to write one. ¬†So I started out with a fish. ¬†He is bored of being a fish and imagines what it would be like if he could be something else. ¬†It is intended for earliest readers and as such has a very short and simple text. ¬†It was short and simple to begin with, and the editor cut it by about 1/3 again. ¬†The new art you’re referring to is what I like to call digi-woodcut. ¬†It’s a form of digital art that mimics woodcut. ¬†I scan in all kinds of wood textures and then layer them in the painting.

SLH: ¬†It’s really beautiful. ¬†Here is the cover of Fish Had A Wish (as well as a couple interior illustrations because they are so incredible I just have to share them!):

illustration copyright Michael Garland 2012

illustration copyright Michael Garland 2012

illustration copyright Michael Garland 2012

Aren’t they gorgeous?! ¬†Which brings me to the importance of art in picture books… ¬†As both an author and an illustrator, what are your thoughts on the importance of writing vs. the importance of art?

MG: ¬†A picture book is supposed to be 50/50. ¬†The author, or the writing, tells half the story and the illustrations tell the other half. ¬†It should be equal. ¬†A good picture book is. ¬†But in terms of how it’s perceived, in my experience, in the publishing equation authors get a disproportionate amount of the credit.

SLH: ¬†A few of your books have become apps – Icarus Swinebuckle, Henry’s Parade, and Angel Cat. ¬†What has your experience been like in this venue?

MG: ¬†It’s been fun to see the books developed into apps. ¬†When Icarus Swinebuckle came out, it was on the itunes bestseller list for 2 weeks and was #1 in Jamaica! ¬†But then you get into the problem of the infinite bookshelf. ¬†New apps are coming in all the time. ¬†When books are available in a library, they’re right there on the shelf. ¬†You can see everything there is to choose from. ¬†It might not be the most extensive choice, and you might not notice everything that’s there, but it’s finite. ¬†When apps go out, they become part of the infinite bookshelf. ¬†Publishers are taking all their backlisted books and digitizing them. ¬†EVERYthing is available. ¬†So how do you even know what’s out there? ¬†How do you find things? ¬†As an author or illustrator, how do you get people’s attention? ¬†This is one of the challenges facing us as we move forward.

SLH:  Do you have any advice for aspiring authors and/or illustrators?

MG: ¬†Don’t allow one rejection to discourage you. ¬†Or even a bunch. ¬†And it has to be enjoyable. ¬†If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be doing it. ¬†I have been 38 years in the business. ¬†I’ve made the New York Times bestseller list 4 times – with Miss Smith And The Haunted Library, Santa Kid, The Magically Mysterious Adventures Of Noelle The Bulldog, and Noelle’s Treasure Tale. ¬†But what I consider to be one of my real successes is that I get to do something I love. ¬†I have never had to go to a job I hated.

SLH: ¬†Finally, Michael, I’d like to finish up with a question from one of our readers. ¬†She asks, is it totally important to have a story, or can you just entertain and make people think? ¬†She gives as an example a current idea which is an adventure with a lot of imaginative things, but no story per se.

MG: ¬†In my opinion, story is the most important thing. ¬†The writing tells half and the pictures tell half, but if you don’t have a story, you have nothing. ¬†You need a beginning, a middle and an end; a provocative opening, something has to happen, and then it has to resolve. ¬†Story is everything.

SLH: ¬†Michael, thank you so much for joining us! ¬†It’s been wonderful hearing all you have to say!

And now, my friends, just because I like you :), anyone who comments on this post by Wednesday January 25 at 11:59 PM EST will be eligible to win their choice of Icarus Swinebuckle or Miss Smith’s Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland.

Michael’s book are available wherever books are sold. ¬†Fish Had A Wish will be out in a couple of weeks, so go ahead and pre-order ūüôā ¬†And please visit Michael at his website where you can see the breadth of his work as well as learn about his availability for school visits.


For another great interview with Michael which focuses on his 2011 holiday book Oh, What A Christmas!, please visit Pat’s blog at Children’s Books Heal.